Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 3

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 03—AA

ANASTASIA

Like any relationship, the BDSM journey is just that—a journey. If you ever think that you have arrived at the place you need to be in that relationship, it’s time to re-evaluate. You are constantly changing and growing, constantly becoming more and exploring more. You don’t sprint through the lifestyle; you stroll, tasting the flavors of what you enjoy and enjoying the process of evolution through the experience.

One thing I’ve discovered in our sessions with Artemis and Savvina and from the soumises at the Munch is that there is no one way to practice the lifestyle. Now, even in my inexperience, I already knew that. However, more than once, I’ve seen or heard people—even at the Munch—who seemed to think that there was only one way to practice, and that if you didn’t follow a certain set of rules, then you were doing it all wrong. Your way of practicing the lifestyle was incorrect because they “would never do anything like that” to their sub, or their Dom “would never do anything like that” to them.

I was happy to hear the majority of the soumises form a consensus about the few elitists—their word, not mine—who seemed to think that they knew everything there was to know about BDSM:

“If you ever meet someone who tells you that the way that you choose to practice is wrong, or that there is only one set of rules and that if you don’t follow those rules, then you’re not practicing the right way, get as far away from them as you can. That’s not someone that you want to emulate. No one has the right to tell you what you or your Dominus wants in your relationship. You dictate that. It’s okay for someone to guide you, but feel free to ignore their guidance, especially if they’re trying to tell you that you’re wrong. Run, dear. Run far away.”

That bit of advice came from Emelda. I’m not sure if that’s her real name. Some people used aliases—as did Christian and I—and some people used their real names—as did Artemis and Savvina. Emelda was once in an S&M relationship where a coven of submissives told her that she not only had to accept whatever her sadistic Dom dished out, but also that she was not allowed to have her own desires, she wasn’t allowed to voice her opinion, and that what her Dominant says goes, no matter what. She was in a very unhappy S&M relationship and she felt that she had to stay there because this was the only way to go. It wasn’t until she ended her relationship with her dictatorial Dominant and ventured out on her own that she realized how many different variations of the lifestyle there really are.

Shantille was on the opposite end of the spectrum. She was afraid to explore what she really wanted in a Dominant because too many times, she was told that the intense play that she liked was abuse and the Dominants shouldn’t treat their submissives that way. Shantille likes extreme punishments; she feels that if there’s no bruising, it’s not kinky enough for her. Pain to the point of tears is cleansing and erotic to her and that’s what she wants. Once again, the elitists tried to tell her that she was being abused; that her Dominant wasn’t a real Dominant—he just wanted to beat her; that she should probably seek some therapy if that’s what she really wanted.

All and all, my sessions with my mentors and with like-minded individuals over the past weeks have taught me that BDSM is a buffet. There’s literally something at the table for everyone, from the very tame to what some would consider the grossly extreme. What one couple or group or person may get off on, another might find disgusting or abusive—or boring. To be welcomed into the various circles, as it were, you must be careful not to degrade someone else’s relationship or practice. That’s a quick way to get blackballed from certain clubs and parties.

Another thing I’ve learned is to respect the balance—or imbalance—of power. While the soumise has the power and control to halt play with a safeword, his or her Dominant will always be the Dominant, until—if—they switch. As such, there is going to be an imbalance of power, and for this reason, you must constantly communicate—in and out of Downtime.

This is very new to me because I always felt that as Christian is the Dominant, his word during playtime was law and I had to follow or be punished. We set the guidelines where as soumise, I must follow the rules. However, in a healthy BDSM relationship a soumise has needs, too, and must be able to communicate those needs.

When we’ve completed our mentoring session on Saturday, we’re always in the mood to play a bit. We only venture into kink so far, as we still feel that we have a lot to learn about the D/s relationship as it relates to us and our marriage. However, we don’t want to deprive ourselves of what we enjoy, either. So, I get to enjoy a light flogging—ten firm lashes with a cat—and a thorough fucking from behind while chained to the playroom bed… nothing too intense, but just something to take the edge off.

Bright and early Sunday morning, we arranged for a crew to meet us at the apartment that Gary and Marilyn once shared, and my PA tearfully tackled the task of packing her things and sorting through what she had brought from her apartment and what belonged to Gary in terms of furniture. There were things that I knew were touches of Marilyn in the apartment, but since she and Gary bought several of the things together, she refused to take them.

For good measure, she cleaned out the refrigerator, removed and tossed out expired food from the cabinets, and meticulously cleaned and vacuumed each room after she was certain that she had removed all her things from that room. The apartment was eerie when she was done—not empty, but a bit hollow. She took the door key and the mailbox key off her ring and left them both on the counter before walking out of the apartment without looking back. I couldn’t help taking a last look at the space that had once represented the love den for one of my closest friends and the woman who took his virginity—also my friend. I locked the doorknob and closed the door behind me.

I didn’t drive to the apartment, thinking that Marilyn might be too upset to drive her car back to the Crossing. I was right. She only had one request when we got into her car, that I call Gary as soon as possible to let him know that she had moved out so that he could go back and do whatever he planned to do with the apartment. Then she sat in stoic silence, tears burning a trek down her cheek for the entire ride back to Mercer.

She didn’t eat that night, and I didn’t force her to. I know Christian was just chomping at the bit to get her to eat something, but once I told him what our day entailed, he let it go for one night.

Val and Elliot are doing a little better. They’re still a bit sad about the loss, but not as melancholy as they were in the very beginning. They appear to be clinging to each other and loving each other through it, which is a good thing. I’ve sometimes seen with the loss of a baby that one spouse may tend to blame the other, causing a rift between them that is sometimes never mended. Marilyn and Gary are one such cautionary tale, although their situation was the result of a deliberate action.

This past week, Christian seemed to try to lighten up a bit when he came home from GEH, but now instead of being the big bad bear, he’s just exhausted when he gets home. He whined a bit about Claude beating his ass again on Saturday but took a little victory in the fact that Claude didn’t beat his ass as quickly and easily as he had before.

But he’s still really tired.

My husband doesn’t look like he’s finding any peace, except when we’re talking to our mentors or when we’re fucking. He’s been auditing and restructuring and re-evaluating the company for about a month now. He should definitely be seeing more progress than he has been. What the fuck is actually going on in that company?

There’s no way to begin to describe the amount of crap that he has on his plate. He put faith in me as 50% owner… and I backed away. I haven’t even been in the office again since Ros’ remark about Al and the nonchalant way the department heads behaved towards me. I own half of that company, and I let them chase me away…

… Because Daddy couldn’t get me the respect that I deserved…

… And I subsequently left my husband to handle things all on his own.

He has an executive team. What the fuck are they doing? What the fuck is anybody doing?

I ponder my situation only a few more moments before I make a decision. He’s trying to get to the bottom of things, but only a few heads have rolled… not enough, apparently. Moreover, apparently not the right ones. I screw up my resolve and open the folder that contains the GEH emails forwarded to me.

The first fifty or so are all useless drivel that followed Christian’s command that I be CC’ed on executive emails. Garbage. I get through those rather quickly. Very shortly thereafter, I get to some real meat and potatoes…

Requisition requests, memos, executive orders from the boss, status reports…

Executive orders from the boss…

I decide to filter out the messages that all came from Christian. Hundreds of them… in a very short period of time. How does he keep up with all this?

Just for shits and giggles, I filter out the messages from Ros and Finney. Exponentially less. Does Christian just have more to say? I read a handful of his emails and find that they’re not just the typical Christian Grey “What the fuck, get this shit done” emails that I thought I would see. There’s critical thinking, probing questions, analysis, detailed directives—yeah, there’s some commands and “get this shit done” in the emails, but there’s some serious meat in here, too. I see a bit of meat and vegetables here and there from Ros and Finney, but for the most part, I’m seeing the equivalent of electronic “uh-huh’s” and “okay’s.”

 As I scan through the emails, I see several emails going from Finney to Ros and Christian, from Christian to Ros and Finney, and from Ros to Finney and Christian. I see even more emails from Christian to departments and department heads asking about projects and deadlines and metrics and what have you. I see the emails coming back to me, to Finney, to Ros, and to Christian. But the responses coming from Ros and Finney to the department heads are very few and far between.

Am I missing something?

Do they not take part in the general operation of the corporation? Is there some kind of delegation of duties in the hierarchy that I just don’t see? Why does it appear that Christian’s doing all the damn work?

The more emails that I read, the more I get the feeling that I’m right. Christian’s pretty much holding the reins of this Clydesdale powerhouse all by himself, guiding it down the necessary paths and trying to keep it from swaying left or right or veering off in the wrong direction while Ros and Finney are pretty much riding along in the coach.

Well, they’re not that useless, but from what I’m seeing here, they might as well be.

So, in light of everything that’s been going on in our home, with our relationship and discussions, and the fact that I am, in fact, 50% owner of that company, I’ve decided that I do need to know what he’s dealing with in more detail in order to be a better wife, Domme, soumise, and partner—and to allow these fuckers who are under my employ to run me away from my company is not the way to do it. I can draw the line between Ana, Butterfly, Dr. Steele-Grey, That Bitch You Don’t Want to Fuck With, and anybody else that I need to be… but if you need That Bitch, then here she comes.

I spend the rest of the evening going through the remainder of the emails, categorizing them and making rules for various ones so that they go to specific folders as I need them to and getting a better idea of what I’m dealing with in terms of the framework and infrastructure of the company. Once I’ve gotten a pretty good idea, I bang out an outline of some key points that are causes for concern. That part takes a little longer than I expected since I didn’t want to burden Marilyn with working on the weekend so soon after her return. Things will become perfectly unbearable soon enough. I might as well allow her to get her bearings again.

Once I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of the direction that I would like to take, I scan Christian’s emails to me for a group that I know he had created, then copy it into my contacts:

I’ll find out soon enough what’s the difference between the members of the Management Team and the Department Heads and Executive Team, but no matter. I want them all in this meeting. I discover that the Executive Team is Ros, Finney, and me. I remove myself from the Executive Team group and compose my email.

To:      GEH Department Heads
GEH Management Team
GEH Executive Team
Bcc:   Christian Grey
Re:      Emergency Mandatory Leadership Meeting
Date: January 11, 2015 20:21
From: Anastasia Steele-Grey

High Priority High Priority CommunicationHigh Priority

Good Morning Team,

This is your other boss, Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey.

Let me begin by saying that I appreciate being included in the emails. It has given me some very valuable insight on the inner workings of the organization—its strengths as well as its flaws.

In an effort to continue the mission and vision of GEH, I will be holding a mandatory meeting tomorrow at 1:00pm in the Executive Conference Room. The location is subject to change based on availability, so please keep an eye on your emails as you will be responsible for any information communicated and attendance is required unless you get specific permission from me not to attend.

Sincerely,
Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey…

Hmmm… I don’t really have a title with GEH and this is my company email.

Assistant Director was easy with Helping Hands.

We actually have executive and Senior VP’s and quite frankly, I’m not a VP.

Co-CEO? Abso-fucking-lutely not!

What is the hierarchy in this situation? Fuck it, never mind. I know what I’ll call myself.

Sincerely,
Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey
Executive Director, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

I’ll hear something about it if it’s the wrong title. I send an email to what I now call my Power Assistants Team, Marilyn and Andrea, to make sure that the room is available and to secure certain items needed for the meeting, including a podium and a preprinted sign-in sheet. I call up to Ms. Solomon to bring me an antipasto tray and a pitcher of cranberry spritzer and settle in to prepare my meeting.

Things are really sloppy and can be corrected with just the slightest push in the right direction, a little change in protocol and requirements, and a sledgehammer upside someone’s head. I understand why my husband had to become the iron fist. People had stopped taking him seriously.

What I don’t understand is why it looks like he’s doing it on his own. Not once do I see Ros or Finney drop the anvil on someone who has clearly dropped the ball or has shown mediocre effort in rectifying any errors or bringing a viable solution to fruition. My husband’s voice is the shot heard ‘round the company. However, even with all his power, he can only handle so many direct situations at once. Bearing this in mind, it’s time to shake things up, but I don’t want to show up and come off as a mom having a temper tantrum.

As such, I will need to call on The Bitch.
You rang?
I sure as hell did. We’ve got a job to do, sistah.
Bring it on.

“Good evening.”

I raise my head to see my husband standing in the doorway of my office wearing his glasses. I rarely see him wear them, but here he is.

“Busy?” he asks. He knows I am. I remove my glasses.

“I’m working on something,” I tell him, putting my glasses down and clasping my hands on the desk in front of me.

“You don’t usually work on Sunday,” he says, slowly breaching the doorway and approaching my desk. Sorry, not today, Sir.

“It’s time-sensitive and pretty detailed,” I tell him, not breaking my gaze with him. “Did you need something?” I ask. I need to get back to work. He raises a brow at me as he halts behind the chair in front of my desk.

“What are you working on?” And there it is. He’s never asked me that before. Very droll, Mr. Grey.

“I think you know,” I respond, still holding his gaze. He’s silent for a moment before he finally takes one of the seats in front of my desk.

“I was perusing my email and I’ve just discovered that there will be a meeting of the department heads tomorrow afternoon with the Executive Director,” he points out. I don’t respond. “Non-profit organizations have Executive Directors. We’re not a non-profit.”

“And Chief Executive Officers normally answer to the Chairman of the Board,” I point out. “We don’t have a board.” He purses his lips in thought.

“Duly noted,” he cedes. “We’ll leave it for now.”

“How kind of you,” I say sarcastically, especially since I didn’t ask your permission.

“There’s a problem though,” he says. “I have another meeting at that time, so you may have to reschedule.”

“No,” I say matter-of-factly, “that works out just fine, because this is not your meeting—it’s mine. And if Ros or Finney were going to be in the meeting with you, I need them, too.” He raises a brow at me.

“I like to know what’s going on in my company, Anastasia…” Anastasia. Perfect.

Our company,” I say, firmly, folding my arms. “And you will know. I wouldn’t dream of keeping anything from you. But this meeting is mine, and your presence is not required. In fact, it’ll be more effective if you weren’t there.” He purses his lips again.

“Very well,” he says, and I’m sure that he’s thinking that he’s going to have to undo whatever mess I may create tomorrow, but I’ve got news for you, Grey. You won’t be able to unfurl this one. And if you try, I’m going to walk away and leave it to you—50% and all… and you’re going to leave that damn asshole bear at the door when you come home or you’re going to have a much bigger problem to deal with.

*-*

I don’t go into Helping Hands in the morning. Instead, I work remotely with Keri, and we confer with the learning coordinator about the last things needed to put the curriculum in place for tutoring. We’ve already gotten our Head Start program going and two of the children in the daycare will be attending. Keri and Ebony are very excited about that. Courtney’s doing well with her teen support group—not counseling, just building on the idea of peer support. Our cleaning crew is moving right along with the transition from Clean It Up For You, and Mrs. Sherwood is unsuccessfully attempting to prove to us just how much we really need her. I’m aware that having an in-house staff is more expensive than having a service do the cleaning for us. However, the accountability of an in-house staff is worth the extra money.

After sitting with curlers in my hair all day, I fashion it in big, billowing curls and don a red sweater dress that falls sleekly over my body and ends mid-calf with an insanely long matching knit wrap that I wear backwards so that it falls nearly to the floor like a cape behind me. I finish the ensemble with a pair of sky-high black patent leather Louboutin classic red-bottom stilettos and an oversized black patent leather clutch bag. Light make-up and moisturizer assure that there’s no overkill, and I’m ready to make some waves.

“You mean business, huh, Bosslady?” Marilyn asks when I enter the kitchen.

“Kickin’ ass and taking names,” I reply. “You ready?”

“Yes, ma’am,” she says.

“Then let’s rock and roll.”

Marilyn carries my coat for me in case I need it, but I won’t. I go straight from the mudroom to the garage to the Audi, and from the Audi to the elevator in the parking structure on GEH’s ground floor straight to the top floor. I expect to see Christian holding a meeting in his office, but he’s not there. He better not be in this department head meeting. I specifically told him not to come and if he’s testing me…

I walk into the meeting with Alex, Chuck, Ben, and Marilyn behind me. I’m overjoyed to see that my husband has honored my request and stayed away from my meeting as I stroll in with purpose and head straight to the sign-in sheet. I see that several people that are probably in this room haven’t signed the sheet like I asked. So, I call them out.

“Pa Nou Yi?” I read out, knowing that I’ve pronounced her name perfectly. A pretty Asian woman raises her head and acknowledges her name.

“Did you forget to sign in?” I ask. She clears her throat.

“We never use sign-in sheets with Mr. Grey,” she announces matter-of-factly, other members of the management team cosigning her statement. I nod.

“I see.” I retrieve the ledger containing the sign-in sheet and deliberately snatch the attached pen with so much force that I break the ball chain holding it to the lectern. I stride purposefully over to Ms. Yi and place the sign-in sheet and pen in front of her.

“Do I look like Mr. Grey to you?” I ask, glaring at her. She purses her lips, then picks up the pen with the piece of ball chain still dangling from it and signs next to her name.

“Thank you,” I say. “Has anyone else forgotten to sign in?”

“I have,” someone says, raising her hand, and a few other people raise their hand as well.

“Pass that around, Ms. Yi,” I say, “so that the rest of your colleagues can sign it.” She doesn’t make eye-contact with me as she slides the sign-in sheet to the next person.

“Now we have to take attendance like toddlers?” someone comments from across the table. I slam my hands on the table with just enough force to get his attention, lean over it and glare into his face.

“If you’re going to behave like toddlers, yes, you do,” I retort sharply. He’s a bit taken aback, evidenced by his expression. “And the next time you have something to share, say it loud enough so that we can all hear you.” I glare at him next and he stares back at me. Like I said, I’m not Christian Grey. I don’t have time for the stare game. I’ve made my point.

I march purposefully to the head of the table and slam my large, patent-leather clutch down on the table, startling several of the meeting’s participants. I remove my backwards wrap and drape it over the back of the seat while I wait patiently for the sign-in sheet to make its way around the table.

“Thank you,” I say to the last person who hands the sign-in sheet back to me. I see that there are people who still haven’t signed in after the sheet has made its round. 

“Alex, let the four people who haven’t signed in on this list know that they have five minutes to get to this meeting that started ten minutes ago, or they can be escorted out of the building immediately.” I hand him the list.

“Yes, ma’am,” he says without pausing and pulls out his cell. I pull a Christian Grey move and pull out my cell phone while standing at the head of the conference table, making a note of the names that were blank on the sign in sheet.

“Mrs. Batma?” Alex says from across the room. “This is Alex Welch from GEH security. You received a memo that there would be a department head meeting at 10am today with Dr. Anastasia Grey. She indicates that you have five minutes to get to the meeting, which started ten minutes ago, or I’ll send my staff down to escort you from the building.”

He doesn’t pause. He ends the call and calls the next person on the list.

“Chuck, Ben, please pull the remaining four chairs over by the window.” You fuckers want attention, you’re going to get it. Once they get the chairs lined up, I tell Chuck to go outside and wait for them. Finney and Ros keep looking at each other, no doubt wondering what the hell I’m doing. Yeah, you guys are generally in the inner sanctum, but not today. Today, you’re in the same category with these fuckers who don’t know who the hell I am.

A few minutes later, Chuck escorts our four stragglers into the conference room.

“So nice of you to join us. The next time one of your employers calls a meeting, try not to be late!” I say sharply. “Alex has the sign-in sheet.” The ladies and one gentleman murmur apologies.

“Now, we can get down to business,” I say once they’ve signed in and taken a sheet.

“Shouldn’t we wait for Mr. Grey?” Ros asks.

“Mr. Grey didn’t call this meeting. I did. Do you have a problem with that?” Her eyes widen as she glares at me, but she quickly remembers where she is.

“None at all, Dr. Grey,” she replies.

“Good. Now, as I was about to say before I was interrupted, I know you haven’t seen me around for a few weeks and why should you? You hadn’t seen me around before then either. Well, that’s about to change. I realized that I’m sitting in my lovely home enjoying a wonderful life made possible by the fruits of the labors of this company. And now, for some reasons, the efforts have appeared to stray from the common goal, and the labors are all beginning to fall by the wayside. Now, I can’t just sit back on my laurels and watch that happen, especially since—like it or not—I own half of this company.”

I pause for a moment to let that sink in.

“I’ve given some serious thought to this situation before I called this meeting… how I was going to deal with the fact that I’m part owner of a multi-billion-dollar company, but I can’t even get the management staff to respect me as such. My first instinct was to just leave this alone and allow Christian to run his business. Then, I remembered a conversation that he had a while back when he told me that I would be half-owner of this company. He said he trusted me. He said that he knew that his company would be in good hands if anything happened to him—that whatever I didn’t know, he had an executive staff and a management staff that would assist me to help keep the company thriving.

“He had that talk with me before he knew that I had any business education whatsoever. I thought he was out of his mind, but the fact remains that he did entrust me with fifty percent of his company while he’s alive, the whole of it upon his demise. So, hate it or love it, boys and girls, I’m here to stay.

“Who are you?” I ask, pointing at the guy who made the toddler comment.

“Theodore Mosele,” he says after a pause, “head of…”

“I don’t need to know what you’re head of; I just need to know your name,” I cut him off, holding my hand up to halt his introduction. “Mr. Mosele brought up a very good point. Why do we have to take attendance like toddlers?” I look at the list. “Mr. Reiter, would you like to tell us why?”

I look around the room and a gentleman raises his gaze to me along with his brow as several other department heads in the room turn to him.

“Um… to make sure that we’re all here?” he says—a question, not a statement.

“Excellent!” I reply. “The four people who decided to join us fifteen minutes after the meeting started are evidence that the sign-in sheet is needed, at least until I get to know who you all are… and I will get to know who you all are.” I turn to the four stragglers.

“The fact that you were up here within five minutes upon the threat of unemployment proves to me that you weren’t doing anything that was so important that you couldn’t have your asses in here at one!” I glare at them all and allow those words to sink in.

“Consider this your only warning,” I caution the attendees of the meeting. “The next time any of you decide that you have something better to do than to attend an owner’s meeting—or you conveniently forget how to sign your name when you enter—you will be subject to immediate disciplinary action.” I hear a few gasps, but no one speaks.

“I now understand why my husband feels the need to go back to running his business with as little leniency and leeway as possible. It appears that if he gives an inch that people will take ten damn miles.” I bark.

“I was going to back away and let him handle GEH like he always has, and then I realized… We’re a team. We’re going to remain a team. And in order for us to be effective, I have to back him up and we must work together.

“I’m no Christian Grey. I’m never going to be Christian Grey, nor do I want to be Christian Grey. However, like it or not, I am still fifty percent owner of this company. Anybody who doesn’t like that or can’t respect that can get the fuck out right now!”

The room is silent for a moment, then various murmurings begin.

“I don’t recall giving anybody else the goddamn floor!” I say, looking directly into the eyes of every person that I see has begun to speak out of turn, glaring at them and waiting for them to see that I’m plotting their demise if they don’t shut the fuck up. The murmurings quickly dissipate.

“I don’t care if you see me as an extension of Christian Grey, because when it comes to me, he’s not your biggest concern—I am. From this point on, any one of you who has a problem treating me with the same respect that you would treat anyone else who signs your paychecks and can bounce you out of here on your high-paid asses will find out just how quickly I can do the latter.

“The sudden random fifty-percent drug testing? That was me, to weed out any initial weak links. The mid-year and year-end self-evaluations followed by subsequent leadership evaluations—that was me, too. This tells the company what you think you’re worth to the company and what you can offer. Then it requires that your leaders cosign those conclusions, and add some thoughts of their own. This way, we can see what talent we have available in our pool, but we can also see who’s not making the mark. This also puts responsibility on your supervisor to dispel or justify your analysis of your performance.

“If you say you’re doing great and your supervisor says that you’re doing great, then you better be doing great. If you say that you’re doing great and your supervisor says, ‘Not so much,’ then it might be time for a counseling. Automatic raises are a thing of the past—that includes cost-of-living raises. All GEH employees must prove through these mandatory evaluations that they are worth their raises. If you are still employed here when the fiscal year begins, you will get a raise. However, your evaluations will determine how much. GEH will no longer be paying for mediocre or substandard work. From now on, you earn your money here, or you can get out.

“I’ve only brought these points to light to show that some of the things that you have seen implemented at GEH have come directly from me. You don’t have to see me to know that I’m affecting your lives already. Having said that, let me make this clear.

“I will not, I repeat, I will not accept disrespect, side-eyed glances, push-back, second-guessing, or any other little passive-aggressive tactics that anyone wants to try to push off on me. You don’t need my husband’s go-ahead or second opinion to carry out a command that I give you and I don’t need my husband’s permission to fire your ass and have you ceremoniously escorted off my goddamn property. If you want to see how far I can go to prove what I can do, please try me—I welcome the challenge. I can be an ally, or I can be an enemy—it’s all up to you. What I won’t be is an afterthought. I’ll be, ‘Oh, shit, Dr. Grey,’ before I’ll ever be, ‘Oh, yeah, Dr. Grey.’ Is that understood?”

The room is silent.

“That is not a rhetorical question!” I shoot. Various yes, ma’am’s fill the room. This is the first time that ma’am doesn’t make my skin crawl. None of these people are my fucking friends with the exception of a handful. I’m not dealing with this bullshit from these people anymore.

“Excellent. Now, let’s go over some particulars that I saw in some of the emails that I read last night.” I gesture to Chuck who brings my briefcase. I open it and remove my iPad and a few documents.

“This is how this is going to go,” I begin. “I’m going to call on many of you as needed by department to expound upon various projects and initiatives that should be in progress or nearing completion. You are going to give me as much useful information as possible without withholding key components and without drowning me in a bunch of useless drivel in an attempt to lose me in lingo. I won’t pretend to know what each of you are talking about. However, I have enough knowledge and a solid level of intelligence to grasp a general synopsis of the information that I’m asking for. Is there anyone unclear about what I’m about to do?”

Various No ma’ams fill the room and I’m certain that if they were unclear, they would fake it until they knew exactly what I wanted. Ros and Finney do this thing that I often see Christian and Jason do—the look that says a thousand words—and they do it often. To me, it honestly feels like a “put a pin in what she just said, and we’ll discuss later.” Why the fuck do you need to discuss later? Why can’t you discuss it now? But I digress. Other things to handle at the moment.

“Good. The first thing I’d like to talk about is…”

I go through the outline that I made from the email last night, making notes on each initiative and alerting various department heads that I would like to revisit the directives they’ve been working on, gesturing to Marilyn to make note of those departments as I plan to visit them later in the week or next week, as I get the time. Helping Hands is truly running itself with Keri, Courtney, Grace, and the learning coordinator—although I can’t completely disappear, I don’t need to be around as much.

During the meeting, I make various demands of Chuck and Marilyn, sometimes Ben and Alex as well, addressing them all just as informal as I always have.

“As you can see,” I say once I’ve gotten all the information that I want from each department head, “I call many of the staff by their first names. That’s because I’ve developed a rapport with them. I can develop a rapport with anyone in this room, but you’re going to determine what that rapport is going to be—friendly, strictly business, you can’t stand my fucking ass, I don’t care. As long as you do your damn job and respect my position.

“And make no mistake, I don’t care what you want to call me behind my back—really, I don’t. Call me a ballbuster, call me a bitch, call me a wannabe, call me whatever the fuck you want. Just don’t let it get back to me and do what the fuck I say when I give you a command or send you an email. I most likely have some personal opinions about and colorful names for many of you, simply due to the fact that I had to rearrange my life to get to the bottom of what was going on here before the life that I’m enjoying falls out from under me.”

I place my iPad on the conference table and stand, spreading my fingers out so that my fingertips are the only part of my hands touching the table.

“This meeting is adjourned,” I say. “Those of you who will have appointments to discuss your directives with me, look for an email from my personal assistant, Marilyn Caldwell.” Everyone stands with as little murmurings or fanfare as possible, including my executive team.

“Ros, Lorenz, wait, please,” I say. Another 10,000-word glance passes between them and they sit.

“Alex, is there a smaller room where I can meet with Ros and Finney?” I ask. He looks at his phone before responding.

“Mr. Grey isn’t done with his meeting yet,” he says. “You can use his office.” Perfect. I nod.

“Chuck, please gather my things together here and you and Ben wait for me outside of Christian’s office. Marilyn, my notes should have synced with yours, so hopefully if gives you an idea of what I need and what to send to each department head about what I need and include meetings that won’t conflict with anything that I have scheduled now. Hopefully, Andrea can find a spot for you…”

“No problem, Bosslady, I’m on it.” I nod and turn to my executive staff.

“Ros, Finney,” I say marching past them with my shawl and clutch in hand.

Christian’s office is perfect for this task. His chairs are far enough away from the front of his desk to make sure you know that he knows he’s the boss. I sit my gorgeous ass in his seat of power as Ros and Finney initially hover over me for a moment or two before they finally take their seats. I pause for a moment before I begin, then I jump right in with no prelim.

“Are you concerned about your jobs at all?” I ask them. Ros’ eyes pierce.

“Excuse me?” she asks.

“I realize that you can leave this place today and have a job tomorrow, but my question is, and I’ll repeat it… Are you concerned about your jobs at all?” Ros stands and puts her hand on her hip.

“Are you threatening us, Ana?” she accuses, affronted. Bitch, what the fuck…?

“Well, I don’t know, Ros. Do you feel threatened?” I reply, taking the exact same tone that she’s taking with me. Ros is a powerful woman and she knows that she is, but I’m not going to back down to her or anybody else if I feel like they’re a hindrance to my husband. So, it behooves them to answer the goddamn question.

“Okay, ladies, please,” Finney says, standing as well and attempting to be the voice of reason. “We’re all on the same team here. Of course, we value our jobs, Ana,” he replies. I glare at Ros again and she glares right back. She’s testing me, I know, but I’ve got bigger fish to fry. turn back to Finney.

“That’s not what I asked,” I tell him. “I asked if you’re concerned about your jobs at all. Is there some hierarchy here that I’m not aware of?” I inquire. “Some distribution of work that I’m just not privy to? I don’t pretend to know everything.” Finney frowns.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Finney says.

“Neither do I,” Ros shoots, folding her arms. I glare at her.

“Watch your tone with me, Ros, I’m not in the mood,” I caution.

“And you think I am?” she retorts. I suck my teeth trying not to lose my temper.

“Rosalind…” I begin.

“Anastasia?” she retorts, interrupting me.

That’s it.

I slam my hands so hard on Christian’s desk that it rattles, pushing myself out of his chair. She and Finney both leap back a step, and her stance has moved from offensive to how-close-is-the-nearest-door. I’m glaring at her, ready to fucking pounce if this is what she wants.

“You’ve got one more time,” I seethe, pointing and glaring at her from behind Christian’s desk, “just one more time to pull that passive-aggressive disrespectful bullshit on me, and you’re going to find out just who the head bitch in charge really is!”

She’s standing there gape-mouthed staring at me like she can’t believe what I just said and did. She’s been the high petticoat all these years and I understand that she feels like her toes are being stepped on right now, because dammit, they are!

Try me, cookie!

“Ros,” Finney says, his voice very low, “she’s right. You’re being insubordinate.” She throws a glare at him, then at my strawberry-red raging face. I can see in her eyes that she has a three-second funnel of her own and either she thinks better of what she says or what Finney said got through to her. Her stance changes again, and she’s immediately more approachable… and receptive.

I take three deep breaths to calm my anger… no, my rage and repeat myself.

“Is there some hierarchy here that I’m not aware of?” I repeat, “or some distribution of work that I’m just not privy to? Like I said, I don’t pretend to know everything. What I mean…” I say immediately, “… is that I took some time this weekend to review the emails that have been floating around the department heads and the executive team for the last several weeks, and it appears that all initiatives, directives, questions, answers, and guidance come from my husband.

“Now, maybe I’m just seeing things, or maybe I’m biased in my view of the emails. Maybe there are some emails that just aren’t getting to me, but from what I can see, there’s an uneven distribution of work among the executive team and it looks like one person is taking all the responsibility on himself. I would just like to know how the work is distributed so that one person doesn’t carry all the burden. It’s my understanding that Finney was hired because he didn’t want you to carry the burden all by yourself, but now, he appears to carry the lion’s share on his back. Am I mistaken? Did I miss something?”

“We all have different roles, Ana,” Finney says, and Ros still hasn’t found the words to address me yet.

“And does his role entail carrying the lion’s share of the work?” I ask again, since they seem not to be able to answer the question. I turn back to Ros.

“I’m not here to fight with you,” I say firmly. “I’m not even here to cunt-strut with you. I don’t have the business savvy that you do, the knowledge that you do or even the tenure that you do, but if my green, inexperienced ass can look at this setup and tell you that something’s wrong then dammit, something’s wrong—and it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in business management to see it.

“He’s got shit flying in every direction and it’s all coming from him. Now either you two are not following directions and are not CC’ing me on all executive email or for the umpteenth time, he’s doing the lion’s share of the work! Which one is it?”

Ros purses her lips, folds her arms, and drops her gaze—and I’m about three seconds from sending her ass on an administrative leave, but I won’t because I need answers.

“If GEH has a top-drawer, Grade-A executive team, why is he carrying this all by himself? And don’t tell me that he’s not! I live with that man. I have to watch him every day. He’s wound even tighter than he was when he was dealing with those fucking hackers. He has to gird up the asshole hours before he even leaves the house and he usually doesn’t shed it for hours after he gets home. Does Gwen have to deal with that?” I shoot at Ros. Her face softens infinitesimally.

“Does Mrs. Finney?” I say, turning to Finney. Their silence tells me everything I need to know.

“This is his baby,” I nearly seethe. “He suffers many sleepless nights wondering what’s going to happen with his creation—his life’s fucking work. He needs unwavering support, from you, from me, from everybody that values their job here, but he needs it most of all from the people who are closest to him! He and I are not the only ones who need to put up a unified front! You do, too. He doesn’t just need great minds pushing pencils, making calculations, and giving great ideas. He. Needs. Your. Support!

“You are not figureheads. You are each one-third of an executive team, but it looks like he’s carrying all the weight. You’re worried about drug tests and if my best friend’s department is going to be audited. Does legal fucking need to be audited? Because if it does, fucking audit it! Do it because there’s something going wrong in that department, but don’t do it to make a fucking bunch of sycophants happy who can’t even keep an eye on their own goddamn departments.

