Raising Grey: Chapter 80—Melbourne Mischief

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

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

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

Danger—Aussie accent ahead. Turn away now.

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

All other previous disclaimers still apply.

Chapter 80—Melbourne Mischief 

ANASTASIA

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

“I can’t do that,” I reply.

“Why not?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Google?” she says incredulously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How’s 10:00?” he asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it really doesn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

“Same, but different,” I say softly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah,” I say.

“Wow,” he says incredulously. “I wonder how many other songs came from cartoons that I never knew about.”

“Well, let me think,” I say, trying to scan through my brain and think of the songs that I know. “Colors of the Wind by Vanessa Williams…”

“Which one did that come from?”

Pocahontas,” I reply. “Remember Grandmother Willow, the tree behind the door in the twins’ room that creeped you out when you first saw it?”

“Yeah… oh, yeah, Pocahontas,” he says.

A Whole New World by um… Regina Belle and Peabo Bryson,” I continue. He frowns and shakes his head. “I can show you the world shining, shimmering splendid…”

Still no recognition comes across my husband’s face, so I sing the chorus…

“A whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew…”

“Oh, yeah. I’ve heard that,” he says finally.

“That’s from Alladin, the cartoon with the big blue genie. You’ll definitely have to see that one now that Robin Williams is gone.” He frowns.

“What does Alladin have to do with Robin Williams?” he asks.

“He was the voice of the big, blue genie,” I say. My husband’s mouth forms an “o.”

Circle of Life, Elton John,” I continue, attempting to get away from the morbid, “The Lion King.”

“Geez, I feel so out of touch,” he says.

“Don’t,” I comfort him. “There’s no way for you to know this at this point until you had children. Wait until you get to the really old stuff, like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” He twists his lips.

“Oh, come on,” he jibes. “That’s just some word kids made up.” I release a high-pitched scoff.

“No, it’s not! It’s a song from Mary Poppins!” I correct him.

“Mary… I don’t believe you!” he protests. “Sing it!” I immediately break into song.

“It’s Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious. If you say it loud enough, you’ll always sound precocious. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Um-dittle-ittl-ittl-um-dittle-I, Um-dittle-ittl-ittl-um-dittle-I…”

“Okay! Okay! I believe you!” he stops me. I can’t help but laugh, because if you’ve never heard the song before, it goes so fast that it can be kind of shocking. I lay my head on his lap and look up at the stars again once I’ve contained my laughter.

“You’re a great mom,” he says softly. “Our children are so lucky.” I put my hand on his chest and push off of him so that I can look in his eyes.

“They have a great dad, too, Christian,” I say. “You’re kind, generous, protective to a fault… and you love them…”

“But I left them…” he interjects, “and you.” I swallow hard and take in a deep breath.

“And hopefully, you’ve seen the err of your ways and you’ll never do it again,” I reply. He gazes at me for a long moment.

“I’ll never do it again,” he whispers. Here’s hoping…

“Good,” I say, and lean up and kiss him softly. Our gazes lock when I pull away, and he pulls me to him and kisses me earnestly.

Remember that spark that I referenced earlier? Yeah, it’s a full-blown blaze now! He’s grabbing my ass and groping my breast; his tongue is plunging into my mouth, exploring every crevice as he holds me captive against his body. I can barely breathe as he devours me like a starving man and I’m powerless to his will.

We neck on the upper deck for what feels like hours until I’m so aflame that I could fuck him right out here in the open. Then, he tells me that he just needs to hold me—like he did that night in Anguilla. Part of me wants to stomp and pout—why didn’t he tell me this before he got me all worked up? And then I think about it. We’ve fucked for like half the trip. I can keep my hormones in check for at least a night.

Alright, Mr. Grey. I’ll behave myself and snuggle.


CHRISTIAN

My wife is looking flawless in a black and white fitted striped maxi-dress as we head to breakfast on Friday morning. Her original hickeys have faded a bit, but she has a new, smaller one on the other side. She displays them like badges of honor with her back and shoulders bare. I think she looks simply scrumptious.

So as not to look like a total toad next to my exquisite wife, I go with a Beckham-esque look with black jeans and a black button-up. I leave Jason to get our bags off the ship and to the jet, which should already be at Tullamarine Airport, and Lawrence will accompany us for the day. He has decided to wear a suit today, and I assume that Jason may have had a talk with him about his effectiveness in Sydney.

We meet Jaxon and Laura at the Bistro for breakfast since Butterfly liked it the last time we ate here.

“You two are a really handsome couple,” Laura says when we enter the restaurant. “Your security looks really sharp today. What’s the plan?”

“So far, we’ve only made plans to see the Melbourne Aquarium,” Butterfly says. “Not sure where to go from there.”

“Don’t be afryed to ahsk the locals what’s poppin’ ta’dy,” Jaxon says. “OI can sy check out Fed Square. Lots ta do and see thehre. St. Paul’s Cathedral is a soite, or the Austraylian Centah of the Moving Image. And thehre’s lots of street aht if yah touh the city on foot. Ohr you cahn tayke a look around Queen Victohria Mahrket or Luna Pahrk.”

I got most of that… I think.

Laura helps Butterfly set up a Facebook and Instagram page under and assumed name with the option to change it once we talk to Mac about the implications of a social media presence.

“It can be really helpful to you,” Laura says. “It’s a great way to connect if it’s done correctly… like us.”

“Here, take my email and my cell number,” Butterfly says. Laura nods.

“I’m so accustomed to social media, I forgot those were options,” she laughs, pulling out her cell phone.

We feast on a breakfast of gourmet French toast made with cinnamon-brown-sugar brioche and served with syrup and fresh fruit; apple-cinnamon crepes topped with apple compote and vanilla yogurt; seafood crepes made with baby shrimp, fish, surimi, and mushrooms in a velouté sauce; flat iron steak with tarragon-Hollandaise sauce; corned beef hash and eggs; sweet potato French fries, Café Mocha, and Mimosas.

Jaxon tells us about going to Melbourne strictly to visit his mom’s grave. He doesn’t tour the city at all to avoid running into his overly snobby relatives.

“OI’d love foh them ta meet you,” he says before taking a bite of his steak. “Thaht wood cuhrtainly tyke the wind outta thehr sayls!”

“I wouldn’t mind making the trip with you,” I tell him once I swallow some of my seafood crepe. He shakes his head.

“OI think it’d be an exsahcoise in futility,” he says. “Some people ahre jes too fahr gone.” I nod and devour more of this delicious seafood crepe. Jesus, Gail or Ms. Solomon may have to find a recipe for this.

We dawdle as long as we can before we finish our breakfast and move to debark the ship. Jason has taken care of packing our things and double-checking the cabin to be sure everything is leaving the ship with us. I had to pull a lot of strings for us to be able to debark in Melbourne. First, I was supposed to get the request to the cruise line a week before we took our trip… in writing! I hit the antiquated fax machine the day before we flew out to Sidney. I needed—and received—a response the same day.

Getting off the ship in Melbourne instead of sailing back to Sidney was a little costly and a bit of a trial. We had four people who had to “check out” of the cruise much like you check out of a hotel. If I hadn’t, they would have listed the four of us as missing passengers. Luckily, when we flew out of the states and into Australia, our passports were already stamped. So, we didn’t have the hassle of having the cruise line vouch for us and handle our immigration issues because we were already stamped in.

I did, however, have to pay for the entire cruise for four people as well as an additional fine for each of us to get off the boat even though we didn’t cruise for the last two days of the trip. It’s not that the money is any big issue, but I am a bit miffed at our travel agent who insisted that Barossa Valley was an absolute must to see wine country…

The entire goddamn continent is wine country!

For the reaction that Butterfly had to Port Arthur, we could have skipped that part of the trip and toured the Tamar Valley or any of the numerous other locations that boast wine tours. I’m sure that my wife would have much rather been traipsing through rows of fresh grapes, tasting delicious wines, cheeses, and truffles, and enjoying an education on Shirazes, Cabernets, and Rieslings than trying to shake off the burdensome spirits of the dead!

The trip and itinerary through the Barossa Valley are the only part of the trip that was actually planned for us. I believe the agent is getting some kind of kickback for booking it. It better be a-fucking-mazing or I’m reaming her a fucking new one when we get back to Seattle. I’m already going to take a bite out of her ass for what is clearly a set-up. I’m sure that there are other ports we could have visited besides Port Arthur, and I’m not happy about that at all.

When I’ve signed every possible form and nodded a hundred times that I understood that we had to make our own way back to Sydney—or in our case, home—I send Jason on his way to the airport to secure the jet and to get us and our luggage to Adelaide later this evening. Once again, Lawrence stays with me and Butterfly. Once we’re on Melbourne soil, Jaxon and I bid one another a heartfelt and fond farewell with promises and intentions of seeing each other again. Tearing Laura and Butterfly apart, however, is proving to be a Herculean feat!

“I feel like I’m saying goodbye to one of my sisters,” Laura sniffs. Butterfly smiles.

“Then we’ll just have to make sure that we see each other again, won’t we?” my wife says. Laura nods, still in Butterfly’s arms.

“You take care of yourself,” she says, her voice cracking, “and don’t forget our talk.”

“I won’t forget,” Butterfly says, “not a word.” They hug again before they release and Butterfly hugs Jaxon goodbye. I wrap my arms around Laura.

“I won’t forget either,” I say quietly in her ear. She scoffs a sob.

“Take care of her,” she whispers. “She adores you, and she’ll do anything for you. Treasure that and make sure she knows that you do.” I pull away from her and look into her tear-filled eyes.

“Excellent advice that I intend to take,” I say softly before placing a gentle kiss on her tear-stained cheek.

“Ay!” Jaxon barks. “Don’t ya be givin’ ahll ma smooches awy!” He moves closer to us. “Goh grope yah own woife!” Laura chuckles.

“He wasn’t groping me,” she protests.

“OI saw the mate with a handful o’ me Lahrie!” Jaxon jibes. “Thaht’s gropin’ as far as OI’m concuhned! And the kissies on yah cheek! Whaht wass’at?”

Laura raises her brow and shakes her head. That’s when I realize that this performance is strictly the stop his “Laurie’s” crying.

“My apologies, sir,” I say, placing my hand on my chest and mocking extreme contrition.

“OI’ll let ya sloide this toime,” Jaxon says, pointing a finger at me, “but don’t let it happen again!”

We quickly part ways to keep Laura from weeping again and flag a taxi to our first destination, the Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium. Butterfly doesn’t get to the aquarium anymore, and it used to be one of her favorite pastimes. I knew for certain that we would visit this place the moment I knew that Melbourne would be one of our ports of call.

Once we pass the admissions counter, we go down this colorful hallway to a darkened room and a large round glass tank—very large, like nearly the size of the room. It’s called the Bay of Rays—as in sting rays—and it’s a 360-degree tank that looks almost like the bottom of the ocean and you can walk around it and see the different fish inside. I’m more than a little squeamish of sting rays.

“Be careful, baby,” I say as she leans over into the tank to get a closer look. She looks up at me.

“They’re very gentle, Christian,” she consoles, but I’m not convinced.

“Isn’t… didn’t… Isn’t that what killed the Crocodile Hunter?” I say quietly, so that the nearby children don’t hear my question. Butterfly stands.

“Well, yes, but that was different,” she says softly, also aware of the children around her. “First, he was in the wild submerged in the water with the thing. Second, from nose to barb, that stingray was longer than you are tall, and it felt threatened. I’m sure these specimens are accustomed to people. And third, I don’t want to be that close to a stingray. So, keep your shirt on, Mr. Grey.”

I guess I shouldn’t be too afraid of these specimens. They’re coexisting just fine with several other fish in the large, circular tank. The children don’t seem to be intimidated at all, but I can’t help it. We’re talking about my beautiful Butterfly here. I can’t discount the fact that a beloved conservationist and zoologist was killed by one of these things.

They look like they actually have fins instead of barbs, though, and when they swim to the side of the tank, they look like they’re smiling at you. As long as she doesn’t get into the tank with the damn things and they stay on that side of the glass, I guess I’ll be okay.

Our next stop is the Rockpools. Now, even though there is no deadly sea life in this area, it’s interactive, which means that you can stick your hand in the tank. Butterfly quickly takes advantage of this opportunity, seizing the moment to touch “sea stars” and shark eggs. No thank you.

“What’s the difference between a sea star and a star fish?” I ask the young guy on the other side of the exhibit.

“There’s no difference,” he tells me. “A sea star has a calcified skin that protects them from most predators, but they’re often called starfish when they’re not fish at all. They’re simply invertebrates with no backbones, like sea urchins and sponges. Would you like to hold one, sir?” I put my hand up and shake my head.

“Oh, no thank you,” I tell him. “I’ll just take pictures of the beautiful nature lover here,” I say, as I snap a picture of Butterfly closely examining a red and yellow star fish, er… I mean, sea star.

The Ancient Ocean provides information on prehistoric sea life, including some specimens that are still around, like the mudskippers and the pig-nosed turtles. My wife is totally immersed in the display, awed by the large teeth on the outside of the tank, said to be the actual size of the prehistoric Megladon. I’m not as enraptured by the whole experience as she is. However, I take great joy in watching her have so much fun, so we could spend the entire day here for all I care.

We take an escalator to the lower level, where we find the Coral Caves and the Art Aquarium. Now, the Coral Caves were nice to see, with all the nemo fish painted on the wall, but the shining moment for me is the Art Aquarium. My very adult wife with two twin children at home sits down at the child-sized table and colors a picture of a fish. I take several pictures in case she wants to later deny this moment… but it gets better. You scan this picture into some high-tech projector video whatever thingy and you wait for a minute and what happens?

Your fish appears on the screen—a simulated fish tank with fish on it that other “kids” have colored—and your fish is alive and swimming in the tank! I thought my wife was going to lose her mind.

There’s even one portion of the aquarium that talks about crabs. Here, we find a large crab shell—the ones the hermit crab carries on its back. There are several facts about crabs all over the wall, including crabs in tanks and the unforgettable fact that a crab can grow a limb back if it loses one. What’s more unforgettable is Butterfly’s interaction with the crab shells on the floor. One is pretty large—about three feet or so—with a glass crab inside, strictly for show. The other is larger, maybe four or four and a half feet round and empty.

My wife crawls inside of the damn thing.

I take several pictures of her crouched inside that thing… just in case she gets stuck, so that I can show our children. No such luck—my wife is a rubber band.

“Now, that’s probably the ugliest thing I’ve seen today,” Butterfly says when she sees the Japanese Spider Crab.

“The day is young, my dear,” I reply, and she swats my arm.

Down a flight of stairs we go to yet another sublevel where we find the Shipwreck Explorer and its guardians, the lionfish. Butterfly is once again mesmerized by this unique fish that I find somewhat unattractive.

“You like that thing?” I ask surprised.

“It’s interesting,” she says. I raise a brow.

“Maybe you’ve found a new favorite fish.” She rubbernecks to me and frowns.

“And replace Marty? Never!” she declares. I laugh.

“I’m sure Marty appreciates your loyalty.” I say as we proceed over to the Mermaid Garden.

Here’s where I discover that the stingrays in the Bay of Rays were not the ones to be concerned about. The ones with the killer barbs are more contained—in large tanks not accessible to the public like the open tank in the first room. However, they’re in this gigantor panoramic Oceanarium with harmless statues of mermaids in various poses as well as not-so-harmless massive sharks and huge stingrays, one of them so large that it basically takes up the entire ceiling above us.

Oh, by the way, idiots—er, I mean, people can choose to scuba dive with the sharks, which is exactly what one idiot is doing along with a guide or something while we watch. I don’t care how tame they are in captivity. You’ve got to be three eggs short a dozen to choose to swim with Jaws, much less pay to do it.

Did I mention that these things are in a very dark room that’s pretty much a 360-degree tank that leads to a tunnel where these things are floating all around us and swimming over our heads?

“Well, I’m thoroughly creeped out,” I say. My wife looks over at me.

“Christian, you really need to chill out,” she says in a soft, scolding voice. “The fish in the open stingray tank were more likely to get us than these are.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” I say as I hurry through the tunnel. My wife, on the other hand, dawdles inside the death tube, communing with the fish and gazing into the “ocean” depths as if she would sink into it and become one with it if she could. I take a picture of her looking so ethereal with her hands pressed against the glass and mesmerized by the fish inside. Then I have to think of something playful to say to snap her out of this faraway look that she often gets when she stares at the water… because it scares me.

“I’m going to change your nickname from Butterfly to Ariel,” I say. She turns to me.

“You remembered,” she says, dreamily and somewhat surprised. Yes, I remembered. I don’t know how I remembered, but I did. It’s a little factoid that was probably stashed back into the recesses of my mind along with the fate of the Gingerbread Man that my mind dug out when I needed a quick and relatable distraction.

“Wonders never cease,” I say, having drawn her daydreaming away from the blue depths. “Just don’t expect me to remember the words to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” Come out of there now, please, I think to myself as I hold my hand out to her.

“Well, it wouldn’t suit me,” she says, taking my hand. “In theory, a mermaid is a beautiful creature, but she has dragged many men to their deaths. Not only that, but as much as it soothes me, I can’t breathe underwater.”

Exactly my point.

“So at least I don’t have to worry about you leaving me to become King Triton’s mistress,” I jest. She chuckles.

“No, dear,” she says mirthfully, “I’ll keep my feet planted firmly on dry land.”

So, back up the ramp we go to the Crocodile Lair and the Coral Atoll. The Croc Lair… yeah. For starters, there’s a pretty big replica of a fossilized crocodile in the lobby. Upon closer examination, I can’t help but wonder if this thing isn’t some kind of distant cousin to the big ass fucker in the lair! This monster is so big that you’re wondering how the hell did they get him in there and who the fuck feeds him. Fucking hell, while we’re talking, what the fuck do they feed him?

“What the fuck is that?” I murmur to my wife without moving my lips.

“Um, dear, you’re in a crocodile’s lair,” my wife says. “That would be a crocodile.”

“I know what it is!” I quietly snap at her, affronted. “I mean, what the fuck is it?” My wife facepalms herself.

“Come on,” she says, leading me over to the information wall on the beast.

His name is Pinjarra and supposedly, his body is ten times the size of his head. If that’s the case, that thing has a pretty big head! I think somebody miscalculated. He’s about 16 feet long, weighs nearly 1700 pounds, and he’s older than I am. Yeah, what the fuck does he eat? That’s probably why he’s in there by himself… he ate all the other crocodiles!

Oh, and when they’re sitting around with their mouths open like they’re about to chow down on dinner but nothing’s in their mouths, they’re panting like dogs to cool themselves down. How cute… not!

The Coral Atoll is harmless enough. It’s a giant circular and concave tank full of extremely colorful and diverse variations of coral and a variety of fish and sea life, including a green moray eel and several blue fish that my wife keeps referring to as Dory.

Up we go again to yet another level of this never-ending expedition, where we’re able to look down into the lair of the 16-foot monstrosity that we left on the floor below. No thanks, I’ve seen enough of you, buddy.

More to my liking was the Rainforest Adventure. This is a huge tank something like the Bay of Rays, only bigger… and it looks more natural because there are rocks and plants inside, trees with vines draping and extending to one another, and tanks in the walls that either look like caves or are painted with tropical backdrops that mimic the forest

This room is much more calming than just about any room in the aquarium… for me, anyway, except maybe the coral exhibits.

Butterfly wanders around the exhibit leaving me to my own vices. I guess she figures there’s nothing to really creep me out in here.

She figures correctly.

I enjoy being in here and seeing the different harmless species of fauna of this portion of the rainforest, not to mention that it’s very colorful and inviting in here. There’s a very harmless-looking sea turtle or three in the large tank, accompanied by lungfish—so named, I discover, because they’re the only species of fish that can actually breathe air. One school of thought is that the lungfish, which actually has lungs and can live to be 50 years old, is the missing link between humans and fish.

I’ve never dug into or studied evolution as such, and I honestly couldn’t say which school of thought I’m more particular to—that of evolution vs. Creation, that is. I have to say that I ultimately believe that there’s a greater power in the universe, I’m just not really sure how to identify it. I’ve never been particularly religious, but if I had to answer the question, “Is there a God,” I would have to say that my answer would be, “Yes.”

As far as evolution is concerned and the ideas that dinosaurs once roamed the earth and that man was once a water-dwelling being who decided to crawl out of the water, mysteriously grow bones, and become land creatures, I don’t know about all that. I know what the science books say and all that, but I guess if I had to put my theories into words that I would say that life and man came from a combination of both evolution and creation.

It’s too much for me to ponder on a trip to the aquarium. Why does vacation always send me on some kind of introspective spiral? Greece, Anguilla, the MONA, Port Arthur… well, Port Arthur did a number on us both. I guess I can ponder the relationship between man and a prehistoric fish without any problem after that experience!

There’s so much to see in the Rainforest exhibit—frogs, crabs, turtles, and large green snakes that my wife avoids like the plague. Probably the most menacing little guy in the entire display was Boyd’s Forest Dragon, menacing only because he gave Butterfly a little fright. He’s a reptile—very colorful—but he was perched on a branch inside one of the caves and gave her the willies.

There appeared to be fishing poles of some kind attached to the outside of the large circle exhibit, but we never found out what they were for.

We take the escalator back down to the ground floor and I discover that we’re finally on our last leg of our journey. It was educational and informative, even a bit interesting, but it seemed to take forever! I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it’s time to board the plane once we leave this place.

At the foot of the escalator is the Seahorse Pier. Now this is a bit of an extraordinary experience. I’ve always known that seahorses were a thing, but I didn’t know that there were other variations of them. I also never knew that there are these things called sea dragons.

“Butterfly! C’mere, look at this!” I exclaim with the excitement of a third grader. She comes over and examines the new world with me.

The sea horses are easily distinguishable by their familiar shape, but they come in so many sizes and colors. I find myself particularly drawn to a dramatic orange sea horse, just because I’ve never seen them in that color before.

But the sea dragons! Some of them are just long, slender little creatures of different colors that vary in length—some may have a small hump, like a beginning sea horse; others may have a slightly fatter body. The really remarkable ones are the leafy ones! They look like random, stray, leafy pieces of flora in the water. It’s fascinating!

Also in this exhibit is the chameleon of the sea, the giant cuttlefish. He’s a bit of an ugly guy, but he can change the color and texture of his skin to match his surroundings even though he can’t see color. I find that kind of curious. How does he change if he can’t see colors? As it turns out, the tiny nerves and cells in its body can “see” the environment and change colors.

To the left of us is a doorway that leads to the Bay of Rays, so I know we’re back where we started from. However, to the right of us is a movie theater that’s showing a 4D version of a movie called Ice Age.

4D… what the hell does that look like.

“I’ve heard of this. Is this one of the movies I need to see?” I ask my wife. She twists her lips.

“Well, first, it’s a series,” she says. “There’s about four of them out right now. Second, I’m not really sure if this feature is part of the series as I personally haven’t seen them all. And third, nah, you don’t really need to see it if you don’t want to. It’s cute, but not really a classic.”

I nod. No Ice Age for me. I’ve got enough to keep up with.

Speaking of the Ice Age, our last exhibit before we see daylight is the Penguin Playground. Nothing really special here—we just get to watch the penguins frolic and play in a recreation of their natural habitat. We watch the King Penguins with their yellow beaks and chest and impressive size. The King Penguins are smart because if you put something colorful up to the glass, they’ll follow it through the water. Not to be outdone, the gentoo penguins who are known to be the champion swimmers of the two species will follow the colors with even more balletic precision. Though we don’t see any at the aquarium, we’ve come to discover that there are places here in Melbourne, too, where the fairy penguins come in to nest after sunset.

“Jesus, it’s bright as hell out here!” Butterfly says, searching through her bag. I happened to ask one of the cashiers in the gift shop which direction would be best for us to go once we left the aquarium, as I’ve completely forgotten everything Jaxon suggested at breakfast.

“Well, ya got a coupla choices,” she had said. “Ya can take tha 30 strayte down ta Fed Squeh ohr ya can take Weeliams down to Queen Vic.”

She pulls out what looks like a tourist map and shows me in a “you-are-here” type of way where we are and where she’s suggesting that we go.

“Fed Squeh is nice and all—thehr’s lots to see, but you moight want to wayte til dahk, unless ya got tickets to an event or something…” which I don’t. “I prefer Queen Vic duhring this time of day.”

“Queen Vic” is Queen Victoria Market. Both destinations are extremely close, and her description makes me think that there’s not necessarily anything we’d want to see at Federation Square before sundown. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but that’s the impression I got. So, when Butterfly finally locates and dons her Jackie-O’s, I look down at my little map and make a decision.

“Where to now?” she says.

Queen Vic it is.


A/N: If, for some reason, you live under a proverbial rock, the Crocodile Hunter was Steve Irwin, world-renowned Australian Zookeeper and conservationist. He had a televised nature program; he owned a zoo in Australia; and I’m told that he was in Dr. Doolittle and Happy Feet. I had seen clips of what I called his crazy antics with animals and he had a lot of close calls. I hope I didn’t offend anyone with that “under a rock” comment, but I didn’t really keep up with the guy and even I knew the day he died. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Irwin#Death

For anyone who may not know, Ariel is of course the main character in The Little Mermaid.

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

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

The Australia Picture Board can be found here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey-the-trip-to-australia/ and the pictures from today’s chapter are in the “Luxury Cruise Ship” and “Melborne” sections.

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 77—Something He Can Feel

I love you all from the bottom of my heart and I thank you for rallying to support me when I was beginning to doubt. I’ve always known that I can’t satisfy everyone, but I at least try not to offend. Thank you for your bandages, salve, and love for my weary Muse. She insisted that I give you a bonus chapter for your kindness and support.

As far as the accent goes, I’m not asking for forgiveness anymore. Here’s what you get.

Danger—Aussie accent ahead. Turn away now.

That’s it.

Smoochies!!

All other previous disclaimers still apply.

Chapter 77—Something He Can Feel

CHRISTIAN

This woman is sex on a stick and these fuckers are all nutting in their pants watching her roll that beautiful ass up there on stage talking about giving me something I can feel.

Oh, I feel it, baby. Believe me, I feel it.

When she finishes her song, a crowd of these fuckers rush the stage as if she could possibly be here alone. I take my time getting to the stage, watching her taunting them with her coyness as if she’s attempting to decide which hand to take knowing that she’ll only take mine. When I announce that I’m there to retrieve my wife, the fuckers all look like someone stole their lollipop, but they move the hell out of my way so that I can get my Butterfly. We have a few more drinks and she plays with the idea of going up and doing another number.

Over my dead body.

We leave and go to another bar called The Thorn. It’s an Irish pub with a real arcade in it. We’re the best dressed people in the pub and decide to make a night of it before we go back to our stateroom. We start with a game of bowling, with the smallest balls in the world. As it turns out, Butterfly is a mediocre bowler, and I end up winning two games.

Next, we play two games of pool—or at least that’s what I think we’re playing. We spend the entire time finding ways to distract each other’s shot. We do everything short of stripping and fucking right there on the table, which at this point I would gladly do. She’s determined to make me fuck her in some inappropriate place. I’m ready to tear into her like the succulent feast that she’s threatening to be and it’s taking everything I have to control myself in this setting. At one point, I find myself yanking that ponytail back and planting a shameless kiss on her mouth, wondering how that lipstick never smeared.

Oh… it’s that lipstick.

After a tie on the billiards table, we move on to darts. Now, I don’t know what’s in these beers that we’re drinking, but whatever it is, it lures me into some false sense of superiority that because I’m good at darts, I can beat this Marine’s daughter who once threw three knives at my ex-Domme—well, only one at her, but nonetheless, she threw three knives—and they all stuck in the same spot on the door. Even slightly tipsy, she whooped my entire ass… three times… well! I have been thoroughly spanked and sent out to pasture.

She’s a mixture of haughty victor and giggly schoolgirl and I’m totally triggered by it. I want to tie her up and spank her and fuck her and make her come in 19 different ways… but I don’t want to put a pause on our fun, and I know we’ve got excursions tomorrow and I don’t want to be exhausted. So, I put Sir back in my pocket, and vow to redeem myself in this game. I’m good, dammit! I can beat a girl at least once.

“You’re very good,” I hear someone say, interrupting us just as we’re about to start another game. Butterfly and I turn simultaneously to see who’s standing behind us. The statement came from a raven-haired woman somewhere between mine and Butterfly’s age. She’s wearing a long, white, formal dress with a cape attached, her blonde companion wearing a pair of black slacks with a matching vest, white shirt, and black tie. It appears that we aren’t the only ones who went straight from the formal dinner to the ship’s night life.

The woman is standing there with her fingers clasped loosely at her abdomen with this cat-caught-the-canary half-smile on her face. Her companion is sporting the same unsettling smirk. She’s looking from Butterfly to me and back to Butterfly, so I’m not sure who she’s talking to. I plaster the CEO expression on my face so as not to give away my inner thoughts. Butterfly isn’t so successful. It’s clear that she doesn’t trust this woman.

“Thank you,” Butterfly answers reserved. It’s a safe assumption that the woman was talking to her since she’s won all the rounds. We both stand there waiting for her to get to the real point of her interruption. They stand there gazing back at us, not saying a word, so Butterfly turns her attention back to the dartboard to start a new game. I don’t take my eyes off the couple who doesn’t seem to want to leave.

“I’d like to play a game with you,” the woman says as Butterfly is about to take aim at the board. My wife turns around and examines her. “If you don’t mind,” she adds.

Butterfly looks at the woman, then looks back at me. I shrug, signaling that I don’t mind if she doesn’t. She turns back to the woman.

“Okay,” she says, non-committal. “We can play.”

“Oh,” the woman adds. “I should have said that there’s a wager involved.” What the fuck is this bitch up to? Butterfly’s brow furrows.

“I didn’t agree to a wager,” she says. The woman smirks.

“You’re backing out now?” the woman taunts.

“I’m not backing out of anything because I haven’t agreed to anything,” Butterfly clarifies.

jsl98f-l-610x610-dress-longdress-whitelongdress-capesleevedress-capesleeve-whitedress“You agreed to play,” the woman continues. She’s up to no good. It’s quite clear. Her companion is standing behind her leaning on a table, too cool for words, while she’s smoothly doing all the talking and trying to back my wife into a corner. Now, I’m observing everything—his stance; her demeanor; the fact that they’re both wearing wedding rings; the cut of his slacks to see if they’re tailored or if his suit is from the rack; the fact that her dress is tight around her hips and boobs, but so long that it bunches on the floor and you can’t see her shoes, which means it is from the rack or at the very least she doesn’t have a stylist. A mermaid dress is already restrictive, so it’s not supposed to bunch at your feet. I’ve fucked and dressed enough women to know that.

I’m trying to put a quick profile together of these two to figure out their M-O, and I’m wishing Jaxon was here.

“I didn’t agree to a wager,” my wife repeats. “No one agrees on a price if they don’t know what it is.” It’s not a price, baby. I don’t know what she wants, but she doesn’t want money…

Oh, shit.

“In high stakes, they do,” the woman purrs. “I mean, if you don’t have the balls…” She trails off and shrugs one shoulder infinitesimally. Under normal circumstances, she’d be saying everything to push my wife’s buttons, but not tonight. Tonight, my wife smells a rat and I’m glad she does.

“The answer is ‘no,’” my wife says, turning away from the woman.

“You haven’t even heard the terms yet…”

“And you won’t state them, so the answer is ‘no,’” Butterfly says firmly. “You approached me about a dart game. I couldn’t care less to play with you or not.”

“Well, here’s what I propose,” the woman says, seeing that her tactic isn’t working, and here it comes. Brace yourself, Butterfly. “If I win, we swap… just for the night.”

“Swap what?” Butterfly asks, bemused.

