Grey Continued: Episode 38—Family Affairs

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

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

Season 5 Episode 38—Family Affairs

CHRISTIAN

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

I think we both enjoyed the punishment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaaaaaahhhh… heaven!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Valley Sentences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Huh?” she says, groggily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why wouldn’t I be?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

“The verdicts?” Jason asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tattle-tell,” I sneer. Jason laughs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s up?” I press.

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

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

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

“How much?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Leave,” I say. “I need to think.”

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

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

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

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

“Is it her husband?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This is my wife!” he hisses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Aunt Sarah?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Looks like you’re right,” I confirm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sir,” he says.

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

“Protection order?” he asks.

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


ANASTASIA

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

“Not that noticeable,” she murmurs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take that, Yardley!

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’s still silent.

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

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

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

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

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

Well, at least I thought I wasn’t.

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

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

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

“Mrs. Grey…” he interrupts.

“Dr. Grey!” I bark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dr. Grey!” Dr. Hamlin scolds.

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

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

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

“Then why are you here?” he asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dr. Grey…”

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

I can’t fucking wait to get to Rome.

*-*

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

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

“Dr. Hamlin,” I reply. He frowns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Disclaimers?”

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

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

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

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

“W… what?” he says, disbelieving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shake off the thought and down the second drink.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How long have we had that?” I ask.

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

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

**She’s been released. **

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

“Alexa, play 80’s dance music.”

“Here’s some 80’s dance music…”

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


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

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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Episode 37—Saaaaaaaaailing Takes Me Awaaaaaaay…

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

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

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

Season 5 Episode 37—Saaaaaaaaailing Takes Me Awaaaaaaay…

CHRISTIAN

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

“Never?” I ask. He shakes his head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Grey.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Have you seen everything?” I ask.

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

“Gia Mateo,” I say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where’s Steele?” Valerie says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least she’s dressed respectably.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I got it, Baby Boo,” he calls back.

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

What the hell just happened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you alright?” I ask.

“Sure,” she says, her voice unassuming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He says you never apologized…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That was the intention,” I reply.

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

“And here we are again,” I point out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your fingers?” Zac says and Jason laughs.

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

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

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

“What do you mean?” he asks, bemused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, so…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why did you tell them?” Jason whines.

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

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

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

“Yeah, sure,” Jason laments.

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

The women all descend the stairs headed to the kitchen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ANASTASIA

Okay, I’ll admit it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, what’s up?” she asks,  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is not good.

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

Wrong!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You are so wrong,” I say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did Sophie hear that?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, we noted it,” I say.

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

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

“What do you mean?”

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

“Well, that explains it,” he remarks.

“Okay, now, what do you mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s because she’s in hiding.

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

“What notebook?” he asks.

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

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

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

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

I could hear Marlow rolling his eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ah… ah…”

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

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

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

“Ah!”

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

“W… wait…”

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

“Christian…”

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

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

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

“Fuuuuuuuuuuccccckkkkk!”

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

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

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

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

Damn, I kinda liked that dress…

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

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

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

Oh, yes! Oh, fuck, yes!

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

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

Here it comes…

And then, he stops.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ho-ly cow!

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

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

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

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

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

Just in time, too.

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

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

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

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

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

Well, that will never fucking do.

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

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

“Ana…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ana!” he whispers harshly. “Stop!”

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

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

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

“I fucking told you to stop!” he hisses

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t come.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Please…” I pant.

“Please what, Anastasia?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes!” I breathe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” he growls, “that’s it…”

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

“Oh, God!” I gasp quickly.

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

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

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

And he does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Episode 36—Word of Mouth

So, my friends, it has happened again. There has been yet another death in my family. I think I’m at the age now where I just can’t avoid it. We’re all getting older—even though he was younger than my husband and this was very sudden—but although the details are a little gray, I think it’s safe to say that the virus has claimed another victim.

I’m still waiting for arrangements and, as such, I will be flying back to that place that Christian and I hate so much. It’s looking like it may be close to this coming weekend, so I may not get another chapter up for a couple of weeks. Knowing that, I just wanted to make sure I got something posted before this weekend was over so that there’s not another complete MIA from me. Love you all and please, keep me and my family in your prayers.

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

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

Season 5 Episode 36—Word of Mouth

CHRISTIAN

After that sex fest left us both heaving mounds of sweat on the bed, I realize that slipping into Dom mode means aftercare. So, I fill the jacuzzi tub with water and carry her tired ass into the bathroom.

“Mmmm,” she says as the jets soothe her body.

“You like?” I say, squeezing water from one of her freshwater sponges onto her body.

“Very much,” she says, snuggling into me. “It was a perfect night, Christian. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Butterfly,” I reply. We didn’t do anything for her first Mother’s Day last year with Valerie and Pops and everything. I couldn’t let another year go by without celebrating the mother of my children. Speaking of which…

“I’m remiss to bring this up after the wonderful night that we had, but with it being Mother’s Day, I can’t get it out of my head. Do you remember that couple at the inn on the Sonoma Coast—our babymoon?” She thinks for a moment.

“Sheila and CJ?” she asks. I shake my head.

“No, the Daniels,” I reply, “Kiley and Arthur.” She rolls her eyes.

“How can I forget them?” she says, and I’m sure that she means him. He was pretty fucking unforgettable.

“Yeah, well, for shits and giggles, Jason felt the need to keep up with them,” I reply. “Guess what we found out?”

“What?” she says in a tone that I can’t quite place. That tone that says she knows something, and she wants to know if I know what she knows.

“He’s about to do a bid for murder,” I reply. Her eyes sharpen.

“What?” she gasps. “What the hell?” My sentiments exactly.

“The baby was born biracial, a boy,” I tell her. “Daniels took one look at the boy and thrust him to the ground, still attached to his umbilical cord. The baby died of blunt force trauma before he was even two minutes old.” Butterfly gasps a long, horrified breath.

“Oh, dear God, no!” she exclaims in a harsh whisper. I sigh heavily and shrug.

“That guy really is a piece of shit, and he deserves to burn,” I reply.

“I guess Kiley got more than she bargained for,” Butterfly says, shaking her head.

“They could have talked about this,” I say. I know this means that she was unfaithful, of course, and that Arthur fuck is a real fucking piece of work, but he couldn’t hold anything against her. He was fucking around, too. “I don’t excuse infidelity of any kind, but this guy was a true asshole and I could truly understand why she wouldn’t lay next to him to save her life. But if she thought that there was a possibility that this baby wasn’t his—especially a totally different race, they should’ve talked about that before the baby was born.”

“Mmm,” Butterfly says as if she’s contemplating something. Yeah, she knows something.

“What is it?” I ask.

“I had thought many times to call Kiley and ask how things were going,” she says. “I agree that Arthur’s an asshole, but I should’ve known that this was going to end in disaster.” I frown.

“How could you possibly know?” I ask. She’s silent for a moment and then it hits me.

“Wait a minute. Are you telling me she already knew this wasn’t his baby?” Butterfly twists her lips and nods.

“She knew everything,” she says. “She’s pretty well-off and he was spending her money on other women. She put a chunk of it in another account, got a financial advisor and began investing. The advisor was black. She had pretty much replenished the money that Arthur spent plus some by the time they went to the babymoon, and her pot was still growing. She was going to go on and let him spend all the money that he thought she had because she had another stockpile… and because she had started seeing the financial advisor.

“She and Arthur weren’t even sleeping together. When she found out that she was pregnant, she got him drunk and made him think they had had sex, but they never did. She was sure that he was just going to leave once the money ran out, and her ultimate revenge was for him to be standing in the delivery room while she delivered a black baby. I know she had no idea that this was going to be the outcome.”

I’m completely appalled by this entire story. What kind of demon was inside this man to make him decide that he would kill a newborn baby? I totally get rage, but a newborn baby? And Kiley—I want to feel some kind of sympathy for her, losing her baby and the sheer fact that she had to deal with this asshole… but to plan this whole thing, to bring an innocent life into the middle of this mess—that’s unthinkable.

“What happened to Kiley?” she asks.

“She checked out for a few months. When she came back to herself, she didn’t remember anything—not her baby, not her husband, not her lover, nothing. She moved back with her family and filed for divorce from her loser husband since he was a stranger to her.” My wife twists her lips.

“So, she pretty much got a clean slate out of this,” she says.

“Yeah, pretty much,” I reply while gently scrubbing her back.

“It’s more than she deserves,” she says, and I stop scrubbing. “I know what you’re thinking. He’s an asshole, but she planned this whole thing and an innocent child died because her plan backfired. I wouldn’t want to be on that jury.” I twist my lips.

“I agree,” I say, “with all of it. And now, we’re going to change the subject. How is the decorating coming along?”

“The villa?” she asks and I nod. “Swimmingly. Sophie is really going at it with both hands now that she knows she’ll be able to see the finished product. She was always involved and eager to help, but now, she’s enthusiastic about it. She’s so excited about the styles and the textures. It’s like doing one of those home-improvement shows, and then being able to see the result in the big reveal.”

“I’m so glad she’s going to get to see Italy,” I say. “There’s so much for her to learn in that two weeks, even in Lake Como. I think Rome might be a bit much for her at her age.”

“Why?” she asks. “What’s wrong with Rome?”

“Nothing, it’s just a lot of history. There’s so much to absorb—the churches, the museums, the ruins, they’re all beautiful, but it’s a big meal to swallow.”

“Are you saying that I’m going to be overwhelmed when we get to Rome?” she asks.

“You could be,” I tell her, “but I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen. I’m making sure that the learning has fun mixed in it so that you don’t feel like you’re in a college class every moment of the trip.” She lays her head on my chest.

“Well, I know you can’t expect to go to Rome and not be slammed with history. It’s Rome, for God’s sake,” she says.

“Yes, but it’s also a very beautiful city with a lot of excellent sights and very good food… very good food!” I emphasize.

“So, I’m hoping that the hotel where we’ll be staying will have a gym,” she chuckles.

“I thought they all had gyms,” I say, “but that is my intention.”

“Good,” she says, sinking into the comfort of the water.

*-*

The sun is rising over the sound and the orange sky looks beautiful bouncing off the water. I look over at my wife snuggled under the covers, naked, and purring like a kitten. Except for the small mishap with Wexton, our night was perfect. Even that discussion about the Daniels didn’t ruin our evening, although it did make me think.

How can you justify planning an act that can so hugely devastate another person without thinking about the consequences? All the possible outcomes? Arthur cheated on his wife mindlessly, obviously not caring what she thought because if he had been more careful, she never would have known. And her plan—knowing that he would be present while she birthed the baby and there he was, standing there in the delivery room full of doctors and nurses holding a black baby that’s obviously not his. He was an asshole and she knew it, and she let him hold her baby, a baby that they both would know wasn’t his…

The thought causes my mind to drift to nearly all of the horrible people I’ve met in my life who have done horrible things to others, including myself, without a thought or care for their feelings. I’ve been callous in my life, especially to businesses that I’ve taken over and submissives I’ve dismissed, but have I ever been intentionally cruel?

Of course, I have.

I’ve destroyed so many lives—blacklisted people for pissing me off or crossing me—and how quickly we forget Dodd and the hackers, and Ellison. Yet, I don’t feel badly about what happened to any of those people. So, what’s different now?

The baby. It’s the baby.

The baby is the one who paid for the sins of the father… and the mother… even though the father wasn’t his. My only consolation in this situation is that the baby seemingly didn’t suffer. Even though his death was cruel, he died quickly, and there’s no telling what his life would have been like being born into the turmoil in which he was conceived.

“Dear God, don’t let my children have to pay for any of my mistakes,” I say aloud.

“What would make you think something like that?”

Her soft voice startles me from my thoughts, and I look over to see her still in the same position with sleepy eyes looking at me.  God, she’s beautiful. She changed me. She changed my whole life and everything that I was and will be. I can’t wait to show her Rome.

“I didn’t mean to wake you,” I say gazing at her.

“You didn’t,” she says. “I was admiring your naked silhouette against the sunrise.” I raise a brow at her.

“You trying to start something, Mrs. Grey?” I taunt, walking over to the bed. She chuckles.

“I beg your pardon, but I’m not the one standing naked in front of a picture window with the sun behind me,” she points out. “I bet the sailors on Elliot Bay are getting a real eyeful.” I sit on the bed and lean over to her.

“Luckily, there’s no one out there,” I tell her. “This view is for your eyes only.” I lean over and kiss her passionately. She wraps her arms around my neck and gently plays with my hair. It comforts me immediately and soothes my raging thoughts. I gently break the kiss and touch her nose with mine.

“You’ve changed me,” I confess as if she didn’t already know. “You’ve changed everything I ever though I was and everything I ever thought I knew… everything I could be. A father? Five years ago, that would have been unheard of. No place in my life for children with the subs and the BDSM clubs and the taking over of businesses and ruining lives. No, not a chance… but now? My life without you and the twins? It’s unthinkable. I could never go back to the man that I was.” She gently strokes my hair.

“You take such good care of us,” she says, her ocean blue eyes looking deeply into mine, “and it’s not the money—although, let’s be realistic, the money helps…” I chuckle at her attempt to add levity to the situation. “But I mean how you care for us, protect us, and provide for us how I know you would whether you had $2 or two million. You love us and I’m certain there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for us. We’re so lucky to have you.”

If she only knew how wrong she is. They’re not lucky to have me. I’m lucky to have them, and I’ll do anything to keep them… and to keep them happy and safe.

“This conversation has gotten so serious,” I tell her. “Let’s get dressed and have breakfast, my dear… and Happy Mother’s Day to the most beautiful mother in the world.”

7a6daf83d0edac2b642108b5d42b11f3 We get dressed and head down to the hotel restaurant, Six Seven. They have quite the menu for Mother’s Day brunch, and I and my wife take full advantage—stuffed French toast, a crab omelet, marionberry pancakes, brûléed goat cheese salad, and we split the fresh seafood variety platter and the Roquefort crusted filet mignon. Butterfly enjoys three prosecco mimosas with her meal and I have one Corpse Reviver #2, which is Bombay Sapphire gin, Lillet Blanc, Cointreau, lemon, and Pernod.

We enjoy the meal tremendously, talking about the opera and laughing at Wexton’s idea that he even had the slightest chance with my wife. We’re uninterrupted, but I notice that we’re getting more than one odd stare and whisper. I don’t bring it to my wife’s attention, though. She’s nice and mellowed by the mimosas during her Mother’s Day brunch and if the peasants want to gawk at her beauty, so be it.

A couple of hours later, we check out of the hotel and take our bags to the valet. One attendant heads off to get my car while the other does a double-take at us and then at something on the valet podium.

“Excuse me,” he says, humbly, walking over to us, “but do you mind signing this for me?”

Since when do I have to sign something to get my car from the valet?

I look down at what he’s holding, and it’s the local news section of this morning’s newspaper. Butterfly giggles when she sees the front headline.

The Paps have gotten a picture of us standing in front of the Opera House, sharing a kiss.


ANASTASIA

I remained happily cocooned in my Mother’s Day bliss for the entire day—delicious meals prepared for me, good company with Sarah, Luma, and Grace and the family joining us for dinner, and endless snuggles with my babies—but alas, we couldn’t hold Monday off or all of the problems it usually brings with it.

The day begins smooth enough, but just before lunch, Courtney comes to me to tell me that one of the children staying in the dorm is a horrible bully. He’s mean to the other children, taking their food at lunch, and a list of other things. They’ve tried to talk to him and even some of the parents have complained to his mother, I’m told, but to no avail.

This is one of the parts of the job that I don’t like. The child may be completely traumatized by the situation that he’s come from, and now, I have to talk to his most-likely traumatized mother to bring the situation under control.

“Susan, I want to talk to you about Ferrell’s behavior…”

“Oh, God, here we go with this again,” she laments. I frown.

“With what again?” I ask.

“What has he done now?” she asks impatiently. Oh, dear God. Is this what we’re dealing with?

“He’s bullying the other children in the program,” I reply. “He’s taking the smaller kids’ food at lunch, he doesn’t play well with others, and he’s downright rude to the staff. Something has to be done about his behavior.” She sighs.

“I’ve tried to talk to him I don’t know what to do,” she says all in one exasperated breath, and she doesn’t sound like she’s frustrated. She sounds like she’s irritated.

“Well, then, we need to come up with a solution, because his behavior is unacceptable,” I reply firmly, trying to keep my cool.

“Well, what do you want me to do?” she says, rolling her neck. Okay… stop… breathe… let’s try to approach this another way.

“Susan, families come here for sanctuary. It’s supposed to be a safe place. If the bigger kids bully the smaller kids, it’s not a safe place anymore. So, we definitely can’t have that. A lot of these parents are very protective of their children, and justifiably so, because a lot of you have come out of very bad, very violent situations. If the bigger kids bully the smaller kids, they’re back in that violent situation. He can’t take food from the other children and he has to obey the staff.”

“He’s a growing boy,” she defends. What the fuck? That boy is grown! He’s 12 years old and he weighs as much as I do if not more.

“Susan, is that your response to your son taking food from other children in the program?” I ask, nonplused.

“There should be more for the bigger kids,” she continues. “They barely give him enough. He’s obviously still hungry.” He’s still hungry because he looks like a 12-year-old linebacker!

“First of all, there’s plenty of food for everyone. If he wants more, all he has to do is ask for seconds. And secondly, how can you sit here and explain away your son taking food out of other children’s mouths because he’s not getting enough? What if someone does that to him?” She scoffs.

“I’d like to see ‘em try,” she says snottily.

“Do you hear yourself?” I ask incredulously. “I’m trying to tell you that your son’s behavior is unacceptable. He can’t keep behaving like this. It’s contradictory to our mission here and counterproductive to what we’re trying to accomplish. You need to handle this situation because his behavior is affecting a lot of people.”

“I have a lot on my plate right now!” she shoots. “I’m trying to keep him away from his no-good father who likes to use us as punching bags. I don’t have time to deal with Ferrell taking an extra cookie from a kid. Isn’t that why you’re here… to help guide troubled children? Why don’t you do something about it since he’s so unacceptable?”

Oh, I can do something about it, you contemptable shrew, but you definitely wouldn’t like it.

“We’re here to help you; we’re not here to raise your child,” I retort.

“Then, help me, dammit!” she snaps. That’s when I lose it.

