Raising Grey: Chapter 89—Still Minding the Monsters

I passed my CE. Now, I get to keep those 44 licenses!

One and a half months…
6 classes…
31 credit hours…
3 days of testing…
My scores: 96, 96, 92, 88, 84, 82

Thank you to all of you who encouraged and prayed for me. I couldn’t have done it without you and I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.

Thanks to my mommy who, even though she was sick, was encouraging and rooting for me the whole time.

Especially thank you to my Daddy, who catered to my every need while I studied and wouldn’t allow me to doubt myself for one moment!

We did it, y’all! ❤ 

FYI—four more chapters in book four after this one and a new era begins for our couple!

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

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

Chapter 89—Still Minding the Monsters


CHRISTIAN 

I awake in the middle of the night again and discover that Butterfly has left our bed. I go in search of her and find her in the yoga room, sitting on the floor and assembling her Lego model of the Sydney Opera House.

“Why are you awake?” I ask. She raises her gaze to me for a moment, then turns her attention back to the Lego model.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she admits. “I got up and journaled for a while, then I decided to meditate a bit, but I’m still not tired. So…” She gestures at her Lego model.

“What’s keeping you awake?” I ask. “Something on your mind?”

“The usual stuff,” she dismisses. “Nothing and everything.”

So, something’s on her mind but she doesn’t want to talk about it.

“Do you need some help?” I ask.

“No,” she says. “It’s therapeutic, but you can come and sit with me while I finish if you want to.” I graciously accept the invitation, sitting on the floor lotus-style in front of her and the Lego pieces. We had already talked about our day, so we just sit quietly—me watching while her dexterous fingers snap the little pieces into place. It’s not an exact replica, but it’s enough to remind her of our trip.

She put it on one of the shelves in the yoga room, and now I realize that she’s been quite busy in here. The shelves are neatly arranged with paraphernalia from different stages of our lives.

Seashells and souvenirs from our trip to Anguilla, including the dolphin globe…

A picture of me and Gail walking down the aisle on her wedding day…

The picture of us from our first press conference standing in front of the elevator at Grey House…

A picture of her and Marlow—I don’t know from where or when…

Many, many more pictures—Christmases, birthdays, wedding and bridal showers, weddings…

Her promise ring sealed in what looks like an acrylic box… I can’t be upset about it, considering the carats she has on her hand now.

A miniature Eiffel Tower and what looks like a map of some of the ruins from Greece…

A cork from one of the bottles of Screaming Eagle wine from Napa Valley…

A picture of her henna-ed hands over her henna-ed baby bump…

A picture of Minnie and Mikey only hours old in the bassinets in the hospital nursery…

Two dried roses and a few stray rose petals…

“What are these from?” I ask, pushing the dried rose petals around.

“Our engagement,” she says softly, and then I remember the incredible rose ceremony I engineered to propose to her. I turn to her and smile before turning back to examine the many mementos that she has assembled on the built-in shelves.

A picture of us singing at Mia’s wedding…

Her and Allen dancing at his wedding…

A captured shot of her and Valerie in the guest room, talking about God knows what right after Valerie and Elliot moved into the Crossing…

The first ultrasound pictures of our babies… the gender reveal. I take the picture off the shelf and examine it, creepily caressing the point where the technician pointed out Mikey’s penis.

“I was a real jerk when we first got this picture,” I say, looking down at the picture of the first ultrasound, when we found out the sex of our babies.

“I…” She trails off and I raise my head to look at her. “I… only vaguely remember.” I look down at the picture again.

“I hope you never remember,” I lament. “I was a real asshole, Butterfly. We were at odds and I robbed you of what should have been one of the most joyous moments of our lives because I was pissed.” I raise my gaze to her again. “When and if you do ever remember it, please also remember that I’m so, so sorry.” She takes the picture from my hand and put it back on the shelf.

“Sometimes, I feel like the accident may have been a blessing in disguise,” she says, adjusting the picture so that it’s straight. “That I know of, I haven’t lost any long-term memories, and God knows I’d love to shed some of those, but I seem to have shaken some of the short-term memories that I probably didn’t need anyway.” She turns to me.

“I remember you passing out,” she says. “I think it was when you found out that we were having twins, but… I don’t remember a bad reaction to the gender reveal.” I swallow hard and put my arms around her.

“Let’s hope it stays that way,” I pray, “but I am sorry.” She nods and ends the conversation. She smiles faintly and turns away, walking to the French doors and looking out. I don’t ask her what’s on her mind. I have a bit of a sinking feeling that she actually does remember the gender reveal. She’s just letting me off the hook. I move behind her and wrap my arms around her waist, and we watch the stars beyond the trees through the glass of the French doors.

*-*

Butterfly is still asleep when I get dressed. We were up late stargazing, so I don’t bother to wake her. I just quickly and quietly eat my breakfast and sneak out to go to Grey House.

I don’t even raise my gaze from my phone as I walk into the building with the usual “I don’t give a fuck” attitude I’ve been sporting all week. I hear the chatter cease as the crowd silences and in my peripheral, I can see it part like the Red Sea.

Yeah, that’s what I’ve been looking for.

I don’t need to be liked; I need reverence. If having these peasants like me means that my company is going to fail, they can hate me until eternity rolls as long as they respect me.

“You look like a man with his mind on his money and his money on his mind.”

I raise my head to see Josh standing at Andrea’s desk as I step off the elevator.

“Coffee, Mr. Grey?” Andrea asks.

“Black,” I say. I nod at Luma before I walk into my office. “You have information for me?”

“That smokescreen flew up faster than I ever thought it could’ve,” he says following me into the office.

“Details,” I say walking over to my desk and taking a seat while pressing the button to scramble the signals in my office. Jason enters and closes the door behind us.

“Sometimes you have to shake a cage to see what falls out,” Josh says, handing me his tablet. “Just a little bit of innuendo, you can cause a fucking avalanche.” I look at his tablet to see a Google search on Elena Lincoln autobiography. Harmless enough… but not.

“Wow! What the fuck?” I ask, scrolling down the headlines in the search. They range from thought-provoking questions like, “How far up does this go?” to the completely and utterly ludicrous… Lincoln Brings Children from Third World Countries to Staff Her Pedophile Sex Rings.

“Jesus, seriously?” I shoot. “Most of this shit is fucking nonsense.”

“Maybe so, but not to the reading audience,” Josh defends. “There hasn’t been this kind of buzz since the government wanted translation of Heidi Fleiss’ black books.” I frown. What the fuck is he talking about?

“That’s a bit before your time,” Josh says, “but let’s just say that one little woman had a whole bunch of powerful men by the balls, even though we never really found out who they all were. Nonetheless, a whole lotta twigs and berries were in a knot over the Hollywood Madam.”

There’s a knock on the door and Jason opens it to reveal Andrea standing there with my coffee. I gesture her in, and she places it on my desk in front of me.

“Careful, sir,” she says, “It’s fresh.”

“Thank you,” I say, and she turns and leaves the office. “We’re about the same age, Josh. How do you know about the Hollywood Madam?”

“It’s part of pop culture, believe it or not. It’s my job to know… just like the O.J. trial.” I shake my head.

“You wanted a smokescreen, by golly, you got one. My advice would be if you want to get to him first, you better move fast.”

“I don’t care who gets to him—or her or them—as long as this whole thing is shut the fuck down,” I say, scrolling through tagline after tagline of suggestive innuendo about Seattle’s Pedo-Madam and her rich and powerful clientele.

“This innuendo isn’t that discreet,” I say. “I can see myself and a whole bunch of other fucking people in this nonsense. Don’t you think this might be overkill?”

“Is it?” he asks. “Do you know every single person in the Seattle area that practices the BDSM lifestyle? I can guarantee they don’t all know about you. And the fact that there are so many in the smokescreen makes it even better for you, especially since so many people are already in an uproar ‘in the interest of the public good’ trying to find out what she knows.” He does the finger quotes around the public good comment, so I know that it’s a quote.

“But why shine a light on me?” I ask.

“Because not shining a light on you would be more obvious than shining a light on you,” he points out. “To be honest with you, sir, with the way this is being spun, you’re old news. You were splattered all over the headlines when she tried to kill you and Jason last year. They know your story. They want more chapters now—more players. That’s why her book can be so compelling and successful, and that’s why so many men in high places are squirming and demanding answers. Nobody knows just how deep this goes…”

“Very deep, Josh, believe me. Her pedophile activities go back more than a decade just that I know of, and the community… you’d be surprised how many people have something to lose if their involvement in that lifestyle is discovered. There’s a whole fucking lot of people that need this bitch to shut up.”

“And hence,” he says, bowing dramatically, “your smokescreen.”

“Excellent work, Josh,” I say. “Keep your ear to the ground and be as visible as possible in your freelance persona. We don’t want to give away your alter ego.” He nods and leaves my office. I look over at Jason.

“So, it begins,” he says. I nod.

“Apparently. What about Holstein and Lincoln?” I ask. “If the smokescreen is already up…” Jason nods and calls Alex on his cell.

“The boss wants an update on Alcatraz,” he says into the phone and ends the call a few seconds later.

Alcatraz?” I question. “You guys have code names for everything?”

“Yes, we do,” he says seriously, and I just shake my head.

“I guess I should expect it,” I reply. A few minutes later, Alex is in my office.

“So, now that the smokescreen is effectively in place, our friend is going to get a very expensive bottle of peroxide-laced champagne.” I frown.

“Peroxide?” I ask. “Can’t that kill him? I said start small.”

“This is small,” Alex says. “In high doses, it can be fatal. We’re not using that much—just enough to make him pretty damn uncomfortable.”

“What if he doesn’t drink it?” I ask.

“He’ll drink it because it’s odorless and tasteless,” he replies. “Since it’ll be his first… delivery, he’s not suspicious yet. He’s so cocky that he’ll probably think it comes from a secret admirer or something and down the whole damn thing. Once his stomach starts burning and his mouth starts bubbling like Alka Seltzer, he’ll take his ass to the hospital where they’ll most likely try to pump his stomach to see what the hell he ingested. He’ll put two and two together after a rough night.”

I nod. I’m accustomed to just going in and flattening shit like a steam roller. When it comes to the subtle art of revenge, yeah, I can’t do that. I’ll have to leave that to the experts.

“He’s going to receive an untraceable package at his home next week right around Christmas,” Alex continues. “It’ll be a dead fish with a rose in its mouth.” I roll my eyes.

“Oh, dear God, that is so cliché,” I lament.

“Exactly, which is why he’s not going to suspect that it came from you,” Jason says. I raise my brow.

“That’s so ridiculous that it’s genius,” I reply, shaking my head.

“During this time, he’ll get the standard phone calls, messages, little shit like tampering with his car. The real fun starts after the New Year. He’ll be tied up in a nice little bow and most likely out of commission in a month or less.”

“Sounds good. What about Lincoln?” I ask.

“Her punishments have already begun. She doesn’t know where they’re coming from, though,” Alex informs me.

“I thought she had Holstein’s protection,” I inquire. “If he hasn’t gotten any of his threats yet, isn’t he still protecting her?”

“Remember when I told you that it’s easier to get to someone in the pen than it is to get to them on the streets?” he says. “It’s easier to get to someone in the pen than it is to get to them in the streets.”

“So, humor me and tell me what’s going on,” I say, folding my arms and smiling.

“Well, yesterday, she got her hand slammed in a very large door—actually fractured a finger. This morning she took an accidental spill down a flight of stairs, clumsy thing that she is. Nothing fatal, but very uncomfortable. She’s got little mishaps, accidents, and bad luck as well as a beatdown or twelve lined up for her until you say the word that something different happens.” I chuckle deviously.

“Excellent. Let her stew in that for a while. What about Ms. Ellison?”

“Hers has to be very subtle,” Alex says. “For now, she gets to watch. She gets to enjoy her anonymity until we get all the information we need from her. Her apartment was bugged yesterday, but we didn’t get the chance to plant the trackers, keyloggers, and other hacking tools before…” He looks at his phone.

“Speak of the devil,” he says. “She just left her apartment dressed like a bald man, so no doubt, she’s on her way to see Holstein or Lincoln. She’ll find out that Lincoln’s in the infirmary when she gets there and can’t have visitors, so she may talk to Holstein. We’ll get the rest of the equipment into her apartment while she’s gone.”

“How do you know how much time you have?” I ask.

“Do you remember going to Walla Walla?” he asks. I shrug. “Do you remember how far away it is? Of course, you don’t, because we flew. She’s driving. Walla Walla is a five-hour drive. Once she hits the 90, she won’t be back until tomorrow.”

“How do we follow her that far without her catching on?” I ask.

“Drones,” he replies, typing into another phone he pulls from his pocket. “Remember, I have unlimited resources. Once we figure out her comings and goings, there’s nothing she can do to get away from us… especially after the Vashon Island disaster.”

Oh, dear God, I definitely don’t want to think about that. The rest of this situation is moving along rather nicely, however. It’s almost too easy.

“What about the receptionist?” Alex asks. “Do you want us to move on her yet?”

“No,” I say. “Not yet. Let her watch for a while, too. She’ll be wondering what the hell is going on and when her little payback comes, she’ll be pissing herself wondering just how bad it’s going to get.” There’s a light tap at the door.

“Come in,” I say. Andrea sticks her head in the door.

“Mr. Grey, I don’t mean to disturb you, but William Kavanaugh is on hold on line three. I told him that you were in a meeting, but he insists. You didn’t give me any specific instructions on what to do if he calls.”

“Thank you, Andrea,” I say. She turns to leave.

“Oh, and just FYI, Mr. Holstein’s secretary is on hold on line two.” I frown.

“His secretary?” I haven’t started anything on her yet. “Why is she calling me?”

“My guess is that Mr. Holstein has caught on to the fact that he’s going to be on hold indefinitely, so he makes her do it.” That fucker. He’s made a bed that he’s trying to make everybody else lie in but himself.

“Have fun with it,” I tell her with a shrug. “Leave her on hold and hang up at your discretion, every time she calls. He’ll get smart to it and he’ll start calling, then handing the phone off to her. You can do the same thing to him if you like.”

“Yes, sir.” She nods and leaves. I’m not sure why she didn’t use the intercom, but it’s a moot point.

“You gonna talk to Kavanaugh?” Jason asks.

“When I’m ready,” I say, leaning back in my chair. “Holstein is shitting his pants because I tried to contact him and then I went quiet. Now, the smokescreen is up and he’s slowly realizing that he’s about to make a whole lot of enemies if he hasn’t already, and he’s looking for an ally.”

“Do you seriously think he’s trying to find an ally in you?” he asks. “Hasn’t he been trying to reach you for days?”

“Yeah, but I went up there asking for a favor. I’ll bet my last dollar that he’s stupid enough to think that he gets to cash in since he did me a favor. Never mind the fact that he betrayed me, totally stabbed me in the back by siding with her and protecting her. If he were to talk to me now, his conversation would go along the lines of blowing the whistle about our little agreement. The only catch is that he can’t prove anything without throwing himself under the bus. If he’s protecting Lincoln—and anybody with half a brain knows that he is—the powers that be are going to be gunning for him very soon, so he needs a friend in the worst way.”

“Ellison just crossed the bridge headed to Mercer,” Alex says. Mercer… where I and my family live. That bitch might just drive by my house. She had better fucking not.

“You’ll make sure she’s sealed up tight?” I ask.

“As a drum,” he promises. I shake my head.

“Tighter,” I say with no mirth. “Airtight. A fucking submarine 50,000 fucking leagues under the sea tight.” His lips form a flat line.

“Do you really know what you’re asking?” Alex says.

“I know exactly what I’m asking,” I confirm. “It’s the same thing I asked for when we first started talking about this situation, and I’m asking for it again. Can you make it happen?” He looks at Jason who shrugs slightly.

“I can make anything happen that you need. I just want you to be 100% certain of what you’re asking for.”

“Have I ever asked you about those hacker fuckers?” I ask. His face immediately turns to stone.

“No, sir,” he says frostily.

“Have I ever heard from them again?” I ask matter-of-factly. He sucks his teeth.

“No, sir,” he says again, just ask frostily. I cross my arms.

“Do you still think I don’t know what I’m asking for?” I ask. “He just told me that Holstein was getting a dead fish with a rose in its mouth—cliché, but effective. I know what that means and I’m sure that he will, too. This situation needs to be handled delicately, but it needs to be airtight. All I’m asking for is untraceable creativity and I don’t give a fuck about plausible deniability.” Alex raises his brow.

“But you will still have it,” he says finitely, “for the safety of all parties involved.”

“Then once again I say make sure the situation is airtight,” I repeat.

“It will be, sir,” he says, coolly. I nod.

“Now, go on and let me talk to this asshole,” I say. “I need to deactivate the scramblers… unless there’s something else that we need to discuss.” Jason shakes his head.

“I got nothing at the moment,” he says. Alex stands.

“I don’t know if I’m concerned or if I like you better when you’re like this,” he says and heads for the door. “I’ll keep you posted.”

“Do that,” I say. He nods and leaves the office and Jason falls in step behind him. I deactivate the scrambler and push the button for line three putting Kavanaugh on speaker phone.

“Grey,” I say, infusing as much boredom into my voice as possible.

“So, first your new little flunky was chomping at the bit to get a bid in with me, and now he’s not returning my calls. You do all your business like this, Grey?” Kavanaugh barks.

“We don’t have business, Billy,” I say in a condescending tone. “You decided that you didn’t want to dance with me, and I obliged. So, why are you bugging me now?” I take a seat at my desk.

“You know why,” he says. “To be honest, I know that Grey Enterprises is going to be the best bed for this company. Yeah, I was giving you a hard time because I didn’t want to play ball, but GEH with a major media outlet? Think of the possibilities!”

“I did,” I say, leaning back in my seat, “and I’m no longer interested.”

“Come on, Grey, don’t play hard to get,” he presses. “You can name your price within reason.”

“Is that the same line you use on all these women spitting out your babies left and right?” I ask, growing weary of hearing him grovel. He’s silent for a moment. “What’s the deal, Kavanaugh, the media business not paying enough for you to pay off all these skanks you keep impregnating? I suggest you keep your business and build it back up because the way you’re laying seed all over the state, you’re going to need the income.”

“That’s none of your fucking business,” he says, his voice low, “and it has nothing to do with buying the company.” I scoff.

“I know the old saying is that men tend to think with their dicks, but did you shoot your brains outta your cock and into one of your baby mamas?” I ask incredulously. “It has every fucking thing to do with the business. You’re coming to me because everybody that you had your sights set on turned you down, and now you’re desperate. You know me well enough to know that normally I would jump on an opportunity like this. But there’s one problem, Billy.

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and GEH… well, she’s very sensitive. She doesn’t like the fact that you rejected her advances when she used her wiles on you, that you turned your back on her like she was one of those worthless whores that you fuck and make babies with… you know, those treacherous pieces of trash that don’t respect the sanctity of marriage that are now entrusted with the task of raising a child when they probably shouldn’t be trusted with a goddamn gerbil, but I digress.

“But, GEH… no, she’s not one of your whores. She’s a 20-carat diamond set in a split-shank halo thrice-polished platinum band—priceless, and you treated her like glass. So, no, Kavanaugh, she’s not just ‘playing hard to get.’ She doesn’t want to dance with you. She doesn’t want to be courted by you. She doesn’t want to fuck with you at all.

“And besides the fact that you insulted the lady, have you totally forgotten how media outlets make their money? Or did you just hope that I would be so starstruck with the acquisition that I wouldn’t remember? Your name is shit, Kavanaugh. Your company is shit. By the time I paid $1 for that sinking ship, I would have to pay the sponsors to advertise on any of your mediums before they would ever think to pay me.”

I can almost hear his temper brewing on the other end.

“You’re full of shit, Grey,” he hisses. “You say GEH is a woman, then she’s a fucking tease! She waves her little ass in your face and if you don’t bite immediately, then all of a sudden, she don’t want you, is that it?”

“Call it what you want,” I cede, “but I no longer want any part of your dying empire.”

“What’s the matter, Grey?” he taunts. “What’s the real problem here? You feeling a little inadequate because I can snag ‘em hot and young and you’re stuck with the same piece of pussy?”

He’s not serious, is he? Does he really think he’s some kind of stud dropping babies all over the state? These women are using you as a meal ticket! They don’t really want anything more to do with you once they’ve got the babies except your wallet.

Any other day, I would sit here and spar with this man about how delusional he is about his virility, but today, I don’t have time for it. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

“That’s the difference between me and you, Kavanaugh,” I say. “You’ve got big resources, but you think small. You built a legacy with your wife, and then you destroyed it with opportunistic whores. Katherine is cunning and intelligent, if she would only learn to use those resources properly. Ethan is a financial mastermind and surprisingly considerate, in spite of his bloodline. You were a corporate media giant, and you allowed the very thing that you had the reins of to destroy you—the media. Why? Because you couldn’t keep it in your pants.

“You have a slew of bastard children running around and what—you expect them to become great and somehow elevate you again? Are any of them even carrying your name or are they all living off hush money? And surprise, Kavanaugh, you’re not at your lowest point; you can still fall further, but even now, when you’re flailing and gasping for air, you’re still walking around like the king of the hill. You’re ridiculing me for being a happy and faithful husband while you’re out there being the epitome of the rolling stone, dropping your seed in any hole that’ll take it, including your daughter’s friend. You’re not even in my league anymore, Kavanaugh. At this point, I don’t think you ever were.”

“Don’t give me your high and mighty shit, Grey,” he seethes. “You’re one broken condom away from where I am right now, so don’t try to play me stupid. Do you want the company or don’t you?”

And apparently, he doesn’t know how far he can fall.

“No, Kavanaugh, I don’t want your company,” I say, honestly. “In fact, I’m dumping all your stock. I thought I was interested in the media, but I’m not. Moreover, I take failing companies and rebuild them—make them well again. I can’t do anything with a company that’s already dead in the water. Your stocks are dropping miserably, your name is being smeared over every media outlet except your own, and your business and reputation has been totally destroyed. Anybody with their eye on the market and even the slightest bit of common sense is dumping your stock as we speak. I’m sure someone can pull you out of this hole, but it won’t be me. I wish you luck.”

I end the call and shoot off an email to Lorenz, Ros, and the M&A research team that all communication with Kavanaugh Media and Kavanaugh himself will cease immediately. Then I send notice to my investment team to dump his stock as quickly as possible. He’s worse than a poison pill. He’s a festering bucket of disease and I’m certain that he’ll infect my company with an incurable ailment if I take him on. I’m already in the process of flushing out corporate cancer and suturing oozing wounds in GEH. The very last thing I need to do is introduce a new bacteria.

“Andrea, get me an appointment with Bastille…”


ANASTASIA

I didn’t mean to sleep this late. I mean, I did mean to sleep late, but not this late. I’m scrambling around trying to get dressed and trying to put my day together at the same time. We’ve decided on our new hires and the members of the cleaning crew are shadowing the maintenance supervisor as needed. Keri’s finalizing the preliminary curriculum and we’ll be presenting it to the teaching staff at the beginning of the year. She’s preparing to test for her American teaching credentials at the same time and…

God, do I miss Marilyn.

Half of the things that I’m scrambling to organize right now she would have had organized before I awoke this morning. Each day without her and without hearing from her is making me lose hope that she might be returning. No offense to Courtney—she’s a great help, but she’s no Marilyn.

No bad hair day today—I put it in a quick messy bun before I run down to the kitchen and grab a cream cheese and jelly bagel and coffee to go. Since I’m only going to be at the Center for an hour or so, I don’t bother taking the twins in with me. I usually never take them in with me on Fridays anyway since that’s the day that I go to see Ace.

Ace… hmm.

I’ve had more success texting and Facetiming with Laura than I have with standing appointments with Ace. And even when Pamela Whitmore called, I didn’t fall into the big, black abyss. She called and she scared me. I cried, it shook me up, but I didn’t fall apart. I pulled myself together and the Boogeyman didn’t show up.

There were no sightings of Chicken Little, Armageddon, or the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The world didn’t end… and I don’t expect it to any time soon.

I haven’t seen Ace in six weeks. I think it’s time for a session.

“You’re not bringing the babies to the Center anymore?” Ebony asks as I pass by the day care sans Minnie and Mikey.

“I never bring them in on Friday,” I reply. “It’s a short day for me.” Her brows raise in acknowledgment.

“Oh,” she replies, walking along with me towards my office. “I just hadn’t seen them for a couple of days. They’re the only twins that come to daycare. I just like seeing how alike and different they are. I love babies at that age. I kinda wanted to have some of my own but…” I look over to her and her head is down.

“But what?” I say, she shrugs and smiles tragically.

“I have bad taste in men,” she says. “It’s kind of a blessing that I haven’t had any children. What kind of life would I give them? I’m on the run from a psycho gang member and his psycho ‘family…’” She does the finger quotes around the word family and I’m aching to do the finger quotes around the word gang member. I think he took her for a ride. We can’t even find the guy.

“When and if the time comes, Ebony,” I say, my voice softening, “you’ll meet the right guy and you’ll have babies.” She smiles weakly.

“Well, I’ve taken up enough of your time. I’ve got other munchkins to look after. I just wanted to see what happened to my two favorite Mouseketeers. I’ll see ya later.” She turns around with a wave and heads back towards the nursery. I feel so bad for her. I really think she’s running from a phantom, but when someone is that scared, you can’t un-scare them. They have to see it for themselves.

Believe me, I know.

*-*

“I thought you may have fallen prey to the shark’s tooth… or some other traumatic experience.” I narrow my eyes at Ace. Needless to say, he’s a bit surprised to see me in his office, but he sure as hell kept that appointment open and kept charging me for it.

“And yet, you never called once to see if I was okay, only to cancel our appointments. Oh, wait… you didn’t call. Amber did, that is, when I did get a call.”

“Well, you’re obviously fine, so there really was no need,” he retorts. I glare at him. “What’s wrong? Did you expect to come in here and I’d be falling over myself?”

I hired him for his straight-shooting and I stayed with him because he doesn’t pull any punches, but this is bordering on disrespect.

“I don’t need your bad attitude or your smart mouth right now,” I warn.

“Then why are you here?” he asks, matter-of-factly. I purse my lips and tilt my head.

“Good question,” I say, standing to my feet and grabbing my purse. With my latest discovery, I seriously don’t need this shit, you smug bastard, I think to myself as I head for the door.

“Ana!” he calls out forcefully, causing me to stop in my tracks without turning around. “I cancelled two appointments with you. You cancelled the rest.” Now, I turn around to face him.

“I have displeasure in enough places in my life,” I tell him. “I don’t need to experience rejection from my shrink.”

“Nobody was rejecting you,” he retorts. “Other people have things that happen in their lives, too, Ana. It’s not always about you…”

“Well, excuse me, Dr. Avery, but I couldn’t tell,” I say finitely. “You basically throw me out of your office the first week, which somewhat pissed me off, but I understood it. The second week, you have Amber call me an hour before my appointment to tell me not to come. The third one, you send me a text… a text, for Christ’s sake. Forgive me if I didn’t feel particularly welcome in your establishment!” He looks a little chastised standing in the middle of his office.

“I see your point,” he says, gesturing to the chair. “Can we try this again?”

I don’t even know if I want to try this again. I’ve had more success without you than I’ve had with you, which is kind of why I’m here.

I reluctantly move back to the chair and sit down.

“I’ve just come back from a week in Australia,” I say.

“I know. Amber showed me the picture of Christian with the snake around his body.” I twist my lips.

“Yeah, well…” I quickly change the topic. “Notwithstanding my husband’s fascination with deadly creatures, the trip was very enlightening in many ways, good and bad.”

“Elaborate,” he says, crossing his legs.

“My first night off the plane in Sydney, I was nearly attacked by bats.” I pause. “I exaggerate, they probably weren’t attacking me. They probably weren’t even concerned about me, but they were swarming around my head and I felt totally attacked. I even milked all over myself.” His brow furrows in confusion.

“I’m breastfeeding?” I say. His mouth forms and “o” and he nods. “That was a scare and kind of funny after the fact, not particularly traumatic.

“I found out that women in general don’t like me,” I continue, “at least the ones that just see the outside. I thought it was just Seattle and everyone who knew that I was one-half of AnaChris, but I’ve discovered that my looks, my shape, my face, the fact that they see my husband, something—I don’t know, but whatever it is, I bring out the bad in a lot of women. And they’re not ashamed to say so, often in public places. I could understand if I had harmed or offended them in some way, but these women just snap for no reason. I’ve decided that although I may bite back every now and then, I’m just going to take the high road, because I have other things to do than entertain petty jealousy.”

“That’s a very progressive and mature way of looking at things,” he comments.

“I’m working on it,” I admit. I’m not being mature at all about Ms. Deanna Bitch and my immediate plans for revenge, but that’s another topic. “My husband and I are taking a deeper look at our roles in our marriage as it pertains to our lifestyle…”

The lifestyle?” he asks. I nod.

“We’re meeting with trusted friends of his that have been in the lifestyle for many years to help us adapt a practice that’s more suitable to us.”

“I thought it already was suitable,” he presses. I shake my head.

“Most of the time, it’s really great, but there are times when he’s really intense and I think he needs a little more so I would push myself further—sometimes a little beyond my limits—and he noticed it on the trip.” His brows rise.

He noticed it?” he asks. “What happened? Were you hurt? If I may ask that…” he adds.

“I wasn’t hurt, per se, but I was really worn out—like if you do too much exercise, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be. There’s a certain amount of exhaustion that comes with the activity, the exertion, and the release, but it’s not supposed to be like that.”

“Help me understand,” he says, shifting in his chair, “You seem to understand so much about this, and yet you were pushed beyond your limits?”

“I pushed myself,” I tell him. “I have safewords when I’ve taken too much, but I won’t use them. My husband was a sadist when he was in the lifestyle before me. He liked to punish women and whip them and watch them squirm and fuck them hard then send them home. That’s how he was able to regain control of himself when he felt that he lost it. From the very beginning, our relationship was different—but even then, I felt like I needed to be more for him when he needed that control. I needed to give more of myself and I needed to take more, and he would give me whatever I would take. But on this trip—and one other time in Anguilla—it was too much for me. Only this time, he realized it before I did.” Ace shakes his head.

“I get the concept, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand the participation,” he says. I shrug.

“Most people don’t,” I say. “That’s why the lifestyle is so secretive, but that’s one of the many breakthroughs I had while I was away. We visited the MONA, a museum in Hobart that has some of the creepiest art exhibits that you’ve ever seen. It caused Christian to become quite reflective about his biological mother. But I think the most impactful visit was when we toured Port Arthur.” His brow furrows again.

“Port Arthur was a prison settlement and has now been turned into an open-air museum. Some of the buildings have been reconstructed. Port Arthur is also the site of a terrible massacre orchestrated by some asshole who went on a shooting spree throughout the town and killed several men, women, and children.

“The place is full of death,” I tell him. “It’s like the hundreds or thousands of people who have died there, the spirits don’t leave. They’re all still there on the island and they emotionally ambush you when you get there. Nothing but anguish and sadness and despair… I couldn’t wait to get away from that place.

“I had to cleanse myself of the demons that I took with me when I left Port Arthur, and in the process, I had to face my own head on.” I drop my head and smile a tragic smile. “It’s amazing how you sometimes don’t want to let go of your fears and sometimes, they have to be ripped from you like a favorite toy.” I shake my head before I raise my gaze back to Ace.

“I identified my Boogieman, and then I faced him. He’s a fairytale, just like he always has been, but he’s very real when he shows up. The rest of my trip was very pleasant and relaxing for the most part, and when I returned, Pamela Whitmore called me at the Center.”

“Who’s Pamela Whitmore?” he asks.

“Cody Whitmore’s fucking mother,” I reply. His eyes widen.

“Cody… why the fuck was she calling you?” he inquires.

“I found that out the next day. I’m going to Vegas at the beginning of the year. One of the fuckers who directly burned me is going on trial, and Whitshit and his girlfriend Madison-Pussy took a plea to testify against him. So, once again, his jailtime and just desserts are my fault.” I shrug.

“How did the call go?” he asks. “I’m certain it had some kind of impact on you or you wouldn’t have brought it up.” I sigh. Here goes.

“I’ve had to hold people up and help them through their crises. I’ve had to battle ghosts and monsters—old and new. I’ve cried and I’ve been afraid and uncertain. I even quit my job—temporarily, maybe, but I still quit. People and things have challenged me, and you know what? I survived. I survived without running to a shrink every week and without having to cry on somebody’s shoulder every few minutes. I still have my journals, and I have my family to talk to if I need to, and I’ve even made a new friend with amazing insight, but I’m stronger now than I have been in a very long time.

“I did what you told me to do. I took responsibility for my own mental health. I took a really hard look at what I was really afraid of, and while some of those monsters are still very real and very scary, I was able to see that bad shit happens all the time. While some pretty fucked-up shit has happened to me, it’s still not the worst that could happen and even if fucked-up shit continues to happen, all the worst of it still won’t fall on me.

“I’ve been holding my friends and family together, being there through their tragedies, fighting for ‘truth, justice, and the American way,’ and the entire time, the only time I focused on my own issues was when it was time to come and see you. Outside of that, I think I may have done it three times. And then it struck me—like a boat out of the blue. If I can be strong for everybody else, why the hell can’t I be strong for myself?

“I’ve dealt with more tragedy than I want to, and if I’ve learned nothing else, I learned that trouble is not convenient. It doesn’t make an appointment to drop into your life—it just shows the fuck up. So, I can either watch the horizon and wait for it, or I can live my best life and work through it when it shows up. Guess which one I choose?

“So… Dr. Avery, if you’ve had some misfortune over the past weeks, I truly hope it has been or will be resolved in your favor. However, the time apart has helped me understand that I really do have to stand on my own two feet. I hope I can call on you in an emergency or if I find the need to speak to a professional, but I’m requesting an end to our weekly sessions.”

He’s quiet for a long time as he examines me. I don’t know what he’s looking for, but I give him a minute or two.

“So,” he finally says with a sigh, “it looks like in trying to take some time off to handle my personal issues, I’ve cut off my nose to spite my face.” I pause for a moment.

“No,” I say, “I would more say that by cutting the apron strings for a while, you made me stand on my own. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, you removed the training wheels, and I had to ride or fall… or maybe I removed the training wheels when I came in here and accused you of not doing your job. But you can rest assured that one way or another, you did your job. I’m standing on my own… for now. And this won’t be the last time you see me. Hell, I’m about to go to trial for the Green Valley cases—I’ll have you on fucking speed dial, but I think it’s time to disconnect the machines… Ace.” He twists his lips.

“Thanks.” I raise my brow at him. “If you had called me Dr. Avery one more time, I think I would have put you out of my office again.”

“Oh, I owed you a few with all the times you called me doctor during our sessions.” I stand. “I think that’s our time, doctor.” I extend my hand to him. He rises and takes my proffered hand.

“Try not to be a stranger,” he says. “And don’t wait to call me when you’re falling completely apart. Keep me up to date, okay?” I nod.

“If I don’t see you before then, make sure I get pictures of the baby.” I smile and release his hand and we head to the door.

“Oh, one more thing,” I say with my hand on the door handle. “I have two beautiful children and a wonderful life. In the midst of all my turmoil, I have no desire to kill myself. Don’t ever refer to me as a shark’s tooth again.”

I make eye-contact with him and wait for a response.

“Deal,” he replies.

*-*

I arrive at the Crossing with plenty of time to get some baby time before Christian gets home. I don’t want to face the bear, so I sleep late on mornings when he has to prepare to be the asshole, then take my chances on an early morning rendezvous after the bear has settled. Other than that, I opt to do what he does… work later, work out when I get home, have a later dinner once he’s a bit more docile, then go to bed early or escape to my office or the twins’ room. This usually means that I do nocturnal wanderings, which is a good time for extra meditations, planning for the next day, or journaling.

