Raising Grey: Chapter 59—Issues

 Email to come later…

So, I guess my biggest flight from reality in the last chapter was the “92 ½ months pregnant” statement. I was certain that mothers would get that, but it seems like it just flew over everybody’s head. I was sitting at my computer cracking up because I just kept getting emails and comments and IM’s that said, “Did you really mean to type that?” I was like, “Was I the only one that felt that way later in the pregnancy?” You know, that, “This kid ain’t gone never come!” feeling. I was expecting people to do a double-take and go, “92 ½ months pregnant? What? 92 and a… Ooooohh! Yeah…” but… no, that didn’t happen. Anywho, welcome to my twisted sense of humor. 😉

I wrote this chapter when my hand wasn’t working, so a lot of it was dictated into the computer. I edited it the best that I could, so please excuse any grammatical errors you may find. I have someone that looks things over and catches those for me—I just didn’t want you guys to think I threw the chapter together and didn’t care.

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

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

Chapter 59—Issues

ANASTASIA

“So, the big ‘to do’ this morning is the interview that aired with Christian and Anastasia Grey on Monday night.”

I had been keeping my eye on the internet and the local morning shows to see if anyone had anything to say about our interview. After an enlightening conversation with Courtney yesterday, I really want to know what the rest of the world is thinking. Of course, Wake Up, Seattle doesn’t miss its chance to weigh in on the topic. It’s one of the usual local shows with primary male and female co-hosts and right now, the female has the floor.

“After a veritable lifetime of discretion, sneaking in and out of the country without the world’s knowledge, relationships that remain in question or completely in the dark, and a dramatic life worthy of a movie deal, the Greys came out of the billion-dollar shadows and opened up on network primetime television. The interview was an intimate look into their lives, careers, and family. As usual, Christian oozed power and sex-appeal all over the screen while Anastasia remained the picture of poise and independence, able to hold her own next to her billionaire husband.”

The segment was more of the same, recapping various portions of the interview, highlighting issues that still may raise questions, but an overall unbiased report…

Until…

“So, the day of the interview, I learned from a very reliable source that Maria Sanchez wasn’t the only broadcast journalist in line for this story. There was also Danika Farrell and Raynell Stanton.”

Oh, shit.

“Once the interview was over, I took to social media and our friendly Twitter to see what each woman had to say about the outcome of the interview. Maria was silent, most likely opting to let Twitter have its way and see what the viewing public felt before interjecting her thoughts, if she so chose to do that. Danika and Raynell, not so much.

“Danika chimed in first with a hearty congratulations on a job well done, commending Maria on getting the right mixture of business and personal in the interview, ending with a friendly jab, ‘I’ll get you on the next one, girl.’ And that was pretty much it.

“Raynell was not so gracious in the slightest. In my humble opinion, if you don’t like a piece, you talk around it or you say nothing at all. By criticizing another reporter for a piece that they did, you’re opening Pandora’s Box. You’re basically telling the rest of the journalistic world, ‘Here I am, take your shot.’ That’s okay if that’s your plan, but I’ve got a feeling that wasn’t what Raynell was aiming for.

“Now, some say that Raynell may have been bitter because she was passed over for the interview. Hence, her attempts to discredit the subject. Other sources, however, indicate that she actually threw the audition so that she wouldn’t be chosen for the interview at all. Her first shot hit Twitter right when the interview was airing in the Eastern time zone.”

Each time she reads a tweet, it’s plastered across the screen for the viewers to read.

**Auditioning for an interview—how stuck on yourself can you be? #eccentricorparanoid **

“Now, because she’s a well-known television journalist and does a lot of interviews, nobody was really sure what she was talking about. It started to become clearer over her next few tweets and as the segment played out on the east coast…”

**Little boys and their toys, including their little girls. #itsgoodtobetheking **

**That boat is bigger than most people’s houses. Overcompensating much? #justbuyasportscar **

**Oooo, guns! Classy! Loved the speech to deflect from the need for gun control. #NRAunite **

“Now, in general, you’re not watching Twitter while you’re watching television, but people like us—yeah, we do that. As you can see, the shots are quite personal and getting a little vicious as time progresses. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put all that together and realize that she was talking about the Grey interview that was currently in progress in her time zone. The only thing that she left out was her blatant mention of AnaChris, but she rectified that situation in her final tweet of the night…”

**As I suspected, a flamboyant display of ostentatious largess with little to no substance whatsoever. I predicted it would be a total waste of my time; I was right. #dodgedabullet #greyinterview **

“Now,” the host says as she puts her cards on the table in front of her, “it could just be me, but this tweet pretty much drove the nail in that she actually threw the interview. Am I wrong on that?” Her male co-host shakes his head.

“Nope, that’s what I’m seeing, too,” he says.

“So, to that, I just say this. Ray, are you trying to get the reputation of being hard to work with? Rumor has it on the wire already that you threw the interview and then you tweet something like that? You do know that celebrities and influential people have Twitter accounts, too, right? Do you want them to see your name and say, ‘Hmm, she threw the Grey interview because she felt like it wasn’t worth her time?’ They’ll stop calling you, honey. And quite frankly, even if you feel your subject matter sucks, the sign of a good investigative journalist is that they take the material that they have and they make it the best story possible. That’s what I always thought.” She turns to her co-host.

“That’s what they taught me. Remember that story on failing vendors at the Marketplace?” he chimes in.

“How could I forget?” she laments. “It turned out okay, though.”

“Yes, it did. We were talking to people who were losing their spots at the Marketplace because they weren’t getting enough business. While some people were quite engaging, others had already given up and had nothing to say. It could have been a real disaster, but instead, we used what we had and filled the rest in with valid statistics and information with some customer interviews thrown in and it turned out to be a good piece—even saved some of the failing vendors.”

The female host nods as the audience applauds.

“But I digress,” the male host recovers. “Tell me, what happened on Twitter after this? Did AnaChris chime in?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure that they have Twitter accounts. They probably haven’t even seen this.”

“Until now,” the male host laughs.

“Yeah, until now,” the female host chuckles. “Nonetheless, tweeters came back with mixed reviews—as we thought they would—but the AnaChris fanbase was in full force all night Monday night and all day yesterday, bashing the poor Raynell with hundreds of tweets like:

**@raynellstanton Yeah, that’s right. When the opportunity of a lifetime passes you by, pretend that it didn’t matter. #haternation **

**@raynellstanton Do you think we don’t know you threw this story away and Maria grabbed the chance to get the story that you wanted? “Big mistake… big… huge!” #sourgrapes #youblewit **

**@raynellstanton Exactly what’s the bug up your butt? That you didn’t get the interview or that the interview was actually good? #youcouldabeenacontender **

**@raynellstanton You were this close. You’re sh***g yourself that you threw away that opportunity, aren’t you? #almostdoesntcount **

**@raynellstanton Keep saying it over and over again until you finally believe it #imeanttodothat #imeanttodothat #imeanttodothat #imeanttodothat **

“And my personal favorite…”

**@raynellstanton Are you on drugs? That was quality television and excellent journalism. Pissed because you tripped at the audition? Grab your hem, your Haterade is showing. **

“Well, I’m sorry,” the male host interjects, “but this one is my favorite…”

**@raynellstanton Don’t worry. There’s always Bill Cosby. #jellopudding **

The audience groans as he raises his head and shrugs.

“What?” he asks. “Too soon?”

The female host shakes her head and laughs.

“Turn his mic off,” she demands facetiously as the audience follows her in laughter. “Turn. His. Mic off!”

Once the laughter dies down, she continues with the segment.

“Eventually, Raynell removed her tweet after having been hashtagged, retweeted, and basically decimated within a 24-hour period, but the damage had already been done. For just such an emergency, several tweeters screen-printed her tweet to live on in infamy and be passed around the internet for years to come… or at least until the next trend.

“AnaChris isn’t without their share of criticism, however. One tweeter agrees with Raynell saying…”

**Largess is right. I expected to see Robin Leach slide down the banister at any moment and I’m surprised we didn’t see a maid or a butler. You tried to come off looking like a power couple, but you look more like the Seattle Beverly Hillbillies to me. **

“And another tweeter remarked…”

**True American love story. Right, if by American love story, you mean “Playboy billionaire lands gold-digging trophy wife and now, they try to convince the world that they’re happy.” #letsseetheprenup **

“And this one…”

**Why does she still have her condo if they’re happily married? She has a million square feet on Mercer Island and still has a condo on Elliot Bay? What’s the real story here? #howsitreallyhanginggrey #lovenest **

“So, both sides have sounded off, AnaChris lovers and haters. I will say that the lovers, however, are much more vocal, so we’ll give this round to them. But in terms of the consensus of the interview, overall, it was a good interview—a concise exposé with peeks into their business, their personal lives, their passions, their beautiful children and even their struggles.”

“Yeah,” the male host says. “Who would have thought billionaires had struggles? But they do… valid everyday issues as well as large, life-changing things, just like the rest of us mere mortals.”

“Exactly,” the female host replies. “Now, like I said before, I’m not one to criticize another journalist. However, when you open the door to that kind of criticism, I’m going to walk in. So, here’s my take on it.

“These people are putting themselves out there and you don’t expect them to be cautious about who they let tell their story? You can call it an audition if you want to, which in effect, it was—you are going to be on television. It’s a job interview, Ray. Even if you had been the only candidate, you still would have had to interview for that position. We all have to meet with the subjects and discuss our direction, hoping they’ll be satisfied with our vision. You disparaging that fact was just petty and I don’t have to tell you that.

“They obviously made the right decision in not choosing you because you didn’t want the story and had you not gotten the exact material that you wanted, there’s no telling how you would have portrayed them on television. So, if you felt like it was such bad material and a waste of time, why are you going on about it? If what you said had any truth to it, the classy thing to do would have been to sit back with a Cheshire cat smile and bask in your ‘I told you so’ moment. Social media, the press, and the public would have ripped them apart and you wouldn’t have had to lift a finger. Instead, you’re looking like the scorned senior who got stood up for prom trying to convince herself that she didn’t want to go in the first place.

“And let’s face it, Raynell, you can’t talk to a billionaire without talking about his money or have you conveniently forgotten Oprah’s interviews with Kim Kardashian in her beautiful home, Michael Jackson on the Neverland estate, George Lucas on the Skywalker Ranch? And let’s not forget all the rich and famous people interviewed by Ms. Barbara Walters. You’ve been in this business for a while, Ray. Why are you suddenly acting new to this? Do yourself a favor and don’t try to make Grey out to be the bad guy because you didn’t want to talk about his money.

“You turned down a golden opportunity and now you’re talking about dodging a bullet. No, my dear, that wasn’t a bullet. That was an egg, and it hit you square in the face. That’s why you took that tweet down. We’ll be right back.”

The audience applauds as the screen fades to black and goes to a commercial. I chuckle to myself at the outcome of the synopsis—a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We’re loved and hated all over, which is what I expected.

I finish my coffee and croissants and go down to my office. Lately, I’ve been doing a few hours at home before going into Helping Hands. It gives me time to have breakfast, feed my babies, meditate, write in my journal, and organize and plan my day. I don’t have any plans on doing any real work at home today, just preparation for the most part—which is when I caught the morning show talking about our interview. I know there was probably a whole slew of speculation on the talk shows yesterday, but I didn’t bother to watch. Anything really horrible—or juicy—would get to me eventually.

I enjoyed watching the segment the second time around. There were a few parts that I thought were a little cliché, but they really couldn’t be presented in any other light. We’re a wealthy, powerful, beautiful couple with a beautiful home and beautiful children… cliché, yes, but it’s the truth. Nonetheless, I already knew that bloggers, Facebookers, and tweeters were going to have something to say about it. Hell, they slam President Obama on a regular basis—we’re certainly not immune.

I’m packing things up and preparing to head to Helping Hands when the two-way comes alive.

“Ana,” I say into the air.

“Dr. Grey, this is Warton at the front gate. There’s someone here to see you. He won’t give his full name. He just said, ‘Gary.’”

Well, this guy must be new. I don’t recognize his name and he doesn’t know members of the Scooby gang.

“Let him in,” I say. “I’ll be right up.” There’s hesitance in the air before Warton says, “Okay.”

What the…? It’s Gary, let the man in.

I make my way up to the first floor, through the dining room and to the portico to meet Gary. On the days when I spend part of my day at home and part at work, I let Marilyn decide if she wants to come to my house or wait until I get to Helping Hands. Today is one of the days she decided to go to the Center, which is probably why Gary is here.

When I get to the portico, Gary is exiting the driver’s seat and there’s a guard standing behind the car.

“Ana,” Gary says confused. “Is this a new protocol or something?” I frown looking at the guard that I don’t know.

“Not that I know of,” I say, staring at him and waiting for an explanation. He takes the stance with one hand over the other in front of him.

“He didn’t give his full name, ma’am,” the guard says in an authoritative, matter-of-fact kind of way.

“So, why did you follow him up to the portico after you let him in?” I ask.

“Like I said,” he begins, “he didn’t give his full name.”

“Were you going to follow him through the house if I didn’t come out?” I inquire. His concrete resolve appears to break a bit.

“Um, well, it’s protocol, ma’am,” he stutters. “I have to log who visits…”

“Who else is in that booth with you?” I ask. “Everybody who works here should know who Gary is.” He stutters a bit and says somebody’s name, but I really don’t even hear him.

“Listen, Warhol,” I say, not because I’m being funny, but because I really can’t remember his name. “You don’t know who Gary is because you’re new, and that’s okay—I understand that. But how dare you follow someone up to the portico like a guard walking the green mile after I’ve instructed you to let them into my home!” He tries not to appear shaken when he responds.

“Ma’am, we have to take certain precautions when someone refuses to give their full name,” he responds.

“Do you do that to Val, Al, or Elliot when they show up?” I ask, folding my arms. He’s silent, and I’m certain that none of these people have showed up on his watch. “Nonetheless, I informed you to let him in. Is this how you’re going to be treating my guests? Like suspects?” He clears his throat.

“It’s… for your safety, ma’am,” he says. “You could have been under duress.”

“Did I use the panic word?” I ask. His brow furrows. Oh, dear God in heaven. “Do you know the panic word?”

His face blanches a bit.

“Please, leave,” I say before I even know the words are coming out of my mouth. After a pause, he turns around and heads back to the guard’s booth. “Come on in, Gary,” I say, walking into the house and pulling my phone out of my pocket.

“I hope I haven’t cost someone their job,” he says after he walks in the grand entrance.

“Oh, you didn’t cost him anything, but he might have cost himself his job,” I say putting the phone to my ear.

“Your Highness,” Jason answers.

“I want this Warthog motherfucker off my property,” I say firmly into the phone.

“Warthog? What?” he asks bemused.

“This guard at the gate—I want him gone.”

“May I ask what he did wrong, ma’am?” and he’s fully formal. That’s what I need right now.

“Well, first he asked Gary for his full name. That’s fine, but Gary told him to just tell me that it was Gary and I cleared him to come into the gate. When I come out to the portico, this asshole is following him like a sentinel. When I ask him why, he basically questions the fact that I let someone into my house. His first mistake was questioning me in my house. His second and largest mistake was trying to lecture me on protocol when his ass doesn’t even know what the fucking panic word is!”

“How does he not know the fucking panic word?” Jason hisses to himself.

“My sentiments exactly. Get him the fuck off my property.” I try to be accommodating and understanding, but there are times when I do feel like Her Highness and this is one of them. “And Jason? I don’t want him fired. I just want him properly trained. But if you do see the need to fire him, make sure that he knows that if he tries any of that Harris shit, I’ll shoot him in the fucking balls.” Jason clears his throat.

“Yes, Your Highness,” he says, and I end the call.

I almost forgot that Gary was there.

“I’m sorry about that, Gary. Is everything okay?”

“I just need to talk to you,” he says. I nod and gesture to the living room.

“What’s wrong?” I ask as I take a seat on one of the sofas.

“It’s Marilyn,” he says with his head down. “Has she talked to you?”

I sigh. I don’t know how to answer that. I don’t want to lie to him, but I can’t tell him what we talked about.

“That’s okay,” he says. “Your silence speaks volumes.” He sits down on the sofa close to me. So, I guess I inadvertently told him without telling them anything at all.

“I can’t understand why she’s not more excited about having his baby,” he says. “This is like the best thing that can happen to us. It’ll make us into a family. I love her more than anything. So, what’s the problem?”

I still really can’t tell him what we talked about. So, I sit there silently just looking at him. He raises his eyes to me.

“Ana, are you seriously not going to talk to me about this? We’ve been friends forever!”

“I’m sorry. It’s not that, Gary. Some things that are said to me are said in confidence as a psychiatrist. And I can’t reveal what’s been said. So, even though you’re my friend…” I trail off. He nods.

“I get it… but I don’t. You’re my friend and I’ve always come to you and talked to you about anything and I can’t talk to you about this. That really fucking sucks.” I sigh again.

“I can always talk to you as a friend about how you’re feeling, Gary. But I can’t tell you anything about Marilyn.” He stands up and begins to pace.

“I know she’s pregnant,” he says. “She hasn’t taken a pregnancy test, but I know she’s pregnant. I can tell by the way she looks, by her demeanor… but she’s acting like it’s the end of the world. I wouldn’t leave her. Of course, I’d stay by her side. And even if for some ungodly reason we didn’t work out, she’d never be raising this baby alone. I’ll always be there for my child. But, for some reason, she can’t seem to wrap her mind around the joy that we can have together raising our baby. I don’t understand it. We’re not teenagers. We’re both gainfully employed. We’re in love. What’s the problem?”

“Well, speaking as a woman and not as Marilyn,” I point out emphatically, “our body has to go through some crazy things to endure pregnancy. Hormone changes, body changes—you look at yourself in the mirror and you feel like hell, all kinds of things, and that’s a whole year almost of going through that. That’s a lot to take on to decide I want to become a mother.

“And then there’s a commitment, and don’t get it twisted. It’s not an 18-year commitment, it’s lifelong. So, the minute you decide to have a baby, your entire life changes that very second. It’s not just, ‘Hey, let’s bring this life into the world and yeah it’ll grow up and I’ll be there…’ No. You’re invested all in. That’s a huge decision, and it’s scary no matter what your plight in life. I was married to a billionaire when I found out that I was pregnant with twins, and I was still terrified! What if I bring them into this world and some strange speck of dust falls on them and causes them to have some kind of strange illness or disease and they die? What if the world does the same thing to them that it did to me and they don’t survive it? That’s the kind of fear I had while I was carrying my children, not to mention just the everyday life shit that was going on. And believe me, Gary, I’ve only scratched the surface of what goes through a woman’s mind when she’s considering whether or not to have a baby…”

“Considering whether or not to have it?” he asks in horror. “Are you telling me that Marilyn is considering not having my baby?” Oh shit, think fast, Grey!

“Will you stop putting words into my mouth, you moron?” I exclaim. “I told you when this conversation began that I was telling you about a woman in general, not Marilyn! Don’t you dare go harassing my friend because of something I told you about my personal experience!”

He deflates immediately, and I almost feel bad. Marilyn is actually considering terminating the pregnancy, but I can’t tell him that I know that or that she told me that. And I feel awful that I just snapped at him to cover my own faux pas, but I honestly don’t see that I had a choice.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I wasn’t trying to offend you.”

“Don’t apologize…” I should actually be apologizing to you, “Just, please, see my comments for what I’m saying, for what I went through when I was pregnant. Don’t read anything into it and don’t take that nonsense back to Marilyn. You’ll only make a bad matter worse, I can guarantee it.”

“So, what do I do?” he asks.

“Just be there for her, I say. Every woman goes through a phase of terror and fear and uncertainty. You have to let her go through it. It’s hard for her. It was hard for me.”

“Do you think she’s considering getting rid of my baby?” he asks sadly. I feel horrible for him… and then I deflect.

“Gary, I wouldn’t tell you that if I knew. My speculation is of no importance whatsoever.”

“I should be happy, Ana,” he says pacing around the living room. “We should be happy. This should be one of the best times of our lives. I love her, she loves me, and we created a baby from our love. What could be more special? And yet she’s walking around in this cloud of doom like the world is about to end. And I just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to pressure her or make her feel bad, but if I reach to touch her, I instinctively reach for her stomach and that seems to irritate her. So, I try not to do it but then my hand instinctively goes down there anyway. What am I supposed to do?”

“I wish I had an answer for you, Gary,” I say. “You just have to be patient. One way or another a solution is going to surface and this thing will work itself out.” He twists his lips at me.

“You and I both know that a baby doesn’t just work itself out. Things have to be done, plans and decisions have to be made, this doesn’t just go away like a pimple or rash. And if that’s what she’s expecting or waiting for… She’s got to be fucking smarter than that!”

And I’ve pissed him off again. I rub my hands over my face.

“There’s really nothing I can tell you that you want to hear right now,” I admit. “What you want to hear is that Marilyn will come around and everything’s going to be fine and you two are going to have a baby and live happily ever after. I can’t tell you that because I don’t know that. And if Marilyn hasn’t taken a pregnancy test, she doesn’t know that either. So… you’re just going to have to be patient. If she hasn’t taken the test yet, convince her to take the test.

“You guys can’t make any decisions on anything or make any plans until you get that little blue plus sign. Until then, everything, and I do mean everything, is speculation. She could just be under some kind of stress and just missed her period or something. It happens. And you’re planning for a baby whether it’s a happy baby time or gloom and doom baby time, we don’t even know. She’s got to take that test. So, if you want my advice, this is what I say. Stop everything—stop the rubbing of the belly, stop the dreamy baby talk, and impress the importance of taking that test. Nothing can be done either way until she takes the test.”

He falls down onto the sofa and drops his face into his hands. I can see that he’s miserable and I really want to be there for my friend. There’s a thin line between having two friends on different sides of the fence. And I’m about to cross that thin line.

“Is there any way that you can humor me and tell me something that’ll make me feel better?” he asks. I put my hand on his back.

“Whatever happens Gary,” I begin, “when the time comes—if it’s now or if it’s later—you’ll make a great father. And if Marilyn is pregnant and you guys do have a baby, that baby will have two of the most concerned, caring, loving parents in the world. Please remember that whatever happens, you two are in love. You fell in love almost at first sight and you love each other endlessly. Don’t let anything come between that love.”

“I never thought I could love anybody the way that I love Mare,” he says, “and I would love our baby even more, if that’s even possible. A part of her and a part of me? That’s amazing!” he adds in awe.

“I’m not an idiot,” he says, “and I’m not being selfish. I know that I’m being one-sided about this because I’m not the one that’s going to be carrying the baby. But I can only imagine how beautiful she’ll be carrying our child. Just like you were…”

He thought I was beautiful?

“… All glowing and swollen doing this labor of love that’s the most beautiful thing in the world. Who couldn’t love someone who does that?”

“You’d be surprised,” I tell him. “That’s why there are so many single mothers in this world. Everybody doesn’t feel the same way you—and Christian—feel. We’re very lucky to have men like you guys.”

“Well, I don’t know, maybe I’m naive, but any man who can scoff at a woman who puts her body through this to bring his child into the world as a fucking idiot.” I chuckle

“You should teach a class,” I say with mirth. He smiles sadly.

“Thanks for listening,” he says. “I’m at the end of my rope and I just don’t know what to do, but you’ve given me a little insight and I’ll do what I can to make sure she gets that pregnancy test.” He stands. “I’m playing hooky from work, so I got to get back. I don’t mean to dump on you and run, but…”

“Don’t worry about it,” I say. “I have to get to the Center anyway… How did you know I was here?”

“I went to the Center first and they said you hadn’t come in yet, so I took a chance on stopping by here.”

“Marilyn wasn’t there yet?” I ask. He nods.

“She was,” he says. “I checked on her, too, and she got mad at me for doing it.” Yeah, she’s pregnant. “I hope I didn’t get that guy in trouble,” he adds, referring to Wart-ass. I shake my head.

“I don’t know how much trouble he’s in, but I asked for him to be retrained. There are some things that he doesn’t know about being at Grey Crossing, and he’s going to have to learn them if they allow him to stay.” I stand with him and walk him to the door.

“You can always talk to me about anything, Gary. Don’t forget that. But please remember, if it’s something about Marilyn and she’s spoken to me in confidence, I wouldn’t be able to share anything with you that I know. And I’m not admitting to knowing or talking about anything at this time.”

“I get it. It’s a bad place to be in and I’m sorry I put you there.”

“I’m sorry I snapped at you,” I reply. He nods, and I escort him back to his car and watch as he drives away.


CHRISTIAN

Midway into my afternoon after working through some notes from meetings and a few key emails, my phone rings. I don’t recognize the number.

“Grey,” I answer.

“I knew you’d be too cocky to change your damn number.”  I know the voice, but I can’t place it.

“Who is this?” I ask impatiently.

“You know who it is,” she says confidently. “You’ll figure it out soon enough, but I’ll give you a hint, Master…”

Oh, shit.

“’Hold it… right there… that’s it… that’s my good little Myshka… don’t come now, Myshka…”

Myshka. Natasha.

“Myshka… I’m not even Russian, you asshole.”

“If you had been, you might have lasted longer,” I hiss. She laughs.

“You’re hardly in any position to antagonize me right now, Grey. You have absolutely no idea why I’m calling, so you have no choice but to shut up and listen…”

I open the panel on my desk and press the button to summon Alex. He’ll start surveillance on the office, see that I’m on the phone, and immediately trace the call.

“Why the fuck are you calling me? I don’t have all day.”

“There he is,” she says confidently, “There’s that asshole I know so well… keep me on the phone long enough to trace the call and get me to tell you what you want to know. You don’t have to trace the call, Master, I’ll tell you where I am. I’m at your club downtown, not even a mile away from you. I’m enjoying a delicious lunch while overlooking Elliot Bay, and this is my personal cell phone—not a burner. If you turn your head to the right, you would be looking right at my table with a good set of high-powered binoculars. So, you can tell your goon that he’s wasting his time. You know exactly where I am.”

This bitch knows me too well to have been my submissive for such a short time.

“What do you want… Myshka?” I hiss. She falls silent, but only for a moment.

“Call me that again, and I’ll release a certain flash drive to the press. With the publicity your little wife has been getting and your most recent television appearance, that should make for a great story. Tell me, is she a good submissive behind the scenes, because there’s not a submissive bone in her body in public.”

Fucking hell… more fucking blackmail. Butterfly and I are in too delicate a position right now to withstand something like this. I’m already beginning to regret doing that exposé.

“What do you want? Money?” They all eventually want money. She laughs again.

“Far from it,” she taunts, “but you’ll have to come to the club to find out.”

“Are you out of your fucking mind? I’m not meeting you anywhere,” I bark.

“Fine. Don’t.” And she ends the call. What the hell? I dial the number back and it goes straight to voicemail.

“The Club,” is all the voicemail says. Fucking bitch. Can I afford not to meet her? Can I afford to call her bluff and allow whatever she has to hit the press? I don’t even know what it is… is it a playroom scene? Is it a copy of the contract? What the hell is it? I’m sitting there pondering my next move for I don’t know how long when my phone chimes with a text.

**I won’t wait forever. Last chance, Master. **

I suddenly hate this woman. Just as I stand from my desk, Jason and Alex enter the office.

“Natasha Gaines?” Alex asks.

“Yes,” I hiss through my teeth, “I don’t even know what the fuck she could have. Could that bitch somehow have hacked my private video information from my home?” Alex raises his eyebrow.

“Is it connected to the network?” he asks.

“Nowhere,” I tell him. “Not a network anywhere. This information is specifically on hard drives all their own that aren’t even connected to the internet. The only thing more secure than this is a single print of a polaroid. No one even knows where it is. If it malfunctions, I don’t repair it. I rip the whole thing out, secure the hard drive, destroy the rest of the hardware and start over.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty secure,” Jason confirms. “She’s got to have something of her own.” I thrust my hands into my hair.

“How?” I ask. “Our contract was so short, and I never let her out of my sight!”

“I don’t know,” Alex says, “but can you afford not to look into it?” I shake my head in defeat.

“Get me to the goddamn club,” I hiss to Jason.

*-*

Natasha's Blue Dress“So glad you could make it,” Natasha purrs when I get to the booth where’s she’s having her lunch. She has abandoned the brunette dye job and is fully blonde, wearing a slinky blue dress that demurely hugs all her curves. Blue… the bitch would wear blue.

“I’m here. Now what the fuck do you want?” I hiss.

“I want you to sit the fuck down and stop standing over me like you’re my goddamn Dom…. Sir!” She injects so much venom in her words that I’m irritated to the utmost height of my irritation.

“Listen to me,” I say, leaning down to her face. “I’m not going to jump when you say jump. You better tell me what the fuck this is about, because I’m losing my goddamn patience.”

“Then sit. The fuck. Down,” she says calmly, her resolve never slipping. This is certainly not the same submissive that I sent away years ago. I don’t know this woman, and I have no idea what she’s capable of. I slowly slide onto the furthest end of the booth from her. “That’s a good boy.”

That’s it, fuck this shit. I move to stand.

“Not so fast,” she says, wiping the corner of her mouth with the napkin from her lap. “I haven’t really told you why I brought you here.”

“You have about five minutes to get to the fucking point, then you can release whatever you have to the press and I’ll just destroy you.” She smiles.

“You don’t mean that,” she says, sweetly.

“Try me,” I threaten. She leans in.

“I already have. And here you are.” She sits back in her seat. “No matter. I’ll make it quick. I have a plane to catch.” She throws her napkin onto her plate. “I’ve come to collect my due.

“Money. I knew it,” I bark. “How much?”

“God, you’re so fucking dense,” she retorts mockingly. “It’s not money. I’ve come to collect what I should have gotten from you years ago.” I frown. What the fuck can she be talking about?

“You owe me,” she says with a sinister smile.

“I don’t owe you shit,” I retort.

“Yes, you do,” she says. “You owe me an orgasm. In fact, you owe me several, but I’ll take just one.”

I can’t believe my ears. She’s out of her fucking mind.

“You want me to fuck you?” I ask incredulously. She laughs again.

“No,” she says, as if the answer is obvious, “but you will be giving me an orgasm.”

“I’m not giving you anything, Natasha,” I hiss. “If you don’t want money, then I’ll prepare my wife for whatever’s on that flash drive.” She reaches into her blouse and pulls a flash drive out of her cleavage. It’s connected to a necklace around her neck.

“You sure about that?” she asks with a confident smile. I think about the fucker I was before I met Butterfly. I was a sadistic, kinky asshole. The trip down Memory Lane that I had a few months ago with Alex just trying to catalog and locate these women would be a Disney movie compared to the shit that I did to them. And if she has it on video…

She smiles victoriously as she leans back in her seat.

“I won’t do this, Natasha,” I tell her. “I haven’t touched another woman since my wife and nothing that you say or do will make me change that.”

“Ooooooohhh, isn’t that sweet!” she croons insincerely. “Well, don’t worry. I wouldn’t let you touch me with somebody else’s hands, you narcissistic ass.” She reaches into her purse and pulls out a small box. It looks like a treasure chest. I recognize it immediately as the box that holds Ben-Wa balls. I frown at her.

“You want me to spank you?” I ask in the same incredulous voice. “I will not play this fucking game with you!”

“You will! Or I’ll personally give your wife a show that she’ll never fucking forget, and that’s a promise!” she hisses.

“How do I know you don’t already have copies ready for the press?” I test.

“You don’t,” she counters, “you just have to trust me. You know that concept, don’t you, Master? You exploited it very well.”

This whole thing sickens me. I have to do what she asks… but can I?

“What do you want me to do?” I nearly growl.

“That’s it,” she smiles. “That’s what I want right there… that voice.”

Dumb bitch. She’s mistaking my I’m pissed the fuck off and I want to kill you voice for my Dom voice.

“All you have to do is sit there and talk to me… in that voice… but we won’t be having just any conversation. We’ll be talking about that last time you used me… that time that you flogged me, and sucked me, and fingered me, and fucked me… for hours… and told me not to come. You used every orifice gloriously, and then you sent me away… because of hair color.”

“You lied,” I say through my teeth. “You talk about me exploiting trust when you exploited my trust, and now you’re angry because you were found out?”

“Not angry,” she clarifies. “Pissed! Pissed the fuck off, in fact—and not because you found out about my hair color. If you’re not man enough and you need mousy little brunettes over fiery blondes, that’s fine with me. What I’m not fine with is being tormented for hours while you used me like a rubber fucking sex doll and then threw me away like a used piece of tissue!”

Oh, yeah, she’s pissed.

“So,” she says, opening the box and taking the Ben-Wa balls from the box, “you’re going to give me that orgasm that you withheld from me years ago—right here and right now.” Her hands go under the table and I can see her hips moving a bit. Moments later, her hands are back on the table and it’s obvious where the balls are.

“I’m not giving you shit, Natasha, and I don’t care what you do,” I say.

“Well, there’s a start,” she purrs, and I can see her legs cross under the table. “I’ve managed to get rid of that Myshka bullshit. Now, let’s talk about that night…’

“We will not,” I hiss.

“Yes, you will,” she says softly, her voice oozing with sex. She’s hot already. “And if you don’t want the rest of the late lunch crowd to hear you, you may want to scoot a little closer.”

I fold my arms. I’m not sitting any closer to this trick and I’m not going to let her get what she wants from me.

“That’s fine,” she says, “I don’t care who hears us. I’ll start.” She leans closer to me and I don’t move.

“I arrived at your apartment at about 7 p.m. dressed in that nothing dress that you told me to wear—no underwear and no bra. You ripped it from me and left it in tatters on the floor. I remember hoping that Taylor wouldn’t walk out of the back and see me standing naked in your great room.

“You ordered me up to your playroom and like a good little submissive, I went. I stood at the door in nothing but those stilettos for about 15 minutes before you decided to ascend the stairs. I have no idea when you discovered that I was a blonde and not a brunette, but you would make sure that I remembered my malfeasance.

