Raising Grey: Chapter 6—Changing Lanes

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

Chapter 6—Changing Lanes

CHRISTIAN

“Like I said before, I’ve studied your vision for many years. I’ve always wanted the chance to work with you, not only for what you think I can bring to the company, but also for whatever knowledge I can glean from you, Mr. Grey,” Lorenz says as we take an informal tour of Grey House on Monday morning. I’ll be introducing him to the other departments at the department head meeting later. Right now, Ros and I are giving him a somewhat lay of the land.

“Your reputation precedes you, Lorenz,” I tell him. “Ros and I are on a first name basis, a privilege not shared with many on my staff. I would think it would be a bit awkward if I didn’t extend the same courtesy to you.” I gesture to him to enter the company cafeteria, which always has a chef on staff and a large selection of food for nearly every palette. “What’s most important to me in this relationship is that I have someone on my right and left hand that I can trust. There were many qualified candidates that applied for the position, but they didn’t fit the bill for more reasons than one.” I take the coffee from the counter. I rarely come down to the cafeteria in the morning, but when I do, they know that I want a fresh cup of black coffee.

“You have them trained well,” he says after he and Ros places an order, noticing that I didn’t need to. I raise my brow at him.

“They’re not trick ponies, Lorenz,” I chastise gently, and he immediately catches my meaning, “but they like to keep me happy.” I turn around to see who’s working today. “Thank you, Misty.”

“You’re welcome, Mr. Grey,” she says with a bright smile. When Lorenz and Ros take their orders, we head back out of the cafeteria and continue our tour.

“As you already know, Ros and I both have families, so only the two of us running things has become a bit of a trial as of late since my wife just gave birth to twins. I was never very social as such before I met my wife, so my life has taken on a new dynamic. Even now, I really shouldn’t be in the office because my grandfather is in a very bad way, but there were things that needed to be handled—one of which was officially welcoming you to the company.”

“How is Burt?” Ros asks sympathetically as we are heading to the floor with the executive offices just under mine. I clear my throat and hide a sigh.

“Any day now,” I tell her as we round the corner towards Lorenz’s office.

“There are so many new technologies now, Mr. Gr… Christian,” Lorenz says sympathetically. “Maybe there are ways that they can prolong his life.” I shake my head.

“We wouldn’t want that,” I say. “He’s suffering right now and we try to keep him as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. We don’t want to prolong his suffering just so that he could have a few more seconds with us.”  Lorenz nods.

“I understand,” he says. “This must be very hard on you.”

“It is,” I sigh. “It’s a long story that I don’t want to repeat right now, but I haven’t had him in my life for very long and now I’m losing him. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.”

“Well, I’m a praying man, Christian, and I’ll pray for your family.” I nod again.

“Much appreciated, Lorenz.” I straighten up. “Now, enough about me. I’m going to leave you in Ros’ very capable hands while I get some things done in my office. You know where to find me and I’ll see you at the department head meeting at ten.” I leave him and Ros to finish the tour as I make my way back to my office. I’ve decided to finish the quarters behind my office that have been dormant and unfinished for over a year now. Security is tighter this time around and workers must be registered and scanned with temporary badges into GEH’s security grid and then scanned again before they are allowed off the elevator onto this floor and the stairwells are guarded—no access. The work was nearly done before the Pedophile made her appearance that day, so there’s not much left to do. As such, the work can go on behind me without much noise or disturbance.

I sit down at my desk, still pondering Uncle Stan’s situation. It really shouldn’t be that hard to get him the time off that he needs to come and say goodbye to Pops. I just don’t know how to go about doing it without direct connections within the company. Sure, I know some people on the mountaintop, but by the time they even make their way to top level executives on the factory food chain, let alone down into the trenches, Pops will have passed on. I’ve got to come up with something fast.

“Andrea, come in here for a moment, please,” I beckon her over the intercom.

“Yes, sir.” A few moments later, she’s in front of my desk with her tablet.

“I need you to skip the department head meeting this morning. Let Luma take the minutes for you…”

“Luma’s not here, sir,” she says. “You gave her permission to take time off due to your family crisis.”

Shit, that’s right. I completely forgot.

“Dammit!” I exclaim, running my hands through my hair.

“What is it, sir?” I lean on my desk and fold my arms.

“I know how hard it is to transcribe minutes after they have been recorded, but I may need you to do that. I have a time-sensitive issue that requires your immediate attention. I may still be working it from other angles, but I need every possible angle explored.” She looks at me expecting.

“Okay,” she says. “I’ve become accustomed to being in two places at the same time. What do you need?” I sigh.

“Will you see if you can find out who I would need to talk to if I want to get some time off for a factory worker in one of the Big Three in Michigan? He’s out of paid leave and can’t get a leave of absence, so I think they’re throwing the book at him. I don’t want to rock the boat, though, because he still has to return to this job when all is said and done.” She bites her lip in contemplation and nods.

“I’ll see what I can find out,” she says. “I’ll start in the obvious places and work my way up. You better get to the meeting, though. You’re about to be late.” I look at my watch and push myself off the desk.

“It’s not like they can start without me…”

The announcement of Lorenz being added to the team is met with a bit of a lukewarm reception. Many of the department heads are wondering why I didn’t hire from within. It’s because I’m not 100% pleased with the performance of some of the departments and putting one of these people in an executive position over the company when they can barely handle an executive position over a department would have been a huge tactical error.

“Who would you have suggested that I choose from inside?” I ask, directing the question at the department head who raised the issue.

“Well, I’m just saying that… we would have liked the opportunity to have applied for the position,” he retorts, his voice lacking the conviction and accusation that it held moments ago. “We weren’t even extended the invitation.” It’s a very valid argument, but still doesn’t address the question.

“And again, I pose the question to you… who would you have suggested that I promote from the inside?” I ask. “You’ve been in the department head meetings nearly every Monday for the past several years with most of the people in this room. Tell me—honestly—who would you have suggested that I promote from the inside?” He looks around from person to person and doesn’t provide an answer. What’s more remarkable is that he doesn’t even offer himself as a viable candidate. I turn my attention to the hand that I see raised to my right.

“Mr. Grey, are we to understand that there’s no further room for advancement from where we are now?”

The million-dollar question. All eyes are on me. I am now presented with a situation where most high-level executives or owners find themselves—where I must put my foot down and show these people who’s boss without prompting a mass work stoppage or walkout. This situation must be handled both firmly and gingerly.

I stand from my seat, something I very rarely do in a department-head meeting. Accusing and expectant glances now become cautious. You’ve rattled the boss’s cage and he can no longer sit here quietly and observe the show. Now you’re nervous… and you should be. The sleeper has awakened—again.

“Mr. Carlton,” I say, buttoning my jacket, “besides the introduction of Mr. Fineman, what has prompted this line of questioning?” He considers his answer.

“Nothing, sir,” he replies. “Nothing before this made me think about possibly being able to advance—nothing but the creation of a position into which one of your senior managers could have advanced, but were never given the opportunity.” There’s a small murmur in the room.

“I see,” I say, stepping away from my seat and beginning my circle of the table, much like my wife did a few months ago when I announced that she was a major shareholder, which brings me back to the conversation. “So, before the creation of this vice-presidential position, were you satisfied with your station? Your salary fair? Your benefits and incentives suitable? Your company car and other executive perks acceptable? That’s not a trick question—there’s no wrong answer. This is not a trap.” He pauses for a moment.

“Well, yes sir,” he says. “My salary is quite generous and I’m very happy with my perks.” I nod.

“How about anyone else in this room?” I ask. “Is there anyone in this room who feels that their annual raises should be more? Their bonuses are not adequate? Not enough vacation time? Anything? Again, not a trick question and no wrong answer.”

I can see the honest contemplation on the faces of many of the people in the room, but none of them show discontent with their compensation.

“Okay, so let’s address another issue,” I say in the most diplomatic way possible. “How many of you feel restless, like the position that you’re in has you locked in a fishbowl and there’s nothing else to offer?” I’m looking for the Dodds in this one. I can’t have another person in an executive or management position trying to find a way to sabotage my company. Dodd’s fate was never made public. Hell, I don’t even know what happened to him. To that end, no one knows what would become of them if they cross me in such a manner, and this situation is the perfect environment for mutiny. A few hands are raised, some quickly and others more slowly. I make a mental note of the hands that I see in the air.

“That’s understandable,” I respond, to the surprise of many of the people in attendance, “especially if you’ve been here for any extended period of time. There are a few points that I feel compelled to make at this juncture,” I say, still circling the room. “First of all, as you all know, my life has taken on some major twists in recent years, which requires that I immediately have a more flexible schedule. For that reason, I was forced to seek out a qualified professional who could effectively be me in my absence with little to no training as quickly as possible. Being totally honest, who among you would have been able to stand from this table at this very moment and do that job?”

I emphasize the fact by pointing to Lorenz. They look from one to another and once again, no one can produce a suitable candidate.

“As I pointed out in his introduction, Mr. Fineman’s qualifications, resume, and references are impeccable. He comes highly recommended and leaves nothing but success in his wake. GEH is lucky to have acquired him and I hope that my executive management staff will be respectful and cooperative as he familiarizes himself with the intricacies of this organization.” That’s more information than they really deserve, but that’s okay. I’m only building up to tearing down that false sense of security.

“Every ladder has a certain number of rungs, which means at some point, you reach the top of that ladder. My management staff are all at the top of that ladder. Mrs. Bailey and I are not on that ladder. Being on that ladder insinuates that you can go down… and you can go down.” I add that last part in as a pre-warning for what’s coming next.

“Mr. Carlton, I’ll answer your question, now. This room is full of the elite of my company. Most of you worked your way to these executive positions. Others of you—like Mr. Fineman—were hired based on your qualifications. You are the cream who have in one way or another risen to the top and yes, this is the highest that you can go in the company. Having said that, please note that should you feel discontent in your position, you are more than welcome to tender your notice and resignation. Upon proper notice, I will be more than happy to honor your contracts with any severance packages promised as well as adequate references based on your performance with this organization. I’m very certain that there are other positions that would offer an opportunity for advancement, but I’m not remiss to say that you would be very hard pressed to find the kind of compensation offered by GEH.

“I did not add an additional rung to the advancement ladder,” I continue. “I hired someone to assist me with executive job duties, which are the duties that perform. Listening to your concerns and weighing them with your answers regarding your compensation packages, I conclude that had I continued doing what I was doing—trying to spread the work between me and my second in command, which was causing us undue stress and grief—you all would have been happy with your compensation and positions as long as I didn’t hire anyone over you to perform job duties that any of you have yet to say that you could step up and perform at a moment’s notice.”

There is still silence in the room. Even the quiet got quieter. And now, the death blow.

“While you are the best of the best of GEH, know this. This is a non-stock corporation. There are no stockholders, no board of directors and no members. There’s only me, my wife, and very soon, my infant children. This means that I. Answer. To no one. I decide I want something done, it’s done. Your ideas, concepts and departmental needs must be approved. Mine. Do not!

“I’m not accustomed to having to explain the decisions for how I run my company to anyone except my wife, who is also a majority shareholder in this company. The only other shareholders in this company will soon be my infant children, and I only answer to them for food, shelter, and the occasional diaper change. While your questions were justifiable based on your positions and concerns, and warranted answers, understand that this will be the last time I will ever be urged to address executive decisions made by me for Grey Enterprises Holdings, Incorporated. I know and understand that as of late, I haven’t quite been the ballbuster that I once was, but make no mistake… he’s not dead. I can bring him back anytime anyone feels the need to be reminded just how far my reach can go.

“Mr. Fineman came from an exclusive talent pool assembled for immediate need. With your qualifications, you can all join that talent pool, but you can also be replaced from it. Also remember that while there are unfortunately no positions above you that can be filled by you at this time, there are talented people in this company that would be only too happy to take the positions you choose to vacate. I will only remind of your NDA’s and your legal obligations concerning proprietary information. I will also caution you that your positions are based on skill… and loyalty. Breach of my trust comes with severe penalties. I would tell you to ask around, but I would first challenge you to find anyone who has breached my trust in any prominent or desirable position anywhere.”

