Raising Grey: Chapter 57—A Whole Lotta Doors Openin’

Many of you may not know this, but I lost the use of my right hand for about a week. It was a terrifying experience, but believe it or not, my biggest concern (not the only concern, but the biggest) was that I wouldn’t be able to write anymore. I soon found out that wouldn’t be an issue even without the use of my right hand, but thank God, 95% of the function has come back. Thank you to those of you who knew and expressed concern. I really appreciate it.

So, I may have been a bit unclear in the last chapter. Christian wants Ana to redo his office at home, not at GEH. He was using his office at GEH as an example, because it has glass walls and is mostly white and there’s a lot of light in there. His office at home is very dark, very oxford, and very cave-like, and he wants her to brighten it up like she did hers—but maybe not as bright.

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 57—A Whole Lotta Doors Openin’

CHRISTIAN

“Have you heard anything from your ex?” I ask Harmony, knowing but not revealing that Butterfly paid him a visit last week.

“No,” she admits, “which is a good thing. We would only fight since we have nothing else to discuss. I’ve got enough on my plate these days. The housekeeper and the cook said that Roger tried to call and get some information on what was going on.”

“What did they tell him?” I inquire.

“Nothing,” she says. “They don’t like him either.” I nod.

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” I say. My phone buzzes and it’s a text from Lanie.

**Burtie’s stoked about the car. Sweet ride! Where did you find it and how much? **

“Lanie’s texting me about the T-bird,” I tell Dad. He frowns.

Lanie?” I raise my head.

“Nollie.” His mouth forms the “ah” word.

“I keep forgetting.” I turn my attention back to my phone.

“Excuse me for a moment,” I say as I shoot a text back to her.

**It’s free. It was Pops’ car and Uncle Herman and the brothers want to give it to Burtie. **

I’ve already excused myself, so I step out of the conference room and dial Lanie’s number.

“Does it run?” she asks when she answers the phone.

“Look at it!” I reply. “What do you think?”

“Who’s going to drive it out here?”

“I don’t want to put cross-country mileage on a car like that. He can if he wants to, but we won’t. We’ll have it shipped with the others.”

“Others?” she asks.

“There are three more—all classics. Dad’s getting one and Uncle Herman, so we’re shipping those two out here. The Mustang is staying in Detroit with Uncle Stan.” After a pause, she asks,

“So, they each got a car. I take it this was supposed to be my sperm-donor’s car.” I almost choke on air hearing her call Freeman her “sperm donor.”

“The brothers decided that this was the car that Freeman would have wanted the most,” I confirm.

“Stellar!” she exclaims “This is going to burn his butt so badly. Burtie will love that!”

“How is he doing?” I ask. She sighs.

“He’s better… still dealing with some anger and disappointment, and the scars don’t help. He’s scheduled to have the first of three reconstructive surgeries just after Thanksgiving. I suggested that he wait until after Christmas, but he just wants to get it done.”

“His father deserves to rot for that,” I seethe.

“On that, we agree, cousin,” she concurs.

“How’s Leo?” her tone changes immediately. I can almost see the sparkles in her eyes through the phone.

“Wonderful as always,” she exalts. “I don’t know how I ended up with such a wonderful man, but I’m glad I did. He’s looking out for Mom so well, and you know she’s still dealing with her feelings for my lecherous, no good, vicious, cheating father. I mean, really, it’s bad enough that he’s a horrible person all around and that he looked down on her, but to cheat on her, too? It’s probably best that I never see him again because I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

“Well, just stay out of Detroit. God knows I do,” I add. I see Al step off the elevator and I know it’s time to get back to Harmony.

“I’ve got a meeting to get back to. I’ll make arrangements for the shipping right away. Text me an address.”

“You got it.” We end the call as Al approaches.

“Chris,” he greets. “Let’s get this party started.”

“Do you know you’re the only person who regularly calls me Chris?” I say as we walk to the conference room.

Aunt Tina and her attorney are on Skype on a large monitor on the wall when we enter the room and Harmony is talking about the way the house is being run—how much more peaceful things are now that Roger is gone and how even the staff seems happier with Windsor.

“You can’t keep my butler,” I interject, and everyone chuckles a bit.

“Harmony will be making the decisions on the staff from now on,” Aunt Tina says. She looks at ease, more at ease than I’ve seen her in the last few days—probably because that dreadful buzzing isn’t in her ears anymore. “Christian, this is my attorney and old friend, Carl Richardson. Carl, this is a very close friend of my family, Christian Grey.”

“Mr. Grey, a real pleasure,” Richardson says. He’s a much older gentleman, obviously an Oxford blueblood or some other Ivy league type who only has clients like Aunt Tina, and not because he needs the money.

“The pleasure is mine, Mr. Richardson,” I reply. “You know Harmony, and if you haven’t met, this is my father Carrick Grey. He’ll be representing Harmony in the divorce.

“We’ve met,” Richardson replies. “In court… kicked my ass once or twice,” he jests.

“You’ve given me a run for my money, Carl,” Dad responds mirthfully. Whew! At least that relationship is cordial.

“And this is my friend and the head of my legal department, Allen Forsythe-Flemings.”

“Ah, new blood,” Richardson says. “Very nice to meet you, Mr. Forsythe-Flemings. I dabbled here and there in the law of the concrete jungle. How’s the corporate world these days?”

“Cutthroat as ever, Mr. Richardson,” Al replies, with a nod.

“I see no harm in dropping the formalities,” Richardson says. “We’re all on the same team. Is that okay with you gentlemen?” Al nods and I concur.

“Yes, sir, I think that would be just fine,” I reply.

“Good. Now, let’s get to the business at hand. I hope you all don’t mind, but I don’t mince words and Tina’s well aware of that. We’ve got quite a bit of ground to cover and not a lot of time to do it. Tina has five living children, including Harmony, 17 grand-children, and innumerable great-grandchildren because she hasn’t even met them all. Her parents and siblings have all passed on. She was diagnosed with cancer years ago and it became aggressive within the last 18 months. Since the diagnosis, she has seen each child once except for Harmony who kept in touch when she left home and eventually became her caretaker and Ilsa, who visited her twice, once to request a loan that she yet to repay.

“Tina doesn’t have much time left now. None of us know exactly how much, but she has made it clear that she wants to live these last days in comfort without having to worry about her assets.”

Harmony wipes a tear from her eye from the reference to Aunt Tina’s death and Tina nods gently, signaling Carl to continue.

“Her will is complete and will be filed with probate court after this meeting. Through a court injunction that will be served in the next three business days on each living sibling, none of Tina’s assets—money, jewelry, personal belongings, automobiles, etcetera—can be commandeered or claimed until the reading of the will, which will outline the proper distribution of the assets.”

“Smart move,” Allen interjects. Dad is nodding, too.

“What exactly does that mean… in laymen’s terms?” Harmony asks.

 meme“It means that once Tina passes, your sisters and brothers won’t be able to show up at the door and say, ‘I want my daddy’s records.’” Dad says. Harmony frowns.

“No, Dad,” I shake my head at him. Harmony would have absolutely no idea what that means.

“It means,” Allen says, stifling a laugh, “your brothers and sisters won’t be able to lay claim to any of your mother’s assets until the will tells them exactly what they’re getting without being held in contempt of court. It also means that you won’t be able to dispose of or claim anything that doesn’t have your name on it.”

“I’m… not really concerned about the stuff,” she says, her head down.

“But you will be once she’s gone,” Dad says. “Certain things will have significant sentimental value.” Harmony sighs and nods, never lifting her gaze. It’s clear that the very last thing she wants to discuss is where her mother’s material possessions will go once she passes away. This is the very reason she needs protection right now, because she’s clearly not going to protect herself.

“To expedite that process, the reading will be scheduled for two weeks after her passing since all affairs are already in order except one… the house.”

Tina made reference to the house being left to Harmony, so I don’t know how that could be considered a loose end at this point.

“The house is one of her assets, and by strict interpretation, Harmony would have to leave until after the will was read. Tina has already expressed that the house will go to Harmony. As such, I will be filing a quitclaim deed today, turning the house over to Harmony immediately.” Now, Harmony raises her head.

“What?” she asks, stunned. “Mom?”

“Don’t argue with me, child,” Aunt Tina says softly. “The house is going to be yours when I’m gone. If you take it now, they can’t come and put you out.”

“But Mom…” Harmony protests weakly, “… your house…”

Your house,” Aunt Tina corrects her. “Are you gonna put me out, Baby?”

“Moooom!” Harmony says, appalled.

“Then it’s still my house as long as I’m living. When I’m gone, what use do I have for it? Can you tell me with total certainty that your beloved siblings won’t try to come and put you out?”

Of course, she can’t. And just like that, the fight is over.

“How long does it take for a quitclaim deed to file with the county?” I ask.

“Usually about a week,” Allen announces. “If there’s no other claim to the property like a lien or a mortgage…” He looks at Carl who shakes his head.

“No one else has any claim to my home but my dearly departed husband, who paid for that house with his blood, sweat, and tears, for me… and my ungrateful lot,” Aunt Tina laments.

“Well, then, you should be able to go get a copy of your deed in about a week,” Allen tells Harmony. She nods in resignation. It’s going to be necessary, or her siblings will steamroll her.

“What if her sisters and brothers try to bully their way in anyway?” I ask. “They can claim that they don’t know…”

“I can almost guarantee that Tina’s children will all be calling me within the next 4 – 5 days,” Carl says. “Those court orders that each of them will be receiving will direct them to contact me. They all know who I am, so they’ll know this is legitimate. When they call, I’ll substantiate what the court orders say and simultaneously inform them that Harmony is now the owner of the house. I can’t guarantee they won’t show up on the doorstep, though.”

“I’ll take care of that,” I say.

“Also,” Carl continues, “Tina will be prosecuting Roger for embezzlement and misappropriation of funds as well as a civil suit for invasion of privacy. We’re hoping that your team can determine if the audio/visual equipment that you located lead to recordings that can be used in court.”

“If they haven’t been destroyed, we’ll find them,” I assure Carl.

“Can I get in on that? He invaded my privacy, too,” Harmony asks.

“Well, the prosecution will definitely need you,” Carl says. “We’ll be taking Tina’s deposition as soon as possible as these things have a way of getting stuck in the legal system for a while, and her testimony…” he trails off. Aunt Tina will most likely be dead by the time this thing gets to court.

“Bearing that in mind,” I ask, “won’t the civil trial have to wait until after the criminal trial?” Please, understand what I’m asking without me having to spell it out for you.

“The estate will continue with the suit,” he says, and nothing more. Thank you!

“Where is Roger now?” Dad asks.

“I have my team keeping an eye on him,” I reply. “He lived in the house, so he’s just holed up at a hotel right now.” Dad purses his lips.

“Didn’t you tell me that he was in cahoots with the husband?” Dad asks.

“That’s what he said,” I confirm.

“But we need proof,” Dad concludes.

“Roger’s word won’t be enough, but it might get a warrant to search the guy’s house,” Carl says.

“That’s a slippery slope, fellas,” Allen interrupts. “Invasion of privacy is tort law, not criminal. We can’t get a search warrant for something like that.”

“We can if we can convince a judge that we think they were in this whole thing together,” Carl says. “If we can get proof that he knew that house was bugged, you leave it to the court to determine the level of guilt. We just get the evidence. It’s like raiding someone’s house for drugs and finding illegal firearms or some other illegal activity. You don’t ignore the evidence for one case because it doesn’t point to the other.” Good point. Another pin to put in my day.

Get the cars to the west coast.
Talk to Jason about full security for the Franklin house.
Find out where the footage is for the surveillance Roger was doing.
Find some way to tie Kenneth into the gig.

“Harmony, when is your next court date if Kenneth doesn’t sign the papers?” Carl asks.

“Just after Christmas,” she says, and she sounds utterly exhausted. It’s not even lunchtime yet.

“That would definitely be a load off if he would just grow some balls and let go,” Dad says. Harmony shakes her head.

“Not likely,” she laments. “I’ll probably be stuck with this fucker in one way or another for the rest of my life! Sorry, Mom.”

“No apologies necessary,” Aunt Tina says. “He’s an asshole. I knew something was wrong when you brought him home.”

“I really should’ve listened to you,” Harmony says.

“Don’t worry about it, baby,” Aunt Tina says. “You live, and you learn. Learn from this, baby… please.” Harmony nods, wiping another tear.

We bang out a few more issues that must be sorted before Aunt Tina and Carl disconnect to put this operation into effect. I have Andrea summon Jason, Alex, and Barney to the conference room once that part of the meeting is over. Harmony still looks a bit stunned.

“You okay, Harmony?” Dad asks. She shakes her head as if shaking off a thought, then nods with her eyes closed.

“I’m not dense,” Harmony says. “I knew Mom was going to leave me some money—we all knew. I was just going to buy a little house somewhere and just be happy. I had no idea… the Big House… Jesus. What am I going to do with all that room?”

“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” I tell her. “Something that will make you happy and that will make Tina proud.” She doesn’t look convinced. “Why don’t I order us some lunch?” I add, pressing the button to summon Andrea once more.

“I can’t stay,” Harmony says, rising from her seat. “I have an appointment in about twenty minutes and then, I have class this afternoon.”

“Appointment?” I ask concerned. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes, everything’s fine,” she assures. “I’m starting therapy today.” She raises her eyebrow and twists her lips in a knowing manner at me. I immediately remember our conversation about her overly amorous behavior with me and the need to talk to someone about her somewhat automated responses to attention.

“Ah, good on you. I won’t keep you, then, but I will tell you that security is going to be increased at your house and it may include a thorough inspection of the grounds, so I’ll have Taylor get in touch with you.” She nods as she puts her purse on her shoulder.

“Thanks again, for everything,” she says as she turns to my father. “Carrick, I’ll of course be in touch.”

“Drive carefully,” Dad says as Harmony leaves the conference room.

“I just talked to Lanie before the meeting,” I tell Dad. “Burtie’s really excited about the car, so we’ll arrange for them to be transported within the next few days.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Dad says, rising from his seat as well. “I have to be going, too. I have a lunch date with my wife and then I have court this afternoon.”

“Will you guys be coming by to watch the special with us tonight?” I ask.

“I think we’re going to sit this one out, son,” my father says. “I think I want to spend some time alone with my lady this evening.” I nod.

“Duly noted, Dad. I’m sure Butterfly will understand.” I shake his hand and he leaves just as Jason, Alex, and Andrea are entering.

“Andrea, can you order us a lunch spread from the deli? A tray or two and an assortment of sandwiches—any preferences, guys?” I ask the other gentlemen in the room.

“I’m not picky,” Alex says.

“I can do anything from the deli,” Allen pipes in.

“Me, too,” Jason concurs. “Make sure they throw some corned beef in there.” I nod at Andrea and she leaves.

“So, we’ve got some marching orders, gentlemen,” I say, swiping my phone. “Tina’s attorney is securing injunctions to serve on her children to keep them from picking the house clean after she dies. She’s also deeding the house to Harmony with a quitclaim… like immediately.” I fire off a text to Smalls to get the Coup, Fairlane, and T-Bird moving out west to Seattle and California respectively. Uncle Herman will have to handle the titles once they get here.

“We’re going to need to get a lay of the land as soon as possible,” I continue. “Once those vultures get a whiff of what’s happening, they’re going to descend on Washington like fighter jets. Alex, if you can do some kind of quick family tree for me, that’ll be great. I mean, quick and dirty. We’ll do background checks later and only if needed.” Alex is nodding and typing into the phone. “And Alex, I need that family tree to go as far as possible—any adults, including great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews, whatever you can find quickly.”

“When you say quickly, how quickly do you mean?” he asks.

“I’d like an initial report in 24 hours,” I say. He nods.

“That won’t be much, but it’ll be a start,” he replies.

“Lay of the land,” Jason says. “We’re doing full house security coverage?” I nod.

“Nobody in or out without permission, just like Grey Crossing,” I confirm.

“Do they have any kind of monitored security system?” he asks. “We didn’t check for that when we were there.”

“I would say, ‘No,’ but you’re going to find out what they have and tell me what you can do within a few days and then within a longer span of time, but we need to get some tighter protection over there soon.” He sighs and looks at Alex.

“Any chance you can get me a floorplan of that house?” he asks. Alex sighs heavily.

God to the rescue,” he says and starts typing into his phone. I wouldn’t go that far, Alex. On cue, Barney and his second come strolling into the room.

“Good, just who I wanted to see,” I say, turning my attention to Barney. “What information have you gotten on the devices that we retrieved from the Franklin home?”

“Not much, sir,” he says. “Short-range stuff that looks like the data may have been going to a cell phone or somewhere in the Cloud. I would say the Cloud with the number of devices that we found, but to where, that’s harder to say since the signals aren’t active anymore.” Shit! We won’t be able to get any information without getting it directly from the source.

“There’s nothing we can find out?” I ask.

“The feed is gone, sir,” he says. “And this stuff is so low tech, there’s no guarantee we could have traced the feed even before we killed it.” I sigh.

“This guy is going to get away with it,” I lament.

“Not if we shake him down,” Jason says. I shake my head.

“That information can’t be used in court,” I say. He frowns.

“What are you trying to do?” he asks.

“Criminal prosecution for embezzlement and misappropriation of funds, civil for invasion of privacy,” I reply.

“Then yes you can,” he says. “The rules for chain of evidence for civil court are much less stringent than those for criminal court. Ask him,” he says, pointing to Allen. I look up at Allen.

“What?” he asks when the room falls silent.

“Pay attention, oh head of legal,” I say sarcastically. “Chain of evidence for civil court? Shakedown Roger for information—do we have to go through all this again?”

“I’m sorry… Christian… I…” Something’s wrong. I just noted that he only calls me Chris, and now Christian?

“What is it?” I ask.

“I just got a text from Chocolate…” Yeah, something’s wrong. I know who Chocolate is, but he doesn’t call him that in public. “He… somebody’s died. I don’t… I can’t… I need to call him…”

“Go! Go! Use my office,” I say, shooing him out of the room. He won’t move. I stand to my feet and walk over to him, nearly lifting him out of the chair.

“Go, now,” I say, my voice softer. “Find out what’s wrong.” I gently usher him to the door. “Andrea!” I call as I open the door. She comes around the corner and I gesture to Allen who’s walking slowly not taking his eyes off his phone. I close the door behind them once he gets to Andrea and turn back to Jason.

“I guess I’ll have to take your word for that one,” I tell him.

We come up with a plan for security for Tina’s house and I call Windsor to get Tina prepared for the invasion. Jason will have the team do a thorough sweep of the entire house based on the plans that Alex was able to secure and identify rooms that we didn’t hit when we were looking for bugs. It’s a big house and we’re hoping that we may have missed some that might still have an active signal, but the team is fairly certain that we got them all.

“Where’s that asshole now?” I ask, chomping on olives, coleslaw and deli sandwiches.

“He’s been at the Fairmont all this time,” Jason says. “Living with Mrs. Franklin, he hasn’t had any expenses. So, he can certainly afford it.”

“Not to mention he’s been skimming off her money all this time,” I add.

“Uh, yeah, there is that,” he says.

“We need to arrange a conversation with him, but it needs to be private.”

“I don’t know how we can,” he says. “He’s not in the house anymore, so we don’t have that kind of control over him. Short of kidnapping him, I’m not sure what we can do.”

“We need to see if we can get some more information from him,” I say. “There has to be a way and we need to find it.” There’s a knock at the door and Andrea sticks her head in.

“A message for you, sir,” she says.

“Is it private?” I ask.

“No, sir. It’s from Mr. Forsythe,” she says stepping into the room. “He said that he had to leave due to a family emergency and he’ll touch bases with you later.” I nod.

“Thanks, Andrea,” I say. She nods and leaves the room.

“Who do you think passed away?” Jason asks, and Barney’s interest is piqued.

“I can’t even begin to speculate,” I reply. I should probably let Butterfly know that there will be some news from Allen soon, but I don’t know what exactly.


ANASTASIA

“My husband has given me the daunting task of redoing his office,” I say to Marilyn after we’ve looked in on the volunteers and how they’re doing with Courtney.

“You’re probably the best candidate,” she says. “Nobody knows him better than you.”

“Have you seen his office?” I complain. “It’s like the Oxford Black Hole!” Marilyn tries to suppress her giggle.

“No,” she snickers, “I can’t say that I have.”

“Dark brown marble flooring, huge oak desk with black leather chairs, imposing bookshelves all around the room with wood darker than mine, dark wood ornate deep tray ceilings and a huge marble fireplace—also dark—sitting between the only two small windows in the room… small compared to mine. He even has black-out glass on the French doors that lead to his den!”

“Yikes,” she replies. “Was he trying to hide?”

“I don’t know, but he looks in my office, sees the ‘light,’ and suddenly, he wants to see it in his office, too.” Marilyn frowns.

“He wants his office to go from ‘Oxford dark’ to yours?” she asks, astonished. My sentiments exactly.

“No, he claims he doesn’t want it as bright as mine but not as dark as it is. Then, he tells me I have carte blanche. That means, ‘You do all the work and then if I don’t like it, I’ll keep it for a while because you did it, then change it when I’m ready.’ Bullshit. Tell me what you want in that room. And if you can’t tell me what you want, tell me what you don’t want, or I’m not touching a thing in that space. It can stay Oxford Black from now on.” Marilyn laughs.

“Are you sure you’re not pregnant?” she jibes. I look over at her.

“Don’t start, Mare,” I warn. “It’s a tender topic for you, so I haven’t approached it, but I haven’t forgotten about it.” She purses her lips.

“Point taken,” she says, with no malice. “You have Ebony Carson arriving in about fifteen minutes, and Jewel Lawson later this afternoon…” she says, drawing our attention to the interviews this afternoon and quickly changing the subject. I look at Ebony’s resume. She’s way too qualified for a job babysitting preschoolers and babies, but you never know what someone’s story is. This is why I agreed to interview her. I want to get in her head, see what the deal is and why she’s looking for a job beneath her skill set. Depending on the circumstance, we may be able to put her knowledge and abilities to use elsewhere.

Grace walks into my office as Marilyn and I are preparing for the interview. We agreed to have them here since my office is bigger. She falls onto one of the sofas.

“You look tired,” I say. “It’s barely past lunchtime.

“Just weary today,” she says. “It could be the whole menopausal thing… you know symptoms come and go at will.” I raise my brow.

“You can call it a day if you want,” I tell her. “Marilyn, Courtney, and I can handle the interviews and you can go home and have a bubble bath and a glass of wine, try to relax… maybe that’ll help?” I suggest. She sighs heavily.

“I’ll do the first interview and see how I feel,” she says. “Maybe this will pass. If it doesn’t, I think I’ll take that bubble bath.” I smile and put my hand on her shoulder.

“Your health is most important, Grace,” I remind her.

Ebony is delightful. She’s bubbly, knowledgeable, resourceful, and admits that she’s hiding from an abusive ex-boyfriend in prison back east. She blanches when we mention the background check. I tell her that it’s customary for all volunteers and potential employees, and she expresses her concern that it may tip her ex off to where she is.

“If he’s in prison, how can he hurt you?” I ask.

He’s in prison,” she says. “His… colleagues aren’t. I don’t know who’s watching and waiting for something to show up and tell them where I am.” I sigh.

“We deal with this kind of thing all the time,” I tell her. “If anything happens, just let us know. That is why we’re here in the first place.”

She sighs heavily and agrees to the background check, but I can tell that she’s not totally convinced. I ask for the name of her ex so that we can be on the lookout, but she doesn’t want to reveal it.

“It’s going to be difficult looking for potential threats if we don’t know what we’re looking for,” I tell her. She shrugs uncertainly.

“Can I think about that?” she asks. “That’s just… a can of worms that I so don’t want to open.” She drops her head. “This happens every time I apply for a job somewhere. I try to tell the truth because I want people to be careful in their checks. The moment they hear that I may have trouble following me, they suddenly lose interest. I have a degree in child psychology that I can’t use because I have a psycho ex in prison in New York who may or may not have someone following me. It’s doubly hard because I’m black, so I’ve already got something to prove. I could be a school teacher, a guidance counselor—there’s so many things that I could do, but people are afraid to hire me when they find out about Ge… my ex-boyfriend.”

That was enough of a slip and I hope Marilyn caught it and wrote it down, because I may not remember. Ge-something in her background—I’ll have to ask Christian the best way to handle this.

“We are a center for at-risk families, Ebony. Give me a chance to see what we can do.” She smiles, but I can tell that it’s forced.

“Yeah… sure,” she says, and I can’t tell what’s hiding in her tone. Disbelief? Defeat? Frustration? I have no idea. Nonetheless, we end the interview and shake hands before she leaves.

“What do you think is behind all that?” I ask.

“I don’t know, but she certainly has a past,” Grace says. “What’s exactly with this ex-boyfriend that she came all the way across the country to get away from him? And what colleagues would be looking for her? Is he in a gang? Drug affiliated? The mob?” I shrug.

“I hope that’s what the background check will tell us,” I say. “Did you catch the slip of the boyfriend’s name?” I ask Marilyn.

“All I caught was ‘Ge,’” she confirms. “That could be anything, Bosslady.” I sigh.

“I don’t know how to proceed with this,” I admit. “Is it too complicated for us to get into? I mean, isn’t this what we do—help at-risk women and families make a fresh start? We’d take her on if she showed up running from said boyfriend as a resident… why not as an applicant for a job?”

“Why does it sound like you’re trying to convince yourself?” Grace asks.

“Because I am,” I admit quietly. “I’m not ashamed to say that I’m not as fearless as I once was. I’m battling some new insecurities—not about myself, but about situations and circumstances. This thing could have two many outcomes to name, ranging from nothing at all to complete and total disaster. Do I step out on faith and react like the fearless woman I was before my life took a serious left turn, or do I err on the side of caution and run away from this situation admitting that we may be biting off more than we can chew with a psychotic boyfriend hiding in the wings?” Grace sighs.

“You’ve got a point there,” she says. “We haven’t taken an oath to help every wayward soul that crosses our doorstep, you know.”

“Okay, but she came to us for a job. Would we react this way if she came to us for help?”

“Probably not, but we would limit how deeply we got involved in her situation. Hiding someone out and providing them a safe haven until we can help get them to a better place is one thing. Digging into their past and possibly opening Pandora’s box is something else entirely.”

I seriously don’t know what to do. My instincts are going in all sorts of directions.

Help this poor girl—at least give her a chance.
Avoid this situation—you have no idea where it’s going to lead.
Could helping her lead danger to the Center?
Who is Ge and why won’t she at least give us a name?
Is this some small-time drug dealer or neighborhood gangster that just has her scared to death or was this some kind of high-profile case?

I immediately type her name into Google to see if anything comes up.

Ebony Carson.

LinkedIn profiles, Facebook profiles, Instagram profiles—more than I can count, but nothing that comes up that could probably be attached to some large gang case or mob case. I don’t know what I expected to find typing a name that common into Google.

“I’ll have to see what Christian can find on her. Then I’ll decide if we should dig deeper, run with what we have and hire her, or leave well enough alone and drop the whole thing. It’s too… open to make a decision right now. Fair enough?” Grace nods.

“It seems logical. I can’t give a definitive answer right now myself with so many unanswered questions.” She stands. “Can you handle the other interviews? This one was a bit more than I was prepared for and I think I’m going to take you up on that bubble-bath suggestion.”

“Yes, by all means, go take care of yourself,” I encourage her. She nods.

“I’m afraid that means we probably won’t be at the house for the viewing party. I know I was the one who suggested it in the first place…”

“Think nothing of it,” I tell her. “It was a good idea and I’m glad you did suggest it. I’m sorry you won’t be able to join us, but I understand. Go home. Rest.” She nods and leaves without another word. Before I can catch my breath from the huge indecision set before me, my phone comes alive with Love All the Hurt Away. It’s melancholy when I hear that song now. I waited so long to hear it while he was in Madrid that I almost didn’t assign it to him again when I got the new phone. I’m considering changing the ringtone to something else, then I realize that I’ve pondered the situation for too long and I better answer before he hangs up.

“Hello?”

“Butterfly are you busy?” he sounds in earnest.

“Between interviews. What’s up?”

“I just thought you should know. Allen left here about half an hour or so ago, I’m not sure. He was very distracted during a meeting and said that he got a text from James about somebody dying.”

“Somebody dying?” I ask, sitting straight up. “Who died?”

“I don’t know,” he says. “He went to my office for some privacy and then he left. We were still wrapping up details about Tina and Harmony’s situation and he wasn’t even paying attention.”

“Well, I don’t have any missed calls, so he hasn’t called me yet. He didn’t give you any clue who had passed away?”

“No, he just said that James said someone died.” I don’t know what to do here. If he hasn’t called me yet, he’s either deep in whatever he has found out, or he hasn’t found out anything yet. Should I call him and find out what’s going on?

“I just told you so that you wouldn’t be blindsided when he calls you. I think you should wait for his call. He’s probably trying to get details as we speak,” he says as if reading my mind.

“He has until I’m done with this next interview and then I’m calling him. That’s what friends do, Christian,” I inform him. He’s silent for a moment.

“Okay.” And that’s all he says.

“While I have you on the line, I need some guidance.”

“Really?” I can almost see him perking up on the other end of the phone.

“Yes. I’ve sent over some information on candidates to Alex for background checks. One of them is for a young lady named Ebony Carson…”

“Ouch. That’s a somewhat common name. He’s going to get a thousand hits on that name.”

“Well, he’s got a date of birth and a social security number. Here’s my dilemma. She’s hiding from a psycho boyfriend in jail in New York. She’s afraid for us to proceed too deeply into her past as our prying may tip off her ex and his ‘colleagues,’ as she put it, as to her current location. I tried to get some information on the ex, but all I got was that he’s currently incarcerated and his name starts with ‘Ge’ like ‘G,’ ‘E,” and I only got that because she nearly slipped and said his name. She doesn’t want us to have that information, either.”

Well, she’s going to get a thorough background check and this guy may come up as a person of interest anyway.”

“I hope so,” I admit. “I don’t want to bring any trouble down on the Center, but neither Grace nor I am sure where to go with this one. Of course, we’re a Center to assist at risk women and families, but we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew by inadvertently welcoming in a gangland snitch or something and end up bringing down the wrath of Al Capone or some shit.”

“Don’t take any unnecessary chances, Butterfly,” he warns. “I know you want to do good, but you can’t save the world.”

“I’m not trying to save the world, Christian. I just want to make sure that I’m not turning away someone that needs our help who can really be a great asset to us at the same time. I also don’t want to invite danger into our little safe haven here.”

“I understand both of those… the latter more than the former. I say err on the side of caution—that’s always my motto.”

“But… once again, I don’t want to see the Boogeyman where he’s not there.” Christian falls silent.

“Yes, there is that,” he concurs. “Why don’t we wait and see what Alex comes up with. The guy could just be some small-time hood that has her scared shitless and she just doesn’t want him to know where she is.” I nod as if he can see me.

“I hope you’re right. I’ll wait and see what Alex says. By the way, we’ll probably be two short for the viewing party. Your mom left a few minutes ago. She wasn’t feeling very well.”

“Hmm… Dad already told me that they weren’t going to be there, but he said so much earlier. He said he just wanted to spend some quality time with his wife.”

“Well, I hope she feels better by the time he’s looking for that special moment. She was kind of worn down when she left.”

“Are you sure she wasn’t just setting you up to ditch tonight so that she wouldn’t feel bad about it?” he asks.

“I don’t think so,” I respond. “It’s not impossible, but she was looking a little worse for wear and I suggested that she leave. She insisted on sitting in on Ebony’s interview to see if the feeling passed, but it didn’t. She said that the interview was more than she thought it would be and went home. I’m not going to dwell on it because I really don’t care. They can spend time alone if they want—it’s no big deal.”

“We may not have Al and James either. We don’t know how serious their situation is,” he reminds me.

“Well, then everyone will just have to tell us what they think of the segment when we hound them tomorrow,” I say with a shrug. I’m really looking forward to watching the segment as a spectator instead of with that watchful “Where’s the Boogeyman” eye, and I won’t let anything spoil it for me. I don’t care if it’s just me and Christian in the viewing room—I really want to see it in a relaxed state of mind this time.

“Well, good, then. There are quite a few things I need to put into motion before I can leave the office, but I promise I won’t overstay. Don’t be late coming home.”

“I won’t. I love you.”

“Love you, too.” I end the call and look over at Marilyn. She’s daydreaming.

“Earth to Mare,” I say. She looks over at me and snaps out of her trance. “What’s up?”

“Same thing,” she admits. “I’m going to have to face this soon, I’m just…” She trails off. “Not today… just, not today.”

I twist my lips but say nothing. I also agreed not to give her shit about it… today.

“So, who’s next on the interview circuit today?” I say, looking down at the resumes in my hand.

*-*

“He was more rudderless than anything, Jewel,” Al says to me. We’ve both made it back to the Crossing, and James is having a beer and conversation with Chuck, who’s sipping on a soda. I’m in the kitchen being utterly useless and picking at the fruit salad that I didn’t know would be part of tonight’s spread.

“When he sent me the text, I couldn’t even read it,” he says. “I knew I had to get to him because he wasn’t going to be able to tell me what was going on. He got a message from some guy in Arizona, but the message was cryptic.”

“Isn’t that where his mother lives?” I ask, popping a strawberry slice into my mouth.

“His entire family is down there. We weren’t even sure who called him, and we certainly weren’t sure why. But, Lord, when we found out…” We both look over at James who is continuing a more than civil conversation with Chuck.

“He looks pretty calm,” I point out.

Now,” Al stresses. “He was fit to be tied earlier. I had to put that magic touch on him to calm him down.” I giggle at his terminology.

“Why would he be so distraught about that news?” I ask. “Not to suggest that anyone should be glad that someone died, but…” says the woman who popped champagne when I heard that Edward David had hanged himself.

“It wasn’t that,” Al says. “I’m sure had this news been presented to him differently and the aftermath not been what it was, we would have seen quite the alternate reaction. First off, family didn’t call him—some stranger did. When they spoke to him, they initially made it seem like he had lost a loved one. Here he is preparing himself for the news that his mother or another immediate family member had died only to find that the one who did kick the bucket was the woman who had abused and raped him for years.”

Around five o’clock this evening, Al finally touched bases with me to tell me that he and James would definitely be at the viewing party as the “somebody who died” was none other than Debra Perkins—the live-in babysitter and not-so-honorary “aunt” who had a penchant towards young boys and molested James and other lads for several years in the basement of his mother’s home.

“Did anybody ever find out what that woman did?” I ask.

“His mother knew,” Al says in a deep, accusing voice. “She knew all along. I could tell when we went down there. I could see it in the way Debra avoided Chocolate and his mother pretended not to notice. I could tell in the way his mother snarled at me and tried to treat me like shit, but I wouldn’t let her. I could see it in the way that she looked at Jimmy…” He says the word with disdain, and I’m certain that someone else called him that while they were there. “She wouldn’t acknowledge that I was there as James’ companion and she kept referring to Debra like she was some old flame. That woman… Jesus, she just… I can’t even talk about her. That is still his mother.

“When he finally discovered who died, he was livid. He asked his mother who the fuck called him to tell him about that bitch’s death—his exact words. She started going on about his language and some shit about having more respect for the only woman he ever loved that way. James. Lost it. When I tell you he lost it, I mean he completely lost his shit. He blasted his mother out so badly about never believing him when he told her that Debra raped him. He accused her of feeding little boys to her like you feed ‘Puppy Chow’ to a dog. He let her have it for never accepting him for who and what he was and proudly informed her that he and I are now married. I could hear parts of her conversation and I heard her say that our marriage wasn’t real, and God doesn’t recognize it.”

I sigh. I’m surprised to find that a mother who would turn a blind eye to children being raped in her home would also turn out to be a homophobe. I know what the Bible says about homosexuality and as a Bible believer, I’m a firm proponent of “To Each His Own.” I just don’t get how you can clearly see and openly criticize homosexuality but turn a blind eye to pedophilia and rape, especially if one of the victims is your own child. She’s lucky James didn’t turn out to be a fucking serial killer!

“What did he say to that?” I ask.

“He said that it didn’t matter if God recognized it. We recognize it, the people who love us recognize it and now, so does the state, and that’s all that matters. He asked her how many boys she fed to Debra before Debra finally died. He asked her why she played blind to what Debra was doing and why she let the witch do it for so many years and in her own house. He told her that she may not have touched a single boy but that she’s just as guilty as Debra because not only did she do nothing to stop it, she facilitated it. He asked her how it felt to rape her own son for several years, and the conversation stopped right there.

“He was so upset that he cursed her as a woman and a mother and told her to never call him again. He had been carrying that for years and years and years and she knew it and never even acknowledged it. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I don’t know if he’ll ever recant what he said to her, but I know that he meant every word.”

He takes in a deep breath and lets it out like he’s trying to control himself.

“Boys didn’t tell. Most boys still don’t. They hide in that shame and try to pretend it never happened, but it follows them for the rest of their lives. They caught her… they caught her red-handed and still pretended it never happened, that James was just in the basement fucking his adult babysitter. And this… bitch… has the nerve to talk to him like he wasn’t there. Like this never happened to him.” Al shakes his head and closes his eyes. “He’ll be healing from that for life, and now all these years later, she calls him with news acting like his first love died. ‘Your rapist keeled over. Come back to Hell and honor her.’”

Al is so angry that he’s trembling. I grab his hands and try to help douse his fury. He holds his head down in a vain attempt to calm himself, but his curls are shaking terribly. I’m so focused on my best friend and brother that I don’t see James walking up beside him. He slides his arms protectively around his husband’s waist and gently kisses his temple several times. Al doesn’t release my hands but leans slightly into the kisses of his love.

“It’s over now, Allie,” James says softly. “It’s really over. She can’t hurt any more boys now. She’s walking hot coals in hell as we speak paying for the pain she caused on Earth several times over.”

Al lays his head on James’ chest. James gently cups his head and kisses his hair, and Al’s grip loosens. Christian chooses that moment to come barreling into the house like a freight train but stops cold when he sees the display at the breakfast bar. Al and James don’t react to his arrival, and Al is still gripping both my hands.

Christian pauses for a moment, then holds both hands up and open nodding at me, signaling that he’ll be ten minutes. I nod, and he goes back the way he came, most likely to the elevator to go to our room and freshen up.

Al finally loosens his grip and wraps his arms around himself so that one arm covers James’ arm around his waist. Silent tears stain his face as he appears to disappear into his husband’s embrace. We sit there for several minutes before Val and Keri appear in the family room with my babies.

My babies.

I rise from my perch at the breakfast bar, leaving James to comfort his husband. I know some may think it should be the other way around, but I know how Al feels. I know the feeling of wanting to wrap my fingers around the neck of the selfish and disgusting bitch that hurt my man and watch her die slowly and the anguish of knowing the pain that he must have felt at the times when he felt his most helpless.

Luckily, I don’t have to share the pain of him having to deal with a heartless mother through it all. I’ve got Carla, but that’s a whole different story.

“Give him to me,” I gently coax Keri. I need my son… my boy…

“Boys didn’t tell. Most boys still don’t…”

Keri puts my son in my arms and I look at his sweet face. Dear God, please don’t let that kind of harm come to my babies. I’ll kill a bitch that ever tries to harm my babies… ever!

I kiss Mikey solidly on his forehead and coo at his sweet, cherubic smile. I don’t know how much time I spend lost in my baby, but Christian has joined us, and Al has become his usual jovial self again.

“So, my Jewel is about to be a star,” he says. Let’s get this party started. Boss, I don’t pull punches, so I’ll tell you now. I feel a sick day coming on tomorrow. I’m in need of libations tonight.” Christian laughs.

“Will you also be needing your usual accommodations, sir?” Christian jests, referring to the guest room that’s always prepared for him. Al pauses.

“The night is young. I’ll keep you posted.” This means that unless James objects, we’ll be having additional house guests tonight.

“Okay, people,” Gail says garnering everyone’s attention. “Food and entertainment await. Let’s make our way to the theater room. The show will be starting in a few minutes.” We all start to file toward the theater room and Christian puts his hand in the small of my back.

“Is everything alright?” he asks. “Who died?”

“Debra,” I whisper. “The woman who…” I gesture my head towards James and Christian’s mouth forms an “o.”

“Al was busted up about that?” he asks, bemused.

“There’s a lot more that I have to tell you about it… after the party, okay?” He nods.

“Okay, baby.” He kisses my forehead, then kisses Mikey and we walk into the theater room.



UNKNOWN

Grey Crossing. That goddamn place is a fortress. That fucker doesn’t deserve all that money and comfort. What the fuck did he do—have a few garage sales with other people’s hard work and suddenly he’s the fucking bee’s knees. Bullshit. He’s nothing. He’ll find out soon enough just how worthless he really is.

Grey House. What kind of pretentious, over-compensating bullshit is this? Big, powerful man has a big glass building in downtown Seattle named after him. How fucking cliché can you get? None of this is nothing I didn’t already know, but seeing it spread out live and in living color shows just how much of a fucking joke he and his family really are—like the rest of the world really cares about this shit. Look at my mansion. Look at my really big building. Look at my money and power. You are truly a sad little man.

Now, we’re getting to the meat of things. That’s a pretty little wife you’ve got there. She’s fucking beautiful. Hmmm, half owner of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc—that must be some dynamic pussy. I guess it must be. She fucked his weak ass and pulled out twins.

“I was Christian Grey. I was the orphan from the streets from Detroit who was granted a silver spoon—and there’s the rags to riches story I was trying to avoid.”

Orphan from the streets of Detroit—you pretentious little fuck. I took something from nothing and clawed my way to the top… Is that the story, Grey? Like fuck you did. You had shit handed to you and you took what you wanted. If your going to be a thief, at least be an honest thief.

One-hundred percent self-made billionaire… Kiss my ass! You’re hiding behind those fucking dollar signs, but you can’t hide forever.

giphyI drag off my cigarette and take a swig from my bottle, watching this asshole parade his money and woman and his presumed power all over the screen. He doesn’t even have the common sense to appear humble. He’s taunting his enemies and challenging his adversaries to try something. Why? Because he thinks his money will protect him. He’s fucking laughable!

And that hot wife with that big ass—she must’ve been chasing the money. Everything else in his fucking life is so ostentatiously overexaggerated and huge, his dick must be the size of a baby carrot. No way in hell he can land all that ass with a carrot dick.

“They actually have security, so I feel safe bringing my kids here. Dr. Ana started a self-defense class after she had her babies. I can’t do all the stuff that she does, but I can handle myself pretty well after taking her classes, such that I’m not afraid anymore.”

Aw, the sexy little bitch can throw a fist or two. Isn’t that special? And why am I not surprised that she’s the stereotypical charity wife? Nothing else to do but spend hubby’s money and pretend like she cares about worthy causes. Figures. I was surprised when that accident didn’t take her out last year, though. I was sure Grey was about to lose the supposed “jewel of his crown” when that car was T-boned. I swear, she must have fucking magic surrounding her. She was beat all to hell when she was a kid; she was kidnapped; her car was nearly split the fuck in two with her in it, and she’s still walking around like a fucking bug landed on her shoulder and she just brushed it off. I want to be mad at her, too, but every time I look at her, all I want to do it fuck her.

Hmm, she’s got her own place. Sublet my ass—she’s got a real dick squirreled away in there for when she feels the need to really be fucked. I’ll be your real dick, baby, show you how it’s really done.

This whole pretentious display is getting on my fucking nerves and I don’t even want to watch it anymore. I turn off the television and open my file on his ass—information that I’ve been gathering for years.

Yeah, I know about his adoption and his rich family, but I don’t give a fuck about them.

Every time I turn around, it’s Christian Grey bought this; Christian Grey did that; Christian Grey donated this; Christian Grey, philanthropist; Christian Grey, husband and father; Christian Grey, entrepreneur and billionaire; Christian Grey, most eligible bachelor lands girl next door, Christian Grey, Christian Grey, Christian fucking Grey!

Christian Grey, liar!
Christian Grey, coward!
Christian Grey, thief!
Christian Grey, fucking no good piece of shit!

His last adversaries disappeared without a trace—except for one. My guess is that they “sleep with the fishes,” and the one, he didn’t make out too well, either. That won’t be me, though. You thought you had problems before, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. I’m going to bring you to your knees, you little shit!


A/N: “I want my daddy’s records.”—It’s a black pop culture reference to an old episode of Sandford and Son. Fred donated some records to a music society of some kind, but when the artist died, the records became valuable and Fred wanted them back. The music society wouldn’t give them back, so he had to find a way to get them. Younger people may or may not know the reference, but it became a catchphrase with some of us old fogeys. I’ve included the clip on my Pinterest page.

FYI, the person talking at the end of this chapter is not the same person who was talking at the end of “Becoming Dr. Grey.”

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

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Raising Grey: Chapter 49—Finding Anastasia

My twelfth wedding anniversary was this past weekend, so posting was kind of the furthest thing from my mind.

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 49—Finding Anastasia

CHRISTIAN

My wife is walking to the theater room like a man walking to the gallows. I know that it’s going to take some time for her to overcome this whole impending doom thing, and she’s doing a great job of grabbing the bull by the horns with her meditation, yoga, dancing, and whatever else she’s doing to take control of it. But when that insecurity rears its ugly head, it’s really ugly… not in the sense that it’s unattractive, but in the sense that it makes my larger-than-life Butterfly appear weak, helpless, and powerless, and I don’t like that at all.

Gail and Ms. Solomon arrange refreshments while Maria attempts to explain what we’re going to see. She’s even gone so far as to have a program that outlines the order of the interview and what we can expect. She’s gone all out with full disclosure, even insuring that we’ll be left with a copy of what we see today, which is what the network plans to air—notwithstanding any changes that we request after the viewing.

Butterfly sits quietly in one of the luxury reclining theater seats, sipping a glass of cabernet sauvignon and daintily munching on popcorn, finger sandwiches, and crudité. She’s paying attention to everything that Maria is saying; she’s just not responding.

“So, things aren’t necessarily in chronological order,” Maria explains. “If you remember, the footage at the gun range was one of the last things we recorded, but it won’t be the very last thing in the segment, although it’s pretty close to chronological. I feel that I’ve put the segment together in a manner that represents both of you and presents you in the light that you wanted to be presented. In spite of what has occurred up to this point, I hope I haven’t let you down.”

Butterfly acknowledges her with an almost indistinct nod and turns her attention to the large screen. I can feel it emanating from her skin.

Shut up and let’s get on with it already.

The lights go down and the segment starts.

“By the way…” Oh, for Christ’s sake, lady, will you shut up before my wife bites your head off? “… We were approved for two hours.”

We both rubberneck over to her.

“We were?” I ask. “But I thought you said nobody got two hours… not even Obama or Bono.” She shrugs.

“The station manager loved the material. He couldn’t decide what to keep and what to cut, so… we got two hours.”

I’m impressed. Butterfly, not so much. I can’t imagine what’s going through her head right now.

The introduction starts with the gates opening at Grey Crossing, like some episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and I already don’t like it, but the interview quickly recovers by moving almost instantly away from the mansion to an upward pan of Grey House followed by a shot of my wife strolling through the halls like the boss that she is.

GEH looks magnificent on film. The headquarters has never gotten much airtime. Press conferences or news releases were always carefully planned and released on our terms, leaving most of the whole of the company out of the proverbial limelight—except for the numbers part of it all. People have often wondered why, with all my success, I haven’t gone public. This is why. I have total control of my company. Why would I hand that control over to someone else for money that I don’t need?

My beautiful wife looks just like a female mogul, roaming the halls, offices, and departments of our company. I’ve never seen her as majestic as she looks with the power of the House behind her. No wonder women are so jealous of her—and men are intimidated by her.

I’m extremely impressed with how the one-on-one interview with me and Maria turned out. It’s just what I was hoping for—the ruthless, but shrew businessman coupled with the papa-bear that would stop at nothing to protect his family.

I watch my wife’s expressions through various parts of the interview, especially when she describes who she was before me, how she changed when we got together, me being her ultimate protector. I feel pretty shitty having dropped the ball on that duty, leaving her in the uncertainty that she feels now.

I’m quite pleased with where they placed that asshole’s footage of my wife breastfeeding our children. She’s talking about the mothering instinct that’s not so natural to some women and how her main priority is and was to protect our children inside and outside the womb. You would have thought the filming was intentional just for this moment, instead of some grip boy pervert trying to get a shot of a nip-slip.

We both look pretty bad ass on the shooting range, and we all got a little chuckle out of Maria’s obvious inexperience with a firearm…

We all, that is, except Butterfly.

Her face is stone throughout most of the segment. Even portions that brought small chuckles and reactions from Mac. She’s watching this entire thing with a highly critical eye, and she’s not even enjoying it.

When the segment is over, I feel a collective sigh release in the theater room. I don’t hear it, but I feel it.

“I secured releases from everyone who was filmed when we were last here except from your nanny… Keri, I think is her name. Forgive me if I got that wrong,” Maria informs us.

“No, you got it right,” I say. “That shouldn’t be a problem.”

“So, what did you think?” Maria asks nervously. I turn to my wife; whose face still looks like marble.

“Butterfly?” I urge.

“The segment was good,” she says, her face stoic. “Concise, honest, thought-provoking. The placement of that idiot’s footage was quite timely. I was afraid of how that would be incorporated into the segment, but I’m satisfied. Nothing was overdone, which is something that I was afraid of. I would have liked to see more of the children, but I guess there’s only so much you can fit into a two-hour segment, and that was a lot of material. Overall, I’m satisfied with the ultimate outcome.”

Timely… concise… satisfied. My wife is choosing her words carefully, not at all saying that she liked or disliked anything in the interview apart from the fact that Minnie and Mikey didn’t get more screen time. This point doesn’t get by Maria, and her uncertainty is transparent.

“Is there anything that you didn’t like, Ana?” she asks. “Anything you want to remove or change? I can get some more footage of the children added if you want. I just didn’t want to overdo it…”

“No, it’s fine,” my wife interrupts. “The overall focus was Christian and me and that’s how it should be. Too much information about the children could be dangerous.” Maria nods in resignation.

“What about you, Christian?” she says, slightly crestfallen but trying not to show it, and for once, I have to be the diplomat in the situation. I’m not sure that I can do it, but here goes.

“I liked it,” I begin. “I think it portrays just what we wanted—Christian and Anastasia Grey as a whole and not just the crap that the press or the gossip rags want to show. It had that ‘here’s what it is, take it or leave it’ vibe, and I like that. I was afraid that it was going to be some plastered-over, painted and spit-shined depiction of us and I wouldn’t have liked that at all. When the segment started with the gates opening, I was worried, but you recovered very quickly…”

“I did that intentionally,” Maria interjects. “I know that people are expecting some ‘Robin Leach, Ana descending the stairs in a diamond-encrusted robe’ presentation. So, I had a little fun and let them think that’s what they’re getting.”

Of course, they did get some of that, but it was appropriately placed and not overused, so, I can’t complain.

“I had a feeling,” I say. “I’m just glad that wasn’t the entire focus of the interview. Yes, we have a beautiful home and yes, we have money, but the hope was to focus on the people and not necessarily the situation. I think you did that well. I particularly loved the parenting segment and where you put the forbidden footage.” Maria sighs.

“I was hoping that you would be happy with that… both of you,” she says. We look over at Butterfly who simply takes another sip of her Cabernet. Maria deflates a little. “When you gave me permission to use it, I had no idea where to put it at first. My questions were, ‘where do you insert a woman breastfeeding?’ Then I thought about it being the original natural process, second only to sex, and realized that it could have fit just about anywhere that we were talking about the woman that Ana is, but best fit when we were discussing motherhood.”

“Well good for you. It looks good,” I encourage. “I’ll have to admit that I see quite a bit of me but more of Ana.”

“That’s also intentional,” Maria says. “The camera loves Ana and the press and the public gobble up every little tidbit of her that they can get. It’s been that way ever since she’s been in the limelight. That’s not to say that the camera doesn’t love you, too, but public Christian Grey is a new flavor. The viewing audience has a delicate palate. If you dump it on them all at once, they quickly lose the taste for it. Even in what appears to be a relaxed setting, you’re a force of dominance…”

Quite the appropriate description.

“You can’t push that in somebody’s face too much. It comes off like an arrogant pissing dog. So, instead, I gave you that one power segment, then introduced a segment of Ana before bringing you both together again. From there, you were still very present, but she did most of the talking. Finally, you came in as the anchor. So, I started and ended with you, but Ana was the cream filling, so to speak. As a result, hopefully, a little more Ana and a little less Christian actually gives the segment just the right amount of balance.”

Mac is nodding introspectively, and I can see that she agrees with what Maria is saying.

“Well, I agree with my wife; it’s very precise, and I feel that it’s a good representation of us—a bit of a bite at some moments as well as the softer, human side of the Greys. I’m quite satisfied.” I look over at Butterfly who finally succumbs to compliment.

“Yes, Maria, it’s a good presentation. I like it,” she says. Maria’s face finally lifts a bit and she signals for the film operator—whoever is up there with Jason—to play the promos. If this is what Mrs. Miller saw, it truly wasn’t much. There are two separate promos and in either of them, you only see a fraction of the house—pieces of the grand entry, dining room, family room, and backyard. I guess that was enough for her to call Elliot… or call Gia who called Elliot. Anyway, the promos weren’t revealing at all—some pictures of Grey House and the two of us showing Maria around, no pictures of our children at all, and that was it. I can still understand why my wife wasn’t happy that the footage was shown before we consented, though. It could have been much worse.

Maria indicates that she has to get back to New York for shooting of portions of her show that will be this week and that she will call ahead to approve the immediate airing of the promos we approved. This was the warning that if we watch television, we’ll most likely see some of our promos as soon as today as the program will air in primetime a week from tomorrow. Butterfly rises from her chair, shakes Maria’s hand and thanks her for coming and for her good work before sitting back in her seat and drinking her Cabernet. I walk a bit with Maria and Mac to the theater room door.

“Don’t take it personally,” I tell Maria in a low voice. “My wife has recently been through something and it’s taking a bit of a toll on her. Hearing about the promos before we had approved the segment didn’t help.”

“Again, I am so sorry about that,” Maria grovels. “I have no excuse for it, but I hope it didn’t completely ruin the experience.”

“If she could find her words right now, she would tell you how much she liked it. I know that because I liked it and I’m very hard to please.” I finally get the wide smile from Maria that she’s been holding back.

“Thank you, Christian. I appreciate that. The last thing I want is for the two of you to be disappointed.”

“Come on, Maria. We’ll find Keri and get that last release signed for you,” Mac says. I gesture to Chuck sitting in the back of the theater and when he meets us in the middle of the aisle, I explain that the ladies need to find Keri and that Mac will most likely want to come back here when all is said and done.

“You’re feeling better?” I ask my wife when I take my seat next to her.

“A little,” she says. “The sky didn’t fall.” I know that’s a reference to her constant feeling of impending doom as well as the theory of Chicken Little that nothing’s really wrong, but she still expected the end of the world. I simply put my arm around her and sigh.

“When I found out that I was pregnant,” she begins, “I was afraid that I was carrying two little lives inside of me—two little blessings from God—that I would nurture inside of my body and bring into this realm just so that the world could gobble them up and destroy them. As time went on, I managed to fight those demons back even though it was hard, and things were still happening to prove my point rather than dispel it. Now, they’re here—they’ve made it into the world and they’re okay. And as time goes on, I see more and more that I was right the first time.

“People are untrustworthy and as a result, horrible things happen to other people. Even when you think you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do, somehow you slip up and do something wrong—you make the wrong decision, or you don’t take an action you should have or you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time and because of it, hell falls down on you like burning hot lava and sears your very soul.

“You go to one of your favorite places in the world to calm down and think things through and just as you’re leaving, your psycho ex-boyfriend shoots you full of drugs that should only be available to doctors and handcuffs you to a bed for four days.

“You take a left turn instead of a right which takes you a different route than you normally take, and a neurotically delusional ex-submissive T-bones your car most likely gunning for the Dom whom she felt scorned her… or maybe she was gunning for me, who knows?

“And instead of running to my husband and telling him about a situation that I erroneously thought I had under control or simply avoiding the situation altogether, he walks in and sees a man that I don’t want at all about to kiss me, and he leaves me for three weeks with no word—put an ocean, a few seas, and a continent between us.”

Shit… that hurt.

“And this,” she says, gesturing to the screen. “Grip boy records me without my permission hoping to see some tits, and then we hear through word of mouth that the promos were released before we approved them. I couldn’t even enjoy the premier because I sat here the entire time waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Jesus, I don’t know what to say. I want to come up with something that will make this all better, but I can’t. I see a single tear fall down her cheek, quickly followed by another.

“Butterfly…”

“You were my safe place,” she says, her voice squeaking. “Everything was okay in your arms, under your protection, and suddenly…” She trails off. What’s more alarming is that she’s speaking in past tense. I am your safe place, Butterfly.

“You’re only human,” she continues, her tears dictating her voice. “You’re not perfect, immortal, or impervious to pain or mistakes, but somehow… somehow…” Her voice trails off again. She raises her eyes to the ceiling and sighs heavily before quickly wiping her face with both her whole hands to remove as many tears as possible.

“It’s an uphill battle,” she says, “fighting the Boogeyman and trying not to let fear overtake me and become a complete recluse, but I’m fighting it. I see things more differently than I’ve ever seen them before in my life, and I just have to incorporate this new knowledge into my life without crumbling to the hand of doom. That’s the hard part. Wisdom is a terrible burden to bear.”

That sounds horrible. She’s slipping into the doom again. This is exactly what we don’t want. She’s moving backwards, away from progress.

“Baby, what can I do?” I ask, feeling completely rudderless. She shakes her head.

“I’ll be alright,” she says in that flat voice that I hate. It’s that quiet acceptance of hell. “I just… need a few moments to regroup. I’ll do some yoga and meditate.” She stands from the seat and heads to the door.

“Do you want me to come and meditate with you?” I ask. We haven’t meditated together in a couple of days. It might help. She turns sad eyes to me.

“Sometimes, you have to face your demons alone,” she replies. She looks at me for a moment, then walks out of the theater room.

Jesus, I feel like a stone has been tied around my neck and I just have to carry it around until she comes out of this. If that’s how I feel, I can only imagine what she’s feeling.

“I just saw Ana.” Mac’s voice startles the shit out of me. “She’s not doing very well.” I shake my head.

“My impromptu trip to Madrid did more damage that I ever thought possible,” I say, scrubbing my hands over my face. “I’ll be honest, even looking back on my anger, had I ever thought it would cause this much injury, I would have made a different decision.” Mac frowns.

“I thought you went to Madrid on a hunch,” she says, “that you got a bad feeling about something and had to go immediately. There’s more?”

“Yes, there’s more, but I’m not going to tell you about it because it’s irrelevant and won’t do any good. I will tell you that you’re right, though. I did get a bad feeling about something and I did go on a hunch—and I was right, which is why I pulled out of the deal. But I didn’t need to go as suddenly as I went, and that’s all I’ll say about that.”

I straighten in my seat, raising to my full height and changing the subject, indicating to Mac that this topic of conversation is closed.

“What about what Stanton said?” I ask. “Did I give enough to prove that she missed a golden opportunity?”

“Oh, dear God, do you have to ask?” Mac replies. “You gave just enough of the interview that she was looking for not to bore the audience, plus you gave crisp and valuable insight into your personal life that wasn’t syrupy sweet, overly ostentatious, or Desperate Housewives. She’s going to be sick when she sees this.”

“How do you know she’ll watch it?” I ask.

“It’s primetime Monday night Sweeps Week—of course, she’s going to watch it. She’s hoping to see it flop, so she’s going to watch it the entire way through, looking for exactly what she’s expecting to see, and trust me. You guys nailed it. Maria asked the tough questions and you two came back without flinching. You got the point across that you wanted to relay as well as giving a good, solid 10-15 minutes as to exactly why you are the brilliant entrepreneur, businessman, mastermind, savant, and guru that she claimed you were. Those statistics that you threw out there in a moment’s notice—28 industries, 419 subindustries, 165 countries… that shit was brilliant. Raynell fucked up and when she sees this interview, she’s going to know it. You got the grit that she was looking for plus the fantastic human-interest piece that you wanted… Stories like this—and on Sweeps Week—are the stuff that Barbara Walters is made of. She’s going to shit herself when this airs. She pissed on the golden ticket and she’s going to know it!”

Well, I take some small amount of comfort in that. Mac and I talk for a few minutes longer about the publicity that will be generated over the next week and how to handle it, including a “no comment” press release until after the segment airs. Jason and Chuck return to the theater room after showing Maria and her reel operator to the door.

“I have the copies of the interview and the promos, sir,” Jason says, handing me a very fancy looking silver flash drive. “It really was a good segment.” I nod, hardly pacified from my angst about my wife.

“Well, I’ll be going now,” Mac says, rising from her seat. “Thanks for the great grub and… call me if you guys need me.”

“Thanks, Mac,” I say without raising my head.

“I’ll show you out,” Chuck says as he escorts Mac from the theater room. I run my fingers through my hair and drop my head. There’s that stone around my neck again.

“Do you want to be left alone?” I forgot that Jason was still here. Now, he’s standing in front of me.

“I don’t know what to do,” I admit. “It’s like she’s bipolar. Just about anything could set her off. She was my rock in Detroit, Jason,” I say, turning my gaze to him as he takes a seat next to me. “She never complained about that cold room. She was right there when I needed her. She held me together when I thought I was going to fall apart. She was everything I needed and then some. She was supportive, passionate, even playful… but the moment the slightest bit of adversity comes her way, she loses her footing. True, she did everything throughout this viewing to hold it together, so she didn’t fall apart completely, but she was so withdrawn and detached… so aloof. If was hard to watch. It was a good segment…”

“Very good, boss,” Jason says. “She depicted you guys extremely well. She even turned a bad situation into a good one.” I nod.

“Exactly, but my wife was sitting there waiting for some horrible thing to come across the screen and never absorbed how great we looked—as a couple and a family… as a team. It was just what I wanted, and she still looks like the world is ending.” I drop my head into my hands.

“God, why didn’t I see this before?” I say, still holding my head while I’m shaking it. “My wife is and always has been mostly emotion and I… I, who can’t identify what I’m feeling half the time without help from my shrink or from her or from you… had to go all mega-Dom on her and disappear for three weeks without telling her where I was. This damage may be irreparable.” Jason sighs.

“Well, you got one thing right,” he says. “You did go mega-Dom on her.” I raise my eyes to him. “I may not be in the lifestyle, boss, but I had to learn something about it working for you, and that trip to Madrid wasn’t about you at all. It was about her. Somewhere during the course of that trip, you may have gotten all caught up in your feelings and decided that you felt betrayed or hurt or used or whatever feeling you want to put in there. But the entire time that you were downing shots at the bar, vomiting on the plane, wearing a toga during the descent, and running around Madrid in sweatpants, you were pissed. You convinced yourself that she was a villain and she deserved to be punished—and that’s what you did. You went mega-Dom and gave her the biggest punishment that you’ve ever given her. Emotional warfare is far more damaging than physical, and you punished her so badly that she punished herself.

“I’m not saying that she’s blameless in this. I know that’s not true and so does she. I’m just saying that this could have definitely been handled in a better way and now, she’s paying for it. What you did was the equivalent of ‘two wrongs don’t make a right;’ they only result in an even bigger wrong and in this case, it’s astronomical. She’s suffering a form of PTSD…”

“Oh, she’s not going to like the sound of that,” I protest. “She won’t even talk to Dr. Baker without coaxing because she said the same thing.”

“Well, she may not have been suffering it at that time, but this time, she is. She emotionally or physically separates herself from any situation that may cause her discomfort; then she sits in the corner and waits for Armageddon. That’s the same as a combat soldier who can’t tolerate fireworks, who’s set off by a ceiling fan thinking it’s a chopper blade; who wakes up in the middle of the night screaming and fighting ghosts who aren’t there; a victim of a serious accident who’s afraid to drive a car; a victim of sexual abuse who doesn’t trust the opposite sex. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. She can deny it all she wants, but that’s what she’s suffering.

“Is it irreparable? I don’t know. I’ve seen some victims of PTSD that never come out of it. I’ve seen some that just learn to live with it—that can function and control their triggers. Her behavior in Detroit gives me the idea that she has hope. It just depends on how deep her despair is and if she can control those feelings of doom. She’s going to have to find out exactly what triggers it and control those triggers. That’s the hard part, but you have to be patient and give her time… and space, when she needs it.” Did he hear her tell me that there was nothing I could do for her right now?

“Are you a part-time shrink, too?” I try to jest.

“No,” Jason says, “I’m a combat veteran. I suffer a bit of the old post-trauma myself. I just… know how to handle it.”  I gaze at him.

“I never knew that,” I reply soberly.

“I don’t publicize it,” he retorts. “If Her Highness denies that she’s suffering from the effects of post-traumatic stress, she’s never going to be able to find an effective treatment plan. She knows that.”

“Well, Jason, I can’t tell her. When I tell you that it was disastrous the last time we approached that topic with Dr. Baker, I’m saying that the silent passive-aggressive blows in that room could have caused physical carnage in a different setting.” He sighs.

“I’ll try to find a decent time to talk to her about it, but it won’t be today. She’s already triggered, so she can’t hear me right now.” I twist my lips.

“You did some shrinking somewhere, Jason. Admit it.”

“Nope,” he denies, shaking his head. “Any intelligent person will learn everything they can about their illness, particularly mental illnesses. They can be deadlier than any physical illness around. I educated myself on triggers, coping techniques, symptoms, medications, things like that. I’m not a shrink, Christian. I’m just informed.”

“Quite,” I cede. “I’ll let you decide when the best time is to broach this topic with Her Highness. In the meantime, I need your help with another situation.”


ANASTASIA

I’ve lost it. I’ve completely lost hold on everything that I’ve been working on—all my Zen, all my chi, all my fucking self-control… right out the goddamn window.

Get it together, Grey. Get it the fuck together.

For the first time in my life, the Bitch sounds like me. I shudder and try to compose myself. I can’t lose it. I have to maintain control and balance.

I’m walking around the house aimlessly, not sure where I’m headed or what I’m trying to do. The meditation room won’t do it right now. I need more than meditation to shake this feeling. I need meditation on steroids!

Nothing happened. Nothing even happened. It was just the fact that Maria Sanchez seemed a bit careless with our footage and suddenly, the sky is falling again. I can’t function like this. I can’t constantly walk around being afraid to think or move or breathe.

Nothing actually went wrong. It just took the hint of something possibly not being quite right for me to slip into the anticipation of Armageddon.

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Who is this wimpy bitch before me and what has she done with the fearless Anastasia Steele?

Anastasia Steele… why did I go all the way back to her?

I know why… because I’m trying to find that independence that I once had, that ability to call my own shots and tell it like it is without pulling punches or holding back. That same woman who told David the he would never have a chance and subsequently pulled a gun on him in the parking lot. Yeah, he kidnapped me, but when I was free, I kicked his motherfucking ass with the last bit of strength I had left.

That’s the girl I’m looking for—the same girl that faced off with the Pedophile and won every time, even after she stole my gun. Yeah, she shot Jason with it, but I beat her within an inch of her life after that.

And then there’s the girl who really let Grey have it—showed him just how displeased I was with his staring and his fucking, “Google me.” Yeah, I’d love for her to make an appearance.

How did I become so weak? How did I become so dependent that I couldn’t define myself without him? Made him everything in my life so that once he was gone, I was rudderless and had no identity?

It’s my fault. I made him “perfect.” I made him the answer to all my questions, prayers, and problems. I made him invincible and incapable of disappointment, so that when it happened, I nearly crumbled.

It’s my fault. It’s all my fault.

Michel’s words come back to me…

“You two are going to be together for 100 years and sometime during that hundred years, you’re going to have a big breakup. It won’t be the end of the world. It’ll just feel like it. Don’t let it destroy you.” 

God, I hope this was the big breakup. I don’t think I can survive anything bigger than this.

All my wandering finds me in the spa room. I don’t know how I got here, but yes, this is the perfect place for me at the moment. I turn the lights on and the room looks like a haven, a nice, quiet haven. I immediately start the water running in the sunken spa. I sit on the bench in front of the wall aquarium, which easily holds twenty to thirty fish… or more. The only thing my mind can conjure right now is… who’s responsible for feeding these fish? I immediately think of that aquarium I bought with Edward… and how I couldn’t wait to get rid of that fucker once he was gone.

That of course leads me to my visit to the aquarium where he and his ex-security flunky kidnapped me.

“You’re a dirty fucking bastard, Edward,” I say aloud. “You were a wretched excuse for a human being. I’m glad you’re dead and I hope you burn in hell.”

The honesty of those statements is incredibly liberating. Fuck political correctness. For much of the time that I knew that man, he made my life a living hell even through the moments where I foolishly loved him. Now, when I find myself in my darkest moments, he comes back to taunt me—make me feel like I’m nothing or worse yet, make me feel afraid of the future. How the hell do you give a dead man that kind of power over you?

I stand from the bench and move to the shelf of bath salts. Sandalwood—yes. Evocative and soothing at the same time.

“Fuck you, Edward David,” I say as I sprinkle bath salts into the slightly steaming water, “and your little dog, too.”

That fucking keystone cop… No, not a keystone cop. I won’t insult keystone cops by comparing them to him. He was even more worthless than Edward—pissed off because he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do his job and then blames his termination on me. And manhandling me while I was cuffed and helpless—that was really fucking macho. Your plans for success were based on Edward needing to get me alone and when that didn’t pan out for you, you raid my credit cards. Brilliant, fucking brilliant.

And you have the nerve to haunt me, too.

“Fuck you, too, you miserable asshole,” I say aloud. “I hope Satan is fucking you in the ass with a red, hot dick every night.”

Jesus! That sounds horrible.

But I don’t care. It serves him right.

I swirl my hands around in the hot, aromatic water. It’s perfect. I strip, dropping my clothes on the floor next to the spa and descend the stairs into the hot water. It feels heavenly. As I settle into the water, I practice a meditation technique I saw in one of my studies.

I wiggle my toes, stretching them wide and feeling the tension release in each knuckle as the hot water caresses them. Once my toes feel loose and light, I stretch my feet like I’m doing one of my interpretive dances. I feel the release all the way to my ankles. I close my eyes and stretch further, flexing my calf muscles—first the right and then the left. It’s like tiny fingers working the stress out of my muscles, releasing all the tension and darkness into the water and washing it away from me.

Next, I flex my feet hard, causing my thigh and hamstring muscles to stretch. I imagine all the fear and anxiety rising to the top and dissipating in the continuous bubbles, floating off in the air to somehow return to the depths of hell from whence they came. My body is beginning to feel physically lighter. I tighten and flex my glutes, feeling the release all the way in my lower back.

I control my breathing the entire time, bringing good, healthy air in and releasing the bad, burdened air that had previously invaded my lungs. Fuck this silent reservation. If the Boogeyman wants me, come at me! I got something for you, and I’m not going out without a fight.

I roll my abs, flexing and tightening, imagining more of the darkness sliding out of my soul and off my body, imagining the fear releasing its death grip on my heart and mind, clearly seeing a shiny newness that leaves no room for doubt, anguish, painful uncertainty.

The pop of each vertebra is a celebration of the releasing of the weight of doom and when the final vertebra pops and I end the dance with a long roll of my shoulders, I feel the final monkey jump off my back. I stretch my arms and wiggle my fingers, basking in the feeling of being able to roll my neck around and from side to side without the hinderance of, “What the hell is coming at me now” following me or lurking on my left or my right, making me afraid to turn my head and look around me, to walk confidently into my future whatever it may hold.

The bubbles massage my sensitive breasts and I reach up to my nipples to protect them from the flow of the jets. Good God, they’re taut! I cover them, allowing them to still feel the heat of the water without the constant pressure and stimulation of the jets. Jesus, I can’t remember the last time they felt like this—dark pink and hard like little pebbles. I’m so fascinated by how they look that I start to massage them. No wonder Christian likes them so much… they’re beautiful.

Before I know it, the stimulation sends jolts of pleasure right down to my core. I’m suddenly very aroused by my own nipple play and the water is caressing me into comfort and seduction like you wouldn’t believe. I want to find Christian, but this caress… this massive release of trouble and anguish… the embrace of the warm, aromatic water…

Do you need him to come, too?

My hand slides from my breast and locates that sensitive bundle of nerves between my legs and I stroke… again… and again… and again. I pinch my nipple to remind myself of the sensation the brought me to this point.

“Ah,” I purr as pleasure shoots back and forth between the two manipulated points. I stroke myself harder, deeper, spreading my legs wider, the warm water adding to the sensation of my building orgasm.

“Ah… ah…” I croon, pinching my nipple and stroking my clit, over and over until…

I bite my lip and groan through my climax, feeling the final weight of uncertainty fall from my body. I take more deep, cleansing breaths as my body trembles through aftershocks and slowly melts into the comfort of satiation.

Why did I do that? I don’t regret it, but I can’t remember the last time I touched myself just for the sake of touching myself. At my condo? After Christian’s first kiss… or sometime around there. I touched myself after I had the babies, then Christian interrupted me and made me feel like shit without saying a word. True, he made me come so hard that night that I could barely say my name, but the way he looked at me… I remember never wanting to touch myself again.

So, I didn’t.

But this is my body. Yes, it’s his, too, but it’s mine first. Why do I need an excuse to make myself feel good? Why should I be ashamed? It’s not like I’m letting someone else touch me—I’m doing it myself. Jesus, have I completely lost all definition of Anastasia in the definition of AnaChris?

No matter. I’m on my way to finding myself again, to finding that tiger that he fell in love with and that I admired so much. She’s not gone, she’s just suppressed, and she needs to come back. I can still be Christian’s wife without totally losing myself and who I was in the process. No wonder I’m a fucking basket case. Yes, bad things are going to happen. They happen all the time. They’ve happened to me since I was a child… but I didn’t die. Shit, somebody tried to kill me—killed the baby that I was carrying—and I still didn’t die.

I still carry my guns in my purse and in my glovebox, and I walk around afraid that someone from Green Valley is going to sneak up behind me again. Please, walk up on me… please! I will take great joy in filling their asses full of lead.

David did some horrible shit to me and to other women, and he ultimately paid with his life. Why the hell am I still holding onto that one?

And Christian, my lover and my tormentor. One day—heaven forbid—he may just decide that I’m not enough for him anymore. Am I going to roll over and die if that happens? At the rate I’m going now, yes, I will. I’m going to curl up and shrivel away into nothingness without him.

No, I don’t want to lose him. Yes, I’ll be crushed if he leaves me. But right here, right now in this space and time, who am I? Who is Anastasia besides being Mrs. Christian Grey?

The question floats around in my head as I allow the comfort of afterglow, release, and liberation to soothe me as the warm water continues to caress my body.

*-*

“Baby wake up.”

Christian’s voice is cutting through my solace. Maybe cutting is the wrong word, but I was visioning… dreaming maybe… about clouds and flying and dancing, flowers and soft spring dresses… and twirling…

“Hmm?” I say groggily. He pushes the wet hair from my face.

“How long have you been in here?” he asks, his voice concerned. I shrug. I’m still in the spa… with the warm water.

“Uhuhuh,” I make the I don’t know sound while shrugging my shoulders, because I really don’t know how long I’ve been in the water, but long enough for the heat and massage to coax milk from my breast. Sure enough, when I sit up, they’re empty and light…

Just like the rest of me.

“Are you okay?” he asks, reaching his hand out to me to help me out of the spa. I take his hand and drag myself from the comfort of the warm bath. My body is a little heavier now, but it’s no doubt from the loss of that weightless feeling from the water, and from the fact that I’m totally pruney, which means…

“I’m fine, just a little waterlogged apparently.” I step out of the spa and walk over to the closet. Retrieving one of the terrycloth robes, I wrap myself in its warmth.

“You seem to be feeling a little better,” Christian says, handing me a towel. I take it and begin to dry my hair.

“I’m working on it,” I say, wrapping the towel around my head turban-style. “I’m working through some things. I guess we’ll see how it goes.”

“Is there anything I can do?” Oh, Christian. I love you so much, but therein lies the problem. Ace has been right all along. I have to start over from the beginning… finding me. And now that I have an idea what I’m looking for, the journey doesn’t seem so scary anymore… but it’s my journey. And no, he can’t be there every step of the way because he can’t take this journey for me. What’s more is that I need to know who I am outside of him. I need to exist in my own space and my own skin… and learn to coexist with him as well, not just exist because of him or for him.

None of this gloom and doom would have befallen me had I not fallen completely apart when he went to Madrid. Yes, it was tragic, and it was going to be painful no matter how balanced or together I was, but it wasn’t the end of the world and I fell completely apart. Just like we have to find our way back to us together, I have to find my way back to me on my own.

“Just be supportive and love me. That’s all I ask.” That’s all I really can ask.

“Now, why does that sound like a massive blow-off to me?” he laments.

“Well, because when the person you’re talking to doesn’t have a cut-and-dried answer for you, they can only give you what they know, and that’s what I know. I need you to love me and be supportive. Can you do that?”

“You know I can,” he says, closing the space between us and pulling me into his arms. “You know I do.”

“I feel like having a party,” I say later that evening as I lie on my back on the sofa in the family room. Minnie is lying on my chest, breathing evenly in her slumber and occasionally suckling her binky while I play in her copper curls. Christian’s brow furrows.

“What kind of party?” he asks while rubbing Mikey’s back and attempting to gently coax him to sleep. “Food and Libations?”

“I don’t know,” I say, because I really don’t know. “I’m just in the mood for a party.” I know it’s a ridiculous thing to blurt out of nowhere. In fact, I don’t even know where that came from.

“I… guess we’ll have to see what we can do, then,” he says, squeezing my foot and smiling.

*-*

“Rosie…”

I don’t know where I am. It’s gray, not necessarily gloomy, but maybe a bit maudlin… and I hear his voice.

“Rosie…”

I focus a bit and out of the rolling gray midst comes Edward… young and beautiful, like he was when I first met him. His expression is sad—nothing like the young, confident man with the GQ model looks that I met back in college. My heart leaps and a myriad of emotions run through me, some good and some bad. They all flow into the three second funnel and produce a single thought, as always. I pull myself up to my full height, square my shoulders and ask…

“Why are you here now? What do you want?”

As if it could, his face falls even more and he appears to get shorter—shorter than me, even.

“I’m sorry, Rosie,” he says, without making eye-contact with me. “I’m so sorry for the horrible way that I treated you…”

Why the hell is he coming to me now? Is it because I thought of him today? That has to be it. I fold my arms and twist my lips.

“You’re dead. There’s nothing you can do about it now. And I know that I’m dreaming, so why don’t you go back to wherever the hell you came from.” He sighs, and his clothes become more and more tattered by the second. Is that evil bastard that confronted me while Christian was gone about to present himself to me? Well, I’m ready for you, asshole. Bring it on!

“Hell is right,” he says, sadly. “I know it’s not you, but I see you every day. You torment me every day. You and Camilla and…” He trails off. “Mostly you. I don’t know why it’s mostly you. I didn’t do to you what I did to the others.

“It was worse,” I reply. I’m not minimizing the fact that he brutally beat those women, but I get the feeling that they got the beatings because they didn’t stay around for the emotional and mental warfare that he put me through for years. And even after we broke up, there was more warfare when he kidnapped me.

“You tormented me, mentally and emotionally, but Harris took care of the beating for you.”

Edward winces, the shirt and pants he was wearing now disintegrating from his body leaving something that looks somewhat like a tattered loincloth… more like a diaper.

“I don’t expect you to forgive me…”

“Ha!” I scoff. “Forgiveness! That’s a laugh! You’re a monster, Edward. I’m glad your dead. I once said I don’t know how I ever loved you, but I do. You tricked me. You tricked me just like you tried to trick me a minute ago, walking in here all beautiful and seemingly untarnished. You did your song and dance and you sold me this performance and this lie, and when the monster came out, it was too late. I was already in love—helpless and fooled into believing that this horrible creature had taken over my man and praying that one day, he would go away and bring my ‘Eddie’ back to me. But that was never going to happen, because my ‘Eddie’ was the façade and the monster was the real you all along. You did a bait and switch on me, only the version of you that you were offering was nothing like the version of you that you originally presented—nowhere near it. You sold me swampland and passed it off as resort property, and I didn’t know it until I was sinking and dying. No, I don’t forgive you. I’m glad you’re dead and you’re obviously rotting in hell, so I know that karma really does exist. Now, go back to eternal damnation and never darken my mind again. I bind you or I cast you out or whatever it is that I have to do or say to let you know that you are not welcome! Do not come back!”

Edward’s face becomes pale… no, not pale, blue… death blue. His skin sags on his bones and the sadness he emits is nearly unbearable. That sheet is around his neck again, the one he foolishly thought would end his suffering, and darkness begins to swallow him. I hear a horrible rumbling, like a growl, but I can’t make out any words.

“Yes, Master,” Edward’s voice says, now gravelly, like he’s drowning, and the darkness envelops him. Moments later, a vision appears like a movie floating inside the black clouds. It’s a room—like the Red Room, but morbid and dark, very uninviting. Edward appears before me, on his knees, not facing me, Thank God. His hands are bound behind him and his cuffs look like hot lava circulating around his wrists. His head is down and his ‘Master’ is nothing more that a darker-than-black midst in front of him. The horrible, rumbling, growling sound comes from the midst and it chills my very soul.

“Yes, Master,” Edward’s voice says again, and I see a long, narrow flame whip out and across his back. He cries out in pain as another flame reaches out and lifts his chin. He’s weeping like a child as he looks up at the past-midnight black midst, and I look around the room that he’s in…

What looks like a spanking bench is in the corner, but there are spikes all over the portion where you’re supposed to sit…

Another device looks like a helmet inside of a vice, no doubt meant to crush your skull…

Yet another gruesome looking device consists of two large chunks of wood with large spikes on the inside and an apparatus made to squeeze them together. I shudder to think what’s supposed to go in between them…

The more I examine the room, the more horrible torture devices I see.

Some kind of rolling device with a long handle fashioned with nails or barbs or something—it looks like a homemade gardening tool. There’s even a medieval rack and an iron maiden. This is a fucking torture chamber!

Another lick of fire down his back causes Edward to scream and brings my attention back to him. The rumbling grumble that comes from the horrible mist this time is clearly a laugh, and Edward crumbles to the ground in tormented tears.

Torture chamber… Red Room… licks of fire, like a whip… could it be?

Edward is Satan’s submissive!

As the meaning of this ghostly vision dawns on me, a horrible dog with snarling, bloody fangs comes from the black mist and starts viciously biting the bound and helpless Edward. Just as I’m about to turn away from the grisly display, the dog turns to me…

And I see Harris’s face.

He growls at me, then falls to the ground, gnawing angrily at his own paws, mangling them and yowling in pain the entire time. Jesus, what was I watching before I fell asleep? What kind of craziness is this?

“Forgive me, Rosie! Please, forgive me!”

And somehow, I get the feeling that my forgiveness is directly linked to the level of torment this asshole is suffering. I don’t know how, but I think I’m right. The very thought of it rips a cackling laughter from my chest.

The sound of my laughter is still echoing in my ears when I open my eyes. Apparently, the sound wasn’t enough to wake my husband. Thank God for that—I don’t even want to begin to try to explain that dream to him. I roll over and snuggle under the covers.

“I forgive you, Edward,” I say softly with a chuckle. “You can’t do anything else to me anymore, so I really don’t care what happens to you, but I’m not holding onto this shit anymore. Now, stay the fuck out of my dreams or I’ll come in there and get you myself, and Satan’s red-hot dick will be the least of your worries.”

Within moments, I’m asleep again, dreaming about clouds and music and flying…

*-*

“I have to say that this is a pretty remarkable case. I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never had one.”

Judge Purdy looks over our petition as she reviews our case. Al is as calm as ever, as am I, but Daddy looks like he’s about to burst.

“You seem nervous, Mr. Steele,” the judge says. Daddy shrugs.

“Maybe… just a bit. I’m… excited I guess. I’ve been waiting for this for a while. It’s just… way past time we did this, that’s all.” Daddy’s words tumble out completely unrehearsed, like he’s going through the supermarket and picking the words off the shelf as he sees them. I reach over and squeeze his hand, trying to calm him.

“Better late than never, right?” the judge says with a smile and Daddy calms right down. “Tell me, because it’s not part of the petition. Why did you wait so long? It won’t affect the decision. I’m just curious.” I look at Daddy and he nods, ceding to me to answer the judge’s question.

“My mother,” I say without hesitation. “It was a rocky and unstable relationship, to say the very least. My mother legally changed my name to Steele very shortly after I was born, but never gave my Daddy parental rights. Once she decided that she didn’t want to be married to him anymore, she went about the business of ripping away from him the daughter that she gave him and had built a relationship with him for over ten years. The decade that followed was torturous—for both of us. We kept in touch as we could, saw each other whenever we could, kept our relationship going the best we could. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I was able to come to him and fully rebuild our relationship. Even though we have the love and don’t really need the piece of paper to define our relationship, different things that have happened to me over the past few years have led to the conclusion that Daddy and I do need legal documentation to solidify our relationship to the rest of the world. It’s not about what people think; it’s just what’s necessary.” The judge nods.

“Very astute explanation, Mrs. Grey,” she says. You’ve answered my question and any follow-up I was thinking of. So, if no one objects, let’s get on with it.”

“In the Superior Court of the State of Washington and in the County of King; in the matter of the adoption of Anastasia Rose Steele-Grey by the petitioner, Raymond Steele, this cause coming on to be heard and being heard before myself, the Court, and from all the evidence presented in this proceeding, makes the following findings of fact and law:

“That all necessary parties are properly before the court and that notice of the adoption petition has been served on any person entitled to receive notice of this proceeding.

“That the adoptee is eighteen years of age or older and proper consent to the adoption has been given by her in writing and has been filed with this proceeding.

“That any other necessary consent has been obtained and any other necessary documents or judicial orders have been obtained and filed with the Court.

“That the adoptee was born in the State of Washington on the 18th day of October 1986.

“That this adoption is entered into freely and without duress or undue influence for the purpose of creating the relation of parent and child between the petitioner and the adoptee, and that the petitioner and the adoptee understand the consequences of the adoption.

“That the Decree of Adoption establishes the relationship of parent and child between the petitioner and the person being adopted. From the date of the signing of the Decree, the adoptee is entitled to inherit real and personal property by, through, and from the adoptive parent in accordance with the statutes on interstate succession and has the same legal status, including all legal rights and obligations of any kind whatsoever, as a child born the legitimate child of the adoptive parent.

“Please note that this Decree for Adoption does not terminate the parental rights of any living biological parents or sever the relationship of parent and child between the individual and the individual’s biological mother as you have requested not to do so.

“Now therefore, upon the foregoing finding as a matter of law, it is hereby ordered, adjudged and decreed: that from the date of entry of this Decree, the adult is declared adopted for life by the petitioner and that said adult will continue to be known by the name of Anastasia Rose Steele-Grey in accordance with the provisions of the General Statutes.”

I think Daddy and I both hold our breath until she gets to the bottom of that document. She’s still reading, and I don’t hear a thing except “adopted for life.”

Daddy is officially my daddy!

“Congratulations to you both,” the judge adds. Daddy beams with immeasurable pride when Judge Purdy hands him the final adoption order.

“Thank you,” he exclaims. “Thank you, Your Honor. Thank you so much.” Daddy gathers me in his arms and I can feel him shaking. He’s not an emotional man, so I know he’s a bit overwhelmed right now. I squeeze him hard and sink into his chest, that strong man who has always been there for me—when circumstances allowed. No matter what came between us, my daddy never turned his back on me. We may have been kept apart by circumstances beyond our control, but he never deserted me. He came to get me after I was attacked and was prepared to finish raising me on his own until that woman and her walking moonshine still came and got me and ripped us apart again.

“I love you, Daddy,” I whisper, my voice cracking.

“I love you, too, Sunflower,” Daddy says, his voice thick with unshed tears.

“Okay, happy smiles, happy smiles. It’s picture time,” Judge Purdy says. It’s customary for new families to take a picture with the judge, so Daddy and I buck up and put on our best smiles for the camera. Al snaps a few pictures with his phone and with the judge’s phone as she wanted one for her wall. When he’s done, he’s thumbing through his phone and frowning again. I thank the judge for her services and we proceed to leave the courtroom.

“Is everything okay?” I ask. He twists his lips.

“I don’t know,” he says. “Check your phone, did you get a text from Christian?” I reach in my pocket and swipe my screen. Sure enough…

**Don’t be alarmed. I need you to come to your father’s house with Ray when the adoption is complete. **

And nothing else.

“Annie, I know we were supposed to do lunch, but Mandy just texted me. She’s says there’s nothing wrong, but that I need to come home,” Daddy says.

“I got a similar text, and I’m thinking Al did, too,” I respond and Al nods. “Meet at Dad’s?”

“Pretty much,” Al says, and I sigh.

“Let’s go see what’s going on.” Another catastrophe, no doubt… today of all days! I stiffen my back and prepare to face whatever it is.

I will not let this bring me down.
I will not let this bring me down.

I spend the time in the car meditating and trying to steel myself for whatever is about to happen at Daddy’s house. When Chuck turns the corner to my father’s street, I quickly realize that my fears are unfounded.

“He didn’t!” I laugh as we approach the house.

“Is that what I think it is?” Daddy exclaims while Chuck hides his chuckles and Al breaks out in shameless laughter.

“You should know,” I tease, a reference to an earlier time.

It's a girlOn my father’s lawn is the biggest pink stork announcement I’ve ever seen, even bigger than Harry’s! It has to be at least eight feet tall, wearing a pink cape with a pink Superman symbol on his chest. The sign simply says “Anastasia Rose” and it has today’s date on it.

“My husband is insane!” I declare. “When did he order that damn thing and how did he get it here so quickly?” Daddy is now laughing as we pull into the driveway behind Christian’s Audi—one of them, anyway. Mandy is in the door waving when we arrive, and I wonder just how long she’s been standing there. The porch is decorated with pink balloons and a banner that reads, “It’s a girl.”

“You guys are too much,” I say as I exit the car. I walk into Mandy’s arms and return her embrace

“I love you, dearly,” she says, “but still don’t call me ‘Mom.’” We laugh at the throwback to our first meeting.

“Maybe just once or twice,” I tease, pinching my fingers together in front of my eye. Mandy twists her lips in a half-smirk.

“Maybe… we’ll see,” she retorts. She releases me to kiss Daddy and I go to Christian’s arms.

“You’re too much,” I say to him, greeting him with a gentle kiss.

“What my girl wants, my girl gets,” he says. I furrow my brow. I didn’t want a pink stork. I like it and it’s cute, but I didn’t request it. He just smiles and ushers me into the house behind Mandy and Daddy.

“Surprise!”

The house is full. The salutation startles me so badly that I actually turn to run back out the house and I’m greeted by an equally stunned Al. He catches me in his arms—and against his chest—looking over my head at the crowd of people assembled.

The Scooby Gang, Gail and Keri with my precious babies, Grace and Carrick, Mia and Ethan, Marilyn, Elliot, a person or two from Helping Hands…

And Brian.

Brian was here with Christian? For how long? The house isn’t in a state of disarray—so I guess there was no brawling, but how did that happen?

Brian moves forward and grabs my father’s hand. They embrace for a long time, and Daddy closes his eyes. He has missed his friend. I feel a little guilty. Their relationship is strained because of me and I wish that I could change things…

And then I see her.


A/N: Don’t ask me where the hell “Satan’s Playroom” came from. I don’t know what kind of dark place I was in when I came up with that one. I even researched torture devices! I think somebody pissed me off that day…

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

Raising Grey: Chapter 24—Spontaneous Combustion

I haven’t emailed yet—I’ll email later. I have to get to work. 

I must say that the response to the last chapter was overwhelming and flattering and I thank you all so much for your encouragement. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it even though it was heart-wrenching for many of you. I only hope that I can continue to bring you quality entertainment and high-standard writing even when the plot and story may piss you off sometimes. 😉 I truly love you all!

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 24—Spontaneous Combustion

ANASTASIA 

“I will not talk to you about my husband, Grace,” I tell her unequivocally. “I will not get in between what’s going with you two; I won’t be pressured or guilt-tripped into speaking to him on your behalf; and what’s more, I resent the fact that you lied to my husband about what I said to you about Mia’s wedding list. I’ve never seen you as a self-serving individual and I don’t want to start seeing that now. So, whatever it is that you need to say to Christian, you need to find a way to say it yourself or get another messenger because clearly, my messages somehow get lost in translation!”

Grace is staring at me in disbelief. She came in this morning all fired up and ready to plead her case to me and have me appeal to Christian on her behalf. However, the moment the conversation took a turn in that direction, I stopped her with the speech that has her now standing in my office in awe. I had hell being nurse and doctor to my husband last night. He was on the brink of the precipice and couldn’t go into the office today due to a massive headache and lack of sleep brought on by the huge sense of betrayal that he’s feeling at her hands. So, if she thinks that I’m now going to present her plight to him after what she’s put him through already, she’s got another think coming.

“We have to work together,” I continue. “We have a bigger goal in sight here and I’m willing to overlook this entire thing with no malice and proceed with our goal if you’re willing to drop this situation right where it is and don’t involve me any further. Don’t make me choose sides, because the choice will be obvious.” She’s even more stunned than before if that’s possible.

“I… he… we… it…” She can’t even form a full sentence, but I can still see the wheels turning in her head looking for a way to present her case and I must nip this thing in the bud.

“Those are my terms, Grace, or I’m turning in my resignation.” Her eyes widen.

“You would do that?” she asks in horror, her voice just above a whisper.

“Surely you can see I cannot be torn between my husband and his mother,” I say with a slight desperation in my voice. At first, I see hurt in her eyes and then, to my surprise, understanding.

“Yes,” she says softly, “yes, I can see how that would be an impossible situation.” Her voice takes on a sobering tone. “You’re very valuable to the Center. I won’t pester you about Christian.” She turns to leave, clearly downtrodden. She stops and turns back to face me, but doesn’t raise her eyes to me. “I’m sorry… that I stretched… that I lied about what you said… I have no excuse…” She trails off.

“Thank you,” I say softly. “Apology accepted. Thank you,” I repeat. She raises her eyes to me.

“You will be at the wedding, right? I’m not overstepping by asking…” She trails off again.

“No, no, you’re not, and yes. As far as I know, we’ll be there,” I assure her.

“And Mia’s shower next Saturday?” she asks, hopeful. Shit, that’s next Saturday? It’s probably in my calendar along with get my teeth scraped.

“Yes, Grace, I’ll be at her shower.” She nods silently and leaves my office.

I slump down in my chair. That was painful. She has no idea what her behavior has unearthed, and I can’t even tell her. Last night was a nightmare… literally.

“No… no, don’t…”

Oh, dear God, please, tell me this is not what I think it is.

“No! Please… leave me alone… please…”

Shit! Fuck! Shit! Shit! Fucking hell! Shit! Shit! Shit!

I sigh heavily, trying to push away the sleep that gobbled me up the moment my husband fell into exhausted, drunken, sobbing-induced slumber. I turn over in our bed and gently place my hand on his chest. He groans in agony and rises like fire.

Fire…

I move my hand quickly and put it on his cheek, bringing my mouth close to his ear and risking injury from being this close during one of his violent dreams… dreams that he hasn’t had for—I don’t know, at least a year, probably more.

“Christian,” I say, softly, trying to keep my voice from shaking. “Can you hear me?”

“No! No, please… please, God, no…”

“Christian,” I say more firmly, “Christian, come to me.”

“Ana!” he coughs. “Ana!”

“Christian, please… come to me, baby.”

“God, Ana! Where… where are you?”

“I’m right here, baby. Come to me. Wake up!”

He sits straight up in bed and I have to leap out of the way to avoid getting an elbow in the eye. He’s out of breath and sweating profusely. He looks around the room like a scared rabbit, taking in his surroundings and most likely reassuring himself that he’s no longer in his nightmare. And the moment he’s certain…

“Fuuuuuck!”

His roar causes the room to tremble like an earthquake… or maybe it’s just me. He’s not afraid anymore. He’s pissed.

He throws the covers off and leaps out of bed leaving our room in nothing but his boxer briefs without a word to me.

I don’t know what he did after he got out of bed last night. I figured he needed to be alone or he would have stayed and talked to me. I’m sure that I know what happened. Grace and her shenanigans has shaken the sense of security that he had fallen into, and now, his old monsters have returned. As a psychiatrist, I know it’s deeper than that, but that’s the thrust of it. I was so tired last night—and kind of shaken by the whole thing—that I fell almost immediately back to sleep when he left the room. He was back in bed coiled around me when I awoke to come to the Center this morning.

I take out my phone and text him.

**How are you feeling? **

His response is almost immediate.

**Like shit. How much did I drink? **

**Only three, but it was the good stuff. Double shots… unless there was more later in the night. **

**That explains it. There was more. **

I ponder if I should tell him about the conversation I just had with his mother. I really don’t want to aggravate him or bring back any of the ghosts of last night, but I don’t want him to be ambushed either.

**Grace is probably going to try to contact you. **

There’s a pause before he responds.

**I would expect nothing less. **

Part of me wonders if that’s a shot or a compliment. The bigger part of me knows that it’s the former. His relationship with his mother is falling apart because of her blind selfishness. She’s going to lose the delicate grip that she has on her very troubled son if she doesn’t realize what her behavior is doing to that son.

And for some reason, I get the feeling that somehow, that will be my fault.

I replay last night in my head. It was so brutal. For the first time that I can remember, I had an actual session with my husband. He went totally patient on me and I had to become Dr. Steele… er, Grey. He shared things with me that he had never told me before. They were things that I could imagine just from what I had heard, but he had never told me. If he stayed with his mother’s body for four days, he witnessed the rigor mortis that starts in the face and moves to the other muscles of the body; the sheen that coats the skin after about three days; the initial bloating from the breakdown of the bodily organs; the discoloration of the skin and the foaming that comes from the mouth and the nose…

He doesn’t remember his mother’s face because the last thing that he saw of his mother was not his mother’s face—it was her deteriorating death mask, but he knew that was her body… so, that’s what his young mind chose to remember.

The psychological horror of everything he saw and felt only multiplied his physical horror, which is why he put all his faith and hope in Grace. His nightmares may have stemmed from what Anton Myrick did to him, but they continued and festered from the fear that Myrick would come back for him, and by the time he got into adulthood, he couldn’t shake them. They had become a part of his life.

When I think about the fact that when I came along, he said that I “chased the monsters away,” I get one more glimpse into the power of a truly profound love and how it can change a person’s life. I can also see why he was so broken about the betrayal that he feels from his mother right now… and why the nightmares have returned.

She may not have been able to chase away the monsters, but she physically protected him and he knows that. She took him away from the squalor and she brought him to safety. Then, she moved him further away from the possibility of the squalor finding him and gave him as much of a normal life as she could—love, protection, a home, a family, food…

The piano…

He felt that his mental imperfections were his crosses to bear, but had she not come along, he wouldn’t have survived. Hence, she was his champion. And now, his champion is becoming his oppressor, and it’s breaking his heart and causing his old monsters to return. She has unwittingly opened the gates of hell, and he’s losing his mother… again. I know my husband. He’ll walk away before he witnesses that, before he experiences that, and she’ll lose him forever… and I can’t even tell her.

I can’t tell her because I won’t get in the middle of this.

I can’t tell her because I won’t betray my husband’s trust.

I can’t tell her because of doctor/patient confidentiality.

If she doesn’t figure this out on her own, she’s going to lose her son.

“You okay?”

My face must look a fright, because Courtney has surprised me and is looking at me like I’m about to keel over or something.

“Just toiling with a difficult situation,” I admit. “What’s up?” She comes further into my office.

“Two things. I just wanted to tell you. First, my financial aid was approved.” She does a little victory dance and I do a silent “rah rah cheer” for her. “And two, the royal Mia is here somewhere looking for you, so I’m going to disappear for a while. I have my phone…” She waves her phone at me. “So, if you need me…” I nod.

“Duly noted.” Before I can get the words out of my mouth, Mia comes breezing into the room.

“And that’s my cue. Later, gator.” With that, Courtney breezes past Mia without a word just as quickly and effortlessly as Mia breezed into the room. Mia can’t hide her tiny bit of shock and awe at Courtney’s impassivity toward her. What did she expect. She treats the girl like a non-person every time she sees her—she even referred to her as such. You have to expect that someone will one day stop putting up with your shit. Nonetheless, Mia quickly turns her attention to me.

“Anakins, trying to get a final count for my shower and you didn’t RSVP. Are you coming?” I frown.

“Shouldn’t your bridesmaids or somebody be doing this?” I ask. She shrugs.

“I suppose,” she says. “I’ve never thrown a wedding before. I don’t know how this goes.”

“Apparently, neither do they,” I say in disgust. “Have you planned your own wedding shower? The entire thing?” She nods.

“Yeah,” she says, and it’s more of a question than an answer.

“Those tricks didn’t do anything?” I ask. “They didn’t pay for anything? The venue? Nothing?”

“It’s going to be at Mom and Dad’s house,” she says. I roll my eyes.

“Are they at least going to come and decorate?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“We’re paying someone to do that.”

“Shower games? Hostesses? Cleanup? Are those cows doing anything?” I ask in awe. She shrugs.

“They’re bridesmaids,” she says with a shrug. I shake my head. And you talk about Courtney!

“No offense, Mia, but you’ve got some really shitty bridesmaids,” I say, looking at my laptop. “Yes, I just told your mother, I’ll be at your shower…” eating food and having fun with those lazy ass cows you call bridesmaids.

“Oh, good. Do you know if Val is coming?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t asked,” I reply. “The four of us have been like ships passing in the night with everybody being so busy.” My phone starts to sing “Dr. Sax” in my purse and I begin to fish it out.

“Well, I’ll just give her a call and see if she’ll make it. I know she and Elliot are finally planning their honeymoon. Did she tell you they’re going on a cruise?” I don’t recognize the number, but decide to take the call anyway.

“Excuse me one second, Mia.” I swipe the screen. “Hello?”

“You are not going to believe what we just found out! My asshole father must be a goddamn double agent or something!”

It’s Lanie… and she’s pissed. This must be a new number for her.

“Well, do tell,” I press.

“He’s being audited. Did you know he’s being audited? Yeah, he’s being audited… at the same time that Mom is filing for a divorce. Yeah, it’s kind of hard to hide your assets when you’re being subjected to an IRS audit and to discovery from a divorce at the same time!” She’s talking so fast, I just have to keep up and interject when I can.

“He’s hiding assets?” I ask. Mia has taken a seat in front of my desk, but raises her head at my statement.

Hiding isn’t even an appropriate word for it!” she seethes. “That asshole had enough loot hidden to start a whole new life in another fucking country! He said he was tucking it away for retirement as a surprise for Mom! She was fucking surprised alright.”

“So… what happens now? Will she get half of these secret assets?”

“We don’t know yet. They have to finish the audit first to see if he reported capital gains and such. If not, he could lose everything having to pay back taxes and he may have to do jail time for tax evasion… not that that would be a bad thing,” she hisses.

“So, what did they find?” I ask.

“We knew about the cabin in Houghton Lake. They found real estate in the Cayman Islands, the Hamptons, and Mexico; three offshore bank accounts; three investment accounts besides the one that Mom knew about… oh, and Daddy has a girlfriend.” My eyes widen.

“A girlfriend!?” I declare in shock. “He has a girlfriend?”

“Who has a girlfriend?” Mia inquires. I hold up my hand to silence her.

“A pretty young thing ten years his junior riding around in a 2014 Lincoln MKZ that he’s still making the payments on. They found her because of the car.” My mouth falls open in horror.

“Who has a girlfriend?” Mia asks again. I throw a glare at her that demands that she shut the fuck up or face my wrath.

“My mother is devastated,” she adds, somberly. “I’ve never wanted to kill my father before, but right now, I want to kill him. I fucking want to kill him, Ana. Discovery’s only just started. There’s no telling what else we’re going to find. At this rate, we may find out that he has another whole fucking family out there.”

“I’m so sorry, Lanie…”

“Who’s Lanie?” Mia asks. Of all the rude…

“Mia, can you please excuse me?” I say angrily, gesturing to the door. Her mouth flies open, but I just glare at her and keep my arm and hand extended to the door. Get the hell out of my office, you uncouth cow! She has the nerve to look affronted as she stands and stomps her spoiled ass out the room. I’m certain that the body snatchers have temporarily invaded Mia and Grace’s bodies and they will both be back to normal once this dumb wedding is over.

“I’m sorry about that, Lanie. Your cousin is planning her wedding and quite frankly, she’s being an insufferable, stuck-up, bratty little bitch right now.”

“Ah, yes. We’ve gotten our invites. I don’t know if we’ll be able to make it. We’ll have to see what kind of spirits Mom and Burtie are in at that time.”

“Of course,” I reply. “This has been an extremely trying time for everyone…” Suddenly, Carrick comes to mind. I wonder how he’s been doing with his wife flying over the cuckoo’s nest with this wedding and he did, after all, lose his father only about a month ago. “How is Nell holding up under all of this… and Burt? I mean, under the circumstances and all?”

“I’m a little concerned about Mom. She’s losing weight and she seems depressed, but she won’t see a doctor. Burt’s getting settled in okay, I think. He’s made an appointment with a plastic surgeon about his face and his teeth—part of his bone structure in his face is damaged or something like that. He explained it to me, but I didn’t pay it much attention, because it was making my stomach turn. He’s made a couple of friends—Leo’s cousin seems to like him a lot. Burtie’s a little standoffish, though. You know, he’s still in his feelings about this whole thing with our father…”

“It’s normal,” I tell her. “It will pass with time.”

We talk a few minutes more about Nell and I suggest convincing her to talk to someone, even if they have to find someone who makes house calls. She’s suffering from the typical stages of grief and separation. I’m not too worried about Burtie. He seems to be adjusting as well as someone can be in his situation, but he should be talking to someone, too. Lanie, overall, seems very happy with her life—just concerned about her family and their well-being, and ready to send her selfish, asshole, philandering father to meet his maker.

When I end the call with Lanie, my mind wanders back to Carrick. How is he holding up in light of all the shit going on around him? I know life goes on, but his wife is locked in this Wonderland of Crazy with his daughter, and his brother is—no doubt—leaning on his new love and helping with the girls… Who’s looking out for Carrick? I dial his number.

“Hello?” He sounds tired.

“Carrick?”

“Yes?”

“Hi. It’s Ana.” There’s a short pause.

“Oh. Hello, Ana. How are you, dear? Is everything okay?”

“Yes, everything’s fine. I was just… calling to see how you were.” There’s another pause.

“Did Grace say something to you?” Huh?

“Uh… no. Should she have?” I pry. He sighs.

“No… no, she shouldn’t have.” Shit. Shit shit shit. I’ve stepped in some shit shit shit and I can’t step out now. Fuck, how do I handle this? Tell him why I called…

“I was just calling to check on you, Carrick,” I say, honestly. “It’s been… wild times lately, for lack of a better word.”

“That’s putting it mildly,” he murmurs… and I think I wasn’t supposed to hear it. “I’m fine, dear.” I pause.

“No… you’re not,” I retort softly. “And you’re family, and I can’t just ignore that and I’m sorry. I understand if you don’t want to talk about it, I won’t force you, but you just lost your father and it’s still very new. There are a lot of feelings that you’re fighting with and everything’s not sorted yet… and along comes this wedding…”

“This goddamn wedding!” he bites out and I already know that he regrets saying it the moment it comes out of his mouth. We’re both silent for a moment.

“Would you like to meet me for lunch, Carrick?” I can see the wheels turning even though I can’t physically see him. “Are you in court? Do you have appointments?”

“Um… no. Not anymore. I saw my only appointment this morning. I was… just going through some legal briefs… trying to go through some legal briefs.”

“Are you still in your office? I can meet you downtown somewhere…”

“I don’t really feel like being in public, Ana,” he protests.

“My office isn’t far from yours,” I suggest. “I can meet you there. It’s quiet and private… and comfortable. We won’t be disturbed and I can order us some lunch.” He sighs again.

“It all sounds so sordid,” he laughs weakly, “an afternoon rendezvous with a young, attractive doctor in her quiet office downtown…” I laugh, too.

“Only this young, attractive doctor is your daughter-in-law and mother of your grandchildren… and very concerned about you right now,” I add somberly. He pauses.

“Daughter,” he corrects me. “She’s my daughter… and yes, I would love to join you for lunch…” I almost want to cry at the sentiment. I give him the address and arrange to meet him in an hour. I summon Marilyn.

“Order lunch to my office downtown,” I tell her as I gather my things. “Let’s go make sure it’s not overrun with dust bunnies. I have an emergent appointment.”

*-*

“I’ve never been to your office before. It’s nice,” Carrick says as he enters the room. “You actually have the proverbial couch.

“I do,” I laugh, “but I rarely ever used it. Someone laid on it as a joke once. Another time, someone was overwhelmed and passed out, but the whole ‘lying down’ thing, it’s usually pretty uncomfortable for people.” I gesture to the table in my office where Marilyn has set up lunch of fajitas and kebabs with salads and soups from my favorite spot.

“I figure we would just have a conversation over a light lunch, and…” I go to my bar and pull out a bottle of Scotch I procured on my way in. “I brought along a little libation in case you need a gentleman’s lunch.” He chuckles.

“I don’t have a driver, young lady,” he scolds.

“But I do,” I remind him. “Two, in fact, and a personal assistant.” I gesture to the chair for him to have a seat.

“Ladies first,” he says, as he pulls out my chair. I nod and take my seat. He walks over to his seat, but puts his hands on the back of it and holds his head down. I just sit for a moment and silently watch him. He looks  like he’s trying to make a decision if he wants to sit or not.

“I miss my father,” he says, his voice soft. “I feel so many different things right now—regret and anger and… sometimes, I just feel sick, just sick to my stomach like my stomach is eating itself. I’ve had to hand some of my cases off to partners in the firm to assure that my clients will get the best representation.” He starts pacing the office. “We lost so much time… so much time, and I find out it’s all because of that fucker Freeman…”

He says the last two words between his teeth.

“I’ve never wished harm on anyone, really, especially my own flesh and blood, but that asshole…” His fists are clenched and shaking, and when he realizes, he released his fists and flexes his fingers.

“And then there’s my wife,” he says, “she’s out of control. I don’t know what she’s trying to do. I’ve tried to ignore this… ridiculous, ostentatious, ludicrously absurd production that she’s passing off as our daughter’s wedding, but I can’t. This is insane! You have no idea what outrageous crap I’ve vetoed! She wanted to have 500 bottles of Cristal laced with gold leaf. Why? Why in God’s name would you want that? A couple of bottles for the new bride and groom on their wedding night, maybe—but the whole goddamn reception?”

He’s getting angrier and angrier by the second. Looking at him now and remembering what my husband looked like last night, it’s hard to believe that they aren’t related by blood.

“The movie screen of the historical theater will be put to good use, because the guests will be entertained by a genuine reel-to-reel movie of the life of the bride. I’m sure the groom is in there somewhere, but I can guarantee you that it will mostly be Mia. You don’t want to know what that cost! Oh! And you and Christian had the decency to have your wedding where only a private lane was blocked from public view. Do you have any idea the hassle involved in blocking off one city street, let alone twelve?”

Twelve? Why the hell did they have to block off twelve city streets?

As if reading my mind, Carrick fishes out his phone, swipes the screen, and pulls up a map within moments. It’s like he keeps it saved so that he can look at it on command. He hands me his phone and shows me a satellite map of the area surrounding the Paramount Theater with twelve bold yellow lines indicating twelve surrounding streets.

“She wanted us to block the entrance to the freeway!” he declares in disbelief. “I’m surprised they gave us 9th!”

I sit there staring gape-mouthed at a picture where twelve streets in downtown Seattle are going to be blocked on a Saturday afternoon. Fuck! And I thought Christian knew people!

“That isn’t the beginning of it,” he declares. “Her list of wedding band choices read like a rock concert—Michael Buble, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, some kids name Some Direction… I’ve never heard of them, but I heard they’re hard to get…”

One Direction, and you’d probably never get them.

“If these people do weddings, they’re not going to do her wedding. Who the hell does she think we are, the Kardashians???”

Apparently.

“You had Wayne Brady. She’d have Elvis is she thought she could bring him back from the grave. You had a castle and private drive. She books a theater to hold a thousand, packs it to the walls, and shuts down downtown Seattle! You guys left in a classic Bentley. She’d have Mia and Ethan leave in a helicopter if she could. Oh, wait! That won’t work! Christian can fly a helicopter!” I shake my head.

“Wait… is… that what all this is about?” I ask, confused. All this driving everybody crazy, over-the-top ridiculousness is because she’s trying to outdo mine and Christian’s wedding? Carrick waves his hands and shakes his head.

“I don’t know,” he says. “I don’t know what it’s about. I can’t make sense of any of this shit!” he hisses. I fall silent again and give him the floor. “I’m still fighting visions of my father’s casket going into that incinerator, and I have to convince my wife that exotic animals are not appropriate for the historical theater!”

Angry tears burn a trek down his cheek as he appears to cling to decorum by a thread. There’s no one that he can turn to. I know that he hasn’t spoken to Elliot or Christian—at least not since the barbeque—and Herman is probably in the same condition as Carrick, but he has Luma. I don’t know about Stanley, and Freeman is a no-go. Grace is supposed to be his pillar right now, and she’s gone over the edge.

I quietly make my way to the bar and retrieve the Scotch and tumblers I brought, pouring a shot in the glass. I walk over to Carrick and tap him on the shoulder. He sighs and looks at me and I hand the glass to him. He takes it and takes a gentleman’s sip of the Scotch, making that same relieved face that Christian made last night when he gulped down double-shots of Brandy.

“Have you tried to tell Grace how this is making you feel in relation to Pops’ death?” He was all set to answer, but I think that last part changed the game. He has told her how this ridiculous wedding is making him feel, but not in relation to his father’s passing. He shakes his head in dismay.

“I can’t talk to her anymore,” he says. “When she sees me coming, she gets this look on her face that I can’t stand. She automatically thinks I’m going to veto something else for the wedding, and she armors up. It’s eating me up inside that I can’t talk to her about this. I miss my dad so much and I feel shitty in so many ways that I didn’t have more time with him, that I missed so many years with him. I haven’t felt this bad since Mom died, but when that happened, me and my brothers held each other together… and Dad. Now… I fucking feel like I’m losing my mind.”

It finally hits me—what Christian was trying to explain to me about Grace’s reputation. It’s exposure. She probably doesn’t know half of the people she’s inviting to this wedding. She has to maintain her exposure… but that shouldn’t be the purpose of your daughter’s wedding. You want to maintain your exposure, you have a party. You don’t need a reason, just have a party. I personally think it’s pretty cruel to use your daughter’s wedding as a networking event… maybe for a chosen few people, okay; but for the whole of Washington society? And this soon after Pops’ death? Fuck, no! This should be a time for family to get together and celebrate life and love, even more now than ever, not some kind of social role call to make Grace look good. What’s more is that Mia loves the attention and the glam so much that she probably doesn’t even know that she’s being used.

And Grace has no idea that she’s not only alienating her son, but she’s probably also causing irreparable damage to her husband.

“I’m thinking about leaving,” he says, pulling me out of my thoughts.

“You… what?” He raises sad eyes to me.

“If I’m alone, I might as well be alone,” he shoots. “I’m thinking about moving out and going to a hotel.” I sigh heavily.

“Carrick,” I breathe, “that’s so… final.

“It doesn’t have to be,” he interjects, looking down into his Scotch.

“But it can be,” I retort. “The implications of moving out of your home, the effects on the family, the relationship…” He laughs, though there’s no mirth in his chuckle.

“Grace stopped caring a long time ago about the effects on the family,” he says, throwing back the Scotch. “I may not say anything, but I know exactly what’s going on with her and Christian. She comes into my study last night, all broken down and weepy, talking about how Christian might be slipping back into his shell again…”

At least she recognizes that part.

“I asked her why and she said it’s because he couldn’t bury the hatchet with what happened between him and the judge.”

Oops, I spoke to soon.

“I don’t think she knows that I know just about every single thing that happened from the moment he was arrested to the moment you showed up at my house…” Damn, I didn’t know that. “I nearly got a play-by-play of the whole ordeal and although I don’t know the very intimate details, I can most likely pinpoint the very moment he wanted to date you. It was right after you threatened to turn that report in and right before you quit.”

He’s right. Christian has told me so much himself. I nod in agreement.

“So, I know for sure that if my son is going back into a shell, that asshole is not the reason—and if my currently overly dramatic and self-centered wife came to my study last night crying about it, then she most likely is!”

He reaches for his empty glass and I quickly pour him another double shot. No judgement here, Carrick. He starts this drink with a sip like he did the first, then pushes his hand through his hair. Geez, it’s like I’m watching my husband in his frustration.

“The entire time I’m listening to her cry and ramble on about our son, concerned about his possible plight, but totally missing the mark on why he’s headed in this direction, I’m watching and hearing any hope of her seeing or understanding how I feel right now just spiral down the toilet. I’m starting to resent her and I don’t want that, because I love her—but if I have to deal with this pain alone, then I can’t deal with it in the same house with her, because she’s ignoring what I feel and it’s tearing me apart.”

“I wish I had an answer for you, Carrick,” I say sympathetically. “I know it’s no substitute for your wife, but you don’t have to suffer alone. You know that you have your sons… and me and Valerie. I can’t speak for Mia with everything that’s going on right now, but… you’re not alone, Carrick.”

I put my hand on his shoulder and he chokes out a sob. I move to pour him another drink since he has emptied his glass, but he cover the mouth of the tumbler and shakes his head. He knows his limits and won’t drink anymore. I put the Scotch down and slide my arms around his waist, laying my head on his back like I would do for my dad. He covers my hands with his—large like my husband’s, like my father’s—and his body shakes with painful sobs.

*-*

My heart is heavy when I return to Center after not having eaten anything. I couldn’t. There’s a terrible lump in my stomach. I walk slowly to my office and fall down in my chair, dreading the task that I have ahead of me, but determined to fulfill a promise that I made to my father-in-law… surrogate father. I sigh heavily and wait. She should be here any second.

I’m preparing myself for what’s going to happen as I place my purse in the drawer and open my laptop. Shock? Disbelief? Shame? Denial? I stretch my neck and try to relax, but nothing is helping. My head is pounding and I’m trying to talk this headache down, trying to convince myself to put this off until later, but this can’t wait. She has to know now.

“Ana?” Grace sticks her head into my office door. “Marilyn said you needed to talk to me.” I rub my eyes.

“Yes, Grace, I do. Can you come in and sit down for a moment?” I gesture to the seat in front of my desk. She enters my office.

“Is this about Christian?” she asks, taking a seat.

“No… Grace… this… is about Carrick.” She frowns.

“Carrick?” She sits up immediately. “What’s wrong with Carrick? Is he hurt? What’s going on?” she asks frantically.

“No, no… not physically, anyway,” I clarify. Her frown deepens.

“What do you mean?” she asks, her voice confused and a little irritated. “What is this about?”

“I spoke to Carrick earlier today…” I begin.

“About?” she says, and her accusatory tone doesn’t get past me. Okay, tread carefully, Ana.

“Just to see how things were going,” I reply. It’s the truth. She folds her arms, and I see the walls going up.

“I see,” she says, “and how are things going?”

“Apparently, not very well,” I retort, trying not to resent her connotations, whatever they may be.

“Um-hmm,” she grumbles, “so you can talk to his father about Christian, but you can’t talk to me,” she states. My brow furrows.

“This isn’t about Christian!” I nearly hiss. “I called Carrick to see how he was doing. That’s what you do with family, with people you love. You check on them; you see how they’re doing; you make sure they’re okay. He did lose his father a month ago, after all!”

She shrinks into a chair a bit after that declaration, but only a bit. It’s too late, though. The beast is loose, and she’s pissed.

“You have bigger problems on your hands than Christian, Grace. Carrick is in a bad way, and you’re not seeing it.” And just like that, her back is up again.

“Excuse me?” she says, completely defensive.

“Your husband is suffering right now. He needs you. He needs you to be there for him, to comfort him, and you’re terribly preoccupied.” She stands and straightens her back, glaring at me now.

“Young lady, I appreciate your education and experience, but I’ve been with my husband probably as long as you’ve been alive… longer, in fact, and I really don’t need you to tell me how to handle my marriage.”

Her voice is crisp and sharp and her blue eyes are piercing. Of all the reactions I expected, this was not one of them. She’s appalled. And offended. She feels that I have no right whatsoever to be saying what I’m saying right now, even though I spent the last two hours in my previously abandoned office letting her husband cry on my shoulder and trying—and failing, I think—to convince him not to move out of their home.

“If I’m not allowed to talk to you about your husband, then you’re not allowed to talk to me about mine,” she concludes viciously. I draw back from her hostility and she stands her ground as if I’m an intruder and she must fend me off. I’m offended to the deepest part of my soul and I finally see the monster that everyone else is seeing that has replaced the Grace that I’ve always known. I take in a deep breath and armor up, since I must.

“That’s fine,” I say, in my firm Dr. Grey voice. “But I’m going to tell you one thing that I promised him that I would. Not very long ago, your husband lost his father, and right now, he’s suffering… a lot… and alone! And if you keep ignoring it, that’s just where you may end up!

I slam my laptop closed and rip the drawer open that holds my purse. I’m so pissed right now, I can barely breathe.

“Why did…” she begins.

“Oh, no!” I growl, fumbling to put my purse on my shoulders. “You’re right! You’re not allowed to talk to me about my husband, so I’m not allowed to talk to you about yours! Go talk to your husband, that is, if you want to keep him!”

I snatch my laptop from my desk, sending random items from my desk sailing into the chair and onto the floor around it as I storm out of my office and to the nursery. This is one of those moments that I’m glad we outfitted Marilyn’s car with child car seats for just such an emergency.

“Get the children home as soon as you can,” I instruct Keri. “Marilyn will help you!” Keri’s eyes widen.

“Okeh,” she says, and nothing else. I swipe my screen and call Chuck.

“I’m leaving… now!”


CHRISTIAN

“What the hell happened?” I ask.

“I don’t know, but she is pissed! She’s broken every traffic law between the Center and the bridge; we’ve both gotten speeding tickets and she’s headed your way. I just thought you should know.” Chuck informs me. I sigh.

“Okay, I’ll be ready,” I say as I end the call. What the hell happened today? Did my mother decide to pester her for answers about me and she snapped? This situation has got to give and soon! Before I stand from my desk, the phone rings again.

“Sir, this is Riggs at the front gate. Your father is here.”

My father? Why is my father here?

“Um… let him in, of course,” I say.

“Yes, sir,” and he ends the call. Again, the moment that call ends, the phone buzzes again, and my wife’s face appears.

“Hello, Butterfly,” I say as I answer the phone.

“Not that I would expect a repeat of the Elliot situation, but I’m going to breach doctor/patient privilege in favor of maintaining marital harmony in case the paparazzi’s telephoto lenses caught a picture or someone’s cellphone was overactive this afternoon.” No hello, no tears, no nothing, just straight to the point.

“Ooookay.”

“I met with your father today at my office downtown… alone.” That would probably explain why he’s here. “That’s all I’m saying about the matter. You can’t say anything about it; you can’t mention it; you can’t even reference it unless he says something to you. Not only is it a huge betrayal of trust, but I could also lose my license. Do you understand?”  She’s right about that. She’s taking a big chance revealing this, but I can understand why she wouldn’t want to chance what happened between us before.

“Understood… Is he okay?”

“That’s all I’m saying on the matter.”

“Sorry,” I say quickly, “I’m just… concerned about my dad.”

“I understand,” she says, and nothing else. “I have to go. I’m driving.”

“Um, okay.” And she ends the call. This is going to be one hell of a night. I don’t move for fear that the phone is going to ring again. It doesn’t, but the next worst thing happens. My father enters my study… with a suitcase. The look of horror on my face can’t be mistaken.

“Dad?” I say, my eyes wide.

“Son,” he says, his voice soft. He doesn’t look bad, per se, but he looks like he hasn’t slept.

“What’s going on?”

“I’m not really sure,” he says as he places his suitcase on the floor.

*-*

I’m in the Twilight Zone and my mother has been replaced by an android. She has Mia under her spell, captivated by pretty, shiny things while everyone in her general vicinity is going mad. We haven’t heard anything from Ethan and I’m beginning to wonder if he’s tied up in a basement somewhere.

Butterfly immediately comes home and disappears for a moment. Once I get my father situated, I find her in the workout room, wailing away at poor Chuck’s hands. Though they’re protected by punching matts, he winces with every blow, and I can tell that he has had enough. It’s dangerous interrupting them, as we can’t do the whole tag-team thing that we did when we discovered that David was exercising his right to a speedy trial smack in the middle of our Greek honeymoon, but I thank God for small blessings as the interruption takes some of the fire out of my wife so that when she begins to wail on me once I relieve Chuck, it’s not so bad and doesn’t last too long. I try not to get too horny when I see all that power bursting out of the little, muscular body with the round hips and incredibly toned ass wrapped in spandex, but it’s extremely difficult.

“Do you want to take about it?” I ask as she leans on her knees to catch her breath.

“Your mother,” she puffs. “I’m sorry… but she’s insane… she’s totally… out of control…” She pants and wipes the sweat dripping into her eyes. I take one of the towels from the linen closet and hand it to her.

“So, I’ve heard,” I say, but she keeps talking like she didn’t hear me. In fact, I don’t think she did.

“Mia’s wedding… did you know she was… trying to have flamingos… walking around the crowd?” I raise my eyebrow.

“I did not,” I answer honestly. She nods frantically as she wipes her forehead.

“And she expects English boy bands… to forego million-dollar tours… to become wedding singers!” I jerk my head back!

“Excuse me?” I declare.

“Oh… that’s not the worst of it! Did you know that half of downtown is going to be blocked… on a Saturday afternoon for that wedding?” Her breath is returning.

“She can’t block downtown,” I tell her. I’ve tried

“Oh, yeah. She can. I’ve seen the map… and I’ve already said too much.” She turns around and cracks open a bottle of water, emptying most of it before she takes a breath. This must have been her session with Dad.

“No, you haven’t. I would have seen or heard it anyway,” I tell her. Dad must have some connections that I don’t.

“I’ll be working at home for a while,” she says, matter-of-factly while drying her face. I don’t ask why. I already know.

“You’ll probably need some things from the office,” I tell her.

“Marilyn can get them,” she says, bottoming out her water. “I’ll send her tomorrow.” I raise my eyebrow at her.

“The football game.” She pauses, then her hand goes to her forehead.

“Fuck! I totally forgot! That’s all Dad’s been talking about. How could I forget? He’s been texting ever since I told him about the tickets—how the hell could I let that slip my mind?” She shakes her head and dries her neck.

“Well, um… I hope you won’t mind company,” I tell her. She looks up at me.

“I thought this was just for me and Dad,” she says, slight disappointment marring her face.

“It… it is… it still can be if you mind, but…” I show her four tickets, closer to the game, but still on the fifty. “… I was hoping you wouldn’t mind if me and Dad joined you. If it’s a problem, you and Ray can take two of these and me and Dad can take your old seats…”

“No, no… Christian, of course, not!” she interrupts me, covering my hand with the four tickets in it. “I think it’ll be nice us taking our dads to the game,” she says with a genuine smile. “They like each other and I think we’ll have a great time.” I sigh a little. I didn’t want to Shanghai their father-daughter time, but I needed something to help Dad relax a bit. This whole situation is really taking a toll on him, which reminds me.

“Um, by the way…” Before I can get another word out, my brother comes barreling in with terrible timing, as always.

“Christian, what the fuck? Dad’s staying here?” Elliot blurts out as he bursts into the workout room. Butterfly whirls around and glares at me. I, in turn, glare at my brother.

“Thanks, Elliot,” I growl. He puts his hands on his hips.

“Well, excuse me for my lack of tact, but apparently, I’m the last to know that my father and mother are breaking up!” he snaps.

“Apparently, you’re not the last to know!” Butterfly retorts, looking expectantly at me.

“Well, if that’s what he told you, then you’re the first to know, because that’s not what he told me,” I defend.

“Well, what else could it be?” Elliot rejoinders. “He’s in the guest room next to me and my wife looking like someone shot his favorite dog and Mom sure as hell ain’t here!” I sigh.

“Elliot, you really need to talk to Dad, but as far as I can tell, he just needs a break.”

“A break?” he snaps. “You don’t take a break from your marriage!”

“You do when your wife is acting like she’s lost her damn mind and no one else matters!” I bark back. “Mom is completely certifiable! She’s lied on me once and to me twice. One of the times she lied to me, it was about my wife and all of this happened within a week’s time. Our dad just lost his dad and she’s completely ignoring his feelings. He’s got no one else to turn to and that’s why he’s here. Every time he tries to talk to her about it, she treats him like he’s bothering her and he’s falling apart. She’s my mother and I love her, but I will not allow her to treat my father like a piece of used tissue because she too busy trying to make Mia’s wedding the circus that she couldn’t make ours!”

My brother is stunned into silence and my wife’s blue eyes are fixed on mine, realization clear in her gaze. She examines me for a moment, then Elliot before she quietly leaves the room. Elliot stands there, looking at me, caught in obvious indecision. Whose side does he take—Mom’s or Dad’s?

“It’s terrible place for the kids to be,” I tell him, trying to empathize with his position, but there’s no indecision for me. I’ve witnessed her selfishness first-hand and I can only imagine what Dad has had to deal with.

“I won’t lie to Mom,” he states finitely.

“I’m not asking you to,” I tell him. “I won’t lie to her either, but I won’t allow her to bully or guilt trip Dad. He needs her to listen, to understand his pain and how he’s feeling. If she can’t do that, then she’s not allowed to antagonize him.” He frowns deeply.

“You would keep Mom from seeing Dad?” he accuses.

“I’ve had to make the decision over the last 24 hours to protect myself from my mother. If I have to protect my father from her, too, then I will.”

“Protect…” he barks. “You’re not making any goddamn sense!”

“Listen to my words for a minute and not your damn feelings!” I yell back! “My mother lied on me to the man that almost put me in jail two years ago to save his election!” Elliot’s head snaps back.

“What!” he yelps.

“Yes!” I confirm. “That same judge that tried to throw me in jail to make an example of me when that drunk driver almost killed me? She told him and his wife that I demanded that they be uninvited from Mia’s wedding just so that she could save face when I did no fucking such thing! She also told me that my wife told her to turn over Mia’s wedding list so that I could hack it up and tell her who couldn’t come! Imagine what kind of discord that could have caused in my marriage had I believed her! She’s shutting down half of downtown; she’s making crazy demands; and now my father—who is still mourning the loss of his father—can’t even grieve in peace because she’s turned into a bona-fide Momzilla of the Bride!” Elliot shakes his head.

“Come on, Christian,” he says, the fight leaving his voice. “It can’t be that bad.”

“It is that bad. It’s exactly that bad. It’s worse. She and Mia are in this together and she has the reigns. You tell me how bad it is.” He shakes his head and runs his hand over his buzz cut.

“I know how she can get, but… Dad moved out…” he says, in disbelief.

“Only for a moment from what he’s told me,” I assure him. “She’s trying to dictate the course of Mia’s wedding in a way that will make up for not being able to dictate the course of ours, and she’s alienating everyone in the process. Butterfly left the center today and left our children there to get the hell away from her!”

Elliot’s eyes widen and his shoulders fall. I don’t know exactly what that means to him, but apparently, it got through.

“Shit,” he says in a sing-songy manner, “that bad, huh?”

“That bad,” I say, nodding. He sighs and rubs his neck.

“I guess I better go talk to the old man. I… didn’t give him a chance to explain.” I put my hand on his shoulder.

“I’ll go with you,” I tell him.

*-*

Dad does his best to explain to Elliot over dinner how badly Mom is driving him crazy, but he’s so weary that he can barely get his dinner down before he excuses himself to turn in for the night. My brother and I and our wives sit at the dining table over coffee discussing the possible outcomes of the situation. We know that Mom and Dad aren’t going to end up in divorce, but we all agree that without outside intervention, the damage to the relationship could be irreparable—maybe not leading to its demise, but possibly leading to them not being able to regain the connection they had before. Valerie and Elliot believe that family intervention will be enough while Butterfly and I both feel like professional counseling is the way to go.

“You both are just saying that because of who you are,” Valerie says. “You’ve had good results with therapists, which is great, and so has Steele… and she is a therapist, but I really think they would benefit more from having the support of the family in this matter.”

“And they will have the support of the family,” Butterfly counters, “but the dynamics of the issue between them is far too complex for a simple family discussion. The cuts run too deep…”

“That’s why we have you, Montana,” Elliot retorts. “Not only do you have the benefit of being able to offer the support of the family, but you’re also a professional and can provide the expertise that they’ll need to get through the issues.”

“It’s not that simple, Elliot,” I tell him. “There’s more to it than that and I’m sure you know it.”

“I’m invested personally, Elliot,” Butterfly says. “I wouldn’t be a good fit for this situation.” He pauses and examines her.

“Oh, I see,” he says. “It’s not that you wouldn’t be a good fit. You’re letting your personal feelings get involved and you just won’t do it.” His voice is accusing and I don’t like it.

“Careful, brother,” I warn. Butterfly places her hand on mine.

“No, Christian, it’s fine.” She turns her attention to my brother. “You’re exactly right, Elliot.” He’s a bit taken aback by her honesty and quite frankly, I am, too. “I am a consummate professional, and this situation is the exact reason why surgeons are not allowed to operate on family members. Once we are emotionally involved, our professionalism takes a hit. As long as it didn’t directly involve me, as long as it didn’t directly affect me, I could be an impartial listener. I could provide professional advice and guidance, just as I have with other members of your family.”

She flashes a knowing look at Elliot and his back straightens. He has no idea just how many members of the Grey Family Butterfly has counseled.

“That all changed today,” she continues. “I tried to talk to Grace. I tried to tell her—with Carrick’s permission—that a storm was coming. I didn’t know just how big the storm was; I thought that it could someday develop into this, but not that it had already gotten here. Grace unequivocally and unceremoniously shut me down, citing that I was not allowed to discuss her husband with her because I refused to collaborate with her to get my husband to cooperate with her wishes. Needless to say, I’m highly offended, because I feel that it’s childish and manipulative. As a result, I’ll be staying away from the Center for a few days because I don’t want to be disrespectful to your mother. Bearing that in mind, I’m going to respect her demands, and I won’t discuss her husband with her. Anything that I can offer at this point will be laced with personal feelings and therefore, ineffectual. Now, I apologize if that’s not a good enough explanation for you, but it’ll have to do.”

My wife entwines her fingers on the table in front of her in that businesslike, Dr. Grey manner and awaits the backlash. Elliot stares at her for a few moments more before flashing his gaze to me.

“You don’t win many arguments with her, do you?” he says, matter-of-factly. I don’t even flinch.

“It’s about 50-50,” I tell him. Butterfly turns to me.

“How very diplomatic of you, Mr. Grey,” she says, her voice still professional and crisp. I shrug one shoulder.

“It’s the truth,” I reply.

“How do I respond to that?” Elliot retorts. “It’s perfectly logical, delivered with no malice… I can’t even argue, but I want to help my parents. So, what do I do?”

“Encourage them to seek professional counseling,” Butterfly tells him. “Tell them how this situation is affecting you and the family.”

“What situation?” Elliot says. “I still only have one side of the story.”

“No, you don’t, El,” Valerie interjects. “You have several sides of the story, and all sides say that your mom is out of control, but you haven’t heard your mom’s yet. So, it’s hard for you to accept.” He drops his head.

“I can’t just… take everybody’s word for it without talking to Mom,” he says, sadly. “I don’t want it to seem like we’re ganging up on her.”

“And nobody’s expecting you to do that,” Valerie says, “but know that everyone is giving you their personal account of what they have experienced with Grace. Ana’s telling you what happened between her and Grace. Christian gave you his account. Carrick is telling you what he’s going through. Even you and I have had personal experience with how she can be right before we got married. We would probably still be haggling over linen colors today if Ana hadn’t intervened.”

My brother raises his eyes to Butterfly, then to his wife, then drops them to the table again.

“And we’re not ganging up on her,” Valerie continues, “but that’s not to say that she’s not going to feel that way. Nonetheless, she still needs to know how her behavior is affecting her family… then she can make the decision if she’s going to do something about it.” He sighs.

“Oh, dear God, she can’t be this dense,” Elliot laments.

“She’s not dense. If she is, she’s being deliberately obtuse,” I correct him. “It’s voluntary blindness, and you and I both know that she can turn that on and off on a whim. She and Mia are on the same wavelength, so there’s no one to put her in check. Dad’s not 100%, so when he tried, he failed and is now crumbling by the wayside. It’s nearly 8pm and Mom hasn’t even called to see if we’ve heard from Dad. Does he normally keep these hours?

“I know she hasn’t called him, because if she did, he may not answer, so she would call here in a fit. If he did answer, she’d know he was here—then her doctor mind would go to work. Butterfly left pissed a few hours ago, so she’s not going to call her. Our last conversation was tense, to say the very least, so I would be a fallback position, if that. So, you would be the magic contact, my friend.”

“Could he have left her a note?” Butterfly asks. I shrug.

“It’s possible, but even if he had, she’d still be…” Before I can finish my sentence, my phone buzzes in my pocket. I roll my eyes and dig it out. I look at the screen and show it to my wife. I swipe the screen and answer it.

“Hello?”

“Christian, what in God’s name is going on?” I sigh.

“Hi, Meelo.”

“Don’t Hi Meelo me!” she says, her voice firm. “Mom’s over her sobbing like a toddler! She’s got a crumpled piece of paper in her hand and she told me to call you! Dad’s not here and she won’t tell me what’s happening! What in the world is going on?” And, of course, my mother is still being manipulative.

“Mia, can I get you to be objective for two minutes, because I really need it right now,” I say just as firmly.

“Yes, Christian, just tell me what’s going on.”

“I’m putting you on speaker.” I put the phone on speaker and set in on the table. “Are you there?”

“Yes.”

“I’m here with Elliot, Valerie, and Anastasia and I’m going to repeat exactly what you just told me…” I repeat my mother’s reaction to and description of finding my father’s letter. Valerie groans and drops her head into her hands.

“Waaaait, wait, wait a minute,” Butterfly says. “Let me get this straight. That’s her I hear blubbering in the background and she hasn’t given you any information? She told you to call Christian so that Christian could tell you what was going on?” Butterfly is clearly perturbed. Mia pauses for a moment.

“Yeah,” she says, slowly, picking up on Butterfly’s obvious irritation. Butterfly throws her hands up.

That is the last person left that she’s able to manipulate and look what she’s doing? That’s it. I’m done. She’s beyond hope!” Butterfly folds her arms and sits back in her seat. I know shutting down when I see it.

“Mia, Dad’s here,” I tell her.

“What is he doing there?” she asks.

“Near as I can tell, he’s mourning his father, because he can’t do it at home.” She’s silent at home.

“Christian, you’re not making sense,” Mia says.

“This whole damn thing is not making any sense, Mia, and none of us really want to get you involved because this is your wedding, but Mom is out of control…”

I tell Mia everything that happened from the lie about Butterfly up to and including Dad showing up on my doorstep. Butterfly includes the attempt to guilt-trip her into arguing my mother’s case to me and the ceremonious shutdown when she tried to present Dad’s concerns. Elliot tells his sister that nothing has happened so far with him and his mother, but makes it clear that he won’t be a chess piece in this game that his mother appears to be playing and that he would gladly stand on the sidelines and let it play out before he gets involved. Valerie only confirms that she intends to stand by her husband.

“Well, this has been very enlightening,” she says, her voice uncertain. “For the record, I didn’t know shit about flamingos, you guys, okay?”

“If that’s the case, Mia, then you need to talk to her, because I have a feeling that she’s going unchecked on a lot of things and there’s no telling who she’s alienating and not just her family. Her husband isn’t at home, for God’s sake,” I say.

“And then, she tells me to call you like a common messenger girl…” She trails off, irritation lacing her voice. “Thanks, Cwis. I’ll talk to you guys, later.”

“Meelo,” I catch her before she ends the call. “Dad’s sleeping.”

“I get it,” she says, and ends the call. I look at my brother and our wives.

“Let’s see what happens,” I say as my phone beeps, signaling the disconnect.


A/N: So, it appears that the Greys must form a unified front against one of their own… the family matriarch, no less. How will this turn out?

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 13—We Are Family

Okay, so far in the casting for Ana in “Golden,” Jessica Parker Kennedy is getting dusted. Brianna Evigan is in first place and Mila Kunis is a very close second. So, I think it’s safe to say that our choices will be between Brianna Evigan and Mila Kunis. Stay tuned!

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 13—We Are Family

CHRISTIAN

That was torture.

Pure, unmitigated, undiluted torture.

That woman’s ass is kryptonite and I could barely get inside before I was pulsing and pounding and ready to come and what do I do? I ask her not to come so that I can make love to her for the rest of the night. I regretted it the moment I suggested it, because I knew the process would be damn near unbearable. The thought nearly brought tears to my eyes. Not only was my inner horndog Rumpelstiltskin-stomping-mad, but Greystone was already promising to make me pay dearly for that request.

And make me pay, he did.

Butterfly’s ass is a thing of beauty and a wonder to behold, but when I get to sex it…

God, she was so tight and ready. Thrusting into her ass while holding her close to me, kissing her and gazing into her tormented eyes, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I had come several times in her ass—tiny, involuntary orgasms and seepages of semen that I had absolutely no control over, and Greystone didn’t wane. This wasn’t Dom Dick; this was something else, something that enjoyed the tiny releases, but threatened a deadly detonation when the act was finally complete; something that knew that I had to keep my stamina until the bastard that was currently sharing our bed was gone forever.

Rubbing that ass and pushing her down onto me…
Grabbing that waist and those hips and guiding her to grind into me…
Throwing her leg over my hips, kissing those breasts and lips while I massaged her clit and penetrated her core while still loving her ass…
Holding her hard against me and gently squeezing her neck while I pump repeatedly into her…

The small bursts were more torment than pleasure as the big explosion loomed dangerously in my balls and back. It was agony—sweet fucking agony—to keep from blowing wildly inside of her as I took her ass and loved her for hours from every possible angle. I made sure that sweet, hot pussy didn’t get neglected, but my dick stayed in that ass for the rest of the night.

And her orgasm was the longest she had ever had. When it started, it hung there for a minute, not coming to full climax for quite some time. I was inside of her holding back this crippling explosion when she first stiffened, so it seemed like for-fucking-ever before she finally hit her pinnacle, but if I’m honestly estimating, it was only about two minutes. But, shit, two minutes is a long fucking time to hold back a climax. We’re talking like 26 in orgasm years!

“Oh, God. Oh, my God, you feel so good. So good… it feels so good… so good…”

I was in her ear encouraging her to let go and come. No matter how hard she fought it, she wouldn’t return from this one. Tears were streaming down her face and her breaths were heaving and tortured as I held her close to me and continued to drive slow and deep into her, sensually rubbing her breasts and her body while licking and tasting her skin. A when she finally came…

God, when she finally came…

A mournful sob wrenched from her tortured soul and could feel her ascending, slipping away from me… so I held on. I held on and buried my body into hers as the atomic explosion in my balls blasted brutally through my dick and flooded us both with so much cum, we should have drowned. Holding her tight against me was as much to keep her from floating away into the heavens as it was to still her violent gyrations on my expanding, pulsing dick. When I say that my dick was popping, I mean that it was thumping and bumping and pulsing and popping and aching and not only was her tight anus flexing and tightening and squeezing every bit of seed from me, but her round, luscious, slippery ass cheeks were rubbing against me, massaging and tormenting me into one of the deadliest nuclear blast I’d ever felt in my life! Skyrockets and firecrackers can’t even begin to describe what was going on and I can only imagine that a camera shot down there would have captured a scene of such immense pulsing, vibrating, expanding, and throbbing of my dick and balls that it most likely imitated my shaft still fucking and thrusting into her ass on its own!

David had to be exorcised.

We had done it once, but this time, he made it in through her insecurities. I saw it in her eyes even though she said nothing. He was in her soul and her mind and our bed and he had to be purged.

So, I did.

I kissed her and loved her and touched, rubbed, and sexed every inch of her body until she knew that she belonged to me and I belonged to her. Nothing and no one would ever cause me to stray and she had to know that my body and soul are unequivocally and irrevocably hers.

Hopefully, she knows that now.

I knew she was unconscious before my dick stopped pulsing in her ass, but I couldn’t move. Even after the orgasm waned, there was still unbelievable pulsing in my dick inside of her ass that made it impossible for me to pull out, impossible for me to move, so I pulled her tighter against me and stayed buried inside of her, kissing her shoulders, skin, neck and hands gently until her breathing regulated and I knew she had moved from unconsciousness to sleep. I wasn’t worried. I know that it happens sometimes with real intense orgasms, but I couldn’t rest until I knew she had transitioned from one state to the other.

I fell asleep with my dick still pulsing in her ass.

Now, I find myself with morning wood buried deep inside of her, trying to find a way to pull out that will cause the least discomfort. Rip the Band-Aid off, I guess.

So, I did…

And while my Butterfly only whimpers in her exhausted slumber, I actually come again, squirting small amounts of semen on her beautiful ass. Kryptonite, I tell you. Fucking Kryptonite…

I grab a cup of coffee and go down to my office to check my emails. The house is alive with activity and Marlow has stopped by to help Taylor with some project in Sophie’s apartment. She’s all giggly and girly, something that appears to be flying right over Marlow’s head, but doesn’t get by Taylor in the least. I shake my head and dread the moment that Minnie Mouse gets that look in her eye about some young… guy. I move on to my office and fire up my computer. I normally don’t look at alerts with my name on them unless they say something about the business world, but this one caught my eye immediately.

Papa Bear Grey Goes Ballistic

What the fuck? Was somebody in that club last night? This can’t be good, and I was a lot of things with that bitch at that table last night, but Papa Bear is not one of the terms that I would use to describe it. I click on the link and realize that the headline has nothing at all to do with Greta Ellison or that club. A still of a surveillance photo appears on my screen—surveillance from my goddamn office! I’m sitting at my desk and Mac is standing in front of it.

What the ever-loving fuck!! Not again! Not fucking again! Barney assured me that we were safe! What the fucking fuck!!

I already know what conversation this is. This is when she cautioned me about threatening the press and, of course, the article describes me as the great protector, ready to throw myself in front of the oncoming train to keep my family out of the limelight during their suffering. That’s all well, fine, and good—Mr. Hero—but right now, I only have one question burning in my head.

Who the fuck am I firing today?

I call Barney’s cell first.

“Sir?” his voice is surprised, no doubt wondering why I’m calling him on a Sunday.

“I’m looking at surveillance from my office on the internet right now. It makes for a very interesting story. Can you tell me how this happened when you assured me that we’re airtight?” There’s silence for a moment.

“What?” he asks bemused. “That’s impossible! Security cameras are on their own servers all by themselves. They’re not even on the same mainframe. When I tell you that surveillance is unhackable, I mean it’s totally unhackable! It would be like hacking someone’s pedometer. It’s so a network all its own, even the most skilled computer technologists would have no fucking idea how to get in there.” My eyes narrow.

“If it’s so damn unhackable, why isn’t the entire mainframe on the same network? And how did someone upload private surveillance to the internet?” I seethe.

“Imagine trying to put your entire mainframe on a pedometer,” he says matter-of-factly. “You may want to call Alex on this one.”

“Don’t make plans for the day,” I growl. “I’ll be in touch.” I end the call and dial Alex.

“Sir,” he answers.

“Can you tell me why the hell I’m looking at surveillance from my office on the goddamn internet right now?” The line is quiet.

“You don’t know?” he says hesitantly.

“I. Don’t. Know. What?” I ask as patiently as I can. Another pause.

“Oh, fuck, I’m not taking the fall for this!” Alex bellows into the phone.

“I think you better tell me what the fuck is going on!” I bellow right back. “Who the fuck is responsible for this shit?”

“That would be me.”

A confident, casually-dressed Mac strolls into my office, folding her arms when she gets to the front of my desk.

“Her!” Alex says into the phone. “When she’s done explaining what’s going on, call me if you have questions, but know that as your publicist, she has almost as high a level of security clearance as I do. Can I go now?” I narrow my eyes at Mac.

“I’ll be in touch,” I say before ending the call. “I’m waiting.”

“It’s perfect PR,” she says, closing the rest of the space between her and my desk. “The phones have been ringing all morning. It’s brilliant! Take me, but leave my family alone. You can’t write this stuff. It’s media gold.”

“I’m still not feeling the love,” I hiss, “and I fail to see how this is media gold, as you put it.”

“They need to see you as a person, Christian,” Mac says, “a man, with real feelings, instead of this robot who walks around mindlessly destroying people if they don’t bend to his will. There’s no use in pretending that you don’t have weaknesses—they already know you do. Your wife and children are all over the news and now, your mourning family. You don’t know how to use candid moments to your advantage. You had to be convinced that Ana was media gold even though you’d seen it for yourself. Or have you conveniently forgotten the very first time a camera was shoved in her face and a very unfortunate reporter named Cheryl Deems who couldn’t get anybody to hire her after she became Ana’s first sacrificial lamb?”

“That wasn’t the first time a camera was shoved in her face,” I correct her, while simultaneously making her point. “I don’t like surprises, Mac. I wake to this on a Sunday morning with no warning whatsoever.”

“Would you have let me do it if I told you?” she says, taking her stance once more. I don’t respond. I really don’t need to. “I’m totally responsible for your public image now and you have to trust me to know what I’m doing.”

“I don’t see where this was necessary at all,” I continue to protest. “It’s like you said, everybody already knows that I would give anything and do anything for my family. What good did this do?” Mac sighs.

“When the story broke with you threatening the press at your grandfather’s funeral, you came off as a hothead. It didn’t matter that your family was grieving over the loss of its patriarch. You’re news; anything that happens to you is news, no matter how tragic. And all these people were trying to do was their jobs and report the news, and you issued a personal threat to the entire crowd that made the news for several days thereafter. My guess is that after today, you won’t hear another word about the hothead who threatened the press, but you will hear a whole lot about Papa Bear Grey.

“You can’t buy this type of publicity, Christian, and if you must be in the public eye, have them on your side as a defender and protector and not the haughty asshole who thinks he can do whatever he wants whenever he wants to whomever he wants, even if it may be true.”

I sigh and fall back into my seat. I would prefer no publicity at all and I’m certain that given a few days or so, the threats to the press would have been yesterday’s news. I would rather the splendor of it would wear off like it does with every other hot news bit that has occurred so far. No one even talks about the Pedophile or Edward David anymore—even though he unwelcomely crept into our bedroom last night, so to speak—neither of them are news anymore. Even the Green Valley case has gone somewhat quiet in the past few months. The Pedophile’s accusations against Butterfly never went public, so yes, the media is chomping at the bit for AnaChris news and the most exciting thing they’ve gotten is dinner and a nightclub. But if they think that exploiting my grandfather’s death and my family’s suffering is going to be the way to get their headline, they’re sorely mistaken and I’m just the one to show them.

So, I guess the whole Papa Bear thing isn’t such a bad idea after all.

“Mac,” I sigh, “you and I are going to have to do something about our communication. This is completely unacceptable… and you get to apologize to Barney and Alex for the reaming I gave them this morning, and I expect you to do just that.” She nods. “So, what now? I thought ‘leak’ and the rest of the world is going to think ‘plant,’ which is what it is.”

“Let them think what they want,” Mac replies. “We’ll be mum on it for the first few days and see where the monster goes on its own. Something like this is always a calculated risk, which is why you play it carefully. Whichever way it goes, we let it go.” I frown.

“So, if the public believes that this is a plant, we let them believe that?” She nods and I frown deeper. “I don’t see where that’s a good idea.”

“The more you deny, the more it makes something true,” Mac retorts. “If they really believe it’s planted information, big deal—people plant information all the time, but your reaction was real. And planted or not, they’ll be able to see that. You were primal in your rage when you talked about your family and how the press never gives you peace. Yeah, they may believe that the footage was deliberately given to the press, but they sure as hell won’t mistake your reaction for acting. Josh and I were a bit terrified by you.” I roll my eyes.

“And if they think it was leaked?” I ask.

“We go with it,” she replies. We’ll tell them that a disgruntled now-ex-employee leaked the footage and we keep the comments to a minimum—possible legal action, punitive damages, gag order, blah, blah, blah. You get the idea.” I’m still not certain about her tactic, but she’s right. I can only trust her at this point. I shake my head and turn to my computer screen.

“So,” she says, sitting in the seat in front of my desk. “Rollins?” I look at her briefly, then back to the computer screen.

“He disobeyed a direct order from my wife that directly had to do with GEH. He had to go.” She nods again.

“I know, but did you have to make such an example of him?”

“Yes, I did,” I reply. “These people have to know how serious I am about my wife being half owner of my business. Do you know how smart my wife is? Have you really sat down and talked to her? She minored in finance in college and while I’m sitting here chatting with her about one of the mergers we’re doing as a distraction from my grandfather’s death, she immediately spots skewed results in the statistical data.

“I can see it in your eyes, Mac, that wasn’t a setup,” I say, calling her out on her obvious suspicions. “She saw the error, she went to quality, and she told him to build the prototype and try to mimic the results. It had nothing to do with me until that asshole had spent the entire day sitting on his fucking hands before he came to me to nix the whole idea and handle things with the little wifey. I expect for people to jump when she’s says jump just like they do when I say jump. I know they may not respect her like me, but they very well better start!” She nods again and smirks.

“It appears she’s full of surprises,” she says knowingly. “Remember this conversation the next time you try to argue with me about what she can and can’t do.” She winks and heads for the door. “Can I go now?” I wave my hand for her to leave and look back at my emails. I swear to God the women in my life will one day be the death of me.


ANASTASIA

Pool party!

It’s the middle of July and I have this beautiful pool that I have not yet used. So, just before lunchtime, I activate the contingency and let everyone know that there will be Food and Libations all afternoon poolside at Grey Crossing. Be there or be square.

Be there or be square… good grief.

I found an adorable wraparound swimsuit just before Pops fell ill and never got a chance to wear it under the circumstances. Today is the day—a multicolored bandage high-waisted bikini that accentuates my new body perfectly.

When I go in search of my husband, Gail tells me that he’s down in his office with Mac, and I’m certain that I don’t want to know what fire requires her presence at our home on a Sunday morning unless he chooses to share it with me.

“I need a summer poolside feast for the afternoon,” I tell her. She raises her eyebrows at me like I’ve lost my mind.

“It’s… already afternoon,” she says, a little dismayed.

“Yes, and there’s a lot of afternoon left,” I inform her. I smile playfully. “I should have been more specific,” I say. “I want to spend the afternoon poolside with my friends and whoever wants to join us. Since we’ll be poolside, we’re talking things like fresh fruits, kabobs, chicken salad, finger sandwiches… that kind of thing.” Her eyebrows rise in acknowledgement.

“Oh,” she says, her voice lighter, “you had me scared for a minute. That, I can do.” I nod.

“I’m sorry,” I say mirthfully. “I know Sophie’s doing some remodeling today and you have your hands full with the regular duties. I can try to order something if it’s too much.”

“Nonsense!” Ms. Solomon’s voice says from the pantry. “You have a staff! That’s why we’re here. Let us earn our paychecks!” Gail smiles and shrugs one shoulder.

“What she said,” she replies. I return her smile and go to prepare my babies for a day at the pool. Christian and I agreed that we wanted to keep our relationship with the newer staff at a strictly professional level, but we both must admit that it’s been hard to do that with Windsor and Ms. Solomon, and especially with Keri. Speaking of which…

When I get back to the nursery, my two little bundles are already dressed and ready for a day at the pool. Keri is wearing a beautiful tropical wraparound maxi dress and she’s cooing at Mikey while Minnie enjoys tummy time in her crib. My little darlings are two delicious in their matching Mickey and Minnie Mouse swim suits.

a9d4f1d6357e101d717559bb21a44f7e“Oh, don’t you just look scrumptious!” I say to Minnie. She pushes up onto her knees and rocks feverishly, smiling widely at the sound of my voice. Her two little front teeth have cut in and she’s happier and more sociable now that she’s not in constant discomfort. She’s babbling these days and as far as we can tell, she’s forming some word close to “bottle” or “boob.” We just know that it’s a bah-bah-bah sound and usually comes around feeding time. Mikey is a little slower with his development and I would be remiss to say that I’m not more than a little worried. However, Dr. Nahabedian has told us not to worry; that boys are generally slower to develop than girls. Still, I’m a bit anxious.

“How is Mommy’s little Minnie Mouse?” I coo as I lift her from her crib in her black suit with a red frilly skirt with polka dots and white ruffle-butt bloomer. She smacks my cheeks softly while giggling profusely as I make the “brrrr” noise with my lips. I carry her over to her brother’s crib where Keri is having similar interactions with Mikey.

“Have you already put sunscreen on them or do we need to do it now?” I ask Keri. She nods.

“Yes, I’ve already done it,” she says, still smiling at Mikey.

“Where would I be without you?” I say, sincerely.

“Lost,” she says, sweetly, “just like I would be without you.” She winks at me and I know she’s referring to us giving her a job as our au pair.

“You know you’re helping us just as much as we’re helping you, right?” I ask.

“I find that hard to believe, but thank you… for everything.”

We gather my children and their diaper bags and head for the elevator to go to the pool. When we arrive, the baby tent is already set up with the Pack-n-Play’s nearby. Keri gets the twins set up inside with their toys while I inflate their floaties for when we’re ready to take them into the water.

653d170e88444f26a95956b1b1102b8dSlowly, but surely, my friends begin to show up and the food is brought out to the outdoor dining room. The staff has managed everything I recommended and included guacamole and chips, sunny orange-lemonade, refreshing flash-frozen fruit chunks, and a plethora of other summertime goodies as well and my usual favorites—pinwheels and bruschetta. Christian has even fired up the grill and is cooking hot dogs, bratwurst, and hamburgers… under Jason’s watchful eye and tutelage, and Chuck has set up as bartender in the outdoor dining room for mixed cocktails and Mojito slushies made to order, and he can also watch Keri with the twins in her hot little two-piece with the black wrap-bra and tiny bottoms with the Aztec designs.

 

Of course, Al is the first to show up. He saunters over to where I’m enjoying a cocktail and

Keri is nearby, splashing her feet in the pool while keeping an eye on the twins in the baby tent.

“Damn, diva! You are rocking that suit!” Al says, as he joins me on a chaise near the pool.

“Thank you, Mr. Fleming-Forsythe,” I reply, “You’re looking rather spiffy yourself,” I comment about his electric blue swim trunks with black stripes. “But tell me… is it safe to let your man out the house looking like 150 pounds of ripped chocolate in a black and white nylon wrapper?” Al’s mouth falls open.

“You’re one to talk!” he accuses quietly. “You got Diamond Dick over there with his jewels barely tucked and stuffed into a navy-blue holster! If he sneezes, I’ll get a good look at cut and clarity!”

I was just taking a sip of a Cosmo at that moment. He’s lucky he’s not wearing it.

“Damn, Allen, seriously?” I say, choking down the alcohol.

“Hey, you started it,” he says as he lays out on the chaise. “I need to cook a bit, my love. My skin is a bit too alabaster.”

“I know what you mean,” I say, examining the total lack of pigment in my own complexion. “I’m feeling a little lily-white myself these days.” I begin to put suntan lotion on my skin.

“Did you see the news about your husband this morning?” Al says as he dons his shades and gets comfortable. I sigh.

“No, but I knew something was up when Gail told me that Mac was down in his study with him this morning.” I finish my arms and grab a towel. “Can you untie me please?” Al sits up and glares at me.

“You’re going topless?” he gasps, dismayed. “With that rack? You might make my husband go straight!” I laugh out loud.

“Not completely, silly,” I chuckle, “but I can’t tan right with the wraparound because the straps are too wide. Now, untie me… and do my back while you’re at it.” Al unties my wraparound bikini top while I cover my breasts with the towel.

“Well,” he says as he applies a generous portion of suntan lotion to my back, “the day of the funeral, you saw that the paparazzi were present en masse…”

“Fucking vultures,” I say before I know it. Those fuckers are worse than that church that camps out at the funerals of fallen soldiers and homosexuals to protest the service and harass the family of the deceased.

“Well, your husband felt the same way, so much so that he had his security team taking pictures of the photographers and issued personal threats to each one of them.” I spun around in my seat and looked at him.

Personal threats?” I ask. Al nods. “To each of them?” He nods again. “Oh, fuck.”

“Mac shared your sentiment,” he continues. “She confronted him about the appropriateness of his actions on Thursday when he got back to the office, well after one of the reporters had aired his threats. He went nuclear on her—told her that he didn’t care if they came after him; that he wanted them to come after him; that if they ruined him, then maybe he wouldn’t be news anymore and they would leave his fucking family alone. He was totally willing to sacrifice himself if they left his family alone. He didn’t apologize for his actions and he vowed that he meant every word. He was like a lion standing on his hind feet to protect the pride.” He does the gesture for me to turn around.

“Okay, so, what happened? Why is this news again if it broke on Thursday?” I ask, turning my back to him so that he can finish with the suntan lotion. I have to admit that I hadn’t seen or heard anything about the threats until just now and I was at Grey House on Friday.

“She had this conversation with him in his office, which is always under security surveillance. The surveillance went viral this morning.” I spin around to face him again. “Dammit, Jewel! Be surprised while you’re facing the other direction, please!”

“You just told me that private surveillance from my husband’s office just went viral! Do we have another hacker?” My mind immediately goes to all the times we fucked in that office.

“It was Mac! Now turn around!” he barks.

“Mac was the hacker?” I ask horrified.

“No! She got the footage from Alex and leaked it on purpose—to make Chris look more human for threatening the press. Now, turn around!” I narrow my eyes at him.

“You could have led with that, you cow,” I say begrudgingly turning around so that he can finish my back.

“Shut up and listen, heifer,” he retorts. “We’re waiting to see where the media is going with it. Our response right now is silence. No one’s giving them anything. But you’ll probably notice that you haven’t seen any paparazzi hiding in bushes or around corners all week.” Come to think of it, I haven’t. “They’re taking him at his word, seeing if he’ll do what he said. My guess is that a few heads are going to roll, even though no pictures of your family from the funeral ended up in the media… only the footage of him threatening the press and the subsequent surveillance footage. They’re calling him Papa Bear Grey.

“Papa Bear Grey?” I nearly cackle. “You can’t be serious.”

“Totally,” he says. “Nobody would dare fuck with him or any of you right now.” I shake my head.

“I take it he didn’t know about this. Otherwise, there would be no reason for Mac to be here on a Sunday morning.”

“I’m not sure, but I don’t think he did. Now that he does, he’s just waiting like the rest of us… silently.” He finishes my back and closes the suntan lotion. “All done, my dear.”

I situate myself on the chaise and cover my boobs with the towel, folding it so that it only covers my mounds and not the rest of me.

“I can’t wait to see how this ends up,” I say, facetiously.

Al and I sunbathe for a while as I tell him about the night Christian and I had confronting Greta Ellison. I leave out the part where we fuck all night because seeing him charm Greta gave me flashbacks of the dirty, lying cheater with two first names. I finish my Cosmo and listen to my babies cooing behind me as my skin tans to a lovely shade. Al is still talking about… something… as I feel myself drifting off to sleep…

“Hot damn, that’s a sight,” I hear my husband’s voice say. I open my eyes to see him standing over me, playfully licking his bottom lip and smiling at me. He looks hot as fuck with windblown hair and sunglasses, gazing down at me with the sun shining behind him. I know I’ve fallen asleep, but I don’t know for how long. I’m not burned, so it must’ve only been a few minutes.

“Cut and clarity,” Al says from the chaise next to me. I throw a horrified look at him.

“Allen!” I hiss as quietly as I can.

“What?” Christian asks, curiously.

“Just Allen being an ass,” I say through my teeth. I hold my towel against my breasts as I sit up to greet my husband. “What brings you over here? You wanted to get a better look?” I ask, raising my eyebrow. He smiles and sits on my chaise.

“No, but that’s a good reason to stay,” he says playfully. “How are you?” I know what he’s talking about. Last night was an intense night, emotionally and physically. I couldn’t find the words to tell him what I was feeling. I knew that the insecurity that I was feeling about his interaction with Greta Ellison was unwarranted, but when you get into a certain state of mind—particularly one that you’re already familiar with—it’s hard to get out of it.

“I’m fine,” I tell him. “You did a good job of reassuring me,” I add with a smile.

“It was my pleasure… literally,” he says, closing in on me.

“Too much information!” I hear from the peanut gallery to my left.

“Then stop listening!” I hiss at my best friend.

“Kind of hard to miss it,” he says, still lying on his back and soaking up the sun.

“Roll over or you’ll burn, Snow White!” I bark, hoping that giving him a task will distract him from our conversation.

“Take your own advice, Fairest of the Fair,” he says, shifting position onto his stomach.

“He’s right, you know,” Christian says, gently rubbing my skin. “I’d hate for you to burn, and not just because it means I couldn’t touch you.”

“Yes, heaven forbid Mr. Grey can’t have his playtime.” Goddammit, Allen!

“Allen, if you don’t shut up, I’m going to begin a detailed conversation about cunnilingus,” Christian says calmly.

“What?” Allen protests, mocking innocence. “She doesn’t have a bratty little brother… well, she’s got a little brother, but he’s not old enough to be a brat, yet. Somebody’s got to fill in.”

“Eating hot, dripping wet pussy,” Christian says.

“Shutting up,” Al replies, and I have to stifle my laughter. Christian turns back to me.

“Are you okay? Really?” I can see his soft, concerned eyes. I shrug.

“Sometimes you can’t avoid old ghosts creeping up on you.” I gently stroke his cheek, slightly prickly from his designer stubble. “But you do a very good job of chasing them away.” I hear Al on the chaise next to me take a breath to retort.

“Clitoris,” Christian says before he can speak.

“Not a word,” Al says quickly. Christian turns back to me.

“I’ll talk to yours later,” he whispers. “Now, turn over.” I do as he says while he holds my towel over my breasts. “Do you need me to do your back?”

“No, Al did it for me earlier,” I reply.

“You been fondling my wife?” he asks Al.

“Sure have, and you can fondle me to get even if you like,” Al retorts.

You asked for that one, Grey.

“I’ll send your husband over,” Christian replies, a bit uncomfortably. Al chuckles.

“I was just fucking with you,” Al says, “Chocolate covered me already.”

And they just keep flying.

“You really want to have that pussy-eating conversation, don’t you?” Christian shoots back.

“Good Lord, what did we walk in on?” I hear Maxine’s voice and a cooing Mindy off to my right.

“My husband and best friend are sparring,” I say, without lifting my head. “They’re trying to see who can make the other more sexually uncomfortable.”

“Who’s winning?” I hear Elliot’s voice say.

“I can’t tell just yet,” I say. “Christian had Al on the ropes with talk of vaginal satisfaction, but Al came back with a request for Christian’s man-hands and now, I’m a little unclear what the score is.”

“It’s two to three I think, Chris’ favor,” Al says, “but I haven’t said anything yet about my obsession with the taste of chocolate.” I roll my eyes under my sunglasses. This will never end.

“Hey, Al?” Christian says. Al foolishly turns to look at my husband, who does a “V” with his fingers and flicks his tongue between them several times. Al shakes his head and lays back down on the chaise.

Game. Set. Match.

Christian slaps my ass and goes back to the barbecue kitchen to man the grill with Jason. Once he’s out of earshot, Al pulls his glasses down and glares at me.

“What?” I ask him as Maxie gets comfortable on the chaise on the other side of me while Phil holds Mindy.

“Jewel!” he says. “That thing is long as fuck! He needs to put it on a leash!”

You should see his dick.

“Exactly which part of him got you pregnant?” he continues, as if reading my mind.

“Fuck!”

All seven adult heads spin to see which angel-baby voice produced this word. Mindy is sitting there proudly clapping her hands for her audience… and her new word.

“She’s talking?” Val says with large eyes, having joined the party with Elliot and the Guests.

“Repeating,” Phil says, none too pleased, “only particular sounds that she hears with emphasis,” he adds, looking at Al.

“Sorry,” Al says, lying back on chaise. Maxie leans back and begins to play with Mindy.

“Al, when you have kids, I’m coming to your house and saying random curse words all day,” Phil threatens.

“Who says I’m having kids?” Al retorts. I frown.

“You don’t want kids?” I ask.

“It’s not on my immediate agenda, no,” he replies.

“I thought you wanted kids,” Val says, slathering sunscreen on her arms. “James doesn’t want them?”

“We’ve had the conversation,” he says. “I’m not in any rush and we’re both a bit hesitant, what with still having to fight for gay rights. It’s hard to imagine having to bring up a child in a society that doesn’t really accept its parents as a couple.” I sit up, holding my towel to my breasts.

“But you’re godfather to my children,” I protest, garnering the attention of all the people at the party now. Al sits up and faces me.

“Here’s the thing, Jewel,” he says, resting his elbows on his knees. If—heaven forbid—something happens to you and Chris, there are going to be a lot of people in line to take The Incredibles over there. I doubt that there will be any battles, but you have Carrick and Grace, Ray and Mandy, and even Elliot and Val or Mia and Ethan are in line before me. They’re family… and I’m a lawyer. I know my pecking order. But rest assured, Chocolate and I have already talked about this and if that dreaded day ever comes and no one protests it, my hat is still in the ring.”

I’m suddenly deflated. I hadn’t even thought about the fact that Al would truly have no legal right to our children if something happened to us. I don’t know why I didn’t think about it. I just didn’t.

“Hey, Steele,” Val interjects, noting my obvious change in demeanor. “Everybody knows how important Al is to you and to the Wonder Twins. Even if they do go to someone in the family, no one would try to keep him out of their lives.”

That brings comfort, but very little.

“Okay,” I nod. “I know. If you’ll excuse me…” I move to get off the chaise and grab my bikini top. I look over into the baby tent and my two little angels are fast asleep.

“Jewel, I’m sorry… I….”

“No, it’s not you,” I stop him. “I need to pump.” I walk to the house with my breast covered and quickly go to the nursery. When I’m attached to the breast pump, I go over the conversation I just had in my head. Al called them the Incredibles and Val called them the Wonder Twins. Everyone else refers to them as Minnie and Mikey—a play on “Minnie and Mickey.” Everybody calls them some sort of cartoon character, and right now, they’re napping by the pool wearing costumes of their original namesakes. I smile to myself thinking of how much everyone loves them, and hoping beyond hope that there won’t be a battle for them if something ever does happen to me and Christian…

“Hey,” I hear my husband’s voice quietly come into the nursery. “You okay? Everybody’s worried about you.”

“Yeah,” I say as the miracle contraption fills one bottle and Christian attaches a second. “Mindy blurted out a very colorful word after hearing Uncle Al say it, to which Phil responded that he would get revenge by cursing around Al’s children every day. Al then announced that he had no intentions of immediately having children, which brought us around to the conversation of him being our children’s godfather. He brought up that legally, he’s the last man on the totem pole and probably wouldn’t get the kids anyway, but he would always be available to them. And it just got me thinking…”

“Thinking what?” he asks.

“We hope to be here for our babies, but what happens if some terrible accident occurs and we’re both untimely ripped from this earth? What’s going to happen to our babies? I would hate to think that our families would fight over the twins, but we both know that death brings out some very bad emotions in people. I don’t think I could stand the thought of our children being in a tug-of-war.”

“Our families would never do that,” he says.

“We don’t know that, Christian,” I retort. “What do we want for our children? I always assumed that Val and Al would take some kind of joint responsibility for my kids if something happened to me, but I never, ever considered the other people that would be involved—the baby’s father, his family… Common sense dictates that this should be considered, but I never did. I never have.” I raise my eyes to the ceiling and finally admit my thoughts—the thoughts of a young, broken woman years ago…

“I knew that I was going to have children. I was certain of that… but I was so busy seeing myself alone that I never considered the other half of the child.” I bring my eyes back to Christian. “We’ve got to definitively decide the fate of our children if something happens to us. When I checked out, Maxie showed you that someone will step up and try to take the reins even if they don’t have the authority.” He examines me and sighs. I move the breast pump to my other breast and begin to empty it.

“And consider this,” I say once the pump is reattached. “My mother is the only blood relative that I have that I know of except for a grandmother that I don’t really care to know. What’s to stop either one of them from trying to lay claim to my children once we’re gone? They have just as much right as anybody—even more so than Ray—to our children. This one little door left open could let all kinds of rodents into the barn.”

He drops his head. He knows I’m right. Minnie and Mikey will be heirs if something happens to the two of us and although our close family may have no concern with that, vermin are very likely to come out of the woodwork should Christian and I come to an unfortunate demise.

“What should we do?” he asks.

“Call a family meeting,” I say. “Include Allen. He’s an attorney. So is Carrick, and as far as I’m concerned, they both have an interest in this. Find out how everyone feels, then put our wishes in a will and everybody has to stick to it.”

“What’s to stop someone from contesting the will?” he asks as he replaces the bottle on the pump.

“It’s a chance that we have to take,” I say. “Who among our family can you see contesting the will except for my mother and any of my long-lost blood relatives? We’ll include in the will that I’ve been estranged from my mother since I was seventeen. If I die tomorrow, that’s still more than ten years. Any judge anywhere would see that she was only in it for the money and that being with her—someone my children won’t even know exists—would not be in the best interest of the children. Not being a snob, but I’m about to… Even my step-father is more financially well-off than my mother… Oh, my God!” Christian frowns.

“Baby, what’s wrong?” he says, noting my change of demeanor.

“Why didn’t I think of this sooner?” I ask aloud. Whether he decides he wants my children or not, I should have done this the moment I turned eighteen.

“Baby, you’re scaring me. Please tell me what’s going on,” Christian says. I turn to him.

“I’m going to ask Daddy to adopt me.” He frowns again.

“You’re… it’s a little late for that, don’t you think?” he asks.

“No, it’s not,” I tell him. “If you are incapacitated, Daddy is my power of attorney. He should have just as much rights and say-so to anything and everything that I have or anything to do with me as my mother ever had, and hate it or love it, if we both die, she’s my next of kin!” He shivers at the thought.

“Fucking hell how soon can we get this ball rolling?” he asks all in one breath…

*-*

“Jesus Christ, Jewel, what did I start?” Al asks dismayed when Christian and I get back to the pool.

“A conversation that really should’ve happened more than ten years ago,” I tell him. “We’re going to have a family meeting to decide what happens to our children, and you’re going to be a part of that meeting, but in the meantime, I need you to start the process for my dad to adopt me.”

“You want Ray to adopt you now?” Marilyn asks, she and Gary having joined the party while I was pumping milk.

“Yes. We would have done it sooner, but my mom’s a bitch,” I say flippantly. “Once I was free from her, I didn’t think about it until now. He needs all the legal rights that any father would have because he is my father, and I don’t want anyone trying to squash his rights.” Al looks over at Christian.

“She’s not talking about my family,” he says, answering Al’s gaze. “In terms of blood relatives and any legal rights, Carla can come through here and brush him aside. As much as it pains me to say, if we’re both gone, she’s Butterfly’s biological next of kin. And when we went national with Butterfly’s retrieval from that asshole on Vashon Island, she was on the first available bird to get to Seattle—once she discovered her daughter was dating a billionaire. What do you think is going to happen if something happens to us and she can get her hands on two miniature cash cows?”

“Your family would fight her tooth and nail on that and most likely win. She doesn’t have the resources…”

“I don’t care!” I interrupt Al. “My dad is my dad, and we should have made it legal a long time ago. I want to make it legal now. Does Carla have to be notified because she’s my birth mother?” Al shakes his head.

“You’re an adult,” he replies. “In the state of Washington, Ray can adopt you, but Carla doesn’t lose her parental rights.”

“Carla lost her parental rights a long time ago,” I retort, “and I’m going to make sure that our will says that she is to have nothing to do with my children, but I don’t want her whisking in here on her broom thinking she has rights to lay claim to anything and brush my father out of the way. That’s what this is about. Whatever we decide to do with our children, with our fortune, with whatever we leave behind, she can no longer say that Daddy is not my Daddy. That’s what this is about.” Al sighs and nods.

“I’ll get right on it,” he says. I sigh heavily.

“How long will it take?” I ask.

“Well, you’re an adult, so we don’t need an adoption report. We’ll need an adoption petition, consent form from you, then findings and conclusions filing and the decree of adoption. It’ll take me about a day to draw those up, then you and Ray sign them and we file them with the court. After that, the process can take six weeks to six months, usually shorter for adult adoptions with no contest,” he says.

“Can Carla contest it?” Christian asks.

“She could. It would delay the proceedings a bit, but most likely not stop them. But she can’t contest what she doesn’t know.” I purse my lips.

“I’ll pay her,” I say immediately. Christian looks over at me.

“Butterfly…” he protests.

“I’ll pay her!” I repeat. “If she finds out about the adoption and she contests it, I’ll pay her to go away. Whatever she wants, I’ll give it to her.” Christian sighs. He and Al have a silent conversation and Christian nods almost unnoticeably.

“Fine, I’ll get on it first thing tomorrow. You may want to let Ray in on this, though,” he says almost facetiously. I nod. Daddy is finally going to really be my Daddy. I’m so happy, I could burst.

“Can we party now?” Val interrupts. “I’m ready to hit the pool and eat and have cocktails. This serious shit is starting to be a real downer.”

“Shit!” Mindy declares, clapping her hands wildly and giggling profusely. Dear God, please don’t let Minnie start speaking that soon. She’s going to know every curse word in the English language, and some in French.

*-*

Once we turned attention away from the serious shit, as Val put it, the party was back to the light-hearted banter we started with. Val freely took a dip in the pool and lazied away in the sun without her wig. Mia and Ethan finally joined us around dinnertime and talked happily about wedding plans. Grace is in seventh heaven that she gets to plan Mia’s wedding down to the last detail and we’re certain that it’s going to be the Broadway production that Grace has been waiting for. She and Mia think exactly alike, so we’re expecting a grandiose affair… even before Mia announces that we should be “red carpet” formal for the reception. Christian immediately rolls his eyes, totally dreading the fanfare that he knows will be his sister’s nuptials. I squeeze his hand and kiss his cheek.

“We were married in a castle, dear,” I say softly in his ear.

“And my mother still thought it wasn’t big enough,” he reminds me. “She’s in charge this time. The reception will be standing room only. Mia had a marquee at the Faces of Abuse premier. She may have the damn color guard at the door. The paparazzi will be her photographers…”

“Stop,” I chide him as Mia continues to describe her wedding.

“Her wedding will be at the Paramount theater,” he continues whispering in my ear, “a venue that holds 2000. She won’t know most of the people in attendance. Her wedding will be displayed across the marquee—The Greys present Mia and Ethan’s Wedding, September 20, 2014, 6pm. We need to be ‘red carpet ready,’ which means if the police don’t have the street blocked off, we won’t be able to get to the front door.”

As much as I hate to admit it, the more he describes this event, the more it sounds like this is really what’s going to happen.

“Um, Mia, how about security and access?” I ask. “How will you be sure that those on the guest list can get in and those who aren’t don’t?”

“Private security and the police,” she says. “The mayor and the governor will be there.” Oh, of course, I think to myself.

“Along with every judge in King County,” Christian whispers in my ear.

“I know what you’re thinking, big brother,” Mia calls him out. “You can have your precious security there to protect you from the paparazzi, but it will be totally unnecessary. No one will be there that wasn’t invited.” Christian doesn’t look convinced.

“I know I shouldn’t be thinking about ditching my sister’s wedding, but I’m thinking about ditching my sister’s wedding,” Christian whispers to me.

“Don’t you dare!” I whisper back.

“This coming from the woman who won’t be in her wedding,” he says quietly.

“Don’t try to blackmail me, Christian,” I retort a little firmly. Mia wanted me to be in her wedding, but seeing the responsibility that I carried taking care of Val while she was sick, my twins, and all the other day-to-day things that were going on in my life, I got a pass from all the dress fittings and bridesmaids duties, as did Val for reasons of her health, of course. After seeing the lineup of the twelve women that she will have in her bridal party, I was glad not to be part of it.

Four of the women are bratty little debutants, far worse than Courtney ever was. However, since none of them tried to blame Mia for their thievery, I guess they made the cut. Five of them are Mia’s sorors, or—as they refer to themselves—sands. I’ve never liked sorority girls and to be honest, I didn’t know that Mia was a sorority girl. Had she not been my husband’s beloved Meelo, I’m not sure we would have hit it off. Though I do love her dearly, I now understand some of the traits that I see in her that drive me batshit.

I’m not saying that all sorority girls are bad, don’t get me wrong. However, the ones that I encountered during my college years at U-Dub were the quintessential mean girls. I don’t know what the issue was or why not being part of a sorority at the time made you pond scum, but these Gamma Phi Sigma Gamma Beta Rho Kappa bitches really rubbed me the wrong way. I was a poor pre-med student. I didn’t have time for that shit. It was Green Valley all over again. The only difference was that I had gone through self-defense classes with Daddy and had started Krav Maga with Luc. I would have fucked the bitches up for touching me. They were verbally cruel very often, but hell—I had already been through the worst. That shit they were talking… sticks and stones. It left a bitter taste in my mouth for sorors, though.

The final three women—including Mia’s best friend, Lily—are none other than three of the daughters. Yes, those daughters. Two of them were present when I beat the Pedophile’s ass the first night that I met the Greys. Lily wasn’t one of them. But apparently, she had… or still has… a big thing for Christian even though he completely ignores her presence when she’s around. It actually borders on rude behavior, causing me to ask him if there was history between them.

“Not per se,” he had responded. “She just seems like trouble to me.”

I asked Elliot if I needed to be on my guard around her. She had come to the Manor a few times to discuss wedding plans while we were staying there. She was obvious and downright irritating with her greeting to Christian… and in her blatant refusal to greet me. I didn’t let it bother me, because I felt like it was just sour grapes on her part. Elliot told me Lily did everything in her power to get Christian. Even when the family thought he was gay, she was determined to convert him back to pussy. She was so pushy and overbearing that Christian just resolved to have nothing to do with her.

“It was embarrassing,” Elliot had said. “She would throw herself in his path; she would speak to him and he wouldn’t acknowledge her. One day, she nearly chased his car down the street.”

“Oh, you have to tell me this,” I prodded.

“He was leaving, going back home or wherever he was going, and she came out and went to his driver’s side window. She was talking to him, and he started the car. He actually started rolling away from her and she was still talking, running next to the car. She didn’t even have enough sense to be embarrassed by it. She just kept talking and running, saying that something must be wrong with him not to want her. That night when you met the family, had she known he was there, Madam Creeps-A-Lot would have been the least of your worries.”

“Who the hell is Madam Creeps-A-Lot?” I had choked.

“That Lincoln bitch,” he said matter-of-factly. “No, Lily would have been your biggest competition for Christian’s attention that night. You could have been sitting in his lap and she still would have been hitting on him. When you guys went upstairs to go to bed, she would have been knocking at the door.”

Sure enough, Lily’s facial expressions every time she sees me are worse than bitter-pill-swallowing Liona. I hadn’t seen or heard of this woman anytime during our relationship or my pregnancy, but when we moved into Grey Manor, she was there once or twice a week easily. Mia would whisk her off to some room and they would talk wedding stuff as far as I knew, but the moment Christian showed up, there she was. She was in his face, smiling and batting her eyelashes, and he never gave her a moment’s notice. Yet, when she turned her attention to me, she looked like those ugly people on the Twilight Zone whose faces turned into those horrible masks they wore.

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The visual is actually pretty scary.

“Hey, I was just kidding,” I hear my husband’s voice say, pulling me back to the here and now. “Where did you go?”

I just shake my head. The truth is that I would rather not be in Mia’s wedding. If my wedding was considered ostentatious, her wedding is going to be a three-ring-circus for sure. Mine wedding was the party of the century. Hers will be the event of the millennium. It should truly be televised. The over-the-top creation of a mother who didn’t get to plan her sons’ weddings and a daughter who wants every bell and whistle imaginable. I wouldn’t want that type of attention.

Then the thought of having to spend any extended amount of time with pampered and spoiled debutantes who have probably never seen a hard day in their lives and stuck up sorority girls who are probably worse than anything I ever encountered at U-Dub. Oh, and let’s not forget the scorned daughters of the fundraising committee who saw me at my best and worst, defending my then-boyfriend from a predator and—much like that predator, believe I put some spell on him to make him marry me. Maybe I trapped him with my twins. I was pregnant when we got married after all, right?

I swear, I won’t allow this to make me look at my sister-in-law any differently. She has some annoying ways about her, but she’s still one of the sweetest and bubbliest people I’ve ever met, even though her friends are stuck-up little bitches who would rather see me dead or disappear…

“Baby, are you okay?” Christian asks with concern in his eyes. Mia still hasn’t stopped talking about her wedding plans and Pops’ suggestion that she use votives with gray rocks as centerpieces and lavender in her bouquets instead of baby’s breath. I remember being that excited about my castle and my one of a kind dress and my vintage Bentley. Was anybody thinking of me the way I’m feeling about Mia’s wedding party right now? I sigh.

“I’m just… beginning to feel the same way you are about this wedding,” I confess. He frowns.

“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean… I was just kidding,” he says.

“Part of you was,” I say, looking over my shoulder at him. “Part of you is having the same feeling of dread that I’m having right now and wishing the whole thing was over… the cameras, the publicity, the paparazzi, the fanfare… From what I hear, the bridesmaids are all… not my type of people. Do you know anything about the groomsmen?” Christian shrugs.

“Friends of Ethan, I’m told,” he says.

“Possible family?” I ask. “Definitely possibly Kavanaughs?” He sighs.

“I know some of his mother’s side will be there. Daddy Kavanaugh is not invited.” I sigh and nod.

“And then there’s that,” I say. “Mia’s going to be a Kavanaugh. Has anybody really thought about that?” Christian twists his lips.

“She’ll always be a Grey,” he says. I shake my head.

“No, Christian, she’s about to be a Kavanaugh. How do you and Elliot feel about that?” I look over at Val, laughing happily with Mia as she continues to regale details of her big day. “How will Val feel about that?”

God, I’ll be glad when this is over.

A wedding at an historic theater that can accommodate 2000 guests…

Holy cow, Batman.


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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 12—“Sleeping” With The Enemy

Once again, I sincerely want to thank those of you who encouraged me and supported me through that unfortunate Facebook incident last weekend. My filter may be off for the next couple of weeks or so. Wild dreams and bullshit and now, a crazy ass plot bunny has sprung up that may be the birth of a brand new fanfic. I’ll let you know how that goes. In the meantime…

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 12—“Sleeping” With The Enemy

CHRISTIAN

“You are going to cause a goddamn riot,” I say to my wife as she checks her make-up in the back of the SUV.

“No,” she says, matter-of-factly, “just a stir.”

“Well, you’re causing a stir right now in one very precarious place,” I say, running my hand up her thigh. She stops my ascent, to my shock and awe.

Vamp lips“Ah, ah, ah,” she says, tightly grasping my wrist. “I need that extra testosterone and pinned-up aggression for that poser bitch,” she adds. She places my hand back on my own knee before turning her attention back to her compact and vamp lips so dark that they look almost black.

All I can think about are those lips wrapped around my dick.

“Focus, Grey,” she says as if reading my mind. Fuck, I love it when she’s dominant!

PuckerJason pulls in front of a fetish club named C.C.’s where I have arranged to meet one skank, Greta Ellison. I want to kiss my hot wife, but she’s having none of it. I have a feeling she’s trying to get into character, too. When I lean in to kiss her, she squeezes my cheeks together hard so that my lips are caught in an unintentional and uncomfortable pucker.

“Save the charm for the whore,” she says, her voice menacing. My brow furrows.

“You want me to kiss her?” I say, my voice distorted through the pucker.

“Don’t test me, Grey,” she warns. “I’m already trying not to go Rambo.” She releases my face and turns to the window. “Don’t go easy on her,” she says, and nothing else.

She’s not pleased.

I don a Venetian phantom mask and a beaver fur felted Stetson fedora to hide my identity until I get inside the club. We’re purposely early as I want Jason and Chuck in position and I don’t want any surprises. I’m very unhappy that Butterfly must even be exposed to this part of my life, but there was no other way. This cunt wronged my wife, too. I don’t think she would ever forgive me if I didn’t include her in this.

In a black shirt with black jeans and a black suit jacket, I sit in a round booth facing the door and the dance floor waiting for my “guest.” I see my lady enter a few moments after I sit, walking like she owns the place. Her ensemble this evening would have any man in this joint—and probably, many woman—falling at her goddamn feet. Her ample hips sway back and forth in a “tight-as-skin” black leather skirt as she strides to a nearby table. Her hair is pulled up in the front in a smooth, high, flowing ponytail and is loose in the back, cascading over her shoulders and milky white skin. I hardly notice Jason and Chuck—both in black T-shirts and jeans—taking position near each of their charges.

She crosses her legs when she takes her seat, gladiator stilettos wrapping around her calves and inviting hopeful suitors to approach her. She’s looking extremely fuckable and untouchable at the same time and I literally pity the fool that attempts to approach her tonight. Even behind her extra-large, blacked-out Ray Bans, I can tell she’s not looking at me. She’s looking in my direction, but not at me. She’s plotting in a way that makes me worry about her current state of mind—not worried for her, but worried for me… or for anyone else who dares to cross her.

A waitress comes over to her with a fruity drink of some kind and Butterfly gestures for her to sit the drink down. She hands the woman a few bills and says something to her. The waitress walks away and Butterfly never touches her drink. Just when I was thinking that was the fastest service I had ever seen, some guy comes sauntering up to my wife’s table and invites himself to sit next to her. My hairs are up and I’m trying not to charge over to the table. He’s really close to her, caging her in with his arms. She sits still and never flinches, talking to him calmly. Her only movement is to raise her hand, and I notice Chuck halting his approach to her. She’s got it under control, but I still want this leather-clad fucker away from my wife.

The waitress comes back to the table with a black drink in a large martini glass. Apparently, Leather Man sent over the fruity drink which remains untouched on the table, and my wife has ordered a Black Martini instead.

This should be interesting.

Leather Man continues his conversation while closing the space between them and caressing the exposed skin of my wife’s chest, but she doesn’t react in the shocked and appalled manner that I would prefer. Instead, she continues conversing with the asshole and he continues the trek of his fingertips over her skin… and I’m grinding my teeth to keep from leaping from this fucking table.

The conversation appears to continue when suddenly, Leather Man looks a little sick. My wife’s expression hasn’t changed and her mouth is moving, but nothing else is happening. Leather Man moves his hand from her chest and places it on the table, and they stay in that position for maybe another minute or so. My wife then lifts her glass and takes another sip of her martini as Leather Man stands from the table. He says something to her and he appears to be angry. She says something back to him and throws a menacing look over her Ray Bays before he leaves the table.

What did she say to him?

I look over at Chuck who glances at me and shrugs. I get the same response from Jason. I look back at my wife who I can now tell is looking right at me from behind her Ray Bans, still quietly sipping her drink and giving me no clue of her current mood… except that she’s not the happiest camper. I need to loosen up and be ready when the treacherous, thieving cunt gets here, so I gesture to Jason to get a waitress so I can get a Scotch. In his usual efficiency, he returns instead with two fingers of Scotch, single malt, neat.

About ten minutes later, she walks in wearing a slinky, plunging black dress and a collar. She’s ready for action and she wants me to know it. I fight to keep my eyes on her approaching form and not glance over at my wife. She sashays up to the table and stands in front of me like she’s displaying the goods… which she is. If she sneezes, I’ll be able to see if her carpeting matches the drapes, or if there’s any carpeting at all.

“Ms. Ellison,” I say, my voice low and inviting.

“Mr. Grey,” she replies. “I was a bit surprised that you contacted me. Do you normally have your security team set up your dates?”

“As a matter of fact, no—never. This isn’t a date.” She smiles as I sip my drink.

“Of course, it’s not,” she says, coyly. “You haven’t invited me to sit.” I gesture at the bench seat next to me and she sits, sidling in as close to me as she can get.

“So,” she begins, crossing her legs and turning toward me in the bench, “to what do I owe this pleasure?”

“You’re referring to my intense need to see you?” I respond. She smiles a knowing smile.

“Took you long enough,” she remarks. “Your cute little girl next door not cutting it anymore? You lookin’ for something a little more… tantalizing?”

“You can definitely say that I’m looking for something,” I say, sipping my Scotch.

“Well… Mr. Grey, you’ve definitely come to the right place.” She reaches up to fondle the buttons on my shirt and I catch her hand at the wrist.”

“Ah, ah, ah,” I say. “No one touches me there except the cute little girl next door,” I chide. Her expression is bemused and she snatches her hand away from me.

“What is this?” she hisses. “You asked to meet me! I didn’t come looking for you. So, what the hell do you want?”

“Quiet!” I hiss back, turning on my Dom voice. Her pupils constrict at first, then her eyes widen. I lean back in the booth and put my arms around the back of the seat. “Sit up straight, feet on the floor, hands flat on the table.”

Her brows furrow and she makes no attempt to change position.

“Excuse me?” she says with distaste.

“I said. Sit up. Straight. Feet. On the floor. Hands. Flat. On the table. Don’t make me say it again.”

She blinks a few times and after a pause of about ten seconds, she turns her body and straightens her back, puts her feet on the floor and lays her hands on the table in front of her. I lean closer to her.

“Palms down,” I say in her ear, “and close your eyes.” Her breath quickens and she closes her eyes. I begin to stroke the skin on the back of her hand and I can feel her temperature rise.

“Relax,” I say softly in her ear. “Concentrate on the sound of my voice.”

There’s music blaring around us, but I can tell when her lips part that she can hear only me.

“That’s it,” I say clearly. “I need you to hear me. I need you to concentrate… very carefully.” The dumb bird is panting. I move my fingers down to her wrist. “Do you remember the night we met? How you told me that you liked male Doms better than female Dommes?”

She’s damn near salivating.

“I didn’t choose you that night,” I say. “Maybe if I had, things would have turned out differently.” I close my hand gently around her wrist. The corner of her lips turns up slightly in what looks like triumph.

“Now, I want you to relax and let your mind go back to when you saw me in the marketplace with that good little girl… You were so sure I just needed a push in the right direction, weren’t you?”

“Yes, Sir,” she breathes, nearly unable to hide her arousal.

“Good, good. Now think back to that day last February. Think really hard… let your mind go back…” I slightly tighten my grip on her wrist and gently stroke up her back to the nape of her neck just above her collar. “Go back to the day when you let yourself into my fiancée’s condo and stole her Beretta out of her night stand.” Her eyes fly open and she starts to shift, but my grip tightens on her wrist while my other hand grasps a handful of her hair, holding her head steady.

“Move and I’ll break it!” I hiss. “Make a sound other than to tell me what I want to hear and I’ll snap it in pieces! I’ll gladly do the time for this one because that bitch almost killed me with the gun you gave her!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” she squeals. I tighten my hand in her hair.

“Well, maybe I can help you remember! And lower your fucking voice!” I growl. She closes her eyes tightly. “That’s right. Play the little victim,” I taunt. “You’ve dressed the part, so anybody here is just going to think I’m disciplining my unruly submissive!” She swallows hard before speaking.

“You don’t know it was me!” she says through clenched teeth after a pause, confirming my suspicions.

“I’ve got you on film!” I hiss in her ear, jerking her head with the phrase. She lets out a small yelp. “You’re a goddamn submissive… a good one, I suspect. You know how to shut the fuck up, so cut that shit out!”

I’m usually not this brutal with women. I think the act of manhandling a woman for any reason other than consensual mutual pleasure is barbaric and something that doesn’t appeal to me at all. However, this creature that was an accessory to the act that could’ve cost my life, that nearly cost me my best friend… yeah, this bitch, I could hang her over a cliff by her hair and watch her squirm.

“You see that guy?” I jerk her head in the direction of a menacing looking Jason cloaked in shadow and leaning against a beam just in front of us and to the left. “A bullet from that gun did hit him; nearly put him out of commission, and he knows exactly who you are and where to find you. So, stop with that whimpering puppy shit before I turn you over to him!” I squeeze her wrist a little tighter. “Now, fucking tell me everything or we’ll both be wearing some not-so-pretty new wrist adornments tonight!”

When she opens her mouth, I tighten my hand in her hair to remind her not to scream.

“She didn’t tell me that she was going to fucking shoot anybody!” she chokes out angrily.

“It was a goddamn gun! What the fuck did you think she was going to do with it—bake cookies?”

“She said she just wanted to scare her; to let Anastasia know that she could get to her.”

“How did you get the key?” I demand.

“You already know how I got the key…”

“Humor me!” I hiss, tightening that hand in her hair again. She groans at the pain and winces.

“She told me to meet up with this guy!” she spits. “Redhead, crazy eyes! She said that he had an inside track and was giving her all the information that she needed to bring you two down.”

“And you were only too happy to help.”

“I had to!” she defends. “She had given me a bonus for securing the contract and wanted it back because I didn’t seal the deal with you. I had already spent some of the money and couldn’t recover it…”

“Cry me a river,” I huff. “What else?”

“What else do you want?” she hisses.

“I want it all!” I retort, snatching her hair again, eliciting an “Ow! Aw fuck!” from her. She’s going to have a splitting headache when this is all said and done.

“I don’t know what else to tell you!”

“How long had she been talking to the redhead?” I growl.

“Fuck!” she complains again. “I don’t know! Since the holidays of the year before, I think!” Fucking hell, this man had been tracking me for a year before he made his move. It would explain how Elena got her information long after Francesca was gone. “You’ve got nothing on me. If you did, you would have turned me over to the police by now. Now, either break my wrist or fucking let me go, because I’m about to scream!”

I release her hair, but not her wrist.

“I’ve got something on you,” I say. “I’ve got you leaving the building with no disguise just as content as you please.”

“So?” she proclaims. “That building has hundreds of units. I could have been visiting anybody.”

“But you weren’t,” I say. “You were visiting Anastasia. I’ll admit that it took a while to figure it out from the camera shots, but keep fucking with me and we’ll find out how circumstantial the police find this evidence if I turn it over,” I say coolly, releasing her wrist with a jolt. “Now get the fuck out of my face. Your presence makes me ill.”

She squirms quickly out of the booth and turns to face me.

“You think you’re so much,” she scowls, attempting to smirk, but close to tears. “You’re not untouchable, Mr. Grey, and I’m just the one to prove it!”

“You give it your best shot,” I taunt. “You seem to know a lot about me. That doesn’t scare me, but it should scare you. Consider what you know of me. Think about it very, very carefully. Of all the people who have ever fucked me over that you know of—since you have so much information—exactly how many of them have gotten away with it?” I say the words coolly, with meticulous calculation, knowing that she can still hear me clearly over the blasting techno music. When her face blanches, I add, “Don’t worry, I’ll wait.” I sit back and put my arms around the back of the seat. “Watch your back, Miss Ellison. You’re now on that list.”

Her eyes narrow, then widen before she turns around and proceeds to march away from the table. She doesn’t get three steps before she runs right into my wife, looking exponentially hotter than Greta in that sexy ass vintage bondage top and leather skirt with vamp make-up. Butterfly squares her shoulders and lands a slap so hard across Greta’s face that it actually rings over the dance music, causing some of the patrons to turn around to see what happened. Greta shrieks a bit and wants to retaliate, but stands down when she sees Jason and Chuck appear behind Butterfly.

“That’s for stealing my gun, you scrawny little cunt!” Butterfly shoots while Greta holds her obviously stinging face. “Don’t let the big bad men stop you. Whenever you want to go toe to toe with this, you name the place. I’ll meet you anytime, anywhere. Just you and me… I’m sure you know how find me.”

My wife’s menacing voice captures the complete attention of her nemesis. A mix of anger and fear flashes through Greta’s eyes as she attempts to stare Butterfly down, but my wife stands her ground—fists clenched through leather and gold slave bracelets and cut biceps bulging from brass upper arm cuffs—waiting for this trick to make a move. She doesn’t and instead, wisely decides to make a hasty getaway.  I stroll over to my wife and look down at her, feasting on her appearance while talking to Jason just behind her.

“Put a watch on her—immediately, the works. She’s got more, and I want to know what it is.”

“Yes, sir,” Jason says, and starts talking into his sleeve. I run my hands down my wife’s luscious body and stop at her hips, giving them a squeeze.

“Let’s dance,” I growl in her ear.

“I thought you’d never ask,” she replies, leading me to an open spot on the dance floor. She turns around to face me and slides her hands up my chest to my collar. The first button is already open, so she undoes the second button, then the third. Bodies are writhing around us, but she concentrates on the buttons before stroking the light dusting of hair on my chest with her fingertips. I stand stock still as she teases me, looking down at her face even though she doesn’t raise her eyes to meet my gaze. She’s concentrating on my chest. She caresses the skin causing a chill to run through me. She caresses a little longer before sliding her hands back up the shirt and around my collar until her arms are around my neck and resting on my shoulders. She still doesn’t make eye contact with me. She watches my lips as her hips begin to sway. Fuck! I’m so hard so fast that my dick is aching… straining against these damn jeans. She’s moving so sexy against me, so hot—then the music changes and I hear a familiar tune playing.

Shit… it can’t be…

My wife turns around in my arms and moves away from me, only infinitesimally… just enough so that she’s not touching me, but she’s a breath away from me. Her head tilts from one side to the other, and then her arms raise over her head.

Fuck, not this again… please, not this…

Her hips start to move again, back and forth before she bends her knees and grinds toward the floor.

Fuck… this happened before… to this song… and I couldn’t touch her. Hell if I’m not going to touch her now.

I move my body against hers, my front to her back just as she’s rising from the floor, her body writhing against mine as she ascends, her juicy, leather-clad ass grinding right against my dick. I gasp and clench my teeth, allowing my hands to brush against her skin as her body torments mine.

Cum angelis et pueris, fideles inveniamur
Attollite portas, principles, vestras…

She leans back against me and it’s everything I can do not to grab her and fuck her right here on the floor. She slides her arms around my neck behind her and continues her sensual dance against me. I stand stock still as the slightest movement may result in a dry fuck on the dance floor.

Sade, dis-moi…
Sade, donnes-moi…

I’m transported back to the first time I watched her dance to this song—that night at the McElvoy. I couldn’t touch her and had she known I was there with her, she might have screamed.

Sade, dis-moi, qu’est-ce que tu cas chercher?
Le bien par le mal? La virtue par le vice?
Sade, dis-moi, pourquoi l’evangile du mal?
Quelle est ta religion? Ousnt tes fideles?

She’s transcending in the music now, just like she did that night, except this time, she’s doing it against my body… and I can touch her. I breathe deeply to control this fucking heat that she’s causing inside me right now. I want her so badly and the way that she’s grinding her ass against my hips is cruel and unusual punishment.

The principles of lust are easy to understand.
Do what you feel, feel until the end.
The principles of lust are burned in your mind.
Do what you want, do it until you find love.

I rub my hands up her body like I wanted to do that night. From her hips, up the sides of her torso and her breasts, without touching them. She clamps her arms around my neck and pulls my head down to her until my nose is buried in her neck. I inhale deeply and her smell and essence fill me, breaking down whatever defenses I may have left.

The principles of lust are easy to understand.
Do what you feel, feel until the end.
The principles of lust are burned in your mind.
Do what you want, do it until you find love.
I am to come…

I curl my body into hers, wrapping myself around her like a vine, mimicking her movements and joining her sensual dance. Our bodies move as one as her head lays back on my shoulder and mine lays forward on hers. Her chest jets forward causing her luscious breasts to push out further. It’s everything I can do not to grab one right here in front of all these people. Instead, I put one hand on her hip and one hand around her body just under her breast.

Not a good idea. With my hand on her hip, it feels like we’re fucking.

Sade, dis-moi… Hosanna
Sade, donnes-moi… Hosanna
Sade, dis-moi… Hosanna

I groan mournfully into her neck as I hear the song about to end. I’m fucking aching, ready to blow. No woman has ever been able to just grind against me and make me come—nobody, that is, until Anastasia. I’m panting and hungry and tormented. She turns around in my arms. My lips are parted trying to get air in. I’m watching her mouth and she’s watching mine, and when she licks her lips, I nearly expire. Fuck, she’s killing me.

She grabs a handful of my hair, brings my head down to hers and assaults my mouth with the wettest, most sensual kiss. I snatch her into my arms and return her fervor, feasting on her lips and taking as much as I’m giving with this kiss. I don’t know how long we maul each other on the dance floor, but she pulls her lips away from mine and we’re both out of breath.

“Put me down,” she breathes, and it’s only now that I realize that I’ve lifted her off the ground during our public necking session. I place her gently on her feet and, to my surprise, nobody is paying us any attention. Everyone around us has their own grind session going on. I’m a little dazed as she takes my hand and starts to lead me through the crowd. We’re off the dance floor in a few minutes and headed towards the restrooms. She’s leading the way and stops short as she sees another short hallway with a door at the end on the way to the restrooms. She examines the hallway for a moment. It’s dark at the end and you can barely see the door.

She leads me down the hallway and I’m sure I know what’s on her mind. I just don’t know how she thinks were going to pull it off. When we get to the end of the hallway, she pushes me against the wall… hard! It’s dark down here and I can barely see, but can sure as hell feel her rub her hand against my erection. I grit my teeth as the friction of her hand and the denim is almost unbearable. I can’t fucking stand it. I squeeze her hip as I’m breathing through my teeth. By some stroke of genius, she thinks to try the door with her free hand and it creaks open. She moves her hand from my throbbing dick and goes to investigate.

Thank fuck! I was about to blow in my jeans in a few moments, and there was no way in hell that I was stopping her, but that would have made for a bit of an uncomfortable trip home. I stand there for a moment with my hands on my knees, trying to collect myself. She’s been in there for more than a minute and just as I turn my head to investigate what’s on the other side of that door, she appears and pulls me inside by my jacket. To say that she surprises me is an understatement.

She slams the door behind us and pushes me against it. Then her lips are on mine again. We’re hungrily devouring each other and Greystone is right back up to where he was before she released me on the other side of the door. She kisses me hungry and deep as I feel her reach around me and lock the door. When she releases my lips, I focus on the dimly lit room and discover that we’re in a large storage room or cleaning closet. She takes my hand and leads me to the back around some shelves where I see a two-stair stepstool, a mop bucket with a mop and a utility sink along with some other cleaning supplies. Some lone light flickers in the corner and before I can protest, Butterfly is undoing my pants.

Oh, shit, this is going to be quick.

She releases my dick from my pants and boxers without pulling them down.

“Sit,” she instructs me, “on the step-ladder.” I do as I’m told and in no time flat, those black-red lips are wrapped around my dick.

“Fuuuuuuuck!” I grind out, unprepared for the assault. I lean back, white-knuckle gripping the back of the step-ladder behind me and using my feet on the floor to keep my balance.

“Fuu-uuuuck!” I was already there, but this is insane. She’s doing a hard, slow suck and Greystone is already purple, veiny, and throbbing. She’s sucking so hard that I’m almost lifting off this damn stair every time she pulls back on my dick. And I swear to God that lipstick must be tattooed on because through all the wild kissing, biting, nipping and now sucking, that shit hasn’t smeared once! She looks up at me, sucking hard and slow and I’m watching my dick disappear and reappear in and out of those hot, crimson lips. Oh, God, I’m going to die.

“Uuuuuggghhh!” I groan hard deep within my chest, knowing that these strokes are going to draw out this pleasure but never bring me to orgasm. That’s when she releases my dick with a pop. I’m watching it bob around feverishly, but only for a moment before she slowly raises that leather skirt just to where I can see the triangle of her black thong and the tops of the thigh high stockings along with the garters holding them up. She straddles my lap and I feel the thin silk of her panties rub against my dick.

“You’re wet,” I groan. “You’re fucking soaking.”

“Damn straight,” she growls as she continues to rub against me.

“I can smell you,” I growl back, rocking my hips so that we get more friction. She hisses.

“Do you like it?” she taunts. “You like smelling my wet pussy?” Oh, fuck, she’s going to fucking kill me.

“Yes,” I hiss. “I love the way your pussy smells, when I’m eating you, licking that clit and when you’re about to come…”

“Yeah?” she pants. “How about when that big, fat, hard dick is inside of it?” Lightning fast, she raises up, pulls her thong over and slides down onto me. The breath is fucking snatched out of my lungs as she is so wet that she’s able to slide all the way down to the hilt in one go.

“Shit, baby… shit!” I gasp, still holding on to the back of the step-ladder.

“Don’t move,” she says. “Stay right there.” My head is back and I’m trying to control my dick while she rides it mercilessly. Fuck… Fuck… My eyes are screwed shut and I’m trying to concentrate.

100… 99… 98… 97…

“Open your eyes!” she commands me and my eyes fly open. “That’s it, baby. Let me see you.” Her voice is breathy and full of lust. She puts her feet up on something behind me and intensifies her stroke. She had better hurry up, or else…

“I’m close… I’m real fucking close…” I warn, hardly able to breathe. She quickens the intense stroke. Oh, hell…

“Wait! Wait!” she pants as she rides me hard and fast. Shit! Shit! I fucking can’t….

“Anastasia! Fuck!!” and I’m gone. I can’t hold it. It’s too fucking hot, too fucking good and I’m shooting my load faster than I ever had before.

“So big… so hard… throb… bing… Fuck!” she groans as she tightens her legs around me and throws her head back. She’s grinding hard into me as her neck cranes toward the ceiling, a plastered sex grimace marring her face as she subdues her screams. My teeth are grinding as her tightening pussy grips my dick hard and squeezes out every last bit of semen. Goddamn, that was hot!

When she collapses from her orgasm, I catch her in my arms, both of us sweating and breathless from blinding release.

“Fuck! Oh, fuck!” I pant in her hair. “That shit was so hard, my junk hurts.”

“Oh, God,” she’s panting, too. “Don’t move… please, don’t move.”

“It’s all you, baby,” I promise. “Just… warn me before you get up.”


ANASTASIA

This fucking asshole can’t be serious!

First, you send me a screaming orgasm, one of the most suggestive drinks in the world in a goddamn fetish club. You couldn’t be more creative than that? They’ve got an interesting sounding drink called “tie me up, tie me down;” another one called “shackles and chains;” and even a not-so-original “leather and lace;” and you send this froufrou fruity shit. I’m so not in the mood for this shit tonight. I reach into the pocket of one of my slave bracelets and pull out some cash.

“For your trouble,” I say, handing her the bills and gesturing to the table for her to set the drink down… away from me. “May I have the Domme’s Delight? That looks delicious.” She smiles.

“Yes, ma’am,” she smiles and goes off towards the bar. About a minute later, the fucking asshole wanders over to my table and invites himself to take a seat. I never even look at his face.

“You’re hot,” he says, confidently, “but you clearly don’t belong here.”

“Is that so?” I respond with as much disinterest as I can muster. “Is that why you sent that Shirley-Temple-ass drink to my table?” He chuckles.

“Feisty, too, I see,” he says, closing the space between us. I continue to stare off into the club, no eye-contact with anyone. I’m looking for this bitch to arrive.

“It’s rude not to at least take a sip when someone buys you a drink,” he says, his voice softening.

“It’s presumptuous to think that woman would accept a drink from a stranger,” I retort.

“Lighten up, hotness,” he says. “Men buy drinks for women all the time. It’s not a crime…” As he’s making his point, the waitress returns with my drink—a large black creation in a martini glass with black sugar or salt crusting the rim and long strings of some kind of black fruit rind curling out of the drink like menacing, long claw-like fingernails.

Now this is more like it.

“Damn, baby. I didn’t know you were into the serious shit!” I don’t respond as I take a sip of my Domme’s Delight. It’s strong… and delicious. I take another sip before setting on the table in front of me. “I see you’re not the typical girl.” I roll my eyes. I’m in a fetish club, you asshole.

“Apparently not,” I respond, still looking for the bitch who stole my gun. I feel his hand brush the skin of my shoulder as he pushes my incredibly long black tassel earring off my chest. I fight not to shiver at his touch, but my blood is boiling.

Motherfucker, who gave me permission to touch me.

“I could teach you a few things,” he says, touching my skin between the splits in my vintage Versace gold hardware-embellished leather bondage top. This time, I can’t avoid the shiver, though I manage to maintain my composure.

“I don’t want to make a scene, so I’m only going to warn you one time to get your fucking hand off me.” He chuckles lightly.

“Don’t be so mean, baby,” he says. “I only want to get to know you. You can’t come into a place like this dressed like that and not expect an admirer or two to come and say ‘hi,’” and he’s still touching me, his fingers now coming dangerously close to my décolletage.

I warned you, fucker.

He reminds me a lot of Edward, speechless in the Marketplace with his mouth hanging open while I have a painful death grip on his family jewels.

“I said. Get. Your fucking. Hand. Off me.” Trying not to gasp for air and look like a crushed puppy, he moves his hand from my chest and places it on the table. I can see Chuck gesture to move toward me, but I raise my hand in an inconspicuous gesture for him to stand down.

“I’m not here alone. My bodyguards are here. I’m not looking for company, and you should’ve taken the hint when I didn’t accept your drink. Just because a female is wearing a sexy dress doesn’t mean that she’s inviting you to accost her. As you will obviously not be partaking in my company this evening, please remember this with the next young lady that you approach tonight. You’re right, this usually isn’t my scene, but the fact that I’m here doesn’t mean that I have a ‘free pussy’ sign stapled to my forehead. Now take what you’ve learned from our encounter and try to approach the next young lady with a little more interest and a little less asshole.” I release his balls and take another sip of my drink. “You can go now.”

My would-be suitor slides carefully out of the booth and adjusts his leather pants, most likely to get a little relief.

“You… crazy fucking… bitch!” he hisses, barely able to speak as he squares off in front of my table.

“Say it while you’re hobbling away,” I hiss back, glaring at him over my glasses. 

The few moments that I watched my husband seduce this woman, using his Dom skills to lure her into a false sense of security, were nearly un-fucking-bearable. Not only did I want to scratch her fucking eyes out right there in the goddamn club, but I also had to keep myself from biting through this martini glass or from throwing the whole goddamn drink back in one gulp. I first-hand watched what he does to me—the power that he exercises over women without even trying—being exercised on another woman. It was the most strenuous exercise in control I had ever experienced.

When she scurried away from the table, angry and dejected, it was everything I could do not to snatch her by the hair and beat her to a useless, bloody pulp right there in the middle of the club. Instead, I halted her escape and slapped her so hard that I felt the foundation of the building shake before inviting her to challenge me any fucking time she was ready. Bitch, I will beat you into another decade!

Then, I fucked my husband.

I fucked him well. I fucked him until I felt his dick pounding in my chest and hoped his cum would shoot out of my ears.

Goddamn fucking Greta Ellison!

Taylor and Chuck got the show of their lives—again, because I almost fucked him in the car on the way back to the Crossing. Then he carries me up the stairs by my ass, throws me in the bed and fucks me to damn near unconsciousness once again. I’m wild and tearing at his skin while we fuck and for some reason, I can’t be sated. I come and come and come, but I still need more. I feel like a fucking animal and I don’t know what’s wrong with me! We get to a point where he binds me to the bed and I still feel feral and untamed. He keeps teasing me and bringing me close to orgasm, then letting it wane… and it’s pissing me off!

“If you’re not going to fuck me, don’t fucking touch me!” I growl. He raises his eyes to me, a challenge sparking in his gray irises.

“That didn’t sound like a safeword,” he taunts.

“It’s not!” I reply, my voice menacing. He laughs.

“Poor little Anastasia,” he teases. “You still seem to think you’re in control. I can fuck you all night and keep you right on the edge of orgasm and there wouldn’t be a thing you could do about it.”

“Try it and see,” I respond, cockily. I’m up for a challenge. He smiles wickedly and begins playing his little game of orgasm denial again. I’ve come so many times tonight—hard and hot—that I’ve lost count, and I still want more! I need more! I must have more, and this teasing shit is not fucking working.

Some way still unknown to me, I escape from one of my binds. I use my free hand to release my other wrist and the next time he decides that I’m not going to come, I thrust my own hand into my core and finish the job myself, panting and thrashing wildly as I come from an orgasm denied at least eight to ten times. He grabs both my wrists and pins me down to the bed. His face is breaths away from mine and he. Is. Pissed. He’s breathing like he’s out of breath and glaring at me like I’ve just broken the Cardinal Rule…

Which I have.

I stare back up at him. I’m not afraid. I’m not challenging him, but I’m not afraid. I wait for the backlash. What will it be—the usual spanking? Punishment fuck? That won’t work right now. More denied orgasms? I have a feeling that I’d just Houdini again and work that out on my own. So… what?

“What’s wrong?” he asks. I frown at his words.

“I was ready to come.”

“I know that,” he says, his voice sharp. “But what’s wrong?”

“I was ready to come,” I repeat. “I told you I was ready…”

“No, you didn’t,” he cuts me off. “You demanded that I fuck you. You challenged me to deny your orgasms, but you never said that you were ready to come. So, what the fuck is wrong?”

He’s right. I didn’t tell him that I was ready to come. He knew that I was with that orgasm denial shit, but I didn’t tell him that I was ready. I just slipped out of my binds and jacked myself off, right in the middle of his game. He raises slightly away from me and briefly examines my face.

“Seeing me with her,” he says, “It released something in you, didn’t it?”

I don’t answer. I don’t want to entertain the thoughts going through my head right now. I watched Edward charm woman after woman after woman. Sometimes, they didn’t care if I saw them. Other times, they didn’t think I knew. I was powerless to stop them, or at least it felt that way. I was the butt of the joke, the topic of conversation when our friends got together. It was horrible and cruel and I hated the feeling. The way they touched him; the way they looked at him; the way they treated me. It was emotionally one of the worst times of my life second only to living in Nevada with my mother and the walking moonshine still.

I didn’t really know it until now… feel it until now, but watching him charm that bitch gave me the same powerless feeling. I knew it was different, but it took me back to that time—to that mindset if only for a moment, only I’m not powerless this time. I control what happens to me this time and I’ll never be in that situation again.

“I’m not David,” he says, reading my thoughts like he always does. “I never will be. I’ll never put you in that situation.”

I don’t answer again. I don’t want to talk about this. I don’t want to invite Edward or even Greta Ellison into our bed. I want to shake this shit off and fuck!

“You have to know there’s only you,” he says. “You have to know that by now.”

I still don’t reply. I don’t know how. I don’t know how to reassure him because right now, I’m feeling way too vulnerable. It’s a strange feeling to maneuver when you’re trying to exercise control. He rolls us over so that I’m on top of him, straddling him.

“You must know that you’re the only woman I want,” he says emphatically. “You must!

It’s not that I don’t believe him. It’s just that I don’t have the strength to debate the topic at all, for lack of a better word. Seeing him charm Greta was just a bit too much on my psyche, no matter how much I tried to prepare myself, no matter how much I knew it was make-believe and that he actually detests the woman. No matter how hot the sex has been tonight, sometimes you can just travel too far down Memory Lane and into the abyss that you just have to find your way back whenever you find your way back.

He holds me close to him, professing his love to me over and over and I just lay on his chest and allow him to caress me and talk to me. It’s soothing and I feel myself begin to relax. He reaches for the olive oil that I keep next to our bed for when my nipples get a little dry. He pours it down my back and starts to gently rub it into my skin. I moan at the massage and he intensifies his caress, from the top of my butt to the bottom of my butt cheeks… and I like it. He cups my ass as he moves back up, his oily fingers sliding between the cheeks and caressing my rosette with each pass. Knowing my body the way he does, he hardens at my response and starts a slide between my legs—against my core and a little between my butt cheeks.

I grunt quietly, trying not to give away how good it feels each time his fingers glide over my anus. God, if he only knew how much I’ve missed this. I know it hasn’t been that long since we’ve had ass play or anal sex, but it sure seems like it for some reason. His breathing quickens and his knees part, causing my legs to open and that incredible dick to reach farther between my ass cheeks. He holds my cheeks open slightly and I feel his head rubbing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth against my rosette. I involuntarily press my hips against him and he groans loudly, then stops, holding his head back and breathing deeply. I hear an expletive or two before he brings fiery gray eyes back to mine.

“Yes?” he asks, his voice thick with arousal. I know what he’s asking and I nod.

“Yes,” I breathe. He slides underneath me, further down on the bed so that we’re now face to face, me looking down into his hungry eyes. He spreads both our legs wider and uses oily hands to grip my thighs right at the base of my ass cheeks.

“Help me,” he nearly growls, and I can see, feel, and hear his anticipation. It fires inside of me and I nearly burst into orgasm before he’s even inside of me. I reach behind me and locate his pulsing and now oily shaft. Feeling my way and tilting my ass, I begin to guide him to my rosette. He releases one cheek and guides the base of his penis while I guide the head. Slowly, we both guide and push—gently—until the very tip of his head is inside the sensitive bundle of nerves. I gasp and swallow.

“That’s it,” he coaxes, his eyes tiny slits of arousal. “That’s it, baby. Take it slow… easy.”

I move my hand and he uses his fingertips to guide himself in as he slowly pushes past the resistance of my anus.

“You can… you can push harder,” I breathe.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” he protests at the very edge of his wits. He wants this as badly as I do, so bad that he’s actually shaking.

“You won’t,” I say, trying to work my way onto his cock, to push him deeper into to me. He grabs my ass with both hands and buries his mouth in my neck at my shoulder.

“Still, baby,” he growls. “Let me.” Fuck! That was so hot and so tender at the same time that I grind my teeth to keep my body from exploding. There’s a new phenomenon that has come over me since the babies were born that adds an amazing dimension to our sex life. The right stimulation of my senses—touch, emotion, words, mood—can ignite an orgasm in me. Although clitoral and vaginal stimulation facilitate it immensely, neither has to be present for me to have an orgasm… except with that whole orgasm denial thing. Then he has to wiggle or kiss the bean or fuck me.

But listening to his tortured voice as he pushes into my ass, feeling his strong hands holding my skin and knowing that his dick is pulsing and red and thick behind me, feeling his breath against my neck and shoulder and feeling this wall of man against me, controlling me… sacre bleu! My breath quickens and I tighten my grip on his arms as my teeth find my bottom lip and I try to stay still.

“Settle, baby,” he croons. Well, that’s not helping. Taking my cue, he thrusts harder so that more of him is inside of me—maybe three inches or so, I would think. I gasp again as he stretches me, somehow squeezing my ass without his grip slipping from the oil. He pulls out a bit and thrusts again, even further this time. I whimper at the invasion.

“Gah! Jesus!” he hisses, sucking the skin of my shoulder into his mouth as his dick pulses in my ass. I try to calm my senses, try to calm my thoughts about how hot this is, how this must feel for him. Pleasure causes my body to collapse into his and he groans in his chest, thrusting deeper into me and finally stilling. I gasp and whimper loudly and he starts to move, in and out, in and out, in and out, and I’m already transcending.

“When is the last time I’ve loved you like this?” he breathes. “Have I ever? Held you close to me and looked into your eyes, claiming your ass and loving you this way? I’ve fucked you… but have I ever loved you this way?”

He’s still moving inside of me, slowly thrusting in and out of me, holding my ass solidly in his hand as he pushes up into me again and again and again…

“No,” I gasp, unable to break his penetrating gaze as he deeply loves my ass and gazes into my eye.

“You feel so good, Butterfly,” he confesses. “I feel you everywhere… everywhere! Kiss me… please…”

I bring my lips to his and he immediately takes over. His tongue wraps around mine and he dominates my mouth just like he’s dominating my body, my soul, my ass. His deep, sensual kisses become loud, smacking kisses as he probes into my ass. It seems like it’s been forever and I want this so badly. I relax into him and allow him to do whatever the fuck he wants to my body. I feel his dick get even harder and he releases my butt, moving his large hands so that they control my waist and the top of my hips. His dick is hard enough now so that it can probe on its own without him holding my ass open… and probe it does. His hands guide my hips and waist in a damnable rhythm that gives my ass and my core an unbearable sensation. I feel heat all over my fucking body and the mind trip is insane.

“Christian,” I breathe against his lips, “I going to come…”

“I don’t want you to come yet,” he breathes. “I just want to love you… please…”

I’m panting. It’s been so long since he’s taken me anally and that orgasm is right there waiting to present itself. I focus on him and what he’s doing instead of how this is feeling or this is going to be over really soon.

“Can you do it, baby?” he beseeches. “Can you hold out and let me love you?” He slows his stroke to allow me to get my bearings. “I promise I’ll hold out as long as you do.” I take deep breaths to compose myself.

“Yes,” I say, fighting the pleasure with every fiber of my being. “Yes… I can…”

And I do. I hold out and concentrate on him holding me, kissing me, touching me, saying sweet things to me. He loves me and loves me and loves me, anally, in several positions and when the sun finally breaches the horizon, I surrender to a body-crushing orgasm that has me weeping and weary, exhaustion taking me over before the aftershocks have even finished.


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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 2—Beginnings and Conclusions

Okay, so, before all the medical practitioners and professionals that ever read my story decide to jump down my throat, PLEASE HEAR THIS! I’ve never been part of a medical investigation. However, in order to try to get this as close to real as possible, I researched the protocol and procedures of several states as well as talked to a few medical professionals—one of which actually took part in these kinds of investigations and admitted to me that the task was very stressful.

Having said that, please recognize that this is not only NOT going to be a by-the-book rendition of what may happen during one of these investigations, but also, I took a lot of creative license to develop this story line for reasons of my own. The last time I showed a doctor—ONE DOCTOR, not every doctor in my story, JUST ONE—in a bad light, I had a reader jumping down my throat, pretty much telling me that I was persecuting the medical profession by simply pointing out A PAINFUL REALITY that is unfortunately true with some doctors… SOME doctors!

I ask that you please put the torches and pitchforks away as you read this part of the story, because quite frankly, I don’t want to hear “That’s not how it happens!” I hate to tell you this, but research and discussion shows that part of this is EXACTLY how it happens while the other part is that great thing that we call FICTION! Speaking of fiction, Ana is now a 28-year-old psychiatrist. Explain it however it suits you. 😉

One more thing… Be sure that I have the email address that you want me to use on my mailing list. Also, be sure that you are checking that email regularly and that it doesn’t get too full. I sent my email out to the entire list last week and fifty-five emails BOUNCED! 

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 2—Beginnings and Conclusions

CHRISTIAN

“Talk to me,” I say to my father as Butterfly joins my side.

“He’s on oxygen, of course—he can barely breathe,” Dad says. “He’s becoming confused more often and he has awful muscle spasms. His skin is powdery…” Dad trails off. He holds his head down to try to rein in his emotions. “It… won’t be too much longer now.” I frown.

Pops’ condition deteriorated significantly not long after Valerie and Elliot’s wedding. Valerie finished radiation a couple of weeks later and Butterfly and I were planning our trip to Italy. Just when Valerie began to show significant signs of improvement, Pops’ health started to decline very quickly and he had to be rushed to the hospital. There wasn’t much that could be done for him. Without a kidney transplant, he doesn’t have much of a chance. To be painfully honest, it’s too late for a kidney even now. The hospital kept him for two weeks or so, but he has asked to come home. He has no unrealistic expectations. He’s certain that God still has miracles stored up there, but unfortunately, none of them are for him this time around.

“How long?” I ask. “Any idea?” Dad shakes his head.

“Weeks, maybe,” Dad says sadly, “but… I’d… put my money on days.” He squeezes the last words out. “That’s why we called everyone here. We’re most likely going to bring him home and let him live out the rest of his days in peace and comfort instead of alone in the hospital… and we just want everyone’s input.” I nod and squeeze his shoulder.

“Whatever you think is best, Dad,” I say softly. He nods and purses his lips. He looks over at Butterfly like he’s only just noticing that she’s there. She hands me the other baby carrier and hugs my dad. I’m glad she has so much faith in me carrying two of these things… not that I can’t do it.

“I’m so sorry, Carrick,” she says sweetly. “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Dad nods while Butterfly cups his face. His strong façade almost cracks at her touch.

“Being here is enough right now. Thank you, dear girl,” he says. My wife kisses my father on the cheek before she relieves me of one of my children and we all walk inside.

Elliot and Valerie are already here talking to Mom in the great room, along with Mia and Ethan. I look up the stairs just in time to see Luma disappear around a corner. She has become quite at home here since Pops and Uncle Herman arrived. It’s one of those situations where you understand that everything happens for a reason—even the really bad stuff. She lost her family and we welcomed her into ours. Now, she’s helping us through a difficult time. Mom rises when I enter and I kiss her on the cheek.

“How are you?” I ask. She smiles tightly.

“As well as can be expected,” she says. “Cary is so tired; the whole thing is really taking its toll on him. Herman puts up a brave front, but…” Mom shrugs. “You know we just have to be pillars for our men.” I raise an eyebrow.

Our men?” I ask suspiciously. “So, have Luma and Uncle Herman finally made it official?” My mom smiles a knowing smile.

“I knew it,” she declares. “I told them the only ones that they were fooling were themselves. Who all knows? Everybody?” I nod.

“Yeah, I think that’s a safe assumption,” I say. “I mean there hasn’t been any family powwows or anything like that, but the way they look at each other and the way they sneak away for stolen moments…” I gesture around the room. “… Like now.” Mom nods.

“He’s going to need someone… when Burt is gone,” she says sadly. “The last several years of his life have been centered around taking care of his father and that’s going to change soon. He’ll need a diversion—someone to care for him, and maybe someone else to care for.”

I look over at my wife who has settled in next to Valerie and Elliot, talking in hushed tones about who knows what while she situates the baby carrier at her feet. I still have one of my children in the carrier in my hand, I don’t know which one yet.

“She’s been so good for you, Christian,” my mother says. “I never thought I would ever see you shed your anger. I hoped, but I never thought…” She chokes up before she can finish her sentence and I rub her arm. “But look at you now,” she says, sniffling and fighting her tears. “A family man with a wife and two beautiful children.” I reach in my pocket and hand her my handkerchief when she loses the fight. “I’m sorry. It’s just that… times like these make you realize how important family really is.”

I hug my mother with my free arm, which only makes her cry harder. This is something else she didn’t think she would ever see, but being with Butterfly has changed me in ways that no one ever thought possible… not even me. The little bundle in my carrier begins to fuss and Butterfly’s attention immediately turns to me.

“Oh, please, please, let me,” my mother beseeches quickly drying her eyes and reaching for the baby seat. I look to Butterfly who nods once with a kind smile. I remove the blanket off the carrier to reveal which child I have been carrying. It’s Minnie.

“There’s grandma’s precious little Minnie Mouse,” my mother says, taking a fussing Minnie out of her carrier. Mikey must have heard the cue and starts to fuss as well.

“That means that this must be my godson,” Valerie says, removing the receiving blanket from the carrier before my wife has a chance to protest. “Hello, Sir Michael. Come and give Tee Tee Val kisses!” My little boy is quite the ladies’ man, because the moment Valerie retrieves him from the carrier, he gives her the biggest toothless grin. Speaking of teeth, Minnie has already started teething and has been quite irritable over the last couple of weeks. Butterfly is nearly at her wits end with Minnie’s relentless unwillingness to settle. The baby’s constant crying upsets her because she doesn’t like hearing Minnie cry. Noting her obvious distress, my mother comforts her.

“Don’t worry, dear. It’s just one of the growing pains they’ll have. Let me take care of her for you,” Mom says. Butterfly nods, and soon Minnie’s cries are off in the distance somewhere after Mom takes her from the great room. It’s obvious that my mother needs a distraction and quite frankly, Butterfly needs a break. Even with the two nannies at home, Butterfly is extremely active in caring for our children. Mikey has gotten to where he can sleep through the night if he’s not disturbed, but once Minnie started teething, her unrest would disturb him and now, he’s awake at night again when she stirs. Knowing that her daughter is in pain, my wife can’t sleep through the night either, so her latest sleeping habits have somewhat matched Minnie’s and, although I won’t tell her so, she looks exhausted.

She keeps telling me that something is holding up the accreditation at Helping Hands, but no one can seem to tell her or my mother what it is. So, of course, that’s very frustrating. Then there’s the hearing before the medical board looming over us and now, the family is gathering to discuss Pops’ deteriorating condition. We were planning a vacation on our anniversary at the end of the month. I intended to take Butterfly to the Italian villa that I bought for her, but with everything going on with work and licenses and Pops and the twins, it doesn’t look like we’ll be making that trip this year.

I sit on the sofa opposite Elliot and Valerie. Butterfly comes to join me and snuggles under my arm. I watch as my brother and his wife coo over my son who is hungrily taking a bottle offered by Valerie. I lean down and kiss my wife on the forehead.

“You okay?” I ask. She nods.

“I can’t stand to hear her cry that way,” she says, her voice sounding defeated. “It’s so shrill and I know that she’s hurting and I can’t do anything about it. It pierces me right in the heart—like a rusty knife!” I rub her arm and kiss her again, sinking into the silence.

“Listen,” I say and pause. She listens, realization dawning only moments later.

“She’s not crying anymore,” Butterfly says. “I wonder what Grace did.” I shrug. I don’t know what my Mom did, but I’m very happy that Minnie is settled, even if only for a moment.

“Are you guys planning to have kids of your own someday?” I ask Valerie and Elliot. “You’re a natural with babies.” Valerie smiles.

“Someday, but it won’t be for a while,” she says. “The radiation needs to work its way out of my system and then we need to know for sure that I have healthy ovaries.” Obviously, they’ve talked about this. “Once I have the ‘all clear’ from all pertinent doctors, we’ll most likely start trying sometime after that.” Elliot smiles and I nod.

“That’s a good idea. I’m feeling the need to keep our family line going,” I say. “We’re losing one of the foundations of the family and I’m just feeling that need to keep the legacy alive.”

“Tell me about it,” Elliot says before tenderly kissing his wife. Soon thereafter, Mom comes back into the great room with a cooing Minnie.

“Is she asleep?” Butterfly asks. Mom shakes her head.

“Just content,” Mom says. “I put something on her gums to soothe the ache.” Mom reaches into her pocket and pulls out a vial. “It’s a lavender oil dilution with just a touch of clove oil—not too much as clove oil can cause irritation in some infants.” She gives a vial to Butterfly. “A little bit on your finger—just enough to coat it—and rub it on her gums. She should get relief fairly quickly. When you run out, let me know and I’ll make more. I know the right concentration and you can’t be too careful with infants and clove oil. In a pinch, you can also use German Chamomile hydrosol. You’ll probably have to get it online, but you can put it right on her gums.” Butterfly nods and rises to put the vial in the diaper bag… but she doesn’t quite make it off the sofa.

“Butterfly!” I exclaim, catching her just as she falls back down on the sofa. She puts her hand on her forehead.

“I’m okay,” she says softly. “Just a little light-headed.” My brown furrows.

“Exhausted, you mean,” I accuse, taking the vial from her hands and putting it in the side pocket of the diaper bag. I turn around to the questioning faces of my family and the convicted downcast gaze of my wife. I sit next to her again and cuddle her close to me, nearly pulling her into my lap.

“Why are you exhausted, Anakins?” Mia asks. When Butterfly doesn’t respond, I speak instead.

“There’s a lot going on and it’s happening all at once,” I say without being specific. “Some things that can’t be helped and some things that certainly can, and I swear, Butterfly—if you don’t get a handle on those things that can be handled, I’m going to do it for you.”

“You can’t rescue me, Christian,” she protests.

“No, I can’t,” I agree, “but I can assure that all this stuff you’re taking on doesn’t kill you. It’s going to be your choice or mine, baby, but I won’t lose you.” She drops her eyes again.

“I’m afraid he’s right, Steele,” Valerie says and Butterfly raises her head. Valerie starts to count on her fingers.

“You were there for me, and I needed 24-hour care. You’re there for two babies and you never faltered. You’re there for the help center. You do the radio spots. You went from the six-week check-up to that crazy woman’s trial to caring for me and planning my spur-of-the-moment wedding. And this is just the stuff I know about. That doesn’t include if something else is going on…”

“There’s a whole lotta ‘something else’ going on,” I interject and Valerie nods.

“You’re not looking well, Ana, and the moisturizer that you’re wearing does not cover the bags under your eyes. You’re spread about as thin as you can be. Do you need to pass out before you take a break?”

“Fuck, no,” I answer emphatically, until I hear my mother hiss softly. “Sorry, Mom, but fuck no.” This time I mouth the word fuck. Butterfly’s shoulders sag her defeat. I cuddle her close to me. I don’t want her to feel like we’re ganging up on her, but I’m glad Valerie chimed in and told her that her overworking herself is not invisible to those around her. She would have taken it as me being overprotective.

“We’ll work this out,” I tell her, “together, but baby, the twins and I need you healthy, fit, and happy, so something’s got to give. At your current pace…” I trail off. She raises sad blue eyes to me in surrender and nods, curling into my chest and allowing me to hold her. I think there might be a bit of shrinking involved, but I allow it this time.

I gently stroke her hair as conversation carries on around us about babies and life and Mia’s upcoming wedding—anything but the elephant in the room and the reason that we’re all here… Pops’ condition. A few minutes later, Dad, Uncle Herman, and Luma all come from different parts of the house and join us in the great room. Dad and Uncle Herman look as run down as my wife if not more. Valerie and Mom have gotten the twins settled and back in their carriers and my father and uncle find a seat. Luma has already taken a seat with Mia and Ethan.

“Well,” Dad begins, “Dad’s not doing well at all. He’s very weak and very frail. The number of symptoms piling up is more than we can even describe. He’s irritable, upset… quickly deteriorating and currently alone in a hospital bed. Dialysis really can’t do much more to help him at this stage. The disease is so advanced and with his advanced age and no new kidney on the horizon…” Dad trails off. After several moments of silence, Uncle Herman continues.

“We called my brothers back in Detroit for input. You can just about imagine how well that went,” he says, rubbing his forehead. “Anyway, we don’t have time for the bickering. We have to make a decision. Dad doesn’t have long left and he’s refusing dialysis because he knows this. He wants his last days to be as comfortable as possible. We’re considering bringing him home on hospice instead of leaving him at the hospital, but it’s certain that if we do that, he’s going to die here and not too far down the road. We want his family to be around him when that happens, maybe even to hear and see his great-grandchildren on his last day… Is she alright?”

Uncle Herman had turned his attention to me to weigh in on the great-grandchildren suggestion, but is now referring to my wife. I was so engrossed in what he was saying that I wasn’t paying attention to Butterfly. She’s in the most awkward position on my chest with her mouth hanging open—fast asleep. She wasn’t shrinking, she was cuddling and trying to get comfortable. I adjust her so that she’s laying on my lap and she doesn’t even stir. If it weren’t for the rise and fall in her chest, I’d be concerned about her.

“She’s overworked,” I answer Uncle Herman. Dad looks at Mom with a furrowed brow. “It’s more than that, Dad,” I counter, anticipating his thoughts. “There’s a lot going on.”

“I’m sorry, son. I didn’t mean to dump this on you while you two while you’re going through something…”

“Trust me, Dad, it’s okay. This is family. It’s just that everything is happening at once and I have to help my wife delegate some things. She’s not going to be happy about that, but she can’t continue the pace that she’s keeping.” I stroke her hair again while she’s lying on my lap. “Please, Uncle Herman, continue.”

“I… feel a little guilty asking what I want to ask now,” he says, looking over at Dad, who sighs heavily. “We’ve decided… to bring him home and let him go in peace. We’ve talked about it and… we’d like for anyone who can to move into the Manor for a while. Dad’s become accustomed to having the family around and if everyone stays away while he’s dying… well…” Herman trails off this time. This is very hard for my father and his brother. I’m certain that Butterfly won’t mind moving in with my parents for a little while. It’ll give me a chance to pull her away from the situation she’s in for a while, too. Not so much a vacation, unfortunately, but at least a breather from some of the things she has to handle. I’ll cut down on my work, too, so that I can keep an eye on her and help out with the babies while this is all going on.

“Um… we have nannies that help with our children. I’m sure security can probably set up in the pool house or the pool house, but the nannies…”

“Give them a vacation,” Mom says. “We’ll help you care for the children.”

“Yes,” Luma says. “I am certain that my boss will allow me a revised schedule for a family emergency,” she says with a wink, causing me to chuckle. “I will be happy to help out with the children.”

“Me, too, when I’m not forced to work,” Mia chimes in. “You know how I love babies.”

“More time with my godchildren? Count me in,” Valerie also says. “Besides, Steele needs a break in the worst way. We’re going to have to pry her away from those babies, because that’s where most of her energy is going and life in general is zapping the rest. Even with the nannies, she’s right there every time one of the children cries. She’s going to have to let go just a bit. That’s why she has nannies—to allow her the time to do the other things she wants to do, not to try to be a stay-at-home mom and carry a full-time schedule. They’re both full-time jobs. Geez, she even takes the babies to work with her.”

“You’re preaching to the choir here,” I tell her. “I’ll appreciate your back-up when it’s time to convince her.”

“You got it,” Valerie confirms.

“Does that mean that you all are willing to move in for a while?” Uncle Herman says. “We don’t know how long it will be… we just know that it won’t be long.”

Various affirmations around the room confirm that Grey Manor will soon become Grey Compound for however long it takes for Pops to make his transition. More conversation reveals that one brother in Detroit is on the fence about what to do while the other is adamant about leaving Pops in the hospital. His suggestion is to have Pops deemed incompetent and unable to make his own decision and forcing him to take the dialysis to extend his life. Yeah, that’s the kind of fucker I want to make my end-of-life decisions… not!

Luckily, for lack of a better word, even if Pops’ capacity may be slightly diminished, he’s not completely gone and still able to make his own decisions. Not only that, he has advanced directives that were put in place before his health deteriorated and the person able to legally make decisions about his care is already here—Uncle Herman has power of attorney and is already trustee for Pops’ estate.

Once we sort out what’s going to be happening over the next several days or weeks—however long this process takes—I take my wife to my childhood bedroom and put her to bed. She still hasn’t stirred. One good thing about being here instead of home… no two-way communications, so she can’t be disturbed by the babies crying.

I get to work immediately on what needs to be done for our stay, as does Elliot and Ethan. The women are left to coo over the babies and make sure all the refrigerators are stocked. Jason will set up Security Central in the pool house and have a of staff rotation working shifts while we’re here. Gail and Keri will be on-call and brought to the Manor only if needed as the place will already be overrun with people. I arrange for cribs and baby furniture to be delivered to the Manor to set up nurseries in two parts of the house as Mom and Dad don’t have the staff or accommodations that we have. Gail and Keri are packing the things that we’ll need for a possible month-long stay with my parents—including clothes for me and Butterfly.

Work schedules will be severely cut as well as appearance schedules for my wife. Marilyn will also be on call to handle most of Butterfly’s tasks so that she can finally get a little rest. We can’t avoid the hearing coming up next week and I’m hoping that my deposition in all of this will put this shit to rest. Sexual misconduct… what a fucking crock. Although, something that Valerie said earlier stuck with me…

“You went from the six-week check-up to that crazy woman’s trial to caring for me and planning my spur-of-the-moment wedding.”

In two years—two years—of being with my lover, my fiancée, and my wife, there were only three people with intimate knowledge who really questioned our relationship…

Ronald Carlisle, the director of the community center where I attended the group sessions. I’m sure he did so for professional reasons and we never heard from him again after the sessions were complete.

Brian Cholometes, Ray’s best friend and a serious suitor for Butterfly. Could his jealousy and need for revenge have caused him to want to harm Butterfly after ultimately losing her to me?

And of course, the crazy woman to whom Valerie is referring—one Elena Lincoln. She knew the circumstances under which I met Butterfly. She could very well be the one who’s trying to ruin Butterfly’s reputation.

There could be any other number of people who could have made this false report, including someone that was in the initial group sessions, but I’d like to focus on these three first—eliminate them and then move on to possible other suspects. It’s time to shake the tree and see if anything falls out.

“Welch.”

“I appreciate more than anyone that I can pick up this phone at just about any hour of any day and reach you, but damn, man, you need a life,” I proclaim into the phone.

“This coming from my boss,” he retorts. “Should I hang up and go find one right now?”

“Don’t be a smart-ass,” I warn.

“Don’t tell me to get a life. I’ve got a life—the life I want. Now what do you need?” I stop egging him on and get to the point.

“I know that we can’t really pinpoint who contacted the licensing board about me and my wife since the complaint was anonymous, but if you know who to look at, could you find out if they contacted the licensing board at all?” The line is quiet.

“It’s a place to start,” he says. “If someone was trying to cover their tracks, you may never find out. But if they were using their cell or office phones or home phones, it should be easy enough. If it was in writing, that’s trickier.” I shake my head as if he can see me.

“It was a phone call,” I tell him. “Allen got that much from the review board, but they wouldn’t give any further information.”

“What do you have?” I give him the names. “Has Ana tried talking to Carlisle to see if he had suspicions? Or you? Didn’t you see him separately for a while?”

“He had suspicions,” I say. “He openly asked us if something was going on. Separately, but he asked us.”

“Then why wait two years?” he asks, the same question I was considering.

“Whoever made the complaint waited two years,” I point out. “I’m just going through a process of elimination. Besides our family and close friends, there’s only a handful of people who even knew that Butterfly and I met in those sessions. I’d like to start with the obvious.”

“Brian… you like to give me impossible tasks, don’t you?” he says.

“Only because I know you can do them,” I retort.

“Lincoln will be the easiest one. I’ll start with her.”

“Good man. Let me know what you come up with.”

“Will do.” I end the call and go in search of my mother.


ANASTASIA

I slept like the dead. When I open my eyes, it’s still daylight, but I can tell that it’s somewhat late in the day. I can’t remember the last time I had that content of a sleep. I’m in Christian’s bedroom with no idea how I got here. I throw my legs over the edge of the bed, stand up, and go to the bathroom. After relieving myself, I wash my face and try to tame my bed-head hair. Once I’m satisfied, I go in search of my family.

There’s no one in the great room and I didn’t want to just start opening bedroom doors and maybe walk in on something I really don’t want to see. I head for the dining room and discover my husband talking to his mother. I hear my name and decide to hang back at the door for a while. I’m sure that quite a bit has been discussed while I was sleeping.

“You just wouldn’t believe the headache we’re having,” I hear Grace say. “I don’t want to dump it all on Ana, and I swear that I haven’t, but she takes it on anyway. She has all the plans for the school and the day care center—it was her baby from day one. She feels like it’s her responsibility to see it through to the end. That’s partially my fault for freaking out when she announced her maternity leave.”

“That’s water under the bridge now, Mom,” I hear Christian say. “What’s important now is that she doesn’t work herself to death. You saw her this afternoon. She’s running on fumes! She even has the communications system in the house wired so that if one of the babies makes the slightest sound and she’s not in the room with them, she’s notified even if she’s on the toilet!”

“Good God,” Grace says. “That’s a bit extreme.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. We have two nannies and two children. At first, it was Gail and Ana. But when Sophie came to live with us, we didn’t want Gail spread too thin, so we hired Keri. There are three women in that house that can care for those children, but Ana cares for them the most. I think that may partially be my fault for telling her that I didn’t want my children raised by nannies.”

That’s not his fault. We agreed that the babies wouldn’t be raised by nannies. I want my children to know who I am. They can know who the nanny’s are, but this is called being “Mom.”

“That’s Mom for you, son,” Grace says, verbalizing my thoughts. “Mom is going to be the one to kiss boo-boos. Mom is going to be there for birthdays and holidays and to tuck them in at night. Mom is going to parent-teacher conference and to hug Minnie through her first heartbreak and give Mikey advice on girls that you may not be able to give him. Moms care; nannies help.”

“I know,” he says, and I can see him in my mind’s eye running his hands through his hair, “but she’s killing herself, Mom. She’s exhausted. She’s going to make herself sick. She can’t do both full-time and everything else that she’s trying to squeeze in. Something’s got to give. She’s going to have to cut down to part-time on both or let one go or something… There’s no way in hell she can keep up this pace. I just need to know that you’re on the same page with me.”

I lean against the wall as I listen to Grace agree with my husband. His voice sounds… distressed, and this is one of those times when even though I may feel like Wonder Woman, my husband needs to care for me. It’s not the control freak in him—well, maybe it is,  just a little bit, but not really. No, this is genuine concern for my welfare and the fact that the slightest thing is causing me to snap or fall apart lately. Although I wouldn’t call discovering that someone is accusing me of sexual misconduct a slight thing, it took the staff three days to get my office back to par after that revelation.

“Our biggest problem is getting the accreditation approved.” Grace’s conversation brings me back from my wanderings. “Now, I’ve discovered what’s holding it up.”

She did? Why didn’t she tell me?

“I only found out late yesterday. With what I knew was coming with Burt and the hearing on Monday, I was going to wait until after to say anything to her about it,” she says, once again reading my mind.

“Well, what is it?” Christian asks.

“The director of the licensing board,” Grace says. “She’s been putting us through the paces for months, continuously holding up our license for one thing or another and we couldn’t figure out why. I researched the process to have an appeal or an investigation conducted to see why we’re being subjected to such scrutiny and if this is the usual process for organizations seeking accreditation. Every time we pass one test or another review and we’re led to believe that we’re going to get our accreditation, something else has to be submitted or reviewed. I think the steps are unnecessary, so my research led me to the head of the board. You won’t believe what I found.”

“What did you find?”

“Gloria Felton,” Grace says. The name sounds slightly familiar, but there are no alarm bells going off.

“Should I know this person?” Christian asks.

“No, you wouldn’t,” the response came, “but Ana and I would. I passed Gloria Felton up as Assistant Director for the Center and gave the job to Ana. Ana was overwhelmingly more qualified for the job, but Gloria was convinced that I only did it because she was dating you at the time. She was spewing threats on her way out the door and now, it appears she’s making good on them.” I burst into the dining room.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I ask in a shrill voice. “Gloria fucking Felton? Really?”

Grace and Christian are both beyond shocked at my entrance.

“Ana! Were you eavesdropping at the door?” she asks.

“Yes, I was,” I admit openly. “I heard my name when I approached and I didn’t want the conversation to drop the moment I walked into the room. Gloria Felton? Is this a joke?”

“I’m afraid not,” she says.

“Was she the director back when she was trying to socially climb through the charity?” I ask. “How could she expect to do them both?” Christian raises an eyebrow at me.

“I don’t know,” Grace replies. “I don’t think so.” My scar starts to throb. Gloria fucking Felton. I only knew her as Gloria, which is why she didn’t ring any bells. All that work we’ve done can be just shot to hell because of somebody’s personal vendetta. Give me a fucking break. I notice the room has fallen silent and raise my eyes to see Christian and Grace both staring at me.

“I heard you,” I say, looking over at my husband. “You’re right. I’m exhausted. I can’t keep up this pace. I’ll talk to Marilyn about my schedule and work some things out, and I’ll utilize my nannies more…” I turn to Grace. “… But Grace, if something must suffer in this, it’s going to have to be the Center, because it’s not going to be my babies.” Grace’s face breaks into a sincere smile.

“I would expect nothing less, dear,” she says. Before I know it, Christian has gathered me in his arms and is holding me so close to him that I can’t move. He buries his nose in my hair and inhales.

“Thank you,” he whispers softly. “Thank you thank you thank you…”

I can only imagine that this is hard for him, what’s going on with Pops and watching Herman and Carrick fall apart before his very eyes, and now me—barely able to stay awake for a very important conversation. When he releases me, I open my eyes to see that Grace has left us alone in the dining room.

“It’s getting late,” I say. “Are we staying for dinner or shouldn’t we be getting home soon?” His lips form a thin line.

“Yeah, about that.” He returns to his seat, pulling me with him. I sit down in the chair next to him. “I’ve somewhat made an executive decision and I hope you don’t mind… you were asleep.”

“What’s going on?” I ask. Christian tells me about the conversation the family had while I was fast asleep on his lap; how all the siblings, their significant others, and Luma with her girls have all agreed to move into Grey Manor as a unified support system until Pops passes on; how Mia, Luma, Grace, and even Val have all agreed to become part-time nannies for the girls and for the twins while we’re here; how everyone wants to be present to support Carrick and Herman through this and help ease Pops’ mind knowing that family is around him during his final days.

“And I slept through this?” I ask horrified. “Christian, you let me sleep through this?”

“I couldn’t stop you, baby,” he states matter-of-factly. “I didn’t even know you were asleep until Uncle Herman asked if you were okay.”

“Why didn’t you wake me?” I protest. This was an important meeting and I slept through it like a toddler at naptime. He twists his lips.

“Baby, I moved you several times and you didn’t even stir.” He’s right. He got me off the sofa, upstairs and into the bed and I didn’t even know I was there. “Everyone understood, Butterfly. You tried, but you couldn’t hide it… you looked you were going to pass out.” I roll my eyes, admitting defeat.

“So… where are the babies going to sleep?” I ask.

“Well, we now have two nurseries—one in the guest room next to Mom and Dad’s room and Mom’s library has been converted to a nursery, too.” My eyes widen.

“How long was I asleep?” I ask.

“Several hours, baby.” I shake my head and stop arguing.

“Is there a space somewhere that I can commandeer as a makeshift office while I’m here?” I ask. “I’m going to have to meet with Marilyn—cancel some appearances, rework my schedule… I think Grace and I will have to alternate at Helping Hands for a while, and some days, they’ll just have to do without us both.” Christian smiles.

“I’ll see what Mom says about commandeering a room. I haven’t lived here in a long time, remember?”

*-*

Marilyn and I comb through my schedule on Sunday morning and cancel all my immediately upcoming appearances until further notice due to a family emergency. I know that this will lead to speculation, but right now, I can’t be concerned with that. As Christian and I prepare to give our depositions at the hearing tomorrow, he gets a call and decides to take it in another room. That makes me feel a little uneasy since it’s late Sunday evening, but I don’t squawk about it.

Mia and Grace take the rounds on baby watch so that Christian and I wouldn’t be late to the preliminary hearing for my license review in the morning. It’s an informal hearing, so I don’t necessarily need Al, yet, but the moment I enter the building, I begin to feel like I should have brought him with me.

I can’t even begin to express how ridiculous I think this exercise is. Just like in a real courtroom, Christian isn’t allowed hear my testimony and I’m not allowed to hear his. However, I’m quite surprised to see some of the participants of that same group that Christian was in as well as Ronald Carlisle in the waiting room, waiting to give their testimony. When I check in, I have to turn in my purse, my phone, and my watch before I’m led to a separate room where I sit all by myself… with an escort who’s not allowed to leave the room.

Why the hell did they take my watch?

I sit in that room with nothing but a table and no windows, and I slowly begin to lose hope. There’s no clock, there’s nothing to let me know how much time has passed. I sit and sit and sit in silence, and I feel like it’s been hours. I already know that I’ve been escorted to this room to make sure that I speak to none of the witnesses and I’m also certain that with the way that I’ve been treated—like a nobody, and I’m a licensed medical professional—that unlike a criminal trial where I’m innocent until proven guilty, I’ve pretty much been convicted, and it’s up to me to prove my innocence. I’m feeling more and more helpless the longer I sit here and I finally settle on a plan of attack, if you can call it that.

“Excuse me, why did they take my watch?” I ask the escort/attendant/guard or whatever the fuck she is.

“It’s protocol, ma’am,” she says in a clipped voice.

“But why my watch? What can I possibly do with my watch?” They didn’t take my wedding rings or my earrings or any of my other jewelry. What could I do with my watch?

“It’s protocol, ma’am,” she says again, and it’s obvious that she has no other words for me. I shake my head and sigh.

Just like I said, a nobody.

I close my eyes and meditate while I wait. I focus on my children, on my wedding day, my honeymoon, all of my best friend’s weddings; on Food & Libations and on holding my little brother for the first time; on dancing with my father and Christian’s proposal; on realizing that he loved me and I loved him even when I didn’t know who he was after coming out of the coma; on building a High School Musical bear with Sophie at Thanksgiving and on Keri’s return from Anguilla; on…

“Dr. Steele-Grey, the board is ready for you now.”

I look up at the escort who has been sitting silently in the cell with me all this time. That’s what this room is. It’s a cell, and after being stripped of my dignity this way, I’m resigned to accept whatever they say.

“It has come to the attention of the board that there has been an accusation of sexual misconduct against you, Dr. Steele-Grey.”

There’s some kind of introduction about this not being a formal disciplinary proceeding blah blah blah. I’ve already tuned them out. I was forced to walk about 100 feet from the door to a single chair sitting in front of a long Oxford wood table with four people on the other side facing me. They give me their names, but I don’t commit any of them to memory—two men, both over the age of fifty, a younger man and a woman… I can’t place her age. Christian’s got their names. I know he does. No matter, I already know what I’m going to say.

“You mean a conviction, don’t you?” I say, my voice controlled. All four of the people who sit in judgment of me raise their eyes to me.

“Excuse me?” one of them says.

“You said an ‘accusation.’ You meant a conviction, didn’t you?” I repeat. “I sit before this board accused by a ghost! Someone who can’t be bothered to come before this panel, show their face and proudly proclaim they openly accuse me of wrongdoing. No, I’m called before a disciplinary board and treated like a common criminal from the moment I entered this building based on opinion and conjecture. I’ve been sitting in a cell for four hours with no contact with anybody. I couldn’t even check on my children!”

“It’s not a cell, Mrs. Grey…”

“It’s Dr. Steele-Grey you haven’t stripped me of my license yet and have you been in that room?” I say all in one breath. They all fall silent. “If that’s not a cell, why did they take my watch? My watch! What can I possibly do with a watch?” I exclaim. “I remember a psychological experiment when I was in college where they put people in a cell with no window for days and deprived them of the ability to tell time. The subjects lost their minds. Is that what this was? Some kind of mind-freak experiment to break down my resistance? Stick me in a cell for four hours and hope I’ll confess to anything?”

“Mrs. Grey, that is not a cell,” he repeats, his voice sounding impatient.

“Excuse me, but is something wrong with your hearing?” I ask.

“I beg your pardon?” he scoffs.

“I repeat, is there something wrong with your hearing?” I ask, folding my arms. “Is your hearing okay?” I am pointing to my ears this time.

“There’s nothing wrong with my hearing!” he shoots.

“Eyesight good, too?” I ask. “I wear glasses, too, and I know things can tend to get a little fuzzy.” He’s really getting heating now.

“My eyesight is fine,” he replies as if he can barely maintain control.

“Well, I’m only asking because you keep addressing my sister-in-law. You see, she’s Mrs. Grey. I’m Dr. Steele-Grey, and when you called me in here and addressed me for the first time, that’s what you said. And when you look at that documentation in front of your face, that’s who you’re trying. And since you’re so sure that the description of that room is a matter of my own perception, I’ll tell you what, sir. You have one of these fine employees take you to that room, take your watch, and sit there with you for four hours without saying a word and then come back and tell me that it’s not a cell.”

He clears his throat and looks at his notes.

“We’re getting off the mark, here,” he says, bringing the conversation back to the cause of the hearing. “You know that you’re here because accusations of sexual misconduct have been levied against you.”

“By whom?” I ask.

“Christian Grey,” he says. I now notice that he must be the mouthpiece while the others just observe and take notes as he’s the only one who speaks.

“Would you like to rephrase that now or would you like to wait until I turn this over to my attorney for slander?” I say, impassively. He glares at me when the other older gentleman leans over and whispers something in his ear. He clears his throat again.

“What I mean to say is that the victim is Christian Grey,” he corrects himself.

“And again, I ask, accusations have been levied against me by whom? Christian Grey will tell or has already told you that there has been no sexual misconduct on my part while he was in my group session. So, what are we basing further hearings on? Who is my accuser and what is their evidence?”

“Mrs. Grey, you’re hardly in a position to make demands right now with the delicate nature of these proceedings.”

“It’s Dr. Steele-Grey, for the third time. And sir, if you’re not required to answer my questions, I’m not required to answer yours, nor will I defend someone’s opinion to this board.” They look at each other as I cross my arms and legs. That’s when the totally inappropriate questions begin.

“Did you wear provocative clothing to the group sessions you facilitated?”

“Did you ever act inappropriately around your patients or participants?”

“Did you and Mr. Grey have a lover’s quarrel during which time you outed him in front of the other members of the group for ‘mommy issues?’”

More and more questions exactly like this one are fired off at me. I shake my head at the line of questioning and laugh. I don’t answer a single question. When he’s done with his barrage, he asks one last question.

“You don’t have anything to say for yourself, Mrs. Grey?” I laugh again. Mrs. Grey. Okay.

“Yes, I do,” I say, rising and standing behind my chair. “Not one of those questions that you asked had anything to do with possible sexual misconduct except possibly when you incorrectly described a disagreement that I had with Mr. Grey as a ‘lover’s quarrel.’ So, since you have a problem wording your questions, I’m going to guide you in the right direction.”

“Mrs. Grey…” he begins.

“Mr. Grey’s first group session with me as a facilitator was June 11, 2012,” I begin without regard for this ass’s interruption. “Three days later, I learned that I would not be the right person to facilitate his anger management sessions because he—like you—did not respect me as a doctor at the time.”

I pause to allow that last statement to sink in for a moment. Old Boy #1 narrows his eyes at me and I continue.

“The following Monday, June 18, 2012, I had every intention of informing the court of Mr. Grey’s complete and total lack of respect for me as a doctor since he—like you—insisted on calling me Ms. Steele instead of Dr. Steele. At the time, he was trying to make me feel inferior, much like you’re trying right now by not correctly addressing me. However, I was going to use his unwillingness to participate in the group sessions as a reason for possible reassignment for him.”

“We really don’t…”

“Later that week,” I continue over his interruption, “I find out that he performed a background check on me, which caused me to fear for my safety. So, I had one performed on him as well, strictly on a personal level. This is where I learned about the unfortunate incidents of his childhood, including something to do with his mother. The argument that ensued the following Monday on June 25, 2012 had absolutely nothing to do with a lover’s quarrel, sir!” I hiss. “It had everything to do with the fact that I was tired of being antagonized by Mr. Grey for the prior two weeks when I was only trying to do my job, and I had had enough of attempting to help people who did not want my help. ‘Mommy issues’ was an unfortunate outburst that was subsequently followed by my resignation on the same day. If Mr. Carlisle told you correctly, I turned in a blank report for Mr. Grey so that someone else could evaluate his situation.

“I had no impact on Mr. Grey’s report or treatment for the anger management sessions. In fact, our romantic relationship didn’t begin until four days later when he interrupted a disastrous date that I was having that Friday night. That’s all I have to say. Draw what conclusions you need from that narration. Unless you have questions for me based on factual evidence, I’ve told you all that I’m going to tell you. And allow me to add that I’ve never been treated more unprofessionally by a supposed group of professionals in my life. If this is the governing body over my profession, I’m thinking that maybe I made the wrong career choice.” I turn away from them and begin the 100-foot walk towards the door.

“Mrs. Grey, this hearing is not over yet.” I stop and turn around.

“Yes, it is,” I say. “First of all, you keep calling me Mrs. Grey, so you’ve already made your decision. Second, and more importantly, this entire proceeding has been based on nothing but opinion. You haven’t presented one single fact—not one, and that’s not something that I think! That’s something that I know. The reason that I know is because none exist. There’s not one fact in existence that indicates that I have been sexually inappropriate with any of my patients. That is a fact! Your deliberations and decisions will be based on nothing but opinions, so what does mine matter? I’m the condemned…” I put my hand on my chest mocking contrition. “Oh, I’m sorry. I meant I’m the accused,” I correct myself sarcastically. “So, when you’re all done mixing all of your opinions in your cauldron and you come up with a decision about the fate of my impeccable record, I’m sure you’ll notify me if I’m deemed worthy to continue to practice psychiatry in these great United States!” I turn around march out of the room.

Christian is waiting for me outside of the hearing room when I come whooshing out the door. He stands immediately, his concerned gaze fixed on me.

“Butterfly?” he says, cautiously.

“Take. Me. To. My. Children.” I say. He nods once, puts his hand in the small of my back and leads me out of the building.


CHRISTIAN

I’m stepping off the GEH jet making the same trip my wife made a few months ago for pretty much the same reason. I’m about to ruin someone’s life more than it’s already been ruined.

Sunday, while we were planning our attack and testimony for her hearing, I received a call from Welch. Butterfly looked at me questioningly when I took it in the other room, but luckily, she didn’t ask anything.

Sunday…

“What do you have for me?”

“Lincoln,” he says. “She made a call to the licensing board a couple of months ago. As it stands, she saved up whatever credits she earned over the last year and used them to make that call. It’s hard as hell to save up those credits in prison because it’s basically a barter system. So, I can guarantee you that she’s been planning this for a long time.”

“Is there any way that we can legally get a recording of that call?” I ask.

“We can, but it would take more time than Ana has. You want to pull some strings on this one if you can, especially if you plan on using it to get her off the hook.” I run my hands through my hair.

“See what you can do to get it anyway,” I say. “And start working on getting me into that damn prison as early on Tuesday as possible. Get Holstein directly. I’ll need to meet with him personally.”

“On it,” Welch says before ending the call.

Today…

You would have thought the President was coming to Walla Walla with the cavalcade that met us on the tarmac. A caravan of police cars and motorcycles escort us to the prison as I remember the look on my wife’s face when she came out of that room.

“Take. Me. To. My. Children.”

She didn’t say a word about her testimony and she didn’t ask me about mine. She spent the rest of the evening basking in the love of our children and the support of our family and we didn’t mention anything about it, but once my testimony in front of those buffoons was complete hours earlier, I knew there would be a shakedown. Although I didn’t think it wise to tell Butterfly about Lincoln’s involvement in the whole thing just yet, I was bound and determined to bring everyone down that had anything to do with this farce, including that kangaroo-court panel of high-nosed assholes, and I made sure that they knew it.

Monday at the hearing…

“Why didn’t you tell me that Ana was inappropriate with you during her sessions?” 

I was surprised when Carlisle caught me at the fucking urinal and confronted me about the accusation. I already knew that it wasn’t him, but if I hadn’t, this would have driven it home. 

“It wasn’t me,” I assured him, “and we shouldn’t be talking about this here. It could hurt her case…”

I had answered all their ridiculous questions about my relationship with my wife when she was facilitating the group sessions, which was nothing but angry and tumultuous. I even answered questions about her demeanor and her style of dress—things that had absolutely nothing to do with the matter at hand. There was no romantic relationship until after she quit the sessions. The more they talked, the more I smelled a witch hunt, and that’s when I threw all decorum out the window because they weren’t looking for the truth.

“If an anonymous tip—and a fabricated one at that—is able to cause this much upheaval in the life of a respected doctor without first speaking to the supposed victim as well as considering the source before continuing with any formal or informal proceedings, then I feel sorry for all of the licensed professionals in the state of Washington and across the country for that matter who can be subjected to this kind of scrutiny based on something not even as reliable as a high school lavatory whisper. Even accused murderers are allowed to confront witnesses and accusers and yet my wife sits here fighting an apparition. She didn’t pursue me. I pursued her and I did so after she quit the center. That’s what you need to know. Those are the facts. We never even had a kind word for one another while she was my facilitator, much less a sexual relationship. She didn’t even know who I was and when she found out, she didn’t like me. After I kissed her for the first time, she fled my office. I literally had to crash her date and convince her that I wanted to be with her before she would have anything to do with me. There never was any sexual misconduct on Dr. Steele-Grey’s part towards me. Me towards her, that might be a different story.”

“What do you mean by that?” Carter asked. He appears to be the head man in charge of the board, because he’s the only one who speaks.

“I used every tactic I could think of besides whipping it out right in front of her to break down her defenses. At first, I thought it was because I wanted her to do what I wanted her to do. After a while, I realize that I just wanted her… and I’m an asshole.”

“Mr. Grey, profanity is not necessary,” Carter protests.

“What are you going to do—hold me in contempt of the board?” I say sarcastically.

“No, but we can have your testimony withheld from the proceedings.” No, he can’t. He’s being a jerk, but I’ll roll with it.

“You do that,” I say. “I’ll just give my testimony to the media. I’m sure they would love to hear how you ignored the statement of the supposed victim in a case of sexual misconduct.” His eyes grow large.

“I’m sure Mrs. Grey wouldn’t like that kind of publicity,” he retorts. I lean back in my seat.

“Let’s examine the facts,” I say, counting off on my fingers. “You’re disrupting her life right now and holding her license over her head not six months after she’s given birth to twins while our family is going through a major crisis. Your inquisition is based on accusations from a faceless, nameless person that she’s not allowed to confront. The victim is not some random patient that she treated with a possible ax to grind—it’s me! Her husband and the father of her children and I’m standing here telling that your claims are bullshit and you won’t even listen to me—the supposed wrong party! You’re dragging her away from running her charity and helping people for this nonsense and you think she would be averse to shining public light on this travesty? This three-ring circus? This unjust witch hunt? And with my resources, you don’t think I’ll find out where that anonymous tip came from and make that public as well?

“Have you not heard the radio spots that she’s been doing to drum up donations for the Help Center? If you seriously think that she wouldn’t jump on the opportunity to expose the injustice of attempting to defame her character and put her license and reputation at risk with absolutely no concrete evidence, then you have no idea who you’re dealing with. She’ll be on a radio spot or a television show before the ink is dry on the paper you sign.”

I’m sure there’s some kind of agency that polices the board, even if I don’t know who or what it is. If they pull Butterfly’s license or impose any disciplinary action on her without true just cause and evidence, somebody’s going to be investigated. To bring a public light to that situation is the last thing Carter wants, and I see it in his eyes.

“I can already tell that you’re not interested in the truth; only in tearing a young doctor apart and ruining her career for whatever reason. I can’t stop you, but I can tell you this. I won’t stop until I’ve turned over every rock and searched every crevice and I’ve gotten to the bottom of this. Whoever is under those rocks better beware. I don’t care how high I have to go and you know I have the resources to do it.”

So now, I’m being searched and allowed into the prison where Edward David drew his last breath… well, technically, it was at the hospital, but this is where it all started. I’m led straight into the restricted area and up into the superintendent’s office.

“Mr. Grey,” he greets. “Welcome. What can I do for you?” Ronald Holstein ensured Butterfly’s safety when she came to visit David that last time.

“I appreciate you seeing me on such short notice. I’ve imposed upon your kindness before and I was hoping that I might be able to impose upon it again,” I tell him.

“If it’s within my power, I’ll be glad to help you,” he assures me.

Twenty minutes later, I not only have the recording of the bitch’s phone call sent to Welch and to my phone, but also on a small recording device lent to me by Holstein so that I can play it for the Pedophile in case she tries to deny her involvement.

When I enter the small room, she’s sitting at a table with her head down. I swear I barely recognize her until she raises her head to look at me. Those cold, empty eyes begin to sparkle at the sight of me. I almost feel sorry for her for the hope evident in her irises.

“You just couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you?”

I’m sure that she was certain that she would never see me again except for the Faces of Abuse PSA, but here I am, live and in living color. I’m sure she wants to count this as a victory on her part. She’ll feel differently once this visit it over.

“Christian,” she breathes, relief and longing evident on her face. Mine remains impassive.

“I won’t bother with formalities or even the usual insults that I normally throw your way, because you won’t hear it. I will tell you this, though. I know what you tried to do to my wife.”

Her facial expression changes just for a moment before she dons her Domme mask, entwining her fingers like she did when she spoke to me as her pet.

And that just pisses me off more.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she says impassively.

“That’s fine. Just know that I know. I’ll make this quick because I don’t want to be in your presence any longer than I have to, but you need to hear this from me. You failed. I’m going to use my connections to have Ana’s record cleaned of these accusations. Not only that, but before my testimony was even complete, one of the board members declared that the entire hearing a waste of taxpayer’s time and money.

“I’m not sure what you thought accusing my wife of sexual misconduct against me was going to accomplish. Yes, an accusation normally could stay on her record for months, maybe even years… if I didn’t have friends in high places. I have the governor’s private cell phone number on speed dial, for God’s sake!

“To top it all off, you used prison resources to file a fraudulent claim against my wife that caused emotional distress and possible loss of income had these allegations become public. So, to start, we now have a restraining and gag order against you—again! You can’t even breathe my or my wife’s name without consequences.” She cackles loudly.

Consequences?” she asks in a disbelieving tone. She gestures around her. “Take a good look, Christian,” she says sarcastically. “Consequences? Seriously?” I match her cackling laughter with a sinister, deep, throaty laughter of my own—a sound that silences her immediately.

“Wait a minute,” I say through my laughter. “Are you seriously under the impression that… it can’t get worse?”

Her face falls again and fear materializes in her eyes, although she won’t cower. I lean over the table, towering over her.

“Listen carefully, Mistress!” I hiss. “You. Have. Nobody. Even your rich aunt has opted for self-preservation and abandoned you. If you were free, we would sue you for what you did to my wife. Since you’re not, we can sue the prison for allowing these actions occur since all your calls are supposed to be monitored. Guess how the warden felt about hearing that possibility?”

She sits solemnly listening to what I’m saying. She knows what I’m getting at.

“So, who exactly do you think would give a flying fuck if some unfortunate thing were to happen to you every day at 3:00? Death is too good for your ass, so I… we… would definitely want you to live through it.”

She begins to tremble a bit as her pupils constrict, her resolve breaking into nothing.

“Take your fucking sentence and don’t bother us anymore,” I hiss. “If you do, there will be no rest for you. There will be a steady flow of padded pockets to insure your unending pain and suffering—a lifetime of misery and unhappiness just like I wished for you in court. And to give you just a little taste of what’s in store, this is what you get for trying to ruin my wife’s reputation. When you leave this room, you’ll be taken straight to solitary confinement where you’ll stay for fourteen days. Let’s see how you like that tiny room with no light and no running water. Once your stint in solitary it complete, you’ll spend fourteen more days with a new cell mate. My understanding is that her name is Roberta Coleman.”

“Ber…” she breathes. “Bert!” She’s horrified. I smile.

“Ah, you’re already acquainted. Good. I suggest that you use the next twenty-eight days to ponder your situation… to think about if you want to face these or other consequences again if you cross me or my wife. And a piece of information, you sick, sadistic bitch, there are 206 bones in the human body. That’s 206 separate opportunities to break something on your worthless ass. Fuck with me again. The jury may not have believed you, but I do. You are a narcissistic, pathological, screwed-up cunt, and if you fuck with my family again, I will treat you with no regard. And by the way, since you so readily see the afterlife as an escape, you’re on suicide watch. The last time a Grey visited this hellhole, someone ended up dead. You won’t be so lucky. Enjoy your 28 days.”

I turn around and walk out of the room, half wishing that she—like David—would do the world a favor and off herself, but knowing that she’s too self-centered to try it.


A/N: So, the sigh heard ‘round the world—“It was Elena… that’s so predictable!” Well, maybe it was, but for me, that story was still left open-ended and I didn’t like it. Here’s why…

Elena went to jail still delusional, still thinking that Christian loved her, but was under a spell that Ana put on him. Make no mistake—every time Elena said that Ana had Christian under a spell, she really believed it. There was no possible way that Christian could want Ana over her after all these years and all the beautiful subs that were perfect for him that he turned away when they wanted more except that he had to be under the influence of something. She was completely convinced that if she could get him away from Ana, she could get him back. That’s why she wanted to kill him—to have him in the afterlife.

Now, why—after everything—did she do what she did? Well, she’s behind bars for life! What worse can happen to her? In her little mind, prison gives her some amount of protection from Christian’s reach. The prisoners already make her life hell, so if she can watch Ana be dragged through the mud and publicly humiliated, then that’s one bright spot… one thing to look forward to in her dismal little life. If there was no “Yes, I can reach you even in here,” she could always come back nibbling at them like a mouse. And what do mice do? They leave shit droppings, they gnaw into your bags of food and leave signs that they’ve been there. Then they get away before you catch them, and you have to set traps and bait for them or call the exterminator and hope that you get them all.

Nasty bastards!

So, Christian called the exterminator.

So, now here’s something that I don’t normally do. I’m giving three spoilers… listen carefully.

1—The person in the epilogue was NOT Elena.

2—A storyline will develop where Elena might have the potential to reach out and strike again. “Might” being the operative word.

3—I needed this to happen to Ana to lay the groundwork for a different storyline.

That is all.

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at 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

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 75—Emotional Rollercoasters

I want to thank everyone that donated to my GoFundMe project and that sent me well wishes and prayers. I have to take this test on 04/21/17 and as if I’m not worried enough about the results, they keep finding more things for me to pay for. So, keep me in your prayers. 

Don’t forget to add those crucial email addresses and let me know if you’re still not getting emails. I found that some emails transferred from the new list and others didn’t, while yet others are just not getting the emails even though my mailer says they have been sent. 

bg.holmes@butterflysaga.com
AND
bronzegoddess@butterflysaga.com

If you are not getting the email, please check your spam folder and if you have Gmail, check in the “promotions” folder.

NOTE!!! If you put in the comments below that you haven’t received an email from me, you have to include your email address or I don’t know how to look for you. The best way to let me know is the “contact me” link in the menu to the left.

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—Emotional Rollercoasters

CHRISTIAN

“Mr. Grey, how do you feel about the verdict and the sentence?”

The Paparazzi are all over us the moment we leave the courtroom. With my hand tightly clenched to my Butterfly, I take a long, deep breath of the beautiful Seattle air and reply,

“I’m glad it’s over.”

Butterfly and I take the stairs and slide into the back of the SUV, releasing each other’s hand only long enough to secure the seat belt. We’re well on our way back to the Crossing, as I recall the morning’s events in my head.

No one else said anything. The only sound that could be heard in the courtroom is Lincoln’s quiet keening. That’s when Judge Burgess drops the boom.

“I have to say that this has been one of the most incredulous cases I’ve ever sat on, and I’ve seen more than my share. I’ve listened to the testimony, heard the verdict now entered into the court records, and reviewed the evidence in an attempt to render fair judgment in this case. When I came to the decision, I waited to see if the statements from this day would sway me in any way as each person speaking would hope would happen. I’m surprised that Mrs. Lincoln had nothing to say on her own behalf when given the opportunity, but I can only assume that she must have felt that her testimony was damaging enough.” He turns his attention to the defense table.

“Mr. Underwood, I’m not in the habit of insulting defense attorneys in my courtroom and I won’t start now. So, please, take this statement with all sincerity when I say that I have no idea what made you think you could bring that defense into this courtroom. I understand that our justice system isn’t perfect, but I hold nothing but contempt for anyone who steps into a court of law and attempts to make a blatant mockery of it. I feel like you tried to become famous on the back of your client and that if anyone else is willing to touch her after this that she has a solid case for appeal, because you didn’t defend her. I don’t know which of you came up with that cock-and-bull plea and defense, but you’ve been watching too much television and you would have done better to plead her out than to present that nonsense to this forum. Maybe you felt that you had nothing to lose, and maybe you’re right, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a worse defense in my life than I saw during this case. I hope you’re satisfied.

“In response to your statement, you have to forgive me, but I truly feel that if your client was ‘well on her way to rehabilitation’ as you so proudly proclaim that she would never have come in here and tried to insult this court into believing that after 50 years on God’s green earth, she was exempt from responsibility for the consequences of her actions. No, Mr. Underwood, I believe exactly the opposite is the case with your client, and since you have chosen to introduce the facts and sentence of a prior case into these proceedings, let me also inform you that the only sense of justice that I feel was served by that light sentence she was given for the many charges against her is the fact that the State of Washington did not have to waste money on a trial and drag the lives and suffering of many innocent people and families into the public eye. But make no mistake, sir; I may have my opinions about the prior case and I can’t do anything about that, but in terms of this case, I will not allow your flowery speech and your fancy footwork to persuade me to hand down a sentence that will set a precedence to one day allow an attempted murderer to walk free.”

Underwood looks totally deflated and although I never bring my eyes to the Pedophile, I’m sure that she feels the same way.

“Mr. Grey’s statement was profound and powerful and most likely gives voice to those who suffered in silence, didn’t speak, or no longer have a voice. While I can’t do anything about the prior sentence, and although the sentencing in this case for Mrs. Lincoln has already been decided, his words ring such truth that I can only hope he feels that some sort of justice will be served in this court today.”

Justice was served right there at that moment… when somebody heard me and acknowledged. She could get a one-day sentence for her crimes for all I care. I’d be fine from this point on.

“Will the defendant please stand for sentencing.” It was a statement, not a question. The Pedophile stands and never raises her head. “Elena Gabrielle Lincoln, having been found guilty by a jury of your peers, I hereby impose the following sentences for your crimes:

“For possession of a stolen firearm—a Class B, level V offense, I hereby sentence you to 17 months and no possibility of parole.

“For first degree assault—a Class A, level XII offense, I hereby sentence you 129 months with a deadly weapon enhancement of five years with the possibility of parole after twelve years.

“For attempted murder—first degree assault with intent to inflict great bodily harm—a Class A, level XII offense, I hereby sentence you to 129 months with a deadly weapon enhancement of five years with the possibility of parole after twelve years.

“These sentences are to be served consecutively after any other imposed sentence with no credit on this sentence for time served. You are hereby reprimanded back to the custody of the Washington Department of Corrections.”

Sweet relief… sweet, sweet relief.

“Christian! I love you! I’ll love you forever!” she wails as she’s being dragged from the courtroom. Thirty-three years total—well, thirty-two years and eleven months—served consecutively with her other sentence, which holds no possibility of parole. That means 58 years, and she has to serve 25 from the first sentence, then a year and a half from the second. Then she has to go into the third sentence and serve at least 12 years from that one, and if she just so happens to have a parole board of bumbling idiots that would parole her from that one, she would still have to serve at least 12 years of the fourth sentence. This means that if someone looked at her old decrepit ass and said, “Hey, let her out on her paroles,” she still wouldn’t have any hope of seeing the outside of prison walls until she was 99 years old. It’s all I can do not to cheer and do a fist pump when I see her disappear behind those doors, never to be heard from again.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

Jason’s roar after we get to the bridge snaps me back to the here and now. What the hell? We just got great news—what now?

“Dammit! Thanks, Jax.” He ends the call. I’m glad Chuck is driving right now and not Jason. I didn’t even hear his phone ring. He’s dialing another number frantically and I’m waiting to find out what’s happened. “Manny, keep your eye on Tweety-Bird. The bitch made bail.”

Shit! I know what that means. Tweet-Bird must be Sophie and from the sounds of it…

“Jason?”

“Shalane made bail,” he hisses. “She put her house up and they let her ass walk.” He’s pissed.

“Sophie?” I ask.

“She’s got a detail at the school with her,” he said. “Even though I told them about the custody issue and that I’m now the parent of record, I don’t trust them not to let her take Sophie. I want to change her school, but we’re so close to the end of the school year that it wouldn’t be a good idea just yet.” We ride for a few more moments and just as we get into the gate at the Crossing, Jason gets another call.

“She did?… Good man. Maybe I’ll let her stay after all.” He speaks for a while longer, then ends the call. “She went straight from the jail to Sophie’s school. She didn’t even stop to change her clothes. Manchester headed her off, but couldn’t prevent her from going into the school. She couldn’t get Sophie, though. The school wouldn’t release her.” Jason chuckles. “She caught a cab,” he says. “She didn’t even get her car out of impound. She better spend that money wisely. She won’t be getting any more.”

When we pull into the garage, Butterfly says that she wants to go to the hospital. I debate if I want to go or not, but I think of Elliot and decide that I’ll go, too. She wants to change into something more comfortable. I’m only wearing slacks and a turtleneck, so I opt not to change. I notice that Chuck seems distracted while we’re waiting for Butterfly to change.

“You okay, Chuck?” I ask. My question brings him back from his daydream. He nods.

“Yeah,” he says. “My little catastrophes have nothing on what’s been going on in this house.”

“Little catastrophes?” I repeat. He waves me off.

“It’s nothing, really,” he says. “Joe got served with his papers from court last week. It turns out that we had to file in South Dakota, where Mom and Dad live. He’s blaming me because Mom is suing him, but what else is new?”

“Wow, he and Elena would make a great couple, don’t you think?” Chuck half-smiles. “Is that all?” Chuck shrugs.

“Keri,” he says. “She’s not doing too good. She had this cold… or at least we thought it was a cold. It hit the minute she got back to Anguilla and we thought it was just from the weather change. It held on for weeks. Now, she seems to be over it, but she sounds so weak and tired when I talk to her. I want to keep her on the phone to hear her voice, but at the same time, I want to let her go so that she can rest.”

“Do you need to go to her?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“I want to, but the babies have just been born and I can’t duck out now. Besides, I can’t fly to Anguilla every time she sneezes.” I raise my eyebrows.

“No… you can’t,” but you still look sick yourself that you can’t be with her.

“I’m fine, Christian, really. I’ll keep you posted,” he says, a bit too eager to get out of my presence. He misses her. I know he does, and the fact that she’s not well can’t be making that situation any better.


ANASTASIA

So, we finally get Sophie settled into the house and talking about things… and Shalane is trying to show up again. That has all kinds of implications. As much as Jason wants to keep her away from Sophie, that may be easier said than done.

Elliot has gone to stretch his legs. The pain and discomfort from sitting in one spot for more than 24 hours was more than he could tolerate. Christian coerced him to go for a walk the moment we got back to the hospital and I promised to stay here with Val, of course. She has no hair left. They shaved her completely bald… and I was complaining about a bald spot.

“Just have to outdo me in everything, huh?” I say. “I get in an accident and lose a patch of hair. You get a tumor and get your whole damn head shaved. You always had the coolest friends, the best clothes, the money… you were popular… but you never made me feel like less than a person, and you never let anybody else do it, either. That’s why I knew something was wrong when you changed. You were so cold. You were nothing like my sister.” I sigh.

“More than once, I wanted to find out what was wrong, but you wouldn’t let me in. You wouldn’t let me get close. But I never stopped loving you, Val. It was one of the worst break-ups of my whole life.”

I lay my head on her bed and, contemplating life with her gone and no hope of reconciliation, I weep. I weep until my chest rocks and feels like it’s going to cave in. I feel like it’s the end of the world. There’s no way that she can die without knowing how much she is truly loved. There’s no way she can die at all. It’s just… way too soon…

“There you go… with that… weeping shit again.”

A weak, barely-there voice causes me to turn my head to face her. It’s too heavy to lift off the bed, so I just lay there—still sobbing—watching her watching me. She’s watching me… am I dreaming? If I am, just let me stay here for a minute. She may say or do something sweet and if I move too suddenly, I might wake up. This may be the only way that she can reach me right now and I just want to stay here with her for a minute. But why is she still so weak? Dreams are funny things, I guess.

She raises her hand very slowly and lands it heavily on my cheek. She slightly moves her thumb in an unsuccessful attempt to wipe my tears away. It only makes me cry harder. I cover her hand with my own and turn my lips to her palm, kissing it repeatedly, just in case this is goodbye. Maybe that’s why it was so easy for Elliot to leave. Maybe she said goodbye to him, too.

Thank you, Val, wherever you are. I’ll always love you… always.

“Settle down… before you… hyper… hyper… ventilate, Steele… Grey…” she slurs. I’m trying, but it’s hard. My friend is here and I’m filled with relief, but for how long?

“You’re a terrible bitch,” I weep. “Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you go through this alone?”

“I wasn’t… alone… I had… El…”

“But you didn’t have me… or Al… or any of us… and we love you!” I snap quietly.

“I know, Steele… I just…” A single tear falls from her eye.

“I should have known,” I say, gently stroking her cheek. “None of this was like you, not in the slightest, not even on your worst day. I should have known.”

“I treated you like shit,” she protests, her voice slightly stronger.

“That’s why I should have known!” I wail. “You’ve never treated me badly. Even when I needed a smack upside the head, you were right there beside me.”

“How could you know?” she slurs. “It’s my head and I didn’t know.” I shake my head vigorously in denial… vigorously. No waking up! I’m awake! I’m awake and she’s awake! Don’t panic… don’t panic…

“I’m supposed to be your best friend. I should have known.” I squeeze her hand and kiss the back of it, my voice shaking and trying to remain calm, trying not to let her know that I thought I was talking to a figment of my imagination all this time. “Please get better soon. You have to meet your godchildren.” Her eyes become glassy and the tears fall.

“I… you ha… I’m still the godmother?” she weeps weakly.

“I couldn’t choose anybody else. It was always you.”

“Oh, Ana…” she’s weeping as much as her weakness will allow. I stand up and gently stroke her cheek.

“Ssssshhhh, relax now,” I soothe, “Don’t get upset. It’s not good for you.”

“I treated you so badly,” she sobs quietly. “I couldn’t control it. I could see it, but I couldn’t control it.”

“Ssh, no more,” I coax her as I push the call button. “It’s forgotten. It wasn’t you. I know now that it wasn’t you. When you feel like this, remember—it wasn’t you. It was the tumor, okay?”

“I’ve lost all of my friends… the people I love… my job.”

“You haven’t lost anybody, Val,” I tell her. “Look at this room. Do you think this is all Elliot?” She weakly looks around the room. “This…” I pick up a little arrangement with a tiny bear on it. “This is from Mindy. Maxie said she picked it herself… well, as much as a baby can point at a bear.” I laugh nervously and Val smiles at me. “I’m going to activate the contingency—not that I really have to. Everybody’s been here every day. Our friends will be here before day’s end. I promise.”

“Do you think so… after how badly I’ve treated everybody? Oh, my God… Al!” she laments.

“Especially Al. He’ll have a few of his choice gay words for you, but he’ll probably be here first.”

“Oh, God, how can I face him?” she weeps and I just sit on the bed and hold her hand. She’s going to beat herself up for a while over this and there’s really nothing I can do about that. I stroke her cheek with my free hand and just let her cry. There’s a commotion at the door and the nurse and a doctor comes into the room with a disheveled Elliot in tow behind them. He freezes when he clears the door.

“Angel?” I hear Elliot’s wispy voice over my shoulder.

“El,” she says longingly, her prior tears halting.

“Angel! You’re awake!” Whatever he has in his hands is now on the floor and he rushes to her beside. I quickly scramble to give him his place and he cups her face gently, kissing her several times.

“I didn’t know… I didn’t think you…” He can’t get a sentence out as his tears fall on her pillow. They need this moment, and I need to activate the contingency. I move to the door.

“Ana!” I turn around and there’s a panicked look in Val’s eyes. “Please… don’t stay away. Please come back.” I smile warmly at her.

“I will… and I’ll bring reinforcements.” She sighs sweetly and smiles before turning her attention back to an obliviously weeping Elliot. I step outside of the room to give them some privacy. Christian is standing there waiting for news.

“She’s awake,” I say, my voice barely there. His eyes grow large.

“She is?” he says and I nod. His eyes ask the question that his mouth doesn’t.

“She’s back,” I wail. He puts his hands on my upper arms.

Back back?” he asks, and all I can do is nod. “Oh, thank God,” he says, closing me in his arms. I know it’s been hard seeing me suffer all these months—even harder watching Elliot these last several days. So, I know his relief is genuine. I indulge in a relieving cry for a while, sinking into his chest while he holds me, then I pull myself together.

“I’m fine. I need to call Al,” I say. He nods and releases me with a kiss to my forehead. I dial Al as I’m walking towards the waiting room.

“Hey. What’s up, babe? I’m on my way to the hospital.”

“Well, that’s good, because you’re not going to want to miss this…”


CHRISTIAN

She looks very pale and frail when I Butterfly and I walk back into the room. We waited until the doctors and nurses left and gave us the go-ahead before we entered. Elliot is laser focused on her, so he doesn’t notice when I enter, but Valerie makes immediate eye-contact with me. She’s obviously weak and it’s hard to read her emotions right now, but she answers my question about her thoughts of my presence with two words…

“Hi, Christian.”

Her voice is so soft, so faint… I can barely hear her. I suddenly feel a twinge in my chest, like this is so serious and none of us really wants to lose her.

“Hey, Valerie,” I reply, my voice also very small. “How are you feeling?” I ask, sincerely.

“Bald,” she says, forcing a smile.

“I’m sorry,” I reply.

“Don’t be,” she says softly. “It’s for the best.”

She releases Elliot’s hand and holds her hand out to me. Her arm shaking and I know it’s hard for her to hold it up, so I don’t keep her waiting… though the gesture is more than a bit surprising. Elliot allows me to sit on the edge of her bed and I take her hand—much like she held mine when I was crying over Butterfly’s Montana sabbatical. The moment our hands touch, she starts to weep gently.

“I’m so sorry,” she squeaks, through her tears.

“Ssssshhhh,” I soothe, “None of that,” I say, caressing her hand for comfort. “I haven’t known you as long as Butterfly, and even I knew that it wasn’t you.”

“Yo… you’re a good man, Christian,” she stumbles, “A won… derful husband… to Ana and… I need you to know that… I would never… willingly treat her… that way… She’s my… Jewel… too…” She’s so overcome with emotion and weakness that she can barely speak. Butterfly immediately gets choked up, and I know that it can’t be good for Valerie to be this upset. “Please… forgive me.”

“There’s nothing to forgive,” I tell her, squeezing hand a little tighter and looking her in the eyes. “We. Know. It wasn’t. You. An intruder took you over and changed who you were, and we’ll all be by your side to chase that intruder away. Do you understand that? We’ll all be here.” I didn’t know I had closed the space between us. There’s maybe only a foot between my face and hers, and I have her hand clasped close to my chest.

That’s a first. I feel a little funny, now, but I won’t move until she understands that she’s not alone. My brother loves her; that makes her family. She’s about to go through a horrible ordeal after nearly pushing away everyone that could have walked through this with her. She needs to know that she’s not alone.

“Yes, Christian,” she says softly, her teary eyes concentrating on mine. “I understand.”

“Never alone,” I reinforce.

“Never alone,” she repeats.

“Damn straight!”

We all turn to the door to see where the added confirmation came from and find Al standing there more casual than I think I’ve ever seen him, in a T-shirt and jeans. His hair looks like mine does after a grueling day, so I know he’s been pulling it or torturing it somehow, and his eyes are bloodshot. James is standing behind him, just inside the door and I swear he looks like he’s holding Allen up.

“You bitch,” he says as the tears start to flow again. “I’m supposed to be the goddamn drama queen!”

Valerie breaks into laughter as much as her body will allow. Al breaks free from James and rushes to her bedside. Butterfly moves quickly and allows him access to their friend. She hugs him with her free arm and he kisses her repeatedly on the face and lips. I feel a small comfort knowing that he doesn’t just do that to Butterfly, but this is his family and he almost lost one of them.

“You’re a horrible human being for stealing my spotlight, but thank God that you’re back,” he weeps, holding her face in his hands.

“It’s good to be back,” she says, and the mournful tears start again. “Please, don’t ever forget that I love you…” She looks around the room at each of us. “… All of you. If this thing comes back…”

“It won’t!” Elliot says emphatically.

“But if it does,” she continues, “please don’t forget. Please don’t ever forget. I know this could kill me, but I’d die anyway if you all didn’t know how much I love you.”

You could hear hearts cracking all over the room. Each of us have had our own moments over the last several months of wondering what the hell was wrong with this woman… and each of us are feeling our own convictions now.

“We love you, too, you cow,” Al says, his voice still shaking.

“Ditto,” Butterfly squeaks.

“In my own way, I love you, too,” I confess, eliciting a small chuckle from Valerie’s throat before she turns her gaze to Elliot.

“Hey, you already know how I feel, Angel,” he says, longingly. “My life would be empty and lost without you.” The love that swells up in her eyes could chase away every ailment in her body. Part of me hopes that it will, as Elliot will be inconsolable if she doesn’t make it through this.

“And none of that dying shit,” James pipes in. “It would be a less exciting world without you, so you’re not allowed to die. You fight this thing!” She smiles weakly at James.

“Yes, sir,” she whispers.

*-*

Elliot feeds Valerie ice chips while Al and Butterfly try to catch her up on what’s been going on in the world. Al tells her all about the wedding, set to take place at our house next weekend—something intimate during a spring, sit-down party. The three of them immediately start discussing promising ideas for the wedding as well as what could be disastrous. Valerie suggests an indoor/outdoor thing since spring in Seattle is unpredictable and usually rainy.

Shortly thereafter, the rest of her friends come into the room, and the reunion of the Scooby Gang is complete, just as it should be. They talk about everything, catching Valerie up on all the things that have happened since she first blanked out, as she calls it…

The babies are here, of course. She will see them once she’s out of ICU.

I’m calling more people by their first name, including members of my staff who are now family instead of just staff.

David’s dead.

Dead dead?” she says, her eyes growing large. “Like graveyard dead?” Butterfly nods. “How the hell did that happen?”

Butterfly explains the whole thing about the crooked company, culminating with David’s “suicide.” Valerie looks a little remiss.

“He was an asshole,” she says, “but I never wished him dead.”

“Well, you’re a princess among women, because I had champagne when I heard the news,” Butterfly announces. “After everything he did to me, including handcuffing me naked to that bed and allowing that man to assault me, he’s lucky I didn’t drive to Walla Walla and spit on his remains!” And that’s the end of that conversation.

Sophie lives with us now because her mother is a drug addict that tried to sell her into slavery.

Chuck reunited with his parents and is suing his brother for a small country.

Keri was here and now she’s gone back home to Anguilla, but she’s been ill since shortly after she left and that has Chuck concerned.

While Butterfly closed her practice, Maxie is considering opening her own so that she can focus more on her family, which is timely since Phillip just got a raise and a promotion.

Sometime in the near future, we will be traveling to Italy as one of Butterfly’s push gifts was an Italian villa.

Garrett and Marilyn are pretty much the same and have no complaints. According to them, there’s enough going on in everyone else’s lives that they can just watch and be entertained.

“I need to say I’m sorry, you guys,” Valerie begins.

“Angel, no…” Elliot protests. Valerie put her hand on his bicep to silence him.

“I know, El,” she says, her voice gaining more strength, although she’s still clearly weak. “But I really have to say this. So, please, shut up and let me… I’m sick, you have to do what I say.”

The nervous chuckle that wafts through the room is more accommodating than sincere.

“If I could tell you what it was like being in this head for the last several months,” she begins. “It was like watching a terrible horror movie, only I was watching it and I was starring in it—a character in a real-life horror movie, where you can see the psychopath coming at you with the machete. You know he’s about to chop you up, but you can’t do anything about it. Then there’s the me that was in the audience, screaming at the dumb character to run out the door and down the street instead of upstairs and hiding in the attic where she was sure to meet her doom—but she couldn’t do anything but watch.

“I saw the looks on Ana’s face when I said those horrible things to her… the look of reservation at Maxie’s house when she handed Mindy off and left. That’s when I knew I had completely lost one of my best friends. It cut me to my soul, but I still couldn’t do anything about it. It was like, in my head I was saying something completely different, but when I opened my mouth and started hurling that stuff, all I could think to myself was ‘are you crazy?’

“After that, the alien just took over completely and I could do nothing but sit in the corner and watch while it pushed away everything and everyone I loved. There were moments when I came to myself and I thought I said something to let someone know what was going on in my head, but then I’d look around and I was alone—a solitude that I brought all upon myself.” She shakes her head.

“It wasn’t until El packed his things and I knew the last person that I had in the world was going to leave me that I was able to agree to see someone. Even then he had to take the reins… I still couldn’t do it. He told the doctors how I was acting and what was going on. I barely said anything.” She reaches over and takes his hand. “He saved my life. No matter what happens from here, he saved my life. He gave me back my mind… and I’ll love him forever for it.” She gazes into his eyes. “I want to spend my life with you, Elliot,” she says, her voice shaking. “Please don’t ever leave me.”

“Not a chance in hell,” he says, kissing the back of her hand. She smiles weakly at him before taking a breath and releasing it.

“I know everybody had… and has their theories about what was going on with me or what I was thinking. Grace and Mia will probably never speak to me again, especially after all Elliot had already gone through with Kate…” I don’t say anything about how Mom reacted when I told her about Valerie. I figure that when she’s ready, Mom will come and talk to her. “Whatever happens, know that I’m just glad that I was able to talk to you all and say that I’m sorry for anything that I said or did to offend you. I know that it was the tumor talking, but it was still my voice and my mouth, and I’m sorry if I caused any of you pain.”

“And that’s enough of that,” I hear my mother’s voice say from the entrance to the room around the corner. She has a huge bouquet of purple and white blooms as she comes completely into view. “Well! It looks like no one invited me to the party… and there’s no room anywhere for these.” Mom scans the room for a flat surface to put her flowers.

“I got it, Mom,” Elliot says, taking the monstrous bouquet from our mother and making room for it on the windowsill, currently already full of several bouquets from the rest of us.

“Grace, they’re beautiful,” Valerie says weakly. “What are they?”

“Windflowers and peonies,” she says. “They denote health and healing.” She sits next to the bed in the chair Elliot vacated to put her flowers in the window. “My son has never been so happy and so grounded as he is when he’s with you. I secretly prayed that we would figure out what was going on, although I never prayed for anything like this. You’ve only ever been a remarkable person, especially when that wretched woman tried to lay a child at his feet that didn’t belong to him. You stood by him, became his rock… I wouldn’t have expected anything less from him during your time of need.

“I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I’m certain that you’ll make a full recovery because you’ll get the best medical care that money can buy and you’ll have all the love and support that you need until and after you are whole again. I may be speaking for everyone, but for no one more than myself, when I say that I’m so glad that you’re back.” Valerie bursts into weak tears.

“I’m glad to be back, Grace,” she weeps. “It was awful! I so sorry…” My mother moves to sit on the edge of the bed next to Valerie and cradles her while she cries.

“There, there now,” Mom says as she rocks Valerie in her arms while we all watch in silence. “You get this all out, and then there will be no more crying about this. We all understand and we’re so glad that you’re here with us. You’re going to be fine now… just fine…”

*-*

“Christian!”

My wife gasps my name as she tightens around me, my rock-hard dick buried balls deep inside of her. I clench her ass and hold her against my throbbing member as she sits on my hips having dropped her weight hard onto my pelvis and grinding deliciously on my shaft as she holds onto the headboard. Her head thrown back, her face to the ceiling, she pants and moans loudly as she trembles atop me and my balls and penis empty wildly inside of her.

“Ffffffffffuuucccckkkkkkkkk!” I hiss, squeezing her ass so hard that I’m sure there’ll be handprints when I’m done. I want to get her into that new playroom and do some kinky, freaky shit to her, but with everything going on in the last few weeks, we haven’t even been able to look at the finished product yet, let alone take it for a spin. My dick throbs harder, empties faster, and burns hotter as I contemplate the things I want to do to her in that room.

“Dammit!” I pant as she falls over on top of me, spent and sated. “Goddammit!” I grab her head with one hand and guide her lips to mine, the other still squeezing her ass as I catch my breath. “Fuck, that was good.”

“Yes… it was…” she pants between kisses, her pussy still clenching my dick. I push up into her a few more times, my dick still burning and tender inside of her. What would be discomfort to someone else turns me on and I roll my hips so that the burn intensifies inside her quivering walls.

“You feel so fucking good,” I breathe against her lips as I wind myself up for round two of mid-Saturday morning sex. We had all stayed at the hospital for quite some time last night once Valerie regained consciousness. If I’m honest, all I wanted to do after all that damn emotion in that room was come home and bury myself inside my wife—to feel her tremor and clamp around my angry dick just like she did this morning. But when we got home, the twins demanded her attention—our attention, and she was just too wiped out to do anything after caring for our babies. So, I just brought her to bed and held her until she fell asleep.

However, when I woke up with morning wood so hard that I could barely go to the restroom and piss around it, I climbed back into this bed, pushed up that night shirt, ripped those panties off, rolled that body on top of me and dropped that hot, juicy, wet pussy right down on my full-staff pole. At first, she protested, but only for a moment—only until she felt that stiff, rock-hard thickness reaching so deep into her body, pumping up into her so hard and fast that her entire body was bouncing in the air and she momentarily couldn’t speak. Then, she ripped off that nightshirt, grabbed those tits and rode like the wind!

That pussy was so hot and tight that I almost blew before she did. When that burning, agonizing, vise-grip hold became soaked, slippery, juicy goodness with her cum secreting from her walls and sliding down my dick, I fucking lost it, gladly mixing my juices with hers until we were both a slippery, sticky, gooey, hot, erotic mess grinding into each other and about to start the fire again, until…

Beeeeep…

Fuck.

“Ooooohhh,” Butterfly groans. “Ana,” she calls into the air as I continue to tease her with my stiffening dick and we wait to hear the cooing of our two little angels.

… But nothing.

“Ana,” she calls out louder, but still nothing. She partially pushes herself up and looks at me. I half roll my eyes and call into the air.

“Yes?” I call out, perturbed and angry to be interrupted.

“Sir, it’s Benjamin Lawrence. I’m just getting to the Crossing and there’s a development at the front. I tried to call J and I don’t know if he’s asleep or what…” He’s probably fucking, just like me! “… but his ex-wife is here demanding her child. She’s making a terrible scene. If he gets here, we’re going to need more reinforcements than just security.”

“Shit!” I hiss, pissed as fuck that I have to pull out of my goddamn happy place for this sad excuse of a human being at my front gate. Butterfly slowly rises off of me, recognizing the seriousness of the situation and the glide is agonizing… almost orgasm-inducing.

“Fuuuuuuccck!” I exclaim at the separation, the burn almost unbearable and only making me harder. She covers her mouth, her eyes wide.

“Sorry!” she whispers loudly as I clench my teeth and my dick throbs.

“Sir?” Lawrence beckons.

“I’m on my way, goddammit!” I hiss, my eyes squeezed tight. “End two-way…” and she grabs my dick.

“Fuck! Just leave it alone please just leave it alone!” I would fucking safeword right now if I thought it would help.

“I can’t just leave you like that,” she protests.

“We don’t have a choice—just leave it alone, please!” I beseech her.

“Sorry, sir,” bellows across the room and pisses me the fuck off.

“Fucking end two-way communications!” I belt into the air. At least his voice cured the erection.

*-*

I’m nearly too late by the time Butterfly and I are cleaned up, downstairs and outside in our portico on this brisk March morning. Gail and Sophie are standing just outside the door, Gail with her arms draped protectively over Sophie’s shoulder while Sophie clings to both of Gail’s hands with her own. Jason is already marching toward the guard house and front gate where Shalane is screeching like a banshee for Sophie to come and get in the car. I’m only lucky that the property of the Crossing is so large and somewhat obscured from prying eyes by walls, fences, and foliage, because this woman is really creating quite the scene. Butterfly stays at the door with Gail, pulling her warm sweater around her while I quickly fall in step behind Jason. He’s likely to kill this woman once he reaches her.

“Open the goddamn gate!” I hear him hiss.

“No, don’t,” I say to Williams in the guard’s booth. Lawrence is still on the other side of the gate with Shalane. “She’s unstable enough to drive that car through here if you open that gate,” I tell Jason. He narrows his eyes—not in defiance, but in anger. I think he was getting laid. We both look like angry bears right now.

“Just enough for a person,” he hisses, and the gate opens enough for him and I to walk out. I won’t let him talk to her alone. He might kill her.

“So now you need a bodyguard, Mr. Taylor?” His spiteful ex shoots as we walk through the gates.

“No, but you might,” I say before I can catch myself. I have no love lost for this classless, snippy, drug-addict little… “I’m here for your protection.” She fixes her mouth for a comeback, but Jason beats her to it.

“You’re trespassing and you need to leave,” Jason says quietly. “You can’t see Sophie at all. I don’t want you anywhere near my daughter.”

Your daughter?” she laughs haughtily. “Have you forgotten?” Shalane taunts, attempting to pull a trump card that she thinks she still has. “I’m her mother and I have a court order that says I have custody of her.”

“Not anymore you don’t,” Jason says, holding up the order from the judge. “This is a court order placing Sophie temporarily in my custody until the custody hearing. You can only have preauthorized and supervised visitation with her. If you show up any other time without invitation, I will have you thrown off the premises and arrested. If you continue to call my phone like a crackhead looking for her next fix, I will get a restraining order against you for harassment. If you show up at my daughter’s school, at practice, or at any of her extracurricular activities, I will have you arrested for violating a court order. But you know what?” He leans in closer to her.

“Let me make this perfectly clear to you so that there’s no misunderstanding. You. Will not. See Sophie until I say so, and right now, I say ‘no.’” She’s panicking, already shaking from what appears to be withdrawal. I can see her mind racing for a comeback.

“You can’t keep me from seeing her,” she says shakily. “You said that document at least says that I can have visitation.”

“It does,” he says calmly. “Preauthorized and supervised visitation, but I don’t see any time in my immediate schedule to preauthorize visitation for you. I’ll let you know.”

Shalane is seething. She appears to be losing every bit of her grip on reality.

“You can’t do that to me!” she screams. “You can’t keep me from my daughter!”

“You mean like the many times you kept her from me over the years?” Jason retorts. “I had reasonable visitation—not preauthorized or supervised and you wouldn’t let me see her at all! How does that feel? Not so good, does it? I would love to say that I’m doing this to get back at you, but I’m not! I’m doing this because you’re dangerous to my child!”

“You know I’d never hurt Sophie…” There’s a back and forth between them for a while and they have forgotten that other people are watching them for a moment, but out of the corner of my eye, I see a small frame walking quick time down the driveway and across the lawn towards us. Shit—Butterfly is coming to give this woman what for, no doubt. I’m surprised to see that the small form isn’t Butterfly at all.

It’s Sophie!

I’m trying to get Jason’s attention, but he’s too busy arguing with Shalane to pay me any attention. Shalane, however, stops the argument when she sees Sophie running in her direction with Gail and Butterfly running quickly behind her.

Shalane squats to scoop Sophie in a hug, but I can tell by Sophie’s expression that this isn’t going to be the tender reunion Shalane is expecting. Before any of us can stop her, before Jason even sees her, Sophie runs full speed—hands out in front of her—and slams into her mother. Totally unprepared for the blow, Shalane falls back hard on the gravel portion of the driveway. She’s stunned into silence as she scrambles into a sitting position.

“Sophia!” Jason yells, not pleased that Sophie struck her mother even though she may have deserved it. “What are you doing?”

“Really, Mom? Really?” Sophie is screaming, tears streaming down her face, fury in her voice and posture. “You were going to let those guys take me? You were really going to let them take me, Mom? Really?” She kicks the gravel onto Shalane lap as Jason tries to stop her. When that’s not enough, she takes handfuls of it and throws it at her mother, yelling insults about her being a drug addict that hates her daughter and was about to sell her off for a fix.

“All this time, I listened to you blame Daddy and I never understood why,” she cries as Jason finally restrains her, keeping her from hurling rocks at her mother. “He would never say anything bad about you except that you wouldn’t let me see him, but you called him all kinds of terrible names and told me that he didn’t have time for me. It was all lies. I know it was now. I see how he and Miss Gail live. He’s got plenty of time for me!”

“Sophie, I’m…” Shalane is broken, still sitting on the ground and now, crying.

“No!” Sophie interrupts, no longer flailing in her father’s arms. The fight is gone out of her, but she has a lot to say. “You spent all the money on drugs. You lied to me about my father. When there was nothing left, you were willing to give me away!” Sophie accuses, sobbing. “You took everything he ever gave me, and when you were about to go to jail, you wouldn’t even let him come and save me!” Her cries are mournful now. She truly doesn’t want to fight anymore. “You tried and tried to make me believe that Daddy was the bad guy when all this time… the bad guy was you.”

Jason’s grip drops from his daughter. He’s anguished seeing her hurt like this.

“Sophie, no,” Shalane says, weeping sincere tears at her daughter’s accusations. Sophie pushes her again—one last time.

“Go away, Mom,” she weeps bitterly. “Go away!” Sophie launches herself into Jason’s arms, squeezing him around his neck like she’s drowning and he’s the lifeboat.

“Don’t cry, Baby Boo,” he says, stroking Sophie’s bright blonde hair, trying to calm her, but Sophie is inconsolable. “I want you to go with Gail, okay? I need to take care of this. I’ll be in shortly. I promise.” She nods, still weeping and releases his neck. He kisses her on the cheek and hands her off to Gail, who takes her hand and she and Butterfly lead a heartbroken Sophie back to the house. He turns back to Shalane.

“You heard her… go away,” he says flatly. Shalane gawks gaped-mouthed up at him, still sitting in the gravel of the driveway.

“I bet you wish I were dead, now, don’t you?” he adds and she pales. She finally stands and attempts to straighten her clothes.

“I only told them that because I thought they would let me go,” she defends. “I thought they wouldn’t lock me up if they thought that I was all Sophie had.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it!” Jason retorts, no longer willing to be any kind of civil with this woman, for lack of a better word. “You didn’t want me to know what was going on! What the hell did you really think was going to happen? You were moving four kilos of cocaine with a 12-year-old girl in the car and then you tried to trade her to those fuckers! What the hell is wrong with you?”

“I wasn’t trying to trade her!” Shalane lies.

“Well, tell me, what the hell was it? Why the hell did she have to tell you that she wasn’t going with those assholes?” Jason retorts.

“She misunderstood!” Shalane cries.

“Well, she misunderstood the fuck out of that conversation then!” Jason hisses. “But I didn’t! And neither did the shrink she spoke to… or the police! And neither will the judge in family court!” Shalane’s face pales. She can’t talk her way out of this and she knows it.

“What you do with your own life, I couldn’t care less. But when it comes to Sophie, you fucking have to deal with me! You’ve been doing your very best for the last seven years to erase me from her life, and you’ve failed miserably, but now this? I shudder to think what could have happened to our daughter on a goddamn drug drop if the police hadn’t shown up, let alone with you trying to sell her into human slavery for your goddamn drug habit!” He is seething, so much that Williams has placed himself in position to intervene should he lunge at this sorry excuse of a woman.

“Getting caught was the best thing that could have happened to both of you,” he continues. “My guess is that your dumb ass was an offering from the fucker that sent you out there, and you took our daughter with you—for leverage, no doubt! Then you don’t have the good sense to call me when you get caught. I might have been able to help you in all of this, but no, you tell the authorities and Child Protective Services that I’m dead! If I hadn’t already filed a case, my daughter would be down at Spruce Street right now, and that would have been just fine with you, wouldn’t it, you contemptible bitch? Anywhere’s better than being with me, right? Her loving and devoted father who continued to pay you alimony and child support? Even paying for her to attend an exclusive private school while you continuously found ways to deny my court-ordered visitation because you were the cheating slut who couldn’t keep her legs closed! Anywhere but with me, where she could discover just how much of a lying, conniving, sniveling, greedy little bitch you really are!” Her face is now showing signs of fight and insult.

“You don’t have the…” she begins.

“SHUT! UP!” Jason growls. Williams steps forward and puts his arm between them, unsuccessfully trying to push Jason away from his ex-wife while whispering, “J, chill.”

“You have nothing to say to me!” he continues. “You put my daughter’s life in danger and then you tried to prevent me from saving her! She was traumatized. She was weeping when I got there. I don’t know if you’re going to get off on the drug charges, but now, there are separate charges against you for child endangerment. Did you know that?” Her expression says that she did.

“I knew you had bats in your fucking belfry, but I didn’t know that you were that goddamn crazy! You don’t get to see her unless she asks for you. Don’t you dare fucking call me. I’ll call you when she wants you. Unlike you, I won’t keep her from you if that’s what she wants, but she has to say so and I won’t force her. And if you get the bright idea to just take her from any location where she may be, not only will there be an arrest warrant issued for you for kidnapping, but there’s nowhere in the world that you’ll be able to hide from me. I will hunt you down like the filthy dog that you are and believe me, lady, I will find you. I’ve found people in witness protection. Finding your ass won’t be any harder than ‘Where’s Waldo.’”

His voice is menacing when he talks to her. She was married to him once and I’m sure she believes him when he says these things. She had better—I’ve seen him find someone in witness protection. She could treat him any way she wanted when she had Sophie. She doesn’t have Sophie anymore.

“Now get your ass away from this property, you selfish, treacherous cunt!” I know this conversation is over, so I step in before she tries to poke the monster anymore.

“You need to leave,” I tell her, stepping close to her and pointing to her car.

“He can’t just…” she begins, her voice desperate. As much as Jason doesn’t want to hear anything this woman has to say, I want to hear even less.

“Ms. Deleroy!” I declare in the sharpest, loudest Dom voice I can muster, “Leave! Now!” She shrinks back and gasps at the sound of my voice, frightened and whimpering as she scurries to her car, gets in, and makes a U-turn in the driveway to enable a hasty retreat, taking out part of the landscaping and three of the lane lights on her way out. I look at Williams who is still holding Jason.

“I’ll make the call and get it repaired, sir,” he says. I nod and put my hand on Jason’s shoulder and Williams releases him. He looks over at me, his eyes still fiery and menacing. They don’t scare me, though.

“Come on,” I say, gesturing with my head to the house. “We have families waiting for us.” That breaks his angry resolve. He looks one more time in the direction that his ex-wife traveled, then turns and walks with me back towards the house, towards our wives and children.

*-*

My wife looks adorable cooing at our daughter while our son is in his seat nearby and Sophie looks on, starry-eyed and content, like the horrible incidents of just an hour ago never even happened.

“So,” I begin, “your apartment only has one bedroom. Sophie can’t stay there. So, what are you thinking—maybe the other one-bedroom suite next to you guys? Do you think she’s old enough to stay in there alone? Or would you feel better with her in one of the guest rooms upstairs on the second floor?” Jason gazes at me for a moment.

“I don’t have custody, yet, Christian,” he says. “We might be jumping the gun.” I wave him off.

“No judge in his or her right mind would place Sophie back with her mother. And even if they tried, Sophie would protest… and win! Look at the comparison! Huge mansion on Mercer Island where father and stepmom are live-in employees and stepmom is at the residence all day as nanny for twins or… drugged-out mother living alone who disappears for several days at a time who took her daughter on a drug bust and then tried to use that daughter as a bargaining chip. Was arrested and almost let the child go to a group home, then had to put her house up as collateral for bail. Oh, did I mention that she’s been charged with crimes in relation to the drugs for which she has not been tried which means Sophie will most likely have to find someplace to live anyway. Yeah, I can so see a judge deciding that sending Sophie back to Shalane is in the best interest of the child,” I finish sarcastically.

“Okay, okay, I get the point,” Jason says. “It’s just that I never dreamed that I would ever be in this situation where I would be able to have custody of Sophie without the bitch dying, that’s all. It’s so surreal!” I nod.

“So, I think it’s time we start making preparations to have a teenager around the house.” Jason scrubs the back of his neck.

“Yeah, she’s going to be thirteen really soon,” he says. “So, what do we do?”

“I don’t know,” I tell him. “I’ve never had a teenager around the house.” He shrugs.

“Sophie’s so smart,” he says. “She’s wise beyond her years. She’s tried to hold on to her childhood, but things just keep happening and then she has to be an adult. She’s too young for that. I want to have some of her childhood, but for other parts of it, I know it’s too late.” He sighs. “I’m trying my best not to hate Shalane. She kept Sophie from me for so many years. All that time I could have been spending with her… as it was, our time together was like stolen moments. I was only able to spend time with her when it somehow served Shalane. Now, she’s going to be here full time and I don’t know what to do.”

“Well, this is the point where you have to take advantage of your resources,” I tell him. “You have a pediatrician who adopted three children at varying ages and raised them to adults at your fingertips. I’m sure she’d be more than happy to help you with what you should expect from Sophie in the coming days, weeks, and years. In addition, you live with a shrink.” He looks at me, blinking.

“I couldn’t see Ana professionally,” he says. “She’s too much like a daughter to me. I know I’m not that much older than her, but… you just can’t help how you feel.”

“So?” I say. “Does that mean that you don’t value her opinion? Let’s not forget that she’s the one who inadvertently discovered what Shalane was planning with Sophie and got Sophie to tell you and the police.”

“It’s not that, it’s just…” His sentence trails off.

“Use your resources, man. And if not, go talk to a child psychologist somewhere. Waste good money when you’ve got one of the best head doctors in the greater Seattle area living under the same roof as you.” I shrug.

“You’re biased,” he teases.

“You’re right. I am… and it’s absolutely true. How many lives have you watched that woman put back together again, including her own?” He ponders the thought as he looks over at Sophie and Butterfly and the fact that Sophie truly appears to be unscathed at the moment no matter how traumatizing the entire experience has been—and will be—for her.

“And again, you’ve made your point,” Jason says.

*-*

“Please… oh, God, please!”

Her hands are bound above her head, the restraints on each wrist attached to the opposite leg of the bed.

I’ve tormented her for several minutes with soft licking and sucking of her clit while her legs are tied open—her thighs restrained wide to the bed frame. I hold that delicious pussy open with my fingers—sometimes one side with one finger, sometimes both sides with my index and middle finger—just enough space to allow my tongue to get in there and torment those lips, the sides of her clit, the hood and the raw, sensitive underside over and over again, creating that intense burn that never goes away until she’s sated… gently tasting, licking and teasing with just enough moisture on my tongue to give her the slightly rough, gravelly feeling against that precious bundle of nerves and the soft, slick burn that edges her into insanity and keeps her right on the edge of orgasm until I want her to come. She’s blindfolded and the way her arms are bound, crisscrossed over her head, they press against the sides of her head, too, blocking her ability to hear.

I press down on the mountain of flesh right at the top of her slit… her Mons Venus… and it becomes firm and starts to pulse—hard—under my hand. Her orgasm is right there, violent, powerful and waiting. It only takes one never ender circle of the slightest increased pressure against her clit to…

“Oh, Goooooooooooooooood!” she wails, the Mons under my hand contracting hard and violently as this orgasm ripples through her, ripping her apart. I continue the circular pressure and she continues to wail, attempting to writhe, completely at my mercy. Only when there’s the slightest cessation of the bunched muscles under my palm do I stop my massage and quickly position my painfully aching and anxious cock at her opening. She’s still panting, still coming, still contracting underneath me.

Holding her hips down with both hands, immobilizing her, I push deep into her still quivering pussy.

“Fuuucckk!” I hiss as her pulsing walls and lips kiss and suck me deep. “Fuck, fuck, fuck…” I move my hips slowly, rhythmically, rolling our pelvises together and my dick inside along, around and against her walls at the same time, my full weight pushing down on my hands and her hips so that she can’t move a muscle. The feeling is agonizingly good—a truly deliciously painful burn, and I move slow and deep, so, so slow… deep grinding circles that have me shaking almost in no time.

“God, help me!” she chokes, her upper body trembling as her lower body has absolutely no purchase to move. God, she is so tight! I fight to keep my thumping, growing dick rolling, stroking, burning, slowly—so slowly, deep in that pussy.

“Fucking hell!” I hiss, stretching my tongue out of my mouth as I watch my dick, shiny and wet, slide in and out of this wet, shaved pussy, a ring of white cream being spread back and forth over my dick with every stroke, her arousal anointing me more and more with each push and pull, each in and out, and those pussy lips wrapping around my goddamn cock our juices mixing as I know I’m contributing precum to this delicious, hot, slick, silky mix.

“Fuck, baby!” I say, damn near drooling as I watch and feel the burn, the stroke, the blinding pleasure of our joining. “This shit is sexy as fuck!” I roll my hips so that the head hits each wall on the in-stroke. “Oh, God…” I groan as I almost lose it to the pleasure.

“Christian…” she wheezes, “Christian… God…”

I’ve got her now. Her pussy lips are hot… pink… wet… pulsing. Her mouth is open and she’s panting… lost in a world of passion and mindless ecstasy. I’ve hit that sweet spot and with her legs spread open and her hips held down, she’s at my mercy. She can’t do anything but absorb the pleasure.

“Yes, baby,” I coax as I roll my hips again, trying to block out the burning in my balls signaling my pending orgasm until I can get one more from her… one more fiery release. “I got you, baby. That’s it. Feel it, baby. I know you feel it. Shit, it feels so good… so hot and sweet and wet…”

She starts to tremble and pant, making no sound now, her body twitching uncontrollably… where she can move, that is.

That’s it, baby. Take it all…

I feel her pulsing, contracting, and though she’s silent and I have no idea if she’s coming or not, the feeling is so good—her tightening and throbbing and burning around me—that I can’t stand it anymore. I groan deep in my chest and bury myself hard inside her pussy, grinding so deep in that short, hard, inward and upward stroke against her that my body bows and arches backwards painfully. My jaws tighten so that my face actually hurts and my body stiffens so that my arms tremble from trying to support my weight as I push into her, grind into her, throb into her, empty painfully into her.

I hold my breath as this orgasm grasps my pelvis and holds me immobile with Nirvanic bliss. She pulses and tightens madly, milking and sucking every bit of nectar from my loins. When I finally release my breath and I’m able to move from the two massive hands that had my entire body in a choke hold, I look down at my wife—covered in a thick coating of sweat, gasping gently for air from her parted lips. Her chest rises and falls quickly, showcasing her gorgeous round breast and beautiful, taut nipples super-pink and pebbled from her intense arousal and orgasm, involuntarily spilling life’s milk down the sides of her mounds. I’m weak from the force of my orgasm… and my love for her, my awe at how beautiful she is in her ecstasy right now and how I want to kiss her and love her all over.

Still nestled between her legs, still cuddled in her sex, I release the restraints that hold her legs open. I rest my weight on her… still weak, sated… I release her wrist restraints and remove her blindfold. I gently lick the milk on the side of her breast that has escaped from her nipple. She doesn’t open her eyes. She’s too weak. I roll her over on top of me, her hair splayed over the back of her body. She releases a long breath and in seconds, she’s asleep on my chest. The weight of her body is so comforting atop mine that I don’t think I could count the breaths before I’m slumbering with her.


A/N: Eight more to go…

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Love and handcuffs  
Lynn X