“Hold it!” I counter, my eyes piercing. “I don’t know who you’re accustomed to speaking to in that tone, but you won’t speak to me that way!”

“Ana!” I turn around to see Grace marching into my office. “I won’t walk into this room and take sides, but we can hear you two down the hall. What seems to be the problem?”

“Somebody needs to remind Dr. Moneybags here that she needs a better bedside manner!” Susan barks. My mouth and eyes fly open in surprise. I’m utterly appalled. “You call this place a help center, but she doesn’t want to seem to help!”

I turn a horrified gaze to Grace. I don’t have words for this situation at the moment. If she came from a violent husband and her attitude is this bad, it’s no wonder the kid is so fucked up.

“Mrs. Yardley, can you tell me what happened?” Grace says after a deep sigh.

“Yeah! She’s trying to tell me how to raise my kid!” she retorts. I did no fucking such thing. I’m only trying to tell her to keep that little monster on a leash!

“Ana?” Grace says, waiting for an explanation. I cross my arms and face her.

“This is Ferrell’s mother,” I say, and pause for a moment. Realization passes over Grace’s face for a moment, but she quickly recovers. “I was telling her about his behavior, and that he’s making the staff’s job impossible by refusing to listen to instruction. I told her that he’s taking food from the younger children and her response was that he’s a growing boy.”

Once again, Grace tries to maintain her expression, not very well, though.

“That’s not all I said,” she interrupts haughtily.

“And I’m still talking,” I say, looking over my shoulder in her direction but not directly at her, “but you can feel to take over if you want.”

“No, you go right ahead, Dr. Moneybags,” she says sarcastically, and now I turn to look at her.

“I haven’t called you out of your name,” I tell her. “Now, unless you want me to give you an unattractive nickname, you call me Dr. Grey, or nothing at all.”

“Okay, Nothing At All,” she replies matter-of-factly. I turn back to Grace with raised eyebrows and twisted lips, gesturing at the disrespectful cow standing next to me like, “What the fuck do you expect me to do with this?” Grace gets that look in her eye like “somebody’s in trouble.”

“Mrs. Yardley, we are definitely here to help you, but that’s only if you want it, and there are conditions,” Grace says. “On more than one occasion, the staff and residents have come to us complaining about Ferrell’s behavior. This is why we’re coming to you—as his mother—to let you know that his behavior is not acceptable. It’s counterproductive to everything we’re trying to accomplish here with a facility full of at-risk families. We are more than happy to assist you with whatever counseling he may need and to help you in any way that is within our means, but we have guidelines—guidelines that we must follow, and guidelines that we expect our families to follow. If anyone in the Center is unable to follow those guidelines, we’re going to ask them to leave.” Oh, that was the wrong thing to say to this sow.

“You’re kickin’ me out?” she says, affronted.

“I repeat,” Grace says firmly, “if… anyone in the Center is unable to follow those guidelines, we’re going to ask them to leave. Are you saying that you’re unable to follow our guidelines?”

“I can follow ‘em just fine!” she barks at Grace.

“Good then one of the guidelines is that you’re not going to raise your voice at me or my staff anymore!” Grace retorts firmly all in one breath. “We can all hear just fine, and we’re going to speak to you with respect and you’re going to do the same thing to us!”

Yardley pauses for a moment as if she’s shocked, which she probably is.

“Next, we’re not in high school here,” Grace continues. “We’re all adults. We can address each other that way. Snazzy comebacks and unattractive nicknames will get us nowhere, and we might as well end this interaction now and go our separate ways. This is Dr. Grey; this is Mrs. Yardley. Those are the names you need to be using.”

Now, Yardley crosses her arms and shifts her weight to one leg. She’s clearly defensive, but I have no problem telling this woman to shape the fuck up or ship the fuck out.

“Now, we have a problem here. We have a child in the facility that’s making it difficult for other children to heal and move on with their own troubled lives. He’s also making it impossible for my staff to do their job. That child is your son. Now, we can address this problem like adults and see what solutions we can come up with, or we can call it a wash and part ways. The decision is yours, Mrs. Yardley.”

Grace doesn’t want to turn away anyone who needs help any more than I do, but we’re not going to put up with this shit. We’re here to help, and we’re not going to be antagonized by someone we’re trying to help in the process.

“I’ll talk to him,” she says after a pause. Grace nods once.

“Remember,” Grace says, “we’re here to help.” She looks at Grace, cuts her eyes at me, and then petulantly leaves the room. I roll my eyes and shake my head.

“You can’t yell at them, Ana,” she says calmly.

“They can’t yell at me, Grace,” I say pointedly. She gazes at me for a moment and then nods.

“Take a break,” she says, putting her arm around my shoulders. “We were blessed that we’ve only had one like her in several years, but that one is enough.”

I think she’s conveniently forgetting Monster Bitch, but she wasn’t a resident, so there’s that.

“I’m going to go and spend some time with my babies,” I say. Grace nods and gives my shoulders a squeeze.

Minnie is playing with alphabet blocks when I get to the day care room and Mikey is behind a child-sized car, pushing it around the room. There aren’t as many small children in day care, only a handful as most of the families lately have school-aged children. Keri is nearby my twins and Ebony is feeding one of the infants. The other girl employed in here is at the table reading a magazine as the rest of the children are asleep. I go over and give Keri a break while I sit on the floor and play with the blocks with Minnie. Mikey abandons his car and decides that the blocks are more interesting since Mommy’s watching. They play well together and then Mikey has a conversation with his sister that I swear she understands, because she replies to him in like gobbledygook and they continue playing with their blocks. I smile and shake my head.

Maxie has “Mommy and Me” classes with her friend Jade. Mindy is learning to interact and play with other children. There have never been many children in the Center that were the same age as Minnie and Mikey except when they were babies. Should I introduce them to something like “Mommy and Me?” I don’t want them to be those spoiled, entitled rich kids I’ve seen only too often. I don’t want them to feel sheltered or shut in, either. Their only interactions for the most part are Mindy and Harry…

I’m probably reading too much into this. Dr. Nahabedian has given them a clean bill of health, including their developing personalities and social skills. It’s just that, as a mom, I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing everything I need—giving them everything they need—for their developmental success.

I take out my phone and snap some pictures of them building whatever edifice they’re building with the blocks. After a few pictures, I start the video and record my two little architects negotiating the plans for their construction project. After a while, Minnie tires of the blocks and decides that she wants Mommy time. While Mikey continues to work on their architectural masterpiece, Minnie walks over and crawls into my lap.

Her little eyes look heavy and either she has gotten extremely comfortable in her happy place or someone skipped a nap. I begin to sing their lullaby to her and watch her little lids begin to droop…

“Anah! Anah!” Keri comes rushing back into the day care and takes Minnie from my arms. I see black suits run past her and I’m immediately alarmed.

“Choonks ahn ‘is wey upstehs! Des a fight in da dome!”

The dome? What the…? Oh, the dorm!

“Oh, shit!” I say, finally letting go of Minnie. I’m running behind my security and as we bend the wall to the stairwell, Grace meets us at the door.

“Yardley?” I ask.

“I don’t know, but that’s where my money is,” she says.

We’re all lunging up the stairs following security, and the minute we open the door to the second floor, you can hear the rabblerousing in the hall. We follow the noise and sure enough, there are two women rolling on the floor like wrestling bears, and yes—one of them is Yardley.

“Break it up!” Grace screams at the two women. “I said break it up!”

When there’s no reaction from the women on the floor, Grace nods to security, and Chuck and his cohort separate the women.

“Get your hands off me!” Yardley demands, trying to swing at Chuck. “Let me go, you…” She looks up and sees me and Grace standing there.

“I want her arrested!” she demands pointing at the other resident. “She hit my son!”

“He hit my Mark!” the other resident says. “He’s twice his size! He’s been terrorizing my child ever since he’s been here—pushing him around and eating his lunch, and she doesn’t do anything about it!”

“They’re just being boys!” Yardley retorts. “You shouldn’t have hit him!” I’m so pissed off right now.

“Mrs. Handon, why didn’t you just tell Mrs. Yardley that Ferrell was antagonizing your son?” Grace asks.

“I told her plenty!” Mrs. Handon says. “The first time I told her, she apologized. The second and third time I told her, she just waved me off. The next time I tried to tell her, she put her hand up and told me that she didn’t want to hear it. That’s when I decided that if she couldn’t discipline her little monster, the next time he put his hands on my kid, he was gonna get it. He put his hands on my kid, so he got it! He slapped my Mark, so I slapped him!”

I look over at Ferrell, standing by the wall and crying like somebody beat the hell outta him. He’s easily between 110 and 120 pounds—at 12! Mark’s 10, and he’s lucky if he’s 70 pounds. Here’s this big ass boy bullying a smaller boy, and when he gets a taste of his own medicine, he turns into a sobbing little bitch. He’s going to grow up to be the perfect little narcissist!

Mark, on the other hand, is curled up and hiding in the corner, his arms wrapped around his legs and his face hiding behind his knees.

“Mrs. Yardley, I’ll be glad to call the police if that’s what you would like,” Grace says, “but know that if they come, they’re going to take both of you into custody and your boys will go to Family Services.”

Yardley suddenly calms down. I don’t know which bothers her more—going to jail or little Feral going to Family Services.

“Well, I want something done about this,” Yardley says indignantly. “She hit my son!”

“And what should we do about Feral hitting Mark?” I say. She glares at me.

“His name is Ferrell!” she shoots. Oh, shit, did I say that out loud? My face exhibits honest horror. I didn’t mean to say that.

“Oh!” I exclaim. “I’m sorry,” I say honestly, not sorry that I called the boy Feral, just sorry that I said it out loud.

“I’ll just bet you are!” she seethes. Grace sighs heavily, obviously exacerbated.

“I need to see you all in my office… now. Oscar, Chuck, please?” Grace turns around and marches away. Oh, shit, this is not going to end well.

“Ladies,” Chuck says as he and Oscar release Mrs. Yardley and Mrs. Handon. “If you please.” He gestures towards the stairs and the women both walk in that direction.

“What about my son?” Mrs. Handon says. “I don’t want him left up here with that creature!”

“I’ll bring the boys,” I say calmly. That seems to suffice for both parents and they all head to the stairwell. When they’re out of sight, I go over to Mark. This kid is terrified. I know their stories and he’s already been traumatized. I kneel down to him.

“Come on, Mark,” I tell him. “It’s okay.” He looks up and sees me and even though he didn’t make a show of it for everybody, he’s been crying. He stands without a word and never raises his head. I put my hand on his shoulder and lead him out of the corner.

“Ferrell,” I say, gesturing for him to come with us. When he gets within arm’s reach of Mark, he reaches to hit him. I catch his wrist and squeeze, just hard enough to show him how strong I am. He looks at me like he can’t believe I’m touching him and I glare at him like Satan.

“You behave yourself,” I say between my teeth, still squeezing his wrist. Kid, I’ll make what his mom did look like a walk in the park.

“You… you hit me!” he says, bringing attention to us. His mother has already cleared the floor, so I’ll make an example out of him.

“I did no such thing,” I say calmly still holding his wrist for everyone to see. “You were about to hit Mark again, and I stopped you. Now, if you like, I can call the police, your mom can go to jail, and you can go to juvie, because that is assault. Nobody’s just called you on it yet. Now, are you going to behave, or should I pull out my cell? Choice is yours.”

He stares at me a bit horrified but says nothing. I release his arm and he pretends to snatch it away, but he couldn’t get loose and he knows it. He walks ahead of me and Mark to the stairs. I look down at Mark who still hasn’t raised his head. He’s been bullied all his life by his father and now he has to deal with this. If we don’t break this cycle soon, he’s going to become a statistic—suicide, homicide, or both. I sigh and lead him towards the stairs.

“This is a very unfortunate situation,” Grace says once we’re all in her office. “You’ve both come to us because you need help. As much as we want to help you, this cannot be tolerated.”

“I should say not!” Yardley says indignantly.

“Mrs. Yardley!” Grace snaps. “Not two hours ago, we spoke to you about Ferrell’s behavior, and you said that you would talk to him. Is this the result of that discussion?”

Grace awaits Yardley’s response and when there is none, she continues.

“The families in this facility are already here because they’ve suffered some kind of traumatic experience. You should know better than anybody that these children have seen and been through some horrific things. They don’t come here to be exposed to more of it. I told you that this afternoon and it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. That’s unfortunate, because as much as we would like to help you both, we have a zero-tolerance policy here with fighting, and we’re going to have to ask you both to leave.” Yardley looks horrified.

“I was just protecting my son!” Yardley defends.

“And I was protecting mine,” Mrs. Handon retorts calmly. She’s resigned to her fate. If the situation repeated itself, she’d do the exact same thing. Yardley, on the other hand, wants to play the victim.

“With all due respect, Mrs. Yardley,” Grace interjects, “if you had followed instructions and gotten this situation under control like you promised you would, we wouldn’t be here. I’m not going to debate this issue with either of you. Security will escort you back to the dorm and you’ll have to leave.”

“This is bullshit,” Yardley says lowly, but just loud enough for us to hear her.

“Mrs. Handon,” I say, “I’ll get on the phone and see if I can find alternative placement for you this evening.” She nods and says nothing. She’s reserved, and probably tired and scared just like Mark.

“What about me?” Yardley hisses.

“I wish you luck,” I say, “but I’m going to give you a little advice before you leave.”

“I don’t need your advice!” she barks and stands.

“Well, you’re going to get it!” I tell her. “Because if you don’t, I’m going to call the police and have you both arrested just out of spite.” Mrs. Handon now raises her head, her eyes piercing.

“Sit your ass down,” she says, her voice low and satanic, “or I’m going to get up outta this seat and make sure that ride to jail is worth every motherfucking second!”

Yardley looks at her with narrowed eyes. Chuck and Oscar prepare themselves to detain the ladies and probably for another girlfight. Yardley assesses the situation quickly. Eventually, she decides that she doesn’t want to take the wrath of a woman who not only has to leave a safe haven because Yardley wouldn’t control her damn son, but now she’ll go to jail because you didn’t sit your ass down and listen. The possibility of Yardley herself going to jail as well probably doesn’t appeal to her, so she takes a seat.

“Your son,” I say, “will probably try to tell you that I hit him, too. I didn’t. He tried to hit Mark again on our way down here, and I caught his wrist and told him to stop. Luckily, he made a huge scene, and I have witnesses. He has a future ahead of him. Right now, that future is dotted with juvenile detention and prison, and quite possibly any other imaginable thing that can happen to a selfish little bully who has never been properly taught or disciplined.

“This is not news to you. You know he’s a problem. You knew he was a problem when I confronted you about him before I even had a chance to speak. You even had other parents tell you that he’s a problem, and you still didn’t do anything. He is incorrigible and you’re condoning his behavior. He’s a fire-starter, Mrs. Yardley, and I can guarantee you that if you don’t get him under control, one day he’s going to get burned and he might just take you with him.” She purses her lips.

“Are we done now?” she says.

“Yeah,” I say, “we’re done.”

“Come on, Ferrell,” she says and stands and marches to the door, facing off with Omar. He steps aside to let her and Ferrell pass and falls in step behind them. I turn to Mrs. Handon.

“You and Mark come to my office,” I tell her. “We’ll find somewhere for you to go.”

“Who’s going to take us and they know I got kicked out of here for fighting?” she laments.

“They don’t have to know that,” I say. “I’ll tell them we’re at capacity. I’m really sorry about this.”

“I understand,” she says. “I couldn’t let him keep hitting my son, though. Do you see how big that kid is? Mark didn’t stand a chance.” I nod and lead her down to my office. Chuck stands outside and waits while I go about the business of trying to find somewhere for the Handons to go. Unfortunately, the emergency shelters are full to capacity, and the intake departments are closed for the non-emergency shelters as it’s later than I thought.

“Dr. Grey,” she says, “if you can’t find someplace for us, call Family Services for Mark. I don’t want him to have to be on the street.” I’m getting more and more angry at Yardley by the second.

“That won’t happen,” I tell her. Not only will they take her son, but they’ll probably call his father, and he’ll be right back where he started from. I’ll put her up in a motel and post security at the door before I let that happen.

“If I could just get back to Palouse,” she laments. “My mom and dad don’t have much, but they have the house and the land in Palouse. If I could get to them, they would protect us. Dad would blow a hole in Carter’s ass so fast if he came out there…” she laughs tragically.

“All you need is to get to Palouse?” I ask. She raises her head.

“Dr. Grey, I didn’t… I wasn’t trying to…” I raise my hand to silence her.

“I know,” I say, “but are you telling me that you have a safe haven in Palouse?”

“I think so,” she says, dropping her head. “I’ve been ashamed to call… to tell them that…” She starts to cry. Mark rises from his perch and walks over to his mother. He puts his arm around her shoulders as she weeps and she turns to embrace him. I quickly get online and Google plane tickets to Palouse… $84 one way.

Two hundred measly dollars is standing between them and peace and freedom?

“Do you have Mark’s birth certificate?” I ask. Usually, when women run, they don’t leave with much, and I know she didn’t take much with her when she left. She nods.

“I always knew I would leave. I just didn’t have the guts and I never had the money,” she says. I turn the phone around to her.

“Call your parents,” I say to her. “Tell them you’re coming home.”

*-*

“Tough case?” Christian says when I fall down on the sofa in the family room. It’s nearly 9pm when I get home. I had Keri and Gail leave the children in the family room with us as I need a little more bonding time tonight.

“The worse,” I lament. “One kid was bullying another kid. We talked to his mother and she didn’t do anything. We ended up having to kick both families out because the mothers got into a physical altercation.”

“That hardly seems fair,” he says, sitting next to me and gathering Mikey up for snuggles. “Hey, little prince,” he says, tickling Mikey’s ribs as Mikey giggles feverishly.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy,” I tell him. “No fighting under any circumstances.” My head falls back on the sofa.

“Top! Top!” Mikey giggles and Christian ceases with the tickling.

“Okay, little man,” he says and Mikey continues to laugh in his arms. “Give Daddy a kiss.”

Mikey plants a slobbery kiss on his father’s cheek, and Christian puts him down to greet his daughter.

“How’s Daddy’s little princess?” he says, now scooping Minnie into his arms. She pats his cheeks like always. I don’t know what that means, but she always does that when you pick her up.