I’ve made my way back to the head of the table and face the occupants of the meeting. Many of them appear to have shrunk in their seats… or something. I unbutton my jacket, sit back in my seat, and cross my ankle over my knee.

“Are there any questions?”

And there’s that rat pissing on cotton again.

“Then this meeting is adjourned. Ms. Bailey, Mr. Fineman, Mr. Forsythe, Mr. Welch, can you remain behind, please?” The other department heads rightly take this as their cue to scramble out of the conference room like roaches.

“Well,” Lorenz says, “I didn’t think I’d be seeing you in action so soon.”

“Neither did I,” I say, “but that’s nothing. Wait until you see me in negotiations.” I turn to Alex. “Did you make note of who raised their hands?”

“I did, sir,” he says.

“You know what to do. Keep reports and let me know if anything develops.” Alex nods.

“Yes, sir,” and he leaves without another word. I turn back to Ros, Al, and Lorenz, who raises his eyebrow at me. “You can’t be too careful,” I say.

“I’ll make sure to stay on your good side,” he says. I nod. I decide to direct the conversation to Uncle Stan.

“I have a delicate situation on my hands right now. It’s time sensitive—extremely time sensitive—and if I can’t find a sensible solution to the issue by day’s end, I’m going to have to roll through this thing like a bull in a China shop and I really don’t want to do that.”

“What’s up?” Ros asks.

“It’s one of the reasons I hired you, Lorenz, to give me time with my family. I need to know who I would talk to if I want to arrange so time off for an employee of a company that we supply steel to. Human resources have proven to be a no-go, so there has to be another way. This is of the highest immediate importance.”

“Detroit?” she asks. I sigh.

“Yes. One of my uncles works for the Big Three, but he’s taken all the time that he can and can’t get any time off to see Pops before he dies. I’m open for any suggestions.”

“You’re sure there’s no luck with human resources?” Al asks.

“Nobody to sweet talk,” I admit, “or threaten. I don’t want to strong-arm my way through this. I know that I could if I wanted to… money talks. But my uncle has to go back to work at that place when this is all said and done. If there’s any way that this can be done the same way that any other employee would be able to get help in an emergent situation, I’d prefer that, but I don’t have time to dawdle. If I can’t get this done in a reasonable manner by the end of business today, then I’ll strong arm, but I would prefer not to.”

“Steel workers… Have you tried the union?” Lorenz asks. I twist my lips.

“I don’t know what the union could do besides collective bargaining. Am I missing something?”

“They’re supposed to be on the side of the worker. I know most of them have funds to help with bills and whatnot when they decide to strike. There has to be something in place for a situation like this. A leave bank or something? With time being at a premium, I’d say go as high as you can in the UAW.” I don’t want to admit this early that the guy’s a fucking genius, but the guy’s a fucking genius. I never even considered going to the union.

“Okay, I’m ashamed to say that this is the first time I’ve tried to help the little man, so to speak, so I don’t know which direction to go,” I confess.

“That’s not true, Christian,” Ros says, frowning deeply. I turn my gaze to her. “Jim Radcliff? The Martins? Luma?” she reminds me.

“The Johnsons?” Al interjects. “Marlow? Sophia Taylor? Val?”

“Those people are all family,” I remind him.

“There weren’t when you helped them,” he retorts. “The Radcliffs and the Martins aren’t your family and the others are only family because you welcomed them, except Val, who married your brother… after you helped her. Which reminds me… Chuck and his parents? Keri?” I put my hands up in surrender.

“Okay, okay, I get it,” I say waving my hands. Apparently, I’ve been fairy godfather to more people than I thought. Lorenz smiles at me.

“You’re a secret philanthropist, sir?” he asks.

“Apparently so,” I say, running my hands through my hair. “Lorenz, can you help me out, here? I’m usually not at such a loss and my only care is normally that things are just handled—thoroughly and properly. This time, it’s different. The situation is out of my hands and it involves a direct family member, so it also needs to be handled carefully.” Lorenz runs his hands over his chin and beard in contemplation.

“Can you give me an hour?” he asks.

“Not much more than that,” I say. “I have to make something happen really soon. I’m already on borrowed time.” He nods once and excuses himself.

“I think he’ll do fine,” Ros says, once he leaves the room. “He comes with his own contacts, you know.”

“I know,” I tell her. “That can be a good thing or a bad thing. We’ll just have to wait and see which…”

I was about to find out sooner rather than later which…

*-*

“I have Dennis Williams on the phone for you, Mr. Grey,” Andrea’s disembodied voice informs me. I was standing just inside the door of my nearly-complete sleeping quarters when I get the alert.

“Dennis Williams?” I ask, frowning. Who the hell is Dennis Williams? “Did I have a conference call that I wasn’t aware of?”

“No, sir,” she informs me. “Mr. Williams is calling from the UAW Solidarity House in Detroit. He’s the sitting president of the United Auto Workers union.”

The sitting president… The fucking sitting president… Are you kidding me?

“Which line?” I ask, quickly taking a seat at my desk.

“Line one, sir,” she says. I press the blinking light for line one.

“Christian Grey,” I say into the phone.

“Mr. Grey, hello. This is Dennis Williams from the UAW in Detroit.” I can tell he’s an older gentleman. I would have liked to have been better prepared for this call, something I’ll discuss with Lorenz in the future, but in this case, I’ll make an exception. I did pretty much tell him that my ass was on fire.

“Hello, Mr. Williams,” I respond. “I wish I could say that I was expecting this call. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I hear that a colleague of mine is now in a senior position in your company… Lorenz Fineman?” A colleague?

“Yes, he’s accepted the position of executive vice-president with Grey Enterprises Holdings,” I confirm.

“I should clarify, he’s not really a colleague,” Williams adds. “He’s helped us with some difficult situations in the past—strictly legitimate business, of course. When he called asking for my assistance with an urgent matter, I couldn’t possibly turn him down. He says it has to do with your uncle and the steel company that supplies the Ford plant. Do you have time to talk to me about it?”

Oh, boy, do I!

“I’d appreciate any help you can give me,” I inform him. “I should first tell you that I own controlling shares of Severstal.” The line is momentarily quiet.

“You do?” he says.

“Yes. So, if I wanted to push people around and be a bully and get things done, I could, but I don’t want to do that. My uncle is an honest working man and I don’t want to cause any trouble for him.”

“Grey!” Williams says, finally. “Of course! How did I not make that connection?” I laugh to myself.

“For some reason, a lot of people don’t. Maybe that’s a good thing. My own uncle didn’t even know until this past weekend, but that’s a different story. The situation is pretty simple and I just want to know if there’s anything that can done about it.”

“Well, let’s hear it. We’ll do whatever is in our power.”

“That’s all I ask. His name is Stanley Grey and he’s in the Dearborn Ford Plant. He’s used all of his leave time due to other emergent family issues. However, his father—my grandfather—is out here in Seattle with me and my father. He’s dying of kidney failure and he doesn’t have long left to live… a week, maybe. All his sons have been out here to see him before he passes except Uncle Stanley. It would mean a lot to my family if we could get him out here before Pops dies. He can’t use FMLA because he’s not the primary caregiver and Pops isn’t dead yet. So, you see my dilemma.”

“Yes, I see,” he says. “This is a fairly easy fix, though, and totally legit.” I hear him typing into his computer. “Stanley Grey… yes, there’s only one Stanley Grey in the Dearborn plant.” He types some more. “Yeah, I see he has used all of his time.” More typing. “He’s got an impeccable record, though. Long-term employee… no disciplinary action… We shouldn’t have a problem getting him some time from the bank.” I frown.

“The bank?” I ask.

“Yes, the paid-leave time bank,” he replies, still typing. “Employees have an option to donate time to the paid leave bank for situations like this. You never know what might happen. The union is a team, Mr. Grey. We have to look out for one another.” More typing. “Your Uncle has probably donated to the bank himself, but once the time is donated, it’s just classified by pay grade, not by person.”

“Does my Uncle know about this? Why didn’t he just ask for some of the time?” I ask.

“He might have, but there’s a process in getting the time approved and by the time it’s approved, it sounds like your grandfather would have already passed on.” He continues typing. “Yes, he applied for emergency time—two weeks. He withdrew it, though. I’m assuming it was just too close.” I hear more typing. “I’ll admit, Mr. Grey, this is partially special treatment because Mr. Fineman is a friend that we would like to keep in our good graces; but this is also the very reason why we have this time bank, for situations like this. Your uncle is entitled to this time and with his record, he most likely would have been approved. But based on what you’re telling me, it probably would have been too late for him to see his father before his death.” I hear shuffling on the other line, then a woman’s voice before Williams answers her.

“Can you get Dearborn HR on the line?” he tells her. “Tell them to check the leave bank database for Stanley Grey. This is his employee number. His leave bank request for two weeks has been approved effective immediately and he needs to be released as soon as possible. Tell them his father is gravely ill—use those words, Karen… gravely ill.” I hear the female voice say something on the other end and then a door closes.

“I appreciate you contacting the union, first, Mr. Grey,” Williams continues. “I’ll honestly say that I’m not really sure what you may have been able to accomplish through other channels, but even if you were unsuccessful in your plight, it still would have caused us problems.” I frown.

“I don’t quite follow,” I say.

“Well, HR works with us with the banked time, but the union maintains it and submits the requests for approval. Let’s say you went the traditional ‘heads will roll’ route, calling in favors or raging at whatever executives you knew. That shout would have started in Severstal’s hallowed halls, which would have made its way to through Severstal executive offices. After bouncing around shivering executives for a while, it finally would have made it to Ford’s board of directors… if you’re lucky. They would run around for a day or so trying to find out who should be blamed. Big man from one of our largest steel vendors is trying to get something done for his uncle. Who the hell is his uncle? They would be so busy running around scared that it would probably take them another day to figure out that Stanley Grey was in the Dearborn Plant.

“Now, they call HR and they go through the entire process all over again of discovering that Stanley doesn’t have any time left, even though you’ve already made this known in your request. Now, I must inform you that this information is not moving as quickly as it did between you and me—you talk to the source on the phone, I type in his name, find the request and get it approved and rushed through HR. No, this is going through a series of emails and executive memorandums that read like a game of CLUE with no one wanting to take any responsibility for this situation going into the crapper and Ford possibly losing its biggest supplier of steel since we know that Severstal has other large customers worldwide.

“After all this—probably three to four days after you’ve made the request—some clerk happens to see the notice and mentions it to someone in the know in HR that Stanley Grey needs some emergency leave and the request is coming ‘straight from the top.’ Keep in mind that the union may or may not get that ‘straight from the top’ information, assuming that we’ve been notified at all since no one thought to tell us.

“One of the reps on-site or at the local in Detroit is now trying to get this pushed through, but it still has to go through some kind of process at the union level. Let me tell you, Mr. Grey, news from the top gets to the union at a snail’s pace unless it’s something that directly has to do with us. Even then, it’s usually on a need-to-know basis and they decide who needs to know. By the time your ‘get this done yesterday’ request gets to us, it’s five days later. Your grandfather may have already passed away, and everybody’s now passing the buck until it lands in the lap of the union. So, by Mr. Fineman knowing to bring this matter straight to us, we’ve saved each other a lot of headache.” I hear a chime or some kind of notification. He’s silent and I hear typing. “And while I was telling my little story, your uncle has been notified of his approval and is clocking out as we speak.” I sigh heavily.

“Mr. Williams, you have my eternal gratitude. I don’t know how to thank you for this.”

“All I ask is that if there’s ever a reason for our paths to cross again, listen to Finney. He knows what we need.” Finney? Really?

“Thank you again, Mr. Williams. I don’t mean to be rude, but I need to make travel arrangements for my uncle… and I need to tell my father.”

“You’re quite welcome, Mr. Grey. Until and if we meet again, it was my pleasure.” We exchange pleasantries and end the call. I dial my uncle’s number.

“Hello?” he answers and I can tell that he’s in the car.

“Uncle Stanley?” I respond.