“That same silence that you observe when he walks through the hallways, they need to observe that same silence when you walk through the hallways—not because they’re afraid of you or because you’re being an asshole, but because you wield the same power that he does and they know it. And people should know that if they’re not doing what they need to do that the same hammer that he can bring down on them can come from you.

“If there needs to be a change of accountability around here, that’s fine. That’s why I came up with the mid-year and year-end evaluations. You didn’t need them before because everybody was scared shitless. Slowly but surely, that situation has faded, and now my husband has taken it totally upon himself to become the long arm of the law and get this place back in shape. But I refuse to believe that he has to take on the role of Big Angry Growling Daddy Bear 20 out of 24 hours a day while you’re fussing about drug tests and whether legal is going to be audited or not. He’s walking around barking at everybody he talks to and every time I see you two, you’re cool as a cucumber. What’s wrong with this picture?” They throw knowing glances at each other.

“And that,” I say, pointing to them, “if I see that, he does, too. That is a total indicator that you’re a team and he’s the odd man out. I’m a psychiatrist—I dare you to tell me that I’m wrong.”

I fold my arms and wait for a response. I feel like I’m talking to the enemy now. How many times has Christian had to justify something to them? How many battles has he had to fight where they’ve had these secret conversations with their eyes? Whose side are they on anyway? If they’ve built some kind of alliance that has my husband on the outside, what does that mean for GEH?

Ros wants to retort, but her facial expressions indicate that she doesn’t really know what to say. Finney, once again, speaks for them both.

“We’re definitely not against Christian, Ana,” Finney says. “We may not agree with every decision that he makes, but we’re not against him…”

“And it’s okay that you don’t agree with every decision,” I retort. “My husband can be very high-handed, but agree or disagree, he shouldn’t have to carry every burden on his back. And right now, he is.”

They turn to each other for one of those secret-eye conversations again, but quickly divert their gaze. Hmm, something’s getting through.

“The reason I asked if you were concerned about your jobs is not because I was threatening you. It’s because GEH is at a precipice. The mistakes and the dismal performance that we’re seeing in some of our departments is dreadful. No, we’re not losing money, but we’re trying not to get there. And the safety and quality issues; the inventory mishap; the fact that I, a civilian, walked in here and found the flaw with the XRC90 transmitter and the responsibility subsequently still fell on Daddy Bear to get them to run some simple tests; the fact that SEEKNID, a software that basically saved this company from potentially losing millions and millions of dollars, didn’t get launched last year—those are all indications that too many balls are being dropped and we’re headed downhill. That’s a huge concern for my husband, and if it’s not a concern for you, the hell if I’m going to let him take that shit on all by himself. And if we can’t patch the holes in the framework, then I’m going to discuss with him taking this company public.”

“Public?” Ros has suddenly found her words.

“Yes, public,” I say. “Maybe a board of directors can have better luck than we are, and if they can’t, then we’re screwed anyway, aren’t we?”

“Ana…” and I’m Ana again, “… taking this company public could be the worst possible decision…”

“But having your CEO die from a stress-induced heart attack sounds like a better plan to you?” I ask, my arms folded. They involuntarily have one of those silent eye-conversations, then look back at me.

“At the risk of overstepping my boundaries,” Ros begins with no malice, “you said it yourself—this is Christian’s baby. He’s worked hard at it. He’s said many times that he already knows that a board will come in here and tear it apart. They would do everything for the profit and not for the company, the community, or the greater good, and he doesn’t want that. It would break his heart to do something like that. He’ll never take this company public. It’ll be like giving his baby up for adoption, then selling it to the devil. He’ll die at the helm before he does that.”

“That’s a very interesting analogy you just used,” I inform her. “I know very well that this is Christian’s baby, but guess what? Christian now has two very alive, very breathing children—not metaphorical babies… babies who are walking and breathing and growing and learning to call him ‘Daddy.’ GEH was his only baby, but it’s not anymore.

“Christian Grey never thought that he would be a husband and a father, but now he is. He never thought he would give away half his company to a woman, but he has. I birthed Minnie and Mikey and he birthed GEH. He trusts me to help raise his children, and I am. He trusted you to help cultivate GEH. Are you doing that? We have employees at the house just like we have employees here. If I drop the ball and everything has to go through Daddy Bear, why does he need me? I serve as wife, mother, confidant, partner, lover—if I can’t do those things, what good am I? If an outsider can walk in and see that I’m not doing those things, if they can’t see or feel my presence in my home… my children don’t reach for me when I walk in the door, nobody cares whether I’m there or not… what purpose am I serving?”

“I think you’re being a bit harsh, Ana,” she inserts, “no disrespect intended.”

“Am I, Ros?” I say. “How many times have you been to dinner at my home lately?” I ask. “How many times have you seen my husband not make it to the dinner table before his children have to be put to bed because he’s in the workout room working off the day? How many nights have you gone to bed early so that you can be awake in the wee hours of the morning because that’s the only time that you can have a normal conversation with your spouse? How much of GEH goes home on your backs and gets dumped on your families? How much time does it take for you to wind down from the pressures of the day and let go of the business so that you can have some kind of semblance of a normal life?

“I don’t see the same stress on you and Finney that I see on my husband, and when I went into those emails, I see why. My whole intention was to come in here, claim my half of the company, and start really putting my foot down on some shit so that he doesn’t have to take it all on himself, but he has an executive team. Why should I have to do that?

“You walk in first thing in the morning looking like a million bucks and you leave without a smudge on your lipstick, but he’s pulling his hair out.” I turn to Finney “You emit knowledge and power in your stride. You’re confident and it’s evident. He’s wearing a perpetual grimace. He’s constantly pondering something, and I know that he doesn’t smile here because he doesn’t smile at home.” I turn back to Ros.

“You’re always entitled to a vacation—anytime you need it and anytime it’s available—but you don’t think we know that you took a vacation at a very crucial time for this company because you had a bug up your butt?” I accuse. She stares at me, her expression a mixture of surprise and chastised.

“We drop what we’re doing, and we take international vacations at will,” I admit. “So, the very last thing I’m going to do is give you a hard time about taking some time off, but I won’t hesitate to call you out on your bullshit reason and timing. You made a statement and we heard it loud and clear and I don’t like it. He’ll never call you on it, because he can take the reins by himself… but he can’t do both. He can’t be the 24/7, ball-busting leader and still be a family man.

“He has changed,” I point out. “He’s my husband now. He’s the father of my children, and I am not going to lose him to this business… and that’s not a threat. That’s a bona-fide, genuine, signed, sealed, and delivered promise!”

There’s nothing else for me to say. I retrieve my wrap and my clutch and walk out of the office.

Chuck, Ben, and Marilyn silently and quickly fall in step behind me as I stride to the elevator. Chuck inserts a key into the panel and pushes the button for the first floor.

“I need one of those,” I tell him. Without blinking, he gets on his phone.

“Alex… please secure an express key for Her Highness.” He ends the call and looks straight ahead.

When we exit the elevator, I begin my stroll across GEH’s marble floors, commanding the silence that I said should befall the room when Ros and Finney enter as well as a glare here and there. I meet one of them head on since she doesn’t feel the need to break it… today’s sacrificial lamb, so to speak.

“Take a picture it lasts longer!” I shoot in one breath as I approach her. My firm voice cuts through the silence of the lobby, causing everyoneincluding those who weren’t even looking at meto turn their attention to the glaring bitch, who quickly drops her head and her gaze all before I even past her.

The car has been parked in the front of the building for my exit and although I’m dreading the cold without my coat, the statement being made as I march through the lobby with my entourage is much more effective and is bound to cause a buzz once I leave…

One that will ring loudly through the hallowed halls of GEH and, no doubt, directly to the ears of my husband.

CHRISTIAN

That red dress is screaming business and “fuck me” at the same time, demurely covering everything from her neck to her mid-calf with the exception of her dainty little hands. I’m more than a bit taken aback when she snatches that pen from the podium and slams it down in front of the head of procurement along with the sign-in sheet she got from God only knows where.

I see her getting a bit of kickback from some of the boys on the management team, but she’s giving it right back to them. I’m glad I was able to finish my meeting in time and now, I’m tucked in Jason’s office as he and I watch her meeting through the various eyes in the sky. Every time somebody tries to give her some shit, she chews them up, swallows them, and shits them out. Before anyone attempts to be insubordinate, she lets them know that she doesn’t need my permission to kick them out on their asses, and she’s right.

She reminds me of a female version of myself, and I can’t help but wonder what brought this on.

“She can really command a meeting,” Jason says, watching as she fires off detailed questions at members of the Boys’ Club that a few of them have a hard time answering. I would berate them for not having answers that I need, but not Madame Butterfly. Oh, no. She politely lets them know that they will be getting memos for later meetings in a few days or so where she expects to get the answers that she’s seeking without excuses.

Shit, the Butterfly Sword looks to be about as effective as the Iron Fist, if not more so in some cases.

She must have spent hours researching what these departments should be doing! I know that I know some of these projects off the top of my head and others I’m very familiar with…

And somebody tell me why Ros and Lorenz are looking at each other like deer caught in headlights!

I watch the management team and department heads scatter like rats when she dismisses the meeting, several of them crowding the stairwells and not even waiting for the elevator. She has struck the fear of God into these people and they’re off to do whatever is necessary to save their souls! And now, it’s time for the showdown with Ros and Lorenz. I only say showdown because the last time Butterfly was in the office at one of the department head meetings—when she swore that she would never be back—she had a bit of a head-to-head with Ros, who never apologized for her behavior, accusations, or disrespect, by the way. Now, she’s locked in the room with the Butterfly Sword and I’m anxious to see who’ll emerge victorious.

Butterfly doesn’t pull any punches. She goes straight for the jugular. Lorenz is confused, but Ros is ready to fight, and the dukes are raised.

“Oh, shit,” Jason hisses, covering his chin and mouth while shaking his head. He knows what’s coming. No sooner than Ros girds up her armor and prepares to show her weapon, Butterfly slams her hands on my desk shattering the silence and any expectation in the room as well as Ros’ resolve. Her next words and much of the conversation thereafter demonstrates who’s clearly in charge in this meeting.

She’s brought a few things to light that I never considered. I don’t care that I’m doing things on my own as long as they get done, but she’s right. If I have an executive team, why am I doing things on my own? My wife is trying to get a school started. We have to go to Green Valley in a few weeks and I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to go with her with things in the current condition they are, and she’s turning her focus from things that she should be focusing on to the inner workings of GEH and why things aren’t getting done here.

Maybe I should be coming down on Lorenz and Ros a little more. Why the hell did I hire him in the first place? Oh, yeah… I hired him to help take the load off Ros whenever I pulled up and left town and to allow her to take time off without it handicapping the company. Apparently, something got lost in translation with their duties. And I love that she points out that look that they give each other. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear to God that they were planning a mutiny.

And I love my wife dearly, but she knows that I’m never going to take my company public. I don’t even know why she mentioned that. Then again, I guess if there was an ultimatum on the table, we’d need to have a serious discussion about it—about what it would mean to take my company public and why she would think it was a last resort or even a resort at all. Then her final words play in my head as I watch her walk across the lobby…

“He has changed. He’s my husband now. He’s the father of my children, and I am not going to lose him to this business… and that’s not a threat. That’s a bona-fide, genuine, signed, sealed, and delivered promise!”

What makes her think she’s losing me to my business? For fuck’s sake, I’ve got a lot of thinking to do about all this myself. I turn my gaze back to my office and Ros and Lorenz are still standing there.

“Why are they still standing there?” I ask, pointing at the screen.

“They’re talking,” Jason says. I purse my lips.

“Turn it up,” I say, focusing on the screen again.

“Calm down, Ros,” Lorenz says, “Christian knows more than anybody what a disaster it would be to take this company public if for no other reason than that there are assholes out there who would love to take it on just to run it into the ground.”

“But she doesn’t know that,” Ros hisses. “She’s running around here throwing orders like she’s got a new toy, and she’s going to destroy the business in the process.” That’s not what I see at all.

“And may I ask where that theory is coming from?” Lorenz challenges. “What did she do in that meeting that leads you to believe that she didn’t have complete control over everything that she was doing? I would have had to be studying for months to get the kind of detailed intel she had on these departments and what they should be doing. She reviewed emails for a weekend and walked in here and rightfully handed a bunch of executives their asses. Then she turned around and held the departments responsible for not having the information that she needed. I don’t see anybody running around ‘with a new toy’ at all. I see somebody with a vested interest in this company wanting to know what the fuck is going on.”

“Oh, God, don’t tell me you’re under that spell, too,” Ros laments. “Christian I can understand. He’s married to her and he’s in love with her. Now, your vision is all clouded, too?” Careful, Ros.

“My vision is not clouded,” Lorenz says firmly but slowly, “and I don’t like the implication of what you’re trying to say.”

“Oh, keep your shirt on. I’m not trying to say anything. I’m just pointing out the fact that she has absolutely no business experience whatsoever besides her little minor degree…” She waves her hand around dismissively as she describes my wife’s education, “and she’s coming in here throwing orders around to the people who have been doing this for years. They’re not going to like it and we’re probably going to see quite a bit of pushback from it.”

“And whatever they’ve been doing for years, Ros, they haven’t been doing it right. That’s why she’s here. This is her company, too, and she has a right to call ‘bullshit’ when she sees it. Now, I see where you’re coming from, and had this been any other pampered wife running in here waving the ‘I’ve got the power’ flag without the correct information or intention, I would be the first person going to Christian and telling him that shit needs to stop. However, I can clearly see, that’s not what’s going on here and so could those other people in that room. What exactly is your problem?”

“My only problem is with someone who has no idea what the hell is going on marching in here trying to run things!” she snaps, folding her arms. Lorenz falls silent and just looks at her. Noting the silence, she raises her gaze to his.

“What?” she demands.

“You know what? I hope you’ve got your asbestos pantyhose on because whether you like it or not, that little ball of fire is going to fly through here and make some changes and if you don’t watch your attitude and stay on your toes, you’re going to get your ass seared. So, what I suggest you do is pack up that little green-eyed monster and put it back in your pocket, because whether you agree or not, there’s nothing that she said in that room or this one that was. Not. True.

“If she has to deal with half the hellion at home that he is when he’s here, it’s a wonder she hasn’t packed up her babies and run to the hills. You and I both know that we don’t carry the burden that he does, and we definitely don’t take it home to our wives. That woman that walked into that meeting this morning was pissed! She was about the business of getting down to business and whether you want to admit it or not, that’s exactly what she did.

“I’ve watched you make little snide, dismissive comments around and about her like you don’t understand what side your bread is buttered on. Get used to it, Tootsie—she is the head bitch in charge. She could be sitting at home eating bonbons and watching soap operas and she would still be the head bitch in charge. You should be happy that he has a woman that’ll look at all this and see that something’s not right and try to find a solution for it instead of sitting back, spending all his money, and giving him a hard time about having to work so much!”

Damn, I never thought of any of that. Whatever Butterfly wants, I just make sure that she gets it, even if it’s a private meeting with my department heads… well, not so private since I watched from Jason’s office. I just didn’t interfere.

“I’ve worked for this company for years,” Ros says. “I have just as much blood, sweat, and tears in it as Christian. I’ve helped to build it up from a baby just like he did. I just don’t want to see all my hard work—our ­hard work—dismantled by a housewife, no matter how smart she is!”

Damn, Ros, petty much? I agree that she worked hard to get GEH where it is today and her contributions are invaluable, but why must she besmirch my wife so badly?

“Well, forgive me for not noticing,” Lorenz quips, “but what you just saw was goddamn intervention, or did you miss that whole thing? And if what you say is true, then tell me this—are you bleeding, sweating, and crying as much as he is right now? Will we see Gwen marching into the building any second telling us that this shit has got to change?”

Ros falls silent for a moment as if pondering Lorenz’s words, basically the same words that Butterfly said to them not twenty minutes ago.

“Make no mistake, she’s going to have a talk with Christian, and I can guarantee you that there’s going to be some ‘Come to Jesus’ in there. She looked at something somewhere that said that we’re not pulling the weight Christian is when we’re supposed to be a three-man team, and she’s about to make it a four-man team like it or not.”

“Christian likes to do things himself. You know how hands on he is,” she excuses.

“I know that’s bullshit and so do you,” he counters. “We do what we’re told. We do what’s needed. We’ve gotten comfortable in sitting back and not getting our hands too dirty because it’s easy to stay back and let him do that. What building do you need to fall on your head to realize that all of our jobs are in jeopardy right now? A month ago, she couldn’t tell you what the process was for SEEKNID from idea to completion, and now she can tell you that we can probably shave a day off our inefficient shipping processes just by streamlining and combining some of the tasks. Isn’t this the same woman who found a flaw in a product that was supposed to be one of the major selling points of one of our deals last year just by looking at the acquisition reports?

“You’re selling her short, and I have no idea why and I really don’t care, but you better get off that horse, because you’re on it by yourself, and we both better get our asses in gear or we may just find ourselves in the unemployment line!” He glares at her for a moment before he walks out of the office.


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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

 

 

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Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 2

I didn’t mean to trigger so many people and so many bad experiences with last week’s episode. I’m sorry. 

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 2

ANASTASIA

Marilyn was truly a sight for sore eyes this morning… somewhat.

While I’m very glad to see her, I can’t get over how pale and frail she looks. She absolutely looks ill. Nobody’s saying it out loud, but it’s written all over everyone’s face as she greets them on Monday morning.

What the hell happened to Marilyn?

With her being away for so long and no one knowing why she was gone, the main whisper around the Center is that she has the big “C.” This is a perfect example of how the rumor mill gets started.

“She doesn’t have cancer, for Christ’s sake,” I scold some of the gossipy kitchen staff. “And it’s none of your business what’s happening with her unless she wants to tell you. So, stop drawing conclusions and spreading false rumors about something that you know absolutely nothing about!”

Duly chastised, the kitchen staff shut down their misguided conclusions and the rumors stopped just after lunch. At least, they stopped around me.

Marilyn quickly jumped right back into her work, exclaiming how awful my calendar and commitments looked and wondering how many of them I had missed while she was gone.

“Did you totally delete your appointments with Ace?” she asks horrified. “There’s none of them here. What’d you do, fire the guy?”

“Actually, yes,” I reply. She raises a questioning gaze to me. I sigh and remove my glasses. “He threw me out of his office during one of my sessions…”

“So, you fired him?” she asks confused.

“No, not yet,” I reply. “The next week, his wife called and cancelled my appointment, on the day of my appointment. The next week, he texted me and told me that my appointment was cancelled. After that, I skipped two weeks. I just didn’t feel like dealing with the rejection.

“The following week, we went to Australia, where I had several epiphanies and discovered after five weeks of no therapy that my therapist may not be helping me as much as I thought he was. I still journal; I still talk to people as needed; I still meditate and do my yoga; and I still have Ace on speed dial, but the weekly sessions are over. They’re not helping anymore.”

“How have you been doing since you stopped seeing him?” she asks.

“Overall, pretty good. I’ve had a few hiccups—I’d be worried if everything was peaches and cream after I fired my therapist, quite frankly, but all and all, things are okay with me. It was the right decision.” After a pause, I add, “Now, I’m going to ask the question that nobody wants to ask. Are you well?” Marilyn frowns.

“What do you mean, ‘Am I well?’” she asks.

“Physically,” I say. “Have you been to the doctor since the termination? Is something going on with your health?”

“No, I haven’t been to the doctor. It was an abortion, Ana, not open-heart surgery. There’s nothing wrong with my health. I feel fine.”

“Then why do you look like you’ve lost half your body weight?” I ask. She sighs and rolls her eyes.

“You’re being dramatic,” she says. “It’s just a few pounds. I’m depressed. I have the right to be a little thinner.”

“You’re using present tense,” I say. She rolls her eyes again and meets my gaze.

“What? What do you mean?” she asks.

“You’re saying that you’re depressed, that you have the right to be thinner. I take it that means that you’re not eating.” She sighs like a petulant child and drops her gaze back to her iPad.

“And you’re still depressed, that means you’re still not eating.”

She doesn’t raise her head or acknowledge my statement.

“Look at me, Marilyn!”

The petulant child raises her eyes to me again.

“You’re dangerously thin. You’ve lost a tremendous amount of weight in a short time and the ‘C’ word is already floating around the rumor mill. My God, how could your parents watch this and not be concerned?” Her demeanor changes immediately.

“Because they were more concerned about my immortal soul than my earthly coil!” she snaps, immediately dropping her gaze back to her iPad. I sit silently watching her and waiting for her response.

“It’s just a little weight,” she says without raising her gaze. “Trust me, it’ll be back in no time.” I don’t press the issue… for now. I just get back to the work at hand.

We’ve gone over some of the things that need to be done and Marilyn is frantically working to get her calendar—I should say my calendar—and notifications back to where they should be. I’ve noticed her daydreaming more than once and this time, she’s toying with her finger nervously, rubbing the spot as if it hurts. I’m only just remembering that she used to wear a promise ring there that Gary gave her last year. As if she’s suddenly conscious that she’s worrying her finger, she stops and turns her focus back to her iPad.

“Can you ever forgive him for leaving you?” I ask.

“I already have,” she says, her voice small as she concentrates on her iPad.

“Because you still love him?” She sighs.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s ever going to change, but no. I understand how he feels. I don’t think he could ever understand how I feel… but I get it. So… yes, I’ve already forgiven him.”

“Enough to take him back if he asks?” She pauses for a long moment.

“Can we please change the subject?” she beseeches. I sigh. She needs to talk this out, to come to grips with her raging emotions, but I guess now isn’t the time.

“I’d really like to not have to work at all this weekend,” she interjects. “I need to find a place to stay.” I frown.

“I can’t stay in that apartment,” she says, hugging her iPad close to her and looking at the ground. “It’s worse than being at my parents’ house. I can’t do it. And I don’t want to be alone. I thought I could handle it, but I can’t. I was fine at the hotel. There weren’t so many memories, but now I’m back and I feel like I’m going to die.

“It’s Gary’s apartment,” she continues. “He paid the lease and I can’t stay there… for obvious reasons. I’m calling movers to come and get my things and maybe I’ll put the bulk of them in storage while I try to find somewhere permanent, but it was hell sleeping in that apartment last night… or trying to sleep in it. When I’m gone, let him know that he can move back in. I’m surprised he didn’t move in while I was at my parents’.”

“I don’t think he knew that you were gone,” I reply. The truth is that nobody has seen Gary. We know that he’s working, but he hasn’t really spoken to us since the breakup. He called me once on Christmas, but that’s it. He probably thinks I’m going to harass him about Marilyn.

“You have any idea where you’re going? Have you looked at any places yet?” I ask.

“My old apartment is obviously gone, so that’s out,” she says. “I’ll find something.”

“And in the meantime?” I ask. She shrugs.

“I can’t stay with my parents. Even if they were close enough, they drive me crazy,” she says. “They haven’t ostracized me, but they’re acting like they have to cast demons out of me because I murdered this innocent child.” Her voice cracks as she says it. “I wish I hadn’t done it,” she confesses. “I would have kept the baby had I known it would be this bad.”

You feel bad?” I ask.

“Gary’s hurt and I’ve lost him forever. My heart aches and I can’t stop it. My parents are treating me like Satan’s spawn instead of their daughter. Nothing much would have changed if I had the baby…” I frown, horrified.

“Nothing much? Are you kidding? Your entire life would have changed!” She raises her eyes to me.

“You would have let me bring the baby to work,” she points out. “And Helping Hands has a nursery…”

“I’m a billionairess with a full-time assistant, full-time nannies, and full-time staff—and I had to choose between my practice, Helping Hands, and my babies. You really think your life wouldn’t have changed?” She drops her eyes back to her iPad. “You did what you felt you needed to do for yourself. Neither decision was going to be easy, and they would both be full of regrets no matter what you chose. You’re only tormenting yourself by second-guessing your decision because you can’t go back and undo it.” She sighs.

“Yet another reason to change the subject,” she says, with the same shaky voice. “Is it okay if I have the weekend off?” I twist my lips.

“Of course, it is,” I say softly. “We usually don’t work weekends unless there’s an emergency anyway.” A few moments pass and I say, “You know I’ve got the condo. Courtney’s staying there now, but there’s plenty of room.” She shakes her head.

“Me and Court are cool and all, but not cool enough to be roomies. You pay me well, Boss Lady. I’ll find a place.” I know you will, but I don’t want you to be alone. You don’t look well and you’re scaring me!

Here comes the Owie House again.

“I have eight bedrooms—pick one,” I say. She raises her eyes to me, then realization dawns.

“Oh, I’m sure Christian would just love that,” she says sarcastically. I twist my lips.

“Are you forgetting how many bedrooms I have?” I say. “As long as you don’t come out of those rooms in any state of undress, we’ll be fine. Besides, having my personal assistant truly at my beck and call would be a dream come true—even if it is only temporary.” She smiles weakly.

“You’re just trying to make me feel better,” she says. I lean forward on my desk.

“Do you have any idea how handicapped I was without you? Any clue?” I ask. She cocks her head at me.

“If you’re calendar’s any indication, yes, I do!” she declares.

“Courtney’s wonderful. She did the best she could, but she’s not you,” I reply. “Look at all the people that live here,” I add. “Val and Elliot are here, and some days, we never even see them! You could go for days in this joint and not bump into each other… and you work here! No commute. Put your furniture in storage—you can use the storage at my condo if it’s not much, I know that’s empty. Hide away in the furthest bedroom from humanity if you choose and take some time to regroup. That way, you don’t have to stay in the apartment, you don’t have to be subjected to the cathobapticostal condemnation and casting out of demons for choosing to terminate your pregnancy, and you can take your time and find a nice place on your schedule. No pressure.” She frowns.

“Have you talked to Christian about this?” she asks. I pull out my phone and start texting.

“No,” I tell her, “but he’ll be fine with it.”

“I don’t want to make this decision until you talk to your husband,” she protests. I raise my eyes to her.

“Would you rather not stay there?” I ask. “I don’t want to pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do.” She shakes her head as my phone buzzes, and I continue to text.

“It’s not that,” she says. “I’m sure I’ll have privacy. I just don’t want to impose, seriously. Right now, the easiest thing for me to be is invisible…” which is why I don’t want you to be alone.

“That’s not healthy,” I reply, “but I guess it’s somewhat expected under the circumstances.” My phone buzzes again. “And I’ve talked to my husband,” I say, showing her the texts.

Ana: I’d like for Marilyn to stay with us for a while until she finds another place.

Christian: Okay.

Ana: She’s worried about being an imposition.

Christian: Eight bedrooms?? Almost 15,000 square feet?? We’ve already got a tribe living there. What’s one more?

Marilyn almost laughs after reading the text. That’s progress.

“Thank you,” she says, her voice soft and grateful. I’m glad I turned the phone around before the next text came in.

**Garrett’s being an asshole. **

**No, he’s not. He’s hurt and he has a right to be. I just wish this wasn’t so hard on either of them. **

**There you go with that PC-ness again. She needs him, and he deserted her. That’s all I see. **

**I understand. I won’t dispute you on that. But he’s still my friend, so what are you going to do when he comes around? **

**Don’t worry, I’ll behave. **

“What is it?” Marilyn asks, noting my constant texting.

“Oh, nothing. We’re just discussing that we have to keep our chandelier swinging and jungle noises to a minimum,” I jest. She laughs. “Honestly,” I interject, “he doesn’t agree with Gary’s handling of this situation.” She drops her head.

“Neither do I, but I understand.” she says sadly. “I might as well be dead to him. He was everything to me… still is—and I thought I was everything to him, but apparently, I’m not.”

I want to tell her that it’s just not that simple, but to her, it is.

“He was my heart and soul. I can’t even put into words what he meant to me… means to me. I want to hate him so badly, but I can’t. I swear to God, I would have kept the baby had I known it would turn out like this.”

Tears are falling down her cheek faster than she can catch them. I’m glad the door is already closed.

“Hindsight is 20/20,” I tell her, “but wouldn’t you have just been swapping one set of problems for another? You clearly said that you weren’t ready.” She shakes her head.

“I know,” she says weepily, “but this feels like it’s never going to end. It’s never going to stop hurting…” she trails off, weeping.

“It will, Mare,” I try to comfort her. “It doesn’t feel like it right now, but it will.” She does her best to pull herself together, but she’s still sniffling.

“You may want to put me in the room farthest away from you and Christian,” she chuckles sadly. “I still spend most of my nights crying and I don’t want to disturb you.

That’s it.

“Fuck finding a place of your own. You’ll store your things on our property, and you’ll stay as long as you need to.”

“I can’t…”

“Yes, you can,” I interrupt her. “I’m not ashamed to say that I’m very worried about you. You went straight from a horrible, traumatic breakup to living with your parents who subjected you to weeks of religious bullying and emotional warfare. You really haven’t had any time to heal and now, you’re trying to move back into your old apartment where all the wounds are ripped open again. You look like you’ve lost at least half of what little body fat you had and quite frankly, I’m scared. You’re going to come to my house where you can have good company whenever you want it and good food so we can fatten you up.” She laughs through her tears again.

“Good luck with that,” she says. “My mom may be a fundamental fanatic, but she’s the best cook on the planet! She couldn’t even get me to eat. I can’t keep anything down.” I frown.

“What are you eating lately in an average day?” I ask. She shrugs.

“I don’t know, I’m not keeping a diary,” she says.

“What did you eat yesterday?” I ask. Her eyes go skyward as she tries to think.

“I had a cup of tea and some toast before I left Spokane. Then, I had an orange in the afternoon. I had Chinese delivered to the apartment for dinner.” I caught that. She had it delivered…

“But did you eat it?” I ask. Her shoulders fall.

“Yes,” she answers suspiciously. My eyes narrow.

“And?” I press. She sighs and rolls her eyes.

“Boy, nothing gets past you, does it?”

“No, so spit it out,” I chastise.

“I did,” she replies.

“No, you didn’t. You’re holding something back…”

“No, I did,” she says, her turn to interrupt, “I spit it out—or up. I couldn’t hold it down.” I shake my head and close my laptop.

“Would you like for me to go with you so that you can pick up some things for the week? We can handle the heavy lifting on Saturday.”

“You’re already giving me a place to stay,” she protests. “I couldn’t ask for more.”

“You’re not asking, I’m offering,” I say. Rising from my seat, I swipe the screen on my cell phone and call Chuck.

“You okay?” he answers.

“Jesus, am I that bad?” I ask. He sighs.

“I just never know what to expect when you call before quitting time.” I shake my head.

“Well, keep your boxers on. All is well with me, but all is not well. I need you and Carol to bring the cars around. We need to go to Marilyn’s and pick up some things. Have Tate and Rebe get Keri and the twins back to the Crossing, unless Carol wants to switch with Tate for a while as there might be some heavy lifting…” Chuck scoffs.

“Are you kidding?” he asks. “Have you seen Carol?”

“Well, not without clothes, no,” I say matter-of-factly. He chuckles.

“She’ll be fine,” he says. “She has bigger biceps than Christian.” Egad, don’t tell him that!

“Don’t publicize that, okay?” I warn. There’s a moment of silence.

“Affirmative,” he says. “I’ll get the transportation ball rolling.”

“Thank you,” I say before ending the call.

“You don’t have to do this,” Marilyn says.

“Quiet, Little Orphan Annie,” I say, packing my things and grabbing my coat, handing Marilyn hers. “You’re wasting away in front of me. This situation requires an immediate intervention and I’m the one to do it.”

*-*

You can tell that no one’s been to the apartment since she left, not even to check on it. It has that stale, needs to be cleaned smell. She just stands in the door and looks around the room.

“It’s barren,” she says. “We had so many good times here, but you wouldn’t know it looking at it now. It’s gray in here—it looks like the death angel himself brushed through every room and left his aura behind.”

She hadn’t even unpacked. All there is to do is clear what’s left of her things out of the apartment and clean it.

“Please grab those two bags over there,” she says to Chuck and Carol, pointing to the luggage that I assumed she had taken to Spokane with her. She goes into the kitchen and returns with a large roll of black garbage bags.

“Ana, can you help me please?” she says. I frown and follow her into the closet.

“You’re going to pack your things in garbage bags?” I ask, horrified.

“Trust me,” she says. She removes a bag from the roll and tears a hole right in the bottom of it, rendering it basically useless… or so I thought. She takes a handful of clothes from the rack of the closet, still on the hangers, and hands them to me.

“Hold this,” she says. I take the handful of garments from her and she proceeds to put the bag over the garments, sticking the hooks from the hangers through the hole at the bottom of the bag. She takes the garments from me, hangs them back on the rack, and ties the bag closed at the bottom.

Instant garment bag.

“That’s kind of clever,” I tell her. She nods.

“Yep, and the clothes are still on the hangers. So, when I get to your house, I hang them in the closet and rip off the bags.” I nod. Work smart, not hard.

After about an hour, Marilyn had enough of being in Gary’s apartment. We had gathered most of her things and agreed to come back this weekend to situate the rest. She deduced that her car being here is what prevented Gary from coming to the apartment, so since she was going to be staying with us, she would leave it here until she packed and removed the rest of her things to eliminate the risk of running into Gary. Her relationship is over. She doesn’t like it, but she’s accepting it.


CHRISTIAN

I’m sitting at my desk thinking about the conversation that I and my wife had the day after Christmas about Management 101. My meeting this morning is with the human resources department along with Ros and Lorenz. Last week, I reviewed a sampling of our annual reviews and my wife is right—these reviews are shit. There appeared to be no measurable goals and feedback was shoddy, at best.

Further investigation showed that the managers in each department are responsible for the content and conducting of the annual reviews as well as the feedback and follow-up. There’s no accountability for leadership, and no useful feedback for employees to promote improvement. It’s just like Ana said—management isn’t motivating the people in the trenches and, as a result, we have shitty work coming from the trenches, and if there is any hidden talent down there, it’s hidden in the shit. Once again, my wife was right. I have no idea how my company hasn’t folded by now.

In an attempt to get everyone involved instead of just having another heads will roll meeting, I put Lorenz in charge of a brainstorming session where we put the ideas that my wife suggested to work. How do we create a system of reviews that holds each employee—management and subordinates—responsible for their performance on an ongoing basis, with continuous feedback and evaluation to identify weaknesses and opportunities before they become critical?