“Oh, shit!” Minnie exclaims as soon as she’s in her father’s arms. His eyes furrow.

“What the he… heck?” he demands. “Who’s been talking like that around her?” I sigh heavily.

“That would be me, I think,” I say without raising my head. “When the situation erupted at the Center, I reacted with her still in my arms. I only hope Mikey didn’t hear it because I can’t deal with two sailors today.” Christian shakes his head and turns to Minnie.

“Bad word,” he says, shaking his head. “Bad word, Minnie Mouse.” I don’t think she cares one bit what he’s saying. She’s just happy to be in Daddy’s arms.

Happy to be in Daddy’s arms…

What the hell turns these men from loving and caring fathers into monsters, I’ll never understand. Maybe they were never loving and caring fathers. Maybe it was an act to begin with. I don’t know… Carla was once a loving and caring mother and she turned into a raging bitch, so what’s her excuse?

I put one mother and son safely on a plane to Palouse this evening while effectively putting another mother and son out on the street to fend for themselves. In and of itself, it sounds horrible. It makes me a bad person… but I tried to help them all. I tried to give them a chance, but the Yardleys—Jesus. I wonder if anyone will help them with her behaving that way.

*-*

Sophie and I are in our favorite place as of late—in my office combing through emails, pictures, and ideas for the villa, vetoing some of Aaron’s outlandish ideas while giving him the go-ahead on some others. It’s Thursday evening, and Christian has informed me that we’ll be taking the boat to his parents’ place this weekend, at which time, all parties involved in the trip to Italy will be meeting to discuss final plans.

To be honest, it is that time. We’ll be leaving for our private portion of the trip in about three weeks. Everyone else will be on their way out the following month. It’s more than time to tie up loose ends.

Sophie and I are busy discussing some of the pieces for the living rooms and sitting rooms when my phone vibrates. It’s Grace. Oh, hell, what’s going on at the Center?

“Hey, Grace, what’s up?” I answer.

“Hello, dear. I hate to have to call you with this, but have you seen the news?” Grace asks me.

“No,” I reply. “What?”

“Are you anywhere that you can turn it on?”

“No, I’m in my office. There’s no television in here,” I reply. She sighs and then she’s silent for a while.

“What is it, Grace?” I ask.

“We’re famous,” she replies, “and not in a good way.” My brow furrows as I try to figure out what she’s talking about. Just as I’m about to ask her to elaborate, Marilyn comes walking—quickly—into my office with twisted lips.

“Do I want to know what this is about?” I ask them both, and they both start talking at the same time. Marilyn hands me her tablet, already open to one of the local news channels with a video paused, and hands it to me. I press play to see what the commotion is about.

“We’re here in front of the Helping Hands Community Center and Shelter with one of their former residents. And what’s your name, ma’am?”

“Susan Yardley.”

“Oh, shit,” I say as I sink into my seat.

“I… think I’ll… go to bed, now,” Sophie says, standing and heading towards the door.

“Thanks, Sophie… I’m sorry…” I mutter, trying to pay attention to what’s happening on the screen.

I watch the entire interview, which isn’t more than five minutes, as Susan Yardley and her very large son talk to the reporter about being “thrown out” of Helping Hands after they were assaulted by another resident. Of course, there’s no mention that Feral was antagonizing other children and stealing their lunches, or that the alleged assault came after he attacked a child nearly half his age and size. And they’re standing right in front of the damn Center!

“Are they down there now?” I lament.

“No,” she says, “I have no idea when this was taken.” I thrust my hand into my hair—my scar is beginning to hurt. This bitch even managed to muster up some tears as the reporter vows to find her and her “poor son” somewhere safe to go. If she’s so damn scared, why is she on television letting her supposedly psycho and violent husband know her plans? I wonder if what she’s saying is even true…

“Baby,” Christian is marching into my office. “Excuse me, Marilyn, I’m sorry to interrupt, but… that situation at Helping Hands is on the news? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I’m just now finding out. How did you find out?” He waves his phone at me.

“Mac is on the phone, and she’s not happy,” he says.

“I’m not happy, either,” I say, “but why is she not happy?”

“Somebody should have told me what was going on,” Mac says on speaker phone.

“There was an altercation between two residents at a homeless shelter. That’s hardly newsworthy,” I declare.

“Well, somebody thought it was because it’s on the news!” Mac declares. “It’s too late to get ahead of this, so we’ve got to come out with a statement.”

“No, we won’t!” Grace says at the same time that I declare, “The hell we will.”

“What the hell?” Christian says looking around the room for the phantom voice.

“That’s your mother,” I say, pointing to my phone on the desk, “and we will do no such thing.”

“Ana, anything that has to do with you can affect GEH…” Vee begins.

“This is not GEH!” I state emphatically. “This has nothing to do with GEH and I will not have you making a statement and feeding into this woman’s lies.”

“Butterfly…”

“No!” I nearly shout. “These are people’s lives we’re talking about here. The safety of every resident we have has been threatened simply by those assholes doing that interview in front of the damn Center! No goddamn statement, and I mean it! If you want to do something useful, find out everything you can on that lying, spiteful bitch and see if she’s really ‘hiding’ from a violent husband or if she’s just taking advantage of the system. I know if I were afraid for my life and the life of my son, I wouldn’t be plastering him in front of a television camera!”

Everyone in the room falls silent.

“Shit,” Grace says, “I hadn’t even considered that.”

“Why would you?” I say. “We’re here to help people in need. We trust them to be honest about their situations. If we were doing background checks on everybody, we wouldn’t help anybody… and that’s the truth.” I turn to Christian and speak loud enough for Vee to hear me. “You have your orders, but you have to use the information you saw on television. I can’t give you anything else.” Christian looks incredulously at me.

“After all this, you’re still going to protect her?” he asks, appalled.

“I have to, Christian!” I snap angrily, more angry that I have to protect this sneaky, conniving, lying bitch’s identity than anything. “I took an oath and I have to stick to it. Not only could giving you any information cost my license, but it could cost our accreditation—or did you forget all the trauma involved in that endeavor?”

Christian’s face falls, and I immediately regret bringing it up.  God, my scar is hurting.

“Besides,” I say, holding my head down and trying to massage the pain away, “nobody will ever trust us again if we do something like that. You’ll have to use what you got from the interview. I can’t help you… And get some more security down to Helping Hands as soon as possible. After this dumbass stunt, somebody’s estranged husband is going to come down there looking for his wife and kids.”

I see Christian turn away from me. He takes Vee off the speaker and begins to give her instructions.

“I’m sorry, Ana,” Grace says.

“There’s nothing for you to apologize for,” I reply. “None of us saw this coming and there’s no way that she could stay there.” Grace sighs.

“I know,” she replies, “I just feel like there has to be a better way to handle this.”

“We’ll talk about it tomorrow,” I say, “see if we can come up with some plan of action. We’ll have to make an announcement to the residents. They’re going to see more security and they’ll want to know why. They’ll need to know about the exposure this woman has brought to us and they’ll need to be careful when leaving the Center.”

This damn thing has so many far-reaching implications, this bitch has no idea what she’s done. I’m certain she doesn’t even care.

“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” Grace says with a sigh. “We’ll talk tomorrow, dear.”

We end the call and I swear my scalp feels like it’s going to crawl off my head and run out of the room screaming… and I want to cry.

“Marilyn, can you excuse us for a moment?” I hear Christian say. I hand Marilyn her tablet without raising my head. I don’t have strength or will to fight, so if he wants to argue he’s going to have to do it himself.

I hear Marilyn leave the room and then silence. I’m trying to muster every bit of my strength just to sit here and not lash out at him if he tries to convince me that we need to release a statement and not to crumble onto the floor from the implications of everything going on here. Helping Hands is supposed to be a safe haven, and this woman has jeopardized that all for personal gain. I’m certain of it. The more I think about it, the angrier I get… and the more helpless I feel.

I hear him move next to me. He turns my chair to face him and I can see that he’s crouching down to me. He gently clasps my wrists, causing me to raise my gaze to him as he moves my hands away from my face and head. He puts his hands on either side of my head, steadying my head with one hand and searching through my hair with his fingertips with the other. Without breaking our gaze, his fingertips find my scar, and he slowly begins to massage with just a little firmness…

And the pressure begins to cease.

As the pain starts to subside, I can get a clearer picture of him through my angry, helpless haze. His expression is one of helpless concern and sympathy. It destroys my resolve, and I begin to weep. He says nothing. He just continues to massage my scar. The more he massages, the better I feel and the heavier my heart feels. He’s never done this before. No one besides the doctors have ever touched my scar that I can remember except me. I don’t think he avoided it; I just don’t remember him ever touching it. Maybe he did, I don’t know, my mind is swirling… and my thoughts… and my emotions… and it really feels good.

“People are horrible!” I weep. “I do the best I can what else can I do!”

“That’s all you can do, baby,” he says, his voice soothing.

“These women come from horrible situations!” I sob. “I can’t imagine surviving through some of the things they’ve had to endure… and this selfish bitch…”

My body shakes with sobs and with anger.

“I know,” he says softly. “I know.”

He’s still massaging the pressure and pain out of my scar and my heart just crumbles at the kindness as well as in anguish for these women, some of whom are literally running for their lives, having their safety and what little peace of mind Helping Hands affords them ripped from their fingertips. It’s like when Daddy brought me to Montesano and that devil bitch Carla ripped me from my peace and dragged me back to Nevada.

That doesn’t help my mood at all.

I tip over onto my husband’s shoulder and continue to weep. One hand now gently strokes my back while the other continues to massage my pain and resolve away. The dam is flowing freely now and I couldn’t stop it if I tried. I see a figure come into my doorway, but my eyes are too watery to make out who it is. I’m too busy crying anyway to care or to entertain anybody’s company right now.

“We’ve got four more guys on the way to Helping Hands,” I hear Jason say. “Four more will replace them tomorrow, and we’ll have a steady rotation until we hear otherwise. Do you think that’ll be enough?”

I can’t respond. I don’t even know if he’s talking to me or Christian.

“We’ll leave it at that for now,” Christian says. “We’ll revisit in the morning.”

I see Jason’s form leave my office and my heart is so heavy and full at the same time that I think it’s going to explode.

I don’t know how much longer Christian literally allows me to cry on his shoulder, but once I stop, the pain and pressure are gone from my scar, but I’m waterlogged and exhausted. He gets me to our suite and draws me a bath. After a good soak and a cup of chamomile tea, I fall into a heavy slumber.

*-*

“Mrs. Grey, would you like to issue a rebuttal to Mrs. Yardley’s accusations?”

I can’t believe that I’m greeted by the fucking Paparazzi when I get to Helping Hands. Don’t these fuckers realize what they’re doing? Nobody’s going to come here for help while the press is camped out!

I stop, take a deep breath, and turn around.

“Yes, I would,” I say, and I can see Chuck stiffen.

“First of all, it’s Dr. Grey. Second, this place is a safe haven. We help remove people from dire circumstances and dangerous living conditions, and I refuse to allow one person—no matter who they are—to jeopardize the safety and well-being of these families in any way. With that in mind, I have absolutely no comment on the personal business or identities of anyone behind these walls—past or present. She wants to defame me, fine, just don’t endanger my residents. And by the way, that’s what you’re doing right now! These people depend on anonymity for their safety and you’re blasting us all over the news trying to get a story! You should be ashamed of yourselves!”

The crowd of reporters is mostly quiet as I walk into the center with the exception of two or three reporters still barking questions at me that I don’t really hear.

When I get inside, the new guards greet me and Oscar informs me that there is now a guard posted at the elevator and at each exit—even the locked ones. One of them will also do rounds every hour with a female guard doing the checks on the resident floors. That makes me feel a lot better.

Grace and I agree that we need to have a meeting to gauge the moods and hear the concerns of the residents. So, we schedule it for just after lunch even though Friday is normally my short day. It won’t be so, today. We’ve got to let these ladies know what’s happening and what steps we’re taking for their safety.

I don’t really know what to do with myself throughout the morning. Most of the press grew a conscience after my short statement and left the premises, but there are a few diehard reporters still out there. No one has left or showed up since I got here. I hope none of the women had job interviews today. I put a call in to Al to see if anything can be done about the press as they’re jeopardizing the safety of these women. He’s seeing if there’s anything he can do.

I make this announcement to the ladies when we begin the meeting, alerting them to the additional security which they had already seen. In general, most of them understand the circumstances and are more pissed at Yardley than they are concerned. They’re also very appreciative of the extra steps that we’re taking for their security.

“Why aren’t we watching television?” one of the residents asks in the middle of the meeting. “It’s going to start any minute.” Television? What the hell?

“Why would we be watching television?” Grace asks. “What’s going to start?”

“Penelope‘s interview,” she replies. “I’m sorry, I thought that’s why we were having the meeting.

“Nooooooohoohoohoohoooooooo,” I lament as I drop my head into my hands. No Christian to rub my scar today. What are these women trying to do, shut us down?

“Um, yeah… KOMO is supposed to be showing it live in just a few minutes,” she says a little timidly. Do I even want to see this shit? Grace makes the decision for me and retrieves the remote, bringing the television to life and turning it to KOMO for the after-lunch affair that is usually filled with soap operas and women’s talk shows. I can’t even find any more words. I just sit there and wait for the ax to fall.

It doesn’t take long.

I watch the screen as the narrator—whomever it is—describes the quiet, small, picturesque town of Palouse with its rolling hills and farmland and general store and two newly transplanted residents… Penelope Handon and her son, Mark.

“I’m the other resident that was asked to leave,” Penelope says, and I drop my head. Et tu, Bruté?

“What do you have to say about all of this?” the reporter says.

“If it weren’t for Dr. Trevelyan-Grey, Dr. Grey, and Helping Hands, I may be dead,” she replies. My head flies up in surprise. What did she just say?

Elaborate,” the reporter probes.

“I and my son were in a horribly violent and deadly situation. Helping Hands gave me a safe place to stay, food and clothing, and they were helping me to find a job until that night. I did get into a fight with that woman.”

“And they threw you out?”

“It’s not that simple,” she says. “I did what I had to do to protect my son, but the center has a strict, no-fighting policy and they should. These families have been through enough. We broke that.”

“So, how can you now speak so highly of a homeless center that threw you out?”

“They didn’t throw me out,” she corrects. “I broke the rules and I had to leave. Would you suggest they keep me there after I got into a physical altercation with another resident?”

“I wouldn’t suggest that they throw you out,” the reporter retorts.

“You’re stuck on that, aren’t you?” she replies. “You must live in a world without rules. I’d like that. I’d like to live in a world where there were no repercussions for my actions. That’s apparently where you live and where that awful woman thinks she lives, where you can do whatever you want without consequences.”

“Nobody’s saying that, Mrs. Handon…”

“Really?” she retorts. “You’re stuck on they threw you out, but you’re completely ignoring the fact that I and that woman you interviewed got into a physical altercation in a residential section that put other people in danger. She or I, our children, or someone else on that floor could’ve gotten hurt, and you’re still stuck on they threw you out. Let’s not forget that these people are already traumatized and now they have to be subjected to this? Where are your priorities?”

The reporter makes a motion to cut the filming, but the cameras keep rolling since they were live at the time. I can hear someone whisper that the station wants them to keep rolling.

“That woman was awful,” Penelope continues. “You saw her son. You saw how big he was. Look at my Mark—half his size and nearly half his age, and this kid is bullying him and taking his lunch. I thought we were all there for the same reason—to get help. The women and children that are still there, they’re not going to tell you anything about how that woman behaved and how her son terrorized the smaller kids and disobeyed the staff, how we went to that woman numerous times to tell her about it and she did nothing, how Dr. Trevelyan-Grey and Dr. Grey tried to talk to her about it and she still did nothing. They’re in hiding! They’re trying to put their lives back together, but I’m not in hiding anymore. For the time that I was there, Dr. Grey taught me self-defense, and now I’m in a place where if danger comes my way, we will fight it.

“She apologized for having to ask me to leave because she has children of her own and she understood. She tried to nip this in the bud before it even got to this point and the woman who came running to you like a victim was the cause of all of this. She’s gone now—she’s got her money and her moment in the spotlight and in the meantime, you’re going after a philanthropist and humanitarian, a woman who gives of herself and her time to help others so that you can get a story. Where’s the human interest in that? I hope you get what you’re looking for. I hope it makes you famous.” The reporter nervously clears his throat.

“Well… it looks like this interview is over.”

“Not quite,” Penelope says, looking at the camera. “If you’re in danger, if you’re in trouble, if you’re afraid, go to Helping Hands. They will go out of their way to help you. They will protect your privacy and anonymity and they will do everything they can to get you back on your feet… or at least to a place of safety. Just be sure that you behave like a human being and not a zoo animal when you get there and know how to obey the rules.” She turns back to the reporter. “Now, this interview is done.” She stands from her seat and walks out of the camera shot.

And the community room erupts with cheers.


A/N: “Choonks ahn ‘is wey upstehs! Des a fight in da dome!”—”Choonks on his way upstairs. There’s a fight in the dorm.”

It was brought to my attention that English is not a first language for many of my readers. So, when I do venture to write an accent, there will be translations in the author’s notes.

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

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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

Grey Continued: Episode 35—She Rescues Him Right Back

I can’t remember who said it, but whoever it was that said the episodes needed titles and not just episode numbers, you were absolutely right. I’m in the process of giving the previous episodes titles, but they will be titled from here on out.

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

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

Season 5 Episode 35—She Rescues Him Right Back

CHRISTIAN

“I can’t tell you what his motive was,” Alex says while sitting in my office later in the week with a very attentive Jason. “He’s married with two kids of his own, but they were recently separated. There’s a couple of domestic violence charges that were dropped. He’s got some petty theft, some traffic tickets, a DUI, but nothing on the books as serious as kidnapping. There is one thing…” He trails off.

“What one thing?” Jason says. Alex hands Jason a sheet of paper.

“Third from the bottom,” he says. Jason’s eyes travel down the page and his jaw tightens.

“Rape?” Jason says coolly.

“You missed it. Rape of a minor,” Alex corrects him. “Again, the charges were dropped, but…” And he trails off again.

“What else could he want with Sophie?” Jason says, his anger rising. “Is he connected to any human trafficking rings?”

“Not that I can see, but if he was, we wouldn’t see it on paper unless he’s been arrested… and they usually don’t get released.” Jason runs his hands through his hair.