“Christian!” he exclaims. “You did it! I don’t know how you did it, but you did it!

“Are you driving, Uncle Stanley?” I ask, unable to mask my concern.

“I’m hands-free,” he says, chuckling. “You’re just like my wife. Your voice is coming through the speakers.”

“What do you need?” I ask, relieved. “How soon can you get here?”

“Well, I’ll have to get a flight,” he says.

“Let me see what I can do,” I tell him. “I would send my jet, but it’s too short notice. If I can’t get you a flight within the next six hours, I’ll send my jet.” The line is silent for a moment.

“You have a jet?” he says, quietly.

“Yes, sir,” I tell him. He chuckles.

“Freem didn’t stand a chance,” he says. I don’t bother answering. Freem has a problem with money that I can’t explain.

“Will anyone be traveling with you?”

“No, not yet,” he says. “My wife may try to come later. There are some things going on with her job and our home that need our attention. She was more concerned about me getting to see Dad before… before he’s gone.” His voice cracks.

“Uncle Stanley, I’m going to try to make some travel arrangements for you. I’m going to end this call now. I don’t want you to be upset while you’re driving. How soon would you want to leave?”

“I’m going home to pack and wait for your call, son,” he says. I nod.

“Then I’ll call you with a flight as soon as I get one.” We say our goodbyes and end the call. I buzz my PA.

“Yes, sir?”

“Andrea, I need a first-class, straight through flight from Detroit to Seattle as soon as you can get it booked…”


ANASTASIA

I split my time today between cooing at my twins, talking to Pops, and being a buffer between Mia and her parents when they discussed continuing with her wedding plans. That last one was totally unnecessary as Grace and Carrick both agree that Mia should continue with her planning, just like Pops said. A few times, she came into Pops’ room with plans for the wedding and each time he saw her enter, his face lit up while she talked about small details like napkins, floating votives, centerpieces, and favors. I asked Pops if he wanted to rest and he politely said, “I’ll rest when I’m dead!” before turning to Mia and saying, “Nix the candle stands. I like the floating votives better. And the stones on the bottom should be gray—not iridescent. The iridescent stones look like dollar store dressing!”

“I thought that, too!” Mia had said. “I’ll let you know as soon as we narrow down the flower choices.”

“Whatever you choose, use lilacs instead of baby’s breath,” Pop’s calls out to her. “It’s prettier and aromatic, and it symbolizes new love.” Mia smiles widely.

“Thanks, Grampa,” she says sweetly before leaving his room. I turn back to Pops. “She’s doesn’t treat me like I’m dying,” he says as an explanation. “She’s giving me that gift, so I’m giving her the gift of showing interest in her wedding. That will be her final memories of me.” I smile as a tear drops down my cheek.

“Would you like to hold your great-grandson?” I ask. Pops toothless grin spans his entire face.

“I sure would,” he says, his gums on full display. I take Mikey out of the carrier attached to my body and place him gently in Pops’ arms.

“Hey, there, little fella,” he says sweetly to a sleeping Mikey. Again, Pops’ face lights up and I vow to keep as much life around him in the coming days that I can. His room is serene, welcoming death quietly and calmly like his life is already over, and that’s not what Pops wants. As he spends some quality time bonding with his great-grandson, I open the window and let some fresh air in. I come back over to his bed and sit down.

“You seem in good spirits today,” I say. He smiles at Mikey as he rocks him back and forth.

“You’re a doctor, child,” he says, still smiling at his great-grandson. “You know what this is.” I cringe inside. I know exactly what it is.

“You know what it is, Pops?” I ask cautiously. He nods.

“That last burst of energy that allows me to be coherent and say goodbye to my family,” he says, somewhat solemnly. “Ruby had it before she went home. It won’t be long, now.” I nod.

“I would say that you’re right,” I say, stroking Mikey’s silky brown hair as he sucks his binky intermittently without opening his eyes. “I can’t help but feel sad. I know what’s to come, but…” I hold my head down and quickly wipe away a tear. “… It just seems like we haven’t had enough time.”

“But we certainly made the best of what we had,” he said. “I loved reliving my life with my Ruby through talking to you. It was the most wonderful gift anyone could give me.”

“I’m glad I could do something for you during this time,” I say, feeling helpless.

“You’ve done so much!” he says. “Your wedding made it possible for me to reconnect with my son, meet my grandchildren, and know that the Grey name will continue to flourish well after I’m gone. Look at this!” He looks adoringly at Mikey. “Look at this gorgeous little man, this wonderful bundle of hope. I know that Ruby is so pleased that I got a chance to meet you all—to bond with you all and see my complete family before I pass on. This is why I’m not afraid. I have love and fulfillment on this side and I’ll have it on the other side. I just have to make the transition. What more could a man ask for?”

My tears flow freely now. I admire his strength and courage and I wish I had the chance to know him better before he’s taken away from us. A year seems so short.

“Tell me about your greatest adventure,” he says, catching me completely off guard.

“What?” I ask, a little shocked.

“I’m lucid and for the moment, I’m not dying. I want to hear about the living. Tell me about your greatest adventure.” I laugh softly.

“That would have to be marrying your grandson,” I reply. He scoffs at me.

“You’re supposed to say that,” he says in disbelief.

“Well, in my case, it’s true,” I say. “This relationship has been one roller coaster ride after another. I never know what’s going to happen next. There’s never a typical day in the life of the Greys. Everything we do, we do big… even screw up. I tell you, Pops, it’s been a wild ride.” He chuckles.

“Okay, then tell me about one of the adventures you’ve had since you married my grandson… a good one!” he clarifies. I only think for a moment.

“I would say that one of our best was our honeymoon, before it was cut short…”

I spend quite some time telling Pops about our trip to Europe. He’s never been, even though he’s taken a trip or three here and there with Ruby before she passed away. I relive the splendor of the Arc de Triomphe and the fact that Christian made me wear flats before we could see it. I hate flats because I’m already short, but I was already pregnant with the twins and didn’t know yet, so my feet were swelling in the stiletto boots I had been wearing for the last six hours. Pops sat in silent awe and wonderment as I talk about the wine tasting at a historic Paris champagne bar, seeing a show at the famous Moulin Rouge, and visiting the Eiffel Tower. He knows something else happened with the Eiffel Tower as I physically feel my face flush when I start talking about it, but he doesn’t press for details.

I continue with the beautiful sites and shopping of Paris, then take him on a mental trip through Greece. His eyes shine as if he can see the sites in his head and is traveling right along with me. We talk for hours about the Parthenon and the Acropolis, the bronze statues in the museum and church on Lycabettus Hill; the Olympic Stadium and the religious experience that was the prison and death place of Socrates; the wonder that is Delphi and the Santorini sunsets. Just as our virtual trip is coming to an end, I hear my husband’s voice and the whisper of a male voice that I don’t recognize. It’s only now that I realize that the sun has long since set and my son has slept for more hours than normal nestled in his great-grandfather’s arms.

“Pops!” Christian says in amazement as he enters the bedroom. “You look great! What… what happened?” Pops smiles at Christian, but doesn’t bother to repeat what we already know. Instead, he opts to enjoy what time he has left.

“Mikey here kept me content while Ana regaled me with fabulous tales of your honeymoon. It’s enough to put a little life in this tired old soul,” he replies. Christian smiles widely.

“Well, if that’s all it takes to get you looking and sounding this good, maybe I can put a little more life into you.” Christian leans out the door and gestures to someone. What looks like a young version of Carrick walks into the room.

“Stan!” Pops says with enthusiasm. “Son! Oh, my God! I’m so glad you made it!”

“Hi, Dad,” Stan says, walking into the room and approaching his father’s bed. Christian relieves Pops of Mikey, who promptly starts to fuss. Pops and Stan look at each other and embrace for long moments. Christian hands Mikey to me and we step out of the room to give father and son some much needed time together.

“He really looks good,” Christian says. “I haven’t seen him look this great since the wedding.”

“Yeah,” I say sadly. Christian examines me.

“What’s wrong?” I look up at him, almost not wanting to tell him what’s going on, but there’s no use in getting his hopes up.

“Christian,” I say softly, “often, during their last days, terminally ill patients get one last burst of energy right before they pass on. It could last anywhere from a couple of hours to a few days, but once the energy wanes, death comes pretty quickly. Pops is convinced that this is what’s happening and so am I.” I give him a sympathetic look as I comfort Mikey. He frowns deeply.

“What are you talking about? He looks great,” he protests. “He might be turning around. I think he’s on the mend.”

“On the mend?” I ask, gently. “Christian, you know that’s impossible. You know his condition. What exactly is mending? Do you think his kidney is suddenly becoming whole and healthy again?” His face transforms from hopeful and jubilant to angry.

“Look,” he says, squaring off against me like I’ve challenged him to a fight, “my grandfather is healthy and in good spirits. I don’t know how it happened, but he’s the best he’s looked in months, and I’m not going to let you take that away from me!” I gape at him in horror.

“Me?!” I say aghast. “What in the world makes you think I have control over anything in this situation? I’m just telling you what I know as a doctor!”

“Well, doctor, I know you went to school and you’ve got all that fancy learnin’…” He’s mocking me! He’s totally mocking me! “… But I think I’ll take the condition of my grandfather over your expertise!” He hisses before storming off angrily.

What just happened? What the fuck just happened? We’ve all been sitting here waiting for that inevitable day that Pops leaves us—we all even moved in so that we wouldn’t have to hear the news over the phone! Now, somehow, I’ve become the Angel of Death and my beloved husband ridicules my education and hard work because I point out that he’s having his last energy burst? Am I in the fucking Twilight Zone? Fuck Ashton Kutcher, where the fuck is Rod Serling??

I storm off in the same direction Christian did, stopping in the nursery to deposit Mikey into his crib. The energy in the house must be too much for my little man because he’s been asleep for hours, only stirring every now and then when he’s moved. He slips back into slumber when I lay him down, and I continue to Christian’s childhood bedroom. I change into a pair of yoga pants, a sports bra and my runners and dial the pool house.

“Williams,” Chance answers.

“This is Ana. I need an escort out front in five minutes. One second longer and you’ll lose me.” There’s a moment of silence.

“Um, yes ma’am,” he says before I end the call. I put on a hoodie over my sports bra, grab my purse, phone, and keys and I’m outta here.

*-*

“I’d like a three-day pass, please,” I say to the girl behind the counter. She hands me an application which I complete and pay her for a three-day pass. I’m at one of those 24-hour gyms to work off my frustration. I go straight for the heavy bag and let loose on it.

How the hell can he even wrap his mind around the concept that Pops is suddenly “on the mend” when he’s been suffering from chronic kidney failure since before he even got here?

You know what this is. The day is near and he’s battling the first three stages of grief all at once… emphasis on the bargaining with the energy burst.
That’s bullshit! This isn’t bargaining! He’s placing blame for the obvious on me and then he’s treating me shitty for knowing what’s going to happen next!

I wail away at the heavy bag, feeling even angrier that at a time when we should be soaking up our last moments with Pops, we’re actually fighting because he’s feeling better!

You’re the doctor. You know what’s going on here and you’re supposed to be the level headed one.
I don’t want to be the level head. I don’t deserve this abuse! I’ve had just as much time to get to know Pops as everyone else except Herman and Carrick. I love him, too, and I don’t want him to leave us either! I’m not taking my feelings out on anyone else! Why does he get to take his feelings out on me? Because of his title? Because him being adopted means he’s actually related and I’m not? He’s at home spending time with Pops and I’m here beating the hell out of leather and sand and arguing with you!

For the first time ever, I’m not feeling the burn I need from the heavy bag. There’s no one on the other end of my fist screaming and moaning in pain or begging for mercy, so I’m feeling no satisfaction. On that note, I take my sadistic ass over to the barbell weight bench to cause myself some real pain. There’s 100 pounds on the barbell and I quickly and easily do two reps of ten bench presses.

Not enough weight.

I add more weight up to 110 and still don’t feel anything after ten reps. I feel like I’m wasting my time.

“Chance,” I call and he’s by my side in moments. “Add ten more pounds to this.” He frowns.