I remember lamenting that I would probably have to wait until the wee hours of the morning to get any quality time with my husband without having to worry about dealing with Mr. Asshole CEO, and it looks like that’s inadvertently exactly what I’m doing.

And I’ve effectively fired my shrink.

Was that the right thing to do? I really think that the good that he was doing was barely measurable. He pissed me off more often than not, then after he kicked me out of his office—with good reason—he just started cancelling my appointments without advanced notice or without telling me why. Even though he may have been going through something of which I was not aware, he made me feel unwelcome. He forced me to look at my problems through my own eyes or seek help from someone else. Where did he think that would leave him?

He made me feel like he didn’t want to be bothered, so I said, “Okay.”

I, of all people, can completely understand when real life gets in the way of helping other people. I was kidnapped, hospitalized, and jet-setting several times when I had my own practice. However, when I returned, I reached out to my clients to apprise them of what was happening, assuming they hadn’t already seen something on the news. Not only that, but I don’t remember once ever kicking someone out of my office except Melanie when I found out that she was the videographer of my attack. With our “relationship” being on tenterhooks after that, one would think that my therapist would have handled the next few meetings with a little more tact and consideration, even if it was necessary for him to cancel for personal reasons.

It’s a moot point anyway. I’ll now be using my Friday afternoons to spend more time with my children.

Speaking of which, Minnie and Mikey have just finished their afternoon snacks, and I’ve come to discover that Mikey likes the colorful snacks like strawberry and mushed up mangoes or pineapples. My strange little girl on the other hand likes anything green like kiwi or of all things, broccoli. She prefers the broccoli—can you believe that?

We’ve now cleaned up the colossal mess that my children always seem to make when they’re eating their finger snacks and now, we’re in the family room watching the end of, of all things, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse…

Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggety dog
Now we got ears, it’s time for cheers
Hot dog, hot dog, the problem’s solved
Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggety dog!

Mikey’s clapping in the Pack-n-Play and Minnie has pulled herself up on the sofa and is bouncing while bending her knees. I’ve decided that I’m going to buy or download all of the songs from the various kids’ shows that we watch because my kids absolutely love them.

Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggety dog
It’s a brand-new day, whatcha waiting for?
Get up, stretch out, stomp on the floor
Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggety dog!

Minnie has released the sofa and is now clapping and waving her hands in the air… completely oblivious to the fact that she’s standing on her own. I quickly whip out my phone before the final choruses of the Hot Dog Song finish playing and record my daughter bouncing on her little feet and attempting to mimic the words to the song.

That’s it. The Hot Dog Song is officially my favorite song now… although it’s going to be hard to decide between that and the Outside Song from Bubble Guppies.

“Hod hod hod hod…” and that’s all she’s saying, but it’s music to my ears. Mikey turns in his Pack-n-Play and says something to his sister, and I swear that she understands him, because she bursts out laughing. Then she turns to me and reaches her arms out to me, taking a few giggly and wobbly steps before I drop the phone and she falls into my arms.

“Minnie is a big girl!” I say, praising her accomplishment. I pick up the phone and turn it to us. “Say ‘bye-bye,’ Minnie Mouse!”

“Hod hod hod hod hod hod,” she repeats trying to reach for the phone. Mikey spits out a full sentence of baby gobbledygook, and I turn the camera to him.

“Say ‘bye-bye’ Mikey.” More babbledy-wabbledy and I end the video.

Time gets away from me while I’m spending time with the babies and I hear the mudroom door open and feel the chill of the bear breeze into the house. Shit, I intended to be in my office working or hiding or something when he got home. Instead, I’m sitting here hiding on the floor with Mikey asleep on my chest and Minnie knocked out on the sofa. I had slipped into the serenity of the moment and forgot my mission.

My husband doesn’t even come into the main part of the house. He sheds his outerwear and boots and turns straight towards the elevator. I don’t know whether to feel affronted or to breathe a sigh of relief. Jason comes in right behind him, looking like he’s more than ready to shed the burdens of the day. He comes through the family room and into the kitchen and kisses his wife.

“Hello, Love,” he says sweetly, and I feel a tiny twinge of jealousy at the sentiment. “I see the car—where’s Her Highness?” I don’t hear anything for a moment, but Jason’s purposeful stride tells me that Gail most likely pointed to the family room. Sure enough, Jason peers around the sofa.

“What are you doing hiding down there?” he accuses.

“I’m not hiding anywhere,” I lie. “I was tending to my children until they fell asleep.”

“They’re asleep?” Gail says as she comes into the family room. “Would you like some help taking them to the nursery or do you want them to stay here?”

“The nursery,” I say. She takes Mikey from me, allowing me to stand,  and walks to the elevator.

“What’s up with him?” I ask Jason. He sighs.

“It’s been a day,” he replies, “a… pretty full one.” Enough said. I nod and retrieve my daughter from the sofa, then follow Gail to the elevator. I’ll put the babies down first, then go and do some yoga.

*-*

“Enjoy it while you can, because he’s going to wake up one day and realize that he misses what he had…”

I’m standing at Grey Manor in the backyard by the gazebo. She’s standing there in her usual black funeral garb with that halo of bleached blonde hair and that blood red lipstick that looks like she’s been feeding all night. I know she’s not real. I know she’s locked in that cell in Walla Walla, so why is she coming to me now?

“This is just a phase for Christian. You’ll see…”

These are the same words she said to me that night two years ago on the back lawn of Christian’s parents’ house—the same words that she used to try to scare me away, only then she was frantic and trying to make her point. Now, she’s confident, standing there in a skintight catsuit with her arms crossed and her legs in that stupid Angelina Jolie Oscar pose. 

“You’re nothing long-term or even worthwhile. He’s wasting his time on you…”

She continues to taunt me as she closes the space between us, a sinister smile marring her face. I want to say something back to her, tell her that she’s wrong as usual, but my lips won’t move. I can only stand there as she comes closer, taunting me and exploiting my fears…

My fears…

“You’ll never be enough for him. Face it. You’re just a plaything. And when he’s done with you, you’ll be no more important to him than one of his ex-subs, Number 16…”  

Of all the things that I had to remember word for word like it was yesterday, I fucking had to remember this… now…

“Give it up, little girl,” she says as she stops in front of me. “Playtime is over—literally. You’ve had your fun, now move along. You’ll never be able to give him what he really needs and the more you pretend that you can, the harder it’s going to be on all of you, including your bratty little children.”

I want to swing on her, do anything to shut her up, especially since that last part is new and it’s all a manifestation of my fears, but she just laughs a hideous laugh and walks right through me…

I open my eyes slowly, not startled by the dream, but totally unnerved. It’s about two in the morning, and Christian still isn’t in bed as usual…

As usual…
Only not…

This isn’t usual. It’s only been this way since he’s gone back to being the ballbuster at work that he used to be… before us.

I throw my legs out of the bed and put my robe on. As always, I look in the nursery to see if the children are stirring. They’re not, but I go into the nursery anyway. I look into the cribs at my sleeping babies…

“… Including your bratty little children.”

Christian would never do anything to hurt our children… but why didn’t I first think that Christian would never do anything to hurt me?

I shake my head and curl up in the window seat in the twins room. This is another attempted manifestation of the Boogeyman, I know it. It’s a manifestation of my own fears that I must deal with.

The million-dollar question is… how?


A/N: Hollywood Madame—for those who may not know, Heidi Fleiss was an upscale madame who ran a high-priced call-girl ring in California. When she was arrested, they did everything they could to find out who her clients were in her infamous black book, but to my knowledge, they never did. There was a lot of rumor that Charlie Sheen was one of her clients, but I don’t know if it was circulated by her or by him, or if there was any truth to it.

Book IV will be coming to an end soon and I will have any announcement about how the story will proceed after that. I think many of you will be pleased.

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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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 60—Back to Shore

fbiPeople don’t know that with these arguments about Ana and Marilyn and Christian, you’re just proving my point—that Ana and anything that she was before Christian should just “fade to black” because she married him. No matter how the argument is presented, it still comes out to be the same thing. I’m not going to continue explaining that Marilyn doesn’t have to take shit from Christian because he married Ana and he has money. She doesn’t work for him. If you don’t like it, suck it up.

Something else people need to realize is that Ana and Marilyn’s relationship is only the same as Christian and Andrea’s to the degree that they are both PA’s. ANDREA DOESN’T COME TO FOOD AND LIBATIONS! There’s no damn anti-Christian conspiracy going on here! Ana and Marilyn are friends… she calls her “Mare!” She sees her every day! Am I mistaken that I’m the only one who may vent to my friends (or my Mom) about my husband sometimes? I may not give all the intimate details, but I may shoot one off because I need to talk to someone AND have terms of “endearment” for his different attitudes. That doesn’t mean that I disrespect him… that means that I don’t want my head to explode! If that’s just me, well, I guess that’s just me. I must be just lucky that my husband hasn’t left me after 15 years…

Get ready to hate Ana some more because “Paging Dr. Steele” Ana is back and feistier than ever! Please just move on if you feel you can’t tolerate that.

 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 60—Back to Shore

ANASTASIA

“I really appreciate you gentlemen accommodating me,” I say to the two men who look back at me from my laptop screen.

“It’s no problem, Mrs. Grey,” one of them answers curtly. “It’s not often that we receive a call like this from the actual owner of the company. So, we thought it best to investigate immediately.” The Attorney General’s office was the first meeting of the morning. Gasko and Bianchi were told to give me their unquestioned and unlimited cooperation and now, they sit in a conference room at GEH along with Alex and the two gentlemen from the AG’s office, Mr. Kokinos and Mr. Peters. Al is spending the day at the Crossing with me to handle the conference calls that I will be hosting except for the IRS, who insist on meeting in person. “We’re a bit surprised not to see your husband present, however.”

“That would be because his presence is not required,” I say impassively. “Although my current physical condition prevents me from being able to attend this meeting in person, I’m perfectly capable of explaining the discoveries of my audit team without the assistance of my husband.”

“That wasn’t the implication, Mrs. Grey,” Mr. Kokinos says. “I was only alluding to the fact that Mr. Grey was not present to present the facts himself for one of his subsidiaries.” Alex shifts uncomfortably in his seat and I can tell he’s expecting a slight showdown. Settle down, Alex.

“Oh, I see,” I acknowledge. “Well, as previously indicated, Mr. Grey’s presence is not required because this is not one of Mr. Grey’s subsidiaries. This company is wholly and solely owned by me. It was originally our intention to absorb the company into Grey Enterprises Holdings Incorporated as one of our subsidiaries, but as you can see, the internal audit revealed some discrepancies that will make that an impossibility now.” Mr. Peters’ eyebrows rise.

“Your subsidiaries,” he says, a statement, not a question. “You have an interest in GEH as well?”

“Currently, yes,” I respond. “I’m a partial owner of the company.” Kokinos and Peters throw incredulous looks at one another, attempting and failing miserably to be inconspicuous.

“Currently?” Peters says. “Is that subject to change soon?” I sigh quickly and fold my hands on the desk in front of me.

“With all due respect, gentlemen, we’re getting off topic here. Our current focus shouldn’t be on GEH at all, but on Edwise Software and Programming—my unfortunate inherited mess that I would like to turn over to you for investigation.” Both men straighten a bit, having realized that they slipped into comfortable interest about GEH and veered the conversation away from the topic at hand.

“Excuse me, Mrs. Grey,” Mr. Peters says, sincerely as an apology. “It’s just that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situation where a man amasses an empire like Mr. Grey has and willingly signs over a portion of it to his new wife.”

“That makes two of us, Mr. Peters,” I say with an ironic smirk. “I told him that he was out of his mind when I saw the prenuptial agreement, but he insisted.” Both gentlemen again show visual expression of ill-repressed shock. “Believe me when I tell you that many people respond with the same morbid curiosity—no offense—when they discover that I’m half owner of GEH.”

“Half!” Kokinos breathes, not as quietly as he would have liked.

“Yes, Mr. Kokinos, half,” I repeat, acknowledging that I had heard him. “Christian wanted me to know that what was his also belonged to me. I already knew that. I didn’t need him to sign his company over to me as proof, which is something that we are currently negotiating. Having said that, I hope I have curbed your curiosity concerning your questions about my stake in GEH and we can now get back to Edwise. I feel that the longer we sit on this situation, the more of a festering pestilence it becomes. Is that okay with you gentlemen?” My voice is firm, but professional. I don’t want to talk about my husband’s company anymore.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Grey, it’s just such an incredulous situation…” and Peters continues like I didn’t just say in so many words that I was done talking about my husband and his company. Now is the time to employ Christian’s impassive stare while he continues his rambling—or baiting, as it were—and when he’s finished, he’s met with several moments of utter silence. He frowns at my lack of response.

“Mrs. Grey?” he asks. I still wait, making sure that he’s said all that he wants to say about my husband’s decision to make GEH a jointly-owned company. “Mrs. Grey, are you okay?”

“Oh yes, I’m fine,” I say, a little too sweetly, “I’m just waiting for you to purge; get it out of your system.”

“Well, that comment was unnecessary,” Peters injects.

“On the contrary, it was highly necessary,” I retort. “I’ve attempted several times to steer this conversation away from irrelevant topics and back to the reason why I had our head of security contact you in the first place and each time, you have directed this conversation back to irrelevant topics like a daytime talk show host chasing a story. So, I thought I’d just allow you to exhaust that topic until you’re finished.”

“We’re only trying to get to the facts, Mrs. Grey,” Kokinos responds, attempting to regain some control of the situation on their end.

“And that’s fine,” I say with a shrug. “I’ll be glad to interject once we get to the facts as they relate to the case at hand. Until then, feel free to chat amongst yourselves about whatever other topics you deem necessary or favorable. However,” I glance at my watch, “please be mindful that I also have meeting scheduled with the IRS and the FBI.” I fold my hands in front of me again and sit silently, waiting.

“I’m detecting a hint of hostility, Mrs. Grey, and I’m not sure where it’s coming from. We’ve been nothing but professional during this meeting.”

“I’m not one to question your professionalism, Mr. Kokinos, but what you’re detecting is impatience. I initiated contact with you because I found evidence of a crime—several, in fact—in a company that I acquired. The company is an LLC, which means I acquired the assets, not the debts and certainly not the responsibility for the crimes committed by the previous owner. I’m handing it to you part and parcel, including the employees, so that you can follow the trails and see where they lead. If you don’t want it, then we can end this conversation right now. It’s my civic duty to let you know this is happening, but it’s not my legal obligation because I haven’t done anything wrong.

“I could have sold off all the assets, got as much of my settlement as possible, took the money and ran, and no one would be the wiser. I’m sure that’s what the previous owner was hoping that’s I would do, because then all evidence of his crime would have been covered or destroyed. But if you’re too busy for this or too infatuated with Grey Enterprises to be concerned about this tiny little matter of multiple RICO violations, I can still do that!”

Al reaches over and touches my hand to calm me before I let loose the dragon. Professional, my ass! Who is he trying to fool? Is he trying to find something against GEH in all of this? What’s the fascination? Well, search though you may, you won’t find a thing but us replacing the money we took from the company to donate to Helping Hands, and that’s thoroughly documented. Al hasn’t said anything throughout the meeting, but he can see that I am quickly losing my patience with these people. Noting this gesture of tenderness, Peters now sees another bone to gnaw on like a catty little gossiping bitch. Professional… yeah, right!

“Just so that we can have the information for the record, who is the gentleman to your right?” he asks, almost accusing.

“Oh him? This…” I put my hand on top of Al’s and squeeze. “… Is my best friend of fifteen years, Allen Forsythe.” A knowing look passes between Kokinos and Peters. “He’s also my attorney and sitting legal counsel for Grey Enterprises Holdings,” I add with a little sharpness. The knowing smirks on their faces fall and they’re both taken aback a bit. If I didn’t know better, I would swear that they were twins, attached by an invisible string of some sort as their reactions are so similar and almost simultaneous. I look at my watch and realize that twenty precious minutes have been wasted on bullshit. No more asking for permission. I’m moving this fucking meeting along.

“Gentlemen,” I say, releasing Al’s hand and opening the portfolio in front of me. Al does the same with the one in front of him. “I inherited Edwise Software and Programming as a settlement in a lawsuit. If you direct your attention to the documents in front of you, you will find that the first document in the portfolio is court docket 3:16-JU-154-KI-015 from December 20, 2013…”

I take control of the meeting and run through the events that led to me acquiring ownership of Edward’s company and finding out about his dirty dealings. Kokinos and Peters are as shocked as Gasko and Bianchi were last evening to see that I can identify the various RICO violations found in the internal audit report even though I inform them that we didn’t pursue the trail for fear of retaliation from the parties at the ultimate destination. Neither of them speak for the next twenty minutes while I outline the basic information in the reports. I had studied them first thing this morning when Gasko emailed them to me to make sure that I was ready for the meeting. The hell if I was going to be window dressing at this little gathering. My need to be an active participant—no, a driving force—was further fueled by the reaction of the representatives from the AG’s office to me being part owner of GEH.

I’m more than just a pretty face, gentlemen.

“I think I’ve given you ample background and the framework that you need to pursue your investigation, gentlemen,” I say after I have outlined the situation surrounding the cause for the meeting.

“Indeed, you have,” Kokinos says, in slight stunned amazement.

“At this point, I’ll turn the floor over to Mr. Gasko and Mr. Bianchi for further elaboration on the audit reports.” I mute the microphone and sit back comfortably in my seat, watching and listening to the meeting between the gentlemen as they hash out important details needed to initiate the investigation into Edward’s business dealings.

“Did you have to hand them their asses so thoroughly, Jewel?” Al says in a mirthful tone.

“It is what it is,” I tell him. “I have a stigma attached to me, Al. I’m a billionaire’s new bride, I’m physically attractive, and I just had twins. While all these things should be assets to most people, they put me at a severe disadvantage. Either I’m frail or I’m weak or I’m hormonal or I’m a gold-digger or I’m a social climbing trophy wife. I’m fighting an uphill battle before I even open my mouth. Even you didn’t stand up yesterday when I dismissed you guys from that room and I’m half owner of the company that you work for.” He winces.

“Yeah, about that… I’m sorry, Jewel…” he begins. I hold my hand up to silence him.

“Don’t apologize. You didn’t know.”

“I knew!” he defends. “I helped to draw up the prenup, remember?”

“You knew in word, not in deed,” I tell him. “Nobody knew in deed. I don’t even think Christian knew in deed.” Al furrows his brow. “Yeah, that’s why we’re in negotiations now.”

“Negotiations? What the fuck does that mean?”

“I don’t want his company if he doesn’t want to give it to me. I don’t want him resenting me in ten years for a decision that he made today.”

“Um, Jewel, you can’t back out of a prenup unless Christian agrees to do it. Forcing him to do it is going to cause more resentment than just keeping the company. Is giving up your share of a multi-billion-dollar company worth that?” My shoulders sag. Fuck! I just want to give the man back his goddamn company.

“He doesn’t want you to give this company back, Jewel. He knew what he was doing when he gave it to you.”

“No, he didn’t,” I tell him. “He thought he did, but he didn’t. In his mind, when he signed those papers, when he did this deed, he sat in the big seat and I stood behind him—supporting him, loving him, and reaping the benefits of the hard work as his wife, as part of the team. I would have done that anyway. I would have supported and loved him no matter what, whether my name was on that paper or not. But when the possibility, the reality, came to light of me sitting in the seat next to him, making decisions, giving orders, and running the company with him, he froze. The very true reality of this is that from where I sit, I could one day take over GEH, but I’m not trying to do that. All I was trying to do was dismiss a meeting of men who had gathered to discuss my company, and he took issue with me doing that.”

I look at the screen and listen briefly to the men who are now productively combing through the reports and findings of the internal audit.

“I’m at a tremendous disadvantage and I had to turn into a ball-busting barracuda just to get them to listen to me. I almost snatched the whole thing back and said, ‘forget it.’”

“You wouldn’t have done that,” Al challenges.

“Yes, I would’ve,” I retort. “I would’ve done it just to be spiteful. That one has an ax to grind or he’s looking for his big case.” I point to Peters.

“For God’s sake, Jewel, stop pointing!” Al exclaims.

“No, I want him to see me. He doesn’t know that I’m pointing at him. He just knows that I’m pointing at the screen, but he has a good idea that I’m pointing at him.” When I hear that the talking has stopped, I turn to the computer and most of the men are looking at me. I unmute the microphone.

“I didn’t hear a question directed at me. Did you gentlemen need me for something?” I ask sweetly.

“Uh, no… but if we’re keeping you from something else…” Peters trails off.

“Oh, you mean the side discussion that I was having with my legal counsel that’s subject to attorney/client privilege?” I ask, knowing that I’m further egging him on. His eyes narrow infinitesimally, but I see it. “I’m perfectly capable of multitasking, Mr. Peters, so please, carry on. And don’t worry. All official meetings on Grey Enterprises premises are recorded, so if I do miss anything, I’ll be able to see it later.” He clears his throat.

“Very well.” He turns his attention back to the group. “As I was saying in reference to the findings on page 45…” I mute the microphone again.

“Why do you keep poking at that man?” Al asks.

“Because I don’t know what he’s after,” I say, “and I want him to thoroughly, thoroughly comb through those records and not find it! He’s going to rip that company apart, all the way down to the very first program he ever sold and the very first employee he ever hired. He’s going to be digging and searching and looking for something that he’s not going to find, but he’s going to find every dirty deal that Edward ever made. Maybe then, he’ll have his big fish.” Al smiles a fiendish smile.

“You’re an evil woman,” he says.

“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

The meeting with the FBI is pretty much the same as the meeting with Kokinos and Peters. Two puffed-up, overdressed, self-important members of the Boys Club sit at the conference table with Alex, Gasko, and Bianchi waiting for Christian to arrive and take control of the meeting. The difference this time is that I immediately turn on the barracuda and refuse to entertain any discussion about GEH. I comb through the reports quickly and turn the meeting over to Gasko and Bianchi, weary of the attitude of these chauvinistic assholes who feel that I can’t handle this situation on my own. If I had any doubts before, I’m sure now. I want nothing to do with the business world.

I’m almost dreading the meeting with the IRS this afternoon. Christian has decidedly stayed away from everything all day—the meetings, the offices, even lunch with me and Al. I didn’t even see him when I went to check on the children. I don’t know if he’s sulking or planning. I go to our bedroom and change out of the smart shirt, pencil skirt and pumps I had worn for the first two meetings into a sports bra, yoga pants, a pair of footies and leg warmers and finish with one of the brightly colored belly wraps and a warm-up jacket. I put my hair in a looped pony tail and grab a towel. I plan to do yoga the moment these men leave.

I run into Marilyn in the entertainment room while I’m standing at Atlantis before heading back to my office. She frowns at my attire.

“I thought you still had the meeting with the IRS,” she says.

“I do,” I reply. “Nobody cares how I look. Nobody even cares about me. They barely care about the information that I have. I’m wishing I had just disposed of the assets and donated the funds.”

“No, you’re not,” Marilyn says. “First of all, even though you’re dealing with assholes, you know that if you had done that, David would have gotten away with what he had been doing all these years. You know he was hoping that’s what you would have done. And second, you wouldn’t have been able to live with that decision. He needs to pay for what he did, and one way or another, now he will.” I sigh.

“Those meetings were nothing short of dogfights,” I tell her. “I was a snarling bitch, claws out, bearing my teeth, aiming for the jugular. I have nothing to gain from this. I’m too tired for this shit. While I’m trying to impress upon them the importance of following the trail of this corruption to wherever it may lead, they’re all worried about the almighty Christian and why he would give half his company to me!”

“So, let them worry!” she says. “In the meantime, they’ll sniff out this dog and any of his cohorts and make them pay for what they did. And if they don’t, well at least that shit is out of your hands.” She shrugs. “I spent the entire morning with Vee and His Majesty coordinating your schedule so that we could all get together on what appearances you might be available for.” I frown.

“What? Where?”

“In his den. He thought it better that we not meet in his office so as not to disturb you and Al through the aquarium.” The den… I didn’t even think about the den.

“I thought I said that I would be approving my appearances,” I say.

“He didn’t approve or deny anything, Ana. He was just there helping to coordinate the possible appearances. I didn’t think him knowing was going to be an issue… was I wrong?” I pinch the bridge of my nose and sigh.

“No, you’re not wrong,” I say. “It’s just been a trying day and it’s not even over yet. Just don’t let him influence any of the decisions. Of course, well discuss them, but I have the final say.”

“Understood, Bosslady.” She put her hand on my shoulder. “You’re wound too tight, too soon after the babies have been born. I think you need to hurry up and put this thing to rest and move on to something else.” I nod.

“I think you’re right,” I reply. She heads off to my office and I turn in the other direction and go back up to the nursery. I attach a boob to the breast pump and start expressing milk while simultaneously calling Al down in my office.

“Why are you calling me instead of being down here?” he says.

“To tell you that the meeting is moving to the dining room. I’ll send one of the staff down to help you bring the files and the laptop if you need help. I’m expressing milk right now.” There’s a moment of silence.

“What’s wrong, Jewel?”

“What’s right, Al?” I reply. “Why should doing the right thing and turning this information over to these agencies be such a goddamn headache?”

“Maybe you should let me do the talking with the IRS,” he suggests.

“Yeah, maybe I should,” I agree. I need to be a driving force in some areas of my life, but this clearly wasn’t it. All I needed to do was drop this on someone’s desk and walk away. I didn’t really need to be front and center in this issue, only to be seen so it didn’t appear that I was hiding. That’s what I’ll be doing at this next meeting.

“I’ll get set up in the dining room and see you shortly. Marilyn is down here—we can manage.”

“Sure. Thanks, Al.” I end the call and continue to express my milk.

*-*

Sitting in a comfortable lotus position in the empty room on the second floor that will one day be the children’s play room, I just start breathing and concentrating on my pelvic and Kegel muscles as these as the ones that took the most strain and did the most work during labor. Dr. Culley told me that I could begin gentle focus on these muscles and get back into my routine if as long as I’m comfortable. I could have actually started one week after delivery, but I didn’t want to rush it. Rolling onto all fours, I continue my routine, alternating dropping my belly and curling my spine. The entire time, I’m thinking about the meetings of the day and whether anything productive is really going to come from them or not.

The AG meeting seemed to be productive only after I shut my mouth and muted the microphone. The FBI was pretty much the same, only because I refused to entertain conversation about Christian and GEH at all, stated the facts, then allowed the gentlemen to continue combing through and mulling over the information without any further input from me. I remained mostly mute during the IRS meeting after my introduction. They weren’t as cold to me as the other guys and not as interested in GEH or Christian, more concerned about the information that we had gathered, thank God.

Al had looked at me like I grew two heads, no doubt because I showed up in workout gear instead of the business attire I had donned for the previous meetings. After I introduced myself, I sat quietly by while Al conducted the meeting and Gasko and Bianchi only too happily contributed information needed by teleconference. At one point, one of the revenue officers—I didn’t bother trying to remember their names—questioned if I was okay. I answered honestly that the entire ordeal had been very trying for me and I was more than a little anxious to wash my hands of it. When they questioned about how I felt about effectively losing my entire settlement, I answered,

“Gentlemen, this has never been about money. Even if it were, I married a billionaire, so it really doesn’t matter, does it?”

After that question, I excused myself and asked that they direct any further questions about the case to Al and he would relay any necessary information to me, then left without a word. The barracuda was officially out of this round.

Moving on to alternating leg and arm bends and stretches, my thoughts move on to Christian and the fact that he has pretty much been radio silent since last night. He talked some at dinner after I told him that I didn’t want to be part owner of GEH if he didn’t really want me to, then he escaped to his office and I haven’t seen him since. I don’t know if he came to bed because I fell asleep without him, slept like the dead, and woke alone as well. I didn’t even wake to feed the children—Gail and Christian must have done it, or just Gail, I’m not sure. I saw the evidence of the disposable bottles this morning, but I don’t know who did the honors. These next few nights, I’m going to make it a point to get up and feed my children.

As I move into my concentrated pelvic exercises and core foundation focus, I begin to relax and feel more like my old self… physically, anyway. Mentally, I can’t help thinking that I had hit the nail on the head when I said that Christian would resent giving me part of his company. Now, I find out that getting out of the prenuptial agreement is not as easy as I thought it would be, and after today, I really don’t want anything to do with the business end of anything!

After half an hour of light yoga and core concentration, I still feel caged and tense. If it weren’t the dead of winter—or we had an indoor pool—I would go swimming. Alas, that’s not an option. The one thing that I can do to free myself… is dance. I can’t gyrate like I would in a nightclub, but my mind wanders back to the time when I didn’t know what I wanted to do or be—when that damn career counselor told me that psychology just may be my calling. That same day, I saw a video on YouTube—a song by Angel Grant called “Little Red Boat.”

I sit down in a corner of the big empty room and open YouTube on my phone and search for the video. I find the version with the lyrics as well as the video version and I watch them both… one to remind me of the words that I used to listen to over and over again when I felt lost, floating, and—like Angel—trying to get back to shore; the other to absorb the fluid movements I remember of the beautiful bronze-colored woman with henna-decorated hands. That was the first time I had seen henna, and she had it on her palms. It added to the delicateness of her movement. I took my iPod out of the dock that was in the wall of nearly every room of the house and searched for the song on iTunes. Finding it, I put it on repeat and let it pipe softly through the intercom speakers.

A sucker for adventure,
I’m headed somewhere and somewhere is meant for me,
Don’t need no map to guide me,
Wherever I end up is where I’ll be.

Goin’ somewhere, nowhere fast,
As I drift further, I see the past forced behind me
If I don’t reach land tonight,
I’ll drown in my own insecurity

I remember only too well how those words defined that 19-year-old girl who had no idea where she was going or what she was doing, searching for some kind of beacon of light in the darkness, some kind of purpose and acceptance after everything that she had known appeared to be fleeting… failing… a fraud or a huge betrayal…

Stuck out here by myself,
I’m blindly rushing to something I can’t see,
High tide with sharks around,
Send out an S.O.S., come rescue me

My life looks greener now,
What I wished for all turned out to be tumbleweed
The sweet turned salty on me
I guess I paid the price for being free

I never really understood that part, never really related to it… until this moment. Oh, I was only too familiar with feeling alone, lost, and forlorn and rushing towards a goal that I couldn’t see—surrounded by enemies at every turn and crying and praying for someone to save me from the clutches of hell. What I couldn’t understand was her declaration of a greener life immediately followed by the realization that all she had hoped for was really barren and distasteful.

Then I thought of my one true friend that helped to lead me out of the tunnel who now couldn’t stand the sight of me; the one love that I thought would redeem me from the years of hatred I had been subjected to only to throw me into a different kind of hatred—mingled with low self-esteem—and then top it all off by unloading a rotten apple on me, festering with maggots that I have to turn over to a bunch of high-nosed, stiff-shouldered suits that would rather smoke cigars and pat one another on the backs than be forced to sit in my presence.

Now, my husband—my ultimate redemption—has spent the day blatantly avoiding me because I have brought something to his attention that I don’t think even he knew, and now he has to come to grips with it… and I have to let him. I can’t be angry… or spiteful… or catty… and I can’t force his hand. I just have to let him do what he needs to do. We had been connecting beautifully, magically, every day and last night, we didn’t. I’m not even certain that he came to bed. In the meantime, I’m having a really hard time finding my way, locating my chi. This is something that not even Ace can help me with, I’m certain of it, which is why I cancelled my session with him today. Talking to him right now would only be a sounding board, and my thoughts are going too fast for that. I have to tame them before I try to organize them, and I only know one way to do that…

The song starts over and I raise my hands over my head like the singer did in the video. Spreading my legs and stretching my arms I let the music flow through me. I close my eyes and allow the music to reach my center. Once I feel it flowing through me, my arms become languid and I sway with the music and allow my arms to direct my body. Where it goes and what it does, I’m not sure; I just remember the fluid movements of the vocalist in the video as she tries to get back to shore in her boat and image that I’m doing the same thing.

I’m cradled in a kind of inner warmth as my movement and the words of the song become one. The truth of the despair along with the redemption of hope, seeking an escape from and a solution to the helplessness—it’s my life in a nutshell, the cycle it went through from Green Valley through my college years and finding myself in my career. The cycle began again with David’s reintroduction and the confusion that he brought into my life and left its mark with all the horrible milestones I’ve had to overcome since then, including having to let go of my mother; revisiting Green Valley; the kidnapping; the accident; the Pedophile; the breakup with Valerie; and all the little and huge hiccups during my relationship with Christian.

And once again, I’m trying to get back to shore.

Sailing in my little red boat prayin’ to God He will keep me afloat
While I’m sailing in my little red boat til I find my way…
To the things that I know, but I know I can’t stay here too long
But if every journey helps me grow, oh well, I’ll just keep moving on…

So, I guess that’s my answer, as it always has been… just keep moving on.

Trying to get back, trying to get back, trying to get back to shore…
Trying to get back, trying to get back, trying to get back to shore…
Trying to get back, trying to get back, trying to get back to shore…
Trying to get back, trying to get back, trying to get back to shore…


CHRISTIAN

“Fucking hell! That deal cost us a goddamn fortune!” I curse into the phone.

“I know,” Ros laments into the phone. “But Thomlinson decided to go with Farwell instead…”

“… For less money, more conditions, higher cuts in staff,” I bite out.

“It probably has to do with Fairlane,” she suggests.

“It has everything to do with Fairlane!” I retort. “He’s trying to discredit me with his business contacts since his plan to feed me his poison company backfired on him. Now, he’s convinced Thomlinson to shoot himself in the foot just to spite me. Thomlinson doesn’t know that Fairlane got his payoff—or maybe he does and he just doesn’t care. They’re doing this shit out of loyalty. They want to take a hit, let them go ahead and do it. I can afford this shit; they can’t! For a billionaire, losing a couple of million is pennies. For the owner of a failing company, losing a couple of million is losing your goddamn safety net. Send them a sympathy arrangement with my condolences and compile a report of all the deals we have in progress with long-time colleagues of Fairlane LTD. If he wants a war, he’s got one!”

“That’s the Christian I want to hear!” she declares triumphantly. “I’ll get right on it. It’s good to see the bull’s horns again,” she adds with a laugh. “So, how’s Ana and the baby’s doing? Keeping you up at night?” My thoughts shift gears immediately.

“Not so much lately,” I admit. “The first two weeks after the babies were born, I was letting her get as much sleep as possible, but this last week, she’s been vigilant about the nighttime feedings. I think she wants to make sure that each child gets the same amount of breast time so that they don’t get nipple confused.”

“A concept that goes completely over my head,” she says with a laugh. “Cheryl and I haven’t even talked about having kids. I don’t think either of us even sees it on the horizon. I mean, if she ever decides that she wants to, then I’m open for it, but she has to carry the kid because that experience is nowhere on my agenda.” How did we get into this conversation? With nothing else to say after that, I reply,

“Mine, either.”

She pauses for a moment, then breaks out into a throaty laugh.

“I like this new Christian,” she says. “You’ve loosened up a bit, but you haven’t lost your killer instinct. Any message for Fairlane?”

“Yeah, send him a diaper cake. He’ll know what it means.” Ros laughs.

“Hell, I know what it means. Wanna let me in on what you plan to do with the Fairlane companies?”

“Nothing really big. I’m going to be fair and give them the opportunity to drop out of deals before I lose pennies on them because they choose to be loyal to Fairlane. Any of them that want to tango with me, well, let’s just say that Thomlinson is about to be an example for them.”

