Grey Continued: Episode 35—She Rescues Him Right Back

I can’t remember who said it, but whoever it was that said the episodes needed titles and not just episode numbers, you were absolutely right. I’m in the process of giving the previous episodes titles, but they will be titled from here on out.

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

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

Season 5 Episode 35—She Rescues Him Right Back

CHRISTIAN

“I can’t tell you what his motive was,” Alex says while sitting in my office later in the week with a very attentive Jason. “He’s married with two kids of his own, but they were recently separated. There’s a couple of domestic violence charges that were dropped. He’s got some petty theft, some traffic tickets, a DUI, but nothing on the books as serious as kidnapping. There is one thing…” He trails off.

“What one thing?” Jason says. Alex hands Jason a sheet of paper.

“Third from the bottom,” he says. Jason’s eyes travel down the page and his jaw tightens.

“Rape?” Jason says coolly.

“You missed it. Rape of a minor,” Alex corrects him. “Again, the charges were dropped, but…” And he trails off again.

“What else could he want with Sophie?” Jason says, his anger rising. “Is he connected to any human trafficking rings?”

“Not that I can see, but if he was, we wouldn’t see it on paper unless he’s been arrested… and they usually don’t get released.” Jason runs his hands through his hair.

“Where is he now?” Jason asks.

“He’s still in lockup,” Alex replies. “With his outstanding warrants, he’s going to be in there for a while and with the nature of this accusation, he’s not making bail.” Jason’s jaw tightens.

“I want every little piece of information you can find on him—where he works, who is friends are, and what he had for dinner last Friday. I want to know what time he takes a shit when he’s in the pen. Every. Little. Thing.” Alex nods.

“I’m on it,” he says, and leaves the room. There’s silence for a moment while Jason’s quiet fury fills my office.

“I know how you feel,” I begin, and he shoots a look of death at me. “All I’m saying is that I know that self-preservation goes out the window when someone hurts someone that you love. I’ll be with you every step of the way, whatever you decide to do, but please remember that people need you—your daughter, your wife… your friends.” I let that last one hang in the air for a moment before I continue. “Whatever you decide to do with the information, just keep your head about yourself. I could have killed David with my bare hands when he kidnapped Butterfly. I can’t imagine what I’d do to someone who took Mackenzie.”

His jaw twitches, but then slacks a bit after a moment. He’s gripping the back of a chair like a vice and the veins are throbbing in his temples.

“Sir, I’m bringing Ben in from the Crossing to be your detail for the rest of the day,” he says. “This information is too sudden and heavy… I can’t be effective at my job right now…”

“I understand,” I tell him. “Take the rest of the day off. Do whatever you need to do.” He nods once, takes a moment to compose himself, and leaves the room. I lean back in my seat and breathe deeply, pondering what I just said to Jason.

I can’t imagine what I’d do to someone who took Mackenzie…

I’ve got to watch this man. He’s a loaded cannon aimed right at Ruiz. I call Alex.

“Yes, sir,” he answers.

“Jason’s a pro and I know that there’s no way to put a covert detail on him, but he’s taken the rest of the day off. In essence, he says his emotions will affect his work. We need to keep an eye on him, Alex. This is his daughter. She’s already been through so much and so has he.”

“I know,” Alex says. “I’ll do what I can.”

“Make sure you keep a tight eye on Ruiz,” I add. “We need to know the very second that man makes it out of police custody.”

“Understood,” he replies, and I end the call. I desperately need to change my train of thought. I need to think of something happy.

Mother’s Day is Sunday.

We were so concerned about Val and Pops last year that we skipped right over Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and almost skipped over our anniversary. Well, not this year. It’s hard to know what to get the woman who has everything, but I think I made some good choices

She likes her car, but I’ve already ordered her a new one—same make, but next year’s model, newer feature, deeper blue… that blue…

I’ve created a fragrance for her—a mixture of the flowery, pleasant smells that remind me of her with a hint of the evocative flavors she likes that make me want to rip her clothes off, including cinnamon-vanilla. When I mixed them, the perfumer thought I had lost my mind, but when she mixed them, she took one whiff and her eyes widened. I sniffed the fragrance and imagined it intermingled with my wife’s natural scent and couldn’t resist.

“That’s it,” I had nearly growled, not realizing that I had unleashed the Dom voice until I heard it. Unfortunately, the perfumer heard it, too. She quickly applied a bit of the mixture to her wrist and held it out for me to sniff.

“Are you sure?” she said, provocatively, while holding her arm out for me to smell it, so I did. I knew exactly what was going to happen.

“Yes, I’m sure,” I said in the same voice. “Bottle it.”

She smiled sweetly at me and mixed the creation. Once I made sure that it was correct, I gave her the name to etch on the bottle.

Butterfly.

She was still all moony and simpering as she giftwrapped my order and handed it to me along with a personalized copy of the formula, and that’s when I dropped the bomb on her.

“Thank you,” I had said. “Do you always test the fragrances on yourself?”

“Only for special customers,” she had replied, suggestively.

“You probably shouldn’t do that,” I had told her. “My wife’s body chemistry is much, much different than yours. Each body releases its own pheromones and when the chemicals mix, the fragrance changes. As a professional, you should know that. You almost blew this sale. Think about that before you apply someone’s custom fragrance to your skin.”

How dare she violate my memory that way? That could have been catastrophic! Yes, she was crestfallen, but I wasn’t trying to blast her. I was giving her a bit of professional advice.

Okay, maybe I was trying to blast her, too.

I have Saturday all planned. I’ve found her the most beautiful and elegant Zac Posen Moda Operandi gown—navy blue silk… or I should say Victoria found it. I’ve convinced Butterfly to have her spa day on Saturday so that she can get her hair done. I’ve already given Franco specific instructions of what I want her hair to look like—and no fragrances in any of her treatments with the exception of a gentle vanilla if she requests it, so that it won’t clash with her custom perfume.

A limousine with a hired driver will take us to the Seattle Opera House for dinner and a showing of the critically acclaimed Ariadne auf Naxos. I’ve never taken my wife to the opera, but she always seems to appreciate the finer things. It’ll also remove the only comparison I’ve ever had to myself as Edward Lewis in Pretty Woman, and that was when I was dealing with that asshole in Madrid… being an asshole myself.

Now for the jewelry. I make that call.

“Thank you for calling Cartier. This is Marvin. How can I help you?”

“Marvin, it’s Christian Grey.”

“Mr. Grey,” he nearly purrs. “Always a pleasure. What can I do for you today?”

“What do you have in the vault that’s opera-ready? Or can you direct me to a store that does have something opera-ready?” He’s silent for a moment.

“Can I get you to hold on for a moment? I’m going to check the computer and the safe,” he says.

“Okay, that’s fine.”

I’m sure this man hit speed dial and called every Cartier in the tri-state area to see who had opera-ready jewelry. In three minutes, he was back on the phone.

“Do you still have the same mobile number?” he asks.

“I do.”

“I have a piece available. I can text it to you if you would like.”

“I would like,” I respond. In moments, I get a notification.

“What do we have here?” I ask as I swipe the screen and open the text.

“Diamond and platinum,” he says as I examine the exquisite creation. “Convertible—the first two tiers can be removed for a more conservative look. The center stone is 34.6 carats.” Jesus, this thing is screaming armored truck. Butterfly will never wear that.

“Anything nearly as exquisite for less than eight figures?” I ask. “I want something along the same lines, but when it comes to jewelry, my wife is somewhat modest. I nearly had to twist her arm to take an $80,000 set.”

“Ah,” he says. “Extravagant, but delicate.” My phone chimes again and I swipe the screen.

“What do we have here?” I ask.

“Smaller stone, white gold, 10-carat total weight,” he explains. It’s perfect. “What color is her dress?”

“Blue,” I reply. Of course. My phone chimes again, and there’s a pair of earrings.

“Talk to me,” I say.

“Diamonds and white gold, embellished with small sapphires and emeralds.” Yes, these will do nicely.

“How do we transport?” I ask.

“The usual. Escala?” he asks.

“No, I don’t own that property anymore. Just deliver to Grey House. You can have them here on Friday?”

“Yes, sir. What time would you like them?”

*-*

The Taylors don’t join us for dinner this evening and I’m more than a little concerned about Jason and Sophie. Her actual birthday is two days away, and this is a really fucked-up memory to bring it in on. When I go to my study for the evening, I can hear her in Butterfly’s office. They’re talking about designs and sofas; the fact that they love the Brynhurst coffee table but hate the Luca ivory wood dining table. I get caught in my work and tune out their conversation, and when I’m paying attention again, I hear Sophie say something that makes the hairs rise on my neck.

“It seems like my whole life is one big close call. Do I feel okay about that—you know, that something bad could have happened but didn’t, or do I feel scared all the time?”

Why should a 14-year-old girl have to ask that question?

Immediately feeling like an interloper on what should probably be a very private conversation, I turn on the sound system that pipes through the intercom and allow the soft sounds of Keiko Matsui to pipe into my office—not too loud to arouse suspicion, but loud enough to drown out their conversation so that it may remain private.

And now, I want Ruiz’ blood, too.

Speaking of wanting blood, Sarah’s husband, Fletcher—or Fletch for short—is a mechanic with his own shop and he’s now living above the shop. He stopped paying the bills at the house as he made her responsible for the bills there since he always had a backup plan. Everything is in her name, so he could walk away with ease. He has no criminal record—he’s just a regular old wretch of a man. Fletch, the wretch.

I put her in with one of the financial advisors at Grey House to help her get her financial situation in order. With her permission to speak to her debtors, he’s helping to negotiate smaller lump sum payoffs in return for a paid in full status on her credit report, and less funds to pay back in the interest-free loan that I’m giving her, leaving more to live on and invest if she so chooses.

I offered to buy her a car—nothing flashy, just something useful to get her from point A to point B—but she flatly refused, indicating that the bus was just fine, and that she had her eye on an apartment that was actually walking distance from the office. I take a little comfort in that, but I’ll set her up with covert security for a while in case her husband decides to make an appearance. Her business mail will be delivered to the mailroom at GEH for now. I’m hoping the asshole gets brave and comes down there to harass her. I’ll rip him apart all by myself.

As she has no plans for Mother’s Day, I invited her to our house for dinner since my plans for the opera will be on Saturday.

“I’m not a mother, child,” she had protested.

“Yes, you are,” I retorted. “You’re a stepmother to two children that you helped when they needed it even though they were selfish, inconsiderate, and ungrateful, but more importantly, you’re a fairy godmother to me, my wife, and my children. Everything that you see in terms of me and my immediate family would not have been possible if it hadn’t been for you and a selfless act that you did three years ago that cost your livelihood. So, we’ll see you Sunday, Godmother.”

She was very happy to accept the invitation and the title.

Saturday has arrived and I’m happy to say that the week proceeded mostly without incident. Ruiz was indicted on attempted kidnapping charges and he’s being held without bail… another fucking trial, this time centered on Sophie. Shalane is going to have a field day with this.

“I’m not telling that bitch shit,” Jason says when he hears about the charges. “If she doesn’t find out on her own or Sophie doesn’t tell her, she’s not hearing shit from me. Have you listened to my daughter talk?”

Yes, Jason… yes, I have.

“She knows way more than she should know about life right now,” he continues. “As much as it scares the shit outta me, she should be giggling about boys with her friends right now, going shopping and trying makeup… I’ll take a million purple hairdos compared to the shit that she’s had to contend with! Who becomes a damn-near master chef at 14 from watching the damn cooking channel?”

He was furious the whole day, and I’m sure that it’s one of those days where Sophie could have asked him for anything. Instead, she asked to cooked Mother’s Day dinner for all the mothers with only a little help from Ms. Solomon.

“It’s her passion,” Jason had said. “It makes her happy.”

This kid is a strange animal and I can’t help but wonder what adulthood will be like for her. I don’t know how I feel about her mother not knowing about the attempted kidnapping, though. Granted, she’s a selfish cow and would probably use it to draw attention to herself in some way, or as some kind of ammo against Jason, but I’m still on the fence about her not knowing.

“Well, I’m not telling her,” Jason reinforces. “If it takes forever for that asshole to go to trial—like it usually does—she’ll be released, and she can see it for herself. Otherwise, she can kiss my ass.”

And that was the end of that. I don’t think I had ever seen him that animated before, even when he went to pick her up from the police station.

We’ve also heard that investigations have begun on the business dealings of one Attorney Asshole Blake. We’ll have to wait to see how that turns out.

81fb0a7c599c7f9a3cb86e62abdcbe56 Butterfly is at the salon as I instructed and I’m sitting in my office looking over some emails. Aggie has sent pictures of the two-week-old puppies. I have to admit, they’re kind of cute. We can still have our pick of a boy or a girl from this litter as the entire hoard survived and are all doing fine now. We’ve decided to hold off deciding if we wanted a boy or a girl from the red noses until the brindles are born, but if it takes too long, we’ve committed to a girl and we’re hoping for a healthy boy from the brood of brindles.

I’ve also gotten the list of reservations for the attractions for our trip to Italy. Looking at it, I wonder if Audrey is still interested in being my travel agent.

She has us spending two weeks in Rome, two weeks in Venice, and two weeks at the villa. She has clearly forgotten who she’s dealing with. I’ve been to Italy six times—two of those trips, she planned. Now, she’s trying to send me this bullshit itinerary with three places to visit when we’ve got six weeks in the country? Who the fuck does she think she’s fooling?

To: Audrey Law
Re: Italy Itinerary
Date: Saturday, May 9, 2015, 14:21
From: Christian Grey

Ms. Law,

Is this your idea of a joke? Is my business that worthless to you that you’re willing to literally hand it off to the next agent?

I’m sure that I’ve given you every impression that the first month of this trip is going to be a second honeymoon and you have us spending two weeks in Rome and two weeks in Venice. This sorry list of attractions that you have somehow managed to spread over two weeks in Rome, I can see in three days! An entire day at the Colosseum? Seriously?

And I’m sure that you remember me saying that I wanted to take my wife to see the David. In fact, I very distinctively remember her effectively shielding your attempts to disparage her for not seeing it. Yet, I don’t see Florence on this itinerary. And as much as I plan to take total advantage of the most romantic city in the world, exactly what do you expect us to do for two weeks in Venice?

Where the hell is Naples, Salerno, Capri, Milan? Do you really need suggestions for a six-week trip to Italy with carte blanche??

If you are incapable of doing what I’ve ask for, just let me know and stop wasting my time. You have three days to fix this or I’ll plan my own trip and book it through another agent. I’ll await your reply.

Christian Grey, CEO
Grey Enterprises Holdings. Inc

What the hell is wrong with this woman? She’s clearly pissed because I’ve never brought a woman with me to plan my trip and I brought Butterfly with no warning. But hell, she planned our shopping trip to Paris, our honeymoon in Greece, the babymoon, the Australian cruise… Did she think my wife was a figment of my imagination? The arrogance and stupidity of people truly never ceases to amaze me. Speaking of babymoon…

To: Christian Grey
Re: You’re Never Going to Believe This
Date: Friday, May 8, 2015, 16:42
From: Jason Taylor

Do you remember the sleaze Arthur Daniels from the babymoon? Guess where he is now?

Jason Taylor
Personal Security
Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc

There’s a link in the email and when I click it, there’s a very brief story about how Arthur Daniels has plead guilty to second degree murder charges.

“Murder?” I say, texting Jason to come to my study. “What the fuck?” He seemed like a wimp to me, just somebody trying to take a hit to get a buck. Granted, I knew he couldn’t take a beating, or so I thought. I had him pegged for maybe the guy who would take a good hit and go down, then sue for some insurmountable amount and take a payment out of court, but murder? What the hell?

“You need me, sir?” Jason says, walking into my office.

“I just saw your email from yesterday,” I tell him. “About Daniels? Murder? Is that right?” Jason nods.

“I did a little research on him,” he tells me. “I was just curious and had some time to kill—in an attempt not to put a hit out on Ruiz. Anyway, this guy left such a taste in my mouth that I ran a check and found this.”

“What the hell happened? Was it self-defense?” I ask.

“Not even close,” Jason replies. “It was a baby.” I glare at him.

“He murdered a fucking baby?” I bark. “Was it his baby?”

“Um… well… it was his wife’s baby,” Jason replies. I must be a little loopy because I thought his wife’s baby would be his baby, but of course I’m still stunned by the fact that he killed a baby.

“Okay, his wife’s baby. So, I’m assuming the baby wasn’t his,” I deduce.

“You’re assuming correctly.” Okay, that opens a whole new can of worms. He discovers that the kid isn’t his, so…

“So, he killed the baby?” I ask in disbelief. “What the fuck?” Jason sighs.

“As the story goes, Kiley Daniels had the kid and the moment he popped out black, Arthur Daniels grabbed the kid and slammed him on the ground. They hadn’t even cut the cord yet.”

Oh, fucking hell, I’m horrified.

“Jason, you’re not telling me that a man took a baby straight out of the pussy and killed it right there…” My voice is controlled. I can hardly believe what I’m hearing.

“That’s exactly what I’m telling you,” he says. “The same doctor that delivered the kid pronounced him dead right there before the wife even passed the afterbirth.

Fucking hell. I fall back in my chair in total disbelief of what I’m hearing. How can a human being have this much rage inside?

“Could it be that he just dropped the kid?” I ask, still trying to find some good in this bastard that I saw with my own eyes isn’t worth a $3-bill.

“He tried that defense,” Jason says, “that he dropped the baby in shock, but there were too many witnesses. No matter how his lawyer tried, he couldn’t get Daniels off, so he pled to second degree instead of first.

“Mrs. Daniels went into a catatonic state of shock and remained that way for months. When she came back to herself, she moved in with family. She didn’t remember being married, being pregnant, her affair, none of it. When they told her who Arthur was and what had happened, she didn’t even recognize him. Her mind had blocked the whole thing out.”

“What about the baby’s father?” I ask. Jason shakes his head.

“He never came forward,” he says. “Nobody knows how much he knew, but he just stayed in the background. I didn’t investigate enough to find out about him. I just wanted to know what happened to the asshole.”

“So, we know what’s happening with him. Where is she now?”

“Going on with her life like nothing ever happened from what sources say,” he replies. “Of course, she filed for divorce because she doesn’t know the guy, and from what she does know of him, he killed her baby. So, that’s that.” I shake my head.

“Talk about getting your comeuppance,” I say. “Damn, murder of a baby…”

“He’s been in protective solitary confinement,” Jason says. “Once they sentence him, if they put him in general population, he won’t last a day.”

“How much time do you think he’ll get?” I ask.

“I think they’ll throw the book at him. They can’t execute him because it’s second degree, but he sure won’t be shipping in pussy anytime soon.” I shake my head again.

“I could’ve gone my whole life without knowing this,” I say, closing my laptop. “By the way, don’t make any more travel arrangements through Audrey Law. Make sure GEH knows—no expensing through her. We’re going to be looking around for someone else to handle the company travel.”

“Okay… you’ve been with her for years. Can I ask what happened?” he says.

“She’s testing me,” I say. “I put her in charge of our trip to Italy and she’s coming back with bullshit. Ridiculous bullshit. She’s pissed because I’m married, and she’s trying to sabotage the trip.”

“She can’t be pissed that you’re married. She planned your honeymoon,” he protests.

“It’s one thing when you know there’s a wife,” I say. “It’s another thing altogether when you put a real face and a body to it. I took Butterfly with me—or I should say, we met at Ms. Law’s office—when I decided to start planning the trip. It was a huge pissing contest that my wife should never have had to be involved in. Law kept making snide remarks that could be camouflaged as valid questions and conversation, but Butterfly didn’t miss a swing. She kept hittin’ ‘em back at her like a pinch hitter in the bottom of the third.

“You would have thought that by the time we left, Law would’ve understood her place, but apparently, she hasn’t. She just sent me a six-week itinerary with two weeks in Rome, two weeks in Venice, and two weeks at Lake Como.” Jason frowns.

“That sounds odd,” he says.

“That sounds stupid!” I reply. “If you’re a tourist spending six weeks to see Italy, why would you want to spend two weeks in Venice and two weeks in Rome? You’ve got six weeks to see the country…”

“Hey, you don’t have to convince me. Like I said, it sounds odd. So… no more Audrey Law?” he asks.

“Nope,” I say. “I’m going to let her think that we’re not booking travel with her until she gets her act together. Then, assuming I let her fix her faux pas and get this trip right, when I get back from Italy, I’ll let her know that she’s fired. So, we need to start looking for someone to handle our travel arrangements from here on out.” He knows I want him to be part of the selection because most often, he’s the one that deals with the agent to arrange my travel.

“You got it,” he says.

“Good, I’m going to get ready for my date with my wife. You’ve reserved the room?”

“I have, and the car will be in the valet,” he replies.

“Excellent. Do you have anything special planned for Mrs. Jason?” I ask. He smiles devilishly.

“I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you,” he says, raising one brow at me.

*-*

My wife is a vision as she steps out of Miana’s. Her hair is beautifully coifed in a swooping chignon while tendrils of hair playfully brush her shoulders. The midnight blue, nearly black off-the-shoulder Zac Posen gown is so elegant and fashionable on her that she looks like she’s floating towards me. Her makeup is flawless as usual, her pouty red lips just dark enough to make them kissable, but not too dark for the occasion. My only regret is that I didn’t grace her wrist with diamonds to complement her elbow-long opera gloves, but the exquisite Cartier necklace and earrings stand out enough to accentuate the ensemble. A cuff may have been overkill.

“Mrs. Grey, you’re stunning,” I say as I kiss her hand.

“As are you, Mr. Grey,” she replies, coyly. I’m not modest. I know I’m an attractive man and I look damn good in a Brioni tux, but I always feel like a troll next to her. I open the door for her and help her inside the limo, careful of the flowing folds of her dress, and off we go to the Seattle.

The dress code is usually very relaxed at the Seattle Opera, but tonight is a special night as most attendees are coming to celebrate Mother’s Day. It’s actually more of a red-carpet affair this evening, complete with doormen to open the doors of our limousine. It’s not a Paparazzi sort of affair, but there are a few snapping pictures when my enchanting wife exits the limo. She smiles prettily for the cameras, nodding once in various directions as we make our way into the hall.

The opera is three hours long, so we have dinner at the restaurant inside McGraw Hill. I’ve reserved a cozy table in the corner so as not to be the center of attention in the restaurant, but of course there’s the odd person or three that steals a look in our direction. I opted not to bring security tonight, and I hope that was the right decision as some of the concert-goers look as if they can’t resist coming over to the table and saying, “Hi,” like they’re greeting an old friend.

Luckily, we’re able to enjoy our dinner without interruption—salt-crusted roasted leg of lamb with creamy polenta and choices from the harvest table along with Tuxedo Tiramisu, the richest confection I think I’ve ever tasted.

“I’ve never been to the opera,” Butterfly says as we sip our coffee, and again I feel like Edward Lewis.

“You know that I appreciate music,” I say, “especially classical music. Opera is a little different than classical, but it’s on the same level in that it requires a more sophisticated ear to enjoy it. The oldest operas aren’t written in English, but there are some English operas that date back to the 16th Century. That being said, whether the opera is performed in English or not, the music is usually so powerful that the performance becomes universal.

“There are screens in the auditorium that project subtitles in English, but I feel that takes away from the performance. Opera is always very emotional and generally, how you react to your first opera will determine if you ever truly love it.”

“Why does that sound familiar to me?” she asks as she finishes her cappuccino.

“Because you and I are inadvertently having a Pretty Woman evening,” I say with mirth. “This is your first time at the opera, much like Vivian Ward had never been to the opera in the movie. You’re wearing a beautiful dress, exquisite jewelry, and just like Julia Roberts in the movie, you’re a drop-dead bombshell.”

That elicits a giggle from her.

“And because Edward Lewis says something very similar to Vivian Ward when they’re sitting in their box seats, which is where we’ll be in a few moments. To this day, it’s still the best explanation of opera that I’ve ever heard. He tells her that ‘People’s reaction to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic. They either love it or hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.’”

“So… do you think this Motown girl is going to love the opera?” she asks.

“I sure hope so,” I tell her. “I very rarely get to go, but when I do…” I trail off. The experience is unexplainable, so why try?

“I will tell you that the opera that we’ll be seeing tonight is an opera in an opera, so you may—for lack of a better word—lose your place if you don’t keep up. It starts with a live orchestra and, of course, we have the best seats in the house. There are opera glasses in the box and, without telling you the story, I think it’s time we get to our seats.”

I stand and pull her chair back and we head to the auditorium. I’m stopped by a few business associates who have also brought their wives for an evening of opera, but we get to our seats without incident as once the opera starts, no one is allowed into the auditorium. If you leave, you have to watch the opera from monitors in the lobby until you are allowed back in.

I watch my Butterfly as carefully as I can throughout the performance. At first, she’s not able to follow the prologue, and without an English translation, it can be hard to follow. I move very close to her and whisper in her ear so that only she can hear me.

“That’s the composer,” I tell her, pointing to the young girl dressed like a man, who seems forlorn for most of the scene. “There are two sets of performers hired to perform after the rich man’s dinner. However, dinner has run past its time, so both performances have to go on simultaneously. The composer’s group is an opera and the other group is a comedy troupe.”

She nods and looks through her opera glasses. She points to a performer at the end of the stage without speaking and I lean in and whisper to her that he is the Music Master trying to convince the composer to make the necessary changes to his opera so that both shows can go on. She nods again and pays attention to the performance. She watches the performance with a curious eye, but not a captivated eye, and I’m concerned that she’s going to be one of the people who can appreciate opera, but not necessarily love it.

I will say that the voices in the prologue are… lacking, that’s the best way that I can put it. For her first opera, I may have wanted to introduce her to one of the shows in Italy. For some reason, this particular company is not capturing the richness in the tones that I’m accustomed to. Their voices are soft and tweeting instead of full and vibrant, and considering that the opera is in German, the audience really needs to be captured with the tones and power of the music since they can’t understand the words.

As such, Butterfly has turned her attention to the monitors that have the English subtitles. She doesn’t need me to explain the prologue to her now as she can read what’s actually going on. I’m a bit disappointed that she has opted to read the subtitles, but I can’t fault her. She tried.