“Ma’am?” he questions. Oh, fuck, do I have to go through this with everybody who ever sees me workout for the first time.

“Ten more pounds please take it up to 120!” I say all in one breath. He chews the inside of his cheek, but does what I ask, staying close by as I press 120 for two reps of 10. There, that’s a little more burn, but I still want just a little more.

“Fifteen,” I tell him. “Take it to 135.” He frowns, but does as I ask, removing some of the lighter weights and adding heavier ones to bring my total weight to 135. I lift the barbells and begin to feel the burn, but still not certain that we’re at 135. At my strongest, that’s the most I’ve been able to press and this doesn’t feel like 135.

“Are you sure this is 135?” I ask after my first rep of ten. He nods.

“You can look at the weights yourself. It’s 135,” he says. I sigh. I guess I’ll just do reps of ten until I can’t do anymore. I’m very likely to hurt myself doing more than 135 and I have nothing to prove to anyone. I just want to feel the burn in my muscles, but the first thing I’m going to do when we get back to the Crossing is have a heavy bag installed so that I’m not spending my nights at a 24-hour gym whenever I feel the need to kill someone.

“I assume you can spot,” I inquire. He gets into position at my head, ready to take the barbells should I hit the wall. I begin a second reps of ten with Chance spotting me, then a third, and barely make it through a fourth. On the fifth rep, I tap out at eight and Chance has to spot me. When he takes the barbells from me and put them back on the hook, I’m puffing and trying to catch my breath. I think I may have only slightly overdid it, but I’ll find a hot bath when I get back to Grey… Compound.

I see Chance’s hand as he extends it to me to help me off the bench. I grab his hand and he helps me sit up before handing me a bottle of cold water. I gladly take it and down half of it before I take a breath.

“Why do you need a bodyguard?” he asks, after taking a seat on a nearby bench. I frown.

“What?” I question.

“I just watched you bench press more than your own body weight for four reps of ten and one rep of eight after you pressed 120 for two reps of ten, 110 for one rep of ten, and 100 for two reps of ten. That’s ten reps totaling 98 presses in about 25 minutes after you damn near tore the heavy bags off the wall for twenty minutes… and you’re proficient with a firearm. Again, I ask, why do you need a bodyguard?”

His summation of the situation is somewhat facetious and draws a small chuckle from me.

“I don’t need a bodyguard, but my children do,” I tell him. “I need back-up,” I add. He raises his eyebrow at me. I dry the sweat off my body with one of the gym towels then proceed to clean the machine I was using. “The one time I was overtaken in my adult life, I was double-teamed and drugged.” We won’t talk about the pesky Green Valley situation when I was poly-teamed or jumped or whatever you want to call it. “I can take care of myself, but I don’t have eyes in the back of my head. That’s why I have a bodyguard.” He nods.

“I’d hate to ever have to go one-on-one with you,” he says. “You’re tiny and you’re strong and you’d slip out of my grasp and beat my ass.” I chuckle again.

“Yeah, I could take you,” I tell him, “maybe not face-to-face, one-on-one combat, but in a self-defense situation, I could take you. I’m just smart enough to know that I can’t take two of you.” I finish drying the machine off and put my hoodie back on. I didn’t bring a change of clothes, so showering and putting these sweaty clothes back on would be my only option. No thanks, I have a hot bath in mind when I return anyway.

“I don’t think anybody could take on two of me,” he says. I just shake my head.

“If you think so, but you’re not invincible, Chance. You’re just well-trained. You’re not the only one. Don’t get cocky,” I say as I walk out of the health club.

“I don’t,” he says, “except now, I feel a little better at times like this when I have to shadow you.” I turn a bemused gaze at him, questioning with only my eyes. He shrugs. “After what I just saw, you could be my backup!”

I laugh at him as we get in the car and head back to the Greys.

*-*

It’s quiet when I get back to the Manor. I go to the kitchen and quickly down a glass and a half of cold water before refilling my glass and heading up the stairs. I quietly open the door to the nursery and check in on the twins. It’s well past their feeding time and I can only assume that either they haven’t awakened yet or…

“They’ve already been fed.”

His voice has ice in it as I look over my shoulder at him. His eyes are laced with anger as he glares accusingly at me. I don’t have the time or the energy to go at it with him at this hour. I quietly close the door and head towards our temporary bedroom.

“Where have you been?” he demands, his voice low. I whirl around and look at him with incredulous impatience.

“Look at me,” I begin, gesturing at my attire. “I’m wearing gym clothes. I’m sweaty and funky. Where does it look like I’ve been? I went to work out!” I put a hand on my hip and await his rebuttal.

“It’s 3:00 in the morning,” he accuses. “Our children woke and you weren’t even here. Nobody knew where you were in the middle of the damn night!” I narrow my eyes at him, not in anger, but in disbelief.

“Security knew where I was!” I retort quietly. Like he says, it’s 3AM and we’re standing in the middle of the hallway. “I called them first to ask someone to go with me.”

“That’s strange, because when I called out there, they had no idea that you were gone!” he snaps. I shake my head. Chance answered the phone and I told him that he had five minutes to get out here or I was leaving. He may not have had an opportunity to tell someone, although that’s not very likely, but whatever. Why is he standing here hissing at me like a dog?

“Well, that’s strange to me, too, because I don’t recall hearing my cell phone ring questioning my whereabouts or even my safety. Hell, I’m surprised that you’re concerned where I was at all!” I retaliate before I even realize it. “You were so ready to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater when I explained Pops’ burst of energy, just throwing shit on all my studies, my internship, my knowledge because you suddenly can’t accept that your grandfather is passing away. Why the hell would you even care about me when this is obviously all my fault, right?” My voice is getting a little louder than it should and Elliot sticks his head out of one bedroom while Grace and Carrick are now looking out of a room from down the hallway.

“We’re not talking about that right now. We’re talking about what’s bringing you home at 3:00 in the damn morning!” he shoots.

“I told you! I went to work out!” I rebut.

“At three in the damn morning? Yeah, I believe that.”

What the fuck? Does he just want to fight? No, Christian, no. Fucking no.

“Fine. Ask Chance—he was with me. Call 24-hour Fitness. Track the GPS you finally put on my damn car. Do whatever the fuck you want to verify if I’m lying to you. Let me know what you find out.” I turn to go into his room. I need to get out of these sweaty, nasty clothes and into some water, pronto. Only, for some reason, I can’t move forward. I hear my husband’s voice and I turn around and see fire in his eyes, though I don’t know what he’s saying. His words are lost in the haze in my head and the fact that he’s firmly gripping my arm. It feels like slow motion when my eyes travel from his down to his hand squeezing my arm and back up to his eyes.

“Like I said,” I begin, my voice slow and calculated as I look up at him through my eyelashes in a way that’s anything but sexy, “ask Chance; call the gym; check my GPS; check traffic cameras; find an eye-in-the-sky; track the Space Needle Weathercam; pray to a higher power; hold a séance and ask the dead. I really don’t care. Do whatever the fuck you need to do to get your answers since my fancy learnin’ word is no longer good enough for you! Now please! Remove your hand! From my arm! Before I take it the wrong way!”

He glares at me with a look that not only relays his fury, but also the fact that he doesn’t know who the hell I am right now. Damn straight, Grey. I don’t even know who the hell I am, so I think you better let go of my fucking arm. After a few seconds, he does just that. I go into our room without another word and close the door behind me.


A/N: Ashton Kutcher and Rod Sterling reference—Somewhere earlier in the story,  maybe in another book, something unbelievable happens to Ana and she asks, “Am I being Punked? Seriously, where’s Ashton Kutcher?” So, this situation is so much more unreal than that one that she’s certain that she’s graduated from Punk’d to The Twilight Zone and she’s now asking for Rod Serling, who was the host of the original series from 1959 – 1964.

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at 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

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 67—Opa!

As we go into the second chapter of the honeymoon, I would like to send out special thanks to my friend Vanessa for always coming through in a pinch and helping me with story points and accurate translations. I would also like to send a HUGE and EXTREMELY sincere note of gratitude to Gia, without whom I would not have even been able to approach this chapter and the chapters to come at all. She gave me fantastic pointers and information about Greece from a Greek point of view and I appreciate it more than you will ever know.

Certain inconsistencies have been brought to my attention. I will address them as I change them. Thanks to my Eagle-Eyed readers who have brought these things to my attention. It is very important to me to get these things right!

I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY fanfic in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.

Chapter 67—Opa!

CHRISTIAN

My petite little flower is eating enough for three linebackers once more. Apparently, the concerns about her ass are out the window and she has absolutely no problem with French cuisine except for red meat. She scarfed down a lunch of escargot, soupe à l’oignon, coquilles Saint-Jacques, and Sole Meunière. Yet, the moment my Hachis Parmentier was brought to the table, she nearly passed out on the spot. They took it away and brought me Blanquette de Veau instead and she was fine until the end of our meal when someone at the next table ordered boudin noir aux pommes—blood sausage over baked apples. She was out of that restaurant before I even had a chance to pay the bill.

“What is it with you and beef lately?” I ask when we get into the Audi and head for the Arc de Triomphe. “You never used to react this violently to it.”

“I know,” she says. “It’s flashbacks of the murder burger. I was sick for days after that thing. It’s hard to get past the mental trauma of that.” She’s rubbing her ankles inside of her boots.

“Come here.” I reach down and grab her feet, bringing them to my lap. It’s a little harder than it should be to get her boots off and she actually sighs with relief when I have them removed.

“Butterfly,” I say after removing her ankle socks. “Your feet are all red.”

“Hours walking down the Avenue,” she says, her voice tortured. I start to rub her feet and ankles and she jumps in pain.

“I told you not to wear those boots,” I scold, massaging more gently while she closes her eyes and moans in pleasure. “Didn’t you buy some flats?” She raises her head at me.

“You mean those Ralph Lauren loafers? I’m not wearing those to the Arc de Triomphe!” she announces.

“Well, you better think of something, because your feet aren’t going back in those.” I point to her boots.

“It’s just my ankles, I’m sure,” she protests. “I can wear the shoes I got from Armani.”

“No, you can’t,” I retort. “Your feet are red and I know they are sore. You will only go to the Arc de Triomphe if you wear flats. Butterfly, you had to be walking around for about six hours or so before you even sat down. You were so hungry that you almost passed out. Did you really expect to run around in stilettos all day and not pay the price?” She looks at me with sad eyes. “If you don’t like the flats, why did you buy them?”

“The marble gets cold in the winter,” she says. “I bought them as slippers.”

“Well, you’re going to wear them as shoes today,” I tell her. She pouts.

“It’s not that they’re ugly. I’m going to have a problem walking in them since I’m so accustomed to stilettos. I have high arches, not to mention I’m going to look about three feet tall walking next to you.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it. You’re my wife and it doesn’t matter what other people think. Besides, you may be short, but you’re hot. So what’s it going to be… Ralph Lauren or the GEH jet?”

*-*

A few minutes later, I am walking towards the Arc de Triomphe with my mini-wife, who has completely forgotten about her Ralph Lauren flats as she examines the sculptures bursting out of the Arc.

“Now, I get to dazzle you with my knowledge again, Mrs. Grey,” I say coming up behind her and slipping my arms around her waist while she admires the architecture.

“Proceed, Mr. Grey,” she smiles.

“This particular Arch of Triumph is the second largest in the world. The largest is in North Korea. Napoleon commissioned this one to mark his victories in battle, which is ironic since he never got to see the finished product.”

“Hmm, Shangri-la and now the Arc de Triomphe—I see a theme developing here,” she says. “I happen to know that Napoleon was exiled after he lost at Waterloo, which is why he never saw it finished.”

“He wouldn’t have seen it anyway,” I inform her. “They stopped building it after he was exiled and didn’t start building it again until 20 years later, well after he died.” She nods.

“How did I not know they stopped building it?” she asks, mostly to herself, I think.