“Where is he now?” Jason asks.

“He’s still in lockup,” Alex replies. “With his outstanding warrants, he’s going to be in there for a while and with the nature of this accusation, he’s not making bail.” Jason’s jaw tightens.

“I want every little piece of information you can find on him—where he works, who is friends are, and what he had for dinner last Friday. I want to know what time he takes a shit when he’s in the pen. Every. Little. Thing.” Alex nods.

“I’m on it,” he says, and leaves the room. There’s silence for a moment while Jason’s quiet fury fills my office.

“I know how you feel,” I begin, and he shoots a look of death at me. “All I’m saying is that I know that self-preservation goes out the window when someone hurts someone that you love. I’ll be with you every step of the way, whatever you decide to do, but please remember that people need you—your daughter, your wife… your friends.” I let that last one hang in the air for a moment before I continue. “Whatever you decide to do with the information, just keep your head about yourself. I could have killed David with my bare hands when he kidnapped Butterfly. I can’t imagine what I’d do to someone who took Mackenzie.”

His jaw twitches, but then slacks a bit after a moment. He’s gripping the back of a chair like a vice and the veins are throbbing in his temples.

“Sir, I’m bringing Ben in from the Crossing to be your detail for the rest of the day,” he says. “This information is too sudden and heavy… I can’t be effective at my job right now…”

“I understand,” I tell him. “Take the rest of the day off. Do whatever you need to do.” He nods once, takes a moment to compose himself, and leaves the room. I lean back in my seat and breathe deeply, pondering what I just said to Jason.

I can’t imagine what I’d do to someone who took Mackenzie…

I’ve got to watch this man. He’s a loaded cannon aimed right at Ruiz. I call Alex.

“Yes, sir,” he answers.

“Jason’s a pro and I know that there’s no way to put a covert detail on him, but he’s taken the rest of the day off. In essence, he says his emotions will affect his work. We need to keep an eye on him, Alex. This is his daughter. She’s already been through so much and so has he.”

“I know,” Alex says. “I’ll do what I can.”

“Make sure you keep a tight eye on Ruiz,” I add. “We need to know the very second that man makes it out of police custody.”

“Understood,” he replies, and I end the call. I desperately need to change my train of thought. I need to think of something happy.

Mother’s Day is Sunday.

We were so concerned about Val and Pops last year that we skipped right over Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and almost skipped over our anniversary. Well, not this year. It’s hard to know what to get the woman who has everything, but I think I made some good choices

She likes her car, but I’ve already ordered her a new one—same make, but next year’s model, newer feature, deeper blue… that blue…

I’ve created a fragrance for her—a mixture of the flowery, pleasant smells that remind me of her with a hint of the evocative flavors she likes that make me want to rip her clothes off, including cinnamon-vanilla. When I mixed them, the perfumer thought I had lost my mind, but when she mixed them, she took one whiff and her eyes widened. I sniffed the fragrance and imagined it intermingled with my wife’s natural scent and couldn’t resist.

“That’s it,” I had nearly growled, not realizing that I had unleashed the Dom voice until I heard it. Unfortunately, the perfumer heard it, too. She quickly applied a bit of the mixture to her wrist and held it out for me to sniff.

“Are you sure?” she said, provocatively, while holding her arm out for me to smell it, so I did. I knew exactly what was going to happen.

“Yes, I’m sure,” I said in the same voice. “Bottle it.”

She smiled sweetly at me and mixed the creation. Once I made sure that it was correct, I gave her the name to etch on the bottle.

Butterfly.

She was still all moony and simpering as she giftwrapped my order and handed it to me along with a personalized copy of the formula, and that’s when I dropped the bomb on her.

“Thank you,” I had said. “Do you always test the fragrances on yourself?”

“Only for special customers,” she had replied, suggestively.

“You probably shouldn’t do that,” I had told her. “My wife’s body chemistry is much, much different than yours. Each body releases its own pheromones and when the chemicals mix, the fragrance changes. As a professional, you should know that. You almost blew this sale. Think about that before you apply someone’s custom fragrance to your skin.”

How dare she violate my memory that way? That could have been catastrophic! Yes, she was crestfallen, but I wasn’t trying to blast her. I was giving her a bit of professional advice.

Okay, maybe I was trying to blast her, too.

I have Saturday all planned. I’ve found her the most beautiful and elegant Zac Posen Moda Operandi gown—navy blue silk… or I should say Victoria found it. I’ve convinced Butterfly to have her spa day on Saturday so that she can get her hair done. I’ve already given Franco specific instructions of what I want her hair to look like—and no fragrances in any of her treatments with the exception of a gentle vanilla if she requests it, so that it won’t clash with her custom perfume.

A limousine with a hired driver will take us to the Seattle Opera House for dinner and a showing of the critically acclaimed Ariadne auf Naxos. I’ve never taken my wife to the opera, but she always seems to appreciate the finer things. It’ll also remove the only comparison I’ve ever had to myself as Edward Lewis in Pretty Woman, and that was when I was dealing with that asshole in Madrid… being an asshole myself.

Now for the jewelry. I make that call.

“Thank you for calling Cartier. This is Marvin. How can I help you?”

“Marvin, it’s Christian Grey.”

“Mr. Grey,” he nearly purrs. “Always a pleasure. What can I do for you today?”

“What do you have in the vault that’s opera-ready? Or can you direct me to a store that does have something opera-ready?” He’s silent for a moment.

“Can I get you to hold on for a moment? I’m going to check the computer and the safe,” he says.

“Okay, that’s fine.”

I’m sure this man hit speed dial and called every Cartier in the tri-state area to see who had opera-ready jewelry. In three minutes, he was back on the phone.

“Do you still have the same mobile number?” he asks.

“I do.”

“I have a piece available. I can text it to you if you would like.”

“I would like,” I respond. In moments, I get a notification.

“What do we have here?” I ask as I swipe the screen and open the text.

“Diamond and platinum,” he says as I examine the exquisite creation. “Convertible—the first two tiers can be removed for a more conservative look. The center stone is 34.6 carats.” Jesus, this thing is screaming armored truck. Butterfly will never wear that.

“Anything nearly as exquisite for less than eight figures?” I ask. “I want something along the same lines, but when it comes to jewelry, my wife is somewhat modest. I nearly had to twist her arm to take an $80,000 set.”

“Ah,” he says. “Extravagant, but delicate.” My phone chimes again and I swipe the screen.

“What do we have here?” I ask.

“Smaller stone, white gold, 10-carat total weight,” he explains. It’s perfect. “What color is her dress?”

“Blue,” I reply. Of course. My phone chimes again, and there’s a pair of earrings.

“Talk to me,” I say.

“Diamonds and white gold, embellished with small sapphires and emeralds.” Yes, these will do nicely.

“How do we transport?” I ask.

“The usual. Escala?” he asks.

“No, I don’t own that property anymore. Just deliver to Grey House. You can have them here on Friday?”

“Yes, sir. What time would you like them?”

*-*

The Taylors don’t join us for dinner this evening and I’m more than a little concerned about Jason and Sophie. Her actual birthday is two days away, and this is a really fucked-up memory to bring it in on. When I go to my study for the evening, I can hear her in Butterfly’s office. They’re talking about designs and sofas; the fact that they love the Brynhurst coffee table but hate the Luca ivory wood dining table. I get caught in my work and tune out their conversation, and when I’m paying attention again, I hear Sophie say something that makes the hairs rise on my neck.

“It seems like my whole life is one big close call. Do I feel okay about that—you know, that something bad could have happened but didn’t, or do I feel scared all the time?”

Why should a 14-year-old girl have to ask that question?

Immediately feeling like an interloper on what should probably be a very private conversation, I turn on the sound system that pipes through the intercom and allow the soft sounds of Keiko Matsui to pipe into my office—not too loud to arouse suspicion, but loud enough to drown out their conversation so that it may remain private.

And now, I want Ruiz’ blood, too.

Speaking of wanting blood, Sarah’s husband, Fletcher—or Fletch for short—is a mechanic with his own shop and he’s now living above the shop. He stopped paying the bills at the house as he made her responsible for the bills there since he always had a backup plan. Everything is in her name, so he could walk away with ease. He has no criminal record—he’s just a regular old wretch of a man. Fletch, the wretch.

I put her in with one of the financial advisors at Grey House to help her get her financial situation in order. With her permission to speak to her debtors, he’s helping to negotiate smaller lump sum payoffs in return for a paid in full status on her credit report, and less funds to pay back in the interest-free loan that I’m giving her, leaving more to live on and invest if she so chooses.

I offered to buy her a car—nothing flashy, just something useful to get her from point A to point B—but she flatly refused, indicating that the bus was just fine, and that she had her eye on an apartment that was actually walking distance from the office. I take a little comfort in that, but I’ll set her up with covert security for a while in case her husband decides to make an appearance. Her business mail will be delivered to the mailroom at GEH for now. I’m hoping the asshole gets brave and comes down there to harass her. I’ll rip him apart all by myself.

As she has no plans for Mother’s Day, I invited her to our house for dinner since my plans for the opera will be on Saturday.

“I’m not a mother, child,” she had protested.

“Yes, you are,” I retorted. “You’re a stepmother to two children that you helped when they needed it even though they were selfish, inconsiderate, and ungrateful, but more importantly, you’re a fairy godmother to me, my wife, and my children. Everything that you see in terms of me and my immediate family would not have been possible if it hadn’t been for you and a selfless act that you did three years ago that cost your livelihood. So, we’ll see you Sunday, Godmother.”

She was very happy to accept the invitation and the title.

Saturday has arrived and I’m happy to say that the week proceeded mostly without incident. Ruiz was indicted on attempted kidnapping charges and he’s being held without bail… another fucking trial, this time centered on Sophie. Shalane is going to have a field day with this.

“I’m not telling that bitch shit,” Jason says when he hears about the charges. “If she doesn’t find out on her own or Sophie doesn’t tell her, she’s not hearing shit from me. Have you listened to my daughter talk?”

Yes, Jason… yes, I have.

“She knows way more than she should know about life right now,” he continues. “As much as it scares the shit outta me, she should be giggling about boys with her friends right now, going shopping and trying makeup… I’ll take a million purple hairdos compared to the shit that she’s had to contend with! Who becomes a damn-near master chef at 14 from watching the damn cooking channel?”

He was furious the whole day, and I’m sure that it’s one of those days where Sophie could have asked him for anything. Instead, she asked to cooked Mother’s Day dinner for all the mothers with only a little help from Ms. Solomon.

“It’s her passion,” Jason had said. “It makes her happy.”

This kid is a strange animal and I can’t help but wonder what adulthood will be like for her. I don’t know how I feel about her mother not knowing about the attempted kidnapping, though. Granted, she’s a selfish cow and would probably use it to draw attention to herself in some way, or as some kind of ammo against Jason, but I’m still on the fence about her not knowing.

“Well, I’m not telling her,” Jason reinforces. “If it takes forever for that asshole to go to trial—like it usually does—she’ll be released, and she can see it for herself. Otherwise, she can kiss my ass.”

And that was the end of that. I don’t think I had ever seen him that animated before, even when he went to pick her up from the police station.

We’ve also heard that investigations have begun on the business dealings of one Attorney Asshole Blake. We’ll have to wait to see how that turns out.

81fb0a7c599c7f9a3cb86e62abdcbe56 Butterfly is at the salon as I instructed and I’m sitting in my office looking over some emails. Aggie has sent pictures of the two-week-old puppies. I have to admit, they’re kind of cute. We can still have our pick of a boy or a girl from this litter as the entire hoard survived and are all doing fine now. We’ve decided to hold off deciding if we wanted a boy or a girl from the red noses until the brindles are born, but if it takes too long, we’ve committed to a girl and we’re hoping for a healthy boy from the brood of brindles.

I’ve also gotten the list of reservations for the attractions for our trip to Italy. Looking at it, I wonder if Audrey is still interested in being my travel agent.

She has us spending two weeks in Rome, two weeks in Venice, and two weeks at the villa. She has clearly forgotten who she’s dealing with. I’ve been to Italy six times—two of those trips, she planned. Now, she’s trying to send me this bullshit itinerary with three places to visit when we’ve got six weeks in the country? Who the fuck does she think she’s fooling?

To: Audrey Law
Re: Italy Itinerary
Date: Saturday, May 9, 2015, 14:21
From: Christian Grey

Ms. Law,

Is this your idea of a joke? Is my business that worthless to you that you’re willing to literally hand it off to the next agent?

I’m sure that I’ve given you every impression that the first month of this trip is going to be a second honeymoon and you have us spending two weeks in Rome and two weeks in Venice. This sorry list of attractions that you have somehow managed to spread over two weeks in Rome, I can see in three days! An entire day at the Colosseum? Seriously?

And I’m sure that you remember me saying that I wanted to take my wife to see the David. In fact, I very distinctively remember her effectively shielding your attempts to disparage her for not seeing it. Yet, I don’t see Florence on this itinerary. And as much as I plan to take total advantage of the most romantic city in the world, exactly what do you expect us to do for two weeks in Venice?

Where the hell is Naples, Salerno, Capri, Milan? Do you really need suggestions for a six-week trip to Italy with carte blanche??

If you are incapable of doing what I’ve ask for, just let me know and stop wasting my time. You have three days to fix this or I’ll plan my own trip and book it through another agent. I’ll await your reply.

Christian Grey, CEO
Grey Enterprises Holdings. Inc

What the hell is wrong with this woman? She’s clearly pissed because I’ve never brought a woman with me to plan my trip and I brought Butterfly with no warning. But hell, she planned our shopping trip to Paris, our honeymoon in Greece, the babymoon, the Australian cruise… Did she think my wife was a figment of my imagination? The arrogance and stupidity of people truly never ceases to amaze me. Speaking of babymoon…

To: Christian Grey
Re: You’re Never Going to Believe This
Date: Friday, May 8, 2015, 16:42
From: Jason Taylor

Do you remember the sleaze Arthur Daniels from the babymoon? Guess where he is now?

Jason Taylor
Personal Security
Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc

There’s a link in the email and when I click it, there’s a very brief story about how Arthur Daniels has plead guilty to second degree murder charges.

“Murder?” I say, texting Jason to come to my study. “What the fuck?” He seemed like a wimp to me, just somebody trying to take a hit to get a buck. Granted, I knew he couldn’t take a beating, or so I thought. I had him pegged for maybe the guy who would take a good hit and go down, then sue for some insurmountable amount and take a payment out of court, but murder? What the hell?

“You need me, sir?” Jason says, walking into my office.

“I just saw your email from yesterday,” I tell him. “About Daniels? Murder? Is that right?” Jason nods.

“I did a little research on him,” he tells me. “I was just curious and had some time to kill—in an attempt not to put a hit out on Ruiz. Anyway, this guy left such a taste in my mouth that I ran a check and found this.”

“What the hell happened? Was it self-defense?” I ask.

“Not even close,” Jason replies. “It was a baby.” I glare at him.

“He murdered a fucking baby?” I bark. “Was it his baby?”

“Um… well… it was his wife’s baby,” Jason replies. I must be a little loopy because I thought his wife’s baby would be his baby, but of course I’m still stunned by the fact that he killed a baby.

“Okay, his wife’s baby. So, I’m assuming the baby wasn’t his,” I deduce.

“You’re assuming correctly.” Okay, that opens a whole new can of worms. He discovers that the kid isn’t his, so…

“So, he killed the baby?” I ask in disbelief. “What the fuck?” Jason sighs.

“As the story goes, Kiley Daniels had the kid and the moment he popped out black, Arthur Daniels grabbed the kid and slammed him on the ground. They hadn’t even cut the cord yet.”

Oh, fucking hell, I’m horrified.

“Jason, you’re not telling me that a man took a baby straight out of the pussy and killed it right there…” My voice is controlled. I can hardly believe what I’m hearing.

“That’s exactly what I’m telling you,” he says. “The same doctor that delivered the kid pronounced him dead right there before the wife even passed the afterbirth.

Fucking hell. I fall back in my chair in total disbelief of what I’m hearing. How can a human being have this much rage inside?

“Could it be that he just dropped the kid?” I ask, still trying to find some good in this bastard that I saw with my own eyes isn’t worth a $3-bill.

“He tried that defense,” Jason says, “that he dropped the baby in shock, but there were too many witnesses. No matter how his lawyer tried, he couldn’t get Daniels off, so he pled to second degree instead of first.

“Mrs. Daniels went into a catatonic state of shock and remained that way for months. When she came back to herself, she moved in with family. She didn’t remember being married, being pregnant, her affair, none of it. When they told her who Arthur was and what had happened, she didn’t even recognize him. Her mind had blocked the whole thing out.”

“What about the baby’s father?” I ask. Jason shakes his head.

“He never came forward,” he says. “Nobody knows how much he knew, but he just stayed in the background. I didn’t investigate enough to find out about him. I just wanted to know what happened to the asshole.”

“So, we know what’s happening with him. Where is she now?”

“Going on with her life like nothing ever happened from what sources say,” he replies. “Of course, she filed for divorce because she doesn’t know the guy, and from what she does know of him, he killed her baby. So, that’s that.” I shake my head.

“Talk about getting your comeuppance,” I say. “Damn, murder of a baby…”

“He’s been in protective solitary confinement,” Jason says. “Once they sentence him, if they put him in general population, he won’t last a day.”

“How much time do you think he’ll get?” I ask.

“I think they’ll throw the book at him. They can’t execute him because it’s second degree, but he sure won’t be shipping in pussy anytime soon.” I shake my head again.

“I could’ve gone my whole life without knowing this,” I say, closing my laptop. “By the way, don’t make any more travel arrangements through Audrey Law. Make sure GEH knows—no expensing through her. We’re going to be looking around for someone else to handle the company travel.”

“Okay… you’ve been with her for years. Can I ask what happened?” he says.

“She’s testing me,” I say. “I put her in charge of our trip to Italy and she’s coming back with bullshit. Ridiculous bullshit. She’s pissed because I’m married, and she’s trying to sabotage the trip.”

“She can’t be pissed that you’re married. She planned your honeymoon,” he protests.