“How so?” I ask.

“I have deals with Farwell… or have you forgotten?” I say with a smile. I can hear her smile through the phone.

“You’re devious, boss,” she says, gleefully.

“I know this,” I reply.

“Do you think Farwell will go through with the buy?” she asks.

“They might, I don’t know. It depends on how badly they want the company, but they don’t have the capital that I do, which is why their price was so much lower than mine. I’m not going to squash them or even threaten them, but I am going to use my… influence to make the deal look less appealing.”

“If Farwell doesn’t buy, will you buy them then?”

“No.” A very pregnant pause.

No?” she exclaims.

“No. I’m going to let them crawl to at least three more buyers. By the time the news gets out of the unfortunate luck they’ve had selling the business, they’ll be back to GEH, at which time, I’ll buy the business for a fraction of the price I was going to buy it originally.”

“I don’t know, Christian. That’s a huge gamble,” she warns.

“I know and you’re right, it is, but we certainly can’t lose more than we already have by taking it and we stand to gain what we wanted for less than we intended to pay if it works,” I point out.

“Yeah, you’re right about that. Okay, Well, I’ll get on those assignments and deliveries,” she says. “Plan on coming into the office anytime soon?”

“No immediate plans, but you never know,” I warn. I end the call and sit back in my chair, looking at the aquarium that separates mine and Ana’s offices. A week ago, she met with the members of three different agencies to give them the information on David’s dirty business dealings. She’s told me that she hasn’t heard anything from those meetings yet. The night before that, she told me that she didn’t want to be part owner of GEH anymore. I didn’t know how to take that and had to mull over it for a couple of days. I found myself sulking a bit. I want her to part of my life—every part of my life—but as much as I hate to admit it, she was right. Placing someone else at the helm of GEH even for a moment scares the shit out of me.

Deep down, I know that giving my wife a portion of my company means that I’m not going to do it half-heartedly. I’m going to open my hands and give it to her like I should—to make decisions, to direct the staff and so on. I know that she won’t make any huge decisions without me because she doesn’t know how to run the business without me. Nonetheless, the thought of my beautiful wife—my life mate and the one to whom I would trust anything I own even my most precious and beautiful children—at the helm of my company and giving orders to my staff paralyzed me with fear and indecision.

I have a feeling that the events of those two days sent her into a tailspin as well, because I found her in the empty second floor play area in workout gear dancing to a melancholy song about a boat adrift and trying to get back to the shore. The song was on repeat and I know my wife well enough to know that music plays a special role in her life, and particular songs have particular meanings. The last time I found her dancing like this was at Helping Hands after we had a disagreement about spanking our children. She was dancing to a spiritual song that had powerful words and I watched as her body nearly took flight during the dance. This time, the song talked about being lost and looking for someone to rescue her, about learning painful lessons and trying to move on.

As she moved, she didn’t look like the occupant of the little boat in the song to me. She didn’t even look like she represented the boat. She looked like the water, flowing freely and carrying the boat and its passenger—even the sharks the vocalist sings about—to their various destinations. Unlike the imprisoned soul who’s searching for a purpose, she’s the mode through which the purpose finds its way, and she doesn’t even know it. The one line in this song that really applies to her is this…

I guess I paid the price for being free…

I watched her for four, maybe five repetitions of the song. She didn’t get weary; she didn’t falter; she didn’t faint; she wasn’t even emotional. I realized that she didn’t need to be rescued; she just needed to be alone. So, I left her to it.

That night, we had dinner together and talked very little—some about the meetings with the AG, FBI, and IRS. She wasn’t pleased with how they received her and said that she would let Al, Gasko, and Bianchi handle the situation from here on out. That was a bit of a surprise to me since the night before, she had been pretty adamant about handling things herself and unhappy about not being able to dismiss the staff after the meeting.

“I just needed the agencies to know that I was the one who was turning the company over,” she had said. “Since I am… was technically the owner when we revealed this information, I needed to be present when it was done.”

“So, is it a done deal now?” I had asked. “Have they seized the business?” She shrugged noncommittal.

 “I don’t know,” she had replied. “I’m sure when they do, they’ll let me know… or they’ll let one of the boys know, but I haven’t heard anything yet.” The way she said “boys” let me know exactly how the meetings went and why she was so sour. She was having flashbacks of the night before. I reached over and covered her hand, causing her to raise her gaze to me.

“Are we okay?” I had asked, hoping that the situation with GEH would not come between us. She turned the hand around that I was holding and squeezed mine in return.

“Yes, Christian,” she had replied. “We’re okay.”

So, I knew that she was allowing me to come to grips with this situation in my own time, but in the meantime, she seems to be battling some pretty big demons.  

She’s been religious about getting up at night and tending to the twins. We have some milk in the freezer for the babies, but they haven’t really been drinking it. Between coordinating schedules with Marilyn and Vee, talking to my mom about the accreditation of Helping Hands, teleconferencing with patients and residents at the Center who refuse to talk to John, taking care of the twins, and her recent recommitment to daily yoga and dancing rituals, I don’t even know when she sleeps! I’ve tried to get in there and take some of the pressure of the twins off of her and I end up only taking some of the pressure off of Gail.

Although she is at home, she’s really busy with her new schedule it seems. I hope she’s not overdoing it. Just because she’s not going into the Center doesn’t mean that she can’t overwork herself. A couple of days this week, she looked weary like she could have definitely used some more sleep. More than once, I’ve found her asleep on the sofa in the family room—not even in her favorite recliner. No matter where she is, she has those intercoms set to monitor the twins. If she hears those babies stir, she’s up like lightening, even if she’s in a dead sleep. I’m afraid she’s really going to run herself into exhaustion.

On Wednesday, she took Gail’s advice and got out of the house. The papers of course caught her on a shopping spree and she smiled pretty for the cameras like she always does, only making a quick statement that she doesn’t fully have her pre-baby body back and had to purchase some things to wear while she works on fitting into her wardrobe.

The shit she bought… I think she’s trying to kill me.

Let’s start with the fact that she came back with henna hands. My mind immediately went to the babymoon and the sweet sexual escapades that we had that weekend. My dick started thrumming immediately in my pants, the first sign of life he’d had in a while since I had been distracted by the whole GEH thing and my concern for Butterfly’s health. I didn’t see any of her wares, however, until Saturday.

That afternoon, I receive a discrete package from a company called Good Vibes. They made certain custom items for me and there was an item that wanted to be sure had arrived when I was ready to use it. When I’ll be ready, I’m not sure, but I know that it’s here. I had a few other items ordered as well and had Windsor see to having them placed where they needed to be placed. The one box, however, that drew my curiosity, I took to my personal dressing room for a later date. When I came back down to dinner, I found that my wife had showered and changed after her daily yoga and dance and changed into something more… comfortable.

She’s standing in the kitchen and I learn that she has decided to be adventurous in more ways than one. First of all, she’s wearing a navy-blue sarong maxi-skirt with a wide blue and gray border. It’s wrapped perfectly around her hips so that they look round and voluptuous as they sway when she walks. The slightest bit of skin peeks out between the hip-hugging skirt the belly bind of the same color as the blue and gray border of the skirt. Her gray crop top has overlong sleeves and wraps around her boobs, the belly bind and the wrap ties boosting her beautiful large tits up for display. I swear, she’s a cup size larger since she started breastfeeding—maybe two—and she’s got that delicious-looking rack on display just enough for me to see delectable, round mounds lead down into her cleavage. She leans over the breakfast bar to taste something that Ms. Solomon has on a spoon and her ass spreads lusciously out over the goddamn counter.

Fuck. Me.

My dick is in pain. I just want to unwrap her right here and now and fuck the hell out of this new body! I mean, it’s really the same body, but that belly wrap must be squeezing the fuck out of her because I swear she looks like a goddamn Barbie doll. It’s only three weeks after the babies were born and I want to fuck her senseless, but what’s more…

I smell steak!

Butterfly tastes something that Ms. Solomon offers her and then gives her the okay sign with her fingers before I see what she’s doing. She’s actually brushing something onto two very large pieces of beef!

“Baby?” I say, walking into the kitchen concerned. She turns to me, then furrows her brow.

“What’s wrong?” she asks, the brush suspended in air. God, those steaks look and smell divine.

“Are… you okay?” I ask tentatively.

“Yeah,” she says, and it sounds more like a question than an answer. She follows my gaze to the steaks. “Oh, beef!” she says, realizing the reason for my concern, then waving it off. “I had steak fajitas on Wednesday. I’m fine.” Well, that’s good to know.

“Yes, you are,” I say, leaning down and kissing her on the neck. I inconspicuously test the tightness of the belly bind and realize that it’s not tight at all. I thought she might have been deliberately wrapping it tighter to rush the shrinking of her belly, but she’s not. “So… the belly wrap is working?” I ask cautiously.

“Yeah!” she says, betraying her own surprise. “Better than I even expected! I know with the basic core yoga and my dance, that’s been helping. I’ll be stepping up my yoga a bit next week; Dr. Culley says it’s okay as long as I don’t move too fast. Then there’s the breastfeeding. That of course helps to shrink the uterus, but the surface fat and the elasticity of my skin? That’s all the essential oil and the belly wrap! Of course, the oils that we used while I was pregnant helped with my skin, but my stomach is shrinking right up. I don’t know what to do about my butt and my boobs, though.”

Absolutely nothing, I think to myself, places for me to hold on to and bury my face in during moments of extreme passion. Groping that sexy ass and sucking those juicy tits…

“Christian?” Butterfly’s voice snaps me out of my sexual fantasy and reminds me that I’m standing in the middle of our kitchen.

“Sorry, I was thinking about your tits and ass,” I announce.

“Christian!” she scolds, slapping me on my bicep. “Go sit down!” she says, shooing me from the kitchen.

She and I and Jason and Gail have a nice dinner of top sirloin steak brushed with garlic butter, new potatoes with the option of sautéed mushrooms, and steamed asparagus. Butterfly also indulges in a long-awaited glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, assuring me that there was enough pumped milk for the twins for a week if needed. She and Gail actually talked baby-shop about the twins while Jason and I talked about things going on with GEH and the security staff, such as Fairlane’s dumb ass move against me and how I plan to discredit his name forever in the business world. I was willing to let him go quietly into the night, but he wasn’t willing to do that. So, he gets to, once again, play with the big boys.

Jason tells me that Chuck is pining a bit over Keri and asks if he can stick around the Crossing at least until he’s on full active duty.

“He’s got too much time on his hands,” Jason says. “No use tempting fate.”

I nod and agree wholeheartedly. He’s part of our family now. I wouldn’t want to leave him out in the cold at a time like this… literally.

“We’ll play it by ear,” I tell him, “let him tell us when he’s ready. No concerns about his performance? The way he was ready to tear a hole into the new guys if they didn’t perform…”

“None whatsoever… and one of the new guys is a girl.” I raise my eyebrow at him. “Don’t worry, she can handle it. Wait ‘til you see her.”

“I trust your judgment,” I tell him, turning my attention slightly to my Butterfly as she and Gail discuss the nuances and idiosyncrasies of our twins. I could have easily fit into either of these conversations as I spend as much time with the babies as either one of them and can easily tell them that Mikey is the laid-back one and Minnie is the troublemaker. She’ll lead her brother into many a mischievous act if he doesn’t quickly learn the wherewithal to tell her “no,” or speak up for himself, or learn to stay out of trouble. Either that, or she’s going to be highly protective of him and he’ll never get a date.

Jason and I talk for a while, bonding over beer and football while he brags about the money he won on the Seahawks and their Super Bowl win two weeks ago, and it’s not until Gail tells him that she’s going to catch a nap to prepare for the 2:30 feeding that I realize that Butterfly has fallen asleep in the recliner. It’s already nearly 1am and I don’t want to disturb her since I know she’s going to bolt up when the babies wake, but I won’t lie. I’ve been talking down a painful boner ever since she bent over that goddamn counter!

I go up to our bedroom and retrieve the box that came earlier from Good Vibes. Inside, there are six Tenga eggs and a Tenga Flip Hole masturbator. It looks a little complicated, with buttons and shit, and I decide to save that one for later. Not only do I need a quick nut, but I want to know what all the fuss is about. Phillip raved about these damn things and I don’t know what he’s working with, but I’m a big boy and these things look pretty goddamn small.

So, I open the box and there are six eggs in the kit. I take one out and they’re supposed to be for a single use, but Phil says that if you use them properly, you can use them two or three times. Hopefully, I won’t have to use these things that often, unless Butterfly and I are using them during playtime… even then, it’s a damn egg.

Just shut up and try the damn thing!

So, each egg has a different texture… clicker, silky, spider, stepper, twister, wavy. Okay. I pull out the one that sounds the most textured, but the least ominous—wavy. Silky sounds like it wouldn’t bite me, but it sounds like it wouldn’t be too interesting a ride either. We’ll save that for experimentation later. I read the description.

Waves of stimulation! Just like the waves of the mother ocean lap onto the shores, multiple layers of wavy ribs deliver a continuous ecstasy-inducing sensation. The large, soft edges of these ribs travel all over your shaft, creating an unimaginable stimulus making you tremble with delight.

“Oh, please,” I say aloud. That’s a bit dramatic for a glob of silicon that may not even fit over my goddamn dick. Whoever marketed this shit is either a fucking genius and a raving idiot. Mother Ocean… gimme a break.

I peel open the seal and there’s a plastic casing inside. I crack it open and there’s the glob—I mean, the egg. It has a small hole down the center where my dick is supposed to go. This is going to be a neat trick. The material is soft, very pliant, so it stretches. It’ll fit inside, but will it stretch the damn thing to the point that I won’t feel any of the texture? I stick my finger inside so that I can see what it should feel like before I stretch it all to hell.

“Hmm, nice,” I say as the ridges massage my finger. Well, let’s see if this thing lives up to the hype. I go into my en suite and drop my pants and my boxer briefs, kicking them off to the side. I lubricate the interior of the egg with the bag of lubricant that came with it. As instructed, I fit the egg over my now anxious throbbing head and start to work it over my dick. As soon as Greystone feels the ridges and the super lube—whatever the fuck this shit is—he is hard and happy.

“Shit!” I hiss as the egg stretches to encase my dick and the ridges massage the sides. I grip my dick and this magic and stroke again—once, twice…

“Aw, fuck!” I need to lean against something, or sit down, or something. I lean against the shower wall and close my eyes, stroking this soft, supple, slippery, wet material over my hard, angry dick. Fuck it feels so good. I try to keep still, to prolong the pleasure, but I haven’t cum in two weeks and this one is ready to blow. I thrust into my fist, gripping hard and grunting even harder, picturing Butterfly’s beautiful full hips and luscious breasts. Oh, God, just the sight of her… the thought of her!

“Fuck! Fuck! Oh, fuck!” My balls tighten, my dick gets harder. The ridges of the egg tease my shaft and my head, causing unbelievable ripples of pleasure.

“Oh, my God! Shit!”

I’m pressed hard against the glass, ferociously pumping this thing along my dick, drawing out unheard of pleasure. I hear myself moaning and pray to God that no one comes into the room right now. I couldn‘t stop this if I wanted to. I picture Butterfly bending over that counter, her cheeks spreading out in that skirt and my sac starts to rise. The moment I envision that skirt is gone and I see that alabaster skin, the party is over.

I blow hard into that egg, having to thrust up to give my slit purchase to release. When my shaft feels those ridges ride up the side and along that vein that carries the semen to the tip, it pulsates and explodes harder in surrender.

“Oh, my God!” I cry, and I almost sound like a girl, I pump my penis one more time inside the egg and shiver at the sensation, still coming hard as the white cream now oozes down my dick and my leg. Greystone still protests, so I stroke him again… and again… and he weeps two more times, crippling me and causing me to double over, almost ready to curl up on the floor, breathless.

Fuck! Whoever marketed this shit is a fucking genius!

I catch my breath and look at my hand. The egg is still intact on my now partially limp dick, my hand and dick covered in lube and cum and some of it has dripped down my leg. I reach into the shower and turn it on. I toss the egg inside and rinse the cum and lube off my hand enough to reach behind me and take off my shirt and T-shirt. I toss them over to the stack with my pants and boxers and step inside.

I let the water run over me and rejuvenate me. My knees are so weak that I almost can’t stand. I’ve gone without sex before, so this is nothing new, but damn! I wash my hair and clean myself up. We knew there would be nights like this, but I almost feel guilty for coming so damn hard and enjoying myself so thoroughly.

The egg lay on the floor like the little glob it was when I opened the pack. It has returned back to its original shape and it looks more like a child’s rubber ball than the instrument of massive pleasure that, moments before, rung an agonizing orgasm out of me that nearly brought me to my knees. Mother Ocean indeed!

I pick the thing up and deduce that I should probably clean it. I turn it inside out and the ridges inside, now outside, actually make me shiver. As I use the shower soap and hot water to clean the cum and lube from the ridges, Greystone starts to rise to attention in memory of the stimulation he received moments ago. I tried to ignore it, but hell, most nights when I make love to my wife, I come at least twice, and I haven’t come in quite some time!

I rinse the remaining residue from the egg and step out of the shower, leaving it running, to where I left the open packet of lube. After squeezing its remaining contents into the egg, I get back into the shower as I’ll need to be there to clean up again when this is all over. Having already come once, I can take my time with this one to really discover the wonders of this tiny little device, for lack of a better word.

I cap it over my dick like the last time and decide to wait there for a moment. Pulling the egg so that it stretches just past the rim of my swollen crown, I stimulate just the head.

“Yessss,” I hiss, “oh, yes…”

I stroke again and again, just the head, teasing it gently at first, then using my fingertips to massage the rim.

“Oh, fuck, yes.”

I stimulate the rim for several minutes until I can’t tell if the moisture I feel on my head is sweat or water. I lift my foot to the ridge of the shower and fist the head of my dick, not too tight, just like her mouth. My hand flat against the glass, I close my eyes and push and pull, mimicking the motion of her hot, talented mouth.

“Baby…”

Just the head, just like that, make me come…

In and out, the wetness and the suction and the rhythm, and the stimulation…

“Baby, fu-uck…”

Don’t stop! Just like that! Don’t stop!

I close my eyes and drop my head and I can almost see her clamping her hot, red lips down on my hard, angry dick and suckling the head mercilessly right before I’m about to come.

No… wait… I don’t want to come yet…

But she doesn’t stop. She looks up at me with those hungry, royal blue eyes while those pouty lips wrap around my dick and demand an offering.

I have no choice but to give her one.

“Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!”

The orgasm that follows is so mind-blowing that I’m actually banging my head against the shower glass.


A/NPictures 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 55—Resolution

I thought I had addressed the “Marilyn” situation adequately in my response to comments in the last chapter, but maybe I didn’t because people are still responding as if they never read them. Maybe they did read them, but are just so dug in to their opinions that my point of view when I wrote her reaction was of no consequence. So, I’ll try to quickly explain it a different way. 

I don’t know where you guys work and I’m not passing judgment on anyone. However, in this instance, Marilyn handled it a hell of a lot better than I would have. In MY world—in my REAL world, I mean—if my boss’s husband felt like he could disrespect me for any reason, even if I am a peon, I wouldn’t have waited and gone to my boss. I would have been unemployed and swiftly looking for another job. Not only that, I would have walked up the front of him, down the back of him and dropped those goddamn keys at his feet. Then I would have let HIM tell her why I left. 

I’m a true believer that the moment you open the door to allow someone to walk over you and disrespect you, that door never closes. So for those readers who still feel that Marilyn should lick shit out of Christian’s ass because he bought her a car at Ana’s request and he’s her boss’s husband, let me inform you that you will be sorely disappointed in the chapters to come. SPOILER ALERT! There’s a moment in this chapter where it may look like Christian has gotten the upper hand on her, but don’t get it twisted. He hasn’t.

Someone commented about if Christian gave Andrea permission to give it back to Ana… but Marilyn made it a POINT to illuminate that Ana has never disrespected Andrea. And just so that there’s no misunderstanding, allow me to clarify: just like Marilyn went to Ana to request that Ana talk to her husband, best believe that in this story, Andrea would do the same thing if she felt disrespected by Ana after working for Christian for all the years that she has. 

I hope you continue to enjoy the story.

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 55—Resolution

CHRISTIAN

I’m supposed to get her to my parent’s house by 3:00 today, but she’s said probably twenty words to me in three days. She’s not not speaking to me. She’s just not going out of her way to speak to me. She’s not cold to me; she’s just not warm to me. I think she’s packed and unpacked her hospital bags three times in as many days and refolded the clothes in the children’s room five or six times. She’s made a list of a few things that she’s sure she’ll need once the babies are born. I’ve convinced her to hold off buying them and she looked at me like a stranger, but only for a moment. I think because it would require concentrating too much energy on focusing on me. I’m completely out of my element here. I’m not going to allow her behavior to make me change my mind because I really believe I’m doing the right thing for her and the babies, but whatever she’s done with my wife, I wish she would bring her back.

I haven’t seen the henna belly since last weekend. I don’t even know if it’s still there. It’s still faintly on her hands, so I suppose it’s still on her belly. She sleeps in a nightshirt every night, cuddled protectively around her belly. I’m still allowed to put my arm around her when we sleep, but she doesn’t move all night. I get the feeling that she’s not comfortable and I don’t want that. I don’t want to sleep in one of the guest rooms because I don’t want her to think I’m shunning her. By the same token, I don’t like the fact that she’s emotionally shunning me.

I didn’t sleep at all last night. Our connection isn’t there and I couldn’t get comfortable. I ended up spending the night in the sitting room looking out at the night sky and the lake thinking about… stuff. The evenings of my discontent have returned. All I need now is for those damn nightmares to show up again and the circle will be complete.

The sun has risen and I go to the bedroom to check on her. She’s sleeping peacefully, still protectively cuddling our children. The bruising from “the slap heard ‘round the world” has healed and she’s just as beautiful as ever, not that she wasn’t before. I want to touch her face, but I don’t want to disturb her. Still, I can’t resist. I lean down and place a tender kiss on her lips. She smiles slightly in her sleep, but doesn’t stir. I take some solace in the gesture and head down to the gym to work out until the pain in my muscles dull the ache in my heart.

The ride to my parents’ house is virtually silent and thankfully very short. She spent the entire day in the twins’ room doing God only knows what. She couldn’t have been packing that damn bag again—those ­bags, I should say. I’ll be honest and admit that I had about four bags packed to make sure that she and the twins would have everything they needed in case of emergency. She unpacked the bags and thinned them down to three, then unpacked them again and thinned them down to two. She unpacked them again and tried to get them down to one, but threw in the towel at two and left it at that. Maybe she gave it another go, I’m not sure.

Her only words to me during the ride were to ask me why we were having a family meeting. She’s concerned about Pops’ health and worried that we may be gathering to discuss the next steps in his care. I assured her that I didn’t know, but whatever it is, Mom thought it was important enough for all of us to be there. She also graced me with her lamentations about having to deal with Valerie’s presence, but I assured her that Elliot could not get away from a prearranged bid meeting with an important client, so she would be spared the attack of the barracuda. My poor attempt to make her smile falls so dead in the water that it doesn’t even make it across the bridge. I decide to keep my wise cracks to myself and deliver her as promised.

Despite the large number of cars parked in front, the house is eerily quiet when we step inside. Leona is there to take our coats and informs us that everyone is in the back den and the dining room. I allow her to walk ahead of me and open the dining room door.

“Surprise!”

Delivered as promised. Mom. Mia, and Amanda have planned a baby shower for Ana, which is why I had to convince her to wait before buying the things on her list.

“You guys!” she exclaims. “It never occurred to me… I hadn’t even considered… I mean, we’re so…”

It’s so cute that she’s so speechless. Too bad I can’t enjoy it.

“It doesn’t matter that you’re rich,” Mia says, ushering her into the room of chattering ladies. “Your family and friends are supposed to throw you a shower anyway. Now sit down and let’s play silly games…”

I take notice that there are no men at this shower. Good. I back slowly out of the door the same way that I came in and run right into Leona.

“Oh!” she says. I’ve startled her and almost cause her to drop her tray of hors d’oeuvres.

“I’m sorry,” I say, steadying her tray before the finger foods all become casualties.

“It’s quite alright,” she says sweetly, “I’ve got them now. Did you need something, Mr. Grey?” Her kindness almost takes me by surprise until I remember that she has a thing for me. Then I look in her eyes and realize that it’s just kindness.

“No, thank you,” I say, walking around her and back the way we came in. I stop in the parlor briefly, then play with the idea of looking for Dad or visiting with Pops or Uncle Herman. Then I realize that I really just want to be alone. I don’t want to work, talk to anyone, or concentrate on anything—I just want to be alone. It’s too cold to go to my treehouse, so I go to my old bedroom instead. Of course, five minutes in there and I’m thinking about the last time I was in here… with Butterfly… making love in this bed, and Elliot and Val and Jason all walked in on us.

Well, enough of that shit.

I make a quick escape to somewhere I never thought I’d escape to again—the old music room. It’s been a while since I’ve been in this room. I’ve avoided it since I moved out, but I don’t want to disturb anybody by going to Mom’s parlor, and this room is on the other side of the house. I walk inside and there’s Elliot’s guitar, Mia’s cello, and my beloved baby grand. I run my fingers across the top of it. I begged Mom to keep it here, right where it always was. She never moved it and I don’t think I ever played it after I moved out. I open the top and caress the keys—middle C, E, G… I play few chords. Is it still in tune? Does she keep it tuned after all this time?

I feel a bit of comfort mixed with melancholy as I slide onto the familiar leather stool. I close my eyes and let my fingers glide mindlessly, song after song after song. I don’t pay attention to the particular songs playing, just the fact that the perfectly acoustic room is filled with the sound of the little hammers hitting the strings and nothing else. Nothing else occupies my mind, but the music… yet the chords still make my heart bleed. Minor chords are sad chords and for some reason, my hands and mind can’t stay away from the minor chords.

Pictures attempt to form in my head as the music tries to take shape—a storm, a whirlpool, stars—but nothing really materializes. Faces of no one in particular, expressions that can’t be made out… a dancing couple? A dancing bear… I don’t know.

Rain… a waterfall… the ocean?

The moon… a space station… a comet? No, a shooting star… a black hole?

Snow-capped mountains… no, clouds… the tops of skyscrapers?

Nothing materializes, just fuzzy blobs of gray imagination wrapped around warbling musical notes that are drearily depressing and oddly comforting.

One tune seems to flow into another… and another… and another… My fingers effortlessly play with no instruction from my brain whatsoever. I don’t even know if the two are connected as I can’t string together a coherent thought—just random not-quite pictures of partial past memories and possible future shattered hopes. It’s almost like I’m dreaming—a heart-breaking soundtrack playing behind scenes of… what? I don’t know. I have no idea.

My ears don’t hear the music anymore. It’s in my head, swimming around and echoing through my cerebral chambers in the weirdest way—saturating my gray matter until it flows out of my ears and fills the room instead of the other way around. My head feels heavy with the weight of the notes and the task of carrying this tune to the corners of the music room, so I let it lull, my chin in my chest so that my aching neck can rest.

Another ache… just what I need.

The deeper notes are a balm to my eardrums, like the last lullaby before a sedative takes hold and dulls the never ending pain of a terminal disease. I’m lulled into the comfort, sadness, and the familiarity of the darkness until the soft, melodic sound of her voice nearly sounds alien to me:

“Please don’t play anymore…”


ANASTASIA

I obediently stayed away from my responsibilities at Helping Hands. I have learned that the awful Hyde woman has taken a plea of some sort on the charges against her for beating her husband and son and for attacking me. Apparently, she was expecting her family to go to bat for her, which they were willing to do against her unfortunate husband and stepson. However, when she attacked the wife of billionaire businessman Christian Grey, they hung her ass out to dry. It had something to do with her father either doing some kind of business with Christian or afraid that Christian would put him out of business, I don’t know which. Either way, when Big Glenda discovered that the money in her mattress was cut off and she didn’t have a pot to piss in or a leg to stand on, she took a plea and turned herself in. She only got probation for my attack, but she got hammered for her husband’s burns. As a result, she’ll be a guest of the Washington State Department of Corrections for a while.

Jack and his son were able to go back to the house and retrieve their meager belongings. He wants nothing from his wife—no alimony, none of her money, nothing. He’s afraid that if she’s forced to pay him anything, it’ll lead her back to him and he wants nothing to do with her. Once she was safely locked away on Friday morning, he went straight to court and filed for divorce on the grounds of mental and physical cruelty.

I was glad to find out that Thelma and little Jimmy suffered no permanent damage from being in that house, either. Getting out and getting into a healthier environment is mainly what saved them. When I last saw her, Thelma had put on a few pounds and was looking for an apartment for her and Jimmy. Now, I discover that apparently, Mr. Radcliff has had a “come to Jesus” moment and wants his wife and child back. I don’t know how I feel about that. I mean, it’s not up to me whether or not he deserves to have them back, but ultimately, the goal is for the family to be reunited. Yet, his selfish pride is what got them here in the first place. We’ll just have to see how that turns out. They’re all in the system now. There’s no way the state is going to allow her to return that baby to unsafe conditions.

Now I find out that Grace wants us to meet at Grey Manor this afternoon for some kind of family meeting. Family meetings usually mean bad news and I don’t need any more bad news. Marilyn inadvertently made me feel like shit for abandoning my responsibilities at Helping Hands right when the Center is about to get its accreditation. I don’t know what she expects me to do. Hell, she had to ask me for permission to stand up to my husband and she doesn’t live with him! I’m trying not to feel resentful. I really do understand that he doesn’t want me to be hurt. I do, but I still feel like I just don’t have any control over my own life and I really hate that. It’s hard for me to find the words to tell him that, so I just find myself staying to myself and trying to fill these empty days with things to do. I made a list of the things I’ll know we’ll need but haven’t already gotten before the babies get here—like a breast pump. Dr. Culley advised that I should start pumping colostrum because the twins with both need it when they are born and I won’t be able to give it to both of them at the same time the moment they are born. So I need to start storing it now.

He tells me not to buy anything!

What the fuck? Mr. “Go-Ahead-Buy-Two” is telling me not to buy anything? My due date is five weeks away and twins tend to be born early and he wants me to wait?? Oh, I’ll wait. I’ll wait until Monday when he’s not here, then send Marilyn or order everything online.

I spend the day in the twins’ room, making a Fuzzlewuzzers for Mackenzie and Michael. I’ve decided to make them unique sock-bunnies. I know they’ll want to chew on them, so the material and stuffing has to be sterilized before I give them to the babies. Mackenzie’s sock-bunny is fuzzy purple and white with buttons for eyes and on the chest and a bow on her ear. Michael’s bunny is purple and yellow with purple and orange sock legs and black button eyes. They were adorable after I took the pictures then realized that I will have to remove the buttons as they will present a choking hazard. Oh well, I’ll put them back on when they’re older… if they want them.

“Do you know what this meeting is about?” I ask Christian as he maneuvers the Audi S8 across the bridge towards Bellevue.

“I don’t know,” he says noncommittal, “She just said we need to be there at three.”

“Do you think it’s about Pops?” I ask. “His condition hasn’t gotten any worse that I know of, but it hasn’t gotten any better either.”

“She didn’t mention it,” he says flatly. “I can’t see her letting us walk blindly into something like that.” I shake my head.

“If it’s a family meeting, that means it’s a good chance I’ll have to deal with Valerie’s awful attitude.”

“No, no Valerie,” he says. I turn to him.

“Oh? Why not?”

“Because,” he pauses, “Elliot has a bid meeting with a client that’s only going to be in town today. He couldn’t get out of it. So you will be spared the company of the barracuda.” He chuckles nervously. I glare at him. Christian is good at concealing, but he’s horrible at lying. I guess I’ll just have to see what’s going on myself.

When we get to his parents’ house, we’re greeted by bitter-pill-swallowing Leona, only she’s a lot friendlier than she was before. She tells us that the family is in the back of the house, but Christian is puttering around like he wants to chat with the help! Fine, you do that. I walk ahead of him towards the dining room and nearly get shocked into labor. The Greys, Maddie, Gail, Luma, Keri, Marilyn, Mandy, Maxie, and several people from the Center are all crammed into Grace’s dining room and den for a surprise baby shower. I’m speechless! I’m stumbling over my tongue because I really didn’t think rich people had baby showers. I’m not being a snob or anything—it’s just that I thought that a shower was to help the couple with the expenses of having a baby. Christian and I certainly don’t need any help, but this is a wonderful surprise! No wonder he didn’t want me to buy anything yet. I turn around to tell him what a terrible liar he is, but he has already made his getaway. Well, at least we’re not making end of life plans for Pops—that would really suck. And even though I still miss her, at least there’s no sour-faced Valerie! I’ll talk to Mr. Grey about his horrible lying skills later.

It’s an absolutely wonderful shower! Presents are stacked up to the ceiling and we play these ridiculously fun shower games. The girls have to draw a baby on a paper plate and I tell you the submissions are utterly ridiculous. I laugh so hard I’m afraid my water will break. Mandy is a master at the “Don’t Say Baby” game. Everybody is given five clothespins. If you catch someone saying “baby,” you take one of their clothespins. Mandy was covered in clothespins. “Place the Baby on the Mom” was one of the best. These women had me carrying my twins in my hair, on my butt, on my feet, somewhere else altogether not even on me. Grace had poor little Mackenzie in my purse.

The one game I had never seen before was the “Guess The Baby” game. All of the ladies brought baby pictures of themselves and we put the pictures in a basket. Everyone tries to guess which picture is of whom and the one who guesses the most wins. Even though I wasn’t playing the game, I easily picked Maxie out of the basket—not only because I’m so familiar with her features, but also Mindy looks just like her.

“So how are you doing, Ana?” Maxie asks. “You’re in the countdown now and sitting at home is probably driving you batshit.” We’re eating Tiramisu and drinking sparkling white grape juice after opening an insane number of presents.

“Trying to keep myself busy. I’m going to start storing colostrum, so thank you, Mia, for the new wave electronic breast pump.” I nod in her direction and she smiles and waves gleefully. “I’ve been nesting quite a bit. I know it’s early, but I think I’m being thrown into it because I took off work so early.”

“I think you’re being thrown into it because those babies are on the way and you’re in denial,” Sammy, one of the workers from the Center, says. Her comment elicits a laugh from the group of women.

“No denial here,” I tell her. “I’ll be glad if they make their appearance early. While I love them dearly, I’ll be much happier when they’re on this side of the vajayjay!” More laughter from the girls as we devour desserts and talk about their prior pregnancies and childbirths. I look through my presents again and there are things that were on my list as well as things that I hadn’t even thought of. Of course, I knew I would need a breast pump. Mia got one of the most expensive contraptions on the market, I think. I’m going to need a class just to learn how to use it. Then there are the matching onesies, T-shirts, booties, caps, and receiving blankets. There are only two children and they’ll only be able to fit this stuff for about three months tops, but I’m sure there’s enough stuff here for five kids for a year!

Then, of course, the lovely ladies thought of me—nursing bras and tank tops and six-week panties, which are just oversized panties meant to be worn and thrown away after the six-week recovery period is over as they will probably have some staining from bleeding and discharge that won’t come out. I hadn’t even thought of that.

Then, of course, there are the cute little clothes and diapers and Diaper Genies, diaper bags, twin strollers, baby rattles, teething rings, baby towels, washcloths, and bedding, baby hygiene products, bottles, nipples, health care items, and as Gail would say, and a partridge in a pear tree! There’s so much stuff here, I have no idea how we’re going to get it all home, but I can say that I couldn’t have gotten a nicer surprise and just like that, I feel decompressed all over again, just like I did when I came back from the babymoon.

*-*

Luma and I are talking about Mariah and Celida over coffee while Gail and Grace looks on. The shower has winded down and most of the ladies have gone home now. Grace’s staff is cleaning up after the party and I can hear Mia giving someone instructions off in the distance. Celida’s social skills are slowly developing, but she’s having a bit of a hard time since she’s always following Mariah around. Contrary to popular belief, Mariah is not the strong one. She just more outspoken. She’s codependent on Celida and that relationship helps to hold her together and give her purpose. The girls are seeing a child psychologist right now as this is not healthy behavior for either of them. Luma has taken pains not to speak about their mother or father and unfortunately, that’s not the best plan for them. Although they’re young, they were old enough to know their parents and now old enough to know that they’re gone. Ignoring that fact will only make a bad matter worse. Celida was already withdrawn and this may only further complicate matters.

We’re just about to talk about Luma and how things are going in her life. I’m anxious to know if she and Herman have made any progress or if she’s just keeping things quiet for now since Pops is so sick. Just as we open the floor for the conversation, Carrick steps into the great room.

“Grace?” He gestures for his wife to come over to him as if the conversation is private, but he doesn’t necessarily speak in hushed tones. “There’s bleeding in the West Wing.”

Bleeding? Oh my God!

“What?” Grace asks incredulously. What is she waiting for? Go find out who’s bleeding.

“Bleeding in the West Wing. It’s been going on for hours!” he repeats. Grace leans in slightly to her husband.

“Have you been drinking, Cary?” she accuses.

“Yes, I have. I had a few drinks while I was watching the game.” That explains it. “And there’s still bleeding in the West Wing.” Grace is silent for a moment, then realization dawns.

“Oh no,” she finally laments. “What do you think brought this on?”

“I don’t know, but this has got to stop,” Carrick says. “How was he when they got here?”

“He seemed fine,” Grace replied, “but I really couldn’t tell because he was in and out in a moment.” He? Are they talking about Christian? Is Christian bleeding somewhere? I struggle out of my seat and shamelessly jump into their conversation.

“I’m sorry,” I interrupt, “I don’t mean to intrude, but I do. Are you talking Christian? Is he somewhere bleeding?”

“Yes,” Carrick replies.

“No!” Grace snaps at her husband, rolling her eyes hard before turning her gaze back to me. “Ana, down at the end of the hall behind the stairs, you will see a wide staircase of five steps. Beyond that is a door of what is apparently a not-so-soundproof music room. Christian is in there and, from what my husband is trying to say, he may have fallen into some old, unhealthy habits.” I frown.

“You got all that from what he said in an inebriated haze?” I ask. She sighs and throws and intolerant glare at Carrick again.

“Unfortunately, yes,” she says to me. “I’m sure we don’t have to remind you of Christian’s childhood—how difficult it was for him to overcome his feelings of depression and the aftereffects of his abuse…”

“Yes…” I’m listening.

“He spent the most time in the music room than any of our children. When he was consumed in his angst, the most warbling sounds of darkness came wafting out of that room for hours. It takes incredible talent—and incredible pain—to make a piano sound the way that he does. Elliot called it Bleeding in The West Wing.” Her eyes narrowed toward Carrick again, who seems unmoved by her displeasure.

Bleeding…
Depression…
Warbling…
Darkness…
Piano…

“Piano.” I say aloud. “He hasn’t played the piano in months… at least not that I know of…” I look at Grace, then Carrick. “End of the hall?” I ask.

“Yes, dear,” Grace says.

There isn’t a single light on in this room. I can’t see a thing. I can clearly hear this tortured music playing that reminds me of medieval knights scavenging war grounds for possible survivors. It’s horrible and it makes me want to cry. I reach for the walls on the side of the doors and flip the light switch there. A chandelier comes alive above a baby grand piano, and there’s Christian. He doesn’t stop playing. He doesn’t know anyone has entered the room.

I can’t make out the song that he’s playing, but it sounds of impending and eternal sorrow and dismay… like death. That’s what it is. It sounds like death and isolation and loneliness… bleeding, just like Carrick said. It’s like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have descended upon this room and are occupying the corners, each with a cigarette and a drink, examining him—holding court and infusing him with their separate brands of hopelessness…

… And he fits right in.bob3

There’s an impenetrable bubble around him, dark and pressing his shoulders down, making him appear… shorter? Smaller? No… burdened, like Quasimodo—bent over with the horrible growth protruding from his back, causing great agony and preventing him from standing upright. The tune changes again without a pause from the prior to the next, and this song is even more morose than the one before. My stomach burns and the twins stir in massive discontent. I grab my belly to still them. I can’t stand it anymore.

“Please don’t play anymore…” I say, my voice barely above a whisper as that’s all I can muster, the melancholy in the room choking me to death. He stops immediately, frozen momentarily in place. I walk over to the piano and he closes the top and rests his hands in his lap. I don’t know what to say. The last time I’ve seen him even close to this was… was… was when I went to Montana.

“Can’t you and Mom work something out where Mom brings the work to you?” he asks, his voice high and hopeless. “I just don’t want anything to happen to you,” he adds, running his hands over his face, then through his hair before resting his elbows on his piano, his palms on his forehead. “You gotta understand that. If you can’t, then I don’t know what else to do.”

“But you can’t put me in a box, Christian,” I protest, sitting on the bench next to him. “It just doesn’t work that way.”

“I’m not trying to put you in a box,” he says. “I never could! I know that! But don’t you see where this puts me?” His voice is beseeching. “I love you more than life—don’t you know that? Haven’t I shown you that? Haven’t I done everything in my power to prove to you that I would give life and limb for you? Literally?” His voice is high-pitched and squeaking, full of desperation. I don’t answer, because I know he’s not finished.

“You told me yourself that your shrink was willing to risk his license to call me and tell me about your condition—about the stress you were suffering and the fact that you needed to decompress. I take you on a babymoon and we have a wonderful time reconnecting and learning about the babies… and the henna…” His voice trails off and he shakes his head.

“Then the day after we get back, you get attacked by that She-Devil!” he barks. “I can’t stand it! I can’t take it! You’re too fragile right now! I know you’re strong, but right now, you’re too fragile and if something happens to you…” His fingers dig deeper into his hair and his scalp. I’m afraid he’s going to draw blood soon. He needs this. He thinks I’m the fragile one, but the truth is that when it comes to my safety and the safety of the twins, he’s more fragile than I am. I have to give him this. I mean, I have given him this, but it’s come at a price and I know it.

I stand from the stool and turn around to face him. He has a sheen of sweat forming on his forehead and his knuckles are turning white. I slide my fingers over his hands. It takes several moments, but they finally relax. He allows me to move in front of him and remove his hands from his hair. I place them on either side of my belly, hoping that his presence will serve to calm his children a bit. When I gently put my fingers in his hair and begin to massage his scalp, he lays his head on my belly and sighs contentedly. The children calm almost immediately. God, I hope they’re not like this when they’re born or I’ll never be able to get them to settle on my own.

“I’m going to start storing colostrum. Dr. Culley says now is a good time to start,” I say softly. After a pause, I ask, “Do you know what that is?”

“Mmm-hmm,” he responds quietly. Okay, still awake.

“Mia got me this funky new breast pump that does all the work for me, so it shouldn’t be as hard as I thought it would be. Getting it started might be a little difficult though.”

“Okay.” He doesn’t sound tired, just reserved, his head resting content on my belly as he rubs both sides. I lift my shirt from the bottom and pull my maternity pants to below my belly. The henna is fading, but it’s still orange and still prominent on my skin. He sighs and outlines the patterns. One of the children shifts and settle and I know that they’ll both be asleep soon. He responds to the movement with a soft smile and a kiss on the top of my belly. I sit on his lap on the piano bench, straddling him. He caresses my belly and the henna with his thumbs, his fingers spread wide on either side of my belly, placing gentle kisses on my skin. His eyes are closed as if he is savoring this moment. I push my fingers into his hair again and massage his scalp as I kiss his hair and forehead. There are no words, just Christian bonding with the belly. He bonds for several moments—kissing, caressing, snuggling. I almost forget where we are until…

“Thank God! Has the deceased been laid to rest now?”

Carrick’s voice disturbs our moment as he walks into the music room with a drink in his hand. Grace chides him quietly with an elbow to the side.

“Cary!” she hisses, scolding. He shrugs.

“I’m just saying, a few more moments of that parlor music and I was going to want to see the body to pay my respects!” he says. Okay, he’s had a few.

“I think we should be going,” I say, rising from Christian’s lap and straightening my clothes.

“Stay,” Grace coaxes, “I don’t get to see you as much anymore. I miss our talks.”

“We’re… going to work something out, Grace,” I tell her. “I know that the licensing will be coming through soon and I don’t want to put all of the work off on you. I’ll still be working closely with you to make sure that we’ll get everything handled in time for the accreditation. I’ll be logging into my work computer from home, but for the next several weeks, I’ll be working in my pajamas. We’ll talk, don’t worry.” She smiles and Christian squeezes my hand.

“Well, that’s good to hear,” she says. “There’s word of a meeting sometime in the next few weeks.”

“You’ll have to Skype me in, then—sans the pajamas. I’ll find a respectable blouse or something.” I pull Christian’s hand. “Come on, Undertaker. There’s a lot of stuff to get to the car.”

“Oh, no worries about that,” Grace says. “Drill Sargent Mia made sure that was taken care of before she and Ethan headed back to Seattle. You’re all set.”

“Good, ‘cause I want some alone time with my wife!” Carrick says, giving Grace a smack on her behind, eliciting a yelp from her.

“TMI, Dad,” Christian says, moving closer to me.

“Says the man that was just fondling his wife’s pregnant naked belly on my piano stool!” Carrick quips. I roll my eyes and give a Grace a kiss on the cheek.

“Goodnight, Grace,” I say as I drag my husband from the music room.

*-*

He’s sitting on the edge of our bed watching the glow of the fire when I come into our room in my nightshirt after my shower. Gail helped me put all of the shower gifts away and, yes, I did unpack and repack one of the suitcases with some of the new items I had received. I even managed to get a small bit of colostrum pumped, which is a huge accomplishment as far as I’m concerned—but I could only stop at a small bit, because it hurt like hell! I’ll have to try again tomorrow. He briefly looks over his shoulder at me when I enter the room, then looks back at the fire.

“We need to talk,” I say sitting on the bed on top of the covers.

“Yeah,” he says, looking down at his hands, then back up at the fire. Neither of us says anything for a long time. We both just sit there watching the fire.

“My world was shaken to its core when I visited that prison in Ionia and that bastard wasn’t there,” he finally begins. “He had haunted my dreams incessantly for over twenty years, and I needed to look him in the eye and tell him that his days of terrorizing me were over now that his son was on the wrong side of the Feds. Then I looked into the face of a complete stranger and all my nightmares came rushing at me at once.” He drops his head, shaking it at the same time. “All I could think of was getting home to you and making sure that you were safe. When I stepped off that plane…” His voice cracked as his words trailed off.

“Christian…” He holds up his hand to gently silence me. I swallow hard and let him finish.

“When I stepped off that plane and saw Cholometes, and Jason tried to tell… to tell…” He chokes back a sob, but doesn’t break down. “Every bad thing that could have happened to me converged on me all at once. I literally thought I was dying. My chest hurt and I couldn’t breathe. My legs didn’t work. Nothing mattered. I had to get to you… to see for myself… the worst thing that could have happened and I wasn’t even here.” He finally sobs for a moment and I want to comfort him, but he keeps talking before I get the chance to move.

“Sixty days,” he chokes. “They told me that I may only have sixty days left with my entire reason for living—longer if I chose to keep you alive as a human incubator for the babies. I was sick to my soul with the thought… as much as I love them, us without you was just unthinkable and I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the concept.

“And then my mind went back to the other times I failed to protect you—when David vandalized your car and when he and that psychotic asshole kidnapped and beat you, may his soul rot in hell!” He speaks the last words with such venom that it actually sends a chill through my body.

“Then I think of the things that I couldn’t protect you from—Cody Whitmore raping you; that vicious attack in Green Valley; the emotional torment you suffered at the hands of Mini-Morton and the walking Moonshine Still.” Mini-Morton? Is that what he calls my mother? I have to cover my mouth to prevent the giggle as this is a very serious topic, but I can’t avoid the laughter that wants to escape. The prior solemn tone of the conversation is not far behind, though.

“My mother has worked for Helping Hands for many years,” he admits, “but it has never gotten the publicity it has since the PSA… and you. A lot more people—more volatile causes—are finding their way to the Center and I just can’t see you get caught in the crossfire. Just like with the accident, I didn’t know anything had happened to you until I saw you—and yes, people were fired for it. I was hotheaded and had my own lightening quick experience not twenty-four hours later, so they ended up getting their jobs back, but Lawrence is still on probation, because he didn’t handle the chain of communication correctly at all!”

I sit with my hands folded in my lap, waiting for him to finish. His back is hunched over like it was while he was sitting at the piano and I know he’s laboring through the previous burdens again.

“When Radcliff came to the Center all fired up and ready to take his wife and son, I was there. I could protect you had he stepped wrong—though I think Mom may have sent him to the hospital before I had the chance to react,” he laughs through his tears. “But when that big bitch put her hands on you… all those people there and nobody could stop her. There were upwards of five to seven GEH guards there and an active police report, and no one could keep that woman from hitting you so hard that the entire side of your face was swollen!” He’s grinding his teeth and hissing as he speaks.

“All of these precautions I have in place to protect you and someone was still able to get to you. Thank God it was nothing more than a slap as it could have been so much worse, but when these things happen, I don’t look at Jason or Chuck or Lawrence or Bronson or any of these people. I look at myself. failed you. couldn’t keep you safe. If I want you to change your habits or not do something that I think will jeopardize your safety, it’s only because I need to regroup and figure out what to do. My original plan wasn’t working… and you’re pregnant! You move slower and you don’t have all of the self-defense tactics in your arsenal that you normally have! Fairlane tried to hit me and I swerved right out of his way. I’m certain that under normal circumstances, you would have done the same thing with Monster Bitch… but the circumstances aren’t normal.”

He drops his head and finally the load appears to have lifted off his shoulders. He sighs heavily and finishes his thought.

“I know that I can’t lock you up or keep you at home or prevent you from doing what you want to do. I just want you to be safe. I need you to be safe.”

And he’s done. There’s nothing else to say. He has to know that he can’t protect me from everything, and for some reason, bad luck seems to follow me and I won’t let it stop me from living my life. Nonetheless, until these babies get here, my husband needs peace and sanity… and I need to cooperate. I have to give him what he needs so that he can keep his wits about him. He’s not asking too much, and he’s only asking because he loves me. I crawl over the bed behind him and rest on my knees. I gently stroke his hair again and he leans into my hand. His spirit calms a bit and I can feel the tension lifting.

“Lay with me,” I whisper as I caress his hair. He sighs and looks over his shoulder at me. I pull my nightshirt over my head and toss it on the floor, my body naked underneath. His gray eyes never leave mine as I remain kneeling naked behind him. He stands and removes his T-shirt and boxer briefs and I examine his silhouette in front of the crackling fire. He’s beautiful—masculine and vulnerable at the same time. I scoot back on the bed and lay on the pillows, holding my arms out to him.

“Lay with me,” I say again. He crawls into bed, both of us on top of the covers, and wraps his arms around me. I cradle his head in my arms and he kisses and fondles my bare stomach, almost like a child needing the closeness of his mother, but with the sensuality and need of a husband touching his wife and drinking in her essence. He kisses me several times for several minutes, caressing the henna on my stomach, smelling my scent, and occasionally sighing a soft moan of contentment until we both fall asleep.

*-*

I can’t tell what time it is when I open my eyes. I know that it’s Sunday morning and I can see just a small peak of sunshine in the sitting room. Christian and I didn’t move all night. His head is still cradled in breast and he’s wrapped around me like a vine. My leg is over his hips for maximum comfort and my fingers are still in his hair. I sigh heavily when I think about our conversation last night; how scared he must have been on the trip to the hospital after my accident and the agonizing days that followed, not knowing if I would ever wake up. His obsessive control-freak tendencies must be on very high alert after learning that someone got close enough to hit me. Not only that, but he found out after I got home from seeing the evidence on my face… after everything else that has already happened.

He stirs a bit in his sleep and with the slight movement, I feel his morning wood right between my legs at the magic spot. In this position, there’s nowhere else for it to go since there’s a whole lotta belly between us. Yet, he lays in a way such that he’s somewhat under my belly and our pelvises meet perfectly. If I move my hips just so, I get a delicious friction right at the opening of my vagina.

Mmmm, that feels good… and it’s making me very hot.

I lean down and kiss his forehead and his temple gently, running my fingers through his hair in an attempt to rouse him. He moans softly, but he’s so gone, it might take an earthquake to wake him.

I can improvise that.

I roll my hips to maximize the friction on his delicate head, attempting to get the angle to edge him a bit, but he has me pinned to his body and I can’t pull back far enough. I yearn to kiss him, but his head is down where his lips are brushing against my belly. The constant friction, however, is making me hotter and wetter and is making him grow.

“Mmm,” I moan quietly as he gets stiffer against my core. Apparently, this is one biological function that doesn’t need his coaxing. I’m working myself into a hot, drenched frenzy just with the head of his hardening shaft and apparently, the wetness gives way for the little soldier to find his way into the tunnel. I gasp as he slips inside me and either the gasp or the feeling of having his hard penis inside of a warm, wet vagina causes my husband to wake right up. His gray sleepy, searching eyes look up at mine and I gaze right back at him. Though I was temporarily shocked into stillness, I begin to move again, rolling my hips as much as I can on the head of his dick. His breath catches in his throat. His arms tighten around me and his fingers dig into my skin.

“Ana…” he breathes, not moving at first, gazing into my eyes as my core squeezes the head of his cock. My fingers tighten in his hair and I will him to give me more. I need more. He chokes out a gasp and pushes himself up on the bed—and up into me—so that he can tightly grip my ass and more easily reach my lips. I gasp hard in my chest as he fills me and just stays there, my hands now on his shoulders and my lips open, panting.

“You feel so good,” he whispers with his eyes now closed, his dick throbbing inside of me, my arms pinned between us. I almost can’t stand it.

“Love me,” I pant, “please…”

He pushes slowly into me, a delicious stroke from the side, my leg over his hip granting him uninhibited access to my wetness. My God, it’s like immediate fire! He pulls out just as slowly, almost to the head, and slides into me again—a delicious, slow, rhythmic glide, in and out, in and out, in and out. As the burn gets hotter, deeper, he grips my ass hard, pushing me into him almost violently each time he slides hotly into me, then releasing the grip as he pulls out. The feel of his fingers sinking almost painfully into my cheeks is pleasingly blinding. The entire time, he’s searing my lips and tongue with probing, lapping kisses to the degree that I can barely breathe.

The slow, torturous rhythm goes on forever, the burning and pleasure from the friction of him filling me becoming almost unbearable. With my arms pinned between us, I can’t pull his hair… I can’t move. I can only cup his face, now coated with a gloss of sweat from keeping this steady, burning pace that has us both on the brink of cosmic eruptions. His sensual sounds tell me that he won’t be able to hold much longer, but he won’t let go until I give in first. The slow stroke keeps me hanging right there on the edge for several minutes until my wordless whines beg him to put me out of my misery.

Holding my ass open and fondling my rosette with his long, skillful finger, he doesn’t change his rhythm, but the fire in me roars untamed and laps hard and hot at my rising passion. I hear sounds coming from me that I haven’t heard before—high-pitched moans with each stroke like the cries of a wounded animal weakly begging for help. I can’t stop them; I can’t control them. Each delicious stroke combined with his fingering my open ass and lavishing delicious kisses on my lips and tongue have me wound so tight and right at the breaking point until…

“Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhuhhhhhuuhhhhuhhhhuhhhh!”

I whine from my chest, the high-pitched cry bouncing off the walls of our bedroom, my lips still brushing against my husband’s as he holds me against him, my ass open, never changing his stroke.

“That’s it, Baby,” he croons, “Let me feel you come. Let me feel it… God, it feels so good around me…” He fights to maintain the rhythm as I ooze deliciously and hotly through my orgasm. He doesn’t change a thing, and the intensity is so fucking blinding that my muscles all lock around him… my legs, my hands, and of course, my pussy.

“Ah! Ah… A-na!” he chokes as I feel him holding me open and pulsing into me, his balls emptying their contents hot and hard.

We both lie there, stiff in orgasmic clutches, barely breathing as our juices mix. The room is filled with the sound of choking and panting once we have both finally finished our release after nearly forever. Once our breath has returned to us, only the sound of our tender kisses can be heard.


CHRISTIAN

I can honestly say I’ve never felt so fucking helpless in my life as I did last week. I only wanted to do what was best for my wife and family, but it seemed like I was only making things worse. I’m still in new territory here and I don’t know how to explain that to her. I love her so much and her safety is so important to me, but I’m beginning to sound like a broken record even to myself.

I found myself slipping back into that dismal depression I felt when I was a boy. I’m fully aware that you can’t have everything your way. Not even all the money in the world can make that happen, but when you’re doing everything in your power to do the right thing and something still goes wrong, you find that you have to adjust. At the risk of sounding crass, even insurance companies expect you to do everything in your power to protect a damaged asset from further loss after a catastrophe. This wasn’t a catastrophe and I wouldn’t say my Butterfly was “damaged,” but if I were to classify her as an asset, she is the most valuable thing with my name on it at this time and that bruise on her face was more than just a scratch! That crazy bitch paid no attention to the fact that she was hitting a pregnant woman! That thought still gives me the shivers.

All I know is that everything I did was met with resistance and coldness and isolation. That’s what I started to feel inside. No matter what I may say about assets, Butterfly is not a thing. She’s not a company to be bought or sold or an object to be placed on a shelf, put on display, and taken down when I want to play with it. She’s my wife; my life-mate, and when we don’t connect, it hurts. So yes, I found myself back in the same hopelessness I felt as a teenager and almost felt the need to reach out to John Flynn. It’s not that Dr. Baker isn’t helpful; it’s just that the need for the familiar was so overwhelming that it nearly took over my entire body and mind.

I don’t know what I said or did that finally got through to her, but I’m glad that it did because that’s a road I don’t ever want to travel again.

I go back to the dentist on Monday and I’m lucky that Fairlane’s punch didn’t connect. It was very likely that I would have had to get this fucking splint tightened again and if further damage had been caused, I may have had to wear it for another month. I would have sought that fucker out and knocked out a few of his teeth. Instead, the loose teeth have re-stabilized enough that the splint can come off and as long as I don’t get into any more prize fights, I should be fine.

Butterfly has been working from home and doing pretty well this week in keeping up with what’s going on at the Center without actually being there. Marilyn has giving me the cold shoulder since our talk last week and I’m not sure if I should confront her about her behavior or let sleeping dogs lie. After all, I made my point and to my knowledge, Butterfly wasn’t awakened that day until she was ready and although she was not a happy camper when I got home, it appeared that she didn’t go into Helping Hands either. As far as I can see, mission accomplished.

Chuck appears to be doing great in his physical therapy. This is good since it appears that he’ll be back on his feet by the time the babies are born—something that gives Butterfly great joy—not so good because we are all seeing the day when Keri will soon be going back to Anguilla. Having someone by your side during your worst time and then having them ripped away is not an event you easily get over. I think I see some therapy in Chuck’s future. We may want to talk to him about seeing Dr. Baker or Ace… or someone of his own choosing.

It most likely doesn’t help much that we put Nelson and Maddie on a plane back to South Dakota on Friday since his physical therapy has been going so well. He didn’t take it as hard as I expected. He says it’s because he doesn’t feel so alone now. He’s found his family and they are just a few states away. He can talk to them and see them anytime he wants to. Chuck says he caught a glimpse of Joe boarding the plane after Maddie and Nelson. Whether Joe saw Chuck or not, he doesn’t know, but Chuck just allowed him to board the plane and he and Keri left the airport without incident.

The following Monday, I see Radcliff again. It turns out that he was suffering some side effects from the contaminants in the house. Like Thelma and the baby, his symptoms became much better once he was out of the environment, but he still had to be treated for exposure to some things—oxygen treatments and a run of antibiotics. The color has returned to his skin, though, and he’s temporarily moved to a motel that he can afford while he looks for a suitable place for his family.

Pride is a strange thing. It can consume you and cause you to do some pretty dumb shit. This man not only put his family at risk by not only keeping them in a cold house with no food, but he wouldn’t allow anyone else to provide for them and as it turns out, the living conditions were inherently unsafe and potentially deadly. They truly could have died in that house—not in the abstract or in the long run… froze to death or starved to death. No, they were actively being exposed to toxins, including carbon monoxide. They really could have died in there!

I suddenly feel the urge to be near my wife. I close my laptop and take the elevator to the first floor where I know I’ll find her in the family room in her recliner. As it turns out, Dr. Culley would have put her on maternity leave anyway had I not done it a couple of weeks ago as it appears the babies have dropped and she’s having the worst time walking. Now, she’s restricted to our bedroom, the family room, and her office. I won’t even let her come to the dining room if she doesn’t have to and miraculously, she doesn’t argue with me. As walking and moving are extremely uncomfortable for her, sex is out of the question, so I’m working out every day and just making sure she’s as comfortable as possible. She’s just over 36 weeks and the doctor says that the babies can be safely born any day now, so we are officially on baby watch.

I dare not tell her that stomach appears to have gotten bigger in the last week or so.

“Hey, Butterfly,” I say as I join her in the family room.

“Hey, yourself. You’ve finished working?”

“Yeah, I think I’ve done enough for tonight.” I rub my eyes. “I may need to get some glasses for that computer. My eyes are getting tired.”

“Well, make sure it’s not just that you’re tired and have been looking at the screen too long,” she warns. “I wear mine sporadically these days and before you ask, it was even before the maternity leave, so my eyes must be getting better.” I shrug.

“Could be. It’s not impossible. What are you watching?”

Bicentennial Man,” she says, “one of those highly underrated movies that I love so much.”

“Robin Williams,” I say.

“Yeah,” she says. “Have you seen it?”

“No. I know of it, but that’s one of the ones that got by me,” I tell her. “How is Thelma and Jimmy Radcliff doing?” She raises her eyebrows at me.

“Fine,” she says. “Marilyn’s last update is that Thelma’s found a place for them and that James isn’t giving them a hard time about child support.”

“Is there any talk of visitation yet?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask.” I twist my lips.

“He came to my office again today.” She’s quiet and expecting. “He looks better. He’s taking meds for the symptoms he acquired from living in the house. He was able to go back to work with an explanation from the doctor about what was going on. He’s staying in a motel right now, something he can afford while he’s trying to save.” I scratch my head. I don’t know why I’m telling her this. I think she’d just as soon see the man jump off a bridge. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about him. “He’s no longer suicidal…”

“Suicidal?” she interrupts. “You never told me he was suicidal.” I frown.

“Didn’t I?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“No, you didn’t.”

“Oh. Yeah, he was. That’s why I got involved. That day he came to my office, he came to find out how Thelma and the baby were and to say goodbye.”

“Are you sure that wasn’t just a ploy, Christian?” she asks. I shrug.

“You’re the shrink,” I say. “If someone gives you an idea that they want to kill themselves, are you going to take it as just a ploy?” She nods.

“Duly noted. So what happened?”

“Nothing really. He was floundering when he first came in and before he left, he just told me to tell his wife and kid that he loved them if he didn’t see them again. I saw the same hopelessness in him that I…” I trail off.

“That what?” she asks. I never told her that I felt this way. I didn’t really know that I felt this way until I talked to Radcliff and saw it in him, but I had a purpose. I had my company.

“That what, Christian?” she presses.

“That I felt when you went to Montana,” I say quickly. I don’t look at her when I say it. I don’t want to see her face or the pity that I know I’ll find there.

“I didn’t know you felt that way,” she says softly.

“Neither did I,” I admit, still without looking at her, “not until I saw it in Radcliff when he left my office; heard it in his voice. She’s all he had—her and the baby. Then he had his job and they sent him home because he was sick and wasn’t sleeping… or eating… and living in a toxic waste dump. Anyway, I had my company… but I had already had one psychotic breakdown and I was well on my way to a second, so yeah… I saw it.” My voice goes down at the end and I hear her swallow hard.

“So… um… James… Radcliff…” She’s eager to get the topic off of me.

“Yeah, I’m not sure he would have had the strength to kill himself in the light of things, but hindsight being 20/20, I believe that he either would have gone back to that house and wasted away or gone to sleep and wouldn’t have woken up… you know, with the carbon monoxide…”

“Yeah, I know,” she says.

“You know he’s trying to find a place for them now,” I say. “The house is condemned. The land is worth nothing. I don’t even know if I should help him monetarily.”

“Why are you on the fence?” she asks.

“I don’t know if he deserves it,” I say. “I’m at a crossroads. They were our adopted family, but he was the direct cause of their calamity.”

“Do you think he’s not capable of change?” she asks. “That’s not a trick question. You’ve been around him more than I have. Thelma and that baby are my main concern.”

“I don’t know. Everybody is capable of change. Look at me.” I finally make eye contact with her. She’s frowning. “Ana, you know I was a different man when we met. Nonetheless, I can’t get past the fact that he allowed this to happen to his family. It was cruel and selfish to the highest degree, but for every sucker that I see get second chances… I mean, if I deserve a second chance, doesn’t he?” I run my hand through my hair. “I want him to deserve what I want to give him. I want him to earn it, but I don’t know how he can and I don’t know how to turn away a man who just wants to do right by his family even though he’s done wrong all this time…”

“I know you’re new to this, so I need you to listen to me,” she says. “You can’t take on their problems. You help where you can. You do what you can, and then you have to let the rest go.”

“He could be me, Ana…” I say, just above a whisper.

“He could never be you!” she retorts. “You would sell a body part before you would ever let me or the twins go without. So don’t ever compare yourself to him. I know you see your prior suffering in him, but he could never be you. On the other hand…” She cups my face in her hands. “He’s an asshole. I’ll give you that, but I know you. I know you have a way of making people work for what they get. Remember that he’s a very stubborn, very prideful man. While you can empathize with his plight, remember how much courage it takes to lay a lifetime of pride down and ask for help, and how much more it takes to actually accept it. Talking the talk is one thing; walking the walk is something altogether different, so try not to be too hard on him, only hard enough.”

Sometimes, her wisdom scares me, but that’s one of the reasons that I love her so much.

“Can I watch Bicentennial Man with you?” I ask. She smiles.

“Of course, but you might have to bring the ottoman over. The load has gotten wider in the last week or so.” I gasp. Did she just… “You’re sweet, Mr. Grey, but I’m carrying the load. I know it’s wider.” I smile at her and push the ottoman closer to her.

“Would you like some snacks or anything from the kitchen, Mrs. Grey.”

“No, I just want you.” I sit on the ottoman and put my arm around her in the recliner.

“I don’t care how wide the load gets, Mrs. Grey. I’ll love you forever.” I plant a longing kiss on her lips.


A/N: For those who may not know, Quasimodo is the Hunchback of Notre Dame. 

Christian’s maudlin playlist:
Nothing Like Us—Justin Bieber
Here Comes Goodbye—Rascal Flats
Sad Song for Broken Hearts
How Do You Heal a Broken Heart—Chris Walker
Where Do Broken Hearts Go—Whitney Houston
Didn’t we almost have it all—Whitney Houston
Isolation—Lucas King
Sad Piano Music—Lucas King
Gone—Lucas King

You can find the 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 54—Poking an Angry Bear

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

Chapter 54—Poking an Angry Bear

ANASTASIA

You could hear a rat piss on cotton right now. The whole world has gone silent and I see nothing but this Amazon bitch who just slapped the blood into my mouth. At least I think she slapped me. She could have hit me with a sledge hammer for all I know, it happened so fast. It fucking feels like it could have been a sledge hammer. That’s gonna leave a mark.

“Shit just got reeeeal,” Marilyn sings.

“I may be short, but this piece of steel makes me ten feet tall,” I say.

“That’s so…” she begins.

“I didn’t say you could speak!” I growl, and when I say growl, I mean literally growl. A demon’s voice comes out of my mouth. Her eyes sharpen. “I told you to leave and you didn’t, so you’re mine now, ‘cause you just bullied the wrong bitch.”

“Shoot her,” I hear Jack Jr., whisper.

“You hear that?” I tell her. “He’s the only reason your brains aren’t splattered all over that wall behind you and he wants me to shoot you. Sit down.”

“And if I don’t?” she taunts. As the “t” leaves her lips, I hit her in the head with the butt of the gun. She grunts loudly.

“Now we’re even! The next time it’ll be a bullet. Now sit down!” There goes the possessed voice again. “On the floor, on your hands, and don’t move!”

She can’t believe I’ve hit her. She first put her hand over her bruising temple then raises angry eyes to me.

“Don’t make me say it again,” I hiss menacingly.

“You might miss,” she hisses back.

“I don’t miss,” I retort. “Marine’s daughter, shooting since 12. Wanna try me?” I press the steel to her forehead again. She narrows her eyes and slowly glides to the floor. She’s graceful for an eight-foot, 400-pound bear. “Cross your legs, hands under your ass.” She crosses her legs and puts her hands under her thighs. Oh, no, bitch. I know that trick.

“I said under your ass. It’s as big as a fucking semi; I’m sure you can find it.” Her eyes narrow further and she moves her hands under her ass.

“Restrain him,” I tell the guards. “I know somebody has cuffs or something.”

“Zip ties, ma’am,” somebody says.

“Make it happen,” I say without taking my eyes off Le Amazon.

“Mrs. Grey, please stand down,” I hear some unfamiliar voice say. “We can subdue her.”

“You’re too late. She’s already subdued,” I say impassively. Get the fuck away from me. She never should have had the opportunity to hit me.

“Ana…” I hear Grace’s voice now.

“Grace, get the police back here and get Jack and his son to the dorms so that they can get a good night’s sleep… for a change,” I instruct her. Jack rises from the sofa and walks with his son towards Grace.

“See ya ‘round, Jack,” she says, spitting his name in a condescending manner.

“No, you won’t,” he says. She turns her gaze to him.

“You brave all of a sudden, Jack?” she jeers. Jack actually laughs.

“Look at you!” he chuckles. “She’s all of 5’4” and she’s got you sitting on the ground like a dog!” I’m actually 5’2”.

“She’s got a gun,” she says with disdain.

“And after this, so will I,” he says definitively. “You’re nothing but a walking, talking slab of meat and you’ve been bullying me and my son for years. Take your goddamn gorilla and get the fuck out of my life. I’m getting a restraining order against you tomorrow and if you come within 100 feet of me or my son, I’m going to fill you full o’ lead.”

I’m still looking at her and I don’t see Jack talking to her.

“Good night, Glenda,” I hear Jack Jr., say in a mocking tone. Glenda? Like the good witch, Glenda? Well, if that don’t beat all.

“Somebody get me a goddamn chair; I’m pregnant.”

*-*

It’s about 8pm when I get home. Marilyn wants to come in with me because she pretty much knows what’s in store for me and she doesn’t want me to face it alone. I send her home and tell her to meet me here tomorrow as I have a feeling we will be redoing my schedule.

“Grace, you’re going to have to do without me,” I say after the police cart Glenda Hyde and her driver away. She frowns.

“You mean for a while?” she asks. I shake my head.

