Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 26

Two more chapters after this…

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

Explicit details of sex and BDSM scenes from here on out. Some may be hot while others may not be to your taste… and not necessary CG with Ana together. Proceed at your own discretion, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

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

CHAPTER 26

Eric Dane 26

TREY

I didn’t get the whole lowdown on sexual activity once I’m released from the hospital, so I’m pretty sure that I’m just going to take it easy until I’m cleared by the doctor. In light of that, I have one last hurrah on Sunday night. I do every freaky thing in the book—anal, deep throat, titty fucks, you name it…

And I don’t come once.

I know it’s a combination of being worried about the surgery—if Mia will be okay, if there’ll be any complications for either of us—and the fact that I still have residual thoughts of Golden.

 

She let me call her Ana while we were maki… having sex. I don’t refer to her as that anymore.

I let Ronnie know that I’m going to be unreachable for about a month and a half so that she doesn’t think I’ve dropped off the face of the earth. I told her to call me if she needs me, but that I’m really going to be tied up in a very important project. Of course, she gave me a hard time about the pun. I’m really glad that we’re still friends.

I’ve already packed my bag and I’m heading out of the penthouse with Jason when I look back at Mrs. Jones standing in the kitchen. Her hands are clasped together, and her expression is unreadable. She’s clearly concerned. I hand my bag to Jason, walk over to her, and I take her clasped hands in mine.

“I’ll be fine,” I tell her with more conviction than I feel. “People do this all the time.” She nods quickly and looks at the floor.

“Yes, sir,” she whispers.

“I’ll need lots of your soup,” I say, trying to lighten the situation. She scoffs a chuckle-sob.

“Yes, sir,” she says again. I kiss her hands and she never raises her gaze to me. I quickly walk out the door with Jason before I get all emotional and lose my nerve.

When I get to the hospital on Monday morning, I have Jason wait in Admitting while I go see Mia. I’ve been here just about every other day to make sure that she’s okay. At first, she was surprised. Now, she’s accepting of it even though I think she may be kind of cautious. I still haven’t told anybody that I’m going to be her donor. Like Ronnie, I tell them that I had some important business that couldn’t be rescheduled.

“Wow, Christian,” Elliot jibes. “You couldn’t put your business on hold for even a minute to make sure your sister is going to be okay?” I ignore him. I could blow his entire world with three sentences right now…

“Why yes, brother, I did in fact put my business on hold to make sure that my sister is going to be okay. I’m her donor since you are somehow physically unfit to donate your kidney. Why don’t you tell us how that came about?”

That’s not the priority right now, however. Mom has that same question in her eyes as I move next to Mia’s bed.

“Hey, Pest,” I say, taking her hand.

“Hey, Lucifer,” she replies with a smile. She’s scared. I can tell.

“You ready?” I ask, sitting on her bed next to her. She shrugs.

“I really don’t have a choice, do I?” she laments.

“We talked about this,” I remind her. “You’re going to come through this okay, and you’re going to take better care of yourself, right?” She nods quickly.

“Right,” she whispers.

“Aw, isn’t this sweet?” Elliot chimes in. “Hell has officially frozen over. Lady Capulet and Lord Montague are playing nice and all we needed was a life-threatening emergency. Go figure.”

“Elliot, stop being such an asshole,” Mia says without looking over at Mom, which she usually does when she curses. I think we all know that she gets a few “gimmes” today.

“So, look, I really have to get going, but I know you’re gonna knock this thing outta the park. Just give it as much hell as you’ve given me.” She smiles weakly.

“Get better,” I say, trying to make a hasty getaway. She raises sad eyes to me.

“Come on,” she begins. “Admit it. Your life would be a whole lot simpler without me.” Her voice is maudlin with a touch of that sarcasm I know so well.

“Of course, it would,” I reply with a half-smile, “but I don’t want you to die… because it would also be quite boring.” I fight the urge to hug her. I’m sure that I’ll spill my guts if I do. “I gotta go, Pest. I gotta see a man about a dog.”

“Of course, you do,” she says, her sarcasm returning. She drops her head again and I can’t resist. If this doesn’t work out right, I may not see her alive again. I lean down and kiss her on the cheek. She raises surprised eyes to me that quickly soften when we make eye-contact.

Yeah, sis, I may not like you that much, but I do love you.

“What’s your hurry, bro?” Elliot taunts. “What could possibly be more important than your sister’s health?” I turn a hateful glare to him.  I could destroy him in front of everybody right now with the information that the doctor insinuated and come out the hero for giving up a perfectly functioning piece of my body to a woman who obviously hates me… well, hated me, but I don’t do that.

I don’t know how long I stand there glaring at him, but I watch as his expression changes under my cold stare. I don’t have time to play this game with him. I have to go and get checked in myself.

“Nothing,” I nearly growl in response, and I’m about to prove it when you can’t, you asshole. I leave the eerily silent room and, as usual, Elliot has to have the last word. He just wasn’t brave enough to say it in my face.

“Then, why are you leaving?” he yells out of the room. “She could die, you know!” I hear my mother scolding him.

“I’m aware of that, Asswipe,” I say lowly to no one. “That’s what I’m trying to prevent.”

I walk slowly down the hall and press the elevator button to head to admissions, pretending that this isn’t the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

*-*

You get this drunk, hungover feeling without the headache when you wake up from anesthesia. My mouth feels like cotton and my throat stings a bit.

“Mr. Grey, you’re awake,” some nurse says. “That’s good. Let me get some readings from you and the doctor will be in shortly.” I smack my chops trying to create some saliva in my arid mouth.

“Dry mouth?” she asks. I nod. “We’ll get you some water for that.” She marks something on her chart and leaves the room. I look around and see that I’m in what looks like a common recovery room. Well, I don’t like that.

“Sir?” I slowly turn my head and Taylor is walking into the recovery room. “Just checking on you, sir.” I gesture my hand around the room. “They’re going to be moving you to a private room soon, sir.”

Yeah, soon. The last thing I want is for my parents—or heaven forbid—Elliot or Mia to see me in here.

Mia!

My facial expression must have given it away.

“No one knows we’re here, sir,” he says, “so I haven’t been able to get any information on your sister.” I lay my head back on the pillow. I don’t even want to open my mouth.

“Mr. Grey, how do you feel?” The next voice I hear is a large black man in scrubs—our doctor. I open my mouth and point inside.

“You’re hungry?” he asks. “That’s new.” I make a gesture like I’m drinking something.

“Oh, you’re thirsty,” he says. “Well, that’s good. We’ll get you some water.” Like an angel from heaven, the nurse comes back with a picture of ice water and looks at the doctor for approval. He nods and she hands me the small picture.

“Small sips, Mr. Grey,” she says while helping me raise my head. My tongue and throat are saying, “That’s not gonna happen,” but when I get the straw to my mouth, my strength says, “Small sips.”

“Your stats are looking really good, Mr. Grey,” the doctor says. He shines that infernal light in my eyes, and I blink and glare at him. He does a couple of other things to test my reflexes and such. When my throat feels better and my head is slightly clearer, I’m able to form a word.

“Mia,” I say, my voice rough. The doctor looks up at me and raises his brow.

“It looks really good, Mr. Grey,” he says. “She’s tired as you would expect. Her resistance and immune system aren’t as strong as yours with the dialysis, but she’s looking good.”

I nod. The last thing I want is for her to go downhill, especially since part of me is inside her now.

A while later, I’m hungry and cantankerous, and I want to go to a private room. I’m tired of laying in this bed and I want some food. I’m wearing a catheter and I fucking hate it. After enough bellyaching, either they finally got my room ready or the squeaky wheel got the oil.

I’m in a wheelchair and Taylor is rolling me down the hall with the nurse walking close by—not my nurse, but a nurse. The minute we exit the recovery unit, I hear it before I see it. It’s the unmistakable raucous of the press. What the hell are they doing inside the hospital? The moment we round the corner, I see them, a cluster of them trying to get into one of the rooms. I’m only glad the poor bastard in the room ain’t me. I make to hide my face until I see something that causes me to cringe.

“What are you doing here? Get away! This patient has had major surgery and is trying to recover. What’s wrong with you people? How did you even get in here?”

That’s my doctor demanding that these vultures cease and desist. My doctor… Wait a minute! Does that mean…? He turns around and sees me in the wheelchair about 50 feet from him and his brown skin turns white. His expression tells me everything I need to know.

That’s Mia’s room.

And suddenly, I feel no pain… just pure rage.

I’m up out of that chair and storming down the hall before anybody can stop me. The catheter bag is dragging on the floor behind me and I don’t know what disconnected. Somewhere along the way I get my hands on a crutch from God only knows where and bellow at these fuckers as loud as I can… which turns out to be pretty loud for a guy who just gave up a kidney.

“Move the fuck outta my way!”

My voice carries over the clamor of the reporters and they all stop. A nurse rushes down the hall and moves to assist me.

“Get your hands off me!” I demand, and she nearly leaps away from me, startled. “How the fuck did they get in here?” I roar. “This is a goddamn hospital! Why the fuck are they here?”

“I… I don’t know, sir…”

“Get security and the police on the phone and do something!” I turn back to the press. “Get the fuck away from her room or I’ll start swinging crutches and anything I can get my hands on.”

“And we’ll sue you for everything you have, billionaire boy,” one of the reporters says.

“Good luck convincing a judge about a man in the hospital in a gown hours after giving his sister a kidney!” I raise the crutch and they begin to back away, enough for me to get into Mia’s room.

I walk in and there’s a nurse smiling for the cameras over a sleeping Mia.

“You!” I bark, and another nurse nearly jumps out of her skin. I read her badge and commit her name to memory. “I’m going to have your fucking life in the palm of my hands. Kiss your career goodbye!” With the crutch at the ready, I start swinging. Fuck a warning—I’ll blame the meds.

“Get the fuck outta my sister’s room!” I demand. The crutch cuts through the air and the crowd leaps back, Dammit, I missed every one of them. Now, I want blood. I swing again, but these bastards are fast.

“If I see one picture of me or my sister in the press, you will all sorely regret it! I promise you that!” I swing again and connect with a wall. Pain rings through my hand and wrist and shoots up my arm… the bad arm. Fuck, I forgot about that thing.

The crack of the metal crutch against the wall was enough to clear the room, except for the petrified nurse.

“You inconsiderate, hateful, selfish, heartless bitch!” I seethe. She takes a step back as I walk toward her. “How could you? How could you violate her privacy that way? She’s unconscious! Totally indisposed! What the fuck is wrong with you?” I’m angrily pointing at Mia to illustrate her helpless condition and when I throw a glance at her, she’s looking at me. I’m shocked to see her eyes open.

“Mia?” I squeak, caught off guard by her gazing at me.

“Chr… Christian…” she says weakly. “Wh… what are you… doing here?”

That’s right. She doesn’t know that I’m the one who gave her the kidney.

“I…” As soon as I try to formulate the words, something happens. My head gets fuzzy and starts to spin and I feel weakness in my body. I think I say something, I don’t know, but suddenly, all I see is darkness.

*-*

When I open my eyes, my head feels like lead. I can feel that irritating oxygen tube in my nose and I can’t move a muscle. My body weighs a ton. I’m trying to focus—it looks like I’m in a different room—more machines, more IV bags, more fucking tubes. Whatever happened, I ain’t gettin’ up no time soon.

I turn my head and try to focus on the form sitting next to my bed, but I can’t make it out for shit. Nobody but Taylor should know that I’m here, so maybe it’s a nurse.

Shit!

Mia knows I’m here now. She probably knows that I’m the one who gave her a kidney. So, there’s no telling who this is by my bed. I try to focus my eyes a little more, but it’s hard as hell. I can tell by the fuzziness that they’ve got me on some drugs. I fight harder to focus, and the blob begins to take form. These must be some really good drugs because that woman looks like Golden.

This is so unfair. When I’m at my weakest and can’t clear my mind enough to fend off thoughts of her, she haunts me in my drug-induced haze.

“Go away,” I manage. Maybe if I can fully wake up, I can make the apparition disappear.

“What?” Oh, dear Lord, and it speaks, too.

“Go away!” I say again. Haven’t you hurt me enough?

“I hurt you?” it asks. Did I say that aloud? Of course, I didn’t. Hallucinations are all in your head, so of course they can read your mind. I close my eyes and try to make her disappear. “I warned you not to fall in love with me, Chopper.”

Chopper. Fuck. I forgot all about that name.

“And as far as I knew, I didn’t,” I retort weakly, “but I like you enough to be confused. Now go away and stop haunting me.”

“Haunting you?” it asks. “What do you mean haunting you?

Oh, for fuck’s sake! I swat at the apparition, hoping it will dissipate and leave me the hell alone. A manicured hand reaches up and catches my wrist, stopping it cold before it gets anywhere near the apparition.

The apparition… what the fuck?

I glare at the hand, then into the face of one very angry madam.

Oh, hell, the haze is clearing up now!

I have no idea what expression is on my face, but whatever it is, hers morphs from anger to sheer confusion to questioning uncertainty. I, on the other hand, haven’t cleared the haze enough to know where or when I am, but I know one damn thing for sure.

“Mi… Mistress??”

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GOLDEN

So, from what I can see, Linc is the primary suspect in his wife’s murder and the prosecutor’s office is looking for an indictment. This is a high-profile case, and they’re pressed to solve it.

The coroner’s report was gruesome. Elena died from blunt force trauma. The thing is… she didn’t just get cracked over the head and die. Somebody beat the hell out of her—brutally. The medical examiner is a friend of mine from college, and she gave me all the gory details.

Blondie was beaten and kicked and strangled mercilessly. Her body was bludgeoned so badly from head to toe that some of the strikes actually broke the skin on her body. Her face was so swollen that she was nearly unrecognizable. Although she was identified at the crime scene, her identity had to be officially confirmed by fingerprints and dental records.

After all of that, she took 15 blows and kicks directly to her head. That’s what killed her. The bleach was a means to clean the body of DNA and evidence. So far, it’s been pretty effective. However, since they discovered that Linc had motive, they’ve been on his ass, combing his financials, tracing his every step to pin it on him. His passport has been revoked—not seized, revoked. He can’t even go to Canada or Mexico. He even tried to move back into his house, but the police have it sealed off as a crime scene… even after all these months.

I really hope he did it—not because I’m that macabre or because I want to see him go down, but because they’re combing the very hairs in his asshole to find evidence against him. If they find out that he’s guilty, then he deserves it. If they don’t find anything or it turns out that someone else did it, he’ll be the victim of the biggest and worst persecution campaign I’ve ever seen in my life.

While spending the holiday with my father’s family—my family—I discovered that Reynard approached them first. I knew he had approached Richard, but I didn’t know he had approached the entire family. He displayed about the same amount of grace, poise, and tact with them as he did with me. Except for that empty shit he said leaving my house, he hasn’t made any real threats. Nonetheless, even though the Blondie threat is no longer an issue, I still keep Jesse around.

I come home one day after another big win and a heavy fee being transferred to my account to Blake preparing a delicious dinner.

“Well, this is wonderful,” I say.

“I’m sure you closed Hamilton and Ryers successfully, Mistress,” he says matter-of-factly.

“I did,” I say, trying to see what he’s preparing.

“Make yourself at home, Mistress. I will set the table.”

I change into jeans and a sweater and I return to the dining room. We have a delicious meal of gazpacho with pa amb tomàquet, paella, empanadas, and homemade churros for dessert. He tells me about his day while we eat, that his whore ex-wife has finally sold the house to a nice family, which means that the home will be used as it was intended at last. I tell him about the cocky male corporate lawyers who underestimated me once again. We’re toasting to my success when he rolls his eyes and reaches for his phone.

“I apologize, Mistress,” he says. “It’s incessant.” I try not to be irritated as he pulls out the phone and looks at it. He frowns, looks at me, then back at his phone.

“What?” I say.

“It’s nothing, Mistress,” he says, and puts his phone on the table. He begins to clear the dishes from the table, and his phone buzzes again… and again… and again.

“Blake, what is it?” I ask again.

“It’s nothing,” he says, putting his phone back in his pocket without looking at it.

“It’s clearly something. Your phone is buzzing like a ticking timebomb, now what is it?” His expression is a combination of melancholy, regretful, and angry… which is some fucking combination.

“What do you hear of Christian Grey these days?” he asks, and I’m totally taken aback to the degree that I jerk like someone just hit me.

“Are you telling me that your phone is going batshit because of Christian Grey?” I ask, nearly in horror. Blake doesn’t respond. “Who in the fuck is texting you like a goddamn crackhead over Christian Grey?” I ask sincerely irritated.

“They’re not texts, Mistress,” he confesses. “They’re more like… notifications.”

Notifications? What the… Never mind.

“I hear nothing of Christian Grey these days,” I say, pretending that I’m not fucking dying to know what those damn notifications are all about. “And I really don’t want to,” I add for effect.

“Mistress,” he sighs, “there’s something you should know.”

“What?” I ask, impatiently.

“It’s about Mr. Grey.” I roll my eyes.

“Look,” I begin. “I thought we had this conversation. Trey is no more. He doesn’t exist to me and I really don’t want to hear about him. What is your obsession with this man?”

“Permission to speak frankly, Mistress,” Blake says coolly.

“Not if you’re going to disrespect me,” I retort.

“I would never do that, Mistress, but I am going to say something that you may not want to hear.” I cross my arms. Fine, fire away.

“Permission granted,” I say firmly.

“He does exist,” Blake says. “He’s a walking, breathing person right here in the county where you live. He has affected you and although you may deny his existence, he’s alive and kicking and still on this side of eternity. He has permeated that shell that you’ve erected for everyone else that doesn’t work with me. I know you care for him and that he has affected you and you think of him often because you’ve changed—not enough for anyone else to see, but enough for me.”

I’ve changed alright. I’ve changed back to who and what I was before I met Trey—to that sadistic, hedonistic goddess that has my clients clamoring for me. There’s not a damn thing wrong with that.

“Are you finished?” I shoot.

“Not quite,” he says softly. “You’re right. I am obsessed with Christian Grey—the same way that I’m obsessed with Caldwell Lincoln, Reynard Stamper, Kevin Sheardon, and the same way that I was obsessed with the late Richard Steele and Elena Lincoln. I’m obsessed with these people only to the degree that they affect you. And he affects you, so I just keep tabs on him from time to time.”

“Well, there’s no need,” I say flatly. “I’m fully aware of Christian Grey’s new love interest and it doesn’t affect me,” I say with more conviction than I feel.

“Well, that’s good to hear, but you may be interested in knowing that he’s not with his new love interest anymore. The relationship didn’t last three weeks. They’re good friends now, but not lovers.”

Are you kidding? I don’t talk to the man for months and he hooks up with someone for three weeks—three fucking weeks—and I see them during that damn three weeks? That shit knocked me completely off my square, made me totally doubt everything I was and everything I felt, and they weren’t together for three fucking weeks. This is why I don’t get attached. That shit is too damn messy.

“Well, I’m sorry for him that his relationship didn’t work out. This has nothing to do with me, and I’m weary of this conversation.” I turn to leave.

“One more thing before we conclude… please, Mistress.” I roll my eyes and turn back to my errant submissive. If it were the nature of our relationship, I would chain him to the ceiling and lash him until he wept.

“Yes?” I seethe.

“Are you at all familiar with the term nephrectomy?” I frown.

“No,” I reply, waiting for him to get to the point.

“It’s the procedure where one of your kidneys is removed.” My eyes widen.

“What?” I say just above a whisper. “Are you trying to tell me that Christian has renal failure?”

“No, but his sister does, so he donated one of his kidneys to her.” He pauses. “I’m still a little gray on the details—no pun intended—but something happened, and he’s had some complications. He’s not doing well.”

I suddenly feel my throat constrict. Something’s happening in my chest and I feel a bit lightheaded. My arms fall to my side as I attempt to appear unaffected.

“What hospital is he in?” I ask.

“Seattle General,” Blake informs me. I take a deep breath and purse my lips.

“Send some flowers,” I say before turning and leaving the room.

“Yes, Mistress,” I hear from the room I just left. I ascend the stairs, go into my bedroom and close my door. I almost can’t breathe. Christian is in the hospital, he’s short one kidney, and he’s having complications. What kind of complications? Why didn’t I ask that question before I left the room? What if he doesn’t make it? Will I be okay? I said that he didn’t exist to me, but is that what I really want? What if he really didn’t make it? What if he dies?

What was that you said about not getting attached?

I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and grab my car keys.

*-*

“He hasn’t had any visitors,” the nurse says. She didn’t want to give me any information, but I effectively convinced her that I’m close friends with him and just wanted to make sure that he was okay. “He didn’t list anyone as next of kin except his bodyguard, Jason Taylor. His sister didn’t even know that he gave her a kidney until the anesthesia wore off and she’s been in no condition to come and see him, so…” She trails off. Even though she didn’t give me everything, she may have still given me too much information.

“I’ll make sure that his family knows,” I tell her. She raises a brow at me.

“You’re associated with the family?” she asks. I nod.

“I know his father very well,” I tell her. “We’re colleagues.” She looks at me skeptically.

“The judge?” she questions.

“Yes,” I say, reaching into my purse and giving her a business card. “Like I said, we’re colleagues.” Her expression softens as she reads my business card.

“Oh,” she says. I’m startled by a somewhat familiar voice down the hall.

“Ms. Olivet?” I turn to see that a confused Taylor is coming down the hall with two coffees in his hand. I turn to the nurse.

“Thank you,” I say with a nod.

“You’re welcome,” she says softly. I walk towards Taylor.

“How is he?” I ask when I close the space between us. At first, he doesn’t answer. “Taylor? How is he?”

“He…” he begins. Then he breezes past me to a door where another guy is standing. He hands him one of the coffees, then peeks into the room. Expressionless, he comes back over to me and gestures me to a community waiting area.

“Have you seen him?” he asks.

“No,” I reply. “What’s happening? I know that he gave a kidney to his sister.” He looks at me in surprise. This must have been the world’s best kept secret if his family didn’t know—not even the sister who received the kidney. Taylor is looking at me now no doubt wondering how I found out. Don’t look at me; I’m trying to figure out how Blake found out.

“Taylor, please tell me before my imagination starts running away with me,” I beg, trying not to sound too desperate.

“He had some trauma only hours after he left surgery,” he begins. “Right before they were to remove the catheter, he discovered that the press was in his sister’s room. An unscrupulous guard apparently colluded with an equally unscrupulous nurse and… the rest is history. Mr. Grey physically kicked them out of Mia’s room and collapsed shortly thereafter. Apparently, once his adrenaline dropped, he succumbed to his condition. There was some tearing, some internal bleeding, something about a fistula or something… They had to take him back to surgery. He… he’s been out for three days. He’s not comatose, but he should be awake by now.”

“And you haven’t called his family, Taylor?” I scold. “Really?” He avoids my gaze. “I know Carrick Grey,” I tell him, and his eyes rise to mine.

“For God’s sake, Taylor, he may not wake up! If you don’t tell his family what’s going on with him, goddammit, I will. And I think they would rather hear this from someone that they’re somewhat familiar with than a total stranger, but if you can’t do it, I guarantee you that I can have Carrick Grey’s home number in twenty minutes.” I sit there folding my arms. He rolls his eyes.

“I’ll call his mother,” he cedes.

“You better,” I warn. “I’ll put my guy on getting that number just in case.”

“I’ll call her,” he says like an errant child, and I believe him. I nod.

“Can I go in and see him… or should I just leave?” He twists his lips and shakes his head.

“I really don’t know,” he says. “He’s… different lately… even before the surgery.” He pulls his phone out of his pocket. “Go,” he says, scrolling through his phone. “Go in before I lose my nerve to make this call.” He puts the phone to his ear, and I walk to the door that I assume is Christian’s. “Ms. Olivet?” I turn back to him.

“If I find myself unemployed, I’ll be knocking at your door for a job.” I have to suppress a smile as he turns back to his call. “Mrs. Grey?… Hello, ma’am, this is Jason Taylor… Yes, Christian’s security…” I leave him to his call and make eye contact with the guy standing at the door before I go inside.

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I’m not prepared for the sight that greets me. He looks weaker and more helpless than I’ve ever seen him. There’s a tube down his throat helping him breathe and he’s attached to more machines than I’ve ever seen on one person. Jesus, is he dying?

I sit next to his bed and say nothing. What can I say?

Hiya Chopper, remember me? I was your Domme once, but we had sex and it blew my mind. I didn’t know how to handle it or you, so I cut you off, but now that I think you might be dying, I’m back. So, how the hell are ya?

I sit there for several minutes, listening to the rhythm of his heartbeat on the monitor. It’s comforting… somewhat. At least he’s still here.

He’s still here…

“He does exist. He’s a walking, breathing person right here in the county where you live. He has affected you and although you may deny his existence, he’s alive and kicking and still on this side of eternity. He has permeated that shell that you’ve erected for everyone else…”

How do I deal with this? I’m not satisfied anymore with this life. I want… something else. But this? Can I give up who I am for this? Do I want that? Does he even want that?

My thoughts are interrupted by the door opening, followed by the ceremonious entering of what looks like doctors and nurses.

“His numbers look better and his saturation… Who are you?” I stand from my seat.

“I’m… a friend,” I reply.

“Mr. Grey asked not to have any visitors,” the doctor says firmly.

“It’s okay,” Taylor says coming into the room behind the doctors and nurses. “Ms. Olivet, if you’ll come with me, the staff need to do some things for Mr. Grey.” He holds his hand out to me. I look back at Christian and weave through the inquisitive faces with an “excuse me” or two before joining Taylor.

“What’s going on? Can you tell me?” I ask as we walk toward the community area again.

“Well, the good news is that his stats are looking better,” Taylor says, guiding me past the community area and to the elevator. Is he kicking me out? “They want to remove his catheter and his breathing tube.”

I sigh and try to appear unaffected… again. The elevator rings and he gestures for me to get inside. I want to say something like, “Tell him I was here,” or “Don’t tell him I was here.” Instead, I just step inside. To my surprise, he steps inside with me.

What does he think? That I’m going to troll around the hospital or something? He presses the button for the first floor and continues what he was saying.

“The bleeding has stopped from what they can see, but there were some other complications that went way over my head. It was touch and go for a while, but any improvement is better than unconscious for three days.”

The elevator rings on the first floor and he gestures for me to exit. I leave and turn towards the outside doors.

“Wrong way, Ms. Olivet,” he says. When I turn around, he’s standing at the elevator gesturing in the opposite direction. I don’t question. I follow him and he leads me to the cafeteria as he continues to apprise me of Christian’s condition.

“Would you like something?” he asks. “Some food or some juice or coffee?” He gets two more coffees and I frown.

“You guys drink a lot of coffee,” I say. “Didn’t you just bring coffee a couple of minutes ago?” He frowns.

“No, I got coffee for us when you went in to see Mr. Grey,” he says, bemused.

“That’s what I said,” I reply, equally bemused. He pauses.

“Do you know how long you’ve been in there?” he asks. I shrug. I don’t even remember what time I got here. His expression softens.

“Would you like a muffin… or a Danish? Something else?” he asks. “A bagel, maybe?”

“Taylor, how long have I been in that room?” I ask him.

“About three hours,” he says matter-of-factly. “There are salads and sandwiches on the other side, or maybe you’d like something hot?”

What the fuck?!?

“Three hours?” I say horrified. “You gotta be kidding!”

“No, ma’am, and I’m certain that very soon, his parents are going to be here.” I roll my eyes and rub my neck.

Don’t get attached. Yeah, sure.

“Do they have corned beef?”

*-*

“Taylor, how long has he been like that?”

An older, beautiful blonde woman is grilling Taylor about Christian’s condition. She looks terribly worried and I deduce that this must be Christian’s mother.

“About three days, ma’am,” Taylor replies. “He’s doing much better than he was.”

“Much better?” the woman exclaims. “He was worse? He looks like he’s dying!” My sentiments exactly.

“Please, Mrs. Grey, let me take you to talk to the doctor. I’m certain that he’ll put your fears to rest.” Taylor begins to lead Mrs. Grey away just as the elevator rings.

“Grace!” I hear a familiar voice call.

“Cary,” her voice cracks. I drop my head so that my hair falls over my face and watch through my tresses as Carrick Grey opens his arms to accept his wife in a warm embrace. She weeps gently on his shoulder as he rubs her back and comforts her. The inner me rolls my eyes at the display. The outer me can’t help but gaze at them in awe of their love and care for each other and wonder what it must be like to have that. After more than three decades on earth, I’ve never had that.

Judge Grey puts his arm around his wife, and they follow Taylor down the hall. Goddammit, these feelings! I don’t want these fucking feelings! Why the hell can’t they just leave me alone?

It would be so easy to just stand up, go downstairs, walk the hell out of here and don’t look back. So, why can’t I just fucking do it?

“Ms. Olivet?”

Taylor is rousing me from my sleep. My head feels like a rock and there’s a crick in my neck. I fell asleep in the chair in the waiting room.

“What time is it?” I ask.

“It’s just after 2am,” he says. “My replacements are here and I’m about to call it a night. Why don’t you go home and get some rest now?”

I stretch and look around. The staff appears to have changed and there’s no one in the waiting room.

“Are his parents still in there?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“They’ve gone to see Mia. Then, they’re going home for the night.” I nod.

“I’m confused,” I say. “Why didn’t his sister tell his parents what he did and that he was here?” He shakes his head and sighs.

“They’re a strange family, Ms. Olivet,” he replies. “I couldn’t answer that question for you because I don’t know.” I nod again.

“Maybe I’ll just go in and say goodnight,” I say, standing and cracking my stiff joints. Taylor nods and walks with me to the door. He holds it open and I go inside. Christian looks a lot better now. That tube is gone, and he has the small oxygen tube in his nose. He looks like he’s sleeping now as opposed to dead.

I sit in the chair and gaze at him again. He’s such a handsome man. He looks so peaceful, but still very weak and vulnerable. I’m just feeling sympathy for him, that’s all. It’s nothing more than that. I don’t want him to die and I’m concerned about him. That’s all this is…

“Go away…” I hear a frail voice say. I slip out of my daydream and focus on wet, gray eyes groggily gazing at me.

980x“What?” I ask. I’ve been here for hours worrying about your ass, afraid that you were going to die, sleeping in a very uncomfortable waiting-room chair and your first words to me are go away, you ungrateful asshole?

“Go away!” he repeats. “Haven’t you hurt me enough?”

Are you kidding? Is he serious? He knew what this was.

“I hurt you?” I ask incredulously. He doesn’t reply. He just closes his eyes tight, like he’s trying to wish me away. “I warned you not to fall in love with me, Chopper.”

“And as far as I knew, I didn’t, but I like you enough to be confused. Now go away and stop haunting me.” His voice is barely above a whisper.

“Haunting you?” What the fuck? “What do you mean haunting you?

He raises his hand and swats at me like he’s trying to swat away a fly. You disrespectful… I grab his flailing wrist and hold on tight. You better put that thing away. You’re short one vital organ. You want to be short a limb, too?

He stares at my hand grasping his wrist in disbelief, then up at me—and I am pissed. How dare you fucking swing at me, you insolent…

But his face… he’s horrified. It’s like he’s seeing a ghost, or death itself has walked into the room. He’s silent for several moments before he breathes, “Mi… Mistress?”

Oh, shit. How did that happen? Does he regularly talk to manifestations of me? Should I be afraid? Instead, I just sigh and shake my head.

“I’m not your Mistress anymore, Chopper… Trey,” I say, placing his arm gently back on the bed. I only ever really called him Chopper during a scene—maybe a few other times.

“I know… I mean…” His voice is still weak. “What are you doing here?”

“I heard you weren’t well,” I say, crossing my legs and girding up my armor, “or I should say I heard that you weren’t doing well.”

“How did you hear that?” he asks. “Are you having me followed?”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” I reply. “I know people who know people…”

“But no people knew I was in here, so how did you know? My parents don’t even know.”

Somebody knew,” I tell him, “and your parents know now.”

“What?” he shoots, and his monitors spike. I stand and put my hands on his chest.

“You need to calm down,” I tell him. “You became upset and from what I understand, you may have attacked some reporters. You ripped your sutures—inside and out—and you put yourself at risk. A lot of people thought you may not make it. You’ve been out for nearly four days. I know your father—he’s presided over a lot of my cases. I threatened Taylor that if he didn’t call him, I would. Taylor and I both agreed that it would be better that they hear this news from someone that they know as opposed to hearing it from a stranger.”

“Let’s see if he still feels that way when I fire his ass,” he croaks.

“Then, he’ll just come and work for me,” I say, and Christian glares at me. “If I was a mother, I would very much rather come and see my very alive son who may not be doing well than to come to the hospital and identify his remains when I didn’t even know that he was sick, much less that he gave my daughter a kidney.”

“You know too damn much,” he squeaks. You’re right. I do.

“Are you in pain? Do you need any pain meds?”

“Yes, and yes,” he says, laying his head back on the bed. I press the button for the nurse. He tries to adjust himself in the bed, but he can’t move. A few moments later, a petite nurse enters the room.

“Mr. Grey,” she says, her voice bubbly. “Ma’am,” she nods at me and I nod back before she comes to the side of the bed. “You’ve decided to join us. How do you feel?” She looks at his chart and some of the machines.

“In pain… and I’m thirsty,” he croaks. She nods.

“Let me get the doctor and we’ll see what we can get you, okay?” She proceeds to check his pulse and blood pressure, looks at his IV bag and checks some other stats.

“Glad to see you’re awake, Mr. Grey. Your vitals look good and I’ll be right back with the doctor.” She smiles and nods at me again before leaving the room.

Christian and I are completely silent for several minutes. Neither of us knows what to say to each other. When I thought he was dying, I could think of nothing but getting to him, being by his side. Now that I know he’ll be fine, I just want to get the hell away from him—put as much distance between us as possible.

“Mr. Grey, hello. We must stop meeting like this…” The doctor comes into the room and starts talking to Christian, and I take this moment to make my getaway.

“Mi… Go… Ana!” He’s coherent enough to go through all of my names before I make it to the door. He’s still weak and fragile, but his eyes are beseeching. I give him a weak smile.

“I’ll check on you,” I say softly. I turn away and walk out before I lose my nerve and stay. I look at the guard at the door—some guy I don’t know—and he gives me a nod. I turn away and walk to the elevator.

What was the purpose of this exercise? I keep asking myself that question during the entire ride home. I went running to this man’s beside like… like… like he meant something to me. Why the hell did I do that? The minute I saw that he was going to be okay, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. So, why did I go in the first place?

I sit in front of my house for several minutes when I get home. I’m seeing Judge and Mrs. Grey, holding each other warmly in the hospital hallway when they didn’t know what was going on with Christian. It was very tender and loving, and you could tell that they cared for each other very deeply. I don’t want that. I don’t want to be dependent on anybody and I don’t want anybody to be dependent on me… do I? I look at my front door and see Blake there waiting for me to come in. I sigh heavily, open the door and step out of the truck. I close and lock the door behind me and proceed towards the only man in the world who can see right through me.


Image result for eric dane in bed

TREY

I should have known. I don’t know why I was surprised. Day one and day two, I watched that door. I asked Taylor if he had heard anything from her or seen her, or even if she asked if I were dead or alive. Nothing. Nothing at all. Day three, I have a lovely showdown with my family… in a fucking hospital bed.

“Christian,” Mom says, her voice pained, “why didn’t you tell us? They just told us that they had found a donor. They didn’t tell us that it was you.”  I can’t come up with an answer for her.

“I asked you,” she accuses. “You lied to me.”

“I didn’t lie to you, Mom, I avoided the truth,” I defend.

“It’s the same thing, Christian!” she says, fighting back her tears. “I could’ve lost two of my children and I wouldn’t have known until they were gone!” She covers her mouth and turns away. Dad raises his eyes to me.

“This was an incredibly selfless thing that you did, son,” he says, sounding more fatherly than I’ve heard him sound in decades, “and very foolish to do on your own. Your mother needs to know… and I need to know… why?” I sigh and try to rely on divine intervention to give me an answer, but I realize that nothing is going to suffice but the truth.

“I don’t know why Mia hates me,” I begin, “but she does, or at least she did. It can’t just be Harvard. It can’t. There has to be something else. I’ll never find out what that is, but she hated me. If she knew that she was getting my kidney, she might’ve said ‘no’ just to spite me. She would’ve thought I would try to use it to hold over her head, like she would be indebted to me for the rest of her life! And she would’ve said ‘no.’ Then what? She goes back to the end of the list and hopes for another kidney because she turned down a perfectly good one. And then we hope that she finds one before she dies? I couldn’t take that chance. We couldn’t afford for that to happen!”

“Is that what you thought?”

I hear Mia’s voice and look over at the door. She’s sitting in a wheelchair just outside the threshold.

“You thought I hated you so much that I wouldn’t take your kidney?” I sigh. Jesus, she wasn’t supposed to hear that.

“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” I scold.

“No,” she retorts. “I’m doing a hell of a lot better than you because I wasn’t swinging crutches at people three hours after surgery.” Oh, shit, she saw that. “You really thought that, Christian? That I wouldn’t accept your kidney?”

“And once again, the golden boy has to take the spotlight,” Elliot jeers. “You weren’t the only kidney, Mr. Perfect. Did you forget I was a match, too?” God, did he have to use that word? I’m still not 100% sure her visit wasn’t a figment of my imagination.

“Then why didn’t you give your kidney?” I ask. I won’t out him, but if he keeps it up…

“Oh, because billionaire boy beat me to it!” he snaps.

“How was that possible when they tested you first?” I ask. “The doctor told me that I was the perfect match—the perfect choice to save Mia and to extend her life. Now, why would they even need to test me if they had already found a match with you?” Drop it, Elliot.

“Most likely because of his cocaine use,” Dad blurts out. Elliot’s head whips over to Dad and my eyes transform to the size of saucers.

“Dad? Seriously?” Elliot accuses.

“Yes, seriously!” Dad retorts. “I’ve had enough of you walking around here like you’re so goddamn high and mighty. This isn’t about you!”

“Dear God, Elliot! Cocaine?” Mom exclaims horrified. “How long? Never mind! Never mind! I don’t want to know.” Elliot smiles nervously.

“Chill out, Mom,” he says in that slimy voice that he uses to make your skin crawl. “It’s not the end of the world. It’s just a little nose candy.”

“I’m not hearing this!” Mom says, throwing her hands up. “I am not hearing this.” She turns to Dad. “Carrick? You knew?” Dad sighs.

“Unfortunately, I did,” he says to her before turning to me. “How did you know?”

“I didn’t!” I reply, awestruck. “The doctor wouldn’t tell me, but he was adamant that I was Mia’s best chance of survival even though we were both a match.” Elliot is clearly floundering, so instead of walking that plank that he was standing on and taking his medicine like a man, he decides to shoot a hole in the bottom of the boat.

“Well, since we’re telling secrets,” he says with a devious smile, “I suppose you already know that Christian is into that same shit Dad was into.”