“It’s one thing when you know there’s a wife,” I say. “It’s another thing altogether when you put a real face and a body to it. I took Butterfly with me—or I should say, we met at Ms. Law’s office—when I decided to start planning the trip. It was a huge pissing contest that my wife should never have had to be involved in. Law kept making snide remarks that could be camouflaged as valid questions and conversation, but Butterfly didn’t miss a swing. She kept hittin’ ‘em back at her like a pinch hitter in the bottom of the third.

“You would have thought that by the time we left, Law would’ve understood her place, but apparently, she hasn’t. She just sent me a six-week itinerary with two weeks in Rome, two weeks in Venice, and two weeks at Lake Como.” Jason frowns.

“That sounds odd,” he says.

“That sounds stupid!” I reply. “If you’re a tourist spending six weeks to see Italy, why would you want to spend two weeks in Venice and two weeks in Rome? You’ve got six weeks to see the country…”

“Hey, you don’t have to convince me. Like I said, it sounds odd. So… no more Audrey Law?” he asks.

“Nope,” I say. “I’m going to let her think that we’re not booking travel with her until she gets her act together. Then, assuming I let her fix her faux pas and get this trip right, when I get back from Italy, I’ll let her know that she’s fired. So, we need to start looking for someone to handle our travel arrangements from here on out.” He knows I want him to be part of the selection because most often, he’s the one that deals with the agent to arrange my travel.

“You got it,” he says.

“Good, I’m going to get ready for my date with my wife. You’ve reserved the room?”

“I have, and the car will be in the valet,” he replies.

“Excellent. Do you have anything special planned for Mrs. Jason?” I ask. He smiles devilishly.

“I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you,” he says, raising one brow at me.

*-*

My wife is a vision as she steps out of Miana’s. Her hair is beautifully coifed in a swooping chignon while tendrils of hair playfully brush her shoulders. The midnight blue, nearly black off-the-shoulder Zac Posen gown is so elegant and fashionable on her that she looks like she’s floating towards me. Her makeup is flawless as usual, her pouty red lips just dark enough to make them kissable, but not too dark for the occasion. My only regret is that I didn’t grace her wrist with diamonds to complement her elbow-long opera gloves, but the exquisite Cartier necklace and earrings stand out enough to accentuate the ensemble. A cuff may have been overkill.

“Mrs. Grey, you’re stunning,” I say as I kiss her hand.

“As are you, Mr. Grey,” she replies, coyly. I’m not modest. I know I’m an attractive man and I look damn good in a Brioni tux, but I always feel like a troll next to her. I open the door for her and help her inside the limo, careful of the flowing folds of her dress, and off we go to the Seattle.

The dress code is usually very relaxed at the Seattle Opera, but tonight is a special night as most attendees are coming to celebrate Mother’s Day. It’s actually more of a red-carpet affair this evening, complete with doormen to open the doors of our limousine. It’s not a Paparazzi sort of affair, but there are a few snapping pictures when my enchanting wife exits the limo. She smiles prettily for the cameras, nodding once in various directions as we make our way into the hall.

The opera is three hours long, so we have dinner at the restaurant inside McGraw Hill. I’ve reserved a cozy table in the corner so as not to be the center of attention in the restaurant, but of course there’s the odd person or three that steals a look in our direction. I opted not to bring security tonight, and I hope that was the right decision as some of the concert-goers look as if they can’t resist coming over to the table and saying, “Hi,” like they’re greeting an old friend.

Luckily, we’re able to enjoy our dinner without interruption—salt-crusted roasted leg of lamb with creamy polenta and choices from the harvest table along with Tuxedo Tiramisu, the richest confection I think I’ve ever tasted.

“I’ve never been to the opera,” Butterfly says as we sip our coffee, and again I feel like Edward Lewis.

“You know that I appreciate music,” I say, “especially classical music. Opera is a little different than classical, but it’s on the same level in that it requires a more sophisticated ear to enjoy it. The oldest operas aren’t written in English, but there are some English operas that date back to the 16th Century. That being said, whether the opera is performed in English or not, the music is usually so powerful that the performance becomes universal.

“There are screens in the auditorium that project subtitles in English, but I feel that takes away from the performance. Opera is always very emotional and generally, how you react to your first opera will determine if you ever truly love it.”

“Why does that sound familiar to me?” she asks as she finishes her cappuccino.

“Because you and I are inadvertently having a Pretty Woman evening,” I say with mirth. “This is your first time at the opera, much like Vivian Ward had never been to the opera in the movie. You’re wearing a beautiful dress, exquisite jewelry, and just like Julia Roberts in the movie, you’re a drop-dead bombshell.”

That elicits a giggle from her.

“And because Edward Lewis says something very similar to Vivian Ward when they’re sitting in their box seats, which is where we’ll be in a few moments. To this day, it’s still the best explanation of opera that I’ve ever heard. He tells her that ‘People’s reaction to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic. They either love it or hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.’”

“So… do you think this Motown girl is going to love the opera?” she asks.

“I sure hope so,” I tell her. “I very rarely get to go, but when I do…” I trail off. The experience is unexplainable, so why try?

“I will tell you that the opera that we’ll be seeing tonight is an opera in an opera, so you may—for lack of a better word—lose your place if you don’t keep up. It starts with a live orchestra and, of course, we have the best seats in the house. There are opera glasses in the box and, without telling you the story, I think it’s time we get to our seats.”

I stand and pull her chair back and we head to the auditorium. I’m stopped by a few business associates who have also brought their wives for an evening of opera, but we get to our seats without incident as once the opera starts, no one is allowed into the auditorium. If you leave, you have to watch the opera from monitors in the lobby until you are allowed back in.

I watch my Butterfly as carefully as I can throughout the performance. At first, she’s not able to follow the prologue, and without an English translation, it can be hard to follow. I move very close to her and whisper in her ear so that only she can hear me.

“That’s the composer,” I tell her, pointing to the young girl dressed like a man, who seems forlorn for most of the scene. “There are two sets of performers hired to perform after the rich man’s dinner. However, dinner has run past its time, so both performances have to go on simultaneously. The composer’s group is an opera and the other group is a comedy troupe.”

She nods and looks through her opera glasses. She points to a performer at the end of the stage without speaking and I lean in and whisper to her that he is the Music Master trying to convince the composer to make the necessary changes to his opera so that both shows can go on. She nods again and pays attention to the performance. She watches the performance with a curious eye, but not a captivated eye, and I’m concerned that she’s going to be one of the people who can appreciate opera, but not necessarily love it.

I will say that the voices in the prologue are… lacking, that’s the best way that I can put it. For her first opera, I may have wanted to introduce her to one of the shows in Italy. For some reason, this particular company is not capturing the richness in the tones that I’m accustomed to. Their voices are soft and tweeting instead of full and vibrant, and considering that the opera is in German, the audience really needs to be captured with the tones and power of the music since they can’t understand the words.

As such, Butterfly has turned her attention to the monitors that have the English subtitles. She doesn’t need me to explain the prologue to her now as she can read what’s actually going on. I’m a bit disappointed that she has opted to read the subtitles, but I can’t fault her. She tried.

The tedious prologue has finally ended and—to make a long story short—both companies have figured out how to merge the opera with the comedy show, much to the dismay of the composer who has stormed off the stage. Now, the opera portion of the performance begins, and our prima donna—Ariadne—is set on the stage, abandoned on the island of Naxos by her lover. There are three nymphs on stage who are supposed to be Ariadne’s only companions. However, the comedy troupe comes in and unsuccessfully tries to lift the spirits of the brokenhearted Ariadne.

Once Ariadne began singing, I now hear the rich, full tones that I’ve been waiting for. The prima donna’s face distorts in such anguish and despair, and her voice rings deep from her stomach and pulls you from your seat, so much so that Butterfly is now leaning on the rail of the opera box as close as she can get to the talented soprano from this far away from the stage.

This is the reaction I was hoping for.

Butterfly hangs on every word that comes from Ariadne’s lips, as if she can completely understand what she’s saying. Even when the thespians and comedic singers enter with their buffoonery trying to cheer the broken Ariadne, their voices portray the richness that I’m accustomed to. However, it’s not until Bacchus enters that I hear the booming tenor that touches even the deepest part of my black soul. Upon his entrance, his powerful voice causes my wife to gasp and if I didn’t know that she wasn’t privy to dramatics, I think she’d faint right there on the floor.

As such, the opera continues with my wife gasping and crying at various intervals, laughing when the comedic troupe vies for the affections of their saucy comedian Zerbinetta and weeping incessantly when Ariadne begs Bacchus to take her to the realm of death and end her suffering. As Bacchus falls in love with Ariadne, the opera ends with an extremely moving and powerful aria between the two, and my wife looks emotionally exhausted. As the rest of the opera goers file out of the boxes and auditorium, she just sits there with a bit of a catatonic expression on her tearstained face.

“Are you okay?” I ask cautiously. She waves me off as if to signify that she can’t talk at the moment. We sit silently in the box for about five minutes as the opera auditorium empties, and my wife has wrung my handkerchief until I’m certain that the threads are screaming for mercy.

“Okay,” she finally says, once the auditorium is almost empty. She rises from her seat and has to find her legs. I quickly put my arm around her waist, and she raises sad but grateful blue eyes to me.

“Ready?” I ask, and she nods. We leave the auditorium and stand out front with the other opera goers waiting for their cars in front of the opera house. I note that’s it’s chillier than I thought it would be and I remove my jacket and drape it over my wife’s shoulders.

“Thank you,” she says sweetly, shamelessly putting her arms into the sleeves. Even after she’s been crying, she looks lovely. I kiss her softly on the lips.

“You’re welcome,” I say, smiling at her.

“Grey!” I hear from somewhere off to my right. Seriously? I look up and see Steve Wexton walking over to me. Son of a bitch. I’ve got one of his companies on the hotplate right now for acquisition. He’s making his way over to me and I make a point of putting my arm around my wife, who now has a questioning expression on her face.

“Business associate,” I tell her.

“I figured as much,” she replies distasteful. His female companion—wife, girlfriend, I don’t know—is scurrying to catch up with him. She’s wearing a… nice dress.

“Jesus, Grey,” he says, examining me and my wife. “It’s not the Met.” I raise a brow at him. It’s not the office Christmas party either, I think to myself as I examine his off-the-rack suit and his companion’s equally off-the-rack dress.

“Maybe not, but it is a special night,” I point out, “and I like for my girl to look like the belle of the ball.” He raises a brow at my wife.

“She’s definitely stunning,” he says, suggestively, and Butterfly conspicuously grasps my arm.

“I agree,” I say. “That’s why I married her.” Down, you fucking canine. He turns to me and issues a veiled challenge.

“Easy, Grey,” he says. “It’s not like I’m going to take your girl or anything like you’re taking my company.”

“That’ll never happen,” Butterfly says, low enough that she thinks no one heard her, but Wexton’s gaze shoots to her.

“Not enough money, sweet cheeks?” he shoots. My wife is completely horrified and claps back before I can’t even stop her.

“Not enough anything, limp dick!” she retorts angrily. Oh, shit.

“Butterfly!” I scold gently.

“He called me ‘Sweet Cheeks,’” she says quickly. “How would he know?”

“How would you know my dick is limp?” he shoots back.

“Okay, that’s enough!” I snap, glaring at Wexton. “I didn’t deck you for that derogatory statement you made to my wife, so I suggest you stop now while you’re ahead.”

“No offense, Grey, but she started it,” he retorts.

“No offense, Wexton, but you’re delusional. You started it, and I’m going to finish it. By the way, you just lost your date.”

Wexton looks over his shoulder to see his date getting into the back of a taxi.

“If you hurry, you might be able to catch her,” I suggest.

“I’m having more fun here with you,” he smirks. “What do you say we let bygones be bygones and go grab a drink?” He can’t fucking be serious. Like a chariot from heaven, the limo arrives and our driver steps out and opens the door for my wife.

“No, thanks, Steve. I still got my date, and like I said, special night.” I wink at him as my wife gets into the limo, then I slide in beside her just in case this asshole gets any ideas. The chauffeur closes the door behind us and I quickly hit the lock.

“God, what a sleaze!” Butterfly exclaims when we’re safely inside the car.”

“Yeah, I can’t pick who I take a company from,” I say, fastening my seat belt and taking her hand. “I just pick the company. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she replies. “He’s a lightweight. I’ve dealt with much worse.”

“So, tell me,” I begin once we’re on our way, “what did you think?” I already know, but I want to hear her take on the performance.

“I’ll be honest and tell you that the first part moved very slowly for me, but once we got to the opera in the opera, I could feel the pain and emotion of the characters.”

“Could you tell what was happening once you stopped reading the monitors?” I ask.

“I could tell that the female lead was heartbroken,” she says. “I couldn’t really tell what the three angel-like ghostly women in the back were doing, but I knew that the four or five people in the forefront were comic relief of some kind.”

“Ariadne is the main character,” I tell her, “and she was abandoned on a deserted island by her lover. The three characters in the back are nymphs, very inconsequential.”

“Yeah, I figured as much,” she says.

“The comic relief was really the other opera being combined into the Ariadne opera. The comedic troupe were doing what they could to cheer up the forlorn Ariadne to no avail.”

“That’s odd… I thought there was one point where they were all kind of fighting for the girl among them,” she points out. Good eye, Butterfly.

“They were,” I say. “It was probably part of the original comedic routine, and it had to go somewhere.” She twists her lips.

“So… I’m assuming that the guy at the end was the lover that deserted her, but she didn’t look really happy to see him at first.”

“That’s because he wasn’t the lover that spurned her,” I say. “He was the god Bacchus, and he’s fleeing from a sorceress. He mistakes Ariadne for the sorceress and she mistakes him for the god Hermes. In the end, they go off together and that was the last duet that you saw.”

“It was quite powerful,” she says, sinking back into her seat. We have a short ride and I want to get something off my chest before we get to the hotel.

“I have another confession to make,” I say. She raises her gaze to me. “Although I wanted this to be the perfect evening for the perfect girl, there was an ulterior motive involved as well.”

“There’s always an ulterior motive, Christian,” she says with mirth.  I take her hand.

“Besides the fact that I got to see you all put together so beautifully which always warms my heart…”

She giggles.

“… And I got to take you to the opera and watch your wonderful reaction to your first time seeing it—which was just like Vivian Ward’s, by the way…”

She giggles and blushes.

“… I got to replace a pretty bad memory with a much better one.”

She’s silent now. I sigh.

“When I left for Madrid, I foolishly spent most of the night in the first-class private lounge at the airport having a liquid dinner.”

I don’t raise my eyes to her as I tell this story.

“I was pretty pickled by the time we were airborne. I’m sure you know that didn’t make for a very good trip.” I swallow before I continue. “I had ruined the only suit I brought with me—the one I was wearing. We had a layover at JFK and I had to wear a toga.”

My wife unsuccessfully tries to stifle a laugh. Trust me, baby, it looked even funnier than it sounds.

“When we got to Spain, I had to go shopping for clothes, so I had to wear some of Jason’s jogging pants and a T-shirt to the fashionable shops of Madrid. That, of course, went over like a lead balloon.”

Another unsuccessful attempt to hide a scoffing laugh from my wife.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had anybody in a retail outlet treat me with such disdain. It was like a roach had walked into his establishment and asked for service… which, quite frankly, was too good a term for me at the time.”

That’s another story—we won’t go into that.

“My very fashionably-dressed bodyguard had to tell this snooty motherfucker behind the counter that I was richer than Julius Caesar by comparing me to Edward Lewis in the movie. At the time, I didn’t care—the tables turned, I treated the asshole like the scum of the earth and I got what I wanted—no big deal. But as time progressed, I realized that I was the asshole, as was Edward Lewis in the beginning of the movie, and just like Vivian transformed him, you have totally transformed me.

“I don’t know if we’re supposed to believe that after ‘she rescues him right back,’ their ‘happily ever after’ ever involved them running away and getting married or if Edward went back to being the asshole that expected women to be at his ‘beck and call’ like the beginning of the movie. All I know is that I’m glad you stuck around… even when I’m being an asshole.”

I finally raise my gaze to hers and those deep, guileless blue eyes are staring back at me.

“How do you know so much about that movie?” she asks.

“It’s always been one of my favorites,” I confess. “I could relate to the power Edward wielded. I thought it was amazing that the first company he ever acquired belonged to the philandering father that left his mother. I thought he was a sap for blowing that takeover. The whole idea of draping women in beautiful things and being done with them after a certain period of time—oh, yeah, well acquainted with that practice. I just… never thought I’d meet my Vivian.”

She stares at me for a moment before she undoes her seatbelt, leans over to me, and takes my face in her hands. She presses her lips against mine in a deep and searing kiss, setting me alight faster than I can get my thoughts together. I pull her into my lap and kiss her deeply, happy that I have indeed found my Vivian.

The limo drops us at the Edgewater Hotel, and I pick my key up at the front desk before taking my wife straight to our room.

I open the door and gesture her inside. I turn on one of the smaller desk lights and it casts a gentle yellow hue over the room. Damn, that couldn’t have worked out better had I planned it. The Edgewater is one of the higher priced hotels in Seattle, but the room is modest. The hotel is mainly famous because of the famous people who have stayed here. The Beatles stayed somewhere on the second floor and fished in Elliot Bay out of one of the windows. There’s a famous picture of it, but the room didn’t look like much to me for what they were charging. This will suit us just fine—close to the opera house and beautiful views of the Sound.

She walks to the window and takes in the view of the Sound. I drop the key on the nightstand and walk over to her. Standing behind her, I take my jacket off her shoulders and toss it onto the bed. Placing my hands gently on her arms, I caress her shoulders with my thumbs, then brush my lips over her neck, allowing warm breath to tickle her skin before I pepper kisses onto her back. Her breath quickens as she shivers. She holds her head down, giving me unfettered access to her smooth, alabaster skin.

I lick and kiss her neck and shoulders, tasting her skin as I slowly unzip her dress. I want to savor her, the feel of her skin on my fingertips and the smell of that sweet perfume I created for her. God, it’s intoxicating. I put my hands under the dress and slowly push it down her body, kissing down her back the entire way. I’m almost on my knees behind her when I push it off her hips and down to the floor, kissing her ass cheek, her thigh, and the backs of her knees and feeling her shiver again. She’s only wearing underwear under the dress, and that’s all I wanted… underwear, jewelry, and shoes. I slide those pretty little things off her hips and down her legs until she steps out of them, looking all sexy and edible in diamonds and Louboutins.