“I mean, do without me,” I say. “Christian’s going to blow a gasket when he sees me. I’m certain he’s going to demand that I don’t deal with this anymore. I know him and I can’t blame him. I don’t necessarily agree with him, but I don’t blame him. If one thing—any one thing—had gone differently tonight, my babies could have been hurt; I could have been in jail… That woman had no fear. My daddy taught me to never pull my gun unless I intend to pull the trigger. Tonight, I actually thought that at some point, I was going to have to. She hit me so fast, I didn’t even see it coming! I don’t even know how she hit me. Was it open-handed or a fist? Was it a punch or a slap? Was it backhanded or front-handed? I have no idea. If this goes to court, all I’m going to be able to say is that she hit me. And she hit me hard enough to turn me from east to west!”

“That’s no reason to quit, Ana,” she says almost pleading.

“I know that and I’m not quitting, but my face hurts so badly that I don’t even want to see it. When he sees it, he’s going to make me sit down, and I’m not going to fight him.” She sighs.

“I need you, Ana,” she says. “We’re about to get our accreditation and licenses. The fact that we had a licensed mental health care professional in an executive position…  You can’t leave me.”

“John is going to have to come in more often and pick up some of the slack. He was going to have to do it anyway. I’ll do what I can from home. I won’t leave you high and dry—I promise, but after this, I’m getting grounded. We both already know it.”

“Are you ready to go, Mrs. Grey?” One of the unknown guards asks. I nod.

“Has anyone called Mr. Grey?” I ask. They all look at each other. “I’ll take that as a ‘no.’ Has anyone reported to Taylor?” The same blank looks. I sigh. “Well, that works out well for me. I’ll at least be able to get into the house and tell him what happened. Not so well for you guys though, because somebody’s getting fired.”

“Excuse me, Ma’am?” one of the guards say to me. Tread carefully, Ana.

“You guys did everything you could,” I tell them. “There were minimal casualties except for the face…” I gesture to my sore, swollen cheek. “Nobody left in a body bag. I say that’s a good night. But the boss’s wife is coming home with a shiner or close to it, and nobody told him. Do you see how this could be a problem?” They look at each other and then back at me.

“I’ll explain what happened,” I continue. “I’ll do my best. Everything moved so fast, but you guys know him… somebody’s going to pay. When he pulls you guys in, make sure your stories correlate. I’m already in trouble, so don’t try to spare me, but don’t make me the scapegoat either, because that’s going to piss him off more.” I sigh and they all look like they know they’re headed to the gallows. “Thank you all, really. I’ll make sure he knows you were on your game as much as you could be.” I turn to leave. Please don’t let there be any Robert Harrises in this group.

“Mrs. Grey?” I turn around and several of them are suddenly standing in a group. “It’s been a blast.” My heart hurts suddenly and my eyes burn. No Robert Harrises.

“I won’t let him fire you,” I say, “any of you. I’ll beg if I have to…”

So now, I’m walking in to face the firing squad. The shit that happens to me just doesn’t happen in real life. Nobody in the world goes through the shit that I go through. If I’m honest, I want to be quarantined for a while. Today was too much for my psyche. All I could think the entire time I was waving my gun at that bitch was that something was going to happen to my babies.

Windsor looks at me like an alien when I get in but says nothing, ultimate professional that he is. Yeah, I know it looks bad. I take a deep breath and go to the kitchen. Jason is there with his wife and she’s helping the staff get dinner ready. His eyes swell to the size of saucers.

“Fuck! What happened to your face?” he barks. I’m actually afraid to answer him. I’m stunned into silence. “Fuck! Fuck!” He starts pacing the floor.

“Ana, what happened?” Gail asks next while Ms. Solomon silently retrieves a chemical ice pack from the pantry and pops the center to activate it. I’m trying to tell them what’s going on but the words aren’t coming out of my mouth.

“Goddammit!” Jason pulls out his blackberry. “Where the fuck is Ben?” Oh shit, I forgot.

“He’s at the hospital with Thelma and Jimmy,” I tell him. “This wasn’t his fault.”

“Oh, I got an answer!” he shoots. “So can you tell me how this happened?” I try to say something again, but nothing comes out. I don’t know where to start. “Great—that means ‘long story.’ That means I should fucking know and I don’t! Fuck! Fuck!” He starts dialing his phone,

“Stop yelling at her, Jason!” Gail scolds.

“Oh, I’m just the warm-up!” Jason informs her. “The main event is down in his office, battling with his own monsters from today!” He turns back to his phone. “’Hi Jason.’ Don’t fucking ‘Hi Jason’ me! What the hell happened to her face?” He is mad. That means Christian is going to be furious and I’m not going to be able to save anybody’s job. I’ll be too busy trying to save my own ass.

“I gathered as much. Gimme the short version!” Jason is silent for about 30 seconds, then slowly turns incredulous eyes to me. A few seconds later, he covers his face with his hand before it pushes back to his hairline.

“Debrief tomorrow, 0800 at GEH Security Central. All of you need to be there. Prepare to grovel for your fucking jobs.” He ends the call. By now, I’ve broken eye-contact with him and put the ice pack on my face. I hear him sigh.

“Come on,” he says. “I’m not talking to him by myself.”

“Why do I feel like I’m talking to my father?”

“I don’t know how else to handle this right now,” he says, “but we need to go downstairs because the longer we wait, the worse it’ll be.” I sigh and follow Jason to the firing squad.

Christian’s face turns stark white and his eyes are slate gray and accusing… angry? I don’t know, but I feel like I’m twelve.

“What in God’s name happened to your face?” he asks. He turns to Jason.

“Disgruntled spouse,” he says. Christian glares at him, then back at me.

“Somebody hit you?” he asks, appalled. I nod. I think she hit me. I didn’t see it coming.

“I need some answers. They’re not coming fast enough,” Christian demands. “Some abusive husband hit my wife. I need to know what’s going on.”

“It was a woman,” I say meekly.

They’re both stunned into silence and turn slowly to look at me.

“A woman did this?” Jason asks.

“No, a man with a pussy did this!” I hiss. “She was seven fucking feet tall! I feel like she hit me with a sack of rocks!”

“How many times did she hit you?” Christian asks.

“Once! That was enough. She spun me around on my feet.”

“What the fuck was security doing?” he asks.

“Subduing her seven-foot boyfriend,” I declare. Christian scoffs.

“This is a goddamn horror movie!” he says, flailing his hands in the air. “This shit doesn’t happen in real life!” My sentiments exactly. “Wait a minute. I thought you said this was a disgruntled spouse…”

“It was,” I say.

“So how could she be there with her boyfriend?”

“Hell if I know!” I retort. “Glenda Hyde. She comes from money somewhere and she’s a fucking bully. Beats her husband and stepson. Stepson—13—shows up this morning, beaten all to hell and dirty from living on the street since I don’t remember how long. The  father shows up after a hit on Missing Persons with a burn straight across his body like a sash. I swear to God; it looks like my brand—oozing and festering.” I shiver at the thought of it. “We call the police. We make a report. As soon as they leave, she shows up with her boyfriend. The semantics of their relationship are irrelevant here. All you need to know is when we told her to leave, she hit me. It was lightning fast—nobody saw it coming or had time to react. She didn’t escalate or anything. She just laughed and hit me. By the time it was all over, security had restrained her boyfriend and she was about to eat my Beretta!”

“What?” Christian barks. “Did you shoot her?”

“No,” I reply.

“Too bad,” Jason says. I roll my eyes at him.

“So why didn’t you tell me about this?” Christian asks Jason.

“Because I just found out,” he replies.

“How is that possible? I thought you guys had a protocol when something happens to her.”

“We do, but Ben is still at the hospital with Ms. Radcliff.”

“Who was second on the communication tree?” Christian asks.

“I don’t know. I’d have to ask Ben.”

“Ben probably didn’t tell anybody,” I tell them. “I made him chase Thelma so that she wouldn’t get on the bus with the baby. I emailed this to you,” I say to Christian.

“So this is Ben’s fault…” Jason says.

“No, this is nobody’s fault!” I snap. “It’s my fault, okay? I should have left the Amazon woman alone! I should have let the police handle it.” I drop the ice pack on the desk in my frustration and realize a moment too late that it was the wrong thing to do because Christian now gets a good look at my face. He just stares at me for a minute.

What? Are there little people running out of my face?

I put the ice pack back on my cheek. It turns out the hit got nowhere near my eye, but she blew my cheek the fuck out.

“You said she came from money. Where do they live?” Just like that, Christian has slipped into business mode. Not sure I like how easily it came just then.

“Um… Redmond.”

“Okay, not that much money, but money. What was her name again?”

“Glenda Hyde.” He shakes his head.

“Not ringing any bells.” I pull out my phone.

“Marilyn got a picture of her and her henchman. We knew you’d want to put them on the ‘list.’” I open the gallery and show him the picture. He examines it for a moment.

“Somebody married her?” he exclaims. Well, that’s a bit unkind. “That’s Glenda Shetland. We used to call her Monster Bitch. You got into it with Monster Bitch?”

“More like Glenda Clydesdale. You know her?”

“Everybody knows her. She was constantly victimizing kids smaller than her. Now she’s taken it into adulthood, huh?”

“In the most brutal way,” I say. Christian hands me back my phone.

“I need to talk to my wife alone,” he tells Jason. Here it comes.

“Debrief at 0800 tomorrow,” Jason says.

“Yeah, okay.” Jason leaves and closes the door behind him. Christian walks back to the front of his desk and sits down in front of me. He touches all five fingertips to the other hands and ponders for a minute or two… too long. I don’t speak while he thinks. I need to let him come to whatever conclusion he’s going to come to without my input. An eternity later, he looks up at me.

“I’ve made an executive decision,” he says.

“I figured you would,” I reply. He looks at me and there’s a glint of displeasure in his eyes.

“You are officially on maternity leave,” he says. I raise my eyes to him.

“Maternity leave?”

“Yes. You have disgruntled spouses, abusive fathers coming in there that you have to deal with. You’re the first point of contact and you have to deal with this shit head on. You’re putting yourself at imminent physical risk as well as our babies. I try not to be unreasonable because I know that you can take care of yourself, but you are a month from your due date which means that those babies can come any day now and you have to watch your blood pressure. I don’t see how shoving a gun down Monster Bitch’s throat facilitates that, Anastasia.”

He’s firm on what he’s saying and his biggest bargaining chip are the babies, which I knew it would because it has to be.

“I’m officially taking you off of your duties as assistant director of Helping Hands until after the babies are born and you are released by your doctor to return to work. If you fight me on this, Ana, I’m going to call Dr. Culley. We just got back from a goddamn babymoon. All that rest and relaxation undone in one afternoon.” I sigh.

“I won’t fight you on it, Christian,” I say softly. His brow furrows.

“You won’t?” he asks. “You agree?”

“I didn’t say I agree. I said I won’t fight you on it.” He sighs infinitesimally.

“Good, because I was dealing with one of those disgruntled spouses today, which is how I found out about Radcliff’s house. But I have to tell you about it later, because I have to process all this stuff.” He falls back into his chair and says nothing else. I’m assuming I’m dismissed. I stand up, take my ice pack, and walk silently out of Christian’s office.

It didn’t go as badly as I thought it would. I thought he would tell me that I can’t work at Helping Hands at all. He just put me on mandatory maternity leave.

Mandatory maternity leave.

It’s kind of what I wanted, so why do I want to cry?

I take the elevator upstairs to the second floor and go to our bedroom. I don’t turn on any lights. I just lay in the bed with my ice pack. I’m sick of this thing now. Nobody’s going to see me anyway. I take it off my face and put it on the nightstand. I put my arms around my babies and imagine that I can feel the henna on my stomach. Once I’m comfortable, I can feel the tears burning in my eyes and I just let them fall. These are cleansing tears. I’m crying because Christian forced me into maternity leave, because I wanted him to force me into maternity leave and because I didn’t want him to force me into maternity leave. I’m crying because of what happened to Jack and his son, and because I was scared shitless when I was pointing that gun at that Amazon cow. I just cry and cry and cry, rubbing my henna until I fall asleep.

*-*

My head hurts.

My scar is throbbing; my face is throbbing; my head is killing me.

I went to bed without dinner last night. I slept straight through. I have no idea what time it is, but the sun shining through windows that normally don’t allow light in lets me know that it’s definitely after 8:00 and I definitely slept more that twelve hours. I feel like I’ve got a hangover.

Yeah, that would probably be because an Amazon bitch tried to kill us yesterday and we went to sleep without eating anything.
Do you have anything constructive to say? Anything?
Go take a shower and get some food. There may be some pain killers in your future, too.

Yeah, that’s productive, I guess.

My head weighs a ton. My head weighs a ton. My head weighs a ton. Did I mention that my head weighs a ton? I’m barely able to roll over and see a small tray on the nightstand.

Fruit salad, cottage cheese, orange juice, two Tylenol, what appears to be Gail’s famous tea bags… and a single red rose.

Did he come to bed last night?

I eat the fruit and cheese offering and take the Tylenol with the orange juice. Hopefully, they’ll kick in by the time I get out of the shower…

Somewhere around ten o’clock or so, I make it down to my office. Marilyn has to be here by now. I drag my ass into my office and it’s empty. No Marilyn. Oh, well. I don’t know what was on the agenda for today anyway. I sit down at my desk and lay my head down, the tea flat on the side of my face. I’m lying there for a few minutes when I hear a familiar voice.

“Wow, you look like you’ve had a rough night.”

She’s here after all. Did she just get here?

“Thanks,” I say with no malice. “How long have you been here?”

“A while,” she says, setting her laptop on my desk and pulling a chair up across from me. She just sits there expecting.

“What?” I ask a bit sluggishly. I think I got too much sleep.

“I know that the last few days have been pretty harrowing for you, and by no means am I trying to make it any worse, but I need to talk to you about something.”

“What’s up?” I lift my head.

“Have you found occasion to call Andrea and make a request of her?” My brow furrows.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I say.

“You know, like giving Christian a message or locate Christian for you or maybe even to remind him of the appointment or pencil something in on his calendar… Any little thing that you requested of her or maybe of Luma.” I pause.

“I’ve rarely had occasion to request anything from Andrea or Luma,” I tell her. “Maybe to locate Christian or give him a message, yeah, I’ve probably done that.”

“But you’ve never outright ordered them to do something or not to do something…” I frown.

“Of course not!” I declare. “Why would I do something like that?”

“Then would it be too much to ask for you to tell your husband to extend the same courtesy to me?” she beseeches. “I realize that he’s got a lot on his plate ruling the world and everything, but I’m never rude or belligerent to him, and I would appreciate if he would extend that same respect to me that I extend to him!”

Oh, hell.

“What did he say?” I lament. I wait for her response, but none comes. Apparently what I said or how I said it causes her to rethink her tactic. After a long silence, I look up at her and see sympathy in her eyes. It almost makes me cry.

“What did he say?” I repeat, trying to overcome the pitiful look she has in her eyes towards me right now.

“He was just really rude, Ana,” she says. “I knew there would be some kind of laying down of the law after what happened yesterday, but he had no right to speak to me the way that he did when I walked into the house this morning. He barked orders at me like I was the janitor at GEH, telling me not to bother you and to leave you alone until you woke up; telling me not to give you any kind of tasks that required you to go to Helping Hands; demanding that I change your schedule and remove any appointments that involve going to the Center. It was like I work for him, not you. If that’s the case, then I think I should tender my resignation, because I can’t work for him.”

I shake my head. I can barely fight my own battles with Christian. I can’t fight anybody else’s.

“You don’t work for Christian. You work for me. And when he gets like that with you, you have my full permission to give it right back to him. I don’t condone him treating everybody like they’re at his beck and call, like they’re peons in his little world, and I won’t stand by and let him treat you that way either. But to be honest with you, I don’t have the strength to fight him. If he treats you like less than a human being, give it right back!” Her eyes widen.

“Really?” she says surprised. “You won’t be mad?”

“Honestly, I’d welcome it,” I tell her. “I have no problem whatsoever with Christian exercising his authority where his authority should reach. I do have a problem with him thinking his authority should reach everywhere! That’s just not the case, and I just can’t clean up the mess every time he does something like this. So yes, if he disrespects you, give it right back. Let him know you’re not going to accept it. I don’t have a problem with it.” She sighs.

“Thank you, Ana,” she says. “The only reason he treats me that way is because I won’t say anything back. And the only reason I won’t say anything back is because of you. You know I won’t go overboard, but I just want the right to defend myself. You’re sure it won’t cause you any problems?”

“If he says anything to me about it, I’m going to tell him to take it up with you and he can’t fire you because you don’t work for him, just like I can’t fire Andrea.”

“He was all haughty, saying that you wouldn’t be going into the Center for a while and that you would confirm that when you woke up.” She opens her laptop.

“Well, he’s right about that,” I tell her. “I’ve been placed on early maternity leave until after the babies are born.” She frowns. “What?”

“I guess I’m a little confused,” she says.

“About what?”

“His orders were specific… no Helping Hands—well, at least no going to Helping Hands…”

“Yes?”

“So, this is the referendum until after the babies are born,” she continues.

“Until after Dr. Culley releases me to return to work, yes,” I confirm. She shakes her head, still frowning. “What is it?”

“It’s going to cause a problem if I say it, Ana,” she warns.

“It’s going to cause a problem if you don’t,” I retort. She folds her hands.

“What’s going to be different after Dr. Culley releases you than right now? What’s so different with the situation right now that won’t be so in two months?”

“I won’t be pregnant!” I state obviously.

“Exactly!” she declares. “Did he say why he didn’t want you going to the Center? Was it because Goon Girl hit you? Was it because of the danger? Was it because of the stress?”

“I would think it was because of the stress,” I say.

“But he didn’t say specifically,” she retorts. She’s right, he didn’t say. “Remember that you told me to tell you this. I wanted to keep it to myself.”

“Go ahead,” I say, anxious to see where she’s going.

“We all know that your husband is the ultimate control freak. I expected some kind of demand to be handed down in terms of this situation, but not this. I expected maybe for him to tell you cut back, but I didn’t expect for him to tell you to stop altogether, and I certainly didn’t expect you to agree to it. People depend on you, Grace most of all! The Center is about to get its accreditation. You implemented most of the programs and put the plans in place to make that happen. You did all the work; you know all the moving parts and now, you’re just going to drop it and run—right when it’s about to come to fruition.” Her voice is drenched with stunned awe and disappointment.

“I think my biggest confusion lies in the fact that whatever dangers are facing you now will still be facing you after you have the babies. So what’s the thrust here?” I narrow my eyes.

“What are you getting at?” I demand.

“Do you really need me to say it?” she asks.

“Yes, I need you to say it!” She shakes her head.

“No,” she says. “No, you talk to your husband. You find why he says you can’t finish what you started at Helping Hands. You already know what I’m thinking and I’m not going to verbalize it because you mean too much to me and I’m not going to risk this relationship. If he has your best interests at heart, then so be it, because in the end, that’s really all I care about. But that’s going to be a discussion that the two of you have, not the two of us! If you’re going to accept his demands, no questions asked, then it’s none of my business—which is what I implied in the first place—and all I need you to do is tell me what my next instructions are. A lot of your life revolved around Helping Hands, but not all of it, so we’ve got other things we can talk about.” I sigh. That was a Marilyn Caldwell dismissal. When and if she’s ever ready to tell me exactly what she was getting at, she will. In the meantime, it’s a closed subject.

“Okay, so what’s next?” I say, almost dreading the question.

“Well, as far as I know, His Majesty was doing the background checks on the potential Broadmoor sponsors. I don’t know how that has turned out yet, so I’m sure he’ll talk to you about it. With your permission, they’ve narrowed the choices down to two couples. I guess we’ll have to wait to see what comes up.” She hands me her iPad and I review the information on the two couples. Nothing stands out immediately about either of them. The names don’t ring any bells. I shrug.

“I guess I’ll just have to wait until Christian tells me if there’s anything to be concerned about.”

“Speaking of which, what’s the verdict with the rest of the goods for the Radcliffs?” she asks. I frown.

“The verdict?” I ask. “In what sense?”

“I’ve done the inventory,” she says. “What do we plan to do with the rest of the stuff?”

“Why did you do an inventory?”

“Christian…” She trails off. “You don’t know what I’m talking about.” I shake my head. “Oh, hell. This day just keeps getting better and better. Yesterday, Christian asked me to do an inventory of the things that you two had planned to give the Radcliffs—whatever you hadn’t given to Thelma yet. He said he was going to talk to you about it and apparently, he hasn’t talked to you, yet.” I twist my lips. He did mention it, but we never finished talking about it.

“Probably sidetracked by the events at the Center,” I say non-committal. “I’ll ask him about it if he doesn’t bring it up… If I remember.”

“And what should I tell the three news outlets who have contacted me this morning about a statement concerning your holding an unarmed woman at gunpoint last night?” she asks matter-of-factly. I am remarkably unmoved by her revelation.

“Turn that over to His Highness and Vee at GEH and let them handle it,” I say.


CHRISTIAN

Have you ever had one of those days where no matter what you do, your thoughts are determined to run completely amuck and no matter how hard you try, you can’t string two of them together to save your life? That’s what’s happening to me today. I’ve got a business to run, but I’d do better to put a sign on my door that says “gone fishing.”

Where do I start?

Talking to Marilyn was a stellar moment this morning. I can just hear her now whining to Ana about professional courtesy and talking to her like a subordinate. I guess she’s forgotten who bought her that shiny new car she’s driving. I know I haven’t heard the last of that conversation.

Fast forward to the debriefing with the stooges this morning on my so-called security staff. I won’t begin to describe my horror as I listened to the details surrounding the assault on my very pregnant wife. It turns out Butterfly slugged her back with the butt of her gun and held her there until the police arrived. She could have been arrested for assault herself, but the previous police report, her badly swollen face, and the commanding size of Gorilla Girl over her all constituted self-defense along with the many eyewitnesses to the incident.

All of these idiots have been temporarily suspended with pay for being such incompetent idiots and allowing this beast to get to my wife in the first place, except for Bronson. It turns out that he really can’t cut it and I had to let him go. Lawrence has been placed on disciplinary probation for not following protocol and passing the communications torch when he took Thelma and Jimmy to the hospital. I don’t care if it was an emergency and he was in a hurry. The moment there was a crisis, Helping Hands should have been swarming with GEH security detail, and I certainly should have known that my wife was assaulted before she showed up at home with a purple face.

I simultaneously get hit with the information that news outlets are circulating that Butterfly pulled her Beretta on Shetland last night and that the Fairlanes are in the lobby kicking up enough dust to cause a sandstorm. I decide to let the Father and Son Fairlane stew for a moment while I handle the media mess that is Shetland.

“I assume you already have contact information for one Mrs. Glenda Shetland-Hyde?” I say to my head of PR.

“Have we met?” she says, handing me a document across my desk and crossing her legs. I open my phone and dial her number. “Christian! You’re calling her?” I just glare at her.

“Glenda Shetland, please.” I say when there’s an answer on the other line.

“May I say who’s calling?”

“Vince Fields from Seattle Sez. I was wondering if she wants to make a statement about the domestic abuse charges against her.”

“One moment…” and there’s silence.

“Christian, this is not a good idea!” McIntyre hisses. I ignore her and wait for this Neanderthal cunt to get on the phone.

“This is Glenda Shetland,” she says on the other line.

“Is this really how you want to play this, Monster Bitch?” More silence.

“Who the fuck is this?” she barks.

“Christian Grey,” I respond.

“Christian Grey… what the hell do… Grey… Grey!”

“Yeah, Grey! That sawed-off doll that you viciously slapped last night and now claims that she pulled her gun on you for no reason was my very pregnant wife!” I hiss.

“Oh, really?” she says. “Well, she did pull her gun on me and I was unarmed.”

“You’re also twice her size and had just beaten your husband and stepson to the point where you were wanted for several counts of domestic assault and one count of assault with intent to maim, you Cro-Magnon cavebitch!” She gasps.

“You are so crass!” she seethes.

“Oh, you can’t be serious!” I shoot. “You’ve been a bully ever since we were kids and you still haven’t grown out of it. You’ve just gotten older and bigger, and now, you’ve picked the wrong one to fuck with.”

“Oh, I’m not worried,” she retorts. “My father will deal with you.”

“Your father,” I nearly laugh in her ear. “Tell your father to call me directly as soon as possible and let me know personally how he plans to deal with me. Make sure you leave nothing out. I’ll be waiting for his call.” I end the call.

“Her father,” McIntyre says.

“That’s what she said.”

“What about her father?”

“Her father’s going to deal with me,” I reply, folding my hands on my desk.

“Her father,” McIntyre repeats, “her father as in Mark Shetland? As in Shetland Rubber Mark Shetland?”

“One and the same,” I respond.

“Oh, this should be good,” she chuckles.

“Still think it wasn’t a good idea?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“You enjoy this shit entirely too much,” she says. “What about Fairlane? That’s going to be a PR nightmare.”

“Do what you can. You know what happened at the Meet-and-Greet. Since the word is obviously out, start spreading our own poison-pill damage control.”

“You got it,” she says, standing and walking to the door. I pick up the phone and dial the extension to Legal.

“Allen Forsythe.”

“The Fairlanes are here,” I tell him.

“I’ll be right there.”

*-*

“What the fuck is this, Grey!?” Fairlane Jr., has burst into my office with Jason hot on his heels and his father following meekly not far behind. He is fuming, breathing like a bull. Al sits silently to my immediate right and my eyes are pinned to the computer like I’m engrossed in the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen.

“To what are you referring, George?” I say calmly, without lifting my eyes from the computer screen.

“You know what I’m talking about you piece of shit!” he shoots. “Fairlane Electronics sold to Rosedale, Inc; Fairlane Shipping sold to Aarland Freight; Fairlane Manufacturing sold to Lansing LTD; There’s nothing left but Fairlane Communications, and only a fraction of that! Our people are being laid off left and right! You promised only one-third staff reduction by the end of the first quarter—Fairlane has lost more than 75% of its original staff in less than two weeks! You broke our deal, Grey! We’re going to sue those designer pants right off your ass!” I look up at him unmoved, then at his father, who has stayed decidedly quiet all this time.

“Nothing to say, Fairlane?” I ask Fairlane, Sr., noting that he won’t make eye-contact. This only throws fuel on Junior’s fire.

“Don’t you fucking ignore me, you scheming son of a bitch!” he spits.

“Scheming,” I say, turning my gaze back to Junior and folding my hands. “Now there’s a good word. Tell me, George, how was my behavior scheming? I legitimately bought a company and I legitimately sold it, which I never said I wouldn’t do.”

“Stop calling me George, you slimy bastard! This wasn’t part of the deal and you know it!”

“Deal,” I say as if testing the word out. I type the word into Google and read back the definition. “’An agreement entered into by two or more parties for their mutual benefit.’ Mutual benefit… you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you, Georgie?”

“I didn’t come here for a goddamn English lesson, you fucking snake! You broke your word! Your breached your contract! I’m going to sue you until Grey Enterprises is nothing but a goddamn memory!”

“You can’t sue me, because I was never dealing with you in the sale of the company in the first place. You advised your father, but when it came to signing, you only signed that you would come along for the ride as the president.”

“I’m told I’m not the president anymore!” he barks. “So that contract has been breached all by itself.” I shake my head and turn to Fairlane.

“You had this man as the president of your company and he doesn’t know anything about business?” and clearly, neither do you. He stands silent. I turn to George.

“Any idea why your father’s so quiet, George?” I ask flatly. I already know the answer.

“It’s Mr. Fairlane, you fucking asshole! And I’m doing all the goddamn talking!” He slams his hand hard down on my desk. Jason and Williams are hot on him with that show of aggression. Jason not-so-gingerly pushes George back from my desk. George glares at him with death in his eyes.

“You might not want to provoke that bear too much, Fairlane,” I warn, putting mocking emphasis on the name. “He took a bullet for me last year… in this very room. Any signs of aggression towards me or him are seen as overt threats and will be met with as much force as necessary.” Fairlane breaks his glare with Jason and turns narrowed eyes to me.

“Someone tried to kill me in this office last March,” I say, standing up. “Walked right in with a group of workmen and lay in wait until I was alone. Aimed a stolen gun at me and fired. That man dove in front of me, knocking me out of harm’s way and taking the bullet himself. My wife—that beautiful woman that was ridiculed and ostracized all night by your wives, dates, and female employees at the Meet-and-Greet—witnessed the whole damn thing.”

His eyes widen and Fairlane Sr., finally makes eye contact with me. I don’t know if their surprise is because Butterfly witnessed the whole ordeal or because I’ve let the cat out of the bag that I know what their women were doing. My expression remains impassive.

“That speech she gave about scars? You can inform your coven that although they tried to leave her with another one, they were unsuccessful. As you all can imagine, I took very good care of her, but I can guarantee that a lot of them are nursing wounds that aren’t going to heal anytime soon.”

“You did all this because someone at a party hurt the little woman’s feelings?” Now he’s just egging me, but it’s too late for that.

“No,” I say coolly. “You did this to yourselves. I’m doing what I’m doing because you and your father are ignorant assholes. I’m doing what I’m doing because what you two attempted was really stupid; more than that, it was disrespectful. It was bad business in every way, shape, and form. You sold me an apple—plucked from the tree with maybe a bruise here and there, but still functional. Then the moment you signed the papers, you shot that bitch full of infectious bacteria and then handed it to me like it was some sort of prize. When I took it, maggots crawled out all over me and my wife, and you expected me to take that shit lying down. But you didn’t know that you were dealing with a bigger cutthroat than you. I’ve got proof, Fairlane, including but not limited to that memo you sent out to your department heads the day you signed the deal.”

Both men pale and George isn’t standing so tall against Jason anymore. I tell security to stand by and they move to the side.

“Sit down,” I order. Fairlane sits, but George remains defiant.

“I don’t work for you,” he growls. “I’m not president of the company anymore, remember?” I fold my arms and smile.

“You’re right, you’re not, but you do still work for me. You’re an employee of GEH as an executive of Fairlane LTD—a company that doesn’t exist anymore. I sold the company, but you didn’t go along with the package. You should have read your contract, Georgie. You signed separately with GEH, because I knew you were going to be a problem. If you decide to break your contract, I could sue you for a penny and still break you on punitive damages—especially after I prove what you and your father did to the company you sold me after you sold it to me. You tainted the assets after I bought it.

“So go ahead and try to go nose to nose with me on this and see if any judge in the country would see it your way, but know that I will sue you for every dime GEH gave you—your expense accounts, your salary, and that hefty signing bonus. That’s a lot of money to have accumulated in such a short period of time, and don’t think I haven’t kept an eye on your spending. And once again, if you look closely at your contract, Georgie, once your position becomes obsolete—which it has—I can put you in any available position for any pay I so choose. Oh, yes, you would still have to be at an executive-type level, but I can find many ways to make that unattractive and uncomfortable, the least of which is money. I and my wife are the only officers of this company, so I can’t even be voted out.

“Your ass is mine, kid, and you are beyond being on ‘tenterhooks’ right now. So if I were you, I would tread really lightly with me at this moment and sit. The fuck. Down.”

Georgie glares at me and slowly—very slowly—sits down in the seat next to his father. I walk around and stand in front of my desk.

“Since day one, I’ve been trying to warn you that you’re in the big leagues, now—that you have no idea who you’re dealing with. You still had to show me that your bat was bigger. You rebutted me and fought me every chance you got. You two employed some of the most elementary tactics I’ve ever seen the entire time I’ve been in the business. Never mind that you were trying to pull several over on me. It was insulting that you would employ such amateur techniques with any hope of getting away with them. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so goddamn pathetic. Now, you come marching into my office like you still have a bone to pick with me when you never realized in the first place that you may have carried a big stick, but you were too small to swing it.”

Both gentlemen sit quietly in front of me, Fairlane with his legs and hands crossed, looking anywhere but at me, and Georgie breathing fire and no doubt plotting my demise.

“You want to know the real reason why your father’s so quiet, Georgie? The real reason? Because he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. He knows that I can sue you and your family for what you did to me and get every dime of my purchase price back either in judgements, damages, and legal fees, or in just keeping you in litigation for the rest of your life. I haven’t completely disregarded that option, but I’ve made so much money off the garage sale that was your life’s work that the sting isn’t so bad anymore. I nearly made my purchase price back on your electronics division alone.

“What’s so sad is that I had every intention of rebuilding your company. That’s what I do… I take sick companies and I make them well again. The only ones that I sell are the ones that are dying… Or the ones where the chief officers really piss me off. But you know what? If you really sit down and talk to your father and he really tells you the truth, he would tell you that he got exactly what he wanted, didn’t you, Mr. Fairlane?” He looks up at me with a panicked look in his eye. I’m about to reveal something to his son that he doesn’t want him to know.

“Something wrong, Mr. Fairlane,” I ask. “You suddenly don’t look well.”

“Um… no… um…” he stutters. I continue.

“You see, his only concern was that he never wanted his company in the hands of GEH, but I was giving you the best deal. So when he convinced you and the rest of your lemmings to make the company as unattractive to me as possible the day that he sold it to me, he wasn’t banking on the fact that I’d chop it up and sell it off like pieces of the Berlin Wall. He wasn’t expecting that each division would lose 75% of their workforce in a matter of weeks, because your retention agreement was with me, not with those companies that bought the divisions from me.

“I had no demands, just a purchase price, and no company like redundancies or unnecessary staff.  I went to the highest offering the best prices in the industry, many of them known for massive staff reductions upon acquisition—companies, in fact, that I saw you purposefully avoided—and unlike you, I made full disclosure of the staff that they were getting when they purchased the divisions.

“Most of all, Georgie, your father didn’t expect to find you out of work. He was hoping I would ship you off with the company. So, yes, he got exactly what he wanted. He’s sitting on a nice mountain of Grey money, and his once-failing, now-defunct company is not in the hands of Grey Enterprises. But now, he has to look at and live with all the casualties and opportunity costs of his decisions. I got that about right, Fairlane? Did I leave anything out?”

Fairlane is looking a little pale and breaking into a sweat now , but his son is too busy blaming me for their current state of affairs to see it.

“Don’t try to turn this around on my father, Grey,” he says with vicious coolness. “You dealt dirty business; just own up to it.”

“Dirty business,” I say, shaking my head. “Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black? I guess you can swing that big stick after all, because you’re batting a thousand, but it’s all bullshit. Exactly how much of the purchase price did you get, Georgie?”

George suddenly falls quiet. And in that moment, it hits me, like a freight train. Suddenly, I am overwhelmed with delight that I must contain until I confirm what I just discovered.

“You didn’t get any of it, did you?” I say incredulously. His stone expression tells me all I need to know. “Oh my God. This is classic. You have no idea, do you? You’re just a natural born asshole. You weren’t part of the plan at all!” The glee bubbles up in me and I can’t contain it. In all the years I’ve been in business, I’ve never seen anything like this before. “Gentlemen,” I gesture to my security. “You might want to flank this man, because he’s about to get pissed.”

“Grey…” And that’s the only voluntary word Fairlane Sr., has spoken since he walked into my office.

“Oh, no, you played your cards, and now it’s my turn.” I turn back to George. “Your father isn’t protesting enough because once he saw that his company was failing, he set it up for martyrdom and you were the virgin sacrifice.”

“What!?” George barks. “What kind of fucking bullshit are you spitting now?”

“Earlier, when I mentioned your coven and that memo… On the day of the sale, your father sent a detailed memo to every department head, manager, and executive in the company to be communicated to the employees—except you, it appears. They all had a mission—make Fairlane LTD look as undesirable as possible, up to and including destroying my wife at the Meet-and-Greet. You didn’t need the memo because you’re an asshole anyway, so he was just counting on you being yourself.

“They almost succeeded, but they didn’t expect for my wife to be as strong as she is or for me to put her happiness before the dollar and negate their attempts. Nonetheless, overall, his tactic worked—too well. He didn’t expect me to sell off the pieces. He expected me to see what a lemon I bought and unload it as soon as possible. Had I done that and kept the company intact, then he would have had some small hope of maintaining a piece of the original contract with the new buyers, including securing a place for you. What he didn’t know was that after that very well-positioned display by you and your cohorts, my rummage was underway before the ink was even dry registering Fairlane LTD as a GEH subsidiary.”

At that moment, I burst out in hearty laughter. I can’t even contain myself anymore.

“My God, this couldn’t have gone better had I planned it this way!” I exclaim jovially. “You assholes stepped knee-deep down into your own shit, and you come barging into my office further making a fool of yourself because you had no idea what he was doing,” I tell Georgie, gesturing to his father. “You wonder why I was giving you English lessons; it’s because I was sure that you were being facetious… sarcastic at best. No, you were clueless, which is way better,” I snicker. “So every time you mention dirty dealing and breach of contract and slimy business practices, you better look in the mirror… or better yet, look over at Daddy!”

I can hear his teeth grinding a few feet in front of me and being able to judge body language like I can, the moment his fists clench, I know what’s coming. I don’t have the chance to say anything, I only have time to react—right cross. I swerve just in time to miss his swing and come back with a solid left to his gut. He doubles over in pain and his father leaps from his seat to his son’s aid. I sort of feel a little remiss about suspending the guards over last night’s incident now, especially if Monster Bitch moved half as fast as this asshole did just now.

Jason and Williams are on top of him immediately, but it’s too late. He can’t even breathe.

“What was that for, Georgie?” I hiss. “Can’t stand the truth?”

“D—Dad,” he coughs, “tell ‘im… tell ‘im… it’s a lie.”

“George, I’m… I’m sorry,” Fairlane says. “Junior lifts horrified eyes to his father, still doubled over in pain.

“D—Dad…” he says, his voice broken, “no…”

“I thought I could fix it, George,” Fairlane says. “Even after the price cut, he had the best deal… the best!”

“Dad!” Junior says, finally finding his breath! “You sold everything! You sold Mom’s tears! All those years! You sold me!

“I didn’t know!” Fairlane beseeches his son’s understanding. “I didn’t mean to!” he says, clinging to Junior’s arm. Junior snatches his arm away and glares at his father in disgust. After several moments, he proceeds to the door, his hand over his still-aching stomach.

“I’ll expect you at work tomorrow, Fairlane,” I say to his retreating form. He slowly turns around and makes eye-contact with me.

“I don’t care what you do to me, Grey, but I won’t work for you.” He turns around and leaves my office, closing the door behind him.

“Well, I’d say that’s game, set, match. How’d that work out for you, Mr. Fairlane?” I say. Fairlane Sr., glares at me, then turns and leaves through the same door his son just exited.

“Well, that was quite the show,” Al says, having not said anything throughout the entire meeting.

“Tell me about it,” I respond. “Get the three-day voluntary resignation letter ready for Georgie. Get with Payroll and Accounting. Tally up his expense accounts. I want every dime of GEH money he’s spent recuperated including the gas in that company car he’s driving.”

“Will do,” he says, rising from his seat and exiting after the Fairlanes. Jason and Williams look warily at me.

“Lawrence’s probation stands. He should have followed protocol. So does Bronson’s termination. He can’t cut it. Bring the others back and wipe their records clean,” I say.

*-*

The house is dead quiet when I get back. Windsor takes my coat when I get into the house and informs me that he hasn’t seen Mrs. Grey all day. I noticed Marilyn’s car is gone so I know that she’s not working. I check our bedroom first. Nothing. I take the elevator to the family room—nothing there either. Gail is in the kitchen with Ms. Solomon and other members of the staff. She informs me that Butterfly did stop in for more tea earlier, but has long since gone to parts unknown. I check her office, the aquarium, the spa, her parlor, the theater, even the gym and still nothing. It turns out that the person with information on her whereabouts is Keri, who informs me that she is in the backyard.

The backyard??

It’s dark and cold! What the fuck is she doing in the backyard?

I fetch a coat from the mudroom and trek out to the backyard to retrieve my wife. I find her in a warm coat, scarf, earmuff and gloves, wrapped in a heavy tartan blanket around her legs sitting in a chaise with a large fire roaring in a fire pit off in the grass that I didn’t even know we had near the boat house. I sit in a nearby chaise that I can only assume was previously occupied by Keri.

“You should have some tea on your cheek,” I say softly.

“I had it on all day,” she says, wrapping her blanket tighter around her legs. “Nobody’s gonna see me anyway.” She adds the last part as a murmur that I’m not sure I was supposed to hear.

“Have you heard about Glenda Ste… Hyde?”

“Yes,” she replies.

“I talked to her father.”

“And?”

“She’ll leave Jack and the boy alone. She’ll retract her statements about you and most likely take a plea.” She nods.

“I’ll tell Grace,” she says, turning her gaze back to the fire. She’s going to be a tough nut to crack.

“I… um… fired the guards from last night, but I ended up hiring them back. I can see how something could happen so fast that they had no time to react.”

“Oh?” She turns a questioning eye to me.

“The Fairlanes came to my office today. Junior almost got one in on me, but I was too fast for him,” I chuckle.

“Really?” She’s not amused. “So, you didn’t get hit.” It’s a statement not a question.

“Almost, but no. He did, though.”

“By you?” she asks. I nod.

“Yes. Once. Gut punch.”

“Hmm, so are you going to take time off now… because you had to defend yourself?”

“I’m not pregnant,” I say. She nods.

“Hmm… of course not.” She turns her gaze back to the fire.

“Butterfly, why are you being like this?” I sigh. She turns her gaze back to me.

“You hand down the law and I take it,” she says impassively. “Whether I want to or not, I take it. Whether I agree with it or not, I take it. What more do you want me to do?”

“I just want you to understand why I feel this way,” I reply. “These conditions are just not good for you…”

“For me, or for me and the babies?” she asks. What kind of question is that?

“Both!” I say, obviously.

“But conditions will be better once the babies are born?”

“Well, yes. It’ll be less stress on your body, less risk of complications, high blood pressure…” She turns her eyes back to the fire before I’m done with my statement. “What the hell am I missing?” She looks back at me.

“Tell me this,” she says, her voice still portraying this eerie calm. “How is it okay for me to carry my gun, stay locked and loaded with intent to shoot to kill, and be on the lookout for mob henchmen or this monster that terrorized you as a child, yet when I get struck by an abusive spouse at my job, the idea that I had to pull my gun to defend myself is unthinkable? Now, all bets are off and I’m grounded from the one thing that I put everything else aside to do. If you can help me reconcile those two things, then I’ll be fine with this. If not, then don’t ask me to understand. I’ll comply, but I won’t understand.”

I just stare at her. I don’t have an answer. All I know is that her being at Helping Hands puts her directly in the line of fire of angry spouses who are abusive to women and in this case, men also, who seek refuge in this place. Some of them will go through whomever they have to go through to get to those spouses, and that includes my wife. It’s a regular hazard of her job. Coming face to face with Anton Myrick is a possibility, not a definite hazard.

“Myrick is not an imminent danger…”

“Neither is anyone at the Center!” she protests.

“The danger is more imminent than Myrick!”

“So what about after the children are born?” she asks. “The Center will have child care and I’m going to have the twins there with me some days. What then?”

Yes, what then indeed.

“It’s just not good for you right now. Can’t you see that?”

“No, Christian, I can’t,” she says with no malice. “I completely understand that you’re upset about what happened. I don’t understand why you pulled the plug on me. I knew that you would, but I don’t understand why. I closed my practice for Helping Hands and now I have no Helping Hands. So I guess for the next month, I’ll just concentrate on waiting until my babies are born and then see what happens next.”

“Ana, you make it sound like you have nothing else.” She frowns at me like I’m completely missing the point then turns back to the fire.

“Christian, I really want to be alone right now,” she says, and now I feel like I just took a gut punch. I stand up and walk back to the house. Raking my hands through my hair, I go down to my office. I’m only trying to keep her and the babies safe. Why can’t she see that? I know that the Center is important to her and I didn’t tell her to stop completely. I just asked her to hold off until after the babies are born. Without taking off my coat, I pull out my blackberry and dial a number.

“Hello, Christian.”

“Hello, Dr. Baker. I hope it’s not too late.”

“No, it’s not. Is everything alright?”

“Do you have a moment? I really need to talk,” I say.

“Okay, what’s going on?” she asks.

“Doctor/patient privilege, right?” I ask before I say anything.

“Of course,” Dr. Baker says.

“My wife was at the Center yesterday. As I’m sure you’ve heard because it’s all over the damn news, she had to pull her firearm on an abusive spouse. It was a woman—but not just any woman. This woman is nearly seven feet tall and proportionately wide and was abusing her husband and stepson currently in hiding at the Center. My wife is 5’2”. This woman hit my wife so hard with one blow that the entire left side of my wife’s face is swollen and bruised from temple to chin. So yes, my wife subdued her with her Beretta and held her there until the police arrived. I, of course, didn’t learn about any of this until I saw my wife’s face.”

“Ooohheeewww,” she says.

“Yeah,” I reply. “My reaction was definite. No more Helping Hands until after the babies are born and the doctor clears her to return to work. She’s pregnant with twins; it’s already a high risk pregnancy; we’re trying to watch her blood pressure and keep an eye out for pre-eclampsia. Between her losing her memory and nearly dying, the cyber-attack on my company, her batty-ass friend who’s acting like a reprogrammed fembot, the interruption of our honeymoon, figuring out we were pregnant when she blew chunks all over the defense attorney at the trial of that bastard who kidnapped her which had resulted in yet another brutal beating, nearly seeing me shot to death by that psycho blonde pedophile, the complete and utter alienation of her mother, running to the hills of Montana before our wedding, having to relive this Green Valley shit all over again—it’s been one hell of a fucking year!! And that’s not even everything!” I finally take a breath and Dr. Baker is completely silent on the line.

“I’ve met a lot of damn ‘Ana’s’ since we’ve been together,” I continue. “I’ve met Tiger Ana, Mistress Ana, Marine’s Daughter Ana, Submissive Ana, Passive-Aggressive Ana, Sensual Ana, Caretaker Ana, Take-No-Prisoners Ana… but I think the Ana that I’m dealing with now is the one that I dislike the most.”

“And who is that?” she asks.

“Complacent Ana,” I tell her. “This is the same Ana I met after that last punishment—somewhat resigned to her fate, but neither here nor there when I try to get her to talk about it. That ‘yes, Master’ undertone in her conversation, but she pretty much allows me to draw my own conclusions by stating the obvious—by taking that ‘Yes, Sir, you’re right, Sir’ mentality and she knows I hate that shit!”

“I don’t understand,” she says. “If you lay down the law, one would expect for you to expect compliance…”

“But not because I’m barking an order at her,” I clarify. “I want her to understand why I feel this way, but when I try to talk to her about it—about how I feel about her health and her safety—it sounds to me like…” I don’t even want to say it.

“Like what?” Dr. Baker presses.

“Like she thinks I’m trying to draw some kind of distinction between her and the babies.” There. I’ve said it. It was clearly implied in her conversation and if I confront her with it, it’s another fight that I don’t want to have. I fall down in a nearby seat and thrust my hand in my hair, resting my elbow on my knee. Why can’t I act irrational and emotional without everybody thinking I’m selfish or I’ve lost my mind? I want to stomp and yell and say how unfair it is for me to be treated this way when all I’m doing is acting out of concern for my family, but somehow or another, I’ll be the bad guy if I do. Suddenly, I feel very self-conscious.

“I’m sorry I called, Dr. Baker. I wanted to say these things out loud, but really, there’s nothing you can do to help me with this.”

“What are you going to do?” she asks.

“I don’t know, but if you come up with some good ideas, feel free to text me. Goodnight, Doctor.” I end the call and toss my phone on the floor.


A/N: Just in case it’s not obvious, Shetlands and Clydesdales are both equine breeds (horses). Glenda’s maiden name is Shetland, which is a pony that officially only gets to be about 3.5 feet tall (about 107 cm). Ana’s statement about Glenda “Clydesdale” would be a reference to a breed of one of the largest horses in the world, getting to average 6 feet tall, but the largest of which stood 19.3 hands or nearly 6.5 feet tall—which is pretty damn huge for a horse.

You can find the 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 53—So Much For Decompressing…

Happy Birthday to my baby girl, Ember. You guys may know her as Bria and someone called her Baby Goddess or Little Goddess or something like that… my memory sucks. Nonetheless, she’ll be 22 tomorrow, so this chapter is dedicated to her… and to any mom or dad who had to do something scary to protect their child from hurt, harm, or danger. 

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 53—So Much For Decompressing…

CHRISTIAN

Jason and I are in my office after the department head meeting Tuesday morning. Many people were surprised to hear that we would not be absorbing Fairlane as planned, but chalked it up to another of Christian Grey’s idiosyncrasies. They will surely find out the reasoning from those department heads who did attend the Meet-And-Greet a few weeks ago. Personally, I don’t intend to spend any more time on the topic than necessary.

We’re reviewing the background checks of our potential sponsors from Broadmoor. With the exception of a few facts that may cause some red faces should they become public, we’ve found nothing criminal or particularly scandalous. We’re laughing among ourselves about a slightly unusual fetish of one Mr. Rollins when Jason is interrupted by a call on his cell.

“Taylor.” He listens for a moment and frowns. “What does he want?” Oh hell, what now? “One second.” He raises his eyes to me. “James Radcliff is in the lobby.” I sigh.

“And?” I hiss.

“He wants to talk to you,” he says. “He’s not causing any trouble and front desk says he looks pretty bad.” I frown.

“What the hell does he want?” Jason shrugs.

“I don’t know, but he wants to talk to you. They say he’ll leave if you ask him to, but he’s saying ‘please,’—his words, not theirs.” I twist my lips and roll my eyes. I don’t want to talk to this fucker. His starving wife and child said all he could say to me. I sigh, irritated.

“First floor conference room,” I tell him. “I don’t want that fucker in my office. I want him as close to the front door as possible.”

*-*

He looks pretty bad was an understatement. This man looks like total fucking hell. I’d almost feel sorry for him if his family didn’t look worse when we visited them at that hovel he called a home.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Radcliff?” I ask gruffly when I enter the conference room with Jason and two other members of my security team. He raises his head from the table where it was buried in his arms. He’s been crying and he looks like he hasn’t eaten in several days. Did he lose his job after all? He’s dressed in that same uniform he was wearing when I last saw him—worn, but not dirty or unkempt.

“Mr. Grey,” he says, his voice cracking. He clears his throat and starts again. “Mr. Grey, thank you for seeing me.” I furrow my brow and come further into the room.

“I’m a very busy man, Mr. Radcliff. What can I do for you?” He looks down.

“I don’t blame you,” he says. “I was a real asshole the last time we met, so I deserve how you’re treating me right now. I deserve everything.” He clears his throat again. “I won’t take up much of your time and I know I don’t have a right to ask you for anything but… can you tell me how my boy is doing… and my Thelma?”

I frown harder. Your boy? Your Thelma? If you had your way, they’d both be dead! Now, you have the nerve to come here asking about them? My expression must be of total disgust, because he drops his head again.

“I knew this was a bad idea,” he says, his voice broken. “It’s just… I got nowhere else to go. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I think about ‘em all the time. It’s only been a week or so, but it seems like forever. I go to work and I come back to that cold, empty house… and I realize what I put ‘em through. I’m ashamed and I got no right to ask… but I love her. I really do. I know you wouldn’t know it ‘cause I let my pride be more important than their safety, but I love her… and I feel like I’ll die without ‘em.”

Okay, so what the fuck do you want me to do?

“I don’t know how your wife and child are doing,” I tell him. “I work here, not at the Center. You would have to go there to find out.”

“I can’t go there,” he says. “I got nothin’. I’m no better off than when she left. I can’t give her anything… a warm safe home, food, clothes…”

“I thought you said you were still working,” I accuse.

“I haven’t been paid, yet,” he says. “My first paycheck is Friday. Even with one paycheck, I can’t put things together like they need. And no, I didn’t come here looking for money. I just wanna know how my family’s doin’.” I roll my eyes.

“I can call my wife if you want and find out how they’re doing,” I offer. He shakes his head.

“No… I don’t want her to know. I don’t want her to think… that I’ll come…” He shakes his head. “She’s… they’re better off where they are.” His voice cracks again.

“I’m not sure what else you want from me,” I tell him. “There’s not much more I can do than that.” I still have a hard time mustering up sympathy for this guy after seeing the condition of his wife and child.

“I was just hopin’,” he says, standing to his feet. “I won’t take up any more of your time.” He walks to the door and security steps aside to let him pass. “You can do one thing for me.”

“And what’s that?” I ask.

“Just get a message to her.” I thought he said he didn’t want her to know he was looking for her. “Tell her that I’m sorry and that if she don’t see me no more, I really do love her.” He leaves the conference room with his skull cap in his hand.

I know that tone. I know it well. I felt it when Butterfly left. I wanted to die. I really wanted to die. If I didn’t have my staff watching me like a hawk and my company to keep me occupied, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have resorted to more drastic measures. He doesn’t have anything—just that job that he should be at right now because it’s business hours. He didn’t ask me anything but how she was doing and to give her a message…

“If she don’t see me no more…”

He’s saying goodbye.

“Stop him,” I say.

“What?” I turn around to face a frowning Jason.

“Stop him,” I repeat. “Bring him back. Now!”

Confused, Jason walks out of the conference room and has to go outside to catch Radcliff before he leaves. A few moments later, the two men walk back into the conference room, bringing the cold in with them.

“Have a seat, Mr. Radcliff,” I say, gesturing to the chair.

“Jim,” he says, taking the seat and not raising his head. Yes, this is definitely a different man than the one I met a few days before Christmas.

“Get Jim some coffee and some food from the cafeteria,” I tell Jason.

“I ain’t hungry,” he says.

“You need to eat. You look like shit,” I tell him before turning back to Jason. “They can wait outside. Close the door.” Jason frowns. “I assume your very capable security staff searched him before setting him in my conference room.”

“I ain’t got nothin’!” Jim retorts. I turn back to Jason.

“Coffee? Food?” I repeat. He looks at me uncertainly.

“Yes, sir,” he says before reluctantly leaving the room with the other two security detail. I turn my attention back to Jim.

“I don’t like you,” I say, taking the seat across from him. “I think it’s a horrible thing you did making your wife and newborn child live in filth, famine, and squalor—and for what? I have a very hard time getting past that and you have to tell me why I should.”

“I don’t know why you should,” he says, firmly, confused. “You called me back…”

“But you came here first!” I retort. “You expected something from me. I want to know what and why!”

“I don’t know what I expected,” he hisses as he pushes away from the table and stands, pacing to nowhere. “You’re my only connection to Thelma. I need to see her… I don’t know… I need to…” He wrings the skull cap in his hands. “I don’t know what to do without her, man,” he confesses, near tears again. “I don’t have no direction. I’m lost. I don’t know what’s going on with my boy. I rather be dead than live like this.”

I know.

“So what do you plan to do?” I ask. “You sure as hell can’t bring her back to the same conditions she left. She’s probably sharing a suite with four other families right now if she hasn’t already found a place of her own. Whatever the case may be, I can guarantee that it’s the Taj Mahal compared to where you had her.”

“Did you bring me back here to beat me over the head, ‘cause I already know all this shit!” he barks.

“No! I brought you back here to make you look for a reason to live, because right now, you don’t have one!” I bark back. His face falls and he sinks back into the seat and says nothing. “I used to be you. Don’t let the money fool you,” I say. “No, my wife wasn’t living in famine and squalor, but my pride almost cost me everything. I thought I knew it all; I was making all the decisions… even decisions that we should have been making together. One of those decisions was more than she could take and she left me. Yes, I thought I would die, but I had my company to run and I had people around me that wouldn’t let me fall completely into the abyss. I did the same thing you’re doing… I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I just worked. I worked and I refused to think about her. I wouldn’t let anybody talk about her. I became this evil phantom, floating around bringing dismay with me everywhere I went. I was a horrible shell of a man, worse than before I met her.”

“You’re married now, what happened?” he asks.

“She came back to me,” I tell him.

“What did you do to make her come back?”

“I didn’t do anything,” I tell him. “I later found out that her best friend and my head of Legal told her what I had become and she felt sorry for me. That’s not going to happen with you. Thelma’s not going to look at your sad, pathetic state and fall at your feet. Why aren’t you at work?”

“I was,” he confesses. “The boss said I looked like shit and told me to go home and get some rest.”

“So that’s a day’s pay you’ll be missing,” I say. He shrugs.

“What does it matter?” he laments.

“It matters if you hope to get your wife back,” I retort. “That is why you’re here, right?” He raises sad eyes to me and begins to cry.

“I don’t know why I’m here, man,” he weeps, “I just miss my Thelma.” Oh, fuck. This is just what I need. Jason comes back into the room at just this moment. Thank God! I gesture at this blubbering idiot with disgust and Jason looks from him to me, confused. He walks over and places the food on the table next to Jim and proceeds to the door. He throws a look back at me for approval and I shoo him out of the room.

“Okay, dry up. I can’t deal with this shit from people I do like,” I say once Jason is out of the room. How the mighty have fallen. This once prideful, bullying bastard is sitting at my conference table drying his tears with napkins from my company cafeteria.  “Eat,” I command him. He removes the top from the plate and tears into the sandwich. I can smell the soup from here—clam chowder. He tucks into like a man on death row. “Not hungry, huh?” He raises his eyes to me and swallows the bite he was chewing.

“I guess I am,” he admits before taking more of the soup. Mmm-hmm.

“So what are you going to do now?” I tell him. “You obviously want your wife back, so what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” he admits. “Can you teach an old dog new tricks?”

“For your sake, you better hope so,” I say. “Let’s start by identifying the problem. What’s the problem?”

“I had my wife and son living in a shack with no food or heat.”

“That’s a result from one of the symptoms. What’s the problem?” He frowns.

“Well, that’s why she left me,” he says.

“No, that’s not why she left you,” I say. “If the two of you were doing the best that you could and all you had in the end was that shack with no heat, she would have found a way to make it work. She loves you. That’s not why she left you. Try again.” He puts his spoon down and takes a sip of his coffee before closing his eyes.

“It was cold. They were hungry. We didn’t have any food… no clothes… no furniture…”

“All symptoms,” I repeat.

“Would you let me work through this, please?” he snaps. I cross my hands on the table and remain silent. “She woulda stayed… she did try. She called the welfare office. She called the utility helpline… she called your wife…”

You’re getting warmer.

“I wouldn’t let her try. I didn’t want their help. I wanted to do it myself. I wanted to take care of my family, myself.”

“But you couldn’t do it,” I interject, “so you allowed them to suffer and nearly die as long as you could feel better about not accepting a handout.”

“What’s a man got if he can’t provide for his family?” he retorts, desperately.

“Apparently, nothing,” I say. “Even less if he doesn’t accept the help of someone else who’s attempting to provide for his family while he’s down on his luck. No one was trying to strip you of your manhood, Jim. That’s why these agencies are here. Yeah, there are those who live off of them for life, but you obviously weren’t going to be that guy. Hell, you got a job. You just needed something to help you make it to your first couple of checks. How did you expect for your wife and child to survive that long in those conditions?”

“I wasn’t thinkin’,” he says.

“That’s a cop out,” I accuse. “You were thinking. You were thinking about yourself! You had the wherewithal to come off of your job at lunchtime and drive all the way back to your house to make sure that my wife and I were not going to bring any goods to your house or provide any assistance to your family and you’re going to try to pull that bullshit on me?” He sits there, chastised. “You need to take responsibility for your actions and your selfishness and find a way to fix what you’ve broken. Stop copping out with this I don’t know bullshit and stand up and be that man you tried to be when you bullied your wife… and tried to bully mine! Otherwise, you can finish your soup and sandwich, take your coffee and get the hell out of here because I’m wasting my time with you!”

“No… no, please help me. I’ll do anything to make this right,” he begs.

“Well, first of all, you need to examine yourself, because if you don’t see the problem, you’re going to be right back where you started from in a week, a month or a year. Give it time, but you will be right back there, and nobody’s going to help you, then. Nobody wants to help you now! Thelma’s got all the help she needs. You’ve got a job. You can move into a one-room studio or boarding house and no one would care. Pay your child support, get your bi-weekly supervised visitation and call it a day!”

“Oh, God,” he laments, burying his head in his arms on the table again. “I’m a selfish asshole,” he says, his voice muffled. “I didn’t want to be one of those welfare families depending on the state, so every time she tried to get some help, I headed ‘em off. When they called, I told ‘em we didn’t need ‘em. When they sent letters, I threw ‘em away. When they showed up, I sent ‘em away…”

“Don’t I know it,” I remark.

“… But it’s true, Mr. Grey,” he wails. “I wasn’t thinkin’. I wasn’t thinkin’ about how they would survive. I just knew that if we held on a little while longer, I would be able to take care of ‘em. They seemed like they were doing alright. I didn’t know she took food from the hospital or begged from the neighbors. I didn’t know they were starving until they were starving…”

“How could you not know? What were you eating?” I accuse.

“I got a meal here and there, but I could go longer without food than she could. I’m a big man…” Not anymore.

“Have you looked at yourself lately?” I ask. “You’re considerably smaller than the first time I saw you just before Christmas.” He looks down at himself and shrugs.

“Explains why the boss sent me for a drug test,” he says, his voice defeated. I roll my eyes.

“You’ve got to accept some fucking help. You can’t even take care of yourself. Yes, you need to be self-sustaining and be able to take care of your family, but you have to build something first and you can’t even do that right now. You look like utter shit. You need to get your health back and maintain your job while you’re doing it. How do you plan on accomplishing that?”

“Well, I was going to get my gas turned back on Friday when I got paid,” he says. That’s a start. I nod.

“You need to see a doctor. You look sick, like something else is wrong…”

“Well, maybe the drug test will show something,” he says.

“A drug test only tests for narcotics. Are you on any narcotics?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“Where would I even get the money for some shit like that?” he says, hopelessly. I sigh again. I’m going to help this fucker against my will. I feel like I have to.

“We adopted your family this past Christmas—not just your wife and child, your entire family. You’re going to accept some help because you need it. You’re not going to make it without it. We still have most of the shit we intended to give to you including the gift cards if Butte… Mrs. Grey hasn’t given them to Thelma, yet. At this point, would you have a problem accepting those things?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Grey,” he says. “It’s not my pride this time… well, maybe it is a little. It’s just that… I don’t know if I’m worthy this time. And that house… that house isn’t worthy of the rats that live in it.”

“Well, that’ll never do,” I say. “You can’t hope to bring a baby back to those kinds of conditions, but remember, this isn’t about you. This is about your family.” He nods. “Are they worthy?”

“More than anything,” he whispers. He’d better be glad I believe him.

“Jim, I’m going to give you a purpose. I’m going to make you earn your family back. You have to show me that you are worth my time and effort and then you have to show them that you’re worth their love and trust. You drop the ball this time and you can take a leap into the deepest part of the Pacific is far as I’m concerned. Thelma has already shown you that she’s not putting up with your shit and she loves you. I’m even less tolerant than she is.”

“I’ll do whatever I have to,” he says. “I let ‘em down once… I can’t do it again.”

*-*

Butterfly is rubbing off on me. I heard her say that the ideal situation would be for the family to be reunited and I didn’t want to hear it. Now this fucker has showed up at my building again… this time, in desperate need of my help. The Alpha Male in me wants to kick his ass and send him on his way for what he did to Thelma and little Jimmy. The husband and father in me knows how lost, lonely, and sick I would be if my Butterfly took my beans and left me.

Like I said, Butterfly is rubbing off on me.

I call my doctor and ask if he could see a new patient on short notice, cash pay, of course. I let him know that the man is somewhat emaciated and I’m concerned about his health. He agreed to run whatever tests Jim would consent to and charge it to my credit card. Can’t send him back to Thelma a piece of a man.

My next call is to Marilyn to find out how much of the merchandise for the Radcliffs we still have in our possession or waiting to be delivered. She’s going to get back to me later with an inventory, but indicates that she may need to talk to Butterfly about what may have already been given to Thelma. I ask her to try to hold off talking to Butterfly if she can as I want to talk to her, first. I need to explain my motives in case she wants to chew me out like I did her about Courtney.

My final call is to Elliot. I grovel a bit to get him to go over and inspect the Radcliffs’ house. Rats can be taken care of with an exterminator, but I need to know if this is an undertaking worth pursuing or if we should just start over. I don’t give him much detail except the address and that the key is under the mat—not that he’ll need one. The walls are so thin that the big bad wolf could probably blow the house down. He agrees to go on over since I sound so desperate. I’m not desperate. Maybe a little eager, but not desperate.

Around mid-afternoon, I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to approach this topic with Butterfly when I get a call from the front desk.

“Mr. Grey, your brother is on his way up and he is breathing fire.”

“Why?” I ask, my brow furrowed.

“We didn’t get a chance to ask him. He whizzed by us and said, ‘If you have to call the cops, call them, but I’m going up to see my brother.’” What the hell is wrong with Elliot? I hear the ring of the elevator and Elliot’s gruff voice talking to Andrea.

“Is he in there?” he asks.

“Yes, but please let me announce you,” she says. I know the request has fallen on deaf ears because he walked right past security.

“Thank you, he’s here,” I say before ending the call. My office door slams open loudly and Elliot is standing there breathing like a bull.

“Christian, somebody lives there??” he asks, storming into my office.

“Hello, Elliot, what the fuck?” I retort.

“Have you been inside that place?” he nearly shouts.

“What place?”

“That cesspool you sent me to!” he barks angrily.

“No, I haven’t. That’s why I asked you to check it out!” Elliot rubs the back of his neck. Oh, this is bad.

“You better be glad you haven’t been in there, because I was ready to chew you a new asshole!” he scolds, pointing at me from across the room. “Algae, fungus, and mold visible all over the house; loose asbestos in the attic; paper thin walls with holes so big you can see the studs—which, by the way, are suffering from massive decay. Corrosion all over the kitchen and bathroom. There’s no running water, probably because the pipes are frozen.

“We had to wear gas masks because—on a whim—I brought the carbon monoxide detector in with me and it went nuts! It’s no wonder since the furnace and the hot water heater are under four feet of ice. We couldn’t even get to the basement—it’s a frozen swimming pool down there! Rodents and roaches everywhere and that’s the least of your problems. I’m surprised he still has a pest problem in there as cold as it is.

“The foundation is destroyed, which I could tell just walking up to the place because it’s actually leaning! That place should be condemned! I’ve already reported it unsafe and irreparable to the city, and it’s going to take a HazMat team to remove the debris once it’s demolished, if not before! They may find the fucking Loch Ness Monster in that goddamn basement once they thaw that fucking petri dish—grown ass men running out of the house because rats are frozen on the surface!”

“You’re fucking kidding me!” I say, thrusting both hands into my hair. Elliot’s ire is immediately extinguished by my reaction.

“What’s going on here, Christian?” he asks. I close my eyes and shake my head, sighing heavily.

“I can’t tell you,” I say. “I’ll be betraying a confidence if I do. How soon can the city get rid of that house?” He shrugs.

“I don’t know how long it usually takes. I turn it over to the city and I don’t look back. Is somebody living in that house, Christian?”

“Elliot, what part of I can’t tell you is unclear?” He’s angry again.

“Mmm-hmm. Well, tell whoever you can’t tell me about to get the hell out of that house now and go see a goddamn doctor! It’s a wonder they’re not dead already—and make sure they burn anything they may have taken from that house, including the clothes they’re wearing! They’re probably a walking mold incubator. And kindly warn me the next time you intend to send me and my guys into hazardous conditions that could possibly cost us our lives or health!”

And with that, he storms out of my office. He has a right to be mad, but I didn’t know what he was walking into or I wouldn’t have sent him over there. I pull out my blackberry and call Jason.

“Sir?”

“Send two out guys to locate James Radcliff and tell him not to go back to his house. Put him up at the Fairmount for the week and settle the bill in advance. Give him a few hundred dollars and tell him to call me on my cell as soon as he gets settled in.” There’s silence on the line for a moment.

“Yes, sir,” he says before ending the call. I sit at my desk, staring out the window. How can I feel sorry for this fucker? Doesn’t he deserve whatever he gets? He had his wife and son living in this mess and now he’s stuck in it. Shouldn’t I let him stew in his own brew?

Shouldn’t I?

“Shit!” I dial Butterfly’s number.

“Hey, handsome,” she answers the phone. I want to take solace in her voice, but I have to tell her…

“Hey, baby. You busy?”

“Never too busy for you and what’s wrong?” I’ll never be able to hide anything from this woman.

“What makes you think something’s wrong?”

“Cut the shit, Christian,” she says. Okay…

“Thelma and Jimmy Radcliff… how is their health?” There’s a pause.

“As well as can be expected for living in a cold house with no food. Where is this coming from?”

“Just go with me for a moment, okay?” I reply. “Have they seen a doctor for a thorough examination?”

“Have you forgotten your mother works here?” she asks.

“No, but Mom can’t run tests in the center cafeteria.” I retort. She sighs.

“I don’t know. I don’t think so,” she replies. “They’ve only been here for about two weeks. Grace did a preliminary examination of Jimmy and nothing seemed amiss. Please tell me what’s going on.”

“I will, but you have to let me finish,” I tell her. “Have they shown any strange symptoms? Has Thelma complained to you about anything out of the ordinary—or too often about anything ordinary?”

“No,” she replies.

“Headaches, dizziness, nausea, trouble breathing?” She sighs.

“The baby had a cold or something that he couldn’t shake for a minute, but he seems fine now.” I shake my head. Better safe than sorry.

“Radcliff’s house is unsafe,” I tell her. “Not just unsafe like just too cold for the baby; unsafe like hazardous toxins and they could have all died in there.”

“What?” she gasps. “How do you know this?”

“I can’t tell you right now. I’ll tell you everything later. Just make sure they get to the doctor as soon as possible and get a full work-up—blood work, lab tests, oxygen saturations, everything.”

“What are we looking for, Christian?” she asks, desperately.

“Exposure to mold, asbestos, common household toxins, carbon monoxide poisoning…”

“Oh my God,” she mumbles. “As if this woman hasn’t been through enough. That bastard really would have let them die in there!” Yeah, she’s not going to be real happy to know that I’m helping that bastard. How does this woman function being everything to everybody? I’m exhausted with just this one guy and now, I feel like I’m responsible for him. I almost want to defend him right now. What the fuck is this? “Christian, you’re quiet.”

“Yeah, I’ll talk to you later, baby. I’ll tell you everything, I promise. Just get the Radcliffs to a doctor… today, please.” There’s another pause.

“Okay… I love you.”

“I love you, too, Butterfly.” I end the call and walk over to the window. My mind wanders to a hundred different scenarios of what could have happened to me or who I could be if one thing had turned out differently in my life. What if my mother hadn’t been a crack whore? And my deadbeat father—wherever his ass is and whoever he may be—had stuck around to take care of us. Would I have had a more normal early life? Or would my crack whore mother have been Thelma Radcliff? What if she had never met the pimp or got on drugs? We would have been poor, but I wouldn’t have been abused—burned at the age of four, probably before that. I wouldn’t remember. That’s why I detest smokers right now. It’s not even allowed in my building, not even on the roof.

My mind wanders to a million more what ifs before it’s all said and done. What if I had never been discovered in there with my mother? What if I had never been adopted? What if I had never met Elena? Or Ana? The list goes on and on…

“Sir?”

I whirl around to see Jason standing in my office. He startled the shit out of me. When did he get here?

“I have Haskins on the line. He’s with Radcliff. He wants to talk to you… and it’s nearly six o’clock, sir.” Six o’clock? Fucking hell. I take his cell from his hands as I go to the desk to gather my things.

“Hello.”

“Mr. Grey, I have Mr. Radcliff.”

“Put him on.”

“Mr. Grey, what’s going on? These guys are telling me that I can’t go home.” I sigh.

“Jim, I think it’s about time you call me Christian,” I say. There’s a pause.

“Okay, Christian. Why can’t I go home?” he asks again.

“I had my brother inspect your house. He has reported it to the city as uninhabitable for humans.”

“Unin… what… that’s my house! I come to you for help and you take away my house? The only thing I have left?” he accuses.

“Jim, you said it yourself, you can’t bring your family back to that house and now we know why!” I retort, trying to keep my anger in check. “That house is leaning—visibly. I noticed it when I came there with my wife. Ever wonder why?”

“No, but I’m sure you’ll tell me,” he says, irritated.

“There’s no foundation!” I reveal. “The studs and support beams are decaying! Once that frozen rat pool you have in the basement thaws in the spring, that house is going to crumble like the Twin Towers—excuse the morbid comparison!” It is pretty damn morbid, but he needs to know how serious this is.

“What?” Now, he’s paying attention.

“Any really bad cold symptoms that won’t go away?” I ask. “Sniffling? Wheezing? Difficulty breathing? Really bad headaches that don’t let up? Unable to get out of bed in the morning?” His prolonged silence tells me that he’s had at least one of the symptoms I’ve named.

“Your house is infested with mold and fungus and there is a carbon monoxide leak. It’s not worth the cleanup or repair. It would be cheaper to demolish the place.”

“That house is all I have left,” he protests. “I coulda sold it to developers or something for the land…”

“My brother assures me that a HazMat team will have to remove the debris once the structure is demolished. The land is worthless, Jim. No one would buy it.” I hear him sigh on the other end. “You need to burn those clothes that you’re wearing and get new ones. And I hope there was nothing too important in that house to you, because everything is contaminated now and has to be destroyed.”

“No,” he says in slight dismay, “nothing of any real value. The only things of value to me is… well, never mind.” He sounds even more defeated than he was before.

“I’ll see if there’s any value in the land and grant you something for it. I’m calling it a grant, Jim, because I don’t expect the funds back, but I do fully expect you to use the funds to secure residence suitable for you and your family. I don’t expect it to be much, so if you need to use it as a down payment for another place or as a security deposit to rent a place is up to you, but I don’t expect for you to spend it frivolously.”

“I understand,” he says, his voice low. “Much obliged.”

“You may want to inform the doctor about the condition of the house,” I tell him. “It may affect the outcome of any lab tests he may have run.”

“No need,” he says. “He warned me when I told him about the basement. He’s already testing for a lot o’ stuff. We’ll see what hap…” Then he gasps.

“What is it?” I ask.

“Thelma! Jimmy!” he exclaims, terror in his voice.

“I’ve already informed my wife,” I tell him. “Jimmy had some symptoms early on. He’s doing better now. They’ll get to the doctor to make sure there’s no permanent damage, but the fact that they’ve been removed from the conditions fares well for them, I assure you.” I hear him sigh heavily on the other end, then he starts to weep bitterly. Oh, fuck, not again…

“Dear God, forgive me,” he keens. “Please forgive me…”

And now I feel like a heel.

“Jim…”

“I’m a fool!” he yells. “I’m a goddamn fool! How could I be so fuckin’ blind? Goddammit!!” He’s falling apart. “I could have lost them! Forever!”

“But you haven’t,” I try to convince him. “You still have a chance. They’re still here, but you’ve got work to do.” I hear him sniffling and weeping. “Pull yourself together, Jim. They’ll be fine.” He whimpers a bit more.

“I… I have to go,” he says.

“Where are you going?”

“I don’t know!” he snaps. “To the store, to my room, to church… I don’t know. Just let me go, man.” I have to hope he’s not going to do anything stupid, but I can’t keep him on the phone.

“You’ll contact me tomorrow.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Yeah, yeah,” he says and hands the phone back to Haskins.

“Covert surveillance on him,” I tell Haskins. “Report to Taylor for further instructions. Just make sure he doesn’t do anything drastic.”

“Yes, sir. Goodnight, sir.” I end the call and take a few frantic paces before turning to face an expecting Jason.

“What was I supposed to do?” I ask, throwing my hands in the air. “Exactly what am I supposed to do?” His expression changes and he twists his lips a bit.

“Exactly what you’re doing, sir,” he says, his voice resigned.


ANASTASIA

Thelma almost took Jimmy out of here on foot to get him to the hospital for testing. She wasn’t waiting for a doctor’s appointment and I had to send Ben after her to take her to the emergency room. We have plenty of security here if anything happens and I’ll just stay here until he gets back. Hopefully, it won’t be too late and if it is, I’ll have Bronson and Marilyn take me home. Speaking of which…

To: Christian Grey
Subject: An Apple A Day
Date: January 7, 2014, 15:17:16
From: Anastasia Grey

My Love,

Thelma has taken Jimmy and they are off to the ER at Seattle Gen. Upon hearing of the conditions of the house, she refused to wait for a doctor’s appointment and almost took the baby on the bus. I sent Ben to take them to the hospital and wait with them until they are done. There is plenty of GEH security here, so I didn’t see a problem in that course or action. I hope you agree. If they haven’t returned by the time I’m ready to go home, I’ll have Marilyn and her guard take me home.

At first, I took our conversation last night with a grain of salt and made a note to talk to Marilyn. However, after an extensive talk this morning and a brief breakdown of her duties and responsibilities, I think you should actually consider replacing her security detail. If he truly feels that she’s a handful, then he’s not the man for the job. I don’t intend to get anyone in trouble, but as you well know, not everyone is cut out for every kind of work. It appears that Marilyn shares his opinion that he’s unable to keep up with her. She compares him to Charles Bronson and calls him “Chuckie” behind his back. That’s not a healthy relationship. She needs someone with more energy who can change gears at a moment’s notice. Imagine Andrea having to do everything that she has to do for you from a mobile office with no assistant. She needs someone who can keep with that.

Just keeping you abreast. I’ll see you when I get home.

Yours Always,
Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey
Assistant Director, Helping Hands

I no sooner press send on my computer when Marilyn and Courtney come running into my office like the place is on fire.

“Ana! Come quick!” Marilyn pants. “There was a hit on Jack… in Missing Persons… his father is here!” I get out of my seat faster than I moved before I was pregnant.

“Where is he?”

“In the community room,” Courtney says. She sounds panicked.

“Where’s Jack?”

“Upstairs in the dorms.” I sigh heavily.

“Courtney, got get Jack. Bring him down. Make sure that he knows he doesn’t have to leave if he doesn’t want to.”

“He’ll come,” she says. “It’s not his father that he’s afraid of.” I nod.

“That’s right. Bring him down. Marilyn, get security in there just in case. Is he alone?” She nods.

“No sign of the Wicked Witch of The North Pacific.” I nod.

“I’ll go talk to him.” I reach into my purse and pull out my Beretta. I load the magazine without putting a round in the chamber. I hope I won’t need it, but I can’t be too careful, especially since I sent Ben with Thelma and Jimmy. I put the gun in the waistband of my maternity pants. One of the children protest with a kick—I have a feeling it’s Mikey.

“Settle down, killer,” I tell him. “I’ll get some kind of holster after this.” Marilyn frowns at me.

“Do you really think you need it, Ana?” she asks.

“Ben’s not here…”

“But so many other people are,” she protests. I shake my head.

“Unknown element. No Ben. No Chuck. The gun comes with me.” I brush past her and into the hallway.

We walk to the community room and security is already there. There’s a man—not really short, but he still looks very small for some reason. I walk in and start toward him. He removes his hat and gets to his feet—about 5’10”, red hair… he looks really frail.

“Ma’am, is my boy okay?” he asks without introducing himself. He’s wringing his hat nervously and he looks worried sick.

“Yes, sir, he’s fine,” I reply. He sighs heavily and drops his head. He looks like he shrinks at least a foot, like he was carrying boulders on his back. “Please, have a seat, Mr….”

“Hyde. Jack Hyde,” he says proffering his hand. I shake it.

“Anastasia Grey. Please.” I gesture to the seat he just vacated and sit next to him.

“There’s a lot of security in this place,” he says. “They wouldn’t let me in until I told them who I was.”

“As you can imagine, there are a lot of abused families here, Mr. Hyde. We have to take precautions.”

“I get it. Please call me Jack. Everybody calls me Jack.”

Okay, Jack. Call me Ana. Your son was in bad shape when he got here. We’ve had to contact Child Services.” He drops his head.

“Am I going to jail?” he says. I frown.

“Well, I don’t know. Did you do that to him?”

“Dad!” Jack Jr., sees his father and runs full tilt towards his father. Jack stands to his feet and pushes his hands out in front of him to halt his son.

“Jack, no!” he warns. Jack Jr., stops in his tracks, crestfallen. Then his dismay transforms immediately to anger.

“What did she do to you now?” Jack Jr., demands.

“Nothing, son. I just had a little accident,” Jack replies.

“Bullshit!” Jack retorts. “What did she do to you?” he screams, angry tears burning a trek down his face.

“Jack!” his father scolds.

“What did she do to you?” he screams again. Courtney comes up behind him and he throws his arms around her, weeping. Courtney embraces the young boy and looks at me questioning, her eyes begging me to make the situation right. I turn back to Jack Sr.

“Jack, you asked me if you were going to jail. Why?”

“Because I didn’t protect him,” he says. “Isn’t that just as bad?”

“Somewhat… but not if you’re being abused, too.”

“I’m… I’m not being abused,” he says. “If you have to take me to jail, I understand, but… what’ll happen to my boy?”

“If for some reason, you were unable to take care of him, he would go to foster care until it could be determined what would happen to him.” He shakes his head.

“We have to go back,” he says with terror in his voice. “She’s knows where he is. She said if I didn’t come and get him that she would.”

“No!” Jack Jr., cries. “No! I’m not going back and you can’t make me!”

“I’ve made it clear to your son that he doesn’t have to go back,” I tell him. “He’s in danger of imminent harm, and he doesn’t have to return. He’s told me that these bruises come from his stepmother and that she’s doing the same thing to you. All we need is for you to confirm it.” He looks at me in utter terror and back to his son.

“We have to go, Jack,” he says, his voice shaking. “We have to go.”

“I’m not going back, Dad,” Jack Jr., says.

“We have to go back,” Jack says, swallowing hard. “We have to go back before she comes up here. It’ll just be worse if she comes up here!”

“I’m not going back, Dad,” Jack Jr., says. “I’ll go to foster care. I’ll go to the police. I’ll run away. I’ll do whatever I have to do… but I’m not going back! I don’t have to go back! I’m not going!”

“We have to go back!” Jack Sr., says frantically. “She’ll find you and take you away from me if we don’t go back!”

“She can’t do that,” I interject. My voice is an intrusion into his thoughts. It’s like he forgot I was in the room. “If she takes your son away from you without cause or permission, that’s kidnapping and that’s a federal crime.” His eyes are full of terror.

“What?” he asks incredulously.

“She can’t take your son from you without your permission or without cause, but if you make him go back, the State can and will take him away from both of you.” He looks from me to Jack Jr., to Grace and back to me again.

“She can’t take him away?” I don’t think he heard anything else I said.

“Not unless she wants the police on her tail for the rest of her life,” I tell him, “and I have a feeling that young Jack is not going to keep quiet for her anymore.”

He looks at me like I just hit him and falls back down in his seat, panting like he’s out of breath.

“She… she…” He really is panting. I look to his son.

“Dad?” He breaks from Courtney’s hold. “Dad?”

“Careful, Jack!” I say, remembering his father’s reaction when Jack Jr., ran towards him. Jack Jr., falls to his knees in front of his father who, as I can now see, is hyperventilating.

“Go get a paper bag from the cafeteria,” I say to Marilyn.

“I’ll get it!” Courtney says, and she’s gone in a flash. I turn back to the father and son.

“Dad. Listen to me. Breathe. Please breathe.” That’s not going to help him. He’s going to pass out soon. His son has no idea what’s happening and this is all he knows to do. Courtney must have been moving like Mercury, because she’s back in a flash with a paper bag, opening it quickly and handing it to me. I crinkle the opening around my hand.

“Hold this over your nose and mouth, like this.” I demonstrate for him and he weakly puts the paper bag over his nose and mouth. “Now breathe in and out, into the bag.” He follows directions and it takes a while, but after several moments, he’s breathing normally. When he gets the air back into his lungs, he collapses in tears.

“We can’t go back, Dad,” Jack Jr., tells his father.

“She can’t take him away from me?” he asks and I shake my head. “She always said she could take him away. I was trying to find some kind of way to fight her, but she’s got the money and I don’t. And she’s a strong woman… she’s like Nurse Ratchet or something! She wasn’t always like that. It’s like one day she just turned into the Jolly Green Giant, only not jolly—more like a big, angry, Amazon! Nothing I did was right. It was like she hated the sight of me. Then she started hitting me. Then she started hitting my boy…

“I tried to leave her once. She headed us off before we even got on the bus—her and her driver.

“Her driver?” I ask.

“He’s her lover,” he says, wiping his tears. “I’m no fool. She’s angry with me for not being him.”

“I don’t understand,” I say, looking precariously at Jack Jr., now sitting on the floor, not the least bit surprised by anything he’s hearing. “If she’s in love with someone else, why doesn’t she just divorce you instead of putting you and your son through this?”

“She has too much to lose,” his voice is still cracking. “There’s no prenup. She thinks I’ll take her money. I’ve told her many times that I would sign anything she wanted and to just let me go. She doesn’t believe me. So she torments me… and now she’s tormenting my son. But… you’re saying… she can’t take my son?”

“No, Jack, she can’t take your son. Even if you died tomorrow, no court in the country would give him to her,” I assure him. He shakes his head, presses his chin to his chest, and begins to weep again, bitterly.

“I’m sorry, Jack,” he sobs, clinging to his son’s hands. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I’m so sorry, Jack… I’m so sorry.” His body shakes with his anguish.

“Dad…” His son’s eyes fill with tears. “I didn’t know either. Please, Dad…” He watches his father sob uncontrollably and I see anger behind this young man’s tears. He raises his eyes to me, determined.

“I see men go to jail for beating women!” he declares. “Can’t she go to jail for what she did to us?” His voice is firm and strong—determined, more commanding than I would expect from a 13-year-old boy.

“Yes,” I tell him. “Yes, she can.” He turns back to his father.

“We need to put her in jail, Dad,” he says. “She needs to go to jail. She needs to pay for this!” His father’s weeping subsides, but he doesn’t raise his head. Jack Jr., turns back to me.

“She’s horrible!” Jack Jr., says. “She does terrible things to me and my dad. She doesn’t deserve to be free.” He rolls up his sleeves to reveal multiple bruises, both old and more recent. I nearly gag. He looks like he’s been whipped repeatedly—with a fucking bullwhip or something! What kind of monster does this to a child?

“I’ll do whatever I need to do. I’ll tell whoever I need to tell, but she has to pay!” He looks over at his father. “Show her, Dad.” I look over at Jack Sr., is still holding his head down. “Show her!”

Jack Sr., nearly jumps out of his skin, the poor, timid little man. He sighs heavily, then opens his coat and lifts his shirt, flinching painfully. He has the worst burn across his chest and part of his stomach that I’ve ever seen. It’s bubbling and festering and very new—today or yesterday new. I don’t even know how he’s sitting here. I gasp loudly, shaking hands flying to cover my mouth to prevent me from vomiting. A tear escapes before I can stop it. I feel the burning of the brands again.

“Ana?” Marilyn is by my side in moments. With one hand over my mouth and one on my chest attempting to fend off the imminent return of my partially digested lunch, I fight to control my breathing.

“Ana?” Marilyn’s concerned voice does nothing to calm my churning stomach.

“Get Grace… Call the police,” I choke. “Call the police, now!” I dash out of the community room and make it to the bathroom in just enough time to lose my lunch. Everything that was in my stomach, including water ends up in the commode and nearly on the floor.

“Ana!” Courtney’s voice is behind me. I feel my hair being gathered to the back of my head and I continue to empty the contents of my stomach into the toilet and cry miserably between the horrible wrenching and regurgitations. I hear some things going on around me, people coming in and out, but I just lay my head on the toilet seat and cry. My stomach finally appears to have stopped its violent contractions and dry-heaving and I just lean against the wall out of breath. I feel a cold cloth across my face. I open my eyes and I’m surprised to see Courtney tending to me.

I’m completely out of breath and wondering if I’m also delirious.

“Yeah, I know,” she says, rinsing the cloth and coming back to me on the floor of the stall. “I’d think I was hallucinating, too.” She wipes my face again—all over this time. She cracks open a bottle of water and hands it to me. “Rinse,” she says. I take a healthy mouthful of water and rinse the awful bile residue out of my mouth. I try to repeat, but the taste is still there.

“Do it again,” she says. Good fuck, is she reading my mind? “Really good this time. Skip that ladylike crap. Your makeup’s already shit.” Well, hell. I rinse this crappy warm water through my mouth really good and spit. Rinse one more time, not as thoroughly, and spit. Okay, basically gone—not completely, but basically. I turn around to her and she’s holding a salt shaker.

What are we going to do, make a wish?

“Hold your hand out,” she says. Oh. The Amazing Dr. Grey forgot about the magic of salt. I hold out my hand and she shakes a little less than a dime-sized amount of salt into my hand. I lick it out of my palm.

Taste gone.

I look over at her.

“Trying to get on my good side?” I say, sarcastically. She shrugs noncommittal.

“Maybe,” she says. “I just know about hangovers. The vomiting is still the same,” she says, throwing the water bottle away. “We should get back out there. The police are most likely here by now.” I nod and look at my reflection in the mirror. I look like hell. I tie my hair in a knot and forget it.

“You’re still hot,” she says, matter-of-factly. I turn to look at her like, “Seriously? You’re saying that? Now?”

“Hey, I know what got me here. Nothing’s changed. I’m still bi-sexual. You were hot that night and you’re hot today. Love the henna. You ready?”

She said that shit almost in one breath. I roll my eyes.

“Yes,” I snap like a petulant child. She nods once and holds the door open for me. When I get out there, I realize that more time has passed than I thought. The sun has gone down, the police are already here, and Grace is dressing Jack’s burn because he refuses to go to the hospital.

“Jack,” I say sitting next to him while Grace finishes up, “you should really go to the hospital. It may set up infection and you might need antibiotics.” He shakes his head.

“I can’t,” he says. “I can’t risk running into her right now.” He’s scared shitless.

“Your safety is guaranteed at the hospital, Mr. Hyde,” one of the policemen says. He shakes his head.

“No,” he says. “I have to get out of here. I have to find someplace safe for me and Jack.” I look at Grace.

“We’ll take care of you, Jack,” Grace says. “I’ll be honest and tell you that there’s nothing to stop her from getting in here, but if she does, she’s going to regret it.” She sits on the other side of him.

“I won’t press you right now, but if you start to run a fever, I’m going to take you to the hospital myself.” She crosses her legs facing him. “Marilyn has taken pictures of your bruises and we’ve recorded little Jack’s bruises earlier. We’re going to get restraining order against your wife tomorrow. In the meantime, you two will stay here tonight.”

“What about school for Jack?” he says.

“We’ll have to work that out, too,” Grace says.

“I think we’ve got what we need, Mr. Hyde. We’ll issue a warrant for her arrest and have someone pick her up. I’m going to tell you though, sir. She’ll make bail and she’ll be back out. I agree that you should stay here until you come up with a game plan. These are good people.” Jack Sr., nods and with a few more exchanges, the police leave.

We’re all talking about what needs to be done next and where Jack and his son can escape to and we’re all stunned to silence by the fact that Jack Jr., has turned white as a sheet. I follow his gaze and see someone looking in the window from the parking lot.

Okay.

I send three of the guards out to see who it is.

“Jack, is that her?” I ask him. He nods. “Tell her to come in,” I yell at the detail. They nod and go outside. Jack and Jack Jr., both look like they want to escape.

“Don’t run,” I say. “Jack, sit here next to your father.” A trembling Jack Jr., sits next to a trembling Jack Sr., and we wait for his abusive wife. In walks two of the biggest people I’ve ever seen in my life. This skyscraper bitch has to be 6’8” and her “driver” is just as tall, easily 350-380 pounds each. What the fuck? She’s a good foot taller than this man. How the hell did he fall in love with this?

“You called the police, you piece of shit?” she barks when she walks in, cursing at Jack like nobody else is standing in the room. “Get up and let’s get going!”

“He’s not going anywhere with you,” I tell her.

Jack, some bitch is talking to me telling me you’re not going anywhere. Is that so, Jack?” she asks matter-of-factly. “Is that so, Jack? This little bitch telling you what to do now, Jack?” She says his name with such disdain. Stay calm, Ana. This witch is nothing but a bully.

“Yes,” he says, slowly. “That’s so. I’m not leaving.”

“Really now?” she laughs. “You’re just making it harder on yourself, Jack. You know you can’t go anywhere. I’ll always find you, Jack. So you might as well get your ass up and let’s go.”

“I said we’re not leaving,” Jack says and nothing else.

“You fucking piece of shit! Stop wasting my goddamn time and get your fucking ass outta that chair before I snatch you a new asshole!” There’s the magic words.

“He says he’s not going with you and you’re trespassing, so you need to leave,” I say calmly. She turns a threatening glare to me.

“I’m not talking to you, doll!” she hisses.

“I’m not your doll, and I’m talking to you. You’re trespassing and you need to leave!” I retort. She turns a smirk to me which turns into an all-out guffaw.

“Is she for real?” she says to her seven-foot boyfriend. “She can’t be for real,” she laughs. “I’m trespassing, huh? That’s what I’m doing, huh?” She looks over her shoulder at her boyfriend and they share a condescending laugh. When she turns back to me, I’m not really sure what happens. All I know is that I feel like I got hit in the face with a bag of sand.

Sonofabitch, that hurt!

I’m a full 180 degrees in the opposite direction of where I was facing waiting for the stars to dissipate. This bitch just hit me! This huge Amazon She-Ra bitch just hit me! A few second later, the stars dissipate, I hear scrapping, voices, and laughter around me, and I taste my own blood. Somewhere in the confusion, I hear, “Am I still trespassin’, doll?” followed by that hideously condescending laughter. I look over my shoulder and she’s actually bending over laughing at me. It takes about three seconds to see that while she’s laughing at me, three guards have her boyfriend subdued to the ground and two more are making their way to her.

Oh, no. This bitch is mine.

I make that 180 degree turn right back around to face her and her laughter stops immediately. It could have something to do with cold steel pressed against her forehead, one in the chamber, and my finger on a hairpin trigger, pissed the fuck off because I don’t like the taste of blood.

“Yeah, bitch… still trespassin’.”


A/N:  You can find the 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 52—Discoveries!

So normally, I would post every two weeks, but I found myself needing to connect with you guys after the immense stress of this week, so here it is…

IF YOU DIDN’T GET AN EMAIL FROM ME OR DON’T RECEIVE ON WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS, PLEASE BE SURE THAT I HAVE YOUR CORRECT EMAIL ADDRESS.

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 52—Discoveries!

CHRISTIAN

I almost dread joining the rest of the guests for dinner. Butterfly and I had quite the afternoon, with the cosmic orgasm she gave me in the bathtub after we had made love all night, then the late brunch naked in our room—it’s the most relaxing day we’ve had all weekend. However, she insists on joining the activities for dinner as each night has a different speaker before we head to blissful class for our final lesson. Tonight’s speakers for the dinner will be a labor and delivery nurse and two birth doulas. In the blissful class after dinner, there will be birth henna, which Butterfly really wants to do. I have to admit that I’m excited about that. We decided against the belly casting because it just seemed too creepy to me, but birth henna on that beautiful belly—that, I can really get into.

My wife emerges in this two-piece elegant ensemble that almost makes me want to make her change clothes. It’s a champagne maxi-skirt with a crop top that I can only liken to a sports bra with lace sleeves attached. Her gorgeous belly is on display for everyone to see and it reminds me of that sexy prenatal photo shoot.

Settle down, Neanderthal. She’s perfectly decent.

“You don’t like it,” she says, reading my reaction. “I chose it the moment I read the brochure and saw that they would do henna…”

“No, no, that’s not it at all, Butterfly,” I say walking to her and taking her in my arms. “You’re just so beautiful,” I say, placing my hand on her bare belly and kissing her on her temple. “This is a view of you that I don’t normally share with other people. It just takes some getting used to.” She smiles as I rub her stomach.

“You always know the right things to say,” she says.

“That may be so, but it’s true,” I say, kneeling down to kiss her bare stomach. “You’re so beautiful and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have you.” She covers her face with her shawl, half-playfully.

“Stop, Christian… you’re going to make me cry,” she says, her face buried in her hands. I rise to my feet and move her hands from her face.

“Well, we can’t have that, can we?” I say, using my finger to lift her chin. When our eyes meet, I gently brush her lips with my own, breathing her breath and enjoying our closeness. She sighs softly, and that small surrender makes me want to just gobble her up! I softly caress her scalp where her scar is and her breath catches in her throat. She leans her head slightly into my hand and with her head tilted this way, I can’t resist slipping my tongue between her luscious lips.

She tastes divine.

Before I know it, we’re panting and mauling each other, her with handfuls of my hair in her fists and me with my mouth buried in her neck, tasting her skin and inhaling her essence. Fuck, what this woman does to me.

“Baby, we better stop or we’re not going to make it to dinner,” I protest, tasting her soft skin once more.

“I know… I know…” she breathes, her body literally puddy in my hands except for the death grip she has on my hair. That shit drives me wild!

“Let go of my hair,” I growl. “You know what that does to me!” Her hands release and immediately drop to my shoulders and I dive into her lips once more—a deep, searing kiss, before pulling her back and looking into her eyes.

“You’re so goddamn irresistible,” I hiss against her lips. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to control myself. And then you reveal this delicious ensemble…” I roughly kiss her lips and gently caress her bare stomach at the same time. “I’m not letting your sexy ass out of my sight!”

“Yes, Sir!” she breathes, her eyes closed. Aw, fuck, I really have to get her out of this room now! I kiss her again and slide my hands down to hers. After I take a deep breath to settle myself, I lead her to the door.

“Come,” I command her. “Let’s see what improvements they think they can make on perfection.” A wide smile graces my wife’s beautiful face as she glides out of the hotel room door.

*-*

“Well, where have you guys been?” Sheila asks when we get to dinner. “We wanted you to come shopping with us, but we haven’t seen you all day!”

“We’ve um… um…” Butterfly is having a hard time telling her newfound friend that we’ve been fucking all day.

“We decided to spend some quality time together today… in our room,” I say, getting Butterfly off the hook.

“Really,” Sheila asks. “All day?”

“All day,” Butterfly confirms.

‘Hmm,” Sheila remarks, “that explains the glow.” She raises her eyebrow and smirks at Butterfly, who blushes beet red. I can’t believe she’s still so shy sometimes.

“I can’t help it,” I say, brushing her hair back behind her ear. “She’s so irresistible.” I lean down and kiss her gently behind her earlobe.

“Christian,” she warns in that voice, and it doesn’t serve to calm my libido at all.

“I’m sorry,” I say to the couple standing in front of us.

“Don’t apologize,” Sheila says, putting her arm around CJ. “I know the feeling. Sometimes I think I have to cuff this one if I want a moment’s peace!” CJ chuckles and kisses his wife lovingly on the cheek. Butterfly and I share a knowing glance as cuffs have the opposite effect on us.

“Shall we go in to dinner?” I say, gesturing to the dining room. We all head in for dinner and of course, pass Kiley and her asshole husband on the way. She’s wearing an outfit similar to Butterfly’s, but her bottoms are hip-hugging pants that reveal her baby bump. The ensemble is not nearly as appealing as my wife’s.

“I wish I had the nerve to display my baby bump,” Sheila says. “The stretch marks and discoloration… and my linea nigra just looks awful!”

“Don’t say that, baby,” CJ scolds. “She doesn’t believe me when I tell her she’s beautiful,” he says to me and Christian.

“I know, what’s that all about?” Christian says. “I mean, I realize that I’m biased because I’ve always felt that my wife was beautiful, but I just think that this is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen her in my life and I don’t think she believes me.” I’m waiting for some scoff or smart comment to come from my right where Daniels is standing and I swear, this time I’ll deck him and give him his lawsuit.

Silence.

“It’s not that I don’t believe you, Christian,” she protests. “It’s just that it’s really hard to feel pretty when you’re this big.”

“You can say that again,” Sheila confirms.

“Baby, I don’t think you understand that being ‘this big’ is part of what makes you beautiful,” CJ says to his wife. “There’s life in there… a little human being created by our love. There’s nothing more beautiful than that in the world. Every time I look at you…” He places his hand over her stomach. “Your swollen body and the changes that you’re going through… Oh, baby, it makes me love you more and more every day.”

Sheila looks into her husband’s eyes and her gaze is one that I’ve seen from my wife on several occasions—that her world begins and ends right there. He cups her cheek with his free hand and they share a tender kiss as if they were the only two people in the room. I put my arms around my precious wife and our children, caressing her bare stomach and kissing her shoulder, waiting for our new friends to finish their special moment. When Sheila turns back to us, she’s completely starry-eyed.

“And you wonder why we spent the day in our room,” Butterfly says matter-of-factly, placing her hands over mine on her belly. Hey! What happened to that shy, blushing little Butterfly that was standing here a minute ago?

“No, I don’t,” Sheila breathes, placing her hand on her chest in an effort to compose herself. She looks up beyond Butterfly and her expression changes slightly. We all follow her gaze to Kiley, who is standing just inside the dining room entrance with her annoying ass husband eyeing the four of us. She’s smiling softly at the exchange she just witnessed before turning away and entering the dining room. Sheila sighs.

“I feel so sorry for her,” she says. “I haven’t seen him show her one bit of affection or tenderness all weekend.”

“Me either,” Butterfly says.

I know why, I think to myself. He’s been showing his tenderness and affection to somebody else all weekend.

“How does she tolerate him?” Sheila says as we proceed in to dinner. “I mean, I know love is blind, but that’s ridiculous!”

“For all intent and purposes, everything she’s done and said all weekend gives me the impression that he’s not such a willing participant and she knows fully well that she might be doing this on her own,” Butterfly says clinging to my arm. That small gesture shows me just how happy she is that I’m with her. I cover her hand with mine to reassure her.

“Her outfit is cute,” Sheila comments as we enter the dining room and find a table. “She must be getting the birth henna…”

This conversation goes on through the appetizers, and I can’t help but wonder why Daniels came to this weekend at all. He’s clearly not interested in any of the activities much less his very pregnant wife. Quite frankly, she doesn’t appear to show much interest in him, either. As I ponder how these two could have ever copulated to make a baby, I realize that I’m glaring at him. He meets my glare only momentarily, then turns back to his meal.

Oh… now he’s getting some scruples about fucking with me?

I turn my attention back to my wife and our dinner companions, not wishing to spend two moments too many on that asshole.

Now… I have to say that I didn’t know what to expect when these people started talking about birth henna. I mean, I know what henna is, and I pretty much knew that the henna would be on the women’s baby bump. But watching this art form come to life on several pregnant bellies simultaneously through a small tube of some kind of brown compound is quite a sight to see. At the risk of sounding corny, it’s somewhat spiritual to watch all of these women transform into walking, talking works of art.

And my wife… Good God, my wife!

She’s got this design spiraling out from her belly button with similar designs on each hand. When the artist posed her for a picture with one arm cupping the twins and the other draped over her belly, I had to concentrate to keep from drooling! My God, this is one of the sexiest things I’ve ever seen! And she’s fully dressed!

“Um, excuse me…” I pause waiting for the artist’s name.

“Gada,” she says sweetly.

“Gada, may I please have a copy of that picture?” She smiles widely.

“Of course you can, Mr…”

“Just call me Christian,” I tell her. “This is my wife, Ana.” She smiles again.

“Oh, yes, the Greys,” she says. “You’re joining us from Seattle.” After my curious look, she says, “I make it a point to know everyone’s name.”

“Oh, okay,” I say, trying to appear nonchalant.

“I’ll have that picture for you tomorrow before we leave,” she says. “Your wife is actually very beautiful.”

“Thank you,” I say, “for the picture and the compliment.”

“Don’t mention it. How large do you want it?” I’m taken aback.

“I get to choose?” I say like a kid at Christmas. She laughs good-naturedly.

“Yes, Christian, you get to choose. Why don’t I just do a poster?” My heart leaps.

“And an 8×10? And a wallet size? I’ll pay extra,” I coax. She laughs again.

“I wouldn’t think of it. She’s so beautiful, she inspired me. The pictures will be free. A prenatal gift.” She smiles again.

“I can’t thank you enough,” I say, feeling like I just hit the jackpot.

“Live well and take care of those babies… and keep in touch. Let us know how you’re doing once the babies are born and send pictures for our wall of fame, if you don’t mind.”

“Will do,” I reply, shaking her hand before I rejoin my beautiful wife again, currently admiring her henna in a full-length mirror. “Hello, gorgeous,” I say from behind her.

“Hello, yourself,” she says, smiling widely at my reflection.

“I know I say it all the time, but you look beautiful.” Her smile widens.

“This time, I believe you,” she says, her voice full of mirth. She turns her attention back to her reflection. She looks so sensual with her henna-graced hands framing and delicately caressing her adorned belly. It sends a spark through me that I can’t explain.

“Oh, God, please stop,” I say, sliding my hands under hers and cupping her stomach, placing gentle kisses on her neck and shoulders.

“You find this arousing, Mr. Grey?” she says in a sultry voice.

“I find it unbelievably sexy,” I whisper, grazing her skin with my teeth and causing her to gasp before replacing my teeth with my lips. I’m never ashamed of PDA’s, but I resign myself to stop before I mount my wife here in front of the entire assembly. When I raise my head and examine the room, I discover that many of the other couples are caught in the same lovey-dovey spell that we are. I continue to indulge in her delicious skin, and that’s when I realize…

“Butterfly, did you realize that your back is exposed?” I ask cautiously. She pauses for a moment, then freezes. I was so concerned with getting used to her stomach and maternal beautiful on display for the world that I complete forgot about her back.

And I think she did, too.

“My back!” she exclaims in a desperate whisper. “The brands!” She’s starting to panic.

“Breathe, baby. I’m behind you.” She starts to slowly calm, but I can tell that she’s still nervous. Her back hasn’t been out since the accident and she may still be in the mindset that she was before the tattoo.

The tattoo.

“Baby, listen to me,” I say, reaching for her shawl on a nearby chair and draping it gently over her shoulders. She goes to close it completely, but I won’t let her. I know she’s looking for security from the warmth, but she’ll just have to get it from me.

“Christian,” she protests.

“Listen to me… Did you forget about the beautiful garden on your back?” She pauses for a moment.

“The garden,” she says, as if she’s testing the word.

“Yes, the garden. I only mentioned your back because I was paying so much attention to the fact that this outfit has no front that I wasn’t paying no attention to the fact that this outfit has no back. I didn’t mean to unnerve you. I’m sorry.” She examines herself in the mirror again, true admiration in her eyes at the reflection.

“The garden,” she says again. She slowly drops her shawl and it falls useless to the floor. “Yes… the garden,” she says as she caresses her stomach once more with her fingertips.

I back away from her, leaving her to commune with her reflection, and sit in the chair that the shawl previously occupied. I gaze on her as she connects with her prenatal beauty… finally. How can I not love her? She’s exquisite. She’s the embodiment of everything I could have possibly hoped for in a woman. She’s so beyond perfect that I can’t believe she belongs to an undeserving wretch like me. She sees redemption in me. I don’t see it without her.

I don’t know how long I sit there admiring her admiring herself, but I can’t stand not to touch her anymore. The last time I remember her lost in her own beauty and sensuality this way was in the playroom at Escala when I revealed the hidden cameras and monitors and she watched herself play with her own ass. Fuck, I need to be near her, now. If this is what henna does to her—to us—I’ll fucking hire an artist to come to the house every week!

I rise from my seat and replace one of her hands on her stomach with mine, the other on the small of her back. She shivers… as always…

The ink.

“You’re driving me wild over there,” I confess. She turns her face to me, her eyes boring through me. Good God, that look! She could bring any man to his knees with that look! Her ocean-blue eyes—limpid, just like the cliché—yearning and innocent at the same time. I can’t explain it, but the force is unimaginable and I can’t take it anymore.

She puts one hand flat on the side of my face and it’s like fire, spreading through my cheek and down through my soul. We don’t say anything; we just stare at one another. There’s no one else in this time and space but her and me. I’m a lonely demon, floundering in my own mire and she is my savior, come to rescue me from the muck and sludge that was my existence… my existence before her.

I move to face her and she puts both hands on both sides of my face and pulls me down to her for a soft, possessive kiss and the world floats away again. How can she do this to me? She causes me to lose all control, all reason. Without her, I’m doomed.

“I want to dance with you,” I breathe against her lips. “Somewhere, anywhere… I don’t care. I need to have you in my arms.”

“Where?” she whispers, bending to my will. I take her hand, careful of the henna, and lead her to the main room of the hotel. There’s a small space on the other side of the fireplace.

There! That will do.

I lead her to our makeshift dance floor and pull out my phone. I quickly open Pandora and pull up my favorite oldies dance tune station and the first song that plays couldn’t be more perfect.

I turn to my beautiful wife who’s gazing at me much like Sheila looked at CJ earlier. I stroke her cheek with my knuckles and get lost in those eyes for just a moment. I place the softest kiss on her lips that lasts only a few seconds, but feels like eternity. I can’t stand not having her in my arms one more second.

I move behind her and pull her close to me, as close as we can possibly get—one hand on top of her belly, the other underneath, framing it like she often does. I bury my face in her neck like I always do when we dance this way and do my best to meld into her, pull her into me, body and soul. When we’ve achieved that oneness, her breath catches in her throat and she lays her head back on my shoulder. With her hands over mine, we sway gently to “The Very Thought of You.”

Here in this moment, with my life in my arms, I am home. I need nothing else but her love to make everything right in the world. I don’t even know how many songs played or how long we stayed in the lobby, behind the fireplace, lost in each other. I don’t remember anything but hearing Nat King Cole and being lost in my love.

I don’t know how much time passes, but I can feel that she’s a bit weary. When I open my eyes, we appear to have accumulated a few other dancing couples behind the fireplace, some from our class and others from God only knows where. When I hear the ending of “Walking My Baby Back Home,” I kiss my beloved on her shoulder. If I didn’t know better, I would swear that she had fallen asleep on my shoulder, though that’s impossible since we were both on our feet.

“Let’s go upstairs, Butterfly. You’re tired.” She smiles coyly and nods. I retrieve my phone and apologize to the other couples that the music is leaving as the leading lady needs her rest. I see our henna artist sitting on a nearby loveseat, smiling pleasantly. I go over to her to thank her once more for her talent and the pictures I’ll be getting tomorrow. Butterfly asks her about how to make sure the henna lasts as long as possible and how she should care for it. I catch a glimpse of Jason in my peripheral sitting at the bar. I excuse myself and go over to him and as I approach, I see Daniels at the other end of the bar. We make quick eye-contact and he just as quickly diverts his attention back to his drink. I sit on the stool next to Jason.

“Drinking on the job, Jason?” I jest.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he says. “I couldn’t help it. The Pepsi was calling my name.” I chuckle at him.

“Are you down here keeping an eye on that guy?” I ask. He looks at me, but says nothing. “I think you can stand down from the asshole. He hasn’t said two words since yesterday afternoon.”

“Really?” Jason says, and his reaction is mediocre at best. I examine him, then smirk knowingly.

“What did you do?” I ask. He shrugs.

“We just had a little talk,” he says. He picks up his soft drink and looks down the bar at Daniels. He raises his glass to Daniels and proceeds to take a drink. Daniels’ expression doesn’t change, but he glares at Jason for a moment—making no eye-contact with me—and walks away from the bar.

“He won’t have anything to say to you or Her Highness for the rest of your stay here,” he says, taking another sip of his soda. I laugh to myself.

“Well, there’s not much time left seeing that we leave tomorrow, but thanks for the moment’s peace you afforded us.” I pat him on the shoulder. “You’re a good man.”

“Thanks, boss.”

“Get some rest. We’re turning in. Her Highness is falling asleep on her feet.” He nods.

“Goodnight, sir,” he says, still sipping his drink. “I’ll just finish this.” I smirk.

“Good man,” I say, rising from the stool and going back to Butterfly. When I get there, she’s thanking Gada and I help her out of her seat. Someone else has started music on their phone and the dancing continues behind the fireplace.

“Geez, you guys bring love and happiness everywhere you go, huh?” Sheila meets us at the bottom of the stairs.

“I guess so,” Butterfly chuckles.

“Christian,” CJ pulls me aside. “I’ve never asked. What do you do?” Oh, if you only knew.

“Some of everything, CJ,” I admit. “There aren’t many industries I don’t ‘dabble’ in.”

“Really?” he says, surprised. “That’s good to hear. I think you’re a good guy and you seem to have a steady head on your shoulders. I’d like to get together and talk shop sometimes. Maybe we could come up with some really profitable joint ventures. I know you’re all the way in Washington, but hey, you never know, right? Worst case scenario, the four of us meet up in Wine Country once a year and we talk about being new fathers, huh?” He hands me a business card. I smile and open my phone case, pulling out one of my personal business cards and placing his inside.

“That’s sounds really good to me, CJ,” I say, handing him the card. He looks at the card and his brow furrows. Then he looks back up at me.

“You’re kidding, right?” he says in disbelief. I shake my head. “Son of a bitch,” he says under his breath. “I never even put it together. All weekend—Christian and Ana Grey. Geez, I feel like a dope.”

“Don’t,” I say with a smirk, “It’s refreshing to be able to spend some time in public with my wife and not be recognized. That’s why I chose this place. It’s pretty remote.”

“You chose this place?” he says, surprised. I nod.

“The babymoon was a Christmas present for my very busy wife,” I tell him. “That little frame packs a lot of power and she uses every bit of it every day. I wouldn’t mind so much if she wasn’t pretty much a human functioning incubator for our bundles, but she really needed a break since the babies are due very soon.”

“That really considerate… but still, I should have known,” he laments.

“Don’t worry, that Daniels asshole had me pegged almost from the beginning. If I had to choose, I would rather it had been the other way around. Look at it this way. You would have acted completely differently had you known who I was.” He nods.

“Yeah, I would’ve,” he admits. I nod back and point to his hand.

“In which case, you wouldn’t be holding that card,” I tell him. “You were a decent guy to me and my wife without knowing who I really am. That says a lot. I’d be happy to see what we could come up with if we put our heads together.” He looks at the card.

“Will I be able to get through to you?” he asks. “I am a businessman. No offense, but I know how this usually works… ‘Have your people call my people…’” he says. He’s right, that’s usually how it works. I point to the card again.

“My cell is on that card. Very few people get that that card,” I reinforce. He looks at the card and proffers his hand to me. I accept the gesture.

“Thanks a lot, Christian,” he says, shaking my hand, “or should I call you Mr. Grey now?”

“Only if we’re around colleagues or my employees. I try to keep it formal with my employees, except with that lug sitting at the bar.” I gesture to Jason. “He’s my bodyguard and best friend. He took a bullet for me once.” Why do I always tell people that?

Hi, meet Jason. He took a bullet for me once.

“I was wondering what the deal was with him, but you know… you don’t pry into other people’s business—unless it’s business.” He raises an eyebrow at me. I nod.

“Yes, indeed,” I confirm.

“I didn’t mean to ambush you, but the wife and I are leaving early tomorrow, so I just wanted to catch you before we left.” I shake his hand again.

“I’m glad you did. Give me a call in a week or two. Let’s see what we can get going.”

“I sure will,” he says with a big smile.

“I know that shake!” Sheila interrupts us. “You said no business this weekend, CJ!”

“It’s not what you think, baby,” CJ excuses.

“It’s my fault, Sheila,” I say, taking the blame. “CJ was just saying ‘goodbye’ because you guys are leaving early tomorrow. We exchanged business cards so that we could keep in touch and it just ran away from there. You know how businessmen get. We weren’t cutting any deals at the bottom of the stairs, just making an appointment for contact in a couple of weeks. Is that okay?” I give her the big gray-eyed apologetic gaze. She twists her lips.

“Yeah, I guess so,” she acquiesces, “and I’m immune to that shit. He does it, too.” Butterfly unsuccessfully stifles a chuckle. When I look at her, she just smiles and shrugs. “Your eyes are strikingly gorgeous, Christian, but they ain’t got nothin’ on my husband’s sleepy brown, come-hither, bedroom eyes. Sorry.” She walks over to CJ. “Let’s get going, Big Money,” she teases.

“That’s my cue,” he says. “Goodnight, Ana, Christian. Next week or so.”

“Good deal,” I say, putting my arm around my wife as they ascend the stairs. I lead Butterfly to the elevator just beyond the stairs and we stand in silence while we wait. I allow her to enter first and push the button for our floor once inside. When the doors close, I stand on the other side of the elevator and just stare at her. She’s holding her shawl around her, careful not to let it touch the dried henna paste on her hands and stomach. She actually looks like she should be in a magazine spread or something, with her hair cascading over her shoulder and down around her belly. The elevator rings to signal our floor and I gesture for her to exit.

“After you, Mrs. Grey,” I say. She exits the elevator and closes her shawl over her chest as she proceeds to our room. I walk far enough behind her to watch her glide.

“Are you watching me walk?” she accuses softly without turning around.

“Mmm-hmm,” I confirm, still enjoying the show. She then removes her shawl so that I can enjoy her full form—those round hips and that gorgeous ass parading down the hall in front of me; that beautiful garden beckoning me to come and play. I take a deep breath in through my nose, and let it out quietly through my lips. This woman is amazing and I’m literally drooling at her walking away from me. Oh, I have plans for you, Mrs. Grey… just for you.

When we get to the room, I ask why she hasn’t removed the henna paste yet.

“Gada says the longer I leave it on, the longer it will stain, so I’m going to try to leave it on overnight and then however long it lasts after that…” She shrugs. Fair enough. I push her against the wall and plant a bruising kiss on her lips while removing her top, which I discover has a built-in bra. Good, less clothes to fumble with. I quickly remove her skirt, underwear, and shoes and instruct her to lie flat on the bed.

With the sash from her robe, I tie her hands together, palms flat in a praying position to save her henna, then I worship her body like the goddess that she is, gently tasting her skin and nipples, knees, thighs and earlobes, and finally her clit and sweet juices when I get to her sex, bringing her to shivering orgasms before cocooning her in my arms as much as I can without disturbing the henna paste and falling into a vastly contented sleep.


ANASTASIA

I honestly don’t think we’ve ever had that much sex in the span of a few days. Not that I can remember anyway and I unfortunately don’t remember much these days, but I sure the hell remember several times in the early morning hours of Wednesday morning and again after I got out of bed intent to help with New Year’s Day brunch. Then there was Saturday night into Sunday morning and several times that day, culminating with two blasting orgasms in the wee hours of this morning… Hmm, that’s only three days out of the last six. It seemed like more to me, but it’s still a lot of orgasms.

I’m able to get in the morning yoga and Christian, Jason, and I are able to enjoy breakfast—unfortunately without Sheila and CJ, with Daniels looking over our shoulder sans his beautiful wife. He dare not say anything to us. That altercation with Christian must have scared him shitless.

Around noon, we have packed and are gathering our things to get ready to head back to Seattle. The babymoon continues for a few other couples, but we need to get back to work and get ready for the babies. With only a few minor hiccups, I have to say that Project Babymoon was a success. I am thoroughly decompressed and ready to take on the world. I’m feeling sexy and sensual again and I’m excited about the babies. I have to admit; this was just what I needed.

Just as the men are loading the car, I see Kiley at the front desk. She appears to be settling the bill and Arthur is nowhere in sight. He made her pay for her own babymoon? What a fucking deadbeat!

“Hey, Kiley,” I say, just as she receives her receipt.

“Hey, Ana,” she replies, perky as ever. This must be an act. She has to be miserable as fuck living with this guy.

“Listen…” I reach into my purse, pull out a business card and hand it to her. “I want you to keep in touch, okay? And if you need anything, please call me and let me know.”

She looks at my card and smiles.

“I sure will, Ana, and thank you for everything.” She hugs me as warmly as our bellies will allow us and begins to leave. Looking at my card again, she turns around and comes back to me.

“I don’t want you to worry about me, Ana. I’ll be okay. Really, I will,” Kiley says. “My husband only thinks I’m oblivious to his philandering and spending the money from my trust fund on his fly-by-night females. What he doesn’t know is that this baby is not even his.” I frown deeply.

“What?” I ask, appalled.

“I know. I quietly sit by and allow his bad behavior to speak for itself and say nothing until it becomes unbearable. He thinks I’m the meek little, submissive, unknowing wifey because I don’t put up a fuss about what he’s doing, but I’ve known since shortly after his second indiscretion… or was it his third?”

I stand there gaped-mouth, staring at her, unable to completely process what she’s telling me. She knows that her husband is unfaithful and to top it off, she’s being unfaithful, too?

“Yes, I can understand if your view of me has changed, but please remember. I never misrepresented myself. I only acknowledged my husband’s ghoulish behavior and continued with this educational and relaxing weekend. When he had the nerve to tell me that he had been hanging out with Christian when I knew that he was holed up with that bitch in room 305, it took everything in me not to let the cat out of the bag,” she says, her smile a combination of spiteful and knowing. “If he had any good sense, he would count back and realize that at the time this baby was conceived, he was too busy in the company of Slut #6 to give me any of his time.”

Oh, God, this story is just getting worse and worse.

“How can he possibly think this is his child if you haven’t had sex?” I ask, still spellbound.

“Because he’s arrogant and stupid. Haven’t you met him?” she declares matter-of-factly. “For one thing, he doesn’t think I would ever cheat on him. I couldn’t possibly be with another man, but for another thing, he does think he slept with me.” I frown again.

“What do you mean? How can that be?” I know if I fucked my husband. It’s not in my imagination.

“When I missed my period, I took a home pregnancy test. The day that it came up positive, I guilt-tripped him into staying home with me that evening. I fixed a lovely dinner, slipped him a mickey, and while he was barely conscious and quite incoherent, gave him a handjob until he came and passed out. He awoke sated, with me naked in his arms. I’ll never forget the look of disappointment on his face when he rolled over and realized that it was me lying next to him.” She drops her head, the first sign of remorse I’ve seen from her throughout this entire discussion. “He hasn’t slept with me since. When I told him that I was pregnant, he asked no questions. That was five months ago. I’m nearly seven months pregnant.”

“Why don’t you just leave?” I ask. “He’s clearly unrepentant about his actions and, quite frankly, two wrongs don’t make a right.”

“That’s just it. I’m not trying to make a right, Ana!” she retorts. “I don’t want him to see the err of his ways. I want him to have just a tiny bit of the pain and humiliation that he’s caused me over these years. These women calling the house and hanging up; him coming home wreaking of some other woman and sex, and then lying in bed next to me without even having the decency to shower; spending the money from my trust fund on weekend getaways, jewelry, clothes for these little gold-diggers! No, I don’t want right! I want him to hurt! I want him to know that the little wifey knew all along and was never exactly who he thought she was!”

“And how will you do that?” I inquire incredulously. “He’s spending all your money and he’s still sleeping with these women. He brought one here for your weekend getaway!” She smiles widely.

“He’s only spending what I allow him to spend,” she says triumphantly. “I took the lion’s share of my trust fund and invested it… ironically, with the help of the guy whose baby I’m carrying. With the earnings from those investments, I have more money than I started with. Trevor is wealthy in his own right, so he doesn’t need my money, but he showed me how to multiply my investment tenfold. It only took me 18 months to regenerate and surpass the money Arthur pilfered away on his hoes. And because he thinks I’m such a scatterbrain, he had no problem signing a prenup. So when the money in that account is gone, he has no rights to the additional money that I’ve made. So, hopefully before the summer, I’ll be divorced and on my way to live my life with Trevor… or even without him. However I chose to live it, it will be without Arthur. And my ultimate, ultimate revenge will be for him to be standing in the delivery room waiting to see his son and when the doctor presents the baby, he’ll be born black!”

Fucking hell. I’m flabbergasted. All this time, I’ve been sitting here thinking this woman was the poor unsuspecting victim when the entire time, she’s been plotting her revenge. I don’t know whether to be disgusted or impressed!

“I don’t know, Kiley. You know what they say about karma,” I warn.

“I’m very well accustomed to bitches getting over on me, Ana, so she can just get in line,” she retorts with no remorse. “I don’t regret meeting you. You made this weekend bearable and I hope everything goes well for you and Christian and the twins.” She smiles and walks toward the door. I’m standing there, stunned, still unable to believe the tale that has unfolded before me. I mean, I’ve heard and seen worse, but she had me so fooled all this time, I just can’t believe it.

“Butterfly… you look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Christian draws my attention from the door that Kiley just exited. I shake myself as if to shake loose a bad thought.

“No, I just… I was saying goodbye to Kiley,” I tell him. He put his arms around me.

“I feel sorry for her tethered to that guy and having to bear his child.” Don’t… she’s got that all under control.

“I think she’ll be okay,” I say dismissively. I don’t even want to repeat her tale at this point. It’s too much on my poor psyche. Christian examines me for a moment, but decides to let the matter lie.

“Come on, let’s go home. Jason is aching to get out of this place after seeing absolutely no action for four days—sexual or otherwise,” he says, placing his hand in the small of my back and guiding me out the door.

*-*

We had our last Lamaze class when we got home, but it seemed a bit of a waste with everything we learned from the babymoon. I think I was hoping to make a similar connection with the people in the class as the ones I made with the couples at the retreat, but it just wasn’t going to happen. At the retreat, we were Christian and Ana Grey. Here in Seattle, we’re AnaChris. It’s a bit depressing. Making new friends felt so wonderful, so fresh—just everyday, average people, not the country-club type and contacts that I know I’ll make when we get into Broadmoor. Yes, I’ll need those contacts, but I’ve never been a country-club girl. I’m a chameleon and I know I’ll fit in, but I’ll never be able to be myself around them… not like I was this weekend when we met up with Sheila and CJ, even when we talked to Kiley—minus her gorilla husband. Is Val right? Have I changed that much?

I suddenly feel the need to be near my husband. A good, swift kick from one of the soccer players indicates that’s a pretty good idea. I stop in the kitchen for some apple juice—heaven only knows why I want apple juice—and head down to his office. He’s been holed up in there since just after we got back from Lamaze.

“Come in,” I hear from the other side of the door. I open the door and I am greeted with an unbelievable sight—poster-sized pictures of me all over the room! They’re everywhere! You can’t even make out the room for the tripods all around the floor, which is impressive considering the size of Christian’s office…

My henna stomach framed by my henna hands above and below…
Both hands on Christian’s face as we share a tender kiss…
Me admiring myself in the mirror, both me and the reflection in the photograph…
The same picture with Christian sitting in a seat nearby gazing adoringly at me…
Us and our reflections in the mirror as we both frame my stomach…
My back with Christian’s hand partially covering the garden…
Us dancing behind the fireplace…

“Where… how did you…?” I’m speechless.

“They’re extraordinary. I only asked for one—that one,” he says, pointing at the first picture I saw. “I had no idea she would take all of these, and she wouldn’t let me pay her. She wouldn’t accept a dime. She said that we were one of the most cosmically connected couples she has ever met and she’s been doing this for 15 years—she even does weddings!” He’s admiring something on his desk and as I get closer, I realize that it’s more pictures of me… and us—some different ones and some smaller ones of the pictures I’ve already seen.

“She talked about you the most—how beautiful you are, your extraterrestrial energy, how the camera loves you, how the henna makes you glow… I thought she had fallen in love with you for a moment,” he says, without malice, but also without mirth. How did we get these home and I never even saw them?

“She had to get them developed, so they were here when we got back from Lamaze, tripods and all,” he says in that eerie way he has of reading my mind.

“That must have cost her a fortune!” I say. Just how much money does she make doing birth henna—or henna at all?

“I’ll say,” he says. “Not a fortune for me, but a fortune for most people.” He continues to flip through the pictures. I look up at his computer screen and his file explorer is open—more pictures of me, thumbnails on a grid. Just how many pictures did this woman take and how did I not see her?

“She sent the digital originals?” I ask.

“Digital copies,” he says. “She keeps the originals. She sent a release form for us to sign and get back to her saying that we didn’t mind if she used our pictures in her classes and ads. I emailed her and told her that I had to talk to you first, since you’re the star of the show. I’m nothing more than background.” I climb into his lap with my legs over the arm of his massive desk chair and put my arms around his neck.

“You’re quite the background, Mr. Grey,” I say in a husky voice.

“And you’re quite the star, Mrs. Grey,” he replies, wrapping his arms around me. “Did you enjoy this weekend?”

“More than you know,” I reply. “Thank you so much. You’re so considerate.”

“You’re so worth it,” he replies and we share a chaste kiss.

“I think we should wait until after the babies are born and we make our announcements before she uses our photos. Someone is bound to recognize us.” He ponders for a moment, then nods.

“That’s a good plan,” he says, looking at the pictures again. “I wish she would have let me pay her. These pictures are out of this world. Look at this one.” He points to the picture with his hand on my back. “These are some fucking amazing candid shots, and we didn’t even know we were being photographed.”

“I love this one,” I say about the picture of him sitting in the seat gazing at me while I look in the mirror. “There’s no amount you can pay for a moment like that. I didn’t know you were looking at me.” I turn to face him. “But that look in your eyes… it makes me feel like the world, Christian. I’m so glad she caught it on film.” Much better than a belly cast.

“You are the world, Anastasia. You’re my world.” Oh, the things this man says to me. I embrace him tight around his neck as he holds me close to him.

“I love you, Christian,” I choke. I won’t cry. I’m too happy to cry.

“I love you, too, Butterfly.” I hold him a moment longer before releasing the death grip I have on his neck and admiring the pictures some more.

“Chuck started physical therapy today,” he says as we look through more of the pictures.

“He did?” I ask, Christian nods. “That’s great news! I need him on his toes for when the children are born.”

“Ben will still most likely be with you guys,” he says. “Maybe more covert, but still with you since he knows your routines. Marilyn’s guy says he has a hard time keeping up with her, so she might want to get him a daily itinerary before she starts the day.” I scoff at the statement.

“I have a hard time keeping up with Marilyn and I know where she is every minute of every day. Who do you have on her?” He frowns.

“Um, I think it’s Bronson,” he says.

“And how old is Bronson?” He shrugs.

“I don’t know, late 30’s, I think.” I nod.

“Marilyn is like a walking talking energy drink. She’s two steps ahead of me no matter what I do. I have to ask her to translate sometimes, she’s moving so fast. She can hit three unrelated topics in one sentence and never miss a beat. Today is Monday… night! I could tell her right now that I need a formal planned for Saturday for 200 people complete with invitations and she could pull it off without a hitch.” He stiffens a bit when I tell him this. “What?”

“Nothing,” he says. “I just think we might need to change her guy.”

“Why?” I ask. “Is he no good?”

“No, it’s not that. It’s just that I think she might need someone more… energetic.”

“Damn straight, she needs someone energetic, but why do I get the feeling that’s not all?” He sighs.

“Butterfly, I love you, but you’ve got to stop seeing trouble where there is none,” he scolds.

“I’m not seeing trouble where there is none, Christian. Your whole body tensed when I said that. I know something’s not right.” He ponders for a moment, twists his lips, then rolls his eyes.

“Fine,” he says firmly but gently. “There are many ways to get to you, Butterfly. I’m just trying to make sure that none of them are weak spots… the children, Marilyn, my mom, the center… it’s a full-time job, baby. I don’t want you worrying about it all the time, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t.” I smile softly.

“You’re a wonderful man, Christian, but stop worrying about everything or you’re not going to make it to 50, and I kind of need you around,” I say, rubbing my stomach with my fingertips. He touches his forehead to mine.

“I know, baby, but when you love someone as much as I love you…” He trails off and sighs, closing his eyes. I touch his cheek and he turns his lips to my hand, gently kissing my palm. I reciprocate by softly kissing his cheek, then his jaw, then his ear… He turns his face back to mine and kisses me deeply, and we’re instantly lost in each other.

*-*

I look at my henna the next morning before I shower. The paste has begun to crumble from my skin, so I finish removing it from my hands and baby bump. I stand in the mirror and admire the beautiful reddish/brown tattoo on my now smooth stomach. It’s beautiful and I can finally caress it. I think I’ll be getting henna more often. It makes me feel so beautiful even though it’s only visible to the public on my hand.

I was very happy to hear that Chuck started physical therapy yesterday. I like Ben, but Chuck is like my right arm. Yes, I know that should be Marilyn, but she’s more like my saphenous vein, which would make Christian my jugular.

Okay… this is getting morbid.

Tuesday morning seems a bit quiet… too quiet. I should have known something was amiss.

“You look great, Ana,” Grace says when she comes into my office. “You should get away more often.”

“It was a wonderful weekend,” I say. “I almost didn’t want to come back. I learned so much and Christian and I made some interesting new friends…”

“Wait… Christian made a new friend?” she asks incredulously.

“Yes, can you believe that?” I reply, “They’re extremely chummy.”

“Well, go figure…” Her statement is interrupted by a knock at the door. It’s Courtney.

“Ana, I—I… I think you need to come… like, right now.” She’s stuttering and nervous. What the hell is going on?

“What is it, Courtney? What’s wrong?” I ask. I won’t walk into some unknown situation unprepared.

“Please, come now,” she insists, “please.”

“Do I need to get security?” I ask, rising from my seat.

“No. Well… no… not yet. It’s just… I don’t know what to do. Please, come… you too, Miss Grace, please? Now… please?” Miss GraceOkay, now I have to go see what the hell is going on. I follow her into one of the classrooms with Grace right behind me. There’s a frail frame in the room alone sitting in a chair facing away from us.

“Good, he’s still here,” she breathes and walks over to the form in a hoodie and old, soiled jeans. “Jack? I brought Ana. I brought Miss Grace, too. She’s a doctor… a pediatrician I think.”

From under the hoodie comes the most haunted pair of blue eyes I’ve ever seen. My God, what happened to this kid?

“Jack? Is that your name?” I say approaching cautiously. His gaze falls on me and he nods. He looks as if he could just give up the fight and die any second. “My name is Ana. I should tell you, I’m a shrink. This is my mother-in-law, Grace. Courtney’s right, she’s a pediatrician.” I hold my hand out to him and timidly shakes it; his grip couldn’t thread a needle.

“Hi… I’m Jack.” His voice is weak, timid and hollow. He’s nervous as he introduces himself to me yet again.

“Can I sit with you, Jack?” His glassy eyes look up at me and I notice a horrible shiner on his right eye. He looks down again and nod infinitesimally. I pull a chair next to him and sit.

“You’re still pregnant,” he says. Still… I nod.

“Yes, I am,” I reply. “I’m due next month.”

“I miss my mom,” he says, sadly.

“Where is your mom, Jack?” I ask. He frowns deeply.

“Dead,” he says. “She died when I was six. Cancer.”

“So you live with your dad now?” I ask. He nods, clearly fighting his tears. “Did he do this to you?” He shakes his head feverishly. “Who then?”

“My… my stepmom,” he says with a quivering jaw and a cracking voice. “She’s horrible. She’s a monster. I can’t take it anymore. I really can’t! I can’t go back.”

“How long, Jack?” He’s sobbing now. “How long has your stepmom been doing this?”

“I don’t know… years. I don’t know.” He wipes his eyes with red, bruised hands and my heart breaks.

“And what does your father say?” I ask, trying to control my voice. “He just lets this happen?” He shakes his head again.

“He doesn’t have a choice,” he says. “She does this to him, too. Worse sometimes. He’s so scared. She threatens him and… she’s got money and she knows people. She keeps saying that she’ll take me away because he’s not fit, but she’s horrible and I can’t go back. I can’t!” Sobs wrack his tiny body. What is he, 10? He’s so small, but he seems older.

“How old are you… Jack?” I ask.

“Sixteen.” Like hell, he’s sixteen! He can’t be sixteen. He’s just saying that because he knows that he’s free to leave home at that age, but there’s no way in hell I’m sending him back to his stepmother. Just his eye and hands look horrific and we haven’t even seen the rest of him.

“Jack, listen to me. We won’t send you back, but you have to be honest with me. How old are you?” He sighs heavily and his body sinks and gets smaller, as if it could.

“Thirteen,” he whispers. I nod.

“Where do you live?” I ask. “Just the city—you don’t have to tell me any more.”

“Redmond.” Shit, that’s on the other side of Belleville!

“How did you get here?” Grace asks.

“The 545,” he says, “drops me off right across the street. I…” He shudders for a moment. “I’ve been here lots of times. I just never came inside. I saw you on TV.” He looks up at me. “I saw you when you did that commercial—about the abused faces…” The Faces of Abuse PSA. That far back? “Then I heard that you got into a car accident and you might die.” He drops his head and tears fall onto his soiled jeans. “I prayed for you,” he said. “I prayed that you would get better, and you did. I said if you got better that I would come inside… for me and my dad… and you did… so here I am.”

I’ve been better for months, though…

“What took you so long, Jack?” I ask. “That was last November. Why did you wait?”

“I was waiting for Dad,” he said. “He’s so scared… He won’t come. He won’t leave, but I can’t stay. I can’t take it anymore. I’d rather die!” He wails. I know he speaks the truth. It’s written all over him. He may very well take his own life if we send him back.

“Jack, will you take your hood off, please?” I ask. Jack removes his hood and he looks like hell. His hair is dirty and messy and he looks like he hasn’t eaten. He’s badly bruised and his ear looks red and swollen.

“Have you been living on the streets?” I ask. He nods.

“In the park, under porches, anywhere that I could sleep. I’ll go back to that if I have to. I’ll go to the mountains, anything! But I won’t go back there!”

“How long?” I ask. He shrugs.

“A few days, I don’t know. I don’t remember.”

“And how did you get the black eye and the bruises?”

“I went back… for food… for Dad…” His voice trails off. “She… she was there. She saw me… she got mad and… did this.” He points to his eye. I’ve heard enough.

“Are you hungry?” I ask. He nods. “Let’s get you cleaned up. You can have a bath and some clean clothes and some food. Can Grace look at your ear and dress your bruises, just to make sure that they won’t get infected?” He looks up at Grace.

“I won’t hurt you, Jack. I promise,” Grace says. “If I do anything that causes you pain or makes you feel uncomfortable, you just tell me to stop and I’ll stop, okay?” He eyes her nervously, but doesn’t answer.

“I’ll come with you if you want, Jack,” Courtney says, her gaze concentrated on the frightened teenager. Hope dawns in his face.

“You will?” he asks eagerly.

“Sure,” she says, “if Miss Grace says it’s okay.” She looks up at Grace, questioning. A small smile begins to form on Grace’s lips, but she suppresses it and nods to Courtney. Courtney turns her smile back to Jack and holds out her hand to him. He quickly takes her hand and rises out of the seat.

“Come on, we’re gonna have to go to someplace more private,” she tells him. “She’s a doctor, so you might have to put on one of those gowns. If you do, I’ll turn away so I don’t see your junk, okay?” and away they go. Grace looks at me, her face mirroring the utter shock that I feel before she follows Courtney and our newest resident. Once I recover from the scene that just unfolded in front of me, I go back to my office and page Marilyn.

“I hear you’ve been giving your security detail the flux,” I tell her. She frowns.

“What?” she replies, taken aback.

“Christian says your security is having a hard time keeping up with you.” She takes a seat in the chair in front of my desk with her iPad.

“You mean Chuckie?” she says, twisting her lip. I look up from my notepad.

“His name is Chuck, too?” I ask, surprised.

“No, his name is Victor. I just call him Chuckie. Get it? Bronson? Charles Bronson? He’s just as old and not as useful.” She taps something on her iPad. I shake my head and sigh.

“Charles Bronson is dead, dear,” I tell her. “If he were alive, he’d be nearly 100 years old.”

“My point exactly,” she says, without missing a beat. I snicker.

“Marilyn, I’m told Bronson is only in his late thirties…”

“Then, get me someone in their late twenties,” she says. “I have a busy schedule. I don’t have time to pull Grampa behind me.”

“It can’t be that bad,” I protest.

“Look,” she says, setting her iPad in her lap. “I have no problem complying with a security detail for obvious reasons, but they have to be able to keep up. You’re a very busy woman and your schedule is busier than even you know.” I frown.

“What do you mean?” She raises her head.

“Do you know how many public appearances I have to turn down for you?” she says. “How many statements have been diverted to PR at GEH? How many small things I have to do to make sure that the big things go well? I have to coordinate your personal and business schedule, run your errands, filter your emails, make sure you’re available when Christian or GEH has a function… Did you know that Andrea and I are Facebook friends?

“I have to know what you want before you ask for it and where to find it. I have to remind you of things that you don’t remember and make sure that unnecessary evils do not fall in your lap and upset you or King Christian is going to have a coronary. I have to know that for the last month, you crave fresh chicken kabobs with tomato, green yellow and red pepper but no onion every Wednesday, but I can’t get them from that place on Third anymore—which you love, but you can’t eat them because they cook them on the same grill with the beef kabobs.

“I’m your factfinder, concierge, butcher/baker/candlestick maker and don’t get me wrong… I can handle it. I love my job and I’m not complaining, but you are a full-fledged celebrity and coordinating your life is a huge duty and a major responsibility. I need somebody who’s going to understand that, or they’re going to hinder me instead of help me, and thus, hinder you. I won’t stand for that as I work very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. So if Chuckie is having problems keeping up, get me someone else.”

She picks up her iPad and continues to scroll through it. I smile widely. Where would I be without her?

“Duly noted, Ms. Caldwell,” I say. “I actually told Christian as much last night. Let’s see if he got the message on to our security team.” She looks up at me and I wink at her. She smiles and looks back down at her tablet.

I had no idea I had such celebrity status, nor did I know that she was fending off and diverting so many calls for me or that being my PA was such a busy task. Yet another reason why I want to make the connections I know that I can make at the Country Club.

Marilyn is invaluable! She’s stuck with me for life!

“I have to add another duty to the roster today,” I say, handing her the note I’ve been scribbling. “This young boy came into the center today. Very badly bruised and beaten. Here’s his description and this is all the information I have on him right now—no last name, unfortunately. Contact Missing Persons and find out if there’s a current report on him. I’d like to get in touch with his father if I can. It appears that he may be being abused as well. I’m not sending the boy back. He’ll go into the system if he has to, but he won’t return.” She takes the note from me and reviews the details.

“Thirteen,” she says with dismay. “That fucking sucks.”

“Tell me about it,” I concur. “Let me know what you find, Wonder Woman,” I add with a smile.


A/N: Christian and Ana’s dancing song list all by Nat King Cole:
The Very Thought Of You
Stardust
Walkin’ My Baby Back Home
Blue Moon
Mona Lisa
That Sunday, That Summer
A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square
When I Fall In Love
Unforgettable

You can find the 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