Raising Grey: Chapter 77—Something He Can Feel

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

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

Danger—Aussie accent ahead. Turn away now.

That’s it.

Smoochies!!

All other previous disclaimers still apply.

Chapter 77—Something He Can Feel

CHRISTIAN

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

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

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

Over my dead body.

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

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

Oh… it’s that lipstick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, shit.

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

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

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

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

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

“Swap what?” Butterfly asks, bemused.

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

Swap.
Shit!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I should declare my win by forfeit.”

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


ANASTASIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are your safewords?” he growls.

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

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

“Ladybug,” I reply softly.

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

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

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

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

SLAP!

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

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

Yep, I did that, too.

SLAP!

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

Inner sigh… yep, that was me.

SLAP!

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

Ouch! Guilty! Fuck, guilty!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fuck me.”

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

“Faster!” he demands. “Harder!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get up.”

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

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

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

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

“Come,” he demands.

Yeah, I wish I could!

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

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

“Other way,” he says. “Ass to me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank God for that!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No… no…”

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

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

“God, yes…” he groans, “that’s it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


CHRISTIAN

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

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

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

“Fuuuucck!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lady… l… lady… ladybug…”

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

Eucalyptus lotion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

“Good morning,” she says weakly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She raises her guileless blue eyes to me again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And once again, I feel like a troll.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, yeah, I did know that.

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

Uh, yeah… clearly love bites, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, yeah,” I say dismissively.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, it is,” we say simultaneously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A/N: 

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

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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

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Raising Grey: Chapter 76—Still Ship Shenanigans

ADDITIONAL DISCLAIMER: 

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

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

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

Chapter 76—Still Ship Shenanigans

CHRISTIAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And second place goes to… Ana!”

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

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

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

“And the winner is… Brigette!”

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

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

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

“BEHAVE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s true,” I confirm.

“Good answer,” she replies with a smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Morning Christian,

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

James Fleming-Forsythe
IT Engineer, Liondew Electronics

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

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

Hello James,

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

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

Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sir…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Elaborate,” I say.

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

“How so?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shiver inwardly at the thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now, we get to the meat of it.

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

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

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

“Duly noted,” he says.


ANASTASIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why should I inform you?”

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

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

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

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

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

And what the hell are you doing?
Point taken.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’s got a good point.

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

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

“There,” I reply.

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 75—Ship Shenanigans

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

ADDITIONAL DISCLAIMER: 

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

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

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

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

Chapter 75—Ship Shenanigans

ANASTASIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Our money,” he corrects me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

Jason thought of everything.

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

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

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

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

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

Very well said, Ms. Courtney.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What? Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmm, sushi… we have a winner.

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

And then the sushi roll parade begins!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

… Or on a cruise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Aaah, thehr’s a story thehr, too,” Jaxon observes, pulling his wife closer to him. We share the short version of our story—meeting and hating each other, the accidental kiss, the longing from a distance, the denial, the crashed date and eventual consummation. We leave out the parts about the kidnapping, the pedophile, the BDSM lifestyle—you know, all the stuff that makes people run away screaming.

Christian and I talk to Laura and Jaxon a little while longer, then the live band starts to sing Pink Let’s Get This Party Started.

I’d love to chat, but I must dance!

“Come, Laura,” I say, grabbing her hand. “Let’s go dance!”

“What about me?” Christian asks in mock horror.

“You can watch,” I say with a wink before dragging Laura onto the floor. I need to dance the melancholy away. I still have residual feelings of all the shit going on at home and I don’t want any of it right now…

Feeling homesick for my babies…
Grace not respecting my opinion or concerns at Helping Hands…
Harmony’s current circumstance trying to wrap things up with her mom’s estate…
Marilyn and Gary’s breakup…
Val is pregnant… Good grief, Val is pregnant!
What the hell am I going to do if Marilyn doesn’t come back?
What the hell am I going to do if I don’t go back… to Helping Hands, that is?

I dance like a wild woman for three songs until my drink is empty, then we sit down with Laura and Jaxon and shoot the shit some more while Christian gets me another drink.

“You dance like a woman trying to escape,” Laura points out as we sip our drinks in a cabana off the main pool. I shake my head.

“I’m determined to have a good time,” I tell her. “There’s a lot going on at home and I miss my babies something awful.

“You mentioned twins. How old?” she asks.

“Ten months,” I confess and her mouth falls.

“You’re kidding,” she says. “If I may be so bold, have you had any work done?” I laugh.

“Everybody thinks that,” I say. “No, just clean living and a lot of exercise… oh, and belly binding right after the twins were born… and breast feeding.”

“You’ve done belly binding?” she asks. I nod.

“I also did very moderate, low grade yoga until my doctor gave me the ‘all clear’ to go back to exercising like I normally do.” She nods.

“Natural childbirth?” she asks. I nod. “Were you off work long?” I twist my lips.

“Not so much,” I tell her. “My job isn’t that strenuous. I decided to leave my practice to focus more on my family, and my job—such as it is—is more community service than anything.” She raises a brow.

“Practice? You’re a doctor?”

“I’m a shrink,” I inform her. She’s clearly surprised.

“I never would have placed you as a shrink,” she says. “I know therapy has its place, but all the shrinks I’ve met are very self-important and judgmental.”

“I know the type,” I say. “I never understood how anybody in a field that’s based on helping people could have that high-nosed attitude. In one way or another, someone’s life is in your hands. How can you consider that and be so callous about it?

“I guess it all depends on why you got into the field,” I continue. “If you got into it for the money, well then a God complex isn’t very far behind. If you’re good at what you do and you know the craft, then that haughty attitude is sure to follow if you’re already stuck on yourself. However, if you got into it to help people, then you can’t help but to be humble. You can’t empathize without humility.”

“You’re definitely not the typical shrink,” she says, taking a sip of her drink. “By the way, you look fantastic,” she adds. “I would never know you’re the mother of twins… and breastfeeding?” I nod. “Some of my members have expressed an interest in belly binding, but I had no real knowledge of it, so I couldn’t recommend or discourage it.”

“Members?” I ask, curious.

“For lack of a better description, I’m a Wisdom Woman,” she says. “I’m something like a guru in my community. We focus on holistic healing and spiritual enlightenment. I realize that might be a bit hokey to you, but it’s what I do.” I wave her off.

“Yes, we’re champions for the validity and effectiveness of modern medicine, but any doctor who doesn’t understand and recognize the power of spiritual health and stability is a quack,” I say finitely. I’ve surprised her again.

“There are many doctors in many fields who would say that you’re wrong and that I’m the quack,” she laughs mirthlessly. “I believe that the earth, nature, and the spirit can heal anything that ails you. However, I believe that the connection that would heal or erase fatal diseases is much more than most people would ever be able to achieve. To that end, I don’t expect people to sit there and chant their way through cancer. I do, however, expect for them to utilize a combination of holistic methods and remedies, spiritual and emotional balance, and chemotherapy or radiation or whatever modern medical advances they need to fight the disease. If you leave out any one of those elements, your body will not be able to overcome the ailment and it will win.

“I don’t appreciate that my methods and those of many other practitioners, spiritual guides, medicine men and women, shaman, gurus, whatever you choose to call them, are dismissed because they’re not practiced in a hospital and you can’t put several zeros on the end of the treatment and send someone into outrageous debt just for trying to live. Seriously, what do you charge per hour for a session?” I clear my throat. I made out like a bandit when I was practicing.

“I’d rather not say,” I admit, “but these days, my sessions are all free.”

“Free?” she asks bemused. “How do you manage that?”

“I’m the assistant director of a shelter and help center for at-risk women and children,” I tell her. “I offer counseling services to the residents and donate the salary that they pay me back to the Center. I married into a lot of those aforementioned zeros, and I did get into this to help people, so it was the right thing to do.”

“Jesus,” she says, sinking into her seat a bit, “you’re completely not what I expected when I first saw you.”

“What did you expect?” I ask, as if I don’t already know.

“Gorgeous, young, tiny little woman—size four on your worst day—hanging on the arm of an equally gorgeous man with two rugged bodyguards following you… not one, two. They’re both trying to look inconspicuous and not doing a good job of it. You’re happily and carelessly bouncing around on a ship where the cheapest suite is 300 square feet and costs about $1000 a night. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you’re screaming trophy wife.” I laugh.

“Oh, Laura, you’re not breaking anything to me,” I tell her. “I did have zeros in my hourly rate, and I lived a very good life before I met my wealthy husband—not $1000-a-night good, but I did well enough… better than most. You have no idea the names that I’ve been called and the things I’ve been accused of since we fell in love…”

“Oh, I can imagine,” she says. “I don’t know your story, but Jaxon has more than a few pennies to rub together as you can imagine.” She gestures at the opulence around us. “He flies to America and a few months later, he brings home an American bride who has no money and practices ‘witchcraft…’” She waves her fingers in that way when she says the word.

“I met his family,” she continues. “They didn’t know anything about me. They didn’t know that I had suddenly lost my son in that horrible accident. They didn’t know that my husband had left me because he was a selfish bastard unable to face and deal with his feelings, so he blamed me. They didn’t know that damn near every day for years, it took every bit of my molecular will to get out of bed, put on my clothes, and go through my day—minute by minute—and resist the urge to swallow a little too much of one of my remedies and end it all.”

She shakes her head as if she’s said too much, but she hasn’t revealed anything more than how I was feeling right after I broke up with Edward… except that I didn’t have the horrible experience of losing a child.

“Jaxon saved me,” she continues, “not with his money, but with his love. I thought I was infatuated—just so lonely that I needed somebody, but that wasn’t it. He rescued me. He’d tell you differently. He’d tell you that I rescued him. Maybe I did, I don’t know, but I’m pretty certain that I wouldn’t have made it without him. I couldn’t see… I couldn’t see anything but darkness, death, hatred and pain. At the risk of sounding cliché, he came through the darkness like a candle in the midst, and suddenly, I could see again.

“When he left the states after his visit, I tried to go on without him. I was stronger, and I knew the world wouldn’t end, but I was so much happier when I was with him. He asked me to marry him, and I thought there was a catch. I thought he wanted American citizenship or something. I didn’t care. All I knew was that being with him made me happy, and that if the whole thing turned out to be a fluke, then I would be happy with him for as long as I could—to give me a little strength to go a little further in life.”

“It wasn’t a fluke, I take it,” I say. She smiles contentedly.

“Not in the least,” she replies. “I had no idea that he was rich until after we were married. He kept that part from me. I think he wanted to know—like I did—if it was real. It was very real for us… It was really fucked up for his family. They were awful. They were horrible and awful to me. One year at Christmas, he found out that they referred to me as the ‘fat American hippy witch.’ It was a private joke that the entire family shared. We discovered it because one of the children let the cat out of the bag.” She sighs heavily as she recalls the story.

“Could it have just been the family member of that kid?” I ask, trying to smooth things over like I always do. She shakes her head.

“It was all of them,” she says. “They admitted it. They weren’t ashamed of it. We left that Christmas. We left his mum’s house and we went back to our home. We packed our things, we called movers; he put the house on the market and a week later, we moved to Sydney. He hasn’t really spoken to them since.”

“Not even his mom?” I say with a frown. She drops her gaze and shakes her head.

“She was the worst. She called me horrible names to my face and never let him hear them, but he knew. He knew for sure that last year, and he just wasn’t going to take it anymore. They’ve tried to call a few times, but…” She shakes her head again.

“Three years later, his mum died,” she says. “The family never called him. He found out from a friend. We went to her viewing when none of them were there. He kissed her, he said ‘goodbye,’ he signed the guestbook and he left. He was sad, but he had said that he knew she lived a good life and that now she was at peace. He used that knowledge to help him get through his loss. He’s become quite the spiritual guide himself.”

We turn to look at Jaxon and Christian deep in conversation at the bar. I’m dying to be a fly on the wall for that tête-à-tête.

“His friends talk about how much he’s changed over the years—how much happier he seems. They keep asking me what I’ve done to him, what’s my secret…”

I look at her and Jaxon and I see a version of me and Christian in ten years, only we’ll no doubt still have the love and concern of our families.

“What about your family?” I ask. “Your siblings?”

“I still talk to them,” she says. “They thought I had lost every bit of my marbles to pull up and leave everything I’d ever loved and move to a foreign country with a man that I barely knew. Even my ex-husband found out and dared to try to tell me how crazy I was. How the hell did he think he was trying to tell me anything? He left me. He fucking left me to die…”

That’s the first time she’s cursed since we’ve been talking.

“I’m sorry,” she says, taking a deep breath and rubbing her chest. “I don’t normally curse anymore. It interferes with the flow of prana. Apparently, talking about my ex brings out the worst in me.”

I know the feeling.

“Then maybe we should stop talking about him,” I suggest. “Do you still see your family?” She nods.

“I bring them out here once a year—my brothers and sisters and my mom. If their families want to come, they have to make their own way. But it’s always so good to see them, and they love it here when they visit.” I smile.

“Aren’t we cruising through Melbourne?” I ask. “That’s one of our ports of call.” She nods.

“He’ll put flowers on his mum’s grave and get swiftly back on the boat.”

“How do you feel about that?” I ask. “Does it ever… bother you? I mean…” I trail off.

“You mean that he doesn’t have contact with his family because of me?” she finishes.

Yeah, that’s my question—I just didn’t want to say it aloud.

“At first, it bothered me a lot,” she admits. “I could see that he was hurt, and he had to work through the pain. I knew that there was nothing that I could do to rectify it. We decided that we wanted to be together and we couldn’t force them to accept me, but he wasn’t going to sit around while they treated me worse than they treated their dogs. He wouldn’t subject me to that and I definitely wouldn’t allow myself to be subjected to it. The only other option was to remove the unwanted element, which was me. So, what now—I leave, we’re both miserable, but his family is happy? Definitely not an option.

“So, he made the difficult choice between me and his family. I didn’t want him to make that choice, but they were unyielding in their insults and prejudices. The way Jax explains it to me is that he had found true and genuine happiness, but it came at a cost, and it was a price that he was willing to pay because he wasn’t going to let it go.”

“Maybe one day they’ll come around and see how foolish they were,” I encourage.

“Maybe,” she says, “but after nearly a decade, I would say not. They’re waiting and hoping for me to become ‘part of his past,’ and that’s not going to happen.” She sighs heavily then smiles.

Although the conversation only slightly veered in that direction, talking to Laura made me realize that I can’t leave Helping Hands just yet. There are too many people there who need me—who depend on me. I can’t stay, however, as long as Grace totally doesn’t respect me professionally, but I can’t leave right now. It would be irresponsible and selfish. I’ll have to wait at least until after the school year starts and learning programs are in place, after which I’ll help find a replacement for me. This talk has helped me to see what’s important—to put my personal feelings aside for the moment and not shirk my responsibilities, but it’s also shown me that life’s too damn short to be sniffin’ somebody’s bullshit.


CHRISTIAN

Butterfly has headed to the dance floor and subsequently to one of the cabanas on the deck to talk to Laura while Jaxon and I chat at the bar. He gets extremely comfortable extremely quickly in the conversation.

“Are ya swingahs?” Jaxon asks and I glare at him with a murderous stare. Is that what his wife is doing—grooming my wife for this shit? “OI’ll tayke that ahs a ‘no,’” he says, his voice full of mirth, and I don’t find the situation the least bit funny.

“Don’t tayke it tha wrong wy, mate,” he adds. “Tha woife and OI ahrn’t swingahs. She’s jest vehry spiritual and it’s rubbed off on meh. OI sense somethin’ from yah—taboo, unconventional. OI jest thought that was it.”

“You sensed that, huh?” I say sarcastically while taking a large swallow of my beer.

“Yeh,” he replies, ignoring my sarcasm. “She’s got a bit of it in ‘er, too,” he says, gesturing to my wife before turning back to me. “This is how OI knew Lahra was fa meh. When OI fihst met ‘er in the Staytes in pehrson, she introduced meh to moy spirit goide. I realoize it’s a bunch o’ mumbo-jumbo tah someone who doesn’t practice this koinda thing, but the spiritual awykening was ahll OI needed to know that OI had been wahking aroun’ in the dahk fah yeahs!” He takes a gulp of his beer before continuing.

“When OI cayme back to Australia without ‘er, it was loike somebody had cut mah ahm off. OI couldn’t function; OI couldn’t think… OI had to have ‘er with meh. When I cahlled ‘er bahk and ahsked ‘er tah marry meh, she thought OI had lost mah mahbles! Quoite frankly, OI thought OI had lost mah mahbles. The truth wahs… OI could jest see tha wohrld moh clearly. OI could see whaht wahs missing in mah loife… ehv’rythin’! Big, gayping holes of misery and emptiness. It wahs the sceriest thing OI’ve ehveh fayced in mah loife! Yah ehveh wayke up one daye an’ yah jest strugglin’ ta mayke sense of it ahll?” he asks, his voice betraying a slight desperation.

“As a matter of fact, I have,” I respond, looking at Butterfly and remembering how she bewitched me when absolutely no one else was able to reach me.

“When it’s roight, it’s jest roight, mate. Yah don’t ahsk, yah jest fahllow—especially when yah spihrit tells yah to. My spihrit led me to mah Lahrie. It’s been ten yeahs. OI haven’t regretted a moment of it.”

“Are you trying to tell me something, Jaxon?” I ask. He swallows his beer.

“Whahteveh yah into, yah kindred spihrits already know yah thehre. Yah weahr it loike a smock. OI maye not know whaht it is, but OI know it’s thehre. Don’t be suhproised if yah foind loike-moinded individuals on the ship. Don’t get offended—jest let ‘em know yah not int’rested… if yah not int’rested. Weh’re ahll here to have a good time, aye?” He shrugs.

He’s right. I can usually pick a Dominant or a submissive out of a crowd, but I haven’t had my “BDSM eye” out lately to be able to spot them. It hasn’t been a priority for quite some time. Now, a veritable civilian who appears to just be a really good profiler has been able to call me out and let me know that he can see it in me and my wife, even though he’s not sure exactly what it is.

“Thanks, Jaxon,” I cede. “That’s good information and I’ll keep it in mind.”

“Don’t mention it, mate,” he says, drinking more of his beer and turning to where the women are sitting. “She doesn’t have many femayle friends, does she?” I raise my brow.

“She has enough,” I say. He nods. “Why would you ask that?”

“She’s an alpha femayle,” he says. “Not a bully, but she can handle ‘erself. She doesn’t bahk down frahm a foight, bot she won’t foight whehre it’s not necessary. She doesn’t tayke shite from anyone, ahnd ‘er heart is biggah than that toiny little body of ‘ers. People undahestahmayte ‘er often ahnd she suhprises the foock out of ‘em. Let me know when OI’m wrong.”

So far, he’s dead on, so I let him continue.

“The only women around ‘er ahre family, fohllowehs, neutrals, or women who’ve known ‘er for a long time. Alpha femayles or wanna-be alpha femayles—they bump heads like bulls.

“She’s afrayd of somethin’, though,” he says. “OI’m not sure whaht it is, but it’s one thing—one little thing—and it’s scerin’ the shite out of ‘er. Whahtevah it is, she’ll get hold of it soon, but she’s gonna hafta look outside of ‘erself to do it. That’s whehre the ansah is, an’ befoh yah ahsk, yah cahn’t help ‘er, mate.”

“Where the hell did you come from?” I ask, perturbed that he’s reading me… us this well. He chuckles as he finishes his beer and gestures to the bartender.

“Give us a refill,” he says to the bartender who nods and goes off to get another draft beer. “Mayke that two!” Jaxon calls out to the bartender, and I realize that when he said, “Give us a refill,” he wasn’t talking about both of us.

“I shouldn’t drink too much,” I caution. I don’t like not having control.

“Ahnd yah won’t,” he says, pushing the empty glass away from him. “Even if yah did, yah got yah two bodygahrds ovah thehre… you’ll be foine.”

And once again, I forgot we had security.

“Do they stick out like sore thumbs?” I ask.

“Not anymoh than anyone else’s,” he says. “OI’ve seen about foive couples jest ahn this deck with security. Don’t give it a second thot.”

I nod at the bartender when he brings our drinks to us and look over at Butterfly who has escaped to one of the cabanas with Laura, still in my line of sight and that of our security.

“She fohlows the rules, but noht ahll the toime,” he deduces correctly. “It’s given you and the boys a bit of a run for yah money.”

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” I concur, drinking my beer.

“OI don’t need ta know yah secret,” he says. “Yah don’t hahve tah tell meh whaht it is, mate. It’s not that impohtant. Jest know thehre’s an energy that comes from yah both—stronger when yah tagetheh. It has a lotta power. If yah use it propahley, no one’ll be able ta come against yah.”

I don’t know why, but I’ve got a feeling that we’re going to need that in the coming months.

*-*

After dinner and more drinks at a premier steakhouse on board, I find that my lady is pickled once again when I carry her to our cabin, and I take full advantage of her inebriated, playful state. She gives my dick the sucking of its life and I give her the fucking of hers before we fall off into a contented sleep.

Tuesday is a day at sea. My wife has a bit of a hangover—again, so we order breakfast in the suite with a Bloody Mary on the side for a bit of the “hair of the dog.” I warn her to pace herself, because I can see that it’s very easy to get drunk very quickly on a cruise since the drinks flow so freely.

Since you hardly see anyone without a drink of some kind in their hand, particularly on the party decks, I suggest that she keeps some of her umbrellas and drink toys and put them in the glass with a soda, spritzer, or sparkling water if she wants to look like one of the cool kids without being three sheets to the wind for the entire trip. I also have to let the cat out of the bag that we’ll be spending the weekend in wine country, which won’t be as much fun if her insides are pickled throughout the week.

Our suite has direct access to the exclusive Bliss sundeck, pool, and bar as well as to the exclusive Bliss lounge. So, we have the option to mingle with the rest of the passengers, or keep it intimate with only other suite cruisers who have access to this area. Butterfly wants to mingle with the rest of the passengers, but I can see her spending some solitary time on this ship at some point. That’s just who she is.

She does a little detox in the Jacuzzi tub for a while before emerging from the closet in a stunning royal blue maxi dress. It’s sheer with a lining only long enough to hit her mid-thigh, and I’m convinced that she and Vickie are trying to kill me with this wardrobe. Of course, she completes the outfit with a sexy pair of stiletto slides.

“Baby, we’re on a cruise. We’re going to be here for another four days. Are you going to wear heels the entire time?” She raises a brow at me.

“Have we met?” she says before donning her Jackie-O’s and heading to the door.

We have indeed.

The ship is really impressive. Our exploration yesterday was mostly to find something to eat, so today, we’re paying more attention to what’s on deck on each floor. On the main deck in the middle of the ship is the Grand Plaza. It’s decked out with an extremely large Christmas tree and a white baby grand. Across from the baby grand is a martini bar. Having had breakfast and a bit of a detox, Butterfly indulges in one of the unusual martinis on the menu—a Blue Jean Martini. It’s a combination of vanilla vodka, chocolate liqueur, blue curaçao and smooth cream—and it’s very sweet. I have the Black-Tie Martini—made with gin, vodka and white wine—and guide her to the seats in the Grand Plaza area.

“I talked to Allen about setting up a will,” I begin after we’ve settled in our seats. She frowns.

“Where did this conversation come from?” she asks bemused. I twist my lips at her.

“You really have to ask?” I reply.

“No, obviously I know where it came from, just why right at this moment?” Yeah, I guess I did spring it on her a bit out of the blue.

“I don’t really know,” I say, my brow furrowed. “It just dawned on me, I guess. If we must have a conversation like this, we should be relaxed while we’re having it.” She purses her lips.

“Well, that’s true,” she says. “So, where do we start?” I sigh.

“I don’t even know,” I admit. “Of course, you know that you and the twins are my only heirs. So, the only reason I would really need a will is if something happened to us both at the same time. Of course, we would set up trust funds for the children, no matter what.”

“Well, I’ve only been to one will reading,” she points out, “and from what I saw, you need to itemize your assets. All I have is my condo.”

“God, woman, when are you going to get it through your brain that you’ve got more than that?”

“Okay, fine, let me rephrase,” she says after taking a sip of her martini. “My condo is all that I have in my name. You didn’t press for me to put your name on my condo, so it’s still in my name alone. Is that better, Mr. Grey?” She rolls her eyes at me.

“Keep it up, Mrs. Grey,” I warn.

“I thought we already established whose job that was,” she retorts. Oh, she’s testing me.

“Do you want to see Australia?” I caution firmly. Don’t push me, woman. I’ve fucked you every day since we left Seattle—twice! I’ll throw you over my shoulder, take you to that stateroom and they won’t see us again until this boat is back in Sydney. Fuck wine country!

Her skin flushes bright pink and she looks around to see if anyone has caught on to our conversation. Personally, I could care less. I only asked one question. I didn’t tell her what I was thinking, but she knew. I raise a single brow at her when she brings her gaze back to mine. I’m doing everything I can to be a good boy on this boat while you’re wearing transparent dresses and stiletto heels. Tempt me… please!

She swallows hard before taking a large gulp of her martini.

“Remember what I said,” my voice low, but still firm. “Pace yourself.”

She places her half-finished martini on the table and folds her hands in her lap. It’s clear that she feels scolded.

“That wasn’t my intention,” I say, immediately spotting the submission.

“No… it’s fine,” she says, still looking at her folded hands. “It’s sweeter than I like. I really don’t want anymore.”

“Do you want to try mine?” I ask, offering an olive branch. She shakes her head.

“Yours is most likely stronger. I think I’ll have some water instead. Excuse me for a minute.”

She stands without making eye contact with me and walks quickly back to the bar. Jeez, what just happened? Did I let the Dom out and didn’t know it? I watch my wife crack the bottle open and down half of it, refusing the glass of ice the bartender has prepared for her. I watch her pause for a moment and I wonder if she’s coming back to the seat. She finishes the bottle and asks for another one, this time taking the glass of ice. She strolls back to her seat with the glass in one hand and the bottle in the other.

“So, you were saying?” she says. “About the assets?”

I suddenly feel a bit uncomfortable, but I keep talking.

“You don’t have to put my name on your condo,” I tell her. “That’s not necessary. Just will it to me if something happens to you. We need to decide how our assets—including your condo—will be distributed if something happens to us both.”

“I always assumed that whomever took the twins would be the benefactors of yo… our fortune.” Nice catch, Mrs. Grey.