“No worries, Mrs. Grey. That’s why you have me.” I wink at her before taking her hand and leading her closer to the magnificent edifice. “Now, I saw you admiring the statues. This one,” I point to the one on our right, “is La Marseillaise. Those are French soldiers and citizens and that is the Roman goddess of war…”

“Bellona,” she finishes my sentence.

“Very good, Mrs. Grey. Now what’s that one?” I ask, pointing to the statue on the left.

“That, Mr. Grey, is The Triumph. It depicts Napoleon being crowned by Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory, after one of his many triumphs while the defeated bow at his feet. Now, on the opposite side of this one is The Resistance.”

“Ah, you’re getting ahead of me, Mrs. Grey,” I scold. “We’re not done with this side yet.”

“Forgive me, Mr. Grey. Do continue.”

“Thank you. Now, the reliefs at the top are depictions of Napoleon’s many battles and victories, and way up there,” I bring her back a bit to see the top of the Arc, “you will see 30 shields with the names of battles he won.” I lead her underneath the Arc. “Now these are lists of the names of French generals. The underlined ones died in battle.” We walk around under the Arc for a bit, admiring the architecture and examining the many indications that Napoleon was very proud of his victories. Butterfly also stops in silent contemplation at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I don’t know what she’s thinking, but she seems miles away.

“I wish Alexandria hadn’t been such a bitch,” she says softly. “I would have liked to know more about Harry—my… father.” I put my hands on her shoulders. She seems so small right now, but I dare not tell her that for fear that she’ll march back to the car in search of stilettos.

“I know it must be hard to have that door opened and not be able to walk in, but a wise woman once told me that everything happens for a reason. I have to believe this is one of those situations,” I tell her, trying to ease the sting of maybe never being able to learn about a father that she never knew.

After several minutes we get to the other side of the Arc to Resistance, where Butterfly tells of the soldier defending his family under Antevorte, the Roman goddess of future. On the opposite side, things get back to normal and the French citizens go back to their daily lives as a French soldier sheaths his sword under the watchful eye of the Roman warrior goddess Minerva, and the statue is appropriately called Peace. There’s no doubt that Napoleon had nothing to do with this particular statue.

“How are your feet?” I ask, noting that she’s moving around easily with no pain.

“They’re fine. Shall we go inside?” she says, quickly dismissing my question. We go inside and there is a large spiral staircase that takes you all the way to the museum at the top. Did I mention that the Arc de Triomphe is over 160 feet high?

Yeah, not doing that.

We locate the elevator which is normally just for the infirm and with a little insistence, we take a ride up to the museum. The museum was okay, but not much to look at, but the view! Good fuck, the view! It’s really spectacular. Living in Escala, I’m accustomed to seeing marvelous views of a fantastic city, but the view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe is unbelievable. The Arc sits right in the center of a large circle where the 12 Grand Avenues converge and branch out like a starburst. Butterfly is mesmerized by the view and I silently enjoy watching her while she watches the view. After several minutes of quiet contemplation, she yawns, and I know that she has had enough excitement for one day.

“That’s Paris, Lady Anastasia… well, a small part of it anyway. What do you think?”

“I think it’s fantastic and dreamy and I can’t believe you were able to squeeze so much into 24 hours. You are amazing, Christian.” She throws her arms around my neck and kisses me sweetly. “Thank you so much. I do have one question though. Why do you keep calling me ‘Lady Anastasia?'”

“I don’t know,” I answer honestly. “It seems to fit.”

“Hmmm. Well, I like it. Don’t stop, Sir Christian.”

“That definitely fits,” I tell her, holding her close to me as she yawns again. “We should get to the jet. Athens awaits and you look like you can use a nap.”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she says. “It’s nowhere near bedtime.”

“It’s only been one day, Love. I’m certain that it’s jetlag.” She nods and leans on me. We stand and wait for the elevator for so long that she finally convinces me that she can take the stairs as going down is not as taxing as going up. She was wrong. She nearly collapses when she gets to the bottom floor.

“Butterfly!” I catch her just as her knees begin to buckle. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know… as soon as the fresh air hit me, I just got light-headed.” I scoop her up in my arms and start walking towards the car. My heart is beating so fast that I can barely control it. What if she had collapsed on the stairs? I was walking behind her. I wouldn’t have been able to catch her.

“Christian, really, I can walk,” she protests softly. I don’t respond. I just want to get her to the car. Adrien jumps in response as we approach and opens the back door. I place her on the seat and close the door.

“Get us to the airport,” I say before walking around the car and sliding into the backseat. I turn to Butterfly and fasten her securely in her seatbelt before releasing a breath that I was holding. I sink back into the seat.

She’s secure. She’s safe now.

“Christian?” her soft voice startles me. I look over into her questioning face. I sigh again and shake my head.

“I’m sorry,” I say, thrusting my hands through my hair. “For a fleeting moment, I saw you tumbling down an insanely long spiral staircase—all 284 stairs.” I look back up at her. “Another piece of useless information,” I add with a strained smile. She looks at me sympathetically and strokes my hair.

“I’m fine,” she says. “It’s been a pretty big day—Love Lock Bridge, at least $1,000,000 on Avenue Montaigne, enough food to feed an army, then I foolishly decide to take the stairs down the Arc de Triomphe. I’m going to need some rest from my honeymoon and it’s only been one day.”

“I planned too much,” I lament.

“Oh, don’t you dare,” she scolds. “This day was outstanding! The shopping, the sites, the sex…” she whispers the last part. “I wouldn’t change a thing, except maybe I’d wear sneakers instead of stilettos.” She laughs and my mood is immediately lightened. I kiss her hand firmly.

“I don’t know why I freaked out so badly. I’m just… I’m happier than I have ever been and I’m afraid something is going to happen to ruin it.”

“Nothing is going to ruin it,” she says caressing my cheek. “I love you and I’m not going anywhere. You’re stuck with me, Mr. Grey, so you might as well get used to it. So stop worrying… that’s an order.”

“Yes, Dr. Grey… Dr. Steele-Grey,” I stumble and smile.

“You can call me Dr. Grey. I’ll save Steele-Grey for the office,” she purrs. I hear a little grunt from the front seat and turn to see Adrien glaring at Norbert. Was he clearing his throat? I’m not accustomed to my bodyguards reacting to my conversations unless I include them. I’ll have a word with Norbert in case that’s what just happened.

*-*

Butterfly was asleep before the plane took off. I didn’t want to wake her when we landed in Greece four hours later. Carrying her down the stairs of the Jet was a tricky maneuver, but now, here we lay in the royal suite at the Hotel Grande Bretagne. Norbert and Adrien are in a nearby suite while Jason and Charles are in a separate suite. I decided to dispense with the formalities of Davenport as if I can call two French strangers by their first names, surely I can refer to Charles as such. He’s been working for me for quite some time.

I look over at Butterfly’s sleeping body. She’s lying on her stomach in this soft blue chemise. She’s been sleeping for several hours and she’s right, her butt is bigger. It’s rounder—still fit and firm, but rounder. I like it. The light is bursting into the room from the windows on both sides of the large bed and she shows no signs of stirring. I watch her body rise and fall with her breathing, her long mahogany hair still sporting some of the curls from our wedding day. She is so beautiful. I could watch her all day.

She must have been exhausted from yesterday’s excursions. Counting the hours of sleep on the plane and that fact that she shed her clothes the moment we got to the suite and was asleep the second her head hit the pillow, I would say that she has easily been asleep for a combined 12 or 13 hours. If it was that rough on her, she’s likely to be sore when she wakes.

I outline her body like I did that day at the McElvoy when she was dancing to that Enigma song. I’m careful not to touch her so that I don’t wake her, but I’m taking from her energy. She’s my wife now… Mrs. Anastasia Grey. She is my dream come true and she’s all mine now, even though I risked fucking it up royally the night before our wedding. Damn, I’ve got to put that paranoid, possessive, out-of-control fucker on a goddamn leash.

I don’t know how long I watch her before she finally stirs. I wait to see if she is actually coming out of her slumber or just switching positions before I touch her. She tucks her head under her arm and does this ball stretch before slowly extending each limb. I hear her shoulder pop on one of the stretches and several other joints during the rest of the stretch and I know that I’m right; she did overdo it yesterday. She rolls over on her back and continues to stretch her aching joints without opening her eyes, groaning with a few of the movements. No, there will be no strenuous outings for the Butterfly today.

She stretches her arms out to the side and jumps when I catch her hand from swatting me in the face. She lazily opens one eye and I can clearly tell that she didn’t expect for me to still be in bed. She groans something indecipherable and closes her eye again. I slide my hand under her against her back and the other arm around her waist. Pulling her to me, I kiss her deeply until her body melts into mine. She can’t take much of anything right now, I know. So even though I could fuck her all day, every day, several times a day, she’s getting a reprieve on this particular day.

“Hello, my love,” I breathe against her lips.

“Hi,” she says, barely able to find her voice. “What time is it?”

“It doesn’t matter,” I respond. “You need rest.”

“I don’t want to stay in bed,” she protests. “We’re in Greece.”

“And we have three weeks to see it.” I kiss her again. “No outings today. You need to relax.” She pouts at me.

“You’re going to make me stay in the room?” she whines.

“No, I didn’t say that. First, I’m going to wash your tired body. After that, we’re going to have a lovely breakfast delivered and we’re going to eat at that massive dining table that seats way too many people.” She giggles and the sound is music to my ears. “Then, you’re going downstairs to the spa and have some relaxing massages, treatments, aroma therapy… whatever you need to rejuvenate you. If you’re feeling up to it later, we may do a little sightseeing or just have dinner on the rooftop with a view of the Acropolis. Don’t lie to me, Butterfly. If you’re tired, we can do all those things tomorrow or the next day or the next—we have three weeks.” She nods.

“Yes, Sir,” she concedes. “I’m very achy.”

“I know. I’ll order room service and I’ll call you when your bath is ready.”

The bathroom is a statement in total Grecian opulence. Two Grecian columns greet you as you enter the bathroom. There is floor-to-ceiling marble—white marble walls with blue marble trim, a blue and gold marble vanity and an insanely large blue and gold marble tub sitting in the middle of the room. On the other end of the bathroom to the right of a small foyer that is framed by four more Grecian columns is a huge shower with floor-to-ceiling frosted windows allowing in the bright morning light. There’s even a blue and white marble chaise inside the shower so that you can sit back and allow the water to run over your body.

There are two luxurious ottomans between the vanity and the tub. On the other side of the tub in front of a large floor-to-ceiling window covered with white sheers and heavy drapes is a cream chaise. The vintage light fixtures on the walls match the chandelier that hangs over the tub and gold fixtures, towel rings, wall hangings, and accessories complete the décor. This is extraordinary even by my taste.

Double doors on the other side of the small foyer lead to a workout room with a treadmill, a flat screen television, and a massage table. I turn on the water to fill the tub and come back to the bedroom to retrieve the toiletries bag.

“Oh, you are going to love this,” I say to Butterfly as I grab the case with the soaps, lotions, and conditioners.

“Tell me,” she says, sitting up in bed.

“I’ll do better than that,” I say, reaching for her hand. “Come and see for yourself.” I lead her into the bathroom and the steam from the massive tub rises to make the marble feel warmer.

“Oh my God,” she says, walking slowly into the bathroom and taking in the décor. “This is amazing.” She takes a seat on one of the ottomans. “Queen Anne legs.”

“Queen Who What?” I ask and she giggles.

“The ottoman—those are Queen Anne legs, and the chaise… those are close, but not quite.” I’ll take her word for it. “Is that a marble chaise in the shower?”

“That certainly is,” I tell her while adding bath salts to the water.

“Wow!” she says, stunned. “I’ve never seen that before.”

“Do you want one?” She looks up at me wide-eyed, then smiles.

“No, the showers at Escala are just fine. No need in cluttering them with a chaise.”

“I don’t mean Escala. I mean our home—when we find what we like or build what we like.” She’s staring at me wide-eyed again.

“You would really do that, wouldn’t you?” she asks.

“Why not? You can have whatever you like in your home, so if you want a marble chaise like the one at the luxury hotel in Greece, then you can have one.”

“Oh Christian, that thing probably costs a small fortune.”