The tedious prologue has finally ended and—to make a long story short—both companies have figured out how to merge the opera with the comedy show, much to the dismay of the composer who has stormed off the stage. Now, the opera portion of the performance begins, and our prima donna—Ariadne—is set on the stage, abandoned on the island of Naxos by her lover. There are three nymphs on stage who are supposed to be Ariadne’s only companions. However, the comedy troupe comes in and unsuccessfully tries to lift the spirits of the brokenhearted Ariadne.

Once Ariadne began singing, I now hear the rich, full tones that I’ve been waiting for. The prima donna’s face distorts in such anguish and despair, and her voice rings deep from her stomach and pulls you from your seat, so much so that Butterfly is now leaning on the rail of the opera box as close as she can get to the talented soprano from this far away from the stage.

This is the reaction I was hoping for.

Butterfly hangs on every word that comes from Ariadne’s lips, as if she can completely understand what she’s saying. Even when the thespians and comedic singers enter with their buffoonery trying to cheer the broken Ariadne, their voices portray the richness that I’m accustomed to. However, it’s not until Bacchus enters that I hear the booming tenor that touches even the deepest part of my black soul. Upon his entrance, his powerful voice causes my wife to gasp and if I didn’t know that she wasn’t privy to dramatics, I think she’d faint right there on the floor.

As such, the opera continues with my wife gasping and crying at various intervals, laughing when the comedic troupe vies for the affections of their saucy comedian Zerbinetta and weeping incessantly when Ariadne begs Bacchus to take her to the realm of death and end her suffering. As Bacchus falls in love with Ariadne, the opera ends with an extremely moving and powerful aria between the two, and my wife looks emotionally exhausted. As the rest of the opera goers file out of the boxes and auditorium, she just sits there with a bit of a catatonic expression on her tearstained face.

“Are you okay?” I ask cautiously. She waves me off as if to signify that she can’t talk at the moment. We sit silently in the box for about five minutes as the opera auditorium empties, and my wife has wrung my handkerchief until I’m certain that the threads are screaming for mercy.

“Okay,” she finally says, once the auditorium is almost empty. She rises from her seat and has to find her legs. I quickly put my arm around her waist, and she raises sad but grateful blue eyes to me.

“Ready?” I ask, and she nods. We leave the auditorium and stand out front with the other opera goers waiting for their cars in front of the opera house. I note that’s it’s chillier than I thought it would be and I remove my jacket and drape it over my wife’s shoulders.

“Thank you,” she says sweetly, shamelessly putting her arms into the sleeves. Even after she’s been crying, she looks lovely. I kiss her softly on the lips.

“You’re welcome,” I say, smiling at her.

“Grey!” I hear from somewhere off to my right. Seriously? I look up and see Steve Wexton walking over to me. Son of a bitch. I’ve got one of his companies on the hotplate right now for acquisition. He’s making his way over to me and I make a point of putting my arm around my wife, who now has a questioning expression on her face.

“Business associate,” I tell her.

“I figured as much,” she replies distasteful. His female companion—wife, girlfriend, I don’t know—is scurrying to catch up with him. She’s wearing a… nice dress.

“Jesus, Grey,” he says, examining me and my wife. “It’s not the Met.” I raise a brow at him. It’s not the office Christmas party either, I think to myself as I examine his off-the-rack suit and his companion’s equally off-the-rack dress.

“Maybe not, but it is a special night,” I point out, “and I like for my girl to look like the belle of the ball.” He raises a brow at my wife.

“She’s definitely stunning,” he says, suggestively, and Butterfly conspicuously grasps my arm.

“I agree,” I say. “That’s why I married her.” Down, you fucking canine. He turns to me and issues a veiled challenge.

“Easy, Grey,” he says. “It’s not like I’m going to take your girl or anything like you’re taking my company.”

“That’ll never happen,” Butterfly says, low enough that she thinks no one heard her, but Wexton’s gaze shoots to her.

“Not enough money, sweet cheeks?” he shoots. My wife is completely horrified and claps back before I can’t even stop her.

“Not enough anything, limp dick!” she retorts angrily. Oh, shit.

“Butterfly!” I scold gently.

“He called me ‘Sweet Cheeks,’” she says quickly. “How would he know?”

“How would you know my dick is limp?” he shoots back.

“Okay, that’s enough!” I snap, glaring at Wexton. “I didn’t deck you for that derogatory statement you made to my wife, so I suggest you stop now while you’re ahead.”

“No offense, Grey, but she started it,” he retorts.

“No offense, Wexton, but you’re delusional. You started it, and I’m going to finish it. By the way, you just lost your date.”

Wexton looks over his shoulder to see his date getting into the back of a taxi.

“If you hurry, you might be able to catch her,” I suggest.

“I’m having more fun here with you,” he smirks. “What do you say we let bygones be bygones and go grab a drink?” He can’t fucking be serious. Like a chariot from heaven, the limo arrives and our driver steps out and opens the door for my wife.

“No, thanks, Steve. I still got my date, and like I said, special night.” I wink at him as my wife gets into the limo, then I slide in beside her just in case this asshole gets any ideas. The chauffeur closes the door behind us and I quickly hit the lock.

“God, what a sleaze!” Butterfly exclaims when we’re safely inside the car.”

“Yeah, I can’t pick who I take a company from,” I say, fastening my seat belt and taking her hand. “I just pick the company. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she replies. “He’s a lightweight. I’ve dealt with much worse.”

“So, tell me,” I begin once we’re on our way, “what did you think?” I already know, but I want to hear her take on the performance.

“I’ll be honest and tell you that the first part moved very slowly for me, but once we got to the opera in the opera, I could feel the pain and emotion of the characters.”

“Could you tell what was happening once you stopped reading the monitors?” I ask.

“I could tell that the female lead was heartbroken,” she says. “I couldn’t really tell what the three angel-like ghostly women in the back were doing, but I knew that the four or five people in the forefront were comic relief of some kind.”

“Ariadne is the main character,” I tell her, “and she was abandoned on a deserted island by her lover. The three characters in the back are nymphs, very inconsequential.”

“Yeah, I figured as much,” she says.

“The comic relief was really the other opera being combined into the Ariadne opera. The comedic troupe were doing what they could to cheer up the forlorn Ariadne to no avail.”

“That’s odd… I thought there was one point where they were all kind of fighting for the girl among them,” she points out. Good eye, Butterfly.

“They were,” I say. “It was probably part of the original comedic routine, and it had to go somewhere.” She twists her lips.

“So… I’m assuming that the guy at the end was the lover that deserted her, but she didn’t look really happy to see him at first.”

“That’s because he wasn’t the lover that spurned her,” I say. “He was the god Bacchus, and he’s fleeing from a sorceress. He mistakes Ariadne for the sorceress and she mistakes him for the god Hermes. In the end, they go off together and that was the last duet that you saw.”

“It was quite powerful,” she says, sinking back into her seat. We have a short ride and I want to get something off my chest before we get to the hotel.

“I have another confession to make,” I say. She raises her gaze to me. “Although I wanted this to be the perfect evening for the perfect girl, there was an ulterior motive involved as well.”

“There’s always an ulterior motive, Christian,” she says with mirth.  I take her hand.

“Besides the fact that I got to see you all put together so beautifully which always warms my heart…”

She giggles.

“… And I got to take you to the opera and watch your wonderful reaction to your first time seeing it—which was just like Vivian Ward’s, by the way…”

She giggles and blushes.

“… I got to replace a pretty bad memory with a much better one.”

She’s silent now. I sigh.

“When I left for Madrid, I foolishly spent most of the night in the first-class private lounge at the airport having a liquid dinner.”

I don’t raise my eyes to her as I tell this story.

“I was pretty pickled by the time we were airborne. I’m sure you know that didn’t make for a very good trip.” I swallow before I continue. “I had ruined the only suit I brought with me—the one I was wearing. We had a layover at JFK and I had to wear a toga.”

My wife unsuccessfully tries to stifle a laugh. Trust me, baby, it looked even funnier than it sounds.

“When we got to Spain, I had to go shopping for clothes, so I had to wear some of Jason’s jogging pants and a T-shirt to the fashionable shops of Madrid. That, of course, went over like a lead balloon.”

Another unsuccessful attempt to hide a scoffing laugh from my wife.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had anybody in a retail outlet treat me with such disdain. It was like a roach had walked into his establishment and asked for service… which, quite frankly, was too good a term for me at the time.”

That’s another story—we won’t go into that.

“My very fashionably-dressed bodyguard had to tell this snooty motherfucker behind the counter that I was richer than Julius Caesar by comparing me to Edward Lewis in the movie. At the time, I didn’t care—the tables turned, I treated the asshole like the scum of the earth and I got what I wanted—no big deal. But as time progressed, I realized that I was the asshole, as was Edward Lewis in the beginning of the movie, and just like Vivian transformed him, you have totally transformed me.

“I don’t know if we’re supposed to believe that after ‘she rescues him right back,’ their ‘happily ever after’ ever involved them running away and getting married or if Edward went back to being the asshole that expected women to be at his ‘beck and call’ like the beginning of the movie. All I know is that I’m glad you stuck around… even when I’m being an asshole.”

I finally raise my gaze to hers and those deep, guileless blue eyes are staring back at me.

“How do you know so much about that movie?” she asks.

“It’s always been one of my favorites,” I confess. “I could relate to the power Edward wielded. I thought it was amazing that the first company he ever acquired belonged to the philandering father that left his mother. I thought he was a sap for blowing that takeover. The whole idea of draping women in beautiful things and being done with them after a certain period of time—oh, yeah, well acquainted with that practice. I just… never thought I’d meet my Vivian.”

She stares at me for a moment before she undoes her seatbelt, leans over to me, and takes my face in her hands. She presses her lips against mine in a deep and searing kiss, setting me alight faster than I can get my thoughts together. I pull her into my lap and kiss her deeply, happy that I have indeed found my Vivian.

The limo drops us at the Edgewater Hotel, and I pick my key up at the front desk before taking my wife straight to our room.

I open the door and gesture her inside. I turn on one of the smaller desk lights and it casts a gentle yellow hue over the room. Damn, that couldn’t have worked out better had I planned it. The Edgewater is one of the higher priced hotels in Seattle, but the room is modest. The hotel is mainly famous because of the famous people who have stayed here. The Beatles stayed somewhere on the second floor and fished in Elliot Bay out of one of the windows. There’s a famous picture of it, but the room didn’t look like much to me for what they were charging. This will suit us just fine—close to the opera house and beautiful views of the Sound.

She walks to the window and takes in the view of the Sound. I drop the key on the nightstand and walk over to her. Standing behind her, I take my jacket off her shoulders and toss it onto the bed. Placing my hands gently on her arms, I caress her shoulders with my thumbs, then brush my lips over her neck, allowing warm breath to tickle her skin before I pepper kisses onto her back. Her breath quickens as she shivers. She holds her head down, giving me unfettered access to her smooth, alabaster skin.

I lick and kiss her neck and shoulders, tasting her skin as I slowly unzip her dress. I want to savor her, the feel of her skin on my fingertips and the smell of that sweet perfume I created for her. God, it’s intoxicating. I put my hands under the dress and slowly push it down her body, kissing down her back the entire way. I’m almost on my knees behind her when I push it off her hips and down to the floor, kissing her ass cheek, her thigh, and the backs of her knees and feeling her shiver again. She’s only wearing underwear under the dress, and that’s all I wanted… underwear, jewelry, and shoes. I slide those pretty little things off her hips and down her legs until she steps out of them, looking all sexy and edible in diamonds and Louboutins.

I turn her around to face me and lift her into my arms by her ass. She gasps in surprise but wraps her legs and arms around me. My lips are only breaths away from hers as I carry her to the desk. I hoist her up onto the desk and kiss her deeply. My body craves her and my soul aches for her. Her soft lips only slightly soothe the fire in me and I realize I want more… I need more… so much more…

I tear my lips from hers and kiss down her body, quickly nipping her nipples on the way. I have to taste her now. I’m fucking starving for her. Once I’m on my knees in front of her, I put one of her legs over my shoulder and dive into her core licking voraciously. She leans back on her hands and cries out, high-pitched breathless pants squeezing from her throat.

My tongue is relentless. She tastes so good that I find myself drooling on her. I want it hot; I want it wet, and I want it now. I reach up to pinch a nipple and grasp a breast while I work intently to bring her to that first orgasm. One of my arms is cradled under her ass and locked over her thigh as she pushes her pelvis into my mouth.

“Christian…” she mewls, her head back, and I know she’s close. That’s it, baby. Give it to me… I need it now.

Her first orgasm comes quick and hard, just like I wanted it. I leap from my knees and press my mouth into hers, spreading her own juices from my tongue to hers. I make quick work of my pants and boxer briefs, dropping them just enough to free my cock. Without moving my lips from hers, I quickly guide my head to her pussy. She’s so fucking wet that I slide right in and thrust deeply. She cries out in my mouth and wraps her legs around me. I wrap my arms around her, pull her closer to me, and thrust deeply into her over and over. God, this is so good…

Her head drops back and my lips once again have uninhibited access to her skin. My mouth waters as I kiss her shoulders, neck, chest, and breast, my orgasm building quick and hot. I hear at least one of her shoes dislodge from her feet and fall on the floor behind me as I’m pumping into her. She’s calling my name in that sexy way that she does, her hands thrust into my hair as her pussy throbs and pulls me in deeper and deeper and deeper…

“Fuck, baby!” I bite out quietly as my cock explodes into her so hard that my back is paralyzed and my legs lock into place.

“Fuck!” I hiss into her neck as her pussy wraps around me and drains me of every little bit of juice I can possibly render. I’m leaning my hands on the desk on either side of her, taking big breaths and trying to regain my strength. Her pussy is pulsing for more and so is my dick, but my lungs won’t cooperate!

After a minute or two, I’m finally able to breathe like a human being. I lift her from the desk and reluctantly pull out of her, laying her on the bed. She squirms in protest like the horny little nymph that she is, and it’s everything I can do to hurry up and get the fuck out of these clothes. I don’t want to do a faceplant on the floor trying to get back to that pussy, so I take my time getting out of my shoes and socks, and my pants and boxer briefs which are now down at my ankles. The shirt and tie are quickly disposed of and I crawl on the bed on top of her and settle between her legs.

“I love you,” I breathe as I intwine her fingers in mine and pin her hands to the bed.

“I love you,” she replies, her voice breathy and desperate. I rub the length of my hard cock against her clit and take large mouthfuls of her skin, intent on marking her as she comes.

“Ah… God…” she breathes, throwing her head back so that I can taste whatever skin I want. “Christian…” she mewls again as she opens her legs and plants her feet flat on the bed. She’s fucking hot and that clit is pebbling against me. She’s going to come again soon. I dare not stop now.

She’s raising her pelvis to meet my cock and I’m rubbing a fire against her nub. It feels so good that it threatens to unman me and I have to concentrate so as not to blow. Still gnawing on that same patch of skin, I stroke and stroke and stroke until…

A squealing sound comes from her throat. It’s not loud or piercing, but it’s shrill and helpless. Her thighs shake violently and she almost sounds like she’s crying. I keep stroking, her clit hard as a goddamn rock against my cock and turning me on so much that I can hardly see straight.

Yes, baby, come for me! Give it all to me!

When I’m certain that she’s plateaued but still feeling the throbbing sensation, I pull my hips back and thrust into her, locking my lips onto hers and boring my hands under her shoulders and up to the sides of her face. Holding her in place, I consume her whimpers and cries as I thrust into her, her core still pulsing around me.

“You feel so good,” I say against her lips as I grind into her, high-pitched breaths escaping her lips with every thrust. Yes… yes… this is what I want.

“God, I love you,” I say, thrusting into her and chasing my second orgasm. “You’re so fucking beautiful… and you’re mine!” I growl the last word as I thrust into her, harder and deeper, now realizing that although I want to come, I want her to come again. She whimpers and gasps as I push both our bodies up the bed over the covers, rolling my hips and grinding into her.

“Christian… please…” she beseeches me. You’ve got one more… I know you do. I know your body and I know you’ve got another one.

“Come on, Pussycat,” I coax, moving my hips from side to side and pushing into her. “Give me more.”

She whines a bit, then whimpers as I grind into her again and again. She looks and feels so divine and it’s delicious torment holding off my orgasm until she has hers. I lean slightly to one side, still grinding into her, my cock and balls absolutely burning for release. Holding her hands above the bed, I clamp down on one nipple and listen to her squeal and shiver. She loves that and I know it. I suck hard and bite a little, feeling her breath quicken as her nipple pebbles in my mouth. I release it and tease it mercilessly with my tongue, feeling her pelvis rising to meet me now. It’s only now that I realize I’ve slipped into Dom mode and I briefly recall calling her Pussycat.

“Hold on to the bed,” I say, so aroused that I can hardly breathe. She grabs the duvet wherever she can and squeezes tight. I grab the headboard again and thrust deep and hard into her, determined to get that third orgasm from her before we finish. I continue to grind hard, pinching, licking, and biting her nipples and her neck, gently squeezing her throat every so often, burning her lips with deep, passionate kisses. Just when I’m about to tap out and give into the wet, velvety heat that is her core, she opens her eyes and gazes helplessly at me…

And there it is, that deep royal blue that only comes at that time. I see that gaze and I almost fucking lose it. I wouldn’t be able to tell if the familiar sheen of sweat was there because we’re both dripping in it. I don’t take my eyes off hers. I keep pushing into her, deeper, this time grinding my pelvis against hers for more stimulation. I need it… I need you to give it to me…

“Gah…! Goooooood!” she cries, closing her eyes. She releases the duvet and grabs my shoulders, digging her nails into the meat as she comes violently around me.

“Fuuuuuuuck!” I growl through my teeth as the pain sets me off. I’m buried deep inside her, coming much harder than I came before, and she’s got her legs—and her pussy—locked around me, her head pushed back in the bed, and I’m certain that her nails are drawing blood. We’re both locked in such an animalistic orgasm that the pain doesn’t even matter. We can’t do anything but ride it out.


A/N: Edward Lewis and Christian Grey are absolutely correct about the opera. Either you love it or you don’t. Ana’s feelings are my feelings about the opera. I listened to three different versions of this opera, and the first two versions were like, “Why am I doing this to myself?” But the third one had me clutching my chest! At the beginning of the opera, it was hard to follow. Once it took off, it really took off. All I can say is if you decide to go to the opera, make sure you research the opera. An opera with a theme that you may not be able to follow is a snooze fest. But if you find an opera where the singers are magnificent, even if you can’t follow the language, you’ll get it.

By the way, snippets of the prima donna Ariadne singing her aria are on the Pinterest page. It is magnificent!!! I got chills even watching her rehearse.

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

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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Grey Continued: Episode 34—Triumphs of the Village

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

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

Season 5 Episode 34—Triumphs of the Village

CHRISTIAN

She’s been standoffish all week, mostly because of the incident with Marlow and the fact that she thinks I haven’t talked to him. I’ve done what she asked, but this standoffish shit is going to stop before she knows that I’ve done what she asked.

I remove everything but my pants and boxers. The shirt that I was wearing is now laying on the bed with a black thong that I bought for her. It has an orange tabby cat on the front along with the words, “Well, it’s not going to lick itself.” Maybe I’ll fuck her, maybe I won’t. I don’t know yet, but this silent treatment shit is going to end, even if I have to go Dom on her to end it.

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Still wearing my Hublot, I go to the sitting room and take a seat on the Chesterfield chair that we had moved here from Escala. There’s a pillow to the right of me on the floor. I gave her five minutes. Let see if she can obey orders.

She doesn’t disappoint.

Not long after she has entered our bedroom, she comes into the sitting room with the shirt wrapped around her body, but not buttoned.

“Button only the button at your breast,” I instruct her, and she does what she’s told.

“Come. Kneel on the pillow.”

She walks over to me and takes sub position two on the pillow. Nope, that’s not what I want.

“Knees together,” I tell her. “Hands together in your lap.”

She takes the position and I bring her hair from her back to cascade down both her shoulders before I sit back in the chair. I let her sit there for a few minutes before I address her.

“Look at me,” I say, and she raises large blue eyes to me.

“I don’t know what to say,” she says softly.

“Yes, you do,” I say. “Talk to me.”

“I…” she hesitates. “I really don’t know what to say.”

“What are you thinking?” I ask. She sighs softly.

“That it’s been a long time since we had Downtime,” she answers.

“Yes,” I reply after a pause, “too long. A situation I tend to rectify. Why aren’t you speaking to me?”

“I’m not not speaking to you…” she begins.

“Only when necessary,” I interrupt. “You’re using economy with your words. Why?”

She searches for an answer, but I already know.

“You don’t think I know?” I say, a bit firmly. “You’re letting something outside our house bring discord into our house.”

“With all due respect, Sir, you’re letting something outside of our house bring discord into our home,” she replies. “That girl made every woman in this house uncomfortable and some of the men, and I asked you to talk to him about this way before now.”

“I saw the same thing you did,” I reply flatly, “and I said that I would talk to him. Have you now decided that you’ll punish me until I do?”

“No,” she says almost immediately.

“Then what’s the meaning of this?” I inquire. She clears her throat.

“I’m sorry, he’s just behaving irresponsibly, and he is your protégé. You have a lot of influence on him and it won’t have the same impact coming from someone else,” she argues.

“Did I tell him to behave the way that he’s behaving?” I ask.

“No, not that I know of.” Fair answer.

“And that you know of, did I tell him to bring a scantily clad teenage girl to our home?” I ask.

“No,” she says with a sigh.

“Then don’t try to make me pay for it,” I caution in my Dom voice. “I said that I would talk to him. If I talk to him today or if I never talk to him, you don’t have the right to make me pay for his behavior. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Sir, it is,” she replies obediently, “but as his mentor, do I have the right to expect you to hold him accountable for his behavior?”

“No,” I retort, and she tries to hide her surprise. “You can ask me to counsel him on his behavior, but you can’t dictate the nature or terms of our relationship in any way, just like I can’t dictate the terms of yours with Sophia, Marilyn, Harmony, or anybody else.”

Less is more in this case, and the facts are cut and dried. I sit and wait for her response.

“I understand,” she responds.

“Good,” I reply. “Now, I’ve had that conversation with Marlow like I promised. I’ve pointed out his lack of prudence with the number of his sex partners and I made it clear that if he pulls that stunt again with whatever her name was this weekend that neither he nor his dates will be allowed in this house or at family gatherings again.” She swallows and raises her brow at me.

“Were you that formal?” she asks.

“He got the point,” I reply. She drops her gaze immediately to her hands. She got the point, too,

“Do you really understand why your reaction was unacceptable?” I ask. She nods without raising her gaze.

“Yes, Sir,” she says. I lean closer to her in my chair.

“Look at me, Pussycat,” I say, and she raises her gaze. “Do you really understand?” She sighs again.

“Like you, I have a right to my feelings,” she says, “and I have a right to be upset that he disrupted my home by bringing that girl here. And even though I don’t have a right to dictate your relationship with him, Sir, I feel I do have a right to expect you to hold him to a certain standard when he comes to our home. I’ve tried to talk to him and apparently it didn’t work. That’s why I asked you to talk to him. I asked you several times before this incident, and it’s frustrating that I’ve asked you to do something and it looks like you haven’t done it. In fact, it looked like you just blew it off until he brought what looked like a teenage hooker to my home. So while I wasn’t holding you responsible for his behavior, I was holding you responsible for your lack of action and your nonchalant attitude about the whole thing when I asked you to do something before it got to this point.”

“Which is why you should have talked to me,” I say without buckling. “Yes, you have a right to your feelings, Pussycat, but you didn’t have a right to make assumptions when you didn’t even know if I did what you asked me to do. I didn’t talk to Marlow until today, but you didn’t know that because you didn’t bother to ask. You just zipped up and waited for me to bring you John the Baptist’s head.”

She flinches a bit at the macabre Biblical reference, but it drives my point home. She drops her gaze again. She gets it.

“These assumptions are going to be the death of us if we don’t get this right,” I tell her. “I have no problem calling Downtime when necessary, but we should be able to talk things out under any circumstances.”

“I agree,” she says softly. “You’re right.”

Again, I let her sit there for a few moments.

“Stand up,” I tell her, satisfied that she understands the err of her ways. She stands and I move her to the front of me. I gently kiss her belly button. Moving her thong to the side, I slowly thrust my middle finger inside her while massaging her clit with my palm. Her breath quickens as my lips move from her naval across to her hip. Her breath catches when my free hand moves between her legs and under one of her knees, lifting it until it cradles in my elbow. She gasps now that her legs are open, falling forward and bracing her hands on my shoulders to steady herself.

That’s what I was looking for.

I quickly move my hand from her core and lift her other leg, grasping her ass and positioning her over my face as I lean back in the Chesterfield chair. Her thighs replace her hands on my shoulders which are now thrust into my hair. Her head falls back, and she cries out in ecstasy as I grip her ass, move the crotch of the thong aside with my mouth, and dive into her sweet core.

After all, it’s not going to lick itself.

*-*

Savvina and Artemis have invited us as guests to a munch being held in a private home in Kirkland. I’m not very comfortable going to Lincoln’s old stomping ground, but Artemis assures safety and discretion. Nonetheless, we make this trip with covert surveillance. You can’t be too safe, especially with the cops poking around and no word on the Ellison investigation.

We mingle around the room with our mentors until we find ourselves settling into a conversation with a group focusing on the varying experiences for the soumise. Considering the fact that I initially wanted to embark on this experience so that Pussycat can understand her role and the importance of her comfort in that role more clearly, I pay close attention to the direction of the conversation.

At first, it centers on the willingness to serve—varying levels of servitude from the Master/slave relationship to a sub or soumise who simply has certain tasks that he or she is required to perform in the perspective of their particular dynamic. I’ve never required that a submissive serve me except in the sense that her actions fulfill my needs. There has never been a specific task or list of tasks that a sub was ever required to fulfill besides the commands that I issue in terms of playtime and maybe to be able to cook every now and then.

It’s when the topic turns to subspace that Pussycat becomes more attentive.