You can actually hear the skin ripping as his knife sinks into the bodies of nearly every person in the room and drags down their torsos, spilling fresh blood onto a sterile floor.

“Wha…?” Mom shrieks. Dad and I quickly look at each other and have a silent conversation about what really needs to be said here. Elliot is looking to drag everybody down with him, even if it destroys Mom in the process.

“Christian, is this true?” Mom shrieks. I screw up my courage and spit it out.

“Yes, Mom, it’s true,” I say impassively, “but Mom, you can’t be angry with me. I’m a consenting adult. This was after Juliet—I wasn’t in a committed relationship, so nobody was hurt. I shielded you, the family, and everybody from it, and if it wasn’t for Chicken Little over there, you still wouldn’t know.”

“How did Chicken Little know?” Dad asks.

“I heard the two of you talking,” Elliot says victoriously, and Mom turns her horrified glare to Dad. Oh, great.

“I asked questions, Mom,” I clarify. “It was no secret that he was familiar with the lifestyle and I was curious. I didn’t want to go wandering off into some crazy cult shit… so I asked.”

Mom looks back and forth between me and Dad, not sure which of us to be angry with more, no doubt, but Elliot’s not done yet.

“Yeah, Dad has dirt on everybody. He’s been holding us hostage for years. So, since my secret is out, let’s lay everybody’s dirty laundry on the table. So, what about the Little Princess over there—Little Miss Throw-Everybody-In Judgment? What’s the dirt on Mia?” Elliot says snidely.

“You just saw the dirt on Mia,” Dad hisses without looking at him, then turns to Mom.

“Mia’s been on dialysis for the last seven years. You’d already been through so much we didn’t want to tell you. Of course, it got to the point where we couldn’t keep it a secret anymore.”

Seven years… dear God. Even I didn’t know that. It wasn’t that she wasn’t taking care of herself. It was just that… she was waiting. It was time.

“Secrets,” my mother chokes through her tears. “Secrets and lies! That’s all this family is built on—secrets and lies!” She runs out of the room in tears. Dad sighs mournfully and looks down at Mia.

“Are you okay?” he says softly. She shrugs.

“Yeah,” she says. “I’m glad it’s out. We’ll work on the rest later.” Dad takes her hand and looks over at me. I give him a half shrug to indicate that I’m indifferent about the whole thing, but there are really no hard feelings. He raises angry eyes to Elliot but says nothing. Then he leans down to kiss Mia’s cheek, releases her hand, and leaves the room, most likely to go find Mom. I turn to Elliot.

“Well, congratulations,” he sneers. “You’re the golden boy once again.” And there’s that word. I glare at him.

“You thought I was leaving her hanging for a business trip, and I was shit. You find out that I gave her a goddamn kidney, and I’m still shit.” I just look at him and shake my head.

“Get the fuck outta my room, Elliot,” I say with no emotion. I’m totally done with my brother, and I have nothing else to say on the matter. He gazes at me for a moment, then at Mia who has her back to him and hasn’t raised her head, and wordlessly leaves the room. Mia wheels over to me.

“It’s Harvard, Christian,” she says, placing her hand on the bed on top of mine but still not raising her eyes. “It’s always been Harvard. I resent you… resented you because I didn’t get a chance to go. Everything fell apart between Mom and Dad right after you dropped out, and I didn’t get a chance to go. It was my dream to go to Harvard, and I felt like you took it away from me. I resented you, but I don’t hate you. I never hated you.” She sniffles.

“When I saw you in that room with that crutch, swinging it at strangers and cursing out some nurse with your ass hanging out…” I try not to laugh. That’ll be in somebody’s paper if it’s not already. “… All I could think was, ‘What the hell is he doing here?’ When I finally shook the anesthesia, the doctor told me that you had given me your kidney and that you weren’t doing too well.” Her voice cracks on the last words. I swallow hard.

“You looked so weak every time I came to see you,” she squeaked. “I kept thinking, ‘He gave me the kidney to make up for stealing my chance to go to Harvard.’ I just wanted you to wake up, so I could say ‘thank you’ and ask you why you didn’t want me to know… but when I came in and heard the real reason…” She trails off and begins to weep. I turn my hand over and grasp hers in mine. She’s been crying a lot these days, and I don’t know if I can get used to it. She’s always been outspoken, and she can be a real pill, but I’ve never seen soft Mia.

“I’m sorry,” she sobs. “I’m so sorry. How can I ever make this up to you?” I squeeze her hand.

“By taking care of your body and living a good life… and agreeing to stop all this bickering. I think we’ve both seen that life is too short for this shit.” She nods through her tears.

“And Mia?” She raises her gaze to me.

“You’re smart, you’re resourceful, and you do a good thing. I’m proud of you for chasing the bad guys… but I’m not one of them.” She nods again.

“I know,” she says, still in tears. “I wanted to make you the bad guy, and I found a way through the whole ‘capitalist’ thing, but… I’ve always known.” I nod.

“So… you’ll give your brother a break?”

“This one,” she says, wiping her eyes and I deflate a bit.

“You’re going after Elliot?” I ask, knowing how this will affect our already upset Mom.

“No,” she says. “There’s nothing to go after. I don’t know what he does, and I don’t have the will or energy to chase him down. I’ve always known he was a creep and now—today—I know he’s a drug addict. I don’t see any redeeming qualities and until he shows me some, I have to let that go. Besides,” she strokes my hand gently, “I’ve got some serious bridges to mend on this side of the water.”

I don’t tell her that she never really hurt me; she was just a pain in my ass, but she needs to work through how she’s feeling, and I’ll be there to help her. I’m glad to have my little sister back.

“We’ll get through it,” I say softly, twisting my lips to avoid that twinge in my chest that’s making me feel a bit sappy.

“Christian,” she says just above a whisper, “thank you.” I squeeze her hand again.

“You’re welcome.”

*-*

Day four, Mia is my only visitor, and we spend the entire day together, including meals. Day five, we both get to go home. Elliot is M.I.A. as expected. Mom and Dad come to get Mia and Taylor comes to retrieve me. My mother doesn’t speak to me and that smarts. It’s a double-edged sword along with the cat-and-mouse game that Golden keeps playing with me. I get in the car after hoping—futilely—that my mother would at least acknowledge my presence. And suddenly, I’m weak again. I’m weak and I’m tired and even though I spent a week in bed, I just want to get back in bed again.

“Taylor, I need a little help,” I say when we get back to the penthouse. I feel like all the energy has been sapped out of me just by leaving the hospital and getting in the car.

“Do you need a doctor, sir?” he asks. “Should we go back to the hospital?

“No, the doctor said this might happen…” Sudden drains of energy, feelings of emptiness, loss, and depression. I just have a feeling that this isn’t just from the nephrectomy, that it’s quite possibly more emotional than physical.

“Can you just help me get to bed please?”

I put my arm over his shoulder, and he helps me to the elevator.

I spend the rest of that day as well as the next several in my bed. Mrs. Jones brings me meals and Taylor checks on me regularly. I shower each morning and change my pajamas, just to get back into bed and lay there or watch TV or talk to Mia or Ronnie—who reams me a new one once I tell her what really happened.

I deserved that… and she comes to check on me when she can.

The rest of the time, I think about Mom… and her.

Until day ten… when she shows up at my penthouse. She’s like a ray of sunshine showing up in my room and my spirits suddenly soar.

“I… said I would check on you,” she says almost timidly.

“That was more than a week ago,” I reply. “I could’ve been dead.”

“But you aren’t,” she says.

“What took so long?” I ask, really needing to know why she made me wait for ten days.

“I… I was busy,” she says, and I immediately see her whipping some poor, fortunate soul chained to the ceiling in her dungeon.

Cat-and-mouse. She’s playing with me again.

I told you not to fall for me, Chopper.
I’m not your Mistress anymore, Chopper.

Indeed, you aren’t, and suddenly, I’m weary again.

“I need you to leave,” I say, quietly. She’s silent for several moments.

“What?” she asks.

“You can’t fathom the concept that someone wants you to go away, can you?” I ask, wearily. “I said the same thing to you at the hospital—basically the same thing—when I didn’t know it was actually you sitting there, and your reaction was exactly the same. You said, ‘What,’ like you couldn’t comprehend the words that were coming out of my mouth. So, I’ll say them again so that you’ll know that I’m not under the influence of any drugs. I need you to leave,” I repeat, shaking my head and barely believing that I’m hearing myself say it.

“You play with me,” I continue, “I’m one of your toys. You’re a true sadist—you said it yourself. You win—I’m in agony; I can’t take this anymore. You make me want you, but then you say I can’t have you. Then you go away, but you make me want you again. I can’t get you out of my mind. You’re in my blood. I’m pussy-whipped, and it’s not because you fucked me. I was pussy-whipped long before that. I had dreams about you; I saw you in other women before and after you cut me off. It’s always been you and as far as I know, it’ll probably always be you. Fuck, I almost took a damn bullet for this shit!

“You got what you wanted!” I say with clenched fists. “You broke me down after I swore that another woman wouldn’t do that to me. I’m your ultimate trophy! Or maybe not—maybe I’m just another notch in your belt. But congratulations! You win. You really are a sadist—a divine, magnificent, beautiful, horribly cruel sadist. Whoever fucked you up, you got them back in spades—with me! Now, please, just leave before I make a bigger fool of myself than I already have.”

I grit my teeth to keep from saying what I really want to say; to keep from begging her to stay with me if only for tonight. I can’t take this anymore. My emotions are way more involved than I ever intended and it’s just too damn much.

“Christian…”

“For God’s sake, just go!” I yell. Her soft, concerned voice is like nails on the chalkboard of my soul—literally. And hearing her say my name smarts even more.

“Please, just go, Ana,” I say softly. “Just go…” I shut her down. I can’t hear her anymore. I don’t know how long I sit there in my bed with my head down, but the next voice I hear…

“Can I get you something, sir?” Taylor says. “Or I can have Mrs. Jones make something for you…” I sigh heavily.

“Something to drink, please,” I say, my voice barely audible. “Maybe some soup, too. My throat hurts.”


A/N: This was one of the chapters that I wrote near the middle of the book when I decided how to expand on the family dynamic. It was very hard to write.

We’re really closing in on the finale. So, remembering the warnings I’ve been spouting all through the story, any predictions at this point on how the story will end?

Will it be a “Your girl is lovely, Hubbell” ending like in The Way We Were?

Will it be the moment when Sayuri finally wins the affections of the Chairman in Memoirs of a Geisha?

Or will it be some calm (or wild) variance in between—The Secretary? Wild Orchid? The Story of O?

Two more chapters to find out…

The Pinterest board for this story can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/fifty-shades-golden/.

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

~~love and handcuffs


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Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 25

There are three more chapters after this one.

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

Explicit details of sex and BDSM scenes from here on out. Some may be hot while others may not be to your taste… and not necessary CG with Ana together. Proceed at your own discretion, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

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

CHAPTER 25

Trey Chapter 25

TREY

It’s Valentine’s Day…

And where I wish I were spending it with Ronnie, as a friend of course, she’s got a new beau in her life. It’s some guy that she met from one of the dating sites and this is their first date. She promises to give me all the details at our next lunch—whether he’s a dud or a stud—and I…

Well, I’m at the club taking advantage of one of the many single submissives available this evening. Tonight, it’s a gorgeous fucking redhead with an Olympic ass. I plan to oil that thing down and fuck her blind. No exhibition room for me tonight—I don’t want the distraction. I just want to fuck.

I begin the night with her squatting in front of me, my hands pinning her up-stretched arms against the wall by her wrists. I’m standing in front of her, deeply and slowly fucking her mouth and throat. Her safeword is to look up at me and blink, especially since her mouth is full and I’m almost drooling looking down at her lips wrapped around my cock while it’s disappearing into her mouth and throat. She doesn’t safeword, though. She can take it and take it she does. She’s so fucking talented that when she licks my balls with my dick still in her throat, I give her the first of many seminal salutes right down her goddamn throat.

Next, she’s in stocks with a spreader bar on her ankles, her stilettos causing her ass to toot straight up in the air, and my dick is jutting angrily right in her direction. She’s helpless and she can’t move, and I want to fuck—and fuck and fuck and fuck. I don’t care if she comes. I’m going to fuck her until I get Golden out of my head… at least for the night.

Her pussy is dripping wet in anticipation of my cock, and I’m going to give it to her, hard and deep, but first…

I oil that ass so that it’s nice and shiny, then lube her asshole thoroughly and retrieve the large glass butt plug. With no preparation, I shove it into her ass to the hilt. She gasps and her leg trembles. She likes it rough. She better, because there will be nothing tender about tonight’s fucking.

I position my head at her opening, grab her hips, and shove my cock in hard. She cries out in a high-pitched squeal. Fuck, that’s tight! And wet! And fucking hot as a goddamn sauna.

I don’t make a sound. I just concentrate on my dick—pulling it out and shoving it back in hard, deep, hot… fuck! God, it’s so fucking good. I pull out and slam into her again… and again… and again… the fucking pleasure shooting all the way to my goddamn feet. It’s hard to keep quiet, but I do, so I can pay attention to my throbbing, burning cock buried inside this eager, hot pussy.

I look down at her ass, swallowing that butt plug and rising and falling with each stroke. That shit is erotic as fuck. I grab the bottom of her ass cheeks and lift and spread, revealing my dick all wet and shiny, veiny and coated with her juices, the skin of her pussy wrapping around it and pulling as I pull out from her and resisting as I push back inside. Fuck, the sight is almost better than the feeling… which makes the feeling burn hotter.

I grit my teeth and stifle a groan as I plunge into her—deeper and harder with each stroke. I feel her start to tremor inside and my cock hardens. I throw my head back and thrust deeper and deeper, again, again, again…

I want to pull out when I feel her orgasm beginning, make her suffer, but I can’t. When she tightens around me, I look down at her ass and the butt plug is pulsing with her, every throb causing it to move. Her orgasm is so massive that although I hear her whimpering, I can only feel her pulling my dick deeper and deeper inside of her quaking pussy. I open my mouth and cum, violently, massively, and silently—the ejaculation causing my knees to buckle and my thighs to tighten. My tongue hangs far and hard out of my mouth in silent ecstasy and I’m dizzy when I’ve finally finished.

I grit my teeth and catch my breath as my cock pulses inside of her, my orgasm finally waning. I take a moment or three to get my bearings, my cock sliding out of her and my cum dripping on the floor from her open legs. That shit causes a twitch and I know I’ll be ready again in no time.

The butt plug’s gotta go, because that ass is next.

As my aching cock is getting a little air, she’s panting and still recovering from her climax. I put the spanking horse underneath her, because that body has to stay still for this ass fuck. Once she’s positioned on the spanking horse, I release her from the spreader bar. That asshole is puckering and pulsing and begging for my cock. Who am I to deny it?

I breach her rosette with the head of my cock and it slides in easily. I go further and further until I reach some resistance and she gasps. Then I take it slower until she takes all of my dick and then I thrust harder… and harder… and harder. She groans.

“Quiet!” I order, and she’s immediately silent.

Completely immobilized, she takes every deep thrust, her oily ass swallowing my cock over and over again. The site is fucking delicious. This is a perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day.

I grab her hips and slam her ass against my pelvis every time I thrust, her cheeks bouncing and wobbling from the impact and making that satisfying noise each time we make contact…

Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap!

My cock is burning from the tight friction and the vision is causing my balls to tighten. She whimpers with each thrust and I grab the frame of the stocks to get more leverage.

Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap!

Faster and harder I go, chasing this intense tightening in and below my balls. She cries a shrill cry and unless she was tightening her Kegels and had an orgasm in her pussy, she’s riding through an anal orgasm. No matter, because that ass is tightening either way.

Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap!

Thwap!

What the fuck!

I get a sting in my back that causes me to drive hard and fast into this nameless redhead with the big ass. She’s back! She’s fucking back! I’ve been trying to exorcise this shit for months. I even have a failed fucking relationship to chalk up to this shit and she’s still fucking here.

Thwap!

“Aahhh!” I cry out involuntarily, the sting going straight to my dick and causing it to swell and thicken. Still holding on to the stocks, I’m fucking her hard while I drill and grind into her ass, and in my lust and pleasure-filled haze, her flaxen red hair turns brown and whimpers are replaced with a voice more familiar.

Trey… fuck me, Trey…

Thwap!

I’m sweating like a racehorse, pounding like a jackhammer and a few moments later…

Thwap!

“Fuuuuuuuck!” I grunt in agony as the dam bursts and I’m spraying uncontrollably into her ass. My dick is thumping painfully inside her and I’m momentarily blinded by the dizzying pleasure. I don’t know what to do except stand here as the pain in my balls intensifies from the incredibly, indescribably powerful orgasm ripping through my body right now. I’m stiff and shaking at the same time as I dare to whisper her name…

“Ana…”

*-*

I’m awakened from an intensely deep sleep by my phone buzzing on the nightstand. It’s 3am. I came home and fell into an orgasm-induced sleep, angry that thoughts of Golden/Ana still haunt me during intense orgasms. I can’t seem to separate the pleasure and the pain. My first thought is that Ronnie’s date took a terrible turn and she needs me to come and get her, but when I clear the dust from my sleepy eyes…

“Mom?” I answer in a crackly sleepy voice.

“Christian…” She’s crying. What’s wrong?

“Mom, what is it?” I ask. “Is it Dad?”

“No… No… It’s… your sister,” Mom weeps into the phone, “she’s… not doing well.” I feel the blood rushing from my face.

“What do you mean she’s not doing well, Mom?” I ask. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

“Mia’s… Mia’s kidneys are shutting down,” she says.

“What?” I whisper.

“It happened so fast,” she breathes. “She was on dialysis for a short while, but then… out of nowhere…” My mother breaks down into sobs.

This doesn’t happen out of nowhere. Not this. Mia either didn’t know what was going on with her body or she didn’t care, and now my Mom is crying her eyes out, afraid that she’s about to lose her daughter. Was this what Dad was talking about months ago? What’s with the cryptic shit he was saying? Why didn’t he just come straight out and tell me what was going on?

“Where are you?” I ask.

“Se… Seattle Gen,” she chokes out.

“I’m on my way, Mom,” I say, unsuccessfully attempting to mask my anger.

I blindly slide into the first clothes I get my hands on. For all I know, I could be wearing red pants, a purple shirt, and green sneakers. I text Taylor that I’m going to Seattle Gen to see about Mia and rush down to the car. I think I get it in gear and moving before I even get the door closed.

I’m talking aloud to no one the entire way wondering what the hell happened to my sister. Our fights have been some real doozies, but nothing ever bad enough that I would wish something like this on her… and I’ve got a few choice fucking words for my father when I see him, too.

My mother runs to my arms the minute I enter the waiting room for the Intensive Care Unit. I throw a hateful glare over her shoulder at my father as she cries in my chest.

“Mom, tell me what’s going on,” I say.

“I’m not totally sure,” she says, weeping bitterly. “She told me that she was going to have some simple procedure done. I knew something was wrong when I saw the shunt…”

The shunt? I never saw a shunt. Where was the damn thing?

“I asked her about it, and she confessed that she had been on dialysis for a few weeks or a few months, I don’t remember which, but she assured me that everything was okay—that they were only doing dialysis to help strengthen her kidneys…”

They generally don’t do dialysis to strengthen your kidneys that I know of. They do dialysis when your kidneys are starting to fail. I look up at my father again and I can tell by his expression that there’s more. He’s got that “Don’t say anything or we’re all toast” look on his face.

“Her creatinine levels are crazy, and none of this sounds right to me—none of it does,” Mom weeps. “Mia has given strict instructions that we only get limited information on her condition and I don’t know what to do right now.”

“How did she end up here?” I ask. “Was she here for dialysis and they just kept her?”

“She was out with friends and she passed out,” Dad says. “She has a medic alert bracelet and they brought her here.” I shake my head.

“Mom you need to calm down,” I tell her. “I know you’re upset, but we should find out what’s going on before we think the absolute worst…”

“This is the absolute worst!” she shrieks. “My baby girl is sick! She’s been on dialysis and I didn’t know! I don’t know what’s going to happen to her! This is the worst!” she sobs.

I hold her for several moments until she calms, my thoughts going in a million different directions. I have to go talk to Mia, and…

“Where’s Elliot?” I ask.

“I left him a message, but he hasn’t responded,” Dad says. I twist my lips. Do you really expect him to respond to you?

“Mom, have you tried to call him?” I ask.

“No,” she says, her voice weary.

“Can I see your phone?” I ask. She doesn’t question. She just gives me her phone. I kiss her forehead and walk into the hallway and head to the nurses station.

“Where is Mia Grey’s room?” I ask.

“Room 517, down the hall, third room on your left.” I nod my “Thank you’s” and leave. I scroll through the contacts on Mom’s phone as I head to Mia’s room and swipe the screen when I get to Elliot’s number.

“Hey, Mom,” he answers sleepily.

“You’ve taken to not checking your messages, Asswipe?” I say.

“Wha…? Christian?” he says groggily. “Why are you calling from Mom’s phone?”

“Your sister’s in the hospital and she’s doing pretty fucking bad, so you need to get your ass in gear.”

“Who…? What…?” he says.

“You heard me. Get your ass to Seattle Gen, now!” I disconnect the call.

I look in the window of room 517 and see Mia sitting up in the bed. She doesn’t look good at all. Her skin looks a mix of grayish-yellow. I quietly open the door and slowly enter the room.

“Oh, great, this is just what I need,” she says when she sees me, “the angel of sunshine.”

I don’t respond to her sarcasm. Instead, I walk over to the chair on the side of her bed and sit down. At first, I don’t say anything. I look down at my hands for a minute or two, trying to find my words, occasionally looking back up at her to make sure she’s still alive. At minute three, I finally find the words that I want to say.

“You’re dying, Mia,” I say finitely. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“I’m not dying, Dr. Grey,” she shoots back. “My levels are just off.”

“You’re in intensive care, Mia. You levels are not off!

“Don’t try to tell me about my illness!” she hisses. “I’ve been living with this my whole life! I know what’s going on!”

“Then give it to me straight!” I retort sharply. She’s silent for a moment, so I softly add, “Please.”

I don’t know what that one soft Christian moment does for her, but she totally crumbles and begins to cry.

“I need a kidney,” she weeps. “I won’t make it if I don’t get one.” Her shoulders are shaking with genuine sobs. I can’t watch her like this. Whatever our differences, I can’t watch her like this.

I stand and sit on the edge of her bed. I embrace her and let her cry in my arms. She’s scared and I can see that she is. She cries for quite some time as I hold her and rub her back.

“How long?” I say when she finally starts to calm.

“I’ve been on dialysis for years,” she says. “That’s all you get.”

Years? Fucking years? Mom thinks it’s only been a couple of months or something.

“Mia why didn’t you say anything?” I chide gently. “This is very serious stuff.”

“I told Dad,” she says, “when I first started dialysis.” I stiffen.

“Dad knows?” I ask.

“I had to tell one of them,” she says. “I couldn’t tell Mom. She had already been through too much. I regretted telling him from the very beginning. He held it over my head like a juicy piece of gossip.”

So, this is the big juice Dad had on Mia. That’s pretty fucking cruel.

“Jesus, Mia,” I say feeling somewhat helpless. “You need a kidney. How long have you known?”

“About a year,” she says. “I thought I would have one by now. I was doing everything the doctor told me to, to the letter—taking my meds, never missed dialysis. I don’t know what went wrong. My GFR is out of whack, all of my levels are crazy…”

“That’s because dialysis is a temporary fix, even if you can do it for years. It’s not a long term or permanent solution, Mia.” She nods and wipes her nose.

“I know,” she says, her voice shaking, “I was trying to buy some time.” I shake my head and squeeze her hand.

“It’s going to be okay, pest,” I say. “We’re going to find a kidney for you, okay?” She raises wide eyes at me. “And it won’t come from any of my underground connections that’ll snatch some poor sucker off the corner that’ll miraculously be a match.” She wipes her nose again and rolls her eyes.

“I deserved that,” she says wearily.

“Yes, you did,” I say, kissing her on the cheek. “I’m going to give Mom back her phone, and you need to get some rest.” She wearily nods and snuggles down into her pillow. I pull her covers over her shoulder like I did before we became mortal enemies… well, not mortal enemies.

I leave her room quietly and close the door. Who’s standing off to the side but dear old fucking Dad.

“You. Are a real fucking piece of work,” I hiss shamelessly at him. He has the nerve to look affronted.

“Don’t blame me,” he chides. “I told you…”

When did you tell me?” I bark, trying to keep my voice low. “You told me no such damn thing! You told me that she was having episodes!”

“I told you in that conversation when you asked me what her doctor said,” he replies. I take a moment to recall the conversation. What did he say…?

What does her doctor say?
The same thing he’s been saying…

I look at my father with disdain.

“You’re a real fucking asshole, you know that?” I say calmly.

“If you had been speaking to your sister…”

“I. Asked. You!” I hiss. “I asked you outright was she dying; what did the doctor say; I asked you, plain and simple, and you did that same game-playing sneaky, sheisty shit you always do. You know damn well you made it seem like nothing was seriously wrong. ‘The same thing he’s been saying,’” I say in a mocking voice.

He makes to respond, but I’ve heard enough. I have no idea why, but my mother loves him. That’s the only reason that I won’t deck him right now.

“I know somebody like you,” I say, thinking of my golden tormentor, the ache still fresh after all these months. “They get off on other people’s pain, on watching them squirm. You know the type, don’t you, Dad?” I add, glaring at him and he glares right back. I know he was a Dominant in the lifestyle, but was he a sadist? I never asked.

“You lost the love of your life once because of your selfishness and shadiness,” I warn calmly. “Keep it up, Dad, and you’re going to lose everything you hold dear.”

I stare him down for a moment to see if he has any shots that he wants to add—this’ll be his last chance. When he has none, I go in search of a doctor or nurse.

“Excuse me,” I say, capturing the first one that I see in the hallway. “You have a patient here that needs a kidney. How do I find out about possibly becoming a donor?”

*-*

I call Daisy Evans during business hours. She’s the living donor coordinator on staff as well as the main coordinator at the transplant coordination center. I tell her that I don’t want my identity revealed yet. I’ll decide if I want to do that once we find out if I’m a match for Mia. She takes the time to get me registered with UNOS—The United Network for Organ Sharing—and then she starts the process of seeing if I’m a viable donor. There’s so much information I need to know about this process:

Mia has a 5-15% chance of dying each year she’s on dialysis. I know that she’s been on there for longer than she’s telling us. I just don’t know how much longer.

It’s a fairly simple surgery to remove the kidney as most of it is done through a laparoscope. Mia’s part is going to be more difficult.

My recovery, should I be a match, will also be pretty simple—a 2 to 3-day recovery in the hospital followed by a 6-week recovery at home, then life is back to normal.

There’s a whole lot more shit to know and learn, but Daisy tells me that I’ll have plenty of time to get and review all the information I need before the procedure. That doesn’t make me feel good since I know that my sister is pretty much on borrowed time.

The next few weeks are kind of crazy. I start with a questionnaire that’s about a hundred questions long. Then, there’s the blood test, the urine test, the ultrasound, a psychological evaluation, a financial evaluation, an overall health evaluation… My head is spinning by the time I’m done with all these fucking evaluations! The entire time, I’m worrying if my sister’s going to die by the time I find out if I’m a good match for her.

I would go by the hospital to see her at least twice a week. Then when she moved back home with Mom and Dad, my visits changed to once a week. I know that Elliot and I are both being tested since Mom and Dad have already been tested and are, crazily, not compatible to give her a kidney. After sitting on pins and needles for weeks, I’m finally called into the transplant coordination center one day to talk to Daisy Evans.

“Mr. Grey, I want to start by saying that I have some good news for you,” she says. “You and your brother are both ABO and crossmatch compatible. You’re both ideal matches to donate a kidney to your sister.” Well, this is good news.

“There’s a but,” I say.

“Your brother’s health and… extra-curricular activities would most likely exclude him from being permitted to give her a kidney.” I frown.

“Wait, are you telling me that my brother is going to need a kidney soon, too?” I ask horrified. I only have two kidneys!

“I’m not saying that,” she says. “I am, however, strongly suggesting that you be the one to donate the kidney. Mia is a very young woman and she has a better chance of survival and extended life with one of your kidneys than she would with one of Elliot Grey’s. That’s all I can say without breaking the law and I’ve already insinuated more than I should.”

So, basically something is wrong with Elliot or he’s done something to his body or kidneys that makes him less than ideal. If he were sick, we’d be having a different conversation. So, my guess is recreational drugs or alcohol. Obviously, if I want my sister to live, I’m going to have to be the one to give her the kidney. She’s a real pain in my ass, but I don’t want her to die.

“Remember when I requested to remain anonymous?” I ask.

“Yes,” she says.

“I need it to stay that way,” I say. “No one can know that it’s me, not even my parents until I’m ready.” She frowns.

“That’s highly unusual,” she says. “This is your sister…”

“You do deceased donors all the time,” I point out, “and the person on the table or their family doesn’t know whose kidney, heart, or liver they’re getting. They just know that they or their loved one is getting a second chance at life. The donation has to be anonymous.” She sighs.

“This affects your support system,” she says.

“You’ve seen my evaluation,” I counter. “You know that I have a very capable support system outside of my family.” She nods.

“As you wish, Mr. Grey,” she says.

“So, what do we do next, doc?” I ask.

So, after all this time, it turns out that my evaluations are still not over. I now have to meet with everyone who will possibly be touching my body, including the coordinator, who won’t be touching my body—the nephrologist, the surgeon, another social worker, and the anesthesiologist—severally and collectively, and the entire time, they’re reminding me that I have the option not to do this.

“I have a question,” I say. “How many people have gone through this entire process and then decided—right at this point—that they don’t want to do it?” The social worker sits back in her seat.

“Um, maybe about five to eight percent,” she says.

“Do you want to know why?” I ask, “Why that five to eight percent change their minds?”

I have a captive audience now.

“Because when this process started, I was given a detailed evaluation. I was asked every question on that thing down to if I rode a horse when I was three years old. I gave you samples of everything in my body except my kidneys—and I’m sure I’ve somehow given you that, too—to show that I’m capable of donating a kidney. I’ve been instructed to do my own research, which I have done. I’ve talked ad nauseum with the transplant coordinator for months. I’ve done everything short of cut my side open, rip out my own kidney and hand it to you to prove that want to give this kidney to my sister.

“When I’ve finally passed the physical, psychological, and financial testing for this process, I’m finally able to meet the actual team that’s going to be doing the process, which from what I understand is a couple of tiny cuts, a few snips, a larger cut and sloop! It’s out.”

The coordinator and the nephrologist both jump when I say, “sloop,” which is an indication that the kidney is being slid out through this two-inch incision at my “bikini line.”

“I’ve read up on and been repeatedly informed of the recovery time, the possible risks, and the restrictions. I could have changed my mind anytime during this grueling process, but I get to this point and I have five people constantly informing me, ‘You don’t have to do this,’ ‘You know you don’t have to do this,’ ‘You can change your mind at any time,’ ‘You haven’t been coerced into doing this, have you?’ ‘You can walk away at any time.’

“You know what that does—having it repeatedly hammered into your head that you don’t have to do this? It makes the listener feel like either one or more of you is not confident in their abilities or that there’s something you’re not telling us.”

“That’s not the case at all, Mr. Grey,” Daisy says. “We just want to make sure that the person that is about to make this sacrifice is completely sure, that they’re in the right state of mind to proceed.”

“And I totally understand that, but the constant questioning at some point becomes badgering the witness. And people who were completely ready before suddenly feel like, ‘Well, maybe I shouldn’t do this’ because of you. How many of those five to eight percent have gone through all the evaluations, all the research, all the testing, and backed out at this point?”

“All of them,” the surgeon says. “They don’t get to this point unless they pass the preliminary evaluations.”

“What does that say to you?” I ask. “You have someone who has proven to be perfectly healthy, perfectly ready to go under the knife and give the gift of life and then decide, ‘Eh, no thanks.’ They go through all of this and then they get to the Inquisition, and they don’t want to go through this anymore. If they didn’t have doubts before, they do now.”

“Which is why we ask if they’re ready. We just want to make sure that the donor doesn’t have any doubts or major concerns…” Daisy says.

“And that’s why only two of you need to ask that question at this point—maybe three if you’re still not 100% sure. And those three only need to ask the question once. There are five of you, and each of you asked me twice. You don’t think that’s enough to plant a seed of doubt in anybody’s mind?”

They all fall silent for a moment, probably counting how many out of that five to eight percent could have actually been successful transplants. They’re so busy trying to cover their asses that they’re less concerned about good medicine.

“The only doubts and major concerns I have about this process is that it’s taking so long that my sister might die before she actually gets my kidney. So, let’s lay this to rest in case anybody is going to ask me this question again.” I look at the nephrologist. “Are you confident in your abilities?” He frowns.

“Yes, sir, I am,” he says, taken aback by the fact that I would ask him that. I ignore his offense and move on to the surgeon.

“Are you confident in your abilities?” I ask.

“Yes, I am,” she says, flatly. I move on to the anesthesiologist.

“Are you confident in your abilities?” I ask,

“Yes, sir,” he says without malice. I nod.

“Are you confident in your abilities?” I ask the social worker.

“I am,” she says impassively. I look at Daisy.

“And how about you?” I ask. “Are you confident in your abilities?”

“Yes, Mr. Grey, I’m confident in my abilities.” I nod and look at the group as a whole.

“Is there anything in this process that you have left out, omitted, failed to tell me, or are hiding that I need to know before I lay on that table?” They look at one another, shaking their heads as if to say, “Not me, did you leave something out?”

“No, Mr. Grey,” Daisy says, “we’ve told you everything.”

“Well then, if you have any other relevant questions, please ask them. Otherwise, let’s cut the bullshit and get this scheduled. I’m afraid my sister doesn’t have much time left. “

*-*

“That’s really great news, Mom,” I say when she calls me to tell me that Mia’s surgery is scheduled for two weeks. They wanted to wait for three, but I made them move it up since there was no reason to wait. I wanted to go next week, but they said, “no.”

I know why they want to wait—to give me time to back out. They don’t understand that I’m counting the days. I’m watching my sister get sicker and sicker.

“I appreciate you being able to bury the hatchet and be there for your sister during this time,” she says. You have no idea, Mom.

“You never know how much time you have left with someone,” I tell her. “Recent events have shown me that you have to fight the battles worth fighting and leave the others alone. When does she check in?” I ask, pretending not to know.

“Two weeks from Monday,” she says, sounding like she’s talking about Christmas, which for her, she probably is.

“I’ll be there, Mom,” I promise.


Golden Chapter 25

GOLDEN

Yep, I still love what I do. All I needed to get back to myself was to get a hold of two or three of my pain whores, beat the Trey out of me, then make them come like fountains.

I even kicked the shit out of Desmond’s case—the first pro-bono case I’ve had in a long time that actually went to trial. Once the barracuda was back, the D.A. didn’t stand a chance. Golden is back on her square.

I go to the clubs with no worry of Trey since he has a girlfriend now. Truth is, I don’t think I would care if he showed up at all—single or attached. I still wouldn’t let him near me with a ten-foot pole.

I do, however, take the chance to go and see my father’s family, though. I waited longer than I should, but I show up for Easter dinner based on an invite from Tracy. Everyone’s going to be meeting at Sheila’s and bringing a dish. So, to prove I haven’t lost my roots, I bring the greens. Of course, they all look at my pot of greens with a healthy dose of skepticism. I call them all out and tell them to at least taste my greens before they write me off. After all, Aunt Sheila is the one who taught me how to cook.

There are no greens left in the pot when dinner is over.

The family sits down to a game of Spades and Tracy graciously asks me if I want to “P-up.”

“Hell, no,” I say emphatically. “I’ve watched enough Spades games to know that the only white girl in the room does not need to be playing. She needs to be watching!”

The room lights up with laughter as the adults play several hands of Spades…

And the white girl watches.

I know from way back when I used to watch Daddy play that Spades is part of the culture. It’s not just some game of playing the highest card and taking the most books. No. There’s a whole lotta smack-talkin’ involved, and if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, you stay the hell outta the game!

Guess what the hell Ana does?

The beer and Hennessey is flowing and I start to get to know the family better. Tracy and Lance actually have four children—two together, which were the two that I saw in the grocery store—and one each from prior partners. Junior has two little girls, but he’s divorced. My understanding is that the split is amicable, and that the girls spent the first part of the day at church with their mother, then came to Sheila’s for dinner with their dad. While the adults are talking, Junior’s oldest, Felicia, walks over to the group.

“Who is that lady, Aunt Tracy?” she asks, pointing to me.

“This is your Aunt Ana,” Tracy says. Felicia looks at her.

“I thought you were my Aunt,” she says.

“I am,” she says, “but Ana’s your aunt, too.” She looks at me then back at Tracy.

“She’s white,” Felicia whispers. Tracy chuckles.

“Yes, she is,” Tracy says with mirth. Felicia looks right at me and firmly asks:

“How did you get white?” Her little hand flies up to her mouth and her eyes widen. Immediately realizing her mistake, she begins to back-peddle.

“I mean… um… I…” Her eyes fill with regret and I spring into action.

“It’s okay,” I say, crouching down to her. “I know what you mean.” Relief instantly replaces her relief. I know that she meant to ask how she can have a white aunt when her family is black.

“Your grandpa had a brother that died when he was younger,” Tracy tells Felicia. “His name was Raymond. He adopted Auntie Ana, but when he died, Ana came to live with us.” Felicia frowns.

“Oh,” she says slowly. “Is that like Regina?” she asks. Tracy frowns.

“Who’s Regina?” she asks.

“A girl at my school,” she says. “She has two mommies. She said one mommy is her real mommy and the other mommy adomded her and now she’s her mommy, too.” Tracy and I both laugh.

“Yes,” Tracy says, “adopted,” she corrects.

“Adopted,” Felicia repeats.

“That’s exactly what this is,” Tracy says.

“Okay,” Felicia says. “See you later, Aunt Ana. I wanna go play.” She smiles widely and waves before she goes off to play with the other children.

“I wish the whole world could be that accepting,” I lament. Tracy puts her hand on my shoulder as I rise.

“Unfortunately, I think the world will end before that happens,” she says sadly.

I stand and go relieve myself and I can tell that a pow-wow of the adults has occurred since I was gone. Junior takes the initiative to ask the question that’s burning in everyone’s minds.

“Ana, we heard Dad’s version of what happened—which was apparently wrong. Do you mind telling us what happened to you when you left… or you didn’t come back?” he asks. I can tell he has no idea of the truth. I sigh. “If it’s too painful…”

“No,” I say, “it doesn’t sting as much anymore, so I can tell you. Let me start by saying that I have no intention of speaking ill of the dead,” I add. “I’ve already forgiven my uncle, so I’m going to make this as neat and clean as possible.