Yeah, swap what? I think to myself… Then I look at her husband. He’s eyeing my wife and I can swear that he’s seeing her naked. His pupils have dilated to the point that the black almost overtakes his blue irises completely, and I can just see his tongue running against the inside of his mouth. He’s so transfixed on her that it’s like I’m not even standing there. I shift my gaze down to the woman and she’s looking at me with pure lust brandishing in her gaze.

Swap.
Shit!

This is worse than I thought. They’re not looking to swing; they’re looking to totally exchange partners. What the fuck have we walked into on this damn cruise? I swear it’s like Woodstock without the drugs! No drugs that I know of anyway.

I’m about to say something, but my wife beats me to it.

“You’re out of your fucking mind!” Butterfly says, her voice low. The woman tilts her head to the side, only mocking slight surprise.

“There’s no need for us to be coy,” she says. “I know it sounds shocking when someone approaches you, but you always get past it.” She waggles her eyebrows suggestively.

“You may always get past it,” Butterfly retorts, “but you’ve got some kind of screw loose if you think I’m going to take part in something like that!”

“You’re afraid you’ll lose,” she taunts again, returning to her original tact now that her hand has been revealed.

“It’s a goddamn game of darts,” Butterfly retorts, her voice murderous. “Who gives a fuck about a goddamn game of darts? And win or lose, I wouldn’t even consider wagering my husband! What kind of sick bitch are you?”

“There’s no need to resort to name-calling,” the woman says calmly.

“Then I suggest you get the fuck out of my face, because there’s a whole lot more where that came from,” Butterfly hisses. Her fists are clenched now and I’m certain that if this conversation doesn’t end immediately, it will become physical.

I take the darts from my wife’s clenched fists and place them on a table that we were occupying nearby. I retrieve her clutch and my suit jacket from the seat where I had been watching it all night, I take my wife’s shoulders and turn her away from Proposition Pam and her trusty sidekick Swapping Sam and usher her quickly out of the pub.

She snatches her clutch from me and begins an intent march down the hallway. I give her a little room as I can see that she’s extremely irritated, but I don’t allow too much space between us. I put my jacket on and wonder if we’re going back to the stateroom now or if we’re going to try to salvage what’s left of the evening at another venue. We’ve taken several steps away from the pub in silence when my wife spins around, prepared to let loose on me.

“Why weren’t you more appalled by that?” she demands. I take a deep breath and release.

“Something that Jaxon said to me last night,” I reply calmly. This won’t be a fight between us. I’ll explain it, she’ll get it, and we’ll get the fuck out of here.

“And that was?” she asks, folding her arms. I straighten to my full height and respond.

“My Dom is showing, baby,” I say. She nearly gasps.

“And that makes that suggestion okay?” she says, damn near choking on her words. “Do you want that?”

“No, it doesn’t and no, I don’t,” I reply, my voice calm. “Last night, Jaxon asked me if we were swingers, not because that’s what he and Laura does, but because he saw something in me… and in you. He didn’t know what it is, and he still doesn’t, but he put me on notice that whatever it is, it’s showing. He told me that there may be other like-minded individuals on board—his term, not mine—that may approach us. He advised that I don’t lose my temper, but kindly tell them we’re not interested, which is what I was going to do, but you handled it quite well all on your own.”

She’s still glaring at me and even though her expression doesn’t change, I can see the thoughts and emotions running quickly through her mind and across her face. She’s trying to analyze the situation, the events of the day and the fact that she saw my Dom earlier and responded accordingly, what just happened in the pub. She’s having one of her three-second funnels but it’s taking more than three seconds.

“I should declare my win by forfeit.”

A smooth, suggestive female voice breaks our pondering, and I’m certain this cunt thinks that we’re fighting over her—which we almost were. Now, it’s my turn to douse that fucking fire.


ANASTASIA

She’s determined to get her claws into my man, even if it means sacrificing hers to me and I want absolutely nothing to do with that slimy looking motherfucker even if I was single! My husband turns around and looks at her. I don’t know what his gaze is saying, but her skin flushes all over.

I’m lying. I know exactly what his gaze is saying.

“What you fail to realize,” he begins in a honey smooth voice so close to his Dom voice that I nearly become a puddle right there on the deck, “is that even if you had played that game and won, you would have lost, because I wouldn’t have agreed to the terms.”

She’s speechless—and obviously hot under the collar—but her husband decides to speak on her behalf since Christian spoke on mine.

“Then you would have lost,” her husband says, conspicuously rubbing her hips and ass before sliding his arm around her waist. She smiles a victorious and seductive smile at my husband and he just shakes his head.

“It looks like you’ve already lost,” Christian says to the man, “because you’re willing to share.” He slides his arm around my waist. “I’m not.” He pulls me close to him and walks past them with a final sharp glare, his arm still around my waist.

And I’m seeing the proverbial “mic drop” with my mind’s eye. I know they’re watching us walk away and I simply cannot help myself.

giphy-1

I scamper in front of him to cut him off and lunge myself at him. He catches me in his arms and I wrap my legs around his waist, my dress falling open over my thighs. His hands cup my ass as he holds me up and we gaze at one another with a deep hunger in our eyes. I tilt my head and burn his lips with a kiss, my fingers thrust into his hair and my tongue lapping his, searching to taste the hunger in his kiss that I just saw in his eyes. He growls deep in his chest, squeezing my ass harder as his cock hardens enough for me to feel the head of it through his pants at the juncture of my thighs. I break the kiss and pull my face back from his. I gaze into his eyes again, still hungry… now ravenous!

“You know what’s next,” he growls in his throat. My lips are parted and even though I do know what’s next, I nod and don’t break gaze with him. He secures his hands on each of my hips and takes long strides down the hallway towards the elevator. I slide my arms around him and rest my head on his shoulder, catching the unnamed woman in my gaze. As I suspected, she and her husband are standing there watching us walk away, no longer touching, none of the make-believe pride and coveting he showed before apparent anymore. I flip her the bird moments before the elevator opens and Christian carries me inside.

He pushes me against the wall, shocking me. He sears me with another deep, hungry kiss and grinds into me for the few floors it takes to get to our deck. I want to dread someone seeing us, someone watching us on camera somewhere as I know they are, but I can’t. I don’t fucking care and I know that he doesn’t. I’m breathlessly horny when the doors open to our deck and surprisingly, no one’s outside the elevator. My husband secures me again and nearly does a sprint to our suite.

I don’t know how he got the door open with the key card. I’m sure he would have kicked it in if he could. He doesn’t bother taking me to the bedroom—the cabin was far enough away as it is.

“Get out of that dress!” he growls, nearly ripping his suit jacket from his body. His eyes are blazing! I can’t tell if he’s mad or horny. I quickly undo the hooks at the neck of my dress and allow the halter to fall taking my breast pads with it. I push it down my body to reveal a pretty pair of lace thong panties.

“Perfect!” he hisses while snatching off his tie. He walks over to the sofa and takes a seat. “Get over here.”

I walk over to him and stand in front of him, my eyes fixed on his shoes. He takes my arm and snatches me hard so that I fall over his lap onto the sofa, only wearing my thong and the patent leather nude stilettos.

“Give me your hands,” he commands. I put my hands behind me and he binds them with his tie and begins to caress my ass.

“What are your safewords?” he growls.

“Bells…” I say softly, “and whistles.”

“And the third?” he says, still caressing my ass. Oh, shit. This is going to be one of those.

“Ladybug,” I reply softly.

“Good,” he says. His hand leaves my ass and comes down hard. I almost cry out.

“You’ve been testing me all day,” he says, his voice low. Shit… I have?

“You wear this blue, thin fucking dress that makes you look delectable…” He slaps me hard on the ass and I jump. Shit, this hurts!

“You taunt me about being able to keep my dick up…” Yeah, I did do that.

SLAP!

“You wear these tight scraps of material wrapped around your body and showcasing everything that’s mine while slithering through the water like a fucking mermaid.” He rubs my ass with this description.

“I could deal with that, but then you get out of the water, glistening and slightly sunkissed, looking hotter than a lingerie model, and you enter a fucking bikini contest…”

Yep, I did that, too.

SLAP!

“Then you put on a red dress that’s screaming of sex and desire with those plump, kissable lips, that slicked-back come-hither hair, and these goddamn fuck-me pumps, and you wonder why the French women couldn’t keep their mouths shut.

Inner sigh… yep, that was me.

SLAP!

“And I won’t even bother describing that display you did on stage at karaoke! You had those fuckers nearly coming in their pants—men and women!” SLAP!

Ouch! Guilty! Fuck, guilty!

“And when it was all said and done, you’ve got motherfuckers wanting to swap partners with us just from watching you play darts…” SLAP!

Wait a minute! That wasn’t just me! She wanted to fuck you, too!

“That fucker would have fucked you right there on the pool table if you had agreed…” SLAP!

“He was salivating all over you like I wasn’t even standing there…”
SLAP!

“He was willing to hand over his hooker wife for one night alone with you. He probably put her up to it!”
SLAP! SLAP! SLAP!

Okay, now I’m confused. Some trick propositions me to switch places with me for my husband and somehow, that’s my fault? I’m so caught off guard by trying to figure out the logic of that last one that the final slap reverberates through me and ignites the pain of all the others before it. Unprepared for the intensity, I involuntarily choke out a sob.

Before I know it, he’s snatched me off his lap and I’m on my knees on the sofa next to him. He’s breathless with uncontrolled arousal and he’s fighting feverishly to unzip his pants. When he reaches inside and produces his cock, it pops out of the little opening standing harder and taller than I think I’ve ever seen it… at least harder and taller than it’s been all weekend.

He snatches the wind out of me by effortlessly flinging me back over his lap—straddled this time—moving my panties to the side with the head of his cock and thrusting so hard into me that I cry out from the initial pain, still sniffling and whimpering. He’s balls deep inside me and breathing like a bear, his hips still as his cock sits fat and wide inside my aching, tight vagina.

He’s sitting there, not moving, panting through his nose and apparently fighting for control. When he opens his eyes, the fire is there again. His arms are wrapped around me, holding me close to him like a vise, and his hot breath is cold against my tear-stained face. He examines me, unable to wipe away my tears with my hands bound behind me or hide my sniffles and stuttering breaths. He does something at that moment that creeps me out and turns me on at the same time.

He licks the tears from one of my cheeks with one gentle lap.

Yeah, it creeps me out for a moment, but hell—he’s tasted my cum, my breast milk… tears can be much stranger.

“It’s because you’re so fucking beautiful,” he hisses. “Don’t you see what you do to men? They lose their goddamn minds over you, present company included! At the passenger terminal before we even got on the damn boat; at the swimming pool; at dinner…”

I hold my head down and try to control my whimpers. He pulls me even closer to him and my head falls on his shoulder.

I will not weep harder.
I will not weep harder.

My ass hurt like hell, but the heat combined with his dick thrust deep into my pussy, him holding me this close with my bound hands clasped in his, him actually licking the tears from one of my cheeks a minute ago, and his primal jealousy right now and the need to be vindicated—it’s all making me hot as hell

“Sit up,” he commands, the Dom back in his voice. I take a deep breath and release it, pulling myself to sit up straight. He drops his arms from around me and lay them on the sofa. I don’t raise my head. I wish my hair was down so that it could hide my face right now.

“Fuck me.”

I’m almost caught off guard by the command… almost. My hands are tied. He’s going to make me use my legs to do it. Fine. I use my knees and thighs to rise and fall over his incredibly hard cock, my pussy producing the needed lubrication almost immediately.

“Faster!” he demands. “Harder!”

I pick up the pace and bounce on his cock testing my strength and stamina with every rise and drop.

“Yes!” he hisses, gazing at me like a serial killer examining his next victim. “That’s it. Just like that!”

I risk a glance at him and he quickly undoes the buttons of his shirt and releases his cuff links, staring at my wildly bouncing tits the entire time. I concentrate on my thighs and on controlling the muscles to maintain my stroke. He groans once as he finally discards his shirt and works on loosening his pants.

“Goddammit,” he hisses as he finally gets his pants open. His cock is still restrained by the pocket of his boxer briefs, but he’s still madly enjoying the ride. One hand grabs one of my bouncing tits while the other firmly clasps my hip. He’s licking and biting his lips deliciously and he looks so fucking good.

“That’s it, baby,” he growls, throwing the typical playtime decorum out the window. “Fuck that dick. Fuck it hard, baby.”

And fuck it hard, I do. I don’t need him to tell me that I can’t come without permission. He made me say my third safeword, so it’s understood. But dammit, he’s going to come like a goddamn rocket if it’s the last thing I do!

I’m fucking him like a master, but he still exhibits that amazing stamina that he does when the Dom is here. He grunts every time I drop my pussy down on him, grabbing, caressing, or tormenting some part of my body or another. He’s licking his lips and biting me and sucking me—he even violently grabs my ponytail and holds on while I ride, but still never moves his hips. The ponytail holder gives up the fight sometime during that exercise, and my hair is free now.

When he’s on the edge, he grabs my ass cheeks with both hands and throws his head back. The shock of pain from my spanking ignites me and almost shakes my concentration. I throw my head back in agony as with the constant stimulation in my pussy and the wild groping, biting, and hair-pulling, losing my concentration means that I’m going to come. Luckily, he beats me to it.

“Oh, yes, Anastasia!” he groans through his orgasm. “Fuck me! Don’t stop!”

I keep the bounce going even though my thighs are burning in torment. I concentrate on the pain to keep myself from coming from this insanely pulsing cock inside of me. Keep… going… keep… going… keep… going…

“Stop! Fuck! For God’s sake, stop…” he begs, and I stop bouncing. My thighs hurt like fuck and I’m gasping for breath, sweat pouring down my face and into my eyes, my hair now free from its ponytail and wild all over my head. He’s panting heavily, still gripping my ass, and I squeeze my eyes shut from the pain, biting my lip to keep from crying out. My thighs are burning and will probably lock in this position in a moment and I’m thoroughly exhausted, just sitting on his lap and his still very erect cock. I’m trying to give myself a pep talk because I know it’s not over.

C’mon, Grey, catch your breath, get it together.
It’s just a little sweat, it won’t kill you.
You planned to work out anyway, so here you go. Don’t be a baby.

“Get up.”

Well, that wasn’t my voice. That was my Dom.

I close my eyes and concentrate one more time on stretching my thighs to rise off his dick. When I’m successful, the damn thing pops out of me and bounces off his belly with a thud, still standing at perfect attention like he didn’t just beg me to stop fucking him. I lift my leg from over his body and throw it over my own, landing on my butt—and my hands—on the sofa.

“Stay there,” he commands. Sure thing. I’m too weak to move.

He stands with little effort and toes out of his shoes, using his feet to step on his socks and remove them as well. He drops his trousers and maneuvers his boxer briefs over his very erect dick before pushing them down as well and stepping out of them both. Now, he’s gloriously naked in front of me and I would be excited except for the fact that I’m exhausted. He takes a seat on the floor with his back against the sofa and his legs bent and spread. He gets very comfortable down there.

“Come,” he demands.

Yeah, I wish I could!

“I actually heard that thought,” he says. “Get over here!”

Whatever. You can’t punish me for what you think you heard. I push myself off the sofa and move to stand in front of him.

“Other way,” he says. “Ass to me.”

Oh, fuck. What is he going to do, make me ride him reverse cowgirl now? I do as I’m told and stand in front of him with my ass in his face. I can’t straddle him because his legs are open.

“Now, that’s a very pretty shade of pink,” he says, kissing one cheek and then the other. I’m a bit shocked by the gesture, but I don’t react. “Sit.”

Now how does he expect me to ride him with his legs open? I’m not doing that shit—my legs are too weak.

“Do I need to repeat myself?” he says, his voice a bit threatening. “Goddammit c’mere!”

Fine, but the moment he commands me to fuck him, I’m safewording.

I bend my legs to sit as commanded, and my right thigh totally gives out on me. Unable to control my stance or support my own weight, I fall in the most ungraceful way onto my Dom with a helpless yelp as I’m going down. I’m terrified that he’ll think I’m being defiant, but even more terrified that I’ve injured his extremely erect penis. I know that he won’t randomly just hit me—that’s not the nature of our relationship. Nonetheless, I’m still tense and preparing myself for whatever backlash there may be for my assumed malfeasance.

The fact that we just sit there silent for several moments heightens my anxiety. I hold my head down, fearing punishment, and it appears that I’ve landed on his abdomen and his erect dick is precariously placed between my legs and against the lips of my vagina.

Thank God for that!

Sure enough, uncharacteristic to the nature of our relationship when we’re in D/s mode, he slides both hands under my arms, places them on my shoulder, and gently pushes me back against his body. I don’t know what to expect from this unusual tenderness, so I just lay back and wait.

His hands roam my body, gently caressing my abdomen and torso before traveling up to cup my breasts. I’m trying not to be lulled into a false sense of security, only to have said security ripped from me by some sadistic command to see me suffer slowly for daring to display my sexiness, but my breasts are swollen with milk and quite sensitive, and his touch is making me hot again. It doesn’t matter that I try to hide this from him, because he knows my body too well—he can smell my slightest arousal.

Just like clockwork, a few moments after I feel that familiar burning twinge in my clit, I feel his body stiffen a bit and his touch is firmer, kneading my body back into his. He pinches one of my nipples while gently teasing the tip of the other with his finger.

Talk about being able to walk and chew gum at the same time!

I bite my lip to stifle the moan that begs to escape my chest. My legs weaken completely and fall open, and my Dom takes his cue. With one movement of his hips, his erect penis is between the lips of my vagina. I take a deep breath as he moves his pelvis back and forth, his dick stroking against my vagina.

Oh. Hell. I. Will. Not. Survive. This.

Still bound by his tie, my hands are pinned between us and I flatten them against his abs. Well, that didn’t help. I can feel his muscles undulating each time his pelvis moves. He cups my breasts firmly and sinks his teeth gently into the meat near my shoulder. He’s trying to make me come.

“No… no…”

Shit, did I say that out loud? I don’t know. I’m delirious with pleasure. My body’s on fire and I want to come… badly!

He puts his hand under my thigh and lifts me just a bit, pulling his hips back at the same time. With very little effort, his cock slides into me and I release a whimpering breath of ecstasy. God, he feels so good…

“God, yes…” he groans, “that’s it.”

He undulates his hips a few times, pushing that magnificent organ up and into its counterpart and I nearly lose my mind. I release my body to him as I can’t fight him anymore and concentrate on holding my orgasm like I did in Anguilla.

Anguilla… no, this isn’t like Anguilla. This is different—much different.

My soft body turns to mush against his firmness and my pussy is getting hotter and hotter, coming closer and closer to climax. One hand moves from my breast and an arm slides around my waist, holding me firmly in place against his stroke, now deeper than before. I whimper in my chest, the friction and penetration so delicious. Can I hold out? Just a little longer?

He torments me this way for several more moments before he puts both hands under my thighs and lifts me up. Spreading my legs wide, he thrusts repeatedly—and uninhibited—into my wide spread pussy. I have no purchase to resist and he has me helplessly spread open, pummeling repeatedly with his masterful stroke.

“Ah!” I cry out involuntarily. Silence is impossible.

“Feel it,” he taunts, “feel the pleasure, Anastasia, but don’t come…”

There’s no pain to concentrate on this time… only pleasure. Only the pleasure of his hard, pulsing cock drilling into me while he’s holding me open. Dear God, I’m going to die.


CHRISTIAN

Fuck, my dick feels so good driving into this hot pussy from base to tip. I hear her whimper and I know she’s close. She’s getting wetter and wetter. I tried to keep the Dom at bay. God knows I tried, but she kept pushing and pushing—even when she had no idea that she was doing it. I’ve been at the very edge for over 24 hours. When she leapt into my arms in front of those crazy fuckers that wanted to swap mates, I couldn’t take it anymore. All of the events of the past 36 hours just overran my primal inner urges. I had to dominate her to keep from jumping overboard. Yes, it’s that serious.

She’s drenched in sweat and whimpering with each stroke into her. It’s torture and I know it is. I’m not going to make it any easier on you, little Anastasia. You’re going to feel the burn tonight.

I move my hands from her thighs to just behind her knees, lift her body off my dick and drop her back down onto it—repeatedly—while I thrust into her. Fuck, I feel my dick getting harder and my balls tightening. I can’t see it, but I imagine that fat pussy wrapped around my dick teasing the head with every thrust and leaving a ring of cream and juices right near my balls.

“Fuuuucck!”

I succumb to the unexpected orgasm, dropping her onto my dick and gripping her around her waist, emptying hard deep inside her. The climax is so hard and we’re both completely out of breath that I’m afraid it might have been the swan song, and I’m not ready for that. But no, Dom Dick indicates that he’s not quite finished yet. My submissive must suffer a little more tonight.

I contemplate taking her to the bed for our finale, but this area rug is soft and plush. It’ll have to do. I reach behind me and retrieve one of the pillows from the sofa, placing it on the floor next to us. I don’t expect her to do anything at this point, just take what I’m giving her. I roll us over so that she’s lying on the pillow and I’m behind and on top of her, straddling her with her legs closed. My dick didn’t even come out of its happy place.

With her hand bound and nestled in the small of her back, I open her ass with both hands and admire her puckering rosette as I stroke between her legs and into her pussy. It’s tight and hot and ready to blow and now, I’ve pushed her legs together. She’s losing her mind. I lean my weight onto her pink cheeks and stroke, stroke, stroke—deep and long. She doesn’t need pressure in this position to drive her mindless. She needs friction and rhythm, and I’m giving it to her just right. She groans mournfully and I watch her rosette again, puckering and opening with each thrust. My mouth waters, and I regret not having a butt plug at the moment.

When she begins to pant, I untie her hands. I need to be close to her, to have her hear me… and feel me.

I pin her hands next to her head with both of mine, entwining my fingers into hers.

“I’m going to mark you,” I whisper harshly in her ear, “so that they know that you’re mine!”

I lean down and first sink my teeth into her neck, causing her to cry out. Then I replace my teeth with my lips and tongue, licking and sucking and bring the blood to the surface of her skin. She moans helplessly as I continue to dig into her sex while giving her a conspicuous love bite. It’s driving me fucking insane. If she doesn’t tap out soon…

When I’m satisfied with the bite on her neck, I move to her back, just below her nape sinking my teeth in first then licking and sucking, just like before. I keep my stroke hard, deep, and steady into that clenched pussy, determined to make her surrender before I do this time.

She’s whimpering so much that she almost sound like she’s crying, and I vaguely remember bringing her to tears with her spanking. My bites now become sensual, open mouthed kisses on her back. Fuck, she feels so goddamn good. I lay onto her body, thrusting hard into her and pulling down on our clasped hands for traction, losing myself in her… over and over and over…

“Lady… l… lady… ladybug…”

“Come!” I command her in a harsh whisper. “Come, baby!”

She squeezes my fingers entwined in hers and buries her face in the pillow, screaming out a violent orgasm and thrashing about underneath me. I thrust repeatedly into that tightening, pulsing pussy until a few moments later, I’m burying my face into her back and repeating her actions, grunting and growling out a fearsome climax until my back, balls, and throat hurt from the pressure and the vibration.

“Fuck,” I breathe as I fight to catch my breath. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…”

*-*

Her milk had begun to express on the rug during our session, so I run a bath for her and have her soak for several minutes, allowing the heat to soothe her aches and to help express the rest of her milk as I wash her hair before carrying her to the bedroom. She stayed on her side and I think I may have gotten carried away a bit, but I’m a Dom and I don’t apologize for being one. Besides, she didn’t safeword… until she was about to come.

I didn’t bring any Arnica cream because I didn’t have any intentions of doing a scene on this trip. I look through her toiletries, hoping to find some baby oil or the olive oil that she uses on her nipples, but I find something better.

Eucalyptus lotion.

Did she know that we might do something like this? Did she do all those things to trigger me on purpose? I’ll have to ask her about it, but not right now.

When I enter with the lotion, she’s lying on her stomach with the covers thrown off her. She’s completely shattered, but her eyes are still open—tiny slits that refuse to submit to sleep. I sit on the bed next to her and warm the lotion in my hands. Starting at her shoulders, I begin to work the tension out of her body. I knead with just enough pressure to ease the tightness in the muscles of her back.

When I get to her ass, I examine it closely. I remember a spanking that made me not want to spank her ever again—where her ass was bruised, and she put coats at every exit of the house. I check for bruising, welting, broken skin. The pinkness has faded a bit and her skin is still flushed from the bath, but there are no vicious bruises like before. I’m relieved to see that.

Coating my hands again, I gently rub the lotion into her ass cheeks. She flinches at first, then settles. I don’t linger there, just enough to get the soothing ointment into her skin before moving to her thighs. She actually whines when I begin to knead them. I know they hurt like hell from the workout she got at the very beginning. I was going to make her ride me again until she fell and I realized that her legs couldn’t hold her up anymore.

Had she decided to do this without me, she would have made a great submissive, because she can endure a lot and she doesn’t readily give in. For the same reasons, I have to learn when to pull back, because by the time she does finally tap out, she’s completely destroyed. She’s convinced herself that I need her to go the distance, so she will, but the distance may be too far for her. She showed me this that night in Anguilla and had she not safeworded in the next few minutes, I would have told her to come.

By the time I finish her feet, she’s fast asleep. I smooth a little more lotion on her bottom, a little deeper into the skin this time since she’s asleep, then go to the bathroom and retrieve a brush. I gently brush the kinks out of her long hair and braid it before it dries, securing it with a ponytail holder.

I examine her face in her sleep. Her resting face tells me much more than her conscious face. She can hide her expressions—except her anger and her intense displeasure—when she’s awake. She can’t hide anything when she’s asleep. Her face tells it all—happy, fear, anguish, distress…

Peace.
Right now, she’s completely at peace.

I turn off all the lights and climb in bed beside her, covering her with the blanket before crawling under it myself. I gently trace her sleeping face and pouty lips as I lay on the pillow facing her.

“Sometimes, I love you more than my soul can handle…”

*-*

I awake before she does in the morning. I’m mindful that we need to get going soon if we’re going to make the excursions with Jaxon and Laura. I look over at my sleeping wife. She’s asleep so hard that I hate to wake her. If she says that she doesn’t want to go on the excursions, I’ll honor that request, but I have to give her that choice.

I reach over and stroke her hair gently, and then her cheek, pushing the stray strands of hair from her face. She protests a bit, but then opens her eyes and looks at me.

“Good morning,” I say softly. She inhales deeply and releases a sigh.

“Good morning,” she says weakly.

“I need to ask you something.” She blinks a few times and tries to focus on me. “Do you remember when we had that conversation about BDSM training? Back in August or September before everything went south?” She blinks a few more times, still trying to focus and wake up.

“Do you remember?” I ask again. Maybe I should have waited until she was more conscious before I asked the question. She gently clears her throat.

“I remember some of it, yes,” she says softly.

“Why don’t you ever safeword?” I ask. Her eyes widen a bit, indicating that she’s more alert than she was a moment ago. “You safeworded last night when you were about to come, but you cried before safewording when I spanked you. Why?”

She looks like she’s about to answer, but she doesn’t, so I continue.

“I think you may have the wrong idea about being a submissive,” I tell her. “Being my submissive doesn’t mean that I break you down until you’re bare. I did that to you in Anguilla and I almost lost you. You may disagree, but I know better. It doesn’t mean being weak either; but it also doesn’t mean having to prove that you’re not weak. The D/s relationship is a give-and-take. We both have to get something out of that experience and spanking you until you cry is not something that gets me off.”

Even though she’s still lying down, her gaze drops.

“I need you to look at me because I need to know that you hear me.”

She raises her guileless blue eyes to me again.

“You set me off in so many ways—whether you were trying to or not. Yes, I wanted to regain control, but not in a way that would cause you anguish. You give yourself to me, and I take that, but I try to give you something in return…”

“You were a full-on Dom before you met me,” she says softly. “Canes and whips and paddles and handcuffs… You gave up a lot to be with me, to adapt to me and allow me into your world. You used to go all out on your submissives before me and I know it. I saw everything in the playroom at Escala—everything!”

“That’s why we don’t have that playroom now,” I say calmly, but firmly. “That’s not who I am anymore. I’m not Christian Grey, single Dom billionaire out whipping little brown-haired submissives on the weekend. I’m Christian Grey, husband to Anastasia Grey, father to Mackenzie and Michael Grey, and part-time Dominant and submissive. There’s nothing about me that’s the same as it was before. Is that why you feel like you have to take everything until your body is wracked with pain? Be spanked until you cry? Fuck until your legs don’t work? Submit until you’re too weak and exhausted to keep your eyes open…?”

“I’m not weak,” she declares softly. “I don’t know how far you need to go until you go, and when you need me to have that strength and stamina to endure, I can!”

“Yes, but to the end of your wits!” I say a bit more firmly. “I don’t want any of the Domination fiascos we’ve have before—where you’re completely shattered and not always in a good way, and I’m feeling guilty for what I’ve put you through. Is that why you take such intense scenes? Because you think I need to be the guy that I was before?”

“Apparently, you do!” she says, sitting up in the bed. “You can go for hours! You can spank or whip or flog until your arm gets tired! You can fuck like a teenager—over and over and over again and never tap out. You’ll go as far as I’ll let you and I’m not weak!”

“As far as you’ll let me!” I repeat. “Did you hear that, Anastasia? As far as you’ll let me! I’ve had meetings with every single one of my submissives to discover what their soft and hard limits are; to see what they could take; to set boundaries. Yes, I’ve tested their limits, but not beyond the point of reason. Yes, I’ve punished them, but they knew when to tell me to stop. Not once did I ever take a submissive past her limits once I figured out what I was doing! I made a few mistakes as an amateur, but not once I found my way.

“I’m a Dom. I’m a full-on Dom. I’ve been a full-on Dom for years, but our relationship is supposed to be different. I didn’t feel anything for those women. I felt care and concern, but not love. I love you. You fulfill a need for me, and I love you for that, too. But when I’m in Dom mode, I can go the distance. I can go all the way and more because I take my cues from the submissive. I never know that you’ve had enough or too much until it’s over—when you’ve been broken over the rack, bottom bruised from a shower spanking, or twitching from not being able to come. That’s not what our relationship is…”

“What am I supposed to do?” she shoots, so near tears that I can see them in her eyes waiting to fall. “Your power seeps through your pores! It’s effortless. Women see you and don’t know what to do with themselves, and if you think it’s just the face, you’re wrong! It’s the way you carry yourself, it’s everything about you. The money and the good looks are just a bonus. You lived a lifestyle for years where when you needed relief, you got it from a submissive.

“I’m under no misconception of who you were, but when you can’t get that relief, you’ll turn into someone else! I love that Dominance about you. I don’t want to see it leave, but I don’t want to lose it because I can’t satisfy it!”

Oh, dear God, is that what this is about? Is that seriously what this is about? All the time she’s pushed herself beyond limits I know she couldn’t take, the times I’ve pushed her thinking that she was reaching her limit and not knowing—until later—that she was already past it? Doesn’t she know I worship the fucking ground she walks on? That even if she never subbed for me again, I would still love her with everything I have? Everything I am? I look at her glassy eyes and remember our conversation from that morning:

“After our talk yesterday, I realized that I didn’t know nearly enough about the dynamics of the D/s relationship to handle what was going on with you. We were on a precipice, and our next move would determine the fate of our relationship. Would we come out of this okay? Would we end up in a totally vanilla relationship? Would you have determined that I was able to give you what you needed as a wife but not as a submissive? Would you resent me and turn to others for your D/s needs? Would this be the beginning of the end for us?”

I never put her mind at ease about those questions because I wanted her to keep talking. They’ve been burning in her mind all this time and probably much longer—through the Westwick thing, the Boogeyman, every fight and disagreement… Jesus, if I felt that way about her, I’d go insane. I gather her into my arms and kiss her eyes before the tears have a chance to fall.

“We’re going to need to do some more training,” I tell her, “and we’re going to start when we get back to Seattle.” I brush my lips against her temple and gently caress her hair. I’m putting the kibosh on playtime until she fully learns what it means to be a submissive—to give of herself without losing herself. All this time, she’s just been some girl taking beatings and fucking for me. I don’t think she’s seen who she really is at all in this process, and if she did, she’s lost it.

Once I’ve brought my wife back from the brink of tears, I fire off a text or two to some old friends of mine back in my training days. We’ll need some very professional training for husbands and wives once we return and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m out of my element here. She may not be fully aware of her role as a submissive, but likewise, I think I’m off the mark for being a husband/Dominant.

Right before I shut down my screen, I see that Holstein has tried to call me three times. Either he has finally decided to return my calls, or he’s got wind that something is on the cooker with Lincoln. Too little, too late, Ron, I’m taking this matter into my own hands.

My girl successfully recovers from the seriousness of our conversation and presents herself in yet another tasty ensemble—this time a pair of white skinny jeans, a yellow and white polka-dot halter… and sneakers! Butterfly never wears sneakers. These are a pair of Nikes—white with a yellow swoosh. She ties a white sweater around her waist that does nothing to cover that glorious ass.

And once again, I feel like a troll.

“I’m never calling Vickie again,” I say when I see her.

“Well, you can hold Vickie responsible for the jeans and the sneakers, but you’d have to blame Grandma Ruby for the shirt.” My eyes bulge out as she does a full turn to show me the shirt… and the love bites on her back and neck.

“Um… baby, you do remember our scene from last night, don’t you?” She looks up at me. God, I never realize how short she is until she loses the heels.

“You mean the hickeys?” she asks, unfazed.

“Yeah,” I reply, and it sounds more like a question.

“Nobody knows me on this trip except Laura and Jaxon and from what I understand, they have a pretty good idea how we get down,” she replies. “No offense, my love, but I have nothing here but a summer wardrobe. Unless you intended for me to spend the rest of the trip with a towel wrapped around my back, somebody was going to see this. Then again, you knew that.” She gives me a sarcastic smile.

Well, yeah, I did know that.

“Turn around,” I sigh. The one on her neck is clearly a love bite, but I want to see what the ones on her back look like. I don’t want anyone to think she’s a battered wife.

Uh, yeah… clearly love bites, too.

“You’ll do,” I lament, knowing that everybody’s going to look at her and then look directly at me.

“Well, thanks,” she says, picking up her backpack. I take it from her.

“I’ll carry that for you,” I say, admittedly still feeling a bit of a sting of guilt from last night. She gives it to me and reads my expression.

“It was grueling,” she admits, “And strenuous, but all’s well that ends well, right?”

I sigh inwardly and nod, just because I really don’t want to talk about it anymore. She let the cat out of the bag that she takes more than she probably would under normal circumstance because of me—because she’s concerned that I’ll be displeased or dissatisfied. Inevitably, she thinks that’ll lead to me leaving her or cheating on her. I’ve tried to impress upon her that that will never happen, but it hasn’t worked, especially considering the fact that I jumped ship when the whole Westwick thing happened—pun intended.

“We better go,” I say, taking her hand. “We don’t want to keep our tour guides waiting.”

I lead her to the door thinking about the texts I sent earlier to mentors that I hope will help us on our path.

Jason and Lawrence follow us to the conference area to meet up with Laura and Jaxon. Other passengers going to port and to excursions are waiting there as well. Laura is dressed similarly to Butterfly in a flowy strappy blouse and jeans while Jaxon looks like me—T-shirt, jeans, and a pair of sneakers. We exchange greetings and Laura gives Butterfly a hug. Just as I suspected, Laura looks at my wife, then turns a wide-eyed gaze and a knowing half-smile to me.

“Yeah, yeah,” I say dismissively.

“The breast is bettah, mate,” Jaxon says with mirth, “an’ less conspicuous.”

“Unreachable at the time,” I say with no further explanation.

“Ah,” he and Laura respond simultaneously, eliciting a giggle from Butterfly. She locks arms with Laura and they effortlessly start chatting away.

We’re out early as our outings to Hobart, Port Arthur, and surrounding areas are going to be squeezed into a day and a half and we don’t want to miss anything. We’ll most likely only be back on board to sleep, and back off tomorrow morning for the rest of our excursion.

We’ve docked in Hobart, but our excursion is yet another boat ride—a ferry from Brooke Street Pier to the Museum of Old and New Art. Twenty minutes or so later, we’re having “brekkie,” as Jaxon calls it, at the restaurant in the museum called The Source since our day started so early. We’re all having “The Big Fry Up,” which is farm fresh eggs, smoky bacon, sausage, grilled tomato and mushrooms, hash browns, and beans. I’m somewhat shocked to see my wife pull out those sexy ass Buddy Holly glasses to eat her breakfast. I try not to react, but Jaxon reacts for me.

“Chris,” he says, dragging my name out in a sing-songy type manner, “no offense, mate, but ‘ow do ya deal with thaht?”

“I need you to be more specific,” I reply.

“She maykes nuhrd glasses look sexy,” he says just above a whisper so that only I can hear him. “Ya must be beytin’ ‘em off with a stick!”

“Oh, you have no idea,” I lament, taking a drink of my black coffee. Like clockwork, Butterfly and Laura’s conversation migrates to last night.

“When you pull lipstick out of your makeup case and the first thing you think when you see it is ‘dick sucking red,’ you should probably put it back. But nooooooo, Anastasia had to wear the dick sucking red lipstick, and now she’s wondering why half the female population of the ship hates her,” Butterfly says.

“It can’t be that bad,” Laura remarks.

“Yes, it is,” we say simultaneously.

“Last night,” Butterfly continues, “two French-speaking cows at our table talked about me through the entire meal.”

“How did you know they were talking about you?” Laura asks nonplussed. Butterfly tilts her head and twists her lips.

“Oh,” Laura says knowingly. “Tu parle français.”

“Yes!” Butterfly retorts forcefully. “Fluently! And you?” Laura laughs.

“Not a word,” she says, “that is, except ‘tu parle français.’” Butterfly snorts a short laugh.

“Well, I’m telling you, I get it everywhere, and probably in more languages, too. I like to wear nice clothes, I like to keep myself fit. I’m attractive, and I know it. I’m tired of constantly getting into verbal sparring matches with women because they hate me because I’m beautiful or for the fact that I’m with a beautiful, wealthy man. I’m going to start finding another way to handle it, just like I did with those cows at dinner. And the glares that I was getting from the women in the front row…” She turns to me. “You didn’t see them—I got the last laugh with them, too, because their men all came rushing to help me off stage. What do they want—they want me to look like a toad standing next to you? Gain 25 pounds because I’ve had twins and that’s what we’re ‘supposed’ to do? Leave you or expect you to leave me because I’m not good enough for you? Fuck ‘em, I’m done.”

“Um, you skipped something,” Laura points out. “Front row? On stage?”

“Oh, my friend, do I have a story for you…”


A/N: 

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

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

The Australia Picture Board can be found here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey-the-trip-to-australia/ and the pictures from today’s chapter are in the Luxury Cruise Ship” section and the “Hobart” section.

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 76—Still Ship Shenanigans

ADDITIONAL DISCLAIMER: 

Please do not beat me over the head too badly for my bad imitation of an Australian accent. I’m doing the best I can.

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 76—Still Ship Shenanigans

CHRISTIAN

“Alright ladies, it’s time for our first day bikini contest. Let’s get some contestants up here to show us what you got. Wrap those beautiful bods in towels, ladies. We don’t want to give the fellas any sneak peeks.”

I know it. I just know it. She’s going to enter it. I know it.

She walks over to us and immediately wraps herself in a towel, confirming my suspicions. She stands there wringing the water out of her hair like she’s not about to put me through one of the worst fucking torments of my life. I don’t remove my sunglasses so that she doesn’t see me brooding underneath… because that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m brooding… or plotting. Right when I said I needed to keep the Dom at bay…

“Come on, Laura,” Butterfly says as she takes Laura by the hand.

Oh, no,” Laura says, her voice filled with mirth, “this childbirth body looks nothing like that childbirth body. I’ll be gleefully cheering you on from the sidelines.”

“Chicken!” Butterfly teases. They share a few jabs before she walks over to me, pushes my hair back, and kisses my forehead.

“Breathe,” she says softly. I raise my gaze to hers.

“Knock ‘em dead, baby,” I reply. She smiles widely and dons her Jackie-O’s before walking to the stage. I shake my head.

“I need a drink,” I say as I rise from the lounger.

“OI’ll join yah,” Jaxon says. “Lahrie, yah want anything frohm theh bah, love?”

“No, I’m fine, but I’ll take the chaise if Christian doesn’t mind,” she replies.

“Please,” I offer, “you’ll be saving our seats.” I head off to the bar. I don’t want a beer; I need something stronger.

“Yoh a protectah,” Jaxon says as he gestures the bartender over to us. “Yoh a bahsket cayse sittin’ ‘ere lettin’ ‘er do thaht.” He turns to the bartender. “OI’ll have a drahft. What’ll yah have, mate?”

“Double Scotch, single malt, neat,” I say to the bartender. He nods. Jaxon raises his brow at me.

“Yeh… bahsket cayse,” he concludes. “It’s ahll in fun, mate. She’s a beautiful guhl. Let the poor blokes have a look at ‘er. She’s comin’ bahk to yew.”

I sigh and internalize his words. It’s not that, right now, Jax. I’ve got a monster I’m trying to tame.

“Thanks, Jaxon,” I say, running my hand through my hair. The bartender comes back with a scotch and I’m sure I have no idea which it is, but honestly, it could be rot gut at this point. I need the burn. I take half the double in one gulp and it’s actually pretty good—not premium, but pretty damn close.

“Okay,” I say, turning away from the bar to face the stage. “Let’s see what barkers they have going up against my wife.”

“Thaht’s the spihrit, Chris!” he says, taking a large gulp of his beer.

I watch as women approach the stage. I try to gauge who might be competition for my wife, looking with a critical eye at measurements, natural beauty, things like that… but I don’t know these women. I know my wife—emotionally, mentally, physically, and biblically. I can’t compare any of them to her, because she does things to me that no one else can. So, I guess I’m just watching with the other blokes.

A few more minutes and a few more girls later, the competition starts. The DJ plays the song She’s a Brick House, and the first few contestants walk across the stage to applause, but little fanfare. There aren’t any real barkers up there so to speak. Of course, middle-aged grandmothers know better than to put themselves up against young college girls and twenty-somethings.

Butterfly is fifth in the competition. She steps up on stage and drops her towel, swinging her luscious hips back and forth. When she gets to the center, she turns around to showcase that glorious ass and that mystical, fabulous garden tattoo… and the catcalls officially begin. She looks coquettishly over her shoulder and blows a kiss to the onlookers, and the cheers increase. Not to be outdone, I yell a few catcalls of my own, causing Jaxon to laugh heartily and nearly spray his beer from his nose.

Three contestants later, a woman named Brigette is called. She walks up the stairs, drops her towel, and sashays across the stage in nothing—literally nothing! She’s “wearing” a one-piece white “suit,” if you can call it that. It’s a string around her neck and strings holding together a few scraps of material over her nipples and cooch. Her ass is on total display. She’s naked! Didn’t I see a kid or three on this boat? Or did I? I can’t recall right now.

Now, it’s not my way to disrespect a woman unless she disrespects me first in some way, but I have to say that the jeers, taunts, and catcalls that Brigette’s getting, she couldn’t have expected less. Even though I don’t know what “bury the bishop” means, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what a “cum junkie” is. There was a lot of “fuck a duck’s,” “fuck me dead’s,” and “fuck me sideways’” flying about, and I just assumed everybody wanted to fuck her—except, of course, for whoever called her a “cum junkie.” And I suppose “knob jockie” probably wasn’t a term of endearment, either. One guy clearly wanted to “root,” and another announced to his friend that she made him “toeier than a Roman sandal,” while a third said something about a “bearded clam.”

I am way out of my element with these colorful colloquialisms, so I turn to Jaxon for translation as the next contestant crosses the stage in a stringy bikini that still covered more than Brigette’s did.

“Theh’re pretty much sying thet she’s paupular with the boys and naut in a good wy,” he informs me, “and definitely naut paupular at ahll with theh guhls!” He lifts his glass with a “cheers” and finishes his beer, gesturing to the bartender for another one.

“Refill, Chris?” he asks, and someone else is calling me Chris.

“No, I’ll have a beer, too,” I say, the scotch having taken a bit of the edge off me and I’m now able to enjoy an ale or lager. A few more skimpy bikinis cross the stage as Jaxon and I drink our second beers and now, it’s time for the judging. Some mumbo jumbo goes on here and there and the MC announces third place goes to Janice, the woman with the black stringy bikini. She walks onto the stage and takes her small trophy, waving to the crowd like this was a real beauty pageant.

No, babe, they just wanted to see your ass.

“And second place goes to… Ana!”

What? Second place? Who the fuck are the judges?

My Butterfly walks across the stage and takes the slightly larger second place trophy, blowing a kiss to the onlookers again and inciting more catcalls and cheers as she takes her place next to Janice, sporting a flirty smile.

If my Butterfly didn’t win with that luscious ass wrapped in blue spandex, her under-cheek poking out just enough to make you drool, again it doesn’t take rocket science to know who got first place.

“And the winner is… Brigette!”

The catcalls and jeers begin again, and I decide to throw in a few of my own… only I didn’t expect for my voice to carry that well.

“Boo! Boo! I demand a recount! She’s not sexy, she’s naked!”

My voice carries over the pool and to the stage like I’m talking into a bullhorn. The crowd quiets for two seconds and everybody turns to look at me. I feel a little stupid, and two seconds feel like two hours. Nonetheless, my little savior comes to the rescue in that third second when her beautiful—and loud—Butterfly voice floats back across the pool at me and says:

“BEHAVE!

The crowd immediately bursts into laughter and the contest winner does a little bend to poke her ass out and pats it as she walks off the stage. She retrieves her large trophy from the MC and gives my wife a high five as she takes her place next to Butterfly. They pose for pictures, probably for the cruise album or something, and then they leave the stage.

“A bit cahrried away, thehre, Chris?” Jaxon teases.

“It was fixed,” I protest. “She was naked. That wasn’t even a bikini.” I take a swallow of my beer.

“It wahs a monokini,” he informs me. A what? I look at him bemused. “A one-piece mayde tah look loike a tew-piece.” I twist my lips.

“A one-piece,” I confirm. “It wasn’t a bikini.”

“Stop being a sore second-placer,” I hear my wife say from behind me. She puts her arm around my waist and kisses me on the cheek. “I won second place out of all those gorgeous women.”

“None of them are as gorgeous as you,” I say, pulling her close to me and kissing her lips gently.

“You’re my husband. You’re supposed to say that,” she teases.

“It’s true,” I confirm.

“Good answer,” she replies with a smile.

“It is true,” Laura says coming up behind us and standing next to Jaxon. “Those women were attractive, but none of them could have covered up like you did and placed at all. They had to depend on their skin to win.”

“Hehr, hehr,” Jaxon says finishing his second beer.

“Well, thank you all,” Butterfly says graciously. “I had no chance of winning against Bridgette. She has buns of steel and they’re all hanging out. I’m happy with my little souvenir.” She kisses her tiny trophy.

We have a few more drinks at the pool and listen to the reggae band play a little longer. My Butterfly shows off that beautiful prize-winning body in the pool a little longer as she and Laura laze away in the cool water while Jaxon and I keep a watchful eye on them from the in-pool loungers.

Jaxon tells me how he made his millions. He’s an affiliate marketer extraordinaire. He made his fortune based on the very simple concept that one dollar could become two, two could become four, four could become eight, and so on and so on. He took that one dollar, an idea, and a group of people and parlayed it into millions. His entire business is virtual, affording him the ability to run it from anywhere in the world. Between his business and his investments, he’s creeping up on a net worth of $80 million.

I tell him that my fortune is in mergers and acquisitions. We talk a little about what I do, how I started, and how I’m now one of the wealthiest businessmen in America. He apologizes for not knowing who I am. I assure him that it’s okay as we live on two different continents and unless our business paths crossed in some way, there’s no way that he would know who I was.

We watch our women talking and splashing their feet over the edge of the pool and I see that faraway look in his eye that I get when I think of Butterfly and our life together.

“Do you think you’ll have any children?” I ask. He turns to me and shakes his head.

“OI don’t know if it’s in theh stahs foh us,” he says. “OI gladly have a child with meh Lahrie, but losing Devon was a real troial foh ‘er. She nevah mentioned wahntin’ anymoh children, and OI won’t fohrce ‘er.”

“But is it what you want?” I ask. He shrugs.

“Honestly, OI’m foiyne eithah wy. OI love meh Lahrie. OI love ‘er with meh whole haht and soul. Whahteveh Lahrie wahnts, Lahrie gehts.” I sigh.

“I know that feeling, Jaxon,” I say, looking at my wife.

“Yah don’t sy?” Jaxon teases. “OI nevah woulda noticed!” Smart ass.

“I was living a useless existence of money and lies. It was horrendously bad, and I won’t even attempt to begin to tell you how bad it really was. I mean, I wouldn’t be dead today without her, but I definitely wouldn’t be this happy. I’d still have money, but not prosperity—the love of my family, new friends… good friends… toxic people out of my life. It was a real mess, man. I never would have believed for one second that I would have kids… twins, man. Me? A father? Not in a million years. I couldn’t even connect with my family correctly until I met Butterfly.”

“And yah only been tagethah two yeahs, yah sy?” he says. I nod.

“Two and a half, technically,” I correct him. I sigh. “She’s my whole world. I tell her every chance I get. I show her every chance I get—except for those moments when I stick my head up my ass…”

“We ahll have those, mate,” Jaxon says. I nod.

“Sometimes I feel like it’s still not enough,” I admit. He examines me.

“She mayke ya feel thaht wy?” he asks. I shake my head.

“Never,” I tell him. “She’d take me if I was broke, sick…” I look around to see if anyone is listening. “Before we got married, this crazy woman paid her off to leave me. Transferred $20 million into my wife’s bank account. My wife donated the entire thing to charity.”

“Well, fock meh soidewys, she did?” Jaxon says astonished. Okay, I’ve pinpointed one of those phrases.

“She did,” I say. “She had already turned the money down, but this batty bitch thought that actually having the money would change her mind. Instead, Butterfly contacted me immediately. She had never handled that kind of money before and didn’t know how to transfer it. So, she asked me.”

“Ya cahl ‘er Butterfloy… thaht’s beautiful.”

“She is my Butterfly,” I say. “In more ways than I can explain…”

“Okay, you two look way too serious and we’re hungry,” Laura says as she and Butterfly approach. I stand to greet my wife. I look at my watch, which I set to ship’s time—and it’s well past lunchtime.

“What do you have a taste for?” I ask the ladies.

“Let’s go to the Bluewater Café,” Laura says. “It’s the ship’s buffet. Whatever you may have a taste for will most likely be on the menu and you won’t have to change clothes.”

Everybody agrees on the café for lunch. I send Jason back to our staterooms to see to getting our dress clothes pressed for dinner tonight as this will be one of two formal nights on the ship. I’m not sure that we’ll really be needing security that much when we’re on board. I’m just so accustomed to them being around. I discreetly ask Jason to analyze the situation and get back to me. He goes off to see to the pressing of our clothes while Lawrence follows us to the café.

“So, have you made any plans for the day at Hobart?” Laura asks when we sit down to eat.

“Not really,” Butterfly answers. “We were just going to walk around and see what’s going on.”

“It’s a beautiful place,” she says, “but you’re really only going to find a little shopping and some places to eat. The city really doesn’t come alive until the weekend with the festivals and live performances at the Salamanca Arts Center and the Salamanca Market, and we’re going to be there on a Wednesday.”

“Well, that sucks,” I say, frowning. “Doesn’t the cruise line know that? Why would they make this a port of call in the middle of the week if that’s the case?” I understand that people live here, and they have lives and things that they have to do throughout the week, and they can’t stop because we’re sailing through, but why are we sailing through if there’s going to be nothing to do?

“Don’t fret,” Jaxon says. “Thehre ahre a few things ta do ‘ere and thehre on Tazzie. Leave it ta me. We’ll geht a couple of exuhrsions an’ show ya whaht thehre is ta see. Ya won’t beh disappointed.” Laura smiles at her husband.

“Even though I’ve lived here for ten years, he’s still the native. So, there are still some things he knows that I don’t,” she says.

“Lahrie’s roight though,” Jaxon defends. “The best toime ta see Tazzie would the weekend, but we’ll mayke the best of it.”

I hope he’s right. I would certainly hate to be disappointed.

After a very satisfying lunch at one of the most stocked and elegant buffets I’ve ever seen in my life, Butterfly decides to head back to the stateroom for a nap while Laura, Jaxon, and I head to the excursion desk to plan our day in Hobart. As it turns out, we’ll be in Hobart first thing in the morning and we won’t be leaving until nearly midnight. The next morning when we awake, we’ll be docked in Port Arthur for half the day and then we’ll be headed to Melbourne.

I’ll have to admit that I had no intention of coming on this trip and falling in with a couple of travel companions—one of them an Australian native—but I’m glad we did. They’re not crazy people unless you have a problem with the whole spirit thing. As troubled as my mind and soul has been in prior years and as soon as just before our trip, I feel that anyone who says that they connect with the spirit and devote their lives to bringing peace to it is alright with me—not to mention that I’ve found the connection to the very core of my being in my wife. You can’t dismiss that as hocus pocus or mumbo-jumbo when you’ve felt it yourself.

I’m glad that no one appears to know who we are, either. The spotlight is expected when you are who we are, but it can be tiring as fuck!

We get to the elevators after we’ve planned excursions for Hobart and Port Arthur, and Laura and Jaxon both decide to take a nap before dinner as well. I’m not tired in the least, so they choose the floor where their cabin is, and I decide to head to the internet café. There are no buttons inside the elevators—you choose your destination before you get on and hope you’ve chosen the right deck. Luckily, there are maps at every bank of elevators to show you where you are and help you decide where you want to be.

In the internet café, I use my phone to shoot off a text to Al and ask how things were going with cataloguing my assets, advising him to liaise with the accounting department to help with valuation.

I go into the vortex that is my email and begin to respond to those that appear to need immediate attention, forwarding many to Lorenz and Ros and deleting many more. As I’m working my way through, I see one that immediately catches my eye.

To: Christian Grey
Re: SEEKNID 1.0
Date: Monday, December 8, 2014, 9:17
From: James Fleming-Forsythe

Good Morning Christian,

I know that it’s probably Tuesday where you are, and I don’t mean to interrupt your vacation, but I figured that you would see this whenever you check your emails, so you would be working anyway. I don’t mean to be a whiner, but every time I try to talk to someone in your R&D department about SEEKNID 1.0, they have nothing for me—no updates, no “this isn’t working,” no “get this the hell out of my face,” nothing. They’ve had this project for nearly a year now, and I’m getting the feeling that I’ve been shelved. Can you please tell me what’s going on? This is my baby and I’ve been perfecting it for years. If you’ve changed your mind, please let me know.

James Fleming-Forsythe
IT Engineer, Liondew Electronics

Jesus, they’ve been sitting on this for that long? Why hasn’t he said anything to me before now?

To: James Fleming-Forsythe
Re: SEEKNID 1.0
Date: Tuesday, December 9, 2014, 16:39
From: Christian Grey

Hello James,

I really wish you had told me sooner that you had submitted the software to R&D. Hindsight being 20/20, I’m sure that I must have known that you would have done it by now, but you know that my finger is on the pulse of so much and I’m sure I don’t need to remind you about the strange cornucopia that is my life.

Nonetheless, this is how R&D works, unfortunately. If they can’t get it out in a day and see lots of zeros at the end of a project immediately, it usually gets shelved and pushed back in line unless someone makes it a priority. They don’t know you or the importance of the software, so they’ve most likely marked it as “can wait.” Let me put some fire under some asses and see what we can get rolling. Let me know immediately if you get the old “push off” when you call R&D, particularly who you spoke to and exactly what they said. Keep your phone on and your email open, my friend.

Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc

Research and development may not know that, but that software that they’re marking as “We’ll get to it later” saved my company and their jobs last year. We could have been making a fucking fortune off of that technology by now, but they’re dragging their asses. I send off a priority email to the R&D intake box as well as to Paul Hammock—the R&D department head, Barney, Ros and Lorenz with a CC to James and one to my wife as well for good measure, asking why a multi-million-dollar software program was being shelved. I didn’t ask if it was being shelved. I asked why it was being shelved. I didn’t go into any detail or talk about people’s heads rolling. Why? Because the silence makes them more nervous than the rant. They’re walking around asking themselves and each other:

Is that a rhetorical question?
Is he expecting an answer or is he just expecting us to get started?
Who is this James Flemings guy? Is he somebody new to the company?

If they only knew how important that James Flemings guy is to my family and how detrimental the software was and could be to my company, they wouldn’t even bother asking questions. I would have gotten error margins and project profit and loss reports long before I knew that James’ software had been shelved. Jesus, must I do everything myself? I work my way through several more emails when a familiar voice distracts me.

“Probably not a good idea to let Her Highness see you working, sir.”

My head shoots up. Shit, what time is it? I look at him in a panic. Is she here?

“Ben told me that she went back to the cabin for a nap, so we’re assuming that she’s still there.” I release the gasp that I was holding. Shit, that was close!

“How did you know I was here?” I ask. He cocks his head at me in that obvious way that indicates I’ve asked a stupid question. “Never mind,” I say, closing the email on my phone. There was really no need to come to the internet café. I could have logged into my email anywhere and I certainly wasn’t going to go into my company’s mainframe and network from a public computer on a cruise ship!

“I was thinking,” I begin, looking around to be sure there are no inquiring ears too close, “This is a pretty controlled environment, at least while we’re on the boat. It seems a bit of a waste to have security following us around everywhere we go… unless you feel it’s necessary. What say you?” He shrugs.

“Honestly, I’ve pretty much been a valet since I’ve been here. It’s not that I’m complaining, but… that’s pretty much what I’ve done.”

“So, you think it may be unnecessary to have you both on duty while we’re on the ship?” I ask. He twists his lips.

“I’ve watched the two of you,” he says. “You’re in a totally different world while you’re on this ship. You barely even know that we’re there. It’s my job—our job—to be present, but somewhat invisible. According to our conversation yesterday, Ben’s been doing a bit too good of a job of that.” I nod.

“It’s like I said, when you’re around, people aren’t so quick to approach us, but when he’s around, people say things to us like he’s not even standing there. He’s been about as useful as a scarecrow and not as effective.”

“Sir…”

“I know, I know, you’ve already said,” I interrupt, “he’ll protect us from any real danger. But I and my wife would like the comfort of knowing that some cunts at Sydney Opera House are not going to harass her for me giving her a piggy-back ride or some assholes in the line at the OPT aren’t going to blatantly disrespect her in a public place.” Jason is now uncomfortable.

“Sir, there’s a very easy explanation for that,” he says. I frown.

“You have a viable explanation for this situation.” It’s a statement, not a question. He nods. “Why am I just now about to hear it?” I confront.

“Because I couldn’t say it in front of Ben, and I thought you already knew,” he says. I fold my arms.

“I’m listening.” He sighs and sits down.

“You’ve known from the very beginning that Her Highness is very personable and approachable. When she found out that Chuck was going to be her CPO, there was the immediate ‘call me Ana’ rapport. Once that happened, I don’t think I’ve ever heard him call her Mrs. Grey, Dr. Grey, Ms. Steele, Dr. Steele, or even Her Highness—the last one only when it was utterly necessary. As a result, there’s a certain closeness—a physical proximity—that he maintains when they’re together that lets people know ‘Hey, that’s her guard.’ You and I have the same rapport, even if it’s not as cordial to the outside world because of how you carry yourself…”

“Elaborate,” I say.

“You are much less approachable than Her Highness, and you know it,” he says matter-of-factly. “It makes my job easier, but it makes Ben’s a little harder.” I furrow my brow.

“How so?” I ask.

“He can’t get that close physical rapport with you. He has it with ‘Call me Ana,’ but he doesn’t have it with you. As a result, when he’s with the two of you alone, there’s a bit of a distance because you’re there.”

“Okay, but he’s been my CPO when you were unavailable, and nobody approached me, and nobody approached Butterfly.”

“That’s because when you’re alone, you’re unapproachable by yourself, so he’s just backup—as am I. I know you can take care of yourself, but I have to have your back. When you’re with Her Highness, she’s got Chuck, so by deduction, they know who he is. Right now, in casual clothes and deck shoes, he’s just some guy standing behind you. He’s more standoffish when you’re there than he is when he’s with Her Highness by herself, because they engage more. So once again, they know he’s her guard, but with you…” He trails off and calmly flourishes his hand at me.

“Okay, so, let me get this straight. He’s been with us for a while. He’s first CPO backup for both you and Chuck, and what you’re basically telling me is that he’s ineffective on his own as an officer because I’m around?”

“Yes and no,” Jason says. “He’s not ineffective as an officer. No harm has ever come to you or Her Highness on his watch, has it?”

He waits for an answer, but he knows that I’m not going to respond.

“You’re feeling the fact that you know those people wouldn’t have said anything had Chuck or I been around. Two of us are more effective than one of us no matter who it is. However, there are two of us who can get right into your personal space to the onlooker—physically and subconsciously—and he’s not one of them.

“He doesn’t have the physical rapport with you. Even Chuck has the physical rapport with you. That rapport, no matter where we are, says, ‘Don’t fuck with them. Do not engage.’ With Ben, depending on the circumstances, his presence may say the same thing, or it may say nothing at all. In a casual situation, they may not know who he is until he’s got somebody in a chokehold. And we can’t expect him to put someone in a chokehold for talking about your wife’s ass.”

“But I should expect something,” I retort. “I should expect him to make his presence known or intimidate the guy in some kind of way. This guy was brazen and even jeered me when I pulled her in front of me, and Lawrence did absolutely nothing. You would have done something.”

“That wouldn’t have happened if I was present, boss, and you know it. That’s why we’re having this conversation,” he points out.

He’s right. That guy clammed right up when Jason appeared and told us about priority boarding. He didn’t even approach the guy—didn’t even look at him. The guy had given me lip and shut right down when Jason started talking to me.

“It’s going to take him—and anybody else—quite some time to get even close to the level of comfort that I and Chuck have with you. Some of them are never going to even scratch the surface. Ben’s trying, and he’s doing a really good job under the circumstances. He just can’t be me or Chuck, boss. Think about it—how many other guards in your employ would you allow to live in your home?”

I shiver inwardly at the thought.

“Know that I put a fucking lot of faith in him to allow you and Her Highness to run around Sydney alone with him. And he did a good job. You both came back in one piece, having only suffered a little heckling from a woman who probably wanted you and a man who definitely wanted her. I’d say that’s a win, sir.”

I sigh heavily. Yeah, it’s a win. It’s just not the “flawless victory” that I’m accustomed to.
giphy

“I really hate it when you’re so damn logical,” I say, putting my phone back in the pocket of my shorts.

“What do you expect?” he says with a shrug.

“So, in all this chitter chatter, you haven’t answered my question. Should we ixnay the security while we’re on the ship, or do you think that’s a bad idea?”

“Do you feel like we’re cramping your style, sir?” he asks.

“Maybe just a little, but not really,” I admit. “Having a security detail does take away from a bit of the spontaneity, though.” He rubs his chin.

“I suppose that as long as we can track your watch and something on Her Highness, I don’t see why you need us around all the time. At the very least, you won’t need us both.”

“I don’t think she has anything that you can track besides her phone,” I point out, “and she’s not carrying that all over the ship. She’s with me all the time. Wouldn’t my Hublot be enough?” He shakes his head.

“That’s a no-go, sir,” he says finitely.

“Why? You don’t trust me to keep my own wife safe?” I ask bemused.

“Where is she now?” he asks flatly. I frown.

“You don’t know?” I say, nearly seething.

“Yes, I do know, but is she here?” he retorts. “Will your Hublot lead me to her right now?”

I deflate immediately. That’s something like 0 for 3 in Jason’s favor and I’m not liking that.

“Never mind, forget I asked,” I say. I’d better quit while I’m behind.

“I’m not saying that letting one of us off is a bad idea,” he says, “but I have a wife. I’m not going to enjoy a cruise without her. Ben may want to see the ship, catch some sun. I’ll just stay on duty.”

“Maybe you should both just stay on duty, too.” He shrugs.

“Totally up to you, sir. I would say that you don’t need two, though. Maybe, I’ll take one evening off out of the two that remain, order room service and veg out.”

“That’s not really a bad idea. When’s the last time you ‘vegged out?’” he shrugs again.

“Sometime with my wife, I don’t know.” He seems a little off when he answers that question.

“Something on your mind, Jason?” I ask, a little concerned. He twists his lips.

“Permission to speak freely,” he says. My brow furrows.

“I thought you already were,” I reply. He sighs.

“When you were ‘the single guy,’ the guy with the fembots who showed up on the weekends, it was different. It was different for us both. Gail and I spent a little time together and we were fond of each other. Even after we grew closer, it was still different—easier. When you had to take a quick business trip, or you flew across the country—or the world—it was just like it was in Madrid. You were all business, focused. I had a job to do and I just did it—cover your ass, that was it.

“Then, Her Highness comes along and changes everything. You did a complete 180 on me and I didn’t even know who the hell you were anymore. When she got kidnapped and you fell apart, I thought I had stepped off into the fifth dimension. I didn’t know how to react or what to do except get her the fuck back. I knew then that she was your Achilles Heel and if something happened to her, you would never recover. Hell had officially frozen over and before we got that first ping on that phone, I knew I wanted to marry Gail.

“It was you… and the fact that a 5-foot-3-inch Butterfly came along and melted your icy ass heart that made me realize I wanted to spend my life with that woman. I had planned to ask her before we left for Anguilla, but then I discovered that you were taking her, too, and I changed my mind and decided to wait. I thought to myself, ‘If this icy asshole can fall in love, what the hell am I waiting for?’

“Then came the trips to Paris… and Greece… and Napa… and the babymoon—all places I went without my wife, but I got to sit and watch you and your wife snuggled up together…”

And now, we get to the meat of it.

“Having to leave town at a moment’s notice isn’t anything new—for either of us—but having to go out of town to these romantic destinations without my wife… it’s a bit torturous. She would have loved to see the Sydney Opera House. She would have adored Napa. And the Eiffel Tower, she’s wanted to see that ever since she was a kid. And speaking of kids…” He trails off and I don’t know if that comment was a reference to the twins or Sophia or both.

“I’m not complaining, sir,” he points out. “You asked what was on my mind and this is what’s on my mind. Madrid was actually a breath of fresh air for what it was, because we both had to focus. Being in a couples environment can be a bit taxing without the one you love.” I sigh.

“Why don’t you both take the night off?” I tell him. “I’ll have Her Highness put her phone in her clutch or something. We’ll see how it works. Go have a beer or something. I’m fairly certain nothing’s going to happen and even if it does, you won’t allow yourself to be three sheets to the wind anyway.” He looks at me and nods.

“Duly noted,” he says.


ANASTASIA

I’ve fallen asleep naked in bed with my hair wet and I decide that I better get up and try to tame it, or it’s going to look like hell for formal night. That swim was divine, and my skin is sunkissed just enough to give me a pretty vacation glow, but once we ate, I felt completely waterlogged and needed an immediate nap. I stripped out of my dress and swimsuit, took a quick shower and relieved my boobs a bit, then fell out on the bed face down like a sack of potatoes. Now, my mane is all stringy and horrible, and I know that it’s going to be the vamp ponytail tonight because there’s nothing else that I can do with it.

I go to the bathroom and wet it down again, this time putting some leave-in conditioner in it along with some mousse at the roots and base and I partially blow-dry it that way. I put a ponytail holder in it, then dry the rest of it, causing the mousse to stiffen and hold the hair together while the tail falls straight and lazily down my back.

Christian’s still not back when I finish, so I don one of the complimentary terrycloth robes and go out onto the balcony with my phone. I haven’t journaled since I’ve been in Australia and quite frankly, I don’t want to. Having decided that I’m going back to Helping Hands—at least for the immediate future—I send a text off to Courtney asking if she’s willing to add to her duties and be my assistant at least until I make other arrangements. This, of course, leads to her asking about Marilyn. I rightly admit that I have no idea what’s going on with her, but life goes on and I need an assistant. She responds that she would be glad to help out.

We text some more about Harmony and Courtney tells me that she has returned to school, knowing that her mother would be very disappointed if she didn’t. She also informs me that Grace is very much out of sorts trying to figure out what she should be doing without me. Although I know that I shouldn’t be doing any victory laps or feeling any happiness over Grace’s calamity, I do! I need her to realize that even though she’s the head peg on the board, she can’t discount the rest of the pegs.

My mistake was that I became complacent—comfortable in the feeling that I was her equal when I’m clearly not. I am assistant director of Helping Hands—she’s the director. And she doesn’t hesitate to make sure that I know it. I don’t have a problem with my position. But I do have a problem with her not respecting my position—or my expertise.

And I’m going to retract that statement about not being her equal. She made me her equal. She gave me the authority. She had me doing all this work and making all these plans. I was autonomous, and I was making even more decisions than she was in some instances. Hiring the cleaning staff, interviewing people and chasing down background checks on viable candidates. Putting my marriage on the line for a useless and unnecessary investigation that didn’t cost her anything.

My position wasn’t imagined. This wasn’t my self-imposed level of comfort. This is where she put me. She put me in that slot of importance and value until I bucked against her. Then she had to knock me down a few notches.

I was going to send a text back to Courtney to tell her that it’s okay to inform Grace that I would be in next week. Instead, I send a different message:

**I guess it’s tough being the boss. **

I search my many text messages and, speak of the devil, I see two from Grace:

**I would like to know if you plan on returning to work. I just think that if you have decided to resign your position, you should please inform me of such. **

“Why should I inform you?”

I hadn’t really decided until recently that I was or wasn’t returning to Helping Hands. I felt like since she has no problems making decisions regardless of my concern or input, then what do you need me for? Even now, after I’ve decided to return to Helping Hands, I’m not sure that any decisions that I make or put in place are even going to stick. Is she going to look at something that I’ve decided to do and just sweep it away with the wave of her hand? That’s what she did with Courtney and Addie. A year’s worth of building this girl up and watching her grow and she just comes along and says, “No, I think this is what we should do.” We’re only lucky that it ended semi-well—this could have been a disaster.

She’s broken my trust and she won’t acknowledge it. It’s pretty much “take it or leave it.”

**I’ve just been informed that you left for a cruise in Australia this past weekend. Please contact me as soon as you get the opportunity. We really need to talk. **

Her messages sound professional and contrite, but I’m still feeling like she’s totally disregarded me, and I just don’t want to deal with it right now. I’m in need of some baby time after mulling over the Grace situation, and even though I feel guilty for not waiting for Christian, I can’t wait.

Refreshed and revitalized after getting my Minnie and Mikey fix, I turn to my long list of emails to see if anything needs immediate attention. There’s nothing particularly pressing, but I do notice one from Christian sent to R&D—and a whole bunch of other folks—asking why James’ software hasn’t been tested and produced. I was expecting to see the usual Christian Grey Long Arm of the Law, but I didn’t see any of that—which is strange, and a bit unsettling. And his ass is working on the cruise.

And what the hell are you doing?
Point taken.

I put a little salt on the situation by responding to all that I was under the impression that the groundbreaking software that has already proven to be worth its weight in gold was well past the research and development stage and was now somewhere in production and marketing. I also asked if I was mistaken about the process and timeline of things in GEH and requested that someone please enlighten me. Just as I’m pressing “send,” I hear the door open to the cabin. I close my email and scroll through things trending on the internet to see if anything fresh or new has hit the web about me and Christian.

“You’re awake,” he says, stepping out onto the balcony.

“I have been for a little while,” I say, raising my eyes from my phone. “You’ve been working.”

“Um… yeah,” he says sheepishly. I stand from my seat.

“No sweat,” I say, kissing him on the cheek. “I’ve been working, too.” I walk back into the bedroom and open the closet. I see that Jason has had both of my formal dresses pressed, obviously not knowing which one I would choose to wear tonight. I choose the red one with the nude Louboutin stilettos—simple and sexy, and perfect since I’m doing the vamp ponytail.

“I’m considering giving security the night off,” Christian says, stepping off the balcony and into the bedroom. I turn my gaze to him.

“Really?” It’s a question, but it comes out more like a statement. “What’s brought this on?”

“Just seeing how we move about the ship,” he replies. “This is a pretty controlled environment. What can happen to us here?” I shrug. He’s right. For one thing, we left on vacation very suddenly. Anyone possibly stalking us would need as much money and freedom as we do to have followed us here. For another thing, nobody seems to know who we are, so as long as we have security when we get to ports of call, I don’t see any harm in letting the guys roam the ship until we need them… if we need them.

“The catch is that you have to carry your phone with you, though,” he adds. “They can track my watch, but they have nothing to track on you.” I look at his arm.

“Your Hublot?” I ask. “They’ve tampered with your Hublot?”

“I was surprised, too, but apparently, yes,” he says. “Besides my phone, it’s the only thing that stays with me at all times.”

He says it so matter-of-factly, but the words hit me right in the heart. He doesn’t realize that the key around his neck that I gave him in Anguilla stays with him at all times, too, because he never takes it off. When you wear something without thinking, it becomes somewhat invisible, but the fact that he only wears my Hublot when he has so many options warms me right down to my very soul.

“Sure, I’ll… carry my phone,” I say, turning away and trying to hide my emotions. He’s behind me in a moment.

“What is it, baby?” he asks, concerned. “Did I say something wrong.”

“No,” I say, swiping away a tear before I turn to face him. “It’s just me being a silly, weepy, emotional girl. You have so many beautiful watches. I didn’t realize that you only wore mine.” His gaze softens, and the corners of his mouth turn up infinitesimally.

“This is the most beautiful of them all,” he says, putting his hands on my waist. “I cried when I saw this that day. If watches didn’t irritate me so much when I sleep, I’d never take it off.”

“We don’t have time before dinner for you to get laid, Mr. Grey, but your effort is stellar,” I say coquettishly. His smile is full now.

“I’ll keep working on it then,” he says suggestively.

And work on it, he did. He growls when he sees the red silk maxi dress Vickie outfitted me with and the simple patent-leather nude Louboutin stilettos. I accent the outfit with my Chanel Cometé collection and a red satin clutch. I suit my husband in a dark charcoal suit with black shirt and textured black tie and his signature Caesar Picotti’s. I knew the suit would work if I wore the red or the black on formal night. As he admires me in the red, I admire him in the black and catch a glimpse of something shining from his other wrist. When I get a good look at it, I nearly swoon.

I packed his black onyx cuff links to go with the shirt. He packed his onyx, gold, and diamond bracelet—the one I gave him as a wedding present with the Hublot. I had forgotten all about it until he just put it on… and his key is displayed outside his shirt and tie. I take a deep breath and unsuccessfully attempt to appear unaffected. He extends his elbow to me.

“Shall we, Mrs. Grey?” he asks. I retrieve my clutch from the bureau.

“We shall,” I say softly as I take his arm.

We have dinner in the main dining room which means that we are seated with three other couples at our table. There should have been four, but the fourth “couple” would have been Jason and Ben. The dining room is stunning. We enter through a grand staircase reminiscent of Titanic grandeur. A large, elegant chandelier adorns the middle of the large, three-story ballroom-esque dining room. Large tables are dressed in exquisite linens, fine china, highly-polished silverware, and classic crystal.

Passengers are dressed in their red-carpet finest and although my neckline is plunging, mine is not the most risqué ensemble in attendance tonight.

Christian pulls a chair out for me and two of the three women already seated at the table are salivating all over themselves. Yes, ladies, I know he’s hot.

We discover that the two drooling women and their companions are French, and the older woman and her husband are Italian. They all speak English, but occasionally, each couple may break off into their native tongue.

For our entrées, we have the choice roasted duck served with mashed potatoes and caramelized onions and a warm beet salad, filet mignon served with baked potatoes and Mediterranean zucchini and chickpea salad, or lobster tails with roasted Brussels sprouts and macaroni and cheese. At the risk of sounding high-nosed, I do not want any filet mignon. I feel as though we are expected to eat it because we’re on a high-end cruise.

Unable to choose between the duck or the lobster, I choose them both with the mashed potatoes and the Mediterranean salad. When the waiter brings my meal, the two French ladies break into their native tongue talking about the amount of food that I’m eating. One of them even comments that I will most likely regurgitate my entire meal once I’m finished. Christian looks over at me and I raise a brow at him and smile, daintily eating my meal so as not to drop anything on my dress.

The Italian couple engages us in conversation about America and where we’ve traveled with my husband doing most of the talking about foreign destinations. I only pipe in when we talked about Anguilla. The catty women continue to make snide comments about me, my dress, my meal, the fact that I’m not answering any of the questions that the Califanos ask about exotic locations and that Christian is doing most of the talking. When it looks like my husband is about to respond, I put my hand on his knee to calm him and shake my head when he turns to look at me.

“Their men should teach their damn puppies some manners or put them on a leash!” he hisses, low enough for only me to hear.

“Apparently, dogs can roam freely on this ship,” I say without restraint. No one has any idea what I’m talking about, and the women all look at me like I’m a Martian. The French men haven’t said anything all night beyond introducing themselves, and I can’t help but wonder if they’re hired escorts or something.

This “banter,” for lack of a better word, goes on for several more minutes, during which time I force myself to finish my meal while Christian finishes his—with more insults from the French cunts serving as background noise. When he’s eaten his last bite, I place my fork on the plate and dab my mouth with my napkin, indicating that I’ve had enough of this meal and choosing to forgo dessert. One of the French women comments—in French, of course—that I must be getting ready to go and vomit and they both laugh. Christian puts his fork down and I toss my napkin onto my plate.

“Dames,” I say. Instinctively, their heads turn to me and their giggles cease. “Je ne vomis pas pour rester en forme, je pratique les arts martiaux, le yoga et la musculation. Vous devez faire attention à la manière dont vous parlez des autres dans des lieux publics. Vous ne savez jamais qui peut parler votre langue. Profitez de votre dessert.”

All the color leaves their faces as they realize I’ve been privy to every dirty and hateful thing they’ve said about me all night. I move to stand and Christian rushes to pull my chair back. All of the men at the table stand, even their dates, as I move from my seat and proceed to leave the table. Christian stops me from leaving and tucks my arm into his elbow before turning to our dinner companions.

“Mr. and Mrs. Califano,” he says before turning to the French diners. “Mesdames, messieurs, passez une bonne nuit.”

I would think the men were wearing earplugs because they haven’t reacted to anything all night. The women, on the other hand, look as if they could just curl up and die right at any moment. My husband effectively twisted the knife by letting them know that he was also privy to every word they were saying, after which, he leads me from the dining room and away from what should have been a pleasant experience.

“Do you want to go back to the stateroom?” he asks. I shake my head.

“I’ve been asleep all afternoon. I’m not going to let a couple of jealous Frenchies ruin my night. I’m beginning to wish we had asked Jason and Ben to come with us.”

“That wouldn’t have stopped them,” he says. “They thought we didn’t know what they were saying. So, in their eyes, they hadn’t offended us. That’s why they didn’t say it in English.” I roll my eyes.

“It seems we… or I… bring out the worst in people wherever I go, even on an entirely different continent!” I lament.

“First of all, you can’t hold yourself responsible for other people’s bad behavior. And second, all the bad behavior you’ve seen today and yesterday was because you look like a million bucks. Everyone who has had anything to say was either jealous or they wanted you. Tell me I’m wrong.”

“You think those hateful bitches at the Sydney Opera House were jealous?” I ask incredulously.

“I most certainly do!” he exclaimed. “You looked delicious in that jersey-legging thing you were wearing yesterday—fucking delicious! And nobody was carrying them on their backs!”

He’s got a good point.

We’re silent for a moment as we walk through the hallway of the ship. When we get to the bank of elevators, we look at the maps of the decks.

“Where do you want to go?” he asks. I review the maps quickly and point to my desired location.

“There,” I reply.

*-*

A few minutes later, we find ourselves in a small club called Cagney’s. I was able to order some tiramisu since I skipped dessert along with a deliciously nutty ruby port wine—not my first choice, but fabulous as a pairing with the tiramisu.

I chose this bar because it has karaoke and I’m feeling like my vacation is on the verge of being ruined by a couple of uncouth French twats. So, I deduce that Karaoke will be a nice way to loosen up. The tiramisu was a bonus.

There aren’t many people in the bar right now since it’s still fairly early, but there’s enough for a small party and cheering—or booing—section… about twenty, I would say. So, when the DJ calls my name, I’m ready for the performance of my life, and my song choice is evidence of that.

I turn away from the mic and wait for the song to begin. I don’t need the screen—I know all the words. I’m glad to hear that after the drum and base-beat intro, the track already has the backup vocals. So, I can concentrate on a mouth-watering performance. My dress isn’t tight, but I can still feel the silk gliding over my skin, so I can tell that what curves I do have are on demure display.

I have to sing in this soft falsetto voice to get the same effect as the original song, so I get the mic as close as I can without touching it so the audience can hear me.

“Many saaaaaaay that I’m too young to let you know just where I’m coming from…”

I’m bending one knee and bouncing my hips demurely to the beat of the song and flourish my arms artfully as I talk about people being uptight and the way that me and my man carry on. I mimic many of the original choreographed moves from the video from Sparkle with Irene Cara in it, including the synchronized hand movements when I talk about Giving Him Something He Can Feel, which causes the audience to come alive with a few cheers and a couple of catcalls.

Once the crowd has loosened up a bit, I borrow a few moves from the En Vogue version, rolling my hips from left to right and shifting my weight while slowly bending alternate knees, allowing my ass to caress the silk of my red dress and round out nicely on each shift. I add a bit of flare of my own when I spin that ponytail around once and pop my neck back strategically on one of the “ooo’s” in the song, poking my crimson lips out at the same time. The video is playing in my head and I’m wishing I had some elbow-length gloves to do a mini-strip tease like En Vogue did on stage.

The room is breathing, pulsing, and sweating with sexual tension as well as a bit of female animosity and envy. I can see some of the women in the crowd—particularly the ones in the front—glaring at me and whispering among themselves. More of the French whore haterade. It just spurns me on because I can easily see that the men are salivating all over themselves just like the ones in the video, and Christian is looking at me like he would come up on stage and eat me alive if he could right at this very moment.

I stick my leg out to showcase my nude stilettos. Then I bend down and drag my fingertips from my ankle up my calf and the exposed part of my thigh, up my torso, breast and neck, then pose my fingers upright next to my face as I turn my head away to showcase the diamonds and platinum on my ring finger. I know the final gesture is lost on many of the men in the audience and most likely only tends to anger the women even more, many of them stamping me a trophy wife from my performance and the size of my ring, but that’s okay. I’ll be a goddamn trophy tonight. I’m hot and I know it and I’m not up here cooing and gyrating so that these people can admire my intellect.

Once the last note of the song plays, the crowd erupts with applause from the men and some of the women who weren’t hating on me while I was performing. I move to the stairs and at least eight men rush the stage to help me down. I gaze over the faces looking for the one that should be there and waiting to see if he’ll make an appearance. Sure enough, a few seconds later, he makes his way to the stage.

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” he says in his powerful baritone voice. “I’d like to retrieve my wife.”

The men simultaneously look over their shoulders at him with distain before parting and allowing him access to the stairs. He holds his hand out to me and I give him my fingertips while daintily lifting my dress with my free hand to prevent taking a spill down the stairs. We both know that this is just a display for onlookers as I have absolutely no problem negotiating the stairs on my own. The men lining the stairs all look quite crestfallen as my husband kisses my hand before tucking it into his elbow and leading me back to our table.

“You are a vixen,” he accuses as he pushes my chair in for me.

“I try,” I say, giving him a mischievous smile.


A/N: “Dames, Je ne vomis pas pour rester en forme, je pratique les arts martiaux, le yoga et la musculation. Vous devez faire attention à la manière dont vous parlez des autres dans des lieux publics. Vous ne savez jamais qui peut parler votre langue. Profitez de votre dessert.”—“Ladies, I do not vomit to stay in shape, I practice martial arts, yoga and bodybuilding. You have to be careful about how you talk about others in public places. You never know who can speak your language. Enjoy your dessert. “

“Mesdames, messieurs, passez une bonne nuit.” —”Ladies and gentlemen, have a good night.”

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

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 75—Ship Shenanigans

Here comes some more of that horrible Australian accent, and a LOT of it, so…

ADDITIONAL DISCLAIMER: 

Please do not beat me over the head too badly for my bad imitation of an Australian accent. I’m doing the best I can.

I’ve seen a lot of death these past two weeks—a lot of friends losing friends and family. Please be kind to one another and don’t fail to let the ones you love know that you love them. 

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 75—Ship Shenanigans

ANASTASIA

“Do you get people lashing out at you that way when Chuck is with you?” Christian asks as we dutifully follow Jason through the terminal. I shrug.

“I don’t know. Sometimes, I guess. There’s always a smart-ass somewhere,” I point out. “Then again, you’re not that prone to carrying me on your back.”

“It’s not that,” he says, looking around before pulling me closer to him. “When I’m with Jason or Jason is with us, people don’t fuck with us. From what I understand, when you’re with Chuck, people generally don’t fuck with you.” He looks around again then leans down to me. “But with Lawrence, it’s like he’s not even here. At the Opera House when that woman heckled you and just now with those guys standing behind us…”

“So, I did miss something,” I observe aloud.

“Not much,” he continues, “just a couple of jerks talking about your ass. But that’s the thing. They shouldn’t have even felt comfortable enough to say that shit—none of them! Granted, I’m not expecting Lawrence to clothesline somebody for talking about your ass, but I can guarantee that had Chuck or Jason been standing there, those fuckers would have kept their mouth shut, as would have that ‘tosser’ at Sydney Opera House. His presence should mean something, but apparently, it doesn’t.”

“Well, that’s the key word, Christian,” I say looking around to take note of Ben’s position and making sure that he can’t hear me. “Presence. Jason and Chuck have a presence all their own—even more so when they’re around us. Jason is the boss and he knows he is. He’s been running around Australia all day exchanging your money and arranging your shit…”

“Our money,” he corrects me.

“Whatever,” I reply. “The point is that he’s a mover and a shaker and he doesn’t need anybody to tell him that. Your power is transmitted through him through association and he knows that. Chuck has a power all his own. He’s responsible for me and he knows that there’s nowhere in the world—in heaven or hell or any dimension imaginable—that he can hide if something happens to me on his watch. He makes it no secret that I am his charge.

“Whatever combat experience Ben has, he hasn’t had Grey combat experience. I’m certain that he’s good at what he does and if Jason trusts him, I trust him. But Jason took a bullet for you; Chuck took a missile for me; what combat experience has Ben had?”

Christian twists his lips and looks over at Ben, who’s examining his surroundings very carefully and keeping people out of our general area while Jason leads the way. Christian rolls his eyes.

“Well, excuse me for saying it, but I’m glad he’s just backup,” Christian points out. “I’m just going to have to be on my toes a little more during this trip.”

“You most certainly will not!” I snap, louder than I intend. Jason and Ben both look at me. “As you were,” I say calmly, and after a short pause, we proceed down the corridor. I turn my attention back to my husband. “You’re going to relax, have fun, and enjoy yourself on this cruise, and let these men do their jobs, or we can summon the jet and go home now.”

My husband doesn’t respond. I give him a few more moments to acknowledge my statement. When there’s still no response, I stop in my tracks—right there in the middle of the priority boarding terminal. I don’t care if we’re in Sydney, the outback, or Death fucking Valley. I’ll summon that goddamn plane. He turns around and looks at me with a frown on his face.

“What?” he says. Jason and Ben have both stopped walking, too. I fold my arms and purse my lips. Don’t test me, Grey. My phone is already in my hand. He rolls his eyes a takes a step back to me.

“Okay, okay, you win, fine,” he says, grabbing my hand and pulling me along the terminal.

“I’m not kidding,” I threaten, walking double-steps to keep up with his long strides. “I’ll do it.”

“I know you will,” he says without stopping.

*-*

Now, I’ve never been on a cruise ship before, but I’ve seen them on television. This ain’t your average cruise ship. I have no idea where to start.

The moment we cross the gangplank and embark the ship, we’re greeted with a glass of pink champagne. Looking at all this opulence and grandeur, I have no idea how to behave. I’m a billionairess with money to burn who owns half of a billion-dollar company and got married in a castle, and I still don’t know how to act right now. The promenade deck looks like what I would expect the inside of an exclusive, high-end, multilevel shopping mall to look like. I definitely want to get lost in the beautiful splendor of this luxury cruise ship, but first, nature calls… in more ways than one.

With the threat of another milktastrophe, Jason hurries us to our cabins. We have to go to the upper deck and aaaaaaaaaaallllllll the way to the back of the ship to get to our staterooms. We have ginormous cabins that are next to each other, each cabin able to sleep five people. Maybe cabin is the wrong word. The correct word is suite. However, this suite is bigger than my first three apartments. It’s more than 1500 square feet—living room, dining room, study, two bedrooms with king-sized beds and two full bathrooms with marble tubs and Jacuzzis, one of which has been set up as a milking station.

Jason thought of everything.

Christian goes to the suite next door to talk to Jason and Ben, and I immediately take to emptying the food factory. You never know how full they are until you start to empty them—or until they start leaking.

Unable to leave the regular world behind for too long, I open my email to see what’s happening in the life I left behind for a week. Everyone tried to find Gary, but he’s quite incommunicado. Al used GEH’s resources to ascertain that he’s at least still alive and still in Seattle, still working at City of Lights and staying in a small studio near his job. What I hate the most is not being able to talk to him and see if he’s okay. He’s going through something, too, and he’s not talking to any of his closest friends. So, he’s effectively going through it alone. I tell Al to pop up on him at that little studio he’s living in and tell me how he’s doing. I realize that it’s a terrible invasion of privacy, but you can’t just cut your closest friends—your family—off like that without a word when we know that you’re hurting.

There’s nothing else from Marilyn, either. I can’t imagine the emotional torment she’s suffering right now. I know that she’s in love with Gary and that this is tearing her apart inside, but to be forced to endure this unbearable heartache coupled with the religious bullying of her parents… that’s more than anyone should be subjected to.

Courtney and Vickie had lunch with Addie and Fred yesterday. She admitted that it was awkward as she’s getting to know her grandparents all over again… and they’re getting to know her. She points out that Addie was astounded by her dedication to her career choice and seemed very interested in what she plans on doing with the future. Fred, on the other hand, still seemed quite skeptical and Courtney couldn’t blame him. I can only imagine how Christian would react to anyone putting me through the emotional warfare that Courtney inflicted on her grandmother. For that reason, she’s not sure if the rift between her and her grandfather will ever be completely mended, but she’s resolved to deal with whatever happens.

“I just don’t have the energy for the fight anymore,” she writes. “I just want to live my life and play whatever hand I’ve been dealt, but I’m not going to allow anybody to beat me over the head for past mistakes, not even my grandfather. Forgive me or don’t, but either way, move on. I certainly am.”

Very well said, Ms. Courtney.

Harmony’s mum right now and I respond to Courtney to make sure she checks on her. I change the pump to my other breast and check the time—2:30pm. I don’t know what time it is in Seattle, but I miss my babies.

“I know why you’re calling,” Gail says when she sees my face on the screen. “You’re right on time. We’ve just finished their baths and they’re getting ready for bed.” She flips the screen, and my chubby-cheeked baby girl is smiling back at me.

“Hi, Minnie Mouse!” I squeal, my heart warming immediately. She bounces happily at the sound of my voice. “Hey, baby girl. Do you miss Mommy? Mommy misses you!” I blow several kisses into the screen and coo at my baby, my milk flowing much easier out of my breast at the sight of her. We coo for several more moments before Keri brings my little prince to the screen.

“Hey, there Mikey!” I exclaim in the same sing-songy voice. “How’s my little man? Are you taking good care of the ladies? I love you, Mikey!” I blow more kisses into the phone at my little boy, my heart swelling with love, almost to the point of bursting at the sight of my beautiful babies.

“Hey!” Christian says, bursting into the bathroom. “You’re stealing baby time without me!” He crouches down next to me and looks at the screen. “Hey, Mikey,” he says in a sing-songy voice. “How’s my big guy? Daddy misses you!”

Mikey coos and laughs at the screen, reaching for the phone and babbling something inaudible.

“I don’t know how to take that,” I say, and Christian turns a bemused look at me. “He’s seems happier to see you than he was to see me.”

“It’s a guy thing, baby,” he says before turning back to the screen… and he’s completely serious! What the hell do you mean it’s a guy thing? I’m his mother! I carried him in my body for nine months! I’m the source of his food and life! What’s this guy thing bullshit?

Then, I realize that he’s probably right, because as much as Minnie loves her Daddy, she coddles and coos when he’s on video chat with her, but she went nuts when she saw me… so that must be a girl thing.

Still… I’m the food factory. Show me some respect.

We say goodbye to our children and I feel a bit melancholy with the parting.

“I know you love our babies,” Christian says. “I love them, too, but if you’re going to go into that mood each time you talk to them, I’m going to limit your talk time to only one more time this week. So, if you want to keep your ‘every day’ privileges…” He trails off and cocks his head at me. He’s right, of course.

“I know,” I say, only a bit heart-hurt. “Just give me a minute.” He raises his brow at me, but leaves me in the restroom. It’s just the separation anxiety, that’s all. I hate being without my babies… and for a whole damn week!

I remove the breast pump from my now-empty boob. Pouring the milk down the sink doesn’t do much to help my current state of mind. I let the tears fall as I clean and sanitize the pump and leave the parts out to dry. I splash some cold water on my face, then use a cool washcloth to minimize the swollen, puffy eyes. I apply some tinted moisturizer, a tiny bit of blusher and a hint of bronzer with a fresh coat of deep pink lip gloss before I exit the bathroom. Christian raises his gaze from his phone, takes one look at me and raises a brow at me.

“Yes, I cried,” I say unapologetically. “Leave me alone.”

He sighs and twists his lips. Rising from the bed, he takes me in his arms and folds me into a warm embrace.

“What am I going to do with you?” he asks.

“This helps,” I swallow and sigh. I miss my babies so much, but I want to have a good time, too.

“We’re going to have to start calling each other ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy,’” he says. I raise my gaze to his and frown.

“What? Why?”

“The babies are recognizing words, making little sounds. If we don’t change soon, they’ll be calling us ‘Christian’ and ‘Ana…’ or ‘Butterfly’ and ‘Sir…’ or ‘Boss’ and ‘Her Highness…’”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” I interject, “but I’m not having the staff call me ‘Mommy,’ and I’m certain that you don’t want Jason to slip up and call you ‘Daddy’ in the boardroom.”

“Well, we’ll have to work something out there, but my children won’t be calling me ‘Christian,’” he reinforces.

Okay, it’s time to explore this floating resort.

We still have an hour or so before we shove off and quite frankly, I’m starving. Breakfast was quite early and has long since been burned off through the Sydney Tower Eye, the Opera House, and the walks to get to both locations. One thing I would definitely suggest before you get on a cruise ship—decide what you want to eat before you go strolling around the ship, especially one this large with this many choices.

Buffet…
Steakhouse…
Italian…
Mexican…
Thai…
Pizza…
Burgers…
Chinese…
Sandwiches and wraps…
Gluten-free…
Vegetarian…
Vegan…
Sushi…

Hmm, sushi… we have a winner.

Somewhere during our walk, we wander upon a restaurant called Do You Like What Sushi. Apparently, this little joint has collected recipes for Sushi from all over the damn world and herded them in this one little place. I start with fresh oysters and a sashimi platter of tuna, salmon, and sturgeon caviar with fresh shredded and sliced cucumber and avocado slices.

And then the sushi roll parade begins!

No rice sushi, salmon roe battleship sushi, snow crab sushi, king crab battleship sushi, salmon dreams sushi, Alaskan avocado roll sushi, yo sushi wrapped in tobiko, tiger rolls, rainbow colored tempura rolls, California rolls, various assortments of nigiri, tamagoyaki, unagi, saba… I had to tap out, because it just kept coming! Oh, but wait…

What’s a good Beluga caviar without an accompanying Stoli? Two healthy double-shots of a sharp charcoal-filtered premium vodka with some of the finest caviar in the world and I’m floating before the ship sets sail.

We begin to float around the ship and take in what will be our home away from home. It’s a really big ship with lots to see, but damn near around every corner is somewhere else to eat! I’m full of vodka and caviar, and the buffet has so many damn food choices that it’s making me want to eat again! We walk through a tunnel that I’m sure I haven’t traveled before because it looks like it’s full of golden sculptures—I shall name it the Academy Award Hall—but somehow, we end up back in a part of the ship I somewhat remember, which is good because it’s now time for the muster drill.

Our meeting place was in one of the main dining rooms. There are a lot of people in the room and we’re just sitting where we can fit—not necessarily at the tables even though there are lots of people at tables, but more people are sitting on the benches, on the floors, on stairs, wherever we can fit. We watch this corny video explaining the safety procedures, the life jackets, the do’s and don’ts of emergency evacuation, and then we have to sit through a message from the captain before we can leave.

The boat whistles are blowing by the time we’ve heard the message from the captain, which—quite frankly—we could have heard from anywhere on the ship. Now, Christian and I are scrambling to get back to the Lido deck so that we don’t miss the sail away.

When we get there, it’s already an insane party underway. There’s a live band playing and there are people lined up around the banisters of the boat waving and watching as we pull out of Sydney Harbor. So, there are a few things that I discover up here in the sunlight while at the “sail away” party…

There’s a giant butterfly sculpture at the end of the pool. I’ll have to take a picture with that before we disembark.

Apparently, it’s an insult and a cardinal sin to be walking around this floating resort and not have a drink in your hand—and our tickets have alcohol included. So, even though I’m still buzzing from vodka and champagne, I now have the Drink of the Day in my hand, which is some fruit frozen cocktail in a souvenir glass. Bottoms up to me.

The operators of the ferries and some of the smaller boats in the harbor are very confident in the mechanical abilities and maneuverability of their vessels. The cruise ship is huge and it’s backing out of the harbor. It doesn’t stop. Once that monster starts moving, it can slow down to a float if it needs to or has to turn around or something, but there’s no “hit the brakes and the boat go screech.” No, ma’am! If you get clipped or caught behind, too close to, or underneath this monster, your little boat is toothpicks.

And yet… these smaller boats on the harbor will still play chicken with this cruise ship.

They cut around the back while the ship is turning; they race the ship and jump in front of it trying to get around it while the ship is picking up speed. It’s like watching a Vespa racing to cut off a 22-wheeler tractor-trailer! That mishap would surely be the swift and speedy end of this vacation. So, instead of focusing on the idiots playing chicken with the big boat, I turn my attention to a more pleasant view.

It’s not quite sunset, but Sydney has a bit of twilight glow right now. With the Opera House and the glorious Harbor Bridge plastered on this beautiful backdrop, I find myself mesmerized by the sight while looking over the railing with my husband’s arms firmly around my waist. I’m overcome with an immense feeling of gratefulness that I get to see this view right at this time from this particular vantage point as we pull out of Sydney Harbor. It’s stunning.

I can’t help but think about my many blessings—the fact that I’m seeing a view that many people will never get to see; that I enjoy the best of everything in life simply because I fell in love with a guy who sometimes has more money than sense; that I’ve gained a beautiful family, wonderful friends, and a fabulous life from marrying this man—and that I could never see myself without him.

It could be that the alcohol has me a bit maudlin or it could be the thoughts of my beautiful babies resurfacing, but I feel tears welling up in my eyes again and one escapes down my cheek as I enjoy the final views of the harbor. Christian doesn’t scold me. I think he knows that I’m overwhelmed with the view, and he simply snuggles me closer into him and presses a gentle kiss on my neck.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

I look over at the woman a few feet away from me. Her companion has one arm around her enjoying the view and she’s looking at me with a soft smile.

“I feel silly,” I say, wiping the tears from my cheek. Those are the only words I can form.

“Don’t,” she says. “It’s enchanting. I live here, and I never tire of that view.”

I look at her and try to hide my bemusement. I’ll admit that in the small time that I’ve been here, I’ve noticed that Australian accents cover an extremely wide range—from nearly indecipherable to almost no accent at all. She’s on the no accent at all end of the spectrum.

“My name’s Laura. Not a native Sydneysider. I’m American,” she says reading my thoughts. “Found the love of my life on the internet and moved here ten years ago. I never looked back.”

“On the internet…” I say, and my words trail off. Her companion looks over her shoulder and smiles at me, waving with his free hand. He has a kind and friendly face, someone you could easily strike up a conversation with if you saw him in a crowded bar or at a party…

… Or on a cruise.

“It’s true,” he says, his accent heavily Australian. “OI found Lahra hehr on a dayting soite. OI was thehr as a joke. Mah mates put me up to it. But one dahy OI was foolin’ around with the thing and OI saw Lahra. She had such sad oyes, but she was enchanting. OI was stricken immehdiately.”

“We talked online and on the phone for a few months, but I knew,” Laura continues. “I wasn’t happy in the states. My son was killed in a car accident a few years earlier and my husband never recovered from the loss. He blamed anybody and anything for the loss including me, and we ended up getting a divorce. It was two whole years before I even considered dating, then I get on this website. There were a lot of encounters with frogs before my prince showed up.”

I sip my delicious frozen drink while Laura and her beau tell us how she became a Sydneysider.

“When she agreed to meeyt, OI was on the fihrst bihrd headed east to Saynt Louis to see my guhl. OI stayed foh two weeks and didn’t want ta leeyve. OI came back and was without her for three months before OI lost ma moind. OI ahsked her and promised to move to the Staytes if she didn’t want ta live hehr.”

“So, let’s think,” she says. “Live in the States with all the heartache and the memories of my lost life and family or move to Sydney with a man that I adore and who adores me and start a new life… hmmm. Guess which one I chose.”

“Wow,” I say, “you seem really nice…” I pause and wait for him to give his name.

“Jaxon, with an ‘ehx’,” he replies. I nod.

“I’m Ana and this is my husband, Christian,” I say. He and Christian shake hands and exchange pleasantries.

“You seem really nice, Jaxon, but with all the crazies out here, I just can’t imagine flying back and forth across the world and then eventually moving to another country to be with someone you barely know. How could you be sure? I mean, what would you have done had this been… a scam… or something worse?” I address the question to them both.

“OI don’t know,” Jaxon answers honestly. “To tell yeh the truth, OI loved her from neahrly the vehry beginning. OI loved her so much, OI just knew OI couldn’t be without her. Nothin’ else mattehred.”

“Laura, you felt the same way?” my husband asks.

“Even more so,” Laura replies. “I hadn’t felt alive in years—I mean, literally dead inside. And then, Jaxon…” she trails off and looks at him. “He came back to the States and we were married almost immediately. Then we flew back here, and we were married here, too. My friends thought I was crazy, that I was just doing it because I was lonely—that I missed Devon and I wanted my husband Tom back, but that wasn’t it. I was not happy, and I found someone who made me happy. It was that simple. Live in misery or live in happiness. Where’s the dilemma there?” I nod and look over my shoulder at Christian.

“I’m curious,” I say, “what made you tell me your story? You had no idea who I was.” She smiles.

“You were crying at a sunset, dear,” she says. “And no offense, but you’re on an exclusive cruise line where even the inner cabins are more than the average person can afford. So, unless you’re wealthy serial killers, I don’t think we have too much to worry about. Not to mention that the way he’s holding you, either you’re newlyweds or you’ve got a similar story.”

“Well, we’re not exactly newlyweds,” I say. “I guess it depends on whose calendar you’re looking at. We’ve been married for 18 months and we have a set of twins at home. We’ve been together for two and a half years and it seems like a lifetime…”

“And our story is similar,” Christian says. I turn to him, bemused.

“In what way?” I asked. They fell in love at first sight—over the internet! I hated his ass… in person!

“In that way that when you know, you know,” he says finitely… and shut me right up.

“Aaah, thehr’s a story thehr, too,” Jaxon observes, pulling his wife closer to him. We share the short version of our story—meeting and hating each other, the accidental kiss, the longing from a distance, the denial, the crashed date and eventual consummation. We leave out the parts about the kidnapping, the pedophile, the BDSM lifestyle—you know, all the stuff that makes people run away screaming.

Christian and I talk to Laura and Jaxon a little while longer, then the live band starts to sing Pink Let’s Get This Party Started.

I’d love to chat, but I must dance!

“Come, Laura,” I say, grabbing her hand. “Let’s go dance!”

“What about me?” Christian asks in mock horror.

“You can watch,” I say with a wink before dragging Laura onto the floor. I need to dance the melancholy away. I still have residual feelings of all the shit going on at home and I don’t want any of it right now…

Feeling homesick for my babies…
Grace not respecting my opinion or concerns at Helping Hands…
Harmony’s current circumstance trying to wrap things up with her mom’s estate…
Marilyn and Gary’s breakup…
Val is pregnant… Good grief, Val is pregnant!
What the hell am I going to do if Marilyn doesn’t come back?
What the hell am I going to do if I don’t go back… to Helping Hands, that is?

I dance like a wild woman for three songs until my drink is empty, then we sit down with Laura and Jaxon and shoot the shit some more while Christian gets me another drink.

“You dance like a woman trying to escape,” Laura points out as we sip our drinks in a cabana off the main pool. I shake my head.

“I’m determined to have a good time,” I tell her. “There’s a lot going on at home and I miss my babies something awful.

“You mentioned twins. How old?” she asks.

“Ten months,” I confess and her mouth falls.

“You’re kidding,” she says. “If I may be so bold, have you had any work done?” I laugh.

“Everybody thinks that,” I say. “No, just clean living and a lot of exercise… oh, and belly binding right after the twins were born… and breast feeding.”

“You’ve done belly binding?” she asks. I nod.

“I also did very moderate, low grade yoga until my doctor gave me the ‘all clear’ to go back to exercising like I normally do.” She nods.

“Natural childbirth?” she asks. I nod. “Were you off work long?” I twist my lips.

“Not so much,” I tell her. “My job isn’t that strenuous. I decided to leave my practice to focus more on my family, and my job—such as it is—is more community service than anything.” She raises a brow.

“Practice? You’re a doctor?”

“I’m a shrink,” I inform her. She’s clearly surprised.

“I never would have placed you as a shrink,” she says. “I know therapy has its place, but all the shrinks I’ve met are very self-important and judgmental.”

“I know the type,” I say. “I never understood how anybody in a field that’s based on helping people could have that high-nosed attitude. In one way or another, someone’s life is in your hands. How can you consider that and be so callous about it?

“I guess it all depends on why you got into the field,” I continue. “If you got into it for the money, well then a God complex isn’t very far behind. If you’re good at what you do and you know the craft, then that haughty attitude is sure to follow if you’re already stuck on yourself. However, if you got into it to help people, then you can’t help but to be humble. You can’t empathize without humility.”

“You’re definitely not the typical shrink,” she says, taking a sip of her drink. “By the way, you look fantastic,” she adds. “I would never know you’re the mother of twins… and breastfeeding?” I nod. “Some of my members have expressed an interest in belly binding, but I had no real knowledge of it, so I couldn’t recommend or discourage it.”

“Members?” I ask, curious.

“For lack of a better description, I’m a Wisdom Woman,” she says. “I’m something like a guru in my community. We focus on holistic healing and spiritual enlightenment. I realize that might be a bit hokey to you, but it’s what I do.” I wave her off.

“Yes, we’re champions for the validity and effectiveness of modern medicine, but any doctor who doesn’t understand and recognize the power of spiritual health and stability is a quack,” I say finitely. I’ve surprised her again.

“There are many doctors in many fields who would say that you’re wrong and that I’m the quack,” she laughs mirthlessly. “I believe that the earth, nature, and the spirit can heal anything that ails you. However, I believe that the connection that would heal or erase fatal diseases is much more than most people would ever be able to achieve. To that end, I don’t expect people to sit there and chant their way through cancer. I do, however, expect for them to utilize a combination of holistic methods and remedies, spiritual and emotional balance, and chemotherapy or radiation or whatever modern medical advances they need to fight the disease. If you leave out any one of those elements, your body will not be able to overcome the ailment and it will win.

“I don’t appreciate that my methods and those of many other practitioners, spiritual guides, medicine men and women, shaman, gurus, whatever you choose to call them, are dismissed because they’re not practiced in a hospital and you can’t put several zeros on the end of the treatment and send someone into outrageous debt just for trying to live. Seriously, what do you charge per hour for a session?” I clear my throat. I made out like a bandit when I was practicing.

“I’d rather not say,” I admit, “but these days, my sessions are all free.”

“Free?” she asks bemused. “How do you manage that?”

“I’m the assistant director of a shelter and help center for at-risk women and children,” I tell her. “I offer counseling services to the residents and donate the salary that they pay me back to the Center. I married into a lot of those aforementioned zeros, and I did get into this to help people, so it was the right thing to do.”

“Jesus,” she says, sinking into her seat a bit, “you’re completely not what I expected when I first saw you.”

“What did you expect?” I ask, as if I don’t already know.

“Gorgeous, young, tiny little woman—size four on your worst day—hanging on the arm of an equally gorgeous man with two rugged bodyguards following you… not one, two. They’re both trying to look inconspicuous and not doing a good job of it. You’re happily and carelessly bouncing around on a ship where the cheapest suite is 300 square feet and costs about $1000 a night. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you’re screaming trophy wife.” I laugh.

“Oh, Laura, you’re not breaking anything to me,” I tell her. “I did have zeros in my hourly rate, and I lived a very good life before I met my wealthy husband—not $1000-a-night good, but I did well enough… better than most. You have no idea the names that I’ve been called and the things I’ve been accused of since we fell in love…”

“Oh, I can imagine,” she says. “I don’t know your story, but Jaxon has more than a few pennies to rub together as you can imagine.” She gestures at the opulence around us. “He flies to America and a few months later, he brings home an American bride who has no money and practices ‘witchcraft…’” She waves her fingers in that way when she says the word.

“I met his family,” she continues. “They didn’t know anything about me. They didn’t know that I had suddenly lost my son in that horrible accident. They didn’t know that my husband had left me because he was a selfish bastard unable to face and deal with his feelings, so he blamed me. They didn’t know that damn near every day for years, it took every bit of my molecular will to get out of bed, put on my clothes, and go through my day—minute by minute—and resist the urge to swallow a little too much of one of my remedies and end it all.”

She shakes her head as if she’s said too much, but she hasn’t revealed anything more than how I was feeling right after I broke up with Edward… except that I didn’t have the horrible experience of losing a child.

“Jaxon saved me,” she continues, “not with his money, but with his love. I thought I was infatuated—just so lonely that I needed somebody, but that wasn’t it. He rescued me. He’d tell you differently. He’d tell you that I rescued him. Maybe I did, I don’t know, but I’m pretty certain that I wouldn’t have made it without him. I couldn’t see… I couldn’t see anything but darkness, death, hatred and pain. At the risk of sounding cliché, he came through the darkness like a candle in the midst, and suddenly, I could see again.

“When he left the states after his visit, I tried to go on without him. I was stronger, and I knew the world wouldn’t end, but I was so much happier when I was with him. He asked me to marry him, and I thought there was a catch. I thought he wanted American citizenship or something. I didn’t care. All I knew was that being with him made me happy, and that if the whole thing turned out to be a fluke, then I would be happy with him for as long as I could—to give me a little strength to go a little further in life.”

“It wasn’t a fluke, I take it,” I say. She smiles contentedly.

“Not in the least,” she replies. “I had no idea that he was rich until after we were married. He kept that part from me. I think he wanted to know—like I did—if it was real. It was very real for us… It was really fucked up for his family. They were awful. They were horrible and awful to me. One year at Christmas, he found out that they referred to me as the ‘fat American hippy witch.’ It was a private joke that the entire family shared. We discovered it because one of the children let the cat out of the bag.” She sighs heavily as she recalls the story.

“Could it have just been the family member of that kid?” I ask, trying to smooth things over like I always do. She shakes her head.

“It was all of them,” she says. “They admitted it. They weren’t ashamed of it. We left that Christmas. We left his mum’s house and we went back to our home. We packed our things, we called movers; he put the house on the market and a week later, we moved to Sydney. He hasn’t really spoken to them since.”

“Not even his mom?” I say with a frown. She drops her gaze and shakes her head.

“She was the worst. She called me horrible names to my face and never let him hear them, but he knew. He knew for sure that last year, and he just wasn’t going to take it anymore. They’ve tried to call a few times, but…” She shakes her head again.

“Three years later, his mum died,” she says. “The family never called him. He found out from a friend. We went to her viewing when none of them were there. He kissed her, he said ‘goodbye,’ he signed the guestbook and he left. He was sad, but he had said that he knew she lived a good life and that now she was at peace. He used that knowledge to help him get through his loss. He’s become quite the spiritual guide himself.”

We turn to look at Jaxon and Christian deep in conversation at the bar. I’m dying to be a fly on the wall for that tête-à-tête.

“His friends talk about how much he’s changed over the years—how much happier he seems. They keep asking me what I’ve done to him, what’s my secret…”

I look at her and Jaxon and I see a version of me and Christian in ten years, only we’ll no doubt still have the love and concern of our families.

“What about your family?” I ask. “Your siblings?”

“I still talk to them,” she says. “They thought I had lost every bit of my marbles to pull up and leave everything I’d ever loved and move to a foreign country with a man that I barely knew. Even my ex-husband found out and dared to try to tell me how crazy I was. How the hell did he think he was trying to tell me anything? He left me. He fucking left me to die…”

That’s the first time she’s cursed since we’ve been talking.

“I’m sorry,” she says, taking a deep breath and rubbing her chest. “I don’t normally curse anymore. It interferes with the flow of prana. Apparently, talking about my ex brings out the worst in me.”

I know the feeling.

“Then maybe we should stop talking about him,” I suggest. “Do you still see your family?” She nods.

“I bring them out here once a year—my brothers and sisters and my mom. If their families want to come, they have to make their own way. But it’s always so good to see them, and they love it here when they visit.” I smile.

“Aren’t we cruising through Melbourne?” I ask. “That’s one of our ports of call.” She nods.

“He’ll put flowers on his mum’s grave and get swiftly back on the boat.”

“How do you feel about that?” I ask. “Does it ever… bother you? I mean…” I trail off.

“You mean that he doesn’t have contact with his family because of me?” she finishes.

Yeah, that’s my question—I just didn’t want to say it aloud.

“At first, it bothered me a lot,” she admits. “I could see that he was hurt, and he had to work through the pain. I knew that there was nothing that I could do to rectify it. We decided that we wanted to be together and we couldn’t force them to accept me, but he wasn’t going to sit around while they treated me worse than they treated their dogs. He wouldn’t subject me to that and I definitely wouldn’t allow myself to be subjected to it. The only other option was to remove the unwanted element, which was me. So, what now—I leave, we’re both miserable, but his family is happy? Definitely not an option.

“So, he made the difficult choice between me and his family. I didn’t want him to make that choice, but they were unyielding in their insults and prejudices. The way Jax explains it to me is that he had found true and genuine happiness, but it came at a cost, and it was a price that he was willing to pay because he wasn’t going to let it go.”

“Maybe one day they’ll come around and see how foolish they were,” I encourage.

“Maybe,” she says, “but after nearly a decade, I would say not. They’re waiting and hoping for me to become ‘part of his past,’ and that’s not going to happen.” She sighs heavily then smiles.

Although the conversation only slightly veered in that direction, talking to Laura made me realize that I can’t leave Helping Hands just yet. There are too many people there who need me—who depend on me. I can’t stay, however, as long as Grace totally doesn’t respect me professionally, but I can’t leave right now. It would be irresponsible and selfish. I’ll have to wait at least until after the school year starts and learning programs are in place, after which I’ll help find a replacement for me. This talk has helped me to see what’s important—to put my personal feelings aside for the moment and not shirk my responsibilities, but it’s also shown me that life’s too damn short to be sniffin’ somebody’s bullshit.


CHRISTIAN

Butterfly has headed to the dance floor and subsequently to one of the cabanas on the deck to talk to Laura while Jaxon and I chat at the bar. He gets extremely comfortable extremely quickly in the conversation.

“Are ya swingahs?” Jaxon asks and I glare at him with a murderous stare. Is that what his wife is doing—grooming my wife for this shit? “OI’ll tayke that ahs a ‘no,’” he says, his voice full of mirth, and I don’t find the situation the least bit funny.

“Don’t tayke it tha wrong wy, mate,” he adds. “Tha woife and OI ahrn’t swingahs. She’s jest vehry spiritual and it’s rubbed off on meh. OI sense somethin’ from yah—taboo, unconventional. OI jest thought that was it.”

“You sensed that, huh?” I say sarcastically while taking a large swallow of my beer.

“Yeh,” he replies, ignoring my sarcasm. “She’s got a bit of it in ‘er, too,” he says, gesturing to my wife before turning back to me. “This is how OI knew Lahra was fa meh. When OI fihst met ‘er in the Staytes in pehrson, she introduced meh to moy spirit goide. I realoize it’s a bunch o’ mumbo-jumbo tah someone who doesn’t practice this koinda thing, but the spiritual awykening was ahll OI needed to know that OI had been wahking aroun’ in the dahk fah yeahs!” He takes a gulp of his beer before continuing.

“When OI cayme back to Australia without ‘er, it was loike somebody had cut mah ahm off. OI couldn’t function; OI couldn’t think… OI had to have ‘er with meh. When I cahlled ‘er bahk and ahsked ‘er tah marry meh, she thought OI had lost mah mahbles! Quoite frankly, OI thought OI had lost mah mahbles. The truth wahs… OI could jest see tha wohrld moh clearly. OI could see whaht wahs missing in mah loife… ehv’rythin’! Big, gayping holes of misery and emptiness. It wahs the sceriest thing OI’ve ehveh fayced in mah loife! Yah ehveh wayke up one daye an’ yah jest strugglin’ ta mayke sense of it ahll?” he asks, his voice betraying a slight desperation.

“As a matter of fact, I have,” I respond, looking at Butterfly and remembering how she bewitched me when absolutely no one else was able to reach me.

“When it’s roight, it’s jest roight, mate. Yah don’t ahsk, yah jest fahllow—especially when yah spihrit tells yah to. My spihrit led me to mah Lahrie. It’s been ten yeahs. OI haven’t regretted a moment of it.”

“Are you trying to tell me something, Jaxon?” I ask. He swallows his beer.

“Whahteveh yah into, yah kindred spihrits already know yah thehre. Yah weahr it loike a smock. OI maye not know whaht it is, but OI know it’s thehre. Don’t be suhproised if yah foind loike-moinded individuals on the ship. Don’t get offended—jest let ‘em know yah not int’rested… if yah not int’rested. Weh’re ahll here to have a good time, aye?” He shrugs.

He’s right. I can usually pick a Dominant or a submissive out of a crowd, but I haven’t had my “BDSM eye” out lately to be able to spot them. It hasn’t been a priority for quite some time. Now, a veritable civilian who appears to just be a really good profiler has been able to call me out and let me know that he can see it in me and my wife, even though he’s not sure exactly what it is.

“Thanks, Jaxon,” I cede. “That’s good information and I’ll keep it in mind.”

“Don’t mention it, mate,” he says, drinking more of his beer and turning to where the women are sitting. “She doesn’t have many femayle friends, does she?” I raise my brow.

“She has enough,” I say. He nods. “Why would you ask that?”

“She’s an alpha femayle,” he says. “Not a bully, but she can handle ‘erself. She doesn’t bahk down frahm a foight, bot she won’t foight whehre it’s not necessary. She doesn’t tayke shite from anyone, ahnd ‘er heart is biggah than that toiny little body of ‘ers. People undahestahmayte ‘er often ahnd she suhprises the foock out of ‘em. Let me know when OI’m wrong.”

So far, he’s dead on, so I let him continue.

“The only women around ‘er ahre family, fohllowehs, neutrals, or women who’ve known ‘er for a long time. Alpha femayles or wanna-be alpha femayles—they bump heads like bulls.

“She’s afrayd of somethin’, though,” he says. “OI’m not sure whaht it is, but it’s one thing—one little thing—and it’s scerin’ the shite out of ‘er. Whahtevah it is, she’ll get hold of it soon, but she’s gonna hafta look outside of ‘erself to do it. That’s whehre the ansah is, an’ befoh yah ahsk, yah cahn’t help ‘er, mate.”

“Where the hell did you come from?” I ask, perturbed that he’s reading me… us this well. He chuckles as he finishes his beer and gestures to the bartender.

“Give us a refill,” he says to the bartender who nods and goes off to get another draft beer. “Mayke that two!” Jaxon calls out to the bartender, and I realize that when he said, “Give us a refill,” he wasn’t talking about both of us.

“I shouldn’t drink too much,” I caution. I don’t like not having control.

“Ahnd yah won’t,” he says, pushing the empty glass away from him. “Even if yah did, yah got yah two bodygahrds ovah thehre… you’ll be foine.”

And once again, I forgot we had security.

“Do they stick out like sore thumbs?” I ask.

“Not anymoh than anyone else’s,” he says. “OI’ve seen about foive couples jest ahn this deck with security. Don’t give it a second thot.”

I nod at the bartender when he brings our drinks to us and look over at Butterfly who has escaped to one of the cabanas with Laura, still in my line of sight and that of our security.

“She fohlows the rules, but noht ahll the toime,” he deduces correctly. “It’s given you and the boys a bit of a run for yah money.”

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” I concur, drinking my beer.

“OI don’t need ta know yah secret,” he says. “Yah don’t hahve tah tell meh whaht it is, mate. It’s not that impohtant. Jest know thehre’s an energy that comes from yah both—stronger when yah tagetheh. It has a lotta power. If yah use it propahley, no one’ll be able ta come against yah.”

I don’t know why, but I’ve got a feeling that we’re going to need that in the coming months.

*-*

After dinner and more drinks at a premier steakhouse on board, I find that my lady is pickled once again when I carry her to our cabin, and I take full advantage of her inebriated, playful state. She gives my dick the sucking of its life and I give her the fucking of hers before we fall off into a contented sleep.

Tuesday is a day at sea. My wife has a bit of a hangover—again, so we order breakfast in the suite with a Bloody Mary on the side for a bit of the “hair of the dog.” I warn her to pace herself, because I can see that it’s very easy to get drunk very quickly on a cruise since the drinks flow so freely.

Since you hardly see anyone without a drink of some kind in their hand, particularly on the party decks, I suggest that she keeps some of her umbrellas and drink toys and put them in the glass with a soda, spritzer, or sparkling water if she wants to look like one of the cool kids without being three sheets to the wind for the entire trip. I also have to let the cat out of the bag that we’ll be spending the weekend in wine country, which won’t be as much fun if her insides are pickled throughout the week.

Our suite has direct access to the exclusive Bliss sundeck, pool, and bar as well as to the exclusive Bliss lounge. So, we have the option to mingle with the rest of the passengers, or keep it intimate with only other suite cruisers who have access to this area. Butterfly wants to mingle with the rest of the passengers, but I can see her spending some solitary time on this ship at some point. That’s just who she is.

She does a little detox in the Jacuzzi tub for a while before emerging from the closet in a stunning royal blue maxi dress. It’s sheer with a lining only long enough to hit her mid-thigh, and I’m convinced that she and Vickie are trying to kill me with this wardrobe. Of course, she completes the outfit with a sexy pair of stiletto slides.

“Baby, we’re on a cruise. We’re going to be here for another four days. Are you going to wear heels the entire time?” She raises a brow at me.

“Have we met?” she says before donning her Jackie-O’s and heading to the door.

We have indeed.

The ship is really impressive. Our exploration yesterday was mostly to find something to eat, so today, we’re paying more attention to what’s on deck on each floor. On the main deck in the middle of the ship is the Grand Plaza. It’s decked out with an extremely large Christmas tree and a white baby grand. Across from the baby grand is a martini bar. Having had breakfast and a bit of a detox, Butterfly indulges in one of the unusual martinis on the menu—a Blue Jean Martini. It’s a combination of vanilla vodka, chocolate liqueur, blue curaçao and smooth cream—and it’s very sweet. I have the Black-Tie Martini—made with gin, vodka and white wine—and guide her to the seats in the Grand Plaza area.

“I talked to Allen about setting up a will,” I begin after we’ve settled in our seats. She frowns.

“Where did this conversation come from?” she asks bemused. I twist my lips at her.

“You really have to ask?” I reply.

“No, obviously I know where it came from, just why right at this moment?” Yeah, I guess I did spring it on her a bit out of the blue.

“I don’t really know,” I say, my brow furrowed. “It just dawned on me, I guess. If we must have a conversation like this, we should be relaxed while we’re having it.” She purses her lips.

“Well, that’s true,” she says. “So, where do we start?” I sigh.

“I don’t even know,” I admit. “Of course, you know that you and the twins are my only heirs. So, the only reason I would really need a will is if something happened to us both at the same time. Of course, we would set up trust funds for the children, no matter what.”

“Well, I’ve only been to one will reading,” she points out, “and from what I saw, you need to itemize your assets. All I have is my condo.”

“God, woman, when are you going to get it through your brain that you’ve got more than that?”

“Okay, fine, let me rephrase,” she says after taking a sip of her martini. “My condo is all that I have in my name. You didn’t press for me to put your name on my condo, so it’s still in my name alone. Is that better, Mr. Grey?” She rolls her eyes at me.

“Keep it up, Mrs. Grey,” I warn.

“I thought we already established whose job that was,” she retorts. Oh, she’s testing me.

“Do you want to see Australia?” I caution firmly. Don’t push me, woman. I’ve fucked you every day since we left Seattle—twice! I’ll throw you over my shoulder, take you to that stateroom and they won’t see us again until this boat is back in Sydney. Fuck wine country!

Her skin flushes bright pink and she looks around to see if anyone has caught on to our conversation. Personally, I could care less. I only asked one question. I didn’t tell her what I was thinking, but she knew. I raise a single brow at her when she brings her gaze back to mine. I’m doing everything I can to be a good boy on this boat while you’re wearing transparent dresses and stiletto heels. Tempt me… please!

She swallows hard before taking a large gulp of her martini.

“Remember what I said,” my voice low, but still firm. “Pace yourself.”

She places her half-finished martini on the table and folds her hands in her lap. It’s clear that she feels scolded.

“That wasn’t my intention,” I say, immediately spotting the submission.

“No… it’s fine,” she says, still looking at her folded hands. “It’s sweeter than I like. I really don’t want anymore.”

“Do you want to try mine?” I ask, offering an olive branch. She shakes her head.

“Yours is most likely stronger. I think I’ll have some water instead. Excuse me for a minute.”

She stands without making eye contact with me and walks quickly back to the bar. Jeez, what just happened? Did I let the Dom out and didn’t know it? I watch my wife crack the bottle open and down half of it, refusing the glass of ice the bartender has prepared for her. I watch her pause for a moment and I wonder if she’s coming back to the seat. She finishes the bottle and asks for another one, this time taking the glass of ice. She strolls back to her seat with the glass in one hand and the bottle in the other.

“So, you were saying?” she says. “About the assets?”

I suddenly feel a bit uncomfortable, but I keep talking.

“You don’t have to put my name on your condo,” I tell her. “That’s not necessary. Just will it to me if something happens to you. We need to decide how our assets—including your condo—will be distributed if something happens to us both.”

“I always assumed that whomever took the twins would be the benefactors of yo… our fortune.” Nice catch, Mrs. Grey.

“You assume correctly, but who would take the twins?” I ask. “My parents are up in age and would definitely be pinch hitters if needed. Your dad and Mandy may be an option if that’s what he wants, but he already has Little Harry to think about. Their godparents are both married and either would provide stable homes for the twins, but there’s also the consideration that Valerie and Elliot have a child on the way. Have we talked to any of them about this?”

“I vaguely recall having some kind of conversation with somebody about this, but I don’t totally remember how it came out, so I think we should have the conversation again,” she admits.

“I think you’re right,” I concur. “Allen is looking into cataloging my assets for me so that we can know what we’re working with.” If I had been thinking about it, I would have told him to get with my accountant. Between the two of them, I’m certain they can lock this up.

“We’ll have a meeting with the godparents first when we get home,” I tell her. “I think they’ll most likely be the best candidates since we’re all around the same age. Then, we’ll talk to our parents and let them know what the plan is so that there’s no misunderstanding.”

“Okay,” she says. “That’s fine.” She’s looking at me momentarily, then diverts her gaze to her water, concentrating on the task of filling her glass as if she’s performing surgery.

Yeah, I let the Dom out.

“Come on,” I say, standing and taking her hand after she has emptied the bottle into the glass. “Let’s walk some more.” I take my martini and she takes her bottle of water and stands. I tuck her under my arm and we walk around to explore the ship some more.

The sun is bright in the sky and glistening off the water as we stroll along the promenade. There are portholes in the floor of the deck so that you can look down and see blue water. I don’t know how sturdy that is, but it’s pretty. Butterfly avoids them. She loves the view of the water, but she says they make her nervous. She would much rather deal with the view over the railing, particularly of the “white bubbly trail” left by the boat as we cut through the ocean. She has loosened up a bit as we stroll through the ship and make a mental note of the things we plan to do and the places we intend to eat. Looking to get some uninhibited sunshine, we head up to the Lido deck to see what’s afoot.

The party has truly started up here on the Lido deck. The drinks are flowing freely at the pool bar as usual and we’re just in time to claim two of the remaining in-pool loungers. As we strip down to our swimwear, my wife nearly causes me a heart attack again with a blue and orange two-piece—a bandana-type top and boy-short-type bottoms with drawstrings down the side. The material wraps so well around her ample breasts and juicy ass that I actually lament her getting into the pool.

Calm yourself, Grey. She could wear a burlap sack and you’d get a hard-on. Get over it.

Sure enough, she steps out of her shoes, retrieves a towel, and after placing her items on the in-pool chaise, she dives into the deep end. I make myself comfortable on the lounger next to hers and wait for her to emerge. As expected, when she does, she smooths her hair down and looks like a goddamn mermaid.

Consider yourself lucky, Grey. She’s all yours.

A reggae band is playing on the stage as I watch my wife do laps in the pool. I mentally tap my feet to the beat of the music as I let my mind wander. What brought the Dom out? I’ve almost always had him under control, only allowing him to emerge when I wanted him to. However, a little while ago, there he was—not in full force, but he was there. I’m pretty certain he’s been here for at least the last day and maybe more. I’m not sure which of many events lit the initial match.

Her smart mouth yesterday at the hotel and me vowing to fuck her senseless for the entire trip?
Her calling me her billionaire lover night before last in that hip-hop bar?
The animal fucking we did for nearly the entire 14-hour flight from the States?
Could it have been sparked by events completely outside, like those fuckers salivating over her ass at the Overseas Passenger Terminal?

Or Jaxon noticing the tendency and asking me if we were swingers? No, it was alive and well and showing by then. Whatever the cause, I have to be mindful that the Dom is present and try to keep him under control. My wife and I will have to address it though. We agreed to learn more about the dynamics of the Dom/sub relationship as it applies to marriage months ago, but of course, that was before the bottom nearly fell out from under our lives…

“’Ey, Christian!”

I open my eyes to see Jaxon waving at me from across the pool in a T-shirt and a pair of black shorts. His wife is standing next to him in a paisley halter maxi-dress. They both look more tanned than I remember, but it was sunset and evening when I last saw them. I wave them over to me and they begin to walk around the pool, hand in hand. After ten years, it’s still very clear that they love each other. Jaxon is a slender man, not very tall, with his hair cut short almost to the scalp. Laura is what today’s society would consider plus sized, but knowing what I know about women’s bodies, I would say that she’s somewhere between a size 10 and a size 12, very attractive with sun-bleached blonde hair.

“Whehe’s the woife?” he asks when they reach me. I point to the pool and the blue and orange mermaid gliding through the water.

“Ah, gettin’ ‘er exehcoise in, OI see,” Jaxon says as he squints at the water. “Now’s the best toime. A few blokes an’ sheilas out, but not too crohded.”

I find myself listening very carefully to understand what he’s saying. It’s no doubt that he was born and raised in the “Land Down Undah.” Butterfly comes to the edge of the pool and sees them standing by the loungers. She waves and lifts herself out of the pool just as I hear something that makes me cringe.


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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 74—Sydney Sidewinding

Before we start, I feel the need to point something out. I share a lot of things in my author’s notes—something that may be going on in my life (because several of you have agreed that we are friends), something that I may want to point out about the story or a previous chapter, translations, song titles, disclaimers, links, etc. You guys do know that you have the options to just skip the author’s notes and read the story, right? I just wanted to make sure that everyone knew that…

ADDITIONAL DISCLAIMER: I pointed out in the first “Down Undah” chapter that you most likely saw a “bad imitation of an Australian accent” and I asked not to be beaten over the head about it because I was doing my best. Then today, I see a comment about my bad imitation of an Australian accent… DIDN’T I SAY THAT?? ISN’T THAT WHAT I SAID??? So, as I am not trying to offend anyone, I’m going to say it again, and it will now be a disclaimer in every chapter that I post that involves the trip to Australia—not in the ending author’s notes like I did in the last chapter. It will be in the beginning author’s notes from now on:

Please do not beat me over the head too badly for my bad imitation of an Australian accent. I’m doing the best I can.

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 74—Sydney Sidewinding

ANASTASIA

I’m drenched in milk and it takes me about 15 minutes or so just to dry my dress. Some of the girls look at me with raised brows as I’ve removed my dress and bra and I’m standing there in just Christian’s jacket and my panties and stilettos trying to dry my clothes.

“Did yah huhl, dahlin’?” one of the girls asks. I smile tragically.

“Not so glamorous,” I reply. “I’m breastfeeding, and the bats scared the milk out of me.” Her friend laughs unceremoniously, and my gaze goes to her. She stops immediately.

“Sorry,” her friend says sheepishly. I shrug.

“Actually, it is kind of funny,” I tell her. “Most people piss themselves when they’re frightened. I shoot milk.”

We all stand there and have a laugh at my expense, and the girls keep me company while I’m drying my dress. We talk about nothing for a while and they ask if the “bloke” outside the door is my sweetie. I tell them to describe him and deduce that it’s Ben that standing out there waiting for me, prompting me to wish that this dress would hurry up and dry. My bra was quick work. The dress, not so much.

When I finally get it to “just under damp,” I give up on totally dry and slip back into my clothes. I thank Ben for waiting so long when we exit the bathroom and head back out to the bar. He acknowledges me with a nod.

When I get back out to the bar, Li’l John is gleefully describing his perspiring testicles and I, along with my bathroom companions, break out into dance moves reminiscent of the days in the school gymnasium… if you had that kind of highschool life, that is. I high-five my recently acquired Aussie friends and head back to our table to explain the delay to my husband. I’m probably going to ditch this dress before we even leave Sydney. It’s been my experience that breast milk stains can be pretty stubborn, and this puppy is destroyed. I wasn’t that attached to it anyway.

I’m so glad to see food on the table when we get back—three mondo platters full of cured meats, fresh cheeses, mixed olives, figs, roasted red peppers, crustini, slices of various breads… Dear God, I am so ready to eat.

Round about 18 hours ago or so, I had a breakfast full of breakfast meats when what I really wanted was the classic mixture of breakfast and lunch that is “brunch.” During the course of that 18 hours—notwithstanding the vigorous workout involved therein—I was given a moderate dinner, just enough to keep my stomach lining from digesting itself on the flight over here. I’m now ready to gnaw my fucking arm off.

I’ve been taunted with unspoken and assumed promises of exclusive food in Beverly Hills; I’ve been terrified and nearly accosted by bats; and my boobs have mutinied on me to the degree that no one can see my really cute pink sheath dress because it’s drenched in milk and has to be covered by a way too big Tom Ford blazer…

Decorum.
And civility.
Have left.
The building.

I’m ready to rip off the leg of a zebra with my bare hands, sit down, and eat it in front of everybody in this room.

Also on the table is a respectable serving of Cabernet Sauvignon. Yeah, that’ll never do. I swallow the wine in nearly one gulp, then begin to make quick work of this antipasto tray. I learn quickly that the restaurant portion is famous for its cheeses, and good God, are they delicious! As I’m scarfing down the yumminess laid out in front of me, I hear the Macarena start to play. I resist the urge to stand up and start dancing, but I don’t let the opportunity to poke fun at Jason pass me by.

“Jason, they’re playing your song!” I exclaim gleefully. My husband looks bemused as I do the Macarena from my seat.

“That is not my song,” Jason says coolly, and I can’t suppress my giggle.

“Somebody care to let me in on this?” Christian asks. I wave him off with a smile.

“You had to be there,” I dismiss, chomping on more meat, cheese, bread and veggies.

“Not a good answer,” my husband says, and I realize how it could be construed that I know something about Jason and the Macarena that I’m not willing to share.

“Okay, do you remember a while back just after the accident when I was pregnant with the twins and we did a ‘reveal’ of the house?” I ask.

“Vaguely,” he says.

“You wouldn’t remember too much because you weren’t there, but let’s just say that Jason pissed the Boss off and as a result, Gail and I were treated to quite the display.” His brow furrows.

“The boss?” he says. “I’m the boss.”

“Careful,” Jason warns.

“No, not you,” I tell him. “The Boss.” He still frowns for a moment, then realization dawns.

“Oooohhh, the boss Boss,” he says, turning to Jason. “What the hell did you do?”

“I’d rather not discuss it,” he brushes off. I giggle again.

“He got a little mouthy,” I say, “and we were subsequently blessed to see his dance moves.”

“Just the Macarena?” my husband prods.

“No, there was…”

“Your Highness,” Jason interrupts. “Please.” It’s a request that sounds more like an order, but I’ll let him off the hook.

“Alright, alright, I’ll leave what’s left of your modesty intact,” I say as I wave down our server.

“Yeah, whadya hahve?” she says as she comes to the table. “Another Cab Sav?”

“No, I want something stronger, something with a little kick that won’t knock me completely on my ass.” She laughs.

“Well, let’s see,” she says as she pulls out her drink menu. “Hmm, fah you, I rehcommend the Tequila Me Softly. Got a noice little keek but it won’t lehve yah plastahed as long as yah don’t drink foive of ‘em.”

She shows me the menu. It’s tequila, sweet vermouth, Montenegro, lemon, pineapple syrup, and a pineapple paper curl on top. It sounds delicious.

“What will two do to me?” I ask.

“Leave yah with a noice buzz,” she says.

“Then Tequila Me Softly it is,” I say. She takes the menu.

“Shuh thing. Anything for you blokes?” Christian raises his barely-touched beer and Jason shakes his head while Ben waves his hand indicating “no.” I go back to munching on the appetizers.

“So, you said that we had more food coming,” I say. “I know you didn’t order this whole thing for me, did you?”

“No,” Christian says, “I’m just enjoying watching you eat.”

“Well, I’m pretty sure we’ve been together for the entire day. Unless you were treated to some food that I didn’t see, if I’m starving, you three are ready to resort to cannibalism. Eat, for crying out loud.”

Jason and Ben don’t need a second invitation. They tear into these trays like bears waking from hibernation. Christian just gazes at me.

“What?” I ask.

“I’m sorry our vacation started with a possible bat attack and a milk-ruined dress,” he says, his voice accommodating. I scoff a laugh.

“Actually, our vacation started with a somewhat anticlimactic brunch in Beverly Hills, but at least I can say that I’ve been to Beverly Hills now and it’s not the worst brunch I’ve had. And this—the bats and the milk—this will just be another funny story that we’ll tell people about our visit to Australia. I mean seriously, did you see those things? The damn things are huge. When their wings are spread, they look like fucking eagles! I thought they were going to swoop down, pick me up, and take me back to their goddamn nest! Are those things everywhere?”

“I don’t know,” I tell her. “I don’t think so. We didn’t see them until we got to the park. And they weren’t outside the bar when we got out of the cab.”

“Like most bats, they feed at night,” Ben says, scrolling through his phone. “They’re called gray-headed flying foxes, which is why the cabbie kept calling them ‘foxes.’ They’re looking for plants, fruit, and nectar. They may travel long distances, but they stay in the trees in packs and sleep during the day. You might see them moving at night, but that many at once, you usually only see at dusk, because that’s when they come out.” He raises his eye to me.

“They’re harmless,” Ben adds, comfortingly. “They’re endangered here and pretty important to the ecosystem. They pollinate over large areas. Just think of them as giant bees without the stinger.”

Not a very comforting visualization, there, Ben.

“Thanks, Ben,” I say with little enthusiasm and turn my attention back to the food. Where the hell is my drink?

The four of us have put a serious dent in the antipasto tray by the time the food starts to arrive. I use the term starts to arrive because there is a continuous flow of food to our table every few minutes for about a solid hour. When the first few dishes show up, I’m a little disappointed because the servings are so small, but then they just keep coming…

Porchetta with parsnip purée, roast Brussels sprouts and braised fennel…

Risotto-stuffed spatchcock with rainbow chard and a Parmesan biscuit…

Slow roasted lamb breast with an herb crust, white bean puree and chicory…

Jerusalem Artichokes pan tossed with broccolini, chives, chili, and shaved parmigiana…

Cacio de Pepe prepared in a cheese wheel right in front of you and then served hot…

And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the food brought to the table, and the flavor—divine! Decorum is tossed to the wind and the four of us just eat like Neanderthals. Now, I’m accustomed to being myself and feeling at ease when Chuck is with us because he knows me so well. Ben is our backup when one of our usual detail is unavailable. He’s seen some of me, but he probably hasn’t seen me in all my Ana glory. He better get used to it fast because I’m not going to change who I am, and I plan to let loose on this trip. It’s been a really fucked-up autumn. Now we’re coming into winter and it’s starting to look a little crabby, too. So, I plan to shake myself loose a little bit before I go back to the hell that is Seattle these days.

We’re well into our meal and I take note that every so often, Christian looks around the room in confusion.

“You look perplexed,” I say to my husband as the evil hunger monster begins to subside, tamed by delicious Australian food and a bit tranquilized by a smooth Tequila Me Softly.

“I am,” he admits. “The artwork has me mystified.”

“In what way?” I ask.

“I can’t figure out what the words have to do with the pictures.” I look around the room at the pieces of artwork.

“They don’t,” I tell him. “I don’t know what the concept is behind the classic art, but the words are lyrics.”

“What?” he asks bemused. “Lyrics to what?

“To the music you’ve been hearing,” I say matter-of-factly.

“’Oops there goes my skirt’ is a lyric?” he asks bemused. I nod.

Oops Oh My by Tweet,” I inform him.

“And what about that?” he asks, pointing to another picture.

“That’s a name of a song by Kendrick Lamar,” I say.

Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe is the name of a song.” It’s a statement, not a question. I nod. “So, what about that one?” I look up and to the right where he’s pointing.

“Jay-Z, Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” I tell him. “’The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice’ is Keep Ya Head Up by Tupac. That picture there that I’m assuming is Napoleon with ‘I call all the shots, rip all the spots,’ Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems by Big Poppa himself with Diddy and Mase.” My husband gazes at me.

“How do you know songs—old songs—just by the lyrics?” I laugh.

“I like a lot of music. Music has always been my escape. I mean, think about it—Al and I were misfits from day one, we just didn’t mind being misfits in our own town. Then I moved to Vegas and… boom.” I do the explosion gesture with my hands.

“Music and books, these are the things that didn’t judge me. I traveled a lot of places through pictures and books, and I escaped the horror of my current realities through music. I may not have retained a lot of knowledge about the places I ‘traveled’ because a lot of that was done when I was a kid, but music, it’s true what they say… it soothes the savage beast.

“So, I would close myself in my room or go off to some remote place and listen to my music for hours. At first, it was Motown, because that’s what Daddy listened to. Of course, that was the best music ever made, but then I was drawn to hip hop and more R&B because I really liked the music—great beats, fantastic hooks. The love songs had meat to them, words you could really sink your teeth into and feel. The hooks to a lot of the hip hop—you get it stuck in your head and it doesn’t let go. ‘H to the izzo, v to the izzae…”

I start singing the hook to Jay-Z’s H.O.V.A. It’s a perfect example of what music does to you. Although the beat and the music are addicting, in the words he was too close to comparing himself to God—Jehovah—which was a huge dilemma for me. Nonetheless, I still couldn’t stop singing the song because the hook was so catchy. The meaning of the song sticks in your head and you either love it or hate it for the meaning. But you can’t beat a good hook.

“So, to answer your question, when I saw the words, my brain immediately asks, ‘Where have I heard that before?’ So, I quickly play the words over in my head, and then I hear the music and identify the song. Once you know that one of the pictures is lyrics, then you know the rest of them are lyrics, too.”

“So… you’re telling me that there’s a song somewhere that says, ‘My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard?’” he asks perplexed. I laugh.

Milkshake by Kelis,” I inform him.

“And what about that?” he asks, pointing at another one. “’Stacking up cheese…’ who makes a song about stacking cheese up?”

“Hip-hop artists do,” I reply. “Lupe Fiasco, Hip Hop Saved My Life. And for the record, ‘stacking cheese’ is slang for making money. I’m surprised you didn’t make that connection because cultures all over have called money ‘cheddar’ forever, my billionaire lover.” I pop a square of some cheese, I don’t know which, into my mouth after the last statement and chase it with the rest of my Tequila Me Softly. My husband’s pupils dilate quickly.

“Well, that was hot,” he says. I furrow my brow. This man could get turned on by a stiff wind—what did I do?

“What?” I ask bemused.

“You calling me your billionaire lover—that did something to me.” Oh, that.

“It speaks to your virility and dominance,” I say matter-of-factly, sitting back in my seat and playing with my necklace. “One of the things I’ve learned about subliminal messaging.”

“And you need to cut that out,” he nearly growls, his voice changing. The liquor is making me a little bold and somehow, I’m hitting the right buttons without even trying. “You want to see Sydney tomorrow and we’ve got a boat to catch, so you’re going to need some sleep.”

“Yes, Sir,” I say coyly, looking at him through deliberately slithered eyes. He licks his lips, then sucks the bottom one in an attempt at restraint.

“Alright, I’ve warned you. Keep it up,” he cautions.

“That’s your job,” I remark, waggling my brows. He stares at me for a nanosecond and before I can protest, he has snatched me into his lap. I’m cradled in his arms—more like pinned—and he’s kissing me, licking so deliciously into my mouth that I want to gobble him up right here in this chair. My entire body is on fire from this kiss and I fucking feel like I’m floating. I don’t know how long it lasts, but after some unknown span of time, I can vaguely make out the sound of catcalls, whoops, and cheering through my alcohol-and-kiss-induced haze. I’m panting embarrassingly when his lips leave mine and his eyes are black and steely gray staring back at me, his pupils nearly as large as his irises.

“I will. Make you come. At this table. In front of our security and the world, if you don’t chill out.”

I’m trying unsuccessfully not to pant in his lap and my panties are now wetter than my dress was after the bat-dance. His semi-hard erection is poking me in the ass cheek and I’m certain that he’ll make good on the promise just for his own satisfaction. Don’t poke the damn bear.

“O… okay,” I breathe uselessly. He victoriously raises a brow at me, then releases me and helps me back to my seat. Once I’ve somewhat controlled myself, I bellow for the server.

“Carla! I’ll be needing that second drink now!”

*-*

I vaguely remember our Sydney cabbie, Noah, getting us back to the hotel, not only because I’m suddenly wiped out after the adrenaline from the near bat attack has finally worn off, but also because I actually had three Tequila Me Softly’s. They didn’t knock me on my ass, but they have me quite loopy. Christian carries me up to the room to be sure that I don’t take a spill on the way, and I’m too damn tired to pump, so I just take off my clothes and fall into bed.

Miraculously, I awake before my husband a few hours later, the sun blaring in my eyes from curtains that we forgot to close the night before—or I should say, in the early morning hours. Not so miraculously, I awake with a slight hangover. I crawl miserably out of bed and go to the mini bar. I take a bottle of water and down the entire thing, then grab another one and head to the bathroom.

I start the shower and as it’s getting hot, I thank God for the travel packs of Advil that I remembered to pack in my purse. I don’t know what kind of foresight I was having, but there it is. I take two more of them and head for the shower.

The water is scalding, and I couldn’t be happier. I feel like the milk from last night is still sticking to my skin and the steam will help to sweat out some of the alcohol from last night. I let the water massage my scalp and run through my hair while my overly full breasts begin leaking into the shower. They’re so heavy that they hurt, and I just stand there for several minutes, allowing them to leak into the shower while the water helps to rinse away my headache.

I have no idea how long I’ve stood here before the door opens and my husband steps into the bathroom. I don’t say anything while he relieves himself as I’m somewhat doing the same thing. He drops his boxer briefs on the floor without flushing—most likely since I’m in the shower—and slides the shower door open.

“You okay?” he asks. I nod slightly.

“A small hangover,” I admit. “My head is feeling better. My breasts, on the other hand, feel like boulders. I think I may have to pump.” He steps into the shower with me.

“Allow me,” he says and latches onto one of my aching breasts.

“Christian,” I protest. “You know what that does to me when you do that. I want to see Sydney!” He releases my breast.

“Then you’ll just have to control yourself,” he says, and latches on again, Apparently, the running water had relieved some of the fullness, and now the ache isn’t so bad, but the relief is immediate when he drains what’s left of the milk from one breast before latching onto the other. I’m trying to control my raging hormones as my husband relieving my swollen tits has always turned me on. When we’re having sex, I usually leak milk anyway and that’s when he latches on. So, of course, it feels erotic as fuck even though we’re not fucking.

Or at least we weren’t.

Once my breasts are empty, he lifts my leg, presses me against the wall and impales me. I want him so badly that when he lifts the other leg to hold me up, I’m bouncing on his dick in one of the most strenuous strength and cardio workouts I’ve ever done. My body turns to complete mush when, a few minutes later, I orgasm fantastically on his cock and he has to wrap his arms around me to keep me from sliding down the wall. A minute or so and more than a few strokes later, my husband explodes into me and we both have to catch our breath under the running water.

As I choose our clothes for the day, I toss the dress from last night into the trash. I have no intention on toting around a milk-soaked dress for an entire week, nor do I have any hope of salvaging it once I return to Seattle. I do, however, remember to pack my portable breast pump in case the girls get too heavy before I find myself in a comfortable and convenient place to relieve them properly.

I’ve convinced my husband to wear his Seahawks jersey and a pair of jeans, much to his bemusement, because I’m wearing a green Seahawks jersey with a pair of blue leggings with the matching green trim. When I step out of the bathroom after doing light makeup and adding a pair of Louboutin denim wedges, my husband’s mouth hits the floor.

“I’m going to kill that woman,” he says, examining my ensemble.

“What?” I ask.

“Is this what she meant when she referred to ‘buying from the rack?’” he asks, and he sounds perturbed.

“Uuuummm… could be. What’s the matter, Christian? It’s cute,” I say, my voice a bit whiny.

“That’s not cute,” he corrects me. “That’s hot! Your ass looks fantastic. Fuck bats, I’m going to have to beat Aussies off you with a goddamn club!” I giggle. I love when he makes me feel irresistible.

Christian's Ass, Chapter 74“Thank you, dear,” I reply. “That’s why I packed your jersey and those jeans that make your ass look so yummy. No use in you having all the eye candy.” I smile and head for the door.

We head down to the breakfast buffet, and I have worked up an appetite again after having spontaneously fucked in the shower. I also need something greasy to help curtail the remnants of my slight hangover and headache, which are mostly gone, but I don’t want them to make a reappearance.

Now this is brunch!

Veggies, salads, pastries, potatoes, eggs made to order, chicken congee, eggs benedict, Belgian waffles, veal, baked beans, avocado, smoked salmon, yogurt and superfruits… and that’s not everything! Who needs Beverly Hills?

Christian and I partake of our fill of the deliciousness and I have a couple of mimosas for a bit of the “hair of the dog” while we discuss what the day is going to look like. The mimosas are made with local wine and I must admit—they’re some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

“Our cruise leaves at four,” Christian says. “That doesn’t leave us much time to see Sydney. I know you’ll at least want to see the Opera House, but since the ship is leaving from Sydney Harbor, we can do that just before we sail. What would you like to do this morning?”

“I don’t know,” I admit, while sipping my mimosa. “You sprung this on me last minute. The only thing I know to look for is the Opera House.”

“Well, I thought about the petting zoo, but it’s over an hour away, so that’s a no go. Yes, I know we’re adults, but natural Australian habitat—koalas, kangaroos, Tasmania devils…”

“Oh. Yeah, that would have been fun,” I admit.

“Maybe next time,” he says. Next time? “They’ve got this thing where you can climb the bridge.”

“What bridge?” I ask.

“The Harbor Bridge,” he says, swiping through his phone before he hands it to me. I begin to read the description.

“’Absorb a 360-degree panorama of Sydney as you journey to the summit on our original climb experience. Like an exposed spine, the outer rim delivers you to the peak, as the sky remains just beyond your outstretched fingertips.’”

As I continue to examine the website and pictures, I realize that Christian isn’t talking about crossing the bridge. He’s talking about climbing the bridge—up and over the top! My husband has officially lost his fucking mind!

“Are you insane?” I exclaim loudly, unintentionally drawing the attention of the other diners in the restaurant. “I’m not scaling a bridge, Christian!”

He stares at me for a moment, then covers his mouth with his napkin, trying to stifle his laughter and not spew his food all over me. What the fuck is so goddamn funny?

“You…” he begins after swallowing his food while pointing at me. “You just lost all the color in your face,” he laughs.

I don’t know what color my face is now, but my ears are starting to burn.

“Would you like to wear this mimosa, Grey?” I threaten. He’s still laughing when he capitulates.

“Okay, okay, no bridge climb,” he says, still chuckling as he holds his hand out for his phone. I begrudgingly give it back to him. I almost want to drop it into my water glass just to spite him, but then I’m sure he’d find a way to summon the plane and we’d be on our way back home. He scrolls through the phone again. “There’s the Sydney Tower Eye, but it’s pretty much the same as the Space Needle…”

“It’s not the same as the Space Needle,” I protest. “It’s Sydney, not Seattle.” He does that back and forth nodding thing with his head.

“You’re right,” he says, poking his lip out contemplatively. “So, Tower Eye and then the Opera House? I’m told there’s quite a bit to see down at Circular Quay.”

“Where’s Circular Quay?”

“It’s pretty much the town square—the shopping and entertainment hub down at the harbor,” he says.

“Good,” I reply, finishing my mimosa and standing. “I’ll go get my purse and my portable pump and we can go.” I see Ben sitting a few tables over finishing his breakfast alone. “Where’s Jason?”

“He’s exchanging currency and securing transport for the day.”

“So, we have to wait for Jason to get back before we can go to the Tower Eye?” I ask.

“Not really. The Tower Eye is less than half a mile from here. We can walk if you feel up to it.” He looks at my shoes.

“We’ve had this conversation about me and high-heels, Grey,” I challenge.

“Stop calling me Grey,” he says, wiping his mouth before throwing his napkin down and rising to his feet. “And our stroll is going to take us close to Bat Park. Are you going to be okay?” he asks sarcastically.

“It’s daylight,” I point out just as sarcastically. “They don’t come out in the daytime, right?”

“For the most part, no,” he retorts.

“Then I guess I’ll be fine, won’t I?” I say, rolling my neck. He glares at me.

“Keep up that smart-ass attitude,” he warns. “You won’t see much of Australia because you won’t be able to walk or sit for the rest of the week.”

“Promise?” I say before snapping my head, turning on my heels, and walking away with a distinctive sway in my ass.


CHRISTIAN

Oh, she’s going to get it on this trip.

I’m going to fuck her every time she blinks, and as soon as she thinks she’s getting a break, I’m going to fuck her some more.

It’s a clear day outside and I’m really enjoying the fresh air. What’s more, I’m enjoying the view tremendously—not just the city and the sites, but my wife’s beautiful ass wrapped in spandex and rolling from left to right… beautiful round mounds of meat plumping and flattening with each step causing me to fight continuously to talk my dick down. I don’t know how the hell I’m going to get through this day.

I can’t expect men not to look at her ass. It’s too unrealistic. I see several of them doing double-takes as they pass, and I don’t bother looking behind me, because I’ll probably see a trail of horny fuckers following us and it’ll only serve to piss me off, so…

“Maybe I shouldn’t have worn this,” she says, noticing the eyes on her. Seriously, what did she expect?

“Yes, you should’ve,” I scold. “I know I can be possessive sometimes and yes, that ass is on lovely display, but you’re hot and you’re beautiful, and you shouldn’t feel bad about that. You’re not dressed inappropriately, and you’re with your husband. So, let ‘em look as long as they look from a distance. I have to say, though, that I get how you feel when women are gawking at me because good God almighty!”

She giggles and loosens up a bit as we continue our trek to the Sydney Tower Eye. She looks a little squeamish as she looks across at Hyde Park—the location of the Great Bat Encounter—but she’s easily distracted once we reach our destination.

We enter a glass building labelled Westfield. It turns out that the entrance is inside of a shopping center. We wait while Lawrence buys our tickets and we have to go through a security checkpoint like at the airport. After that, we proceed through an opening and pass a wall that says “Welcome” in at least twenty different languages.

Sydney Tower Eye, The "Welcome" Wall, Chapter 74

We enter a large room with pink and white walls that contains pictures of the Sydney cityscape and bits of information and trivia written on the walls. Some of them are purple as well with black and white vintage pictures of old Australia along with wide oval-shaped floor-to-ceiling beams with monitors that display more information about the continent and the tower.

On one of the walls, there’s a comparison of the heights of several similar towers in several countries and I can’t help but notice that the Space Needle is not among those towers.

How tall is the Space Needle anyway?

I think it’s only about 600 feet and the shortest among these is about 1000. I guess it wouldn’t stack up, huh?

“Thinking about the Space Needle, aren’t you?” my wife correctly deduces.

“Yeah,” I admit, “not nearly tall enough.”

“How tall is the Space Needle?” she asks.

“About 600 feet.” She looks at the comparison wall again.

“Yeah, no competition unfortunately.”

We continue our brief tour around the ground floor of the Sydney Tower Eye and we stumble on a guy taking pictures. They’re those pictures that you take where there’s nothing behind you, but they end up superimposing you onto some corny backdrop.  We take a couple of pictures and pose like he tells us just to be good sports before we head over to the tower elevators… and the elevator operators. They help to keep traffic moving along because, if they didn’t, I would imagine it would be mayhem to get to the observation deck.

The express elevator ride up the tower is a solid 42 seconds to the top. There’s a screen at the top of the car that shows our ascent and Butterfly watches it attentively.

“You alright?” I ask, slipping my arm around her waist.

“Uh-hmm,” she says quickly, still never taking her eye of the tiny screen. I don’t know if it’s the tiny box that we’re in that’s making her nervous or the fact that we’re inside this tube for nearly a full minute, but she’s definitely not alright, and I just stick close to her until the doors open.

She tries not to show her relief when the attendant appears outside of the elevator doors and instructs us to keep to the right. We walk onto the observation deck and it reminds you of a spacious conference room. It’s large with lots of room and there’s a clear view of the whole of Sydney. My girl visibly relaxes and walks over to the glass walls to get a look at the city. She becomes the view as she gazes out over the tops of the buildings in the Central Business District, or the CBD as the locals call it, and I take out my phone and snap a picture of the back of her gorgeous frame against the cityscape.

There are viewfinders and telescopes at nearly every window—very touristy. There are even screens with fun facts and info about Sydney. Each monitor shows the view through the window in front of you. You select your language, then a location or a landmark, and the monitor gives you detailed information about your selection. You can see everything, and I mean everything from up here from the entire span of the CBD to the Ferris wheel at Luna Park and the Harbor Bridge.

We can even see the Blue Mountains, the Sydney Cricket Ground and even the airport from up here. The view of the Opera House is a bit obstructed, however. It’s a spectacular view, extremely beautiful with incredible views of the water and the harbor. Nonetheless, I find myself comparing it to the beautiful simplicity that is the view from the Space Needle.

View from the Space Needle Chapter 74

I love to travel, but let’s face it… There’s no place like home.

Butterfly spends quite some time admiring the view of the city and reading the tidbits of information on the monitors around the observation deck. Although the Opera House is a bit obscured, we learn that there’s a gorgeous span of lawn and trees to the right and behind it known as the Royal Botanic Garden. Our stroll to the Opera House will take us through this beautiful trek of land, and I have a feeling that Circular Quay may have to wait for another trip.

I’m also wondering if those shoes my wife are wearing will stand the test of an entire day of walking and being a tourist. I see some carrying in my future.

There are vending areas and souvenir shops up here, complete with boomerangs, but nothing particularly catches my wife’s eye.

If you’re really brave, you can don a blue jumpsuit and harness and partake in the Skywalk, which is basically a glass-bottom ledge where you walk outside and get to see the aerial view of Sydney up close and personal. My wife wouldn’t even walk on the metal frame that is the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Nothing but a plate of glass between her and a three-hundred-meter drop? I didn’t even suggest it.

After we’ve seen all 360 degrees of the Tower Eye and garnered some very interesting information about Australia and Sydney, we decide that we want to head over to the Botanic Garden before time gets away from us since it’s on the way to the Opera House. My wife is just as attentive of that screen during our elevator descent as she was during the ride up to the observation deck. I won’t pester her about it. She’ll tell me if she wants me to know.

Another gift shop greets us once we exit the elevator. Still nothing catches my wife’s eye, not even those corny pictures we took before we went up to the observation deck.

It’s an illegally beautiful day outside and I immensely enjoy walking with my wife down Macquarie Street towards the Garden. She doesn’t even mind the shortcut we take through Bat Park to get to the main road. We pass the Parliament building and the State Library, but we just take note of what we’re seeing as we walk the short distance that brings us to the edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Christian says that a tea tree in the Royal Botanic Garden reminds him of Home Tree from the movie Avatar in Chapter 74The walk is just what I expect it would be—a trip through a majestically beautiful stretch of land that leaves you somewhat speechless as you commune with nature. I allow my wife to lead me around through the variety of unbelievably tall trees, sculptures, and fountains as we admire the garden’s tranquility. We see this huge tea tree that looks like a cluster of trees entwined in one, and I couldn’t help but think of Home Tree from the movie Avatar.

There are people with blankets spread out over the grass near the large fountain enjoying the late morning weather, and my wife removes her shoes to walk barefoot in the grass. Normally, this would concern me as Butterfly has made it clear that she can do anything in stilettos and the only time I’ve known her to falter was when we had that terrible spat years ago and I thought she was cheating on me with Elliot, which was absolutely ludicrous—but that’s another time entirely.

Right now, she’s smiling contently as the grass caresses her toes. I don’t dare remind her that we don’t have much time before we have to start boarding the ship, so if we want to see the Opera House, we should probably get going. She begins her trek across the grass in the direction of the Opera House without my prompting, her shoes hanging leisurely from her fingers…

And I take another picture.

Sydney is built on the world’s largest natural harbor and they make sure that everywhere you go as a tourist, you don’t forget that Sydney started as a penal colony. I guess they’re proud of that if for no other reason but how beautifully the city turned out.

There are public pools in several locations here and it’s during our walk from the Botanic Gardens around the harbor to the Opera House not far from Circular Quay that I learn that the most prominent swimwear here—or at least in my immediate eyesight—is the speedo, or as the Sydneysiders call them, “budgy smugglers.” Now, let’s be clear about this. There’s no discrimination in the budgy-smuggling department. It doesn’t matter if you’re a teeny-bopper or a senior citizen, if you’re 120 pounds or 520 pounds. Budgy smugglers are apparently for everybody… and you just can’t unsee that.

Also, apparently, the drink of choice is beer, even at 11am. Bottoms up, folks… literally.

Needless to say, we move a little faster around the harbor on the outside of the Botanic Gardens to the Opera House. Butterfly didn’t even bother to put her shoes back on.

Now… here we stand at the base of the Opera House, and I’m seeing lots—and lots—of stairs. Jesus, this is unreal. There are a million stairs—well, maybe not a million—but once again, I’m having flashbacks of another time, this time of the Arc De Triomphe and the spiral staircase that made me ask, “Is this trip really necessary?” I have no idea how many stairs there are to the front door, but there’s a whole fucking lot of them. Without a word, Butterfly puts her shoes back on and begins taking the stairs like a stair climber.

Goddammit!

I take a deep breath and follow that ass up the stairs, glad that she chose Chucks for me to wear today and wondering how she’s effortlessly taking these stairs in what has to be three-to-four-inch wedge heels while carrying a leather backpack purse. I hear Lawrence behind us sigh heavily and fall in step himself. I expect her to pause at the second landing, but she doesn’t. She keeps going all the way up to the main platform of the Monumental Steps. When I finally catch up with her, she’s standing in the middle of the platform slowly taking and releasing deep breaths. I watch her mesmerized as her beautiful breasts rise and fall and she hasn’t even broken a sweat. I’m a tiny bit winded, and Lawrence isn’t winded at all, but he has broken a sweat.

“Excuse me…”

We turn to the voice that has beckoned and there’s two young women standing next to Butterfly. They appear to be American.

“Yes?” she replies, turning her attention to the ladies.

“Just a cool, leisurely stroll up the stairs just now nearly took all the wind outta me. If you don’t mind me asking, what is your exercise regimen? How did you do that? In high heels, no less?”

Butterfly chuckles and explains her regimen to the ladies which consists of variating through Krav Maga, yoga, sparring with the heavy bag and any unlucky person who wants to wear the hand mats, and some occasional dancing. One of the ladies looks over her shoulder and asks suggestively, “What’s your regimen?”

“Sparring with her,” I say, sliding my arm around her waist and resting my hand on her hip. The woman raises an eyebrow, then diverts her gaze from me. We say a few parting words to the ladies and then proceed into the opera house.

We arrive with a few minutes to spare before our tour, and the inside is exactly as you would expect it to be—majestic vaulted ceilings everywhere. The architecture is unbelievably stunning—the symmetrical overhangs and hallways. The impact is difficult to explain; you have to see it. I’m a bit stricken by the general splendor when our tour guide interrupts my thoughts and begins our tour.

“The Sydney Opera House location is on Tubowgule, the land of the Gadigal Clan,” our guide informs us as we head to the lower Colonnade of the Opera House. Three of the theatres are down here—Playhouse, Studio and Drama—and he directs our attention to one of the large windows in the Colonnade set inside angled wells that make the windows appear larger as well as cuts down on glare. We’re able to visit the foyers of several of the theaters even though we can’t visit each theater, not that we have time to do that. Each foyer has slanted windows that give you surreal views of the harbor and can be used for intermission from a variety of shows or rented out for private affairs.

I thought the Sydney Opera House was strictly for operas—shows how much I know.

The landmark boasts extremely grand concert halls and theaters, the largest of which—I think—is the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. The stately concert hall boasts a capacity of 2700 people, 700 of which can fit onstage. With walls and seats made of white birch wood, the hall is built specifically for instrumental sound. Along with the acoustic precision offered by the birch wood, the lit glass saucers over the stage raise or lower to optimize sound. The pipe organ utilizes more than 10,000 pipes—only 138 of them are visible, though.

Locals and tourist will tell you the Opera House is famous for the sails. I beg to differ. The stairs leave more of an impression on you—lots and lots and lots of stairs. There are stairs everywhere—front side, back side, upside, ‘round the side… and not just outside. I wanted to know where the elevators and escalators were, but I didn’t want to be a punk.

Like I said, Arc De Triomphe, just not spiraled and all in one place.

We continue the tour admiring the impressive architecture, each portion of the structure built to precision and purpose from the acoustic wood and glass in the theaters to the angled windows and the fact that the dramatic overhangs and bulging wooden walls never touch the concrete of the outer frame. There’s even a Sydney Opera House store where you can buy the Lego Sydney Opera House and the model Sydney Opera House… my wife buys the Lego… and a magnet.

Finally comes the highlight of the tour for my wife, and if I’m honest, for me, too—a closer look at and description of the iconic roof of the structure. If you look at it from the sky, it’s actually three sails—two large ones and one small one. I seek out the aerial view on my phone when the guide brings it up, and it appears very unimposing compared to the remarkable reality of the “up close and personal” that we’re seeing right now. It’s made of over one million ceramic roof tiles of seven varieties, two different colors, and matte and shiny finishes—little squares like the kitchen or bathroom tiles you see, only… not.

The one million Sydney Opera House tiles that make up the iconic sails. Two colors and seven varieties of tiles, with both shiny and matte finishes, create the effect.

The seashell slices of dome that look like billowing sails on the harbor took fourteen years to build, the concept originating from taking four symmetrical slices from the same sphere and arranging the to form the structure.

Sydney Opera House - The Concept behind the sails

During the tour, we learn that there’s a “lighting of the sails” at sunset and at 9pm each night where a psychedelic light show is displayed on the sails of the Opera House roof. I’m told that it’s pretty damn spectacular and I’m sorry that we won’t be able to see it live, but our guide informs us that there are several places online where we can see the show. My wife isn’t willing to wait and pulls up YouTube on her phone while we’re looking at the massive and impressive network of tiles that composes the famous Sydney sails.

“How do you cover the entire roof that way?” Butterfly asks. “I can’t even begin to imagine how that would be done.”

“Projectors,” the guide says. “Lots and lots of projectors. Special software works in conjunction with several high-powered projectors that meticulously align and crop the images so that they fall perfectly into place next to and on top of each other to accurately cover the shape of the sails. The intricate network of projectors is actually controlled from the Overseas Passenger Terminal on the other side of the Quay.”

“It covers the sails so well,” Butterfly observes while looking at the pictures and presentation of the lighting of the sails, “from all the way over there?” The guide nods.

“Don’t try to understand it,” she shrugs. “I work here, and I still don’t get it.”

At 1:00pm, a fort in the middle of the harbor shoots a cannon. We discover that they do that every day, but today, it signals the end of our tour. We thank our tour guide and say some pleasantries to the other members of our tour group before we disperse. I look across the harbor and see a cruise ship docked at the terminal. Since it’s so close to the time for us to sail, I’m assuming it’s our ship. I check my texts and see that Jason has already exchanged cash for us, checked us out of our hotel, and is in the process of checking our bags on the ship. So, it’s safe to assume that is indeed our ship and we should get over there soon.

“We’re going to be shoving off soon, baby,” I say to my wife. She sighs.

“I know,” she says and puts her hands on her hips.

“Sad to leave?” I ask. She looks up at me.

“Truth?” she asks. I frown. No, lie to me. “Coming up is a lot easier than going down.” She looks in front of her.

Oh, the stairs.

“We can make it,” I tell her.

“I know,” she says, and begins the trek down the stairs. This trip isn’t nearly as effortless and graceful as the first one. Her footfalls are heavier and I’m almost afraid that she’ll tweak her ankle in those shoes. We finally make it to the bottom of the stairs and we have to walk all the way around the Quay to the other side of the harbor—there’s no other options. She’s obviously winded and she’s been on her feet all day since the early morning—in those shoes. I pull out my phone and call Jason.

“Yes, sir?” he answers.

“I see you’ve been busy,” I say into the phone.

“Yes, sir. I’m trying to ascertain the procedure for priority boarding at this time.”

“Good. Any idea where Noah is? Has he finally kicked off to get some sleep?”

“No, sir. He’s here with me. He decided to take a break here and see if you would need a ride.”

“That’s exactly why I’m calling. We’re at the Opera House. It’s a short walk, but Butterfly is tired. We’ve covered quite a bit of ground today.”

“He’s here in the terminal somewhere. Do you want me to find him or do you want to text him yourself?”

“You do it,” I tell him. “Just let me know where to meet him.”

“Will do, sir,” he says and ends the call.  

“Come on,” I say, stooping down with my back to her. She pauses.

“You’re not serious!” she exclaims.

“It’s either this or I throw you over my shoulder, now don’t argue with me.” I can almost see her shrug in my mind’s eye before she climbs onto me for a piggyback ride. I don’t think my wife understands just how light she is.

“Comfy?” I ask.

“I’m fine, are you?” she retorts.

“Don’t worry about it. We’ve got a boat to catch.”

My wife and I receive more than one sideways glance as I carry her on my back from the stairs of the Opera House back towards Circular Quay. I love the feel of her leaning on my back, her body warm and pressed against me. Almost on cue of my contentment, she presses her nose into my neck and takes a deep breath.

“I love the way you smell,” she says, kissing me on the neck.

“The feeling’s mutual, baby,” I say suggestively, “and I love the way you taste.”

“The feeling’s mutual, baby,” she says huskily, gently sinking her teeth into the skin of my neck.

“Butterfly,” I warn, “it’s going to be very hard to carry you with a raging woody.” She giggles.

“Okay, okay, I’ll behave,” she promises. I feel my phone buzz in my pocket, then realize my hands are full.

“Wrap your legs around me,” I instruct.

“Mr. Grey!” my wife scolds. “I thought you wanted me to behave!” I can’t help but laugh.

“I can’t reach my phone,” I excuse. “I don’t want to drop you.” She giggles again.

“Alright.” Her legs are a death grip around my waist and I swear to God, my dick is thumping in my boxer briefs. Settle the fuck down, Grey! I reach into my pocket and retrieve my phone. It’s a text from Jason. Noah says he’ll pick us up at Allen Lewis Fountain. I only see one fountain—it’s just beyond the entrance gates to the Opera House outside the wall of the Botanic Gardens. It’s only a few feet away. I hope that’s it.

“Noah wants us to meet him at the fountain. I don’t see anywhere for you to sit over there.”

“Sheh needs ta get ‘er loyzie ahs off your bahk and wawlk!” some female voice says from behind us.

“Piss off, ya tossah! Ya just mad it’s not yeeou!”

Now, I would have thought that comeback was from one of the locals, only I heard it from behind me in my wife’s voice. What’s more, I felt and heard her slap that juicy ass of hers right after she said it. Holy Mother of God…

… But wait…

“What did you just say?” I ask in amused horror. “Did you just call somebody a tosser?”

“I sure as hell did,” she says proudly. “If you want to give me a piggyback ride, chauffer me around on a bicycle, or pull me in a goddamn rickshaw, It’s none of her damn business!”

“I’ve been with you all day!” I laugh in disbelief. “Where did you hear that? I don’t remember hearing anything like that!”

“I don’t know, I just picked it up somewhere… and not a moment too soon.” I turn around with my wife still on my back to see who’s behind us. Nobody’s paying us any attention or looks particularly horrified, so I don’t even know who she was talking to.

“Did you scare her away?” I ask.

“I guess so,” she says. “Maybe she’ll shut the hell up from now on.” I laugh again just as I hear a horn and see a taxi coming around the fountain.

“Your chariot awaits, my dear,” I say as Noah pulls up. Lawrence gets in the front seat with Noah, and Butterfly and I get in the back. I had almost forgotten he was with us.

“My wife is offending the locals,” I say mirthfully to Noah once we’re on our way.

“I was not offending the locals—the locals were offending me!” she defends.

“What ‘appened?” Noah asks.

“You saw—my husband was giving me a piggyback because I’m tired from walking around all day. This is my husband and that’s our business—he carries me all the time. Some cow called me lazy and told me that I should get off his back. So, I called her a tosser and told her to piss off!” Noah laughs heartily.

“Spoken like a true Aussie!” he says joyfully. “Ahl ya needed was the accent!”

“She had it!” I tell him. “At least for the first part of the sentence! When she said, ‘Piss off, you tosser,’ I thought it was somebody else!” Noah laughs again.

“Ya moight pick up a little somethin’ as ya wawlkin’ ‘round,” he says. “Ya mahy not even know ya picked it up. Ya jus goin’ about cha bizness an the next thing ya know ya tawlkin’ like an Aussie… ‘appens ahl the toime.”

“Well, that must be what happened, because it just flew out of my mouth and I wasn’t even thinking about it!” Butterfly admits.

We take note of the shops and the various scents of the different foods available as we ride through Circular Quay. It’s been a few hours since breakfast and we could stand to eat, but we decide against it since we’re heading to the boat and there’s going to be more food aboard than we know what to do with.

Our trip will take us through New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia. I would love to see the Great Barrier Reefs and the Northern Territory, but we just don’t have the time to cover the whole continent. There are so many things to see in Australia that there’s absolutely no way we could possibly see it all. The exclusive sites that we want to see require that we abandon the cruise for the last two days and take a detour… which is not cheap, by the way. As it turns out, if you don’t finish the cruise and you disembark at one of the ports of call, you have to pay something of a fine, and the price could be as much as the cruise itself. That’s why when you take a cruise, they tell you not to miss the boat at any of the ports of call because getting back home is going to be the least of your problems.

Luckily, this is not an issue for the filthy rich.

A few short minutes later, Noah drops us at the Overseas Terminal. When I offer him something for his trouble, he assures me that Jason took very good care of him. So instead, I give him something for his honesty and Butterfly makes him promise to go and get some real rest. I think we just made his week.

From the outside, the Overseas Passenger Terminal, or OPT, looks like an older bus depot. Once you get inside, it’s like a bustling airport. I can’t help but wonder if all these people are going to be on our cruise. I’m so accustomed to our privacy that this is going to be quite the adjustment for me. As I planned this somewhat hurriedly and left the details to Jason, I’m not really sure where we should be right now. I text as much to Jason as we’re standing near the information area in a crowd of people masquerading as a line.

And then I remember why I’m so accustomed to my privacy.

“Ayyyye, mate, look at deh ahss on ‘er.”

Now, yes, I’m a jealous guy, and I think everybody wants my wife—boys, girls, puppies, komodo dragons, zygotes not yet formed into humans, everybody… everybody wants my Butterfly. But this time, I’m right.

Ana's Ass, Chapter 74I look over at my wife standing next to me and scrolling blissfully ignorant through her phone. Her weight is supported on one leg while the other is bent, and her ass is on glorious display—as it has been all day. I raise my gaze to the blokes standing behind us and their eyes are so trained on her ass that they don’t even see me glaring at them. I gently take my wife’s arm, coax her over in front of me and put my arms around her waist. One of the guys looks at me sheepishly and diverts his gaze. The other doesn’t show an ounce of shame.

“Won’t ‘elp, mate,” the guy says from behind me. “She’ll still ‘ave that ahss,” he chuckles. I turn around and look at him.

“And she’ll still be my wife,” I say, my voice low. Don’t make me get arrested before I even board the boat. The jerk just laughs at me, and my wife looks over her shoulder to see what’s going on, not having heard the comments about her ass. Like an angel from heaven, Jason makes his way through the crowd and over to us.

“Sir, your luggage is on board and priority boarding is this way,” he says. I’m glaring at the asshole who disrespected me and my wife while Jason and Lawrence close in.

“Sir?” he asks. “Is everything okay?” I’m still glaring at the two assholes who have now fallen silent at Jason’s appearance.

“Yeah,” I say, taking my wife’s hand without breaking eye contact with them, “everything’s fine.” I gently coax my wife to walk ahead of me with our security as I throw one last threatening glance at the uncouth buffoon. Make sure you keep your asses away from me on the boat, boys.

“Crikey, Max,” I hear one say as we’re walking away, “Yah nevah know when tah shut yah fayce, do yah? D’yah hafta be such a bogan all the time?”

Max had better learn soon.

“What did I miss?” Butterfly asks as we head toward priority boarding.

“Nothing, baby, trust me,” I say, keeping step behind her. This is the first commercial cruise I’ve ever taken, and now I remember why. It’s the same reason I own a private jet. I don’t like people—they’re too damn unpredictable and I can’t stand being in situations that I can’t control.


A/N: When the guide at the Sydney Opera House explains the projectors, you just have to imagine the Aussie accent. When I tried to put that explanation in an Aussie accent, I was like, “That’s hard for me to read,” so I didn’t do it. Conversation, maybe… Explanations? No.

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

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

The Australia Picture Board can be found here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey-the-trip-to-australia/

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 68—Try Jesus… Not Me!

Please send love, prayers, and positive vibes out to our beloved Falala. She lost her furry baby this week. All of us who have fur babies know how hard this is, so drop her a positive thought and encouragement in the comments if you can.

Also remember my friend, Sharrier. She’s burying her mom and it’s a trying task for her. Please keep her in your prayers as well.

Remember, you guys—sometimes, we’re all we’ve got.

Also, whoever “AnaChris Grey,” “AnaChris Dalisay,” or “Mylene Dalisay” is on Facebook, would you please identify yourself for me here in the comments? I get creepers all the time, and I got these three friend requests on Facebook. There’s no identifying information on the ID, and two of them have Dakota Johnson’s picture as a profile picture while the third has the butterflies on my cover page for this site as a profile picture. As I have seen no one anywhere else (yet) use my power couple name “AnaChris” in a fanfic and the profile picture is my cover pic, it’s kinda creeping me out. So could you please let me know who you are in the comments so that I can stop shaking in my boots. Thanks.

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 68—Try Jesus… Not Me!

CHRISTIAN

I’m sitting in my office on Wednesday morning waiting for a certain pussy DJ and whatever slimeball lawyer he’s hired to arrive for our meeting. If these fuckers are even one minute late, I’ve given instructions for them to be turned away at the door. They still have a little time, so I allow my thoughts to wander.

Butterfly was thrilled and very pleasantly surprised by our meal on Monday night. I was proud to tell her I had prepared everything, with a lot of help and a few minor catastrophes, but nothing major. I didn’t know if she was pulling my leg or it everything really tasted as good as she said, but she cleaned her plate and even asked for seconds on the shrimp.

We took the fondue to the theater room where we watched a Cary Grant marathon until she fell asleep in the reclining luxury chairs and I took her to bed and snuggled until morning. It was the best date night I’ve ever had, and that says a lot, because we’ve had some pretty good ones.

I discovered that she wasn’t pulling my chain when I saw her taking leftovers to the Center for lunch the next day.

Tuesday brought even more good news. Harmony finally came out of her room and had dinner in the dining room, and I got news that the items in the storage facility had all been packed up and were now on their way to… somewhere—either to people who said that they wanted them or out here to the Grey warehouse. Ichabod has made it safely to my restorer in Tennessee and Granma Ruby’s wardrobe has reached Grey Crossing. It’s outrageously large and has to be stored in the boathouse so that Butterfly can go through the items and organize them.

Likewise, the items that Uncle Herman wanted as well as Dad’s model car collection arrived, too. I’m waiting for him to put them on display so that I can see what all the fuss is about. But the best news of all is that Freeman never showed up at the storage facility and didn’t cause any problems. Once everything was on a plane, train, or automobile on its way to its next destination, my first order of business this morning was to bring my teams home. They’d been in that hellhole long enough. The next thing I did was authorize an additional week’s paid vacation for each of them for 2015 and arranged for every man on that team to get an all-expense-paid trip for them and one other to the destination of their choice for a week. They deserve it—they worked their asses off.

“Your 10:00 is here, sir,” Andrea’s voice informs me that Rossiter and his attorney have arrived.

“Thank you, Andrea. I’ll be one moment.” I dial up to my head of legal.

“Allen Forsythe-Fleming,” he answers.

“You should really think about shortening that,” I tell him.

“No. I’ve been Allen Forsythe my entire life. I love my name the way it is now. I take it our visitors have arrived.”

“They have,” I confirm. “Conference room in ten.”

“Okay.” I end the call with him and call Jason.

“Mr. Rossiter has arrived with his legal counsel. Will you and an associate please show him to the conference room and wait for me there?”

“Chance and I will be right up,” he says before ending the call.

“So good of you to join us,” the attorney quips as I enter the conference room at 10:20. I stop there at the door. Allen is there sitting in the seat to the right of mine and Rossiter’s attorney is across from him. Where is Rossiter sitting? In my chair at the head of the table.

This is going to be fun.

“I can always leave,” I retort. “I didn’t ask for this fucking meeting.” Do you want to start on this note? At my rash tone, the seemingly cocky attorney says no more. I stalk into the conference room, taking long, slow strides toward Rossiter and never taking my eyes off him even though he diverts his gaze from me once or twice. I position myself squarely next to him and gaze down on him.

“You’re in my seat,” I nearly growl at him, pronouncing every word with venom.

“There are several other chairs at the table, Mr. Grey,” his attorney points out.

“Then I suggest he finds one,” I command, still never taking my eyes off him. He doesn’t move at first, his hands folded on the table like he belongs at the head.

“I’m waiting… Judd!” My voice drops two more octaves when I say his name and nobody in the room moves for several moments. I can do this all day, but I won’t. I’ll just have you forcibly removed from the building—you and your pussy attorney.

After a standoff of a whole lot longer than I would like, the fucker turns my chair away from me, then stands and walks to another chair without a word. When he’s seated and still not making eye-contact with me, I stand in front of my chair, fold my arms and address Matlock over here.

“You have five minutes,” I declare. That gets Rossiter’s attention.

“That’s hardly any time for us to state our case!” Matlock retorts.

“Then you can state your case in court,” I tell him.

“You make us wait for twenty minutes and then you only afford us five? That’s the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever seen!”

“And why should I be professional with you?” I reply. “You must know that I have a restraining order against him. He’s not even supposed to be here. If I were a vindictive sonofabitch, I could have him arrested before you two made it back to your car. Now what do you want?”

“You want us to grovel!” he accuses.

“I don’t want shit,” I reply impassively. “I didn’t ask to see you. And now you have four minutes.”

“This is not the way to negotiate, Mr. Grey…”

“I have nothing to negotiate, because I have nothing to lose. Your client is severely on the backfoot and he comes in here and sits in my chair like I don’t know what he’s doing? Excellent negotiating tactic, Judd! Way to get what you want—piss of the guy who’s got your balls in his hand…” I turn back to Matlock. “… Or was that your idea?”

“It was an honest mistake,” Matlock claims.

“I’m sure it was,” I say sarcastically. “Tick tock tick tock…” He sighs heavily.

“Mr. Rossiter indicates that there may have been a slight error in his judgment about the events of his assault…”

“Why don’t you let Mr. Rossiter speak for himself?” I interrupt him.

“We’re trying to stay in line with the protection order as much as possible,” Matlock excuses.

“Cut the shit,” I say coolly. “He broke that when you asked for the meeting and blew it to hell when you came within 1000 feet of my front door.” I turn to Rossiter. “Or am I mistaken, and the police already know that you’re here?” Rossiter turns his gaze to me.

“Well, that’s progress,” I say, turning to Al. “The fucker made eye-contact.” I turn back to Rossiter. “We’ve only been in each other’s presence a whole six minutes and you haven’t had the balls to make eye contact with me once. Which reminds me…” I look at my Hublot.

“I may have been… mistaken about who attacked me in August,” Rossiter grumbles. “I was upset, and the Greys had been front and center in my displeasure. I’m not admitting to lying. I’m simply saying that I may have been mistaken in my recollection of the events.”

“Mistaken,” I say with a chuckle, “how politically correct of you.”

“Why the change of heart, Mr. Rossiter?” Al asks. He rolls his eyes.

“I’m going to be in litigation forever with this guy. I’ve lost my job; I can’t find another one and even if I could, I’m gagged on what I can say in the press. No matter how strongly I may feel about the situation, I’ll admit that I don’t have any definitive proof that it was him that attacked me.”

“Well, why did you point the finger at him in the first place?” Al asks. “What made you think it was Mr. Grey that had you attacked?”

“That’s hardly relevant,” Matlock says.

“It’s quite relevant,” I hiss at the snake, who snaps his gaze to me. “I’ve been defamed in the press. I’ve had to increase my security. My family has to move around in even more secret that we did before. My infant twins have received death threats, for God’s sake. I’d say it’s pretty fucking relevant!”

Matlock pales at my brief tirade and I turn my attention back to Rossiter.

“Mr. Rossiter?” Al says. “The reason for your conclusion?” Rossiter clears his throat.

“Like I said, the Greys were front and center…”

“You’re saying that just because your most recent squabble was with me that you verbalized your unfounded conclusions and unleashed all this hell on me and my family—my children—and you want me to accept that, show you some kind of kindness, mercy, or compassion, and withdraw my lawsuit? Is that what you’re trying to tell me right now?” I ask, finally taking my seat.

“You were very pissed at me for the attention that I was bringing to you and your family. My assumptions were not that far-fetched…”

“Oh, it wasn’t just the attention, Rossiter,” I seethe. “We can deal with attention. We’re dealing with it now. We deal with it every day, and none of the current attention originates from you. We’ll be dealing with attention long after you’re gone, so that wasn’t it. It was also the disrespect, the verbal harassment and the physical assaults. Yeah, that’s what pissed me off.”

“Thus, proving my point,” he says somewhat victoriously. “My assumptions were not so far-fetched.”

“And so, you’re telling me that you haven’t pissed off anybody else in the world but me and my family,” I accuse. “You’re such a fucking model citizen that no one else in the world could have been pissed off enough to beat your ass.” It’s a question in the form of a statement.

“Again, relevance,” Matlock says.

“I gave you relevance, so you can shove that shit up your ass!” I retort, pointing at the attorney. “You can object until your head explodes once we’re in court. Right now, I’m saying whatever the fuck I want!”

“You’re not helping!” Rossiter hisses quietly to his attorney.

“Just so we’re clear,” I turn back onto Rossiter, “you’re telling me that my babies—my twin babies—are getting public death threats simply because I was in the forefront of your disparity? You have no other foundation for these accusations? No pictures? No DNA evidence? No ‘I recognized somebody?’ Nothing?”

“Look. I admitted that I may have been mistaken. I don’t know what else the fuck you want from me.” I push away from the table and stand with enough force to knock the heavy chair over onto the floor with a hard thud.

“Tell me I’m not hearing this!” I say in a fury. “Tell me this is not what I’m hearing! Tell me I’m mistaken! This has got to be a mistake… he didn’t just say what I just heard!”

It’s not only because I have to play this part well, but also because I’m truly flabbergasted by this. I thought he had something—he recognized one of my staff; he knows my fleet is Audi and he saw an Audi drive away; someone may have said something that tipped him off, but it’s none of those. He truly reached into the air and just pulled out my name! He could have gotten into a barfight the weekend before, and he would have just reached into the air and pulled out my name! My children truly received death threats because he truly. Was. Mistaken.

“Christian, you need to calm down,” Al cautions. I slam my hands onto the table, causing all of the men to jump, even my security team at the door.

“Don’t you see?” I say, gesturing wildly at Rossiter while addressing Al. “He has no fucking idea who did this to him! He pulled my name out the air and announced to a listening audience that I attacked him! He could have had one too many, fell face-first off the curb, busted his lip, lost a tooth, and then pointed the finger at me! My children, my wife, I have all actually received death threats from this shit, and he has no fucking clue who did it! We had an active controversy and people are quick to believe shit about me and he knew that! He was counting on it! And now he comes into this room expecting me to show him some fucking compassion?”

“Mr. Grey, you really need to calm down,” Matlock says.

“Don’t tell me to calm down, Matlock!” I bark at him, having never gotten his real name since he didn’t see fit to introduce himself to me. “Don’t you fucking dare tell me to calm down. Have they threatened your fucking children, you worm?” He swallows and clears his throat. I pick my chair up and slam it back in the upright position.

“How does it feel to try to make an example out of someone that you don’t even measure up to?” I ask Rossiter. “And I’m not even talking about me. I’m talking about my wife. The only beef I ever had with you was that you showed her that vulgar tattoo on your arm and I made that known. You made it more than that. Whatever you did before or after that viewing, whatever happened had nothing to do with me or my wife. You harass her in public, you physically attack her father, you degrade and slander us on any medium that will accommodate you, and you want to sit here and pretend to be the victim? We didn’t seek you out! We never sought you out! You put yourself front and center in our lives and now you’re upset about the attention? Believe me, I want nothing more than for you to get the fuck out of our lives and stay out! I don’t want any reminders that I ever even knew who the fuck you were. I could have destroyed you long ago if that was my motive, and I didn’t need attention or an audience to do it. I never want to hear of you or see you ever again, so I will be happy to drop my lawsuit against you—but I have demands.”

“Mr. Grey, do you mean conditions?” his attorney says in a condescending tone.

“Call them what you want. I have demands!” I hiss, and he glares at me. I glare right back until he breaks his gaze, then I turn back to Rossiter.

“You’re having a hard time finding work. That would be because to accommodate you, somebody would have to piss me off and there are a lot of people in the greater Seattle area and beyond who don’t want to piss me off. To that end, it might do you well to seek employment in another sector—maybe even outside of Seattle.”

“That sounds like a threat, Mr. Grey,” the attorney says.

“I could give a fuck less what it sounds like, Matlock, it’s a suggestion. Now here are my demands:

“Don’t talk about us, don’t allude to us, don’t discuss our agreement, our situation, my family, any of my businesses, don’t even make any general characterizations that could look like us or be mistaken for us and you know well what I mean when I say that. The fact that you don’t use our names will not protect you from further legal action. Don’t write a book, don’t sign a movie deal, don’t do an interview, nothing. You are not privy to anything about us that is not public domain, and you better be careful about how you use that information, or I might take it personally.”

“Mr. Grey,” Matlock tries to chide.

“I’m not finished, and don’t interrupt me again or you and your client can get the fuck out of my face right now.” Without waiting for a response from him, I turn back to Rossiter.

“If you agree to the terms and I drop the lawsuit, we cease to exist in your life and this entire thing has been one bad dream. I don’t even want an apology; I just want you the fuck out of our lives. You don’t use any of this experience for publicity, for sympathy, for profit, for any gain or advantage whatsoever. Anything that anybody ever asks you about me, my family, my great-fucking-grandchildren, any of my businesses, anything that has to do with me henceforth and forevermore will be answered with ‘No comment.’ If I find out 50 years from now that you told some small AM radio station in the swamps of Mississippi anything whatsoever about me even in the abstract, all bets are off and I’m coming for you.” He frowns.

“And what do I get?” he asks.

“You get to not find yourself in litigation for the rest of your life,” I inform him. “You get to go offend somebody’s wife in some part of the world who doesn’t know who the hell you are. You get to go make up your story to whomever will listen as long as it doesn’t involve, allude to, or incriminate me or any member of my family—or we can walk out of this room right now and I’ll continue with my lawsuit. Your choice.”

“Is this legal?” he barks at his counsel. Before he can respond, I reply,

“You better find a way to make it legal, because I’m done playing these games with you. I and my family have been targeted long before you ever got a glint in your eye, but we can often wait it out and most of the time, it blows over—but you! You won’t go away! You made this bed! You opened this can of worms and now you want to blame us for it. I’ve got news for you, Rossiter. I’m not one of those people who will just pay a problem to go away. I’m a fighter. I’ve been a fighter since I was a kid and nothing’s changed. And before I allow some slimy, manipulating bastard and his sleezy lawyer to get a dime out of me, I’ll drag this fight out through Armageddon.” Matlock scoffs.

“I don’t have to take this kind of slanderous talk!” he announces. He closes his ledger, picks up his briefcase, and ceremoniously storms out of the room. I sit back comfortably in my seat while Rossiter stares at his retreating attorney.

“What the fuck just happened?” Rossiter inquires.

“I think your attorney just skipped out on you because he just discovered that he wasn’t getting any money out of me,” I inform him while folding my arms.

“How the hell would you know that?” he barks.

“Is this your first time at the dance?” I ask incredulously. “Because it’s certainly not mine. Maybe my wife and I are the first to stand up to you and you don’t know how this goes, so let me educate you. Some enterprising, money-hungry, ambulance-chasing attorney preys on some ambitious, attention-seeking, greedy opportunist the moment they find out there’s a dispute between them and someone who has a few zeros behind their name. He’s either going to get something from the opportunist or from the guy with the zeros. You have nothing, and I just blew all his hopes of ever getting anything from me. I have cursed you, used an obscene amount of profanity, disrespected you both, and pretty much told him to shut up, but he suddenly feels slandered when I say that he’s not getting a dime from me. I’ve been through this—many times. I know how this ends. I’ve been on the receiving end of a lawsuit and just waited and waited and waited until they realized that they weren’t getting shit from me. The money that I would give to you and anybody like you, I would spend endlessly on attorneys and appeals until you died or just went away. Your lawyer friend saw that, and that’s why he’s not here. I’ll even put a wager on it that he won’t answer any of your calls. So, I’m letting you know right here and right now that I’m giving you the chance to walk the fuck away before I unleash hell on you.”

Realization slowly creeps onto Rossiter’s face and his skin blanches a bit. For several moments, he looks like a caged rabbit trying to find an escape. Yet, I can see the moment resolution sets in and he knows that he’s whipped.

“It’s just us, Grey,” he says in a low, ominous voice. “My attorney’s gone now. Give it to me straight. Did you have me jumped?” I sit up in my chair.

“Christian…” Al cautions, but I put my hand up to silence him without breaking my gaze with Rossiter. I lean forward and clasp my hands together in front of me on the table.

“I don’t like you,” I say coolly. “In fact, I fucking hate you. I hate everything you are and everything that I’ve seen you stand for, but most of all, I hate you for how you treated my wife—my queen, and the mother of my children. I could easily see you dead for that and not bat an eyelash. I want to break your fucking legs. I want to make it so that you can’t harass or mistreat another woman for as long as you fucking live. However, I suggest that you start looking in dark corners and turning over some fucking rocks and find out who your goddamn enemies are, because the fact that you’re still walking and not being fed through a tube is a pretty safe assumption that I might not be the one that had your ass kicked. Does that answer your question, Mr. Rossiter?”

You’re out of your goddamn mind if you think I would admit to that whether your attorney is here or not. You might have a recording device or something and besides, I get more satisfaction out of seeing the uncertainty in your eyes right now and knowing that I am the one that had your ass kicked than I would in telling you that I did it.

He rolls his eyes before he shakes his head and drops his gaze.

“Well, this was a fucking great idea,” he says to himself. He pushes his chair back and stands.

“I’ll sign whatever you need. Just drop the damn lawsuit,” he says before leaving the room and closing the door behind him.

“Well, that was easy,” Al says, closing his ledger and sticking it in his briefcase.

“No, it wasn’t,” I say, watching the door. “It’s not easy until he signs the damn papers. Draw them up and get them over to him today. Let him know that he has 24 hours to sign them, get them notarized, and return them or the lawsuit stands, and all bets are off.” I stand. “And send a message to that squirrelly attorney. Let him know in whatever legal manner possible that if he tries anything, I’m coming for him, too.”

“It’ll be done by the end of business,” Al says. I nod and leave the room with Al close behind me. Pretty soon, I need to retrieve my wife for the R&D meeting that we have each quarter. Ever since she found the disparity with the XRC90 transmitter, I’ve requested that she be present at each R&D meeting as an extra set of eyes and ears for me. It’s not that I don’t trust my staff but looking at the same things every day can sometimes cause complacency when it comes down to critical details. Butterfly has the eye that I need for things like that.


ANASTASIA

“Your Ebony Carson is basically clean.”

I’m sitting in Alex’s office on Wednesday morning looking to get a final call on what’s going on with Ebony Carson. I rode in to Grey House with Christian so that I can be present for a quarterly meeting that starts at eleven. Christian has a meeting at ten, so I came to talk to Alex about Ebony. I need whatever information he has and, one way or the other, I’m pulling the trigger on this thing today.

“She has nothing adverse that shows up on her background check, but she doesn’t have a paper trail. No credit cards, no bank accounts… but that falls in line with someone who doesn’t want to be found, which validates her story. She’s got a lot of hits that just go away, trails that run dry—or it could even be another Ebony Carson altogether, because the name is common. So, here’s my take on it.

“It’s a 50/50 chance that she is who she says she is. From what she’s telling you, her story checks out, but what I don’t see always makes me nervous. She doesn’t stay put for long, so if you hire her, she’s only going to be around for a minute—six months to a year tops, and I’m stretching it at the year. If she’s running from a violent or powerful boyfriend, she’s got a stash bag somewhere with clothes and cash, probably in the trunk of her car or something like that. Her next destination has already been chosen. Without knowing his name or at least knowing his crime or what facility he’s incarcerated in, we’re never going to find him. ‘Ge’ is simply not enough.

“My final conclusion, you’re dealing with a ghost here. It’s kind of a crap shoot if you want to hire her. She could just be a scared young woman running from a bad situation, but that makes me ask where her family is, because she’s not on any missing persons’ lists. No outstanding warrants, traffic tickets that may or may not be hers due to no license being present or other mysterious circumstances. The social security number has several hits on jobs, but like I said, she doesn’t stay…”

“I think we should take the findings at face value,” I say. “She’s afraid, and she hasn’t found anywhere to lay any roots. He’s got her scared out of her wits and if she has even the slightest inkling that he’s getting close, she’s going to bolt.” I sigh. I can’t afford to introduce a bad element to the Center, but isn’t this what we do? Aren’t we here to help people in trouble who are looking for a safe haven?

“I’m going to bring her back in,” I tell Alex. “If she can’t give me anything concrete that I can work with, something that I can feel safe with, or at least semi-safe, I’ll let it go.”

“That’s pretty much all you can do,” he says. “I understand wanting to help her with all that you do, but I’m a conspiracy theorist by profession. It’s my job to look for all the bad that could happen and do my best to prevent it from happening. You have to be careful… and we will be watching her.” I nod.

“Yeah.” I look at my watch and I have a little time before I have to be in the conference room on the executive floor. “Thanks, Alex.”

I leave his office and text Marilyn to contact Ebony and have her come in for another interview on Friday morning. I’m looking at my phone and concentrating very hard on finding a restroom before I pee my pants when I bump into a wall of man that I know very well.

“You should watch where you’re going,” my husband says suggestively. I don’t even bother asking how he knew exactly where I was.

“You’re right,” I reply. “I’m distracted.” I have to pee.

“Come on,” he says, putting his arm around my waist. “Let’s go. We’ll have a boardroom full of people soon.”

“I’ll meet you in the office. I need to find a restroom, or there’s going to be an accident.” He twists his lips at me.

“I can wait,” he suggests.

“Go upstairs!” I protest. “I’m in the building. I know my way. Now, shoo, I gotta pee!” I leave him there to debate the situation and I duck around the corner and into the bathroom, luckily not ten feet away from our location. I have to look up at the ceiling to prevent leakage while I’m trying to undo my pants. I don’t know why it works but it works. The flow starts almost before I get to the toilet.

Sweet relief! Thank God… that was close.

I finish my business and just before I flush the toilet, I hear women come into the bathroom, giggling and talking.

“My God, what I could do with all that man,” one says.

“Give it up, girlfriend,” I hear another say while entering the stall next to me. “He is very happily married and from what I hear, quite pussy-whipped. Just step away from the gorgeousness. That’s nothing but a fantasy, my friend.”

“So you say,” the first one says. “Every man has a weakness that can be exploited by new pussy. She just had twins, so I can guarantee that pussy ain’t as tight as it used to be, and it certainly ain’t as tight as mine.”

I sigh silently. Of course, they’re talking about Christian… and me. The first one sounds like she’s in a stall, too, now, so I exit the stall and go around the wall to the sinks to wash my hands. I’m far enough away that they can’t really hear the water of the sink, but I can still hear the conversation.

“And look at her,” the first one continues. “She’s all prim and proper. I bet he hasn’t had a good blowjob in months!” I dry my hands and lean against the sink with my arms folded, waiting for this trick to exit the stall. I’ll show you prim and proper, bitch!

“Deanna, give it up,” I hear the second one say as she flushes the toilet. “I’m telling you, it’s a lost cause and not worth all the trouble you could get into. Leave it…” Her sentence breaks off when she bends the corner and stares wide-eyed at my face. Her mouth is gaping like a fish while her friend continues to insert her foot further down her throat.

“Please, girl, I know how to get a man, any man I want. I haven’t met a man yet who could resist me no matter what he had at home—wife, girlfriend, fiancée, boyfriend… I’ve even caused gay men to go straight with this pussy and I tell you… Fifteen minutes alone with Christian Grey and that man will be mine.” I hear the toilet flush.

“Shut up, Deanna,” the second girl says still looking at me.

“It’s true. The only reason I don’t already have him is because I’ve been focusing on my position, but trust me, once I set my sites on a man, he’s mine and I never fail. And I’ve got my sites set on that tall drink of water.”

“Deanna, you need to shut up,” her friend says again. Yeah, Deanna, you should probably shut up.

“Oh, lighten up. He probably has a billionaire friend for you, too…” Just like her friend a few moments ago, Deanna’s statement falls to nothing as she bends the corner and comes face to face with me. She’s clearly stunned and doesn’t know quite what to say right now. I wouldn’t either if I had been graphically discussing my plans to fuck the boss only to discover the boss’s wife standing a few feet away.

“Oh, don’t stop on my account. I’d love to know what techniques you plan to use to steal my husband.” I stand still leaning against the sink, waiting for all the I-can-fuck-him-like-this talk that I heard a minute ago.

“What’s the matter?” I ask after her silence. “You chokin’ on that sole food right now? I’m sure that shoe doesn’t taste as good as it did when you were sitting in that stall talking about sucking my man’s dick!” She clears her throat and looks over to her friend. Getting no support from the girl who, moments earlier, kept trying to tell her to shut up, she turns an uncertain gaze back to me. I’m unbelievably heated and angry and I don’t want to play by the rules with this tramp.

“I don’t need to say or do anything to prove to you how satisfied my man is. But even if he wasn’t, you would still never find out, because if you come within 100 feet of my husband, I’ll fuck you up!”

She gasps, completely taken off guard by my statement. Realizing my position in the company, I need to make one more thing perfectly clear.

“I’m not talking to you as someone who could cost you your job. I’m talking to you as a pissed-off woman telling you that you better keep your ass the fuck away from my man. However tight your pussy is or great your head is, you better go try your skills on somebody else, because if you touch my man, that’ll be the last time you touch anybody’s man!”

“You’re threatening me?” she asks incredulously.

“Yes, bitch, I’m threatening you!” I say, closing the space between us. “You’re surprised? You’re sitting in a public bathroom talking about fucking and sucking my man and you’re surprised? It’s taking everything in me not to put you through that wall behind you right now! But hell, you feel like you can do it? You feel like you can pull my man out of my bed, you go right ahead and try. Just remember I fuckin’ warned you.” I’m nearly growling at her.

“A real woman shouldn’t have to threaten another woman if she’s keeping her man happy,” she says, coolly.

“A real woman would know how to get a man of her own without setting her sites on a married man with a family!” I hiss. “I’m not going to debate with you as to whether or not you can pull my man. Like I said, try that shit if you feel lucky. Now you wanna keep talking so I can cash in on my urge to smash your ass through that wall?” I fold my arms again and wait for her response.

She looks over at her friend again, who says nothing, then squares off with me a bit, but never says a word as I glare at her.

“That’s what I thought,” I say before dropping my arms and turning to her friend.

“I saw nothing,” her friend says, putting her hands up and dropping her gaze to the floor. I look back at Deanna, then turn and walk out of the restroom. I should have known that the conversation didn’t just come out of the blue. Of course, Christian is still standing a few feet down the hallway in the same spot where I left him.

“You don’t follow directions well, do you?” I say as I approach him. He puts his arm around my waist and pulls me in for a peck on the cheek.

“There’s still people here who don’t know who you are,” he says. “I just feel better if someone is with you until they do. I don’t want to have to break anybody’s jaw for flirting with what’s mine.” He reaches down and squeezes my ass cheek. Oh, Mr. Grey, if you only knew.

“I don’t think you have to worry about that,” I tell him. “Even if they were foolish enough to try it, they wouldn’t get anywhere. My heart belongs to you.”

“Yeah, but this body screams pleasure and I don’t want to have to kill a man for overstepping his boundaries.” He continues to fondle my ass right in the hallway and I giggle at his possessiveness and the irony of the statement, considering the conversation I just had in the ladies’ room.

“You make a girl feel like a queen,” I jest.

“That’s because you are my queen,” he responds, guiding me towards the elevators.

*-*

The meeting was in a much larger room on the 19th floor, somewhat like a small auditorium. It was very informative for me and I was able to give some good feedback on my thoughts on a few of the projects. There are a couple of others that I tuck away into my briefcase to look at a little more closely. My husband and I are temporarily separated in the room full of people and I’m talking to one of the gentlemen spearheading one of the projects that I’d like to research a bit.

Don’t ask me how, but my bitch detector goes off and I turn to my left to see Christian talking to a group of people, two of which are the two females I encountered in the ladies room. She’s standing in a circle with her friend right next to her and she’s right in Christian’s line of vision. I conclude my conversation with the gentleman I’m speaking to and walk coolly over to the circle, weaving through the crowd so as not to draw attention to myself.

“Your presentation on the Charma plan was quite informative, Mr. Grey,” the trick coos as I approach, and her friend visibly rolls her eyes. “Are you by any chance looking for a researcher on that project?” Christian raises his brow.

“The researchers are chosen by the project leaders,” he replies, impassively.

“Oh, I just thought you may be interested in this particular project having a more… personal touch,” she says. Christian’s brow furrows this time, and I know my husband. He smells the rat.

“Should I know you?” he asks, bemused.

“No, dear, you shouldn’t,” I interject, finally closing in on the circle of about eight people and standing next to him. “You see, Dana here,” I deliberately screw up her name, “was in the bathroom earlier having a conversation about how you probably haven’t had a decent blowjob since you and I have been together. And since I told her to stay the fuck away from my husband, this is her ‘game on’ move.”

I look across the circle right into her face. Her face reddens as the circle falls silent and everyone turns to her and stares incredulously.

“You’re blatantly trying to come on to me?” Christian says, coolly, “After my wife told you to stay away from me?”

“She threatened me!” Deanna says, trying to pull some sympathy.

“You’re lucky she didn’t fucking kill you!” he retorts angrily. “You talked about giving me a goddamn blowjob in front of my wife and you lived to tell the tale? I’m amazed!”

Well, she wasn’t in front of me when she said it, but that’s beside the point. I put my hand on his chest.

“Save your breath, baby,” I say. “It’s not going to do you any good. She shamelessly offered herself to you in front of…” I quickly count, “… six other people. You can’t appeal to her sense of morals or scruples or even fear. Besides, I told her that if she thought she could pull you from me to take her best shot.” Christian snaps his head to me.

“Are you insane?” he exclaims. “You can’t extend that invitation to anyone!”

“Oh, I’ll extend it to everyone simply because I know I have nothing to worry about, especially from someone who works for me…”

“I don’t work for you. I work for him,” she says confidently. I don’t turn my gaze from my husband whose face morphs into a sinister smile at the same time the corners of my mouth rise. I turn my gaze back to Deanna.

“You work. For me,” I say, with a huge Cheshire cat smile.

“Where’ve you been, Deanna?” one of the guys in the circle says. “She owns half the company.” Deanna’s face doesn’t change.

“I still don’t work for her,” Deanna says, haughtily walking away from the group. Ooooookay, bitch.

“Please excuse us,” Christian says, pulling me away from the circle. “Can someone please tell me why they blatantly do that with absolutely no consideration for the fact that I have a wife?” he laments as we walk towards the door.

“It’s not their fault, dear,” I say. “It’s you. You do that to women. You have god-like good looks that make them forget who they are, and I’m not just saying that because you’re my husband.”

“It’s just a face,” he hisses almost resentfully. I scoff.

“You think so, huh?” I ask. “Over six feet of 180 pounds of pure muscle and about 0.03% body fat walking around in 3000-dollar suits oozing money, power, and sex, and you think it’s just the face? Okay, Grey.”

“Well… when you put it that way…” He leans down and shamelessly kisses me in front of his colleagues.

“I need to run up and see Alex, then I have to get going to the Center,” I say once he breaks the kiss.

“Everything okay?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I reply. “I think I told you about Ebony Carson—perfect candidate from New York, but hiding from her ex-boyfriend…” He nods.

“Oh, yeah, I remember the story.”

“I’ve pretty much decided to offer her the position, but I just want to make sure that I’m dotting all my I’s and crossing all my T’s before I do.” He kisses me on the forehead.

“Good girl. I’ll see you at home.” He heads back into the auditorium. I feel bad, but only a little. It was just a tiny white lie. I am going to see Alex, but not about Ebony.

“Show me a picture of every Deanna, every spelling of the name, that works in this building. I don’t know her last name. I just know that she was in the R&D meeting on the 19th floor a little while ago.” Alex types into his computer, waits for a moment, then turns the screen around to me with Deanna’s ID picture on it.

“How do you do that?” I ask. “Is there only one Deanna in the building?”

“It’s what I do, and no, there are six Deanna’s in the building—different spellings—but only one was in that meeting. That’s what you get when I get good details.” I nod.

“Duly noted. I want a detailed background check on her.” Alex’s brow rises.

“May I ask why?” Alex says. “It’ll help me to focus my search on pertinent issues.”

“She’s coming on to my husband in my presence and I’m tired of him having to rescue or defend me.” There’s a moment of silence.

“Why don’t you just fire her?” he asks flatly.

“She expects that,” I respond. “Firing her would be quick and dirty—that would be too easy. I’m feeling particularly vindictive right now. If you can find dirt, weaknesses, anything that can be exploited, I would appreciate that.”

“You’re feeling a bit spiteful, I see,” he says.

“Spiteful is not the word,” I nearly hiss. “I can understand a female forgetting herself around my husband. He has that effect on women. This bitch blatantly approached him after I told her to stay the fuck away. She has effectively said, ‘So, what are you going to do about it?’ I’m going to give her an answer.” He’s quiet again.

“I’ll see what I can find,” he says.

“Thank you.” I smile at him and leave the office. This conversation reminds me that there’s one little Myshka that I’ve allowed to slip my mind while dealing with Harmony’s dilemma. I’ll need to give that matter my special attention as well.

*-*

“I’d really like to hire you, Ebony,” I say when we meet on Friday morning. “You have exquisite qualifications, but my people are cautioning me about your background… or lack thereof. I have nothing to go on. I don’t know who this guy is that you’re running from. It could be a recipe for disaster and by the same token, we could have the resources to protect you, but we have no idea what we’re up against…”

Ebony listens attentively with her eyes to the floor while I explain to her the reasons why I’m still not wholly comfortable allowing her onto the team even though I really want to. She shakes her head and I can see the defeat in her posture and in the part of her expression that I can see. I swear she looks as if she’s going to break down and cry any second.

“Happens every time,” she mumbles before she clears her throat. She rolls her eyes and sighs heavily.

“Georgio Marcosa,” she breathes as if in prayer while shaking her head. “I should probably just leave now.” The last part was whispered under her breath.

“Wait,” I say, reaching out to her, even though she hasn’t moved to leave. “Marcosa…” I begin. “Is he Italian?” She shrugs.

“I don’t know,” she says. “He says he’s a whole lotta things, but I know he’s black.”

I can see a black Georgio, but a black Marcosa? Not so much. Maybe his father was Italian or Latin or something.

“Will you give me the weekend?” I ask. “Come back and see me on Monday?” I’m not too sure she’s not just going to bolt after giving me Ge’s full name. She nods and walks out of the office. I immediately call Alex and tell him to get on finding whatever he can about this Marcosa guy. I’m almost positive that Ebony’s going to make a run for it, but I’ll prevent it if I can.

This Friday was no different than last Friday… except that Ace has the gall to text me that our session was cancelled because Amber isn’t feeling well. He did at least apologize, but a goddamn text?

Physician, heal thyself.

I’m glad to come home and see Harmony in the family room watching reruns of Game of Thrones. It’s never really been my thing, but at least she’s not locked up in her room. She looks pale and a little thin, though.

“I can’t begin to empathize with what you’re feeling right now,” I tell her. “I won’t even try to shrink you. I’ll just tell you that a facial and a massage always makes me feel better, and I happen to have a free afternoon. Would you like to go to the spa with me? It should help release some tension and… some other things.” She raises her brow.

Other things?” she says. I nod.

“A good facial and maybe a body wrap will help refresh you, and… the right pressure points, a good detox, aroma therapy, and maybe even some slight acupuncture could lead to a good cleansing cry—not a make-everything-alright cry, but a release-some-of-the-negative-energy cry… You know, from dealing with your bio-dad and the others… It’s just a sugge…”

“Lead the way,” she says, rising from the sofa.

I take her to Miana’s and inform the staff to give her whatever she wants. We sit together for a little while, through the routine stuff, but later split up for specialized treatments. I don’t really need that much since I just got the full treatment a couple of weeks ago, so I just get a facial and a pedicure while Harmony is, no doubt, getting the works. I know she has quite a bit of mourning ahead of her, but she shouldn’t look and feel like she’s going to crawl into the grave with her mother every day.

Harmony has been in the back for quite some time while I spend some time journaling on my Journey app. It looks like I may have to start looking for a new psychiatrist, but it’s something that I really can’t do right now. There’s way too much on my plate with all my responsibilities, looking out for my friends and family—there’s quite enough to do to distract me from the PTSD that has been plaguing my life. The journaling is actually working much better than I thought it would, and my family are just going to have to pick up where Ace is apparently slacking… or quitting, who knows. I really haven’t had much time to focus on my own woes. Even now, my journal is filled with…

The funeral was this weekend. That experience was unforgettable…

Harmony agreed to come with me to Miana’s for an R&R treatment—Release and Rejuvenation, that is…

I haven’t heard a peep from Marilyn about what she plans to do about the baby. Maybe she’s going to keep it after all…

I get a notification that I have a text from Mr. Filmore, the supervising guard on duty at the Franklin mansion. I swipe my screen to see the text.

**Three in custody. **

“What?” What the fuck is he talking about. As I’m about to call him to see what he’s referring to, I get two separate attachments back to back and I open them. Two pictures of three people being led away from the manor in cuffs and put into the backseat of a police car. And who are the three people?

Paige, Theo, and Damien.

“Ooohohohooo, you’re kidding me?” I laugh. I need to show Harmony, but I call Filmore first to get the details of what happened.

“Theodore Franklin showed up on Tuesday. He didn’t believe me when I told him that Ms. Franklin wasn’t home. He came back twice on Wednesday—once by himself and once with Paige Ashton. Today, we were alerted to a silent alarm being tripped by a motion detector in the basement. As there’s no one in the house, of course, we went to check it out. We detained Theodore and Damien Franklin and contacted the authorities. While we were waiting for the police, Paige Ashton was apparently hiding and attempted to escape, once again, tripping the motion detectors. She, too, was detained while we waited for the police.

“When the authorities arrived, they informed the police that this was their deceased mother’s home and they had a right to be there. I informed the police that I and my colleagues are private security employed by Christian Grey to secure the home while Ms. Franklin—the rightful owner of the house—is away. I also informed him that the current owner of the house requested that they not be present in her home without her permission as they keep harassing her and trying to get in to get the valuables. I further informed the authorities that when they were three times not allowed entrance into the home because Ms. Franklin is away, they broke in through the basement and tripped a motion detector.

“We were unable to reach Ms. Franklin, so we took the liberty of filing a police report for trespassing and for breaking and entering, and the three of them are now in the custody of the Bellevue Police Department.”

“Oh, this is classic,” I laugh heartily. “Have you already told Jason?”

“We have, ma’am,” he says.

“That means that Christian knows, then,” I chuckle. “Harmony’s fine. She’s with me. Her ringer is probably off. In fact, I’m not really sure she has her phone with her at all. No matter, I’ll tell her what happened.” It may help a bit with her relaxation.

“Yes, ma’am,” he says, and we end the call. I look at the pictures again.

Theo is hunched over, his arms cuffed behind his back. He looks to be struggling a bit and his face clearly has that “I’ll have your badge for this” look.

The red lights from the police car are shining in Damien’s face, which is sporting a pretty horrible grimace. He’s not fighting or struggling. In fact, he looks pretty comfortable in his stance—like he’s walking around examining the grounds or something. This clearly ain’t his first trip to the pokey.

Paige looks the worst. Her clothes are dirty and very crumpled from whatever method of entry they used to get into the house, or maybe even from her hiding place. Her gray hair is disheveled and looks particularly blue as it captures the reflection of the blue lights from the police car. Her face is the perfect drama sad face, only very tearstained with lots of the Tammy-Faye running mascara.

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What made them think this was a good idea? I guess the security staff is going to have to double-check whatever route or entrance they used to get into the basement. This is pretty funny, but I’ll admit, it’s pretty damn tragic, too. What were they thinking to do something like that? Were they thinking at all? The house is literally crawling with security—and if they really thought the security team was lying and that Harmony was there with all her staff, what the fuck did they expect when they got in the house? Were they going to confront her again for not letting them in? And Theo! Theo was physically thrown from the house in total sitcom fashion. What in God’s name did he expect?

I decide that a girl’s night is probably a good idea, but it should be centered around Harmony. While still pondering the prudence—or lack thereof—of Tina’s children’s and grandson’s actions, I send a text to Christian that I planned to have a few ladies over, whoever I can rustle on short notice to help Harmony out of her funk. I know Jason has probably apprised him of the goings-on at the Franklin mansion, and I want to have a little laugh at the siblings’ expense, but I can’t help but wonder where Ilsa and Jonah are. I call Filmore back.

“Just out of curiosity, have you all located Ilsa and Jonah, the other siblings?” I ask when he answers.

“Yes, ma’am,” he responds. “We’re assuming they were too feeble or otherwise unable to get into the house. They were sitting in the car at the end of the driveway—driving the getaway car, so to speak. We couldn’t really have them charged with sitting in the car or driving. They technically weren’t on the property, and they had plausible deniability concerning the intentions of the other three.”

“God,” I say shaking my head. “This is undeniably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen three adults to in my life…” Five, if I count the two in the getaway car.

“Yeah, it’s… pretty out there, considering the youngest of them is about 45 or so,” Filmore agrees.

“Thanks, Mr. Filmore,” I say ending the call once again. I look at the pictures once more, committing Paige’s face to memory so that I can recall it later when I need a laugh. I’ve been long since done with my treatments and I’m wondering what’s taking Harmony so long. There’s only so much poking, plucking, kneading, and priming they can do to one body. Just as I’m about to go to the back to see just how many treatments this girl got, she emerges from the curtained doorway and stands just beyond the opening. My eyes widen, and I’m stunned into silence. Well, almost silence.

“Wow…”

Oh, dear God, Tina would fucking kill me.


A/N: For those who don’t know, Matlock is an attorney that Andy Griffith played in his older years a while back before he passed away. Since the attorney didn’t feel the need to introduce himself, Christian is calling him “Matlock.”

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 ~~love and handcuffs