“Yes, and I’ve amassed a large one,” I say turning off the water. “You said it yourself—we spent somewhere in the million-dollar range on clothes, shoes, and jewelry yesterday. You think I can’t afford a marble chaise? Now come on over here and get into this wildly expensive bathtub so I can wash that beautiful body.” She smiles that million-dollar smile at me and stands. I drop my boxer briefs and step into the water first. It’s high off the floor, so I have to sit on the edge and swing my legs into the tub. Butterfly’s little feet are dangling slightly over the edge when she sits on the side to swing her legs over.

“Careful. The water is really hot,” I say as I take her hand and help her into the tub. She looks like one of these Greek goddesses I keep seeing as she sinks into the steaming water. God, she is so beautiful.

There’s plenty of room for both of us in this mini swimming pool, but I just want to hold her for a while. Also, I know this hot water and bath salts will do wonders for her aching muscles.

“How this?” I ask as I caress her skin anywhere that I can reach.

“Mmmm… it’s heavenly, Christian,” she says, leaning back into my chest and onto my shoulder.

“Maybe we should get one of these, too,” I say softly. She chuckles.

“I’ll never be able to get into it alone. I’d feel like a toddler.”

“Well, yes, there is that,” I chuckle and she elbows me gently in the ribs. “Hey, you said it.” I reach around her and cup her breasts. Are they bigger, too? “Your breasts are magnificent, Butterfly,” I say massaging them gently.

“And very sensitive,” she breathes.

“Are you about to have your period?” We’ll have to adjust because I’m fucking you senseless over the next three weeks.

“No. I had one before the wedding. It was short, but I had one. I said sensitive, not sore. It’s the hot water…”

“Mmmm,” I say, caressing the right one while pinching the left.

“Ah! Christian, stop,” she whines. “I’m too weak.”

“Too weak for what, Baby?” I ask, now pinching both nipples.

“An orgasm,” she breathes. “I’ll fall asleep in this water.”

“I’ll wake you for breakfast,” I croon as my hand slips down to her clit.

“Ah! Oooooo.” She stiffens almost immediately.

“Oh, you are so ready. Don’t hold out on me, Baby. It’ll relax those tired muscles.” I stroke her clit up and down, up and down, allowing only my fingertips to enter her core while I massage her. She grabs my thighs and in a matter of a few minutes, she is trembling between my legs.

“That’s my girl,” I say, continuing to massage her until she is panting and the trembling stops.

“What… about you?” she asks wearily.

“Later,” I tell her. “Let me wash and feed you.”

After a bath that lasted forever and a thorough washing and drying of Butterfly’s hair, we enter the dining room in the soft-as-baby-bottoms terrycloth hotel robes. Butterfly is taken aback to see the hotel butler standing there waiting to serve us breakfast. I take her hand and lead her to the chair at the head of the table. She sits on her feet and wraps her robe comfortably around her, smiling at me the whole time.

The butler serves us a pretty large breakfast which should make Butterfly happy. First, there’s an omelet with graviera cheese and Greek pancakes called tignatites with honey and walnut. There’s also a pasta dish called trahanas, which looks a little like round rice or porridge, sprinkled with small chunks of fresh feta cheese. There’s some fresh fruit thrown in for good measure and a sweet milk pie called galatopita. There are also chunks of siglino, which is smoked pork, and I’m thinking she’ll send it away with her violent reaction to meat lately, but she digs right into it declaring how tasty it is.

She doesn’t eat as much as she has been, but she still eats more than normal. What happened to the petite little girl who only ate bagels and cream cheese or fruit for breakfast? Nowadays, she’s likely to gnaw your arm off if you come anywhere near her plate.

After breakfast, I dress casually and kiss Butterfly before heading off to the cigar bar to meet Jason. I don’t know if she plans to go to the spa or stay in the room and sleep, but either will be fine with me.

“Her Highness let you up for air?” Jason says when I enter the bar. I laugh.

“She is exhausted,” I inform him. He raises his eyebrow.

“I stand corrected… and you look as fresh as a shiny new penny. How do you do that?”

“It’s not what you think,” I correct him.

“Sure, it’s not,” he teases.

“Oh, shut up. I didn’t wear her out. I just got her off… and why am I telling you this?”

“Because I’m a bundle of joy and laughter and you can’t help spilling your guts to me, besides the fact that I’m your best friend and took a bullet for you.”

“You’re going to milk that for all it’s worth, aren’t you?”

“As often as I can,” he says shamelessly with a big smile. I roll my eyes.

“We did some serious shopping on the Montaigne yesterday. I mean serious shopping. She’s just really tired.”

“Tired after shopping? That doesn’t sound right.”

“Well, we covered the length of the Avenue and back, from D&C down to Valentino.”

“Sorry, Boss, you lost me there,” he says. The cigar expert brings the tray over and I allow Jason to pick a light-bodied cigar for me. I only smoke them maybe twice a year or so.

“Well, it was a short walk for what it was, but all day in stiletto boots…”

“She wears stilettos everywhere. I don’t know who she is when she’s not wearing them. She’s so small…”

“She took them off yesterday and don’t say that in front of her,” I tell him. The cigar expert clips my cigar and lights it for me. As she is lighting Jason’s, I request a cognac.

“She took ’em off, huh? Well, that ended that trip, no doubt.”

“Nope. She begrudgingly wore a pair of Ralph Lauren flats that she bought on the Avenue and we went to the Arc de Triomphe. Then she almost passed out when we came down the stairs as we were leaving.” His hand pauses as he’s bringing his cigar to his lips.

“What’s wrong with her?” he asks. I twist my lips at him.

“Nothing,” I say. “The Arc de Triomphe has 284 steps on a spiral staircase.”

“Yeah, and until a couple of months ago, she worked out in Krav Magna with a sixth dan black belt. She doesn’t strike me as the type to tire easily.”

“Well, this was more than a workout after a day of teetering around in those damn boots and spending enough money to feed a small country for a year. Now stop saying shit that’ll make me worry. I carried her from the Arc to the car yesterday because I freaked out.” My cognac finally arrives and I take a welcome sip. It’s very good with the cigar.

“Sorry, I wasn’t trying to scare you. Could she be pregnant?” I shake my head.

“I wish, but she says she had her period about a week or so ago, so that’s not likely.”

“You thought so, too?”

“Well, it hadn’t crossed my mind, but the topic came up in an unrelated conversation, so I know she’s had her period.”

“Unrelated, huh?” He raises his eyebrow at me. “You ready to start a family already?”

“I was ready to start a family before we got married. She came home one day and announced that Maxine is pregnant, and I could tell that she was a little sour that it wasn’t her. I felt bad for her, but a little happy at the same time that she’s open to starting a family.”

“You guys never talked about it?” He takes another draw from his cigar.

“Yeah, we talked about it, but she was on birth control and she had to stop. Then we heard that it could happen immediately or it could take several months. We haven’t been necessarily trying per se, but it’s kind of like when it happens, it happens. I’ll be one happy fucker when it does.” I take a draw on my cigar.

“Christian Grey… husband and father. Wow. I never thought I’d live to see the day. I mean, I fully expected for one of those crazy broads to come back with a baby…”

“It could still happen,” I lament.

“Yeah, it could, but I never thought I’d see the day when you would get married, not ever.”

“Me either. I walked into that community center full of disdain and resentment and she hit me like a steamroller. I didn’t think for one second that she would affect me the way that she did, but lo and behold…” I trail off and sip my cognac.

“She brought you down, Man,” he says. “I remember that first day—I could see it in your eyes and I was sure that I was mistaken. Christian Grey? Stricken? Impossible! She played you like a violin and neither of you knew it. It took you, what, a month to get her in bed?”

“Eighteen days,” I correct him.

“Eighteen days. He who waves his magic wand and has a woman naked in hours. I thought for sure that last bimbot was signing on for the long haul.”

“Yeah, so did she. So did the Pedophile. Hell, so did I.” We both fall silent for a few moments

“It seems surreal, doesn’t it?” he asks. I look up at him. “I never thought I’d marry again, but then Gail just…” He trails off like he can’t find his words. “She’s all the good things the world has to offer all rolled into one person. When the opportunity came to marry her, I grabbed it with both hands.” His melancholy stare drops to his cigar.

“I couldn’t bring her on this trip, Jason, I’m sorry. I need you to work.” I can tell that he’s missing her even though it’s only been two days and we still have 19 more to go.

“I know,” he says, his voice solemn. “It’s the nature of the beast, right? We’re lucky to work in the same place for the same guy, but I know that she can’t tag along with me everywhere. It’s just not practical.” He puts his cigar in the ashtray.

“What do you think about Adrien and Norbert?” I ask. I never got his professional opinion.

“They’re good men,” he responds. “Alex set them up, so I trust his judgment of course. Norbert is intense—straight-laced, starched collar. He’d be the one to jump in front of the bullet.”

“There you go again.”

“I’m just saying, he’s that guy. Adrien is a bit cocky. He’s good at what he does and he knows it, so he’s a little elitist.”

“Is that a bad thing?” I ask.

“It depends. He’s not the one to jump in front of the bullet because he will make sure that you are not in the place where the gun will be. By the same token, he strikes me as the kind of guy who feels like you should earn his services, not purchase them.” I nod.

“So he has probably not been a bodyguard to the stars. He has more been a bodyguard to dignitaries and royals,” I observe and Jason nods.

“That’s what I would say. He’s accustomed to a very particular caliber of people. You wouldn’t see him at a Rolling Stones concert backstage beating off groupies, no matter what the price. You would most likely see him guarding a count, or a duchess, or a billionaire,” he gestures to me, “because he knows that these people will behave differently.” I twist my lips.

“Should we swap him out? I’m not one to be concerned about how I behave around my staff. What’s more, he and Norbert need to learn a bit more about discretion.” He frowns.

“Why? What’s up?”

“You know how I am. I expect staff to be seen and not heard unless utterly necessary. If I want to fuck that woman in the back seat of the car going down the I-5 at 60 miles per hour, I expect the people in the front seat to pay attention to the road and shut the fuck up. What I don’t expect is for them to turn around trying to get a glimpse of Ana’s ass or to react to my conversations when I’m talking to my wife.”

“Please tell me we’re talking about the latter…”

“We are. I put it together later. Butterfly’s first impression of Adrien was not a good one. Stepping out of the airport, he made a comment about the ‘little lady’ being mesmerized by the ‘pretty lights’ and falling victim to a pickpocket, not knowing that Butterfly speaks fluent French.”

“Oh, I bet that went over well,” he interjects.

“Like an undertaker in a convalescent home,” I point out. “Needless to say, he pissed her off and she’s been calling him ‘Meathead’ ever since.”

“Meathead!” he barks with laughter. “That’s classic.”

“Tell me about it. Anyway, on our way back to the airport, we had a brief conversation about Dr. Grey vs. Dr. Steele-Grey. I was stumbling over the name and she said that I could just call her Dr. Grey. She would save Dr. Steele-Grey for the office. Norbert grunted or laughed or cleared his throat, I don’t know which, and I didn’t put it together until later that they most likely had a conversation about Adrien’s encounter with Butterfly. Now that you’ve told me about his elitist attitude, I’m pretty certain that the conversation involved Meathead thinking Ana is a trophy wife. Norbert reacted when he discovered that Ana was a doctor and Adrien flashed a glare at him. I’m certain that’s what was going on.”

“Oooohh, that’s what that was about,” he says.

“What?” I ask.

“Last night when we all met up to discuss protocol and such, I mentioned that her call-name is Her Highness, that she likes to be called Ana, but if she doesn’t like you, she will probably make you call her Dr. Grey. Norbert openly laughed, but Adrien just frowned and nodded. I assumed she told him to call her Dr. Grey.”

“She hasn’t told him to call her anything,” I say. “She doesn’t speak to him and I can guarantee that she will only speak to you or Charles if she needs something. That’s why I was asking if we should swap him out. We don’t need a bodyguard who speaks English, French, and Greek anymore—just English and Greek.” He shakes his head.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, Boss. The guy is a cocky asshole, but he seems like he’s good at his job. I’ll keep an eye on him and give Alex a call to find a backup just in case.” I nod.