The current leg of the conversation is being led by our hosts, Dom Triple X and his submissive Beautifully Bound. They chose to use their BDSM names because they’re in a 24/7 relationship.

“In its basic form, subspace is an overload of adrenaline or endorphins,” Beautifully Bound says. “It doesn’t happen for everyone and it may be easier for some submissives to achieve it than it is for others. It usually presents in a form of a natural high, but its results differ based on how your body processes the chemicals and how it reacts to stimulus.”

“Stimulus can be physical or mental,” Triple X continues. “I don’t think I need to tell any of you that you can feel a boost of adrenaline or endorphins from any number of pleasurable or even unpleasant experiences. These chemicals can result in an increase of feelings of energy, hyperactivity, anxiousness, bliss, relaxation. You may also zone out or become catatonic. You might feel like you’re floating—separating from the here and now. It can be as simple as a feeling of calm or as major as an out-of-body experience.”

“Have you experienced subspace, X?” Jade, another submissive in the group, asks.

“No, but of course, I’ve experienced that surge of adrenaline or endorphins from other experiences. I’m also very in tune to BB and when she may experience it. We’ve had conversations on when she feels she has reached subspace and what she was thinking, how she felt, if she felt anything at all…”

“But how would she know if she reached subspace if she didn’t feel anything at all?” The question comes from Topaz. She’s Jade’s Domme tonight, and she’s also a switch.

“Remember, one of the levels of extreme subspace can involve separating from yourself, being there and not being there at the same time,” BB explains.

“Adrenaline is meant to protect you,” she continues. “You’ll get a surge of energy, anxiety, or what have you in times of intense stress, anger, danger, pain, fear, excitement, fill in the blank. Endorphins release when you are feeling a natural high. Your body responds to pleasure or pain. It can increase your pain threshold, but it doesn’t only have to involve pain. It can cause a reaction to your body that’s a lot like morphine. It can have the same effect as a narcotic, only it’s internal and part of your body’s natural response.

“Subspace can take on many forms, from the release and overload of endorphins to a simple transition of headspace, of the happiness and bliss of being where you are at a particular moment. Subspace is not always attainable. Often, it creeps up on you, especially if you have a sudden release of adrenaline.”

“I’m very responsive to adrenaline, but not in a good way,” Pussycat interjects. “My most common experience with it is when I’m pushed to anger very quickly. The response is either crying or fainting. I can’t control it; it happens so quickly.” X frowns.

“Maybe you could work on ways to rechannel those emotions,” X says, “to find a way to redirect them when you identify them so that they don’t overwhelm you and you don’t have to worry about fainting or crying. I can’t imagine that it’s very comfortable or convenient when you find yourself in either of those positions.”

“Almost always at the worst possible moments,” Pussycat confirms… laments is more like it.

“Has this ever happened during playtime?” he asks.

“No,” she replies, “not with the crying or the fainting. However, I almost entered subspace once that I can remember.”

I try not to react. I’m trying to remember when this happened, and I can’t. She’s had various reactions to our playtime.

“Almost?” X asks. Pussycat nods and raises her gaze to me. Again, I don’t react, so she continues.

“I… don’t remember why or how we ended up in a scene, but I remember impact play of some sort. I drifted off for a moment—like you said, separating from myself—but Sir said something, and I came back.” X looks at me and I still don’t react.

“Do you remember what he said?” X asks. She shakes her head and he looks at me again.

“Do you mind if we talk about this?” he asks. I shake my head.

“No, I don’t mind,” I reply. He nods and turns to Pussycat.

“Do you mind?” he asks. She shrugs noncommittal.

“No, I don’t mind,” she replies. “We’re here to share and learn, right?” He nods again.

“That’s right,” he says. “If you don’t mind me asking, why don’t you remember? Was it a bad experience for you?” Oh, now I see what he’s getting at. Pussycat pauses.

“Well,” she says, “I know I was being punished for something, but I don’t remember what. I’m almost positive, though, that I don’t remember because of the accident. I’ve lost some of the finer details of my life due to an accident I had a couple of years ago.”

“I see. Okay,” X says, “but you remember thinking you might have hit subspace.”

“I think so,” she replies. X turns to me.

“Do you remember this?” he asks.

“Vaguely,” I reply. “I remember that she was being punished for something—that is the nature of the bondage and discipline portion of our relationship—and I remember that she was separating, and I wanted her in the here and now, not only because it was part of the act of discipline, but also because I didn’t want to go too far because she wasn’t responding.”

“That’s good. That’s smart,” X says. “It’s always a good idea to stop play if you see that your submissive is slipping too far into subspace. They may be unable to safeword or tell you that the play is going too far.”

Neither of us tells him that I didn’t stop the scene. I just brought her back from subspace. Hindsight being 20/20, I would do things differently now. I treated her like a faceless sub because I was angry, not a valued soumise. Every time I think we’ve traveled so far on this journey I realize that there’s still so far that we have to go.

I take her hand in mine and kiss the back of it gently, partially in ownership and partially in apology. Her cheeks flush a bright pink and she smiles a genuine smile at me. I can almost hear the silent cooing of the female submissives in the room.

The conversation continues, mostly about general vanilla stuff until it wanders into predicament bondage—not really my cup of tea. I know that there may be some predicaments that I might be willing to experiment with, like when she was hanging from the chains in my Playroom during one of our first scenes and she got those chain bruises on her wrists, but even then it wasn’t really intentional. It was just exhaustion from intense orgasms, and I got her down from there as soon as I realized that she was hanging from her wrists. I really can’t do anything like that to her now since her kidnapping and the cuffs cutting her the way that they did.

I spend the night holding her and thinking about the man that I used to be… and how I never want to be that man again.

I lay awake in bed for as long as I can stand it, then I head down to my study to be more productive. I’ve worked my way through several emails and sent instruction to my management team about lots of irons on the fire when I finally get to one sent yesterday.

To: Christian Grey
CC: Anastasia Steele-Grey
Re: Marmalade Popped!
Date: Saturday, April 26, 2015, 18:18
From: Agatha Peppergill

Good news! Marmalade dropped her pups—a glorious healthy litter. You can have your pick. The soonest they’ll be ready for transport will be early July. I’ll keep you posted.

Aggie

Agatha Peppergill, Owner
Peppergill Farm and Breeding, Rochester, WA

I open the attachment to the email and see a litter of beautiful red-nosed pit bull puppies—ten of them, in fact, in varying shades. I must resist the urge to dash upstairs, wake Butterfly, and tell her that our puppies are born, but it’s way too early. It’s just after dawn on Sunday morning and I don’t want to wake her. Aggie says the pups will be ready for transport in July. We’ll still be in Italy. I’m sure she’ll board the pups for a couple of weeks until we get back, but I won’t say anything yet. I respond to her email that I’m glad the pups have been born and to keep us updated on their progress. I also ask for an update on the Brindles when she has a chance.

My mind wanders back to last night and the Munch. I think my wife has slipped into some form of subspace more than just once, but last night’s recollection was the only one she could slightly remember. To be honest, I’m a little fuzzy on that one, too. I remember that she displeased me, and I wanted her to be in the here and now for the punishment, but for the life of me, I can’t remember why.

Just a few days ago, I had imposed punishment on her again. I held her against my mouth and sucked three forced orgasms from her that I’m sure were agonizing. Then I bent her over the ottoman and fucked her hard, deep, and mercilessly from behind, bringing myself to two deeply satisfying climaxes and ripping a fourth from her until she begged me to stop. I never removed the shirt or the thong, and she sweated right through them both.

It was better than any spanking or lashing I could have administered.

We talked about predicament bondage and I said that it wasn’t really my forte, but come to think of it, those oral orgasms could be considered predicament bondage. I had my arms clamped over her thighs so that she couldn’t escape once her first orgasm hit. She fought to get away once her clit was engorged and I didn’t release, but I had her locked in tight. Any movement in any direction no doubt intensified her discomfort. So, she had the choice to continue to struggle, with each movement likely causing her more discomfort, or to sit still through the heightened sensation and wait until the tenderness turned to pleasure again. Her helpless cries of pleasure mixed with pain turned me on so much that I thought my dick would burst right out of my goddamn pants.

I guess predicament bondage is my thing after all.


ANASTASIA

“Mia, I happened to notice that the contributions to Helping Hands from Miana’s significantly increased about seven or eight months ago. Do you know what happened?” I ask her on Monday morning.

“Miana’s contributes to Helping Hands?” she asks. “I didn’t know that.” I frown.

“What do you mean you didn’t know that?” I ask. “You’re in a profit-sharing agreement.”

“Yeah, but it’s me and Franco and… Oh, that must be Christian’s share,” she says with realization.

“You didn’t know that Christian’s share was going to Helping Hands?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“I really didn’t need to know,” she shrugs. “I don’t ask my brother what he does with any of his other money.”

“Yeah, that makes sense,” I say. “So… what happened that caused the profits to increase?”

“Expenses went down,” she says. “We were nearly in the red for about 18 months. Some of Mrs. Lincoln’s debts followed the salons and they were pretty big. The owners had to put our money back into the salons to keep them afloat. We agreed that if we weren’t turning a profit in two years that we would let it go because it was a money pit. Luckily, at 18 months, she resuscitated and thus, profit!” She holds her hands out with a wide smile.

“Boy, that money is really going to help a lot,” I say. “I didn’t know if it was a temporary influx of cash or what may have happened, but this is doubly good news. If business stays as good as it has been, we’ll have a steady flow of funds. And by paying off her debts that were attached to the business, we’re finally rid of that woman!” Mia pauses.

“Yeah!” she says. “Finally! Forever!” She and I both share a relieved laugh.

Christian and I meet with Marilyn and Gary again that evening. They’ve made some very good progress, but it’s clear to see that Marilyn is not the person that she was before the termination. She’s been through some things and she wears the experience all over her, not just in weight loss and the new haircut, but in the way that she carries herself and even the way she talks. It’s not bad, really, but it’s different.

“You’re looking well, Marilyn,” Christian points out. I have to admit that he’s right. Her cheeks have regained their color and she’s put on some weight. The cloud of doom isn’t following her around anymore either.

“Thank you,” she replies. “I’m working hard to take better care of myself.”

“How about you, Gary?” I ask. “How have you been?”

“I’ve been well,” he replies sincerely. “I’m looking for a bigger place. The studio is just too small. Right now, it’s like sleeping in a matchbox.”

“I thought it was what you wanted,” I point out.

“It was, but it was a temporary fix,” he admits. “I’ve never wanted to be in a place that small, but I knew it wasn’t home when I moved there, nor was it ever intended to be. It was an escape—to get away from the situation. I refused to see the place; it was just somewhere to be. But when I opened my eyes, I hated it… and I need to get out of there. I need to build a home for myself again, and I’ll admit it. I want Mare to be comfortable when she comes over.”

“Comes over?” Christian says, looking at Marilyn. “You’ve decided not to move back in together?”

“Not yet,” Marilyn says firmly. “It’s still too soon.”

“You don’t feel like that might be taking a step backwards?” I ask.

“No, she’s right,” Gary interjects. “A lot has changed, and we need to get to know one another again… get to know ourselves.” He looks over at Marilyn. “I love her and I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here as long as it takes, and apparently I’ve got some growing I need to do, too.”

“Well, you two sound like you’ve got this all locked down,” Christian says.

“Oh, no,” Gary corrects him. “There’s still some bumps and we’re still working them out. I’m new at this, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still working things out. We’re just taking it slow so that we each know and understand what we want and what to expect from the other.”

“There were a lot of assumptions made in our relationship,” Mare says looking at her hands. “That’s what got us to the brick wall we hit when we faced our first real obstacle. We don’t expect to get it perfect from here on out, but we’re working on getting it better.”

“Do you mind sharing what steps you’re taking to getting it better?” I ask.

For the next hour or so, Gary and Marilyn share what they’re doing to bring themselves back to a healthy and happy version of themselves, jointly and severally, emotionally and physically. The conversation is wrought with angst, but also with small—and some large—victories. If everything were perfect, I’d be concerned about the future health of their relationship. They appear to be right on track for a healthy reconciliation, and that’s my professional opinion.

*-*

I had decided quite some time ago that I wanted to get back into Krav Maga, but not with Klevnar. He was always spouting about how he was the best, and I put up with his shit for years without looking at any other instructors. I never even bothered to look around. Little did I know that there was an actual Krav Maga training center in Seattle, not just a trainer working for a gym. So, on Friday afternoon, I decide to grab my gear and head down there.

I opt for yoga pants and a sports bra since my usual Krav Maga gear seams to bring out the worst in people. It was a good choice.

Krav Maga Seattle is a sizable facility, with both men and women. The men all look like linebackers and the women are all ripped—and I do mean ripped—muscular veiny arms, rugged features, mostly in camouflage pants or yoga pants. They all look like GI Jane on steroids.

What the fuck have I gotten myself into?

“Hello. Welcome to KM Seattle.” A large wall of man approaches me—nothing but biceps, triceps, and deltoids. “I’m Jerry.”

“I’m Ana,” I say. He looks over my shoulder at Chuck. “He’s security.” Jerry nods once at Chuck and turns his attention back to me.

“You looking for a trainer?” Jerry asks.

“Maybe,” I reply. “I’m just trying to test the place out, see if it likes me.” He nods.

“I like your attitude,” he replies.

“I just… feel a bit out of my league, like I’ve stepping into the Land of the Giants.”

“Trust me, ma’am,” he says with a chuckle, “we all know that size has nothing to do with it. You should, too.” I nod.

“We’ll get along just fine if you promise not to call me ma’am.” He laughs.

“Agreed. Let me show you around.” I nod to Chuck and he takes a position where he can see me.

Jerry shows me around the gym where all the equipment is including the showers. Once he’s done, he guides me over to one of the trainers. She’s 5’10” easily, 160—maybe 170, and all muscle… absolutely zero percent body fat.

“Ana, this is Lisa,” he says, introducing me. “Ana says she wants to see if our facility likes her.”

“Good to meet you, Ana,” she says, smiling and proffering her hand to me. I take her shake. Her grip is firm and professional.

“Same, Lisa, thank you,” I say, returning her smile.

“I’ll leave you two to get acquainted,” Jerry says and leaves me with Lisa.

“So, Ana,” she says, sizing me up, “you look very fit. What’s your experience?”

“Well, I’ve never tried out for any belts or levels,” I tell her. “I just… fight for fitness and self-defense.”

“So, you’re not new to Krav Maga.” It’s a statement, not a question. I shake my head.

“No. I’ve been on and off for about seven years,” I reply. She raises her brow.

“Well, there’s an accomplishment,” she says. “On and off for seven years means that you have a great foundation and your skills are most likely better than you’re letting on. Who did you train with?”

“Luc Klevnar,” I reply. Several people fall silent in the gym and turn to look at me. I feel like I’m in that old E.F. Hutton commercial.

“You trained with Luc Klevnar?” she asks incredulously.

“Yes,” I reply. “He trained me very well for seven years, but he’s an asshole. He wanted me to go pro and when I didn’t, he kept pulling dirty shit on me. I’m not trying to go pro. Like I said, fitness and self-defense.” She smiles.

“Yeah, you’re better than you’re lettin’ on,” she says with a smile, her hands on her hips.

“May I ask for your… qualifications?” I say, choosing my words carefully.

“Certainly,” she says. “I’m a third level blackbelt.” I whistle.

“That’s pretty impressive,” I say.

“For a girl,” she chuckles, and I laugh with her. “Let’s spar a bit. You’ll be defense, so I can see what you got. Okay with you?”

“Sure,” I say, and we head to the mat.

Dear God in heaven, this woman gives me hell! She starts out slow and picks up the pace. By the time were at the height of sparring, I’m literally rolling over her back to keep from getting slammed onto the mat. I’m running on pure adrenaline when she finally calls an end to the sparring and I literally drop out on the matt in exhaustion.

“Don’t fall out now,” she says, offering her hand to help me up. I gladly take it. She gestures to someone outside of the ring while I’m fighting to catch my breath. I turn just in time to see someone come to the edge of the ring and toss her two waters, one at a time… and to see that we have accumulated an audience.

“On your toes,” she says as she cracks one of the seals on the waters. “Bounce. You know the drill. You can’t just stop.”

I bounce from foot to foot for a minute or two until I’m no longer choking on air. Although not as badly as me, I’m glad to see that Lisa is a bit out of breath, too, and just as sweaty.

“That was impressive!” Lisa says, handing me the unopened water. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody move like that. Are you sure you don’t want to at least test for your belt?” I throw her a death glare after I crack the seal on my water. She puts her hands up in defense.

“Okay, okay,” she says with mirth. “It was just a suggestion. So, you really don’t need a trainer. You just need somebody to spar with, huh?” I chug the bottle of water before I answer.

“Yeah,” I say a little out of breath, “but I left Klevnar’s gym because he put me up against his students—girls who were trying to prove their salt. I won’t put up with that shit. I’m in competition with nobody. I’m not the best of anything. Fitness and self-defense—that’s it.”

“I like your attitude,” she says as she hands me a towel.

“That’s the same thing Jerry said,” I reply.

“Have you given any thought to maybe being a trainer?” she asks. “You’re very good and it only requires a short course.”

“Thank you, I’m flattered,” I say, “but I’m so busy. I have two ‘jobs’ and I’m a mother to twins.” Her brows furrow.

“Twins? How old?” I count on my fingers.

“Just over a year,” I say, “15 months.”

“Fifteen months!  Twins? You must’ve worked like hell to get that body back.” I don’t bother to dispute her. I nod.

“Belly wraps, breastfeeding, yoga almost immediately, and I do train Krav Maga, but not formally. I train the women at the community center where I work—women hiding from domestic violence mostly.”

“That’s… quite admirable.”

“Thank you,” I reply, “but I think everyone should be able to defend themselves against a bully—especially if they married one.” She nods.

“Well, have we sold you on our facility?” she asks. “I’ll be glad to spar with you anytime you come. You’ll keep me on my toes. The next time you come, you can be offense.” I smile.

“You’ve got a deal, Lisa. Where do I sign up?”

*-*

After a good soak when I get back to the Crossing, I head down to my study for a little while before dinner. Since I’m not as fascinated with Roman history as I am with Greek history, I decide that I should take some time to get to know the place where we plan to spend six weeks of our summer vacation, maybe learn an Italian word or two. Granted, I know we’ll only spend three to five days in Rome, but the city is rich in history—fact and fiction—and the fact that I’ll be able to see things up close and in person like the Colosseum and the Parthenon actually gives me chills.

I don’t know where to start yet since I have no idea what our itinerary will look like. So, I just go to YouTube and start watching travel videos on Rome. I’m thinking maybe I picked the wrong series or subject matter because instead of getting the great stories of fabulous vacations and wonderful sights to see, all I keep getting is warnings of thieves and pickpockets. I’ve seen so many warnings against pickpockets that I’m just going to wear across-the-body money belts. I won’t even bring purses.

What’s more, all I keep stumbling on is what not to do when you’re in Rome!

Don’t wear spaghetti strings to the churches. Cover up when you visit them, specifically the Vatican.

Don’t order cappuccino after noon.

Don’t ask for tap water in a restaurant… That’s a strange one.

Don’t say ciao to everybody. That’s reserved for good friends. Buon giorno or buona sera is more polite.

Don’t splash in the fountains. Apparently, there are several of them in the Eternal City.

Don’t take pictures at the Sistine Chapel. It’s forbidden.

Don’t disrespect soccer. The Romans are obsessed with it. Oh, and the biggest way to diss the sport is to call it soccer. It’s football.

Don’t ask for Parmesan cheese. Your server will tell you when it’s appropriate by offering.

Don’t eat from the tourist menus. The food isn’t authentic. While you’re at it, avoid the food kiosks and vendor trucks.

Don’t take flowers or trinkets being shoved at you from the people on the street or pictures with the fake gladiators at the Colosseum… or wherever. It’s a scam and your denial to give them money will very likely become hostile.

Don’t take coins out of the fountains… They actually have to say that?

Jesus! I’m going on vacation! Where are the pointers about the beautiful sights and the ancient ruins? Don’t drive; take public transportation. Don’t buy water; there are lots of public fountains. Don’t take your eyes off of your stuff or someone’s going to snatch it from you.

That’s it. I’m learning a few Italian words and I’m leaving the rest to Christian. This endeavor is giving me a headache…


CHRISTIAN

“I’m in the process of making sure our weapons are registered with the Italian government, sir. Are we acquiring security abroad that speak the language?” Jason asks as we cross the bridge heading home.

“Don’t we always?” I ask.

“We didn’t do it in Madrid,” he counters.

“That was short notice,” I retort. “Besides, I didn’t need it in Madrid, I had you.”

“Which is exactly why I’m asking,” he says. “May I suggest that we bring Ben… Lawrence along with us. He speaks fluent Italian. Then we would only need to secure one additional Italian-speaking guard if you wish.” I nod.

“Okay. That’s fortuitous. Do we have someone on staff that speaks every major language?” I ask.

“Not every major language, but we’ve got most of them locked down,” he says.

“Let’s try not to have any ‘meathead’ situations this time,” I tell Jason. “Brief him however you need to, but if my wife doesn’t like him, he’s gone.”

“Understood,” he replies.

I can smell food when we enter the mudroom. I had to stay in the office a little later than usual to finish some things up and it’s right about dinnertime now. I’m so hungry, I can eat a horse!

“What smells so good?” I ask as I walk into the kitchen.

“Grilled pork chops and applesauce, roasted asparagus spears, and pearl baked cream onions,” Ms. Solomon informs me. Dear God, just hand me a fork and a knife and I’ll eat right out of the pots!

“I’m going to clean up a bit. How long before dinner’s served?”

“About 15 minutes,” she informs me. I nod and head up to our bedroom. I don’t expect to find Butterfly here, but I check the en suite anyway. As suspected, no Butterfly. I shed my suit jacket and tie and loosen the buttons at my collar. God, it feels good to be home, I think to myself as I wash my hands and splash some warm water on my face, just to get some of the city grit off my skin. I dry my face and hands, and when I feel a bit more human, I peek into the nursery.

The children aren’t here, so they must be downstairs in the dining room waiting for dinner. I descend the stairs and as I expected, everyone has congregated at the dining table including my children—everyone, that is, except my wife.

“Where’s Butterfly?” I ask. Everyone at the table looks up but no one responds. I immediately look at Chuck.

“Don’t look at me,” he shrugs. “I brought her home, so she’s gotta be here somewhere.”

“You haven’t seen her?” I ask, expectant.

“I’m sorry,” he says, somewhat affronted. “I didn’t realize that I was supposed to keep an eye on her after we got home.” Okay, I had that coming.

“Did anything happen today?” I ask.

“Besides that insane workout, no?” My brow furrows.

“What insane workout? Was she angry? Did somebody upset her?”

“No,” Chuck says, now noting my concern. “She went to that Krav Maga place on 8th. That woman really put her through her paces.” I twist my lips.

“Well, she was sparring with your wife and I swear I thought your wife was a Cirque de Soleil acrobat. The way she was dodging those hits makes me wonder sometimes why she even needs a bodyguard,” he replies. I ponder the thought.

“Another female trying to make an example of her,” I deduce.

“No, this was the trainer,” Chuck says. “She and Ana talked for a while, then they sparred like crazy—so much that the other people in the gym stopped working out and sparring to watch them. When it was done, Ana just dropped in the middle of the mat.”

I don’t like the sound of that.

“The trainer—I think I heard her name is Lisa—helped Ana up and told her to do some cool-down exercises while they drank water and talked. Then, they shook hands, went their separate ways, and Ana signed up for a membership.”

“Oh, so nothing bad,” I say.

“Not that I can tell,” he responds. “She told me that she was taking a bath, but I didn’t see her after that.”

Well, she’s not in her en suite. I checked.

“I’ll go check her office,” I say. “She’s probably down there.”

I leave the dining room with no word from anyone and take the elevator down to the ground floor. I move a bit more quickly than normal, just a tad bit anxious to see her and make sure that she’s okay. When I get to her study, there she is in one of those comfortable sweater minidresses that she has hiding—fast asleep on her laptop.

That must’ve been some workout.

I go over to my wife and gently touch her shoulder. She doesn’t stir. I begin to rub her back a little more firmly. She groans and sweetly mumble something inaudible. I think she said something about Parmesan cheese.

What?

I look at her laptop screen and it has gone to sleep, too, so no way to see what she was working on. I rub her back again.

“Butterfly, it’s time for dinner,” I say softly, but loud enough to get through the fog.

“Not hungry,” she mutters without lifting her head or opening her eyes.

“Butterfly, you have to eat,” I say, and there’s no response. It’s no use. If I take her to the table right now, she’s going to end up face down in her applesauce.

Getting her out of her chair without her falling flat on her face is going to be quite the task. I end up crawling under her—somewhat—and lobbing her over my shoulder like a drunk. She doesn’t budge.

Oh yeah, she’s gone.

I have to admit, I love when she’s like this, all soft and helpless. It wakes the protector/Neanderthal/Dominant in me. It doesn’t help that I’m currently carrying her over my shoulder like a caveman.

I gently lay her on her back when I get her to our bedroom. She looks absolutely angelic lying there with her hair sprawled over the pillow, both hands on the bed next to her head in surrender. I resist the urge to ravage her and leave the bedroom, my stomach reminding me that there are pork chops waiting for me downstairs.

*-*

“The villa is coming along very nicely,” Butterfly says the next day. “Sophie has a good eye for matching things up.”

Sophie’s birthday is on Cinco de Mayo, but since it falls on a Tuesday which is of course a school night, we’re heading to a Mexican taco festival on the weekend instead.

“I just pick what I like,” Sophie says. “I get a little confused with that whole baroque-rococo thing you were talking about. I can’t tell them apart.”

“Most of us can’t, dear,” Butterfly replies. “They’re very similar.”

“She asked me about it, and I couldn’t help her at all,” Gail says. “I felt like a bit of a dunce.”

“Don’t,” Butterfly replies. “You really wouldn’t know what it was unless you were into designing or decorating. I wouldn’t know if I wasn’t decorating the villa.”