“You assume correctly, but who would take the twins?” I ask. “My parents are up in age and would definitely be pinch hitters if needed. Your dad and Mandy may be an option if that’s what he wants, but he already has Little Harry to think about. Their godparents are both married and either would provide stable homes for the twins, but there’s also the consideration that Valerie and Elliot have a child on the way. Have we talked to any of them about this?”

“I vaguely recall having some kind of conversation with somebody about this, but I don’t totally remember how it came out, so I think we should have the conversation again,” she admits.

“I think you’re right,” I concur. “Allen is looking into cataloging my assets for me so that we can know what we’re working with.” If I had been thinking about it, I would have told him to get with my accountant. Between the two of them, I’m certain they can lock this up.

“We’ll have a meeting with the godparents first when we get home,” I tell her. “I think they’ll most likely be the best candidates since we’re all around the same age. Then, we’ll talk to our parents and let them know what the plan is so that there’s no misunderstanding.”

“Okay,” she says. “That’s fine.” She’s looking at me momentarily, then diverts her gaze to her water, concentrating on the task of filling her glass as if she’s performing surgery.

Yeah, I let the Dom out.

“Come on,” I say, standing and taking her hand after she has emptied the bottle into the glass. “Let’s walk some more.” I take my martini and she takes her bottle of water and stands. I tuck her under my arm and we walk around to explore the ship some more.

The sun is bright in the sky and glistening off the water as we stroll along the promenade. There are portholes in the floor of the deck so that you can look down and see blue water. I don’t know how sturdy that is, but it’s pretty. Butterfly avoids them. She loves the view of the water, but she says they make her nervous. She would much rather deal with the view over the railing, particularly of the “white bubbly trail” left by the boat as we cut through the ocean. She has loosened up a bit as we stroll through the ship and make a mental note of the things we plan to do and the places we intend to eat. Looking to get some uninhibited sunshine, we head up to the Lido deck to see what’s afoot.

The party has truly started up here on the Lido deck. The drinks are flowing freely at the pool bar as usual and we’re just in time to claim two of the remaining in-pool loungers. As we strip down to our swimwear, my wife nearly causes me a heart attack again with a blue and orange two-piece—a bandana-type top and boy-short-type bottoms with drawstrings down the side. The material wraps so well around her ample breasts and juicy ass that I actually lament her getting into the pool.

Calm yourself, Grey. She could wear a burlap sack and you’d get a hard-on. Get over it.

Sure enough, she steps out of her shoes, retrieves a towel, and after placing her items on the in-pool chaise, she dives into the deep end. I make myself comfortable on the lounger next to hers and wait for her to emerge. As expected, when she does, she smooths her hair down and looks like a goddamn mermaid.

Consider yourself lucky, Grey. She’s all yours.

A reggae band is playing on the stage as I watch my wife do laps in the pool. I mentally tap my feet to the beat of the music as I let my mind wander. What brought the Dom out? I’ve almost always had him under control, only allowing him to emerge when I wanted him to. However, a little while ago, there he was—not in full force, but he was there. I’m pretty certain he’s been here for at least the last day and maybe more. I’m not sure which of many events lit the initial match.

Her smart mouth yesterday at the hotel and me vowing to fuck her senseless for the entire trip?
Her calling me her billionaire lover night before last in that hip-hop bar?
The animal fucking we did for nearly the entire 14-hour flight from the States?
Could it have been sparked by events completely outside, like those fuckers salivating over her ass at the Overseas Passenger Terminal?

Or Jaxon noticing the tendency and asking me if we were swingers? No, it was alive and well and showing by then. Whatever the cause, I have to be mindful that the Dom is present and try to keep him under control. My wife and I will have to address it though. We agreed to learn more about the dynamics of the Dom/sub relationship as it applies to marriage months ago, but of course, that was before the bottom nearly fell out from under our lives…

“’Ey, Christian!”

I open my eyes to see Jaxon waving at me from across the pool in a T-shirt and a pair of black shorts. His wife is standing next to him in a paisley halter maxi-dress. They both look more tanned than I remember, but it was sunset and evening when I last saw them. I wave them over to me and they begin to walk around the pool, hand in hand. After ten years, it’s still very clear that they love each other. Jaxon is a slender man, not very tall, with his hair cut short almost to the scalp. Laura is what today’s society would consider plus sized, but knowing what I know about women’s bodies, I would say that she’s somewhere between a size 10 and a size 12, very attractive with sun-bleached blonde hair.

“Whehe’s the woife?” he asks when they reach me. I point to the pool and the blue and orange mermaid gliding through the water.

“Ah, gettin’ ‘er exehcoise in, OI see,” Jaxon says as he squints at the water. “Now’s the best toime. A few blokes an’ sheilas out, but not too crohded.”

I find myself listening very carefully to understand what he’s saying. It’s no doubt that he was born and raised in the “Land Down Undah.” Butterfly comes to the edge of the pool and sees them standing by the loungers. She waves and lifts herself out of the pool just as I hear something that makes me cringe.


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

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 60—Warfare

A while back, I posted on Facebook that I had written a scene that I never thought I could or would write. The scene from chapter 15 of Fifty Shades Golden is that scene. There are a lot of reasons why I thought I couldn’t write that scene, but it came out pretty good under the circumstances.

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 60—Warfare

CHRISTIAN

For you! I do it all for you! Everything I do, I do for you! You’ve made me crazy!

I’m grinding deep in hard into my wife. We’ve been at it for hours, but no matter how long I’ve been fucking her, my dick can’t seem to get enough.

I need to go deeper, harder, I want to feel the burn in my balls.

“Christian,” she breathes, “please…”

She’s holding on to the part of the headboard that she can reach, and I roll my hips hard and deep and thrust into her again… and again… and again…

I can’t seem to find my satisfaction.

I can’t believe what happened today. I can’t believe I let it happen. I wanted to protect my wife… and myself… but if I’m honest, more my wife than myself. I couldn’t risk something getting back to her that would throw her into a dark place. I was a kinky, cold asshole back then, and one day, I know that’s going to be revealed to the world, but not today… God, not today.

I felt completely powerless when I got home. I went straight to the gym and ran on the treadmill until I felt like my legs were going to explode. I did sit-ups, push-ups, bench presses, curls, everything—and nothing seem to tame me. I knew that I needed her. I needed to be inside her to forget what happened today.

After I showered as much of the day and the sweat off me that I could, she came into the bedroom and I just attacked. I couldn’t get her clothes off fast enough and I was glad that I was already naked…

And we’ve been fucking ever since.

Her hair is now as wet as mine, though mine was wet from the shower and hers is soaked with sweat. I was holding her hips at first and watching her body push violently up the bed with each stroke, but it seems like my dick wasn’t getting deep enough. So now I have one hand on the headboard and the other holding her leg up and open while I push my cock into her so hard that the bed is shaking. Her tits are bouncing up and down and her nipples are shiny, either from sweat or from milk. Either way, it’s urging me on. I’m wild while I’m chasing this orgasm, and she’s already had two… or three… I’ve lost count.

“Christian… Christian…” she pants, and I continue to drive into her. I’m mindlessly fucking, my dick is in control, driving deeper and deeper into that canal that brings me this pleasure. Her voice is soft, weak, surrendering, and her vulnerability makes me thrust even deeper.

“Christian!” she cries, and when I raise my head to look at her face. She throws her head back and yells out her third—or fourth—orgasm, this time a few tears come with it.

I pause for a moment at the sight. It’s so fucking beautiful. She’s so fucking beautiful. And as she trembles through her climax I push into her a few more times and finally explode powerfully deep inside her. My muscles tighten and my body trembles painfully as my dick thumps inside her pussy. God… It’s insane.

My body is stiff with pleasure while she mewls in exhaustion, and when my orgasm finally releases me, I fall exhausted on top of her, panting wildly.

It only takes a moment for me to catch my breath and realize that we’re not done yet. I roll her over on top of me still inside of her, my cock still thumping and ready.

“Christian… please…” she weeps.

“Ssssshhh,” I comfort her as I stroke gently up and into her. I lay her head on my chest, close my eyes, and wrap my arms around her so that each hand is grasping the opposite butt cheek as I slowly stroke inside her. Her gentle weeping gradually becomes rhythmic breathing and I grind myself slowly and gently inside of her, allowing my cock to rub her clit with every stroke. Her hands are on my shoulders and she squeezes them gently each time I thrust into her.

That’s it, baby, feel it. Feel that cock getting hard and stiff for you. Feel how hot I am for you… only you.

“God,” I groan as my balls start to tighten. She digs her nails into my shoulder and mewls in pleasure and I feel her legs falling slightly open.

“Fuck!” I growl at the pain and I’m trying not to lose my stroke. I grip her ass tighter and push her harder down onto my cock.

“Fuck!” I say again as the heat in her core envelops me and threatens to unman me in seconds. I move one of my hands from her ass to the back of her neck and bring her face to face with me so that I can gaze into her blue eyes, thick with passion and teetering on the edge. She whimpers with each stroke as my angry, veiny, dick pushes deep inside of her core, withdraws, and pushes again, ringing indescribable pleasure from us both.

“Oh, God, baby,” I groan as the heat and the friction are almost becoming too much for me to bear. I can’t help but to stroke faster, deeper, harder, holding her against me. The headboard is banging behind me again as I fasten my hand behind her nape pulling her down deliciously onto my anxious, heated shaft. My face is close to hers, almost forehead to forehead, and I’m breathing like a bear.

I see surrender in her eyes as her pupils dilate and turn that unmistakable shade of blue. Dear God, I’m going to blow inside her any second.

“Give it to me,” I growl, rolling my hips so that my dick hits all her walls while the shaft burns her pebbling clit. I move my mouth to her ear and move my hand to the very top of her ass crack holding her hard against me.

“Come on, give it up. You know that pretty little pussy wants to pop,” I breathe sensuously in her ear. She tries to move but I’ve got her locked, top and bottom.

Her body stiffens, her muscles lock, and she groans deep in her chest as her orgasm rips through her. Merciful God in heaven! She’s got that pussy locked so hard on my dick that I can barely move. I close my eyes and manage to pull out to the head and allow it to edge inside of her pulsing pussy. Good God, the pleasure is blinding, and I haven’t even come yet.

“Shit! Shit!” I whisper almost inaudibly as she violently flexes and contracts as she continues to ride out a massive climax. I hold her against me and push in and pull out only slightly, continuing to edge inside this violently vibrating pussy. Before I have the chance to prepare for it, my cock is springing and gushing hard. I push in a little deeper to get a little more stimulation through orgasm, and I feel like my head is going to pop off… Both of them!

“Uuuuuggghhh! Oh, Gooooood!” I groan mournfully as my dick painfully empties all that it has to offer. I’m still edging inside of her and I can feel my cum sliding out of her and down my dick to my balls. It’s the hottest, sexiest thing ever.

“Oh, fuck,” I mourn as I attempt to stay still and ride out an orgasm hours in the making. The first one was just practice. This was the Megatron!

My wife is silently trembling on top of me, drenched in sweat and exhausted when my dick finally gives up the fight. I have to catch my breath before I can think or move or anything. With my cock now flaccid and still wrapped inside of her, I wrap us both in the blankets, wrap my arms around her, and finally fall asleep.

Morning comes quickly—too quickly—and I know that I owe my wife an explanation. I slide quietly out of bed and go to her bathroom. I start a bath and fill it with her Desert Bambu Lemongrass Citrus bath soap. She hasn’t used it in a while and I’ve always loved the way it smells. It reminds me of simpler times.

I go back to the bedroom and sit on the bed next to her sleeping form. Her hair is a stringy, matted mess and she is shamelessly drooling on her pillow.

“Butterfly,” I rouse her gently and she doesn’t move.

“Mmmm,” she groans. “Please, my pussy aches.” I stifle a laugh.

“I…” I begin. “Come get in the bath.”

She moans again, then turns over to face me. She gazes at me sleepily for a moment before her gaze becomes questioning.

I know.

“Bath first,” I tell her, “then talk.”

She doesn’t protest, so I pull the covers back, pick her up bridal style and carry her to her en suite.

The tub is nearly full and the space smells heavily of lemongrass citrus. She takes a deep breath and fills her lungs, closing her eyes and no doubt, savoring the scent.

The lemongrass was the right choice. I lower her into the bubbles and retrieve the shampoo and a comb and brush.

“Too hot?” I ask. She adjusts herself in the tub after grimacing.

“Sore pussy,” she says, looking up at me. I won’t live this down anytime soon.

I climb in the water and kneel over her. Using her freshwater sponge, I gently scrub every inch of her, after which I massage key points of her body that I know would be aching the most—her shoulders, her back, her legs, and I throw in a foot massage for good measure. When she’s totally relaxed, I take to the task of tackling her hair.

And what a task it is!

I thought she cut it a while back. It’s still at least three feet long! At least it seems that long.

I don’t let on that I think the task is a bit daunting. I get out of the tub so that I can maneuver around her more easily and lather her hair with a generous amount of soap. I work the sweat-tangled portions through my fingers first. Then, using the comb, I start at the ends and work my way up, combing through the kinks and laying her mahogany mane down on her back. When I’ve worked all the kinks out, I rinse it with fresh water and add a generous amount of her conditioner.

“You soak for a moment,” I tell her. “I’ll be back.”

I look at the clock on the nightstand and see that it’s nearly noon. Any plans that either of us had of going into the office are a wash now. I slip on a pair of sweats and step out of the bedroom into the hallway.

“Activate two-way communications.” The system comes alive. “Locate Gail Taylor.”

“I’m right behind you.”

I nearly jump out of my skin.

“What are you doing creeping around like that?” I snap.

“Ssshh!” she scolds. What the…? “Jumpy much?” she hisses quietly. “End two-way communications.” When the system disconnects, she turns her attention back to me. “I just put Mikey back to bed. Now, what can I do for you?” I frown.

“Is he okay?” I ask. She raises a brow to me.

“He’s a baby,” she says matter-of-factly. “Babies sleep.”

“Well, where’s Minnie?” I ask.

“Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Keri has her,” she informs me. “Sometimes, babies don’t sleep.” I roll my eyes at her.

“What’s quick to eat?” I ask her.

“I’ll put something together,” she says as she heads for the stairs.

“Tell Jason to call the office and tell them I won’t be in today.”

“I’m sure they figured as much, but I’ll tell him,” she says as she descends the stairs. I go back to our bedroom and retrieve one of my wife’s vintage night shirts. She can get dressed later if she wants, but I want her in this right now. When I get back to the en suite, she has fallen asleep in the tub.

Geez, I really wore her out last night. If I’m honest, I could use a little more rest myself.

Using more fresh water, I rinse the lemongrass conditioner from her hair. It smells divine. She wakes as I’m squeezing the last of the water from her hair. I retrieve a bath blanket and extend my hand to her. She stands and takes my outstretched hand, ascends the stairs in the tub and walks into the open bath blanket. I dry her skin and hair before sitting her in front of her vanity. I painstakingly dry her hair, combing it through so that it doesn’t tangle again before braiding it into a long braid down her back. I slip on her night shirt and let the water out of the tub before taking her hand and leading her to the sitting room.

Gail has prepared a pastry tray with a few cheeses, some coffee and orange juice and a note to summons her if we wanted more. This would do me just fine. Butterfly takes a seat on the loveseat and I roll the tray over to her.

“We fucked through dinner,” I say, handing her a croissant from the pastry tray.

“That we did,” she says, taking a bite from it. She’s not rushing me to say anything. I pour her a glass of orange juice from the carafe before sitting on the ottoman across from her.

“One of my ex-submissives contacted me yesterday…” I begin. She stops chewing. “If you stop eating, I stop talking.”

“So, it begins,” she says as she begins to chew again.

“Natasha Gaines,” I continued. “Our contract ended when I discovered that she wasn’t a natural brunette.” Her brow furrows.

“Hmm,” she says.

“What?” I ask. She shrugs.

“I don’t know, it seems a little harsh, I guess,” she says taking another bite of the croissant.

“Yeah, she agrees with you,” I say sarcastically, pouring myself a cup of coffee. She raises her brow at me and I sigh. “I put her through a very… grueling orgasm-denial session the night that I found out that she lied, and then I dismissed her without letting her come.”

“How long ago was this?” she asks.

Years,” I tell her, “years before I even met you.”

“So, if she came back after all this time, she was pretty bitter…”

“You could say that,” I say. “She came back for what I owed her.” Butterfly frowns again.

“She wanted you to fuck her?” she asks.

“No, but she did want me to make her come.”

“What?” Butterfly hisses angrily.

“I didn’t touch her, Anastasia,” I excuse quickly.

“Well, what exactly happened?” she says, placing her half-eaten croissant back on the tray.

“You’re not eating…”

“Fuck this food! What happened?” she barks, and I know I had better spit it out fast.

“She threatened me with a flash drive,” I begin. “I didn’t know what was on it. She told me if I didn’t meet her, she would release it to the press. She kept taunting me with how you would feel if you saw what was on it. I couldn’t take that chance.”

“So, basically, once again, somebody used me to get to you,” she says angrily. I sigh.

“Yes. She did,” I confess.

“And what happened next, Christian?” she says impatiently.

“She told me that she was at the club—my club downtown, a public place—and that she wanted me to meet her there. So, I did.”

She doesn’t say anything. She just waits for me to continue my tale. I just fucking spit it out.

“She popped a couple of Ben-Wa balls into her twat and she wanted me to sext with her, Ana, right there at the goddamn table so she could cum while we were doing it.”

“And did you do it?”

“Not willingly,” I mumble.

“And what the fuck does that mean, Christian?” she barks. “Did you sext with the bitch or didn’t you?”

“As far as she’s concerned, I did!” I bark back. “She wanted me to recount that night, so I did. She pissed me off to no end and I let her know in no uncertain terms what a horrible fucking sub she was. I called her names and berated her, told her that she was conniving and deceitful. I disparaged her in every way imaginable, and you know what? That fucking cunt came—right there at the goddamn table like she was possessed! I was sitting as far away from her as possible and several other diners looked at her like she had lost her mind. And then the trick thanked me, gave me the flash drive, and left. She says it was her final step of becoming a Domme.” My wife folds her arms.

“And that’s all that happened.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Isn’t that e-fucking-nough?” I snap. “Here I am thinking I’m giving her what for and I’m giving the bitch exactly what she wanted. She wanted the asshole. She wanted to come in my presence because I didn’t let her come all those years ago and I gave her exactly what she wanted! And there was nothing on the fucking drive! Nothing but her taunting me because she used my arrogance against me. Fucking cunt!”

I’m getting angry again and my wife is sitting there glaring at me with her arms folded. What? She doesn’t believe me?

“So, in essence, I got Natasha’s punishment fuck.” I’m too ashamed to respond. “Did you see her while you were fucking me?”

“Good God, no!” I exclaim. Fuck no! “If anything, quite the opposite. I was definitely trying not to have that bitch taking up any of my mind space whatsoever.” She rolls her eyes at me.

“I don’t know how to feel about this,” she admits. “I’m definitely not thrilled in any way, shape, or form of having any other woman be the reason why you come home and fuck my brains out, but at least it was me and not somebody else.” I run my hands through my hair in frustration.

“So, we’ve had our first test and we failed,” she says, standing from the loveseat and pacing around the room. “Why did we do this whole ‘we ain’t hidin’ come get us’ exposé if we’re going to buckle when someone comes for us? There was no one being held at gunpoint; no bomb threats; no death threats. Just some desperate bitch who wanted to prove that you didn’t have a hold on her anymore—which is a crock of bullshit, because she sure wouldn’t have come across the country if that were true.”

Damn, I didn’t even think about that.

“Did you enjoy it?” she asks frankly. I scoff.

“About as much as a Dominant would enjoy fucking a submissive he never wanted to touch in the first place!” I growl, remembering the sickening feeling I got watching that cunt come at the table. My wife falls silent.

“You were psychologically raped, Christian,” my wife says softly. “You were forced to perform a sexual act that you didn’t want to perform under duress.”

What the hell? What kind of psychological mumbo-jumbo is this?

“I’m not a victim!” I hiss.

“But you were used, and that’s what’s pissing you off!” she accuses. “That’s what made you come back home and exert control over me in the only way that you could—and that’s okay. That’s one of the terms of our relationship that we set from the very beginning… but did it work? Do you feel in control?”

I ponder her words. I think about what that bitch took from me at that table in the club. She took more than an orgasm and she knows it. She knew exactly what she was doing to me. She was stripping me of my power. She had to in order to move on from that last night with me. She’s sitting knowing this is happening right now. She knew exactly what she was doing… exactly what she was doing…

“No,” I confess, almost inaudibly. “No… it didn’t work. I don’t feel control.”

“No, you don’t,” she confirms, returning to her perch on the loveseat, “and you could fuck me all night and all day and you still wouldn’t feel it. You won’t get it from me. You won’t get it from this.” I raise my eyes to her.

“What am I supposed to do?” I ask her. She sighs.

“You have to do what she did,” she says. “She took what she needed, and it had to come from you because of what you withheld from her all those years ago. Now, she’s robbed you of something, too… and it wasn’t an orgasm. It was something else. Either you have to get it back or you have to let it go. You need to figure out which.”

Jesus. Psychologically raped… Christian fucking Grey. Don’t that beat all?

“In light of this new revelation, would it bother you terribly if I discussed this with my shrink instead of…” I trail off. The idea of discussing any kind of rape with my wife… She smiles softly, leans over and kisses me on the forehead.

“Of course, not,” she says, sweetly.

*-*

“How do you always manage to make time for me on such short notice?” I say to Dr. Baker as I take a seat on her sofa.

“I always leave a slot or two open for emergency sessions,” she says after closing her office door. “You’re not my only patient, Christian, and emergencies arise all the time.”

“Yeah,” I lament.

“So, what’s your emergency today?” she asks. “You sounded a bit anxious on the phone.”

“My wife seems to think that I’ve been psychologically raped,” I say flatly. She raises a brow at me.

“And what do you think?” she asks.

“I’d like your opinion on it,” I reply. “It’s not an easy topic to discuss with your wife, even though she’s a mental health professional.”

“And how does she feel about that,” Dr. Baker asks, “I mean about you wanting to talk to me and not her?”

“She’s fine with it,” I say. “You’re my shrink, and she knows that.” Dr. Baker twists her lips.

“How open-minded of her,” she says, but for some reason I don’t hear reverence in that statement. Nonetheless…

“Tell me what happened to bring Dr. Grey to this conclusion,” she says as she settles back in her chair.

I recount the story of Natasha and how she finagled me into doing what she wanted and the subsequent fuck-fest with my wife last night, as well as the conversation we had before I found myself here in Dr. Baker’s office. She listens attentively, occasionally taking notes on her notepad, before turning her attention back to me.

“Psychologically raped,” she says as if testing the phrase, “I’m not sure I agree with that diagnosis, but I think I know what she’s getting at.” I sigh. She’s taking little shots at my wife—tiny, almost indecipherable shots…

Almost.

“Dr. Baker, it’s obvious that you and my wife will never see eye-to-eye,” I begin. “I don’t know if your techniques are vastly different or you come from different schools of thought, but right now, I’m having a problem with a situation that needs to be solved. What my wife said sounds like it makes a lot of sense. Spend less time disparaging her opinion and more time trying to help me figure out what’s going on with me here. Is that okay with you?”

“I assure you, Christian, that I wasn’t disparaging your wife’s opinion,” she says. “I was just saying that I don’t necessarily agree with it.”

“Well then, what is your professional opinion, doctor?” I seethe. I’m starting to get a little pissed off. Noting my agitation, either she decides to change tact, or she realizes that she’s being unprofessional.

“Are you the same man that you were before, Christian?” she asks. “That’s who Natasha needed, and she manipulated you until she thought she got that man… or maybe she did get that man. But whatever she got, she got from him. Does he want it back? Does he want that life… what she stole?

“Don’t answer for me, or even for Ana. Don’t think about what anybody wants to hear. Think about yourself. Think about how you feel and what you want. You left your wife and family, you went to Madrid and you didn’t look back. You turned into that guy again even though you didn’t have sex with any women. The only thing that even made you blink was the thought of your wife dying. Her suffering didn’t mean anything to you, but the thought of her dying and being totally taken away from you—that tipped the scales. So, who is Christian Grey today, and what does he want?

“She stole a power from you that you had over women—over her—at that time. You don’t have that power over women anymore, not even over Ana, and you know it. So… what? Do you want it back? What do you want?”

I honestly have to think about the question, not because I’m indecisive, but because I really need to examine the answer. Instead of thinking of Natasha, my mind goes to my wife.

My beautiful wife, the very reason for my existence.

What I did to my wife—deserting her without a word and flying halfway across the world where she had no hope of finding me—after all the promises we made, was sadistic. It was selfish, beyond egotistical, beyond narcissistic. It was the worst thing I ever could have done to her second only maybe to cheating on her. I rocked her to her very soul—on purpose. Now, when I watch her trying to recoil from it, it makes me ill. All I want to do is take it back, make it all go away, but I can’t. One of the biggest reasons I can’t make it better is because I didn’t do it.

That old Christian Grey did it.

And he did it with no remorse. Nobody I know in the world can hurt and destroy a person like that guy can, and I set that guy loose on my wife. Yes, I was hurt and confused, and I felt betrayed, but that was no reason to unleash that asshole on my wife the way that I did. I think Natasha knew that I wasn’t that guy anymore, and her ultimate victory was in bringing him back… and defeating him.

“Hell, no,” I say definitely. “Hell, no, I don’t want that guy back. I don’t want anything to do with that guy.”

“This isn’t the last sub that’s going to try you. What are you going to do?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I tell her. “I’ll talk to my wife, but that guy is gone…”

“Hello, Mr. Grey!” The doorman says. “It’s been a long time. It’s good to see you.”

“Thank you, yes, it has…” Been a long time. And that’s why I have no idea what your name is anymore. Jason and I walk to the elevator and I press the call button. When the doors open, I enter my express code and it takes me straight to the penthouse.

I barely recognize the place when I get there. I remember picking out everything in this apartment. It looks exactly how I wanted it to look. Now, it looks like a cave… Somewhere that someone would hide when they wanted to get away from the world. It’s dank and dark and there’s no warmth in here… no family, no love…

It’s all still furnished exactly like it was before. Nothing but our personal belongings went to the new house. I ascend the stairs and go right to the playroom.

It’s still a beautiful room. Luscious deep, red color, high-end furnishings, my Chesterfield sofa & chair, my Baroque bed. I look up at the ceiling at the carabiners and the chains hanging there, my St Andrew’s cross…

This is where I often found my solace, my peace. But every time I left this room, the same monsters were still waiting for me on the other side of the door.