“I was dating Jake at the time… I honestly don’t even know his last name…”

“Fuckboy Jake?” Tracy asks, then looks over at Sheila. “Sorry, Mom.” Sheila waves her off. I know immediately from the description that we’re talking about the same person.

“Yes,” I say without hesitating. “You all remember—how many white people were there in the neighborhood?”

“About as many as there are now,” Tracy says. “There was only you.”

“Exactly,” I say. “So, when Fu…” I stop and look at Sheila. “When F-Boy Jake chooses me over all the black queens, who do you think gets the whisperings, the murmurings, and the side-eye?”

“I didn’t know you were dating Jake,” Junior says.

“I know,” I say. “He wasn’t F-Boy Jake at the time. I think he was F-Boy in training.” I roll my eyes. “Anyway, you know he always rode that yellow bike and he always wore those yellow jumpsuits…”

“I was wondering why you started wearing those jumpsuits,” Tracy says. “I thought it was just a fashion statement.” I nod.

“Well, now you know,” I say. “So, one night, I was riding his bike and the neighborhood girls saw me and started to give me a hard time. They started calling me names and wanted to know if Jake knew that I had his bike. You know his parents had that party store over on 161st…”

They nod.

“Well, I knew how to get in so that I could put Jake’s bike back. Ask me how these girls got there before me, I have no idea, but when I got there to put his bike back in the storage room, they were tearing up the store and they tore up his bike, too. The only thing that I could deduce was that these girls were mad that Paleface was the flavor of the month and wanted him to know it. So, here are my options…

“Defend little Jakey—or try to run away—and risk getting my butt kicked by a mob of mad black girls, or somewhat look like I’m going to join in and try to walk out of this alive. So, what did I do? I stole a candy bar.” The group pauses, waiting for additional information.

“And then what?” Tracy asks.

“And then nothing,” I say. “I stole a candy bar—that was it. And I only did that because I was afraid that if I didn’t do something, they were going to beat the hell out of me.” Aunt Sheila frowns deeply and sits forward in her chair.

“Go on,” she says, a little too calmly.

“The cops picked up everybody that they saw on surveillance. When Uncle Richard got there and found out that the whole thing happened on a Sunday morning, and not one day where he could prove I was in school, he wrote me off. He left me cold with no lawyer, no parent, no nothing. I didn’t even get a chance to talk to him; I never got a chance to explain. He looked at me like I had shot his puppy and left me there. I got to court and there was nobody there for me but the public defender. I don’t even know what happened… I just know they let me go.”

“And that’s why you take a lot of cases pro bono,” Sheila says, her expression unreadable. I pause for a moment and gaze at them.

“I just want them to know that somebody’s listening,” I says. “Black kids—particularly black boys—often get fingered for just walking down the street. I just want to make sure they don’t get thrown in jail simply for ‘walking while black.;”

Junior clears his throat while Tracy looks down and Sheila is looking dead at me.

“It’s the same thing that happened to me,” I continue. “Granted, I’m white, but I was accused of something I didn’t do. I did one dumb little thing, but even if I had done the ultimate worst, I was convicted by the one person that I needed to be in my corner without even having the chance to explain myself.

“When they asked me if they could take me somewhere, I knew they couldn’t bring me back here. I knew Uncle Richard wasn’t going to welcome me with open arms after he had deserted me at juvie without even hearing my side. I knew that if he had left me there on the mercy of the court that he wasn’t going to welcome me with open arms. I knew I was on my own, because if I wasn’t, he would have come for me; he would have looked for me; he would have sent Tracy and Junior to bring me home from school; something. Instead, he told you all not to talk to me. I know there’s nothing that can be done about this now, but I have to say this. You guys have no idea how many times I wished you guys would walk into school one day, look at me, and say, ‘Ana, come home,’ but you would barely even look at me.”

Now, Junior’s head is down, but Sheila is still looking at me.

“I lived on the streets,” I say with a shrug, “in vacant houses. I lied about my age and got a job for a while, but then I had to quit so I could focus on school. I still had to get scholarships or else I wasn’t going to college. So, I pinched pennies and I entered writing contests. That’s how I survived. As soon as I graduated and U-Dub said I could come to the dorm in August, I went straight to the dorm. I’ll never forget it. I left everything I had in that vacant house. When I moved in, I had bought a new duffle bag, I filled it with new clothes, one pair of pajamas, toiletries, and a towel. The first thing I did was take a shower.

“I slept with no blankets for three weeks until my roommates felt sorry for me and gave me some bedding. I didn’t have a computer, so I was in the library until it closed. School was a dream for me because I had spent a year and a half in hell, but it all paid off in the end.”

“Excuse me,” Sheila breathes and scurries from the room. I watch her run from the room and look back at Junior.

“I had to ask,” he laments, shaking his head. I look at Tracy.

“Your version of things is completely different than Dad’s version of things,” she says. “According to Dad, you had gotten involved in some kind of gang and that’s why you were in juvie. They were removing you from our home since Dad was technically just a guardian and not your parent or adopted parent, and they were making you a ward of the state because of your activities. If we looked at you funny, it’s because we couldn’t put together what Dad was saying with what we were seeing, but he told us not to talk to you, and the fact that you never came back to the house only served to reinforce what he was saying.” She looks at the door her mother exited.

“Mom’s going to start grieving again,” she says. “She’s been finding out all kinds of things she didn’t know about Dad—not things like he’s got another family across town or anything like that. Just things she didn’t know… like this. If she finds out too much more, it’s going to rip her apart.”

Now, I look at the door Sheila just exited.

“May I?” I ask, gesturing to the door. Tracy nods.

“Be my guest,” she says. I get up and follow Sheila through the door. I begin to walk down the hall, and the layout of the house is coming back to me. I know where she is. She’s in her spaffice.

A spaffice is just what it sounds like—it’s a cross between a spa and an office, and it’s the opposite of a man cave. Now, it’s not a spa in the sense that there’s a Jacuzzi or a set-up to get your nails done and things like that, but it was always Sheila’s escape and you couldn’t bother her when she was in her office. I remember the few transformations it took on while I lived here. Now, it’s got a jungle-like look, with lots of flourishing live plants and a Zen-like setting. There’s even a hammock in the room. Right now, Sheila’s at the window seat looking out of her bay window.

“Aunt Sheila?” I say, cautiously entering the room.

“I was against you coming to live with us at first,” she says without turning around, her voice soft. “It’s because of the neighborhood that we lived in… and you were white. I foolishly worried about what people would think, but I also worried that we wouldn’t be able to keep you safe.”

A single tear falls down her cheek and she quickly wipes it away.

“I quickly learned that my brother-in-law… or your mother… or both, had taught you a thing or three, and I had nothing to worry about. People still talked, and it bothered me at first, but after a while, I didn’t care. Richard was your advocate. He always wanted the best for you, just like he wanted the best for Tracy and Junior… and so did I.

“I have no idea what happened that day, Ana,” she says turning to me. “Richard left to get you, and he came back without you. He simply said that you had gotten into trouble and you would most likely end up in foster care. I asked him what happened. I asked him why they would put you in foster care when you had us. You had been with us for years. He refused to talk about it. He simply said that you weren’t coming back and that I didn’t have to worry about the white girl in the house anymore. I was appalled that he said that. After all these years, he still thought I felt that way?” She shakes her head.

“I wanted to know what happened. I wanted the information that he wouldn’t give me. I tried to call the juvenile center, but they had no record of you, and now I know why. I didn’t know who else to call. That day, Tracy and Junior came home and said they saw you at school. I looked at Richard, and he forbade everybody to talk to you. He said that you would be a bad influence on the children and that you would use my emotions against me. He made it sound like you had gone out and joined a gang or something… and now…”

She sighs heavily and looks out the window again. I walk over to her and take her hand.

“He didn’t even tell us he had gotten in touch with you again. For all we knew, you were dead or in jail or somewhere with a slew of babies… we had no clue. Once the kids graduated from high school, there was no more talk about you. And now, here you are… almost twenty years later…” She begins to weep again.

“I’m sorry, Ana,” she sobs, her shoulders shaking. “I don’t know how you can possibly forgive us…”

“I can forgive you because you were misled,” I say, squeezing my hand. “You went by what Uncle Richard said, and that is… was your husband after all. I didn’t even know you tried to look for me.”

“I didn’t try hard enough,” she scolds herself through her tears. “You went to school with my kids, for God’s sake!”

“And your husband and the man of your house told you that I was a bad influence. I’m the adopted daughter of his biological brother. If you really thought he felt that way, what could you do? I wouldn’t want a bad influence around my kids… if I had any.”

“How can you forgive him?” she says through her sniffles. “How can you forgive him for lying on you and deserting you like that? For everything you went through…?” I drop my head and think about my words before I speak.

“I was so angry for so many years,” I say. “I was hurt; I felt betrayed. I lost my Daddy and Mommy all back over again. I used those emotions to thrive. I thought about Daddy and Mommy looking down on me. I never once thought about what they would think of Uncle Richard and what he was doing. I didn’t even know the whole story about what Uncle Richard was doing and I still don’t know, because he’s not here to tell us. So… what do I do now? Do I just sit here angry and spiteful at a dead man?

“I can’t live like that, Aunt Sheila,” I tell her. “I forgave Uncle Richard for me… because there’s just nothing else to do.” She twists her lips.

“Where did you get this fortitude and character?” she asks, “because I doubt that you got it from us.” I shrug.

“I think I may have picked up a bit of it from you guys,” I admit, “some of it from my Daddy and Mommy, and… some of it from life.” I sigh. “Everything happens for a reason, and I still know how to cook.” We laugh.

“You sure do!” she says surprised. “You didn’t forget one single thing in those greens. I can’t get Tracy to cook greens like that!” I chuckle.

“That’s because when everything is taken away from you, you hold on to what you can with both hands,” I say. She looks down at my hand over hers and covers it with hers with her other one.

“I’ll never let you get away again,” she says, a tear or two dropping on our joined hands. I put mine over hers.

“I’m not going anywhere, Aunt Sheila,” I promise.


A/N: Never saw this coming, did you? 

The Pinterest board for this story can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/fifty-shades-golden/.

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~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 88—Coming Around the Stretch  

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

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

Chapter 88—Coming Around the Stretch  

ANASTASIA

Of course, something about me would send him into a rage. Was it the tight ass comment, the fact that they said I was holding out on him, or the fact that they were talking about me at all? Either way, Iron Fist Grey was able to flex his iron muscles.

“Excuse me,” I say, deciding to go to the kitchen to see what’s holding dinner up now that His Highness has finally joined us.

“Ana, what are you doing in here?” Gail says, pausing from feeding Mikey his dinner.

“Just coming to see if you all need any help,” I say. “I know that waiting for Christian threw our clock off a bit.”

“Ya fehd Minneh,” Keri says. “We gawt the bebbies. I hep wit da dinnah ef dey need…”

“She’s escaping, Keri,” Gail says, wiping her hands and handing Mikey’s spoon and bowl to a confused Keri. “Come with me,” she says, guiding me into the family room where Jason and Chuck are watching television. They look up at me and no doubt wonder why I’m being led into the family room when we have guests in the dining room.

“You’re going to need to be a tough soldier for the next few days,” Gail says with her hands on my arms near my shoulders. “He’s going to take at least that long to find his center. If it’s too much for you, nobody will blame you for being scarce or hiding out. It’ll be easier for him—and for you—if you can help him ride it out, though. No matter how he tries, he’ll never be able to be the asshole that he once was, but he’s going to give it the old college try, and it’s going to be rough until he finds the formula that works for him. You may need a moment or three to yourself throughout this time, just don’t run away. Remember the Vampire Lestat you found when you returned from Montana?”

I shiver when I recall how dead he looked walking into the penthouse that day. It was the creepiest thing I had ever seen… well, second only to that room where I was chained to the bed for four days. Why the fuck did that come to mind? I quickly shake off the memory.

“That’s who he’ll become if you disappear,” she warns. I shake my head.

“Let’s… just get dinner started,” I say. The dinner guests have opened the floor to Lestat and I don’t think I can take much more of hearing about his day tonight.

By the time we get the chicken cordon bleu and sides plated, the conversation has thankfully shifted to something else. I place his plate in front of him and take my seat to his right.

“You okay?” he asks quietly while everyone else is being distracted by dinner.

“Mm-hmm,” I say quickly, placing my napkin on my lap and preparing to eat my dinner. “Elliot, has Grace said anything about Christmas?” I ask. Elliot shakes his head.

“I assumed that we were all going over there like we normally do,” he says. “Did something happen?” I shake my head.

“I just hadn’t heard anything,” I say, trying not to open a can of worms.

“Are you guys still fighting?” he asks. “Since Thanksgiving?”

“No,” I reply. “We’re not fighting anymore.”

“You made up?” he asks. I twist my lips.

“More like called a truce,” I say. His brow rises.

“Oh,” he says. “That’s why you wanted to know if anything had changed.” I nod.

“Yeah… I wasn’t so sure,” I admit.

“If I know my mom, she expects everyone to be there for Christmas,” he says softly.

“Yeah,” Val chimes in. “She even welcomed me when Meg had control of my brain. I’m sure she expects you to be there.”

I don’t say anything. I get the feeling that Grace is just tolerating me right now because I’m what’s good for the Center. It seems like every time something goes wrong, it has to do with me and her. With everything that’s been going on in my life, it’s a battle that I just don’t have the strength to fight. I’m looking for simple, not more complicated.

“So did Al tell you guys the news?” I say, and I have everyone’s attention. “I’m going to trial in February. I’ll finally be able to tell my story against those Green Valley bastards.”

“Really?” Christian says, looking over at Al. “How did I miss this information?”

“You were a bit distracted today,” Al says unapologetically. “Besides, I knew that we were coming over today and that you would find out about it tonight.” Christian nods and tucks into his chicken. I keep the conversation going on the upcoming trial.

“One of the defendants took a plea last year—or whenever it was—to keep from having to go to trial. Two others—the main ring leaders—took pleas as well to turn state’s evidence against anyone else who comes to trial. So, now, someone’s coming to trial and these assholes get to testify, making good on their plea deal.” I take a bite of my chicken. Mmm, it’s really delicious.

“So, who’s going to trial?” Elliot asks. I look over at Al.

“Vincent Sullivan,” he replies. “He’s…” He clears his throat. “He’s one of the guys who… branded her.”

I don’t stop chewing even though the Bitch is fighting not to hurl. I have to face these people in court. I’m not going to let them see me sweat, so I might as well start practicing now.

“When are you going to Vegas?” Val asks. “When is the trial?”

“February 2nd,” Al replies. “The papers in Vegas are already on fire with the story… and some not-so-flattering assumptions about my girl.” My head pops up. I didn’t know that.

“Assumptions like what?” I ask. Al’s ears turn red. He thought I knew.

“Just people talking shit, Jewel. Don’t pay it any attention,” he says, trying to downplay it.

“You just said Vegas is on fire with the story and now you’re telling me not to pay it any attention?” I ask.

“What kind of shit?” Christian says firmly. Al rolls his eyes.

“The same shit they’re always talking,” he says, “that she’s a pampered princess that’s just trying to get attention and now that she has money, she just wants to get revenge on a group of kids for some harmless teasing.”

Don’t blow your top, Ana. Keep cool.

“Harmless teasing?” Christian nearly roars. “They call what they did to her ‘harmless teasing?’ Are they out of their fucking minds?”

“Oh, good grief,” I say, after swallowing my food. “The evidence is horrendously graphic, and it’ll speak for itself. Let them say whatever the hell they want.” I’m sipping this cranberry spritzer and it’s pissing me off. I want a shot of vodka!

“Okay, so, that’s enough of that,” Val says, quickly sensing my tension. “We came over to talk about my godchildren. Why the hell you two think you’ll kick the bucket at the same time is beyond me, but let’s get on with it.”

“It’s not that we think we’ll die at the same time,” Christian says. “It’s just that we’ve realized that we didn’t have provisions for our children in case something happens to us. We’re certain that no one would fight over the kids, but in the unlikely event that we both depart, we just want things to be… in order.”

“What brought this on, Bro?” Elliot asks.

“Watching Tina’s children act like savages after she died and realizing that we didn’t have a will,” I answer, and I’ve had enough of this damn spritzer. “Gail!” I yell. She comes scrambling into the dining room.

“What? What is it?” she asks, frantically.

“I’m sorry,” I say immediately. “That was a bit dramatic. Please forgive me. Would you uncork a Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc?” She raises a knowing brow at me.

“Coming right up,” she says and walks out of the kitchen.

“Continue,” I say, turning back to my meal and ignoring the gawking faces at the table.

“So, are you saying that whomever gets the kids will suddenly become billionaires?” Elliot asks.

“That’s a possibility,” Christian says. “As you know, our children will be very well provided for, and even though our entire fortune wouldn’t pass down to them upon our demise, whomever takes them on will be pretty much set as their caregivers. There will, of course, be large trusts for when they become adults. But let’s face it, if I were to retire right now and travel the world every day of my life, I would still have money to burn for decades to come. So, of course, I want my children to be cared for if something happens to me.”

“So, what’s the idea?” Val asks. “The children’s care will be written into your will?”

“Definitely,” he replies. “If something happens to me and Butterfly before they reach 18,  definite provisions will be made for their care and custody. And that’s where you guys come in.”

“Well, there’s two kids and two couples, but… there’s no way I would want to split them up,” Val says.

“Ditto,” Al replies. “If something that horrible was to happen, they would already be traumatized enough with losing their mom and dad. They would never recover.”

“So, what do you suggest we do?” Elliot says. Val and Al ponder the situation, and I’m sure that neither of them wants to raise their hand to be first in line for fear of hurting the other. Val comes up with the tiebreaker.

“El and I will have our own bundle of joy soon. I think it would just be greedy for us to ask for first-standing with Minnie and Mikey if something happens to you guys, heaven forbid.” Elliot twists his lips and nods.

“I have to agree,” he says. “It’s not like you’re going to take my niece and nephew and skip town.”

“Are you kiddin’?” Al exclaims. “If something happens to Chris and Jewel, I’m gonna have a little girl on my hands. I’m going to have your ass on speed dial!” he says to Val.

“Well, then that settles it,” Val says. “If something happens to you guys—and by the way, nothing’s going to happen to you guys—Al and James become daddies and El and I will be happy back-ups. Is everybody cool with that?” James and Al look at each other and James nods. Elliot is nodding, too.

“Good,” I say. “I know this is the whole reason we called this tête-à-tête, but I would very much like to stop talking about my demise now… and where’s my wine?”

“It’s here,” Gail says, entering the room with Windsor behind her. “I was just letting it breathe.”

“Good,” I say, noting the large-bowl wine glasses. “Sorry, Val, but I need this.”

“Don’t mind me,” she says, holding up her cranberry spritzer, Windsor pours me a respectable amount in my glass and I almost want to hit him.

“Um, you might want to keep pouring, Benson,” Al says.

“His name is Windsor,” I correct him. “Don’t be a queen, Al.” I turn to Windsor. “Please?” I say holding up my glass. Windsor fills it to nearly 75% and I thank him. He goes to fill the other glasses and Al informs him that only he and I would be drinking the red. The gentlemen would most likely want the white.

“I’m sorry if I offended you,” he says to Windsor. “I can be a jerk, but I’m not an asshole.”

“No offense taken, sir,” Windsor says. I don’t know if he’s offended or not, but he wouldn’t show it if he was, consummate professional that he is.

My glass is empty in no time and Windsor is refilling it before I even ask. Iron Fist Grey, the Green Valley nightmare, and my imminent demise all in one conversation… It’s a bit much for one evening.

“You okay, Ana?” Val asks. I nod without looking at anyone.

“Mmhmm,” I say, swallowing more of my wine. Cabernet is the answer to all the world’s problems and I’m going to sit here and drink until I have answers to mine.

Once the evening winds down, I’ve killed three large-bowl glasses of Cabernet and I notice that people are careful what they say to me if they venture to say anything at all. I say my goodnights to everyone once they’ve had coffee and Christian heads to the door to show everyone out. I head upstairs and don some exercise gear. Before he has the chance to get away from the door, I’m across the house and in the elevator. When I get down to the exercise room, I murder the elliptical until my arms and legs ache and I’m swimming in sweat. I just want to fall into a coma-like sleep and forget this day. Tomorrow is a do-over and I’m hoping that it’s going to be much better than this.

My husband, the asshole—who can’t shed the asshole before he gets home. I know that I’ve understood and labeled the Boogieman, but are we ready for this kind of test?

Once I’ve beaten myself all to hell and my muscles all feel like rubber, I abandon the elliptical and go to my room. I run a bath in my marble tub and climb in quickly so that my muscles won’t lock. It feels really good and I’m hoping to fall asleep the moment I get out of the tub…

“Butterfly… wake up.”

I open my eyes, still in the tub. The bubbles have dissipated, and the water is cold. I look up at my husband, my eyes questioning.

“It’s about 3am,” he says. “You fell asleep. I assume you were pretty tired after you climbed Mt. Rushmore, but had I thought you’d be napping in the tub, I would have come to check on you sooner.”

Wouldn’t you know it? At three in the morning, my docile Christian finally returns after still being a bear at nine at night. So, now what? He’ll go to sleep and wake at six to gradually go into bear mode again? To be that cold soul I had breakfast with yesterday? What should I do—swap my schedule so that I’m awake in the middle of the night to spend some time with the man I’ve come to know?

“What are you thinking?” he asks. Do I tell him? Do I say that I don’t know how to be married to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and that, by the way, I spent my entire college tenure wondering which one was really the crazy one and which one was sane?

“That this water is cold, and I feel like a saturated, useless sponge at the moment.” It’s true. He retrieves a bath towel and opens it. Tossing it over his arm, he extends his hand to help me out of the tub. I drag my waterlogged ass out of the tub, and he wraps me in the bath towel. My hair is wet even though I didn’t wash it and I don’t feel like dealing with it in any capacity right now.

He carries me to the bedroom wrapped in the bath towel, sits me on the bed, and begins to dry my skin. I try to accommodate him, but I’m just too tired to sit up. I lay down on the pillow, wet hair and all, and allow him to finish drying my body. I must have drifted off to sleep because I awake with him gently sucking my nipple. It feels so good, but I’m so tired.

“Christian…” I protest.

“I need you,” he replies, his intense gray eyes meeting my sleepy blues. I surrender and allow him to do what he wants. It’s not like I have the strength to protest anyway.

Mr. Grey works his usual magic, working my body into a fevered frenzy with his hands and mouth before mounting me.

And, dear Lord, does he mount me!

He pushes my legs open and thrusts into me—hard! My upper body rises off the bed and he grabs both my wrists and pins them down on the sides of my head to prevent my escape. He’s grinding and stroking into me mercilessly, with force and purpose. I can’t move anything. My hips are pinned down by his forceful motion and his hands are clasped to my wrists, fastening them to the bed. His eyes are silver fire, staring down at me as he thrusts into me, my ladyparts completely open and at his mercy. I see torment and passion in his eyes at the same time and my entire body rolls with each thrust. I’m helpless to fight him when he says…

“Don’t come yet.”

Yeah, sure.

“I… I can’t… Christian!”

I detonate in orgasm, my entire pelvis flexing painfully. I cry out from the intense pressure and vibration, but he just keeps pounding.

“Christian… please…” but he’s gone. He sees me… but I think his mind is somewhere else. He grinds and rolls his hips and begins to stimulate me again. I groan in my chest, knowing what’s coming.

“Christian…” I breathe.

“Feel it!” he nearly growls.

And feel it, I do. His dick is wide and demanding, and he’s thrusting deep, rhythmic strokes as if he’s digging for buried treasure—forceful and intensive, still holding my hands down and still looking in my eyes. Shit, I feel it in my chest.

“Oh, God,” I groan, the ecstasy and agony almost too much to bear. I feel the force of his weight on my wrists, but he’s using his knees for leverage, occasionally stretching his lips and making primal noises in his throat and chest. His pecks are flexed, and I can see the top of his eight-pack abs, both sets of muscles beginning to glisten with sweat.

I’m wrung out, only able to lie there and take what he’s dishing out. My body is on fire and after several minutes of intense manipulation, the heat reaches into my core again. I think I hear him say something, but the resulting orgasm is ringing in my ears and blocking out all light and sound. I feel myself struggling under his grasp, but not to get away, just from the intensity of the climax.

I’m wheezing when the second one wanes, but the fucking nymph in me just won’t tap out. My body is shattered, wracked from exhaustion and intense orgasms, but the little inner whore is naked, squatting on the bed salivating and cheering me on.

No, hoe, I’m tired!

But neither she nor my husband can hear me. He’s still stroking like this marathon has just begun, and the inner whore is squatting behind him encouraging like a coxswain…

“Stroke! Stroke! Stroke! Stroke…”

Cunt!

“Christian…” I whimper.

“You can do it,” he hisses.

No, I can’t!

The inner whore is nodding feverishly and if I could move, I’d throw something at her head and knock her ass unconscious. Christian must be hearing her.

“Please…” I beg.

“One more!” he commands and keeps stroking into my core. I’m certain that no matter what he and my inner whore says, I don’t have one more in me.

Somebody forgot to tell my pussy.

A few minutes later, my crotch it on fire again. He feels different inside me—not wide, but his ministrations are leaving no area untouched. Dear God, his cock is so hard… so hard and stroking every wall inside me, every secret spot…

“That’s it… give me one more! I need one more!”

He needs it? Why does he need it? It doesn’t matter, because my body obeys his command and gives him the third orgasm he demands. I’m covered in both our sweat as my core vibrates angrily in a final crippling showdown. I can’t scream as the pleasure—and exhaustion—has snatched my voice away, and I can’t move as most of my muscles are locked in the orgasm.

My husband grunts and thrusts and I feel his legs stiffen, but he continues to grind into me a few more times until I hear an inhuman sound rip from his chest. I open my eyes to see him just as he expresses his climax. He stretches his body backward and straightens, his chest and head up like a wolf howling at the moon. My core is still pulsing around him and he jerks with each flex, his entire body stiff, sweating, and trembling.

If I wasn’t so fucking tired, the sight would turn me on again.

My body falls completely limp as he finally drops his head, sweat dripping from his hair and face, panting and gasping to catch his breath, his arms straight, his muscles bulging, his hands still clasped at my wrists.

I’m wiped out while he’s catching his breath, I can’t even keep my eyes open anymore…

When I’m semi-conscious again, he’s coiled around me, spooning me and kissing my back over and over again. I fall back into a deep sleep.

*-*

I didn’t hear him leave. I was worn out from the morning’s exertions and quite frankly, I’d rather not be greeted by the morning bear anyway. I roll over and stretch, trying to pop the kinks out of my muscles. I had a double workout last night—first the elliptical, and then Christian and his trifecta of orgasms. I can barely get out of bed.

I take a quick shower since I smell like sweat and sex and quickly get dressed in something simple—a white button-down shirt with black pants and Chanel suspenders with black and white stilettos. When I look in the mirror, my hair looks like toddlers have been playing in it.

No amount of combing and brushing is helping it, so I put it in two wild and sad looking braids and put a hat on it for the day, Odd for me, but I just don’t have the strength to fight with it.

Strange… I actually look ten years younger.

I stop by the nursery to see that my children are asleep and decide that I’ll let them stay home today. I stop by the kitchen to make myself a strawberry and cream cheese bagel and to grab a black coffee to go.

“Are you in a hurry?” Gail asks. I’m chewing my bagel and looking at my phone.

“I slept longer than I intended,” I say, looking at my watch and noting the time. “I need to get going and make sure everything is moving along for the new semester. Plus, I have some calls to make and some interviews to do this afternoon.”

“Busy day, huh?” she asks.

“Yes,” I reply, eating the last of my bagel, “that’s why I didn’t intend to sleep in so late.” I text Chuck to meet me at the car so that we can get going.

“The twins are staying,” I add as I’m leaving. “I can’t breastfeed for 24 hours anyway. Call me if you need me!” I wave behind me and head out to the mudroom.

“New look?” Courtney asks when I get to the Center.

“Bad hair day,” I admit. “I must have been insane to wear stilettos today. My feet are freezing.”

“Uh, yeah,” Courtney comments. “It’s all wet and slushy. You’re going to ruin your shoes and freeze your toes.” I shake my head.

“What’s on my calendar today?” I ask, stomping my feet to warm my toes.

“You’ve got the interviews for housekeeping this afternoon, and you told me to remind you to call Ms. Sherwood from the cleaning company. Are you going to have her train the new employees?”

“Hell, no,” I say, taking a seat at my desk. “I had to watch that woman like a hawk the entire time her company was here. There’s no way in hell I’d let her train new staff to do the same thing they were doing. Besides, they’re contracted so they most likely wouldn’t do it anyway.” Courtney twists her lips.

“Yeah, there is that,” she says.

“How are classes going?” I ask.

“Pretty good,” she says, “except that there was a pop-quiz in Psych 101 yesterday. Who gives a pop quiz right before Christmas?” She shakes her head and I laugh.

“Welcome to the wonderful world of higher education,” I tease. She shakes her head again.

“Gimme a break,” she retorts. “I’m regurgitating psychology vocabulary in my sleep. My girlfriend’s going to leave me if I don’t stop talking shop when I get out of school.” She changes her voice to mimic a female announcer.

Behaviorism, inhibition, suppression, configurationism, Galton and Freud and Gestalt and dear God in heaven how did you even remember your name when you were in school?” I chuckle.

“Do you regret your decision?” I ask.

“No,” she says, going over to the Zen area to retrieve her laptop from its case. “It’s rough, but I want to help kids, and this is what I need to be able to do that, so…” She trails off after she pulls her laptop from the case.

“That’s a very noble undertaking.”

We’re both caught off-guard by a voice from the doorway.

“Grandmother,” Courtney greets Addie. “H… Hi.” I can tell she’s still trepid about seeing her grandmother.

“Courtney… you look lovely, darling,” Addie says.

“Thank you,” Courtney replies.

“Hello, Ana. You’re looking beautiful as ever,” Addie greets me. I smile warmly.

“Thank you, Addie, and so are you. Won’t you come in and have a seat?”

“Well, I really didn’t intend to stay long. I just came to ask Courtney what her plans were for the afternoon.” She turns to Courtney.

“Um, Ana’s assistant is off sick, so I’ve been helping her. We have to interview some candidates for the cleaning staff this afternoon,” Courtney replies.

“Oh, that’s too bad. We were hoping you would be able to join us for lunch,” she says softly.

We?” Courtney asks. After a short pause, Fred enters the office and stands next to his wife. Courtney’s mouth falls open and she’s stunned pretty speechless.

“Hello, Courtney,” Fred says.

“G… Grandfather,” Courtney says, clearing her throat to find her words, but still finding none.

“Courtney, I can do the interviews alone or have Mr. Collier or Grace sit in with me if you want to go to lunch with your grandparents.” She turns uncertain eyes to me.

“You’re sure?” she says. There’s hope in her voice.

“I’m sure,” I say. “I’ll be fine.”

“Can I leave my school stuff here?” she asks.

“Of course, you can. Go, have lunch with your grandparents.” She raises her brow and sigh.

“I’m… I’ll be right back,” she says to Addie and Fred. “I have to go get my coat and purse.” She smiles and leaves the office. I turn to Addie and Fred.

“Fred wanted to see it for himself,” Addie tells me turning to Fred. “I think he got more than he bargained for.”

“Not really,” Fred replies. “She looks like she’s doing well and she’s trying to turn over a new leaf, but she was always a good actress… a very good actress.” I drop my head and scratch the nape of my scalp. If he gives her that attitude at lunch, she won’t go to lunch with them again because she’s come to learn that she doesn’t need discouragement in her life.

“Ana, what is it?” Addie inquires, noting my change of expression.

“Nothing,” I say, not making eye contact with Fred.

“That means it’s me,” Fred says. I frown and look at him.

“How would you know it was you?” I ask incredulously.

“Because I’m an old dog with a wife, dear,” he replies. “I’ve been married for 43 years and I’ve been around a female or three in my day. Trust me, I’ve been in the doghouse more than a few times and I fully know the meaning of ‘Nothing,’ ‘Fine,’ and ‘Never mind.’” He looks at me knowingly and cocks his head. I sigh and put my hands on my hips.

“I’m not going to try to sell you on your granddaughter,” I say. “To me, her progress speaks for itself. I will tell you this, though, and I’m only saying it as a friend. If you’re taking that attitude to lunch with you, it’s not going to fly. She will Uber her way out of that meal. She knows who she was and that she put you through a lot, but she’s been through some things, too, and she’s not going to allow herself to be berated anymore. I only said it because you pressed, Fred.”

“That, I did,” he says with a sigh.

“And she’s right.”

We all turn to see Courtney standing at the door in her coat with her purse on her shoulder. There’s no sign of her prior shyness.

“I don’t have anything to prove to anybody else anymore but myself,” she says. “I’m a horrible person and I know it… or at least I was. I was so wretched that I don’t expect anybody to believe that I’m not that person anymore, but you know who does have to believe it? Me! So, I love you, Grandmother, and I love you, too, Grandfather, but if this luncheon is to put me under the microscope, I respectfully decline the invitation.”

I can’t remember being prouder of Courtney than I am at this moment—well, maybe when she told me that she was going to school. Now, she stands here before her grandparents with her shoulders squared and her head held high pretty much telling them that if they don’t want to accept her, she’s fine with that. Before, she was self-centered and didn’t care about other people, only for what she could get from them. Now, she’s self-driven, and she has a purpose. She’s more concerned about what she sees in herself when she looks in the mirror than what other people see when they see her.

Addie walks over to her and smiles.

“I want to have lunch with my granddaughter,” she says, “and you will be under the microscope with me, but only because I want to catch up with everything going on in your life and with school. If your grandfather doesn’t want to behave, then he’s uninvited.”

Courtney is nearly pushed to tears, but instead she straightens her back and extends her neck, blinking the tears away. Then she turns to Fred.

“The Uber app is almost instantaneous, Grandfather,” she says. “The moment I feel that either of us is causing the other discomfort, I’ll leave. I can always study or come back and help Ana with the interviews. And if you think I’m acting, then this is going to be an Oscar-worthy performance.” She awaits acknowledgement from her Grandfather, who reluctantly nods. Addie sighs and puts her hands on Courtney’s shoulders.

“So, would you like to go to the club?” Addie asks.

“We can, if you want,” Courtney says, “but there’s a little restaurant not far from here that has the best Mediterranean food… and quiet tables.” Addie tilts her head at Courtney.

“Well, then,” she says, “that’s sounds nice. Lead the way.” The corners of Courtney’s lips rise slightly, and she nods before she leaves with Addie in step behind her. Fred turns to look at me and I raise my brown and tip my head in a gesture that clearly says, “Balls in your court.” His lips form a thin line and he leaves to join his wife and granddaughter. I smile to myself, knowing that Courtney has effectively exercised her independence to her grandfather. I go back to my desk and make the call that needs to be made before month’s end.

Clean It Up for You, what can I do for you?” the receptionist answers.

“Good morning, Anastasia Grey calling for Sonia Sherwood…”


CHRISTIAN

I’ve barely gotten any sleep, which is something that hasn’t happened in quite some time. There’s been a sleepless night here and there, but none of the 2-hours of sleep nights since I stopped having the nightmares. When I left this morning, Butterfly was still in an exercise, wine, and sex-induced coma.

When I saw that Butterfly was on the elliptical after dinner and three large glasses of wine, I thought it best to leave her alone and go to my study and get some work done. I approved the initiation of the random drug testing on 50% of Grey House staff to be done in three waves tomorrow, Friday, and Monday. The results will begin to come in on Tuesday, but I couldn’t get a guarantee that I would have them all for the sake of accuracy.

Ros has taken immediate advantage of her impromptu vacation, which means that Lorenz and I must weed through the findings and analysis of the audit teams while she’s away. There’s quite a bit in a short time—red flags that I asked to be notified of immediately instead of waiting for preliminary or final reports. To be quite honest, my company is a mess. We’re not on the brink of collapse, failure, or bankruptcy, but I was right. Complacency is running rampant through the departments and the ship is nowhere near as tight as it used to be.

That’s my fault.

When I shut the system down somewhere around three o’clock and came upstairs and she was still in the tub, I knew that I had to get her out of there. She was exhausted and shattered and I had every intention of drying her off, braiding her hair, and putting her to bed. Then, she passed out face up on the bed and I knew I would never be able to get that hair braided. I straightened her body and kissed her lips goodnight and the animal in me just suddenly came alive.

I didn’t intend to fuck her. I really didn’t, but when I kissed her neck, the valley of her breasts, and then her nipple just to tame the beast a bit, the taste of her skin sent me into blind passion and I just had to have her. Determined not to fuck her while she’s asleep, I fix my mind to back away… and then she spoke.

And I pounced.

It was like something else completely had taken over me and I was going to turn into a werewolf or the Hulk or something if I didn’t have her! I feasted on her body, touching her in all the right places to get her ready, but when I entered her, the beast was back.

I know what it was. I just didn’t want to admit it.

Dominant Christian was alive and kicking in the early morning hours. Fucking her was not enough, but even in my primal state of mind, I knew I couldn’t dominate her when she was so exhausted, so I had to improvise.

I imagined her shackled to the bed, blindfolded and completely immobilized after a good flogging, with a pair of clamps biting into her nipples. Her breasts were wobbling wildly, dripping with water, sweat, or milk—I didn’t know which—and she couldn’t move, so it wasn’t a far stretch. I fucked her and fucked her and fucked her until my cock burned, forcing three orgasms from that exhausted body until I was paralyzed in ecstasy myself.

Once I came down from my climactic high, I saw that the third orgasm had wrung my wife unconscious and, to be honest, I felt guilty. I wrapped her in my arms, kissing her back and neck while silently begging her forgiveness for being so thoughtless and selfish. I only got a couple of hours of sleep and then quietly got dressed and left the house before she woke.

Now, I’m here in the office, still feeling as aggressive as ever as I continue to comb through my emails and examine the notes of the auditing teams. Word is definitely out that Grey is on the warpath. The elevator was completely silent when I got on it this morning and some people even got off once I boarded. Others refused to get on when they saw that I was in the car.

I don’t care if you like me. Just do your fucking jobs, and do them right or I’ll have you out on your asses before you get the chance to gasp.

I’m a bit irritated when I’m interrupted mid-morning by a knock on my door.

“Sir, a word?” I look up and see Jason standing in the doorway. I gesture him in and remove my glasses. My eyes are getting tired more often. It might be time for another trip to the eye doctor.

“I know this is short notice and I apologize, but I need Monday off,” Jason says. I frown. It sure is short notice, short as fuck.

“May I ask why?” I inquire, coolly

“Well, it won’t be the entire day, sir, just enough time to go to Shalane’s sentencing.” I raise my brow.

“Shalane’s… as in your ex-wife Shalane?” I ask. Why would he want to be there for her?

“Yes,” he says. “I’m not letting Sophie go, but someone has to be there to speak on my daughter’s behalf if they ask.”

I see. I guess that would have an impact on her sentence… if they ask.