“You ordered me into that room, chained me to the ceiling, and flogged me until my skin was hot. You knew that would set me off…”

I sit at the table watching her and listening to her describe our final scene. I can’t even focus on her face. All I can focus on is that fucking flash drive around her neck.

“And now you’re wondering how you can get the drive,” she deduces correctly. “You could always just snatch it off my neck, but then I would just scream, and then the poor little billionaire would have to explain why I’m sitting at the table crying and clutching my neck and he’s holding my gold chain.” She smiles

Well, that idea is out the window. There’s always a pap or three sitting somewhere and waiting to get a photo op. I’m dying to know what this encounter is going to look like in the papers.

“You see, Mr. Grey,” she mewls, and from the tone of her voice, I would swear that we were fucking, “I’ve got you figured out more than you think I do. Now talk!”

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” I tell her, “because I’m not going to sit here and sext with you at this table and I don’t give a fuck what’s on that drive.”

“Well,” she says, “you can either describe our encounter or I’ll have the biggest crying and screaming fit you’ve ever seen and draw some very much unwanted attention to us just like a scorned lover. Then, I’ll take my flash drive and leave you to explain that scene to everybody.”

Shit. She’s got me over a barrel. Either I do this or one way or another, I end up in the paper and not in the good way.

“You were the worst fucking submissive I ever had…”

“I told you to describe that night,” she hisses.

“I am!” I retort viciously. “Take it or fucking leave it.”

She falls silent and glares at me.

“I should have known something wasn’t right in the first place. You couldn’t follow instructions, you kept topping from the bottom. You were worthless. And then I find out that you were really a blonde. That fucking pissed me off!”

“You should have just let me go, you asshole!” she pants, angrily.

“And I did,” I shoot victoriously, “but I decided that first, I needed to teach you a lesson. And teach you a lesson I did!”

I’m going through the gory details of that night, about how I fucked her and flogged her and treated her like the piece of meat that she was—the lying little cunt that weaseled her way into my playroom and totally betrayed my trust. There’s nothing sexual or sensual about the conversation. It’s the most demeaning description of any encounter of any kind that I’ve ever had with anyone about anything… and she just sits there grasping the edges of the table and staring at me. I’m taking joy in letting her know that she was just a hole or three to jack off into and that she would never get the satisfaction from me that she wanted; that just like that night I would leave her hanging… and then I got the surprise of my life.

She throws her head back and has a wild orgasm right there at the table, reminiscent of that scene from When Harry Met Sally. What the hell? Is she crazy? There was nothing seductive whatsoever about that conversation! And she came? Is she faking?

 

I sit there glaring at her for at least a minute horrified, along with the diners from about four or five other tables. I make eye-contact with one or two of them and our eyes all say the same thing… What the fuck is going on with her? I’m sitting so far away from her that it can’t be mistaken that I’m not touching her at all, so we all think she’s just losing her fucking mind.

If that does make it to the paper at all, the headline would say something like:

Christian Grey Having Lunch with Nutcase Having Out of Body Experience.

About a minute after her display begins, it ends. And she’s breathing heavily at the table trying to compose herself. I sit there just looking at her for a few moments.

“Are you insane?” I ask. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

She begins to smooth her hair and she fixes her lipstick, dabbing her face with her napkin from the little bit of sweat that has accrued there.

“That was perfect, lover. Thanks,” she says softly, closing her compact and putting it back in her purse. “That’s exactly what I needed.”

I’m convinced that she has totally lost her mind.

She removes the flash drive from her necklace and pushes it across the table to me, a satisfied grin plastered all over her face.

“Enjoy,” she purrs. “You earned it.” What the hell…? Then it hit me…

She needed the asshole. She needed the asshole to ring the orgasm from her that he denied her all those years ago to serve her purpose. She got me exactly where she wanted me, and then I gave her exactly what she needed. Fucking hell fuck fucking shit fucking hell fuck.

“What about copies?” I growl.

“Trust me, that’s the only copy. It’s the only one I needed. When you see it, you’ll see why. It’s one of a kind, baby.” She stands and retrieves her purse. “You can take care of lunch. Goodbye, lover.” She straightens her barely-there dress, blows me a kiss, and walks out of the club. I palm the flash drive and leave the club hastily.

“She spoke to me before she got into a taxi,” Jason says when I get downstairs to the car. “She said to tell you that you can stop looking for her. She’s in New York and she’s not hiding from you.” I sigh heavily. Of course, she’s not hiding from me. She had incriminating evidence that could destroy me one way or the other and probably still does.

“Get me back to the fucking office,” I growl. I need to see what’s on this goddamn drive.

The ride back to Grey House takes for-fucking-ever. I’m nearly running to the elevator when I get inside. What the fuck does this bitch have on me and how did she get it? Every second of the elevator ride is driving me out of my fucking mind. I feel like I’m riding to goddamn Judgment Day!

I dash out of the elevator and nearly sprint to my office without a word before slamming the door behind me. Everything is moving in slow motion, including my normally lightning-speed laptop.

“Come on, come on,” I urge the fucking thing to wake up. When it finally comes alive, I nearly smash the drive into the USB port and wait for it to read.

There’s only one file on the flash drive, and it’s very small. What the fuck is this shit?

It’s a movie, but it’s a room that I’ve never seen before. It’s very well-decorated and very well-lighted and there’s no one sitting in it. And then, Natasha comes into the frame. She sits in this very large chair, crosses her legs, and looks into the camera.

“Hello, Lover. If you’re watching this, it means that we’ve already met, and you’ve given me what I need and now I’m giving you what you need. You’ve given me something that you held from me for several years—my orgasm—and I’m giving you what you deserve. Absolutely nothing.

“Years ago, you brought me to that pretentious glass palace of yours and you mistreated me and misused me to no end. And then you sent me away like a discarded piece of garbage, like I had no feelings whatsoever… like I was nothing. I never really knew a man could treat a woman like a piece of meat the way you did. I can’t even begin to tell you how I felt when I left your apartment that night. To say that I was humiliated is a massive understatement. It would never fully cover the level of self-loathing and self-hatred that you unleashed in my life. The utter mortification that I felt at your hands was and always will be completely unmatched.

“And you are so fucking self-righteous that you most likely had no clue or care that you had demoralized me to the degree that I questioned who I was, everything about myself. Wasn’t it the job of a good submissive to be everything her Master wanted and needed? If he had a fantasy, wasn’t it her job to fulfill it? If you had to change something of yourself to be what he wanted, that was a small sacrifice. So, going from a beautiful sunshine blonde to a dull and boring brunette was no big deal. It was what you wanted… but it wasn’t.

“I felt like an abomination. You changed my whole life that night. You made me re-evaluate everything I thought I was.

“All those years ago, I berated myself for wanting to be what I thought you wanted. I don’t know if it ever once occurred to you that I did what I did because I wanted to be what you wanted me to be. Instead, you treated me like a mutt… not a thoroughbred, because I wasn’t your precious natural brunette. God, you are such a fucking asshole and you didn’t deserve me in the first place. I was a perfect submissive. I was just what you needed, but you were too dense to know it and you were too blind to see past the blonde hair. It took me a long time to understand that this was a shortcoming on your part, and that was your loss—not mine. Now that I know that, I realize that there was a small but large piece of me that you ripped from me that day… and I had to get it back.

“I took what you owed me. If you’re still dominant, I know that it’ll eat you up that all these years later, I lured you in with a threat… no real material. I just walked in, took what I wanted from you, and walked out. That’s all I needed. You’re still so fucking egomaniacal that I could record this shit already knowing what the outcome would be. You’re predictable, just like all the rest of them. That’s why I can’t be a submissive anymore. We’re not the puppets—you are. You ‘sitting-on-top-of-the-world’ motherfuckers, running your little empires and making the world think you’re so powerful when most of you are nothing but scared little boys running from something. You go home at night and batter your wives or girlfriends or significant others, knock your kids around a bit or ignore them altogether, or in my case, beat a little submissive… taboo in the eyes of society, but acceptable because I consented.

It’s pathetic. A method to cope… What a fucking crock of shit.

So, here’s what I’m doing, Christian….” I hate my name on her lips. “I’m becoming a Dominant… a real Dominant, not that ‘mind-game, play with little girls’ bullshit that you’ve been doing. I’ve trained intensely for over a year, and you can trust and believe that I’m going to be the best there is. I’m not pining over you or watching your every move because you found love with a new little Myshka!”

She says the words so mockingly that it makes my skin crawl.

“No, I learned. I learned what it means to inflict pain so exquisite that my submissives are gagging for me. I learned to draw pleasure out to the point of unconsciousness. I’ve got tricks even you’ve never seen, Sir, and I’ve done the last thing that I needed to do. I finally broke your control over me and got you out of my system, and thanks to you, I’ll be a fantastic Domme—even better than Elena, maybe even better than you.

“I knew the moment I saw that ‘look-at-me-I’m-sitting-on-top-of-the-world’ tell-all piece of bullshit that you did with the little woman that really didn’t tell anything, I knew this was the perfect time to take what I needed from you—right at that moment when you thought you were the biggest shit ever. How does that victory lap feel now, Christian?

“You want to ruin me? Go ahead. Ruin me. Ruin the little submissive who pissed you off because she made you make her come. That’ll make you feel like a big, powerful man, won’t it? It was good for me. I got what I wanted from you. Thank you for closure. You won’t hear from me again. Have a nice life, lover.” And she blows a kiss to the goddamn screen again.

I… Am… Fucking… Livid…

I fell for the oldest goddamn trick in the book. This bitch lured me in with a carrot—and a plastic one at that—and I let her. I fucking let her! I couldn’t afford for her to release something that would set Ana off after everything that has happened. I couldn’t risk it, and at the slightest mention of the possibility, I let everything I know fly out the fucking window.

“Fuck!” I yell. I’m not angry that the fucking cunt came. She needed a nut that bad, so be it. I’m mad that I let this shit happen. I mad that I allowed her to lure me away from my office to a private place for some bullshit. Now, I have to tell my wife because it’s going to eat me up if I don’t and if anything does come from this, she needs to know before it happens.

I damn near rip the flash drive from my laptop and storm into the en suite. I crush the damn thing under my heel—several times—then throw the pieces ceremoniously into the toilet. Snatching my jacket from the back of the office chair, I storm out of my office, nearly breaking the door on my way out.

“Sir?” Jason says as I breeze past him to the elevator, him quickly falling in step behind me.

“Nothing! Fucking nothing! Abso-fucking-lutely nothing! Get me the fuck out of here.”


A/N: So, in case you didn’t catch it, Raynell was getting hit with a lot of one-liners from movies and songs in the hashtags and tweets. She used one and social media came back on her with a vengeance!

#itsgoodtobetheking—History of the World, Part I. Mel Brooks also made a song out of it later.

#dodgedabullet—common phrase used often, but my favorite was Beyoncé, Best Thing I Never Had

“Big mistake… big… huge!”—Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts), Pretty Woman

#youcouldabeenacontender—it’s actually “I coulda been a contender,” Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), On the Waterfront. It’s pretty old.

#almostdoesntcount—song by Brandy

#imeanttodothat—used to death along with “I’m okay,” but it originally came from Pee Wee Herman in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

I recognize that this is a controversial and upsetting time for victims of sexual abuse and assault as well as for Cosby supporters everywhere. However, we live in the real world where real stuff happens—thus, the reference to Bill Cosby. Please note that the case that has now come to a head with a conviction and sentence was first brought to public scrutiny and began to pick up momentum in October of 2014 when a comedian referred to Cosby as a rapist, causing several women to come forward with their accusations. As such, please note that at this point of the story, we are in November of 2014, which is why the male host jested, “What? Too soon?” It may (or may not) have been in bad taste on his part, but that’s what happens in entertainment whether we like it or not.

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

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

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

 ~~love and handcuffs

 

 

 

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Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 15

Email to come later…

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

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

CHAPTER 15

Pissed Off Trey

TREY

I felt the sting, but that’s it. I couldn’t feel anything else.

She could have stuck me with a hot poker straight off the fire and I don’t think I would have felt it. I couldn’t get the pure rage out of my eyes. I wanted her to hit me harder, longer. As it stands, she beat the fucking hell out of me; I just couldn’t feel it.

As I’m driving home, I’m pondering my scene with Golden… and my dinner with Ana. They really are two different people, but I could easily see Golden’s appeal in the way that Ana carries herself. Even during our after-meetings in the parlor, she’s still mostly-Golden. I don’t think she ever really lets Ana out—in the boardroom, in the courtroom, in the playroom… ever.

I want to know what the fuck that was that she used on my dick. That thing was fucking incredible! I didn’t stand a chance against it. This pulsing, rubbing, throbbing thing… fuck! It was just too much! That damn thing broke me down in three minutes. Fuck, was it even three? I forgot why I was mad; I couldn’t think; my dick was on fire! I’m getting a little pulse right now just thinking about that thing.

But when that flogger hit my back, I remembered where I was. I remembered that I was another poor subject at Golden’s mercy about to spill my hopes and dreams all over her dungeon floor. At least I was coherent enough to see the floor cover. So, I know where my cum went last time. It didn’t just disappear into FairyLand.

To say that I was fucking useless when she was done is an understatement. Every part of my body was completely inoperable. Even my brain was mush. I only called Blake because I remember her telling me to call him if I needed help. That strange Spanish accent was just what I wanted to hear, even lying there on the floor naked. If he was some kind of perv and wanted to fuck me up the ass at that moment, I would have been powerless to stop him.

As it turns out, he’s really very professional. It was strange having him examine my wounds and massage antiseptic cream into my many, many bruises, particularly the ones on my ass, but it was more like being treated by a doctor. He told me everything that he was going to do; informed me everywhere that he would touch me; applied cool towels to ease the sting for several minutes before he started the massage—which would have been agony had he done it before applying the towels. He even put a massage pillow under my head so I didn’t have to lay on the floor. I’m not sure I’ll partake in the aftercare too many more times after tonight, but at least I know that the guy knows what he’s doing should I need it again.

Dinner was… surprising. I had no idea that she could cook. That chicken tasted like pure southern comfort, and those mashed potatoes melted in your mouth like hot butter. I never considered myself the caretaker for my subs. They get aftercare when I feel like it, but as far as their state of mind is concerned, I was never really taught to care about that. I beat them good; I fuck them well; they’re usually happy; I send them home. If I beat them real good, they’ll get aftercare, but I still send them home.

Then again, look who my BDSM mentor was—my lying, cheating father who fucked submissives in the house when my mother was out. The man who still holds things over his children’s head to protect himself from whatever guillotine is poised at his neck—like I really fucking care what he could have on me, but I’m dying to know what he has on Mia. There’s the utter picture of care and concern for you, there.

I don’t know how a Dom is really supposed to care for a submissive. I’ve never been full-on into the hardcore shit, anyway—just some pain with your pleasure, come real hard, buy ‘em some toys or pay their college tuition for a year or so and move on. The only one who really left displeased was Caramel. That’s an experience I really don’t care to repeat.

I know the rules. I know the do’s and don’ts, but all the little nuances? I’m not a Dom like that. I fuck ‘em and flog ‘em—even more fuck than flog lately—and that’s it.

Golden taught me something tonight, though. She taught me about the full package—about how a submissive is supposed to feel when they leave your presence… no matter how you get them there. Granted, I’m not one for that touchy-feely shit, but she did get to the root of the problem. I had been fucked—so to speak—flogged, and then she talked to me. She fed me, too, which sure as hell didn’t hurt.

I get to the parking garage and punch my key code in. I notice, with little interest, that another car—a brown sedan—says something to the guard and is allowed in right behind me. I’m a little unnerved, because I know that no one was behind me. I always check my mirror before I punch in the code. All of a sudden, there’s a brown sedan behind me. I shrug it off and park my car. I don’t see where the sedan went, but I get out and walk to the elevator anyway, still pondering the events of the night.

“Christian Grey?”

“Shit!” A female voice is directly behind me. She literally scares the shit outta me. She’s wearing one of those unflattering suits that women wear when they want to look like a man.

“A bit jumpy, aren’t you, Mr. Grey?” she accuses.

“Well, let’s review,” I say, turning around to face her and folding my arms while staring at her and the guy standing with her. “You follow me into a restricted parking lot when I know there was nobody behind me. Your car disappears like fucking Houdini, and now you’re stalking me in the parking lot, sneaking up on me on cat’s paws and standing all in my personal fucking space! Hell, yeah, I’m jumpy!” She puts her hands on her hips. “What the fuck do you want?”

“You’ve got one hell of a temper there, Grey,” she notes.

“And it’s only going to get worse if you don’t state your business,” I declare, matter-of-factly. Her companion reaches into his coat and pulls out his badge.

“Mr. Grey,” he says calmly. “I’m Detective Nick Hughes. This is my partner Detective Rita Bhingman. We’re investigating an open case and we’d like to ask you some questions, sir.”

“Thank you for stating who you were, sir, without all the unnecessary commentary about attitude adjustments,I say to him before turning to She-Cop. “The proper greeting would have been, ‘Excuse me, Mr. Grey?’ and upon noticing that you startled me, apologize for the intrusion, identify yourself and they state your purpose, or didn’t they teach you about protocol in the academy?”

“I don’t need you to tell me how to do my job, civilian,” she sneers.

“Well, somebody should because you missed a class, detective,” I sneer right back. She’s reloading to come at me again when Hughes intercepts her.

“Mr. Grey, as I mentioned, we’re investigating an open case and we need to ask you some questions. May I please ask where you were this evening between 8 and 9pm?” Well, that’s easy. Whatever they’re investigating doesn’t involve me.

“Not that it’s any of your business, but I was visiting a lady friend.” The She-Cop laughs.

“Is that what they call it now?” she taunts through her laughter. “Visiting a lady friend?” What the fuck does she know?

“What is this all about?” I ask.

“That lady friend that you visited? She’s been beat all to hell! Is that what you do to your lady friends?”

I’m horrified! I just left her—she was fine! Did that asshole sub freak out and put his hands on her?

“Ana?!” I ask incredulously. They both look at me bemused. “What happened to her? I just left her! She was fine!” They look at each other, then back at me.

“Her name is not Ana. Her name is Elena, and she’s definitely not fine!” She-Cop hisses.

“Elena?” I say incredulously. “I haven’t seen that bitch in months.”

“Ah, that bitch,” She-Cop says. “Now, we’re getting somewhere.” I frown.

“Is that the only thing you heard?” I ask. “I said I haven’t seen her!”

“Well, she says differently and you’re going to have to come down to the station.”

What in the blue fuck is this all about?

After about an hour of “I didn’t do it,” they book me based on her accusation and the fact that I definitely wasn’t home during the time that the bitch was attacked. Motherfucking hell! This just destroyed a perfect fucking evening.

I finally get my one phone call before they take me to a holding cell. Do I call Taylor, or do I call Golden? Taylor’s sure to answer, but Golden’s my fucking alibi. Taylor will check all the usual places if I’m not home by morning. I take a chance and call Golden.

“It’s late, Trey,” she answers on the second ring.

“I’m in jail,” I reply. I hear shuffling on the other end.

“Wait, I have to adjust the phone. I thought I heard you say you were in jail…”

“You did,” I say flatly. There’s a pause.

“What?” she says, incredulously. “Why? Did you hit a cop on the way home?!”

“No, they think I attacked Elena Lincoln!” I bark into the line. Another pause.

“Did you?” she asks. What the…?

“Where have I been all night?!” I shout.

“This happened tonight?” she asks incredulously.

“Yes, this happened tonight, a few hours ago or so if I’m understanding correctly.”

“Shit!” she breathes. “Blake!” she yells. “Where are you?” she asks into the phone.

“One of the Kirkland precincts. I don’t know…”

“How do I reach Taylor?” she asks.

“He’s at my penthouse,” I inform her.

“I know where you are. Sit tight,” she says.

“Well, it’s not like I’m fucking going anywhere!” This is your Mistress, asshole. “I mean… okay.”

“Your ire is understandable, but…” and she trails off.

“Yes, yes, I know,” I say through my teeth. God, will this day never end?

“Let me take care of it.”

*-*

My phone, my Montblanc, my shoestrings, my money, my tie, my fucking cufflinks, my goddamn belt…

An officer quietly leads me to a holding cell with several other men. I sit in a corner facing the rest of the room with my arms folded and my eyes fixed in front of me. I want to kill somebody! I literally want to kill someone. The someone is Elena Lincoln, but anybody who crosses my path will do tonight. The cell has the strong odor of piss and I can feel it seeping into my clothes.

The longer I sit here, the angrier I get. The many ways that I can make every person responsible for this pay for their actions keep playing over in my head. The bitch broke my arm and when somebody beats her to shit, she points a finger at me. She is going to fry for this shit.

I’m going to offer a five-million-dollar reward for anyone who has any information that leads to the arrest of the person who beat her ass. I have a feeling I know who it was. In fact, I’m sure that I know who it was… and why. Your company is mine, Linc, and everything you hold dear. I promise you.

I’ve got at least two years of legal bullshit ahead of me and I have this piece of shit, pussy-ass lawyer over my legal department who used to be worth his weight in gold. Now, he’s shit. Do I wait for a new department head or pass the job down to one of the subordinates in the department? These balls need to get rolling quickly! I don’t want to wait.

Idea after idea after plot after plan rolls through my brain as my nostrils are permeated with the smell of piss, foul body odor, and cheap liquor seeping through someone’s pores. The aura of stay the fuck out of my personal space that I’m giving off is enough to keep these fuckers away from me, but not their aromas. I’m not acting like I own the place, just this corner that I’m inhabiting until I get the fuck outta here.

Whenever the hell that’s going to happen.

“Grey!”

My eyes land on an open cell door and a burly cop standing in front of it.

“You’re free to go.”

Hmm. I guess somebody posted bail. Now, I’ll have to fight this shit. Lincoln, when I’m done with you…

I stand and quietly walk out of the cell. I follow another officer back to Central Processing where I retrieve all my belongings and every cent of my money from a contrite looking officer behind the window. I look at my Montblanc. It’s after 2am. I’ve been here for more than two hours. I couldn’t even tell. Continuously plotting someone’s demise every waking second will do that to you.

I feel like a pissy, dusty piece of shit and I can’t get the smell of urine out of my nose. I’m fighting to get my fucking watch on my arm when I look up and see An… Golden

Shit, she came down here dressed like that? She looks unbelievably fuckable—even more fuckable than she looks in her golden negligees and catsuits. I just stare for a moment, thinking of those muscular thick thighs wrapped around my waist as I slam into that tight, hot pussy…

Dream on, Grey.

“Did you bail me out?” I ask as I’m still trying to fasten this fucking watch. I need to fuck. My back is still stinging from the flogging and beating I got earlier. I just need to fuck. She tells me that she was my alibi as I exit the precinct.

No Taylor. Where the fuck is Taylor? Maybe she didn’t call him. I’m looking for a taxi to get me home, but she scolds me and orders me into her Range Rover. Okay, don’t blame me if your seat smells like piss when I get out.

We talk a little on the ride—all the way the fuck back to Seattle. We speculate that it was probably Linc that beat her, which it most likely was. I’m buying out his businesses; I told him I fucked his wife; and in the end, he couldn’t beat my ass, so he went home and beat hers!

Damn!

She’s a fucking bitch, and she had that shit coming—an ass-beating, that is. It served her right, but that was still a real pussy-ass thing for him to do. Go home and beat your wife because you couldn’t beat a motherfucker in the street. Real macho, asshole.

Ana says something about a cease-fire or some kind of truce or something like that, and I have to remind her that she has a class-action suit against this woman for an imaginary bedbug infestation. She concurs and adds something about Elena ending up dead.

“I won’t lose any sleep if she does,” I conclude, and I shut the conversation down. Quite frankly, I’m tiring of it. I want to fuck. We can analyze this shit tomorrow.

Golden pulls up to Escala and puts the car in park. I should say something. She is my Mistress after all, and she did get me out of jail.

“Thank you… Mistress,” I mumble, “… for… getting me out of jail and… getting me home…” I can’t even make eye-contact with her. I’m not feeling submissive in any way right now. I’m feeling Dominant—to the point of aggression—and I need to fuck!

“We’ll talk later,” she says after a pause. “Go.”

Thank God! I can’t stand sitting next to her one more second and that big ass isn’t bouncing on my dick. I open the door quickly and scramble out of the truck. It’s all I can do not to run to the door of my apartment building and take every flight of stairs up to the penthouse. I close the door and walk swiftly to the double-doors of Escala without even looking back.

“Sir!” Taylor comes running from his office, no doubt alerted to my presence when the elevator opened. “I was waiting for a call! I would have picked you up…” I didn’t fucking feel like waiting.

“Where in the fuck is Rockford?” I seethe. Taylor frowns.

“He… he wasn’t there?” he asks surprised. “How were you released?”

“Golden got me out,” I growl. “She substantiated my alibi. That pussy attorney of mine never fucking showed up!”

“That’s crazy,” Taylor says, dropping protocol. “I called him hours ago when you were first arrested. I’ve been sitting here waiting to hear something.”

“What was he doing when you called?” I ask.

“I don’t know, he sounded like he was asleep.” I just bet he was. He might have been in bed, but he wasn’t asleep. “Take a screenshot of your call log and send it to my phone. I want transcripts of that call on my desk in the morning. Call security now and tell them to freeze all of his accesses, including passwords and clearances. Get all network access wiped as soon as IT can get it done.”

“Done, sir.” Taylor goes back to his office without another word. I pull out my phone and immediately type an email to the head of HR that my ex-head of legal has been terminated effective immediately due to breach of contract. I send another email to Andrea that I expect a list of new candidates in the morning, so tell Borne and Associates to get off their asses.

I walk immediately to the fuck room. I don’t fuck in my bed; I fuck in this room. Reaching into the nightstand, I pull out the burner phone that’s always charging there and text my BDSM escort service.

**I need two in thirty minutes. Clean. Freaks. Bareback. Penthouse. Ask for Trey. **

I don’t wait for a response. They know if they can’t find someone, I won’t use them again. I pay handsomely to make sure they’re at my beck and call, so they very well better be. I strip out of my clothes with intention to burn them and walk straight into the shower.

**Expect Vida and Blaze. **

This is the message that greets me when I step out of the shower. That was twenty minutes ago. I take a few items from the drawers and place them on the end table near the sofa, in case I decide to use them. I don’t bother getting dressed. This isn’t a seduction session. Hell, I don’t even want to beat them now. I just want to fuck and go to sleep… forget this whole goddamn night.

I text the names to Taylor just in time for my two fuckbuddies to arrive. I instruct him to send them to the fuck room, get comfortable on the sofa, and wait. To my delight, two luscious specimens walk in the open door, both in cliché trench coats and stilettos.

“I’m Vida,” the taller one says. “This is Blaze.”

I nod.

“What would you like, Sir?” Vida asks.

“I want to be sucked and fucked until I’m comatose and then I want you to leave,” I say frankly. Vida raises an eyebrow, then turns to Blaze. A wordless conversation passes between them before she turns her gaze back to me.

“Yes, Sir,” she says. They simultaneously undo the belts of their trench coats and they’re both naked underneath—and fucking gorgeous!

Yes! Jackpot! Let’s get this shit started.

“Get over here and suck my dick,” I command. They move as one as they approach me. I slide down so that my ass is nestled comfortably on the edge of the sofa, allowing my legs to fall open wide.

Two women on the head of my dick—licking and sucking like a coveted, delicious lollipop. I don’t say a word and I don’t move. I just watch those luscious lips and hot tongues compete to make me come. Shit this is good. Vida’s lips suckle my head while Blaze’s incredibly long tongue wraps around my cock and tickles and licks my frenulum. Fuck, this is hot… and I get to watch.

Licking and sucking and lapping until my cock is hot and hard and pink and wet with their saliva. I grip the edge of the sofa in hot pleasure, and try though I might, I can’t resist their combined talents. I lick my lips, then bite, anticipating the hot, hard orgasm building in my balls. Vida takes the queue and begins to stroke her side of my cock hard and tight with those lips. Not to be outdone, Blaze alternates her stroke so that one of them has their mouth on my head at all times.

They’re both very good at what they do, but with different techniques. Vida’s tongue is small and quick, giving me a torturous flutter when she’s at the head. Blaze’s tongue is long, firm, and thick, covering an amazing amount of sensitive skin when she takes me into her mouth.

Fucking two different mouths at the same damn time, each with masterful techniques to make me blow is enough on its own to send me sailing over the edge, but when one of them ghosts a finger over my asshole, across my anus, and then tickles and caresses the tight skin of my balls, I close my eyes and see my Mistress tormenting my balls and ass with her fingers and pleasuring my sensitive cock with her mouth. It’s more than I can take.

“Fuck!” I bite out, opening my eyes and digging my fingers into the sofa so as not to grab Vida by the hair and ruin her rhythm. She’s the one who ends up on the head when my orgasm starts, and she latches on and sucks hard, drinking nearly every bit of my semen and only allowing a drop or two to escape from the corner of her mouth where I can see them. They slide hot and thick down my pulsing, throbbing, massively ejaculating dick where Blaze’s long thick tongue is waiting to snake around my throbbing cock and lap them up like tasty drops of sweet nectar.

The visual causes me to groan deep in my chest and the pleasure starts a whole new series of tremors. I come and come and come until it nearly feels that my balls are empty… but I know better. I tell them to stop and watch them make out a bit for me while my cock rejuvenates. It doesn’t take long.

“Get over here,” I command them. “On your knees on either side of me.” They both crouch beside me on the sofa and I put a finger into each of them.

“Kiss,” I tell them, and they begin the raunchiest girl-on-girl make-out session I think I’ve ever seen. The first one to start riding my finger wins. Vida beats her counterpart to the punch.

“Stop,” I tell them, and they rip their lips apart, looking lustfully at one another.

Fuck, I love bisexual submissives.

“You,” I command Blaze as I take my fingers from her pussy, “go get those cuffs.” She goes to the end table and gets the leather cuffs while Vida continues riding my hand. That’s right baby, keep it nice and wet for me.

“Cuff her at the elbows,” I tell Blaze. Vida obediently puts her arms behind her back and Blaze cuffs her at the elbows, causing her breasts to protrude nicely. Yes!

“Get up here and ride my cock!” I tell her. With the help of her friend, she straddles me and slides her wet pussy onto my now-eager dick.

“Fuck, yes!” I hiss, grabbing her hips and pushing and pulling that pussy on and off my dick.

“Fuck, that’s good. Gimme those tits.” She juts her chest out to me and I take hungry mouthfuls of those tender tits and taut nipples into my mouth as I drill into her. She moans in pleasure and drops her head back as I drill into her and Blaze fondles her wherever her hands can reach.

When I tire of this position, I make her straddle me in reverse so that I can watch that ass bounce on my cock. She spreads her legs wide and pulls my dick up into that warm, dark orifice. She’s so tight this way that I nearly whimper as her pussy sucks me in balls deep. With her elbows still cuffed together, she puts her hands flat on my abs and rolls mercilessly on my dick.

Oh, God, this is so good I may not get to fuck Blaze.

“Make her feel good,” I tell Blaze. She’s focusing too hard on me and I won’t last long. Blaze starts by kissing her, deep and sensual, while she pinches Vida’s nipples between her fingers. This may not have been the best idea, because not only do I have two sexy and hot girls making out right in front of me, but one of them is riding my dick—well! And getting better the hotter she gets.

At some point, I realize that my dick is nothing more than a warm, hard dildo and that’s fine with me, because once Blaze slides down between our legs and starts licking Vida’s pussy, the ride becomes a sensual fucking rodeo and a race to the finish.

I’m not racing. I still want to fuck Blaze, but I’m going to enjoy Vida working my dick before she comes.

Blaze’s head is bobbing, and Vida throws her head back in ecstasy, her strokes on my dick now becoming long and controlled… and wetter… and tighter…

Shit, I’m not going to make it.

Vida whimpers with every stroke. She’s so hot and ready to come. She spreads her legs wider as Blaze‘s head continues to bob between her thighs. If she’s eating that pussy as well as she sucks dick, I feel sorry for that little cunt getting licked and drilled at the same time.

Vida raises her head so that she can see the action between her legs. She’s sweating all over and now fucking Blaze’s mouth more than my cock. I grab both of her arms and stroke up into that pulsing pussy as Blaze brings her closer and closer to the edge.

That’s it. Suck that clit. Make her come.

Vida trembles and whimpers again and I hold her down by the arms, massaging those trembling walls with my stiff, eager dick and pleasuring my aching cock with that sweet, tightening pussy. It’s making that wonderful, sloppy, wet sound like creamy macaroni and cheese and that shit is so fucking hot that I have to concentrate not to blow inside of her.

Vida trembles violently and finally shrieks out a massive orgasm before falling limp on my dick. That was so fucking hot, but now, I have a limp submissive on my lap. That will never do.

“Switch,” I command them. “Make it fast.”

Blaze undoes the cuffs from Vida’s elbow, giving her a moment to catch her breath. She’s still on my lap and I rock slowly into her as Blaze turns around and allows Vida to cuff her elbows. She rises off my dick, which is now wet, red, and standing at complete attention. Blaze raises her eyebrows but isn’t daunted by the task. She slides down on my stiff cock and I’m immediately relieved that she didn’t ride me first—Vida wouldn’t have gotten up here.

“Damn, baby,” I say almost involuntarily. “What the fuck?”

“Kegels,” she says as she squeezes them around me and begins to ride.

“Fuuuuck,” I groan as an inhumanly tight pussy squeezes my cock. Fuck… Fleshlight. Mistress. This shit is going to be really quick.

