Grey Continued: Episode 44—Law is Out of Order

Warning—History ahead!

There is ONLY ONE VERSION of this chapter. There was no use in condensing it.

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.

Episode 44—Law is Out of Order

CHRISTIAN

I have no fucking idea what came over me at that moment. All I knew is that if I didn’t kiss her right there and then, we would be somewhere fucking behind some sacred temple, and it’s not my intention to get arrested in Rome for indecent exposure.

We pass the Mamertine Prison—once used for temporary detentions prior to trial or execution and now housing two churches—and head straight to the Forum of Julius Caesar. We can only walk around the peripheral of the ruins, and as we’re walking down the cobblestone road behind the forum to get to where we can see something, suddenly my wife is twelve again. She’s skipping along in front of us… and telling corny jokes.

“A Roman walks into a bar. He holds up two fingers and says, ‘Give me five beers.’”

At first, I don’t get it, but then I visualize two fingers… a “V.”

Hardy-har-har.

My wife on the other hand is laughing hysterically and scrolling through her phone.

“Why did the Roman woman never win Hide & Seek? Because Julius Caesar!”

Again, she’s laughing hysterically and all I can think is what the hell has gotten into this woman?

Times New Roman walks into a bar. The bartender says, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t serve your type here.’”

I look at Jason as if to ask if there’s something in the air. He just shrugs.

“What do you call a Roman with a pubic hair in his teeth? Glad He Ate Her!”

She almost drops to her knees in laughter on that one, and Chuck is snickering.

For the love of God, don’t encourage her!

“Two nuns are riding their bikes through some old Roman streets. ‘I’ve never come this way before,’ the younger nun says. The older one replies, ‘It’s the cobblestones.’”

Three of my guards break out in laughter.

“That’s it, I’m taking your phone,” I say, picking up my pace to catch up with her.

“Aaahh! No!” she cackles hysterically and takes off running.

Is she serious?

Luckily, there aren’t many people on this side of the ruins, because she’s flying like the wind! I take off behind her and close the space between us quickly. As if she knew I was about to capture her, this little mouse cuts to her left, does a quick spin, and flies back in the other direction. I’m standing there like the cat who caught the canary, and the canary just got away from me!

I turn around and see my security standing there watching the show—two with folded arms, one with his hands in his pockets, and Jason is taking pictures. I take off behind her again. She yells something to Chuck that I can’t quite make out as she runs past him.

Sorry, sis, you’re on your own,” he calls out as she whizzes past him.

“Traitor!” she calls back, and she’s still haulin’ ass. I stop before I pass Jason.

“What the fuck was in that sandwich?” I ask.

“What the fuck was in that kiss?” he retorts.

I can’t help but laugh as I take off after my wife again. She’s got a good head start and she knows it, but it makes her too confident. She slows down to catch her breath and I pick up the pace. Just as she turns around to see where I am, I bend down and scoop her up in my arms, still running so as not to knock what remaining wind left in her out of her. She’s wiggling and giggling incessantly. Her laughter fills the air and my ears and just makes me want to dance. I spin around with her in my arms and she laughs a carefree laugh.

“Stop!” she cackles. “You’re going to make me dizzy!”

“No more corny Roman jokes?” I bargain.

“No more jokes! No more jokes!” she laughs. I put her down and she wobbles a bit, still laughing so hard that tears are now coming out of her eyes.

“You don’t play fair!” she accuses.

“And you’re out of your mind,” I retort, taking her hand and leading my laughing wife back the way we came while she wipes her tears.

We get towards the end of Clivo Argentario—the cobblestone road that we’re on—and we can see the Forum of Julius Caesar through the iron fence. Butterfly turns into a tourist again and begins to snap pictures. Earlier, she said that the Forum of Julius Caesar isn’t part of the Roman Forum, but I can’t see how that would be true… so I Google it.

“Butterfly, the Forum of Julius Caesar is part of the Roman Forum,” I tell her. She stops taking pictures and frowns at me.

“Well, not an immediate part… it can’t be,” she says, walking back over to me.

“Dear, that’s not the forum,” she says as she looks at my phone. “That’s the Imperial Fori—this street,” she says, pointing to the street on the other side of the Forum. “The best way to put it is that this was part of the first suburb just outside of the Roman Forum. Julius Caesar was building it, and he was trying to deify himself while he was still alive.”

“Okay, but look,” I say, showing her the pictures of the original plans for the Forum. “This shows that the forum was right up against Curia Julia, which was the senate house in the Roman Forum.”

“Those were the first plans,” she clarifies. “The finished product didn’t extend that far. He bought the private lands just outside the Roman Forum with the intention of extending the Roman Forum, but that’s not what happened. Although there were offices and shops open in the Forum of Julius Caesar, it never became an extension of the Roman Forum. The forums outlying the Roman Forum—Caesar, Augustus, Trajan—they all became the Imperial Fori.” I raise my brow.

“Well, that’s confusing, but I kind of get it,” I respond. She chuckles—no doubt at my lack of understanding—and she takes more pictures as we walk around the Forum.

“It’s really astonishing, isn’t it?” she asks.

“What is?” I retort.

“Looking at the ruins and thinking about Rome during the time that they were built—what was going through the minds of the rulers when they thought up these structures and the power they must have exercised to get these things done. The people who walked through the hallowed halls before they fell to ruin. The business that went on in the great halls or banquet rooms—the schemes, the plots, the lives that were made and ruined, what Caesar would think now—or Vespasian or Titus or Augustus or whomever—knowing that their precious temples and palaces and forums are nothing more than piles of rubble. These people were deified and they expected to live eternally in that divination. Yet, their beloved structures are nothing more than open-air museums for a bunch of tourists.”

“It’s all going to crumble one day, Butterfly,” I tell her. “They had to know that.”

“I don’t think they did, Christian,” she replies. “Nero supposedly built this huge, outrageous estate that I’m certain he thought would last forever and at least get passed down to someone else to use. They used it alright! They drained his lake and turned it into the Colosseum. They built palaces and forums over his palaces all the way across the hills. I’m sure that he and anyone else who put all this marble and stone and granite together had no idea it would fall to ruin this way. I mean, what exactly happened to that colossal statue of Nero?”

“Probably reconditioned like everything else,” I say as I search Google for an answer to her question.

“My point exactly,” she says as we stroll along the outside street of the Forum. “It’s still magnificent to be able to see these things and imagine what it must’ve been like.”

Ruins of the Forum of Caesar“Yeah,” I say, looking up from my phone and examining the three columns that remain of the Temple to Venus Genetrix in the back, something I just saw online. “You said he was trying to deify himself. Was that temple for him?” I ask, pointing to the columns.

“Sort of,” she says. “He built the temple to try to link himself to the gods, as a direct descendant. Didn’t help much in the end. He put a gilded statue of Cleopatra in there. It was very scandalous.”

“Why Cleopatra in the Temple of Venus?” I ask. She turns a slightly disbelieving eye to me.

“Because they were lovers,” she says, as if it’s obvious. “You didn’t know that?” I frown and shake my head.

“I did not,” I say upon the revelation.

“Um-hmm,” she says, still taking pictures. “She even had a son by him—Caesarion.”

“Like the C-section when a woman is cut to give birth?” I ask. It’s an honest question.

“Uh, no,” my wife says. “One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Caesarion is a form of Caesar’s name. ‘Cesarean’ comes from a Latin word that means, ‘to cut,’ and it’s spelled completely differently.

“Even though Caesar couldn’t claim the child as his heir, he knew Caesarion was his son. So, he gave Cleopatra permission to use his name. He loved her, he took care of her, he honored her, but he never married her because he already had a wife. She had her own kingdom in Egypt, which he helped her to reacquire and they fooled around until he died.

“There was a gilded statue of Cleopatra in the temple of Venus over there, and a later painting of Venus and an infant cupid was discovered to actually be Cleopatra and her son, Caesarion. He loved them very much, but he was already married. However, he was not modest at all about advertising his relationship. Cleopatra was a ruler in Egypt, but she was Caesar’s kept woman on every level—highly kept and publicly flaunted.”

“Wow, he was already married?” I say, unable to fathom how he could possibly flaunt his mistress in front of his wife that way. Butterfly nods.

“He was a military man and highly political. He traveled a lot for his job, for lack of a better word—most likely more than he was home. Political climate and duty drove him Egypt where he met Cleopatra and the rest, literally, is history.”

“The man went overseas and made a whole other family. That’s just bullshit,” I say.

“Well, we’re talking about a very decadent time,” she says. “Everything that I’ve seen and read—presently and before—indicates that ancient Rome was all sex, lies, and tablets since there was no video tablets. Yes, there was a lot of conquering and back and forth with religions and so forth, but all in all, the Republic and the Empire had a problem with bigamy—not adultery and fornication.”

Yeah, and I thought I was morally bereft.

“As you know, Caesar was mostly a man of the people. His leadership leaned toward favoring the Romans over the Senate, and the senate couldn’t have that. So, they killed him. Granted, his assassins were brought to justice, but by then, the Senate had gotten what they wanted, and Caesar was out. His death inadvertently struck the beginning of the Roman Empire as his adopted son was the first emperor—and when we went to Palatine Hill, I was able to put everything together.”

“Well, I’ll be honest with you. The extent of my knowledge of Julius Caesar came from the Shakespearean play, and I didn’t remember many details of that. Like many others, I knew that he died on the steps of the senate, but I thought it was the senate house in the Roman Forum. I didn’t know it was the senate meeting place in Pompey until someone here told me.” She twists her lips.

“Understood. I didn’t know it until you told me, and I only knew that she and Caesar were lovers because I saw it in a movie once. When I knew were coming here, I looked some of it up… but there’s so much to look up!” she replies.

“I know, baby,” I say, taking her hand again.

“Is that a milestone?” she says, taking a picture of a white column on the street. “It looks like one—or I should say this is what a milestone would have looked like, but it doesn’t have nearly enough information on it, and there’s another one right there,” she says, pointing to another one within eyesight, only a few meters away. “They wouldn’t be that close.”

“Maybe this is an original one that’s been refurbished and… that’s something else,” I say.

“Maybe,” she says, taking another picture. “There is some writing on it, but I can’t make it out.”

“Just so you know,” I tell her, “this says that the Colossus disappeared sometime after the 4th century and was likely toppled by an earthquake or destroyed when the barbarians sacked Rome in the 5th Century.” She nods again.

“I’m going with the earthquake,” she says. “It took 24 elephants to move that thing. It didn’t get sacked… oh, look!”

Her attention is drawn quickly away from the milestone and the Colossus by another bronze statue a little further down the street. She takes off running like a schoolgirl again and I find myself sprinting to catch up with her.

“Look at it! It’s huge!” she exclaims of the bronze statue of Julius Caesar. “I want a picture!”

I take a picture of my wife standing in front of the bronze statue of Julius Caesar in front of the forum, and then Jason takes a picture of us both. I can’t help but wonder what she was talking about—if the emperors and leaders knew that this would be their legacy, especially when you consider how violently some of them died.

We continue our trek down Via del Fori Imperiali when I hear a phone ringing. With so many people around. I’m certain that it’s not one of ours. I’m surprised to see Jason fishing his phone out of his money belt.

“Taylor,” I hear Jason say when he answers the phone. Who could possibly be calling him? I hope nothing’s wrong at home.

“Excuse me?” he says with a frown, and we all stop walking. “There must be some mistake. We’re here for four more days and then we’re driving to Naples.”

Butterfly looks at me and I just shrug and shake my head.

“I’m at the Roman Forum now. I’ll drop my boss off at the Baglioni Hotel Regina and I’ll be right there… Thank you.” He ends the call and exhales heavily, clearly perturbed.

“What was that about?” I ask. Jason turns angry and frustrated eyes to me.

“It appears that the reservation for the car is only for two days,” he says scratching his head. “I was sure I reviewed this with them before I took the keys, but maybe I didn’t. I’ve never had any problem, so…” My mind immediately goes to that conversation that I had with that woman—Audrey Law—right after Mother’s Day.

“She had us booked in Rome for two weeks!” I snap angrily. “She only had us booked for a car for two days?”

“It would appear so, sir,” he says. “I need to get you back to the hotel and go to the airport and straighten this out. It could have just been a mistake.”

The fuck it was. That woman is trying to prove some kind of fucking point and I have no idea what it is.

“But we haven’t seen the Forum of Augustus,” Butterfly whines. “It’s right across the street and around the corner… and the Forum of Trajan. It’s down the street from Augustus…”

I feel so bad. You would’ve thought we just told her that her Roman vacation was over.

“I’m sorry, Your Highness,” he says, “but I have to drive all the way back to the airport and check this car in and check it out again—or another one—or they might report it stolen.” Butterfly sighs and her shoulders drop.

“Baby, there’s a lot to see at the Trajan Forum,” I tell her. “We’ll have to save it for another day.” She sighs again.

“Alright,” she laments, and puts her sunglasses on so that we can’t see her disappointment.

“Look,” Jason says, “I have to walk down to Colosseum parking to get the car. Why don’t you all walk over to the Forum of Augustus and I’ll pick you up from there?” Butterfly perks up a bit at the compromise.

“Okay,” she cedes before she turns to me. “And I’ll get to take pictures of the Forum of Trajan before we leave Rome?” she asks.

“Yes, you will,” I promise.

As we’re getting to the crosswalk to go over to the Forum of Augustus, we find the ruins of another forum just behind Julius Caesar. It’s the Forum of Vespasian. Neither of us knew they were there, but Butterfly takes a few pictures to add to her tourist collection.

We walk over to the Forum of Augustus, and Butterfly is in seventh heaven again. We first take a picture in front of Augustus’ statue like we did in front of Caesar’s, then we cross another street and head to the ruins.

Augustus finished his father’s forum after his death, then built his own next door. In modern times, it’s across the street. Although we can’t walk down into these ruins, just like the Forum of Julius Caesar, she stands on the scaffolding and takes a million pictures of the columns and stairs of what remains of the forum.

Fearing that Jason is going to come around the corner any second, she quickly tells us that this is the same Augustus who had the home on Palatine Hill. He was the first Great Emperor of the Pax Romana, which was the time of great peace when Rome peaked right before its decline. The temple in his forum was dedicated to Mars Ultor—Mars the Avenger—vengeance for his father’s death, which he sought, and achieved.

Although Julius Caesar wasn’t an emperor, many emperors died violently the same as he did during the fall of Rome as 16 emperors were killed in 50 years. Augustus, however, was the same emperor that defeated Marc Anthony and Cleopatra in Egypt leading to Cleopatra’s suicide rather than be taken back to Rome with Augustus as a showpiece. Finally, he had Caesarion—his father’s son—murdered as well. I wonder how Caesar would have felt about all that.

A little while later, Jason drops us at the Baglioni, and I’m a bit perturbed that our evening seems to have been cut short. Butterfly is none too happy either. We lick our wounds by quickly having Facetime with our babies and sending them our love.

“So… what’ll it be?” she asks when the call is over. “Room service on the terrace? At least we have a beautiful view.” She’s trying to make the best of it, but I had the beautiful view reserved for another night. Then, an idea hits me.

“Are you tired?” I ask.

“Not even slightly,” she responds.

“Good. Change clothes.” She raises her brow.

“Where are we going?” she asks.

“La passeggiata,” I reply. She smiles widely and heads to the bedroom.

*-*

“Woman, how many times do I have to tell you not to make me look like a troll?” I ask when my wife comes floating out of the bedroom in this gorgeous, flowing, full-length rainbow creation that’s tied up just under her breasts and has her tits sitting up at wonderful attention. She’s wearing bangle bracelets and her silky mahogany hair is cascading in curls over one of her shoulders. She’s wearing smokey eye makeup that makes me want to lock her in the suite and have my way with her.

“Mmm, I love the way you lie,” she says, floating over to me and putting her arms around my neck. “You’re looking pretty hot yourself.” She kisses me softly, then wipes the bit of pink lip gloss off my lips.

“Nowhere for a money belt,” I note. “You’re carrying your phone?”

“I’ll give it to Chuck… where’s yours?”

“Tucked away… not to worry,” I tell her as I offer her my arm. “Shall we?” she smiles widely and takes my arm, and I lead her to the elevator.

It’s about 7pm and the sun hasn’t set yet. Some of the shops are still open, so we browse in some of the windows as we walk along the cobblestone streets. My wife admires a purse in one of the windows but opts not to get it since purses are too much of a temptation for pickpockets.

“I feel like I’m at such a disadvantage,” she says as we look at fragrances in another shop. “I have a purse for every occasion, and I can’t carry one here because some idiot might try to take it. It’s stupid.”

“I know, Butterfly, but wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry?”

“Yeah,” she says, opening the top of one of the perfume testers and smelling it. “It’s just a pain in the butt, that’s all.” She puts the bottle down and chooses another one.

“We won’t let it ruin our good time,” I promise.

“No, we won’t,” she says as she tests a second perfume on her wrist. She nods and brings her wrist to my nose. “What do you think?”

I gently take her hand and bring her wrist closer to my nose. I sniff her wrist slowly and cup her hand in mine, picking out the scents like the flavors in wine.

“Bergamot,” I say softly, “jasmine… musk…” I kiss her wrist. “I like it,” I add with a hint of suggestion. She gazes at me for a moment.

“How do you know so much about so much?” she asks as I’m still holding her hand.

“Isn’t that a line from a movie?” I counter.

“It is,” she confirms, “but I really want to know.” I smile.

“I know fragrances,” I tell her. “I know what you like, and I know what smells good on you. You should get that one.”

I know so much about so much because I have to, my love, and it’s not all easy knowledge to come by.

“This one, per favore,” she says to the lady behind the counter, who smiles and reaches down to get a new bottle. She opens the box so that Butterfly can see that it’s the same fragrance, then removes the top so that she can smell it. I reach in my money belt and pay for Butterfly’s perfume. The woman puts the box in a little shopping bag and hands it to Butterfly.

“Grazie,” Butterfly says sweetly, and I’m impressed that she’s picking up a few Italian words.

“So, Mrs. Grey, what do you think of Rome so far?” I say, taking her hand as we continue to stroll down Via Francesco Crispi.

“Except for the whole pickpocketing thing, I like it well enough,” she replies. “Really, I’m enjoying myself. I like it a lot, though I’m very curious about what happened with the car.”

“So am I,” I say honestly while looking at some dismal pastel-colored suits in the next window. “I’m hoping for just an honest mistake, but you never know.”

“You’re not thinking about buying one of those, are you?” she asks. I scoff.

“Can you even imagine?” I say in disbelief, hurriedly pulling her past the jellybean-hued creations. She giggles as she skips a bit to keep up with me.

“What got into you today?” I ask, wondering what turned my wife into a corny-joke-telling, giggling teenager. “At the Caesar Forum, what was that all about?’

“I don’t know,” she says with a shrug, her voice full of mirth. “I just wanted to have some fun.”

“You were adorable,” I reply.

“You said I was crazy,” she laughs.

“You were that, too,” I retort. “I should warn you that Jason now has video proof.” Her shoulders shake with laughter.

“I should’ve known,” she confesses. “I could ask you the same thing… near Saturn’s Temple.” I stop and gather her into my arms again.

“I just wanted to kiss my wife,” I say, planting gentle kisses on the corners of her mouth.

“I gathered as much,” she purrs. “And you were wrong. You had kissed me since the Spanish Steps… on the bridge in Trastevere.” I raise my brow at her.

“I stand corrected,” I croon, kissing her jawline. “Are you complaining?”

“Not at all,” she says as she thrusts her hands into my hair and pulls me down to her, searing my lips with a hot kiss. I do my best not to grab her ass right here on the street and to keep from doing so, I push her against the wall of a nearby shop and devour her until I’ve had my fill.

We zigzag our way down various streets, stopping to window-shop and picking up some small item here and there. We laugh a little when we pass McDonald’s in the Piazza di Spanga, wondering if any real Romans would eat that stuff, and why Americans would come all the way to Rome to order a Big Mac.

As we pass Giuseppe Zanotti, she sees a pair of black and white sneakers with heels that she likes. For the life of me, I don’t understand how anybody can like a pair of sneakers with heels, but she likes them, so we buy them.

A few more steps and we’re back where it all started—well, almost all started—the Spanish Steps. I take a few pictures of her standing on the steps in that gorgeous dress, and Chuck takes pictures of us together as we try to find a space that’s not crowded. It’s evening and just in time for la passeggiata, so there’s a lot of people out here. We get our pictures on the Spanish Steps, Chuck puts all of Butterfly’s wares in his secure backpack, and we’re strolling again.

We enjoy the people watching and vow to take a ride in one of those horse-drawn carriages if we happen to get back this way again. We enjoy each other’s company and chat about everything and nothing, still window-shopping in the stylish stores and not completely paying attention to where we’re going until we end up in Piazza del Popolo—very large square and la passeggiata packed!

“I think it’s time for aperitivo,” I tell her.

“I think you’re right,” she says, and we make our way over to the outdoor cafés. We see some tables available at Canova and decide that this is where we shall rest from la passeggiata. After ordering and paying for two classic spritzes, we fill our plates with delicious meats and cheeses, finger sandwiches and breadstuffs, and take a seat at one of the tables.

Off to one side of the obelisk in the middle of the square are a few men with strings or something on the ends of two sticks or wands about a meter long each. They dip these wands in what I can only assume is soapy water and then wave them around in the air, filling the air with bubbles of different sizes. Children surround them chasing the bubbles, and all I can think of is how carefree their lives must be, even if only at this moment. The most pressing thing in their little minds right now is to catch a bubble.

Bubbles in Piazza del Popolo

I don’t remember feeling that way one moment in my entire childhood. Even after I was adopted, many of my days were spent waiting for Myrick to come out of my dreams and terrorize me. He’s the last thing I want to think of right now… while I’m trying to show my wife the beauty and history of Rome. Luckily, my thoughts are interrupted when the waiter brings our spritzes.

“This is delicious,” she says, as she takes a sip. “So, tell me, what brings us to this particular square? It’s pretty big.” She begins to eat her nibbles and waits for me to tell her why we came to Piazza del Popolo.

“We’re pretty much at what is considered the northern end of Rome,” I tell her. “Without giving you a whole history lesson, I’ll tell you a little about Piazza del Popolo, because it’s very important to Rome. That gate over there is the Northern Gate. A portion of Rome is surrounded by a wall called the Aurelian walls. At the time, it surrounded the critical parts of the city to hold off the barbarian attacks. That gate is the northernmost gate of the wall, and Popolo was the first thing you saw if you came from the north to Rome and the last thing you saw if you left to the north. Its name means the ‘People’s Square,’ and it marks the northern edge of the tourist’s Rome.

“If you look down there, you’ll see those two little churches—the twin churches—with three streets between and on either side of them. That’s the tridente neighborhood because the streets look like a trident. That obelisk there with the lion fountains around it is called the Egyptian obelisk of Ramses II and it used to be in the center of Circus Maximus. Constantine took it from Egypt and put it there, but one of the popes moved it here. He was trying to link all the major churches of Rome together, so each of the major churches are in a square with that trident of streets leading from it, and somehow or another, they all eventually connect.” I take a mouthful of some of the meat and bread.

“I’m assuming that trident has some kind of significance,” she says between bites.

“It does. It represents the Holy Trinity. Now, here’s where it gets creepy…”

“Oh, God, more creepy?” she interrupts. “Like Saint Cecilia creepy?”

“Maybe not that creepy,” I say. “It depends on how you look at it. That church is the Santa Maria del Popolo. Not many tourists go in there, but it’s really a beautiful church. Paci used a phrase with you earlier—in situ…”

“Yeah,” she says. “It means that whatever he was talking about, it was actually in the place it was supposed to be. I think he was telling me that something was not in situ.”

“Right,” I confirm. “Well, all of the art in that church is in situ. There are some amazing pieces in there—the Crucifixion of St. Peter, which is very moving; statues of Daniel in the lion’s den, the Assumption of the Virgin to name a few, but that’s not what makes it creepy. There are a couple of tombs in there, but that church built for the people was said to be built to exorcise Nero’s ghost from the land.” I can almost see her roll her eyes.

“Nero? Again?” she laments. I nod.

“A portion of this land was once the gardens that belonged to Nero’s family. It was believed that his body was secretly buried somewhere around here after he committed suicide.”

“Don’t tell me—somebody dug him up,” she says, placing her drink back on the table. I chuckle.

“I told you it wasn’t as creepy as Cecilia,” I scold. “So, no, nobody dug him up. They did, however, ask that a church be built to exorcise his ghost. Sometime in the Middle Ages, the citizens complained that Nero’s ghost was haunting the area from a grove of walnut trees. So, they chopped all the trees down and built the church… for the people.” She pauses for a moment.

“You’re right,” she says. “Not as creepy as Cecilia… unless there’s more.”

“Nope, there’s no more,” I tell her, “except that the church was in the book and the movie Angels and Demons. I found that movie pretty creepy.”

“Thanks for telling me,” she says. “That’s another movie I’ve never seen and I have no intention of seeing it.” I nod and take a sip of my drink.

We talk a little more and eat a little more, and I order two tall glasses of prosecco, which comes with more food. This time we fill our plates with canapés and treats. I tell her about the twin churches which aren’t really twins, one of which is the Santa Maria in Montesanto, which is right next to where we’re sitting. It’s referred to as “The Church of the Artists,” although I’m not completely sure why. She giggles that the name sounds like her hometown, but not really. When we’re finishing are second drink, I hear live music playing from inside the bar. I stand and hold my hand out to my wife.

“Dance with me,” I say. She smiles and takes my hand. I lead her to just beyond where the tables are and spin her around a few times. She giggles happily as that beautiful rainbow dress blows in the wind. I hold her close to me and sway to the mellow music that wafts from the restaurant. The guy is singing in Italian and I can’t understand a word that he’s saying, but the music is enough for me and my Butterfly to get lost in the moment.

We dance for two more songs and then I kiss my wife on the nose.

“What do you say we find a few more aperitivos and some gelato and call it a night?” I say.

“I say that actually sounds like a good idea,” she says. So, that’s what we do. We head back in the direction of the hotel and hit three more bars for aperitivo and two spots for gelato, stuffing ourselves on goodies and drinks, foregoing the need for an official dinner. Butterfly tries to make it to a fifth aperitivo, but the drinks are finally getting to her. I stopped drinking alcoholic beverages after the second aperitivo so that I could keep an eye on her, but I didn’t want to ruin my wife’s good time. She’s too tipsy to walk and after we’ve gone as far as we can, we take a taxi back to the hotel.

She’s adorable when she’s like this—playful and vulnerable at the same time. I undress her and she giggles the entire time, trying her hand at corny Roman jokes that make absolutely no sense. I don’t want to encourage her to keep going, but the fact that she’s laughing at her own senseless jokes is hilarious by itself. I won’t have sex with her in this condition—she’s pickled—but I will make out with her a bit…

Stopping myself before I took advantage of my adorable wife was torment to my libido, so I head to the private gym to run for a thousand miles or so. Upon my return to the suite, Jason had also returned and informs me that the reservation for the car was indeed only for two days. He will get with me in the morning to tell me exactly what’s going on as he had Andrea checking what reservations she can and he’s been checking some as well. I wanted more information immediately, but he assured me that he’ll be able to tell me in the morning as right now, he only has piecemeal information on what’s happening.

It’s late and I’m very ready to go to bed, but the moment I dry off from my shower, my phone rings. This time, it’s Elliot. Oh, hell, what’s going on now?

“Hey, Elliot, what’s up?” I answer.

“Hey Christian, I didn’t know what time to call you,” he says. “I figured you’d be up around now because if you were here, you’d be up around now.”

“You figured correctly. I won’t be up for much longer, but what’s up?”

“This may sound weird, but I got a text in the middle of the night from your wife telling me to get busy installing bidets in every bathroom of your house.” I try not to scoff a laugh in his ear.

“Ah, yes, she has come to Italy and discovered the elaborate courtyard peristyles and the bidets. I was able to discourage her from putting one of those geometric fountains in our backyard.”

“But apparently, not from the bidets,” he says.

“I didn’t even know she called you about the bidets,” I admit.

“You can discourage her from those?” he asks.

“You can’t do it?” I counter.

“Christian, I have to tear out all of your toilets and re-pipe your bathroom for bidets!” he informs me. “It’s not like those little ones on TV where you can run a line from the toilet and boom, you’ve got a bidet… and I’m not too sure Montana would be thrilled with only having the option of cold water shooting on her ass if I did that.”

“I take it that’s no small task,” I observe.

“You take it correctly,” he says. “I mean, I may get away with not ripping out all of your toilets, but this is something that should have been done with the original design of the bathroom. I have to make sure a bidet fits next to each toilet and if it doesn’t, then I have to redo the whole bathroom. ‘No small task’ is an understatement. Do you know how many bathrooms you have in that house?” 

“I don’t know,” I admit. “Six or seven?”

“I haven’t counted them in a while, but I think it’s more than that,” he says. “You have two in the master suite. Each bedroom has one. There are at least one or two community bathrooms on each floor, and is she talking about bidets in the guest quarters and the boathouse, too?”

I don’t even know. The more he talks about this, the more I see what a massive undertaking this is going to be.

“You do realize you have at least a month and a bottomless budget, right?” I try to entice him.

“When are you rich motherfuckers going realize that it’s not always about the money?” he nearly barks. “Sometimes it just can’t be done!”

I get the feeling this isn’t the first time he’s had a conversation like this. Definitely time to change tact.

“Okay, so, are you telling me that it can’t be done?” I ask calmly. If it can’t, then it just can’t. Butterfly will have to deal with that.

“I don’t know if it can be done, Christian!” he says, his frustration evident. “It’s a lot of fucking work. You’ve got that heavy ass tile in your bathrooms. Breaking through that shit is going to be like drilling through the Washington Monument—and if I remember correctly, the main en suites are made of marble, aren’t they?” I sigh inwardly.

“Yes, they are, but I’m not looking for a bidet in my bathroom.”

“Well, good, that’s one out of what… ten?” he says sarcastically.

“Okay, then, that’s what I need from you,” I say. “I need to know if it can be done. If it can’t, you tell me, and I’ll tell her. If it can be done, well then do it. Simple as that.” He sighs heavily.

“You fucking know how I fucking hate to disappoint Montana,” he laments.

“You and me both, but it is what it is, man. She’s not an unreasonable woman—she never has been. She just got here to the Eternal City, a place she’s never been, and she’s seeing how the ‘other half’ really lives… and keep in mind, she is part of the ‘other half.’ What she’s asking for is really not that extravagant. It’s just that our home is extravagant and outfitting it to fit these specifications is not as easy as ‘Elliot, I want bidets in every bathroom.’ I get it, man. If it can’t be done, she’s just going to have to accept it.”  I hear him sigh heavily on the phone.

“I’ll get on it and let you know,” he says, none too excited

“Thanks, man,” I say. “And Elliott, if it’s a hugely ginormous job, start with her bathroom in our Master suite and we’ll work the other ones out later.”

“Will do,” he says, a little relief in his voice before we end the call.

She wants bidets. This isn’t the worst or the hardest thing in the world. Elliot will make it happen. She just may have to compromise on how many she gets.

*-*

“So, here’s what’s going on,” Jason tells me after breakfast in the morning. “With very few exceptions, your itinerary is shit.”

“Be more specific,” I say, my voice nearly growling.

“The car was only reserved for two days. I don’t know why, but it was. We’re lucky we got in to the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. You were supposed to have tour guides for those, and some of the places we visited, you weren’t supposed to go without them. We may have gotten a pass because our Italian bodyguard acted as your tour guide, so he may have saved us some headache.”

Yeah, while he was getting all friendly with my wife… but he didn’t cross the line, and he’s obviously conscious of his role. I overheard him telling Butterfly that he would like to keep things friendly but professional when she grabbed his arm, and once the tour was done, he slid into the role of silent observer.

“You’re supposed to have a guided tour for the Domus Aurea and tickets for the Borghese Gardens and Museum and the National Museum,” Jason continues. “You’ve got none of these, and this is just Rome. You have floor seats at La Scala, and I don’t even know if you have a hotel in Naples. I double-checked the reservation here and at the Vatican. This one is fine. The one at the Vatican was never made…”

“We’re fucking here now!” I roar. “What the fuck are we supposed to do?”

“Well, I couldn’t leave anything to chance, so I called in another travel agent and I forwarded your itinerary to her with the situation that we’re all in right now.” He’s kidding, right?

“Am I to understand that you forwarded my overseas itinerary and most likely my credit card information to an unknown while I’m stranded in Rome?” I ask. He almost looks angry now.

“Give me some damn credit, Christian!” he snaps. “First of all, I’m here, too, so whatever happens is going to affect me. Second, my family is going to be here in a month, so whatever happens is going to affect them. Third, I’ve been working for you for damn near a decade. I think I know what I’m doing by now!”

Well, that smarted a bit, but he’s just going to have to lick his wounds because I don’t know what the fuck is going on and I hate being in this position.

“So, what now?” I say, sighing heavily and impatiently.

“We wait,” he says. “I’ve been up all night chasing down computer confirmations and talking to Julisa trying to get you a new itinerary…”

“Who’s Julisa?” I ask.

“She’s your new travel agent,” he says, matter-of-factly.

“How did you find her?” I press.

“I called your mother.” I raise a brow.

“You called my mother?” I repeat.

“Yes, I called your mother,” he says. “Besides Marlow and his family, your parents and your aunt and uncle are the only ones who had commercial flights because their schedules didn’t fit in with the flight times of the jet. So, I called her to ask how she made her reservations and she gave me the name of her travel agent. She said that this woman has booked every trip that they’ve ever taken for years including the first trips that you ever took to Rome.”

I want to be pissed, but on short notice, he did a good job. Besides, I’m not really pissed with him. I’m pissed with that fucking Audrey Law.

“So, what do we do now?” I ask.

“I say you kick it around Rome for a day until we get your itinerary straightened out. I’d hate for us to head to Naples and have nowhere to sleep.” I roll my eyes.

“This isn’t fucking happening,” I hiss under my breath.

“Yes, it is,” he says, “so here are some suggestions from Julisa based on where we are. You wanted to rent a Vespa—today would be a good day to do that. Ride around Rome and see the sights with the wind blowing through your wife’s hair. Let her do some shopping. Go to some of the squares where you don’t need reservations and let Julisa straighten everything out for you. Your previous itinerary had you booked to the walls with what turned out to be nothing. Now, you have a free day in Rome. Worst case scenario, you extend your vacation by a day.” He yawns.

“The others can go with us today,” I tell him, taking the piece of paper with Julisa’s suggestions on it. “You get some sleep. It was hard enough getting used to Roman time. Now, your clock is off again.”

“I won’t argue,” he says. “I’ll be right as rain in a few hours.”

I dismiss him for the day, advising him to let Chuck know that we’ll contact him when we’re ready to go.

Nearly every room in this suite leads to the terrace with a magnificent view of the Eternal City. I just stand out there in my sweats for a while soaking in the beauty. This is the one place where I never minded coming and just letting my mind wander. Before Butterfly, every other moment of my life had to be filled with something—work, working out, fucking, something. Rome was the only time and place ever where I could just do nothing… wander the streets, sit by the river, enjoy the view. I always said that I would move here one day, but I never expected to have a wife and a family. I don’t know how well that would go over with her.

Speaking of wife, where did she get off to?

This isn’t the Crossing, so I can’t ask the two way where she is. Just when I turn to go back inside and search for her, I see her through the window in the jacuzzi terrace. She’s lounging at the end of the curved sofa. Her hair is wet and she’s wearing a very short, very sexy robe.

“Hey,” I say as I enter the jacuzzi terrace. “I missed you at breakfast.”

“I’ll get something soon,” she says, looking over at me.

“Jacuzzi? This early?” I ask.

“Hot shower and jacuzzi,” she says, “detox from last night’s aperitivo.”

“I shouldn’t have let you drink so much.”

“Please,” she says, waving me off. “I’m fine, and I had a great time.” She sits up and put her feet on the floor. “So… what did Jason say? What’s up?”

“Well,” I walk over and stand over her with my hands on my hips, “we don’t have an itinerary for the day. I mean, there’s still plenty that we can do with a little planning. In fact, Jason gave me a list of ideas, but what we thought we had planned is not planned.” She frowns.

“I don’t understand,” she says.

“I don’t either,” I say, “but from what I can see, Audrey Law has us booked for this hotel, a car for two days, a trip to the Colosseum, and nothing much else.”

“You’re kidding!” she says incredulously. “And what did she have to say for herself?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t called her yet.” Butterfly does a small version of the bobblehead.

“You haven’t…” she trails off.

“Well, first, we’ve got bigger fish to fry. Jason has been up all night trying to find out exactly what attractions and reservations we do have. He has secured my parents’ travel agent to try to salvage what we can of the trip.”

“I like you like this,” she says. “Relaxed, laid back… even in the midst of a catastrophe.”

“It’s not that catastrophic,” I say. “Jason was able to come through in a pinch. It may not be what I originally planned, but it’ll still be great.”

“Mmm,” she says, sitting up, “this is what I mean. You’re so cool, calm, and collected. You’re hardly ever like this. I usually have to work to get you here.” She stands and walks over to me.

“But since you’re already here…” she slowly kneels in front of me, her hands caressing my body as they slide sensually down to the waistband of my sweats. She kisses my navel and looks up at me with those big, blue, “come hither” eyes.

Fuck, I’m here, baby, I’m right here.

She grabs the waistband of my sweats and pulls them effortlessly past my hips and down my thighs. My cock twitches. Greystone is anxious, but he’s not at full attention yet.

Raising her eyes to mine, she sticks out her tongue and licks the sensitive skin in the crease of the V of my pelvis. I wasn’t ready for that and I hiss, parting my legs slightly to give her more access. She dives into the tender meat, first on one side and then the other, licking and teasing it until I’m nearly shivering with anticipation. It doesn’t help that my balls and not-so-flaccid cock are now just lying on her face, begging for attention while she teases those creases. And speaking of which…

She moves from my creases over to my freshly groomed testicles. She licks them first, gently, one then the other. Then she takes them into her mouth and massages them deeply. My cock is at full attention now and I’m afraid it’s going to poke her goddamn eye out.

She releases my balls and salaciously licks her hand. I hiss loudly as her wet hand clenches the head of my cock and her stiffened tongue licks madly at my balls. Fucking hell!

And she’s still looking at me.

She’s devouring my balls, relentlessly teasing and arousing the skin as she jerks my head with her wet hand. I’m trying to keep still, trying to absorb the pleasure so that it doesn’t end so soon, but when Butterfly puts her mind to something…

She finally relents from her incessant, drive-me-up-the-wall licking only to replace her tongue with her gentle, titillating hand. She’s rolling my balls in one hand and working my head with the other. This is the only time she takes her eyes off mine, and it’s to look at my dick and balls now wet with her saliva and lick her lips.

She’s trying to drive me insane.

She licks her other hand, moistening her middle finger a little extra and cups my balls again with her wet hand. She uses that wet middle finger to firmly stroke my perineum while she cups and massages my balls, still stroking the head of my cock with her other hand. I can’t control my heavy breathing and the pounding of my dick.

When she finally takes me into her mouth, I almost want to cry. She’s slow and deliberate, teasing the head with her mouth and tongue as she looks up at me. She spits on her hand and spreads it up and down my hard shaft as she pushes the first couple of inches in and out of her mouth… and she’s looking at me again.

Fuck, this is so hot.

She never takes her eyes off mine and she licks the head, still stroking my cock into her mouth and against her tongue. I bite down hard to withstand the pleasure as her tongue tickles the rim and frenulum, and she’s still stroking, stroking, stroking… more saliva to coat my now veiny dick and assist with her handjob-blowjob combo.

My fucking head is going to explode.

She stops her hand and holds my cock tightly at the base, bobbing on the head just firm enough and slow enough to bring the heat. It disappears and emerges from her mouth swollen and wet and hard and hot. She runs her tongue over the entire head once, twice, three times before she masterfully sucks it back into her soft lips and tongues it again. She’s teasing me—mercilessly—and I fucking love it.

Now, she’s sucking me like a lollipop, soft and wet but with just enough pressure to get the sugar out. Good God, I’m going to die. I groan as I fight to keep from grabbing her head as I don’t want to fuck with her rhythm.

She continues with that lollipop lick, attacking my cock from different angles—sideways, right on the head, on the bottom licking from base to tip, sucking the head firmly into her mouth and pushing it out just as firmly, slowly and methodically driving me to the brink of madness. Her tongue and her lips, licking, squeezing, and suckling…

Fuck… baby…

She flicks the frenulum, rim, and head quickly several times with her tongue and I almost crawl right the fuck out of my skin. I cry out and gasp in surprise, clenching my fists to keep from grabbing her. She’s fucking sadistic with this shit!

Now, my wife is extremely talented, but when she takes all these inches down her throat and licks my balls at the same time, my whole fucking body tingles down to my fingertips and my toenails. And she doesn’t do it just once; she does it repeatedly! What the fuck has Rome done to this woman?

She pulls off my dick and there’s a massive amount of saliva, dripping from my cock, streaming from her mouth… She grips my wet dick and pumps hard twisting in opposite directions with both hands, using her saliva as lubricant. With a stream of spittle still hanging from her mouth, she licks her wide-open lips so that it’s now hanging from her tongue and latches onto my head again, sucking deeply as she matches it with this mind-blowing handjob.

I can’t thrust because I don’t know which direction to go. I can only jut my hips out to her lips and hold my fucking breath as she sucks and rubs the skin off my dick in a pleasuring ritual that I’ve never seen from her.

She releases my cock again and grabs my hips, bobbing wildly in a sexy, hot, wet, sloppy, noisy, and feverish blowjob. She’s going deep again, deep and hard as she clings to my hips and ass for traction and concentration, my dick disappearing all the way into her mouth and throat and reappearing with each painfully delicious gobble.

Oh, fuck. She’s being nasty with it, and I can’t help but tangle my hand in her hair and tighten. Fuck, it’s so damn good. I groan deep in my chest. I’m trying to keep quiet, but I can’t. She’s intent in her purpose and I can’t resist.

“Uugh!” I groan, throwing my head back and sinking my cock into her throat. She doesn’t relent. She takes every inch and tightens and relaxes her muscles, saliva dripping from her lips and onto the top of my foot. It spurns me on even more.

“Uugh! Aah!” I gasp, thrusting into her mouth, fucking her cheeks and throat. She grabs my ass and squeezes, digging her nails into my skin, and that’s when I lose the fight.

“Aaaahhh!” I cry loud into the air as my cock thumps madly and deeply into her throat. She presses me hard against her, flexing and relaxing her muscles as my balls give her an endless offering. It fucking hurts and burns, she’s sucking me so deep.

“Gaahhh!” I gasp as she works for this endless orgasm. Both hands are tangled in her hair, pushing her hard against me as I come and come and come…

When I finally release her head, she’s looking up at me with wet eyes, most likely from controlling her gag reflex. She torments the head of my cock once or twice more, sucking it into her mouth and licking the tender frenulum and rim before sweetly kissing the head and wiping her lips with her fingers… in that way… while I tremble helplessly.

I snatch her off the floor, dragging air into my lungs trying to recover from that orgasm. I nearly tear that flimsy robe from her body. She gasps a knowing giggle as I force the thing to the floor. I slam my mouth into her, kissing her deeply and relaying my gratitude, right before I plan to quickly wring a fiercesome orgasm from her.

I lift her in my arms quickly, lodging my arms under her legs like I did that time when I forced orgasms from her in our sitting room. In moments, her tiny body is in the air and hoisted onto my shoulders while I’m still standing. She gasps in surprise, steadying her hands on top of my head and no doubt wondering what the hell is going on.

I use my mouth to separate her lips, then I latch onto her pussy and suck—hard. You won’t last two minutes up there. I promise you that!

She gasps and tries to pull away, but I’ve got her locked. She’s at my mercy like she’s never been before. Well, maybe once… or twice… who knows?

I have a perfect and unfettered view of her as I suckle that clit—hard, deep, and relentless. At first, she’s concerned about being up there, but I’ve got her locked in hard and right now, I’m hungry as a bear and she’s light as a feather.

Come!

She’s trying to fight the sensation, but she grits her teeth and I see in her eyes when she starts to rise. She’s looking down at me, tresses of her wet hair falling onto her chest, her face displaying agonizing pleasure as I continue deep suction on her most tender place.

Come!

I don’t move my mouth. I don’t want to change the sensation. She tries to move her hips, but I have her immobilized. She thrusts her hands in my now sweat-drenched hair and pulls like I did when she was clamped onto my dick. That’s it, baby, I’ve got you now.

Come!

Now, she’s dragging breath into her body, her breath rising and falling madly with each inhale and exhale. She’s gasping loudly and pulling mercilessly at my hair as her thighs harden around my ears.

Come, damn you!

She throws her head back and yowls a visceral cry from her stomach. I can feel her legs straighten behind me and her clit pebbles in my mouth as her orgasm strikes. A few moments into it, she curls her body over my head and I can’t breathe. I hold my breath and keep my mouth clamped mercilessly onto her clit. I imagine she performed a similar breath exercise when I had my dick down her throat.

Her body jerks several times on my shoulders and she makes many different orgasmic sounds. I don’t let go until she cries those magic words…

“Christian! Pleeeeeease!”

I finally release her clit and she straightens her back, out of breath and helpless. I look up at her again and the rise and fall of her bare tits are turning me on so much. I gently lick the tender meat around her clit and inside her lips.

“Pleeeease, Christian,” she mewls, and since I’m not working on a second forced orgasm, I cease my ministrations.

I masterfully lift her off my shoulders and drop her back into my arms. She gasps as I catch her in air and stare at her with what I know are hungry eyes. I thrust my tongue into her mouth, mingling our juices together and feeding off the heady flavor of the combination. She matches my fervor, our tongues lapping in a sensual sex dance. In this position, I’m easily able to breach her asshole and I immediately wish I had a butt plug in here. Instead, I thrust my finger into her ass and she gasps in my mouth as her rosette tightens around it. She pushes back on it as much as her body will allow as I move it in circles inside her.

That’s it. I’m ready to fuck her now.

I lift her slightly and drop her effortlessly unto my aching cock. We both gasp at the entry and with one hand holding her ass and my finger in her rosette and the other arm wrapped firmly around her waist, I fuck her, thrusting deeply up and into her as I hold her in place. Every time I lift her to drop back onto my cock, my finger thrusts into that ass.

“Oh, God,” she laments as she wraps her arms and legs tighter around me. It’s no use, Pussycat. I’ve got you now.

And there’s that “wet and sloppy” again, but this time, it’s her pussy.

“Mmm, you like that,” I taunt.

“Yes… yes…” she pants as she tightens her legs around me. I like that, too, Pussycat. She manages to get some traction and begins bouncing on my dick. Fuck, I remember this move—was it the second time we fucked in her apartment? The third? I don’t know, but that’s when I realized that my girl has dangerous hips and thighs of steel, and if she keeps this up, this is going to be over really quick.

Who am I kidding? This is definitely going to be over really quick.

“Dirty girl,” I scold as I carry her over to the chaise. I lay her on her back and she protests a bit when I withdraw my cock and finger from her. I adjust her in a variation of the scissor and T-position, one of her legs between mine and the other over my shoulder. I position myself just so and thrust deep into her.

Mother of fuck! I don’t know what the fuck I hit, but my head is buried in hot, wet, tight meat. I literally hug her leg to get a good deep thrust and my whole body responds like never before. Fuck, where has this part of her been all my life?

It feels so good, I almost want to cry, and I’m certain I’m going to come any second.

“Christian!” she says, pushing me back by my chest. “Too deep!”

“Relax,” I growl. “Feel it!”

At some point, this has got to be as good for her as it is for me. I keep the deep stroke but adjust it so that our pelvis grinds and my cock hits her walls the way that I know she likes. Shit, it’s even better than before, and I won’t be able to keep this up much longer. She takes two deep breaths and adjusts her hips only slightly and then her expression changes.

“That’s it,” I growl, my orgasm creeping just beyond my reach. She better hurry up. Her breathing deepens, then turns to pants and then whispers.

“Christiiaan,” she whines as if she’s afraid. You should be, Pussycat. You should be. I’ve reach deeper into you than even I’ve ever gone. I’ve been balls deep, but never at this angle. I’m breaching new territory here and it’s a fucking mind trip like you wouldn’t believe. In my head, Greystone is giving me a fist pump and signaling the countdown.

“Christian… Christian… aaaaaaahhhhhh!” My wife’s breast arches towards me, her body covered in sweat and her nipples jutting out at me.

Yes, please!

I grab that mound and pinch that pebbled nipple hard between my finger and thumb as I use it for leverage along with her leg on my shoulder to pull her hard against me and thrust.

“Oh, fuck! Fuck! Oh, God!”

Now, usually, that’s me screaming those profanities, but this time, that’s my wife, grasping the head of the chaise and coming madly around my dick.

And Greystone loses count.

“Fuck! Yes! Goddammit!” I wail as yet another earthshattering orgasm squirts endlessly from my cock.

“Oh, dear God!” Butterfly wails, and I know it’s because my cock is thickening inside her right at the point of her orgasm. She releases the chaise and grabs her other breast, pinching until the nipple reddens significantly, and I swear that Greystone starts a whole new salute inside her.

Goddamn, she’s going to kill me!

When it’s all over, we collapse on the chaise, completely spent and useless. Neither of us can catch our breath, nor can we move. Our legs are scissored together as I lay atop her, wearily peppering her cheek, jaw, and temple with kisses. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise that the itinerary got fucked up. I can’t move a muscle right now much less drive a Vespa, and Butterfly looks even more spent than I am.

Looks like an inside day today.


A/N: NEW PINTEREST ALBUMS WILL BE ADDED EACH CHAPTER FOR THE ITALY VACATION. I SUGGEST YOU DON’T MISS THEM AS THEY WILL GREATLY ENHANCE THE EXPERIENCE!

This chapters albums include the Imperial Fori and the Piazza Del Popolo. There are lots of pictures in these albums to give you the full effect of the ruins and the history. 

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

Pictures related to the progress of the Italian Villa can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/italy/italian-villa/

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Episode 37—Saaaaaaaaailing Takes Me Awaaaaaaay…

Back from the funeral—shit happened there that can only happen in Detroit. Glad to be home. I haven’t emailed yet, but it’s been too long since I posted something.

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

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

Season 5 Episode 37—Saaaaaaaaailing Takes Me Awaaaaaaay…

CHRISTIAN

“You know, I’ve never been on your boat before,” Jason says as he helps Gail, Sophie, and Ms. Solomon load the food onto the Slayer after they have surrendered their shoes and changed into slippers.

“Never?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“Even with it moored here, it’s patrolled by other members of the team. I’ve never been on it.” I shrug.

“Well, welcome aboard,” I say as we climb the stairs.

“Straight through there,” I say to Gail, pointing her towards the kitchen.

“You forget,” she says, “I have been on here before.” She gestures her head for the rest of her party to follow her. I smile and head to the main aft deck.

“Ahoy!” I hear my wife say as she boards our boat wearing a beautiful flowing sun dress, an oversized sun hat, and her Jackie O’s, carrying our son.

“Hello, beautiful,” I say, giving her a kiss before taking my son from her arms. “You wanna see the bridge, son?” I ask.

“Kay,” he replies, even though I’m sure he has no idea what I just asked him. I head off to the bridge to show my son the command center.

“One day, this will be yours,” I say, standing him by the wheel as I sit in one of the captain’s chairs, “or something like it,” I correct myself. This boat will be way too old by the time he’s old enough to sail.

I remember when I first got this thing. I liked the size and the power. I never intended to have a family on it. Now, my 16-month-old son is trying to steer.

“Shit!” he declares with a full-tooth smile on his face. I shake my head.

“Don’t say that around your mom,” I warn, accepting that the damage has already been done and she has no one to blame but herself.

I pull my vibrating phone from my pocket and answer it.

“Grey.”

“It’s Wallace, sir. Harp’s at the gate.”

“Let him in and have one of the guards bring him back,” I say.

“Will do.” I end the call. I can sail the Slayer on my own, but when I plan to entertain, I need a first mate. That’s Harper’s job, to navigate the waters while I spend time with my family. I stay on the bridge for several more minutes waiting for Harper.

“Pleasure to see you again, sir,” Harper says, shaking my hand when he finally arrives.

“Thanks for coming on such short notice,” I reply.

“To sail the Slayer?” he retorts. “No problem. I love being able to navigate this beauty. I brought new boat shoes. The old ones are probably dry-rotted,” he says, showing me his new shoes still in the box. I nod and he steps into his boat shoes.

I give Harper some instructions on what we plan to do today before I head back down to the main floor to see how things are shaping up.

“Jesus, this thing is monstrous on the outside, but it’s even bigger on the inside,” Jason says, when I come down from the bridge. “This is definitely what it’s like to have money to burn.”

I laugh at him. This wasn’t money to burn. I wanted this boat—the biggest thing on the Sound and definitely the biggest on the lake. It was like moving a house getting this thing across the bridge. Hell, it was moving a house because this thing is bigger than some houses.

“Have you seen everything?” I ask.

“Oh, I’ve seen everything,” he says, “including the his and hers bathrooms in the master bedroom. Foresight?” I twist my lips.

“Gia Mateo,” I say.

“Oh,” Jason says, rightfully looking around for Butterfly who is nowhere in sight, thank God.

“Is everyone on board?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“We’re waiting for the Donaldson/Johnson family and we’ll be ready to go,” he says.

“Plan on leaving without us?” Elliot says, holding Valerie’s hand.

“I thought you were going to meet us at Mom and Dad’s,” I say. “You almost got left behind.”

“We thought why wait with Mom and Dad when we could sail?” he says.

“Where’s Steele?” Valerie says.

“Grey,” I correct her. She twists her lips.

“Look, old habits are hard to break, and she’s Steele-Grey. So, where’s Steele?” I shake my head and look at Jason.

“Probably down below,” he says. “She went to show the boat to Al and James and her parents.” Valerie nods and heads towards the bow of the boat.

“Gia Mateo, huh?” Jason says as we head towards the main aft deck to wait for Marlow and his family. “That explains the parlor. Her Highness is a bit possessive when she talks about certain rooms.”

“That would be because she knows that Mateo designed these rooms with herself in mind, and now these rooms belong to her!” I state finitely.

“Yes, I would say that neither of our wives have a liking of Gia,” Elliot says. “With good reason, though.”

“We haven’t missed the boat, have we?” Maxine says as she, Phillip, and Mindy head to the dock. I see Marlow and his family coming around the house. I thought they were the last ones that we were waiting for.

“Um, no,” I say. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t expecting you.”

“Oh,” Maxine says. “Ana told us to come. Something about Elliot and Val’s vow renewal.” I slap my forehead.

“Of course! Duh!” I say. “Don’t just stand there, you idiot. Help the woman get on the boat,” I poke at Elliot.

“Yeah, clean it up, Bro,” Elliot says, reaching his hand out to help Maxine. “Hey, Phil,” he says and he helps Maxine board the boat.

“Hey, El. How’s it hanging?” Phil says, handing Mindy to his wife.

“To the left, I think,” he jests, giving Phil that one-armed bro-hug when he boards the boat.

“Is Garett and Marilyn on board?” I inconspicuously ask Jason.

“Yes, sir,” he nods. Good. That’s all of the Scooby Gang.

“Do you know of anyone else that’s supposed to board that I don’t know of?” I ask him as the Guests change out of their street shoes. He shakes his head.

“You, me, our families, Chuck and Keri, the Steeles, Ana’s Scooby Gang, Elliot and Val that we’re just learning of, and Marlow and his family. I don’t think there’s anybody else. Your parents, Herman and his family, and Mia and Ethan are all going to be at Grey Manor.”

“Well, Mia better not change her mind because she’s going to get left behind,” I say as Elliot takes the Guest family back into the parlor.

“We’re not late, are we?” I hear Marcia’s voice and raise my head to see her family crossing the yard.

“Nope, you’re just in time,” I say. Zac helps Marcia onto the boat and then Maggie and a young lady that I assume is Marlow’s date before he and Marlow board the boat.

“Always lovely to see you, Christian,” Marcia says giving me a quick hug. “You remember Zac.”

“I do,” I say, proffering my hand to Zac. “Welcome aboard.”

“Thanks, good to see you again,” he says. “This is a pretty impressive vessel.”

“Wait until you see the inside,” I say with mirth causing Zac to laugh. “Marlow.”

“Hey, Christian,” he says cautiously. “Elise, this is Christian Grey and Jason Taylor. Christian, Jason, this is Elise.”

At least she’s dressed respectably.

Before she has the chance to say anything, Sophie comes out to the deck.

“Dad, Momma Gail says she forgot some things in the kitchen…” She stops cold when she sees the group of people standing on the balcony, probably embarrassed that she interrupted. “They’re all still on the counter.”

“Did she specifically say what?” Jason asks. Sophie turns her focus to her father.

“She said just bring the bags. You can’t miss them,” Sophie instructs.

“Ooookay,” he says. He changes back into his street shoes and heads down the stairs to the dock.

“That’s Sophia,” Marlow says, not very loudly, but loud enough for me to hear. “I apologize in advance for anything rude that she might say to you because she doesn’t know how to behave around company. I suggest you just ignore her. We’ll have a good time either way. It’s a big boat.”

“I’ll say it is,” Elise says with a bit of wonder in her voice. I see Sophie stiffen in my peripheral vision. That wasn’t very nice.

“Um, Dad, uh, I’ll come with you,” she says. She changes into her sneakers and nearly jumps off the boat.

“I got it, Baby Boo,” he calls back.

“It’s okay,” she says, running behind her father. “I wanna help.”

What the hell just happened?

“Mr. Grey,” Elise says, holding her hand out to me. “It’s nice to meet you, sir.”

“Likewise,” I say, taking her proffered hand. Once I shake it, she clasps her hands in front of her and moves closer to Marlow. He must’ve coached her about her behavior, or hopefully she already knows how to carry herself.

“Um… what’s with the shoes?” Maggie asks.

“Well, I don’t like dirt from the ground or the street on my boat. It doesn’t get cleaned as often as the house and certain gravel can destroy the floors. So, you have to change into a pair of these slippers, or you can go barefoot if you like.”

“I think I’ll go barefoot,” Maggie says, and the other ladies concur. The gentlemen all wear a pair of the slippers.

As they all move towards the parlor, I catch Marlow and pull him aside.

“What was that about Sophie?” I ask. It was kind of rude. He looks around to make sure no one is in earshot.

“You haven’t seen it, Christian,” he admits. “She acts horrible around my dates. She talks about their clothes and their hair, their bodies… everything. She’s the worst version of a bratty little sister.” I never got that impression from Sophie. If anything, I would say she was exactly the opposite.

“You’re not talking about that number you brought to my birthday barbeque, are you?” I accuse.

“Okay, Rochelle was asking for it, but even before her—the wedding, Thanksgiving, Christmas… every time. It’s awful. The only way Rochelle and I got any peace is that I told her to ignore Sophie, so I just got it out of the way in the beginning this time.” I twist my lips.

“Hmm,” I say. “Well, I think you may have hurt her feelings,” I add.

“I doubt it,” he counters. “She’s brutal with her insults. So, I really don’t think it’s a big deal.”

“No?” I say. “Did you see the way she just leapt off the boat? She’s lucky she didn’t fall into the lake.” He sighs.

“Well, she’ll just have to get over it,” he says. “Not once has she ever apologized to me or my dates, even when Gail called her on it. I’m not apologizing to her. I meant what I said, and we’re going to ignore her for this trip, because there’s nowhere for us to hide on a boat.”

The inner me is shaking my head at him as he goes into the parlor where much of the family has gathered. I wait for a few minutes for Jason and Sophie to return with the supplies Gail sent them for. It’s not much and Jason didn’t really need any help, so I know that Sophie was making a getaway when she jumped off the boat. I secure the deck as they change their shoes and I catch Sophie right before she enters the parlor.

“Are you alright?” I ask.

“Sure,” she says, her voice unassuming.

“You just… left the boat pretty quickly. It’s obvious that Jason didn’t need any help,” I point out.

“Oh… yeah, well, I just wanted to get my phone and my notebook before we left,” she excuses.

“Okay,” I say. “So, it had nothing to do with what Marlow said.” She twists her lips uncomfortably.

“He’s just a bonehead boy trying to impress his bonehead girl,” she replies without making eye-contact with me. He did hurt her feelings.

“Is what he tells me true?” I ask. “Do you say rude things about his dates?”

“Yeah,” she admits quickly. “It was a phase I was going through—angry or something, I don’t know. It won’t happen again I’m over it.” She says the last part all in one breath.

“He says you never apologized…”

“That’s because he squealed on me!” she retorts, feverishly, finally raising her eyes to me. “I wasn’t going to apologize after he squealed on me!” I seem to remember something about that.

“Are you going to be okay?” I ask, genuinely concerned about her feelings. She moves her gaze from mine again and nods.

“I’m fine,” she says, none too convincingly. “They’re going to ignore me and I’m going to ignore them. Everything will be fine.” I twist my lips and nod. That’s no solution, but it’ll have to do for now.

“Okay. Go on inside. We’re getting ready to leave.” She nods and hugs her notebook to her body. I watch as she walks through the parlor, never looking left or right and going straight back to the dining area, probably to the kitchen.

I love my yacht. It’s really a superyacht, but a certain person who shall be unnamed refused to call it that, so I’ve begrudgingly shortened it to yacht. It’s a beautiful vessel—a water resort if you will. Twenty people can live on this yacht if need be—12 in staterooms and eight in the staff quarters. It’s a statement in mahogany, chrome, and glass. I’d never seen anything like it before and that’s what I wanted.

My boy stands at my feet and pretends to steer as I guide the Slayer away from the dock and into open water. It’s been a long time since I got my hands on that wheel and I miss it. I’m going to have to get into the practice of spending more time on my yacht.

“Getting to know her again?” Butterfly asks when I descend the stairs from the bridge. She takes Mikey’s hand and sends him into the dining area where the rest of the guests are.

“Yeah,” I say. “She’s really yar. I’m going to have to get you into that bridge one day, even if you just sit on the sofa and watch me work the wheel.”

“That sounds so hot,” she says, raising a brow at me.

“That was the intention,” I reply.

“You know, the last time we were on this boat, you got fucked,” she says suggestively.

“And here we are again,” I point out.

“You tryin’ to get lucky, Grey?” she says, closing the space between us and teasing the skin on my chest. She’s the first and only woman in the world able to make my scars an erogenous zone.

“Is that option on the table?” I say, looking down at my bite-size wife in this gorgeous flowing sundress and her bare feet and trying not to growl.

“It’s always on the table,” she purrs, and for a moment, I literally forget that we have several other people on the boat. I take a deep breath to get the beast in check and tame Greystone before he gets started.

“I’ll bring you up and let you watch me bring her back to berth. Then, once we’ve gotten everybody off the boat, I’m going to fuck you on the nearest surface.”

“Aye aye, Captain,” she whispers and my cock twitches. I inconspicuously rub the side of her breast before teasing the nipple with my thumb. It’s immediately taut against my finger, and she takes a deep breath and licks her lips. Yes, baby, if I’m going to be hot and bothered, so are you.

“Let’s get back to our guests,” I say, planting a soft, chaste kiss on her lips before I abandon her nipple.

*-*

It’s a beautiful day to sail and everyone appears to be having a good time. Ray nearly expired when he asked, “How much does something like this run you,” and I told him. Yes, it’s extravagant, but I love my boat.

I’m pleased to discover that nearly everyone has a passport and those who don’t have them yet are all on their way. I tell the current parties what information I can before we get to my parents’ house. We’re all snacking and having light drinks for the morning, preparing for lunch when we get there.

The ladies are all sunbathing or soaking in the Jacuzzi except for Marlow’s date, who chooses to stay by his side with the men while we chew the fat about whatever strikes our interest. While we’re sipping cocktails and talking sports or shop, Ms. Solomon brings a lovely platter of sweet and savory petit fours to the Skylounge. Ray immediately digs into the toasted baguettes. I’m not sure what’s on them, but I can see bacon and scallions.

“Mm, mm, mm,” Ray says. “How do you and my daughter stay so thin with a gourmet cook on staff? These are delightful.”

“Thank you, sir,” Ms. Solomon says, “but I didn’t prepare these.”

“Oh! Well, Gail,” Ray corrects as Marlow and Elise come over to partake in the spread along with Elliot, the human vacuum cleaner.

“Thank you,” Gail says, dropping some plates next to the tray and heading towards the deck with a second tray, “but it wasn’t me either.”

“Well, who was it,” Jason asks, “the petit four fairy?”

“In fact, it was,” Gail says, “and don’t let her hear you teasing her or you may not get any more truffles.” I sit up straight in my chair. If this goon fucks up my truffles…

“Sophie?” Jason asks almost incredulously. Gail nods as she clears the door and Marlow looks at the tray he’s been attacking like it just attacked him.

“Why are you so surprised?” I say to Jason. “Those damn truffles almost caused an international incident!”

“And that dinner,” Jason reminisces. “What was it? Coq au vin?”

“How could you forget?” I reply. “And those fluffy mashed potatoes? My wife and I ate the leftovers in bed that night with our fingers.”

“Your fingers?” Zac says and Jason laughs.

“Hey, don’t laugh at me! You were almost in a sugar coma the next day!” I defend.

“Wait, wait a minute,” Marlow interrupts. “We’re talking about Sophie? Sophia Taylor? Little blonde girl?”

“There’s only one Sophie that lives here,” I point out. “And you!” I say, turning back to Jason. “You almost missed Christmas cookies.”

“What do you mean?” he asks, bemused.

“You ate an entire batch of chocolate truffles to keep me from getting any,” I accuse. “You weren’t going to get a single Christmas cookie!”

“Her Highness makes enough of those cookies to feed a third-world country!” Jason retorts. “I’d like to see you try to keep me from getting some of those cookies.”

“Her Highness?” Ethan asks, while chewing on a macaroon. “Wow, these are good.”

“My daughter,” Ray says, still chomping on toasted baguettes. “I’m going to stop eating now before I don’t have any room left for those steaks!”

“You have to call her Her Highness?” Ethan asks. How does he not know this?

“It was a joke,” Al interjects, “and don’t say it to her face or she just may throw you off the boat—mid-sail!” I warn. Ethan chuckles.

“Thanks for the warning,” he says, and I’m certain that’s exactly what he intended to do. Crisis averted.

“Wait, I thought Sophie was up on deck sunbathing with the ladies,” Jason says.

“Nope,” Gail says, breezing through the Skylounge again, “she’s in her favorite place—the kitchen.”

“The kitchen is Sophie’s favorite place,” Marlow says, incredulously. It’s a statement, not a question.

“Yep,” Gail says as she descends the stairs to the main floor.

“So, wait,” James asks. “How—and why—did you plan to keep Christmas cookies from Jason over some truffles? It sounds like you may have averted that situation… may being the operative word.”

“Okay, so…”

I tell them the story of Sophie’s freshman French dinner, how everything was amazingly delicious and how my head of security and best friend was hogging all of the leftover chocolate truffles. I had planned to mooch some from him the next day, but he ate them all before he even went to sleep. As a result, I declared that he wouldn’t be able to partake in any of my wife’s divine Christmas cookies. My wife then enlisted Sophie to make me a batch of chocolate truffles every week so that I don’t have to kill my head of security.

“Wow,” Garett says, with mirth, “you two grown men are fighting over chocolate balls.”

“You haven’t had these chocolate balls,” Jason says. “If you had, you’d be fighting over them, too.”

“Speaking of which…” Gail ascends the stairs again with a large bowl of Sophie’s chocolate truffles. “Sophia says not to fight over them. There are plenty, but they have to stay refrigerated.”

As soon as she moves from the table, I take five of them and pop a sixth in my mouth.

“And you were talking about me,” Jason says, going over to the bowl.

“You heard your wife… there’s plenty,” I say with a mouthful of chocolate. Marlow’s date takes one and tastes it.

“Wow,” she says, the first thing I’ve heard her say since “It’s nice to meet you, sir.” She looks at Marlow, who begrudgingly takes one of the truffles. You can read the surprise on his face when he bites into it. Yeah, chocolate Nirvana, huh, kid?

“They’re alright,” he says, trying to blow it off.

“Well, you certainly don’t have to eat ‘em,” I say. “That leaves more for me.”

“Sophie’s truffles are down here?” my wife asks as she and six other bikini-clad women invade the Skylounge with Gail behind them.

“Why did you tell them?” Jason whines.

“Because I knew you wouldn’t,” she says. “Over there on the counter.”

“You’ve got to try these, ladies,” Butterfly says as she leads the charge to the chocolates.

“And stop whining,” Gail says, “I told you there are plenty.”

“Yeah, sure,” Jason laments.

“Oh, my God, these are great!”
“She made these?”
“Do you think she’ll give me the recipe?”

The women all descend the stairs headed to the kitchen.

“To accost my daughter for the secret recipe to the truffles,” Jason laments.

“Dear God, would you put on your big boy pants?” I say. “She had to get it from somewhere.”

“My daughter’s brilliant. She might have come up with it on her own,” Jason says, and Marlow coughs, drawing all the attention in the room to him. He coughs again.

“Sorry,” he says. “Choked on a truffle.”

I’ll just bet you did. He’s feeling some pretty thick animosity towards that little girl, it appears. I’ve never known Marlow to be unfairly biased or accusatory. Sophie did admit to ragging on his dates before now. Maybe it was worse than I thought. They’re just going to have to work that out on their own.

A short while later, we’re docking at my parents’ house and the rest of the family is boarding the yacht along with insane amounts of meat that Dad has been barbequing since dawn. The boat is definitely on full house as we shove off to sail the lake for the afternoon.

There’s food being served everywhere. Keri and Gail have taken all of the children down to the staff’s quarters to eat together in the common area while the rest of us spread out between the dining salon, the upper aft deck, and the Flybridge to eat our lunch—which is more like a huge dinner. Steaks and burgers and sausages and chicken and grilled salmon, various salads and sides… and Sophie made tarts for dessert—petit four sized and several varieties. I’m certain I’ve eaten enough food for four people.

Once everyone has had their fill of delicious vittles, Dad mans the bar on the Flybridge and we all grab a seat somewhere to talk about Elliot and Valerie’s wedding.

“I was able to get some information from your decorator, Aaron,” Mom says, “and the back patio and lawn facing the lake is absolutely perfect.” She gives Elliot and Valerie printed pictures of the back of our villa and Valerie’s mouth falls open.

“That’s beautiful,” she exclaims. “Look at the view. It’s stunning.”

“I’m so glad you approve,” Mom says. “I need a final head count. If I’m not mistaken, we’re at about 30 people?” It’s a question not a statement.

“Give or take one or two, I think you’re right,” Butterfly says.

“So, I’ll plan for 35 in case I miscounted.” She scribbles something in her little notebook. “I have some ideas for particulars, but I wanted to know what you two were thinking.” She looks to Elliot and Valerie. Elliot shrugs.

“Well,” Valerie chimes in. “I definitely have a particular idea. I hate to spring this on you ladies but Maxie? Ana? Mia? You’re all going to be brides’ matrons.”

“What?” Mia says in surprise. “We’re going to be the only guests at the wedding!”

“Yep, and I want wedding pictures. I didn’t get any before because I was sick. I didn’t expect a wedding because I thought…” she trails off and gets emotional. Elliot puts his arm around her and squeezes her hand. She takes a deep breath.

“I thought I would be very heavy with child and I’m not so I want wedding pictures,” she says all in one breath, her voice cracking. The room is quiet for a moment and Butterfly is the first to speak.

“Then, you’ll get wedding pictures,” she says. “Have you thought about colors… what you would like for us to wear?” She turns to Mom.

“I haven’t chosen any particular colors,” Mom says. “I was going to lean to your urging on that matter, although I did find the most darling arch with an array of colors in it that would go with anything you decide—all the colors of summer.” She hands Valerie another picture and Valerie examines it.

“What a wonderful idea,” she says, looking at the picture, then at Mom. “We’ll do rainbow.” Mom ponders it, then nods.

“Oh, that’s perfect,” Mom says. “I hadn’t even thought of that. It gives me a great idea for centerpieces.” She scribbles in her notebook again.

“I know just where you can get the dresses, ladies,” Valerie says. “The same place I got mine.”

“You already have your dress?” Mia asks. Valerie nods.

“I picked my dress out the day after we said we were having a wedding in Como. I wasn’t taking any chances.”

“Well, thanks, Marshall!” Butterfly complains. “That’s kind of like a rite of passage, you know.”

“Yes, I know, but desperate times call for desperate measures,” Valerie says, and it’s now that I realize that she and Butterfly both call each other by their maiden names.

“Christian,” Dad calls from the bar. “You’re out of Bombay Sapphire. Do you have any downstairs?”

“I’ll go check,” I say and I head down to the Skylounge. I retrieve an unopened bottle of Bombay from the liquor cabinet and move towards the aft deck again. The doors are open and I can hear talking on the deck.

“You said she didn’t know how to behave around company,” I hear Elise say. “Do they keep her in the kitchen for that reason?”

Where the hell are they hiding? I didn’t see them when I came down the stairs.

“No,” Marlow replies. “The Greys aren’t like that. Neither are the Taylors.”

“Yeah,” Elise says, “they seem like really nice people.”

“They are,” he says. I peek my head out and look around the deck. I finally locate them on the far end close to the back of the boat. I wonder if they’re trying to hide. If so, they didn’t pick a good spot.

“So, you’re going to Italy this summer. You didn’t tell me,” she accuses.

“I didn’t want you to get jealous,” he replies mirthfully, putting his hands on her waist.

“Now, why would I be jealous, Mr. Johnson?” she replies. “You’re not my boyfriend. Besides, you’re only going to Europe for a week. I’ll be studying there next term.”

“Rub it in,” he says, before he kisses her.

“’Scuse me, Uncle Christian,” Sophie says, and she’s standing behind me with a tray, most likely to take to the Flybridge… until she looks out onto the deck and sees Marlow and Elise. Her shoulders fall and she turns around to go back the direction that she came. She’s still hurting from what he said about her earlier.

“I’ll take it,” I tell her. She smiles a tight smile.

“Thanks, Uncle Christian,” she says and hands me the tray before she heads back down to the kitchen. I thought she was helping with the kids and eating dinner. I turn around and clear my throat before I step out onto the deck. Marlow and Elise jump when they see me.

“You do know that’s glass, right?” I say, gesturing my head to the door I just exited. Marlow purses his lips guiltily.

“And it’s open?” I add. I wink at him to let him know that he’s not in any trouble, but he should probably take his making out somewhere more private.


ANASTASIA

Okay, I’ll admit it.

I thought sure that Grace was going to have a “Mia-pink-flamingo-pixies-flying-over-the-water” moment with Val’s wedding, especially a destination wedding at an Italian villa in Lake Como, but I was wrong. Grace put together some really spectacular ideas—modest, yet elegant—without even personally seeing the venue. She presented suggestions, very good ones in fact; she sought input; she offered different options for Elliot and Valerie to choose from. She did better in terms of cooperation and conservatism than she did with either of her prior children.

And Val’s one request of me… how could I refuse? I didn’t know she was still so raw from losing her baby. I don’t remember the due date, but I would imagine that right about now, they would be preparing for the baby to be here. They made the announcement at Thanksgiving and it’s May. She would probably be about to pop somewhere within the next month or so. I won’t ask her when the due date was. I’ll just be there if she needs me.

After lunch has settled, we all take a much-needed dip in the lake. The party moves to the parlor and the main aft where we can lounge and swim easily from the deck, and   Marlow’s date Elise finally comes to join the women. I can only imagine what he must have said to her to make her plaster herself to his side all this time. I didn’t think she was anti-social. I just thought, and probably correctly so, that she was afraid.

It turns out that she’s a trust fund kid from here in Mercer, but she doesn’t have that high-nosed, over-affluent attitude. She’s very well-spoken and cultured, and she’ll be graduating with Marlow in a couple of weeks, after which she’ll be headed off to Cambridge. I must admit, I’m impressed with this one.

That makes me wonder how Sophie’s making out today.

I haven’t seen her since we boarded, but the boat is huge and we’re all spread out. I can’t imagine what she could have thought to say badly about this one. She’s pretty, smart, and the picture of manners and decorum… and Sophie did say that her days of insulting Marlow’s dates had ended. I guess that remains to be seen.

“Mandy, I have an idea and I need to run it by you,” I say while we’re lounging on the deck.

“Okay, what’s up?” she asks,  

“Did you have any specific plans for Daddy for Father’s Day?”

“I got some gifts and I’ll cook dinner, but nothing huge. Did you have something in mind?” she presses.

“Yeah, I did,” I begin. “I’m having professional pictures taken of the twins to present to Christian. I was wondering what you thought of having pictures of me and Harry taken for Daddy.” She gasps.

“Oh, Ana, that’s a wonderful idea!” she says quietly. “I’m sure Ray would cherish that for the rest of his life.” I smile widely.

“Excellent,” I reply, pleased that she agrees. “Our photographer will be setting up here on Wednesday. If that’s too short notice, I can make it another day.”

“Oh, no, Wednesday’s fine. What should he wear? Should I buy him a new outfit?” She’s now positively giddy. 

“Only if you want to,” I laugh. “He doesn’t need to dress up. I think comfortable, casual, Just Harry will be perfect…”

We make a date to meet at the Crossing for lunch to do the photos, and I head to the shower in the master bath to wash my hair and bathing suit. When I’m done, I realize that I’ve packed a change of underwear in my little bag, but no bra.

This is not good.

My boobs are perky and although going braless wouldn’t be the end of the world, it’s just not something that I generally practice. I don’t have to worry about the leakage issue anymore since I’m no longer breastfeeding, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Maybe nobody will notice…

Wrong!

My husband zeroes in on me the moment I come out of the master bedroom, and although no one else can see it, he’s salivating! I can see him swallow the moisture in his mouth from clean across the room.

He makes a B-line over to me and takes my hand, seating me next to him at the dining table with Mia and Ethan and Val and Elliot, like the conversation they’re having requires our immediate attention. I fold my hands on the table and try to pay attention to whatever this riveting conversation is that draws us to the conference, only to discover that my husband only wanted to sit at the table to play “Tickle Me Elmo” with my inner thigh.

At first, it’s tolerable. It’s just a gentle caress. But then, he starts to move his fingertips across the skin, this barely-brushing motion that’s causing chills to creep down… and up… my leg. I try to adjust myself, clear my throat to get my bearings, but it’s no use. He continues what should be a harmless caress on the sensitive skin of my inner thigh, but it’s not harmless, and he knows it.

“Well, you can actually live like a king in Bali for a little bit of nothing,” Mia says. “The exchange rate of the rupiah to the dollar is insane!”

Bali… think Bali… what do you know about Bali?

“We live like kings wherever we go, Mia,” Christian chimes in like he’s not strumming a fucking melody on my skin. “No offense, but…” He gestures a shrug with his free hand. “That’s the kind of money we have.”

And this feeling is now actively creeping up my thigh and hitting its intended mark.

My clit starts to burn—not a forest fire, just a little spark… but Jesus, what a spark!

No matter how I try to concentrate on other things—big, hairy, disgusting men… changing dirty diapers… anything—I can’t distract myself from the incessant tickling on my inner thigh. I can’t move or squirm to alleviate it, and even though I try to will myself to close my legs it just ain’t happening. A few more moments later, the nicest little burst hits my click and causes a shiver to run through me that I must camouflage with a cough and a clearing of my throat and I hold my head down, cover my face, and try to catch my breath.

“Ana, are you okay?” Mia asks concerned.

“Yes,” I breathe. “Yes… yes, I’m fine. I just… suddenly got a little hot. Maybe a bit too much to drink. I’m going to go on over to the bathroom and… splash a little water on my face.”

“You want me to come with you?” she asks.

“No!” For God’s sake, no! “No, I’m fine, really. I’ll be right back.”

I quickly make my getaway and close myself into the nearest head. Good Lord, that man is just… sex personified! He got nowhere near my clit and I nearly burst into flames in front of four other people. How embarrassing!

I splash some water on my face and pull myself together before I open the door to see Christian leaning on the wall across from the bathroom.

“Feeling better?” he says with a knowing smirk. I shake my head at him.

“You are so wrong,” I say.

“And yet, you love me,” he says, playfully wagging one eyebrow. I move to pass him and go back to the dining room.

“Hey,” he says, catching me before I get past him.

“What’s this thing with Sophia and Marlow?” he asks. I can’t hide my reaction, so I just frown really hard.

“What thing?” I ask, trying not to let on that I know anything.

“It’s like a feud or something,” he says. “He saw her come out onto the deck to ask Jason to get something for Gail before we shoved off. He told his date to ignore her because she doesn’t know how to behave around company.”

Ouch! Oh, dear God, he did that again? The agony…

“Did Sophie hear that?” I ask.

“I’m afraid she did,” he says. “I don’t know who else heard it, but I did. It really hurt her feelings.” I roll my eyes. Dear God, this is getting worse. “Didn’t you say there was some argument at Christmas or something?”

“The twins birthday party,” I say. “I can’t remember what she said, but Marlow told Gail, and I think Sophie would have rather jumped off a cliff than to apologize.”

“Well, they should be even now,” he says, “because after he said that, I’m sure she’d hitch a ride on a shark’s back to get off this boat right now.” I grimace.

“That bad?” I ask. Of course, it’s that bad. Christian scoffs.

“You didn’t find it strange that I was bringing you refreshments earlier?” he says, folding his arms.

“Yeah, we noted it,” I say.

“There’s only one stairwell up to that deck,” he says, “and Marlow and his date had it blocked. Wild dogs couldn’t have dragged her out there, so you almost didn’t get them. She would have thrown that tray into the Pacific before she stepped out onto that deck, so I took the tray instead.”

“That explains a lot,” I reply. He raises a brow at me.  

“What do you mean?”

“When we’re at home and we have a get-together like this, I usually see Sophie at least once. Unfortunately, I’m the one who usually catches the smarmy remarks to the girlfriends,” I reply.

“Well, that explains it,” he remarks.

“Okay, now, what do you mean?”

“Those divine chocolate truffles, he would chew glass before he admits how good they were. I almost got offended that he was disparaging my truffles!”

I chuckle about him wanting to defend the honor of the truffles, but immediately sober about the escalating situation between Marlow and Sophie. We’ve got one of them jumping off a proverbial cliff, hitching a ride on a shark, avoiding wild dogs, and throwing hors d’oeuvres into the ocean before she chances an encounter with him while the other is chewing glass to avoid saying something nice.

“Dear God, I hope this blows over soon,” I say. Christian shrugs.

“It’s just plain old sibling rivalry,” he says. “I know they’re not actually siblings, but he’s the closest thing to a brother she’ll after have.”

No, my love, I’m afraid it’s much more than that.

Almost on cue, when we walk into the parlor, Jason asks where Sophie is.

“I’ve seen every other kid on this boat at least three times today,” he says. “I’m not sure I saw Sophie once… at least not since we shoved off.”

That’s because she’s in hiding.

“Settle down, killer,” Gail soothes. “She’s probably somewhere with her face in that notebook.”

“What notebook?” he asks.

“Try to keep up, dear. She’s walking around with one all the time. Last week, it was purple with peace signs. This week, it’s yellow with doodles,” Gail informs him.

“Oh, boy,” Jason says taking out his phone. “Do I even want to know what type of teenage ramblings are going on in those?”

“Probably not,” Marlow scoffs from across the room. Yeah, probably not.

“Sophie, where are you?” Jason says into his phone. “Well, come on up. You’re missing all the fun… Okay, love you, Baby Boo.” He ends the call. “She’ll be up in a minute.”

I could hear Marlow rolling his eyes.

As it turns out, he had nothing to be concerned about, because Sophie never came up until it was time to disembark and Jason never thought to call her again. Even then, she walked right past Marlow without a word.

“Thank you, for having me, Mr. and Mrs. Grey,” Elise says, shaking my hand as she leaves. “I had a really nice time, and this is a fantastic yacht.”

Well, she just earned a brownie point with Christian by calling it a yacht instead of a boat.

“It was a pleasure,” I say with a smile. “I’m glad you enjoyed yourself.”

Marlow says his goodbyes and we watch as they walk down the passarelle and begin the trek across the back lawn.

“I think this has been the best one,” Christian says, “that I paid attention to, anyway. The only one I really noticed was the last one he brought here.”

“How could you not notice her?” I ask. “I guess that talk you had must’ve sunk in… at least a little bit.”

“Here’s hoping,” he says, “because if he ever brings another ‘junior-skank-in-training’ into this house…”

He trails off as people begin to file off the boat and we’re wishing them goodnight. Between greetings, he keeps inconspicuously rubbing, pinching, and caressing my nipples to notify me that he knows I’m not wearing a bra. This fucker is starting a fire again, and people keep wanting to strike up a quick conversation on the way off the deck. It seems like it’s taking forever to get everybody off this fucking boat.

Chuck and Keri are the last to go, helping Ms. Solomon with some of the utensils and such from the kitchen. The moment their feet hit solid ground, Christian grabs my hand and drags me back to the parlor. I’m flung unceremoniously onto the sofa the minute we clear the sliding doors. I gasp from the surprise and he doesn’t waste time. He drops to his knees and digs right under my dress. Locating his goal, he grabs my underwear with both hands and effortlessly rips them from my body. He tosses them… wherever, grabs both legs and quickly snatches me to the edge of the sofa. I have to move quickly to keep from hitting my head on the hard trim.

Before I have a moment to complain, his face is buried deep between my thighs and he’s on a mission. Good Lord, is he on a mission! His tongue is pressing hard against my clit, digging deep for an orgasm that’s been riding the surface since just after the first one at the dining table and intensifying each time he copped a feel.

The burn is fast, and that’s what he wants. He’s sucking just hard enough the bring that orgasm down and I’m clawing at the sofa as his efforts are bringing me closer and closer to his intended result. Suddenly, the sound of the sliding doors interrupts my ascent and I’m horrified to see Ethan standing there somewhat stunned.

Christian stops his feasting and lifts his head to see who the fuck dares to interrupt us right now.

“I… forgot… um… never mind, I’ll get it tomorrow,” he says and turns around.

“Yeah, you do that,” Christian says, and before Ethan could even clear the deck, he’s back in my pussy again. I grind against his face, my hand grasping his hair, chasing that orgasm that waned when Ethan came to the door.

“Hah… gah…!” I pant as I feel it creeping into my hips again. He groans into my core, locking my hips with his arms and hands while giving my pussy a deep and titillating massage.

“Oh… God…” I breathe, squirming towards the burn and away from it at the same time as my husband hungrily devours my clit, leaving no part of my pussy neglected. My ass isn’t even on the sofa as I grind up into his face, holding a handful of hair for leverage.

“Ye… yes… don’t stop… don’t stop…” I beg as that familiar clenching grasps my pelvis. Dear, God, it’s going to kill me. It’s been burning all day ever since he teased my fucking nipple at the bottom of the stairs, and that orgasm at the dinner table only made it worse.

“Ah… ah…”

“Mmmmmmmmmm,” he hums into my crotch and sends shivers up my back along with the burning that’s flaming in my clit. His hands stealthily move up to my breasts, cupping them firmly as he thumbs my nipples, bringing them to that same tautness he found while teasing me earlier.

I’m nearly crying as the resulting orgasm ravages my body from tit to clit, causing me to rise from the sofa with my thighs firmly clamped around my husband’s cheeks. He rises to the challenge and clamps firmly down on my clit, suckling every bit of juice and pleasure that he can draw out of me. I groan helplessly as I clench the back of the sofa behind me, my body quaking through a powerful climax.

I’m sure that my body hasn’t stopped pulsing when he rises up to me and shoves his tongue in my mouth. My flavor on his lips is so hot and my pussy is still thumping. I wrap one arm around his neck to find that he has freed his cock, and he quickly and roughly thrusts it into me. I gasp in his mouth and he groans a primal sound before he begins to pump feverishly into me, never removing his lips from mine. He tears at my dress, ripping it open to gain access to my neck, and when he does…

“Ah!”

He’s pounding into me—hard, deep, and merciless—as his mouth moves to my neck. I feel his teeth against my skin… in my skin, I don’t know… and the suction and grunting as he marks me. God… it’s heady…

“W… wait…”

He’s in another world somewhere, painfully sucking my skin and bringing the blood to the surface, grunting primally with each deep thrust…

“Christian…”

He releases his spot, but quickly latches onto the other side, sucking but also lathing with his tongue as he does. I close my eyes and surrender. He’s lost to the passion, to the animal urge, and I have to go with him, let him ride it out…

He grabs my ass with one hand, securing me against him, and the back of the sofa with the other. I hold onto his shoulders as he drives deep into me, the impact and eroticism making me fucking dizzy. He’s primitive right now—animalistic—instinctively and unyieldingly hungry… and I made him this way. It’s… empowering… to know that I can do this to him.

I do my best to meet his thrusts, but he’s in total control of the movement, driving into me and only releasing my skin to yell…

“Fuuuuuuuuuuccccckkkkk!”

I feel him thumping inside of me, coming hard and long and grunting with each pulse. I can only imagine how it must feel, and it’s turning me on again.

Dear, God, that was the hottest thing ever… and I didn’t even come!

My husband stays there for a moment, somewhat draped over me on the sofa, catching his breath. It doesn’t take long.

He gathers me into his arms and, with my arms and legs wrapped around him and his cock still inside me, he carries me to the dining room and sits me on the table. He’s out of his clothes in nanoseconds and moments later, he’s on his knees on the table above me, breathing like a bear and staring hungrily down at me. He grabs both sides of my dress and rips it open, buttons flying everywhere.

Damn, I kinda liked that dress…

He dives right into my boobs, taking hungry mouthfuls as he positions himself on top of me. He pushes my legs apart with his hips and thrusts into me again.

“Aah!” I gasp. Fuck, he just came! How is he still so fucking hard?

He entwines his fingers with mine and begins to grind hard into me, grunting with each stroke and moving with masterful force and precision. Fucking hell, this is intense. He’s that upward stroke and grind, deep with an awesome amount of friction and pressure right against my clit.

Oh, yes! Oh, fuck, yes!

Over and over, he punishes my pussy with this deep and intense stroke. And when he feels like he’s not getting deep enough, he lifts his leg to get more leverage, causing my legs to open wider and drape over his. He releases my hands and grasps the edge of the table over my head—even more leverage—and his hips pivot masterfully back and forth, up into me, thrusting hard and deep and reaching those places that only he ever could.

I reach down, grab his muscular ass, and squeeze. It spurns him on and he thrusts harder and deeper, as if he could. Feeling his glutes flex and release with each thrust and his cock burning against the inside and outside of my core—the combination is too much. I push my head back, open my mouth, and whimper.

Here it comes…

And then, he stops.

“Noooo,” I whine, but he ignores me. He’s breathing like a marathon runner, still inside me. I’m aching to come, so I try to move my hips to get that needed friction to push me over, but he presses his pelvis hard against me preventing me from moving. He’s calming himself before he comes, but I fucking want to come!

He withdraws from me and climbs off me and off the table, his cock rock hard and angrily standing at attention. I begin to protest, but he gathers me in his arms and wraps me around his body. While walking towards the front of the boat, he masterfully drops me back down onto his shaft.

“Fuck!” I scream in surprise. I assume he’s taking me to the bedroom. I assume incorrectly.

He turns to the curving stairs and halfway through his ascension, he drops and starts to fuck me right there on the stairs… and well!

How he does this I have no idea. The stairs curve and I’m like bent sideways with my ass on one of the stairs facing the banister and holding on with both hands. He’s got one of my legs over his shoulder and one wrapped around his leg some kind of way. He’s on his knees and he’s pounding into me hard and fast.

I’m not accustomed to a hard, fast fuck. It’s always either a slow, deep grind or a medium rhythm with a deep thrust, but the way he has me open right now…

Ho-ly cow!

“Fuck this shit is good!” he grunts, his hips pivoting faster than I ever think I’ve felt. I’m just getting into the rhythm when he stills, and I lament that he may be coming again.

He’s not, but he was apparently pretty fucking close.

He gathers me up again and continues his ascent up the stairs. Holding me up with two handfuls of ass, he hooks a left and carries me to his bridge, depositing me onto the table in front of the settee.

“Lay back!” he growls. I do as I’m told and lie back on the table. He lifts my leg, opening me wide and enters me again. I almost pick up right where I left off.

“Shit!” he hisses, pumping fast into me again and gripping my breast with his free hand. He’s rough and primal and it’s turning me on so much that I can hardly think. This table is smaller than the dining table so I reach out and grab both sides and hold on for dear life.

Just in time, too.

I end up releasing the table and covering my face, nearly clawing at my hair with the intensity of the orgasm that follows. My entire body clinches as I whimper and I feel myself shrinking.

“Aaaww, fuuuuck!” I hear my husband exclaim as he grabs both legs, holds them together straight up against his body and nearly drags me off the table, thrusting into a pussy that is no doubt pulsing and clenching as bad as my body is.

“Oooooohhh,” he laments as my core grabs him and pulls him in and I’m still thunderstruck from this orgasm. I’m still pulsing and I can feel him thickening inside me when he stops moving.

“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” he’s hissing with each breath as I descend, still holding my legs together and against him with both arms. When my vision clears and my pussy stops pulsing, I look up at him. His head is back and he’s breathing deeply…

And counting… he’s counting… he still didn’t come!

Well, that will never fucking do.

He releases me and falls into his Captain’s chair, his eyes closed, his dick hard, still counting and trying to control himself. What the fuck, man?

I climb off the table and crouch down in front of him. He raises his head and opens his eyes. I gently lick the head and tease the frenulum with my tongue and he stiffens in the chair.

“Ana…”

I wrap my hands around his cock and take the head into my mouth, sucking firmly but gently.

“Fuck,” he hisses softly. “Baby… don’t…”

I pretend not to hear him. His cock is angry and thick and veiny and he is moments from blowing. Why the fuck doesn’t he want to come?

I clamp down onto his cock and get to work, tightening my mouth over the head and bobbing up and down, stimulating the hot, tight skin of the shaft. He grips the armrests of the chair and hiss deeply as I fuck him with my mouth.

“Baby, don’t make me come!” he commands. I ignore him. My total purpose is to make him blow like a rocket in this chair so that he thinks of me every time he takes the helm of his vessel. Fuck the fact that we christened the bridge, I’m christening this damn chair.

Baby…. Ssss, fuck, stop…” he hisses as I continue to bob on his cock, squeezing and jerking the base of his shaft. I look up into his face. His eyes are clouded; his teeth are gritting. His face is grimaced in an erotic mask and his abs are flexing wildly. He grabs my hair and thrusts, throwing his head back and forgetting himself for a moment. Then, he glares back at me, passionate fire in his steel gray eyes.

“Ana!” he whispers harshly. “Stop!”

It’s a command… and I still ignore it. Seeing my purpose, he tightens his hand in my hair and attempts to pause my assault. That only spurns me on. I bob harder, faster, using both hands to manipulate his shaft. He growls in his chest with each breath and even though he’s clamping painfully onto my hair, he couldn’t stop me right now if he wanted to. I see that orgasm in his eyes… and I want it!

With one final, gut-wrenching growl, he starts to come. When I taste it in my mouth, I release his cock and madly manipulate his frenulum with my tongue. He’s glaring at me—aroused, angry, shooting his load to the moon. He’s gripping the chair with one hand and my hair with the other as impressive streams of cum shoot from the head of his dick and paint his chest and torso. His dick is still throbbing, his cum-covered chest rising and falling violently with his breath as I gently lick his cock, head, and frenulum post orgasm. But when he catches his breath…

I yelp as he snatches my head back by my hair and glares at me.

“I fucking told you to stop!” he hisses

“I’m… sorry… Sir…” I pant, frightened… and immeasurably aroused at the same time.

“Oh, you’re going to be,” he threatens. He stands from the chair, releases my hair, and grabs me by the forearm.

“In the bedroom… now!” he commands, shoving me towards the door. I scurry into the captain’s quarters and onto the bed. He moves to the edge of the bed and now, he’s standing over me. I really can’t tell if he’s aroused or angry. He’s not flaccid, but he’s not standing at attention. He falls down, mouth at my pussy again, and puts his arms under my thighs.

“Give me your hands,” he commands. When I do, he grabs them firmly, immobilizing me and begins the most merciless flicking assault with his tongue that I can ever remember.

“Shit! Oh, shit!” I exclaim, trying in vain to squirm away from him. I’m trying to kick and do anything to get away from him, but it’s not working. He holds my lips open with his lips and continues to relentlessly flick my clit, nothing else. He just keeps going and going and going and I’m dying here. After a few minutes I know I’m going to come, but then he stops and says those two words that I dread right now.

“Don’t come.”

Oh, he’s got to be kidding! I raise my head and look down at him like he’s lost his ever-loving mind, but he doesn’t care. Seconds later, he’s right back at it again, open-mouthed flicking my clit with no obstructions. The burn never stopped and it’s even more intense when he started again.

“Christian, I can’t…” I plead, but he doesn’t stop. He’s intent on his task and he’s not even looking at me. He stops for a moment and blows on my clit, the cool air soothing and arousing at the same time. When he sets back to his task, the burn is once again more intense than before.

I know what he’s doing. He’s going to drive me out of my fucking mind.

“Christian, please,” I beg. I won’t be able to stop this. With each stop and go, it returns even more intense and he’s ignoring my pleas, and it finally hits…

I shriek out a fiery orgasm that has been building and building from the inside out even though he wasn’t inside me. He maintains that flick, intensifying it only slightly to wring that orgasm from me. My body is a trembling, useless ball of mush when he crawls on top of me and impales me with a steel-hard dick. I’m too weak to even protest.

You’re so disobedient,” he hisses. “I said don’t come. So, since I can’t have it one way, I’ll have it the other!”

He pins my hands down at the wrists and grinds, deep, hard against my clit. He pulls my nipple into his mouth and sucks hard, then bites it. The pain is surprising and the sensations are a bit overwhelming. I’m tender and tired, and I can’t resist. For a few minutes, I just lay there, trying to recover from the last orgasm, but he doesn’t stop—biting and nipping and grinding and thrusting, and even though my body is tired, my pussy has other plans.

“Nooo,” I whine, but he continues, manipulating all the right places, just the right way. I’m rising fast—he’s pushing all the right buttons and a few minutes later, I’m pulsing around him.

“Yes, that’s it,” he croons victoriously. “give it to me. Give it all to me.”

When the orgasm wanes, he flips me over lying flat on my stomach. He climbs atop me again and straddles me, his dick easily breaching my core and going deep, hitting all my inner walls with my legs closed.

“Aaaaaahhh,” I whine as he puts both hands on my shoulders and uses them for leverage. “Yeessss…!”

“Christian…” I whine. He’s going to make me pay. I made him come when he said don’t and now, he’s on his second or third wind and I’ve got to deal with it. And this position usually makes me come pretty quickly. I still tender from the last two orgasms, so it takes a little longer, but it doesn’t fail. A few minutes into the rhythm, my tender pussy is burning again with another forced orgasm.

Once my trembling stops, he’s up on his knees bringing me with him. He effortlessly sits me on his lap and impales me from behind again, holding my face and neck so that my head falls back onto his shoulder, his free hand wandering down to my clit as he fucks me. His breathing in my ear turns me on and I’m completely fucking useless.

“I know your body,” he threatens. “I know how to break you down. How many times do you think I can make this happen? Three? Five? Ten?”

“Please…” I pant.

“Please what, Anastasia?”

Yeah, please what? He told you not to make him come and you did. What do you expect?

Resigned to my fate, I relax my body and let him have it.

“That’s what I thought,” he says, turning my head to his and plunging his tongue into my mouth.

We go at it for hours, and I’ve come so many times, I’ve lost count. Each time I think I can’t take anymore, he brings me right back up—a different stroke, a changed position, a firm bite or a soft nibble, a lick, a pinch—repeatedly until I can’t think straight anymore. Even though he hasn’t said so, the Dom is in full effect and total control.

I try to tell him that I’m tired, but he doesn’t hear me. He just strums those guitar strings again and I’m alive once more. He has me on top of him and he’s fucking me from behind, a handful of tit in one hand and a wet clit in the other. I’m rising quickly to my 99th orgasm—who knows—as he pumps slow and deep into me when he makes an announcement. 

“I want that ass,” he growls as he fucks me. “Can I have it? Can I have that ass?”

“Yes!” I breathe.

“Can I?” He grunts, still thrusting into me. “Can I have if?”

“Yes!” I nearly wail. “Yes, you can have it!”

“Tell me!” he demands, pumping into me and bringing me closer.

“Take it!” I wail. “Take my ass, Sir, please!” Hurry, before I come.

I didn’t know I had slipped into soumise, but he seizes the moment with yet another predatorial growl. On his next withdrawal, he pulls out of me and guides his incredibly hard cock to my rosette. It resists his entry.

Come on, I beg my body, please let him in.

I’m panting like a racehorse and I do my best to relax my muscles to grant him entry. I gasp at the sting when his head breeches the opening. It hurts a bit, but I breathe through it.

“Yes,” he growls, “that’s it…”

My body responds to his voice and to the invasion in my ass. It’s a pain that I like, a pain that turns into pleasure. And as he pushes deeper and deeper into me, slowly inserting another inch and then another into that forbidden place, that pain intensifies and slowly begins to transform into pleasure.

“Oh, God!” I gasp quickly.

“Yes!” he hisses as he pushes deeper into me, then withdraws a bit and goes deeper still. “Fuck, yes!”

He repeats the process, a little more… and a little more… until he’s all the way in my ass, balls deep. I have to control my breathing as he just stays there, buried deep in my ass. It feels glorious.

He begins to move—slowly, pulling out of my ass halfway and then thrusting slowly back in. I almost can’t take it. He groans again with each thrust and my body sings, bending to his will, wanting him to go on and on and on…

And he does.

Once my body succumbs completely to him, he squeezes my breast and moves his hand from my clit to my core, inserting three fingers to fuck me while his palm manipulates my clit… and he deliciously and slowly fucks my ass.

It’s sensation overload. He’s all over me and I’m completely blinded by the pleasure. When I come this time, it will be over.

His hand crosses my body to my other breast and he adjusts his other hand somehow in and on my core. His thrust intensifies and then quickens. I feel him thickening in my ass and even though he’s not pulling out as far as he was before, I can still feel the thrust… and the thickness. His thrusting motions are now guiding my body against his hand—in my pussy and on my clit—and while he’s fucking my ass, his motions are making my body fuck his hand.

I nearly collapse against him as I realize I have absolutely no control.

“That’s it,” he coaxes, his voice primal as he fucks me everywhere, “that’s it…”

The sensation is rising painfully slowly, like an object coming at you in slow motion. You know it’s going to hit you, but you can’t stop it. It starts in my feet and my breast, a little tickle that teases me to let me know what’s coming. It moves up and down simultaneously, and my husband continues to voice his approval. He knows it’s coming. He knows it’s going to rip me to shreds… and he likes it.

It’s still taking its time, but knowing that it’s coming, my husband won’t stop and he won’t change his stroke. My body is already frozen, from exhaustion and from the pre-orgasmic pleasure I’m feeling right now.

“Yes… yes…” he continues, and I don’t know if he’s talking about what he’s feeling, or what he knows I’m feeling. It doesn’t matter… it’ll be over soon.

“I wish I could see you,” he laments, never losing his stroke. “I wish I could see your eyes… I know they’re beautiful… so beautiful…”

Now, how can he say the sweetest, most romantic things when he’s been tormenting me all night?

He continues that thrust in my ass that causes that crazy intense anal orgasm and he’s pulling one through my clit, too, and once the feeling from clit, ass, and tits all converge…

“Oh, Goooooooooooooddd!” I scream as the most intense orgasm of the night rips through my body.

“Fuuuuuuucck, yeeeeeeesssss!” I hear him yell through my screams. I can’t stop. The burn is painful—everywhere. All of my muscles… nothing, I have control of nothing. My throat hurts, my ears are popping, my body is begging for rest and relief. I’m done.

Dazzling colors paint the backs of my eyelids and my body is vibrating with sensation. I’m weeping… truly weeping with every breath and I don’t know what to do with myself.

When I come down and truly realize where we are, I feel him breathing and grasping my body. I still hear my weeping, and I feel my body drenched and helpless against his. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t. I’ll beg if I have to.

“W… whistles,” I weep. “W… whistles… please… no more… please…” he has to stop. My body can’t do anymore.

“Ssssssshhhh,” he soothes, still holding me, planting gentle kisses on my face as I cry.


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

Pictures related to the progress of the Italian Villa can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/italy/italian-villa/

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Episode 33—Planning to Go Abroad

I’m sorry I’ve been MIA. Lots of changes requiring my attention these days and the Muse took a bit of a beating. Let’s get the story rolling again, shall we?

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

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

Season 5 Episode 33—Planning to Go Abroad

Anastasia

My husband and I can’t keep our hands off each other on Saturday afternoon and it’s quite obvious. We’re not mauling each other to death or having inappropriate PDA’s since we have a yard full of people, but we are very touchy-feely, sitting close to each other and stealing little kisses as often as possible.

Why do we have a house full of people?

It’s a partly-sunny spring day topping off around the mid-60’s, and we’ve decided to have a family barbeque for Christian’s 32nd birthday. It’s late April and we feel that it’s high time to make an announcement to the family.

“So, as some of you know, I purchased a villa in Italy for my wife a couple of years ago and we have yet to visit it. We planned on going last year, but circumstances made that impossible. With everything that has happened and all the drama in our lives, we have decided that we’re going to take a second honeymoon trip to Italy this year.”

“Oh, how romantic!” Grace exclaims. “You’ve always loved Rome. Now, you get to show Ana it’s beauty and history.”

“I’m very excited to go,” I tell her. “Italy is one of the places that I’ve always wanted to see.”

“I’m telling you all this because we plan on leaving in early June and we’ll be gone for no less than six weeks. We plan to end the trip on Lake Como at the villa, and we want to invite our family to join us,” Christian says. The patio is silent now as everyone looks at everyone else.

“Seriously?” Mia is the first to speak. “Lake Como? That’s where your villa is?”

“Yes,” Christian replies, “Sala Comacina, to be exact.”

“Excellent!” Mia exclaims. “When do we leave?” Christian chuckles.

“We plan to be there no later than the 5th of July and we’ll be staying until the 18th,” he replies. Mia looks at Ethan.

“Can we go?” she asks.

“As if I would ever say ‘no’ to you,” Ethan says, kissing Mia’s nose. I can’t help but wonder if he accommodates Mia a bit too much. Hey, what can I say about it? I’m married to a billionaire.

Jason is busy turning the meat on the outside barbeque while Gail and Ms. Solomon complete the side dishes and Sophie helps by preparing the homemade coleslaw and several hors d’oeuvres.

“So, I don’t mean to put you on the spot, Bro,” Christian says, “but the villa is on a really beautiful piece of land on the lake. You and Valerie had a very touching ceremony here, but Lake Como would be the perfect place to renew your vows and take some scenic pictures.” Elliot makes a face like he’s pondering the idea.

“What do you think, Angel?” he asks Val, and her eyes light up.

“A wedding on Lake Como are you kidding?” she asks all in one breath. “Do you really have to ask?” Elliot laughs.

“I guess that’s a yes,” he says. “I don’t know anything about putting together a wedding, though.”

“Oh, please, let me,” Grace beseeches, “I promise I won’t go overboard, and I won’t do anything that you guys don’t want. Please?”

I know Elliot won’t be able to say no, so he volleys that ball over into Val’s court.

“Yes,” Val says with a smile. “I would love that.” Grace claps her hands happily.

“Good! How many people are we expecting? Just the family?” Grace asks.

“I would say yes. Just the usual people we’re accustomed to seeing, unless the happy couple wants something bigger.”

“No, no,” Val chimes in. “The usual is just fine by me.”

“Quaint and elegant,” Grace says. “Excellent! I’ll put together some ideas and touch bases with you later in the week. Is that okay, Valerie?”

“Yes, that’s fine,” Val replies, then looks over at me. “I’m excited already!” she adds with a giggle.

“These are really good. What are they?” Mandy says.

“I’m not sure,” I reply, tasting the crostino that Mandy is eating. “I can taste olives and mushrooms in the spread, but I can’t place everything else.”

“And who thought to put a smoked salmon salad on top of cucumber slices?” Val says. “This is really delicious.”

“Thank you,” Sophie says as she comes out to the patio with more hors d’oeuvres. “That’s actually trout and capers, Aunt Val,” she says as she places another tray of hors d’oeuvres on the table in front of us. “And the bruschetta has two different toppings—one mushroom with garlic and the other olives with herbs. They might have mixed a bit in the blender. I have to be more careful next time.” She looks slightly disappointed.

You made these?” Val says, eating the entire cucumber slice. “Thith ith deliciouth!” Sophie smiles.

“What’s this one, Sophie?” I ask, taking one of the small delights she just set on the table.

“This is an easy one. This is kind of a cheat. This is crab and avocado toast. It’s seasoned with a little cayenne pepper, chopped mint and lime juice on thin, toasted white bread rings.”

“Easy?” Mandy says after finishing her hors d’oeuvre. “I bet you I could mess it up. These are great, Sophie.”

“Thank you,” Sophie says as she heads back to the house.

“How old is she again?” Mandy asks.

“She’s about to be 14,” I reply.

“Does she always help out in the kitchen?” Mandy asks. I know what she’s getting at, and I know why.

“Only when she wants to,” I reply with no malice. “She’s fascinated with cooking, and she’s pretty damn good at it, which reminds me… Everybody?” I look over my shoulder to make sure Sophie’s not coming back out of the house.

“If you’re coming with us this summer, you’re going to want to get started applying for passports for yourself and your children if you don’t already have them,” I say when I have everyone’s attention.

“What on earth made you think about that just then?” Mandy asks. I look over at Jason.

“Because we’re having a hard time getting Sophie’s passport,” he says solemnly. Mandy’s brow furrows in horror.

“Is something wrong?” she asks.

“Yeah, her mother’s a bi… witch,” he corrects himself, noting all of the young ears around that can hear him. “I need her to sign a notarized document for Sophie to get a passport since she can’t physically come with me to apply for the passport and she’s giving me a hard time.” Daddy scoffs.

“Does Sophie know?” he asks.

“Unfortunately, she does,” he says. “I couldn’t keep it from her. I’m supposed to go to the prison this week to get her to sign it, but I know this woman. She’s selfish and manipulative and if she doesn’t sign the paper soon, Sophie won’t be able to go.”

“Well, that sucks,” Daddy says.

“You say both parents,” Luma says. “The girls…”

“You are their only guardian,” Christian says, “so you can sign alone.” Luma sighs heavily and nods.

“What about Harry?” Daddy asks. “He’s a baby. Will he need one?”

“Every United States citizen needs one to travel to another country and get back into the US,” I tell him. “Do you have one, Daddy?” He shakes his head.

“No,” he says. “I’ve never had a reason to leave the country… except when I was active duty.”

“Make that two of us,” Mandy says.

“Well, then you can all go together,” I say. “You’ve got enough time, but you don’t want to wait much longer.”

“Much longer for what?”

I hear the voice that is always welcome in our house, but I’m beginning to dread hearing it.

“Hey, Marlow,” Christian says, rising from his seat and shaking his hand. “We were just talking about passports. The family is going to Italy this summer, so everyone’s passports need to be in order. Do you have one?” He shrugs.

“I have to ask my mom,” he says. “We went to Jamaica once before my father lost his mind, so I might have one, but it’s probably expired.”

“Then, you just have to get it renewed…” Christian continues to talk to Marlow about the trip and needed a passport for him, Marcia, and Maggie, and I’m keeping an eye on the patio door to the kitchen looking for Sophie, noting that Marlow has brought yet another flavor of the month to our home. I don’t want to be rude, but these girls don’t last even to the next holiday. So, I’m not sure why he brings them around.

This one, today… dear God. If Sophie wants to poke at her, she’ll be spoiled for choice. She looks like Buffy the Vampire Slayer with way too much makeup on and not enough clothes. She’s wearing this spaghetti-string corset thing and it’s nowhere near warm enough for something like that. Her skirt is only long enough to cover her unmentionables and she’s wearing sky-high-heeled shoes… to a barbeque!

She’s hanging on Christian’s every word as he’s telling Marlow about the trip and I so desperately want to tell her that my husband isn’t interested in toddlers. I throw a look over at Val and she looks just as bemused back at me. I try very hard not to judge a book by its cover, but this girl has sure thing written all over her and I feel like I should be having the condom conversation again with Marlow right here and right now.

“I, uh, think I’m going to go check on the rest of the meat,” Jason says, rising from his perch next to Christian’s empty seat. “It should be about done, now.”

He heads off to the outdoor kitchen and Val scoots a little closer to Elliot. Grace makes a face like she needs to put something in her mouth before the wrong thing flies out of it and quickly takes a sip of her wine. This is ridiculous. This child is making the adults uncomfortable.

“Ana, this is Rochelle.” Why are you introducing me? It’s not like she’s ever coming back… and she has to know how she looks.

“Hi,” I say, half-heartedly.

“Hi,” she says with a small wave. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Thank you,” I say with a nod. “Have a seat…” before your ass pops out of that dress. She smiles and takes a seat at the table.

Oh, shit, not at the table.

Marlow takes a seat next to her, smiling in her face the whole time. A few minutes later, my fears are confirmed when Sophie walks out of the house. I can feel the animosity radiating off of her as she walks towards the table. She doesn’t speak to anyone or acknowledges anyone’s presence. She just let it rip.

“Aren’t you cold?” Sophie asks. Oh, dear God, here it comes.

“No,” Rochelle replies. “In fact, I’m quite hot.” She throws a look over at Marlow.

“Yeah, I’ll bet,” Sophie says, her voice low as she puts the coleslaw on the table, but not low enough. Rochelle scoffs a condescending laugh and turns back to Marlow, who is only too happy to give her the attention she’s seeking. He’s nearly falling all over the girl as Sophie goes back into the house. Several minutes later, she comes back out with a tray and just can’t help herself.

“It probably takes forever for some girls to get dressed,” she says to no one in particular, putting the tray on the table, “and they probably don’t even look like their real selves when they’re done.”

Rochelle sits up in her seat and glares at Sophie, and I’m certain the battle is about to begin…

But Marlow’s going to end it.

“Is she the help?” Rochelle asks in the snottiest, most irritating voice I’ve ever heard. Oh, shit… that was… ouch.

“No,” Marlow says, his voice disgusted. “She’s my bratty little sister and she doesn’t know how to behave around company.”

I can almost feel the knife slowly searing into Sophie’s skin and piercing her little heart.

“Si…” she says, almost inaudibly.

“I thought you said your sister’s name was Marty,” Rochelle says.

“Maggie,” Marlow corrects, “but Sophia is kinda like a sister, too. She’s just a whole lot brattier than Maggie. Just ignore her. Don’t listen to anything she says and don’t feed into any of her little snide comments. Maybe she’ll go away!”

Marlow stands, takes Rochelle’s hand, and moves to the other side of the patio. To say that Sophie is crestfallen is an understatement. She looks like she’s been hit by an 18-wheeler.

“I… have to use the bathroom,” she says, and darts back into the house before I can stop her. As she’s clearing the door, Val comes over to me.

“So, this is how teenagers are dressing now?” she says, quickly glancing over at Rochelle before looking back to me.

“I certainly hope not,” I reply, sipping my Cabernet. “If it is, we’re screwed.”

“Why would he bring someone around the family dressed like that?” she presses.

“I don’t know,” I tell her. “It’s a different girl every time. I don’t even bother remembering their names because I know I’ll never see them again. I told Christian to talk to him about it, but I think Christian just has that boys will be boys thing going on, and if I say anything to him, it’s just like I’m busting his chops, so…” Val shakes her head.

“It’s no mistake she’s a good time,” she says, looking over at them again. “This is what he wants to bring around the people he considers family?” I shrug.

“He’s young,” I reply.

“He’s almost 18,” Val removes the excuse. “He should know better.”

“I guess he should, but are you going to tell him?” I ask, sipping my wine again. She twists her lips and sips her own.

“She pulls at that skirt every time she moves,” Val says. “If she doesn’t, she’s going to have a wardrobe malfunction.”

Val goes back over to Elliot and doesn’t leave his side for the rest of the party. Christian makes his way back to me and eventually, everyone is having a good time at the barbeque again.

Everyone, that is, except Sophie.

She’s got that green look that she had at Mia’s wedding when the first “Marlow Girl” made a comment about taking her clothes off is he didn’t like them. She truly looks like she’s going to hurl, and she subjects herself to this torture all afternoon while everyone else is conversing, eating, and enjoying the barbeque. I glance over at her often throughout the day and she’s often looking over at Marlow and his trashy dime-store date. They, however, don’t look in her direction once.

She’s crushed. It’s written all over her face.

As the party winds down and the sun is beginning to set, I begin to help Gail clear the dishes and the leftover food. I’ve lost track of Sophie, Marlow, and his dime-store date as I help to move the food back into the kitchen. None of them are on the patio when I make the next trip out to help clean up.

Just as I’m about to head back to the kitchen again, I see Sophie hastily walking across the back yard towards the jungle patio. I just watch her for a moment, and even with the darkening sky, I can see that she’s pale as a ghost.  As she gets closer to the jungle patio, I can see her face… and the tears.

She quickens her pace and stays in the shadows where she thinks no one can see her. At the last moment, she veers left and dashes into her apartment, closing the door behind her.

What the hell happened?

I dare not ask. If she’s crying, it had to be pretty bad. I don’t see Marlow running behind her or storming up to me to angrily tell me that he and his date are leaving. So, I have no idea what’s happened.

“Hey.”

Christian’s voice brings me out of my thoughts.

“You okay?” he asks. I wave him off.

“I was just daydreaming,” I say as I continue to clear the table.

“I’ve got that, Ana,” Gail says, taking the remaining and trays and trash from me.

“You’re sure?” I ask.

“I’m sure. Go on,” she says. I turn to Christian and we walk into the house.

“Has Marlow left?” I ask, trying to get a feel of what’s going on. Christian shrugs.

“He didn’t say anything to me,” he says. “He’s probably wandering around somewhere.” I purse my lips and nod.

“What is it, Butterfly?” he says, and I look up at him.

“Seriously, Christian?” I say finally. “This one? Seriously?” He furrows his brow.

“What one? What are you talking about?” I fold my arms and glare at him.

“Christian, he fucking brought a Wild Thing to my house! I’m surprised she didn’t hump him right there on the sofa and start giving all the guys lap dances!”

“You’re exaggerating,” he says. My head jerks back and I give him such a look…

“Okay, okay,” he says, putting his hands up in surrender. “I’ll talk to him.”

“You always say that!” I accuse, my hands flailing. “He keeps bringing these girls here—a new on every time—and this one? Oh, she’s a real keeper!” I say sarcastically.

“You’re taking this a bit personally,” he says. I shift my weight on my heels. He’s right, I am taking it personally. I want to know what’s wrong with Sophie, but this part is different.

“This girl came to my house with no consideration of the fact that she was going to be sitting in the company of other men—married men. None of the men at this gathering were single except the one that brought her, my baby brother, and my son. My father was here, your father was here, and I found myself looking across the patio most of the afternoon making sure that she didn’t have a slip of the snatch! What’s worse is that he brought her here looking like that. She completely looked like she was about to get on the pole…”

My husband begins making this shushing tsking sound to get my attention. I look in the direction that he’s looking, and I see Marlow and Barbarella approach the patio and head towards the door. Where the hell have they been?

They walk up to me and Christian quite casually and that’s when I notice that Babs’ way-to-heavy lipstick has been haphazardly freshened up and Marlow is loose as a noodle. I look knowingly—and displeased—over at Christian and back to the lovely couple.

“We’re going to head on out,” Marlow says with a contented smile. “I need to get Rochelle home.”

“Okay, well, thanks for coming,” Christian says, shaking Marlow’s hand. Marlow smiles and nods. I must be glaring at him because he would normally try to hug me, but this time he doesn’t.

“It was nice meeting you,” Babs says.

“Mmm,” I say pasting the phoniest smile on my face that I can muster. It’s not even a full smile. I don’t want this girl to feel like she’s welcome in my house ever again, dressed like she should be standing on the corner. She and Marlow both look at Christian, then make a hasty getaway. Once they’re out of my house, I turn to Christian.

You know what the hell they were doing, I say with my eyes.

“Okay—I will talk to him,” he promises again.

“Mm-hmm,” I say, turning on my heels and marching away from him.


CHRISTIAN

“What the hell was that you brought to my house this weekend?” I confront Marlow a couple of days later.

“Who, Rochelle?” he asks bemused.

“Yeah, Superhead!” I accuse. His eyes widen.

“How did you…”

“Are you serious?” I accuse. “Besides the fact that she had dick on her breath and no common sense to have a damn mint in her purse? Her lipstick was all fucked up and you didn’t have a smear of it on you, so I know where she must’ve left it.” He chuckles.

“She was gagging for it, man,” he brags.

“She almost got gagged,” I retort, “by several angry females! What the fuck is wrong with you bringing someone dressed and behaving like Janet Jack-Me around a house full of married men and women?”

“I… I’m sorry. I didn’t think it was that bad,” he excuses. I look at him like he’s lost his mind, because at this moment, he has!

“Okay, okay. She looked a little sexy…”

“A little sexy?” I accuse. He sighs heavily.

“Look,” I begin, “I usually don’t have a problem with you bringing girls around. Ana has asked me more than once to talk to you about it because it’s a different one every time. But this time, man… I should’ve put you out the minute you showed up with her, but I was giving you—and her—the benefit of the doubt. Not only did she have her goods on display for you and everybody at the party, but she gave you a blowjob in the woods. Are you that comfortable at my home that you feel like you can disrespect it that way?” His eyes widen.

“No!” he exclaims. “No, it was nothing like that…”

“It was just like that and don’t try to clean it up,” I tell him. “I’m not going to tell you who to fuck, but I’m definitely going to tell you to be more mindful of who you’re bringing to my house. I don’t know if you’re on a marathon to get all the ass you can or what. I don’t know what the purpose of the parade of twats is through my house, but if you ever pull something like that again, I’m going to throw you and your latest plaything off my property and then you won’t be able to bring any dates to my home. Knowing Ana the way you do, I have no idea what made you think that would be okay, but I will cut you off completely before I have to deal with an angry Anastasia Grey. Have I made myself clear?” He swallows hard.

“Ye… yes, sir,” he chokes. I shake my head.

“Get to school. I got things to do.” I end the conversation abruptly and look down at my desk. I have other things to be concerned about today. Jason and I are heading to the prison to see if this wretched piece of flesh is going to sign the paperwork for Sophie’s passport. Apparently, when you go to jail, they take your ID from you. So, they need a credible witness to identify you as you in order to have the necessary documents notarized. I don’t know that Marlow has left my office until I hear Jason’s voice.

“What did Marlow do wrong?” he asks. I raise my gaze.

“Why do you ask?” I say.

“His face looks like one of your department heads after you or Her Highness has chewed them out at one of those meetings,” he replies.

“That’s just about right,” I say, standing and locking my laptop. “Did you see that specimen he brought to my house this weekend?”

“Kind of hard to miss,” he replies. “Is this the stuff these kids are made of now? Is this what I have to look forward to with Sophie?”

“I would say not,” I reply, making sure that my wallet, keys, and phone are all in my pocket. “Sophie has a good head on her shoulders. You won’t be seeing that from her.” Jason shakes his head.

“I know you’re right, but damn, man. What was she—16, 17? She looked like she was ready to work Aurora Avenue!” I put my finger to my lips to silence him as we leave the office.

“I’ve got my cell, Andrea,” I tell her. “Emergencies only.”

“Yes, sir. Have a good day Mr. Grey, Mr. Taylor.” Jason nods.

“You, too. Bye, Luma,” I call out to my aunt.

“Bye, Christian. Have a good day.”

We board the elevator, and the conversation about Marlow’s sex doll resumes.

“I had to tell him that shit was unacceptable,” I say. “He’s being a bit careless as it is, and I had to remind him of all the things that could happen when you have that many sex partners. Hell, he’s ahead of me right now in volume, and we both know that I’m far from chaste!” Jason nearly chokes on his laughter.

“Yeah, it’s funny until he catches something,” I say, “or worse yet, he brings someone into the house that should have been vetted.”

Jason’s laughter fades.

“Butterfly’s been giving me hell about it for the last few days. I was trying to find the words to say to him. Hell if I know what to say to a teenager about sex—look at my track record.” Jason twists his lips. The elevator opens and we’re silent until we get to the Audi and get on our way.

“That’s why we had to come to the office first,” he says, once we’ve cleared the parking structure.

“That’s why we had to come to the office first,” I confirm. “She asked me more than once to talk to him about the number of girls he brings to the house. I’ll admit, I blew it off. He’s a young, attractive guy. As long as he’s using protection and not leading any of these girls on, why can’t he taste the flavors of the rainbow? But this one? This weekend? We all knew that flavor whether we wanted to or not! Butterfly was not pleased.”

“You don’t have to tell me. You almost didn’t get your meat! Gail took one look at that child with all her goods on display and banned me from the patio.” I chuckle.

“I wondered where you had gotten off to… and why Gail brought out the spareribs,” I say.

“Well, now you know,” he says. “I gladly had my wife bring me food and beer, and me, Ray, and Carrick watched the Mariners game.” I raise my brow.

“I didn’t know Ray and Dad disappeared, too.” Jason scoffs.

“I’m surprised you noticed anybody disappeared,” he says. “Did you even see what that girl was wearing before Ana told you?”

I try to remember if I noticed her apparel before Butterfly gave her the cold shoulder in the family room.

“I don’t know,” I shrug.

“You had your wife in your lap for most of the day,” he says, “and you were sporting the biggest sex grin I’ve ever seen. That’s why Ray came to watch the game. That’s still his little girl, you know.” I frown.

“Oh, please,” I say, a bit affronted. “We’re married, she has two of my children, and we’ve had the BDSM conversation with this man. That couldn’t be why he left. That’s what he told you.

“Yeah, maybe,” Jason laughs, “but you still didn’t see the girl until your wife brought her to your attention.”

“Okay, you’re right,” I cede, “but now you know why he was looking blue when he left this room. She literally served herself up at a family barbeque. A family barbeque! Notwithstanding all the husbands and fathers that were present, there were children in attendance! Even if this girl was completely oblivious to where she was coming, Marlow knew!”

“Well, I can pretty much guarantee that he won’t make that mistake again,” Jason says.

“He better not,” I reply. “Butterfly’s already not pleased with the number of girls that he brings to the house. If the quality deteriorates, she might ban him completely!” I roll my eyes and decide to change the subject.

“Wasn’t this the weekend you were supposed to take Sophie to see Shalane?” I ask. He nods.

“Supposed to,” he says, “but she gets two weekends a month. I can choose which two. I know Sophie’s not speaking to her until she signs those papers, so I decided that we wouldn’t go until after her appointment to sign. This way, when I take her up there this weekend, if Shalane decides to pull one of her tricks today, she can tell Sophie why she didn’t sign the papers.”

“I wouldn’t put it past her,” I say, “tell you that she’s going to sign the papers just to get Sophie to speak to her, then renege when the time comes.” Jason nods.

“That’s why I didn’t take her up there this weekend,” he says. “After everything she’s put that child through, it’s beyond me why she’s not bending over backwards for that kid now. She’s in jail. Even though it’s minimum security and she’s not doing hard time, she’s alone. She has no friends unless she has made some on the inside, nothing to look forward to when she gets out of there—no significant other; wherever her family is, they’re not coming around, no nothing. All she has to look forward to is Sophie’s visits every two weeks and when Sophie comes, she’s totally silent.

“This is torture for Sophie even if she doesn’t say so. The last time we visited, Sophie turned her back on her—for the whole visit! We’ve both just had enough. That’s why she said she’ll believe it when she sees it.’ She’s resolved. She expects her mother to disappoint her before she does anything kind.”

“So, what if we go through all of this and she still says that Sophie can’t go?” I ask.

“I’ll get notarized permission to take her to Italy just like I’ll get the notarized permission for the passport, but honestly, it’s just like when I took her to Vegas. Once I get the passport, as long as I let the court know where I’m taking her, it won’t be a problem,” he says.

“Well, here’s hoping,” I say. “That woman has been such a wretched mother to that child, this is the very least that she can do.”

“You would think,” he concurs, “but remember who we’re talking about her. The best thing that ever happened to my daughter was that drug bust or she could’ve ended up in a child sex ring. Can you even fucking imagine?”

A quick and deliberate flash of heat and rage runs through me, and I have to fight not to react. Imagine saying that the best thing that could happen to your 12-year-old daughter was a drug bust!

“No,” I say, summoning as much calm as I can, “no, I can’t.”

*-*

After being stripped of everything except our ID’s for the purposes of the meeting, we head to the security door to be taken in to see Jason’s ex-wife. I had forgotten what the inside of these facilities looked like. I could’ve gone my whole life without that little piece of knowledge. Geez, you deck one drunk driver…

Jason and I enter the meeting room and take a seat at the table. Neither of us says anything as Jason is convinced that every single room in a prison has recording devices—except the cells. A few minutes later, the prison notary comes into the room with a prison guard. He introduces himself and explains what the process will be to get the documents notarized, after which he takes my license and Jason’s license and records some information into a logbook that he brought with him. Not long after, another guard leads Shalane into the meeting room. She grimaces a bit when she sees me.

“Christian,” she says through her teeth.

“Shalane,” I respond with no malice. Her fight isn’t with me.

“Why is he here?” she seethes.

“Not happy to see me?” I reply. “Strange. You would have jumped my bones in front of my family and my pregnant wife on Thanksgiving Day two years ago.”

“Temporary insanity,” she hisses has she takes her seat. I turn to the prison notary.

“Is that enough for you?” I ask.

“That’s enough for me,” he says. “Do you swear or affirm that this person, Shalane Deleroy, is who she claims to be, so help you God?”

“I do,” I reply.

“Why did you need him to tell you that?” she says

“Because the documents have to be notarized and you’re a criminal with no ID,” Jason replies. She turns a hateful eye to him.

“Any of this lovely prison staff could’ve attested to my identity,” she sneers. “Well, now we’ve got it, so let’s get this over,” she adds. “I’m being blackmailed into doing this, so let’s get it done.”

“Blackmailed?” the notary says. Oh, shit… “What does she mean ‘blackmailed?’”

“I don’t know,” Jason says, his anger brewing. “What do you mean?”

“He’s turned my daughter against me,” she announces. “He won’t let her speak to me until I sign these papers.” Jason rolls his eyes.

“Is that true, Mr. Taylor?” the notary asks. This bitch…

“That most certainly is not!” he replies. “Sophia knows that she can’t go to Italy this summer without these papers. She also knows that her mother is refusing to sign them. For that reason, probably among many others, she will not speak to her mother.”

“That’s a lie,” Shalane retorts. “You told her not to speak to me until I sign the papers.” Jason drops his head in frustration.

“I can’t believe we’re going through this again,” he mumbles. The notary and I hear it and the notary looks at me. I shake my head in frustration as well.

“You have no idea what this man has been through with this woman,” I say. “He gained custody of his daughter when he had to pick her up from the police station to prevent her being taken by child services because this woman took her daughter on a drug drop where she was trying to trade her daughter for meth.”

“That is not true!” Shalane outbursts. “I was not trying to sell my daughter to that guy and there’s no proof of that!”

“That’s not what Sophie remembers,” I reply calmly.

“She was scared,” Shalane excuses. “She didn’t understand what was going on.”

“As well she should have been,” I retort. “She shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”

“You know what?” Jason says, straightening his back. “I’m done with you. I’m done with this whole thing, and I’m done with you. You don’t need to convince me, Christian, the court or anybody else that you didn’t try to sell your daughter to a meth dealer. You know who you do need to convince? Your daughter! To this day, she maintains that you tried to give her to that guy, and she was only 12 years old!”

The notary gasps.

“There wasn’t enough proof to charge you with it but she has convicted you,” Jason continues. “Her opinion of you is the only one that counts. When are you going to understand that? You used her against me for years, and now she sees it. She sees it all, Shalane! Nobody’s turning Sophia against you but you and your selfish and insidious behavior!

“If you’ve never listened to me before, listen to me now. There’s nothing that I can’t give her, and I’m going to give her everything that she deserves, everything that you kept me from doing for her for the last several years. She’s a good kid, and she’s smart, and she’s talented, and she doesn’t give me or Gail a moment’s trouble. Everybody who ever meets her loves her. She’s wise beyond her years—way too much wisdom for her age, thanks to you. And by the way, I now know that horrible scar on her hand did not come from falling off a bike.”

Shalane gasps audibly and her eyes widen as the prison guards and notary watch the story unfold in silent disdain.

“She’ll be 14 in a few days,” he adds. “In two years, she’ll be 16 and able to say that she never wants to see you again. In four years, she’ll be 18 and able to jet set to anywhere any time her heart so desires and my wallet will allow. If we have to wait until then, we will, but you remember this. You’re preventing her from having the experience of a lifetime because you’re pissed at me, and you’re pissed that you’re in a situation of your own making and you’re taking it out on your daughter.

“You want to call me names and cast me into hell, fine. I can take it. But rest assured that your daughter will never forget this, among the many other things that your daughter will never forget, for the rest of her life. If you want to sign the papers, then sign the damn papers. If you don’t want to sign them, then don’t. She won’t be surprised if you don’t sign them. She’s expecting you to be the same selfish, manipulating, lying… female you’ve been all these years! If you want to surprise her, sign the papers. If not, we’re leaving, and this conversation is over.”

He steps back and allows the notary to step in front of him. Jason has taken “the stance” and I know that his end of this conversation is indeed over. Shalane looks at him, her expression unreadable, and I think she sees the same thing that I see when I look back at Jason. He’s not looking at her anymore. He’s looking through her. He doesn’t even see her. She could most likely rattle off a line of curses and condemnations right now and he would most likely not even remember the conversation. Shalane sighs, takes the pen from the notary, and signs the documents.

Fuck, yes! I almost want to dance a fucking jig in the middle of the room.

“Take me back to my cell,” she says quietly. She stands and the guard leads her out of the room. I turn around to Jason when the door closes and he visibly releases the breath that he was holding, closing his eyes in obvious relief.

“I didn’t think she would do it,” he says. “You know how she operates…”

“I know only too well,” I reply.

“I was prepared to go home and tell Baby Boo it was a false alarm, that she wasn’t going to be able to go to Italy until she was 18. She’s been so sad over the last couple of days and I don’t know why. I didn’t want to have to tell her that.” He opens his eyes, moist with tears, and looks at me.

“She can go,” he says, wistfully. “She can go to Italy… what did I say to that woman?” he says, his brow furrows.

“You don’t remember?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“Not all of it,” he admits. I nod.

“You told her to be a decent human being for once in her life—to stop thinking about herself, or even about you, and to only think about Sophie,” I tell him.

“I said that?” he asks, his voice cracking.

“Not in those exact words, but yeah,” I say, looking over at the notary who has finished signing and stamping the documents before placing them in an envelope and handing them to Jason.

“Yeah,” he says with a nod. Jason takes the envelope and purses his lips.

“Thank you, sir,” he says to the notary.

“You’re welcome,” he says, giving Jason’s shoulder a squeeze. “Have a good trip.” Jason nods without raising his head.

“Now, you probably want to pull yourself together because you wouldn’t want to walk through this place with tears in your eyes,” I tell him. He nods quickly, then retrieves his handkerchief and dries his eyes thoroughly. He squares his shoulders and pops his neck.

“I’m ready, sir,” he says. And he is.

The guard escorts the three of us from the room.


ANASTASIA

I spent the day going through the finances for Helping Hands. We had been spending quite a bit on the new staff and programs, and I needed to know exactly where we were in terms of cashflow and expenditures. As it turned out, we’ve been spending more than I thought we were—not much more, but more. However, our sources of cashflow have increased tremendously since we started.

The full story about the trial in Las Vegas has now been told, and it has strategically been leaked that I became part of the mental health field as a result of my own experiences as a child. It was also leaked that I and Grace provide our services for free as we donate our salaries back to the Center. That was better than another PSA in terms of boosting independent contributions. We even secured a couple of corporate contributions as well as a small percentage of wage-match contributions. I’m considering some kind of fundraiser or bizarre for next year as this summer is pretty much booked for the Grey family, but we really don’t need one with all of the sources we have right now.

We had been using money faster than we were bringing it in, so we didn’t have an opportunity to notice that we had a steady influx of cash from Miana’s. It was small at first, for several months, and that’s why we didn’t see it. However, just after Liamgate, the amounts from the salon chain became quite substantial. I don’t know what made the difference, because I slightly remember Christian saying just after he had seized the salons from Elena that his share of the profits would go to Helping Hands in hopes of helping other victims of abuse. I’ll make it a point to ask Mia what changed.

Along with our usual fund-raising activities and the continuous contributions and pledges that stemmed from my public appearances, we’re waiting to hear about our grant approvals, and we’ve got a tidy little sum from Tina’s jewelry auction. Seeing the entry from the auction prompted me to call Carl and see how he was coming along. He’s partially retired now as he’s only disposing of and assisting with the estates of his remaining clients before he completely closes up shop. He told me that Tina’s children have tried to get in touch with him on more than one occasion, but after he divided Tina’s assets among them, he threatened them with restraining orders if they didn’t stop contacting him—all except Harmony, of course.

I’ve been meaning to ask Harmony what ever happened with her siblings breaking and entering on the property and if any formal charges have been brought against them. I don’t know that I’ll ask until and if she brings it up to me. It might be a sore spot and we don’t want that.

When I get home, I have pictures and videos of Aaron’s progress so far with the villa. Not having to paint or renovate means that the decorating is moving along even more quickly than either of us thought it would, which is good as we are about six weeks away from leaving. It’s also costing a pretty tidy sum as all of the items must either be purchased locally in Rome, Milan, or the surrounding areas, or purchased online and shipped in. I’ve decided not to tell Christian about the amount I’m spending unless he asks. We’re rich anyway, and it serves him right. What would you expect for a 14-bedroom house? I’m extremely grateful, of course, but 14 bedrooms? Whoever heard of such a thing?

I call Sophie to my office so that we can see some of the results of our hard work. She seems a bit under-enthusiastic when she gets there.

“Hey, you okay?” I ask, concerned about her melancholy. She shrugs.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she replies, blandly. It then occurs to me that Jason and Christian were supposed to go to the prison today to get the papers for her passport signed. Maybe it was a bust, but I won’t ask.

“Would you… rather not look at the pictures?” I ask cautiously. “I’ll understand.” She comes to attention a bit.

“Oh! Oh, no, I’d really like to see the pictures,” she says. “It’s not you or… this or anything, Aunt Ana. I just… I’m not in a really good mood, that’s all. Maybe seeing the villa will help.”

I can’t help but wonder if something happened in school. Then, I remember this weekend and Marlow’s eager and underdressed date. She can’t still be sulking about that… well, actually, she can. Nonetheless, I greet her with a smile and get back to the matter at hand.

“Well, then, roll your chair on over here and let’s see what our decorator extraordinaire has for us.”

Sophie and I take several minutes to review the pictures that Aaron sent us. It appears that he felt no reason to wait on the bedrooms since they were the easiest to do. The children’s room was the simplest since we had sent him the exact beds that we wanted, but the rest of the bedrooms are a delicious and eclectic mix of old-world with a touch of modern mixed with the baroque and rococo styles.

One room has a large, overbearing deep chestnut platform bed—a mix of modern and vintage—paneled with dark marble inlays that look almost like leopard print and what appears to be bronze cherubs mounted on the footboard facing out to the room. It takes up nearly the entire room. I never would have thought to put a bed this big in a room this small, but its commanding presence makes a statement that it should be alone in this space.

The next picture that we see is a total contrast from the first! Dark wood ceiling in uneven cuts and tones… but walls covered in a floral cloth. It’s not a “oh-dear-Lord-gag-me-I-can’t-stand-this” type of floral pattern. It’s white with single flowers in even symmetrical lines. Again, not something that I would have chosen, but the wall covering is in such contrast to the dark wood ceiling that it actually works to capture the natural light and set the ceiling off as an accent. Now, I know that he didn’t alter any walls, so I’m assuming this is how it looked when he got there but tell me how he found a perfect match to that pattern in bedding and chair covers. I can’t say I’m really feeling this one, but maybe it’ll grow on me.

The rest of the bedrooms are all simple or elegant or both, and overall, Sophie and I are pleased with our work and Aaron’s interpretation. He has told us that he will now work on the sitting and common areas and apprise us of his progress in a week. Sophie seems in a better mood after we’ve looked at the pictures and we head upstairs to dinner.

Dinner conversation seems perfectly dull and I can’t help but wonder—again—if things didn’t go as planned with Shalane. I would have thought that if it were good news, Jason would be chomping at the bit to tell Sophie when he got back, but now we’re down to dessert and still nothing. Not able to stand the elephant in the room, I turn the attention to Sophie without mentioning Italy.

“Sophie tells me that her birthday is on the 5th,” I say. “I hope I’m not spoiling anything by asking if there’s something planned. It’ll should be a beautiful day and a great chance for a party.” Sophie frowns at the thought.

“Well, we hadn’t planned anything special,” Gail says. “We thought we’d leave it up to Sophie.”

“So, Baby Boo, did you want a party?” Jason asks. “You know it doesn’t take long to get the festivities planned,” he adds happily. Sophie shakes her head.

No, Dad, I don’t want a party,” Sophie protests. “No offense, Aunt Ana, but I really don’t want a party.” Jason frowns and I’m a bit taken aback. Since when does a teenage girl not want a party for her birthday.

“Why don’t you want a party, Pumpkin?” Gail asks, deflated.

“I just… I don’t remember ever having one and I really don’t want one now. Can we just go to Mexicantown like we did last year? Please?”

“Are you sure Baby Boo?” Jason asks. She nods.

“Yes, I’m sure. We had fun and that’s good enough for me. Momma Gail, you can come, too… and Aunt Ana and Uncle Christian, but that’s all. That would be great.”

She sounds sincere and I can’t figure out for the life of me why she wouldn’t want a party with all the trimmings. We could throw her a great party, one that she wouldn’t soon forget. She could invite her friends and…

That’s when it dawns on me.

A party means the gathering of people—family and friends, and that usually means Marlow and one of his girls, and I would venture to say that Sophie doesn’t want her party to be attended by Marlow and one of his girls, but how do you say that?

By declining a party altogether, she can avoid that eventuality… and suddenly, I’m angry with Marlow again. Did Christian ever talk to him about that little twat he brought to my house on Saturday?

“I think that sounds like a lot of fun,” I concur with Sophie, “but I reserve the right to buy you a present. You’ve worked so hard on the decorating with me. If I had to do it all by myself, it would have been a nightmare.”  Sophie smiles widely.

“It’s fun,” Sophie says. “It makes me feel like a grown-up.”

“Well, look out, Jason, because I’m telling you now that your daughter has exquisite taste. I’ll have you know that she chose the beds for the twins’ room.”

“You don’t say,” Christian says. I nod

“I do say, and they’re perfect,” I add.

“Speaking of presents, Baby Boo, can I give you one of your birthday presents early?” Jason asks. Sophie stops chewing for a moment, then puts her fork down.

“Sure, Dad,” she says after swallowing her food. “Who doesn’t like early presents?” she adds with a smile.

Jason reaches into his pocket and pulls out an envelope, then hands it to Sophie. She wipes her hands and dabs her lips with her napkin and takes the envelope. She withdraws the contents and unfolds the documents inside. Her eyes widen as she reads through them.

“No way!” she exclaims turning to her father. He nods.

“Yep,” he replies.

“Get outta town she signed ‘em!?” Sophie squeals all in one breath. I turn to Christian in amazement and he nods.

“She signed them,” Jason confirms. “We’re going to Italy, Baby Boo.”

Oh, thank God! This is fabulous news! Absolutely fabulous!

Sophie screams joyously, leaps from her seat and runs to her father’s arms. He catches her midleap and laughs a contagious laugh along with her.

“Aunt Ana, I’m gonna see the villa! And I’m going to cook in Italy!” She says the last part while shaking her hair wildly.

“That, you are, Ms. Sophia!” I confirm, gleefully.

Gail and Jason make plans to take Sophie to the post office tomorrow to get things moving on her passport. Christian and I had gotten the twins squared away back when we first decided that we would be taking the trip this summer. I’m hoping that all the other parents will have the passports ready for the other minors when the time comes. Once dinner is over, I pull Sophie aside to have a private chat with her before she turns in.

“So, you’re going to Italy. What do you think about that?” I ask.

“I think it’s great!” she says gleefully. “I really didn’t think I was going to be able to go. I’m so excited!”

“I just wanted to talk to you for a minute, because I don’t want a potentially wonderful trip to be completely spoiled for you,” I say. Her face falls.

“How?” she asks. I sigh heavily.

“Marlow,” I say, without hesitation. She rolls her eyes and sighs heavily.

“Oh, that,” she says, deflated.

“Yes, that,” I reply. “You know he’s going to be there, and I haven’t seen an encounter between the two of you in months that I would even consider civil. We’re going to be staying in the same villa—all of us—for two weeks. It’s a big villa, but you’re going to run into each other at some point. I want us all to have a good time, you and Marlow included, but if we need to set some ground rules for that to happen, maybe we can work something out.”

“Aunt Ana, I’m so happy that I get to go to Italy that I can’t even think about anything else. I’m going to go on the internet and see what things I can see while we’re there and then I’ll ask Dad or Momma Gail to take me. I’m going to study some authentic Italian dishes and then see if I can learn to cook them while I’m there. I’m going to be doing other things—lots of other things—and I won’t even be thinking about Marlow.”

Translation—she’s going to chock her time full of Italy stuff so that she won’t have to be concerned with Marlow. It sounds a lot like evading to me, but she’s young and she’s doing what she can not to concentrate on her little crush on him. Who am I kidding? Adults do that often. She’s way ahead of her time.

“Let’s talk about last Saturday,” I say, causing her to sigh again and roll her eyes in that petulant teenage girl way.

“Do we have to?” she whines.

“Yes, we have to,” I say. “It’s part of the problem. I usually feel like you should behave yourself better when company comes to the house… but this one!” My eyes widen and I shake my head. “She really was a character, wasn’t she?”

Sophie loosens up a bit, but only a bit.

“Yeah… she was,” she agrees. “Her skirt was so short…”

“And all that makeup!” I say, remember her comment about how long it takes for certain girls to get dressed and how the finished product almost always doesn’t look like the original person. Sophie sighs again.

“I thought that much makeup wasn’t good for your skin,” she says. “How does it even come off?” I chuckle.

“One day, you’ll find out,” I say. “You’ll be wearing makeup, too.”

“Not like that,” she says, pointedly. “You wear makeup. So does Momma Gail. And Auntie Val, Miss Grace, Miss Mandy… you guys don’t look like that!”

“Well, sweetheart, sometimes some people feel like more is better…” Case and point, my husband and the 14-bedroom villa!

“Sophie, you’re such a mature young lady. You baffle us all the time with your knowledge and your ability and sometimes, your ambition. Even though you were hurt about your mother and what she was doing—or not doing—you handled it in a such a mature way even though you were hurting and we all knew it. We were… are all very impressed, and we’re probably just as happy as you are that you’re going to Italy. But sweety, even things that are right there in our faces sometimes have to be ignored.”

Sophie’s wide blue eyes fix on mine.

“She was… extremely inappropriate. Val and I even had a few words between us when they went to the other side of the patio, but those words were between us. No one else heard what we were talking about. That’s not to say that it’s okay to talk about people behind their backs, but it’s even worse to outright insult them in front of everyone, even when they have it coming.”

“I know,” she says, almost a mumble.

“I know you do,” I reply, my voice understanding, “so can you tell me why you do that?”

“I don’t know,” she fibs. She knows, she just doesn’t want to tell me. “Whenever I see them, it just flies out! I just wonder why they show up for Christmas or something at somebody’s house they don’t even know.” She’s searching.

“Because they were invited,” I say. “Would you want someone to make you feel unwelcome where you were invited?”

“No,” she says, and she sounds a bit scolded.

“I’m only saying that even though someone may show up dressed like a thot, or is twirling her hair, or may be a little on the heavier side, that doesn’t give any of us the right to publicly point out their faults. It’s borders on bullying and honestly, Sophie, it’s unattractive. You’re so smart and mature most of the time. It’s not a good look at all for you to tear into his girlfriends every time they show up,” I tell her. She drops her head and sighs heavily.

“Don’t worry, Aunt Ana,” she says, her voice sad. “It won’t happen again.”

“I don’t want you to tell me that because you think it’s what I want to hear. I really want you to think about how it makes you appear…”

“No, Aunt Ana,” she says, looking up at me with glassy eyes and shaking her head. “It won’t happen again.” Well, this is the last thing I wanted to do.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

“You didn’t,” she says, trying to hide her sniffles. “He did. He called me a brat… and he’s right. And you are, too. If I can’t say anything nice, I shouldn’t say anything at all, so I won’t… and it won’t happen again.”

A tear falls from her eye and she wipes it from her cheek. God, that first crush hurts so much, and I know she’ll get over it, but she doesn’t know it yet. I pull her into my arms and hug her close.

“Well, I certainly didn’t want this,” I say, hugging her tightly. She allows herself to cry for just a moment, but quickly composes herself.

“We’re going to have such fun in Italy,” I tell her. “I want to taste all the things that you learn to cook, and I want to take you to some of the places on Lake Como and see things through your eyes…” and that’s the truth. “We’re going to have such a good time.”

“I’m so glad I get to go,” she says, squeezing me hard around my waist, her voice cracking a bit. I gently stroke her soft blonde hair as she pulls herself together. As if their timing couldn’t be any worse, Jason and Christian come through the hallway near the mudroom and into the family room where Sophie and I are talking.

“There you are. It’s bedti…” Jason trails off as he sees his daughter crying in my arms. “Baby Boo… what’s wrong?” Christian looks at me with a furrowed brow as they both await my explanation. So, I give them one.

“We were just talking about Italy and Lake Como,” I say. “She’s a bit emotional.” I won’t tell them why. I stroke her hair once more and then pull her back from me, pushing her hair of her tearstained face.

“Cooking… and sightseeing… and shopping… and all the fun Lake Como has to offer… okay?” I say to her pained blue eyes. She nods and unceremoniously wipes her cheeks. She turns and takes a few steps towards Jason, but then turns back and runs into my arms once more. I stroke her hair to comfort her just a bit before she leaves.

“Thank you, Aunt Ana,” she says. I’m not really sure why she’s thanking me, but now isn’t the time to ask.

“You’re welcome, Sophie,” I say. She releases me and walks to her father, never raising her head. He looks up at me puzzled one last time before he guides Sophie down to her apartment. Christian walks over to me, his expression as puzzled as Jason’s.

“What was that all about?” he asks, his brow furrowed.

“She’s very emotional about this whole situation, and that’s all I can tell you,” I reply. He purses his lips.

“Okay, I get that,” he says, clasping his hands in front of him. “You and I need to talk. I call downtime.”

Downtime? Why is he calling downtime?

“Why are you so horrified?” he asks.

“I’m not,” I reply. “I’m… just surprised.” He nods.

“I understand. It’s been a while,” he pulls himself up to his height and gives me his final command.

“Wait five minutes and come to our bedroom.”

I swallow hard at the sound of his Dominus voice, and find my feet planted firmly in place as he leaves me standing in our family room.


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

Pictures related to the progress of the Italian Villa can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/italy/italian-villa/

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 30

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

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

Season 5 Episode 30

ANASTASIA

“I never thought I’d be having dinner in a place like this,” Sarah says after dinner. We’re sitting at the dining table having coffee as she gets to know everyone.

“Well, you’re family now, so get used to it,” Christian says, garnering a smile from Sarah.

“A month ago, you never could have told me I’d be here,” she says, looking down into her coffee, “physically or figuratively. I was… hopeless,” she says, her voice cracking a bit. “I couldn’t… I couldn’t see no light… no light at all. Fletcher just kept getting worse and worse…”

“Fletcher—that’s your husband?” I say, squeezing her hand. She nods but never raises her gaze.

“I never could have children,” she says. “He has two from his first marriage—a son and a daughter. His son used my credit to get three new cars. He wrecked two of them and the third was repossessed. So much for my credit. His daughter is the mouthiest, most disrespectful, ungrateful, assuming little brat I’ve ever met. She moved in with us and treated me like pure hell for three years… and he let her! I think he had started seeing her mother again. If it wasn’t her, it was some other woman. I knew he didn’t want me.”

“You said he had been abusing you for years,” I begin. “May I ask why you stayed?”

“I didn’t have anything or anybody,” she replies. “Every time I tried to leave, I lost my nerve. The thought of being completely alone was just too scary. I know it’s a screwed-up way of thinking, but… when you’re in it, you feel like it’s all you got. It was all I had. I’ve been trying to find another job for six months. For three of those months, his insufferable daughter was living there. He paid the rent on the house while she was there, but I didn’t know that he had stopped paying the rent until they came to put me out. I should’ve known something was going on because he hadn’t been home in four days.” She shakes her head. “If they hadn’t put me out, I would still be with him.” Christian sighs.

“I saw Helping Hands on TV before. I even went down there once but didn’t have the nerve to go inside. I never put it together that it was you,” she says to Christian, “but then again, why would I? I remember that day like it was yesterday… big, strong man sitting at my console, crying. You didn’t even know that you were crying… You told him,” she says, pointing at Jason.

“Yes, ma’am, I did,” Jason replies, and Sarah nods.

“Once you told me what was going on, I didn’t even think twice about helping you. It was the human thing to do, but when my boss found out… apparently, I had broken some rule or something that could have left the company liable, I don’t know. I figured all’s well that ends well, and I couldn’t turn you down in good conscience.”

“My only regret is that we didn’t know about this sooner,” Christian says. “We could have saved you a lot of distress.”

“Everything in its time,” she says. “Like I said, I may not have left. Most likely, I wouldn’t have. Whatever you did for me or however you helped me, Fletcher and his kids would’ve sucked me dry. Nope. This happened right when it needed to. I’m confused about something, though,” she begins, pointing at Jason. “I thought you worked for him.” Jason laughs.

“I do,” he says.

“Everybody at this table besides you and my wife works for me, and you will be, soon, too,” Christian announces.

“You always bring your employees to dinner at your home?” Sarah asks, puzzled.

“Well, no,” he says. “Jason has been with me the longest. He’s my head of personal security… and my best friend. He took a bullet for me.” Sarah’s eyes widen.

“Really?” she asks, turning to Jason and he nods.

“Two years ago, yesterday, in fact,” he says. Christian’s brow furrows.

“That’s right,” Christian concurs, and Gail looks a little uncomfortable.

“The lovely woman to his left, as you know, is Gail Taylor,” Christian says, moving the conversation away from the shooting. “She started shortly after Jason and began working for me as my cook and housekeeper. As luck would have it, she and Jason fell in love and got married.”

“Are you… still the housekeeper?” Sarah asks Gail.

“Yes,” Gail begins.

“She’s more than that,” I say. “She’s our home manager—she runs this place. And she’s helping to raise my children while she’s raising her own stepdaughter. It’s hard to put a label on Gail. She’s… the ‘do everything’ lady. We’d be lost without her—and she’s part of the family.” Sarah smiles and nods, and Gail returns her warm smile.

“And what about this cute couple snuggling here next to me?” she asks, causing Keri to blush.

“Well, Chuck is my personal bodyguard. Like Jason did for Christian, he saved my life. So, he’s also my honorary brother.” Sarah frowns.

“I thought the lawyer was your brother,” she says.

“He kinda is,” I say. “The lawyer is my best friend and he has been for a very long time. It’s very easy for us to call each other siblings because he has no other family and before my Dad had his son, I was an only child. We’ve been friends for many years, since we were kids.”

“More than 10?” she asks. I nod.

“More than 15,” I tell her. “That’s why it’s easier to just call him my brother.” She nods.

“That makes sense. And what about this beauty here?” she says gesturing to Keri.

“That beauty there is an inheritance… and a goldmine!” I say. “Shortly after my kidnapping ordeal, Christian took me on vacation to Anguilla. There, we met Keri and had no idea that Chuck would be so sweet on her. Long story short, she came to America to be with him and with her experience with children, we hired her as our live-in nanny as well.”

“You guys have adopted quite the family, haven’t you?” Sarah says.

“Like I said, what comes around goes around,” Christian says. “I’m adopted.” Sarah’s brows rise.

“Really?” she asks, her interest piqued. Christian nods.

“My start in life was horrendous,” he says. “My mother adopted me when I was four. She saved me…”

“And you save others,” Sarah finishes. Christian smiles a small smile.

“They save me, too,” he says, looking around at all of us. “Everybody at this table has saved me in one way or another—lovingly raising my children, protecting me and my wife, protecting my heart… and even you, helping me to get her back.” Sarah purses her lips.

“I count it an honor… to be counted among such a wonderful group of people,” she says, her voice cracking. Christian squeezes her hand.

“You’re my fairy godmother,” he says. “I wouldn’t have her if it wasn’t for you…”

“And you’re my savior,” I concur, gently taking her other hand. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.”

“Well, I must thank you both. For the first time, I…” she pauses and chokes up a little. I squeeze the hand that I’m holding. “I’ve never been so at peace… at least not for a long time. Thank you.”

We converse a little longer before Sarah declares that she’s tired. We give her the option to take one of the guest rooms or Ben could take her back to the Fairmont Olympic. She agrees to stay, and Gail retrieves something for her to wear to sleep. We bid her goodnight and she heads to the guest room to turn in. It’s still fairly early, but she’s tired from an emotional couple of days.

My baby time is interrupted when I get a call from Aaron. He’s preparing to fly to Lake Como in the morning to see the villa in person. Like me, he couldn’t get a feel for the space with the virtual walkthrough. He saw the plans, however, and wants to confirm what he thinks he sees in the layout before he commits to a design.

“This is what I need you to do while I’m checking this place out,” he says. “Google, Facebook, Pinterest, whatever. Start getting an idea of how you want this place to look. If you hit a brick wall, I’ll come up with some ideas myself, which I’m going to do anyway. We still have time to do some painting if you want, just no crazy texturing stuff. If you do it in one or two rooms, you’re going to have to do it in more and we don’t have time for that. Did you have anything in mind?”

“All I know for sure is that I don’t want a remake of this house in Italy,” I tell him. “When I go to Italy, I want to feel like I’m in an Italian villa, not like I’m in Grey Crossing… only in Italy.”

“Well, if there are already columns there, you’re not going to be able to avoid that,” he says.

“Yeah, I figured as much,” I reply, “but if any of the rooms have exposed beams, that’ll be a plus.” He’s quiet for a moment.

“In that case, I suggest you Google Tuscan or old-world Italian. I’ll let you know which style will work better in the space and we’ll go from there.”

“You know I’m totally out of my element here, right?” I sigh.

“I had a feeling that you would be, but just Google Italian Villa. I’ll make a Pinterest page and make you a contributor. Then you can upload anything that you see that you like.”

“Um, Aaron, what’s Pinterest?” I ask. He’s silent again.

“You’re joking, right?” he says.

“No,” I reply. I hear him scoff on the other end.

“Watch your email,” he says.

I come to find out that Pinterest is yet another social network, but it’s more like albums and boards to share ideas and interests. You gather these ideas from the internet or even from your own files and you upload them to the board. You can organize your page by different interests, then you pin pictures to the board related to the topic… hence the name Pinterest.

You can make the boards public so that the whole world can see them, or you can make them private, so that only the contributors can see them. Our board—Italian Villa Ideas—is private. He has put a couple of pictures on the board to get me started.

The first one is labeled European Modern. I twist my lips and examine it. It looks just like what I said I didn’t want—Grey Crossing, but in Italy. The next picture is labeled Classic Tuscan. It looks more promising, as does Old-World Italian. I type each of the styles into Google and Pinterest and see what I come up with.

After only a few minutes of browsing, I quickly come to learn that I have absolutely no interest in the European Modern, everyone seems to have classic Tuscan, and old world Italian is not what I thought it was, but of the three, it’s going to be my best bet.

During my browsing, I see one extremely expensive décor idea–square furniture, sheet covers, all white… everything was white. There wasn’t a splash of color anywhere. The only things that weren’t white were the hardwood floors and the black piano. The bedding, the walls, the sofas, the lamps, the tables, the chandeliers—everything was white. It actually hurt my eyes.

On almost every site that I visit that talks about any kind of old-world, vintage, or throwback design, for lack of a better word, I keep seeing the phrases Baroque and Rococo, so I decide to look them up.

They look the same to me. Even the descriptions are the same. Baroque came first and Rococo is like Baroque, Jr. only with less of the gold and gold-leaf flamboyance. Since the most important architecture of the time between the 16th and 18th Centuries was the churches and the aristocracy, each of these styles lends itself to one of these factions.

The Baroque style of furniture and architecture was used mostly for cathedrals and temples. Art, at the time, was either political or religious. In this case, religious of course. During our trip, we’re going to see some of the most decorative and theatrical cathedrals in the world, as the church paid for art that made a dramatic religious statement, and cathedrals and churches were all decked out to win souls and show mere mortals on earth what kind of heavenly riches awaited their immortal souls.

In slight—and only slight—contrast, the Rococo style of furniture toned down the Baroque just a bit by replacing its over-the-top gold décor with white and some pastel colors, muting the Baroque only in that way without taking away from the intricate stylings, curves, and swirls of the architecture.

So, which do I want?

I think a calmer version of Baroque but not quite Rococo. Rococo has a lot of white, and I’m not feeling that, but Baroque has a lot of gold and that seems too much. We need to meet somewhere in the middle. We need the air of aristocracy from the Rococo mixed with the majesty and romance of the Baroque. Do we have the time for all that?

“Planning on sleeping in, Mrs. Grey?” Christian’s voice breaks my concentration. I raise my head to see him standing in the doorway of my office, leaning on the frame with his arms crossed.

“That wasn’t my intention,” I say, “but Aaron’s headed to Italy tomorrow to check out the villa, and he told me to look at some styles and get some ideas for what I wanted to see in the house.”

“How’s that going?” he says, walking into the room.

“Oh, God, it’s so much more than I care to explain,” I lament. He frowns.

“Why?” he says. “Pick some furniture and let him do the rest.”

“You would say that,” I say, after twisting my lips. “Now I understand why you were so blasé when I freaked out about 14 bedrooms.” He shrugs.

“I’ve always just said, ‘This is what I want to see’ and set a decorator loose,” he says. “You picked a lot of what was happening in this house, remember?”

“I had a lot more time with this house,” I say, stretching and yawning.

“It can’t be that bad. Let me see what you’ve got.” He comes around the desk and I just sit back in my chair and let him see the Pinterest page covered in ideas and model rooms of both Baroque and Rococo as well as what I think an old world kitchen should look like, and a Tuscan room here and there. He pauses.

“Oh,” he says. “We’re going that route.” My brow furrows.

“What do you mean that route?” I ask. He looks at me, then back at the laptop.

“What you’re looking for is vintage stuff,” he says, “classic furnishings and things. It could take some time to pull that off.”

“Well, this is what I want,” I say, somewhat pouty. “If I wanted the whole clean, sleek lines thing, I could stay home.” Christian purses his lips.

“What does Aaron say?” he asks.

“I told you, he’s not going to Italy until tomorrow, but he told me to gather ideas for what I want, and I told him the same thing that I told you. I want to feel like I’m in Italy when we go to Italy… Jesus, what time is it?” I yawn and look down at the clock on my computer.

Three fourteen… Good Lord, I need to go to bed!

“Well, that’s it for me,” I say, locking my computer and standing.

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Christian says, taking my hand and leading me out of the office.

*-*

“Well, how did this happen?” I ask when I enter my kitchen on Saturday morning.

“Well,” Ms. Solomon begins. “I found Sarah here snooping around in my refrigerator. When I asked what she was doing, she said that she wanted to make breakfast for everyone. Well, I wouldn’t hear of it, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, while we’re planning our menu, in walks Sophie begging to be part of the powwow. Since I knew you all weren’t due to emerge for at least another hour and a half, Sophie insisted on doing crepes and once I saw her technique… well, the rest is history.”

Sarah laughs, wearing my chef’s apron and taking a pan of fresh, homemade biscuits from the oven. Sophie happily adds another crepe to a mountain of cooked crepes and covers them with a teacloth, and Ms. Solomon continues to sauté what looks like mushrooms.

“It smells divine in here, ladies,” I say, taking a seat at the breakfast bar.

“Brunch will be ready in fifteen,” Sarah says while brushing melted butter onto the biscuits and causing my mouth to water.

“Sarah, I never asked, and I hope I don’t offend, but what exactly is your nationality? I can’t quite place it,” I say.

“You never would have, child,” she says sweetly. “I’m a mut. I’m a mixture of Asian, Polynesian, European, and African American.”

“Really?” I say. “You’re a walking melting pot.”

“That I am. My mother was Hawaiian, Asian, and European and my father was Samoan and African American. I’m told that there’s some Native American sprinkled in my bloodline somewhere, but I never traced it.”

“I knew the minute I saw her,” Ms. Solomon says. “My grandmother was Hawaiian—from Kauai, to be exact. She reminds me of her… when I was a kid.”

“Sophie’s cooking?” I hear my husband’s voice as he enters the kitchen from the dining room. “Whatcha cooking, Sophie?”

“It’s not just me, Uncle Christian. It’s all of us,” Sophie says with mirth.

“Sarah, this is very sweet, and totally unnecessary,” Christian says, sitting on the seat next to me.

“I tried to tell her,” Ms. Solomon says, pouring her sautéed vegetables into a small serving bowl.

“I wanted to,” she says, waving him off. “I haven’t been able to cook like this in years. I always dreamed of having grandkids all playing in my home while I baked their favorites in the kitchen. Even though I couldn’t have any children of my own, I was hopeful when I married Fletcher and he had children. Well… you know how that turned out.” Her voice falls a bit, but Sophie is quick to the rescue.

“What kind of baking do you do?” she asks. “Like traditional American? Cakes and stuff?” Sarah perks up a bit.

“Cakes, cookies, breads,” Sarah says. “I can cook just fine, but baking is my passion.”

“Then you should be here at Christmas,” Sophie says, her eyes large. “There’s all kinds of cakes and pies, but Aunt Ana bakes enough cookies to feed an army!” Sarah laughs and looks at me.

“You don’t say?” she asks. I shrug.

“It’s a tradition that I bake a lot of cookies and give some away. I know how to make the recipe bigger; I just don’t know how to make it smaller,” I tell her, spreading my hands apart from each other on bigger an bringing them closer together on smaller. Sarah laughs.

“You come from a big family?” she asks. I shake my head.

“Only child until a couple of years ago,” I reply.

“That’s right. You said that last night,” Sarah acknowledges. “Well, maybe we could share some secret recipes this year.”

“I would love that!” I reply.

“And that glutton is not getting a single cookie!” Christian declares, brooding. I scoff.

“Oh, my God, you’re still thinking about that?” I lament.

“I told you I wouldn’t forget,” Christian says, pouring a cup of coffee. My shoulders fall and I’m looking over at Sophie, pleading.

“I’m making a batch tonight, Uncle Christian,” Sophie says. “I’ll make sure you get your own.” My husband’s eyes sparkle for a moment, but then he remembers himself.

“Well… okay… I may let him have some cookies in that case,” he sulks. I almost expect his bottom lip to poke out in a full-on pout.

“Okay, I can’t take it anymore. I’m dying to know what this is about,” Sarah says. I chuckle quietly.

“Come, Ms. Sarah,” I say. “Let me help you ladies get breakfast on the table and I will bestow upon you the saga of the chocolate truffle…”

We sit down to a brunch of five different varieties of sweet or savory crepes, fried potatoes and onions, baby mushrooms sautéed in butter, fresh fruit and cream, scrambled eggs, and maple sausage as I tell Sarah the story about Sophie’s dinner and delectable chocolate truffles and two grown men behaving like toddlers over the remaining chocolates. Jason and Gail join us at breakfast at which time, Jason declares that Christian won’t get any if he sees them first. That’s when I tell him that I have “contracted” Sophie to make Christian his own batch of truffles. Christian then gives Jason that “game, set, match” look which elicits a grunt from Jason.

Marilyn joins us last, thanking Sarah for introducing her to a new method of meditating this morning and declaring that she had completely lost track of time. While noting that Sarah had been quite the busy little bee this morning, I also note that Marilyn eats a few more eggs than usual, some fruit, a bite or two of one of Sophie’s apple cinnamon crepes, and a healthy glass of orange juice. That’s the most I’ve seen her eat in months. Gary is absent from the table, but she informs us that he had to work today—some special event at City of Music.

“Well,” I say as we’re drinking our after-brunch coffees and beverages, “Sarah and I are going to do some shopping—just some necessities and maybe some fun stuff here and there. Anybody want to come with?” I look at Marilyn.

“You know it’s been a busy week for me, Bosslady,” she says. “I just want to kick back and relax a bit.” I nod. She’s right. We’ve been quite busy getting back into the swing of things, and her week has been full of doctor’s appointments and therapists and… Gary. She most like does need the rest. I turn to Sophie.

“That sounds like a lot of fun, Aunt Ana, but I gotta go see the egg donor today.” I flinch a bit when she says that. I look at Jason who simply shrugs. Shalane’s selfish behavior is destroying whatever relationship she could possibly have with Sophie and she doesn’t care. So, Sophie calls her the most spiteful thing that she can without cursing. Last weekend, she was, “a word I can’t say.” This weekend, she’s the egg donor.

“Be strong,” I say, squeezing her hand.

“Thanks, but I don’t need to be strong,” she says. “Second only to the whole drug-dealer thing, she’s doing the crummiest thing to me right now that she can ever do. So, I don’t need strength to deal with her. Patience, maybe, but not strength.” That’s confusing to me.

“Why would you need patience?” I ask, bemused.

“To sit through an entire hour-long visit with her, stare at her and not say a word,” Sophie responds. I form an “O” with my mouth.

“Do you know that’s what happens?” I ask Jason. He nods.

“Yeah, I can’t go in there alone,” Sophie continues. “Dad has to take me once or twice a month or something to prove to them that he’s not keeping me away from her. So, I just sit there and stare at her and wait until it’s over.”

That would rip my heart out if my kids felt that way about me.

“I don’t even know what to say about that,” I say.

“It’s a crummy way to spend a Saturday, so I’ll be glad to make the chocolate truffles when I get back,” she says. Jason sighs.

“It’s time to get ready, Baby Boo,” he says, regretfully. Sophie nods and stands from the table.

“Ms. Sarah, when you come over again, can you show me some of your baking recipes?” Sophie asks.

“I sure can, child,” she says, and Sophie smiles.

“Thank you. It was really nice meeting you. Bye, everybody,” and away she goes to prepare for her jail house visit with her mom.

“I won’t pry,” Sarah says, “but I see a tragic story there.”

“Very tragic,” I reply.

“She’s a good girl,” Jason says. “I’m trying to… undo some of the damage her mother did, for lack of a better word. She’s so grown up and she knows so much to be so young.”

“How old is she?” Sarah asks.

“She’ll be 14 in May,” Gail says. Sarah shakes her head.

“She’s seen too much to be so young,” she says. “It’s all in her face.” Jason twists his lips.

“Yes, she has,” he says, “but I’m blessed. When I say that she’s a good girl, she’s really a good girl.” He finishes his coffee and kisses his wife. “Sarah, Your Highness,” he says with a nod, then leaves the table. Sarah turns to me.

“He calls you Your Highness?” she asks incredulously. Oh, God… is that the first time she heard that?

“It started as a joke that I’m regretting to this day and I’ll probably be regretting it for the rest of my life.” I lament. “Let’s go shopping…”

Sarah and I head to Walmart where she chooses her toiletries and a few items of clothing and creature comforts to make her feel at home. She’s modest with her purchases, being mindful of what she has left on the prepaid card that we gave her. I don’t fuss since she’s staying in a hotel, but we’ll most likely furnish her apartment once she finds one. I try to convince her to move into Grey Crossing with us so that she won’t be alone at the Fairmont Olympic. She assures me that she’s grateful for the alone time. It helps her to sort out her thoughts and to wrap her mind around what’s going on.

We go to a few more stores for some other miscellaneous items before we stop to rest at Starbuck’s.

“Christian calls me his fairy godmother,” she says as we sit in the café, “but I really think it’s the other way around.” I sigh.

“I totally understand why you would feel that way,” I tell her. “My husband is very generous with his wealth. He doesn’t just hand it out, mind you, but he’s quite philanthropic. He also enjoys sharing his good fortune with the people that he loves, and he never forgets a debt. It’s important to him… to us… that you don’t see this as a handout, Sarah. There’s no dollar value that we could put on what you gave us, what you did for us with that seemingly small gesture that cost you your job.” I take a deep breath and steel myself for the story I’m about to tell her.

“The two men in the video who kidnapped me took me to a remote location and handcuffed me naked to a bed for several days,” I say, looking down into my coffee. “One of them wanted money; the other wanted me. His plan was to take me to an even more remote location and keep me prisoner there until I fell in love with him. Even then, he never intended to let me go.” Sarah gasps.

“What made him think that kidnapping you would make you fall in love with him?” she asks horrified.

“He was sick,” I reply. “He was an ex who couldn’t accept that I was moving on. We hadn’t dated for four years by the time this happened, so…” I push my hair behind my ears. “I’m a psychiatrist, Sarah, and I still can’t tell you what was going on in his screwed-up head.

“I wouldn’t eat while I was there—they had drugged me with propofol at the aquarium, and I was sure that he would put something in my food to subdue me again once he was ready to move me. I also thought that if I starved myself, then he would have to take me to the hospital unless he wanted to just let me die… either way, it would have been better than where I was.” Sarah’s brow furrows.

“Are you saying that you were trying to kill yourself?” she asks. I shake my head.

“No,” I say calmly. “I knew the bastard was unstable, but I knew he wouldn’t let me die. The thought had crossed my mind throughout the ordeal, though… not the thought of killing myself, but the thought of dying because my circumstances were so unbearable. I knew Christian would never stop looking for me, but I knew that David was crazy enough that it would be improbable that he would find me.

“When they identified David and his accomplice, it made him nervous. He gave me my phone and told me to call Christian and tell him that I had left, that David didn’t kidnap me. I didn’t know that Christian had seen the video of my abduction or how they knew that David and Harris had taken me. I heard the two of them fighting about it and that’s how I found out. When he gave me my phone, I was able to make an emergency call and fool David into talking about the kidnapping while a 911 dispatcher listened. I was only hoping that Christian was tracking my phone signal and would pick it up when my phone was turned on.”

“So, that’s how they found you?” she asks, “from your phone signal?” I nod.

“It was a chain reaction,” I tell her. “Seeing the video made it possible for them to identify what happened to me and who took me. As long as nobody knew who they were, they were safe. The minute their pictures and identities were released to the media—with and without their disguises—they weren’t safe anymore. This pushed David’s hand and he became desperate. They would either have to stay where they were or move me quickly. Harris was in it for the money. He was a disgruntled employee who got fired because of me, so he had a bone to pick, but he wasn’t going to sit still while the authorities closed in on him.

“He had beaten me several times while I was chained to the bed,” I continue. “He wanted the pin numbers to my credit and debit cards, and I gave them to him. I knew that Christian’s team would be watching my bank accounts, too. It all culminated in my rescue since we had current pictures of them with their disguises as well as pictures of their original appearances. They had to move fast, and they became sloppy, so…” I trail off.

“So, what became of them? Did they go to jail?” she asks.

“They’re both deceased now,” I tell her. “Harris died in a shoot-out with the police when they got to the house where they were holding me hostage. David was arrested, tried, and convicted. A few months later, they found him hanging in his jail cell.” There was no need to fill in the dirty little details of what led to David’s ultimate demise—or the fact that we’re still not totally sure it was a suicide.

“I didn’t know they beat you,” she says sadly. I purse my lips to force away the tears.

“It was pretty bad,” I reply. “I was hospitalized for a while. The bruises left me unrecognizable. Christian was so sweet,” I remember fondly. “He wouldn’t allow me to feel ugly or undesirable for one moment, even with my face all swollen and purple…” She covers her mouth at my description. I reach across the table and take her hand.

“Your actions saved me from that, Sarah,” I tell her. “This is why it’s imperative that you understand that this—none of this—is a handout. I was on the inside. I knew their plan; I heard it. If we had to wait for warrants to find out who had taken me or what had happened to me, I never would’ve seen Christian again. I’d be chained in some basement right now, going insane, being raped or beaten or God only knows what, assuming I had lived through the ordeal. You. Saved. Me, Sarah. I owe you my life, and I will spend the rest of my life showing you just how grateful I am.” She nods, wiping away a tear.

“It’s so hard to imagine one little action being a part of such a big thing,” she admits. “And I lost my job… I still wouldn’t have done anything different.” She raises her gaze and looks off into the distance at nothing in particular.

“That young man looked so distressed,” she says. “He was heartbroken and begging for my help. I tried to explain that to my boss, but it was no use. He couldn’t hear it. He was talking about how the guys in the video could have sued us. I never knew what happened in the end—I didn’t keep up with it, I’m sorry. There was so much going on in my life at the time…”

“I wish we had known,” I tell her. “We could have prevented so much of that.”

“Everything in its time, child,” she says, sipping her coffee. I take her hand again, just as I see Chuck gesturing out the window. I follow his gesture and see a very unwelcomed sight.

“Well,” I tell her. “We’re going to have to take our beverages to go. Being who I am and especially in light of the various events that have recently occurred in Nevada, I often find myself the object of unwanted attention. As such, the press is just outside.” She turns to look.

“I… don’t see anybody,” she says bemused.

“Black Celica two cars back across the street,” I tell her. “There’s a guy in the driver’s seat aiming a telephoto lens right at us. And the sandwich shop just over there,” I gesture with my head. “There are two of them in there sitting at different tables.”

“Don’t you find that intrusive?” she asks.

“Sometimes,” I reply. “As long as it’s not during a particularly rough time in my life or they’re not disrespectful, I don’t mind them getting a picture or two. Everybody has to stay employed. It’s when they make up stories or they’re vicious with their headlines that it bothers me.”

Chuck gathers our bags and leaves Starbucks. A few moments later, he pulls up in the Audi, and Sarah and I leave the coffee house without incident.


CHRISTIAN

“You don’t look happy,” I say when Jason comes into my office later Saturday evening. He shakes his head.

“Sophie’s making the truffles,” he says before he takes his seat.

“That’s what has you in a mood?” I ask. He’s silent for a moment.

“I can’t call her any more names,” he begins. “There are no words left to describe this person anymore. She’s never going to sign those papers. She sat there yammering and yammering for an entire hour like she and Sophie were having a wonderful visit, and Sophie never said a word. I don’t even think she blinked. It’s not going to happen, Christian. She’s not giving in. Sophie’s not going to Italy this year.”

“What are our other options?” I ask hopeful.

“Nothing that will be done by June,” he says. “Court orders, filing for sole custody… I’ve got Allen on filing court orders, but it probably won’t do us any good until next year. Sophie’s being so mature about it. She’s upset that she can’t go, but she’s not throwing any temper tantrums or anything—besides not speaking to her mother at the visits—but she’s resigned to her fate. She expects for anything involving her mother to be a disappointment and yes, we all know that life isn’t fair, and you have to take the good with the bad, but this is a lesson that she’s learning too soon. Some disappointments can be avoided, and this is one of them.

“So now she had to rise above the disappointment and try to function knowing that the family is going to Italy and she can’t go. Of course, this means that Gail can’t go either because one of us has to be here with Sophia.”

Wow, I hadn’t even thought of that.

“I offered to sign her up for cooking classes for the summer if she wanted them, but you’ve tasted her cooking. Her first meal… she’s a natural. She doesn’t need classes, but the experience would have been invaluable!”

“Don’t give up hope yet, Jason. There’s got to be something we can do,” I comfort. He shakes his head.

“Allen is looking into it, but trust me, I don’t think so. This is federal. This is beyond taking a kid across state lines—this is taking a kid out of the country. Either it’s done right, or it’s not done at all. If I do anything sideways with this, she’s got me by the balls even in jail.”

I know this, that’s why I have Allen making sure our twins are good to travel, but…

“If we need a court order, it’s only a matter of finding a sympathetic judge,” I point out.

“I know that, too, but it still has to be on the up-and-up, Christian, or this whole thing could blow up in my face.” I sigh.

“I wish there was something I could do,” I say.

“I wish there was, too,” he replies, “but this time, I don’t think so. Unless I’m looking to smuggle her out and smuggle her back in again, this isn’t happening.” He leans forward in his seat and I go over to the bar in the bookshelf. Retrieving two shot glasses, I pour us both a shot of bourbon. I hand him the shot and he throws it back like water. I offer him the bottle for another shot, but he shakes his head.

“It was a burn,” he says, looking out ahead of him. What was a burn? “All this time, she had me thinking it was a bike accident. It was a burn.”

He’s talking about the scar on Sophie’s hand. He’s still digesting that the terrible gash was a burn and not a cut.

“What child in the world deserves what this woman has put her through?” he asks. “She went on drug binges and left her alone for days. She had to hide money and things from that woman to keep her from taking them. She was in this house for three days before Shalane even knew she was gone! She could’ve been kidnapped, lost, hurt, dead, anything, and that woman didn’t even know she was gone.

“But then she takes my daughter on a drug drop, offers her as payment for a drug debt, then tells the police that I’m dead so that my daughter can end up in the system! What’s going on with this woman? I know that drugs fuck up your brain cells, but they can’t have her brain fried this badly!

“She’s systematically destroying this kid’s life! Sophie has done everything humanly possible to combat the things her mother has done to her, and she’s turned out to be a great kid in the process—a great kid! Even from jail, Shalane is reaching out to do whatever damage she possibly can. It’s killing me, man.”

He leans his elbows on his knees and shakes his head.

“You know what she said on the way back?” he asks, turning his gaze to me. “She said, ‘Thanks for not being anything she tried to say you were.’ She said that she already knew that her mother was lying, but she could never see for herself because she never spent enough time with me. Now that she could, she just thanked me for being a great dad. She told me that she would get over not going to Italy, and that she didn’t blame me, but that she’s never going to get over her mother doing this to her.

“So… her truffles are her way of dealing with the disappointment. She used cooking to escape when she was a kid… and she’s doing it now.”

I find interest in something on the bookshelf as my head of security and best friend chokes up a bit but quickly recovers.

“Sure you don’t want another drink?” I ask.

“I’m sure,” he says, clearing his throat. “Thanks for listening.”

“If there’s anything I can do…” I begin.

“I know, Boss,” he replies. He stands and I give his shoulder a firm squeeze before he leaves my office. I shoot over a text to Allen to beseech him to do everything legally possible to get this court order pushed through for Jason. I know that without calling in a favor or pushing someone’s hand that these things can take forever, and he’s right. This situation has to be completely clean and correct or he could end up in a really bad place because of it.

I realize that I’m a lucky ass bastard marrying the goddess that I married. She’s a wonderful woman, a fantastic mother, a brilliant doctor, a mind-blowing lover, an excellent cook… I can imagine that Jason must’ve felt most of those things for Shalane when they were together or he wouldn’t have married the cow. What on earth could make someone become so bitter and hateful to someone they claimed to love? I hope I never cross that threshold. I didn’t want to speak to my wife when I felt she betrayed me, but I didn’t hate her. I was hurt, but I could never hate her. These two clearly hate each other, and Sophia is becoming collateral damage.

With an unyielding urge to suddenly see my children, I take the elevator to the second floor to their nursery. I’m pleased to find that they’re alone in their room, fast asleep in their respective crib. I’ll take responsibility and tend to them if they wake up, but I have to hold them.

I scoop Minnie into my arms first since she’s closest to the door. She doesn’t even stir. It’s harder to get Mikey into my arm with his sister on my shoulder, but I manage it. He stirs a bit, but he settles once I sit in the rocker and get him in a comfortable position. I remember my wife sitting in this room, in that window, telling Minnie the story of Cinderella and how she didn’t like being Cinderella.

That will never do.

I don’t know any fairytales. I’ve seen them with my wife, and we’ve watched them with our children, but I can’t remember any of them… except the Gingerbread Man… and that one had a horrendous ending.

“I’m not as creative as your mother,” I tell them. “I don’t know what I’m going to do when you get older and you want me to tell you a story. The only one I remember is The Gingerbread Man, and he… heck if I’m going to be telling you that story.

“I can tell you this, though,” I say. “Monsters are real… and dragons are real… and bad guys are real… and there really are things that go bump in the night, but you know what? There really are knights in shining armor that save you from danger…”

Like bullets from a crazy blonde and cars used as missiles to destroy the one you love.

“And there really are fairy godmothers and princesses…”

Godmothers that risk everything to let you see a video to save your princess.

“And I’m still working on that ‘happily ever after’ thing, but I know for a fact that you can live a pretty darn happy life…”

Like living in a castle with a beautiful princess and two wonderful children and great friends with a king and a queen in the kingdom who saved you from the dragon that burned holes in your chest and back…

“I swear to God that I’ll never let anything bad happen to either of you,” I promise, and I feel a tear fall down my cheek. “I swear on my life that I’ll do everything I can to protect you from danger. I’ll slay every dragon and kill every bad guy…”

I can’t get any more words out of my mouth. I know that there may be something out there that I can’t protect them from. I can’t promise to keep them safe from everything because no human alive can do that, and the thought kills me. The thought that I can’t keep danger away from my children… dear God…

“I’ll fight with my last breath to keep you safe,” I sob quietly. “I swear that to you… I’ll kill anyone who tries to hurt you…”

What if I can’t? What if something gets to my precious babies and I can’t save them? What if I fail?

I hold my slumbering children close to me and cry about the monsters I may not be able to catch…

“Chteestin?”

I blink my eyes open at the sound of my name… or some version of it. I’m still holding my children and I’m leaning back in the rocking chair. The sun is peeking through the shades in their windows and Keri is looking down at me, gently rousing me awake.

“Keri,” I say sleepily. “What time is it?”

“Eight o’clock,” Gail says. “We came to check the children to see why they didn’t wake, and now we know why.”

I stretch as much as I can under my children to keep from waking them.

“Here, give them to us,” Gail says, reaching for Mikey.

“No,” I protest quietly, “don’t wake them.”

“Eet’s time, Chteestin,” Keri says. “Dey need dere bat an’ btekfest.”

Bat an btekfest? Oh, bath and breakfast!

“Oh,” I say stretching. “Oh, yes… of course.” I reluctantly hand my children to their nannies. “Is Butterfly awake yet?”

“Not that we noticed, but we came straight up here,” Gail says before carrying Mikey to the en suite. Jesus, I slept for a long time in the chair, and the children didn’t stir either… not once all night.

Still working the minor cricks out of my joints, I go to the owner’s suite to find that my wife is no longer in bed. She was here, but she’s started her day already. We headed in different directions last night after we came home from meeting with our mentors. Well, not immediately after.

Our training wasn’t intensive. We talked about our scene in Las Vegas, the first one that we’ve had since we started training. We confessed to not having as much Downtime as we should, vowing to correct that situation soon. Certain that we’ve garnered the most that we can at this point from our mentors, we agree to meet once a month, even if it happens to be a munch, just to stay on top of our relationship and lifestyle goals. Savvina and Artemis have helped us tremendously in redirecting our relationship as it relates to the Dominus/soumise dynamic, and I couldn’t be happier. I was never displeased when my wife took the reins and I don’t think I ever will be. I just hope she still chooses to do so since the focus has mainly been on her as the soumise.

When we got home, I showed her the pictures of our candle play from Las Vegas. I had them enlarged, printed in black and white and framed. Then I put them in the playroom. Butterfly agreed that they’re absolutely stunning… and hot! Good grief, they’re hot! They incited a fast, hard, and hot fuck in the playroom and then we went our separate ways, her to the shower and most likely to bed, and me to my study.

After a hot shower to loosen my muscles and bones, I go in search of my wife. I find her in the family playroom, doing yoga with Marilyn. It’s a welcome sight, and I watch for a moment, but decide not to disturb them. I go to the kitchen to find Ms. Solomon preparing breakfast.

“Good morning, Ms. Solomon,” I say as I pour a cup of coffee.

“Good morning, Mr. Grey,” she greets.

“Who’s awake?” I ask.

“I’ve seen everyone but the Taylors,” she says. I go to the refrigerator.

“Gail is with Keri and the twins,” I say. “Maybe Jason is still asleep.” I see Sophie’s truffles in the refrigerator and I take one.

“You’re not going to eat those now, are you?” Ms. Solomon scolds.

“Just one,” I say and pop it into my mouth before she can stop me. The confection is just as divine as it was the first night I tasted it. I take the bowl with the remaining chocolates and tuck it into a drawer in the refrigerator. These are not community chocolates and I won’t have a certain distressed glutton pilfering my treats.

“Can’t wait for breakfast, bro?” I hear off to my right. I lean back and see Elliot and Valerie walking into the kitchen holding hands.

“Mind your own business,” I say, closing the refrigerator. “Who invited you, anyway?” I add, throwing a glare at him. I walk over to Valerie and kiss her on the cheek.

“You’re in a good mood,” she says, smiling and maybe a bit surprised at the kiss.

“I spent the night with my children,” I say, sipping my coffee and heading to the dining table.

“Montana mad at you?” Elliot probes as he and Valerie follow me back to the dining room.

“No,” I say, “I just spent a little more time in the nursery with them than I intended and fell asleep.”

“Where did you sleep, in Mikey’s crib?” Valerie jests. I chuckle.

“No, I slept in the rocker while telling them a story.”

“Remind me not to let you tell me any stories,” Elliot says.

“Well, hey, look what the cat dragged in,” Butterfly says as she and Marilyn join us for breakfast. She kisses Valerie, then Elliot, and they exchange pleasantries.

“You didn’t come to bed. You okay?” she asks before kissing me on my forehead.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I assure her. “I went in to check on the ‘mini-me’s’ and our conversation was so riveting that I just fell asleep.” She twists her lips in disbelief.

“Seriously, Christian?” she accuses.

“Seriously,” I reply. “Ask Keri. She woke me.” Butterfly shakes her head and pulls out her phone as she takes her seat.

“Oh, well, this is just great,” my wife says as she swipes her screen.

“What?” I ask. She looks at the screen for a few more moments then hands it to me. There’s a picture of her and Sarah sitting in a Starbuck’s with the caption:

Anastasia Grey Enjoys Shopping Spree with Mother Figure While Bio-Mom Lies Paralyzed and Infirm in Las Vegas Hospital

“Are you kidding me?” I say.

“Tell me about it,” she replies.

“What is it?” Valerie asks and I hand her the phone.

“Hm,” she says. “Not enough going on in the news, I see.”

“Exactly,” Butterfly says, retrieving the phone from Valerie. “Carla Morton could not be reached for comment. Of course, she can’t. She’s infirm, you assholes.” She shakes her head. “Mother figure… They don’t even know who she is! She started out as an intake at Helping Hands. For all they know, they can be plastering her all over the news and endangering her life!”

“Okay, no more paparazzi at the table,” I scold. “They’ll always find something, Butterfly. You know that.”

“Or make it up if they don’t,” she says, swiping her screen and putting her phone away. “So, what brings you guys over today?” She puts her napkin in her lap and looks at Valerie.

“I needed the company,” she says. “It’s… Meg’s birthday.” Butterfly’s brow furrows.

“Meg’s birthday?” she says, bemused. “Oh! Meg!” she says, realization dawning. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she says. “It’s just unnerving any time Meg rears her ugly head—figuratively or physically.” I look at Elliot and he inconspicuously points at his head before scratching it. I nod just as inconspicuously, silently mouthing an “oh” at him.

“Was this… this was the day of the surgery, right?” Butterfly asks. Valerie nods. “You’re alright, aren’t you? There’s been no…” She trails off.

“Oh! Oh, no, I’m fine. There’s been no recurrences. I just… didn’t want to be… alone, you know? I was alone when I found out about it and when I went to surgery—except for El, of course… I just wanted to be around more friends and family, that’s all.”

“Of course,” Butterfly says, reaching out and grasping her friend’s hand. “I’m so glad you came over. We can hang out and talk all day like we used to before we had to start adulting.” She and Butterfly laugh.

“Yeah, I love El and George, but it’s hard to have a girl’s day with them,” Valerie says. Butterfly’s brow furrows.

“Um, who’s George?” Butterfly asks. Valerie scoffs.

“You didn’t tell them about George?” she says to Elliot.

“I told him,” Elliot says, pointing to me.

“George is only the most adorable mongrel you’ve ever seen!” Valerie proclaims. “We got him from the rescue a few weeks ago and he’s just too lovable.” She retrieves her phone, swipes the screen, and gives the phone to Butterfly.

“What kind of dog is this?” Butterfly says with mirth.

“We have no idea,” Elliot admits. “He’s a mutt—that’s all we know.”

“He looks like Benji,” Butterfly says, handing the phone to me. She’s right. He does kind of look like Benji.

“That’s what I said,” Valerie replies. “They didn’t know what kind of dog Benji was, either, but I did learn that a trainer once said that he was a mix between a Miniature Poodle, a Cocker Spaniel, and Schnauzer. So, that’s what we’re going with until someone tells us different.”

“Well, I think he’s adorable,” Butterfly says as Ms. Solomon begins to serve breakfast and I give Valerie back her phone. “How’s his temperament?”

“The most vicious thing on that dog is his tail,” Valerie replies. “He likes apples and he just wants to be loved. He licks everybody he meets than waits for treats.” She laughs.

“He sounds like the perfect little companion…”

We talk some more about Elliot and Valerie’s dog and the conversation wanders over to the Italian villa and the fact that Aaron has probably landed in Rome by now and will most likely get to the villa tomorrow. We shy away from the Gia Mateo as two people at the table would really rather not talk about her.

I look at my family sitting around the breakfast table and wonder why our story has to be so tragic. We’re all pretty much estranged from our original blood family—some by death; others because they’re just assholes. We all had to make a family—or were blessed with one—that’s not blood. And we all have a horrendous story or two to tell.

Branding…
Cigarette burns…
Cancer…
Miscarriages…

Is it true that the worst trials produce the best—and worst—people? I mean, look at Sophie. She’s striving and succeeding at being one of the best people I know at only 13 years old and look at the shit hand she’s been dealt so far. Seriously, who in God’s name deserves a mother like that?

Every time I think of her or I think of Carla or the crack whore, I just want to be the best father that I can possibly be. I want to show my children that there’s nothing that they can’t have or can’t do, and not because they’re rich, but because they’re loved. I want to chase away their Boogeymen or at least help them fight them. I want to celebrate their victories and comfort them in times of sorrow. I want them to know that as long as I’m alive, I’ll be there for them to comfort and protect them.

I want them to know that my horror story will never be theirs.


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

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 28

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

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

Season 5 Episode 28

ANASTASIA

“Hey, Baby Boo, if you make me a batch of those chocolate truffles, I’ll do the dishes for you.” Sophie’s eyes light up.

“Deal, Dad!” she says. She opens the refrigerator and produces a healthy bowl of truffles, handing them to her father. Jason’s mouth falls open.

“You little sneaky mouse,” he says, and Sophie giggles.

“Are there any more leftovers, Sophie?” Christian asks from the counter. “I’d love more of the coq au vin.”

“Yes, Uncle Christian, there’s leftovers of everything.”

“May I have a doggy bag?” he asks.

“Me, too,” I chime in. “The tart is basically a memory, now, but I’d love servings of whatever you’ve got left.”

“C’est un sac gastronomique, Oncle Christian,” Sophie corrects. Christian and I both raise a brow at her.

“Tu peux parler Français?” I ask in awe. Sophie puts her finger and thumb together.

“Un peu,” she admits. “I’m learning at school; some on my own on the internet.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Don’t take all my food, you gluttons!” Jason warns.

“Pipe down, you blow hard,” Christian says. “Besides, it’s not your food, it’s Sophie’s food. Don’t worry, we’ll leave some for you. And while you’re balking, give up some of those truffles!”

“Not a chance!” Jason retorts. “I bartered for these! I earned them! Get your own, you loafer!”

“You haven’t washed a single dish, yet!” Christian protests. “Who’s the glutton now?”

“But I will, so stay away from my chocolates!”

Sophie giggles at two grown men fighting over her food as she artfully crafts foil swans just like they do in the fancy restaurants and fills them with servings of what’s left of dinner while Christian and Jason bicker about the chocolates. I have to tear Christian away from the brawl and scoot him out of the apartment, bidding Gail goodnight and offering my apologies to a giggling Sophie for her Uncle Christian’s immature behavior.

When we get to the elevator, Christian pushes the button for the second floor. My brow furrows.

“You don’t want to put the food away?” I ask.

“Oh, I intend to,” he says with a nod. Catching his meaning, I laugh.

“And here I was wondering how I was going to maneuver a midnight kitchen run.”

*-*

“She was very happy with the outcome last night,” Gail says as we sit at the breakfast bar the next morning.

“Well, the food was really good,” I reply. “It’s not like we had to lie about it. Those foil swans went right up to the suite last night. We ate our leftovers and watched TV.” Gail and I laugh.

“I thought Jason was going to get downright violent over those chocolate truffles,” she laughs.

“Tell me about it!” I say with mirth, “Two grown men fighting over chocolate.”

“That’s okay,” Christian says coming into the kitchen. “I know he’s bringing some of those chocolate goodies to work today and if he doesn’t share them, he can’t have any more Christmas cookies.”

“Are you serious?” I gasp a laugh. “Christmas is nine months away! How are you even going to remember that?”

“Oh, I’ll remember,” he says. “The minute I smell that goodness baking in the air, I’ll remember.”

“Oh, this is ridiculous,” I say. “I guess we’re going to have to bribe Sophie into making a batch of those truffles every week or we’re going to have civil war here!”

“That works for me,” Christian chimes in shamelessly. I smile to myself, then shake my head.

“Shalane is really doing a huge disservice by keeping Sophie from going to Italy!” I hiss. “She’s a natural talent, and now she wants to go to the motherland of Italian cooking where she can learn the background behind the food and take advantage of the culture and her mom is trying to hinder her. She can’t do much else for the girl while she’s locked away. Why wouldn’t she do this?”

“I don’t think she’s concerned about all that,” Christian says. “I think she’s concerned about her own selfish things and hurting Jason. Maybe she wants to make Sophie beg some more.”

“That’s just ridiculous!” I snap. “That girl could turn out to be magnificent and this is her chance to help her and she won’t do it. What a despicable human being.”

“Talking about my mom?” Sophie says, surprising us all and coming around the corner from the family room and into the kitchen. We’re all in stunned and ashamed silence because none of us expected her to still be here.

“Pumpkin, what are you still doing here?” Gail asks.

“We’re running a little late,” she says. “I think Dad was in a sugar coma.”

“He ate ‘em all?” Christian exclaims, dismayed, and Sophie shrugs. “No Christmas cookies! Not one!” he declares finitely. I sigh.

“Sophie, I will pay you to make those truffles once a week,” I declare. Her eyes widen.

“Once a week? Really?” she asks.

“Yes, because if you don’t, these two are going to kill each other over those chocolates!”

“Sure,” she says. “They’re so easy to make. And, yeah, my mother’s a… word that I can’t use.” Sophie puts her bookbag on the counter and goes to the refrigerator. She opens the Subzero and stops.

“You didn’t… like the food?” she asks me and Christian. I frown.

“Why would you think that?” I ask.

“The swans aren’t in here,” she says sadly. Christian and I laugh immediately.

“No, Sophie, we loved that food… so much, in fact, that it never made it to the refrigerator.” Sophie’s brow furrows.

“You ate it for breakfast?” she asks.

“We ate it for an after-dinner snack,” Christian clarifies. “Boy, that would have been a sight to see… two grown billionaires in their pajamas eating mashed potatoes in bed with their fingers!” Sophie bursts out laughing.

“You ate with your fingers?” she giggles.

“I didn’t feel like coming back downstairs for utensils,” he explains. Satisfied, and still giggling, Sophie removes the orange juice from the refrigerator.

“Sophie,” I say tentatively, “since you already know what we were talking about, I want to ask you a question. I know that I asked if you wanted to help decorate the villa, but… I don’t want to make you feel badly about… you know, helping to decorate it and then not getting to see it.” Sophie’s eyes widen.

“Please, let me help you decorate the villa, Aunt Ana,” she beseeches. “It may be the closest I get to Italy this year. Please?” I sigh. I hate that she’s going through this.

“Of course, you can, Sophie,” I say. “I just didn’t know if you would still want to.”

“I still want to,” she says, “even if I don’t get to see it in person.” I try not to shake my head.

“You’re such a grown-up girl,” I say. “You surprise me every day.”

She giggles into her orange juice and I catch a glimpse of Jason out of the corner of my eye. He is fuming, and I’m not really sure why. I inconspicuously elbow Christian, but he has the tact of a goat sometimes and rubbernecks his head right over to Jason.

Fuck.

Jason sees the possible problem brewing and comes out of his hiding place. What the hell was he doing eavesdropping back there anyway?

“Ready to go, Baby Boo?” he says in his normal voice. “I’m sorry we’re going to be late. I told Jeff I would take you to school and then I dropped the ball. Too many chocolates, I guess.”

“Stingy hog,” Christian says under his breath before finishing his coffee. He stands and kisses me on the cheek. “Love you.”

“Love you, too,” I reply. “Drop the word to those loafers not to get too comfortable. I’ll be back to bring some hell next week. I just need to make sure the center is running okay.”

“Will do,” he says, walking past Jason.

“I’m ready, Dad,” Sophie says. She finishes her orange juice and puts her glass in the sink.

“Bye, Momma Gail,” she says, kissing Gail on the cheek.

“See you after school, Pumpkin,” Gail replies.

“Bye, Aunt Ana!” she says, dashing past her Dad.

“Bye. Sophie,” I say to her retreating back. Jason falls in step behind her, and I suppose Christian will find out why he’s fuming.

*-*

It’s business as usual at the Center. Courtney informs me that things are still touch and go with her grandfather, and she’s not hopeful that it’ll change any time soon, but that he has agreed not to harass her as long as she doesn’t do anything to hurt Addie. She had already written off the relationship, so nothing that he said to her had any merit as far as she was concerned. So, in her own words, she’s no better off than she was before and no worse.

Ebony didn’t come in today. She hasn’t missed a day since I hired her, so this gives me cause for concern. She’s not answering her cell phone, and I don’t want to send someone to her address on file simply because she missed a day of work. I’ll just have to wait and see how things pan out.

Marilyn didn’t come in today either. She and Gary went back to her doctor to see if her condition needs any further intervention since she’s unable to keep food down.

There were a couple of residents who needed to chat today and work through some fears and problems, but besides that, like I said, business as usual.

I left the Center a couple of hours early to go to my annual checkup with Dr. Culley, my OB/GYN. After the usual pap smear and the regular barrage of tests, she informs me that since I’ve stopped breastfeeding, my normal periods should begin again in about a month or so.

Christian has made it home by the time I get there and he’s down in his study working on God only knows what. I’m hoping that I don’t have to roll through GEH again and rattle some cages, because I don’t have a problem doing just that if my husband turns into a bear again. However, it looks like the same old thing for him—business as usual.

I go to my study to get a look at the blueprints for the villa. Pop’s death last year put everything on hold and to be honest, so much has occurred in the nine months since that date that I haven’t given any thought whatsoever to the place. Who’s been taking care of it? Has it just laid vacant all this time? I would imagine that someone is looking after it just like they are his other properties when he’s away—which, by the way, I’m still not sure of all of them after the years we’ve been together. I think there’s one in New York, one in Hawaii, and a ski resort somewhere, but I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask him one day.

I never even got to look at the Villa last year. I don’t even know if the link to the virtual tour is still available. I know I have the floor plan and blueprints though. That’s somewhere to start. I open the file where I saved the basic floor plan.

Holy cow, Batman.

Is this right? This can’t be right!

“Christian!” I bellow.

“What?” My husband comes barreling into my office a few moments after I call him. He looks anxious. Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you, but…

“The villa, Christian,” I say. “This place is bigger than my house!”

He glares at me for a moment. Then he puts his hands on his hips.

“Woman, you just screamed like you were being attacked and it’s about the villa?” he asks incredulously.

“It’s got 14 bedrooms, Christian! What the fuck am I supposed to do with 14 bedrooms?”

“Rent ’em out!” he snaps. “Invite the homeless to stay! Open a museum and charge admission for all I care!” he adds, throwing his hands in the air. “Woman screaming bloody murder. Scared the shit outta me!” He leaves the room mumbling and fussing at no one.

I didn’t mean to startle him, but fuck. Fourteen fucking bedrooms? What a colossal waste of space! Fourteen bedrooms for two people. It’s going to cost a fortune to decorate this place and then we’re only going to stay there for two weeks out of the year… and not every year! Damn straight, the family’s coming. I thought this was going to be fun. I’m going to have to move fast—real fast. And I have to find someone to decorate this damn place overseas! For fuck’s sake. I would have started this last year had I known. I get up and stomp into Christian’s study.

“Is this place at least empty?” I ask.

“For the most part, yes, Anastasia it is,” he says without raising his head.

“Don’t Anastasia me!” I bark. “I’ve got to find a decorator overseas—or one that we plan to fly overseas—that can decorate a 14-bedroom villa in two and a half months. Don’t you think you should have told me?” Now, he raises his gaze to me.

“We’ve owned that villa for longer than our children have been alive,” he retorts coolly. “Forgive me if I thought you already knew by now.”

Probably a hundred snappy comebacks attack me at once about the crazy couple of years we’ve had and how the last thing on my mind would be the floor plan of a villa a million miles away. As soon as the comebacks pop to mind, my thoughts get all jumbled like they often do with a three-second funnel…

I should be grateful; he bought me a villa.
This asshole could’ve told me it was 14 bedrooms.
I’m being petty I should have fun with this.
How the hell am I supposed to decorate all this space in three months!
We’ll have our own space to relax in while we’re in Italy. It’ll be so romantic.
I’m not even going to be there! Who the fuck is going to oversee this shit?

I know I do the bobble head and at the end of the three-second funnel, all I get is, “Get the fuck outta this room.”

So, I do.

I march my confused ass back to my office and slam the door. I drop back down in my seat and look at the blueprints on my laptop screen… forlorn. I hope the virtual walk-through still works, because if it doesn’t, I’m completely screwed. I have to find a decorator that’s willing to decorate the home… overseas… without me being there… and it has to be someone that somebody in the family knows or else they have to be vetted and that could take a fucking month.

I drop my head in dismay on the laptop and groan my displeasure. After I lament for a moment or two, I realize that I have no time to waste if I want to get this damn thing decorated before June. I really can’t be mad at Christian, but I can… but I can’t… but I am. Had I known what I was dealing with, I would have chosen paint colors, textiles, and flooring long ago. Now, my only option is to choose a style and run with it. I click the link for the virtual tour and, thank God, it still works.

I can get a feel of what the villa looks like, but not what I’m really working with since the rooms are all full of this Metro-Euro-Contemporary-Americano-Modern whatever this crap is so I can’t even get a good look at the walls or the floors, only the layout. This whole first-person tour thing is not really working for me. It’s the whole 3D, virtual reality thing instead of watching a movie, which gives you a better feel for the space. It just looks like a big ass house that I need to decorate.

So, yeah, I’m screwed. I groan again, retrieve my cell and call Elliot.

“Montana, what’s the word?” he answers.

“Help me,” I groan.

“Well, you sound sorrowful,” he says. “What’s up?”

“Did Christian tell you that he bought me a villa in Italy?” I say.

“He may have mentioned it, yeah,” Elliot says.

“We’re taking a Roman vacation in June,” I tell him. “I don’t know when we’ll end up in the villa, maybe July. I have to decorate it before that!”

“Okay, well, three months, that’s good time,” he soothes.

“Elliot, the damn thing has 14 bedrooms.” The line is quiet for a moment.

“Fourteen?” he nearly shrieks. “What the fuck are you going to do with 14 bedrooms?”

“My sentiments exactly!” I concur. “You know Christian’s motto—go big or go bigger!” I can almost see Elliot rubbing the back of his neck.

“What are you gonna do?” he asks.

“I was hoping you could help me with that part,” I admit. “Know any designers—good and discreet designers—who are willing to take on this overseas job with a bottomless budget and decorate my villa for me?”

He’s quiet again.

“Come on, Elliot, you gotta know somebody,” I reply.

“I know a few that might be able to do it. Getting them is going to be the problem. Spring is right around the corner and they’re in high demand right now.”

“Elliot, when I say bottomless, I mean bottomless,” I tell him. He sighs.

“Will there be any blasting, demo, and rebuilds?” he asks.

“Not that I know of, but even if there was, we wouldn’t do it now. We don’t have time,” I reply.

“There’s always time. Why don’t you know?”

“When’s the last time I’ve been to Italy, Elliot?” I ask. “I haven’t seen this place. I’ve only seen virtual tours and blueprints and you know how helpful those are.”

“So, you’re actually going to need someone to go over there and do a walkthrough—probably a designer and an architect…”

“Not an architect,” I tell him. “Whatever we can’t hide is just going to have to wait.” He’s silent again.

“There’s always Gia,” he says. “Where I or Christian are involved, she’ll jump at the chance.”

“Gia who? Oh, wait… Gia Mateo? The Mrs-Grey-Hopeful that decorated his boat? How about, ‘no?’ How about, ‘hell, no?’”

“Your pickings are kind of slim, Montana,” he says. “Short notice and they’ve got to drop everything they’re doing to fly overseas and check out your villa in one of the busiest decorating seasons of the year. Do you realize what you’re asking?” I groan inwardly. Of course, I realize what I’m asking… the impossible.

“What about the guy that helped decorate the crossing?” I ask. “What was his name?”

“Aaron,” Elliot says. “He was going to be one of my suggestions, but he’s a hot commodity.”

“Bottomless…”

“Be that as it may,” he interrupts, “he may still be unavailable, and you’d have to go with Gia.”

“I thought you said you had some others,” I quip.

“Those are two of the best and I trust them,” he counters.

“You trust Gia?” I accuse.

“Yes, Montana, I trust Gia. We used to fuck, but that’s not why. She’s good at what she does; she’s a consummate professional; and she dare not cross the Greys—any of us.” I think that last part was for me.

“She’ll be a last resort,” I say.

“She may be an only resort,” he replies.

“Call Aaron first,” I say. “Let him know that I have a huge, profitable job for him, but let me explain what it is.”

“Okay,” Elliot says with skepticism, “but you might want me to put in a call to Gia, too.”

“Aaron, first,” I insist. “I have to go now. I’ve got to lament over blueprints and textiles some more.”

“Talk to you later, Montana.” I end the call.

Gia Mateo. I’ve never met her, but in my head, I’m seeing a busty blonde or redhead with way too much makeup and really tight clothes. A woman you would definitely want to keep your husband away from… and who won’t be decorating my villa if I have to pay Aaron three times his normal fee!

I don’t even know what to look for in terms of style for my villa, so I begin to shut everything down. No use in beating myself over the head. I haven’t talked to Marilyn all day and she promised to give me an update on her doctor’s appointment today. Did she get bad news? Is she hiding? Only one way to find out.

**Hey Mare, come see me in my office when you get a chance. **

Either she’ll come immediately, or she won’t come at all. So, I continue getting things together, clearing my desk, and shutting down. Maybe she’s not home, yet. Maybe she decided to spend the night at Gary’s. Maybe…

“Hey,” Marilyn says as she enters my office.

“Hey,” I say, after shutting down my laptop. “How goes things?”

“Okay, I guess,” she says, noncommittal. Hmm, not sure how to interpret that.

“I was expecting you to tell me how the doctor’s appointment went,” I say. “Mine went fine. I’m not pregnant,” I jest. Marilyn laughs weakly.

“I’m sorry. I just forgot,” she says, coming further into the room. She seems a little depressed, not as bad as before, but not particularly happy.

“Is everything okay?” I ask. Maybe the doctor gave her some bad news.

“Not great, but as well as can be expected,” she begins. “As it turns out, the meal replacement shakes and smoothies kind of helped to get me back to where I needed to be. I’m not there, yet, but I’m coming out of the danger zone since I haven’t lost any more weight. Since I’ve gotten over the possible risk of just wasting away, the doctor says that now is a good time to get a structured dietary plan. So, I’m now seeing a nutritionist to whom I have to report every week. She will report to my doctor every week, and if we don’t see some significant improvement, then I may have to be hospitalized before my vital organs start shutting down.”

“Are you still at risk for that?” I ask.

“Not that we can tell, but we’ll have to see.” She replies. I nod.

“Where’s Gary?”

“He’s back at his place for the night,” she says.

“He’s not running, is he?”

“No,” she says with uncertainty.

“You don’t know,” I say.

“No, I don’t think he’s running.” I examine her.

You’re not running, are you?” I ask. She raises her gaze to me but doesn’t answer. “I thought this was what you wanted.” She sits on the chest in front of my desk.

“Have you ever felt a pain that was so bad and so deep that you would do anything not to feel it again?” she asks.

“I have,” I say. It made me afraid to love for half a decade. “You’re afraid.”

She turns her gaze from me, sighs heavily, and nods.

“Mare, what you were doing to your body—starving yourself and not eating—that wasn’t healthy, and that wasn’t normal. But this, what you’re feeling right now, this is totally normal. I felt this way when Christian returned after he left me and went to Madrid. I love him endlessly, but when he came back, I sat waiting for several days for the other shoe to drop… for something horrible to happen and he leaves me again. I couldn’t get comfortable. I couldn’t let him touch me. I couldn’t let him love me… I couldn’t trust him with my heart anymore. Things were perfect and then… they weren’t.”

It hurts just thinking about that time of our lives let alone talking about it.

“How long did it last?” she asks. I sigh.

“It’s hard to say,” I reply. “I was still uncertain when we went on our Australian cruise. We had to talk to people… therapists, friends… we had to learn to trust each other again.”

“That’s exactly what this is,” she says, drawing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around her legs. She looks like she’s shrinking, but I can’t say for sure that she is.

“I love him so much,” she says, looking off into the distance. “I want to be with him, but I’m so afraid that it I get comfortable again, it’s all going to crumble and I’m going to back where I started from. I’d be better off alone than to let that happen.” There’s a revelation.

“Would you rather be alone?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“No,” she replies, “I want Gary.” I stand and walk over to the front of my desk.

“Then it’s a chance you have to take, Mare,” I tell her. “Nothing lasts forever, you know that, but we live our best lives and we glean what happiness we can from it while we’re here. A wise woman once told me that as long as we’re alive, the fear of something going wrong—the monsters—will always be there. We have to decide if we’re going to let the monsters run our lives.” I sigh.

“Mare, the foundation of my entire world was shaken… shattered when Christian left. Hell, I damn near leapt off a cliff, for God’s sake. When he came back, I was scared frozen. I didn’t know how to let him in. It took a while for things to get back to normal and took a while for me to understand exactly what I wanted. I knew that we were never going to get that perfect, untarnished love back because it was now stained with reality. So, did I want to build from where we were or did I want to let go?

“That’s the first question that you have to answer for yourself. Do you want to start from where you are right now and build on love from there, or are you too hurt and too afraid and you want to let go? And Mare, there’s nothing wrong with needing to be with yourself, by yourself, to find yourself again if that’s what you need to do. But you’re going to have to ask yourself if you want to do that without Gary, because honestly, you weren’t doing so well without him.”

“I already know that I don’t want to be without him,” she confesses. “I know it.”

“Well, then you’re going to have to face up to your fears and fight the monsters,” I reply. “Yes, it’s scary, and it won’t be easy. Anything we have can change in the blink of an eye. Do you sit and wait for the monsters to gobble you up, or do you grab those sons of bitches by the throat and you show them who’s boss?” I ask, using the same words Laura used with me about the Boogeyman. Mare takes a shuddering breath.

“I’m going to bed,” she says as she stands. “This entire thing is exhausting.”

“Have you been sleeping?” I ask.

“With him, yes. Tonight will be by myself. We’ll see,” she confesses.

“Did you eat?” I press.

“Yes, Bosslady,” she says. “I’m on a strict ‘or else’ regimen with my doctor and I really don’t want to end up in the hospital.” That’s a healthy attitude.

“Have you decided if you’re going to talk to someone?” I continue.

“Gary and I have an appointment with a counselor tomorrow,” she says. “I have an appointment of my own on Thursday. And before you ask, I’m going to meditate now before I go to sleep.” I laugh.

“Okay, okay, I’m pushing too hard. I just worry about you, Mare,” I admit.

“I understand, and I appreciate that. One way or another, I’ll be fine,” she says with a weak smile before leaving my office.

One way or another.

She hasn’t fully decided to take Gary back… or at least she hasn’t fully settled into the idea. I can’t blame her. As much as I love him, it took me months to settle back into “happily ever after” with Christian.

*-*

“I’m sorry I didn’t call yesterday,” Ebony says when I get to Helping Hands in the morning. “I was hiding. I had a little scare this weekend. It was a false alarm—very silly on my part but it sent me into hiding for a moment. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

“If you’re ever frightened or whatever might be going on, please let me know. I’m sure we could help you, Ebony.”

“I believe you,” she says. “It’s just… old habits are hard to break. I saw someone that I thought I knew, and I thought they saw me and… It was all just a silly misunderstanding. I’m very embarrassed about it.”

“Well, we don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, but again, if you need me…”

“I know,” she says. “Thanks.”

I’m tying up a few loose ends in the afternoon when a number comes across my cell that I don’t recognize.

“Dr. Anastasia Grey,” I answer.

“Ana! Hey, it’s Aaron,” he replies.

“Aaron, hi! Thank you for calling me back,” I say.

“You sounded a little desperate on my voicemail. What’s up?”

“I am,” I admit. “Aaron, I have a huge project that you probably won’t even want to do, but I have to ask you first before I go somewhere else, and since you did such a great job on the mansion…”

“Okay, way to scare me off before I even hear about the job,” he jests. “What’s the job?”

“My husband has purchased an Italian villa on Lake Como,” I say. He whistles.

“Abroad!” he says. “Near George Clooney?”

“I don’t think so,” I say. “Christian doesn’t like attention and being near George Clooney would definitely draw attention.”

“Well, exactly where is your villa located?” he asks. I pull up the email with the blueprints.

“Sala Comacina?” I say, a question instead of a statement.

“Hmm, you’re not that far from him… about seven miles,” he says. Well, I hope he keeps the paps on his end of the lake.

“So, can you do it?” I ask.

“I can do it, I just have to figure out how,” he says.

“Well, at this point, it’s either you or Gia Mateo…”

“That bitch?” Aaron nearly squeals. “No. She’s mediocre at best, she steals ideas from other designers, and she gets most of her jobs through her pussy. No. Hell, no. Italian villa for the Greys? The fuck if I’m letting her get that prestige piece.”

“I don’t know, Aaron. This is a big job in a little bit of time.”

“How big and how little?” he asks.

“Fourteen bedrooms, 1210 square meters, two months, two and a half tops,” I reply.

“Shit!” he exclaims. “Any blasting?”

“You and Elliot asked the same question,” I say.

“That’s because it’s going to be exponentially longer if we have to take out walls.”

“Well, no. I won’t approve knocking out walls. I haven’t seen the place and you have to tell me what you can do with the bones.” There’s silence.

“You haven’t seen the place?” he says.

“No,” I reply. “It’s in Italy, so I’ll be totally dependent on you!” I hear him scoff.

“Make no mistake. You know I’m going to charge you out the ass for this, right?” he says.

“Yep,” I reply without hesitation. “Mr. Grey will pay for it all.” Serves him right. I hope this is what he expected buying a 14-bedroom Italian villa sight unseen. I sure hope he trusts the real estate agent that oversaw the purchase and we haven’t bought a money pit.

“Ah, to have money to burn,” he says. “I’ll see who I can delegate my current projects to and I’ll be looking for a flight out this weekend. Should I go commercial or will Mr. Grey be flying me out on his private jet?”

“It’ll have to be commercial,” I tell him. “I’ll have my assistant make arrangements for a Saturday flight. I don’t know what the villa looks like, so I’ll have her make nearby accommodations as well.”

“Sounds like a plan, and don’t call that bitch, Gia—not even for suggestions!” he reinforces.

“Jesus, Aaron, did she steal a boyfriend from you or something?” I ask. Aaron laughs.

“I can see why you would assume that,” he says. “I’m straight as an arrow, baby, but I will turn into Elsie de Wolfe at the flip of a coin when it comes to decorating and I can get catty with the best of them. Ask anybody in the industry. She got to where she is on her back and off other people’s ideas.”

“That wreaks of bitterness,” I point out. “Has she ever stolen anything from you?”

“She tried,” he says. “When I saw her using the design, I didn’t even confront her. I filed an immediate cease and desist and prepared for a civil battle. When she discovered that I wasn’t going to negotiate, she paid me off and stopped using my design. Now, she’ll take a design, tweak it a bit and put her own spin on it, then say it was hers. Since she’ll have all the design work for her design, you can’t nab her on it. They could smell her coming a mile away at NeoCon and the AD Design Show. She’s gonna cross a real cutthroat one day and they’re going to give her what for. We work too hard to get here for some thieving, whorish infringer to come and steal our designs.”

He’s pretty passionate about this.

“Well, I’ll take your word for it. I’m forwarding the email with the blueprints and a walk-through and I’ll have travel plans for you by the end of the day. Would you prefer to fly morning or afternoon?”

“Morning,” he says. “I’ll lose a day and a half flying to Europe. Oh, and tell Mr. Grey that I’m not after your ass, just your money.”

“What?” I ask in horror.

“Tell him,” he reinforces. “He’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. Talk to you soon!” And he ends the call.

What the hell was that about?


CHRISTIAN

“Sir, Ben informs me that the police are at the front gate.”

Jason has called me on my cell. I’m in my office looking over the final details of a merger that we’re planning on completing this week when I get this unwelcome interruption.

The police?

“Did they state their business?” I ask.

“No, sir. They won’t do it until they speak to you.” Without knowing why they’re here, I can’t turn them away. I just hate it when they’re all secretive. I don’t like cops anyway and they don’t like me.

“Let them in,” I reply.

“Would you like for me to accompany you, sir?”

“No,” I say, “not yet, but keep an eye on things.”

“Yes, sir.” I end the call and ponder the situation. I have no idea why they’re here… asking for me. I don’t want to alarm my wife, so the best thing to do would be to just go and see what they want. I stand from my desk just in time to hear the two-way communication system come to life.

“Christian.”

“Windsor here, sir. Detective Burns and Groomer here to see you.”

“Show them to the living room and stay with them there. I’m on my way up.”

“Yes, sir.”

I take the south staircase that leads to the front of the house and immerge near the formal living room. I see two detectives—one guy in that stereotypical trench coat and a woman in a dark designer pants suit—standing in the living room and looking around at their surroundings.

“May I help you?” I ask when I enter the room.

“Christian Grey?” the guy says.

“Yes?”

“We have some questions for you about Greta Ellison.” Oh, shit. Showtime.

“Who?” I say, my brow furrowed.

“Gre-ta El-lis-on,” he repeats slowly and sarcastically. I’m already pissed that the guy didn’t reintroduce himself. He told Windsor who he was. He didn’t tell me. So, he’s already starting this meeting off with hostility. I chuckle-scoff in his face.

“I heard you the first time, Skippy,” I say with mirth and equal sarcasm. “I just don’t know who you’re talking about.”

“That’s odd, because we have evidence of a background check you did on her a little while back.” He shows me a picture of Ellison. I study it for a moment.

“Oh, her,” I say in fake surprise. “A little while back?” I frown. “You mean like three years!”

“Oh, now you remember,” he comments.

“You showed me a picture,” I reply. “I don’t keep every girl’s name on the tip of my tongue that I planned to fuck.” I turn to Windsor. “Did you see a badge?” I ask.

“Yes, sir,” he says.

“Thank you,” I say. Windsor nods once and leaves the room. The guy raises his brow at me.

“Is that what it was, Mr. Grey?” he asks. “You planned to fuck her.”

“That’s exactly what it was,” I reply, unoffended.

“You do background checks on all the women you plan to fuck?” he probes.

“Considering the fact that I don’t plan to fuck anybody else but my wife, the answer to your question would be ‘no,’” I say matter-of-factly.

“Let’s try this another way,” he says.

“Yeah, let’s,” I counter, folding my arms. You set the tone. I’m just following your lead. He glares at me.

“Those were your words, Mr. Grey, not mine,” he defends.

“No, they were not,” I retort. “I said planned to fuck—planned… past tense. You said plan. Those were your words, Detective, not mine.” Seeing that I’ve thrown his words back at him, he regroups.

“Were you in the practice of doing background checks on women with which you had planned…” he stresses the word, “… to engage in a sexual relationship?”

“I certainly was,” I reply. “I’m a very important man, Detective. I can’t blindly interact with just anybody, especially on a sexual level. Women are very unscrupulous…”

“As are men,” the female detective retorts. I turn my gaze to her.

“Well, I wouldn’t know. I don’t fuck men,” I reply calmly. Her cheeks redden a bit.

“Women are unscrupulous,” I repeat. “When it comes to men like me, there’s always somebody looking for a payoff or a lawsuit. I had to be very careful with whom I interacted.”

“Doesn’t sound very romantic,” she shoots.

“It wasn’t,” I inform her, “and I didn’t care. I wasn’t offering romance and I wasn’t looking for love. I was looking for a clean, stable, steady fuck, because I may be an asshole, but I’m a monogamous asshole.”

“What happened with Ms. Ellison?” the guy asks.

“She obviously didn’t work out,” I reply.

“Why not?”

“Because I found a better fuck,” I reply. He raises his brow.

“You do background checks on all your women? Did you do one on your wife?” he asks.

“Yes, I did.”

“Does she know that?” the female asks.

“Yes, she does. She was the better fuck.” I stare at her while that answer sinks in.

“Better?” the guy asks.

“The best!” I stress, still staring at the female, who purses her lips and rolls her eyes. “Why are you asking me all these questions?”

“We’ll be asking the questions here, sir…”

“Well, you won’t get any more answers until you tell me what this is about. All I know is that you’re asking about Greta Ellis, and I have no idea what this has to do with me,” I say firmly.

“Ellison,” he corrects.

“Ellis, Ellison, Bueller, I don’t care! What does this have to do with me?” I shout.

“Christian!”

I look over the detectives’ shoulders and my wife is descending into the living room.

“You’re scaring the children! What’s going on?” she demands.

“Well, I have two of Seattle’s finest standing here interrogating me about my personal life and I have no idea why. They’re asking me about background checks, including the one I did on you.” She does a mini-head-bobble and turns to the officers.

“Are background checks illegal?” she asks surprised.

“I hope the hell not! I run at least a hundred background checks a year! I run a multibillion-dollar, multi-national company!” I bark.

“Christian!” Butterfly scolds again. “Keep it down… the twins!” she adds firmly.

“It depends on what you do with the information,” the guy replies to my statement.

“He married me!” Butterfly counters. “I had one done on him, too.” The guy appears impatient and a bit perturbed.

“Mrs. Grey, if you’ll excuse us…” he says. Butterfly’s glare sharpens and her brow furrows deeply.

“I beg your pardon!” she retorts, putting her hands on her hips, clearly affronted. “Are you trying to dismiss me from a room in my own home?”

The tone of her voice catches us all off guard and now, she has forgotten about frightening the children.

“I most certainly will not!” she says, folding her arms and rolling her neck angrily. “You’re asking my husband personal questions about our life in our home you’re scaring my children and you haven’t told him why,” she says all in one breath. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Making her leave right now would make it appear that I have something to hide from her, so I let her stay and hope that she doesn’t react when she finally hears that this is about Greta Ellison.

“We were just talking to your husband about his ex-lovers. You may find this conversation uncomfortable,” the female cop says. Butterfly chuckles.

“Ex-lovers?” she says with mirth. “You want some coffee? You may be here a while.”

She-cop is taken aback by my wife’s candor.

“You know how many lovers your husband has had?” she asks.

“Yeeeeaaaahhh,” my wife answers as if it’s obvious, which it is.

“And you’re okay knowing that?” Butterfly’s head bobbles a bit again.

“Are you a virgin?” she asks the female cop.

“No,” she replies, somewhat offended.

“Neither was my husband when we met, Cagney,” she replies, pointing her thumb at me. I have to hide my smile at the nickname. Again, neither of them introduced themselves to us, so they get whatever nickname we call them. Cagney rolls her eyes again.

“We can always finish this conversation at the station, Grey…” and now I’m Grey, “you would just have to come with us,” the guy informs me.

“Uh, no I don’t,” I reply. “You don’t have a warrant, I’m not under arrest, and you don’t have probable cause. So, either you tell me what this is about, or you can leave the premises… now.” He closes his notebook.

“You’ve been prepped,” he accuses.

“No, I haven’t,” I reply. “I’m a billionaire with a misdemeanor charge. Look me up. I know the drill.” I fold my arms. “So, do you tell me what this is about, or do you leave?”

“I don’t understand why you’re being so hostile, Mr. Grey, if you have nothing to hide.”

And now I exercise my right to remain silent.

“Oh, pleading the fifth, now, huh?” he taunts.

“Activate two-way communications,” my wife says into the air. I look down at her as the intercom comes alive. “Locate Jason Taylor.” There’s silence for a moment.

“Taylor.”

“Jason, will you please come to the formal living room? We’re having a bit of a problem with two detectives here.”

“On my way. End two-way communications.”

“Who’s Jason?” the guy asks and now, neither of us are speaking. “Oh, now they’re both silent.” A few moments later, Jason enters the room.

“Ma’am? Sir?” he says, “what seems to be the problem?”

Cagney and Baretta here are asking me personal questions and they haven’t told me why,” I begin. “They say it’s about one of the girls I did a background check on three years ago before I met my wife, but they won’t tell me what it has to do with me. For all I know the girl is laid-up somewhere fat and out of shape with two kids in a loveless marriage. Since they won’t tell me what this is about and they don’t have a warrant for my arrest, I asked them to leave, which they refuse to do.” Jason’s face looks distastefully at the detectives, then at me.

“Cagney and Baretta?” he asks. I shrug.

“They didn’t think I deserved to know their names,” I inform him.

“We told your butler…”

“You didn’t tell me!” I interrupt him. He glares at me.

“I’m Burns, she’s…”

“I’m no longer interested, Baretta!” I cut him off again before turning back to Jason. “I told them to leave,” I repeat.

“Detectives, I’m Jason Taylor. I’m head of security here at Grey Crossing. I’m sure you know the protocol. If you don’t have a warrant, I’ll see you out.” He gestures to the grand entry.

“We’re not leaving until we get some answers… Mr. Taylor,” Baretta says in a condescending tone.

“That’s fine,” Jason says, unfazed. He pulls out his phone and swipes the screen. “I’ll just make a quick call to the chief at headquarters and tell him that two of his detectives are on private property without a warrant harassing one of Seattle’s most prominent citizens and refusing to leave after you’ve been asked at least twice, subjecting yourselves to criminal trespassing charges and the department to a possible lawsuit…”

“For scaring my babies!” Butterfly chimes in. Cagney suddenly looks a bit uncomfortable.

“You have the number directly to the chief of police,” Baretta says skeptically. It’s a statement, not a question. Jason turns his phone around for the detective to see.

“On. Speed. Dial,” he says, his voice low and firm. “And in the interest of full disclosure, detectives, nearly every inch of this property is under audio and video surveillance.”

He points to the chandelier in the ceiling, indicating that there’s a camera inside. Baretta looks at Cagney and then back at Jason, who has now taken the stance and is waiting for the detectives to make a decision.

“A missing person’s report has been filed on Greta Ellison,” he says finally. “No one close to her has seen her since just after the new year.” I look at him expecting, then gesture my hand for him to continue when he doesn’t.

“Did you hear me, Mr. Grey?” he asks.

“Yes, I heard you,” I reply. “I’m still waiting for you to tell me what this has to do with me.” He narrows his eyes at me.

“We’re questioning every person of interest in this matter,” he replies. My eyes widen.

“Person of…?” I look over at Jason who doesn’t react. “Person of interest?” I ask, turning back to Baretta. “I did a background check on that woman three years ago. That makes me a person of interest?” I ask incredulously.

“No, the fact that she was authoring a book—an exposé—about Seattle’s elite makes you a person of interest,” he says. I furrow my brow in perfect pretend confusion.

“She was writing a book?” I ask. “What could she possibly say about me? I met with her for maybe 30 minutes sometime in… 2012. She doesn’t know enough about me to write a book.”

“She wasn’t the source—she was the writer,” Cagney says. I look at her expecting, the same way I looked at Baretta early.

“Waiting for the punchline here,” I say when I get no further information.

“Someone with a great personal knowledge of you was feeding her information, Mr. Grey,” Baretta says. “She was a ghost writer.”

“Was,” I say. “Is she dead?” I ask.

“I don’t know… is she?” Baretta retorts.

“You’re the one who’s talking about her in the past tense, Detective,” I shoot back calmly. “If you haven’t confirmed that she’s no longer with us, then you may not want to talk about her in the past tense. And while you’re standing here wasting time on me, why don’t you talk to her source? Wouldn’t they have more information? Maybe she’s gone into seclusion or something to finish this so-called book.”

“Her source is currently indisposed,” he replies. I frown again.

“What?” I say incredulously. “Who is it?”

Nothing.

“Okay, so since you want to play cat-and-mouse to try to find out what I know without telling me what you know, let me answer all your questions.” I begin counting on my fingers. “I don’t know where Greta Ellis is, who she was talking to, what she was doing, or what she was supposedly writing. Nobody has any permission to write anything about me—biographical or autobiographical. If I see anything with my name or any characters that even resemble me, there’ll be court orders and injunctions, and someone will be buried so deep in litigation that there’ll be nothing left to do but read the eulogy. Now, since I have nothing else for you and you have nothing else for me, get out of my house!”

“Mr. Grey, the source is Elena Lincoln. I’m sure you remember her! And the girl’s name is Ellison,” Baretta says perturbed.

“Haven’t you figured out yet that I don’t give a fuck what the girl’s name is?” I reply, gesturing for emphasis. “I don’t know where she is. I haven’t spoken to her in years. And Elena Lincoln? For fuck’s sake, are you serious? I saw that in the tabloids! I thought that was a bunch of hearsay. No reputable publication printed it. The places where I saw any mention of it was right next to, ‘I’m having Michael Jackson’s post-mortem love child.’ Why would I think that held any salt?

“And isn’t there a law somewhere that she can’t profit from her crimes? Doesn’t that fall under this category? She can’t write about anything but her crimes! That book would never get off the ground. No publisher in their right mind would touch it. That’s real? She’s really going to try to do that? So, what did she say about me that has you on my doorstep right now?”

“That’s classified, sir,” Cagney says.

“Is it?” I ask. “Well, then we’re back to the cat-and-mouse-game, aren’t we?” I say folding my arms.

“Wait a minute,” Butterfly says. “Ellison… I remember that name.” My head snaps over to my wife. Where are you going with this, Butterfly?

“You do?” Cagney asks, her interest piqued, and now Butterfly has everyone’s attention.

“Yeah,” she says, turning to me. “Wasn’t that the girl who accosted us in the Market?”

I try not to let the detectives see me breathe a huge sigh of relief.

“Oh… yeah…” I say in honest recollection. “I forgot all about that.”

“Accosted you?” Cagney asks.

“Yeah,” Butterfly replies. “We were at Pike’s Market—it used to be a weekend haunt of mine before the Paparazzi started following me everywhere…”

Butterfly tells the story casually like she’s talking to a couple of old friends, complete with a couple of tangents about what she thinks we bought that day. I couldn’t be prouder of her performance.

“Anyway, we’re walking to the car with our goods and there she is with all her wares on display.” She laughs and gestures to her breasts in a way that imitates triple-G cups.

“She’s telling my then-boyfriend…” she gestures to me, “… how much better than me she could be for him and various other sexual propositions, and he pretty much blew her off, told her to get lost, and we went on to the car. I was a bit miffed because I didn’t like the fact that random girls… well, girl… was walking up to us in the Market basically offering herself like she was some of the fruit there on the stands! I remember saying something like she’d fuck him right there on top of the oranges if he let her. She had this gross underboob thing going on where her shirt was really short, so you could see the bottom of her breasts. That is so tacky! Who does that in public…?”

And the Oscar goes to…

“Mrs. Grey, Mrs. Grey,” Cagney says, an attempt to break her tangent, “had you seen Ms. Ellison any time after that?” Butterfly gets a confused look on her face, then shrugs and shakes her head uncertainly.

“I don’t know,” she replies. “I could’ve. I mean, I couldn’t pick her out of a crowd. All I remember was her tits!”

Cagney has rolled her eyes so many times listening to my wife that I swear they’re going to get stuck that way.

“You need to talk to Lincoln,” I interject. “If this girl is writing her story, then Lincoln knows where she is.”

“Unfortunately, Mrs. Lincoln suffered a stroke… around the same time that Greta Ellison is reported to have come up missing.” My mouth falls open, mocking disbelief.

“Well, isn’t that convenient!” I exclaim. “I don’t believe that for a second,” I say. “That woman has balls bigger than mine. She has a heart of stone and I‘ll bet my fortune that she’s faking. You better keep an eye on her.”

“Well, as you can see, we can’t really talk to her,” he says. “It was all over the news.”

“Well, I have a multibillion-dollar company to run, so I’ve got bigger fish to fry than to be concerned about a woman who’s spending the rest of her natural life behind bars and deserves to be there. But you can best believe I’ll be keeping my eye on the news, now, because I don’t believe this stroke shit for a second! If she could figure out how to get somebody on the outside to write this story for her, she’s up to something. Like I said, you better keep an eye on her.” I certainly am.

After several moments of silence, something else suddenly dawns on me.

“Wait a minute,” I say, pondering parts of the conversation. “You said that she’s writing a book about Seattle’s elite and that makes me a person of interest?”

“That’s what I said,” Baretta says.

“Seattle’s elite,” I repeat. “Are you also going to be questioning Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Paul Allen, Gabe Newell?” I ask. “Any judges or senators on that list or am I the only lucky bastard you get to harass today?”

“We have several people that are going to be questioned,” he replies.

“All members of Seattle’s elite?” he doesn’t answer. “You guys really drew the short straw, didn’t you? Who the hell did you piss off to pull this detail?” I laugh out loud. “I mean seriously,” I say around my laughter, “this is your plan of action? You’re going to walk into affluent homes in the greater Seattle area with absolutely no evidence, throw out conjecture and suggestion, and hope somebody trips over their tongue and tells you something about this girl? You have nothing else but that she disappeared supposedly sometime after her meal ticket became ‘indisposed…’” I use the finger quote around the word while saying it mockingly, “and now, you’re going to go to the private homes of the most influential people in the state, trying to bully them, upsetting their wives and scaring their children—and you have absolutely nothing concrete to go on?“

I’m laughing hysterically now, my laughter partially in relief, but mostly because it’s really very funny that they have absolutely nothing to go on and they’re knocking on my door. I thought they may have found some substantial piece of evidence that pointed them to me besides a three-year-old background check.

“I hope you guys have a really good retirement plan that doesn’t involve the police department,” I say, my voice mirthfully mocking. “The governor’s office is about to be flooded with calls on you two, one of which will most likely come from me. She was a guest at my wedding, for Christ’s sake!

“How many people do you intend to send over the edge today? My advice is that if you want to find any substantial evidence or leads, or if any of the people you’re questioning had anything to do with this girl’s disappearance, you had better rethink your strategy, because you’re headed down the wrong road… backwards!

“I want you out of my house now. I have nothing else to say to you. If you want to talk to me in the future, get a warrant or contact my attorney, Allen Forsythe. He’s in the GEH directory. Jason?” I gesture to Jason to show the detectives out and put my hand in the small of my wife’s back to lead her out of the room.

“Mrs. Grey?” Cagney calls as we’re walking away. “Do you really feel safe with this man knowing that he could possibly have something to do with this girl’s disappearance?”

Oh, dear God. If they only knew. Butterfly stops in the grand entry and turns around to face the detectives.

“You know, you guys may get a little further with this investigation if one of you pretends to be the good cop,” she says, matter-of-factly, before turning around and walking out of the room with me. When we bend the corner and are out of sight of the detectives, I turn around to face my wife, still walking backwards. I hold my hand up in front of her. She smirks at me and we clap hands in a victorious high five before joining our children in the den.


A/N: I think I made a reference to Cagney and Lacey before in reference to female cops where we don’t know their names. Baretta was another cop from a cop show back in the 70’s.

I don’t think underboob really became a thing until 2016 and for my story, Greta had underboob going on around 2012 or 2013. Again, creative license.

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~~love and handcuffs