Many women found themselves in this room; other women lost themselves in this room. Some of them even lost their minds.

I take one of the canes from the wall and swing it into the air. It makes a satisfying swish sound, and I imagine it falling onto the back of one of my prior submissives. The moment I see it make contact with her skin in my mind’s eye, I drop it.

Like scenes from a horror movie, the faces of different subs in this room flash before my eyes. The faces of the same subs as they were being dismissed also flash before my eyes. That man, that monster, that asshole…

Not that man anymore.

I back out of the room as if I may be snatch backed in by some unknown specter if I turn my back on the implements. I quickly descend the same stairs I ascended moments ago and note Jason standing at the breakfast bar.

“Let’s go,” I say quickly rushing to the door … to my freedom…

“Christian,” the heavy Greek voice greets me over the phone. “Good to hear from you again. You need something new?”

“No, Artemis,” I say into the phone. “In fact, I have another favor to ask of you.”

“Anything, Christian,” he says, “you are one of my best customers.”

“Thank you,” I say. “How soon can you dismantle the playroom at Escala?”

*-*

I feel like I’ve been through a prize fight when I walk into the house. I’ve got yet another monster to battle.

Myself.

Nobody can help me this time—not Dr. Baker, not my wife, nobody. I have to fight this battle all on my own.

I go in search of my wife and find her in her office. I can tell that she’s taking care of business because she has that take-no-prisoners tone to her voice.

“Yes, we’ll have you get started next Monday. You can start getting the lay of the land, so to speak. We’ve never had maintenance full-time, just the odd handyman repair here and there. So, we’ll be expecting you to educate us about a few things about the facility as well as keep things running smoothly. Any assistants as well as the cleaning staff will be reporting directly to you.”

It sounds like she’s found her new head of maintenance. I wish she would have let me send someone over from GEH to check things out before she hired a stranger.

“I hope so, too, Mr. Collier,” she says. “I look for excellence in my employees no matter their station, and I have no problem letting someone go who can’t toe the line. I trust you won’t let me down.”

Hmm, stranger or not, she seems to have this under control. I come around the opening and into the door, causing her to raise her head at me.

“I’ll have to go now, Mr. Collier. Something’s just come up. I’ll see you on Monday…? Good. Have a good weekend.” She ends the call and gazes at me.

“New maintenance staff?” I ask, sitting in the chair in front of her desk.

“Head of maintenance,” she says. “We’ll see how he works out, then build a staff around him.” I nod. The silence between us is deafening, so I break it.

“Whenever I’ve thrown down the gauntlet, I’ve never had to worry about anybody but myself. Nobody counted but me, nobody mattered but me… I didn’t have to worry about anybody’s feelings because no one else’s feelings mattered. It was so easy to be cold and aloof and obtuse because, hell, I was the king and everyone else were peasants.

“Even when I met you,” I say, raising my gaze to her eyes, “you were just someone else to bend to my will and when you didn’t, it pissed me the fuck off. There’s not a woman alive who could resist me, who could defy me… until there was.” I drop my head to my hands.

“All those women,” I say, thinking back on the sea of brunettes that have trailed through my life. “They meant nothing to me. They could have all been blow-up dolls for all I cared as long as they had brown hair. I felt nothing—nothing at all for any of them and to think, they all revered me. Some of them lost their fucking minds. Some of them lost their lives and of the ones that are left, some of them are still out to get me, and I’m only just now understanding why.”

“Christian,” my wife pushes her chair away from the desk and stands up, “you were a real asshole. I know that from experience. I met the guy. This is what I don’t understand.” She walks around her desk and comes around to where I’m sitting.

“I’d like to know what it is about these submissives that they think they’re on some other level, or some pedestal, or they’re playing by some different set of rules where they’re not supposed to get hurt,” she says.

“Unconventional? Yes. Taboo? Of course, but it’s a relationship nonetheless! So the fuck what, there’s a goddamn contract? There’s a contract involved in marriage and people get divorced all the time. People get hurt all the time in relationships. It’s part of life. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t. But for some reason, your submissives act like they’re some kind of extraterrestrial beings that aren’t supposed to be crossed, or dumped, or hurt. Where did I miss the memo that these women are not supposed to feel like the rest of us do?

“I gave my heart to an asshole, and guess what happened? I got hurt. That shit happens in real life. What the fuck is wrong with these women that they can’t just walk away from a fallen relationship and move on with their lives? Why are we constantly under some kind of microscope or living in some kind of bubble because one of these nutjobs may be waiting around the corner for us with a gun or a car or a flash drive?

“We did this exposé, and now we need to let these creatures know that we meant what we said in that exposé. If there are other lovesick, forlorn submissives out there that want to come at us, let them come! But don’t you ever put yourself in a position where you’re stuck and cannot get out like you did with Natasha. If they want to blackmail you and back you into a corner, then they need to deal with both of us because that shit is not going to happen again!”

Okay, my wife is pissed. Release the Tiger!

“So, what do we do if somebody shows up and say they have this kind of information again?” I ask. “I mean this kind of thing can be damaging to our whole family. What if they have something like that on me and threaten to go public?”

“Call her bluff,” she tells me. “Let her go public.”

“What about our kids?” I ask. “Something like this could destroy any chance they have at a normal life.”

“What’s normal?” she asks. “Was your childhood normal? Was mine? We live in a castle and we can’t go out alone. What. Is. Normal? We’ll fucking make our own goddamn normal, but the whole idea of doing that exposé was to tell people that we weren’t going to be afraid anymore. You had to know some vermin were going to crawl from under the rocks. Let the fuckers crawl! You’re a powerful billionaire and a respected businessman. Nobody can ruin you. They can make it uncomfortable, but that’s it. What that woman did—holding your psyche hostage—you can’t let that happen again. We can live anywhere in the world we want, do anything we want, but we’ll find our fucking normal. As a matter of fact, call that bitch.”

“What bitch?” I ask. “Natasha?”

“Yes,” she hisses. Oh, hell.

“Baby, I have nothing to say to that woman…”

“But I do,” she snaps. “She used me to get you to do what she wanted, and I am fucking sick of this shit. I am going to be heard! Now you can call her, or I will!”

“You can call her. I’m not doing it.”

“Then give me the goddamn number.” He pulls out his phone.

“Call her Myshka. She hates that shit…”


ANASTASIA

The days of the delicate fucking flower are gone. I opened this door and a motherfucker walked in. If this is the Boogeyman, so be it. Let’s dance, asshole… show me what you got!

“Hello, Natasha,” I say when she answers the phone.

“Who is this?” she asks after a short pause.

“Seattle area code. Can’t you guess?”

“I’d much rather you tell me,” she says cockily.

“Gladly,” I oblige. “This is Anastasia Grey.” The line is momentarily silent.

“And what can I do for you, Mrs. Grey?” she says, and I can tell that she’s smiling on the other line.

“You can stay the fuck away from my family, including my husband,” I reply. I can hear her laugh.

“He must have told you about our little meeting,” I can hear her smiling. “He still has great skills.”

“Nice try, Myshka, but I know everything.” I can taste the animosity oozing through the phone when I say that name. He’s right… she clearly hates that shit.

“I got what I wanted from him,” she says. “He made me come right there in his restaurant. That’s all I needed. Now you figure out how it happened.”

“How it happened?” I laugh loudly. “Sweetheart, should I be upset with the fact you’re so fascinated with the mere thought of my man that you nutted on a seat in a public place in his presence? Are you really proud of that? He had you chained to the ceiling, cuffed to a cross, or tied to the bed and wouldn’t let you come, and you found closure in creaming on a bench like a dog in heat? You could have saved yourself the plane fare and did that over the phone.”

“Oh, no, that would never do,” she taunts. “Then I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of seeing his beautiful face… being reminded of how those hands feel on me… and that mouth…” Oh, this is good. This is really good.

“Oh my God, that is so amateur!” I laugh. “Try again, you desperate cunt. He tells me fucking everything, you little bitch, and I would have to be out of my rabbit-ass mind to believe anything that you have to say about that meeting except that he sat there looking at you and you came on the seat like a common slut. Congratulations. Consider this.

“Years ago… years ago…” I stress the years so that she can see just how ridiculous this is, “… he called you to his penthouse at which time, he used and humiliated you, then turned you away and threw you out of his mind. Years later, you lure him to his club with blackmail where he proceeds to degrade you again, and you cream all over yourself like a teenager. Then, you and your wet, stinky panties—assuming you were wearing any—walk out of the club all satisfied and fulfilled, and you call that closure? It seems to me that all this proved is that you’re still his puppet!”

“I am not under his control!” she hisses. Ooo, I’ve hit a nerve.

“If you say so, but the fact that you flew all the way across the country just to sit in his presence and nut contradicts your claims,” I say sweetly. “Like I said, stay the fuck away from my husband and don’t even consider letting the Grey name escape your lips after this conversation or I’ll make you regret the fucking day that you were born.” It’s her turn to laugh.

“What makes you think that if I wasn’t afraid of him that I’m going to be afraid of you?” she asks incredulously.

“Because you haven’t met my kind of crazy,” I say a little too calmly. “I’ve been through a hell that would make your brown hair stand up by its blonde roots—or whatever color it is today—and if you think for one second that I’m going to stand by and allow you to jeopardize my peace and happiness, you got another fucking think coming. Try me… I’ll make you wish you never met Christian Grey.”

“Oh, this is good,” she taunts. “Master has a little Fireball on his hands. You’ll give him a good run for his money.”

“You shouldn’t worry about the run for his money that he’s going to get, you should be more concerned about yours.” I seethe. “Don’t think that I can’t find out every little thing there is to know about you, crawl into every little aspect of your pathetic little life and make every bit of it a living fucking hell and have a great time while I’m doing it.”

“You’re sounding more and more like him,” she says, a bit of her confidence slipping.

“That’s the difference, Ms. Gaines. I ain’t him. He’s accustomed to his power. So, he can control it. I’m just getting a taste of it, so I’m drunk with it… Absolutely fucking insane from it. And I can’t wait to unleash it and just get all this frustration out about stupid little ex-submissives who seem to think they have power over our existence. He hurt your wittle feewings and you couldn’t get over it. Instead of being a woman and moving on with your life, you fly clean across the country and decide you want to disturb the peace.”

“Seems like I did a pretty good job, too. I got what I wanted from him and now you’re calling me,” she says haughtily. “You sound so high-and-mighty, but if it didn’t bother you, why are you calling me?” she continues to taunt.

“Oh, no,” I chuckle. “You didn’t bother me, you worthless little sow. You pissed me the fuck off. That’s why we’re having this conversation—but the more I talk to you, the more pissed I get. The more I feel the need to do something about this. I don’t give a fuck that you nutted on a leather seat in public. What I do give a fuck about is that you exploited my husband and you got off while you were doing it. Yeah, you won that round—good for you, but now I’m feeling the need to step into the ring. Maybe your conniving little ass needs to know what another woman’s touch can do.”

“That’s big talk for a bitch who doesn’t know what I’m even capable of,” she hisses. And now she’s pissed, too. Good, I broke that little façade of hers.

“Oh, where does that confidence come from, your Domme training?” I tease. “Make you feel all big and strong, does it?” She’s silent for a moment. “What are you gonna do… whip me?” I taunt. “You’re right,” I concede, “I don’t know what you’re capable of. And that’s why you should be very afraid, because I don’t fucking care.”

“Afraid of what?” she snaps. “For all you know I could have you begging for your fucking life.”

“Oh, please, Mistress, I beg you… try it!” I hiss. “Go ahead, be my guest. Do your worst! I guarantee that I can top it exponentially. If you need to be my first public example to the world that I mean fucking business, then so be it. Give it your best shot, Natasha, and I’ll make damn sure that I hit everything you hold dear. I don’t even have to see you coming to cut you down at the knees and have you groveling for mercy. If you think Master had you whimpering, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. I’ll rip your heart out and eat it in the Marketplace. So, come and get me, subby… you know where to find me.”

The line is silent for a long time and I finally realize that she has nothing else to say. What could she say? What exactly is the comeback for someone who says that they’ll physically rip your heart out of your body?

She was ready for Christian because she knows who he is, but she doesn’t know me. She just thought she did. I put my phone on speaker for my last message.

“Say goodbye, Christian,” I say loud enough for her to hear and wait for Christian to speak.

“Goodbye Natasha,” he says and nothing else. I hold the line long enough to hear her gasp before I disconnect the call.

Neither of us says anything for what feels like several minutes. He’s the first to break the silence.

“I don’t think you know what you’ve done,” he says.

“I know exactly what I did, Christian,” I say. “I’m a psychiatrist. That power that she took from you, I just took it back. She and bitches like her need to know that they’re not going to weasel their way into our lives and expect us to bend. They want a fight, they’ll get one. As far as I’m concerned, this is a test, and I plan on passing with flying colors.

“She can make a move if she wants to, and if she’s brave enough to make it, I’m brave enough to take her down. I know from experience that you may never get closure from something that someone did to you. My advice is that if you ever come for closure like she came for you, just make sure you really are the biggest dog in the yard. She came at you like a pit bull and came face to face with the rottweiler standing behind you.

“I’m all for getting closure if someone has wronged you, and what you did to her was more than a little harsh, but she came at you threatening your reputation—to expose some horrible thing to the world and your family—all because you hurt her little feelings! Who does that? This isn’t her confronting the bully who taunted her and tortured her in high school! She signed up for this! She knew what she signed up for and she knew what you wanted. She knows the rules! I’m not even that deep in the lifestyle and I know the rules!

“If a counterfeit would have sufficed, you could have hired a prostitute and put her in a wig! But you had detailed specifications and she didn’t meet them. She may have wanted to be what you wanted, but the fact of the matter was that she wasn’t. So, she wanted you to be all gentle when you called her out for breaking the rules when she knew better than that.

“She needed closure from her little humiliation all those years ago, and she got it too… But it was short-lived. Because your wife just came in and showed her just who she really isn’t when she finally thought she was somebody. Now let her come at me. I’ll rip her apart and feed her to the rats.

“So, now, all the vermin are going to crawl out of the woodwork because of that exposé. We didn’t scare anybody, we taunted them. Well, let them come! I’m tired of sitting back waiting for Armageddon! If it’s coming, bring it on. I’ve got some hell that I need to unleash.”

“But Butterfly,” he protests, “you made it look like you were already coming for her.”

“Who says I’m not?” I seethe. His head snaps back and he’s silent for several moments. I’m pacing around the room, full of anger and aggression and no way to tame it.

“I want you to tie me up and fuck me like there’s no tomorrow,” I say. He raises a brow at me.

“That won’t be a problem,” he says. “That was fucking hot… and you’re topping from the bottom.”

“No,” I correct him, my voice firm, “I’m topping from the top.” I want you to fuck me until your dick doesn’t work anymore and if you don’t tie me down, I might hurt you. He glares at me and I glare right back.

“Yes… Mistress,” he says after a pause.

*-*

I awake the next morning with some pretty brutal bruising on my wrists from trying to get out of the binds my husband put me in. He did the classic four-corner bondage and fucked me until I was insane… again, and I fought to get out of my bounds. I didn’t know until this morning just how hard I fought. It’ll be long pants and exaggerated cuffs for a while for me.

BW...precioso detalle

For some reason, I feel like my husband and I have traded places. He’s all introspective about the man he used to be and I woke up with two things on my mind…

Destroying Natasha Gaines and fucking.

No, I didn’t jump his bones again—we were both too tired from last night… but I can still fuck.

“Butterfly!” Christian seems surprised to see me this morning. He examines my attire, paying special attention to the exaggerated cuffs of my blouse. “I… thought you would sleep in today.” I chuckle softly.

“No, Tarzan,” I jest. “I’m fully able to walk.” I hear the toaster and correctly assume that Ms. Solomon is preparing my jam and cream cheese bagel. I turn to look in that direction and Ms. Solomon is concentrating on that bagel like it’s the most interesting thing she’s ever seen.

“Well, yes, but…” He trails off.

“But, what?” I ask.

“But… nothing. I just thought you may have wanted to stay home.” He looks towards my sleeve again before sipping his coffee and turning his attention back to his phone, and I deduce that he probably doesn’t want anyone to see my wrists. I chuckle and pour my own cup of coffee.

“There’s nothing to fear, Mr. Grey,” I say, “I’m thoroughly garbed,” I add softly. He raises a brow to me.

“So, I see,” he says, “almost too garbed.”

“I can put on a mini skirt and a tank top if you like,” I jest, raising my own brow.

“No, that won’t be necessary,” he backpedals, placing his phone on the breakfast bar. “You usually stay home for the first part of the day and go to the Center for the afternoon. Why the change today?”

“It’s Friday,” I reply. “I’m going in this morning, so I can see Ace this afternoon.” He nods, and I take a healthy bite of the cream cheese and jam bagel. “Oh, God, that’s good,” I say with my mouth full.

“Since you seem to be enjoying yourself so much, I won’t harass you too much about not having a real breakfast.”

“This is a real breakfast, Christian,” I quip. “A continental breakfast.” I take another bite of the delicious bagel. “Mm.”

“If you say so,” he says finishing his coffee.  “Is everything okay with Garrett?” I glare at him. What does he know about the Garrett situation? He wasn’t here.

“No, they’re not telling me your every move,” he clarifies, trying to read my expression. “A guard was kicked off the premises yesterday, and my head of security thought I should know. Is that okay with you, Dr. Grey?”

“Don’t be a smart ass,” I tell him. “I had every reason to believe someone was reporting on me and you know it.” He doesn’t respond. “And Gary is fine. By the way, when will I be getting my butler back? I miss him.”

“He’s only been gone a week, baby,” Christian scolds.

“And I still miss him,” I point out. “Admit it. You miss him, too.”

“I’ll admit no such thing,” he says indignantly.

“But you’re not denying it, so I know what that means.” He shakes his head. “Oh! I never told you. Harmony’s ex signed the papers.” He raises his gaze to me.

“He did? When?” he asks.

“I think it was Tuesday,” I tell him. “I told you he would be signing those papers by Tuesday,” I say triumphantly before finishing my bagel.

“That you did,” he says. “Now if we could just find something on him and Roger for what they were doing to Harmony and Tina…”

I thought you said you had footage,” I point out.

“We thought we did,” he counters. “It turns out that this was just a bunch of cheap recording equipment and no evidence. Wherever that stuff went, it was temporary storage and it’s most likely destroyed by now.”

“Well, that fucking sucks… nonetheless, Harmony was happy as a lark to be rid of him. Now, it’s just for Carrick to go and file the documents with the court, if he hasn’t already.”

“Well, good riddance!” Christian says. “Asshole.” He stands and kisses me on the cheek. “I’ve got word that the cars are supposed to be in town today. They’re dropping the Fairlane and the Coup at Dad’s before they head to California with the T-Bird. I promised Uncle Herman I would help him sort out the situation of the items in the storage units, so I’ll actually be working from Dad’s today. I plan on stopping by Tina’s, too. Any sweet nothings you want me to whisper to your butler while I’m there?” He raises an eyebrow at me.

“Don’t tease me, Christian,” I scold.

“You were the one who said you missed him,” he defends.

“Fuck you,” I retort.

“Don’t worry, you will,” he says shamelessly. “Jason,” he beckons without breaking his gaze from mine. Jason appears from I don’t know where and falls in step behind his boss, who turns away confidently and strides cockily out of the kitchen.

“Cocky sonofabitch,” I mumble before finishing my coffee. I know I can’t summon Chuck the way His Highness just summoned Jason, which only irks me even more about his over-confidence.

Who am I fooling? He’s not over-confident. He has just enough confidence for his station. Asshole.

“Activate two-way communications.” The system comes alive. “Locate Charles Davenport.”

“Davenport,” his disembodied voice says.

“Any day now, Davenport,” I respond, already headed to the garage.

“On my way…”

I’m still a little irritated when I get to Helping Hands. There’s no word on Ebony Carson’s background check. We got information on Harmony’s no-good husband in less than a day. Less than a week later, he was signing those divorce papers…

“Now, I have one girl with a common name, no criminal history that we know of, and maybe a gangland boyfriend in prison and we can’t find anything concrete on her. What’s the deal?” I fuss on the phone at Alex.

“Sometimes, it’s harder to find something on people that are clean than it is on people who are dirty,” Alex replies. “Take your stepmother, for instance. I think she had a traffic ticket or something, so we had something to go on, but had she been squeaky clean, we might still be looking for a definite background check on her. Even you—you had that fiasco in Green Valley that caused you to change names when you were 15… 15! Do you know how hard it is to find something on a minor? But you had something, so we had information on you in about two weeks.”

“Well maybe that’s it,” I defend. “Maybe she’s just squeaky clean.”

“Nobody’s squeaky clean,” he says. “In fact, if you find nothing on someone, you should keep digging. They’re probably more dangerous that someone with an open criminal background.” I sigh heavily.

“Are you saying that I should just let this goldmine go?” I ask defeated. “Someone who could need our help and could also be a great asset to Helping Hands at the same time, I should let her slip through my fingers because we can’t find anything on her?”

“I can’t tell you what to do,” he replies. “I can only say that I tend to err on the side of caution due to my experience. You have to make your own decision. And for the record, I never said that I can’t find anything. I said I’m not finding anything concrete. Like you said, ‘Ebony’ is a common name and so is ‘Carson.’ So, I might find one thing on Ebony Carson that doesn’t match up with something else on Ebony Carson and I have to decipher if this is a mistake or if this is two different people. Her social security number even goes to two different people with two different names, but I’ve seen these kinds of mistakes before, too. None of the Ebonys that I’ve found have any known affiliations with anybody in prison, but again, that doesn’t mean anything either. There’s a lot of information to comb through and then not enough information at the same time. Like I said, I can’t tell you what to do, but if you’re going to make your decision based on a background check, you’re going to have to wait a little longer until I can nail down something more concrete.”

I can’t afford to sidestep when it comes to the Center. There’s too much at stake, but Ebony is just so perfect for us. She’s just what we need, and she can do so much more than the glorified babysitting position that she applied for. I don’t doubt that she’s been turned down for many other positions for this same reason—that two and two just don’t equal four and she’s too afraid to be any more forthcoming with information for fear that her past may physically catch up with her one day. Nonetheless…

“Just… keep me posted on what you find,” I cede. “Look very hard, Alex, because if you don’t find anything solidly adverse on this girl, I’m going to hire her. She could have just been living in the shadows and that’s why we can’t find anything, but at the same time,I don’t want to take any chances.”

“Yes, ma’am.” I end the call and drop my head on my desk in frustration. It’s obvious that Ebony has a history—some kind of story—but don’t we all? I just don’t want her story to somehow come back and bite the Center in the ass. I also don’t want to let the opportunity to acquire a great asset slip through my fingers. This could be her chance to turn her life around and excel—conquer or overcome whatever ghosts are chasing her or holding her back. Good grief, this is a tough decision.

“Bosslady?” Marilyn’s voice brings me out of my musings.

“Yeah?” I say, raising my head from my desk.

“You alright?” she asks.

“Yeah, just pondering a conundrum,” I say, rubbing my forehead.

“What are you doing here?” she asks. Huh?

“Um, I work here?” I declare, the statement sounding more like a question. At that moment, Grace sticks her head into the doorway and glares at me like an exotic animal.

“Oh, Ana! Hi,” she says in surprise while stepping into the room. I raise my brow.

“Hi,” I say, and it almost sounds like a question, too. “Is… something wrong?” She and Marilyn look at each other,

“No… nothing’s wrong. I’m just… surprised to see you here today.” I frown.

“Why wouldn’t I be here today?” I ask, and why is everybody surprised that I’m here?

“Well, because of what today is,” she says. Today is Friday. What am I missing?

“You’ve lost me,” I say, awaiting the punchline. She and Marilyn look at each other again and now, I’m getting irritated.

“Will someone please tell me what I’m supposed to know that I obviously don’t?” I ask impatiently.

“Ana,” Grace begins, “today is the one-year anniversary of your accident.”


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 in the menu our you can click 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

Raising Grey: Chapter 59—Issues

 Email to come later…

So, I guess my biggest flight from reality in the last chapter was the “92 ½ months pregnant” statement. I was certain that mothers would get that, but it seems like it just flew over everybody’s head. I was sitting at my computer cracking up because I just kept getting emails and comments and IM’s that said, “Did you really mean to type that?” I was like, “Was I the only one that felt that way later in the pregnancy?” You know, that, “This kid ain’t gone never come!” feeling. I was expecting people to do a double-take and go, “92 ½ months pregnant? What? 92 and a… Ooooohh! Yeah…” but… no, that didn’t happen. Anywho, welcome to my twisted sense of humor. 😉

I wrote this chapter when my hand wasn’t working, so a lot of it was dictated into the computer. I edited it the best that I could, so please excuse any grammatical errors you may find. I have someone that looks things over and catches those for me—I just didn’t want you guys to think I threw the chapter together and didn’t care.

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 59—Issues

ANASTASIA

“So, the big ‘to do’ this morning is the interview that aired with Christian and Anastasia Grey on Monday night.”

I had been keeping my eye on the internet and the local morning shows to see if anyone had anything to say about our interview. After an enlightening conversation with Courtney yesterday, I really want to know what the rest of the world is thinking. Of course, Wake Up, Seattle doesn’t miss its chance to weigh in on the topic. It’s one of the usual local shows with primary male and female co-hosts and right now, the female has the floor.

“After a veritable lifetime of discretion, sneaking in and out of the country without the world’s knowledge, relationships that remain in question or completely in the dark, and a dramatic life worthy of a movie deal, the Greys came out of the billion-dollar shadows and opened up on network primetime television. The interview was an intimate look into their lives, careers, and family. As usual, Christian oozed power and sex-appeal all over the screen while Anastasia remained the picture of poise and independence, able to hold her own next to her billionaire husband.”

The segment was more of the same, recapping various portions of the interview, highlighting issues that still may raise questions, but an overall unbiased report…

Until…

“So, the day of the interview, I learned from a very reliable source that Maria Sanchez wasn’t the only broadcast journalist in line for this story. There was also Danika Farrell and Raynell Stanton.”

Oh, shit.

“Once the interview was over, I took to social media and our friendly Twitter to see what each woman had to say about the outcome of the interview. Maria was silent, most likely opting to let Twitter have its way and see what the viewing public felt before interjecting her thoughts, if she so chose to do that. Danika and Raynell, not so much.

“Danika chimed in first with a hearty congratulations on a job well done, commending Maria on getting the right mixture of business and personal in the interview, ending with a friendly jab, ‘I’ll get you on the next one, girl.’ And that was pretty much it.

“Raynell was not so gracious in the slightest. In my humble opinion, if you don’t like a piece, you talk around it or you say nothing at all. By criticizing another reporter for a piece that they did, you’re opening Pandora’s Box. You’re basically telling the rest of the journalistic world, ‘Here I am, take your shot.’ That’s okay if that’s your plan, but I’ve got a feeling that wasn’t what Raynell was aiming for.

“Now, some say that Raynell may have been bitter because she was passed over for the interview. Hence, her attempts to discredit the subject. Other sources, however, indicate that she actually threw the audition so that she wouldn’t be chosen for the interview at all. Her first shot hit Twitter right when the interview was airing in the Eastern time zone.”

Each time she reads a tweet, it’s plastered across the screen for the viewers to read.

**Auditioning for an interview—how stuck on yourself can you be? #eccentricorparanoid **

“Now, because she’s a well-known television journalist and does a lot of interviews, nobody was really sure what she was talking about. It started to become clearer over her next few tweets and as the segment played out on the east coast…”

**Little boys and their toys, including their little girls. #itsgoodtobetheking **

**That boat is bigger than most people’s houses. Overcompensating much? #justbuyasportscar **

**Oooo, guns! Classy! Loved the speech to deflect from the need for gun control. #NRAunite **

“Now, in general, you’re not watching Twitter while you’re watching television, but people like us—yeah, we do that. As you can see, the shots are quite personal and getting a little vicious as time progresses. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put all that together and realize that she was talking about the Grey interview that was currently in progress in her time zone. The only thing that she left out was her blatant mention of AnaChris, but she rectified that situation in her final tweet of the night…”

**As I suspected, a flamboyant display of ostentatious largess with little to no substance whatsoever. I predicted it would be a total waste of my time; I was right. #dodgedabullet #greyinterview **

“Now,” the host says as she puts her cards on the table in front of her, “it could just be me, but this tweet pretty much drove the nail in that she actually threw the interview. Am I wrong on that?” Her male co-host shakes his head.

“Nope, that’s what I’m seeing, too,” he says.

“So, to that, I just say this. Ray, are you trying to get the reputation of being hard to work with? Rumor has it on the wire already that you threw the interview and then you tweet something like that? You do know that celebrities and influential people have Twitter accounts, too, right? Do you want them to see your name and say, ‘Hmm, she threw the Grey interview because she felt like it wasn’t worth her time?’ They’ll stop calling you, honey. And quite frankly, even if you feel your subject matter sucks, the sign of a good investigative journalist is that they take the material that they have and they make it the best story possible. That’s what I always thought.” She turns to her co-host.

“That’s what they taught me. Remember that story on failing vendors at the Marketplace?” he chimes in.

“How could I forget?” she laments. “It turned out okay, though.”

“Yes, it did. We were talking to people who were losing their spots at the Marketplace because they weren’t getting enough business. While some people were quite engaging, others had already given up and had nothing to say. It could have been a real disaster, but instead, we used what we had and filled the rest in with valid statistics and information with some customer interviews thrown in and it turned out to be a good piece—even saved some of the failing vendors.”

The female host nods as the audience applauds.

“But I digress,” the male host recovers. “Tell me, what happened on Twitter after this? Did AnaChris chime in?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure that they have Twitter accounts. They probably haven’t even seen this.”

“Until now,” the male host laughs.

“Yeah, until now,” the female host chuckles. “Nonetheless, tweeters came back with mixed reviews—as we thought they would—but the AnaChris fanbase was in full force all night Monday night and all day yesterday, bashing the poor Raynell with hundreds of tweets like:

**@raynellstanton Yeah, that’s right. When the opportunity of a lifetime passes you by, pretend that it didn’t matter. #haternation **

**@raynellstanton Do you think we don’t know you threw this story away and Maria grabbed the chance to get the story that you wanted? “Big mistake… big… huge!” #sourgrapes #youblewit **

**@raynellstanton Exactly what’s the bug up your butt? That you didn’t get the interview or that the interview was actually good? #youcouldabeenacontender **

**@raynellstanton You were this close. You’re sh***g yourself that you threw away that opportunity, aren’t you? #almostdoesntcount **

**@raynellstanton Keep saying it over and over again until you finally believe it #imeanttodothat #imeanttodothat #imeanttodothat #imeanttodothat **

“And my personal favorite…”

**@raynellstanton Are you on drugs? That was quality television and excellent journalism. Pissed because you tripped at the audition? Grab your hem, your Haterade is showing. **

“Well, I’m sorry,” the male host interjects, “but this one is my favorite…”

**@raynellstanton Don’t worry. There’s always Bill Cosby. #jellopudding **

The audience groans as he raises his head and shrugs.

“What?” he asks. “Too soon?”

The female host shakes her head and laughs.

“Turn his mic off,” she demands facetiously as the audience follows her in laughter. “Turn. His. Mic off!”

Once the laughter dies down, she continues with the segment.

“Eventually, Raynell removed her tweet after having been hashtagged, retweeted, and basically decimated within a 24-hour period, but the damage had already been done. For just such an emergency, several tweeters screen-printed her tweet to live on in infamy and be passed around the internet for years to come… or at least until the next trend.

“AnaChris isn’t without their share of criticism, however. One tweeter agrees with Raynell saying…”

**Largess is right. I expected to see Robin Leach slide down the banister at any moment and I’m surprised we didn’t see a maid or a butler. You tried to come off looking like a power couple, but you look more like the Seattle Beverly Hillbillies to me. **

“And another tweeter remarked…”

**True American love story. Right, if by American love story, you mean “Playboy billionaire lands gold-digging trophy wife and now, they try to convince the world that they’re happy.” #letsseetheprenup **

“And this one…”

**Why does she still have her condo if they’re happily married? She has a million square feet on Mercer Island and still has a condo on Elliot Bay? What’s the real story here? #howsitreallyhanginggrey #lovenest **

“So, both sides have sounded off, AnaChris lovers and haters. I will say that the lovers, however, are much more vocal, so we’ll give this round to them. But in terms of the consensus of the interview, overall, it was a good interview—a concise exposé with peeks into their business, their personal lives, their passions, their beautiful children and even their struggles.”

“Yeah,” the male host says. “Who would have thought billionaires had struggles? But they do… valid everyday issues as well as large, life-changing things, just like the rest of us mere mortals.”

“Exactly,” the female host replies. “Now, like I said before, I’m not one to criticize another journalist. However, when you open the door to that kind of criticism, I’m going to walk in. So, here’s my take on it.

“These people are putting themselves out there and you don’t expect them to be cautious about who they let tell their story? You can call it an audition if you want to, which in effect, it was—you are going to be on television. It’s a job interview, Ray. Even if you had been the only candidate, you still would have had to interview for that position. We all have to meet with the subjects and discuss our direction, hoping they’ll be satisfied with our vision. You disparaging that fact was just petty and I don’t have to tell you that.

“They obviously made the right decision in not choosing you because you didn’t want the story and had you not gotten the exact material that you wanted, there’s no telling how you would have portrayed them on television. So, if you felt like it was such bad material and a waste of time, why are you going on about it? If what you said had any truth to it, the classy thing to do would have been to sit back with a Cheshire cat smile and bask in your ‘I told you so’ moment. Social media, the press, and the public would have ripped them apart and you wouldn’t have had to lift a finger. Instead, you’re looking like the scorned senior who got stood up for prom trying to convince herself that she didn’t want to go in the first place.

“And let’s face it, Raynell, you can’t talk to a billionaire without talking about his money or have you conveniently forgotten Oprah’s interviews with Kim Kardashian in her beautiful home, Michael Jackson on the Neverland estate, George Lucas on the Skywalker Ranch? And let’s not forget all the rich and famous people interviewed by Ms. Barbara Walters. You’ve been in this business for a while, Ray. Why are you suddenly acting new to this? Do yourself a favor and don’t try to make Grey out to be the bad guy because you didn’t want to talk about his money.

“You turned down a golden opportunity and now you’re talking about dodging a bullet. No, my dear, that wasn’t a bullet. That was an egg, and it hit you square in the face. That’s why you took that tweet down. We’ll be right back.”

The audience applauds as the screen fades to black and goes to a commercial. I chuckle to myself at the outcome of the synopsis—a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We’re loved and hated all over, which is what I expected.

I finish my coffee and croissants and go down to my office. Lately, I’ve been doing a few hours at home before going into Helping Hands. It gives me time to have breakfast, feed my babies, meditate, write in my journal, and organize and plan my day. I don’t have any plans on doing any real work at home today, just preparation for the most part—which is when I caught the morning show talking about our interview. I know there was probably a whole slew of speculation on the talk shows yesterday, but I didn’t bother to watch. Anything really horrible—or juicy—would get to me eventually.

I enjoyed watching the segment the second time around. There were a few parts that I thought were a little cliché, but they really couldn’t be presented in any other light. We’re a wealthy, powerful, beautiful couple with a beautiful home and beautiful children… cliché, yes, but it’s the truth. Nonetheless, I already knew that bloggers, Facebookers, and tweeters were going to have something to say about it. Hell, they slam President Obama on a regular basis—we’re certainly not immune.

I’m packing things up and preparing to head to Helping Hands when the two-way comes alive.

“Ana,” I say into the air.

“Dr. Grey, this is Warton at the front gate. There’s someone here to see you. He won’t give his full name. He just said, ‘Gary.’”

Well, this guy must be new. I don’t recognize his name and he doesn’t know members of the Scooby gang.

“Let him in,” I say. “I’ll be right up.” There’s hesitance in the air before Warton says, “Okay.”

What the…? It’s Gary, let the man in.

I make my way up to the first floor, through the dining room and to the portico to meet Gary. On the days when I spend part of my day at home and part at work, I let Marilyn decide if she wants to come to my house or wait until I get to Helping Hands. Today is one of the days she decided to go to the Center, which is probably why Gary is here.

When I get to the portico, Gary is exiting the driver’s seat and there’s a guard standing behind the car.

“Ana,” Gary says confused. “Is this a new protocol or something?” I frown looking at the guard that I don’t know.

“Not that I know of,” I say, staring at him and waiting for an explanation. He takes the stance with one hand over the other in front of him.

“He didn’t give his full name, ma’am,” the guard says in an authoritative, matter-of-fact kind of way.

“So, why did you follow him up to the portico after you let him in?” I ask.

“Like I said,” he begins, “he didn’t give his full name.”

“Were you going to follow him through the house if I didn’t come out?” I inquire. His concrete resolve appears to break a bit.

“Um, well, it’s protocol, ma’am,” he stutters. “I have to log who visits…”

“Who else is in that booth with you?” I ask. “Everybody who works here should know who Gary is.” He stutters a bit and says somebody’s name, but I really don’t even hear him.

“Listen, Warhol,” I say, not because I’m being funny, but because I really can’t remember his name. “You don’t know who Gary is because you’re new, and that’s okay—I understand that. But how dare you follow someone up to the portico like a guard walking the green mile after I’ve instructed you to let them into my home!” He tries not to appear shaken when he responds.

“Ma’am, we have to take certain precautions when someone refuses to give their full name,” he responds.

“Do you do that to Val, Al, or Elliot when they show up?” I ask, folding my arms. He’s silent, and I’m certain that none of these people have showed up on his watch. “Nonetheless, I informed you to let him in. Is this how you’re going to be treating my guests? Like suspects?” He clears his throat.

“It’s… for your safety, ma’am,” he says. “You could have been under duress.”

“Did I use the panic word?” I ask. His brow furrows. Oh, dear God in heaven. “Do you know the panic word?”

His face blanches a bit.

“Please, leave,” I say before I even know the words are coming out of my mouth. After a pause, he turns around and heads back to the guard’s booth. “Come on in, Gary,” I say, walking into the house and pulling my phone out of my pocket.

“I hope I haven’t cost someone their job,” he says after he walks in the grand entrance.

“Oh, you didn’t cost him anything, but he might have cost himself his job,” I say putting the phone to my ear.

“Your Highness,” Jason answers.

“I want this Warthog motherfucker off my property,” I say firmly into the phone.

“Warthog? What?” he asks bemused.

“This guard at the gate—I want him gone.”

“May I ask what he did wrong, ma’am?” and he’s fully formal. That’s what I need right now.

“Well, first he asked Gary for his full name. That’s fine, but Gary told him to just tell me that it was Gary and I cleared him to come into the gate. When I come out to the portico, this asshole is following him like a sentinel. When I ask him why, he basically questions the fact that I let someone into my house. His first mistake was questioning me in my house. His second and largest mistake was trying to lecture me on protocol when his ass doesn’t even know what the fucking panic word is!”

“How does he not know the fucking panic word?” Jason hisses to himself.

“My sentiments exactly. Get him the fuck off my property.” I try to be accommodating and understanding, but there are times when I do feel like Her Highness and this is one of them. “And Jason? I don’t want him fired. I just want him properly trained. But if you do see the need to fire him, make sure that he knows that if he tries any of that Harris shit, I’ll shoot him in the fucking balls.” Jason clears his throat.

“Yes, Your Highness,” he says, and I end the call.

I almost forgot that Gary was there.

“I’m sorry about that, Gary. Is everything okay?”

“I just need to talk to you,” he says. I nod and gesture to the living room.

“What’s wrong?” I ask as I take a seat on one of the sofas.

“It’s Marilyn,” he says with his head down. “Has she talked to you?”

I sigh. I don’t know how to answer that. I don’t want to lie to him, but I can’t tell him what we talked about.

“That’s okay,” he says. “Your silence speaks volumes.” He sits down on the sofa close to me. So, I guess I inadvertently told him without telling them anything at all.

“I can’t understand why she’s not more excited about having his baby,” he says. “This is like the best thing that can happen to us. It’ll make us into a family. I love her more than anything. So, what’s the problem?”

I still really can’t tell him what we talked about. So, I sit there silently just looking at him. He raises his eyes to me.

“Ana, are you seriously not going to talk to me about this? We’ve been friends forever!”

“I’m sorry. It’s not that, Gary. Some things that are said to me are said in confidence as a psychiatrist. And I can’t reveal what’s been said. So, even though you’re my friend…” I trail off. He nods.

“I get it… but I don’t. You’re my friend and I’ve always come to you and talked to you about anything and I can’t talk to you about this. That really fucking sucks.” I sigh again.

“I can always talk to you as a friend about how you’re feeling, Gary. But I can’t tell you anything about Marilyn.” He stands up and begins to pace.

“I know she’s pregnant,” he says. “She hasn’t taken a pregnancy test, but I know she’s pregnant. I can tell by the way she looks, by her demeanor… but she’s acting like it’s the end of the world. I wouldn’t leave her. Of course, I’d stay by her side. And even if for some ungodly reason we didn’t work out, she’d never be raising this baby alone. I’ll always be there for my child. But, for some reason, she can’t seem to wrap her mind around the joy that we can have together raising our baby. I don’t understand it. We’re not teenagers. We’re both gainfully employed. We’re in love. What’s the problem?”

“Well, speaking as a woman and not as Marilyn,” I point out emphatically, “our body has to go through some crazy things to endure pregnancy. Hormone changes, body changes—you look at yourself in the mirror and you feel like hell, all kinds of things, and that’s a whole year almost of going through that. That’s a lot to take on to decide I want to become a mother.

“And then there’s a commitment, and don’t get it twisted. It’s not an 18-year commitment, it’s lifelong. So, the minute you decide to have a baby, your entire life changes that very second. It’s not just, ‘Hey, let’s bring this life into the world and yeah it’ll grow up and I’ll be there…’ No. You’re invested all in. That’s a huge decision, and it’s scary no matter what your plight in life. I was married to a billionaire when I found out that I was pregnant with twins, and I was still terrified! What if I bring them into this world and some strange speck of dust falls on them and causes them to have some kind of strange illness or disease and they die? What if the world does the same thing to them that it did to me and they don’t survive it? That’s the kind of fear I had while I was carrying my children, not to mention just the everyday life shit that was going on. And believe me, Gary, I’ve only scratched the surface of what goes through a woman’s mind when she’s considering whether or not to have a baby…”

“Considering whether or not to have it?” he asks in horror. “Are you telling me that Marilyn is considering not having my baby?” Oh shit, think fast, Grey!

“Will you stop putting words into my mouth, you moron?” I exclaim. “I told you when this conversation began that I was telling you about a woman in general, not Marilyn! Don’t you dare go harassing my friend because of something I told you about my personal experience!”

He deflates immediately, and I almost feel bad. Marilyn is actually considering terminating the pregnancy, but I can’t tell him that I know that or that she told me that. And I feel awful that I just snapped at him to cover my own faux pas, but I honestly don’t see that I had a choice.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I wasn’t trying to offend you.”

“Don’t apologize…” I should actually be apologizing to you, “Just, please, see my comments for what I’m saying, for what I went through when I was pregnant. Don’t read anything into it and don’t take that nonsense back to Marilyn. You’ll only make a bad matter worse, I can guarantee it.”

“So, what do I do?” he asks.

“Just be there for her, I say. Every woman goes through a phase of terror and fear and uncertainty. You have to let her go through it. It’s hard for her. It was hard for me.”

“Do you think she’s considering getting rid of my baby?” he asks sadly. I feel horrible for him… and then I deflect.

“Gary, I wouldn’t tell you that if I knew. My speculation is of no importance whatsoever.”

“I should be happy, Ana,” he says pacing around the living room. “We should be happy. This should be one of the best times of our lives. I love her, she loves me, and we created a baby from our love. What could be more special? And yet she’s walking around in this cloud of doom like the world is about to end. And I just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to pressure her or make her feel bad, but if I reach to touch her, I instinctively reach for her stomach and that seems to irritate her. So, I try not to do it but then my hand instinctively goes down there anyway. What am I supposed to do?”

“I wish I had an answer for you, Gary,” I say. “You just have to be patient. One way or another a solution is going to surface and this thing will work itself out.” He twists his lips at me.

“You and I both know that a baby doesn’t just work itself out. Things have to be done, plans and decisions have to be made, this doesn’t just go away like a pimple or rash. And if that’s what she’s expecting or waiting for… She’s got to be fucking smarter than that!”

And I’ve pissed him off again. I rub my hands over my face.

“There’s really nothing I can tell you that you want to hear right now,” I admit. “What you want to hear is that Marilyn will come around and everything’s going to be fine and you two are going to have a baby and live happily ever after. I can’t tell you that because I don’t know that. And if Marilyn hasn’t taken a pregnancy test, she doesn’t know that either. So… you’re just going to have to be patient. If she hasn’t taken the test yet, convince her to take the test.

“You guys can’t make any decisions on anything or make any plans until you get that little blue plus sign. Until then, everything, and I do mean everything, is speculation. She could just be under some kind of stress and just missed her period or something. It happens. And you’re planning for a baby whether it’s a happy baby time or gloom and doom baby time, we don’t even know. She’s got to take that test. So, if you want my advice, this is what I say. Stop everything—stop the rubbing of the belly, stop the dreamy baby talk, and impress the importance of taking that test. Nothing can be done either way until she takes the test.”

He falls down onto the sofa and drops his face into his hands. I can see that he’s miserable and I really want to be there for my friend. There’s a thin line between having two friends on different sides of the fence. And I’m about to cross that thin line.

“Is there any way that you can humor me and tell me something that’ll make me feel better?” he asks. I put my hand on his back.

“Whatever happens Gary,” I begin, “when the time comes—if it’s now or if it’s later—you’ll make a great father. And if Marilyn is pregnant and you guys do have a baby, that baby will have two of the most concerned, caring, loving parents in the world. Please remember that whatever happens, you two are in love. You fell in love almost at first sight and you love each other endlessly. Don’t let anything come between that love.”

“I never thought I could love anybody the way that I love Mare,” he says, “and I would love our baby even more, if that’s even possible. A part of her and a part of me? That’s amazing!” he adds in awe.

“I’m not an idiot,” he says, “and I’m not being selfish. I know that I’m being one-sided about this because I’m not the one that’s going to be carrying the baby. But I can only imagine how beautiful she’ll be carrying our child. Just like you were…”

He thought I was beautiful?

“… All glowing and swollen doing this labor of love that’s the most beautiful thing in the world. Who couldn’t love someone who does that?”

“You’d be surprised,” I tell him. “That’s why there are so many single mothers in this world. Everybody doesn’t feel the same way you—and Christian—feel. We’re very lucky to have men like you guys.”

“Well, I don’t know, maybe I’m naive, but any man who can scoff at a woman who puts her body through this to bring his child into the world as a fucking idiot.” I chuckle

“You should teach a class,” I say with mirth. He smiles sadly.

“Thanks for listening,” he says. “I’m at the end of my rope and I just don’t know what to do, but you’ve given me a little insight and I’ll do what I can to make sure she gets that pregnancy test.” He stands. “I’m playing hooky from work, so I got to get back. I don’t mean to dump on you and run, but…”

“Don’t worry about it,” I say. “I have to get to the Center anyway… How did you know I was here?”

“I went to the Center first and they said you hadn’t come in yet, so I took a chance on stopping by here.”

“Marilyn wasn’t there yet?” I ask. He nods.

“She was,” he says. “I checked on her, too, and she got mad at me for doing it.” Yeah, she’s pregnant. “I hope I didn’t get that guy in trouble,” he adds, referring to Wart-ass. I shake my head.

“I don’t know how much trouble he’s in, but I asked for him to be retrained. There are some things that he doesn’t know about being at Grey Crossing, and he’s going to have to learn them if they allow him to stay.” I stand with him and walk him to the door.

“You can always talk to me about anything, Gary. Don’t forget that. But please remember, if it’s something about Marilyn and she’s spoken to me in confidence, I wouldn’t be able to share anything with you that I know. And I’m not admitting to knowing or talking about anything at this time.”

“I get it. It’s a bad place to be in and I’m sorry I put you there.”

“I’m sorry I snapped at you,” I reply. He nods, and I escort him back to his car and watch as he drives away.


CHRISTIAN

Midway into my afternoon after working through some notes from meetings and a few key emails, my phone rings. I don’t recognize the number.

“Grey,” I answer.

“I knew you’d be too cocky to change your damn number.”  I know the voice, but I can’t place it.

“Who is this?” I ask impatiently.

“You know who it is,” she says confidently. “You’ll figure it out soon enough, but I’ll give you a hint, Master…”

Oh, shit.

“’Hold it… right there… that’s it… that’s my good little Myshka… don’t come now, Myshka…”

Myshka. Natasha.

“Myshka… I’m not even Russian, you asshole.”

“If you had been, you might have lasted longer,” I hiss. She laughs.

“You’re hardly in any position to antagonize me right now, Grey. You have absolutely no idea why I’m calling, so you have no choice but to shut up and listen…”

I open the panel on my desk and press the button to summon Alex. He’ll start surveillance on the office, see that I’m on the phone, and immediately trace the call.

“Why the fuck are you calling me? I don’t have all day.”

“There he is,” she says confidently, “There’s that asshole I know so well… keep me on the phone long enough to trace the call and get me to tell you what you want to know. You don’t have to trace the call, Master, I’ll tell you where I am. I’m at your club downtown, not even a mile away from you. I’m enjoying a delicious lunch while overlooking Elliot Bay, and this is my personal cell phone—not a burner. If you turn your head to the right, you would be looking right at my table with a good set of high-powered binoculars. So, you can tell your goon that he’s wasting his time. You know exactly where I am.”

This bitch knows me too well to have been my submissive for such a short time.

“What do you want… Myshka?” I hiss. She falls silent, but only for a moment.

“Call me that again, and I’ll release a certain flash drive to the press. With the publicity your little wife has been getting and your most recent television appearance, that should make for a great story. Tell me, is she a good submissive behind the scenes, because there’s not a submissive bone in her body in public.”

Fucking hell… more fucking blackmail. Butterfly and I are in too delicate a position right now to withstand something like this. I’m already beginning to regret doing that exposé.

“What do you want? Money?” They all eventually want money. She laughs again.

“Far from it,” she taunts, “but you’ll have to come to the club to find out.”

“Are you out of your fucking mind? I’m not meeting you anywhere,” I bark.

“Fine. Don’t.” And she ends the call. What the hell? I dial the number back and it goes straight to voicemail.

“The Club,” is all the voicemail says. Fucking bitch. Can I afford not to meet her? Can I afford to call her bluff and allow whatever she has to hit the press? I don’t even know what it is… is it a playroom scene? Is it a copy of the contract? What the hell is it? I’m sitting there pondering my next move for I don’t know how long when my phone chimes with a text.

**I won’t wait forever. Last chance, Master. **

I suddenly hate this woman. Just as I stand from my desk, Jason and Alex enter the office.

“Natasha Gaines?” Alex asks.

“Yes,” I hiss through my teeth, “I don’t even know what the fuck she could have. Could that bitch somehow have hacked my private video information from my home?” Alex raises his eyebrow.

“Is it connected to the network?” he asks.

“Nowhere,” I tell him. “Not a network anywhere. This information is specifically on hard drives all their own that aren’t even connected to the internet. The only thing more secure than this is a single print of a polaroid. No one even knows where it is. If it malfunctions, I don’t repair it. I rip the whole thing out, secure the hard drive, destroy the rest of the hardware and start over.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty secure,” Jason confirms. “She’s got to have something of her own.” I thrust my hands into my hair.

“How?” I ask. “Our contract was so short, and I never let her out of my sight!”

“I don’t know,” Alex says, “but can you afford not to look into it?” I shake my head in defeat.

“Get me to the goddamn club,” I hiss to Jason.

*-*

Natasha's Blue Dress“So glad you could make it,” Natasha purrs when I get to the booth where’s she’s having her lunch. She has abandoned the brunette dye job and is fully blonde, wearing a slinky blue dress that demurely hugs all her curves. Blue… the bitch would wear blue.

“I’m here. Now what the fuck do you want?” I hiss.

“I want you to sit the fuck down and stop standing over me like you’re my goddamn Dom…. Sir!” She injects so much venom in her words that I’m irritated to the utmost height of my irritation.

“Listen to me,” I say, leaning down to her face. “I’m not going to jump when you say jump. You better tell me what the fuck this is about, because I’m losing my goddamn patience.”

“Then sit. The fuck. Down,” she says calmly, her resolve never slipping. This is certainly not the same submissive that I sent away years ago. I don’t know this woman, and I have no idea what she’s capable of. I slowly slide onto the furthest end of the booth from her. “That’s a good boy.”

That’s it, fuck this shit. I move to stand.

“Not so fast,” she says, wiping the corner of her mouth with the napkin from her lap. “I haven’t really told you why I brought you here.”

“You have about five minutes to get to the fucking point, then you can release whatever you have to the press and I’ll just destroy you.” She smiles.

“You don’t mean that,” she says, sweetly.

“Try me,” I threaten. She leans in.

“I already have. And here you are.” She sits back in her seat. “No matter. I’ll make it quick. I have a plane to catch.” She throws her napkin onto her plate. “I’ve come to collect my due.

“Money. I knew it,” I bark. “How much?”

“God, you’re so fucking dense,” she retorts mockingly. “It’s not money. I’ve come to collect what I should have gotten from you years ago.” I frown. What the fuck can she be talking about?

“You owe me,” she says with a sinister smile.

“I don’t owe you shit,” I retort.

“Yes, you do,” she says. “You owe me an orgasm. In fact, you owe me several, but I’ll take just one.”

I can’t believe my ears. She’s out of her fucking mind.

“You want me to fuck you?” I ask incredulously. She laughs again.

“No,” she says, as if the answer is obvious, “but you will be giving me an orgasm.”

“I’m not giving you anything, Natasha,” I hiss. “If you don’t want money, then I’ll prepare my wife for whatever’s on that flash drive.” She reaches into her blouse and pulls a flash drive out of her cleavage. It’s connected to a necklace around her neck.

“You sure about that?” she asks with a confident smile. I think about the fucker I was before I met Butterfly. I was a sadistic, kinky asshole. The trip down Memory Lane that I had a few months ago with Alex just trying to catalog and locate these women would be a Disney movie compared to the shit that I did to them. And if she has it on video…

She smiles victoriously as she leans back in her seat.

“I won’t do this, Natasha,” I tell her. “I haven’t touched another woman since my wife and nothing that you say or do will make me change that.”

“Ooooooohhh, isn’t that sweet!” she croons insincerely. “Well, don’t worry. I wouldn’t let you touch me with somebody else’s hands, you narcissistic ass.” She reaches into her purse and pulls out a small box. It looks like a treasure chest. I recognize it immediately as the box that holds Ben-Wa balls. I frown at her.

“You want me to spank you?” I ask in the same incredulous voice. “I will not play this fucking game with you!”

“You will! Or I’ll personally give your wife a show that she’ll never fucking forget, and that’s a promise!” she hisses.

“How do I know you don’t already have copies ready for the press?” I test.

“You don’t,” she counters, “you just have to trust me. You know that concept, don’t you, Master? You exploited it very well.”

This whole thing sickens me. I have to do what she asks… but can I?

“What do you want me to do?” I nearly growl.

“That’s it,” she smiles. “That’s what I want right there… that voice.”

Dumb bitch. She’s mistaking my I’m pissed the fuck off and I want to kill you voice for my Dom voice.

“All you have to do is sit there and talk to me… in that voice… but we won’t be having just any conversation. We’ll be talking about that last time you used me… that time that you flogged me, and sucked me, and fingered me, and fucked me… for hours… and told me not to come. You used every orifice gloriously, and then you sent me away… because of hair color.”

“You lied,” I say through my teeth. “You talk about me exploiting trust when you exploited my trust, and now you’re angry because you were found out?”

“Not angry,” she clarifies. “Pissed! Pissed the fuck off, in fact—and not because you found out about my hair color. If you’re not man enough and you need mousy little brunettes over fiery blondes, that’s fine with me. What I’m not fine with is being tormented for hours while you used me like a rubber fucking sex doll and then threw me away like a used piece of tissue!”

Oh, yeah, she’s pissed.

“So,” she says, opening the box and taking the Ben-Wa balls from the box, “you’re going to give me that orgasm that you withheld from me years ago—right here and right now.” Her hands go under the table and I can see her hips moving a bit. Moments later, her hands are back on the table and it’s obvious where the balls are.

“I’m not giving you shit, Natasha, and I don’t care what you do,” I say.

“Well, there’s a start,” she purrs, and I can see her legs cross under the table. “I’ve managed to get rid of that Myshka bullshit. Now, let’s talk about that night…’

“We will not,” I hiss.

“Yes, you will,” she says softly, her voice oozing with sex. She’s hot already. “And if you don’t want the rest of the late lunch crowd to hear you, you may want to scoot a little closer.”

I fold my arms. I’m not sitting any closer to this trick and I’m not going to let her get what she wants from me.

“That’s fine,” she says, “I don’t care who hears us. I’ll start.” She leans closer to me and I don’t move.

“I arrived at your apartment at about 7 p.m. dressed in that nothing dress that you told me to wear—no underwear and no bra. You ripped it from me and left it in tatters on the floor. I remember hoping that Taylor wouldn’t walk out of the back and see me standing naked in your great room.

“You ordered me up to your playroom and like a good little submissive, I went. I stood at the door in nothing but those stilettos for about 15 minutes before you decided to ascend the stairs. I have no idea when you discovered that I was a blonde and not a brunette, but you would make sure that I remembered my malfeasance.

“You ordered me into that room, chained me to the ceiling, and flogged me until my skin was hot. You knew that would set me off…”

I sit at the table watching her and listening to her describe our final scene. I can’t even focus on her face. All I can focus on is that fucking flash drive around her neck.

“And now you’re wondering how you can get the drive,” she deduces correctly. “You could always just snatch it off my neck, but then I would just scream, and then the poor little billionaire would have to explain why I’m sitting at the table crying and clutching my neck and he’s holding my gold chain.” She smiles

Well, that idea is out the window. There’s always a pap or three sitting somewhere and waiting to get a photo op. I’m dying to know what this encounter is going to look like in the papers.

“You see, Mr. Grey,” she mewls, and from the tone of her voice, I would swear that we were fucking, “I’ve got you figured out more than you think I do. Now talk!”

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” I tell her, “because I’m not going to sit here and sext with you at this table and I don’t give a fuck what’s on that drive.”

“Well,” she says, “you can either describe our encounter or I’ll have the biggest crying and screaming fit you’ve ever seen and draw some very much unwanted attention to us just like a scorned lover. Then, I’ll take my flash drive and leave you to explain that scene to everybody.”

Shit. She’s got me over a barrel. Either I do this or one way or another, I end up in the paper and not in the good way.

“You were the worst fucking submissive I ever had…”

“I told you to describe that night,” she hisses.

“I am!” I retort viciously. “Take it or fucking leave it.”

She falls silent and glares at me.

“I should have known something wasn’t right in the first place. You couldn’t follow instructions, you kept topping from the bottom. You were worthless. And then I find out that you were really a blonde. That fucking pissed me off!”

“You should have just let me go, you asshole!” she pants, angrily.

“And I did,” I shoot victoriously, “but I decided that first, I needed to teach you a lesson. And teach you a lesson I did!”

I’m going through the gory details of that night, about how I fucked her and flogged her and treated her like the piece of meat that she was—the lying little cunt that weaseled her way into my playroom and totally betrayed my trust. There’s nothing sexual or sensual about the conversation. It’s the most demeaning description of any encounter of any kind that I’ve ever had with anyone about anything… and she just sits there grasping the edges of the table and staring at me. I’m taking joy in letting her know that she was just a hole or three to jack off into and that she would never get the satisfaction from me that she wanted; that just like that night I would leave her hanging… and then I got the surprise of my life.

She throws her head back and has a wild orgasm right there at the table, reminiscent of that scene from When Harry Met Sally. What the hell? Is she crazy? There was nothing seductive whatsoever about that conversation! And she came? Is she faking?

 

I sit there glaring at her for at least a minute horrified, along with the diners from about four or five other tables. I make eye-contact with one or two of them and our eyes all say the same thing… What the fuck is going on with her? I’m sitting so far away from her that it can’t be mistaken that I’m not touching her at all, so we all think she’s just losing her fucking mind.

If that does make it to the paper at all, the headline would say something like:

Christian Grey Having Lunch with Nutcase Having Out of Body Experience.

About a minute after her display begins, it ends. And she’s breathing heavily at the table trying to compose herself. I sit there just looking at her for a few moments.

“Are you insane?” I ask. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

She begins to smooth her hair and she fixes her lipstick, dabbing her face with her napkin from the little bit of sweat that has accrued there.

“That was perfect, lover. Thanks,” she says softly, closing her compact and putting it back in her purse. “That’s exactly what I needed.”

I’m convinced that she has totally lost her mind.

She removes the flash drive from her necklace and pushes it across the table to me, a satisfied grin plastered all over her face.

“Enjoy,” she purrs. “You earned it.” What the hell…? Then it hit me…

She needed the asshole. She needed the asshole to ring the orgasm from her that he denied her all those years ago to serve her purpose. She got me exactly where she wanted me, and then I gave her exactly what she needed. Fucking hell fuck fucking shit fucking hell fuck.

“What about copies?” I growl.

“Trust me, that’s the only copy. It’s the only one I needed. When you see it, you’ll see why. It’s one of a kind, baby.” She stands and retrieves her purse. “You can take care of lunch. Goodbye, lover.” She straightens her barely-there dress, blows me a kiss, and walks out of the club. I palm the flash drive and leave the club hastily.

“She spoke to me before she got into a taxi,” Jason says when I get downstairs to the car. “She said to tell you that you can stop looking for her. She’s in New York and she’s not hiding from you.” I sigh heavily. Of course, she’s not hiding from me. She had incriminating evidence that could destroy me one way or the other and probably still does.

“Get me back to the fucking office,” I growl. I need to see what’s on this goddamn drive.

The ride back to Grey House takes for-fucking-ever. I’m nearly running to the elevator when I get inside. What the fuck does this bitch have on me and how did she get it? Every second of the elevator ride is driving me out of my fucking mind. I feel like I’m riding to goddamn Judgment Day!

I dash out of the elevator and nearly sprint to my office without a word before slamming the door behind me. Everything is moving in slow motion, including my normally lightning-speed laptop.

“Come on, come on,” I urge the fucking thing to wake up. When it finally comes alive, I nearly smash the drive into the USB port and wait for it to read.

There’s only one file on the flash drive, and it’s very small. What the fuck is this shit?

It’s a movie, but it’s a room that I’ve never seen before. It’s very well-decorated and very well-lighted and there’s no one sitting in it. And then, Natasha comes into the frame. She sits in this very large chair, crosses her legs, and looks into the camera.

“Hello, Lover. If you’re watching this, it means that we’ve already met, and you’ve given me what I need and now I’m giving you what you need. You’ve given me something that you held from me for several years—my orgasm—and I’m giving you what you deserve. Absolutely nothing.

“Years ago, you brought me to that pretentious glass palace of yours and you mistreated me and misused me to no end. And then you sent me away like a discarded piece of garbage, like I had no feelings whatsoever… like I was nothing. I never really knew a man could treat a woman like a piece of meat the way you did. I can’t even begin to tell you how I felt when I left your apartment that night. To say that I was humiliated is a massive understatement. It would never fully cover the level of self-loathing and self-hatred that you unleashed in my life. The utter mortification that I felt at your hands was and always will be completely unmatched.

“And you are so fucking self-righteous that you most likely had no clue or care that you had demoralized me to the degree that I questioned who I was, everything about myself. Wasn’t it the job of a good submissive to be everything her Master wanted and needed? If he had a fantasy, wasn’t it her job to fulfill it? If you had to change something of yourself to be what he wanted, that was a small sacrifice. So, going from a beautiful sunshine blonde to a dull and boring brunette was no big deal. It was what you wanted… but it wasn’t.

“I felt like an abomination. You changed my whole life that night. You made me re-evaluate everything I thought I was.

“All those years ago, I berated myself for wanting to be what I thought you wanted. I don’t know if it ever once occurred to you that I did what I did because I wanted to be what you wanted me to be. Instead, you treated me like a mutt… not a thoroughbred, because I wasn’t your precious natural brunette. God, you are such a fucking asshole and you didn’t deserve me in the first place. I was a perfect submissive. I was just what you needed, but you were too dense to know it and you were too blind to see past the blonde hair. It took me a long time to understand that this was a shortcoming on your part, and that was your loss—not mine. Now that I know that, I realize that there was a small but large piece of me that you ripped from me that day… and I had to get it back.

“I took what you owed me. If you’re still dominant, I know that it’ll eat you up that all these years later, I lured you in with a threat… no real material. I just walked in, took what I wanted from you, and walked out. That’s all I needed. You’re still so fucking egomaniacal that I could record this shit already knowing what the outcome would be. You’re predictable, just like all the rest of them. That’s why I can’t be a submissive anymore. We’re not the puppets—you are. You ‘sitting-on-top-of-the-world’ motherfuckers, running your little empires and making the world think you’re so powerful when most of you are nothing but scared little boys running from something. You go home at night and batter your wives or girlfriends or significant others, knock your kids around a bit or ignore them altogether, or in my case, beat a little submissive… taboo in the eyes of society, but acceptable because I consented.

It’s pathetic. A method to cope… What a fucking crock of shit.

So, here’s what I’m doing, Christian….” I hate my name on her lips. “I’m becoming a Dominant… a real Dominant, not that ‘mind-game, play with little girls’ bullshit that you’ve been doing. I’ve trained intensely for over a year, and you can trust and believe that I’m going to be the best there is. I’m not pining over you or watching your every move because you found love with a new little Myshka!”

She says the words so mockingly that it makes my skin crawl.

“No, I learned. I learned what it means to inflict pain so exquisite that my submissives are gagging for me. I learned to draw pleasure out to the point of unconsciousness. I’ve got tricks even you’ve never seen, Sir, and I’ve done the last thing that I needed to do. I finally broke your control over me and got you out of my system, and thanks to you, I’ll be a fantastic Domme—even better than Elena, maybe even better than you.

“I knew the moment I saw that ‘look-at-me-I’m-sitting-on-top-of-the-world’ tell-all piece of bullshit that you did with the little woman that really didn’t tell anything, I knew this was the perfect time to take what I needed from you—right at that moment when you thought you were the biggest shit ever. How does that victory lap feel now, Christian?

“You want to ruin me? Go ahead. Ruin me. Ruin the little submissive who pissed you off because she made you make her come. That’ll make you feel like a big, powerful man, won’t it? It was good for me. I got what I wanted from you. Thank you for closure. You won’t hear from me again. Have a nice life, lover.” And she blows a kiss to the goddamn screen again.

I… Am… Fucking… Livid…

I fell for the oldest goddamn trick in the book. This bitch lured me in with a carrot—and a plastic one at that—and I let her. I fucking let her! I couldn’t afford for her to release something that would set Ana off after everything that has happened. I couldn’t risk it, and at the slightest mention of the possibility, I let everything I know fly out the fucking window.

“Fuck!” I yell. I’m not angry that the fucking cunt came. She needed a nut that bad, so be it. I’m mad that I let this shit happen. I mad that I allowed her to lure me away from my office to a private place for some bullshit. Now, I have to tell my wife because it’s going to eat me up if I don’t and if anything does come from this, she needs to know before it happens.

I damn near rip the flash drive from my laptop and storm into the en suite. I crush the damn thing under my heel—several times—then throw the pieces ceremoniously into the toilet. Snatching my jacket from the back of the office chair, I storm out of my office, nearly breaking the door on my way out.

“Sir?” Jason says as I breeze past him to the elevator, him quickly falling in step behind me.

“Nothing! Fucking nothing! Abso-fucking-lutely nothing! Get me the fuck out of here.”


A/N: So, in case you didn’t catch it, Raynell was getting hit with a lot of one-liners from movies and songs in the hashtags and tweets. She used one and social media came back on her with a vengeance!

#itsgoodtobetheking—History of the World, Part I. Mel Brooks also made a song out of it later.

#dodgedabullet—common phrase used often, but my favorite was Beyoncé, Best Thing I Never Had

“Big mistake… big… huge!”—Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts), Pretty Woman

#youcouldabeenacontender—it’s actually “I coulda been a contender,” Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), On the Waterfront. It’s pretty old.

#almostdoesntcount—song by Brandy

#imeanttodothat—used to death along with “I’m okay,” but it originally came from Pee Wee Herman in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

I recognize that this is a controversial and upsetting time for victims of sexual abuse and assault as well as for Cosby supporters everywhere. However, we live in the real world where real stuff happens—thus, the reference to Bill Cosby. Please note that the case that has now come to a head with a conviction and sentence was first brought to public scrutiny and began to pick up momentum in October of 2014 when a comedian referred to Cosby as a rapist, causing several women to come forward with their accusations. As such, please note that at this point of the story, we are in November of 2014, which is why the male host jested, “What? Too soon?” It may (or may not) have been in bad taste on his part, but that’s what happens in entertainment whether we like it or not.

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 in the menu our you can click 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

 

 

 

Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 13

Wine is a deep and beautiful thing.

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 necessarily CG with Ana together. Proceed at your own discretion, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Fifty Shades Golden

Chapter 13

Eric Dane--Chapter 13 Small

TREY

I’ve negotiated the harvesting rights with three of the main eastern hardwood timberland families that supply Lincoln Timber and I’m working on the western softwoods. Lincoln has had harvesting agreements with these families for over a decade and never saw the need to renegotiate or to lock in exclusivity, mainly because these families didn’t fight for a better price per hectare of commercially harvested wood. As a result, Lincoln took advantage of their naïveté and opted not rock the boat as he was basically clearing their land for a song.

This won’t break Lincoln, but it will place quite the strain on his main lines of business as well as dip heavily into the insane profits he has been enjoying over at least the past several years. Raw, treated, or processed, he now has to buy the timber—or the right to harvest it—from me. As I have negotiated handsome compensation with the families—far more than Lincoln was offering but still enough to turn a profit—he would have to do some major reorganizing to make an offer that would meet mine, much less beat it.

With the coup that I’ve pulled in securing the eastern timberland—and the western softwood is pretty much just a formality now—I’m set not only to make handsome amounts of money from Lincoln Timber now having to purchase its main supply from me, but I could also go into the lumber business myself as one of this asshole’s competitors. As it stands right now, this development may not put him out of business, but it’ll make his company pretty fucking uncomfortable and wreak havoc on his profits for the next couple of years no matter what his contingency plan.

Maybe I should look into acquiring some of his expiring contracts…

“Can you tell me why the hell we’re suddenly clawing at Lincoln Timber’s main babies?” Rockford asks when he brings me the finalized contracts for the eastern timberland families.

“Isn’t it obvious?” I respond to my head of legal. “I’m picking a fight.”

“I can see that,” he says. “I’d just like to know why.”

I used to like this guy. I used to like his cockiness, his arrogance, and his balls the size of Texas, especially in negotiations. Now, he’s just irritating as fuck.

“As long as you’ve been my attorney, you honestly don’t recognize a cockfight when you see it?” I ask with a frown.

“Don’t insult my intelligence, Christian,” he retorts, somewhat affronted. “Of course, I recognize a damn cockfight. I just want to know why him and why now?”

Rockford may be my attorney, but the hell if I’m telling him that putting this frosted fucker in his place is another way of paying tribute to my Mistress while getting back at a nemesis at the same time.

“I’m not ashamed to say that it’s somewhat personal,” I say, flatly. “He calls me all cocky and demanding answers after his wife tried to kill me with a fucking concrete flowerpot, and now it’s wafting back to me in social circles that he’s talking about me at parties, balls, and social events.” His brow furrows.

“I haven’t heard anything,” he says, accusing.

“That would be because we don’t travel in the same social circles,” I reply, my voice condescending. It doesn’t get by him. I follow up with another jab. “If you think for one moment that you have your ear to the ground on every little thing that goes on in my life, you’re wrong. You know a lot, Phil, but you don’t know it all.” Hell, you don’t know the half of it. He raises a brow at me.

“Fine, it’s your funeral,” he says, stacking the papers in front of him. What the fuck…?

“And just what do you mean by that, Mr. Rockford?” I ask crisply, trying not to refer to him as the asshole that he’s being right now.

“Why would you want to push the hand of the most powerful timber producer and processor in the country?” he retorts. Who the hell is this pussy standing before me? Careful, Rockford, your slip is showing!

“Are you serious?” I ask incredulously while sitting back in my seat. “Do you realize that with 30 days of intensive negotiation, aggressive acquisitions, and concentrated redistribution of resources that I could be the most powerful timber producer and processor in the country? While Lincoln must constantly stay on his toes to hold his position, I do this shit for fun! I could stop production on the thousands of lines of business and acquisitions that I have my hand in right this very moment and there would still be enough passive income, liquid assets, and capital for my entire living family and three generations to come to live like kings and queens, and you’re standing here insinuating that I should feel some kind of reverence or fear for that glorified Paul Bunyan?”

Rockford sits in the chair across from me, examining me like I’ve just given him a bit of information that he was never fully aware of. Have you been asleep all these years? Exactly how many supposed industry giants and wannabe moguls have you watched fall at my feet?

“For the sake of argument, let’s assume that platinum-haired lumberjack released his worst, most fearsome wrath upon me. What could that be?” I question. “What could he do to me that I couldn’t flick off my shoulder like a worrisome fly? Go ahead, tell me. I’ll wait.”

Rockford clears his throat and loosens his tie. Apparently, he’s forgotten just how cutthroat I can be.

And, so has Linc, but he’s soon to revisit that lesson in spades. Closing those sawmills put a huge cramp in his production for nearly a year. This undertaking will make our last encounter look like a grammar school dance. Once I’m done with his largest east and west coast suppliers, I plan to target his oversees productions next. Sure, he’d be able to make up for the lost American timber with his European sawmills and providers, but not if he doesn’t see the attack coming, and no matter what the strategy, the solution won’t be cheap… or easy.

Having no comeback for my question, Rockford sits mutely facing my desk.

“Have we met…” you sniveling little weasel? “If you strain your little brain and think really hard, you can probably count on one hand the negotiations that were not favorable for me in all the years you’ve worked for me, and not once was any of those failures by any fault of my own. Now, unless there’s something that you know that I’m not aware of about that silver haired, washed-up phantom trying to wield power that he clearly doesn’t have, I suggest that you keep your angst-ridden opinions to yourself, be sure that my transactions are legal and airtight, and continue to make a fortune off me by doing exactly what you love.”

And now, I’m weary of this conversation.

“What’s happening to you?” I ask. “You sat in negotiations with Cross and let a woman show you that her balls were bigger than yours… and I’m not even talking about the attorney. She lopped your dick off and fed it to you! Now, you reach into that imaginary bag of courage on your hip and you have the inkling to confront me about my business tactics while cowering in fear to that washed-up old woodchuck? Who the fuck are you and what have you done with my cutthroat legal counsel?” He looks at me in sincere distaste.

“That’s… um… harsh and unnecessary, sir,” he grovels.

“Yeah, and you’re pathetic and pitiful. Get out of my sight, Phil,” I say, disgustedly breaking my gaze with him, “before I discover that you’ve totally lost your killer instinct, at which time, you’ll be completely useless to me.”

He knows not to say anything else. He knows that I’ve heard enough. He silently rises from his chair and leaves the room.

I’m going to have to secure new legal counsel, sooner rather than later. I toy with the thought of hiring Golden, but I already know that’s a lost cause. I wouldn’t even approach her like that. She wouldn’t want to work for me in that capacity, nor would I want her to. It’s just… not good to mix that kind of business and personal relationship.

*-*

So, I’ve committed myself to giving a speech at the Seattle Businessmen’s Conference this evening and I almost dread the idea of even showing up. With the coup I have in the works, anybody with half a brain and their eye on the boards can see that I’m acquiring the gathering rights to several of the national timber suppliers. It’s been a week since I secured the eastern timberlands and today, I locked down one of the western softwoods. I’m confident enough in my holdings so far that I’ve tiptoed into the Canadian lumber market. This quiet activity has caused small shifts in lumber stocks across the NASDAQ and NYSE with stockholders wondering what’s in the buzz and will it remain a buzz or turn into chopper blades.

Between that and quietly keeping my ear to the ground for new legal talent, the social-business scene is the second-to-last thing on my mind, and the last thing being targeted by some colleague’s young granddaughter looking to snag a guy just like dear old dad… or granddad.

“Hello, Christian.” Her smooth Brazilian voice answers. “I was wondering if you would wait until the last minute to call me. You know I don’t like to be rushed.”

“Hello, Gisela. My apologies. I forgot about it until the last minute.”

“As always,” she says.Uma história provável…”

“English, Gisela,” I scold. “I’m bilingual and Portuguese is not one of those languages.”

“No matter, why do you call, Christian?”

“You know why I call, Gisela,” I retort, using her choppy English. “Are you available?”

“Last minute again. Will you be sending me a gown… and jewelry?” I roll my eyes. It’s a good thing I have these things already in the guest room for just such an emergency.

“Of course, it’s not a crime to call and check with me, you know,” I scold. “You know I may forget, but you always seem to remember.”

“And miss the opportunity to give you a hard time? Why would I do that?” she asks matter-of-factly. “Besides, in my country, the woman does not approach the man; the man approaches the woman. You will send a car for me, no?”

“No,” I say, “I and my driver will pick you up at eight. And Gisela, don’t make me wait. I have to give a speech tonight.”

“Nem!” she exclaims. “How you say, keep your shirt on. You have gown here and I’ll be ready. Tchau.” She ends the call. I call Mrs. Jones with instructions to choose the white gown and emerald jewelry set and have it couriered to Gisela immediately.

Gisela Serra (Adriana Lima), Christian's go-to date for red carpet affairs--Chapter 13Gisela Serra is much like me in many ways. She graduated with a master’s in finance, but instead of going to work for one of the big firms, she invested her own money and became a self-made millionaire. Like me, she knows her shit, has no interest in a long-term relationship, and is always up for a good fuck once in a while. Unlike me, she’s never worked a day in her life and enjoys these red-carpet outings and hanging on the arm of whatever mogul chooses her as a bracelet that evening.

I’m her mogul of choice, however. She’ll wait for me, even break a commitment for me. Once, for the Carpenter’s Guild dinner, Ron Baristol of Baristol, Freedman, and Young requested her company and she accepted. Then I called, and she cancelled with Ron. It was nearly a brawl when we got to the dinner because apparently, she didn’t tell Baristol that she was cancelling with him to attend the dinner with me. When he approached me, I had no idea what he was talking about. When he told me, I couldn’t help but laugh.

That didn’t go over well with Ron.

I stated that I merely asked Gisela to accompany me. I didn’t know that she had prior arrangements or that she had cancelled them. He called me a cocky asshole and took a swing at me. I stepped aside, and he went sailing into the table with the ice sculpture. We were both asked to leave.