Vida doesn’t waste time pleasuring Blaze. She must be grateful for that massive orgasm. Blaze is a little more flexible and has a better ride and a better rhythm, if I’m honest. Fuck, she’s going to drain me fucking dry. I close my eyes and see my Mistress… sucking my cock, squeezing my cock, stroking me with the Fleshlight…

My balls tighten, and I have to shake the thought of Golden using my body like no one else can. I may be just a dildo to these cunts, but they’re nothing more than substitutes for the woman that I really want… and the things that she does to me.

“Fuck!” I hiss as I see her tight body in my mind’s eye, even with my eyes open.

Vida has her hand firmly on Blaze’s nape, holding her head in place as she devours her with lavish and luscious kisses, so deep that their hair hides their faces and I can only see Vida’s head bob as she gobbles hungrily at Blaze. Vida really likes what she’s doing because I hear her moan and her hand wanders down to Blaze’s ass and squeezes while the other hand disappears between her legs, no doubt stroking her clit. I watch Blaze fall into ecstasy as Vida’s mouth moves from Blaze’s mouth to her neck and Vida devours the skin sensually.

“Mmmmm,” I groan at the sexy scene playing out before me—two girls loving each other thoroughly while one of them rides my dick so well that she forgets there’s actually a person attached to it. Other guys would be jealous that they aren’t the center of attention, but the only part of my body that needs to be the center is getting all the fucking attention it needs. Love away, ladies.

Blaze’s Kegels tighten hard around me and I realize that it’s because when I wasn’t paying attention, Vida dropped down to that pussy and now, her head is bobbing away between our legs.

Fuck, this is so hot!

Blaze is fighting to get out of her bounds now, bouncing hard and tight on my dick and truly making me think of my Mistress and her magnificent hand jobs.

Mercy.

I can’t look anymore. I can only see Golden, my Mistress, pulling and massaging, tighter and tighter and tighter. I groan, knowing the release is going to be massive and hoping this sub doesn’t blow before I do when…

Blaze screams loudly and cries a sorrowful ballad as she bursts wildly into orgasm. Her pussy clamps onto my dick in a most ungodly fashion and I cry out, wrapping one arm around her body so that my hand is gasping the opposite tit and the other arm around her waist immobilizing her on her deadly balls-deep downstroke, allowing me to thrust up into her vise pussy so that I can finish the job. While she’s tightening hungrily around my cock, Vida sucks my balls into her mouth and rolls them around.

Mistress…

Two more deep thrusts and I cry out, coming so hard inside that hot little pussy that I think I leave my head in there. Vida keeps licking until my balls are completely empty and Blaze is still twitching on my lap. I sink helplessly into the sofa trying to catch my breath as Vida peppers kisses on Blaze’s face.

A dildo to two hot, bisexual lovers—I highly recommend it.

*-*

I awake to my phone buzzing on the nightstand. Shit. I missed the alarm. I guess I won’t be going into the office this morning. I’m so fucking tired and still fucking sore. I painstakingly reach for the irritatingly buzzing phone.

“Hello,” I nearly growl.

“What? Still in bed, brother? You must have had an interesting evening.” Oh, shit. I don’t feel like dealing with this right now.

“Make it fast, Elliot,” I say. He only calls when he wants something from me, and I’m not biting today.

“I hear you spent some time in the hoosegow last night!” Elliot sounds like somebody just personally introduced him to Santa Claus.

“Yes, I did,” I say flatly. “How did you find out?”

“I have my ways,” he replies, his voice full of mirth. “What do you think Mom and Dad are going to say?” he taunts. Don’t have time or strength for this.

“Tell them, Elliot,” I say, unconcerned. “Let me know how it turns out.”

“Oh, no,” he says. “No, I’m going to save this for when I really need it.” I have such a loving family.

“You do that, Elliot. Goodbye.” I end the call and dial my mother.

“Hello, Christian,” my mother says in that voice that makes me know she’s glad to hear from me.

“Hi, Mom. How are you?”

“I’m fine, but you sound tired,” she observes.

“I am, Mom,” I say… for more reasons than one. “I want to tell you something before you hear it anywhere else.” There’s silence for a moment.

“Should I sit?” she asks.

“Yeah, you should.”

“Christian, are you sick?” she asks, her voice shaking.

“No. Mom, no,” I say quickly to calm her nerves. “It’s nothing like that. I’m fine. It’s just—stories get all twisted and things when you hear them second-hand and I’d rather you hear this from me.” Mom takes a deep breath and releases it.

“I’m ready, son,” she says.

“Do you remember Elena Lincoln, the salon owner?” I ask.

“Yes, I vaguely remember hearing something about her salons a while back,” she admits.

“Yeah, well, she and I used to be friends—before her salons failed. We fell out right around that time. She was sure that I had something to do with the fall of her salons and she attacked me at Grey House…”

“What do you mean she attacked you? Attacked you how?” Mom asks. How could she not have seen this?

“You remember my broken arm?” I ask. “I lied. I wasn’t mugged. She broke my arm. She threw a concrete plant at me in my first-floor conference room.”

“What?” Mom shrieks. “Obviously, you’re pressing charges.”

“Obviously. How could you not have seen this, Mom? It was all over the news.”

“Apparently, not the news that counts,” she says. “I don’t pay attention to gossip rags or online blog-type sites or anything like that. I look for the meat and potatoes. The rest—I don’t pay any attention to it.”

I wish everybody could be like that.

“Well, she’s looking for revenge,” I say. “Somebody beat her all to hell last night and she told the police that it was me. I was arrested.”

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” my mother says disgusted. “Well, that’ll be all over the news.”

“It’s possible,” I say. “I’m home today because I’m just too damn tired, but I’ll be putting together a press release with my PR team and I’m filing some lawsuits as well. You know the sensational is going to get out before the truth does, but my name was cleared. I had an alibi.” Mom sighs.

“Well, that’s good to hear. As long as I know the truth, they can say what garbage they want. What can I do, son?”

“You’re already doing it, Mom. Just shut the garbage down whenever it falls on your ears. I don’t care what the rest of the world hears, I can handle that—but I do care what you hear, Mom.”

“Thank you for telling me, Christian. I love you.”

“I love you, too, Mom.” I end the call. Take that, Elliot. I dial Welch.

“Yes, sir?” he answers.

“Elena Lincoln,” I tell him. “I want pictures of her—right now, beat all to hell with her face destroyed. I don’t care who gets them or how.”

“Done, sir,” he replies, and I end the call, then dial my PR guy.

“Brandon Pack here,” he answers.

“I was arrested last night,” I say immediately. “The charges were dropped because my alibi checked out, but Elena Lincoln was assaulted, and she fingered me.”

“Fuck, are you serious?” he asks.

“Dead serious. This is what I want you to do…”

*-*

“Christian! What the fuck is this about? By the time I went to the station, they said that you had already been released! I get to Grey House this morning and my shit’s all packed and I can’t get in the building because my clearances have all been disabled. If I’m out of a job, at least I should know the fuck why! You don’t get to just dismiss me, Grey! I know more than you think I know! I won’t go down without a fight! At least answer your goddamn phone!”

Oh, is that so, Mr. Rockford? Are you threatening me? Do you really want to see how dirty I can play? You got it!

As it turns out, Rockford thought I was arrested for the fight that I got into with Linc at Grey House yesterday. During one of his several rants into my voicemail that day, he let that cat out of the bag. That’s why he didn’t rush to get to the precinct. It was, “Oh, now you need me. I’ll let you stew for a bit.” He grew the wrong set of balls with the wrong person at the wrong time.

I call my IT genius and have him save all of the lovely voicemails that are filling up my phone to our networks in case I need them later. Then, I call Welch again.

“Did you get the pictures?” I ask.

“This morning, right after we spoke.”

“Good. Get them to Brandon. And send Rockford the Omega Care Package. I’m on my way.”

“The message on the Omega?” he asks.

“’What do you think you know?’” I reply.

“Done, sir.” I end the call. It’s about 11am and I had planned on staying home and recuperating from last night’s confinement, flogging and fucking—not necessarily in that order—but I really should have known better. Luckily, my stripes and bruises from playtime with Golden are all on my back, shoulders, ass, and thighs, so a black T-shirt and blue jeans will make just the statement I need.

I get to the office and the press is clamoring outside of Grey House. I don’t know if news of the arrest was leaked or if Brandon’s instructions garnered this much attention in such a short amount of time. Either way, it’s exactly what I need.

“The package has been delivered, sir,” Welch notifies me when I get into my office, “and Brandon has what he needs as well.”

The Omega Care Package is something that I have on standby for executives, CEO’s, lawyers, what have you, that find themselves in a position where they think they have me over a barrel. For Rockford, the OCP is pictures of his children leaving school, his wife at one of her social events, and him in several compromising positions in more than one locale with three ladies that are clearly not his wife. The package also includes a partial background check with not-so-secret assets and other juicy little tidbits that could destroy the man in several ways. He won’t have to guess who sent it with the one-line message he received.

Sure enough, his annoying and threatening calls and messages stop.

I’ll still have to punish him somehow for threatening me in the first place, but right now, I have bigger fish to fry.


Briana Evigan 15

GOLDEN

The interruption to my sleep last night prevented me from falling asleep when I got home, so I slept in and called Chanelle to take the day off. I’m just rolling over and stretching when Blake’s gentle knock reaches my ears.

“Come in,” I invite softly, not wanting to move from my cocoon, but knowing that I can’t lay here all day. Blake comes into the room with a prepared tray.

“May I serve you, Mistress?” he asks as I sit up in bed.

“You may,” I reply. Blake sits on the bed and places the bed tray over my lap. He removes the dome to reveal a beautiful large cheese croissant and a bowl of fresh fruit. A beautiful fruit juice cocktail with a garnish is on the side of the tray.

“I know you don’t like to sleep too late,” he says, unfolding the napkin and placing it over the exposed part of my lap, “so I thought I’d make it a little easier for you to wake.” He hands me the fruit juice cocktail. It’s his specialty—organic pears, fresh ginger, tangerine and lemon. “I would also like to discuss something with you.”

“Why you stayed last night?” I guess. He nods.

“But first…” He leans over to my nightstand and retrieves the remote from inside the top drawer. The television in my room is pretty much for decoration. I very rarely watch it. So, when he turns it on, I gather that there’s something he thinks I need to see. I pick up the fork and dig in to the bowl of tropical fruit salad.

“There was an announcement on the local morning show today that Christian Grey was going to be doing a press release soon. Considering your late-night trip last evening, I thought you might want to see it firsthand.”

“You’re right,” I say after swallowing some kiwi and passionfruit. “Thank you for alerting me.” He nods and leans his elbows on his knees, clasping his hands between them and staring at his clasped hands.

“What’s on your mind?” I say, placing the bowl on the tray. He sighs.

“Please, eat, before the croissant gets cold. I will tell you,” he urges. I tear a piece of the croissant and I swear it’s the most delectable thing I’ve ever had in my mouth.

Well, except… focus, Ana!

“I’ve made a decision.”

Shit. I don’t like the sound of this. I quickly chew and swallow the croissant and refuse to take another bite until I know what’s going on.

“And that is?” I say, wiping my hand on the napkin to show that breakfast is over until I know what’s going on. He watches me, then looks at his hands again.

“I’m leaving my wife,” he says softly. He sounds a bit remorseful about the decision.

“Oh,” I say. That’s not what I expected to hear. “What brought this on?” He sighs.

“I’ve taken responsibility for what I’ve done. I killed my Danielle. I live in purgatory because of it every day of my life. But Canciana…” He trails off. I don’t think he ever told me her name. If he did, I don’t remember.

“Canciana has become more and more selfish, her behavior more erratic than ever. I have been in limbo for years, in a state of penance, and she just gets worse and worse. While I understand her suffering, I punish myself enough every day—the memories, the pain, the guilt… I won’t allow her to punish me, too, not anymore.”

“What made you come to this decision?” I ask, comfortable enough now to eat my breakfast.

“I allowed her to do what she wanted—go where she wanted, be with whom she wanted, spend what she wanted, but it wasn’t enough. She had to hurt me more and more and she continued to become more and more inconsiderate in her actions. Last night, I come home, I put my key in the door and I hear noise upstairs. I go up the stairs thinking that someone is intruding and when I open the door to her room, she’s in bed with another man—in my house.”

I’m confused now. He said she could be with whom she wanted, and now he’s upset that he caught her fucking someone else?

“I knew that she was seeing other men; I don’t care about that, as long as she didn’t—how you say—shit where you sleep?”

Oooohh. She could fuck who she wanted, just not in his house. I continue to eat my delicious breakfast, listening to the soap opera playing out before me.

“When I asked what the hell she was doing, do you know what she said? Close the damn door.

Ouch, that smarts.

“So, I did, and I went to my room and I packed my things, and I put them in my car, and I drove away. I came back here, and I assumed that you heard me come back last night, which is why you summoned me when Mr. Grey called…”

“No,” I confess, “it was just out of habit.” I finish the rest of my fruit salad. Blake looks at his hands again.

“She’s at the point where she doesn’t care at all about my feelings. I killed our daughter and that’s all she knows. I don’t matter. It’s not fair for me to let her continue to abuse me and she’s just getting worse and worse. I still punish myself, but I’ve healed a bit. I understand and accept what I’ve done wrong, and I’ve found peace in what I do for you and others, even though it’s not perfect peace. She’s not healing at all. She’s becoming more and more bitter. My presence is only making it worse, and even my money isn’t helping the sting.

“I spent the night completing the forms and was the first person in line this morning at the court to file for divorce. I immediately employed a process server with instructions to serve the papers at 11am. That gave me enough time to clean out the bank accounts in both our names and open one in mine only. It doesn’t matter if she contests the divorce. We have a prenuptial agreement. She would do best to take the $4 million I promised her and leave. She could still live very comfortably on four million. She just won’t have unlimited funds like she has right now.”

“But if you had an agreement that she could live how she wanted and see who she wanted, what’s your basis for divorce?” I ask, chomping into what’s left of the croissant.

“Irreconcilable differences,” he replies. I raise a brow at him. “I come to find out that she’s using my money to take care of her worthless men. Then, I walk into our home that I purchased for my family where I was still laying my head, and she’s fucking some hijo de puta in my home! ¡probablemente el mismo bastardo que ella ha estado apoyando todos estos años!”

I don’t even think he realizes that he’s slipped into his native tongue. I swallow the croissant and finish my cocktail as he turns his attention to me.

“My apologies, Mistress,” he says humbly.

“Apologies are not necessary in this situation.” I look at my clock on the nightstand. “So, she’s already gotten the papers.” He nods.

“She’s hell-bent on contesting the divorce because she signed a prenup and she wants to keep spending my money to take care of her man. I will need an attorney to handle the divorce if it goes on too long and I trust no one with my personal information. You know me better than anyone. If this favor is too much to ask…”

“No, no, it’s not, Blake,” I stop him. “I’ll absolutely represent you.” He nods.

“She cannot use my money to take care of her men anymore. She can use her four million, after she signs the papers. She can have the house, because I sure as hell don’t want it, but that’s it.”

“She’ll try to get spousal support,” I warn.

“She didn’t agree to it in the prenup,” he informs me.

“She’ll still try,” I tell him, “to keep living in the manner in which she’s become accustomed.”

“Then we shall fight it nail and tooth, correct? No matter the cost, I can cover it.” He’s kidding right?

“We shall,” I say, laughing inwardly at his attempt at American vernacular. He nods and stands. He takes my tray and leaves without a word. I go to my en suite to relieve myself and once I wash my hands, Blake has returned.

“Mistress, one more thing. May I stay here until I can find a place?” I frown.

“I thought that was understood,” I reply. “And you don’t have to find a place. You have a room here. I have a guest quarters if you need more privacy…” He shakes his head.

“I don’t think I will need the guest quarters. I will think about staying, but…” He trails off.

“But what?” I ask.

“Mr. Grey, he’s becoming fond of you, and you of him…” I know where he’s going with this.

“We’ve had this conversation, Blake,” I say firmly. “Please don’t make me say it again.” He twists his mouth in disbelief and shakes his head.

“Yes, Mistress,” he says. I know him. He’s resolved that I’m going to fall in love with someone—most likely Trey since he’s the only one who comes to the house regularly—and Blake won’t be needed or welcomed anymore. That’s not going to happen, but I guess he’ll need to see that for himself.

“Mr. Grey,” Blake says.

“Blake,” I begin in a warning tone.

“No, Mistress, he’s on,” he says, pointing to the television and turning up the volume.

They’re in a conference room at Grey Enterprises Holding, and some guy is standing at a podium. Trey is standing behind him in that stance that he’s always in—legs parted shoulder length with his hands clasped in front of him—that is, when his hands aren’t in his pockets. I see Taylor standing in the same stance on the other side of the guy who’s about to start talking and several other men whom I assume are security standing around them as they’re all dressed like Taylor.

He looks positively scrumptious. He’s wearing a black T-shirt that’s clinging to his muscular body, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s rubbing against the welts on his back or if someone lovingly put some antiseptic cream on his bruises this morning. He looks quite refreshed and rested—and thoroughly well-fucked. I know that look. He’s been tripping the light fantastic all damn night and he’s as bright and shiny as a new penny this morning.

But why do I care?

Some off-screen reporter introduces the speaker as Brandon Pack, GEH’s head of Public Relations and the guy starts speaking.

“In the very late night and early morning hours last evening and today, Mr. Grey was dragged from his home and arrested after being wrongfully accused of attacking and viciously assaulting Elena Lincoln, socialite and wife of lumber giant, Caldwell Lincoln. Several months ago, after Mrs. Lincoln’s Esclava salon chain fell to ruin, she confronted Mr. Grey at his office, accosting him with a cement vase and breaking his arm. A restraining order is still in effect against Mrs. Lincoln and the assault case is still open. Mr. Grey has not seen or spoken to Elena Lincoln since that date.

“Mr. Grey recently seized the opportunity to capitalize on antiquated open and expired contracts with various lumber yards and suppliers, potentially placing a serious strain on Lincoln Timber and their future business dealings. To that end, Caldwell Lincoln visited Grey Enterprises Holdings yesterday to confront Mr. Grey, hurling curses and harsh words at him before he was escorted from the premises. The police were called upon his arrival and the situation thoroughly explained. A recording of the call to dispatch has been secured by our office.

“Mr. Lincoln left enraged and although he was in downtown Seattle as late as yesterday evening, his whereabouts are currently unknown.”

A picture of that frosted asshole flashes over the screen.

“If anyone has seen or sees Caldwell Lincoln, please inform him that his wife is in the hospital and has been brutally beaten, and he might want to find his way to her side.”

Brandon steps aside and Trey steps to the microphone.

“Let the record show that I was nowhere near that woman and I have no idea why she pointed her finger at me except for the fact that she attacked me several months ago and she has criminal charges pending because of it. This is nothing more than a vengeance campaign aimed at the wrong person. She has been terrorizing me ever since her salons folded, and I’m not going to take this anymore.

“I find it pretty coincidental that I had a heated conversation last evening with Caldwell Lincoln in my office when he came to my business and confronted me about my growing lumber interests. He wasn’t pleased with the outcome. Subsequently, his wife ends up beaten beyond recognition not two hours after our meeting and instead of being the doting husband by her side, he’s nowhere in sight.”

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

“A colleague of mine was able to secure these pictures of Elena Lincoln last night and this morning at Seattle General Hospital…”

Pictures of Elena flash across the screen. Her head is wrapped, and part of her face is bandaged. The part that’s not bandaged is a technicolor display of hideous bruising. There are also horrible bruises all over her body. One picture looks to have been taken before the doctors attended to her. Her face is bloody, and you can’t even tell it’s her.

“I would say that I’m looking quite unbruised and unscratched to have done that not 16 hours ago. No doubt, the person who actually attacked her more than likely looks like hell at this moment. This is the same woman who picked up a 50-pound cement pot and hurled it at me. I can guarantee you that she didn’t go down without a fight.  Nonetheless, that same woman proclaimed to the police that I was her attacker.

“I can only hope that the fine work of the two detectives who dragged me from my home as well as the impeccable evidence that was undoubtedly collected from Mrs. Lincoln’s person and from under her fingernails all coupled with my airtight alibi will all link to the person who actually committed this crime. In the meantime, I will be pursuing whatever legal recourse is available to me for the false accusations levied against me by Mrs. Lincoln as well as my false arrest and imprisonment last night by two gung-ho detectives who weren’t at all interested in truth and justice and only in the arrest.”

Oh, boy. Good luck getting all that done with that pussy ass lawyer who didn’t even show up at the police station last night.

“In addition, I’m offering a five-million-dollar reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the actual culprit who attacked Mrs. Lincoln last night. Since Mrs. Lincoln has conveniently mistaken who put their hands on her, she and her husband are excluded from collecting this reward. However, believe me when I tell you that I’m quite anxious to have the person who committed this crime and cost me a night in jail apprehended, convicted, and incarcerated as soon as possible. Thank you.”

The reward probably wasn’t a good idea, because the police are going to be chasing down every nutcase that has a lead they think will lead to that arrest and they’ll never find who really did it.

I look over at Blake who’s watching the closing statements of the interview. He doesn’t appear to be feeling any melancholy or emotional loss about his broken marriage. Then again, you can’t really feel too badly about something that’s been broken for years. He just wants it over. He was okay with her living her life and doing her thing until she fucked someone in their home.

He has told me that Canciana knows that he’s wealthy, but she doesn’t know the full extent of his wealth. As long as they’re married, she has access to that wealth—investments, bank accounts, life insurance, full-survivorship if he dies. Once they’re divorced, all her rights are gone except for whatever she gets in the settlement.

Once the interview is over, Blake turns the television off and stands.

“Would you like a bath, Mistress?” he asks.

“Yes, in fact, I would love a bath,” I reply. He heads towards the en suite. “Blake?” He stops and turns to me.

“Yes, Mistress?”

“If you don’t mind me asking, just how much are you worth?” He smiles that half smile he always does.

“To be honest, Mistress, I’m probably worth about as much as your Christian, if not more. And my numbers are growing because of my offshore interest accounts, rental properties, and investments. This is why my wife doesn’t want the divorce. She still isn’t sure of my actual net worth.” He turns and walks into the en suite.

When I hear the water running, I’m certain that I won’t let that bitch get her hands on Blake’s money. I’m also certain of one other thing. I grab my cell phone and dial.

“Kirkland Police Department.”

“I think I know who assaulted Elena Lincoln and how you can find them.”


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

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 58—Nobody Messes With the Greys

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 58—Nobody Messes With the Greys

CHRISTIAN

My head of legal may have taken the day off today, but I don’t always enjoy such luxuries. He and my wife were enjoying breakfast when I left this morning while I have three meetings before noon, not to mention that three of Pops’ classic cars are on their way out west today and I had to make sure they were properly insured and secured for the trip. I had my personal shipping department make the special arrangements to get them safely on the west coast. If all goes as planned, they should be here by the end of the week.

Smalls has sent me an organized listing of the remaining items in the storage facility and in each of the bins. Unfortunately, it took the entire weekend to organize and identify everything and another day to get the cars into their own units. It turns out that we didn’t need to arrange for another unit considering that three or four of them would be empty once the cars are shipped. Smalls made the executive decision not to put the cars in a unit by themselves since his team was working endlessly to get the items sorted and someone would always be there anyway.

I have Luma and Andrea come and help me decipher all the items. There’s so much stuff! Antique furniture—the good stuff—china, knickknacks, keepsakes… Uncle Herman is going to have a bit of a job on his hands. This turned out to be a massive undertaking. Had I not had the resources that I do, it would have taken Uncle Herman years to sort it all out and would have cost him a fortune.

“There’s a lifetime worth of stuff in those storage bins,” Uncle Herman says when I talk to him on Tuesday afternoon. “Six lifetimes, in fact… at least!”

“Where do you think you’d want to start?” I ask. I hear my uncle sigh.

“I have no idea,” he admits. “The jewelry and investments Dad had in that safe deposit box are worth a fortune. The brothers are all at a point where we’ve made our fortunes and lived our lives, not to mention the money tree Dad left us in his life insurance policy. So, I’m just thinking that I’ll split the items in the safe deposit box among his grandchildren. That’s been a daunting task in an of itself right there.”

“Well, at least one of his grandchildren has made his fortune, too, so you don’t have to worry about me,” I say.

“Well, maybe something personal,” Uncle Herman says. “A keepsake from your grandfather, maybe a family heirloom or something… or something nice for Ana?” I smile at my uncle’s generosity.

“I think that’s a great idea, Uncle Herman. Thank you,” I reply. He sighs heavily.

“You all accepted me so warmly,” he says, his voice thick with emotion. “You didn’t even know who I was. It had been years since we talked to Rick. Years. You would have been completely within your rights to be assholes just like Freeman… but you didn’t. On your wedding day—your day—you accepted me and my father into your heart as if we had been here all along. Your love and kindness never faded, never failed. You invited us to everything, made us feel at home…”

His voice cracks as he tries to explain how he—and probably Pops—felt when they first got here.

“My father was so happy,” he says through his tears. “He was so happy to be here, so happy to see Rick and his family. And you guys were so wonderful to us,” he sobs. Now I know how it feels to just want to hug someone and can’t.

“We were secluded in Detroit… it was just me and Dad in that big house. Stan was so busy trying to take care of his family and… well, you already know about Freeman. The grandkids were in school or in college, just trying to do their thing and live their lives, too. Not really time for an old dying grandpa. It sounds cold, I know, but Dad understood that’s just the way it is sometimes. But when we got here…” His voice trails off again and he takes a moment to compose himself.

“Gracie was wonderful—checking in on Dad all the time and asking me if I needed any help, getting a nurse set up to come by the house and help out so that I could have a break. And Luma… oh, Luma, how could I not fall in love with that woman? She was at his side nearly every waking moment. I don’t know how she did it with her job and the kids, and she took care of me, too. She held my hand and listened when I cried about knowing that I was losing my Dad… losing my very best friend…”

He sobs again. I don’t dare interrupt him. Seeing those manifests that I emailed to him has opened the floodgates and he just needs to let it out.

So, I let him.

“My family is so important to me,” he continues, still crying, “my children, my nieces and nephews—Freeman, too. Asshole that he is, he’s still my brother, and if he were to ever see the err of his ways, I would be right there for him in a heartbeat… we all would—Stan, Rick, and me—even though it’s hard for us to admit it right now. And even Shannon, my children’s mother. She gave me three beautiful children and I was a heel for what I put her through, but she stuck in there with our children… and she forgave me. Our marriage didn’t survive it, but she still forgave me, and that’s what’s most important.

When I came out here and saw all of you… and saw Anastasia… and she looked just like my Shannon, it was a sign that I was home. Shannon was everything that was good and right in my life and I fucked it up. But Ana showed me that Shannon wasn’t the end of my rainbow… that not only could her beauty be found outside of my little mourning circle, but also her kindness and her love… and like an angel falling from heaven as the manifestation of all those things—love, beauty, kindness, and my rainbow—here came Luma… to hold me up during the worst time of my life, one of them anyway.

“I… I just want to say that you are the true meaning of family,” Uncle Herman says, trying to pull himself together. “This whole story could have been so different… but thank you, Christian… Thank you for being my family. I’m proud that you carry the Grey name, and if you take some of these keepsakes—these mementos, whatever you like—to give to your wife, or pass down to your children, or keep for yourself, I would be so honored, and I know my dad would, too.”

Well, how can you turn that down?

“I’m the one who’s honored, Uncle Herman,” I tell him. “I come from unimaginable beginnings, and to be welcomed into a family like this is more than anyone could hope for. I’m sure my wife would love to have some things to pass down to our children and items to take a place of honor in our home.”

“That would make me very happy. I’m sorry I dumped on you, Christian,” he says.

“Uh-uh, Uncle Herman, don’t you dare,” I chide gently. “This is what family is for. It took me a long time and a good woman to understand that, but now I know. I’m here… we’re all here… for whatever you need.”

“I know, son,” he says softly. “A good woman…” he adds contemplatively. “Yeah.”

I suggest to Uncle Herman that we get the emails of all the grandchildren and send the list of things that are up for distribution. Anything that anyone wants immediately, they can have. Any unsolved disputes will be handled by a live “wheel-decide” so that no one can say that any favoritism is at play. We’ll have one once a week via Skype or video chat until everyone gets something. There will, of course be other factors that decide who’ll get what, like if someone won “wheel-decide” last week, they may be eliminated from the next week’s raffle and so on.

“We can start deciding who will get what by the weekend,” I tell him. “This will give my guys a chance to come home and spend some time with their families. They’ve been in that God-forsaken place since just after we left.”

“Oh, Lord! Yes, bring them home by all means!” Uncle Herman says.

“I’ll have a member of my shipping clerks here tweak the spreadsheet with all the items in storage and be in charge of tracking who gets what and where it will need to be shipped. Hopefully, everyone will get something they want, and they won’t be too much left to… dispose of.” I choose my word wisely. I can’t imagine throwing any of Pops’ things away.

“Yeah, I know,” Uncle Herman says, noting my hesitance. “I know exactly what you mean.” I nod as if he can see me.

“I’ll get the word to my guys to close up shop for now,” I tell him. “I’ll have them prepare to go back next Monday to start distributing anything that someone has laid claim to.”

“Good deal, Christian. Thanks for helping me with this and… thanks for listening to me blubbering.” I chuckle a bit.

“Anytime, Uncle Herman. Anytime.”

I end the call and call down to the shipping department with instructions of what I’ll be needing and to send someone up to discuss the requirements with me this afternoon. Then I call Smalls and tell him to shut down shop for the week and come home. I could hear the relief in his voice even though he tries to hide it. I inform him that I want the same guys on the job next week—no substitutes. These people have been privy to a very private part of my life and I don’t want anyone else handling the situation.

I’ll also know who to hold responsible if anything goes awry.

New locks are placed on the storage units in the facility and Smalls is given travel arrangements for his team to come home. It’s easier and faster to get them commercial flights home than it is to send the jet.

“We’ve begun a second search of the house, sir,” Jason says, as he and Barney step into my office later that afternoon. “I’ve got every entrance covered and believe it or not, there were a few trap doors we needed to make sure were inaccessible. We never would have found them without the blueprints.”

Thank God for those, I think to myself, and immediately remember Alex referring to himself as God.

“What about any leads to where the recordings and videos were stored?” I ask.

“If there’s any evidence of any recording activity that we didn’t find last week, we’re not finding it now, either,” Jason says.

“To be honest, Mr. Grey,” Barney interjects, “that stuff went to someone’s IP address. It’s like having the low-tech cameras that monitor your home and the footage is sent directly to your phone. Either your boy Jeeves has footage saved to a hard-drive or to his phone or in the Cloud somewhere, or that footage is just gone.”

I sigh. There’s no use in ransacking Tina’s home anymore if we’re not going to find anything.

“You’re sure we’ve removed all the listening and recording devices from her home?” I ask. They both nod.

“Yes, sir, the house is definitely clean,” Jason says.

“Okay,” I cede. “Make sure that team leaves her house spotless—today. Get a professional cleaning team in there if you have to. Make sure there’s a full security detail at that house until further notice. Harmony will be able to hire her own later if she wants, but right now, there’s too much on her mind.”

“There’s something else, sir,” Jason says as Barney leaves. I raise a brow at him. “Our guy on Carter says that he left his job for lunch and is waiting for a rendezvous at the Fairmont.”

“Is that right?” I ask. No doubt, to touch bases with Roger. “Any way we can get eyes and ears on that?”

“We’re already on it,” he says. “I’ve sent back-up with a bug—a tie cam—and a date to stay close to Carter. Roger’s guy has a room at the hotel to keep suspicion off him. He’s already in the restaurant waiting for him.”

“Why didn’t he stay on Roger?” I ask. “The worm might give him the slip!”

“Intelligence indicates that Roger called this meeting. He’s running out of options and unless he contacted his cohort while we weren’t looking, Carter doesn’t know the gig is up yet.”

“Well, that’s going to be a bit of a revelation, isn’t it?” I laugh. “Can you explain the date thing? I can’t imagine our guy can pay much attention with a date present.”

“Renshaw and Gallows… definitely not a couple,” he clarifies.

“Oh,” I reply. “Can we get a live feed, or do we have to wait until it’s over?”

“I can check,” he says, typing into his phone. I can’t help but wonder what Butterfly is doing right now. Did she work at home again? She could have stayed home because Allen was there. He certainly didn’t come in today—not even late. So, I imagine that he’s still relaxing at the Crossing.

I scan my “tips” resources online while I’m waiting for Jason and see that Sheldon Manufacturing is now courting Capito Industries. I laugh to myself. Sheldon is maybe fair to midland on the corporate map, and this acquisition is sure to drag him down into the trenches. I could warn him off Capito, but I decide against it. First off, if that worm Capito stays out of my business, I’ll stay out of his. Second, every company needs to do its own due diligence before they make a deal. I did mine; Sheldon better fucking well do his, too, though Capito is probably smarter on what to avoid now.

I wonder if Sheldon is sympathetic to his plight? You never know what someone is into… but that’s none of my business.

rs_560x415-150817131955-1024-kermit-lipton.jpg (560×415)

I really miss my wife. Maybe it was that sentimental conversation with Uncle Herman, I don’t know, but I suddenly have the urge to talk to my Butterfly. Just as I’m reaching for my phone, the wall opens behind me and the monitor comes alive.

I guess my Butterfly talk will have to wait.

“Showtime,” Jason says with a remote in his hand. “Roger hasn’t gotten there yet, but Renshaw says that Carter just got a call and he should be there any minute.”

The screen comes alive with a picture of who I assume is Kenneth Carter sitting at a table alone in the oyster bar inside the Fairmont Olympic. He’s eating prawns and calamari—with his fingers—like he hasn’t a care in the world. Where did this guy come from?

Use a fork, you caveman! You’re in a public place… where other people are trying to eat.