I turn her around to face me and lift her into my arms by her ass. She gasps in surprise but wraps her legs and arms around me. My lips are only breaths away from hers as I carry her to the desk. I hoist her up onto the desk and kiss her deeply. My body craves her and my soul aches for her. Her soft lips only slightly soothe the fire in me and I realize I want more… I need more… so much more…

I tear my lips from hers and kiss down her body, quickly nipping her nipples on the way. I have to taste her now. I’m fucking starving for her. Once I’m on my knees in front of her, I put one of her legs over my shoulder and dive into her core licking voraciously. She leans back on her hands and cries out, high-pitched breathless pants squeezing from her throat.

My tongue is relentless. She tastes so good that I find myself drooling on her. I want it hot; I want it wet, and I want it now. I reach up to pinch a nipple and grasp a breast while I work intently to bring her to that first orgasm. One of my arms is cradled under her ass and locked over her thigh as she pushes her pelvis into my mouth.

“Christian…” she mewls, her head back, and I know she’s close. That’s it, baby. Give it to me… I need it now.

Her first orgasm comes quick and hard, just like I wanted it. I leap from my knees and press my mouth into hers, spreading her own juices from my tongue to hers. I make quick work of my pants and boxer briefs, dropping them just enough to free my cock. Without moving my lips from hers, I quickly guide my head to her pussy. She’s so fucking wet that I slide right in and thrust deeply. She cries out in my mouth and wraps her legs around me. I wrap my arms around her, pull her closer to me, and thrust deeply into her over and over. God, this is so good…

Her head drops back and my lips once again have uninhibited access to her skin. My mouth waters as I kiss her shoulders, neck, chest, and breast, my orgasm building quick and hot. I hear at least one of her shoes dislodge from her feet and fall on the floor behind me as I’m pumping into her. She’s calling my name in that sexy way that she does, her hands thrust into my hair as her pussy throbs and pulls me in deeper and deeper and deeper…

“Fuck, baby!” I bite out quietly as my cock explodes into her so hard that my back is paralyzed and my legs lock into place.

“Fuck!” I hiss into her neck as her pussy wraps around me and drains me of every little bit of juice I can possibly render. I’m leaning my hands on the desk on either side of her, taking big breaths and trying to regain my strength. Her pussy is pulsing for more and so is my dick, but my lungs won’t cooperate!

After a minute or two, I’m finally able to breathe like a human being. I lift her from the desk and reluctantly pull out of her, laying her on the bed. She squirms in protest like the horny little nymph that she is, and it’s everything I can do to hurry up and get the fuck out of these clothes. I don’t want to do a faceplant on the floor trying to get back to that pussy, so I take my time getting out of my shoes and socks, and my pants and boxer briefs which are now down at my ankles. The shirt and tie are quickly disposed of and I crawl on the bed on top of her and settle between her legs.

“I love you,” I breathe as I intwine her fingers in mine and pin her hands to the bed.

“I love you,” she replies, her voice breathy and desperate. I rub the length of my hard cock against her clit and take large mouthfuls of her skin, intent on marking her as she comes.

“Ah… God…” she breathes, throwing her head back so that I can taste whatever skin I want. “Christian…” she mewls again as she opens her legs and plants her feet flat on the bed. She’s fucking hot and that clit is pebbling against me. She’s going to come again soon. I dare not stop now.

She’s raising her pelvis to meet my cock and I’m rubbing a fire against her nub. It feels so good that it threatens to unman me and I have to concentrate so as not to blow. Still gnawing on that same patch of skin, I stroke and stroke and stroke until…

A squealing sound comes from her throat. It’s not loud or piercing, but it’s shrill and helpless. Her thighs shake violently and she almost sounds like she’s crying. I keep stroking, her clit hard as a goddamn rock against my cock and turning me on so much that I can hardly see straight.

Yes, baby, come for me! Give it all to me!

When I’m certain that she’s plateaued but still feeling the throbbing sensation, I pull my hips back and thrust into her, locking my lips onto hers and boring my hands under her shoulders and up to the sides of her face. Holding her in place, I consume her whimpers and cries as I thrust into her, her core still pulsing around me.

“You feel so good,” I say against her lips as I grind into her, high-pitched breaths escaping her lips with every thrust. Yes… yes… this is what I want.

“God, I love you,” I say, thrusting into her and chasing my second orgasm. “You’re so fucking beautiful… and you’re mine!” I growl the last word as I thrust into her, harder and deeper, now realizing that although I want to come, I want her to come again. She whimpers and gasps as I push both our bodies up the bed over the covers, rolling my hips and grinding into her.

“Christian… please…” she beseeches me. You’ve got one more… I know you do. I know your body and I know you’ve got another one.

“Come on, Pussycat,” I coax, moving my hips from side to side and pushing into her. “Give me more.”

She whines a bit, then whimpers as I grind into her again and again. She looks and feels so divine and it’s delicious torment holding off my orgasm until she has hers. I lean slightly to one side, still grinding into her, my cock and balls absolutely burning for release. Holding her hands above the bed, I clamp down on one nipple and listen to her squeal and shiver. She loves that and I know it. I suck hard and bite a little, feeling her breath quicken as her nipple pebbles in my mouth. I release it and tease it mercilessly with my tongue, feeling her pelvis rising to meet me now. It’s only now that I realize I’ve slipped into Dom mode and I briefly recall calling her Pussycat.

“Hold on to the bed,” I say, so aroused that I can hardly breathe. She grabs the duvet wherever she can and squeezes tight. I grab the headboard again and thrust deep and hard into her, determined to get that third orgasm from her before we finish. I continue to grind hard, pinching, licking, and biting her nipples and her neck, gently squeezing her throat every so often, burning her lips with deep, passionate kisses. Just when I’m about to tap out and give into the wet, velvety heat that is her core, she opens her eyes and gazes helplessly at me…

And there it is, that deep royal blue that only comes at that time. I see that gaze and I almost fucking lose it. I wouldn’t be able to tell if the familiar sheen of sweat was there because we’re both dripping in it. I don’t take my eyes off hers. I keep pushing into her, deeper, this time grinding my pelvis against hers for more stimulation. I need it… I need you to give it to me…

“Gah…! Goooooood!” she cries, closing her eyes. She releases the duvet and grabs my shoulders, digging her nails into the meat as she comes violently around me.

“Fuuuuuuuck!” I growl through my teeth as the pain sets me off. I’m buried deep inside her, coming much harder than I came before, and she’s got her legs—and her pussy—locked around me, her head pushed back in the bed, and I’m certain that her nails are drawing blood. We’re both locked in such an animalistic orgasm that the pain doesn’t even matter. We can’t do anything but ride it out.


A/N: Edward Lewis and Christian Grey are absolutely correct about the opera. Either you love it or you don’t. Ana’s feelings are my feelings about the opera. I listened to three different versions of this opera, and the first two versions were like, “Why am I doing this to myself?” But the third one had me clutching my chest! At the beginning of the opera, it was hard to follow. Once it took off, it really took off. All I can say is if you decide to go to the opera, make sure you research the opera. An opera with a theme that you may not be able to follow is a snooze fest. But if you find an opera where the singers are magnificent, even if you can’t follow the language, you’ll get it.

By the way, snippets of the prima donna Ariadne singing her aria are on the Pinterest page. It is magnificent!!! I got chills even watching her rehearse.

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

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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Grey Continued: Episode 34—Triumphs of the Village

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

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

Season 5 Episode 34—Triumphs of the Village

CHRISTIAN

She’s been standoffish all week, mostly because of the incident with Marlow and the fact that she thinks I haven’t talked to him. I’ve done what she asked, but this standoffish shit is going to stop before she knows that I’ve done what she asked.

I remove everything but my pants and boxers. The shirt that I was wearing is now laying on the bed with a black thong that I bought for her. It has an orange tabby cat on the front along with the words, “Well, it’s not going to lick itself.” Maybe I’ll fuck her, maybe I won’t. I don’t know yet, but this silent treatment shit is going to end, even if I have to go Dom on her to end it.

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Still wearing my Hublot, I go to the sitting room and take a seat on the Chesterfield chair that we had moved here from Escala. There’s a pillow to the right of me on the floor. I gave her five minutes. Let see if she can obey orders.

She doesn’t disappoint.

Not long after she has entered our bedroom, she comes into the sitting room with the shirt wrapped around her body, but not buttoned.

“Button only the button at your breast,” I instruct her, and she does what she’s told.

“Come. Kneel on the pillow.”

She walks over to me and takes sub position two on the pillow. Nope, that’s not what I want.

“Knees together,” I tell her. “Hands together in your lap.”

She takes the position and I bring her hair from her back to cascade down both her shoulders before I sit back in the chair. I let her sit there for a few minutes before I address her.

“Look at me,” I say, and she raises large blue eyes to me.

“I don’t know what to say,” she says softly.

“Yes, you do,” I say. “Talk to me.”

“I…” she hesitates. “I really don’t know what to say.”

“What are you thinking?” I ask. She sighs softly.

“That it’s been a long time since we had Downtime,” she answers.

“Yes,” I reply after a pause, “too long. A situation I tend to rectify. Why aren’t you speaking to me?”

“I’m not not speaking to you…” she begins.

“Only when necessary,” I interrupt. “You’re using economy with your words. Why?”

She searches for an answer, but I already know.

“You don’t think I know?” I say, a bit firmly. “You’re letting something outside our house bring discord into our house.”

“With all due respect, Sir, you’re letting something outside of our house bring discord into our home,” she replies. “That girl made every woman in this house uncomfortable and some of the men, and I asked you to talk to him about this way before now.”

“I saw the same thing you did,” I reply flatly, “and I said that I would talk to him. Have you now decided that you’ll punish me until I do?”

“No,” she says almost immediately.

“Then what’s the meaning of this?” I inquire. She clears her throat.

“I’m sorry, he’s just behaving irresponsibly, and he is your protégé. You have a lot of influence on him and it won’t have the same impact coming from someone else,” she argues.

“Did I tell him to behave the way that he’s behaving?” I ask.

“No, not that I know of.” Fair answer.

“And that you know of, did I tell him to bring a scantily clad teenage girl to our home?” I ask.

“No,” she says with a sigh.

“Then don’t try to make me pay for it,” I caution in my Dom voice. “I said that I would talk to him. If I talk to him today or if I never talk to him, you don’t have the right to make me pay for his behavior. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Sir, it is,” she replies obediently, “but as his mentor, do I have the right to expect you to hold him accountable for his behavior?”

“No,” I retort, and she tries to hide her surprise. “You can ask me to counsel him on his behavior, but you can’t dictate the nature or terms of our relationship in any way, just like I can’t dictate the terms of yours with Sophia, Marilyn, Harmony, or anybody else.”

Less is more in this case, and the facts are cut and dried. I sit and wait for her response.

“I understand,” she responds.

“Good,” I reply. “Now, I’ve had that conversation with Marlow like I promised. I’ve pointed out his lack of prudence with the number of his sex partners and I made it clear that if he pulls that stunt again with whatever her name was this weekend that neither he nor his dates will be allowed in this house or at family gatherings again.” She swallows and raises her brow at me.

“Were you that formal?” she asks.

“He got the point,” I reply. She drops her gaze immediately to her hands. She got the point, too,

“Do you really understand why your reaction was unacceptable?” I ask. She nods without raising her gaze.

“Yes, Sir,” she says. I lean closer to her in my chair.

“Look at me, Pussycat,” I say, and she raises her gaze. “Do you really understand?” She sighs again.

“Like you, I have a right to my feelings,” she says, “and I have a right to be upset that he disrupted my home by bringing that girl here. And even though I don’t have a right to dictate your relationship with him, Sir, I feel I do have a right to expect you to hold him to a certain standard when he comes to our home. I’ve tried to talk to him and apparently it didn’t work. That’s why I asked you to talk to him. I asked you several times before this incident, and it’s frustrating that I’ve asked you to do something and it looks like you haven’t done it. In fact, it looked like you just blew it off until he brought what looked like a teenage hooker to my home. So while I wasn’t holding you responsible for his behavior, I was holding you responsible for your lack of action and your nonchalant attitude about the whole thing when I asked you to do something before it got to this point.”

“Which is why you should have talked to me,” I say without buckling. “Yes, you have a right to your feelings, Pussycat, but you didn’t have a right to make assumptions when you didn’t even know if I did what you asked me to do. I didn’t talk to Marlow until today, but you didn’t know that because you didn’t bother to ask. You just zipped up and waited for me to bring you John the Baptist’s head.”

She flinches a bit at the macabre Biblical reference, but it drives my point home. She drops her gaze again. She gets it.

“These assumptions are going to be the death of us if we don’t get this right,” I tell her. “I have no problem calling Downtime when necessary, but we should be able to talk things out under any circumstances.”

“I agree,” she says softly. “You’re right.”

Again, I let her sit there for a few moments.

“Stand up,” I tell her, satisfied that she understands the err of her ways. She stands and I move her to the front of me. I gently kiss her belly button. Moving her thong to the side, I slowly thrust my middle finger inside her while massaging her clit with my palm. Her breath quickens as my lips move from her naval across to her hip. Her breath catches when my free hand moves between her legs and under one of her knees, lifting it until it cradles in my elbow. She gasps now that her legs are open, falling forward and bracing her hands on my shoulders to steady herself.

That’s what I was looking for.

I quickly move my hand from her core and lift her other leg, grasping her ass and positioning her over my face as I lean back in the Chesterfield chair. Her thighs replace her hands on my shoulders which are now thrust into my hair. Her head falls back, and she cries out in ecstasy as I grip her ass, move the crotch of the thong aside with my mouth, and dive into her sweet core.

After all, it’s not going to lick itself.

*-*

Savvina and Artemis have invited us as guests to a munch being held in a private home in Kirkland. I’m not very comfortable going to Lincoln’s old stomping ground, but Artemis assures safety and discretion. Nonetheless, we make this trip with covert surveillance. You can’t be too safe, especially with the cops poking around and no word on the Ellison investigation.

We mingle around the room with our mentors until we find ourselves settling into a conversation with a group focusing on the varying experiences for the soumise. Considering the fact that I initially wanted to embark on this experience so that Pussycat can understand her role and the importance of her comfort in that role more clearly, I pay close attention to the direction of the conversation.

At first, it centers on the willingness to serve—varying levels of servitude from the Master/slave relationship to a sub or soumise who simply has certain tasks that he or she is required to perform in the perspective of their particular dynamic. I’ve never required that a submissive serve me except in the sense that her actions fulfill my needs. There has never been a specific task or list of tasks that a sub was ever required to fulfill besides the commands that I issue in terms of playtime and maybe to be able to cook every now and then.

It’s when the topic turns to subspace that Pussycat becomes more attentive.

The current leg of the conversation is being led by our hosts, Dom Triple X and his submissive Beautifully Bound. They chose to use their BDSM names because they’re in a 24/7 relationship.

“In its basic form, subspace is an overload of adrenaline or endorphins,” Beautifully Bound says. “It doesn’t happen for everyone and it may be easier for some submissives to achieve it than it is for others. It usually presents in a form of a natural high, but its results differ based on how your body processes the chemicals and how it reacts to stimulus.”

“Stimulus can be physical or mental,” Triple X continues. “I don’t think I need to tell any of you that you can feel a boost of adrenaline or endorphins from any number of pleasurable or even unpleasant experiences. These chemicals can result in an increase of feelings of energy, hyperactivity, anxiousness, bliss, relaxation. You may also zone out or become catatonic. You might feel like you’re floating—separating from the here and now. It can be as simple as a feeling of calm or as major as an out-of-body experience.”

“Have you experienced subspace, X?” Jade, another submissive in the group, asks.

“No, but of course, I’ve experienced that surge of adrenaline or endorphins from other experiences. I’m also very in tune to BB and when she may experience it. We’ve had conversations on when she feels she has reached subspace and what she was thinking, how she felt, if she felt anything at all…”

“But how would she know if she reached subspace if she didn’t feel anything at all?” The question comes from Topaz. She’s Jade’s Domme tonight, and she’s also a switch.

“Remember, one of the levels of extreme subspace can involve separating from yourself, being there and not being there at the same time,” BB explains.

“Adrenaline is meant to protect you,” she continues. “You’ll get a surge of energy, anxiety, or what have you in times of intense stress, anger, danger, pain, fear, excitement, fill in the blank. Endorphins release when you are feeling a natural high. Your body responds to pleasure or pain. It can increase your pain threshold, but it doesn’t only have to involve pain. It can cause a reaction to your body that’s a lot like morphine. It can have the same effect as a narcotic, only it’s internal and part of your body’s natural response.

“Subspace can take on many forms, from the release and overload of endorphins to a simple transition of headspace, of the happiness and bliss of being where you are at a particular moment. Subspace is not always attainable. Often, it creeps up on you, especially if you have a sudden release of adrenaline.”

“I’m very responsive to adrenaline, but not in a good way,” Pussycat interjects. “My most common experience with it is when I’m pushed to anger very quickly. The response is either crying or fainting. I can’t control it; it happens so quickly.” X frowns.

“Maybe you could work on ways to rechannel those emotions,” X says, “to find a way to redirect them when you identify them so that they don’t overwhelm you and you don’t have to worry about fainting or crying. I can’t imagine that it’s very comfortable or convenient when you find yourself in either of those positions.”

“Almost always at the worst possible moments,” Pussycat confirms… laments is more like it.

“Has this ever happened during playtime?” he asks.

“No,” she replies, “not with the crying or the fainting. However, I almost entered subspace once that I can remember.”

I try not to react. I’m trying to remember when this happened, and I can’t. She’s had various reactions to our playtime.

“Almost?” X asks. Pussycat nods and raises her gaze to me. Again, I don’t react, so she continues.

“I… don’t remember why or how we ended up in a scene, but I remember impact play of some sort. I drifted off for a moment—like you said, separating from myself—but Sir said something, and I came back.” X looks at me and I still don’t react.

“Do you remember what he said?” X asks. She shakes her head and he looks at me again.

“Do you mind if we talk about this?” he asks. I shake my head.

“No, I don’t mind,” I reply. He nods and turns to Pussycat.

“Do you mind?” he asks. She shrugs noncommittal.

“No, I don’t mind,” she replies. “We’re here to share and learn, right?” He nods again.

“That’s right,” he says. “If you don’t mind me asking, why don’t you remember? Was it a bad experience for you?” Oh, now I see what he’s getting at. Pussycat pauses.