“Good enough. So, what is Gail doing while we’re gone? Have you talked to her yet?”

“Every day…”

We talk a little while about his wife while we puff on cigars and I sip on cognac. Then the conversation shifts to anything and everything. I very rarely spend a lazy afternoon just doing nothing. There’s always a fire to be put out or a crisis to be averted. This afternoon, I simply sit here enjoying a quality cognac, a smooth cigar, and the company of a good friend.

Our conversation has gone on for quite some time when I see Jason looking over my shoulder. I turn around and there’s this woman walking into the cigar bar. Her head is turned and she’s talking to someone at the door. She’s wearing a white crochet mini-dress with a flowy skirt and a zigzag hemline that stops mid-thigh with just a tease of what’s underneath. It has wide shoulder straps that hold her ample breasts up quite nicely. Her hair is full and she is wearing strappy nude stiletto sandals. I try to remind myself that I am now a married man and I am desperately talking my dick down when the woman turns around to look at me…

It’s my wife… and she looks fucking hot! What the hell did they do at that spa?

Her hair is straight, but shiny and full of body, bent slightly at the ends. It’s been cut, but it’s still quite long, cascading down her shoulders and caressing her breasts. Her makeup is understated, like she always wears it, with slightly heavier mascara than usual and soft pink lipstick. My dick gets harder and harder as she strolls over to us, the skirt gently brushing her thighs and taunting me the entire time.

“Boss! Boss!” I turn back to Jason. Was he saying something?

“Huh?” I say a bit dazed. He laughs at me.

“Yeah, you’re gone. Give me a call if you two plan on going somewhere.”

“Yeah, okay,” I say flippantly, quickly turning my gaze back to Butterfly.


ANASTASIA

Good grief, that spa was amazing! I spent hours in that place getting body wraps, oil massages, hot stone treatments and facials. They even had this treatment called a Flight Reviver to help your body reset from jet lag. It must have worked because I feel like a million bucks!

After the hours of rejuvenating my body from the exhaustion of traveling and teetering in those damn boots for hours yesterday, I spent some more time in the salon getting the most luxurious wash and conditioning treatment I think I have every had. My hair is full, fluffy, light, and shiny. I had them take about six inches off the ends after all of the curling and spritzing for the wedding and it still hangs well down my back. After making a stop back at the suite to change into something pretty, I go in search of my husband. It’s nearly dinner time and although I had delicious hors d’oeuvres and champagne in the spa, I haven’t had lunch and I’m ready for a real meal.

I don’t know exactly where to find him, but he said that he would be around. Since he’s not in the suite sneaking in some work, he must be in one of the bars or restaurants, in the workout room or at the pool. It occurs to me that I could just call him, but I left my phone in the room. So I’ll just see if I can find him and if I can’t, I’ll go back to the room and call him. I start with the Winter Garden and the Cellar and he’s not in either place. When I go to Alexander’s, the bartender tells me to check the cigar lounge. Christian doesn’t smoke. Then again, cigar smokers aren’t typical smokers. They just smoke every now and again to unwind. That sounds like Christian.

The décor is very elegant and sophisticated, but not stuffy—cozy, yet classy. I am greeted by a woman in a three-piece suit with a gray tie. When I describe my husband, she points me in the direction of two gentlemen who have been here all afternoon. I follow her gaze to a smiling Jason and a spellbound Christian. Jason says something to him and stands from the table, walking towards me.

“You look great, Your Highness. Go easy on him,” he says with a chuckle as he walks past me and out of the lounge.

Huh?

I walk over to Christian who still can’t seem to find his words and pause for a moment.

“Christian?” He’s eying me from head to toe. He’s checking me out! “Christian!” I say, nearly stomping my feet. He quickly makes eye contact with me and stands from his seat.

“Baby,” he says almost dreamily while taking my hand. “You look stunning.” The Bitch inside of me is giggling. Okay… you’re forgiven for clocking out on me.

“Thank you,” I say like a bashful schoolgirl. He slides his arm around my waist and pulls me toward him. He places a long, sensual kiss on my cheek and my neck.

“Now that’s Chanel,” he says seductively.

“Yes, it is,” I respond, enjoying his breath on my neck.

“Where would you like to eat? Here at the hotel on the roof or do you want to go out?” His lips move to my temple. Shit! I want to go to bed and fuck, but I know that we need sustenance.

“I think I’d like to stay here,” I say softly. “The idea of having dinner on the roof sounds very pleasant.”

“To the roof we go, then,” he says, his voice full of promise.

He looks so good standing across from me in the elevator, examining me thoroughly but saying nothing. I take advantage of the time that we have alone in this small space and close the distance between us. I undo one button of his linen shirt and place my hand on the exposed part of his chest. I feel his breath quicken just a bit against my cheek, causing me to raise my eyes to his lips. His hands never leave the rail as I stand on my toes a bit and gently bring my lips to his. I taste the flavor of the cigar on his lips and the slight hint of cognac. It turns me on. I gently and slowly caress his lips and tongue with my own, delicately stroking the soft hairs on his chest until the elevator signals that we have reached the roof. I reluctantly pull myself away from him and walk out of the elevator, waiting for him to follow me.

I feel him move behind me and slide his hand to the small of my back. I take a deep breath to subdue the shiver that threatens to bring me to my knees. I love this silent game of seduction that we’re playing. I can only hope that it will end with some delicious kinky fuckery later on. We are led to a table with a beautiful view of the Acropolis, although if I’m honest, every table in the restaurant has a beautiful view of the Acropolis. I’m hoping that we will get to go there tomorrow as the Acropolis and the new museum are on the top of my list of things to see while I’m here.

I instruct the waiter on how to prepare my cranberry spritzer as I have already had champagne this afternoon. Christian opts for a soft drink. We examine the menu in silence, the sexual tension between us rising like a thick fog. When we order our food, the waiter takes the menu away and we are in our silence again. I place my hand flat on the table next to his and caress it with my thumb. We don’t take our eyes off of each other as he covers my other hand with his, gently caressing the back and suggestively fingering my palm. I bite my lip suggestively, but only momentarily, allowing it to slide from between my tongue wet and plump. He takes his eyes from mine to move them to my breast, his tongue playing with his lips as he examines them—and he’s making me hot again. Piercing, gray orbs rise back to mine again and we are back to the game of silent visual seduction.

I want to fuck you, I think to myself. I want to ride you until I’m drenched in sweat and completely wrung out from coming so many times that I can’t move anymore. I want to scream your name and hear you call mine in agonized passion. I’m so hot for you right now that I can barely stand it.

I’m so lost in my desire and need for him that I don’t even realize our drinks have come until he puts his to his mouth and takes a drink. Drink. Yes. I need one. I should have ordered something stronger.

Dinner is sweet torment, with an intentional brush here and a soft, gentle hiss there. At one point, I worked my way out of one of my stilettos and caressed his calf with my toes. He shamelessly reached under the table and grabbed my leg, placing it in his lap so that he could fondle my leg. I didn’t dare touch his package, though heaven knows I wanted to, not to mention that I was sitting across from him and there wasn’t much to cover us in terms of the tablecloth. The food was divine, but the real meal didn’t start until we were back in the elevator again.

He’s gazing at me again from across the car and this time, I’m plastered to the wall. While we went from ground to roof to get to the restaurant, we only have a couple of floors to get back to our suite. He’s looking at me with those hungry eyes that he’s had all night, and I feel like the walls are closing in on us. When the elevator rings to announce our floor, he grabs me and lifts me by my thighs hoisting my up to him. Instinctively, I thrust my hands into his hair and kiss him viciously, devouring his mouth and causing him to groan deep in his throat. Fuck if I know how we made it to the door or if anybody saw us, but I’m so ready to take him that I can barely breathe.

Somehow, he gets the door open and scrambles inside with me still attached to his lips. He slides my feet to the floor and grabs my hands from around his neck, pinning them against the wall as he now controls the kiss, causing my head to spin, bruising my lips and deliciously teasing my tongue. His body is rock hard against me, restraining me—he feels so good.

His hands slide down my arms and one lands at my waist while the other keeps going, down my hips and to the hem of my dress, up my thigh and inside my silky mesh panties. I groan in his mouth when he meets his mark.

Relax. Breathe. You are always so quick to come. Enjoy. Breathe.

He pulls his lips away from mine and looks into my eyes. I can’t control my breathing and control my orgasm, so my breathing is erratic and I attempt to rein my body’s slavish reaction to his ministrations. He’s a master at when he does and my body is his instrument. He knows how to make it sing every note on the scale.

“I know what you’re doing,” he says as he massages my clit. “Tell me what you feel.”

“Burning,” I breathe. “The friction… it feels… good… intense.” I close my eyes and try to breathe through the sensation. “The pleasure starts… from the outside… and moves in…”

“What about now?” He thrusts two fingers deep into me and curls them forward almost sending me over the edge while his palm presses into my clit.

“Ah!” I cry, fighting the urge to come, breathing through it to prolong the pleasure.

“You are so sexy,” he says before he kisses me. I feel his erection on my hip. “Tell me, what are you feeling now?”

“Inside… and out… b-both!” My chest is heaving.

“Touch me!” he commands. My hands fly immediately to his dick. He grunts when I grab him and grants my pussy a reprieve. He knows I was about to come, so he moves both hands to my ass and squeezes firmly as I press my hand hard against his erection. He groans as he strokes into my hand. He’s getting harder and harder and he begins to shiver with each stroke. He stops abruptly and plunges his tongue into my mouth. I don’t think he came… he’s still hard against my hand. He’s breathing heavily when he pulls his mouth away from mine.

“Stay here,” he says, nearly growling. “Don’t move.” I nod. He disappears around the corner, giving me a few moments to compose myself while he’s gone. He makes me so hot and it looks like tonight, I did the same thing to him. I don’t dare move from this wall before he gets back.

He’s not gone long and when he returns, he’s wearing only the white shirt—all buttons open—and his black boxer briefs. I get hot all over again at the sight of him. He takes my hand and leads me to the bedroom, but not to the bed. He stops at the wall that separates the sleeping area from the parlor and takes me to the oversized chair there. On the table, I can see the cord tieback from one of the drapes from somewhere in the suite, olive oil, and something else that I can’t quite make out. He turns me around and slowly removes my dress. He then cups my ass under the sheer panties and pushes my underwear off and down my legs. I lift each leg so that he can remove them and he licks my clit only once on his way back up, causing me to moan.

I’m standing there in the sheer demi-bra and the nude strappy stilettos. He runs his thumbs over the outside of the bra, the material right over my nipples. He’s working them to a pebble with just his thumbs.

“They’re so full and beautiful. I thought it was a push-up… it’s all you.” He kisses me deeply. “I want to fuck them.”

“Okay,” I breathe. The idea of his dick between my tits is making my clit throb again because I love the way that he looks when he’s very aroused. I love when his dick gets pink and purple and he’s about to come. It’s a beautiful sight. He kisses me again and instructs me to clasp my hands behind my back. When I do, he binds my arms at the elbows with the cord and pulls them together a bit.

“Okay?” he asks. I nod. “Good. Sit.” He directs me to sit in the chair with the mirror on the wall above it, which I do. My breasts protrude out because of the way that I am bound and I’m still in my bra. He goes over to the table and now I recognize that contraption. It’s the vibrating nipple and clit suction cups from Anguilla. Oh shit.

“I love that you are practicing absorbing your pleasure,” he says as he manipulates my nipples again. I shiver at his touch, but focus on his eyes so as not to rise too quickly. “I want to see you do it again. I want you to absorb the pleasure for a while.” He attaches both suction cups to my breast. I hear the pump and they squeeze only a little.

“When you do come, pull it inside,” he instructs as he moves his hand to my clit. I swallow my whimper. “You will control your orgasm. You will determine its intensity.” Fuck, he’s turning me on so much, then telling me that I will control my orgasm! Okay… focus… focus… I bite my lip to keep from crying out when he attaches the cup to my clit. “Are you ready, Baby?” I nod.