I was amazed how the room came alive. Many, if not all, of the people in my human resources department have degrees and some of them are in management. The whiteboard was full of ideas and poor Andrea had her hands full trying to keep up with the minutes of the meetings. Many of the ideas mirrored the suggestions of my wife, but in more detail…

Holding management accountable to levels below and above them will keep them on their toes and prevent them from doing the old soft-shoe when performance reviews come around.

Specific goals need to be set for all employees that are measurable and align with the goals of the organization.

Employees need to know that they are not only striving for excellence individually, but also as a team. If one employee is lacking, they bring the team down, in which case, the team will be able to motivate said employees to identify opportunities to improve and achieve their goals.

The meeting went on all morning. When it was complete, each attending had a task to bring back to the next meeting where they would work with Lorenz to construct a new method of reviews that would be more conducive to the company. Two really important points came out of this meeting besides the birth of the creation of a new system of performance reviews:

I was able to pass this ball off to Lorenz and the human resources team. Even though the initial idea came from me by way of my beautiful and intelligent wife, I don’t have to monitor the progress of the project. I could delegate the responsibility to one of my other executive team, leaving me to deal with other pressing matters. I’ve become so accustomed to handling things myself—and everyone letting me—that the concept of delegation is sometimes hard for me to grasp. I don’t know who can really do exactly what needs to be done unless someone steps forward and says, “Hey, I can handle this for you.”

The second thing… Ros contributed nothing to the meeting. She didn’t have a suggestion, she didn’t take any notes, and her expression barely changed at all for three hours. If I were to guess, she was just sitting there wondering when it was all going to end. She sat in the meeting the entire time like she was watching a movie at the drive-in. All she needed was the goddamn popcorn.

I don’t have time to ponder what the fuck is going on with her because the moment I get back to my office, Alex has left a message that he wants to meet with me, and I’m quite anxious to know what he has to say.

“Holstein is losing his mind trying to see who’s got it in for him,” Alex says when we settle in my office and I activate the scramblers. I’ve just been informed that besides the lovely Christmas inconveniences that he’s had so far, he received a box of live rats on his doorstep on Saturday. His wife and children were put up at a hotel while he contacted exterminators in hopes of getting the things out of his house.

How the hell do you deliver a box of live rats?

Alex informs me of the lovely things we have prepared for the weeks to come for our favorite little traitor, and I must admit that the finale warms my fucking heart. Elena’s small and gradually growing mishaps are a delayed Christmas present as well. She’s suffered everything from a black eye to a busted lip to a sprained ankle. Hers and Holstein’s comeuppance will culminate right at the same time.

I guess now would be the time to start terrorizing that smarmy-assed secretary, since she wants to mouth off with the big boys, let’s see if she likes how the big boys play.

The buzzing in my pocket informs me that I have a text message. I remove my phone and see that Butterfly is informing me that Marilyn will be staying with us for a while. I shrug inwardly. The more the merrier. Chuck’s parents left this morning after being assured that he would be okay, and Harmony will be moving into Escala at the end of the week. Even though Valerie and Elliot have moved back in for a while, they’re pretty much a staple at my house to the degree that they permanently have their own room.

Butterfly tells me that Marilyn is protesting, and I remind her that we have eight bedrooms, then express my displeasure with how Garrett handled this situation. I’m staying out of it for the most part, but I feel that if you love someone, you shouldn’t desert them even when they piss you off. Believe me, I’m still kicking myself for the Madrid excursion, but that’s a whole other can of worms.

Alex is still filling me in on the progress of Alcatraz and the plans to be put in place for one Ms. Greta Ellison when Ros bursts into the room without knocking or being invited. I glare at her.

“Excuse me, but when has it been acceptable to burst into my office without permission?” I ask. She just looks at me.

“We have a development on the Fraser account,” she says.

“That didn’t sound like an apology and you haven’t answered my question,” I bark. She rolls her eyes.

“I don’t have time for this,” she says, dropping the file on my desk. “Look at this.”

“Keep fucking with me, Rosalind, and you’re going to have a whole lot of goddamn time on your hands.” I declare coolly. She raises a surprised gaze to me. That got her attention. “Now, pick up your file, get the fuck out of my office, and try that shit again.”

She blinks a couple of times like she can’t believe what she’s hearing. I’m not going to repeat myself, so she had better move her ass. As if suddenly realizing that I’m not fucking playing with her, she retrieves the file and marches back out the way that she came in. At this point, I wouldn’t give a fuck if she didn’t come back.

As it appears that’s exactly what she decided, Alex and I resume our conversation. A few moments later, my intercom comes alive.

“Rosalind is here to see you, sir,” Andrea’s voice says uncertainly. I look over at Alex, who actually rolls his eyes in disbelief. My sentiments exactly! My first inclination is to make her ass wait for a few more moments, but I decide instead to let her in with the intention that if she brings any of that premenstrual I am woman hear me roar bullshit with her, she’s going to be roaring on the other side of that goddamn door.

“Send her in,” I say. I deactivate the office scrambler and clasp my hands in front of me while glaring at the door. She’s slightly more docile when she enters, and her temperament cools even more as she approaches my desk, no doubt noting the please fuck with me today expression on my face.

“We have an issue with the Fraser account,” she says, handing me the file. I stand and indignantly snatch the file from her hand, giving her a healthy dose of the attitude that she feels I should contend with from her.

“What am I looking for?” I say, my voice low and firm as I skim through the information.

“You should see it there in a minute,” she replies. Don’t test me, lady. Tell me what the fuck you want. I cut a sharp glare at her.

“What. Am I looking for?” I ask more firmly in case I didn’t make the question clear the first time. She sighs.

“On the first page…”

We go through the file and the areas for concern over the next few minutes. Alex excuses himself to “take care of some things” while we’re going through the information. After we decide on a course of action, I lean back in my chair.

“Tell me why you couldn’t solve this on your own,” I ask. “This is pretty elementary.”

“I don’t know where your mind is lately, Christian,” she retorts. “I may think one course of action is the best and you’re totally against it.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it,” I counter. “You’ve had autonomy in this company since the day you first came on staff. I don’t second guess your decisions. I may decide that there’s something that I don’t want to do, like I may shut down a merger, but I never second guess your decisions. You didn’t need me for this, and I had to take time out of my day to tell you what you already knew. Why?” She purses her lips.

“It’s like I said, I don’t know where your mind is. We used to be in sync, but lately, our thought processes have been extremely… polar.” I shake my head and cut right to the chase.

“You confuse me, Ros,” I admit. “You get all touchy because of my wording of something and because of my decision to perform random drug testing and we actually found several people who not only had traces of drugs in their system but were also high on the job. And for the life of you, you still can’t admit that I was onto something. You actually didn’t like my decision, and you still can’t admit that I was right. You act like I’m taking toys out of your little play box and I won’t let you come and play in mine. What the fuck is up with you?”

“I’ve already told you there’s nothing up with me,” she says, flatly. “If you insist on thinking otherwise, there’s nothing I can do about that.” My expression doesn’t change, although inside, I’m sick of her shit.

“You can go now,” I dismiss her, turning my attention back to my computer. She turns on her heels and marches out of the room, and I ponder my words.

You can go now…

Has Ros outlived her usefulness? She’s been a part of this company almost from the very beginning. It’s always been her and me with our noses to the grindstone. Good, bad, or ugly, we’ve always managed to pull this company through. Now, there are changes—lots of changes—occurring in our lives, personal and professional.

She and Gwen were engaged when she started here, but they married after she had been with GEH for a year.

Things went floating merrily along for a few years and then I met Anastasia. That’s when the ship started falling apart.

As soon as I turned my attention from the company for the slightest moment, balls began dropping all over the place. I would go out of town on business trips at the drop of a hat and there was never a problem, but as soon as I started taking trips with my girlfriend-then-wife, she started having problems and I had to hire Lorenz. Now, we’ve got help and she’s still behaving as if she’s having a problem pulling her weight. If I didn’t know for sure that she was gay, I’d think she was pregnant. And that brings up another point…

She’s getting to a point where she’s downright rude to Anastasia. She shows her absolutely no professional courtesy as an owner of this company, but she also acts as if she doesn’t even like her as a person. Once again, if it weren’t for the whole gay thing, I’d swear she was a spurned lover!

Has she outgrown GEH? Has GEH outgrown her? Is it time to suggest that she update her resume and review her professional options? I would give her nothing but a shining recommendation, but sometimes, people just don’t fit anymore, and I can’t have someone on my team that I feel is not on my team anymore.

I thrust my hands into my hair. I can’t deal with this right now, but can I afford to put it on the back burner until the situation becomes detrimental? I shake my head and call Allen.

“Allen Forsythe-Fleming,” he answers.

“Allen, when are we supposed to go to Nevada?” I ask.

“February 2nd,” he says. Jesus, I hope this shit is somewhat in order with the company by then. There’s no telling how long we’ll be in Vegas for this fucking circus.

“Do we have a final headcount?” I ask.

“For…?” he asks.

“How many people are going,” I say, as if it’s obvious. “Ana’s dad wants to go; you’re going; we have security. Do we have a final head count?”

“Oh… no, I didn’t think about that. I’ll call Jewel and see who all we’re expecting. Is everyone going to have security?”

“Liaise with Jason to see how much security will be needed for the amount of people traveling. He also usually makes my travel and lodging arrangements, too. Do we have any clue how long this thing might take?” I ask.

“I would say prepare to be there for at least a week, but quite possibly more than that. I remember Jewel watched most of the Double-Dicker’s trial stream live on some court channel. I don’t know if they’re going to do the same for this one. Part of me thinks they will and part of me hopes that they won’t.” My brow furrows.

“Explain,” I press.

“It’s much more sensational than the Edward David trial, so I would think they would want to stream it. On the other hand, Jewel’s been through enough. This was a terrible and, quick frankly, very personal time in her life. I wouldn’t want to see that splattered all over the news.” I nod as if he could see me.

“Hear, hear,” I concur.

*-*

I’m exhausted when I leave the office today. Ros tried my patience three more times before the day was over and I just don’t have time to deal with her attitude along with everything else happening with the company. She just came back from vacation and it’s done absolutely nothing to improve her sour ass mood. As such, I can’t very well send her off on another one, but something’s got to give because this female is working my last fucking nerve.

When I get home and we enter the garage, I’m expecting to see Marilyn’s car in the last bin, but there’s nothing. I leave my coat and boots in the mudroom and decide that I’m way too tired to work out. This day really wore me out.

I step into the family room to see Keri and Gail minding the twins as they watch some Disney cartoon on television.

“Where’s Butterfly?” I ask, wearily.

“Upstairs,” Gail replies.

“Marilyn’s not here?” Gail nods.

“That’s where Ana is,” she says. “They arrived not too long before you and they’re probably upstairs unpacking some of her things.” I nod and reach for my son.

“Hey, little prince,” I say, lifting him out of the Pack-n-Play. “I guess they had to confine you to make sure that you wouldn’t run amuck all over the house, huh?” Mikey babbles something incoherent as he pats both my cheeks.

“Hes seestah won beh too fah behahnd. Look!” Keri shows me that Minnie is standing and taking several steps on her own. I sigh heavily about how quickly it seems my children are growing.

“Gail, have we thought about childproofing at all?” I ask.

“I’m already on it,” she replies. “Ana actually beat you to it.” I smile softly.

“Of course, she did,” I say, looking back at Mikey. “Your mom thinks of everything.” I kiss him on the cheek, lean down and give my Minnie Mouse a kiss before I go in search of my wife.

I take the elevator to the upper level and I can hear women talking the moment the doors open. Good grief, did she stick the poor girl on the other end of the house? Sure enough, I follow the voices to the last bedroom and there they are. The door is open, but I knock anyway. Butterfly and Marilyn both raise their heads to me, and I’m not prepared for the sight that greets me.

“Hhi,” I say, with a little more emphasis on the “h.”

“Hey,” Butterfly says, somewhat surprised, but rising to greet me. She gives me a small peck on the lips, and I enter the room.

“Hi, Christian,” Marilyn says as she stands. I try not to allow my expressions to betray my thoughts, but I don’t think I’m doing very well.

“Hi, Marilyn… how are you?” I ask cautiously.

“As well as can be expected,” she says, with a shrug. You sure about that?

“What?” she says after I’m silent for a while.

“Forgive me if I misspeak, but… are you well?” I ask. She raises a brow at me.

“Yes,” she says, with no malice. “I…” She looks over at Ana, who shrugs one shoulder at her. “I’ve been a bit… depressed. It’s… a little hard to eat.”

“A little…?” I nearly gasp. “It hasn’t been that long. What’s it been, like a month? Two?” Marilyn drops her head.

“One month… one week… five days…” Her voice trails off as she whispers the last two words, and I suddenly feel so bad for her. I sigh heavily.

“Marilyn,” I say, my voice softening as I close the space between us, “I know you’re hurting, but you’ve got to eat. You’ve lost so much weight. There’s absolutely nothing healthy about the amount of weight you’ve lost since I’ve last seen you. You’re in a mansion now… with a cook… and a butler… please, eat.” She drops her eyes again and nods.

“I’ll do my best,” she promises. I take her hands.

“That’s all I can ask,” I say, giving them a squeeze.

“You can’t say I didn’t warn you,” Butterfly says to Marilyn.

Dammit, I wish she had warned me! This poor girl looks like she’s knocking on death’s door. She was thin to begin with—not skinny, but fit. Now, she looks downright frail, and her makeup is doing nothing for her skin. It’s ashy and her face is sunken, like it’s barely hanging onto her bones. She doesn’t look like the Grim Reaper, but compared to what she was, she’s pretty damn close!

As I’m pondering the situation with Marilyn and how to get her back to a healthy weight without force-feeding her, I catch a glimpse of black plastic in the closet.

“Um, why are there garbage bags hanging in the closet?” I ask, pointing to the bags.

“Oh.” Marilyn walks to the closet. Dear God, she looks even thinner from behind. She quickly rips away one of the trash bags to reveal several garments now hanging neatly in the closet.

“Garment bag in a pinch,” she says. “Easy packing and unpacking when you’re in a hurry.” I purse my lips and nod.

“That’s pretty smart,” I say. “There might be a market for something like that.”

“Well, take the idea, Mr. Mogul,” she says. “If anybody can sell it, you can.” I smile.

“Do you mind if I steal my wife for a minute or two?” I ask, looking over at Anastasia. Marilyn waves me off.

“Take her,” she says. “I think she’s babysitting me.”

“I’m not babysitting!” Butterfly protests.

“Then you won’t mind coming with me and letting Marilyn get settled, right?” I say, cupping her elbow and guiding her off the bed. She looks back at Marilyn as if she’s leaving her pet at the boarders for a week.

“You’ll be alright?” Butterfly asks like a protective mother.

“Go,” Marilyn says, shooing her off.

“I’m right down the hall if you need me,” Butterfly continues, trying to stall as I gently lead her away.

“Go-wah!” Marilyn says, a little more urgently. I put my arm around my wife’s waist and guide her out of the bedroom.

“Don’t miss dinner,” I say sternly to Marilyn and raise my brow at her. She nods noncommittal and rips another garbage bag from her clothes in the closet.

“Why did you stick her all the way down here?” I ask as I lead my wife away from Marilyn’s door.

“She wanted the farthest room,” she replies. “She still cries a lot.” I shake my head.

“Jesus, somebody should tell him what he’s doing to her. She looks like hell!”

“We don’t know what this is doing to him,” Butterfly defends. I want to ask whose side she’s on, but Marilyn is her PA and friend and is now living here, so she’s obviously on Marilyn’s side; and Garett is her longtime friend, so I can see why she would be on his side, too. She’s stuck in a bad place, and I’m glad it’s not me!

“Where’s her car?” I ask.

“Still at Gary’s apartment,” she says. “She left it there in the parking garage while she was out of town. As such, Gary never came near the apartment, we’re thinking it’s because he thought she was there. Her logic is to leave it there until the end of the week until she gets all of her things from the apartment and avoid the chance of running into Gary.” I twist my lips again.

“If this is how you felt when I went to Madrid, I am so, so sorry,” I lament. She closes her eyes and shakes her head.

“It’s water under the bridge,” she says. “It’s over and done; let’s not bring it up.”

Her reaction lets me know that’s exactly how she felt. I pull her into my arms and kiss her forehead.

“Minnie’s going to be walking soon,” I say as we walk towards the stairs…

*-*

With a broken-hearted Marilyn, a mourning Valerie, and a soul-weary Elliot at the dinner table, we try to keep the conversation light, but try though we may, there wasn’t much participation from our latest house mates. Valerie dutifully ate her meal, mostly in silence, while Elliot devoured his food like the caveman that he is. I’m not insulting him; I’m always happy to see that someone has a healthy appetite, especially with the young lady to my right looking as if she needs to be holding a sign that says, “Will work for food.”

I try to keep the conversation going as much as I can by talking about Butterfly’s solid idea for revamping performance reviews and even Ros’ bad attitude throughout the day. Butterfly chimes in with discussion about the school year starting and Keri taking her tests for her American teaching certifications soon. We covered everything we could think of from the Christmas cookies to Freeman finally being out of the brothers’ hair, but nothing could ignite a table-wide conversation.

Marilyn dismally picks at her food and I’m certain that she hasn’t eaten two bites before excusing herself from the table. I watch her walk from the table with her head down, looking like she’s headed for the gallows. She’s so thin that I’m afraid if a good storm occurs, she would be whisked away to the Land of Oz. I want to demand that she come back to the table and finish her meal, but she’s a grown woman, not one of my children. When I look over at Butterfly, she’s watching Marilyn walk away with the same concern that I am. She finally just shakes her head and begins to pick at what’s left of her own food.

“She’s lost weight,” Valerie says finally, and I’m glad that she’s talking.

“Yeah,” Butterfly laments. “She’s not taking the breakup well at all.”

“That’s not a bad breakup,” Valerie protests. “We’ve seen bad breakups, Steele. We’ve been bad breakups. That’s more than a bad breakup.”

What can she say, that Marilyn is also in mourning for the loss of a baby that she wasn’t really sure that she wanted and that she willingly got rid of? Valerie’s mourning losing a baby that she and Elliot wanted more than anything. This would very likely put a rift between them.

“Yes, Val, it’s more than that, but I’m not at liberty to talk about it,” Butterfly says.

“Garett’s an ass,” I mumble before taking a mouthful of food.

“Christian,” my wife warns gently. I glance over at her and she’s scolding me with her look. I turn my attention back to my meal.

*-*

The apartment has been cleaned from top to bottom. The sunlight from the glass windows lights the entire space and the view of Elliot Bay is just as spectacular as it was when I first moved here. Escala was one of the first things I purchased when I began to make my fortune. It was a status symbol. It was me thumbing my nose at my father because he thought I was out of my mind to throw away the opportunity of a Harvard education to go out on some “half-cocked business endeavor.” When Fortune named me as one of the top twenty up-and-coming businessmen of the decade, I celebrated by buying my first sports car…

And this penthouse.

I remember personally choosing every piece of furniture that decorated this space—every dish, every lamp, every sculpture and vase, every piece of art. It’s empty now. I’ve just finished the closing and signed the papers transferring ownership to Harmony, and now the space is waiting for her to come in and make new memories.

Memories.

It’s not like I can pretend that the things that happened in this space didn’t happen. I was mostly happy here. My life went through many transitions, but for me, they were all good. Each transition was better than the last, even the time I spent with Lincoln.

Elena.

I haven’t said or even thought her first name in quite some time. She’s been The Pedophile or Lincoln or even that blonde bitch or just that bitch, but nothing more. Now, in this empty space, I remember a lot of our relationship, what she used to mean to me.

In those days, she was everything—a mentor, a friend, a trusted confidante, a lover. It was a relationship that I hadn’t shared with anyone else, ever. I didn’t know what it meant to have friends or people you confided in, only her. I only had my family—and John, and my life was so steeped in secrecy that I couldn’t even confide in my family.

I trusted no one. I thought everyone was out to get me, everyone. Submissives only wanted the gifts that I could give them or the pleasure I released on them. If they wanted more than that, I terminated our contract and didn’t look back. No one sought to really be my friend. They only wanted what they could get from me. I had learned to distance myself from people a long time ago, especially since I couldn’t stand to be touched.

Jesus, that seems like ages ago.

I still have a phobia of strangers touching me without permission, but things have certainly changed over the past several years.

I wander up to what used to be the playroom. The walls are now painted a calming ecru. The chains, tracks, and carabiners have all been removed from the ceiling. I had completely forgotten that there were windows in here. I had that entire wall covered with artificial soundproof walls that only showed a landscape from the outside.

All the equipment has been removed from the walls. It and the furniture from this room have been taken by Artemis to be sold on consignment with the proceeds going to my account for whatever other services I may need from him in the future—everything except the Chesterfield chair. Butterfly and I decided to keep the chair for Downtime and put it in our sitting room.

Downtime is a specific time for us to communicate while in character—me as Dominus and her as soumise. During the Munch, we learned that Downtime can be called by either of us when we need to discuss something, particularly about our relationship, but it could be anything at all. It’s another way for us to connect as Dominus and soumise in a non-sexual atmosphere unless we choose to transition into a sexual act. It can be used to reconnect after we’ve had a disagreement. Downtime can be very powerful in maintaining a strong, loving, and respectful BDSM relationship if utilized properly.

I’m not really certain why they call it Downtime, but its description may have something to do with it. Butterfly would present herself to me as soumise, in whatever garment I’ve chosen for her for the evening, and she would then become Pussycat. She would sit in whatever position I choose for her—kneeling in front of me, sitting in my lap, or her head in my lap. Whatever her position, her head would remain below mine, indicating her willingness to submit to me. We’ve procured a plush pillow for her for the times when she will be expected to kneel.

We will, of course, communicate at other times, but Downtime is specifically to assist in the transition from vanilla to D/s, even if there’s no sexual act involved. It’s not required every time we want to make a trip to the Blue Room, but it’s recommended for couples who plan to practice on a regular basis, particularly in a married D/s relationship. During the Munch, Artemis recommended Downtime at least once a week. Butterfly got the same recommendation from Savvina.

I couldn’t imagine having Downtime in this room with those women who used to be my submissives. I’m certain that I’ve spoken to them more than once in a Downtime position, with respect and consideration for their immediate concerns, but this is certainly different.

At first, I didn’t want to use the Chesterfield chair. I remember making her fuck me until she was completely exhausted in that chair. She remembers the encounter fondly and indicates that she would like to see me sitting in the chair in my Dom uniform. I can imagine the comfort and pleasure I would feel with Pussycat at my feet in one of her Victorian nightshirts with nothing underneath, or simply a pair of white thongs, her head resting on my lap while I caress her brown tresses and we calmly discuss whatever may be pertinent at the time. It’s important that we don’t allow heavy feelings or anger to prevent us from doing Downtime. No matter what the situation, I’m still her Dominus, and she will always be my soumise.

It’s strange and somewhat appropriate that I would think of our new relationship standing here in this room where I first explored my role, tastes, and preferences as a Dom. It now looks like any other bedroom in the penthouse, but it has experienced many transformations throughout my journey of discovery.

At first, it was black. I had taken my cues from Elena and leaned to the familiar—black equipment, black furniture, nearly black walls. That worked for a few months, but I began to feel like I was lost in the darkness when I entered the room. My soul was dark enough; my surroundings didn’t need to be black, too. That’s why my apartment was always decorated in stark white with contrasting accents. It may have seemed sterile to some, but to me, it was comforting. White would definitely not do for the playroom, though.

The only other colors that meant anything to me were red, yellow and green. I certainly wasn’t going to have a yellow or a green room, and although red is the customary safeword, it seemed appropriate to me…

And it worked out very well.

The rich wood tones of the furniture and the deep, dark browns of the Chesterfields blended very well with the Red Room. There were a few pieces with black cushions or accents with blonder tones in the wood, but nothing too bright. It was inviting and foreboding at the same time, and absolutely perfect for my purposes.

I’m experiencing nostalgia again as I recall picking the pieces for my room. Elena had helped outfit the Black Dungeon, but I found Artemis through connections I had made on my own. He listened to what I wanted and offered suggestions on what the Red Room should contain and look like. He was right. The playroom was exquisite. I could hardly wait to leave work some Fridays and get back here to this room—to the comfort and safety it afforded me; the control I wielded in these walls. There’s nowhere in the world that I was more powerful than I was in this room, not even at my desk in GEH or at the head of the conference table while simpering executives hung on my every word. No… here… this was my realm, my central station of Dominance. My power was absolute, and I knew it

I brought many women to their knees… broke their bodies, then broke their hearts. They ached for the pain, coldness and cruelty I was dishing out. They returned for it weekend after weekend, and when I turned them away, they cried for it. Some of them even went insane. One of them died trying to kill my wife.

I sigh heavily thinking of the women I abused and destroyed in this room. Granted, they signed up for the physical pain, but not for the emotional warfare that I subjected them to… some of them anyway.

I feel her presence behind me, and I don’t have to turn around to know that she’s in the room. I’m feeling guilty for all the memories that flooded me when I entered this room, some of them still refusing to be exorcised.

“I’m sorry,” I say, conviction in my voice for my unspoken mental transgression. Butterfly comes behind me and wraps her arms around my waist.

“Don’t be,” she says, laying her head on my back. “This room is who you were, and a lot of who you are right now. Good or bad, it helped to shape the man that you’ve become—my husband and the father of my children. I can’t be upset about that.”

I cover her hands with mine and sigh heavily. I always thought that we would get back to this room for one last hurrah. Maybe it’s good that we didn’t.

“We’ve had more than a few hot memories in here of our own,” I comment with mirth. I can feel her smiling on my back.

“That we did, Mr. Grey,” she says, and I squeeze her hand in an effort not to slip into my own submissive mode. Mistress can be merciless as a Domme, and I must admit that I like it. I like it a lot!

“Remember the first time you subbed for me?” I ask. “You knew just what I needed even though I tried to make you stay away that night. I was certain then that you would be perfect for me. I already knew, but that moment erased any lingering doubt.”

“I remember it well,” she says. “I was scared shitless.”

“I know,” I reply, “but you did very well, especially for your first time.”

“I’ll never forget it,” she says into my back. I drop my head and take a deep, cleansing breath.

“Can we make a promise?” I say, and her head rises from my back.

“What?” she asks.

“Can we please promise that our lifestyle—our roles—won’t become so practiced that we don’t find any enjoyment in it anymore? That if we find ourselves becoming too sterile or too routine that we’ll talk about it and find a way to keep things fresh?” She’s silent and when I turn around in her arms, she’s smiling at me.

“I thought that’s what we were doing now,” she says, her voice soft. “I thought that’s one of the reasons we sent the Chesterfield back to the Crossing… for our Downtime… and ideas.”

I smile back at my coy little wife. Things will never be sterile or routine with her. She’ll always find new ways to turn me on even without trying. I cup her face in my hands and kiss her softly, and again.

“I love you, my beautiful Butterfly,” I whisper with my eyes closed, my forehead touching hers.

“I love you, too, my love,” she whispers. I kiss her again and release her face, gesturing for us to leave. She smiles at me and walks out of what used to be the Red Room. I turn around and look at the ecru walls once more, then leave the room, closing the door behind me.


A/N: The sale of Escala is final, and one chapter of the Grey Saga is definitely closing. What does the future hold for our couple, especially with one of the Green Valley trials on the horizon?

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

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

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

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

 ~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 1

I don’t want to start the season with a huge chapter note, but thank you guys for being there for me when my Mommy died. It really means a lot. It’s strange how life imitates art (and vice versa). I had this entire chapter written weeks ago—parts of it, months ago. Without giving spoilers, yes, some sad things happen, but they weren’t just added in when Mommy died. 

I also want to add my condolences to our beloved Falala. She lost her other fur baby this week. Please send her some love and support in comments here or on her post in “Do You Need To Talk” and let her know that we love her and we’re thinking of her. 

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 1

ANASTASIA

The year 2015 came in like a lion, not a lamb.

“You don’t have to be strong for everybody Val. And you certainly don’t have to be strong for me.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Val says, somberly. “I’m not. I’ve just cried so much that I don’t think I have any water left.”

Val left the Crossing looking a little gray in the face. We awoke this morning to the most dreadful news. She had lost the baby.

“The doctor says that these things happen, especially after the strain my body had been through last year. She told me that there’s nothing wrong with trying again after a little while… but I don’t know.” Her voice cracks on the last word. I stroke her hand.

“When you’re ready,” I say softly.

“I don’t know that I ever will be,” she sobs, finding those tears that she didn’t think she had. “I was so excited! El was excited. Our lives had started anew in every way! Meg is gone; we have a new house; a new baby was on the way… and now this!” She covers her face and sobs into her hands.

“And it’s not over.”

I’m about to hug my sister and best friend when Elliot’s voice stops my progression. He comes over to the other side of the hospital bed and cradles her weeping body in his arms.

“You cry as much as you need to, Angel, but it’s not over. Your body is remarkable. It looked death in the face and flipped it the bird. And when your heart was ready to give more love, it was determined to produce new life. But, Angel…” He sits on the bed and puts his hand under her chin to lift her gaze to his.

“I’ve got you,” he says. “This beautiful body needs some more rest—some more time to heal from that prize fight that it won last year. Our hearts were eager and so was your body, but it just wasn’t time yet. It’s. Not. Over… and when you’re ready, it’ll happen, and not a moment sooner. I’ve got you, and you’ve got me. I’m not going anywhere, and if you decide that this experience was too much and it’s not for you, I’ll still be here—standing by your side and loving you through it. Okay?”

Val falls into his chest and weeps for a moment before composing herself.

“Isn’t he the most wonderful man in the world?” she says, gazing into Elliot’s eyes. I turn my head to the doorway to see my husband standing there with his hands shoved in his pocket. He looks forlorn as he watches his brother and sister-in-law working through the loss of their unborn child. He won’t admit it, but his empathy has come a long way since he’s met and married me and had children of his own. The pain in his face says it all.

“Second most wonderful,” I say softly.

*-*

The drive back to the Crossing is silent. Christian had leaped from the bed and sprang into action when he got the call, leaving Jason behind and almost leaving me as he leapt into the car and sped out the gate and across the bridge to the hospital. Now, he looks blankly in front of him as he concentrates on getting us and the car back to Mercer Island. Everything happened so fast that there was no time for the paparazzi to get wind of anything.

He’s still silent when we get back to the Crossing. He seems to be moving on autopilot. He drives into the garage, turns the car off, then exits. He walks mechanically to my side of the car and opens the door for me.

“Thank you,” I say softly as I exit, and he nods once. He closes the door behind me and places his hand in the small of my back, guiding me to the mudroom door. We both shed our outerwear and boots right there in the mudroom, and my husband releases a heavy sigh as both hands rake through his hair.

“Can I get something for you?” I ask, concerned. “Some coffee or something to eat? Neither of us had any breakfast.” He shakes his head.

“I…” He holds his head down for a moment as if to collect his thoughts. “I’m going to take a shower, first… just to try to…” he trails off. I put my hand on his back and he raises his gaze to mine.

“Okay,” I say, nodding. No need to explain, Mr. Grey. This is pretty big. He nods at me again and heads for the elevator. I sigh heavily and walk to the kitchen.

“Hey,” Gail says, coming from her office space in what used to be the small dining room. “How’s Valerie?” I sigh again.

“I don’t know,” I say, reaching into the refrigerator for sparkling water and cranberry juice. “As well as can be expected, I guess.” I fill a glass with ice from the dispenser and make a cranberry spritzer. I put the bottles away and drink my glass nearly half down.

“She was so excited,” I say, shaking my head. “She didn’t think she’d be able to conceive after Chemo. The good news is that she can conceive… but can she carry?” I cover my eyes and fight my own tears, my sadness for my best friend and sister.

“What did the doctor say?” Gail presses, concerned. “Did they tell her that she wouldn’t be able to?” I shake my head.

“No,” I say after drinking more of my spritzer. “From what they say, it was just too soon. Her body needs to get a little stronger before she tries to have a baby.”

“Well, that’s encouraging news,” Gail says, “although I know from experience that it does nothing for the current loss.” I raise my eyes to hers, vaguely remembering her telling me about miscarrying.

“Christian’s not taking it well,” I tell her. “When tragedy strikes his family…” I search for my words. “He’s a lot more empathetic than he used to be.”

“Did you all eat?” she asks. “Would you like for me to fix you something?” I should be hungry, but to be honest, I’m not… not in the slightest.

“Let me see what Christian wants to do and I’ll let you know,” I say, finishing my spritzer. She takes my glass and puts it in the sink, and I head to the elevator.

I lost a kid once, too, but I didn’t know that the kid was there, so I never had a chance to miss it… or want it… or not want it. I sometimes wonder what that kid would have been like had it lived. Would it have been a monster like my mother or its father, or would I have been able to show it enough love not to be a terrible person? Would I have been able to love it at all? Would I have kept it? Carla and Stephen probably would have made me give it up. I know one thing’s for sure—my life certainly wouldn’t be where it is now.

As the elevator opens, I think about Minnie and Mikey, my two little miracle babies. They were determined that nothing was going to stop them from getting here alive and healthy, not even a missile that put me in a coma for nearly two weeks and almost cost me my memories. I can’t even imagine how I would feel if something had happened to my precious angels before they were born. I’m stepping double-time to get to the nursery as I desperately need to see them.

I open the door quietly to find that I’m not the only one who needs some immediate baby time. Christian is standing over our daughter’s crib, gazing silently down at her sleeping body. He so transfixed on her tiny little form that he doesn’t even move when I open the door. I pull the door closed a little, just enough to watch him with our daughter. He stands there for several more moments before he kisses his fingers and gently taps Minnie’s head.

“I love you,” he whispers, stroking her red tresses gently for a few moments. He walks over to Mikey’s crib and Mikey stirs a bit, but falls back into slumber. Christian silently watches him for several moments.

“And I love you,” he whispers to his son, repeating the gestures that he just did with his daughter. I step away and close the door, leaving him to his moments with his children. Suddenly, a shower sounds like a very good idea.

I try not to cry in the shower. I’m overcome with sadness for Val and Elliot, but also with impending doom for the fate of my own children. They’re growing so quickly. I’ve been practicing helping Minnie stand and take steps on her own every day since Christmas. I don’t want to rush her, but I don’t want her to be developmentally too far behind her brother, either. They both have the chubby baby cheeks and thighs that just make you want to pinch them all day, and they’re eating more solid food than breast milk these days. I’m a little melancholy about having to wean them soon, which doesn’t help with my attempt not to cry.

I let a few tears fall as I wash, condition, and rinse my hair. I’ve composed myself once the shower is over, and I take the time to dry my hair and put it in a ponytail. I pull on a comfortable off-the-shoulder cable-knit sweater dress that I grabbed from the dressing room before my shower and I come out into our suite. Christian is lying on the bed on his back in sweatpants and a T-shirt, his hair still wet.

He’s staring at the ceiling and saying nothing. I climb in bed beside him. During these times, he usually tells me that he needs me. Making love when he’s feeling this forlorn often grounds him, helps him to remember that he’s not alone. This time, he seems different.

“Do you want to talk?” I ask as I lay on the pillow next to him. He shakes his head.

“I’m tired,” he says. “I’m really tired. I don’t remember being this tired in a long time.”

“You didn’t get much sleep,” I say, “and we got the call really early.”

“I’m exhausted,” he says, and sighs heavily. I don’t doubt that he is. He’s been going like a machine since Christmas, and this isn’t the first emotional overload-type thing that we’ve had in the last few days…

New Years’ Eve…

The festivities are no different than any other New Years’ Eve—good food, good friends, family, drinks… and fireworks. We, of course, have an excellent view of the fireworks at the Space Needle right from our backyard, and when midnight strikes, we kiss and toast the New Year in just like every other year. We’re all looking at the fireworks when we hear Chuck’s angered voice.

“Shit!” he hisses. We all turn to face him and he’s bolting into the house.

“Choonks, wah’s wong?” Keri calls after him.

“That’s not ginger ale!” he yells as he disappears into the French doors.

“Shit!” Jason says, abandoning the group and dashing into the house behind Chuck. Keri, Maddie, and Nelson all run in behind him while the rest of our guests just look on in confusion. Christian picks up the glass, sniffs it, and looks at me.

“It’s champagne,” he says gravely.

“Shit!” I hiss like Jason and Chuck before me and run into the house. I hear Christian excusing us as I dash through the entertainment room. It’s empty. There’s no one in the community area either. That’s when I hear agonizing noises like someone is being punched in the stomach.

I know what that is.

I follow the sounds through the community space and into Chuck and Keri’s apartment. Maddie and Nelson are standing horrified in the living room while Chuck and Jason are in the bathroom. Keri’s standing outside the door with tears in her eyes. Chuck is on his knees paying homage to the porcelain gods while Jason stands over him. I can hear his throat and stomach wrenching as he vomits everything he ate at the party… probably everything he’s eaten all day.

When he stops for a moment and breathes heavily, I think it’s over, but he starts again. I don’t hear that horrible sound of his insides splashing against porcelain this time. He’s still breathing like a bear though. There’s another pause and then I hear Jason’s voice.

“Stop, man! There’s nothing left!” he commands. “You’re dry-heaving now, it’s gone!”

They sound like they might be scuffling, and Jason repeats his command.

“Stop!” he says again. “There’s nothing left, Chuck!”

“I gotta make sure!” Chuck protests. Jesus, he’s determined not to let even the slightest bit of alcohol into his system.

“You got it, man, it’s gone,” Jason said. “You barely took a sip and you’re vomiting bile now. You’re dry heaving, there’s nothing left. I wouldn’t lie to you.” There’s silence for a moment. “Goddammit!”

I hear scuffling again and now Keri turns away from the bathroom and is fully weeping. I put my arms around her, and I can see into the bathroom. Chuck is sticking his finger down his throat trying to make himself vomit more, and he has already discharged everything he has in his stomach.

“Help him!” I mouth to Christian as Keri cries on my shoulder. Christian enters the bathroom and tries to help Jason restrain Chuck.

“Come on, Chuck,” Christian says. “It’s over. It’s gone, trust me.”

“You don’t understand!” Chuck wails, sounding almost like a child. “I can’t be that guy again! I can’t! I can’t be that guy…!”

We know what he’s talking about, and Maddie and Nelson know all too well. Maddie moves past all the big men and kneels next to her son, taking his face in her hands.

“You’re not that guy, Chuckie,” she says. “We can all see it, and we know it. We knew that guy. We knew him well, and even though we loved him, we didn’t like him very much. You’re not that guy anymore, Chuckie. We know you’re not that guy.”

“I’m sorry, Mom,” he weeps. “I didn’t mean to drink it…”

“I know Chuckie,” she says, softly with a smile. “Give yourself a break. There’s a difference between accidentally sipping what you thought was ginger ale and finishing off an entire bottle of gin. That Chuck is gone, and I’ve got my Chuckie back. You didn’t slip—you picked up the wrong glass. It was a mistake. So, please, stop hurting yourself.”

He looks his mom in the eyes and nods. Jason and Christian help him up and his legs are a little wobbly. He reaches for Maddie and she helps him to the sofa.

“Salt-water, please,” she says as Chuck falls down onto the sofa. Keri breaks our embrace to go to the kitchen. She quickly mixes salt and water and brings it to Chuck along with the kitchen garbage can. As he rinses the flavor of bile from his mouth and spits into the garbage can, Keri retrieves a bottle of water from the fridge.

“Dtink itahl, Choonks,” she says softly, having cleaned the tears from her face. He looks at her and effortlessly bottoms out the bottle. She nods her approval as he tosses the bottle in the trash. She sits on the sofa next to him and turns to face him. She pulls his head into her bosom, wraps her legs around him and cradles him in her arms.

“Easy nuh,” she says as she gently strokes his hair. She doesn’t care who’s in the room; she needs to comfort her Choonks. He lays on her breast and closes his eyes, wrapping his arms around her and settling in obvious contentment.

“We should go,” I say to all the onlookers, as Keri and Chuck are in their own world now. Jason puts the waste basket back in the kitchen and we head for the door.

“From now on, I fix my own drinks,” Chuck says as we’re leaving.

Present Day…

I had a session with him and his sponsor later that day. He said that sipping that champagne felt like the past burning a trek down his throat and all he could think of was to get it out. He knew he was going to vomit before he made it to the apartment, and he was trying not to do it in one of the sinks along the way.

Thoughts of everything that Joe had said about him in court was haunting him, and he could only see the alcohol as a devil inside of him—a parasite—and even the slightest drop of it would grow inside of him and consume him. I could tell by his intensity that if he could, he would have had his stomach surgically removed if it meant that there was no chance that there was any alcohol left in his system.

He never has to worry about relapsing. He’s dipsophobic now. I can’t say that’s any healthier than being an alcoholic as any kind of obsessive behavior is not good, but in the big scheme of things, this ain’t too bad of a phobia to have.

Turning my attention back to my nearly catatonic husband, I can’t help but feel rudderless at the moment, not quite knowing how to help him. It’s late afternoon now, and there’s no likelihood that he’ll be going into the office at all. In fact, he was so distracted by trying to get to Elliot and Val as quickly as he could that he had forgotten to call the office to tell them that he wouldn’t be there.

When Ros called, I answered the phone to inform her that he wouldn’t be in. She actually seemed a bit put off that I was telling her that he wasn’t going to be in. Not that I owed her an explanation, but I felt it was a professional courtesy to tell her why, and I took great pleasure in passively making her feel like shit when I told her the reason. Somebody’s going to have to put that trick in her place really soon because she’s really pushing the envelope.

That’s probably why my husband is exhausted right now. He hasn’t allowed any emotion to creep in, so to speak, since he’s been so busy busting balls at GEH. The fuck-ups are slowly beginning to turn around and the supposed lawsuits are falling as fast as they were filed, once the plaintiffs were told what their real chances of winning were and my husband made it clear that it would be a cold day in hell before—and I quote—“those goddamn drug addicts got another fucking dime from me to support their fucking habits.”

Now, he just needs to rest, for however long he needs it.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” I ask, looking at the side of his head as he gazes at the ceiling. He turns his head to me, his eyes glassy, tired, and sad, and I’m sure that he’s going to tell me that he needs me… and he does, but not in the way that I’m thinking.

“Can we just…” He sighs. He’s having a hard time finding his words. “Can I just hold you for a while?”

I look over into his beseeching gray eyes and my heart melts at his sadness. I move closer to him and situate myself comfortably on his chest with my arm around his waist, one leg bent over his. He embraces me firmly with both arms, then kisses my hair. I think of the lullaby that I sing to the kids when they’re feeling fussy, the French one about the eggs, and I hum it to him while I’m laying on his chest. He holds me close and tight as I hum the tune to him, and a few minutes later, I feel his chest begin to rise and fall as his breathing evens. I know I can’t move or he’ll wake, so I keep humming the tune until I fall asleep.



CHRISTIAN

My wife is amazing.

I know that Valerie is her best friend and like a sister to her, but she was more concerned with how I was feeling than anything else during this time. How am I feeling? I’m feeling very shitty. I feel shitty for lots of reasons and in no particular order.

I feel shitty because my brother was so excited to be starting his family and now, he’s had it ripped from him for no good reason.

I feel shitty because he has to watch his wife and the woman he loves suffer physically and emotionally through this, and there’s nothing worse in the world than not being able to stop the pain of the woman you love…

… except for not being able to stop the pain of your children.

Seeing him lose his child made me feel the most intense and powerful possessiveness that I’ve ever felt in my life! My babies, my heart and soul besides my beautiful wife… Jesus, if anything happened to my kids…

I feel shitty because I just want to make everything right again… everything… and I can’t.

Butterfly and I decide not to see our mentors on Saturday night under the circumstances. There’s no way that we would be able to concentrate on any of the tasks at hand.

We attended the Munch with Artemis and Savvina the weekend after Christmas, just to be introduced to other Domini and their matrimonial submissives, who refer to themselves as soumises, As I speak French, I know this is the French plural for submissive, but this is the adjective. I’m not sure that there is an appropriate noun. Nonetheless, I like it.

This group of people is almost like a club of their own, not that they separate themselves from the others, but that they share a common bond and tend to gravitate more towards those with like interests—as is usually the case in any BDSM circle.

I’m quickly learning that being a married Dominus, or just Dominus as Artemis prefers, is nothing like what I’ve been before. I’m learning to be a Dom all over again. I have to deprogram myself from what I used to be, what I’ve always known, and reprogram myself to a new way of being; a new way of responding; a whole new behavior. I can’t operate the way that I used to because I’m not the same person. BDSM served a specific purpose for me. It was a direct means to a particular end, and there were no emotions involved.

I was a sadist, but I’m not that man anymore.

As a result, everything has to be retaught. There was no way that I could bring Anastasia into my world with the theories, techniques, and mindset that I always utilized. It never would have worked, and that’s why we never found our balance.

Had I married a submissive who had been previously conditioned in the method that I practiced, the old way would have been fine, but that’s not who I married. What’s more is that none of the submissives who had been conditioned in that way ever lasted, because that’s not what I really needed.

If I’m honest, I used those women like old rags. Once they were dirty, I laundered them in showers and baths and sent them to be plucked and primed to my specifications only to use them again. I made it clear that I didn’t want these women, and if the old rags became too comfortable, I threw them out.

How could I possibly expect for this same mentality to work with my wife?

Artemis is bringing so many things to light for me. My entire method of operation was based on punishments and rewards. For a sadist who has plans to beat the hell out of you every Friday night, that’s a perfect formula…

I need to cause you pain to release mine and regain control, and if you’re a good girl, I’ll let you come.

If you misbehave, I’ll beat you some more, and after I’ve tormented you sexually in every way imaginable and had my fill of you—literally, then I’ll make you go to bed without an orgasm.

I want unequivocal, unquestioned loyalty and obedience and if I don’t get it, I’ll make you pay.

If I do get it, I’ll make your body scream in ways that you never thought possible.

I’ll take you from extreme to extreme. I’ll ruin you for all other men. You’ll learn to love it; you’ll yearn for it… ache for it… the pleasure and the pain.

You’ll learn to love it. You’ll discover that you can’t do without it… and the moment that you do, I’ll cut you off and end your contract.

I began our relationship with every move I knew. I pulled every masculine wile on her that I could—and then I released the demon. It was so powerful that neither of us could control it, and yet, we tried. We tried so hard that at some points, it almost destroyed us. And now…

Here we are, where we should have started in the first place. We’re both starting from scratch. Anastasia had no idea what she should and should not be doing, how she should or should not be behaving, what she should or should not expect as a submissive. Her entire concept was take as much as you can and when you’ve reached your limit, take a little more. Why?

Because her husband is a sadist.

I could—and would—give her whatever she could take. There was no measurement of “Maybe this is going too far.” It was just, “More? Okay!”

So, now, I have embarked upon the intricate journey of shedding the title and persona of the typical sadistic Dominant—talented though I may be—and completing the task of becoming the exquisite Dominus. As such, my wife is completing the task of becoming the soumise. At some point, our roles will switch again, but right now, we’re concentrating on this particular dynamic as it fits into our lives.

I don’t know whose journey is harder—hers, having to dispel the misconceptions that she’s had for the last few years during her escapades with me; or mine, having to deprogram most of the things that I learned from Lincoln and in Dom training all those years, or at least re-purpose them—for lack of a better description—to fulfill our current needs.

Anastasia is a strong and independent woman. It’s not in her to be a 24/7 submissive, nor would I want her to be. However, this new dynamic means exploring new territories and desires, both physical and mental, and there will be some sacrifices and compromises on both our parts. I’m going to have to sacrifice my old methods of relating the inflicting of pain, total surrender, and unconditional obedience to my pleasure and maintenance of control. These things must be balanced, and there’s a time and a place for all of them.

TPE requires complete surrender and unconditional obedience. However, while some relationships may be built upon that, ours is not. There’s a time and a place.

While inflicting pain can be quite liberating and erotic, it can’t always be the go-to technique in a relationship like ours. There must be a give-and-take on several levels when implements are used to inflict pain, induce pleasure, or administer punishment.

I was always hyper-aware of a submissive’s feelings and physical reactions, but only to the degree that their responses fulfilled my needs…

If I whipped you until you cried, so what? I fucked you until you came; now, go take a bath and get over it.

If you were twitching and jerking uncontrollably at the end of the scene, it’s probably because your orgasm was so intense that your pussy or your asshole was gripping and squeezing my dick endless until you drained my balls of every single drop of fluid I had to give.

I knew how to time torment and ecstasy perfectly so that I was certain to get everything I needed exactly at the moment that you got what you wanted. And if you didn’t get what you wanted, it was deliberate, and that’s usually what I wanted.

It’s all different now…

The Munch we attended was held at a local venue called “10 Degrees.” It clearly wasn’t what my wife expected and certainly nothing like the impromptu munch we attended at the BDSM club a few years ago. Although my wife chose to don a very sexy black bandage dress of a respectable length, she could have worn one of my grandmother’s vintage Lindy bop dresses and still fit in with this crowd at this location. On more than one occasion, my wife was swept away to a semi-private cluster of conversation with a group of submissive wives while I took the opportunity to converse and pick the brains of Artemis and some other attending Domini. It was during several such powwows that I discovered that my way of thinking was going to have to take a serious detour if this relationship was going to be functional and enjoyable for us.

Today was to be the day that we were going to explore our intimacy a bit more. One of those ways was going to be to choose a nickname for my wife when she was in the role of soumise. Baby came too easily, Butterfly is an everyday name, and Anastasia is clearly what I call her when I’m angry. Ana is what everyone else calls her, and Mrs. Grey is out of the question because I called all of my previous submissives by their last names and we’re trying to separate the old Dom from the Dominus. So, we have to come up with something else. I say “we” because even though I may be using the name, she has to respond to it. I think I’ll talk to her about that later when we’re alone. It shouldn’t be hard for us to come up with something without the assistance of our mentors.

Quite a bit happened in the past two weeks. I awoke the day after Christmas and realized that I had been a Grade-A ass all week to my wife and family, and while it was still imperative that I whip my company back into shape, something had to give… and soon! I took that Friday off and spent it with my wife and children like I should have done on Christmas Eve.

We exchanged our gifts and although we got each other plenty of those gifts that you purchase for the husband or wife who has everything, my biggest gift to Butterfly was the task of decorating our Italian villa as we will be spending six weeks there this summer even if Armageddon befalls us. She was absolutely thrilled. Concerned about leaving our children behind, she was even more delighted to discover that the family will be spending a portion of the summer with us as well, including our children.

Her most precious gift to me was a leather-bound album with various pictures of her and our children throughout the year—in color and black and white, various settings, some candid and some professional. She knows this kind of shit turns me into a big sap, and that’s why she usually waits to give these personal gifts on Christmas Eve. Of course, it took my breath away and I felt like the luckiest bastard on earth.

We also gave gifts to our staff, including the car that we had been promising Keri with the built-in car seats for the kids—a 2015 Chrysler Town and Country. I would have preferred an Audi, of course, but my wife previously informed me that not everyone wanted to drive an Audi, and Chuck informed me that Keri previously admired the Town and Country. As long as it had the safety features that I wanted, it was fine with me. So, Keri is now the proud owner of a metallic silver Chrysler minivan.

December 26 held one more surprise for the Grey family. Pops’ attorney from Detroit, Nathan Wu, called to tell us that Freeman had given up on the protest of the life insurance policy. Freeman was, quite frankly, eager to get his hands on his father’s house. We knew that this had to mean that he had signed the divorce papers as well, because he wasn’t going to allow any proceeds from Pops’ will to get caught up in his divorce. Little did he know that any of his inheritance was most likely protected property from the divorce, but honestly, none of us cared. Our biggest controversy now was trying to get Dad to accept his share of the policy as well as the money that he gave to Uncle Stanley and Uncle Herman.

That beautiful Apollo showed up, refurbished and playing beautifully this past Tuesday, and it has pride of place downstairs in the den with my baby grand. My father and my uncle came over to see it once it had been delivered, after which they called Uncle Stan and the three of them drank a toast to Ichabod while it played one of several preprogrammed songs in its new repertoire, Down by the Old Mill Stream.

Valerie is being released from the hospital today and, once again, we insist that they come and stay with us for a while as Valerie’s body recuperates—just for a few days, or a week, until she’s back on her feet. It’s a good thing we decided against the mentoring sessions tonight. We were needed at the Crossing much more.

My brother is clearly more concerned about Val in the loss of the baby than he is about himself. I can see through the façade, though. He’s been my brother longer that he’s been her husband. He’s crushed, but with everything that she’s been through, he can’t let Valerie know how he feels. He doesn’t want to stress her out and possibly send her into a relapse with her cancer and he’s very concerned about her health and getting her back to 100%. However, once she’s released from the hospital and they get to the Crossing, the truth all comes out.

“How are you holding up?” Butterfly asks Valerie once they release their embrace. Valerie nods.

“I’m doing okay,” she says with a sad, unconvincing smile. “One day at a time.” Butterfly takes her hands.

“I know,” she says. “Come on, let’s talk…” She takes Valerie’s hand and leads her through the dining room. Elliot gazes at her until they disappear into the family room.

“Do you want to talk?” I ask, and I’m certain that my voice startles him. “You look tired.” He twists his lips.

“I’m fine,” he says, his voice clipped as he walks towards the formal living room.

“You don’t look fine,” I say, falling in step behind him. He whirls around on me after he steps down into the living room.

“Oh, so you’re the psychiatrist now.” It’s a statement, not a question. “Montana, how you’ve changed.”

Definitely not fine.

“I’m not trying to piss you off, Elliot,” I say as I close the space between us. “I just want to make sure that you’re really okay. I know if this was Butterfly, I definitely would need some help… or a drink… or I would want someone to pay or tell me why this happened.” Elliot laughs sarcastically.

“Oh, the great Christian Grey and all his millions!” he quips angrily. “If he found out that his little wifey was allergic to water, he’d stop the rain from falling!” I purse my lips.

“I know you’re upset, Elliot,” I say, ignoring his ill-placed ire, “you have every right to be…”

“This isn’t about me!” he hisses. “This is about her! All the shit that’s happened to her! When no one else was there for her, I was there for her! I took care of her; I watched over her; I stood by her when everybody else went MIA—everybody! I did everything in my power to protect her… and I couldn’t!” he bites out. I frown.

“There are some things that you can’t protect her from…” I try to interject.

“Says the man who rescued his woman from kidnappers in a helicopter,” he retorts sarcastically. “Basically brought her back to life after she was nearly killed in a car accident, spent 12 days in a coma, and woke up not even knowing who you were!”

“But I couldn’t prevent those things from happening to her!” I counter. “I may have retrieved her from Vashon Island, but she was still taken and brutally beaten. And yeah, I sat next to her bed and cried and prayed while she was in a coma, but I couldn’t prevent the accident that put her there!”

“Don’t you dare!” he hisses angrily. “Don’t you dare for one moment pretend that you know what I’m feeling right now! You have no fucking idea—no goddamn idea in the world how this feels!”

His eyes are a veiny red and he’s furious, ready to charge. If I don’t pick my words carefully, we’ll be rolling around grappling on the floor—and I will not fight him right now. I take a deep breath through my nose and let it out, never taking my eyes off my brother who is standing in front of me poised like a gladiator, ready for battle.

“You’re right,” I reply. I pause for several moments and watch him deflate infinitesimally. “I have no idea what you’re feeling right now. I couldn’t even begin to imagine, nor would I want to. I know pain, and I know that you’re hurting, but I can’t empathize with the pain you’re feeling right now. I do know this much,” I say, closing the space between us. “You’re taking care of Valerie. Who’s taking care of you?”

His face changes. The fury mask fades in an instant and is replaced with the most mournful, drooping, angst-filled expression I’ve ever seen. My brother chokes out a sob, and then another before crumpling in despair. I catch him in my arms and lower the dead weight to the floor as he sobs uncontrollably.

“I tried… I tried… I did… everything… I could…” he weeps bitterly, unable to catch his breath. “She… needs me… she needs me… to be strong… but this… hurts… God… it hurts… so bad…”

His weeps quickly turn to uncontrollable heaves as he chokes out his grief for his loss. His body is shaking, and his muscles are flexing like he wants to fight, but he’s tight… tight in a ball… still holding it in…

“Let it out, bro,” I encourage. “Let it out. It’s okay to hurt. I’ve got you.”

I can tell he doesn’t want to weep too loudly for fear that Valerie will hear him. Even now, at one of his darkest moments, he’s thinking of Valerie. I let him cry and text my wife.

**Where are you? **

A few moments later, she texts me back.

**In the parlor. **

I reply quickly…

**Can you please keep Valerie down there for a while? My brother needs to vent. **

It takes her a minute to respond.

**I understand. Sure thing. **

Thank God I didn’t have to explain that. Having a psychiatrist for a wife certainly has its benefits. I put my phone back in my pocket and lean in to my brother.

“Let it out, Lelliot,” I tell him. “I swear she won’t hear you.”

He raises tear-filled eyes to me, and I nod at him, giving him permission to grieve properly. He closes his eyes and releases a heart-wrenching wail that tears me down to my very soul. The sound is so painful that it’s everything I can do not to grab him and shake him and tell him to stop screaming like this; that everything is going to be okay and this is not the end of the world, but he’s been holding this in. He’s been the tower—the strong front for his extremely fragile wife. He hid his feelings so well that no one knew what he was going through. It’s a wonder he didn’t have a psychotic breakdown through all of this.

I can’t grab him and shake him, but I can grab him.

He curls into a ball, covers his face with his hands and sobs openly, finally crying without a care about who may be listening. I can hear his pain… and it’s killing me. It’s killing me that I can’t take it away from him. He was right not to let Valerie see this. She wouldn’t be able to take it.

I curl my body over his, quickly wiping away the selfish tears that fall from my own eyes onto the back of his shirt.

“That’s good, Lelliot,” I say, hiding the tears in my voice. “Let it all out…”


ANASTASIA

Elliot tried, but he wasn’t able to hide the fact that he was broken when Val and I finally came from the parlor. They both have the same questions…

Why did this happen?
How did this happen?
Was there something they could have done to prevent it?
How will they keep it from happening again?

The truth is that there’s no right answer to those questions. The immediate answer is that Val’s weakened state could have contributed to this, but truthfully, perfectly healthy women have miscarriages all the time. There’s no explanation for it and at some point, you heal from the pain and try again.

However, there’s no telling that to a woman—or a man—who has just lost a child.

They spend time blaming themselves until they’re just not blaming themselves anymore. Sometimes, it’s quick and sometimes, not so much. The further along the pregnancy is, the harder it is to deal with the loss. Val was heading into her fourth month and she had begun to feel the quickening of the baby, so that made it all very real. Then, to have something happen like this, after you’ve felt the baby move inside you and you’ve started making plans for the new life… we should definitely be having a funeral right now.

After Val said that she couldn’t cry anymore, the floodgates opened like Niagara Falls once we got to my parlor. She polished off a bottle and a half of wine all by herself, and I let her. She cried and cried about how she’s a failure as a woman and a mother and I spent the better part of an hour trying to convince her that this was not true; that there was nothing that she or anybody could have done differently that could have prevented this; that these things just happen and as painful as they may be, sometimes, they just can’t be prevented.

My words did very little to comfort her.

Little did I know that Elliot was on the first floor having a breakdown of his own, and when he and Val were reunited, they could do nothing more than crawl upstairs and go to bed.

Christian and I sit down to dinner alone. He concentrates on finishing his meal, and I know it’s because he’s fighting with his emotions. He’s forcing himself to eat so that he doesn’t starve himself being overcome by his feelings. I don’t attempt to engage. We simply eat in silence and I let him finish his meal. Maddie and Nelson are still here until Monday, but they’ve been having more intimate meals with Keri and Chuck in their apartment since Chuck’s episode.

“The other soumises were telling me that communication is paramount in any healthy relationship,” I break the silence once we’ve finished our dinner and we’re having coffee, “especially a BDSM relationship.” He raises his gaze to me, his expression almost as if he forgot that I was sitting there next to him. He bottoms out his coffee and stands from his seat. Then he moves to the back of mine, signaling for me to stand and he pulls my chair out. He takes my hand and tucks it into his elbow. I feel a little flush come over me.

“Where would you like to chat?” he says. I’m taken aback. Anywhere will do. I would have been just fine sitting here at the table.

“The library,” I reply. We have two libraries and one of them became Marilyn’s office. We never use the other one.

He leads me to the elevator, and we take a silent ride to the lower level. I stop at the aquarium to say “hi” to Marty, who’s swimming obliviously in and out of her castles and reefs. As I take a moment to admire my fish, Christian retrieves a bottle of brandy and two snifters from the bar. We walk quietly to the library and I take a seat on the sofa. Christian turns on the fireplace and takes a seat next to me.

“Do you have anything in particular that you want to talk about?” he asks as he pours us each a brandy.

“Anything but Elliot and Val,” I say softly. He stops pouring for a moment, still looking at the brandy snifter.

“Agreed,” he says, and finishes pouring the drinks. He hands me one of the glasses and takes one for himself. We each take a large sip of the brandy before the conversation begins.

“We were supposed to come up with names tonight,” Christian begins. “I was thinking that I don’t know why we can’t do that activity on our own. It shouldn’t be hard.” I shrug.

“Yes, I can’t see why we couldn’t do that,” I reply.

“Mine should be easy,” he says. “I’ve only ever been referred to as Sir, Mr. Grey, or Master. Mr. Grey and Grey has definite connotations for us. Master feels like footprints from a past life. I don’t want to bring that into our relationship.”

“I agree,” I say, sipping my brandy.

“There are other options—Lord, Captain, Mister, Boss. The Latin Dominus is used as my title, as soumise is used for yours. It’s nice, but it seems a bit pretentious for you to address me that way. The rest of those seem over the top, except for Boss, and Jason sometimes calls me that. So, if you’re comfortable, I say we keep it simple and continue to use Sir.”

“I think that’s best,” I concur. “I did a little research on appropriate names for a submissive. They all sounded ridiculous.” Christian furrows his brow.

“Such as?” he asks, before sipping his brandy.

Baby girl, princess, kitten, honey bear, buttercup…” I rattle them off.

“None of those would fit for you because those are generally all names for littles. You’re not a little and I’m not a Daddy Dom, so those definitely wouldn’t work for us.”

“What’s a little?” I ask.

“That’s a whole other Dominant/submissive dynamic,” he replies. “It often involves age play where the submissive behaves at an age suitable for his or her Dominant, or at whatever age the submissive chooses.”

“Like adult babies?” I say with distaste.

“Yes, adult babies can be a type of a little,” he confesses. I shiver a bit.

“There are other types of littles?” I ask. He nods.

“They can be any age,” he says. “It depends on the preference of the couple.” I shake my head.

“That… sounds like someone who fantasizes about children,” I admit. “It doesn’t seem healthy. What place could that possibly have in a BDSM relationship?”

“Please don’t try to get me to explain that,” he beseeches. “I’m aware that the dynamic exists, but I couldn’t describe the fascination or attraction to it. I don’t have enough information on it, so I can’t defend or criticize it… and we’re getting off topic,” he chides gently. “Your name? Remember?”

“I like pet, but for some reason, I feel as though I should have a deep abhorrence for that word.”

“You should!” he says, nearly cutting me off before the words are out of my mouth. I lean back from him a bit as his tone is clipped and his eyes are sharp. Then, he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.

“This may be one of those things that slipped your mind,” he begins, “but Lincoln called me ‘pet.’” I nearly choke on my brandy.

“Oh… yeah… no,” I say, finishing off the amber liquid. He pours me another drink.

“I liked love and kitten,” I say,but Jason calls Gail Love…”

“And Ethan calls Mia kitten,” Christian says.

“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” I say, twisting my lips. “How about kitty? I like that one, too.”

“Too close to kitten,” he says. He moves the glass to his lips and stops.

“What is it?” I ask. He smiles widely before taking a sip of his drink.

“I’ve got it,” he says, placing his glass on the coffee table. “You like kitten and kitty, two variations of a feline, but we can’t use them because I don’t want to feel like I’m Domming my kid sister.”

“Your point?” I say. He leans in close to me, his face mere inches from mine.

Pussycat,” he breathes in his Dom voice… and my panties are instantly wet. I swallow hard.

“I… I like that,” I choke out, abandoning any bit of “cool” I may have previously had.

“I thought you would,” he says, retrieving his glass. “I like it, too.” He leans back on the sofa, swirling the brandy around in his glass and looking salaciously at me with a confident half smirk on his face. I clear my throat.

“We’re supposed to be talking,” I say, trying not to gulp down the rest of my brandy.

“I thought we were,” he says, raising an eyebrow at me.

“I… suddenly don’t know what else to say,” I pant, trying to remain calm, but failing miserably as I mindlessly swallow the rest of my second brandy and flinch as the spirits shock my throat and burn their way down my chest. Christian bottoms out his first brandy and puts the snifter on the table. He takes my glass from my hand and places it on the table next to his. Moving closer to me on the sofa, he leans in to me until I can only focus on his eyes through my hormone-and-brandy-induced haze.

“Weekdays have been a real bitch for me lately, Anastasia,” he says, his voice low and his face mere breaths away from mine. “Seeing that it’s Saturday night and the past two days have been just as shitty, what I’d like to do now is to take you upstairs to our room, tie you to our bed, and fuck you within an inch of your sanity. Or…” He leans in even closer, “I can bind your wrists and fuck you right here. It really doesn’t matter either way to me, as long as I get to fuck you. What do you say to that?” I swallow hard again.

“I’d say that I’d like that very much,” I squeak. His lips brush mine and he speaks the next words against my mouth.

“Upstairs… or here?” he breathes. The word is barely a whisper.

“Here.”

*-*

Christian is asleep and I’m wide awake, lying on the floor in the library. He’s wrapped around me and a blanket is wrapped around us both, the light from the moon and from the fire illuminating the room. This is only the second or third time in weeks that I’ve seen him sleeping so peacefully, which is a shame since two of those times were most likely aided by sheer exhaustion from concern for his brother.

Lying on my back and looking at the ceiling, I can’t help but go over the events of the holiday season…

Chuck tried to rip out his esophagus from swallowing a taste of champagne.

Mikey got up and just started walking out of nowhere, and Minnie’s not far behind him. We’re going to have to start childproofing the house very soon.

I got word that the bitch Deanna Carson who threatened to attempt to seduce my husband and then made good on her threat was one of the employees that was fired for failing the drug test and is now part of a class action suit against GEH. I plan to put a stop to that shit.

My husband is working long ass hours trying to save his company from going down the toilet and I can’t shake the feeling that he’s the only one who seems to care about it.

Carrick’s brother Freeman looks like he’s not going to be a problem for the brothers for a while. I don’t know what’s happening with the harassment charges that Christian brought against him and the assault charges from Burtie, but he dropped that ridiculous case protesting the legitimacy of the life insurance policy, and Lanie told me that he has signed the divorce papers and agreed to Nell’s demands. It would have left him in the hole a bit, but he got their house in Farmington and the proceeds from Burt’s life insurance as well as Burt’s house in Detroit. I don’t know the value of everything, but apparently, he got what he wanted.

I accused my husband of longing for a submissive from his prior life, which sent us into nearly a week of silence and avoidance and caused me to turn my home into the Land That Christmas Fucking Well Wouldn’t Forget in an attempt to escape the situation. I had to have the house professionally un-decorated to remove all that stuff… but I have it all stored away, just in case!

Marilyn flies back in today, and I can barely wait to see her! I asked if she needed a ride home from the airport, but she said that she would just like the evening to herself to regroup and acclimate to being back in Seattle. So, I’ll see her at the office tomorrow.

Harmony will be moving into Escala at the end of the week once the closing is final. I feel a bit melancholy about that, almost like I did when Daddy said that he was leaving the house in Montesano. Yes, that was where Christian gained his Dom legs and beat and fucked 15 brown haired submissives, but that’s also where we built our lives, where we cut our teeth on many firsts. The place holds some fond memories for us, and some not so fond ones as well, but it’s where we officially became The Greys.

And, of course, my sister and best friend lost her baby.

I think that about sums it up.

Feeling a combination of sorrow, nostalgia, and melancholy from reviewing the major events of the past few weeks, I feel a tear slide down my temple and into my ear.

Pussycat. We decided on Pussycat. Never in a million years would I have expected him to come up with that name, but surprisingly, I really like it. My mind immediately wanders to the conversations that I had with clusters of other soumises. Listening to them speak so freely about their relationships and their roles, being able to slip into a submissive state of mind so quickly and easily, being able to be everything my Dominus needs at a moment’s notice… I try very hard not to think about how far I have to go and how much I need to learn. I try to only focus on the journey and making this a rewarding experience for us both.

My mind then floats to my conversation with Savvina and how she basically told me that I had no idea what I was doing or feeling…

“No, you don’t. You don’t find Nirvana, peace, or even subspace until it’s over and he makes you come. This. Is. Not. Just. For. Him. As his wife, this is for you, too. Until you fully understand that, you’re in a dangerous place.”

I’m afraid. I’ll admit it. I’ve sat wondering more than once if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. This isn’t a game anymore. This isn’t “dabbling” as our mentors referred to it. This is the real thing—a real-life, full-on, BDSM relationship. We said that we wouldn’t be 24/7, but I don’t know how we can’t be. I’ve immersed myself in research and websites and blog pages, chats with trusted soumises, and everything that I’m reading and seeing and hearing says that you will submerge yourself in this lifestyle in one way or another.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to walk around in spandex and leather 25/8… or 24/7, but it does mean that you have to always be mindful of your Dominus just as he has to always be mindful of you—and there’s a lot involved in being mindful.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the onslaught of information that just popped into my head as I lie here in the dark in my husband’s arms, I squeeze my eyes shut tight, and another tear slides down my temple. On cue, my husband pulls me closer to him, and kisses the tear from my temple.

“Sleep,” he says, softly, and with surprisingly little effort, I close my eyes, and fall asleep.


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

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 in the menu our you can click HERE.

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

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

Golden: Final Author’s Note—Read it if you feel like it

Final Author’s Note—Read it if you feel like it

I struggled with whether or not I should do this because I feel like a story should just stand on its own without a lot of explanation. Nonetheless, I decided to do this because I’m aware that I’ve taken two beloved characters and placed them in a situation completely out of canon. I’ve taken them so far away from who we know them to be that I completely changed their names and appearance and only used their real names very few times in the story. Both of their backgrounds were completely different than the original, and their familial relationships were completely opposite of what we’ve seen before.

Ray was black, for Christ’s sake.

I did that because I wanted to see if I could pull people out of what they were accustomed to and give them a completely different tale. I’ve seen so many different Christian and Ana stories in Fanfiction. I’ve seen a couple where Ana was bisexual; I’ve seen a couple where they didn’t end up together at all; I’ve even seen a couple where one of them died—really died and didn’t come back!

So, my idea was to take another facet of the BDSM relationship and explore it through this couple. I already know that there are people with smoke and steam coming out of their ears right now because Golden and Trey didn’t end up in what we would consider an “exclusive” relationship. To those people, all I can say is that you should probably do a little research on the various aspects of BDSM.

Yes, there are exclusive D/s relationships where there is one Dominant and one submissive. However, there are several relationships where there is one Dominant and many submissives. Each time any character in this story—and even Elena in the Butterfly Saga—played a Dominant, they played this particular role. There are situations where a submissive may or may not be collared, and can be married to her Dom, and he still has other submissives. That one I learned from real life talking to a submissive in that position. There are even Leather Families that can be as simple as having a familial bond to several submissives sharing the same Dom in a polyamorous relationship to several houses being a part of the same Leather Family.

I only say this because you may or may not be pleased with how the story turned out, and I understand that, but don’t feel that way because you think theirs is a relationship that could never work—many relationships like this work, BDSM and otherwise. We just may not be accustomed to it. It’s okay to feel this way because you feel like Ana and Christian would never do this. You’re accustomed to the HEA and you feel that they didn’t get it on the terms that you felt they should have.

Think about the characters for a minute—Golden hadn’t fucked anyone in an unknown number of years. Yet, she has a dick fetish and her primary role is to get men off through pain and suffering. Christian’s definitely not a submissive, but he can certainly get his jollies from a bit of masochism. He’s had two completely healthy vanilla relationships that didn’t work out because he needed more and just didn’t know what that more was.

How will they handle the additional kink he may need? We’ll assume that they’ll cross that bridge when they get to it. I did warn you guys that it wasn’t going to be the typical Christian and Ana story and I think some of you still wrapped it up in a Fifty Shades of Grey package because I used those characters. Hopefully, I didn’t disappoint everyone, though.

~~love and handcuffs

Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 28

Here’s the finale, people! Stick around for the epilogue and an extra author’s note.

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.

Explicit details of sex and BDSM scenes from here on out. Some may be hot while others may not be to your taste… and not necessary CG with Ana together. Proceed at your own discretion, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

This ain’t your everyday Christian and Ana story. Don’t expect anything. Just read it as it goes along or go away. 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 new saga continues…

CHAPTER 28

Eric Dane 20

TREY

I awake in my bed, face down, hugging a pillow. My body aches from the workout, and the biggest thing reminding me that it wasn’t a dream is my stinging back.

I’m alone… again.

Did she pull that shit on me anyway? Is she playing these damn games with me again?

I pull myself up in the bed and rub my eyes. The sun is just going down and the light from my nightstand throws a soft glow over the bedroom. I thrust my hand in my hair to contemplate my situation when the en suite door opens.

Ana emerges in only my shirt with a washcloth and a bottle in her hand. She raises a brow at me then walks over to the bed.

“I don’t see any kind of antibiotic ointment in there, but I found some peroxide. Lie on your stomach. You’re going to have some terrible scars.”

I don’t respond. I just do what I’m told. This is the closest thing to aftercare I’ve ever gotten from her and I’m going to take advantage of it. The peroxide doesn’t hurt, but the washcloth does. I flinch as she dabs the scratches, gritting my teeth through the pain.

“There’s some vitamin A&D ointment under the sink,” I tell her. “It’s in a small tub.”

She goes to the bathroom and returns with the tub. The ointment is soothing the moment it touches my skin. That’s why I keep a tub of it. It’s good for everything.

“We should eat something, don’t you think?” she says, replacing the top on the ointment.

“Avoiding the obvious?” I ask. She crosses her legs lotus style on the bed.

“Yes and no,” she replies. “I don’t know how to do this.”

“Do what?” I say, sitting up to face her.

“This,” she says, pointing back and forth between us. “You and me, this thing. I don’t know how.”

“You’ve never had a boyfriend, Ana?” I ask, bemused. She twists her lips.

“Nothing memorable,” she says. “The day I cashed in my V-card was about as memorable as you would expect it to be. He came and then he went. The sexual encounters after that—again, nothing memorable. In fact, nothing really memorable happened until I became a Domme.”

I instinctively lean back on my headboard and even though it’s padded, it still sets my back on fire. I leap off the bed and Ana leaps with me, startled. Once I get my bearings about me, I go over to the chest of drawers and pull out a clean T-shirt. My back is fucking raw. I hope I don’t wake up with this damn thing sticking to my wounds.

I climb back in the bed and gently lean my back against the headboard. Much better. I pat the bed next to me, and Ana climbs back into bed, taking the seat next to me this time.

“Is that what you’re expecting?” she says as I put one arm around her. “To be my boyfriend?” I shrug.

“I don’t know what the hell I’m expecting,” I say honestly. “I’m hung up on a Domme.” She nods.

“Yeah,” she agrees. “I can’t have a normal relationship, Christian,” she warns. I scoff

“What the fuck is normal?” I ask. “I don’t have a normal relationship anywhere in my life. I don’t think I ever have, not even with my family. I had to give my sister a body part for her to even care that I was alive and that strained the only perfect relationship I had with my mom. My dad and my brother are both snakes in their own special, separate ways. The only semi-normal relationships I have are with my housekeeper, Taylor, and Ronnie…”

“Who’s Ronnie?” she asks.

“Yeah, Ronnie’s like my best friend, but the only reason that we’re friends now is because we realized that we suck at being bed buddies. So, she went out and found somebody normal and I’m here.” I feel her body stiffen.

“What?” I ask.

“It just…” She adjusts herself on my chest. “It has an ominous undertone.” I frown.

“What has an ominous tone?”

“‘I’m here,'” she says, mocking my voice.

“Hey, you’re the one who said you can’t do normal. I’m just agreeing with you, so I guess we’re going to have to find some kind of compromise unless we just want to go back to not seeing each other again.”

“No,” she says. “I don’t want that… I just don’t know how to do girlfriend.”

“If it helps at all, I have no fucking idea how to do boyfriend. Both times I seriously tried; it didn’t go well.”

“Why?” she asks. I twist my lips and decide to tell her the truth.

“Juliet couldn’t keep up with me,” I tell her. “I had a hunger she couldn’t feed. Ronnie’s very sweet,” I continue. “We’re still friends because she’s a really good person, but we just weren’t meant to be lovers… and she knew I was still hung up on you.”

“So, what happens when the splendor wears off?” she asks, “When we’re no longer hung up on each other?”

“I don’t know, Ana, I haven’t gotten that far yet,” I reply matter-of-factly, “and neither have you or you wouldn’t be here.”

“You said you loved me,” she points out. That I did. I’m still asking myself if it’s true.

“I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know if it’s love in the traditional sense,” I tell her. “I love Ronnie as my friend. I love my mom as my mom. I look at what I felt for Juliet—or any girl or woman that I’ve been intimate with, and I’m not really sure that I can identify love as a lover.

“I’m identifying with some feeling,” I clarify, “just as I have before. I know that I care deeply for you, but if I still feel this way after not being with you for nearly a year, having to send you away from me months ago so that the ache that I felt would stop someday but still craving you the moment I see you, then what do you call that?” She looks over at me.

“I don’t know how to love,” she says and my brows furrow. How do you not know how to love?

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“It’s not that I don’t believe in it… of course, I do. My mommy and daddy loved each other very much, and I loved my mommy and daddy, but they died. I came to love my uncle and his family, but they deserted me. I didn’t even get a chance to love Jake, and I don’t even know if I loved the guy who took my virginity. Bearing that in mind, I haven’t been properly introduced to the kind of love that a man has for a woman, so I don’t know how. I’m 34 years old and I don’t. Know how. To love.” She shrugs.

“I was right, then,” I say. She looks at me questioning. “You are messed up.” Her curiosity morphs to anger.

“I’m not damaged, Trey!” she snaps.

“And I see I’m going to be Trey when you’re mad,” I say calmly. I don’t care that she’s mad; I’m not taking it back.

“So, what is it then, Golden?” I say, stressing her name. “Can you see your future? Are you going to be 65 still trying to wield a whip? Or worse yet, are you going to turn into Elena?”

She shivers, I think at the thought of becoming what Elena did, up to and including her demise.

“I used to see my future clearly,” she admits. “Now, I’m not so sure.”

“So, one thing we can say for sure,” I say. “We’re definitely the blind leading the blind, so we’re going to have to set some rules—and they may evolve as we go along—and see what happens. It’s either that, or we walk away now.” I want her, but I will walk away as opposed to go through this cat-and-mouse thing she likes to play.

“So, what are the rules?” she asks.

“First rule,” I begin. “One of us doesn’t get to set all the rules. We both indicate what we want and what we don’t want. If the other can’t deal, then we call it a day.”

“Okay,” she agrees.

“Second rule. None of this disappearing, now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t bullshit. If you want out, be a woman and say so and at least give me a reason why. That I-have-the-power-over-your-soul shit that you were doing before, that’s a definite hard limit.” She nods.

“Okay… I can understand that,” she says.

“I know I’ll have more, but I want to know what you have.”

“My clients,” she says.

“What about ‘em?” I ask.

“I’m a sadist, Christian,” she says. “What do you expect me to do?”

“The same thing you do now,” I reply. “I’m not expecting you to change unless you want that. I find the power that you wield over men extremely sexy, and the fact that they can’t fuck you is even sexier… but the fact that I can is mind-boggling.”

“So, you’re seriously okay with me chaining up and beating other men and masturbating them and jacking them off.” It’s a question in the form of a statement.

“Yes,” I say, matter-of-factly. “In fact, I’m expecting you to lift that ban from me so I can watch.” She shakes her head.

“You’re weird,” she says. I lean over a bit and cock my head at her.

“And you’re not?” I accuse. She twists her lips.

“Touché,” she replies. “So… is there anything that you would prefer I don’t do?”

“Only one thing,” I say. I have her attention now. “I already know that you’re not going to let them fuck you. They can smell you if you want that, but they can’t lick your pussy.” She gazes at me for a moment.

“That’s your only condition for my clients?” she asks.

“Oh, one more… they can’t come to your house. I don’t want the same implements that you use on me being used on them.” Her eyes widen. Okay, this must be a surprise of some kind.

“Okay, well, first, I never use the same implements on any clients, except for impact instruments and binds.” I think she may have been a bit offended by that implication.

“Second, you’re only the second person who has ever come to my home in that capacity, and the first was years ago. And third, you’re still going to be a client?”

Oh, that? Did she expect me to just fuck her and that was it?

“Is that going to be a problem?” I ask. She shrugs.

“No, I just… I didn’t…” Mm-hm.

“Yeah, I know,” I stop her stuttering. “You thought I just wanted the pussy and that was it, right?” She shrugs again. “I can’t blame you. I guess I would have thought the same thing. You’ve got some good pussy, but Ana, if that’s all that I was after, it’s not worth repeatedly getting your ass beat for it.”

There’s a long pause.

“Then why do you do it?” she asks.

“The same reason your other clients do it,” I reply. “We need more. We need to be drawn out and pulled to that edge. We need that endorphin release that we get from the pain mixed with the pleasure. If all I wanted to do was fuck, I could have stayed with Juliet. She couldn’t give me what I needed. She was as vanilla as they came. I knew I needed more; I just didn’t know what I needed…”

“What about all your women?” she asks. “You said that I can keep all my clients. Am I supposed to consent to you fucking and beating anyone you want?”

“First of all, yes, I beat women in the beginning, but I discovered that it wasn’t my thing. Second, since the day that I met you, every woman that I fucked whether I was looking at her face or her ass, I was still seeing you. Balls deep in some cunt, and I’m still feeling your whip on my back. And when we fucked today and you dug your nails into my back, I still felt the pain that you inflict while enduring the massive fucking orgasms that you induce. So, tell me, Goldie—why the fuck would I want Memorex when I can get it live? Who the hell wants to shop when I can get everything I need in one place?” She laughs heartily.

“You really have a way with words,” she says, climbing out of the bed. “So, Christian,” she says, stressing my name, “I really am hungry. Do you have something to eat in this palace, or should we order some food?”

I stand and remember the sting of my back. She walks over to me.

“Let me look at it,” she says. I allow her to lift my shirt and examine my back. “Do you have any bandages here?” she asks.

“Probably nothing besides band-aids,” I reply.

“Well, you better get some,” she says, without saying anything else. She puts more ointment on my wounds. “You probably can’t do much right now but leave the shirt on over the wounds and we should check it every so often. That shirt’s going to be ruined, too.”

“I figured as much,” I say. I put on my pajama pants and put the shirt over my T-shirt, then I go to the en suite and retrieve my robe for Ana.

“Let’s go find sustenance,” I tell her as I hand her my robe. I exit my bedroom and find Mrs. Jones and Taylor in the kitchen… caught in an intimate embrace.

They’ve been working for me for years. How did I not know this?

I clear my throat startling them, then watch them leap ten feet then scramble like roaches to release one another.

“Sir,” Taylor says, stumbling over his words as Mrs. Jones needlessly smooths her clothing and her hair. “I thought you… we were just… um…”

“I’m aware of what you were doing, Taylor,” I say, raising a brow at him.

“I apologize, sir,” he says, pulling at his tie. “I… didn’t know if this… would present a problem.”

“Are you going to quit, run away, and get married?” I ask. Taylor clears his throat and sharpens his glare at me. Uh oh, did I put my foot in it?

“No, Mr. Grey,” Mrs. Jones interjects, noticing some obvious discomfort, “there’s no absconding in our immediate future.”

Taylor has his back to her, but he actually looks a little relieved.

“Then there’s no problem,” I say, nixing the subject. “Mrs. Jones, what’s for dinner? We’re famished…”

*-*

“You never told me what ‘Chopper’ meant,” I say as we’re finishing dinner at the breakfast bar. She chuckles.

“It’s something that I came up with the first time I saw you at Crimson. It’s a cross between ‘copper’ and ‘hottie.'” My brow furrows.

“Copper? Why copper?”

“Because of the color of your hair at the time,” she says. “Your hair was a browning copper. It’s a little gray now, but anyway, copper and hottie equals Chopper.” I chuckle.

“You’re one of the reasons it’s turning gray,” I jest, “you and my sister dropping the whole I need a kidney thing in my lap.”

“Yeah,” she says, “I noticed it set in rather quickly.” I raise my brow.

“Is it a problem?” I ask. She scoffs.

“I have clients who are bald, Christian. A little gray is certainly not a problem.” She feathers her hands through my hair. “In fact, it’s kind of hot.” She plays in it a little more then asks, “How is your sister?”

“Did you meet her?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“I only had Taylor call your parents. I didn’t… insert myself in any way.” Okay.

“She’s doing fine,” I tell her. “There’s always a concern for rejection, but so far, she’s doing very well. I had to have a little talk with her about keeping things from the family, not only because this is something very big and it could have killed her, but also because the secrets nearly destroyed my family.”

“Secrets?” she asks. “With an ‘s?’”

“Yes,” I confess. I’ve told Ronnie, I suppose I can tell Ana. “My sister was on dialysis for seven years; no one knew that I practice a BDSM lifestyle; and my brother couldn’t give Mia a kidney because he’s a coke-head.” Her eyes sharpen.

“Jesus, Christian!” she says. “So… all of this came out at once?”

“Pretty much,” I tell her. “Dad knew everybody’s secret and Mom knew nobody’s secret, so she wasn’t speaking to anybody for a while… except Mia. Mia’s staying with my parents now.”

“Wait a minute… your father knew that you were in the community?” she asks, a bit stunned. Hold on to your thong, Golden.

“Oh, the good judge knows all about the lifestyle,” I inform her. “It nearly destroyed his marriage to my mom and he’s the one who introduced me to it.” She shakes her head.

“All those times I’ve argued cases in front of him… I can usually spot a sub a mile away, even in hiding. I never had a clue…”

“Well, he’s not in the lifestyle anymore and he wasn’t a sub,” I clarify. “And since you work with him, I’ve already told you too much.”

“Have we met?” she asks, folding her arms. “If there’s anyone who knows only too well the importance of discretion, I think you already know that you’re looking at her. And I wouldn’t have pegged him for a Dom either—even less than I would have pegged him for a sub. He hides it very well. I had him all mapped out as the guy who smokes a pipe on Sunday while the grandkids play at his feet.”

“Far from it,” I say, but I don’t tell her anything else because I don’t want to taint her view of Judge Grey any further. “My mother loves him very much, so he’s working to get back into her good graces as we speak.”

We’re silent for a moment, then I bring the conversation back over to my nickname.

“I thought you called me Chopper because you knew that I’m a helicopter pilot.” Her eyes widen.

“You’re a helicopter pilot?” she asks, surprised. I nod.

“I don’t get into the air as much as I would like, but yes, I am.” She clears her throat.

“I’ve never even been in a helicopter before… Have you ever taken Blondie for a ride in it?” I frown.

“Who the fuck is Blondie?” As soon as the question is out of my mouth, I remember who Blondie is.

“No! No, Blondie has never been in my copter. It might have fallen out of the air from the sheer evil.” I add the last part as an afterthought.

“Do you ever feel any kind of conviction or… regret that she’s dead?” she asks. “That she died the way that she did?” I shake my head.

“Did I want her to die? Did I wish that on her? No. Do I care that she’s gone? Not in the slightest—one less psycho bitch in the world. To be honest, as conniving as she turned out to be, I’m surprised that she didn’t meet her demise sooner at the hands of someone else. I guess her little games weren’t enough for someone to want to cause her any real damage.” She clears her throat and shrugs.

“It’s late,” She says once we’ve finished our dinner. “I need to call Blake and let him know that I’m okay.” My turn to clear my throat. “What’s the matter?” she asks with a frown.

“He could be a problem for me,” I admit. She raises her brow.

“Why is that?” she asks.

“You don’t know?” I say. “He’s the only submissive you have. I know men. You don’t think he’s waiting for his chance to fuck you?”

“I know he’s not,” she replies. “That’s not the nature of our relationship at all and it never will be. We both made that very clear years ago and it hasn’t changed.”

“Yet,” I point out. “You and I made that clear, too, and look where we are.”

“You and I are quite different, and you know that, Christian,” she says firmly. “Our relationship was suggestive before it ever became physical, and I’ve never even seen Blake naked let alone touched him sexually.”

“Get rid of Taylor,” she says flatly. I can’t get rid of Taylor. It took years for him to be chiseled the way I want, to know my thoughts and habits before I know them. There’s no way in hell… and my face must say it all.

“It’s the same with Blake,” she informs me. “He’s not going anywhere… ever! When I lose my splendor, and you go your way, Blake will still be there. I’ll never let him go.”

“You have to see how inappropriate that is,” I protest.

“Why? Because he’s a man?” she asks. “Do you fuck Taylor?” I grimace.

“Of course not!” I retort.

“I don’t fuck Blake either,” I say. “You have to understand that he’s the most important person in my life second only to my parents. He was there when no one else was there. He’s my family, and if you make me choose between the two of you, there’s no contest. I choose him. And if he tries to do the noble thing and leave because of you, I’ll make you leave, too. I have many clients, but Blake’s much more than that. He’s my submissive, the only one that I have, and I won’t. Give him up. Take it or leave it, Chopper.”

I roll my eyes. I have to deal with Belvedere if I want to have Ana in my life.
But weren’t you dealing with Belvedere anyway?

“I’m confused with your logic,” she adds. You’ll allow me to suck and stroke and beat my clients—while you watch—but you want me to get rid of Blake who, to the outside observer, is nothing more than a butler.”

“But you and I know that your relationship with Blake is much more intimate than any other relationship in your life, including ours,” I point out. I shake my head.

“I can’t deny that,” she says, “but the bottom line is, I don’t fuck Blake. So, this conversation is moot. We’re a package, Chopper. You don’t have to be his best friend. You don’t even have to like him, but he’s not going anywhere.” She folds her arms.

“He wants you,” I confess. “I see it in his eyes.”

“He does not want me,” she nearly hisses. “You think everyone wants me because you want me. You can wrap your hand around your dick and make yourself come so hard that your brains will squirt out of the head and my hand will still make you come harder. Why? Because I know men, Chopper. I know you better than you know yourselves. He wants something from me, yes, but it’s not my ass. You’ll never understand what it is because you don’t know what it is, and you never will. You can’t put a label on his need, so you label it as sexual because that’s the only thing you know!

“He’s supplies something that I need, and I supply something that he needs, and I guarantee that our genitals have absolutely nothing to do with it. Stay in your lane with this one, Chopper, because you have a ‘submissive’ of sorts, too—it’s just that neither of you know it. You think Taylor stays with your insufferable ass because of the money? You think those zeroes are too much to walk away from? I dare you to ask him!”

I nearly gag.

“Are you trying to say that Taylor is my submissive?” I whisper harshly, appalled.

“That man will do anything you tell him to,” she emphasizes. “Offer him a year’s severance pay, or two years, and tell him you don’t need him anymore. Then just watch his face.” She folds her arms confidently and just stares at me.

“Blake could so easily cross that line whereas Taylor definitely will not,” I warn.

“Blake definitely will not,” she says confidently. “Take it or leave it, Christian. This is non-negotiable.” I sigh.

“If I can deal with you jacking off other clients, I guess I can deal with Belvedere,” I cede.

“Belvedere??” she asks, bemused and a bit shocked.

Oh hell, did I say that out loud?


Briana Evigan Chapter 13small

GOLDEN

I feel him coming inside me as I edge his dick. He’s pulsing and coming so hard that his cum is slipping out of me and sliding down his throbbing dick to his walnut-tight-skinned balls. He’s lost in such pleasure that he’s frozen underneath me, his mouth open wide just like his legs, gazing at me in amazement. He’s holding his breath, sweat trickling down his brow, and the only part of him that is moving is his throbbing dick. It’s fabulous!

I haven’t come yet, but the Domme in me had to watch him, feel him fall apart inside of me. I pinned his hands down on the bed with all my weight and fucked just the head of his cock with my pussy, tightening the muscles at just the right time of the stroke and every time he tried to thrust up into me, I raised my hips high so that he would only get the edging. When he realized what I was doing, he finally kept his hips still, trembling increasingly as he came closer and closer to orgasm.

Once I knew he was ready to blow, I leaned down and bit the tender meat between his neck and shoulder. He couldn’t even cry out. He just started jerking and blasting inside of me. I slowly rolled my hips to stimulate the head of his dick and just watched as his pupils nearly eclipsed his irises, his throat trying to make a sound but his lungs unable to provide him breath.

He’s coming so hard that his eyes are looking through me and he’s lost on some celestial plane.

When his chest finally gives up a massive puff of air and he’s choking to find his breath, I drop my hips down onto his still throbbing cock, taking it balls deep, and stay there. He’s still trembling and fighting for breath and I’m just watching him and enjoying his helpless state. It takes him a while, but he finally settles and closes his eyes. I release his hands and he uses them to wipe the sweat from his forehead and away from his eyes.

Yes, Christian, I know how to fuck… I just didn’t do it.

“Jesus, you’re going to fucking kill me, aren’t you?” he asks once he catches his breath.

“Well, that’s not my intention,” I clarify. He moves a bit and winces. “What?” I ask.

“My back,” he says, sitting up with me on his lap. Oh, yeah, I forgot about that.

“Let me see it,” I say, crawling off his lap. He hisses hard when his cock slides out of me.

“Let me use the restroom first,” he says. He swings his legs off the bed and heads for the bathroom. I get a look at his ass as he’s leaving—tight and firm—but I also get a look at his back. It looks irritated; the welts are redder and a bit thicker. I reach for the Vitamin A&D ointment on the bedside table and wait for him to return. I hear the toilet flush and the water running in the sink. A few moments later, he immerges from the bathroom. I hold up the tub of ointment.

“It looks bad,” I say, “like it might be irritated.”

“I suspected as much,” he says walking back to the bed. “It stings like hell. I’ll get some antibiotic ointment tomorrow.” He sits on the bed with his back to me and I apply the ointment to the scratches—eight perfect stripes. I could never get this precise with a whip.

I commit my work of art to memory and put the tub back on the nightstand. When I turn back, he’s looking at me.

“You didn’t come, did you?” he ask. I shake my head.

“I was distracted,” I admit. He scoffs a laugh.

“Ever the Domme,” he remarks, and he’s right. I was dominating him when I held him down and edged him with my pussy. “You’ve spent quite some time showing me how good you can make a man feel. Why don’t you allow me to show you how good I can make a woman feel?”

“You have shown me how good you can make a woman feel,” I protest. Why do you think I’m still here?

“No,” he protests, closing the space between us, “I haven’t.” Oh, shit. “I can’t until you give me permission, and then you have to agree to give yourself over to me. If you fight it and you try to remain in control, you’ll never feel it. And you’re a Dominant, so you know what I mean.”

Jesus, give myself over to someone? Lose myself to a man? Does he have any idea what he’s asking me?

“I’m not sure I can do that, Chopper,” I tell him. “I don’t think I’ve ever done that. I can’t lose myself in giving you something that you want.”

“I get it,” he says softly. “Domme and total surrender don’t really work in the same breath, do they?” I shake my head. “Then give me this much… pay attention to your body and not your mind. Just feel, and let’s see how far we can go. You can stop me at any time.”

“Now, you’re sounding like the Dominant,” I warn. He raises his brow.

“There’s a little of it in me, as you already know,” he admits, “but I’m a man, first… one who appreciates a woman’s body and knows how to make it feel good, but you have to let me.”

Good Lord, I won’t let this go to my head.

“Okay,” I say, still not sure that I want to let him do this.

“And you’re still thinking about it,” he says. “I can see it in your eyes. Just lie down, relax, and feel.”

He waits for me to follow his directions. They’re simple, but they’re still directions. I can get out of my head just for a minute. It’s not that hard.

I don’t allow him to see me take a deep breath. I just do what he says, lie down, and concentrate on my body. He pushes my legs up and goes right for the money. His hands and mouth begin to do wonderful things to my body, but my mind can’t relax. I simply can’t give a man control of me that way. I’m not one of those relax into it girls. I’m in control—of both orgasms. If I have to move the right way or lay the right way to get the right stroke, that I can do because I’m still controlling the stroke, thus controlling the orgasm. But just lay here and let you have control, do what you want to do to me… I can’t do that.

“You just can’t do it, can you?” Christian asks. After several minutes of doing things that feel wonderful and send shivers down my spine, I still can’t get to that place of complete and total surrender. I sigh and relax into his bed.

“No, I can’t,” I admit, looking up at the ceiling and feeling somewhat like a failure. I could lie here and beat myself up about not being a regular girl, but the truth is… I’m not a regular girl. I never will be. If that’s what he’s looking for, he’s going to be disappointed. I’m a little too deep in thought, because I don’t even feel him crawl over my body. I just look up and he’s right in my face.

“You don’t know me yet,” he says, “and you don’t trust me…”

“I know you just fine, Chopper,” I reply, rolling my eyes. I’m fucking you, for Christ’s sake.

“No. You don’t,” he says, firmly. “You don’t know me yet, and you don’t trust me, but that’s okay. It’ll take time.”

I twist my lips at him. Chopper, I know you about as intimately as I will ever know any man, but that’s okay. I won’t argue with you. He rises off of me and puts his knees on either side of my body.

“Now, roll over. I’ve denied myself that ass long enough.” My brows furrow.

“Um, Chopper, I decide when I do anal,” I chide.

“Who said anything about anal?” he says cockily, “Although I’ll be very happy when you do decide. Now are you going to roll over so I can make you come, or do we have to debate that, too?” I raise a brow at him, then look down at his flaccid cock.

“You don’t look like you’re really ready for all that,” I say, pointing out the obvious.

“Put that ass in my face and you’ll see just how ready I am,” he retorts. “Again, debating.”

He sits there on his knees waiting for me to make a decision. Fine. Since you’re so high and mighty, let’s see what you can do.

I roll over and push up on my knees, ready for doggie style. I don’t care who you are, no man in the world can get around an ass with a flaccid dick. I suddenly feel a wet finger toying with my clit.

That’s nice and all, but that’s a finger, Chopper, not a cock.

Next, his thumb thrusts into my cunt—hard. He’s doing some movement with both fingers like he’s trying to make them meet even though one is inside me and one is on my clit.

Fuck… that’s nice.

I hear him groan behind me, and his free hand grads my ass firmly and squeezes, then rubs. The next thing I know, that once-flaccid cock is between my ass cheeks, causing a mean friction and getting harder and harder. I’m concentrating on the “meeting fingers” below and wondering what kind of contorting he must be doing to do these both at the same time.

To my dismay, a few moments later, he removes the meeting fingers. However, he positions himself between my legs, pushing them open and pulling my hips closer to him. He doesn’t waste any time. I feel him guide the head of his cock right to the pussy he’d been preparing and thrust in deeply.

“Shit!” I hiss as he enters. I have to adjust myself to get the right angle, because he’s got a lot of dick! I’ve definitely seen that thing up close and personal.

He thrusts again and I adjust again. I think I got it this time. When he thrusts a third time…

“Fuck…” I groan as the breath is nearly snatched out of my body.

“Better?” he asks, his voice husky. I nod.

“Yes… better…” I say breathily, and he begins to move… long, slow, deep strokes in and out. I can tell that he’s admiring my ass because he’s grabbing it and caressing it with each stroke—holding my hips or squeezing and kneading the meat as his cock drives hotly into me from behind. Dear God, it feels so good!

“I dreamed of fucking you like this,” he grunts as he thrust. “I woke up and fucking nutted all over myself!”

He grabs my hips and ass and thrusts into me again and again, hitting perfect spots deep inside me, hard and slow. Shit, this is magnificent!

He abandons my ass and begins to rub my back, moving one hand to my shoulder to push me hard against him as he kisses my spine. I feel a shiver go straight from the kiss to my pussy and I can’t prevent the resulting gasp and slight whimper. I push back into him on every thrust, close my eyes, and prepare for the orgasm…

But Chopper’s not done, yet.

He lays on my back and reaches around my body to my breast. Cupping the mound and tweaking the nipple, he continues his deep thrusts into me. I can barely move and after a few minutes of mind-blowing nipple manipulation and a hard, thick cock driving into me and hitting all the right places, my arms buckle, and I nearly collapse onto the bed.

He catches me quickly and pulls me back, sitting me on his lap and his still-thumping cock. He moves quickly to get me into a comfortable position, but never removes that cock.

Goddamn, this man is talented.

He wraps strong arms around my torso and thrusts slowly up into me. When he pushes up into me balls deep, my body rises with his and we move as one person. I try to guide myself, my body, in the manner it needs to move or the direction I want to go, but he has me plastered against him, thrusting mercilessly into me. The only part of our body that separates between us is our hips when he pulls them back to withdrawal, then pushes forward to thrust into me again.

I feel sweat forming on the skin between us as one arm releases me and moves between my legs to my clit while the other remains firmly wrapped around me, the hand tweaking my nipple again.

Fuck, I’m going to come.

I try to hold out because I know what he’s doing. He’s pushing me. He’s still trying to gain control of my body, but I won’t let him have it… I won’t let…

“Ah!”

Just the right amount of pressure on my clit coupled with a perfect pinch of my nipple and an aptly timed thrust of his magnificent cock wrenched an unsolicited cry from me, prompting the beginning of the aforementioned interrupted orgasm.

His moves become more deliberate and I know he’s rising, too. I can tell by the reactions of his body because I know it so well, but then…

His hand moves from my breast to my neck, gripping it firmly but gently. I freeze, but he can’t feel it. His strokes are more intent. His head is pressed against me on my shoulders and he’s lost in what he’s feeling.

And I’m starting to panic.

My eyes are wide open and I’m acutely aware of my surroundings—of the hand on my neck and the fact that I can’t move. I can’t breathe… not because he’s choking me, but because I feel trapped.

Relax… relax, Golden. He’ll let you go once he comes… and he’s trying to make you come. Think about your pussy instead of your power, just this once…

Just this once, I concentrate on my pussy—how he feels thrusting in and out of me, how his fingers feel against my clit, his body pressed against mine… and his hand clasped around my neck.

For a fleeting moment, I think about how hot it would be if it was someone else being choked and fucked, and suddenly, my crotch reminds me that it’s still aching to come, still rising to the occasion when…

“Aaaaaaahhhhh…”

A violent and nearly unwilling orgasm rips through me, surprising me since I—for a brief moment—wasn’t anticipating its approach. It’s beyond blinding. It’s dizzying, and only for a second can I feel Christian trembling painfully through his own. My entire body is tight, and I’m sure that I’m going to lose some time when this is all over…

*-*

It’s still dark outside when I awake, and all I can think is that I want to be in my own space, in my own bed. I look over at Christian and he’s laid out on his pillow fast asleep. I creep out of bed and gather my clothes, donning only what I need to get to my car. Once I’m done, I pull my hair into a messy bun and secure it with a hairpin. When I turn around, Christian is staring at me.

“Where are you going?” he asks, his voice even. I don’t bother lying.

“Home,” I reply.

“It’s nearly three in the morning,” he protests, awaiting my answer.

“I need my own bed,” I tell him. “I’m not ready for the snuggling part, Christian. You’ve got to give me time.”

“Well, see, there’s a little problem with that,” he says, raising up and leaning on one arm. “When it comes to you, I have tiny little abandonment issues. I’m sure you know why.”

“I’m not abandoning you,” I say, frustrated, while rolling my eyes. “I’m just…”

“Escaping,” he finishes the sentence for me.

“Yes!” I admit. “Escaping. That’s exactly what I’m doing. It’s what I’ve done for years after every scene. I escape to myself and I reflect. It has nothing to do with you, but I’m not ready for the snuggling thing.” He examines me for a long time, then adjusts the covers over him.

“Fine,” he says calmly, “goodnight.” He turns away from me and pulls the covers over his shoulders, settling in for the night. Well, damn, Christian, do you have to act like a toddler about it? I shake my head and turn to the door.

“Ana?” he catches me just as I’m leaving. I look over my shoulder and he hasn’t moved from his position.

“I mean it,” he says. “If this is one of your games…”

“I know,” I say. “Don’t come back.” He pauses.

“As long as you understand.” He says nothing else.

I creep quietly out of his room and his apartment. The ride home is quite introspective. He ripped control from me whether I wanted him to or not, and he knows he did, but it was all in the name of pleasure. So, what am I supposed to do?

Blake awakens when I enter the house. Now, here’s two men I have to justify myself to when I’m not accustomed to justifying myself at all.

“Mistress… are you alright?” he asks, securing the belt from his robe.

“I’m fine,” I say softly. He cocks his head and examines me.

“I didn’t expect you,” he says. “I thought you would… be spending the evening with Mr. Grey.” I know what he’s saying, but like I said, I don’t justify myself to anyone.

“I did,” I say, “and now, I need my own space.” I don’t say anything else. I go into the parlor and open the farthest cabinet—where I’ve kept what was left of his vodka since the last… no, the second to last time he sent me a case. I retrieve a bottle—still unopened—and crack open the seal. I pour an entire drink glass full of it and down half of it immediately. Blake stands silently for a moment.

“Would you like a bath, Mistress?” he says calmly. I ponder for a moment.

“Yes… I would…

I tell Blake everything that happened with me and Chopper while I’m in the bath, including the somewhat limbo status of our relationship, only in limbo because we’ve only laid out a few of the terms and when I left, desperately needing my own space, he thought I was going to disappear again. He’s going to have to understand that I need that time alone after a session—or a scene—because that’s who I am. I never was a cuddler, and I don’t think I ever will be.

Blake spends the entire conversation talking to his reflection in the mirror. Even with the tub filled with bubbles, he refuses to look at me when I’m naked. He asks me if I feel anything for Christian and I honestly answer him with a “yes.” Although I’m not totally sure what it is, I’m completely sure what it’s not.

“The best way that I can explain it to you is that I definitely want him around,” I tell him. “I want what he can give me, and I want what I do to him. I don’t think I need to stress that it’s not about the gifts.”

“It’s never been about the gifts with any of your clients, Mistress,” Blake says to the mirror, “but is he still your client?” I know what he’s asking.

“In the technical sense, yes, he is. In the literal sense, we haven’t put a label on the entire scope of our relationship.” Blake nods and says nothing. “Spit it out, Blake. I know when you’re thinking something and you’re not saying it.”

“I should probably start looking for my own place, Mistress,” he says.

“You should not,” I say firmly. “Nothing has changed…”

“Everything has changed, Mistress,” he says with no malice.

“Whatever your relationship is or is not with Mr. Grey, there’s not going to be room for another man in your life as intimately as I am.”

“What the hell is it with men?” I say, frustrated, and the bathroom is silent for a moment.

“He’s had this conversation with you, too…”

“Yes, he has,” I say, looking at the side of Blake’s face, “and I’ll tell you the same thing that I told him. You are a non-negotiable factor. He wouldn’t tell me to disown a member of my family and he can’t tell me to send you away. If I were forced to choose between the two of you, I would choose you and he understands that. I thought you did, too. I thought you knew how important you are to me.”

“I do, Mistress,” he says, his voice a bit pained, “but…”

“But nothing!” I say firmly, becoming frustrated. “How could you possibly think that any relationship anywhere in any context could replace who you are to me? What you mean to me? How could you think that any body, no matter how tempting, any dick, no matter how beautiful, could possibly fill in the massive chasm that would be left in my life by losing you? I love you, Blake, and not in that ooey-gooey let’s-run-off-into-the-sunset kind of way. Losing you would be an insurmountable loss second only to the loss of my parents. I don’t think I would recover. When you are too old and unable to take care of me, I will take care of you. Do you understand that?”

For the first time, Blake turns to look at me while I’m in the tub. We stare into each other’s eyes for several moments, and then he gives me that half-smile.

“Yes, Mistress,” he says, softly. “What would you like for dinner?”

*-*

I think he was shocked to see a text from me telling him to meet me at my place on Friday night. I’m in full Golden glory and he doesn’t dawdle, heading to the dungeon the moment he sees me. I work him over hard… and well. I need to remind him that I’m still in charge of me, and sometimes, of him, too.

I don’t hold back. I rake him over the coals with agony and ecstasy. I pay close attention to him because there are several times when he cries out and I’m sure that he’s going to safeword, but he doesn’t, and I don’t let up. The truth is… I’ve missed this. I’ve missed tormenting his body, watching his reactions, and making him come so hard that his brain damn near separates from his body. Tonight, I’m making up for lost time.


Eric Dane 16 small

TREY

I don’t think I’ve been tormented this much in the entire time that I’ve known her.

I was hesitant to come when she called. I had no idea what was on her agenda. Did she want to fuck? Was she going to dismiss me like she did before? Did she plan to beat and edge me again and leave me pissed with an angrily pounding dick?

When I arrived and she was wearing what I can only describe as a gold, beaded belly-dancing outfit, gold gladiator boots, a gold cape with black accents, and a blonde wig so yellow that it was gold, too, I knew that she meant business. I told her that she would have to learn to trust me, so I decided to trust her too, determined that if she fucked me over this time, she didn’t exist anymore.

I don’t regret the decision.

I know that she’s imposing her power on me, and I let her. After all, over and above everything, she’s still my Mistress.

I have been beaten, flogged, cropped, and caned to my wits end, and throughout the entire ordeal, she’s teasing, taunting, and sucking my cock. The first orgasm was immediate, before any of her implements even touched me. I think she felt like she owed me that one. The three that follow are agony—long, drawn-out processes of extension and denial mingled with the crack of her whip, the strikes of her floggers, crops, and paddles, and the snaps of her canes.

She’s never used canes before. Those, I’m certain, were punishment for that last orgasm I ripped from her earlier in the week.

The final orgasm is particularly torturous. I’m chained to the ceiling and floor, eagle-spread like I’ve been all night. It’s been an exercise in endurance, strength, and stamina that I’ll never forget. By body is on fire, both from pain and from the massive endorphins coursing through me at the moment. My cock and balls are restrained in that torturous cock harness she used on me the last time I was down here, and once she’s sucked, beaten, and tickled me until my body is too weak to resist and my cock and balls are straining in the harness and aching to come, she removes the bottom half of her costume.

My knees nearly buckle as she turns her glorious, bare ass around to my view. She begins to sensually rub her hips and ass while I’m watching, and I discover that her hands are oiled.

Fuck! My cock begins to bob and thump at the site of it, and I nearly want to come just from watching her.

She does this for an eternity, rolling her hips and ass as she oils it thoroughly, around the globes, between the cheeks… I think I’m fucking going to die. But I’m soon rewarded for resisting the urge to depart this earthly plain.

She backs up to me, bends over with her hands on the floor, and begins to rub that ass against my rock-hard dick and painfully constrained balls. Fucking hell, I can’t take this—that beautiful fucking ass that has invaded my fucking dreams is massaging and caressing my angry veiny dick… Sweet Jesus…

Her oiled ass runs over my cock, over and over again. I want that ass so badly that the sight of it squeezing and caressing my cock is just too much for me. I can’t hold it in. I don’t even try. I’m too damn weak and broken to resist anyway.

“Mistress! Aahh!” I say through gritted teeth as I feel my balls tightening even more. Her second favorite implement to use on me is holding my ejaculation back while her big, beautiful ass grabs my entire dick, pumping and massaging it ferociously. I throw caution to the wind and thrust up into those delicious cheeks. She knows I want to fuck her; she knows I want to fuck this ass; and now she’s doing this to me?

“Aah! Aah! Mistress! Aah!” I grunt as I fuck that delicious ass. Those beautiful bubbles are stimulating me from base to tip even though there’s no actual penetration. My dick can’t tell. All it can feel is the fuck… the meat of her ass closing over its hot and sensitive skin and protruding veins. I lick my lips as I continue to fuck those beautiful ass cheeks, and she lets me.

“Mistress…” I groan again as the pleasure is become way too much for me to take without release. How the hell can she work her hips like this bent the fuck in half and touching the floor—so masterfully that I want to fucking cry right now?

It’s the pole. That goddamn pole.

She rolls and rolls and rolls, saying nothing as her round ass juices my angry, pulsing dick—and I fuck her, thrusting my hips as far as my restraints will allow into that welcoming crease until my balls finally tap out in surrender.

“Mistress! Golden! Aaaahh! Golden!” I cry out as my cock comes painfully, ignoring the restraint of the cock harness. It’s fucking painful and paralyzingly Nirvanic, and I need her to stop moving so that the agony in my cock can stop, but she doesn’t. I watch my cum shoot powerfully out of my dick and decorate the top of her asscheeks and back.

It just makes me come harder.

“Aah, Golden! Aah, God!” I wail, fighting to get out of my restraints and away from the blinding pain of this orgasm. My dick is coming and coming and coming and throbbing and bumping like those poor suckers I see at her mercy in the exhibition room. God, this shit hurts! It hurts so good! My dick is burning with a pleasure and a fury that sucks all thought from my head and I can only feel and see my massive orgasm.

My God in heaven, it’s magnificent! I’ll do anything for you, my Mistress! Give you anything! Anything! It’s yours! Your wish is my command…

I’ve lost time again. I open my eyes and I’m sitting in a chair—nearly prostrate—and no longer bound. My painful dick is flaccid, but oh, so satisfied, still aching from its massive release… and I’m alone in the dungeon. I woozily sit up, trying to stand. I don’t even bother getting dressed. I step into my boxer briefs and gather the rest of my clothes. The ass was just too much for me. I’ve fantasized about it and tried to mimic it with others, but once she put it on me… just let me run my dick between her cheeks… I’m as empty as a dry well. I ascend the stairs where I know I’ll find him.

“Do you need anything?” he asks. I don’t make eye-contact with him. I can barely raise my head.

“A bath…” I mumble, “please.”

“Right this way…”

*-*

I spent the night at Ana’s that night—in her guest room, of course. The morning after was… interesting. Neither of us knew how to act and just thought normal would be the best option. There have been many more nights and days like that since then

Dinner in the evening followed by a hot fuck…
A scene in the dungeon where I shoot the rockets’ red glare then go home—or spend the night in the guestroom if the scene was too intense…
Watching her work over one of her clients while trying not to nut in the exhibition room…

Things seem to be going well for about three weeks when something unexpected happens at Grey House. When I return from having lunch with Ronnie, there’s a visitor in my lobby—the last damn person I would expect to see. I do a double take.

“Bel… Blake?” He’s already looking at me. He saw me before I saw him. “Is she alright?”

“She’s fine, sir,” he says, and nothing else. I glare at him for a moment, but he’s not going to say anything else, at least not here.

“Come with me,” I say, gesturing for him to follow me.

He stands and I escort him into the first-floor conference room and close the door. Taylor knows who he is, so he just stands outside the door.

“Have a seat,” I gesture to the conference table.

“I’d rather stand, sir,” he says. Okay, well then, I’m standing, too.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“May I speak freely, Sir?” he says. I frown.

“You’re… not my submissive. You don’t need my permission to say what you need to say,” I reply. His expression doesn’t change, but he clasps his hands in front of him and spreads his feet shoulder width. I’ve seen Taylor take this stance many times.

“I’m considering leaving,” he says. Oh, dear Lord, has God heard my prayers?

“May I ask why?” I say, my expression becoming impassive.

“Mistress doesn’t need me anymore,” he says flatly. I pause.

“I’m still not sure what you mean.” Was he fucking her before? It sure felt like she was tight as hell that first time… and that second time… shit, every time… What were we talking about again?

“Mistress was accustomed to me doing all the little things that she may not have paid attention to… unless they weren’t done. Now, she has so many things filling those blanks in her life that she didn’t know she didn’t have, that she didn’t know she needed. The ache of the emptiness left by her parents has been filled by receiving all the memoirs from her childhood once her uncle died. She has reconnected with her family, so that gap of loneliness has been filled. She has made a friend or two from the fundraisers and her yoga instructor…”

Her yoga instructor? Who is her yoga instructor?

“And for those times that she really can’t cope or may be falling apart, she has you. She doesn’t need me anymore.” Oh, shit. I see where this is going.

“Yet, before I was a factor, you weren’t considering leaving,” I point out. He doesn’t respond. “That’s not rhetorical, Blake.”

“Mistress doesn’t need me anymore,” he repeats, “she just doesn’t know it yet.”

He wants me to either say that it’s okay for him to stay or to give him permission to leave. I don’t live with Ana and that’s not something that’s likely to change anytime soon. Nonetheless…

“I’ll tell you what,” I say crossing my arms. “Go to your Mistress and tell her what you just told me. Tell her that you’re considering leaving because she doesn’t need you anymore. Don’t bother explaining anything. Just tell her what you told me and see how that goes over.” He still doesn’t move or respond, so I call him on his shit.

“You’re looking for me to tell you that it’s okay for you to leave. I’m not going to do that, Blake. You decide where your place is with your Mistress and what purpose you fill in her life—and she fills in yours—and you decide if you still want that relationship. That’s not for me to say. I have about as much bearing on your relationship with your Mistress as you have on my relationship with mine, and that’s none. I couldn’t tell her to let go of you any more than I could tell her to release any of her other clients.” His brow rises slightly.

“Your relationship is more intimate than anything that she’s ever had with any of her other… clients,” he says. “The rules have changed, and you and I both know that.”

“Yes, the rules have changed,” I concur, “but they’ve only changed for her and me. Our relationships outside of one another has nothing to do with what we do together.”

He twists his lips in disbelief. I don’t know why he’s coming to me with something that clearly has to do with him and Ana, but he’s not pulling me into it. Even though she has threatened me with sending me away if Blake leaves, that’s not why I’m not giving him permission to leave. I know that Ana would be miserable and unhappy without him, and I really don’t want to see that.

“I don’t know what this is about,” I say. “Maybe you’re not happy with the new status quo, but if you want out, Blake, I’m not giving it to you.”

“I don’t want out,” he says, forcefully, the only emotion he has shown in this entire conversation.

“Then why are we having this conversation?” I ask just as forcefully. “Each piece in Mistress’s life gives her something that she needs. I’m fulfilling a need that she may have never needed before, but she needs it now. I’m not replacing anything… or is there something you’re not telling me?” I put my hands on my hips and wait. Ball’s in your court, Blakey. He pauses for several moments.

“I have never touched Mistress sexually… ever… and she has never touched me that way,” he says calmly.

“Then, where’s the problem?” I ask. “Do you have a problem with me?”

“No, sir, I do not,” he replies. I straighten.

“If you’re calling me ‘sir’ because you’re being polite, I get it. If you’re calling me ‘Sir’ in that way, don’t,” I clarify. He raises a brow and says nothing. Then, out of nowhere I get it.

He doesn’t have a problem with me. He simply wants to be here for her like he always has been, which is the same thing that she wants, but if he feels like his being here is going to be a conflict, he’ll leave to keep her happy. He’s not a threat to me, but she’ll be miserable if he leaves and she’ll definitely resent me for it. I’m about to put this all back on him.

“Do you have a reason for leaving and you’re trying to use me?” I ask. He twists his lips.

“If I had a reason for leaving, sir, I wouldn’t need your permission…”

“Exactly!” I point out. “So, why are you asking for it now?”

“I’m not asking for it,” he says, somewhat defiantly.

“So, what is this conversation?” I cross my arms again. “Are you trying to get me to leave?” He scoffs.

“As if you would,” he says, mostly under his breath.

“Again, the reason for this conversation?” I restate. He doesn’t respond. “Talk. To your Mistress, not to me.”

“I already have,” he says confidently. I raise a brow expecting. Tell me or don’t tell me but make your point and get the fuck out of my face. “She doesn’t want me to leave.”

“And once again, the purpose for this conversation?” I ask, extending one hand in that “I don’t know” fashion.

“I really wanted your thoughts on the situation,” he says finally.

“And you got ‘em. You can’t affect my relationship with my Mistress any more than I can affect yours. Are we going to have a problem?” He twists his lips.

“No, sir, we’re not.” I raise a brow at him, and he knows why. “No, sir, we’re not,” he repeats.

“Well, then, good talk,” I say, proffering my hand to him. He looks at it and takes it in a professional, firm shake. “Will you be preparing dinner tonight or should I bring something?”

“I’ll… ask Mistress what she would like prepared,” he says.

“Good, then, I’ll see you later.”


A/N: Epilogue and Author’s Note posted separately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 27

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.

Explicit details of sex and BDSM scenes from here on out. Some may be hot while others may not be to your taste… and not necessary CG with Ana together. Proceed at your own discretion, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

This ain’t your everyday Christian and Ana story. Don’t expect anything. Just read it as it goes along or go away. 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 new saga continues…

CHAPTER 27

Briana Evigan Ch 27

GOLDEN

I sit in my room for several hours after I leave Trey’s… Christian’s apartment. I don’t know what to think or feel. He turned me away. I want to be angry, but I can’t. I can’t muster up the outrage that I should be feeling, or at least that I think I should be feeling. I want to be angry because of what he took from me.

He took the last word.

I leave them salivating for me. I leave them wanting me, craving me… I leave them aching for the Golden treatment. He obviously wants me, but he sent me away. He told me to leave.

You win—I’m in agony; I can’t take this anymore. You make me want you, but then you say I can’t have you. Then you go away, but you make me want you again. I can’t get you out of my mind. You’re in my blood…

Please, just go, Ana. Just go…

There’s a small satisfaction in knowing that they want you, that they’ll come crawling back to you, even if they know that you’ll push them away… more than small if I’m honest. There’s that knowledge that they want to come back that speaks to the sadistic goddess inside.

He took that away from me. I was there in his home, somewhat available, and he told me to leave. The nerve of him! Although, I guess I’m being a little selfish since the man just gave his sister a kidney and could have died, and I’m stewing over what he took from me.

Instead of concentrating on Christian and his denial, I concentrate on the things that fulfill me—beating the hell out of my clients; watching them suffer and begging to come and then making them explode all over the exhibition room. I often imagine Christian watching me, salivating and nutting all over himself because he can’t have me. I think about him more than I like these days and I even dream about him some nights… dammit.

In one such dream, I was telling him why he couldn’t have me. He was begging and begging, telling me that he would give me anything to make him mine…

“You’re never going to be able to change me,” I tell him. “You’ll never change who I am. You’re saying that this is what you want. This is what you want right now. You’ll want exclusivity. You’ll want me all to yourself. You’ll even want me to get rid of Blake and that’s never going to happen. You will not want me to do to other men what I do to you. You won’t want me to do to them what I do to them. The resentment will set in, and then the hatred, and soon, you won’t be able to stand the sight of me. Why do that to yourself? Why should we do that to each other? Why not walk away now after we’ve had a good run and some good times? Take the good memories that we’ve had and don’t ruin it. Nothing lasts forever, we both know that, so let’s quit while we’re ahead.”

Then, of course, I wake up knowing that he doesn’t want to see me, and the last time he saw me, he sent me away. That indescribable feeling comes back, and I end up beating the hell out of one of my clients again… with Christian watching in my mind’s eye. I’ve actually acquired three more clients in the last two months, one of whom bought me a pair of solid gold stilettos that I’ll never wear.

Shoes are supposed to have some give, people, or you can’t walk in them!

Anywho, I’m still Golden and at least that hasn’t changed.

In other news, there has been an arrest in Blondie’s case. Some miniscule piece of evidence pointed to one guy who, if he had me as his defense, wouldn’t have been fingered for the deed. However, I’m not prone to represent the guilty, not to mention he crumbled under interrogation and confessed to the crime, offering to give up his accomplices for a plea deal as he’s looking at 25 to life. Once his plea was carved in ink, he fingered two other hired killers…

And Linc.

That doesn’t surprise me. Once I saw how badly he beat her before running off to the Bahamas, I knew that he was capable of doing much worse. Once I heard that she had liquidated some of their portfolio to pay the lawsuit, I knew that act wouldn’t go without some kind of punishment. Did I expect her to be killed? No, but I did expect some kind of retaliation. Once I saw how she died, I fully expected Linc to have done it himself. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that he watched the whole thing.

Someone asked me if I felt any conviction over the situation. There’s the fact that the lawsuit was fabricated by me over something that didn’t really happen and that her death was a direct result of paying off that lawsuit. Had it been anyone else, I might have, but let’s look at the facts.

She stole one of my clients by lying to him because I wasn’t available.
She plotted against me to ruin me in the BDSM community by siccing Magic Dick on me.
When it didn’t work out the way she had hoped she threatened my life.
She blamed me for whatever did or didn’t happen to her crummy salons, causing me to hire security so that she didn’t attack me when my back was turned.
She ganged up on me with her frosted fuck creepy husband at the fundraiser a couple of years ago.

And that’s only what she’s done to me.

She broke Christian’s arm.
She falsely accused him of battering her.
Had one thing gone differently—any one thing—after she let him loose on me, he would also be in a wheelchair or dead from a bullet from my gun.

That woman was the devil, and you can’t feel sympathy for Satan.

For me, however, life is a bit… surreal, for lack of a better word. I still get off on my sadistic lifestyle. In fact, I need it now more than ever to maintain balance—but that word…

Balance.

I feel like something is really missing from my life. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, and I refuse to accept that it has anything to do with Christian. He was a chapter in my life that is now closed, and I can deal with that. But besides that, nothing else has really changed. Yet, even with yoga, meditation, and my beloved sadism, I can’t really find the balance that I’m looking for.

In my search for balance, I’ve been spending a little more time with my family. I’ve put more pictures and keepsakes of Mommy and Daddy around the house, things that Aunt Sheila gave me after Uncle Richard died. It makes me feel so much closer to them and I’m very happy about that.

I also try to get to dinner at Aunt Sheila’s at least twice a month. She’s still dealing with Uncle Richard’s death and the fact that more and more has come out about the kind of person that he was since he passed. He was a faithful husband and family man—he just wasn’t a really good person.

One Saturday night, I agree to go with Tracy to a club in the old neighborhood. I’m definitely game for some dancing and a few drinks. So, I put on my Bodycon wine-colored party dress with a sexy side slit and my wine-colored fabric thigh boots and plan to hit the club in Tracy’s Kia. I should have known that it wouldn’t be that easy. We have to wait in line to get in and once we do, we head to a table of Tracy’s friends.

The eye-cutting begins immediately.

“I thought you said your cousin was coming,” one of the girls says accusingly. Tracy gives her a watch-it glare.

“This is my cousin,” Tracy says. “This is Ana.”

“Oh,” she replies popping her neck, and every last one of them turn their heads without addressing me.

Okay, it’s going to be this kind of night. That’s alright, I’m not looking for new friends. I’m looking to dance and drink.

I squeeze into the seat next to one of the girls, who blatantly turns her back to me. I roll my eyes and they rest on Tracy’s, who is sitting across from me. She’s talking to the girl sitting next to her and looking apologetically at me at the same time.

Well, this was a great idea, but I won’t spoil Tracy’s night. I turn my attention to the dancefloor and people watch.

“You look like you could use a dance.”

I’ve sat here for what feels like an eternity, but I know it was only a few minutes, when I look up to see where the voice is coming from.

Tall, dark, and handsome… and he wants to dance.

“I certainly could,” I say. I put my purse across my body, and he leads me to the dance floor. This is what I needed… just to be free and have a good time. I dance for four songs with the guy and as I’m leaving the dancefloor, he hands me a number. I smile prettily and thank him for the dance before I head back to the table.

“Somebody needs some deodorant,” the same girl says to no one in particular when I sit down. Then she turns away from me and sips her drink. Tracy is gone, and I assume she’s dancing. I know that I’m not emitting any odor because first, I am wearing deodorant and second, I’m not even sweating. So, I deduce that she’s just being catty and bitchy for no reason. I sigh again and mock her behavior, turning the other way, away from her and towards the dancefloor.

Tracy returns and the revelry begins at the table again—for everyone but me, that is—for a solid twenty minutes. Yet another gorgeous black guy comes and asks me to dance, and I oblige. The truth is, it wouldn’t matter if Quasimodo walked up and asked me to dance, I was leaving that table. Who wants to spend a night out with a bunch of bitter, angry women?

I dance for several songs, get another number, and head to the bar. I order a double shot of vodka and a glass of water. When the vodka comes, I throw it back quickly and take large gulps of my water. When a third dance partner approaches me—champagne skin and curly hair—I’m on the floor again.

I spend most of the evening on the dancefloor or at the bar—mostly on the dancefloor. I go to the ladies’ room to relieve myself and decide that it’s time to rejoin my party at the table, not that I want to.

“Oh, Jesus,” one of the other girls says. “She’s back.”

No, the hell I’m not. I’m a grown ass woman. I don’t need this shit.

“God, you guys are a bunch of really catty bitches! That’s embarrassing. She didn’t even do anything to you!” Tracy accuses.

“Because of her, nobody wants to dance with us!” one girl remarks. Well, that’s a crock of shit. I haven’t even been at the table most of the night.

“Well, I’m leaving, so you don’t have to worry about that anymore,” I say, standing to my feet and grabbing my purse.

“Good!” she remarks. “Bye!”

“It’s not her fault that nobody wants to dance with you, Latrice,” Tracy says, standing as well. “It’s your fucking resting-bitch-face that chases them away. Jesus, if I can’t bring anybody around you guys, I don’t need to be around you either.” She puts her purse strap on her shoulder.

“Come on, Ana,” Tracy says, hooking arms with me, “let’s go get a drink… somewhere else!” We begin to walk away from the table.

“Uncle Tom!” one of the girls yells behind us.

“Fuck you, Allie!” Tracy yells back, flipping the bird behind her without turning around. We walk arm-in-arm out of the club and go to Tracy’s Kia.

“You didn’t have to leave your friends behind for me, Tracy,” I say as she starts the car.

“It’s been a long time coming,” she says, as she drives down the road. “It’s not like we were ride-or-die, anyway. They’re unhappy and they find fault in everything. Only one of them is actually doing something to make changes in her life and that’s Vershawna. The rest of them just complain about where they are. Yeah, we’ve been friends for a long time, but you can only deal with that shit for so long. I’ve grown out of it. They’re still stuck in it.”

“It could also be because I’m white,” I say, stating the obvious.

“That’s what it is this time,” she admits. “Tomorrow they’ll see somebody with the wrong color hair, with a skirt too short, with too many kids, you name it. If they can find something wrong with the world, they will. It’s time out for that shit.” I shake my head and look out the window.

“What is it, Ana?” she asks.

“I’ve met a lot of people in my lifetime,” I begin, “from a lot of different nationalities and backgrounds. My father was black. I grew up in a black neighborhood. Most of my pro bono cases are young black boys that just deserve a break. My yoga instructor is black, my receptionist is black…”

“And you’ve said that you’ve met a lot of different nationalities, but so far, all you’re talking about is black,” Tracy points out.

“And there’s a reason for that,” I say. “I’ve met people from many walks of life, and I don’t treat anybody any differently because of it. Why is it that black women—particularly in social situations—dislike me so much? I get the whole concept of racism; I haven’t lived under a rock for the last 34 years, but this is more than that. This is I shouldn’t be seen with a black man; I shouldn’t visit the areas I grew up in… and it’s not all black people! It’s black women. And it’s not all settings—it’s in a club or a restaurant. They don’t give a fuck if I’m at the grocery store, it’s just if I’m having dinner with Kevin, or dancing with Darryl, or riding Fuckboy Jake’s bike! What the fuck is that?”

I’ve raised my voice louder than I intended and Tracy has fallen silent. I cross my arms like an errant child, certain that I’m not going to get an answer, but Tracy starts talking.

“It would take me way too long to explain that to you, Ana,” she says calmly, “but that’s not going to change. It comes from a long line and centuries of oppression and discrimination, and I think you know that. What you’re getting from black women is what black people have experienced from white people since well before you and I were gleams in our daddies’ eyes. The hatred that comes along with that has been passed down through the generations. Among the many, many other intolerances among the races, the vast majority of black women in many areas have a staunch intolerance of white women with black men. Remember, it’s only been about 50 years or so since the races could legally interact that way.

“The world is slowly changing, I know, but not everybody is changing with it—on both sides of the fence, for that matter. You never met our grandfather, did you?” I furrow my brow.

“No, I don’t think I did,” I reply.

“That’s because he went to his grave pissed at Uncle Ray for marrying Carla,” she says. I didn’t know that, but I vaguely remember something like that happening on Mommy’s side of the family, which is why I ended up with Uncle Richard and Aunt Sheila. I sigh and shake my head.

“So, I guess I’m just supposed to stay on my side of the bridge, then.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“You cross the bridge whenever you want,” Tracy replies. “That’s the only way to combat this kind of shit. Just don’t be surprised when people aren’t willing to cross that bridge with you.” I twist my lips. This isn’t new, I was just looking for some grand reason that black women hate me so much. There’s none. It’s the same reason they hated Mommy for marrying Daddy, and it’s not going to change.

“You hungry?” she asks, breaking my chain of thought. I look over at her and nod.

“Famished,” I reply.

“What do you have a taste for?” she asks.

“Greens and cornbread,” I say, without hesitation.


Eric Dane 27

TREY

I gave up a goddamn kidney; now my mother is going to have to speak to me.

It’s been months since the operation and even Dad has come by to see me. I’ve finally gotten the clearance from the doctor to resume activities as usual, and now, I’m going to my parents’ house to put this radio silence to rest.

I’m getting everything together and I’m looking for my phone, but I can’t find it. Where did I toss the damn thing? I look on the nightstand and see that the top drawer is partially opened. I open the drawer and there’s my phone.

How the fuck did it get in there?

I take it out and swipe the screen to see if I missed any important calls or texts. Just beyond the phone, I can see what else is in that drawer. It’s the handkerchief I used to wipe Golden’s lipstick away when she kissed me.

I run my thumb over the lipstick stain. She’s gone now, so I can admit that I had started to care for her. Maybe she’s right… maybe this is best. My first instinct is to put the handkerchief in the laundry to rid it of the memory of her, but then I’d look at every handkerchief I own and wonder if it’s the one. Instead, I take it to the kitchen and toss it in the trash.

The housekeeper lets me in at my parents’ house and tells me that Dad is out in the back and Mom is in the dining room. For some strange reason still unbeknownst to me, I decide to go and talk to Dad first. He’s sitting in a lawn chair facing the lake. He’s not looking left or right, just straight in front of him, like he would run out there and jump in the water and never return. Mom must not be talking to him either.

“Coming out for a father and son talk, are you?” he asks. He doesn’t look over his shoulder, so I don’t know how he knows who’s walking up to him or even if it’s me or Elliot. He’s quite maudlin and he looks like shit. He’s got a tumbler of amber liquid in his hand, but I can tell that he’s not drunk.

“I’m just making sure that you’re not out here contemplating suicide,” I say as I take the seat next to him. “I’ve never seen you like this, even when you and Mom broke up.” He turns to me.

“Concerned, son?” he asks, his voice laced with irony.

“Yeah, about my mother,” I reply matter-of-factly. He scoffs and takes a sip of his drink.

“I could die tomorrow, and you wouldn’t care,” he says, looking out over the lake. “You wouldn’t shed one goddamn tear.”

“And whose fault is that, Dad?” I ask. He turns an angry glare to me.

“You’re saying this is all my fault?” he asks incredulously. “You blackmailed me into showing you the BDSM ropes—pun intended—and you’re saying that this breakdown is all because of me?”

Touché.

“No, Dad, I’m not saying that,” I cede. “We both burned that bridge, but you kept throwing kindling on the fire for years and you know it.”

I don’t turn my gaze from him. I’m waiting for his rebuttal, but I know that he has none. He turns back to the lake.

“I hope my grandkids give all of you as much hell as you’ve given me,” he laments quietly. I scoff.

“What grandkids?” I ask, incredulously. “I’m 36 years old with no desire to have any children. Mia just got a new kidney—so that’s not happening any time soon if at all. And if you’re putting your hopes and dreams in Elliot to carry on the family name, good luck! He’s pushing 40 with a girl in every fucking port, and unless he’s got some illegitimates somewhere, sorry Dad, but this branch of the Grey family tree is dead.” He sighs.

“Well, that’s depressing,” he complains. “Looks like I’ve failed at everything.”

I shake my head. I can’t feel sorry for this man. He’s deliberately deceitful and the only time I’ve ever seen him exercise honesty and scruples is on the bench.

