Raising Grey: Chapter 17—I Know Those People Personally

I posted a chapter of Golden this week. Be sure to go and check it out.

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 17—I Know Those People Personally

ANASTASIA

“I did everything he asked me to. I wanted him to be proud of me.”

Val and Elliot have gone to bed and Burt and I retire to the patio after dinner for a talk about his feelings after his father attacked him. The scars on his face aren’t horrendous, but they’re certainly noticeable. He has to have some serious dental work for the teeth that his father knocked out. Right now, he’s trying to make sense of the whole thing.

“I wish I knew why he did it,” he says, sadly. “I wish I knew why he attacked me. I didn’t do anything wrong. I got off the plane, I walked down the gangplank and I saw him waiting for me at the gate. He was already mad, probably because we decided to go to Seattle in the first place. I asked where Mom was, he asked where Nollie was. As soon as I said she wasn’t coming back, his face changed in a second. I was about to explain what I knew, but the next thing you know, I see lightning, then pain, then lights out.”

He rubs his jaw and I’m assuming that’s where Freeman hit him that he can remember. They even had to cut some of his hair to put stitches in his scalp.

“I woke up in the hospital. I didn’t even know what happened. I thought it was an earthquake or something fell on me or I was hit from behind… I didn’t think for a second that Dad…” His voice cracks when he says the word.

“I only wanted him to be proud of me,” he says, crying now. “I’ve played this thing over and over and over in my head, and I don’t know what I did to deserve this! Yeah, I’m gay, but he already knew that. So, what changed? What made him do this to me?”

“Burt, you may never get the answer to that question, and even if you could, would you want to hear it? What could your father possibly say to you that would make this situation any better? What could he possibly say that could make you understand his motives?” I ask.

“I don’t know, but it would give me closure,” he claims.

“No, Burt, it wouldn’t. It would piss you off. Think about this, and I’m not trivializing what you’ve gone through, but the concept is the same. A girl finds out that her man has cheated on her with four other girls. She’s crying and begging to know, “Why did you do this to me?’ but she doesn’t really want to know. If he broke down all the reasons why he is a lying, cheating piece of scum, it still wouldn’t make her feel any better. What she’s really asking is, ‘How could he do this to her?’ She loves him, she’s been faithful, she has been and done everything she thought he wanted and he was still unfaithful to her. How could he? How could he do this to her?

“But it’s still a rhetorical question. What answer could he give to her that would ease her hurt and satisfy her sense of betrayal? Nothing. What could Freeman say to you right now that would make you sigh and say, ‘At least I know?’ Any answer he gave you for what he did to you would piss you off even more.

“‘I attacked you because I was angry at Nollie.’ So, Nollie didn’t do what you wanted her to do and you attacked me?

“‘I attacked you because you’re gay. Yes, you’re perfect in every other way in my eyes, but this one and it pisses me off.’ So, instead of taking me somewhere and talking to me about it years ago when I came out to you, you attack me in the middle of a crowded, public airport so badly that now I need false teeth?

“‘I don’t know why I attacked you. I just snapped.’ So, of all the things that you could have done, that you were even thinking of doing at that moment, attacking me and nearly killing me was the most prevalent, and when you snapped, that’s what jumped into your head? Beat the hell outta Burtie?

“Tell me, Burt, which one of those scenarios would give you any closure? Which one of those would make you feel any better? Oh, there’s one more. ‘I’m just a psychotic asshole who’s angry at the world and you were the closest thing to hit.’ How about that one? Which one of those will make you feel better?”

“I wanted him to love me!” Burt exclaims. “That’s all I wanted. I just wanted him to love me! And I thought he did! I loved him!” Burtie is sobbing now and I put my arm around his shoulder.

“We can’t help who we love,” I tell him. “And you’re supposed to love him. He’s your father. Man, I could tell you some stories about my mother that would make your hair curl,” I say, dropping my head for a moment and going back to that young girl who just wanted her mother to love her. “But I still loved her, even though she was a self-centered sow, I still wanted her to love me.”

“Did she beat you?” he asks, turning his head to me. I sigh.

“No, she didn’t beat me,” I say, trying to keep my voice from cracking, “but it probably would have been better if she had. At least, that pain goes away after a while,” I add, dropping my head.

“You said, ‘was,’” he says. “‘She was a self-centered sow…’ Is she dead?” I raise my head and look out at a clear blue starry night and think about the possibility of her protesting Ray’s adoption of me.

“She is, to me,” I say, before turning back to Burt. “I don’t know if she has me listed as her next of kin, but when she dies, I’ll go to Vegas, clean up her affairs, bury her, then leave.”

“Wow,” he says, wiping his eyes. “That’s pretty damn cold.” I twist my lips to fight the tears.

“Yeah, well, she was pretty damn cold to me,” I say, ending the sentence on a whisper. “I wanted to die. I thought I would. I thought the pain from everything—mental and physical—would swallow me up and take me to hell. Instead, I just held on, pressed on through, and here I am.” I so want to get off this topic.

“Physical… you said she didn’t beat you,” he presses. I won’t recount this.

“I can’t relive this right now,” I say, nearly choking on my words, “but I was beaten… and I was conscious for most of it. When it was over, I was comatose for three weeks. When I awoke, all I wanted was my mom. When it was happening, all I wanted was my mom… but she didn’t care. She was then and still is a self-serving, heartless bitch!” I spit the words out while fighting the tears, one escaping anyway. I quickly wipe it away.

“I healed a bit through helping other people with their problems. I was able to overcome the constant pain, but there are still some remnants.” I sniff and wipe away another tear that has fallen. “I speak from experience when I say that if he tells you why he did what he did, it’s not going to bring you closure. It’s only going to piss you off. She was 100% honest with me as to why she was the way that she was during those years—why she was so cold and heartless and why she did the things that she did, and it didn’t bring me closure. It pissed me off and it hurt even more. I paid her to leave and never come back and I cried and cried and cried, and then I had to just let go.

“Without her confession, I could have just let go. I could have told her how I felt and then I could have just let go, and you can do that in a letter or an email. No, I had to hear it. I had to let her break my heart all over again and what did it bring me? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

“When did you have this conversation with your mother?” he asks.

“Early last year,” I tell him. “And to answer the unasked question, the beating was over ten years ago.” He sighs.

“So, I may never get an answer to this question.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Even if you do, I don’t think it would help,” I say. “In my professional—and personal opinion, it would do more harm than good.” He nods and looks out at the stars. I gaze out at them with him, thinking about those nights I spent in that bed praying for God to either make time go faster so that I could hurry up and get out of there or praying for death to end my suffering. Either one would have sufficed. I cried so many nights, so many tears, and I can even hear myself crying now—painful, mournful sobs that screamed for relief from the hell I was in… only, my cries were silent and stymied, not loud and mournful like this.

Who’s crying?

Burt sits up in his seat and we see Christian’s head moving and hear a woman wailing.

“Mom! What is he doing to my mom?” Burt leaps from the seat and bursts into the family just as Nollie makes her way over to Christian and Nell. I’m right on Burt’s heels as I see Christian cradling Nell in his arms while she’s sobbing mournfully. I know that hold. She’ssimba-lion-king-6 broken and he’s trying to hold her together. I grasp Burt’s arm and try to help him focus, as he has that “Simba—Lion King” look in his eye.

“Look,” I say softly. “Look at them.” He blinks a few times and watches as Christian holds his mother, rocking her gently and stroking her hair, trying to soothe her with an occasional, “Sssh.” Burt’s gaze softens immediately and he closes his hand over mine. He needs support? Solidarity? I don’t know.

“Mommy?” he says softly as he breaks from my grasp. He falls on his knees in front of his mother, his arms resting on her thighs. “It’s going to be okay, Mommy,” he says, his eyes filling with tears. “It’s going to take a while, but we’ll be happy again. I promise.”

Nell continues to cry into Christian’s chest as she reaches for her son’s hand. He kisses her hand hard and presses it against his cheek while he cries. Christian’s hand has moved to Nell’s back and Nollie has taken over stroking her hair, weeping along with her mother and brother. I make my way over to Leo, who is holding a cooing Minnie Mouse while watching his wife in mourning.

“This is so hard for her,” he says. “I hate to see her like this.” I take a seat next to him.

“I really wish you all had informed us that you planned to stop overnight in Seattle,” I tell him. “There was no need to book rooms at the Fairmont. We have more than enough room here.” He gazes at his wife and sighs.

“If that offer is still good, I’d like to take you up on it. I think it would be better for them to stay here than to try to get them back to the hotel.” He turns questioning eyes to me and I smile.

“You’re a good man, Leo,” I say patting his shoulder. “I’ll have our security staff go and get your things.” He shakes his head.

“That won’t be necessary,” he says. “One of my men is still at the hotel. I’ll have him shut down the rooms and check out… but thank you.”

“What about the cost of the rooms?” I ask. “I’ll be happy to reimburse you…”

“You’re too kind,” he says. “You’ve already let us use the jet. It would have been a nightmare getting their things properly shipped to California. Now, you’re opening your home to us… and look at that.” He gestures to Christian basically holding the family together. “They need that so much right now. Don’t worry about the rooms… it’s only money. She’s worth so much more.” I sigh heavily as I watch my husband do something he couldn’t do when I first met him.

“We’ve got big responsibilities, Leonardo,” I say, looking adoringly at my husband. “We’ve married into a very tight-knit family. Except for one lone asshole, I’ve never seen a family stick together like this… not even my own.”

“Well, on that note, I’m lucky,” he says. “My family is extremely close, and they love Lanie. So, I think we’ll be very happy together and quiet as it’s kept…” He leans in to me. “I have a cousin in the Bay area who came to visit me in Farmington when Lanie and I first started getting serious. He met Burt while we were there and has had a crush on him ever since. I told him what happened with Burt and Freeman and that Burt is on his way to California, and he’s waiting on baited breath for Burt to get there.” I smile at Leo.

“You’re a matchmaker?” I tease. He chuckles.

“No, nothing like that,” he says. “I just know he has a crush on Burt, so I told him that Burt was coming. I hope Burt doesn’t mind. I’m not trying to hook them up, but I want him to at least have a friend when he gets to Cali.” He looks back at the family. “Nell is going to be a different story.”

I can imagine that she is. You don’t stay with someone for decades and just watch them mistreat your daughter without a reason. Either she was afraid or she loved that man something fierce despite his obvious shortcomings. Either way, she’s got some massive deprogramming and some hard nights ahead of her. I turn to Gail, who is still holding Mikey and trying to give the Greys as much privacy as she can under the circumstances.

“I’ll take him,” I tell her and hold my hands out for my son. “Can you please get the rooms ready if it’s not too much trouble? They’re going to stay tonight.”

“It’s no trouble at all,” she says as she deposits Mikey into my hands. “Keri, I know it’s not part of your job, but…”

“Nawnsense!” Keri says softly, her accent flowing hard on the word. “I’ll be glad to help.”

While they head off to get the rooms ready, Leo holds a cooing Minnie in one hand and his phone is the other, giving instructions to someone to bring their things to Grey Crossing. I reach in my boob and grab my phone, texting Jason that Leo’s security will be bringing their things and to make sure they can get into the gate.

“Hello, my handsome man,” I say to my son as I put my phone away. “There’s Mommy’s little boy.” Mikey coos and kicks his feet happily in my lap. I sit him in the corner of the sofa and get on my knees on the floor in front of him.

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands…” I sing and clap, then wait for my little man to follow. He smiles and claps wildly. I repeat the line and his hands clap wildly again, causing him to fall forward a bit on the sofa.

“If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it…” I tickle his little stomach and he giggles madly, his hands flailing and patting the sofa cushion.

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!” He doesn’t clap this time, but his hands are still flailing and he’s still giggling.

“If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet…” I lift his little feet and push them up against my cheeks. My son giggles wildly again. I repeat the line and the gesture, eliciting another giggle from him. By the time I get to the last line, I do a raspberry on his feet and his laughing becomes a bit maniacal.

“If you’re happy and you know it, say ‘hurray!’” I wave my fingers and stretch the word out so that my little boy knows he should repeat it. He repeats something—it wasn’t “hurray,” but it was something.

“If you’re happy and you know it, say ‘hurray!’” By now, he’s reaching for me, babbling whatever word he’s picked that’s supposed to mean, “hurray.’”

“If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re happy and you know it, say ‘hurray!’” On the last “hurray,” I pick up my little bundle and snuggle him to my face. He giggles and pats my face as I shower kisses on his chubby little cheeks. I love my baby boy. He’s coming into his teething phase now that Minnie has cut her first few and is past the worst of it. I try to keep him bubbly and distracted since it’s such a trying time for them. So far, Mikey isn’t having such a bad time of it as Minnie did, knock wood and thank God, but he still has some discomfort.

“Who loves you? Who loves that baby boy?” I coo at my son. It’s not until now that I realize that every eye in the room is trained on me, from Nell sniffling in Christian’s arms to Minnie quietly slipping off to sleep in Leo’s lap.

“What?” I say, coyly.

*-*

“I can’t begin to thank you for all your kindness,” Nell says as we’re walking arm in arm to the car on Saturday morning. “After my last visit here with Freeman…” She trails off and shakes her head. “The next few months will be… interesting.”

“They won’t be easy, Nell, but you’ll get through them. I promise. Just… lean on your family, okay?” She smiles at me and squeezes my hand.

“I will… and it’s Aunt Nellie.” I return her smile.

“Aunt Nellie,” I repeat, kissing her on the cheek before she hugs me and gets into the cat.

“Now, it’s your turn to come down to California and let us show you some hospitality,” Leo says as he exits the house with his wife and my husband. “Maybe we’ll go to Napa. Have you ever been on the Wine Train?” Christian and I throw knowing looks at each other.

“In fact, we have,” he replies. “We loved it.”

“Well, then, we’ll plan something else, but you guys have to come down. I want you to see where we are, maybe take a tour of the company.”

“I’d like that very much,” Christian says, extending his hand to Leo. “Take care of yourself and take care of my cousins… and my aunt. We’ll see you soon.” Leo smiles and shakes Christian’s hand.

“Without a doubt. Thanks again for everything.” Leo gets into the car and Christian turns to Lanie, as I discovered everyone is calling her now.

“It’s your time, cousin,” he says, taking both of her hands. “It’s time to be happy.”

“I have everything now,” she says, her smile wide. “I have all the loves of my life with me. I couldn’t be happier.”

“Yes, you can,” Christian retorts. “Now, go do it.” She throws her arms around him and he doesn’t even flinch when he returns the embrace.

“Thank you, Christian,” she says, her voice cracking. “I was beginning to lose hope in people… until I met you and Ana.” She kisses him on the cheek and releases him as Burt walks over to me. I smile at him, reaching up to cup his face like a child.

“Your sister loves you so much,” I tell him. “She thinks the world of you. She calls you ‘the perfect child,’ and she’s serious. She’ll do anything in this world to protect you. I just thought you should know.”

“I know,” he says with a shy smile. “I’ve always known. She’s always looked out for me. Even now…” He trails off and smiles sadly.

“Look ahead,” I say softly. “Don’t look back. All you need to take with you from this experience is that it’s not your fault. None of this happened because of you.” He sighs heavily.

“It’s going to be tough coming to grips with this, but I believe you.” He hugs me and I kiss him on his cheek.

“You be happy, too. Okay?” I say. He nods and Christian puts his hand on Burt’s shoulder.

“Never let anything or anybody stop you from being who you are. Life is too short to live a lie,” Christian tells him. Burt fights to hold back his tears.

“Thank you, Christian,” he says, his voice cracking. “I know my family has thanked you a thousand times, but… there are no words, man.” Christian nods.

“We’ll see you when we get down there, okay?” Burt nods. He’s a gentle soul and has broken down many times since he’s been here. Healing is going to be tough for him. He gets into the car and closes the door behind him. Christian and I stand in front of the house as we watch the rental round the driveway and exit the gates. He exhales heavily as if he were holding his breath.

“I don’t understand how anybody could hurt that kid,” he says. It sounds strange to me since Burt is not much younger than me. “I can’t even see how he could do something so horrible to his own son… his own flesh and blood.” I look up at him and he’s still staring at the gate where the car just exited.

“Are you okay?” I ask, putting my hand flat on his stomach. He nods.

“Yeah, but now I need ‘normal,’ like right now.” He grabs my hand and leads me back into the house.

About an hour later, I and my husband, our twins, our nannies, little Miss Sophie, and about four bodyguards dressed in very casual clothing are strolling around Woodland Park Zoo. The guys brought a couple of wagons to carry the truckload of items that we brought from the house to make our day more enjoyable. We really didn’t need the nannies, but Christian thought it would be nice for Gail and Keri to come along since Jason and Chuck are there. Elliot and Val decided not to join us. Even though Rebe and Tate are in attendance to help guard the twins, it looks more like an outing of friends than the Greys and their entourage going to the zoo.

And would you believe it? It worked!

Since we came in the west entrance, the first thing we see is the penguin exhibit. There’s a whole line of them on the bank across the water in the exhibit and Minnie goes absolutely bonkers. She’s just babbling and pointing like any of us knows what she’s saying. Her feet are just kicking and her brother looks over at her as if to say, “Yo, sis, chill out.” Two of the penguins are staring at each other like a standoff at the O.K. Corral and a third actually comes and pushes one of them away. I can imagine him saying, “Just walk away, bro, just walk away.”

One of the penguins is standing on one of the higher cliffs with his arms outstretched, holding a deep mellow note for a long time before taking a breath and crooning again. I can’t help but think about the songs of the penguin from Happy Feet. While I’m paying attention to the crooning penguin, Christian’s camera—the same one from the playroom—is snapping away, but not at me. I look down to see what he’s photographing and our daughter is reaching out of her stroller as far as she can for a very large penguin who has jumped into the water and swam right up to the glass in front of her.

And he taps on the glass with his beak!

“Are they trained?” I ask Christian. He shrugs at me from behind his camera.

“I don’t know,” he says, following his shrug.

We could have spent the entire day there watching the penguins swim and frolic and play—and stand off—as far as Minnie was concerned, but there’s a lot more zoo to see.

The next exhibit is right up my alley. My obsession with all things butterfly since my husband adopted the nickname for me means that I spend quite a bit of time in Molbak’s Butterfly Garden, which is sensationally beautiful and educational. We’re lucky, because the butterfly habitat only opens for the summer, so we wouldn’t have had much more time to enjoy these pretty little things.

They fly everywhere, freely in this exhibit. There is various flora in the tent to make them feel at home, so they just flutter from flower to tree to plant. One of them even landed on Keri.

In a glass casing, there are several species of larvae and cocoon and as I was reading about each one, I hear Sophie’s voice.

“Ms. Ana, look at this one!” she says in amazement. I follow her gaze and look on the second row of the larva exhibit… and one of them has “hatched.”

“Christian!” I whisper his name as loud as I can without drawing attention to him. He comes over to me and I point to the butterfly hanging protectively on its cocoon. He smiles at me and takes a picture.

“Look, Butterfly, here’s another one,” he says before snapping a picture. Sophie and I look to where he’s pointing and a beautiful orange one has “hatched” and is hanging onto its cocoon. It almost looks like a monarch, but not quite.

“Look, here,” he says, pointing to a third that looks just like the first one—large brownish wings with large white spots all over and hints of orange.  I look behind me at my baby girl and she has her hands palm up, opening and closing her fists as if beckoning the butterflies to come to her. Mikey is more attentive now, sitting up in the stroller and watching the butterflies as well. None of them come to her like the penguin did, which is a good thing. She might have tried to eat them.

Our next stop is the Tropical Rainforest Aviary, where the tropical birds and monkeys are. I’m enjoying the beautiful birds in the first two exhibits when I hear my husband’s voice.

“Hey, baby, come look at this.”

I’m admiring the white-tailed trogon when my husband drags my attention to the next exhibit. I let out a small yelp and try not to jump out of my skin.

It’s a fucking neon green snake.

“Oh, my God,” I gasp after I’ve backed away from the glass, still holding my chest.

“What’s the matter? It just a snake,” he says chuckling at me. I throw a death glare at him. You think that shit was funny? “I want one,” he says, matter-of-factly.

“Not in my house!” The words are out of my mouth before I even realize that I’ve garnered some attention.

“Aaaawwww,” he whines. “C’mon, honeeeeey. Pleeeeease, can I have one?” Sophie is trying not to giggle. I’m going to kill him.

“Chri—” I stop before I say his name and draw more attention to us. “No.”

“What if I got one and put it in a room where you never even saw it?” he asks, half joking, half serious. I fold my arms.

“Go ahead. Bring a snake in the house,” I reply, facing off with him to the amusement of some of the onlookers.

“What would you do if I did that?” he says, smirking at me.

“Move out,” I announce firmly.

“Okay no snake,” he says without hesitation and moves on to the next exhibit.

“I’m glad we understand one anoth—oh God!” I draw more attention to us by nearly leaping into my husband’s arm when, in the next exhibit, a black and white-striped snake is somehow slithering up the glass, appearing to be right next to my face. My heart is racing and if I could meld into Christian’s skin, I definitely would right now.

“Okay… definitely no snake,” he says, softly while gently rubbing my arms.

“Look at the next exhibit, please,” I say, unable to hide the tremble in my voice. He wraps his arms around me and leans over to see what’s in the next exhibit.

“You’ll like this one,” he says, taking my hand and leading me to the glass. He was right. There’s a cute little orange furry thing in there.

“Ooooh, he’s cute!” I croon. “He looks like a tiny lion.”

“He is,” Christian says, pointing at the plaque. “It’s a Golden Lion Tamarin.”

I stand there looking at the grumpy-faced little golden monkey for a while and soon, all thoughts of the green python are forgotten.

In the next cage is a white-face saki monkey and let me tell you—that’s a face that only a mother could love. I don’t spend time looking at the strange little thing and just move on to the next exhibit, a large cage in the middle with several birds in it. Many of them hiding from sight for some reason, but we see a few. I hear Minnie cooing in the double stroller behind us while Mikey is just laid back and taking in the sights. To this day, I find myself secretly apologizing to my son for thinking that he was the lead soccer player in my belly when it’s crystal clear that the entire time, Minnie was the real hellion.

The large cage at the end was pay dirt, though, with several more tropical birds including a toucan. Finally, we’re allowed to go into an open aviary with a canopy where the birds can actually fly around the room around you and Minnie. Goes. Batshit. She would grab one of those suckers and take it home if she could.

We leave the aviary to visit the rest of the animals in the rainforest. The red ruffled lemurs didn’t feel like giving us a show, but the gorillas were an entirely different story. One big king gorilla sits high on a cliff in the back just watching over things while munching on carrots while a second gorilla comes right up to a rock near the glass and sits on it, looking at us like The Thinker, also munching on a carrot. A third smaller gorilla was determined to get the spotlight, rolling around in the grass and under a tree branch causing several of the small children in attendance to giggle wildly.

We leave the gorilla exhibit and get to the jaguar exhibit just in time to see the large tan and black cat take a sip from the stream. Mikey still watches with what can best be described as detached amusement while Minnie observes attentively as if the animal requires careful study.

“His coat is absolutely beautiful,” I say, “or her coat.” The jaguar finishes drinking from stream, crosses over, and begins to walk away from us.

“Noooooo, that’s a he,” Christians says definitively. “That’s definitely a he! Whoa!” I keep my laughter inside. I’ve got a feeling Christian got an eyeful of something that he didn’t really want to see.

“You sure about that, baby?” I tease.

“Without a doubt,” he retorts. “There was no mistaking that!” he says as he tries to shield Sophie’s inquisitive eyes. I can no longer hold in my laughter as we move on to the next section.

We see the flamingos to the right of us at the beginning of the Temperate Forest exhibit, but it appears that neither of the children were impressed with them. I think the flamingos were a bit too timid for their tastes. Several crows invade the space and the flamingos flap their long wings to shoo them away. A couple of ducks float into the area, but don’t seem to bother the flamingos. When I see Minnie yawn—most likely from boredom—I know it’s time to move on.

I’ve personally never seen a red panda before, so I thought the little guy was really cute, eating with his little hands. He’ll never get as big as the black and white panda, but he’s holding his own up in the trees of his exhibit. He’s red on top and black on the bottom. He looks like a really pretty fox and is about the size of a really large housecat with a big, fluffy tail that’s about as long as his body. Minnie perks up when she sees this little creature and can only point and say, “Oooooooo.”

The Bug exhibit was a definite “no” for me, as was the petting zoo. Christian tried his best to get me to go into the bug building, but I’m too damn heebie-jeebie to carry my ass in there. As much as Dr. Dolittle is aching to touch some furry little woodland creature, my six-month-old babies are getting nowhere near those germy animals in the petting zoo. We wait patiently, however, while Sophie, Gail, and Jason go inside to play with the goats. Keri is on hand the minute they emerge with baby wipes and hand sanitizer.

Go, Keri. I love that girl.

The first thing—or things—that catch our eye when we enter the African Savanna portion of the zoo are the giraffes. The African Savanna is a huge open habitat that you can view from just about any part of the zoo. So, across the grass, we see the zebras, the gazelle, and the guinea fowl. There’s a new baby giraffe in the giraffe exhibit, just released in the “savanna” as they call it. She apparently likes to play, but the gazelle and the guinea fowl are a little cool to her debut. There’s also another aviary in the Savanna, but the birds are a little too loud for the babies’ taste, so we didn’t stay in there for long. We briefly watch the hippos emerge and re-submerge in the water before we head over to the lions and the warthogs.

And Dr. Dolittle is alive and kicking again.

Minnie is animated once more as the lions roam around the habitat before the female settles in a grassy spot in the sun while the male finds his comfort in the shade. She’s nearly bouncing out of her seat, once again hoping to get behind the glass with the furry animals. Directly across from the lion exhibit, we find the warthogs. They’re both covered from head to toe in mud and fast asleep right next to one another.

“Look, Mikey,” Christian says, stooping down to his son whose eyes are fixed on the two lumps of mud in the exhibit. “It’s Timon.”

I think it’s cute that he remembers the characters from The Lion King, even though we just watched it with the twins about a week ago, but he’s got the characters confused.

“No, dear, that would be Pumbaa,” I correct him. He frowns.

“Are you sure?” he asks. “I thought Timon was the warthog.” I shake my head.

“No, darling. Pumbaa is the warthog. Timon is the meerkat.”

“That’s a meerkat?” he exclaims. I laugh aloud.

“What did you think he was?” Christian shrugs.

“I don’t know. I just didn’t know that he was a meerkat.” I shake my head and look down at Mikey.

“That’s Pumbaa, little prince, not Timon,” I tell him before kissing my husband on the cheek.

“Smart ass,” he mumbles under his breath.

“I heard that,” I retort playfully.

“I meant you to,” he jabs back.

We move on to the Tropical Asia exhibit where the warty pig downright resents our presence and won’t engage us at all. The tapir is a sight to behold, however. Ginormous black and white creature that I’ve never seen before and—much like the leopard—walked away from us so that we have no doubt what gender he is.

We move on to the next exhibit and find the Siamangs—southeast Asian apes. There are two of them and they’re sharing a heart-shaped popsicle. It’s kind of cute. They’re perched up on a rock and the popsicle is sitting on the rock between them. Minnie is blubbering something, as usual, hoping to draw their attention to the glass. They each pick at the popsicle and lick and eat the fruit inside the frozen treat. It’s obvious that they’re a couple, because they sit there and share like well-behaved children… not that the heart-shaped, fruit filled popsicle wasn’t a dead giveaway.

While Minnie and I are enjoying the Francois Langur Monkeys and the very friendly red orangutans, Christian is spellbound at something in a nearby exhibit. I walk over to him to see what he’s looking at.

“What’s got you so quiet?” I ask. He quickly grasps my arm and begins escorting me away before I even get to him.

“Weren’t you looking at the monkeys or something?” he asks, guiding me away from the exhibit. I jerk my arm away.

“What were you looking at?” I ask.

“You don’t want to see it,” he says, still trying to direct my attention elsewhere.

“How about I decide what I want to see and what I don’t want to see?” I chide, like a petulant child. The truth is, I’m just nosey. I just want to see what he was looking at.

“Butterfly, it’s a…” Too late. I get to the damn exhibit and there’s another fucking snake. Fucking ginormous fucking snake on the ground, long as fuck and fat as fuck and I can just see it eating me or some other poor soul. I’m so scared, I could shit my pants. Serves me right. I literally run out of the exhibit onto the boardwalk just over the orangutans. Christian catches me about twenty feet outside of “snake world,” and I’m shaking again.

“I tried to tell you, Butterfly,” he says, pulling me back into his arms and holding my shaking body against his.

“You really want a fucking snake?” I nearly shriek, but manage to keep my voice down. If he really wants one, he’s going to find a way to get one. He’s a damn billionaire!

“I wasn’t even looking at the snake; I was looking at his stats,” he defends. “I saw it, I saw that it was a huge motherfucker and I just wanted to see how huge they get.” I shake my head.

“What was that thing?” I ask.

“Indian Rock Python,” he responds.

“Do I even want to know how big that fucker is… or how big it can get?” I ask.

“No,” he says, then he cups my face in his hand. “No snakes. I promise.”

He was reading my mind.

“I think it’s time for lunch,” Gail says as she walks past us with the double stroller. Christian puts his arm around me and follows Gail. Christian stops before we get to the next exhibit.

“How are you with komodo dragons?” he asks. I shrug.

“They’re just big lizards,” I reply. Gail has already passed the komodo dragons, so we don’t spend much time looking at the big lizard. However, she’s compelled to stop when Minnie goes nuts at the next exhibit.

Meerkats. Adorable little meerkats standing on their hind legs looking at us.

“Look, Mikey. It’s… Timon,” Christian says, still holding my hand. I laugh and elbow him in the side. He got it right this time.

We cut between the Tropical Asia and the Australaisa exhibits and to get to the North Meadow where we’ve decided to have our lunch. On our way past the tiger cage, we watch the three brothers fight over a felled pine branch. Then we watch the Asian otters play in the water and groom each other. We get to the North Meadow around three in the afternoon and set up our picnic. There’s a lot of room on the manicured lawn as no one really wants to be out in the sun this afternoon. However, our boy scout men had the foresight to bring the large umbrellas along for just such an emergency.

I cover myself and allow Minnie to latch on while Christian lovingly feeds me finger foods from the picnic basket. Mikey takes a bottle with ease that has been thawed to room temperature during our walk. We see a few people nearby throw distasteful looks at me for breastfeeding in public, but I don’t care. I have every right to feed my child whenever she’s hungry and even though I could whip a tit out right in their faces and there’s not a damn thing they could do to stop me, I consider others when I breastfeed in public and cover myself and my baby with a receiving blanket.

I’m okay until one couple just keeps glaring at us. The man finally makes a comment to his significant other about my breastfeeding and before I have a chance to retort, Christian turns around and calmly lets loose.

“State law dictates that she can breastfeed my children anywhere that you can eat a piece of pizza. If you don’t like it, contact your state legislature… and stop glaring at my wife!”

Apparently, the thought of shaming a breastfeeding mother was fine with this asshole. However, the idea of going toe-to-toe with her over-protective, control-freak husband isn’t so appealing. He narrows his eyes at Christian, but never says another word. Instead, he and his companion gather their things and leave the area. We’re surprised to hear a small applause from a few other families as they leave.

We’ve enjoyed our lunch and our babies are napping in their covered stroller while Christian and I enjoy an ice-cream cone under an umbrella and Jason and Gail take Sophie to the carousel. There’s a small bit of canoodling going on between my husband and me before we move on to the final two exhibits.

4028ba3be392ea552548707decc0d89bWe’re advised by zoo staff to skip the bird feeding house as the birds are uncontained and swoop down onto people for food. They’re justifiably concerned for the twins, but I so want to tell them that little Elmira here might grab one of the poor birds and love it to death. Nonetheless, we skip the bird feeding and go through the Willawong Station instead.

As if it knows that she wouldn’t want to miss what’s next, some bird swoops down right out of a tree and smacks hard face first into the glass right in front of Minnie’s side of the stroller. The loud “thump” even startles me and Christian, and Minnie’s eyes jolt open and she starts to cry. Keri quickly retrieves her and puts her binky in her mouth, hoping to get her back to sleep. But that same asshole bird throws his head in the air and lets out a call of the wild that I always thought came from a monkey, but now I know that it was this damn bird all along.

And both of my children are awake and crying now.

I take Mikey out of the stroller and give him his binky. He’s immediately silent and observing the bird who broke his slumber as if he would reach into the exhibit, grab the feathery little bastard and twist its scrawny little neck.

“I’m with you, Mikey,” I say as I throw a dirty look at the bird. In all honesty, I can imagine that Dr. Dolittle over there called to him in her sleep and he was just trying to get to her when he slammed into the window. That tortured call he did moments ago was probably him screaming profanities at the bird gods for allowing him to slam into the glass in the first place.

The last exhibit at the end of the open-ended Willawong Station is the wallaroo room. Wallaroos are large Australian kangaroos and there are three pretty big ones inside the exhibit, but they’re all lounging on the floor and the rocks with their backs to us, staring at the sunlight shining through the opening that leads outside.

“Geez, some of these animals are really diva today, aren’t they?” I say to Keri, recalling that a few of the other animals either retreated to the shadows or turned their butts to us completely when we came to their exhibits. She snickers as she pats Minnie on the back. I’ve been having a lot of Look Who’s Talking moments with my children and the animals today, and right now, I’m imagining the kangaroos sitting in these lounging positions saying, “I vant to be alone… I just vant to be alone,” like Greta Garbo in Grand Hotel. Minnie has turned her attention to the glass and Keri catches her binky just as it falls out of her mouth when she opens it to demand the attention of the lounging wallaroos, but even the animal whisperer can’t get them to turn around.

Just outside the exhibit in the open air are more wallaroos along with a few emus. These joeys are small, most likely the babies of the ones inside. The emus are pretty large and they put on a strutting show for us, but like their parents, the joeys just sit around uninterested in the zoo goers.

Into the Northern Trail we go, the last exhibit on the trail, and the first thing we see are the gray wolves. Now the warty pigs weren’t much to look at, but the gray wolves make up for that! They frolic in the water, then get out and roll around in the leaves in the shade—probably to keep cool since the sun is in full force today. I’m looking past the wolves at the elk in the enclosure behind the wolf exhibit, and my attention is drawn back to the wolves. For whatever reason, four wolves are now clustered together howling all at the same time, like a barbershop quartet—and Mikey is spellbound. I’m sure that at any moment, he’s going to stand up in his stroller and start howling with them. In fact, he begins to make some sort of cooing sound that indicates that he’s trying to do just that!

We come to the grizzly bear exhibit and once again, Minnie is in love. Although these things are ginormous, they’re pretty docile right now as they lounge around their “pool” enjoying ice treats to keep cool in the heat. The ice treats are frozen salads made of lettuce, watermelon, pineapple and frozen fish. The pool is also stocked with trout so that the bears can hunt and eat. Pool is a relative word, though—it’s more like a bear park with rocks and cliffs and a small waterfall and lake all their own and they really look adorable chomping on their ice treats.

We get to the otter exhibit just in time for the trout activity. Otters move very quickly under the water, so when live trout are released into the “pool,” they actually play with them for a while. They swim around and chase them and when they catch them, they don’t eat them right away. Instead, they release them again so that they can chase them some more. Then, when they’ve worked up an appetite, they stop chasing and eat them.

This was a bit too surprising for little Miss Minnie.

She loved watching the otters glide around the pool and chase the fish. She laughed and reached for the glass as she watched them flow effortlessly through the water. However, when the first otter tired and ate the first fish, she fell silent. She turned her attention to me as if to say, “Why he do that?” I don’t think anything of it until the second otter does the same thing, and my little animal rights activist turns to me again as if to say, “Mom! Do something!” Sorry, Minnie. I can’t jump in and save the fish, though I do bring Minnie’s expression to Christian’s attention, indicating that I think she’s had enough of the trout activity.

Glorious and majestic as it was, the yellow-beaked sea eagle did nothing to improve Dr. Dolittle’s mood after the whole “trout torture” demonstration. The final exhibit on the trail is the amphibian and reptile exhibit… and I was having none of that.

“Oh, no, that’s not for me,” I say, avoiding the area all together.

“Me, eidah!” Keri quickly agrees, her accent thick in her denial as she vigorously shakes her head. Chuck takes her hand as I observe the disappointed faces of the other men.

“You guys go,” Chuck says. “I’ll stay here with the ladies.”

“What about the twins?” I ask concerned.

“No offense, baby, but the snakes give you the willies. Minnie’s just fine with them.” My husband kisses me on the cheek and takes Minnie from Keri and Mikey from me. Safe in Daddy’s arms, my twins disappear into the reptile exhibit. I tap Jason on the shoulder and he turns around.

“Get a picture of that for me,” I tell him, “… without any snakes.” He chuckles and nods, giving me a thumbs up as he, Gail, and Sophie disappear behind Christian and the twins along with the other members of the security team.

“So, what do you hear from Anguilla these days?” I ask Keri as we wait for the rest of our party to emerge. We talk about her students and how her friend Tawni keeps her up to date on what’s going on with them. She admits to getting a little homesick sometimes, but not enough to ever return without her Choonks. It’s clear to see that they’re desperately in love with each other… an island fling that turned into a lifelong commitment. It’ll only be a matter of time before Chuck proposes… again.


CHRISTIAN

It was a good day.

I enjoyed myself immensely at the zoo with my family. There’s no use calling any of them anything else. Both of the men that are contracted to protect me and my wife have put their lives on the line to save ours—literally. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for either of them, so they—and their significant others—are part of our family.

I don’t see much of Sophie these days and she’s probably off doing whatever young tweens do these days, but watching her enjoy her day at the zoo gave me a bit of satisfaction as well. I have no idea how her childhood has gone with that sorry excuse of a mother that she’s had, but she appears to be a bit more sociable now than she was when she first came to live with us.

The amount of snuggling at the dinner table informs me that the outing was just what everyone needed today and the night will be quite amorous for us all. I waste no time in tasting of my gorgeous wife once we’ve put our exhausted twins down for the night.

She feels so good as I fuck her from behind in her shower. As far as showers go, we usually fuck in mine, but I couldn’t wait for her to finish her shower before I got my hands on her. My dick gets so hard and so thick inside of her that I can barely pull it out to stroke. Grasping her tits with her hands under mine also grasping her tits, I plunge inside of her getting maximum stimulation as her ass swallows me and burns me with each thrust. Fuck, this is so fucking good that I almost can’t stand it. In fact, I get the perfect angle inside of her and my face is right in the water, so I can’t breathe in.

No matter. This shit is too good to fucking move now.

I get a little light-headed from the asphyxiation factor of holding my breath, wouldn’t you know it—it heightens my sexual arousal causing my dick to throb and pulse with added excitement. I come so hard that I lose my footing and have to slide down the wall behind me in the shower. I’m panting and sputtering, thinking how fucking fantastic that orgasm was while taking my wife with me to the floor…

“Christian! Christian! Oh, God, Christian!”

I hear Butterfly’s frantic voice, but it sounds like she’s far away. I open my eyes and realize that I’m still on the floor in her shower leaning against the wall. When I come to, my wife is slapping me wildly on the face, trying to rouse me. I cough the water out of my throat and try to lift my head. I’m still dizzy.

“Oh, thank God!” I hear her sob. She leans into my chest, weeping and I wrap my arms around her with all the strength I can muster.

“I’m… sorry…” I choke. “I didn’t mean… to scare you.”

She continues to weep. She’s inconsolable. With the water in my mouth, somehow, I lost consciousness and stopped breathing… and scared the living shit out of her. She manages to compose herself enough to get us off the floor and out of the shower. She helps me to our room and lays me on the bed. I’m sopping wet…

And she’s still crying.

She gets several towels, wrapping one around her body and another around her head. She uses two more to begin to dry my body and hair. Then she gets a T-shirt and pulls it over my head, nothing else, just a T-shirt.

And she’s still crying.

She puts on a nightshirt and her hair is still sopping wet. She instructs me to sit up against the headboard, which I do, and she puts a pillow behind me.

“Cough,” she says between sobs, so I do. She’s patting me on various parts of my chest, like she’s burping one of the children, but harder.

“Cough,” she sobs again. “Keep coughing.” What the hell? Whatever it is, she needs it, so I do it. I keep coughing while she’s patting and as far as I can tell, nothing’s happening…

Except that she’s still crying.

I try to show her some concern, but she just tells me to keep coughing, so I do.

After a few minutes, she puts me on my stomach with the pillow now rolled under my hips and she pats my pack the same way that she was patting my chest. After about two minutes of patting and coughing, a kind of warm feeling goes through my chest and throat… and then a not so good feeling in my nose.

Fuck, it’s water! There’s water coming out of my nose! Now, I really need to cough!

My first instinct is to leap out of the bed, but Butterfly makes me lay there and hands me one of the towels to wipe my face. Now, I’m coughing like one of my lungs is going to come through my throat at any moment, but it doesn’t. Only small amounts of water with each cough.

And she’s still crying.

After a few minutes of coughing and swimming in my bed, she turns me to the same position on my back, patting my chest again, and I’m sure I’m going to drown like this. But I don’t. More coughing, more tiny bits of water, and after another stint on my stomach while she pats my back, the coughs come up dry. My head hurts from the coughing, but at least it’s clear now.

And she’s still crying.

“Butterfly, please. I’m fine now,” I say, trying to stop her tears. She waves me off and goes into my dressing room. She returns with a pair of my boxer briefs.

“Put these… on,” she sputters, and I remember the last time I saw her cry like this. It was on the plane on the way back to the states from Anguilla. I’m certain that she didn’t want to cry; she just couldn’t stop. Geez, I hope she doesn’t need to do a thousand sit-ups to get through this spell. I take the boxer briefs from her and put them on.

“Is there anything I can do?” I ask as her sputtering sobs become a bit violent. She shakes her head and tries—and fails—to activate the two-way communications. I call out to the system for her then at her request, summon Gail.

“Yes?” Gail calls out.

“S… s… soup… with b… broth,” she says, and I can barely hear her.

“Gail, do we have any soup ready… with broth?” I ask, my voice weak from coughing.

“Yes, my chicken soup. I’ll warm some up… You sound terrible.”

“Small mishap. I’ll be fine. Will you bring it to the master bedroom please?” I look at my hyperventilating wife. “Two bowls, please.”

“Okay. Is that all?”

“Yes.”

“Good. End two-way communications.” I guess she thinks I need to rest my voice.

“Come here,” I say, holding my arms open to her now that I’ve coughed up the water and I’m sitting up in bed. She crawls over to me and I put my arms around her, trying to calm her. “I need you to breathe. I’m okay. I’m sorry I scared you. I won’t do that again. I thought I was fine until I wasn’t.”

She nods and continues to cry until Gail brings the soup. Not wanting to explain her state, she escapes to her en suite while Gail serves the soup. When she’s gone, Butterfly emerges from the en suite after having washed her faced, somewhat more composed but still sniffling terribly.