“Oh, we’ve got a real winner here,” I say aloud, watching him shovel prawn cocktail and handfuls of calamari into his mouth like he’s eating at a college bonfire.

He’s an average-looking guy, I guess, nothing menacing or remarkable. Yet, Harmony is fragile with one very fatal flaw. She’s starving for the love and attention that she didn’t get from her bio-dad, and she’ll latch onto any member of the male gender that’ll show her said attention. She can’t be saved from that—she has to save herself, or she’s going to fall into the same traps with guys like this for the rest of her life, especially with her money.

“Let me know when he’s done with that cocktail,” I say. I can’t watch the uncouth any longer.

“Sir,” Alex sticks his head in the door. I wave him in. “I’ve got the preliminary family tree for Mrs. Franklin,” he says pointing to my laptop. “I emailed the tree, but here’s some additional information that came in.”

“Anything alarming?” I ask as I take the manila envelope from his hand.

“Not particularly,” I say, “although Harmony’s biological father—who is now technically her nephew—has a string of gambling debts. He’s in deep to a really bad guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he came after the family for a piece of the pie… or revenge.” I raise my eyes to him.

“You know who he is?” I ask. Alex half shrugs.

“Somewhat,” he says. “I mean, I don’t hang in his crowd, but I know of him.”

“Do you know of him enough to make him stay the hell away from Harmony and Tina?” I ask. “Or I should ask does he know of you.”

“Not of me, but I know some people,” Alex replies.

“Well, talk to whomever you need to,” I say. “He wants to collect from his mark, he can do that, but he stays the fuck away from Tina and Harmony. Make it happen.”

“Yes, sir,” Alex says as I remove the contents of the envelope.

“Sir?” Jason says, garnering my attention. When I raise my head, he’s pointing the monitor. Roger is taking a seat next to Carter. Roger still looks like he was on the wrong end of a prize fight. The background checks will have to wait.

“Jesus, man! What the hell happened to your face?” Ken asks, examining Roger like an alien. “Are you missing a tooth?” 

“I had a run-in with an asshole,” he says. I chuckle at his description. He’s the asshole, here—taking advantage of a dying woman and her grieving daughter.

“Look, I got you all the information that I could about Tina’s fortune. You know what she’s worth and how she plans to distribute the money once she’s gone. Now, what can you do with it?”

“What do you mean what can I do? You’ve given me absolutely nothing! You haven’t given me anything concrete,” Ken retorts. “I agreed to help you if I could get something on my bitch of a wife, but you haven’t given me anything I can use on either one of ‘em! Poor little Harmony crying over her dying mommy—no men coming in and out of the house, nothing to use for blackmail, I can’t even hack into the accounts. I don’t have any bank account numbers, no credit card information… You’re in charge of the finances. How can you not have access to this stuff?”

“I’ve lost all my access,” Roger bites. “You told me you could do this! You told me you could clean them out before and after that old bat was dead if I got you access to the house. Now, you’re telling me you can’t? You had audio and visual. What the hell else did you need?” 

Had?” Ken says. “What do you mean hadWhat the fuck happened, Roger? We don’t have the videos and shit anymore? And what do you mean by you lost your access? What the hell is going on—and what the fuck really happened to your face?” 

Grey happened to my face!” Roger snaps. “I’ve been fired! I don’t know who said what to whom, but I’ve lost everything! I’ve lost access to the accounts, access to the house, and the bugs have all been discovered—every last one of them. Grey and his men came sauntering in there last week and swept the place of everything I planted! Everything! There’s nothing left! I don’t even have access to that backup dummy fund where I was stashing my nest egg because that’s in her name, too! Nothing, Roger! I’ve got nothing!” 

“Wait a minute. You’re telling me that your slosh fund was in the old lady’s name? Why the hell did you do that? Why didn’t you move the money?”

“I was going to move it—after she died. If I did it then, there was no suspicion, but if I moved it before then, there could be questions. A large sum moved around after her death—not so obvious.”

“And now you don’t have any of it,” Ken says in disbelief. “And Grey did that to your face?” he asks. 

“No, he had his minions do this!” Roger retorts, “but trust me, he could have done it himself.” Ken scoffs. 

“Figures,” he remarks as he stands and shakes his head. “I met his wife—last week while you were being raided for all that surveillance equipment that I’m never going to get back—tiny little, bad-ass bitch that I’m not fucking with. You’re on your own. I’m out of this shit.”

“Wait, you can’t just leave me hanging like this! I wouldn’t have even done this if it wasn’t for you! I was going to get a cut of something from the old lady! I know I was. Now, I’ve lost everything because of you and you’re just going to leave me?”

“Where the hell were you last night?” Ken asks, leaning on the table and getting in Roger’s face. “Where the hell were you when that couple was on primetime network TV blowin’ shit up? Both of ‘em—gats and shotguns, just blowin’ shit up for fun. Where the fuck were you?

“That woman came to my fuckin’ job—strapped in one o’ those goddamn gats she was shootin’ on TV last night. She told me to leave Harmony the fuck alone and now her husband—or whoever—done beat da fuck outta you! You got a tooth missin’, man… a fuckin’ tooth. You know what that means? That means somebody hit you hard enough to dislodge part of your skeletal structure. Hell, no! Hell, no! I’m not fucking with these two. Why the hell didn’t you tell me that Christian Grey knew this family? That’s key information that I needed to know before I decided to step into this endeavor!”

“I didn’t know she knew the Greys,” Roger retorts. “But, hell, it’s not far-fetched. The rich know the rich.”

“And who else does she know?” Ken snaps. “Oprah Winfrey? The Walmart Family? The goddamn President? Lose my fucking number, Roger. If you mention my name in any capacity, I’m going to completely disavow knowledge of you. I mean it, man, you’re on your own.” Ken turns to leave.

“They already know about you,” Roger calls after him and Ken stops. “I told them everything about you. They know that you helped plant the bugs. They know that you were listening in to get blackmail evidence on Harmony.” Ken turns around slowly.

“But you didn’t tell them about you skimming money off the expense accounts,” he says, “or trying to convince the old lady to make you Power of Attorney so you could clean her out and put her out of her own house. They didn’t know about any of that, huh?”

Ken and Roger face off for a moment, two pussies trying to show which one is the bigger fish.

“Then I suggest you leave town,” Ken says coolly, “because if Grey comes for me, I’m coming for you, you little snitch.”

Roger’s ashen face reveals who’s the bigger fish. I watch as Ken stares at Roger for a moment, then leaves the bar. Roger pulls at his collar and looks around to see if anyone else caught the exchange. How he doesn’t see my guy recording him, I’ll never know, but he obviously didn’t. I guess he and his “date” must be putting on a good show. He stands and scurries out of the bar and I hear my guy notify someone that he’s headed in their direction.

I wonder if Ken paid for lunch before he left?

Part of me feels sorry for the guy. He’s pretty much lost everything he had—by his own fault, of course—and now, he’s pissed off his accomplice who also wants a piece of his ass. What happened to his weekly paychecks? Was that money locked up in the fraudulent account, too? Maybe that’s what he’s living off now, because he sure can’t be staying at the Fairmont for free and unless he has a family hiding somewhere that we don’t know about, he didn’t have any expenses. So, he hasn’t lost everything; it probably just feels like it because he lost a lot. Maybe I should just leave the man alone…

Naaaaaahhhh!

“Show’s over,” I hear someone say, and the screen goes black.

So, as it turns out, Roger and Carter’s plan was not well thought out and very elementary. They were trying to find a way to get Tina’s money, but they were also trying to find some evidence of Harmony cheating before the divorce is final.

“Hmm,” I say, looking at the documents for the Franklin background check. “Rats from a sinking ship.”

“Indeed,” Jason says. “Stay on ‘em?”

“Of course,” I confirm. “I don’t trust either one of them. Now, I’ve got to worry about a loan shark or some shit.”

Aunt Tina has no living siblings; four living children between the ages of 60 and 75; ten grandchildren between the ages of 25 and 45—one of which is Harmony’s bio-dad, Damien; and only two adult great-grandchildren in their 20’s. She also has four living nieces that haven’t been in touch in years and seven great-nieces and nephews that we can find—probably more. We haven’t even number great-great-nieces and nephews who may be around the same age as Harmony or as Tina’s great-grandchildren. These people are going to swarm Harmony like the attacking crows in The Birds. Jesus! If she wasn’t getting the house, I’d tell Harmony to leave town.

“Mr. Grey,” Andrea’s disembodied voice breaks my train of thought.

“Yes, Andrea?”

“Angenette Morello is here from shipping. She says you’re expecting her.” Who the hell is Angenette…? Oh! Yeah.

“Yes, send her in.” I put the information back into the manila envelope and put it in my desk drawer. “Alex, see what other information you can get on Tina’s family. This is good but check further down one generation—great-great-nieces and nephews. See if we can get detailed background checks on…”

My sentence trails off when the shipping clerk walks in. All legs, tight skirt, and tits damn near busting out of her blouse, oozing the vibe of the slutty secretary that’ll fuck you on your desk.

Slutty secretary 1

What the fuck is this? I told him that this was a personal and sensitive matter, and this is what he got from that? To send an undercover hooker to my office?

“Wait outside,” I snap. Jason and Alex move to leave.

“Not you two,” I say as Angenette gives me the come-hither look. “You.” I point to her. “Wait with my receptionist.”

She smiles and turns around, walking out the door that she just came in. Jason and Alex both turn disbelieving glares at me as I furiously call down to my shipping department.

“Ship…”

“Who the hell did you send to my office?” I hiss into the phone.

“One… one of the best clerks we have, sir. You said this was important.”

“Get your ass up here, now!” I bark into the phone as I slam it down into the carriage. What the fuck? I told him this involved my family! I’m a married man with twins! There might be a need for a member of my family to speak to this clerk and he sends a fucking sexpot up here? What the fuck does he think he’s doing?

Quickly finding my footing, I go back to what I was saying to my security personnel

“Alex, see if you can get background checks on Tina’s children and on Harmony’s biological mother and father. You know this is time-sensitive, so pull out all the stops and get me all the information you can. We’ll worry about the others as the need arises. As for Roger and Carter, keep your eye on them and see what they do for the next few days—close surveillance.”

“Are we still looking to have a sit-down with Roger?” Jason asks.

“From the looks of things, I don’t think we could get anything useful out of him. I just want to see what he does.” Jason nods and I hear the elevator ring. This must be my soon-to-be unemployed head of shipping and receiving.

“What are you doing up here?” I hear him ask as his voice gets closer.

“I came to help Mr. Grey with his manifests,” Angenette says, her voice a bit shaky. I tilt my head to look out my door and she’s pulling at her skirt.

“No wonder he called me pissed off,” I hear him seethe. “Where’s Georgie?”

Just as he asks the question, I hear the elevator ding again.

“Mr….” I hear another female voice say. “Am I late?”

“You might be,” I hear him growl. “Have a seat over there. You… If I get fired because of your little stunt, you’re going with me, and I don’t care who your aunt is!”

Hmm, this is an interesting little soap opera playing out here. I hear a knock on my open office door. Jason rises and opens it further to reveal my very nervous head of shipping and receiving.

“Come in,” I say sternly. He steps nervously into my office. “Bring her with you.” He gestures behind him and a completely different woman walks into the office—clothes still way too tight, but a little more presentable than she was a moment ago.

“Well,” I begin, folding my hands on the desk in front of me, “your attire is still a size too small, but it appears that your skirt has lengthened two inches and you found use for that button at your bosom.” Angenette drops her gaze and I turn mine to my head of shipping. “Is this how your clerks dress on the shipping docks?” I bark.

“No, sir,” he replies. “She… well, first, she works in the office. And… no… she wasn’t dressed like that when she came to work this morning.” I turn back to the clerk.

“Had those clothes on tap for just such an emergency, Ms. Morello?” I ask. She doesn’t answer. She keeps her gaze to the ground and I can tell that she’s utterly humiliated. She should be.

“Um, sir?” Is he still talking? “Sir, she’s not the clerk I sent up here.” I raise my brow. This is interesting.

“Oh?” I ask. I had a feeling when I heard a second female get off the elevator, but I wasn’t sure.

“No, sir, I sent Georgina Tanner. She’s in your lobby now.” I turn to Ms. Morello.

“And why did you come?” I ask her. She doesn’t respond. “Your refusal to answer me is only going to piss me off, Ms. Morello. Your barely on the edge of the dress code—which you were not when you presented yourself to the happily married CEO of this company a few moments ago.” She still doesn’t speak. I see—if you don’t admit to anything, it didn’t happen. Not in my company. “Who is your aunt?”

That got her attention. Her head shoots up like a rocket and her mouth flies open, but nothing comes out.

“Who. Is. Your. Aunt?” I ask again. She drops her gaze again and doesn’t reply.

“Evangeline Simpson,” my department head says, “the employee relations HR liaison.” I nod.

“I see.” I stand and walk out to Andrea’s desk. “Andrea, see if Evangeline Simpson in HR is in today and get her up here now.”

“Yes, sir.” I stand at Andrea’s desk while she calls down to HR. While I’m standing there, I turn around to see another young woman sitting near the elevator with a tablet on her lap and scrolling through her phone—attractive as well, but much more appropriately dressed.

“Ms. Tanner?” I say. She raises her head quickly.

“Yes?… Mr. Grey?” she questions as she stands. “I’m sorry if I was late, sir, I just went to the ladies’ room…”

“It’s not a problem. I’ll be a few more minutes, then we can chat about what I’ll be needing,” I reply, gesturing for her to take her seat. She nods.

“Yes, sir,” she nods and sits. I go back to Andrea’s desk.

“Ms. Simpson is in a meeting right now, sir. I told her it was urgent…”

“Call her back,” I say. Andrea dials the number again.

“Ms. Simpson?” she says. I extend my hand to take the phone. Andrea hands it to me.

“Ms. Simpson, if you can answer the phone, that meeting is not that urgent. You have two minutes to be in my office and if you’re not here at the two-minute-one-second mark, I’ll show you just how urgent this is.” I turn to Andrea.

“Set a timer,” I say, just before I replace the receiver on the cradle. Andrea pushes a button on her watch and I lean against her desk and watch the elevators. We’re completely silent the entire time. You can almost hear the traffic outside several floors down. Moments later, the elevator dings and a well-dressed woman in a gray suit nearly tumbles out. She catches herself when she sees me and straightens her stance.

“Time,” I say, looking dead in her eyes.

“One thirty-nine, sir,” Andrea says.

“Thank you, Andrea. Ms. Simpson, in your entire employment, how many times have I called you to my office?”

“Once,” she says, “I think.”

“Exactly. So, when the owner of the company that you work for—the man that signs your checks—tells you that he needs to see you now, you make haste and get to the executive floor just like you did just now and maybe your entrance will be a little more graceful next time.” I gesture to my office and let her walk in before I move, because I know what’s going to happen when she clears the door.

Sure enough, she stops short right there inside the door when she sees her niece standing there. Had I walked in right behind her, I would have bumped right into the back of her.

“Ms. Simpson,” I say, reminding her that she’s blocking the door. She walks in and stands next to her niece, whose gaze is still downcast. Jason closes the door when I enter.

“Your niece, Ms. Morello, has taken the ‘admit nothing’ stance, but I must say that’s not going to help her in this situation,” I say as I take my seat behind my desk again.

“With all due respect, sir, I’m not certain why all these people need to be present for this meeting,” Ms. Simpson retorts confidently.

“With all due respect, Ms. Simpson, we’re short one person,” I reply. “You’re here because this is your niece, and I’m assuming from what I heard in the lobby that your position has somehow solidified her position in this company. Is there any truth to that?”

Not certain where I’m going with this line of questions, Ms. Simpson answers carefully.

“Well, I did recommend her for the position,” she says, cautiously.

“I see,” I reply folding my hands again. “So, the other reason you’re hear is because your niece has broken several GEH policies, and since she refuses to speak for herself, I’ll be glad to bring them to your attention.

“I called down to shipping and asked for a shipping clerk to handle a very serious matter that had to do with my family. I was very surprised to see Ms. Morello show up at my office dressed the way that she is.”

“But sir, her clothes are fitting, but she’s not dressed inappropriately,” Simpson argues.

“That’s where we disagree.” I stand and open the door. “Andrea…”

Andrea's outfit chapter 58My PA comes in wearing a mustard blouse and a fitting pencil skirt.

“This is fitting, Ms. Simpson—neat, professional, appropriate,” I say, gesturing to Andrea. “That is bursting out at the seams,” I say, pointing at her niece. “This is the other person that should be in this meeting, because that woman stepped off the elevator, two less buttons fastened than she has right now with her breasts hanging out and that skirt at least two inches shorter than it is at the moment.

“My wedding made national news last year. Yet, she checked in with my receptionist—who announced her—and she proceeded to present herself to me and these two gentlemen with her goods on display like the cafeteria special! When her boss asked what she was doing here, she replied that she was coming to help me. When I ask what she’s doing here, since her boss didn’t send her, she suddenly becomes mute.

“I heard him say in the lobby that she would be fired if, and I quote, her little stunt cost his job and he didn’t care who her aunt was. So, I asked who her aunt was, and she became mute again. So, once again, I’ll ask if your position somehow solidifies her position.”

“Well,” Simpson is fishing for words. “No, as I said, I just recommended her for the job.”

“Hmm,” I say, “you should be more careful of your recommendation in the future. Not only did she present herself to me inappropriately in a very common manner, but she’s on the executive floor without clearance or permission. She was not sent to assist me. Ms. Tanner was. I’ve yet to ascertain how or why she even knew I needed assistance and why she took it upon herself to come to my office. As she has nothing to say in her defense the points are all moot, now.”

“Um, Mr. Grey,” Simpson begins, “please, if you would, consider that this is Ms. Morello’s first offense of any kind and allow the reprimand to fit the situation.” I raise my brow at her.

“Oh, I intend to allow the reprimand to fit the situation, Ms. Simpson, but you’re mistaken. This isn’t her first offense. Her first offense—insubordination—was committed when she somehow became privy to classified information given to her supervisor and took it upon herself to act on it. Her second offense—breach of security—was committed when she came to the executive floor without permission. Her third offense—dress code violation—is obvious. However, her fourth offense is the biggest one of all.” I grab the picture of my wife and my children and turn it around for them to see.

“Do you see this?” I say. Simpson looks at the picture, but Morello doesn’t raise her gaze.

“Look at it, Ms. Morello!” I snap. “This part is personal!” Her head shoots up and she looks at the picture of Minnie, Mikey, and my beautiful Butterfly.

“Do you see that?” I seethe. “That is my whole life. Why, in God’s name, would you think I would risk that for a one-time romp with a woman who presents herself on a platter to a man she’s never even met?” She drops her head again and falls silent.

“And then there’s that,” I say, placing the picture back on my desk and folding my hands again. “When I try to get some answers from her regarding her behavior, she has nothing to say. I guess she thinks her silence will protect her and I have something to prove, but you’re about to find out how wrong you are.

“GEH is built on talent, knowledge, innovation, and trust. You have proven to be untrustworthy and as all administrative staff are at-will employees, your employment with GEH is terminated immediately. I cannot have untrustworthy staff in this establishment.”

Morello gasps but still doesn’t say anything. If I hadn’t heard her say something moments before she came into my office, I would think that she couldn’t speak.

“Mr. Grey!” Simpson protests, “there must be someway we can discuss this—some kind of agreement that can be reached…”

“I don’t need to reach an agreement with her or with you. This is non-negotiable and even if that weren’t the case, she doesn’t speak. As her representative, you can help her gather her things and get out of my building. And if you have a problem with that, Ms. Simpson, I’ll process your resignation with her termination.” Simpson falls silent and throws a nasty glare at the nearly-submissive Ms. Morello. I can tell that she’s not, but she surely would have had a lay-person fooled.

“No… no, sir, that won’t be necessary.” Good to hear it, Ms. Simpson.

“Ms. Morello don’t forget that you’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement that’s even effective after your employment ends, and I will prosecute for breach.”

She doesn’t say anything, but her aunt jerks her arm and snatches her towards the door. Morello leaves first, nearly leaving her aunt behind. Simpson falls in line behind her.

“And Ms. Simpson?” I say. She turns around to me as she’s walking out. “Don’t ever play that posturing shit with me again. Are we clear?”

I can see her swallow.

“Yes, sir,” she says humbly and scrambles out of the office behind her niece. The elevator is still at the top floor when Ms. Morello calls it. As it opens and they step on, I can hear Simpson hissing at her niece.

“I can’t believe you came to his office without permission dressed like that! You nincompoop!” She continues to argue at her niece as the elevator closes. My head of shipping and receiving stands there looking at me, awaiting his fate.

“You can go,” I tell him. “Leave Ms. Tanner, please.” I can visibly see him sigh.

“Thank you, sir,” he says as he scurries out of my office.

“I thought we did background checks on these people,” I complain.

“Well, sir, character flaws don’t normally come up on background checks,” Alex defends. I shake my head.

“You two get to work on the assignments I gave you. I’m going to be wrapping this day up soon. I’ve had enough.” They both leave without another word.

“Andrea, send Ms. Tanner in… and come in with her.”

I’m not taking any chances.


ANASTASIA

“Wow, Ana, that special was amazing,” Courtney says when she drops off her reports after lunch. “I see you guys in a whole new light now.”

“New in what way?” I prod.

“Well, I always knew that Christian could be psychotic when it came to you. A little visit to the ladies’ room proved that point to me. But dude, power couple doesn’t even begin to explain you two. You strolled around GEH like the Commander-In-Chief—the women all hate you, by the way—then, you sit in your condo like the Queen on the Throne, even though you’ve got this beautiful mansion on Mercer Island. Thanks for maintaining my anonymity, too. And then the shooting range! Good God! Christian may be intimidating, but you’re downright terrifying! Who in their right mind would even consider crossing you guys?”

Those are significant statements considering that she already knows who we are pretty personally, though one statement has really piqued my interest.

“Why do you say the women all hate me?” I ask.

“The ones that do look at you in the special have a serious beam in their eye,” she says. “I’m one of those people who pay that kind of attention to people—particularly to women because… well, I’m gay,” she shrugs. “Nobody would look you in the face and reveal how they felt, but when you passed by and they caught a glimpse of you, none of them did the ‘hey, boss’ wife’ thing where they kind of mentally acknowledge your presence but then go back to what they were doing. They all paused, and some even glared and rolled their eyes.” I sigh heavily.

“If you caught it, someone else caught it,” I lament.

“Yep,” she confirms, “haters, profilers, and lesbians everywhere most likely picked up on that immediately.” She crosses her legs. “Ana, you’re the envy and hated cow of straight and bi-sexual women and gay men all across the country—probably the world. You landed a hot, sexy billionaire and you’re a tasty little morsel, too… smart, independent, and you’re packing heat. Those who didn’t hate you before hate you now, and those who did hate you hate you even more, but make no mistake. They’re going to fucking respect you, because they fear you, too.”

“Get outta here,” I say in disbelief. “It was just a couple of guns at a firing range.” She laughs heartily.

“Is that all you saw?” she says. “Just a couple of guns at a firing range?” She leans back in her seat as if she’s about to school me.

“I don’t know what happened before you took to the range, but you were pissed, and we could tell,” Courtney begins. “You’re standing there like a miniature member of the SWAT team, blasting shit to bits, and your body doesn’t even shake from the recoil. Trust me, I know. I love my Vick endlessly, but I adore your tits.”

I can’t believe how comfortable this woman is talking to me this way. Then again, yes, I can. We were introduced when she came on to me at a social event when I was 92 ½ months pregnant.

“Jesus, Courtney,” I laugh, shaking my head.

“It’s true. That already tight little body was solid as a fucking rock and even a shotgun didn’t make you budge. The control was sexy as fuck, but scary as hell. I don’t know who you were picturing when you were destroying those targets, but I’m glad that it wasn’t me!”

I was picturing grip boy who also apparently adores my fucking tits!

“And then you’re floating through Grey House in 14-inch stilettos that would cause even the most seasoned runway walkers to faceplant after the first three steps. You didn’t look like a woman trying to be a man in a man’s world, and you didn’t look like a hooker trophy wife trying to prove she had everything under control. Trust me, I’d be the first person to call you out if you did…”

And she would, too.

“You looked like a confident businesswoman who holds the reins and knows who she is and trust me—the hater bitches came off looking just like hater bitches. They sneered and snarled, and they rolled their eyes and they were as transparent as plexiglass. What’s more, you held your head tall and pointed out key things in the organization, like you knew what the hell you were talking about. You looked like a million bucks, but you weren’t this Vanna-White-in-an-evening-gown bitch walking around showing the world what you have with a dramatic flourish like ‘look at all my shit.’ It was like these heifers didn’t even exist and you were just going about the business of being you.

“And then here comes Christian, all silent, sexy power sitting there like ‘try me if you dare…’”

“Hey!” I interject, and she knows what I’m aiming at.

“Look. Do you know a hot, voluptuous, sexy woman when you see one?” she asks, folding her arms.

“Well, yes, but…”

“And you don’t have to lick her clit to know, do you?” she asks matter-of-factly, causing me to gasp damn near all of the air out of the room. “Likewise, I don’t need to suck a dick to spot male sex appeal.” She raises her brow at me and I’m just staring at her incredulously like “who the fuck are you.”

“Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. Hot morsel babe, sex-on-a-stick husband, both independently filthy fucking rich, smart and resourceful, oh… and they can blow your fucking balls of with their couple o’ guns.” She mocks me on the last few words. “You spit out these two gorgeous nuggets with these large inquisitive eyes that melt your heart and then you sit them on your lap and bounce them on your knee and cuddle them in front of the screen. And they just sit there and giggle and coo and win over the hearts of America.” She shakes her head. “Either you’re painfully modest or totally fucking obtuse to the power that your family has over the hearts and souls of men and women all over the world.”

“Thank you, oh, guru,” I say sarcastically, closing my laptop. “When you’ve got something to say, that filter just flies out the window, doesn’t it?” She shrugs.

“I can’t help it,” she says. “Besides, I don’t need a filter with you. You know me better than anybody, except maybe Vick. You saw me at my worst and you know all my bullshit… you’re the closest thing to a real friend that I have.” Her voice cracks a bit and she clears her throat. I’ve learned that Courtney will avoid showing weakness at all costs.

“I am your friend, Courtney,” I clarify. She shrugs again and drops her head.

“I didn’t want to assume…” she says, her voice trailing off.

“You’re living in my condo, Court,” I laugh.

“I’m a bad person.” Oh, shit. I stand from my desk and walk around to her, grasping her by the arms.

“You were a bad person,” I clarify again. “You’re not anymore, can’t you see that?”

She shakes her head without raising her eyes.

“How can you not see that?” I ask incredulously. “You’ve changed from the person that you used to be…”

“Do people really change?” she asks, finally raising her eyes to me. “Can they?”

“You fucking well did!” I retort. “You were in here on Christmas Eve reading Horton Hears a Who to a bunch of homeless children—doing the voices and all! Would the Courtney who came on to me at the Adopt-A-Family Affair had done that?” She shakes her head, then she pauses.

“Wait a minute,” she says, her brow furrows. “You weren’t here on Christmas Eve… were you?”

“I was here for part of the day, remember?” She shakes her head again.

“But you weren’t here when I was reading to the kids. I remember that.” I smile softly.

“I was just about to leave,” I tell her. “I think I had told you to go find something to do and get out my face.” She’s still bemused.

“You… saw me?” she asks. I nod.

“Which further drives home my point,” I tell her. “You were reading to those kids not because you thought someone was looking or because you wanted attention. You were doing because you wanted to…”

“I had an ulterior motive,” she admits. “I would have shoveled shit to avoid going back to Chuktapaw, and that’s the God’s honest truth.”

“So, you had motivation… to do better, to be better, and Courtney… you have. You were a rotten person,” I confess. “You were a horrible human being. You didn’t think about anybody but yourself and what you wanted, and you didn’t care who you hurt in the process. People were nothing but pawns to you and you used them to get ahead, including your grandparents. I wanted nothing to do with you because I felt like you were irredeemable. I didn’t care if you ended up in Chuktapaw, Hatchawatchie, Tuscaloosa…”

She laughs through the tears she couldn’t hold back, and I’m glad to bring a little levity to the conversation.

“In one short year,” I tell her, “less than one, you’ve proven to be indispensable. You have skills and knowledge and abilities and ambition that I would only hope to find in one person. And your determination not to be the person that you used to be will guarantee that you’ll never be her again.” I pause for a moment to let that soak in.

“Is that why you won’t see your grandmother?” I ask. “You think you haven’t changed?”

She looks at me, frustrated. Then, the frustration falls, and she sighs, resigned.

“Okay, Ana, here it is, unfiltered,” she says. “No matter how much changing you do, you can’t undo the hurt that you’ve done to people. You can’t take away the pain that you’ve caused. The wound might heal, but you’ve caused that pain and you can’t take it away.” Tears slide down her cheeks. “And they can’t take away the pain they caused you, either,” she sobs. Her shoulders shake as she cries, and I don’t know if she hears, feels, or sees me closing in for a hug, but she puts her hands up as a barrier to stop me.

So, I stop.

She reaches over to the Kleenex box and pulls out a few to clean her face.

“The way I felt when my grandmother was about to put me back on that plane, I never want to feel that way again. The things she said to me… the way she looked at me…” Courtney shakes her head while she’s talking. “Never again.”

So, it’s self-preservation. She’s certain that if she sees Addie again, all that animosity is still going to be there and she’s going to be subject to the same abhorrence she received when she last saw her grandmother.

“I know what you’re thinking,” she says, her voice cracking again, but she quickly recovers, “but it’s not just about me. What my grandmother said to me was horrible. I don’t think those words in that context should ever be said to another human being… ever. But for that sweet, kind, selfless little old lady that would give you the shirt off her very back to be pushed to that kind of limit to say something that horrible to her own flesh and blood… I can’t imagine what she must have been feeling. I’m a terrible, terrible monster to have pushed her to that limit.” Now, I close the space between us and place my hands on her cheeks.

“Courtney…” She moves to push my hands from her face. “Courtney!” I reinforce, refusing to release her cheeks. Her eyes fix on mine.

“You’re not that monster anymore,” I say firmly. “Do you think I would be wasting my time on that bratty little entitled bitch that walked into my office last year? Do you?”

She tries to drop her head, but I won’t allow her.

“With all the shit that I got on my plate, that I’ve had on my plate all fucking year, do you think I would’ve given two bits of a shit or a fuck about you if you were the same know-it-all, haughty, selfish, heartless person that you used to be?”

I’ve got her attention.

“My husband cornered you in the ladies’ room, threatened your life over me, but you knew that he wasn’t your biggest concern. You almost got your head blown off in this very office over a tissue, do you remember that? And now, you’re staying in my condo—going to school and studying to be able to help troubled kids; organizing grant proposals and researching funding. We need you around here when a year ago, nobody wanted to be in your presence, and you still don’t think you’ve changed?”

She sighs. She can’t argue with me.

“You’re a lot wiser than I gave you credit for, but now, you have to forgive yourself. You can’t keep punishing yourself for this. You drove Addie to say those things to you, and she did, and it hurt you down to your soul. Isn’t that punishment enough?” She sighs again and brings sad eyes up to my face.

“She had high hopes for me,” Courtney says. “She only wanted the best for me and I let her down. Now, I’ll never see my grandma again.”

“It doesn’t have to be that way…”

“She wants it that way,” she interrupts. “And it’s better. I don’t want to hurt her again, and that’s what seeing me will do. And… I don’t want her to hurt me again.” She sighs again.

“You’re right,” she says. “I’ve hurt for awhile and I’ll work on forgiving myself, but that’s the best I can do.”

“That’s all I’m asking, Court, that you give it a try.” She nods.

“I… um… I have to get to class,” she says with a weak smile. “Can’t wait to see what the next year holds.” She walks over to the door.

“By the way,” she adds, “I know when to use my filter.” She quickly leaves my office before I can stop her. I would love for Addie to see how far she’s come, but I’m not going to push it. If I do, the results could be disastrous.

*-*

By the end of the day, I still haven’t heard anything from Christian about any of the background checks from the interviewees yesterday. Granted, it’s only been one day. Employment background checks are probably more detailed than the checks we do for others.

I’m shutting my computer down and getting ready to head to the nursery to get my children when I hear a woman frantically calling my name from down the hall. Oh, dear God, what now?

“Ana! Oh, my God, Ana!” Harmony comes running into my office just as I’m packing up to leave. She can barely breathe. Oh, God… Did Tina pass away?

“Are you okay?” I ask, grasping either of her arms. “What is it?”

“I… I had to tell someone. You won’t believe it!” Well, I know it’s not Tina’s death.

“Sit, Harmony, sit,” I say, guiding her to one of the Zen sofas. “Catch your breath.” She takes a seat still clinging to my forearms.

“Ana! I just talked to Carrick. He got a call from Ken and that roach that’s representing him. They just left his office. Ana… he signed the papers! I’m free! It’s over!”

“Get outta here!” I say, my surprise genuine. Jesus Christ! Was that exposé really that terrifying. “Did he give a reason for the sudden change of heart?”

“I don’t know. Carrick said that Ken kinda freaked out when he heard that his name was Grey. Obviously, nobody wants to mess with the Greys…” Obviously. “But then Carrick said something about not wanting any trouble and not wanting anybody breathing down his throat. Carrick said he was acting strangely and he had to ask if Ken was coerced or doing anything against his will. I wouldn’t care if he had a gun to his head. He signed the papers and he is out of my life! Woohoo!!!”

She leaps from the sofa dancing a jig around my office. I can’t help but laugh aloud at her unfettered display of joy.


A/N: What is “Wheel Decide?” Check out www.wheeldecide.com

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

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

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

 ~~love and handcuffs

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 57—A Whole Lotta Doors Openin’

CHRISTIAN

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

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

“What did they tell him?” I inquire.

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

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

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

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

Lanie?” I raise my head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who’s going to drive it out here?”

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

“Others?” she asks.

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

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

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

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

“How is he doing?” I ask. She sighs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” she asks, stunned. “Mom?”

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

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

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

“Moooom!” Harmony says, appalled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ll take care of that,” I say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where is Roger now?” Dad asks.

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

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

“That’s what he said,” I confirm.

“But we need proof,” Dad concludes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m not picky,” Alex says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are you trying to do?” he asks.

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

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

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

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

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

“What is it?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Uh, yeah, there is that,” he says.

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

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

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

“A message for you, sir,” she says.

“Is it private?” I ask.

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

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

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

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


ANASTASIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ebony Carson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello?”

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

“Between interviews. What’s up?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay.” And that’s all he says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I won’t. I love you.”

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

“He looks pretty calm,” I point out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What did he say to that?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My babies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



UNKNOWN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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 ~~love and handcuffs

Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 14

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

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

Fifty Shades Golden

Chapter 14

Briana Evigan 14

GOLDEN

About a week after Blondie invaded my office, I get a call from Trey.

“Mistress, if you’re available, I need to see you tonight.”

“I’m at the club. I have another client…”

“Crimson?”

“Yes.”

“I’m here, too. I’m not appropriately dressed…” which meant that he was still in his work clothes.

“I’ll be done in an hour. Meet me at the house.”

“Thank you, Mistress.”

So, here he is, and I must say, I’m beating the hell out of him and he’s only flinching and barely that. His mind is way somewhere else. He’s not in subspace; he hasn’t had an opportunity to get there yet. Wherever the fuck he is, though, he’s going to have to come back here to me or I can do some serious damage.

He’s like leather tonight. The usual techniques are doing nothing to break him down. I even resort to some heavier artillery—canes, snake whips, leather straps… I even try to break him down by striking the most tender parts of him—between and behind his thighs, behind his knees, over his shoulders… Nothing’s working.

The only way to break Trey down is his joystick. He’s Sampson in the playroom, but his strength and weakness isn’t in his hair, it’s in his dick. His back is striped like a candy cane and I can’t break him down this way, so I stop with the carriage lunge whip. If I keep going, it’ll only leave open wounds that’ll smart later, but do nothing for him now. That doesn’t serve me or him in our current capacity.

It’s late now and we’ve been at it for quite some time. It was around the six o’clock hour when he called me. A few minutes later, and he wouldn’t have gotten me. I, of course, don’t take calls in session, and I don’t like to rush. As instructed, he came to my house and waited for me, even though it took longer than I thought. Blake informs me that he sat as still as a statue in the parlor for forty minutes until I returned.

I worked Laciter over quite badly in the observation room at Crimson tonight. I had stopped frequenting that club for a while until I learned that Blondie has effectively been banned from the scene, partially because of me and partially because of her own reputation. I’m told that she brutalized one of her submissives so badly that the girl had to be hospitalized. She chose to leave the scene and having nothing to lose with bad bruises on her face, the girl spread the word of Madame Petra’s clear and unleashed brutality. Not only did Blondie quickly lose her submissives, but she also lost her standing completely in the community and with the clubs.

To that end, it’s easier for me to see my clients at Crimson again instead of traveling to the clubs further away—unless I feel so inclined. That’s where I was when I got the call from Trey. I had a client before him, but he was willing to wait. Neither of us wants our situationship on public display, so he agreed to meet me here once I was finished with Laciter.

Now, here he is, having taken acrylic paddles, whips, crops, and floggers to nearly every exposed part of his body and he hasn’t even broken a sweat.

“Wait here,” I say from behind him and await his acknowledgement. It’s not like he can go anywhere. He’s chained to the ceiling. Nonetheless, it’s the principle…

“Yes, Mistress,” he says obediently, his voice a tad labored. He’s carrying quite a load today. I go over to my toy drawer and open it. The Fleshlight won’t do tonight, we need something else. As I’m pondering which toy to use, the strangest thing comes to mind…

“Mistress, I have a confession.” Blake comes to me while I’m having my breakfast on Friday morning the week just after the ball. He rarely has anything to confess that I don’t already know, so when he says this, I pay attention.

“Sit,” I say, gesturing to the chair across from me. “Talk to me.”

“I paid Mrs. Lincoln a little visit.” I set my coffee on the table.

“Why… why in the world would you go see Mrs. Lincoln?” I ask.

“Because no matter how many times you caution her, she still doesn’t seem to understand. I thought she might need a little persuading.” He says coolly. He scrolls through his phone and slides it over to me. A video begins to play. At first, it’s shaky and dark, and then it’s clear. It’s a bedroom, quite elaborate, with a figure sleeping in the bed. I can see it very clearly.

Another figure goes over to the sleeping figure. He covers her mouth just as she wakes, and he puts his finger over his mouth in a silencing motion.

“I’m going to move my hand,” the masked man says, and I immediately recognize Blake’s voice speaking in an American accent. I didn’t even know that he can do that. “If you scream, I’ll leave, but before I do, I’m going to break your neck. Do you understand?”

Frightened blue eyes look back at her assailant and she nods quickly. It’s Blondie.

“Good,” he says, and he moves his hand from her mouth.

“Are you really foolish enough to think you can make her heel?” he asks, caressing her blonde tresses. She’s clearly—and rightfully—confused.

“Don’t you know who she is? Don’t you understand the power that she wields? Do you have any idea at all who you’re dealing with? Do you have any idea how many powerful people kneel at her feet, and you’re trying to disturb that balance?”

He gently touches her cheek and she visibly shivers. I can see the moment realization dawns in her eyes. There’s a mixture of fear and resentment there now. She clearly thinks I sent him.

“No, Mistress,” he says the word with utter disdain, reading her reaction just as I did, “she doesn’t know that I’m here. She has no idea. So, if I snap your neck and leave, she’ll be just as surprised as the rest of the world to find out you’ll no longer be a nuisance to her.” He cocks his head and examines her. “Should I do that? Hmm?” he asks as if he were talking to a cashier at a sales counter about a scent of perfume. “Should I give her that gift?”

“Why?” Elena asks, her voice more breath than sound. “Why would you want to kill me?”

“That’s the wrong question, Mistress,” Blake corrects her. “The appropriate question should be why do I want to eradicate this problem. Once you understand that question, the next question should be. What. Problem.” He silently gazes at her and waits for an answer.

“I… don’t know what you mean,” she says, so frightened that I’m certain that she has pissed on those satin sheets.

“Sure, you do,” he says, his voice almost accommodating as he places his fingers under her chin to gently lift her face to his. If you didn’t know better, you would swear that he was spending tender moments with a lover. “Think hard, Mistress. How many ‘she’s’ are you attempting to destroy, or are there really that many? I have all night if you need to think about it.” She shakes her head and swallows hard.

“I’m…” She swallows again. “I’m not trying… to destroy her,” she says.

Mistress,” Blake purrs, and the way he says it makes my skin crawl. There’s no reverence whatsoever in the way he’s using it. He’s mocking her. He might as well be calling her lizard or maggot or something equally as disgusting. “Humor me, then. What’s the purpose of your exercise? First, you dangle a tempting little carrot in her face, then you become angry when she bites it. Then, you expose her to a narcissistic troglodyte in a public setting, failing to exercise any discretion for your station or hers. Now, she’s feeling a bit of concern for the influential people in her life who like for their private lives to remain private. However, your attire and behavior at the ball as well as the behavior of your tactless husband has given her reason to believe that you have thrown caution to the wind and that your actions and lack of discretion may pose a problem for those previously mentioned influential people.”

“Let me assure you,” Elena says, her voice shaking, “I’m more than aware of the importance of discretion, and I would never… say anything out of line to cause any… discomfort or… or problem.”

“Oh, but you already have,” Blake taunts, “or have you so quickly forgotten your spouse’s disrespectful behavior towards her that evening? It’s no secret. Several people saw and heard you, notwithstanding any further rumors you spread that evening. Who can undo that damage, Mistress?” He’s closing in for the kill, and now I’m certain that there are bodily fluids on those sheets underneath her.

“It was harmless locker-room talk, I swear!” she blurts out, confirming that she did spread some type of rumors about me at the ball that night. I’ll never find out what all she said, and neither will Blake, no matter how he frightens her. She’s beginning to fall apart, and he can tell, but he’s not quite finished with her.

“Speaking of troglodytes, where is your frosted groom? I would have liked to talk to him, too. It’s quite the late hour for him not to be sharing the marital bed with his betrothed.” Elena stiffens.

“He’s… away.” Blake doesn’t react.

“Indeed,” he says. “Poor Mistress, who is there to revere you?” He strokes her hair in a way that should be comforting but causes her to shiver. “Sleep now, Mistress.”

I don’t see what he does next, but his hand moves quickly and she’s out like a light. He turns off the bedside lamp and retrieves the recording device, and the video ends.

“Is she hurt?” I ask.

“No,” he says. “She just… slept well.”

I look over at Trey, still hanging from my ceiling, still tense as ever, and think of the last time I saw Elena at one of the clubs. I think it was Fantasy and she hadn’t been banned yet. I felt the need to bring Jesse with me that night for some reason and I’m glad I did. I had told her many times to stay the fuck away from me. Apparently, even after Blake’s visit, she still didn’t get the message. The woman has a death wish…

She’s in black latex Domme garb from head to toe. Those heels have to be six to eight inches high. Her corset has her waist cinched in so tight that I swear she looks like she can’t even breathe. Her hair has been freshly cut and dyed and is sitting on top of her head like a glowing bob halo. Her crimson red lipstick and vamp makeup is highly defined, and I must admit, she looks fantastic.  

She marches over to me with purpose, pulled up to her full height—plus some—and fearless. Someone should have warned her…

“You’ve crossed the line this time, you little counterfeit poser,” she hisses when she gets to my table. Jesse moves to subdue her, and I raise my hand to stop him. She throws a glance over at him, clearly not recognizing the threat that he poses to her. She knows that he doesn’t have a gun in here and that I won’t risk fighting her in the club

“That’s right, sit down, puppy,” she barks. “This conversation has nothing to do with you.” I see the vein pulsing in Jesse’s head.

“I’m not a sub, bitch,” Jesse seethes. “I will leap from this seat and beat you down where you stand and swear that you leapt at her first.” I said that I wouldn’t fight her. I never said anything about Jesse. Elena’s mouth falls open.

“You would strike a lady?” she nearly growls.

“I don’t see a lady!” Jesse retorts. “Now, state your business and leave. I thought you were told to stay the fuck away. Maybe you’ll adhere to those instructions if I choke you until that stitched-up ashen-white face turns blue!”

She tries to pretend like his words don’t unnerve her, but she’s clearly shaken. Nonetheless, she’s still pretty brave when she turns her attention back to me.

“You’ve gone completely mad!” she accuses through her teeth. “How dare you send someone to my home! My home! I could end you in so many ways for this!” She looks over at Jesse. “Was this the Neanderthal you sent to assault me in my sleep?” she hisses. “You can’t take a few harsh words, you sappy little pussy? You send thugs in the middle of the night to do your dirty work? And you call yourself a fucking Domme? You’re shit! You’re nothing! You can’t stand on your own two feet or fight your own battles! I don’t know why I even bothered with you in the first place. You’re a waste of my fucking time! You’re such a goddamn disappointment. Here I thought I was dethroning the next big thing when the entire time, I was just sparring with a scared little girl. You make me ill!”

She should have quit while she was ahead.

I sit back in my seat and cross my legs, shaking my head at this pathetic excuse of a woman.

“You should have listened,” I say, definitively. “You should have fucking listened.” Her brow furrows as I settle into my seat.

“I tried to tell you before you fucked with me, before you made me a goddamn enemy, to watch your step. I warned you more times than I can count that I knew people that you didn’t want to meet, and that you didn’t want to piss me off. I waved that red flag in your face so many times that I surprised even myself with how many times I warned you to back the fuck off. But you—the great Mistress Lincoln, the impeccable Madame Petra—you couldn’t get a clue if it fell out of the sky and shit on your head.”

Her blue eyes pierce fiercely at me, but it only emboldens me. You want to go head to head, bitch? Bring it. I’m ready for you, now.

“Do you really think that if I was out for your ass, if I really wanted to fucking destroy you, that I would have aimed at your measly little salons?” I taunt fiendishly. “Do you think that little of me, that I would pull the rug from under your little pick-and-peel palaces? That’s not where your heart is, Elena. That’s where your money is. There are so many other ways I can torment you if that was my goal. Yeah, your salons may have been a death blow once I brought you to your knees in other ways and you were pulling what’s left of your blonde hair out by its gray roots, but that wouldn’t be where I started. That wouldn’t be the opening fucking act. That’s like firing a warning shot. I fired several warning shots at your blind, deaf, and dumb ass when I kept telling you to leave me the fuck alone, that you weren’t in my league.”

I lean forward on the table now that I have her attention and remove my sunglasses. I’m wearing the cat-eye contacts, so I know they’re a bit unnerving as I glare at her.

This is where your heart is, Blondie. This is where you feel your power. I’m the biggest threat to your center—your very core—and you’ll do anything in your power to get rid of me, but will you sacrifice yourself in the pursuit? Because that’s what you’re really doing. Every time something happens in your sorry little life or your little bubble gets shaken, you come sauntering over to me having a goddamn temper tantrum like a fucking toddler. Your status, your standing, your very existence all seem to be precariously teetering on my presence. But know that my success, my greatness doesn’t have shit to do with you!

“You dabble in the art of sadism, Blondie, but pain is my forte. Agony is my masterpiece. I have a knack for it, and the taste is exquisite—or did you forget that I get off on watching people squirm? I already told you that I don’t do women, but if you want to be the first female to suffer at my hands, that’s fine. I’ll oblige. I’ll make you writhe just like the rest of them. The only difference is you won’t enjoy it!”

I growl the last few words at her and see the same shiver that Blake’s voice elicited from her on the video I watched last week.

“Who do you know that can come into my home undetected, film me while I’m sleeping, wait until I wake, and tell me not to fuck with you, then leave without a broken bone or a bullet in their skull? Hmm?” I taunt, and her eyes widen.

“F… film me?” she says, now quite visibly shaken.

“Yes, bitch, film you,” I confirm. “And to answer your fucking questions, no, it wasn’t him,” I say, gesturing at Jesse, “and no, I didn’t send the guy. You did. You talk too fucking much and your words fell on the wrong ears. I didn’t know that little visit occurred until after the entire thing was over. You say that other people are doing my dirty work, you might be right about that, but not at my command. They clean up my messes before I even see them. It’s called respect and reverence and I don’t even have to pay for it.

“I know your game now, and I can play it better than you ever will. You wanna play with me? Let’s fucking play. You have your minions, you little blonde bitch, and I have mine. Yours are pretty and like to crawl around on the floor with leashes around their necks in the hopes of garnering your attention, approval, and trinkets. Mine are in powerful positions everywhere; they gag for the pain that I inflict, and they show up in the bedrooms of my enemies at night and leave them unconscious. Contrary to your prior deduction, I’m not a scared little girl. I’m a sadistic bitch with my hands on the proverbial leashes of several powerful people, each of whom can bring you to your goddamn knees and don’t you ever fucking forget it!”

All the color has left Elena’s face and she looks as if she’s going to pass out right there in the middle of the club across from my table. You’ve underestimated me yet again, you stupid cunt. I’m going to make sure that this is the last time you make that mistake.

“I won’t tell you to stay away from me again, because you don’t listen, so hear this. The next time you approach me, don’t say anything. Just expect a fucking fight. And know this, Lincoln—I will fight to the death. Oh, and tell that creepy ass husband of yours not to try to contact me again or I’ll bury you both in the same fucking grave. And don’t think the clubs are going to save you, because if you feel so brave as to approach me at one of the clubs, all bets are off. I’ll make sure that all of the clubs that I frequent know that!”

I glare at her for a few more moments to drive my point home before I don Trey’s Luxuriator sunglasses, cross my legs again and put my lollipop back in my mouth. Stretching my arms out over the back of the booth, I glare at her through my sunglasses. I’ve thrown down the gauntlet, Blondie. The next move is yours.

But the final move will be mine.

The final move indeed. That poor bitch won’t know what hit her when this class-action lawsuit is over and if I put my mind to it, I can find some other ways to torment her as well. A small smile graces my face when I finish my trip down Memory Lane, and my eyes fall on just the tool I need to break Trey’s resolve.

He’s tense—wow, that’s an understatement. He’s tighter than a fan belt! If his muscles were any tighter, his bones would be breaking. Swedish massage is often used when muscles are tight and need to be brutally broken down. I’m certainly not going to give him a massage and even if I were, that type of massage in his Sampson area would bring the man to tears and render him useless for weeks.

I’m sadistic, but I’m not fucking insane.

However, he does need a merciless massage and I have a toy that I don’t use because its intention is to bring the show to a magnificent finish very quickly—the Hot Octopus Pulse III Penis Massager. It’s a magic little thing that fits in the palm of your hand, but when you put it on a dick—flaccid or erect—magic happens, and the best part… it’s hands free!

I take it from the drawer and walk back over to my subject.

“It’s been a pretty bad day, huh, Chopper?” I say softly. His gaze is fixed in front of him, but my voice brings his eyes to me. His pupils dilate and his biceps flex and contract. He usually needs a little pain with his pleasure. Today, he needs some pleasure with his pain.

*-*

The battle is fierce, but the Pulse III is winning. He can’t keep quiet. The stimulation from this vibrator is scientifically tested and medically proven to bring maximum stimulation and produce positive results even to men suffering from erectile dysfunction.

In other words, he’s getting the sensual electronic stimulus of his life!

“Uh…” he groans sensually as the Pulse digs deep into his loins and pulls out the ultimate pleasure. I punish him—or reward him, who knows which it is at this point—with a whack on his already striped back with the flogger. His resolve is broken now, and he groans loudly at the strike, his dick flexing violently.

“Ah!” he cries out… and again, repeatedly, though I’ve only hit him two more times.

It took one hell of a beating to get here, but his legs bend and his thighs flex, showing me that deliciously pulsing muscle right at his anus, firing that luscious juice through his beautiful cock. I watch the streams squirt out far as he grunts painfully, an orgasm physically ripped from his body after a couple of hours of torture. He can’t do another one. I’m good at what I do, and I know that his body can’t take it. That beautiful dick pulses over and over, giving every offering that he has in one magnificent swan song.

He grunts and shivers and shakes, pulling on the leather cuffs that have him restrained to the ceiling so that his legs can open wider. He’s puffing and panting and coming like it’s his last time ever. I’m mesmerized by the sight. My God, that gorgeous cock, veiny and angry and giving and giving and giving. At one point, I cup his balls and gently caress the muscle behind his anus, just so that I could feel it pulse under my fingertips.

I thought the man was going to cry.

Finally, the symphony is over, and he falls helpless and limp, hanging from the cuffs in the ceiling. I spring into action, removing the cum-splattered lining from the floor and replacing it with a microfiber blanket. I release the pulley that has him attached to the ceiling and slowly lower him to the floor and the microfiber blanket. He’s totally spent, completely out of breath.

He’s multi-orgasmic, but not this time.

I undo the leather cuffs and lay his hands gently on the floor. He’s laid out flat on his stomach, his skin flaming in multi-shades of red, from pink to deep maroon, nearly crimson. We didn’t break any skin, but his back, butt, and legs look like he was at the worst end of a fight with a tiger. I kneel down next to his head.

“Chopper?” I say his name softly while stroking his hair.

“Hmm?” he responds without opening his eyes.

“Call Blake if you need him,” I instruct. “He’s in the same place.”

You’d be a fool not to.

“Hmm…” he replies, unable to say much more. I have to go for a cooldown… now. For some unknown reason, I’m all nerves.

It takes ten minutes of Tupac and gold-laced vodka to bring my nerves to heel. Trey makes sure that I have a steady flow of that alloy-infused elixir. And speaking of Trey…

“Blaaake…” his weak, sing-songy voice wafts up the stairs once my nerves have finally calmed. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a submissive or client that was so tense, I couldn’t break them. I literally—literally—had to break Trey to get him to release what was holding him. Not just his resolve… I had to break him. It can be a bit unnerving.

The pain I inflict serves a dual purpose—it helps to release the endorphins in the subject while satisfying the sadist in me. Unless I hate you or I’m getting you back for something—revenge or what have you—blindly inflicting pain with no response and no result does nothing for me. I like the control of making you feel; the power of being on the other end of the stick. That’s why I don’t do mindless fucking or mindless whipping.

This is the first time that he’s used Blake’s services. Part of my curiosity wants to watch. The other part of my displaced nerves wants to cook.

I choose the latter.

If he gets the full aftercare treatment, he’ll be 30 minutes. I believe he should take a bath, but I know that he won’t. He’s been down there for 10 already, so unless Blake does something that he considers inappropriate, he’ll be at least another 20.

I chop a few redskin potatoes while allowing my raw chicken to warm. When the water is boiling, I add the potatoes—skin on—and turn my attention to the chicken. The vegetable oil is already warming when I season with seasoned salt, lemon pepper and black pepper. I coat a few pieces in flour and put it in the hot oil to fry. I already have green beans picked and snapped in the refrigerator, so I add them to a saucepan of already boiling water as well.

I quickly set the dining table—one chair with a memory foam cushion—and go back to the kitchen to turn my chicken.

The potatoes are finished as are the green beans. I pour them in separate strainers and check my chicken again. I allow the water to seep from my beans as I pour the potatoes in a bowl and add cream, butter, salt and pepper. I whip them partially with a mixer, just enough to thoroughly mix the ingredients, but keep nice chunks of potato in the mix. A pat or two of butter and a few slivered almonds and the green beans are complete.

One last turn of the chicken and I can remove it from the oil. I take covered dishes of potatoes and green beans out to the table and come back to the kitchen. I remove my chicken from the oil and place it on a draining tray. I uncork a bottle of white wine and put it in the ice bucket I just filled, taking the bucket out to the table as well. Nearly twenty minutes has passed, and still no Trey.

He opted for the full treatment—maybe even a bath.

I go back to the kitchen and put my chicken on a small serving tray. This time when I enter the dining room, Trey and Blake are standing there both in their shirt sleeves. Blake’s are rolled to his elbows and he’s still wearing his vest. He’s carrying Trey’s jacket, vest, and tie over his arm.

“Sit, here, please, sir,” Blake says, pulling out the chair with the memory foam cushion. Trey looks at him, then at me, and takes the seat that Blake is offering. Blake places his clothes on a chair in the corner and turns back to me.

“Thank you, Blake,” I say.

“Mistress,” he nods and leaves the room.

“Mistress… I didn’t know you cooked,” Trey says. He still looks a bit spent, but much better than he did when I left him in the dungeon.

“Don’t get used to it,” I warn. “This helps me relax. You just happened to be present for it.” I pour him a glass of white wine before I take my seat. “This was… an unusual session for us,” I say, filling my own glass.

“Yes, it was,” he agrees, filling his plate with the sides.

“What happened today?” I ask. I don’t make eye contact with him. I put chicken on my plate and proceed with the mashed potatoes. It sounds like a question, Chopper, but it’s not. Tell me what happened.

“I…” He trails off.

“You weren’t yourself,” I complete, putting green beans on my plate before moving my silverware and placing my napkin in my lap. “Tell me what happened.”

“Where do I start?” he mumbles.

“Start with the situation that had you standing in my playroom like petrified wood,” I say, finally bringing my brown eyes to his grays. He sighs and shakes his head.

“Why do I even try?” he laments, and I’m not really sure what he’s talking about. Nonetheless… “For the last few weeks, I’ve been acquiring the harvesting rights for several North American lumber yards…”

He tells me the entire story about locking down the lumber trade as much as possible so that Caldwell Lincoln’s lumber empire would be dependent on a relationship with Grey Enterprises Holdings. I get all the dirty details about the Rockford asshole being ready to tuck tail and run at the mention of Lincoln’s name and the warnings that he has given him to “grow a pair or quit.” Trey makes it a point to tell me that he has not been and really currently isn’t interested in being the next lumber king, but once I told him about Lincoln’s inappropriate behavior towards me, all he could think of was bringing this fucker down, but in a way so that he couldn’t readily get back up. It’s profitable for GEH per se, but the entire gesture is more as tribute to me.

Bring the man’s entire empire down… That’s some impressive ass fucking tribute!

He continues by telling me that Lincoln got wind of what he was doing—and how could he not? You’re locking down all his North American interests. Anyway, he shows up at GEH demanding an explanation or… something. He got the fight that he was looking for, which wasn’t much for a physically fit 30-something-year-old man versus a middle-aged, average-build silver fox. Trey admits that he taunts Lincoln about having slept with his wife while Lincoln was making families across the world, but to no avail. The news angered him, but still not enough to produce a worthy opponent in hand-to-hand combat.

“So, this development caused you to tighten up the way that you did?”

“The whole thing caused it,” he admits. “I want him to go away, and his little dog, too. He’s constantly throwing himself in my face like he’s a big fish when he’s nothing more than a guppy swimming in an ocean of sharks, of which I’m only one! He’s lazy, cocky, and arrogant, and he doesn’t have shit to back it up with. He brings his blowhard ass to my building, looking for a showdown, and then when he gets there talking his usual shit, he can’t back it up! I hit the man three, maybe four times, and he was done. He released the goddamn Kraken and didn’t have shit to feed him!”

He’s angry again. We can’t have that.

“Have a drink, Trey. Eat,” I command. He gulps down his wine and takes an inhuman bite of his chicken. When the taste hits his tongue…”

“Wow,” he says with a mouth full of chicken, “this is really good.”

“Thank you,” I say, eating more of my dinner. “You’re surprised.” He nods.

“I am,” he says, his mouth still full. “I pegged you for more of the pampered type… Mistress,” he says with a shrug. I nod.

“Understandable misconception,” I say pouring him another glass of wine. “A girl has to be able to take care of herself, just in case.” I put the wine back on the table. “Tell me, without losing your temper. Why didn’t you just beat and fuck a sub tonight? I’m sure it would have served the purpose. You needed a testosterone release…”

“Because I didn’t want to touch a sub,” he interrupts, uncharacteristically. “I would have hurt her—really hurt her. I didn’t want that.”

So, he’s into inflicting pain, but not into being brutal. Definitely not a sadist.

“You may want to try to release some of that testosterone first when you find yourself that wound up. Certain techniques only work so many times.” He frowns.

“You mean like jacking off?” he says. Ugh… that sounds so… common.

“No,” I reply, dryly, “like an extreme workout, to take the edge off.” He scoffs, then chuckles. “Something funny, Trey?”

“I apologize, Mistress,” he says, his voice filled with mirth. “Something someone said to me recently about ‘the edge’.” He waves the comment off and takes another healthy bite of his chicken, quietly moaning his satisfaction once again.

“Tell me about Rockford,” I say. “He was cocky enough when I met him. What happened?”

Dinner and two bottles of wine later, I know way more than I wanted to know about Trey, including the fact that the submissive that Elena defaced was the same one that he had been fucking for months and then ceremoniously dismissed—the beautiful black girl that Elena had paraded in front of me as her latest acquisition. Why would anybody want to deface a beautiful, exquisite-looking woman like that? And Trey fucked her for months, so she must have been a sweet piece of ass. Like I said, that woman isn’t sadistic—she plays at sadism, but she’s not the real thing. However, she is psychotic!

Hours later, the Trey that I know has returned and is ready to go home. He’s much more tranquil and his breathing is even, his shoulders relaxed. He stops at the door and I’m showing him out.

“I’ve never stopped to talk to my submissives,” he says. “I beat them, if I so desire, we fuck, they leave. They serve a purpose for me—to release stress and get me off.” I laugh.

“Which is exactly what I do,” I say with mirth.

“Mistress…” He trails off. That one word and that tone speaks volumes.

“This is why you’re clients, Trey,” I remind him. “We serve a completely different purpose in each other’s lives altogether. Had you left here carrying the same burdens you had when you arrived, what’s my purpose?”

He raises his brow and twists his lip, nodding in agreement.

“I enjoy what I do, but I also provide a service. Anybody can make you come, Trey.” I raise a brow at him. The corner of his mouth curls and he takes my hand.

“Thank you,” he says softly, bringing my hand to his lips and placing a soft kiss there. “Goodnight, my Mistress.”

“Goodnight, Trey,” I say as he releases my hand. “Drive safely.” He nods and walks out. I close the door behind him. Blake immerges from his hiding place and heads to the dining room to clear the table.

“Full treatment?” I ask as he stacks the plates.

“Yes, Mistress,” he replies. “No bath. His welts were deep but did not break the skin. He took quite the lashing.”

“That, he did,” I confirm. “Was he terribly uncomfortable?”

“He was, just a bit,” Blake says. “He’s a man’s man. He won’t take that treatment often, but he wouldn’t have gotten off the floor had he not. The testosterone release sucked what was left of his energy and he had no strength left to fend off the pain. He would have slept there. I tend to believe he tried and fail to get up a few times before he gave in and called for help.”

“I tend to believe you’re right,” I say, taking the wine bottles from the table and following him into the kitchen.

“Mistress, leave this to me. You’ve had a long evening. Please… retire. You need to regroup as well.” I have to admit that I do feel the effects of the evening beginning to descend upon me. I tiptoe and kiss Blake on the cheek.

“Goodnight, Blake,” I say.

“Goodnight, Mistress.

It seems like I had just closed my eyes when I hear my phone ring. What the hell?

I look at my phone. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

“It’s late, Trey,” I say, trying not to sound as irritated as I am. What I hear next makes me sure that I must still be in a sleeping/dreaming/hallucinating kind of state. When he repeats it and explains the situation, I sit straight up in my bed throwing the covers off me.

“Blake!” I yell instinctively, getting more information from Trey as I stumble out of bed. Once I get all the information that he can give me for now, I turn my attention to Blake.

“Blake, I need Christian Grey’s background check, please,” I say as I go to my dressing room. I remove my robe and quickly don the first bra and panty set that I see. I snatch the nearest pair of jeans from the shelf. I haven’t worn jeans in forever and these fuckers are painted on. No matter, I don’t plan to be there long. I grab a warm cashmere sweater and slide into a pair of stilettos. I snatch a warm Italian leather bomber jacket from its hanger and exit my dressing room to see Blake standing there with the file I requested. He’s also in his robe, pajamas, and slippers, waiting expectantly.

“Thank you, Blake. I’m sorry I had to wake you at this hour…” Then it dawns on me. Blake has a home of his own. I called his name out of habit, but he should have left by now.

“Blake why are you here?” I ask. “It’s not a problem, of course, but… why?”

“Going home was too much of a trial for me today, Mistress,” he admits. “I may need to chat with you about that at a later time, but right now, you seem in a hurry. Is everything alright with Mr. Grey?”

“No, Blake, unfortunately it is not.” I take the background check from him and open to the first page. I dial the number listed for his penthouse. It rings a few times before a gentleman answers the phone.

“Grey Residence,” he says crisply.

“Hello, is this Taylor?”

“It is,” he replies. “To whom am I speaking?”

“This is Anastasia Olivet,” I reply. “I just received a call from Mr. Grey. He’s in jail.”

“Excuse me… what, ma’am?” My sentiments exactly.

“Your boss is in jail in Kirkland,” I clarify. “He’s been accused of attacking Elena Lincoln and I’m going down there to alibi him out. From the small timeline he gave me, he came straight to me after he left you, and we were together until he went home and was arrested. His whereabouts can be accounted for several hours before, during, and after her attack.” Taylor sighs.

“I’ll call his attorney,” he says.

“Good idea. I’m on my way to the Kirkland Jail…”

*-*

“Ms. Olivet, I’m Detective Nathan Hughes and this is my partner, Detective Rita Bhingman.” He extends his hand to shake mine and I oblige. In my line of work—and play—I have to make a judgement of character in the first 30 seconds of meeting you. This one was easy. Nate is the good cop, Rita is the bad. Her attitude is oozing off her the minute she enters the room. I don’t make the mistake of proffering my hand to her before she proffers it to me, and I already know that she won’t.

“What do we need to do?” I ask. “I’d like to get Mr. Grey out of here as soon as possible.” Rita examines my attire distastefully.

“You his lawyer?” she asks in a condescending tone.

“No,” I reply. “I’m his alibi. Like I told your desk sergeant, I am an attorney, but not Mr. Grey’s… yet.” She says nothing. “I’m courting him,” I add.

Hughes raises his brow at me, causing me to roll my eyes.

“Not like that, you imp!” I retort. “Do I strike you as a woman who needs to court someone?”

“Well, like what?” Bad Cop retorts. I laugh in her face.

“You did hear the part where I’m an attorney, right?” I say cockily before folding my arms and sitting back in my seat.

“Ms. Olivet, if you don’t mind telling us,” Hughes chimes in, “why was Mr. Grey at your home last night? It’ll go a long way in validating his alibi.”

“It was a social call—well, mostly social,” I tell him. “For the sake of discretion, I’m not inclined to give you all the dirty details, as they’re not needed to substantiate his alibi…”

Yes, Mr. Officer, I beat the hell out of him for a couple of hours and he couldn’t even move for about 20 – 30 minutes, let alone give that plucked, bleached cow the beating that she so rightfully deserves.

“However,” I continue, “I can tell you that he arrived at my home around 6:30—I’ll have to check with my butler to get the exact time—and he was there until nearly midnight. Among other things, we talked shop, discussed quite a few topics. He mentioned that he may be seeking new legal counsel,” I turn to Bad Cop. “That’s why I’m courting him.” I turn back to Hughes. “He’s a billionaire. I’m sure he has one of those trackers in his car. Why don’t you check that?”

“That’s convenient,” she says. “A nice little tidy package.” I glare at her and shake my head.

“You all have this routine down very well,” I say, turning back to Hughes and pointing between the two of them, “she’s acting like a real bitch.” Her glare sharpens at me.

“It’s not an act,” he says, but I don’t think he meant to say it out loud. Her head snaps to him and I don’t bother hiding my giggle-snort.

“I don’t like women like you,” she declares, glaring at me through narrowed eyes.

“Women like what?” I hiss. “You don’t even know me; you just think you do. I come sauntering in here in my jeans, Italian leather jacket, and high-heeled shoes and you’ve already got me pegged, huh, Bhingman? You have no idea who I really am and if you did, it would wipe that smug look right off your face. I have all due respect for law enforcement. Believe it or not, we’re on the same team—I only want to see justice done, but don’t think for one second that you’re going to walk in here and bully me because that, my friend, is not going to happen

“You don’t like me because we’re just alike and you can’t strongarm me. Or I should say that you’re trying to get to where I already am. You’re a woman in a man’s world, overcompensating and trying to be a badass. I’m not overcompensating, detective. I am a badass. While you’re putting on this act and charade pretending to be more than you are, I just let the real me shine through. Let the fucking chips fall where they may, because what you see is what you get!”

“Maybe you wouldn’t be so goddamn cocky if you spent a couple of hours in a holding cell with a few real badasses,” she threatens.

“Go ahead,” I reply, folding my arms, unshaken. “I’ll sue your fucking dog for its fur—and win!” And that’ll be the least of your worries. Apparently, Hughes grows weary of the face-off, rolls his eyes and stands.

“We’re done here. Ms. Olivet, you’re free to go.” He heads to the door and Bad Cop is still leaning over the table glaring at me.

“Bhingman!” he says, causing her to flinch. “We’re done here!”

She straightens her back and leaves the room, never breaking her gaze from me until she’s out of sight.

Yeah, she’s a real pill. I know the type—no kids; divorced once, maybe twice because her dick was bigger than her husband’s. I stand and grab my jacket, then go in search of the ladies’ room.

After relieving myself and washing my hands in a surprisingly clean ladies’ room, I don my leather jacket, fluff my hair, and touch up my lipstick. Trey might as well see something desirable when they release him.

As I’m leaving the restroom, I can hear Hughes and Bad Cop… Bhingman, having a heated discussion. I’m standing next to a large beam, just out of sight of them where I can hear the entire conversation.

“Overcompensating,” she seethes. “I’ll give that bitch overcompensating. Five minutes in a room with no cameras and I’ll wipe that smug look right off her fucking face!”

I love that people look at me and underestimate my ability to beat your fucking ass.

“Knock it off, Rita,” he retorts. “We’ve got bigger fish to fry. Grey is clearly not the person who beat that woman all to hell and now we’ve arrested him. We’ve got problems.”

“No, we don’t,” she says, firmly but dismissively. “We were doing our jobs. We were following a lead, a definitive lead given to us by the victim. If we’ve got the wrong man, that’s Lincoln’s problem, not ours.” He sneers incredulously at her.

“Are you outta your fucking mind?” he retorts. “We pulled this straw! We have to find out who beat the shit outta Elena Lincoln and she doesn’t want us to know who did it, which means that it was probably somebody close to her—most likely her fucking husband or a slighted lover. That’s why she pointed us at Grey. Now, we pull him in which brings us face-to-face with an attorney who, although she’s sexy as hell, has the biggest cojones I’ve ever seen… even bigger than yours, if that’s even possible…”

She doesn’t like that reference, not after I just handed her her ass in the interrogation room. I hadn’t thought about it possibly being Linc that beat Elena like that. What the hell did she do to make him want to land her ass in the hospital? Is he even in town? I’ll need to present that possibility to Christian.

“That prissy little wannabe cunt doesn’t have cojones. She’s got sex appeal and she uses it on suckers like you to get what she wants. She’s fucking him, I can guarantee it, and if she is his airtight alibi, that’s why.”

“Who cares?” Hughes accuses. “Who the fuck cares if they’re fucking? They’re both single and unattached. If they were doing the horizontal mambo, who the hell would care? And it wouldn’t matter anyway. If they were fucking, shearing sheep, or playing goddamn Yahtzee, he’s got an alibi. What the hell is your problem with her? Pretty women make you nervous?”

Powerful women make her nervous, and yeah, probably pretty ones, too. Bitch might want to lick my clit.

“There’s nothing about that glorified whore that makes me nervous,” Bhingman sneers. “She’s no better or different than a perp to me. She brought her ass in here and spilled her fucking guts, just like everybody else that gets in that room.”

“She didn’t spill shit to you except everything that Christian Grey had already told us. She confirmed his alibi… almost to the letter, and now we have to let him go. And if you don’t think that man is going to find some kind of way to make us pay for dragging him down here and locking him in a piss-ridden holding tank with a bunch of common criminals, you got another think coming. I hope you’ve got some kind of plan B, Officer Ratched, because he’s going to fucking fry us.”

As he angrily stomps away from her, I conspicuously fold my arms and lean against the beam where she can see me. She huffs and clenches her fists a few times before turning around and making eye-contact with me. Still trying to get her pound of flesh, she strides purposefully over to me.

“You two think you’re getting away with something!” she hisses. “I know he had something to do with what happened to that woman! She broke his arm and he’s pissed. Only pure rage could have produced the results we saw last night. Whoever did that to that woman is a fucking monster, and I’m going to make them pay!”

“Well, I wish you luck,” I retort, “because you’ve got the wrong man in custody. Anybody with a bone to pick could have done this to that crazy bitch and trust me, she’s made a lot of enemies as of late. While you’re throwing innocent men in jail, the real culprit is out there on the street, maybe even looking for another victim!

“She said Christian Grey did this to her. Unequivocally, Christian Grey! Those were your words. Does he look like he’s been in a brawl… before you put him in an infested holding tank?”

Shit, I hope they didn’t see his back.

“Did he have any bruising or scarring on his hands? Scratches on his face? DNA evidence under his nails? Any indication whatsoever that he put his hands on that woman, or anybody, for that matter?”

He fought with Caldwell Lincoln earlier. Was there any bruising from that? Did anybody even check?

“Has anyone tested that blonde fabricator for evidence that Christian Grey touched her within the last twenty-four hours? Even been near her for the last twenty-four days? He’s got a restraining order against her! She broke his goddamn arm—there’s an open case! You didn’t think for one second that this might be revenge for her current predicament?

“She declared that she was attacked—has anyone collected the proper evidence to haul a prominent businessman from his penthouse apartment into a precinct and throw him in a dirty cell or were you just too damn gung-ho to be concerned with proper procedure, chain of evidence, probable cause, and the fucking law… detective?”

I can’t believe what a botched-up job they did collecting evidence. Based on the events of his day, they could have locked him down on some circumstantial shit, and they didn’t even bother. They can’t do it now; he’s alibied out.

Oh, she’s mad now. She closes the space between us as if to intimidate me, but I don’t scare that easily. You’re on the job, bitch, and more than anything, I want you to hit me, so I can ruin your fucking life. Apparently, she musters an ounce of common sense.

“You’ve answered your questions,” she hisses. “Your presence is no longer required. You can leave now.”

“I’m waiting for my potential client,” I hiss back.

“Wait in the lobby,” she says, between clenched teeth.

“Or what?” I retort, my jaw just as tight. “Woof, woof,” I add, reminding her that her schnauzer could end up in litigation. Her eyes narrow and she’s about to reload.

“Drop it, Bhingman,” I hear someone say from behind me. Bad Cop glares at me for a few more moments and I glare right back. She clenches her fists again, cuts right and breezes past me. I roll my eyes. She has no idea just how minor league she is to me. I turn around just in time to catch the voice from behind me gazing at my ass. I raise one eyebrow at him when his gaze makes it to my face. He clears his throat.

“Ms. Olivet,” Hughes says. “Mr. Grey should be ready momentarily. If you’ll come with me…”

About twenty minutes later, Trey comes out of the holding area still in the clothes he was wearing when he left my house. His hair and face are scruffy, and he looks murderous. He freezes when he sees me, his expression unchanging. He looks into my eyes for a few tense moments, then proceeds to fasten his watch as he walks toward me.

“Did you bail me out?” he grunts as we proceed to the exit. He looks at his watch. I already know that it’s nearly two in the morning.

“No,” I say, walking out into the night air, my stilettos clicking on the concrete steps. “I confirmed your alibi. Didn’t they tell you?”

“No, they just said I was free to go.” He runs his hands over his chin then through his hair. He’s walking beside me as I walk to my car. “Where’s Taylor?” I shrug.

“I don’t know,” I say, pressing the key fob. He examines me carefully—top to bottom this time and back up to my face.

“I need to shower,” he hisses, “and shave… and fuck!” He starts looking around as if he’ll fuck the first approved orifice he sees.

“Well, I can’t help you there,” I say. You want to get your ass beat and come, I can accommodate you. You want to fuck, you’re on your own with that one. “What are you looking for?”

“A taxi,” he hisses.

“Oh. Yeah. Christian Grey leaving the police station at two in the morning with a five o’clock shadow in a taxi. That’s not newsworthy at all. Get your ass in the car.” He narrows his eyes at me, but undoubtedly sees the logic in what I’m saying and walks to the passenger side of my Range Rover.

Trey is silent for the first few minutes of the drive back to Seattle. He’s brooding… or contemplating… or plotting, I don’t know which.

“Two police stations within ten minutes of my house and they bring me all the way the fuck out here,” he growls, his first words since he got in the car.

“You live in Seattle. This happened in Kirkland,” I tell him as I turn onto the 520. “I heard them talking. They’re sure it’s someone close to her and they think it might be Linc.”

“That fucker is probably on a plane to Calcutta somewhere,” he hisses, “most likely to hide out in a cabana or between some bitch’s legs until his bruises heal. He did this shit and he wants me to take the fall for it, hoping he can get his business back. I just wanted to hurt his ass before, but this is war. I want blood now.” I sigh.

“Somebody’s going to have to put the bayonets down or this is just going to be a huge bloodbath,” I sigh. I can see him glaring at me from the passenger seat.

“Says the woman who singlehandedly engineered a class-action lawsuit from something that never really happened!” he snorts. I raise my eyebrow and sigh. He’s got me there.

“Elena’s not a sadist,” I say. “She’s a masochist. She deliberately seeks out ways to get hurt and then she makes it worse on herself. She’s a reverse strategist, plotting her own demise and she doesn’t even see it. She won’t see it until she ends up dead somewhere.” I shake my head.

“I won’t lose any sleep if she does,” he hisses, and turns his gaze out the window.

Well, this night was a complete fucking wash. I worked hard to bring this fucker to some type of docility and now, he’s right back where he started from.


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

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 56—Back In The Saddle

This is my five-year anniversary on WordPress. That means that five years ago today, I decided to take my readers and get the hell off FanFiction and leave all their haterade behind. I lost a few readers since then, but I’ve gained more. Thank you all for hanging on for this wild ride with me.

There most likely will not be a chapter next week as I’m splitting my time between preparing to publish and updating, and I have to work next Saturday. We’ll have to play those working weekends by ear.

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 56—Back In The Saddle

CHRISTIAN

“It came this morning,” Alex says, placing a bottle of 1964 Glinlivet Winchester single malt scotch on my desk. I’m just getting into the office on Friday morning and this is what greets me.

“It’s been scanned, and the bottle has been chemical-tested and tamper-inspected. It’s clean and intact.”

“Who’s it from?” I ask. He twists his lips.

“You should probably read the note. It’s been tested, too.” He hands me the note and I’m remiss to take it. He lays it out on my desk so that I can read it.

Mr. Grey,

I am not a man of apologies and I hope you can understand and respect that. I will concede, however, that my employee ghastly misspoke when he met with you earlier this week. You and I want the same thing—to rid ourselves of a certain pebble in our respective shoes. To that end, we are not rivals with nor subordinates to one another in any way.

What my employee was intended to relay is that it would be appreciated if my organization knew when you plan to visit the area. As you know, this problem has escaped solution to date on more than one occasion. As such, an unexpected visit may tend to flush out certain attempts at contact and possibly make an agreeable solution to our shared problem more viable. The notification is only a means to a mutual end, nothing more.

Please accept the enclosed token as a gesture of goodwill along with the sworn promise that, no matter what the prior implications, no harm will come to you or your family at the hands of my organization. You have my word. 

Russo

“Get the fuck outta here,” I say out loud. “So, how good is the word of a gangster?” I say, looking up at Alex. He shrugs.

“I don’t know, but I will say this. Aragon is his gopher—his messenger boy. Maybe a bit more than that, but I think you get the idea. He’s not going to make a move without his boss’ approval and when he left here, he was pissed. If Sunset had given him the go to take you out, he would have come back here and done it himself. I’ll also tell you this. With his organization and ability, he can’t afford attention. He’s got enough of that already. A hit on Christian Grey, billionaire and international businessman?” He whistles. “That’s way more attention that he wants. What’s more?” He picks up the bottle of liquor partially wrapped in high-end paper that previously came in a high-end box, “he’s certainly not going to try to wipe you out with a $25,000 bottle of single malt scotch made 50 years ago, sent with a letter with his signature on it, which can most likely be traced by its purchase. Take it how you want but, in my experience, he definitely means this as a peace offering.” I look at the bottle in Alex’s hand.

“Well, I ain’t drinkin’ it,” I say, looking at the note on my desk again.

“What should I do with it?” he asks. I really don’t know.

“Put it in the safe with the note,” I tell him. “Seal them both in plastic. I don’t know what else to do with it right now.” He nods and takes the bottle and the note with him before leaving my office. I mean really—what are you supposed to do with a $25,000 bottle of whiskey and an apology note from a gangster? What’s the protocol here? I’m not fucking versed on Mafia Etiquette 101.

I suddenly feel the need to watch Goodfellas or The Godfather or Casino or something.

“You got a love note from a gangster?” Jason says walking into my office.

“It appears that way,” I reply. Jason shakes his head.

“You pretty much tell his consigliere to fuck off and get lost and in response, he sends you a prized bottle of whiskey and a letter he personally signed.” He whistles.

“Should that mean something to me?” I ask.

“Yeah, it means that we should keep security tight,” he responds, “not crazy, but tight.” He takes a seat. “You were never in any danger of Sunset. I knew that. His messenger boy, I wasn’t so sure… until now. The way that he spoke to you on Tuesday, he didn’t have any fear of you, but he was upset that you didn’t have any reverence for him. That hothead could’ve taken you down in a minute. That was my concern. Now, Sunset is guaranteeing your safety. You’re not now, nor were you ever, in any danger from his organization. But make no mistake—you’re still in danger.”

“Why?” I ask. “From whom?”

“You’re bait, Boss. That’s what you’ve always been. You took down that asshole’s son. Russo is hoping that he comes for revenge himself. And when he does—when he rises from his hiding place—that’s when they plan to get him. But he knows that Myrick isn’t coming anywhere near you if you’re 50 guards deep. So, he wants you to do what you’ve been doing all along in the hopes of luring Myrick in. You’re in no more danger than you were before, but you are still in the same danger.”

“That’s why I want to find this fucker,” I tell him. “I need this to be over in the worst way. I need this man and everybody associated with him out of my life and I swear to God, the minute I see him coming, I’m going to put one right between his eyes.” Jason examines me.

“I believe you will.”

“Believe it!” I confirm. “He’s a dead man if he comes anywhere near me or my family, so he had better shoot first. Keep security as it is and find that asshole. You military geniuses come up with some way to smoke this bitch out. I’ve had enough of this shit. I don’t care what laws we break just find his ass!”

I knock something off my desk in my anger and begin to count. Jason has left the office by the time I’ve calmed down enough to get my day started.

*-*

I’ve wrapped up a meeting with my M&A team and decide to head down to the cafeteria for a late lunch. I order a grilled chicken sandwich and an endive salad and cranberry juice. When my food is ready, I plan to head back up to my office, but I spot Marlow toiling over some papers.

“What’s got you so perplexed?” I ask as I approach the table and put my tray down.

“The future,” he laments. I frown as I take a seat.

“Care to elaborate?” I say as I take a welcome bite of my chicken sandwich. He shrugs and sighs.

“Truth?” he says. “I’ve finally started getting some kind of social life, but this is my last year of high school, and I really have to start planning what I’m going to be doing. I really wanted to go away to college, but I want to stay close to GEH…”

“GEH can follow you wherever you go,” I tell him after I swallow my food. “We’re worldwide remember?”

“It’s not the same. You know that,” he says. “You’re my mentor. I’ve learned a lot from you and there’s more that I have to learn. I can’t get that hands-on experience that I want and need if I’m at school in Georgia or New England or upstate New York somewhere, but I must admit. Having GEH on your resume makes you look really good to the ivy league schools.”

At least he’s thinking big.

“But I’m finally making some friends… people that don’t look at me funny or treat me funny or try to meet you.” He rolls his eyes. “People who don’t think I’m not black enough… or too black. Girlfriends…”

“Girlfriends?” I ask. “Plural?” He shrugs.

“Nobody steady, just people I see. That’s why it’s plural. I haven’t settled in on anybody being a girlfriend and they know that. I’m no Tiger Woods, don’t get me wrong, but I have a few.”

“I hope you’re using protection,” I say, tucking in to my endive salad. Marlow twists his lips.

“Have we met?” he asks. “Do you really need to ask that question?” I didn’t, but nonetheless…

“Then there’s Mom and Maggie. I’m the man of the house and I’m just not comfortable leaving them alone yet…”

“Scratch that off your list,” I say. “You told me that your mom was seeing someone, and you can’t stay home and be the man of the house for the rest of your life. You’re going to have to be the man of your own home one day. Besides, your mom still has security details since that crazy ex-husband of hers isn’t dead yet.” I take another bite of my sandwich.

“That’s easier said than done,” he says. “Mags is still so young…”

“Stop making excuses,” I interrupt, my mouth full. “Choose the college that’s best for you. Remember this, though,” I swallow my food. “Washington has some good local colleges if you just want to stay in the state. You’ve got U-Dub, Washington State, the directional colleges, Seattle Pacific…” He nods.

“Yeah… I really think that’s what I want to do, for a lot of reasons. I’ll have plenty of time to travel. Now’s just not the time for me.” I raise a brow at him.

“Don’t get too attached,” I tell him. “You’re young, and life is going to take you in a lot of different directions. Working for me is going to take you in a lot of different directions. Your roots aren’t set yet—you have no idea where you want to go. Don’t cling to one thing too much until it’s time… and it ain’t time yet.”

I finish my lunch and talk to Marlow a bit longer about his plans. He knows that he has an ongoing internship here with me, and I’m priming him to do big things in GEH someday, but he’s going to have to decide exactly what he wants to do with his future. He may decide that he doesn’t want to work for me, and that’s fine—as long as he’s successful and doesn’t take any of my trade secrets to other companies.

I’m just getting back to the office when Andrea informs me that Smalls is on line two. I had completely forgotten about Pops’ storage bins until this moment as I was totally preoccupied with getting Windsor over to Aunt Tina’s, making sure that the covert watches were on Kenneth Carter and Roger Servant—yes, I discover that is really his last name—and pondering the “make-up” gift sent to me by one “solar” gangster in the Detroit area. I point to my office, indicating that I’ll take it at my desk.

“What do you have for me, Smalls?” I ask.

“We’ve identified the cars and gotten them all started. I’ve taken better pictures of them and sent them to your uncle at his request. He says that he wants to do a little research on them before sending the deets to you and his brothers. We were able to catalogue the items that were in the storage units with the cars and we’re working on the other two. We’re trying to put the cars in units by themselves, but it may require securing another unit for the extra items that were stored with the cars.”

“Talk to Herman about that,” I advise. “See if that’s something that can be done. How soon before we get the rest of the items catalogued? This is going on much longer than I expected.”

“End of the day, maybe,” he says. “It may go into Monday, unless you want us to work on Saturday.”

“I had no intention of you being here this long as it is. Wrap this up as soon as possible and let us know what’s in those units so my father and brothers can dispose of it how they want.” Money isn’t an issue, but it’s beginning to cost me more than this trip is worth for that crew to be there cataloguing items that should have been done in a couple of days. Now, he’s saying they may be there over the weekend.

“Yes, sir,” he says, noting my agitation. “I’ll get it done.”

“Thank you,” I reply before abruptly ending the call. This shouldn’t be taking this long. One storage bin, then two, then riddles, then four, then cars that won’t start, then six. Now, we have to work through the weekend. Geez, this is ridiculous. Do I have to fly back to that hellhole and get this done myself?

*-*

I’m at my dad’s house looking over his shoulder at his computer monitor. Uncle Stanley asked that we all be together when he called with details about the cars, so I came straight here after work. Williams brought me out to the Manor while Jason went back to the Crossing to have the past due conversation with my wife that he and I had discussed last week. I wanted to go home with him, but he assured me that my presence wouldn’t really help the situation right now and told me to go to my father’s but come home immediately after. He thinks that Butterfly will understand. I’m not so sure based on the report that she’s currently decimating a heavy bag and has been for a couple of hours now. However, remembering a black eye from my first encounter with that delicate little flower and a heavy bag, I take Jason’s advice and go to my father’s.

“He’s being dramatic,” Dad says about Uncle Stan as we wait for his email. “Just send the damn email and let’s get this going.”

“You know Stan,” Uncle Herman says, “Not many opportunities for the spotlight. He’s going to take advantage of this one…”

The brothers continue to rib their youngest sibling when Uncle Herman’s phone rings.

“Stan, come on, man. We don’t have all night,” Uncle Herman answers. Simultaneously, Dad’s email shows an incoming message. He opens it and they begin to examine the contents as Uncle Herman puts Uncle Stan on speaker. Dad opens the email and clicks on the attachment. It’s a PowerPoint presentation.

“PowerPoint, Stan?” Uncle Herman scolds. “This is what took you so damn long?”

“Trust me, brother, you’ll see that it’s worth it,” Uncle Stan says. They start the presentation and pictures of the first car begin to scroll over the screen. The first one is the Mustang—1969 Mach Fastback, cherry red with a white stripe with black leather interior.

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“God,” Uncle Herman says, “that’s even prettier than I thought it would be.”

Picture after picture scrolls over the screen of this classic automobile, completely refurbished. The stats for the Mustang appear on the screen once 16 or so pictures from every angle stop scrolling—4-speed transmission, 4-barrel carb, clean like it was brand new—even the engine. Current value, $28,500.

“Shit,” Dad says. “And there’s four of them?”

“I take it you guys just saw the Mustang,” Uncle Stan says.

“You take it correctly,” I reply.

“Well, sit back, gentlemen. There’s three more.

“Excellent presentation, Uncle Stan,” I say, knowing that his brothers are a bit too dumbfounded to speak.

“Thank you, nephew,” Uncle Stan replies. “I’m glad somebody appreciates my work.”

“Shit!” Dad exclaims. “It can’t be!”

We look back at the screen to see what has Dad all a-flutter. A black cherry classic comes across the screen and I can’t tell you anything about it except that it’s really old.

“Is that a Coup?” Dad says in awe while pointing at the car on the screen. “That’s not a Coup, is it? Is that a five-window Coup?” Uncle Herman looks at the screen and examines the vehicle.

“We have to wait until the end and see,” Uncle Herman says.

“Yeah, Rick, that’s a Coup,” Uncle Stan confirms. Dad puts his hand over is mouth. About nine pictures of this classic vehicle with shiny chrome accessories and black leather scroll across the screen and my dad doesn’t even blink.

1932 Ford Five-Window Coup,” Uncle Herman reads when the pictures are done. “Yeah, that’s what it is.” Automatic transmission in the floorboard, 350-crate engine with a dual carb 671 blower and estimated 600 horsepower. Current value, $78,000.

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“Shit,” Dad hisses and he’s silent for several moments. “That’s the first model car me and Dad ever put together.”

“Really?” Uncle Herman says in awe. “Then it’s yours. Any objections, Stan?”

“None here,” Uncle Stan replies.

Dad looks over at Uncle Herman and simply covers his mouth again. His eyes are glassy, and he’s struck dumb for a moment.

“Thank you,” he whispers when he finds his words. “Thank you so much.”

“I’m certain Dad would have wanted you to have it,” Uncle Herman says. “It’s too much of a coincidence.”

Dad just nods, hiding his face from me and Uncle Herman. It’s no doubt that he’s crying.

“Give us just a minute, Stan,” Uncle Herman says, reaching over to the computer and pausing the PowerPoint. It takes a little more than a moment for Dad to pull it together, but he does, and I can tell that he’s still fighting with his emotions.

“You’re a pussy, Rick,” Stan teases, trying to lighten the mood when Dad stops crying.

“Fuck off, Stan,” Dad jibes back, reaching for the mouse and clicking to continue the slideshow. Next, we see a blue and white, square convertible straight out of American Graffiti.

“What is that?” Uncle Herman asks. “’57 Chevy?”

“Chevy, Herm? Seriously?” Dad chastises. “Dad’s rolling over in his grave.” Uncle Herman raises his brow. I know he wants to comment that Pops isn’t in a grave—I can see it all over his face—but he gets the idea. Technically, he is, he’s just been cremated before he was interred.

“Blasphemy, Herm, it’s a Fairlane!” Uncle Stan chides.

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“A Fairlane?” Uncle Herman laughs. “Do you know I actually thought those cars were jokes?” he adds.

“You’re kidding, right?” Uncle Stan says mirthlessly.

“No. You remember the movie The Adventures of Ford Fairlane? I thought that was just the guy’s name. I didn’t think the car was real.”

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“And you call yourself a Ford man,” Uncle Stan retorts. “Dad really is rolling over in his grave now.”

“Okay, it’s a car, Stan. It’s not the solution to world peace or the cure for cancer. Lighten up…”

As my uncles argue the attributes of the Ford Fairlane, I continue to watch the slideshow until the specs sheet pops up. It’s not as cherry as the other cars, but it’s in amazingly good condition. It’s a colonial white 1959 Ford Fairlane/Galaxy 500 Skyliner with a retractable hard top, original police interceptor 352ci V8 engine with 300 horsepower, and a 3-speed automatic transmission. It has blue tuck and roll seats and comes complete with a white leather steering wheel; red, white, and blue aluminum hub caps, and wide whitewall tires. Current value, $39,000.

Uncle Herman finally cedes the argument to Uncle Stan, informing him that he wasn’t bad-mouthing the car. He just didn’t know that it was a real car. As it turns out, Uncle Herman likes this car more than the other two cars he’s already seen. He says it reminds him of making out in the back seat at the park.

TMI, Uncle Herman.

“Now, that’s pretty,” Dad says. Our attention is drawn back to the computer screen and the final car.

“That’s a T-Bird,” Dad says. “I’d know that car anywhere. That was my first car.” Uncle Herman looks at Dad.

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“Do you think Dad meant for you to have this one?” he asks. Dad twists his lips.

“I don’t think so,” he says. “Look at that car. That’s a kid’s car. Besides, I prefer the Coup.” I look at the pictures of the truly pimped-out Thunderbird scrolling across the screen.

“What makes you think that’s a kid’s car?” I ask Dad, curious.

“I’m not saying a 16-year-old kid, but a responsible twenty-something. Look at it,” Dad says, pointing to the screen. “It’s probably in better condition than when it first rolled off the showroom floor—black exterior so black, it looks like it has six clear-coats on it. Purple lighting kit—purple, gentlemen! White leather interior with purple piping. This car would scream overcompensation for anybody over 40 years old.”

“I have to agree with Dad,” I interject. “I’m a young billionaire, and that would scream overcompensation for me, and not in the penile sense that I’m sure my father means it.

The gentlemen all laugh as we continue to observe the 21 pictures that Uncle Stan compiled of the Thunderbird. Pops must have really liked purple—purple suspension, purple-accented engine, purple trim, and when Dad said purple light kit, I don’t think he knew the light kit is inside and outside the car. To me, this car would scream overcompensation at any age.

“It’s a beautiful car…” Dad says, trailing off, his voice having that but tone to it.

“Yeah,” Uncle Herman says, his voice carrying the same tone.

The specs sheet is way too much to read on this one, but skimming through it, I catch that it’s a 1964 Thunderbird convertible retractable with a 5.0 coyote 430 horsepower upgradeable engine and a 6R80 transmission. There are too many upgrades in this car to even mention and Dad’s right—it most likely looks much better than it did when it rolled off the showroom floor. It’s a classic car, but it’s been completely modernized without losing its classic appeal. Current value, $95,000.

“Hmm…” Uncle Herman says and trails off.

“What is it?” Dad says, examining my uncle’s expression.

“Four cars,” Uncle Herman says. “Four sons.” Uncle Stan makes a disbelieving “pst” sound in the phone. Nobody says anything for several seconds as Uncle Herman drops his head in contemplation.

“I’m not giving him one of those cars,” Uncle Herman says finally. The other brothers know who he’s talking about and they both remain silent as Herman raises his head. “Call me a terrible person, but I’m not giving him a car. That may have been Dad’s original intention, but I don’t think he’d want me to do that now.”

“What do you plan to do, keep the extra car?” Uncle Stan asks. Uncle Herman shakes his head.

“What am I going to do with two classic cars?” He scratches his beard in contemplation.

“Sell it?” Dad suggests.

“No way in hell I’m selling Dad’s car.” He continues contemplation. “If Freeman were to pick one of those cars, which one do you think he would pick?”

“He’d want that T-Bird, hands down,” Dad says. “The other cars are nice in their own right, but that T-Bird—he’d physically fight us to get that car.” Herman nods.

“Then the T-Bird goes to Burtie,” he says. “Any objections?”

“Yeah, Burtie,” Dad says in that “Eureka!” kind of way. “Freeman’s going to piss tar. That’s gonna eat him up! Yeah, no objections here.”

“You got my vote,” Stan says, “but can I keep the Mustang?”

The brothers laugh.

Dad, Uncle Stan, and Uncle Herman wrap up the call and I make a mental note to call Lanie and talk to her about Burt getting Pops’ T-Bird. Once I’ve sent myself reminders to arrange the shipment of the three cars to their respective locations—two to Seattle and one to California—I notice that my father has disappeared. I wander the house looking for him a bit, then find him outside in the backyard on the infamous advice bench. I exit the French doors and begin walking over to him. Even in the dark, I can tell that he’s crying—weeping in fact, as his body is shaking pretty violently.

“Dad?” I say, concerned as I approach cautiously.

“I miss him,” Dad chokes. “I miss him so much. I never thought anything could hurt this badly. God, it hurts so much.” His body shakes with sobs as he mourns.

I sit down next to my father. I don’t know what to say to comfort him because although I’ve filled my time with so many other crises and issues to the degree that I haven’t thought much about Pops, I miss him, too—especially in quiet time. I wipe a tear that has escaped from my eye and sit next to my father.

“I know, Dad,” I say, trying to steady my voice. I hate to see my father cry. His breakdowns have been huge—deep, heart-wrenching weeping and mournful sobbing fits. I saw him cry once before like this—at my breakfast bar at Escala when the full realization of what the pedophile had done to me finally sunk in and he hadn’t done anything to prevent it, not that he could have. He was broken just like he is now; just like he is anytime he has to handle something that deals with Pops. I can imagine that this is how I would be if something happened to him.

I put my arms around his shoulders and try to comfort him. It has the opposite effect. He crumbles into a ball and nearly falls off the bench, his sobs more woeful than before. He’s utterly grief-stricken and I have to catch him before he hits the ground. I sit there, holding and crying with my father on a chilly fall night, as he weeps the cries of the truly broken.

*-*

I’m exhausted when I get back to the Crossing. I don’t know how Butterfly deals with everyone’s emotions all the time like this. Just dealing with Dad has completely wiped me out. Then again, I can imagine that my wife doesn’t fall into crying fits when she deals with people either.

I can tell the house has just shut down. The sink is still damp—Ms. Solomon’s last wipe-down before bed. I wonder how Windsor is doing at Tina’s. I must say that his absence was felt when I came in the door tonight.

I go to the kitchen and retrieve a cranberry-apple juice from the refrigerator. Brandy has been my go-to drink on hard nights and I think I need to lay off for a while. I take several large swallows of the refreshing drink before walking into the dark family room and falling onto the sofa like a sack of potatoes. I’m so tired. Crying is exhausting.

I fire off an email to Lanie with a picture of the Thunderbird, telling her to show it to Burtie and ask if he wants it. She’ll see it in the morning.

I’m just laying my head back on the sofa when the lights come on. I look around the room to find Butterfly in her recliner with the remote to the lights in her hand. Why in the hell is she sitting here in the dark?

“I couldn’t sleep,” she says as if in answer to my question. “You’re late.” She stands from her chair and walks over to me, her face falling as she approaches. “And your eyes are swollen. You’ve been crying! Why have you been crying?” She stands protectively over me, and I simply evade the question.

“I’ve convinced my father to get grief counseling,” I say, “He hasn’t really dealt with Pops’ death completely and it’s becoming too much for him to handle.” She frowns, but quickly recovers.

“I imagine so,” she says. “With Grace’s breakdown so soon after Burt’s funeral, he hasn’t had time to grieve the loss or recoil from it. That has to be pretty rough on him… and you.”

I raise my gaze to her and the light hurts my eyes, so I deflect my gaze and she sits next to me. The truth is… I’m just tired. I’m tired of being the know-all businessman. I’m tired of being the problem-solver. I’m tired of being the rescuer, the righter of wrongs, the “make-it-all-better” guy. I’m tired in so many ways that I can’t even explain how many ways that I’m tired. I’m the fix-it man, the “find-the-bad-guy” man, the “chase-away-the-Boogey” man—and when my Dad started crying, all I could do was cry with him. I feel the pain of loss like he does… but not. I miss Pops… a lot, but my dad is still alive. The great Christian Grey can’t pull out his trusty Amex Black and fix this one. I’m just tired. Some days, this fucking superman cape is hard to wear, and today, I’m just tired.


ANASTASIA

How do you deal with your own crises when everyone else’s crises seem so prevalent? Marilyn, Harmony, Christian, the world… is this innate in my nature or a result of being a shrink? I came home in speechless tears yesterday, wailing on a heavy bag until every part of my body ached, and finally accepted the fact that I’m suffering from PTSD brought on by the shock and pain of Christian’s disappearing act but most likely aggravated by all the bad things that have happened to me—who wouldn’t have PTSD after living with Carla and all the subsequent bad shit that has happened to me? After a long soak in a very hot jacuzzi tub, I go to the family room to wait for my MIA husband and to ponder my situation and course of action in darkness and silence. When he gets home, he looks like shit, and he’s been crying.

Who can ignore that?

Suddenly, my problems which had been consuming all my thoughts seconds before didn’t seem so prevalent anymore. Get him undressed, get him to bed, massage his scalp until he falls asleep. We’ll tackle whatever this is in the morning. It’s too late to deal with it now… though his fingers were tapping madly on his screen in the dark and I’d like to know what that was about. Nonetheless, not two minutes after the scalp massage begins, he’s fast asleep—hard—on my stomach. I fall asleep shortly thereafter.

He’s snoring hard when I climb out of bed and come to check on the children. Keri and Gail are preparing them for their morning bath, and I decide that today is probably another good day to spend with the twins. Jason let the contractor in to get started on the shelves and painting of my office, and I almost instinctively call Marilyn to discuss… whatever, until I remember that she’s off until Monday on a mission to check her attitude. I’ve decided that if she ever gets her shit together, I’ll put her on the task of finding out who’s real and who’s fraud on my family tree. If she doesn’t, well, who the fuck knows what’s going to happen.

I forgot to tell Christian that the contractor was coming to do my office today. It’s just a matter of revamping the shelves behind my desk and doing a little paint. Maybe he’ll be finished before too long. In the meantime, I go to the kitchen and prepare breakfast for us—pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, buttery and cheesy grits, coffee, juice, and toast. I load it onto the food cart and go to the elevator.

He seems to be stirring a bit when I open the door. That’s good. I really didn’t want to have to wake him for breakfast. He says that he had planned to go for a run, but upon seeing breakfast, admits that a change of plan never hurt. He’s in better spirits this morning as we eat in bed, telling me about the contents of Burt’s storage units, including four very expensive classic cars, one of which prompted another seriously emotional breakdown from Carrick.

During the course of the conversation, he tells me that he sent an email to Lanie last night about one of the cars, which answers my question about the typing in the dark. He also informs me of the olive branch he received from a certain Detroit gangster. Jason’s theory of the situation, as explained by Christian, put a few of my fears to rest, but still makes me feel quite uneasy about the situation at hand—a situation that really hasn’t changed from a week ago.

“I agree to the current security situation,” I tell him, “but shouldn’t I know what this asshole looks like? In case he approaches me to get to you?”

A visible chill goes through my husband as he agrees that I should be able to identify Myrick.

“I’ll get you information on him before the end of the day,” he says. We finish our breakfast, then indulge in a shower and a midmorning quickie before we go and get our children.

“Jason told me that I have PTSD,” I tell him as Minnie plays with a plush toy in my lap and Christian entertains Mikey on the playmat.

“How do you feel about that?” he asks, raising his eyes to me. I sigh.

“In light of my reactions to certain events and the trauma that I experienced through all this, I tend to think he may be right,” I admit, avoiding eye-contact with my husband. I can feel the air suddenly become a bit thick.

“So… what now?” he asks.

“Right now, we’re going the talking route,” I reply.

“To Jason?” he asks. “Jason’s going to be your shrink now?”

“To anybody,” I tell him, “to whomever will listen when I hear the voice of doom. And I wonder why my shrink didn’t think of this… PTSD, I mean. We could have formulated a treatment plan by now.”

“You know very well why he didn’t approach you with that,” he replies. “You became borderline violent the last time someone suggested that you were suffering from it, and I’m sure you told him about it.”

“Yes, but if that really is what I’m suffering from, avoiding the diagnosis isn’t going to help anything,” I protest.

“So, now, you do realize that the man is ‘damned if he do and damned if he don’t,’ right?” Christian points out. God, I hate when he’s this fucking logical.

“Maybe he did tell me,” I admit, “in so many words, just not outright. He sure didn’t hesitate in calling me suicidal.”

“What?” Christian says sharply enough to make the babies jump. Minnie’s looking at him like, “What the hell, Dad?” while Mikey gives him a “Dude, seriously?” stare.

“Okay, he didn’t say that I was going to kill myself. He just called me a shark’s tooth.” Christian squints his eyes and furrows his brow in confusion. “You had to be there; I can’t explain it. He’s trying tough love on me, but as a professional, I really don’t think it’s working.”

“Is that why you destroyed the heavy bag yesterday?” he asks, pulling his wandering son closer to him on the playmat. I nod.

“I’m not sure if what he was saying really helped me, but it pissed me off. I’m beating myself up enough for not being able to snap my fingers and overcome this situation without also being beat up by my shrink.” He nods.

“So… now you just talk.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Well, there are two professional treatments for PTSD—psychotherapy and medication. Hopefully, I’m not so bad off that I need medication…”

“Do you think you are?” he asks. “I mean, you are a professional.”

“I’m also not objective. This isn’t happening to someone close to me, this is happening to me. So, I’m not really the one to ask about that, but I’m a huge proponent of psychotherapy, as you already know. So, I’m going to go with cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure.”

“Okay, and those are…?” he asks.

“CPT is going to help me understand and deal with exactly how events changed my way of thinking and my feelings. ‘Something bad happened and the Boogeyman is coming to get me’ is not a logical thought process. That’s where prolonged exposure—or talking to whomever will listen—comes in. That’s where I keep talking about situation and about my thoughts and my feelings so that I can gain some control over them and they’re no longer upsetting. I’m going to start journaling again, too, for those times when no one is there to listen.”

“Butterfly, I’ll always be there to listen,” he says somberly.

“No, you won’t,” I say. “What if it’s 11 o’clock in the morning and you’re in a meeting? Or it’s the dead of night and I wake from a bad dream? There are going to be those times when I have to have my journal, and the people around me who claim to love me are going to have to understand that they might be mini-therapist throughout this time. It’s that simple.” He nods.

“You got all this from your conversation with Jason?” he asks.

“I got some of this from my conversation with Jason. The rest I had to get on my own.” He nods but says nothing. “What is it?” I prod.

“I want…” he starts but trails off, sighing and shaking his head. “I want to say or do something that’ll make this all go away. I know I’ve apologized numerous times, but had I known… had I had any idea that this…” He trails off again unable to finish his sentence. He doesn’t look at me while he’s talking. He looks at Mikey, and I’m afraid that he’s going to start crying again. The funny-not-so-funny thing about crying is that once the damn bursts, it’s hard if not impossible to plug it again.

“One thing that useless shrink of mine did make me swallow,” I say softly while stroking Minnie’s hair. “Once something has happened, it’s happened. You can’t undo it and you can’t take it back, but it’s important not to live in it. You have to move on—promise to do better and not make the same mistakes. There’s really nothing else you can do. It’s a tough commitment as memories are hard and sometimes impossible to erase, but sometimes, what’s done is done, and we just have to find a way to let go and move on. And I’m trying… I’m doing my best… You should, too.”

He raises his eyes to me and they’re glassy, but no tears fall.

“I’m sorry, Butterfly,” he squeaks, dropping his gaze again.

“I know,” I say. “I forgive you. Forgive me, too… and yourself.” He doesn’t respond.

Forgetting is the problem, not forgiving.

*-*

I never realized how large my office was until it was empty. It’s pretty ginormous. Apparently, I must have felt the need to fill every bit of space in here when we first moved in, because you would never know that there was so much room in here until it was empty. It could also be that the imposing wood shelves are gone, replaced by a stylish and delicate glass shelving system on a greenish-gray backdrop. The space is brighter and lighter, and I’m glad that Luma and I chose natural textures and fibers to outfit the room.

We spend Saturday with our babies, but Sunday, I spend putting my office together. Between the house staff and some of the security personnel, the furniture is organized in a couple of hours and the boxes are unpacked. I meticulously decide what stays and what goes in terms of décor, books, and accessories. It’s time to get rid of the large, chunky pieces and the books that I never read that can also be donated to the Center.

My office at home is a bit sleeker than the office at work. Although the chunky, space-hogging furniture has been replaced with natural straw rugs, a wicker coffee table and ottoman combination, natural fiber light fixtures and lamps, and a woven basket or box here or there, the glass shelves have been filled with contemporary metal, steel, and glass décor as well as strategically placed books with white or bright earth-tone colors—including my new set of journals. Soft, textured curtains with stylish drawbacks line the bookshelves while Antigua Froth rolling shades allow the light to bathe the room from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

The once almost-mission-style seating area has been transformed with the round wicker coffee table that holds four white incognito triangular ottomans, flanked by two white tufted chairs with a matching chaise across from them. The chairs and the chaise are arguably the bulkiest pieces in the room and would normally look out of place as they are made for a more formal setting. However, the wicker coffee table with the white ottoman cushions help to tie the tufted furniture, straw rugs, and other natural fibers together. The combination is eclectic and amazingly compatible at the same time.

I take a moment or two to admire my work once everything is in its place, and I’m loving the fact that I can have my retractable shades open to half-mast and watch the sun setting over the lake. When it appears that my work is done, I take some time to break in my new set of journals. Meditation and yoga are still on the menu to help keep me grounded, but when I’m floundering, it’s going to take the journals and talking.

I start my first entry by describing how I felt the day I realized that my husband had left me. Even now, I’m not really sure when that happened. I know that he left on that Wednesday night after he found me with Liam in the community room, but I don’t know if I knew that he left me that Friday when he wouldn’t answer my calls after two days of trying or that Sunday when I realized he had blocked my cell number. They were both harrowing days for me. I remember feeling like the bottom was falling out from under my world that Friday, and then actually feeling that bottom fall away that Sunday. So, I elaborate on both days.

I move from my desk onto the floor of the sitting area and use the coffee table to write on. Before I know it, I’m pouring my heart out about the bridge and the window seat in the nursery. I wipe away a tear or two when I remember how I felt sitting in that window and waiting—and hoping—for an Audi. I remember giving up hope and trying to focus on the twins… but not, because I still sat in that window. I still sit in it now sometimes, only I have no idea what I’m looking for when I’m looking out that window, watching and waiting.

I remember losing my senses and driving to that lookout point with a bottle of whiskey. That was truly a dumb thing to do. So many other bad things could have happened and I’m only just now realizing how tragic that whole thing really could have been. Then the whole disaster at the hospital and nearly ending up in the psyche ward. Geez, that would have been a stellar gossip-rag headline! I still don’t know how we managed to keep my fall out of the press.

I keep writing, because I can’t seem to find the appropriate words to describe the pain that I felt during that time—seething, burning, agonizing, unbearable, abysmal, like someone was slowly cutting off my limbs with a dull butter knife—nothing seems to adequately capture the way that I was feeling. It was one of the darkest times of my life. It seems so long ago and yet, it feels like yesterday. That’s why it’s so hard to let go… because it hurt so badly.

A gentle knock on my open office door causes me to raise my head. My husband is looking around the room in awe, and I’d forgotten that he didn’t know what kind of transformation had taken place in this room.

“You did all this in one day?” he asks incredulously.

“It was more like four days,” I say, closing my journal and deciding that there were no more synonyms for excruciating that I would find tonight. “I, um, took a page from Grace’s book… picked my colors, picked a look, and ordered the furniture. It wasn’t as hard as planning my office at work.”

“Your office used to look so… full. Now, it doesn’t. It looks more open and… airy.”

“You’re struggling to be PC. Let me help you. My office was sophisticated—neat, professional—but it was cluttered… chock full of stuff. Now, it looks more relaxing, more inviting.”

“Yeah,” Christian says, still looking around the room in awe. “It’s… brighter in here…”

“Less encumbering,” I assist.

“Yeah,” he replies before bringing his gaze to me. “You missed dinner.”

I figured it was kind of late, but not that late.

“I was journaling,” I admit. “The first entry, it… sets the tone, so to speak.” I arise from the floor and close my journal. Walking behind my desk, I put it on the bookshelf with the others.

“What did you do with all your books?” he asks. Not about the furniture, not about the huge makeover of the bookshelves, the books. He’s searching for conversation.

“I’m donating them to start a library at Helping Hands,” I say, turning around to face him. He nods, still looking around the room.

“Can you do my office?” he asks. My eyes widen. What?

“You want your office to look like this?” I ask, amazed.

“Yeah,” he says. “Well, no,” he retracts, shaking his head quickly like he’s shaking off a bad thought. “My office at work has various colors and a lot of white—sleek lines… it doesn’t look like the space is closing in on you, but that’s because of the corner office and the glass walls. The only windows in my office are behind me, and I can’t really see them. You’ve made it look like Sunday morning in here, literally, and that’s a lot to say after nightfall. My office has all the Oxford-ness—the heavy woods and dark atmosphere…”

Jesus, I don’t think he understands what must be done to lighten that room and still stay in sync with Christian Grey. The room is all dark. The natural lighting is almost nonexistent. He has a large, dark marble fireplace sitting between the only two medium-sized windows in the room. We would either have to rip out the fireplace or cover it with lighter marble. Does he ever even use that fireplace? If we decide that we’re not going to use it, we have to cap off the gas line. Demo, capping, too much trouble.

The fireplace stays.

We would need to get rid of the chunky furniture and the big, imposing chunks of architecture. Keep some of the bookshelves and lose some? The window coverings would have to be pale or non-existent. The bookshelves would have to be painted or completely rebuilt, just like mine. We’re definitely not ripping up that flooring, but there would need to be some area rugs to break up that dark marble.

And light! He needs more light. It would need to be track lighting or recessed lighting, and track lighting tends to look so damn tacky.

Recessed lighting with solar bulbs…

“That’s a massive undertaking, Christian,” I warn. “Your office is completely dark, and to lighten it, the space would end up totally different than it is now. Lighting changes, textures and materials, we still want it to look masculine…”

“You had an idea in mind for how you wanted your space to look. I don’t expect for my transformation to take a week. It’s okay if it takes a month or two—although I’d like to be able to use my space…”

“Which means that no work can begin in there until we have a solid idea…” which is what I did in my office. We could utilize the French Doors between the den and the office to take advantage of the natural light from the den…

“Let me give it some thought,” I tell him. “I’m sure I can come up with something that you like… as long as you give me time.” He smiles.

Take all the time you need.”

That’s exactly what I intend to do.

*-*

“Dad is coming to my office today with Harmony,” Christian says at breakfast on Monday morning. “We’re having a powwow today about the divorce and whatnot.” I raise my brow.

“Do you have some kind of plan in mind for her loser husband?” I ask, chomping away on eggs benedict.

“We’ve got plans, but I don’t know how they’re going to play out just yet,” he says. “This entire thing made me consider all the people who have something to lose—or gain, from Tina’s death. Windsor called me yesterday and apprised me of how the house was run before Roger left. It was… not a happy place to work. He’s finding proof that Roger was skimming off Tina’s money when it came time to pay bills or buy groceries or necessities for the mansion, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. His cash cow is completely dead, and if she so chooses, Tina can totally sue for embezzlement.

“Not only that, but the moment the doctors announce time of death, Tina’s children that currently have no time for her, along with nieces, nephews, and any other relatives who come up out of the woodwork, are going to swoop in and try to clean her house out, if they don’t try to put Harmony out of the house completely. So, we need to do something about that. To that end, Allen will sit in on our meeting and we’re going to Skype with Tina and her lawyer at Tina’s house to come up with possible solutions.” I shake my head.

“Shouldn’t her will take care of all of this?” I ask. “I mean they can’t just come in and start laying claim to her shit if she has a will.”

“Yes, they can,” Christian corrects me. “If they show up at that house and push Harmony out of the way, who’s to stop them from physically taking whatever the fuck they want? They’re Tina’s children, too. So, we’re trying to make sure that there’s a way that we can legally prevent them from doing something like that. Once we get that in place, my security team will take care of the physical part.”

“Geez, what a mess,” I comment. “If our children behave this way when we’re gone, I’m going to come back and haunt them for eternity.” I finish my breakfast and take a drink of my coffee. “I’m going down to my office now, and don’t worry. I’ll be going into Helping Hands a little later today. We have some new volunteers and some interviews that need to be conducted for key positions to get ready for the new semester next spring.” I give him a kiss.

“Since I’ve been deemed your new interior decorator, I want you to think about colors and textures that make you comfortable—or uncomfortable. I’m going to do this how I think you’ll like it, but a bit of your input might help.”

“Do whatever you want, Butter…” he begins.

“Oh, no, Grey,” I interrupt. “You’re not going to put all this off on me. Colors or textures that you definitely don’t want in the office. That’s all I need since the task seems so daunting.” I kiss him again, on his forehead this time, and head down to my office. “Have a good day, Dear.”

Courtney emails me that she and the staff are getting the volunteers sorted while Grace is preparing for the interviews that we have this afternoon. We’re still waiting for background checks on two of the applicants, but we see no harm in getting the interviews out of the way since the preliminary background checks are already done. Security will, of course, be a little beefed up, but not so that those who aren’t in the know would see anything different than usual.

We’ve decided that an inhouse maintenance team is definitely the way to go. So, we’ll be doing a hiring campaign for that. Our cleaning contract with Clean It Up for You is up for renewal in January and we’ll look to be filling positions for a handyman and staff around that time. To that end, we’ll need to review the proposals soon submitted for insurances by the various benefits coordinators that Grace and Harmony spoke with last week.

I must admit that I’m almost excited to let that Sherwood cow know that her days are numbered. As far as I’m concerned, her company never did come up to the expectations they should have after they dropped the ball charging us for areas that they never cleaned. Handing them their walking papers will be one of life’s little joys for me.

Our special airs tonight, so we’re having Vee and Josh over to view it along with Al and James, Val and Elliot, Grace and Carrick, and our usual household suspects. Mia took a pass on the whole “gathering” thing, opting to watch it from home as did Dad and Mandy.

I review the refreshment menu with Ms. Solomon, which will include gourmet chicken tenders, a loaded-potato-wedge bar, a nacho bar, a variety of popcorns, concession stand candies and treats, and a drink bar—alcoholic and non-alcoholic. We’ll be viewing it in the movie room, of course. I watched with such a critical eye the first time that I’m somewhat looking forward to seeing the finished product this time with a more relaxed mindset.

At about 11am, shortly before I’m preparing to head to Helping Hands, there’s a knock at my open office door. I raise my eyes to see Marilyn standing there awaiting permission to enter.

“Come in,” I say, clasping my hands on the desk in front of me. Her stance and demeanor show that I’m not dealing with the haughty woman that was kicked out of my office on Thursday.

“You finished it,” she says, looking around the office in awe. “The whole thing… in one weekend.”

“Yes, I did,” I confirm, with no malice.

“Without me,” she adds softly. “I thought you’d be kind of rudderless without me.” Her voice has a tinge of regret.

“I am rudderless without you, Mare,” I admit, then sigh heavily, “but life has to continue.”

“I don’t know what was going on last week,” she begins. I do—you’re pregnant. “It just felt like the world was closing in on me.”

“Did you take a test?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“No… not yet.” So, you still choose to put it off—not my business. I will address the part that is my business, though.

“You have sick time,” I remind her. “You’ve probably accumulated at least a year at this point. I don’t keep up because you never take time off. Take it when you need it.” I pause, and she says nothing. “There’s also this thing called the Family Medical Leave Act. It assures that if you need an extended period of time off for a medical purpose that your job will still be waiting for you when you return…”

“I was a bitch,” she interjects without raising her head. “I know that you would never fire me unless I did some really crazy shit. You promised me job security and I believe you. I was just being a bitch last week… and I’m sorry.”

That’s all that needs to be said.

“And now,” I continue, “you can see that I won’t disintegrate if you have to leave for a while.” We both chuckle. “It’ll be hard without you, but not impossible, as long as I know you’re coming back.”

“‘Only death could keep me from it,’” she jests, quoting Nettie from The Color Purple. Death or motherhood, I think to myself. “Right now, I really need to work.”

“Good, because we’ve got interviews today and new volunteers coming in at Helping Hands. I also have a project for you that could take some time.”

“I could use the distraction,” she says, pulling out her iPad. I really want to lecture her on the dangers of waiting to get medical attention while she’s pregnant no matter what her decision will be. Nonetheless, I decide that it’s still early and we can put it off a little while longer, but not too long.


A/N:I have noticed that on my last three chapters, there was no link to my Pinterest page. I have rectified that situation. My apologies…

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

For those of you who are also muscle-car-heads like me, there is another Pinterest link so that you can get a closer look at those beautiful classic cars. https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/classic-cars-for-raising-grey-chapter-56/

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

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

 ~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 54—Digging Out The Leeches

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 54—Digging Out The Leeches

CHRISTIAN

“Oh, shit. Stay here with Aunt Tina. Jason…” Just as Harmony enters the room, I take the scrambler from my pocket and place it inconspicuously on the back of a lamp on the table near the door. That should give Aunt Tina some relief from the humming while I’m out of the room.

Jason and I take the spiral marble staircase two at a time to see what the big emergency is. When I get to the first floor, I’m surprised to find the very last person in the world that I would expect to become violent pinning Roger against the wall by his collar with his feet dangling in the air… and nobody’s stopping him.

Oh, shit, this is bad.

“Barney,” I say calmly from behind him, attempting to tame my head of IT, “put the ugly man down.”

“You broke a scanner,” Barney says through his teeth, “a fucking scanner! Do you know how hard those things are to get? How much they fucking cost? Do you know how much time it takes to calibrate one of those things, you ignorant piece of shit?” Barney isn’t paying any attention to me. He’s hissing in Roger’s face like a rabid dog and he looks like he wants to rip Roger’s skin off with his bare hands.

“Barney,” I say. “I’m rich. We’ll get you another scanner.”

“I got another scanner! It’s the fucking principle!” he says. Barney is very serious about his electronics. They’re his children. You’d be better off kicking his kid sister than you would to fuck with one of his babies.

“He didn’t trip,” Barney seethes. “He kicked it. I saw him! He has no respect for technology, particularly for shit he can’t afford to replace. Now I’m going to take all the time I’ve taken to calibrate that thing to beat his ass!” I raise a brow and look over at one of the other techs trying to pry Barney’s hand from Roger’s jacket.

“How long did it take him to calibrate that thing?” I ask out of curiosity.

“With all the tweaking he did on it? About a month,” the tech replies. I raise my brow.

“Hmm,” I say before going back to Barney’s ear. “Um, Barney, you can’t beat the man for a solid month,” I say calmly.

“I can sure as hell try,” he says, never taking his eye off Roger who, in turn, never takes his terrified eyes off Barney. I must admit, I’d like to see that.

“No, Barney,” I say calmly, halfway wanting my head of IT to rip this pompous fucker’s head off. “No, if you do that, you’ll kill him… or maim him… or something really bad…”

What was my point? Oh, yeah…

“… And then you’ll go to jail, and that can’t happen because I need you.”

Barney still has the look of death in his eye when he drops the asshole on the floor. Roger unknots his bowtie and massages his neck. Barney had him pretty tight against the wall.

“Stay. Out. Of my way!” Barney growls in a voice that I’ve never heard before, garnering the attention of everybody in the room before turning away.

“Crazy barbarian!” Roger mumbles to Barney’s back. It wasn’t meant for Barney to hear, but he heard it. In fact, we all did. Barney spins around and delivers a prize-worthy right cross that sends Roger sailing right over the scanner he had just broken.

CRASH!

It’s destroyed now.

“Barney!” I say in mock scolding.

“He fell,” Barney says, looking at Roger’s unconscious form. “You heard him. He tripped over a several hundred-thousand-dollar scanner and broke it. Ain’t that what that looks like to you?”

“Looks that way to me,” his tech says.

“Me, too,” someone else adds. “Fucked it up real bad, too.”

“Same here,” comes another response. “Tripped right over the damn thing and did a face-plant on the marble.”

“Alright, alright everybody back to work,” I say. “Jason, we gotta clean up this mess.”

“How do you suggest we go about doing that?” he says. “We’ve got an unconscious asshole in the middle of said mess.”

“Take pictures?” someone jests and a few of the staff laugh. I consider the situation.

“Actually, somebody does need to take a picture of him,” I confirm. Before the words are out of my mouth, camera phones are flashing like crazy.

“Why?” Jason asks, curiously.

“Because when he wakes up, he’s going to want to press charges. I’ve obviously got witnesses who’ll say he tripped over that thing. Now, we’ve got proof.” I take a few pictures of my own.

“What’s to stop him from suing for his injuries?” Jason asks. I smile.

“Have you forgotten how persuasive I can be?” I question.

“No, but your persuasion doesn’t seem to have an effect on him,” Jason points out. “He’s a real haughty motherfucker and he’s too full of his own imagined self-importance to show any reverence to anybody… not even Tina.”

I twist my lips. Jason’s right. This horrible sonofabitch pretends that Aunt Tina has the reins, but I wonder how long she hasn’t known that she’s really not in control… he is.

“That’s because I’ve been using the wrong kind of persuasion,” I note, more to myself than anybody, “but I’m about to rectify that situation. Now, how do we wake this fucker up?”

“A bucket of water,” Jason says, “but smelling salts would be more effective.” I gesture to one of the other security detail.

“Go upstairs to Tina Franklin’s room. Knock before you enter. Ask her daughter if there are any smelling salts in the house.” He nods and heads up the winding staircase. I turn around and look at the arrogant, pompous fucker laid out on the floor. One of his teeth has been dislodged and he’s bleeding all over the marble floor. I gesture to one of the other staff members and instruct him to find towels and to make an ice pack in the kitchen. I hear a groan below me and see that the pompous asshole is slowly coming around.

“Bring a bucket of cold water, too,” I instruct him. Jason raises his brow.

“Opting for plan A, I see?” he asks.

“He’s coming out of it. We don’t need smelling salts,” I reply. It takes a few minutes, but both staff members return with the requested items… even though we won’t need the smelling salts. I take the bucket—it’s a small bucket, only about two gallons—and dump the water on Roger’s head and face. He jolts to full consciousness, coughing and sputtering… and cursing. He looks up and sees me standing over him with the bucket, glaring down at him. He immediately falls silent. I crouch down to him. Filled with about two dozen men, this room is so quiet that you could rock a baby to sleep in here.

“You alright, Roger?” I ask, my voice deceptively calm, fury radiating from every pore of my body… and I’m sure that he can feel it.

“I… I…” No full sentences yet, I see.

“That was a nasty fall you took,” I say, stressing the word fall, “when you tripped over that very expensive scanner that’s now destroyed.” I point to the shattered scanner at his feet.

“I didn’t twip,” he protests, quickly bringing his hand to his mouth.

Yep, Jeeves, you’re a-missing a tooth.

“Dat guy…” He’s looking around for Barney, who walks in with another scanner. “Him! He hit me!” Barney glares at him with a murderous look.

“Trip over this one,” he threatens. “I dare you!” Roger shrinks a bit at Barney’s tone.

“He hit me, I thay,” Roger declares. I take the towel from the tech—or whoever it is—and hand it to Roger. He snatches it from me and puts it against his mouth, wincing at the pain. “I’ll thue him for thith. I’ll thue all of you!” he threatens through his towel.

“Oh, Roger, Roger, Roger,” I mock lamenting. “You’re outnumbered. Several people here have pictures of you sprawled over the floor, face down, with feet dangling over that destroyed scanner.” I gesture to the scanner and he looks over at it. I hold my hand out to help him up and he refuses. I raise a brow at him. “Take the hand, Roger, or would you rather Barney helped you?”

He looks over at Barney and quickly takes my hand instead. I lift him off the floor like a puppy. The guy weighs nothing.

“Now,” I say, walking with Roger over to a nearby sofa. “You’ve been underfoot quite a bit today. I, with Tina’s permission, asked you to leave and you refused. We now have a nurse coming to check her vitals to make sure that you haven’t worried her to the brink of a stroke, and you’ve inconveniently tripped over two very expensive pieces of equipment, completely destroying one of them.”

“I didn’t twip…”

“What was that?” I ask, putting my hand to my ear. “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. Are you saying that you didn’t trip over that spectrum analyzer and that scanner that you busted? Is that what you’re saying?” The room gets quiet again.

“No,” Roger says. “I did twip over that sthpectwum thingy, but your guy there hit me, and I fell over the sthcanner!”

“Well, that’s strange,” I mock misunderstanding. “It was my impression that you indicated that you tripped over it, and that’s why Barney was so upset.”

“Well, yeth… well, no…” He doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going.

“Have a seat, Roger,” I say, looking down at him and gesturing to the sofa just behind him and to the left. He straightens his back and stands defiantly, glaring at me.

“Sit the fuck down!” I demand, shoving him hard and causing him to fall back and over onto the sofa. His feet fly up as his butt hits the cushion, and his eyes widen. I close the space between us and look down at him.

“Let me explain something to you,” I say, my voice rumbling in a Satanic-like Dom voice. “I don’t give a fuck who you think you are. I don’t care how long you’ve worked here. I don’t care what you think your station is. You’re nothing to me. I have a company to run, and yet, I’m here checking for recording devices and babysitting your ass. I don’t give a fuck about anything in this place except that woman upstairs in that room breathing her last breaths, and anybody who fucking interferes with her comfort will have to deal with me personally!

“You’re up to no good. I know you are. You want us out of here too badly. You’re afraid of what we’ll find. You badgered that poor woman to the point that she needs medical assistance. You’re walking around here haughtily destroying equipment that costs more than your entire fucking net worth, and you didn’t expect somebody to put their hands on you? You’re lucky I haven’t personally beaten you within an inch of your worthless fucking life, or better yet, have one of the many ex-military men you see in front of you do it for me!

“So, here’s what we’re going to do, Rog.” I say, crouching down so that we’re eye-level. “You’re going to sit your weasely little ass right there until I tell you to move, and you’re not going to make a fucking sound—not a rumble, not a grumble, not a sneeze. If you do so much as sigh too loudly, I’m instructing that big man right there to give you a good solid gut punch.”

He turns his head to see one of the many members of my six-foot-plus security team standing with his hands clasped in front of him, looking down at Roger and smiling.

“I’m going to find every little piece of shit hiding in this house and then you’re going to give me some information, because if you don’t, I’m going to make your life very fucking uncomfortable.”

“But…” he begins.

“I didn’t say you could speak!” I hiss. He shrinks back in his seat and timidly raises his hand. I have to work at it, but I succeed in holding my stern expression at his gesture.

“You may speak.”

“With all due resthpect, thir, there’th a lot of sthaff in thith houth. Why would I be the only one under thusthpithion?”

“Well, that’s what you’re going to tell me,” I say to him, “as soon as we’re done with our sweep. See, I dismissed everyone on Tina’s instruction, even the housekeeper and the cook, and everybody left when they were told—everybody, that is, except you. You, my ‘thisthpithious’ little friend, are behaving like a terrified child on report card day—destroying equipment, harassing a woman in completely diminished health… I really should just beat the shit out of you right now, but I won’t, because we’ve got a job to finish here. So, if you have any cohorts in your little foiled coup, you’re going to tell me, but I can guarantee you that I’m going to find everything. The only question in my mind is are you going to come clean before or after I find all your dirt.” I lean in to his face.

“I don’t know if you remember me, but I was the little boy who used to hide under the porch and drink lemonade and eat cookies.” His eyes widen. “Yeah… you remember. Time sure does fly, doesn’t it? So, you know that I was a troubled little boy, and that woman upstairs showed me compassion in a world where I thought there was none. So, believe me when I tell you that she means a whole fucking lot to me and my family, and so does her daughter. So, you need to get your shit together, because as far as I’m concerned, you’re public enemy #1, and I will gladly fuck you up, wash my hands, walk away, then go and have dinner. Are we clear, Roger?”

He nods feverishly as he swallows, probably a mouthful of his own saliva and blood. I gesture to the guy who handed me the towel to hand me the ice pack I requested. When he put it in my hand, I pass it over to Roger.

“Now, you’re going to have a nasty bruise on your face and that lip is going to swell up something terrible. So, we’ll keep the ice coming—try to keep the damage to a minimum except, of course, for that tooth, but you asked for that, and you know it. Any questions, Rog?”

He shakes his head like a good little puppy as I stand. I turn to the detail that was supposed to be watching this worm in the first place. At first, he’s smirking. I continue to glare at him and his smile falls instantly as he nervously clears his throat.

“When I say,” I begin through my teeth, “don’t take your eyes off him, that’s what the fuck I mean. If he has to use the bathroom, you go with him and watch him until he shakes the last drop. If you need a bathroom break, you don’t leave without relief. If no relief is available, piss on him!” I point to the weasel who jumps back to avoid getting hit by my swinging hand. I turn to the other guard.

“The same thing goes for you,” I tell him. “Don’t keep an eye on him, keep both on him. If he squirms, I want to know why. Are we clear?”

“Yes, sir,” they answer simultaneously. I turn to the first detail.

“You’re sure this time?” I say sarcastically. “I don’t have to draw a picture for you or anything like that?” He swallows.

“Yes, sir, I mean, no, sir… I’m sorry, sir. It won’t happen again.”

“Damn straight,” I said, giving him a hard glare eye roll before leaving. When I walk pass Jason, he’s scratching his stubble and twisting his lips. I know the entire display was quite theatrical, and I don’t want to talk about it. As we’re about to ascend the stairs, there’s a knock at the door. Roger instinctively moves to stand but freezes when three sets of eyes lock onto him—the two details now assigned to babysit him… and mine. I turn to the guy standing closest to the door.

“Get that,” I tell him. He goes to the door and opens it, asking about the person’s business. A woman chats with him for a moment before he turns to me.

“It’s a nurse,” he says.

“Oh… yes, yes, please, let her in.” I go to the door to meet the nurse who looks more than a little confused at the circumstances. She’s looking around the room and she spots Roger with his towel and ice.

“Does he need assistance?” she asks before looking at me. I look over at Roger and wave him off.

“No, he’ll be fine,” I say. “He took a nosedive when he tripped over that very expensive piece of machinery right there,” I add, pointing to the mangled scanner. “He would have been fine had he left when we asked him to, but I guess you can’t beat instant karma.”

The nurse laughs and snickers before turning her attention to me. She does a double-take before introducing herself.

“I’m Monica Summers. Ms. Carter called for a nurse.” Ms. Carter? I frown. Oh! That must be Harmony’s married name.

“For Aunt Tina, right?” She raises a brow.

“You’re Mrs. Franklin’s nephew?” she asks. I shake my head.

“Surrogate nephew, so to speak,” I reply. “She helped… take care of me when I was young. I’m Christian Grey.” I extend my hand to her.

“That’s the face!” she says, taking my proffered hand. “I was trying to place you. I knew I had seen you somewhere.” I smile.

“Please, Ms. Summers. Follow me,” I say, walking to the stairs.

“Oh, no, please call me Monica—or Nurse Monica, if that makes you more comfortable. Only people that I don’t like call me Ms. Summers.” She falls in step behind me. When she, Taylor, and I get to the top of the stairs, she touches my arm. I try not to jump out of my skin at the contact but raise my eyes to her.

“Mr. Grey, may I have a word before we see Mrs. Franklin?” she says, her voice low as she looks over her shoulder at Jason.

“Yes, of course… and don’t worry about Jason. He’s the most trusted member of my staff.” She nods.

“That guy—Roger—he’s no good,” she says. “I wouldn’t tell Mrs. Franklin’s business to just anybody, but I feel like you’re in a position to do something about it. I can’t put my finger on it and I can’t tell you what’s going on because I don’t know, but he’s sneaky—and possessive. He’s always lurking around a corner somewhere and I know he’s up to no good.” I nod, someone else to confirm my suspicions.

“Have you seen anything in particular?” I ask. She shrugs.

“He never leaves her alone. Whenever she gets comfortable, he comes barging in—he never knocks. He badgers the woman relentlessly, cajoling her into decisions that she really doesn’t care to make.” This piques my attention.

“Such as?” I press.

“Well, I’m not just Mrs. Franklin’s hospice nurse. I’m also private duty—trained in hospice. I was already coming around on a regular basis when her diagnosis first became critical, and I just changed to hospice after it became terminal. He would try to get me to leave the room so that he could talk to her. At first, I did, but then I started listening to the things that he was talking about and refused to leave—things like who would get her China set when she passed on and who should be in charge of the house. Before Harmony got here, he even tried to convince her to sign a power of attorney for him. That’s when I intervened because I just knew he would wipe her out.”

“Well, what did you do?” I ask, intrigued and pissed at the same time.

“I marched right back into that room and told Mrs. Franklin not to sign anything without talking to her daughter or her attorney. He got pissed off and told me to butt out because this was none of my business. I told him that this was none of his business either. Just like me, he’s nothing but the help and he needed to leave and go do his job so that I could do mine.”

“What happened next?” I ask.

“He left in a huff and I asked Mrs. Franklin for Harmony’s number. I called her and told her what he was doing. She was planning to come later the next week but instead, she came immediately.”

That’s one of the reasons he’s so bitter to Harmony. She foiled his plans.

“Mr. Grey…”

“Christian,” I correct her. She nods.

“Christian, I’ve threatened that man more times than you know. I’ve threatened to call the police for a wellness check because he wouldn’t let me in. I’ve threatened to call Adult Protective Services because I had to undress and bathe Mrs. Franklin and he wouldn’t leave the room. I asked Mrs. Franklin if he was once a lover or something because he’s more than possessive—he’s obsessed. She laughed at me and assured me that he’s never been anything but her butler, but he’s had that position for a long time.”

“I can attest to his tenure, but it doesn’t explain his behavior,” I tell her.

“He just gives me a bad vibe all the way around,” she says. “I don’t trust him one bit and I don’t think he should be left alone with her. He’s horrible to Harmony and he walks around like he owns the place. Sometimes, he’ll even try to interfere with my care—lurking around and talking to her while I’m trying to medicate her or give her daily care. I didn’t want to dump this on Harmony—she’s got enough on her plate, but none of Tina’s other children are coming around. I was going to ask Hospice to assign someone else to her because he’s out of control…”

“No, please don’t,” I press. “I appreciate your honesty. I completely understand about Roger and don’t worry. I have a feeling that he won’t be a problem after today.” I reach in my inside pocket and retrieve a business card.

“You report directly to Harmony. If you have any problems at all, call me. My cell is on the back.” She looks at the card like it’s the holy grail.

“I appreciate that,” she says. “You know Mrs. Franklin doesn’t have long…”

“I know,” I reply. “And we really need to make these last days as comfortable as possible. Now, let’s go on in and check her out. He worked her into a tizzy this morning, which is why I had Harmony call you. Do you mind if I come in with you? I’ll leave whenever you say.” She nods.

“Not at all. Please,” she says, and I follow her to Aunt Tina’s door. She knocks, and we wait. Harmony answers the door.

“She’s asleep,” Harmony says softly, stepping aside to let us in. We walk over to Aunt Tina and she almost looks like she’s smiling.

“She doesn’t look stressed out to me,” Monica whispers.

“She’s been peaceful ever since you put Roger out,” Harmony says to me. “He’s always badgering her about something, trying to make it seem like it’s for her own good or for the good of the estate or something. He tried to get her to sign a POA before I got here. He doesn’t listen to anything I say—it’s like I don’t even exist. He’s so frustrating and I really wish I could get rid of him. Someone else can be trained to do exactly what he does, and they won’t pester my mother. I can get her whatever she needs, do whatever she needs, be whatever she needs. I’ll drop out of school if I must, but I want him gone…”

“You don’t have to do that, Harmony,” I tell her. “I’m certain that by the time this whole thing is over, Roger will be leaving all on his own.” Harmony and Monica both look at me.

“How can you be so sure?” Harmony asks. I smile.

“I have my ways,” I say.

“Do I even want to know the details of this?” Monica asks.

“Probably not,” I inform her. She smiles and turns to Harmony.

“Roger’s downstairs sitting on the loveseat with a bloody towel and an icepack on his face,” she says. “He also has two big guys standing on either side of him like Nutcracker soldiers, just staring at him. I imagine that he won’t move without their permission.” Harmony’s mouth falls open.

“You’re kidding,” she says. Monica shakes her head. “God, I wish I could have been there to see that.”

“Well, you were actually,” I inform her. “You were there to see him ‘trip’ over the scanner, right?”

“I didn’t see anything,” she admits, “but he says he tripped and we heard the crash.” I nod.

“Yeah, well, he took a nosedive into the marble right after he tripped… or I should say a mouth dive. He lost a tooth.” I do the finger quotes around “tripped” and both women cover their mouths to stifle a laugh. I turn to Monica. “I don’t know how trustworthy you are, but the fact that you came to me with everything going on with Roger and what he does to Aunt Tina and how he treats Harmony, I’m putting a lot of faith in you right now.” She raises a brow at me.

“I have an obligation to my patients,” she says. “If I see something going on that could potentially harm them, I have to try to help—first through the family and then through the authorities. What he’s doing is unethical, but not illegal. I just… did what I could.” She shrugs. “Besides, I know who you are, Christian. I’d be a fool to cross you.”

That makes this easier. I turn to Harmony.

“Would you be able to rest if you had a constant hum in your ear?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“You’re talking about the hum in her hearing aid,” she says. I nod. “I’ve told her to take it out or turn it off when she hears that hum, but she doesn’t want to. She says she feels too vulnerable without one of her senses.”

“This room is bugged,” I tell them both. “I don’t know when or how many bugs. I don’t know if there’s video surveillance, but I know there’s audio. I planted a scrambler behind that lamp before I went downstairs. It scrambles any signals coming into this room—that’s why we can’t use our phones in here.” Monica discretely checks her phone to confirm what I’m telling her. “She’s resting because that humming is gone. It’s probably the best rest she’s gotten in months.”

Monica creeps over to Aunt Tina and feels her wrist while Harmony and I watch. She puts a stethoscope on Aunt Tina chest and listens careful. She nods and puts the stethoscope around her neck.

“Breath sounds good and even. Pulse is steady. With her resting like this, I would say her blood pressure is probably normal or close to it. I’d have to say you’re right. I certainly haven’t seen her this peaceful in quite some time.”

“Harmony,” I say, “we won’t disturb her right now, but we need to get her out of this room. How easy, or hard, would it be to temporarily move her to another room after she wakes—just long enough to sweep the room and remove the bugs… and cameras, if there are any?”

“Oh, God… cameras… in my mother’s bedroom…” Harmony looks to be turning a little green. I put my hand on her shoulder.

I’m running over everything in my head, how it was just happenstance…

… That Aunt Tina spoke to me out of all the millions… and millions… of people at Mia’s wedding reception.

… That we found out that Harmony was interested in social work and we connected with her.

… That Harmony’s unfortunate life changes occurred right at the untimely moment of her mother’s progressing illness.

… That I just happen to come and see my Aunt Tina and something that my security team wears every day tipped us off to listening devices in her home.

I shudder to think what would have happened had one thing—one single event—not fallen into place for me to be here at this moment.

“I swear to you, we’ll get to the bottom of this, okay?” I promise her. She visibly shudders, nodding as she wraps her arms around herself. That fucker downstairs…

“Harmony?” She raises her eyes to me. “How hard would it be?” She sighs.

“We can move her to the room next door for a while, but we would have to ask her how she feels about it first,” Harmony replies. “I won’t force anything on my mother.” I nod.

“We’ll gently explain to her what’s going on—that it’s not a permanent move. Whatever has been planted, it can’t be too intense, unless it was done while she wasn’t here… like when she was hospitalized.”

“I knew I should have moved next door,” she says, shaking her head. I frown.

“Next door?” I ask. Does she mean the house next door?

“Yes, I wanted to be closer to Mom, and there’s an adjoining door from that room to this one, but Roger insisted that I stay in my old room. When I protested, he went on about the delicate balance of the house and my hours likely disturbing Mom’s rest and blah blah blah. I didn’t feel like arguing with him, so I just let it go and went to my room.”

Well, her being next door wouldn’t have prevented the room from being bugged, especially since it was done before she got here, but it does keep her that much further away from her mother…

Before she got here…

Shit!

“Harmony, which room is yours?” I ask.

“Um, if you turn left and pass the first two doors, mine is the last room on the end,” she says. I nod.

“I’ll be right back,” I tell her. I leave the room and Jason is standing in the hallway.

“What is it?” he asks.

“Give me your scrambler,” I say. His brow furrows.

“Did you lose the first one?” he asks reaching into his pocket.

“No, it’s in Tina’s room.” I hold out my hand to him and he puts the scrambler in my palm. “Follow me.”

We open the door to the first room, the one next door to Tina.

“Go in, walk around. Tell me what happens.” He raises a brow at me but follows my directions. About a minute and a half later, he returns.

“Nothing,” he says. “If there’s anything in there, I can’t detect it.” I nod, and we proceed to the next room.

“Nothing,” he repeats, coming out of the room in just as much time. We open the door to Harmony’s room and turns his gaze to me.

“Oh, this room is lit,” he says before he even enters and closes the door again. “I don’t even have to step in there. That space is hot.”

I know for sure that it’s Roger now.

“What about those rooms?” I ask.

Jason and I walk around testing all the rooms on the second floor. The only other room that comes up lit is a small sitting room just across from Aunt Tina’s room.

“Get me a team up here,” I tell him. “Check for surveillance in the rooms on that side of the hall starting with the room next door to Tina’s. We’re going to move Tina so that we can get the devices out of her room, but not until I’m sure that we’re not taking her from the frying pan into the fire.” I give him his scrambler.

“You got it, boss,” he says, and heads down the stairs. I take my phone out of my pocket and call my wife.

“Hey,” she answers.

“Hey, Butterfly. I have a favor to ask.”

“You want to ask me for a favor? That’s strange… and a bit ominous.”

“I know, but it’s nothing like that. I want to know how you would feel loaning Windsor out for a while.”

“What? What do you mean ‘loaning him out?’ He’s a person, not an umbrella!” She sounds a little perturbed.

“Baby, it happens all the time…”

“Yes, with those unfeeling socialites who treat their staff like possessions instead of people!” she hisses.

“Butterfly, please let me explain. This is nothing like that. It’s a bit of an emergent situation.” She’s silent for a moment.

“I’m listening,” she says begrudgingly. I sigh.

“To tell you the entire story would take your whole afternoon, but Reader’s Digest version, Tina’s butler is up to no good in a major way and I have to get him out of here today. Windsor is good at his job, and I trust him. Would you mind terribly if we lent Windsor to Aunt Tina until we can find a suitable replacement for her current butler? I’ll ask her and Windsor if it’s okay.” I hear silence again.

“God, I don’t know how Windsor’s going to feel about that,” she says. “You know how carefully we chose our staff and I don’t want to lose him.”

“It’ll only be until we can hire a suitable replacement,” I promise her. “Hell, once she’s gone, I don’t know if Harmony will even want a butler.”

“Well, if this other guy is up to no good, what about Windsor’s safety while he’s there?” she protests.

“I’ve already thought of that, Butterfly. Trust me on this. I just don’t want Aunt Tina to be in harm’s way while she’s still with us.” Butterfly sighs.

“I’ll find Windsor. You talk to him about it while I’m here with him. I want him to see my face so that he’ll know how important he is to us.” She’s still working from the house? I nod as if she can see me.

“Okay.” I wait and listen while she pages Windsor and asks him to come to her office. It takes a few moments, but I hear when he comes to the office. She puts the phone on speaker.

Yes, ma’am?” I hear Windsor say.

“Windsor, Christian is on the speaker. He has a favor that he wants to ask you. Now, before he asks you, I need you to understand something. You are not obligated to say ‘yes.’ If this makes you the slightest bit uncomfortable, you can say ‘no’ and you won’t jeopardize your position with us in any way. You’re very important to us…” Geez, Butterfly, I’m just asking him to be someone else’s butler for a couple of weeks or so, just down the road and across the bridge. I’m not asking him to move to a third world country and take care of starving children!

“Very well. What is it, Mr. Grey?” he asks.

“Windsor, there’s a dear friend of mine who is on hospice. Her butler is about to leave and I just want to know if you’d be willing to take his place for a couple of weeks or so, just until we find a suitable replacement. I wouldn’t be willing to give you up, even for a couple of weeks, but I need someone that I can trust.” I hear him chuckle a bit

“Certainly, sir. This kind of thing happens all the time. It’s no big deal,” Windsor says.

“Mrs. Grey was concerned that you would feel like we were loaning you to someone like an object,” I say. “I think her comparison was an umbrella.”

“Christian!” my wife scolds. I think she would rather I didn’t share that part.

“Mrs. Grey, it’s not like you said, ‘You’re going to this person’s house for a while.’ I’ve had that happen before. Mr. Grey asked me, and in effect, so did you. I’d be more than happy to help out.”

“Thank you, Windsor. You have no idea what this means to me,” I tell him with a sigh.

“Thank you, Mr. Grey. It’s humbling that you trust me to help care for someone that apparently means so much to you, and I thank you both for wanting to treat me like a person and not a possession.”

Good grief. I almost don’t want to let him come. Tina’s going to fall in love with him!

“I’m going to talk to Mrs. Franklin, but it could be as soon as tomorrow morning,” I inform him.

“I’ll prepare myself,” he replies.

“Thank you, Windsor,” I hear my wife say. I assume he leaves.

“Jesus, I almost don’t want to lend him out,” I lament.

“He can still hear you, dear,” my wife says.

“Good! I almost don’t want to lend you out!” I say louder. I hear him chuckle.

“Then, I’m doing my job,” he says, and I hear a door close.

“Baby, what are you doing at home today?” I ask. “Are you still worrying about that situation that I told you not to worry about?”

“No, I’m really taking care of some things,” she says. “I’m sorry and I should have told you first, but I’m stealing Luma from you for a couple of days.” I frown.

“Is everything okay?” I ask.

“I just need some help—the usual stuff—and Marilyn’s a bit under the weather. I told her to see how she feels on Monday and let me know.”

“That’s pretty under the weather to need two days and the whole weekend,” I say. “It’s nothing serious, I hope.”

“When is the last time you ever saw that woman take a day off?” she asks. Yeah, there is that.

“Duly noted. You had to take one of the best, huh?” I jest.

“I just called Andrea and asked how I would go about getting a sub for a couple of days… oops, wrong choice of words, but you know what I mean.” I raise my brow.

“Yes, I know what you mean.”

“She said that you all normally just shift people around in the office, but since they would be coming to the house, she only trusted Luma and she would snag someone from another department for a couple of days.”

And that’s why Andrea is irreplaceable.

“Duly noted once again. So, what’s got you staying home that you couldn’t go into the office today?”

“I’ll have to fill you in later, and I’ll expect you to give me details on Aunt Tina’s situation, too, but I really need to get back to it.” I nod.

“I will. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” I end the call just as Jason is coming back up the stairs with one of the teams.

“Keep it down, fellas,” I tell them. “The lady of the house is resting in this room and I need this room, that room and that room swept first.” I point to each room and get them started on what needs to be done.

“Jason, come with me.” I descend the stairs and look around the room. Roger’s blood and tooth and the pieces of the very expensive scanner have all been cleaned from the marble floor. Most of the staff have moved on to other parts of the house. Roger is still seated on the love seat with my two sentinels watching carefully over him.

“We need a security detail here, at least two officers, 24/7—whatever you feel is needed,” I say to Jason within earshot of Roger.

“You were reading my mind, sir,” Jason responds. I nod. Now to deal with this little worm.


ANASTASIA

“Mrs. Grey, it’s Alex.” I don’t think I’ll ever get that man to call me Ana. He has on occasion, but I think for the most part, he’s more comfortable with Mrs. Grey.

“Hi, Alex. What do you have for me?”

“If you’ll kindly check your email, I’ve sent you some preliminary information on Kenneth Carter, Harmony Franklin’s estranged husband.” I open my email.

“That was fast,” I say, opening the attachment and scanning over the file.

“From what I can see, unless he has some deep, dark past that’s going to take some real digging, it’s pretty cut and dried. Born and raised in West Seattle; very unremarkable life; no criminal history—got caught shoplifting when he was thirteen, a pack of chewing gum. He’s had four traffic tickets in his whole life. Harmony Franklin is his second wife. The first marriage did not end equitably. He has a kid that he never sees, seven years old. He’s paying child support and spousal support, and he’s in arrearage for both…”

… Which is most likely why he’s trying to get his hands on Harmony’s inheritance.

“He works at a marketing firm downtown as you can see on the report.”

“He’s thirty-two,” I say more to myself. “How old is his first wife?”

“She’s twenty-six now.”

“Twenty-six?” I say, somewhat appalled. “That means she was nineteen when she had his son.”

“And he was twenty-five. And they were married. My money’s on shotgun… literally.” I shake my head.

“He sure likes ‘em young, doesn’t he?” I mumble.

“That he does,” Alex says. “His last two extramarital affairs were twenty-one and twenty-three.” Jesus.

“This guy has ‘sleaze’ written all over him,” I declare. “How did you find out this much information in so little time?” I ask.

“It’s what I do, Mrs. Grey,” he replies. I sigh. Mrs. Grey again…

“Thanks, Alex,” I say, and we end the call.

“Ana, what do you think about this color?” Luma says, garnering my attention once I hang up the phone. “In a semi-gloss or flat, it is the perfect earth tone to capture the light.”

Luma’s looking at paint samples to help me pick a color for the office. She’s showing me a muted green, not quite olive, but in the right light, it looks like gray. She’s right—it’s just what this room needs.

“It’s perfect, Luma,” I tell her. “The walls and bookshelves can be painted that color and we can go with natural fibers for the décor.”

“I was thinking that exact thing,” she exclaims. “I’ve seen some ideas for furniture. They may look a little mixed-matched when you first see them but give them a chance. I’m sure you’ll see where I’m going with it…” As she’s talking, my phone rings. Our song… it’s Christian.

“I need to take this, Luma,” I excuse myself. After greeting my husband, imagine my surprise when he tells me that he wants to lend Windsor to Tina… lend… like a cup of sugar. Seriously?

After he convinces me that it’s a security and trust issued, I summon Windsor to my office and we explain the situation to him, after which he gladly agrees to work for Tina until a suitable replacement can be found.

Suitable replacement… my mind goes back to Marilyn.

She was a real bitch this morning for no good reason, and I’m 100% sure that she’s crabby as fuck, has a brain tumor that’s causing her to act like Val, or goddammit, she’s fucking pregnant.

I look at Kenneth Carter’s information once more. Marketing firm downtown. Hmmm…

I inform Christian that I’ve commandeered Luma and why before I end the call with him. I think there’s someone who might need a little visit from a concerned friend… of a friend…

*-*

The building is pretty nondescript to be downtown. It’s kind of close to the Marketplace, though. I don’t know what I was expecting. The guy’s whole fucking life is nondescript. I walk over to the street vendor selling roses. Strange place for a street vendor. There’s no one on the street, but hey, if it works for you… Just when I note to myself that no one’s around, I see a teenager walking by across the street. Perfect timing.

“Hey, kid, come here.” He comes over to me. “You wanna make a quick 50 bucks?”

“Sure,” he says. I purchase two dozen of roses from a street vendor and ask for a piece of paper. I scribble a note on the piece of paper and put it inside the roses.

“Go into that building and let the guard know that you have flowers for Kenneth Carter. You can leave them at the desk if you want. Just let the guard know that a very pretty lady wanted to make sure that he got them. I’ll be standing right there at that car when you come back, and I’ll give you your $50 once you deliver them.”

“Sure thing, lady.” The kid takes the flowers and goes into the building while I walk back over to the Audi. About 10 minutes later he comes back out and walks over to me.

“Okay, lady, it’s done,” he says. “The guard was calling upstairs somewhere to the guy before I left the building.” I nod, pull out a $100 bill and hand it to him.

“Good job. Thank you.” He looks at the $100 bill and his eyes widen.

“No, ma’am!” he exclaims. “Thank you!” He takes off down the street while Chuck, Ben, and I all get back into the Audi… and wait.

It doesn’t take long.

This scrawny, average looking guy comes barreling out the door looking up and down the street like he’s going to find his answer. He looks across the street and spots the Audi. Then he comes barreling across the street just like he came barreling out the building. He bends down to the tinted windows, hoping to get a look inside. Having donned a pair of very large blacked out Jackie O’s, I let my window down only slightly.

“May I help you?” I ask sweetly.

“Did you send me these?” he demands.

“Why would you think I sent them?” I say, my voice still sweet.

“Don’t be cute, bitch. Just answer the damn question!” he hisses.

“Yeah,” I say nonchalantly, “that was me.”

“Who are you?” he shouts, flinging the roses to the ground. “Why are you here and what the fuck do you want?”

“Oh, I just wanna chat,” I say. “See, I have a friend who would really like for you to just go away and I thought we might talk about it.” He laughs.

“My wife musta sent you,” he smiles. “I was waitin’ to see what she might try.”

“No,” I reply opening my window a little more, “she didn’t send me. In fact, she has no idea that I’m here. Hell, she never even told me your name. I had to find that on my own. I just have problems with little boys with small thoughts, small minds, and small dicks thinking they can take advantage of women, especially women who once foolishly loved them.”

“Open this goddamn door!” he demands, violently pulling the handle. Chuck and Ben calmly step out of the car

“I’d step away from the car if I were you.” My voice is menacing now. He takes two steps back from the car, looking cautiously from Ben to Chuck and back. Ben walks around to my side of the car and I unlock the door just as he reaches me. When I step out of the car and come face to face with the bane of Harmony’s existence, I’m not impressed at all. I look him up and down and note that not only is he not very attractive, he’s not well-built and he’s short because we’re eye to eye in my Louboutins. Hmm, I expected more of someone who likes to bully women. Then again, maybe not.

“What? Did you think I was just sitting in the backseat because I like the view from back there?” I ask, looking tougher in my Tom Ford than he does in his little blue power suit. He doesn’t answer.

“I don’t have a lot of time, Ken,” I say his name with disdain, “so, I’ll make this as short as possible. You took advantage of a young girl and you know that’s what you were doing when you met her. What are you doing with that kid anyway? What are you, like 40?” His eyes narrow.

“If you found out my name all by your little lonesome, you know how old I am, too,” he shoots.

Oh, we’re playing this game? Okay.

I open my jacket slightly and put my hands on my hips, just enough for him to see the strap of my holster, but not my Glock. His pupils dilate when his eyes go first to my breasts but constrict almost immediately when he zooms in on the leather of the holster.

Yeah, asshole, want to see what else I can do all by my little lonesome?

“I knew someone like you once. He’s no longer with us, though,” I say, glaring at him through my shades. I let that statement trail off and leave David’s demise to his imagination.

“I’m here to give you some free advice,” I say clamping my hands in front of me. “You can do with this information whatever you please, I really don’t care, but I suggest you take it. Harmony wants to be done with you, and you want nothing else to do with Harmony. So, the best thing for you to do would be to sign the divorce papers and let her get on with her life. Harmony is fully aware of the fact that you’re not entitled to a dime of her inheritance…”

His lips form a straight line. He’s not pleased at all that Harmony is aware of this. I’m certain he was counting on a payoff to make him go away.

“… And since I already know that you’re aware of that, you can see that your stalling tactics are useless and in case you don’t know, you’re starting to piss people off.” Of course, he decides to change tact when he sees his cash cow running out to pasture.

“What if I don’t?” he says. “What if I decide to drag this out? There’s nothing you or anybody else can do to make me sign those papers. I can just drag this out for as long as I want, and she’ll be part of my life until I decide to let her go.” I laugh

“Yeah,” I begin, my voice sinister, “He was just like you.” I smile but then the smile fades. “Luckily, I never have to see his ass again because he’s burning in hell now.” I close the space between us.

“Notwithstanding the fact that there are two men standing next to me that could squash you with a breath, you’ve got a woman standing in front of you wearing a suit that costs more than your monthly salary with a Glock on her side looking you square in the eye and telling you to back the fuck off and you’re asking, ‘What if I don’t?’” I mimic the most condescending male voice that I can muster. “You’re funny! That’s really funny!” I chuckle. That smug look falls off Ken’s face and he sucks his teeth.

“I’m not here to have a pissing contest with you, little boy, because my dick is bigger than yours,” I say without blinking. He’s taken aback by the statement, but then again, who wouldn’t be? “Just sign the damn papers. Walk away and let that girl get on with her life. Leave her the fuck alone or I can’t guarantee that the next visitor you get will be delivering flowers.” He glares at me for several seconds.

“Who the fuck are you?” he asks and it’s really a question. I smile.

“Monday night, 8 o’clock, channel 9. Nobody would believe you anyway.” I turn around and walk back to the car. Ben opens the door and I look over my shoulder at Ken right before I get inside.

“You might want to pick those up,” I say, pointing to the discarded roses. “Littering is illegal in Washington.”

I step into the car and Ben closes the door behind me before he and Chuck get back into the car. Chuck starts the car and slowly drives off down the road with Ken still standing in the middle of the street.

“That was so fucking gangster,” Chuck says as we drive down the road, leaving Ken standing there staring at the retreating vehicle. I laugh.

“What did the note say?” Ben asks.

“It said, ‘The beautiful woman in the black car downstairs thinks you’re a worthless piece of shit.’ I knew he would expect it to be Harmony, and gauging by how he came storming out that building and marching across the street to the most expensive car on the road peering shamelessly into the window, I was right.”

“So… why not send me or Chuck to give him that message?” Ben asks. Chuck snickers as if he already knows the answer.

“He would just look at you like a couple of goons coming to rough him up. You may already know this and if you don’t, ask your boy. A pissed-off woman is a very bad thing. A woman scorned is even worse. That asshole now thinks that a woman scorned sent a pissed-off woman who may or may not have sent a joker just like him to the other side to chop him off at the knees and piss all over him with a dick she doesn’t even have. Yes, I had my ‘goons,’ but you guys are pure bravado. There’s no mystery. ‘They’ll beat my ass and hurt me real bad.’ He doesn’t know what I’m capable of, and the mystery is what makes me scarier.”

“Okay, so this I have to know,” Chuck says. “Why guide him to the interview that’s airing on Monday?”

“He asked who I am,” I say. “That’ll answer his question. That’ll also show him me and my husband blowing shit to bits on the shooting range with Glocks and pump rifles in an interview that pretty much says, ‘Come at me.’” Ben shakes his head and Chuck laughs again.

“Classic,” he says. “Fuckin’ classic.”

For the rest of the ride back to the Crossing, I think about how easy it seems to solve other people’s problems and yet my own seem so unmanageable. Harmony’s issue is just a matter of letting a bully know that he’s not the biggest dog in the yard. Marilyn’s problem—though a bit more complicated—is at first as simple as taking a damn pregnancy test. She’s tormenting herself because she doesn’t know what’s happening right now. If she at least arms herself with the facts—positive or negative—she can come to some kind of conclusion or formulate a course of action. But without knowing, she’s just delaying the inevitable and unnecessarily extending her torment.

The fuck if she’s going to take that out on me, though.

As for me, it’s times like these—facing off with Ken—that make me feel powerful, like the independent Ana Steele that I used to be. Yet, it only takes a moment for me to be cowering from the Boogeyman once again. For example, Christian wouldn’t have allowed me to confront Kenneth on my own had I forewarned him that’s what I was planning to do. He would have shit bricks, told me to let him handle it, and went barreling up to this guy in all his Christian Grey-ness, which wouldn’t have been nearly as effective as the 5-foot-3-inch menacing little ball of feminine hell that just told the guy that her masculine genitals are bigger than his.

Now, he’s probably going to shit bricks when he finds out, and I’m in no way looking forward to lectures or punishment fucks. I’m a grown ass woman…

“Don’t tell Christian about this encounter,” I say, firmly. You can cut the pregnant pauses in the front seat with a knife.

“Um, Ana…”

“Don’t. Tell. Christian. About. This. Encounter,” I repeat. They look at each other before Chuck pulls the car over to the curb. I guess I’m going to get my lecture now.

Like hell.

“Is your security team or any member of GEH security required to tell me every single move that Christian makes?” I ask before he says anything. He looks over at Ben, then back at me.

“No,” he says.

“Why not?” I ask.

“Because he’s the boss,” he says.

“And so am I,” I reply, “not because I’m married to him, but because I’m 50% owner of GEH. I don’t have his tenure, so you don’t see me as the boss yet, but guess what? I have his power—maybe not his presence, but his power. I can’t make things happen the way that he can. I can’t pull the same strings that he can… yet. However, I am also The Boss, and if security is not prepared to tell me everything that he does, do not tell him everything that I do.

“No one was in any danger. Nobody got shot, maimed, killed, or fell off any cliffs—and when I did fall off a cliff, he didn’t even care…”

“He didn’t know,” Chuck interjects. I frown.

“What do you mean he didn’t know?” I ask. “You didn’t report that and yet you’re acting as if you have to report this?

“I did report it,” he replies. “I reported to Jason, like I always do, and I reported in the daily security logs. It took a couple of days to report to Jason because someone had to keep an eye on you in the hospital, but I told Gail since I knew that she would speak to him. I don’t think he found out until way after the fact.”

Okay, now I’m confused, and it must be written all over my face.

“It’s hard to explain, Ana,” Chuck adds. “Honestly, if you want to know exactly when Christian found out about your fall, you’re going to want to ask him, but I report everything to Security Central in my daily logs. It’s a requirement to tweak security protocol as needed. You have to understand that.”

“Okay but reporting things in your security logs is a lot different than calling Jason the minute I do something and filling him in so that he can tell my husband, because you know that’s what he does. Do what you must to keep me safe and follow protocol as you are instructed to keep your job, but unless you want me to be petulant and unbearable—and you know that I can be—respect my wishes as one of your employers and don’t tell my husband my every move.”

“I don’t tell your husband your moves, Ana…” Chuck begins.

“But you report them to Jason. Jason is Christian’s eyes and ears, and you’re Jason’s. I’m your boss, too, and I want my freedom. Get used to it.”

Chuck glares at me for a moment before turning around and putting the car back in gear. We pull out into traffic and the ride is silent for several minutes. My thoughts are going a mile a second as we approach the bridge back to Mercer Island, a feeling of doom slowly creeping over me. Through the fog, I suddenly remember one long-forgotten malfeasance.

“By the way,” I say softly, “thank you… for saving my life… again.” Chuck’s eyes rise to the mirror and meet mine, his expression clearly bemused.

“On that cliff,” I continue. “I could have died. Thank you for saving me… and staying with me.”

His expression softens—a mix of pity and sympathy and a bit of understanding.

“You’re welcome,” he replies just as softly, and we continue our trek across the bridge.


A/N: I used a little creative license here. Most audio/visual detection devices are usually pretty small—some are maybe small enough to fit in your hand. For the sake of Roger’s ass whoopin’, we’re pretending that he first kicked over a device that stood upright on the floor, and as for the second device that supposedly cost more than his net worth, think mother-brain-oversized cathode ray tube. I just needed him to fuck something up so that we could beat him up.

“Millions… and millions…”—Christian was being facetious about the number of people at Mia’s wedding, but there were quite a few people in attendance. Wrestling fans will recognize this phrase from the Rock who used it to refer to his huge fan base and the high number of viewers who tuned in to wrestling.

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~~love and handcuffs