“I don’t know what you expect,” I say after a long pause. “I don’t know how long you were in the lifestyle during your marriage, and I’m sure Mom doesn’t either, but as soon as she found out and the bottom fell out from under your life as a husband, you stopped being a father. I’ll take what happened to our relationship because of how I held that whole thing over your head, but what the hell happened to Elliot? He finished college; he had the education; he was on the right track. What they hell happened?”

My father finally throws a glare at me.

“Yeah, you know,” I say nodding. “That’s what you do. Ever since you lost your woman, you wanted everybody to be as miserable as you. So, you went on this campaign to get everybody under your thumb. I don’t know how that served you, but you did it to the point where you had something on everybody. Me and BDSM—yeah, that’s a taboo lifestyle and it could cause some damage in certain circles, not to mention that it certainly was going to hurt Mom. Elliot and cocaine, and whatever the fuck else you’ve got hanging over his head, well, that goes without saying. But Mia, Dad? You were holding her hostage through dialysis? Seriously?”

“I wasn’t holding her hostage,” he defends.

“The hell you weren’t!” I retort. “I understand not wanting to put Mom through any undue stress, but something you said along the way scared the shit out of Mia about telling Mom what was going on, and I saw it in her face. Mom should’ve known what was going on with Mia. It was going to come out one way or another and she was fucking blindsided when it was. You thought that was the better option? You’re the fucking parent, Dad. Did you lose all of your paternal instinct when you were swinging that fucking whip at Bunny?”

My father doesn’t answer.

“Mia had another reason for not telling Mom about dialysis and I’m going to find out what it was, but you—you were just plain selfish. Whatever imagined power you thought you had, you’ve lost it all, and now you’re sitting out here concerned again that you may have lost your woman. Since you’ve forsaken everything to keep her and she’s probably all you’ve got left, you might want to get your shit together and figure out how to make this up to her.”

I turn my gaze to the lake. It’s beautiful with the evening sun glistening off it. I get lost in its peace for a moment.

“It was this bad,” he adds. I frown.

“What was?” I ask.

“Breaking up with your mom,” he says. “It was worse, you just didn’t see it.” He looks out at the lake and takes another sip of his drink, his eyes glazing over.

“I never wanted to die before, but without her, I did. I wasn’t suicidal, I just wanted the pain to stop. It was the worst pain of my entire life. I swear there was nothing else to live for… nothing.”

Gee, thanks, Dad.

“Don’t look at me like that,” he says, without turning his gaze to me. “Not five minutes ago, you confirmed that you wouldn’t bat an eye if I dropped dead in front of you.”

“I didn’t say that,” I protest.

“You didn’t have to,” he retorts. “It doesn’t matter, though. It’s my bed and I have to lie in it.” He’s quiet for a few minutes.

“I’m going to talk to Mom,” I say, standing from the seat. “If she’s not going to speak to me, she’ll have to do it to my face. Get your shit together, Dad,” I say as I walk back to the house. Mom is standing at the French doors with a glass of wine in her hands as I approach.

“You and your father talking. There’s a twist,” she says, sarcastically. “Then again, you have so much to share!” Okay, I had that coming.

“All I can say is that I’m sorry, Mom. I didn’t openly lie to you, but I wasn’t totally truthful. I can tell you this about me, though—about all of us. Each, in our own way, was trying to spare you more discomfort. You had been through hell with Dad and we saw that. We watched you suffer and whatever we may feel about each other, we all love you very much. You’re the only reason why we tolerate each other’s presence when it’s time to come together when we’d much rather not. Mia’s a spoiled nagger, Elliot’s an asshole, I’m a cocky motherfucker, and Dad’s a snake…” Mom throws a chastising glare at me.

“I’m sorry for my language, and you may love him, but we both know it,” I say frankly. “But we all love you, and we wanted to spare you as much pain as we possibly could.” She turns back to her wineglass.

“After what your father put me through,” she begins, “I don’t know if I can forgive him for keeping this many secrets from me.” She takes a swallow of her wine and walks back into the dining room. So that’s why he looks so damn miserable. I follow her and join her at the table.

“Do you love him, Mom?” I ask.

“Of course, I love him!” she says, her head snapping to me. “That’s why he’s still here!”

“Then, you’ll forgive him,” I say. “And he’ll fuck up again, and you’ll forgive him, then, too… as long as he doesn’t do any big shit, again—then I’ll have to come and kill him.” I think she scoffs a laugh, but her face doesn’t change. “You know what they say about the road to hell, Mom. We all had the best intentions, even though none of us executed the best strategy.”

I don’t tell her that I really believe that Dad was keeping the secrets because he wanted to later use them as leverage. For what, I don’t know, but unless he has more ammo on my sister and brother, his well is empty.

“Why did you keep this from me, Christian?” she asks sadly. “Your secrets were the most painful.”

“Why mine, may I ask?” I say.

“You said it yourself, Elliot is a fuck-up,” she says. “I don’t know what he’s into—except cocaine now—but I know it’s nothing legitimate. Whatever he’s doing, he has that snaky, slimy look about him. And the women he brings around—why would you bring any of these women to your parents’ home? I’m preparing myself to hear some terrible news about him, and I can only hope it won’t be the very worst, but I expect for something to be deceitful about him.

“And Mia… well, Mia, I don’t know. Was she really trying to spare me, or did she have that whole stupid ‘I can do this on my own’ attitude that she has about nearly everything else? How the hell did she think she could go through this for seven years and we not find out? There’s no other way this could have ended except for her in a body bag.

“But you,” she shakes her head. “You’re into that same shit that your father was in, that nearly tore our family apart and how do I find out? From the cocaine addict who was simply trying to pull other people under the bus with him. But what you did with your kidney was worse.” I frown.

“How?” I say, my voice squeaking. I saved Mia’s life!

“Because you could have died!” she shoots. “Is that how you wanted me to find out you gave Mia a kidney?”

I don’t dispute her. My portion of the surgery was much easier than Mia’s. It was mostly done by laparoscope. It was the whole swinging-crutches-at-people-losing-my-shit thing that caused complications. And the press must’ve really been spooked, because I haven’t seen one picture of us or heard anything about the surgery even in the gossip rags.

“I’ll start with the first question,” I begin. “I didn’t tell you about my sexual lifestyle because of your history of it with Dad, but tell me, Mom. Is that the only reason why you’re appalled by the BDSM lifestyle?”

“I’m appalled because I’ve seen what they do!” she shoots.

“You haven’t seen everything, Mom,” I correct her, “I can guarantee it. If you’ve Googled anything, you’ve probably seen the grittiest that there is to see, and that’s not all there is to the lifestyle. You probably don’t want any BDSM lessons, and I don’t blame you because of what you’ve been through. But you can’t judge what you don’t know, and if you do that to me, you’re judging me for participating in a lifestyle that may be off the beaten path a bit, but is completely legal and based on the concept that every activity is safe, sane, and consensual. It’s no different than being homophobic or discriminating against someone because they’re transgender, or black, or physically disabled, or different than you in any way. And that would make you wrong, Mom.” Her eyes widen.

“How so?” she asks horrified.

“If Dad cheated on you with a Mexican woman and you discovered that I was marrying a Mexican woman, would you be angry with me for that?” I ask. She’s still stunned. “How about a vegan? Would you hate all vegans if Dad cheated on you with a vegan? What if he turned out to be bisexual and he cheated on you with a man—would you disown me for being gay?” Her face falls impassive.

“It’s the same thing, Mom,” I tell her. “You’re not attracted to women; you eat meat; you married a white man… and you don’t practice BDSM, but you can’t put those of us in judgement who do. This…” I pause and point at her, “is why I didn’t tell you.” She closes her eyes and I can see them rolling behind her eyelids.

“You’re… going to have to give me some time to deal with this,” she says. “In the meantime, I would really rather not know about any of your escapades.”

“Tell that to Elliot,” I say matter-of-factly. “You would have never known about any of it if I had my way.”

“Then, you still would have been lying to me,” she points out.

“But you don’t want to know, so where do I win in this?” I ask. She thinks about it, then changes the subject.

“What about Mia’s kidney?” she says. “We already knew that she needed one. There was no need to lie about it.” I sigh.

“Well, I told you that in the hospital, but I also suspected that Elliot was doing something—like what he was doing—that meant that he couldn’t donate a kidney. I was trying to avoid what happened, but it happened anyway, so that was all for nothing.

“Elliot has made some really fucked-up choices and he hates that he’s not in the spotlight. Anytime that spotlight gets turned on me, he finds some way to make it a bad thing. When he thought I was leaving town for Mia’s surgery, he was talking shit then. When he found out that I was the one who gave her the kidney, he was talking shit then. Mia was upset with me for shit that she really felt was my fault. Elliot was just fucking pissed because he couldn’t be ‘the golden boy,’ as he calls me. Do you realize that I was in a lose-lose situation all around?” She holds her head down. She’s clearly suffering from information overload.

“Christian, I love you,” she says, calmly. “You’re my baby boy, but if you keep another secret like this from me again, I’ll never forgive you and I may not survive it. Are we clear?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I say.

“Are there any other secrets?” she asks.

“That woman they found dead last year, Elena Lincoln—the one who threw a potted plant at me and broke my arm?” My mother’s brow rises.

“Yes?” she says expecting.

“We had an affair years ago,” I confess. She waves me off.

“Oh, I knew that,” she says.

“How did you know?” I ask, my brow furrowed.

“That woman found the strength of Hercules and hurled a concrete pot at you. No woman causes that kind of damage to a man unless it’s self-defense or she’s known him Biblically,” she says. “Hell hath no fury…” I shrug.

“Then unless you want to know the details of my BDSM lifestyle, no, I have no other secrets.” She silent for a moment.

“Do you whip those women?” she asks.

“Do you really want to know?” I’ll tell you, but it’s all or nothing, Mom. She shakes her head.

“I don’t want to know,” she says, shaking her head. I stand, lean over and kiss her on the cheek.

“I love you, Mom,” I say. “Forgive me for my half-truths and omission lies.” She looks into her glass of wine.

“I’m working on it,” she says. That’s all I can ask. I walk through the dining room and head to the stairs to go check on Mia, who has been at home with Mom and Dad since the surgery. As I bend the corner, I see my father has come back into the house and is standing at the French doors.

“Don’t hurt my mother again,” I tell him. “I meant what I said.”

“You didn’t tell her that I was the one who introduced you to the lifestyle,” he says. His voice is defeated, but it could still be a veiled threat.

“Do you want me to tell her now?” I shoot. You’re not holding this over my head anymore.

“I just wanted to know why you didn’t tell her,” he asks, raising weary eyes to me. I sigh inwardly.

“I did tell her,” I say. “I didn’t blurt it out like a general public service announcement, but in so many words, I told her—and Dad, I think she already knows…”

“You can stop your sorry attempt at murmuring! I know!” Mom yells from the dining room. I twist my lips at my father.

“She knows,” I say sarcastically. “Don’t. Hurt my mom again.” I walk past him towards the stairs.

“Get your ass in there and grovel,” I add without looking back at him.


Briana Evigan Ch 27 2

GOLDEN

I’m standing in front of the ominous glass building, Grey House, trying to get the nerve to go inside. I’ve stood here many times before over the course of the past several months, never once daring to go inside. What the hell would I say to him? Why am I even here?

I know why I’m here… because I can’t get him out of my mind. We have unfinished business, but hell if I know how to finish it. He haunts my dreams when I’m asleep; he haunts my thoughts even when I’m with another client… another client. He’s not my client anymore. There’s absolutely nothing between us.

“Fuck,” I say, losing my nerve like I’ve done a million times before and turning to the parking structure.

“Ana!”

I turn towards the voice calling my name and there he is, walking down the street towards his building with Taylor close behind him… and now towards me.

Oh, shit.

“What are you doing here?” I ask. He raises his brow.

“This is my building,” he says, stating the obvious. I roll my eyes.

“No, I mean, what are you doing out here instead of up there?” He twists his lips. I’m positive that he wants to say none of your business, but he doesn’t.

“I was having lunch with a friend,” he says matter-of-factly. “What are you doing here?”

“I work downtown,” I say, a bit indignantly.

“No, what are you doing here?” he says, pointing in front of him and using my words against me. I don’t have an answer. I never got pass the point of meeting him face to face. I never came up with the magic Golden speech to give the poor suffering subject once I met him. So… here I am.

He reads my silence and puts his hand in the small of my back, effortlessly guiding me into the parking structure of his building. Is he sending me away again?

I soon find that he’s just moving us off the sidewalk and away from prying eyes. Taylor disappears somewhere as we walk to a secluded corner of the garage.

“What do you want, Golden?” he asks his voice low. Oh… Golden… we’re here again. I gird myself for the conversation ahead.

“I want to know why you sent me away,” I ask, the truth rushing out of my mouth before I have the chance to catch it.

“For the same reason that you sent me away,” he replies. “I couldn’t deal with it.”

“I never said I couldn’t deal with it…” I begin.

“Are you serious?” he interrupts. “You didn’t have to. Actions speak louder than gold and you made it perfectly clear that you were having all kinds of problems with everything happening between us. Your wiring short-circuited because of the kiss, and you went completely radio-silent after we had sex. You really think you needed to say you couldn’t deal with it?”

“Look, Christian,” I say, looking around the parking structure to make sure no one is around, “the only thing I was looking for is the respect that a Mistress is due!”

“I never disrespected you!” he retorts quietly.

“The hell you didn’t!” I counter angrily. “You showed up unexpected at my home and had the nerve to question me about a conversation that you shouldn’t have even been privy to! Any other time, there was a protocol when you left—it was how we operated. And you get all sensitive when I reacted the way that a Mistress would the next time I had you in my dungeon!”

“I was not your submissive!” he hisses. “I never will be!”

“And yet you and your kisses and your sex are supposed to change me?” I bark.

“Why do you keep saying that I’m trying to change you?” he demands. “I never gave you that impression! Not once! I can’t make you not be who you are any more than you can make me not be who I am. The only difference is that I didn’t know who I was until I got the full spectrum. One woman couldn’t satisfy me, because one woman couldn’t give me what I wanted—what I needed! Even after you beat the hell outta me, I needed to fuck… hard!

“Do you have any idea how many women I’ve fucked to your face? How many times I came into some deep, hot, tight orifice seeing you the entire time? It didn’t matter to me that you got some poor sucker off the day before or that you were getting him off right there and then. What mattered was that I was blasting the rocket’s red glare and I was seeing you! I was feeling your flogger on my back, smelling your smell, seeing your tight body and imagining that it was you wrapped around my cock! And then when you finally gave me what I wanted—sweet Jesus! I had hit Nirvana. Then you cut me off like a kid asking for a lollipop the day after Halloween… completely! Without a word. You and those fucking games! I can’t take those fucking games anymore!” He throws his hands up in the air. “Why am I even telling you this? It’s not like you fucking care!”

“Because I do care!” I yell at him. “I don’t want to, but I do! I don’t want to change who I am… who I was… but nothing makes sense anymore. I’m nothing like who I used to be. I can go through the motions. I can inflict the pain. I can make them come… but I’m not who I used to be! It’s not the same… something is missing. Something’s not right…”

I’m still a sadist and I’m still a Dominatrix, but I’m just not who or what I was. I simply can’t wring the pleasure from the experience that I used to… and I know why. Son-of-a-bitch, I know why. I don’t want to admit it and the words are ripping a hole in my chest, fighting to get out. They won’t be denied. I shriek in anger as I spew the confession burning in my throat and chest.

“Goddammit!” I sob. “Elena was right! She was right! You have spoiled me for other men! I’m ruined! I’ll never be the same! I’ll never fucking be the same! Damn you, Elena Lincoln! Damn you straight to hell! And damn you, too!” I yell at him as I make a B-line to my Range Rover. I dream about this man. I want this man. I can’t function properly without this man! What the fuck am I supposed to do now?


c50b50fe03562a62f3e07c4fdd3dfb38

TREY

She’s running away… again! She’s basically told me that she can’t live without me and now, she’s trying to run again.

I’m behind her before I can stop myself. I reach her right before she gets to her truck and snatch her back into my arms. She’s still weeping when I cover her lips with mine, branding her lips with a searing kiss. They’re salty and soft and irresistible, and when she wraps her arms around me and returns the kiss, I back her against her truck and press my body into hers, taking all of her that I can in case she gets away.

What the fuck am I doing? Why the fuck am I even doing this to myself? Because she’s goddamn addictive, and now that I’ve had her, I can’t think of anything else!

“I love you and I hate you!” I seethe as I bury my face in her neck. “Why do I let you do this to me!”

She’s still sobbing as I take mouthfuls of her flesh, tasting her everywhere my lips can reach, her weeping only ceasing when I take her lips.

“Why don’t you turn me loose?” I question against her lips, my hand thrust in her hair and holding her captive as I reposition my lips and feast on her neck.

“I… can’t!” she chokes. “I tried… I… keep trying… I can’t!”

Her hands thrust into my hair and I kiss every part of her that I can reach, fighting not to ravish her right here in the parking lot.

Breathe, Grey, breathe. Think about this. Think about what you’re doing.

I close my eyes and press my forehead against hers and we’re both panting like marathon runners, her breaths mingled with tearful whimpers.

“What are we supposed to do with this?” I breathe fiercely.

“I… don’t know,” she says in a sobbing voice. “I’m out of my element here.”

“I can’t take your fucking games, Ana,” I admit, my voice still harsh while I hold her close to me. “You’re hot for me one minute and the next minute, you’re cold, aloof, and invisible.”

“I know, I know,” she says, her voice helpless.

“I’d rather you walk away from me forever than to keep me on that goddamn rollercoaster. Let me go and let me get you out of my system… out of my blood!” I squeeze her harder with every word, my fingers digging into her body.

“No… no… please…” Her fingers tighten in my hair and I slam my lips against hers again, our teeth clashing together as our tongues hungrily search for each other, driving fiercely into each other’s mouth and devouring unspoken words.

I told her I loved her. Did I mean that? Did I mean that I love her or that I love what she does to me?

I break our kiss. We need to talk. We can’t do this here… none of this.

“Meet me at my penthouse,” I breathe raggedly against her lips. “Twenty minutes. We have to… work this out.”

She quickly nods at me with wide, glassy, brown eyes. I take a deep, ragged breath and release it before I let her go. I turn away from her and walk to the elevator, thrusting my hands into my hair on the way. What the fuck am I getting myself into? Wouldn’t it just be simpler to send her the fuck away? She’d just come back… like she did today.

“Ana?” I say, turning to face her. She hasn’t moved from her spot, but she quickly raises her head to look at me.

“Don’t play with me,” I say finitely. “If you’re not there when I get there, I’ll never see you again.” I mean it. I don’t have time for her games. She nods at me with a tearful sniffle.

*-*

About 45 minutes after I leave Ana in the parking garage at Grey House, I arrive at the lobby of Escala. I don’t know why I waited so long. I think I was just stalling, certain that she was playing with me again and that she wouldn’t be there—that she was stringing me along with her Golden lasso like Wonder Woman, leaving me totally helpless to her powers once again.

When I exit the elevator from the parking garage and walk into the lobby, she’s sitting there waiting for me, watching the front of the building like she expects me to walk in the front door. I guess she did.

“Ana,” I call out firmly to her. Her head snaps in my direction and she stands immediately. Her stride doesn’t have that confidence that I’m accustomed to. She’s not weak or anything, but that edge isn’t there. That edge that I love and hate.

Love and hate.

When she reaches me, I take her hand and wordlessly head to the elevator. Jason is already in the penthouse having gone up before me. So, she and I ride silently to the penthouse. The air is so thick in the elevator, you can hardly breathe. I stare at her while she stares at the numbers above us, rising to indicate that we’re headed for the top floor. When the bell rings and the doors open, she’s gotten a bit of her stride back and she slowly walks into the foyer. I follow behind her, reaching around her to open the doors of my penthouse.

She takes a deep breath and walks inside, immediately placing her purse on the sofa closest to the door. It’s the middle of the afternoon and my apartment is a ghost town—nobody expects us to be here.

I close the door behind me and walk over to her. She has her back to me and I total intend to ask if she wants something to drink for our talk, but she turns around and looks up at me, lips parted, brown eyes wide and wanting.

Shit! Fuck now, talk later.

I gather her in my arms, lifting her off the floor before she has the chance to think or protest. I burn her lips with a passionate kiss as I hurriedly carry her to my bedroom. I kick the door closed and place her feet on the floor. We stop kissing only long enough to remove our respective suit jackets and shirts. She quickly tugs at… something, and her hair releases from a tight bun and cascades down her back.

Fuck. I need her now.

She’s back in my arms and I’m undoing her skirt as she loosens my belt and unzips my fly. Both pieces of clothing fall down our legs and we each step out of them and our shoes, leaving them in mounds on the floor.

Lifting her in my arms again, I carry her to my bed, still hungrily devouring her kisses and I sit on the edge, forcing her to straddle me. I feel the heat of her core between us and my cock is hardening fast. I reach under her hair and unhook her bra, causing her breasts to spill out freely. I take one of her nipples into my mouth, taunting, teasing and tasting it. She gasps and drops her head back. I put my hand into the small of her back, holding her down onto my erection as I tease her nipple to tautness.

She whimpers loudly, the ends of her hair brushing my hand as I immobilize her against my body, against my cock. I put my other hand flat on her spine, move my mouth over to the other nipple, and begin to grind into her, against her exposed clit through her silk panties. She gasps loudly and thrusts her hand into my hair. She tries to move, but I have her firmly pressed against me, burning that clit with my rock-hard cock.

I’m going to make you come, Ana.

With nowhere to go, she drops her head back again and settles in for the ride. I suck her nipples hard, occasionally giving one or the other a gentle nip. Her whimpering becomes wheezing and her grip on my hair tightens. Moments later, her body stiffens and she’s crying out her orgasm. Her stiffening body begins to tremble as I continue to grind into her, squeezing out every single pulse of that clit. When her legs tighten against my thighs and she falls shivering against my body, I know that she’s had enough.

I stop my ministrations against her and lay her panting body on the bed. I remove her panties, suspenders and stockings all in one slow but efficient motion, tossing them in the mound of clothes we’ve created next to my bed. Giving her a brief moment to catch her breath, I remove my boxer briefs and socks, and they join the pile as well. I crawl back onto the bed and settle between her legs, the smell of her sex juices assaulting my senses. I use my nose to separate her lips and inhale deeply, blowing gently on her clit when I exhale. Her back bows and she grabs handfuls of the bedsheet.

I won’t make her cum again this way, but I’ll get her good and ready.

I am merciless on that clit. I mean, I am seriously porno-licking this pussy. Saliva is mixing with her juices from her orgasm and dripping down to her asshole. I use my fingers to spread the juices to her lips and tease her opening as my tongue torments the tip and underside of her clit. She nearly growls with pleasure as she arches into my mouth.

“Ah! Ah!” she cries as I fuck her with my tongue and suck her cunt until she’s trembling on the bed. I eat that pussy until her cries change and become high-pitched, then I crawl up her body, pushing her legs open with mine. I entwine my fingers into hers and pin her hands down on the bed. I gyrate my hips until the head of my cock finds the opening of her pussy. It takes all I have not to thrust into her balls deep, but I’m so fucking hard that I’m certain I’ll hurt her if I do… no matter how wet she is. I push into her, slow but hard.

Fuck, she’s just as tight as she was the last time.

I take a deep breath and push into her again.

Almost there…

I put pressure on my knees and push once more… hard. A squeaking noise comes from her throat this time and I pause, my cock buried balls deep inside her.

“You okay?” I ask, my voice and breath ragged. She’s panting underneath me, her eyes closed tight. “Ana?”

“Yes! Yes!” she says without opening her eyes. “Again!”

Her pussy is so hot and tight that I have to concentrate not to nut like a fucking teenager. I pull out of her—only halfway—and thrust deep into her again. She squeals softly again and the sound shoots straight to my dick.

“Again!” she breathes. “Don’t stop!”

Your fucking wish is my command.

I pull out of her halfway and plunge into her again… and again… and again. Her squeals become whimpers, then moans as I bury myself deep inside her over and over again and again, using our entwined hands for leverage. Jesus, it’s like we fit together perfectly, like nothing and no one I’ve ever felt in my life.

“Christian…” she breathes, turning her head to the side and closing her eyes. I bury my face in her neck and feast on her skin while I bury my cock deep inside her core. Unable to free her hands from mine, she wraps her legs around me and meets me thrust for thrust.

Goddamn, this shit feels so good.

“Christian… oh, God…” Her body bows again, and she locks her legs around my body. It doesn’t hinder my stroke, though. I’m thrusting freely and deeply into her now as she encourages me with various sex phrases…

“Yes…”
“Don’t stop…”
“Right there…”
“Again…”
“Please…”
“Oh, God…”

I’m getting hot and hard and my cock is just about ready to blow inside this soft, warm, tight pussy.

“Let me go… please… let me go…”

I release her hands and she wraps them under my arms and around my body, pulling me tight against her as she attempts to match my strokes.

“Kiss me… Christian… please…” she breathes. I put my hands on either side of her head and thrust my tongue into her mouth, licking and tasting and exploring as I stroke into her core with intent and purpose. My body is on fire.

She mewls into my mouth and strokes fast and hard on my dick, tightening her legs around me. When I feel her juices flowing and her walls tightening, I stroke deeper to pull her orgasm out of her, but then she bends her fingers and sinks her nails into my back, raking roughly across the skin.

“Fuuuucck!” I yell involuntarily against her mouth, my eyes closing tight from the pain, and my balls popping hard and emptying with force and anger inside her. I’m certain that she drew blood and if she didn’t, I have eight of the reddest tiger stripes across my back you’ve ever seen.

My back is throbbing with the pain… and so is my cock, giving up its final offering and I fall listlessly onto Ana’s panting body.


A/N: So, they sealed the deal again… but there’s still another chapter to go. What do you think?

The Pinterest board for this story can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/fifty-shades-golden/.

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~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 91—Thin Line

Three more chapters after this one…

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…

Chapter 91—Thin Line

ANASTASIA

After a quick shower and a fresh change of clothes, I head across the hall to the nursery. The children haven’t stirred yet, so I don’t disturb them. Instead, I go down to the kitchen to locate Gail.

“Has Christian eaten already?” I ask, watching her as she loads dishes into the dishwasher.

“Yes,” she says. “He and Jason have already left.” My brow furrows. It’s Sunday.

“Left?” I ask. “Where did they go?”

“To the airport,” she says, matter-of-factly.

What?

All kinds of horrible scenarios are going through my head, but I’m determined not to jump to conclusions or allow the Boogieman to take hold of me… without a thorough explanation, that is.

“Why… did they go to the airport?” I say, my voice calmer than my countenance at the moment. Gail turns a questioning gaze to me.

“I thought you knew,” she says, pausing her task. I shake my head as nonchalantly as I can. “He’s going to get some flight time in his helicopter. He said if he didn’t clock some time soon, he might lose his license.”

I don’t let her see me sigh, although my chest feels like it might cave in. I just nod and begin to pour some coffee.

“I smell bacon,” I say, effectively covering my jitters. “Is there any left?”

*-*

“I’m glad you called,” Grace says on the other line. “Would I be terribly selfish if I said that I don’t feel like hosting Christmas this year?”

“Grace,” I scold, “when were you going to tell us?”

“Everybody’s accustomed to coming to my house,” she whines. “I was trying to find the energy and will to go through with it, really I was, but I’m so tired. I just don’t want to do it this year… I really… I just don’t want to.” She sounds like a toddler trying to convince me not to make her go to bed.

“It’s not too late,” I tell her. “We can do Christmas at my house. You are coming, aren’t you?”

“Of course, I am!” she retorts. “It’s just… so much work…” Tell me about it. “I just don’t feel up to hosting it, Ana.”

“Grace, have you spoken to your doctor?” I ask. “Make sure that your medicines are all the right dosages? You should tell him how you feel. You might need some adjustments.” She sighs.

“You might be right,” she cedes. “I haven’t been feeling that great at all lately. It couldn’t hurt to have them check me out, huh?”

“I highly recommend it, doctor,” I press.

“I hear you, I hear you, I’ll call her in the morning,” she corrects me. “Can I bring something? A dessert or something? I did kind of dump this on you…”

“No, just bring yourself,” I say. “It’s an excuse to bake more cookies,” I add. Grace laughs on the other end and I’m happy that we’ve moved beyond truce. I end the call with Grace, suggesting that she take tomorrow off from Helping Hands and let me know when her appointment is going to be, then I call Chuck.

“Hey. We goin’ somewhere?” he asks.

“No, I was just trying to find out if your parents decided if they wanted to stay here or at your house for the holidays,” I say.

“I think Mom’s concerned about being an imposition,” he says. “They might want to stay at the Bainbridge house.”

“Well, that kinda sucks,” I say. “I really would like to see them, and them being all the way in Bainbridge, that’s an hour drive one way including the ferries anytime you want to see them. See if you can convince them to stay at the Crossing. We’ll be having Christmas here.”

“We are?” he asks.

“Yeah, we are,” I say. “Grace isn’t feeling up to hosting Christmas this year and in Val’s delicate condition, I wouldn’t dare spring it on her. And Mia… well, newlyweds and such. Anyway, yes, we’re having Christmas here, with all seven Christmas trees and the ‘come-one-come-all’ spirit that we always have.”

“Any idea how many people?” he asks.

“The door will be open,” I say. “I would hope that I could get everyone to RSVP by Christmas Eve, but the headcount will at least be the usual suspects.” Just as I finish my sentence, I raise my head to see my husband standing in the doorway just gazing at me.

“Well, I guess I’ll see if they want to come and stay, then since there’ll be festivities here anyway,” he says.

“Yeah,” I reply. “I gotta go. Gotta put out the APB’s and get the menu going.”

“Alright. I’ll let you know about Mom and Dad as soon as I do.” He ends the call and I put the phone on my desk still looking at my husband.

“Christmas is going to be here?” he asks casually.

“Yes,” I reply. “Grace isn’t feeling up to hosting this year. She apologized and assured me that she would be here.”

“It’s Thursday,” he says, walking into the office. “Do you think you’ll be able to pull it off by then?”

“You did a birthday party in a matter of a few hours,” I remind him. “I can do Christmas in a few days.” He nods and takes one of the seats in front of my desk.

“You have to know that I would never do that to you,” he says without looking at me. I swallow hard.

“I know,” I reply softly.

“Do you?” he accuses raising his head to me. “I don’t want you to say it because I was angry or because you think it’s what I want to hear. You have to know that I would never do that to you. Do you?” His statement is deliberate, and he won’t take a lie or a half-truth from me.

I didn’t before, truthfully, I didn’t. I wasn’t sure, but I am now.

“I know,” I repeat, firmly. I really do. He turns his gaze from me.

“I’m not angry anymore,” he says without looking at me, “but I’m not happy, either. Part of me wants to shake you and demand that you tell me how you dare think that way in the first place. Even when I ran off to Madrid thinking that you were protecting that asshole over me, the thought of another woman never entered my mind once. Not once! Part of me wants answers. The other part of me doesn’t even want to know. I don’t care how unhealthy it is, how you doctors may think I’m hiding, I don’t give a fuck. I don’t want to know what would make my wife—the woman that I love with every cell of my being—think that I would turn to one of those sub-bots that I used to flog and fuck because she wouldn’t allow me to use her beyond her limits.”

He stands from the chair and begins to pace around my office, his hands on his hips and his expression intense.

“This was my idea,” he says, gesturing wildly into the air. “It was my idea to get some formal guidance to see how we would proceed with our relationship in the lifestyle. Why would I bother doing that if I wanted someone else? And yes, I realize that the dreaded walk down Memory Lane happened after I made the suggestion, but I still went through with the meeting. I was open and honest about the memories and how they made me feel and look what it got me. I mean, really, why even bother bringing it up if my intention was to stray outside our relationship? That wouldn’t only make me an asshole. That would make me a stupid asshole…”

He’s ranting on and on and on, things that he didn’t say in front of Artemis and Savvina. These things were… are meant for my ears only. I think the biggest kick in the stomach for him is that he finds it incredibly unbelievable that my thoughts would even veer in the direction of him being unfaithful. All things considered, it was less about him being unfaithful and more about whether or not I would be able to be what he needed, even though the relationship between the two would eventually be cause and effect.

Was I too concerned about not being able to meet his needs? Was I taking a personal flaw—or what I perceived as a personal flaw—and imprinting it on my husband, i.e. I can’t be what he wants so he’s automatically going to find someone who can?

“I want you. To stop. Shrinking,” he says coolly and firmly. That’s when I realize that I’ve pulled my knees up into the chair and that my body is in such a tiny ball that another body could fit in here with me. I stretch my legs and put them on the floor, clasping my hands in my lap. That’s the best I can do.

“I can’t rescue you right now,” he says honestly. “I’m fighting my own demons at the moment.”

I guess we both are. I can’t blame him.

He gazes at me for a few moments, then he leaves my office.

I won’t cry. I haven’t been wronged.
I won’t blame the Boogeyman. That’s not what this is.
This is my own insecurities biting me in the ass and flowing out of my big mouth, and I just have to deal with the aftermath.

He needs time. I’ll give him time. Once his feelings of confusion simmer down, he’ll find his words. Then, he’ll most likely bite my head off.

And I deserve it.

*-*

“Purple, huh?” I say as I sit on Sophie’s bed, polishing her toenails the same lavender as her hair. She has already done my toes and I was waiting for them to dry as I do hers. I spent the afternoon journaling—mostly berating myself for being an insecure twit and imposing those feelings on my husband—then meditation, then yoga, and now I’m down here in Sophie’s apartment connecting with her on a simple level and trying to find out how she feels about the latest events in her life.

“I’m tired of being invisible,” she says, trying not to wiggle her toes. She painted mine blue and they’ve already dried. “It looks cute, and it’s kind of a statement.” I frown.

“What statement?” I ask.

“We’re… Care Bears.” My eyes widen and I try not to laugh.

“Care Bears?” I ask, fanning the polish on her toes.

“Yes,” she says. I’m Share Bear, because I always share my lunch with my friends when they forget theirs. My friend Cecily is Grumpy Bear… well, just because it fits, and the blue hair looks really good on her. And Lanie is Cheer Bear because, let’s face it, she’s sickeningly cheerful sometimes.”

I’m glad to hear that she has friends who were willing to stick through this crazy idea with her. I was worried about her fitting in after I had to make a couple of appearances at her school.

“And what color is Lanie’s hair?” I inquire.