“Come. Eat, my love,” I say, holding my hand out to her.

The soup feels wonderful going down. My irritated throat thanks Gail for having it on hand, and Butterfly for knowing. It seems to have a calming effect on her, too, because the crying and sniffling has stopped while she finishes the soup.

“How did you know to do that?” I ask her and she turns to me. “The patting thing and the positioning.” She swallows her soup.

“When I was a kid,” she begins while looking into her soup, “a bunch of us went to the community pool like we usually did. Nothing out of the ordinary happened—we splashed around, we swam, then we went home. The next day…” She put her soup on the nightstand. “… we all discovered that one of the neighbor kids that went swimming with us had died in his bed. We found out that it was secondary drowning.” She crosses her legs lotus-style and turns to face me.

“The short explanation is that he inhaled a lot of water in the pool and later that night, the water sitting in his lungs gave him breathing distress and he ‘drowned’ in his sleep. I had never heard anything like it before, ever. And it scared me. A lot of us were even afraid to swim for a while after that.” She shrugs.

“Anyway, Daddy made sure that I learned the precautions of choking on or breathing in water and how to get fluid out of the lungs should someone breathe it in. When I got to medical school, I learned even more about it. Breathing in water can cause pulmonary edema, which is simply put, water on the lungs, but it’s really dangerous and it could cause infection or death. The whole drowning in your sleep thing normally only happens to children and it’s very rare, but this kid was twelve and his was pretty big. And even as a large adult male, you breathed in enough water to cause you to lose consciousness.”

I don’t bother to tell her that part of the breath depravation came from holding my breath, not from inhaling water. She’d probably put me over her knee and spank me, which I kind of deserve right now.

“I’m sorry, Butterfly,” I say, inwardly apologizing both for holding my breath to prolong the floating effect and for standing there letting the water fill my mouth. My wife was scared shitless, but her doctor brain always kicks in even when she’s in distress, just like it did when Jason was shot.

“You should go to the hospital,” she says, flatly. I shake my head.

“I’ll be fine, Baby,” I say. “My head is clearer already and my throat and chest are feeling much better.”

“Are you tired?” she asks. I shake my head.

“I was,” I reply, “really tired, but I’m not anymore.” She nods.

“Well, that’s a good sign.” She pulls her knees to her chest and wraps her arms around them. She’s not crying anymore, so the adrenaline must be at normal levels, but she’s still miles away. Maybe she’s thinking about the kid who died…

“Talk to me, Butterfly,” I say, pushing her hair behind her ear. She sighs and lays her head on her knees.

“You almost died,” she says, softly. “You could have died, Christian. My whole life flashed before me in an instant and I couldn’t see wanting to do anything else with it without you. I couldn’t see tomorrow. It wasn’t that I wanted to die or anything, I just couldn’t see tomorrow. I couldn’t see beyond that moment and you choking on the floor and dying in my arms. I couldn’t see it. At the end of that three-second funnel, I was Mrs. Havisham and all I could think of was getting you to wake up. I couldn’t. See. Anything. Else.”

“That’s why you cried so hard?” I ask, shaken. She sighs.

“I cried because even after you regained consciousness, I still couldn’t see anything,” she confesses. “Even while you were coughing up water and apologizing to me…” she raises her eyes to me. “Even now, I can only see minute by minute with you in front of me, but you’re not unconscious on the floor with a mouth full of water, so that’s why I can stop crying.” I pull her into my arms. Even when she was in the coma, I couldn’t see my life without her, so I just hold her, completely understanding how she feels.

“I’m fine, Butterfly,” I try to reassure her. “You’ve saved my life.” She nods, but I’m certain that she’s not convinced. “What do you want to do?” I ask, snuggling into her and holding her close to me.

“Disney,” she says, with a sigh. Disney? She reaches over to the nightstand where her soup has now gone cold and picks up her iPad. After a few swipes and moves, the screen comes alive with the “When You Wish Upon A Star” Disney intro and then I hear orchestra music, like from the old movies. I look down at the screen just in time to hear dogs barking.

101 Dalmatians.

“Oo, I haven’t seen this one,” I say.

“I know,” she replies sweetly. We snuggle in together as some groovy jazz horn plays the opening credits to how two black and white dogs become one-hundred and one.

*-*

When I open my eyes, I’m lying comfortably in my wife’s lap with my arms wrapped around her body. I swear, that must have been the best sleep I’ve had in weeks. Well, probably comparable to the last time I fucked my wife in her Kryptonite, valium-laced ass. She, on the other hand, looks worn out and tired. She’s still sitting up with her iPad in her hand and from what I can hear, she’s watching The Notebook… the love story that ends with the lovers dying in bed with each other at a ripe old age after living a long and beautiful life together.

How fitting.

I crawl up the bed and kiss her lips, then her cheek and her temple.

“You haven’t slept,” I say softly.

“You wouldn’t go to the hospital,” she replies just as softly.

“I would have gone had I known you wouldn’t sleep,” I chide. She sighs.

“It’s okay,” she says. “Somebody had to watch you, and you were right… you were fine.”

Now, I wish I had told her that I didn’t inhale as much water as she thought. I kiss her gently on the temple and take the iPad from her hands. After placing it on the nightstand, I coax her to lie down in bed. I softly massage her temples and the effect is almost immediate… her eyes flutter to a close with her lashes fanning over her cheek.

“It’s my turn to take care of you, now,” I whisper softly as she falls asleep.


A/N: I feel like the title deserves a bit of explanation. It’s an homage to Minnie.

A very long time ago, I used to work with this lady who lived on a farm as a child. When she became an adult, we noticed that every time we ordered lunch, she refused to eat any meat with bones in it. Cold cuts, ground hamburger, anything like that was fine. Chicken thighs or wings, T-bone steaks, turkey drumsticks—out of the question. 

I finally asked her… I said, “All meat came from something with a bone.”
She said, “Yeah, but some meat doesn’t have bones in it anymore.” 
I asked, “Why don’t you eat meat with bones?” 
She answered, “Because I knew those people personally.”

A bit of foresight—Minnie will most likely be a vegetarian. 

Dr. Dolittle—Ana repeatedly refers to Minnie as Dr. Dolittle. For those who may not know, he’s a character from books in the 1920’s then a movie in 1967 later remade in 1998 with Eddie Murphy with various sequels in the years that followed. Dr. Dolittle is the doctor that could talk to the animals.

Elmira—Ana also refers to Minnie, at one point, as Elmira, who is a character from a cartoon series from the mid-1990s called Animaniacs. She literally “loved” animals damn-near to death.

Mrs. Havisham—I might have spoken about her before. She’s the jilted bride from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations who ran around the house stopping all the clocks when and spent the rest of her life in a tattered wedding dress after her groom left her at the altar.

I’ve included pictures with links to the Woodland Park Zoo page as well as a movie or two if you would like to experience the zoo and animals for yourself on https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/trip-to-the-zoo/

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 5—Greys’ Night Out

I don’t want to name names, but I have a reader/friend whose mom just started chemo. From personal experience with chemo with my mom, believe me… it’s no joke. She and her mom will need all the strength and prayers that we can send out to her. I know it’s strange asking for prayers for a nameless person, but it’s her story to tell so… Just please send up some prayers and positive thoughts for “BG’s friend’s mom who just started chemotherapy.” 

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 5—Greys’ Night Out

CHRISTIAN

Neither Elliot nor I can keep our hands off or our lips off our wives on our way to dinner. I can’t speak for Val, but my wife is simply irresistible! She smells good, she tastes good, she feels good and I just want to be right in her personal space all damn night. She won’t be able to breathe without me right up under her, near her, in her. Damn, this is getting to be too much.

“Can we just skip dinner?” I jest, tasting entire mouthfuls of the skin on her neck while she nurses her second glass of champagne.

“Christian Grey!” she teases. “I want my night on the town.” I smile before delving into her skin again.

“What my lady wants, my lady gets,” I breathe into her neck, but I plan to make it as hard for her to resist me as it is for me to resist her. I gently run my tongue up the length of her neck before nipping her earlobe, moaning breathy sex sounds in her ear.

“Christian… please…” she protests as I feast on her ear. I feel the gooseflesh rising on her arms and watch as she conspicuously crosses her legs. That’s it. Now, you’re just about as hot and bothered as I am. At least you don’t have to fight off a public boner.

We arrive at our dinner destination, Art of the Table, and Elliot and Val exit the limo before us. I look over at my clearly flustered wife and smile knowingly.

“Are you ready?” I ask, my tone purposely suggestive. She takes a deep breath and releases it.

“Yes,” she breathes. I exit the limo first, then reach in for her hand to help her step out. I ask the limousine driver to find somewhere else to park until I call for him so as not to draw attention to the restaurant. I turn to my beautiful wife, put my hand in the small of her back, and lead her into the restaurant.

Despite Art of the Table being a staple of the area for the past several years, I had neither been here nor even heard of it before today. I took a chance on the location when Mia suggested it after I asked for good food with a high-end atmosphere, but more on the normal side than Canlis. The restaurant looks quaint on the outside, with small square tables and wooden chairs, but every angle of the room almost like a private little corner. It’s quite homey and well suited to our needs.

“Nice choice, Bro,” Elliot says, holding his wife’s hand. I nod.

“I hear the food is excellent, and I wanted someplace that would throw the paparazzi off our trail. This was a Mia suggestion, so we’ll see how that goes.”

We get a quiet table for four in the corner, but honestly, nearly every table in the joint seems like a quiet table in the corner. We sit next to our wives instead of across from them, considering that we both would probably have preferred to have them in our laps at that moment. I occasionally steal a glance or two at my brother and notice how he cups Valerie’s cheek and kisses her softly but passionately. The love that I see reflected for her in his eyes, I’ve never seen before from him to another human being. It was only a matter of time before he would have made her his wife—tumor or not. I can’t help but recognize that the near-death and imminent death experiences that we’ve been facing have a way of making you zero in on what’s important and how short life really is. Elliot and I were just talking about Pops and how we’re all not-so-anxiously waiting for his transition.

One day, Pops is not going to be here. That fucking sucks.

I inadvertently squeeze my wife’s hand, thinking about how precious and short life can be. Elliot nearly lost the love of his life a few months ago and I nearly lost the love of mine late last year.

“Are you okay?” Butterfly says, only softly enough for me to hear her. I close my eyes and press my forehead against hers, clasping her hand tightly while my free hand cups the nape of her neck, pulling her to me.

“Do you know how much I love you?” I breathe, feeling my chest constrict a bit at the thought of her not being here with me. “How much I can’t live without you?”

“Yes!” she gasps, almost immediately, her hand pressing against my chest while fisting my lapels. I brush my lips against her cheek, then her temple.

“You’re my life, Anastasia,” I whisper, almost unable to breathe. “I’m so lucky I have you. I don’t know what I’d do without you…”

“You’ll never have to find out,” she breathes, moving her hand to my cheek and pulling back to look into my eyes. “You’ll never have to find out.”

I gaze into her eyes for several moments, wanting to her to know and feel how much I love her, how I know that I’m a fucking lucky bastard that she loves me, too; how there’s nothing in this world that I wouldn’t do for her, nothing I wouldn’t give her, nothing she couldn’t ask of me… nothing!

“You’re my king, Christian,” she says softly, cupping my face in both her hands. “You’re the man of my dreams… dreams I didn’t even know that I had. You’re in every cell of me—my blood and my breath… I… don’t have the words…” She sounds like her breath is leaving her.

“I know, baby,” I say pushing my hands into her hair. “I know.” I close my lips over hers, not giving a damn about the other diners in the restaurant, and it would appear that they don’t give a damn about us, either.

Our meal consists of numerous gourmet-sized servings of just about every dish on the menu. Butterfly and I spend the evening licking delightful creations off each other’s fingers like Magret duck breast with caviar, marbled king salmon with bok choy kimchi, and seared Pleasant View Farms foie gras, to name a few. We kept ordering more and more dishes until the chef had to come out and see the table that was eating everything on the menu. He complimented our meal choices and commented that real chefs appreciate patrons with healthy appetites and an appreciation for food. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that although everything he prepared was delicious, he could have set plain porridge in front of me and it would have been delectable when licked from my wife’s fingertips. It was even easy for us to forget that we had dinner companions, seeing that Elliot and Valerie were just as lost in each other as we were.

I think it may have to do with spending the last several weeks in your parents’ house in your old childhood bedroom, not able to really worship your wife like you want. That doesn’t say much for us that we’d gladly take them right here on the table save the threat of being arrested for indecent exposure.

I could barely wait to get my wife back into that posh limousine. I want to ravage her body right here and now, but I have to be satisfied with some R-rated groping on our way to a local nightclub. I wasn’t so sure about this locale—also suggested by Mia—but in the spirit of normalcy, we go anyway. I’d heard good and bad things about this place, but I decide to give it a chance.

It was all good…

Havana Social Club is semi-public/semi-exclusive, sporting pictures of all the former celebrities that have frequented the place in the past. There are tables to sit and have a drink and socialize as well as a bar—of course—and a dance floor. The four of us manage to secure seats at the bar since all the tables are taken. I’ve noticed that after two glasses of champagne in the limo and two glasses of wine at dinner, my wife is just a slight bit tipsy. Since she’s eaten and has been careful to hydrate herself at dinner, I see no harm in continuing the libations. Valerie is none too worse for wear either. So, our ladies each order a Cosmopolitan while planting themselves like tasty little morsels at the bar, causing their husbands to close in on them like lions guarding the pride.

“So,” I say, turning my attention to the enticing Anastasia Grey. I take a swallow of my beer, then set it on the bar. “Come here often?”

She turns a questioning gaze at me before raising her eyebrows. She takes a dainty sip of her drink before crossing her legs in my direction.

“No,” she replies. “This is my first time.”

“Mmm, your first time, huh?” I say suggestively. “First times can be sort of adventurous.”

“So I’m told,” she replies, dropping her head a bit and looking up at me through her lashes. I take another swallow of my beer and she takes a long sip of her drink.

“So, what’s your name?” I ask, keeping up our little charade.

“Ana,” she says, sweetly. “Yours?”

“My friends call me Chris,” I reply. Her eyebrow raises again and she smiles—a beautiful, toothy, pearly-white smile.

“Chris…” she says as if testing out the name. “I like that.”

Funny, but when she says it, I like it, too.

“So, Ana, what brings you here tonight?” I ask. I gesture to the bartender for another beer and another Cosmopolitan.

“Just getting out to let my hair down,” she says, bottoming out her drink.

“Really?” I ask. “Rough day?” She rolls her eyes and laughs.

“You have no idea,” she says, part serious, part mirthfully. When the bartender brings us another round, she swallows half of her drink immediately. That signals me that she needs this night out more than she let on.

“Well, I’m a good listener if you need to talk,” I say, bringing my hand closer to hers on the bar and gently caressing her finger with mine. Her eyes go to our touching hands before she looks up at me.

“Do you… normally pick up girls in bars?” she asks, her voice a little breathy.

“No,” I say, my voice seductive. “This is my first time.” She swallows hard.

“You’re good at it,” she breathes, then blinks as if to bring herself back from wherever she went. “I’m told… that first times can be sort of adventurous,” she adds, looking at our hands again.

“Let’s hope so,” I retort, softly. I hear her breath catch and watch her pupils dilate as she takes another sip of her drink. “So,” I continue, slightly closing the space between us, “have you ever gone home with a stranger?” She licks her lips and moves the hand that I was caressing, brushing her fingers demurely up her chest to her shoulder.

“Well, not usually… but there was this one time…” she trails off and shyly takes another drink.

“Mmm… tell me more,” I coax.

“Well, he… seemed nice,” she says, rimming her martini glass with her index finger. “Attractive, well-built, seductive, rich…”

“Wow,” I respond, “that’s quite the package. Hard to compete with that,” I say, mocking disappointment. “How’d that turn out?”

“We had sex,” she says almost immediately, flashing a hungry look at me.

“Oh… so… you put out on the first date,” I state. She shrugs, dipping her finger into her drink, then bringing it to her lips, sucking the alcohol off her finger… and my pants suddenly get tight.

“Not usually, but…” The finger slides out of her mouth and down between the open leather lacing of her dress. “… He was sort of… irresistible.” I raise my eyebrows.

“Really?” She nods, and leans in to me. “How so?”

“He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” she purrs, scooting closer to me on her bar stool.

“And that was?” I nearly growl.

“He told me that he wanted me and he knew that I wanted him, too.” Her eyes suddenly look dreamy as she recites our first night together. “Then he asked if we were going to continue to pretend that wasn’t what was going on between us or if I would let him take me to bed and give my body what it so richly deserved.”

Did I say that? Shit, I’ve got some great lines!

“He did, did he?” I say. “Well, it’s kind of hard to top that, but I can tell you this.” I slide off the bar stool and close the distance between us, leaning down to her ear. “I want you so bad, we may not make it to bed. We may not even make it out of the car.”

She gasps as I bring my face back to look her in the eyes. We’re caught in a lustful gaze for several moments before and exuberant Valerie interrupts our exchange.

“C’mon, Steele! Let’s shake it up a little!” she says, grabbing my wife’s hand and dragging her to the dance floor. Butterfly squeals happily and joins her friend as Bruno Mars starts to sing “Uptown Funk.” Elliot moves to the bar stool next to mine and we sit leaning our elbows on the bar while watching our women dance. Butterfly looks carefree and happy like a college kid—not a care in the world. Her hips swing back and forth in that way that drives me crazy.

My God, do I love to watch that woman move.

“So,” some guy to my left decides to strike up a conversation, “you struck out with that one, huh?” I turn my attention to my brother for a moment, then back to the guy on the other side. “They might be a couple, you never know,” he adds, watching our wives dancing with each other. I must admit, they do look good together. I take a swallow of my beer while Elliot just smirks next to me.

“Don’t feel bad, buddy,” he says, giving my shoulder a pat. “The hot ones are almost always taken, gay, or not interested.” He swigs his beer like he knows what he’s talking about. I wonder how many women in this club have shot him down tonight alone. When I don’t respond, he keeps talking. “Mind if I give it a go? I mean, maybe you’re just not her type.”

“Yeah, I think I would mind if you gave it a go,” I say, calmly. His brow furrows.

“Why?” he asks. “I mean, no harm if I give it a shot since you couldn’t seal the deal, huh?” he shrugs. I take another drink of my beer, and put the bottle on the bar.

“Well, it’s like you said, the hot ones are almost always taken, gay, or not interested. You just happen to be right about them.” I raise my hand and show him my art-deco wedding band. Realization dawns on his face as his eyes shoot past me to Elliot. I catch him out of my peripheral flashing the ring on his finger as well.

“Oh!” the guy says. “My bad, man.” I take another swallow of my beer.

“Don’t sweat it,” I tell him. “She is hot.” The guy laughs.

“Good on you, dude,” he says, clinking his bottle with mine before taking a swallow of his drink. Almost on cue, the song changes and my wife comes over to the bar, takes my jacket in both fists and drags me to the dance floor in a fit of giggles. I happily follow her as a base beat begins to play… and my wife is momentarily stunned. I think because she’s only seen me ballroom dance, she thought that’s all I could do. She’s surprised to see that I can match her moves with a few moves of my own.

The girl in the song starts to croon, her words coming so fast that I can’t understand anything that she’s saying, but I just pay attention to the beat, moving with my wife so that she doesn’t show me up. Her mouth falls open as I continue to move, opening both hands and gesturing her to come closer with my fingers. Her eyes accept the challenge and she walks right into my body, moving to the same beat.

Game on, baby.

I know my wife can dance, so I can’t half-do it on the dance floor next to her. Whoever said dancing was like sex was absolutely right, because my wife has this hair seduction thing that she does when she’s dancing that’ll have every man in the room salivating on himself—particularly me since she basically fucked me with that hair when we first met, fanning those chestnut locs all over my mouth and chest while she gave me an amazingly unbearable blowjob. Her hands slide behind her neck, lifting her hair as she closes her eyes and moves sensually to the music.

Oh, no, you don’t, Mrs. Grey.

I can finally make out the chorus of the dance beat and the crooning woman says something about wanting to get “2 on.” I grab my wife’s body with both hands and begin a slow descent down her body. I purposely brush my thumbs across each nipple on my way down and her eyes shoot open.

Now that I have your attention…

I continue the slow descent down her body until I’m crouching in front of her, my face right at her pussy. When I look up at her, she’s wantonly gazing at me, her mouth varying between open pants and lip biting. She put her hands on my shoulders to steady herself as I slowly begin the ascent back up her body, never taking my eyes of hers.

“Fuck,” she breathes as my hands brush up her calves, then her thighs, pushing her dress up as I inch my way back up her body. I release the hem of her dress as I reach her ass… can’t let the rest of the club get a look at that deliciousness.

“I love to get 2 on
I love to let’s roll
I love to get 2 on…”

I still don’t know what the hell the song is talking about, but my wife is all a-flutter by the time I make my way back up to her face. She’s brazenly licking her lips and breathing heavily as the song changes. She licks my bottom lip and bites it gently before she turns around and presses her body to mine, her back to my front. Damn… I think my plan backfired.

“And if, in the moment, I bite my lip
Baby, in that moment, you’ll know this
Is something bigger than us and beyond bliss…”

I slide my arms around her waist, meeting at her stomach. Her arms loop behind her and her hands caress my face as she grinds against me. She’s lost in the music, in her own world, and she’s taking me with her.

“’Cause if you want to keep me,
You gotta gotta gotta gotta got to love me harder
And if you really need me,
You gotta gotta gotta gotta got to love me harder…”

Shit, she’s making me want to do just that. I gently squeeze her hips to slow her movement, but it only seems to spurn her on. At first, she brushes gently against my groin—back and forth so that I feel her round ass gently grazing on the skin of my cock. I bite my lip and take a deep breath. Fuck, she feels good.

“When I get you moaning you know it’s real
Can you feel the pressure between your hips?
I’ll make it feel like the first time…”

She shifts her movement, her hands in the air, totally feeling the music and no doubt the buzz from all the drinks she had this evening.

And I’m totally feeling her ass—grinding relentlessly against my dick, now throbbing in my pants and threatening to blow against this nymph who has always been able to make me come, even fully clothed.

“Love me, love me, love me
Harder, harder, harder
Love me, love me, love me
Harder, harder, harder…”

I grab her hips and pull her body hard against me, stopping her movement before we both have a moment that we can’t avoid. She gasps as I pull her softness against my stiff body.

“Baby…” I warn, my voice gravelly, “stop… or you’re going to have a wet spot on the back of your dress.”

She giggles playfully, the alcohol still obviously stripping her of her inhibitions.

“Sorry,” she says, sweetly as she stops gyrating that luscious ass against my dick. I close my arms around her as, thankfully, a slow song starts to play. She wraps her arms around mine and lays back on my shoulder as I move her to the music. The moment the artist starts singing about loving his woman until she’s 70, I fold my body over my wife and think to myself that I’ll be loving her much longer than that…

“And I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Oh me, I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am…”

Suddenly, there’s no one else in the room as we curl into each other and sway. Song after song, I bury my face in her hair and lose myself in her scent. She turns around and wraps her arms around my neck and I hold her close to me. We move as one person until Sam Smith sings the last bars of “Stay with Me” and my brother taps me on my shoulder and breaks our little bubble.

“We gotta go, man,” he says, his voice anxious. I look at Valerie, who is unsuccessfully trying to clean up her smeared lipstick.

“I couldn’t agree more,” I tell him as I take my wife’s hand and we make our way out of the club.

We climb into the limo and luckily, the Fairmont Olympic is only five minutes away. Elliot and Valerie are out of the car before our wives have a chance to say Goodnight. I knock on the window as the signal for the driver to just drive before I immediately descend upon my wife.

“Christian…” she breathes and I can hear the protest in her voice. I press my finger against her lips.

“Sssshh,” I silence her. “I said we may not make it out of the car… I meant it!” I whisper. I bruise her lips with a hungry kiss and she moans into my mouth, grabbing handfuls of my hair. There’s plenty of room in this limousine and I want her now… no, not now… right now! I shrug out of my jacket before I pull her onto my lap. She’s still a bit inebriated from the nightclub and I have to say that I like her this way. Stumbling drunk is unacceptable, but tipsy is fun.

I make quick work of her zipper and slide her dress over her head, tossing it onto the other seat with my jacket. I make even quicker work of her bra and now she’s straddling me in just her thong and shoes.

“My God, these are beautiful,” I say, kissing the sides of both her lovely mounds. “So, Ana,” I say, playfully, while stroking her swollen breasts, “I see you’ve made it a habit of leaving with strangers.” She smiles coyly at me.

“Only handsome, sexy, rich strangers that give me their last name and make offers I can’t refuse…” She leans down to my ear. “… Like fucking in a limo.”

Oh, shit! Greystone is at full attention now.

I thrust my tongue in her mouth and kiss her deeply, grabbing her ass and grinding her against my erection. She moans deeply in her chest.

“You’ve got a fat pussy,” I say, keeping my rhythm. “I can feel it against my dick.”

“I… do?” she pants, licking her lips as she rises.

“Yes, you do… and I need to taste it. Unbutton my shirt.” She fumbles with the buttons, and finally gets them open, pulling my shirt out of my pants as I quickly lift her and turn, sitting her on the seat while I kneel between her legs. I quickly undo the last two buttons and my shirt joins our growing pile of clothes. I pull her ass to the edge of the soft leather seats and throw her knees over my shoulders. I can see the reflection in the tinted window of those sexy ass heels in the air, causing Greystone to pound even harder in his cotton prison.

Patience, boy. I’m hungry.

I lick her lips over the red thong, now drenched with her arousal, and her helpless keen coupled with her scent sends my mind into a tailspin. Fuck, what do I do with all this desire? I can’t fuck her yet. It’ll be over too soon.

“What do you want?” I say into her pussy.

“Ugh! Oh, God!” she cries. “You! I want you!”

“How do you want me?” I say, still breathing heat into her thong.

“Ohoho, God!” she whines. “Everything! I want everything!”

“Everything?” I say, still tormenting her as she squirms against me. “You sure about that?”

“Yes!” she screams, her thighs trembling. “Everything! Please!”

Well, then, everything you shall get.

She’s so responsive that I know her first orgasm is right there waiting for me, especially since I primed her earlier with the clothed foreplay, so I take it… right through her thong. I hum against her lips and breathe heat into her core. Seconds later, she’s screaming and clenching my hair, her legs trembling. Fuck, I love it when she’s like this! Before she comes down, I move her thong to the side and run my tongue over her naked clit.

“Oohohhohh, oh, God, please…” she protests, grabbing handfuls of my hair.

“Please, what?” I demand, still lathing my tongue over her clit. She arches her back and squirms.

“Please! Oh, God, please!” I know that she’s sensitive, but that means her second orgasm will come faster and I want more!

“You said ‘everything,’” I remind her, still talking against her clit. “This is ‘everything!’” I clamp my lips down on her clit and suck hard, careful to keep my teeth out of the way… for now. Her hips rise off the seat and I quickly grab her ass, holding her in that position to my face. She’s now pulling my hair hard, trying to stop the assault.

“Ah! Aaah!” No, no, no… there’s no escape for you, Mrs. Grey. I suck deep, giving her unbearable stimulation for several moments until…

“AaahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaohGoooooooood!” she cries out as her hips rise and she stiffens against my mouth. When she starts to tremble, I sit her butt on the seat to give her just a moment’s rest while I peel out of the rest of my clothes. I’m completely naked before she even has a chance to catch her breath and my dick is jutting up in the air seeking that “fat” pussy. I quickly flip her over on the seat so that her ass is sticking up in the air. I lick my lips in anticipation as I run the head of my dick over her clit from behind.

“You’re a bad girl, Ana,” I growl. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to get in cars with strangers?”

“My mother didn’t teach me shit!” she hisses, pushing her hips back so that her wet pussy rubs against the head of my dick.

“Not smart, Ana,” I hiss as my cock gets harder. “Not smart at all.”

“So, what the fuck are you going to do about it?” she snaps, and my dick is instantly as hard as stone. With one move, I pull back and slam into her pussy—deep… and hard!

“Aaaahh! Fuck!” she swears and I roar gutturally as the burn moves straight to my balls.

“Do you really want to taunt me, little lady?” I growl through clenched teeth.

“Is that all you got?” she goads from her throat and I can’t believe how hard she’s making me. I wrap one hand in her hair and grasp her shoulder with the other, pulling her back hard and mercilessly onto my angry dick. She braces herself against the seat back while I thrust, again and again, into her hot, wet pussy.

“Fuck!” I hiss as my abs start to tighten with the hint of the beginning of an orgasm.

“That’s it!” she pants. “Fuck me! Give it to me!”

Goddamn! I’ve got to get Cosmos into this woman more often. She is so fucking wet, I can hear my dick sloshing inside of her and her ass is slapping against me.

“You want everything, right?” I growl, still sliding wetly in and out of her.

“Every-fucking-thing!” she confirms with a matching growl. My dick slips out of her pussy and I begin to play with her rosette with the head. I release her shoulder so that I can gather some of her dripping wetness and spread it over her ass. Unable to control my heavy breathing in anticipation of taking her ass, I bite my lip and stiffen as I slowly start to push into her tight anal opening. She’s panting, too, now, pushing back onto me to rush the penetration. I drop my head back and try to absorb the pleasure as she’s so tight, I can feel her on every inch of the skin on my shaft. Too fucking good… Then, she surprises me by pushing all the way back on my dick, taking me to the balls in her ass.

“Fuuuuuck!” I growl, releasing her hair and squeezing her hips with both hands, my fingers sinking deep into the meat. “Fuck! Oh, fuck! Fuck!”

“Something wrong there, Chris?” she taunts. Shit! That shit is hot. I pull back and thrust into her ass.

“Yeah… fuck, yeah… this ass is too goddamn tight. I’m fucking going to come in your tight, little ass. You want that, Ana? Huh? You want that?” I thrust over and over, watching my dick get harder and pinker as it slides in and out of her ass.

“Show me what you got, lover boy,” she taunts, and my hand is back in her hair, the long tresses wrapped around my fist while the other is still digging into her hips.

“I got a big ass load coming for you, baby,” I say, pumping feverishly in her ass and feeling the tightening in my balls and abs again. “Oh, yeah, baby, fuck… it’s coming… it’s fucking coming…”

“Fuck me… harder! I want to feel you throbbing in my ass!”

That was it. I don’t know if it took three more strokes, but I was thumping hard in her ass, my cum spurting hot and angry inside of her, my abs flexing and pulsing while the muscles and veins in my thighs threaten to burst out of my skin. I’m coming so hard that I had to look down and watch and god-damn if it wasn’t the hottest fucking thing I’ve ever seen—my dick pulsing so hard and filling that ass so much that the semen is seeping out around the head; my muscles so tight with the orgasm that I can see and feel every sweat-drenched sinew. Fucking hell… I can see myself jacking off to this scene in the future.

“Shit, baby, shit… this ass! This fucking ass!” I protest through clenched teeth as the last of my orgasm squirts out of me, but my erection doesn’t wane. I take a moment to catch my breath before removing my still-hard dick from her ass, then retrieving napkins from the bar nearby to clean the dripping cum from her thighs and ass. I have to find something to clean my dick, because I plan on getting back in that pussy again. I’ll use water from the mini-bar and some of this champagne if I have to. I start looking through the two large drawers at the bottom of the bar and find a fucking treasure trove.

“Well, fuck me,” I exclaim in mirth.

“I thought I just did,” she retorts.

“No, I fucked you, but it’s not over yet.” I hear her scoff as I remove supplies from bottom drawer. She’s surprised when she feels moist wetness against her thighs and ass.

“What’s that?” she exclaims.

“The bottom drawer down here is full of condoms and individually wrapped sanitary wipes,” I tell her, opening another wipe and thoroughly cleaning my dick and balls. She gasps.

“You’re kidding,” she says, trying to look over her shoulder. I push her back down into the leather seat.

“Oh, no,” I warn. “I’m not done with you yet…”

And off we go. I take her from behind again, stroking my unrelenting erection into that sweet pussy again and again while she sits on my lap. I’m slowly building to another orgasm while I’m tweaking those sweet, taught nipples and cupping her breasts, watching her reflection in the tinted glass. My wife suddenly rises from my lap and sits back on the leather seat. Her ass is right at the edge and her legs are on either side of me, her feet wedged into a banister on the bar behind me right at my hips, still in those sexy ass shoes.

“C’mon,” she teases through her teeth. “Don’t stop now.” She glares at me seductively through banshee hair falling over her face. Fuck, she’s so fucking hot!

I raise up a bit on my knees and guide my eager shaft back into her pussy. I reach for her hips for traction and she protests.

“Don’t touch me,” she commands, “just fuck me!”

FuckingshithellfuckinghellsweetmotherMaryI’mgoingtodie.

I run my tongue across my teeth and thrust hard up into her, bracing my hands on the same banister that she’s bracing her feet against.

“There it is,” she growls primally. “That’s it. Make that dick work. Make me feel it.” I grind my teeth.

“You’re playing with fire, little girl,” I hiss as my dick prods deep into her. She raises an eyebrow.

“Little girl?” she taunts, lifting her hips from the leather seat. “Is that so?”

Oh, shit… what the fuck have I done?

The muscles in her arms tighten and become more impressive than any man I’ve ever seen as she balances her weight on her arms and drops that pussy relentlessly down on me. In the position I’m in, I can’t move. I can’t do anything but sit here and take it.

“I got your fucking little girl right here, big boy!” she hisses as her hips roll, grind, and drop mercilessly on my waiting, hard-as-steel dick. I’m trying to not pant like a little bitch, but she is working the fuck outta me. My dick doesn’t stand a chance.

“Yes… fuck!” I want to watch my dick, but I’m too busy watching her, glaring at me, challenging me while fucking me senseless, angrily pulling on my oh-so-willing cock with pelvic muscles that threaten to squeeze the life out of me… literally!

“Trying to show me up, Ana?” I grunt, attempting to hold on to what little manhood I have left.

“Not trying… doing… Chrisssss!” Oooohhh, fucking hell.

“Say it again,” I demand. I liked it when she said that name in the bar. I like it even more now.

“Chris!” she growls. Oh, fuck, I like that a lot! I lean back on the banister, angling myself for deep penetration.

“Again!” I hiss.

“Chris!” she breathes, dropping her head back and grinding hard on my cock. “Fuck, Chris, you’re so big!”

That shit sends a jolt through me. She’s riding my dick hard. Her naked body is writhing in front of me. She’s holding her head back and calling me Chris. Fucking hell.

“I’m gonna come!” I say through gritted teeth. She raises her head and glares at me with sharp blue eyes, her hair cascading over her shoulders and breasts and partially over her face.

“Then come, Chris!” she hisses, while writhing and riding on my dick. “Come real hard. I wanna feel you fill me up! Come on, give it to me, Chris.”

“Fuck!” She’s staring at me with those sexy ass fuck-me eyes and the orgasm that at first promised to be massive now vows to be cosmic.

“Dammit! You sexy bitch!” I croak before I can stop myself. Her tongue darts out of her mouth and she smiles devilishly.

“Chris!” she scolds as she continues to torment my shaft. “Language! You’re a bad boy!” she taunts. “Now empty those balls for me. Come on, I want to feel that cock throbbing inside of me. I want you to feel this nut in your goddamn eyelashes! Now stop holding back and give it to me.”

Oh, fuck… I’m doomed.

“Ah! Oh, God,” I whimper. She takes my hesitance as resistance and wraps herself around me like a vine, just like she did that first night against her dining room wall—and I’m fucking helpless. I couldn’t escape then and I really can’t escape now. Her thighs are locked on my hips and one arm is wrapped tight around my neck, her hand thrust into my hair. I think the other is grasping the bar.

“C’mon, Chris,” she hisses in my ear. “You know those balls are gettin’ tight. That dick is probably purple and painful inside my hot pussy. Can you feel me squeezing you? I know you can…”

Fuck, she’s going to kill me. She’s not even concerned about her own orgasm anymore.

“Ana…” I gasp.

“Ssshh,” she chides. “No talking… just listen… and feel!” she hisses. “Feel your dick rubbing against my walls—hot and wet and pulsing, ready for your cum. Stop teasing me! Give it to me! Give me what I want!” she demands.

I feel a gripping sensation from the top of my neck all the way down to the base of my spine. Fuck, what the hell is this? My feet slip from under me and I crash to my knees, but she still doesn’t stop. I grunt with each of her thrusts and I’m becoming one large sensation. I can’t tell the difference between my body parts anymore.

“That’s it… that’s it… Fuck, Chris, I didn’t think you could get any harder. Shit that feels so good… I’m not gonna come, Chris. I’m not gonna stop… I’m not gonna stop until you come!”

My grunts become long, breathless moans that match the agonizing pleasure that she brings with each grind.

“Fu… fu… fu…” I can’t even say the whole word. When I start gasping for air, she violently tightens her hand in my hair, pulls my head to the side, and sinks her teeth into my exposed neck.

My entire body combusts with the force of Mount St. Helens and everything but my lungs and arms are paralyzed with pleasure. I wrap my arms ferociously around her, trying and failing to hold her in place while my dick swells and thumps and erupts angrily inside of her. All the air in my lungs finally rips from my throat in cries for mercy as a never-ending orgasm send chills, heat, pain, and ecstasy throughout my entire body.

“Ah… uh… ah… ah… ah… uh…” I can’t get a full breath in and she’s not showing any mercy. She’s moving hard, hot and fast on my dick like I’m not coming hard enough to shoot her brains from here to Jupiter.

And my dick’s still not going down.

“Please! Oh, please, please! Please!” My balls won’t stop throbbing and she won’t stop moving. You would think I was storing up cum like chipmunks store up nuts for the winter! She slows her stroke, but doesn’t stop.

“What’s the matter, Chris?” she says in my ear. “You… wanted to… give me everything… I just… want to give it back.” I hear the pleasure in her voice. She’s not going to let up on me, and Greystone isn’t stopping… What the fuck?

“Baby… please…” I pant, almost mindless with surrender. I don’t know that I can take anymore, and after all that, I still feel an orgasm in my back!

“I’ll stop… if you will… you’re getting harder… I feel it… You’re getting harder inside of me…”

She’s fucking relentless, and my dick won’t go down. Fucking hell, I’m dying here!

“Hoh, God,” I yield, giving in to the fact that this ain’t over til she says it’s over.

“That’s it, Chris,” she says, sweetly. “Give in to me… you’re mine, now.”

And here I thought I was in control.

She rides for only a few more minutes before…

“I’m coming, baby… I’m coming on that hard dick… Can you feel it? I’m… I’m… fuuuuuuuuuck!”

Hell, yeah, I can feel it! And with that vise-grip-pulsing pussy, that orgasm in my back finally makes its appearance.

“God-damn!” I yell as she screams incoherently through her release… releases… I don’t know. I get the strength to turn her and plop her onto the floor, driving into her hard while my dick beats a mean tattoo inside her.

“Yes! Yes! Fuck, yes!” she screams, her nails digging into my arms.

I honestly don’t know which one of us taps out first. I just know that when I come back to myself, we’re coiled around each other on the floor, both sweating and panting and unable to move. I reach for my suit jacket and throw it over our bodies to give us time to catch our breath.


ANASTASIA

The limo driver drops us off at Escala. It’s easier than trying to get back to Grey Crossing after having driven around nearly all night. He seemed very pleased with the tip that Christian gave him, so I didn’t feel too bad for him having to drive around.

We still can’t keep our hands off each other during the ride up the elevator or while walking through the great room to get to our old bedroom. It’s not that we’re necessarily horny. We’re just very amorous. I’ve long since burned off the alcohol from earlier in the evening, but his reaction to me calling him Chris… fuck, that was cosmic. Will he be thinking about that when guys call him Chris from now on?

He strips me naked before shedding his clothes and we both climb into bed. I don’t know that I can say that this was the best sex we’ve ever had, but it was pretty damn close and probably the most fun—most likely because we’ve been so stressed out for the last couple of months. I expect for us both to fall right to sleep, but it doesn’t happen. I turn around to face him and we start to kiss again.

“Baby,” he says, getting my attention. “I need to be inside you.”

“Christian, you can’t possibly…” I begin to protest.

“No,” he says. “I don’t need to come. I just need to be inside you.” My brow furrows.

“What?” I ask, bemused.

“I don’t know why, but I just know… I won’t able to sleep tonight if I’m not inside of you.” I don’t get it, but I’m positive that this is going to lead to sex again. I never deny my husband, no matter how his sex drive might outlast mine, so…

“Okay,” I say with a sigh. He lifts my leg over his hip and pulls me close to him. His dick is semi-erect and he has no problem slipping it into my recently-well-used pussy. We both inhale deeply as he slides inside and I ready myself for round four… or five… or twelve, whichever one this will be. He snuggles close to me sinks in deep inside of me. He kisses me softly, then buries his head in my neck.

“Goodnight, baby,” he says, holding me in that position. That’s it? He’s really going to just go to sleep like this?

“Goodnight,” I say skeptically and guess what happens?

We fall asleep!

*-*

I wake before he does the next morning and we are still in the same position, only I forget that he’s inside me…

And he has morning wood.

I immediately ignite at the feel of him like we didn’t just fuck nearly all night the night before! I try to think about rainbows and donkeys, my children, Carrick’s horrible brother Freeman—nothing helps! My pussy is pulsing like a goddamn alarm clock… and Christian’s eyes fly open just like he heard it.

“Uh… morning,” I say, trying to act casual. He just looks at me and says nothing, then he brushes his lips across mine without closing his eyes. Then he kisses me without closing his eyes. Next, in one smooth move, he rolls me on top of him and starts to stroke gently. I gasp, because I’m still tender.

“Ssh,” he quiets me, his arms wrapped gently around me. “Relax,” he whispers. I do, and let him stroke into me.

“Lay on my shoulder,” he says, and I comply, still allowing him to stroke into me. He turns his head towards me and kisses me gently, and again, and soon, I’m rising slowly.

“Relax, baby,” he breathes. “Our bodies call to one another no matter what we may do.” Sure enough, a few moments later, I’m bursting into a satisfied release and he follows soon after—nothing cosmic and crazy, just something to take the edge off. We breathe through our orgasms and look at each other.

“Better?” he asks, stroking my back.

“Better,” I say.

“We’ve been too stressed out, Butterfly,” he says.

“I know,” I tell him.

“We have to find a way to do better,” he warns.

A lot of the stuff that we were dealing with is gone now,” I tell him. “We only have one big thing left to deal with.” I sigh.

“And a really big thing it is,” he says, and I burrow my head into his chest.

*-*

Jason picks Christian up from the penthouse and takes him in to Grey House while Chuck takes me back to Grey Manor. I can’t wait to see my babies, but they’re asleep when I arrive, so I have to wait until the mid-morning feeding for “twin-time.” I’m relaxed and loose as a noodle, though, and trying to make heads or tails of a somewhat strange request from the licensing board when Valerie comes into the dining room with her iPad.

“Have you seen this?” she asks and hands me her iPad. There are separate pictures of me and Christian and of Val and Elliot at the Havana Social Club last night, all of us behaving just barely acceptably on the dance floor. I was so lost in Christian that I didn’t even notice Val and Elliot getting a serious bump and grind going to the music. The accompanying blurb proves that we had absolutely no idea that we were the subject of someone’s photo shoot.

What are they putting in the drinks at Havana? Whatever it is, I’ll have a double. Sexy couples can be found grinding and groping on the dance floor on a Sunday Night at the local hot spot, including some of Seattle’s elite. Christian and Anastasia Grey—AKA AnaChris—are pictured above getting frisky and saucy and showing off their moves while Christian’s brother, Elliot Grey, and his new wife, Valerie, are pictured above at right getting just as hot and heavy in the moderately lit nightclub. Club goers confirm that AnaChris and ValLiot spent the evening in longing, lustful gazes with their significant others while sipping fashionable cocktails before heating up the dance floor and leaving well into the night. Will we be hearing the pitter-patter of little feet again soon? If there are more heirs to the Grey fortune born next April, remember that you heard it here, first!

“ValLiot?” Val exclaims in horror. “What the fuck is ValLiot? It sounds like some new drug to treat depression or erectile dysfunction or something! Can’t get it up? Ask your doctor about ValLiot.” She says the last part in a soft, commercial-type voice. “’ValLiot…’ good God, give me a break.” I can’t help my chuckle.

“At least they didn’t name you after the Destroyer of All Good Things. Hell, our name sounds like the first coming of the False Prophet! Beware the AnaChris! God shall smite thee!” My voice sounds more like Moses coming down from the Mount with the tablets. Val laughs this time.

“True, true,” she says. “Good Lord, famous by association.”

“Somewhat, but you married a Grey… welcome to the limelight, my friend.” Val rolls her eyes. “Remember when we talked about things changing?” I said. “Yeah, well, expect your security detail soon.” Her brow furrows.

“Oh, no, really?” she laments. I nod.

“Really,” I say. “Wanna get out while the gettin’s good?” She raises an eyebrow at me.

“Not on your fucking life.”

“Okay, what did I walk in on?” Mia’s voice cautiously interrupts us. I snicker and hand Mia Val’s iPad.

“Guess who got a new nickname?” I tease. Mia looks at the article and raises her eyes to Val.

“ValLiot??” she says in disbelief. “Seriously?”

“Seriously,” Val says, somewhat dismayed, falling down in one of the dining chairs. “God, they really need to get over this whole name-merge thing. It’s so Bennifer. What was that, like ten years ago?”

“Try twelve,” I correct her before turning back to Mia. “I was just telling Val to be prepared for her security detail any day now,” I declare with a smile. Mia hands the iPad back to Val.

“Are you ready for that?” she says. Val shrugs.

“It’s not like I have a choice,” she says. “The limelight has found me even though I wasn’t looking for it.” She shrugs. “They’re going to be pretty bored with me, though. Lately, my schedule involves doctor’s appointments, vegging out, and yoga.” She looks at her hands admiring her new French manicure. I, on the other hand, am paying close attention to Mia.

“What is it, Mia?” I ask. Mia sighs a cliché sigh, yet not so cliché…

“My wedding is in two and a half months… and Grampa is dying. The final dress fitting is this weekend—I’ve put it off as long as I can—but my Grandpa is dying. How can I possibly run around happily planning my wedding and finalizing caterers and cakes and DJs and whatnot when my Grandpa is dying? I’ve been thinking about postponing the wedding until… well, you know…”

“Until when, Mia?” I ask. “Until after Pops dies? I’m sorry to tell you this, Mia, but there’s no way Pops is going to make it to your wedding. I understand what you’re saying, but if you keep the date, you’re going to be getting married no less than a month after Pops dies… What do you think Pops would want you to do?”

“He’s already told me what to do,” she says. “He said to have the wedding. I told him that I wanted to spend time with him while I can. He scolded me.”

“He scolded you?” Val asks with a frown. Mia nods.

“He said, ‘these aren’t quality moments. Don’t spend time with the dying, child. Spend time with the living. Remember our moments when I was alive, not these times when I’m wasting away waiting to meet my maker.’” A tear falls from her eye. She sits at the dining table and quickly wipes it away. “I’ve only had my grandfather for a year. I never got the chance to bounce on his knee or listen to his bad jokes or tales about the good ole days. He was already sick when he got here. You have no idea how much I prayed and prayed for him to get better… for one of us to be a match so that he could get a kidney. In this whole nation, they couldn’t find someone who was a match for my Grampa. Thousands of people who flow through UNOS, and they couldn’t find one kidney for my Grampa.” She shakes her head. Val puts an arm around her.

“It’s not the easiest thing to hear,” I tell her, “but sometimes, it’s just that way. It’s harder to swallow when you’re watching it happen to someone that you love, but it’s still a bitter truth. Pops has been on dialysis for years. His body just can’t take it anymore.” I reach across and take her hand.

“I know you want things to be different. I know you want that kidney to magically appear for Pops, to be able to have him around for a little while longer, but it’s just not in the stars… and he’s at peace with it, Mia. He misses his wife and he’s ready for the suffering to be over. Quite frankly, I think you should take his advice and continue with your wedding plans, but if you really want a solid opinion on this, you should ask your parents.” She sniffles a bit, still wiping her eyes, but nods at my suggestion.

“I just don’t want to be disrespectful… planning a cake tasting or something at the very moment my Grampa is slipping away.” A shiver runs through her, visibly shaking her entire body. “I only gave him those vitamin drinks because I love him,” she says, weeping bitterly.

Vitamin drinks? What is she talking about?

Val envelopes Mia in her arms as she sobs, releasing a sorrow and sadness that she’s obviously been holding in for quite some time. I continue to squeeze her hand, vicariously feeling her immense sense of loss. Hell, my mother wasn’t even at my wedding. Who gets married without their mom?

But my mom isn’t dead. My mom is in Vegas, being a selfish bitch. Pops is going to die and never come back. He’ll be gone and we can’t run to his side and wish him better and talk to him and try not to feel sad because he’s feeling badly. No, he’s leaving for good.

This will be my first real experience with death. Steven, the walking moonshine still, doesn’t count. I was never close to Melanie, my dignity therapy patient and the one who ultimately blew the lid off the Green Valley case, even though I was present when she died. Edward—my psycho ex—was even less significant that Steven.

“I know it’s hard to try to move on, Meelo,” I begin, my voice full of sympathy, “but at the risk of sounding too detached, life does go on. Pops doesn’t want his last days to be about him dying, not even to him. He wants them to be a reflection of life—his and everyone else’s. If we all walk around looking over our shoulders for the Angel of Death, it would make his last days very miserable. I think that’s what he was trying to tell you. He was trying to tell you not to dwell with the dying, but to live with the living. Even Pops isn’t dwelling with the dying. We always talk about his wife and the life they had together, about where she is now and them being reunited. He never talks about his deteriorating state or his discomfort. He talks about living. Another. Life.”

I say the last part slowly because I want her to see Pops’ passing for what it is—a transition, a graduation of sorts to another realm that we’ll all one day have to do. She sniffs and nods through her sobs as I squeeze her hand. Several seconds later, she raises her eyes to me. I can’t quite read her expression.

“What?” I ask concerned.

“You… called me Meelo,she says softly. Did I? I didn’t intend to… “Nobody calls me Meelo, but Christian,” she adds. I suddenly feel very self-conscious. I open my mouth to apologize when she smiles and says, “I’ve always wanted a sister.” I sigh heavily and return her smile before she turns to Val and squeezes her hand, too.

“And now I have two,” she adds. Val smiles widely. We all share a moment, before I say,

“Talk to Grace and Carrick. See how they feel. Then share as many details of the planning as he can stand with Pops. I’m sure he’d much rather be a part of life than death right now.” She smiles softly and nods.

“It makes sense,” she says. “I will.”

“Well,” Val begins, while squeezing her hand. “I know you’re marrying a Kavanaugh, but you’re a Grey right now. Get ready for your name merge once the society page gets their claws into you.” Mia scowls.

“Oh, good God, what the hell do you think they’ll come up with for us?” she laments. We all look at each other for a moment before the three of us say it unison.

Methan.”


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

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 76—Happy Endings… er, Beginnings

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

Chapter 76—Happy Endings… er, Beginnings

ANASTASIA

“I can’t do this.”

The words ring out over the crowd as if he were speaking through a bullhorn, but Al’s voice is barely audible as he says the words. Christian and I make eye contact and we—along with everyone else in attendance—can barely believe our ears.

“What?” James says, in disbelief, his expression shattered, his voice even less audible than Al’s moments before. “Allie?” Al raises his eyes to his fiancé before he quickly grabs James’ hand, his eyes large with realization.

“Baby, I’m sorry. That’s not what I meant!” Al says apologetically. He gently leads James aside, away from prying eyes and ears. I’m positioned in front of the Justice of the Peace in a beautiful creation that Al chose for me to wear to stand with him as his Matron of Honor. Christian stands directly across from me as James’ best man since his best friend Cedric is out of town this weekend and couldn’t make the ceremony.

Murmuring has begun among the partygoers as we all wait anxiously to see what’s going on with the grooms-to-be. Al has his back to us and I try to read James’ expression, but he gives nothing away as Al speaks to him. After several moments, James closes his eyes and nods, and I can’t tell if it’s reservation or relief on his face. Al turns around and gestures to Christian to join them. Christian looks at me and shrugs before walking over to Al and what looks like a forlorn James, whose gaze remains downcast.

I’m still getting nothing from the exchange from the three men, but after a minute or so, Christian comes over and says something to the Justice of the Peace. She nods and walks over and joins James and Al before following them back into the house. Christian has a brief conversation with Jason, who nods and gestures to other members of security. Before I can find out what was said and what’s going on, Christian takes me by the hand and hurriedly rushes me towards the house.

“Come on,” is all he says as he hurries me along.

“What? Where are we going?” I ask. My best friend is supposed to be getting married. What’s going on?

“I can’t tell you, but you better come on,” he says, dragging me behind him through the house, through the mudroom and into the garage. James’ Mercedes is already gone… oh, shit. What’s going on? Christian holds the door open for me so that I can get into the RS7. I hesitate, but he gives me a look that lets me know that there will be consequences if I don’t get my ass in the car. I roll my eyes and get into the car, more than a little perturbed that he won’t tell me what’s going on. We ride in silence for about ten minutes before his phone rings and he answers the line through the docking station.

“Yeah,” he says.

“Where are you?” Al’s voice bellows through the car speakers.

“About five minutes away,” Christian replies.

“Allen Michael Forsythe, what the hell is going on?” I demand. There’s silence for a minute.

“You didn’t tell her??” Al’s voice portrays utter horror.

“You told me not to!” Christian defends.

“I told you not to tell anybody. How could you not tell Jewel?”

“Jewel is somebody!” Christian retorts.

“She’s coming with you!! Why wouldn’t you tell her?” Al is getting more and more flustered.

“Well, we’re almost there, now, so she’ll know in a minute,” Christian says, shutting the conversation down. Al sighs.

“Chris, you’re an idiot.” And he ends the call. I just shake my head. Wherever we’re going, we’ll be there in a minute, so I’ll know what’s going on shortly. I’m quite surprised to find us pulling up at Seattle General.

Why the hell are we here?

We go inside and head to the elevators that lead to the private rooms on the cancer unit.

The cancer unit… of course.

“He couldn’t do it,” I say, finally realizing what’s going on. “After all the planning and all the preparation, he couldn’t say the vows without her.” I look at Christian and he nods.

“I misunderstood when he said don’t tell anybody. I guess that didn’t include you and I’m sorry, but of course you can’t tell a house full of guests that you’re blowing them all off for one person.” I nod.

“No, I suppose you can’t,” I say. “They’ll be fine until we get back. There’s plenty of food and booze to go around.”

Valerie has been moved to a much nicer, much larger room on the cancer unit of the hospital since she’s improved enough to leave ICU. She’s still not completely out of the woods and has begun radiation and chemotherapy, but she’s nowhere near well enough to leave the hospital yet. Al and I have spent every free waking moment here with her catching up and making up for lost time. We all planned the party of the century for Al and James’ wedding today with Val being her usual bossy self, throwing in fabulous ideas for themes and decorations. It turned out to be an unusually beautiful spring day in Washington, completely accommodating for my best friend’s wedding, and as much as we wanted everything to be perfect—knew everything would be perfect, it wasn’t perfect without Val.

“What… are you doing here?” she says softly when we enter her room. She looks at the clock and back at James and Al, complete in their Calvin Klein best and me and Christian not far behind. “It’s not even 3:30 yet… I know the ceremony can’t be finished that soon.” She’s a little tired and Elliot is in bed with her, cradling her close to him, her bald head resting on his chest. Al walks over to her and takes her hand, kissing it reverently.

“It hasn’t even started yet,” he tells her. Val’s eyes grow large as the Justice of the Peace walks into the room. “I had my Matron of Honor with me, but I didn’t have my Best Girl. I can’t get married without my Best Girl.”

I’m not sure from where she got it, but the Justice of the Peace produces a crown of daisies attached to a band of lace and Al places it gently on Val’s bald head. Of course, she smiles weakly and starts to cry, as do I.

“Now, we can get married,” Al says.

“Not without us!” Phil and Maxie breach the doorway with Gary and Marilyn close behind. I don’t ask where Mindy is because I know she wouldn’t be allowed on the cancer unit.

“I thought you said you didn’t tell anybody,” James jests.

“He didn’t,” Gary says. “You guys are predictable. Jason with that ‘nothing to worry about, folks—there’s been a slight delay’ bullshit and the entire wedding party disappears, including the officiant. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that shit out—just someone who knows you well enough. Now let’s get this show on the road before the entire reception shows up at the door.”

There really wasn’t anything else to say—or do—except to start the ceremony. Al and James face each other at Val’s bedside, with Christian and I standing close-by, and our friends huddled in corners wherever they can fit. There are way too many people in this room, so we just hope we can complete the ceremony before the doctor comes by and kicks us out. Bearing this fact in mind, the Justice of the Peace speaks softly.

“Well, this is certainly not the most unique ceremony I’ve performed, but it is one of the most touching,” she begins with a smile. “It always amazes me what people are willing to do to show how much they love one another and how important it is to share this moment with the special people in their lives, no matter the obstacles. Today, Allen and James have chosen to join together and share their lives, no longer choosing to live as two men, but as one being, one heart, one soul, in love and in life, in the eyes of the law and of family and friends. They have asked these people present to recognize and bless their union.

“I ask that you face one another and take the other’s hand.” Al and James face each other and join hands. “You are holding the hand of your best friend, your life mate, the one that will carry you and love you through the years when no one else will—through the storms of sickness and distress and through the fair weather of joy and happiness. These hands will bear your burdens, share your pain, build your life with you; support and uphold your dreams, defend you against all enemies, comfort you in times of sorrow and rejoice with you in times of celebration. Hold fast to these hands, for there will be none other like them from this day forward.”

James and Al both gaze into each other eyes, consciously stroking the other’s hands with their thumbs.

“And now, James and Allen would like to exchange their own vows.” James takes a deep breath and releases it before he begins to speak.

“Once upon a time, there was a man who traveled a very long way to find his fortune in life. He was heartbroken and downtrodden and only wanted to find happiness. He began to put the pieces of his rugged and ragged life together and thought he had found the happiness he was searching for only to have his heart ripped apart once more. He gave up, focused only on working and trying to be successful, making something of himself so that he would never have to return to his roots.

“One day, in a casual and chance encounter, he set eyes on a sandy-haired, brown-eyed boy who took his breath away. He was afraid to say anything to him, afraid to approach him and resolved himself to only admire the gorgeous creature from across the room in one of the worst cliché moments you can ever imagine.” Soft giggles rumble across the room. “Alas, the sandy-haired beauty put the man out of his misery and closed the distance between them that night. From that moment, the man knew that he could never be separated from him again.

“You took chunks of your beautiful heart, shoved them into the holes of my damaged one and made me whole again. Where I was bleeding… dying… you saved me. You are my life… my love. I breathe you, Allen. I’ll never be without you. I’ll always be with you. I’ll always love you. I’ll always belong to you, protect you, comfort you, cherish you—from now and forever, you are mine… and I am yours.”

There aren’t many dry eyes in the room. Even the men are a little misty, even if they won’t admit it. At the very least, they’re quite amorous, looking adoringly at their significant others, stroking their hands or kissing temples or foreheads. Allen is totally tearstained as he attempts to compose himself to recite his vows. By now, a small crowd of nurses and staff have gathered at the door, most likely originally intent on emptying the room of the too many occupants, but thinking better of it upon observing the ceremony inside.

“I…” Al begins with a shuddering breath. “I never thought in a million years that I would get married. I spent most of my life denying my sexuality… trying to be something that I wasn’t. When I finally accepted who I was, those around me couldn’t with the exception of a chosen few.” He throws an adoring gaze at me. “I struggled so hard just… to find myself… I never thought… never expected to find love. I was grasping…”

His voice breaks. He gets choked up and has a hard time getting his words out. James squeezes his hand and reaches to his face, gently stroking his tear-stained cheek—more for encouragement than to wipe away his tears.

“I was grasping at whatever happiness I could get, no matter how brief. Whatever ray of sunshine God would give me, I would accept, even if… if He chose to take it away…” Al’s voice cracks so hard that the last words are almost inaudible. Tears are flowing freely down James’ cheeks and one hand cups Al’s face, his eyes downcast as he can barely get his words out.

“Loss after loss after loss,” he chokes, “I couldn’t see how anything good would ever be for me, and then… He gave me you…” He’s weeping full-on now and the entire room is silent as Al pours his heart out to the man he loves.

“Allie…” James breathes, unable to bear his love’s pain anymore. Al shakes his head to silence him.

“I love you,” Al weeps. “I’ll strive every day to be worthy of you, to be worthy of the gift that God has given me… I’ll truly cherish every single moment that I have with you because you are so, so precious to me, more than you’ll ever know. You say that I saved you, but you saved me! You saved me, Jimmy, and I will love you for the rest of my life and when I’m gone, my soul will continue to love you for all eternity. I am bound to you until the universe ceases to exist, my love. Mere words are not enough… my life, my body, my soul… are yours.”

Audible weeping can be heard in the room and the hallway. There’s more love in this small space than I think this little room is able to hold. I’m delighted to see that Marilyn, Gary, Phil, and Maxie all had the wherewithal to pull out their cell phones and record as I was pulled from the house so quickly, I didn’t even have time to get my purse.

“Well,” the officiant says breathily. “Where are the rings?”

Al and James exchange wedding rings with traditional vows, as much as my best friend can choke them out over his emotional tears. I’m so glad there was no make-up involved in his wardrobe because he would be completely melted right now.

“In as much as Allen and James have pledged to spend their lives together by the exchanging of vows and the giving of rings, by the powers vested in me by the state of Washington, I now pronounce that they are married. Gentlemen, you may salute your groom.”

James cups Allen’s face and places a tender, yet passionate kiss on his lips. Allen melts into his husband, grasping his lapels and absorbing his love as a quiet applause sweeps through the room. Elliot gently wipes tears from Val’s eyes and kisses her head and she smiles, watching the happy couple share this tender moment. James breaks the kiss, smiling lovingly at his husband as he removes a handkerchief from his inside pocket.

“Don’t cry, my prince,” he says softly to Al, still cupping his face and drying his tears. “You’re my husband. There’s no getting rid of me now.” Al chokes a laughing sob and nods at his new husband.

“As if,” he says, his voice thick with his tears. Congratulations are given from the various members of the staff and, as expected, Dr. Hill comes in to tell us that we can only have a few more minutes, then we have to allow Valerie to get her rest. She had a rough bout of radiation today and although she took it like a trooper, she’s tired. We quickly take as many pictures with her as we can before leaving her to rest, promising to come by to check on her tomorrow, like we do every day… except maybe for Al as he and James will be leaving for their honeymoon in Bali.

Being the orator that he is, Al extends the apologies to the guests back at Grey Crossing when we arrive, explaining that he couldn’t enjoy the ceremony while his beloved friend was ill in the hospital completely unable to attend. The sentiment was generally well-received and for those who didn’t like it, fuck ‘em. The only guests that remained were some people from James’ job, some staff from GEH, some of the attorneys from Al’s old office, and the usual suspects—the Greys, Luma, Marlow’s family, Daddy, etc.

“Well, I would have liked to see the ceremony, but I’m glad you guys are happy,” Mia says, kissing Al on the cheek and giving James a hug. “Let me see the rings!”

I must admit that I did expect for Al to be a bit more extravagant when it came to this day, especially when we gave him carte blanche with the Crossing. Surprisingly, he, like James, is more conservative than I thought. Their wedding theme is black and white—opulent, but simple. He and James wore black shadow-striped Calvin Klein tuxes with white embroidered vests and matching ties. He dressed me in a simple white sheath mini-dress with a floral overlay and nude peep-toe sandals while Christian donned a simple three-piece white linen suit.

The rings are also a statement of opulence. Both on black gold, James’ ring is 8mm, milgrain hammered in the center with shiny edges while Al’s ring is all black gold with two white gold stripes through it—all shiny. Even Mia had to say that she had never seen black gold before… tungsten, yes, but not black gold.

The weather actually smiled on us this day, permitting us to use every outdoor area for the celebration—the patio that opens from the kitchen and family room; the jungle patio; the outdoor dining room; and the barbeque kitchen and dining area. It means that the forty or fifty people plus security that are meandering around the property aren’t all sitting on top of each other. Food and drink flow freely and everyone seems to be having a good time. Pops and Herman stick around for longer than they did at Christmas and Pops gets a chance to see Mackenzie and Michael. Oh, the look on his face when he saw his great-grandchildren! Mikey actually stares while Pops talks and talks and talks… mostly about Carrick. Luma and Herman just look on, watching attentively while Pops appears to shed years talking to his great-grandson.

Once Gail takes the children to put them down for their nap with Luma’s assistance, I take to opportunity to talk to Pops and Herman. I haven’t had the time to talk to them in a while since the birth of the children and I’m sad to discover that Pop’s health is deteriorating faster than we thought. I don’t think it comes as any surprise to Pops, but Herman is more than a bit out of sorts with the progression of his father’s illness. In fact, the moment Mikey is taken from his arms, he seems to deteriorate right there in front of my eyes. I tell Herman to take him to one of the guest rooms to rest for a while and instruct Ben to assist so as not to draw attention to him. The entire Grey family would revert from celebration to concern if we alert them of his exhaustion and quite frankly, this is just part of the territory.

Marlow is once again clustered with the girls keeping a close eye on all of them like the guardian he has come to be. He and Sophie talk for hours while Jason keeps giving him the side-eye, Sophie still rolling her eyes at her father in that scolding way much like she did on Thanksgiving, informing him that a high-school sophomore would have no interest in a seventh grader, though I get the feeling that she might hope it were different. I worry about Sophie sometimes. I think she knows too much to be so young, but I hope that her knowledge will serve her well one day.

My best friend has shed the melancholy that accompanied his vows and is having a wonderful time at the party celebrating his marriage. I’m glad that there seem to be no hiccups, no jealous ex-lovers, party crashers, attention hogs, Paparazzi, what have you… although that wasn’t the case earlier in the week. In fact, we almost didn’t have a wedding… or so I would have thought. Some small social column somewhere got wind that Al was getting married—Christian Grey’s and GEH’s attorney. Al made light of it.

“Good grief,” he had said, “Don’t these people have anything else to write about? Christian Grey got a haircut. Christian Grey’s maid got a hangnail. Christian Grey’s dog went to the groomers!” We had a good laugh at how ridiculous, but true, the whole thing really was. What color socks is Christian Grey wearing today? Boxers or briefs? Granola or oatmeal? Jogging or treadmill? Good grief! We had no idea what kind of shitstorm was on the way from this obscure little article.

On Tuesday evening, there was a visitor at Al’s apartment, an old flame named Patrick that he had a romp with in law school. Just a romp, as Al put it, but this was during Al’s confused years—that time that we don’t really talk about. Al had a span of several years where he was sexually confused. They were really bad years for him and during that time, he had some pretty seedy relationships—encounters would be better words for them. I always considered Patrick his Single White Female—somewhat of a Fatal Attraction, for lack of a better word. He didn’t really seem dangerous. He was just clingy as fuck and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. Nonetheless, the guy hung around for about a year and once Al graduated and went to work for the first law firm he worked for out of law school, Patrick faded into obscurity.

Now, this article pops up and so does Patrick, out of thin air. Al calls me to tell me that Patrick had left a note with his number at his apartment, but that Al had no intention of using it. But the next course of events throw me completely for a loop.

The Prior Wednesday

“Hello?” I answer my phone without fully focusing on the name. I’m rubbing my eyes and I’m only vaguely awake, having recognized the ringtone as something familiar, but not fully coherent yet as to who is on the other line.

“Jewel?” Al’s tortured tone breaks through my sleep-induced haze and I now recognize the ringtone after the fact—“That’s What Friends Are For.”

“Al?” There’s a pause on the line and then he chokes out a sob. What? “Al?” I throw the covers off me in a fit, scrambling to sit up in bed. “Baby, what’s wrong?” Christian stirs in the bed next to me.

“Wha…?” he says, confused, his baritone voice three octaves lower than normal, as if that’s even possible. “What is it?” his gravelly voice squeezes out. I put my finger to my lips in a “ssh” motion.

“Al, talk to me. What’s going on?” I beseech him. Christian sits up slightly in bed at the mention of Al’s name.

“J… James,” he weeps, “he’s… he’s gone.” My hand flies to my chest. Gone? Gone where? Gone how? Is he… has something happened to him?

“What do you mean gone?” I ask cautiously. “What happened? Did he… is he alright?”

“Oh, I’m sure he is,” Allen bites out sardonically. “He left. He’s been gone for hours. I don’t know where he is.” He sobs again. I swing my legs out of the bed.

“What happened, Al?” I ask, rubbing my eyes.

“We had a fight,” he says. A fight? A fight about what?

“You guys never fight,” I say.

“Yes, we do, you just haven’t seen it,” he says, laughing tragically through his tears, “and never like this.”

“What was it about?”

“About the wedding,” he tells me. Oh, one of these.

“What about the wedding?” There’s a pause.

“Patrick came by here again,” he says. “I never called him, Jewel. Never encouraged him. Hell, it’s been—what—six years since I talked to that guy? Why the fuck would he just show up out of nowhere expecting something from me?”

“Well, what happened?” I press.

“I made the mistake of inviting him in. Whatever conversation we were going to have, I didn’t want to have it in the hallway. You know me—I can protect myself. I wasn’t worried about this guy or anything. We fucked. It was good, but it was six years ago. I’m getting married—I made that clear, but he kept talking about old times and bringing up the past and how good it was.”

Oh, shit, I can see where this is going.

“Well, you know what happened next,” he sobs. “The fucking fates fucked with me again, determined to dash my happiness against the stones the minute it’s within my grasp… three days before my goddamn wedding!”

“You fucked him, Al?” I ask horrified.

“No!” he screeches into the phone. “But the fucker timed a kiss right when my fiancé was walking in the goddamn door!”

“Oh, God, you gotta be kidding me!” I lament.

“What?” Christian asks.

“Wait!” I snap. I’m still getting details, dammit. “Al, what happened? What’s going on now?”

“I pushed the asshole off me, but of course it looked like I only did it because James walked into the room. I tried to explain everything, but I don’t think he believed me. Patrick didn’t help. He acted like we were lovers and we had just gotten busted. I called him a liar and told him to get the fuck out of my apartment and he was like, ‘Okay, call you later,’ and left. James was furious.”

“I can see how this could pose a problem,” I say.

“Ya think?” he weeps. “I tried to reason with him… tried to tell him that after we had been together for two years, why would I do something like this three days before our wedding? All those plans we made—all the promises, the time we’ve been together and he doesn’t trust me? I let him go out with Jose when I knew Jose wanted him back and I knew he didn’t know how he felt about it. He kissed Jose because he wanted to… he admitted that! And he doesn’t trust me?”

“Where is he now?” I ask.

“I don’t know. He looked at me like a pariah and then he walked out.”

“Well, maybe he just went out to walk it off,” I say, trying to ease his concerns.

“He would have been back by now…”

I spend several minutes on the phone with Al, trying to comfort him and talk him back from the cliff. I even ask if he wants to come over and spend the night here. He refuses, saying that he wants to be home in case James comes back. He put me on hold about forty-five minutes into the call to take a call on the other line. I sigh, hoping it’s James calling to tell him that he had come to his senses, or even to fight, but just put my friend out of his misery. I’ve never seen him like this—well, maybe once, not this bad, but close… it was James, then, too. It was the night he went to see Jose.

“I gotta go, Jewel,” Al comes back on the line in a huff.

“Why? What is it? Is it James?” I ask concerned.

“That was the bartender at the CherryPicker. He’s there. He’s had too much to drink. I need to go get him.” I frown deeply.

“The CherryPicker?” I say aghast. “What the hell is he doing in a place like that?” Christian gets out of bed and goes to his en suite. Al sighs.

“I used to slum there, I guess you could call it. We both did. It was… is… was an old haunt of mine. The bartender there knows me. James and I… we even did a role play there once… when we first started dabbling.” Oh, hell. That’s why the bartender called him. He knows  Al. “Shit, I have to go, Jewel…”

“Not by yourself, you don’t!” I say, leaping out of bed and running to my dressing room. I put him on speaker and rummage through my drawer for a pair of jeans.

“I’ll be fine. I need to go get him, now,” Al says and I hear him scrambling. Shit! I need to move faster. I slide into my jeans and pull on a sweatshirt without even grabbing a bra.

“Goddammit, Allen Michael Forsythe, if you go to that bar alone, I’m going to show up with my Beretta and shoot you in the foot on sight!” I’m quickly pulling on my socks and reaching for a pair of sneakers.

“Well, you better start loading, because I’m out the door,” and he ends the call. He hung up on me. He fucking hung up on me.

“Goddammit!” I tie my shoes and grab a ponytail holder on my way out of the dressing room. I head for the door and Christian is standing there with his arms folded. He’s in black jeans, a black T-shirt and black Timberlands—looking flawless, dangerous, and totally fuckable.

“Goddammit, Allen,” I curse under my breath as I walk pass him and out of our bedroom.

*-*

Allen is talking to the doorman when we arrive at the club. There are several gay men lined up outside the meat market trying to get in and Al clearly just wants to get his man and go. The bouncer won’t let him in and Al is desperately trying to get in touch with the bartender who called him, but there’s no answer.

“Why would they call me to come and get James and then not let me in?” he huffs, now frustrated and angry. “Did you have to bring the whole crew, Ana?” Now, I know he’s upset. He never calls me Ana. He eyes Christian and Jason who have accompanied me to this little local establishment.

“You should have known that I wasn’t coming without back-up,” I say, unapologetic.

“Of course,” he huffs. “Did you bring the Beretta, too?” he says sarcastically.

“Didn’t I say that I would?” I reply, impassively. “It’s loaded, too, so hide your toes.” His smug expression falls.

“You can’t get in here with that thing,” he says calmly, but in a warning tone.

“I know that,” I reply. “It’s in the car.” I don’t think he heard my response as he immediately turns his attention to his phone, then puts it up to his ear.

“Hello… I’m outside trying to get past your human shield!… I have friends with me… Three…” He looks at Christian and Jason, similarly dressed like they’re on some covert mission. “Two of them look like bouncers… Okay.”

We wait for a moment before the doorman/bouncer is gesturing to us to come to the front of the line. There are many protests from the patrons standing in line as we enter the establishment.

courtney-peta-sheep“You lost, Sugar?” one of them calls to me as I wait to get in. I turn around looking for the male voice that greeted me only to find a queen standing there in a short white tutu-type dress with thigh-high stockings and white sky-high stilettos. Adorable outfit and I can’t help but think of Little Bo Peep. So, I respond,

“Well, I’m not, but if you hurry, you still might be able to find those sheep.”

There’s a thunder of laughter behind her… erm, him, and Christian grabs my hand.

“Come, my love,” he says, pulling me into the bar behind him and Jason with Al in the lead.

We find James immediately, seated at the bar with his head held down, only he’s not alone. There’s a guy next to him clearly putting the moves on him, but James is paying the guy no attention. When the companion hopeful next to James puts a hand on his back, I can literally see the hairs stand up on Al’s neck. He takes a deep breath and walks over to his fiancé. This can go either way.

“James,” he says, his voice controlled.

“Push off, sister, he’s got a date tonight!” the companion-hopeful declares, attempting to hook arms with James, who raises his head to see Al.

“Is that so, James?” Al says calmly. “Do you have a date?” I know Al’s demeanor enough to know that the outcome of his relationship hangs on James’ answer.

“Random Guy?” he begins. “This is my fiancé, Allie. Allie, this is some random guy that just sat next to me. No, he’s not a date.” James’ voice is dragging with inebriation, but he’s not slurring his speech.

Alley?” the guy repeats. “Like Alley Cat?” He laughs heartily. “Fiancé… that’s means you’re not married, yet, so you’re still available, Boo.” No, he didn’t just use my word! I look at Christian who just shakes his head and walks over to Al and James.

“James,” Christian says, “don’t you wanna get outta here, man?” Christian and James have developed a relationship over the last year. He’s hoping to get James to listen to reason.

“I think that’s up to Allie,” he responds.

“How is that up to me?” Al asks, his demeanor still cool. “I’m not the one sitting drunk in a bar with Random Guys hitting on me.” Random Guy scoffs at Al’s statement in a high-pitched feminine voice and stands from his seat.

“I’ll be right back, Chocolate Goodness. You can…” He looks at Al, Christian, and me and gestures flippantly to all of us. “… Handle this while I’m gone.” Still listening to the conversation at the bar, I watch Random Guy walk with very exaggerated hip rolls over to a table of other men.

“Oh, really?” Al says, disgusted.

“You know why I’m here,” James replies, pushing away an empty glass in an attempt to get another drink… I think, I’m not sure. Nonetheless, the bartender cuts him off and tells him that he can have water if he wants. James is a sensible man, and nods at the bartender who reaches under the bar and gives James a cold bottle of ice water.

“You want a glass?” the bartender asks. James shakes his head, cracks open the bottle of water and drinks it half down.

“No, I don’t know why you’re here,” Al says, his voice losing a bit of its control. Uh oh… James, let’s get the hell out of here. “The last time I was here, I was trying to get laid, and so were you, and we did… with each other. The last time I was here, I was with the love of my life. Since then, I haven’t come back here. There was no need… until tonight. So, no, Mr. Fleming, unfortunately I don’t know why you’re here.”

Mr. Fleming. Shit, this is bad and it’s about to get worse. Random Guy, having said something to a table full of gentlemen, is now pointing in our direction. All the men look toward us while RG explains whatever he’s explaining and Al rips into James for coming to a gay meat market.

“Christian,” I say, garnering his attention. When he looks up at me, I gesture to the table of conspiring men in time to see one of them nod at RG.

“Oh, shit,” Christian says, catching my drift immediately. He looks over at Jason, who also assesses the situation in three seconds and rolls his eyes.

“Just fucking great,” he says, under his breath, just as RG begins his “You Better Work” diva stroll back in our direction. Is this Queen Night or something? Not all gay men act like this, but we seem to be surrounded by them tonight.

“James, this is a very worthy conversation, but I really think you two should have it back in your apartment,” Christian presses.

“How did you even know I was here?” James says, but almost before the words are out of his mouth, he looks up at the bartender. He leans down so James can hear him.

“I’ve got my wedding invitation, Jimmy,” he says quietly and James says nothing. “Finish your drink. You want one for the road?”

James eyes get a bit misty and he holds his head down—like it was when we got here—and nods.

“Let us help you, man,” Christian says, putting his hand on James’ shoulder. James nods, finishes his water, and takes the unopened bottle from the bar. As he stands, he wobbles a bit, and RG is there to catch him.

“Hey there, lover,” he says to James like there’s not four other people standing around him, one of which is his fiancé, “It looks like you’ve had one too many. We need to get you home.”

We will,” Al says, now shooting daggers at the one-night-stand wannabe currently holding his man up. “Now, if you would kindly release my fiancé, we’ll be going now.” He’s talking through his teeth. Step back little man, you don’t want to release the Kraken!

“I think your fiancé can speak for himself!” RG says, glaring at Al. Before I can say anything to stop it, Al’s quick right hook meets its mark squarely in the jaw in seconds. Almost as if he anticipates it, Christian catches James before he hits the floor and RG is flying backwards from the force on the impact of a hard fist to the jaw.

“What the fuck!” Christian gasps and after quickly assessing the situation, hooks James’ arm over his shoulder and drags him from the bar yelling, “Go! Now!” as he leaves.

“Now, Allen! Now!” I demand before RG gets his bearings. The men from the other table start to rise as Al and I fall in line behind Christian and Jason in line behind us.

We parked next to Al’s Jag in the back parking lot and as he presses the key fob to unlock the doors, I have Jason unlock the SUV. As we’re trying to get James safely into the passenger seat of the Jag and I grab my Beretta from my purse, a gaggle of men come bursting from the back door of the club. Not knowing yet who’s foe and who’s just coming to see the show, I pull my gun into plain sight.

Don’t make me use this, fellas.

One guy catches a glimpse of “the shiny” and puts his arms out to stop the crowd. Three men, one of which is Random Guy, continue in our direction to face off against Al. I guess it’s clear now who’s foe and who’s just watching. Al locks his doors again—before we get the chance to get James into the car—and fearlessly walks toward the trio with long, controlled steps. Christian curses under his breath and gently sits a passed-out James on the ground against the car. Also sensing trouble, Jason retrieved his Glock from the glove box at the same time that I was getting my Beretta. He puts that holster on like a pro because I swear it only took him three seconds!

“Did you think you were going to sucker punch me and get away with it, you cock-blocking bitch?” RG says, putting his hands on his hips and taking a diva stance.

“It wasn’t a sucker punch,” Al bites. “I hit you straight on, you fucking flamer!”

That’s it. The Kraken has been released.

Al never uses derogatory gay terms or even terms that can be considered derogatory, not even when we’re joking around—except for calling me his fag hag, so shit just got very real.

“Don’t get mad because your man came looking for a good time you couldn’t give him!” RG taunts.

“Well, if I can’t, you certainly won…” Before the words are out of his mouth, Al takes a hard right cross to the eye, so hard that spit flies out of his mouth.

Now that was a sucker punch.

He’s momentarily knocked off balance, but recovers quickly and unleashes the ass whipping from hell! He comes back with a right cross, then a quick left, followed by a right hook that knocks RG back into his friends. The whole thing happens so quickly that no one knew exactly what was going on, not even RG’s friends… no one, that is, except me.

RG shakes off the attack and comes back at Al, hitting his center of gravity by grabbing him around the waist and pushing with his shoulder. If he can get Al on the ground, he might even the playing field or maybe even get the best of him. What he doesn’t know is that Al learned the hard way—from more than one hate attack—not to go down in a fight.

Al’s feet falter a bit, but he stands firm. Locking one hand over a closed fist, Al brings them down on RG’s back like a sledge hammer. I can feel the pain when the mallets come down on his back not once, not twice, but three times before he finally drops to the ground. This is the signal for the other two to get into the melee, but apparently, they can’t take a hit like RG can.

One attempts to grab Al’s arms from behind while the other one intends to attack from the front. Al shakes his restrainer off like a fly, causing the front attacker to run right into Al’s open hands. Al grabs his shirt and gives the guy two bitch slaps so hard that they echo off the buildings. One last good backhand and he’s on the ground, rolling away from Al’s feet. Al turns to face off with his would-be restrainer who now has fists up ready to take his swing. Christian and Jason are now ready to join in the melee—much like the fight in Anguilla when the guys in the bar accosted Gail at our table. I put my gun in my pocket and run up to stop Christian and Jason, stretching my arms out in front of them.

“Step back, gentlemen,” I tell them both. “He doesn’t need you.” They both frown at me.

“What do you mean?” Jason says. “It’s three on one!”

“No, it just looks like three-on-one,” I inform them. “Keep your eyes peeled, fellas. If he needs you, you’ll know.” I turn back around to face my friend and his fight. “But right now, you’re about to see Barroom Brawler Allen.”

“Oh, God, more nicknames?” Christian laments. I see Al has been telling him about my many personas. This will be the first time they’ll meet one of his. Prepare yourselves, boys.

The third guy takes a wild swing or two at Al, completely missing his mark. The third is a solid punch to the ribs, followed by one to the gut. I wince, now wishing I had let Jason and Christian intervene when I hear the wind release from Al’s lungs with the last hit, but he still doesn’t go down. I know that shit had to hurt, but in true scrapper fashion, he stands up—coughing and winded—snatches the guy’s shirt and pulls him down hard and fast just as he brings his knee up to meet the guy’s chin.

I think I heard something crack.

This guy also rolls away from Al’s stomping feet, once he shakes the stars from his head and remembers where he is. I’m watching RG and the first guy rally back to their feet when I hear male cooing from behind me.

“Oh, my, that man is sex dipped in chocolate, dripping in honey, with whipped cream and a cherry on top. I’d let him ride me to the moon!”

I turn around to see where the sex-drenched voice is coming from thinking that I may have to stand guard over James’ passed-out form to keep him from being taken advantage of. I’m surprised to see yet another queen looking in our direction and literally drooling. Wait a minute… are you looking at my husband? Is there going to be another fight tonight? Don’t you know I will whoop your ass?

He and his other skirt-clad… girlfriends? Boyfriends? Whatever they are, they come and stand behind us. I’m trying to watch the fight to make sure no one bests Al, but I’m also watching the sextrollers behind us and trying to keep an eye on James all at the same time. One of them laughs sardonically.

“Don’t worry, Sugar Plum, you’re safe,” one of them giggles at me. I raise an eyebrow at him.

“Obviously,” I reply, looking distastefully at his mismatched outfit and wondering if he swapped shirts with someone inside as that ensemble definitely doesn’t go together. Christian glances over his shoulder and reaches down to take my hand, either to show that I’m not here alone, or to show that he’s not here alone, I’m not sure which.

I turn back around to see Al swiftly kick one of his assailants in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him and sending him sailing back against the wall of the bar. Jason flinches uncomfortably and at first, I think it’s because of that impressive kick. I discover that I’m wrong when he turns around to the drag group and says in a menacing voice, “Whoever just touched me, if you want to keep that hand, you’ll keep it to yourself.”

I have to stifle a chuckle. They weren’t looking at my man. They were scoping Jason! Do you guys not see the harness with the firearm in it?

Immediately catching my drift, one of the queens from the group turns to me and says, “Oh, don’t worry, Lemon Drop,” she… or he… says, gesturing to Christian. “He’s gorgeous, but he’s got ‘henpecked’ written all over him. This one…” He gestures back to Jason, “he’s got some danger and fire left in him.”

“To the moon,” the other one says, and I recognize his voice as the first voice I heard.

“Touch me again and I’ll give you a one-way trip, and not in the way you’re thinking,” Jason warns. Christian squeezes my hand, bringing my attention back to Allen and three wobbling gay men.

“We’re going to have to get him out of there,” he says to me. I shake my head.

“Not until he drops, they drop, or the cops show up,” I tell him.

“Allie!”

James’ voice rips through the crowd. He’s awakened from his brief drunken black-out and calls to his fiancé. Al doesn’t respond. I can tell from his slight reaction that he wants to, but he can’t. He’s the main event in a three-on-one brawl and he’s not taking his eye off any of these people, even though one is still standing against the wall still holding his stomach and gasping for air. Another is sitting on the ground, bleeding, and his eye is nearly swollen shut. The third has taken a bit of a beating as well, but is still on his feet, failing to engage the enemy.

“Have you bitches had enough?” Al barks. “I’ve got more left if you want it!” he threatens. The three previously pugnacious brawlers take a moment to examine their situation and the fact that their mark is not only not going down that easily, but also appears to have gotten his second wind. Apparently not wanting to pursue tonight’s conquest any further, they assist each other in getting back to the bar. Al stands there for a moment, watching them as they get to their feet and use each other to stumble to the door before disappearing inside. Al takes several deep breaths. Christian moves to encounter him, but I squeeze his hand and pull back on his arm. When he looks at me, I shake my head.

“Do not engage,” I warn him. “Wait until he comes to us.”

Christian looks at me warily, but heeds my words. Right now, I’m not sure who would win in a fight between him and my best friend. He wisely backs away. As if he were reading my mind, Jason leans in to Christian.

“I’m glad you didn’t piss him off too bad on your wedding day. I’m not so sure we could have taken him so easily.”

After a few tense moments, Al walks over to a stunned group of men. Me… well, I’m not so stunned.

“Allie…” James begins.

“Get. Your ass. In the goddamn car,” Al growls at him, unlocking his car with the key fob. Almost as if he were the submissive, James falls silent and turns away from the group, walking over to Al’s Jag and quietly climbing into the passenger seat before closing the door. Al turns his attention to us.

“Thank you… for coming,” he says sharply to Christian and Jason.

“We thought you might have needed backup,” Jason says. “How wrong we were.”

“Not always,” Al admits. “It’s a crap shoot. Win a few… wind up in the hospital a few,” he adds, throwing a knowing look at me before scrubbing his face with his hands. I move to hug him, but he puts his hand out to stop me.

“Not calm enough yet,” he warns. I look at him with sympathetic eyes and gently kiss him on his cheek.

“You’re going to have a shiner,” I say.

“I know,” he replies.

“I’ll make sure that you get some of Gail’s miracle tea.” He nods.

“Thank you.” I smile sadly.

“Eucalyptus bath,” I say softly.

“And plenty of Arnica cream,” he adds with a weak smile before turning away and walking to his Jag. The three of us stand there while they drive away and the crowd disburses before we head back to the Audi SUV. Once we’re inside and Jason is headed back to the Crossing, I take my gun from my pocket and put it back in my purse. I press the button that raises the smoked privacy class between the front and back seats.

“What are you doing?” Christian asks, puzzled. I release my seatbelt and climb feverishly onto his lap, straddling him. If Jason weren’t in the car. I’d fuck him right here.

“Goddammit, Ana! Seatbelts!” he groans before I slam my lips into his. He groans loudly, his hands immediately gripping my thighs. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on him ever since we left the house. I grind my hips against him and he’s hard immediately.

“Fuck Ana! No!” he protests, trying to still my hips, but I want him so badly that I can’t even see straight. I don’t know what’s gotten into me, but I need to fuck this man—hard!

His hands slide roughly to my ass, gripping hard. He liked my ass before, but he adores it now. His hands always gravitate there and he uses it to push me against him every chance he gets. My mind immediately wanders to him roughly taking me, holding just my ass and bouncing me hard on his dick. I’m immediately wet down there and hot all over.

“Ana, shit!” he growls as grips my ass, moving his hands in perfect rhythm with my grind. He tilts his head and plunges his tongue into my mouth, kissing me hungrily. I match his fervor, gobbling his kisses and grinding him in one of the sweetest dry fucks we’ve ever had. His hips momentarily match my grind, digging in through my jeans straight to my clit. Fucking hell!

“I won’t come like this,” he says after several minutes, his voice strained. “I won’t. I won’t come until I’m inside you.” He quickly undoes my jeans and I wonder if he’s going to try to do it as we cross the Morrow bridge! Instead, he thrusts his hand into my pants and panties and two fingers right into me! I cry out at the surprise and the pleasure. He circles and thrusts and I’m going fucking mad. I feel the car slow, then start moving again, then stop and cut off.

We’re home. Good.

I take a brief moment to take in our surroundings. We’re in one of the garages and Jason gets out of the front seat and leaves us there.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

I get off of Christian’s lap and quickly shimmy out of my jeans and underwear. Taking the cue, he removes his seatbelt, undoes his fly and drops his jeans and boxer briefs. He doesn’t get them off, just down to his ankles. I scramble back onto his lap and his impressively erect penis homes in to its counterpart without assistance. I drop down on it hard, without warning, taking him deep all the way to the hilt.

“Sssssssssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhiiiit!” he bites out, pressing hard back into me as much as my hips will give him purchase. We just sit there for a moment, clinging to each other with him buried so deep inside me, you would think we were actually attached. The move took so much wind out of me, tearing me open and assaulting my core with such sudden pain and pleasure that I could only squeeze my eyes shut and pant. I don’t want to move. I just want to stay here and feel him filling every crevice of my sex. It’s so fucking hot and I want him to feel exactly what I’m feeling, so I tighten my Kegels around him.

“Uuuuuuuuuuuuuugggghhhh, baby…” he groans such a deep, seductive tone that causes the muscles to clench on their own. “That feels soooooo good.” The rumble in his voice stirs something deeper inside of me and I feel like… like an animal! I want to fuck him savagely, like a goddamn Klingon!

I roll my hips into his, hard and deep, and he groans again. He pushes his hands under my sweatshirt and his skin on my skin sends searing heat through me. I lean my head back and roll my hips again.

“Fuck, baby, you’re killing me!” he protests, feverishly gripping my skin and stroking my bare back, and it just spurns me on. Gasping the seat behind him, I really start to move—hard, painful grinds into his pelvis, circular strokes so that he hits all my walls, and viciously tightening Kegels that not only suck his dick into me, but also pulls all the pleasure to my center. I feel like I did the very first night that we fucked in my apartment, riding him hungrily and viciously against the dining room wall, in the dining room chair, grabbing and milking that delicious dick with my hot, pulsing core and wondering where this sex god had been all my life.

“Damn it, Ana! You’ve been without a bra all this time?” he groans as his hands work their way up my back. “Gimme those tits!”

He pushes my sweatshirt up and takes a hard, hot nipple in his mouth, groaning in ecstasy and sucking hard. I yelp from the sensation and start to move faster and harder on his lap—methodical, rhythmic, rolling strokes that drop so hard on him that I bounce back. His pull on my breast is electric and I can’t prevent the hungry sounds of satisfaction that escape from me as he sucks them. When he releases the nipple, but replaces his lips with his teeth and bites down just enough, I literally scream his name, the word bouncing off the walls of the small space in the back seat of the SUV. I grab a handful of his hair and pull hard, the other hand still on the back of the seat to stabilize me.

He growls when I pull his hair and his hips rise hard each time I drop to meet my thrusts. The sounds we are emitting sound painful now, as if someone was losing air with hard punches… much like the fight we witnessed a little while ago. His mouth is switching from breast to breast, nipple to nipple, biting, pinching, and sucking, and I know that he’s marking me. It feels so good and I love it! I hold his head against the spot he’s sucking—the mound of one breast and the skin there. I roll my hips again, deep and hard—and he groans and bites down into the meat. That spot is sure to be purple in morning.

When I feel his shaft getting thicker, harder inside of me, I really start to ride—hard and fast so that the friction now sparks a flame that’s ready to burn.

“Oh, yes, baby, drop that pussy on me!” he coaxes. “Ride this dick, baby! Ride it hard!”

And ride it, I do! Pretty soon the friction and heat are so much that they actually hurt and burn. I feel him inside me, reaching further and hitting spots so deep. God, I can’t stand it! Before long, we’re grunting like animals, clawing at each other and fighting for sexual dominance as we torture one another’s organs. Words are no longer appropriate as primal lust takes over and we lose ourselves, each attempting to subdue the other.

He has slid to the edge of the seat, giving him more purchase to move. He attempts to hold me down as he pumps up hard into me, clutching my ass and digging his fingers into the tender meat like he did those weeks ago in my dream. It’s deliciously pleasurable, but I won’t let him take over completely. The tiny bit of resistance makes it all that much yummier. I push off of him, but meet his angry, forceful thrusts with thrusts of my own. Now too far from the back of the seat to reach comfortably, I use his shoulder to stabilize me and help me push off of him before I drop back down on his expecting thrusts.

His body is hard and stiff like a statue—the bronze statues I compared him to when I watched him masturbate—and as I’m rising and falling on his hot, hard dick, challenging him and meeting him piston for piston, a small, logical part of me is wondering why every possible, dirty, hot, sexy thought and encounter that I’ve ever had with him is coming to me now. Oh God, what’s happening to me? I feel like a fucking sex fiend! Like I’ll never get enough.

“Goddammit, Ana, your pussy is starving for me!” Christian declares in a deep, sex-drenched voice as he quickly wraps my hair around his hand and pulls.

“Aaahhh!” I scream, but I won’t let my head lull back. I’m looking slightly down at him, now. We’re both pulling each other’s hair and glaring into each other’s eyes, each of us chasing the lust and hunger that we find there.

“You’re going to come!” he declares in a hot, breathy voice. “I want you to drench my dick, baby! I want to feel your juices slide all over me and drip down my motherfuckin’ thighs!”

Holy fuck. My hips take on mind and movement of their own and I’m pumping into this man with fury. At first, he’s giving it back to me, stroke for deep stroke, with all the force that my hot, angry pussy is giving him. But as the deep, throbbing pleasure in my muscles slowly starts to move from burn to ascent, my pace and rhythm slowly becomes too much for him. He tries to keep up, still glaring into my eyes as I feel my release slowly creeping up on me—teasing me and making me angry and impatient.

A growl escapes my chest, and his pupils dilate nearly to black at the sound. He releases my hair and grabs my ass again, not pushing, but feverishly squeezing with each stroke, only able to raise his hips to every second or third pounce of mine.

“Fuck me,” he pants, hot and nearly helpless, but still trying to maintain a semblance of control. “Yeesss, fuck me… fuck me baby.”

He’s pounding hard inside me now, throbbing viciously, and I know that his orgasm is not far away just like mine, and it will be explosive.

Feeling my climax teetering dangerously close, I take both hands and wrap them around his neck, the palm of my right hand right at his Adam’s apple. His eyes change slightly, constricting, then dilating again, and I squeeze, just as my orgasm starts to work up my legs and immobilize me.

So close… so, so close…

“Tighter,” he breathes, and I squeeze harder, pressing my palm against his throat. He’s clutching my ass and his hips only rise infinitesimally as he absorbs all the sensations I’m lavishing on him at this moment.

“Fuck me,” he whispers, his face starting to blush. “Harder!” he breathes. God this is so hot and I oblige, riding and bouncing mercilessly on the beautiful dick. “Tighter,” he gasps. “Squeeze… tighter…” I squeeze tighter around his neck, feeling him swallow against my hand. I still won’t give it all my force because I won’t know my own strength when I’m coming, which should be right about…

“Ye-es… y… yes… tha… that’s it… ri… right there… right there!” He can barely breathe. His head falls back on seat and he’s still gripping my ass. As long as he’s gripping, he’s still alive. “Squeeze it…” he chokes, his eyes closed. “Fuck me… fu… fuck me…”

ShitfuckinghellgoddammitsomebodyfuckinghelpmeIthinkI’mgoingtodie!

This volcanic eruption that explodes through my body is enough to frighten demons and make angels weep. At first, I’m totally immobilized, my muscles all constricting like I’m being electrocuted—which is why I didn’t want to squeeze too hard on Christian’s neck because…

“Ye… yes… fuck… yes… G… God… Go…God… God…” he’s choking and I can’t let go. I’m trying, but I can’t let go. I’m struggling to get back to myself, to fight the crippling pleasure of this orgasm, and I can only imagine that my pussy must be tightening and sucking him in, giving him the best vaginal head job he’s ever had in his life.

But he’s still gripping that ass.

“Ye… ye…” he can’t get the whole word out as he’s gasping for air. He’s like a boiling turtle that doesn’t know he’s dying.

The orgasm finally begins to release me, but the pleasure still holds on as it continues, locking my hips against his. My loosened grip allows him to get air in and he gasps.

“Don’t stop! Don’t stop! Please, don’t stop!” he begs as I stiffen again, and I have to ride out my orgasm bouncing on his dick. It’s mind-blowing and painful and deliciously searing. I’ve released my hold on his throat as I don’t have the strength to squeeze anymore. I’m lightheaded with pleasure and weakness trying to keep the rhythm going when he grabs me around the waist and slams me down hard on his erection, burying his face in my sweatshirt and bosom and groaning loud and hard, deep in his throat. Our bodies are so connected in that place that as he empties endlessly into me, I actually feel his orgasm. The pulsing in the muscles of his pelvis synchronize with the pulsing in mine and I’m dizzy as I feel his climax. His throbbing shaft and my simultaneously tightening walls—when a pained cry rips from his throat, I know exactly what he’s feeling. I squeal in my chest and he holds me tighter, still emptying into me. My legs start to tremble and I hold my head back for air. Oh, God, will this ever end? Will we live through it if it does?

I’m cradling his head, holding on tight, and the throbbing finally begins to cease. I dare not move. I’m fighting to breathe. Christian coughs into my chest, still holding me down on his pulsing member.

“My God,” he breathes, finally, “You’re incredible.”

Meanwhile, back at the wedding…

Of course, Gail’s tea took care of the shiner that barely surfaced on Al’s face. We were certain it would have scarred more with the hit he took that night, but as fate would have it, it was not to be. James’ heart—and ego—mended soon enough after watching Al brawl with three men that night at the Cherrypicker. He later admitted that his thoughts had wandered back to Jose for more reasons than one when he walked in and found his love with his lips on another man, the least of which was revenge for his prior transgression and former uncertainty about his feelings when Jose returned. Al spent the next night at the Crossing, not MIA, just—as he put it—some much-needed time away from the love of his life if there was ever a hope that they would still get married in two days. James’ response today to Al’s impromptu announcement with no initial explanation was a knee-jerk reaction to this argument. In James’ own words, “Allie scared the shit out of me.”

a2aae382b5ef7174c15973bf62218375Christian sported high collared dress shirts and turtlenecks for the rest of the week as the result of our Klingon sex in the back seat that night. I was horrified when I originally saw the petechial hemorrhaging on his face that soon went away and the brutal choking bruises on his neck that didn’t fade as soon as I would have liked. I caught him admiring them more than once, fingering them fondly with the same explanation as I shook my head at him…

“Battle scars, baby… battle scars.”


A/N: Ana makes a reference to Patrick being Al’s Single White Female and Fatal Attraction. Both of these movies are cult classics from my time.

Single White Female  was about a girl who got a roommate after she broke up with her boyfriend and the roommate turned out to be an obsessive psychopath that imitated the girl’s hair, clothes and long story short—it doesn’t end well. When the girl advertised for a roommate, she advertised as a “single white female,” hence, the title of the movie.

Fatal Attraction was about a man who has an affair on his wife with yet another obsessive psychopath who stalks him and follows him and eventually comes to his house with his wife and kid to kill him. You may have heard an old expression, saying, or reference to a woman who cooks or boils a bunny. That reference comes from this movie. The wife comes home to find something simmering in a pot on the stove while the daughter is looking around for her pet bunny. Psycholady somehow gets into the house, kills the bunny, and puts him in the pot. So, guess what wifey finds when she takes the top off the pot?

Seven more to go…

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

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

Love and handcuffs  
Lynn X

 

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 62—Reality Check

Am I wrong to say how much I LOVED everyone’s comments on their own sexual frustration? Hee hee hee…

 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 62—Reality Check

ANASTASIA

“Don’t come.”

His voice is raspy, tormented as he drills into me. I don’t know where we are. The room—I think it’s a room—is dimly lit. My hands are bound together at the wrist, over my head and behind me so that my arms are slightly bent. It feels like rope—velvet, soft. I’m bound to a vertical pole or bar of some kind. I’m partially dressed… in one of my wrap crop tops, my bust propped up on beautiful display and shimmering with sweat. Whatever skirt I’m wearing is bunched up around my hips and I’m wearing sky-high platform stilettos. I’m standing, well, tiptoeing, on some kind of platform and Christian is in front of me, naked except for the white linen shirt open and hanging from his shoulders.

“I want to touch you!” I protest, the words high in my throat, steeping in the pleasure of an orgasm that I’ve been fending off for I don’t know how long.

“I know,” he groans deep in his chest. “We’ve both been bad, Anastasia. We’ve denied each other… so now, we have to deny ourselves.” He’s holding one leg up to allow himself unfettered access to my hot pussy. He drills into me, slow, deep and purposefully, my pussy swallowing him all the way to the balls. His thrust is slow, steady and delicious when he withdraws, harder and deeper when he pumps inside of me to the hilt, one hand gripping the cheek of the leg still planted on the platform. It would gently smack then grip with each thrust to ensure maximum penetration, then slide between my ass cheeks and up my ass with every other stroke just to repeat the process over and over, drilling inside of my tight pussy, my lips wrapping around his dick and the walls so tight that he has very little purchase to move. His hips move like a meticulous sexy dance, a deep stroke, then a slow, delicious, agonizing pull, the smaller wiggle and circle as he thrusts, but a concentrated long, slow withdraw that gives me the full effect of his long, thick cock hitting every part of my pleasure center—the hungry lips that caress his shaft; the spongy inner walls that suck him into their warm tunnels and coat his skin with my wet, creamy arousal; my throbbing clit that pebbles and trembles every time he wiggles his hips and thrusts into me.

“I’m not coming yet, either, baby,” he groans. “I’m going to push into this tight, hot pussy until I can’t stand it anymore.”

“Oh, God,” I lament as his dick continues to drive into me. I open my mouth to try to breathe, but he covers my mouth with his, owning it entirely, his lips and tongue performing the same agonizing movements in sync with his hips and dick. He’s fucking my goddamn mouth and moaning hungrily into it with each stroke, each lap of his tongue. I’m dizzy when his lips slowly pull away from mine.

“My God, you’re delicious,” he says, licking across my lips before moving down my jaw to my neck and the exposed mounds of my breasts. This is a goddamn sensation overload.

“Christian… please…” I squeak.

“I know, baby,” he says. “Feel it. I feel it, too… the burn… Let it burn, baby…”

And burn, it is; I feel it everywhere, radiating from the origin in my core to every little aching hot spot on my body. When he leans over to bite one of the nipples protruding from the material of my crop top, I nearly lose it. I scream in pleasure and leap a bit, away from his grasp, but inadvertently shifting our positions.

“Mmmm, you like that,” he growls low before biting the other nipple.

“Christian!” I cry out. It sounds surreal, though, like someone else is doing it. I shift again and end up landing straight on his dick, my leg wrapped around his hip.

“Mmmmmmmmmm,” he croons, “that’s much better.” Where I was angled for him to thrust forward into me before, my repositioning had now angled him to thrust slightly up into me. He has a firmer grasp on my ass and since my leg has wrapped around his hip, he now uses both hands to grip my ass, steadying me and pushing me down onto his drilling dick. Oh God, I’m going to die.

“Yes, baby,” he grunts, passion in his voice. “Right there… right the fuck there! God, this fucking ass!” His new angle and new stroke are making me dizzy, my pussy burning and throbbing, pulsing with pain and pleasure. I can’t… I can’t take anymore.

“Christian, I… I can’t stand it… I’m going to come…”

“No,” he breathes, “Feel it. Feel me moving inside of you, filling you, burning for you so bad that it’s painful. Aaah, God, it’s so hot, so tight…” His stroke never changes as his left hand cups my ass without letting go and his right hand grabs the cheek anew with each thrust, one hand holding me and one hand pushing me in and down hard on his dick with each thrust. I feel every vein as he sinks into me and pulls out with painful deliberation, the new position causing his crown to stroke sensitive spots that I didn’t even know I had.

“Please…” I breathe, now delirious with pleasure. “Please let me come…”

“No,” he breathes, the torment of his own orgasm thick in his voice. “Feel it!” he chokes. “Hot and hard for you; my balls, thick, full, and heavy for you! The burn of me inside you; I feel you contracting. Hold it… hold it, baby. Gah!”

The feeling is agony for him just like it is for me. I don’t know how to stop the contracting once it starts, and he’s not relenting, pumping inside of me, the same maddening pace.

“Christian!” I beg. “I can’t! I can’t!”

“Hold it!” he growls into my neck. “God, this ass! This fucking ass!” He’s clutching the cheeks tighter, grasping firmer with each stroke, pushing me harder down on his dick. “So goddamn round and juicy and sexy and you still fit perfectly into my hands.” He buries his face in my neck, grunting with each stroke before he starts to lick and suck my skin.

“This is what we deny each other, baby,” he says, feasting on my skin and pumping mercilessly into my weeping pussy. “This is what we deny each other when we stay away from each other, when we refuse to satisfy each other.”

“Yes! Yes!” I pant, delirious and completely out of control.

“Fuck! Fuck! Ana!” He almost sounds feminine when he says my name and I know he can’t take it anymore. He struggles to maintain the stroke, but I feel him coming hot and wild inside of me.

“Ana!” he whines again, still stroking through his orgasm, in physical pain from holding out so long. I know the feeling. I’ve totally lost control and I don’t know what to tell my body to do now. I feel his erect dick pop out of me, still spurting juice, the moisture inside my pussy seeping out and running down my leg. He only takes a moment to compose himself before he’s inside of me again.

“We won’t… do that… again…” he pants, and I know he’s talking about the denial we’ve done by not coming to each other… but this can’t be happening now. I haven’t had my checkup. I haven’t been cleared…

“Come for me, Ana.”

I have no control over my body. I don’t know if I’m coming or not. I’m so lost in pleasure that I can’t think. Can this be happening right now? Can we be having sex right now?

Just as I try to make sense of what’s going on, the explosion begins painfully in my pelvis and causes me to sit straight up in my bed. I feel Christian’s hands nearly violently squeezing my ass and his copper curls cover the space between my legs. I scream through a detonating orgasm as he licks and sucks hungrily at my core, grunting like a starving man. I can still fucking feel him inside of me. Damn, that was hot! When I’m reduced to high-pitched whimpering and panting. He quickly releases my pussy and scoots back on his knees. When I raise my head, his dick is hard and veiny and ready to blow and he’s pumping it with his fist, unable to withstand the pressure anymore. Remembering his words in my dream…

“We won’t… do that… again…”

I scramble out of the blankets and forward to my husband, quickly latching my mouth onto his angry dick. He gasps quickly, loudly, the surprise and pleasure grabbing him like a vise.

“God…! Ana…! Fuck…!” He’s totally surprised at first, but it only takes seconds for him to surrender and fall back, sitting on his feet and cupping my head, unable to stop himself from pushing it down on his dick.

“Anaaaaaaaaa…” He makes the same nearly feminine sound that he makes in my dream, only he draws my name out more this time as he comes hard and strong in my mouth. “Gooooooood!” He almost cries as he sits paralyzed on the bed and I drain his aching balls and penis of every drop of their sensual offering. He’s breathless and weak when it’s over, breathing and wobbling like he’s hanging from invisible puppeteer’s strings. I crawl up to my knees, facing him, his gray eyes sleepy and grateful. I must have the same look in my eyes, because my body feels like spaghetti. He cups my face and kisses me with all the strength he can muster. I feel a slight twinge of eroticism when our juices mingle in our mouths. His moan and deep licking says he feels the same thing. We’re both too spent to do anything more about it right now.

It’s just past dawn and my trembling husband takes me in his arms and lies down in bed with me. We wrap ourselves in the blankets and snuggle into their warmth and each other.

“What happened?” I ask, once he catches his breath. He pauses for several moments.

“You were dreaming,” he says. “At least I think you were dreaming.”

“I was,” I confirm. I feel him nod before he kisses my hair.

“You were moaning… and writhing. I almost woke you until I realized…” He trails off. “I thought it would be cruel,” he says with an ironic laugh. I feel a little shy that he watched me have an erotic dream. “You were so sexy. You looked like a little nymph, just lost in pleasure. Your nipples got hard, then my dick got hard. I could smell you. God, you smelled so good.” He starts kissing my neck. “You were calling my name.”

I feel a small shiver run down my spine. It’s been four days since we agreed not to deny each other and yet, I have this dream.

“I was dreaming of you,” I confess.

“What was I doing?” he asks, gently cupping my breast. My breath catches in my throat.

“Loving me,” I breathe. “Fucking me. You were driving me wild—grabbing my ass and pushing me down onto you. You told me not to come…”

“I did?” He rolls me onto my back and brings his mouth to my breast, biting the nipple like he did in the dream.

“Christian!” I breathe.

“What else did I do?” he coaxes.

“That!” I pant. “You did that!”

“You weren’t dreaming,” he says. “I did do that.” He pinches my nipples between his finger and thumbs before kissing me gently. “What else did I do?”

“You… grabbed my ass…” I pant.

“Well, we know I did that,” he says, his voice husky.

“You said it was… juicy and round… and still fit… in your hand…”

“I really said that, too,” he says, kissing my breast. “I know you’re going to be working out, but do me a favor and try not to lose your ass. You know I’ll love you no matter what, but that thing is beautiful. When I was holding it that day in my office in those genie pants, and a few minutes ago, while you were coming, there was no way I could avoid blowing my load. You’re gorgeous and your body is coming together without you really trying. And you look fucking scrumptious!”

That did me a world of good!

“We can’t have sex, Mr. Grey, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to fuck your brains out right this minute!”

“Twelve days, baby,” he says. “Twelve more days and we’ll lock the doors, close the curtains, and rip the walls out of this bitch! But in the meantime…” He takes two fingers and lusciously licks them with his long tongue. When they are good and wet, he slides the moistened fingers under the covers, between my legs, and over my clit. I only have a second to gasp before he covers my mouth with his.

*-*

“Hello, beautiful girl.”

Christian is captivated by his four-week-old daughter, quietly staring up into her father’s loving gray eyes. He has a ritual with his children. Every day, he sits on the floor in the family room with his legs crossed, holding one of them in his large hands like the treasure that they are, gazing down into their eyes, and talking to them about everything and nothing. He tries to get to them both, but sometimes, baby number two is asleep before his conversation with baby number one is complete. So, he’ll try to pick up the conversation later, or the next day, so that neither child gets more Daddy Time than the other.

Today’s story brings me to tears.

“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Anastasia. She had shiny mahogany hair that was three feet long and the bluest blue eyes in the whole world that sparkled like sapphires in the sun. She had a kind heart and a loving soul and brought joy and happiness to nearly everyone she met.”

I’m coming through the kitchen looking for a snack and some water after doing my yoga. He’s in front of the sofa and can’t see me. I tuck myself behind the archway between the kitchen and family room to listen to his tale.

“One day, Princess Anastasia was walking through the land and met a curmudgeonly king named Christian. He was a grumpy old sort—mean and unhappy, and his subjects were afraid of him. None of them liked him and King Christian didn’t have any friends. He was only surrounded by people who wanted to do him harm.

“When Princess Anastasia met King Christian, well, she didn’t like him much either. ‘You’re an evil narcissist,’ she said. ‘I will tell the high council and they will throw you into the dungeon and take away your kingdom!’”

I have to cover my mouth to keep from laughing at his interpretation of our first fight.

“Well, King Christian couldn’t have that, so do you know what he did?” He pauses for a moment. “He frightened poor Princess Anastasia. He threatened her and made her afraid, so she had to call the Duke of Fleming and the Earl of Forsythe to come and escort her back to her cottage.” His voice is soft and full of remorse.

Did I… Did I ever tell him that?

“But soon,” he continues his story with a sigh, “King Christian fell in love with the princess against his will. He didn’t want to tell her, so he sent his knights to guard and protect her until he could find a way to tell her how he felt. At first, King Christian himself didn’t even know how he felt, but I can tell you now that it was love.”

I feel the tears burning in the back of my eyes.

“Many things tried to hinder King Christian and Princess Anastasia’s love—the evil Duchess of Pedo-Land, the wicked Midget of Mortonville and her Pickled Piper sidekick—even had the horrible Count David who kidnapped the fair princess and locked her in his dreary tower. There were even times when King Christian himself did things to sabotage their love, but they were meant to be and against all odds, they were married and King Christian made Princess Anastasia his queen.

“But then, one day, tragedy struck. Right after the dastardly Viscount Myrick was captured and sent to the stocks for trying to crumble the kingdom, a new threat would rear its ugly head in an attempt to rip our fair couple apart. For a poor peasant girl pining for King Christian and jealous of the fair Lady Anastasia attempted to the destroy the queen and her valiant knight Sir Davenport in their carriage. And while the poor peasant met her untimely demise, Lady Anastasia fell into a deep, deep sleep.”

His voice sounds tormented and Minnie’s eyes are pinned to him as if she knows exactly what he’s saying. I can just see over the sofa, and Mikey is in his napper—eyes open, sucking a binky, also mesmerized by his father’s tale.

“King Christian was devastated,” he continues. “He called on the best physicians and apothecaries in the land to stir his beautiful bride, but nothing could be done. He was content to wait for her to wake, but alas, the practitioners told him that their sorcery was only allowed to sustain her threescore days.”

He swallows hard trying to make the truth of the accident sound like a fairytale, and I can’t hold my tears back anymore.

“King Christian vowed to spend her last days with her and never left her side. All of his trusted advisors tried to get him to leave her, but he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t stand the thought of being without her for even one minute. He sat with her. He read to her. He talked to her. He cried with her. He laughed as if she could hear him. He barely slept for fear that she would awaken and he would not be there.”

I have to cover my mouth to muffle my sobs. I can feel his pain radiating across the room and wonder why he decided to tell this story at this moment.

“She smiled sometimes. She even spoke, but she didn’t wake. For days, she didn’t wake. It felt like forever, and he counted the seconds. One million. Thirty-six thousand. Eight-hundred seconds… or… something like that.”

He whispers the last three words, shaking his head as if to shake the thought and pausing for a moment.

“But…” his voice cracks a bit as he continues, “two days shy of a fortnight later, Lady Anastasia opened her beautiful sapphire eyes. King Christian was ecstatic, but alas, the fates were cruel because the beautiful queen didn’t recognize her king,” he whispers.

And I’m weeping again.

“King Christian was devastated all over again. How could this be? He had sat by her bedside for twelve days and couldn’t remember getting twelve minutes of sleep. How could she not know him? But fret not, young Michael and Mackenzie fair, for true love always knows its counterpart. While King Christian ached for his queen, Lady Anastasia’s soul called for her love and pulled her from the grasp of the dragon amnesia, returning her to the cradle of the arms of the man she loved.”

My chest is heavy and I ache all over again as I hear him tell the cruelest story in the kindest way that he can to his children about the horrible twelve days that he almost lost me; about thinking that I wasn’t coming back only to have me awaken and not recognize him. How the pain of those moments tore at him and the relief he must have felt when I finally remembered who he was.

He’s still cooing at his baby girl when I enter the room. His gaze breaks for a moment and meets mine, a deep frown forming on his face when he gets a good look at mine—tearstained and broken. I kneel beside him and use my thumbs to gently stroke his furrowed brow, pushing away the frown I see there before cupping his face with my hands.

“Queen Anastasia. Loves King Christian. With her whole heart and soul,” I breathe through my tears. His beautiful gray eyes focus on me, full of more emotion than I can identify—love, gratitude, fear, admiration… a plethora of things. I stroke his face with my hands and plant a tender kiss on his lips before gently stroking his hair, then back to his cheek as I pull my lips away from his and look into his eyes again.

“I adore you, Anastasia,” he says, his voice deep and a bit raspy, still holding his daughter. I close my eyes and lean my forehead to his.

“I know,” I whisper. “Thank you.” I sit down next to him and lean on his arm, gazing at our children. Mikey has drifted off to sleep, his binky occasionally bobbing in his mouth. Minnie’s little mouth makes a very small “O” and I know she’s not far behind her little brother. At this moment, as cliché as it sounds, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.


CHRISTIAN

I put two portfolios and the tiny box containing my gifts inside the double-fold leather gift box and snap it shut. I needed my gifts to be appropriate and in light of our life together and how things are changing, I think… I hope… I’ve made the right choices. I take the black leather box and go in search of my wife. I don’t get very far. I find her at Atlantis watching her favorite fish, Marty, swimming among the ruins and I’m immediately concerned.

“Butterfly?” I ask as I cautiously approach her. She turns to face me, smiles softly, then looks back at her fish. I walk over to her and put my arm around her waist. “Are you okay?”

“Did I ever tell you that Allen and James had to come and get me from the center that day?” she asks. That’s a strange question. Is that why she’s standing here?

“I don’t know,” I tell her. “I don’t remember if you told me, but I was there. I wanted to confront you. I was waiting for you, but the moment I saw you, I knew how I affected you… I think… that’s when I fell in love with you.” She turns quickly to face me, apparently shocked at my revelation, then tiptoes and slides her arms around my neck kissing me deeply. I embrace her and return the kiss, feeling the heat transfer from her body to mine and hating that I have something in my hand and can’t hold her properly.

She’s a bit breathless when our lips part, and she brushes hers against mine.

“Things just… come back,” she breathes. “It’s like… I’m living them all over again… the feelings, the love,” she whispers, brushing her cheek against mine. “It’s so fresh and new, yet so familiar.”

“You… forgot… loving me?” I ask, a little bruised.

“It’s a constant struggle, Christian,” she says, tortured. “I never forgot loving you. It’s the only thing I never forgot. I forgot our wedding. I forgot meeting you. I forgot who you were, but I never forgot loving you,” she weeps. “Most of my life came back to me in the hospital. Thankfully, I knew who you were, but even now, there are small bits still missing… and… not so small bits. As they come back… they can be a bit overwhelming.”

I gather her in my arms and try to comfort her. I don’t know what memory has caused her to feel so lost, but I just want her to know that I’m here.

“Twelve days,” she breathes, her mouth buried in my neck, “1,036,800 seconds not knowing if you would ever come back to me… I don’t think I could survive it.” Her voice cracks and she weeps again.

“Sssh,” I soothe. “You came back to me, though. I didn’t lose you. You’re here with me now.”

“But the torment… of not knowing…” She squeezes me hard. “I just… I don’t know. Maybe the emotions of post-partum depression are starting to sink in.”

Oh, we can’t have that.

I take her hand and walk her away from Atlantis, leading her to one of the barstools.

fancy-necklace-jewelry-gift-box-prestige-collection-black-44“Sit.” I gesture to the stool and Butterfly takes a seat, attempting to wipe the tears from her cheeks. I pull my handkerchief from my jean pocket and hand it to her, waiting for her to clean her face. I put the box on the bar between us. It looks like one of those leather boxes that hold expensive jewelry, like large necklaces, but there’s no jewelry in this box.

“I wanted to get everything right when I did this, and I hope that I did,” I say, sitting on the stool next to her. “I need you to know that you mean the world to me, and that I will never be able to match the two precious gifts that you have bestowed upon me…” My throat gets a little dry as I’m suddenly choked up with emotion thinking of our children, so I clear my throat. “However, in an attempt to begin to express my immense gratitude, please accept these small tokens of my appreciation, my beloved.”

I slide the box over to her and she cleans her face, grasping the handkerchief while looking at me, surprised.

84824364“Tokens?” she says. I nod. “Push gifts?” I nod again. Her delicate fingers stroke the box before popping the snap and opening it to reveal the “tiny box” and portfolios inside. She opens the tiny box on top to reveal the obvious Audi key and a wide smile grows across her face.

“You bought me a car?” she giggles cutely. I smirk.

“You might want to look at the specs first,” I say, gesturing to the first portfolio in the box. “We never replaced yours since the…” I swallow hard and sigh. “Well… you…” I drop my head. We were just talking about the accident and this was supposed to get her mind off it, and now I’ve brought us full circle, so much so that I’m feeling the effects of it myself. In true Butterfly fashion, she puts her hand on top of mine to comfort me and graces me with a wide and beautiful smile. I return her smile with one of my own and she takes the portfolio out of the box and opens it.

key1c550e201-1e9e-4ff2-9e90-9f1039476daalarge“Scuba blue metallic 2014 Audi Q7,” she reads aloud. “Twenty-inch, 10-arm-turbine design wheels with Anthracite bicolor-finish; fine Nappa leather and cloth interior with Piano Black inlay; driver and front passenger dual-stage airbags; front thorax side airbags and Sideguard head curtain airbags; rear side airbags; lower anchors and tethers for children in rear seats; panoramic sunroof; Bluetooth wireless technology; keyless start…”

She begins rattling off the many physical and safety features of her new Audi before throwing her arms around me and laughing heartily.

“Only Christian Grey could think to make me the sleekest, hottest, Audi minivan mom on Mercer Island!” she says giggling profusely.

“Well, technically, it’s an SUV, not a minivan.” She lets out a genuine but incredulous laugh.

“It has built-in car seats, a rear cargo cover, and a tailgate! It’s a minivan, Christian!” she laughs. “And it’s perfectly beautiful! I love it! Thank you!” She’s still giggling with tears in her eyes. “Where is it?”

“It’s in garage number two.”

“I wanna see it!” She leaps off her seat. I grab her arm before she escapes.

“Ah, ah, ah, not yet,” I tell her. “You have to see your second gift first.” She pokes her lip out at me. “Come on, Mrs. Grey. You can play with your new toy later. I want you to see this one first.” She mocks a pout and climbs back onto the stool.

“Two gifts,” she says removing the second portfolio.

leather-portfolio“Two babies,” I say matter-of-factly, and she smiles at me. She opens the portfolio and begins to examine its contents.

“Christian, this is…” She reads further, then starts to flip through the pages. “Christian!” Her hand flies to her lips as she realizes what she’s looking at. “Oh, my God, Christian, are you serious?”

“Yes,” I say softly as I watch her eyes dart across the pages in the portfolio. “Quite serious.”

“How…?” Her voice is barely there. “Christian… this is… Rome… Venice…” She covers her mouth and gasps loudly. “Villa… Anastasia?” she says, barely able to get the words out of her mouth. She raises glassy eyes to me. “Christian, you didn’t…”

“I did. I want us to go in June… for our first anniversary. Our honeymoon was interrupted. We won’t allow anything to interrupt us this time.” She bolts into my arms before the words are out of my mouth, winding herself around my body and weeping.

“It’s too much,” she cries into my neck.

“It’s never too much,” I croon. “Nothing is too much for you.”

“Oh, Christian,” she weeps, “I love you… I love you so much…”

*-*

Marlow and I are sitting in the deli Monday morning going over his most recent progress reports and some ideas that he has for improvements to some of the areas of his old neighborhood. I have to admit that this young man has come quite a long way since that first year I decided to mentor him at GEH. Seeing his growth firsthand has made me want to become more involved in programs that assist underprivileged children—especially since I started out as one of the forgotten myself. I know that my mother and my wife have Helping Hands and they do a lot of good work for abused families, and the Faces of Abuse PSA—which is still running—has a lot to do with bringing attention to the Center and getting the word out that there is help for those who thought there was none. However, I want to help in a different capacity, so I’m brainstorming with Marlow to come up with ideas for a more hands-on approach.

Our meeting today has a dual purpose. I also want to meet with Radcliff to see his progress and to move on to the next steps in his program, for lack of a better word. He’s been liaising through Andrea since I’ve been on paternity leave and I haven’t seen him in weeks. I barely recognize him when he walks into the deli.

“Jim?” I say questioning when he gets to our table.

“Hi, Christian,” he says, proffering his hand. He looks a hundred times better than he did when we last met. His coloring is healthier and he’s put on some weight.

“You’re looking well,” I shake his hand and gesture for him to sit. “This is Marlow Whitehead. He’s my protégé, so to speak. Marlow, this is James Radcliff.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Radcliff,” Marlow says, shaking his hand. Jim greets him with a smile. “I have to get back to school, now. I’m going to be late for Calc. So, I’ll see you later, Mr. Grey.”

“Don’t forget to ask Mr. Hemsley about that last proposal,” I remind him. He nods and waves as he leaves the deli. I turn my attention to Jim. “So, how have you been?”

“Better,” he says. “I was sick for a while, but you already know that.” The waitress brings him coffee and he orders a burger and fries. “I’m doing much better now, though. I was on some meds and rest and now I’m back to work. I got a studio close to the job. It’s all I can afford right now. I’m paying child support to Thelma and trying to put some money away to get us another place so…” He trails off and takes a sip of his coffee.

“Have you spoken to her yet?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“Not since just before Christmas. It’s not that I don’t want to. I just… I want to make sure I have something to tell her.”

“You have something to tell her,” I say and he raises his eyes to me. “Start with ‘I’m sorry.’” He drops his head and nods.

“I know you’re right, but I don’t know how.”

“What do you mean you don’t know how?” I ask, appalled. “Are you saying you’ve never apologized to anyone?”

“No, I’m saying that I don’t know how to put into words that I put her and my son in danger and I want her to forgive me for that,” he says. I nod.

“Well, I’m no shrink, but that’s a good start,” I say. “Speaking of which, have you thought about talking to one?” His eyes sharpen.

“I’m not crazy!” he snaps. Why does everybody think talking to a shrink makes you crazy?

“Do you think your wife is crazy?” I ask.

“No!” he snaps.

“Well, she talks to one. Do you think I’m crazy?” He glares at me.

“Rich people always talk to shrinks,” he says, waving me off.

“No, they don’t,” I retort. “People who need help always talk to shrinks, or at least they always should—but they don’t. But, hey, it’s your life. If you don’t need any help, by all means, just keep muddling along.” I take a sip of my coffee. He sighs.

“How do I talk to a shrink?” he says, sort of resigned and defeated.

“Look, don’t do this for me, man. You’re the one who needs to approach your wife and tell her that you put her in a life-threatening position and don’t know how. So, if you think I’m beating you down about this, don’t do it because it’s not going to help you.”

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I completely agree with you, but I do need help talking to my wife, so I’m going to talk to somebody, okay?” he says, begrudgingly. His voice has an edge to it and I respect the fact that he’s being honest.

“Fine. So, what’s next?” He shrugs.

“I don’t know,” he says. “I guess I have to find somebody to talk to.”

“I’ll ask my wife,” I tell him. “I know she won’t take you on, not only because she’s treating your wife and it’s a conflict of interest, but also because she really doesn’t like you.” I say honestly. He cocks his head at me.

“Your wife is a shrink?” he asks. I glare at him.

“Didn’t you know that?” I ask incredulously. He shakes his head.

“I thought she was a social worker.” My turn to shake my head.

“Shrink.” He looks into his coffee.

“That’s strangely comforting.” How so? “To know that Thelma had somebody—a professional—to talk to,” he says, answering my unasked question. There’s hope for you yet. I pull out my phone and dial Butterfly.

“Well, hello handsome. Miss me already?”

“Always, but I’m calling in a bit of an official capacity.”

“What’s up?”

“I have a friend who needs some professional guidance and I was hoping that you could point me in the right direction.”

“Psychological guidance?”

“Yes.”

“Can you give me a little insight so that I can make an educated recommendation?” Oh boy.

“No experience whatsoever with talking to shrinks. Alpha personality, looking for an emotional and mental makeover, and needs to formulate a very difficult apology.”

“Is he an alcoholic?” she asks.

“No.”

“Okay, so AA is out. No other addictions, I assume.”

“No, nothing like that.” I confirm.

“Domestic violence?”

“Not as such,” I evade.

“Elaborate,” she presses.

“Not physically abusive, per se, but… oppressive,” I admit. She gets quiet.

“James Radcliff?” she pings. Goddammit!

“Will I ever be able to keep anything from you?” I ask.

“No, and why didn’t you just say it was him?”

“Because I didn’t think you would help him,” I say honestly.

“I wouldn’t,” Jim admits. I raise my eyes to him and put my finger over my lips to silence him, but it’s too late. Butterfly’s silence tells me that she heard him.

“I’m a professional first, Christian,” she says, and at first, she says nothing else. I’m chastised and remain silent. “He needs to speak to someone who specializes in family therapy. He needs to understand his role as a husband and a father, as head of household and protector, not dominator!” Her words bite a bit and her tone is sharp, but she reels it back in. “Tell him to call CCFW and ask for Maxine. I’ll tell her to expect his call.”

“Okay,” I say, my voice soft. “Thank you… I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“For questioning your professionalism.” She pauses again.

“Don’t do it again,” she says softly.

“I won’t… I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“You’re still making that trip?”

“We’re about to take off now.” I clench my fist and my chest tightens.

“Be. Careful.”

“You know that I will.” I nod as if she can see me.

“Call me when it’s done.”

“I will.” We end the call. I swallow looking at the phone. Jim is looking into his coffee, at his watch, anywhere but at me. Yes, I will share tender moments with my wife no matter who’s listening. We’re granted a reprieve when the waitress brings his lunch. I scribble Maxine’s name and CCFW on a napkin and hand it to him. I had completely forgotten that Maxine was a psychiatrist. In fact, she used to be Ana’s psychiatrist.

“Call this woman. She’s at the Center for Child and Family Well-Being. I don’t know the number—you’re going to have to Google it. She’s actually a close friend. She’ll help you or at least point you in the right direction.” He takes the napkin and shoves it into his pocket before taking a large bite of his burger. “I see you got your appetite back.” He nods and chew his food.

“Lunch is the one meal I splurge on, since it’s the middle of the workday,” he says after swallowing his bite. “Everything else is dry cereal and those noodle packets. It’s okay though. I’m not starving and I do fine.” I nod. I reach into my suit jacket and pull out an envelope. I put it on the table and push it over to him. He raises his eyes to me while chewing his lunch.

“You know the house is worthless,” I tell him. “The land… I don’t think they’re going to be able to do anything with it for a long time. It’s pretty much a total loss, Jim. I’m sorry, but I figure you should walk away with something.” He sighs and wipes his hands on another napkin. Tearing open the envelope, he pulls out the cashier’s check inside and sigh heavily.

“Ten thousand,” he says. “That’s not much to some people, but it’s a mint to me.” His voice is drenched in disbelief and gratitude. “Ten thousand dollars for that deathtrap.” He covers his mouth and valiantly fights back tears. “Thank you, Christian,” he says, successfully choking down his tears.

“You’re welcome.”

“I’m… going to deposit this into an interest-bearing account and start looking for a house, see what I qualify for.”

“That’s a good idea,” I tell him.

We talk for a while longer about his plans for work and where he wants his family to live. He’s feeling better about talking to Maxine to help him talk to his wife. I can tell that he’s missing her terribly and it’s a trial just getting through each day without her, but he’s basically punishing himself for what he put her and the baby through, convinced that if he can’t get himself together—emotionally and financially—that they’re better off without him. I can’t argue with that logic, but I remind him that she married him because she loves him. She had his baby because she wanted to raise a family with him. Being without him would be more painful than being with him if he just gave up, so he can’t afford to do that. He leaves our meeting with new determination and a promise to call Maxine before day’s end.

I leave our meeting with a slight feeling of dread. After getting some long-awaited news this morning, I conceded to my wife attending a final conference that I never thought would have to occur in a million years. The encounter makes my stomach turn, and I can only sit idly by and wait until the meeting is over because I know that it’s something she must do.


ANASTASIA

“Follow me, Mrs. Grey, Mr. Davenport, Mr. Lawrence.”

Carrying only a manila envelope containing necessary documents and having turned in just about every other worldly item that we own except the clothes on our backs, we’re escorted down a well-lit hallway with large, plainly marked doors on either side. The guard opens one of the doors and steps aside to allow me to enter. Beyond the door is a nondescript gray room with one large caged window and a caged light recessed into the ceiling. Another guard stands in front of the window watching over a lone gray table with three chairs—two on my side and one on the opposite side facing me… its occupant, one scruffy, unshaven Edward David.

Quite the contrast to Mr. David, I’m vamped in a white mock tuxedo pants suit with a plunging black mock neck wrap halter top, white pumps, my signature straight Cher hair, contrast dark make-up and dark burgundy lipstick. I had fresh henna applied to my hands and halfway up my forearms yesterday, so it’s a beautiful shade of dark orangey-brown. His pupils dilate when I walk into the room. I raise a brow and smirk at him.

“Hello, Edward. You’re looking fit,” I say, my lip rising in the corner.

“Hello, Rose. You’re looking fat,” he replies with a smirk of his own. I scoff.

“You wish,” I chirp, “but that’s okay. I’ll give you the extra pound or three. I just delivered twins as I’m sure you’ve heard.” I remove my suit jacket and drape it over the back of the chair, showcasing my ample breasts in the mock halter and tiny waistline precariously held in by a remarkable pair of spanks. The French cut gives way to round hips and ass cheeks that would make Barbie jealous and my slacks fall nicely over my curves, just enough to accentuate my shape and not so tight as to give it that Kim K distorted look. His smile fades at the display and his lips part, and I know that I’ve had the desired effect. “But we’re not here to talk about me. We’re here to talk about you.”

“I don’t have shit to say to you,” he says defiantly, sitting back in his seat.

“That’s okay,” I tell him, sitting in the seat across from him. “I’ll do all the talking.” He looks at the guard over his shoulder.

“You can take me back to my cell. I don’t want to hear anything she has to say,” he says, but the guard doesn’t move.

“You know, Edward, I normally do things by the book, but I’m slowly beginning to realize that I’m the only fucking person who does! So, you know what? I’ve learned that money and power are beautiful things to have. And this time, I’ve used my money and power to pull a few strings of my own. So, I bought your time today, and your ass is mine. Do you know what that means, lover?

I spit the last word with so much disdain that it bounces off the walls and makes him and the guard behind him flinch.

“It means that you’re going to sit still, shut up, and listen to what I have to say, and if you don’t, then I’m going to use that same money and power and make the rest of the day pretty fucking hard on you. Do I make myself clear, Eddie?”

Edward frowns at me, then looks back at the guard, who folds his arms, crosses his legs, and leans against the window. Edward turns his attention back to me.

“What exactly do you want, Bitch?” he hisses. I raise an eyebrow.

“Is that any way to speak to a lady?” I say, mocking hurt. “I think not.” I look over my shoulder and nod to Chuck, who walks around the table and stands right over Edward. Edward eyes him warily, then turns his gaze back to me.

“You may have seen the news. Last year around Thanksgiving, Chuck and I were in an accident. We both nearly died. He’s been out of commission since then. Just now getting back on his feet. He’s been suffering from a bit of… cabin fever—just itching to get back to work, see some real action. On top of that…” I put the manila folder on the table and entwine my fingers on top of it. “… His girlfriend went back to Anguilla a few weeks ago, and he’s a bit on edge right now. So, if I were you, I’d be nice to me.”

“Or what?” Edward says, defiantly. “He can’t do shit to me in here!” I nod at Chuck, who hauls Edward out of the chair and lands a gut punch so hard that his lungs most likely catapult out of his chest and into the next room before pouring him uselessly back into the chair. I lean forward on the table, taunting him while he’s choking in pain and gasping for breath.

“I’m sorry, what was that?” I pause while he wheezes. “Oh, I thought you were saying something.” I sit back in my seat and cross my legs. “See, you don’t get it. I have no conscience when it comes to you! There are no rules in this room. Do you need a further demonstration or do I have your attention now?”

I wait for a few more moments while he ceremoniously coughs and gags and when his performance is finally over, I continue my tale.

“You’ve been a bad boy, Edward,” I begin.

“What the hell are you talking about?” he chokes out, his voice raspy.

“Well, it looks like I’m not going to get my settlement from you after all, because your business is riddled with criminal activity.”

Various emotion flash across his face in an instant before he quickly recovers, sits up straight in his seat and declares, “I’m sure I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, sure you do,” I say casually, “extortion, money laundering, identity theft—just to name a few. It’s quite the racket you’ve got going on… emphasis on the racket.

“Not my racket anymore,” he says, smugly.

“True, you sold the business to me, but you still committed the illegal activity.”

“Your problem now, not mine.”

“No, lover, not my problem. Still yours. You see, when you own a house and you commit a crime in it, just because you sold the house doesn’t mean you sold the crime.”

“I didn’t sell you a house.”

“You didn’t sell me a crime, either.” I fold my arms and lean back in my chair.

“What happened? Did someone come to collect?” A knowing smile creeps across his face. I shrug.

“If anyone comes to collect, I’ll send them to you,” I say sweetly.

“They’ll know I don’t have the money, lover,” he taunts, using my word. “They’ll follow the cash and come to collect from the business.” I twitch my lips and nod.

“Hmm, that’s too bad, because if they do, then they’ll have to collect from the Feds!”

I say the last word so hard that it echoes through the room and causes a silence that resonates like death. Edward turns pale white as a ghost and I swear he looks like he’s going to faint. With a freshly henna-clad hand, I push the envelope over to him, knowing what’s inside. It’s a copy of the United States’ Attorney General’s preliminary report delivered this morning, indicating that suitable evidence has been found to pursue criminal charges for violations of the RICO act. Also in the letter is a declaration clearing me of any charges as I was not the owner of the business during the criminal activity, but also indicating that the federal government will be seizing Edwise pending further investigation.

Check.

“The Feds…” He repeats the word like he can’t believe I said it or he doesn’t know what it means. You stupid fuck, you know exactly what it means!

“Here’s what happens now, Edward,” I say, sitting back in the seat again and placing my arms on the armrest. He’s a bit distracted by my impressive cleavage now on display through the oval opening of my shirt. I deliberately run my fingers across my exposed mound and then point to my face. “Eyes up here, lover,” I say. His jaw tightens.

“I haven’t had a woman in over a year,” he growls. “You come in here with your goddamn tits on display and you don’t expect me to look?” I giggle sheepishly.

“Of course, I expect you to look. Why do you think I wore this get-up? I need to be sure I have your attention,” I taunt, standing from the chair and stepping away from the table. I hold my hands up as if to model my outfit. I know I look good. My blouse dips in at the waist, accentuating my flattening stomach and flaring out demurely over my hips and ass and the flowing white pants that cup my frame. Nothing is too tight; everything falls just right to allow you to see the goods and leave just enough to the imagination. I spin slowly that he can take it all in. Look at what you’re missing.

“Commit it to memory,” I say, framing my body and showing of my henna hands and arms. “I’m sure you already have, only this is not the body you remember. So, yes, please… get a really good look.” He ogles me for a few moments longer before I take my seat again, then his eyes are back on my boobs. “Show’s over now. I need your attention.”

Chuck smacks him upside the back of his head like an errant child, and he throws Chuck a hateful glare.

“So, here’s my theory.” I entwine my fingers on the table again. He still hasn’t opened the envelope. “You thought you could give the business to me and not have to deal with your… partners anymore. You’ve now pushed that responsibility off onto me because—as you said—they’re going to follow the money, so they’re going to try to collect from me, or so you thought. In addition, you’ve cleaned up your debt with me because you’ve turned over all of your assets to me, effectively killing two birds with one stone. You have veritably paid one debt with another and thought you could wash your hands of them both.

“In effect, part of that is true. Your debt to me is settled. You used your assets on hand to settle your lawsuit. So, we’re even in the eyes of the law. However, in the process of trying to push your rotten eggs off into my lap, you have effectively turned over all the evidence that almost since the day you started your business, you’ve violated just about every RICO act and regulation in existence, and if they keep looking, the Feds might find that you’ve violated the entire thing.

“The evidence runs so deep that I’m certain they’ll find that your business was mainly a racketeering ring and the software and hardware company was just a front. Your dumb ass kept a paper trail and electronic records and I have spent most of your money following that trail… and I turned every single bit of it over to the Feds. All of your emails, all of your telephone records, text records, financial reports, banking information, tax returns, contacts, asset reports, correspondence, communications, properties, everything. If you had a sticky note under a desk in a storage closet in the basement, they’ve got it!”

Looking at him now, I’m sure he’s about to pass out. He’s broken out into a visible sweat and his hair is sticking to his face.

“What’s the matter, Eddie?” I ask with contempt. “Was this your last attempt to make a stab at me and yet again, it backfired on your ass? When are you going to learn that you can’t break me? Everything that you try to do to me, you might as well do it to yourself—you’ll be better off that way and it might hurt less. I have no idea who any of the people are that you were dealing with. Everything is coded and the Feds are going to break the codes; you know that… and your people know that, too. So how was this supposed to hurt me? It couldn’t be the money; I’m already a billionaire. You couldn’t have expected to stick me with this crime because you were an LLC… or is that what you expected to happen?”

His eyes are darting around and he looks like a caged animal trying to escape. I’m not sure he heard any of the last few things I said. I think he’s having an anxiety attack.

Get the fuck outta here…

“Son of a bitch,” I say incredulously, just above a whisper. “You did! You did expect for it to fall on me. How could you possibly expect this to fall on me?” I’m really talking to no one in particular now, just kind of speaking into the air. “This is Business 101. LLC—your act doesn’t follow me… how could you not know that?”

He still looks sick. Now, I’m really glad I came because I really needed to see him face-to-face for this. I take a deep breath so that I can finish this death blow.

“Bring that fucker back,” I say to Chuck.

“Pay attention!” Chuck says, slapping Edward hard in the back of his head. Edward’s hands hit flat on the table to steady himself and when he raises his eyes to me, his glare is death… and it doesn’t move me at all. I get up and walk over to his side of the table. His glare follows me as I lean down into his face.

“I’d soften that gaze if I were you. You wouldn’t want to make me nervous,” I threaten, employing Christian’s patented stare. He swallows and his gaze softens only slightly. That’s all I needed, just to see that chink in the armor.

“So, let’s weigh your options,” I say, walking back to the other side of the table and taking a seat. “You can find some kind of way to warn your contacts so that they can cover their asses, but know that the Feds are probably watching you now. Or you can turn state’s evidence and tell the Feds who those people are. They’ll probably put you in protective custody. Either way, once you’ve served your term here, you’ll most likely spend the rest of your life in federal prison. You have no money left to pay the numerous fines you’re going to accumulate for your multiple crimes, so… get comfortable, Eddie, because life as you knew it is over.

“Even though I didn’t see a penny of my settlement, you gave me an even better gift. You gave me the ammo to fry your ass for the rest of your motherfucking life. Thank you, you miserable piece of shit. If you weren’t such a selfish fucking asshole, you could have saved yourself all of this. All you had to do was not be a narcissistic piece of shit, but no, Eddie had to get his way. Eddie had to fuck everything walking. I left you alone. I walked away and you couldn’t leave me in peace. No, you had to come back and stalk me and harass me and kidnap me, cause me pain and hold me responsible for your fucked up, sadistic behavior. And look where it got you. All you had to do was leave me the fuck alone and walk away.

“When you saw me at that party, you should have kept walking, but you saw another victim. You saw another Camilla, you sick fuck! You tried to recreate that girl you victimized and it cost you everything! You should have left me alone. How does it feel now, Edward? How does it feel that you fucked with the wrong one? So, get used to it, because the best you can hope for now is to end up somebody’s jailhouse bitch!”

Checkmate.

I stand up, smooth my shirt and put my jacket back on. I take one last look at Mr. Edward David, the man that once held my heart and at one time, could pluck my strings like no other man alive. That seems like such a long time ago, like it never happened. I don’t even recognize him anymore. He’s slumped over in the chair almost face down on the table, his shoulders heavy with utter defeat. His hands are clasped one on top of the other on top of the still unopened envelope. He doesn’t have to open it. He knows what’s inside. He knows his fate is sealed just like that envelope, and if he opens it, it will only bring the reality to light.

“To coin a phrase from one of my favorite movies, ‘I want you to know that I will forget you after this moment and never think of you again. But you, I am quite certain will think about me every single day for the rest of your life.’”

With those words from my mouth, his head falls to the table with a thud. He’s powerless and vulnerable. He has nothing left. The only thing he can possibly hope for after this is if someone takes some kind of pity on him. The only thing he has left is this institution. He can’t even go back to his parents. This is his life now. Ben knocks on the door and the guard on the other side opens it and lets us out.

We retrieve our items from reception and the warden is waiting for me when I’m just about to leave the prison.

The Warden? Christian… of course.

“Mrs. Grey?” He extends his hand to me. “I’m Ronald Holstein, superintendent of Washington State Penitentiary.” I take his hand.

“Mr. Holstein, a pleasure to meet you, sir.”

“I was informed by your head of security that you would be visiting us today. I was again contacted by your husband voicing his concerns about your safety and well-being. I do hope your visit was… bearable.” I smile. How politically correct. “I don’t dare presume to say ‘pleasant.’ No one ever wants to visit this place.”

“I appreciate your candor, Mr. Holstein,” I tell him. “Yes, my visit was bearable, and quite necessary. Thank you for accommodating me on such short notice. As you know, the situation was very delicate and could not be put off.”

“I’m not aware of the intricacies of the situation. However, the details are unnecessary. I’m glad we were able to meet your needs.” He pulls a card out of his pocket. “Let me know if I can be of any further assistance and please give my regards to Mr. Grey.” I take his card and nod.

“Thank you again, Mr. Holstein,” I proffer my hand once more and he accepts the shake.

“Mrs. Grey.” He nods at me and we part ways as I head to the front gate with Chuck and Ben in tow. Pedo-Bitch is somewhere in these walls… I think. I don’t know. Her trial is coming up soon. Next month, I think. I’ll have to look at my calendar. Hell, I don’t even know if I would make a credible witness anymore. I’ve suffered memory loss.

The ride is silent from Washington State Penitentiary back to Walla Walla Airport and the GEH jet. None of us say anything until the pilot tells us that it’s safe to move about the cabin.

“Can I get you anything, Mrs. Grey?” I’m daydreaming when Constance—GEH’s newest young flight attendant—comes to offer us refreshments.

“Do you have any dry red wine?” I ask.

“Yes, ma’am,” she responds.

“Cabernet Sauvignon?” I ask, hopeful.

“Of course. Mr. Grey insists,” she smiles.

“The biggest glass you’ve got,” I say. She nods.

“Mr. Grey also insisted on large bowl glasses.”

“God, I love that man!” I sigh heavily as I lay my head back on the seat. I feel Chuck’s hand cover mine, but I don’t open my eyes.

“You okay?” he asks. I nod.

“I’m closing the book on a chapter of my life, Chuck,” I tell him. “There’s nothing else that I have to do with that man, ever.”

“Let’s hope not,” he says. “You declared total war. That’s a dangerous game. You didn’t just destroy him; you tormented that man in the process. Yet more proof that I never want to piss you off.” I sigh heavily.

“I loved that man once. I once looked into those big, brown eyes and saw my future there… my entire life.”

“You were young…”

“I was blind!” I snap, glaring at him. “I was blinded by his charm and the need to be desired by someone—genuinely desired by someone. He saw that. He was searching for that and he saw it me, just like the predator that he is. I was wearing like a goddamn banner and he groomed me just like a pedophile grooms a child. When I was ripe, he plucked me.” I turn away in disgust. “I walked right into danger just like I did with Cody Whitmore—willingly—only this time, I slept with it… for years!”

I sigh again wondering how I could have been so gullible, so stupid as to just wander aimlessly right into the mouth of the beast, not once, but twice. Constance cautiously approaches and hands me a large bowl wine glass of my beloved Cabernet. I clutch it for a moment, staring into the concoction and the answer comes to me like as if I’m staring into a crystal ball.

I was lonely and hurt. For years, I was made to feel like I was nothing and no one. I was brought up in a home of love and kindness for the first part of my life and then, out of nowhere, it was ripped away from me and I was traumatized. The foundation of security that was laid for me was torn from under me and I was cast into the wilderness—literally—with no direction, no affection, and no instruction. I could have died. I thought I would. I wanted to. I reached for any bit of hope and love that was offered to me, even if it was offered by the devil, and twice, it was.

Now, I have a daughter.

“Make sure your daughter knows what a jewel she is,” I say, turning my gaze back to Chuck. “Make sure she knows how important she is. Don’t throw her to the wolves.” He furrows his brow at me for a long moment, but the nods wordlessly. I turn and look down into the deep bowl of burgundy liquid in my hand.

“Adieu pour toujours, Monsieur David,” I say, taking a large swallow of the comforting elixir.


A/N: The quote that Ana says to Edward comes from a movie called “Ever After.” It’s a Cinderella story where Danielle—the Cinderella character—gains the favor of the prince before the ball, but when she presents herself to him, her stepmother outs her as a “slave” in her household. Having lost the prince, the stepmother sells Danielle to another evil man, but she escapes just as the Prince has come to his senses and comes to rescue her. The stepmother and the bitch stepsister that “Mom” was trying to hook up with the Prince were summoned to the castle and once there, convicted of lying to the Queen and sentenced to be stripped of her baronness title and sent to America penniless unless someone was willing to speak for her. Danielle emerges as the Princess and “speaks” for her stepmother, who is forced to bow to her and call her—of all things—Your Highness. Danielle says the infamous quote above about never thinking of her again before asking the King to send her and her daughter off to a life of servitude in the castle. The younger daughter, who had been nice to Danielle, moved into the castle with Danielle and a young knight that she had fallen in love with. Ever After Scene

Adieu pour toujours, Monsieur David”— “Goodbye forever, Mr. David.”

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

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

Love and handcuffs 🙂 
Lynn X

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 58—A Whole New World

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—A Whole New World

ANASTASIA

Gail wanted to let me sleep in my first night home from the hospital, but I couldn’t sleep if I wanted to. There are two babies in the house… and no longer inside my body. Every time I rolled over to adjust to the baby bump and discovered that there was no baby bump, I awoke in a panic. So I never slept more than thirty minutes at a time. I found myself prodding down to the nursery at least three times just to peek in and watch them sleeping in their cribs. It was no use. No matter what I did, I couldn’t sleep. Maybe tomorrow night…

Of course, this means that morning finds me groggy and disheveled. I have pumped a few bottles with Mia’s super breast pump as well as fed Mackenzie since Mikey didn’t wake up yet. Now, I’m sitting at the breakfast bar, my arms wrapped around my flatter stomach as if my babies were still there, debating if I should try now to get some sleep.

“Look what I found.” Christian’s sing-songy voice causes me to raise my head to find him coming into the kitchen with one of the babies in his arms.

“Who’s that?” I ask.

“Mikey,” he says. “Mackenzie is still fast asleep, but Mikey’s little whine actually woke me up.” He looks up at me and frowns. “Are you alright? You don’t look well.”

“I’m fine,” I say sluggishly, rising from the breakfast bar and holding my arms out for Mikey.

“Do you want me to feed him?” he asks. “You really look beat.”

“No, Mackenzie’s asleep because she latched. Michael’s awake because he didn’t. I have to get him more accustomed to the breast than the bottle, but with how much I pumped this morning, I hope I have something left.” I’m still holding my arms out and Christian is still frowning at me, but won’t surrender Mikey.

“Go to the recliner, baby,” he says. “I’ll bring him to you.”

I’m hardly in the mood to protest. I drag over to the recliner and nearly fall into it. Once Christian puts Mikey in my arms, I lift my camisole and rub my nipple against his tiny little cheek. He turns his head and latches on immediately and I feel the milk flow as if my breast is completely full and I hadn’t pumped a drop out of them this morning. I settle back in the comfort of the chair and relax in the solace of feeding my baby boy.

When I open my eyes, I’m wrapped in my microfiber throw, cuddled comfortably in my recliner. I raise my head to see Mikey’s Pack-n-Play in the middle of the family room. Both newborn nappers have been placed inside, each holding one of my children. I stretch leisurely in my chair. How long was I asleep? I must have fallen asleep while I was feeding Mikey. I have to be more careful in the future.

Although I’m stretched out and awake in the chair, I’m in no hurry to get up. I’ve been awake all night and I just want to sit here. I think about Vee’s speech while we were making our getaway. She really broke her usual protocol last night. She’s always the one who tries to keep us in line—makes sure we say the right things. Last night, she just dropped the proverbial mic and walked off the podium. Christian didn’t say much about her statement. I wonder if he was upset about it. I thought she was spot on, not that it’ll do any good. Those fuckers are probably camped outside the gates as we speak. Those snipers are sounding better and better every day.

I pull up my camisole and look at my belly. I’m not wearing my belly belt and my henna has faded. Luckily, the oil that I used faithfully every day prevented me from having any stretch marks on my stomach, but I do still have the post-partum bulge, of course. I look like I’m a solid four-to-five months pregnant. I rub my stomach—so much smaller than it used to be and so very obviously empty. It feels weird not to have something kick me back when I disturb the peace. I have to admit that it feels a bit… lonely. I’ll have to get used to the way things were before there were people inside of me. I can hardly remember that time. I grip my stomach and try to shake the feeling like I’ve lost something precious.

“What is this?” I say quietly to myself. Nobody prepared me for this. Everybody told me about the joy that I would feel when I held my babies; how they would light up my life and give me purpose; that nothing in the world would feel like being a mother; how you would immediately know what to do when the doctor put them in your arms. All of that is true. My babies are precious and beautiful. They’re priceless and gorgeous and I wouldn’t trade them for anything… but no one told me that one they were born, I would feel so empty… so hollow. I literally feel soulless. What is this horrible feeling?

baby-sleeping-cribI rub my belly looking for the connection that I felt only days ago. Nothing. There’s nothing. Not a flutter. Not a flicker. I throw the blanket off of me and go over to the Pack-n-Play.  Mikey is trying to fit his fist in his mouth, and Minnie is lying with her hands spread open on either side of her head, like she’s trying to mock surprise. It makes me giggle a bit. They kept up so much hell inside me to be so peaceful now. Am I a horrible mother for missing the connection that I had with my children while they were inside of me?

I don’t know how long I stand there watching them sleep, cradling my stomach, singing their lullaby and thinking about the nights I used to lull them to sleep… and they did the same to me. When I felt my worst, my ugliest, my loneliest, they kept me company and gave me purpose, and I kept them safe. Now, they’re out here in the cold, cruel world. There’s nobody to warm me from the inside, and I can’t keep them safe inside of me anymore. What the hell do I do now?

“Hey.” Christian’s concerned voice wafts behind me and causes my shoulders to drop. “What’s wrong? This doesn’t look like the happy, rested mother of two beautiful newborn twin babies.” I’m still grasping my stomach, trying to be inconspicuous about it.

“I don’t know,” I say honestly. “I just… I feel so…” I’m ashamed to say it aloud.

“Is this the post-partum depression thing?” he asks, putting his hands on my shoulder. I shake my head.

“No,” I say, never moving my gaze from the babies. “No, it’s not that. It’s…” I still can’t say it. He examines me closely. Knowing me the way that he does, he takes my arms from around my body, stands behind me and replaces them with his own. He nestles his lips in my neck and places tender kisses there before resting his chin on my shoulder.

“They’re here now,” he says softly, gazing at our children and holding me closer and tighter than he has in months. “They’re here, and they’re alive, and beautiful, and healthy, and perfect.” He speaks with reverence and wonder in his voice. “Two extraordinary beings—products of our love, nurtured in your body, brought forth by your care and your labor—here, with us, now, for us to love and cherish and cultivate… to watch them grow and flourish and thrive.” He rubs my stomach gently. “They may not be here anymore…” He entwines his fingers with mine, and places one on each newborn napper. “… But they’re here…” He then places both hands over my heart. “… And they’ll always be here.”

How I could have married a man so sensitive, kind, and loving, I’ll never know. My heart swells and I have to fight back tears that I don’t want to cry. Too many have been shed for too many reasons, and I just don’t want to shed anymore. I unthread my fingers from his and turn around in his arms. Thrusting my hands in his hair, I kiss him deeply. He moans into my mouth and returns my fever. I love him so much.

“You wanna make out in the recliner until the twins wake up?” he groans.

“Yes,” I breathe, between kisses.

*-*

“How do you two plan to make it six weeks? You’re pawing at each other already.” Jason and Chuck come into the family room in what looks like a semi-official capacity.

“It’s just kissing,” I defend, adjusting myself in Christian’s lap. “I’m not dry-fucking the man!” I examine them carefully. “What’s up?” I ask, knowing they came in to tell us something. The pause is pregnant.

“The sex of the twins has been leaked,” Chuck says, “probably from the same source that leaked that you checked in. There’s speculation on the names—from the exotic to the ridiculous.” Christian’s hand clenches on my thigh. I sigh and curl into his lap, nuzzling his neck and kissing the skin below his earlobe. He shudders infinitesimally.

“That’s okay,” I say, wistfully. “The birth announcements will go out today anyway, the sooner the better. Kill the speculation of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene Grey.” I hear Christian chuckle in his chest, a deep, throaty sound as his hand moves from my thigh up to my hips and he turns his mouth to meet my kiss-swollen lips.

“Okay,” Jason says, “that was easy.” It’s quiet for a moment and I tear my attention away from my husband’s lips to see what’s happening in the room. Jason is looking over into the Pack-n-Play at the children and Chuck is making his way over to them as well.

“God,” he says, breathily, “I can barely remember Sophie ever being that small.” He looks at the children in wonder.

“They’re so tiny and helpless,” Chuck says, his protective instinct dripping off him like water from a fresh shower. “I mean, look at ‘em. They depend on you for everything.”

“I know, right?” Jason says, flashing a look at his colleague and friend, carrying on a conversation about our children as if we weren’t a few feet away making out in a chair.

“Are Peterson and Dougherty ready?” Chuck asks, never taking his eyes off the twins. “I don’t want them fucking up on my watch.” Jason chuckles.

“Strange, they’re saying the same thing about you,” he retorts. Chuck glares at him.

“You tell those clowns I’ve been at this for more than a year and I’ve more than once delivered the package in one piece, even in great detriment to myself. They better be just as diligent or they’ll have to fucking answer to me.” His voice is cold and menacing. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell that Peterson and Dougherty must be the detail that will be assigned to the twins.

“Easy, soldier,” Jason says, throwing a look back at Chuck. “You know Peterson is top of the line and Dougherty has more than once been underestimated. You know we wouldn’t sidestep on this.”

“Then explain Bronson!” Chuck retorts quietly. “What the fuck was that all about?”

“He was good for the job,” Jason says, “we just didn’t expect her to be so… lively.” Chuck twists his lips.

“I was out of commission and I expected her to be so lively,” he says flatly, and I have to stifle a giggle. How could Jason not know that Mare is such a fireball? If he didn’t, he does now, and I hope her security detail is just as hot.

“Well, I’ll just say this,” Chuck says, squaring his shoulders. “You tell those fuckers not to worry about me. They had better all be on their game, and if any of them drops their ball on my watch, I’ll shoot ‘em my damn self!” He turns around right into mine and Christian’s gaze, having totally forgotten that we were in the room. Without a word, he marches past us towards the elevator. Sergeant Davenport is officially ready for action and to kick ass. Jason watches as he walks towards the elevator, then turns his gaze to us.

“Prima Dona,” he says, before looking back at the twins.

“Should I be concerned?” Christian asks. Jason looks at him and frowns.

“About what?” he says. “If anything, he’s more dedicated than ever. That’s usually the case after something like… this.” Jason stretches his neck and rolls his shoulder. I know immediately that he’s recalling the bullet he took for Christian.

“I can imagine,” Christian say, his voice betraying his gratitude. “What I mean is… they have to trust each other to work together.”

“Oh, that,” Jason says, waving him off. “That’s harmless ribbing. Chuck’s going to be a little sensitive about it because he’s not 100% back on the beat yet, but he’ll be fine. It happened to me, too. It happens to all of us.” I feel Christian relax slightly underneath me.

“I need to shower,” I whisper to him, “and I’m hungry.”

“Mr. Taylor,” Christian says, garnering Jason’s attention.

“Yes, Mr. Grey?” Jason replies in a mocking tone.

“Would you please tell your lovely wife to mind the twins for about an hour and to have something ready to eat at that time? Mrs. Grey needs to refresh herself.” Jason chuckles.

“Will do, sir,” and off he goes. Christian stands effortlessly with me in his arms.

“How about a bath, Mrs. Grey?” Oh, what a lovely idea.

“Oh yes, a hot bath. I haven’t had one in months!” He frowns as we walk to the elevator.

“Is it safe?” he asks. “So soon after delivery?” I snake my arms around his neck and kiss that same spot. He’s so good to me and wants to take care of me. I love him so much.

“Yes, baby, it’s safe. We’re not going to boil me,” I laugh. “And you can join me if you like, just to make sure that I don’t melt.”

“Hmm,” he moans, deep in his chest. “I like…”

I’m cocooned in Christian’s arms and legs in my huge bathtub, adoring the hot water that I haven’t felt in months. I’m lying back on his chest as he gently scrubs my skin with a freshwater sponge.

“So,” I begin, my voice relaxed, “Vee’s speech was uncharacteristic.”

“And true,” he says without missing a beat. “Those assholes never give up. It’s like they’re hoping to see a body or something soon—our worst fears and moments plastered all over the news. It really should have been a joyous occasion, us bringing our babies to our new home. Yet, we had to smuggle them out the back door like illegal drugs. I’m surprised we didn’t have to put you all in body bags!”

“Oh, Christian!” I scold. “How macabre!”

“I’m sorry, baby, but we were one step off of it,” he says. “We had to take you out through the goddamn morgue!”

“I know, but the staff was wonderful, weren’t they?” I remind him. “Had they blindfolded me and taken me to that hallway, I never would have known.” I won’t remember the horrible truth that I had the “smuggle” my children out of the hospital through the morgue. I’ll remember that the staff brought me to tears by lining the halls with balloons, flowers, posters, smiles, light and kindness as we left.

“Yeah, they did a great job. It’s the least they could do,” he adds.

“Don’t blame the entire hospital for the actions of one, husband,” I chastise. “They went out of their way to bring our babies safely into the world and to set things right and you know it.” I feel him nod behind me.

“Yes, wife, you’re right,” he says gently cupping my breast. I turn around in his lap.

“So why do you think she did it… Vee, I mean?” I say, relieving him of the freshwater sponge and beginning to clean his skin with it.

“I don’t know, Butterfly,” he says, gently caressing my body as I stroke the sponge over him—his arms, his shoulders, his chest. “Maybe she was stalling… giving us time to get home. Or maybe she was just tired, physically tired or just tired of what she has been seeing these past couple of years.”

“God, Christian, it hasn’t even been two years, yet,” I lament. “Heaven only knows the fires that poor woman has had to put out with me in your life, not to mention the 24-hour extinguisher she had to carry around before you even met me. I’d be exhausted, too.”

“Yeah, I know,” he says, his voice low. He’s silent for a moment. His caress becomes tender, more sensual. “I’ve missed this,” he says, huskily. I kiss his neck.

“I have, too,” I say, straddling his body but careful to keep my sex away from his. There’s no possible way we could or would dare indulge ourselves right now. I continue to clean him, paying attention to the ripple of his muscles under the clear water. He looks divine. Granted, we’ve had baths, but not the hot, soothing baths… and so close together without our entire family in the tub with us. His arms can wrap further around me again and I like that feeling. Our chests touch again… and I feel his erection growing on my belly, again.

I take his lips with mine and sink my tongue into his mouth, exploring deeply. One arm wraps around my back while the other wet hand comes out of the water and gently cups my cheek. He tries to take over the kiss, but I dominate him, licking the crevices of his mouth and fisting his hair firmly to keep his head angled perfectly for me. He groans deep and tortured into my mouth and surrenders to my kiss, his resolve hanging on by a string and his erection getting firmer underneath me.

“Baby,” he breathes when I let him up for air. I cover his mouth again and he sighs and whimpers, grasping me hard and pulling me against him. I have no purchase to move. We’re tangled in a passionate jungle kiss and when I pull back and look at him, his eyes are feral, hungry, almost dangerous.

“Let me go,” I breathe. His brow furrows and his dilated pupils constrict a bit.

“What?” he says, slightly breathless.

“Release me,” I say. Confused, he releases his hold on me and I slide slightly down his legs, rubbing his erection against my palm. His lips slack and his pupils dilate again.

“Butterfly… no…” he breathes, his control slipping. “I don’t need this.”

“Shh,” I say, still rubbing my palm against his hardening erection. I feel his resolve slipping.

“Baby, you can’t do anything,” he says, his voice shaky, “it’s too soon.”

“I know,” I confess, “but I can take care of you.” I run my palm and fingers over and around the swelling head and he sucks in a deep breath. He gasps my wrist and stops my hand, taking a steadying breath before raising his eyes to me.

“I don’t need this,” he says firmly. I gaze into his eyes.

“You don’t… want me to…” I can’t hide my disappointment.

“I always want you, Butterfly,” he stops me, “any way I can have you, but I don’t need this right now. I can just hold you… touch you and kiss you…” I believe him, that he could just hold me and kiss me, but he would be doing that mostly for me. I crave that intimacy, too, and we can have that intimacy, but right now, more than anything, I want to satiate my man.

“Lie back,” I say definitively.

“Butterfly…” he protests.

“Lie. Back.” I say again, allowing a full three seconds to pass between the words. He examines me for a long time—hours it seems, before surrender settles in his eyes. He releases my wrist and lies back against the marble of the Grecian tub. I fist his erection in my hand and begin to stroke from root to tip. He gasps loudly, attempting to maintain control, but unable to stifle his moan as I stroke his aching cock. I see him pink up under the water almost immediately—my purple, veiny, angry friend very soon to make his appearance.

Like hell, you don’t need this.

I tighten my grip, speeding my stroke just a bit. I feel him steel his hips while he white-knuckle grasps the edges of the tub, his jaw tight as he grits his teeth, watching my hand.

“Don’t stiffen up, baby,” I coax him. “Enjoy it.”

His grip on the tub loosens, but he still doesn’t know what to do with his hands.

You don’t get it, do you? I’m not jacking you off. I’m making love to you with my hands.

I use both hands, one hand firmly pumping him, the other teasing the head, slit, and the frenulum of his cock. I don’t watch my hands. I don’t watch his penis. I watch him—his reactions, his labored breathing, his unleashed desire and finally, his surrender. His muscles start to ripple harder and he starts to transcend, whatever inhibitions he’s feeling slowing slipping away.

“God… oh, God… it feels so good,” he says, almost incoherently, just above a whisper. His head rolls back and his hips roll infinitesimally into my hands. He doesn’t want to disturb the stroke, the manipulation, but he wants it just a little deeper. I allow him to control that thrust and he moans deep in his chest. After several moments, he finally opens lustful, passionate eyes and looks at me. The hunger and longing are there… and the love. I lean forward so that my nipples graze his chest and my mouth is right there at his. He groans hard as my angle gives me a deeper pull against his penis.

“Ana,” he groans in tormented pleasure.

“Hold me,” I say into his mouth. “Kiss me…”

“Yes!” he breathes, cupping my face with his hands and kissing me hungrily, gasping for air in his passion. “Baby…”

“That’s it,” I coax him, biting his lip, gently at first, then firmly to elicit just the right amount of pain.

“Ah, fuck!” he cries, processing the pain in his lip and the pleasure in his dick. His hand moves to my ass cheek and squeezes hard while the other slides to grasp my neck and cheek simultaneously, holding me possessively. I love it!

“You like it?” I growl, my mouth now at his ear, my hand firmly fisting and pistoning his cock from root to tip, ferociously rubbing the head each time I pass it.

“Yes! God, yes!” he hisses.

“You’re about to come,” I say in his ear. “I feel it. I feel your hard cock pounding against my hand. I feel the blood rushing to the surface and that vein pulsing ready to explode!”

“Oh, my God!” he laments, closing his eyes, his voice anguished in helpless passion. I reach down and give his tightening testicles one torturous stroke, and then another, and another. He jerks violently with each pass.

“Mmmmm, you feel that?” I tease. “They’re so ready to blow for me, so tight and ready to release…” I lick his neck up to his earlobe then suck the lobe into my mouth.

“Aannnaaa…” he groans, half in protest, half in surrender as if to say, “why are you doing this to me; why are you tormenting me?”

Because I love you, and I want to feel you thumping in my hands when you come.

“Give it to me, baby,” I say directly in his ear, my bare breasts rubbing against his chest, my tongue lapping at his neck as he offers himself to me. “Give it to me… come on, baby…” His face is agonized, tortured in ecstasy as he chokes out those pre-orgasmic breaths. The hand that previously grasped my cheek and neck now firmly grasps the side of the tub while his other hand moves to the floor of the tub to steady him. I pump hard and deep, sure to cross his sensitive head and frenulum with each stroke and manipulating his eager, tightening balls in the process.

Yes, my love, let it go.

Right at that crucial moment when I feel his testicles solidify and that muscle start to throb, I bite down on his neck and suck hard.

“Ah… ah… Ana…!”

He chokes that familiar mournful sound as I feel him throb in my fist and jerk through his orgasm. His back straight, his eyes closed, his head back, and his mouth open, he’s paralyzed with pleasure as I suck hard, then lick beads of water and sweat from his throat, still pumping his penis while he ejaculates. He’s gasping through his climax as if he’s taking his last breaths and somehow, I know he needed this more than he was willing to admit. He shakily leans back against the tub, still trembling and unable to catch his breath, speechless, his hair sticking to his face and his eyes still closed. I lean against his chest and he wraps a shaky arm around me, trying to regain his control.

Maxie’s right. I have no idea how I’m going to stay away from that dick for six weeks.


CHRISTIAN

My wife has magic hands. Fucking magic!

I was fine to sit in that wonderful warm water with her, to touch her and kiss her and just be in her presence. Our bodies hadn’t been that close in a long time. I hadn’t been able to put my arms around her and pull her against me like that, feel her bare breasts against my chest and hold her close to my body. I miss the swollenness of the baby bump, but feeling her against me like that was euphoric. I’ll admit, it turned me on and I got hard, but I was fine caressing her and just feeling her body against me.

I almost felt bruised when she told me to let her go. At first, I thought she might have thought I was trying to get some pussy and I was a little hurt, but when she touched me, Greystone ignited immediately and I didn’t think I could stand it. I certainly couldn’t tolerate the thought of her getting me off and I couldn’t reciprocate anything at this point, not even a little one-on-one time with her clit. But when I looked into her eyes, I knew that at that moment, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have no idea how we’re going to get through the next six weeks without me being able to be inside her. The only times I haven’t touched my wife intimately for any extended periods of time were when we were having horrible fights—Montana, the fundraiser fiasco, Flynngate—and when she was in the hospital in a coma. I shudder to think of that one more than any of the others. But if today’s demonstration was any indication, we’re going to be clawing at each other on March 6th.

Butterfly handled me like a pro, today. That release was mental, emotional, and physical. I don’t know what it was… recalling taking the babies out through the morgue, the helplessness I felt when she locked herself in the bathroom, McIntyre’s speech and all the memories it stirred—I didn’t even know I was wound so tight. Yes, her hands felt wonderful… magnificent! But more than that, she reached inside me and pulled out the anguish and despair that I didn’t even know was there. Then she warmed me with her body, kissing my face, neck and chest, stroking my hair and calming my soul when the orgasm was spent. I couldn’t stop shaking. I was drained, completely emptied in every way and I had no control over anything. I could do nothing but lie there and hold her and allow her to kiss me and love me when that’s what I wanted to do to her…

“Are you okay?” she asks, concern lacing her voice as she pushes wet tendrils of hair off my forehead. I can only nod. I’m trembling so hard that I can’t find my voice. My dick isn’t coming anymore, but my body is still orgasmic—surges of energy pulsing through me, through all my extremities like the chills you feel later in the day when you have a flashback of the experience.

“Do you need anything?” she breathes. “Some water, maybe?”

The thought of her leaving me, taking her warmth away, her body—it fills me with dread. I weakly reach for her with my other arm and hold her as close to me as I can, still trembling. Her kisses on my face, cheek, and chest serve to calm me a bit. The trembling starts to cease after several moments and I can finally take a full breath.

“There now,” she coos. “That’s better. You told a tale, Mr. Grey. You did need that.”

“I need you,” I say, turning a sleepy gaze to her. “More than anything in this world, I need you.” Her eyes fill with more love and adoration and she climbs atop me, careful how she positions herself. Cupping my face in her hands, she gazes into my eyes and pours all of that love back into me. She strokes my wet hair—from water or sweat, I don’t know—and clasps my face on either side.

“And I need you, Christian Grey,” she breathes, “more than you’ll ever know. So much that I ache.” She closes her eyes and brushes her lips against mine, then her nose, then her cheek, gently touching parts of her to parts of me before resting her forehead on mine and just sitting there. I slowly feel her energy surging into me as I move my arms around her and splay my hands over her back. She doesn’t move her hands from the side of my head, but her breathing changes, as does mine. At first, it’s short and breathless, like we’re only just learning how to use our lungs. Then, we’re panting, like we’ve been running a marathon, holding on to each other as if we would die—or float away—if we let go. Our breathing calms a bit, but it’s still labored, still intense—but even… we’re breathing the same breath, the same air. I need to be closer… closer…

I sit up with her in my lap, trying hard to satisfy this yearning, this aching in my chest—no, my soul… I need her in my soul! I’m clinging to her body, hoping to breathe her in, absorb her…

Butterfly… please…

She opens her eyes and her pupils are a deep ocean blue… and I’m lost. I dive in and immerse myself in the warmth as her energy and electricity surges through me through her fingertips, her breast, her thighs, her skin, her breath…

Ana… my life…

I feel a single tear burn a trek down my cheek at the same time that I see one escape her beautiful, glassy blue eye. I want to kiss it away, but I dare not move, dare not break this connection or I just might expire from the loss of energy. Another one soon follows, and another, and another, until we’re both silently weeping in each other’s arms, each afraid to release the other for fear that one or both of us may disappear or float away to that other plane that we’ve reached together. My soul cries…

I am you… only you…

I feel her whimper… or was it me? We whimpered… we are one. I feel everything… her breath, her pain, her love… it’s overwhelming. I struggle not to collapse from the intensity. I have to hold on… I hold on to her and ascend into this outer-body high… this transcendental plane where no one else exists but us—the I/you/me/we being that no one else understands…

But us… WeMeYouIUs…

Don’t stop breathing… please don’t stop breathing… If you stop breathing, I’ll stop breathing, and we’ll both cease to exist…

Sitting in the family room on the loveseat in a T-shirt and jeans sporting a large purple bruise on my neck, I feed my gorgeous wife her favorites foods—fresh fruits, chicken and vegetable kabobs, caprese salad and bruschetta with some of the sparkling grape juice we had from New Year’s Eve. I have to admit, my wife has always had a thing for healthy food, but it has to be prepared a certain way and that way is delicious! I need a higher protein diet with the amount of energy that I expend, but she won’t eat anything that’s not visibly appealing and tasty.

“I don’t want to spoil your mood,” I say, as I pop a piece of chicken in her mouth and hand her a flute of grape juice, “but I need to talk to you about something… so that I can be better prepared in the future.”

She chews her chicken and glances over at Gail and Keri, who are feeding and cooing at the twins. After she swallows the chicken, she sips her grape juice and holds it in her hands.

“Okay,” she says, somewhat steeling herself.

“When you… were crying, and you locked yourself in the bathroom at the hospital, can you tell me why?” I felt so helpless. She was so fragile and I didn’t know what was going on. All I wanted to do was make her pain stop and I didn’t know how. She looks down at her drink and sighs.

“Helplessness… I think,” she begins. We were feeling the same thing? “I felt like things were happening that I couldn’t control… I couldn’t fix…” Yeah, I know that feeling. “It was so overwhelming.” Her voice cracks. I reach for her hand.

“We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” I say softly. She shakes her head.

“No, it’s okay,” she says, swallowing hard. “I look at our children. They’re so tiny, and I feel that same dread that I felt when I discovered that I was pregnant, like the Boogeyman is just going to come and gobble them up—as evidence by the fact that our lives were completely disrupted by a tweet.” She says the last part with such disdain and disbelief.

“Then I looked over and you were holding one of the twins and Maxie was minding the other… and I felt the first real emptiness. I know I sounded unreasonable ranting about the Branch Davidians and Jim Jones, but…” She frowns deeply.” Did you ever stop to think what was going through those men’s minds to make them think they could get away with something like that? I mean what made them so desperate to separate from the real world that they would even try something like that? What was so horrible that they would rather die than to assimilate back into humanity. Seriously, Christian, how crazy must the world be when the crazies almost seem sane?”

That’s a really scary thought. When my wife was ranting about turning our home into a compound, I was hoping that the delirium would pass. Now she’s talking about Jim Jones possibly maybe having the right idea.

Careful there, soldier. Not too long ago, you wanted to put her in a box or a cage to protect her from the world. You effectively did just that when you told her not to go back to Helping Hands.

Duly noted.

“It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world out there, baby,” I tell her, “but we can only do our best to keep our wits about us and protect ourselves and our children. Really, that’s all we can do.”

“I know, but you wanted to know what had me locked in the bathroom… that was it,” she says resigned. “That overwhelming feeling of emptiness and helplessness.”

“And what can I do the next time it happens?” I ask, gently stroking her hand with my thumb. “I don’t want to tear doors down or take them off the hinges, but when you’re behind a locked door, crying, I feel the exact same helplessness.” She shrugs.

“I can’t guarantee that it won’t happen again, but I’ll try not to do it. I’ll try to communicate with you that I’m okay and that I just need a minute so that you’re not so helpless. God knows, I don’t want you to feel that way.”

anas-hair“I appreciate that, baby,” I tell her. She sighs and gathers her long mahogany hair in her hand, twists it a few times, and pulls it over her shoulder and over the short patch that encloses her scar. I gently stick my fingers in her hair and caress the scar, the area now covered with about as much hair as the very shortest part of a pixie cut. Butterfly’s hair grew back pretty quickly during the pregnancy, but I would imagine that it would take an extremely long time, probably years, before this small patch of hair would catch up with the rest of her hair. She would probably layer it or cut the rest of it the match some length of this spot before that ever happened.

Cut it… I actually shiver at the thought of it.

Caressing her scar has a similar effect on her as playing in the garden, only she leans into my hand and draws comfort from the gesture instead of arousal. At the risk of sounding bad, it’s like scratching a puppy behind the ear.

“It’s your hair, and I’ll love you no matter what you decide to do with it,” I begin softly, “but if you ever decide to cut this beautiful mane, would you please warn me first?” She opens her eyes and gazes at me.

“I would only trim it, Christian,” she says. “Five or six inches at the most. I would never cut it off.” I nod. That’s comforting. I lift the tresses from where they lay on her shoulders and chest and allow them to slide through my fingers. She smiles at me and crawls into my lap. She’s wearing these red harem pants that fall off her hips and sinfully small long-sleeved wraparound crop top that would allow easy access to feed the babies. Her midriff is covered by this beautiful exotic belly wrap that she ordered during the babymoon—one of several—making the entire ensemble look like a one-piece red jumpsuit with a really exotic middle. Upon seeing her, Gail immediately commented how jealous she was as Butterfly didn’t at all look like she’s had two babies two days ago and nearly looked like her pre-baby weight in the baby wrap. I had to concur.

“Christian,” Butterfly begins as she settles in my lap, “I know that Vee is your head of PR, but is she also a publicist, because we’re going to need one.”

Do you really think it’s that serious?” I ask her.

“I know it is,” she says. “We’re going to have to spoon-feed some information to the press or we’ll never get a moment’s peace. We may not be international news, although in some circuits, we are. But we’re big shit in Seattle—they’re going to be chasing us around like criminals. We’ll be fugitives in our own city. Vee mentioned Michael Jackson, but do you remember when he had to cover his children’s faces when they were in public—those ridiculous masks and scarves and things? I don’t want that for Minnie and Mikey. We need to drip feed information to the press so that we control what they get, just like we sent out the birth announcements. Yes, that big mouthed bitch let it slip that we had checked into the hospital and that the twins were male and female, but we still had the last word. Let us control what gets into the news instead of having to fend off rumors after the fact. I know we’ll still have to do some of that, but at least we’ll have a bit of a jump on things this way.”

She has a point. People are going to be clamoring for statements and pictures the moment either of us hit the public eye. We’ve got to be able to move around freely and handle our business.

“I’ll talk to her and see how she feels about it. If she can’t handle it, we might have to hire someone.” Butterfly sighs.

“Well, that’s going to be a nightmare,” she laments. I frown.

“How do you mean?” I ask.

“Name one publicist anywhere who wouldn’t want to make a name off your back,” she says. “We’d have to break them in, explain everything—how we move, why we do certain things, the non-disclosure agreements and what they entail, my history, your history… Vee knows when to come, what to do, what to say… we’ll never be able to train anybody like that.” I nod.

“So we have to convince McIntyre to do both jobs,” I say. “I don’t know, baby…”

“Isn’t there someone that you could promote from inside and make them head of PR if you make Vee our publicist?” 1I shrug.

“Maybe… I’ll talk to her about it on Monday,” I say.

And so we settled into a simple weekend—cuddling our children and each other, laughing and spending time with our nanny/house manager and security staff, who ironically are also our closest friends, sans Butterfly’s beloved Al. There’s a bit of melancholy in the moment as we all watch Keri connect with the children, caring for them coming naturally to her as if she’d done it all her life, the sad reality being that her visa will expire in less than two weeks and she will have to return to Anguilla.

She’s become a bit of a fixture around here. She and Chuck decide not to spend any of their precious remaining time together moving back to his home on Bainbridge. He’d agreed to do that after she left, much to Butterfly’s chagrin. She, like the rest of us, had become accustomed to having them around on a regular basis. Their absence will be sorely felt once they’re gone.

Finding a sleep schedule is a bit of a trial, especially since every moment Butterfly and I have alone, we can’t seem to keep our hands off each other. It’s not necessarily a sexual thing. I mean, I love her body and I always want to be inside her, but the raging monster that wants to fuck has subconsciously put himself on a brief hiatus, knowing that this is an impossibility right now. I don’t know how long he’ll stay tamed, but for right now, he’s calm. That’s not to say that he won’t show up front and center when she wants to put her hands—or her mouth—on me, like she did in the bathtub, sending me to a level of Nirvana to which I had no idea or intention to ascend. Lately, we’ve just wanted to touch, hug, kiss, and most of all, connect.

Our connections are cosmic and frequent lately, at least once a day. We’ve come to realize that the connection room, in theory, is a really good idea, but the actual act of connecting is quite spontaneous and we never actually get the opportunity to get to the room. It’s something that can’t really be planned. It’s not like meditating, where you set time aside and you focus or concentrate and get into a space in your mind… no. It just happens. And for some reason, we’ve been needing it right now more than ever.

The energy around you changes; your body and mind get caught up in the moment and if you move or think, the moment is lost. At the risk of sounding hokey, it’s like the spirits envelop you and push you together; tiny, powerful, invisible threads connect you and you can’t move. It’s only at the very beginning or when I wake that I realize that our hands always gravitate to the weakest points of the other’s body—the face, the neck, the garden, the burns, or a scar—where they stay welded until the connection has ended, and the love energy and healing energy flows back and forth from one to the other through these power-points, for lack of a better word, with such force that the soul and spirit can only weep. When the connection is over, we’re so spent that we always lose consciousness or fall asleep no matter where we are. That day in the bathtub, we stayed there until the water was cold.

I remember once reading a book in school that compared intense emotion to dying. The character’s grandmother had told him that each of us was born with a box of matches or candles inside of us, depending on which interpretation of the book you read. If all of those candles were lit at once by a strong emotion, it would create a brightness like a tunnel’s end that would lead the soul back to the place of our creation and leave the body dead. I was very young when I read that book, and I was certain that I would never feel that kind of love or emotion. So I was never in danger of being overcome and falling over the precipice of light into darkness, especially since I was already in perpetual darkness from what I could see. However, after waking in my wife’s arms a week after the birth of our children with her spooning me like she did on our honeymoon after our very first connection—still trembling from the intensity of the experience—I truly begin to wonder.

It’s almost like we die each time we connect; at the very least, we leave our mortal coil for a while, because I’m never conscious of the ending of the connection. I never asked Butterfly, because I don’t want to be too analytical about something so precious, special, and seemingly vital to our existence. But just this once, I lay here looking at the ceiling and wondering…

Could the connection actually be strong enough to cause us to transcend that far?

I certainly hoped something so beautiful couldn’t be the end of me, or worse, of Butterfly. I can only imagine that this is one of those things that—like Butterfly’s intense love—would drive a weaker man mad, or even kill a weaker man. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. All I know is that this experience is always mentally, physically, and emotionally draining. The world could be crumbling around us and we would never know. It’s better than sex and it reminds me of things like old movie scenes about giving ourselves to each other and book quotes about “going to the light.”

One thing’s for damn sure. If that’s how I have to go, I’ll embrace it wholeheartedly, because I wouldn’t trade this level of love and connection with my Butterfly for anything in this world.

*-*

February has come in and the month brings with it several developments that will make for a busy new year. I’ve taken paternity leave to spend the same six weeks bonding with my family as my beautiful wife, but that doesn’t mean that the work stops at GEH, or at home for that matter. McIntyre has agreed to become our publicist, but refuses to relinquish the reins of the PR department to anyone else. She’s afraid that some gung-ho idiot will drop the ball on some majorly important issue and we’ll have an international incident on our hands. I can see where she would be concerned about that sort of thing. She’s had to handle some pretty delicate situations for me. Had they been handled any other way or by anyone with any less experience or savoir faire, the results could have been disastrous.

She begrudgingly agreed to an assistant department head who couldn’t make any decisions in the beginning without her, but would gradually gain more responsibility as time progressed and they showed that they were worth their salt. When Butterfly wasn’t in earshot, I asked her what had caused her candidness during the press statement the night we left the hospital.

“I knew this was coming,” she says, sitting in one of the seats across from my desk in my home office. “I’m surprised you took so long to ask me.”

“You’ve always impressed upon me the importance of keeping a rein on your personal feelings. I was just wondering what caused you to stray from your own advice.” She tenses a bit.

“I didn’t mean to offend anyone,” she says, swallowing hard. “I hope that I didn’t cause any problems and I wasn’t trying to be unprofessional in any way…” I raise my hand to halt her explanation.

“That’s not what I meant,” I say, halting her attempts at an apology. “You said everything that I’ve wanted to say for the last year and a half, but you’ve stopped me from saying it and you said it more eloquently than I ever would have. Had you not taken the position as our publicist, I would have given you a raise anyway.” She releases a sigh of relief and visibly relaxes. “Butterfly and I were both just curious about what brought it on at that moment.” She sighs again and holds her head down.

“The only time I’ve ever seen you helpless is when it comes down to your wife,” she says, raising her eyes back to me. “You’re at your very strongest or your very weakest when it comes down to her. When it comes to protecting her, you’re a bull with impenetrable armor. When she’s hurt, unconscious, or missing, you’re a marshmallow. I’ve never seen that before in any person, anywhere, in my life ever! I wasn’t privy to what happened before I got to that room, but the panicked look in your eyes when you thought your wife was going to be locked in the bathroom again was just something that I couldn’t explain.

“She wasn’t handcuffed to a bed held captive by a psychotic ex-lover.
“She wasn’t off in the mountains of Montana with you not knowing whether or not she was going to return.
“She wasn’t in a coma on an IV knocking on death’s door.

“She was standing there listening to a conversation, and something that happened previously caused her to lock herself in the bathroom and that sent you into a state of slightly controlled anxiety. You were a marshmallow again attempting to bear that armor, and it wasn’t working. In that moment, I saw one of the strongest men that I’ve ever known with the exception of my father reduced to a heap of goo.

“Also in that moment, I got yet another glimpse of the utter torment that it must be just to be Anastasia Grey—the scrutiny that she’s had to suffer before she even became your wife. Here’s this woman who hasn’t done anything to anybody. You can’t find anything on her. Believe me, I’ve tried. And yet, she’s villainized as a gold-digger, a black widow, even a home-wrecker wherever the fuck they came up with that one. People hate her just because you love her, and she can’t have a moment’s peace, even to have her goddamn babies!” Her irritation is rising as she speaks her piece once again, but something she said keeps playing over in my head.

“People hate her because I love her?” I ask. “Why do you say that? I mean, I don’t doubt it, but what brought you to this conclusion?” She pinches her nose and her fingers spread across her eyebrows until she is massaging the edges near her temples.

“Christian,” she says, slipping easily into the familiar, and I can tell that she’s weary, “if you only knew how many hate sites I’ve had to kill, how much I’ve had to report on social media as slander, libel, or cyber bullying, empires would fall. She has more hits on Google Alerts and search engines than you do. AnaChris is only popular because of the Ana. I have a small staff of people that do nothing but comb the internet for hits you, her, or AnaChris and trust me—these days, Ana gets more than Chris.”

“Do you need more staff?” I ask.

“Yes, I do,” she says without hesitation.

“Hire whoever you need,” I reply. “You have total carte blanche.”

Visible relief settles on her face and she sinks back into her chair infinitesimally. She holds her head down and sighs heavily, like she’s let a huge weight off your shoulders.

“To answer your question,” she begins without raising her head, “I said those things because I was just tired… tired of seeing the way that she was being treated, how you were being treated, and the fact that you couldn’t even come to the hospital to have your babies in peace. Hell, a heart attack patient had to be diverted to St. Sinai because the ambulance couldn’t get through the throng of reporters and these assholes thought that was fine as long as they could get a scoop on you! In what world is that okay?”

I don’t speak because I feel like there’s more that she wants to say, and I’m right.

“I just, I don’t know… Something about her makes you want to protect her. She’s a good person, and deep down, so are you. I know a lot of people see the ruthless businessman, but I’ve seen more and I know that deep down you’re a good person, too. I just don’t think that you deserve the hand that you’re being dealt when it comes down to the press.” I pause for a moment and ponder what she just said. Yep, that’s my Butterfly, alright.

“She has that effect on a lot of people,” I say. McIntyre raises her head. “A lot of people want to protect her. I don’t know what it is, but she brings that out in me, too. So I know exactly what you mean.” She shrugs one shoulder.

“I’m glad to hear that,” she says. “I was afraid it would sound a little stalkerish.” I laugh.

“No, not stalkerish. Completely normal. Just don’t start dressing like her and we’ll be fine.” Now it’s McIntyre’s turn to laugh.

“That’s not very likely,” she says through her laughter.

We spend the morning plowing through some immediate PR items. I want to know just how big AnaChris really is…

It’s BIG!

From the mundane to the ridiculous to the utterly outrageous, you name it, it’s out there. From fan sites to fashion pages where her choices are compared to similar outfits on other “celebrities” in a “Who Wore It Best” showdown. There are even a few women who claim to have been surrogate mothers to our twins—their stories still holding water even after all the pictures of my pregnant wife out there laboring in public, very pregnant over the last few months. It takes all kinds, I guess.

“You know, I think the country club idea was a good one,” McIntyre says. “Ana’s?” I raise my eyes to her.

“What makes you think it was her idea?” I ask. She raises one eyebrow at me.

“How long have I worked for you?” I nod.

“Duly noted. Yes, Ana’s,” I concede. “I think she wants to get exposure for herself and the Center.”

“Hmm.” It was a grunt that had something behind it. I’m sure of it, but she didn’t finish the thought.

“What?” She raises her head, but doesn’t say anything. “Spill it, McIntyre.”

“Look,” she says, placing her tablet on my desk and leaning her elbows on her knees. “As your publicist, I’m going to be working very closely with you an Ana, closer than I ever did as your head of PR. I’m going to know a lot more about your personal life than you’re comfortable with and I’m now going to be able to admit to knowing a lot more about your personal life than you’re comfortable with.” I frown.

“Come again?” She sighs and sits back in her chair, folding her arms and crossing her legs.

“Come on, Christian, you can’t possibly be that naïve,” she says. “The kinky clubs, the women, the freaky lifestyle—I don’t know all about it, but I’ve got a pretty good idea. Any relatively intelligent person can make some decent deductions. Who do you think keeps that shit out of the news… Alex?”

Fuck me sideways. And all this time, I thought I was so damn smart.

“Okay, so where is this going?” I ask, folding my hands.

“Well, first, stop calling me McIntyre. Doesn’t that get tiring? It’s sure exhausting for me to hear it.” I nearly scoff at her.

“What do you expect me to call you?”

“Good God, man, I’m all up in your business now. I was all up in it before, only now, you know. With everything I know about you, your life, and your wife, I think we can be a bit less formal. If you can’t call me by my first name, call me Vee or Mac. I’ll answer to either one.”

“I’m more comfortable with Mac,” I tell her.

“I figured you would be. I won’t call you Christian if you think it’s too soon.” Now, I laugh.

“You haven’t noticed that you already call me Christian?” I retort. Her brow furrows.

“I do?” she asks, truly surprised.

“Yes, you do,” I confirm.

“You never said anything.” I wave her off.

“Don’t change the subject, Mac. What’s behind the grunt?”

“What grunt?” I glare at her for a moment. “Oh! That grunt. Yeah, the country club. It’s good because it makes you more sociable. You’re a family man, now, and your image is going to change slightly whether you want that to happen or not. We’re going to want the press and the world to be able to draw the line between the social family man and the businessman. It’s important that those lines don’t get grayed. To that extent, the country club gives the impression that you and your wife and family have a social life that you set aside from business. Your competitors are already seeing you as the husband and family man, which is why Fairlane tried to leverage that against you—well played, by the way.”

That’s high praise coming from PR. They’re the first to be able to tell you when your image is slipping. Confirmation that I handled the Fairlane account exactly as I should have is just what I wanted to hear.

“Joining the country club says that you are handling your social exposure on your own terms—especially Broadmoor. Highly exclusive, extremely active in the community, required sponsorship… you could have just gone with Mercer, but Broadmoor shows that you’re scrutinizing and not just trying to get on someone’s roster. It also solidifies Ana’s position in society as well as eliminates the social climber stigma as Broadmoor sniffs those out just from the ink on the paper.”

“Well, that’s good to know,” I tell her, especially considering what started this whole thing in the first place.

“That brings me to another point,” she says, picking up her tablet and swiping the screen. “Ana is publicity gold and she has instincts like a cat. She’s high-profile and she can’t avoid it and you’re trying to hide her under a bushel.” I frown deeply.

“What?”

“More than half of these rumors, hate sites, and gossip rags can be silenced if you just let. Her. Speak,” she says slowly. Was she reading my fucking mind? “When has Ana ever stepped wrong with the press?” I sigh heavily.

“Never,” I admit, reluctantly.

“Then why are you stymying her? What has she said or done that causes you to doubt her instincts? What has shaken your trust in her abilities? From the first time I met her, the first time she opened her mouth at that press conference in 2012 when she handed Cheryl her ass on a platter and charmed the pants off the rest of the reporters, I knew she was thee one. I knew that no matter who shoved a camera or a mic in her face, she was going to dominate the interview, and so far, she has. She’s had a sacrificial lamb at almost every appearance—by no fault of her own—and she even sniffed out your mole!” Fuck, I had completely forgotten about that. “Most of her appearances have been impromptu, sidewalk interviews with the exception of that one press conference and you’re telling me that you honestly don’t trust her in a controlled environment?”

“Things have changed now,” I defend. “She’s had this accident and lost her memory. Yes, it came back, but I don’t want to see her exploited because of it. She’s still recalling some things, you know.”

“Was she so weak before?” Mac asks. “From what I’ve been told, she boxed you in and made you come out swinging when you met her. She was a force to reckon with before she became Mrs. Christian Grey, and those are the only memories currently under scrutiny, correct?”

She pauses and waits for my answer. As I ponder her point of view, I realize that she has a point. Butterfly was a fucking fireball when I met her. She wouldn’t even take down to me face-to-face. When she did break down, I wasn’t supposed to see it. I was supposed to be long gone, and every time she came back at me, the next blow was more powerful than the last.

“Has she had any trouble defending herself since then? Sources tell me that she chased a couple out of the Fairlane Meet-and-Greet and if I remember correctly, she was in shark-infested waters that night. So what gives?”

“Myrick,” I say in a low voice. “Myrick is out there. He’s gunning for me; I know he is. Putting her on the forefront will just put a target on her back.”

“Have you been listening??” Mac exclaims. “She’s already on the forefront and not in a favorable way. You’re a high-profile couple. Everybody knows how to get to you. They just can’t because they can’t get through your defenses. Anybody who has been watching you over the last year knows that nobody is going to be able to get to you without an army. Jason took a bullet for you, Chuck almost died, and now you’re beefing up security because of the twins. Nothing short of a Sherman tank and a bazooka is going to break through that wall and if it does, then God help us all!” She lowers her voice and leans on her knees again.

“Myrick would have to show up with paratroopers and the Navy Seals to get to you all now, and you know it. You can’t keep her hiding in a box. At some point in time, she’s going to break free. You might as well let her appearances be on your terms, where you can control what is said, what questions are asked, and what will be aired. You know she won’t go against you because she knows that not only do you value your privacy, but that it’s detrimental that we control the flow of information. Use that to your advantage.”

She has systematically taken away every argument that I had for keeping Butterfly out of the press. Not only that, but she even used Butterfly’s logic against me—that we control the flow of information to keep the dogs at bay.

“Have you been talking to my wife?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“Not yet,” she replies. I sigh.

“Okay. Let’s see where this goes,” I concede.


A/N: Christian talks about movies scenes and book quotes when he thinks of the connection. The movie scene he was speaking of was Cocoon made in 1985. Kitty, an alien from another planet, decides to “give herself” to Jack. So they get naked and get in the pool with the other cocoons. Kitty takes on her alien form and starts to glow, after which her “essence” shoots off of her, bounces around the pool house a few times, then slams into Jack, causing him to have an electric, euphoric experience of his own where—for a brief moment—he actually starts the glow, too. After he catches his breath, he exclaims “If this is foreplay I’m a dead man!”

The quote he discussed came from a book called Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel—”She remembered then the words that John had once spoken to her: ‘If a strong emotion suddenly lights all the candles we carry inside ourselves, it creates a brightness that shines far beyond our normal vision and then a splendid tunnel appears that shows us the way that we forgot when we were born and calls us to recover our lost divine origin. The soul longs to return to the place it came from, leaving the body lifeless.’”

So, I was reading the comments and realized that I forgot to add my informational blurb about Jim Jones and about the Branch Davidians. So, here’s the short version:

Jim Jones was a cult leader from the 70’s of the “People’s Temple.” He was power hungry and crazy—like most cult leaders are—and basically lead hundreds of people to follow him to Guyana and start a compound there called Jonestown. The People’s Church was basically chased out of San Francisco. The “Rainbow Family” (Jones and his followers) was supposed to defect to the Soviet Union. However, when a congressman and camera crew came to Guyana to investigate accusations of acts of human cruelty, they offered to take anyone who wanted to leave with them when they departed Guyana. Several people left with the delegates and they were attacked by Jones’ “Red Brigade” before and after they boarded the plane to leave. Five people died, including the congressman. When the Soviet Union heard about it, the refused refuge to the Rainbow Family. Jones then convinced 909 people (over 300 were children) to consume cyanide-laced Flavor Ade and commit “revolutionary suicide.” He said: a) if they didn’t, the government would send paratroopers that would come and capture and torture them and b) they were all going to die together and live in peace on another planet—something he called the “Translation.” This is where the saying comes from—if you’ve ever heard it—“don’t drink the Kool-Aid.”

The Branch Davidians were another cult with their own crazy ass leader, David Koresh (hence, “Davidians”). They separated from the Seventh Day Adventist Church in the 50’s and had a ranch in Waco, TX. When the ATF tried to raid the ranch in 1993, they were met with extreme resistance and gunfire from the Branch Davidians. Six Branch Davidians were killed in that raid. The FBI attempted to “gas” the Davidians out of the compound. There is still a dispute as to what happened next—each side blaming the other. However, during the standoff, three fires ignited inside the ranch and the structure burned quickly. While 35 people left/escaped during the FBI standoff and nine more survived the fire, 76 people—including Koresh—died as a result of the fire from various causes including buried alive in the rubble, smoke inhalation, carbon monoxide poisoning, or fatal gunshot wounds. Twenty-eight of those people were under the age of 20 (one was 20 years old); 20 of those were under the age of 18 (none of them were 18); two were pregnant.  

You can find songs along with pictures of places, things, and fashions on my Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/

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

Love and handcuffs 🙂 
Lynn X

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 22—Thankful Again

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…

Table

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM THE GREYS

Chapter 22—Thankful Again

ANASTASIA

After an extremely blissful sleep, I stretch to get the blood flowing to my extremities. I open my eyes and—due to Christian’s light-eliminating drapes—I can’t quite focus. I rub them gently to see if I’m truly seeing what I think I’m seeing. I’m facing my husband; he’s sound asleep with his arm around me as usual… and he’s smiling! I don’t ever remember him smiling in his sleep since the day we met! Ever!

I just watch him and wonder what he’s thinking about. One thing never changes, though. He can always sense when I’m watching him. Sleepy gray eyes open to capture mine and I don’t bother trying to hide my Grey-gazing.

“Where are we?” he asks sweetly.

“In bed,” I reply. He closes his eyes and opens them again.

“So we are,” he says, still half asleep. He curls his arms tighter around me, pulling me closer to him and somehow fitting us together like a puzzle. I feel warm and secure in his arms… and protected. An air of contentment is flowing off of him and he kisses me on my cheek. “Good morning, Mrs. Grey,” he breathes, brushing his lips over my jawline.

“Good morning,” I purr, loving the early morning attention. “Happy Thanksgiving.”

“Happy Thanksgiving to you, too,” he replies, still planting soft, chaste kisses on my cheek.

“What were you dreaming about?” I ask. He moans… well, a gentle hum is more like it.

“A little girl and a little boy,” he says, between kisses, “playing out back at the beach, splashing in the water.” His kisses soften, moving closer to my mouth. “And a beautiful woman laughing and playing with them. It’s a wonderful sight.”

‘It sounds like it,” I say, closing my eyes as his gentle pecks become open-mouthed kisses on my chin and neck. “And where are you?”

“Sitting on the rocks,” he says, the soft and wet kisses now reaching my lips. “Watching and laughing along with this beautiful scene,” kiss, kiss, “and thinking what a lucky man I am.”

“You are?” I breathe, trying not to turn this tender moment into a sexfest. He’s driving me crazy with just these small gestures and the happiness that I feel in his kiss and hear in his voice as he describes his dream.

“I am,” he says, sincerely, but sensually. “And just when the little girl says ‘Daddy, come play,’ the beautiful woman turns around and gives me the most breathtaking smile I’ve ever seen.” His kisses are getting deeper. “And I open my eyes and she’s lying next to me, with that same beautiful look in her eyes, stealing my heart away.”

He kisses me deeper, not harder—just longer and more passionate. When he pulls his face away from mine, he lifts my leg over his hip and I feel him slide effortlessly into me. When did he take off his PJ’s?

“Ah, Christian?” I whine, taken completely off guard.

“Yes, baby?” he says, placing his hand in the small of my back and holding me against him as he slides sensually in and out of me. Was I going to say something? I’m bursting with warmth and pleasure, so much… I close my eyes and try to breathe, absorbing all of his emotion. My chest is heavy, like I’m not getting enough air.

“You look so sensual,” he says, his face breaths away from mine. “You’re glorious!” he adds, moving his other hand up to the back of my neck, ensnaring my entire body. I’m trapped in his embrace, safe in his arms, surrounded by his love…

“Christian…” What wanton creature was that? Her voice sounds almost ethereal. I can hear her breathing inside my ears. It can’t be me… can it?

He’s barely moving, loving me deep and slow, filling me but only pulling out enough for me to feel the fullness. His movements are slow and methodical, concentrating on one space, one sensation. I’m rising fast… so fast. No part of our bodies is separated. I tighten my leg around his hip, urging him to move faster… harder…

“No, baby,” he chides gently. “Relax… relax and let me love you…” So I do. I relax my legs, my muscles, every part of me and surrender myself to him. My body is mush and the feeling is so exquisite that I can’t even moan. I can only hold my mouth open and breathe, my arms trapped between our bodies as he owns this moment.

“Open your eyes, baby,” he says softly. “Let me see you…” I sleepily open my eyes and gaze at my husband. He’s in total control, watching me closely like he’s gauging my reactions. His pupils dilate, but his movements never change; his expression doesn’t falter.

“I loved you before I was created,” he says, nipping gently at my chin, “and I will love you long after my demise.” Oh my God, where did he pull that from? I feel like I’m going to implode!

“You are everything beautiful and wonderful and perfect in my life… every cell of me needs every cell of you,” he whispers. Okay, I’m definitely going to implode. What do you say to that? How about nothing? How about you just let him keep talking and making you feel like the most priceless creature on the planet?

“Mon Dieu…” I breathe, preparing myself to be torn inside out. His stroke never changes, nor does his facial expression, even though I can feel him getting harder inside of me.

“You’re exquisite, my love, breathtaking and astounding… and you’re mine. I’m unworthy and blessed because you belong to me.”

“Ah… Christian…” my love, my soul… my beloved husband… how do I tell you…?

“Ssshhh,” he soothes as if he’s reading my thoughts. “You are mine… and I am yours… completely yours…”

Yes, Christian. I am yours. I belong to you—wholly and completely—and you, my love, are mine.

A warming tingling feeling begins in my back where he’s holding me against him. He plants open-mouthed kisses on my neck and collarbone. His tongue caresses the skin under my chin, around my jaw and near my ear. When he gently sucks my earlobe into his mouth, then bites down, grazing it with his teeth, I see flashes of light behind my eyelids and that tingling in my back becomes bursts of fire like skyrockets exploding through my body. I tense involuntarily, clinging to his T-shirt and trembling uncontrollably. I take in three large gasps of air, but this orgasm—this feeling of a thousand tiny pleasure fingers raking all over my body—has snatched my breath away and I can’t make a sound. He buries his face in my neck and I feel his eyes squeeze shut tight as his body stiffens and he pulls me hard against him.

“Ana!” It’s a desperate, breathy whisper and I feel him throbbing as he empties inside of me. Oh God, it’s sparks me again—if I ever came down—and tiny bursts of pleasure sweep through my body again as my husband rides out his orgasm. Oh my God, what was that? That was the most draining and yet invigorating orgasm I’ve ever had in my life. What in the world has gotten into my husband?

I almost just want to go back to sleep after that, but there’s too much to oversee to make sure everything goes well today and I don’t have Marilyn to help me. Christian made getting started easier, though. He gently carried me to the shower and made sure that every crevice was clean. He washed and conditioned these super-long tresses before lovingly combing out the tangles and putting it into a looped ponytail for me. We have a plan for our dinner attire and everyone has been instructed to dress casually, so while we are setting things up for the day, I’ll be wearing sweats and a T-shirt and change into dinner attire later. Seeing that I am opting for something comfy and not-to-special, Christian gets one of the sporty scarves from my collection and wraps it craftily around my head covering the short-hair spot and allowing my ponytail to fall out in the back.

tipsaholic-beach-messy-bun-with-head-scarf“How did you learn to do that?” I ask, admiring my headdress.

“A little birdie showed me,” he says. I look at him skeptically. “YouTube,” he admits and kisses my nose. I’m truly moved by his gesture and I kiss him gently on the cheek.

“That’s incredibly sweet,” I say, unable to hide my admiration.

“Anything for my Butterfly,” he replies, cradling my chin. “Let’s go get things started before I take you back to bed.” I blink coyly.

“Yes, Mr. Grey.” He smiles and takes my hand, leading me to the elevator.

Al is always the first to arrive, but I’m pleased to see that he and James have arrived to join us for breakfast. Christian asked him to come early knowing that Marilyn wouldn’t be here and that I would most likely need some help. I’m so glad to see my best friend. He looks fantastic… refreshed, even. He’s certainly a sight for sore eyes.

“Have you seen the whole house?” I ask him after he hugs me warmly.

“I’ve seen some of it. Luckily, we’ve got four days, because I have a feeling that’s how long it’s going to take me to see the whole thing. Oh, but the facade is divine!”

“Wait until you see the rest. It’s like a dream,” I tell him as I lead him to my office. “I never thought I would ever, ever live anywhere like this in my whole life. It’s so perfect and I’m still learning my way around. There are a few rooms missing, so to speak, but Christian and I will tackle those once the babies are born.” Al nods and looks conspiratorially back down the hall from where we came. “What’s going on, Allen?” I ask once we get into the office.

“I’m so glad we’re alone. I thought I would burst if I didn’t tell you soon.” He thrusts his hand out to me and there I see the most beautiful diamond and platinum ring. I gasp.

unique-mens-diamond-wedding-rings“Al,” I breathe, snatching his hand to get a closer look at this gorgeous creation. “Did you get married?”

“No,” he answers nearly bubbling over. “We’re engaged. We’re getting married next spring!” He’s almost jumping out of his skin.

“Oh, Allen! I’m so happy for you!” I say, nearly moved to tears. “What brought this on?”

“You did, Jewel.” Me? How did I bring this on? “He said that he’s watched Christian over these last few months and how he did everything in his power to keep his family safe and happy; that even with all of his money, he couldn’t prevent tragedy from falling upon him. He watched Christian run from city to city and state to state trying to protect the things and people closest to him and when it all came down to it, nothing he did could have saved you from the accident. Just when it looked like he was getting to the bottom of things, another monster reared its ugly head and he almost lost you. James said that—at the risk of sounding cliché—it made him realize how short and precious life is. You hear it every day, that things can change in an instant and just like that, what you have can be gone or someone that you love can be snatched from you.” He sits in one of the chairs in front of my desk and I sit in the other one facing him.

“I thought you were a goner, Jewel,” he says, his voice cracking. “I didn’t recognize you when I saw you. It was…” He has to take a moment to compose himself. “Your entire face was bandaged except for one eye and it was swollen shut. They said your ear was…” He starts to weep. I take his hand in both of mine.

“I’m okay, now, Al,” I say softly. “It was a close call and I know it could have been catastrophic, but it wasn’t. I’m here and I’m fine. My brain is still a little corked, but I didn’t kick the bucket and I didn’t lose my babies. I’d say we won this one, huh?” He nods, still weeping.

“The ‘could-have-been,’ Jewel,” he sobs. “I don’t know what I would have done. I know it’s selfish and we should have been thinking of Christian. He never left that room… not once, but I couldn’t think of him. I could only think of myself and how I would possibly go on without my split-apart.” And now, I’m crying, too. It is a harrowing thought. I don’t know how I would go on without him either. I love Christian. With all my heart, I love him, but I would feel like a part of me was missing forever if something happened to Allen.

“I understand,” I whisper through my tears, clinging to his hand. There’s nothing else I can say.

“That woman—the one who hit you, Naomi—I’m glad she’s dead.” I raise my head and look at him, eyes wide. “I know it’s a horrible thing to say, and one day, I’ll ask for forgiveness… but not today,” he weeps. “Not today.”

“Ssshh,” I soothe him through my own tears. “This is supposed to be a happy time for you. You’re supposed to be giving me good news,” I scold gently. He nods and pulls a handkerchief from his pocket. He’s never carried handkerchiefs before. I guess Christian’s influence is rubbing off on him.

“I know,” he says fighting to compose himself. He takes several deep breaths. “I’m glad you didn’t die, Jewel,” he says as he dries his tears. “I would have found that woman. I swear to God, I would have found her.”

“I know,” I say, squeezing his free hand. “I’m not glad that she’s dead per se, but let’s just say that I’m not mourning her passing.” I pull one of Christian’s handkerchiefs out of my bra and wipe my face.

“James just came home last night and dropped down in front of me on both knees. I was sitting on the bed organizing what we were packing for this weekend. He just blurted it out. He said he wanted to marry me. That he was in love with me.”

“What did you say then?” I ask.

“I said, ‘no.’” You said what? My expression must have asked every question my mind was thinking. “I was sure that he was just being overly emotional and that he was going to regret the situation later. Of course, I want to marry him, but I don’t want it to be some spur-of-the-moment, ‘I’m scared’ thing. That’s when he showed me the ring.” He’s getting weepy again, but quickly composes himself. “He told me everything that he was thinking when you were in the coma. The one thing that kept going through his head, he said, was that he kept asking himself if he could live with me not being his if something like that happened to me tomorrow. He said he didn’t want to wait another second and I had to convince him not to go to City Hall tomorrow.”

“Why not?” I ask. What’s stopping you?

“Well, for one thing, City Hall is not open tomorrow,” he laughs. “But for another, I don’t want anything dramatic, but I don’t want it to be that informal. Something small, but not cold… and I can’t do it without my Jewel.” And the tears start to fall again. “Besides being my best friend and soulmate, you’re the whole reason this happened, and not because of the accident. Because you convinced him to tell me how he felt in the first place, and you convinced me not to be afraid of my feelings, and you held me together when I thought he was leaving me for Jose. He and Christian are pretty close, too, and I think he would want Christian there. So… there you have it.” I smile through my tears and clean my cheeks again.

“I guess we have another wedding to plan, huh?” I laugh.

“I guess so. It looks like the entire Scooby Gang is going to be married soon, huh?” he says and I immediately think of Elliot and Val.

“Well,” I say, changing my train of thought, “Marilyn and Gary have gone to Portland to introduce Gary to the family, but Mare assures me that there are no wedding bells in the immediate future.”

“They’re both young,” he says. “They have plenty of time. They may even decide that they want someone else.”

“This is true,” I concur.

“Then there’s Valerie and Elliot.” I don’t raise my head. “She’ll always be part of the original Scooby Gang, even though right now she’s acting like a lion with a violent ass infestation of fleas.” Eeeeewwww! That is such a horrible visual.

“Al! Good fuck, that’s awful!”

“Do you have a better description?” I shrug. No, I don’t. “Will we be graced with her presence today?”

“Fortunately not,” I respond. “Unfortunately, that means that Elliot won’t be here either.”

“How does Christian feel about that?”

“None too happy, and I don’t know if he’s told the rest of his family… or if Elliot has, but I won’t be the bearer of that bad news.”

“I hear ya,” he says. He looks down at his ring again. “It’s really very beautiful.”

“Yes, it is,” I agree. “I’ve never seen an engagement ring for a man, but I would have to say the setting is perfect…” Before I finish my thought, the intercom buzzes. “Yes?”

“Mrs. Grey, breakfast is ready. Would please meet us in the dining room and feed my beautiful wife and children?” His voice makes me melt. “Oh, and I guess you can bring my freeloading head of legal with you, too.” Al laughs loudly.

“You love me and you know it!” Al retorts.

“We’re on our way, darling,” I say with a smile. Al and I stand. I link my arm in his.

“Congratulations, Yin,” I kiss him on the cheek. “I love you.”

“Thank you, Yang, and I love you, too.” He puts his hand over mine and escorts me to breakfast.

Chuck and Keri are already at the table and Keri is positively glowing! She looks rested and refreshed, and Chuck looks like the cat who caught the canary. I wonder if everyone had the same morning Christian and I had… or if Chuck gave in last night and took the pain meds, finally allowing poor Keri to get some rest. There’s no sign of discomfort from him and quite a bit of canoodling between the two of them, so I would say that it’s probably both.

“Good morning, everyone,” I chirp when Al and I enter the dining room. “Happy Thanksgiving.”

“Well, you’re in a particularly good mood today,” Gail points out as she places a platter of some delectable looking egg creation on the table.

“It’s a beautiful day. It’s my first Thanksgiving in my new home. My family and friends are all going to be here. I’m happy and lucky to be alive… I am just so ready for new beginnings and great things.” I squeeze Al’s arm. He pats my hand and smiles before taking the chair that his fiancé has pulled out for him.

“That’s certainly a healthy outlook on life,” Jason says.

“I wholeheartedly agree.” I walk over to James and kiss him on the cheek. “It’s good to see you. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good visit.”

“Too long,” he says in that caramel-smooth voice, flashing that smile that made me forget he was gay when we first met.

“You worked tirelessly during the hacker situation. I know my husband couldn’t have done it without you. He might still be looking for that asshole right now if it weren’t for you. Thank you.”

“He paid me well,” he jests, but not. I know that Christian paid him handsomely for his work. “He’s become a friend—a reluctant friend and I can understand why, but a friend nonetheless. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t offered some kind of assistance… and Allie would have never given me a moment’s peace.” He smiles. “Did he tell you? I know he told you.”

“He did,” I smile. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you.”

“What are you two conspiring over there? I’m ready to eat!” Jason interrupts us and we all sit down to Thanksgiving breakfast.

Now I don’t know how we are supposed to function after this meal or how we’re supposed to attack the mammoth endeavor that is Thanksgiving dinner. We had egg and cheese frittata, fried rice discs under over easy eggs and Canadian bacon—a breakfast stack, they called it; bacon and leek quiche; banana-coconut pancakes; tornado hash browns; buttermilk biscuits; glazed maple walnut kringle; chocolate-cheesecake muffins; and blackberry buttermilk smoothies. I told Gail that I want something this decadent for my first breakfast after I have my babies. I already hate hospital food and I’m sure that I won’t want whatever selection they have for breakfast after all that pushing.

Like the best friend that he is, Al runs around the house helping me make sure that everything is perfect. Keri helps, too, which I really appreciate since she’s a guest, but I know that she really wants something to do besides sitting around worrying about Chuck. I’m concerned that with all this room and all these people and all this help, I’m still going to forget something…

Are all of the mini-fridges stocked enough?
Do we have enough alcohol and beverages for everyone’s taste?
Have we made the correct accommodations for Pops with his illness and mobility issues?
Will everyone be comfortable in the rooms that we’ve chosen?

Nobody told me until today that the boat resort will be security central for the holidays. So at the last minute, I’m trying to make sure that the sleeping accommodations out there are acceptable as well as enough food for those who will be working on Thanksgiving or required to stay overnight. I know that Jason has a “security central” in one of the many hidden rooms in the mansion—and I know that there are many—but this is going to be the meeting place, check-in location, shift-change and break area, football hub, etc., so I want it to be as comfortable as possible.

Most of everything that needs to be done is in my head, so Allen makes sure that I don’t run around like a headless chicken. There will be no lunch today since breakfast was massive and dinner will be served at four, but there are plenty of snacks, covered trays, and hors d’oeuvres if anyone gets hungry.

I also spend this time getting to know Keri a little better. It turns out that she’s an only child and her mother passed away several years ago. She does have cousins, aunts, and uncles, but her relationship with her father is strained at best. He wasn’t present when her mother passed and hasn’t been a constant in her life since she was a child. She’s a teacher at one of the private schools in Anguilla. The island is so small, it makes me wonder just how many schools Anguilla has.

She’s of British citizenship since Anguilla is one of the British Overseas Territories. She’s here under the visa waiver program and she can stay for up to 90 days before she has to return to Anguilla. She wants to stay until Chuck’s leg heals and he can walk around on his own, which should be just over the two-month mark, at which time he should already be in physical therapy. It’s watching the pain that gets to her. It’s not as bad as it was, but it’s only been three weeks and he’s still hurting a lot. He broke both bones in his leg, so he can’t support any weight on it whatsoever. Because one bone often helps to support the other, it may take longer to heal, which means more pain. That collapsed lung and the broken ribs are probably the worst since he’s not in any kind of immobilization apparatus and still has to breathe deeply to promote the healing of his lung. The pain from the ribs will most likely last longer than the pain in his leg. I couldn’t imagine any of this recuperation without the assistance of pain meds, and I’ve learned that my assumption this morning was still incorrect. He flat out refuses to take them.

It’s easy to see that Keri is exhausted. Chuck was involuntarily medicated while in the hospital because he was unconscious. When he awoke, he was still on the meds begrudgingly because of prior needed surgical procedures. Once he was coherent enough to turn them down, he refused them, and he’s been in pain ever since. It’s affecting her tremendously because you just can’t turn off your feelings and ignore the pain when someone that you love is hurting. She has to sit and watch him hurt, and again, I can’t imagine seeing Christian in pain and unable to make it go away. I moved back to my condo that first year that he got the flu and he couldn’t take it. The flu!

I think this weekend is actually going to be good for her. We will be eating great food over the next several days, doing some extensive shopping tomorrow and the spa tomorrow afternoon. She and Chuck will get to spend some quality time with each other on Saturday night as many of us will be going to the Adopt-A-Family Affair. There will be a lot of bonding time as they are guests of ours for the next several weeks and Chuck is not here as an employee. I can only hope that this will help lighten the load that she’s bearing.

It’s very early afternoon when it appears that everything is as organized as it’s going to get. We have snacked a bit to keep from eating too much and we have kept moving to get the digestive system flowing. Our weekend guests will be arriving soon, so we make sure that Al and James are settled in their room before Christian and I go to change our clothes.

“Christian, has anyone mentioned to your parents that Elliot is not joining us?” I ask as I slip into a comfortable pair of white maternity skinny jeans. Christian sighs.

“Elliot told her that he would rather keep the peace than spoil anyone’s holiday. Thanksgiving is at my house, so…” He shrugs. “Even if it were somewhere else, they certainly couldn’t expect for my new wife to uninvite herself from Thanksgiving.”

“I so hate that this is happening,” I lament. “It just doesn’t make any sense. I’m remembering some of what happened on my birthday, but there must be something that I’m missing because I can’t seem to think of anything that would cause us to fall out this severely.”

“No, you’re not missing anything, Butterfly,” he says as he slides into a pair of white jeans. “We all witnessed the meltdown, and I’m told that several people witnessed the initial confrontation. She’s just acting completely unreasonable and no one actually knows why.”

“How did Grace and Carrick take it—Elliot’s absence, I mean?” I ask, pulling on my black T-shirt.

“He told me that Dad was pretty quiet—which means he was pissed—but Mom went nuclear. Mia doesn’t know that he’s not going to be here because he just told us, so I imagine that’s going to be another meltdown. I’m not looking forward to that.” I put on some clean socks and my white skippies while Christian just slides into a pair of deck shoes. We’re ready except for my hair.

“I hope people will just relax and have fun today, in spite of the discord that seems to be floating in the air.”

“Well, there’s no discord here, Mrs. Grey,” he says as he unties my head scarf. He leads me to my dressing room and sits me at my vanity. He runs his finger through my hair and gently massages my scalp. He arranges my hair in the long, flowy “Cher” style I wore last Christmas and holds my hair down over the short spot with a sporty black and white striped headband.

“You’re so perfect,” he says, kissing my nose.

“So are you, Mr. Grey,” I say, wrapping my arms around his waist and squeezing tight while laying my head on his chest. “So are you.”


 

CHRISTIAN

“Oh my God, you two look adorable!” My mother says when we greet her and my father at the front door. Ana and I are dressed like the Bobbsey Twins, both in black T-shirts and white jeans. Ana’s shirt has a heart right over her stomach with the word “bump” written inside it. My shirt has big block letters right across the chest that read “The Man Behind The Bump.”

“Thanks, Mom,” I tell her, kissing her on the cheek. “I’m so glad that you’re here.” Her eyes grow large.

“What is it, son? What’s wrong?” I smile.

“Nothing’s wrong, Mom. I’m just glad you’re here. You too, Dad,” I say extending my hand to my father.

“Glad to be here, Christian. This is quite a place you have here,” he says, looking around the grand entry.

“Yes, it is,” Butterfly chimes in. “I live here and I’m still trying to get the lay of the land myself.”

“Well, just from what I’m seeing, it really is absolutely stunning.”

“Thanks, Mom. Look, there’s lots and lots of house to see. I’ll have Windsor show you guys to your rooms and then you can roam around until your heart’s content.” I look over at my grandfather, who is now in a motorized wheelchair. I know this means that his health is deteriorating and he’s going to need a kidney sooner rather than later. I lean down to his chair.

“Hi Pops,” I greet him, with a smile.

“Christian!” Pops exclaims. “This is really something!”

“I’ll say!” Uncle Herman chimes in. “You’ve got great taste!”

“Yeah, it’s a statement in ‘everything your heart desires,’ but only the best for my girl.” Butterfly blushes. I gesture to the butler to come and get their bags. “Windsor, please show my parents to guest room one upstairs. Show my uncle and grandfather to guest suite three downstairs.” Windsor nods and gathers my family’s things.

“Please follow me, Mr. and Mrs. Grey, sirs,” he gestures to my father and grandfather.

“You guys have the larger suite on the lower level. It’s the only one with two bedrooms. As you can see, this place is huge, so we have a voice activated intercom system in case of emergencies. We got you an adjustable bed, Pops,” I tell him. “You’ll be very comfortable.”

“Christian, you shouldn’t have gone through the trouble,” Pops says.

“It was no trouble, and you’ll thank me for it later.” I smile. “Windsor is going to take you around to the elevator and show you to your rooms.”

“Elevator!” Mom says in surprise.

“Again, very large house, very pregnant and fragile wife. There are actually two elevators.”

“I’m not that fragile,” Butterfly protests, hitting me on the arm. I rub the spot where she hit me in mock pain.

“Okay, okay,” I whine to everyone’s amusement. “Windsor, why don’t you show my parents to their room and I’ll take my grandfather and uncle downstairs.”

“Yes, sir. Please follow me,” he says to my parents.

Uncle Herman and Pops are even more fascinated by the splendor of the house as we take them on a mini-tour of the rooms we travel through to get to the guest suite. I discover that my grandfather is a water spirit like my wife, and he is stunned into silence by the Grecian aquarium in the entertaining room. Uncle Herman leans in close to me.

“If Dad comes up missing, you’ll know where to find him,” he says, pointing to the aquarium. I chuckle quietly.

“You like it?” Butterfly asks quietly, standing next to Pops.

“It’s breathtaking,” Pops responds, gazing at that fish as if he would dream to be one of them.

“It’s my favorite,” Butterfly adds, turning to gaze at the fish herself. Pops looks up at her.

“You have more than one?” he asks like a seven-year-old in wonder.

“Yes,” she smiles down at him. “I have another wall aquarium in my spa, and there’s a smaller one in the wall that connects Christian’s and my office. I promise to show them to you later.”

“Why later? They can show me the bed anytime. I want to see the fishes now!” Fishes… oh, good Lord. Butterfly laughs that genuine enchanted laugh that makes both me and my uncle gaze at her. Why is my uncle gazing at my wife?

“Okay, Pops,” she says, adopting my name for my grandfather as she squeezes his hand. “My spa is in the same direction as your apartment. We’ll go our way and let the gentlemen get you guys settled. Do you two mind?” I look at Uncle Herman.

“No, but be warned. You’ll never be able to shake him now,” he says. Butterfly laughs.

“Well, that’s just fine by me,” she says, squeezing Pops’ hand again…

“So when did the wheelchair become a necessity?” I ask Uncle Herman when we’re alone in their suite. He sighs.

“About two weeks ago,” he says, “when Annie was in the hospital.” Annie? I don’t know if she’ll like that. I don’t know if I like that. Ray is the only one that calls her Annie. “You know he’s already elderly and frail, and the health issues just aren’t helping matters any. He’s getting weaker, Christian. He’s barely able to walk most days. He can get around if he needs to, but it’s getting harder and harder with each passing day.” He puts his face in his hands. “God, I miss Shannon.”

“Shannon?” I ask. He raises his head, his brow furrowed.

“Wow. I thought Annie would have told you by now.” And there he goes with that Annie shit again. He pulls his wallet out of his back pocket. “Shannon is my ex-wife. I fucked that up big time. Whenever holidays come around, I think about her a lot.” He pulls a picture out of his wallet and hands it to me. “I really miss her.” I take the picture from his hand and it looks like an old picture of my very beautiful wife.

“Is this some kind of joke?” I say frowning. He shakes his head.

“No, son, it’s not,” he says, reaching into his wallet for another picture and handing it to me. It’s a picture of him in a tux standing next to—whoever this woman is, in a wedding dress.

“That’s my Shannon,” he says. “Annie caught me staring at her a while back and saw fit to put me in my place before you caught on. I assured her that it wasn’t what she thought—that she reminded me of Shannon and if she caught me looking, it’s only because I saw my wife in her.” I hand him back the pictures and he gazes at them with real pain in his eyes. “She loved the holidays… loves the holidays. Only now, she’s loving them with someone else.”

“You say that you fucked up. You cheated?” I ask. He nods.

“She never trusted me again and just like that, it was over.” He put the pictures back in his wallet. “No need to worry, though. Annie’s kind and sweet like Shannon, but she’s just a kid… and she’s not my Shannon, only her doppelganger.”

“Have you thought about getting out there again, seeing what’s on the market so to speak?” I ask him. He’s a good looking guy, like my father. He could find a nice, lonely widow somewhere that needs companionship, too.  He laughs sadly.

“I’d only be looking for Shannon,” he admits. “No, son. I had my chance and I blew it. I don’t want anyone else now if I can’t have my Shannon. I’m an old man, and if God hasn’t seen fit to bless me with companionship by now, maybe it’s a sign that I just have to ride out this journey alone.”

“I don’t believe that, Uncle Herman,” I tell him. “I believe that life has opportunities for you as long as you’re alive. That’s how I made my fortune. That’s how I found my wife when I wasn’t even looking for her. I was a happy bachelor. I had encounters that lasted as long as I was interested, and then I let them go. A long-term relationship was the very last thing I wanted. Then, Hurricane Anastasia came through and blew me off my feet. She wouldn’t take any of my shit; she wouldn’t kowtow to me; she gave it to me straight. We hated each other! I wanted her to heel and she wanted me to go away.”

“You’re kidding!” he says in disbelief. “Heel how? She’s an adult.” Uh-oh… think fast, Grey. No use in telling him about the whole D/s thing.

“When I say jump, people jump. They don’t ask ‘how high,’ they just do it. Here’s this 5-foot-2, 5-foot-3 little doctor lady trying to tell me what I had to do and wouldn’t do what I asked. You see, I got into an accident. A drunk driver rear-ended me and ultimately totaled my car while I was sitting at a light. I was sitting at a light and he runs smack into a $65,000 sports car! Granted, it wasn’t the money. I can replace the car, but when the police showed up, he suddenly pretended to be hurt. He said I stopped short and caused the accident. Oh, I’ll just bet that I stopped so short at a stop light that you ran into my car so hard that you took out the entire rear end.” I shake my head. I’m getting angry again just thinking about it.

“I just lost it, Uncle Herman. Decked the guy right there in front of a cop.” Uncle Herman whistles.

“Not smart, son,” he laments.

“Not smart at all,” I concur. “I went before this hard-ass judge who threw the book at me. I still don’t know why he wanted to make an example of me. I’ll admit that I was wrong for hitting the guy, but this judge—and all of law enforcement, it appears—wants to punish me because I’m rich.”

“You’re an alpha male, Christian,” Uncle Herman says. “I knew it the first day I met you… at your wedding. Authority figures don’t always do well with alpha males.” I shake my head.

“That’s why I try to stay away from them, but it couldn’t be avoided this time.” He nods. “Anyway, I got community service—which I’m ashamed to say that I bought my way out of. I also got twelve group sessions of anger management, which the stubborn ass doctor wouldn’t let me out of.”

“Let me guess, the stubborn ass doctor is now your beautiful wife…”

“You get the picture. We were at each other’s throats for about two weeks, then two weeks after that, we were kissing in my office.” Uncle Herman laughs loudly.

“You don’t waste time, do you, son?” he asks. I shake my head.

“It was a bit of an accident… on both our parts. We had another meltdown soon after that and she quit group therapy.”

“She quit?” he asks, bemused. “You made her quit?” I shrug.

“I didn’t make her quit,” I defend. “She quit because she was disenchanted with the results of group therapy, but I don’t doubt that I was the catalyst.” He nods again. “Anyway, faced with the possibility that I would never see her again, I resorted to stalking her.”

“Oh, that’s really mature,” he teases.

“I was desperate,” I admit. “I thought she would be gone out of my life for good, so I had her followed for a while and talked to a few people before I crashed her date with her ex-boyfriend.”

“She had a boyfriend when you met?” Uncle Herman asks, appalled.

“No, he was an ex when we met, but apparently he ignored the memo,” I reply sarcastically. “Butterfly was trying to let him down easily because the guy wouldn’t go away. We got together that evening and we’ve been together ever since, but he turned psychotic. We just concluded a trial about four months ago where he got over twenty years for kidnapping her and causing her bodily harm.”

“Wow…”

Uncle Herman and I talk for several more minutes before we realize that dinner will probably be served soon and we’re still sitting downstairs in the guest quarters. I don’t say it aloud, but I’m really upset that my grandfather won’t let me buy him a kidney. I know it’s illegal, but people do it all the time and Pops’ health is beginning to deteriorate quickly. I’ll try not to think about it this weekend, but next week, I’ve got to find out if there’s something more that can be done to help him.

When we get back upstairs, Mia and Ethan have arrived and Mia is fawning all over Pops as usual. She’s very fond of him and I can tell that he really loves the attention. Luckily, dinner is not being served just yet. I hear little Harry off in the distance somewhere putting up a fuss, so I know that Ray and Mandy have arrived, and I have made it just in time to greet Luma, Mariah, and Celida. The girls actually look like they’ve grown a bit when I see them and Luma looks twenty years younger in jeans and a casual blouse. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her dressed in jeans!

I kiss her on the cheek and introduce her to Pops and Uncle Herman. She takes an immediate interest upon discovering that Pops is waiting for a kidney.

“How long have you been on the list?” she asks, sitting next to him with a cup of hot chocolate.

“It’s been quite some time,” Pops admits. “Over ten years.”

“That is a long time,” Luma says. “I had a coworker a few years back. She waited 12 years for a kidney, but she finally got one. She’s doing fine, now.” Pops smiles.

“You don’t say?” Pops says and Luma nods.

“So don’t give up hope, Mr. Grey,” she says, smiling and squeezing his hand. He returns her smile.

“I hadn’t planned to,” he says cheerfully. “Even if they ever tell me there is no hope, I’m going to smile on my way out.” Luma nods sadly. She’s seen so much loss in her time on this earth, I can’t imagine that she wants to talk about death now. “And call me ‘Burt,” Luma. Nobody calls me ‘Mr. Grey.’” Luma smiles and moves closer to him.

“So what kind of home care are you doing right now?” she asks. They’re conversation takes off and I look to my right just in time to see a very tall young man enter the family room.

“Wow,” Butterfly says when she sees Marlow. “You’ve gotten so tall. I mean, you were already tall, but… wow!” Marlow’s maudlin look transforms into a wide, sincere smile as he and Ana walk into a full embrace.

“You scared the shit out of me,” he says softly, but not softly enough.

“Marlow!” Marcia chides.

“Sorry, Mom,” he says, still bending over and cradling Butterfly. I’ve known from the beginning that he’s had a schoolboy crush on her, and right now, I can only imagine that he’s feeling some level of the same relief that I did knowing that she’s okay—probably even more so because she remembered him right away.

“It’s okay, Marcia,” Butterfly says, pulling Marlow back so that she can get a good look at him. “That’s just how we talk. It’s always been that way… though you shouldn’t use that language around your Mom and little sister.”

“I know,” he concedes. “Mr. Grey always tells me to be mindful my language around ladies, which means I should probably be more mindful around you, too.”

“Oh, don’t you change one bit for me,” Butterfly scolds, pulling him into another embrace. “I like you just the way you are.” He smiles a content smile as he hugs my wife. He’s very, very fond of Butterfly, and he was having a very hard time of it while she was in the coma. He wouldn’t even come to the hospital to see her. He kept saying that if she was going to die, he didn’t want his last memory of her to be that of her lying helpless in a hospital bed. He called to check on her at least twice a day and I had to put Jason on Marlow-watch. I was afraid that if something happened to her, all of the hard work that we had done to this point would have been for nothing. He has told me more than once that Ana is his only real friend. He likes and respects me, but he loves Butterfly—as an emotional mentor and a confidante. He would have been unsalvageable had she not regained consciousness.

“I was afraid that you wouldn’t remember me.”

“Oh, Marlow, you underestimate your impact on the average human being,” she laughs. “I could never forget you. I remember that I called you Little Mr. Angry when I first met you; told you that I would kick your ass and you said that I was strange.” Marlow frowns.

“No, you didn’t,” he protest. “You did say that you would kick my ass, but you didn’t call me ‘Little Mr. Angry.’” Butterfly purses her lips.

“Well, you didn’t hear that part,” she says conspiratorially. “I said it under my breath while you were staring out the window at nothing.” Marlow scoffs good-naturedly.

“Yeah, you remember me,” he says with a small chuckle.

“Hello, Maggie,” Butterfly says to the shy little girl standing behind her brother. “You look very pretty today.”

“Thank you, Miss Ana. Mommy said we could all wear jeans, so I wore these. They’re my favorite.” She shows Butterfly her very sparkly jeans.

“Well, I think they look very nice.”

“Thank you, Miss Ana. These are for you.” She hands Butterfly a small gift bag.

“Oh, you got me a gift. You shouldn’t have.” Butterfly looks in the bag and gasps. “Lindors!”

“Mommy says every lady likes Lindors!” Maggie announces proudly. Butterfly smiles widely.

“Your mommy is right. Thank you very much, Maggie.” She leans down and gives Maggie a kiss and a hug… and I see an immediate problem. Mariah and Celida both have crestfallen looks on their faces. Just when I’m about to discreetly bring the situation to Butterfly’s attention, Mariah and Celida conspire for a few seconds before Mariah takes Celida’s hand and they walk over to Butterfly.

“Excuse me, Miss Ana,” Mariah announces proudly. “We got you somethin’, too.”

“You did?” Butterfly raises an eyebrow. Celida nods and proudly presents a lollipop from her pocket. Butterfly giggles and puts her hands over her heart, noticing the significance of this gesture immediately. She kneels down and gathers the girls in both of her arms, hugging them warmly and kissing each of them on the cheek. She holds her hand out to Maggie, who joins this syrupy display.

“You are all so wonderful! Thank you so much for my sweets and thank you for sharing your Thanksgiving with me.” All three girls beam proudly. “Maggie, may I please share my chocolates with my other friends?” Mariah’s and Celida’s eye grow wide as Maggie nods enthusiastically. Butterfly looks to Luma for approval, who nods and smiles sweetly. Butterfly turns to the two little ladies who are nearly bouncing with anticipation.

“You can each choose one to eat for later. It’ll ruin your dinner if you eat it now, okay?” They nod and each choose a chocolate from the bag. “Be careful when you eat them. They’re truffles, and they’re veeeery creamy inside, so they can get a little messy.”

“Thank you, Miss Ana. Thank you, Maggie,” Mariah says, causing Maggie to beam further. Butterfly smiles and nods and, being the little director that she is, Mariah takes the lead again.

“I’m Mariah. This is Celida. She’s my sister. Everybody calls her CeCe.” Maggie is still a little shy, but waves and smiles at the girls even though they’re only about three feet apart. “We have to sit at the kids table, but it’s like a grown-up table. I’ve never seen a kids table like this.”

“Really?” Maggie is intrigued now. I guess she’s never seen a kids table that looks like a grown-up table either. Mariah nods hard.

“Uh-huh! It’s got glasses like the grown-up glasses, and pretty, pretty plates, and real napkins!” The girls are caught up in conversation about the kids table and Marlow watches over them protectively while Marcia and Butterfly chat about her due date and Christmas on the way. I note that Marlow has effortlessly slid into the role as the man of the house since Damon Johnson is no longer a part of their life. He’s very patient with his sister and quite protective of them both. Johnson is up for parole or release soon and he’s going to be quite surprised if he tries to bully his son again. Not only has he put on some weight and bulked-up from the skinny little kid that I once knew, but he’s also a bit taller and he’s a quick study on the self-defense and fitness classes my security team has been putting his through. I’ve done some mock sparring with him every now and then and he’s got some impressive moves.

“Who’s that?” I hear Mariah ask.

“That’s my brother, Marlow,” Maggie says. “He’s a boy, but you’ll like him. He’s cool.” I nearly sputter over my drink and Marlow’s mirth is unmistakable as he receives his sister’s seal of approval. He patiently watches over the three girls as they chat about everything and nothing and I just scan the room, now filled with our family and friends. I never would have thought that I would see myself here, in my own home, with a beautiful wife and two children on the way, entertaining on Thanksgiving. I’m one lucky sonofabitch.


 

ANASTASIA

“If you will all please go to the dining room, dinner will be served in a few moments,” one of the servers announces to the gaggle of people who are occupying my home. I feel very blessed having our family and friends here, but Elliot’s absence is still the elephant in the room and as much as I hate to admit it, I miss Valerie.

We have moved to the dining room and are enjoying assorted beverages while we are taking our seats and waiting for dinner to be served. Jason inconspicuously retrieves his phone from his pocket and after looking at the screen, he leans in and says something to Gail and then something to Christian, who nods at him before he excuses himself from the table. I make note of the exchange and hope that everything is alright. Christian doesn’t seem concerned as he turns his attention back to Carrick and Grace and continues whatever conversation he was having.

A few moments later, Jason still hasn’t returned, but our attention is drawn to the slight commotion in the hallway near the Grecian columns.

“Maybe it’s this way,” I hear a woman’s voice say. Who the hell is this woman wandering around my house?

“Mo-o-om?” And there appears to be an agitated teenager wandering with her. Around the corner pops this bleached blonde woman in pants way too tight and a pair of high-heeled boots that don’t seem to fit the occasion.

“Oh!” she says, feigning surprise. “We were waiting for Jason and… Sophie just wandered off.” Sophie! Of course. Jason’s daughter. I assume this phony dragging poor Sophie behind her arm and blaming the child for her nosiness is her mother and Jason’s ex-wife.

“Oh, come off it, Mom,” Sophie says, her voice full of disdain. “I’m nearly a teenager, I don’t wander.” She folds her arms and completely ignores her mother’s scolding looks. She turns to face the other diners just as Jason is coming back into the dining room. “Daddy!” she says, her expression changing immediately as she darts towards her father. He walks around the woman and throws his arms open just in time to catch Sophie as she launches herself into the air. He laughs a deep and content laugh as he embraces his daughter.

“Hello, Baby Boo,” he says, sweetly.

“Mom says I can stay for the weekend if that’s okay with you.” He raises his eyes to his ex-wife.

“She can?” he asks her.

“Of course, she can,” the phony blonde actress coos, no doubt attempting to gain points with everyone around the table. No one knows who you are, you little fake. Christian and I know of you well, so it won’t do any good for you to try to suck up to anybody here.

“See? I told you,” Sophie says happily while Jason slides her to the floor. Jason looks over at Christian, who looks over at me. I stand from my chair.

“Well, Sophie,” I say, walking over to her, “we’re going to have a lot of people over this weekend, but we have a really big house and plenty of room. I hope you don’t mind a lot of company.”

“Not at all,” Sophie beams. “It’ll be nice to have people around.” I don’t even attempt to interpret that statement. “You must be Mrs. Grey.” I smile.

“Yes, I am. What gave it away?” I ask teasing. She returns my smile.

“You’re pregnant,” she says. “Dad calls you ‘Her Highness.’ He really likes you.” I laugh aloud.

“I really like him, too. Between me and you, your dad’s a smart aleck.” I throw a look at Jason, then put my hands on Sophie’s shoulders. “Everyone,” I say, turning around to the inquiring minds around the dinner tables. “This is Sophie, Jason’s daughter. Sophie, this is everyone. You’ll get to know them over the weekend.” She waves shyly as everyone greets her with a hello or a hi. Marlow rises from his seat.

“Hi, Sophie,” he says, walking over to us. “I’m Marlow. We have to sit at the kids’ table. It’s okay, though. They’re not whiney and messy like other kids.”

“Cool.” Sophie says with a shrug and follows Marlow over to the kids’ table. Jason clears his throat loudly.

“I know, Mr. Taylor,” Marlow says in that tone that says Jason has spoken to him two or three hundred times.

“Da-a-ad,” Sophie whines, “he just took me to my seat. He’s not trying to marry me. What are you—ninth, tenth grade?” she asks Marlow before turning back to her father. “What does he want with a 12-year-old?” This young lady is wise beyond her years. I’m very familiar with that attitude.

“Mrs. Grey, you have a beautiful house here.” Why does this woman’s voice irritate me so? I don’t even know her.

“Thank you,” I say politely. “And thank you for allowing Sophie to join us for the weekend. I’m sure Jason and Gail will love being able to spend time with her.”

“Miss Gail!” Sophie squeals from behind me. “I’m sorry!” She leaps from her chair and dashes over to Gail, throwing her arms around her neck. Gail lights up when she hugs her and smiles sincerely.

“Hey, Pumpkin, it’s okay. This is a lot to take in, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Sophie says dreamily, looking around the dining room. “It’s really nice… and the kids table is like a grown-up table—with real glasses and everything. I’ve never sat at one that big!” She seems amazed.

“Well, isn’t that sweet?” Ms. Phony says and I almost want to gag. Jason walks over to her.

“Well, Shalane, we don’t want to keep you from your plans,” he says, gesturing towards the hallway to show her out.

“What’s your rush, Jason? I have plenty of time,” she answers in a snarky tone.

“His rush, Mrs. …” Christian begins while rising from the table. He pauses and waits for someone to fill in the blank.

“Deleroy,” Jason almost hisses.

Ms. Deleroy,” she says, throwing an adoring look at Christian. Um, hello? I’m standing here!

“I see.” I feel him move and stand just behind me. “Well, Ms. Deleroy, his rush is that as you can see, we’re about to have Thanksgiving dinner with our family.” He gestures to the tables full of people. “While we do appreciate you bringing Sophie by and even more appreciate you allowing her to spend the weekend with us, we would like to get back to our dinner.” He slides his hand around my waist and I have to concentrate on not snarling at this woman. She looks from me to Christian, clearly crestfallen.

“Oh…” she says, feigning regret… though that part might be real as she didn’t get invited to join us for dinner. “I’m sorry. Yes, I do actually have plans for the evening. So, Sophie darling, have a good time.”

“Yeah, Mom,” she says, still with her arm around Gail. Ms. Deleroy mutters some sort of exiting pleasantries as Jason escorts her out of the dining room and no doubt, out of the house.

“Gosh, she is so embarrassing,” Sophie declares in a low voice.

“That’s not a nice thing to say about your mom, Pumpkin,” Gail chides gently, “especially in front of strangers.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Sophie says softly. Gail points to her cheek and Sophie smiles, kissing Gail softly on the cheek.

“We won’t tell Jason,” Gail says softly and they giggle.

“Won’t tell Jason what?” he says, back from kicking Ms. Phony out in record time.

“If we told you, then I’d be breaking my word, now wouldn’t I?” Gail says with an innocent flutter of the eyelashes.

“Don’t you two gang up on me all weekend,” he warns and Gail and Sophie giggle. “I’m sorry, Christian,” he says, only loud enough for me and Christian to hear. “I was talking to Ben at the gate and she just walked inside.”

“No harm, no foul this time,” Christian responds. “She had already been allowed onto the grounds. Just keep an eye on her when she comes to pick up Sophie.”

“Understood, sir…”

Dinner is served on the three tables we procured for the weekend and, of course, Thanksgiving at Grey Crossing is nothing less than the bee’s knees! There are three huge glazed and lacquered roast turkeys and a larger variety of gourmet sides than I’ve ever seen in my life! Roasted broccoli with pickled shallots and peanuts; blistered green beans with tomato-almond pesto; roasted squash with crispy bulgur crumbs; crusted baked macaroni and cheese; and browned butter sweet potato casserole, just to name a few. There are Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs making their way around the tables and this is the first time in a long time that I’m missing wine.

Grace and Carrick take a little while to loosen up—no doubt unhappy that Elliot’s not here. Mia pouts verbally a few times that her other brother is not in attendance as well. I can’t help but feel responsible for that and, knowing me the way that he does, Christian throws a scolding look in my direction more than once when I start to sink a bit into the melancholy. I try not to concentrate on it too much.

“Are you okay, Ana dear?” Grace has caught me in one of those pouting moments. I nod and force a smile, but I still know that it’s my fault for the most part that Elliot is not in attendance. Even though I didn’t do anything to bring this on, it’s still largely because of me that he’s not here. And let’s face it…

I miss my friend.

“I’m pregnant, Grace,” I say softly as I wipe away a stray tear. “My emotions are all over the place right now, and I have to say that the magnitude of this day is quite overwhelming.” Grace holds my hand and smiles.

“I can imagine that it is, dear.” While she’s comforting me, our attention is drawn to Christian who is gently tapping his glass.

“I don’t mean to interrupt your meal, but I don’t know when I’ll get this clan together again and I just want to thank you all for joining Ana and me in our new home for our first Thanksgiving as man and wife.” He holds his head down for a moment. “That’s a real mouthful,” he admits. “Just thinking about everything in that sentence… getting this clan together—that’s a bit of a melancholy statement. This is the first time in 27 years that I haven’t had Thanksgiving dinner with my brother…” Grace scoffs a bit at this statement. You can tell that she was hoping it would go unnoticed, but it didn’t. She caught the attention of most of the people in the room.

“I’m sorry, Christian,” she says sincerely. “Please continue.” Christian’s lips form a flat line, but he continues.

“Elliot may not be here, but we have Pops and Uncle Herman,” he smiles at his grandfather, who returns his smile while Herman takes his hand. “We have our extended family—Luma and the two little princesses and the Whiteheads. We nearly lost two of our trusted staff this year—both seriously injured in the line of protecting us, but thankfully, they are still here with us. Quite frankly, I think you two were just trying to cash in on the hazard pay.” There’s a bit of laughter at that statement before he continues.

“Gail, we would be hopeless and hungry without you…”

“Hey!” I protest loudly, eliciting more laughter from the table. Christian mocks shushing me while he continues with his impromptu speech. “Keri, we’re very happy to have you here all the way from Anguilla.” Keri smiles coyly then squeezes Chuck’s hand. “And little Sophie, we’re very happy to have you, too.”

“Thank you, Mr. Grey,” she responds in the cutest little angel voice, causing coos from all around the table.

“Mom and Dad, Allen, James, Ray and Amanda and my baby brother-in-law… Mia and of course, Ethan, you already knew that you were part of the family when you proposed to my annoying little sister…”

“You still love me,” Mia pipes in proudly and her brother winks at her.

“Last, but certainly not least, my beautiful wife.” He turns his Grey gaze to me and I’m certain that I’m going to be crying before he’s done. “You’ve opened so many new worlds for me when I thought that I knew everything there is to know. You taught me love and hope and fear…” He chokes on the last word. I reach over and gently squeeze his hand. “I never knew that I could feel all the things that I’ve felt in these last 18 months. It’s such a short period of time, but it seems like it’s been forever, because I can’t remember what life was like without you. I thought I lost you…” It’s getting harder for him to talk. “Now, in a few short months, you’re going to make me a father…”

And now the tears start. Surprisingly, it’s not me, but Christian who is crying. I rise out of my seat and put my arms around him. He pulls me close to him, and kisses my hair.

“I love you, Butterfly,” he breathes, his voice cracking.

“I love you, Christian,” I reciprocate, clinging to my husband. We take a moment, standing here in front of family and friends to exchange our feelings and draw strength from each other. Once he’s able to speak again, he raises his glass to the room without releasing me.

“Thank you all so much for being here with us…” He looks down at me. “…And for not dying.” I smile up at him and he pecks me on the lips. “Happy Thanksgiving!” he announces raising his glass higher.

“Happy Thanksgiving!” is the collective response from our family and friends.


 

A/N: I’ve only listed a few of the dishes from Thanksgiving. To see all of the dishes from Thanksgiving Dinner at Grey Crossing, go on over to the Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/

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

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Love and handcuffs 🙂 
Lynn X

 

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 21—Thanksgiving Eve

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…

09c1c4194c28b9a3409cf4178680ed50Chapter 21—Thanksgiving Eve

ANASTASIA

All of the staff are now about the business of cooking or moving things or stocking bedrooms or whatever Gail has them scurrying around doing. I swear, I’ve never seen so much food in my life! I had no idea this house had so many refrigerators! There are several in the kitchen and the main pantry, one in our bedroom, one in each guest apartment, one in the barbecue kitchen, one in the family room, two or three on the lower level… There are more, but I don’t know where they all are. I asked Gail who was going to keep up with all of this food and she said, “That’s why you have a staff!” I just shake my head.

I’m overjoyed when Laz-Y-Boy delivers the recliners I ordered. I have one of the put in the guest suite for Chuck. I knew that he would need something quite functional and extremely comfortable to aid in his recovery. I put the other on in the family room. I’m hoping to get more use out of that one.

Marilyn and I concentrate on getting Chuck and Keri’s area in the guest quarters all situated. I wish I had asked Keri if there was anything specific that they may need me to get for them, but I’ll just make sure to let her know that the staff is at their disposal when they get here.

The staff is at their disposal… geez, this is going to take some getting used to.

Ben announces that Christian and Jason have arrived with Chuck and Keri. Marilyn and I take the elevator to the first floor and walk around to the main entrance. When we get there, the other guards haven’t given them time to get into the front door yet. I fold my arms standing in the doorway watching the security staff shake Chuck’s hand one after another while he introduces them to Keri, who looks absolutely exhausted. I step outside and over to Keri, putting my arm around her.

“You look like you could use a hot bath,” I tell her. She raises tired brown eyes to me.

“Yes,” she says wearily, “but we ah wetting for de truck wit our tings.” I nod.

“I have plenty of people willing to help you get things situated. Right now, I really think I need to steal you away to one of my private spaces.”

“But Chatles…” she begins to protest.

“…Is going to need you, and you want to be there for him. You can’t do that if you can’t keep your eyes open.” I tap Chuck on the shoulder and he momentarily tears his attention away from his comrades. “I’m stealing your girlfriend for a little while. We won’t go far. I’ll bring her to you when I’m done.” I kiss him on the cheek and he blushes crimson. “I’m glad you’re here.” I turn to Keri and take her hand. “You follow me.” I think she complies because she’s too tired to protest. We go inside and take the elevator to the ground level. Just through the community bar and beyond the fitness room, I show her to my private spa. Her eyes widen.

“Oh, Anah! Dis is really beautiful,” she says, looking around. I smile at her and start the bath.

“It’s my private spa,” I tell her after testing the water temperature. I lead her to the cabinet where I keep my bubble baths. “Pick a fragrance. I’ll be right back.” I leave her to pick a fragrance while I go to the linen closet and get a bath towel and a terrycloth robe. When I return, I see that she has chosen stress relief. I pour a little into her bath water, then retrieve the aromatherapy scented oil by the same name. I put a few drops in the oil burner, then light the candle.

“Hot tub, Jacuzzi, or both?” I ask her as the tub starts to fill.

“What’s de difference?” she asks.

“The hot tub setting keeps the water hot. The Jacuzzi gives you jets that relax your muscles. In a bubble bath, the Jacuzzi makes more bubbles, so you just might get lost in them.”

“Mmm, dat sounds puhfect. Jacuzzi please.” I set the Jacuzzi and turn off the water. I show her how to start and stop the Jacuzzi and the hot tub if she decides that she wants to switch.

“The security system is based on facial recognition. I think Chuck may have been entered into the system, but of course not you, yet. We’ll get that taken care of. In the meantime, if you need any help before I get back to check on you, just call into the air like this: Activate two-way communications.” We hear a fancy beep in the room and I make my next request. “Locate Gail Taylor.” After two long beeps, Gail’s voice answers.

“Yes?”

“Gail, it’s Ana. I’m leaving Keri in the spa for about twenty minutes. I plan to be back to check on her in about 20 minutes, but call down here at about that time just in case, okay?”

“Okay, Ana.”

“Thank you. Deactivate communications.” I hear another beep indicating that the intercoms are off. “If you need me, just do the same thing and ask the system to locate Anastasia Grey.” She looks at me in amazement.

“Dat is really someteen else!” she exclaims. I pat her on the back.

“I know. Now I’m going to leave you some privacy so that you can relax. Call me if you need me. If you would like something to eat or drink, just let me or Gail know, okay?” She nods.

“Tank you, Anah,” she says, gratitude lacing her voice. I smile.

“Thank you for being here for Chuck.” She smiles and I leave her to undress and relax.

When I’m headed towards the kitchen, I catch the scent of something delicious. I go inside to find four women and quite a few other people slaving away on desserts and God only knows what else. When I get there, all activity stops.

“Mrs. Grey,” Ms. Solomon greets. “Do you need something? Can I get anything for you?”

“Um… no, I’m fine. I was just following the delicious smells,” I say, trying to break the ice. They all just kind of stare at me. Okay, I remember that I want a professional staff. This means that I won’t be friends with them all like I am with Gail, but in my kitchen…

“Okay, I won’t attempt to tell you how to do your jobs, but I don’t want everyone to clam up when I come into the kitchen. This is one of my favorite places in the house and you’ll see me here more than a few times. I might even cook something. As I don’t intend to stay out of the kitchen, if you clam up and stop working, you’ll never get anything done. So please, continue what you’re doing. I promise, this is not an inspection… although I do reserve the right to taste something every once in a while.” That was enough to break the ice a bit in the room, and they mostly get back to work.

“If it won’t disturb you too much, may I ask what you’re working on?” One of the other cooks—I can’t remember her name just now—turns to me with a smile.

“It’s easier to do some of the desserts the day before, so we’re working on most of the things that will keep.” She points to the wonderful desserts on the island, all mini-cakes or pies, very tiny works of art. “These are pumpkin layer cakes with cream cheese frosting topped with toffee bits.”

“Those little things are layer cakes?” I ask and she nods and smiles.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I can’t even imagine how you would assemble a cake that small. That’s ingenious!”

“Thank you, Mrs. Grey. It’s a collaborative effort.”

“What are these?”

“Those are cranberry-apple pies.”

“Mmm,” I say. “That sounds delicious.”

“These are bourbon cheesecakes,” she says, pointing to the scrumptious looking mini-cheesecakes. “You can indulge without worry, Mrs. Grey. There’s a quarter cup of bourbon in the entire recipe, some of which gets cooked off in the baking, but no worries. It’s not enough to cause any problems and all the dishes cooked with alcohol will be labeled as such.” I nod.

“That’s a really good idea,” I tell her. “I wouldn’t be so concerned if there were just adults at tomorrow’s dinner, and yes, I can and do intend to indulge in those little delectables. However, the parents would definitely want to know which foods they might want to keep their children away from.”

“My sentiments exactly, ma’am,” she replies. “These are blackberry tarts and these are pumpkin gingersnap cheesecakes.”

“And these?” I ask, pointing to the lovely and tempting creating at the end of the island.

“Those are chocolate ganache cakes. Those are layer cakes, too.”

“That’s what I was smelling!” I exclaim. I have to have one. “May I?”

“Of course. Please,” she says, handing me a napkin. I take one of the little cakes and a napkin and bite into heavenly decadence. “Oh,” I groan as the silky chocolatey goodness coats my tongue. “This is divine. Is this a collaboration, too?”

“No, ma’am. This is Eve’s—Ms. Corolla’s specialty.”

“Ms. Corolla?” I call out, and one of the younger cooks turns around. I remember her, early thirties.

“Superb, Ms. Corolla. Quite superb.” She smiles a wide, sincere smile.

“Thank you, Mrs. Grey.” I roll my eyes in delight and put my free hand on my chest before I proceed to leave the kitchen.

“What are you doing in here?” Christian asks, heading me off before I leave with Chuck rolling behind him in a wheelchair. I have to swallow the last of the ganache cake before I reply.

“Walking outta heaven,” I respond, trying to wipe any remaining crumbs from my mouth. I’m chewing and swallowing and coming from the kitchen, so he knows that I must be talking about food.

“Someone has made my wife happy,” he announces. “This is a very good thing.” He kisses me on the cheek. “I was showing Charles around. Where’s Keri?”

“I think she needs to decompress a bit. She looked wore out. She’s in the tub in my spa.” Christian throws a look at Chuck.

“What?” Chuck says, with a shrug.

“We’ll talk later. Right now, go check on your girlfriend. Around there, down the hall, you’ll find the elevator. It’s the only door on the wall that looks like a closet. Take it to the ground level. Go through both community rooms—the rooms with the bars. There’s a hallway to the left. The fitness room is at the end of that hallway. Just past the fitness room is Ana’s spa.” He nods.

“Elevator to the ground. Past two bar rooms, hallway to the left, past the fitness room.”

“You got it. Use the intercom if you need something.” He nods and rolls off towards the elevator. Christian takes me into the family room.

“Keri was begging him in the car to take his meds,” he tells me. “I think it’s getting to be kind of hard on her.” I sigh.

“It’s written all over her face,” I tell him. “I didn’t know what it was. I thought she was just tired from packing and such.”

“That could be it, but from what I saw, he’s in real pain and he refuses to take those meds… and it’s hard on her.” I sigh.

“I tried to talk to him, Christian,” I lament. “It’s AA, and his sponsor has told him that he can take the meds, but he won’t do it. It’s something light that won’t even hurt him—ibuprofen, I think—but he still won’t take it.”

“I’ll talk to him…”

“I don’t want him to feel like we’re ganging up on him,” I interject. “If he’s not going to do it, he’s not going to do it, and nothing that any of us says is going to matter.”

“I know, but I see it in your eyes that you don’t like to see him in pain, and it’s very clear that Keri doesn’t like it. So, I’ll talk to him.” I nod. He sits on the sofa and pulls me into his lap. “I won’t have to bury Naomi.” I look at his face. He’s giving nothing away.

“Really?” I say, prompting him for more information.

“Her name’s not Naomi. It’s Vernetta Moore. She’s from West Virginia, which I knew. I told the coroner to search in West Virginia for the family and…” He scrubs his hands over his face. He’s having a bit of turmoil and I have to keep a rein on my feelings to not allow my imagination run away with me.

“What is it?” I say, a little more stoic than I intended.

“She has a twin, Ana,” he spit out after dropping his hands from his face. “A dead girl’s fucking twin walked into my office today!” My hand flies to my mouth and I gasp.

“Oh my God!” I exclaim. That must have been horrible.

“My sentiments exactly,” he says through clenched teeth. “Different hair color, contacts to change her eye color, but the same girl. I had no warning whatsoever. I almost fucking fired Taylor!” And he’s Taylor again.

“Again?” I ask.

“No, I really almost fucking fired him this time,” he says. “I was ambushed. I had to look into the eyes of a dead girl and tell her why I couldn’t be what she needed—why I was indirectly responsible for her death!”

“Christian, that’s not true,” I try to protest.

“It is true!” he hisses. “This is not one of those ‘poor Christian, I’m the devil’ conversations, Anastasia. If that girl had never met me, she would still be alive.” He slides me off of his lap and onto the sofa before he stands up. He starts to pace, thrusting his fingers through his hair. “She never would have come after you… you could have died. Charles wouldn’t be hurt… none of this would have happened. None of it!”

“That’s right, Christian,” I say, and he whirls around to meet my glare. “None of it. None of it would have happened. If she hadn’t met you, you would have procured another submissive… maybe even Greta—and she might have been perfect.” He furrows his brow as I stand from the sofa.

“You might have employed her for, what—three months? Six months? You might still be with her now, and you would have never met me.” His face falls when I get to the point.

“If you hadn’t hit that guy and got ordered to group therapy, you would have never met me. If I hadn’t been raped by that monster, I wouldn’t have gone into psychology, and you would have never met me. If my mother wasn’t such a selfish cunt and would have stayed with my father, my life would be completely different, and you would have never met me. If I hadn’t met that psychotic loser Edward David, I may have met someone kinder and sweeter, and he may have made me happy. We may even still be together now and you would have never met me. If Naomi/Vernetta hadn’t left West Virginia in the first place, she would never have met you… and now we’re back to where we started.” I start walking toward him.

“I wouldn’t be Mrs. Grey and we wouldn’t be in this beautiful home; expecting two beautiful children in a few months; about to entertain our family and friends tomorrow for our first Thanksgiving as man and wife. You wouldn’t have learned about love, and you might still be in the clutches of that horrible woman. So you’re right, Christian, none of this would have happened.” When I reach him, he sits down on the arm of a nearby loveseat and drops his head.

“I know you,” I say, brushing his hair out of his face and pushing his head back to look at me. “You never made her any promises. You were truthful with her from the beginning and she hung her hopes on something that was not real. Yes, you found love with someone else and it wasn’t meant to be her, but that’s not your fault. She couldn’t deal with it, and that’s not your fault, either. She made a conscious decision to do what she did—she made that decision. In spite of everything, you were still willing to stand by her and give her a proper burial.” I close my eyes and kiss him gently on the cheek. When I open my eyes, his expression has changed completely—soft, surrender…

“You are a good man. I know that you were never cruel, unkind, or dishonest to that girl. Take responsibility for those things that you are responsible for, but this is not one of them.” He gazes long and deep into my eyes.

“I don’t deserve you,” he says, just above a whisper.

“Yes, you do,” I correct him, “because you love me, and you show me every day just what I mean to you. You make me feel like no one else has ever made me feel. I feel love so strong and so deep for you and from you that even amnesia couldn’t separate us. So, yes, you do deserve me, just as much as I deserve you.”

“I love you so much,” he says, pulling me close to him and burying his face in my breasts. “I love you, Anastasia.” He raises glassy gray eyes to me.

“I know, Christian, and I love you, too.” We share a soulful kiss there in our family room. I pull my face back and stroke his hair. “We’re not going to talk about this anymore. She’s being laid to rest by her family, so there’s nothing else we need to discuss.”

“No, there’s not,” he says, shaking his head.

“No more blaming yourself for things that are outside of your control.”

“No more, although I may question every once in a while how I could be so lucky as to have you.” I smile.

“I’ll allow that… but only once in a while,” I giggle.

After a bit of canoodling with my husband, I realize that I have completely forgotten about Keri. Christian tells me that he has to check on something and heads off in the direction of his office. I know that Marilyn is wandering around somewhere, but the last I knew, I sent Chuck down to the spa to see Keri. Oh, Lord, no in flagrante delicto today, please…

Luckily, when I get to the spa, Keri is sitting in one of the lounge chairs with a compress over her eyes and her foot is in Chuck’s lap; he is giving her a massage. When I enter, he puts his finger over his lips to silence me.

“Is she asleep?” I whisper. He nods.

“She’s exhausted,” he says. “It’s been a long day.” I look at his hands and see that they are dry. Her skin is going to be a bit ashy when she wakes. I go to the cabinet and get the stress relief massage oil and hand it to Chuck.

“Make sure you get her ankles,” I say, sitting on the massage table facing them. He looks at the bottle.

“Stress relief?” he asks, his brow furrowed.

“That’s the fragrance she chose,” I tell him. “That’s what you smell. That was her bubble bath and that’s what’s in the oil burner.” He looks at the bottle and sighs. Yes, Chuck, I think she’s stressed, but I won’t be the one to tell you that. I watch as he puts a generous amount of oil in his hands, then starting with her ankles, he spreads it meticulously over her feet from heel to toe, paying special attention to every inch of skin, careful not to miss any. She whimpers a bit in ecstasy, then falls immediately back to sleep.

“So… may I ask, is Keri one of your emergency contacts?” He raises his eyes to me. I put my hands up in surrender. “I’m not trying to be nosy…”

“Yes, you are,” he calls me out while still gently massaging Keri’s feet.

“Okay, I am, so is she one of your emergency contacts?” I ask again.

“No,” he says after a pause. “Apparently, I awoke in delirium and told Jason to call her. My phone was destroyed so he had to search through the records of my call history and find her number. I don’t know how she got here or what’s happening back in Anguilla, but she’s here.”

“You didn’t intend for her to come?”

“Ana, I have no idea, but I’m glad she’s here.” He continues to gently rub her foot, then places it on the seat to start on the other one.

“How long is she staying?” I ask.

“She says until I get better.”

“That’s not going to cause her any problems, is it?” He looks up at me and frowns. “She’s not an American citizen, Chuck.” Realization dawns.

“Oh! No, she’s got some time before she has to go back, like a few months, I think. I’m going to look into it when I’m feeling better so that she won’t get into any trouble.” I nod. We sit in silence for a while before Chuck asks, “So how’s Ben working out?” I shrug.

“Okay, I guess,” I reply, “he’s not bad, but he’s not you.”

“Yeah, I know how difficult you can be,” he teases.

“Fuck you,” I say, folding my arms. He chuckles as he continues to massage his girlfriend’s feet.


 

CHRISTIAN

Jason and the moving truck arrive shortly after I leave Butterfly in the family room. He directs them back to the service entrance where Marilyn awaits to show them where everything goes. She was very pleased to discover that I had sent Jason to get the adjustable beds. As transport was the only problem, he just caught the moving van in transit and had them go by the store and pick up the beds. I discover that Marilyn is very efficient and has the guest quarters organized with all their things put away in about thirty minutes, including the complicated assembly of that adjustable bed, one for Charles and one for Pops. No wonder Butterfly likes to keep her around.

Very shortly after their quarters have been organized, Charles and Keri enter from the community room led by Butterfly.

“Wow,” Charles says when he wheels himself into the guest quarters, “this is bigger than I thought.”

“I tried to tell you that,” Butterfly scolds. “There’s a private living room, eat-in kitchen area, bedroom and full bath. There’s the patio with the view of the lake right outside your patio door. Plenty of room for you to settle in—I even got you a recliner to aid with your recovery.”

“That’s not a recliner,” Charles says. “That’s some kind of space-aged contraption designed to make me never leave this room!” Butterfly laughs heartily, but Keri seems a bit uncomfortable.

“Well, your remotes are over there and there’s the flat screen. We have every channel known to man, though I don’t watch television. We even have Sirius XM—that I like. I’m building my own smooth jazz station.” Butterfly is going on and on about the quarters and its amenities while Marilyn zeros in on Keri.

“You’re Keri, right?” she says, greeting Keri with a smile.

“Yes,” Keri answers, returning her smile, but with obvious trepidation.

“I’m Marilyn. We haven’t met, but you’ll be seeing a lot of me. I’m Ana’s personal assistant.”

“It’s vety nice to meet you,” Keri responds.

“I see you’ve already seen the spa,” Marilyn says with a laugh. “Please, follow me. The bedroom is this way and your things are already here.” Keri’s smile grows.

“Oh, yes. Tank you vety much!” As Marilyn leads Keri to the bedroom, I’m only just realizing that she was uncomfortable because she was standing there in a robe, most likely with nothing underneath. I feel my phone vibrate as Butterfly helps Charles with the adjustments on the recliner. I don’t recognize the number, so I step into the next room to take the call.

“Grey.”

“Mr. Grey, this is Rodney Graves, sir… from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.” Well, you’re a bit late! “I just came on shift and I got a message that a family member actually came forth and claimed Ms. Adams’ remains, except her name isn’t Naomi Adams. It’s Vernetta Moore. Her sister brought her hospital birth announcement and we identified her from the footprint. I thought you might want to know in case you wanted to contact the next of kin for the funeral arrangements.”

The fact that this girl was her fucking identical twin didn’t give away the fact that she just might be related to the deceased?

“Thank you, Mr. Graves. No, that won’t be necessary. At least now, she’ll be buried by her family.” He’s just doing his job, Grey.

“Yes, I agree. Well, I just wanted to let you know, sir. Good day, Mr. Grey.”

“Thanks for calling. Goodbye.” I end the call quickly. I promised Butterfly that there would be no more talk or thought of Naomi or Vernetta or whatever her name is, and I mean that. When I step back into the room with Charles and Butterfly, they hadn’t even noticed I had left.

“Boy, she’s really tired,” Marilyn says when she comes back out of the bedroom. “She said she wanted to take a nap and she was gone before her head hit the pillow.”

“Again?” Butterfly says, throwing a look at me. I just shrug. “Well,” she sighs, “I’m going to let you get settled in, Chuck. It looks like Keri already has. I’m going to check on dinner.” She walks over to me and kisses me on the cheek and gestures for Marilyn to leave with her. When they’ve left the apartment, I walk to the sliding doors and look out to the lake.

“I’m not a humble man, Charles. We both know that, but I never thanked you for saving my wife’s life.”

“I think this is thanks enough,” he says, and I know he’s talking about allowing him to move into Grey Crossing.

“That’s just a gesture,” I tell him. “It doesn’t cost me anything.”

“It’s a huge gesture… to allow someone to invade your home.”

“I’d hardly call it an invasion,” I chuckle. “We could all be in the same house and never run into each other once in three days if we don’t eat or sleep together, but I see what you mean. Anyway, I do want to thank you. She’s my whole life and I would be worthless without her. I’ll never be able to repay you for what you did for her… and for me.”

“You’re doing it now, man,” he says sincerely. I nod.

“I’m going to have to impose upon your kindness again,” I confess.

“What do you need?”

“I need you to take something for your pain.” His face falls.

“Did Ana put you up to this?” he asks.

“No—as a matter of fact, she mentioned that she didn’t want everyone ganging up on you.” He drops his head. “If anybody put me up to it, it was Keri, when she was begging you to take those pills in the car and right now, when she can barely hold her head up because she’s exhausted. You don’t think some of that is mental?” He sighs.

“I’m a recovering alcoholic,” he says. “I can’t take pills. It’s just a pathway to the harder stuff.”

“When I first found out that you were a recovering alcoholic, I asked Jason how you got this job—how you possibly passed the background check when they know that I’m completely intolerant of alcohol or drug abuse of any kind. He said that he didn’t know, but he would stake his life on the fact that you were one of the best men that he knew. I never forgot that, because that man took a bullet for me… and you took a missile for my wife.” He raises his eyes to me again.

“You have proven that you are of unshakeable and unquestionable character. I know that you would never do anything to harm yourself, but right now, you are. You’re in visible pain and you’re just allowing yourself to suffer because you’re afraid that something not much stronger than an aspirin is going to cause you to fall off the wagon.”

“I have a high pain threshold. It comes with the territory.”

“Which means that you’re in even more pain than you’re letting on,” I observe. “I won’t tell the women or you won’t get a moment’s rest.”

“I’ll be fine, Christian, really…”

“But will our women be fine?” I ask him. His brow furrows.

“No offense, Christian, but I can’t be ‘guilted’ into taking those pills,” he says firmly. “Whatever may persuade me to do it, that won’t.”

“It’s not guilt, Charles,” I tell him. “It’s concern. I don’t even have the same ghosts that you do and I’m very slow to take medicine. I won’t pop a pill unless it’s utterly necessary, but you have had a major accident with very serious injuries that required surgery. This is not even morphine or opium. It’s ibuprofen…”

“Eight hundred milligrams!” he declares like this is some huge revelation.

“It’s still ibuprofen. It’s not addictive. It’s not even dangerous. Any side effects that you could have from ibuprofen, you could have from cough syrup.”

“I don’t take that either,” he replies. I’m not winning this argument, am I?

“Both of our women see your pain and both of them love you very much.” His head snaps to me like I’m not supposed to know that Keri loves him. Maybe it’s that he thinks I shouldn’t know that Butterfly loves him, too, but he says nothing.

“You know,” I sit in the chair across from him. “I understand why you’re remiss to take the pain meds. I don’t know how much of this you already know, but my birth mother was a drug addict. I was four when she died from an overdose and I still vividly recall how her addiction ruined her life and mine. I’m not forcing anything down your throat—literally or figuratively, but when you hurt, she hurts. Anybody can see it, except you, because you’re in too much pain.” He drops his head.

“Guilt, Christian,” he says in a low voice.

“No, Charles. Truth.” I pat him on his hand. “Can I get you anything?” He shakes his head, but doesn’t look at me. “Dinner will be ready soon. Let her rest, she needs it, but you make sure you come and eat. It’s a pet peeve of mine.”

“Yes, Dad,” he says without raising his head, chuckling slightly. I stand, pat his shoulder, and leave him to his thoughts.

When I get to the kitchen, Butterfly is shoving a wooden spoon in her mouth.

“Are you in here harassing the cooks again?” I tease.

“Oh, no. I reserve the right to check on the progress of anything happening in my kitchen at any time, and right now, this bean soup is to die for. Now get out of here and go find Jason, wherever he went. He was just looking for you. You need to sign for Marilyn’s car.” She waves me off and I just shake my head and go in search of Jason.

When you’re looking for a car, head to the garage.

Having already backed her Camry into the empty bin in the third garage, Marilyn stands in front of the garages, wide-eyed and gaped-mouth, admiring her new Sonata.

“This is mine?” she gasps, looking at the brand new gold automobile.

“You wanted the gold Sonata, right?” I ask.

“Yes, but… I mean… wow!” she whispers the last word in awe. I laugh and shake my head, signing off of the vehicle and sending the driver on his way.

“I’ll let you examine your car on your own time, but I will tell you that it comes equipped with all of the best safety features: automatic emergency braking; blind spot detection and lane change assist; automatic high beam assist; rear parking sensors; driver’s side knee airbag; electronic parking brake; Blue Link that notifies emergency personnel if your airbag is deployed…” I realize that Marilyn appears to be suffering from a severe case of MEGO as I’m explaining the safety features of the car.

“I hope I haven’t overdone it,” I say. “I’ve always been quite safety conscious when it comes to purchasing an automobile. That’s why I only own Audis. They’re at the top of their class in safety ratings.” I walk around the car and hand her the keys. “I understand now more than ever how important safety features are. You can never be too careful.” She takes the keys from my hand.

“Thank you, Christian,” she says with a smile, “for the car… and its safety features.”

“You’re welcome, Marilyn.”

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to test drive my new car. My boyfriend and I have plans. Bye Bosslady.” She waves behind me and I see Butterfly leaning again the garage door frame.

“Bye, Marilyn. Enjoy your new car and have a great weekend,” she says, waving at Marilyn, who gets into her new Sonata, starts it up, and cruises it through the gates and down the driveway.

“What are you going to do with her Camry?” Butterfly asks.

“Donate it to charity,” I reply. “It’s still in pretty good shape, but I can understand why you would want her to have something newer and more reliable. I’ll give her fair market value for it plus $5000.”

“Wow,” Butterfly exclaims. “That’s very generous.”

“Do you think it’s too much?” I ask. She shrugs.

“Well, you just bought her a new car… but she’ll love it. Just in time for Christmas.” She puts her arms around my neck. “You’re a wonderful man, Mr. Grey. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Anything for you, my love.” I gently kiss her soft and tender lips. “I talked to Charles about his pain meds.” She looks up at me.

“And?”

“He’s going to be a tough sell,” I tell her. “He’s so afraid of relapsing that if he was dying of a poisonous venom, I believe we would have to force feed him the antidote.” She sigh, impatiently.

“Oh, this is ridiculous!” she declares and turns on her heels, hell bent on giving Charles a piece of her mind. I catch her by the arm before she gets back into the mansion.

“Ana, don’t,” I tell her as she glares at me. “He’s dug in. He’s going to have to come to this decision on his own. If we keep harping on him, believe me, it’s only going to make him angry. It’ll do more harm than good.”

“Have you seen Keri?” she says. “She’s exhausted! She won’t be able to take much more of this. I can see it in her eyes. I’m a shrink, you know.” She points to her head, indicating that she’s a head doctor. “She’s going to blow or pass out or something, really very soon. I can see her in my mind’s eye sitting up at night watching him in pain. The only reason why she’s asleep now is because someone else is here to watch him. I would bet the ranch that before dinner, she wrenches herself out of bed just to find out where he is.”

“I don’t doubt that, Butterfly, but we still can’t force this, no matter how much we both may want to.” She rolls her eyes hard and shakes her head even harder.

“You better never do this to me, Christian Grey,” she says, taking my hand and cuddling it to her face. “If you’re in pain, you better never put me through this, do you understand?”

“Yes, baby, I understand.” I embrace her warmly before we go inside for dinner.

*-*

Butterfly was right. Keri did drag herself out of bed for dinner. Although she looks slightly more rested than she did during the ride across the bridge and once she got here, she still looks like she could have used some more sleep. She emerges from the area of the family room in a beautiful long tropical sundress. Charles’ face lights up when he sees her and you just know that he wants to stand when she comes into the room. Jason and I stand for him and direct Keri to the seat next to him. He whispers something in her ear and she smiles shyly.

“Keri, that is such a beautiful dress,” Butterfly says. “Did you get enough rest?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” she says, placing her napkin on her lap. “Dat bed! Oh!” Her eyes nearly roll back into her head. Butterfly laughs.

“I take it you’re pleased,” she says.

“Oh, yes, it’s wonduhful!” Keri reinforces.

“Well, I should tell you what the next few days will look like,” Butterfly begins while sitting across from Keri. “Tomorrow will be nothing but food, family, and fun. There’s no other way to describe it. The house will be full from tomorrow until Sunday, so they’ll never be a dull moment. Friday morning, we’ll be leaving the gentlemen to their own vices—except for my best friend, Al—and we’ll be going Black Friday shopping. It’s an early morning affair, so make sure that you get some rest. We’ll spend the afternoon being pampered in my spa and fitness room by the staff of my husband’s salon chain, Miana’s, after which we will join our guys again for dinner.

“Saturday, we’ll have brunch and then later that evening, I’m afraid you and Chuck will be on your own. We have a red carpet affair that night that we attend every year. It’s usually a late-night affair. Then brunch on Sunday again before everyone starts to split off and return to their homes. So you may never get an actual idea of what it’s really like around here on a normal day until Monday or Tuesday.”

Butterfly has a captive audience as Keri listens to what to expect for the Thanksgiving holiday. I have no idea what Thanksgiving is like in Anguilla, but she seems very excited about spending Thanksgiving in the United States. Butterfly has deemed this Thanksgiving to be quite casual, so there will be none of the dressing up until the Adopt-A-Family Affair on Saturday. Gail and Jason join us after dinner is served—escarole and butter lettuce salad with pomegranate seeds and hazelnuts and a hearty tomato and white bean soup with shrimp, crispy prosciutto, and crusty baguettes served with green apple spritzers. The spritzers are Gail’s latest creation. We don’t know how she makes them, but we love them.

The women are quite animated in their conversation and Keri fits right in. I occasionally catch a glimpse of Charles while he watches her and I know that faraway, swollen heart look from a mile away. He is head over heels in love with this woman and it’s going to be hell on him when she has to return to Anguilla.

We all sit and chat a bit over coffee after dinner before we take our conversation to the family room. Charles’ pain is ill disguised as he tries to hide his discomfort from the other people in the room. I attempt to draw attention away from him as does Jason, but Keri is quite attentive and Eagle Eyes’ right in on him. He brushes it off and tries to convince her that he’s fine, but I can tell that she’s not buying it. Where she had looked refreshed an hour or so ago, she now looks weary again, and part of me wants to just clock Charles in the head for putting her through this. She cares about him very deeply and he’s hell-bent on allowing her to watch him suffer because of his unrealistic fear of relapse. I know I shouldn’t judge—I have no experience with drug addiction except what I think I know of the crack whore, but it’s ibuprofen for Christ’s sake.

Butterfly’s day was quite busy as was Gail’s and although she’s reluctant to admit it, she’s exhausted around 9pm. I’m almost relieved when she’s ready to call it a night. Although I’m nowhere near tired, I’ve had all I can take of deferring attention from the Charles and Keri Show. She leans against me in the elevator and I know that she can barely keep her pretty blue eyes open. I lead her to our bedroom and she allows me to undress her. It’s a bit chilly, so I reach in her sleepwear drawer and opt for a warm flannel sleep shirt. I slide into pajamas myself before adjusting the heat just a bit. She has already slid under the covers and I know that her pillows will already be in place when I slide in behind her. She’s out cold before I even get my arms around her.

I watch her for I don’t know how long, thanking God that I’m not spending Thanksgiving at the hospital with my wife still in a coma… or worse yet, not alive at all. I can’t imagine my life without her and the simple thought of it gives me a horrible chill—even worse than the chill I felt when Naomi… Vernet… fuck it, Naomi’s twin sister walked into my office. I think about the fact that her family has to spend this holiday preparing for her funeral and I’m trying to convince myself that it’s not entirely my fault that she’s dead. In the big scheme of things, she tried to kill my wife. I should hate her, but I don’t. Butterfly doesn’t even hate her. She’s not in any hurry to pay last respects to the woman, but she doesn’t hate her.

I know that I would hate her if Butterfly had died, but she didn’t die and I can’t help but feel sorry for Naomi. What must she have been thinking to do something like this? Was she gunning for Butterfly or was she gunning for me? How long did she have to sit at that intersection and wait for the opportunity to slam into her target? A few seconds sooner or a few seconds later and she would have completely missed them. How did she time it so perfectly? Did she have someone watching Butterfly to tell her when they were going to be at that intersection? Is Butterfly still in danger of Naomi’s accomplice? Or was there an accomplice at all? Am I just creating conspiracy theories because I don’t have the answers that I need? She could have just been stalking me. She could have just been at the right place at the right time to attack Butterfly… sitting at the corner just waiting for me until she saw a black Audi and just made a snap decision to floor it, only… Butterfly’s Audi is… was blue. We haven’t even replaced the car yet.

I sit there thinking up the worst possible scenarios until I finally decide to call Welch. I don’t know if the man ever sleeps. I’m pretty certain that he doesn’t, but I’m about to find out.

“Sir.” He answers on the first ring.

“Still no plans for Thanksgiving, huh, Welch?” I ask.

“I’m a loner, Sir, but I could ask what you’re doing up this late.” I’m in the sitting room trying not to disturb Butterfly.

“What’s the story on the Chevy that hit Ana’s car?”

“What do you mean?” he asks bemused. “I thought we solved that mystery.”

“I mean, do we know if there was anything in the car that might give us some kind of clue as to why she did this… besides being a woman scorned? Was there a phone in the car? A walkie-talkie? Anything? Was she working alone or was this a set-up gone bad?”

“Boy, you two think exactly alike.” Who two? “I would have thought since we have a dead driver that the book would have been closed on this, but you and Brian…”

Brian! Fuck! That’s the last name I want to hear right now.

“Why is he still here?” I ask, more than just a little perturbed.

“He says he’s still here for moral support for Ray. We both know that he’s still here for Ana, too.” Why the fuck doesn’t he carry his ass back to Montesano?

“And what does the almighty Brian think?” There’s a pause.

“He thought it might have been a conspiracy,” Welch says. Shit, just what I need—another unknown assailant in our lives. “No evidence points to that, though.”

“What do you mean?” I frown.

“You know all of your ex-subs are on the watch list,” he says. Well, duh! “She hasn’t had any strange liaisons, no crossings with anyone else on the list—no strange phone calls, not strange visits, not even strange behavior. The guy Stevenson is the brother of one of her friends and we don’t even know how the car got involved. Her phone wasn’t in the car. There was no purse in the car. The police swarmed her apartment before we got a chance to get there, but contacts indicate that they didn’t find any real clues either. We never found her phone because it wasn’t in the car, but it could have been ditched or just lost when she got out the car and made her way to the hospital. There were no deathbed confessions, but she may have been in no condition to make any. Honestly, all evidence points to you.” And now, I’m thoroughly horrified.

“To me??!!” I nearly screech. I look into the bedroom and Butterfly stirs, but only a bit, then settles back into slumber. “As a suspect??”

“No, as the target,” he clarifies. “They got T-boned traveling north/northwest on 4th at Stewart. That’s the way you come to Escala from GEH. If Ana is coming from her office, she may come up Stewart and turn on 4th, but she’s rarely coming from her office and she never comes that direction up 4th. She may be coming from visiting someone or doing something, in which case, she could be coming from any four directions—off the Five, from Westlake, from the Viaduct… She has no set schedule anymore, so no one would know how to set her up for something like that. It would take months of observation, and it’s still a crap shoot. If you wanted the best shot to get at her, you would have to come from Battery St, because she would be coming from Helping Hands. What time? You would never know.” Shit, he knows more about my wife’s comings and goings than I do. Then again, that is his job.

“No, sir, everything points to you and to a random moment of despair. When she stumbled out of that car, she didn’t take a purse. That means that she left that purse wherever she left it before she got in the car. Either she didn’t plan on coming back or she wasn’t thinking straight. She was sitting in an area that you normally travel, not Ana. She had no way of knowing that you were gone to Michigan. It was late in terms of work hours, but not that late in Grey hours. The Man Who Shall Remain Nameless checked surveillance from that road and she sat in that spot three different times that evening, left, and came back. She was gunning for somebody alright, but it wasn’t Ana.”

“How can you be so sure?” I ask. This is not making me feel any better about this situation. The crazy blonde bitch aims for me and hits Jason. Now he’s saying that a wacko sub may have just had a moment of unclarity, came after me, and nearly killed my wife!

“Well, it was a stakeout, like I just told you, but if I’m gunning for the wife, I’m going to make sure I’m still alive to watch the husband suffer or help him lick his wounds if I’m the distraught lover.”

“But she didn’t intend to kill herself…”

“You don’t know that,” he interrupts me. “Do you know what they did find in the car? Broken pieces of a brandy bottle. If you intend on killing someone in a thought-out conspiracy, you’re going to be coherent carrying out your mission. She was nine sheets to the wind when she died! We don’t even know how drunk she was when she hit the car. After hitting the car, walking into the hospital, being cut open and losing most of her blood content, then being cut open on a slab, her blood alcohol level was still 0.19. It was 0.21 when she went into surgery. It’s a wonder she was even conscious! Alcohol poisoning starts at 0.25. My money says that she didn’t have a phone either. Nine times out of ten, it would have jostled loose from whatever pocket she put it in on impact even if she shoved it in her boobs and she wouldn’t have been coherent enough to take it out of the car.

“It was dark and the driver of the Audi was male. If you can barely see straight to drive, you certainly can decipher a midnight blue car from a black car, but that four-circle Audi sign is distinguishable from a mile away. So what if she got the wrong Audi? She thought it was you. She may have thought Jason was driving, but for whatever strange reason, you sit on his side of the car behind him when he’s driving you. She thought the two of you were going to end up together in that Playroom in the Sky. I’d bet my bank account on it.”

“Why didn’t you tell me any of this before?” I ask him.

“Well, for one thing, it wasn’t relevant. The assailant is dead; nothing good could come from you knowing that she was after you and not Ana. Either way, she set out to hurt you and paid the ultimate price in the process. Second, when did you suggest that I tell you—while your wife was struggling to remember who you were or when her twin sister walked into your office?” He does have a point, there.

“Has your Boy Wonder accepted this theory or is he still looking for monsters in the closet?”

“He agrees with my analysis. It’s the logical conclusion without grasping at straws and having another Kennedy Assassination fiasco on our hands. I hate to tell you this, but I think he’s more on board with this explanation because he gets to blame you for what happened to Ana. He wants to make it seem like everything that follows you is going to follow her and you can’t keep her safe. ” And to Jason… and to Naomi…

“He wouldn’t be far off the mark,” I lament, feeling the dread I always feel when I remember that I’m destructive to everything I touch. “Naomi is dead and Ana is changed forever because of me, so for the most part, he’s right.

“On the contrary, he’s very far off the mark, and so are you right now. You may think you’re omnipotent and all powerful, but you can’t control what other people do. People do stupid shit for stupid reasons and just like you can’t predict other people’s actions, you can’t take responsibility for everybody’s behavior. When someone makes a conscious decision to make a bad choice, that’s not your fault.

“People fall in love all the time and they break up all the time. There are millions of women scorned out there, but they don’t all go back looking for blood because they were rejected.” Yeah, only the psychos in my life, apparently. “Somebody is always going to be hurt for some reason—that’s the way of the world. What’s different is how you react to that hurt.

“You’ve taken the things that have happened in your past, channeled that energy, turned them around and became a successful businessman. True, you have some vices that help you cope and channel that energy as well, but you practice those vices with willing participants who go into these arrangements with their eyes wide open. They know the rules before they engage. These women consent to this. They are not kidnapped or tricked into these relationships. You don’t ruin anybody lives any more than they ruin their own lives. They have to take responsibility for their own actions and the decisions that they make. Just because you had a relationship with someone and they made a bad decision or meet a bad end doesn’t mean that you are responsible for their actions or the outcome of those actions. By that logic, Ana is responsible for what happened to her at the hands of David and for his current state of affairs.”

That logic made me freeze.

“It’s not the same,” I tell him. It can’t be the same. I don’t buy it.

“It’s exactly the same,” he retorts. “If you’re responsible for Naomi’s inability to accept rejection and her later psychotic break, which led to her attempting to kill you, then Ana is responsible for David cheating on her, vandalizing her car, harassing her, and ultimately kidnapping her. She’s also responsible for that other nameless fucker beating her while she was handcuffed and helpless.”

I’m mulling over his reasoning. There’s no way in hell Butterfly is responsible for that horrible shit that happened to her. No fucking way. But when he explains it that way, how could I have handled things any differently than I did? I was never cruel or unfeeling and they all knew exactly what they were getting into when the contract was signed. Naomi wanted more than I could give her. I made it clear that wasn’t on my agenda. How could it possibly be my fault that she didn’t listen, that she chose to ignore my wishes?

 “Don’t you see it? You started out being the victim, and you wanted to move as far away from that identity as you could… and you did. The problem is that instead of seeing yourself as the victor, you saw the villain, and you can’t get out of that cycle. You’re going to have to, man. You’re about to be a father.”

“That is so much easier said than done,” I admit.

“Well, then why the fuck have you been seeing all these damn shrinks?” he asks. “What good are they if they can’t help you see the error in your thinking? Your self-image?”

There has to be somewhere in there where I take some responsibility for the outcome of these situations. Out of all my subs, two moved on because they felt I was too rough; four thought I wasn’t rough enough; three wanted to explore other options; and the rest all wanted more—something I wasn’t willing to give. While all six of them were reluctant to let go, two went away quietly and four cried and begged to stay. Two of those were carried away kicking and screaming—one was Cassie and the other was Naomi. Good God, where is Cassie these days?

“They just have to take ‘no’ for an answer, just like David couldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. You became everything this woman wanted, so she wanted all of you. When she couldn’t have you, she went nuts—just like that crazy, blonde, child rapist bitch. Sure, it took Naomi longer to get to that point and my guess would be that she saw you moving on with your life and starting your family, so something in her mind said that you could be that man, you just couldn’t be that man for her. David didn’t come after you, he came after Ana. I’m guaranteeing you—Naomi didn’t come after Ana. She came after you, and it’s no more your fault that she snapped and came after you than it is Ana’s fault that David snapped and came after her.”

Why couldn’t anybody else make it this clear to me before now? Why was it so hard for everybody else to help me see that all bad things do not follow Christian Grey? Was it just that I couldn’t see what everyone was telling me all along? What made it so clear this time around?

Butterfly.

Putting Butterfly in my shoes is what brought the truth to light. She did nothing but love that monster once upon a time and when he came back to get the best thing that ever happened to him, she didn’t want him anymore and he lost it. He snapped and did all that crazy shit that has landed him in jail.

By the same token, I treated my submissives like gold. They had the best clothes, money, cars, and me. I took their bodies to limits they had never experienced—physically and sexually. I don’t need a cheering section to tell me that I’m the complete package—rich, good looks, and an awesome lover. Like-minded individuals would gladly contract with me for life, but I didn’t want a permanent arrangement with any of them, and that’s what made Naomi snap… and Elena, too, for that matter. They both saw that I could be everything that they wanted, just not for them. For the first time in my life, I see it. I really see it.

It’s not my fault. It’s really not my fault.

“I don’t know how you did it, Welch, but you just did what years of therapy never could. How could I not see this before?”

“Because it’s easier to see the bad in yourself than it is to see the good. Trust me, I’m an expert.”

“I don’t know how to thank you…”

“Just don’t get all sappy on me. I can’t deal with that shit.”

“You wouldn’t be interested in joining my family for dinner tomorrow, would you?” Did I just say that?

“You’re getting sappy,” he warns.

“I’m serious.”

“I am, too,” he reinforces. “No, but thank you. I really am a loner and I don’t mind it so much. Besides, being around family reminds me of mine—for lack of a better word, so no, but thank you.” I decide that it’s best to respect his wishes.

“You going to spend some time with your good chum, Brian?” I ask, partially sarcastic and partially serious.

“Make no mistake, sir. In my line of work, you keep your friends close, potential allies closer, and enemies under your fucking fingernails. I’m under no misconception who I’m dealing with and he’s under no misconception about me. We are not friends. Until we find a way to get rid of this guy completely and for sure, I’m all over him.”

It never once occurred to me that he was playing the devil’s advocate to keep an eye on Cholometes. My eyes are just full of hate for the guy, so I can’t see anything else. Suddenly, I’m bone tired and it’s nearly two in the morning.

“I’m going to turn in, Welch. I’m really exhausted.”

“Very well, sir. You know where to find me if you need me, and sir?”

“What?”

“Cassie Hamilton is an event planner in Missouri. She got a little visit after Ana was hurt. Let’s just say that although she had no idea what happened to Mrs. Grey, she is under no misconception of how far your reach goes. She’s not a problem.”

He was reading my mind. Now, I’m not so sure that I wouldn’t be partially responsible if she decided to snap. I may be responsible for her current plight, but not for the actions that got her there.

“That’s good to hear. Goodnight, Welch.”

“Goodnight, sir.”

I end the call and go back into the bedroom. Standing there by the bed and watching her sleep, I think about how close I came to losing my Butterfly. I feel amazingly and unexplainably light. She’s here and she’s beautiful. The night doesn’t seem so dark. My shoulders don’t seem so heavy…

… and it’s really not all my fault.

I crawl back into bed and wrap myself around my beautiful wife. Seconds later, I fall into what has to be the most contented sleep I’ve even had in 25 years.


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

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Love and handcuffs 🙂 
Lynn X