Needless to say, the Carpenter’s Guild didn’t get a donation from me that year and I declined their invitation the next year. The president and chairman both showed up at Grey House to ascertain what the problem was and when I reminded them of the mishap that had me removed from the festivities two years prior when I didn’t confront the guy and never raised a hand to him, they apologized profusely and had Baristol, Freedman, and Young removed from the guestlist completely. I can imagine that a similar conversation occurred at the Carpenter’s Guild headquarters when Mr. Freedman and Mr. Young discovered they were no longer welcome at the annual dinner.

I have nonetheless asked Gisela not to cancel any further engagements for me. If I haven’t contacted her by noon the day of an event, which is cutting it very close, I won’t contact her at all, leaving her free to accept any invitations that she may have on ice. Gisela is the only woman who has ever been seen with me on the red carpet—well, except Juliet when we were dating. So, of course, there’s a lot of speculation, but neither she nor I will entertain any of it. She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she’s rich—so I don’t have to worry about her latching onto me for my money—she doesn’t want a commitment, and she’s a great occasional fuck. Who could ask for more?

Me and my Brioni tux show up promptly at 8pm to retrieve Gisela. She’s prompt for once, as I was fully prepared to leave without her this time. I hate being late. It’s tacky.

“You said you had speech to give,” she says. “I only like being center of attention when is good for me. Fashionably late is no good when you are on the program.”

I told you that she was smart.

Dinner was uneventful. They always serve something pretentious at these dinners like lobster tail or filet mignon in tiny little servings, instead of choosing something classically delicious like veal or lamb chops, or even chicken. Hell, I’d even go for shrimp linguini if I knew I didn’t have to stop at a burger joint or something when it was all over to keep from gnawing my arm off! I always signal Taylor a half-hour before I’m ready to leave so that he can stop and get food before I and my date even get in the car.

I’ve made my speech, the usual mumbo-jumbo about responsible business and helping the community and growth through change… blah blah blah. I believe in all those things. It’s just that the conference never wants to hear anything else—like avoiding the common tricks of the market, interpreting trends so that you don’t end up losing your life savings or your business slosh fund, determining a good acquisition prospect from a lemon. I could use the same fifteen minutes that they have me speaking this gobbledygook and hit all three of those topics and probably save at least 50% of the businesses in attendance from making at least one of those three mistakes.

But, they’d rather hear that I’m building up small businesses in underprivileged neighborhoods. Anybody with a dime can do that. I want to tell you how to keep or multiply your dimes so that you can build up more businesses… but okay.

After the food and the speeches comes the networking. Time to hob nob and mingle with other CEO’s, each of us trying to finagle information out of the other about the next big cash windfall. Gisela and I are in a group talking shop with Stan Warren, Arnold Fishburn, and Felix Martindale—all CEO’s of their own companies, and at the moment, my date has the floor.

“Well, while all of the traders were trying to play the bull market, I made a mint on LAM and FDC… buying low and selling high,” Gisela says, sipping her champagne through the mingling and networking time after dinner.

“Now, how do you know?” Warren asks. He’s hanging on her every word. Not only does she look hot as fuck with this elegant gown wrapped around that beautiful ass, but when she opens her mouth, advice from the finance gods spews forth.

“You have to watch the trends,” she says. “You have to be willing to read the charts and look for the candlesticks in the buy-sell cycle…”

“Now, that’s where you’ve lost me,” Martindale says. “This is why I let my broker handle all of that.”

“If that’s so, I hope you don’t plan to get rich off the market. He’s doing that for you and fifty to a hundred other people or more and your returns are mediocre at best. Am I right?” He nods.

“I do alright,” he says, not wanting to admit his mediocre returns. She nods.

“If alright is okay with you, then you’re doing fine.”

She’s further captivating her audience with terms that I would also much rather leave to my broker when I see an ashen-faced beauty heading in my direction on the arm of another of my colleagues. He’s an attractive man, but an older attractive man… and she’s much too young for him. I know this, because I’ve known this woman Biblically.

“Gentlemen,” Reginald Hornsby says as he approaches. “Are we having the same boring conversations that we have every year?” His date clings to his arm and does everything she can not to make eye-contact with me.

“Right now, Ms. Serra is telling us how lousy we’re doing at the stock market,” Fishburn says, and we all laugh.

“I’m doing no such thing, sir,” Gisela says, mocking disdain. “I was just explaining to the gentlemen…” and she goes into the short version of Investing 101 with Hornsby, whose date is carefully avoiding mine and Gisela’s gaze now.

“So, when do you plan on sharing your talents with the rest of us?” Warren says. I know I’m not the only one who caught the double-entendre, but I don’t let on. Gisela doesn’t belong to me—she’s just my date for the evening, and the last thing I want is yet another scene.

“I only watch my own picks, Mr. Warren,” Gisela says sweetly. “I’m successful because I stick with the best and sell the temporary risers. It takes stamina and fortitude, but it’s a small sacrifice for the payoff in the end. I didn’t succeed by putting a little bit in every pot. I concentrated my efforts and shot the big guns, so I landed the big game.” Gisela coyly sips her champagne, having totally understood what Martindale was getting at and simultaneously shooting him down in front of his colleagues.

“I think what Stan was aiming at…” Oh, she knows what Stan was aiming at, “… is do you have any plans on trading professionally so that others can make the kind of profits that you are,” Martindale says.

“I’m afraid not, Mr. Martindale…”

“Call me Felix,” he corrects her.

“Felix,” she corrects. “Focusing on a few lucrative investments is what put me in the position that I am. So, now I don’t have to work for my money. My money works for me. Watching a trend and getting out before it tanks, I can do that for myself. I can’t do that for a group of people. For me, it’s a recipe for disaster. I’d be spreading myself and my own assets too thin and I wouldn’t be able to do other investors any justice.”

“Is that how you got so rich, Grey?” Warren asks. “Taking tips from this little beauty here?” He’s such an ass.

“I dabble in investing, Warren, but as you know, I made my fortune in mergers and acquisitions.”

“Yes,” Hornsby says. “There’s a little murmur on the wire about you and lumber.” And it begins.

“There’s always a murmur on the wire,” I say, dismissing the topic.

“Come on, Grey,” Warren coaxes. “Let us in on it. How about a little insider trading?” Fishburn frowns deeply.

“You’re kidding, right?” he says, distastefully. “You trying to get us all arrested?” And now, it’s time for me to text Taylor about those burgers.

“Come on, we’re just talking shop,” Warren excuses. “People do it all the time. No harm done.”

“Stock tips are one thing, Stan. Inside information is something else entirely. Geez, did Raj Rajaratnam, Martha Stewart, and Angelo Mozilo teach you nothing, man?” Fishburn scolds.

“Oh, for the love of God! Lighten up, guys,” Warren chides. “It’s not like Grey here is working for the SEC. Right, Grey?” He rips the air with a garish laugh and I just glare at him, sipping my champagne. “C’mon, Grey, we’re waitin’… You’re not spying for the SEC, are you?”

He’s still smiling, but his voice is accusing like he’s speaking for the entire group.

“You never know who’s listening… Stan!” I hiss his name before taking a swallow of my champagne. The group falls silent as eyes shoot from me to Warren.

“You know, I don’t know much for a silly little master’s degree holding female,” Gisela says, “but I do know that companies that are pegged as SEC whistle-blowers don’t do well on the corporate scene. That kind of slander can be very damaging to an established corporation.” She takes a sip of her champagne.

“I don’t think that matters to Mr. Warren, Gisela,” I say, still glaring at his now paling face. “He’s already shown everyone present that he has the tact of a goat and the class of a toad. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit to find that he doesn’t have the common sense of a toothpick.”

Warren looks very uncomfortable now and starts to do a little shuffle on his feet.

“Well, look what I’ve started,” Hornsby says. “Excuse me while I go curb my nicotine habit. You’ll be okay?” he says to Caramel. I had forgotten she was among us. She nods and gives him a sweet smile. He kisses her cheek and leaves the group. If he’s her Dom, he’s not acting like it. She would have had to follow him for the smoke break. She watches attentively as he leaves the room as if she’s urging him not to stay away long.

“You all are a bunch of pussies,” Warren says. “One mention of the SEC and insider trading and a bunch of powerful businessmen turn into a bunch of bed-wetting pansies! I’m going to smoke.” And he’s off behind Hornsby. I wonder what that conversation is going to be like.

“Excuse me,” Caramel says, and she leaves the group as well. Maybe she’s decided that she needs a cigarette after all.

“For the record, Grey,” Martindale begins, “none of us think you’re an SEC snitch. He’s full of shit.” I sip my champagne again, bottoming out my glass.

“It wouldn’t do me any good,” I reply. “I have investments in other companies, but GEH is not publicly traded. That fuckface has completely forgotten that in whatever plight he’s on. What would it serve me? I mean really… what?

“Nothing at all,” Gisela says, “Now go on over and get us a refill of champagne.” I look over my shoulder to flag a waiter, but none are close by. I locate the bar and see Caramel standing there, most likely waiting for her own refill. I turn my gaze back to Gisela who gives me a knowing look, raises her brow, and hands me her empty flute.

“Must I?” I say, lowly, while taking her empty glass.

“Yes,” she says with a smile. “Go on.” I roll my eyes and walk over to the bar. I sigh softly and speak.

“Hello,” I say, trying not to startle her.

“Hello,” she replies, finally making eye-contact with me.

“Two champagnes, please,” I tell the bartender. He nods and takes my empty glasses, setting them to one side. “I didn’t know Hornsby…” I trail off. She glares at me.

“He doesn’t!” she snaps. “And he doesn’t know that I ever did, either.” I flatten my lips and nod.

“You know, you not saying anything and avoiding my gaze is more conspicuous than you just acting natural,” I warn.

“That’s easier said than done,” she says and turns away from me. This close to her, I can see a gash near her eye. It’s healed, but the scar looks pretty fresh, and I’m certain that it wasn’t there before.

“What happened to your eye?” I ask, wondering if her new not-quite-Dom likes it rough.

“It was…” She looks around conspiratorially to make sure no one is listening. “It was from Mistress,” she hisses, quietly. “She punished me… repeatedly… when I tried to return.” I frown deeply.

“She hit you in the face?” I sneer. She nods.

“One night while I was on my knees, she slapped me… with her big ring.” She closes her eyes as she remembers. “Blood got in my eye, but she was just disgusted and told me to go to the hospital. I did. They stitched me up, only two stitches.” She points at her eye. “It was so much blood, I would have thought it would have been more. I didn’t go back to her after that.”

“I’m sorry, Car…” I stop myself as she raises her eyes to me. “Tammy. I never meant for any of that to happen.” She drops her head.

“My friends made it seem so glamorous, but it never was,” she admits without raising her head. “Mistress had me crawling on the floor and doing unthinkable things. It’s like she wanted me because I was beautiful, and she hated me for the same reason.” She shakes her head again. “Even with you,” she begins, “you were never physically cruel, but you treated me like just what I was… a whore. Reggie does, too,” she says, looking for her date. “He buys me nice things, he gives me money and takes me places. He just doesn’t know what I used to be. I always dread him finding out…”

“He won’t find out from me,” I assure her. She twists her lips but says nothing. She looks at Gisela.

“She’s not a submissive,” she says with finality.

“No, she’s not,” I confirm.

“Figures,” she says. “I have to go before Reggie comes back. Goodbye… Trey.” She takes her champagne from the bar and walks away. Wow. Elena got pissed at Caramel and tried to disfigure her. That sounds like something that twisted cow would do. I take my two champagne flutes and go back to Gisela. She seems to have loosened up since Warren left with his insider trading and double-entendrés.

“How are you?” I say, handing her a champagne flute. She takes a large sip.

“Can we go now?” I look at my watch. It’s been twenty minutes since I texted Taylor. I look at my phone. Sometime during my talk with Caramel, Taylor texted that he’s outside.

“Yes, we can go now,” I say. She throws back her champagne and hands me the empty glass. I bottom out my glass as well and extend my elbow to her.

“Well, well, well, looks like somebody’s got a hot date!” and Warren returns just as Gisela takes my arm. She squeezes just a bit as a sign of her ire. I roll my eyes.

“Goodnight, gentlemen,” I say. Warren is sharing a private joke with Martindale who seems none too amused. Warren continues to laugh garishly as he stinks up the area with the lingering odor of cheap cigar smoke. He couldn’t even buy the good kind.

“Oh, and Stan?” I say, garnering his attention as well as that of the others in the group.

“You’re an asshole.” His boorish smile turns into a sneer as I lead my date away from his presence.

“Go, Mr. Grey,” she says, quietly, as I drop our flutes off at the bar on our way out.

*-*

Gisela and I are comfortable on the white rug in front of the fire in my apartment. I’ve shed my tuxedo jacket and vest and undone my bowtie and she’s shed her shoes. We feed our raging hunger while discussing the evening’s events and other minutia.

“You have met someone,” she says, before taking another bite of her burger. I raise my brow at her.

“No one that I want to marry,” I admit, “but… she can grow on you.”

“Was it the mulatto woman?” she asks. What mulatto woman?

“Oh, God, no,” I tell her. “She was just an ex-bedfellow.”

“And a bit bitter,” Gisela observes.

“Bitter? I didn’t notice.”

“You wouldn’t,” she says. “She would wait until you are talking and stare with disdain. She would much rather not see you again, much less to see you with a woman on your arm.” She takes another bite of her burger.

“How did you know there was someone?” I ask. “There’s always someone…” A sub, a fuck-buddy…

“Not like this one,” she says after she swallows her food. “The others, they take the edge off. This one, she has found your… key. She is your ground.” I frown.

“My ground?” I ask, bemused. She ponders her words.

“I say it wrong,” she says, and thinks for a moment. “She… grounds you.”

“She grounds me?” I ask incredulously. “She’s a hot little number and I love her company, but I hardly say she grounds me!”

“Um-hm,” she says, taking another bite of her burger. “You have sex with this woman?” she asks while shielding her mouth. Hmm…

“Not in a matter of speaking, no,” I reply. She won’t let me fuck her.

“Let me rephrase,” she says after a moment. “You come with this woman?” Dammit, just how much does she know?

“Yes,” I say, after hesitation. She nods.

“She have your key,” she says. I shake my head.

“What are you trying to say?” I ask frustrated. What the hell does she have your key mean?

“She… know you. She know your combination… she know your buttons…” Goddammit, Gisela!

“You’re trying to say she knows what makes me tick,” I say for her. She waves her hand.

“You Americans and your expressions. You know what I mean.” She takes another bite of her burger. “Our arrangement will soon end,” she adds, her mouth full. I glare at her.

“I’m not in love, Gisela,” I protest. “I enjoy myself, as always, but she’s not different than the others.”

“She is different,” she retorts, “and she makes you different.”

And now I see. Having Golden as my Domme has changed my demeanor in some way. Gisela sees it… and she doesn’t want it. Fair enough.

“Should I call for Taylor to take you home?” I say, gathering my trash to dispose of it.

“What?” she confronts. “Has your new dominant lover now robbed me of my tryst?” She’s frank. “Surely, you don’t think I just turn down dates for your company.”

I raise my brow and extend my hand to her to assist her off the floor.

“You know the way,” I say to her as I gesture towards my fuck room. She saunters to the room like she owns the place, reaching back and undoing her zipper as she walks. Oh, Ms. Sierra, you have no idea what you’ve unleashed. Then again, maybe you do.

I eat that pussy until her brain seeped from her vagina, then fuck it back up into her head again. She’s totally useless when I send her home. Make you think twice about kicking me to the curb, minha querida, but if you choose to do so, then it’s your loss.

*-*

A few weeks later, I’m knee deep in negotiations with the Canadians for softwood when I get a call about a “terrible ruckus” in the lobby.

“Caldwell Lincoln, sir,” Taylor informs me. “It’s to the degree that we may have to call the police.”

Where’s the safest place to meet this asshole? I thought the first-floor conference room would be safe, but his psychotic wife hurled a potted plant at me in there and broke my fucking arm.

“Make sure there are no projectile objects in the first-floor conference room and take his ass in there,” I say. “If he moves in the wrong way, shoot him, and tell him I told you so.”

“Yes, sir.” I have no doubt that Taylor will shoot that fucker before I even get downstairs. Fuck, are there any other precautions that I should take before I go down there? I call Welch.

“Sir,” he answers.

“I need high alert. Linc is downstairs causing a commotion, and I swear I won’t hesitate to drop this fucker…”

‘The police have already been alerted, sir,” he says. “I’m on my way to the first floor.” I end the call. There’s no use in playing with this man. I remove my suitcoat, vest, and tie and leave my office, headed for the executive elevator.  

Jason isn’t the only one surprised to see me enter the first-floor conference in rolled-up shirt sleeves.

“Casual day at the office, Grey?” Linc seethes. He’s certainly locked and loaded, but so am I.

“I don’t need to ask why you’re here, so cut the shit,” I say. “You wanted my attention, you got it, so handle your fucking business.”

“You think you’re fucking big shit,” he hisses. “You don’t think I know who you are? What you do? You don’t think I know that on top of trying to take my business, you fucked my wife?” Old news.

“Linc, I don’t know what you think you know, but more importantly, I don’t care. I don’t care if you think I fucked your wife in your bed,” which I have. “All I care about is that you continually think you have power over me and don’t seem to realize that you have none,” I growl as I shamelessly close the space between us.

“What the fuck are you trying to prove, you stupid piece of shit?” I continue. Are you that fucking dense? You’re a small dog trying to play in a yard that’s way too fucking big for you. You’re too thick to realize you’re out of your league and you need to stay in your goddamn place! I’m a rottweiler and you’re a beagle. You’re in the wrong cage, you Napoleonic fuck!

“Three weeks,” I say, holding up three fingers. “Three weeks, and I’ve secured 60% of your western lumber interests. Do you think you have the capital to match the Canadian government’s softwood lumber regulations? In a month—or less—you’ll be buying your domestic lumber from me. There’s your business savvy, Linc. What’s next?”

“You’re such the big man,” Linc taunts. “You can talk major shit with a whole battalion of security backing your ass up.”

“Everybody step the fuck back—now!” I demand, and the security staff in the room all slowly spread toward the door and windows. “Even if he’s beating my ass, nobody touch this asshole unless he pulls a weapon—any weapon. You all know how his wife likes potted plants.” I turn back to Linc and move to the middle of the conference room with my arms open, waiting.

“You want to take a swing, you old fuck? Take your best shot. You wanna go mano-e-mano, me and you? You go for it. I can guarantee you, none of these men will fuckin’ touch you. I’ll lay your ass out like the geezer you are. C’mon, you old fuckin’ goat. Stop talking that shit, because I’ve already shown that I’m better than you in the business world, so c’mon. Stop talking that shit and bring it.”

He’s standing there staring at me like I’ve already hit him. He didn’t expect this. I don’t think he knew what to expect. He got that corporate posturing that he was expecting, but it was more than he could bite, so this was his back-up plan? And he won’t take advantage of it? You gotta be kidding.

“You need some encouragement, Linc?” I taunt mercilessly. “You need some help on that road? That journey you started and can’t finish? Look me in the eye, Linc. Have I really fucked your wife?”

I glare at him with the carnal knowledge of that once-blonde-bombshell that he once coveted as his beautiful wife and he lunges at me. His move was so predictable that I only have to step out of his way to leave him sprawling past me and into the opposite wall. I shake my head. It’s Baristol all over again. True to my command, the security detail parts and allows him to splat into the wall without touching him. He turns around, enraged, glaring at me and regrouping for another attack.

He lunges at me again, more controlled this time and with a lot of force, but his right cross is wide and wild. I duck and come up with a left to the gut and a right to the side, finishing with a flat kick to the solar plexus with a size-12 Berluti sending him squarely back to the wall he just vacated with a hard “thud.”

“C’mon, Silver Fox,” I say, clenching my fist and preparing for his next move. “You can do better than that.” His eyes narrow and he comes at me full force, his shoulder and all his weight hitting me square in the abdomen and nearly knocking all the wind out of me as he slams me hard against the opposite wall. He gets some good gut and kidney punches in on me—enough to hurt a bit, but not enough to disable me. I clench my fist and clasp my hand over it, bringing it down hard on his spine, which I know hurt like hell, the second hit bringing him to his knees, allowing that same size-12 Berluti to connect with his jaw, producing a satisfying “crack” and flipping him over and onto his back.

He coughs and spits blood onto my conference-room carpet—that pisses me off—but fights to catch his breath and no doubt, gather his wits.

“That’s all you got, old man?” I ask, a little winded with my fist clenched and ready. “You talk all that shit and all you got is a bum-rush and a couple of gut punches? No wonder your wife was fucking me. Is your game as weak as your fight?”

He glares at me from the floor. He wants to retaliate, but his attempts to get off the floor fail.

What? That’s it? I’m just getting started.

“Yeah, that pussy was good once upon a time,” I jeer, “while you were jet-setting the world, fucking young models and getting young Jamaican girls pregnant.” As if it could, his face turns whiter than it already was.

“What? You didn’t think I knew? You don’t think I know everything you do, everywhere you are the minute you leave the states? Your shit is fucking easier to find than ‘Where’s Waldo’ because you’re too goddamn cocky to cover your fucking tracks. Go ahead, Linc, do your worst. Once I’m done kicking your ass, I can guarantee that you, your business and your name will be shit no matter where you turn!”

I can see the defeat when it settles in his eyes. The fight is over—the physical fight and the cock strut, and I barely broke a sweat. I roll my sleeves down and brush the wrinkles out. Stepping right over him, I head to the door of the conference room and open it to leave.

“Say something!” I warn turning back to Linc. “Say something to the cops. Say something to the press. Say something to anybody. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Breathe my name in any direction ever again and I will fucking bury you!” I turn to Taylor.

“Get him the fuck off my floor and out of my goddamn building and get somebody in here to clean up his bodily emissions.” I pull my cufflinks out of my pocket and walk to the elevator. I don’t push the call button since I see that it’s already on its way down. As the elevator rings, I see Linc walking out of the conference room with security walking behind him. I see the elevator begin to open, but I turn my attention to the frosted fuck about to leave my building.

One more thing.

“Lincoln!” I bark, gaining the attention of everyone in the lobby, including Linc.

“Stay the fuck away from Olivet!” I hiss. “You don’t know who you’re fucking with and I can guarantee you that at least nine people of power in this state will bury you… twice. I may or may not be one of them!”

He shows no fear, but that cockiness that he’s famous for is buried behind a swollen, bloody face and somebody’s handkerchief. He walks to the revolving glass door as I insert and snap my second cuff-link. Once he’s out of the doors, I turn around to see Phil Rockford standing in front of the closed elevators.

“Balls,” I bark to him and he jumps at my voice. “Remember those? That’s what they look like. Grow them back… or quit!”

He stares at me for a moment and I realize that he’ll never grow his balls back. I brush past him and get on the elevator.

“Andrea!” I shout, almost before the elevator doors open.

“Yes, Mr. Grey?” she says calmly, no reaction whatsoever to my ire. I hate and admire that at the same time.

“Get in touch with Bonde and Associates. I’m going to need feelers for a new head of legal. Cutthroat—tell them to keep the pussies to themselves.” I breeze past her to my office.

“Yes, sir,” she says, unfazed, momentarily typing on her keyboard. When I look back, she’s already on the phone.

Never shaken.
Never stirred.
Why can’t my head of legal be that way?

I go straight to the en suite and wash my hands. I feel dirty. That fucker bled, but he didn’t bleed on me. I still feel dirty.

I grab my suitcoat, vest, and tie and walk back out of my office.

“As soon as possible,” I hear Andrea say. “We will begin vetting as soon as we get the candidates information.” I call the elevator and realize that someone has called it before me and it’s not waiting for me. I’m irritated again, not that I wasn’t before.

“Confidential, as always. I am your sole contact… Special instructions? Yes, sir. Cutthroat. Keep the pussies to yourself.”

I have the best PA in creation.

The elevator opens, and Taylor moves to step off. Seeing me standing at the door, he maintains his position in the back of the elevator. I get in the elevator and push the button for the parking garage since Taylor’s express key is already in the keyhole.

“Did you make sure that asshole got his ass out of my building, into his asshole car and on his asshole way?” I hiss.

“Yes, sir,” Taylor responds. The remainder of the ride is silent, as is the ride back to my apartment. The moment he pulls into the parking garage at Escala, I leap out of the Audi SUV and into my Spyder. Without a word, I start the car, throw it into gear, and take off.

I pull up in front of the club, my hands a fearsome grip on the Audi’s steering wheel. I can barely contain my anger, visions of Linc’s snarling, smirking face taunting and pissing me off. None of my normal calming techniques are working and I’m certain that working over a submissive won’t work tonight either. I will fucking kill a sub right now. I call Golden instead, almost praying that she’s available.


Briana Evigan Chapter 13small

GOLDEN

“You’re awful limber today,” Kevin says as we hold another of our impossible poses.

“Not as tense as I usually am,” I say, trying to concentrate on my count.

“You get laid?” he asks.

“None of your business,” I retort. It’s time to release and, as usual, he holds me there. “Let me down, Kevin.”

He drops me with a grunt, like he always does—dick still hard, but he’s not groping me. He hasn’t since we had dinner. When I asked him why, he told me that we’d agreed to be friends and he wasn’t going to jeopardize that by being a gropy asshole. He can’t do anything about the erection, though. Holding me in those unreal poses that showcase my flexibility with nothing but dancer’s ass staring back at him is more than he can take. He won’t apologize for the physical reaction, but he can try to behave himself otherwise.

“You hungry?” I ask as I get up from his pounding erection.

“Famished,” he says, and I catch his double meaning.

“Lunch, you caveman,” I scold.

“I know what you’re talking about,” he says, sitting up and drying the sweat from his face with his shirt. “I’ll meet you back here after showers.” I raise my brow at him.

“Why aren’t you getting up?” I ask.

“Because I’m going to sit here and watch you walk away. Isn’t it obvious?” Geez, he has no shame since I sucked his dick. I shake my head and give him the show he’s waiting for as I turn and leave the studio and head to the showers.

We enjoy a late lunch at Dueminuti Pasta, an Italian restaurant on Capitol Hill that specializes in homemade pasta and fresh sauces with ingredients from local growers.

“He did that in the middle of a grocery store?” Kevin asks as he loads his fork with pasta. I nod.

“He grabbed me like they do in those corny romance movies and he kissed me, right there in the store, like I was supposed to swoon when he was done.” I shake my head. “Does that happen in real life?” I ask. “Guys kiss girls and they just swoon and fall into their arms and their beds?”

“It’s never happened to me,” he says, filling his mouth with pasta.

“Well, it wasn’t going to happen to him either,” I reply before taking a mouthful of
Ragu’ alla Bolognese. I love this place. Mom used to bring me here all the time.

“Do you want me to tell him that I’m hittin’ it?” Kevin asks. I frown and swallow my pasta.

“Hitting what?” I ask bemused.

“Hittin’ it,” he repeats over a mouthful of pasta. “He saw us at dinner once. If I tell him I’m hittin’ it, he’ll back off.”

“Oooh! You mean hittin’ this!” I say, pointing to myself. “No, don’t tell him that.”

“Might solve your problem,” he says, before drinking his soda. Silly little man.

“He saw us sitting at a table eating dinner. He walked up and spoke to me like you weren’t even sitting there. He left when he was damn good and ready. When he saw me in the grocery a few days ago, the thought that I might be fucking you never even crossed his mind. If it did, the only thing he was thinking was, ‘How can I snatch?’ He wasn’t concerned that you may have been there first or even that you may be still hittin’ it. All he was concerned about was ‘Can I get in?’ And that may be all he wanted—to hit it once, but he was trying, and you didn’t make one bit of fucking difference. There’s no honor among men. If you saw me and you wanted me, you wouldn’t have any honor for him if you thought he was fucking me, and you expect him to have honor for you?”

“Who the fuck said anything about honor?” Kevin retorts. “He’s a hoe. And if I tell him that I’m hittin’ it and he pursues you, that gives me a reason to beat his monkey ass.”

“Oh, yeah, that’ll help,” I say sarcastically. “You see the really big white guy over there with his arms folded that just scarfed down enough Pomodoro for four people?” Kevin looks over at Jesse. “If Don Juan Jake decides that he wants to fuck with me again, that’s what he’ll be hittin’, or I should say that’s what’s going to be hittin’ him. The only reason he didn’t get pulverized the first time is because I stopped Jesse from killing him.” I smile and eat my pasta.

“You don’t let a guy have any fun,” he pouts.

“I do,” I correct him, “but that’s not the nature of our relationship.”

*-*

“Step back, ma’am,” Jesse says. “I don’t want to have to restrain you.”

“You won’t do a damn thing to me, you gorilla, or I’ll have your ass arrested for assault!”

“You’re trespassing right now, you stupid bitch!” I retort behind Jesse. “He could break you in half right now and be within his rights.”

“You shut up!” she screams. “You shut the fuck up! I don’t want to hear anything out of your goddamn mouth right now!”

“Then why the fuck are you in my office?”

A few days after my lunch with Kevin, I get a text from him just as I’m entering my office to a very unwelcome visitor.

**Elena was here looking for you. She’s pissed. **

“You’re a little late, there, Kev,” I mumble.

“I’m going to wring your little neck, you fucking cunt!” she hisses and attempts to lunge at me. Jesse’s long arm of the law stops her before she can move two centimeters, his large hand pinning her firmly against the wall.

“I said. Step. Back. Ma’am,” he reinforces, his voice low and calculated. At first, she’s appalled and shocked, but she finds her composure and smiles at him.

“Are you one of her submissives, pet?” she says in a sweet, condescending voice. Jesse doesn’t flinch. I’m sure he’s heard worse. She turns her gaze to me. “You need your dog to protect you, you little pussy?” she taunts. God, you have no fucking idea what you’re dealing with.

“Stand down, Jesse.” I say coolly. Jesse looks back at me without moving his hand from her chest.

“Ana…”

“Stand. Down,” I growl. Reluctantly, he moves his hand from Blondie’s chest and takes a few steps to the side. I close the space between us.

“Now,” I say steely, “there’s no Jesse between us, but be careful, Elena,” I spit her name with disdain. “Because if you touch me, what I do to my clients will be a walk in the park compared to what I’ll do to you.”

Her eyes narrow but she doesn’t fucking touch me.

“I’m not one of your fucking toys, Goldie.”

“And I’m not one of your little slaves, Blondie,” I retort with just as much contempt. She reaches into her way-too-large bag and Jesse reaches into his holster. Without looking at him, she snatches a folded piece of paper and thrusts it in my face. I don’t move to take it, so Chanelle snatches it from her hand. She turns on Chanelle.

“What the fu..?”

“Bitch you don’t know me I will slap the white offa’ you,” Chanelle snaps all in one breath while still glaring at Elena. I don’t think anyone has ever said that to her and she doesn’t quite know how to take it, so she stands there in stunned silence while Chanelle examines the document.

“It’s a summons,” Chanelle says, throwing the paper back in Elena’s face. “Your ass is being sued. You must have pissed somebody off.” The paper falls uselessly to the floor as Elena continues to glare at Chanelle.

“Thank you!” she hisses hatefully. “I already knew that.”

“Then why the fuck did you ask what it was?” Chanelle snaps before going back to her seat. Elena watches her walk to the reception desk and sit down, but she doesn’t say anything else to her. I guess she thinks better of going toe-to-toe with a sistah from the hood who just warned her that she would slap her into another nationality.

“What I want to know is what the fuck this is all about,” she spits at me.

“Oh, that part’s easy. This is from your previous clients—women who were rendered damn near dysfunctional from getting services at your infested establishment.”

“My salons were not infested!” she screeches. “I was cleared by the board of health!”

“Well, according to these women, they’ve had nervous itches, some of them for weeks at a time,” I say calmly. “They have medical bills to prove that they couldn’t rest for fear that their homes were infested with bed bugs. They’ve had to pay for costly inspections and exterminations and one woman actually did find bed bugs in her home. There was no other connection except for you and she’s included in the class action suit.”

With such a large demographic, the bed bugs could have come from anywhere, but civil cases just need a preponderance of evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Her biggest admission of guilt was her lack of proactive counter measures. The innocent scream it from the rooftops. She kept quiet in an attempt to keep publicity away from her. It worked, but eventually, it backfired.

“You’re such a spiteful little tramp,” she seethes. “I know you were in on this entire thing from the very beginning. I just know it.” Well, you know wrong, Blondie, and I’ve had enough.

“Now, what I want you to do is dig deep into your brain and pull out some of those logic cells that haven’t been bleached beyond use, assuming that you still have some left. Once you find them, I want you to summon them forward to your ears and allow them to comprehend the words that are coming out of my mouth. Are they there? Are you listening? Let’s hope so.

“I. Had nothing to do. With the fall. Of your funky-ass salons!” I say slowly and forcefully. “At the time of your demise, I hadn’t spoken to Christian for several months. I didn’t know anything had happened to your dime-store face-painting and hair-cutting nickelodeons until well after you lost your shit and broke his arm. By the time I saw him again and knew that anything had happened, it was healed!

“Bedbugs? Seriously? Bedbugs? Five-star restaurants have been closed for rodents, roaches, flies, unsanitary conditions. They clean it up and they’re open in a month. And you got shut down for bedbugs—all your salons in the greater Seattle area for fucking bedbugs! And you think I had something to do with that. That’s one of the most amateur attacks I’ve ever seen in my life—and it worked! I’m astonished that it worked, because you’re an idiot.

“If I wanted to do you in, Blondie, you wouldn’t have to guess. You would have no doubt that it was me because I would have left my mark all over it. We wouldn’t even be standing here talking, missy, because you. Would be. Completely. Destroyed. Your name, your license, your reputation, your money, everything! I would have completely decimated you. Bedbugs? Have we fucking met? That’s laughable. If I wanted your ass that badly, when they came to investigate you, they fucking would’ve found something, and it would’ve been more than any goddamn rodents! They would have found shit on you that would have left you unable to talk your way out of a paper bag.

“Damage control, you stupid blonde bitch. This entire thing could have been avoided by damage control, not by throwing a fucking cement pot at Seattle’s most influential citizen! You’re such a fucking fool! You were so busy plotting my downfall that you never saw that I could have helped you! You could have combated this entire thing with just a few strategically placed press releases. Instead, you had your head so far up my ass trying to find some shit that you could use that you couldn’t even see the forest for the trees. You left that door wide open, and your prior clients are taking full advantage of it. Who am I as a capitalist in America to pass up this opportunity?”

I bend down, pick up the summons, and shove it in her face.

This is what I do, Elena!” I say, shaking the summons in her face. “I don’t know or fucking care who all was involved in spreading a goddamn rumor, but this is what I do. I take on cases when people come to me with valid legal issues. You wanna be pissed at me, be pissed about the right thing. Be pissed about this!”

I fling the summons in her face and she catches it this time.

“Now, get the fuck out of my office and never speak to me or come near me again. If you do, I’ll have him shoot you and her beat you Moroccan, assuming I don’t get to you first. I’ll see you in court.”

She stands there for a moment, the three of us waiting for another word to come out of her mouth so that we could draw straws on which of us would get to shoot or beat her. She must’ve seen the killer instinct in one—or all—of our faces, because she scurries out of my office without another word.


A/N: Raj Rajaratnam, Martha Stewart, and Angelo Mozilo all had big cases in insider trading.
“Minha querida”—loosely translated, “My dear.”

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Raising Grey: Chapter 50—Unexpected Guests

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 50—Unexpected Guests

ANASTASIA

Sakes alive, she looks just like me. I think she’s even younger than I am! Same haircut, blueish-greenish-gray eyes, similar build—before I had my babies, that is… what the fuck?

“Whoa,” Daddy says, under his breath. I’m sure he’s having the same thought I am. This shit is creeping me out and I really don’t know how to handle it. I don’t really care who Brian fucks, but did he have to go get my twin? She looks even more like me than I look like Shannon… and I really look like Shannon.

“I know,” I hear Maxie’s voice say from behind me. I turn around to look at her. “It’s uncanny. I started talking to her when I got here, thinking she was you.”

“And how did she take that?” I ask.

“She laughed it off and just went on about her day. I’m sure he’s told her that she looks like you and who you are.” I twist my lips.

“It takes some getting used to, that there’s someone else in the world that looks so much like me.”

“No, she looks like you used to look,” Maxie corrects.

“You said yourself that you struck up a conversation with her thinking she was me,” I protest.

“That’s because I know how you used to look and I could have mistaken her for the old you, but anybody who knows you now knows that’s not you. You’re a mother, you’ve got some wisdom and it shows. She seems nice and all, but she doesn’t have that sophistication that oozes off of you, and it’s not the money, Honey. You’ve been that way since I’ve known you. So, from a distance, she might pass for college Ana, but up close, nope. When I tapped her on the shoulder and she turned around, I knew it was mistaken identity.” I laugh.

“Often imitated, never duplicated,” I murmur.

“Indeed,” Maxie says, giving me a high-five. We share a few moments of our private joke before Christian joins us again.

“So, what’s the joke?” he says. “I want to laugh, too.” I turn around to look at him and see Brian over his shoulder. He was making his way over to me but pauses and decides on a detour when he sees that Christian gets to me first.

“We were talking about possessive husbands who like to cockblock ex-wannabe-suitors midstride,” I tease.

“He’s got to get through me if he wants to get anywhere near you,” Christian says. “The last time we spoke, he said he was happy with that Ana Lookalike that he brought to your father’s house and to leave him alone. And I have, so now, he can leave you alone.” I raise my brow.

“It’s not that serious, Christian. I really don’t care.”

“I do,” he says. “I have no doubt that he wakes up and when he rolls over and looks into her face, he sees you. One day, he’s going to look at that woman and not see you, and I don’t know what he’s going to do when that happens. In the meantime…” He puts both arms possessively around my waist, “… My girl said she wanted a party. I couldn’t think of a better reason to celebrate.”

I look around the room at the wonderful “baby shower” set-up that’s going on—the only babies in attendance being mine, passed from person to person and testing the whole stranger theory. So far, so good—no fires, floods, hurricanes or baby sirens. Christian even brought our staff, who are preparing what looks like a fabulous steak lunch—exactly what Daddy wanted after the proceedings—and awesome hors d’oeuvres for before lunch.

“You did this all in a few hours?” I ask. He nods. “In the middle of a Monday afternoon, you got everybody to skip work and come here?”

“Are you kidding?” Maxie says. “We wouldn’t miss this.”

“Yeah,” Phil says joining the conversation behind his wife. “This has been such a long time coming. When Christian called, I suddenly got a stomach thing and had to leave work,” he laughs.

“Christian called?” I say, looking at my husband and back to Phil, who nods.

“He activated the contingency,” he adds.

“Without me?” Al says, also coming over and joining in the conversation.

“You were a bit detained, Mr. Forsythe-Fleming,” Christian excuses.

“I don’t want to hear it!” Al says flippantly. “God, I hate not being part of the conspiracy.”

“Steele,” Val chimes in with Elliot following her. “You got a little sister you never told me about?”

“Yeah, what’s up with Ana, Jr.?” Phil asks. “I thought I was seeing double for a minute… until I got a good look at her.” Maxie throws a knowing look at me and I wave her off.

“I certainly hope not,” I say with a shrug. It’s so damn unnerving to see so many people that look like me. Hell, my mother doesn’t even look like me—or I should say I don’t look like her. All I got was her hair… and her eyes, I think. God, I can’t even remember what color my mother’s eyes are. The siren wail of my son crying snaps me from my introspection.

“Don’t look now, but…” Phil points to Ana, Jr. and a screaming squirming Mikey in her arms, with her futilely attempting to calm him.

“Christian…” I say, my voice beseeching.

“Don’t worry, I got it,” he says. I watch as Christian makes his way over to Brian and… his girl. Mikey is feverishly reaching for his father on sight. Christian coos at Mikey, trying to calm him before rescuing him from the imposter—or maybe before rescuing the imposter from him—but Mikey can’t be calmed until he’s in Christian’s arms. Even while lying on Christian’s chest, he quietly babble-cries his protest of being handed to that woman. Good God, what the hell? It’s not that bad, Mikey.

“What is with all that performing?” I say to my son as Christian joins us, rubbing Mikey’s back and causing him to calm a bit. I see Brian out of my peripheral and, surprisingly, he’s not looking at me. He’s looking at Christian.

That’s a first.

Ana Jr., on the other hand, is looking a bit slighted.

“What is her name?” I whisper. He pauses.

“Sha…” he pauses again. “Shawna.”

“You had to think about it?” I ask, rubbing Mikey’s hair as he continues to whimper a bit.

“I don’t think about her much,” he says matter-of-factly. “Why would I let her name occupy mental real estate?” I nod. “Why did you want to know?”

“Because I keep calling her Ana, Jr., and it’s creeping me out. Her boyfriend didn’t bother introducing her to anybody. Who does that? And why are they even here? Did you invite them?” Christian shakes his head.

“My guess is that he heard about it from Ray,” Christian says. “I can understand him wanting to be here, but I have no idea why he brought her.” I raise my brow.

“She makes you uncomfortable,” I say.

 

“She makes me very uncomfortable,” he cedes.

“Why? Because she looks like me?”

“No, because of the implications of her looking like you. She looks so much like you that the Paparazzi could get a picture of her from a distance and think it’s you. So, here’s hoping that she’s as clean cut as she appears, because she could be trouble. She lives in the same state, for God’s sake.”

And suddenly, I’m wet.

“Oh, no,” I squeak. Christian looks over Mikey’s mop of hair and back at me.

“Crying baby,” I say, pointing to my leaking breasts. I hear Mandy laugh.

“I see you pointing at the food factory,” she says. “You need a shirt?”

“Yes, please, but duty calls first,” I say, pointing at my leaky jugs.

“Um, I don’t think…” Mandy does a circular gesture around her boobs, signaling that I’m probably going to be out of luck in the bra department.

“You got a sweatshirt?” I ask, and she nods. “I’ll be fine.”

We’re having this entire conversation in a room full of people. Ah, motherhood.

“I’ll take him,” I say, reaching for Mikey. Christian whines a bit at the thought of releasing him to me.

“Do you have milk in those?” I chastise, pointing at his pecks. He pouts and gently lifts Mikey off his shoulder. Mikey protests a bit but reaches out his grubby little hands when he sees that he’s being handed to me.

Then he quiets right down.

“I feel a bit slighted,” Christian complains.

“Oh, hush. He came to you first, and I have an advantage. Like I said, you don’t have milk in those things.” I stand on my tippy-toes and plant a quick kiss on his lips.

“Be right back after I feed our children,” I say.

“Okay, Butterfly.” I look around for Minnie and see that Gail has her and one of the diaper bags and she’s waiting for me.

“I’ll come with you,” Maxie says.

“Me, too,” Val chirps in, and I know they want to talk shit about Shawna. We all follow Mandy.

“I’ll have to set you up in our bedroom,” she says. “Harry’s asleep and not due to wake for another hour, but the commotion in the living room will wake him soon enough.” I nod. She has a small sitting area set up in their bedroom and I take a seat in one of the chairs while Gail settles into the other one and gets a bottle ready for Minnie. No sooner I open my shirt and Mikey is greedily pulling at my bra. He knows what’s under there.

“Settle down, you little monster,” I jest, quickly situating my nipple in his mouth. He hungrily slurps his lunch and I know that even though my boobs are full, they’ll both be empty in no time. “Geez, you’re worse than your father.”

“Too much information, Steele,” Val says. “Are you saying that he still indulges in the nipple even though you’re breastfeeding? I mean… does he drink it?” I now have the attention of every woman in the room.

“Like you said, Val, too much information,” I say, diverting the conversation from my boobs. Mandy laughs and hands me a large, clean sweatshirt.

“I’ll see you out there,” she says as she leaves the room. I turn back to Mikey who looks up at me with large, grateful gray eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” I say as I sit back in the seat.

“So, how long have you known about Ana, Jr.?” Val says. I shrug.

“Her name is Shawna—please stop calling her Ana, Jr. That shit is creeping me out,” I beseech them. “I seem to remember Christian saying something about her a while back, but you know my memory sucks and I only hold on to what’s important, so unfortunately, I don’t remember anything if he did tell me about her. But damn—this is some creepy Twilight Zone shit.”

“I’ll say,” Gail mumbles, and I think we weren’t supposed to hear her.

“Mikey sure as hell knew the difference,” I say looking down at my son. “He was having none of that shit when someone put him in her arms.”

“Didn’t that guy used to have a thing for you?” Maxie asks. “I seem to remember discussion about a terrible fight between him and Christian that landed them both in the hospital. Is this the same guy?”

“Same guy,” I say with a nod, trying not to show my discomfort.

“Don’t you think it’s a little… unsettling that he found someone that looks just like you? Not unsettling because she looks like you, but the fact that he found someone that looks just like you…”

“They’re both unsettling,” I reply. “Christian’s right. If he’s trying to recreate me in her, he’s in for a rude awakening because no two people are that much alike naturally. And I’ve already been through this with one psycho. I was chosen because I looked like someone else, so if she’s chosen because she looks like me…” I trail off.

“I take it nobody’s tried to talk to her,” Val asks.

“Nobody from my camp that I know of,” I respond. “If I know Christian, he’s said something to Brian and he’s just watching from afar. Why would he bring her here? To my father’s house? We’re celebrating my adoption. I barely want him here. Why would he think to bring her?”

“For moral support?” Maxie says.

“To show you that’s he’s moved on?” Val adds.

“Has he?” I squeak. “The girl is my goddamn twin! Is it really moving on if the person that you’re with looks just like the one that you left behind… supposedly?”

“Well,” Val interjects, “look at me. El’s my type. Most of the guys that I’ve dated pretty much look like him. All hot blondes, all pretty well-to-do and none owned sport cars. Maybe I’m not the best authority on this.”

“Yeah, same features, but none of the guys you’ve dated looked exactly alike, at least not while I’ve known you.” She shrugs.

“Yeah, there is that,” she concedes. I shake my head.

“He and Ray don’t see each other much. He probably just wanted his friend to meet his girl,” Maxie says, still playing devil’s advocate.

“This is my adoption,” I say, breaking Mikey’s suction on my now empty breast. Gail rises on cue. “He had to know I would be here. What did he expect—for me to say, ‘Hey, Dad, thanks for signing the papers. Bye now?’”

Gail swaps babies with me while I’m talking and begins to pat Mikey to get him to give up a burp while Minnie latches onto my other bulging tit.

“I know Christian didn’t tell him,” I continue, “so Daddy had to. It would have been awkward enough with just him showing up, but he brought a damn doppelganger to my adoption celebration!”

“Okay, so, just so I’m clear, are you upset that he’s here, that he brought a girl, or that the girl looks like you?” Val asks, bemused.

“The fact that he’s here and that he brought a girl that looks like me,” I answer. “The last time I saw that man, he thought it was a good idea to beat my husband until he literally couldn’t see and had to have his teeth fused. Believe me when I tell you that I couldn’t care less what that man does with his dick or who he does it with, but I do want to know what he’s trying to prove by bring that girl to my adoption.”

“I’m still not sure why you’re so upset,” Val says. “I can understand being perturbed by the whole thing, but you’re really pissed.”

“That’s because you’re missing two key words here. I keep saying them, but you keep missing them. My. Adoption. If it seems like I’m taking this personally, goddammit, I am! This is my celebration with my daddy. I can begrudgingly accept him showing up because he’s Daddy’s friend. I can’t and won’t condone him bringing an Ana-lookalike-doppelganger here during this time. The moment he discovered that this was going to be a party and not an intimate setting for him to introduce Daddy to his girlfriend, he should have excused himself and set a time for them to get together. He stayed because he knew it would unnerve me and it would unnerve Christian. I can shake my head and disapprove and judge how healthy or unhealthy his choice of woman is from afar. But when you invite yourself and her to my celebration and throw her in our faces knowing how we would react—yes, I’m pissed about that!”

Everyone in the room falls silent for a moment.

“Well, when you put it like that…” Val says and trails off. Finally! She gets it! This was a calculated move on that jerk’s part and nothing she can say can convince me otherwise.

“So, what now?” Maxie asks.

“I don’t know,” I reply. “I have nothing to say to either of them. I don’t believe for one second that she walked into this blind, so she’s just as guilty as he is as far as I’m concerned. Then she has the nerve to try to hold my damn baby…” I trail off angrily. I don’t know what’s irritating me so badly about the situation. All I know is that I wish they would both just leave.

It’s time to change the subject.

“Are you getting settled into the office okay?” I ask Maxie. She raises her brow at me.

“I had never been to your office,” she says. “I had no idea how ‘pimped out’ it was!” I laugh.

“It’s not pimped out. You’re just accustomed to the offices at the family center,” I tell her.

“Well, it’s pimped out to me. We never decided on rent.” I shrug.

“I don’t know what to charge a friend. Make me an offer.” She twists her lips.

“A beautiful office near downtown and you don’t know what to charge?” she asks.

“ A wonderful friend and mentor who was my therapist for many years and several times kept me from leaping off the proverbial cliff? No, I don’t,” I reply matter-of-factly. She makes that face where you tighten your chin.

“Well, since you put it that way,” she says, “I do some research on the rents in the area.”

“Good, then cut it in half.” She twists her lips at me. “Family and friends discount,” I add.

“Fine,” she says begrudgingly.

*-*

Once Minnie and Mikey have been fed, burped, changed and put down for a nap, the girls rejoin the party as I sneak off to the laundry room to wash my blouse and bra. God, my tits feel so much better now that they’re empty! Jesus, these jugs are getting out of hand!

As I’m about to step out of the laundry room, I hear voices and peak out to see who’s there. Brian and Shawna are having a not-so-pleasant conversation in the hallway that leads from the kitchen to the laundry room.

Shit. Trapped.

“They hate me!” Shawna says, her voice low and sharp. “They all hate me. Even the baby hates me! Did you see how he screamed? Babies love me, and he screamed!”

“They don’t hate you, Sha,” Brian says. “They just don’t know you…”

“I don’t want to know any of them!” she retorts. “They’re all ‘one big happy,’ and I’m some intruder that comes in looking like their diamond child. Most of them started talking to me thinking I was her. One guy turned fifty shades of pale when he discovered that he was talking to the wrong person! Why did you bring me here?”

“Because you’re an important part of my life and I wanted you to meet Ray, who’s also an important part of my life.”

“Why did we have to come today?” she whines. “Why couldn’t we come up on the weekend or something?”

“Believe it or not, I was trying to avoid running into the family!” he defends. “Who the hell would expect the whole damn clan to be here on a goddamn Monday morning?”

I can tell that he was talking more to himself than to Shawna when he asked the question.

“It’s an adoption, Bri,” Shawna says, pointing out the obvious. “It’s a family affair.”

“Yeah, but I know Ray. I know they probably had lunch or something planned just for him and his daughter. Then he would come back here, or even go to work, and Mandy would have called him and told him that we were here. Then he would have come back and we all would have relaxed and chewed the fat. But of course, Grey…”

He trails off. Oh, no. Don’t act like it’s my husband’s fault that you brought the Counterfeit Contessa here and we didn’t welcome her with open arms.

“When can we leave?” she pouts. “Ray and Amanda are the only ones who have been nice to me. Everybody else is looking at me like an alien—when they’re not mistaking me for her. Unlike the rest of the female population of Washington, I have no desire to be Anastasia Grey!”

Well! Don’t get all hissy about it. You’re in my father’s house, and nobody’s stopping you from leaving.

“I don’t want to be rude,” Brian says, matter-of-factly. “We’ll leave right after lunch. Can you tolerate that?” I hear her sigh loudly.

“When we get home, I’m cutting my hair and dyeing it red!” Shawna declares.

“Baby, you could shave it bald. I wouldn’t care. I’d still love you,” Brian says. I roll my eyes. Oh, good grief. It would be cute… if it were anybody else.

“Stop being sweet,” she pouts. “I’m still not comfortable here at all.”

“I know, baby. I’m sorry,” and he sounds sincere. I wait for a minute or two after there’s silence in the hallway to poke my head out.

The coast is clear. Thank God!

I go into the kitchen with Ms. Solomon and the staff, doing the final preparations on the meal.

“Can I help?” I ask. The room falls silent for a moment, then Ms. Solomon engages.

“Mrs. Grey, this is your lunch… you and your father…”

“I’d be eternally grateful if you would allow me to help with something—anything, instead of going through that door right now.” She raises her eyes.

“She’s unnerving, isn’t she?” Ms. Solomon asks, and I don’t even try to deny it.

“More than you can imagine,” I say, commandeering Mandy’s apron and waiting for instructions. Ms. Solomon hands me a knife.

“There’s nothing left to do but the salad,” she says, pointing to a huge mountain of vegetables.

“Thank you,” I reply, “Leave it to me…”

By the time I’m done, I’ve created three beautiful salads in about fifteen minutes… one Greek, one Caesar, and one antipasto.

“You’ve been holding out on me!” Ms. Solomon says. “I had no idea you had this kind of skill. And that knife! The staff was afraid to come near you!” I laugh.

“Before we had a staff, I had that gourmet kitchen built for me,” I confess.

“Nothing left to do but serve,” she says. I sigh.

“I’ll take the salads out and go sit down,” I say. I take two of the large salads and one of the other servers grabs the third. When we enter the dining room, Christian immediately spots me.

“Lunch is ready,” I announce, placing the two large salads in the middle of Mandy’s formal dining table.

“That’s where you got off to,” Christian says, leading the charge into the dining room. “I didn’t even see you go in there.”

“Nobody did,” I say, keeping my eyes on the salad while arranging them on the table. “I just wanted to help out.” Christian looks knowingly at me. “I hope you don’t mind, Mandy. I borrowed your apron.”

“Not at all, whatever makes you feel happy,” she replies. The staff begins to fill the table with the hot food and sets everything up buffet style since there’s really no formal seating. Everyone begins to dig in and I, for some reason, am still organizing things on the table—removing dishes as they’re emptied and helping the staff refill platters with more food, helping with drinks…

“You really should sit. This is your celebration after all.”

I turn to see that nearly everyone has left the table and is sitting somewhere with a plate of food—everyone except me, that is, and the voice that’s telling me to sit is Brian’s.

“I will,” I say, even more feverishly cleaning and adjusting things on the table. “In the meantime, go, eat.” Shoo, for Christ’s sake. You’re making this awkward enough just being here.

“I didn’t get a chance to congratulate you,” he says, still trying to make small talk. “Ray is very happy. He was like a kid at Christmas when you suggested it.” Oh, dear Lord.

“Yeah, I’m happy, too. It should’ve happened years ago,” I reply, trying not to be rude.

“Has your mother called?” he continues. “How does she feel about it?” Just as I’m about to respond…

“Wrong woman,” Christian says, appearing behind me. Brian raises his eyes.

“You’re awfully paranoid, aren’t you, Christian?” Brian says.

“No, I’m not,” Christian replies. “You told me to stay out of your business, and I have. This…” He puts his hand on my shoulder, “… is not your business. This is mine. Yours is over there.” He points to Shawna, tucked away in a corner talking to Mandy. “I just thought you might have gotten them confused.”

“You’re still stuck on that?” Brian taunts.

“Is everything okay, guys?” Daddy asks, noting the tension between Brian and Christian even though there are no raised voices.

“Oh, yeah, everything’s fine,” Christian says. “We were just discussing the uncanny resemblance between our significant others.”

Oh, shit. There’s the fucking gauntlet. The room falls silent, and there’s that mouse pissing on cotton.

“You really want to do this now, Grey?” Brian threatens.

“I’m not doing anything, Brian,” Christian says. “We struck a deal, and you’re breaking it right now. You said stay away from you and stay out of your business and I am. The same goes for you… she’s over there,” he repeats pointing to Shawna.

You can see the fury rising in Brian’s face. Christian hasn’t really done anything wrong, but you can clearly see that Brian feels violated by the announcement.

“You did that deliberately to make my girlfriend uncomfortable,” Brian accuses.

“Are you blind?” Christian asks. “That poor girl was uncomfortable when Mikey started screaming in her arms. I simply thought you just may have mistaken my wife for her since you have absolutely no business with my wife, so I was just pointing you in the right direction.” Brian’s face is getting redder and redder by the second and his ears look like they’re just going to melt off his head. That’s when Elliot steps into the conversation.

“Look, dude,” Elliot says, “I don’t know you. I don’t know anything about you and I don’t mean you any offense, but it’s the elephant in the room, man. Ask her, half of us started talking to her thinking she was Montana. She’s a beautiful girl, but she looks like Montana.”

Brian frowns at Elliot, probably because he doesn’t know who the hell Montana is, but you can tell that he’s still furious and wants his pint of flesh. So, he turns around and looks at my father.

“Do you know about his lifestyle?” Brian says aloud to my father. “Do you know what they do—what he does to your daughter?”

What the fuck?? This is the same shit that happened that day years ago at the Greys—the same fucking shit! It’s Elena Lincoln all back over again. I’m horrified.

“Yes, Brian, I do know,” my father says, stone-faced. “My daughter told me awhile back. She tells me everything.” Well, maybe not everything, but he knows about this. Brian’s eyes widen and Daddy sighs.

“You’re my friend, Brian, and I miss you terribly, but it wasn’t your place to make that announcement in front of a room full of people. Christian didn’t do anything foul. He didn’t reveal any of your secrets or expose you in any way. He made a statement of fact… she looks like my daughter.”

Brian deflates immediately, and Shawna looks completely mortified.

“You’re right,” Brian says, his voice somber. “I’m sorry.” He looks over at me and Christian. “Really, I’m sorry.”

Christian squeezes my arms and I just drop my gaze.

“I knew about your feelings for my daughter long before you told me about them, but I thought it was just a crush. The fact that you know this much about her private life tells me that it’s much more than that,” Daddy accuses.

“It was,” Brian admits. “I wanted to be sure that she was safe, that she wasn’t doing anything against her will… that she was happy… and yes, at one point, I wanted her for myself, but that’s not the case anymore.”

“Isn’t it?” Daddy accuses, gesturing to Shawna, who shrinks a bit. I can see her in my mind’s eye making an appointment with a hairdresser before they even leave Seattle. She’ll be a ginger in no time.

“No, Ray, it’s not, I swear,” Brian says. “I’ll admit that I was initially drawn to Shawna because of her physical appearance, but that’s because she’s my type. And she already knows that she reminded me of Ana when I first met her—I was completely open and honest with her about that. But these two women are only physically similar. They couldn’t be more different. I love Shawna because of the woman that she is, not because of how much like Ana she looks. Believe me, Ray, had I known that it was going to be a big family party, I would have planned my visit differently—showed up later maybe…”

“I think that’s a good idea,” Daddy says, and Brian freezes. “I want to catch up with you. I want to get to know Shawna better, but now isn’t the time. Whatever the current situation is between you and my daughter and her husband, you all don’t mix well together. It’s bad news when you’re all in the same room. Why don’t you go back to your hotel and we can all meet for dinner—just like old times, just… with our ladies, okay?” Brian smiles.

“That’s sounds great,” he says to my father. They shake hands and hug. Shawna has abandoned her conversation and her lunch and joined Brian. When Daddy and Brian release, Daddy leans down and kisses Shawna chastely on the cheek while holding her forearms, causing her to sink a bit in relief, and Brian turns to me and Christian, his lips forming a thin line.

I feel like Christian now. I just want him to leave us alone, forever. If you’re happy with Shawna, be happy with Shawna, and just leave us alone.

Instead, he makes his way over to us. Christian immediately grasps my arms with both hands.

“I really am sorry,” Brian says to me as he approaches us. I turn my head. Jesus, I don’t even know what to say to this man. “Really, man, I am,” he adds.

“We heard you,” Christian says, his voice crisp. Brian lingers for a few moments more before walking back over to Shawna and Daddy. They exchange words that I can’t hear. Then he kisses Mandy on the cheek, exchanging words with her as well before taking Shawna’s hand and leading her to the door. I turn around and face Christian.

“He’s going to retaliate,” I say, dismally.

“I don’t think so,” he replies. “He knows that if he hurts me, he’ll hurt you, Ray, our children… He’s a selfish bastard, but I really don’t think he wants to do that.” I sigh and lay my head on his chest as he wraps his arms around me.

“I hope you’re right,” I respond.

Time stands still for a moment or two, or five, or ninety, as I contemplate what could be in store for my family at the hands of a slighted Brian Cholometes. I watch in somewhat suspended animation as Christian makes his way over to Daddy and they have a conversation, no doubt about what just transpired. I wrap my arms around my body, using my hands to try to warm myself from the chill that has come over me. I don’t even see Maxie when she comes over to me.

“Jesus, Ana, what was that all about?” I turn an uncertain gaze to her. I don’t know what to tell her, but I know what I’m not telling her. Her brown furrows.

“What was Brian talking about?” she asks, her voice serious. “What did he mean by what he does to your daughter?

And there’s the Maxine that showed up at my house with the court order to have me committed when I was catatonic. Oh, hell no—no time for weakness now. I pull myself up to my full height, ready to face off with my friend if I must.

“I’m. Not. Talking about it,” I say, my voice controlled. “It’s my personal business, and the fact that he blurted it out without my permission doesn’t mean that I have to disclose it to anybody.” Maxie examines me for a moment.

“Duly noted,” she says coolly. “Can I please just ask you one question?”

“I can’t guarantee I’m going to answer it,” I reply.

“You’re not being hurt or abused, are you?” she asks. “You’re not doing anything against your will?”

“That’s two questions, and I’ll answer them both. Absolutely not. Father of my children, husband, money, good looks—none of that matters. I would never stay in a position like that. I work at a battered women’s shelter, for God’s sake!” Maxie nods quickly.

“I know. I know. I know Christian wouldn’t hurt you like that. He loves you too much. It’s just… you’re my friend and I get kind of blind to logic when… you know what I mean.” My defense mechanism releases and my guard drops back to normal. I touch her arm.

“Yes, Maxie, I know what you mean,” I reply, softly.

“Besides,” she adds, “your Marine dad would have killed him by now. If it’s okay with Ray, I guess it should be okay with me.”

And just like that, the mood lightens.

I try to enjoy the rest of the celebration, playing silly games with my father and family, eating the good food prepared by my staff. Grace excuses herself and goes back to Helping Hands right after lunch and the rest of the party starts to dwindle as the afternoon moves on. I wanted to see what kind of progress there was on my office but decide against it.

When it’s time to go, Gail and Keri go to gather the twins and I get a little bit of playtime with my little brother who finally decided to join us. When he grows weary of his big sister, I go to retrieve my bra and shirt from the laundry. Once I’ve changed and dropped Mandy’s sweatshirt into the hamper, I swipe the screen on my phone. I know his number is the same, so I text him.

**We won’t bother you. We’ll leave you alone, I promise. Please, leave us alone. **

I press my phone to my chest, sending up a silent prayer that nothing befalls me and my family because Brian feels slighted. I never wanted him. I never even led him on. I feel that I shouldn’t have come to him when I needed help. I never should have let him in or given him any opportunity to be a part of my life at all. While I’m lost in my lamenting, I get a text that puts my fears to rest.

**Okay. Be happy. **


CHRISTIAN

Hearing that Cholometes intends to leave my family alone last night was music to my fucking ears. I don’t have to be in the guy’s business; he’s not that important to me. My only concern is that he doesn’t sneak in when I’m not looking and launch an attack on my wife. Because he doesn’t matter, I’ll stay out of his business. Because I don’t trust him, I’m still keeping an eye on him.

My wife was remiss to tell me that she had texted him after the “Seeing Double Scandal” at her father’s house, and I could see why. There are just too many ways that situation could have played out, especially after that semi-threatening email he sent to her after his last visit. That fell dead in the water, thank God, but I still can’t help but feel like there was an ulterior motive for him bringing that Ana Twin to Ray’s house.

So, I’m keeping an eye on him.

The time difference in England made it impossible to know what time was good to call John. So, I decided to forego my morning run to get in touch with him.

“I loved it there. Now, not so much. It’s not like my son is Typhoid Mary. They know what this is… America just didn’t know what it was at first, and now, they do.”

“I understand how you feel, John, but leaving the country completely? Is that smart? What about your citizenship and that of your family?”

“It’s a bit of a mess with the visas unless we want to relinquish our U.S. citizenship. I’m sure that Rhian doesn’t want that. I could honestly go either way. England is my home, so I don’t have the same trouble with immigration that they do, and I was never naturalized, so I didn’t give up my English citizenship.” I frown.

“You’ve been here all this time on a visa?” I ask.

“They wanted me to denounce my English citizenship. I wouldn’t do it,” he replies.

“So, what you’re saying is that your family would live indefinitely on visas there in England like you did here.”

“It depends on what we decide to do, but yes. As long as Rhian can prove that she won’t be a financial burden, they can all stay here indefinitely as long as we renew their visas. And to be honest, the school system here is looking better than the US. The children get more physical activity during the day. They look forward to going to school… I’m just quite disenchanted with the States at the moment, Christian. I’ve decided that we’re going to stay here right now for at least a year. I hate to leave Grace and my patients in such a bad position, but as you know, family comes first.”

“You don’t have to explain that to me, John,” I assure him. “You’ve just given me and my family a reason to visit England.” He chuckles.

“How’s married life treating you?” he probes. “You’re not my patient anymore, so I’m no longer privy to these little intimate details.” I sigh.

“It’s an experience,” I admit. “Some days, it’s the most wonderful thing in the world. Other days, I sit back and wonder what the hell I’ve gotten myself into. And the twins…!” I trail off.

“Oh, yes! Marriage and fatherhood all in the same year! I forgot about that,” he declares.

“I certainly didn’t!” I exclaim. “I watched my wife scold my daughter for the first time this weekend and it was fucking torture! She literally threatened my life if I interfered!”

“She threatened your life?” John laughs shamelessly. “Tell me that’s a joke!”

“It’s not!” I confirm. “I tried to comfort my child and she told me to leave her alone or she would kill me!” John laughs loudly and freely into the phone. “I’m so glad you’re enjoying this.”

“In my professional opinion,” he chuckles, “you and Ana sound like you’re right on track with this marriage/parenthood thing.” I sigh.

“I don’t know,” I admit. “We’ve had some pretty big bumps as of late.” John’s laughter fades.

“Anything you wish to discuss?” John asks. “Not as your shrink—as your friend who happens to be a shrink.” I sigh again. How would Butterfly feel about this? The truth is that I need all the help I can get, and he is my friend. Differing viewpoints may actually help, and if I can’t get a handle on my role in Butterfly’s mood changes and developments, I’m going to consult Ace for some additional guidance.

“You don’t mind?” I ask, cautiously. I did fire the man after all.

“Like I said, we’re friends. I won’t even start the clock on you…”

I talk to John for two full hours, spilling my guts about every little thing that’s bothering me, every little kink in the armor that is our marriage—my massive fuck-ups; the whole broken trust issue between me and Butterfly; my wife’s bipolar-type reactions to bad situations… one moment she’s all Zen and the next moment it’s the apocalypse. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m coming or going. We switch roles at the drop of a dime where she has to hold everything together and I’m falling apart—like Detroit—or I have to be the pillar and she’s falling off into the pit of oblivion—like Sunday and the viewing session.

Luckily for me, John wore the friend hat more than he wore the shrink hat, although he did wear the shrink hat. I needed them both. Jason fills one of those roles while Dr. Baker fills the other, but I really needed them both to help me get back on track with what I need to do to constructively and effectively deal with the varying situations involving my wife and myself. It’s ironic that I called to check on John trying to help him and he ended up helping me.

I send my beautiful wife and our adorable children off to Helping Hands while I head into the office to catch up on whatever I may have missed on this super-long weekend. Capito is trying to discredit me among businesses in Madrid, so I assume that the government or someone higher up may be getting a cut of his human trafficking operation since nothing has been done about it yet. Maybe a different approach is needed…

“What has come from the Capito situation?” I ask Alex. “He’s spreading false propaganda about me abroad and I need it nipped. I have some business deals in the works in Madrid and I don’t need him pissing on them if it can be avoided.”

“It can be avoided. Let me make some calls and see what progress there is. These things take time, unfortunately, but I’m sure there are some fires I can light,” Alex responds.

“Good, the sooner, the better.” I end the call and proceed through the massive amount of emails that have accumulated over the last few days. It’s amazing to me that one person can accumulate hundreds of emails per day. Even with my sorting function, I still have to try to review each email to see if there’s something that went to junk mail that shouldn’t have.

“Sir…” Andrea’s disembodied voice from the intercom interrupts my review just after noon.

“Yes?’

“I have Terry Smalls on line three. He’s in charge of organizing the items in your grandfather’s storage facility in Detroit. He insists on speaking to you now. He says it’s urgent.” Oh, fuck. What’s in the goddamn storage facility?

“Thanks, Andrea.” I pick up the call on three. “Grey.”

“Mr. Grey, this is Terry Smalls, sir. I’m managing the team that’s organizing the contents of your grandfather’s storage unit.”

“Yes, Mr. Smalls, what can I do for you?” I ask.

“I just want to apprise you of a couple of developments, the first of which is that each box has a label that indicates its contents can be identified by a log on file in the management office. None of us are authorized to access any records in the management office, so I was wondering if you could make a call and tell them that I can take a look at that log. It would cut our work time loading, unloading, and at the warehouse more than in half and it will also alert us ahead of time if there’s anything particularly fragile in any of the boxes.” I nod.

“Excellent news. I’ll have my uncle call the storage facility as soon as possible. We may be spared from opening many of those boxes before we ship them back to Seattle.” Some of them may not have to be shipped at all if Uncle Herman decides to allow Uncle Stan to keep some of it, which I know that he will.

“You said a couple of developments. Are there more?”

“One more, sir. As we started to remove the higher levels of boxes, we realized that they’re stacked to the ceiling, but they’re only three layers deep. The storage facility isn’t full of boxes.”

“Well, that’s good news,” I say. “It wasn’t as full as we thought it was.”

“No, it’s full, it’s just not full of boxes.” I frown.

“What do you mean?” I press.

“Well, after the boxes, there’s some furniture—real antique valuable stuff… and a car.” Huh?

“You mean, model cars, right?” He must be talking about the model set that Pops was giving to Dad.

“Um, no sir, I mean a car—an automobile, a classic Mustang from what I can see.”

“What?” I exclaim. “What kind of condition is it in?”

“Well, it’s under a tarp, but if the tires and the part of the bumper that I can see is any indication, it’s been restored.” Fuck me.

“A classic Mustang. Fuck…” I hear someone call Terry’s name in the background.

“I’m on the phone with the boss!” he shouts back to whomever is calling him.

“Then you might want to tell him to hold on and come look at this. We might have some more news for him.” Shit, what the hell now?

I hear rustling and jingling, like the clatter of keys.

“You’re shitting me,” I hear Smalls say.

“Smalls?” I call out, but he doesn’t answer. I hear wind and movement, like he’s walking. “Smalls?” Still no answer. Guess I’ll just have to wait. A few moments later, he comes back on the line.

“We may have another… Oh, hell.”

“Um, that’s not a good sound, Smalls,” I warn.

“Sir, if your Uncle has the authority to speak to the management here, please tell him to find out exactly how many storage bins your grandfather has. We found at least two more.” Oh, dear God.

“Two… are they full?” I ask. I listen as I hear the sound of a rolling door opening.

“More antique furniture, sir, really high-end stuff from what I can tell… and yes, this one is full. We have to figure out where the third one is, but it would help if we had authority to speak in detail to management.” I sigh.

“I’m on it. Tell your guys to take a break or something and let me call my uncle. Give me your direct number.” I end the call with Smalls and immediately call Uncle Herman.

“Christian, hey. How’s the move going?” he answers.

“That’s why I’m calling you, Uncle,” I begin. “It appears that there’s more than one storage bin down there…”

“I knew it!” he interrupts. “I knew it! Unless he got rid of a whole lot, I knew all of Dad’s stuff couldn’t fit in that one storage bin.”

“Well, there are two more that we know of, and my people have only found one… and Uncle Herman, there’s a car in the first one.” Silence.

“A car?!” he exclaims. “You mean like a real life, living, breathing automobile?” Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but…

“According to my staff, we were looking at a few rows of stacked boxes hiding a restored classic Mustang.”

“Shit… he did it. I didn’t think he would do it, but he did,” Uncle Herman says.

“Who did what?” I ask.

“My dad wanted a classic Mustang,” he says. “I knew he had been looking at one that was in the process of being restored years ago, but I didn’t know that he bought it.” I nod as if he could see me.

“Well, he bought it, and it’s in that storage facility. My people found a second—lots of antique furniture—and mentioned that there’s a third. I don’t know how they located keys, I didn’t get that far. My guy also says that there’s some kind of itemized list filed with management, but that he doesn’t have access to it, so he needs you to call them and see if he can get a copy of it.”

“Well, they already have my authority on file down there. I faxed them my documents yesterday. I’ll give them a call. What’s your guy’s name?”

“Terry Smalls.” Once I give him Terry’s number, I call Terry back.

“Terry Smalls here,” he answers.

“Smalls, my uncle is calling the management office now, so you may want to go on over there. I’ve given him your number as well in case he needs to talk to you. His name is Herman Grey. Keep me abreast of any further developments.” And speaking of developments…

“Sir…” Andrea’s voice interrupts me again.

“Smalls, I have to go. Keep me informed.”

“Yes, sir.” We end the call. “Yes, Andrea?”

“Sir, I have Antamonides Capito on the line. He’s quite perturbed and he’s being very insistent and belligerent.” That was fast.

“Is he now?” I say, showing little interest. “What line is he on?”

“Line one, sir.” She sounds exasperated.

“Thank you. Leave him there.”

“Sir?” Now, she’s bemused.

“Leave him there. See how long he holds. Let me know when he disconnects and if he calls back, put him on hold the moment you hear his voice.” There’s a pause.

“Yes, sir.”

I’ll talk to him… when I’m ready. This immediate call at nearly 11pm Madrid time means that Alex has hit a soft spot hard proving once again just how valuable he is. So, I’m going to let the asshole squirm for a bit. I hope he was fucking when he got the call.

I take my time reviewing two more acquisitions that we have on the table. I even have a meeting with Ros and Lorenz about our other Spanish deals while the fucker calls me five more times this afternoon. Ros questions what’s going on.

“Capito is trying to spread venom on my name with other companies in Madrid. I can’t just come out and say that he’s into illegal activities without endless repercussion… possible slander suits, dangerous consequences for myself and others—including quickly eliminating inventory, if you know what I mean…” Ros shivers.

“So, what has him calling like a desperate housewife searching for a wayward husband?” Lorenz asks.

“Our head of security has amazing connections,” I inform him. “Sometimes, you have to pluck a few cock feathers to show him that he’s still nothing more than a chicken.” Lorenz stifles a laugh and Ros just shakes her head.

And Capito calls again.

*-*

Ch 50 Capito

Antamonides Capito

“It’s the end of my day and I’m leaving my office to join my family. What do you want?”

Around five thirty when I’m ready to go home, I finally take Capito’s call, nearly four hours—and nine attempts—after his first call.

“You Americans think you are so smart, so invincible—your so-called power means nothing to Madrid!” he hisses into the line.

“Then why are you calling me?” I taunt. “It appears that we have nothing to discuss.”

“You know people in high places,” he replies. “I know people in high places, too.”

“And apparently, some of those people have been talking to you, haven’t they, Capito?”

“Do not push me, Mr. Grey. You do not know how far my reach is.”

“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong,” I correct him, having gotten updated intelligence from Alex earlier this afternoon. I’ve got this fucker by the balls and he doesn’t even know it, but he’s about to.

“I know about your extracurricular activities, Mr. Capito, and I now know who your associates are. I know why you didn’t want to release and why you didn’t want me to visit Albien Textiles, and now you know why I chose not to do business with you. I tried to walk away quietly, but you threw down the gauntlet. My wealth is my reputation, and I refuse to let some small-time, wannabe thug dabbling in illegal activities of which he has no full comprehension start badmouthing me in the Madrid market because I wouldn’t play in his little sandbox!”

Capito is silent. I can almost hear the shock and awe on his face through the phone.

“I may not know who all you’re dancing with, Capito, but trust me—I’m familiar with your most prevalent bedfellows. And I know that a few extra dollars means nothing to them in comparison to the risk of exposure. Am I right?” More silence.

“Name your price,” he says flatly. Foolish little Spanish man…

“I don’t have a price, Capito, only a demand. Stay. The Fuck. Out of my affairs. And keep my name out of your mouth or you will find out just how powerful this American really is.”

“Sí, señor,” he says, after a pause.

“And in case you get any ideas, if anything befalls me or my family, I’m holding you personally responsible. I’ve already got documents and contingency plans in place in the event of my disappearance or sudden demise. If they’re implemented, there’s nowhere in the world that you would be able to hide from the authorities or your associates, including your panic cave in the Congo.” I hear him gasp.

“How did…?” He catches himself before he finishes his question. “Sí, señor.”

“You and I have no business, Capito. Walk away. Don’t speak of me again and don’t contact me again, unless you’re declaring war. And believe me, I’m prepared for it.” I end the call before he’s able to give me another “Sí, señor.”

I’m exhausted. Smalls informed me that they’re cataloguing all the antique furniture and he’ll contact me tomorrow with a detailed list to find out what we want to do with it. I’ll ask Butterfly if she wants anything, but I doubt it. I’m sure Uncle Herman will want to split it between the family members that want it—except Freeman. I close my laptop and rub my eyes. I don’t want to go to bed early tonight, but it may be in the cards for me. I’m beat.

Jason meets me in the lobby and as we’re heading to the parking garage, an official-looking gentleman standing by a black Mercedes parked in front of my building catches my attention. My brow furrows and I get Jason’s attention.

“What’s this?” I say gesturing to the front door. Jason looks, then speaks into his earpiece.

“Vic, J.R., come with me,” he says, and two of the security staff behind the desk rise. The three of them walk out the front door and Jason approaches the guard standing near the car. He doesn’t appear to be engaging Jason at all… which means that Jason isn’t who he’s looking for.

He’s looking for someone else… at this hour, probably me.

“Oh, dear God,” I say, stepping behind the wall near the information desk. I press a code into the wall and duck into a door there. Having practiced this many times, I’ve got this routine down to less than a minute. I remove my coat and jacket and quickly don a bullet-proof vest with a built-in holster. Since my Glock is in the locked glovebox, I retrieve one of the M9 Berettas from the security arsenal and quickly load a magazine in it. After putting it in the holster, I put my coat back on and walk out the front door.

“Sir!” Jason says in surprise when he hears the doors open. The guard at the car moves towards the door and every person on my staff reaches inside their coats. I stand still waiting to see who’s in the car. I’m stunned nearly to silence by who steps out the back seat.

“Mr. Grey,” he says, gesturing to the door. “Join me.” You have got to be fucking kidding me! Will this goddamn day never fucking end?

“Oh, hell, no!” I declare. “Shoot me now!”


A/N: Now, the question is… who the hell did Christian see?

I’m aware that the person that I chose to represent Capito is not Spanish, but that’s my choice—because I hated that guy in John Wick 2.

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 in the menu our you can click HERE.

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 ~~love and handcuffs