“Pink,” she says. “It’s very pink.” I nod.

“How did their parents react to the new look?” I say.

“They didn’t flip out like Dad did!” she declares in the insolent teenagery way. “It’s not even permanent!”

“It just surprised him, Sophie. I think it’s really cute,” I say.

“Thanks,” she says. “I’m going to do it again when it wears off.” I don’t respond. I decide to change the subject.

“So, how do you feel about your mom?” I ask. I don’t know if anybody talked to her about it.

“You mean about her going to jail?” she asks. I nod. “I don’t know, Ana. I want to feel sad about it—she is my mom after all—but she tried to sell me to her drug dealer. What did she think was going to happen to me? I’m a kid, but I’m not stupid. I know he was going to try to do all kinds of creepy things to me or make me do creepy things. And whenever I talk to her, she acts like it didn’t happen. So, how am I supposed to feel about her going to jail?”

“I don’t know, Sophie,” I tell her. “My mom did sell me to someone… or at least she sold my silence, and I still haven’t forgiven her. So, this is one time I don’t have the answer for you.”

“At least somebody understands me,” she says. “I feel like a horrible person because I don’t know how I feel about her going to jail. She’s my mom, I really don’t want her to go to jail. But geez, she tried to sell me! Or trade me. That means that she really has a serious problem if she didn’t see anything wrong with that.”

“That’s true,” I say. “How do you feel about her getting help and maybe wanting you to come back and live with her?” Sophie shakes her head.

“I would beg the judge to let me stay with my dad,” she says finitely. “I’ve been doing some studying on my own and I know that the judge listens to kids of a certain age. I’m hoping that I’ll be old enough that by the time my mom is eligible for parole, the judge will listen to me.”

“The judge listened to you before, Sophie,” I tell her. “I’m sure he’ll listen to you again.” She twists her lips.

“I hope so,” she replies. Then she falls silent for a few moments.

“What is it, Sophie?” I ask.

“This is my first Christmas with Dad since… I don’t know how long. I’m just wondering how it’s going to go.”

“Well, it’ll be different for us this year,” I tell her. “We normally all meet at Grace’s, but this year, everybody’s meeting over here.” She raises her brow.

“Everybody?” she says, her voice a mixture of hope and dismay, if you can say that. I give her a sympathetic glance.

“You know the door is always open at Christmas for anyone who wants to stop by.” She sighs.

“That means that Marlow will probably be here, and he’ll bring one of his scatterbrains,” she says with distaste. I shake my head.

“You may want to lighten up a bit on his dates,” I tell her. “It only serves to piss him off when you give them a hard time.”

“They’re such easy targets,” she says. “You know why he’s with them. Do they have to be so obvious?” I raise a brow.

“Why is he with them?” I ask.

“Either they want to meet you or Uncle Christian, or he wants to make out,” she says matter-of-factly, and she’s right—most likely the latter.

“So maybe now might be the time not to pay so much attention to Marlow and his dates and start paying more attention to your own interests,” I say. I want her to focus on something other than the unattainable young man who visits us from time to time. It would be a long time before he would ever even be slightly interested in Sophie, and she’s certainly sabotaging any possibility of that even in the distant future with her behavior. He’s four whole years older than her—well, nearly four. She’d probably be somewhere around twenty-one before he would even consider looking in her direction, and there’s a whole lot of years between 13 and 21. Give it up, Sophie.

“Yeah, well,” she says flippantly. “I suppose there’s no way I can get out of Christmas,” she laments. I raise my brow and purse my lips.

“Not unless you want to tell your father that you don’t want to be around Marlow and why,” I inform her. She scoffs.

“Please,” she says in that surly teenage voice. “He had a cow over purple hair. This would probably give him a coronary!”

I don’t bother asking exactly what this is. We’ve all had girlhood crushes on some unattainable older boy. It’ll pass.

Once our toes have dried and we’ve talked about everything from her beloved High School Musical and Zach Efron to the fear of being a high school student herself next year, I hear the two-way come alive.

“Ana,” I call into the air, and I hear Minnie’s cooing voice.

“Well, that’s my cue,” I say, uncrossing my legs from the lotus position and putting them on the floor.

“How does the system know when to call you?” she asks, removing the tissue from between her toes. “Like, does it buzz every time the babies cry or when does it not buzz or what?”

“Barney set it up,” I tell her, then I realize that she doesn’t know who Barney is. “Christian’s IT guy. It’s some algorithm where it picks up a certain sound or tone of the babies, but only from the nursery.” We’re going to have to revisit, because it’s picking up some other things.

“Can I come with?” she asks, hopeful.

“Sure, you can, come on.”

Keri has already made it to the nursery when we get there, and I’ve already told Gail that I was on my way and that Sophie is with me. Sophie adores baby time. Like everyone else, she doesn’t know which baby to grab first. Luckily, Keri has made the decision and retrieved Minnie, so Mikey finds himself in Sophie’s arms. Already the ladies man, he coos and smiles at her, reaching for her face as she talks to him.

We spend quite a bit of time playing with and feeding the babies—more like monitoring them while they eat. Feeding time is a bit messy these days as the babies eat more with their hands, grabbing their sippy cups on their own and dropping more food on the tarps under their highchairs than they get into their mouths. It’s mostly a success, though that ends in bathtime and a nap for my two food critics.

We find that it’s early evening when we’ve finished with the twins and it’s time to go in search of sustenance. There’s nothing cooking when we get to the kitchen and when I locate Gail, I find out why.

“Christian and Jason are still at the office. He says they’re going to be late,” Gail tells me as she’s going over the house schedule for the coming week. Still at the office? It’s fucking Sunday! Why the fuck is he at the fucking office? And why the fuck didn’t he tell me he was going?

He’s avoiding me.

Try though I might, I can’t hide the mix of anger and disappointment that wells up inside of me. From now on, if I want to know where my husband is—if I want to know—I’ll ask Gail. At least her husband tells her what’s going on.

“Ms. Solomon decided not to start dinner until she talked to you,” Gail adds, reading my expression. “She thought you may want something quick and simple…” since my husband won’t be eating with me. I swallow hard and straighten my back.

“Sophie?” I say, turning to my Sunday companion. “Would you like to come and help me reacquaint myself with my kitchen?” Sophie’s face lights up.

“Yeah!” she says, like I just gave her a Christmas present. I nod and we walk into the gourmet kitchen.

“Sophie and I are going to play ‘chef’ this evening, Ms. Solomon,” I say, trying to hide my ire with my husband behind and painted-on smile. Ms. Solomon picks up immediately.

“Okay,” she says, “just call me if you need me,” and she leaves the kitchen to me and Sophie.

“So, I say, retrieving my chef’s apron from its hiding place where it has set way too long, “do we want something easy or complicated?” I hand Sophie another apron.

“Complicated,” she says, almost reading my mind and taking the apron. She ties it around her little body as I contemplate what we’re going to create. “Aunt Ana?” she says, getting my attention. I quickly turn my head to her. She variates between “Ana” and “Aunt Ana” at will.

“Hmm?” I reply, acknowledging her.

“Boys are stupid,” she says, looking up at me with big, understanding blue eyes that almost make me cry. I sigh heavily.

“Yes, they are,” I say as I retrieve a mixing bowl.

My spirits lift somewhat after Sophie and I giggle like schoolgirls creating a fabulous homemade chicken pot pie with all fresh ingredients including crust from scratch. It’s not really complicated on the cooking scale, but it’s detailed enough to keep us both occupied. As an addition to our comfort food, I make my garlic butter cheesy mashed potatoes and nearly cry when I taste them, longing like crazy for the simpler time when these were always in the fridge, and understanding a little more why Christian would wax nostalgic about memories of his most recent past.

The girls—Gail, Sophie, Keri, and I—all have dinner at the dining table, careful to keep the conversation light, nothing too serious to bring down girl time. When dinner is done, we load the dishwasher, put the food away, and go to our separate corners.

After I spend some time doing yoga, I take to Facebook and decide to create my first post…

“Your past is always your past. Even if you forget it, it remembers you. ― Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye”

I close Facebook so as not to be tempted to overshare. The sun has long since gone down and still no word from my husband. Deciding to turn in early, I stop in my babies’ nursery like I always do to check on them. I find Minnie standing in her crib holding on to the edge, sleepy-eyed, but awake. I close the door and take her from her crib. She’s unsettled for whatever reason, so I take her to the window seat and rub her little back.

I make the mistake of looking over at the bridge. I’m not looking for an Audi, I’m just looking at the bridge, wondering how many husbands are crossing it on the way home to their families; or how many families are returning from Sunday dinner at grandma’s house, going on to prepare for the busy week; or how many wives are driving across the bridge, leaving their families and never to return again.

God, that’s dismal.

I look down at Minnie in my arms and she has fallen asleep. I didn’t really need to remove her from the crib to put her to sleep. I just needed to hold her in my arms. For the moment, I’ve officially had enough of wearing my big girl panties. I’ll be a big girl tomorrow. Right now, I just want to cry.

I cradle my sleeping baby girl in my arms, hold her close to my body, and weep.


CHRISTIAN

I’ve buried myself so deep in work that I didn’t realize how late it was until Jason tells me that his wife wants to know if we’re coming home before midnight.

“I’m sorry,” I tell him. “Old habits are hard to break. I got some of the results back from the drug tests along with some of the reports from the departments and I just got lost.” He furrows his brow at me.

“Do you need to talk?” he asks.

“About what?” I counter. About the fact that I’m one man, er, woman down because Ros chose now to have a pissing contest? I could just fire her, but she hasn’t taken much if any vacation time all year. So, the work falls on me and Lorenz and, well… I’ve got other things on my mind, too—like the goddamn Pedophile and that cunt ghostwriter of hers, and…

“We have,” I protest. “We were talking about Christmas, which is going to be at the Crossing this year, by the way.” Jason frowns.

“Thanks for telling me!” he scolds.

“I was just told today,” I defend. “And it’s only going to be family and friends anyway.”

“People are going to be coming and going. You never know where the paps are hiding. We have to be informed about these things.”

“It slipped my mind,” I say, removing my glasses and rubbing my eye.

“Now I know something’s wrong,” he says. I frown and glare at him.

“Why are you saying that?” I ask.

“Because anything to do with security, your twins, and your wife never slips your mind,” he says. “If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine, but just know that I know. And it’s more than just this work shit.” He waves around the room at my office. “Let me know when you’re ready to go,” he adds as he walks out of my office. I’m only glad no one else knows me as well as he does.

Except my wife. At least I thought she knew me… well enough to know that I wouldn’t go running into the arms of another woman because she won’t do the hard stuff. For fuck’s sake, Anastasia…

I push those thoughts out of my head and shoot off an email to HR to have the handful of people who tested positive out of my building no later than Tuesday. I’m happy to find that the vast majority follow the rules. Those who can’t will have bad news from Santa.

In accordance with my own rules, I CC the email to my wife. It’s like I told Ros before she flew the coop—if five people come back with a positive test, that’s five people that I can get rid of and get some drug-free talent in here, which is what I want. Nine came back with positive tests ranging from marijuana to meth, and I don’t even have all the results yet. I can get them out of here before they fuck anything up if they haven’t already. I’d say that’s a big win for the company so far.

I fire off a few more emails and let Jason know that it’s time to go. We have to be in court in the morning at 10, so I don’t want to keep him away from his wife and daughter for too long…

What about your wife…?

I head to my piano and a snifter of brandy like I did last night and let my melancholy tickle the ivories. My music is solemn—disappointed, like my mood. I haven’t had dinner and surprisingly, I’m not even hungry. After I don’t know how many hours, I realize that I’m really tired, though, more tired than I expected that I would be.

I want my damn bed. I haven’t slept in it and I’m tired and I want it now.

I close my piano, finish my brandy and head to my bedroom.

She’s not here, and the bed hasn’t been slept in. It’s 3:00 in the morning, and she’s not here. She’s not in the sitting room either, and the throw from the bed hasn’t been disturbed. There’s no evidence whatsoever that she’s even been in this room. I check her yoga room and she’s not there either. I would have seen her when I came from the elevator if she had been in here.

I begin to check every guest room except the room that Harmony is sleeping in. Maybe she’s feeling the same way she felt when I left for Madrid and doesn’t want to sleep in the room by herself.

No luck.

I’m trying to keep myself from panicking. I know that she wasn’t in the gym when I passed by. Her office? Her parlor? The aquarium? The spa?

Nothing.

Where the hell is she? I can’t find her anywhere! Now, I am starting to panic. Was I too hard on her? Has she left me? No, she wouldn’t leave without the children…

The twins! Of course!

I don’t wait for the elevator. I take the stairs two and three at a time to the first floor, bolting through the empty family room, kitchen, dining room and past the main entry, then up the main staircase to my twins room. I’m out of breath and I have to pause for a moment to calm my breathing before I open the door.

When I do, holding my breath, the room is dark… too dark. I scan the room and after adjusting my eyes to the darkness, I see Mikey fast asleep in his crib. I look over at Minnie’s crib and it’s empty.

My daughter is gone. Where is my daughter… and my wife?

A momentary rush of panic flows through me as I note the empty rocking chair and no light from the en suite. Just when I about to go full DEFCON 1, I see a shadow in the window seat.

Oh, shit.

I slowly walk across the room and I’m relieved and dismayed at the same time to find my wife fast asleep in the window seat with my daughter cradled contentedly in her arms. Her head is lying back on the wall and she’s scrunched up in the window seat with the baby in her arms. The moon is shining on her face, and her tears have left many treks behind.

I don’t know how to feel. I feel like I’m the one who has been wronged because I was wrongly accused, but she’s been crying.

I shake my head and reach for my baby to put her in her crib, but my wife stirs—not enough to wake, but enough to tighten her grasp on Minnie. My daughter whimpers a bit, but suckles her binky a couple of times and she’s out again… and so is my wife.

I’ll have to leave them here… or take them both.

I gather my wife in my arms, and she must’ve cried herself into sheer exhaustion, because all she does is breathe those crying shuddering breaths, clings to her baby, and falls immediately back to sleep in my arms. I look back at Mikey once more, who hasn’t stirred, and carry Butterfly and Minnie to our bedroom.

Once I lay her down, she feels the softness and loosens her grip on Minnie. My daughter rolls out of her mother’s arms and begins to stir and fuss a bit.

“Sshhh,” I soothe, rolling her onto her belly and patting her back as she sucks her binky. In no time, she’s fast asleep again. I look over at my wife, fully dressed and curled up so tightly in a ball that she looks like she’s eight years old.

She’s shrinking in her sleep. I can’t stop her from shrinking in her sleep.

I put the blanket over her and Minnie and go to my en suite. I stand in the shower for several minutes, allowing the heat to wash away the stress of the day. Once I begin to feel relaxed again, I pull on a pair of sweats and climb into bed. Neither of them has moved from the positions I left them in. I lie in bed on my back, staring at the ceiling and trying not to think about the thing that kept me away from home all day. I eventually fall asleep in that position.

I only sleep for a few hours and I’m awake again. Jason and I are headed for court this morning, I need to get out of bed. I stretch, and my hand brushes over my baby girl. I look over at her and her mother. It’s hard to believe they haven’t moved for hours—neither of them. Butterfly’s still curled in a ball and Minnie is still resting peacefully on her belly. I carefully slide out of bed so as not to wake them and go into my dressing room. I quietly dress for the day, my tie draped around my neck and my shoes, cufflinks, and suit jacket in my hand and sneak quietly out of the room.

I finish dressing just before I descend the stairs and as I’m coming through the hallway towards the kitchen, I can hear Jason talking to Gail.

“I don’t know what it is,” he says. “Something must’ve happened when he and Her Highness went out on Saturday. He’s been avoiding her ever since.”

“I knew it had to be something,” I hear Gail reply. “I think she asked me three times where he was. She never knew. I made the mistake of telling her that you guys had gone to the airport—she turned white, I mean alabaster white. She tried to downplay it, but she was terrified for a minute until I added that Christian was getting some time in Charlie Tango.”

“Well, hopefully it’ll blow over soon…”

“I don’t think so,” Gail interrupts her husband. “You’ve seen him like this before. He’s cantankerous and unapproachable, and that was before Saturday. Whatever’s going on between them, she can’t talk to him, and he can stay this way forever.”

“I know, but before, he didn’t have her. And as much of an asshole as he is, I know he doesn’t want to lose her.” He pauses for a moment. “Do you think I should let Sophie come to the sentencing? She’s young, but she’s mature for her age.”

There’s another pause before Gail speaks.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” she says. “That’s her mother, and seeing Shalane hauled away in cuffs is probably not a good idea for her. You’ll talk to her when you get home.” Jason scoffs.

“When I get home—that’s rich. With him hiding in that office until the late evening hours, I don’t even know when that’s going to be.”

“Well, tonight, you may need to have one of the other gentlemen sit with Mr. Grey while he hides out, because your daughter needs you. He can neglect his family if that’s his choice, but you, sir, need to be here.”

I’m not neglecting my family! We had a disagreement and we haven’t been speaking as much for one day! That’s not neglect!

“I’m sorry we haven’t had that much time together,” Jason says. “First Australia, and now this.”

“You’ll just have to find a way to make it up to me,” Gail replies suggestively, and I hear the unmistakable sound of kissing.

I’m not neglecting my family. If I feel slighted, I have every reason to take some time to myself and get my mind together. What the hell is this neglect shit?

“You’ve seen him like this before. He’s cantankerous and unapproachable, and that was before Saturday…”

I’m not neglecting my family… am I?

I take a few steps back through the hallway, then double back, allowing my soles to announce my presence before turning into the dining room and heading for the kitchen.

“Are you ready?” I ask Jason as I enter the room. “Good morning, Gail.”

“Good morning,” she replies, smoothing her hair. “Coffee?”

“Yes, black please,” I say.

“I guess so,” Jason finally responds with a shrug. “I wouldn’t even go if I didn’t have to, but you know… Sophie…”

“Yeah, I know,” I say, taking a welcome sip of my coffee. I look down at the plate in front of him. “That’s a hearty breakfast you’ve got there,” I say, noting the healthy serving of what looks like chicken pot pie and… are those…?

“No, I’m packing this for lunch,” Gail says, placing a cover over the plate and placing it into a thermal bag. “I made one for you, too, if you want it. Ana made a homemade, deep-dish pot pie last night and there’s enough to feed an army, and of course, those mashed potatoes…”

Ana? Butterfly cooked last night? And the potatoes?

“Yeah,” I say, trying to be nonchalant, “We’ve got a busy day ahead of us today. Brown-bagging is probably a good idea.” Gail throws a knowing look at Jason which I ignore while taking another gulp of my coffee and looking at my phone. “Is her hair still purple?”

It takes a moment for him to catch on.

“I’m used to it now,” he says. “Worse things could happen.”

“I’m glad,” Gail says, “because she’s talking about touching it up.”

“Purple again?” Jason laments a bit. Gail nods. “Well, like I said, worse things could happen.” He takes the thermal bag from his wife and kisses her. “See you later, love,” he says. I finish my coffee and walk out behind him.

*-*

The courtroom is fairly empty. There’s no one here at the moment except the courtroom staff, minus the judge, me and Jason, and the district attorney. I can’t imagine going forth into something that is this life-changing and no one even shows up to support me.

The way that I understand it, Shalane has agreed to come to court and turn herself in, taking a plea on a lesser charge with the hopes of getting a lighter sentence. Jason sits in his seat looking straight ahead of him. I can tell that he’s lost in thought. He’s probably thinking that his entire life and the life of his daughter balances on what’s going to be said in this room today.

The doors open behind us and in walks Shalane and what appears to be her attorney. She’s dressed more modestly than I’ve ever seen her, but she looks very thin and pale. I can’t tell if she’s thinner than she was the last time I saw her or not, but she’s thin. Her hair is pulled back in a bun, making her face look even thinner, skeletal even. Jason raises his gaze when he hears the doors open and looks back. Their eyes meet and Shalane looks horrified. Jason just shakes his head and faces the front again.

“She’s still using,” he says. I look back at her and then at him.

“How do you know?” I ask. I know that meth users look frail anyway, but how would he know that she’s not just frail from using before?

“She looks like death,” he says, turning his gaze to me. “I haven’t seen her since the last time that we were in court because the few times that she requested visitation, I had to work, so Gail took Sophie to see her. She looks worse now than she did then, and I know that she was using then.”

He turns his gaze to the front of the courtroom again and Shalane stops right next to us.

Shalane's meth mouth in chapter 91

“Where’s Sophia?” she whispers harshly. When she bears her teeth at him, they look awful. I don’t remember them looking that awful the last time I saw her. She looks like she’s been chewing tobacco and never brushed her teeth. I turn my gaze away from her. She looks horrible.

“Not here,” Jason says without looking at her.

“You know as well as I do that I may not see her for a while. Why wouldn’t you bring her so I could say ‘goodbye?’”

Because he probably didn’t want her to see you looking like this! Jason doesn’t dignify her with a response. Her attorney urges her to take her seat. She throws a hateful glare at Jason right before the bailiff announces the judges arrival and Shalane scrambles to her place at the defendant’s table. Everyone is seated and Shalane’s case is announced. After the attorneys introduce themselves, the judge speaks.

“It is my understanding that in the case of the State of Washington vs Shalane Deleroy, the defendant wishes to enter a plea, is this correct?”

“It is, Your Honor,” Shalane’s attorney says.

“Is the office of the District Attorney aware of this plea?”

“We are, Your Honor,” the D.A. replies.

“Is the office of the District Attorney in agreement with this plea?

“We are, Your Honor.” The judge examines some papers in front of her.

“It is my understanding that the charges have been amended from conspiracy to distribute to possession of a controlled substance, is that correct?” the judge asks.

“Yes, Your Honor,” the D.A. confirms.

“Very well. Ms. Deleroy, would you please stand?” The judge says and Shalane gets to her feet.

“Do you understand the charges against you, Ms. Deleroy?” the judge asks.

“Yes, Your Honor,” Shalane responds.

“Okay. In the matter of the State of Washington vs Shalane Deleroy, on the count of possession of a controlled substance, Ms. Deleroy, how do you plead?”

“Guilty, Your Honor,” she says after a short pause.

“Counsel, you have reached a settlement?”

“Yes, Your Honor,” the D.A. says. “The people have agreed to a sentence of 18 months in jail followed by five years’ probation.” That’s all? She tried to sell a child, for fuck’s sake! But of course, she took a plea. Gotta love the justice system.

“Ms. Deleroy, do you know that by pleading guilty you lose the right to a jury trial?” the judge asks.

“Yes, your Honor,” she replies.

“Do you give up that right?”

“Yes, Your Honor,” she says flatly.

“Do you understand what giving up that right means?” the judge asks.

“Yes, I do.”

“Do you know that you are waiving the right to cross-examine your accusers?” the judge continues.

“Yes.”

“Do you know that you are waiving your privilege against self-incrimination?”

“Yes.”

“Did anyone force you into accepting this settlement?” the judge inquires.

“No, they didn’t.”

“Are you pleading guilty because you in fact were in possession of a controlled substance on the night of March 19, 2014?

“Yes, I was.”

“Very well, Ms. Deleroy, you are hereby sentenced to 18 months in jail, with review in a year, followed by five years’ probation, on condition that you complete a court-approved drug rehabilitation program.

“You are hereby remanded and without bail to the custody of the sheriffs of Kent county to be delivered for commitment to the Washington State Department of Corrections where you will be confined until final execution of this judgment and sentence prescribed by law. This court is now in recess.”

The gavel falls and we watch as the bailiff cuffs Shalane. She doesn’t resist or perform like she has been known to do. Her attorney says something to her as she’s being cuffed, and she just nods meekly. Moments later, she walks out of the courtroom with the bailiff without a word or looking back.

Jason is still deep in thought as we leave the courtroom and walk down the courthouse steps in the frigid cold. We walk in silence to the car and once inside. He starts the car and just sits there for a moment.

“Jason?” I say.

“Thank you for coming with me today,” he says.

“You’re welcome,” I reply. There’s a long pause.

“I loved that woman once,” he says, almost nostalgically. “At one time, she and Sophie were my whole life. And then, it seems like out of nowhere, we were at the other end of the spectrum. I was devastated when we got divorced. How does something change so drastically between two people who love each other?”

I can see his reflection in the rearview mirror, but he’s still looking straight ahead. I don’t have an answer to his question and I’m not certain if it’s rhetorical or not.

“Work it out, sir,” he says, and his eyes shift to mine in the reflection of the rearview mirror. “Whatever it is, whatever has you and Ana at odds, work it out and work it out fast. Don’t let it simmer. It only takes a minute to lose everything you love.”

We gaze at each other for a moment in the mirror before he puts the car in gear and heads toward GEH.

*-*

“It’s been a bit of a commotion today, sir,” Andrea says. “Mr. Holstein has called several times. I hear a hint of desperation in his voice. Allen has asked to be notified as soon as you arrive as he indicated that GEH is most likely looking at five lawsuits for wrongful termination…”

“From the ex-employees who failed the drug tests?” I ask, bemused.

“Yes, sir, it looks that way,” she replies. I scoff a laugh.

“Bring it on,” I say. “Tell him that I’m here and to bring the files and names of those losers who want to sue me.”

“Yes, sir,” she says and begins to dial the phone.

I walk into the office I left not 12 hours ago, Jason’s words ringing in my head to fix whatever’s wrong between me and “Ana.” He never calls her Ana, so either he was highly distracted or very serious. I remove my coat and rub my hands together. They’ve gotten a chill just from the car to the door. It’s really cold outside.

“Andrea, will you get me a cup of coffee, please?” I say into the intercom.

“Yes, sir,” she replies. I fire up my computer and of course, many emails greet me—responses from the department heads I’ve been harassing about projects that should have long since been started or even finished. I take several minutes to respond to them and give further directives. Then I can’t help but feel a bit of anger towards Ros for skipping out on me at such a crucial time, but I push the thought out of my head. It is what it is, so she gets one gimmie, but that’s it.

“Well, hello, Chris. So nice of you to join us,” Al says, breezing into my office in that way that he does.

“Don’t give me shit, Forsythe, I had things to do this morning,” I warn. “What’s up?”

“Well, first of all, Chocolate is walking on air that we finally got the ball rolling on SEEKNID,” he says. I raise my gaze to him.

“You told him that?” I ask.

“No, he told me,” he says. “He’s been getting calls about algorithms and the way the program is supposed to work in an ideal setting. He’s got an appointment to come down next Tuesday for his input and approval.”

I must’ve missed that email in the thousands that I’ve been reading over the past several days.

“Well, it’s good to know that someone around here is doing their job,” I point out. “So, what’s the angle—I drugged their coffee?”

“No,” he replies. “They’re actually claiming ADA protection.”

“You’re kidding me, right?” I say. “This is a joke, right?”

“Well, no. Under the ADA…”

“I know how the ADA works!” I snap. “Title I to be exact. The moment I decided that this would be a drug-free workplace, I educated myself on that.”

“Good, so I don’t have to explain it to you. The revolutionaries are trying to sue you for not making reasonable accommodations for their ‘illness.’ According to the lawsuits, as an employer, you should have provided counseling and cessation or rehabilitation programs instead of firing them.”

“And this is why I had to go all Rambo on my fucking company,” I lament, “because the inmates are running the fucking asylum.”

“There’s only eight of them, Chris,” he says.

“All eight of them are suing?” I ask.

“All eight of them have mentioned it,” he replies.

“And if only one of them is successful in this suit, employers everywhere will have to keep drug addicts on their payroll,” I respond. “This section of the ADA is supposed to protect people like Chuck, who had a bad spell but has cleaned their life up and is moving on, so that their prior mistakes don’t follow them to the grave—not strung-out or social-using opportunists who got caught. They’re not suing me because they’re sick. No, they’re suing me because they failed random drug testing, which is my right to perform as an employer, and I’m going to be performing it more often.

“No one came to me and said, ‘Sir, I have a problem I need treatment.’ They went out and partied the night before or the weekend before and they dropped dirty. So, if they have money to burn, let them go on and sue me, because I’m taking this all the way to the fucking top. Any lawyer with an ounce of sense knows this isn’t going to go anywhere. There’s no judge in America that’s even going to hear this. So, all I want to hear from this point on about these cases is how soon they’re going to be thrown out of court.” He twists his lips and nods.

“Christmas is at your house,” he says.

“Yes,” I say after a pause.

“When were you going to tell me?” he asks.

“Ana just decided this weekend,” I say. He raises a brow at me. “What?” His face falls to a slight frown.

“Nothing,” he replies.

“Out with it, Forsythe,” I demand. Everybody seems to be able to see that something is wrong, and I haven’t said a word or even behaved differently that I know of.

“Nothing,” he says again, “if you don’t see anything wrong with what you just said, neither do I. Have you started planning for February or are we just flying by the seat of our pants?” I frown.

“What’s happening in February?” I ask and his eyes widen.

“Green Valley? Smote the bastards? Hello?” I shake my head.

“I’ve been a little distracted with company business,” I reply.

“Well, undistract yourself!” he demands. “This is like one of the most important things that has ever happened in Jewel’s life!”

“Jesus Christ, I know,” I say, irritated. “Just give me definite dates and I’ll have travel plans ready.”

“Well, you may want a guest list, too, because it looks like you’re going to have a full-on entourage.” I frown.

“Entourage?” I ask. “That’s a bad idea. That screams of publicity, something we really don’t need.”

“Well, I’m going, and I know that if I’m going, Chocolate is going to be there.”

“We really don’t need legal representation for this, Al…”

“Well, then it’s a good thing I’m not coming as legal representation,” he interrupts. “I was around for this shit, Chris. I may not have been right there in her face, and I may not have been able to be by her side, but I was there. I felt everything that she felt and when she got back to Montesano at the tender age of 16, I cried with her while she told me what happened. I vowed that if it took my last breath, I would see these motherfuckers get what’s coming to them and I’m. Going. To Vegas.”

His brown eyes are piercing through me at the moment and I’m pretty certain he’d deck me if I tried to stop him. I sigh heavily and drop my head.

“I’m sorry,” I say, not able to give him any explanation as to why I was so insensitive of his emotional investment in all this. He’s silent for a moment.

“What’s going on with you, Chris?” he asks, and when I look up, he’s closing the door. I drop my head again.

“There’s so much going on in my life right now,” I admit. “We went to Australia to decompress and I come back to a shitstorm of motherfuckers not knowing what they’re doing. I’m putting all of my time and energy into trying to figure out what’s going on before my company collapses, and now I get the news that bastards are trying to sue me because I’m not letting them do drugs on the job.

“Ros is testing all of my patience. She took nearly three weeks off right at Christmas with no notice and right in the middle of a crisis because she’s pissed! She’s pissed because I decided to do random drug testing which sniffed out eight people so far, and because I’m turning the company upside down, but not to her specifications. It bothers the fuck out of me that Lorenz is floating around just as cool as you please while I’m running around here pulling out every strand of my hair.

“My wife has vowed not to come to GEH anymore because she feels like nobody respects her, and Ros was bordering on insubordination the day that she walked out of here.”

“She said that?” Al interrupts. “She said she wasn’t coming back because they don’t respect her?” I nod quickly and widen my eyes.

“Yeah, she did,” I confirm. Al scoffs, then chuckles. “What’s funny?” I ask with a frown.

“She’ll be back,” he says with a knowing smile, “and when she does, some fire’s gonna fly in this bitch.” I eye him speculatively, then roll my eyes.

“I’ve got another Ana to meet now?” I’ve got a feeling that’s the last fucking thing that I need.

“Oh, this Ana doesn’t have a name, but you’ve probably met her already. Tell me—if I’m not overstepping—has this surly, distracted, inattentive, bear-like, solemn persona made its way to your home yet?” He’s gesturing to me in the most belittling manner as he rattles off this list or unattractive adjectives that describe me perfectly these days.

“No, you’re not and yes, it has,” I confess. He twists his lips.

“Um-hmm, and how is Butterfly taking that?” he says, his brow furrowing. “I notice you haven’t used that particular term of endearment in this entire conversation.” Jesus, I haven’t? Is that what Jason was talking about?

“Things aren’t well,” he says. “There’s other things going on.”

“And none of them stemmed from this, right?” he presses. I don’t know how to answer that. We were planning to see our BDSM mentors anyway. When we got there, I made a confession and she accused me of wanting to be with other women. That had nothing to do with what’s going on here and neither did our going to see our BDSM mentors…

But my confession and the feelings surrounding it did.

“So, while you’re searching for an answer to that question, riddle me this. Have you ever seen Jewel get to the end of a situation that she couldn’t handle or that had just worked her nerves to the very end and flip the fuck out? I mean, completely turn into somebody you didn’t know?”

Flynngate and the Treehouse Trauma both come to mind immediately. Then, of course, there was the Crouching Tiger moment when the Pedophile put her hands all over me in front of a room full of people at my parents’ house. And let’s not forget holding a chopping knife to the Pedophile’s throat at the breakfast bar at Escala, and that cold woman that took over my kitchen the entire afternoon. I get a chill just thinking about it…

“And that…” Al says, pulling me out of my daydream and pointing a finger at me, “tells me that you have seen her in this state. And when she blows, be prepared for somebody to walk out, especially if her flamethrower is aimed at our little ‘hot shot in heels.’”

“Fuck,” I hiss. The last thing I would want to have to do is choose between Ros and my… Butterfly. I would really hate to lose Ros, but that’s a no-brainer. Al stands.

“Whatever fire is in the hole at home, fix it, Chris. You and I both know that although this is your pride and joy and you built it with your bare hands, none of this…” he gestures around the room, “is going to be worth anything to you without Jewel.”

Without Jewel? What does he mean by that? She’s not going anywhere! It’s not that bad…

Is it?

I sit there pondering just how bad the situation must be for Jason and Al to check me about it without even talking to my wife, and I’m surprised to see that Al has left and Jason has taken his place.

“It’s late,” he says. “I figure you might want your lunch.” He’s standing there holding the plate his wife made for me this morning along with some utensils. Food from the hands of Butterfly. I move to take it from him

“Thanks,” I say. He hesitates.

“It’s still cold,” he says. “You want me to have Andrea heat it up?” I shake my head and take the plate.

“No, I’ll do it, but ask her to get me something to drink, please.”

“What do you want?” I think for a moment.

“Cranberry juice and sparkling water on ice.”


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

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~~love and handcuffs