“Well,” she says, “I know I was being punished for something, but I don’t remember what. I’m almost positive, though, that I don’t remember because of the accident. I’ve lost some of the finer details of my life due to an accident I had a couple of years ago.”

“I see. Okay,” X says, “but you remember thinking you might have hit subspace.”

“I think so,” she replies. X turns to me.

“Do you remember this?” he asks.

“Vaguely,” I reply. “I remember that she was being punished for something—that is the nature of the bondage and discipline portion of our relationship—and I remember that she was separating, and I wanted her in the here and now, not only because it was part of the act of discipline, but also because I didn’t want to go too far because she wasn’t responding.”

“That’s good. That’s smart,” X says. “It’s always a good idea to stop play if you see that your submissive is slipping too far into subspace. They may be unable to safeword or tell you that the play is going too far.”

Neither of us tells him that I didn’t stop the scene. I just brought her back from subspace. Hindsight being 20/20, I would do things differently now. I treated her like a faceless sub because I was angry, not a valued soumise. Every time I think we’ve traveled so far on this journey I realize that there’s still so far that we have to go.

I take her hand in mine and kiss the back of it gently, partially in ownership and partially in apology. Her cheeks flush a bright pink and she smiles a genuine smile at me. I can almost hear the silent cooing of the female submissives in the room.

The conversation continues, mostly about general vanilla stuff until it wanders into predicament bondage—not really my cup of tea. I know that there may be some predicaments that I might be willing to experiment with, like when she was hanging from the chains in my Playroom during one of our first scenes and she got those chain bruises on her wrists, but even then it wasn’t really intentional. It was just exhaustion from intense orgasms, and I got her down from there as soon as I realized that she was hanging from her wrists. I really can’t do anything like that to her now since her kidnapping and the cuffs cutting her the way that they did.

I spend the night holding her and thinking about the man that I used to be… and how I never want to be that man again.

I lay awake in bed for as long as I can stand it, then I head down to my study to be more productive. I’ve worked my way through several emails and sent instruction to my management team about lots of irons on the fire when I finally get to one sent yesterday.

To: Christian Grey
CC: Anastasia Steele-Grey
Re: Marmalade Popped!
Date: Saturday, April 26, 2015, 18:18
From: Agatha Peppergill

Good news! Marmalade dropped her pups—a glorious healthy litter. You can have your pick. The soonest they’ll be ready for transport will be early July. I’ll keep you posted.

Aggie

Agatha Peppergill, Owner
Peppergill Farm and Breeding, Rochester, WA

I open the attachment to the email and see a litter of beautiful red-nosed pit bull puppies—ten of them, in fact, in varying shades. I must resist the urge to dash upstairs, wake Butterfly, and tell her that our puppies are born, but it’s way too early. It’s just after dawn on Sunday morning and I don’t want to wake her. Aggie says the pups will be ready for transport in July. We’ll still be in Italy. I’m sure she’ll board the pups for a couple of weeks until we get back, but I won’t say anything yet. I respond to her email that I’m glad the pups have been born and to keep us updated on their progress. I also ask for an update on the Brindles when she has a chance.

My mind wanders back to last night and the Munch. I think my wife has slipped into some form of subspace more than just once, but last night’s recollection was the only one she could slightly remember. To be honest, I’m a little fuzzy on that one, too. I remember that she displeased me, and I wanted her to be in the here and now for the punishment, but for the life of me, I can’t remember why.

Just a few days ago, I had imposed punishment on her again. I held her against my mouth and sucked three forced orgasms from her that I’m sure were agonizing. Then I bent her over the ottoman and fucked her hard, deep, and mercilessly from behind, bringing myself to two deeply satisfying climaxes and ripping a fourth from her until she begged me to stop. I never removed the shirt or the thong, and she sweated right through them both.

It was better than any spanking or lashing I could have administered.

We talked about predicament bondage and I said that it wasn’t really my forte, but come to think of it, those oral orgasms could be considered predicament bondage. I had my arms clamped over her thighs so that she couldn’t escape once her first orgasm hit. She fought to get away once her clit was engorged and I didn’t release, but I had her locked in tight. Any movement in any direction no doubt intensified her discomfort. So, she had the choice to continue to struggle, with each movement likely causing her more discomfort, or to sit still through the heightened sensation and wait until the tenderness turned to pleasure again. Her helpless cries of pleasure mixed with pain turned me on so much that I thought my dick would burst right out of my goddamn pants.

I guess predicament bondage is my thing after all.


ANASTASIA

“Mia, I happened to notice that the contributions to Helping Hands from Miana’s significantly increased about seven or eight months ago. Do you know what happened?” I ask her on Monday morning.

“Miana’s contributes to Helping Hands?” she asks. “I didn’t know that.” I frown.

“What do you mean you didn’t know that?” I ask. “You’re in a profit-sharing agreement.”

“Yeah, but it’s me and Franco and… Oh, that must be Christian’s share,” she says with realization.

“You didn’t know that Christian’s share was going to Helping Hands?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“I really didn’t need to know,” she shrugs. “I don’t ask my brother what he does with any of his other money.”

“Yeah, that makes sense,” I say. “So… what happened that caused the profits to increase?”

“Expenses went down,” she says. “We were nearly in the red for about 18 months. Some of Mrs. Lincoln’s debts followed the salons and they were pretty big. The owners had to put our money back into the salons to keep them afloat. We agreed that if we weren’t turning a profit in two years that we would let it go because it was a money pit. Luckily, at 18 months, she resuscitated and thus, profit!” She holds her hands out with a wide smile.

“Boy, that money is really going to help a lot,” I say. “I didn’t know if it was a temporary influx of cash or what may have happened, but this is doubly good news. If business stays as good as it has been, we’ll have a steady flow of funds. And by paying off her debts that were attached to the business, we’re finally rid of that woman!” Mia pauses.

“Yeah!” she says. “Finally! Forever!” She and I both share a relieved laugh.

Christian and I meet with Marilyn and Gary again that evening. They’ve made some very good progress, but it’s clear to see that Marilyn is not the person that she was before the termination. She’s been through some things and she wears the experience all over her, not just in weight loss and the new haircut, but in the way that she carries herself and even the way she talks. It’s not bad, really, but it’s different.

“You’re looking well, Marilyn,” Christian points out. I have to admit that he’s right. Her cheeks have regained their color and she’s put on some weight. The cloud of doom isn’t following her around anymore either.

“Thank you,” she replies. “I’m working hard to take better care of myself.”

“How about you, Gary?” I ask. “How have you been?”

“I’ve been well,” he replies sincerely. “I’m looking for a bigger place. The studio is just too small. Right now, it’s like sleeping in a matchbox.”

“I thought it was what you wanted,” I point out.

“It was, but it was a temporary fix,” he admits. “I’ve never wanted to be in a place that small, but I knew it wasn’t home when I moved there, nor was it ever intended to be. It was an escape—to get away from the situation. I refused to see the place; it was just somewhere to be. But when I opened my eyes, I hated it… and I need to get out of there. I need to build a home for myself again, and I’ll admit it. I want Mare to be comfortable when she comes over.”

“Comes over?” Christian says, looking at Marilyn. “You’ve decided not to move back in together?”

“Not yet,” Marilyn says firmly. “It’s still too soon.”

“You don’t feel like that might be taking a step backwards?” I ask.

“No, she’s right,” Gary interjects. “A lot has changed, and we need to get to know one another again… get to know ourselves.” He looks over at Marilyn. “I love her and I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here as long as it takes, and apparently I’ve got some growing I need to do, too.”

“Well, you two sound like you’ve got this all locked down,” Christian says.

“Oh, no,” Gary corrects him. “There’s still some bumps and we’re still working them out. I’m new at this, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still working things out. We’re just taking it slow so that we each know and understand what we want and what to expect from the other.”

“There were a lot of assumptions made in our relationship,” Mare says looking at her hands. “That’s what got us to the brick wall we hit when we faced our first real obstacle. We don’t expect to get it perfect from here on out, but we’re working on getting it better.”

“Do you mind sharing what steps you’re taking to getting it better?” I ask.

For the next hour or so, Gary and Marilyn share what they’re doing to bring themselves back to a healthy and happy version of themselves, jointly and severally, emotionally and physically. The conversation is wrought with angst, but also with small—and some large—victories. If everything were perfect, I’d be concerned about the future health of their relationship. They appear to be right on track for a healthy reconciliation, and that’s my professional opinion.

*-*

I had decided quite some time ago that I wanted to get back into Krav Maga, but not with Klevnar. He was always spouting about how he was the best, and I put up with his shit for years without looking at any other instructors. I never even bothered to look around. Little did I know that there was an actual Krav Maga training center in Seattle, not just a trainer working for a gym. So, on Friday afternoon, I decide to grab my gear and head down there.

I opt for yoga pants and a sports bra since my usual Krav Maga gear seams to bring out the worst in people. It was a good choice.

Krav Maga Seattle is a sizable facility, with both men and women. The men all look like linebackers and the women are all ripped—and I do mean ripped—muscular veiny arms, rugged features, mostly in camouflage pants or yoga pants. They all look like GI Jane on steroids.

What the fuck have I gotten myself into?

“Hello. Welcome to KM Seattle.” A large wall of man approaches me—nothing but biceps, triceps, and deltoids. “I’m Jerry.”

“I’m Ana,” I say. He looks over my shoulder at Chuck. “He’s security.” Jerry nods once at Chuck and turns his attention back to me.

“You looking for a trainer?” Jerry asks.

“Maybe,” I reply. “I’m just trying to test the place out, see if it likes me.” He nods.

“I like your attitude,” he replies.

“I just… feel a bit out of my league, like I’ve stepping into the Land of the Giants.”

“Trust me, ma’am,” he says with a chuckle, “we all know that size has nothing to do with it. You should, too.” I nod.

“We’ll get along just fine if you promise not to call me ma’am.” He laughs.

“Agreed. Let me show you around.” I nod to Chuck and he takes a position where he can see me.

Jerry shows me around the gym where all the equipment is including the showers. Once he’s done, he guides me over to one of the trainers. She’s 5’10” easily, 160—maybe 170, and all muscle… absolutely zero percent body fat.

“Ana, this is Lisa,” he says, introducing me. “Ana says she wants to see if our facility likes her.”

“Good to meet you, Ana,” she says, smiling and proffering her hand to me. I take her shake. Her grip is firm and professional.

“Same, Lisa, thank you,” I say, returning her smile.

“I’ll leave you two to get acquainted,” Jerry says and leaves me with Lisa.

“So, Ana,” she says, sizing me up, “you look very fit. What’s your experience?”

“Well, I’ve never tried out for any belts or levels,” I tell her. “I just… fight for fitness and self-defense.”

“So, you’re not new to Krav Maga.” It’s a statement, not a question. I shake my head.

“No. I’ve been on and off for about seven years,” I reply. She raises her brow.

“Well, there’s an accomplishment,” she says. “On and off for seven years means that you have a great foundation and your skills are most likely better than you’re letting on. Who did you train with?”

“Luc Klevnar,” I reply. Several people fall silent in the gym and turn to look at me. I feel like I’m in that old E.F. Hutton commercial.

“You trained with Luc Klevnar?” she asks incredulously.

“Yes,” I reply. “He trained me very well for seven years, but he’s an asshole. He wanted me to go pro and when I didn’t, he kept pulling dirty shit on me. I’m not trying to go pro. Like I said, fitness and self-defense.” She smiles.

“Yeah, you’re better than you’re lettin’ on,” she says with a smile, her hands on her hips.

“May I ask for your… qualifications?” I say, choosing my words carefully.

“Certainly,” she says. “I’m a third level blackbelt.” I whistle.

“That’s pretty impressive,” I say.

“For a girl,” she chuckles, and I laugh with her. “Let’s spar a bit. You’ll be defense, so I can see what you got. Okay with you?”

“Sure,” I say, and we head to the mat.

Dear God in heaven, this woman gives me hell! She starts out slow and picks up the pace. By the time were at the height of sparring, I’m literally rolling over her back to keep from getting slammed onto the mat. I’m running on pure adrenaline when she finally calls an end to the sparring and I literally drop out on the matt in exhaustion.

“Don’t fall out now,” she says, offering her hand to help me up. I gladly take it. She gestures to someone outside of the ring while I’m fighting to catch my breath. I turn just in time to see someone come to the edge of the ring and toss her two waters, one at a time… and to see that we have accumulated an audience.

“On your toes,” she says as she cracks one of the seals on the waters. “Bounce. You know the drill. You can’t just stop.”

I bounce from foot to foot for a minute or two until I’m no longer choking on air. Although not as badly as me, I’m glad to see that Lisa is a bit out of breath, too, and just as sweaty.

“That was impressive!” Lisa says, handing me the unopened water. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody move like that. Are you sure you don’t want to at least test for your belt?” I throw her a death glare after I crack the seal on my water. She puts her hands up in defense.

“Okay, okay,” she says with mirth. “It was just a suggestion. So, you really don’t need a trainer. You just need somebody to spar with, huh?” I chug the bottle of water before I answer.

“Yeah,” I say a little out of breath, “but I left Klevnar’s gym because he put me up against his students—girls who were trying to prove their salt. I won’t put up with that shit. I’m in competition with nobody. I’m not the best of anything. Fitness and self-defense—that’s it.”

“I like your attitude,” she says as she hands me a towel.

“That’s the same thing Jerry said,” I reply.

“Have you given any thought to maybe being a trainer?” she asks. “You’re very good and it only requires a short course.”

“Thank you, I’m flattered,” I say, “but I’m so busy. I have two ‘jobs’ and I’m a mother to twins.” Her brows furrow.

“Twins? How old?” I count on my fingers.

“Just over a year,” I say, “15 months.”

“Fifteen months!  Twins? You must’ve worked like hell to get that body back.” I don’t bother to dispute her. I nod.

“Belly wraps, breastfeeding, yoga almost immediately, and I do train Krav Maga, but not formally. I train the women at the community center where I work—women hiding from domestic violence mostly.”

“That’s… quite admirable.”

“Thank you,” I reply, “but I think everyone should be able to defend themselves against a bully—especially if they married one.” She nods.

“Well, have we sold you on our facility?” she asks. “I’ll be glad to spar with you anytime you come. You’ll keep me on my toes. The next time you come, you can be offense.” I smile.

“You’ve got a deal, Lisa. Where do I sign up?”

*-*

After a good soak when I get back to the Crossing, I head down to my study for a little while before dinner. Since I’m not as fascinated with Roman history as I am with Greek history, I decide that I should take some time to get to know the place where we plan to spend six weeks of our summer vacation, maybe learn an Italian word or two. Granted, I know we’ll only spend three to five days in Rome, but the city is rich in history—fact and fiction—and the fact that I’ll be able to see things up close and in person like the Colosseum and the Parthenon actually gives me chills.

I don’t know where to start yet since I have no idea what our itinerary will look like. So, I just go to YouTube and start watching travel videos on Rome. I’m thinking maybe I picked the wrong series or subject matter because instead of getting the great stories of fabulous vacations and wonderful sights to see, all I keep getting is warnings of thieves and pickpockets. I’ve seen so many warnings against pickpockets that I’m just going to wear across-the-body money belts. I won’t even bring purses.

What’s more, all I keep stumbling on is what not to do when you’re in Rome!

Don’t wear spaghetti strings to the churches. Cover up when you visit them, specifically the Vatican.

Don’t order cappuccino after noon.

Don’t ask for tap water in a restaurant… That’s a strange one.

Don’t say ciao to everybody. That’s reserved for good friends. Buon giorno or buona sera is more polite.

Don’t splash in the fountains. Apparently, there are several of them in the Eternal City.

Don’t take pictures at the Sistine Chapel. It’s forbidden.

Don’t disrespect soccer. The Romans are obsessed with it. Oh, and the biggest way to diss the sport is to call it soccer. It’s football.

Don’t ask for Parmesan cheese. Your server will tell you when it’s appropriate by offering.

Don’t eat from the tourist menus. The food isn’t authentic. While you’re at it, avoid the food kiosks and vendor trucks.

Don’t take flowers or trinkets being shoved at you from the people on the street or pictures with the fake gladiators at the Colosseum… or wherever. It’s a scam and your denial to give them money will very likely become hostile.

Don’t take coins out of the fountains… They actually have to say that?

Jesus! I’m going on vacation! Where are the pointers about the beautiful sights and the ancient ruins? Don’t drive; take public transportation. Don’t buy water; there are lots of public fountains. Don’t take your eyes off of your stuff or someone’s going to snatch it from you.

That’s it. I’m learning a few Italian words and I’m leaving the rest to Christian. This endeavor is giving me a headache…


CHRISTIAN

“I’m in the process of making sure our weapons are registered with the Italian government, sir. Are we acquiring security abroad that speak the language?” Jason asks as we cross the bridge heading home.

“Don’t we always?” I ask.

“We didn’t do it in Madrid,” he counters.

“That was short notice,” I retort. “Besides, I didn’t need it in Madrid, I had you.”

“Which is exactly why I’m asking,” he says. “May I suggest that we bring Ben… Lawrence along with us. He speaks fluent Italian. Then we would only need to secure one additional Italian-speaking guard if you wish.” I nod.

“Okay. That’s fortuitous. Do we have someone on staff that speaks every major language?” I ask.

“Not every major language, but we’ve got most of them locked down,” he says.

“Let’s try not to have any ‘meathead’ situations this time,” I tell Jason. “Brief him however you need to, but if my wife doesn’t like him, he’s gone.”

“Understood,” he replies.

I can smell food when we enter the mudroom. I had to stay in the office a little later than usual to finish some things up and it’s right about dinnertime now. I’m so hungry, I can eat a horse!

“What smells so good?” I ask as I walk into the kitchen.

“Grilled pork chops and applesauce, roasted asparagus spears, and pearl baked cream onions,” Ms. Solomon informs me. Dear God, just hand me a fork and a knife and I’ll eat right out of the pots!

“I’m going to clean up a bit. How long before dinner’s served?”

“About 15 minutes,” she informs me. I nod and head up to our bedroom. I don’t expect to find Butterfly here, but I check the en suite anyway. As suspected, no Butterfly. I shed my suit jacket and tie and loosen the buttons at my collar. God, it feels good to be home, I think to myself as I wash my hands and splash some warm water on my face, just to get some of the city grit off my skin. I dry my face and hands, and when I feel a bit more human, I peek into the nursery.