“Yes,” I breathe.

“Open your legs, Baby.” I spread my legs wide. “Wider. Put your feet up on the seat of the chair.” I flatten my hands behind me and lift my legs, bending my knees so that my core is fully exposed.

“Yes,” he hisses. “Just like that.” I hear the pump again and feel the cups tighten. Fuck, they feel so good. “Here we go,” he warns. When he turns on the vibrator, I do cry out. The sensation almost drives me insane. He stands and backs away from me, observing his creation.

“Baby, you look so good. I wish you could see it, but it would only make you come too soon,” he says as he pushes and ottoman up against the chair where I’m sitting. He removes his shirt and then his boxers. His impressive erection springs forth and he takes it in his hand. Now, he uses a bit of the olive oil, pouring a bit on his dick, and even more on my breasts and right over the sheer material of my bra. He’s careful not to let it reach the suction cups. He lets it drip across and between my breasts as he takes a seat on the ottoman. He increases the suction on the cups just a bit, causing my eyes to roll back in my head.

“Is it good, Baby?” he asks while working his hand up and down his erection. Fuck, yes, it’s good, and you look fucking delicious, Mr. Grey.

“Yes,” I breathe, “very good… so good…”

“Mmmm, you look good, too,” he says, stroking himself harder. “Breathe through it, Baby. Feel it. Do you like it?”

“So much,” I say, as I absorb the pleasure, intent on riding it through and enjoying it. He’s getting harder and pinker and now, he’s shiny, too. “You look so good,” I tell him, watching his dick begin to throb.

“Do I?” he asks, his voice thick with pleasure. I nod, never taking my eyes off his dick. “Good, because I’m about to fuck your tits now.” He stands from the ottoman and kneels on the seat in front of me, placing his legs between mine so that I can’t close them. “Tell me if the restraints become too uncomfortable.”

What restraints?

He slips his dick under my bra and between my breasts and throws his head back as he groans loudly. His stroke is immediate. He steadies himself with his hands on the back of the chair and he is stroking madly, fucking my tits like he fucks my pussy.

“Damn it! Goddamnit! Fuck, it feels so good…” He thrusts repeatedly between my breasts and I know that he’ll be blowing soon. I look up at him and he is alternating between watching his dick between my breasts and watching himself in the mirror. His face is determined, focused, concentrating on the task until he throws his head back. “Fuck! It’s so good!” he groans. I look down at his dick between my tits, throbbing and purple and oily, and my pussy burns to release. I suddenly remember the cups on my tits and clit and the suction is suddenly very intense. I was so busy watching him that my mind wandered away from what was going on down there.

He is no longer looking in the mirror. His head is back and he is concentrating on what he’s feeling… and so am I. The suction and vibration are pulling me deeper and deeper, the feeling becoming so intense that I can feel myself shaking. I drop my head and wait for my opportunity and at just the right moment, he thrusts up and I open my mouth and clamp down.

“Fuuuuuuuuuck! Oh, fuuuuuck!” he cries out as he instinctively grabs my hair and presses me down onto his head as he continues to stroke between my breasts. The moment I get the taste of his skin in my mouth, I detonate! I pull the sensation in like he instructed and the orgasm is huge and causes me to growl deep in my throat. This halts Mr. Grey’s motion, causing him to groan mournfully and empty hotly into my mouth. I clamp and suck hard, sucking every bit of juice out of him that I can as I ride out this universally cosmic orgasm.

“Baby! Oooowwwww!” he cries as he pushes me down onto his dick, not allowing me to let go, and I don’t intend to either. That puppy is going to be as limp as my pussy is tender when this ride is over.

My orgasm has waned and my clit is actually pretty tender under the suction cup. I try to ignore it as Christian trembles and breathes out his orgasm, but it’s starting to hurt a bit. He catches his breath quickly and, knowing my body the way that he does, he quickly removes the suction cups much to my relief. He reaches around me and unties the cord and, looking down, he cups my breasts again.

“God, they are so beautiful,” he says. “Stand up and turn around.”

I rise gracefully from the chair and turn around, my back to his front, and come face to face with myself in the antique mirror above the chair. His hands travel under my arms and up around my breasts again, his index fingers teasing me like his thumbs did earlier.

The party’s not over yet.

He unhooks my bra and pushes it off my shoulders, exposing my hungry breasts… hungry for him to touch me again.

“On your knees on the chair.” I get on my knees and I fully expect him to take me from behind, but he doesn’t.

“Look how beautiful you look,” he says as he scans my reflection in the mirror. He takes my hands and clamps them on the back of the seat. I am now leaning into the mirror, my breasts round and reaching for my reflection, my nipples pink and protruding.

“Watch,” he commands. “Don’t let go. See how beautiful you are.” He disappears from behind me and I feel him slide underneath me, his breath now on my clit and his tongue very gently teasing me. To say that I can’t breathe is an understatement. My clit is still sore, but he is gentle and tender with his caress. As he slowly and meticulously works me back into a sexual frenzy, I have this gasping, whimpering, Chihuahua-barking thing going on as I hold firmly to the back of the chair.

“Watch,” he says into my core. I look at the wanton creature in the mirror as he caresses and teases my clit. She looks… vulnerable. As he continues to lick and suck my clit, she transforms. Her blue eyes are piercing; her lips are parted; she looks primal, sexy… and hot.

His hands slowly rise to my breasts and I watch as he gently pinches my now-oily nipples, rolling them between his thumb and forefinger before his hands cover both breasts and massage gently. His palms sliding over my nipples are driving me wild and the vision of his hands covering my breasts and kneading as I push forward into them is one of the hottest things I’ve ever seen. Although I can’t see his head between my legs, I can see the top of my hips grinding sensually and I know what’s going on down there. The visual assault coupled with his open-mouthed attack on my core and his tongue licking and circling my clit…

“Aaaahhhh!” I groan loudly, throwing my head back at the incredible pleasure.

“Hold on,” he coaxes, still talking into my pussy.

“Yes!” I declare, still grasping the back of the oversized chair while absorbing the sensations he’s unleashing on me. I raise my head again to examine the girl in the mirror. Her once straight hair is now wild and flowing over her shoulders and breasts, partially covering his hands. Her eyes are hungry, her pupils dilated. She’s panting, feverish in her passion. She watches his hands tighten on her breasts, holding them firmly. I drop my head and see him watching me intently. I can only see his eyes and part of his hair and he’s gazing unblinking at me as he loves me deeply and hotly with his mouth and tongue. A small tortured cry escapes my mouth as I see the pleasure evident in his eyes. He’s enjoying this immensely—not as much as I am, no doubt, but immensely nonetheless. He groans into me and I close my eyes to concentrate on the burn. My God, it’s so good… I can’t stand it…

“Open your eyes. Look at yourself,” he says, his face buried in my pussy. I open my eyes again and the poor creature in the mirror has lost control. Her breath is erratic and her chest is rising and falling madly. She’s covered in a sheen of sweat and the ends of her once-fluffy hair are sticking to her breasts. She is tortured, her face contorted into a helpless and mournful expression of ecstasy, agony, and surrender.

“Uuuuugggghhhh!” I cry as the burning intensifies. Oh, God, please….

“Don’t close your eyes! Watch yourself come.”

Seconds after he says the words, I watch her face stretch and transform as beads of sweat form instantly on her forehead and temples. Her cries are helpless and agonizing and her nails threaten to pierce the fabric of the chair as the inferno that’s bellowing through her threatens to devour her very soul. I watch in helpless amazement and wonder as my expressions and gyrations interpret the eruption that is happening in my body and core, literally tearing me limb from limb as I fight to hold myself together and get lost in the liberating release all at the same time. I now know why he likes to watch me come. It’s magnificent! Seeing it and feeling it at the same time is almost unbearable!

The release has waned a bit, but the pleasure and burning have not stopped when he stealthily slides his body up the chair, positions himself at my core, and slides me down onto his massive shaft. I moan loudly as he begins this grinding, rocking motion into me. He is slouched down into the chair so that I can still see my reflection. He wraps his arms around me so that he can control my movement and begins to thrust into me—harder and faster. At the same time, he takes one of my nipples into his mouth and sucks hard! I cry out—loud and high—wrapping my arms around his head and thrusting my fingers into his hair.

Unable to match his relentless stroke, I stay there on my knees with him pounding mercilessly into me, over and over again. He moves to the other breast and I hear him grunting and feel him growing inside of me. I love this part. This is the part where he begins to lose himself, begins to rise to his release. He will either try to fight it or make it more intense. His next words tell me that he’s going for option two.

“Tell me,” he growls. “Tell me what you feel.” Everything! Like my fucking head is going to pop off any second!

“Hard… stiff…” I choke, rising again with him. Fuck, he’s getting bigger! “Filling me… pushing me… friction… ugh… oh, God!” I can see his magnificent dick in my head—pink and purple and fat and wet and drilling into me. “Oh God!”

“What?” he grunts, still thrusting into me. “Tell me!” Fuck, he is hitting the spot, over and over and I’m having the hardest time forming any words whatsoever. I open my eyes again and watch this helpless creature being driven to her third orgasm.

“Uugghh!”

“Tell me!” he commands me again, thrusting and grinding as one arm holds me possessively and motionless against him while the other hand wanders roughly over my ass. He grabs one cheek, holding it open and using it to guide my hips and his fingers are so long that one of them only slightly breaches my rosette, sending a shock of pleasure through me that goes straight to my head and is visible in my eyes.

“Uuuugggghhhh! Christian!”

“Tell me!” he demands, now slamming my hips down onto his and looking up at me, though I can’t see his eyes—only the reflection of his upturned head as I admiringly watch this beautiful vixen in the mirror coming apart all over again.

“Heat!” she breathes at me. “Fire! Fire! Friction… tingling, then… burning! Don’t stop! Please! Don’t stop!” she begs.

“Take it, Baby!” he grunts. “Feel it! I feel… everything you do… Make me feel it, Baby…! Make me feel it!”

“Aaahhh! Christiaaann!” Fuck that mirror. I throw my head back and feel it, just like he said. I’m clamping on to his shoulders and pulling that orgasm all the way in. I think I’m drawing blood with my fingernails as my pelvis is concentrating on grinding into that magnificent dick and pulling every bit of pleasure out of it that I can harvest.

“Yes, Baby! Fuck!” He yells a few moments later as he pounds up into me, then stills, then pounds again, then stills again, then repeats this rhythm three or four more times before he collapses back into the chair with me in his arms, completely out of breath.


A/N: escargot, soupe à l’oignon, coquilles Saint-Jacques, and Sole Meunière. – Snails, onion soup, scallops, and sole.

Hachis Parmentier—shepherd’s pie

Blanquette de Veau—Veal ragout or stew

Don’t forget to check out the Pinterest boards to follow Christian and Ana on the honeymoon.
The day trip to Paris is here: http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/mending-dr-steele-a-day-in-paris/
The adventure in Greece is here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/mending-dr-steele-off-to-greece/

AFTERNOTE–AFTERNOTE–AFTERNOTE–AFTERNOTE: I HAD TO READDRESS THIS ISSUE because there were so many people that were UTTERLY APPALLED that Christian had a NATURAL MALE REACTION to seeing an attractive woman. Let me point three things out for you:

1) He did not have this reaction to some random woman… IT WAS HIS WIFE! True, he may not have known that it was her, but it was still her!

2) He didn’t get up and go over to the woman like, “Hey Baby, what’s yo’ sign?” He just admired her from afar!

3) I don’t care how long you have been together with your significant other, how long you have been married, or how faithful he or she is. If you think for one moment that–during the course of your relationship–they have NEVER seen someone that they found attractive and took a moment to appreciate it, or never had a little fire in the nether regions over some fine specimen of woman or man that may have crossed their path, you’re living in a fantasy world. Allow me to invite you to the real world with the rest of us! The only way a man or a woman will not have an inner reaction to someone that they find attractive is if they are dead or castrated! Finding someone attractive and acting on it are two different things–give the man a fucking break!!

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn X