Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 6

No email this time. Still training for my promotion. I’ll post as often as 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…

Season 5 Episode 6

ANASTASIA

It’s my babies’ first birthday!

I’m walking on sunshine making mental plans for their first birthday party tomorrow. I’ve counted the guests and I’m going through my phases of Better Homes and Gardens again, only this time, it’s the birthday edition—if there is such a thing—and I’m not depressed or running from dread. I’m so filled with glee that I could just burst. There’s no GEH or Helping Hands today as I have to be sure that everything is just right for Minnie and Mikey’s birthday.

My guest list is all set—small but large for a birthday for a couple of one-year-olds, but who cares? Nothing could ruin my mood today, but surprisingly, something pretty damn morbid made it a whole lot better. The television is playing in the family room and I’m listening to the local news channel. I’m sitting at the breakfast bar working on the menu for tomorrow’s party when something on the news catches my attention.

“Within the last hour, we’ve learned that Washington State Penitentiary inmate and former Seattle socialite Elena Lincoln has suffered a massive stroke…”

I rubberneck to the television and feel my body floating into the family room. I don’t even remember getting out of my seat. I watch as a picture of an extremely much older-looking Elena Lincoln flashes across the screen. She didn’t look like that when she went in. I know she didn’t. Her natural hair had grown out, and it was brown. This woman, though she looks much older, has blonde hair… and she’s smiling… and she’s outside! And she looks like she’s wearing makeup! Where did this picture come from?

I’m pondering what the fuck is really going on in that goddamn prison when this bitch is supposed to be in maximum security and she’s able to get her hands on hair dye and makeup… and she’s fucking outside! I can’t see the surroundings behind her or if she’s wearing prison garb, so she could be in the exercise yard for all I know, but hair dye? And makeup? Tupac couldn’t even get a decent haircut when he was in jail!

I’ve missed the entire newscast lost in my wondering, and I scramble for the remote to rewind live TV. I’d die of suspense waiting for the story to come back on.

“Ana, what is it? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

I hear Gail’s voice, but I’m too focused on getting back to the story that I don’t even respond to her. I get back to the point where I see She-Thing’s picture on the screen and stop the rewind just before the story begins. I listen to the last bits of a story about the homeless people under the viaduct before the story begins to play again.

“Within the last hour, we’ve learned that Washington State Penitentiary inmate and former Seattle socialite Elena Lincoln has suffered a massive stroke. Lincoln was administered a routine flu shot when shortly thereafter, she began to show symptoms of a stroke. Prison officials indicate that Lincoln complained that she was dizzy, so she was instructed to lie down. Her symptoms became increasingly worse until she became unresponsive…”

“Is she dead?” I ask aloud. The words shocked me coming out of my mouth, but I don’t regret it. I want to know if the Pedo-Bitch is dead!

“Lincoln appears to have been in a coma since Wednesday, but has regained consciousness a short while ago…”

The Bitch is stomping her feet like Rumpelstiltskin while I attempt to appear unaffected.

“Although she is awake, Lincoln appears to have suffered extreme paralysis as a symptom of the stroke. At this time, she is unable to walk, move, or speak. There is currently no information on if the condition is permanent.”

Well, that’s something. The Bitch settles a bit.

“Questions arose as to whether Lincoln could have had an adverse reaction to the flu shot. Toxicology reports tested for the flu vaccine and revealed that she was given the same strain of the virus given to all the inmates and staff of the prison. Reports indicate that there was no way the flu shot could’ve caused a stroke.

“Lincoln will be moved to a minimum-security prison where a special team will oversee her care in hopes of a recovery.”

“She had a stroke from a flu shot?” I ask aloud.

“That’s impossible,” Grace says, and I forget that she was in the room. I look over at her.

“Not that I really care what happens to the bitch,” I tell her. “To be honest, it would have been good news had they said she was dead, but a stroke from a flu shot? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Well, they clearly said it couldn’t have been caused by the flu shot,” she replies. “It has to be coincidence. Maybe she got some really bad news, or she had high blood pressure or something. There has to be an explanation.” She shrugs.

There is.

It suddenly dawns on me—my husband’s words a few days ago when I asked how things went with Greta Ellison.

“Nobody’s dead… except the book, and it won’t be back.”

Nobody’s dead except the book, and it won’t be back. That is so ominous, but I guess he’s right. The book, indeed, will not be back.

“Damn,” I say, gazing at the television, the news moving on to another story. “Karma’s a real bitch.”

“You look relieved,” Gail says, her brow raised when I turn to look at her.

“I am,” I reply. “There’s no use in lying. That woman is pure evil, and I’m surprised that it hasn’t consumed her from the inside out well before now.” Gail twists her lips.

“You’ll get no argument from me,” she says matter-of-factly, “the bitch shot my husband.”

Once I get over the initial shock of Elena’s fate, I walk around for the rest of the day on a damn cloud. I consider whatever happened to that bitch a necessary evil. She’s one miserable person who was hell-bent on destroying the lives of potentially dozens of families. I wholeheartedly believe that the world would be a better place without her, and I don’t regret those feelings. I only regret that the stroke didn’t finish her off.

Second only to my two darling bundles of joy, it’s the best present I’ve gotten in a year.

My husband didn’t seem surprised.

“Did you hear about She-Thing?” I ask when he gets home.

“I sure did,” he says, coming into the family room as I’m decorating for the birthday party. “I wish the bitch had died.”

“I said the same thing,” I reply. “Maybe we should ease up on that before we bring some bad Karma onto ourselves. “

“No problem. I don’t want to talk about her anyway. So, a month ago, Santa Claus shit all over the house. Now, we’ve got Minnie and Mickey Mouse droppings.” I glare at him.

“First of all, you better be glad my children aren’t down here to hear you cursing or I’d find some way to make you pay for it, and I don’t mean a swear jar. Second, I’m having a great time, so don’t you come raining on my parade, Christian Grey!” I’m pointing at him with a Minnie Mouse wand made of a black glitter Minnie head with a pink glitter bow on it attached to a wooden dowel.

“Careful where you shake that thing!” he warns. “I don’t want fairy dust all over me!”

“Fuck you, Dr. Killjoy,” I declare.

“Oooh! Who needs the swear jar now?” he teases, capturing me in his arms and tickling me, his fingers madly manipulating my ribs.

“Christian, stop!” I giggle helplessly.

“What? What was that? I don’t think I heard you…”

“Stop or I’ll pee myself!” I warn. He stops tickling me and pulls me into his arms.

“Well, we don’t want that,” he says, kissing me softly.

“You seem in a better mood today,” I observe, closing my eyes as he peppers gentle kisses on my lips, my neck, and my jaw.

“It was a better day,” he says between kisses. “Somebody came in there and put the fear of God into my staff and they’ve been getting their shit together.”

“Mmm… have they now?” I say, still absorbing his tender kisses.

“Mmm-hmm,” he says, gently tasting my skin.

“Sheesh, get a room,” Jason says, coming from the mudroom and through the family room.

“We don’t need a room. We have a house,” Christian retorts, “and you’re in it.”

“Along with a very impressionable teenager,” he remarks. Oops, he’s right. Sophie should be around any minute to help me with the hors d’oeuvres and sandwich fixings for tomorrow.

“Look who’s talking,” I say as Christian releases his embrace. “You come in kissing Gail every day.” He pauses as he reaches his wife to do just that.

“I kiss her,” he concurs, “I don’t maul her in the middle of the family room. We’re not making out amongst the Disney paraphernalia. Hello, Love,” he says, turning to his wife and kissing her sweetly.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Christian says, forcefully pulling me back into his arms. “I’ll maul my wife whenever and wherever I damn well please… but I will be mindful of the teenager.” He looks at me again and pops a fast, hard kiss on my lips eliciting a giggle from me.

“So, what’s going on at the Ivory Palace?” I ask my husband. “Finney and Ros finally get their asses in gear?”

“Among other things,” he says. “Everybody’s waiting for the Queen of Hearts to come breezing into the office… ‘Off with their heads!’” he jests, still holding me close to him while ceasing his kissing. “It’s one thing to have one hardnosed boss, but two… and then whatever gets pass me or—heaven forbid—you, is now being picked up by the executive team who are also afraid of having their craniums severed.” He raises a brow.

“Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere!” I declare. “That’s all we needed in the first place. Why the fuck did I have to come down there and put some fire under these assholes? And what’s with the Queen of Hearts analogy? That woman was insane. I’m not that bad.”

Queen of Hearts

“Well, get used to it because that’s what the ‘peasants’ are calling you,” he says. “And the Queen of Hearts may have been insane, but she was powerful. Insane or not, if she said a head came off, a head came off, and you proved that by sending Mosele home for a short ‘vacation’ to ponder his position. And let’s not forget the fact that you came breezing in there that Monday morning in this fierce red dress daring someone to test you. And those who did were made quick examples—not down the line, but in that same meeting. I think these people know who their dealing with.”

“Must we refer to them as peasants?” I ask. It sounds so unpleasant and elitist.

“If they can call you ‘Queen of Hearts,’ I can call them ‘peasants.’ And trust me, they have a plethora of unsightly names for me, so I’m being kind.”

Jesus, I would prefer not to have the company have the us/them mentality, but unfortunately, it looks like it may be what we need to get things done.

“Speaking of the executive team, how’s Ros doing with her dilemma?” I ask.

“I have no idea,” he tells me. “I don’t want to be in her personal life that way. While I truly do sympathize with her familial woes, I’m sure that I would prefer not to be in her proverbial bedroom that way. I can’t empathize with her at all because she made a vow to one woman when her heart was with someone else. I can’t speak to what she should have done or what she should do now. I can only say that it’s not my arena.”

I try not to frown. Ros is his second in command, so he very well should be concerned about her familial woes. However, I guess as the psychiatrist between us, I’m going to have to keep an eye on the situation myself. However, his reaction—though very calm and PC—is not getting past me.

“What?” he asks, obviously noting my contemplation.

“You have some very distinct opinions about this,” I say. He raises a brow. “I live with you. I’m married to you. I fuck you. I can read between the lines,” I say, answering his unasked question. He adjusts his posture, about to make a point.

“I can clearly say that’s something that I would never do,” he says. “When I asked you to marry me, that’s where I wanted to be. I had the choice to stay in my lifestyle and be with whomever I chose whenever I chose—that’s not what I wanted. I wanted you. I want you. So, the concept of wanting someone else after I said that I wanted you is something I can’t fathom. But you…”

He pauses. What the fuck? What about me?

“I’m with you. I love you. I know you well enough to know that this is where you want to be. That whole Westwood bullshit was a blip in the radar for a few different reasons, but I know this is where you want to be. The thought that you would marry me while you still had unclear feelings for someone else only to have those feelings resurface years after we said our vows—I would be murderous. I wouldn’t even know how to handle that.

“So, right now, while I am concerned about Ros, I have to compartmentalize this whole thing. What she did was selfish and cruel, and now she’s trying to find the easiest way out of the situation she created. She totally created this monsoon, and now she’s trying to get out of it without getting wet. And where the fuck does that leave Gwen?”

He’s beginning to get angry, but I can see him visibly trying to shake off his anger with Ros.

“I see,” I say, calmly. “So, your empathy strikes again, but this time, it’s striking with Gwen. How does that feel?”

He raises his gaze to me and I’m looking at him with soft but inquisitive eyes, nothing confrontational. He couldn’t empathize with Ros because he would never do that. The only thing that he could do is put himself in Gwen’s shoes, and it’s infuriating him.

“Pretty pissed off,” he says, his voice calmer, “which is why I can’t talk to her about it. When her personal shit interfered with her job, I got involved. Where it doesn’t interfere with her job, I’m out of it.” He shakes his head. I nod and put my hand on his cheek.

“I think that’s best,” I tell him. “I’ll handle it. Like you said, as long as she does her job, right?” He closes his eyes and nods, leaning into my hand.

“Thank you for not getting mad,” he says. I scoff a laugh.

“You almost had me for a minute there, Grey, but luckily, I learned to listen,” I say with a wink and a smile. We hear the clearing of someone’s throat, and we turn to see Marilyn standing there.

“Um, I hope I’m not disturbing you,” she says. Christian laughs. I turn to him.

“What?” I ask.

“She just did a ‘Jason,’” he says with mirth. My brow furrows.

“A ‘Jason?’” I ask. Christian cocks his head at me.

“If we’re in the midst of a conversation—or anything else—when Jason walks into the room, what does he do to get my attention?” I roll my eyes.

“You mean besides tell us to get a room?” I say, turning to Marilyn. “You’re not interrupting, Mare, what’s up?”

“I got a call from Alex. He said he tried to call you twice but no luck.” I begin looking around for my phone. Where is my phone?

“Hell, I don’t know where my phone is. Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. He said that you were looking for a final background check on Jade Goldwin. He emailed it to you,” she says. Oh, yeah, her.

“Thanks, Mare. Did he say that there was anything to be concerned about?”

“Not to me,” she says with a shrug. “I would think if there was cause for concern, he’d ask me to get you to the phone, so I would say not.” I nod.

“I agree, but I’ll look at it anyway,” I say. She nods and smiles before heading back off towards the elevator.

“Jesus, has she lost more weight?” I was hoping he wouldn’t notice that, but she has. My silence is enough for him. “Butterfly, this is not good. She’s really going to hurt herself if she doesn’t stop this!”

“I know, I know,” I lament. “I’m the doctor, remember?” He gazes at me for a moment.

“Her parents aren’t here,” he says, firmly. “She doesn’t have a significant other anymore. I hate to do this, but it’s you, baby. It’s all you.” I roll my eyes.

“I know, Christian, I’m just trying not to ambush the girl right now…”

“You may not have a choice. She’s slowly killing herself!”

“She just got back…” I excuse.

“Nearly three weeks ago!” he counters. I deflate. He’s right. She needs to eat.

“I’ll talk to her,” I say.

“You may need to do more than that,” he cautions.

“Like what?” I recounter.

“I don’t know, but you may need to do more than that! This is serious! She’s really hurting herself right now.”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” I say, hoping to halt the conversation. Jesus, I’m not the one starving myself for crying out loud. I just have to figure out what to do.

“So…” he says, stalling, “what’s with this Jade Goldwin?” Holy cow, that’s the way to change gears.

“She’s coming to the party,” I tell him. “She’s in Maxie and Mindy’s Mommy and Me class, and she has a son the same age as Mindy. I just wanted to vet her before she came to my house and head her off if necessary.”

“Oh? How did you meet her?” he asks. Now he’s interested. Good grief.

“Maxie and I were shopping, and we bumped into her at the Marketplace.” He nods. I know he wants more information. I roll my eyes for the umpteenth time. Where the hell is my phone?

“Keep doing that and they might get stuck that way,” he says, swiping his phone and touching the screen. I’m about to roll my eyes at him again when I hear the muffled sound of our song playing. I look around and back at him, and he’s holding his phone up, showing me that he’s calling me. Where the fuck is my phone?

It goes to voicemail and he calls it again… and again. It took four times for me to find the damn thing between the sofa cushions. How the hell did it get there?

I swipe the screen and the battery is nearly dead. It’s a good thing I found it, or I may have never found it.

“Don’t you have a case or a clip or something for that?” he asks.

“No, Mr. Grey, I keep it in my purse, and I didn’t go anywhere today!” I snap.

“Touchy,” he teases.

“Annoying,” I counter in the same sing-songy voice. I open my email and click on the pdf attached.

“Yeah, she’s Jane Q. Housewife,” I say, scrolling through the document. “Twenty-nine, married, four boys just like Maxie said.”

“And her husband?” Christian asks.

“Sells insurance for a local company,” I tell him. “Small beans.” He nods.

“Who’s coming?” he asks.

“Just Jade and her youngest,” I say, closing my phone. “Maxie vouches for her, so she can’t be all bad.”

“Who all is coming?” he asks.

“All the grandparents, the godparents—Mia bowed out this time, the Scooby Gang… except for Gary, Luma and Herman and the girls, Marlow’s bringing Maggie and probably a date…” Sophie will love that, “… and our newest guest Jade and her little boy, English.”

“English?” Christian says in horror.

“I didn’t name the kid,” I say, with a shrug.

“Dear Lord,” Christian says. “That poor kid is going to be teased incessantly.”

“You don’t know that, Christian,” I scold.

“Baby, I’ve traveled the world and I’ve never met anybody anywhere named English,” he points out.

“Okay, so he has a unique name,” I argue, “It’s not wild or crazy, like Fallopion or something. It’s just different.”

“You’re so sweet,” he says, stroking my cheek. “He’s going to get teased. Whoever came up with that name, that’s grounds for divorce.” I gape at him.

“You’re kidding, right?” I ask in horror. He raises a brow.

“Am I?” he asks, impassively.

“You’re saying that when we have another kid, if for some reason you’re indisposed and I come up with a name that you don’t like, you’ll divorce me?” My voice rises to a squeak on the last two words and I think hearing it come out of my mouth makes him realize just how ridiculous he sounds.

“Well, no, but you wouldn’t name our child something ridiculous like English!” he quips.

“And what if I did?” I say, putting my hands on my hips.

“Then there would definitely be some papers filed somewhere,” he says, “maybe not for divorce, but we would be changing that kid’s name. And anyway, it’s a moot point because we sat down and picked our children’s names together, months before they were born. So, why are we arguing about a kid who isn’t even ours?”

I twist my lips and fold my arms. The argument does seem a tad ridiculous.

“You were the one who started talking about divorce,” I pout.

“Yeah, and you were the one to actually take it literally,” he retorts. “Divorce you? Over a name, even? Seriously?” Asshole.

“Be useful and grab that garland,” I pout.

“Hey, wait, I’m not getting roped into decorating,” he protests.

“Oh, yes, you are!” I whirl around on him. “You came in here pissing on my happy place then we’re talking about everything from Elena to Queen of Hearts to Ros to Westwood to Marilyn to some random kid named English to divorce and dammit I want my happy place back!” I say the entire sentence without breathing and he just gazes at me.

“I got your happy place right here,” he remarks, matter-of-factly and I roll my eyes for the 101st time today.

“Grab the damn garland, Christian.”

*-*

It’s Saturday, the day that we meet with Artemis and Savvina, but that’s not until much later. Right now, Minnie and Mickey Mouse decorations are exploding all over my dining room and family room much like yuletide exploded all over my house for Christmas. I’m definitely in the mood to celebrate.

There are two giant Number One balloons to greet you at the door. One has a Mickey Mouse head and the other, a Minnie Mouse head. There’s also a Minnie and Mickey sign that reads, “Welcome to the birthday clubhouse.” Once they don their Minnie or Mickey Mouse party hats, the kids get to munch on “Daisy’s garden vegetables,” “Goofy grapes,” or various melons cut in the shape of Mickey’s head and garnished with blueberries and pineapple. There’s always a way to get kids to eat healthy if you make it fun.

They also get to build ham and turkey sandwiches out of bread, turkey, ham, and cheese all cut in the shape of Mickey’s head with choices of lettuce, tomato, pickles, and condiments as well—or they can choose to have Mickey shaped chicken nuggets or a hot dog from the “Hot Diggity Dog” bar. There are games and bubbles and prizes to keep them occupied, but let’s face it—who’s not going to have fun in Mickey Mouse land?

I was smart enough to know that “Hot Diggity” dogs and chicken nuggets wouldn’t cut it for the parents. So, we have the option of what I call “Chicken Bacon Crack Pinwheels,” Rueben pinwheels, quinoa salad, and seven-layer dip, along with the aforementioned fruits and vegetables. The drinks were either “Pirate Punch” or “Sea Water” from the Pirate Mickey drink bar, and various Mickey and Minnie Mouse cupcakes are spread around the house, along with the Mickey/Minnie birthday cake on the kitchen counter.

Sophie has help me with most of the same-day preparation, like she always does. She wants to be a chef or a caterer, and she loves preparing the food and decorating the house. She’s so grown up for her age that I’m a little afraid that she might be missing her childhood. With a mother like Shalane, though, she’s probably already missed it. She’s seen too much for her age, and once you see certain things, you just can’t unsee them.

Sophie shed her purple tresses shortly after her last altercation with Marlow’s most recent date on Christmas, and after a visit to Miana’s, Jason is glad to see her enter with shiny, beautiful, billowing blonde waves. She actually looks a little older, but it’s most likely because that purple hair made her look so much younger to me.

She gleefully helps me finish setting up for the twins’ party which, as we all know, is really a celebration for the parents, but I don’t care. My little brother will be here. Max is bringing Mindy and I even told her that she was clear to bring Jade to the party since they’re such good friends. I should definitely get to know her if they’re that close.

Celida and Mariah will be here. At the tender age of 6 and 8, they love parties for whatever reason. Maggie’s coming, too. I don’t know if Marlow will be bringing a date this time, but I almost wish that he wouldn’t. It usually ends miserably for him and for Sophie. Until she gets over this crush that she has on him, she’s not going to behave. She’s a woman scorned at 13, and most women scorned don’t even know how to behave as adults!

Mia has decided to sit this one out, but the grandparents and godparents will be here, and of course, our resident waif, Marilyn. I hope I can get her to eat some cake or something before Christian declares martial fucking law!

The guests are now arriving and surprisingly, Maxie, Phil, and Jade arrive before Al.

“Forgive me,” Jade begins, “if I seem a little out of place today. I can’t believe I’m here—this place is absolutely astonishing. And the decorations—dear God! Did you do this all yourself or did you have help?”

“Well, both, actually. I did it myself, but I had a little help, too. My biggest helper was this young lady right here…” I snag Sophie as she’s walking by. “This is my resident party helper, Sophia. Sophie, this is Jade, and you know Maxie and Phil.”

Sophie smiles and waves shyly.

“Hi,” she says sweetly.

“Hi, Sophia,” Jade says, “or do you prefer Sophie?”

“Sophie’s fine,” she says. Jade smiles.

“This is my son, English,” she says. English is older than the twins, but he manages a smile and a wave from his mother’s arms.

“English,” Sophie says, as if testing the word, “I’ve never heard of that as a name before.”

“He’s named after his paternal grandfather,” she says. “My husband insisted.”

“Oh,” I say, “so it’s a family name.” She nods.

“I would have chosen something normal, like Chad, or Blake, or Worcestershire,” she says, rolling her eyes, and I know the last one was a joke, but with a name like English, you can’t be too sure.

“It’s unusual,” I say, “but it’s nice.”

“Thank you,” she says. “It does sound distinguished at the very least.” I see my husband and decide to poke a little fun at him.

“Christian, come, meet our guest,” I say loudly so that he can’t ignore me or try to get away. He raises his brow at me because he knows what I’m doing, but I don’t care.

“This was my other helper,” I say to Jade when he comes over to us. “He hung a piece of garland or three.”

“A piece of…” My husband trails off in mock horror and I pretend to ignore him.

“Christian, this is Jade and her son, English,” I say, introducing them.

“It’s very nice to meet you,” he says with a nod of his head.

“Likewise. Thank you for having me,” Jade replies cordially.

English is an unusual name, isn’t it, Christian?” My husband throws a side gaze at me. “It’s a family name,” I tell him. “He’s named after his grandfather.” Still grounds for a divorce, Sir?

“Is that so?” Christian says. “Tell me, what is the origin of that name.”

“I have no idea,” Jade says. “As ridiculous as it sounds, I’m assuming it’s English! I can’t even derive a nickname from that, so I just call him Eddie.

My knees buckle and I’m literally choking on nothing. Christian catches me as I’m going down and makes an excuse to get me away from Jade. He takes me over to the pirate bar and I sit down.

“I’m fine. I’m fine. I just wasn’t ready. It caught me off guard,” I excuse.

“Okay, so you can just sit here until you’re back on guard,” he says, kneeling in front of me.

“Really, Christian, I’m fine,” I assure him. “That’s just the last name I expected to hear at my children’s birthday party.”

“Well, maybe Maxine should tell her friends to do some homework before she brings them around,” he states.

“Oh, please,” I lament, “aren’t I considered enough of a prima donna to the public without people having to know my life history before they visit me? Besides, what would we do, tell her to change her son’s nickname because of my ex-boyfriend? Just let it go.”

I raise my head just in time to see Maggie giggling with Sophie, and a few moments later, Marlow enters… with a date, and not the girl from Christmas. Jesus, what was that, a month ago?

“You may need to talk to him,” I say to Christian while gesturing to Marlow. He looks over his shoulder at Marlow, then back at me.

“What?” he asks

“The girls,” I whisper harshly. “He brings a different girl to every event.”

“He’s young, Butterfly,” he excuses. “He’s not attached to anybody and I know he practices safe sex.” I know that too, but…

“He brought one girl to Mia’s wedding in September; another one to Thanksgiving; another one to Christmas; and now another one to the twins’ birthday. That’s four girls in five months! You don’t see anything wrong with that?” Besides the fact that it’s totally tormenting Sophie, it just doesn’t look good… and it’s not smart!

“He’s a young boy sowing his oats like young boys do. He’s no dummy. He won’t get caught up in a bad situation. I don’t see the problem.” I cock my head at him.

“Oh? So, if Michael brings a string of girls home from the ages of 15 to 18, you wouldn’t have a problem with that?” I ask.

“No,” he says matter-of-factly. Is that so, Mr. Grey? I fold my arms and square off.

“And if Mackenzie brings home a string of boyfriends?” I say, and just let the words hang in the air. His face blanches and he begins to look a little ill.

Mm-hmm, that’s what I thought. What’s good for the goose is going to be good for the gander in this house, Grey. So, if you don’t want to see your little princess doing it, don’t think I’m going to allow little Master Grey to get away with it either.

“Talk to him,” I say, firmly before rising from the breakfast bar and going back to the dining room.

I greet my guests and assure everyone that I’m okay, chalking my coughing spell up to an unexpected bout with my own saliva. Marlow introduces me to his date—Tasha, I think her name is. It doesn’t matter. I’m sure that I won’t see her again after today.

Sophie and Maggie have taken to getting the children situated and playing “Pin the bow on Minnie” when Al finally decides to grace us with his presence.

“Sorry we’re late,” he says, and that’s all he gives me by way of an explanation, not that I need one. He and James are both as loose as a noodle and look like fresh, new daisies. I’m sure sex was involved.

“You nearly missed your godchildren’s party, you sex fiend,” I say, my voice low.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” he says waving me off. “You haven’t even opened presents yet.” I roll my eyes. “Who’s the bird with Maxie?”

“That’s Jade,” I tell him. “She’s in a Mommy and Me class with Maxie, which they probably had to miss to come to this party.” He looks at me.

“You sound a little snippy,” he observes. I glare at him.

“Jealous,” I say, honestly. “Maxie got married before me; had her baby before me; and now she’s moving on to new friends without me. Yeah, I’d say I’m just a little snippy.” I look over at Jade and Maxie having a conversation with Val.

“Jade calls her Max,” I say with disdain. “Her son’s name is English.” Al frowns.

“English? That’s his name?” he asks. I nod. “That’s odd. Where did that come from?”

“Apparently, it’s a family name. And get this, his nickname is Eddie.” Al literally winces at the mention of the name. “Yeah, my sentiments exactly, only a little more graphic.”

“Well, she seems like a nice enough person,” he says.

“She is,” I admit. “I just resent the fact that she’s apparently taking my place.” Al scoffs.

“Darling Jewel, she may be friends with our Maxine, but trust me—nobody can replace you.” He puts his hand on my shoulder.

“You’re sweet,” I tell him as we go to join the party.

Everything is going well, and the children are having a really good time playing games, opening prizes, and blowing bubbles. I’m with Minnie most of the day, standing her on her feet and coaxing her to walk with me, which she does. She’s doing very well keeping her balance and standing for several moments until she realizes that she’s standing, or she moves too fast to get to some new toy or adventure. Then she’s back on her hands and knees again. I think it’s adorable and, sure enough, after a few hours of guidance, she’s toddling around more than she’s crawling. Christian gets a few videos on his phone since I’m detained with entertaining. We’re just finishing singing “Happy Birthday” to the twins and I’m cutting and serving cake when I hear it.

“Is constantly twirling your hair an art form or can anybody do it?”

Oh, dear God. I raise my gaze to see Sophie, once again, facing off with Marlow and his date. Tasha looks at Sophie, appalled.

“Is this little brat talking to me?” she asks Marlow while pointing at Sophie. Marlow appears to be trying to smooth things over while Sophie stands there looking like she had nothing to do with Tasha’s current mood.

“No, Marlow! Does she speak to any other adult in this room that way?” Tasha shoots. I know what that means. Marlow is 17, so this girl is probably 18, and by pointing out that she’s an adult, she most likely just turned 18 and she’s smelling her adultness. I sigh.

“Nice one, Sophie,” I lament quietly.

“I don’t care,” I hear Tasha say. “In our house, children know to stay in a child’s place. Someone apparently forgot to teach her that!” She is furious. She throws a murderous look at Sophie and walks away.

“Seriously, Sophie?” Marlow hisses. “Jesus Christ, what’s going on with you?” and now, he’s livid, too as he goes after Tasha. I take this opportunity to make my way over to Sophie.

“Sophia!” I say quietly, “seriously, you’re going to have to stop this. Marlow is going to despise you if you keep this up.”

“I wasn’t trying to tease her,” she excuses, “it just slipped out. She stood there the entire time twirling her hair around her finger. Jesus, is she that flighty or is it a nervous tick?”

“And if it wasn’t her hair, it would be her shoes, or her dress, or her voice. This is getting out of hand!”

“What does it matter what I say?” she says. “He still going to do her.”

“Sophie!” I exclaim appalled.

“They’re so obvious! How can he not see it?” My question is how can you see it so clearly? “How can he even like these girls? They’re scatterbrains. They have the attention span of a goldfish. None of them even show up again after the first time!”

That’s what I said, but that could have a lot to do with you.

“Well, for whatever reason he likes them, he likes them, and you’re going to have to stop being rude to them. For one thing, it’s not very ladylike at all. And for another thing, I defended you when that girl passively aggressively insulted you at Mia’s wedding. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see how she made you feel although Marlow was clueless. What ground do I have to stand on right now when you’re behaving the same way she did? And third, and most important…” I put my hand on her shoulder and hold her gaze.

“I’m very fond of you, Sophie,” I say. “I consider us good friends, but I don’t like for anyone to insult the guests that come to my home and you do that repeatedly with Marlow’s dates. If they lash out at you first, I completely understand your need to defend yourself. But when you say disparaging things against them for no reason, that’s unacceptable behavior, Sophie.”

This is the first time that I’ve had to scold Sophie and I really don’t like it, but it’s necessary. She shrinks a bit as my words sink in.

“I really didn’t think about it that way,” she says. “I still think they’re flighty little thots, but I don’t want to make you guys look bad. I’m sorry, Ana.” I nod.

“You might want to apologize to Marlow and his date,” I tell her. She grimaces.

“I can’t do that,” she squeals quietly. “He already hates me, and I couldn’t face him right now… or her. Please don’t make me do that I’ll die!” She says the last part all in one breath, and I really believe she would just keel over and die if she had to face Marlow right now.

“Well, I can’t and won’t force you to do anything, Sophie, but you might want to think about your behavior and what damage has already been done.” She sighs heavily as if I’ve just pardoned her from the death penalty.

“Sophia!”

I discover that I may have spoken too soon. Gail’s voice interrupts our conversation and she is none too happy as she comes marching over to us.

“Sophia, is it true that you said something unkind to Marlow’s date?” Gail accuses. Sophie’s mouth falls open and she looks in horror over at Marlow. When I glance at him, he and his date are looking in our direction like they’re waiting for the ax to fall. Oh, this is just great.

“I can’t believe it,” Sophie says incredulously, her voice three octaves higher than normal. “He snitched on me?”

“So, that means that it’s true,” Gail accuses, a statement not a question.

“I was just kidding around, Momma Gail,” Sophie excuses. “It’s not my fault she can’t take a joke.”

“That’s because she didn’t find it funny,” Gail says. “You can’t say mean things about people and think it’s okay. It’s very unbecoming, and you owe them an apology. You march over there right now and apologize.”

As if Sophie’s face could show any more horror, she glares over at Marlow and his date then turns her gaze back to Gail.

“No,” she says, calmly, her voice resolute. You could knock Gail over with a feather right now.

“Excuse me, young lady?” Gail says in disbelief.

“I’m sorry, Momma Gail, but I’m not going to apologize. He already won. He snitched on me for hurting his girlfriend’s feelings, and now they’re staring at me waiting to see what kind of trouble I’m going to get in. So, he won. I’m in trouble, I already know it, but I’m not going to apologize.”

Sophie stands firm on that sinking boat that she’s not going to apologize. To already be convicted of the crime, she pled her case very well for a 13-year-old kid. Right now, Sophie would rather run naked down the I-5 than to go over there and apologize to Marlow and that girl. Gail looks at her stepdaughter and knows that it’s a lost cause to try to make her apologize.

“The party is over for you, young lady,” Gail says firmly. “Go to your apartment. You’re grounded for the rest of the weekend.” Shit, there goes my helper.

“Yes, ma’am,” Sophie says dutifully, and marches past Gail without looking back at me or at Marlow and his date. I roll my eyes before Gail turns around to look at me.

“What?” she says. “She was wrong. She’s going to turn out to be a bully if we don’t nip this in the bud.”

“I highly doubt that,” I say, “but don’t be too hard on her. You know, teenage angst, sibling rivalry… She was probably just giving her ‘brother’s’ date a hard time, nothing more.” I do the finger quotes around the word brother knowing damn well that it’s more than that, but she’s not a bully. She’s lashing out because she’s jealous.

“I don’t know,” Gail sighs. “I hope you’re right.” She walks over to Marlow and his date and says something to them. I turn away and head over to the food table. I can’t help but empathize with Sophie again. Even though she was clearly wrong, he told Mommy on her. There’s no better or more thorough way to drive home the fact that he looks at her as nothing more than a child than to tell Mommy that she said something wrong. There’s no way in hell Sophie was going to apologize after that. She’ll most likely gladly take the grounding and hide under her bed for the next two days.

“Trouble in the happiest place on earth?” My husband’s voice breaks me out of my thought process as I fill my plate with a few pinwheels.

“I just lost my party helper,” I say, taking another pinwheel. “Sophie was poking fun at Marlow’s date, something about twirling her hair on her fingers, and Marlow didn’t like it. Apparently, he told Gail and now Sophie’s grounded.” Christian frowns.

“He snitched on her?” he says. I raise a shocked gaze at him.

“That’s exactly what she said!” I say, surprised.

“Well, yeah, me and Mia used to do shit like that to each other all the time—me and Elliot, too—but we didn’t snitch on each other.” I smile and shake my head.

“I think it might be a different dynamic here, Christian,” I say before I realize that I’m saying too much.

“How so?” he asks, and before I get the chance to trip over my tongue, he continues. “He considers her a little sister and that’s just how she’s acting, like a bratty little sister trying to embarrass him in front of a girl. But hell, he snitched. He broke the sibling code.” I frown.

“There’s a sibling code?” I ask incredulously.

“Well, apparently not with him,” Christian says. “I know there are some siblings who’ll squeal if you left the top off the mustard, but in our family, Vegas rules applied—what happened outside of Mom and Dad’s knowledge stayed outside of Mom and Dad’s knowledge.”

Well, that’s scary. Stuff was going on right under their nose and they didn’t know it. That’s probably why Pedo-Bitch could so easily get to Christian and almost to Elliot. Everything was so hush-hush.

At this point, I don’t know who’s side I’m on.

“Yeah, well, I’d say the lines are drawn in the sand now,” I say, eating a pinwheel.

“I’d say you’re right,” my husband concurs.


CHRISTIAN

“When you are in a submissive role, your duty is to serve. However, it cannot only be your duty. It must be your desire. You cannot force this relationship–it has to be something that you want… crave or desire, even. Some soumises are born, some are cultivated. Either is fine, but this must be something that you want to do for yourself, or you’re wasting your time.”

Pussycat and I are sitting in our mentors’ den. The sessions with them and our attendance at the Munches have been highly rewarding and very informative. Pussycat has done lots of research on her own along with several assignments given to her from Savvina. She has brought several questions to our sessions, and today’s question has to do with tasks.

Tasks are generally set in a 24/7 D/s relationship, which ours is not. However, Pussycat points out that she can see how having a task or even several tasks would help her to maintain a submissive mindset. It doesn’t mean that she is releasing any of her independence. It just means that she’s acknowledging that I’m her Dominus and she, my soumise—and that in that role, she has the attitude of service, which is why Savvina is speaking on the duty of a soumise to serve.

“Service is a relative term,” Savvina continues. “It may mean that you perform direct duties required by your Dominus or it may not. It may also mean that you make yourself available for what he needs, or that you assist him with a skill or ability that he may not have. The possibilities are endless, and the two of you will set the guidelines for how you will serve him or what your specific tasks will be, if any.” Pussycat looks at me.

“Are there any specific tasks that come to mind that you think you may require of me?” she inquires. I ponder for a moment.

“None come to mind immediately,” I admit, “but I’m certain that we’ll come up with something.”

As we’re speaking, the coffee service arrives and is placed on the table in front of us. Savvina dutifully prepares two cups of coffee—one for Artemis, and then one for herself. She prepares Artemis’s cup with cream and sugar, and then her own before she sits back to enjoy the coffee. Pussycat’s and my cup remain empty.

I immediately see this as a test from our mentor if Pussycat is willing to serve—literally, although I’m not sure this is what she meant when she asked about tasks and service.

Noting that Savvina didn’t pour any coffee for us, Pussycat pauses only for a moment before retrieving the silver coffee pot and pouring a small amount into her cup. She replaces the coffee pot and takes a sip of the coffee. Then she retrieves the coffee pot again and fills my cup nearly to the brim. She adds a bit of cream and sugar before stirring it and handing me the cup and saucer, which I graciously accept. She then prepares her own cup and relaxes in her seat to enjoy her coffee.

“Why did you pour your cup first?” Savvina asks.

“I didn’t pour my ‘cup’ first. I poured a tasting in my cup,” Pussycat responds.

“And why would you do that?” Savvina asks. “Why would you pour coffee for yourself before pouring coffee for your Dominus?”

“Because I didn’t make the coffee, and it wasn’t made in my home,” she says. “How he takes his coffee is dependent on the brew, so I had to taste it to know what to put in it.” Savvina raises a brow and looks at me.

“Does she normally serve your coffee at home?” Savvina asks.

“Never,” I reply. “As of late, I’ve been leaving the house very early–before she wakes. It’s not something that I require her to do. Our staff makes sure that the coffee is prepared before either of us wakes. I sometimes leave so early that I just get coffee at the office.”

“How do you know how he takes his coffee if he’s never home or you’re not awake when he drinks it?” Savvina asks Pussycat, and she’s at a loss for words. If I didn’t know better, I would swear that she was affronted.

“If you are serving your Dominus, you should never drink or eat before he does,” Savvina says, and crosses her legs definitively. Pussycat is silent for a moment, her brow furrowed, and just as Savvina begins to speak again, she interjects.

“I disagree,” she says, crossing her legs as well. Savvina’s brow rises again.

“And why is that?” she prompts Pussycat.

“If I make my own coffee, then I want it strong and black. If he drinks my coffee, he wants it black, too. It’s been that way since the first cup of coffee he drank at my apartment more than two years ago. Coffee in restaurants or at the office are a good, robust blend, but not as strong as mine—as is the coffee made by my staff at home. In that case, he’ll take a little creamer, but not sugar. Designer coffees usually have a flavor of their own, so he won’t take anything in those either, unless he opts for a shot of espresso. If coffee is particularly weak, it’s nothing but English tea to his palette. So, he takes it with cream and sugar. So, I beg to differ with you, because if it’s coming from a strange pot, unless he’s pouring his own coffee, I don’t know what’s in the pot. So, I have to taste it before I serve him.”

Touché.

“Well,” Savvina says, “The teacher has been duly chastised.” She takes a sip of her coffee. “This is a perfect example of service being a relative term and the two of you setting your own guidelines for your definition of service. You came to me with a question about tasks and service, and you ended up educating me on one of the most important aspect of the D/s relationship—that it’s totally a la carte, and that each couple writes their own rules and guidelines for their relationship.” She turns to me. “You should be proud.”

I look at Pussycat, who’s unsuccessfully resisting the urge to smile. I reach over, take her free hand, and kiss it gently.

I am, very proud.

*-*

“I’m going to stop breastfeeding.”

I’m shocked to hear this announcement come from my wife as we’re riding into GEH on Monday morning. She lives to breastfeed our children and now she wants to stop?

“May I ask why?” I probe. She drops her gaze.

“There are so many reasons to stop,” she admits. “I’m more active outside of the home, with GEH and all, and even without GEH, I’m going to be more active with Helping Hands. We’re going to Vegas in a week and we don’t know how long we’re going to be there. I can’t go to the bathroom and pump every few hours and I don’t want to risk leaking all over my clothes. Most importantly, our children are drinking out of sippy cups and eating solid food. They just turned a year old. It’s time.” I twist my lips.

“You don’t seem too happy about it,” I tell her. She sighs. Breast-feeding was how and when she bonded most with the children. Now, she’s not going to be doing it anymore.

“We all have to be weened in one way or another,” she says with a shrug. “We might as well start doing it now before I start suffering from separation anxiety.” I take her hand and kiss it gently.

“I’ll be here for you,” I say. “And if I’m honest, I’m being a little selfish, too. Watching that nectar drip from your breast when you’re full and you come is very sexy.” That elicits a giggle from her.

“I know. I guess we’ll just have to ween you, too.”

I try not to stare at Marilyn throughout the morning, but she’s getting thinner and thinner and it’s not looking good on her. When she catches me staring at her, I ask her for a moment of her time.

“You’re going to Las Vegas with us, right?” I ask.

“That’s my understanding,” she replies.

“You know Las Vegas has some of the best cuisine in the country,” I inform her. “World-renowned chefs have restaurants there in some of the casinos and hotels. Have you possibly thought about which ones you may want to visit?” She sighs and rolls her eyes.

“I hadn’t given it any thought,” she says, her voice a bit perturbed, but I don’t allow it to sway me.

“Butterfly and I are hoping to go to Americana one night while we’re there. You’re welcome to come. I hear the food is exquisite…”

“I know what you’re doing, Christian,” she says. “You haven’t talked about any of the shows, none of the sights, not the nightlife or even the spas. You’re only talking about the food.” I purse my lips.

“I’ve known you as long as I’ve known my wife,” I say. “I’ve never seen you this thin… and you’ve gotten thinner just over the last couple of weeks. You barely touch your food at dinner if you eat anything at all and I have no idea what you’re eating throughout the day. You’re fading away in front of us…”

Marilyn hugs her iPad to her body like a shy schoolgirl as I drone on about eating and meals, and I get the feeling that I’ve lost her, so I stop talking.

“I’m not trying to preach to you,” I say, softening my voice. “That’s the very last thing I’m trying to do. I just don’t want to see you cause undue harm to yourself.”

She nods, and a single tear falls down her cheek. Shit.

“I’m sorry if I spoke out of place or if anything I said offended you,” I add.

She nods again, but doesn’t raise her head.

“Can I get you anything?” I ask.

“I just need to go to the restroom,” she says, her voice small.

“Yes, of course, by all means…”

She’s out of the office before the words are out of my mouth. My en suite would’ve given her more privacy, but I get the feeling that she wants to be as far away from me as possible. She brushes past the reception desk and nearly runs into Butterfly on her way to… the restroom.

“Mare?” Butterfly calls after her, but she continues her bolt down the hallway. Butterfly turns to me and storms into my office.

“What did you say to her?” she demands, Momma-Bear loins girded for battle. I roll my eyes and thrust my hands into my hair.

“I didn’t say anything wrong,” I say, my voice squeaky as I explain myself to Mistress. “I just informed her that Vegas has a lot of good cuisine and world-renowned chefs and that she was free to try any of them. I just thought that something may awaken her palette again and encourage her to eat.” Mistress deflates immediately.

“Oh… that,” she says, her voice somewhat small as she falls onto my sofa. “I don’t know what to do, Christian. I know this isn’t good for her. I can’t force feed her, but she’s got to stop this.”

“At the risk of sounding insensitive,” I say, sitting down next to my wife, “she’s going to have to address this before she gets on that plane. She’s going on this trip in an official capacity. She’s flying on a GEH jet, and she’s staying on a GEH dime. There’s all kinds of liability involved if something happens to her while she’s on this trip. Though it was small, she had a medical procedure two months ago and she’s not looking well at all. She needs to be medically cleared to travel, not to mention her doctor needs to see what’s become of her.”

“Don’t you think that may be a bit drastic?” she replies. I can’t even find the words to respond to that. My face must display utter horror as I scoff and gesture wordlessly to the door that Marilyn just hastily exited.

“Alright, alright,” she says, raising her hands in surrender. “You’re right. I’ll talk to her. I’ll get it done.” I lean over and kiss her.

“It’s for her own good, Butterfly,” I say. She drops her head and worries her scar.

“I know,” she says, her voice full of defeat.

Son of a bitch, where the hell is Garrett? The girl could die, and he wouldn’t even know. Would he even care? He’s a real fucking prince among men, I swear!


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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey, Continued: Season 5 Episode 4

So, this is what my weekend looked like.

I’ve always known that if you’re staying in someone else’s house, you must live by their rules. If you break one of their rules—even if you don’t know you broke it—they can fuck up your whole world.

I had to work yesterday, but I’ve been working on Season 5 as I move along. I’ve been having a “Mommy” weekend (as in “I miss my Mommy”), and writing has been helping me through it. Imagine my horror when I woke up Saturday and discovered…

MY PINTEREST PAGE HAS BEEN SUSPENDED!

Thousands of pins, albums that I’ve worked on for FIVE YEARS that I can’t even access. Why? Because I was in “somebody else’s house,” and I supposedly broke the rules. They said I was spamming. How the hell do you spam on Pinterest??? I post something, you look at it… or you don’t. I don’t send anything out!

They sent me a nasty email saying that they don’t like it when people try to “game their system.” What the fuck? I write Fanfiction. I post pictures to my Fanfiction. How the fuck am I gaming your system?

Nonetheless, I realize that I was in Pinterest’s house, and they felt like I broke one of their little rules somewhere, and now they have locked me out, took away my key, and are holding my shit.

So, I went trolling Google and Pinterest (with a new ID) to see if I can at least get some of my content back, and I discover that I have a HUGE presence on Google and it’s time to put some money behind my name (more to come on that).

Luckily, I woke up this morning and got an email that basically said, “Oops, we’re sorry. We made a boo-boo…” Fuckers!

I’m in the process of trying to find another forum for my pictures.

All the same disclaimers apply.

Season 5 Episode 4

CHRISTIAN

Stress can have a huge impact on your life. It doesn’t matter how you try to manage it—one way or another, it has an impact on you.

Your family…
Your job…
Your goals…
Your peace…
Your relationship… D/s or vanilla.

I confided in Artemis that the clusterfucks going on with the company have impacted me more than I want to admit. Although I’m not looking to divert back to the old Master ways, grab some brown-haired waif, and beat the hell out of her, I have thought more than once about the relief I felt after one of my intense sessions with a well-trained submissive who could take a hit. I realize like sharing that information with my wife and soumise, in hindsight, was probably a bad idea. True, we should be able to discuss anything, or at least that’s how I feel, but right or wrong, some things are better left unsaid.

Artemis and the other Domini at the Munch informed me that I first need to understand and accept the massive amount of stress that my company’s condition is placing on me and my relationship; then, I need to fix it. Forget simply having my way with my soumise—I’ll fuck around and lose my wife and family if I don’t get a grip. The underlying relationship must be solid before the extras can be added or practiced. Otherwise, the D/s portion of our relationship will only be a means of escape from whatever issues we’re facing, and once the whips and butt plugs are stored away, all the same problems will still be staring back at us.

I had no idea that going to BDSM mentoring would involve a good, healthy dosage of relationship therapy. Butterfly and I basically didn’t talk to one another for nearly a week until Christmas and by that time, she was having a Yuletide-theme nervous breakdown and I was completely clueless until a holly jolly Christmasland exploded all over my goddamned house!

Communication.

Every meeting we’ve had so far, they’re banging into our heads the importance of communication.

I understand how important this is, but if they keep banging it into my head, I’m going to resent the concept. And I’m 99% sure that Artemis thinks I’m doing the “yeah, yeah, sure, sure, I get it” nod when he starts talking about it, especially since I may have verbalized my after-the-fact reticence about mentioning my nostalgic mind-wanderings in front of Butterfly.

“Even if it’s something painful, you have to be honest with your feelings, Christian,” he had said. “Now, that doesn’t mean that you must be hurtful. Being hurtful is just plain mean and vicious. Sharing something painful means that it may not be pleasant, but it still has to be shared. Do you understand?”

I understand alright, but if he only knew how much I try to avoid negative confrontations in this household—in this relationship!

“Your avoidance is only making it worse,” he warns. “It only means that what you feel is going to build up until you can’t hold on to it anymore, at which time, it’s going to come out at the most inopportune time in the most unfortunate manner.”

I personally think that’s what happened anyway, but I try to see the validity in what he’s saying. I’ve never been much of a communicator… ever. That’s why I’ve always had a fucking shrink, although I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to see mine, and Butterfly has effectively fired hers. Nonetheless, I think this whole Downtime thing will be helpful to our communication. It’ll help me not only be more receptive, but also be able to share more since we’ll be in our D/s roles.  

The D/s relationship is a team. You may think you already know that, especially since every relationship should involve teamwork, but the D/s dynamic is even more so because you can’t fake it. You can fake wanting to be with someone for a while so that you can bide your time until you can get out. Or you pretend to love someone or want to be with them until you get what you want. Not so with BDSM. You’re all in or you’re not. I’m sure there’s someone out there who could probably fake it, but I’ve never seen it. You must be invested in something like this—in it for the long haul or you’re just playing house.

There are a few times when I really felt like my wife and I were a team—when she put the Pedophile in her place at my parents’ house that first month we were together; when she let Natalia know that she had absolutely no power over us no matter what she thinks she accomplished by masturbating at the table in the club last year; and Monday in my office.

My wife effectively took a huge bite—and rightfully so—out of the asses of my executive team right after she steamrolled over my management team. I felt like I needed eyes in the back of my head, trying to monitor everything that everyone was doing and I’m losing my fucking mind trying to do it myself. The Butterfly Sword swung through that room slicing asses and taking names. I don’t think I’ve ever seen those people scramble out of that room that fast after I had a meeting with them.

However, the piece de resistance was when she unapologetically read Ros and Lorenz the riot act. I fucking loved it. Once again, she took one look at the situation with fresh eyes and immediately knew what the problem was. She had seen everything I saw in the departments and must have deduced that these fuckers knew I had my hands full with every department that there was no way for me to keep my eyes on them all.

And what did she do?

She did the exact opposite of what I did. I’m trying to overhaul the departments to get the bullshit out and make them become more productive. She read emails—emails—and discovered the most important projects that needed to be completed in each department. Now, she’s making them prove to her that they’re getting them done.

Today, she’s wearing a tan suit that’s every bit of 1930’s Katharine Hepburn minus the penny loafer shoes and including my wife’s signature platform stilettos.

Ana's Suit

The meetings began almost immediately with her first three being today. I watched from the eye in the sky just like I did for her department meeting, not because I was spying on her and thought she would fuck up, but because I personally wanted to watch her kick ass.

I sat and watched her rip procurement a new asshole. I knew it was coming because Yi was her first example in the meeting, having back-talked her about the sign-in sheet. How this doctor with a medical degree and license knows this much about directing purchasing and buyers, evaluating and negotiating with suppliers, and selecting and managing vendor contracts, I’ll never know. Yet in a manner of just a few minutes, she pinpointed direct flaws in the process, suggesting solutions for some and expecting Yi to report back to her with answers for the rest. That poor woman was left standing there holding those papers in awe.

Along the same lines, she visited Theodore Mosele, the one who made the toddler comment. I almost felt sorry for him. He’s the head of the Supply Chain, which includes category management, Yi’s department—procurement, shipping and receiving, and the warehouse. This idiot made an elementary mistake. He handed my wife some never-ending stack of papers with a cocky smile and the words, “This is what I’m responsible for. This is what I do.” I knew without even being able to see these documents that he was handing her bullshit.

Butterfly looked at the enormous stack of papers without taking it and looked back around to Marilyn. Without words, Marilyn handed her an iPad. She scrolls through the iPad for a moment and begins to speak to Mosele without raising her head.

“Mr. Mosele, you’re head of the supply chain.” It’s a statement, not a question. “That means that you should be intimately aware of the fiascoes that I found in procurement a moment ago.” She hands the iPad back to Marilyn without looking back at her and instead, raising her gaze to Mosele, who has now lost that smug look he had on his face.

“Please show me in that useless stack of printer paper that you’re trying to shove at me exactly what your plan is to correlate with Ms. Yi on the issues that I found in her department. Show me what you do.

Her last words were clipped and cold, leaving Mosele scrambling and excusing that he’s not certain what she discussed with Ms. Yi.

“So, let’s try this again,” she says, her voice cool. “The correspondence I’ve seen from Mr. Grey to your department directly referenced wanting to see strategies to improve productivity, quality, and efficiency in the supply chain, especially considering that shipping screw-up last year that nearly cost one of our long-standing clients. That’s also what I asked you for. So, Mr. Mosele, show me in that gibberish that you’re handing me where the directives are that I asked for.”

Mosele shifts from one foot to the other and flips through the several-hundred-page document, trying to find something to show my wife. Just like me, she knew it was garbage the moment he handed it to her.

“That’s what I thought,” she says, and he raises what looks like an accusing glare at her. She doesn’t back down for a moment.

“I have several departments to visit, Mr. Mosele, and I don’t have time for your games or your showcasing. You have one hour to get me what I asked for or you’ll find yourself on indefinite and unpaid administrative leave for insubordination and failure to follow instructions, and we’ll see if the next person can get me the information that I asked for!” She looks at her watch. “Your hour starts now.”

She turns around and marches out of the department, and Mosele stands there glaring at her departing figure until she’s gone, at which time, he angrily slams the documents on the floor that are in his hand.

That’s what you get, asshole.

I can barely pay attention to what department she visits next because I’m eager to see what’s going to happen when she gets back to Mosele. I halfheartedly watched her talk to heads of Marketing and of Business Logic, two meetings that went much smoother than the two that she had before, then after an hour and ten minutes, she heads back to Supply Chain with two more members of security in tow.

“I trust that you have what I asked for,” she says. Mosele’s 1000-page book of gobbledygook has now been reduced to what looks like a five-page synopsis of the exact fucking information that I asked him for two weeks ago. Butterfly has him explain his logic on several of the directives before she hands the papers to Marilyn, who places them in a portfolio that she’s carrying.

“Thank you for the information, Mr. Mosele. I knew you could do it. Take the rest of the day off. In fact, take the rest of the week off. I’ll let you know on Friday if we’ll expect you back on Monday.” She turns to leave.

“I did what you asked!” he snaps.

“No!” she says, whirling around to face him. “You didn’t! I gave you instructions and you cockily gave me some 500-page Yellow Pages bullshit thinking I wouldn’t know what I was looking at. What was that, a shipping manifest? Last month’s inventory? The Employee Code of Conduct?

“Do you think I’m stupid, Mr. Mosele, or were you just deliberately trying to piss me off? I really hope it was the latter because you have effectively succeeded at that! Maybe next time you’ll think twice about trifling with me.

“Yes, I’m a ball-buster when I need to be, and I’m proud of it. And, now, yours are cracked and on the floor. Pick ‘em up and get the fuck out of my building. Ben?”

She glares for a few moments at Mosele then turns around and walks out of the department, leaving him standing there staring at Ben and another of my security staff.

That show was fucking better than Netflix.

That afternoon, I had a meeting with Ros and Lorenz about the KPI report that was delivered to me.

“We have four major segments failing half of their critical KPI’s and nobody thought that this was something that we should investigate?” I inquire. So far, no one has any answers for me. “I have an entire quality assurance department whose sole purpose is to sniff out problems and set metrics to find solutions and what do I discover? They’re one of the departments that has the fucked up KPI’s. Who’s watching the company if the watchers are fucking up? You know what that’s the equivalent of? A dirty cop—someone who’s supposed to be keeping the peace and not doing his fucking job.” I drop the files on my desk and walk to the window, disgusted.

“I want stats and metrics on the department heads and the managers of that department to the auditing team in the next 24 hours. Give them the guidelines and tell them I want an analysis of the data by the end of the week. Let the powers that be know that they’re going to be coming before me to tell me why they should keep their jobs.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Ros asks. “We could be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.” I turn to her.

“Have you missed something?” I ask. “We’re already in the fire. This company is dying a slow death, and nobody can see it but me? I’m putting the IV’s in the veins and putting the defibrillators on the pulses and you guys are looking at me like, ‘What the fuck is he doing?’” I turn back to Ros.

“Tell me, Ros. Do you remember when we found the hacker?” She raises her brow.

“I do,” she says.

“Right before that happened, what would have been the takeaway if I had found out that quality assurance was sub-par? What would you have told me if we had discovered that while someone was running through our systems, moving money and wreaking havoc, quality assurance wasn’t making the mark? Be. Honest.” She blinks a few times and sighs.

“I would have said somebody would have needed to be reprimanded or fired,” she replies honestly. I nod.

“Now, imagine in that lovely condo that you own across the street from my penthouse that you have rats running around chewing your wiring, eating your food and leaving their rat shit turds all over the place for company to see. Also, in the midst of all this, you’ve got an exterminator on-call that comes out every week to eliminate this problem. You’re paying him handsomely and you still have the problem with the rats. Are you going to ponder whether or not this fucker is doing his job?” I stand there with my hands open in a shrugging motion, waiting for an answer.

“No,” she says, “I’m not.”

“Are you going to keep paying him while the rats are nibbling at your charger cords and your Lindor chocolates?” I ask folding my arms. She looks down at her tablet.

“I’ll get right on it,” she says, swiping the screen and tapping on it.

Later that night, I tried to talk to Butterfly about her day:

“How was your day?” I had asked last night when I got home.

“You know exactly how my day was,” she retorted. “I don’t know how you know, but I know that you know.” I twisted my lips and smirked.

“True,” I replied. “I don’t know if I should feel a little professional jealousy over the fact that I asked that fucker Mosele for answers two weeks ago and you were able to get them in an hour.” She raised her brow at me.

“Actually, it took me two days,” she said, her tone betraying what her words weren’t saying…

How the fuck did he know that?

“Nonetheless, it still wasn’t two weeks,” I countered. She gazed at me for a moment.

“Do I have to worry about you going behind me undoing everything that I’m doing?” she asked frankly. I was a bit taken aback.

“Why would you think that?” I asked surprised,

“Because I know that it’s safe to assume that no one is reporting every single thing I do in GEH back to you because I’ve already made it clear that that would piss me off. So, the only other explanation is that you must be watching me somehow. I really don’t care—it is your company. I just want to know if I have to worry about you going back and undoing everything that I’m doing.” I scoffed.

“First of all, it’s our company,” I corrected her. “And second, you’ve made it perfectly clear to all observers that you don’t need my help or permission to get shit done. The very last thing you need is for me to walk behind you gumming up the works.” She nodded.

“That’s good to hear,” she said, “because I guarantee you that the head banging has only just begun.”

Of course, she was right.

Did you see this?” Butterfly asks, marching into my office on Wednesday afternoon. She’s spent more time at GEH than she has at Helping Hands this week. As she’s marching into my office with her tablet in hand, I already know what she’s about to throw at me.

“The email from Ros?” I ask calmly.

“So, you’ve seen it,” she says, a statement not a question. She drops some files on my desk and reads from her iPad. “It’s becoming increasingly unclear as to whom I should be reporting as of late. I have directives that need to be rectified. To whom should I be directing my responses?” She reads the email with disdain. “To us both, you smarmy ass bitch!” she hisses. I suck in a breath between my pursed lips.

“I see that she has rubbed you the very wrong way,” I say, removing my glasses and looking at my wife.

“She’s testing me, Christian,” she threatens. “I don’t know how far my reach is with her, but she’s trying to see how far she can go with me, and I’m telling you, she’s going to fail.”

“Your reach goes as far as mine does, baby,” I tell her. “I only ask that before you decide to terminate one of our executive team that you discuss it with me first.”

“I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that,” Butterfly retorts, pacing the room. “She’s valuable to the company and I’m very well aware of that, but she’s aware of it, too, and she’s really smelling her own ass right now.”

“Yes, I know this. I can see it, too,” I say calmly. “What would you like for me to do about it?”

“You just did it,” she says, stopping in front of the same window where I stand to get my thoughts together. “You told me how far my reach goes, and you gave me a guideline. That’s what I needed.” She folds her arms but doesn’t turn around.

“She likes being the only woman on campus that can command a room full of men in her pencil skirt. I’m the new girl on the block who showed up with a whole bunch of power and she can’t stand it when the truth of the matter is that had she wielded the power she should have wielded in the first place I wouldn’t be here.” She turns around to face me.

“Exactly where do you see in my schedule that I have time to come to GEH and perform a job that I’ve never been trained to do? That I didn’t even ask for? We’re getting to a point with this business and our marriage where most women would be giving you an ultimatum—this business or me; where a lesser woman would be out looking for extracurricular activities to soothe the ache of what might be missing in the relationship because you’re GEH 20 hours out of 24 of every single day including weekends! But did I do that?

“No!

“I rearranged my entire fucking life and came in here and got my hands dirty! I did some basic research on what you were trying to get from each department and I came in here and rattled a couple of cages, asking these idiots why they needed repeated commands to do their goddamn jobs and yes, I asked Ros and Finney exactly what the hell they were supposed to be doing, too. I wanted to know if they were working as hard as you are, as stressed as you are right now trying to run this company; if their spouses are on a plane, train, or automobile on their way down here to find out what the fuck is going on in this place.

“She wants the power, but she acts like she doesn’t want the responsibility that comes with it, and now she’s getting all haughty because I’m being forced to come down here and exercise them both because she won’t do her fucking job? Are you serious?

“I’ve got another job and two children that require my time and energy and I’m not here because you can’t do this on your own. I’m here because you shouldn’t have to!”

Her eyes are glaring a glass blue, almost gray, and any idiot can see that she means business. When I’m able to break the trance of her eyes glaring back at me, I gaze past her and see Ros and Lorenz standing at Andrea’s desk looking into my office. I wonder how much of the conversation they’ve heard. My wife follows my gaze and turns around. Upon seeing Ros in the doorway, she fully turns to face her, pops her neck, and folds her arms. She’s preparing for battle. Ros straightens her back and marches into the room.

“We have the talks for Northwest in twenty,” she says crisply, keeping her eyes on me without acknowledging Butterfly. Dear God, why is she so intent on fanning that flame? Butterfly glares at her for a moment, then turns and retrieves the files and her tablet from my desk, shaking her head the entire time.

“Stay,” I say, hoping she’ll take part in the discussion.

“Can’t. Meetings,” she says, her voice clipped before turning to glare at Ros. “Otherwise…” She walks purposefully out of my office, Marilyn standing from her perch near Andrea’s desk and falling in place behind her as the click of her angry stilettos warns subordinates of her approach. I shake my head.

“If you think poking this angry bear is bad, keep poking that one and see what happens,” I warn her, organizing some things on my desk. Ros’s mouth gapes.

“Didn’t you hear what she just said about me?” Ros says. “I’m supposed to come in here all smiles and open arms while she’s talking about me behind my back?”

“Was she wrong?” I ask, pointedly, raising only my gaze to Ros and she looks like I just slapped her. “And make no mistake, Ros, anything that she’s says when you’re not here, she’ll say when you’re present…” and I’m pretty sure that she did the last time she spoke to you, “and it’s not because she’s the boss’s wife or half owner of this company. It’s because that’s who she is. She doesn’t mince words and she never has. When I first tried to put her in her place nearly three years ago, she mercilessly let me have it with both barrels even after she found out who I was.

“I’m not telling you to kiss her ass—she’d see right through you, but whatever issues you have with her presence, you need to work them out. Not only is that woman your boss, but she has identified a weak link in the infrastructure and she’s trying to compensate for it, and she’s right… she shouldn’t have to. Her personal assistant is sitting in with her on these department head meetings when one of you should actually be there, observing and supporting her as well as gathering valuable information needed to run this company. I’m going to have to get her an office, because like it or not, she’s part of the executive team now.

“You’re a valuable asset to this company, Ros, but I advise you not to put yourself in a position where you’re pitted against my wife. I’m sorry to tell you that you will lose, not only because she’s a formidable opponent and more resourceful than you think, not only because she’s half-owner of this company, but also because she’s my wife. Do you understand that?” She straightens her back and clasps her portfolio with both hands.

“Yes, sir,” she says dutifully.

“Ros? That’s not a ‘yes, sir, no, sir’ question and I’m not looking for capitulation. If you continue to cross her, that woman will flatten you with a steamroller and not look back. She’s got a lot more to lose here than you think. If worse comes to worse and this company folds, you’re out of a job, and you have to find another one. Where does that leave me? Or her?

“My life’s work is destroyed; my children’s legacy gone… Yeah, they’ll have plenty of money, but eventually, money runs out unless you find some kind of way to make more of it. That’s what I’m trying to do for my children. I’m trying to have something to pass down to them so that they can have something to pass down to their children. And when shit goes wrong in this place, I take that shit home where it ends up getting dumped in her lap one way or the other.

“She didn’t come in here waving her little handkerchief and saying, ‘Look everybody, I’m the boss!’ She came in here with hard facts, looking for answers, calling everyone to task. Why? Because I did come home and dump that shit in her lap and she, as half owner of this company, wanted to know what the fuck was going on. She has that right! She has the right to confront you about anything that’s happening in this company; she has the right to ask you questions and get answers; and she is entitled to respect from you as your boss even if you have to bite your tongue until it bleeds and choke on your own blood to give it to her!”

It appears that some of that blood I was just talking about has left Ros’ face and is sliding down her throat as we… I speak.

“I’m not going to be the one that you have to contend with,” I warn. “If you fuck up with her, then you have to deal with her and she. Can. Fire. You. The moment that you feel that she is out of line, off the mark in some way, or behaving unprofessionally, then we can sit down and have an executive meeting where we can discuss that behavior and you can present your evidence. But at the moment, it just looks like you’re miffed because apparently, something in this mix isn’t going the way that you feel it should. I knew it when you took that cock-and-bull vacation, and it’s still evident now.

“State your fucking grievances or shove them up your ass because none of us have time or patience for this sidestepping, round-and-round, high-handed-one-minute-then-pretend-acquiescence-bullshit you’ve got going on here. We’ve got a company to run and we’re trying to patch the cracks before they become full-on fissures and fault lines. We are a team—all of us! What you need to decide is if you’re on this team with us, and if not, I will take your resignation whenever you’re ready, that is, if she doesn’t get sick of your crap and hand you your walking papers first.

“Whatever issues you have, you better solve them quickly, because we won’t have this conversation again,” I say, my voice cool. “This is your final warning and you can interpret it however you want. Do you really understand what I’m saying to you?” I speak with no malice, but she needs to understand what a precarious position she’s in right now. She sighs heavily. Her shoulders fall and she’s less defensive.

“Yes, sir,” she cedes, “I understand.” I sigh heavily and look at my watch.

“Northwest in ten,” I say, stacking some files on my desk and putting some items inside my portfolio. “I’ll meet you down there.”

“Yes, sir,” she says, crisply before turning and walking out of my office. I sigh again, counting to myself as I get my notes ready for the meeting. I don’t know what’s going on with her, but she has to get that shit together and get it in gear because my wick is running short with her crap and Butterfly’s wick is even shorter. I’m quickly coming to grips with the fact that Butterfly just may give her some unpaid time off, assuming Ros doesn’t leave first.

I’m just realizing that Lorenz is still in the office.

“Is there something you need, Lorenz?” I ask.

“Not an enviable position to be in, sir,” he says, “stuck between a member of your executive team and your wife.”

“Correction,” I say, raising my eyes to him, “two members of my executive team, one of whom happens to be my wife. And owner, wife, or otherwise, if she was walking around here behaving the way that Ros is, with what I can only characterize as unfounded jealousy, I’d be checking her on it, too.”

“Are you sure that’s what it is, Christian?” he asks.

“Aren’t you?” I say, fixing my gaze on him. I already know the answer to that question because I remember his parting words to Ros when they left my office after that meeting on Monday. “Whatever this is or whatever brought it on, I have no idea, but it’s been brewing for a while. I had seen the ways that she did—or didn’t—address my wife before, but she confirmed for me that something was wrong when she asked me if legal was getting audited with my wife standing right there looking at her and wasn’t afraid to tell me why she asked.

“She knows damn well that legal is tight as a fucking drum and didn’t need to be audited. She didn’t ask about security, where the head of my personal security lives in my house with his entire family, breaks bread at my table, was best man at my wedding, and I walked his bride down the aisle and gave her away. No, she asked about legal. And even if Allen wasn’t my wife’s best friend and godfather to my children, I know from experience that he could still run circles around any legal mind this side of the continental divide and probably beyond. That’s why I hired him.

“She had a point to prove and proved it, and all parties involved heard it loud and clear. She’s testing the waters, and if she doesn’t stop, she’ll be boiled alive.” I pause and take a deep breath. I need to count, but I don’t have time.

“Lorenz,” I begin, “I gave that woman half of my company, not only because she’s my wife and I love her, but because I trust her. I trust her to take care of my home, my children, and my life. And if something happens to me, I trust her to take care of my company. I trust her to know that if she can’t handle the reins, that she’ll put them in the hands of someone who can.

“Take a good look at her. She’s not running around here playing house. She’s kicking ass and taking names and she’s getting things done, and right now, there are people in this building who’ll follow her orders before they’ll follow yours or Ros’ and that says a lot.

“Man to man, that’s a powerful pussy between those legs, but right now, that’s not what I’m looking at. I’m looking at the fact that within a matter of days, she’s pinpointed weak spots that I’ve been pointing out to you and Ros since last year. In that short period of time, she came in here and she’s having executive meetings that you and Ros haven’t initiated or conducted since you’ve been working here unless you did so directly under my instruction.

“What does that say to me about my executive team? And now, every time Ros gets a chance, she wants to get yet another bug up her butt because someone wants to call her on her bullshit? How long do you think that’s going to fly? How long do you think I’m really going to sit here and watch her play King of the Hill with my company? How long do you think my wife is going to sit here and watch that?

“You once told me that if you thought I was about to shoot myself in the foot that you would be remiss not to tell me. She’s not hearing me and she’s certainly not hearing my wife, so maybe she’ll hear it from you. You better tell her that she’s got the gun aimed at her own toes, and quite possibly, her fucking skull.”

Lorenz has fallen silent, pursing his lips before they form a flat line.

“Let’s get going,” I say. “We’re late for Northwest. 

*-*

I watch my wife sleeping peacefully in the bed next to me. She was still on fire when she got home from GEH today. She’s getting a small taste of how I was feeling last year when I was dealing with all this shit on my own. She now sees for herself that it’s not so easy to come home and turn off the heat when you’ve been dealing with it all. Her presence this week has had several profound results and revealed some important facts.

She showed up to GEH and she became me—only worse, because she added the flavor of a woman scorned—and these people quake when they see her coming.

Her being there this week and taking the reins on several of the departments, taking small but hard bites out of my workload has made things a whole lot easier on me. I was able to come home and flog, then pamper, love, suck, and fuck that body until she was able to let go of all things GEH. However…

She’s going to burn out real fast at the rate that she’s going. No doubt, Artemis and Savvina’s talk about us being a team made her walk into that place and rip the walls down. Now, she’s trying to make sure that they’re rebuilt correctly, and she can’t do that by herself. She’s going to fry and have a nervous breakdown, especially with the Green Valley trials coming up in a few weeks.

I’ve been rattling cages, but now, the big ones need a shake or three.

I’ve made Ros and Lorenz cancel anything they had on the books and meet with me first thing Thursday morning. I’m sitting behind my desk when they enter and dutifully take the two seats in front of me.

“The gloves are coming off,” I begin. “I’ve had enough of this shit. Things are going to change today, as of this moment, in fact. Lorenz, I recognize the hard work that you put in while it was just the two of us over the last two weeks, but for the most part, I still had to lead the horse to water, and that’s unacceptable. If you two need me to tell you what to do, I’ll do that. I’ll treat you just like I treat my management team. I’ll hand you a list of directives and a date by which I expect them to be fulfilled. You’ll go through semi-annual evaluations just like everyone else does. Oh, and since you won’t be performing all the duties of the initial jobs that I hired you for, this will effectively be a demotion and you’ll take a significant cut in pay.”

That gets their attention.

“You see, my wife just walked in here and showed me that anyone with determination, common sense, and a solid grasp of business, armed with a little authority and the information that I’ve been sending you guys from the very beginning can come in here and whip these fuckers into shape and get the job done. My wife is right—if I have to do this on my own, I might as well have a board.”

They share a knowing glance.

“And she’s right about another thing,” I say, rising to my feet and looking down at them. “I see everything that goes on in my office…” I turn my gaze to Ros. “Everything!” I glare at her for a moment to let that sink in. That ‘I-know-something-you-don’t-know’ glance that you two keep sharing with each other like a private joke in my presence, I share that glance with Jason at least five times per day, maybe more. I know what it means.

“She told you that’s sending a message to me and you didn’t listen, so you better fucking hear it from me. I know the two of you have conversations outside of my presence, I expect that. However, if you keep up that silent-conversation-eyeball shit, I’m going to start feeling the need to reach behind me and find out if there are any knives in my back. And if you make me feel that way, I sure don’t fucking need you around me.”

They appear to grow in front of me, straightening their backs like two students called to the principal’s office. Good. Now, back to the purpose of this meeting.

“You two are highly educated in management and thoroughly experienced. There’s absolutely no reason whatsoever why you couldn’t do exactly what she did, and yet you…” I turn to Ros, “are resentful that she came in here and did what you should have done a long time ago. And you’re right, Ros. Maybe every department does need to be audited, including my executive team.”

Her eyes grow large and for the first time, I see some really serious concern.

For the next twenty minutes or so, I hand them printouts of the same emails that Butterfly read that resulted in the fresh-faced overhaul that GEH has seen over the past three days. This is what I was doing all throughout the second half of December, but I was doing it on my own. She just picked up where I left off and cleaned up the dust. I was assuming that my executive team would get the hint and help out, but they never did. The fact that my wife had to come in from the outside and clean up is pissing me off. The fact that Ros is acting like a little bitch in the process when she should have been doing this in the first place is burning me the fuck up.

“My wife is the assistant director of a very important charity that has a lot of projects on the hopper and does a lot for the community. She has two small children to raise. I pay you two a fucking fortune and she should not have to come in here and do your jobs! You want to do mediocre work, go do it at somebody else’s company. I don’t want to lose either of you, but if you’re not pulling your weight like I need you to, then I’m not losing anything, am I?”

My anger and frustration suddenly come to a head, realizing how dedicated my wife is to this company—more dedicated than the fuckers that work here. I have one of my wife’s three-second funnels and give them my final conclusion:

“Get your heads out of your ass, get on my fucking team, or get the fuck out!”

I stand over them, leaning on my desk with my hands flat, glaring at them and waiting for their decision. I’ve had enough of this shit, and when I say that it stops now, it fucking stops now.

“You’re right, sir,” Lorenz says.

Right about what? About you getting on my fucking team or about you getting the fuck out? I wait for him to finish. He looks over at Ros.

“We’ve gotten complacent. We’ve been sitting here waiting for direct marching orders on a whole lot of things. You and I both got our feathers ruffled when our pet mergers got axed to make room for the audits.”

Ros twists her lips, but says nothing.

“Although I haven’t been as… confrontational with Dr. Grey, I’m just as guilty as you are when it comes to not picking up the ball and running with it when we needed to,” he says to Ros.

“Don’t you mean ‘dropping the ball?’” Ros says, her voice tame.

“No, I don’t,” Lorenz says, firmly. “When did we ever have the ball?”

“I thought we had it at least once throughout this process,” she contends, her voice still defeated. Lorenz laughs.

“Ros, if you had that ball at all, you threw it over the fence and into the next yard when you took that impromptu vacation and deserted GEH during one of its most critical times last year.” Ros raises a shocked gaze at Lorenz.

“Yeah,” he continues, “I may not have said anything because I’m not your boss, but that was a bullshit ass move and you know it!”

He nearly growls the last words. I had no idea he was this angry about her taking vacation time when she did. He never shared that with me. I’m unsuccessful at hiding my shock because I can see Ros look at me in my peripheral vision, then look back at Finney because I have nothing for her. I glance over at her, and at this moment, you could catch flies in her mouth.

“How can you say anything about having the ball when you walked off the damn field?” he accuses. “I may not have been running plays like I should have. I may have even been sitting on the bench, which is no better, but at least I was at the goddamn game!” He turns to me.

“I’ll never be you,” he says. “I’ll never command the respect from or wield the authority with the staff that you do, but he’s right,” he says, turning back to Ros. “It’s time to get the fuck in the game. No offense to Dr. Grey, but a psychiatrist has no business coming in here showing us up when this is what we’re supposed to be doing every day. You’ve been giving nothing but a whole lotta lip and a healthy dose of a bad attitude. If you keep it up, you’re on your way out, and I don’t intend to go with you. I like my job, and I want to keep it. So, there’s my decision, sir,” he says, turning back to me. “I’m part of the team.” I purse my lips and nod.

“I’m glad to hear it,” I say. He stands.

“You hired me for a reason. I’m sorry that I haven’t fulfilled that purpose to the best of my ability. With all due respect, sir, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do… some emails and reports to read, probably talk to some departments. If there’s nothing else, I’d really like to get started.”

His demeanor and entire stance have changed. Ros is officially on this plank all by herself. I nod at him, dismissing him and he walks out of the office, closing the door behind him. Ros still sits in the chair, her head bowed.

Well?

“I’m… Gwen and I are separated,” she blurts out. What?

“Huh?” I say, stunned.

“My wife,” she says. “My wife left me. We’re separated.”

This kind of knocks the wind out of me. Ros and Gwen could have been the poster couple for same-sex marriage, and now she’s telling me that they’re getting a divorce?

“Why?” I ask. “How long?”

“On and off since about June,” she admits. “On all the time since just before Thanksgiving.” I frown.

“What happened?” I’m waiting for the whole we just grew apart speech. Nothing could have prepared me for what I hear.

“I met someone.”

What. The. Fuck. I’m suddenly angry as if this was my relationship going south.

“What the fuck do you mean you met someone?” I bark. “You met someone a decade ago when you met Gwen…”

“I know, I know,” she laments. “Gwen was supposed to be my future, my happily ever after, but then I met Monique, and everything changed.”

 I’m not buying it. This is really pissing me off. How can she just dismiss the sanctity of marriage like this?

“I know it’s fucked up, Christian, but the heart wants what the heart wants.”

“That’s such a crock of bull,” I accuse. “When you’re single, you jump around from person to person because that’s what you do. You taste the flavors to see what you like the best. When you’re married, you make a commitment. Sure, it’s okay to appreciate beauty, but you do not engage. You’ve promised yourself to this woman and you’re out there playing the field?”

“I’m not playing the field!” Ros retorts. “I didn’t go looking for this. I didn’t plan it! It just happened. If anybody should understand a thunderbolt hitting you out of nowhere, you should.”

Oh, the fuck you are going to use my meeting the love of my life to excuse your infidelity.

“Oh, I see,” I say, coolly. “So, me being a single, unattached man meeting, falling in love with, and marrying the woman who became my life and would eventually bear my children is comparable to you cheating on a woman that you’ve been dating or married to for the last ten years in what way? A pretty, hot piece of ass walks past you, causing you to want to throw away everything you’ve built with Gwen, and this is comparable to my situation with my wife exactly how?”

I’m thoroughly offended, and I’m anxious to know how she’s going to talk her way out of this shit.

“That’s not what I meant!” she retorts sharply. Oh? Enlighten me then. I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this.

“I’m just saying,” she says, “that this is out of my control. I’m feeling things with Monique that I’ve never felt with Gwen—ever. Gwen was safe, and I knew that I wouldn’t get hurt, but Monique… she touches my soul, Christian. And it’s not just sex, it’s everything.”

“So, you’re willing to throw away everything that you have with Gwen, your plans, your life, your love, her heart—to go chasing after this other woman that you’ve only known for six months?”

Ros clears her throat and diverts her gaze to the floor and it only takes a few moments for me to realize the truth.

“Oh, God,” I say. “It’s been longer than that, hasn’t it?” Ros sighs and shifts uncomfortably.

“I met Monique… three years ago.” Three years! Three fucking years, you’ve been stringing Gwen along and wasting her fucking time?

“I haven’t been dating her for three years… I’ve known her for three years,” Ros corrects. I just shake my head.

“And how long have you been dating?” I ask accusingly.

“Not the whole time, but nearly the whole time,” she confesses. I quickly do the math.

“Just so that I’m clear, you married Gwen in March… 2011, no, 2012, right?”

She nods. She knows I’m doing the math.

“Were you seeing the woman before you married Gwen?” I ask. She clears her throat, but doesn’t answer. No answer is still an answer, Rosalind!

“For God’s sake, why?” I nearly screech.

“Because I loved Gwen,” she says with conviction. “I still do, with all my heart…”

“Not all of it!” I shoot back. “Believe it or not, I totally understand trying to figure out where your heart belongs, but why the fuck couldn’t you do this before you said, ‘I do?’ Does Gwen know this? Does she know that you were torn between two lovers on your wedding day?”

Ros does something that I’ve never seen her do before, she chokes back a sob.

“I thought being married would make things right,” she says, her voice heavy with tears. “I loved Gwen… love Gwen, and I thought that committing myself to her was the right thing to do. I thought this silly fancy with this other woman would go away once I gave myself to the woman that I wanted to be with… only it didn’t. I threw myself headfirst into my marriage with Gwen, trying to make it work, trying to build forever, but Monique was always there! I couldn’t shake her, even though I wasn’t seeing her.

“We messed around a couple of times before I married Gwen,” she confesses. “We even hooked up the night before my wedding… the last hurrah, we said, but it wasn’t. I could never get her off my mind. I didn’t contact her for months, but there wasn’t a day that passed that I didn’t think about her at least once, not a day.

“On the one-year anniversary of my marriage to Gwen, I saw her again. I should have avoided her, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. We greeted each other like we were old friends, agreed to meet for drinks. That’s when it all started again, and that’s when I realized that I was going through the motions with Gwen for months; that as much as I loved her, I couldn’t shake Monique and I never would.

“I tried to have my cake and eat it, too. It worked for about three months, but Gwen knew something was up. She knew I wasn’t all there. She played my little game, tried to fix it… tried to do what she could to hold us together, but right before Thanksgiving, she’d had enough. She packed up her things and moved back to Snoqualmie with her parents. 

“When it looked like you were going to be dumping a bunch of crazy shit in our laps, I took that moment to flee. I couldn’t handle what was going on in my marriage, what looked like erratic behavior from you, and what I perceived as an unnecessarily high-handed attitude from Mrs. Grey. Maybe I made the whole thing up in my head, but I was under a lot of stress at the time. It was too much shit flying at me at once.

“I took the impromptu vacation to regroup, and to go see Gwen. I needed to know what she wanted to do, because I owed it to her not to leave us both hanging in limbo.” I shake my head.

“You went to ask her for a divorce,” I say, “right at Christmas.” She shakes her head.

“That wasn’t my intention,” she counters. “If Gwen had told me that she wanted our marriage—that she wanted to work things out and she just needed a little time, I would have given her that time, and I would have tried to work things out. But like I said, whether you believe me or not, the heart wants what it wants. When she asked me about Monique—if I could give her up—I couldn’t hide it. She saw it in my face. She asked me for a divorce right there and then, three days before Christmas.” She wipes a tear from her cheek.

“I came back to Seattle, spent time with Monique. I told her what was going on. She comforted me, reaffirmed her feelings for me. She admitted that she couldn’t promise marriage, and I wouldn’t want her to. I wouldn’t want to put that responsibility on her.” She begins to sob again.

“I made a horrible mistake, Christian,” she weeps, “but my mistake was not Monique. It was Gwen. Yes, I loved and wanted her, but she wasn’t the one. I married her because she had seniority, because I had made promises, because I felt like it was the right thing to do—but I was wrong. I made a mistake, and I dragged that poor woman through all this drama, and I ripped her heart out because of my screwed-up sense of obligation. It was Monique!” she wails. “It was Monique all along, and I married Gwen! I was wrong! God help me, I was wrong!”

She buries her face in her hands and sobs bitterly. I’m an asshole, but I’m not a fucking asshole. I can’t sit here and watch a woman sob no matter how much of a bitch she’s been over the past few months.

I get up and retrieve the box of tissues from my en suite and walk over to the front of my desk. I hand her the box and she takes a wad of the tissues in her hand, burying her face and crying again.

Jesus Christ, she’s losing it.

“I can’t help you with this one, Ros,” I admit. “I don’t know what to say. Even as a single man with different bed partners, it was always one-on-one. It was a strict rule of mine. When I had my pick of two women, I didn’t sleep with either of them until I made my choice. My choice didn’t even want me, but I guess I can understand someone being in your mind and your blood and you can’t get them out. My choice was Ana, unequivocally, and that’s who it’s been ever since.

“You broke a vow to your wife and that’s really fucked up, but you need to consider something else. This woman—Monique—she has no respect for the sanctity of a commitment. What makes you think that if you leave your wife to be with her that she’s going to respect the sanctity of yours?”

That only makes her cry harder and I’m afraid that she’s going to have a coronary or something.

“Alcoholism is a disease,” I begin. Ros raises a confused, tearful gaze to me.  It’s an analogy, Ros, stay with me. “It destroys the body and it eventually leads to things that can kill you like cirrhosis of the liver. It’s something that the drinker brings on themselves, but it affects everyone around them, nonetheless. Your executive team needs to know about this. It’s affecting your productivity and your ability to make decisions. The fallout from your personal life is making your professional performance look pretty fucking shitty. Tell them whatever details you want, or omit whatever details you choose to omit, but they need to know what the fuck is going on with your life.”

Like an angel from God, my wife opens the door and walks into my office. Her expression was at first confrontational, but immediately morphs into bemusement. I quickly mouth, “Help me!” gesturing to Ros while sporting a wide-eyed confused look of my own. My wife mouths, “Did you fire her?” and I quickly shake my head.

She comes into the office and closes the door behind her. She immediately walks over to the bar and fills a glass with water from the mini-fridge, bringing it back over to us. She crouches down in front of Ros and puts her hand on Ros’ shoulder.

“Here,” she says, softly. “Drink this.”

Ros raises bloodshot, tear-filled eyes to Butterfly, then takes the water and drinks a healthy amount of it.

“What’s wrong, Ros?” Butterfly asks, and Ros breaks down again.

“I’m sorry,” she sobs, “I was shitty to you for no good reason and I’m sorry.” Butterfly looks over her shoulder at me as if waiting for an explanation. I shrug and gesture back to Ros. If she’s going to share this with you, she’s got to give it to you.

“Ros, that’s hardly a reason for you to be all broken up like this…” my wife begins.

“No… no…” she chokes out. “It’s not that. I just wanted you… to know how… sorry I am… It was rude… and unprofessional… and I was being a bitch… and I’m sorry…”

“Okay, okay, it’s fine,” Butterfly says, trying to calm her. “I accept your apology if you swear not to let it happen again.” She shakes her head.

“It won’t… it won’t…” she promises. Butterfly nods.

“Okay, now tell me what’s really wrong.” Oh, boy, here comes the floodgates again.

“I’m a terrible person,” she weeps. “I took a beautiful, kind woman and carelessly ripped her to shreds…”

This is my cue to leave Ros to speak to Butterfly. I think she’ll have to turn on the shrink.

“I’m going down to the gym,” I tell Andrea. “Contact me down there if they need me.”

A/N: So, yes, something was going on with Ros. What do you think about her dilemma? I’m of two minds, but I’ll wait to see the verdicts.

Did you guys see the two homages I paid directly to Fifty Shades? Let me know if you find them. If not, I’ll reveal what they are. 😉 

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/ … that is, until they decide to fuck with me again!

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 2

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

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

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

Season 5, Episode 2

ANASTASIA

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

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

What the hell happened to Marilyn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What? What do you mean?” she asks.

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

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

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

“Look at me, Marilyn!”

The petulant child raises her eyes to me again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because you still love him?” She sighs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You feel bad?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here comes the Owie House again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian: Okay.

Ana: She’s worried about being an imposition.

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

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

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

**Garrett’s being an asshole. **

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

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

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

**Don’t worry, I’ll behave. **

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it.

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

“I can’t…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, so spit it out,” I chastise.

“I did,” she replies.

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

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

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

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

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

“You okay?” he answers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instant garment bag.

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

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

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


CHRISTIAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“On the first page…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can go now…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Allen Forsythe-Fleming,” he answers.

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

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

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

“For…?” he asks.

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

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

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

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

“Explain,” I press.

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

“Hear, hear,” I concur.

*-*

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

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

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

“Where’s Butterfly?” I ask, wearily.

“Upstairs,” Gail replies.

“Marilyn’s not here?” Gail nods.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m not babysitting!” Butterfly protests.

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

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

“Go,” Marilyn says, shooing her off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where’s her car?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

And this penthouse.

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

Memories.

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

Elena.

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

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

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

Jesus, that seems like ages ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it worked out very well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” she asks.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

 ~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 1

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

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

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

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

Season 5, Episode 1

ANASTASIA

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

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

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

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

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

“When you’re ready,” I say softly.

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

“And it’s not over.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Second most wonderful,” I say softly.

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Years’ Eve…

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s champagne,” he says gravely.

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

I know what that is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Present Day…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHRISTIAN

My wife is amazing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because her husband is a sadist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all different now…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Definitely not fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**Where are you? **

A few moments later, she texts me back.

**In the parlor. **

I reply quickly…

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

It takes her a minute to respond.

**I understand. Sure thing. **

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ANASTASIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

My words did very little to comfort her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I agree,” I say, sipping my brandy.

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s a little?” I ask.

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

“Like adult babies?” I say with distaste.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And Ethan calls Mia kitten,” Christian says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Here.”

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think that about sums it up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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 ~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 90—Phantoms

Four more chapters after this one…

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

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

Chapter 90—Phantoms

CHRISTIAN

“Look, I know I haven’t seen you in a while, Grey, but marriage has made you awfully soft. Get your head in the game, man!”

Bastille’s right. I fucking hate that he’s using the same words about marriage making me soft, but he’s right… well, partially right.

“I’m not soft, you asshole,” I jeer. “I’m out of practice, that’s why I called you.”

“You called me because you’re weak and you need me to toughen you up. Now, get on your fucking feet.”

I’m pissed now. I pay this bastard to spar with me, not disrespect me.

“And get that fucking power-play chastisement outta your eyes!” he shoots. “I’m not going easy on you, Moneybags. I never have and I never will! If that’s what you’re looking for, you can go find someone else to train your billionaire butt! You’re flabby, your muscles are weak, and your form is horrible. So, you can either put ‘em up, or you can get your ass outta my gym. Either way, get it off my mat.”

I’m going to beat the fucking hell outta this asshole.

I get up, take my stance and lunge at him. He does a sweeping kick at my feet and I land flat on my face. Shit, that hurt.

“Amateur move, Grey,” he says. “Have you forgotten everything I’ve taught you?” I rise to my hands and knees to get some much-needed air in my chest since the full-frontal faceplant just knocked the fucking wind out of me.

“I think I have,” I cede. He walks over to the front of me and stands there with his wrapped hands on his hips.

“Well, at least you finally fucking admit it,” Bastille barks. “You don’t stay sharp if you don’t practice and you don’t stay fit if you don’t do the work. I can tell just by looking at you that your body fat percentage is higher than it’s ever been since I’ve known you. I don’t give a fuck about those six pack abs—you’re in shape, but you’re not in Christian Grey shape. We have to start from square one until you learn to ride that bike again.”

He walks over to the corner of the ring, wipes his face and takes a swig from his water bottle.

“I’ve beaten your ass enough today. If you want to get back on your game, I’ll see you here next week, but it doesn’t matter to me either way.”

He bends and exits the ring between two of the ropes and I’m left there on the mat, feeling soft.

You know that feeling that you get where you think everybody is looking at you? Well, I scan the gym, and nobody’s concerned about my flabby ass, but I still feel like shit. I thought I was in pretty good shape, but there’s no arguing with an Olympic kickboxer.

And the body bag at home doesn’t kick back.

I’m standing in the shower in the men’s locker room thinking about the meeting that Butterfly and I will attend tonight. I’ve sunk back into my old ways in the workplace, and it brings back thoughts of my old ways all around. My talk with Flynn when I was in Anguilla comes back to me…

“You need to put playtime on hold for a while and learn to control yourself.
“It’s time to graduate a bit, Christian.”
“You need to take a page from this remarkable woman’s book and start handling your demons in a more productive way now.”
“It’s okay to exercise the lifestyle that the two of you enjoy, but the moment that one of you doesn’t enjoy it, it’s not okay anymore.”

We promised in Anguilla that we would do research and we never did. Then we promised again after the menopause situation with my mother. Today is the day. Today we start our active research by meeting with our mentors.

When I return home, I find my wife still in her yoga gear in the middle of the family room floor with our children. Our children… it seems like ages since I spent any quality time with my kids. A wave of guilt jolts through me as I watch my wife, smiling and attentive with my son, holding both his hands as he stands on the floor in front of her bouncing on his heels to some tune on the television. Minnie is thoroughly occupied in the Pack-n-Play with an array of various toys. They look happy and carefree and I almost feel like and interloper as I enter the family-room-turned-playroom.

“Hey,” I say softly as I walk in. She frowns when she sees me.

“Your hair is wet,” she observes. I touch my hair and remember that it’s still a bit damp from the shower at the gym.

“Yeah, I took a shower after my workout. I went straight to the car, though,” I confess.

“Christian Grey, did you forget that bug that hit you after your brother’s housewarming?” she scolds. “Are you trying to catch your death?”

“No, I’m fine,” I reply, sounding like a petulant child. I lean into the Pack-n-Play and retrieve Minnie before sitting on the sofa with her. “Your mommy sounds like she’s going to spank me,” I say to Minnie and she coos as I bounce her on my knee.

“Your daddy’s going to kill himself if he doesn’t dry his hair before going out in the cold,” she retorts to Mikey, who has graduated to full-on twisting and dancing with his mother’s help. Jesus, they look so big. It’s only been a week… two if I count Australia, but I’m sure I’ve seen them in between there.

“What should I wear tonight?” she asks. I raise my gaze to hers and she’s still looking at Mikey. I know she’s asking because I told her how to dress when we went to the club.

“Dinner attire,” I say. “Not too formal, not too conservative, but nothing flashy or too provocative, either.”

“Something in between,” she says, and I nod. “How was your workout?”

“Brutal,” I admit. “Claude beat my ass, then let me have it for being out of shape.” She raises her gaze to me, her brow furrowed.

“You’re not out of shape,” she protests.

“Remember, I used to work out every weekday,” I remind her.

“Which you’ve been doing lately,” she points out.

“Lately,” I say. “I’m not in Bastille-kick-boxing shape. The bastard even called me flabby,” I lament. She glares at me and clears her throat. “What?”

“You said the ‘B’ word in front of the children,” she chastises. I frown.

“What ‘B’ word?” I protest. I didn’t say bitch.

“B-A-S-T-A-R-D,” she says. Oh, that “B” word.

“Sorry,” I say with a shrug. “Did you even catch that, Minnie?” I say to my daughter. She touches my face and babbles something incoherent, and all is right with the world.

*-*

My wife presents herself in an ensemble that I’m certain is from my grandmother’s collection. It’s a red, strapless knee-length sheath dress with an open skirt attached to the back, making it look like one of her Lindy-Bop dresses. There’s a bow right in front at her breast, and she has complimented it with a red and gold choker necklace. I’m not sure what it’s made of, but it has red balls between large gold links with what looks like charms all around it. If it’s a costume piece, it matches the dress very well. Her hair is swept up in a chignon with flirty tresses falling around her face and she’s wearing my grandmother’s ruby earrings.

She looks absolutely stunning.

“I said not too formal,” I say when I see her. She looks down at her attire.

“This isn’t too formal,” she protests. “It’s like a cocktail dress. Should I change?”

“No,” I say, taking her coat from her arm and holding it open for her. “You look beautiful.”

“Thank you,” she says as she closes her coat around her. She checks her makeup in the mirror in the grand entrance as I put my coat on, then I lead her through the mudroom to the garage.

“We’re taking the RS7,” she observes as I press the key fob and the alarm chirps. I smile and lead her to the car. I open the passenger door for her, and she gets in. Once I close the door behind her, I walk over to the driver’s side. I really love this car. It’s got a lot of power behind it and I never considered getting rid of it once that drunk driver totaled my Spyder, but…

“It’s time for an upgrade,” I say as I start the car. “I love this car, but it’s a couple years old now.”

“Is that the only reason you want to upgrade?” she asks. “Because of the age?”

“Isn’t that enough?” I ask.

“It’s basically new, Christian. You hardly ever drive it,” she says. “Besides, I have some pretty fond memories of this car… especially the hood.” I feel my mouth involuntarily forming a smile.

“Well, that’s enough reason to keep it,” I say suggestively, dropping a gear and heading to Kirkland.

We arrive at this perfectly square contemporary house in Kirkland. I’ve never been here, although I know the couple very well. Butterfly will most likely loosen up a bit when we get to the door. I pull into the driveway and turn off the car.

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“Are you ready?” I ask. She takes a deep breath and sighs.

“Let’s do this,” she says. I get out and go over to her door. She’s all legs when she steps out of the car and I’m already fighting my primal urges as I take her hand and lead her to the front door.

“Christian,” a familiar face greets me. “It’s good to see you as always. Come in, come in, it’s cold out tonight.”

I put my hand in the small of my wife’s back and usher her in out of the cold.

“Artemis,” she says with realization. “Right?”

“Guilty,” he says with a flourish and a small bow. “May I take your coat?”

“Yes, please,” she says and allows him to take her coat.

“Oh,” he says upon removing her coat. “I’m afraid we may be a bit underdressed.”

“It’s my fault,” Butterfly says. “I didn’t know how to dress for the evening. I hope I don’t make you feel uncomfortable.”

“Nonsense,” I hear a woman’s voice and we both turn to see a beautiful blonde woman approaching us.

“And this beautiful creature is my wife, Savvina,” Artemis says, welcoming his wife into his arms and kissing her cheek gently. “You’ve met Christian, of course, darling. And this is his lovely wife, Anastasia.” Savvina extends her hand.

“It’s lovely to meet you, Anastasia,” Savvina says.

“Likewise, thank you,” my wife replies taking Savvina’s hand. Hmm, no call me Ana. She’s still a bit uncomfortable.

“Let’s go and make ourselves comfortable, shall we?” Savvina says. Savvina tucks my wife’s hand into her elbow.

“My dear, you are exquisite,” Savvina says, leading Butterfly into the den. Butterfly looks back at me and I don’t say or do anything. These are our mentors and she needs to trust them without my prompting. She’s a good judge of character, so I don’t worry.

The den is an open room with two sofas facing each other and a wall of glass facing Lake Washington. The backyard is lit with track lighting and recessed ground lighting, so we get a view of the highly manicured lawn with the lake as the backdrop.

“Let’s get right to it,” Savvina says as she and Butterfly take a seat on the sofa across from me and Artemis. Oh, okay. I assumed that I and my wife would be sitting together. I didn’t think they would separate us this soon, but okay.

“So, we know why we’re here, right?” Savvina asks. I think she wants Butterfly to answer, but I’m certain that she’s not comfortable enough yet.

“We all know my history in the lifestyle,” I begin. “My wife basically doesn’t have any…”

“I have a little,” she protests. I frown and turn my gaze to her, and she looks back at me. “What you mean to say is that I don’t have any before you, but I have some now,” she corrects me. I nod.

“I stand corrected,” I cede. “We’ve… had some playtime. Some of it can get a little intense…”

“Meaning?” Savvina probes.

“There have been some punishments,” I say. “There have been more than a few times when her limits have been tested, but she’s not a seasoned submissive and I think she may be taking more than she should in a healthy BDSM relationship.”

“Which means you feel like you may be giving more than you should,” Artemis says, and it’s not a question. I shrug.

“Yes… I think I might,” I confess.

“Why do you go as far as you do?” he asks me.

“I look to her for signals, like I’ve always done with any submissive, and she doesn’t give them to me. I only know or get the sense that I’ve gone too far when her body betrays her. I didn’t really realize that she was doing this until our cruise.”

“You had absolutely no warnings before then?” Artemis accuses.

“There may have been warning signs…” I pause, “there were warning signs, but I kept thinking that we were getting it together.”

“You’re quiet, Anastasia,” Savvina says. Butterfly begins to fidget a bit.

“I just want to be what he needs,” she says. “It’s not that bad…”

“Not that bad,” Savvina repeats, “that should not be a phrase that you use to describe your relationship at all.” Butterfly rolls her eyes.

“I’m trying to say that he doesn’t abuse me,” she clarifies.

“No one suggested that,” Artemis says. “Why would you immediately feel the need to point that out?”

“Because of what we do,” she defends. “People tend to get the wrong idea…”

“Are you forgetting that you’re here because we do the same thing?” Savvina interjects.

“It’s just… when he talks about pushing my limits. I haven’t passed out. He hasn’t beaten me and drawn blood or broken any bones, so I don’t know what he means when he’s talking about pushing me past my limits.”

“Your limits mean a lot of things, Ana… may I call you Ana?” Savvina says, and it’s the first time that anyone has ever had to force the nickname. Butterfly nods. “You mentioned breaking bones and drawing blood. Have you ever seen anything like that in the lifestyle?”

“Well, yes and no. I haven’t seen breaking bones, but I did visit a BDSM club in college and I saw blood play.”

“Do you consider that abuse?” Savvina asks. Butterfly grimaces.

“To each his own, I guess,” she says, finally. “It’s not for me.”

“So, he hasn’t done anything to you that you would consider abusive, but yet, you’re here because he thinks he’s pushing you past your limits.” Butterfly sighs.

“He went to see his trainer today,” she begins. Huh? Where’s this going. “The guy told him that he’s out of shape because he’s been out of practice. Look at him!” She gestures over to me. “You can pick any part of his body and not be able to pinch a centimeter of fat. Yet, his trainer says he’s out of shape. Why? Because he’s supposed to be at a certain level of performance, and he’s not there.

“That’s how I feel,” she continues. “I feel like I just need the conditioning to be what he needs when he needs it. And yes, I know that there’s a point called ‘too far,’ but if I don’t allow him to push my limits, how will I know what that point is?”

“I see,” Savvina says to Butterfly. “So, it sounds to me that you may have a bit of a grasp of the physical, but you don’t clearly understand the mental.”

“I understand the mental,” she says, clearly affronted. “He’s a Dominant—he needs to regain or maintain control.”

“That’s not all he needs,” Savvina replies. “But what about you? What about what you need? What about your mental? Does the pain get you off?” She shrinks a bit. She’s shrinking?

“Sometimes,” she admits.

“And the other times?” Savvina presses. Butterfly crosses her legs and begins to look very small, shrinking more and I repress the urge to leap over and gather her in my arms. I hate that shit. She looks down, then casts a glance in my direction, though she never makes eye contact with me.

“In another life, you would have been a great pain whore.”

No, she wouldn’t! Pain whores absolutely get off on pain. I know that’s not Butterfly.

“We need to be alone,” Savvina announces. My back straightens.

“Why?” I ask. I thought we were in training together.

“Because you came to us for help,” Savvina says. “She’s a submissive right now and she’s clearly not going to talk with you in the room, much less be receptive to anything I’m going to be telling her. We need to be alone.”

“Come on, Christian,” Artemis says, standing. “Let’s go get a drink.”

Savvina doesn’t break her gaze with me and Butterfly won’t meet my gaze at all. I reluctantly stand and follow Artemis to another part of the house.

“What’s your poison?” he asks, and I notice that his normally heavy Greek accent is significantly smoothed out.

A double shot of Scotch…

“Sparkling water with lime,” I say. “I’m driving.” He nods and begins to fix my drink. “Your accent suddenly doesn’t seem as heavy.”

“It’s a practiced dialect,” he admits, “when I want to make sure that my English is fully understood. Thank you for the confirmation.” He places a soda water with lime in front of me and prepares one for himself.

“You don’t have to abstain from drinking just because I am,” I observe.

“It’s better to keep a level head,” he says. “I may have one drink with dinner, but nothing more.” I nod.

“Why did you offer me a drink, then?” I ask. He raises a brow.

“I offered you a drink, not the bottle,” he says, sipping his soda water. “How does it feel to be ushered from the room that way?”

Like I’ve totally lost control and I want to beat something until my arms ache.

“Fucking helpless,” I admit.

“Good,” Artemis says. “You’re going to have to let her grow on her own and that means letting go. As you both said, she had no experience before you, so you were okay to introduce her, but you’re not okay to teach her… and even though she’s on her way, she has a lot to learn.”

“I’m aware of this now,” I say. “That’s why we’re here…”

Artemis and I talk for a while about balancing life with being a Dom and a husband—he calls it Dominus—and after a few minutes, he reaches into his pocket and looks at his phone.

“Dinner is ready,” he says, “and we’re being summoned.”

I raise my gaze to him. I guess that last part means that our wives have finished their conversation and it’s safe for us to go back. I feel a bit powerless and, in light of current events, it’s not a good feeling. Not a good feeling at all.

Artemis and I go back to the den to join our wives and I get a surprise.

“Ana, why don’t you go on in and get settled for dinner with Artemis? Give me a moment with Christian, do you mind?” Butterfly is clearly hesitant.

“Um, okay?” she says and it’s more of a question than a statement. Artemis gestures with his arm and smiles warmly. She looks at me then at Artemis and leaves the room with him. He mimics placing his hand in the small of her back, but doesn’t actually touch her as they exit. Savvina turns to me.

“You’ve always had submissives that were already primed,” she says. “They knew who they were, they knew what they wanted. They had contracts, they underwent negotiations, and they knew exactly what to expect. They knew what they would and wouldn’t take from you, and it was all spelled out in black and white. They had been thoroughly trained, and some of them were pros. You’ve never had feelings for any of them except your Mistress when you first began as a submissive…”

God, I hate that she refers to that woman as my Mistress.

“You’ve never had a submissive in training, much less one that you’re in love with—seasoned or not. Do not badger that girl about what we discuss. You’ll set her all the way back and undo any progress we possibly make. My suggestion is that while she’s going through her initial submissive training that you go to your Dominus training until you’re needed for her sessions. You’ve known me for years. You know she’ll be safe with me.”

“So, you won’t tell me about the progress of the sessions?” I inquire. She shakes her head.

“You’ll only know what you need to know and nothing more. I will tell you this—she needs a lot of training. She’s balancing on a delicate rope right now and she’s full of more uncertainty than you think. I’m only telling you this because if you push her too hard, it’ll be disastrous.” I nod. I can’t do anything but train and wait.

Fuck, this is going to be tough as fuck!

I’m contemplative throughout dinner, talking as much as is necessary to be social, but lost in my own thoughts. Don’t ask about training; don’t push too hard; I won’t get any updates. How the fuck am I supposed to know what to do and what not to do? I’m going to lose my goddamn mind trying to gauge what’s appropriate and what’s not. I thought I truly had a handle on this whole Dom thing. If I didn’t know anything else, I always knew how to read a woman’s body—what buttons to push, what things to say, how to touch her. To some degree, I’ve even been able to read a woman’s thoughts…

I know when she’s displeased; I know when she’s aroused; I know when she’s angry or sad.

Now, suddenly, with my own wife, I feel like I’m completely out of my league. And it doesn’t help where now I’m fighting with my company as well, where at one time I had total and absolute control and now, it just seems like things are going haywire!

Everybody is telling me that I’m going soft, including my fucking trainer. Even my executive staff don’t respect my decisions anymore. I feel like I’m losing my grip on everything and it’s unbelievably frustrating.

We’ve spent dinner mostly in an effort to make Butterfly more comfortable with the journey we’re about to embark upon, but the entire time, I’m feeling more and more rudderless. By the time we return to the den for drinks and to discuss our next steps, I’m wound tighter than a dollar-store watch.

I’m having visions of the less-controlled things that I once did to faceless submissives in the playroom that’s now being dismantled at Escala. I’ve been having these visions ever since I held my wife down and forced her into two orgasms… or was it three?

I’m remembering with a regretful fondness the days when I was looking forward to the weekend when some fit but bony waif would call me Master and I would work her over until all the pressures of the week had been released. I wasn’t kind to those women—I respected their limits and their safewords if they used them, but I wasn’t kind.

If they ever left me feeling empty or unsatisfied in any way, I punished them. And if they did it again, I ended their contract. It was a means to an end, and it worked out nicely, until…

“Christian, you’re quiet,” Artemis says, bringing me back to the here and now. I know he’s asking what I’m thinking because I haven’t contributed anything to the conversation since we returned to the den. Well, if I’m looking for help with this Dominus thing, I have to be honest.

“This week, I found myself fighting my old… urges,” I admit, and Butterfly rubbernecks to me. Oh, hell, this may have been a bad idea, but the elephant is in the room now.

“Your old urges?” he asks, curiously. He knows what I’m talking about. He’s outfitted both of my playrooms and broke down the one at Escala.

“The pressures of life and the corporate world,” I continue without looking at anyone. “They’re… unearthing the memories of my prior coping techniques.”

“I see,” he says. “Can you elaborate for Ana?”

“I’m aware of his prior coping techniques,” my wife says, turning from me and dropping her gaze to the floor.

“Okay, then elaborate for me,” Artemis presses. I glare at him and he doesn’t falter. He’s not allowing either of us to hide. If this is what we want, we have to face up to it.

“The caning and the whipping,” I admit. “The orgasm refusal and striping the skin with a cat… the things that use to calm my frustration with… life.”

I don’t look at Butterfly, but I can see her deflate out of the corner of my eye.

“You miss those things, Christian?” Artemis asks. I shake my head.

“I just… recall my fascination with them, that’s all,” I admit. “I remember anticipating the weekend and imagining a scene, then carrying it out with a submissive. Yes, the release was liberating. When the days become more stressful than you’re accustomed to—stressful like they used to be—you remember your old coping techniques. That’s all this is.” My wife scoffs, drawing the attention of everyone in the room.

“Ana, is there something you want to add?” Artemis adds. She shrugs.

“What’s to add?” she asks, her voice laced with sarcasm. “He’s feeling nostalgic about the days when he used to beat submissives. His business is stressing him out and he’s thinking about going back to the old way of doing things, just like he did with his company.” I roll my eyes and sigh.

“I’m not thinking about going back to the old way of doing things,” I defend. “I was honest about remembering those times because the stress and the angst that I’m feeling now is similar to the stress and the angst that I was feeling then. It’s no different than smelling my mom’s chicken soup and remembering my childhood, Anastasia. It’s just something that struck a memory.”

“Oh, there’s a comparison—your old BDSM lifestyle and Grace’s chicken soup.”

Yep… yep, that sounds ridiculous.

“Okay… alright, that was a bit too simplistic, but it’s the same premise. It’s something that struck up a memory and that’s all,” I retort.

“Um-hmm,” she says, her gaze back to the floor.

“Ana, what’s going through your head?” Artemis asks.

“I knew that’s what he wanted,” she blurts out. “No matter how he tried to convince me otherwise, I knew deep down that’s what he wanted all along.”

What?

“That’s what I wanted, yes!” I say finally, firmly.

“Then why didn’t you just say that?” she nearly shrieks. “Why play these games with me like I’m what you wanted all this time?”

“Because you are what I want!” I snap back harshly, feeling attacked, “and I don’t want to be that way! It’s what I wanted! It’s what I was accustomed to! And when things get rough, it may be what my mind recalls as a coping technique. It does not mean that’s what I want now! If you, of all people, don’t know and understand that, then I don’t know what to tell you!”

“We need to back up,” Artemis says. “We’re getting into pointing fingers and losing sight of the purpose here. Ana,” he says, turning to my wife, “you’ve heard that Christian may be having some of his initial primal urges…” I move to dispute him, but he raises his finger to silence me. I fucking hate that shit, but in this setting, it’s different—another means to an end.

“How do you feel about that?” Artemis continues. “Would you be able to satisfy those urges for him?”

“No,” she says, after a pause. “I can’t be that woman. I don’t like whips and I don’t like canes, and he knows that.” Her voice is cracking.

“Christian,” Artemis turns to me, “how do you feel about hearing that?”

“I don’t want to do those things to her, and she knows that,” I retort. “That’s why we’re here—to find that compromise that works for us both without her having to push herself to limits that I know she can’t take.”

“Then when he needs the really hard stuff, he’ll just go find someone else that’ll take what he’s dishing out!” She hisses through her tears.

“Fuck! Seriously?” I roar. “You seriously think I would fucking do that?”

I launch from my seat and walk away from the conversation, over to the wall of glass and just look out at the darkness. I don’t even bother counting. It won’t help this time. I really can’t believe what I’m hearing. Does she really think I would do that to her? To our fucking family? Seriously?

“Ana, that’s not fair,” Savvina chimes in. “Has Christian ever given you any reason to believe that he would venture outside of your marriage?”

“No,” I hear her sob, “but I can’t be that woman for him. I know who he was, what he did, and I can’t be that woman! So, what is he going to do—pretend like he doesn’t have those urges? Pretend like he doesn’t want to chain me to the ceiling of the playroom and cane me until my entire body is striped pink?”

I’ve never fucking whipped any woman until her entire body was striped pink. That is abuse. Hell, I had a hard time with B&D after I spanked her until she had purple bruises on her bottom. Remember that, Anastasia?

Come to think of it, even if I was that much of an asshole to want to cheat on my wife, I could never inflict the kind of damage on any woman that I used to before I met Ana, for more reasons than I can count.

I can’t hear anything now. I’m so fucking pissed that I can barely breathe. How dare her! How fucking dare she think I would want someone else—for any reason whatsoever! Yeah, I skipped out to Madrid when things got a bit much for me to bear, but has that situation completely negated everything that I’ve ever done in our entire relationship to prove that she’s the one that I really want? Jesus H. Christ, this is a fucking nightmare.

I feel angry, I feel appalled. I feel every type of burning rage a man can feel when he’s innocent and being accused of a crime he didn’t commit. But beyond all that fury and ire, there’s one emotion that’s sticking out the worst, and I can’t put a name to it? Is it rejection? Do I feel slighted? What is this?

“What did you say?” Artemis says and apparently, I said something, but I wasn’t aware of it. I close my eyes and open my mouth and just let the word flow out on its own.

“Hurt.”

The room is silent, and I don’t turn around. I’m leaning on the wall next to the wall of glass—or I should say that it’s kind of holding me up right now. I don’t want this. I don’t want any of this. I’ll turn my back on the whole lifestyle, on everything it means to me or does for me if it means I’ll lose her. I’ll work out until every muscle in my body feels like steel before I jeopardize my family. But I think what bothers me the most is the fact that she feels like I could so easily throw that all away.

“Christian, you’re moving backwards. That’s not good…”

We’re moving backwards!” I say finally, interrupting Artemis’ statement. “We’re moving backwards in every way!”

“That may be what’s needed,” Savvina interjects and I glare at her. “To pull back all the layers of everything you’ve built in terms of your practices and dispel all the disillusions.”

I take a moment to think about what she said when Butterfly left the room; that all of my submissives have already been primed; that she’s pretty much at a precipice right now and if I push her too hard, it may set her back. I just wish I knew how the fuck this equates into I want someone else just because I confessed to feeling the same lack of control that I used to.

“I really think we’ve gone as far as we can today,” Savvina says. Both Artemis and I look questioning at her and she gestures to Butterfly. I look over at my wife and she’s as still as a statue, tears falling almost endlessly onto her beautiful red dress. I push my hands through my hair and shake my head.

“I think you’re right,” I say, unable to hide the anger in my voice. I leave the den and head to the front room and the closet where our coats are kept. I’ve never needed time alone more in my life than I do right now.

The three of them come from the den into the front room where I’m standing. Butterfly isn’t crying anymore, but she’s eying me leerily. Oh, for fuck’s sake.

“You can ride with me if you like,” I say, failing miserably to contain my ire, “or if you rather I call someone to come and get you, I can do that, too.”

She immediately drops her gaze and shakes her head, and I immediately feel like shit. I hold her coat open for her and she walks into it without raising her head.

“Next week?” Savvina asks. “The Munch?”

“Yes,” I say, my voice clipped. No way in hell I’m going to put myself or her through this without seeing it through.

The ride back to Mercer is deathly quiet. I don’t even bother to turn the radio on. I’m concentrating hard on the road and trying to get us back home in one piece. Total silence for twenty minutes and plenty of time for my thoughts to bang themselves against my skull over and over again until I can at least find the solace of my goddamn piano…


ANASTASIA

He bolts to the elevator without a word the moment we hit the mudroom. He doesn’t even bother to remove his coat… or mine.

Weeping, I take the stairs to our bedroom. I cry the entire time I rip the red dress from my body, truly hoping to never see the beautiful piece of fabric again. I kick off my stilettos and I’m careful with his grandmother’s earrings, not so much with the costume necklace from one of my prior Ana Steele collections. My hands are trembling so much as I try to remove it that I break the clasp. I reach for a nightgown, then realize that I’ll most likely be spending the night alone, and not in that bed, so I opt for a pair of yoga pants and my U-Dub sweatshirt instead.

I always feared the day would come where I wouldn’t be enough for him. In the back of my head, I always dreaded the day would come when he needed something that I couldn’t give him. That’s why I took the heavy play. It was never something that I couldn’t take, and I knew it wasn’t abuse. I knew that I could stop any of it with just a safeword, but I knew he needed more. No matter how he tried to convince me or himself, I knew he needed more, so I convinced myself to take more—to be what he needed.

The truth is that the whole thing is an unknown to me, and I’m putting characteristics on him that were never ever there… like infidelity. Mistrust is a poison pill and I can’t allow that to creep into our relationship. It’s more than the running away to Madrid because he can’t take the heat or deal with what he saw. This is actively believing that my husband would venture outside of our marriage and find satisfaction in the arms of another woman, or with another woman at the end of his whip.

I’m fighting the urge to pack my things and my babies and leave just because I don’t want to be here and I don’t know what to feel, but I know that won’t solve anything. If anything, it’ll make everything that much worse, and it’s the wrong thing to do for so many reasons. I don’t even know why I want to leave. Even now, my mind is ping-ponging back and forth between rational and irrational thoughts, and I really need to talk to somebody.

I need a friend—a confidante in the worst way.

I open my phone to Facebook and look for Laura’s name. I can instant message her and she’ll contact me when she’s online.

Hmmm, I have to download Facebook Messenger. Fine. I download the app and look for Laura. She has to approve me to message her. That’s strange. Shouldn’t I already be approved if I’m her friend? Whatever. I type a short message:

Mercer Doctor Lady: Hey, what’s up?

Short and sweet. What time is it in Sydney right now anyway? Is she even awake? I’m fucking bright-eyed and bushy tailed since my husband refuses to come to bed after I foolishly accused him of wanting to whip other little brown-haired girls if I refused to cooperate. God, the thought is so repulsive, and if he had even the slightest reaction close to mine, I certainly understand why he’s livid and needs his space right now.

Ellen Degeneres it is…

I watch three clips of her scaring her guests and playing silly games that she made up when my phone chimes with a notification.

LauraLee Kelly: You’re up late. Can’t sleep?

Very perceptive.

Mercer Doctor Lady: How’d you guess? Exactly what time is it in Sydney? Did I wake you?

LauraLee Kelly: Not even. Has it been that long, dear? It’s barely dusk here.

Oh. Well, at least I didn’t wake her.

LauraLee Kelly: I know it’s past dusk in your neck of the woods. Why the night owl?

I can’t tell her everything, but I’ll give her the basics.

Mercer Doctor Lady: I had a fight with Christian.

LauraLee Kelly: Uh oh. Can you elaborate?

She knows me well.

Mercer Doctor Lady: Only a little. Old ghosts preyed on my insecurities.

LauraLee Kelly: The Boogieman?

Hmm… no.

Mercer Doctor Lady: Honestly, no, not this time. I was just insecure about his nostalgia of the man that he used to be before he met me.

LauraLee Kelly: Okay, so I’m a little lost. Why was he nostalgic?

Mercer Doctor Lady: Because work is stressful, and he began thinking about the things he used to do as a single man.

LauraLee Kelly: I’m not trying to open a can of worms, but work stress usually doesn’t make you think about something like that. There has to be something more. You know I’m your friend and I’d really like to help you out with this, but I don’t want you to tell me more than you think you should.

Shit, should I tell her anything? I’ve already told her so much. I would normally talk to Ace about things like this, but he’s not available and I’ve pretty much told him to kick rocks until I need him…

As I’m pondering my options, my phone makes this horrible ringing-clanking sound. It sounds awful. I look at the screen and discover that Laura is calling me. That’s not my ringtone, though. I look closer and realize that she’s calling me through Messenger. Hm, you learn something new every day.

I swipe the screen and accept her video chat.

“I figured this would be easier, whether you wanted to elaborate or not,” she says when her face appears on the screen. Jesus, she’s a sight for sore eyes.

“I didn’t think I’d miss you guys so much so soon,” I admit. “It’s been a rough week ever since we’ve been home.”

“Obviously,” she says. “Why are you sitting in the dark?” I turn on a lamp on the end table. “There you are. You don’t look so good…  do you want to elaborate or would you rather not?”

I look over into our bedroom at our undisturbed bed and sigh.

“Yeah,” I cede weakly.

Without giving her too much information on our background and why we partake, I explain to her that we’re active in the BDSM lifestyle and that Christian would most likely blow a literal fuse if he knew that I was telling her. I give her the short version of our mostly vanilla relationship with the kinky fuckery thrown in, but that my most recent uncertainty stemmed from the fact that my husband was—once upon a time—into some of the more sadistic stuff.

“You’re afraid that he wants to go back to that?” she asks.

“I don’t know, Laura,” I admit. “I know he thinks about it even though he won’t do it with me. I know he would never hurt me… well, beyond what I can take and what I consent to, but he used to be into some heavier shit than what we do. This week has been stressful with some things that have been going on with the business and in our personal lives, and he admitted that he had been thinking about some of the things that he used to do with those other women.”

“Did he say he wanted you to do those things?” she asks.

“No,” I say, shaking my head.

“Did he give you the impression that he wanted to start doing those things again… with you or other women?” I clear my throat.

“Not as such,” I admit. “He just… talked about remembering those things—his old ‘coping mechanisms’—and he made it sound like he missed them.” She nods.

“Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. So, did he in any way, shape, or form make you feel like you were falling short because you weren’t doing what these other women did?”

“No,” I admit. “He didn’t, but…” I trail off.

“But what?” she presses. I roll my eyes and sigh.

“This horrible woman that he used to… be involved with, she told me when we first got together that he would tire of me—that one day, he would miss his old lifestyle and that I wouldn’t be enough. As soon as I start remembering what she said…” with the help of a nocturnal visit from the bitch, “… he comes out and admits that he misses that lifestyle.”

“He said that?” she asks in horrified awe.

“Well, no, not that. He said that the stress of the week is making him nostalgic for his old coping mechanisms.” She frowns.

“What else did he say?” she asks.

“That was pretty much it—that he was just thinking about his prior activities and the way that he used to cope.” She rubs her chin.

“Okay, I see. So… some bitch planted a seed in your head a few years ago when her time was apparently fading and yours was just beginning to bloom, and now when things aren’t so perfect, her words have come back to haunt you and you suddenly believe that your husband is no longer satisfied with your relationship. Have I just about summed it up?”

Wait a minute, whose side are you on?

“You do realize that you’re subjecting yourself to insecurity because he’s remembering the familiar, don’t you?”

God, she makes it sound so simple. It’s got to be more than that.

“We were seeing another couple in the lifestyle to try to help us find a middle-ground between our kinky fuckery and the really hard stuff.”

“Why would you need that if you guys were already practicing?” she asks. “I thought you said he didn’t expect you to do all that hard shit.”

“He doesn’t,” I clarify. “We’re seeing this other couple because he feels like he may be pushing me beyond my limits and that I’m letting him because I don’t want him to seek satisfaction elsewhere. So, we sought out some guidance.” She frowns.

“You realize that you’re proving my point, right?” she says. “If he had the slightest inclination of going back to the lifestyle that he was living before, you think he would have said anything about it while you were present? He has a woman who is clearly willing to take more than she can bear to help him stay grounded, but you guys are meeting with someone because he feels like you’re going beyond your limits. How this equates to ‘he wants his old life back,’ I have no idea, so you’re really going to have to help me with that.”

You should see him, Laura. He’s nearly inconsolable!” I say, my voice desperate. “Most people devote eight or nine hours of the day to work. If you’re the boss, maybe ten or twelve. This thing with the business has turned him into someone else entirely. This is the guy he used to be before he met me, only it’s worse—or maybe it’s not worse, because I wasn’t around then. Maybe this was who he was all the time—unapproachable for 16 – 20 hours out of the day, but nobody cared because he didn’t have a wife and children. Nobody was looking or nobody cared if he slept for maybe four hours each night, but when he did that, he let his frustrations out on the weekend on women who were trained and professional and could take a whole lot more than I can.”

I’m choking back the tears that are welling up in my throat again. My husband is nostalgic about the old days not because he wants another woman, but because life is guiding him to where he was before. If something doesn’t change, what’s to stop him from wandering into his old way… again, not because he’s unfaithful, but because it’s what’s familiar?

“Ana, my high school years were outstanding—I was popular, I had friends, and the prom was phenomenal. I remember those days with fondness, but I don’t want to go back! It was a time before all my problems started. I was carefree and young and happy, but I still don’t want to go back. All kinds of things have happened that makes me a different person now than I was then. So, this person now won’t fit in that time, no matter how great it was. Do you really think that this person that Christian is now would fit in the time of the person that he was then? Because if you do, you’ve got a bigger problem than you think.” I choke on a gasp and cover my mouth.

“No,” I sob. “No, he’s nothing like he was before… nothing at all. I don’t think he could ever be that person again if he tried. He’s… come a really long way, and the biggest part of the journey was… in the first few months that we met. The Christian Grey that I first met could never have… been a husband, let alone a father. Yes, he has his imperfect moments, but… he’s not that guy. He’s… just not that guy.”

“I’m glad you see that,” she says. “So, why are you talking to me and not to him?”

“He needs some time,” I say, wiping the tears from my cheeks. “He’s a proud man. He told me how he felt… and I told him how I felt. I don’t think either of us could really take it.”

“Mm,” she replies, “his version of sulking?”

“Brooding,” I correct her, “but he gets a gimme on this one… a big gimme.”

Laura and I talk a little more and I thank her for listening to me and helping me get my thoughts together. The incident wasn’t Boogieman status—only because I think I’ve learned how to deal with the Boogieman—but it was pretty steep, and the way I feel about Ace these days, I don’t think he would have been able to help me.

Quite some time after I began my call with Laura, I go to the nightstand in my bedroom and retrieve my iPod. I take the throw from the bottom of the bed and go back into the sitting room. Still fully dressed, I wrap the throw around me and lay on the loveseat. I’m surprised that my iPod is still charged, but I haven’t used it in a while. I turn it on and open my files. That one big file is still there of course. I open it and allow it to play. I lay my head on the pillow as I listen to him play his piano and sing to me. I finally fall asleep as his deep voice sings about being in love with me and feeling brand new…

I slept like the dead. It must have been the emotional overload from last night. I’m in the fetal position on the love seat, wrapped in the throw from our bed. I’m listening to the last bars of one of the songs Christian sang to me on my iPod—I think it’s Michael Franks, Now I Know Why. I stop the iPod and sit up. It’s obvious that he didn’t come to bed last night since I’m still on the loveseat.

It’s also obvious that he’s been in this room.

On the floor next to the loveseat is a single flawless long-stemmed rose.

I pick up the rose and take it to the en suite with me. While I’m in the shower, I think about the conversation Savvina and I had before my husband dropped the “nostalgia” bomb…

“You say that you know about the mental,” she says. “So, what do you know?” I straighten my back.

“I know that different people deal with stressful situations in different ways,” I say. “I know that my husband has been mentally preconditioned to deal with unfettered circumstances in a physical manner. It helps him to regain control and yes, it gets him off.”

“Unfettered,” she says, repeating my word. “God, you sound so clinical.”

Well! Should I be offended?

“Why are you making this relationship sound so sterile?” she asks.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“How long have you actively partaken in a BDSM lifestyle of any kind?” she asks.

“Since the beginning,” I reply. “Well, almost the beginning. We might have been a week or two into our relationship, I don’t remember exactly…”

“And how long have you been together?” she presses.

“Two and a half years,” I confess.

“So, you two have been dabbling for two and a half years, and you don’t find it strange that your husband has not been able to identify your limits?” My defenses drop and I shrug.

“Christian was a different man when we met,” I tell her. “If you already knew him, I’m sure you’re aware of this.”

“I have helped my husband outfit a few dungeons for him. I’m aware of this,” she replies. Dungeons. He’s never called it a dungeon… but she just did.

You seem unnerved,” she says. “Does it bother you that I’ve had a hand in decorating his dungeons?”

“No,” I reply honestly, “it’s unsettling that you call them ‘dungeons.’ It conjures other impressions for me.”

“Well, that’s what they are, dear, but I’ll refer to them as playrooms if it’ll make you more comfortable.”

“Yes, please,” I reply.

“Earlier, you said the pain gets you off… sometimes. Is that why you allow him to push your limits so far?” I raise my gaze to her.

“I will speak to Christian about our progress and things that I feel he needs to know throughout our encounters, but whatever you say to me will remain in confidence,” she assures me. I stare at her for a moment or two.

“I’m not sure… what my husband wants,” I tell her. “He’s beautiful and powerful and he has spent a good portion of his life in the BDSM lifestyle, both as a submissive and as  a Dominant. He’s very good at being both. His pain threshold as a submissive is beyond anything I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“So, you’ve dominated him, too,” she observes.

“Like you said, we’ve dabbled,” I inform her. “But when he’s on the other side of the crop…” I trail off.

How do you feel going into a scene?” she asks. “When you know that he’s in full Dom mode, when he binds you or restrains you in any way, when you don’t know what’s coming, but you think you might, how do you feel? What are you thinking?”

I try to think about all the scenes we’ve done. Some of them have been passionate while others have been somewhat brutal. And yet others have been a combination of the two.

“It honestly depends on the situation,” I confess.

“Do you know what’s coming before it happens?” she asks.

“Not unless he tells me,” I reply.

“And how often does he tell you?”

“Not often,” I say.

“So, again I ask, how do you feel going into a scene… overall?” I pause.

“I trust him,” I reply. “I know that if I tell him to stop, he’ll stop. I know that he won’t hurt me beyond what I tell him that he can and can’t do.”

“That’s all wonderful, Ana, but you still haven’t told me how you feel,” she points out. “He’s in full Dom mode and you know it’s coming. You know what he’s done before, but you don’t know what he’s about to do now. How do you feel?” I swallow hard.

“It depends,” I reply honestly. “Excited sometimes, or… terrified…”

“Terrified?” she questions, frowning deeply.

“Of the unknown,” I add. “I want to be what he needs, but sometimes, I don’t know what he needs. I know he can be intense, and I just don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if he’s going to do something that I like or if he’s going to need something more than I can take. It’s a balancing act and sometimes, it can be terrifying…”

I tell her about punishments that I don’t feel I deserved or where I think he actually may have gone too far, like the time I went outside without a jacket to stop Keri from leaving when I was pregnant. I didn’t feel like it was a huge malfeasance and could have been easily settled by a verbal lashing about going outside without a coat—like he went outside with wet hair or ran through the rain and actually did get sick—but he spanked me in the shower until my butt was purple.

Or the first fiasco in Anguilla where I was left shaking and nerve-wrecked after being ordered not to come.

“So, it’s not that you’re concerned if he’ll hurt you because it sounds like you expect him to hurt you anyway. You’re simply afraid that you won’t be able to sustain as far as he might be willing to go.”

Bells ring in my head not to respond, not to let this woman know that she’s hit this nail on the head. What does that say about my husband—that he will one day take things too far? That I will have to safeword to get him to stop? When will I know when to safeword if I keep telling myself to go further and further… for him? When will that moment come when he really does need more, and I can’t give it to him?

“No response is a response, Ana,” Savvina says. “You don’t understand the mental and what it means for you; and if you don’t find enjoyment in it, or relief, or release, then it is abuse, even if it’s unintentional.”

“But I do find release…”

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

We went in to dinner shortly after that revelation with Savvina promising to help me understand what healthy limits are as opposed to allowing myself to be brutalized—for lack of a better word—for the sake of keeping my husband from straying. And then came the timebomb…

“The pressures of life and the corporate world, they’re… unearthing the memories of my prior coping techniques… The caning and the whipping, the orgasm refusal and striping the skin with a cat… the things that use to calm my frustration with… life. I just… recall my fascination with them, that’s all. I remember anticipating the weekend and imagining a scene, then carrying it out with a submissive. Yes, the release was liberating. When the days become more stressful than you’re accustomed to—stressful like they used to be—you remember your old coping techniques…”

Who wouldn’t feel at least even the tiniest bit of doubt upon hearing that their very dominant-previously-sadistic husband is recalling his fascination with his previous BDSM lifestyle right at a moment when he’s telling me that he may need to pull back because I might be pushing myself too far?

He expressed his feelings and I expressed mine. Mine were apparently the very wrong ones…

“You can ride with me if you like… or if you rather I call someone to come and get you, I can do that, too.”

He was pissed, not that I could blame him. I let the insecurities that I got from a dream—a phantom—materialize into the real, and I threw that insecurity at my husband. That ride was probably the longest twenty minutes of my life.

That’s a lie. The seconds passed like hours when he was in Madrid, but that’s another situation entirely.

I’m blaming a bout of dream-induced temporary insanity for my feelings of insecurity. I truly don’t think Christian wants another woman, not even to release his frustrations. However, I’m not at all convinced that he doesn’t want the release of the intense playroom scenes that he once had with his prior submissives, and I don’t know what to do about that.


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

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 88—Coming Around the Stretch  

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 88—Coming Around the Stretch  

ANASTASIA

Of course, something about me would send him into a rage. Was it the tight ass comment, the fact that they said I was holding out on him, or the fact that they were talking about me at all? Either way, Iron Fist Grey was able to flex his iron muscles.

“Excuse me,” I say, deciding to go to the kitchen to see what’s holding dinner up now that His Highness has finally joined us.

“Ana, what are you doing in here?” Gail says, pausing from feeding Mikey his dinner.

“Just coming to see if you all need any help,” I say. “I know that waiting for Christian threw our clock off a bit.”

“Ya fehd Minneh,” Keri says. “We gawt the bebbies. I hep wit da dinnah ef dey need…”

“She’s escaping, Keri,” Gail says, wiping her hands and handing Mikey’s spoon and bowl to a confused Keri. “Come with me,” she says, guiding me into the family room where Jason and Chuck are watching television. They look up at me and no doubt wonder why I’m being led into the family room when we have guests in the dining room.

“You’re going to need to be a tough soldier for the next few days,” Gail says with her hands on my arms near my shoulders. “He’s going to take at least that long to find his center. If it’s too much for you, nobody will blame you for being scarce or hiding out. It’ll be easier for him—and for you—if you can help him ride it out, though. No matter how he tries, he’ll never be able to be the asshole that he once was, but he’s going to give it the old college try, and it’s going to be rough until he finds the formula that works for him. You may need a moment or three to yourself throughout this time, just don’t run away. Remember the Vampire Lestat you found when you returned from Montana?”

I shiver when I recall how dead he looked walking into the penthouse that day. It was the creepiest thing I had ever seen… well, second only to that room where I was chained to the bed for four days. Why the fuck did that come to mind? I quickly shake off the memory.

“That’s who he’ll become if you disappear,” she warns. I shake my head.

“Let’s… just get dinner started,” I say. The dinner guests have opened the floor to Lestat and I don’t think I can take much more of hearing about his day tonight.

By the time we get the chicken cordon bleu and sides plated, the conversation has thankfully shifted to something else. I place his plate in front of him and take my seat to his right.

“You okay?” he asks quietly while everyone else is being distracted by dinner.

“Mm-hmm,” I say quickly, placing my napkin on my lap and preparing to eat my dinner. “Elliot, has Grace said anything about Christmas?” I ask. Elliot shakes his head.

“I assumed that we were all going over there like we normally do,” he says. “Did something happen?” I shake my head.

“I just hadn’t heard anything,” I say, trying not to open a can of worms.

“Are you guys still fighting?” he asks. “Since Thanksgiving?”

“No,” I reply. “We’re not fighting anymore.”

“You made up?” he asks. I twist my lips.

“More like called a truce,” I say. His brow rises.

“Oh,” he says. “That’s why you wanted to know if anything had changed.” I nod.

“Yeah… I wasn’t so sure,” I admit.

“If I know my mom, she expects everyone to be there for Christmas,” he says softly.

“Yeah,” Val chimes in. “She even welcomed me when Meg had control of my brain. I’m sure she expects you to be there.”

I don’t say anything. I get the feeling that Grace is just tolerating me right now because I’m what’s good for the Center. It seems like every time something goes wrong, it has to do with me and her. With everything that’s been going on in my life, it’s a battle that I just don’t have the strength to fight. I’m looking for simple, not more complicated.

“So did Al tell you guys the news?” I say, and I have everyone’s attention. “I’m going to trial in February. I’ll finally be able to tell my story against those Green Valley bastards.”

“Really?” Christian says, looking over at Al. “How did I miss this information?”

“You were a bit distracted today,” Al says unapologetically. “Besides, I knew that we were coming over today and that you would find out about it tonight.” Christian nods and tucks into his chicken. I keep the conversation going on the upcoming trial.

“One of the defendants took a plea last year—or whenever it was—to keep from having to go to trial. Two others—the main ring leaders—took pleas as well to turn state’s evidence against anyone else who comes to trial. So, now, someone’s coming to trial and these assholes get to testify, making good on their plea deal.” I take a bite of my chicken. Mmm, it’s really delicious.

“So, who’s going to trial?” Elliot asks. I look over at Al.

“Vincent Sullivan,” he replies. “He’s…” He clears his throat. “He’s one of the guys who… branded her.”

I don’t stop chewing even though the Bitch is fighting not to hurl. I have to face these people in court. I’m not going to let them see me sweat, so I might as well start practicing now.

“When are you going to Vegas?” Val asks. “When is the trial?”

“February 2nd,” Al replies. “The papers in Vegas are already on fire with the story… and some not-so-flattering assumptions about my girl.” My head pops up. I didn’t know that.

“Assumptions like what?” I ask. Al’s ears turn red. He thought I knew.

“Just people talking shit, Jewel. Don’t pay it any attention,” he says, trying to downplay it.

“You just said Vegas is on fire with the story and now you’re telling me not to pay it any attention?” I ask.

“What kind of shit?” Christian says firmly. Al rolls his eyes.

“The same shit they’re always talking,” he says, “that she’s a pampered princess that’s just trying to get attention and now that she has money, she just wants to get revenge on a group of kids for some harmless teasing.”

Don’t blow your top, Ana. Keep cool.

“Harmless teasing?” Christian nearly roars. “They call what they did to her ‘harmless teasing?’ Are they out of their fucking minds?”

“Oh, good grief,” I say, after swallowing my food. “The evidence is horrendously graphic, and it’ll speak for itself. Let them say whatever the hell they want.” I’m sipping this cranberry spritzer and it’s pissing me off. I want a shot of vodka!

“Okay, so, that’s enough of that,” Val says, quickly sensing my tension. “We came over to talk about my godchildren. Why the hell you two think you’ll kick the bucket at the same time is beyond me, but let’s get on with it.”

“It’s not that we think we’ll die at the same time,” Christian says. “It’s just that we’ve realized that we didn’t have provisions for our children in case something happens to us. We’re certain that no one would fight over the kids, but in the unlikely event that we both depart, we just want things to be… in order.”

“What brought this on, Bro?” Elliot asks.

“Watching Tina’s children act like savages after she died and realizing that we didn’t have a will,” I answer, and I’ve had enough of this damn spritzer. “Gail!” I yell. She comes scrambling into the dining room.

“What? What is it?” she asks, frantically.

“I’m sorry,” I say immediately. “That was a bit dramatic. Please forgive me. Would you uncork a Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc?” She raises a knowing brow at me.

“Coming right up,” she says and walks out of the kitchen.

“Continue,” I say, turning back to my meal and ignoring the gawking faces at the table.

“So, are you saying that whomever gets the kids will suddenly become billionaires?” Elliot asks.

“That’s a possibility,” Christian says. “As you know, our children will be very well provided for, and even though our entire fortune wouldn’t pass down to them upon our demise, whomever takes them on will be pretty much set as their caregivers. There will, of course, be large trusts for when they become adults. But let’s face it, if I were to retire right now and travel the world every day of my life, I would still have money to burn for decades to come. So, of course, I want my children to be cared for if something happens to me.”

“So, what’s the idea?” Val asks. “The children’s care will be written into your will?”

“Definitely,” he replies. “If something happens to me and Butterfly before they reach 18,  definite provisions will be made for their care and custody. And that’s where you guys come in.”

“Well, there’s two kids and two couples, but… there’s no way I would want to split them up,” Val says.

“Ditto,” Al replies. “If something that horrible was to happen, they would already be traumatized enough with losing their mom and dad. They would never recover.”

“So, what do you suggest we do?” Elliot says. Val and Al ponder the situation, and I’m sure that neither of them wants to raise their hand to be first in line for fear of hurting the other. Val comes up with the tiebreaker.

“El and I will have our own bundle of joy soon. I think it would just be greedy for us to ask for first-standing with Minnie and Mikey if something happens to you guys, heaven forbid.” Elliot twists his lips and nods.

“I have to agree,” he says. “It’s not like you’re going to take my niece and nephew and skip town.”

“Are you kiddin’?” Al exclaims. “If something happens to Chris and Jewel, I’m gonna have a little girl on my hands. I’m going to have your ass on speed dial!” he says to Val.

“Well, then that settles it,” Val says. “If something happens to you guys—and by the way, nothing’s going to happen to you guys—Al and James become daddies and El and I will be happy back-ups. Is everybody cool with that?” James and Al look at each other and James nods. Elliot is nodding, too.

“Good,” I say. “I know this is the whole reason we called this tête-à-tête, but I would very much like to stop talking about my demise now… and where’s my wine?”

“It’s here,” Gail says, entering the room with Windsor behind her. “I was just letting it breathe.”

“Good,” I say, noting the large-bowl wine glasses. “Sorry, Val, but I need this.”

“Don’t mind me,” she says, holding up her cranberry spritzer, Windsor pours me a respectable amount in my glass and I almost want to hit him.

“Um, you might want to keep pouring, Benson,” Al says.

“His name is Windsor,” I correct him. “Don’t be a queen, Al.” I turn to Windsor. “Please?” I say holding up my glass. Windsor fills it to nearly 75% and I thank him. He goes to fill the other glasses and Al informs him that only he and I would be drinking the red. The gentlemen would most likely want the white.

“I’m sorry if I offended you,” he says to Windsor. “I can be a jerk, but I’m not an asshole.”

“No offense taken, sir,” Windsor says. I don’t know if he’s offended or not, but he wouldn’t show it if he was, consummate professional that he is.

My glass is empty in no time and Windsor is refilling it before I even ask. Iron Fist Grey, the Green Valley nightmare, and my imminent demise all in one conversation… It’s a bit much for one evening.

“You okay, Ana?” Val asks. I nod without looking at anyone.

“Mmhmm,” I say, swallowing more of my wine. Cabernet is the answer to all the world’s problems and I’m going to sit here and drink until I have answers to mine.

Once the evening winds down, I’ve killed three large-bowl glasses of Cabernet and I notice that people are careful what they say to me if they venture to say anything at all. I say my goodnights to everyone once they’ve had coffee and Christian heads to the door to show everyone out. I head upstairs and don some exercise gear. Before he has the chance to get away from the door, I’m across the house and in the elevator. When I get down to the exercise room, I murder the elliptical until my arms and legs ache and I’m swimming in sweat. I just want to fall into a coma-like sleep and forget this day. Tomorrow is a do-over and I’m hoping that it’s going to be much better than this.

My husband, the asshole—who can’t shed the asshole before he gets home. I know that I’ve understood and labeled the Boogieman, but are we ready for this kind of test?

Once I’ve beaten myself all to hell and my muscles all feel like rubber, I abandon the elliptical and go to my room. I run a bath in my marble tub and climb in quickly so that my muscles won’t lock. It feels really good and I’m hoping to fall asleep the moment I get out of the tub…

“Butterfly… wake up.”

I open my eyes, still in the tub. The bubbles have dissipated, and the water is cold. I look up at my husband, my eyes questioning.

“It’s about 3am,” he says. “You fell asleep. I assume you were pretty tired after you climbed Mt. Rushmore, but had I thought you’d be napping in the tub, I would have come to check on you sooner.”

Wouldn’t you know it? At three in the morning, my docile Christian finally returns after still being a bear at nine at night. So, now what? He’ll go to sleep and wake at six to gradually go into bear mode again? To be that cold soul I had breakfast with yesterday? What should I do—swap my schedule so that I’m awake in the middle of the night to spend some time with the man I’ve come to know?

“What are you thinking?” he asks. Do I tell him? Do I say that I don’t know how to be married to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and that, by the way, I spent my entire college tenure wondering which one was really the crazy one and which one was sane?

“That this water is cold, and I feel like a saturated, useless sponge at the moment.” It’s true. He retrieves a bath towel and opens it. Tossing it over his arm, he extends his hand to help me out of the tub. I drag my waterlogged ass out of the tub, and he wraps me in the bath towel. My hair is wet even though I didn’t wash it and I don’t feel like dealing with it in any capacity right now.

He carries me to the bedroom wrapped in the bath towel, sits me on the bed, and begins to dry my skin. I try to accommodate him, but I’m just too tired to sit up. I lay down on the pillow, wet hair and all, and allow him to finish drying my body. I must have drifted off to sleep because I awake with him gently sucking my nipple. It feels so good, but I’m so tired.

“Christian…” I protest.

“I need you,” he replies, his intense gray eyes meeting my sleepy blues. I surrender and allow him to do what he wants. It’s not like I have the strength to protest anyway.

Mr. Grey works his usual magic, working my body into a fevered frenzy with his hands and mouth before mounting me.

And, dear Lord, does he mount me!

He pushes my legs open and thrusts into me—hard! My upper body rises off the bed and he grabs both my wrists and pins them down on the sides of my head to prevent my escape. He’s grinding and stroking into me mercilessly, with force and purpose. I can’t move anything. My hips are pinned down by his forceful motion and his hands are clasped to my wrists, fastening them to the bed. His eyes are silver fire, staring down at me as he thrusts into me, my ladyparts completely open and at his mercy. I see torment and passion in his eyes at the same time and my entire body rolls with each thrust. I’m helpless to fight him when he says…

“Don’t come yet.”

Yeah, sure.

“I… I can’t… Christian!”

I detonate in orgasm, my entire pelvis flexing painfully. I cry out from the intense pressure and vibration, but he just keeps pounding.

“Christian… please…” but he’s gone. He sees me… but I think his mind is somewhere else. He grinds and rolls his hips and begins to stimulate me again. I groan in my chest, knowing what’s coming.

“Christian…” I breathe.

“Feel it!” he nearly growls.

And feel it, I do. His dick is wide and demanding, and he’s thrusting deep, rhythmic strokes as if he’s digging for buried treasure—forceful and intensive, still holding my hands down and still looking in my eyes. Shit, I feel it in my chest.

“Oh, God,” I groan, the ecstasy and agony almost too much to bear. I feel the force of his weight on my wrists, but he’s using his knees for leverage, occasionally stretching his lips and making primal noises in his throat and chest. His pecks are flexed, and I can see the top of his eight-pack abs, both sets of muscles beginning to glisten with sweat.

I’m wrung out, only able to lie there and take what he’s dishing out. My body is on fire and after several minutes of intense manipulation, the heat reaches into my core again. I think I hear him say something, but the resulting orgasm is ringing in my ears and blocking out all light and sound. I feel myself struggling under his grasp, but not to get away, just from the intensity of the climax.

I’m wheezing when the second one wanes, but the fucking nymph in me just won’t tap out. My body is shattered, wracked from exhaustion and intense orgasms, but the little inner whore is naked, squatting on the bed salivating and cheering me on.

No, hoe, I’m tired!

But neither she nor my husband can hear me. He’s still stroking like this marathon has just begun, and the inner whore is squatting behind him encouraging like a coxswain…

“Stroke! Stroke! Stroke! Stroke…”

Cunt!

“Christian…” I whimper.

“You can do it,” he hisses.

No, I can’t!

The inner whore is nodding feverishly and if I could move, I’d throw something at her head and knock her ass unconscious. Christian must be hearing her.

“Please…” I beg.

“One more!” he commands and keeps stroking into my core. I’m certain that no matter what he and my inner whore says, I don’t have one more in me.

Somebody forgot to tell my pussy.

A few minutes later, my crotch it on fire again. He feels different inside me—not wide, but his ministrations are leaving no area untouched. Dear God, his cock is so hard… so hard and stroking every wall inside me, every secret spot…

“That’s it… give me one more! I need one more!”

He needs it? Why does he need it? It doesn’t matter, because my body obeys his command and gives him the third orgasm he demands. I’m covered in both our sweat as my core vibrates angrily in a final crippling showdown. I can’t scream as the pleasure—and exhaustion—has snatched my voice away, and I can’t move as most of my muscles are locked in the orgasm.

My husband grunts and thrusts and I feel his legs stiffen, but he continues to grind into me a few more times until I hear an inhuman sound rip from his chest. I open my eyes to see him just as he expresses his climax. He stretches his body backward and straightens, his chest and head up like a wolf howling at the moon. My core is still pulsing around him and he jerks with each flex, his entire body stiff, sweating, and trembling.

If I wasn’t so fucking tired, the sight would turn me on again.

My body falls completely limp as he finally drops his head, sweat dripping from his hair and face, panting and gasping to catch his breath, his arms straight, his muscles bulging, his hands still clasped at my wrists.

I’m wiped out while he’s catching his breath, I can’t even keep my eyes open anymore…

When I’m semi-conscious again, he’s coiled around me, spooning me and kissing my back over and over again. I fall back into a deep sleep.

*-*

I didn’t hear him leave. I was worn out from the morning’s exertions and quite frankly, I’d rather not be greeted by the morning bear anyway. I roll over and stretch, trying to pop the kinks out of my muscles. I had a double workout last night—first the elliptical, and then Christian and his trifecta of orgasms. I can barely get out of bed.

I take a quick shower since I smell like sweat and sex and quickly get dressed in something simple—a white button-down shirt with black pants and Chanel suspenders with black and white stilettos. When I look in the mirror, my hair looks like toddlers have been playing in it.

No amount of combing and brushing is helping it, so I put it in two wild and sad looking braids and put a hat on it for the day, Odd for me, but I just don’t have the strength to fight with it.

Strange… I actually look ten years younger.

I stop by the nursery to see that my children are asleep and decide that I’ll let them stay home today. I stop by the kitchen to make myself a strawberry and cream cheese bagel and to grab a black coffee to go.

“Are you in a hurry?” Gail asks. I’m chewing my bagel and looking at my phone.

“I slept longer than I intended,” I say, looking at my watch and noting the time. “I need to get going and make sure everything is moving along for the new semester. Plus, I have some calls to make and some interviews to do this afternoon.”

“Busy day, huh?” she asks.

“Yes,” I reply, eating the last of my bagel, “that’s why I didn’t intend to sleep in so late.” I text Chuck to meet me at the car so that we can get going.

“The twins are staying,” I add as I’m leaving. “I can’t breastfeed for 24 hours anyway. Call me if you need me!” I wave behind me and head out to the mudroom.

“New look?” Courtney asks when I get to the Center.

“Bad hair day,” I admit. “I must have been insane to wear stilettos today. My feet are freezing.”

“Uh, yeah,” Courtney comments. “It’s all wet and slushy. You’re going to ruin your shoes and freeze your toes.” I shake my head.

“What’s on my calendar today?” I ask, stomping my feet to warm my toes.

“You’ve got the interviews for housekeeping this afternoon, and you told me to remind you to call Ms. Sherwood from the cleaning company. Are you going to have her train the new employees?”

“Hell, no,” I say, taking a seat at my desk. “I had to watch that woman like a hawk the entire time her company was here. There’s no way in hell I’d let her train new staff to do the same thing they were doing. Besides, they’re contracted so they most likely wouldn’t do it anyway.” Courtney twists her lips.

“Yeah, there is that,” she says.

“How are classes going?” I ask.

“Pretty good,” she says, “except that there was a pop-quiz in Psych 101 yesterday. Who gives a pop quiz right before Christmas?” She shakes her head and I laugh.

“Welcome to the wonderful world of higher education,” I tease. She shakes her head again.

“Gimme a break,” she retorts. “I’m regurgitating psychology vocabulary in my sleep. My girlfriend’s going to leave me if I don’t stop talking shop when I get out of school.” She changes her voice to mimic a female announcer.

Behaviorism, inhibition, suppression, configurationism, Galton and Freud and Gestalt and dear God in heaven how did you even remember your name when you were in school?” I chuckle.

“Do you regret your decision?” I ask.

“No,” she says, going over to the Zen area to retrieve her laptop from its case. “It’s rough, but I want to help kids, and this is what I need to be able to do that, so…” She trails off after she pulls her laptop from the case.

“That’s a very noble undertaking.”

We’re both caught off-guard by a voice from the doorway.

“Grandmother,” Courtney greets Addie. “H… Hi.” I can tell she’s still trepid about seeing her grandmother.

“Courtney… you look lovely, darling,” Addie says.

“Thank you,” Courtney replies.

“Hello, Ana. You’re looking beautiful as ever,” Addie greets me. I smile warmly.

“Thank you, Addie, and so are you. Won’t you come in and have a seat?”

“Well, I really didn’t intend to stay long. I just came to ask Courtney what her plans were for the afternoon.” She turns to Courtney.

“Um, Ana’s assistant is off sick, so I’ve been helping her. We have to interview some candidates for the cleaning staff this afternoon,” Courtney replies.

“Oh, that’s too bad. We were hoping you would be able to join us for lunch,” she says softly.

We?” Courtney asks. After a short pause, Fred enters the office and stands next to his wife. Courtney’s mouth falls open and she’s stunned pretty speechless.

“Hello, Courtney,” Fred says.

“G… Grandfather,” Courtney says, clearing her throat to find her words, but still finding none.

“Courtney, I can do the interviews alone or have Mr. Collier or Grace sit in with me if you want to go to lunch with your grandparents.” She turns uncertain eyes to me.

“You’re sure?” she says. There’s hope in her voice.

“I’m sure,” I say. “I’ll be fine.”

“Can I leave my school stuff here?” she asks.

“Of course, you can. Go, have lunch with your grandparents.” She raises her brow and sigh.

“I’m… I’ll be right back,” she says to Addie and Fred. “I have to go get my coat and purse.” She smiles and leaves the office. I turn to Addie and Fred.

“Fred wanted to see it for himself,” Addie tells me turning to Fred. “I think he got more than he bargained for.”

“Not really,” Fred replies. “She looks like she’s doing well and she’s trying to turn over a new leaf, but she was always a good actress… a very good actress.” I drop my head and scratch the nape of my scalp. If he gives her that attitude at lunch, she won’t go to lunch with them again because she’s come to learn that she doesn’t need discouragement in her life.

“Ana, what is it?” Addie inquires, noting my change of expression.

“Nothing,” I say, not making eye contact with Fred.

“That means it’s me,” Fred says. I frown and look at him.

“How would you know it was you?” I ask incredulously.

“Because I’m an old dog with a wife, dear,” he replies. “I’ve been married for 43 years and I’ve been around a female or three in my day. Trust me, I’ve been in the doghouse more than a few times and I fully know the meaning of ‘Nothing,’ ‘Fine,’ and ‘Never mind.’” He looks at me knowingly and cocks his head. I sigh and put my hands on my hips.

“I’m not going to try to sell you on your granddaughter,” I say. “To me, her progress speaks for itself. I will tell you this, though, and I’m only saying it as a friend. If you’re taking that attitude to lunch with you, it’s not going to fly. She will Uber her way out of that meal. She knows who she was and that she put you through a lot, but she’s been through some things, too, and she’s not going to allow herself to be berated anymore. I only said it because you pressed, Fred.”

“That, I did,” he says with a sigh.

“And she’s right.”

We all turn to see Courtney standing at the door in her coat with her purse on her shoulder. There’s no sign of her prior shyness.

“I don’t have anything to prove to anybody else anymore but myself,” she says. “I’m a horrible person and I know it… or at least I was. I was so wretched that I don’t expect anybody to believe that I’m not that person anymore, but you know who does have to believe it? Me! So, I love you, Grandmother, and I love you, too, Grandfather, but if this luncheon is to put me under the microscope, I respectfully decline the invitation.”

I can’t remember being prouder of Courtney than I am at this moment—well, maybe when she told me that she was going to school. Now, she stands here before her grandparents with her shoulders squared and her head held high pretty much telling them that if they don’t want to accept her, she’s fine with that. Before, she was self-centered and didn’t care about other people, only for what she could get from them. Now, she’s self-driven, and she has a purpose. She’s more concerned about what she sees in herself when she looks in the mirror than what other people see when they see her.

Addie walks over to her and smiles.

“I want to have lunch with my granddaughter,” she says, “and you will be under the microscope with me, but only because I want to catch up with everything going on in your life and with school. If your grandfather doesn’t want to behave, then he’s uninvited.”

Courtney is nearly pushed to tears, but instead she straightens her back and extends her neck, blinking the tears away. Then she turns to Fred.

“The Uber app is almost instantaneous, Grandfather,” she says. “The moment I feel that either of us is causing the other discomfort, I’ll leave. I can always study or come back and help Ana with the interviews. And if you think I’m acting, then this is going to be an Oscar-worthy performance.” She awaits acknowledgement from her Grandfather, who reluctantly nods. Addie sighs and puts her hands on Courtney’s shoulders.

“So, would you like to go to the club?” Addie asks.

“We can, if you want,” Courtney says, “but there’s a little restaurant not far from here that has the best Mediterranean food… and quiet tables.” Addie tilts her head at Courtney.

“Well, then,” she says, “that’s sounds nice. Lead the way.” The corners of Courtney’s lips rise slightly, and she nods before she leaves with Addie in step behind her. Fred turns to look at me and I raise my brown and tip my head in a gesture that clearly says, “Balls in your court.” His lips form a thin line and he leaves to join his wife and granddaughter. I smile to myself, knowing that Courtney has effectively exercised her independence to her grandfather. I go back to my desk and make the call that needs to be made before month’s end.

Clean It Up for You, what can I do for you?” the receptionist answers.

“Good morning, Anastasia Grey calling for Sonia Sherwood…”


CHRISTIAN

I’ve barely gotten any sleep, which is something that hasn’t happened in quite some time. There’s been a sleepless night here and there, but none of the 2-hours of sleep nights since I stopped having the nightmares. When I left this morning, Butterfly was still in an exercise, wine, and sex-induced coma.

When I saw that Butterfly was on the elliptical after dinner and three large glasses of wine, I thought it best to leave her alone and go to my study and get some work done. I approved the initiation of the random drug testing on 50% of Grey House staff to be done in three waves tomorrow, Friday, and Monday. The results will begin to come in on Tuesday, but I couldn’t get a guarantee that I would have them all for the sake of accuracy.

Ros has taken immediate advantage of her impromptu vacation, which means that Lorenz and I must weed through the findings and analysis of the audit teams while she’s away. There’s quite a bit in a short time—red flags that I asked to be notified of immediately instead of waiting for preliminary or final reports. To be quite honest, my company is a mess. We’re not on the brink of collapse, failure, or bankruptcy, but I was right. Complacency is running rampant through the departments and the ship is nowhere near as tight as it used to be.

That’s my fault.

When I shut the system down somewhere around three o’clock and came upstairs and she was still in the tub, I knew that I had to get her out of there. She was exhausted and shattered and I had every intention of drying her off, braiding her hair, and putting her to bed. Then, she passed out face up on the bed and I knew I would never be able to get that hair braided. I straightened her body and kissed her lips goodnight and the animal in me just suddenly came alive.

I didn’t intend to fuck her. I really didn’t, but when I kissed her neck, the valley of her breasts, and then her nipple just to tame the beast a bit, the taste of her skin sent me into blind passion and I just had to have her. Determined not to fuck her while she’s asleep, I fix my mind to back away… and then she spoke.

And I pounced.

It was like something else completely had taken over me and I was going to turn into a werewolf or the Hulk or something if I didn’t have her! I feasted on her body, touching her in all the right places to get her ready, but when I entered her, the beast was back.

I know what it was. I just didn’t want to admit it.

Dominant Christian was alive and kicking in the early morning hours. Fucking her was not enough, but even in my primal state of mind, I knew I couldn’t dominate her when she was so exhausted, so I had to improvise.

I imagined her shackled to the bed, blindfolded and completely immobilized after a good flogging, with a pair of clamps biting into her nipples. Her breasts were wobbling wildly, dripping with water, sweat, or milk—I didn’t know which—and she couldn’t move, so it wasn’t a far stretch. I fucked her and fucked her and fucked her until my cock burned, forcing three orgasms from that exhausted body until I was paralyzed in ecstasy myself.

Once I came down from my climactic high, I saw that the third orgasm had wrung my wife unconscious and, to be honest, I felt guilty. I wrapped her in my arms, kissing her back and neck while silently begging her forgiveness for being so thoughtless and selfish. I only got a couple of hours of sleep and then quietly got dressed and left the house before she woke.

Now, I’m here in the office, still feeling as aggressive as ever as I continue to comb through my emails and examine the notes of the auditing teams. Word is definitely out that Grey is on the warpath. The elevator was completely silent when I got on it this morning and some people even got off once I boarded. Others refused to get on when they saw that I was in the car.

I don’t care if you like me. Just do your fucking jobs, and do them right or I’ll have you out on your asses before you get the chance to gasp.

I’m a bit irritated when I’m interrupted mid-morning by a knock on my door.

“Sir, a word?” I look up and see Jason standing in the doorway. I gesture him in and remove my glasses. My eyes are getting tired more often. It might be time for another trip to the eye doctor.

“I know this is short notice and I apologize, but I need Monday off,” Jason says. I frown. It sure is short notice, short as fuck.

“May I ask why?” I inquire, coolly

“Well, it won’t be the entire day, sir, just enough time to go to Shalane’s sentencing.” I raise my brow.

“Shalane’s… as in your ex-wife Shalane?” I ask. Why would he want to be there for her?

“Yes,” he says. “I’m not letting Sophie go, but someone has to be there to speak on my daughter’s behalf if they ask.”

I see. I guess that would have an impact on her sentence… if they ask.

“What time is it?” I ask him.

“Ten A.M.,” he replies. I nod.

“Then we’ll both be there.” His eyes widen.

“Sir, you don’t have to… it’s Monday morning,” he protests.

“And you’re my best friend, so yes, I do have to.” If I’m trying to find a balance between asshole and nice guy, I better start somewhere.

“So, it looks like she’s going to be spending Christmas in jail, huh?” I add. Jason nods.

“Yeah, looks that way,” he says.

“How do you feel about that?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“I hate the things Shalane has done, but I don’t hate Shalane. It’s hard to feel any sympathy for anyone that has just proven to be rotten to the core, but I’m not a bad guy. So, I think I’ll just keep my answer to myself on that one.”

I nod. I can understand that. I’m on the opposite end of that spectrum. If I can’t stand you, you’re going to know about it. If I wish you would burn in hell, you’re going to know about that, too.

“Mr. Grey, Lorenz is here to see you,” Andrea’s voice says through the intercom. Did we have a meeting this morning?

“Send him in,” I tell her. “What time is the sentencing again?” I say, turning my attention back to Jason.

“Ten AM,” he repeats as Lorenz enters.

“We’ll be there, then,” I say. He nods, then nods at Lorenz and leaves.

“Something I need to know?” Lorenz asks.

“No,” I respond, “except that you’ll be holding the fort down alone for a few hours on Monday morning. I have an appointment.” He nods noncommittal.

“So, we found out what the big ruckus is about Kavanaugh,” Lorenz says. He has my attention, but only slightly. I have my own fish to fry.

“And what’s that?” I ask.

“The next heir apparent? ‘Baby Momma’ is one of Katherine’s friends.” My eyes widen.

“You’re shitting me!” I respond. This is fucking juicy.

“I’m not,” he says. “The wife found out through a damn text!” he adds. “He’s taking a paternity test, but whether it’s his or not, Mama Kavanaugh has had enough and is taking him to the cleaners.”

“Fuuuuck, really?” I say, sitting back in his chair. “Does Ethan know?”

“I don’t know that he does unless he’s been keeping up with the gossip rags or the specific financial news that deals with his father, but I don’t think he cares. He’s been completely mum about the whole thing.” He probably doesn’t. From what I’ve heard, he got his trust right after he married Mia and hasn’t spoken to his father since. If he doesn’t know, I’m sure as hell not going to tell him.

“What about Katherine?” I ask. It’s more out of curiosity than anything. I don’t plan to do anything with the information.

“Well, she was in Martha’s Vineyard for a while, but now word has it that she and young Kevin are now living in Paris…”

“Paris? How could Kavanaugh afford that?” I ask.

“Well, he can’t that I know of, but she secured employment there with one of the fashion magazines, so… she’s officially a Parisian now.” I shake my head.

“If I were her, I’d get as far away from this shit as possible, too,” I say. “That man has a tribe of illegitimate children now. How many is this?”

“I’m sorry, sir, I’ve lost count. Can I get back to you on that one?” he jests, and I chuckle.

“Have you seen the latest emails from the auditing team?” I ask. He sighs and crosses his legs.

“I have,” he says.

“It’s only been a couple of days. You still think I’m being paranoid?” He shakes his head.

“No, sir, I don’t,” he replies. “I never did, I just thought you might have needed to rethink your approach a bit, but now…” He trails off.

“Yeah, now,” I say, putting my glasses back on and looking at the screen. “I just basically had a meltdown yesterday about our customer satisfaction and retention processes and our internal process quality and then I see these findings? I’m certain that I’m not the only one that sees the drastic change in three years in these areas.”

“No, sir, you’re not alone,” Lorenz replies.

“The only reason we’re not bleeding from the jugular right now is because we have other divisions and operations that’s taking up the slack. I shudder to think what would have happened had I not thought to do something about this now!” I shoot. “So, are there any answers to any of the questions I had yesterday?” He nods.

“Yes, sir,” Lorenz begins. “The drugs from the pharmaceutical mishap have obviously been recalled. This sort of thing happens all the time and we’re looking into the ramifications of it now. Concerning the fire, thankfully, representatives from the EAP were on that as soon as it happened, so we’ve already got damage control and assistance in place for that.”

“And what about the late shipments?” I ask.

“I think client services is putting that fire out now,” he says.

“Don’t think. Know! Find out how often this has happened and if this is a one-off or a regular occurrence. Get some impromptu surveys going to see what the customers are feeling right now. See how many we get back. Get on this! Now that I know for sure that I’m not Chicken Little running around exclaiming that the sky is falling, I want this ship tight as soon as possible, and spare no fucking expense!”

“Will do, sir,” he says, and he stands and leaves my office. Sometimes, I hate that he’s so goddamn cool, but if I’m the hothead, and Ros is getting all sensitive and running off when there’s controversy, I need someone to be the voice of reason.

*-*

“Mr. Holstein is still trying to contact you, sir, and there’s a Herbert Larson on line three for you.” Larson… why the hell is he calling me instead of Al?

“Grey,” I answer.

“Mr. Grey, Herbert Larson here…” he begins.

“I know who it is. What can I do for you?” He pauses.

“You obviously know why I’m calling,” he says, coolly.

“Honestly, I don’t. I thought all of your contact went through our attorney or if not him, through my wife if utterly necessary. You have no reason to be contacting me,” I point out.

“I’m calling because harassment is a serious offense in the state of Nevada, Mr. Grey,” Larson says.

“And I’m not in the state of Nevada, so your point?” I retort.

“Mrs. Pamela Whitmore contacted the police this morning,” he says. “Apparently, several gentlemen have been following her around.”

Good, she knows that she’s being tailed.

“And you’re telling me this because?” I ask.

The gentleman that she described follows closely to the description of the gentleman that accompanied you and Mrs. Grey during your visit and they have Washington driver’s licenses.” I laugh loudly in his ear.

“Well, don’t this just beat all?” I say, with pretend mirth. “It took less than a day for you to finger who you might think is harassing Pamela Whitmore, but it only took the great state of Nevada more than a decade to pinpoint who brutalized my wife.”

The line is silent for several minutes.

“That woman called my wife at her place of business and insulted and threatened her and my family, and you’re calling me about some random men following her because they live in my state? If they’re breaking the law, then I suggest you arrest them, but don’t you dare interrupt my life with any nonsense that you have no actual basis for. You all didn’t follow any hunches to find my wife’s attacker before she came to you with a damn video. Don’t come to me with any half-baked, unfounded accusation. Yes, I will do whatever’s necessary to protect my family, but you do know that we have a restraining order against her, right?”

“I’m just letting you know that Mrs. Whitmore…”

“You don’t need to let me know shit about Mrs. Whitmore unless you’re telling me that you’ve arrested her for harassing my wife,” I say, cutting him off. “Nevada seems to be quite prevalent with going easy on and protecting violent criminals and offering no protection for the victim… that is, until you think those criminals are the victims.”

“You need to know that following Mrs. Whitmore could be considered obstruction of justice,” he points out, ignoring my prior statement.

“Oh, you mean like what that Henderson officer Sullivan did?” I counter. “Both when the incident happened by hiding evidence to protect his brother and by seizing the police report I presented to him two years ago without knowing that I had several copies? Yes, Mr. Larson, I’m very aware of the laws concerning obstruction of justice—that is, when your state deems it necessary to enforce them. By the way, what was the fate of Officer Sullivan? The victim here still hasn’t gotten any word that he’s come upon his just deserts, yet.”

The line falls silent again, and I know that he’s searching for a retort.

“I’m not saying that I’m following anybody and I’m not saying that I’m not,” I continue. “I will say that when you try to accuse someone of something, you better fucking well have enough evidence to do it instead of calling someone and trying to sniff them out. I play chess with multi-billion-dollar companies and more money than you’ll ever see in your life. I don’t have time to bluff.”

“So, you’re saying that you’re not having her followed?” he prods.

“I’m not saying anything,” I reply. “I will say, however, that if she comes anywhere near Seattle and my wife and children, I’ll know before you do.” I can feel his frustration through the phone.

“You’re preventing me from doing my job,” he says, his voice low. “Ever since this started, I’ve been doing my best to bring justice to this situation, and the only thing I’ve seen from you at all is this vigilante attitude like you’re running things, and nobody can tell you anything. Now, I’m warning you, Mr. Grey, if you interfere with this case or its participants in any way, I will have a warrant issued for your arrest!” Wrong move, Skippy.

“Save your goddamn threats for those assholes who beat my wife!” I seethe.

“Mr. Grey, that language is totally unnecessary,” he retorts.

“It’s completely fucking necessary, and if you fucking don’t want to fucking hear it, then you can fucking hang up the fucking phone!”

I’m so pissed at the audacity of this fucker that if I could teleport to Vegas right now and personally beat his ass, I would! I think he gets the hint.

“Good day, Mr. Grey,” he says.

“Fuck you!” I retort before slamming the receiver into the carriage.

One… two… three… four…

*-*

Butterfly isn’t home when I get there. I’m still fuming over Larson’s nerve. The fuck with that guy! I’m watching the cunt who birthed the fucker who raped my wife then had the nerve to call her and threaten her because she knows the trial is coming up, and this sonofabitch has the nerve to call me and tell me that I’m breaking the law by making sure that I know if this hoe crosses state lines. That place has the most backwards system of justice I’ve ever seen in my life, and the people who live there must be as fucked up as their sense of justice.

My wife is raped as a teenager and nobody blinks, not even her damn guardians.

She’s beaten within an inch of her life and her baby is killed, and nobody blinks.

The mother of the fucking rapist and baby killer calls and threatens my wife and our children, and nobody blinks… but then they call me and tell me that I’m breaking the law by following that cunt.

I hate to think I and my wife are flying all the way to Vegas to find out that the entire justice system is so fucked up that the whole lot of those fuckers are still going to get off easy after they’re convicted—if they’re convicted!

I run a punishing rhythm on the treadmill for quite some time before I take to Butterfly’s heavy bag to burn the rest of the aggression from the day. I’m finally starting to cool down—and tire—around 8pm, and I take a quick shower and change into a pair of sweats and a T-shirt.

I look for my wife in the nursery, but find that my children are fast asleep. I check the yoga room, the dining room, the family room—no Butterfly. Where is she?

“Did Ana come home?” I ask Gail. She frowns.

“Yeah,” she says. “She spent some time with the babies and then she went downstairs.” Downstairs… her office or her parlor. “Should I hold dinner or just put something away for you two to eat?” You two?

“She hasn’t eaten yet?” I ask. Gail shakes her head. I go to the elevator and take it to the ground floor. Chuck and Keri are on the patio sitting on the sofa. He has his arm around her and they’re gazing across the lake.

I need to find my wife.

I glance in the parlor as I pass and confirm that she’s not in there, then I go to her office. I’m about to walk in when I hear her talking on the phone.

“I really can’t wait to see you. It’s been a long time.”

Now, I trust my wife implicitly, but walking in on that statement would send a lesser man into terrible suspicion. I stay back and listen a little longer.

“I’m in no hurry to come, but at least there’s one bright side to it.”

That sounds a little crazy.

“No, I haven’t heard anything at all, but who knows what’s going to happen on that front.”

I should really just walk into the room instead of trying to decipher who she’s talking to, not to mention, it’s not polite to eavesdrop.

“No, I’m not going to any of those places. I might see some of the casinos with my best friend and his husband because they’ve never been there, but that’s all. I have no interest in the whole ‘Vegas experience.’ I’ve already had it.”

So, she’s talking to someone in Vegas. I know it can’t be Carla…

“So, I’ll let you know when we finalize our travel arrangements and where we’ll be staying. Hopefully, I’ll get to meet your husband this time.”

This time. That’s her aunt. What’s her name? Cynthia, that was it.

“That would be very nice. I’m sure Christian would like that.”

I walk into the office as she’s finishing her call with her aunt. She looks like a kid! She’s wearing suspenders… and a hat! Over pigtails! I walk over to her after she has ended her call and begins typing into her laptop.

“Fashion statement?” I ask. She looks up at me.

“My hair wouldn’t cooperate,” she says and stretches. “My dad wants to come to Vegas when we go for the trial.” I raise my brow.

“He does?” I ask. She nods.

“I suppose he needs some kind of closure, too,” she says. “This whole thing was so traumatic for us both—going through hell, finding peace, then having it ripped away from us again. I’d say he definitely needs some closure.”

“Well, you’ll get no argument from me. I’ll get a block of rooms so we don’t have to worry about it.” I sit down in front of her desk. “How was your day?” She raises her head again, somewhat in surprise.

“Busy,” she replies still looking at me. “We hired a couple of people for the in-house cleaning staff. They start shadowing Mr. Collier on Monday. I fired our cleaning crew as of the end of January. The head bitch in charge wasn’t happy to hear that, so now we have to keep an eye on them until the contract ends.”

“Were they slacking?” he asks. I shake my head.

“Not since the first time, but we weighed what we were paying them compared to the cost of having a cleaning crew of our own. The costs were comparable, but having someone on staff makes them more accountable to us than having an outside company come in. Plus, we’ll need people available at a moment’s notice instead of just at a certain time.”

“I see you’ve thought about this,” I say, sitting back and crossing my legs. “You’re still working?” She twists her lips.

“No Marilyn,” she says. “Courtney helps as much as she can, but she’s still no Marilyn… and she took the afternoon off to spend with her grandparents.”

She did?

“Really?” I ask. She nods. “Last I spoke to Fred, he wasn’t sold.”

“He’s still not sold,” Butterfly says, “and Courtney’s okay with that. She told him that she knows that she was a horrible person and that if he didn’t want to be bothered to not waste her time.” I raise my brow again. She has changed.

“Larson called me today,” I say. She stops typing and looks at me.

“Why did he call you?” she asks.

“To tell me to call off my security team that’s watching Whitmore.”

“You have a team watching Pamela Whitmore?” she asks. I nod.

“And I want her to know that she’s being watched.” She goes back to typing.

“Figures,” she says. “Serves her right… that backwards ass town. It’s okay to harass the victim, but not the victimizers.” She shakes her head.

“That’s what I said,” I reply, standing. “Come. We need to eat.” I hold my hand out to her. I know that she wants to work more, but I’m hungry and she needs to eat, too. She closes her laptop and takes my hand.


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

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

Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 21

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

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

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

 Chapter 21

Briana Evigan 22 2

GOLDEN

I soon get the answers to the questions I have about Reynard. He’s looking for a windfall of money because his childhood home is in arrears on its taxes. He doesn’t have long before his mother’s house—the house he lived in his entire life except when he was married—will be auctioned off for back taxes.

What’s so sad is that had he come to me and told me that he thought he may have been Daddy’s son, I would have sat down and talked to him, found out why he felt that way, and I may have even helped him with the taxes. Now, he can kiss my ass and live on the streets for all I care.

His mom died eight months ago from cervical cancer. All of their funds went to her hospital bills, which is why there was nothing left to pay the property taxes. In fact, she still has bills remaining that need to be paid—something else that I could have helped his selfish ass with had he approached me the right way.

He’s an only child, unless you consider the fact that he thinks I’m his sister. There was no one there to help him take care of his dying mother; no assistance with the bills or the hospital care; and I almost feel sorry for him having to sit there and watch her rot. I guess it’s better in a way that my parents were ripped away quickly as opposed to watching them suffer and die.

Then again, he did at least get to say goodbye, so I don’t know which situation is worse.

His children are 7, 9 and 12. His marriage broke up a few short years after it began. His first child, his son, was born out of wedlock and the middle boy and youngest girl were a result of his short marriage. He and his wife don’t speak, and she didn’t help with his mother’s care even though they still live in Tacoma. She did, however, bring the children to their grandmother’s funeral.

The only thing that he has that he can use to identify my father as his father are some old pictures of Daddy and his mother together. They were clearly intimate, but that doesn’t mean that this man is my father’s son. I don’t know what his mother told him or what secret she may have taken to her grave, but that man looks nothing like my father, not even like my horrible uncle. I don’t know what to tell him besides to go the hell away.

So, that brings us to today. I’ve heard nothing from brother dear, nothing from Blondie or her sheisty lawyer trying to get a settlement…

And nothing from Trey.

I’ve tried not to count the weeks, thinking that he would get over the last scene and would have come back by now, or at least would have texted or called demanding an explanation, but… nothing. It’s been over two months and I haven’t seen him at any of the clubs, he hasn’t called…

Why am I so concerned about this? Clients come and they go. I’ve gone through more than two months doing what I do and getting my Golden back—and enjoying myself in the process—but in the back of my mind, I still expect him to call or text eventually looking for a scene and he just doesn’t.

Clients have left before. The splendor wore off for them or they found something new… or someone new… and they went on their way. It’s no big deal… right?

“Blake,” I call as I’m sitting in my parlor after a night at one of the clubs.

“Yes, Mistress?” he says, coming into the parlor.

“That last night that Trey was here, do you remember?”

“Yes, Mistress, I remember,” he says without hesitating.

“What did he say to you when he left?” I ask. Blake shakes his head, bemused.

“He… didn’t say anything, Mistress.” I frown.

“What do you mean he didn’t say anything? He didn’t excuse himself?” Blake shakes his head again.

“Nothing, Mistress,” he reinforces. “He didn’t even look at me.”

He didn’t even look at him. He didn’t excuse himself; he didn’t say anything; and now he’s radio fucking silent. I should go over to his apartment and barge in on him like he did me.

No, that will never do.

“Thank you, Blake,” I say. He nods once and leaves.

I really haven’t had a client just leave, not without a word. Either they met someone or decided to become Doms themselves or some other lifestyle change caused them to not want to continue our arrangement. Either way, they always gave me an explanation, always terminated the arrangement cordially, always said goodbye…

None of them ever just disappeared.

I think I’m more perturbed that it appears he doesn’t need me anymore and he doesn’t even have the decency to say so. What kind of asshole just disappears without a word?

The kind of asshole that doesn’t want what you’re dishing out anymore.

This isn’t how this is supposed to go. This is why they only get a taste once a month. Once they got a taste of me, they couldn’t get enough. They crave me. They always have to have more. They could never stay away. But Trey is different…

He could stay away, and he is.

I’ve lost control… control of myself and my situation. I let him affect me too much. I got all loopy because of a stupid kiss brought on by my dick-mesmerized brain. I didn’t even really kiss him—I kissed his dick… just through his lips. Now, I’m fucking letting my feelings of anger along with my loss of control interfere with the situation and it caused me to forget my fucking mantra.

Make. Them. Want. You.

He’s not wanting me now. I sent him away twitching and horny and needy and now, he’s associating me with the lack of pleasure. Before, he was pulled to his wits end and then he came like a fountain. Now, he was pulled to his wits end and then, in my anger, I left him hanging.

Make them dream about you when you’re not there; crave you when you’re not around.
Tease them with a promise… deliver satisfaction, but don’t give them all of you…

I didn’t deliver satisfaction. I delivered sexual frustration, and then I let him leave that way. By doing that, I unwittingly gave him power by tormenting him with no reward, then telling him, “take it or leave it,” and it appears that he’s left it. No tribute, not a text, not a call, nothing for nearly three months.

This will never do.

**My house. Tomorrow 8pm. We have unfinished business. **


eric-dane-wallpaper Trey chapter 9

TREY

Quite a bit has been transpiring all at once.

I’ve discovered that all this time the Lincolns have been together, they don’t have a damn prenup. They’ve both been freely fucking anybody they want—except each other—without the luxury of a divorce because it would most likely cost them both too much money. That’s kind of funny.

To that end, Linc has been living at the Four Seasons while out on bail for battering his wife and Mrs. Linc has been residing in their home in Kirkland. The Kirkland police officially brought her up on charges of filing a false report against me. The crime carries a possible sentence of 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine. I hear that she’ll likely get off on those charges since she got some quack to say that she made her statement under diminished capacity. Personally, I’d like to be able to see or hear the statement that she made fingering me as her attacker. If she was all loopy and shit, I’ll give her this one. But if she was cognizant and lucid, the bitch set me up, and the court will see that, too.

My court date for the assault in my office is November 13. It’s about damn time. It only took a whole fucking year! Even though my arm is about at 90%, it never completely healed without pain and I truly want that bitch to pay. If I really think about it, Elena has been the root of everything wrong in my life for more than a year.

She assaulted me in my office, causing me injury and continuing pain.

She had me wrongfully arrested and detained.

My once somewhat private life has been smeared all over the tabloids and media, requiring friends and colleagues to come to my defense.

Her fucking shenanigans let the dredges of society that are my father and brother see right into my business and situations, and both of them tried to hem me up somehow.

And Golden… let’s fucking not forget Golden.

I could have seen her, maybe lusted after her a bit, and then went on my merry little way. But no, this blonde cunt had to taunt me with what I couldn’t have. And my dumb ass fell for it. It was all a game to me at first. Get a pretty piece of ass and win the prize—that’s all I really wanted—but Elena, and Golden, had to make it out to be more.

I watched scenes before with no problem, even had some sub somewhere sucking my dick while I watched some Dom or Domme work over some willing participant in one of the exhibition rooms. Then here comes this Sunshine Sadist and she rewrites everything I thought I knew about BDSM. I thought I wanted to beat and torment women when all I really wanted to do was come—hard and often. I just needed some kink to get there.

That’s why pain whores always turned me off. I wasn’t really into inflicting pain, but I still like the control of being a Dominant, of making a woman my sex toy, making her bend to my will—to my every command. I like the bondage, the Dominance, and the submission. I never needed the discipline—unless it specifically had to do with fucking—or the sadism. But it appears that I have a hidden masochist in there.

Now, I’m beginning to feel like it’s an addiction, but it’s only half the high. I don’t just get off on the pain and I don’t just want to hurt. The pain was always immediately followed by the pleasure and the two blended together, creating some insane orgasms. Whenever I fucked later, I recalled the pain at specific points and the pleasure that followed. With this last scene, she took that away from me.

I didn’t realize how much I was under her control. I thought that even though I wasn’t fucking her and would most likely never fuck her that our relationship was still a give and take. She has a skill that opens new horizons for me—pushes me the mental and physical distance and when I’ve gone as far as I can go, she takes me over the edge in a spectacular fashion. It was magnificent. I ached for it. I craved it. I would have done anything she asked. I commissioned two sculptures for Christ’s sake.

And then came that kiss. That fucking kiss ruined it all. It blew my mind and whether she wants to admit it or not, it blew hers, too. She always does things to blow my mind. Why would I think this was any different?

All I wanted to know was why… why did she kiss me? She had never kissed me before. Like Vivian Ward said, “It’s too personal.” At least it was for us. So, why did she do it? Then she sends back my tribute, telling me that the kiss was a mistake. The only gift she ever returned was the gold collar, and I gave that back. She even wore it for a scene. If it was just a pair of lips and the kiss meant nothing, why send the lips back?

And let’s not talk about the fact that she wouldn’t return my calls or texts, so I go out to her house to see if she was okay. Who am I fooling? I went out to her house to confront her. But when I get there, I find her all hugged up with some black guy all cozy with him declaring that he’s in the running for more when she made it very clear that she wasn’t even remotely interested in that kind of relationship.

Was I pissed? Yes. Maybe even a little jealous? Maybe a little. Did I want that kind of relationship with her? Hell if I know. My last relationship was a flaming failure and that’s not an experience that I’m rushing to repeat, but I would have at least liked to have the chance if that was an option—even if I might have just turned it down.

We had the perfect arrangement for us before that damn kiss. Then, it all went south.

Feelings are messy. Relationships are messy. At the first sign of any connection, we should run for the hills, but the truth is that I don’t want to be this guy forever. I certainly don’t want to be like my father. Hell, I don’t know what the hell I want.

I’d like very much to stop feeling shitty, and to stop thinking about this woman and this situation every waking moment, please and thank you.

Before all this shit happened, I had memories of those hot ass scenes that more than assisted in my subsequent sexual escapades. Assisted in fact is an understatement. But this last time, this last bullshit, I have nothing but sexual frustration to recollect. I don’t need that shit.

*-*

“You’ve got that look again,” Veronica says as I sit next to her on our usual bench.

“What look?” I say, handing her a corned beef on rye and a soda from the carrier.

“That ‘I lost the big account’ look that you had when we first met, only you’re the boss, so I know that’s not it.” She takes a bite of her sandwich. We’ve been meeting for lunch at least twice a week since we met. We’ve had nothing but lunchtime conversations. I walked her back to her building once when it started raining. She shared her lunch with me earlier in the week when I didn’t bring anything, so I promised to bring her lunch today to pay her back.

“This is good,” she says. “Where did you get it?”

“The cafeteria at my building,” I say, biting into a pastrami and swiss on a Keiser roll.

“I should make you bring me lunch more often,” she says, taking another bite of her sandwich. We’re both silent while we eat for a few moments.

“So, who’s the girl?” she asks. I raise my gaze to her.

“You’ve been less than stellar for at least the last month and a half, CG. Maybe more. You don’t want to tell me who the girl is, you don’t have to. Just know that I know there’s a girl.” I look at my sandwich.

“It’s complicated,” I say before taking a bite.

“Don’t I know it,” she says, sipping on her soda. What the hell does that mean?

“Don’t look at me like that,” she defends. “you’re complicated. Everything about you is complicated. Even the way you dress is complicated. I’ve seen you sport Dolce and Gabbana, Anderson & Sheppard, Cesar Paciotti, and Tom Ford all in the same week. You own a glass building in the middle of the concrete jungle. Yeah, I’d say it’s complicated.” I shake my head.

“You have no idea, Veronica,” I say, eating more of my sandwich.

“Well, tell me,” she says. “How bad can it be? Is she a devil worshipper or something?” she pokes.

“Sometimes I wonder,” I say before I even think about it. She raises a brow.

“I see. So, we’re talking weird.” She takes a drink of her soda. “Is she a sister wife? Is that what you’re into—a different wife and family every night?”

“Um, no,” I say firmly.

“Okay, weird, but not sister-wives. You’re not in a cult, are you?” Oh, for God’s sake.

“No, my tastes just tend toward the very kinky.”

Fuck, did I just say that out loud??

“Oh, we’re all into some kind of kink,” she says without missing a beat. “What are you doing, whips and chains?”

“Sometimes,” I reply unfazed. She stops chewing and swallows her food.

“I was joking,” she says. I shrug. It’s out there now.

“Sometimes,” I reinforce. She shakes her head.

“You are one strange bird, CG,” she says, taking a bite of her sandwich. “So, what, this girl didn’t want to do the whips and chains anymore?”

“Something like that,” I tell her without giving her too much information. “This kind of arrangement, it’s a give and take, as with any arrangement, relationship, situationship, fill in the blank. The difference is that you give yourself to someone in this kind of arrangement on a higher level than you would in a normal relationship. The level of trust that you must have in this kind of relationship is exponentially higher than that of a regular relationship. You’re trusting someone totally with your body, and it’s more than sex and more than having an orgasm. It’s trusting someone to know your limits and respect them, and when that trust is broken, it usually can’t be restored.”

“Wow,” she says after sipping her soda and finishing her sandwich. “I’m a bit intrigued… and frightened,” she says sarcastically. “I never pegged you for the whole Disturbia type. So, do you, like, wrap yourself in latex or walk around in assless pants or something like that?”

I nearly spray my soda. I love this girl’s sense of humor.

“No, no,” I say once I’ve composed myself, “but I have seen it.”

“So…” she looks around conspiratorially, “is it as weird as everybody says it is? I’ve seen some pretty creepy shit on the internet.” I shake my head.

“Don’t believe everything you see on the internet,” I chide. “There are some really sick fucks out there. I haven’t seen half the things I’ve seen on the internet.”

“So, most of that stuff that we see on the web is sensational then,” she deduces.

“Well, not necessarily,” I say. “There are as many aspects to this lifestyle as there are nationalities in the world, if not more. It’s pretty ala carte depending on your flavor. There are people who are, like you said, just into a little kink and then there are people who are into some really creepy shit. I’m more towards the kink side.”

“So, the whips and chains… are you the whipper or the whippee?” and I want to laugh again, but it’s a valid question.

“I’ve been both,” I admit.

“And… which do you prefer?” she prods.

“They both have their benefits,” I say. Although I’m trying to forget it, lately, I’ve preferred being the whippee. “Like I said, for the most part as of late, it’s just been the kink.”

“Wow, you just never know by looking at somebody,” she says. “So, did some girl break… oh, shit!” She looks at her watch and scrambles to gather her trash.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“I’m late!” she says. “My boss isn’t a ball-buster, but still…” She throws her trash into the receptacle. “Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow, CG,” she says as she begins to hurry down the lane.

“Wait,” I say, catching up with her as she begins to speed walk. “Why don’t you have dinner with me?” She raises her brow.

“CG, I didn’t know you cared,” she says, fluttering her eyelashes dramatically. I chuckle again.

“You’re good company, okay?” I admit. “If we’re going to share a meal together, I’d like for it to be more than just an hour.”

“I don’t know,” she says. “I’m not into all that whippee/chainie shit,” she adds in her usual playful manner.

“I’m not trying to fuck you, Veronica,” but I’d be remiss to say the thought hadn’t crossed my mind once or twice, “I’d just like to have a meal with you. I’ll tell you what. Don’t decide now. If you’d like to have dinner with me, meet me in the lobby of my building at 5:30 tomorrow evening. If you decide you’d rather not, no hard feelings, I’ll see you at lunch. Deal?” I proffer my hand to her. She twists her lips.

“Deal,” she says, shaking my hand. “Now, unless you’re going to give me a job, I have to leave. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow,” she says again and takes off down the lane again.

Oh, boy. Dinner with a real girl. I haven’t done this since Juliet, but I did tell her that I’m not trying to fuck her… which I’m not. I don’t think she could handle me. I just didn’t want her to leave thinking I’m some kind of weirdo. I just practice a non-conventional lifestyle, that’s all.

What the hell am I getting myself into?

*-*

I’ve taken a shower and changed into jeans and a linen shirt for dinner with a comfortable pair of deck shoes. I don’t want Veronica to feel uncomfortable during our dinner. She’s nice and I just want to get to know her a little better. I don’t have any friends, to speak of. Maybe this will expand my horizons to new relationships. I’m a little old to be an island.

She showed up at 5:30pm at Grey House as I requested, but she insisted on being able to go home and change into more comfortable clothing, adding that, “No self-respecting woman would go to a man’s house for the first time and not have her car available.” I get that. We’ve had a lot of lunches, but nothing as intimate as dinner at the other’s house.

I open the door when she arrives and she’s a bit stunned.

“Wow,” she says. “You dress down nicely.”

“So do you,” I say, taking a moment to admire her figure in tight skinny jeans, a T-shirt, and a light jacket. However, I don’t stare too long. “Come in,” I add, stepping aside to allow her in.

“I should have known you’d have a set-up like this,” she says, taking off her jacket and revealing a very nice-looking rack—not too big and not too small. She doesn’t have the big ass I’ve come to like, but her curves leave nothing lacking.

Dammit, Grey. Stop checking her out! That’s not the purpose of this visit.

“You can just put your jacket and purse there on the sofa if you like,” I say, going into the kitchen. “There’s no one else here but my staff and they’re tucked away unless I call them.”

“Staff?” she asks, placing her jacket and purse on the sofa.

“My security and housekeeper,” I say, taking a bottle from the refrigerator and retrieving two glasses. “I’m a wine drinker with dinner, but knowing that you were driving, I opted for sparkling grape. Is that okay?”

“Perfect,” she replies. I place the two glasses on the counter and open the grape juice.

“Please, have a seat,” I say, gesturing to the stool at the breakfast bar. She sits and I fill our glasses, uncovering a tray of antipasto and crudité to share before dinner.

“I was feeling like I was underdressed coming to this place,” she says. “I’m glad to see that you’re comfortably casual, too. How do you live here, CG? I’d be afraid I’d break something.” And her wit begins immediately.

“You get used to it,” I say, eating some of the antipasto and sipping my drink.

“Oh, yeah, I bet it was agony,” she quips, and our light lunchtime banter starts anew.

Throughout hors d’oeuvres and part of dinner, I find out that Veronica is from Seattle and her parents still live here. She’s the youngest of five with two brothers and two sisters, and the only one with a college degree. She’s still very close to one of her brothers and cordial, for lack of a better word, with one brother and one sister. She lost the other sister in a drug deal gone wrong.

She has no children as, even though she dates, she hasn’t met the right guy yet. All of her other brothers and sisters have married and had children, including the one that passed away, and her parents constantly ask when she’s going to give them some grandchildren.

“I always tell them, ‘Mom, Dad, you have 14 grandchildren. Lighten up.’ Anyway, I don’t think it’s in the stars for me.”

She talks about how she doesn’t see falling in love anytime soon and without that very special someone, kids aren’t an option—especially since she’s hoping to make partner sometime very soon.

“The boss didn’t give me any flack for being late from lunch the other day,” she says. “I’ve never been any kind of late since the day I started working for the company. He didn’t even notice until I apologized. This is really good,” she says of the roast chicken and spaghetti carbonara. “Did you cook it yourself?” she teases. I twist my lips at her.

“I can,” I retort, sticking my tongue out at her, “but no, my housekeeper cooked for us tonight.”

“So, CG, you haven’t told me what’s had you in a mood,” she says. “You started telling me about your lifestyle, but I want to know what has your face dragging the ground. And since I’ve seen that hound-dog-jowls look before, I know it’s a girl, so don’t bother trying to deny it.” She eats more of her pasta. I roll my eyes.

“It’s not what you think it is,” I tell her. “I’m not in any kind of relationship, but I had an arrangement—for lack of a better word—with this… girl,” although Golden is anything but simply a girl. “The lifestyle is discreet and hard to explain to someone unfamiliar with it, but the best way I can explain it is that I feel like she broke our deal.” Veronica twists her lips.

“I see,” she says. “It’s this secret-Red-Door-type of thing, so you can’t be too specific. There’s obviously nothing illegal going on, or you wouldn’t be talking to me about it. This arrangement you had with this girl, was it exclusive?”

“Not at all,” I reply, “but the way that we practice in the lifestyle, the rules are very strict, and everything is very safe. Certain clubs require a doctor’s clearance every six months. Certain relationships are even structured with contracts and non-disclosure agreements. The BDSM lifestyle is a lot more prevalent than a lot of people think.” She nods.

“Sooooooo…” she says, dragging the word out, “what happened? She put the pussy on you, and it blew your mind?” I chuckle at her candor.

“What’s tragic is that we haven’t had any kind of penetrative sex, unless you include oral,” I admit. “It’s just not in our agreement.”

“You two have one of those contracts?” she inquires. I shake my head.

“Not a written one,” maybe that was my mistake. “It’s mostly non-verbal. Apparently, however, I assumed some unspoken rules that I shouldn’t have.”

“You stepped wrong, CG?” she asks, drinking some of her grape juice.

“No,” I say regretfully, “she did… twice.” I stand and gather our plates. “Would you like seconds? Be sure to leave room for dessert.”

“Well, if there’s dessert, I better not take seconds,” she says, wiping her lips with her napkin. I clear the dishes from the breakfast bar, scrape the scraps into the garbage disposal and load the used dishes into the dishwasher.

“You’re quite domestic,” she teases with a chuckle. I scoff.

“Not even,” I say, retrieving two more glasses and two dessert plates from the cupboard. “I just know how to clean up after myself.” I retrieve dessert and a bottle of wine from the refrigerator. “I hope you like key lime pie.”

“I love key lime pie,” she says as I place it on the breakfast bar in front of us. “Ironically, I once had a boyfriend who would eat no other dessert, but key lime pie.”

“Wow,” I say plating the pie for each of us. “That’s a very narrow choice.”

“He was very narrow-minded,” she replies. “That relationship didn’t last long.” I raise a brow as I uncork the wine.

“Care to elaborate, or is it a tender topic?” I ask, as I pour the wine.

“It’s not tender at all, and I thought you said ‘no wine,’” she accuses.

“Except with dessert,” I reply, putting the bottle on the counter. “This is a Sauvignon Blanc. I didn’t even pour you a full serving since I know that you’re driving, but you’re going to want to sip this as you’re eating your key lime pie. It should be an experience. It should not be forced or rushed.”

“Oh, I get it,” she says, putting a small serving on her fork. “Archie used to take huge clumps of it like it would run away if he didn’t eat it quickly.” I laugh.

“Taste the forkful,” I coax, and she puts the fork in her mouth. “Now, don’t just chew and swallow. Let it coat your tongue a little.” I can tell that she’s moving the pie around in her mouth so that each section is coated before she swallows.

“That’s very good,” she says. I nod.

“Now, take a small sip of your wine—not too much, just enough to compliment the flavor of the pie.” She sips the wine and lets it flow down her throat.

“That’s delicious!” she says.

“See?” I say. “The correct wine paring with dessert can be the perfect conclusion of a great meal.” I cut a piece of the pie with my fork. “Tell me you’ve tried other desserts besides key lime.” I eat the forkful and chase it with the wine.

“I have but he hasn’t,” she says, eating more of her pie.

“You were elaborating before you chided me about the wine.” She nods as she swallows another sip of the wine.

“Basically, his parents were staunch fundamentalists, and that’s how they raised him. If it was fun or different, it was wrong in their eyes, and a lot of that training syphoned through to him.”

“So, of course, no premarital sex, no secular music…” I begin.

“Oh, it was much more than that,” she says. “He couldn’t go to or watch movies at all. School functions like dances or festivals were out of the question. He couldn’t do any social things like arcades, the Space Needle, hang out with his friends, nothing like that. So, when he grew up and he moved out on his own, he took all that with him.

“He admitted that he couldn’t wait to be free of his parents because they were so strict, and he felt like he couldn’t breathe. He wanted to be out in the world and experience things on his own, but once he got out there, he couldn’t break away from his old traditions. I was afraid I was going to end up somewhere churning butter and sewing aprons with the other womenfolk!” I burst out laughing.

“Oh, God, that was bad,” I say finishing my pie and refilling my wine.

Very bad,” she confirms. “The key lime pie, it’s just all she ever made, so that’s all he ever ate. Getting him to try a different dessert was impossible. So, you know sex was completely out of the question. That was a deal breaker. Who wants to date a guy that’ll barely even kiss them?” she shakes her head but doesn’t finish her wine.

“Would you like something else to drink?” I ask. “More grape juice or some water?”

“Water’s a good idea,” she says. “Dinner was delicious and despite my prior experience, that pie was superb.” I nod as I get a bottle of water from the refrigerator. “So,” she continues as she opens the bottle, “tell me your story. All I know is that you practice some kinky lifestyle and you’re hung up on some girl that you shouldn’t be hung up on.” I roll my eyes.

“I’m not hung up on her,” I protest. Veronica waves her hand.

“Semantics,” she says. “There’s some girl in some kinky lifestyle. What else is there to know about CG?” I twist my brow.

“Honestly, not much really,” I say. “I was raised in Washington, too. I grew up in Bellevue.”

“Ooo, fancy,” she teases.

“Not so much,” I say. “We were fairly well off, but not like the other families in Bellevue. We weren’t really wealthy until later.” She nods.

“Okay.”

“Nothing really dramatic about my childhood,” I admit. “I was dating this girl, Juliet…”

“That’s her real name?” she asks with twisted lips.

“That’s her real name, and I really shouldn’t have told you.” I take a drink of my wine. “Anyway, we weren’t compatible. So, we broke up—nothing so dramatic as key lime pie or fear of becoming a puritan.” She chuckles. “A little while after that, I literally stumbled on some information about BDSM and someone close to me introduced me to it.”

“You don’t have one of those rooms here, do you?” she asks.

“Excuse me?” I’m caught off guard by the question. When we last talked, she didn’t know anything about BDSM.

“I did a little research after we talked,” she admits. “I was coming to your house. I didn’t want any surprises.”

“Did you think you were going to walk into a big BDSM sanctum?” I ask, shocked.

“I didn’t know what I was going to walk into,” she says. “I didn’t think I had anything to worry about, but I still didn’t know.” I cross my arms.

“Is that why you insisted on driving? Tell the truth.” She shrugs.

“Yes, and no,” she confesses. “I’m the type of girl who feels like she should always be able to pay for her own meal on her first date and she should always be able to get home on her own. That’s why I wanted to drive. And plus, I didn’t know what to think.”

“But we agreed this isn’t a date,” I point out.

“But I did come to your house,” she retorts. I shake my head.

“Well,” I say, gesturing around the apartment, “as you can see, no BDSM sanctum. And I don’t have a dungeon,” I stress. “I have a room where I ‘entertain,’ and there may be a toy or two in there, but not dungeon.” She nods.

“Okay, so you got into BDSM because some girl broke your heart?”

“You must think I’m a real sap,” I reply.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because, yes, I have a girl—a woman—on my mind, and yes, I feel slighted by her. So, the situation has me a bit preoccupied, but you’ve got me ‘pining’ over her. I’m not pining. Then, I tell you that I broke up with a girl because we were incompatible, and you’ve got me in whips and chains because I’m heartbroken. Did you stop eating key lime pie or going to movies because of Puritan Boy?” I ask.

“No!” she says, somewhat affronted.

“Well, then, stop trying to make me a sociology project,” I state. “You want to know some things, I’m glad to share, but I’m not broken, Veronica.”

“Sheesh, sensitive much?” she comments. “And call me Ronnie, for goodness sake. Only my dad calls me Veronica. It makes me feel like I’m in trouble.” I shake my head again.

“You’re a nut, you know that?” I declare. She shrugs.

“Tell me something I don’t know.” I roll my eyes again.

“I got into BDSM because I wanted to try something different,” I say. “I wanted to see if it would spice up my sex life, and it did.”

“How?” she asks.

“Well, imagine having your pick of partners—clean partners—who are willing to do whatever you want depending on your flavor. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. They don’t do anything they don’t want to do, but you both get to explore your level of kink in a safe, sane, and consensual environment. You can be as extreme as you want or you can be as tame as you want, but whatever you do, you write your own rules.

“Some people may decide that they want multiple partners while others may want just one. It can be experimental, where each of you are playing and deciding what you do and do not like, or it can be very structured, like the contracts.”

“Is there swinging involved?” she asks, “Like wife sharing?”

“There could be, yeah,” I tell her, “but again, only on a consensual basis.” She nods.

“I don’t know if that’s for me,” she says.

“It’s definitely not for everybody,” I say. “If you ever are interested, or even just want to watch, I can take you some places where folks won’t jump your bones or harass you. It’s not as scary as it looks or sounds on the internet, but again, it’s not for everybody.”

“So,” she continues. “How did CG become the Christian Grey?”

I get a feeling that she wants to change the subject. I tell her the story about how I got into Harvard but realized that I didn’t need a college education to open my business. So, I dropped out, got a small business loan, and the business ain’t so small no more. That, of course, led to the eternal feud that my sister and I are having because she couldn’t go to Harvard and I dropped out. We talk a little more about disastrous relationships, family tithes, and the financial and business hopes of the future before we agree that it’s getting late and she should get home. We agree to do dinner again soon and lunch as usual and I tell her to please call or text me to let me know that she has gotten home safely.

I pour myself another glass of wine, turn off the lights and head for my bedroom. I have to admit, it’s good to have someone to talk to. I can talk about Golden without using her name; talk about my lifestyle without somebody running for the fucking hills; I can even talk about my crazy ass family.

Once in my bedroom, I change into some pajama pants and a T-shirt and climb into bed. I take out my phone to review a few emails before I go to sleep, and I see that I have a text.

Is Ronnie home already? That was fast. She must live in the neighborhood. I swipe the screen and discover that the text is not from Ronnie:

**My house. Tomorrow 8pm. We have unfinished business. **

Is she insane? Does she think I want more of that submissive treatment? She’s out of her fucking mind if she thinks I want to be subjected to that again. What the hell else do we have to say to each other if she thinks she can subject me to that? She knows what she did, and there’s no mistaking how I feel about it, so what use is there for me to drive out to her house?

She summoned me.

She’s never summoned me before.

What the fuck is this all about? I’m not dumb enough to expect an apology, but my curiosity is killing me.

I don’t care what she says or what she does, how good she looks or what she’s wearing. I’m not going to let her get me in that dungeon again and work me up just to leave me hanging. I’m a client, and she’s turning me into a submissive. She knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s stringing me out thinking I’m going to come back begging for more. Not going to happen, Golden.


Briana Evigan 16

GOLDEN

It’s a brisk September Saturday, and I wake up with a mission. I’ve more than gotten my swagger back and I’m ready to face the world…

And one insolent client.

But before I do that, there are a few matters that require the attention of Anastasia Olivet, Esq.

I’m very pleased to give Blake the news that his divorce was signed, sealed, and delivered yesterday. It’s now time for him to move on with his life. I’m surprised to find that he has things that are still stored at the home that he has now left to his wife.

“Blake, why didn’t you tell me this before?” I ask. She could have done anything with those things by now.”

“I was more concerned with getting out of the house and away from her, Mistress,” he confesses. “They are things that I would like to retrieve if I can, but if I can’t…” he trails off.

I’ve met this woman. She’s scorned on many levels, whether she deserves to be or not.

“Did you leave anything valuable in the home?” I ask. “Any keepsakes?”

“There may have been a few things of significant value,” he says. “Keepsakes? I’m not sure. I won’t know unless I see them.” I sigh.

“Blake, I highly advise against going back to that house,” I warn. “At best, you’re going to find your things completely destroyed if you find them at all.” He nods.

“I’m aware of this, Mistress,” he says, “but I need to make sure that there’s nothing there that belongs to me.”

I’ve never been to Blake’s home. It’s a beautiful estate on the sound with the long, private driveway and a multi-car garage. The lawn is finely manicured, and the overall landscaping is impeccable. We’re soon to find out why.

A real estate sign shows that the house is already for sale.

We had hired a moving crew to help him retrieve his things, only to discover when we arrive that his ex-wife had cleaned the house out—all of his things and hers, including every picture of their daughter. We walk around the outside of the house to see if anything had been left.

It had.

In the back of the house is a large storage shed. Inside were several boxes with colorful descriptions on them that had to be translated for me:

Bastard…
Asshole…
Loser…
Murderer…

The list is endless. Inside of each box were fragments of clothing, personal items, books, random pieces of furniture… The boxes were stacked pretty high and at least six rows deep in the back of the shed. Blake calmly opened three boxes and examined their contents before stepping away and deciding not to open any more. I give the moving crew the task of opening and examining each box to see if anything is left still intact.

It takes several hours, but later in the day, we’re informed that everything in the boxes have been destroyed beyond recognition. I tell the crew to leave the boxes in the shed as is and promise them a handsome bonus for their trouble.

During the time that the crew was investigating the boxes, Blake and I go to the garage to ascertain the conditions of the vehicles he had left behind—a late-model Benz, an older Beamer, and a Lexus that was only a few years old. All three vehicles had been stripped down to the frames, and that’s all that remained. Blake is completely emotionless as he stands there, quietly examining his worthless vehicles.

“Blake?” I try to get his attention.

“She wasn’t always like this,” he says, still looking at the frames. “She was once a beautiful, docile woman… a superb wife and an excellent mother. She loved me and our life and our family. She changed when I killed our daughter.

“I don’t know this woman. I never will. I took something precious from her and she’s been broken ever since, and she’s been trying to break me. She succeeded in the beginning, and now her revenge is complete.” I swallow hard. These cars meant something to him even if he doesn’t say so.

“Blake, the cars…” I trail off.

“Trinkets,” he says, “except the BMW. It belonged to mi madre… the last vehicle she drove before she died.” He sighs heavily.

Oh, hell.

“You could sue her, you know,” I tell him, “for the value of the cars and of the things that she destroyed. We have all the proof right here.” He shakes his head.

“It’s no use, Mistress,” he says. “She has the $4 million, the value of the car, the value of the house. She can’t repay me for what she’s done. She can’t repay me for what she’s taken from me, just like I can’t repay her. We are both broken human beings trying to put our lives back together.

“I have made peace with what I did to my Danielle. I hope she finds her peace as well. It’s easier to start over and never have to speak to her again that it would be to chase down those trinkets she took. I won’t remember the monster she has become. I will only ever remember the times when she was still mi alma.

With those words, Blake leaves the garage and pulls out his cell. He does a quick search, then calls a salvage yard to come and retrieve the frames of the cars. Once the frames are removed, we quietly leave the estate.

As for my other situation, I wish I could say that I was cool as a cucumber today. I sent a text to Trey to meet me at my house this evening and I’m not completely sure that I’m ready for that or that he’ll even come. I know that he hasn’t forgotten me, and if I know him correctly, he’s stewing a bit. I didn’t expect him to send me tribute after that last session, but I also didn’t expect him to go completely radio silent on me.

I’ve reviewed the consequences of leaving a client unsatisfied. Just like any situation, they can choose not to deal with you anymore. But what did he expect? He showed up at my house unannounced and then he left all belligerent and shit. He couldn’t expect not to have any repercussions for that.

But he’s a client, not a submissive…

Be that as it may, I’m still his Mistress, and he didn’t show me that respect. If he doesn’t show me the respect of Mistress, he’s not going to get what Mistress gives, and I don’t care how many hissy fits he has. And dammit, from the very beginning, I told him that I choose. I choose who to engage and when to engage, and I choose when to dismiss. So, he doesn’t get the luxury of being able to just disappear on me like that without a word. You leave that behavior for the Madame Petra’s of the world, I’m not the one.

I head to Gene Juarez for a day of beauty. I do my own Brazilian waxing, but I needed everything else to be buffed, threaded, waxed, trimmed, and curled. If he’s going to be dismissed, let him see what he’s going to be missing. Otherwise, he’ll have to beg for me to take him back as a client.

I’m getting my avocado mask when I hear two other patrons talking about none other than Madame Petra herself.

“I heard that he beat her again,” one woman says.

“It’d serve her right, sleeping with other people’s husbands!” another says. Oh, hell, who did she sleep with.

“I don’t think that’s what it was,” the first girl says. “I think it’s because he wants a divorce and she won’t give him one.”

“Well, that’s what it said in Seattle Snoop,” the first woman counters. “It says right here that Caldwell Lincoln is suspected of battering Elena Lincoln a second time, and that reliable sources reveal that he found her in bed with another man—married—but they won’t reveal his identity.”

Oh, it’s a gossip rag. They got the beating wrong. They’re probably making up the rest. And that was a long time ago. They’re just now breaking that story… or did she get beaten again?

“Think about it, Lisa,” the second girl says. “We’re talking about Seattle Snoop here. Not the best source of information. And as much as they like to splatter people’s names all over their rag, they suddenly won’t reveal the name of the unfaithful husband? They got it from a reliable source, but they can’t reveal his name?”

“Well, I’m just saying,” Lisa says, “there’s probably some truth to what they’re saying. She was in hiding in that house for nearly two months. As much as that woman loves attention, something was going on to keep her locked away in her little cottage.”

“Her Kirkland home is hardly a cottage,” the second woman says. “She’ll be sitting pretty if she gets that in the divorce.”

“Are they really getting divorced?” Lisa asks.

“Wouldn’t you?” the second says. “Think about it. He beats her all to hell the first time and we still don’t know why, then he takes off for the Bahamas. They find him there with other women—they still don’t know who. When he gets back, they’re both cleaning out bank accounts…”

I didn’t know that part.

“… And they’re both accusing each other of assault. The Misses is being sued by some of the ladies that come here because of that fiasco of being bitten by rats or something in her shop…”

Boy, that rumor mill is still as ugly as hell… a whole year later!

“… And she’s being sued by Christian Grey because she fingered him as the person that beat her that night… and I think she’s got some charges against her for something that she did to him.”

“That man’s like a quadrillionaire. What does he expect to get from Elena Lincoln?”

“My guess is that he’s just trying to give her a hard time,” the second lady replies. “I have to look it up, but whatever criminal case against her or whatever it is that involves him is coming up in a couple of months.”

Well, this is valuable information. We need to look into a settlement soon or there may be nothing left to sue for.

“How do you know all this?” Lisa asks.

“Because I do follow the reliable news sources,” the second says, “and speaking of reliable sources, The Seattle Journal had the same questions we do about the divorce. Is it happening? What’s at stake? Blah, blah, blah, and guess what?”

What? What?

“There’s probably no divorce underway that we know of because the Lincolns don’t have a prenup.”

Get the fuck outta here! How did I not know this? It’s time to settle this lawsuit ASAP! Depending on how the wind blows, this could go either way. Blondie could end up with half of a huge estate or she could end up with nothing! Then, she’s got Trey’s lawsuit to contend with and she’s got defenses that she’s going to have to pay for in the near future.

I listen to the ladies talk about Blondie’s woes a little longer. Just about everything they’re saying is way off the mark, although they are giving me some good information, at least a bit here and a bit there that I wasn’t aware of. Linc is apparently living in a hotel and fighting tooth and nail to keep Trey from muscling in on the lumber business. That used to be tribute to me. Now it appears to be more personal, not that I blame the man.

When my day of beauty is over, my eyebrows are threaded, I’ve had a flawless facial, and my hair is a full, gleaming halo of brunette waves. Every inch of my body is as smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom, and my nails and toes are clipped, filed and polished to perfection.

Before dressing to deal with one errant client, I sit down in my study and compose an email to send to the participants of the lawsuit against Blondie. I inform them of the importance of coming to a settlement soon since Lincoln will soon be facing her comeuppance on some very serious legal woes and we may get nothing at all from her even if we win the case. I recommend a non-negotiable $10 million to be split between them once my legal fee has been paid. I won’t take my portion as a participant of the lawsuit since my fee will be one-third of the settlement. They may agree, they may not, but we’ll just have to see.

My chosen attire this evening is more champagne than gold, but it’s sexy as fuck. It’s a spaghetti-string silk dress with a hidden zipper in the back, a plunging neckline, and a mock-wrap waist with a thigh split that comes past my bikini line. It’s full and flowing and beautiful, the skirt a little long so that it can drag behind me when I walk. I’m wearing strappy stiletto sandals that fasten around my ankles with no stockings since my legs are as smooth as ice and my toes are freshly done. A thong would have been overkill, but you can’t go wrong with the nude seamless French-cut panties. A bra is out of the question with the spaghetti straps and the plunging neckline, so I know my nipples are prominent through the dress. My jewelry is very understated—a pair of simple gold earrings and a gold bracelet pushed up to my bicep.

Try to walk away from this, Chopper, I dare you.

I go to the parlor and pour a double-shot of vodka and await my prey. He’s about to learn a very valuable lesson this evening.


A/N: Vivian Ward is Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman.

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~~love and handcuffs