“What time is it?” I ask him.

“Ten A.M.,” he replies. I nod.

“Then we’ll both be there.” His eyes widen.

“Sir, you don’t have to… it’s Monday morning,” he protests.

“And you’re my best friend, so yes, I do have to.” If I’m trying to find a balance between asshole and nice guy, I better start somewhere.

“So, it looks like she’s going to be spending Christmas in jail, huh?” I add. Jason nods.

“Yeah, looks that way,” he says.

“How do you feel about that?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“I hate the things Shalane has done, but I don’t hate Shalane. It’s hard to feel any sympathy for anyone that has just proven to be rotten to the core, but I’m not a bad guy. So, I think I’ll just keep my answer to myself on that one.”

I nod. I can understand that. I’m on the opposite end of that spectrum. If I can’t stand you, you’re going to know about it. If I wish you would burn in hell, you’re going to know about that, too.

“Mr. Grey, Lorenz is here to see you,” Andrea’s voice says through the intercom. Did we have a meeting this morning?

“Send him in,” I tell her. “What time is the sentencing again?” I say, turning my attention back to Jason.

“Ten AM,” he repeats as Lorenz enters.

“We’ll be there, then,” I say. He nods, then nods at Lorenz and leaves.

“Something I need to know?” Lorenz asks.

“No,” I respond, “except that you’ll be holding the fort down alone for a few hours on Monday morning. I have an appointment.” He nods noncommittal.

“So, we found out what the big ruckus is about Kavanaugh,” Lorenz says. He has my attention, but only slightly. I have my own fish to fry.

“And what’s that?” I ask.

“The next heir apparent? ‘Baby Momma’ is one of Katherine’s friends.” My eyes widen.

“You’re shitting me!” I respond. This is fucking juicy.

“I’m not,” he says. “The wife found out through a damn text!” he adds. “He’s taking a paternity test, but whether it’s his or not, Mama Kavanaugh has had enough and is taking him to the cleaners.”

“Fuuuuck, really?” I say, sitting back in his chair. “Does Ethan know?”

“I don’t know that he does unless he’s been keeping up with the gossip rags or the specific financial news that deals with his father, but I don’t think he cares. He’s been completely mum about the whole thing.” He probably doesn’t. From what I’ve heard, he got his trust right after he married Mia and hasn’t spoken to his father since. If he doesn’t know, I’m sure as hell not going to tell him.

“What about Katherine?” I ask. It’s more out of curiosity than anything. I don’t plan to do anything with the information.

“Well, she was in Martha’s Vineyard for a while, but now word has it that she and young Kevin are now living in Paris…”

“Paris? How could Kavanaugh afford that?” I ask.

“Well, he can’t that I know of, but she secured employment there with one of the fashion magazines, so… she’s officially a Parisian now.” I shake my head.

“If I were her, I’d get as far away from this shit as possible, too,” I say. “That man has a tribe of illegitimate children now. How many is this?”

“I’m sorry, sir, I’ve lost count. Can I get back to you on that one?” he jests, and I chuckle.

“Have you seen the latest emails from the auditing team?” I ask. He sighs and crosses his legs.

“I have,” he says.

“It’s only been a couple of days. You still think I’m being paranoid?” He shakes his head.

“No, sir, I don’t,” he replies. “I never did, I just thought you might have needed to rethink your approach a bit, but now…” He trails off.

“Yeah, now,” I say, putting my glasses back on and looking at the screen. “I just basically had a meltdown yesterday about our customer satisfaction and retention processes and our internal process quality and then I see these findings? I’m certain that I’m not the only one that sees the drastic change in three years in these areas.”

“No, sir, you’re not alone,” Lorenz replies.

“The only reason we’re not bleeding from the jugular right now is because we have other divisions and operations that’s taking up the slack. I shudder to think what would have happened had I not thought to do something about this now!” I shoot. “So, are there any answers to any of the questions I had yesterday?” He nods.

“Yes, sir,” Lorenz begins. “The drugs from the pharmaceutical mishap have obviously been recalled. This sort of thing happens all the time and we’re looking into the ramifications of it now. Concerning the fire, thankfully, representatives from the EAP were on that as soon as it happened, so we’ve already got damage control and assistance in place for that.”

“And what about the late shipments?” I ask.

“I think client services is putting that fire out now,” he says.

“Don’t think. Know! Find out how often this has happened and if this is a one-off or a regular occurrence. Get some impromptu surveys going to see what the customers are feeling right now. See how many we get back. Get on this! Now that I know for sure that I’m not Chicken Little running around exclaiming that the sky is falling, I want this ship tight as soon as possible, and spare no fucking expense!”

“Will do, sir,” he says, and he stands and leaves my office. Sometimes, I hate that he’s so goddamn cool, but if I’m the hothead, and Ros is getting all sensitive and running off when there’s controversy, I need someone to be the voice of reason.

*-*

“Mr. Holstein is still trying to contact you, sir, and there’s a Herbert Larson on line three for you.” Larson… why the hell is he calling me instead of Al?

“Grey,” I answer.

“Mr. Grey, Herbert Larson here…” he begins.

“I know who it is. What can I do for you?” He pauses.

“You obviously know why I’m calling,” he says, coolly.

“Honestly, I don’t. I thought all of your contact went through our attorney or if not him, through my wife if utterly necessary. You have no reason to be contacting me,” I point out.

“I’m calling because harassment is a serious offense in the state of Nevada, Mr. Grey,” Larson says.

“And I’m not in the state of Nevada, so your point?” I retort.

“Mrs. Pamela Whitmore contacted the police this morning,” he says. “Apparently, several gentlemen have been following her around.”

Good, she knows that she’s being tailed.

“And you’re telling me this because?” I ask.

The gentleman that she described follows closely to the description of the gentleman that accompanied you and Mrs. Grey during your visit and they have Washington driver’s licenses.” I laugh loudly in his ear.

“Well, don’t this just beat all?” I say, with pretend mirth. “It took less than a day for you to finger who you might think is harassing Pamela Whitmore, but it only took the great state of Nevada more than a decade to pinpoint who brutalized my wife.”

The line is silent for several minutes.

“That woman called my wife at her place of business and insulted and threatened her and my family, and you’re calling me about some random men following her because they live in my state? If they’re breaking the law, then I suggest you arrest them, but don’t you dare interrupt my life with any nonsense that you have no actual basis for. You all didn’t follow any hunches to find my wife’s attacker before she came to you with a damn video. Don’t come to me with any half-baked, unfounded accusation. Yes, I will do whatever’s necessary to protect my family, but you do know that we have a restraining order against her, right?”

“I’m just letting you know that Mrs. Whitmore…”

“You don’t need to let me know shit about Mrs. Whitmore unless you’re telling me that you’ve arrested her for harassing my wife,” I say, cutting him off. “Nevada seems to be quite prevalent with going easy on and protecting violent criminals and offering no protection for the victim… that is, until you think those criminals are the victims.”

“You need to know that following Mrs. Whitmore could be considered obstruction of justice,” he points out, ignoring my prior statement.

“Oh, you mean like what that Henderson officer Sullivan did?” I counter. “Both when the incident happened by hiding evidence to protect his brother and by seizing the police report I presented to him two years ago without knowing that I had several copies? Yes, Mr. Larson, I’m very aware of the laws concerning obstruction of justice—that is, when your state deems it necessary to enforce them. By the way, what was the fate of Officer Sullivan? The victim here still hasn’t gotten any word that he’s come upon his just deserts, yet.”

The line falls silent again, and I know that he’s searching for a retort.

“I’m not saying that I’m following anybody and I’m not saying that I’m not,” I continue. “I will say that when you try to accuse someone of something, you better fucking well have enough evidence to do it instead of calling someone and trying to sniff them out. I play chess with multi-billion-dollar companies and more money than you’ll ever see in your life. I don’t have time to bluff.”

“So, you’re saying that you’re not having her followed?” he prods.

“I’m not saying anything,” I reply. “I will say, however, that if she comes anywhere near Seattle and my wife and children, I’ll know before you do.” I can feel his frustration through the phone.

“You’re preventing me from doing my job,” he says, his voice low. “Ever since this started, I’ve been doing my best to bring justice to this situation, and the only thing I’ve seen from you at all is this vigilante attitude like you’re running things, and nobody can tell you anything. Now, I’m warning you, Mr. Grey, if you interfere with this case or its participants in any way, I will have a warrant issued for your arrest!” Wrong move, Skippy.

“Save your goddamn threats for those assholes who beat my wife!” I seethe.

“Mr. Grey, that language is totally unnecessary,” he retorts.

“It’s completely fucking necessary, and if you fucking don’t want to fucking hear it, then you can fucking hang up the fucking phone!”

I’m so pissed at the audacity of this fucker that if I could teleport to Vegas right now and personally beat his ass, I would! I think he gets the hint.

“Good day, Mr. Grey,” he says.

“Fuck you!” I retort before slamming the receiver into the carriage.

One… two… three… four…

*-*

Butterfly isn’t home when I get there. I’m still fuming over Larson’s nerve. The fuck with that guy! I’m watching the cunt who birthed the fucker who raped my wife then had the nerve to call her and threaten her because she knows the trial is coming up, and this sonofabitch has the nerve to call me and tell me that I’m breaking the law by making sure that I know if this hoe crosses state lines. That place has the most backwards system of justice I’ve ever seen in my life, and the people who live there must be as fucked up as their sense of justice.

My wife is raped as a teenager and nobody blinks, not even her damn guardians.

She’s beaten within an inch of her life and her baby is killed, and nobody blinks.

The mother of the fucking rapist and baby killer calls and threatens my wife and our children, and nobody blinks… but then they call me and tell me that I’m breaking the law by following that cunt.

I hate to think I and my wife are flying all the way to Vegas to find out that the entire justice system is so fucked up that the whole lot of those fuckers are still going to get off easy after they’re convicted—if they’re convicted!

I run a punishing rhythm on the treadmill for quite some time before I take to Butterfly’s heavy bag to burn the rest of the aggression from the day. I’m finally starting to cool down—and tire—around 8pm, and I take a quick shower and change into a pair of sweats and a T-shirt.

I look for my wife in the nursery, but find that my children are fast asleep. I check the yoga room, the dining room, the family room—no Butterfly. Where is she?

“Did Ana come home?” I ask Gail. She frowns.

“Yeah,” she says. “She spent some time with the babies and then she went downstairs.” Downstairs… her office or her parlor. “Should I hold dinner or just put something away for you two to eat?” You two?

“She hasn’t eaten yet?” I ask. Gail shakes her head. I go to the elevator and take it to the ground floor. Chuck and Keri are on the patio sitting on the sofa. He has his arm around her and they’re gazing across the lake.

I need to find my wife.

I glance in the parlor as I pass and confirm that she’s not in there, then I go to her office. I’m about to walk in when I hear her talking on the phone.

“I really can’t wait to see you. It’s been a long time.”

Now, I trust my wife implicitly, but walking in on that statement would send a lesser man into terrible suspicion. I stay back and listen a little longer.

“I’m in no hurry to come, but at least there’s one bright side to it.”

That sounds a little crazy.

“No, I haven’t heard anything at all, but who knows what’s going to happen on that front.”

I should really just walk into the room instead of trying to decipher who she’s talking to, not to mention, it’s not polite to eavesdrop.

“No, I’m not going to any of those places. I might see some of the casinos with my best friend and his husband because they’ve never been there, but that’s all. I have no interest in the whole ‘Vegas experience.’ I’ve already had it.”

So, she’s talking to someone in Vegas. I know it can’t be Carla…

“So, I’ll let you know when we finalize our travel arrangements and where we’ll be staying. Hopefully, I’ll get to meet your husband this time.”

This time. That’s her aunt. What’s her name? Cynthia, that was it.

“That would be very nice. I’m sure Christian would like that.”

I walk into the office as she’s finishing her call with her aunt. She looks like a kid! She’s wearing suspenders… and a hat! Over pigtails! I walk over to her after she has ended her call and begins typing into her laptop.

“Fashion statement?” I ask. She looks up at me.

“My hair wouldn’t cooperate,” she says and stretches. “My dad wants to come to Vegas when we go for the trial.” I raise my brow.

“He does?” I ask. She nods.

“I suppose he needs some kind of closure, too,” she says. “This whole thing was so traumatic for us both—going through hell, finding peace, then having it ripped away from us again. I’d say he definitely needs some closure.”

“Well, you’ll get no argument from me. I’ll get a block of rooms so we don’t have to worry about it.” I sit down in front of her desk. “How was your day?” She raises her head again, somewhat in surprise.

“Busy,” she replies still looking at me. “We hired a couple of people for the in-house cleaning staff. They start shadowing Mr. Collier on Monday. I fired our cleaning crew as of the end of January. The head bitch in charge wasn’t happy to hear that, so now we have to keep an eye on them until the contract ends.”

“Were they slacking?” he asks. I shake my head.

“Not since the first time, but we weighed what we were paying them compared to the cost of having a cleaning crew of our own. The costs were comparable, but having someone on staff makes them more accountable to us than having an outside company come in. Plus, we’ll need people available at a moment’s notice instead of just at a certain time.”

“I see you’ve thought about this,” I say, sitting back and crossing my legs. “You’re still working?” She twists her lips.

“No Marilyn,” she says. “Courtney helps as much as she can, but she’s still no Marilyn… and she took the afternoon off to spend with her grandparents.”

She did?

“Really?” I ask. She nods. “Last I spoke to Fred, he wasn’t sold.”

“He’s still not sold,” Butterfly says, “and Courtney’s okay with that. She told him that she knows that she was a horrible person and that if he didn’t want to be bothered to not waste her time.” I raise my brow again. She has changed.

“Larson called me today,” I say. She stops typing and looks at me.

“Why did he call you?” she asks.

“To tell me to call off my security team that’s watching Whitmore.”

“You have a team watching Pamela Whitmore?” she asks. I nod.

“And I want her to know that she’s being watched.” She goes back to typing.

“Figures,” she says. “Serves her right… that backwards ass town. It’s okay to harass the victim, but not the victimizers.” She shakes her head.

“That’s what I said,” I reply, standing. “Come. We need to eat.” I hold my hand out to her. I know that she wants to work more, but I’m hungry and she needs to eat, too. She closes her laptop and takes my hand.


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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 21

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

Explicit details of sex and BDSM scenes from here on out. Some may be hot while others may not be to your taste… and not necessary CG with Ana together. Proceed at your own discretion, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

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

 Chapter 21

Briana Evigan 22 2

GOLDEN

I soon get the answers to the questions I have about Reynard. He’s looking for a windfall of money because his childhood home is in arrears on its taxes. He doesn’t have long before his mother’s house—the house he lived in his entire life except when he was married—will be auctioned off for back taxes.

What’s so sad is that had he come to me and told me that he thought he may have been Daddy’s son, I would have sat down and talked to him, found out why he felt that way, and I may have even helped him with the taxes. Now, he can kiss my ass and live on the streets for all I care.

His mom died eight months ago from cervical cancer. All of their funds went to her hospital bills, which is why there was nothing left to pay the property taxes. In fact, she still has bills remaining that need to be paid—something else that I could have helped his selfish ass with had he approached me the right way.

He’s an only child, unless you consider the fact that he thinks I’m his sister. There was no one there to help him take care of his dying mother; no assistance with the bills or the hospital care; and I almost feel sorry for him having to sit there and watch her rot. I guess it’s better in a way that my parents were ripped away quickly as opposed to watching them suffer and die.

Then again, he did at least get to say goodbye, so I don’t know which situation is worse.

His children are 7, 9 and 12. His marriage broke up a few short years after it began. His first child, his son, was born out of wedlock and the middle boy and youngest girl were a result of his short marriage. He and his wife don’t speak, and she didn’t help with his mother’s care even though they still live in Tacoma. She did, however, bring the children to their grandmother’s funeral.

The only thing that he has that he can use to identify my father as his father are some old pictures of Daddy and his mother together. They were clearly intimate, but that doesn’t mean that this man is my father’s son. I don’t know what his mother told him or what secret she may have taken to her grave, but that man looks nothing like my father, not even like my horrible uncle. I don’t know what to tell him besides to go the hell away.

So, that brings us to today. I’ve heard nothing from brother dear, nothing from Blondie or her sheisty lawyer trying to get a settlement…

And nothing from Trey.

I’ve tried not to count the weeks, thinking that he would get over the last scene and would have come back by now, or at least would have texted or called demanding an explanation, but… nothing. It’s been over two months and I haven’t seen him at any of the clubs, he hasn’t called…

Why am I so concerned about this? Clients come and they go. I’ve gone through more than two months doing what I do and getting my Golden back—and enjoying myself in the process—but in the back of my mind, I still expect him to call or text eventually looking for a scene and he just doesn’t.

Clients have left before. The splendor wore off for them or they found something new… or someone new… and they went on their way. It’s no big deal… right?

“Blake,” I call as I’m sitting in my parlor after a night at one of the clubs.

“Yes, Mistress?” he says, coming into the parlor.

“That last night that Trey was here, do you remember?”

“Yes, Mistress, I remember,” he says without hesitating.

“What did he say to you when he left?” I ask. Blake shakes his head, bemused.

“He… didn’t say anything, Mistress.” I frown.

“What do you mean he didn’t say anything? He didn’t excuse himself?” Blake shakes his head again.

“Nothing, Mistress,” he reinforces. “He didn’t even look at me.”

He didn’t even look at him. He didn’t excuse himself; he didn’t say anything; and now he’s radio fucking silent. I should go over to his apartment and barge in on him like he did me.

No, that will never do.

“Thank you, Blake,” I say. He nods once and leaves.

I really haven’t had a client just leave, not without a word. Either they met someone or decided to become Doms themselves or some other lifestyle change caused them to not want to continue our arrangement. Either way, they always gave me an explanation, always terminated the arrangement cordially, always said goodbye…

None of them ever just disappeared.

I think I’m more perturbed that it appears he doesn’t need me anymore and he doesn’t even have the decency to say so. What kind of asshole just disappears without a word?

The kind of asshole that doesn’t want what you’re dishing out anymore.

This isn’t how this is supposed to go. This is why they only get a taste once a month. Once they got a taste of me, they couldn’t get enough. They crave me. They always have to have more. They could never stay away. But Trey is different…

He could stay away, and he is.

I’ve lost control… control of myself and my situation. I let him affect me too much. I got all loopy because of a stupid kiss brought on by my dick-mesmerized brain. I didn’t even really kiss him—I kissed his dick… just through his lips. Now, I’m fucking letting my feelings of anger along with my loss of control interfere with the situation and it caused me to forget my fucking mantra.

Make. Them. Want. You.

He’s not wanting me now. I sent him away twitching and horny and needy and now, he’s associating me with the lack of pleasure. Before, he was pulled to his wits end and then he came like a fountain. Now, he was pulled to his wits end and then, in my anger, I left him hanging.

Make them dream about you when you’re not there; crave you when you’re not around.
Tease them with a promise… deliver satisfaction, but don’t give them all of you…

I didn’t deliver satisfaction. I delivered sexual frustration, and then I let him leave that way. By doing that, I unwittingly gave him power by tormenting him with no reward, then telling him, “take it or leave it,” and it appears that he’s left it. No tribute, not a text, not a call, nothing for nearly three months.

This will never do.

**My house. Tomorrow 8pm. We have unfinished business. **


eric-dane-wallpaper Trey chapter 9

TREY

Quite a bit has been transpiring all at once.

I’ve discovered that all this time the Lincolns have been together, they don’t have a damn prenup. They’ve both been freely fucking anybody they want—except each other—without the luxury of a divorce because it would most likely cost them both too much money. That’s kind of funny.

To that end, Linc has been living at the Four Seasons while out on bail for battering his wife and Mrs. Linc has been residing in their home in Kirkland. The Kirkland police officially brought her up on charges of filing a false report against me. The crime carries a possible sentence of 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine. I hear that she’ll likely get off on those charges since she got some quack to say that she made her statement under diminished capacity. Personally, I’d like to be able to see or hear the statement that she made fingering me as her attacker. If she was all loopy and shit, I’ll give her this one. But if she was cognizant and lucid, the bitch set me up, and the court will see that, too.

My court date for the assault in my office is November 13. It’s about damn time. It only took a whole fucking year! Even though my arm is about at 90%, it never completely healed without pain and I truly want that bitch to pay. If I really think about it, Elena has been the root of everything wrong in my life for more than a year.

She assaulted me in my office, causing me injury and continuing pain.

She had me wrongfully arrested and detained.

My once somewhat private life has been smeared all over the tabloids and media, requiring friends and colleagues to come to my defense.

Her fucking shenanigans let the dredges of society that are my father and brother see right into my business and situations, and both of them tried to hem me up somehow.

And Golden… let’s fucking not forget Golden.

I could have seen her, maybe lusted after her a bit, and then went on my merry little way. But no, this blonde cunt had to taunt me with what I couldn’t have. And my dumb ass fell for it. It was all a game to me at first. Get a pretty piece of ass and win the prize—that’s all I really wanted—but Elena, and Golden, had to make it out to be more.

I watched scenes before with no problem, even had some sub somewhere sucking my dick while I watched some Dom or Domme work over some willing participant in one of the exhibition rooms. Then here comes this Sunshine Sadist and she rewrites everything I thought I knew about BDSM. I thought I wanted to beat and torment women when all I really wanted to do was come—hard and often. I just needed some kink to get there.

That’s why pain whores always turned me off. I wasn’t really into inflicting pain, but I still like the control of being a Dominant, of making a woman my sex toy, making her bend to my will—to my every command. I like the bondage, the Dominance, and the submission. I never needed the discipline—unless it specifically had to do with fucking—or the sadism. But it appears that I have a hidden masochist in there.

Now, I’m beginning to feel like it’s an addiction, but it’s only half the high. I don’t just get off on the pain and I don’t just want to hurt. The pain was always immediately followed by the pleasure and the two blended together, creating some insane orgasms. Whenever I fucked later, I recalled the pain at specific points and the pleasure that followed. With this last scene, she took that away from me.

I didn’t realize how much I was under her control. I thought that even though I wasn’t fucking her and would most likely never fuck her that our relationship was still a give and take. She has a skill that opens new horizons for me—pushes me the mental and physical distance and when I’ve gone as far as I can go, she takes me over the edge in a spectacular fashion. It was magnificent. I ached for it. I craved it. I would have done anything she asked. I commissioned two sculptures for Christ’s sake.

And then came that kiss. That fucking kiss ruined it all. It blew my mind and whether she wants to admit it or not, it blew hers, too. She always does things to blow my mind. Why would I think this was any different?

All I wanted to know was why… why did she kiss me? She had never kissed me before. Like Vivian Ward said, “It’s too personal.” At least it was for us. So, why did she do it? Then she sends back my tribute, telling me that the kiss was a mistake. The only gift she ever returned was the gold collar, and I gave that back. She even wore it for a scene. If it was just a pair of lips and the kiss meant nothing, why send the lips back?

And let’s not talk about the fact that she wouldn’t return my calls or texts, so I go out to her house to see if she was okay. Who am I fooling? I went out to her house to confront her. But when I get there, I find her all hugged up with some black guy all cozy with him declaring that he’s in the running for more when she made it very clear that she wasn’t even remotely interested in that kind of relationship.

Was I pissed? Yes. Maybe even a little jealous? Maybe a little. Did I want that kind of relationship with her? Hell if I know. My last relationship was a flaming failure and that’s not an experience that I’m rushing to repeat, but I would have at least liked to have the chance if that was an option—even if I might have just turned it down.

We had the perfect arrangement for us before that damn kiss. Then, it all went south.

Feelings are messy. Relationships are messy. At the first sign of any connection, we should run for the hills, but the truth is that I don’t want to be this guy forever. I certainly don’t want to be like my father. Hell, I don’t know what the hell I want.

I’d like very much to stop feeling shitty, and to stop thinking about this woman and this situation every waking moment, please and thank you.

Before all this shit happened, I had memories of those hot ass scenes that more than assisted in my subsequent sexual escapades. Assisted in fact is an understatement. But this last time, this last bullshit, I have nothing but sexual frustration to recollect. I don’t need that shit.

*-*

“You’ve got that look again,” Veronica says as I sit next to her on our usual bench.

“What look?” I say, handing her a corned beef on rye and a soda from the carrier.

“That ‘I lost the big account’ look that you had when we first met, only you’re the boss, so I know that’s not it.” She takes a bite of her sandwich. We’ve been meeting for lunch at least twice a week since we met. We’ve had nothing but lunchtime conversations. I walked her back to her building once when it started raining. She shared her lunch with me earlier in the week when I didn’t bring anything, so I promised to bring her lunch today to pay her back.

“This is good,” she says. “Where did you get it?”

“The cafeteria at my building,” I say, biting into a pastrami and swiss on a Keiser roll.

“I should make you bring me lunch more often,” she says, taking another bite of her sandwich. We’re both silent while we eat for a few moments.

“So, who’s the girl?” she asks. I raise my gaze to her.

“You’ve been less than stellar for at least the last month and a half, CG. Maybe more. You don’t want to tell me who the girl is, you don’t have to. Just know that I know there’s a girl.” I look at my sandwich.

“It’s complicated,” I say before taking a bite.

“Don’t I know it,” she says, sipping on her soda. What the hell does that mean?

“Don’t look at me like that,” she defends. “you’re complicated. Everything about you is complicated. Even the way you dress is complicated. I’ve seen you sport Dolce and Gabbana, Anderson & Sheppard, Cesar Paciotti, and Tom Ford all in the same week. You own a glass building in the middle of the concrete jungle. Yeah, I’d say it’s complicated.” I shake my head.

“You have no idea, Veronica,” I say, eating more of my sandwich.

“Well, tell me,” she says. “How bad can it be? Is she a devil worshipper or something?” she pokes.

“Sometimes I wonder,” I say before I even think about it. She raises a brow.

“I see. So, we’re talking weird.” She takes a drink of her soda. “Is she a sister wife? Is that what you’re into—a different wife and family every night?”

“Um, no,” I say firmly.

“Okay, weird, but not sister-wives. You’re not in a cult, are you?” Oh, for God’s sake.

“No, my tastes just tend toward the very kinky.”

Fuck, did I just say that out loud??

“Oh, we’re all into some kind of kink,” she says without missing a beat. “What are you doing, whips and chains?”

“Sometimes,” I reply unfazed. She stops chewing and swallows her food.

“I was joking,” she says. I shrug. It’s out there now.

“Sometimes,” I reinforce. She shakes her head.

“You are one strange bird, CG,” she says, taking a bite of her sandwich. “So, what, this girl didn’t want to do the whips and chains anymore?”

“Something like that,” I tell her without giving her too much information. “This kind of arrangement, it’s a give and take, as with any arrangement, relationship, situationship, fill in the blank. The difference is that you give yourself to someone in this kind of arrangement on a higher level than you would in a normal relationship. The level of trust that you must have in this kind of relationship is exponentially higher than that of a regular relationship. You’re trusting someone totally with your body, and it’s more than sex and more than having an orgasm. It’s trusting someone to know your limits and respect them, and when that trust is broken, it usually can’t be restored.”

“Wow,” she says after sipping her soda and finishing her sandwich. “I’m a bit intrigued… and frightened,” she says sarcastically. “I never pegged you for the whole Disturbia type. So, do you, like, wrap yourself in latex or walk around in assless pants or something like that?”

I nearly spray my soda. I love this girl’s sense of humor.

“No, no,” I say once I’ve composed myself, “but I have seen it.”

“So…” she looks around conspiratorially, “is it as weird as everybody says it is? I’ve seen some pretty creepy shit on the internet.” I shake my head.

“Don’t believe everything you see on the internet,” I chide. “There are some really sick fucks out there. I haven’t seen half the things I’ve seen on the internet.”

“So, most of that stuff that we see on the web is sensational then,” she deduces.

“Well, not necessarily,” I say. “There are as many aspects to this lifestyle as there are nationalities in the world, if not more. It’s pretty ala carte depending on your flavor. There are people who are, like you said, just into a little kink and then there are people who are into some really creepy shit. I’m more towards the kink side.”

“So, the whips and chains… are you the whipper or the whippee?” and I want to laugh again, but it’s a valid question.

“I’ve been both,” I admit.

“And… which do you prefer?” she prods.

“They both have their benefits,” I say. Although I’m trying to forget it, lately, I’ve preferred being the whippee. “Like I said, for the most part as of late, it’s just been the kink.”

“Wow, you just never know by looking at somebody,” she says. “So, did some girl break… oh, shit!” She looks at her watch and scrambles to gather her trash.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“I’m late!” she says. “My boss isn’t a ball-buster, but still…” She throws her trash into the receptacle. “Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow, CG,” she says as she begins to hurry down the lane.

“Wait,” I say, catching up with her as she begins to speed walk. “Why don’t you have dinner with me?” She raises her brow.

“CG, I didn’t know you cared,” she says, fluttering her eyelashes dramatically. I chuckle again.

“You’re good company, okay?” I admit. “If we’re going to share a meal together, I’d like for it to be more than just an hour.”

“I don’t know,” she says. “I’m not into all that whippee/chainie shit,” she adds in her usual playful manner.

“I’m not trying to fuck you, Veronica,” but I’d be remiss to say the thought hadn’t crossed my mind once or twice, “I’d just like to have a meal with you. I’ll tell you what. Don’t decide now. If you’d like to have dinner with me, meet me in the lobby of my building at 5:30 tomorrow evening. If you decide you’d rather not, no hard feelings, I’ll see you at lunch. Deal?” I proffer my hand to her. She twists her lips.

“Deal,” she says, shaking my hand. “Now, unless you’re going to give me a job, I have to leave. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow,” she says again and takes off down the lane again.

Oh, boy. Dinner with a real girl. I haven’t done this since Juliet, but I did tell her that I’m not trying to fuck her… which I’m not. I don’t think she could handle me. I just didn’t want her to leave thinking I’m some kind of weirdo. I just practice a non-conventional lifestyle, that’s all.

What the hell am I getting myself into?

*-*

I’ve taken a shower and changed into jeans and a linen shirt for dinner with a comfortable pair of deck shoes. I don’t want Veronica to feel uncomfortable during our dinner. She’s nice and I just want to get to know her a little better. I don’t have any friends, to speak of. Maybe this will expand my horizons to new relationships. I’m a little old to be an island.

She showed up at 5:30pm at Grey House as I requested, but she insisted on being able to go home and change into more comfortable clothing, adding that, “No self-respecting woman would go to a man’s house for the first time and not have her car available.” I get that. We’ve had a lot of lunches, but nothing as intimate as dinner at the other’s house.

I open the door when she arrives and she’s a bit stunned.

“Wow,” she says. “You dress down nicely.”

“So do you,” I say, taking a moment to admire her figure in tight skinny jeans, a T-shirt, and a light jacket. However, I don’t stare too long. “Come in,” I add, stepping aside to allow her in.

“I should have known you’d have a set-up like this,” she says, taking off her jacket and revealing a very nice-looking rack—not too big and not too small. She doesn’t have the big ass I’ve come to like, but her curves leave nothing lacking.

Dammit, Grey. Stop checking her out! That’s not the purpose of this visit.

“You can just put your jacket and purse there on the sofa if you like,” I say, going into the kitchen. “There’s no one else here but my staff and they’re tucked away unless I call them.”

“Staff?” she asks, placing her jacket and purse on the sofa.

“My security and housekeeper,” I say, taking a bottle from the refrigerator and retrieving two glasses. “I’m a wine drinker with dinner, but knowing that you were driving, I opted for sparkling grape. Is that okay?”

“Perfect,” she replies. I place the two glasses on the counter and open the grape juice.

“Please, have a seat,” I say, gesturing to the stool at the breakfast bar. She sits and I fill our glasses, uncovering a tray of antipasto and crudité to share before dinner.

“I was feeling like I was underdressed coming to this place,” she says. “I’m glad to see that you’re comfortably casual, too. How do you live here, CG? I’d be afraid I’d break something.” And her wit begins immediately.

“You get used to it,” I say, eating some of the antipasto and sipping my drink.

“Oh, yeah, I bet it was agony,” she quips, and our light lunchtime banter starts anew.

Throughout hors d’oeuvres and part of dinner, I find out that Veronica is from Seattle and her parents still live here. She’s the youngest of five with two brothers and two sisters, and the only one with a college degree. She’s still very close to one of her brothers and cordial, for lack of a better word, with one brother and one sister. She lost the other sister in a drug deal gone wrong.

She has no children as, even though she dates, she hasn’t met the right guy yet. All of her other brothers and sisters have married and had children, including the one that passed away, and her parents constantly ask when she’s going to give them some grandchildren.

“I always tell them, ‘Mom, Dad, you have 14 grandchildren. Lighten up.’ Anyway, I don’t think it’s in the stars for me.”

She talks about how she doesn’t see falling in love anytime soon and without that very special someone, kids aren’t an option—especially since she’s hoping to make partner sometime very soon.

“The boss didn’t give me any flack for being late from lunch the other day,” she says. “I’ve never been any kind of late since the day I started working for the company. He didn’t even notice until I apologized. This is really good,” she says of the roast chicken and spaghetti carbonara. “Did you cook it yourself?” she teases. I twist my lips at her.

“I can,” I retort, sticking my tongue out at her, “but no, my housekeeper cooked for us tonight.”

“So, CG, you haven’t told me what’s had you in a mood,” she says. “You started telling me about your lifestyle, but I want to know what has your face dragging the ground. And since I’ve seen that hound-dog-jowls look before, I know it’s a girl, so don’t bother trying to deny it.” She eats more of her pasta. I roll my eyes.

“It’s not what you think it is,” I tell her. “I’m not in any kind of relationship, but I had an arrangement—for lack of a better word—with this… girl,” although Golden is anything but simply a girl. “The lifestyle is discreet and hard to explain to someone unfamiliar with it, but the best way I can explain it is that I feel like she broke our deal.” Veronica twists her lips.

“I see,” she says. “It’s this secret-Red-Door-type of thing, so you can’t be too specific. There’s obviously nothing illegal going on, or you wouldn’t be talking to me about it. This arrangement you had with this girl, was it exclusive?”

“Not at all,” I reply, “but the way that we practice in the lifestyle, the rules are very strict, and everything is very safe. Certain clubs require a doctor’s clearance every six months. Certain relationships are even structured with contracts and non-disclosure agreements. The BDSM lifestyle is a lot more prevalent than a lot of people think.” She nods.

“Sooooooo…” she says, dragging the word out, “what happened? She put the pussy on you, and it blew your mind?” I chuckle at her candor.

“What’s tragic is that we haven’t had any kind of penetrative sex, unless you include oral,” I admit. “It’s just not in our agreement.”

“You two have one of those contracts?” she inquires. I shake my head.

“Not a written one,” maybe that was my mistake. “It’s mostly non-verbal. Apparently, however, I assumed some unspoken rules that I shouldn’t have.”

“You stepped wrong, CG?” she asks, drinking some of her grape juice.

“No,” I say regretfully, “she did… twice.” I stand and gather our plates. “Would you like seconds? Be sure to leave room for dessert.”

“Well, if there’s dessert, I better not take seconds,” she says, wiping her lips with her napkin. I clear the dishes from the breakfast bar, scrape the scraps into the garbage disposal and load the used dishes into the dishwasher.

“You’re quite domestic,” she teases with a chuckle. I scoff.

“Not even,” I say, retrieving two more glasses and two dessert plates from the cupboard. “I just know how to clean up after myself.” I retrieve dessert and a bottle of wine from the refrigerator. “I hope you like key lime pie.”

“I love key lime pie,” she says as I place it on the breakfast bar in front of us. “Ironically, I once had a boyfriend who would eat no other dessert, but key lime pie.”

“Wow,” I say plating the pie for each of us. “That’s a very narrow choice.”

“He was very narrow-minded,” she replies. “That relationship didn’t last long.” I raise a brow as I uncork the wine.

“Care to elaborate, or is it a tender topic?” I ask, as I pour the wine.

“It’s not tender at all, and I thought you said ‘no wine,’” she accuses.

“Except with dessert,” I reply, putting the bottle on the counter. “This is a Sauvignon Blanc. I didn’t even pour you a full serving since I know that you’re driving, but you’re going to want to sip this as you’re eating your key lime pie. It should be an experience. It should not be forced or rushed.”

“Oh, I get it,” she says, putting a small serving on her fork. “Archie used to take huge clumps of it like it would run away if he didn’t eat it quickly.” I laugh.

“Taste the forkful,” I coax, and she puts the fork in her mouth. “Now, don’t just chew and swallow. Let it coat your tongue a little.” I can tell that she’s moving the pie around in her mouth so that each section is coated before she swallows.

“That’s very good,” she says. I nod.

“Now, take a small sip of your wine—not too much, just enough to compliment the flavor of the pie.” She sips the wine and lets it flow down her throat.

“That’s delicious!” she says.

“See?” I say. “The correct wine paring with dessert can be the perfect conclusion of a great meal.” I cut a piece of the pie with my fork. “Tell me you’ve tried other desserts besides key lime.” I eat the forkful and chase it with the wine.

“I have but he hasn’t,” she says, eating more of her pie.

“You were elaborating before you chided me about the wine.” She nods as she swallows another sip of the wine.

“Basically, his parents were staunch fundamentalists, and that’s how they raised him. If it was fun or different, it was wrong in their eyes, and a lot of that training syphoned through to him.”

“So, of course, no premarital sex, no secular music…” I begin.

“Oh, it was much more than that,” she says. “He couldn’t go to or watch movies at all. School functions like dances or festivals were out of the question. He couldn’t do any social things like arcades, the Space Needle, hang out with his friends, nothing like that. So, when he grew up and he moved out on his own, he took all that with him.

“He admitted that he couldn’t wait to be free of his parents because they were so strict, and he felt like he couldn’t breathe. He wanted to be out in the world and experience things on his own, but once he got out there, he couldn’t break away from his old traditions. I was afraid I was going to end up somewhere churning butter and sewing aprons with the other womenfolk!” I burst out laughing.

“Oh, God, that was bad,” I say finishing my pie and refilling my wine.

Very bad,” she confirms. “The key lime pie, it’s just all she ever made, so that’s all he ever ate. Getting him to try a different dessert was impossible. So, you know sex was completely out of the question. That was a deal breaker. Who wants to date a guy that’ll barely even kiss them?” she shakes her head but doesn’t finish her wine.

“Would you like something else to drink?” I ask. “More grape juice or some water?”

“Water’s a good idea,” she says. “Dinner was delicious and despite my prior experience, that pie was superb.” I nod as I get a bottle of water from the refrigerator. “So,” she continues as she opens the bottle, “tell me your story. All I know is that you practice some kinky lifestyle and you’re hung up on some girl that you shouldn’t be hung up on.” I roll my eyes.

“I’m not hung up on her,” I protest. Veronica waves her hand.

“Semantics,” she says. “There’s some girl in some kinky lifestyle. What else is there to know about CG?” I twist my brow.

“Honestly, not much really,” I say. “I was raised in Washington, too. I grew up in Bellevue.”

“Ooo, fancy,” she teases.

“Not so much,” I say. “We were fairly well off, but not like the other families in Bellevue. We weren’t really wealthy until later.” She nods.

“Okay.”

“Nothing really dramatic about my childhood,” I admit. “I was dating this girl, Juliet…”

“That’s her real name?” she asks with twisted lips.

“That’s her real name, and I really shouldn’t have told you.” I take a drink of my wine. “Anyway, we weren’t compatible. So, we broke up—nothing so dramatic as key lime pie or fear of becoming a puritan.” She chuckles. “A little while after that, I literally stumbled on some information about BDSM and someone close to me introduced me to it.”

“You don’t have one of those rooms here, do you?” she asks.

“Excuse me?” I’m caught off guard by the question. When we last talked, she didn’t know anything about BDSM.

“I did a little research after we talked,” she admits. “I was coming to your house. I didn’t want any surprises.”

“Did you think you were going to walk into a big BDSM sanctum?” I ask, shocked.

“I didn’t know what I was going to walk into,” she says. “I didn’t think I had anything to worry about, but I still didn’t know.” I cross my arms.

“Is that why you insisted on driving? Tell the truth.” She shrugs.

“Yes, and no,” she confesses. “I’m the type of girl who feels like she should always be able to pay for her own meal on her first date and she should always be able to get home on her own. That’s why I wanted to drive. And plus, I didn’t know what to think.”

“But we agreed this isn’t a date,” I point out.

“But I did come to your house,” she retorts. I shake my head.

“Well,” I say, gesturing around the apartment, “as you can see, no BDSM sanctum. And I don’t have a dungeon,” I stress. “I have a room where I ‘entertain,’ and there may be a toy or two in there, but not dungeon.” She nods.

“Okay, so you got into BDSM because some girl broke your heart?”

“You must think I’m a real sap,” I reply.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because, yes, I have a girl—a woman—on my mind, and yes, I feel slighted by her. So, the situation has me a bit preoccupied, but you’ve got me ‘pining’ over her. I’m not pining. Then, I tell you that I broke up with a girl because we were incompatible, and you’ve got me in whips and chains because I’m heartbroken. Did you stop eating key lime pie or going to movies because of Puritan Boy?” I ask.

“No!” she says, somewhat affronted.

“Well, then, stop trying to make me a sociology project,” I state. “You want to know some things, I’m glad to share, but I’m not broken, Veronica.”

“Sheesh, sensitive much?” she comments. “And call me Ronnie, for goodness sake. Only my dad calls me Veronica. It makes me feel like I’m in trouble.” I shake my head again.

“You’re a nut, you know that?” I declare. She shrugs.

“Tell me something I don’t know.” I roll my eyes again.

“I got into BDSM because I wanted to try something different,” I say. “I wanted to see if it would spice up my sex life, and it did.”

“How?” she asks.

“Well, imagine having your pick of partners—clean partners—who are willing to do whatever you want depending on your flavor. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. They don’t do anything they don’t want to do, but you both get to explore your level of kink in a safe, sane, and consensual environment. You can be as extreme as you want or you can be as tame as you want, but whatever you do, you write your own rules.

“Some people may decide that they want multiple partners while others may want just one. It can be experimental, where each of you are playing and deciding what you do and do not like, or it can be very structured, like the contracts.”

“Is there swinging involved?” she asks, “Like wife sharing?”

“There could be, yeah,” I tell her, “but again, only on a consensual basis.” She nods.

“I don’t know if that’s for me,” she says.

“It’s definitely not for everybody,” I say. “If you ever are interested, or even just want to watch, I can take you some places where folks won’t jump your bones or harass you. It’s not as scary as it looks or sounds on the internet, but again, it’s not for everybody.”

“So,” she continues. “How did CG become the Christian Grey?”

I get a feeling that she wants to change the subject. I tell her the story about how I got into Harvard but realized that I didn’t need a college education to open my business. So, I dropped out, got a small business loan, and the business ain’t so small no more. That, of course, led to the eternal feud that my sister and I are having because she couldn’t go to Harvard and I dropped out. We talk a little more about disastrous relationships, family tithes, and the financial and business hopes of the future before we agree that it’s getting late and she should get home. We agree to do dinner again soon and lunch as usual and I tell her to please call or text me to let me know that she has gotten home safely.

I pour myself another glass of wine, turn off the lights and head for my bedroom. I have to admit, it’s good to have someone to talk to. I can talk about Golden without using her name; talk about my lifestyle without somebody running for the fucking hills; I can even talk about my crazy ass family.

Once in my bedroom, I change into some pajama pants and a T-shirt and climb into bed. I take out my phone to review a few emails before I go to sleep, and I see that I have a text.

Is Ronnie home already? That was fast. She must live in the neighborhood. I swipe the screen and discover that the text is not from Ronnie:

**My house. Tomorrow 8pm. We have unfinished business. **

Is she insane? Does she think I want more of that submissive treatment? She’s out of her fucking mind if she thinks I want to be subjected to that again. What the hell else do we have to say to each other if she thinks she can subject me to that? She knows what she did, and there’s no mistaking how I feel about it, so what use is there for me to drive out to her house?

She summoned me.

She’s never summoned me before.

What the fuck is this all about? I’m not dumb enough to expect an apology, but my curiosity is killing me.

I don’t care what she says or what she does, how good she looks or what she’s wearing. I’m not going to let her get me in that dungeon again and work me up just to leave me hanging. I’m a client, and she’s turning me into a submissive. She knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s stringing me out thinking I’m going to come back begging for more. Not going to happen, Golden.


Briana Evigan 16

GOLDEN

It’s a brisk September Saturday, and I wake up with a mission. I’ve more than gotten my swagger back and I’m ready to face the world…

And one insolent client.

But before I do that, there are a few matters that require the attention of Anastasia Olivet, Esq.

I’m very pleased to give Blake the news that his divorce was signed, sealed, and delivered yesterday. It’s now time for him to move on with his life. I’m surprised to find that he has things that are still stored at the home that he has now left to his wife.

“Blake, why didn’t you tell me this before?” I ask. She could have done anything with those things by now.”

“I was more concerned with getting out of the house and away from her, Mistress,” he confesses. “They are things that I would like to retrieve if I can, but if I can’t…” he trails off.

I’ve met this woman. She’s scorned on many levels, whether she deserves to be or not.

“Did you leave anything valuable in the home?” I ask. “Any keepsakes?”

“There may have been a few things of significant value,” he says. “Keepsakes? I’m not sure. I won’t know unless I see them.” I sigh.

“Blake, I highly advise against going back to that house,” I warn. “At best, you’re going to find your things completely destroyed if you find them at all.” He nods.

“I’m aware of this, Mistress,” he says, “but I need to make sure that there’s nothing there that belongs to me.”

I’ve never been to Blake’s home. It’s a beautiful estate on the sound with the long, private driveway and a multi-car garage. The lawn is finely manicured, and the overall landscaping is impeccable. We’re soon to find out why.

A real estate sign shows that the house is already for sale.

We had hired a moving crew to help him retrieve his things, only to discover when we arrive that his ex-wife had cleaned the house out—all of his things and hers, including every picture of their daughter. We walk around the outside of the house to see if anything had been left.

It had.

In the back of the house is a large storage shed. Inside were several boxes with colorful descriptions on them that had to be translated for me:

Bastard…
Asshole…
Loser…
Murderer…

The list is endless. Inside of each box were fragments of clothing, personal items, books, random pieces of furniture… The boxes were stacked pretty high and at least six rows deep in the back of the shed. Blake calmly opened three boxes and examined their contents before stepping away and deciding not to open any more. I give the moving crew the task of opening and examining each box to see if anything is left still intact.

It takes several hours, but later in the day, we’re informed that everything in the boxes have been destroyed beyond recognition. I tell the crew to leave the boxes in the shed as is and promise them a handsome bonus for their trouble.

During the time that the crew was investigating the boxes, Blake and I go to the garage to ascertain the conditions of the vehicles he had left behind—a late-model Benz, an older Beamer, and a Lexus that was only a few years old. All three vehicles had been stripped down to the frames, and that’s all that remained. Blake is completely emotionless as he stands there, quietly examining his worthless vehicles.

“Blake?” I try to get his attention.

“She wasn’t always like this,” he says, still looking at the frames. “She was once a beautiful, docile woman… a superb wife and an excellent mother. She loved me and our life and our family. She changed when I killed our daughter.

“I don’t know this woman. I never will. I took something precious from her and she’s been broken ever since, and she’s been trying to break me. She succeeded in the beginning, and now her revenge is complete.” I swallow hard. These cars meant something to him even if he doesn’t say so.

“Blake, the cars…” I trail off.

“Trinkets,” he says, “except the BMW. It belonged to mi madre… the last vehicle she drove before she died.” He sighs heavily.

Oh, hell.

“You could sue her, you know,” I tell him, “for the value of the cars and of the things that she destroyed. We have all the proof right here.” He shakes his head.

“It’s no use, Mistress,” he says. “She has the $4 million, the value of the car, the value of the house. She can’t repay me for what she’s done. She can’t repay me for what she’s taken from me, just like I can’t repay her. We are both broken human beings trying to put our lives back together.

“I have made peace with what I did to my Danielle. I hope she finds her peace as well. It’s easier to start over and never have to speak to her again that it would be to chase down those trinkets she took. I won’t remember the monster she has become. I will only ever remember the times when she was still mi alma.

With those words, Blake leaves the garage and pulls out his cell. He does a quick search, then calls a salvage yard to come and retrieve the frames of the cars. Once the frames are removed, we quietly leave the estate.

As for my other situation, I wish I could say that I was cool as a cucumber today. I sent a text to Trey to meet me at my house this evening and I’m not completely sure that I’m ready for that or that he’ll even come. I know that he hasn’t forgotten me, and if I know him correctly, he’s stewing a bit. I didn’t expect him to send me tribute after that last session, but I also didn’t expect him to go completely radio silent on me.

I’ve reviewed the consequences of leaving a client unsatisfied. Just like any situation, they can choose not to deal with you anymore. But what did he expect? He showed up at my house unannounced and then he left all belligerent and shit. He couldn’t expect not to have any repercussions for that.

But he’s a client, not a submissive…

Be that as it may, I’m still his Mistress, and he didn’t show me that respect. If he doesn’t show me the respect of Mistress, he’s not going to get what Mistress gives, and I don’t care how many hissy fits he has. And dammit, from the very beginning, I told him that I choose. I choose who to engage and when to engage, and I choose when to dismiss. So, he doesn’t get the luxury of being able to just disappear on me like that without a word. You leave that behavior for the Madame Petra’s of the world, I’m not the one.

I head to Gene Juarez for a day of beauty. I do my own Brazilian waxing, but I needed everything else to be buffed, threaded, waxed, trimmed, and curled. If he’s going to be dismissed, let him see what he’s going to be missing. Otherwise, he’ll have to beg for me to take him back as a client.

I’m getting my avocado mask when I hear two other patrons talking about none other than Madame Petra herself.

“I heard that he beat her again,” one woman says.

“It’d serve her right, sleeping with other people’s husbands!” another says. Oh, hell, who did she sleep with.

“I don’t think that’s what it was,” the first girl says. “I think it’s because he wants a divorce and she won’t give him one.”

“Well, that’s what it said in Seattle Snoop,” the first woman counters. “It says right here that Caldwell Lincoln is suspected of battering Elena Lincoln a second time, and that reliable sources reveal that he found her in bed with another man—married—but they won’t reveal his identity.”

Oh, it’s a gossip rag. They got the beating wrong. They’re probably making up the rest. And that was a long time ago. They’re just now breaking that story… or did she get beaten again?

“Think about it, Lisa,” the second girl says. “We’re talking about Seattle Snoop here. Not the best source of information. And as much as they like to splatter people’s names all over their rag, they suddenly won’t reveal the name of the unfaithful husband? They got it from a reliable source, but they can’t reveal his name?”

“Well, I’m just saying,” Lisa says, “there’s probably some truth to what they’re saying. She was in hiding in that house for nearly two months. As much as that woman loves attention, something was going on to keep her locked away in her little cottage.”

“Her Kirkland home is hardly a cottage,” the second woman says. “She’ll be sitting pretty if she gets that in the divorce.”

“Are they really getting divorced?” Lisa asks.

“Wouldn’t you?” the second says. “Think about it. He beats her all to hell the first time and we still don’t know why, then he takes off for the Bahamas. They find him there with other women—they still don’t know who. When he gets back, they’re both cleaning out bank accounts…”

I didn’t know that part.

“… And they’re both accusing each other of assault. The Misses is being sued by some of the ladies that come here because of that fiasco of being bitten by rats or something in her shop…”

Boy, that rumor mill is still as ugly as hell… a whole year later!

“… And she’s being sued by Christian Grey because she fingered him as the person that beat her that night… and I think she’s got some charges against her for something that she did to him.”

“That man’s like a quadrillionaire. What does he expect to get from Elena Lincoln?”

“My guess is that he’s just trying to give her a hard time,” the second lady replies. “I have to look it up, but whatever criminal case against her or whatever it is that involves him is coming up in a couple of months.”

Well, this is valuable information. We need to look into a settlement soon or there may be nothing left to sue for.

“How do you know all this?” Lisa asks.

“Because I do follow the reliable news sources,” the second says, “and speaking of reliable sources, The Seattle Journal had the same questions we do about the divorce. Is it happening? What’s at stake? Blah, blah, blah, and guess what?”

What? What?

“There’s probably no divorce underway that we know of because the Lincolns don’t have a prenup.”

Get the fuck outta here! How did I not know this? It’s time to settle this lawsuit ASAP! Depending on how the wind blows, this could go either way. Blondie could end up with half of a huge estate or she could end up with nothing! Then, she’s got Trey’s lawsuit to contend with and she’s got defenses that she’s going to have to pay for in the near future.

I listen to the ladies talk about Blondie’s woes a little longer. Just about everything they’re saying is way off the mark, although they are giving me some good information, at least a bit here and a bit there that I wasn’t aware of. Linc is apparently living in a hotel and fighting tooth and nail to keep Trey from muscling in on the lumber business. That used to be tribute to me. Now it appears to be more personal, not that I blame the man.

When my day of beauty is over, my eyebrows are threaded, I’ve had a flawless facial, and my hair is a full, gleaming halo of brunette waves. Every inch of my body is as smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom, and my nails and toes are clipped, filed and polished to perfection.

Before dressing to deal with one errant client, I sit down in my study and compose an email to send to the participants of the lawsuit against Blondie. I inform them of the importance of coming to a settlement soon since Lincoln will soon be facing her comeuppance on some very serious legal woes and we may get nothing at all from her even if we win the case. I recommend a non-negotiable $10 million to be split between them once my legal fee has been paid. I won’t take my portion as a participant of the lawsuit since my fee will be one-third of the settlement. They may agree, they may not, but we’ll just have to see.

My chosen attire this evening is more champagne than gold, but it’s sexy as fuck. It’s a spaghetti-string silk dress with a hidden zipper in the back, a plunging neckline, and a mock-wrap waist with a thigh split that comes past my bikini line. It’s full and flowing and beautiful, the skirt a little long so that it can drag behind me when I walk. I’m wearing strappy stiletto sandals that fasten around my ankles with no stockings since my legs are as smooth as ice and my toes are freshly done. A thong would have been overkill, but you can’t go wrong with the nude seamless French-cut panties. A bra is out of the question with the spaghetti straps and the plunging neckline, so I know my nipples are prominent through the dress. My jewelry is very understated—a pair of simple gold earrings and a gold bracelet pushed up to my bicep.

Try to walk away from this, Chopper, I dare you.

I go to the parlor and pour a double-shot of vodka and await my prey. He’s about to learn a very valuable lesson this evening.


A/N: Vivian Ward is Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman.

The Pinterest board for this story can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/fifty-shades-golden/.

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 87—Exactly Who’s In Charge here?

Taking a break from my studies to commune with my peoples…

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

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

Chapter 87—Exactly Who’s In Charge here?

ANASTASIA

I’ve decided not to go into Helping Hands on Wednesday since the Pamela Whitmore thing shook me up a bit. I send a text to Grace and Courtney that I won’t be in, but that I’ll be available and doing some work from home. Al is in the process of filing a restraining order against Whitmore, and she has officially made it to the “watch list.” I often wonder how the company can keep an eye on so many people at once. It must be a very incredible—and tedious—operation. I’m sitting at the dining table not quite sure what direction my day will take when I see—and feel—a shadow approaching me.

I look up and see my husband, fresh from the shower in a crisp—super crisp—black suit. His hair is neater than usual, but most likely because it’s still wet. His beard is thickening a bit from the usual designer stubble… and he totally looks like he means business. This fresh Master of the Universe look normally causes a little heat in my nether regions, but today, it feels a bit ominous.

“You’re not going in?” he asks as he takes a seat at the table. I shake my head, partially as an answer, but also to break my gaze from him.

“No,” I reply. “I’m working from home today.” I take a sip of my coffee and Ms. Solomon places a plate in front of Christian.

“Are you afraid?” he asks as he loads his fork with eggs. I shrug.

“A little shaken, maybe,” I admit, “but I’ll be fine. Al is getting the restraining order if he hasn’t already gotten it and that cunt doesn’t even have the resources to get within fifty feet of me, unless there’s something I don’t know.” Christian shakes his head as he swallows his eggs.

“No, we got surveillance in place last night. We’re pretty certain that call came from her home and confirmed that she’s there and hasn’t left. She’s going to have covert and visual surveillance. I want that bitch to know she’s being watched.” He takes a sip of his coffee.

“I see you… mean business today,” I say, sipping my own as he tucks into his breakfast. He doesn’t raise his head for a moment, but nearly clears half his plate before he speaks.

“I do,” he says, unapologetically. “I tried something new with my company and it didn’t work, so I’ll go back to the old way of doing things.”

The old way… That doesn’t sound good.

“What are you thinking?” he asks.

“That I miss Marilyn and I’m really wondering what’s going on with her right now,” I say. It’s partially true. The other part is that my husband may go back to the old way of doing things and I might lose him completely.

“When was the last time you heard from her?” he asks, finishing his breakfast.

“Two weeks ago,” I reply. “She emailed me before we left for Australia.”

“And Garrett?” he presses.

“I haven’t heard from Gary,” I admit. “I know he’s alive and I know he’s working, but he won’t speak to me.” I roll my eyes. “We’ve been friends for years—longer than he’s even known Mare and this is really making me feel shitty.” He reaches over and squeezes my hand.

“I know it feels shitty, but you can only do what you can do, Butterfly,” he says. “It’s only been a couple of weeks, right?”

“Yeah,” I say. It’s been three, but it feels like an eternity!

“You gotta give them time,” he says. “I don’t know if they’re going to bounce back from this, but you gotta give them time.” I look over at him and see a hint of the tenderness that I know of the new Christian Grey tucked into the mask of the old. I sigh and pretend to straighten his tie.

“Go,” I say. “Run the world and show them who’s boss. I’ll be fine.”

He examines me and I can see it in his eyes that he clearly thinks I’m full of shit, but he kisses me on the cheek anyway.

“I love you,” he says, looking into my eyes and waiting for me to respond.

“I love you, too,” I reply. I touch his cheek and kiss him quickly on the lips. “Go.”

He glances at me again before standing from the table and leaving to start his day.

I don’t feel like I have any direction today. I appreciate Courtney’s help immensely, but if Marilyn was here, I would truly know if there’s anything that I should be doing that I’m not, anything that I had forgotten about, such as the guest that walks into the dining room as I’m lamenting my situation.

“Fuck!” I exclaim as Harmony bends the corner and freezes.

“Oookay, should I leave and come back?” she asks.

“No,” I say, waving her off. “I totally forgot you were here.”

“Well, that’s easy,” she says. “I wasn’t here when you got back from Australia and we’ve been missing each other the rest of the time. I’ve been taking a lot of time going through my mother’s house.” She sits down at the table and almost like clockwork, here’s Ms. Solomon with another plate of breakfast.

“How’s that been going?” I ask.

“Tedious,” she says. “Sad. My mother loved her kids. She’s kept every christening gown, every award, every trophy, scads and scads of pictures—graduations, marriages, babies being born, track meets, recitals, you name it—and look how they thanked her! I hate selling the house, Anastasia. There are literally lifetimes of memories in there, but I don’t want to keep it. If any of my mother’s children had any kind of heart, I would just give it to them, but they’re all cold and heartless, so it’s going up for sale.”

“Have you heard from any of them?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“No,” she said. “They only wanted what they could get from her estate. Once Carl has tended to all of her bills and wishes and everyone gets their cut, I’ll probably never hear from any of them again… except for my father when he needs money.”

I can’t help but think how sad this situation is as I watch her sip her coffee.

“What about all the pictures and the memories and stuff?” I ask. “What are you going to do with those?”

“I’m having them packed and labeled as we speak,” she says. “Each kid can have their respective shit and if they don’t want it, it’s trash. I’ve taken what I want from the house—whatever there is that would remind me of my momma. It’s just a matter of properly disposing of the rest. I plan to have an estate sale the first week of January to see if anyone wants any of that stuff. If not, whatever’s left, I’m donating to charity.”

“That seems so sad that so much of the life that your mother built will be going to strangers and charity,” I say.

“I know, but what else can I do? The mansion has way too many rooms in it. She spent her life decorating it and although the things are nice, they’re quite dated. There’s really nothing I can do with it, and I’m certain that Momma only put the house in my name to keep the Gruesome Foursome from kicking me out once she died. I’m sure that she would be pleased that I’m at least handling things as respectfully as possible.”

I have to agree. There’s no telling what her other children would have done had they been in charge of Tina’s property.

“I don’t cry as much,” she says, “but I’m still sad. I still really miss my Momma, but she’s gone now, and I can’t bring her back. Some days, I can deal with it. I can move forward, and everything is okay. Other days, it’s hard to even breathe. I have to concentrate just to get out of bed…”

I talk to Harmony for a while—something to give me some purpose—and I allow her to vent about losing her mother and her horrid siblings who couldn’t care less if she lived or died. She’s letting the real estate agent handle the staging of the house once she has the estate sale. Inventorying everything is what’s taking so long. Carl also told her that the auction for Tina’s jewelry will be on Friday and informed me that I’m welcome to attend if I want. I don’t know. I’m not sure what I’m doing with today, let alone Friday.

She’s excited about moving into the penthouse once it’s finished. I’m excited for her and I’m just now realizing that Christmas is right around the corner and this will be her first Christmas without her mother. I’m also realizing that with about a week to go, the Greys don’t seem to have solidified any plans either. We all normally go over to the Manor, but this year, we haven’t heard anything.

I really need to know what the plans are, because I have no problem whatsoever having Christmas right here in my home with my babies and my husband. Chuck’s parents are supposed to be coming, too, and I don’t know what the plan is for them when they get here. Were we all planning to get together again? I would certainly love to see Maddie and Nelson. I have a bit more Christmas shopping to do, but I did most of it on Black Friday, and picked up a few things here and there throughout the year.

“So, do you plan to decorate the penthouse when it’s done, or are you going to hire a decorator?” I ask Harmony, feeding her excitement about moving into Escala.

“I don’t know,” she admits. “I haven’t even gotten that far.”

“I recommend hiring a decorator,” I tell her, “because you’re in school. Just don’t give them carte blanche.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. Courtney and Vickie have been really cool about letting me impose on their private time. I think I’ll hang around here tonight instead of going over there. Give them some time alone. I don’t want to wear out my welcome.” I nod.

“Have they said anything?”

“No, but I’m an adult. I know when grown folks need their time.” I laugh.

“Well, it won’t be like you’re in the way here,” I tell her. “We’ve got more room than we know what to do with.” I rise from the table. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve got to get to my office and get some balls rolling.”

“No worries. I’m headed to class. I’ll see you later.”

“Laters,” I say as I head to my office.

I now appear to have emails from nearly every department head in GEH—some of them two or three—about whatever minutia they could email or CC me on. I roll my eyes and shake my head, thinking how too-little-too-late this gesture is. I create rules to send everything from GEH to one folder with the exception of Christian’s and Al’s emails. I don’t know how wise that is since I don’t intend to check it that often. As I’m filtering the emails, I see that Alex has forwarded me some information that I’d completely forgotten I had requested. The sensitive information on Deanna Corman.

Corman—I never knew that was her last name.

There’s delicious dirt in here on her.

She’s a research assistant at GEH, which I already knew, but apparently, she’s pretty damn good at her job. However, she’s been fired from her last three jobs, twice for insubordination and once under unknown circumstances, and she’s only been with GEH for less than a year.

Did they consider this a pass of a background check?

She’s currently cheating with three different married men, hoping that Christian would be the fourth. All of them are well-to-do or wealthy, so she’s definitely trying to sleep her way to riches.

And she likes to party… a lot. She’s been caught twice with marijuana, but not enough to get arrested and again, only during the last year. Once you hire people and do the initial background checks, unless you continue to update background checks or something happens that causes a red flag, you won’t know if something new has arisen.

So, here’s Deanna… two citations for small amounts of marijuana, three episodes of disturbing the peace that went nowhere—two of which involved two of the married men that she’s currently fucking. I need to talk to my husband about who he’s hiring, but for now, I’m calling Alex.

“Mrs. Grey,” he answers.

“Will you ever call me ’Ana?’” I ask.

“Sorry, force of habit,” he says.

“I’m looking at this file that you sent me on Deanna Corman,” I say. “How does someone with this much shit pass a background check?”

“It depends,” he says. “The company isn’t so much concerned with young people fired for insubordination. Nobody’s perfect and no one could besmirch her work ethic, not to mention that there’s only so much information you can get from a previous job no matter how good your resources. The information that we’ve received after the fact is enough to dismiss her, though.”

“No, I have a better idea,” I say. “How did you find out about the marijuana?”

“You asked for a background check with detailed personal information. That requires digging and investigation. She has a tail.” I nod as if he can see me.

“Affairs with three married men,” I note. “That seems to be her flavor. Current?”

“Yes,” he confirms. “It’s not necessarily her flavor. That’s just who wants her. It’s been my experience that single men with money are not interested in hoochies. Married men in unhappy marriages will often take it from anybody who’ll throw it at them, money or not.” That make sense.

“Well, to be bargain basement, she’s setting her sights awfully high with Christian,” I point out.

“No offense, Ana, but as the saying goes, a closed mouth never gets fed. When you have nothing to lose, you never know unless you try.” I shake my head.

“Well, she tried the wrong one,” I say. “Keep gathering info. I’m about to put my plan into action.”

“Will do, Boss Lady,” he says, and hangs up. And I immediately miss Marilyn. I have a few emails to compose.

To: Marilyn Caldwell
Re: Disabled
Date: Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 10:02
From: Anastasia Steele-Grey

Hi Mare,

I’m writing to tell you that I’m officially a fish out of water without my right hand. Not pressuring you or anything, and I’m holding on to hope that once things settle in your heart and mind, you’ll be back. In the meantime, I’m completely disabled without you.

I hope you are putting things together the best that you can and that you are finding some modicum of peace in the midst of this mess. I hope you took my advice and got out of the house instead of sitting there being religiously bullied by your parents.

Talk soon… please?

Love, Ana

Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey
Assistant Director, Helping Hands

The next one is to one prodigal friend that I feel owes me more than the silence that he’s giving me. I had to write it, read it over, and rewrite it four times before I sent it as it started out as, “You troll, you monster, does no one else matter in this but you and your selfish feelings?” and became something with just the right amount of sympathy and the correct dose of venom.

To: Garrett Pope
Re: WTF
Date: Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 10:29
From: Anastasia Steele-Grey

Dear Gary,

I’ll start by saying that I hope this email finds you well—as well as can be expected, anyway. I realize this is hard for you and as your friend, I hope your heart can heal from this emotional trauma and that you can successfully move on from it, whatever “moving on” means for you. Having said that…

What the fuck, man?

So, you don’t want to see my PA anymore, and you may never want to see her again. Fine! What does that have to do with me and the rest of your friends? I told you the day that this happened that I had nothing to do with this. I didn’t convince her to do this, nor did I know this was happening until the clinic called me to pick her up.

You may not even read this email since your voice mail is apparently disabled or you’re simply not speaking to me, but my not hearing from you will at least not be from lack of effort.

If you’re still too raw, I get it. There’s no time limit on grief and healing, but at least drop a line that says, “Hey, bitch, I’m alive, leave me alone,” or something. It’s not fair to leave people hanging that care about you… or did you forget the whole ordeal that we had with Val?

I really thought nearly ten years of friendship meant as much to you as it does to me. I’m hurt and disappointed to find that I was wrong. At least get in touch with the others.

Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey
Assistant Director, Helping Hands

That’s the best I can do. I’m feeling extremely “raw” myself that he would just leave me hanging when I know all the details of everything and could possibly help him even more than Maxie could right now. And the fact that we’ve been friends for so long. Does that mean nothing?

After having gotten sidetracked with my email to Gary, I get my thoughts together and send the third email that I intend to send.

To: Christian Grey
Re: Idea?
Date: Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 10:51
From: Anastasia Steele-Grey

Mr. Grey,

When was the last time your company performed random drug testing?

Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey
Assistant Director, Helping Hands

Since Ms. Corman likes to party, let’s see if we can get lucky.

I volley an email or three with my husband and go over some of the work that I have for Helping Hands when my phone rings.

“Yes, my beloved?” I answer when I see that it’s my best friend.

“Jewel, are you sitting down?”

“Yeess, what’s up? What’s going on? Is something wrong with Christian?”

“Nothing is wrong with Christian. I’m calling about Pamela Whitmore.”

“Oh,” I sigh. “Okay. Did you get the restraining order?”

“I did,” he replies. “It applies to all matters outside of the courtroom.”

“Okay, so why do I need to sit down? Did you call Larson? What did he say about her contacting me?”

“Yes, I’ve spoken to Larson, but I really didn’t need to. I know why she’s contacting you,” he replies. “I got a package today. Jewel, you’ve got your court date.” My brow furrows.

“What court date?” I ask.

“Are you serious? You can’t be serious…”

“Al, I’m losing my patience. What court date?” Al sighs heavily.

“Grab your traveling clothes, baby. We’re headed to Vegas.”

My brain skips for a minute, but then it kicks in. Oh, hell. I completely forgot about that. I mean I didn’t forget, but with all the shit that’s been going on in my life over the last year, I totally blanked out those assholes from Vegas until Whitmore called, and even then, my brain wasn’t focused on the trials.

“Our court date… we got our court date?” I ask in disbelief.

“We got our court date,” he repeats.

“Who’s going on trial?” I ask.

“Vincent Sullivan,” he replies. “He’s fighting this thing to the bitter end, so we’ll have to appear in court for this one.”

Yeah, of course not Whitshit or Madison-Perry. No, those assholes got plea deals, but I’ll still get to look them in the eyes when they testify. They’ll still get to see what I did with their horrible scar. You didn’t break me, bitches. You came fucking close, but you didn’t break me…

“Jewel?” Al’s voice snaps me out of my daydreaming.

“Hot damn, when do we leave?” I exclaim.

Al is talking about getting the jet ready and spending some time on the Strip even though he knows that this is going to be a very serious situation and suddenly, his voice turns into the teacher from Charlie Brown when I note that I’ve gotten a response to one of my emails.

To: Anastasia Steele-Grey
Re: Hey Bitch
Date: Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 11:49
From: Garrett Pope

I’m alive.

Leave me alone.

I do love you; I just can’t talk about this or anything right now.

Gary

Well, fuck. I didn’t mean literally say, “Hey, Bitch,”… but I get it.

“Jewel? Did you hear what I said?” Al says.

“Um, no, I got distracted. What did you say?” he pauses.

“Nothing important, what’s wrong?” he asks.

“I sent Gary an email this morning and I just got my response.”

“Well, what did it say? Or can you tell me?” he prods.

“Hey Bitch I’m alive leave me alone I do love you I just can’t talk about this or anything right now Gary,” I say all in one breath, my voice downtrodden.

“Oh, you sent him the ‘Hey, Bitch’ speech,” Al acknowledges.

“Yeah,” I say, still disappointed. He’s silent for a moment again… clearly a pregnant pause.

“So, dinner at seven, right?” he says, clearly trying to get off the phone.

“Al don’t harass the man. He’s probably got enough on his plate…”

“Yep, and he’s my friend, too, and I don’t deserve to be treated this way any more than you do, nor does he deserve to be going through this pain alone and thinking he can handle it when he clearly can’t. So, Jewel, my love, I’ll see you at seven, but I gotta bust a mission.”

“See ya, Al,” I say, knowing that it’s no use trying to talk him out of whatever he’s about to do.

I look at my phone, then look at the clock. Hearing this news makes me want to call a few people. I dial the first number.

“Sunflower, hey! A little too long-time-no-hear. How was Australia?”

“It was great, Daddy,” I reply. “How is Mandy and Harry?”

“Mandy’s beautiful, but she’s always beautiful. Harry’s getting too big too fast. The time seems to fly, doesn’t it?” he says.

“Yes, it does,” I tell him. “Don’t blink. It’ll be over in a second,” I laugh, just realizing that in about a month, my twins will be a year old. “I have news, Daddy.” The line is quiet.

Are you expecting again?” he asks. I frown as if he can see me.

“Daddy! No!” I whine. I mean, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but I haven’t prepared myself for that yet. I’m still on birth control, for Christ’s sake. “No,” I say, recovering quickly, “but it is good news nonetheless.”

“Well, out with it,” he says playfully. “I can always use good news.”

“I’m going to court,” I tell him. “I get to tell my story about what those bastards did to me in Nevada.” Daddy falls silent and I hear a loud noise like someone dropping a bag of clothes.

“That is great news, Sunflower,” he says, his voice sounding like a continuous sigh. “Finally! Finally, your voice is going to be heard! I’m going with you.”

“You don’t have to do that, Daddy,” I tell him. “You’d have to put your business on hold and what about Mandy and Harry?”

“We’ll work it out, baby,” he says. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world, and I mean that.” I sigh. I know when my father says he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it.

“In that case, I’ll keep you posted. You can fly down in the jet with us.”

“That’s right! You do have a jet, don’t you?” he exclaims.

“Yes, sir,” I say. “You’re little girl has hit it big!” I jest.

“No,” he says, “you may have married a really rich guy, but he hit it big when he got you.” My cup runneth over.

“Thank you, Daddy,” I whisper.


CHRISTIAN

Apparently, my attitude is illuminating around me the moment I hit the building. People bypass the usual sycophantic “Good Morning, Mr. Grey” and scurry around, away from, or to avoid me like roaches. Three people even exited a crowded elevator to avoid having to ride in it with me.

Get used to it, troops. The Iron Fist is back.

“Andrea, what meetings do I have on the books today?” I ask when I breeze into my office and past her desk. Ever efficient, she’s behind me in moments and is probably the only person in the whole building who’s immune to my asshole tendencies.

“You’ve got Ros and Lorenz at noon and the auditing meeting at two. Nothing else that I know of.” I nod.

“Have a fresh pot of black coffee sent up from the cafeteria. I feel the makings of a long ass day ahead.”

It’s time to shave some operations to make room for the intensive audit that’s about to take place in my company. Not keeping my eye on basic housekeeping is what allowed that keystone cop motherfucker to get in the castle and eventually kidnap my girl; a mole to be hired in right under our noses; miscellaneous subsidiaries to engage in human trafficking for God only knows how long; and a sympathizer to give classified information to a couple of fucker hackers, which included the biological son of the only real nemesis that I have in the world. Some of these stagnant mergers and acquisitions are going to have to wait until I can give them the attention they need.

In my Research and Development department, there are five sub-divisions—marketing infrastructure, product safety, operations, program development and evaluation, and research and technology services. Each of these divisions are coming under the microscope severally as well as how they relate to each other division in the department and the company. I decided to start with R&D since they have been in the center of my ire thus far.

I’m doing audits internally as well as employing an outside auditing firm to identify weak spots in my company. The last time I did an overhaul, it seems like there was a lot of hefty talk and not a lot of action. Wait til they see what happens this time.

I’ve already set the stage for the upcoming internal audit and I’ll be meeting with Al, Alex, my accounting department head, and the members of the external audit team this afternoon. I’ve also requested that all executive emails be forwarded to my wife. As half-owner of this company, I can’t afford for her to be completely uninformed even if she doesn’t plan to take part in the operations of the company. I really wish she would, but I can’t force her hand. I do like her way of thinking, however, when I get an email from her today.

To: Christian Grey
Re: Idea?
Date: Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 10:51
From: Anastasia Steele-Grey

Mr. Grey,

When was the last time your company performed random drug testing?

Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey
Assistant Director, Helping Hands

What a fantastic way to weed out a bunch of people that I wouldn’t want in my company anyway! I know for sure that the possibility of random drug testing was introduced in the employment packages of each employee, right along with the NDA’s and releases to perform background checks. My company is zero tolerance, so even though we haven’t had random tests in quite some time, this should come as no surprise.

To: Anastasia Steele-Grey
Re: Idea?
Date: Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 11:17
From: Christian Grey

Dr. Grey,

Capital idea! May I ask what brought about this stroke of genius?

Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc

“Andrea, can you come into my office please?” I summon through the intercom.

“Yes, sir,” she says. A few moments later, she enters the office and I inform her to close the door.

“Who handles our requests for random drug testing?” I ask. She raises her brow in surprise. Yes, this is going to be exactly what’s needed to shake the company up a bit.

“I’m not sure, sir,” she says. “It’s been a while. I don’t think we’ve had random drug testing since I’ve been employed here.”

“Well, that’s about to change,” I tell her. “Find out who does them for me—the most accurate without blood. I don’t want anything invasive. I think hair will be the best option.”

“Yes, sir,” she says, and she leaves the office. I check my computer and there’s another email from Butterfly.

To: Christian Grey
Re: Idea?
Date: Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 11:39
From: Anastasia Steele-Grey

It’s just a hunch I’m following, but it would surely weed out the unwanted element from the company. And in all honesty, a company your size should have this kind of thing regularly, especially with your zero-tolerance drug policy.

Have you also considered enacting a policy of follow-up background checks just to stay on top of things? You also might want to look into how the yearly evaluations are done. I have some ideas.

Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey
Assistant Director, Helping Hands

She’s right about that. And the fact that Andrea has just informed me that we haven’t had drug testing at least since she’s been here is pretty significant. It adds to the complacency of the staff. However, the follow-up background checks could be a massive undertaking. That would require an entire protocol of reminders and possibly another team dedicated to nothing but that. I know that we have procedure in place in case someone gets an arrest after they’ve been hired, but I don’t think we have anything much more than that. Maybe it’s something I should look into…

“Black,” Ros says when she enters my office. “I haven’t seen black in quite some time.”

“It’s just a suit, Ros,” I reply as she and Lorenz enter the office.

“It has a presence,” Lorenz says, taking his regular seat in front of my desk.

“That’s what he’s going for,” Ros remarks, taking her usual seat as well. “R&D is shitting their pants. The other department heads are turning in status reports as we speak. My guess is that they want to get ahead of the upcoming audits and see what they should concentrate on.”

“Hmm,” I say, opening the file she just sent me from her iPad. “It may be too little too late,” I observe as I scroll through the project titles from the various departments.

“Isn’t that what you wanted,” she says, “to put some fire under the departments?”

“No,” I reply. “I’ve been putting fire under them for the last two years and it hasn’t helped. It’s time to clean. It may even be time to introduce some new talent. I’m all for keeping someone with tenure who has demonstrated continuous progress and improvement in the company, but if that’s not what I’m getting, I’m not going to continue to pay people to sit on their laurels and decide to jump when I start breathing fire. That’s what they always do, and I’m tired of it now.” I minimize her list of projects and go back to the spreadsheet of pending acquisitions I was reviewing when they entered.

“I see that we’re currently courting six companies, we got four on the hopper, and three in negotiations. Tell me what’s cooking with the four.”

“Same thing, different day,” Ros says. “They’re looking over the offer and seeing how it fits into the future of their companies…”

As Ros drones on about the four companies we have approached for mergers, I hear no urgency in her voice. I feel the same complacency that I’m getting from my department heads. I truly hope I’m wrong.

“Drop ‘em,” I say once she’s finished. Her eyes widen.

“Sir?” she asks in horrified amazement.

“Drop ‘em,” I repeat. “I’ve heard nothing that indicates that any of those companies have any real intentions of moving forward. They’re just biding their time to see what I’m going to do.”

“It’s just before Christmas, Christian,” Ros protests.

“Yep, it’s just before Christmas now, and we’ve been doing the one-two step with Hanes and Bristol since just before my grandfather died. What’s that—six or seven months, and no bite? Drop ‘em.”

“And the others, too?” she asks, still horrified.

“Yes, and the others, too. I’ve made serious offers to all of these companies. I don’t have time for them to consult their ancestors to ask what their next move should be.” She shakes her head and types into her tablet. “What about the three in negotiations?”

“Finney has that,” Ros says flatly.

“Firm counter-offers on two,” Lorenz says, “I actually CC’ed you on that this morning. The last one is still giving some ridiculous numbers but is ripe for the picking.” I twist my lips.

“Hmmm,” I ponder. “I’ll take a look at that third one and see if it’s worth the trouble. And stop the courting with the other six.”

Lorenz and Ros both look at me.

“Christian, Veston is prime for acquisition. If we let this go, we may completely miss this opportunity…”

“And there will be another opportunity,” I interrupt Lorenz. “There’s always another opportunity. Right now, I have bigger fish to fry right here on my own front door. Let’s lock down the ones we already have in negotiations. Any others can wait until after the audits.

“Yes, sir,” Lorenz responds skeptically, tapping into his iPad.

“And by the way,” I say, looking through the emails being sent to me and forwarded to Butterfly, “I want executive level emails to be sent to my wife, not all this junk that everyone has decided that they want to send all of a sudden.” They look at each other again.

“Um, how do you suggest we screen what goes to Mrs. Grey?” Ros asks.

“Her name is Dr. Grey, Ros,” I correct. “And you screen it the same way I just did—executive emails only. Keep the junk mail; pass the word—intentional violators will be disciplined. Any other questions on the matter?”

She purses her lips and looks down at her tablet. I know what’s happening with all these random emails. These assholes are trying to prove a point and teach a lesson since Butterfly indicated that she didn’t get a response to her email. All they’re really doing is pissing me off, and that’s something that they really don’t want to do right now.

I go through several more minutes of handing down instructions and deliberately ignoring a barrage of “But, sirs” when Andrea knocks on my open door.

“Sir, I’ve got that information that you wanted,” she says, and I know that she’s talking about the random drug testing. I gesture her in.

“Who’s the company?” I ask, right in front of Ros and Lorenz.

“DISA Global Solutions, sir,” she says, handing me a piece of paper with some information on it. I don’t have to look at my executive team to know that they’ve suddenly become more alert.

“What are the next steps?” I ask.

“We send our specs to them and get a quote,” she replies. I nod.

“Correspond with human resources. Get an approximate head count of the building. I want a 50% sampling of highly reliable testing and if we can get results by Monday or Tuesday, that would be superb. I don’t want this spilling into the holiday.”

“Yes, sir,” she says with a nod and leaves. The silence is so thick in the room you can cut it.

“Drug testing, Christian?” Ros says. “Is that what you think is causing the problems in GEH?” I raise my gaze from my computer screen.

“I know what’s causing the problems in GEH, Rosalind,” I reply, “I am. I’ve been at the helm of a successful company enjoying high profits and low problems for years until I got married. Now, I’m a family man and everyone seems to have forgotten the formula that got us to where we are—myself included. I plan to rectify the situation.”

“Hmm,” she says, twisting her lips. “Rosalind. Okay. Since we’re being frank, I should tell you that random drug testing is simply an unnecessary outlay of funds. And 50%? In three business days? Are you serious? It’s an unnecessary scare tactic.”

“On the contrary, I think it’s very necessary. If I order a 50% random sampling and five people come back with a positive test in a zero-tolerance company, then that’s five people that I can get rid of and replace with employees who will follow directions and remain drug-free. If I order that same sampling, and 300 people come back testing positive, I know it’s time to clean house and I have very well found one of the problems with GEH. One or one-thousand, Ros, this is a necessary operation. The only way it’s unnecessary is if every random specimen comes back completely clean.” Ros huffs loudly and shakes her head.

“Out with it, Ros,” I say. She fixes her gaze on me.

“There are so many other things that we need to be focusing on—operational flaws, problem solving and risk management, flow of information, management and integrity—and we’re deciding to turn our focus to drug testing,” she states incredulously.

“Is there a problem with drug testing?” I ask. “Why are you so dead set against it.”

“I’m not against it,” she retorts, “I just think there’s a better use of the resources, including preventing the downtime of 50% of our staff.” I do the Butterfly bobblehead thing.

“Are we broke and I didn’t know it?” I ask, incredulously. “First of all, no expenditure is too high to ensure that I find any drug-addicts in my company or to ensure that I do not! You know why I have a zero-tolerance for drug use, which is a perfectly logical reason for me to request random drug testing, especially in light of the costly mistakes we’ve had in the past few months. And yes, I do intend to implement and exercise random drug testing across the GEH industries. Now, I’ve told you why I feel like this is a very necessary initiative. Besides the completely irrelevant issue of cost that you keep raising, can you tell me why you’re so against it?”

Ros’ head jerks back like I just hit her. Something I’ve said shocked her and I’m not sure what it is. My points are very relevant, and I’ve supported them with facts. That’s when Lorenz decides to chime in.

“Sir, I don’t see anything wrong with taking a firm hand if the company has taken such a drastic turn. There’s nothing obvious to the naked eye or in the financials that indicates that the company is declining, but again, I whole-heartedly agree with nipping things in the bud—getting behind the problem before it affects the bottom line. However, you don’t want to come off as a small man swinging a big stick because someone broke his favorite toy.” I turn my attention to him and frown deeply.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“One of the first thing you said when we walked into the room was ‘Stop sending junk mail to Anastasia.’ I don’t know what happened between the time you dismissed us yesterday and the moment you walked in this morning, but things have certainly changed. Ros brought up a very valid point yesterday about nepotism that the other department heads are very likely to concur with if the legal department isn’t ripped apart like the rest of the company. Hate it or love it, that’s the truth, and you can’t shoot the messenger.

“If you’re making any decisions that either of us may feel are irrational, we would be doing you a disservice not to bring it to your attention. Now, although we know that the company is going through internal investigations for what appears to be one too many mistakes, a lot of the decisions for measures and guidelines being handed down appear to be personal, and I can’t be ashamed to tell you at the risk of my silence being damaging to the company.”

I can’t fucking win for losing.

I can’t be the ball-buster.
I can’t be the nice guy.
I can’t be the billionaire concerned about his fucking business.
I can’t turn my back for a moment and say, “Hey, let this operation run on its own,” without having to worry about the walls falling down.

What’s more, I can’t initiate a practice or a policy with my own money without being concerned about nepotism, personal feelings, or scrutiny from inside or outside of my company.

Now it’s time to put my foot down… hard.

I straighten my chair and steeple my fingers over my lips, my gaze focused in the space between my two head executives. This is a look that Ros knows well, because it usually means that the next words out of my mouth may have a ripple-effect that reaches from sea to shining sea.

Yes, the asshole is back.  

“While I value your input on these issues, let me clarify something for both of you. I don’t care if I come off as a toddler having a temper tantrum in a sandbox. I’m the one who stands to lose the most if this company isn’t productive. When the ink dries on every audit, every test, every document, guess who’s name is going to be on the lips of every man and woman in the industry if this company is found lacking? Guess who’s ass is ultimately going to be on the line if some outside source discovers that this company—my company—is hemorrhaging somewhere and we didn’t even know it?

“They’re not going to say, ‘Oh, that fucker Finney really fucked up over there at GEH!’ No, they’re going to say, ‘What the hell? Is Grey’s head up his ass?’ And there goes my company, my family and my children’s future, my reputation, everything I built—we built over all these years. Gone—just like that! I could give a fuck less if these assholes think I’m a baby in a crib screaming with a bottle in one hand and a rattle in the other. I’m going to do whatever I feel is necessary to sniff out weakness in my company and eliminate it.

“Can either of you tell me—when you thought I wasn’t listening—the exact cost of the supplies that didn’t make it to our warehouses on time? Can you tell me if it cost us any clients? Can you tell me if anybody reached out to those clients to offer our apologies for the late shipments?

“How about the fire in the New York building? Has anyone reached out to any of the injured parties? Any of the families? It’s my understanding that fire happened while I was in Australia—what was the outcome? Have we offered anything besides health insurance to these people? With this happening right before Christmas, has anybody even made the suggestion to send a representative or to go out to the east coast to see about these people?

“And just how costly was that pharmaceutical fuck up? Do we even have an inkling about that?

“And the piece de resistance, SEEKNID… which has been lying dormant for a whole fucking year and would still be lying dormant now had I not come in the office breathing fire, and we’re really having hissy fits about internal drug testing at my company headquarters?”

“Hissy…” Ros trails off. Her statement is cut short and her body language indicates that I’ve hit a nerve. She looks at Lorenz in disgust and then turns her attention back to me.

“I think I need to take some time off,” she says matter-of-factly. “Christmas is next week and not a lot happens during the holidays. This may be just the time for me and Gwen to get away, maybe see some family.”

She knows that I’m about to implement some changes and that there might be some terminations with the results of the drug test. You want to jump ship, Ros, you do that… but I don’t easily forget.

“I just came back from a vacation and I have no immediate plans of going anywhere else. So, Ros, if you feel that now is the time that you need to make an escape, be my guest. We all need time to reflect sometimes.”

I don’t take my eyes off of her as she raises her brow, excuses herself, and walks behind my desk toward my bathroom.

“You probably don’t want to piss her off,” Lorenz says.

“That’s just it, Lorenz,” I reply. “I don’t care if I piss her off. The name of this company is Grey Enterprises Holdings. I built it from nothing, and although I sincerely value the work, abilities, and dedication of my executive team, I will not now nor will I ever allow them or anyone else in my company to undermine me or disrespect me even if they attempt to do it in a professional or covert manner.

“I don’t want to see my company go belly-up and I’m doing everything in my power to keep that from happening, but this organization can go to zero net profits by day’s end and I’ll still be a billionaire. So, the last thing I need to do is suck anybody’s ass or deal with anybody’s insolence.

“Ros isn’t the only one in this company right now with an I’ll show him attitude, and I know it. And that wasn’t the case two years ago. I get more kickback now from my department heads—all of them—than I have ever gotten since this company began and that’s going to stop right now.

“The heart and pulse—the very life’s blood—of this multi-billion-dollar conglomerate is right here in this building, in the hands of these people. This ship has to be tight, unshakable and able to weather any storm. I cannot and will not tolerate weakness in any area.

“I’m combing through this entire building, department by department, after which I may be doing something similar with my entire organization. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. I’ll be making sure that we are as close as humanly possible if not spot on with the vision of what I had when I started this company, before everyone became comfortable, complacent, and sloppy. And if I have to shut down major operations for a year to get it done, I’ll do it. My hope is that I don’t have to deal with kickback from my executive team, because that means that the process will just be prolonged, but I’m still proceeding as planned.

“Each one of us will be knee-deep in responsibilities over the next several months and I expect each of us to hold our own as I intend to do just that. If there’s any problem with that, then I will begrudgingly accept resignations. I will say that with that entire dissertation that I just gave about late shipments, injured employees, pharmaceutical lawsuits, and a possible multi-million-dollar software sitting useless on some shelf for over a year, I’m quite surprised that the only phrase that had any real impact…” I turn around and look into Ros’ face as I knew that she was standing there the entire time…

“… Was ‘hissy fits.’”

I glare at her, because I’m disappointed. I tore myself apart most of the night last night, sneaking out to get some time on the piano before Butterfly awoke, pondering how I was going to balance the old asshole with the new family man because my company can’t seem to appreciate the new guy. They need the old me. If that’s what they need, that’s what they’ll get. And if “hissy fitswas the only thing she heard out of that entire conversation, then she needs some time off.

She stares at me impassively for a moment, then marches ceremoniously around my desk, across my office, and out the door.

I don’t flinch. I need her not to quit; I really need her around, but I’ll do without her if I must.

“Lorenz, do you need time off, too?” He raises his brow.

“No, sir,” he says. “Looks like you may have a lot on your plate.” I nod.

“I’m sure that I will,” I say after a frustrated sigh.

*-*

Three other men are in the elevator with me and Jason when we’re leaving for the day. I usually ride alone, but I didn’t put the code in to make the elevator “express,” and they boarded at the 11th floor. They were jesting with each other when the doors opened; now the car is completely silent. The doors open and Jason and I exit on the first floor. As we’re walking to the front doors, the idiots in the car decide to make a crack loud enough for me to hear it.

“Big Dollar Grey is uptight. The wife must’a withheld that tight ass last night.”

There’s laughter in the elevator as the doors close and I stop at the front desk.

“Stop elevator car #3,” I say to the guard. He frowns and looks at his panel.

“There are people in it, sir,” he says. I just glare at him. He’s got about five seconds to stop that car before the doors open and the idiots get out. He makes that “ooookay” face and stops the elevator.

“Bring up the elevator camera,” I say. As he’s bringing it up, the emergency bell from the elevator comes on.

“From left to right, tell me who they are,” I say to no one in particular. Jason immediately goes behind the desk and starts typing into the computer. The bell is still ringing, and Jason looks at one of the guards and just points at it. The guy pushes a button and the ringing stops but a light on the panel keeps flashing.

“Good evening gentlemen,” he says into an intercom. “Sorry for the inconvenience. We’ll have you on your way in just a moment.”

“Seriously?” one of the voices protests. “With all the money this place makes, the elevators are breaking down? What the fuck is going on?” Jason raises his head.

“Last names only,” I say. He looks at the guy, who nods at him.

“Carter, Jenkins, and Pack, in that order,” he says. I nod and head to the stairwell. Jason says something to the guards at the desk and he knows me well enough to know what’s about to happen. He’s close behind me in the stairwell and in a few moments, we’re in the parking structure in front of elevator car #3.

“Open the doors,” Jason says into his wrist, and I clasp my hands in front of me glaring at my reflection until the angry faces of three detained assholes fill my view. I silently stand there glaring at each one of them.

I’m what the fuck is going on, you stupid assholes.

After standing there for at least a solid minute in total silence and probably wondering why the doors aren’t closing, Pack and Jenkins both turn their gaze to Carter, who hasn’t looked left or right since the elevator opened.

That’s called snitching without saying a word.

I lock my gaze on Carter and give him another 30 seconds of the stare game, which really isn’t the stare game at all because he’s blinking madly and starting to sweat a bit. I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the walls of the elevator. I look like Satan at the moment.

“For your information, Mr. Carter,” I begin, my voice menacing, “I get more pussy from that tight-assed wife of mine than you’ve seen all year.”

He swallows hard but doesn’t respond. Jenkins and Pack stand there with their mouths hanging open in stunned amazement.

“Get the fuck out the elevator,” I add. “You’re holding up the car.”

Jenkins and Pack scramble out quickly, maneuvering around me and being sure not to touch me since I’m standing right in front of the elevator and won’t move. Carter is still stunned stiff.

Say that three times fast.

“Are you waiting for a bus?” I hiss, jolting Carter out of his stupor. I see Jason’s reflection in the elevator wall. He shakes his head, his expression disgusted, as Carter scurries out of the car behind his friends. We step into the elevator and ride back to the first floor.

“What are you going to do?” Jason asks as we walk out to the Audi parked in front of the building.

“Nothing,” I reply as I get into the car. He knows as well as I do that the fear and anticipation of retaliation is more affective that any actual retaliation could ever be.

“Diabolical,” he says, closing the door behind me.

*-*

I don’t feel the relief that I normally feel when I arrive home. I feel relief, it’s just not that huge, weight-lifting sigh that I normally get when we get to the garage.

Weight-lifting sigh…

I go to the workout room instead of heading up to greet my wife and children. Butterfly understands when it’s been a rough day and I just need to unwind.

There’s already workout gear in the gym and I quickly change and begin to pound the treadmill.

I was hoping that my wife and I would be the power couple that we presented in that blasted exposé that we did. Unfortunately, it looks like it was all for the cameras. The company is not relating her to me, but they are relating me to her. They’re not seeing her as an extension of me, which is what I had hoped; they’re seeing me as an extension of her—which is a good thing most times, but not in the boardroom. They see me as Anastasia’s husband and Michael and Mackenzie’s father, but they don’t see her as Christian’s wife, a bit of a savvy businesswoman with a keen eye. They just see her as coming in and shaking things up with Daddy. That will never do.

The treadmill doesn’t seem to be burning enough and I’ve got about an hour before our children’s godparents are supposed to be here. This is why I worked out every day and beat submissives every weekend. Even my physique looks different since I got married because I don’t work out as much. Can I be the iron-fisted businessman that I need to be at work and still be the loving husband and doting father at home? Or is this going to be an impossible task?

“Good of you to finally join us, Bro,” Elliot jabs when I enter the dining room after my shower. “We waited so long I thought the chicken would come back to life.”

“Yeah, well,” I retort, and that’s it. I’m still wound a bit tight from the day and I’m afraid that if we get into our usual banter, I might say something highly inappropriate like telling him to stick his head up his ass and inhale.

It doesn’t get by him.

“You alright, Christian?” he asks, and every eye is on me, including my children—as if they understood what Uncle Elliot said.

“Just a fu—… messed up day at the office,” I say, trying to take the focus off of me.

“You wanna talk about it?” Elliot prods, his voice laced with concern, and I can tell by the expressions from everyone else that the concern is widespread. Okay, get it together, Grey.

“Naw, it’s just work shit…” I look at Butterfly, who stops feeding Minnie to throw that glare at me

“Sorry,” I say. “It’s just work stuff. I don’t want to bore you with it.”

“This is your home, Christian,” Val says, “your dinner table. If you need to let it out, this is your sanctuary to do that. You’ve had a hard day—you shouldn’t have to hold onto it.”

Butterfly raises her brow to Val then turns to me and gives me that “she’s got a point” look. I sigh heavily.

“I’m just frustrated with the company… the people,” I begin. “I used to be able to hand down a policy or a command and it was done yesterday. Now, I’m getting kickback from everybody, including my executive staff.”

“What changed?” James asks.

“He became a kinder, gentler Chris,” Al points out. “He goes home at five o’clock; he doesn’t work on Sundays anymore; he gave half the company to Jewel; he changed.”

“It would have been half her company anyway,” I protest. “We’re married, remember? What’s the big fu… freaking deal?”

“Not the corporate assets, Chris,” Al says. “Those still belong to the company.”

“But the company belongs to me,” I point out. “I’m not publicly held, remember.” Al nods.

“I remember, but it’s still a different animal. And even so, a lot of the people in the trenches and even the department heads don’t know that the assets could fall under community property to some extent without a prenup. They just see that you gave your lady 50% of your toy and now, you’re trying to give her the reins, too… or at least one of them. Kinder, gentler Chris.”

“So, basically, when you were a butthole, they all said ‘how high’ when you said ‘jump.’ Now that you’re human, you can’t get anything done,” Val summarizes.

“Basically,” I concur.

“So, no offense, but why not just go back to being an a… a-hole, at least at work?” Elliot said.

“Yeah, did that today,” I inform him. “It’s not hard to sink into that persona. In fact, it can be quite liberating when you need to get things done and people want to treat you like your commands are jokes and you won’t fire their… butts on a moment’s notice. Hell, one of my executive officers announced an impromptu leave because I think I hurt her little feelings. It’s coming out of it that’s the hard part.”

“Her?” Butterfly says, Minnie’s baby spoon suspended in air. “Ros?” I nod just as Minnie protests that her dinner is being delayed.

“Yes,” I say as my wife silences my daughter with a spoonful of food. “We had an entire conversation about issues in the company and the only thing she heard was ‘hissy fit.’ I swear, if I didn’t know that she was married to a woman, I would think she was pregnant.” Butterfly raises her brow at me.

“Were you referring to her when you said, ‘hissy fit?’” she asks.

“Yes, Anastasia, I was referring to her.” Butterfly’s expression changes a bit, from questioning to surprise, then she turns her attention back to Minnie and her meal.

“You’re going to have to find a middle ground, Christian,” Val says, calmly. “If you keep trying to swing from one extreme to the other—one person at work and the complete opposite when you’re at home or with your family—you’re going to have a stroke. Not only that, but that kind of thing never works. You’re going to forget who you are in one place or the other and the results are going to be… less than pleasant,” she adds gesturing her head and eyes inconspicuously towards my wife who pays studious attention to my daughter and her meal.

Shit, what did I say?

“Ugh!” Unable to even remember what I just did that has landed me in what appears to be Silent-Treatment-Ville, I grunt in mock agony and drop my head to the table with a thud that causes the dishes to clatter a bit. I’m certain that I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to be the asshole that I need to be at work and then come home and be the family man. I have to start turning the asshole on before I even leave the house for work in the morning. Then as I leave the office, I now have to figure out how to turn the asshole off?

“I’m sure there was a gradual change from asshole to Mr. Nice Guy,” Val says. “You just have to find that medium.”

“It’s too late for that,” I say, my voice echoing off the wood of the dining table. “They only respond to ‘asshole’ and even then, the transition is a nightmare. I’m going to have to go through at least a month of increased sick days, time off, and so-you-don’t-think-fat-meat-is-greasy directives before this company is even slightly back on the right footing.”

“So, what happened in the elevator today?” Al asks. I lift my head and look at him.

“How did you find out about that?” I ask. He shrugs.

“News travels fast,” he says, matter-of-factly.

“Well, that’s pretty fucking fast!” I shoot. That didn’t happen three hours ago, and everybody was on their way home. It’s now that I realized I’ve dropped an F-bomb and moments before, Val dropped the A-bomb. My head snaps over to my wife who’s looking impassively at me. Our children have been removed from the room. Pretty soon, I’ll be banned from them, too. I roll my eyes and… thud, rattle.

“So,” Al prods, “the elevator?”

“When they thought I was out of earshot…”

“We can’t hear you, Bro,” Elliot says. I raise my head and turn to him.

“When they thought I was out of earshot, three idiots from whatever department is on the 11th floor…”

“Telecommunications,” Al says.

“Thank you,” I reply sarcastically. “Three idiots from telecommunications decide to jest about how uptight I am today. So, I stopped the elevator between floors, met them at the ground level and let them know just how uptight I really was.”

“Did you fire ‘em?” James asks.

“No,” I say, “I called them each by name, succinctly made my point, and then told them to get the fuck out of the elevator since they were holding up the car.” The table is silent.

“That’s it?” Val says. “No rolling heads or anything like that?”

“He didn’t need to after he said each of their names,” Al points out.

“I don’t get it,” Elliot says, and my wife still hasn’t said a word.

“He called out each of those jerks by name,” Val says. “They know that he knows who they are.”

“And…?” Elliot says, still not quite catching on.

“All three of them are going to be waiting for the ax to fall, an ax that’s never coming… Am I right, Christian?” James says. I nod.

“You’re right,” I confirm.

“The terror of waiting for what might happen to them is scarier than anything that he could actually do to them. They may just quit or stress themselves out worrying,” Val finishes.

“Especially if I see any of them anywhere and call them out by name,” I say. Elliot shakes his head.

“And… you’re worried about what?” he says. “That’s the assholest move I’ve ever seen.” Val elbows Elliot. “Ow, what?” he asks quietly, but Val doesn’t respond.

“What did they say?” James asks. Oh, shit. I knew this was coming. What the hell? That hole can’t get any deeper.

“’Big Dollar Grey is uptight. The wife must’a withheld that tight ass last night,’” I say. Elliot scoffs.

“Heh, that’ll do it,” he says without missing a beat.


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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 70—The Women

Hello my friends,

One of my readers and Facebook friends Charlette Bishop has lost her son and is unable to properly lay him to rest. As many of us are parents, I’m certain that we can empathize with the unimaginable pain of possibly losing a child. Couple that with the distress of being unable to provide that child with a proper burial, and the situation becomes utterly unthinkable. I’m asking anyone who can to please follow the red link below and donate to the family’s efforts to bury their loved one. There’s strength in numbers, y’all, and I can guarantee you that ANY AMOUNT will be appreciated. Please help if you can.

Help A Family Bury A Beloved Son

I know every week, it seems like it’s something else, but you can’t time when these things are going to happen. Please, PLEASE help if you can. Thank you in advance.

GOLDEN—I’m getting a lot of inquiries about her. I haven’t abandoned the story, but I have to follow the Muse. I’ve been battling (and I do mean BATTLING) with a particular storyline for Raising and if I break off of it, I’m going to lose 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…

Chapter 70—The Women

ANASTASIA

“All the Grey women have gone on shopping sprees for our weddings,” Mia begins.

“I didn’t!” Val protests.

“Well, then, we rectify that now—for you and for Luma,” Mia protests.

“But I don’t need anything, child,” Luma says sweetly. “Herman gives me everything I need and more. I don’t even have to work if I don’t want to.”

“There’s not one little thing that you can think of that you may want for yourself?” I ask. “That’s the whole idea of the Black Friday shopping spree. I can almost guarantee that none of us actually needs anything. I’ll probably be loaded down with baby gear—since Harry is quickly introducing my son to the joys of walking. Val, I know you’re going to be on the lookout for cute maternity clothes and stuff for the baby’s room. This is the time to not think about prices and do the impulse shopping thing. Hell, I hate shopping, but I look forward to this every year.”

“Don’t worry, Luma,” Grace says, hooking arms with her. “I’ll show you how it’s done.”

By the time we’re getting ready to head to Miana’s, Luma has shed her timidity of shopping and has purchased some beautiful new pieces. She admits that she could use a color and trim but won’t go overboard at the salon. As usual, Sophie sticks close to me in this setting, but doesn’t say too much. I guess it’s up to me.

“So,” I say as we’re getting our pedicures. “Thanksgiving.” She twists her lips.

“Yeah—food, fun, family, yippee,” she says with little enthusiasm.

“You’re beginning to sound like a surly teenager,” I say, raising my brow. She sighs.

“Usually, it’s just me and Mags, talking about… whatever, and Mariah and Celida and let’s face it. They’ve been through some crappy stuff losing their mom and their dad, but they’re basically the same person and they’re both… so young. At first, hanging around them was kinda fun. Now, it’s more like babysitting.” She looks down at her toes as the technician trims her nails.

“And Marlow?” I ask. She twists her lips again but doesn’t make eye-contact with me.

“What about him?” she says, trying to be impassive.

“He was pretty upset when he left yesterday,” I inform her.

“Hmmm,” she says, unmoved.

“Why do you think that was?”

“Because his girlfriend was mad,” she informs me matter-of-factly.

“So, what was her problem?” I ask.

“She can’t take a joke, I guess,” Sophie mumbles.

“Is that what happened?” I press. “You were joking?” She looks up at me and her expression says that she’s aware that I already know what happened.

“I wasn’t talking about her,” Sophie fibs. “Maggie doesn’t like her—I don’t know why. She’s says Britney’s a phony and that she’s anorexic because she so skinny.” I nod.

“I see. So… you didn’t say anything about Britney needing a gravy sandwich.” Sophie twists her lips and looks back down at her toes.

“That’s what I thought,” I say.

“That’s not what I said,” she mumbles.

“Well, what did you say?”

“I said she should have some more gravy. That’s all,” she says petulantly.

“And of course, that had nothing to do with her being skinny, right?”

Maggie said she was skinny, not me!” she defends.

“But did the gravy suggestion follow Maggie’s comment?” I accuse, and my little friend is quiet again. I’m a shrink, kid. Don’t try to pull anything past me.

“Listen, Sophie, I’m not really sure what the issue is with you and Marlow’s… dates, but this sparring really needs to stop. It’s only going to piss him off, and it’s only going to make him—and you—feel uncomfortable at family gatherings. Since we consider you both part of our family, that would certainly be a less-than-ideal development. From what I gather, what you said about Britney hurt her. Now, I know that twit Maya was a real piece of work, but did Britney do anything to bring that on?” She twists her lips again. She twists her lips a lot. I think that’s her tell.

“No,” she admits, looking back at her toes again.

“Listen,” I say turning to her, “you know that if anybody does anything unfair to you or treats you badly, I’ve got your back. But I can’t defend you when you’re deliberately mean to people for no reason. You wouldn’t want anyone to treat you that way, would you?” She nervously starts to twitch and fiddle her fingers. “Is something going on? Do you want to talk?”

She raises beseeching eyes to me as if she’s begging me to understand how she’s feeling and just as I swear she’s about to open up and talk to me, Mia and Val gleefully burst into the room to get their pedicures. She looks at them and clams up again, shaking her head that she has nothing to say.

And the moment is lost.

I reach over and take her hand, causing her to bring her eyes to mine again.

“Anytime, Sophia,” I promise her. “You can talk to me about anything, anytime.” She drops her eyes and nods again, but says nothing else. How long is this poor girl going to carry this torch and bear this burden by herself? She either needs to say something about it or get over it and move on.

When we arrive at Grey Manor after the shopping and the primping, Marlow’s car is visibly one of the vehicles in the circular drive and Sophie suddenly has the look that she would rather be anywhere but here. She looks like a caged rabbit, like if I open the door and let her out, she’s going to run into the woods and disappear.

“Chuck, Keri, can you take Minnie inside and start unloading the bags? I need to speak to Sophie.”

Chuck looks at me for an instant, then nods and exits the car. Keri quickly leans into the back where Sophie and I are sitting and removes Minnie from her car seat, leaving me and Sophie alone in the car.

“Okay, Sophie, the last time you looked that green was at Mia’s reception. Shortly thereafter, you had one of the guards take you home. There’s nowhere to run. What’s going on?”

She gives me that same look again and I’m just waiting for someone to come knocking on the window or throw the car door open to ruin the moment once again. Thank God no one does.

“You have to swear to me that you’ll never tell anybody—nobody, ever—or I’ll never speak to you again!” she vows.

“I’ll never tell anybody anything that you tell me unless I feel like you’re in danger,” I promise. She sighs and looks down at her lap.

“I like Marlow,” she says, her voice small, “a lot. I know he doesn’t like me like that. I know I don’t stand a chance. I know I’m too young. I know this will never happen, but it doesn’t make me stop liking him. I look forward to family gatherings and holidays because I’ll get to see him—and then he shows up with some twit or some scarecrow. Last year at Thanksgiving, we had a great time! We talked, and he didn’t make me feel like a kid. We could always talk. At Christmas, and New Year’s… and then at Aunt Val and Uncle Elliot’s wedding, he danced with me. It was…” She trails off, looking straight ahead out the windshield. “… Really nice. And then, the girls started coming around and… he stopped talking to me.”

Her gaze drops back to her lap as she tries to find her words.

“It was just like one day, I didn’t exist anymore,” she says, her voice cracking. “He used to ask me about school and talk to me about what he wanted to do, where he wanted to go to college. Now, he doesn’t even speak to me when he comes into the room! I’m not stupid! He’ll be graduating soon and I’m not even in high school yet. He’s way out of my league. Geez, I don’t even have a league, but did he have to start treating me like I’m nobody? Like he doesn’t even know I’m alive? What does it matter what I say about his scarecrow, vomit-dress-wearing girlfriends if he doesn’t even know that I’m alive?” she wails.

She buries her face in her hands and begins to sob. I put my arms around her and let her cry. I can’t offer her any comfort. She’s right. Crushes are painful, and she’s got a crush on someone that she can’t have. They might as well be on two different planets for the chance that she has to be with him—at all. It’s good that she understands that, but it’s bad, too. There’s no hope for them, yet she has to see him at every. Family. Outing. And he’s not going to stop bringing his girlfriends around. Now is not the time for me to tell her to buck up and get over it. It’s just going to make it worse, so I just let her cry.

Her crying doesn’t subside, and she eventually lays in my lap and continues to weep. After she’s been there for a few moments, Marlow comes out of the house. He looks left to right as if he’s looking for someone, then he quickly strides to his car. I realize that Sophie and I are the only ones who haven’t come into the house, and he’s looking for us… or at least he’s looking to avoid us.

Don’t worry, Marlow, the coast is clear. She doesn’t want to see you right now any more than you want to see her.

After belting himself into the seat, he starts the car and drives off, unknowingly leaving Sophie in a puddle of her own tears.

*-*

I didn’t realize that I had completely skipped my session with Ace until Christian asked me about it at brunch the next day. I don’t even know if Ace expected me to keep a session on Black Friday. Nonetheless, I didn’t hear from him and he didn’t hear from me, so…

It’s time for the Greater Seattle Adopt-A-Family Reunion and I’m ready to see the families that we’ve helped throughout the years. Granted, Helping Hands isn’t the only charity that takes part in this occasion, but I’m still anxious to see the families that we’ve helped thus far. Last year, I was elegant in maternity green, but this year, I’m fierce in an elegant black halter gown with a beaded back and a pair of crystal-encrusted Circonvolu Strass Christian Louboutin stiletto strappy sandals. So that I don’t freeze my ass off, but I’m still able to showcase my gown, I’m wearing a burgundy custom-made full-length maxi coat that only buttons to the waist then flares out like a cape.

The rest of the ladies are equally elegant in their jewel-toned gowns and fancy footwear—Mia in rich magenta, Val and Mandy in brilliant blues, Luma in yellow topaz, and Grace in a deep, cheery pink. Our gentlemen all accompany us in sleek Brioni, Tom Ford, and Cesare Paciotti. Even my dad dons Armani for the occasion.

The initial portion of the evening has been changed from the usual cocktail hour to a more family-friendly meet-and-greet as some of the older children of the adopted families were invited to join us tonight. This, of course, means that Marlow is in attendance. I don’t know why I was fretting him bringing a date with him, but my concerns are unfounded as he accompanies his mother instead.

I can’t help but stare in wonder at the changes I see in them both since that day that we met. He was so angry, and she was so… small. She’s still a petite woman, of course, especially next to her very tall son, but back then, she was… emotionally miniscule. Her abusive husband had beaten all the life and energy out of her, and she was just here. Today, she looks vibrant and beautiful, refreshed. She’s telling me about her new beau, Zack—well, maybe not so new, she’s been seeing him for a few months now, but she won’t allow anything to become too serious too quickly. That’s the reason we haven’t met him yet.

We talk for a moment about Maggie and Marlow and the strides they’ve made in the last two years. She mentions that Maggie sometimes asks what happened to her father. She’s gotten older and understands the world a little better, but still doesn’t know the whole story. Marcia just glosses over it when the topic arises.

“It may be time to tell her the truth,” I counsel Marcia. “She’s old enough to understand and whatever hypotheses she formulates, you want them to be based on facts.”

I shouldn’t be surprised that I have to don the Dr. Steele-Grey hat tonight. I don’t mind, though. The families have all come a long way.

We’re seated for dinner and we enjoy a delicious rack of lamb with trimmings while we congregate and share stories. As usual, a slideshow comprised of pictures of the families and various happenings with the supporting charities follows dinner, I get a kick out of hearing the various exclamations of recognition when people see their family or their organization on the screen. When the slideshow is over, I begin to make my way around the room to do the necessary networking required to make connections and keep the donations rolling in. While I’m mingling, I scan the room hoping to see the one person that I haven’t talked to in eons.

“Thelma!” I say once I finally spot her. She’s wearing a beautiful evening gown, silver with a hint of blue, lace back and crisscross scooped front with a special extra feature.

“I see congratulations are in order,” I add, taking a seat next to her once we greet one another. “When are you due?”

“This little bundle is due in March,” she says, rubbing her belly, “but if he’s anything like little Jimmy, he’ll be here by Valentine’s Day.”

“Couldn’t wait to meet Mommy and Daddy, huh?” I ask. Thelma smiles.

“No,” she laughs. “He was in quite the hurry.”

“How are things going?” I ask.

“Oh, Ana,” she says. “Things couldn’t be better. Jimmy fought to shake that infection at first, but he never took time off—that’s why it wouldn’t leave completely. I fussed a little, but you know my Jimmy… he’s hard-headed. Once he was finally well, though, he put some healthy weight back on, and he was feeling like himself again and…” She points at her stomach with both index fingers and smiles.

“I can’t remember a time we’ve been happier except when we first got married. His bosses saw how serious he is about his job and how well he works, and they made him a supervisor—a raise, better benefits… I’m able to put money away for a rainy day now. It’s been so wonderful. I’ve been meaning to call you and catch you up on things, but it’s kind of hard to do these days,” she laughs.

“I can imagine,” I say.

“It was wonderful to get the invite to the gala,” she says. “I couldn’t wait to see you and tell you turned our lives around. I can’t begin to thank you…”

“Ana!”

I’m caught off guard by a man’s voice exclaiming my name. I turn around and see a very stocky James coming towards us carrying two large glasses of what looks like orange juice.

“James, hi,” I say, rising from my seat. He places the glasses on the table.

“Oh, I was so hoping I would see you,” he says wrapping me in a warm embrace.

“I’m glad to see you, too, James,” I say, returning his embrace.

“Please, call me Jimmy,” he says, releasing me with a smile. “Bella only calls me James when she’s mad at me.” I raise my brow.

“I’m Bella,” Thelma says, raising her hand, and I nod. Jimmy turns to his wife.

“Isn’t she glorious?” he says, looking lovingly at Thelma before kneeling down to her.

“Stop it, now,” she says, playfully swatting his shoulder. He gently kisses her cheek and takes her hand.

“Do you need anything else?” he asks. “Are your feet okay?”

“My feet are fine, Jimmy,” she says cupping his cheek. “And you can have one glass of champagne if you want…”

“Oh, no,” he says. “I’m not taking any chances. It’s orange juice for us both tonight. I have to get my packages home safe and sound.” He smiles at her before turning to me. “Is Christian here?”

“Right behind you.” I turn to see Christian approaching us with a half-smile. “I saw some man wrapped around my wife and figured I better come and investigate.” Jimmy laughs heartily as he stands.

“Well, you have no worries here,” Jimmy says giving Christian’s hand a firm shake. “I only have eyes for that beauty right there,” he adds, gesturing to his wife.

“How have you been, man?” Christian asks. “Things been okay?”

“More than okay,” Jimmy emphasizes. “I can’t begin to thank you for everything you’ve done for us. You saved my life, man.”

“Think nothing of it,” Christian says. “It was the right thing to do.”

“No, really,” he says, gesturing for Christian to take a seat. Christian holds my chair out and I sit while James continues to make his point as both gentlemen take their seat.

“I was living in a death trap. I foolishly had my family there. I don’t know what would have happened if you two hadn’t come along. Ana gave my family a safe place to be while I was going through my insanity—and Christian, what you did for me…” His voice cracks a bit while he’s trying to speak. “Just… thank you, man… thank you the whole world.” Jimmy quickly wipes away a tear.

“You’re thanking me by living a good life and taking care of your family,” Christian encourages, “which I see is growing! Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” Thelma says with her full-beam glowing pregnancy smile. Jimmy’s right—she really is beautiful. She wears maternity quite well. As Christian and Jimmy discuss due dates and daddy duty, I catch Val’s attention in the crowd and gesture for her to join us.

“I miss champagne,” she says playfully as she comes over to the table.

“Thelma, this is my sister, Valerie,” I introduce. Thelma takes her hand.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Thelma greets. “How did I not know that you had a sister?”

“Well, we’re not blood sisters,” Val says, “we’re sisters-in-love, in a lot of ways. We’ve been friends for years and we happen to marry brothers.”

“Well, sisters-in-love are the best kind,” Thelma says. “Please join us…”

Very soon, the women are chatting away about babies and marriage and what have you. Val shares her experience with Meg while Thelma talks about how we met and how our family helped her family. After a long conversation, Christian, Val, and I excuse ourselves and head back to our table.

“I’m going to desert you guys for a moment,” Val says. “Nature calls.”

“By all means,” I say as Christian and I head back to our table.

“Well that’s a success story if I ever heard one,” Christian says pushing in my chair for me.

“I’ll say. I barely recognized Thelma. She looks so healthy and happy. She was barely holding on when I last saw her. She was doing better, but you could tell that being without Jimmy was taking its toll on her.”

“I kinda get it,” he says. “Think about how well we did when we were apart.” I can only assume that he’s talking about me trying to take a nosedive off a cliff when he went to Madrid and him turning into Death when I went to Montana.

“Yeah, not the best times of our lives,” I say, trying to brush away the memories. I glad to hear a soft voice over my shoulder at just that moment.

“Ana, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to intrude… may I please speak to you for a moment?” Addie comes over to our table. She’s frowning, but not angry. Her face is… troubled.

“Sure, Addie. Do you want to go somewhere more private?” Addie seems rudderless. Christian stands and pulls a chair out for her.

“Please, Adelaide, sit,” he gestures. “I’ll go and refresh my drink.” Adelaide looks at him and nods before taking the seat he’s holding for her. He touches my shoulder gently and heads to the bar.

“What’s wrong, Addie?” I ask. “Are you okay?” She clears her throat.

“The Center,” she says. “It seems to be doing very well.”

“It is,” I say cautiously. “Once we got over our last speedbump for accreditation, things began to move very quickly. We can barely keep up.” She nods.

“I barely recognize the place from the pictures,” she says. “Grace had been working on it for so long. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t taken much interest in it as a project until you brought it to my attention.”

Oh, hell. Is she about to tell me that she wants to become involved in Helping Hands? I can’t turn her down, but…

“Unless it’s true what they say and you’ve found my granddaughter’s physical twin, is it safe to assume that the woman in the apron that looked like her was indeed Courtney?”

I’m caught off guard by the question. I thought I took special care not to use Courtney in any of the pictures to protect her anonymity from her grandparents.

“Yes, Addie… it’s Courtney,” I confess.

“I see. How long has she been here?” she asks.

“She never left,” I inform her. Addie nods and twists her lips.

“So much for teaching her a lesson,” she laments. I shake my head.

“Oh, Addie,” I say, “you have no idea. Courtney learned that lesson and more.” I turn towards her in my seat. “She made me swear not to tell you that she was still here. She feels like she’s hurt you and Fred enough and your words cut her to the quick.” Addie raises her head and her gaze meets mine.

“Am I supposed to feel guilty about what I said… after how she treated me?” she asks, appalled. I shake my head.

“You had every right to say what you were feeling after what you had been put through,” I reply, neither condoning or condemning her choice of words. “I’m only stating that they had the desired effect. Courtney feels that you two are better off without each other because of the way she treated you and because of your words to her. She was at Mia’s wedding reception.” Addie’s eyes widen.

“Mia’s…” Her words trail off. “They’re friends again?”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” I admit, “but they’re cordial enough where Mia was okay for her to come to the wedding. It didn’t come easily.”

“I can bet,” Addie says. I catch her meaning, but I don’t bother trying to smooth it over. Apparently, Courtney was right. That bridge is too badly burned for them to walk back across it.

“I discovered her in a homeless shelter right before I had the twins,” I tell her. “She had asked me for help, but I turned her down. Like you, I felt she was a lost cause. Our security had been keeping an eye on her because she threatened me, and they informed me that she was at the shelter. I found her going through the classifieds looking for a job.

“Grace put her up at the shelter at Helping Hands and gave her a part-time job there. She moved to subsidized housing and she lived there for quite some time—in a terrible part of town—but she was grateful as she said anything was better than going back to Putchatoowak or whatever that place is called.” Addie turns her head to me, and I just keep talking.

“She enrolled in school.” That piques her attention. “I got her a laptop as she was in no position to buy one herself. However, she took the bus to and from school and got back to that horrible little apartment after dark. She said that she wasn’t afraid because the neighborhood guys looked out for her, but she was a young girl living alone going to and from school and work leaving in the early morning and returning after dark. I couldn’t in good conscience leave her in that position.

“I offered her my condo. She refused. I convinced her that it was an investment and begged her to take it. The place where she was living was roach-infested and unsafe. It was deplorable. We worked out rent that she could afford and she moved in, a condition of her stay being that she get good grades, she continues to work with Helping Hands, and she becomes an asset to us upon graduation.”

What is she studying?” Addie asks in disbelief.

“Social work.” She frowns.

“You’re kidding.” I shake my head.

“I’m not,” I tell her. “She wants to work with children. More than one abused or troubled teenager has come through the Center and Courtney has brought them out of their shell or made them feel safe. That’s what made her choose social work. You know that she had no skills and no direction before. Now she does.

“I’ve asked her several times to allow me to contact you and tell you about the change in her life—in her attitude and her outlook. She refused. She begged me not to tell you. She spotted you at Mia’s reception and made a hasty retreat before you spotted her.”

“No, she didn’t,” Addie says, now looking at the table. She didn’t what?

“She didn’t get away before I saw her,” Addie says as if I had verbalized my question. “I did see her. She was… beautiful… and I didn’t recognize her. I assumed that my eyes were playing tricks on me, not only because I had sent her back to Chuktapaw nearly a year ago, but also because I thought there was no way in hell that Mia would allow her to come to the wedding. So, I blew it off. I figured if I didn’t hear from her after what happened this summer, I wouldn’t hear from her at all.” I frown.

“What happened?” I ask. Addie raises her eyes to mine.

“Her mother died,” she says. “I was listed as next of kin and when they contacted me, I didn’t even ask about Courtney. Her father had disappeared years before apparently and nobody was there to claim the body. I had her cremated and interred in the family tomb. There was nothing much else to do.”

Shit. Courtney’s mother is dead. I’m sure she doesn’t know. Should I tell her… or just let sleeping dogs lie? Jesus, what a conundrum.

“Then, when I saw her in the picture—smiling and wearing an apron… and serving fruit bowls to children…” She trails off again.

“Well, she’s here,” I say, crossing my legs. “She’s living in my condo, she attends Seattle Central and she’s at Helping Hands every day.” Addie raises a brow at me.

“Are you trying to arrange a meeting?” she asks. I sigh. I can’t believe I’m about to say this.

“No, Adelaide. I’m trying to avoid one.” Her eyes widen.

“How is telling me where she’s going to be every second of the day considered a diversion tactic from a meeting?”

“Because the way that I’m understanding what you’re saying and how you’re feeling, if anything happened to Courtney, assuming you could get to her, you’d cremate her, inter her remains in the family tomb, call it a day and forget she ever existed—assuming you don’t opt to donate her body to science for spare parts.”

Addie glares at me. Yes, Adelaide, she told me what you said.

“You’re our friend,” I continue. “Your daughter died this summer and there was no funeral—no mourning of the loss of your child that we knew of. We didn’t get the chance to comfort you, to give you condolences… you sent your respects when Burton Grey died, and we don’t even know your daughter’s name. Either you’re the coldest woman in existence—and I don’t believe that for a second—or this candle has been burned from both ends and is completely destroyed.

“I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Courtney is a changed person. I’ve watched the transformation myself for an entire year. She has a meaningful relationship—someone in her life who loves her very much. She’s got direction, drive, determination, but her wicks have disintegrated, too. She turned into a stuttering mess when she saw you at the reception and she got out of there as quickly as she could. She acknowledges what she did to you and how she treated you and for that reason, she doesn’t want to trouble you anymore, but she’s hurt, too.

“You wanted to hurt her, and you did,” I continue. “You wanted your words to cause her pain, and it worked. That knife cut through the bone. Nobody’s putting you in judgement because you were responding to an equally deep cut, if not a deeper one. But you can’t get offended because someone acknowledges the fact that what you said hurt her. It’s what you wanted, and you succeeded. Judging by how you feel about your daughter’s death and the fact that her passing gave you no concern for her daughter shows me that your pain and wounds are beyond the point of healing to the degree that you couldn’t even have a constructive conversation with Courtney.

“On the other side of that coin, Courtney’s in some place of martyrdom where she feels she needs to pay penance for what she’s done… not just to you, to everybody she’s ever hurt. In the process, she’s dealing with the gaping wound that your words left. So, the thought of even seeing you causes her anguish let alone speaking to you, not only because of what she did to you, but also because of what you said to her. To that end, it would be totally counterproductive on both ends for you two to see each other.

“If there are arrangements that need to be made in case of Courtney’s demise, let me know what you would like to do, and I’ll be the liaison to tell you that she has passed away should something happen to her. I won’t say anything about her mother unless she specifically asks. I think it’s better that she doesn’t know since there’s nothing that she can do about it.”

Addie shivers a bit, looking down at her frail, wrinkled hands.

“Thank you for being honest with me, Ana,” she says, her voice shaking, “though I wish you had told me this sooner.”

“I couldn’t,” I tell her. “I was sworn to secrecy, but I can’t avoid you seeing her on the screen. I wish I had been more careful about the pictures that we sent to the Greater Seatt…” Who sent the pictures? Who okayed pictures of Courtney? I wouldn’t have done that.

“Ana?” Addie says, bringing me back from my musings. I shake my head.

“I’m sorry,” she says. “I just couldn’t tell you. She asked me not to and I had to respect her wishes. Had you not seen her in the presentation, she would still be somebody you thought you saw at Mia’s reception.” She nods.

“I’m going to find Fred,” she says. “I think I’d like to go home, now.” Without another word, she rises from her seat and walks off in the direction she came. I pop my neck like I’ve just finished a prize fight.

“Well, she didn’t look happy.” Christian is back by my side the moment Addie leaves.

“Where’s Grace?” I snap, and he immediately jumps back.

“Um, I don’t know,” he says a bit defensively. I begin to scan the room for her, and I see her in a conversation with some other guests. Ignoring my husband, I rise from my chair and stride over to her.

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt,” I interject. “Grace, can I speak to you for a minute?”

“Of course, dear,” she says. “Excuse me, ladies.” I walk out into the hallway, not sure if Grace is following me. When I turn around, Christian and Grace are bringing up my rear.

“Ana, what is it?” she asks.

“Grace, I didn’t okay the pictures for the slideshow. Did you?”

“Yes,” she says, “I picked them all.”

“Including the one with Courtney in it?” I ask. She straightens her stance.

“Yes,” she says unapologetically.

“Knowing that Fred and Addie would be here?” Realization dawns on Christian’s face.

“Yes,” she replies finitely.

“Why would you do that?” I ask. “She has feverishly asked that we don’t tell her grandparents that she’s still here.”

“Because this is her family,” she says firmly. “Family needs to stick together, and you never know when you’re going to lose someone.”

“That’s not your place, Grace,” I say flustered. “You can’t push somebody’s hand until they’re ready!”

“And what if they’re never ready?” she retorts. “One of them will be looking down in a casket at the other and have nothing but regrets!”

“Then they’re never ready!” I say louder than I intended. “God, Grace, you may have caused more harm than good!”

“Then I’ll take that responsibility!” she snaps. “That girl is out on a limb doing everything she can to make something of herself and her life and she’s estranged from the only family that means anything to her. Her mother certainly doesn’t care…”

“Her mother’s dead,” I deadpan. Grace freezes.

“What?” she says.

“Addie’s daughter died this summer. I don’t even know what killed her. Addie never said a word. She retrieved the body, cremated it, interred it in the family tomb, and washed her hands. Courtney’s transformation is balancing on the head of a pin at any moment. I don’t have to tell you that—you’ve seen it. Yet, you think it’s a good idea to shove reconciliation down their throats that neither of them is ready for and probably don’t want because you feel like they should be speaking. How much sense does that make to you, Grace?” She’s struggling a bit for her words.

“You’ve proven my point,” she says. “She hasn’t seen her daughter in many years and when she does, she’s dead. She could have seen her before this, made amends before it was too late.”

“She hadn’t seen her daughter in years and when she did retrieve her body, she felt nothing,” I retort. “I would most likely do the same thing with my mother right now. She didn’t want to make amends! Unfortunately, Grace, some hurts don’t heal. So, while you’re trying to force a meeting that you think should happen, you might want to leave the psychoanalysis to the professionals!”

Grace gasps as I march away, and I hear Christian’s scolding tone behind me. I don’t care. She was wrong and it’s that simple. I head back into the ballroom and straight for the bar. I get a full glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. I can’t drink any hard liquor since I’m still here representing Helping Hands.

“Anastasia!” Christian hisses quietly, joining me at the bar. “That was totally unnecessary! You had no right to speak to my mother that way!”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Christian,” I say, taking my cabernet and moving away from the bar. “I didn’t speak to your mother that way. I spoke to a coworker—the director of Helping Hands—who used a charity function with our organization’s name on it to engineer a possible reunion that had nothing to do with her! She used her position to meddle in someone else’s affairs, a situation directly related to the Center no less. So, no, I wasn’t yelling at your mother and this has nothing to do with you!”

Christian’s face becomes stone and he pulls up to his full height.

“Very well, then,” he says. “The director of Helping Hands asked me to tell you that you can represent the Center tonight as she’s going home before she has one of her episodes.”

“Hmph,” I say, sipping my wine. “Her episodes. Didn’t her doctor warn us about her conveniently-placed episodes?”

Christian’s eyes become a metallic gray and he looks like he’s going to explode.

“Conveniently-placed or not,” he nearly hisses, “you yelled at my mother and she’s going home. Now, if you’ll excuse me…” He turns around and strolls coolly away from me as if we were just talking about the weather.

And that’s the last thing he says to me all night. It’s a fucking repeat of Val’s housewarming.

I try to keep up appearances, that London is not burning in the Grey camp, but everyone in our family can clearly see that Grace and Carrick have left and that Christian is avoiding me. Just when I’m sure that I’ve had just about enough of Christian hobnobbing with everyone else at the affair but me, I realize that he’s not quite finished making me feel shitty.

“You yelled at Mom?”

I turn around and find Elliot confronting me about mine and Grace’s altercation. I know that my mouth is hanging open, but I have no idea what my face is saying, because Elliot’s expression is clearly saying, “Oh, shit, what the fuck did I just do?”

I quickly scan the room for my husband. When I see him, he makes eye-contact with me almost immediately, then turns away and continues his conversation.

Welp, that’s enough for me.

I grab my clutch and wordlessly walk away from my brother-in-law. I retrieve my coat from the coat check and go out front to one of the waiting taxis.

Jesus, that’ll add fuel to the fire.

I say a prayer for my safety and get into one of the taxis, giving the driver my address and promising a huge tip if he gets me there quickly and in one piece.

He does.

“Mrs. Grey!” the guard says when I get to the gate. “What… where’s your detail?”

“Please open the gate,” I say, emotionally exhausted. The cabbie drops me at the portico, and I give him a hundred-dollar bill.

“Thank you, ma’am!” he says, awestruck.

“Thank you for getting me home safely,” I tell him. “You have a good night.”

When I walk into the grand entry, Windsor is rushing over to me. He has a puzzled look in his eye, no doubt wondering where everyone else is.

“Windsor, do you ever sleep?” I ask handing him my coat. He smiles.

“Yes, ma’am, I do.” I just nod and climb the spiral staircase. I look at my bedroom door, then I look at the nursery door. I opt for the nursery. I check on my children, and Mikey is sound asleep with his two middle fingers in his mouth. I check on Minnie and she’s silently looking up at me. No fussing, no fidgeting, just looking at me.

“Were you waiting up for me, Minnie Mouse?” I say to her sweet little face. I take her out of the crib and lay her on my shoulder, gently patting her back. She’s bringing me comfort, not judging me for how I spoke to her grandmother or for being Mrs. Grey or not saying something I should have or…

I sit there silently for a long time with my daughter, drawing on her unconditional love to give me some strength. It seems like I have to be strong for a lot of people, and lately I don’t have time for myself anymore. That can actually be a good thing, since it means that I don’t focus on my PTSD so much. I twist my lips and think about how I feel the need to journal right now. Then I remember Jason’s advice:

Talk to anyone who will listen.

Minnie will listen. She may not be able to respond or give me advice, but she’ll listen.

Then, I have visions of her subliminally absorbing what I’m saying and having nightmares about whatever incarnations of the Boogeyman that a baby’s brain can conjure.

That’ll never do… so I come up with another idea.

“Once upon a time, there was a girl named Cinderella,” I begin, sitting in the rocker with my daughter. “She lived in this great apartment and she had great friends and a great life. She didn’t have a boyfriend or anything besides this one psycho guy who thought they were meant to be together but that’s a different story.

“One day, she met this really beautiful prince with a really bad attitude. She just wanted to get away from him, but no matter what she did, she couldn’t escape. She fell in love with him and her whole life changed. People thought she didn’t have a right to be the princess. They called her names and talked about her being a bad person and only wanting the prince’s money and castle, but she loved him anyway. So, she ignored what the people said and stuck by her prince.

“As fairytales go, they got married in a beautiful castle and drove away in a classic chariot and flew away on a magic carpet to a faraway land to spend time together. Now, you would think that they lived happily ever after, but that’s not what happened.

“They had to come back to the real world from their faraway land, and terrible things happened, too many things to tell you, but Cinderella no longer felt like she lived in a castle with her prince. She felt like she was running from demons and devils and monsters all the time. People were always making her account for her thoughts and deepest feelings even when they were scary. People were sometimes trying to hurt her or even kill her…”

Too graphic.

“She longed for the days when the members of the court had nothing to do with her life, when it was just talking to the Mad Hatters all day and drinking wine and spending time with her friends all night.

“She misses quiet nights on the balcony and driving down the coast to nowhere, letting the sea breeze wash away her troubles.

“She misses unassuming daydreams about what her future holds—the things she could see and what she could become.

“She misses not being expected to be perfect because she’s married to the prince.

“She despises what people think they know about her and how they expect her to behave and their preconceived notions and theories about who she really is.

“She misses the simple, unassuming life that she once led…”

I sigh as I hold my daughter, now sound asleep on my chest.

“I don’t like being Cinderella,” I whisper matter-of-factly.

I sit with my sleeping baby for several more minutes, until I actually drift off myself in the rocker. When I wake, I put her back in her crib and slide out of my sleek silver strappy stiletto sandals. When I look out the door, the hallway is quiet. I don’t know how long I’ve been asleep, but it appears that no one’s home yet. I quietly close the door to the nursery and look at the door to our owner’s suite.

Cinderella’s room.

I don’t want to go in there.

I try to remember which room isn’t taken, assuming anyone wants to come back to my house tonight, the wicked old Cinderella who yelled at the queen.

I go into guestroom three and drop my shoes on the floor. I lie on top of the blankets fully dressed and fall asleep.

*-*

I’m disoriented when I awake. I don’t know where I am and for a brief moment, I forgot what happened the night before. I stretch and I feel an arm around my waist. I know how my husband feels so I don’t need to turn around. He’s coiled around me like he normally is and he, too, is fully dressed—well, at least shirt sleeves and pants that I can see. I need to get up. I slept like the dead and didn’t empty my breast all night. If I don’t relieve them soon, I’m going to ruin a perfectly good gown. I move a bit to wake Christian, but he shifts and pulls me closer to him. Well, that didn’t help. I sigh, thinking that I’ll have to jolt him from his sleep in order to get away.

“I heard you tell Minnie that you don’t like being Cinderella.”

I freeze. Shit, he heard my conversation with my daughter? I fucking hate that shit. I’ve done my fair share of eavesdropping, but I hate that he heard that—for many reasons. I was emotional when I said it; it was a private moment with my little girl; and it sounds really bad.

“You don’t like your life as it is?” he asks when I say nothing. I think about my response.

“I don’t like what’s expected of me simply because of who I am,” I reply honestly. “I have to behave a certain way, do all the right things, say all the right things, make all the right decisions and if I don’t, there’s hell to pay.”

“But, baby, that’s part of being an adult.” I wrench out of his grasp and sit up.

“No, Christian, that’s part of being Anastasia Grey,” I say, turning to face him. “I was an adult before I was Anastasia Grey, and I wasn’t under scrutiny for everything I said and did. Anastasia Steele came and went as she pleased. There was no one looking over her shoulder, no security details, nobody watching her every move. She was an adult, too, and she was not under the microscope. No one accused her of being a gold-digger. Nobody turned their noses up to her because of who she was or what she had. She only had to prove who she was, prove she was worthy, when she met you. Anastasia Steele became Cinderella and suddenly, her entire life—the good, the bad, and the ugly—are on display for everybody to see, and no matter what happens, Cinderella has to keep smiling. Cinderella has to keep representing the castle. Cinderella’s not allowed to hurt in public or fall apart in public and heaven forbid if Cinderella has a human moment at all. Le gasp, call the congeniality police! We have a major violation here! So, yes, there are many times when I don’t like being Cinderella!”

I rise from the bed and leave the guest room. I need to get to my breast pump or the shower before Niagara Falls releases from my boobs.

CHRISTIAN


“She’s not in the ladies’ room, Christian,” Val informs me after I’ve combed nearly every inch of this place looking for my wife. At first, I thought she was just being childish. Now, I’m scared shitless because I don’t know where she is. Bad things happen when my wife disappears.

“Sir,” Jason darts over to me and puts his hand on my arm. “I’ve tracked her phone. She’s at the Crossing.” I frown.

“How did she get all the way to Mercer and we didn’t know she was gone?” I bark.

“Because Chuck’s not here and she’s not wearing a tether, sir, except for her phone,” he retorts. “Remember tonight’s protocol? Chuck’s leaving town, we’re around family and friends, no need for extra security…”

He’s right. I agreed to lighter security tonight. Chuck has to be in South Dakota for his and his mother’s case against their brother. I can’t blame anyone for this one except myself…

And my careless wife.

She probably didn’t want to face me because of how she treated Mom.

“Let’s go,” I growl, heading for the door.

Everyone thought it best to head to their own abodes instead of coming to Grey Crossing, anticipating a showdown between me and my wife. The house is a tomb when I enter, only Windsor stirring to greet me.

“Mrs. Grey?” I hiss.

“She’s upstairs, sir,” he responds. “Will anyone else be coming tonight?”

“No,” I say, loosening my tie and taking the stairs two at a time. I head straight for the closed doors of our suite, but then I hear her voice to the right of me…

“Once upon a time, there was a girl named Cinderella…”

It’s coming from the cracked door of our babies’ nursery. Well, isn’t that adorable, I think angrily to myself. I’m tearing up a banquet hall looking for her and she’s here reading bedtime stories. I’m particularly livid after discovering that she took a goddamn taxi home!

“One day, she met this really beautiful prince with a really bad attitude. She just wanted to get away from him, but no matter what she did, she couldn’t escape. She fell in love with him and her whole life changed. People thought she didn’t have a right to be the princess. They called her names and talked about her being a bad person and only wanting the prince’s money and castle, but she loved him anyway. So, she ignored what the people said and stuck by her prince.”

Wait a minute. I’m new to this Disney thing, but even I know that’s not how that story goes. I lean against the wall next to the door and listen to her describe Cinderella’s life after she married the prince—the scrutiny, her fears, the dangers that followed her. I sigh heavily listening to her talk about how she misses how simple her life was before she met the “prince.”

“I don’t like being Cinderella…”

And it didn’t take a rocket scientist or even that statement to know that she was talking about us.

This conversation—this altercation or whatever it was that happened with her and Mom and more importantly, her leaving in a damn taxi without security—it needs to be addressed, but not tonight. She sounds raw and a bit vulnerable and this is not the time.

I go to our room and remove my jacket, tossing it and my tie onto the bed. I want a drink but think better of it. Instead, I’ll just sit here and wait.

And wait…

And wait…

And wait.

My mind replays the conversation she had with my mom. From what I understand, Mom was trying to orchestrate a possible meeting between Adelaide and her granddaughter and apparently, Butterfly and Courtney knew nothing about it. I don’t have all of the details, but she was pretty hard on my mom and I really thought that was very unnecessary. Mom left shortly after Adelaide did and… to be honest, I’m pretty gray—pun intended—on what happened after that.

My wife and I had some words, they weren’t kind, and I refused to argue with her in public. According to Mom, she would have to represent Helping Hands for the rest of the evening, and I was doing my best not to hinder that, but when Elliot asked me where Mom was, I told him the truth. The last time I saw her, she was glaring at me and Elliot was glaring at her, so I assumed he had asked about the altercation. I turned my head for a second, and when I looked back, she was gone.

I didn’t think anything of it. I thought she had taken Elliot aside to tell him her side of the story, but when a while later I saw Elliot and no Butterfly, I thought she had explained things, and everything was okay…

Until…

“Man, if looks could maim, I’d be castrated by now,” Elliot says. “All I could think was ‘back away slowly’ which is what I was trying to do, but then she just whirled around and took off out the door.” I frown deeply.

“Out the door?” I ask. “Where did she go?” Elliot shrinks a bit.

“I assumed she went to the ladies’ room,” he says. I look at my watch.

“Elliot, that was over half an hour ago. Nobody has seen her since!” I announce.

“Hey,” Val says, interrupting our conversation, on purpose no doubt. “Why so serious?”

“Val, would you mind terribly checking out the ladies’ rooms and seeing if my wife is hiding out in one of them?” I ask. She raises her brow knowingly to me then looks at Elliot.

“Mom and Montana had words,” he tells his wife. “It hasn’t been a good night.”

Grace and Ana,” she says, a statement, not a question.

“And me,” I admit, “but we didn’t fight. I was just not happy about her yelling at my mom.” Val twists her lips and rolls her eyes.

“I’ll be back,” she says as she heads off to the restrooms.

And now, I’m here, waiting and waiting for her to finish her remix of Cinderella with whatever child has her attention now. After waiting for I don’t even know how long, I toe out of my shoes and go back to the hallway. The nursery door is closed now, so I peek inside.

She’s not there.

I go down to the kitchen to see if she’s gone in search of a snack or a drink. She’s not there either. She’s not in the family room, the entertainment room, the movie room, her parlor, the office, or the gym.

Where the fuck is she now?

I’m almost tempted to activate the two-way but decide against it this late at night. I go back up to the second floor and begin to check the guest rooms. I would have thought not, but with the whole hating Cinderella thing…

Sure enough, I find her in the last guest room, curled up on the bed in her evening gown fast asleep.

And we’re sleeping in our clothes again.

I crawl in bed behind her and spoon her, falling asleep almost instantly.

*-*

“I had no idea that being married to me was such a goddamn trial,” I say to Jason while running on the treadmill the next day.

“You’re kidding, right?” Jason says. I look at him bemused. “No offense, sir, but working for you is a trial. I can only imagine what being married to you is like.” I frown.

“Don’t try to be cute,” I hiss. “It doesn’t suit you.”

“I’m not!” he snaps back. “That woman has been in your life for two and a half years. I know it’s not all bad, but I haven’t seen anybody go through the trials and tribulations that woman has been through just being married to you. Everybody’s watching her, people are gunning for her, she’s got to prove herself all the damn time… She can’t step wrong, she can’t be unhappy, she can’t be human. It’s a miracle she hasn’t had a nervous breakdown by now.”

“But she couldn’t have expected it to be easy when she agreed to marry me,” I protest. “Look at my life! She knew what she was signing up for.”

“Yeah,” he says, and nothing else. There’s something else behind that.

“Yeah, what?” I ask. He looks over at me without losing his stride.

“She’s still human, boss,” he says with a running shrug. “Whether you know what you’re signing up for or not doesn’t necessarily mean that you take it all in stride when it comes at you. And last night’s episode had nothing to do with being married to Christian Grey…”

“I didn’t say that! She did!” I protest.

“You didn’t let me finish,” he says. “It had nothing to do with being married to you, but it had everything to do with her version of Cinderella. She’s got responsibilities to people. One of those responsibilities was exploited last night and she was supposed to be okay with it—plaster a smile on her face and keep the night going. Nobody acknowledged her point of view last night. Whether it was right or wrong, nobody bothered to say, ‘I get it.’ Mrs. Wilson wanted to know why no one told her the truth about her granddaughter and she left upset. Dr. Grey was dug in that Mrs. Wilson had a right to know that her granddaughter was still here no matter what the consequences and she left upset.

“You heard your wife yelling at your mother and your mother left upset and that made you upset and you cut her off. Granted, you did it to prevent a public spectacle—which was smart—but she still got cut off. Then, whatever you told Elliot, he confronted her, and she was already burning the wick at both ends.” He does that imitation of an explosion with his hands and mouth. “We’re lucky she didn’t check into a hotel somewhere and turn her phone off. We were downtown after all.”

“God,” I sigh. “Our marriage isn’t going to survive this constant up and down.” Jason slows his treadmill down.

“Yes, it will,” he says, catching his breath. “This is marriage. It’s a constant up and down until you die, and you haven’t even hit your highest ups or your lowest downs. Why do you think they say love is a roller coaster? You didn’t expect it to be easy, did you?”

Yeah, I kinda did. My mistake.


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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 69—Big, Huge “Guess What Happened’s”

Thanks, you guys for your encouraging words to me… and thank you more for your encouraging words to each other. It makes me happy to see us lifting each other up when we’re down. I’m so proud of you guys!

Send healing vibes, prayers, and positive thoughts out to my reader and Facebook friend Alyson. She just had a stint in the hospital and by the Grace of God, she’s home and hopefully doing better. Smoochies, Alyson!!!

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

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

Chapter 69—Big, Huge “Guess What Happened’s”

CHRISTIAN

“She did what?” I ask my wife when she calls home to see who’s here for Girl’s Night.

“She shaved her head,” she confirms. “It really looks good on her, but Christian, she shaved her goddamn head!”

“Where is she now?” I ask. “Can she hear you?”

“No, she’s in the back getting the rest of her stuff. Oh, God, I’m so sorry, Tina,” she mumbles.

“You didn’t do anything wrong, Butterfly,” I comfort.

“I want to fucking fire somebody, but she’s a grown woman! I can’t tell her not to shave her head!” she rants.

“Don’t fire anybody,” I coax. “Women do this all the time nowadays. It’s not a strange thing.”

“So, if Minnie came home with her head shaved, you wouldn’t have a problem with it,” she states matter-of-factly. My blood actually curdles when she says that.

“We’re not talking about Minnie,” I divert. “We’re talking about a grown woman who has just lost her mother, went through a nasty divorce, and has had to contend with horrible siblings who have now broken into her house.”

“Well, it feels the same to me,” Butterfly says. “I feel like Tina trusted me with her daughter and I took her out and got her scalped.”

“Believe me, my mom is laughing right now,” I hear Harmony say, and I know that she’s caught us in the middle of our conversation.

“You scared the shit out of me!” Butterfly scolds.

“You shouldn’t be talking about me,” Harmony teases, and it’s good to hear the humor in her voice. “Hi, Christian!” she yells.

“Hi, Harmony,” I reply, and Butterfly relays my sentiment. “Just so that I can prepare the staff, are we talking Bruce Willis bald or Demi-Moore-G-I-Jane cut?”

“Demi,” she says, a bit reserved. “I just… wish she had warned me.”

“You were the one talking about detoxing and cleansing. This is very cleansing. I love it. It feels clean and free and I look great. I think I’m going to leave it this way for a while.”

“It’s not like you have a choice!” Butterfly points out.

“I do have a choice,” Harmony says. “I could let it grow back. I’m thinking not.”

“Well, it’s your head,” Butterfly says.

“Yes, and let’s stop talking about it. I’m starving.”

“Good, ‘cause we’ve got Girls Night. On our way babe,” she says into the phone. “I didn’t get a chance to tell you what happened at your house…” and the line goes dead.

Harmony shaved her head. Good grief.

I don’t know what my wife meant by Girls Night, but as it turns out, only Victoria and Courtney show up. Gail and Ms. Solomon keep them well stocked with food and snacks while one of us guys plays bartender from the bar in the entertaining room. We offer to spare Chuck the trouble of transporting drinks, considering that he’s a recovering alcoholic, but he assures us that he’s not even tempted. I have no doubt, considering that we couldn’t even get him to take ibuprofen when he was suffering from broken bones.

The women retreat to the movie room and burrow in for the night, watching a plethora of movies from different genres. We’ve each been unlucky enough to walk in during some scene or conversation that has the entire group weeping like fools and are quick to make a hasty getaway. Somewhere around three or so, all four women are kicked back in the luxury chairs, calling the sandman.

In the morning, they all pile into the big SUV and head to breakfast—somewhere—with two of the guards and I’m ceremoniously summoned to my father’s house.

“Elliot finished the room on Thursday right in time for delivery,” he says as he leads me to a newly renovated room in the house. I’m by no means prepared for what I see when I open the door.

“Jesus Christ, Dad,” I breathe when I step inside, “Freeman was teasing you for getting this?”

“Remember, son, we’re clearly talking about an asshole here,” he reminds me. Oh, yeah, how could I forget.

I walk around the room completely stunned. Every wall is covered with display cases, and there are more of them lined up in the middle like library shelves. Case after case after case of model, wood, and Diecast cars—antiques, roadsters, sedans, trucks, you name it. The higher portions of the walls have been decorated with old pictures of Dad and his brothers, Pops and Granma Ruby, Mom and Dad when they were younger, and even old pictures of me, Elliot, and Mia. Atop the display cases are my old rowing trophies from the boathouse, Elliot’s judo trophies, and awards and accolades that Mia has received throughout the years. There are also some older trophies that I don’t recognize, and I assume that they’re from years gone by of Dad and his brothers.

“With real cars, Dad may have been a Ford man, but when it came to his models, he didn’t discriminate.” He leads me to one display case that’s full of Chevys and I’m amazed at how realistic they look.

“I tried to get the room as close as I could remember to how Dad kept it,” my father says, touching the display lovingly. “Look at this…” He gently opens one of the cases and pulls out one of the model cars. The doors actually open and you can see the detail inside the car.

“Dad painted those seats himself,” he says as he holds the car up to eye level. “The paint’s faded a bit over time…”

“… But I can tell,” I say, examining the car closely in my father’s hand. “Wow…” The amazement in my voice brings a warm smile to my father’s face.

“We spent hours in here,” he reminisces as he closes the doors to the model in his hand and replaces it on the shelf, “or I should say in a room that looked just like this one. The other brothers never really got into it but me…” He put his hand on my shoulder and leads me to a table in the corner, clearly built as its own showcase, and there it is. I gasp a bit when I see it.

“The Coupe!” I exclaim quietly in wonder. On the small table is a perfect replica—almost—of the classic ’32 Ford Coupe that we had shipped here for Dad. The purple isn’t as deep as the real car, and the model has racing flames on it. But other than that, this car is Dad’s Coupe.

“Uncle Herman was right,” I say, looking at the model then at Dad. “Pops meant for you to have that car. He built it damn near just like the model.” Dad nods.

“That was my dad,” he says. “He always paid attention to the small stuff, and it made all the difference in the world.” He chokes up for a moment but quickly recovers. “I hope that one day your son will be able to enjoy this room with me… or with you…”

I don’t like the ominous undertone of his suggestion.

“He’ll get to enjoy it with you first, Dad,” I say, putting my hand on his shoulder. “You’ll tell him the history of the cars and how they made it to the collection. I’m sure that you remember each one.” Dad smiles.

“That I do, son,” he says.

As predicted, Dad and I spend hours in his model car room, talking about each car and how it became part of the collection. We don’t have time to review each and every car, but each car that we talked about had its own story attached to it. Freeman is a real asshole if he can’t see how priceless a gift this really is.

“This is really incredible, Dad,” I say, trying to absorb everything he’s told me about each car. “This is a car enthusiast’s dream.”

“Or the fairytale-land of a little boy who really looked up to his dad,” he says, gazing over the room fondly.

“Where’s Uncle Herman?” I ask when I realize that I haven’t seen him since I got here.

“He and Luma have gone out of town, I think,” Dad says. I frown.

“You think?” I ask. He shrugs.

“I think seeing Mom’s things made him a bit melancholy. So, he asked me and Grace to keep an eye on the girls and he whisked his woman away for the weekend. You can’t deny they need some time to themselves. Herman’s been dealing nonstop with the disposition of Dad’s estate. Luma has the girls and although I’m sure that you’re a very nice boss, she works 40 hours a week. She and Herman don’t really get much alone time together.” I nod.

“Maybe she should consider going part-time,” I suggest.

“I didn’t tell you that so that you could cut her hours, Christian,” Dad informs me. “I get the feeling that Luma really likes her job, and she hasn’t complained about it once. Had I not told you that she was away with Herm, you wouldn’t have known. Did she ask for any time off?”

“Well, no…”

“Then leave it be,” Dad instructs. “She likes going to work and she’s not the least bit unhappy. And even though Andrea is her superior, Luma’s very fond of her. She talks about Andrea like she’s her daughter and she respects her—and you—immensely. So, if you suggest that she shorten her workweek, she’s going to do it even if she doesn’t want to. Catch my drift?” I sigh.

“Yeah, Dad, I hear you,” I say, sounding like a scolded child.

“Good. Now come and have a scotch with me and let’s celebrate my fabulous Dad and this incredible car collection.” I smile.

“You got it, Dad.”

*-*

“You’re not going to believe whose about to lose their shirt,” Lorenz says coming into my office Monday morning. He’s piqued my attention.

“Who?” I ask.

“William Kavanaugh,” I raise my brow.

“Kavanaugh?” I say in surprise. “What the hell is going on with Kavanaugh?”

“It appears that Willie Boy has another heir to the Kavanaugh fortune on the way, and Mrs. K has had enough. She’s got herself a cutthroat attorney and Kavanaugh will be lucky if he escapes with his shirt!” I whistle.

“So, the chickens have come home to roost on Kavanaugh, huh?” I say.

“Looks that way,” Lorenz confirms taking his seat.

“How much time before he’s ripe for the picking?” I ask.

“Now,” Ros says, striding into my office and joining into the conversation like she had been there the whole time. She’s got the latest Financial News in her hand and she drops it on my desk, open to the page announcing that Kavanaugh Media is officially on the block. “You heard, too?” she says to Lorenz, who nods.

“This must have been going on for quite some time,” I observe while reading the announcement.

“Their marriage has been falling at least since Kavanaugh became a grandpa.” That long! Geez, that’s back when Kate tried to pin her kid on Elliot. I wasn’t even married yet.

“And the newest heir to Kavanaugh Media?” I press.

“Due any day now,” Lorenz says. “The misses filed for divorce nearly a year ago. He’s selling Kavanaugh Media because the selling price is worth more than the company would yield in its current state and he knows he can get it.”

“That’s because he doesn’t have time to hold out,” I say, finishing skimming the article. “I’m not interested in the media but selling that bitch off piece by piece could turn quite the hefty profit no matter what we pay for it.”

“You were reading my mind,” Lorenz say. I raise my eyes to Ros.

“You think we could put a decent bid up for it?” I ask. “We all know I’m the last person that fucker wants to sell to.”

“I’ll see what we can do,” Ros says, standing. “You never know, Christian. People do strange things when they’re desperate.”

“That they do,” I concur as she leaves my office.

“Lorenz, how did you guys land on this before I did?” I ask after Ros leaves.

“It’s my job to keep my ear to the ground,” he tells me. “I know a lot of people; I go to social events. One person’s rumor is another person’s truth… That’s pretty much how. Kavanaugh’s next love child was no more than water-cooler talk at the champagne fountain of some fundraiser somewhere. It snowballed into divorce and the sale of Kavanaugh Media because the guy is about as discreet as a Tyrannosaurus Rex stomping down 4th Street. He was able to keep it out of the press for most of the year because—face it, he is the press. But once that media giant went on the block, all the rumors and speculations became leads and…” He makes an exploding sound and motion with his hands.

“So, basically, getting him to sell could be as simple as the right approach,” I reply, because Kavanaugh truly is going to be desperate after child support and alimony hits his ass, but still maybe not desperate enough to sell to GEH.

“That’s possible,” Lorenz replies. I twist my lips.

“Any word on his daughter, Kate, these days?” I ask. The last I had heard of Kate was when she crashed Mia’s bridal shower.

“She’s been under the radar,” he replies. “You smellin’ something?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “Maybe not. Just see if you can scare her up. Use Alex if you have to.”

“Will do.”

So, Kavanaugh’s in the proverbial hot seat. Jesus, he’s older than I am—old enough to be my father—and still making babies… outside of his marriage, no less. Not that I condone infidelity of any kind, but if you’re going to stray outside of your marriage, why the hell wouldn’t you at least use a condom?

And Kate—is that why she showed up at Mia’s shower? Was she hoping to get back into the family’s good graces because she knew that Dad was headed down the tubes? And where is she now? She was aching for publicity a while back—why the silence? And where, pray tell, is the not-the-father baby? That kid just disappeared into thin air!

Now I really want to know what’s going on with the Kavanaughs. As I’m pondering what might be going on with Daddy Kavanaugh and his ice-queen daughter, I get a distressing text from my wife.

**Dealing with a crisis. I may be late. **

Harmony’s at our house, so what crisis is this?

**Something at the Center? **

I wait for a moment for a response to put my fears at ease.

**More personal. It’s not me, but still important. I can’t talk about it right now. **

You can’t drop an ominous fucking text on me and then tell me that you can’t talk about it.

**You know me better than that. **

I love you, Butterfly, but you know I can track your phone. As if she’s reading my mind, she replies:

**Keep your damn shirt on! I’m fine, but I can’t talk to you right now. I was just letting you know I’ll be late. Would you rather I not in the future? **

And that’s a threat.

**Sorry. See you when you get home. **

Now, I’m fucking dying to know what’s going on.

I stay a little later at the office finishing some things up since I know that Butterfly’s going to be late. While I’m trying to wrap up the days reports and some year-end tasks, my phone buzzes. I look at the display and it’s Dad.

“Ethan called today,” he says once I answer. “Says he wants to reimburse me for some of the expenses of the wedding.”

“He did?” I ask.

“You put him up to that, didn’t you?”

“Why would I put that man up to anything?” I ask. “The only thing I put him up to was giving me the guest list to his bachelor party so that I could vet those fuckers.”

“He just knew all the right things to say,” Dad accuses. “He sounded a lot like the conversations that you and I have.”

“He talked to me, yeah, but I didn’t put him up to shit. He’s a grown man. He came to me for advice and I gave it to him. There’s a difference, Dad…”

“Okay, okay, settle down,” Dad scolds, and it’s not until now that I realize my voice is rising and I sound defensive.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t mean to raise my voice, but when you said that, it made it sound like I was being manipulative, and I wasn’t. He wants to contribute to the expenses of the wedding, and he didn’t know how to tell you. In fact, I want to contribute, too.”

“The wedding’s all paid for, son,” he says.

“I figured as much, Dad, but did you have to cash in yours and Mom’s retirement for that shindig?” I ask. He sighs.

“Christian, a month ago, I gave each of my brothers $750,000. Do you think I would have been able to do that if I had been strapped for cash?”

“I’m quite aware that you have a dime or three to rub together, Dad, but so does Ethan and he wants to contribute to this wedding.”

“He doesn’t need to contribute,” Dad says. “There’s nothing left to pay for.”

“That may be the case, but that tens of thousands of dollar bakery bill came to his house.”

“What?” Dad exclaims into the phone.

“Yeah,” I tell him. “And you should know that right before they got in their helicopter and left for the night, Ethan cornered me and Butterfly and lamented about the largess of those cakes—just the cakes! He had a few other things to say about the over-the-topness of the entire production, but the cakes had him in dismay, much like they did for me at first, and you know what I mean.”

“Yes, I know what you mean,” he cedes.

“Well, my fears were put to rest when I discovered that the food was going to the homeless and to shelters. His concerns were multiplied exponentially when he saw that bill—paid or not. It’s going to emasculate him if you don’t allow him to give you something on that wedding.”

“What about me?” Dad asks. “What about emasculating me? That’s my only daughter and I gave her the wedding she wanted. Isn’t that a father’s responsibility?”

“Yeah, Dad. And you did it. Everything was beautiful—though a bit crazy—and Mia loved it. You did good. Now, let Ethan give you something towards your expense. I’m aware that you don’t need it, but he needs to give it to you. That may be your only daughter, and having a daughter now I get it, but that’s his wife.” Dad sighs again.

Fine,” he relents, “but I’m not taking a damn dime from you. Got it?”

“Okay,” I give in. I can deal with that if it means that he’ll allow Ethan’s pride to remain intact by contributing to what I now know had to be more than a million-dollar wedding. I got married in a damn castle. Wayne Brady sang to my wife walking down the aisle. We rode away in a classic Bentley, had a shopping spree in Paris, and were supposed to stay abroad for a month and I can still guarantee that my sister’s nuptials cost more than mine.

“How did you end things with Ethan?” I ask.

“I told him that I would give some thought to his request and get back to him,” Dad says.

“God, Dad, that sounds so formal. He’s family now, you know…”

“Yes, I know, but I had to see what his intentions were when he was suggesting helping out with the financial portion of the wedding,” he says. I frown.

“Now, I’m not catching your drift… what do you mean by that?” I ask.

“I’m old-fashioned, son,” he says. “I think a father should pay for his daughter’s wedding unless she specifically asks him not to—like with you and Ana. You wanted something specific and you got what you wanted. I’m sure there was no hard feelings with Ray on that…”

“Right,” I concur, coaxing.

“Well, with two money families, I’m ashamed to say it, but I didn’t know if Ethan was trying to make the statement that he could pay for this wedding and was just throwing money at me like, ‘I got it, old man…’”

“Dad,” I interject scolding, “did he give you that impression?”

“That’s why I asked if you had spoken to him,” he says. “I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t being handled.”

“Jesus, Dad, you have to stop being so suspicious.”

“Says the man who will vet the pizza delivery guy if he can,” Dad retorts. Touché.

“Okay, okay, I get it. But still, the man married your daughter. If we really thought he was up to anything, it’s a bit late, now, isn’t it?”

“It’s never too late,” Dad says, “but you’re right. I should have given him the benefit of the doubt.”

We talk a little longer and I feel that I’ve killed enough time in the office trying not to worry about what’s happened in Butterfly’s day that’s going to cause her to be late. Should I go to the Center and check on her? Hell, no! We know how badly that turned out the last time. It’s not that I don’t trust her, but… no. Just, no.

My eye catches one more email as I’m about to shut down for the evening. It’s from Ted Friedson informing me that he received the Apollo and that it arrived in better condition than expected. Although he admits that it’s still pretty worn, it’s in pretty awesome shape for a 100-year-old piano. He promises to have it in tip-top condition in a few weeks. I take a little comfort in that and think about where in the house I’m going to put it as I pack away my laptop and head to the elevator.


ANASTASIA

If she’s afraid of this guy, he must have been talking a really good game,” Alex informs me when I speak to him on Monday. “He’s a small-time hood—drug dealer, never more than a street runner. He’s got no connections—none. The only people he has fled a drug bust, left him to take the rap, and haven’t been in contact with him since. I still can’t tell you why she’s moving from place to place, but I’ve got a good theory.

“She’s obviously a battered ex—there’s a little proof of that… questionable injuries and hospital visits with no police report filed, leaving against medical advice and things of that sort. For whatever reason her family is non-existent, she’s on her own and he knows it. He must’ve preyed on it while they were together, I’ve seen it before, but to have her so petrified that she’s moving from place to place…? He had his own delusions of grandeur, no doubt, but he must’ve fed them to her, leading her to believe that he has power that he doesn’t have. So, in her mind, a few months, a half year or so is a safe amount of time to stay put, then it’s time to move on.

“I can’t swear to it, but in my eyes, this is one of those ‘if it looks like a duck’ situations. If she’s as spooked as you say she is, she had a co-dependent relationship with him where he filled her head with stories, threats, and the usual ‘you’re nothing without me,’ and he’s just got her scared shitless and she’s not sure what to do. Unless he’s got some power that I haven’t seen, he’s nobody—just some punk who preyed on a weak young woman.”

“Well, this is really good news,” I tell him, “not that he preyed on her and has her so afraid, but that he’s not this big bad person that she thought he was. She’s got skills and education that I really want to put to some use, and now I can… if I can just convince her that this Ge guy isn’t a threat to her.”

“I don’t know how to tell you to do that,” he says. “You can tell her that our investigation shows that he still incarcerated and that there’s actually no way that he could find out where she is unless he has the type of resources that we have—which he doesn’t. Besides, we’re swimming in security. How the hell is he going to get to her?”

“She’s not with us 24/7, Alex,” I remind him. “I think the best thing right now is for me to keep it simple—just tell her that as far as we’re concerned, everything looks good and she’s got a job, and then extend the services of the Center to her if she feels that she needs sanctuary. Fear is a powerful thing and unfortunately, other people can’t make you not be afraid.”

Ebony is thrilled to learn that we’re willing to give her a shot to see how things work out. She insists on working in the daycare to get the feel of things and maybe venture out into some of the areas that I think she’ll be a better fit for.

“Right now, I’m just really desperate for a paycheck,” she admits. “My emergency fund is nearly gone, and I need to have income soon. I’d love to see where else I can go and what else I can do, but… let’s start off small, if you don’t mind.” I nod.

“Not a problem,” I tell her, “whatever makes you comfortable. Welcome aboard.” I proffer my hand to her and she shakes it, sighing heavily.

“Thank you,” she breathes, as if the weight of the world has been lifted off her shoulder. I summon Courtney to show her around and get her started as Marilyn took the day off today.

I’m very soon to find out why.

“Hello?” I answer my phone shortly after having a late lunch.

“Yes, is this… Anastasia Grey?” the female voice asks.

“It is. To whom am I speaking?”

“This is Sylvie Cooper. I’m calling from Seattle Women’s Services and Family Planning.” Okay, maybe this is something to do with the Center.

“Yes, Ms. Cooper, what can I do for you?”

“I’m calling because one of our patients has you listed as the emergency contact. She’s had an outpatient procedure performed and… she came alone. She shouldn’t be driving, so she asked us to call you.”

This is strange. Outpatient procedure, Seattle Women’s Serv… oh, shit.

“Who is the patient?” I ask, as if I didn’t already know.

“Marilyn Caldwell.”

*-*

Marilyn looks like hell when I get to the clinic. I’m sure she’s had an abortion. I’m only hoping that she and Gary talked about this before she did it. I have a sinking suspicion that either they didn’t or that he’s vehemently against it, because he’s not here with her.

“Hey,” I say to her downcast face. “You ready to go?” She nods without saying anything and allows me to lead her out of the clinic. The ride back to the apartment that she shares with Gary is mostly silent. I simply concentrate on getting her to where she needs to be. I won’t give her the third degree and I won’t badger…

“Don’t you want to ask what happened?” she says, breaking my inner coaching.

“Only if you want to tell me,” I reply after a pause, even though I can pretty much tell.

“I was eight and a half weeks pregnant,” she says. “I terminated the pregnancy.” I nod.

“Considering the facility, I figured as much,” I reply. It’s quiet for a few more moments.

“Gary wanted to keep it,” she says. “I tried to explain to him that I wasn’t ready to have a baby right now and I wasn’t going to be forced into the decision to have one. He totally stopped speaking to me.”

“Does he know that you were terminating the pregnancy?” I ask. She doesn’t respond. Did she tell him or not? What does she plan to do—just present herself to him and say, “Hey, baby’s gone?” I pull into the parking lot of their apartment complex and put the car in park.

“Will you come up with me?” she asks. Is she serious? What does she want me to do, stand between her and Gary while she tells him that she terminated the pregnancy? Gary wouldn’t hurt her… at least I think he wouldn’t hurt her. He loves her… but she’s about to tell him that he’s not going to be a father if he doesn’t already know. I sigh heavily and turn the car off.

“Let’s go,” I say.

The apartment is bone quiet when we get there. I figured it’s because Gary’s not here, but she goes to the back where the bedroom is, and I can hear her talking.

“What are you doing?” I hear her ask. There’s a long pause.

“I…” It’s Gary’s voice. “I need some time,” he says, and I hear shuffling. Oh, shit. Should I leave?

“What do you mean?” Marilyn squeaks.

“I can’t be here,” Gary says. “I need… I just can’t.”

“So, you’re just going to leave?” she accuses.

“You had to know this would happen!” Gary shoots. “You killed my baby! You had to know I wouldn’t stay! I couldn’t! I can’t even look at you right now!”

He is pissed! I don’t know how to react to this because it’s Marilyn’s body. She would have had to carry that child for nine months. If she and Gary broke up, most often, the man has the option to walk away faster than a woman—although in this case, I have a feeling Gary would have stuck around—but he’s right. It was his baby, too, and she aborted it. I hate seeing them in this position because there’s nothing I can do. There’s no right or wrong, but it’s all bad.

They scream at each other for another minute or two, and just as I’m deciding I should leave, I hear Marilyn begging him not to go and Gary telling her that she can have the apartment since she left hers to move in with him. The bedroom door opens to an angry Gary storming out with a duffle bag and the sound of Marilyn’s weeping, still begging him not to leave. When he raises his head and sees me, he stops in his tracks and glares at me.

“Did you take her there?” he seethes. I’ve never seen him this angry in my life. I’m frozen for a moment, but then I shake my head.

“No,” I say, finally finding my words. “She… drove herself. The clinic called and asked me to pick her up. I couldn’t just leave her.” I don’t tell him that had she asked me to go with her, I would have gone. Although the thought of terminating my own pregnancy never crossed my mind, I agree with a woman’s right to choose.

His eyes soften, and I can see that he’s been crying, most likely for more than one reason. His lips form a thin line.

“Take care of her,” he chokes angrily. “She’s gonna need you.”

“Gary…”

He storms past me without another word and out the door, slamming it behind him. Marilyn hasn’t emerged from the room yet, so I approach with caution. When I breach the doorway, I see her crumpled on the ground weeping.

He left her like this?

I go over to her and kneel on the floor next to her. Her cries are so mournful, like someone cut off one of her limbs. She sounds like Luma when she was mourning the death of her son-in-law. I put my hand on her arms, and she starts to wail. She knows that my being there means that Gary is gone, and you can hear her anguish sinking all the way down to her feet. I just sit there with her, and let her wail…

I’m wrung down to my soul when I get home that night. It’s well after midnight and I’m so emotionally drained that I just go to the kitchen and sit at the breakfast bar. The house is dark, and I lay my head on my arms on the countertop. I have such an unreal headache that it feels like my brain is going to explode out of my head.

I’m not startled, nor do I raise my head when the lights in the kitchen come on. It’s tomorrow—of course, he’ll be waiting up and expecting to know where I’ve been. I don’t say anything as I feel rather than hear him cross the span of the kitchen in his bare feet.

“Do you want something to drink?” he asks, his voice controlled as he opens the refrigerator.

“Vodka,” I say from under my arms. I hear movement stop, then the cupboard open. I know he’s mad—or at least not pleased with me for coming home this late, and I don’t have the strength to justify my tardiness, for lack of a better word.

“Baby, what’s wrong?” he says, and I can feel him stroking my hair. I raise weary eyes to him wondering what I should and shouldn’t tell him. His eyes change, and he rubs my forearm.

“Tell me what’s wrong, Butterfly,” he says, his voice heavy with concern. Fuck it, I can’t carry this shit.

“I just put Marilyn on a plane to Spokane,” I tell him while worrying my horribly throbbing scar. “She’s going to spend some time with her parents, I don’t know for how long.” He raises his brow.

“You can’t be this upset about Marilyn taking a vacation,” he says.

“You’re right, I’m not… and it’s not a vacation.” He places a tumbler in front of me with a shot of vodka in it. I throw it back immediately and gesture for another. He fills it to a double-shot this time and I throw that back just as quickly.

“She’s escaping,” I say, after the double-shot burns its way down my chest. “She was pregnant.” His eyes sharpen.

“Okay, wait. I’m confused. She’s escaping because she’s pregnant?” he asks. “Is Garrett pissed? Did he threaten her?” I gesture to my glass again and he fills it with another double-shot. I just take a sip this time.

“No, yes, and no,” I reply, answering his questions as I replace the glass on the counter. “I’m telling you more than I should, but I wasn’t acting in a medical capacity today, so…” I take a deep breath. “No, she’s not escaping because she’s pregnant as she is no longer pregnant. She had a termination today. Yes, Gary is extremely pissed. He wanted this and one of the first things I heard him say when we got back to the apartment is, ‘You killed my baby.’ And no, he didn’t threaten her, but he did leave her and from the looks of it, he ain’t comin’ back.” I take another swallow of my drink.

“Oh, God,” he says, his brow furrowed, “that’s fucked up all around.”

“Tell me about it,” I lament, rubbing my forehead for the first time in forever. I have no idea what to do. Gary and Marilyn are both my friends and Marilyn’s my employee. They’ve both talked to me about how they felt about this situation and I’ve done the best that I can to give them both objective opinions without betraying the trust of the other. I can’t take sides, but I may be forced to, depending on how this plays out.

“I can only imagine what it must feel like being caught in the middle of this,” he says sympathetically.

“It was awful, Christian,” I bemoan. “Gary was so hurt, and Marilyn was devastated. I don’t know what to do. Her parents are in Spokane and with Thanksgiving coming up, she couldn’t stand to stay in that apartment alone. So, I helped her pack some things and she was on the redeye across the state.”

“So, no one’s in the apartment now?” he asks. I shake my head.

“I tried to call Gary, but he’s not answering. He probably thinks I’m going to ream him a new one for leaving Mare, but he has a right to his feelings, too.”

“So… any idea what now?” he asks. “I mean, whose apartment is it?”

“It’s Gary’s. He paid the lease for a year and near as I can tell, the only way out of it is to sublet or have someone buy out the lease. She gave up her apartment to move in with him, so he left and said she could stay. That makes me think that he might come back, because he only took a duffel bag, but…” I shrug and rub my head again, then my scar.

“Jesus Christ, what a mess,” he says as he retrieves another tumbler and fills it with ice and water from the refrigerator door.

“I can’t even fathom what to say to either of them right now. I can’t villainize either of them because they both have a right to feel what they’re feeling. What do you think?” My husband raises a brow and twist his lips before he places the tumbler of water in front of me. Yeah, I know—two double-shots and a single. Chug, chug.

“I can’t answer that question, Butterfly,” he says. “For obvious reasons, I avoid this particular topic of conversation at all costs.” I raise my eyes to his.

“What if it had been us?” I ask.

“But it wasn’t,” he says.

“But what if it had?” I press. He leans forward and takes my hands in his, then kisses both sets of knuckles before looking me in the eye.

“At all. Costs,” he repeats, letting me know that no matter how I press, we won’t be having this discussion. I sigh and drop my head.

“Dear, God, help me,” I groan. This can only get worse before it gets any better.

*-*

I receive a text from Marilyn when she lands in Spokane, then she—like Gary—falls into radio silence. Only two days without her this week and I feel as if I’m falling into oblivion. My calendar looks like hieroglyphics and when I suggested nabbing Luma again, Christian informed me that she had just returned to town herself and was needed at Grey House. No matter—Thanksgiving is here, and I plan to relax with my family for the next few days.

Harmony was not keen on coming to Thanksgiving dinner with our family, but Courtney and Vickie invited her to the condo and she gladly accepted—nothing as formal as a family gathering, but still with people she likes to be around… and she’s not alone on the first Thanksgiving without her mom.

I try to reach Marilyn and Gary on Thanksgiving, but neither of them answers or responds to my texts. I decide to leave them alone until and if they reach out to me.

Chuck reminds me that he and Keri will be going back to South Dakota for his and his mother’s case against his brother. I can’t believe he’s actually going to sue his brother. I mean, I can believe it… the bastard deserves it, but I guess I just can’t believe that it’s really happening.

Thanksgiving—a time of giving thanks, being around family, watching football and eating way too much food. Yet, all around me, I see sorrow and heartbreak and disappointment… people just trying to cope…

Harmony just buried her mother and her siblings are conspiring against her and treating her like the enemy.

Marilyn terminated her pregnancy and is now mourning the loss of the man that she loves.

Gary is mourning the loss of a baby and the dashed hopes of having a family.

No doubt, Carrick and his brothers are feeling the loss of their father right now. Even though Burt passed away months ago, going through the family heirlooms must have opened some of those old wounds, and like Harmony, they’re spending their first Thanksgiving without him.

And Freeman’s family—Lanie may feel no love lost, but Burtie and Nell loved that man and are no doubt having their own regrets today about the total breakdown of the family.

And of course, Chuck and his mom—having to sue his hateful brother for keeping the family apart with his lies.

And here I sit, journaling before I go to Val and Elliot’s for Thanksgiving, once again nothing on the pages about myself—just everyone else and their problems.

Thanksgiving… yeah.

*-*

“We’re not going to have a repeat of you two acting like children and Christian catching the plague, are we?” Val says when she opens the door.

“No,” I promise her, “we’re fine and we’re not bickering about the… sunshine yellow stucco!” I say with too much enthusiasm.

“Butterfly…” my husband scolds, coming in behind me and carrying our overnight bags.

“Yes, dear,” I say sweetly and obediently. He leans over and kisses me while Val and Elliot’s usual staff takes the bags from Christian.

“Are they permanent?” I ask, noting the same woman in the kitchen that was here for the housewarming.

“No, we just asked for them back,” she says, hooking her arm into mine. “Come sit with me in the living room.”

Val is positively giddy having the family over for Thanksgiving, much giddier than she was at her housewarming. Elliot sees to everyone getting their things settled in their various rooms before we all sit down for our various fall-spiced beverages.

Christian is dead set and determined to make sure that I don’t feel the ostracization that I experienced at the housewarming. He’s all snuggly with me and we’re playing with the babies in front of the fireplace. Val and Elliot already have their Christmas tree trimmed, so all of the babies—including my little brother Harry—are spellbound by the sparkling lights.

Sophia is playing with Mariah and Celida—more like keeping them occupied while her father and stepmother watches over them all. Herman, Grace, Carrick, and Luma all seem to be having a very interesting conversation of some sort. Val is bending Mandy’s ear about something while Mia and Ethan listen attentively, and Elliot and Daddy are probably talking shop. Just as I’m taking in my surroundings, I see Harry with Mikey, and they appear to be having a conversation. I watch them more closely and see Harry pulling Mikey’s arms. Is he…?

“Phone… phone…” I say, trying to be as calm as I can. Nobody’s listening to me, so I reach for Christian, who is cooing at his daughter, and tug on his pants. He raises his eyes to me and follows my gaze to my brother and my son.

“Son of a gun!” he says, fumbling in his pocket and finding his phone. People start looking to see what the commotion is, and before we know it, at least four phones are recording now.

Harry appears to be giving Mikey instructions in whatever gobbledygook he’s speaking, and Mikey follows instruction by grabbing both of his uncle’s arms with his grubby little hands. Harry’s unsteady little gait pulls Mikey forward until he’s standing, but Harry can’t comprehend why Mikey doesn’t start walking immediately after he stands. As a result, Harry pulls him forward again and Mikey stands only for a moment before tumbling over onto his little hands.

Harry’s getting a little frustrated with Mikey’s lack of pedestrian progress, but this entire thing is just a game to Mikey who, after each tumble, breaks into fits of baby giggles. Being on the same mental wavelength, his sister breaks into giggles as well and, let’s face it—who can’t laugh after hearing an infectious baby giggle? Soon, there’s an entire room of giggling adults and children, and the whole thing has been caught on video.

“Wow, what did we miss?”

I turn around to see Marcia and Maggie walking into the dining room from the vestibule. Maggie is getting so big. I remember when she just disappeared behind her mom.

“Hi, Marcia,” I say, rising from my seat on the floor. “It’s good to see you.” I hug her and compliment her on how good she’s looking these days while Maggie joins the other girls in the dining room. “Where’s Marlow?” I ask. I catch Sophie perk up in my peripheral vision.

“Oh, he’s here. They should be in shortly.” They? Who’s they? Did Marcia finally decide to bring her “plus-one” along? I find out shortly that there’s definitely a “plus-one,” but it’s not Marcia’s “plus-one.”

“Hi everybody,” Marlow greets as he enters the foyer. Behind him—and attached to his hand—is a tiny girl who looks a bit like a pre-teen. I try not to stare, but what’s more, I can feel Sophie glaring at them from behind me. I plaster a smile on my face and walk over to them.

“Hi, Marlow,” I say, kissing him on the cheek. “Who’s this?”

“This is Britney,” he says, pulling the girl closer so that she’s not lagging behind him. “She’s a sophomore at my school.”

Well, thanks for telling me that! The child doesn’t look more than twelve! Seriously, I’m petite, but she’s… thin, like really thin… like “Calista-Flockhart-when-everybody-thought-she-was-anorexic” thin, only thinner.

“Britney, this is Anastasia Grey. I told you about my mentor, Christian. This is his wife.” Britney smiles a smile that looks bigger than her face.

“It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Grey,” she says politely.

“It’s nice to meet you, too, Britney,” I reply with a smile. “Come on in and meet everyone…”

Britney is quite affable as Marlow introduces her around, and everyone returns her warm greeting—everyone, that is, except Sophie. Sophie’s polite, but cool, and either Britney doesn’t notice it, or she ignores it. Two points for Britney…

As the day moves along, things seem to be going okay. Sophie doesn’t appear to be sneering at Marlow’s date, but she also seems careful to keep her distance. Being shunned by one of Marlow’s dates was probably enough for her.

I’ll have to remember in the future that my children have graduated to cereals, baby food, and some solid foods along with my breastmilk, which means that we may need some form of portable high chairs for them. Otherwise, we’ll be stuck with them in our laps while we try to eat… like now. Gail helps out, of course, and Val is eager to get her hands on her niece and nephew, so they allow me and Christian some time to eat.

Once we move on to dessert, the twins have eaten and have had their bottles and are on their way to sleep in their playpens when Herman stands to his feet.

“I’d like to have everyone’s attention please,” he says, and the room falls silent. Herman takes a deep breath.

“This has been a pretty eventful year for the Grey family,” he begins. “We lost our dad… effectively lost a brother…” He and Carrick exchange looks before he continues. “But we’ve grown. We’ve been blessed with a son and a daughter—in my case, a niece and a nephew—Ethan and Valerie. And even though we were already graced with Ana, we were able to add Mackenzie and Michael to village.”

We laugh at his expression, but truthfully, that’s exactly what we are.

“But in my loss, and in our flourishing, God has blessed me with those two sweet little girls right there…” He gestures to Mariah and Celida, who both smile fondly at him, “… and this loving and beautiful woman right here.” He turns to his side and takes Luma’s hand. Pulling her to her feet, he kisses her fingers softly and gives her a loving smile, which she returns.

“I don’t know where I would have been without her,” he says, still gazing into her eyes, “if I would have made it without her. Taking care of Dad’s things and going through his and Mom’s memories, it was like he was talking to me, telling me to live, telling me to grab life by the horns and live! And I realized then that I couldn’t be without this woman—that my mom and dad had a wonderful, beautiful life while they had each other and now, they have it again. I realized that I screwed up big the first time, but God is giving me a second chance… and dammit, I’m taking it.” He’s gazing into Luma’s eyes and I’m only too certain—as I’m sure the rest of us are—that he’s about to propose.

“So,” he turns back to the inquiring eyes, “I’m proud to announce that on November 22, 2014 at 3:17pm, this beautiful goddess officially became Mrs. Herman Grey.”

“Get outta here!” Carrick rises to his feet. “You sly dog! I shoulda known!” He gives his brother’s hand a vigorous shake as he claps him on the back. “Congratulations! Congratulations, man! I shoulda known you were up to something!”

Grace hugs Luma warmly and Mia follows. Warm smiles and congratulations fill the table.

“Not to fret, ladies,” Herman says once the revelry is calming a bit, “you can do your planning and parties and whatever it is that ladies do for weddings and such if my Luma says that’s what she wants. I just couldn’t wait to make her mine.”

There’s a collective swooning coo from the ladies at the table. Luma shows us pictures on their phones of Herman in a suit her in a beautiful vintage wedding dress. She looks twenty years younger.

“Is that…” Carrick looks at the picture again. “Is that… Mom’s dress?” he asks. Herman nods.

“Yeah,” he says, after a pause, “and… one of Mom’s rings,” he says. Carrick looks over at Luma who looks like she wants to hide her hand, but it’s too late.

Carrick looks at the picture again and his eyes clearly moisten. He takes Luma’s hand with the ring on it and kisses it gently before kissing Luma just as gently on the cheek.

“You made a beautiful bride,” he says, his voice cracking slightly. “I wish I could have been there.”

Luma smiles widely and Grace puts her hands on Luma’s shoulders. The cooing begins anew as Luma recounts the story of their nuptials—sweet and romantic. Elliot cuddles Valerie in his arms and she beams as the family enjoy themselves around the table. Once the conversation—and cooing—falls to a gently roar, Elliot stands to his feet.

“I’d like to say something, too,” he says. Val raises a brow and a small smile at him.

“I want to thank you all for agreeing to have Thanksgiving at my house, even though my house is the smallest of them all at the moment.” There’s a laugh following his statement. “But I’m really, really grateful for you all being here because… well, as you all know, my wife is a brain cancer survivor. For those of you who didn’t know already, she named her tumor Meg. It’s a long story but just know that she named it Meg. Well, she’s been suffering from these random dizzy spells, and even though my wife is strong, I could see it in her eyes that she was concerned that Meg was making another appearance.”

The room falls completely silent, even more quiet than when Herman asked for our attention.

“I did my best not to panic… I wasn’t very good,” he says, his voice cracking. Val takes his hand and gives it a squeeze. “But we didn’t dawdle. We went to the doctor and they proceeded to run the regular tests. I’m happy to say that Meg is definitely not making another appearance.”

The room is filled with sighs of relief and thanks to God and such, but Elliot’s not finished.

“We did learn however,” he looks down at Val, “that my angel is having a baby.”

“Get the fuck outta here!” My husband springs to his feet and reaches right across the table to his brother. “You’re going to be the goofiest dad ever!” he says, shaking Elliot’s hand.

“That’s the plan,” he says before turning to Herman. “Sorry, Uncle Herman.”

“Don’t worry about it, son,” he says, shaking Elliot’s hand as well. “There’s plenty of joy and happiness to go around.”

Most of us have forgotten our food and are clustered around either the newly-married couple or the newly-expecting couple cooing over the antique ring that Herman gave Luma or the fact that Val will be having a baby soon. Herman presented his bride with a 13.93ctw smoky-quartz ring set in 14kt yellow gold with leaf accents—another piece from his mother’s priceless collection. Elliot hasn’t presented Val with anything—besides a house, but he indicates that he plans to repurpose one of the rooms into a nursery that would rival ours.

With the attention centered on Val, Elliot, Herman, and Luma, no one sees the small commotion taking place in the corner of the living room. I inconspicuously examine Britney having a harsh word or two in hushed tones with Marlow before she ceremoniously turns away from him and proceeds towards the front door. Marlow rolls his eyes, then throws a glance at Sophie before following his date outside. They still haven’t garnered the attention of anyone else in the house, but I watch as Sophie twists her lips, rolls her eyes, then falls petulantly on the sofa, folding her arms and staring at the fire.

And here we go again.

I wait for a moment before I sneak away from the crowd and go to the foyer. I locate my coat and gloves and step outside in search of Marlow. He’s pacing on the pavement in front of the house like he’s trying to control his temper.

“Marlow?” I call out to him. He whirls around in my direction and upon spotting me, visibly tries to control his ire. “What’s wrong?” I ask as I approach.

“Forgive me for my lack of consideration,” he says in a voice that I’ve never heard before, “but is Sophia Taylor on the rag again?”

Oookay. There will be no scolding of Marlow Johnson today. He. Is. Livid.

“Um… okay, what happened?” I ask cautiously.

“She was awful to my date!” Marlow says, perturbed. “For no good damn reason, she was awful!” He sits down on the retainer wall. Oh, dear.

“In what way?” I ask, sitting down next to him.

“She said some flighty crap about her being skinny… something about needing a gravy sandwich or something like that.” I raise my eyebrows to him.

“Um… well… um… that’s not… horrible,” I try to excuse.

“My date heard her!” he snaps. I cringe.

“Ooo, that’s bad,” I retract. “Any idea why she said that?”

“Because she’s a brat!” he retorts, very angry about his seemingly ruined Thanksgiving. I try to come up with an explanation. I know she has a crush on him even though she hasn’t told me. This lashing out at his dates isn’t going to stop if he keeps bringing them around. Which reminds me…

“It could be attack as a form of defense,” I tell him. He raises a brow at me. “Have you forgotten the little twat who chased her away from Mia’s wedding? What was her name—Maya?”

“Maya didn’t chase her away!” He frowns.

“She most certainly did!” I retort. “That crack about her kid sister having Sophie’s dress; and then that whole ‘I’ll just have to take it off’ thing, as if everybody at the table didn’t know what the hell that meant. Sophie had just spent the entire dinner impressing a table full of adults with her cuisine expertise and here comes this insecure little twit acting like a jealous toddler and cutting her down in front of everybody. If Sophie acts like a brat in front of your dates, blame your first date—or at least the one that you brought to the wedding. That’s why I told you to talk to your women about how they act around us. And what happened to Maya anyway? It wasn’t two months ago, she was hanging all over you!”

“Um…” He rubs the back of his neck. “Yeah, well, she wasn’t really comfortable after the incident either.”

“Um-hmm,” I say, folding my arms. “I bet she wasn’t. I’m not trying to sabotage your dates, but I won’t stand by while they treat someone I love like crap. I’m really sorry about Britney. I’m sure she didn’t deserve what happened, but when it comes to your girls, Sophie may be lashing out before they get the chance to lash out at her. And don’t be surprised if she’s got an entire armory ready. You might want to try and talk to her, get her to understand how her actions are affecting you—and I’m not saying this happened with Britney, but make sure your dates aren’t doing anything to antagonize her. She’s only 13, for Christ’s sake. You, her, and Maggie are the only teenagers we have at family gatherings, so…” I trail off and shrug.

“I may just have to stop bringing dates around altogether,” he laments. “Jeez, at this rate, I may never get laid again,” he adds, his voice low.

I don’t think I was supposed to hear that last part, so I just ignore it.

“Well, I don’t want you to feel like your dates aren’t welcome. You’re always welcome to bring them to family gatherings… as long as they know how to behave themselves, but Maya laid the groundwork for how Sophie’s going to act around your women, so you really need to talk to her.”

She’s got a crush on you, you idiot. Are you truly that dense? Smooth things over and let her know that you at least care about her feelings, even though it can never go any further.

Of course, telling her that he knows would just humiliate her to no end. So, of course, I can’t share my theory with him, but geez… it’s as plain as the nose on my face.

“I think I’m just going to take off,” he says, “try to smooth things over with Britney…”

“But not with Sophie?” I chastise.

“She’s the one who insulted Britney!” Marlow retorts.

“And I just told you why!” I counter. “You don’t think that needs addressing?”

“If I address that with her right now, Ana, I’m going to be pissed. I don’t even know where Britney is. I need to go find her. I’ll talk to Sophia some other time.” He stands. “Tell my mom to text me when she’s ready to go if I’m not back by then.” He marches down the driveway towards his car.

That’s right, Marlow. Run away.

It’s hard to remember that he’s still a child… but not. He’s 17, so his life should be shaping into manhood now, but he disappoints me when it comes down to how he’s handling the complexities of relationships right now. I guess this is when he’s learning.

And poor Sophie. She’s acting like the stereotypical catty jealous spurned female, but at 13, she’s coming off as the bratty ass little sister. Their age difference is wide enough that they most likely will never have any romantic relationship—not to mention the fact that Marlow simply does not see her that way—but at this rate, she’ll not only destroy any hint of a chance of a romance. She’ll also destroy their friendship.


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

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 ~~love and handcuffs