The ladies chatter for the entire ride to Union Station. It’s isn’t that long, but Sophie is so elated to be able to go to Italy that she nearly can’t stop talking. When we arrive at our destination, I’m surprised that I never knew something like this happened in Seattle. Then again, why would I?

It’s called the Taco Libre Truck Showdown and what looks like 50 food trucks line 5th Avenue. They’re not all Mexican food, mind you…

And, oh my God, the food!

Sophie warns me not to stuff myself at the first food truck because there are, in fact, 35 to choose from. Each truck offers a taco dish for less than $5 and Sophie wants to try as many of them as she can. Luckily, the servings are small and we’ll be walking a lot.

The first taco we try is from a Native American vendor. It’s a chicken chile verde taco from a place called Off the Rez. Dear God, it’s fantastic. Butterfly and I agree to share a taco as do Gail and Sophie so that we don’t get full before we get to the end of the block. Jason just takes a nibble here and there from Sophie’s taco, then decides if he wants to buy one of his own.

The choices are endless—Thai, Indian, fried chicken, Mediterranean, Moroccan, traditional Mexican, Cajun and Creole, barbeque, just to name a few—and that doesn’t include the ice cream and dessert trucks. There’s live music and dancing in the street. Sophie is having a great time and I don’t fail to take an opportunity or three to sweep my lovely wife off her feet and spin to the music as she giggles endlessly.

Sophie heads to a nearby booth to get a drink while the adults enjoy the ambiance of the evening—the people mulling about, the lively live music being played, the delicious food. I wrap my arms around my beautiful wife and nuzzle her neck, causing her to giggle again. I’m just sinking into the comfort of doing nothing and just being normal when an awful sound rips through my ears.

“Daddaaaaaayy!”

We turn around to see that Sophie has disappeared, but her screaming is incessant. We tear through the crowd, following her screams and in moments, we find her in the clutches of some guy dragging her roughly through the crowd kicking and screaming for her father… and nobody’s trying to stop him!

“Come on, stop this!” he scolds, like he’s dragging his own child through the crowd. “It’s time to go!”

Oh, he’s done this before.

“Let me go!” Sophie screams, now sobbing. “Daddaaay!”

“Let her go!” Jason yells, but the guy doesn’t stop. He just keeps dragging her through the crowd. Jason and I are upon the man in seconds. Jason grabs his arm and I grab Sophie. She fights at first since she can’t see me.

“It’s Christian,” I say in her ear. “You’re going to be okay.”

She’s breathing heavily and sobbing, clearly confused.

“Let go of my daughter or lose this fucking arm!” Jason demands. The guy turns around and sees that he’s outnumbered. He releases Sophie’s arm and goes quickly into fight and flight mode, swinging on Jason to get him to release and trying to get away at the same time.

I don’t even think he saw it coming.

Still holding the guy’s wrist with his right hand, Jason hits him square and solid in the jaw with his left. You know how you see those hits in the movies and they look all dramatic? Blood flying and hair slinging… no. This wasn’t that at all. This guy dropped like a sack of potatoes and is lying in a useless mound on the ground in front of us.

The slightest struggle from Sophie signals me to release her and she runs straight to her father’s arms, clutching him tightly around the neck and sobbing as he squats down to her height. He holds her for a few moments as the crowd parts to see what’s going on. He pulls her back to look in her eyes.

“Are you okay, Baby Boo?” Jason asks. Sophie nods with tears in her eyes. Jason looks back at her would-be kidnapper, now lying unconscious on the ground.

“Go to Gail, baby,” he says. Without hesitation, Sophie sprints to Gail.

“Come on, Pumpkin,” Gail says embracing her as Sophie continues to weep. Jason stands over the unconscious assailant.

“Call the police,” he says, his voice too calm as he looks down at the would-be kidnapper. I pull my phone out and immediately dial 911. If this man wakes before the police get here, there’s no telling what Jason is going to do to him.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

I explain to the dispatcher that we’re at the taco truck festival and someone just tried to kidnap my niece. I explain the situation as quickly and thoroughly as I can and give her my best estimate of our location. When I see two security guards headed in our direction, I inform the dispatcher that Jason is my armed personal security and it’s his daughter that was nearly kidnapped. I ask her to tell the police to hurry since more security is on their way. She understands my request.

The two guards get conflicting stories from witnesses in about a two-minute segment of flash questioning, then they move to restrain Jason.

“This man just tried to kidnap my daughter touch me and I’ll shoot you both,” he says calmly and all in one sentence. Both guards look alarmed and take a step back without a word. Oh, dear God.

“The police are already on their way,” I tell the guards. “This man is my armed personal security…” and he’s serious about shooting your ass. They look from me to Jason and back at me.

“Witnesses say he just decked the guy,” one of the guards says.

“Did those same witnesses see this guy dragging that 14-year-old girl over there through the crowd screaming?” I reply matter-of-factly. They turn to see Sophie, who’s standing in Gail’s protective grasp, her hair and clothes ruffled… and she’s still crying. Both guards soften their gaze upon seeing her.

“You said you already called the police?” the other guard says.

“Yes, sir,” I reply. He nods.

“We’ll just wait for the police, then,” he says.

A few moments pass and the would-be kidnapper starts to stir. Jason moves to stand over him right at his head. When the guy gets his bearings a bit, he apparently remembers where he was and what he was doing, and quickly moves to get up.

“Move another muscle and you can say goodbye to your future bloodline,” Jason says calmly. The guy freezes.

“No hablo inglés,” he says in a perfect American accent. Didn’t we just hear him speaking English to Sophie a minute ago?

“Okay, let’s try this. Respira demasiado fuerte y te arrancaré las pelotas con mis manos desnudas!” Jason says his voice menacing. “Did you understand that?”

“Ooo!” Gail winces as the rattled would-be kidnapper turns pale in the face and nods.

“Um-hmm, Spanish and English, didn’t you?” Jason confirms angrily while still standing over the man, and he just swallows and doesn’t move.

“I take it you understood it, too,” I say to Gail. She raises her brow and purses her lips.

“Unless my Spanish is a little rusty, I think my husband just threatened to castrate the man,” she says.

“You think correctly,” Jason says, never taking his eyes off Sophie’s assailant.

“What the hell?” Butterfly asks incredulously. “Did he seriously just try to snatch Sophie in a crowd full of people?”

“We’re in a throng,” I reply, “so he thought he could easily pull her away and she wouldn’t be heard over the crowd.”

“Asshole!” Butterfly yells at the assailant.

And now we have two people ready to castrate this guy… well, at least two.

When the police arrive, Sophie wrenches herself from Gail’s grasp and runs to her father, tightly wrapping her arms around his waist. The two security guards move in to make sure the would-be kidnapper doesn’t move.

“Baby Boo, go to Gail. I have to talk to the police,” Jason says.

“No!” she sobs. “They might try to take you to jail.”

“They won’t take me to jail…”

“But they might!” she squeals, and it’s clear that she’s not letting go. If they take Jason, they’re going to have to take her, too.

The police approach the scene, introduce themselves, and ask what happen. Sophie’s mouth is moving a mile a minute before anyone can say anything.

“He grabbed me!” she yells frantically, pointing to the man on the ground. “He was pulling me and telling me to come on! I tried to get away, but he wouldn’t let me go! He kept telling me it was time to go and I screamed for my Dad! When Dad got here, he started hittin’ my Dad and Dad hit him back…!”

“Okay, sweetie, okay,” the lady cop soothes Sophie, holding her hands palms down. “Calm down. It’s okay now.” Sophie crashes into uncontrollable sobs.

“My… dad… told him… to let me… go… and he wouldn’t… let me… go…” She’s talking in that stuttering breath voice in an attempt to get her story out before they take her father away. The first cop turns to the other cop.

“Cuff him,” she says, pointing to the assailant. “She’s not going to calm down until he’s cuffed.”

“You’ve dealt with this before, haven’t you?” Butterfly asks the lady cop as the second cop cuffs the assailant. Sophie calms a bit immediately, but still won’t let go of Jason.

“Unfortunately, yes,” she says. “SVU. Someone called in the attempted kidnapping of a teenager.” Butterfly sighs. They get the assailant in a sitting position after the cuff him and he doesn’t raise his head.

“What’s your name?” the guy cop asks, and he doesn’t respond. “Do you have any ID on you?”

Still no answer.

“So, this is what’s going to happen,” he says. “You’re not under arrest, yet, but we do have probable cause to search you for ID, especially since you won’t tell me who you are.  Now, if I get cut or impaled while searching you, that’s going to be more charges on you. If I don’t find any ID, I’m going to assume that you’re illegal and after we book you, we’ll turn you over to ICE and let them sort it out.”

“I’m not illegal,” he says, still not raising his head. “I was born here.”

“No hablo inglés, huh, you lyin’ piece of shit?” Jason blurts out, forgetting that his daughter is clamped to his waist.

“Sorry, Baby Boo,” he says, but she’s too distraught to respond.

The cops drag him to his feet and search his pockets. Locating his wallet, they pull out an ID or driver’s license.

“Enrique Ruiz,” the lady cop says aloud. “Does that ring a bell to you at all? Do you know this guy?” she asks Jason.

“I don’t know anything about this piece of shit except for the fact that he just tried to take my daughter. I caught him in the act! I’m legally armed security. He’s lucky I didn’t shoot ‘im!” She shakes her head.

“God, it takes all kinds,” she says. “Take him to the squad car. Take his statement if he’ll give you one and run him for priors. I’m going to talk to these people.”

“You got it,” the guy cop says. Security walks with him as he leads Ruiz to the squad car. The lady cop turns to us and looks at a distraught Sophie.

“Can somebody bring her a bottle of water or something?” she asks.

“I’ll get it,” Gail says.

“Momma Gail!” Sophie screams and Gail freezes in her tracks, a bit startled.

“Okay, okay, Pumpkin, I’m not going anywhere,” she promises.

“I’ll go,” I say, moving towards one of the trucks.

“Uncle Christian!” She’s not going to let any of us leave.

“I’ll be right back,” the lady cop says. I watch her go to one of the trucks and ask for a bottle of water. The server in the truck hands her a water and asks, “Para la niña?”

“Sí,” she responds, and hands him some money.

“No, no,” he says, waving his hand. “De forma gratuita.”

“Gracias,” she says with a nod. I understood most of that, enough to know that he didn’t charge her for the water. She comes back and kneels in front of Sophie.

“Here you go, sweetie,” she says, handing her the water. “Will you drink this for me?” She looks at the cop.

“Are you going to take my dad?” she asks sadly. “He was only trying to make the man let me go.” The cop looks up at Jason and back down at Sophie.

“No, I’m not going to take your father,” she says. “Will you drink the water? I want to talk to you, and you can stay with your dad.” Sophie takes the water and drinks half the bottle down quickly.

“Thank you,” the cop says. “Do you feel a little better?” Sophie shrugs. “My name is Liza. Can you tell me your name?” Sophie looks up at her father and Jason nods.

“Sophia Taylor,” she says, her voice shaky.

“Okay, Sophia. Do you think you can talk to me?” Liza asks and Sophie nods.

“I know this is really scary,” Liza says, “and I’m sorry this happened to you, but I need you to tell me everything that happened, okay?”

Sophie story begins with her going to one of the trucks to get some horchata. After she paid for her drink, she turned around and the guy was standing behind her. She moved to her left and then to her right to try to go around him and he wouldn’t let her pass. Then he grabbed her and started dragging her away. She dropped her drink and yelled for him to let her go. She tried to get away, but he was too strong, so she called for her dad. She knew what was happening, but she couldn’t get away, so she kept screaming for her father. Of course, that’s when Jason and I stepped in.

“You’re a smart girl,” Liza says. “You did the right thing.” Her voice is caring and consoling, and it serves to soothe Sophie a little more. She asks Jason if anything happened differently, even though I’m sure they were supposed to question them separately. Jason just says that he yelled for Ruiz to let Sophie go before he got to him, that he heard Ruiz talking to her like he was her father, and he knows that’s a regular tactic when they’re trying to take children from a crowd. She takes a statement from me and from our wives before looking at her phone.

“Well, Ruiz won’t be going home tonight,” she says. “We’ve got enough to hold him on this.” She gives Jason her card. “Please call me if you have any other questions or if there’s anything you might want to add to your statement.”

“Thank you,” Jason says, taking her card. She bends down to Sophie again.

“And thank you, Sophia,” she says. “You were very helpful and very brave.”

“Your welcome,” Sophie says in a little mousy voice. She smiles and walks away, heading back to the truck where she got the water. Jason stands there for several moments, looking at her card.

“What is it?” I say.

“Nothing,” he says. “I’m just listening to her conversation with the truck.” He deliberately takes his wallet from his back pocket and slides her card into one of the slots. Then he takes out his phone.

“Anything interesting?” I ask since the entire conversation is in Spanish. He shakes his head as he looks at his phone.

“Nope,” he says. “They’re basically telling her the same thing we did.” He hugs Sophie, then reaches behind him to take her hand.

“Come on, Baby Boo, let’s get you home,” he says. Sophie nods and reaches for Gail’s hand with her free hand as we walk back to the car. I drive and Butterfly sits in the front seat with me, allowing Jason and Gail to sit in the back and comfort Sophie. What a fucked-up birthday dinner this turned out to be. There’s silence in the car for nearly the entire drive. We’re over the bridge and almost home when Sophie breaks the silence.

“I guess it’s true what I’ve heard,” she says softly.

“What’s that, Pumpkin?” Gail asks.

“It takes a village…” and she trails off. We all fall silent for a moment.

“Maybe that’s why Mom couldn’t do it,” she says. “She didn’t have a village.” We all look at each other, all wondering what to say. Butterfly has the correct response.

“Well, you do,” she says, taking Sophie’s hand and giving it a squeeze. Sophie nods.

“I do,” she says, without raising her head.

When we get home, we’re all silent and quickly make our way to our separate quarters. I think we’re all in a hurry to literally put this day to rest

I awake in the morning to a double batch of those delicious chocolate truffles and a note.

Thanks for being part of my village.


A/N: If you are unfamiliar with Christian’s Biblical reference, read Matthew 14:1-12.

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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

 

 

Grey Continued: Episode 33—Planning to Go Abroad

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

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

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

Season 5 Episode 33—Planning to Go Abroad

Anastasia

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

Why do we have a house full of people?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can we go?” she asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How old is she again?” Mandy asks.

“She’s about to be 14,” I reply.

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

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

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

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

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

“Is something wrong?” she asks.

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

“Does Sophie know?” he asks.

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

“Well, that sucks,” Daddy says.

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

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

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

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

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

“Make that two of us,” Mandy says.

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

“Much longer for what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi,” I say, half-heartedly.

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

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

Oh, shit, not at the table.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Marlow’s going to end it.

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

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

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

“Si…” she says, almost inaudibly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He’s young,” I reply.

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

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

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

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

Everyone, that is, except Sophie.

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

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

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

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

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

What the hell happened?

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

“Hey.”

Christian’s voice brings me out of my thoughts.

“You okay?” he asks. I wave him off.

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

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

“You’re sure?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was nice meeting you,” Babs says.

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

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

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

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


CHRISTIAN

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

“Who, Rochelle?” he asks bemused.

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

“How did you…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why do you ask?” I say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bye, Christian. Have a good day.”

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

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

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

Jason’s laughter fades.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know,” I shrug.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This is torture for Sophie even if she doesn’t say so. The last time we visited, Sophie turned her back on her—for the whole visit! We’ve both just had enough. That’s why she said she’ll believe it when she sees it.’ She’s resolved. She expects her mother to disappoint her before she does anything kind.”

“So, what if we go through all of this and she still says that Sophie can’t go?” I ask.

“I’ll get notarized permission to take her to Italy just like I’ll get the notarized permission for the passport, but honestly, it’s just like when I took her to Vegas. Once I get the passport, as long as I let the court know where I’m taking her, it won’t be a problem,” he says.

“Well, here’s hoping,” I say. “That woman has been such a wretched mother to that child, this is the very least that she can do.”

“You would think,” he concurs, “but remember who we’re talking about her. The best thing that ever happened to my daughter was that drug bust or she could’ve ended up in a child sex ring. Can you even fucking imagine?”

A quick and deliberate flash of heat and rage runs through me, and I have to fight not to react. Imagine saying that the best thing that could happen to your 12-year-old daughter was a drug bust!

“No,” I say, summoning as much calm as I can, “no, I can’t.”

*-*

After being stripped of everything except our ID’s for the purposes of the meeting, we head to the security door to be taken in to see Jason’s ex-wife. I had forgotten what the inside of these facilities looked like. I could’ve gone my whole life without that little piece of knowledge. Geez, you deck one drunk driver…

Jason and I enter the meeting room and take a seat at the table. Neither of us says anything as Jason is convinced that every single room in a prison has recording devices—except the cells. A few minutes later, the prison notary comes into the room with a prison guard. He introduces himself and explains what the process will be to get the documents notarized, after which he takes my license and Jason’s license and records some information into a logbook that he brought with him. Not long after, another guard leads Shalane into the meeting room. She grimaces a bit when she sees me.

“Christian,” she says through her teeth.

“Shalane,” I respond with no malice. Her fight isn’t with me.

“Why is he here?” she seethes.

“Not happy to see me?” I reply. “Strange. You would have jumped my bones in front of my family and my pregnant wife on Thanksgiving Day two years ago.”

“Temporary insanity,” she hisses has she takes her seat. I turn to the prison notary.

“Is that enough for you?” I ask.

“That’s enough for me,” he says. “Do you swear or affirm that this person, Shalane Deleroy, is who she claims to be, so help you God?”

“I do,” I reply.

“Why did you need him to tell you that?” she says

“Because the documents have to be notarized and you’re a criminal with no ID,” Jason replies. She turns a hateful eye to him.

“Any of this lovely prison staff could’ve attested to my identity,” she sneers. “Well, now we’ve got it, so let’s get this over,” she adds. “I’m being blackmailed into doing this, so let’s get it done.”

“Blackmailed?” the notary says. Oh, shit… “What does she mean ‘blackmailed?’”

“I don’t know,” Jason says, his anger brewing. “What do you mean?”

“He’s turned my daughter against me,” she announces. “He won’t let her speak to me until I sign these papers.” Jason rolls his eyes.

“Is that true, Mr. Taylor?” the notary asks. This bitch…

“That most certainly is not!” he replies. “Sophia knows that she can’t go to Italy this summer without these papers. She also knows that her mother is refusing to sign them. For that reason, probably among many others, she will not speak to her mother.”

“That’s a lie,” Shalane retorts. “You told her not to speak to me until I sign the papers.” Jason drops his head in frustration.

“I can’t believe we’re going through this again,” he mumbles. The notary and I hear it and the notary looks at me. I shake my head in frustration as well.

“You have no idea what this man has been through with this woman,” I say. “He gained custody of his daughter when he had to pick her up from the police station to prevent her being taken by child services because this woman took her daughter on a drug drop where she was trying to trade her daughter for meth.”

“That is not true!” Shalane outbursts. “I was not trying to sell my daughter to that guy and there’s no proof of that!”

“That’s not what Sophie remembers,” I reply calmly.

“She was scared,” Shalane excuses. “She didn’t understand what was going on.”

“As well she should have been,” I retort. “She shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”

“You know what?” Jason says, straightening his back. “I’m done with you. I’m done with this whole thing, and I’m done with you. You don’t need to convince me, Christian, the court or anybody else that you didn’t try to sell your daughter to a meth dealer. You know who you do need to convince? Your daughter! To this day, she maintains that you tried to give her to that guy, and she was only 12 years old!”

The notary gasps.

“There wasn’t enough proof to charge you with it but she has convicted you,” Jason continues. “Her opinion of you is the only one that counts. When are you going to understand that? You used her against me for years, and now she sees it. She sees it all, Shalane! Nobody’s turning Sophia against you but you and your selfish and insidious behavior!

“If you’ve never listened to me before, listen to me now. There’s nothing that I can’t give her, and I’m going to give her everything that she deserves, everything that you kept me from doing for her for the last several years. She’s a good kid, and she’s smart, and she’s talented, and she doesn’t give me or Gail a moment’s trouble. Everybody who ever meets her loves her. She’s wise beyond her years—way too much wisdom for her age, thanks to you. And by the way, I now know that horrible scar on her hand did not come from falling off a bike.”

Shalane gasps audibly and her eyes widen as the prison guards and notary watch the story unfold in silent disdain.

“She’ll be 14 in a few days,” he adds. “In two years, she’ll be 16 and able to say that she never wants to see you again. In four years, she’ll be 18 and able to jet set to anywhere any time her heart so desires and my wallet will allow. If we have to wait until then, we will, but you remember this. You’re preventing her from having the experience of a lifetime because you’re pissed at me, and you’re pissed that you’re in a situation of your own making and you’re taking it out on your daughter.

“You want to call me names and cast me into hell, fine. I can take it. But rest assured that your daughter will never forget this, among the many other things that your daughter will never forget, for the rest of her life. If you want to sign the papers, then sign the damn papers. If you don’t want to sign them, then don’t. She won’t be surprised if you don’t sign them. She’s expecting you to be the same selfish, manipulating, lying… female you’ve been all these years! If you want to surprise her, sign the papers. If not, we’re leaving, and this conversation is over.”

He steps back and allows the notary to step in front of him. Jason has taken “the stance” and I know that his end of this conversation is indeed over. Shalane looks at him, her expression unreadable, and I think she sees the same thing that I see when I look back at Jason. He’s not looking at her anymore. He’s looking through her. He doesn’t even see her. She could most likely rattle off a line of curses and condemnations right now and he would most likely not even remember the conversation. Shalane sighs, takes the pen from the notary, and signs the documents.

Fuck, yes! I almost want to dance a fucking jig in the middle of the room.

“Take me back to my cell,” she says quietly. She stands and the guard leads her out of the room. I turn around to Jason when the door closes and he visibly releases the breath that he was holding, closing his eyes in obvious relief.

“I didn’t think she would do it,” he says. “You know how she operates…”

“I know only too well,” I reply.

“I was prepared to go home and tell Baby Boo it was a false alarm, that she wasn’t going to be able to go to Italy until she was 18. She’s been so sad over the last couple of days and I don’t know why. I didn’t want to have to tell her that.” He opens his eyes, moist with tears, and looks at me.

“She can go,” he says, wistfully. “She can go to Italy… what did I say to that woman?” he says, his brow furrows.

“You don’t remember?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“Not all of it,” he admits. I nod.

“You told her to be a decent human being for once in her life—to stop thinking about herself, or even about you, and to only think about Sophie,” I tell him.

“I said that?” he asks, his voice cracking.

“Not in those exact words, but yeah,” I say, looking over at the notary who has finished signing and stamping the documents before placing them in an envelope and handing them to Jason.

“Yeah,” he says with a nod. Jason takes the envelope and purses his lips.

“Thank you, sir,” he says to the notary.

“You’re welcome,” he says, giving Jason’s shoulder a squeeze. “Have a good trip.” Jason nods without raising his head.

“Now, you probably want to pull yourself together because you wouldn’t want to walk through this place with tears in your eyes,” I tell him. He nods quickly, then retrieves his handkerchief and dries his eyes thoroughly. He squares his shoulders and pops his neck.

“I’m ready, sir,” he says. And he is.

The guard escorts the three of us from the room.


ANASTASIA

I spent the day going through the finances for Helping Hands. We had been spending quite a bit on the new staff and programs, and I needed to know exactly where we were in terms of cashflow and expenditures. As it turned out, we’ve been spending more than I thought we were—not much more, but more. However, our sources of cashflow have increased tremendously since we started.

The full story about the trial in Las Vegas has now been told, and it has strategically been leaked that I became part of the mental health field as a result of my own experiences as a child. It was also leaked that I and Grace provide our services for free as we donate our salaries back to the Center. That was better than another PSA in terms of boosting independent contributions. We even secured a couple of corporate contributions as well as a small percentage of wage-match contributions. I’m considering some kind of fundraiser or bizarre for next year as this summer is pretty much booked for the Grey family, but we really don’t need one with all of the sources we have right now.

We had been using money faster than we were bringing it in, so we didn’t have an opportunity to notice that we had a steady influx of cash from Miana’s. It was small at first, for several months, and that’s why we didn’t see it. However, just after Liamgate, the amounts from the salon chain became quite substantial. I don’t know what made the difference, because I slightly remember Christian saying just after he had seized the salons from Elena that his share of the profits would go to Helping Hands in hopes of helping other victims of abuse. I’ll make it a point to ask Mia what changed.

Along with our usual fund-raising activities and the continuous contributions and pledges that stemmed from my public appearances, we’re waiting to hear about our grant approvals, and we’ve got a tidy little sum from Tina’s jewelry auction. Seeing the entry from the auction prompted me to call Carl and see how he was coming along. He’s partially retired now as he’s only disposing of and assisting with the estates of his remaining clients before he completely closes up shop. He told me that Tina’s children have tried to get in touch with him on more than one occasion, but after he divided Tina’s assets among them, he threatened them with restraining orders if they didn’t stop contacting him—all except Harmony, of course.

I’ve been meaning to ask Harmony what ever happened with her siblings breaking and entering on the property and if any formal charges have been brought against them. I don’t know that I’ll ask until and if she brings it up to me. It might be a sore spot and we don’t want that.

When I get home, I have pictures and videos of Aaron’s progress so far with the villa. Not having to paint or renovate means that the decorating is moving along even more quickly than either of us thought it would, which is good as we are about six weeks away from leaving. It’s also costing a pretty tidy sum as all of the items must either be purchased locally in Rome, Milan, or the surrounding areas, or purchased online and shipped in. I’ve decided not to tell Christian about the amount I’m spending unless he asks. We’re rich anyway, and it serves him right. What would you expect for a 14-bedroom house? I’m extremely grateful, of course, but 14 bedrooms? Whoever heard of such a thing?

I call Sophie to my office so that we can see some of the results of our hard work. She seems a bit under-enthusiastic when she gets there.

“Hey, you okay?” I ask, concerned about her melancholy. She shrugs.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she replies, blandly. It then occurs to me that Jason and Christian were supposed to go to the prison today to get the papers for her passport signed. Maybe it was a bust, but I won’t ask.

“Would you… rather not look at the pictures?” I ask cautiously. “I’ll understand.” She comes to attention a bit.

“Oh! Oh, no, I’d really like to see the pictures,” she says. “It’s not you or… this or anything, Aunt Ana. I just… I’m not in a really good mood, that’s all. Maybe seeing the villa will help.”

I can’t help but wonder if something happened in school. Then, I remember this weekend and Marlow’s eager and underdressed date. She can’t still be sulking about that… well, actually, she can. Nonetheless, I greet her with a smile and get back to the matter at hand.

“Well, then, roll your chair on over here and let’s see what our decorator extraordinaire has for us.”

Sophie and I take several minutes to review the pictures that Aaron sent us. It appears that he felt no reason to wait on the bedrooms since they were the easiest to do. The children’s room was the simplest since we had sent him the exact beds that we wanted, but the rest of the bedrooms are a delicious and eclectic mix of old-world with a touch of modern mixed with the baroque and rococo styles.

One room has a large, overbearing deep chestnut platform bed—a mix of modern and vintage—paneled with dark marble inlays that look almost like leopard print and what appears to be bronze cherubs mounted on the footboard facing out to the room. It takes up nearly the entire room. I never would have thought to put a bed this big in a room this small, but its commanding presence makes a statement that it should be alone in this space.

The next picture that we see is a total contrast from the first! Dark wood ceiling in uneven cuts and tones… but walls covered in a floral cloth. It’s not a “oh-dear-Lord-gag-me-I-can’t-stand-this” type of floral pattern. It’s white with single flowers in even symmetrical lines. Again, not something that I would have chosen, but the wall covering is in such contrast to the dark wood ceiling that it actually works to capture the natural light and set the ceiling off as an accent. Now, I know that he didn’t alter any walls, so I’m assuming this is how it looked when he got there but tell me how he found a perfect match to that pattern in bedding and chair covers. I can’t say I’m really feeling this one, but maybe it’ll grow on me.

The rest of the bedrooms are all simple or elegant or both, and overall, Sophie and I are pleased with our work and Aaron’s interpretation. He has told us that he will now work on the sitting and common areas and apprise us of his progress in a week. Sophie seems in a better mood after we’ve looked at the pictures and we head upstairs to dinner.

Dinner conversation seems perfectly dull and I can’t help but wonder—again—if things didn’t go as planned with Shalane. I would have thought that if it were good news, Jason would be chomping at the bit to tell Sophie when he got back, but now we’re down to dessert and still nothing. Not able to stand the elephant in the room, I turn the attention to Sophie without mentioning Italy.

“Sophie tells me that her birthday is on the 5th,” I say. “I hope I’m not spoiling anything by asking if there’s something planned. It’ll should be a beautiful day and a great chance for a party.” Sophie frowns at the thought.

“Well, we hadn’t planned anything special,” Gail says. “We thought we’d leave it up to Sophie.”

“So, Baby Boo, did you want a party?” Jason asks. “You know it doesn’t take long to get the festivities planned,” he adds happily. Sophie shakes her head.

No, Dad, I don’t want a party,” Sophie protests. “No offense, Aunt Ana, but I really don’t want a party.” Jason frowns and I’m a bit taken aback. Since when does a teenage girl not want a party for her birthday.

“Why don’t you want a party, Pumpkin?” Gail asks, deflated.

“I just… I don’t remember ever having one and I really don’t want one now. Can we just go to Mexicantown like we did last year? Please?”

“Are you sure Baby Boo?” Jason asks. She nods.

“Yes, I’m sure. We had fun and that’s good enough for me. Momma Gail, you can come, too… and Aunt Ana and Uncle Christian, but that’s all. That would be great.”

She sounds sincere and I can’t figure out for the life of me why she wouldn’t want a party with all the trimmings. We could throw her a great party, one that she wouldn’t soon forget. She could invite her friends and…

That’s when it dawns on me.

A party means the gathering of people—family and friends, and that usually means Marlow and one of his girls, and I would venture to say that Sophie doesn’t want her party to be attended by Marlow and one of his girls, but how do you say that?

By declining a party altogether, she can avoid that eventuality… and suddenly, I’m angry with Marlow again. Did Christian ever talk to him about that little twat he brought to my house on Saturday?

“I think that sounds like a lot of fun,” I concur with Sophie, “but I reserve the right to buy you a present. You’ve worked so hard on the decorating with me. If I had to do it all by myself, it would have been a nightmare.”  Sophie smiles widely.

“It’s fun,” Sophie says. “It makes me feel like a grown-up.”

“Well, look out, Jason, because I’m telling you now that your daughter has exquisite taste. I’ll have you know that she chose the beds for the twins’ room.”

“You don’t say,” Christian says. I nod

“I do say, and they’re perfect,” I add.

“Speaking of presents, Baby Boo, can I give you one of your birthday presents early?” Jason asks. Sophie stops chewing for a moment, then puts her fork down.

“Sure, Dad,” she says after swallowing her food. “Who doesn’t like early presents?” she adds with a smile.

Jason reaches into his pocket and pulls out an envelope, then hands it to Sophie. She wipes her hands and dabs her lips with her napkin and takes the envelope. She withdraws the contents and unfolds the documents inside. Her eyes widen as she reads through them.

“No way!” she exclaims turning to her father. He nods.

“Yep,” he replies.

“Get outta town she signed ‘em!?” Sophie squeals all in one breath. I turn to Christian in amazement and he nods.

“She signed them,” Jason confirms. “We’re going to Italy, Baby Boo.”

Oh, thank God! This is fabulous news! Absolutely fabulous!

Sophie screams joyously, leaps from her seat and runs to her father’s arms. He catches her midleap and laughs a contagious laugh along with her.

“Aunt Ana, I’m gonna see the villa! And I’m going to cook in Italy!” She says the last part while shaking her hair wildly.

“That, you are, Ms. Sophia!” I confirm, gleefully.

Gail and Jason make plans to take Sophie to the post office tomorrow to get things moving on her passport. Christian and I had gotten the twins squared away back when we first decided that we would be taking the trip this summer. I’m hoping that all the other parents will have the passports ready for the other minors when the time comes. Once dinner is over, I pull Sophie aside to have a private chat with her before she turns in.

“So, you’re going to Italy. What do you think about that?” I ask.

“I think it’s great!” she says gleefully. “I really didn’t think I was going to be able to go. I’m so excited!”

“I just wanted to talk to you for a minute, because I don’t want a potentially wonderful trip to be completely spoiled for you,” I say. Her face falls.

“How?” she asks. I sigh heavily.

“Marlow,” I say, without hesitation. She rolls her eyes and sighs heavily.

“Oh, that,” she says, deflated.

“Yes, that,” I reply. “You know he’s going to be there, and I haven’t seen an encounter between the two of you in months that I would even consider civil. We’re going to be staying in the same villa—all of us—for two weeks. It’s a big villa, but you’re going to run into each other at some point. I want us all to have a good time, you and Marlow included, but if we need to set some ground rules for that to happen, maybe we can work something out.”

“Aunt Ana, I’m so happy that I get to go to Italy that I can’t even think about anything else. I’m going to go on the internet and see what things I can see while we’re there and then I’ll ask Dad or Momma Gail to take me. I’m going to study some authentic Italian dishes and then see if I can learn to cook them while I’m there. I’m going to be doing other things—lots of other things—and I won’t even be thinking about Marlow.”

Translation—she’s going to chock her time full of Italy stuff so that she won’t have to be concerned with Marlow. It sounds a lot like evading to me, but she’s young and she’s doing what she can not to concentrate on her little crush on him. Who am I kidding? Adults do that often. She’s way ahead of her time.

“Let’s talk about last Saturday,” I say, causing her to sigh again and roll her eyes in that petulant teenage girl way.

“Do we have to?” she whines.

“Yes, we have to,” I say. “It’s part of the problem. I usually feel like you should behave yourself better when company comes to the house… but this one!” My eyes widen and I shake my head. “She really was a character, wasn’t she?”

Sophie loosens up a bit, but only a bit.

“Yeah… she was,” she agrees. “Her skirt was so short…”

“And all that makeup!” I say, remember her comment about how long it takes for certain girls to get dressed and how the finished product almost always doesn’t look like the original person. Sophie sighs again.

“I thought that much makeup wasn’t good for your skin,” she says. “How does it even come off?” I chuckle.

“One day, you’ll find out,” I say. “You’ll be wearing makeup, too.”

“Not like that,” she says, pointedly. “You wear makeup. So does Momma Gail. And Auntie Val, Miss Grace, Miss Mandy… you guys don’t look like that!”

“Well, sweetheart, sometimes some people feel like more is better…” Case and point, my husband and the 14-bedroom villa!

“Sophie, you’re such a mature young lady. You baffle us all the time with your knowledge and your ability and sometimes, your ambition. Even though you were hurt about your mother and what she was doing—or not doing—you handled it in a such a mature way even though you were hurting and we all knew it. We were… are all very impressed, and we’re probably just as happy as you are that you’re going to Italy. But sweety, even things that are right there in our faces sometimes have to be ignored.”

Sophie’s wide blue eyes fix on mine.

“She was… extremely inappropriate. Val and I even had a few words between us when they went to the other side of the patio, but those words were between us. No one else heard what we were talking about. That’s not to say that it’s okay to talk about people behind their backs, but it’s even worse to outright insult them in front of everyone, even when they have it coming.”

“I know,” she says, almost a mumble.

“I know you do,” I reply, my voice understanding, “so can you tell me why you do that?”

“I don’t know,” she fibs. She knows, she just doesn’t want to tell me. “Whenever I see them, it just flies out! I just wonder why they show up for Christmas or something at somebody’s house they don’t even know.” She’s searching.

“Because they were invited,” I say. “Would you want someone to make you feel unwelcome where you were invited?”

“No,” she says, and she sounds a bit scolded.

“I’m only saying that even though someone may show up dressed like a thot, or is twirling her hair, or may be a little on the heavier side, that doesn’t give any of us the right to publicly point out their faults. It’s borders on bullying and honestly, Sophie, it’s unattractive. You’re so smart and mature most of the time. It’s not a good look at all for you to tear into his girlfriends every time they show up,” I tell her. She drops her head and sighs heavily.

“Don’t worry, Aunt Ana,” she says, her voice sad. “It won’t happen again.”

“I don’t want you to tell me that because you think it’s what I want to hear. I really want you to think about how it makes you appear…”

“No, Aunt Ana,” she says, looking up at me with glassy eyes and shaking her head. “It won’t happen again.” Well, this is the last thing I wanted to do.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

“You didn’t,” she says, trying to hide her sniffles. “He did. He called me a brat… and he’s right. And you are, too. If I can’t say anything nice, I shouldn’t say anything at all, so I won’t… and it won’t happen again.”

A tear falls from her eye and she wipes it from her cheek. God, that first crush hurts so much, and I know she’ll get over it, but she doesn’t know it yet. I pull her into my arms and hug her close.

“Well, I certainly didn’t want this,” I say, hugging her tightly. She allows herself to cry for just a moment, but quickly composes herself.

“We’re going to have such fun in Italy,” I tell her. “I want to taste all the things that you learn to cook, and I want to take you to some of the places on Lake Como and see things through your eyes…” and that’s the truth. “We’re going to have such a good time.”

“I’m so glad I get to go,” she says, squeezing me hard around my waist, her voice cracking a bit. I gently stroke her soft blonde hair as she pulls herself together. As if their timing couldn’t be any worse, Jason and Christian come through the hallway near the mudroom and into the family room where Sophie and I are talking.

“There you are. It’s bedti…” Jason trails off as he sees his daughter crying in my arms. “Baby Boo… what’s wrong?” Christian looks at me with a furrowed brow as they both await my explanation. So, I give them one.

“We were just talking about Italy and Lake Como,” I say. “She’s a bit emotional.” I won’t tell them why. I stroke her hair once more and then pull her back from me, pushing her hair of her tearstained face.

“Cooking… and sightseeing… and shopping… and all the fun Lake Como has to offer… okay?” I say to her pained blue eyes. She nods and unceremoniously wipes her cheeks. She turns and takes a few steps towards Jason, but then turns back and runs into my arms once more. I stroke her hair to comfort her just a bit before she leaves.

“Thank you, Aunt Ana,” she says. I’m not really sure why she’s thanking me, but now isn’t the time to ask.

“You’re welcome, Sophie,” I say. She releases me and walks to her father, never raising her head. He looks up at me puzzled one last time before he guides Sophie down to her apartment. Christian walks over to me, his expression as puzzled as Jason’s.

“What was that all about?” he asks, his brow furrowed.

“She’s very emotional about this whole situation, and that’s all I can tell you,” I reply. He purses his lips.

“Okay, I get that,” he says, clasping his hands in front of him. “You and I need to talk. I call downtime.”

Downtime? Why is he calling downtime?

“Why are you so horrified?” he asks.

“I’m not,” I reply. “I’m… just surprised.” He nods.

“I understand. It’s been a while,” he pulls himself up to his height and gives me his final command.

“Wait five minutes and come to our bedroom.”

I swallow hard at the sound of his Dominus voice, and find my feet planted firmly in place as he leaves me standing in our family room.


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

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

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.

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 32

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

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

Season 5 Episode 32

ANASTASIA

Thank the Lord, Gary and Marilyn are moving closer to resolution with their relationship issues. It’s a slow process as we expected that it would be, but slow progress is progress, nonetheless. We encouraged them to get back to a level of intimacy, simply because if they were unable to obtain a level of intimacy, they were fighting a losing battle. Marilyn was having none of it until she could secure birth control from her doctor who wanted to wait for two more weeks before prescribing her anything. She wanted to be sure that Marilyn was gaining healthy weight before she introduced hormones into her body. So, poor Gary has to wait before there will be any christening of the new relationship.

ea658bf74c2614af055e29a7fe6ebfc7They’ve decided to stay in separate places for a while. There’s still more healing to be done and all therapists agree that this is the best course of action. It also eliminates the urge to be intimate before Marilyn has secured birth control and is completely comfortable. To that end, they are courting again. He comes to see her, and they spend time together, or he comes to pick her up and takes her out on a date, then brings her back to the mansion. It’s kind of cute to watch them. He’s given her a beautiful sterling silver necklace with two intwined hearts—one made of silver and one covered in diamonds. She wears it proudly but hasn’t donned her promise ring again just yet.

Sophie and I exchange wonderful ideas for the villa through email several times a week, but our big powwow always happens on Sunday afternoon. She always makes delicious finger foods for our meeting after delivering Christian his weekly supply of chocolate truffles. It’s a good thing that my husband and I are both fit and athletic or we would both be expanding severely in the midsection.

Sophie and I have a wonderful time during our weekend decorating meetings. She has a pretty good eye for the baroque and rococo looks, even though they may be a bit modernized. She admitted that they looked the same to her and tries to find something that has the general feel of the period. She’s right, the looks are painfully similar as one is just a continuation of the other.

One Sunday, I ventured to ask about her visit with her mother, and she sadly admitted that it was about as fruitful as the others. She tried a different tactic this time, though. She turned her back to the visiting window and removed the receiver from the wall. Shalane is not allowed to tap on the glass or to raise her voice, so she sat there for the entire hour talking into the phone to no one and looking at the back of Sophie’s head. Sophie has decided that this will be the protocol for her visits to her mother from now on.

I feel sorry for Sophie. I have a horrible relationship—or really, a non-existent relationship—with my mother and I wouldn’t wish the absence of a female parental unit on anyone. Sophie, however, is coming to detest her mother, for all the horrible things that she did to Sophie and the bad predicaments that she put her in. Even now, Shalane is being unbelievably selfish. It’s like she doesn’t want Sophie to be happy at all. She almost sold her to her drug dealer, for Christ’s sake. What did she think would happen to the poor girl? She’s had to fend for herself for years, and even now when there’s nothing more that she can do for Sophie right now but sign some papers, she won’t even do that?

She should be spending her visits showing Sophie that she’s rehabilitating—physically and mentally. Sophie had to sit and watch her drug use knowing full well what she was doing. That child had the weight of protecting her mother when all she wanted to do was to see her father. After all that she’s done to this girl, she can’t even give her this?

I turn my thoughts to other things beside Sophie’s wayward mother and concentrate on the beautiful ideas that she has chosen for several beds in some of the rooms. I forward the beds to Aaron and tell him to place the orders for the beds and the area rugs that Sophie has chosen for eight of the bedrooms. However, when it comes to Italian beds for toddlers, she and I agree that there may not be anything particularly Italian that will keep my two little loves from having a fall. So, we change direction and keep looking.

We didn’t have to look for long. One Thursday afternoon, I’m eating a late lunch in my office at Helping Hands when my email pings with a new message.

To: Anastasia Steele-Grey
Re: Beds for the Babes
Date: April 16, 2015 15:16pm
From: Sophia L. Taylor

Aunt Ana,

I think I found the perfect beds for Minnie and Mikey. Most of the beds we liked were canopy, so what about this? Let me know what you think.

TTYL,
Sophie

Imbedded in the email is the cutest picture of a twin sized bed that’s built like a house but looks like the front porch of a cabin, complete with rails. It’s adorable, and just rustic enough to work.

024d40db08527e4f456bc3f92e340483

To: Sophia L. Taylor
Re: Beds for the Babes
Date: April 16, 2015 15:21pm
From: Anastasia Steele-Grey

They’re perfect, Sophie! You’ve got a good eye. I’ll forward the email to Aaron to get them ordered.

TTYL,
Aunt Ana

Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey

Assistant Director, Helping Hands


I forward the email to Aaron to acquire the beds which my little helper found for a steal on Wayfair. Just as I’m finishing the email, my intercom beeps.

“Yes?”

“Ana, are you expecting anybody?” Chuck asks.

“No, but somebody’s always subject to come by. What’s up?”

“There’s a Malcolm Healy here to see you. His business card simply says Ventures Production and Marketing. He specifically asked to see you.” I sigh.

“Is he a reporter?” I ask.

“Not that I can tell,” Chuck asks, “but that doesn’t mean that he’s not.”

“I would be happy to apprise Mrs. Grey of the purpose of my visit if I could just have a moment of her time,” I hear someone say in the background. I sigh.

“If he’s brave enough to come in here and ask for me, we’re not going to get rid of him, and we need to keep unwanted publicity away from the Center. Make sure he’s not armed—or wired—and come back with him,” I reply.

“Will do,” Chuck says and ends the call.

What the hell is this? I haven’t even finished my lunch yet. I finish the email to Aaron and pull up Google just as Chuck and Mr. Healy are entering my office.

“Mrs. Grey,” Mr. Healy greets.

Dr. Grey,” I correct him. He nods.

“Dr. Grey,” he corrects himself. “This is a homeless shelter, a community center, a place where someone seeks solace and assistance, and your staff patted me down like a criminal. Is it usually this hard to get in?” I intwine my fingers in front of me.

“First of all, sir, you’re correct about our facility. What you left out is that it’s also a place where our residents may be seeking sanctuary from a violent or abusive spouse, which is why there’s security at the door and throughout the facility.

“Second, you didn’t come here asking for any one of those things. You came here asking directly for me. Having been assaulted on these premises before and having been required to pull my firearm to protect myself, I require that anyone requesting to see me under ominous circumstances be subject to a search. You would have been completely within your rights to refuse that search, but then we wouldn’t be speaking right now. What can I do for you?”

“Actually, Dr. Grey, it’s what can I do for you. May I sit?” Truthfully, he’s less of a threat if he’s sitting and Chuck is standing, so I gesture to the seat in front of my desk.

“By all means,” I say. He takes a seat and crosses his legs.

“I followed your trial on television,” he says. “That was really an awful thing that happened to you. It was quite the harrowing tale.”

“Yes, it was,” I agree. “Are you a reporter?”

“I’m not a reporter, Mrs… forgive me, Dr. Grey, but I am a storyteller. I’m a movie producer.” I frown.

“I have nothing to do with movies,” I say, typing his name into Google as I’m speaking. A short bio comes up. “Why would a movie producer be coming to see me?”

“I’d like to tell your story,” he says, “from your perspective, in your words. It would be the catalyst for conversation nationwide, maybe even worldwide, about bullying and the price of social acceptance. We’ve all seen or heard the story of the young misfit being bullied at school, but nothing like this! This is horrific and graphic, and the world needs to see this through your eyes, hear this story in your voice.”

I feel the room spinning a bit, like I’m stepping out of a vortex and the vertigo hasn’t quite worn off. This must be a joke, a terrible joke…

“You’re kidding, right?” I ask.

“No,” Healy says. “Your story is phenomenal and harrowing, but ultimately has a happy ending. It’s better than fiction, and I’d like to be the one to tell it for you.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!” I bark. “You’re trying to make a dime off of my suffering? Are you fucking serious?” He’s quiet, momentarily stunned. For the love of God, hasn’t he paid attention to headlines—to me—before he took it upon himself to barge into my office with this foolishness? He had to know this is how I would react.

“Well, of course, there’s going to be money to be made, but that’s not…”

“No!” I yell, before he finishes the sentence. “For God’s sake, no! Where do you people come from? It’s bad enough that they want to plaster my horror, my personal life and my tragedies all over the goddamn news; you want to put them on the silver screen! Are you insane? What if this was your daughter? Your wife? Your mother?”

“They’d want to tell their story, and I’d want to help them tell it,” he replies flatly.

“Well, I don’t want to tell my story. It’s been all over the fucking news already!” I declare. There’s silence for a moment.

“With all due respect, Mrs. Grey, I don’t need your permission to make this movie. All I have to do is change the location, the names, some of the key details and make it fiction. So, you can be a part of this, or you don’t have to.”

Oh, so now I’m Mrs. Grey again, and he wants to make an enemy of me… fine.

“Oh, I’ll be a part of it alright,” I promise, calmly. “You do that, Mr. Healy, but I want you to keep something in mind. I’m certain you’ve followed our life enough before you called me. Think hard. Think really hard. Who do you know anywhere, who can you find that can say they got one over on Christian and Anastasia Grey? I’ll wait.”

He doesn’t respond, nor does he break my gaze.

“Yeah, you’ve probably got a studio behind you or maybe you’ll be presenting the storyline to one. Maybe you’ve got the funding as I’m sure that just about anybody would be willing to get a piece of this, but I can guarantee that you’ll be ruining the lives and careers of anybody willing to touch this piece of shit including yours. We’ll start with injunctions against anybody involved in anything that looks remotely like my life—fiction or non-fiction, and that ‘purely coincidental’ shit won’t save you. But that’ll just be the start. You, or anybody else, who thinks they can go about the business of exploiting the most horrific part of my life to make a name for themselves will fall prey to such a personal crusade that will rival Armageddon in its magnitude. I will own the skin on their very balls they will have to get my permission before they can even take a piss!”

I say the last statement all in one breath without pausing.

“Mrs. Grey, in case you’re not aware, unauthorized biographies are published all the time. There’s really nothing you can do to stop this train from leaving the station.”

“Mr. Healy, try me.” I reply. I pause, gesturing to Chuck to get this piece of scum out of my office.

“Mrs. Grey…”

“Mr. Healy, this conversation is over. Now, you can leave on your own right now, or I can have you thrown out, and when I say, ‘thrown out,’ I mean physically. Thrown. Out.” I glare at him for a moment and he has three seconds to get out of that chair before I have Chuck drag him out by his collar. He stands and smirks at me and that’s enough for Chuck.

“Move your ass,” Chuck says, clasping his arm. He snatches his arm away.

“Get your hands…” Chuck opens his suit jacket.

“Let me rephrase—move your ass before I splatter your goddamn brains against that wall behind you!” Chuck threatens. Healy looks at his body and I assume he sees Chuck’s body holster. He raises his hands.

“You wouldn’t shoot an unarmed man, would you?” he says.

“I’d shoot a piece of scum like you any day, armed or unarmed.” Chuck grabs his arm and shoves him into the hallway. “Now, move your fucking ass!”

Healy stumbles into the hallway and I hear him hit the wall.

“Do you see this?” he says. “Do you see him manhandling me?” and now he has an audience.

“I don’t know what you did, but I suggest you move your fucking ass,” I hear Grace say. I want to laugh when I hear her say that, but I’m too damn mad. I dial the front desk and ask for Oscar.

“Yes, ma’am?” he answers.

“Get the year, make, model and plate number of that guy that just came back here with Chuck,” I tell him.

“On it,” he says. I disconnect the call.

“Ana, what was that about?” Grace asks.

“Movie producer,” I tell her. “Wants to make a movie of that horrible shit that happened to me and the trials. When I said, ‘No,’ he told me he would do it anyway.”

“Oh, dear God,” she says. “Does he have the means?”

“I’ll find out soon enough,” I say as hit Alex’s speed dial.

“Your Highness,” he answers.

“I’m anxious… and angry… I called you too soon,” I blubber.

“Oookay… too soon for what?” he asks.

“I need information… right now!” I bark. “On a guy. His name is Malcolm Healy. He’s supposed to be a movie producer, but I can’t find much of anything about him online.” I hear Alex typing.

“I’m looking, but may I ask why you’re looking for information on a movie producer?” Alex asks.

“Because he pissed me off!” I retort.

“That’s obvious,” Alex says, still typing, “but I’d really like… oh, shit! Were you approached by a movie producer?”

“Yes, and when I told him, ‘no,’ he had to be physically removed from my fucking office!” I snap.

“Oh, dear. Should we get more security down here?” Grace says, taking a seat in front of my desk.

“That’s not his real name,” Alex says. “He doesn’t have any hits online and I’m not getting anything for any kind of hits on the federal database of producers with that name. What were his physical characteristics?”

“He sat down kind of quickly but I would say 5’10” maybe 5’11”, 160 – 180, brown hair, brown eyes, white… I don’t have anything else.”

“Approximate age?” Alex asks. I sigh.

“Early 30s, maybe,” I say, uncertainly. Chuck comes back into the room.

“He really is a piece of scum,” he says.

“Why do you say that?” I ask,

“Just talking a lot of shit. That guy has no clout, I can guarantee you.” He hands me a piece of paper.

“Do you still have that business card that he gave you?” I ask. Chuck reaches into his coat pocket and gives me a business card that only has the name and phone number on it—nothing else.

“Okay, Alex? His business card boasts Ventures Production and Marketing. The phone number is 221-5…”

“221?” Alex interrupts me. “Wait, wait, 221? Are you sure?” I look at the card again.

“Yeah, 221,” I reply. I hear him typing.

“Do you have anything else on this guy?” he asks.

“Yeah, Chuck just gave me the possible year and the make, model, and license plate number of his car.”

“What is it?” I look at the paper and frown.

“Is this right?” I ask Chuck.

“That’s what I shoved his ass into,” he says. “The year may be wrong, but that’s the make and model and the license plate.” I shake my head and look at the paper.

“It’s a 2006 or 2007 Toyota Corolla,” I say incredulously. “Blue, license plate #S47R251S.” I hear Alex typing on his keyboard.

“I figured as much,” Alex says. “That guy is a total fraud.”

“Details,” I say. Alex types some more.

“That car is registered to Armando Ramos,” he pauses and types a little more. “Brown hair, brown eyes, 172, 5’11” … good guess…”

That’s what I do.

“That 221 area code, that’s a Senegal country code. It’s probably a burner phone, most likely forwarded to a local cell.”

“Why would he do that?” I ask.

“For clout, maybe—or so he thinks.” he says. “It’s part of the image. Nobody knows that his ‘international cell’ is a phony… and that’s a 2005 Toyota.”

“Or for the love of God,” I say.

“What?” Grace questions.

“He’s a fraud,” I tell her. “A nobody…”  and here I was hoping I’d have something to sink my teeth into. The nerve of that guy!

“I was wondering why someone would contact you about movie rights instead of GEH,” Alex says.

“Why would they contact GEH first?” I ask.

“Because you’re an officer now,” he says. “Everybody knows that. If they didn’t know it before, they know it from the trial. You are GEH. Interviews and news spots, you can do that on your own. Books and movie deals, you’re getting into proprietary information because you represent the company. There are all kinds of legal ramifications of that! Any amateur knows that… well, except for this amateur.”

I Google Armando Ramos and realize that this guy truly is less than nobody. He had a couple of below-D-list films, one that made the list of worst films of 2012 and the other that couldn’t even be bothered with bad publicity. He’s probably desperate for a hit since the information that I’m seeing says he’s been at this producer thing for years with nothing to show for it. I can’t help but wonder what this guy was thinking.

“You’ve gotten quiet, Mrs. Grey,” Alex says. Smart ass.

“Just looking at some general information on this asshole…” Sorry, Grace. “Have you found anything good on him?”

“A couple of average-joe arrest records, petty stuff. A few low-budget movies to his name. This is just some bottom feeder trying to make a name for himself.”

“Send me the information that you have. Were you able to get his cell phone number?” I ask.

“Yep, I’m tracking it as we speak,” he says.

“Send me that, too,” I say. “He isn’t still on the premises, is he?”

“No, he just pulled up at the museum at Union Park… We may want to keep an eye in this guy. He may be intending to come back when you’re off work.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” I say. “I’m not worried about him, but I have a feeling that he might be persistent.”

“Will do,” Alex says. “I just sent his preliminary information to your email. I’ll keep you updated as we find additional information.”

“Good, and Alex, I want personal information in case he decides to play hardball.” The line is quiet for a moment.

“I really don’t think he’s in that type of position, Ana,” he says.

“Just in case,” I reply. “You can’t be too careful. Also, he’s not the only one to get this cock-and-bull idea in his head. He’s just the first one to approach me. My story is gruesome, and gruesome sells. I might as well prepare myself.” I hear him sigh.

“Roger that,” he says and we end the call.

Less than nobody… coming to my place of work, interrupting my lunch, and telling me that he’ll make my story whether I give him permission or not. I look at his information again:

 Armando Ramos—alias Mani

In less than twenty minutes, I have his personal cell phone number, his location, his arrest record, his home address, and a short list of the crappy movies that he’s made and he really thinks he can fuck with me? He’s relaxing in the park, probably enjoying his lunch and celebrating what he thinks is a coup.

“Let’s go,” I tell Chuck. He frowns.

“Where?” he asks.

“Union park,” I reply, “and I’m not arguing. You can go with me, or I’ll go alone. Either way, I’m going… and I’m driving.”

“Ana…” I’m up and out of my seat before he can try to stall me. “Shit! Fine, but I’m calling Jay. I’m telling you that now.”

“I don’t care,” I tell him. “Walk while you talk…”

Ten minutes later, I pull up to the museum at Union Park with Chuck in the passenger seat and a back-up security detail in the back seat. I see Armando sitting on a bench near the fountain. He’s finishing a sandwich and he appears to be people watching. At least, I hope that’s what he’s doing and not some weird stalker shit.

“Give me your phone,” I tell Chuck. I’m effectively cutting off his ability to give a play by play, at least from his phone, but that’s not why I want it. He begrudgingly hands me his cell and I dial the asshole’s number.

“Hello,” he answers.

“This is Anastasia Grey.” I see and hear him scoff a laugh.

“Have you changed your mind, Mrs. Grey?” he responds cockily.

“No, I haven’t, Mr. Ramos,” I say, using his real name. I watch him stiffen immediately, nearly dropping the remainder of his sandwich on the ground as I begin to walk the trail around him, observing his reactions. The line is so silent, it seems like the traffic has stopped and the birds aren’t even singing anymore.

“And just so you know,” I continue, “I’m not using that phony number on the card with the Senegal country code that you left me. I’m calling you directly. This is what I can do in thirty minutes with little to no information. Please… give me a mission.”

The thick silence remains on the line and I have to check and see if he has disconnected the call.

“Did I lose you, Mani?” I ask.

“How much do you know?” he nearly growls after a few more moments of silence.

“Enough,” I say unfazed, coming around the trail behind him and closing the space between us. “And then some. You should really get to know your target before you start throwing your supposed weight around. Seriously, Mani, you’ve got a string of Z-rated movies and you want me to associate my name with you. Not that this is a venture that I’m even slightly interested in pursuing, but even if I were, you would be the last person I would want to tell that story.”

I’m still walking towards him, watching as he clenches and flexes his free hand, occasionally rubbing his fingers together and impatiently fidgeting in his seat.

“If you really want to play with the big boys, bring it on, Armando, but please remember this. That story is a very painful part of my life, but even if it’s published or televised, it could do no more than make me a bit uncomfortable. However, it could have a horrible future impact on my children. And by the way, you may want to turn around.”

I end the call and hand Chuck his phone just as I approach Armando’s perch. He spins around on his park bench and at first, he’s angry, but then his face pales. He knows that he left me in my office 30 minutes ago. I’m standing here interrupting his lunch in a public place where he most likely didn’t tell anybody that he was going.

“Surprised?” I say calmly, clasping my hands in front of me. He just sits there looking at me, stunned.

“So, what, you followed me,” he says, once he regains himself. I shake my head.

“Unless you’re as stupid as you look,” I give him a once-over, “and you just might be… you were in your rearview mirror for at least three blocks after you left my office, probably more. And even if you weren’t, you know as well as I do that I didn’t follow you. I tracked you, Mani.

He twitches a bit. His poker face is one big tell, and for him to threaten to do something that would displease me, he’s actually nothing more than a small-time manipulator. I want to punch him in his fucking face… literally punch him in his goddamn face, but since I can’t do that, I talk a figurative gut punch or two.

“Like I said,” I begin, “it won’t hurt me, but it could hurt my children. To that end, and this is where I need you to listen carefully, if I see or hear anything on the big or the little screen that even slightly resembles any of the horrific events of my life, I swear on my children… you’re going to wish you were dead.”

Clear horror flashes across his face for a moment, but he recovers quickly.

“I’ve taken down bigger fish than you,” he threatens.

“Where?” I ask incredulously, while opening my hands in a shrugging motion. “All I’ve seen associated with you is a string of psychotronic duds for which you weren’t even the front man!”

“You really think your money is going to get you far enough to stop me?” he asks, his voice condescending.

Money?” I scoff a laugh. “How many people do you intimidate with that line? Have you been hiding under a rock? Haven’t you heard, Mani? Money is just the gateway drug. Power is the real addiction. Do you want to find out how strung out I really am?”

I glare at him and await a response. When I get none, I don my Jackie O’s. I said what I came to say.

“What? That’s it?” he taunts with obvious false bravado as I turn to walk away. “No ‘you’ll never work in this town again?’” I stop and look back at him.

“Finding work should be the least of your concerns,” I say, still unfazed, and I can tell by his expression that those eight words made a bigger statement than anything I previously said. I know he’s heard all of the I’ll destroy you and you’ll never work in this town again lines, but I’m certain that what scares him the most is someone not telling him what they’ll do to him, particularly a woman with the power of scorn and a force of a mother’s vengeance who discovered exactly who you were from a phony business card in 20 minutes.

I let that sink in and turn to walk back to my car just in time to see two new black Audi Q7’s pull up behind Chuck’s car. Hmm, restocking the fleet, I see.

Christian nearly leaps out of the back of one of the SUV’s and four other members of security spill out of the two cars, including Jason. The five of them are walking to my car with purpose, but I never stop my leisurely stroll in his direction. My lack of urgency calms and bemuses him at the same time.

“Anastasia, what’s going on?” he demands once we approach each other.

“I can’t talk right now, baby. I need to get back to the Center,” I reply, and kiss him sweetly on the cheek. “Chuck will fill you in.”

I finish the short trek to the parking lot, leaving an even more bemused Christian Grey standing behind me. I glance over at Armando, and even under my Jackie O’s, I can tell that he’s a few shades paler than when I left him. After all, he was just confronted by me and two of my security staff, one of whom threw him out of my office earlier, and now I’m leaving him to answer to five more very tall, very determined men—one of which is my very protective husband, and he probably doesn’t even know that yet.

I get in my car, start it, and head back to the Center, leaving my husband and his confused entourage in the park to deal with Mani.

When I get back to the Center, I can’t concentrate at all. My adrenaline is up, but not in a way that makes me want to cry. It’s flying high in a way that needs to be burned off—and now! Knowing that I’m not going to be able to get anything else done, I let Chuck know that we’re heading home for the day.

Once there, I spend quite some time in the gym trying to release the adrenaline that had accumulated. I want this asshole to try something. I want to leave him crushed under my heel and I want to see his face while I’m doing it. Fucking jerk piece of shit nobody motherfucker.

I wail away on the heavy bag, but it’s only a slight relief. I head to my bedroom and my en suite for a scalding hot shower.


CHRISTIAN

Things had been quiet. The two biggest things in our lives that didn’t fall into the everyday drama of GEH or Helping Hands have been the counseling with Garrett and Marilyn and the recent developments with Shalane Deleroy.

Things are progressing slowly with Garrett and Marilyn, as we expected they would, but they’re progressing, nonetheless. Butterfly is right—I see a lot of us in them, what we would have been had I not been so fucked up and we had met at an earlier time. Garrett is headstrong like me. He just doesn’t display it as openly as I do, but if you brush him the wrong way or he becomes emotional, as he calls it, you’re in for a battle.

Marilyn is, for lack of a better word, bipolar. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I only mean that either this experience or some experience before this put her in a state of quiet resignation and acceptance. Most of the time, she has that whole it is what it is demeanor about her, even when she’s silently weeping. However, on those rare occasions where she wants to be heard, her back straightens and she becomes logical and frank. I’m actually happy to see the Marilyn who told me that she would quit if she had to put up with my shit as opposed to the silent, depressed waif who had been haunting the halls of Grey Crossing for the last several weeks.

As for Shalane Deleroy, Jason came into my office yesterday incredulously telling me that she had agreed to sign the papers for Sophie to get a passport. This is tremendous news. We can only hope that she doesn’t change her mind before she actually signs the papers. Sophie has been taking out her frustrations on her cooking, and I’ve been getting those delectable chocolate truffles every weekend, requiring me to happily put in a little more time at the gym or an extra-long run.

When he told Sophie the news last night at dinner, her reaction was appropriately muted, accompanied by a declaration that she’ll believe it when she sees it. I can’t blame her—I had a similar reaction when I heard the news. That woman is so selfish, catty, and unpredictable that anything could happen between now and the time that she signs on the dotted line.

As it stands, the document has to be notarized and Shalane doesn’t have any ID in prison. So, Jason has asked me to be a credible identifying witness to Shalane’s identity and we will utilize a prison notary. We don’t know any of Shalane’s friends, nor would we want to try to contact any of them for this assuming that she has any besides her drug dealer. Jason hasn’t been in touch with any of her family since the divorce, and a credible witness has to be able to identify the signer as the signer.

As a credible witness, I have to attest that I know Shalane personally, have had several interactions with her, and know that this is her legal name. In essence, I’m her ID card. I do know the cow; I have, unfortunately, had several personal interactions with her; and of course, I know her name. Oh, and I can’t have a personal interest in the transaction, meaning that I’m not named in or signing the document in question, which is the application for Sophie’s passport. We have an appointment to go to the prison next Wednesday to get the documents signed.

I asked Jason last night what he thought finally changed Shalane’s mind. He told me that his daughter is apparently a master at emotional warfare. At first, she would go to the visits and just stare at her mother. That graduated to turning her back, taking the phone off the hook, and just sitting there for an hour.

Shalane called Jason berating him in every language saying that he told her to do this. Jason says that he calmly told her that he wished he had come up with that brilliant idea, but that this was all Sophie. He told her that this situation was of her making and that she was the only one with the power to undo it. That must’ve done the trick because that’s when she decided to sign the papers. Now, we’ll just have to see if the passport carriage turns into a pumpkin before next Wednesday.

Luckily, Butterfly and I have already taken care of passports for Minnie and Mikey. That reminds me that I need to make the announcement that we’re planning the family vacation sometime in July or August so that anyone without a passport can get it secured.

I got a little comfortable in the serenity of the last couple of weeks, and this afternoon, Jason comes running into my office to tell me that Butterfly is on her way to the park about to meet some seedy producer about making a movie of her life.

What the fuck?

“Why the fuck would she do that?” I ask.

“I have no idea, but Chuck says they’re on their way down there right now. Her Highness insisted on driving.”

“I have so many questions right now, but they’re going to have to be answered in transit…”

I call Alex as we’re in the elevator to the parking garage to get the background information sent to me that Jason says Butterfly requested. Three more security detail meet us in the parking structure as Alex gives me the full breakdown of his and Butterfly’s conversation. The way that he left things, there appears to be absolutely no reason for Butterfly to be concerned, so I’m wondering why she went to meet this guy.

When we get to Union Park, I can see that body a mile away—well, maybe a few hundred feet—talking to some guy by the fountain. She looks like she’s walking back to the parking lot as we park, but then she stops and appears to say something else to the guy.

What the hell is going on?

I’m walking so quickly towards my wife and two of our security details that I feel the wind blowing through my hair. She’s walking towards me like she just had a leisurely conversation with an old friend. When she calmly tells me that she has to get back to the Center and kisses me on the cheek directing me to ask Chuck what was going on, I nearly lose my shit.

“She just wanted to strut,” Chuck says with a shrug. “I’ll call you.”

He steps double-time to get back to the car and I watch as Butterfly pulls out, waves sweetly, and drives off. I turn to the loser sitting on the park bench eyeing me and my security detail. I go over to talk to the guy and he’s damn near pissing his pants when we get to him. He guarantees me that he won’t bother my wife again and he doesn’t want the story. I don’t know what Butterfly said to him, but he’s scared shitless.

I go back to the office, hoping that this whole thing is a false alarm. Chuck calls as promised to tell me what happened in the park and that they guy turned out to be as big of a loser in person as he is on paper. He tells me something else that concerns me, though. Butterfly has cut her day short and now she’s at the mansion taking her fury out on the heavy bag.

Something else is going on.

I finish up what I’m working on, which takes another hour, and decide to head home to see what’s going on with Butterfly. When I arrive, she’s done in the gym and now she’s in the shower. I hope that means that she’s worked off whatever frustration the day brought on her and we can have a peaceful dinner. I take this time to shower as well since the day had me a little wound, too. I don’t rush with my shower. I wash my hair and let the hot water rinse away my stress. When I’m done, I dry myself thoroughly then take to briskly towel drying my hair. I head for my dressing room to change into some more comfortable clothes.

I don’t get that far.

My wife is standing in the doorway between our bedroom and the sitting room when I come out of the en suite… and she’s naked.

“Go in the sitting room,” she says. “Sit on the loveseat.”

Okay. She’s bossy, which means she’s hot.

I follow directions and sit on the loveseat only to find that she’s right behind me, dropping to her knees when my butt hits the seat. She takes most of my cock into her mouth and throat and sucks quickly and sloppily.

Whoa! Shit! Hard and wet in an instant. I move my hand to her cheek and she quickly grabs both my hands and slams them down on the cushion. She looks up at me with a mouth full of my dick, spiking my arousal to feverish proportions but warning me with her eyes not to touch.

Fucking yes, Mistress!

Still holding my hands down with hers, she bobs madly on my cock, fucking me deliciously with her throat. I don’t know how she’s doing it, but I don’t care. I just sit there like the sacrificial lamb being gobbled by my wife, insane amounts of saliva falling from her mouth and coating my dick—which is becoming angrier and veinier by the second.

The intense and building pleasure draws a groan from deep in my cock burning up through my chest. She releases my cock from her lips, and I can hardly breathe. I don’t know whether to lament the cessation of stimulation or to be grateful for the reprieve.

She stands to her feet and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. She grabs both legs behind the knees and pulls my body so that my ass is on the edge of the loveseat. I’m so weak and disoriented from the flash blowjob that my body moves willingly with no protest. She straddles me and I soon discover when she opens her pussy exactly what kind of torture she has in store for me.

She wraps the lips around my hard, wet, angry cock, but she doesn’t allow me to enter her. She grabs the back of the sofa on either side of my head and begins to grind. She starts by looking down at us, watching the head of my cock appear and disappear between her legs. Her hips have a vicious roll—back and forth, hard and deep, up and down the outside of my cock. She’s riding me, grinding me, masturbating me with the lips and clit of her pussy.

Fuck, this shit is killing me! I can guarantee you I won’t get any harder, Mistress!

I hear her breathing become heavy as she continues to grind, now closing her eyes and riding for dear life. Dammit, she’s going to make me come like this!

I soon realize that’s her intention… or at least she’s going to come.

Back and forth, up and down, round and round, relentlessly she grinds against my cock. God, it feels so good and with no reprieve, I can feel it rising up in me and getting ready to blow. I’m trying to stay still, grabbing viciously at the cushions to keep from grabbing her. My pelvis is cemented to the seat, but my aching cock is reaching high for her ministration. My head digging back into the sofa and my cock trying hard not to succumb to her quickening hot, deep, and hard strokes and circular grind, I groan loud and cry out, surrendering completely to a throbbing orgasm sending thick, long strings of cum across my abdomen up to my chest.

She doesn’t slow or lessen her movements and my offering continues to stream from the head of my gloriously releasing dick. Her rhythm doesn’t stop and although my erection doesn’t wane, the head is becoming slightly tender from the intense orgasm and continuous friction. I keep my head back and grit my teeth, waiting to discover my Mistress’ purpose. I hear her whimper a few moments later, and my head is still tender—not as tender as it was before but tender. She keeps going, a few more strokes, then a few more, and I feel her tremble slightly. She only whimpers; she doesn’t cry out, and a few moments later, I feel her clit throbbing against the head of my cock. She’s pressing it hard against me, deep, moving only infinitesimally against me as her body jerks violently. Her head has fallen forward, and her hair covers us both in wild, wet, untamed strands as she grunts quietly through her orgasm, then breathes heavily through the aftershocks.

Oh, my fucking hell, that was so fucking hot.

Only a moment later, she masterfully moves her hips, taking my head inside of her.

“Fuck!” I hiss. She takes one hand, gathers her mane of hair, and tosses it behind her back. She puts one hand at the nape of my neck and the other on my shoulder and pushes herself all the way down onto my dick. I hiss again at the tightness—the depth, warmth, and wetness. Shit, I just came, and this is rushing me to round two.

She begins her grind again, long, melodic strokes like a fucking dancer making her way across the stage. She briefly makes eye-contact with me before she tightens her grip on the nape of my neck and plunges her tongue into my mouth.

Oh, God, help me.

She’s ravishing my lips with delicious sex kisses as she works my hard but helpless dick inside of her hot core. This is quite mentally and physically stimulating as my wife has taken the reins and is doing with me what she pleases, and Greystone isn’t protesting one bit.

However, I can’t have her gyrating on me like this and I can’t touch her.

I wrap my arms around her body, gently caressing her as she moves, closing my eyes and losing myself in kisses that speak to the very deepest part of my libido. For several moments, she grinds into me and I cautiously move my hands to her luscious ass. I don’t try to press her into me, I just need to feel it as she moves.

This woman is owning me… kissing and sucking my neck, licking my shoulder and ear, and pinching my nipples. I am being fucked—and well. I surrender to every sensation, my body completely on fire as I give it to her. She has owned me in several ways tonight, and this is no different. With my hands on her ass, my fingers pressing into her supple skin, I follow the deliciously deep, flowing movements of her hips over mine. For a moment, my mind separates the feeling of my cock from the motion of her pelvis against my hands. I love how she feels against my hands. I love the feel of her skin and the soft roundness of the meat. The movements are so sensual and sexy and I follow her with my wrists, palms, and fingers, delighting in the fluid rolling of her body that I love so much, physically and emotionally.

I’m caught up in the wonderment of this body, of this woman that belongs to me, all mine… and in my feelings for how much I love and revere her. I almost forgot about the physical feeling in my cock…

… Until I remember.

My mind immediately goes back to my dick, to the hot, warm friction and delight this woman is invoking upon me. I’m thrust right back in the middle of the pleasure at its highest level and I’m not prepared for it. My body can’t take it.

“Dear God!” I mourn against my Mistress’ mouth and Greystone begins a spectacular tribute to her skills. My balls are so tight that they’re painful and I slide back down onto the loveseat, clinching her ass, opening my legs, and pressing my cock as far into her as her ministrations will allow.

“Oh, God, yes!” she cries as she finally surrenders to her orgasm, her nails digging into my shoulder and her hips pressing as hard against mine as mine are against hers.

Jesus Christ, that was insane!

I can’t say that I mind being at my wife’s mercy. Even though she didn’t dominate me, she dominated me. Good God, did she dominate me.

We’re catching our breath, drenched in sweat even though we both just showered. The rise and fall of her chest and body on mine is making me want her again even though I just came. Between her panting, she locks her lips to mine again, kissing me deeply and causing the heat to rise between us again. I wrap my arms around her waist and sink into her kisses, allowing her to take me wherever she wants to go.

Sure enough, her hand moves from my neck to my cheek, and she positions her knees to ride again. I move my hand from her waist and gently stroke her round ass, cupping it delicately as she softly starts to move her hips again.

“God, baby, you’re so beautiful… and insatiable.”

“Mmm-hmmm,” she purrs, as she locks her lips to mine and begins her slow, delicious grind once more.

*-*

The final round lasted forever last night, for both of us. Butterfly took me several ways—cowgirl, reverse cowgirl, scissors with her on top, and one that I’m still trying to figure out… one of my legs over her shoulders. I don’t know how she came up with that one, but I was so deep inside her that I swear I could feel her tonsils on the head of my dick. I almost came with that one, but I didn’t want it to end. We finally met our end lying on the sofa—her on top, of course—and some kind of right angle where she was fucking me sideways from on top and causing my dick to do this deep in and out circular motion where every part of me was hitting every part of her. Once we got that right rhythm and movement, that position only lasted for about a minute before we were both locked in mind-blasting orgasms that lured us into immediate exhausted and satiated slumber.

And believe it or not, right now, sitting in my office, my cock is throbbing, thinking about fucking her again.

I almost can’t wait to get back to the Crossing and to my wife. It’s like we didn’t fuck at all last night and I need her now!

When I get home, I take the stairs—both flights—two at a time because I simply can’t wait for the elevator.

She’s in the shower. Fucking perfect!

I quickly go through my closet through the meditation room and to the playpen and get a pair of cuffs on a chain. I’m delighted to discover that the shower is still running when I come back. I remove my jacket, tie, socks, and shoes, and proceed to my wife’s bathroom.

Unaware that I’ve joined her, she continues to lather her body with the natural sponge. I watch her as the bubble coats and caress her curves, licking my lips in anticipation of touching her. I remain silent and motionless as she finishes washing, then rinses the soap from her body. When she begins to rinse the conditioner from her hair, that’s when I know that it’s safe to move in.

I’m come closer, not too close so as not to startle her when she turns the water off. Once she does, she wrings out her hair, then takes her towel and dries her face. After wrapping her hair in her towel, she turns and sees me and her breath catches.

I’m in uniform—not intentionally, it just worked out that way. She raises her eyes to mine.

“You’re home,” she says, her voice soft.

“Sorry I’m late. Work was hell,” I reply, slowly moving closer to her and allowing her to see the cuffs in my hand.

“Is everything okay?” she asks, somewhat cautiously. I nod.

“Everything’s fine,” I reply. When I get to the edge of the shower, I gesture to her to come to me with my finger. She slowly walks to me, her body glistening with water.

“You were so untamable last night,” I say, salaciously looking down at her. “I couldn’t wait to get home to take you again, maybe not as intense as last night, but one or two… maybe three… I don’t know how you’re feeling.”

“I’m fine,” she says, her head dropping a bit and the blue in her eyes darkening. I raise the cuffs.

“Not a full scene,” I say, “just a little play.” She nods.

“Good. Stand on the ledge.”

She moves to the six-inch ledge on the edge of the shower meant to keep the water from escaping. I loop the chain of the cuffs over the shower bar.

“Turn around. Hands up.” She turns around and raises her hands over her head. Seeing that the cuff is a little long, I twist the chain a couple of times and lock her into the leather cuffs. I remove the towel from her head and examine her. The ledge gives me just enough height to play with the little gap between her legs.

“Perfect!” I say. “Open your mouth.”

When she opens her mouth, I reach around her and put my first two fingers inside.

“Suck,” I command. She closes her mouth over my fingers and my cock immediately stiffens. I cup her breast with my free hand and run my thumb across her wet nipple. She shivers and begins to shamelessly felate my fingers.

Fuck! Enjoy that torment while you can, Pussycat.

I continue to tease her nipple as I know that it’s much more sensitive than my finger. Her nipple becomes pink and taut and she really begins to felate my finger. That’s enough, Pussycat.

I move my wet fingers from her mouth straight down to her clit. She gasps as I manipulate that precious little center of nerves with my wet fingers. Thank you so much for the lubrication, Pussycat. It’s just what I needed.

She licks her lips as she pulls at her cuffs a bit, slowly thrusting her crotch against my massaging fingers. I wrap her hair around my hand and give it a gentle tug causing her to gasp a bit and her head to lean over, giving me full access to her neck.

“Keep still,” I warn, and her hips still immediately. I begin the torment on her that she inflicted on me last night, tasting her neck, shoulders, ear, and skin, fondling her breast and masturbating her clit with my fingers, occasionally dipping my hand into her wet core to moisten them a little more. Her breathing deepens when I cover her mans with my palm and manipulate her entire pussy with my whole hand, my wet fingers stroking back and forth between her lips and over her clit much like my dick did last night.

My dick… no use in letting her have all the fun.

I watch her body—stroking, kissing, licking, waiting… I won’t let her climb too high. I’m not trying to punish or torture her. I just want to make her feel good… and have some fun in the process.

When that body and that sensual breathing tells me that she’s beginning to ascend, I slowly remove my finger so that it’s not too shocking. I release my cock from my pants and boxer briefs and use her juices on my hand to anoint the head. Fuck, that feels good. Greystone is good and ready.

I slide it between her legs, bending my knees just a bit to get the right angle, the head right between her lips and brushing against the clit. She moans as I hold her hips and grind against her from behind. She grabs the chains and her head falls back as she absorbs the friction.

I know, Pussycat, I feel it, too.

She steadies herself with the chains and begins to move again against my cock in small thrusts, dropping her head forward to watch it like she did last night. I slap her taut nipple firmly to get her attention and alert her of her malfeasance. She gasps audibly, her breath quickening and one leg trembles a bit.

What’s this?

I slap the nipple again and she whimpers through her breathing, her hips still moving slightly.

Well, I’ll be damned. She likes it.

I immediately set to the task of firming the other nipple, pinching and teasing it gently as I grip the first one, still grinding against her lips and clit.

“Since you can’t follow directions and keep still,” I begin, “grind that dick like you did last night.”

She clasps her hands together, stands on her toes, and begins to grind deliciously against an already very erect Greystone. She doesn’t have the angling that she had last night, so she has to use her feet to help her get the friction she needs. She’s moving like a beautiful and well-oiled piece of machinery, pushing her lips back on my cock and pulling them forward so that her clit gets the full benefit of head—and vice-versa—flat-footed when her ass comes back to me so that she can grind down on me as she pulls forward, rising to her toes as she reaches the head so that she can easily keep the cycle going.

To add to her stimulation—and my enjoyment—I alternate slapping and pinching both now-taut nipples, causing her to gasp at first, then cry out a couple of times. I wet both fingers and thumbs and reach around that beautiful body, teasing and gently pulling her nipples in that way that I know makes her want to cum. She intensifies her grind on my cock, tormenting us both incessantly, and her leg starts to tremble.

That’s it, Pussycat. I won’t wear you out, but we’re going to have some fun before this is done.

I continue fondling her nipples, trying not to concentrate on my burning cock, and she continues to grind, chasing this orgasm that I know is just at her fingertips. She whimpers and mewls again, grinding a little faster, and I know right when it hits. She won’t cry out at first, but as the wave moves through her, she succumbs and whines out her release.

I grab her collapsing body, glad that I get a reprieve. I don’t want to come yet. After last night’s escapades, I need dessert, but I probably only have one good shot in me… maybe two, but I don’t want to chance it.

Once she has caught her breath, I check in that she’s okay. When she confirms, I fall to my knees on the wet shower floor—still in my pants—and position my face at her pussy. She’s looking down at me to see what I’m about to do. I raise my gaze to her, lean in, and gently blow on her protruding clit. Her tongue shoots out of her mouth and caresses her top lip, so I do it again. She shivers, so I do it again, and again. Each puff brings a different, delightful response, so I combine them with a single gentle lick.

Now, the mewling starts, and I love it.

I don’t go in on a full attack on her clit. I just puff and lick for a little while, just until she’s squirming a bit. Then, I do a mini-assault on her clit and lips, just to make her hot again. Greystone has calmed, but he’s definitely still hard. The scent and taste of that sweet juice did nothing to soften him.

I rise to my feet and lick her lips so that she can taste herself on my tongue, then I tease her with my incredibly hard dick—just the head… top of her clit, over her clit, under her clit until the head just reaches the opening to pick up some juices there, then back over the journey to the top of the clit… and repeat. Each time the head pulls out and caresses the bottom of the clit before it starts again, she jerks and trembles, and I know this will be her second orgasm.

I keep that rhythm going and she closes her eyes and licks her lips. I don’t lose my stroke as I remove my shirt, watching her suffer in ecstatic agony as I tease her just right on her clit. She starts to move a bit and I know that she’s trying to control the stimulation.

“Don’t. Move.” I command, licking her lips again and she stills once more. I’m in front of her now, and I launch a full assault on her breasts, bending my body so that I can occasionally suck and bite the nipples without losing my stroke. She can barely stand that and her entire body trembles. I decide that I want her pulsing when I slide into her, so I craftily remove my pants and boxer briefs, still concentrating a stroke on that clit, and clamp down on those nipples.

It doesn’t take long. Ten or twelve more strokes and she’s detonating. Mid-orgasm, I lift one of her legs and slide into her.

“Fuck!” I hiss quietly, wrapping one arm around her to hold her up. I thrust deep into her pulsing pussy as she’s coming and she whines again this time, her head falling back with the climax. I hold her leg up and drill gently but deeply into her to get the full penetration. I am so fucking hard and horny, but denying my own orgasm means that as good as it feels, I have to coax it back to the forefront again.

I lock my lips to hers, my tongue invading her mouth in those same sensual sex kisses we did last night, and her tongue meets me lap for lap.

Yes, that’s it.

We’re feasting on each other’s mouth as my dick drives deep into the hot, velvet core. Several minutes of delicious, hot, wet sex and kisses later, I finally feel that hidden Nirvana begin to rise. My Pussycat is wet, and I don’t know if it’s from the workout, the impending orgasm, or her prior shower, but Greystone is about to give it to you.

Fuck, I need that ass!

I adjust the hand that’s holding up her leg to get a full and healthy grip of that beautiful ass, and Greystone approves immediately. With the invitation of an open ass, my other hand finds its way to Pussycat’s asshole and I breach the rosette without warning. She jumps a bit, protesting in my mouth, but quickly settles. I begin to wiggle my pelvis to get—and give—full friction as I squeeze that ass cheek and use it to push her hips against me, still finger-fucking her in the ass with the other hand. She’s been ordered not to move, so I feel her body stiffen and she moans a time or two in my mouth.

Give it to me, baby. I’m coming this time.

I continue to drill into her, grinding, manipulating, finger-fucking and kissing. The burn is delicious and I can feel my own sweat and the tug in my thighs signaling my pending release. I won’t stop it this time. It was too hard to bring it back and I want it. I’ll have to finish her off orally. That orgasm strikes me in the middle of my back and totally immobilizes me. I don’t know if I’ll be able to hold her up, but in a futile attempt, I tighten my hands on her… including the one in her ass, thereby thrusting my entire finger inside.

We cry out simultaneously in each other’s mouths, me gripping her with my hands and her gripping me with her pussy. MarysweetmotherofJesus!! Don’t fall, Grey, don’t fall. I have to release the kiss so that I can breathe.

“God! Oh, God!” I say through clenched teeth. I hear my wife… whining? Keening? Sobbing? I don’t know, but that pussy is still pulsing and throbbing and clenching my dick and literally sucking the life out of me!

“Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit,” I groan as this never-ending orgasm continues. Every muscle in my body is giving out on me and it’s torture to stay in an upright position, but I have to. My wife is still chained to the shower rack and if I let go, she might break an arm.

I don’t count the moments until the orgasm stops. I just practice yet another stamina exercise and stay there until it’s over. My wife is breathless and crying, and I reach up and undo one of the cuffs. The chain unravels quickly, surprising me, and I have to multitask, making sure the damn thing doesn’t hit us in the head and taking both of our weight on myself to break our fall. Luckily, we land on the marble floor with no casualties.


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

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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 30

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

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

Season 5 Episode 30

ANASTASIA

“I never thought I’d be having dinner in a place like this,” Sarah says after dinner. We’re sitting at the dining table having coffee as she gets to know everyone.

“Well, you’re family now, so get used to it,” Christian says, garnering a smile from Sarah.

“A month ago, you never could have told me I’d be here,” she says, looking down into her coffee, “physically or figuratively. I was… hopeless,” she says, her voice cracking a bit. “I couldn’t… I couldn’t see no light… no light at all. Fletcher just kept getting worse and worse…”

“Fletcher—that’s your husband?” I say, squeezing her hand. She nods but never raises her gaze.

“I never could have children,” she says. “He has two from his first marriage—a son and a daughter. His son used my credit to get three new cars. He wrecked two of them and the third was repossessed. So much for my credit. His daughter is the mouthiest, most disrespectful, ungrateful, assuming little brat I’ve ever met. She moved in with us and treated me like pure hell for three years… and he let her! I think he had started seeing her mother again. If it wasn’t her, it was some other woman. I knew he didn’t want me.”

“You said he had been abusing you for years,” I begin. “May I ask why you stayed?”

“I didn’t have anything or anybody,” she replies. “Every time I tried to leave, I lost my nerve. The thought of being completely alone was just too scary. I know it’s a screwed-up way of thinking, but… when you’re in it, you feel like it’s all you got. It was all I had. I’ve been trying to find another job for six months. For three of those months, his insufferable daughter was living there. He paid the rent on the house while she was there, but I didn’t know that he had stopped paying the rent until they came to put me out. I should’ve known something was going on because he hadn’t been home in four days.” She shakes her head. “If they hadn’t put me out, I would still be with him.” Christian sighs.

“I saw Helping Hands on TV before. I even went down there once but didn’t have the nerve to go inside. I never put it together that it was you,” she says to Christian, “but then again, why would I? I remember that day like it was yesterday… big, strong man sitting at my console, crying. You didn’t even know that you were crying… You told him,” she says, pointing at Jason.

“Yes, ma’am, I did,” Jason replies, and Sarah nods.

“Once you told me what was going on, I didn’t even think twice about helping you. It was the human thing to do, but when my boss found out… apparently, I had broken some rule or something that could have left the company liable, I don’t know. I figured all’s well that ends well, and I couldn’t turn you down in good conscience.”

“My only regret is that we didn’t know about this sooner,” Christian says. “We could have saved you a lot of distress.”

“Everything in its time,” she says. “Like I said, I may not have left. Most likely, I wouldn’t have. Whatever you did for me or however you helped me, Fletcher and his kids would’ve sucked me dry. Nope. This happened right when it needed to. I’m confused about something, though,” she begins, pointing at Jason. “I thought you worked for him.” Jason laughs.

“I do,” he says.

“Everybody at this table besides you and my wife works for me, and you will be, soon, too,” Christian announces.

“You always bring your employees to dinner at your home?” Sarah asks, puzzled.

“Well, no,” he says. “Jason has been with me the longest. He’s my head of personal security… and my best friend. He took a bullet for me.” Sarah’s eyes widen.

“Really?” she asks, turning to Jason and he nods.

“Two years ago, yesterday, in fact,” he says. Christian’s brow furrows.

“That’s right,” Christian concurs, and Gail looks a little uncomfortable.

“The lovely woman to his left, as you know, is Gail Taylor,” Christian says, moving the conversation away from the shooting. “She started shortly after Jason and began working for me as my cook and housekeeper. As luck would have it, she and Jason fell in love and got married.”

“Are you… still the housekeeper?” Sarah asks Gail.

“Yes,” Gail begins.

“She’s more than that,” I say. “She’s our home manager—she runs this place. And she’s helping to raise my children while she’s raising her own stepdaughter. It’s hard to put a label on Gail. She’s… the ‘do everything’ lady. We’d be lost without her—and she’s part of the family.” Sarah smiles and nods, and Gail returns her warm smile.

“And what about this cute couple snuggling here next to me?” she asks, causing Keri to blush.

“Well, Chuck is my personal bodyguard. Like Jason did for Christian, he saved my life. So, he’s also my honorary brother.” Sarah frowns.

“I thought the lawyer was your brother,” she says.

“He kinda is,” I say. “The lawyer is my best friend and he has been for a very long time. It’s very easy for us to call each other siblings because he has no other family and before my Dad had his son, I was an only child. We’ve been friends for many years, since we were kids.”

“More than 10?” she asks. I nod.

“More than 15,” I tell her. “That’s why it’s easier to just call him my brother.” She nods.

“That makes sense. And what about this beauty here?” she says gesturing to Keri.

“That beauty there is an inheritance… and a goldmine!” I say. “Shortly after my kidnapping ordeal, Christian took me on vacation to Anguilla. There, we met Keri and had no idea that Chuck would be so sweet on her. Long story short, she came to America to be with him and with her experience with children, we hired her as our live-in nanny as well.”

“You guys have adopted quite the family, haven’t you?” Sarah says.

“Like I said, what comes around goes around,” Christian says. “I’m adopted.” Sarah’s brows rise.

“Really?” she asks, her interest piqued. Christian nods.

“My start in life was horrendous,” he says. “My mother adopted me when I was four. She saved me…”

“And you save others,” Sarah finishes. Christian smiles a small smile.

“They save me, too,” he says, looking around at all of us. “Everybody at this table has saved me in one way or another—lovingly raising my children, protecting me and my wife, protecting my heart… and even you, helping me to get her back.” Sarah purses her lips.

“I count it an honor… to be counted among such a wonderful group of people,” she says, her voice cracking. Christian squeezes her hand.

“You’re my fairy godmother,” he says. “I wouldn’t have her if it wasn’t for you…”

“And you’re my savior,” I concur, gently taking her other hand. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.”

“Well, I must thank you both. For the first time, I…” she pauses and chokes up a little. I squeeze the hand that I’m holding. “I’ve never been so at peace… at least not for a long time. Thank you.”

We converse a little longer before Sarah declares that she’s tired. We give her the option to take one of the guest rooms or Ben could take her back to the Fairmont Olympic. She agrees to stay, and Gail retrieves something for her to wear to sleep. We bid her goodnight and she heads to the guest room to turn in. It’s still fairly early, but she’s tired from an emotional couple of days.

My baby time is interrupted when I get a call from Aaron. He’s preparing to fly to Lake Como in the morning to see the villa in person. Like me, he couldn’t get a feel for the space with the virtual walkthrough. He saw the plans, however, and wants to confirm what he thinks he sees in the layout before he commits to a design.

“This is what I need you to do while I’m checking this place out,” he says. “Google, Facebook, Pinterest, whatever. Start getting an idea of how you want this place to look. If you hit a brick wall, I’ll come up with some ideas myself, which I’m going to do anyway. We still have time to do some painting if you want, just no crazy texturing stuff. If you do it in one or two rooms, you’re going to have to do it in more and we don’t have time for that. Did you have anything in mind?”

“All I know for sure is that I don’t want a remake of this house in Italy,” I tell him. “When I go to Italy, I want to feel like I’m in an Italian villa, not like I’m in Grey Crossing… only in Italy.”

“Well, if there are already columns there, you’re not going to be able to avoid that,” he says.

“Yeah, I figured as much,” I reply, “but if any of the rooms have exposed beams, that’ll be a plus.” He’s quiet for a moment.

“In that case, I suggest you Google Tuscan or old-world Italian. I’ll let you know which style will work better in the space and we’ll go from there.”

“You know I’m totally out of my element here, right?” I sigh.

“I had a feeling that you would be, but just Google Italian Villa. I’ll make a Pinterest page and make you a contributor. Then you can upload anything that you see that you like.”

“Um, Aaron, what’s Pinterest?” I ask. He’s silent again.

“You’re joking, right?” he says.

“No,” I reply. I hear him scoff on the other end.

“Watch your email,” he says.

I come to find out that Pinterest is yet another social network, but it’s more like albums and boards to share ideas and interests. You gather these ideas from the internet or even from your own files and you upload them to the board. You can organize your page by different interests, then you pin pictures to the board related to the topic… hence the name Pinterest.

You can make the boards public so that the whole world can see them, or you can make them private, so that only the contributors can see them. Our board—Italian Villa Ideas—is private. He has put a couple of pictures on the board to get me started.

The first one is labeled European Modern. I twist my lips and examine it. It looks just like what I said I didn’t want—Grey Crossing, but in Italy. The next picture is labeled Classic Tuscan. It looks more promising, as does Old-World Italian. I type each of the styles into Google and Pinterest and see what I come up with.

After only a few minutes of browsing, I quickly come to learn that I have absolutely no interest in the European Modern, everyone seems to have classic Tuscan, and old world Italian is not what I thought it was, but of the three, it’s going to be my best bet.

During my browsing, I see one extremely expensive décor idea–square furniture, sheet covers, all white… everything was white. There wasn’t a splash of color anywhere. The only things that weren’t white were the hardwood floors and the black piano. The bedding, the walls, the sofas, the lamps, the tables, the chandeliers—everything was white. It actually hurt my eyes.

On almost every site that I visit that talks about any kind of old-world, vintage, or throwback design, for lack of a better word, I keep seeing the phrases Baroque and Rococo, so I decide to look them up.

They look the same to me. Even the descriptions are the same. Baroque came first and Rococo is like Baroque, Jr. only with less of the gold and gold-leaf flamboyance. Since the most important architecture of the time between the 16th and 18th Centuries was the churches and the aristocracy, each of these styles lends itself to one of these factions.

The Baroque style of furniture and architecture was used mostly for cathedrals and temples. Art, at the time, was either political or religious. In this case, religious of course. During our trip, we’re going to see some of the most decorative and theatrical cathedrals in the world, as the church paid for art that made a dramatic religious statement, and cathedrals and churches were all decked out to win souls and show mere mortals on earth what kind of heavenly riches awaited their immortal souls.

In slight—and only slight—contrast, the Rococo style of furniture toned down the Baroque just a bit by replacing its over-the-top gold décor with white and some pastel colors, muting the Baroque only in that way without taking away from the intricate stylings, curves, and swirls of the architecture.

So, which do I want?

I think a calmer version of Baroque but not quite Rococo. Rococo has a lot of white, and I’m not feeling that, but Baroque has a lot of gold and that seems too much. We need to meet somewhere in the middle. We need the air of aristocracy from the Rococo mixed with the majesty and romance of the Baroque. Do we have the time for all that?

“Planning on sleeping in, Mrs. Grey?” Christian’s voice breaks my concentration. I raise my head to see him standing in the doorway of my office, leaning on the frame with his arms crossed.

“That wasn’t my intention,” I say, “but Aaron’s headed to Italy tomorrow to check out the villa, and he told me to look at some styles and get some ideas for what I wanted to see in the house.”

“How’s that going?” he says, walking into the room.

“Oh, God, it’s so much more than I care to explain,” I lament. He frowns.

“Why?” he says. “Pick some furniture and let him do the rest.”

“You would say that,” I say, after twisting my lips. “Now I understand why you were so blasé when I freaked out about 14 bedrooms.” He shrugs.

“I’ve always just said, ‘This is what I want to see’ and set a decorator loose,” he says. “You picked a lot of what was happening in this house, remember?”

“I had a lot more time with this house,” I say, stretching and yawning.

“It can’t be that bad. Let me see what you’ve got.” He comes around the desk and I just sit back in my chair and let him see the Pinterest page covered in ideas and model rooms of both Baroque and Rococo as well as what I think an old world kitchen should look like, and a Tuscan room here and there. He pauses.

“Oh,” he says. “We’re going that route.” My brow furrows.

“What do you mean that route?” I ask. He looks at me, then back at the laptop.

“What you’re looking for is vintage stuff,” he says, “classic furnishings and things. It could take some time to pull that off.”

“Well, this is what I want,” I say, somewhat pouty. “If I wanted the whole clean, sleek lines thing, I could stay home.” Christian purses his lips.

“What does Aaron say?” he asks.

“I told you, he’s not going to Italy until tomorrow, but he told me to gather ideas for what I want, and I told him the same thing that I told you. I want to feel like I’m in Italy when we go to Italy… Jesus, what time is it?” I yawn and look down at the clock on my computer.

Three fourteen… Good Lord, I need to go to bed!

“Well, that’s it for me,” I say, locking my computer and standing.

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Christian says, taking my hand and leading me out of the office.

*-*

“Well, how did this happen?” I ask when I enter my kitchen on Saturday morning.

“Well,” Ms. Solomon begins. “I found Sarah here snooping around in my refrigerator. When I asked what she was doing, she said that she wanted to make breakfast for everyone. Well, I wouldn’t hear of it, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, while we’re planning our menu, in walks Sophie begging to be part of the powwow. Since I knew you all weren’t due to emerge for at least another hour and a half, Sophie insisted on doing crepes and once I saw her technique… well, the rest is history.”

Sarah laughs, wearing my chef’s apron and taking a pan of fresh, homemade biscuits from the oven. Sophie happily adds another crepe to a mountain of cooked crepes and covers them with a teacloth, and Ms. Solomon continues to sauté what looks like mushrooms.

“It smells divine in here, ladies,” I say, taking a seat at the breakfast bar.

“Brunch will be ready in fifteen,” Sarah says while brushing melted butter onto the biscuits and causing my mouth to water.

“Sarah, I never asked, and I hope I don’t offend, but what exactly is your nationality? I can’t quite place it,” I say.

“You never would have, child,” she says sweetly. “I’m a mut. I’m a mixture of Asian, Polynesian, European, and African American.”

“Really?” I say. “You’re a walking melting pot.”

“That I am. My mother was Hawaiian, Asian, and European and my father was Samoan and African American. I’m told that there’s some Native American sprinkled in my bloodline somewhere, but I never traced it.”

“I knew the minute I saw her,” Ms. Solomon says. “My grandmother was Hawaiian—from Kauai, to be exact. She reminds me of her… when I was a kid.”

“Sophie’s cooking?” I hear my husband’s voice as he enters the kitchen from the dining room. “Whatcha cooking, Sophie?”

“It’s not just me, Uncle Christian. It’s all of us,” Sophie says with mirth.

“Sarah, this is very sweet, and totally unnecessary,” Christian says, sitting on the seat next to me.

“I tried to tell her,” Ms. Solomon says, pouring her sautéed vegetables into a small serving bowl.

“I wanted to,” she says, waving him off. “I haven’t been able to cook like this in years. I always dreamed of having grandkids all playing in my home while I baked their favorites in the kitchen. Even though I couldn’t have any children of my own, I was hopeful when I married Fletcher and he had children. Well… you know how that turned out.” Her voice falls a bit, but Sophie is quick to the rescue.

“What kind of baking do you do?” she asks. “Like traditional American? Cakes and stuff?” Sarah perks up a bit.

“Cakes, cookies, breads,” Sarah says. “I can cook just fine, but baking is my passion.”

“Then you should be here at Christmas,” Sophie says, her eyes large. “There’s all kinds of cakes and pies, but Aunt Ana bakes enough cookies to feed an army!” Sarah laughs and looks at me.

“You don’t say?” she asks. I shrug.

“It’s a tradition that I bake a lot of cookies and give some away. I know how to make the recipe bigger; I just don’t know how to make it smaller,” I tell her, spreading my hands apart from each other on bigger an bringing them closer together on smaller. Sarah laughs.

“You come from a big family?” she asks. I shake my head.

“Only child until a couple of years ago,” I reply.

“That’s right. You said that last night,” Sarah acknowledges. “Well, maybe we could share some secret recipes this year.”

“I would love that!” I reply.

“And that glutton is not getting a single cookie!” Christian declares, brooding. I scoff.

“Oh, my God, you’re still thinking about that?” I lament.

“I told you I wouldn’t forget,” Christian says, pouring a cup of coffee. My shoulders fall and I’m looking over at Sophie, pleading.

“I’m making a batch tonight, Uncle Christian,” Sophie says. “I’ll make sure you get your own.” My husband’s eyes sparkle for a moment, but then he remembers himself.

“Well… okay… I may let him have some cookies in that case,” he sulks. I almost expect his bottom lip to poke out in a full-on pout.

“Okay, I can’t take it anymore. I’m dying to know what this is about,” Sarah says. I chuckle quietly.

“Come, Ms. Sarah,” I say. “Let me help you ladies get breakfast on the table and I will bestow upon you the saga of the chocolate truffle…”

We sit down to a brunch of five different varieties of sweet or savory crepes, fried potatoes and onions, baby mushrooms sautéed in butter, fresh fruit and cream, scrambled eggs, and maple sausage as I tell Sarah the story about Sophie’s dinner and delectable chocolate truffles and two grown men behaving like toddlers over the remaining chocolates. Jason and Gail join us at breakfast at which time, Jason declares that Christian won’t get any if he sees them first. That’s when I tell him that I have “contracted” Sophie to make Christian his own batch of truffles. Christian then gives Jason that “game, set, match” look which elicits a grunt from Jason.

Marilyn joins us last, thanking Sarah for introducing her to a new method of meditating this morning and declaring that she had completely lost track of time. While noting that Sarah had been quite the busy little bee this morning, I also note that Marilyn eats a few more eggs than usual, some fruit, a bite or two of one of Sophie’s apple cinnamon crepes, and a healthy glass of orange juice. That’s the most I’ve seen her eat in months. Gary is absent from the table, but she informs us that he had to work today—some special event at City of Music.

“Well,” I say as we’re drinking our after-brunch coffees and beverages, “Sarah and I are going to do some shopping—just some necessities and maybe some fun stuff here and there. Anybody want to come with?” I look at Marilyn.

“You know it’s been a busy week for me, Bosslady,” she says. “I just want to kick back and relax a bit.” I nod. She’s right. We’ve been quite busy getting back into the swing of things, and her week has been full of doctor’s appointments and therapists and… Gary. She most like does need the rest. I turn to Sophie.

“That sounds like a lot of fun, Aunt Ana, but I gotta go see the egg donor today.” I flinch a bit when she says that. I look at Jason who simply shrugs. Shalane’s selfish behavior is destroying whatever relationship she could possibly have with Sophie and she doesn’t care. So, Sophie calls her the most spiteful thing that she can without cursing. Last weekend, she was, “a word I can’t say.” This weekend, she’s the egg donor.

“Be strong,” I say, squeezing her hand.

“Thanks, but I don’t need to be strong,” she says. “Second only to the whole drug-dealer thing, she’s doing the crummiest thing to me right now that she can ever do. So, I don’t need strength to deal with her. Patience, maybe, but not strength.” That’s confusing to me.

“Why would you need patience?” I ask, bemused.

“To sit through an entire hour-long visit with her, stare at her and not say a word,” Sophie responds. I form an “O” with my mouth.

“Do you know that’s what happens?” I ask Jason. He nods.

“Yeah, I can’t go in there alone,” Sophie continues. “Dad has to take me once or twice a month or something to prove to them that he’s not keeping me away from her. So, I just sit there and stare at her and wait until it’s over.”

That would rip my heart out if my kids felt that way about me.

“I don’t even know what to say about that,” I say.

“It’s a crummy way to spend a Saturday, so I’ll be glad to make the chocolate truffles when I get back,” she says. Jason sighs.

“It’s time to get ready, Baby Boo,” he says, regretfully. Sophie nods and stands from the table.

“Ms. Sarah, when you come over again, can you show me some of your baking recipes?” Sophie asks.

“I sure can, child,” she says, and Sophie smiles.

“Thank you. It was really nice meeting you. Bye, everybody,” and away she goes to prepare for her jail house visit with her mom.

“I won’t pry,” Sarah says, “but I see a tragic story there.”

“Very tragic,” I reply.

“She’s a good girl,” Jason says. “I’m trying to… undo some of the damage her mother did, for lack of a better word. She’s so grown up and she knows so much to be so young.”

“How old is she?” Sarah asks.

“She’ll be 14 in May,” Gail says. Sarah shakes her head.

“She’s seen too much to be so young,” she says. “It’s all in her face.” Jason twists his lips.

“Yes, she has,” he says, “but I’m blessed. When I say that she’s a good girl, she’s really a good girl.” He finishes his coffee and kisses his wife. “Sarah, Your Highness,” he says with a nod, then leaves the table. Sarah turns to me.

“He calls you Your Highness?” she asks incredulously. Oh, God… is that the first time she heard that?

“It started as a joke that I’m regretting to this day and I’ll probably be regretting it for the rest of my life.” I lament. “Let’s go shopping…”

Sarah and I head to Walmart where she chooses her toiletries and a few items of clothing and creature comforts to make her feel at home. She’s modest with her purchases, being mindful of what she has left on the prepaid card that we gave her. I don’t fuss since she’s staying in a hotel, but we’ll most likely furnish her apartment once she finds one. I try to convince her to move into Grey Crossing with us so that she won’t be alone at the Fairmont Olympic. She assures me that she’s grateful for the alone time. It helps her to sort out her thoughts and to wrap her mind around what’s going on.

We go to a few more stores for some other miscellaneous items before we stop to rest at Starbuck’s.

“Christian calls me his fairy godmother,” she says as we sit in the café, “but I really think it’s the other way around.” I sigh.

“I totally understand why you would feel that way,” I tell her. “My husband is very generous with his wealth. He doesn’t just hand it out, mind you, but he’s quite philanthropic. He also enjoys sharing his good fortune with the people that he loves, and he never forgets a debt. It’s important to him… to us… that you don’t see this as a handout, Sarah. There’s no dollar value that we could put on what you gave us, what you did for us with that seemingly small gesture that cost you your job.” I take a deep breath and steel myself for the story I’m about to tell her.

“The two men in the video who kidnapped me took me to a remote location and handcuffed me naked to a bed for several days,” I say, looking down into my coffee. “One of them wanted money; the other wanted me. His plan was to take me to an even more remote location and keep me prisoner there until I fell in love with him. Even then, he never intended to let me go.” Sarah gasps.

“What made him think that kidnapping you would make you fall in love with him?” she asks horrified.

“He was sick,” I reply. “He was an ex who couldn’t accept that I was moving on. We hadn’t dated for four years by the time this happened, so…” I push my hair behind my ears. “I’m a psychiatrist, Sarah, and I still can’t tell you what was going on in his screwed-up head.

“I wouldn’t eat while I was there—they had drugged me with propofol at the aquarium, and I was sure that he would put something in my food to subdue me again once he was ready to move me. I also thought that if I starved myself, then he would have to take me to the hospital unless he wanted to just let me die… either way, it would have been better than where I was.” Sarah’s brow furrows.

“Are you saying that you were trying to kill yourself?” she asks. I shake my head.

“No,” I say calmly. “I knew the bastard was unstable, but I knew he wouldn’t let me die. The thought had crossed my mind throughout the ordeal, though… not the thought of killing myself, but the thought of dying because my circumstances were so unbearable. I knew Christian would never stop looking for me, but I knew that David was crazy enough that it would be improbable that he would find me.

“When they identified David and his accomplice, it made him nervous. He gave me my phone and told me to call Christian and tell him that I had left, that David didn’t kidnap me. I didn’t know that Christian had seen the video of my abduction or how they knew that David and Harris had taken me. I heard the two of them fighting about it and that’s how I found out. When he gave me my phone, I was able to make an emergency call and fool David into talking about the kidnapping while a 911 dispatcher listened. I was only hoping that Christian was tracking my phone signal and would pick it up when my phone was turned on.”

“So, that’s how they found you?” she asks, “from your phone signal?” I nod.

“It was a chain reaction,” I tell her. “Seeing the video made it possible for them to identify what happened to me and who took me. As long as nobody knew who they were, they were safe. The minute their pictures and identities were released to the media—with and without their disguises—they weren’t safe anymore. This pushed David’s hand and he became desperate. They would either have to stay where they were or move me quickly. Harris was in it for the money. He was a disgruntled employee who got fired because of me, so he had a bone to pick, but he wasn’t going to sit still while the authorities closed in on him.

“He had beaten me several times while I was chained to the bed,” I continue. “He wanted the pin numbers to my credit and debit cards, and I gave them to him. I knew that Christian’s team would be watching my bank accounts, too. It all culminated in my rescue since we had current pictures of them with their disguises as well as pictures of their original appearances. They had to move fast, and they became sloppy, so…” I trail off.

“So, what became of them? Did they go to jail?” she asks.

“They’re both deceased now,” I tell her. “Harris died in a shoot-out with the police when they got to the house where they were holding me hostage. David was arrested, tried, and convicted. A few months later, they found him hanging in his jail cell.” There was no need to fill in the dirty little details of what led to David’s ultimate demise—or the fact that we’re still not totally sure it was a suicide.

“I didn’t know they beat you,” she says sadly. I purse my lips to force away the tears.

“It was pretty bad,” I reply. “I was hospitalized for a while. The bruises left me unrecognizable. Christian was so sweet,” I remember fondly. “He wouldn’t allow me to feel ugly or undesirable for one moment, even with my face all swollen and purple…” She covers her mouth at my description. I reach across the table and take her hand.

“Your actions saved me from that, Sarah,” I tell her. “This is why it’s imperative that you understand that this—none of this—is a handout. I was on the inside. I knew their plan; I heard it. If we had to wait for warrants to find out who had taken me or what had happened to me, I never would’ve seen Christian again. I’d be chained in some basement right now, going insane, being raped or beaten or God only knows what, assuming I had lived through the ordeal. You. Saved. Me, Sarah. I owe you my life, and I will spend the rest of my life showing you just how grateful I am.” She nods, wiping away a tear.

“It’s so hard to imagine one little action being a part of such a big thing,” she admits. “And I lost my job… I still wouldn’t have done anything different.” She raises her gaze and looks off into the distance at nothing in particular.

“That young man looked so distressed,” she says. “He was heartbroken and begging for my help. I tried to explain that to my boss, but it was no use. He couldn’t hear it. He was talking about how the guys in the video could have sued us. I never knew what happened in the end—I didn’t keep up with it, I’m sorry. There was so much going on in my life at the time…”

“I wish we had known,” I tell her. “We could have prevented so much of that.”

“Everything in its time, child,” she says, sipping her coffee. I take her hand again, just as I see Chuck gesturing out the window. I follow his gesture and see a very unwelcomed sight.

“Well,” I tell her. “We’re going to have to take our beverages to go. Being who I am and especially in light of the various events that have recently occurred in Nevada, I often find myself the object of unwanted attention. As such, the press is just outside.” She turns to look.

“I… don’t see anybody,” she says bemused.

“Black Celica two cars back across the street,” I tell her. “There’s a guy in the driver’s seat aiming a telephoto lens right at us. And the sandwich shop just over there,” I gesture with my head. “There are two of them in there sitting at different tables.”

“Don’t you find that intrusive?” she asks.

“Sometimes,” I reply. “As long as it’s not during a particularly rough time in my life or they’re not disrespectful, I don’t mind them getting a picture or two. Everybody has to stay employed. It’s when they make up stories or they’re vicious with their headlines that it bothers me.”

Chuck gathers our bags and leaves Starbucks. A few moments later, he pulls up in the Audi, and Sarah and I leave the coffee house without incident.


CHRISTIAN

“You don’t look happy,” I say when Jason comes into my office later Saturday evening. He shakes his head.

“Sophie’s making the truffles,” he says before he takes his seat.

“That’s what has you in a mood?” I ask. He’s silent for a moment.

“I can’t call her any more names,” he begins. “There are no words left to describe this person anymore. She’s never going to sign those papers. She sat there yammering and yammering for an entire hour like she and Sophie were having a wonderful visit, and Sophie never said a word. I don’t even think she blinked. It’s not going to happen, Christian. She’s not giving in. Sophie’s not going to Italy this year.”

“What are our other options?” I ask hopeful.

“Nothing that will be done by June,” he says. “Court orders, filing for sole custody… I’ve got Allen on filing court orders, but it probably won’t do us any good until next year. Sophie’s being so mature about it. She’s upset that she can’t go, but she’s not throwing any temper tantrums or anything—besides not speaking to her mother at the visits—but she’s resigned to her fate. She expects for anything involving her mother to be a disappointment and yes, we all know that life isn’t fair, and you have to take the good with the bad, but this is a lesson that she’s learning too soon. Some disappointments can be avoided, and this is one of them.

“So now she had to rise above the disappointment and try to function knowing that the family is going to Italy and she can’t go. Of course, this means that Gail can’t go either because one of us has to be here with Sophia.”

Wow, I hadn’t even thought of that.

“I offered to sign her up for cooking classes for the summer if she wanted them, but you’ve tasted her cooking. Her first meal… she’s a natural. She doesn’t need classes, but the experience would have been invaluable!”

“Don’t give up hope yet, Jason. There’s got to be something we can do,” I comfort. He shakes his head.

“Allen is looking into it, but trust me, I don’t think so. This is federal. This is beyond taking a kid across state lines—this is taking a kid out of the country. Either it’s done right, or it’s not done at all. If I do anything sideways with this, she’s got me by the balls even in jail.”

I know this, that’s why I have Allen making sure our twins are good to travel, but…

“If we need a court order, it’s only a matter of finding a sympathetic judge,” I point out.

“I know that, too, but it still has to be on the up-and-up, Christian, or this whole thing could blow up in my face.” I sigh.

“I wish there was something I could do,” I say.

“I wish there was, too,” he replies, “but this time, I don’t think so. Unless I’m looking to smuggle her out and smuggle her back in again, this isn’t happening.” He leans forward in his seat and I go over to the bar in the bookshelf. Retrieving two shot glasses, I pour us both a shot of bourbon. I hand him the shot and he throws it back like water. I offer him the bottle for another shot, but he shakes his head.

“It was a burn,” he says, looking out ahead of him. What was a burn? “All this time, she had me thinking it was a bike accident. It was a burn.”

He’s talking about the scar on Sophie’s hand. He’s still digesting that the terrible gash was a burn and not a cut.

“What child in the world deserves what this woman has put her through?” he asks. “She went on drug binges and left her alone for days. She had to hide money and things from that woman to keep her from taking them. She was in this house for three days before Shalane even knew she was gone! She could’ve been kidnapped, lost, hurt, dead, anything, and that woman didn’t even know she was gone.

“But then she takes my daughter on a drug drop, offers her as payment for a drug debt, then tells the police that I’m dead so that my daughter can end up in the system! What’s going on with this woman? I know that drugs fuck up your brain cells, but they can’t have her brain fried this badly!

“She’s systematically destroying this kid’s life! Sophie has done everything humanly possible to combat the things her mother has done to her, and she’s turned out to be a great kid in the process—a great kid! Even from jail, Shalane is reaching out to do whatever damage she possibly can. It’s killing me, man.”

He leans his elbows on his knees and shakes his head.

“You know what she said on the way back?” he asks, turning his gaze to me. “She said, ‘Thanks for not being anything she tried to say you were.’ She said that she already knew that her mother was lying, but she could never see for herself because she never spent enough time with me. Now that she could, she just thanked me for being a great dad. She told me that she would get over not going to Italy, and that she didn’t blame me, but that she’s never going to get over her mother doing this to her.

“So… her truffles are her way of dealing with the disappointment. She used cooking to escape when she was a kid… and she’s doing it now.”

I find interest in something on the bookshelf as my head of security and best friend chokes up a bit but quickly recovers.

“Sure you don’t want another drink?” I ask.

“I’m sure,” he says, clearing his throat. “Thanks for listening.”

“If there’s anything I can do…” I begin.

“I know, Boss,” he replies. He stands and I give his shoulder a firm squeeze before he leaves my office. I shoot over a text to Allen to beseech him to do everything legally possible to get this court order pushed through for Jason. I know that without calling in a favor or pushing someone’s hand that these things can take forever, and he’s right. This situation has to be completely clean and correct or he could end up in a really bad place because of it.

I realize that I’m a lucky ass bastard marrying the goddess that I married. She’s a wonderful woman, a fantastic mother, a brilliant doctor, a mind-blowing lover, an excellent cook… I can imagine that Jason must’ve felt most of those things for Shalane when they were together or he wouldn’t have married the cow. What on earth could make someone become so bitter and hateful to someone they claimed to love? I hope I never cross that threshold. I didn’t want to speak to my wife when I felt she betrayed me, but I didn’t hate her. I was hurt, but I could never hate her. These two clearly hate each other, and Sophia is becoming collateral damage.

With an unyielding urge to suddenly see my children, I take the elevator to the second floor to their nursery. I’m pleased to find that they’re alone in their room, fast asleep in their respective crib. I’ll take responsibility and tend to them if they wake up, but I have to hold them.

I scoop Minnie into my arms first since she’s closest to the door. She doesn’t even stir. It’s harder to get Mikey into my arm with his sister on my shoulder, but I manage it. He stirs a bit, but he settles once I sit in the rocker and get him in a comfortable position. I remember my wife sitting in this room, in that window, telling Minnie the story of Cinderella and how she didn’t like being Cinderella.

That will never do.

I don’t know any fairytales. I’ve seen them with my wife, and we’ve watched them with our children, but I can’t remember any of them… except the Gingerbread Man… and that one had a horrendous ending.

“I’m not as creative as your mother,” I tell them. “I don’t know what I’m going to do when you get older and you want me to tell you a story. The only one I remember is The Gingerbread Man, and he… heck if I’m going to be telling you that story.

“I can tell you this, though,” I say. “Monsters are real… and dragons are real… and bad guys are real… and there really are things that go bump in the night, but you know what? There really are knights in shining armor that save you from danger…”

Like bullets from a crazy blonde and cars used as missiles to destroy the one you love.

“And there really are fairy godmothers and princesses…”

Godmothers that risk everything to let you see a video to save your princess.

“And I’m still working on that ‘happily ever after’ thing, but I know for a fact that you can live a pretty darn happy life…”

Like living in a castle with a beautiful princess and two wonderful children and great friends with a king and a queen in the kingdom who saved you from the dragon that burned holes in your chest and back…

“I swear to God that I’ll never let anything bad happen to either of you,” I promise, and I feel a tear fall down my cheek. “I swear on my life that I’ll do everything I can to protect you from danger. I’ll slay every dragon and kill every bad guy…”

I can’t get any more words out of my mouth. I know that there may be something out there that I can’t protect them from. I can’t promise to keep them safe from everything because no human alive can do that, and the thought kills me. The thought that I can’t keep danger away from my children… dear God…

“I’ll fight with my last breath to keep you safe,” I sob quietly. “I swear that to you… I’ll kill anyone who tries to hurt you…”

What if I can’t? What if something gets to my precious babies and I can’t save them? What if I fail?

I hold my slumbering children close to me and cry about the monsters I may not be able to catch…

“Chteestin?”

I blink my eyes open at the sound of my name… or some version of it. I’m still holding my children and I’m leaning back in the rocking chair. The sun is peeking through the shades in their windows and Keri is looking down at me, gently rousing me awake.

“Keri,” I say sleepily. “What time is it?”

“Eight o’clock,” Gail says. “We came to check the children to see why they didn’t wake, and now we know why.”

I stretch as much as I can under my children to keep from waking them.

“Here, give them to us,” Gail says, reaching for Mikey.

“No,” I protest quietly, “don’t wake them.”

“Eet’s time, Chteestin,” Keri says. “Dey need dere bat an’ btekfest.”

Bat an btekfest? Oh, bath and breakfast!

“Oh,” I say stretching. “Oh, yes… of course.” I reluctantly hand my children to their nannies. “Is Butterfly awake yet?”

“Not that we noticed, but we came straight up here,” Gail says before carrying Mikey to the en suite. Jesus, I slept for a long time in the chair, and the children didn’t stir either… not once all night.

Still working the minor cricks out of my joints, I go to the owner’s suite to find that my wife is no longer in bed. She was here, but she’s started her day already. We headed in different directions last night after we came home from meeting with our mentors. Well, not immediately after.

Our training wasn’t intensive. We talked about our scene in Las Vegas, the first one that we’ve had since we started training. We confessed to not having as much Downtime as we should, vowing to correct that situation soon. Certain that we’ve garnered the most that we can at this point from our mentors, we agree to meet once a month, even if it happens to be a munch, just to stay on top of our relationship and lifestyle goals. Savvina and Artemis have helped us tremendously in redirecting our relationship as it relates to the Dominus/soumise dynamic, and I couldn’t be happier. I was never displeased when my wife took the reins and I don’t think I ever will be. I just hope she still chooses to do so since the focus has mainly been on her as the soumise.

When we got home, I showed her the pictures of our candle play from Las Vegas. I had them enlarged, printed in black and white and framed. Then I put them in the playroom. Butterfly agreed that they’re absolutely stunning… and hot! Good grief, they’re hot! They incited a fast, hard, and hot fuck in the playroom and then we went our separate ways, her to the shower and most likely to bed, and me to my study.

After a hot shower to loosen my muscles and bones, I go in search of my wife. I find her in the family playroom, doing yoga with Marilyn. It’s a welcome sight, and I watch for a moment, but decide not to disturb them. I go to the kitchen to find Ms. Solomon preparing breakfast.

“Good morning, Ms. Solomon,” I say as I pour a cup of coffee.

“Good morning, Mr. Grey,” she greets.

“Who’s awake?” I ask.

“I’ve seen everyone but the Taylors,” she says. I go to the refrigerator.

“Gail is with Keri and the twins,” I say. “Maybe Jason is still asleep.” I see Sophie’s truffles in the refrigerator and I take one.

“You’re not going to eat those now, are you?” Ms. Solomon scolds.

“Just one,” I say and pop it into my mouth before she can stop me. The confection is just as divine as it was the first night I tasted it. I take the bowl with the remaining chocolates and tuck it into a drawer in the refrigerator. These are not community chocolates and I won’t have a certain distressed glutton pilfering my treats.

“Can’t wait for breakfast, bro?” I hear off to my right. I lean back and see Elliot and Valerie walking into the kitchen holding hands.

“Mind your own business,” I say, closing the refrigerator. “Who invited you, anyway?” I add, throwing a glare at him. I walk over to Valerie and kiss her on the cheek.

“You’re in a good mood,” she says, smiling and maybe a bit surprised at the kiss.

“I spent the night with my children,” I say, sipping my coffee and heading to the dining table.

“Montana mad at you?” Elliot probes as he and Valerie follow me back to the dining room.

“No,” I say, “I just spent a little more time in the nursery with them than I intended and fell asleep.”

“Where did you sleep, in Mikey’s crib?” Valerie jests. I chuckle.

“No, I slept in the rocker while telling them a story.”

“Remind me not to let you tell me any stories,” Elliot says.

“Well, hey, look what the cat dragged in,” Butterfly says as she and Marilyn join us for breakfast. She kisses Valerie, then Elliot, and they exchange pleasantries.

“You didn’t come to bed. You okay?” she asks before kissing me on my forehead.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I assure her. “I went in to check on the ‘mini-me’s’ and our conversation was so riveting that I just fell asleep.” She twists her lips in disbelief.

“Seriously, Christian?” she accuses.

“Seriously,” I reply. “Ask Keri. She woke me.” Butterfly shakes her head and pulls out her phone as she takes her seat.

“Oh, well, this is just great,” my wife says as she swipes her screen.

“What?” I ask. She looks at the screen for a few more moments then hands it to me. There’s a picture of her and Sarah sitting in a Starbuck’s with the caption:

Anastasia Grey Enjoys Shopping Spree with Mother Figure While Bio-Mom Lies Paralyzed and Infirm in Las Vegas Hospital

“Are you kidding me?” I say.

“Tell me about it,” she replies.

“What is it?” Valerie asks and I hand her the phone.

“Hm,” she says. “Not enough going on in the news, I see.”

“Exactly,” Butterfly says, retrieving the phone from Valerie. “Carla Morton could not be reached for comment. Of course, she can’t. She’s infirm, you assholes.” She shakes her head. “Mother figure… They don’t even know who she is! She started out as an intake at Helping Hands. For all they know, they can be plastering her all over the news and endangering her life!”

“Okay, no more paparazzi at the table,” I scold. “They’ll always find something, Butterfly. You know that.”

“Or make it up if they don’t,” she says, swiping her screen and putting her phone away. “So, what brings you guys over today?” She puts her napkin in her lap and looks at Valerie.

“I needed the company,” she says. “It’s… Meg’s birthday.” Butterfly’s brow furrows.

“Meg’s birthday?” she says, bemused. “Oh! Meg!” she says, realization dawning. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she says. “It’s just unnerving any time Meg rears her ugly head—figuratively or physically.” I look at Elliot and he inconspicuously points at his head before scratching it. I nod just as inconspicuously, silently mouthing an “oh” at him.

“Was this… this was the day of the surgery, right?” Butterfly asks. Valerie nods. “You’re alright, aren’t you? There’s been no…” She trails off.

“Oh! Oh, no, I’m fine. There’s been no recurrences. I just… didn’t want to be… alone, you know? I was alone when I found out about it and when I went to surgery—except for El, of course… I just wanted to be around more friends and family, that’s all.”

“Of course,” Butterfly says, reaching out and grasping her friend’s hand. “I’m so glad you came over. We can hang out and talk all day like we used to before we had to start adulting.” She and Butterfly laugh.

“Yeah, I love El and George, but it’s hard to have a girl’s day with them,” Valerie says. Butterfly’s brow furrows.

“Um, who’s George?” Butterfly asks. Valerie scoffs.

“You didn’t tell them about George?” she says to Elliot.

“I told him,” Elliot says, pointing to me.

“George is only the most adorable mongrel you’ve ever seen!” Valerie proclaims. “We got him from the rescue a few weeks ago and he’s just too lovable.” She retrieves her phone, swipes the screen, and gives the phone to Butterfly.

“What kind of dog is this?” Butterfly says with mirth.

“We have no idea,” Elliot admits. “He’s a mutt—that’s all we know.”

“He looks like Benji,” Butterfly says, handing the phone to me. She’s right. He does kind of look like Benji.

“That’s what I said,” Valerie replies. “They didn’t know what kind of dog Benji was, either, but I did learn that a trainer once said that he was a mix between a Miniature Poodle, a Cocker Spaniel, and Schnauzer. So, that’s what we’re going with until someone tells us different.”

“Well, I think he’s adorable,” Butterfly says as Ms. Solomon begins to serve breakfast and I give Valerie back her phone. “How’s his temperament?”

“The most vicious thing on that dog is his tail,” Valerie replies. “He likes apples and he just wants to be loved. He licks everybody he meets than waits for treats.” She laughs.

“He sounds like the perfect little companion…”

We talk some more about Elliot and Valerie’s dog and the conversation wanders over to the Italian villa and the fact that Aaron has probably landed in Rome by now and will most likely get to the villa tomorrow. We shy away from the Gia Mateo as two people at the table would really rather not talk about her.

I look at my family sitting around the breakfast table and wonder why our story has to be so tragic. We’re all pretty much estranged from our original blood family—some by death; others because they’re just assholes. We all had to make a family—or were blessed with one—that’s not blood. And we all have a horrendous story or two to tell.

Branding…
Cigarette burns…
Cancer…
Miscarriages…

Is it true that the worst trials produce the best—and worst—people? I mean, look at Sophie. She’s striving and succeeding at being one of the best people I know at only 13 years old and look at the shit hand she’s been dealt so far. Seriously, who in God’s name deserves a mother like that?

Every time I think of her or I think of Carla or the crack whore, I just want to be the best father that I can possibly be. I want to show my children that there’s nothing that they can’t have or can’t do, and not because they’re rich, but because they’re loved. I want to chase away their Boogeymen or at least help them fight them. I want to celebrate their victories and comfort them in times of sorrow. I want them to know that as long as I’m alive, I’ll be there for them to comfort and protect them.

I want them to know that my horror story will never be theirs.


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

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~~love and handcuffs