The children aren’t here, so they must be downstairs in the dining room waiting for dinner. I descend the stairs and as I expected, everyone has congregated at the dining table including my children—everyone, that is, except my wife.

“Where’s Butterfly?” I ask. Everyone at the table looks up but no one responds. I immediately look at Chuck.

“Don’t look at me,” he shrugs. “I brought her home, so she’s gotta be here somewhere.”

“You haven’t seen her?” I ask, expectant.

“I’m sorry,” he says, somewhat affronted. “I didn’t realize that I was supposed to keep an eye on her after we got home.” Okay, I had that coming.

“Did anything happen today?” I ask.

“Besides that insane workout, no?” My brow furrows.

“What insane workout? Was she angry? Did somebody upset her?”

“No,” Chuck says, now noting my concern. “She went to that Krav Maga place on 8th. That woman really put her through her paces.” I twist my lips.

“Well, she was sparring with your wife and I swear I thought your wife was a Cirque de Soleil acrobat. The way she was dodging those hits makes me wonder sometimes why she even needs a bodyguard,” he replies. I ponder the thought.

“Another female trying to make an example of her,” I deduce.

“No, this was the trainer,” Chuck says. “She and Ana talked for a while, then they sparred like crazy—so much that the other people in the gym stopped working out and sparring to watch them. When it was done, Ana just dropped in the middle of the mat.”

I don’t like the sound of that.

“The trainer—I think I heard her name is Lisa—helped Ana up and told her to do some cool-down exercises while they drank water and talked. Then, they shook hands, went their separate ways, and Ana signed up for a membership.”

“Oh, so nothing bad,” I say.

“Not that I can tell,” he responds. “She told me that she was taking a bath, but I didn’t see her after that.”

Well, she’s not in her en suite. I checked.

“I’ll go check her office,” I say. “She’s probably down there.”

I leave the dining room with no word from anyone and take the elevator down to the ground floor. I move a bit more quickly than normal, just a tad bit anxious to see her and make sure that she’s okay. When I get to her study, there she is in one of those comfortable sweater minidresses that she has hiding—fast asleep on her laptop.

That must’ve been some workout.

I go over to my wife and gently touch her shoulder. She doesn’t stir. I begin to rub her back a little more firmly. She groans and sweetly mumble something inaudible. I think she said something about Parmesan cheese.

What?

I look at her laptop screen and it has gone to sleep, too, so no way to see what she was working on. I rub her back again.

“Butterfly, it’s time for dinner,” I say softly, but loud enough to get through the fog.

“Not hungry,” she mutters without lifting her head or opening her eyes.

“Butterfly, you have to eat,” I say, and there’s no response. It’s no use. If I take her to the table right now, she’s going to end up face down in her applesauce.

Getting her out of her chair without her falling flat on her face is going to be quite the task. I end up crawling under her—somewhat—and lobbing her over my shoulder like a drunk. She doesn’t budge.

Oh yeah, she’s gone.

I have to admit, I love when she’s like this, all soft and helpless. It wakes the protector/Neanderthal/Dominant in me. It doesn’t help that I’m currently carrying her over my shoulder like a caveman.

I gently lay her on her back when I get her to our bedroom. She looks absolutely angelic lying there with her hair sprawled over the pillow, both hands on the bed next to her head in surrender. I resist the urge to ravage her and leave the bedroom, my stomach reminding me that there are pork chops waiting for me downstairs.

*-*

“The villa is coming along very nicely,” Butterfly says the next day. “Sophie has a good eye for matching things up.”

Sophie’s birthday is on Cinco de Mayo, but since it falls on a Tuesday which is of course a school night, we’re heading to a Mexican taco festival on the weekend instead.

“I just pick what I like,” Sophie says. “I get a little confused with that whole baroque-rococo thing you were talking about. I can’t tell them apart.”

“Most of us can’t, dear,” Butterfly replies. “They’re very similar.”

“She asked me about it, and I couldn’t help her at all,” Gail says. “I felt like a bit of a dunce.”

“Don’t,” Butterfly replies. “You really wouldn’t know what it was unless you were into designing or decorating. I wouldn’t know if I wasn’t decorating the villa.”

The ladies chatter for the entire ride to Union Station. It’s isn’t that long, but Sophie is so elated to be able to go to Italy that she nearly can’t stop talking. When we arrive at our destination, I’m surprised that I never knew something like this happened in Seattle. Then again, why would I?

It’s called the Taco Libre Truck Showdown and what looks like 50 food trucks line 5th Avenue. They’re not all Mexican food, mind you…

And, oh my God, the food!

Sophie warns me not to stuff myself at the first food truck because there are, in fact, 35 to choose from. Each truck offers a taco dish for less than $5 and Sophie wants to try as many of them as she can. Luckily, the servings are small and we’ll be walking a lot.

The first taco we try is from a Native American vendor. It’s a chicken chile verde taco from a place called Off the Rez. Dear God, it’s fantastic. Butterfly and I agree to share a taco as do Gail and Sophie so that we don’t get full before we get to the end of the block. Jason just takes a nibble here and there from Sophie’s taco, then decides if he wants to buy one of his own.

The choices are endless—Thai, Indian, fried chicken, Mediterranean, Moroccan, traditional Mexican, Cajun and Creole, barbeque, just to name a few—and that doesn’t include the ice cream and dessert trucks. There’s live music and dancing in the street. Sophie is having a great time and I don’t fail to take an opportunity or three to sweep my lovely wife off her feet and spin to the music as she giggles endlessly.

Sophie heads to a nearby booth to get a drink while the adults enjoy the ambiance of the evening—the people mulling about, the lively live music being played, the delicious food. I wrap my arms around my beautiful wife and nuzzle her neck, causing her to giggle again. I’m just sinking into the comfort of doing nothing and just being normal when an awful sound rips through my ears.

“Daddaaaaaayy!”

We turn around to see that Sophie has disappeared, but her screaming is incessant. We tear through the crowd, following her screams and in moments, we find her in the clutches of some guy dragging her roughly through the crowd kicking and screaming for her father… and nobody’s trying to stop him!

“Come on, stop this!” he scolds, like he’s dragging his own child through the crowd. “It’s time to go!”

Oh, he’s done this before.

“Let me go!” Sophie screams, now sobbing. “Daddaaay!”

“Let her go!” Jason yells, but the guy doesn’t stop. He just keeps dragging her through the crowd. Jason and I are upon the man in seconds. Jason grabs his arm and I grab Sophie. She fights at first since she can’t see me.

“It’s Christian,” I say in her ear. “You’re going to be okay.”

She’s breathing heavily and sobbing, clearly confused.

“Let go of my daughter or lose this fucking arm!” Jason demands. The guy turns around and sees that he’s outnumbered. He releases Sophie’s arm and goes quickly into fight and flight mode, swinging on Jason to get him to release and trying to get away at the same time.

I don’t even think he saw it coming.

Still holding the guy’s wrist with his right hand, Jason hits him square and solid in the jaw with his left. You know how you see those hits in the movies and they look all dramatic? Blood flying and hair slinging… no. This wasn’t that at all. This guy dropped like a sack of potatoes and is lying in a useless mound on the ground in front of us.

The slightest struggle from Sophie signals me to release her and she runs straight to her father’s arms, clutching him tightly around the neck and sobbing as he squats down to her height. He holds her for a few moments as the crowd parts to see what’s going on. He pulls her back to look in her eyes.

“Are you okay, Baby Boo?” Jason asks. Sophie nods with tears in her eyes. Jason looks back at her would-be kidnapper, now lying unconscious on the ground.

“Go to Gail, baby,” he says. Without hesitation, Sophie sprints to Gail.

“Come on, Pumpkin,” Gail says embracing her as Sophie continues to weep. Jason stands over the unconscious assailant.

“Call the police,” he says, his voice too calm as he looks down at the would-be kidnapper. I pull my phone out and immediately dial 911. If this man wakes before the police get here, there’s no telling what Jason is going to do to him.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

I explain to the dispatcher that we’re at the taco truck festival and someone just tried to kidnap my niece. I explain the situation as quickly and thoroughly as I can and give her my best estimate of our location. When I see two security guards headed in our direction, I inform the dispatcher that Jason is my armed personal security and it’s his daughter that was nearly kidnapped. I ask her to tell the police to hurry since more security is on their way. She understands my request.

The two guards get conflicting stories from witnesses in about a two-minute segment of flash questioning, then they move to restrain Jason.

“This man just tried to kidnap my daughter touch me and I’ll shoot you both,” he says calmly and all in one sentence. Both guards look alarmed and take a step back without a word. Oh, dear God.

“The police are already on their way,” I tell the guards. “This man is my armed personal security…” and he’s serious about shooting your ass. They look from me to Jason and back at me.

“Witnesses say he just decked the guy,” one of the guards says.

“Did those same witnesses see this guy dragging that 14-year-old girl over there through the crowd screaming?” I reply matter-of-factly. They turn to see Sophie, who’s standing in Gail’s protective grasp, her hair and clothes ruffled… and she’s still crying. Both guards soften their gaze upon seeing her.

“You said you already called the police?” the other guard says.

“Yes, sir,” I reply. He nods.

“We’ll just wait for the police, then,” he says.

A few moments pass and the would-be kidnapper starts to stir. Jason moves to stand over him right at his head. When the guy gets his bearings a bit, he apparently remembers where he was and what he was doing, and quickly moves to get up.

“Move another muscle and you can say goodbye to your future bloodline,” Jason says calmly. The guy freezes.

“No hablo inglés,” he says in a perfect American accent. Didn’t we just hear him speaking English to Sophie a minute ago?

“Okay, let’s try this. Un solo movimiento en falso, y te arranco las pelotas con mis propias manos!” Jason says his voice menacing. “Did you understand that?”

“Ooo!” Gail winces as the rattled would-be kidnapper turns pale in the face and nods.

“Um-hmm, Spanish and English, didn’t you?” Jason confirms angrily while still standing over the man, and he just swallows and doesn’t move.

“I take it you understood it, too,” I say to Gail. She raises her brow and purses her lips.

“Unless my Spanish is a little rusty, I think my husband just threatened to castrate the man,” she says.

“You think correctly,” Jason says, never taking his eyes off Sophie’s assailant.

“What the hell?” Butterfly asks incredulously. “Did he seriously just try to snatch Sophie in a crowd full of people?”

“We’re in a throng,” I reply, “so he thought he could easily pull her away and she wouldn’t be heard over the crowd.”

“Asshole!” Butterfly yells at the assailant.

And now we have two people ready to castrate this guy… well, at least two.

When the police arrive, Sophie wrenches herself from Gail’s grasp and runs to her father, tightly wrapping her arms around his waist. The two security guards move in to make sure the would-be kidnapper doesn’t move.

“Baby Boo, go to Gail. I have to talk to the police,” Jason says.

“No!” she sobs. “They might try to take you to jail.”

“They won’t take me to jail…”

“But they might!” she squeals, and it’s clear that she’s not letting go. If they take Jason, they’re going to have to take her, too.

The police approach the scene, introduce themselves, and ask what happen. Sophie’s mouth is moving a mile a minute before anyone can say anything.

“He grabbed me!” she yells frantically, pointing to the man on the ground. “He was pulling me and telling me to come on! I tried to get away, but he wouldn’t let me go! He kept telling me it was time to go and I screamed for my Dad! When Dad got here, he started hittin’ my Dad and Dad hit him back…!”

“Okay, sweetie, okay,” the lady cop soothes Sophie, holding her hands palms down. “Calm down. It’s okay now.” Sophie crashes into uncontrollable sobs.

“My… dad… told him… to let me… go… and he wouldn’t… let me… go…” She’s talking in that stuttering breath voice in an attempt to get her story out before they take her father away. The first cop turns to the other cop.

“Cuff him,” she says, pointing to the assailant. “She’s not going to calm down until he’s cuffed.”

“You’ve dealt with this before, haven’t you?” Butterfly asks the lady cop as the second cop cuffs the assailant. Sophie calms a bit immediately, but still won’t let go of Jason.

“Unfortunately, yes,” she says. “SVU. Someone called in the attempted kidnapping of a teenager.” Butterfly sighs. They get the assailant in a sitting position after the cuff him and he doesn’t raise his head.

“What’s your name?” the guy cop asks, and he doesn’t respond. “Do you have any ID on you?”

Still no answer.

“So, this is what’s going to happen,” he says. “You’re not under arrest, yet, but we do have probable cause to search you for ID, especially since you won’t tell me who you are.  Now, if I get cut or impaled while searching you, that’s going to be more charges on you. If I don’t find any ID, I’m going to assume that you’re illegal and after we book you, we’ll turn you over to ICE and let them sort it out.”

“I’m not illegal,” he says, still not raising his head. “I was born here.”

“No hablo inglés, huh, you lyin’ piece of shit?” Jason blurts out, forgetting that his daughter is clamped to his waist.

“Sorry, Baby Boo,” he says, but she’s too distraught to respond.

The cops drag him to his feet and search his pockets. Locating his wallet, they pull out an ID or driver’s license.

“Enrique Ruiz,” the lady cop says aloud. “Does that ring a bell to you at all? Do you know this guy?” she asks Jason.

“I don’t know anything about this piece of shit except for the fact that he just tried to take my daughter. I caught him in the act! I’m legally armed security. He’s lucky I didn’t shoot ‘im!” She shakes her head.

“God, it takes all kinds,” she says. “Take him to the squad car. Take his statement if he’ll give you one and run him for priors. I’m going to talk to these people.”

“You got it,” the guy cop says. Security walks with him as he leads Ruiz to the squad car. The lady cop turns to us and looks at a distraught Sophie.

“Can somebody bring her a bottle of water or something?” she asks.

“I’ll get it,” Gail says.

“Momma Gail!” Sophie screams and Gail freezes in her tracks, a bit startled.

“Okay, okay, Pumpkin, I’m not going anywhere,” she promises.

“I’ll go,” I say, moving towards one of the trucks.

“Uncle Christian!” She’s not going to let any of us leave.

“I’ll be right back,” the lady cop says. I watch her go to one of the trucks and ask for a bottle of water. The server in the truck hands her a water and asks, “Para la niña?”

“Sí,” she responds, and hands him some money.

“No, no,” he says, waving his hand. “Es Gratis.”

“Gracias,” she says with a nod. I understood most of that, enough to know that he didn’t charge her for the water. She comes back and kneels in front of Sophie.

“Here you go, sweetie,” she says, handing her the water. “Will you drink this for me?” She looks at the cop.

“Are you going to take my dad?” she asks sadly. “He was only trying to make the man let me go.” The cop looks up at Jason and back down at Sophie.

“No, I’m not going to take your father,” she says. “Will you drink the water? I want to talk to you, and you can stay with your dad.” Sophie takes the water and drinks half the bottle down quickly.

“Thank you,” the cop says. “Do you feel a little better?” Sophie shrugs. “My name is Liza. Can you tell me your name?” Sophie looks up at her father and Jason nods.

“Sophia Taylor,” she says, her voice shaky.

“Okay, Sophia. Do you think you can talk to me?” Liza asks and Sophie nods.

“I know this is really scary,” Liza says, “and I’m sorry this happened to you, but I need you to tell me everything that happened, okay?”

Sophie story begins with her going to one of the trucks to get some horchata. After she paid for her drink, she turned around and the guy was standing behind her. She moved to her left and then to her right to try to go around him and he wouldn’t let her pass. Then he grabbed her and started dragging her away. She dropped her drink and yelled for him to let her go. She tried to get away, but he was too strong, so she called for her dad. She knew what was happening, but she couldn’t get away, so she kept screaming for her father. Of course, that’s when Jason and I stepped in.

“You’re a smart girl,” Liza says. “You did the right thing.” Her voice is caring and consoling, and it serves to soothe Sophie a little more. She asks Jason if anything happened differently, even though I’m sure they were supposed to question them separately. Jason just says that he yelled for Ruiz to let Sophie go before he got to him, that he heard Ruiz talking to her like he was her father, and he knows that’s a regular tactic when they’re trying to take children from a crowd. She takes a statement from me and from our wives before looking at her phone.

“Well, Ruiz won’t be going home tonight,” she says. “We’ve got enough to hold him on this.” She gives Jason her card. “Please call me if you have any other questions or if there’s anything you might want to add to your statement.”

“Thank you,” Jason says, taking her card. She bends down to Sophie again.

“And thank you, Sophia,” she says. “You were very helpful and very brave.”

“Your welcome,” Sophie says in a little mousy voice. She smiles and walks away, heading back to the truck where she got the water. Jason stands there for several moments, looking at her card.

“What is it?” I say.

“Nothing,” he says. “I’m just listening to her conversation with the truck.” He deliberately takes his wallet from his back pocket and slides her card into one of the slots. Then he takes out his phone.

“Anything interesting?” I ask since the entire conversation is in Spanish. He shakes his head as he looks at his phone.

“Nope,” he says. “They’re basically telling her the same thing we did.” He hugs Sophie, then reaches behind him to take her hand.

“Come on, Baby Boo, let’s get you home,” he says. Sophie nods and reaches for Gail’s hand with her free hand as we walk back to the car. I drive and Butterfly sits in the front seat with me, allowing Jason and Gail to sit in the back and comfort Sophie. What a fucked-up birthday dinner this turned out to be. There’s silence in the car for nearly the entire drive. We’re over the bridge and almost home when Sophie breaks the silence.

“I guess it’s true what I’ve heard,” she says softly.

“What’s that, Pumpkin?” Gail asks.

“It takes a village…” and she trails off. We all fall silent for a moment.

“Maybe that’s why Mom couldn’t do it,” she says. “She didn’t have a village.” We all look at each other, all wondering what to say. Butterfly has the correct response.

“Well, you do,” she says, taking Sophie’s hand and giving it a squeeze. Sophie nods.

“I do,” she says, without raising her head.

When we get home, we’re all silent and quickly make our way to our separate quarters. I think we’re all in a hurry to literally put this day to rest

I awake in the morning to a double batch of those delicious chocolate truffles and a note.

Thanks for being part of my village.


A/N: If you are unfamiliar with Christian’s Biblical reference, read Matthew 14:1-12.

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs