Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 18

@Sweet Peach75, I have no idea why, but I happened to go to my website spam folder and there were like three posts in there from you! I’ve put them back on the site, but you guys, if you post a comment and you don’t see it after a day or so, hit me on that “contact me” link so I can check my spam. I’m going to check it more often just in case. I’m so sorry about that, Peach!!!

Thanks to all of you who like and retweet my links. Twitter and I just don’t seem to agree with one another. I get on there as often as I can and I try to follow it. If it weren’t for the sites (this one included) that automatically tweet my shit, I wouldn’t be there. So, again, I thank you! 

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 18

CHRISTIAN

“I haven’t eaten anything yet, and I’m starving. Can you please order something from room service?”

“Of course, baby. How far away are you?” I hear her ask Chuck.

“About twenty minutes,” she says, her voice defeated.

“Will you need a drink?” I ask. She sighs.

“Just wine… and a cranberry spritzer.”

“I’m on it,” I tell her. “Come on back to the hotel and everything will be right as rain.”

“Yeah, sure,” she remarks. “Love you.”

“Love you, too,” I reply, and end the call. I dial Keri’s number.

“Yes, Chtistian?”

“Are the twins still asleep?” I ask.

“Noh, dey jess weke up,” she replies.

“Good. Butterfly is on her way. She’ll be here in twenty minutes. I’m having room service delivered down there for her.”

“Okeh, wee’ll be wehtin,” she says, and ends the call.

I order room service to the “baby suite,” then sit impatiently, waiting for my wife to return. I’m concerned about how she’ll feel about the babies being in Las Vegas. Will she be happy they’re here, like Allen said, or will she be pissed that I brought her children to this forbidden place—and without asking her first? Maybe she’ll be both—happy at first and then pissed, or vice-versa.

Well, I wanted to see them, too, and we probably won’t be going back to Seattle until her mother wakes or kicks the bucket—whichever comes first. So, there.

I get that nervous sinking feeling in my stomach when I hear her enter the suite. It turns to concern when I see her face.

“I thought Chuck was with you,” I say.

“He nearly bolted from the elevator saying he had to pee and took off in the other direction,” she says. No, he’s trying to get a few moments with his girl before we descend.

“You look like it’s been a rough day,” I say. She tosses her coat onto the big chair and sighs.

“Not so much,” she says. “I just… I don’t know how you can see someone in such a vulnerable position and not be concerned. I look at her and right, now, she’s completely at my mercy. I want to make sure that she’s taken care of, that she gets everything that she needs, but any time I think of feeling any emotion for her, it’s nothing but anger. I think about me being in that bed—no one caring about me—and her room is full of flowers. I think about no one coming into that room to see me, not even her, but her best friend came today and just sat with her for a long time. She even knew who I was.

“It seems so petty to compare her situation now with mine back then. It seems childish to say, ‘Well, you didn’t care about me, so I shouldn’t care about you.’ It seems so ridiculous to be jealous of her flowers and envious of her visitors and hateful that so many people appear to care for her, but I couldn’t get that! Not even from her!”

She puts one hand on her forehead and one on her hip, turning away from me and taking several deep breaths. I move in closer to her and gently grasp her arms.

“This hate is heavy,” she says, her voice thick and low. “I can’t keep carrying it, but I don’t know what else to feel. I feel like she doesn’t deserve the kindness that she’s getting, but that’s crazy.” She shakes her head. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

“You’re human, Butterfly,” I tell her. “She hurt you. She left you all alone. You were just a kid. You can no sooner get over those feelings of helplessness and desertion than I can get over these burns on my chest and where they came from.”

She stiffens, but it’s true. We were both traumatized in our childhood, and the scars are a lot deeper than the ones left on our skin.

“My mother is dead,” I tell her. “I don’t have to worry about forgiving her or wondering why she did what she did, because she’s gone. Your mother is alive—she’s still able to account for her sins against you and deep down, that’s what you want. You want her to feel the loneliness and the seclusion that you felt at your weakest moment, but whether she wakes up or not, she’s not going to feel that. She has accumulated a support system here, and they’re concerned about her, and you have the right to feel the way that you feel, because you didn’t have that support system when you needed it the most. We’ve both healed the best we can from those scars, but they still run deep.”  She shakes her head.

“I have to deal with this somehow,” she says. “I can’t shed any more tears over this. I can’t let it take over my life. In a couple of weeks, one way or the other, this ordeal is going to be over for me. I’ll have some therapy with Ace or Laura in the meantime and deal with it however I must.”

“Laura?” I ask. “You’ve been having therapy with Laura?”

“The few conversations I’ve had with Laura have been more fruitful than the two years I’ve spent with Ace. Her conversations are not really therapy, they’re more organic. They’re geared more to helping you get well and deal with your issues than to keep you coming back for more sessions. I think I like her methods better. I’m going to have a talk with her about studying her methods and incorporating them into my practice with the families at Helping Hands.” I twist my lips and nod.

“That’s probably a good idea, Butterfly,” I say, “especially if you see the good in what they’re doing for you. I just don’t want you to discount the good that Ace did, too. His methods really helped you out in some of your hardest times.”

“Yes, he was very helpful in a lot of ways,” she says. “I think I’m just put off by the fact that he couldn’t seem to actively help me with the Boogeyman, and that seemed pretty important to me.” I nod. I understand where she’s coming from. However…

“Well, for now, I want you to put all of this stuff in a little box and come with me. I have a surprise for you.” I take her hand and lead her to the door.

“Christian, I really don’t feel like being around people right now,” she protests, “and where’s my food?”

“Humor me,” I say, retrieving the key from the sofa table as we head out the door.

 “Where are we going?” she asks as we pass the elevator.

“A few more steps, my love,” I tell her, and she sighs impatiently. When I knock on the door of the suite, Chuck opens it with a smile.

“I smell food,” she says. “The food is in here…?”

When Chuck clears the doorway, it looks like we’ve walked right into Romper Room. The entire suite has been transformed into a toddler-friendly play area, complete with wall decals, oversized blocks, playhouses, floor tiles with letters and numbers, the whole nine yards. Percy really went over the top making a home away from home for my children.

“What in the world?” Butterfly says as we step into the suite. “What is this? You want to play with toys?”

“No, but I figure you might want to play with those,” I say, pointing to the living room area. There Keri sits with a fidgety Minnie and Mikey standing next to her. Butterfly’s hands fly to her mouth and she gasps loudly, tears immediately springing to her eyes.

Keri says something to the twins, no doubt along the lines of “Go to Mommy” or something like that. Having gotten his land legs sooner than his sister, Mikey darts to his mother and she drops to her knees in just enough time to scoop him into her arms. A few moments later, Minnie joins the hugfest, and my wife is on her knees, holding her babies and sobbing. It’s a sight that would bring the toughest of us to tears.

Allen, Ray, and Marilyn have come to the suite while my wife is blubbering in the middle of the floor to her babies. When she pulls them back to say something to them that I can’t decipher through her tears, Minnie replies with something equally indecipherable while patting both hands on Butterfly’s cheeks and Mikey makes a vain attempt to wipe her tears from her eyes.

A protector even at one year old.

I kneel down next to her and rub her back, trying to calm her crying a bit. She releases the children and they immediately head to the colorful little table and the toys it carries.

“How could you bring my babies to this horrible place?” she sobs, turning to me while still on the floor.

Uh oh.

I turn to Allen, whose eyes have widened, his mouth falling open. She rises up on her knees and catches me in a fierce embrace.

“Thank you,” she sobs in my neck. “Thank you thank you thank you thank you…”

I slowly wrap my arms around her, still stunned by her earlier chastisement, but happy that we’ve averted a crisis. While we’re wrapped in our embrace, I catch my daughter out the corner of my eye standing next to her mother. When I look down, I see her patting Butterfly on the leg.

“Methinks the Lady Mackenzie wants your attention,” I say. She releases my neck and tries to compose herself. I hand her my handkerchief, and she wipes away what tears she can manage before turning her attention to Minnie.

“Yes, Minnie Mouse?” she says, her voice still shaking. Minnie points to something on the other side of the room and uses her usual indecipherable speech, to which my wife answers, “Show me.”

Minnie takes her hand and Butterfly doesn’t rise from her knees. She crawls behind Minnie in white slacks and Louboutin red-bottoms to whatever thing has captured my daughter’s attention. I sigh heavily and look over at Allen, who stretches his lips in that way that confirms, “Yes, we dodged a bullet!”

Butterfly spends the rest of the afternoon playing games with her children and completely forgetting about the late lunch I had ordered. After a couple of hours, we order dinner to the twins’ suite and everyone comes down again to have a family meal, which consists of cold smoked ahi tuna poke, lamb chops, beef tenderloin, rotisserie chicken, cedar plank salmon, day boat scallops, whipped mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, steamed broccoli, and foraged mushrooms with red velvet cake, vanilla bean crème brûlée, and lemon mousse cheesecake for dessert. Unfortunately, tiramisu is not on the menu, so my beloved wife settles for red velvet cake.

Our children enjoy chicken fingers and French fries with finger fruit for dessert. My picky daughter bypasses the finger fruit and opts for the broccoli instead… strange kid.

The children have had a very big day with their first trip in an airplane, walking into a toddler wonderland, and the excitement of seeing their parents again. The adrenaline of the day crashes down on them very quickly after they’ve had dinner and they both fall into a food-induced slumber, Minnie in her mother’s arms and Mikey in the highchair next to me. Allen and Ray have gone back to their rooms for the night and Marilyn is sitting next to Butterfly. They’re chatting about… whatever. Marilyn is sipping on her smoothie as usual, but I didn’t see her eat anything today at dinner.

I look at her carefully, and her hair is dull and stringy. She keeps it in a small bun most of the time, but right now, it’s in a ponytail. There’s no bounce to it. It looks like hair when it’s oily and limp, but it’s dry and visibly brittle. Her skin looks pale and her face is unhealthily narrow. Her clothes are hanging from her frame and even her eyes look dull. I remember clearly when her face was fuller and her skin had a glow, when she looked healthy and athletic instead of frail and sickly. It’s not that I watched her, but I saw her nearly every day. I wish I could say that she’s looking better, but she’s not.

“Did you invite Marilyn to the spa with you yesterday?” I ask discreetly.

“Yes, but she didn’t want to go,” Butterfly replies. Maybe a massage and a treatment will help Marilyn begin to feel like herself again.

“What’s the plan for tomorrow?” I ask, loud enough for the room to hear me.

“Well, I’m not going to see my mother tomorrow because I’ll be spending the entire day with my babies.” She kisses a sleeping Minnie on the forehead. “When I was carrying them in my belly, they gave me strength when I felt like I couldn’t make it. Now, I barely know how to function when I’m away from them. Isn’t that a sad state of affairs?”

“What about you, Marilyn?” I say. “Why don’t you and Keri kick back and take advantage of the free spa packages that come with these rooms?”

“Thank you, Christian,” Marilyn says. “Maybe I will some other time, but Keri, you and Gail can go, and I’ll stay here with Bosslady.” I nod and drop it, allowing Keri and Gail to coo over going to the spa. I really wish Marilyn would go. This situation actually appears to be aging her.

“Ana, I don’t mean to talk business with you, but I haven’t gotten a chance to see you alone all day. Carl sent the figures for the proceeds from Tina’s jewelry auction. It was quite the haul.”

“Really?” Butterfly asks with interest. “Did you see how much?”

“After auctioneer’s fees, 1.7 million,” she replies.

“Whoa! Really?” Butterfly exclaims. “Have you told Grace?”

“Not yet. I just saw the email before dinner,” Marilyn says.

“Do me a favor and forward it to Grace. She’s going to be thrilled. She was just telling me about the grant proposals that she and Courtney are working on.”

“Oh, yeah, speaking of Courtney,” Marilyn says, sitting back in her seat, “I talked to her today, too. Things seem to be going well overall. Her and Vick are doing great. She got her grades and she’s ecstatic…” She trails off.

“There’s a but in there, I hear it,” Butterfly says. I hear it, too. Marilyn sighs.

“She’s a bit depressed… and pissed,” Marilyn continues. “It appears that even though her relationship with Addie is flourishing, her grandfather committed a major faux pas. Just after we came to Nevada for the trial, he offered her $1 million in cash. He wasn’t convinced that she had turned her life around and he wanted her out of Addie’s life to spare Addie the heartbreak of discovering that her granddaughter was still the conniving little brat that she had previously proven to be.

“Courtney. Was. Livid. She told him that if her grandmother did give her something at this point, she would give it to Helping Hands because you guys were the only ones who gave her a chance and believed in her when she really was worthless. She told him that she completely understands how he feels and why he feels that way, but that she’s not going to allow him to torment her anymore, that she didn’t want his money, and that she never wants to see him again.”

Whoa! That’s severe.

“She really shouldn’t cut her grandfather off,” I interject. “He has a lot of contacts—in the business world, in society… He could really be helpful to her in the future.”

“He’s already cut her off, Christian,” Butterfly says. “Courtney’s right. I totally get why Fred feels the way that he does. Courtney was insufferable and incorrigible, but she didn’t come to them asking for forgiveness, to be accepted into the family, or for any money or support from them. In fact, she shunned it. She avoided all contact with them. Addie came to her. Even then, she had the condition that if they felt the same way that they felt when they sent her back to Hukatucky or whatever the name of that place was that she didn’t want to be bothered—she was fine without them.

“I don’t know what Fred is expecting from her, but if he feels that she’s still irredeemable, then he needs to separate himself from her. Stop being around her and stop antagonizing the girl.”

“He’s only doing the same thing I did with Carla, Butterfly,” I say. “I tried to hand her money to get out of your life and leave you alone if she was coming back into your life to cause you grief and she turned it down, too.”

“It’s completely different, Christian,” Butterfly says. “Courtney was a self-centered, irresponsible little brat and that hurt Addie and Fred a lot. My mother watched me be tormented—physically and emotionally—and then she contributed to that torment. Addie and Fred discovered over the course of a few months that Courtney was a seemingly unsalvageable bad apple. I suffered for years at the hands of my mother.

“Courtney turned her life around on her own terms and decided that what she did, she would do it while no one was looking. My mother gave a moving performance about how horrible she and Green Valley were to me, about how she wishes she could take it all back and that the money I gave her is in a trust fund for the children, but she had an audience—a very large one at that. She cut her own deal to give her testimony, and even if she was totally sincere about her change of heart, I am nearly 30 fucking years old. The pain that she put me through is completely immeasurable and its effects spanned decades. One courtroom testimony—though quite stirring—won’t make up for what she put me through.

“Courtney did nothing like that to Addie and Fred, nor has she tried to come back and get in their good graces. They came to her.”

I can’t argue with her. She’s right about all of it. I just can’t help but feel like…

“I wish there was some way that everybody could come out of this not so hurt,” I admit. “We all know that Courtney was a real piece of work, but she appears to have turned her life around. And Adelaide and Fred are old and dear friends of our family. I just wish it could be easier for everybody.”

“You’re sweet,” my wife says softly, “but sometimes, this is just the way it is, baby.”

“Yeah, I know. I just don’t like it.”

*-*

My wife is happily spending the entire day in Romper Room watching various Disney movies and playing with toys like she’s a toddler herself. She awoke this morning, took the fastest shower known to man, donned a pair of yoga pants and a sweatshirt, scoffed down her breakfast way too quickly to digest, and announced that she will be spending the day in the babies suite if I wanted to find her. With her permission, I take a few hours to catch up on all things GEH.

I’ve discovered that with the new system of employee reviews, we’ve had a few resignations—some of the workers in the trenches and a couple of people in middle management, nothing to be concerned about. When asked why they were resigning, many of them gave some form of the same answer—they felt like they shouldn’t have to justify why they deserved their raises.

My company is scraping its ass on the ground like an ailing dog, being dragged down by incompetent assholes, some of whom don’t have the leadership skills of a gerbil, and I’ve got people who feel they shouldn’t have to tell me that they deserve their raises simply because they’ve done everything they were told to do… no initiative, no latent leadership skills, no problem-solving, no nothing, not even speaking up to say, “I had an idea, but my opinion wasn’t respected.”

Well, if that’s how you feel, then goodbye—and good luck on your next STAR behavioral-based interview where you’ll have to explain why you quit your last job with a very lucrative company with endless opportunities for advancement and when and if you proved at any point that you could be a valuable member of the team.

My status report has come in on the Pedophile as well. I look over the pictures that were forwarded to Alex. They’re glorious! She’s sitting in a wheelchair and her skin is hanging off of what you can see of her face. Her blonde hair is once again growing out to its brown and gray roots, and she truly looks like she’s got one foot in the grave. It truly warms my heart.

After an email or twelve to various departments and my executive team, I head down to the Romper Room suite to see my babies… all of them.

*-*

“They’re playing all your songs tonight, Al,” Butterfly laughs.

“Looks that way,” Allen concurs.

James flew down to be with Allen for the weekend and a few of us take a chance again to get out of the hotel. Butterfly found a place online called Oddfellows. It’s north, just on the outside of the Freemont Street Experience near the courthouse. It’s an alternative-type dance club where I would suspect no one would know who we are or at least they wouldn’t expect us to be here. Each night has a theme, and tonight is 80’s night, apparently right up Butterfly’s and Al’s alley.

The order of the day is jeans and casual clothes, so I didn’t have to worry about my girl wearing some skimpy dress that would be the envy of all the women and the desire of all the men. There’s a skimpy dress here and there on the dancefloor—which has a small stage and a huge, wall-sized video screen as its backdrop—but not Butterfly. No, she wants to dance and gyrate, and that silk shirt, black jeans, and Louboutin stilettos are still enough to showcase that beautiful body and cause a few women to sneer and more than a few men to salivate.

My girl has had a Cosmo or two and is bouncing happily in her seat to the music, an eclectic mix of artists from what sounds like the 80’s and maybe a touch of the early 90’s.

“So, how do you distinguish between Allen’s songs and your songs?” I ask. “You’re both singing them all.”

“Well, Al was the quintessential white boy, so he introduced me to Billy Joel, Duran Duran, the B-52’s, A-ha, and Wham, to name a few. I was the reverse Oreo, so to speak, so I introduced him to Motown, Kool and the Gang, Bobby Brown, and Salt-n-Pepa. It appears that they are tapping into the 80’s white boy tonight.”

Just as she finishes that statement, the familiar twang of the beginning of Take On Me fills the air and my girl deliberately begins to wildly bob her head like a hand-banger, after which she leaps to her feet and begins to do that dance where the girls bounce back and forth on their toes from one foot to the other, her hands doing a calmer version of the swim, and all I can think to myself as she and Al pipe out the lyrics is, “Who is this girl?”

She went to the hospital briefly this afternoon and when she returned, I was informed that we were going out tonight. She disappeared into the bedroom for an hour or two and when she emerged, she was wearing the ensemble that she’s wearing now, quickly putting the kibosh on my more formal garb and instructing me to go and change. We’ve had a seafood dinner and my wife and her gay boyfriend are feasting on a dessert of Cosmos and 80’s music.

Once A-Ha has finished singing the last bars of the song and the lead singer bursts out of the cartoon world and into live color on the life-sized screen, Allen and Butterfly return to the table with me and James to quench their parched throats with a swallow or three of their Cosmos. Just as they’re catching their breath and reminiscing over yet another 80’s tune, an unfamiliar intro of horns begins to play. Butterfly looks up at Allen in acknowledgement and Allen raises a brow at her.

“Do you remember it?” Allen asks her.

“Of course, I remember it!” Butterfly replies.

“Well, what’re we waitin’ for?” Allen says, sliding out of the booth. Butterfly giggles as he takes her hand and they head off to the dancefloor. I look at Jason, who just shrugs. A few moments later, we watch as Allen and Butterfly break into a perfectly choreographed routine of what looks like a mixture between a foxtrot and a jive, and with all the spins and perfect steps they’re doing, you can’t really tell who’s leading. I look over at James, who’s as stunned as I am to see them dancing together like that. They actually look like they can compete professionally.

What’s more, I don’t think I’ve seen my wife smile this widely in weeks.

“Do you ever feel left out of their little club?” I ask James honestly. He shakes his head as he swallows his beer.

“No,” he says, “Allie makes sure that doesn’t happen. We have our own little club and everybody can’t be a part of that one.” He raises his brow and takes another drink of his beer. I remember Butterfly mentioning to me once that they dabbled a bit in the lifestyle. I don’t know if they’re still in it or how deeply they’ve gone, and I dare not ask without invitation, but he’s right—no one should be privy to the “marriage” club relationship unless you’re practicing Polyamory, and that’s a huge no-no for me and Butterfly. I don’t want anyone else’s hands—male or female—on my woman!

“I’ve never seen a friendship like theirs,” James continues. “Never. If I wasn’t certain of Allie’s love for me, I’d feel threatened. I’m a little jealous that I never had a friendship like that in my entire life.”

“I think we’re both lucky to have found them,” I tell him. “They’re in love with each other as much as two people can be in love and not share a sexual relationship. For her to have the capacity to love him unconditionally and then love me, too… yeah, I’m the luckiest man alive.”

“I might have to dispute you on that one, Chris,” he says, watching his husband finish a flawless dance with my wife. They were clearly in their own world and appear a bit surprised to discover that the dancers cleared a small hole in the dance floor for them to finish their routines while the spectators looked on, and they’re a bit taken aback when the room erupts into applause for them.

I discover later that the song that gave them dancing feet is called Mambo #5.

My girl returns to her seat and a Cosmo and a bottle of water later, she’s back on the dance floor, perfectly mimicking the steps—and adding a few of her own—to the Salt-n-Pepa, Push It and Janet Jackson Control videos.  

And now I know how my girl learned to dance. She probably spent quite a bit of time mimicking music videos.

I have to admit that concept behind the Tainted Love video, I can’t get with that. It looks too creepy to me. I’m surprised that I’ve never seen it before now. He’s singing to a little girl—he looks like a fucking pedophile. Jason notices my expression and leans over to me.

“You okay, Boss?” he asks.

“This song was popular back in the day, I remember it,” I tell him. “This was the concept behind it the whole time?” He looks at the video, then looks back at me.

“I… I don’t know,” he says. “But you know the eighties, Boss. There was a lot of artistic expression that didn’t necessarily make sense.”

“There’s nothing confusing about that,” I retort. “He’s singing to a child about tainted love. That’s disgusting! Who approved this message?”

“I wouldn’t get too upset about it, Boss,” Jason says. “The song is 35 years old and the guy singing it is probably twice as old…” and probably out molesting children if his video is any indication!

I purse my lips and shake my head. How jaded must my mind be to get this angry over a 35-year-old video whose director obviously adopted a very fucked up sense of creative license?

“You’re not off the mark on this one, Chris,” James says, bringing my attention back to him. “I think it’s weird, too, and that’s putting it nicely. It’s making me pretty fucking uncomfortable. That song was originally done in the 60’s by an artist named Gloria Jones—this is a cover. She made it very clear that it’s about a relationship gone sour and she’s singing to her lover about how she feels their love is one-sided and now putrid. Where the concept falls that he’s singing to a little girl is beyond me.”

“Thank you!” I say, throwing my hand in the air. “I’m not crazy! I still like the song, but that video sucks!” I bottom out my bear and search for the waitress to get another one. While I’m searching the room, my eyes land on Butterfly and her lifetime dance partner now dominating the floor to Paula Abdul’s Straight Up.

I’m mesmerized once again watching her mimic the moves in the music video with Allen as the perfectly in-sync backup dancer. I completely forget what I was bitching about watching her flawlessly execute that Butterfly thing that Paula Abdul does with her legs. She’s graceful and beautiful and if there’s conversation going on around me, I can’t even hear it anymore. I could watch her all day.

Next, another Paula Abdul song comes on accompanied by a video that would disturb me as much as the Tainted Love video… if it wasn’t so cute. It’s the video for Opposites Attract, and Paula’s love interest is—of all things—a cartoon cat. The entire video is a dance video and she and Allen never miss a step. They use whatever room the other dancers give them, whether it’s a few feet or the entire stage area of the dance floor. After watching her execute some of the rubber-band moves of Paula Abdul, many people usually just move out of the way. I’m totally blown away when she and Allen mimic the tap dancing scene near the end of the video.

Fuck, is there anything this woman can’t do?

They stroll back to the table like Paula and ScatCat strolls off the screen at the end of the video, smiling so hard that their faces should break. Amidst the thunderous applause and cheers, they’re cut off by one of the women that was dancing just before they get to the table.

“Are you guys a couple?” she asks. “You look great together!”

“Thank you,” Butterfly says sincerely. “No, we’re not. Actually, we’re both married. He’s my gay boyfriend.” She squeezes his hand and lays her head on his shoulder.

“And she’s my fag hag,” Allen replies, laying his head on hers.

“Wow, really?” the girl says, somewhat wistfully. “You’re kind of hot.” James reaches up and takes his husband’s free hand, guiding him to the seat next to him.

“I think so, too,” James says protectively.

“Wow,” she says, looking at Allen and his husband, “two hot guys. You can’t go anywhere in public, can you?”

James chuckles loudly and Allen laughs as the young lady’s eyes travel around the table and land—widely—on me. Butterfly slides into the booth next to me and latches onto my arm, smiling at the girl.

“Please tell me that’s another one of your gay boyfriends cuz I’ll turn him straight,” she says without taking her eyes off me. Butterfly shakes her head and flashes her rings.

“Nope. Husband,” she says with a smile.

“Shit!” she says. “Sorry,” she says to Butterfly, repentant and with pouty lips, then she rolls her eyes. “Three hot guys.” Her eyes wander to a lone Jason sitting on the opposite side of the table in a chair he commandeered and brought to the table. Before she can question, he holds up his finger and flashes his ring.

“Fuck!” she exclaims. “Four hot pieces of man-candy and they’re all taken! Figures!” She throws her hands up and marches, frustrated, away from the table, causing us to burst out in laughter while Jason just shakes his head.

“I had no idea you guys could tap dance!” I point out once our admirer has left.

“She can’t, I can,” Allen says, proudly.

“Well, she was doing a pretty good job up there,” James says.

“Only because he taught me that routine,” Butterfly says before taking a healthy chug of what must be room-temperature water.

“And she scares the shit outta me doing it in stilettos!” Allen chimes in. “The entire time, I was afraid that she would tweak her damn ankle!”

“But I didn’t, so keep your shirt on,” she says, waving down a waitress.

“My girl can do anything in stilettos,” I say, remembering what she said to me after our first night together. James’ brow furrows.

“Anything?” he asks, puzzled.

“Anything,” Butterfly confirms.

“Can you rock climb?” Jason asks, with a smirk.

“If it’s me or the rock, I’ll figure it out,” she replies.

The waitress has made her way to the table and Butterfly gets another round of drinks, lots of water, and soda for Jason. Once the waitress returns, I hand her a $100 bill and thank her for the drinks.

“I’m hungry again,” Butterfly announces after chugging an entire bottle of water.

“I can see why,” I say. “You’ve done a workout up there that would put Zumba to shame.”

“And I’m sweating like a pig,” she says, pulling the material of her shirt from her body repeatedly, using it to fan herself. “Give me your blazer,” she says.

“Why? Are you cold?” I ask.

“I will be in a minute if you don’t give me your blazer,” she says, and snatches her drenched silk shirt right over her head… in the middle of the damn club. I’m stunned just looking at those beautiful mounds held up by a stylish black sports bra.

“Shit!” Jason says, ripping off his suit jacket to cover Butterfly while she uses her 100% silk shirt to dry her sweat to a background of whooping onlookers.

“Your Highness!” Jason scolds over the music.

“Heeeeey! We agreed!” Butterfly protests.

“Your. Highness!” Jason reinforces, saying the second word so hard that Butterfly jumps in her seat. “Please! Don’t ever do that again!”

She stares at him like a child being scolded by her father. His words are a request. His tone is, “If you pull that shit again, you’re grounded for a month.”

“Okay, okay, sorry,” she says in a whiny, petulant, teenager voice. She buttons the suit jacket which is at least three sizes too big for her, her sports bra still peeking out from the neckline. She rolls the sleeves up to accommodate her hands, never raising her gaze to any of us while she’s doing it. I’m certain that she’s feeling chastised and a bit embarrassed. She had better be glad I was hypnotized by her tits or my reaction may have been a bit more… animated.

“Okay,” I say when she has fiddled with the sleeves a bit too long. “Back to the dancefloor.”

I push her out of the booth and slide out behind her. I’m dragging her to the dancefloor by her hand and she’s somewhat stomping behind me with her head down like I just told her to go to her room.

Geez, Butterfly, spoiled much?

I dance a little with her and she’s not into it at all, doing the obligatory two-step with minimal movements of her arms.

Well, this will never do.

“Okay. Fine. You don’t want to dance with me? I’ll dance by myself.”

I turn away from my wife and begin a series of crazy gyrations reminiscent of the final scene of Footloose. It’s not really bad, except if you take away the weird dresses and prom decorations, you’ve got one guy on the floor looking like he’s having a seizure.

When I turn back to my wife, she’s got one arm crossed over her chest and one hand covering her mouth, stifling a smile that she’s trying not to let show.

“No?” I say, shaking my head. “Okay, how about this?” For my next rendition, ladies and gentlemen…

I begin a really bad… and I do mean really bad rendition of Austin Powers’ fembots dance. Seriously, the dance was already bad on its own, but I made it worse. Now, both my wife’s hands are covering her mouth. And for my finale, folks…

I break into a flawless rendition of Napoleon Dynamite’s “Vote for Pedro” dance to Canned Heat… only I’m dancing to Break My Stride. And, well, flawless may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I must admit that Napoleon Dynamite was one of my guilty pleasures, so I know that routine very well. If it’s not flawless, it’s pretty damn close.

“Okay, okay, you’re making a fool of yourself!” my wife says, halting my exquisite execution through her laughter by putting her arms around my waist.

“Yeah, but I made you laugh, didn’t I?” I say victoriously.

“Heartily,” she says as I pull her against me and kiss her quickly.

“And he’s right,” I say, holding her over Jason’s way too big suit jacket. “What you did was worthy of a punishment. If you ever do it again, you’re going to get one, and you’re not going to like it. Understand?”

My voice is sober, but not harsh. It’s matter-of-fact. If you’re a bad little Pussycat, you’re going to get spanked. She nods and drops her head like a good little soumise.

“Yes, Sir,” she replies softly, and I hear it loud and clear as if she were speaking through a bullhorn. I put my finger under her chin and lift her head.

“Good girl,” I say, kissing her softly again on the lips. “Now, let’s go find something to eat.” I take her by the hand and lead her from the dancefloor.


ANASTASIA

Last night’s workout has turned out to be murder on my joints. I’m exhausted and sore, but not too tired to have breakfast with my children. I’m able to convince Marilyn to have a few pieces of fruit, but I’m certain that we’re going to have to graduate to more real food for her very soon. While Pedialyte, Ensure, and smoothies offer sufficient nutrition for her, she can’t survive off of those things indefinitely.

“Daddy, why do you call me ‘Sunflower?’” I ask when we are the last two people at the table. He raises his brow.

“I’ve… called you that almost since you were born,” he says. “Why do you ask?” I drop my gaze.

“My mother’s favorite flower is a sunflower,” I say. “It took me nearly 30 years to find that out and I found out from a stranger.” Daddy gasps.

“Oh,” he says, sadly. “I forgot all about that. Yeah, that might have been where it came from, come to think of it. I did love that woman once upon a time… very much. It wouldn’t have been too far fetched. I’ll stop if it bothers you…”

“Absolutely not!” I scold. “’Sunflower’ is something special between us that just happens to be her favorite flower.” Daddy nods and drops his head.

“I know why you didn’t tell me everything, but it hurts that you didn’t tell me everything.” I sigh heavily.

“I didn’t have the heart, Daddy,” I reply. “Those details are even hard for me to watch right now, and I remember everything vividly, like it happened yesterday. It was selfish of me not to prepare you guys for what was coming, but what could I do?”

“Nothing, Sunflower,” he says, his eyes filling with tears. “You couldn’t do anything. You couldn’t do anything then and you couldn’t do anything now.” He throws his gaze to the ceiling, trying to fight his tears.

“The only times I’ve ever cried was over you,” he admits. “I was broken when I lost Carla. I was destroyed when I lost you. It was the worst pain I had ever felt when you left me.” I cover my mouth and choke back a sob.

“I know, Daddy,” I say once I’m able to speak. “I felt the same way about you. All those horrible things she made me say to you…”

“I knew it wasn’t you, Annie,” he says. “The words weren’t yours and I could tell right away…” He trails off. “When I showed up at that hospital and you were all frail and weak, dear God, I wanted to burn this city down to find out what had happened to you. I was so angry with Carla. She couldn’t even tell me what was going on! She didn’t have any answers. She blamed you the entire time I talked to her, saying that she had no idea what you had gotten into. Your bruises were mostly healed, but you still looked broken. The pictures that I saw… I had seen men tortured in POW camps that didn’t look that bad.

“All these years, she just walked around like, ‘Shit happens,’” he says, his voice cracking. “Then, she had the nerve to show up at the hospital after you were kidnapped; all that shit she said in the press… Who the hell does she think she is?”

Daddy is getting angry and he’s crying freely now. Daddy’s right—I don’t remember ever seeing him cry. Marines don’t cry, but he’s crying now.

“How could she birth someone into the world and then treat her that way?” he sobs. “I wouldn’t treat a dog the way she treated you. And dear God in heaven, when she called me and told me that you were missing again…!”

Daddy is weeping now. His body is shaking violently with his sobs. I hold his hands tightly as he cries, my own dam bursting along with his. He’s been holding this in for a lot of years. He needs to get it out.

“I did everything I could to keep you,” he sobs. “This never would have happened if she had just let me keep you. I would have protected you… spared you all this agony…”

“I know, Daddy,” I weep. “I know you would.”

“Your capacity for kindness never ceases to amaze me, Annie,” my father says with tears streaming down his cheeks. “I’m not ashamed to say that after hearing her version of what happened, and what she felt, and knowing what you went through, I would have immediately pulled the plug on that woman!” He says the last part through gritted teeth.

“I’m angry and hurt for everything that she did to me,” I admit, “everything that she allowed to happen to me—from ripping me away from you to allowing her monster of a husband to mistreat me to the entire ordeal with Green Valley. I’m hurt and disappointed and enraged down to my very soul… but if I just let her die, then I’m no better than she is.

“At the end of the day, I have to live with my decision. That’s why I’m making sure that she’s getting the best care, but it’s not out of love or devotion. It’s out of human obligation. I’m her next of kin, and I will see her through to the end of her advanced directive or until she awakes, whichever comes first. Then, I’ll put her in a nursing home or the grave, whichever is necessary.”

“That’s still more kindness than she deserves as far as I’m concerned,” Daddy says, wiping his eyes. “I would either be donating her body to science or walking away and leaving her right where she lay! I guess the Man Upstairs has to work on my heart. I don’t think I’ve ever forgiven her for what she put you through.” I squeeze his hands.

“Forgive her, Daddy,” I say, through my sniffles. “I have. I can’t hold onto it anymore. I forgave her years ago when I gave her that money and told her to get out of my life. It still frustrates me that she did the things that she did, and that she was so heartless and cruel, hence my recent meltdown. That’s what happens when I dwell on it. That’s why I don’t dwell on it. You shouldn’t either.” He sighs heavily.

“You’re so wise, Annie, that it scares me sometimes,” he admits.

“Trust me, it can be a very heavy cross to bear,” I lament, wrapping my arms around my Daddy and hugging him with all my might.

Later that afternoon, I stop in at the hospital to collect more cards from more flowers and have some of the older arrangements removed. I told the nurse that she could decide what to do with them since some of them look like they may have been dying. I can still see the disapproval in her eyes when I give her instructions even though she doesn’t say anything to me about how she feels. It’s none of her business anyway. Henry, my mother’s guard today, shows me her visitors’ log.

Fourteen people have been here to see her since I said she could have visitors. What was that, like a couple of days ago?

I push down the anger, envy, and resentment that I feel each time I think about the number of visitors that this selfish adult grandmother has received in just the past few days that a 15-year-old girl wasn’t afforded in several weeks.

“Neti, neti,” I repeat to myself, standing in my mother’s room. “Neti, neti…”

Studying with Marilyn about meditation and restorative yoga, I came upon this simple Sanskrit chant. Neti, neti which simply means not this, not this. It’s used to push away bad omens, bad thoughts, bad situations. I use it to try to cleanse myself of the hateful feelings and energy that consume me when it comes to dealing with this woman. My negative energy can’t be conducive to her healing, and it’s certainly not conducive to mine.

“Neti, neti… neti, neti… neti, neti…”

I recite the damn thing all the way back to the hotel.

*-*

“Aunt Ana!”

Sophie gives me a big hug once she and Gail get to the hotel Saturday evening. She appears to be very happy to be here.

“Sophie!” I say, returning her embrace. “So… Vegas. How many of your friends can say this is where they’re spending their semester break?”

“None,” she giggles. “Most of them are talking about going to some exotic place for spring break, but I’m in Vegas now!” I laugh with her. There’s no use in spreading my hatred for this place. A lot of people like it here; I just don’t.

“I know that Gail and Jason have some things planned, but I’ve got a thing or two planned as well,” I tell her.

“It’s not all kiddie things, is it?” she laments. “I want to do some kiddie things, like I want to go to the Adventure Dome, but I don’t want to do all kiddie things. I want to do some grown-up things, too.”

“Like a Las Vegas food tour?” I ask, “Or dinner at one of the world-renowned chef’s restaurants?”

“Yeah!” she replies, starry-eyed.

“Well, that’s what I’ve got planned,” I tell her, and she hops in place and claps.

“Oh, yay!” she says. “When do we go?”

“The restaurant is tomorrow night, and the food tour is Tuesday. Is there anything else besides Adventure Dome that you want to do while we’re here?”

“I want to go to Sur La Table,” she says. “I’ve been to the one in Pike’s Place and I wasn’t really impressed. I want to see what the one here looks like.” I nod.

“Your wish is my command,” I tell her. “I’ll talk to Gail and Jason and see what they’ve got planned and we’ll fit it in among their plans, okay?” Sophie nods happily.

“Okay,” she says. I type into my phone memos to check out Sur La Table. The moment Google sees the name, it suggests the cooking classes that they have at the store in Summerlin. That would be fantastic! I’m glad my phone is on silent or Google would have blown my entire plan!

“Aunt Ana… I know why you’re here,” she says solemnly. I raise my gaze to her. I don’t really know how to respond. “It’s all over the news at home.”

I swallow hard. How do you explain something like this to a 13-year-old girl?

“I know about your mom, too,” she says, looking at her hands. “I just wanted to get that out.”

“Okay,” I reply.

“I don’t really understand this whole thing,” she says, her brow furrowed. “I really thought the police were supposed to help you.” I sigh heavily.

“Most of the time, they are,” I reply. “This guy… had a brother he wanted to protect more than me.”

“Well, that’s just… crappy,” she says. I know what she really wants to say, and crappy wasn’t it. “Everybody has somebody they want to protect. Does that mean that I have to worry about if the police are going to put somebody else’s well-being before me?”

I shake my head. I can’t tell her that this won’t happen. They very well might put someone else’s well-being before her for many reasons, including but not limited to protecting their own family.

“Let’s hope that’s not the case, Sophie,” I tell her. “I would think that overall, the police would want to do the right thing, which is to protect and serve the public. I feel that even though there may be a few bad apples, overall, the police are good people.”

“I hope you’re right,” she says, “but I still think I want Daddy to teach me how to shoot when I’m old enough.”

“Well, it’s not a bad skill to have,” I concur. She’s quiet for a moment.

“What they did to you,” she says, looking down at her hands, “it was horrible. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever heard… even more horrible than my mom doing drugs… even more horrible than here trying to sell me to that guy…”

“That was pretty horrible,” I interrupt her with a furrowed brow.

“This was worse,” she said. “Somebody saved me… the police saved me. Nobody saved you… and I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

I’m doing my best not to get choked up. I know what she means, but that’s a huge responsibility for a little girl to take on about something that happened before she was even born.

“There’s nothing for you to be sorry about, baby,” I tell her, taking her hands. “These were horrible people and they did a horrible thing, and now they’re being punished.”

“I’m still sorry,” she says, now looking in my eyes, “I’m sorry that someone came to save me, and no one came to save you.” Oh, dear God.

I know what she’s feeling, and I can’t explain it away. I just take her in my arms and give her a really big hug.

“Thank you, Sophie,” I say, trying to keep my voice from cracking. “I think that’s the nicest thing anybody has ever said to me.”

*-*

Dinner tonight is at the Buffet at Aria, and poor Sophie wants to try everything on the menu. The food is spectacular, the dessert divine, and my honorary niece is eating herself into a stupor. Even my normally picky eater Mackenzie is shoveling different fruits and vegetables into her mouth.

Marilyn didn’t even bother to succumb to the pressure of a buffet, so she’s sitting this one out.

“We’re in Vegas,” Christian says to Chuck while Keri and Gail are off at the food stations. “Have you asked her?”

“Of course, I have,” Chuck replies. “I didn’t expect her to be here, so I left the ring at home, but I was prepared to buy another one if she had said, ‘yes.’”

“So, I take it that it was a ‘no,’” Christian replies. Chuck sighs.

“She’s afraid of something, but I don’t know what it is,” Chuck replies. “I adore her, and I’m certain that she loves me. I just don’t know why she won’t marry me.”

“Maybe she doesn’t want to be beholden to you,” I say. “I love Christian very much, but I wouldn’t want that either.”

“Well, first of all, I wouldn’t do that to her,” Chuck says, slightly affronted. “And second of all, she wouldn’t be. She’s here on her own visa and her job is with you, just like mine is. Granted, she got it because of her affiliation to me, but let’s face it. As much as I love her, if she was shit, you guys wouldn’t let her tend to your children. And now, she’s got her teaching certification, so she really doesn’t need me that way. I don’t think that’s it.”

I think it is. I think she doesn’t want to lose her independence and that she’s afraid that if she marries an American and she’s Anguillan, that’s just what might happen.

“I see those wheels spinning,” Chuck accuses. “You know something I don’t.”

“You’re right,” I confess. “I know how it feels as a woman making my own way and not wanting to lose that feeling. As much as I’ve become accustomed to the lifestyle that I enjoy with my husband, if something happened and I lost it all tomorrow…”

“Which is impossible,” Christian interjects.

“But if it did,” I retort, “I could still go out into the big, wide world and fend for myself. I’m just saying. I don’t know if that’s the problem, but maybe you should ask her what she needs in order to make that step. It may not be that she doesn’t want to spend her life with you. It may just be that you’re asking the wrong question.” He rolls his eyes.

“No offense, Ana, but I can’t hear the shrink right now. I love that girl, and if asking her to marry me is not the right question, then I don’t know what is. Excuse me.”

He stands and heads for the door, and I think he’s going to the restroom. I watch him leave, then crack my neck and finish my wine.

“I’m sorry I asked,” Christian says. I shake my head.

“It’s not your fault,” I reply. “I’m always trying to shrink someone else and I can’t even shrink myself. I’m all tied in knots in this place. I’m barely hanging on from day to day. You all had to bring my children down here to keep me grounded. Who am I to try to give someone advice on how to live?”

“A licensed psychiatrist and a damn good one,” he says, putting his arm around the back of my chair. “You do know what you’re talking about, and you’re right. He just doesn’t want to hear it. He’s raw from another let-down. And baby? When a doctor is ill, she doesn’t diagnose herself without tests. Don’t beat yourself up because you don’t have all the answers for all this crazy shit that’s going on in your life.”

I will not cry…
I will not cry…

“I thought I was supposed to be the shrink,” I say, laughing to fight my tears. He smiles widely and kisses me on the cheek.

“We both know I’m no shrink,” he replies. “I just love you and I want you to be happy.”

I smile and lean on his shoulder. I love Chuck and Keri, too, and I want them to be happy. I just wish I knew what was really holding up Keri’s decision


A/N: Freeds opened in Vegas—Henderson to be exact—in 2017, not 2015. Creative license.

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

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 12

Golden hasn’t died. She’s just been asleep for a while. The Muse will update as she feels inspired.

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

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

Fifty Shades Golden

Chapter 12

ericdane

TREY

I’m puffing and panting, trying to get air in and after a few moments of a reprieve, she has latched back onto my dick.

Goddammitmotherfuckinghellshitballsoffire!

I squeeze my eyes closed and hold my breath. Just a few minutes of this sensitivity and I’ll be ready to go again, just a few minutes… a few minutes…

“Well, that doesn’t look like the face of pleasure,” Golden’s voice says breaking through my concentration, “or even of pleasurable pain.”

What do I say? It’s not.

“No, Mistress,” I say in all honesty.

“So, why didn’t you safeword?” she asks, a bit perturbed.

“Because it wasn’t painful,” I admit. “Just uncomfortable.” She examines me for a few moments, then raises her brow at me.

“You’re multi-orgasmic,” she deduces. How the fuck…?

“Yes…” I respond slowly. She nods.

“Most of my clients are multi-orgasmic,” she says, now fondling my dick gently, a much more pleasant feeling, “but you all get to your… second coming… a little differently.” Shit, it almost feels like she’s tickling me.

“We’re still getting to know each other, Chopper,” she coos. “It’s only our second scene. You’ll have to be more forthcoming with what doesn’t please you.” She grabs the cockring and yanks it. I grunt loudly. That shit hurt.

“Yes, Mistress,” I croak, assuming that was some sort of punishment. I feel her hands on my dick again—they’re oily this time—and my cock is somewhat flaccid. She yanks again. Fuck! And again! Fucking hell! And a third time and…

Pop!

My balls are free. The cockring is still at the base of my shaft, but my balls are free. A gentle hand cups my tender testicles and roll them back and forth in the oily palm. God, that feels good—not erotic…yet, but soothing. I almost fucking purr. The blood flow to my dick is restricted and now, it’s involuntarily getting hard again, even though it was bound to happen with her ass still in my face and her soft hand still down there cupping my balls. I bite my lip to suppress a moan.

“There,” she says. “That’s more like it.” What she’s really saying is, “I so own you,” because she knows, right now, she does.

That soothing feeling on my balls is slowly beginning to become arousing, and I’m resenting being strapped down to this table. I want to grind my hips into her hand and feel some friction on the skin of my dick to match the soothing, aching, taunting of my balls. I close my eyes and try to focus on relaxing, but even with my eyes closed, I’m seeing her naked ass behind my eyelids… and I’m thinking about fucking it… something I’ll probably never have. Why am I torturing myself this way? Why am I letting her tortu…

Fuck! What the fuck is that?

I feel something at the head of my dick that feels like fresh pussy. My eyes jolt open, because I’m sure I still feel her hand on my cock. What the fuck?

Her ass is still in my face, so I know it’s not her pussy. Dammit.

It’s not her mouth. I know what her mouth feels like. Only after two scenes, I can pick that mouth out of a crowd. You can line up ten women and tell them to suck my dick, and I would know which one was Golden without even looking. I just ought to; every time she sucked my dick, I was blindfolded.

So, this ain’t her mouth.

What the fuck is it, then?

She holds my now very stiff dick in one hand and pushes the head of it inside of this thing… slowly… tightly… fuck!

It’s a Fleshlight.

Let me explain the dynamics of a Fleshlight. I have a Fleshlight. I’ve used a Fleshlight more than once. It’s not something that I would use on a regular basis, mostly because pussy is plentiful in my life and I don’t really need to, but when I was first discovering just how powerful my sex drive really was, most of my girlfriends couldn’t keep up with me.

Enter Fleshlight.

Fleshlight will spoil you for women. Why? Because fucking Fleshlight is almost like fucking a virgin every time. Granted, you don’t get the thrill of holding a woman, slapping an ass, kissing, and all the other perks that come with fucking a warm body, but if you’re looking for the ultimate nut and that’s it, Fleshlight is definitely the way to go. It can come with the opening to pussy lips, an asshole, a mouth, or ass cheeks and the inner texture can be smooth, ribbed, bumpy, swirly, you name it. If you spend your money on the real thing and not the knock-offs, every time you stick your dick in Fleshlight, that fucker is tight.

Every. Single. Time.

So, if you fuck it all night long, it’s tight while you’re in it. Then if you pull your dick out and stick it back in, you still get that first entry feeling every time—you know, that feeling when you’ve been away from your girl for a while and you’re about to tear the walls down and that pussy is so tight that you have to work your way into it, and she grimaces while you’re doing it? Yeah, Fleshlight is like that every time.

Every. Single. Fucking. Time.

So, imagine having this Temptress of Torture with your dick in one hand and the real thing Fleshlight in the other working your cock over like the master that she is. I nearly lose my fucking mind. She’s got one hand guiding my dick and the other controlling the Fleshlight. Her torment begins by rolling the head around the mouth of this thing, and I think this opening is an asshole. Life-like, fleshy, silicon massaging the head of my dick. I can feel my body trembling.

Next, instead of pushing the Fleshlight down on my dick, she uses her hand to push my dick up into the Fleshlight. First entry… tight as fuck…

“Uuummmph!”

It’s nearly fucking unbearable. She pushes and pulls my dick and I’m fucking this Fleshlight, wanting to climb the hell off this comfortable ass table, but completely immobilized and unable to move. Just a few tormenting strokes and she pulls my cock out of the Fleshlight. Fucking hell! My dick is fucking aching now. She gives it no reprieve from her gentle hands and I’m licking my lips, trying to soothe the dryness in my mouth. This is inhumane!

That damn thing is on my head again, massaging like first entry, and then…

“Uummmpppphh!”

First entry again. It’s so fucking tight, squeezing and caressing the head of my dick again. If I could move, my back would be arching right now. The head of my dick fucks this Fleshlight for several minutes until my cock is hot and hard and very, very excited.

She repeats this torment several times—the Fleshlight edging me, my cock fucking the Fleshlight, a long and slow stroke that leaves me gagging to come. Each agonizingly slow pull threatens to have my cock blow its load any second. I’ll never look at a Fleshlight again the same way as long as I live!

I’m clawing at the leather by the time she releases my dick this time, I won’t make it through another ruined orgasm like that.

Ruined orgasms. Fuck! Is that what she’s doing?

That new entry hits my dick again and the feeling is nearly excruciating. She knows exactly what she’s doing, and the tension has the rest of my body so tight and wracked with pain that I don’t think I’ll survive another entry, but first, I have to survive this fucking edging.

“Fuck!” I whisper. I can’t help it. My body aches and my cock is on fire.

“Did you say something, Chopper?” she taunts, but my mouth won’t work now. I can’t open my eyes right now as they are locked shut along with my gritting teeth and clenching jaw. My dick is on its own now. None of my muscles are listening to me. I’m at their mercy. Just when my balls are about to give up the fight, she pulls that fucker off the head of my dick. The opening caresses the tender frenulum, and I’m certain that she got a little jizz with that move.

“Fuck!” I grunt out again between grinding teeth. I think she’s scolding me… or something… but I can’t hear her. I can only hear the blood rushing through my ears; I can hear the sweat bursting from every pore and rolling down my body to the soft leather table, to my balls, in my face to my eyes; I can hear my muscles flexing and contracting each time that fucking portable asshole tortures my dick; I can hear my balls screaming for release and cursing me every second for subjecting them to this treatment…

But I can’t hear Golden.

First entry comes again, and I groan mournfully, unable to take even the slightest touch, and she knows it. She knows the man’s body too fucking well, because she knows exactly when you’re about to come. She holds the Fleshlight still—tight on my dick. I feel my shaft throbbing inside of it—not coming, just throbbing. I can hear my ragged breathing, feel my pulse accelerate, and I can still hear my blood, sweat, and muscles, too.

She just stays there for a few moments while my cock throbs and my balls tighten. I’m completely out of control of this situation, and she’s going to make me suffer. Maybe this is my punishment for speaking.

I’m ready to tap out.

Just as my muscles begin to relax only a bit, she pulls that fucking Fleshlight, and my body is alight again. Fuck punishment.

“Aaaww, shit,” I groan, somewhat resigned to my fate, but not liking it one bit. I’ve never had to come so bad that my body hurt. I’ve chased an orgasm before until I ached from the workout, but never this. When the Fleshlight starts to move again, I almost want to cry. I’m ready for this to stop, now. I’ve never been denied an orgasm and I’m certain that I don’t like it—the tightening of the muscles in my back, my balls feeling like they’re going to explode, and my dick as hard as a sausage about to burst from its skin, burning and aching so badly that…

“Aahh! Aahh! Aaaaaaahhhh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!”

She has pulled the Fleshlight off my dick now, but her mouth is stroking up and down over the skin of my frenulum while her tongue massages the tender, sensitive bundle of nerves. I’m exploding fantastically—painful jolts coursing through my cock as that powerful mass of muscle at the base of my balls pushes stream after hot stream of cum from my dick. I can’t see it; I don’t have to. I can feel every painfully pleasurable contraction, each one several seconds long. If nothing is coming out of my dick, it just ought to be, and I can’t open my eyes even if I wanted to.

She gives my dick that fantastic oral massage until the very last contraction, and I’m sure that she has emptied my scrotum for days to come! I’m choking on air, trying to get precious breath into my lungs. I can’t. I can’t concentrate on this one simple thing… breathing.

“Settle down, Chopper,” a soft, seductive voice says to me. “Relax. In through your nose, out through your mouth…”

I follow the instructions of the goddess’s voice, afraid that I’ll suffocate if I don’t. In through my nose, out through my mouth….

I feel the restraints release from my ankles. For some reason, that calms me a bit… and saddens me at the same time.

In through my nose, out through my mouth…

I can feel my muscles relaxing and my thoughts coming together now. Focus, Grey.

In through my nose, out through my mouth…

The restraints release from my wrists and I breathe a deep sigh of relief. I also lament the release a bit, because I know that our scene is over.

“Take all the time you need,” she coos. “I’ll see you upstairs…”

I don’t think I’ve fallen asleep, but I’ve clearly lost a little time. What the hell happened? I know she talked about transcending, but this was ridiculous.

I slowly lift my exhausted body from the table, first turning onto my side, then rolling onto my ass—still painful from playtime. That’s going to sting longer than the last one did.

God, I came so hard that I have to check under the table to see if brain matter is left down there.

Not even my cum. Did she cover the floor with something? Did she clean before she went upstairs? That’s not likely.

“Did she swallow?” I ask no one. That would have been impossible. Her mouth was sideways on my frenulum until my orgasm stopped. I know I came… good God, did I come! So, where’s the evidence?

My shaky legs carry me over to the valet where I retrieve my clothes and haphazardly get dressed. I was wrong—my dick and balls are tender, light, and so empty that she can do this to me anytime! I drag my ass up the stairs and Mr. Belvedere is just beyond the door, as usual. That creeps me the fuck out.

“Do you need anything?” he asks again and waits for instructions.

“Where is she?” I ask. “Why is she never here when I come upstairs?” Belvedere doesn’t react to my question.

“The lady’s visitors usually understand that any aftercare would be administered by me,” he says. “I’m a licensed home health care professional able to tend to any surface or subcutaneous wounds that do not require immediate medical attention. I understand that a level of trust and familiarity is required to allow a stranger—much less, another man—to administer your aftercare, in which case, you can feel free to employ someone else to do so at your discretion.”

That’s his subtle way of saying that I can forget about getting the Golden treatment for my aftercare.

“Did you…?” I don’t even know how to ask this question. “Did you come down there… after…?” His brow furrows, but his mask is soon impassive again.

“No,” he replies. “I don’t enter the dungeon until it’s empty.”

Then what the hell happened to my cum?

“Where is she?” I repeat my question.

“The parlor,” he says, gesturing in that direction. I don’t entertain his company anymore. I head straight for the parlor. I can hear music as usual. She’s listening to her revolutionary. I don’t know the song, but I know his voice. Is he all she listens to, or is this what she listens to after a scene? This song almost sounds like a love song. His voice is mellow and he’s talking about wanting to be with someone, then a woman’s voice comes in talking about having faith. It hardly sounds like the revolutionary she described.

I noticed his lyrics often talk about destiny, but he drags the word out… like “destineeeee.” What’s that all about?

It’s this moment that I realize that she’s wearing that same golden dress that I dry-humped her in. Hmmm…

“Are you coming in or are you just going to lurk there in the doorway?”

Jesus! Her voice startles me. What the fuck is going on with me tonight? It was just an orgasm, for fucks sake.

“I was listening to your revolutionary,” I admit. “That doesn’t sound like what I would expect from him.”

“That’s a sign of true genius,” she says, impassively. “They can change up seamlessly and still make good music. Sit.” She gestures to the sofa and turns to the bar. It’s amazing to me that she assumes that I can sit after one of our scenes. She makes a drink and when she turns around, I’m still standing.

“Rebellious man, aren’t you?” she says, holding a mixed drink of dark liquor. That’s odd for her. She’s a vodka drinker.

“Tell me, Mistress,” I begin, “just how many of your clients can sit after a scene?” She twists her lips.

“Point taken,” she says, “but more than you think. Many of them accept the aftercare.” I nod.

“And of those, how many are Dominants?” I inquire. She raises an eyebrow at me.

“It may surprise you to know that you’re not my only dominant personality, Chopper,” she informs me. “They may not all be Dominants in the playroom sense, but when it comes to being in charge, I have a few that can give you a real run for your money.” She hands me the drink. There’s a switch. The drink is for me. She made me a drink… she wants something.

“Are you going to let my arm fall off?” she chides. I take the drink from her and sip. Jack and Coke. Did she watch me? Did Belvedere tell her? What does she want?

“You’re right,” she says, and I’m wondering what she’s talking about. “I want something from you.”

Fuck, am I that transparent?

“You need to sit, because I want to sit and I’m not accustomed to people standing over me.” She gestures to the sofa again. “The cushions are memory foam—for just such an occasion as this.”

Well… okay.

I sit on the sofa. It hurts, of course, but then the cushion melds to my form and it doesn’t hurt so much. Why didn’t I notice this when I sat on this sofa before?

“I want information,” she says, taking a seat on the sofa across from me. Her revolutionary begins talking about belief in a higher power and she begins her questioning. “I know that you said Elena asked you to help her when her businesses were failing. I need you to give me more details on the matter.”

Okay, where the hell is this going?

“Exactly what details to you need?” I ask. “She wanted help, I refused. I didn’t consider us to be friends anymore and I owed her nothing. I was appalled and offended that she had the audacity to come to me in the first place.”

“Why would she think you had something to do with her demise?” She presses.

“Why are you so curious about this?” I ask. Her brow furrows.

“Why are you so evasive?” She retorts.

“I’m not evasive. There’s nothing to tell.” She examines me carefully, then her face changes.

“Oh, my God,” she says, her hand moving to her cheek. “You did do something to her, or you at least had something to do with her business failing.” How could she possibly know that?

“I never said…”

“You can’t bullshit a bullshitter, Trey!” she snaps, rising from her seat. “I can soft-shoe with the best of them, in and out of the courtroom! Why do you think I’m so fucking good at what I do, in and out of the courtroom?” She walks away from the sofa and begins pacing around her parlor.

“Look, Elena is the reason for her own destruction,” I press, and it’s the truth. “She’s too goddamn cocky and that’s what caused her demise.”

“Tell me what the hell you did, Trey,” Goldie insists.

“Tell me what this is all about,” I retort. I’m not giving her any information until she gives me some first.

“Goddammit, this is not some boardroom positioning game!” she yells, spinning around on me. “This is my fucking life! This woman broke your goddamn arm and now, she’s coming at me with her talons drawn and I don’t even know what the fuck I’m up against. Now, you give me full fucking disclosure right now or I’ll use my resources and find what I need on my own, and you can get the fuck out of my house and never darken my goddamn door again!”

Dammit to hell, I thought I was a Dominant until this moment. Her tone, the firmness in her voice, and the thought of leaving this house and never seeing her again would have me confessing to the Kennedy assassination.

“I. Did not. Destroy. Elena’s. Business.” I say firmly. “I will admit to one rumor. One rumor. Her demise after that was all her own doing.”

Goldie examines me further, then comes back to the sofa and sits across from me.

“Full disclosure,” she says again, crossing her arms and legs while glaring at me expecting.

“I’ll give you full disclosure, but that leaves me wide open. You have to give me something, too. That’s only fair… Mistress.” She played that card on me and she knows she did, so I’m playing it back.

“Fine, but you give me full disclosure first,” she retorts, quickly without flinching. She’s not going to back down from this. I throw my drink back and put the glass on the end table.

“A long time ago, right after I got into the lifestyle, Elena and I used to have a thing,” I begin. “We fucked a few times and that was it.” I raise my eyes to Goldie. Her gaze is impassive.

“Go on,” she says, giving nothing away.

“We stayed friends,” I continue, “fucked once in a while, shared submissives, but the sexual part of the relationship just faded. She tried to get it back every now and then, but it never happened.”

“How long?” I look at her again. “The last time, how long ago was it?” I strain to think, then shrug.

“Four or five years, maybe, I don’t know exactly.” She nods.

“Continue,” she demands.  I clear my throat, more than a little miffed that she’s ordering me around outside the dungeon… not that she orders me around inside the dungeon. Nonetheless…

“She did challenge me to get you,” I say. “She knew that I would never have you the way that I wanted and she taunted me about it. The more she taunted me, the more I wanted you. The more she told me that I would never have you, the more determined I became to get you. You became an obsession, but you already knew that. You drove me out of my mind and you weren’t even there…”

I’m straying from the story.

“Anyway, the day you shot at me, I should have become discouraged, but I wasn’t. I just wanted you more. The whole series of events that followed that is why Madame Petra is so convinced that I solely orchestrated her downfall.” I pause.

“I’m listening,” Goldie says, and I continue.

“I saw her the day after you and I shared our… first orgasm,” I say. “That’s when she told me about the guy who raped you.”

“He didn’t rape me,” she hisses. “Rape indicates a violent act—some poor waif getting held down, beaten, and some asshole tearing into her while she cries and begs him to stop. That’s not what happened to me. I said, ‘no,’ he forcefully persisted.  He was stronger than me, so I stopped resisting. You can’t very well be a Domme with your face beaten all to hell because some asshole wanted some pussy and you refused. When he was done taking what didn’t belong to him, I made sure that he fucking well wasn’t ever going to do it again. So, while I understand the concept of ‘no means no,’ and the rape laws are what kept me out of jail, I wasn’t raped—I was robbed. He took my body without my permission, so I took his fucking legs.”

Ooookay. Well, I won’t get into the logistics of that with the counselor. The details are still the same.

“Um, okay. So, when she told me about the incident with the gun, I became enraged and ended our friendship. Then I spread one rumor to a submissive or three that her salon had a bedbug infestation. It gave women the heebie-jeebies and that was enough to alert the health department to go check her out. They found nothing, but it did no good. Her reputation was already on a downward spiral.” Goldie examines me with narrowed eyes.

“That’s it?” she questions. “There’s nothing else?” I shake my head.

“There’s nothing else,” I confirm. “Rumors happen all the time. Restaurants get bad grades from the health department, close up shop, clean things up and reopen for business. They don’t shut down. She was so busy with the ‘deny’ game that she didn’t bother with any kind of damage control. That’s why her businesses failed—not because of me.”

“You’re telling me that the entire fall of the Salons to the Elite was an imaginary bedbug problem?” she asks in disbelief. Before I can nod, she speaks again. “Things are starting to make sense now, but that doesn’t explain the broken arm. How did she figure out that it was you?”

“She put two and two together,” I admit. “I still denied the whole thing, but she wasn’t deterred. She’s totally convinced that I had something to do with it, but she doesn’t know what. She came to ask me for help and I refused. Somehow, at that moment, she knew. She launched a potted plant at me and I put my arm up to shield my face. The rest is history.” Goldie shakes her head.

“With a good ad campaign and a few strategically placed testimonials, she could’ve avoided all of this. Yet, she’s trying to find scapegoats…” Goldie is up and pacing again. “While she rightly has you penned for whatever role you played in this, she now has her claws pointed at me.” I frown.

“What?” I ask confused.

“Once she discovered that we’re engaging, I became your partner-in-crime in her downfall.”

“How did she find out that we’re… engaging?” I ask. I sure as hell don’t talk to her ass anymore.

“I told her,” Goldie says. “And you know that if you two were still friends, you would have told her, too. So, don’t judge me.”

Well, she got me dead to rights there.

“Her hope was that you would dethrone me, for lack of a better word, so I called to gloat, that I had you and we had reached an agreement, and that I was still sitting on the throne. She flipped out. Started calling me names, declaring that we were in this together all along, threatening me… It probably didn’t help that I stopped going to her salons shortly before the rumor circulated.”

“Well, I certainly wasn’t trying to implicate you in all of this. Hell, I thought we’d never see each other again.” She raises and eyebrow at me.

“That’s why you kept that necklace for six months?” she inquires. “Or found another one just like it.” Dammit to hell!

“I’ve asked myself the same question,” I admit.

“Whatever the case may be, I could give a fuck less what goes on with her. Nobody died, but she’s convinced that I’m in on it and now she and her psycho husband have their sights set on me!”

Wait… what?

“What are you talking about? What do you mean she and her psycho husband?”

“Yeah, I had the displeasure of meeting that freaky frosted fuck at the Civil Community Fundraiser a couple of weeks ago. She thinks I have something to do with whatever it is that you did. I’m sure she’s told him about it, too. No doubt, they’ve had lovely conversations about me. Why do you think Jesse is following me around? Did you think I just suddenly found the need to hire a bodyguard?”

“But why the fuck would Linc care? Yeah, he’s probably pissed about the businesses, but not enough to come after you, I wouldn’t think…”

“Oh, no, I think that may have had something to do with you. At least in the beginning, I’m sure it did. He made a huge display of referring to me as your ‘new piece of ass’—in front of Senator Earnhart, I might add, and probably to several other attendees of the fundraiser until I threatened him with a lawsuit. From there, he cornered me on the smoker’s balcony in the goddamn cold and proceeded to feel me out to be his own concubine. When I was less than receptive to his advances, he assaulted me by blowing smoke directly in my face.”

I feel my blood pressure rising. Linc actually went after her because he thought she was with me. Then, when he found out that she wasn’t, he actually went after her—aggressively! I don’t know which of those pisses me off the most. He’s calling me out. I don’t know why, but he is. He hasn’t had enough of Christian Grey making a fool of him, I see. I guess I’ll have to give that platinum-headed pencil-dick what he’s asking for.

“That fucking asshole,” I say out loud. “Me and Linc, it’s personal, Golden.”

“Personal in that you were fucking his wife?” she asks coolly. My mouth forms a thin line.

“He never knew,” I tell her. “He suspected, but he never found out…”

“But he did know, Trey,” she retorts. “You don’t have to see someone’s dick in your wife’s pussy to know they’re fucking, and he knew. So, what did he do?”

“The only thing he could. He started a rumor. Had the press knocking at my door.”

“Well, like you said, damage control could have taken care of that…”

“I didn’t need damage control,” I reply. “A well-placed ‘What the fuck are you talking about’ here and a ‘What the hell do I look like to you’ there was enough to throw those dogs off the scent, especially since our sexual relationship was headed downhill by that time anyway.”

“That’s damage control, Chopper,” she says, and there’s that fucking name again. “And what did you do after that?”

“I facilitated the closing and/or acquisition of seven of his subsidiaries. Three of them were crucial to his business.” She nods.

“And that’s why it’s personal,” she says, “why he’s after me. I’m an acquisition… or so he thinks.” I raise my brow at her. “He found out the hard way that it doesn’t really do to fool with me, and I didn’t even have to draw my firearm.”

Draw her firearm… that leaves me a bit uncomfortable.


Briana Evigan Ch 12 small

GOLDEN

That dick has had all it can take right about now. I can’t even describe the angry throbbing and pulsing each time I swirl that head around the opening of the Fleshlight and push it in, not to mention the shivering and painful groans Chopper emits with each new entry, each slow and agonizing stroke, and each teasing withdrawal. He’s going to come like a fucking rocket. And as soon as I see that tension just under his balls and at the base of his dick, I pull that Fleshlight off and…

“Aahh! Aahh! Aaaaaaahhhh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!”

I wrap my mouth sideways around that dick and frenulum and tickle and manipulate ferociously, and there’s my 21-gun salute—no disrespect intended. He’s shooting off long, impressive streams of hot white passion, making me glad that I remembered to put a disposable lining on the floor before the fireworks began. I wouldn’t want to clean it up and I just feel funny leaving it for Blake to do, even though I know that he would. But damn, the release is so hard that he could put somebody’s eye out!

I continue to manipulate and watching the magnificent show out of my peripheral. God, I wouldn’t have missed that for the world. I stroke and suck and lick until the long, purposeful, concentrated streams become short, forced spurts, and then oozing drips squeezing the last iotas of pleasure from his body and balls.

His orgasm was massive, and I have to coach him to breathe properly so that he doesn’t hyperventilate. I know he’ll most likely have a short period of incoherence once he catches his breath since I still have him strapped down, and he’s in the perfect position for sleep. He came so fucking hard that I’m certain that the massive release of prolactin, oxytocin, and melatonin he’ll feel in about 20 seconds will have him loopy and punch-drunk as fuck. So, after I release his binds and see his body relaxing into total submission, I whisper, “Take all the time you need. I’ll see you upstairs.”

I don’t even know if he heard me. His body has sunk into the soft leather of the table and he’s floating somewhere in the cosmos in a state of semi-consciousness that grasps every man after he’s had an orgasm… well, almost every man.

I quietly slide the floor cover from under the table, roll it up, and dispose of it, quickly cleaning the spots where Mr. Impressive shot his load too far and missed the cover. God, that dick is something else and should be registered as dangerous with the ATF!

I dressed a bit for his fantasy. He didn’t fool me one bit with this necklace. He’s a Domme and this has “collar” written all over it. He knows I’ll never be his submissive, but to make him come so hard while I’m wearing it that he thinks he shot pieces of his brain out of his dick, so much so that he has to lie helpless on the table until his muscles regain some of their strength—yeah, that’s about as close to the fantasy as he’s going to get…

Lying there, face down on my submissive table. From where I’m standing, I can see his body rise and fall from the regulated breathing that comes right at the point of subconscious relaxation. It’s that point where a man would normally fall asleep right after sex, but he has the proverbial “one eye open” because he’s in a place where he knows he can’t stay. I can also see the pink and red welts on his back from the one tool I used tonight—my flogger. Masterful, artistic stripes adorn his back and ass, and for him not to be a submissive, he achieved subspace at least three times in the process.

Last, but certainly not least, I can see his dick—flaccid from a severely intense orgasm but hanging impressively through the hole in the table nonetheless. I lick my lips looking at it, thinking about it…

And totally forget where I am.

He talks about me teasing men with my body and my charms—that thing is enough to dicktimize any woman alive. Elena was right in using him to try to get me to heel. If he fucked me with that tool, I’d be completely ruined.

It’s not that it’s the biggest I’ve ever seen. He’s well-endowed, but I’ve seen bigger. I have one client who’s so big that I wouldn’t allow him anywhere near my pussy with that wall of meat even if I was into fucking. But Chopper, that piece of meat is beautiful, and the way he responds, and it responds when he’s aroused… good God. To call it a masterpiece is a massive understatement.

I shake myself out of my inner musings, wrap my body in golden silk, and ascend the stairs. I was wearing something different when he arrived. He’s sure to recognize this dress when he sees it. With a nod to Blake, I go to my parlor and pour myself a drink. I’m in the mood for something mellow, but it has to be Pac. My endorphins and hormones are always on the wild when I’m done with a scene, even if I come. That’s why I need a few moments of silence with a vodka and a lollipop at the clubs. People think it’s all part of this untouchable image that I portray, but it’s not. It’s the equivalent of what Trey is doing down there on my table right now—regrouping; basking in the splendor of the moment and slowly coming down from a high. That’s why I don’t want to be disturbed when I go to my table, but someone invariably does, anyway. It’s the nature of the beast.

Here at home, in my parlor, it’s vodka and Tupac—any Tupac. He speaks to the rebel and the poet in me. He was so misunderstood because of the genre of music he chose to record. Only those of us who peeled back his layers and truly saw what was underneath—the activist, the philosopher, the poet, the revolutionary—could even understand his struggle or what he was trying to accomplish in his short life.

I choose a playlist that I always considered Tupac’s love songs, even though none of his music was… is particularly romantic in any way. As my mind and body descends from its hormone-induced high, a million thoughts swirl through my head and I have to try to narrow my thinking down to one or two. The two most prevalent thoughts right now—Trey’s dick… and Elena and her frosted phantom husband.

Talk about different ends of the spectrum.

I haven’t heard anything from the blonde bitch or her white-haired counterpart since the party, but the truth is that I’ve never truly faced her has a nemesis, so I have no idea what to expect. Her husband is so fucking transparent that he doesn’t scare me. The tidbits that Mrs. Lincoln likes to drop, however, can be more dangerous than anything that he could do to me and I need more information on what I’m up against, because I’m ready to go balls to the walls with this bitch if I must.

And I’m getting the feeling that I must.

She’s too damn quiet, and I don’t trust her.

I feel him before I see him, and I turn around to see him gazing at me. Don’t fall in love, Trey. It’s bad for your health.

“Are you coming in or are you just going to lurk there in the doorway?” I ask, snapping him out of whatever daydream had him standing there staring at me…

*-*

After I threaten to stop seeing him, he tells me everything that happened between him and Blondie. I probably wouldn’t have fucked with him at all knowing that they were once intimate. I don’t like sharing anything with that plastic bitch, but what’s done is done, and ending our situationship at this point would truly be and exercise in futility. I did, however, get some valuable information on why Mrs. Lincoln thinks I’m in on the conspiracy that destroyed her salons. Trey’s right. He really didn’t destroy her business. Her stupidity and lack of action did that. Why didn’t she go about the business of damage control when the rumors broke? Rumors are just rumors—they don’t become truths unless you give them life—or do nothing and just let them fester.

However, I stopped frequenting Esclava very shortly before the rumors started. Then she doesn’t see me for several months, during which time, her and Trey’s friendship is terminated, her salons fail, and she gets into a physical altercation with him where she breaks his arm and ends up getting arrested. Then, I pop back up on the scene, and Trey and I are suddenly a thing.

I would think something was rotten in Denmark, too, if I were her, but that’s one of Blondie’s fatal flaws. She’s transparent and she doesn’t strategize. Anyone in any line of business needs that simple skill. Nonetheless…

Here I sit in my parlor with Trey getting that same angry gleam in his eye that the Senator got when I told him that Linc accosted me. The Silver Specter is making a lot of enemies in a short span of time. I hope he got the hint to stay the fuck away from me as I have a feeling that my wrath will be the least of his worries if he doesn’t take heed.

“What do you mean he found out the hard way?” Trey asks about Linc’s lesson to leave me alone.

“You mean besides the fact that I told him I’d cut his dick off and he reacted as if it would be a pleasurable experience?” I ask. “Jesse had him suspended in pain for a few minutes before he was unceremoniously escorted from a very exclusive party.”

“Jesse?” Trey asks with a frown.

“My bodyguard,” I say as I refresh my drink.

“Suspended in pain? Do elaborate.” I shrug.

“Some type of pressure point hold on his shoulder when he grabbed my wrist,” I say, waving him off. “He’s harmless. The big bad brutes don’t scare me, but the two of them together—that might be a problem.” Trey scoffs. What’s so damn funny?

“Elena and Linc don’t work together on anything,” he says. “They’re like oil and water and I don’t even know why they’re still married.” I raise my brow at him.

“Have they ever had a common nemesis?” I ask sipping my drink. Trey shrugs.

“I don’t think so,” he says. “Not that I know of, anyway.”

“And now they do,” I point out. “Two, in fact, depending on how you look at it. Blondie wants to see you fall, and the Silver Dog wants to see me bow.” I put my drink on the bar. “It looks like we’re going to be co-conspirators whether we want to or not.”

“That doesn’t seem so bad to me,” he says suggestively. I twist my lips at him.

“Down, boy,” I chide.

*-*

Armed with the information that I now know about Blondie’s salons, I decide to go on a bit of a fishing expedition. No use in Trey having all the fun. You want to accuse me of having something to do with closing down your salons? Send that frosted ice king of a husband of yours after me like I’m some cheap acquisition? Okay, bitch. You want to see what dirty looks like? I’ll show you what it looks like. Let the punishment fit the crime.

I start with Bowie, then Chroma. Then I move to Stella and Circa. Once I explain my plight, no one really wants to talk to me. No one wants to get involved… or they know Blondie and don’t want to cross her. Nonetheless, I leave my card with instructions to contact me or pass the word along if they should come across any information.

It’s not until I get to Gene Juarez that I get any luck. After having spent the morning with a big goose-egg of co-conspirators, I decide to take a different tact going into Gene Juarez. Since I’m usually wearing some sort of wig during my jaunts and scenes at the clubs and my daytime hairstyle is the Miss Trunchbull bun, I haven’t bothered with any kind of cut and condition since I stopped going to Esclava. So, needless to say, I’m in desperate need of some TLC, not to mention that my feet are barking from being all over downtown Seattle this morning.

 

Managers and appointment takers may not want to talk, but pedicurists and stylists, yeah… they’re chatty.

“I know I don’t have an appointment, and I’ll take anybody who can squeeze me in, but it’s been a looooooong morning at the courthouse and my feet are in agony. I would kill for a deluxe pedicure right now. I’ll even pay in advance…” I reach into my wallet and pull out my Amex black. I’ve already scoped the basic price list on the other side of the counter. A classic pedicure is $55. By me saying that my feet hurt and I want a deluxe, they can easily work me for $200, not to mention the sparkles in the hostess’s eyes at the sight of my Amex.

“No problem, ma’am,” she says to my Amex—er, I mean, to me. “I’m sure we can fit you in.” I sigh like she’s saving my life.

“Thank you,” I breathe dramatically. I’ll save my hair for the next salon. She looks at her book and makes a quick call.

“Eve will be ready for you in about ten minutes. Do you mind waiting?” she asks.

“Not at all,” I say, pulling out my phone and texting Blake to call me in five and again in fifteen. With me standing at her podium, she has no choice but to talk to me.

“So, what do you do at the courthouse?” she asks. I’m dressed like a court reporter, but unless I’m fucking an extremely generous judge, she knows there’s no way I can be a court reporter, waving an Amex black around.

“I’m an attorney,” I say, slightly over-exaggerated exhaustion lacing my voice. I’m tired, but I’m not that tired.

“Really? What kind of law do you practice?” I laugh and wave her off.

“What don’t I practice?” I jest. “Corporate, defense, family law, civil litigation… all of it.” She raises a brow.

“I thought attorneys usually specialized in one area,” she said. I twist my lips as if in consideration of her statement.

“Generally, yes,” I tell her, “but I’m a wretched overachiever. All you have to do is pass the bar, then you can go in whatever direction you please. My specialization is criminal law. Everything else from there is continuing education, extra classes in college, and basically being self-taught.”

The hostess, whom I discover is called Venus, is visibly impressed.

“Really?” she probes. “You must be in pretty high demand. Sounds pretty lucrative.”

“Yes, and it can be,” I say with a chuckle. “The fees on one of my corporate cases alone paid for my house…” That’s the truth, “… but most of my criminal cases, I take pro-bono, especially if I’m dealing with a family who is underprivileged or living paycheck-to-paycheck and just can’t afford an attorney. I have to believe the defendant, too.”

“Why would you take them pro-bono?” she asks. “Why not just let the public defender handle it?”

“Because at the risk of hurting someone’s feelings, public defenders suck!” I say emphatically and Venus laughs. “I would never want to put an innocent person’s fate in the hands of a public defender. Not only that, I think the real criminal act is in requiring someone to pay for decent representation to defend themselves in court for something that they didn’t do.” And Venus is impressed again.

“That’s extremely noble,” she says, unable to hide her awe. “Doesn’t that cost you a lot though?”

“I can afford it,” I dismiss her. “What’s really bad is some mother having to put her house up to pay for a defense attorney because her son was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.” My phone rings and I retrieve it.

Blake. Right on time.

“Hello, Darling,” I say into the phone.

“Hello,” Blake says without missing a beat. “Should I call you ‘darling,’ or will the normal greeting suffice?”

“The usual. Thank you,” I say in a playful, coy voice.

“Very well. And what can I do for you, Mistress?”

“You already have,” I reply. “Thank you so much. I found someone to do my pedicure. I thought I’d be completely lost after that last experience.”

“Ah, I see,” he says. “A plan is afoot?” Nice play on words.

“Oh, definitely,” I reply. “I left that establishment so quickly, I didn’t take time to find another one. Now I think I have.”

“Very well. Is there anything else you need me for, Mistress?” I smile.

“I always do, but you’re a sweetheart for calling. Talk to you soon.”

“Goodbye, Mistress…” I can hear him smiling through the phone.

“Bye-bye.” I end the call and smile at the phone.

“Your sweetheart?” Venus says. I giggle coyly.

“I’d be lost without him,” I reply honestly without answering her question. Her brow furrows.

“You had a bad experience at another salon?” she asks. I roll my eyes dramatically and scratch my arm.

“Oh, you have no idea!” I say, my voice heavily lamenting. I lean in to Venus like I’m about to reveal a secret. “I had a client secure my services for being traumatized at a local salon. One of the big ones!” I whisper the last words.

“Really?” she says, completely sucked in to the conversation.

“Yes,” I say, looking conspiratorially over my shoulder as if to be sure no one else heard me. “Imagine my horror when I discover that it was the same salon chain that I had been frequenting for at least a year prior. Unsanitary conditions, rumors of being closed by the health department, possible bedbugs…” I shiver.

“Oh, yes!” Venus says, realization dawning. “Esclava!” A few heads turn in our direction. Jackpot.

“Yes!” I say, gesturing in a motion for her to keep it down. No, Venus, talk louder! Talk louder!

“I heard about her,” Venus says. “I think she ended up closing, didn’t she?” I nod.

“Yes, she did,” I confirm. “Supposedly, the claims were untrue, but that wretched woman never released a statement confirming or denying any of the accusations unless I missed it!” She didn’t, I’ve already checked and confirmed with Trey. She was too busy trying to put the fires out to be concerned with a little thing like damage control.

“I don’t know, I never saw one,” Venus says.

“Neither did I,” I say leaning in again, “and let me tell you. I’m an attorney and I know from experience that the innocent scream their plight from the rooftops! The guilty stay silent and hope not to get caught. That’s why they often ‘plead the fifth amendment.’ It protects them from incriminating themselves.”

I can see the wheels turning in Venus’ head, just now putting two and two together about one Mrs. Elena Lincoln. And with all the heads turning this way, someone is bound to stop and ask her about the conversation we were having when they come to cash out.

“It has wreaked havoc on my nerves ever since I heard about it!” I say, scratching my neck and arms intermittently. “I’ve been to my doctor for a thorough examination… twice! I’ve had my home inspected at least three times. All the professionals say that there’s absolutely nothing to worry about, but the whole thing still gives me the heebie-jeebies. Oh God, just the thought of it…!” And I’m scratching again. Venus also begins to scratch instinctively. Bingo.

“Venus, I’m ready for the next client.” An exuberant woman a little younger than me comes from the back. She smiles widely at me, silently welcoming me to the salon.

“Well, Ms. Olivet, I can guarantee that you won’t have that experience here. Now, you go on with Eve and relax. Let us take care of you.” She smiles a winning smile in my direction as well.

“Thank you so much,” I say, flashing my own array of perfect pearly whites. “And please, call me Ana…”

Moments later, I’ve struck up the same conversation with Eve after faking a second call with Blake, assuring him that I’ve found a “clean” salon with wonderful staff who have really made me feel welcome. By the time the conversation is over, Eve has put the bits and pieces together and questions what bad experience I had, and the staged conversation ensues again. She confides in me that several of their clients were previously clients of Esclava. I feign concern of breaking attorney/client privilege. However, first, there’s no client—yet… but she doesn’t know that. Second, I’m only talking about my own experiences. I can produce a bill for a home inspection in a second if I need to, but if my plan falls into place, I won’t have to.

“You’re right, though,” she says as I sit there letting my toes dry, “if none of that stuff was true, she would have denied it… hard. This was her business, after all. Have you ever seen any bugs in her salon? My understanding is that everything was white, so you couldn’t miss them.”

“Well… no,” I admit, truthfully, “but I got a really bad feeling about the place and I stopped going. Then, I heard about the infestation and…” I start scratching my arms again.

“Oh, God, please stop,” she says grabbing my hands. “It’s psychological, honey. You’re fine. You dodged a bullet. Look, why don’t I see which of my friends are available and we’ll give you an afternoon of beauty? Unless you have to get back to the courthouse…” I wave her off.

“The good thing about being a highly sought-after attorney is that you basically make your own hours… unless there’s a case scheduled…” and I’m working on one right now.

“Well, then it’s settled. What’s your budget?” I laugh good-naturedly.

“Sweetie, there is no budget. Do your worst.” Eve beams at me and I can see the dollar signs in her eyes. What the hell, might as well. It’ll all be money well-spent if I can bring Blondie to her knees.

She should have left well enough alone. She already made Trey into an enemy. Then she turns around and attacks the man. As if siccing him on me like some rabid dog in heat wasn’t bad enough, then she throws threats at me because her plan actually worked, and Trey and I struck an intimate agreement. Then she goes to the fundraiser, smears my name all over the room, and sets yet another beast loose on me in that eerie, classless, creepy arctic wolf that she calls her husband!

This bitch has gone too far, and even though I have several minions and clients who want a piece of her and Linc, I want her to know that I’m after her ass. I want her to wonder what the fuck is going on now then look up and see me. You want the blade, bitch, you got it, and I’m about to slice you in two.

“Okay,” Eve says after ending a phone call that I didn’t even know she was on. “We’re going to start with a lemon verbena skin treatment, because you’re going to scratch the skin off your arms. This mixture and massage will make you forget all about that other place, and the aroma therapy will be good for you in helping to ease your heebie-jeebies. We’re going to free that hair of yours and give it a revitalizing conditioning treatment and once that’s done, you’ll get our skin-refreshing facial and I’ll give you a modest manicure to compliment your hands. You’ll feel like a new woman…”

Three hours of being plucked and pampered and I spill my guts to anyone who’ll listen about how horrified I was by the rumors of “that woman’s” shop after I had been frequenting her establishment for so long. When I go back out to settle my bill, I have to admit that Eve was right. I do feel like a new woman. I have a flawless makeover showcased by a full halo of lush brunette curls with soft honey highlights… nothing too dramatic. I step into the reception area to see Jesse sitting impatiently on one of the posh sofas. Shit, I had forgotten all about him

“That gentleman claims to be waiting for you,” Venus says as she tallies my bill. “Stalker?”

“Something like that,” I say. “Bodyguard.” Venus raises a brow at me and I hand her my Black card again. “Please include a tip for my operators—$50 each. They were incredible.”

“Each?” Venus clarifies. “How many were there?” I start counting on my fingers.

“Shelly, Lena, Raye, Livy, Dawson, and…” I’m trying to think of the other member of the team that helped rejuvenate this body. “Oh! Sage! That’s her name. And don’t forget yourself—I appreciate you fitting me in. And Eve, for heaven’s sake, Eve! Make it $75 for Eve! It’s like she made one call and an entire troop of people showed up and made my life worth living.” I giggle.

“Ms. Olivet!” she gushes. “Ana… you’re too generous!”

“Think nothing of if,” I say, throwing my shiny, beautiful mane over my shoulder. “I was an itchy, scratchy mess when I came in here. Your staff put me at ease and made me feel like a million bucks…” which they really did. “Can I set a future appointment right now?”

So, in looking to pluck the hen who caused me so much grief, I actually found a new salon. I hadn’t been going to one since I left Blondie… I didn’t see the need. My own grooming practices are pretty meticulous, and my nails never stay the same past the weekend. I can’t very well show up in a courtroom or boardroom with golden nails. As I’m leaving, she gives me my biggest payoff yet.

“Did you happen to bring any extra business cards with you?” she asks. “It appears that some of our clients… well, they may have overheard our conversation and they’d like to… talk to you about any recourse they may have against that woman. Apparently, we’ve gained quite a bit of her clientele.”

And now I realize just how fortuitous the situation is. The other salons most likely had nothing to lose or gain by talking to me about Elena because they didn’t gain any of her clientele—one or two, maybe, but not enough to rock the boat. Most of her clientele most likely came here.

“I’m certain that I do,” I say, digging through my purse. “If I don’t, I’ll bring more.” I dig into my inside pocket and retrieve the wad of business cards that I had there for just such an emergency. I hand her the cards and thank her again for the wonderful service.

Jesse’s pupils dilate when he sees me.

“I was going to ask if you fell in, but… damn…” He examines me as I tie the belt to my coat around my waist. I walk out of the salon and the winter sun catches the glints of highlight in my hair. I look good and I know it. I open my phone and call Chanelle.

“Offices of Olivet, Attorney at Law. How can I help you?”

“Shut it down, Chanelle,” I tell her. “I won’t be back to the office today.”

“So, I guess you didn’t get my message that Richard Steele is here again,” she laments. I sigh.

“No, I didn’t, and tell him that I won’t be back into the office and you have to shut down. If he gives you too much trouble about it, call the cops.”

“Will do. Have a great afternoon.” I end the call and look at Jesse.

“Take me to Community. After all that grooming and shaving, no one fed me. I want something quick and fresh.”

Community Grocery and Deli is a little place that’s tucked away inside of the opening to a parking garage. It’s a gem in Seattle and if you didn’t know it was there, you’d never know it was there. They have the best teriyaki anything in the whole damn city. Although you can’t pay me to eat soy, their teriyaki tofu even looks delicious.

While Jesse waits for our orders, I walk around the establishment and grab a few things. Not the hugest selection in this little store, but great for a quick grab. As I walk around to the other side of the coolers, who do I find standing there looking at the organic sodas? Organic sodas? I digress.

Jake.

Hmm, he works downtown, so I guess I had to run into him somewhere down here. It would be at one of my best-kept secret holes in the wall hiding in plain sight.

“Ana! Wow,” he says, his voice breathy. “You look… great.” Yes, I know this. I try not to roll my eyes.

“Hello, Jake,” I say impassively, reaching past him in the cooler to get my not-organic soda.

“What are you doing here?” he asks. I fold my arms.

“I could ask the same thing of you,” I retort.

“Well, I work here,” he says. I raise my brow.

“At the deli?” I ask. He chuckles.

“No. Downtown.”

“Well, so do I.” That’s when I realize that when he asked what I was doing here, he wasn’t talking about the deli. He was talking about the city. The nerve of him! Like I need his fucking permission to be in my own hometown.

“Is there something I can do for you?” I ask, with my arms folded.

“I didn’t know you were still in town,” he says. “I thought you left.”

“I did,” I say. “I came back. I’ve been in town for quite some time, now.”

“Why?”

“Because this is my home,” I reply. “My parents are buried here. My roots are here.”

“Home is where the heart is…”

“Exactly,” I say, unaware that I’m making his point for him.

“You never thought about us?” he asks. I frown.

“What about us?” I ask, shaking my head. He sighs.

“I liked you a lot,” he says, perturbed. “It was really shitty how things went down.” I drop my head and sigh.

“It… was a long time ago,” I say with a shrug. “It was a dumb thing that happened.”

“What dumb thing happened?” he asks, closing the space between us. “All I knew was my bike got fucked up and my parents said that I couldn’t talk to you anymore.”

I try not to react. He could have asked me. Somehow, he could have asked me what happened, but he didn’t. I’m not all bruised about it. I never really was. Yeah, I liked him, but I had bigger fish to fry—like staying alive.

“It’s been almost twenty years, Jake. Is it even important anymore?” I ask.

“Twenty years,” he says, coming even closer to me, “and here you are—different name, but same city. Something brought you back here and we just keep bumping into each other.”

“You want to know what brought me back here?” I ask. “I love Seattle. I love everything about this city, and my mom and dad are buried here.” He frowns.

“I thought the Steeles were your mom and dad,” he says, “That you were adopted…”

“I was adopted,” I tell him. “My dad adopted me, and then he and my mother were killed in a car accident. The living Steeles are my adopted aunt and uncle.” And why am I telling you this? “Anyway, it’s moot. If you’ll excuse me…” I try to walk away, and he puts his arm around my waist, pulling me back to him.

“Ana, please…” he says, his voice soft and coaxing. What? You’re kidding, right? “Don’t leave yet, please?”

I’m angry when I spin around to face him and give him a piece of my mind. Back when I liked you, when I really needed someone, you didn’t want to be bothered with me. You didn’t ask me what happened—not even in secret. You just dismissed me because your parents said that you had to. That’s what everyone did—my uncle, my aunt, my cousins, you—nobody asked me what happened. Nobody gave me the benefit of the doubt. Now, I’m grown, and everybody wants to get in my face. Good God, just go away!

I haven’t said anything aloud. I don’t get the chance. Jake’s lips are on mine right there in the grocery area—next to the organic sodas. My back is against the cooler door and he’s holding me gently around my waist, his other hand cupping my cheek. His lips mold gently into mine, soft and coaxing, and his tongue glides across my bottom lip. When he pulls back from my mouth, there’s pure desire in his eyes, and I’m a bit stunned.

What. The fuck. Is this?

“I’m sorry,” he says, breaths away from my face. “I had to do it… just once.”

“And now you have,” I say, my voice low and controlled. “Now, back up off me.” He’s crestfallen.

“Ana…” he begins, his voice laced with disbelief.

“Back. Up. Off. Me.” I enunciate each word, trying to relay to him that my next request will be physical. He gets the hint and releases me, putting some space between us. “Jake, what the fuck was that? Do you just randomly walk around kissing girls in grocery stores?”

“I… couldn’t resist. I’m sorry…”

“Try harder next time,” I warn. “We seem to keep bumping into each other and I can’t explain that, but if you think that gives you license to ‘reach out and touch’ me without my permission…” My voice is rising, and I’ve now attracted the attention of the two other shoppers in the grocery area of the deli. Now, Jesse has come around the coolers and is staring at me in awe.

“Three other people in the store… I can’t leave you alone for a minute!” I think the words are out of his mouth before he considers what he’s saying. Jake examines him critically.

“Gee, Kevin, you’ve changed,” he says sarcastically before turning his attention back to me. “He’s not what you usually go for.”

“What the fuck do you know about what I usually go for?” I hiss, openly offended by his insinuation. “Meet Jesse, my bodyguard. And you may want to be careful about touching me without my permission. He doesn’t take too kindly to that.” Jake looks back at Jesse.

“How ya doin’, Jess?” Jake says.

“Get yo’ smart ass outta here, man,” Jesse says, and nothing else. His tone indicates that he’s not in the mood for any bullshit and Jake takes the hint.

“Hopefully, I see ya ‘round, Beautiful,” Jake says haughtily before leaving the grocery area. Conceited, egotistical asshole.

“What is it about you that brings out the worst in men?” Jesse asks. I don’t say it aloud, but I know what it is. Pure animal magnetism. They don’t know what to do with themselves; they just know they gotta have it.

They’re literally like dogs. They see it a mile away, then they smell it, then they attack. After getting all dolled-up at Gene Juarez this afternoon, no doubt I’m emitting the Golden vibe, and he had a moment of weakness—just like Linc—since he has no fucking idea who Golden is.

“Get used to it,” I retort as I sashay around him into the deli area to retrieve my late lunch.


A/N: Golden’s after-scene Tupac Shakur playlist:

Who Do U Believe In?
Whatcha Gonna Do?
Still Love U
Gave U My Heart
When Thugs Cry

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

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~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 43—Falling Out of Eden

You know that I love you all, but today, I want to give a special shout-out to my Twitter followers. I don’t get over there as much as I do on Facebook and other medias, but when I do, I see that they’ve shown me lots of support and love. I appreciate you guys more than you know. tenor

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

Chapter 43—Falling Out of Eden

ANASTASIA

Once again, I’ve slept like the dead. My head hurts a little… that “too-much-sleep” feeling. I reach over for Christian only to find that his side of the bed is empty—and cold. He hasn’t been there for quite some time. Stamping down my insecurity as to why he’s not in bed with me, my eyes focus on something on his pillow. It’s an envelope. I sit up an open the envelope to find a note inside. The paper has blue rhododendrons printed all over it and three words…. those three words. Under the envelope is my iPod.

Um… okay.

I quickly go to the bathroom to relieve myself before returning to bed to put my earbuds in. When I open my iPod, it immediately goes to one file… one long file. Oh, God, what is this? I prepare myself for whatever it is and touch the file to play it. I hear random keys on the piano, nothing in particular. Then chords that sound like the player is trying out certain songs before a tune starts to play sweetly in my ears. I think I know what it is because the tune is familiar. I lean back on the headboard, still not completely sure what I’m listening to… until I hear it…

For so long for this night I prayed, that a star would guide you my way, to share with me this special day where a ribbon’s in the sky for our love…

It’s Christian! It’s my husband’s beautiful baritone voice singing Stevie Wonder “Ribbon in the Sky!” I cover my mouth in awe as he croons the song perfectly while his skillful fingers produce the accompaniment on his piano. When the song is over, I nearly cry and before I can recoil, his melodious voice and beautiful music is in my ear again…

When your legs don’t work like they used to before and I can’t sweep you off of your feet, will your mouth still remember the taste of my love? Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks?

How many songs did he record? This file says it’s hours long! Did he sleep at all?

Wherever you go, whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you…

I listen to at least ten songs, weeping with love and joy and my heart nearly exploding before I have to go and find this man. I jump out of bed in my oversized nightshirt and don’t even bother trying to find bottoms. I need him now… right now.

I start in the nursery and the babies are sound asleep, but no Christian. I pass inquisitive faces on the first floor, but don’t bother saying anything. I don’t see him, so he’s not here either. On the lower level, I don’t find him in the entertainment room, the workout room or his office, and an empty brandy snifter on a coaster on the piano confirms that he was in his den before. I sigh heavily and think of the last place that he could be, though I wouldn’t know why he would be in there.

I soon find out.

My husband is in the theater room. On the screen, larger than life, are scenes from our wedding and that absolutely stunning dress that my hips probably can’t fit into anymore. I slowly walk to the front row and before I get there, I see that he’s nursing a beer. When I get to him, I see that this is the fourth beer he’s nursed… after whatever amount of brandy he had last night… and it’s about eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning… and he’s still in his pajama pants and a T-shirt. He turns tired eyes to me as I approach before putting his bottle in the cup holder on the armrest. I say nothing. There’s really not much I can say right now. Instead, I climb into the large theater chair with him, my legs straddling either side of him. His eyes are soft as he gazes at me, his arms sliding gently around my waist as mine coil his neck, my hands softly caressing his hair.

Now, it’s my turn to sing…

Take what’s left of this woman, make me whole once again, ‘cause I want you and I feel you crawling underneath my skin like a hunger, like a burning, to find a place I’ve never been. Now I’m broken and I’m faded. I’m half the girl I thought I would be, but you can have what’s left of me…”

His mouth is on mine before I can finish the last word. I pour all my anguish and uncertainty into this kiss, drawing strength and love from him as I do. I hear the laughter in the video behind me and remember the promises that we made to each other that day. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back the sense of security I felt when we pledged our lives to one another, but if I know my husband, I know he’ll spend his life trying to reassure me of his love and commitment. I can give him no less.

*-*

“It’s not Friday.”

Over a month after the last formal visit with my psychiatrist, I’m standing in the parking lot of Ace’s office next to my car. Chuck is still in the car. I had been waiting here for an hour for him to show up as I have no idea what his Monday schedule looks like.

“I was hoping to get a session,” I say. “I’ll wait for an opening if there’s anything at all available.”

“You may just have to,” he tells me as he walks towards the door. “Monday is usually chock full of people just waiting to complain about their weekends… no offense.”

“None taken,” I say as I fall in step behind him. He opens the office door and turns on the lights in the reception area.

“Amber should be here any minute,” he says. “She wanted to stop for pastries, so I came ahead. Had I known you were coming…” I wave him off.

“I had a big breakfast,” I interrupt him. “Christian acts like he’s trying to fatten me up.” Ace looks at me as he puts his messenger bag down.

“That doesn’t sound like Christian,” he says, flipping a switch behind Amber’s desk. The faint sound of birds chirping starts playing through speakers hidden in the office. I’d noticed it before but hadn’t paid attention to it until he just turned it on. It’s almost subliminal.

“To help people relax?” I ask, pointing to the ceiling referring to the sound.

“Nature sounds are always subconsciously relaxing,” he says, “but they have to be natural. Synthetic recordings—which most of them are—turn out to be more irritating. They have the adverse effect.”

“Now that I know it’s there, it won’t relax me anymore,” I gripe.

“Yes, it will,” he says, walking into his office. “You’ll try to see if it irritates you, but it’ll fade away as usual and you’ll sink into comfort.” Just as he’s finishing his sentence, Amber’s walking into the front door. She’s put on a bit of weight since the last time I’ve seen her. It’s only been a month—what the hell is she eating?

“I thought that was you,” she says to me as she put a bakery box on the counter. “Not many Audis appear in our parking lot… Did I forget to record an appointment?”

“No, baby,” Ace says, kissing his wife on the forehead. “Ana just came by to see if there were any openings today.” Her face softens.

“I’m sorry to say there’s not,” she says, looking from me to Ace. “Your first appointment is in thirty-five.”

“I don’t really want to rush things,” he says to me. I nod.

“Well, I guess… just let me know if something opens up throughout the week,” I say to Amber. She smiles.

“Would you like a pastry?” she asks, gesturing towards the box. “There’s plenty.” I hold my hand up and shake my head.

“No, but thanks.” I say. “I guess I’ll just go to the Center and get my day started. You’ve got my number.” She nods, and I head towards the door.

“Wait,” Ace says before my hand reaches the handle. “Baby, who do I have first?”

“Ms. Havisham,” she says. What? She can’t be serious! It only takes me a moment to realize the name is an alias. I used an alias, too, when I first started visiting Ace. I don’t even remember what mine was.

“Come on,” he says, gesturing me into his office.

“I don’t want to take someone else’s time,” I protest.

“She’s always late and then demands her full hour when she arrives.” I frown as I walk back towards his office.

“Why do you see her at the beginning of the day, then?” I ask.

“Because she’s eccentric and won’t have it any other way.” He closes the door behind me. How rude! The woman has no respect for others. I’ve had a few of those. “She makes other people wait. This time, she can wait. Have a seat.” The surroundings almost seem unfamiliar to me. I don’t know where to sit as he wanders around his office preparing for the day, so I just sit on one of the sofas.

“I was wondering when you were going to stop hiding from me,” he says. “I thought I was going to have to go back out to your house to see about you. It’s a nice place, but I charge extra for house calls.”

“Yes, you initially surprised me by coming by, but then I thought about who you are and realized that it’s just like you to do something like that.” He raises an eyebrow at me.

“But none of this behavior is like you,” he confronts. “Leaping off a cliff? Falling apart like there’s no tomorrow? I realize the situation was dire… grave, even, to a point, but I’m concerned that you may have lost your identity in trying to define yourself in terms of your husband.” I roll my eyes and shake my head before dropping my face into my hands. “Okay, I’ve touched on something there.”

“I don’t know who either of us are anymore,” I admit. “My husband was a Dominant before he met me. Then he met me—not a submissive personality, but able to submit for him because I wanted to experiment, see how it would go, test my limits. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, but there are some times when I decide I’m not going to be that woman. When I do, it’s usually right when he needs me to be her.

“So, I go get advice from someone else in the lifestyle who rightfully said that Christian and I have barely scratched the surface of our BDSM lifestyle; that I might have to expand my horizons in order to be the woman that he needs; that I’ll have to find a happy medium between the woman that I am now and the woman that he fell in love with without losing myself in the process. I thought that’s what I was doing, but then one wrong move…” I trail off and drop my face in my hands again.

“One wrong move what, Ana?” Ace presses. I raise my head to find that he’s taken the seat across from me.

“Do you have any idea what it feels like to be waiting for the axe to fall no matter what you do?” I ask. “People keep telling me not to forget who I am. I don’t even know who I am. I don’t even know who I was. I’m just here… floating along waiting for the next catastrophe.”

“And thus, the crux of our dilemma,” Ace says. “You’re sitting here waiting for the bottom to fall out of your life and as such, you’re afraid to live it. That has never been the Ana I knew. Even after the accident, you were anxious to get back on the proverbial horse and get back to your life. Now, you almost sound like you want to hide in a corner and let life happen to you…”

Not necessarily hide in the corner. There’s nowhere to hide from the Boogeyman.

“And your silence just confirmed what I’m thinking. So, what are you going to do, Dr. Grey, curl up and die?” I turn accusing eyes to him.

“Way to be empathetic, Doctor!” I scold. He shrugs.

“I call ‘em like I see ‘em,” he says unapologetically. “That’s why you came to me in the first place and you wouldn’t keep coming to me if I didn’t. I’m not going to spoon-feed you any bull; I’m going to give it to you straight. I’m not going to hold your hand while you walk around in delusion. I can’t drag you kicking and screaming into reality—that’s a journey you have to take on your own, but I can sure as hell point that brutal light in your face and point you in the right direction.

“You fell off the horse… hard. Damn near broke your neck. Now, you’re afraid to get back on it. You had all your hopes and dreams wrapped up in this man. If nothing else ever came through for you, he always would… until he didn’t. He was human, and he fucked up big time and you can’t take it. Now, you’re not only questioning your relationship and who he is, but you’re questioning who you are. I really need to know how your husband making an active decision to do something and doing it makes you question who you are.”

“It’s not…” The words trail off before I can even finish the thought. My scar begins to throb. I’m not sure I can explain to him why I feel the way that I do. Hell, I’m not sure that I can explain it to me.

“I feel… rudderless,” I say, my voice a bit desperate. “One minute, I had all this direction… I had so much to do that I didn’t know where to start. I was trying to find a way to categorize my life—our plans for the Center, the allegations from the licensing board, Gloria Felton, fundraising activities, my own pet projects, my dad’s adoption, the pussy DJ…”

“Whoa… ho… wha… huh?” Ace stops me in the middle of my tirade. I glare at him.

“You interrupted me,” I say in disbelief. “Didn’t you learn like in Therapy 101 or something not to interrupt a patient when they’re on a rant?” He puts his hands up in surrender.

“Okay, I’m sorry, but Pussy DJ threw me off… dafuq is that?” I almost want to laugh at his colloquialism and the drop of his professionalism. Instead, I try to stay on topic since I don’t know when Ms. Havisham is going to show up.

“Rossiter!” I shoot. “The guy with the pussy on his arm that we’re suing for slander.”

“Oh!” Ace says in realization. “Yeah, him. I forgot about him.”

“Well, I didn’t,” I say, and I continue on with my rant about how things truly feel helpless. I want to get comfortable in my relationship with my husband again; in the happiness that I felt with my children and my perfect life… but, there always seems to be a wrecking ball waiting for me, and I can’t seem to find my footing anymore.

I don’t know how long Ace lets me talk, interjecting every now and then with thoughts on my situation, before we hear what sounds like an angry woman on the other side of the door.

“Looks like my next appointment is here,” he says, and he doesn’t seem happy about it.

“Is she a shark’s tooth?” I ask. “Or does she have the potential to be one?” He raises his eyes to me.

“You know I can’t tell you that,” he says. “I already told you too much by saying that she’s eccentric and always late.” I shrug.

“I don’t want to know her story. I just want to know why you’re dealing with her. You’re clearly not happy that she’s here, so why put yourself through this?” What a way to start the week.

“Don’t try to shrink me,” he says as the voices on the other side of the door get sharper and louder. “Physician, heal thyself.”

Well, that’s something that I certainly don’t want to hear.

The next sound has Ace sitting forward in his seat a bit. It sounds like the outside door opens, and the voices are still sharp. He looks like a dog when their ears stand up because they heard something.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“This room is semi-soundproof for patient privacy. If I can hear it, it’s loud.” Just as he looks like he’s about to stand, there’s an insistent knock at the door and Amber comes marching in.

“Mrs. Re… Havisham is demanding to speak to you now,” Amber says. Her face is flushed and she’s talking through her teeth. “She wants to know why you won’t end the current session since it ran over into her time.” I roll my eyes.

“I can leave,” I say reaching for my purse. Ace stands.

“No, you stay. This woman has dominated my Monday mornings long enough and now, she’s got my wife looking like it’s been a long day and the day just started.” Ace walks to the door and throws it open.

“Dr. Avery…” A woman’s indignant voice begins, but Ace interrupts her.

“No!” he says, shutting her down immediately. “I talk, you listen. What did you say to my wife?”

I can’t see her face, but Ms. Havisham is struck dumb for several moments. Ace says nothing and neither does Amber while Ms. Havisham formulates an answer.

“Your… wife?” she says.

“Yes, my wife!” Ace shoots, pointing at Amber. “What did you say to her?”

“I… Well, I…” At first, she stutters over her words. Then, her voice takes that indignant tone again. “I simply wanted to know what was taking so long. My appointment was fifteen minutes ago…”

“And you’re late… again!” Ace chides. “It amazes me that you expect for someone to value your time, yet you value no one else’s!” he adds. “Amber, what did she say to you?” Amber pauses.

“She demanded that I interrupt your session, go in there and ‘get you’ right now so that you could tell her why someone else was in her slot. When I informed her that just like I won’t interrupt her sessions when another patient shows up, I won’t interrupt you when you’re in with another patient, she became so belligerent with me that this gentleman came in from outside to make sure that I was alright.”

By this gentleman, I assume that she means Chuck.

“I see,” Ace says. “Well, madam, you have interrupted someone else’s session. That means that your session is just going to be that much later. In addition, you have upset my pregnant wife…”

Pregnant? Amber’s pregnant?

“If you ever do that again, you can find yourself another therapist.” I hear her gasp.

“Well!” she hisses. “There are hundreds of therapists in the Seattle area!” she shoots.

“That’s right. Feel free to go to any one of them and see which one of them will tolerate your behavior for as long as I have. Amber, prepare her file for the next doctor. Mr. Davenport, do you mind staying in here with my wife for a few more minutes?”

“Not at all,” I hear Chuck say.

“Your wife isn’t in any dan…” Before her sentence is finished, Ace slams the door. He turns his attention to me.

“I didn’t mean for you to lose a patient,” I protest.

“I didn’t lose a patient. I dropped her,” he corrects. “I can count on one hand how many patients I’ve dropped in my whole career because I don’t like doing it, but that woman has been asking for it. I don’t even know if she really needs help or if she just comes to complain.” I’ve had those. That last patient that I couldn’t shake who simply refused to believe that I was discontinuing my private practice. Bitch, I married a billionaire. What if I wanted to just sit around and eat bonbons all day because I could?

“When were you going to tell me that Amber was pregnant?” I ask.

“Well, I haven’t seen you in a while, have I?” he retorts. Touché.

“How far along is she?” I ask.

“Eight weeks. Don’t get off the subject.” He’s a bit riled now and I think he’s about to let me have it. “So, a really, really bad thing happened to you. It shook your belief in everything you thought you knew. You thought your husband was Prince Charming working on becoming Mr. Perfect and you found out that he wasn’t. He’s a plain old, messed up human being just like you. The only difference is that he was a billionaire when you met him. So, he fell off that pedestal that you put him on. You don’t think you fell, too? You need to stop moping around behaving like a kid who just learned there’s no Easter Bunny!”

I’m stunned by the tone he’s taking with me. I must look like a deer stuck in headlights.

“And stop looking at me like that,” he scolds. “I’ve been pussy-footing around with you for over an hour trying to get you to admit what’s going on with you. I already know and so do you! This is one of the very reasons that doctors make the worst patients,” he says. “You won’t accept the prognosis when it comes down to yourself. You want a second opinion even when the first one came from you.”

I glare at him like he has lost his mind.

“You know exactly what’s wrong with you, Doctor,” he continues. “You had a setback. A very traumatic thing happened to you and caused your progress to regress. And as many times as you’ve seen it, you won’t accept it for yourself because it’s too scary looking at it from the inside out. If someone were sitting in your office having this same conversation with you, what would you tell them?” I drop my head.

“I would give them that same old ‘trouble don’t last always’ speech,” I reply.

“Yes, you would, and you know why? Because you’re right. Trouble don’t last always. We’ve been over all of your coping mechanisms time and time again. You have all the tools you need to get through this—as a patient and as a doctor. Everything you’ve learned has prepared you for this moment. Your past was practice. Everything was bringing you to now. This isn’t the last bad thing that will happen to you and I’m not going to pull your leg—this probably won’t be the worst. So, you’ve got three choices… you can crawl into a corner and hide from the world in your little gloom-and-doom bubble, you can roll over and die right now, or you can choose to live! Love your husband with all his flaws and fuck-ups as much as he loves you with all of yours. Love those two beautiful babies that you have that I still haven’t met, by the way. Fight the battles you know are coming, fight for your causes. And. Live. Now what are you going to do, Dr. Grey?”

Holy cow, Batman. I’ve never given it to one of my patients with both barrels like that, ever… even when I know they needed it.

“Where do I start?” I say, my voice cracking and my eyes welling with unwelcomed tears. He pauses and sighs.

“You know what to do,” he says, his voice softening. “You just don’t want to do it because it’s hard work and it takes time. You know and understand that bad things happen and right now, you’re living in the gloom and doom… and that’s not acceptable. You’re not another shark’s tooth and you never will be. I’ve seen you, Ana, at your best and your worst. You’re too strong for that and you know too much. So, get your ass up, come the hell out of that gloom closet, and do what you need to do. You start from the beginning… from the first thing that you can do, and only you know what that is. Now, go do it. There’s nothing else for me to say.”

My lip trembles and I wipe away the tears that burn down my cheek. Shit. The beginning. Fuck if I want to do that. I stand and put my purse on my shoulder.

“Thank you for seeing me on such short notice,” I say, clearing my throat because my voice is still cracking. I pull my phone from my purse and don’t raise my eyes to his.

“You needed it,” he says. “Let me know if I’ll still see you on Friday. I think it may be a good idea.” I nod as I’m dialing Chuck’s number and put my phone up to my ear.

“Hello.”

“Is that crazy bitch still out there?” I ask.

“Yes, ma’am.” I sigh.

“Does your patio have an exit to the sidewalk or something?” I ask Ace.

“It exits to the alley, but that leads to the parking lot,” he answers. I nod.

“I’m going to the car,” I say to Chuck. “I’m taking the back way. I’m sure to end up in the papers as the root of all evil if that woman sees that I’m the reason she was denied access!”

“Okay, what do you want me to do?” Chuck asks.

“Stay with Amber,” I tell him. “Once I’m gone, Ace can come out and deal with his impatient patient.”

“Agreed,” Chuck says, and we end the call. Ace sighs.

“Can’t he just stay for a while?” Ace laments, rubbing his eyes.

“Nope. If I have to deal with the gloom closet, you have to deal with Ms. Havisham.” He twists his lips.

“Fair enough,” he says as he opens the patio door for me. “Call me if you need me.” I nod.

“I will,” I say as I walk out to the patio. It’s pretty out here. I wonder if he’s ever held any sessions out here? It might be a good idea… when it’s warm.

I exit the gate and walk down the short alley to the parking lot and my car. I guess Ace took a little time to himself before facing Ms. Havisham because it takes Chuck another fifteen minutes to come out to the parking lot. We only took one car today—my car—and it got me to thinking…

“Chuck, would you mind terribly if I bought Keri a car?” I ask. His brow furrows.

“You should probably be asking Keri that,” he replies, “but there’s a fleet of cars at the Crossing. Why would you want to buy her one?”

“Because none of them have the built-in car seats except mine,” I say. “I want her to have the ability to be more mobile with the children.” He raises his eyebrows as he pulls into traffic.

“You have something in mind?” he asks. I shrug.

“I don’t know,” I tell him. “Rebe and Tate are always with the children. I guess it won’t matter if they’re following her car or following mine.” Chuck nods.

“That’s true.” He falls silent for a moment.

“What happened with the crazy bitch after Ace slammed the door in her face?” The corner of Chuck’s mouth rises a bit.

“We played the stare game for a few seconds. Then she starts talking to Amber about rescheduling her appointment. Amber told her that the doctor was booked and that she could call her if anyone cancelled. She didn’t like that.”

“I can imagine,” I say.

“So, she started getting a little huffy with Amber until I stepped closer to Amber’s desk and cleared my throat. She calmed down again and agreed to wait for the doctor to finish his session with you. When Ace came to get her, she was as gentle as a lamb.” I shake my head.

“Amber’s pregnant,” I say more to myself than to Chuck. “Geez, she’s not going to be able to deal with too many more huffy attitudes. I hope that crazy woman was a one-off.” Chuck shrugs.

“I’m sure they’ll figure it out,” he says. “Surely, neither of them will do anything to put the baby in danger.” I nod.

“By the way, does Keri have a U.S. driver’s license?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“She has an international driver’s license,” he says. “She got it when she was here before… got my hopes all up.” He says the last line partially in jest and partially seriously.

“You’ve been staying with us for nearly a year now,” I say. “What about your house on Bainbridge?” He shrugs.

“I get out there as often as I can,” he says. “I have a caretaker staying there right now. I don’t want to sell it, but… I want to be with Keri, so…” He trails off and shrugs.

“Well, I plan to keep her employed for a really long time,” I warn him. “She’s really good with the twins and I have no idea how I would survive without her.” Chuck throws a quick glance at me then back at the road.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he says.

*-*

“You’re looking well,” Grace says to me when I get to the Center. I think she’s being nice because I feel a little waterlogged from the crying and not quite myself.

“Thank you, Grace,” I reply. “Anything new brewing?” She raises an eyebrow.

“The licensing board called,” she says. I turn to look at her. “They want a formal statement about our accreditation experience with Gloria.” I sigh.

“Will I have to see Liam?” I ask. She frowns.

“Not… that I know of,” she says. “Ana, did something happen with Liam? Is that why Christian left?” I twist my lips. God, I don’t want to go through this again.

“Liam tried to kiss me,” I say. Grace’s eyes widen. “Christian walked in on it. He was going to kill Liam, so I told him to go home. He already has a record of violence and I didn’t want him to land in jail again.” I drop my head, the pain of the separation flooding me again.

“I have no idea what he heard,” I continue, my voice cracking, “but whatever he heard, it equated to ‘leave the country,’ so he did.” I clear my throat, but I’m unsuccessful in stopping those damn tears… again.

“I know he was hurt… and angry… and any number of other things…” I trail off and wipe my tears. “We’re working on it,” I say, finally. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

“The cliff?” she asks, her brow furrowed. I sigh.

“I was drunk, and I slipped,” I reply. “It was stupid, but it wasn’t suicidal.” She sighs.

“Why don’t you take some time off?” she says. “The only time you took off was when you fell off the cliff and that couldn’t have been very relaxing.”

“I plan to,” I tell her honestly. “Some half days… and some whole days. Not today though.” She nods.

“Just… do, okay?” Grace says. I nod.

“I’m going to my office,” I tell her. “Can you make sure that I’m not disturbed for about an hour?” She nods.

“Sure thing,” she says with a smile. I sigh and go to my office. When I step inside and close the door, I’m immediately struck by how clinical it feels. Every time I step in this office, it’s feels… clean, and that’s it. It definitely needs a makeover.

That reminds me… I wonder what’s going on with John? Did he quit? Is his son still sick?

I’ll have to ask about that later. Right now, I need some… changes.

Back to the beginning. Good fucking grief.

I’m the first one to know that going back to the beginning is going to take baby steps… big, huge, mondo… baby steps. Geez. I pick up my phone and dial.

“Grace Grey,” she answers.

“Grace, I’m going to need two hours… maybe two and a half, I don’t know…”

“Dear, call me when you’re available. I’ll make sure no one disturbs you.” I sigh.

“Thank you, Grace.” I replace the receiver and look at the room. The extra desk from when John shared the space with me is still here. I never saw fit to move it even though he moved to a separate space. We wanted to keep costs down on decorating, but I’m going to have to spend my own money in this space and put the furniture in storage somewhere since it still belongs to the Center.

For no apparent reason that I can decipher at the moment, I decide to sit on the floor in the middle of the room. I just… get a feel for it… and now seems like the perfect time to meditate.


CHRISTIAN

“Well, you’re the last person I expected to see.”

I asked around how I could contact one certain inspector for the licensing board. I didn’t get the chance to say anything to this asshole since I wanted to literally rearrange his face. Once I got the information on how to reach him, I don’t bother calling. No, this conversation is a bit too important and a bit too delicate for a phone call. Now that the Center has its accreditation and Felton has got das boot, there’s nothing to stop me from confronting Mr. Casanova here and getting some much-needed answers.

Once I found out who he was, I made an appointment to meet with him on a licensing matter under an alias. I couldn’t very well tell his assistant that Christian Grey wanted to meet with him. He’d suddenly get sick and pawn me off on someone else. It’s good to have friends in high places.

So, I sit in one of these generic fucking offices that you find in all state or municipal building—some forgotten space with empty cubicles and a meeting table tossed in. I deliberately sit with my back to the door, not that you probably can’t tell who I am anyway. Nonetheless, in walks this tall, good-looking fucker in a nice suit—not designer, but well-made—who, the last time I saw him, was leaning in to kiss my wife.

Liam Westwick, Chapter 43

“Come on, you had to expect to see me somewhere at some point. You just didn’t expect me to come to you.”

“I should probably have someone else present for this meeting, Mr. Taylor,” he says as he heads for the door.

“You do that,” I say calmly, “if you want someone else to hear me ask you questions about my wife!” I bite out the last two words. I hear his footfalls pause behind me, most likely right at the door. “This conversation can happen right here and now, or it can happen later in a different setting, but it’s going to happen… Liam.” I inject as much venom in his name as I can. He walks back to the table and sits across from me.

And his eyes aren’t that goddamn blue.

“Does your wife know you’re here?” he asks his voice low.

“No,” I say entwining my fingers on the table in front of me. “Why don’t you call her? I’m only too sure she’d love to join us. Aren’t you?”

“I didn’t get that impression,” he replies, his voice betraying his discomfort.

“You didn’t?” I ask, leaning in a bit. “Exactly what impression did you get when you were leaning in to kiss my wife?” He glares at me and I glare right back. This ain’t the stare game, motherfucker. I could glare at you for three days and not blink.

“I don’t have an answer for you,” he says, finally.

“That’s seems to be going around,” I snap. His eyebrows rise, and I realize that I may have inadvertently revealed a weakness on the part of my wife. So, I quickly turn that shit around. “She doesn’t have an answer as to why you tried to kiss her either.”

His demeanor shows the slightest drop, and it just makes me angrier. This fucker still has hope!

“You know,” I lean back in my seat, “I was angry enough to rip your throat out with my bare hands that night. My wife knew that; she saw that; and she diffused the situation the best that she could that night, but it wasn’t enough. I was still blazingly angry, and it did cause problems in our relationship.” He clears his throat.

“No offense, Mr. Grey, but if one incident caused problems in your relationship, then there were problems before I arrived.” Aren’t you the confident little fucker?

“Don’t get cute with me, fucker, I don’t like it,” I hiss. “The only thing saving you right now are these four walls. Don’t think for a second that I can’t get to you outside of them.”

“Threats aren’t necessary, Mr. Grey,” he says, straightening his back.

“Not threats,” I reply. “Promises. You wanna poke the bear, you go right ahead.” We sit and glare at each other for a few minutes more. I don’t break my glare when I continue talking.

“When the red haze and the urge to murder you subsided,” I begin, my voice cold and menacing, “I recalled what my wife said to you after she was pushing you away. Her exact words were, and I quote, ‘I’ve told you. I’m married.’” His pupils constrict when he hears this. He must have thought I didn’t hear Butterfly tell him that she was married… which, at first, I didn’t remember it. But I can see that I’m on to something here.

“If she had already made it clear to you that she was married, why were you leaning into her to kiss her? Is that a habit of yours—kissing married women?”

“No,” he answers, his teeth clenched.

“Well, that part of the conversation made me realize that she must have had that conversation with you before. How many times did she have the conversation with you that she was married?”

His face pales, and I’m sure that my wife tried to keep the dog on a leash more than once. She should have told me about this asshole the first time he approached her in any inappropriate manner. One visit from me to the Center while he was investigating would have put this fucker in his place, but that’s water under the bridge now.

“Your wife is a very beautiful woman,” he says. “Any man could lose himself for a moment—act impulsively…”

“Only this wasn’t impulse, because she told you more than once that she was married,” I interrupt his excuse. “You’re right, she’s beautiful. She’s fucking gorgeous, but that’s no excuse.”

Pretty Boy is at another loss for words. So, after we sit there in silence for a few minutes—and him losing the glare contest at least five times—I feel the need to wrap this shit up.

“Since you apparently don’t watch the news, don’t look at any social columns, follow any blogs or read any gossip rags, I’ll make this blazingly clear to you. I am the most jealous and possessive motherfucker you will ever meet in your goddamn life. That woman is my soul. She’s my heart, she’s the fiber of my being; she and my children are my very reason for living. And I’ll be damned straight to hell if I allow some pretty-boy-fuck to slip in the backdoor and fuck up my beautiful life with my beautiful wife! If you’re looking for some rich sugar-momma, some nice ass to drill in the dark, or some pretty bracelet to hang on your arm, look somewhere else because, Liam…”

“I…”
“Will…”
Destroy…
“You!”

The voice that comes from my throat frightens even me, but I’m watching Pretty Boy with the glassy blue eyes sitting here trying not to sweat. That’s when it occurs to me…

The entire time he’s sitting here, his eyes have been this pale blue—like clear water right at the edge of the beach. There’s been nothing striking whatsoever about his eyes.

Yet, right when my Butterfly is about to come, her eyes change—they turn to this soul-shaking nearly royal blue that sees right through you and makes everything inside of you stop. If she walked around with those blue eyes all day long, everybody in a 50-foot radius of her would stop like a freeze frame, particularly members of the opposite sex.

This fucker’s eyes never changed once since I’ve been here, so if his eyes were that blue at the time to cause my wife to pause, that means that any time he was around her, he must have been in a constant state of arousal, or at least heightened fucking sexual awareness. Butterfly has never looked in the mirror to see her own eyes when she’s coming… not that I know of, anyway. She doesn’t know what that shit does to you…

… Unless those eyes were looking back at her.

“Son of a bitch,” I hiss. I turn an even more hateful glare on this fucker. I can’t remember despising anybody this much when it came to my wife, not even Cholometes.

“If the licensing board needs anything else from Helping Hands, ever, you better make sure somebody else goes, because if you ever contact my wife… if you ever come anywhere near my wife again, I don’t care who you call—your ass is mine, and for your sake, I hope that’s very clear.” I look up at the eye in the sky.

“Did you get that?” I say to the camera before fixing my gaze on Liam again. I know that the eye doesn’t have sound. I also know that this particular eye has been deactivated for our meeting—but he doesn’t. So, my gesture simply added a little drama to our exchange.

Like I said, friends in high places.

I stand from the table, straighten my suit, turn around and leave the room.

*-*

“You’re going to teach me what?”

“Scrambled eggs,” Gail says with a smiling Sophie standing next to her. We’ve come straight home after stopping at school to get Sophie. A lot of the students appeared to meander around the car as she was coming out of the school. When we asked her why, she admitted that they might be hoping to get a glimpse of me.

Me? Why? Why would a bunch of middle school kids be concerned about me?

“Did you tell them that I work for Christian?” Jason had asked.

“Well, they already knew that, Dad,” Sophie replied, “but Ana came up for lunch a few times.”

I didn’t know that she and Sophie were that close. There seems to be a lot that I don’t know… but back to these eggs.

“Eggs does not a gourmet meal make, Mrs. Taylor,” I scold.

“You have to crawl before you can walk, Mr. Grey,” she retorts. “When you can make scrambled eggs—light, fluffy, edible scrambled eggs with no eggshells that don’t stick to the pan, you can move on to a more complicated meal. Until then, you learn scrambled eggs.” I shrug. Fair enough. Sophie giggles.

“It’s not as easy as you think, Uncle Christian,” she says, her voice filled with mirth.

“Then, I guess I’ll need you to help me, won’t I?” I say, honestly. Sophie nods, and we proceed to crack eggs.

The carnage! I can’t begin to imagine how many poor eggs had to die before I even learned how to crack an egg without getting half the shell in the bowl or half the egg on the floor! When I finally get to five eggs in succession—in the bowl with no shell… hours later, I might add—that’s when Gail tells me that even the most accomplished chefs sometimes get a shell in the bowl. They just take it out before they cook them.

I could kill her.

On to whisking.

That’s the easy part. She tried to make it complicated… “It’s all in the wrist,” but all she had to do was tell me what to do and I did it. Seasoning is a little more complicated.

A pinch of salt…
A sprinkle of pepper…
I have big hands, so my pinch is more like two pinches.

I tried to do a pat of butter and ended up with a glomp… if that’s even a word. That’s what Sophie called it.

Needless to say, my eggs didn’t turn out fluffy and they did stick to the pan, so we’ll be picking this lesson up again. However, I know how to crack them without shells, get them into the bowl and not on the floor, whisk them thoroughly, and I know that my pinch is actually two pinches. That’s one hell of a start for a man that could do nothing more than press buttons on the microwave.

We slaughtered eggs until Ms. Solomon threw us out the kitchen to get dinner ready. It’s now that I realize that Butterfly isn’t home yet. Chuck was supposed to warn us when they were on their way home so that I could get my ass out of the kitchen, but we got no warning. I go in search of Jason. I didn’t have to go far.

“How did the cooking lesson go?” he asks, kicked back on one of the sofas in the family room watching television. I fall down on the sofa next to him.

“Lots of chickens sacrificed their babies to the cooking gods today,” I say, thinking of all the eggs I murdered. “No word from Chuck?”

“Yeah,” he says. “He called a couple of hours ago in the middle of the poultry massacre. He said they were staying late at the Center.” My eyes shoot to Jason.

“What else did he say?” I ask, trying to hide the panic in the back of my head. Jason breaks his gaze from the television and turns his head to me.

“Nothing,” he says, his brow furrowed, “just that they were staying late.” I nod and turn my gaze to the television, paying absolutely no attention to what’s playing. She wouldn’t see him again after what we’ve been through. Would he dare go to the Center after my visit today? No, that would be a death wish… though Cholometes endured a street fight to prove his love for her. No, no, no… stop it, Grey. You’re being ridiculous. Butterfly wouldn’t risk our relationship again after everything that’s happened.

Again…

Would Chuck tell us if she was seeing someone else? He didn’t even know Liam tried to kiss her and he was there with her. I know he doesn’t sit under her every second, but how could he have missed that happening… or did he?

“Boss…?”

“I’m… um… going for a ride,” I say, bouncing out of my seat and heading for the mudroom.

“Do you want me to go with you?”

“No!” I say a little too quickly as I spin around on Jason. “No, I’m… I’m fine. I just need some air.” Jason turns off the television and rises slowly from the sofa.

“I’d feel a whole lot better if you just let me come with you,” he says, his voice cajoling. “It’s not like we don’t both know where you’re going.” My shoulders fall. I feel like a kid being caught trying to sneak out of the house after curfew. I sigh.

“You drive,” I say.

*-*

Chuck’s brow furrows when Jason and I walk into the Center.

“Is everything alright?” he asks. He’s at the front desk with the night guard and he stands as we approach. Some silent communication passes between him and Jason, but he doesn’t react.

“I… just wanted to come and ride home with my wife,” I say. Chuck still says nothing, but nods. “Where is she?” He points down the hall.

“Follow the music,” he says. I nod and walk down the hall towards the music… and the dreaded community room. Jason is right behind me. I hear one song stop as I approach and another one starts when I get to the door. My wife is a small ball in the middle of the floor—in yoga pants and a sports bra, and sweating. She’s in the room alone and the music coming from the speakers attached to her iPod bounce acoustically off the walls of the room. I look behind me to see Jason walking back down the hall towards Chuck, so I turn my attention back to my Butterfly.

She raises her arms and slowly unfurls like a flower coming into bloom. One voice speaks of giving up, but she blossoms beautifully, her legs stretching, her arms reaching for… whatever. Her hands are swirling—beautiful gestures that form universes, magic dust flowing from her fingers and filling the room. Somehow, I quietly float in and take a seat as a female voice harmonizes in the tune about giving up. The song is very pretty… if it weren’t for the words.

The last time I watched my wife dance this way, we had disagreed about spanking our children. Her body speaks in a way that no one can hear and yet no one can ignore. If she does this regularly, I never see it. I’ve only seen it twice in the two years that we’ve been together. The song ends with the same two words that started it…

Say Something…

Unlike the last time I watched her dance where she ended up curled in a ball and crying, this time my wife is open on the floor and sweating, her clothes sticking to her like she’s been at this for hours. She slowly rises from the floor and stretches her arms around her body, using the alternate hand to push into the deepest stretch. She doesn’t realize that I’m sitting on the bench until she turns her face in my direction.

I don’t rise to meet her. I just sit there waiting for her to come towards me. I feel like an interloper on her space and time right now… like I should have stayed at home. She goes to the other end of the bench and stops her iPod just as it begins to play another song, then retrieves the towel that she tossed there before proceeding in my direction.

“Was that for me?” I ask, self-centered bastard that I am. She doesn’t react though.

“No, that was for me,” she replies, winded and dabbing her eyes with the towel. I sit up straight.

“I never asked where you learned to do that,” I ask. “I very rarely see you dance like that…” Twice in our entire relationship.

“Modern dance,” she replies. “Elective—I took two semesters in college. Never went anywhere with it, though.”

“You’re good at it,” I tell her. “It seems you took a lot of classes in college I didn’t know about…” Human sexuality, business classes, French—but I knew about that one—now modern dance. Next, she’s going to tell me that she secretly pledged a sorority. “Where did you find the time?”

“It was easier than you think,” she says, her voice impassive. “It’s a side effect of not wanting time to think or remember anything.”

Ouch. I can certainly relate to that.

“So… what brings you here?” she asks, retrieving a bottle of water from the bench.

“I know you’re trying,” I begin, “but you still seem so… distant. I was just…” I trail off.

“You… were worried,” she says. It’s not a question. I know exactly what she’s saying and I drop my gaze. I won’t lie to her.

“Yes,” I say, a bit ashamed. She sighs and wipes the sweat from her forehead.

“Can’t say I blame you,” she says, taking a drink of her water. I look at her.

“We can’t go on like this,” I tell her. She meets my gaze.

“I don’t see that we have a choice, Christian,” she replies. I frown. She can’t be serious.

“I did something that shook your trust in me,” she says, “and you did something that shook my faith in you. I don’t know how to get that back and apparently, you don’t either. It’s just going to take time, I guess.”

I twist my lips. This hurts—the fact that the bliss and happiness that we felt, that we found in each other… it’s gone. We still love each other; we don’t want to be without each other… but that AnaChris bliss… is gone.

“We’re broken,” I say without lifting my head. Butterfly is silent. She’s not even trying to dispel my feelings about our relationship. That’s very discouraging. She sits on the bleachers next to me, wiping the sweat from her chest and neck.

“I went to see Ace today,” she says, before taking another large swallow of her water. That’s a bit of a surprise. “I told him everything. I told him that I didn’t come to talk to him because I was ashamed—ashamed that I had undone all of the progress that we had made. I was afraid of things that went ‘bump’ in the night, and I’ll admit… I still am to some degree. We went through regression therapy. I compiled all these coping mechanisms. I went back to Green Valley and faced my monsters—after I relived that damn beating and went into a catatonic state, that is. I confronted the devils that were Carla Morton, Carly Madison, and even Cody Whitmore to a certain degree, and I came out a better person for it. I have all these things to my benefit—all this stuff that I built up and yet… waking up to face the day is a task.

“Ace let me whine for a while, and then he ripped me a new one. He wouldn’t allow me to wallow or feel sorry for myself even though I’m still feeling it a bit. I’m still afraid—I’m still remiss to go through all this work that I must if I hope to even slightly achieve a shadow of the person that I used to be.”

I look over at her and see that tears have replaced the sweat that was there moments before. She reaches up and wipes one cheek.

“I fell,” she continues. “I fell from the cloud of bliss and comfort that I had been floating in for however long, and I came crashing back to reality at the speed of light. The impact was nearly enough to kill me, but God wasn’t that merciful. I lived. I lived with every ache, every pain, every bad memory, every broken expectation, every shattered delusion…” She trails off.

“Of me?” I ask when she pauses.

“Yes,” she says, “and of me… of us. You can’t love somebody through a tragedy, Christian. You can love them while they’re going through it. You can support them; you can be their anchor, their cheering section, but they have to go through it themselves. It was a tragedy that you walked out and left your family for whatever reason you chose to do it, but as selfish as it sounds, that wasn’t the tragedy for me. The tragedy for me was that I was hopeless and lost and confused and I didn’t have any answers and I was hurting, and then I fell—figuratively and literally—and you were not there.”

Love the Hurt Away. That’s our song and now, she’s saying that we can’t do it.

“I can be all kinds of wrong for what I say, for what I do, and for what I feel, but it doesn’t matter at this point. I was destroyed, almost wishing that I would die, and you were not there. For those reasons, there are several people that I’m sure are not completely convinced that I didn’t jump off that cliff.

“I’m a psychiatrist,” she says. “I’m a professional. I, of all people, know that a seed must lose its protective shell and face utter destruction in order to grow into something more beautiful… more powerful. It changes it’s form completely to become something else completely, and this relationship has lost its protective shell.” I frown deeply. I don’t like where this is going at all.

“What are you saying?” I ask, unable to hide my dismay.

“I’m saying that we have to grow,” she says. “We have to let go of what we were and we have to grow. We’ll never be who we were before because you can’t undo what’s been done. You can’t unhurt me and I can’t unhurt you. We can’t unlearn what we’ve learned. We can’t unlive the experiences and feelings of the last month. They’ll always be a part of us. So, we don’t have any other choice but to move on and grow from here, but this is like losing your virginity, Christian. We can’t go back.”

It sounds so scary… so impossible. I didn’t think I could love my wife more than I did… more than I do, and now she’s saying that we can’t get that back?

“I… don’t think I understand,” I say, my chest hurting so much that I think it’s going to burst. “If we can’t get back the love that we had… the connection that we had, what’s left?” Is this the beginning of the end?

“All that’s left is for us to rebuild and to fight for what we have,” she says, her head down and tears continuing to fall from her eyes and onto her yoga pants.

“I love you as much as I ever have, Anastasia,” I say, my voice cracking.

“I love you, too, Christian,” she says. “My feelings haven’t changed. But you need to understand that the impossible happened… for both of us… and we can’t go back. I didn’t kiss Liam, but it doesn’t matter, because in your eyes, I was still wrong. So, that damage is done. And then, Little Ana fell again. Little Ana is always falling… and nobody was there to catch me. That damage is done, too.

“We can’t go back, and it’s not that we can’t go back to the love that was felt. We can’t go back to the naïveté that was our relationship. We just have to… move forward. There’s no going back.”

I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to do what she’s saying we need to do. I don’t even know where to start. I’ve just loved her all this time—good or bad, thick and thin, sick or well, I’ve just loved her. I don’t know what else to do.

I feel so lost. She’s handed me an impossible task with no instructions. Change our relationship? Change the way we love? Grow how? Suddenly, I feel like that submissive in Elena’s dungeon again, waiting for a command that’s never going to come. I feel her hand cover mine and I turn my gaze to our hands. Hers looks so small over mine… so helpless, and yet… not.

“I love you, Christian,” she says, “and I’m sorry that I hurt you.” I nod and turn my hand over to grasp hers.

“I love you, too,” I choke, turning my gaze to her, “and I’m sorry that I hurt you. I won’t do it again.”

“Yes, you will,” she says without raising her head. “And I’ll hurt you, too. But that’s part of this growth. We’re going to have to figure out how we’re going to handle it.”

I pinch my eyes to push the tears out of them as we squeeze each other’s hands for dear life. Why do I feel like I’m losing my wife?


A/N: “It’s all in the wrist,” Sabrina, but that was when they were cracking the eggs in the movie, not whisking them.

Say Something, I’m Giving Up on You—A Great Big World Featuring Christina Aguilera. This is the song that Ana was dancing to.

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 42—Unbreak My Heart

I have to admit that I was surprised to see so many people express a tone of disappointment in Ana’s feelings. I’ve had times and events in my life where I had to get up every day and push myself just to get to the next minute—where I felt like the world was just going to gobble me up, and I couldn’t talk about it. Talking about it gave it life and I was just trying to deal with it so that I could have the strength to open my eyes the next day. I really thought most people would be able to relate to that… to that feeling of, “My God! What else can go wrong in my life? The minute I sit down and get comfortable, something else happens.” I guess I’m the only one, or at least in very lean company. It’s sad that I appear to be one of the seemingly very few that can empathize with that, but I guess it’s a good thing that the vast majority apparently hasn’t had that experience.

So, this is my second to last prewritten chapter, but the Muse is finally stirring a bit, so I wouldn’t worry about the future.

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

Chapter 42—Unbreak My Heart

ANASTASIA

I spend more time venting and crying with my friends, trying to release the anguish and the hopelessness I feel about the situation. I cry and cry and cry with my best friends holding me for I don’t even know how long. I’m exhausted when it’s all done and glad that Christian didn’t walk in on the display. I’m broken from the self-pity and mourning by the two-way coming to life and telling me that one or both of my children have stirred.

“I’ll go,” Val offers as she stands from the sofa.

“No, I’ll go,” I say, standing behind her and drying my eyes with my sleeve before Al gives me a handkerchief. Those two little bundles of love are the light and joy of my life. Right now, I don’t want to miss a moment with them… even if some evil monster is waiting in the wings to snatch them away from me.

“I’ll come with you, then,” she says with a smile before looking at Al.

“I’ll clean up and put the leftovers away,” he says, his brow furrowed as he examines me. “I’m worried about you, Jewel,” he adds. I smile sadly, my eyes tender from crying.

“I’ll live, Al,” I reply before leaving the parlor.

I’m glad that Keri and Gail didn’t get to the nursery before I did. I really didn’t want to enter into the room to inquiring minds about my obviously red and puffy eyes. We walk in and both children are unsettled. Val gestures me to Minnie’s crib while she goes to Mikey.

“Hey, little man,” I hear her say. “What’s all that noise?” She lifts him out of his crib and quickly checks his diaper before taking him to his changing table. I do the same with Minnie, cooing at her and taking comfort in her beautiful cherubic face with my blue eyes staring back at me under a mop of Christian’s red hair. I had noticed that just in the last month or so, both my children gained their eye color, and Minnie definitely has my eyes while Mikey sports his father’s under my deep mahogany hair. Minnie is happy to get that soiled diaper off her bottom and I let her skin air out a bit before putting another on her.

“Mmm,” Val says, “I love changing diapers.” I grimace as I look over at her and she laughs. “Not the dirty diaper part,” she says. “The part where they’re all clean and you get to use the powder and stuff and they have that new baby smell.” It causes me to chuckle and I welcome the warmth of laughter. As I’m closing Minnie’s onesie, Gail and Keri enter with fresh warmed bottles for the babies. Val throws a look at me and I keep my back to the door. Reading my actions, she takes over.

“Take a break, ladies,” she says, sweetly, heading them off at the door. “We’ve got this watch.”

“Oh,” Gail says in surprise. “You’re fine?”

“Sure,” Val says confidently, “but thanks for the vittles!” The ladies all laugh good-naturedly before Gail adds, “Okay, call us through the two-way if you need us.”

Not wanting to seem rude, I look slightly over my shoulder without revealing my face to them and say, “Thanks, guys,” as normally as I can and attempt to throw them off by concentrating on cooing at my baby. “Is that Mommy’s precious girl? Yes, you are…”

It works.

When Keri and Gail clear the room, I sigh in relief that I didn’t have to convince more people in my life that I’m okay when, in fact, I’m not.

“Thanks,” I say to Val, lifting Minnie into my arms and setting up shop in the window seat with my baby and a bottle since I just had wine. The window seat is what I’m accustomed to, now.

“Don’t mention it,” she says, sitting in Mikey’s rocker and testing his bottle before giving it to him. “Why don’t you come and sit in the rocker? It might help to break old habits.” I look down at my nursing daughter.

“Maybe next time,” I tell her. “I don’t want to disturb Young Miss when she’s eating,” I lie. The truth is that the seat gives me some form of familiarity and comfort now that I’m no longer watching the bridge. I just don’t feel like explaining that to everyone. It would be like telling them that the cliff where I fell is now my favorite spot. It was once, but now, I’ll just be reminded that I could have fallen to my death on a drunken binge.

Val distracts me from my own problems by telling me more about her and Elliot’s Caribbean cruise. I wasn’t surprised that the cruise took them to St. Maarten but not to Anguilla. The boat would probably be larger than the island. She told me about Harrison’s Cave and the beautiful 17th-Century plantation houses and it made me long for our trip to Anguilla. I definitely need a vacation right now to cleanse my body and soul of what’s going on in my life. We had to postpone our Italian vacation, probably until next year since we plan to stay for quite some time. I can’t lie, though. A cruise to anywhere for a week or two would be right up my alley right now.

There’s a tap at the door and Val and I look at each other. It’s one of the men, we already know, but Christian would have just walked in. So, it has to be Al or Elliot. Jason and Chuck would already know that their women are not in the nursery. The door opens and sure enough, there’s my best friend, but behind him is my husband—my tall, beautiful, muscular husband… the cause and cure for my distress all wrapped into one.

“Hey, ladies,” Al says. “How’s it going?” His bad attempt at nonchalance coupled with Christian’s deeply examining gaze on me lets me know that these two gentlemen have been talking… about me. Al is only concerned about me and I love him for it, so I sigh in resignation.

“Better,” I say, unable to hide the crack in my voice from my earlier crying. Christian is obviously uncomfortable looking at me, and I think it’s the window seat. It has definite connotations, and he and Val would much rather that I not sit in it. He stops at the rocker on his way over to me.

“How are you feeling, Val?” he says, placing his hand on her shoulder. She smiles up at him.

“Good,” she nods. “The vacation was fantastic—just what I needed.”

“I’m happy to hear that,” he says to her, genuinely. “You look very well.”

“Thank you,” she says, sincerely and they both turn their eyes to Mikey.

“Hey, Mikey,” Christian says. “Have you been taking good care of these ladies?” Mikey squirms and coos as if in response to his father’s question. Christian gently strokes his hair and turns his attention to me. He walks over to the window seat where Minnie and I sit, Minnie gazing dreamily up at me after being fed and changed. That look would make me move mountains for her. Christian looks intently at me before turning his attention to his daughter.

“Hey, Mouse,” he says, softly, stroking his daughter’s hair like he just did his son’s. He looks longingly at her for a moment before kissing her forehead. Then he gazes at me and does the same, stroking my cheeks where tears stained earlier. He examines me wordlessly before saying, “Al, can you take over? I’d like to talk to my wife.”

“Absolutely,” Al says. “Give me that bundle of pinkness!”

“Oh, no,” Val chides. “You take our godson. I want a little time with our goddaughter. I haven’t seen them in a month!”

“Fine by me,” Al says, relieving Val of Mikey before she comes over and takes Minnie from my arms. I ache a bit when she leaves my grasp but follow Christian out of the room nonetheless as he leads me by the hand. When we get to the hallway and he closes the door, he embraces me solidly and kisses me deeply, catching me totally by surprise. I gasp at the longing, giving nature of the kiss, my hands falling lazily at my sides as his hand flattens against my back, pressing me firmly into his body. My head lulls back and I let him have my lips, my mouth, my tongue—feeding me while he feasts on my kisses. I don’t know if I’m breathing or not, but I bask in the warmth and safety of his arms, the tenderness yet firmness and possessiveness of his kiss… giving and taking at the same time. When our lips part, I can feel the breath between us. I keep my eyes closed to commit the moment to memory—for cold nights when…

“You know how much I love you, don’t you?” he says, his lips only brushing mine.

“Yes,” I breathe, my eyes still closed, drunk and a bit wobbly from his kiss and his presence.

“Good,” he breathes, taking my lips again.

After an intense, but quick impromptu make-out session in the hallway, Christian leads me to our room. I moved back in a few days ago, realizing that it didn’t really make much sense to sleep in the guest room anymore. I still have problems getting to sleep, but it’s getting better. It’s especially easy when Christian finds that I can’t rest and finds some way to worship my body until I’m tuckered out. I can really see that he’s trying. I wish I could just settle into the comfort.

Instead of stopping at the bedroom, he leads me right into my bathroom and lifts me up onto the marble vanity. He turns on the cold water and retrieves a clean washcloth. After wetting the washcloth and wringing most of the water out of it, he stands in front of me, lifts my chin and begins to sponge my cheeks.

Can’t hide anything from Mr. Grey.

I close my eyes and the cool cloth moves to my eyelids. The relief on the swollen orbs is immediate. I hear him moistening the cloth again and this time, he holds my head all the way back and places a compress over my eyes. A few moments later, a second cloth is sponging my cheeks, my jaw, and my neck again.

“Your cheeks are still tear-stained,” he says softly, “and your eyes are red and puffy. You look tired.” I don’t respond. I just sit on the vanity and let the protector and caregiver have his way, savoring these moments and committing them to my mental Rolodex. He let me sit there for several minutes—or at least it felt that way—replacing the compress one time, and letting the cold water soothe the ache from my eyes as he gently sponges my face with the other washcloth. He stops at my lips and sponges them gently. He’s now caressing my lips with his fingertips and the cloth and my breath catches. He adds gentle kisses to the mix and I melt at the sensation. My senses are all hyper-focused on my lips and his lips and his fingers when his mouth softly covers mine again, molding gently into them and against them.

Somehow, I feel this is not enough for him.

His arms move to my waist then quickly up my body, lifting my arms and placing them demanding over his shoulders. I immediately take my cue and wrap my arms around his neck, thrusting my hands into his hair. He gasps into my mouth and wraps his arms around me again, curling his body around mine while taking and giving feverish kisses. My body is alight again as he holds me and kisses me, melding into me and devouring me and I wrap my legs around his hips. He pulls my shirt out of my jeans and caresses the skin on my stomach and back.

My back… the garden.

I blaze like fresh, new embers as my body fires with arousal. My breath quickens and his tongue leisurely and sensuously explores my mouth until I feel that I can’t take it anymore. He pulls back from me and gazes into my eyes. Seeing whatever it is that he needs to see, he lifts me from the vanity, my body still wrapped around him, and takes me to our bed.

Lying me down on my back, he removes my hands from his neck and places them on the bed, holding them down in both of his while he kisses me. I can barely stand it; I’m suddenly so goddamn needy again. His lips travel from my lips to my neck while his hands slide down my arms to the buttons at my breast. I leave my hands by the side of my head. I keep my eyes closed as his lips follow his fingers, unbuttoning my shirt, down my breast, my torso, my belly.

Christian…

That familiar yearning swells up in me and I can hardly breathe. I want him to make it right—take away this feeling of fear and sadness… make it like it once was between us… please, make it like it was…

He unhooks the clasp of my bra between my breasts and pushes the cups aside, gently cupping my breasts while he kisses the mounds. His tenderness is driving me mad. I’m almost dysfunctional with need.

He kisses along the waistband of my jeans as he opens the button and unzips my pants, kissing along the waistband of the hip-hugger panties underneath. I bite my lip to keep from making a sound, taking deep breaths to control my passion and my body. There’s a bit of movement on the bed, and then he pushes his hands into my jeans, grasping the waistband and pulling them and my panties off at the same time, pushing my ballet flats off my feet before my pants and underwear pass my ankles.

There’s a pause for a few moments, but when he climbs back up to me, I feel his skin against mine—his whole body. He’s naked. I feel his erection against my thigh as he lifts me from the bed, kissing me deliciously while pushing my bra and shirt off my shoulders. He lays me back on the bed, his face never more than a breath from mine. He kisses me again as his hands run down my body, caressing my sides and hips until he reaches my thighs.

He pulls them up, roughly opening me to him, his rock-hard erection pressing into my stomach. God, I want him so badly. I need to feel him, need to put another moment in the reservoir—another cherished time… please… hurry.

He slides his arms under mine until he’s cupping my shoulders in either hand, then he nestles his erection between my legs, between my lips. God, he feels so good. I throw my head back as his lips find the valley of my breasts and he grinds the length of his shaft up and down along my lips, my labia, my clit…

Oh, my God… Oh, my God, this is torture.

Neither of us says anything or makes a sound. He just continues to drag his length up and down as he kisses wherever his mouth can reach. When he clamps down on a nipple, then teases it with his tongue, I feel my orgasm building, knocking at the door in no time flat. Just as I think it’s about to blow, he stops and rises off of me a bit. He looks hungrily into my eyes and pushes my legs open farther with his body. Simultaneously, he takes both of my hands and plants them above my head, my arms bent with his fingers entwined in mine, while raising his hips to position the head of his long hard cock at my vaginal opening.

He pauses for a minute, holding my gaze while his hips are suspended in the air. Without warning, he thrusts all the way into me, balls deep, pulling my hands down at the same time for leverage. A searing pain rips through me like I’m losing my virginity all over again, but it’s quickly replaced with the pleasure that left my loins only moments ago. He trembles at the first drive into me, both of us still managing to remain silent through what was obviously a very powerful feeling in our nether-regions. Three strokes later and I’m gasping through my orgasm as Christian pushes slowly and deeply into me, kissing my cheek, my neck, the corners of my mouth.

I’m whimpering out the aftershocks as he settles his weight onto me and begins to make love to me, holding my hands down and pushing into me, his full body lying over mine, his skin rubbing against me as if he needs as much of it to touch as possible. His mouth covers mine and he bestows upon me the most delicious, succulent kisses my soul can take. I’m lost in him and he’s owning me, pushing himself into me—mind, body, and soul. I relish in the feeling, absorbing every stroke and every emotion—the hot, hardness of his dick; the meticulous concentration in his stroke; the possessiveness of him holding my hands down; the luscious kisses that give and take from my lips. It’s only minutes after the first orgasm that the second one begins to creep into my loins. The onslaught of sensations overwhelms my senses and my second orgasm burns against his cock once more, this time leaving lots of juices to coat his erection.

He finally releases my lips and I can feel his gaze on me even though my eyes are closed.

Open your eyes.

I think I heard it, but I’m not sure. Nonetheless, I open my eyes, my gaze no doubt swimming in satisfaction from my prior two orgasms.

You’re so beautiful.

Again, not sure if I heard it, but I see it in his eyes and feel it in his delicious grind. I feel myself rising again and wonder how many times I can come in quick succession. God, it feels so good, and this one decides to give lubrication before it strikes.

“Oh, God, baby,” he says softly in my ear, “your so wet… so hungry for me…”

“Yes, Christian,” I breathe as my third orgasm quickly creeps up on me, “only you.” He raises his eyes to me, never losing his rhythm.

“Say it again,” he whispers.

“Yes… Christian…” I gasp as the feeling crawls through my thighs and up my pelvis, “only you.”

“Again… please…” His stroke deepens, and my pelvis threatens to implode. I throw my head back in sweet agony as it approaches quickly… almost… almost…

“Only… Christian… only you…” He groans, sweet and deep, his face buried in my neck, pushing me so high, so deep, my God…

“Please…” he beseeches me deep from his chest, “… again!”

I can’t withstand it any more.

“Ho… ho…” I try to speak as my third orgasm crashes down on me. I grip his fingers tight to force the words out of my mouth. “Ho… honly… y-you…Christian… only… only you… only you!” I cry out as my orgasm rips through me again, bringing passion and relief that I didn’t feel with the first two. My back arches and my hands tighten as I helplessly repeat the last two words through a climax blasting through my extremities and leaving me helpless to its wrath.

“Jesus!” he bites out as I feel him stiffen and empty hard, throbbing, and thick into me. His teeth grit and the same noise comes from his throat as he presses hard into me, unable to move through his paralyzing orgasm. He squeezes my hands until it feels like the blood flow stops and I lay there, allowing him to use me as the vessel that he needs right now and savoring every moment of it—his weight pressing down on me; his hands painfully gripping mine; his breath caught and held in his chest as his body is pulled taut, stretched like a rubber band and helpless until his passion releases him.

“Jesus… Jesus, Jesus…” he gasps as the orgasm finally releases his muscles. He showers my neck with kisses as he catches his breath, his cock still throbbing inside me, my core still throbbing around him.

“I didn’t…” he begins as he gently massages my hands. “Did I…?”

“No, no,” I silence him as he continues to catch his breath. He still kisses me as he moves to roll me on top of him.

“No, please,” I beg, wanting to feel his weight on me a little longer. He looks down into my eyes and I gaze back at him, beseeching him not to move. He lies back down on top of me, one hand cradling my cheek, the other still holding my hand over my head while he kisses my exposed cheek softly.

“And only you, my love,” he says softly, between kisses. “Only ever you…”

*-*

“This wasn’t my intention when I pulled you away from our children,” he says, caressing my stomach gently in our post-orgasmic haze.

“No?” I say, turning my gaze to him. He shakes his head.

“I really did want to talk… really do,” he replies, “but I saw you in the window and at first, I just wanted to get you out of there. Then, when the light hit your face, I knew that you had been crying. Al told me that you were upset, and he told me why, but he didn’t tell me that you were crying. I just wanted to wash your face and get rid of the puffiness in your eyes… but most of all, I just don’t want you to cry anymore.”

That’s not likely, dear. The fates are even using you against me right now. That’s why I’m internalizing every good moment, every precious and tender moment, every sensual moment, so that I don’t lose my mind when they decide to attack again.

“Jason and Gail want to have another… session with us, if you’re up to it. They were waiting in the den when I came to get you. They’re most likely off doing something else by now. Do you want to talk or would you rather not?” I sigh. Again, I know he means well, but right now, I don’t see that talking will help me.

“Sure,” I concede, wanting to appease him. I move to get up and he stops me.

“Not yet,” he says. “Just a few more minutes.” Fine by me.

“Okay,” I say softly, relaxing into his touch.

As agreed, a few minutes later, we rise and get back into our clothes. He takes me by the hand and leads me to the elevator. He stands behind me with his arms protectively wrapped around me while we ride to the ground floor. We go to his den, intent on calling Gail and Jason, only to find them tangled in each other’s arms, kissing passionately on the sofa. Though they are fully dressed, the distinct smell of sex hangs in the air. Christian stands there frowning for a moment and I’m in stunned awe. They didn’t even hear us come in. Christian clears his throat and although Gail jumps a bit, Jason just looks over at Christian.

“You better not have fucked on my piano,” he says, leading me into the room and examining his piano for—I don’t know, ass marks?

“No, we didn’t fuck on your precious piano,” Jason says. Gail hides her face while I stifle a laugh. “I won’t bother asking what took you so long. You look fresh as a bunny.”

“You should talk,” Christian says, satisfied that there was no coitus on his baby grand. “Don’t fuck in my den, Jason.”

You should talk,” Jason retorts. “Is there any room in this house you haven’t fucked in?”

“Yes, there is, and that’s beside the point,” Christian replies. “I fuck in my den. You don’t fuck in my den!”

“Okay, boys, that’s enough,” Gail says, after her face has turned fifty shades of red from pastel to crimson. “We got in a quickie while we were waiting we’re sorry it won’t happen again!” She spit it all out in one breath without raising her eyes to me or Christian and I’m fighting with all my might not to break out in hilarious laughter. I’m immune to this. Among other things, last year, I walked right in on these Neanderthals settling a bet on whether or not Christian and I were upstairs fucking. I remember leaving Chuck with a visual he’ll never forget. I also won’t embarrass her with the time that I was shoved under Christian’s desk pleasuring him when Jason walked in unannounced and it was my disembodied voice that convinced him to leave. I’m not modest about our sex life, but apparently, Gail is modest about hers.

“You should take a page from your wife’s book about humility, Mr. Taylor,” Christian says. “Thank you, Gail. It’s quite alright. Butterfly and I did take a while. We apologize.” She nods quickly, obviously anxious to change the topic. “As requested, we are here, though a bit detained.”

Gail straightens her clothes and sits up on the sofa. Jason sits up, too, and zeroes right in on me.

“You don’t talk much anymore, Your Highness,” he says, examining me. “Are you afraid that you’ll say too much?”

I shrug. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t talking. I just don’t have much to say.

“I… uh, it’s not intentional. I just don’t have much to say.”

“That’s not the Ana I know,” he says. “The Ana I knew before this whole mess was outspoken and had a lot to say. You’ve turned into a bit of a mute and you’ve missed four appointments with your therapist.” My eyes widen, and I glare at him.

“Are you keeping tabs on me?” I accuse. He looks at me with a surprised, horrified look on his face.

“Um, yah, that’s my job!” he retorts. “I knew what you were doing even when we weren’t here.” He gestures to himself. “Head of personal security? Everybody reports to me? Chuck, Ben, Chance, Rebe, Tate, Lurch… they all report to me?” He’s saying this waiting for me to catch the hint on how ridiculous my question was, which I do… I shrug and shake my head, murmuring my apologies.

“Accepted, but you still haven’t answered my question,” he says. “You haven’t seen Ace and you haven’t seen Dr. Baker,” he points an accusing finger at Christian. “What’s going on?” I turn my gaze to Christian. He hasn’t seen Dr. Baker?

“I see Dr. Baker on an as-needed basis, not regularly,” he defends.

“You don’t think it’s needed?” he asks.

“She can’t help me in terms of my marriage,” he protests. “Butterfly feels that she has a completely distorted view of what’s going on with her and that affects what advice she can give me about our relationship.”

“But what about what’s going on with you?” Jason asks him. Christian frowns.

“What do you mean?” he retorts.

“You thought your wife was cheating on you. You cut her off and ran away to the other side of the world without giving her the chance to explain. You don’t think that’s a problem on your part, like for instance, your trust issues? Your ability to give the woman you love the benefit of the doubt? Being able to control your anger reflex and ‘snap’ response?”

“I’m dealing with those things,” he says, running his hands through his hair. “I admitted that it was the wrong thing to do…”

“But it doesn’t stop it from happening again,” Jason says, interrupting his excuse. I hold my head down and wait for him to tear into me. I didn’t have to wait long.

“And you,” he begins. Here it goes. “You were seeing your therapist weekly before any of this happened. You shocked him so much that he showed up at the door! What gives?” I shrug again, noncommittal.

“I haven’t found the words,” I say, honestly. “I’d be wasting his time and mine.”

“So, you’re just going to sit here and let this thing tear you apart day by day where we can all see it,” he says. “You think I’m the only one who’s noticed that you’ve changed? You are a force of nature, Ana. You have the ability to move mountains with the flap of your little Butterfly wings, but lately, you’ve been as mute as a church mouse and as affective as a drizzle. You’re not talking to anyone, not even your therapist, and you as a mental health professional don’t see this as a problem?”

I don’t know how to answer him. The feelings that I have right now, nobody can fix, and talking about them just lays them out on plane for everyone to see and makes me feel like shit. When I don’t answer, Jason turns back to Christian.

“You say that you don’t need your therapist,” he begins. “What do you say about her not seeing hers? Is everything honky-dory between you guys?”

“I wouldn’t say honky-dory,” Christian admits. “I know she’s holding something back.”

Holding something back… you all want me to release? Fine, I’ll release…


CHRISTIAN

“Things aren’t terrible, but I can still feel a little distance between us,” I say honestly.

“Ana?” Jason prods, “What do you say to that?” She doesn’t raise her eyes.

“I would never want to leave him or anything like that, but…” She trails off.

But? There’s a but?

“But what, Ana?” Gail presses. “You have to be honest or you’ll never move forward.” She sighs and drops her head.

“I’m scared,” she says, softly, barely audible. “I’m afraid that as soon as I let my guard down and try to be happy, something horrible is going to happen. I never would have thought for a moment that something like this would happen between my husband and me. I thought our bond was unbreakable and unshakeable and could withstand anything. I thought that no matter what, no one would ever come between us—that when and if that crucial moment ever presented itself, we would both know that there was no room for anyone else and there was no way that someone would be able to work their way into our space. But when the time did come, I was wrong…”

“How were you wrong?” Jason asks. “That someone did work their way into your space?”

“No,” she says. “Liam never worked his way into our space. My eyes may have been stricken with what I saw, but that man never made it to my heart. Hell, he barely made it to my mind until he was in my sight or unless I was pissed about his presence. He never stood a chance. There was no room for him. So, what? He’s attractive. He’s not the first attractive man I’ve ever seen, and he won’t be the last. Have you met my therapist? My best friend’s husband? My brother-in-law? All attractive men that made me do a double-take when I first met them, but I never ended up in their arms or in their beds.

“When that man made a move on me, I stopped him. I did not see my husband and I stopped him. I didn’t have my arms around him pulling him in for a kiss—I stopped him. And the reward I got was that my husband left me for two and a half weeks and didn’t speak to me. The truth is that I can beat myself over the head for what I could have done differently over and over again, but it won’t mean anything. It won’t do anything. I didn’t meet this man at a hotel or even make a date for dinner. He invited me out to lunch and I turned him down for just this reason… for the speculation it could have caused. I can pick this situation apart more than I already have, and you know what I’ll get from it? The same thing that I already got…

“Don’t step wrong, Ana.
“Look straight ahead, Ana. Don’t look left or right…
“Don’t get comfortable, Ana. The moment you do, all hell is going to break loose.”

“You’re sounding a bit like the martyr, Ana,” Jason says. Butterfly laughs ironically and does a disbelieving nod.

“Of course, I do,” she says, defeat and resignation lacing her voice.

“Don’t discount her feelings, Jason,” Gail defends. “She has a right to her feelings.” Jason turns to look at his wife and back at Butterfly.

“You’re right,” he says. “I’m sorry. Maybe you can help me understand what it is that you’re feeling.” That’s pretty insightful. Butterfly looks up at him with a sad smile.

“I can understand why you feel that way, because if I wasn’t sitting in this body—in this life and mind, experiencing this shit first hand—I would feel the same way. This is one of the reasons why I don’t want to talk about it… none of it. It won’t make a difference.”

“Please, Ana,” Gail presses. “Tell us.” Butterfly shakes her head.

“Every time I got comfortable, something happened,” she says, still smiling. “Every time I thought I was going to be happy and I could sit back and take a breath and relax, something happened. Every single time! I’m a walking tragedy,” she says with a laugh. I don’t see what’s funny, but I think she may be going a little hysterical.

“It can’t be every time, Ana,” Jason protests. She laughs again, this time, with tears threatening her eyes.

“No?” she says, still sporting a wide smile and threatening to cry at the same time. “Let’s review, shall we?

“Right when I thought my mom and dad were happy, my mom suddenly became dissatisfied and left my dad. It only got worse—she ripped us apart deliberately, so set on hurting him for not being what she thought he should be that she didn’t care that she was destroying me, too.

“I was miserable at first, but I coped with it until I was able to settle comfortably into obscurity. Then what happens? The most popular boy in school pays attention to me and I was foolish enough to believe that he liked me… until he raped me. We all know how that turned out.

“Yes, I wanted to die, but I didn’t. Then Daddy came and got me, took me away from the horrible nightmare that I was living and nursed me back to health for a few months. I was right at the promise of tranquility—it was right there in arm’s reach—and they came and snatched me back to hell.

“I finally escape—finally escape—come back to Washington and start my life back over again… from scratch… all on my own. During that time, I meet this guy. He treats me like a princess. The cutest, most considerate guy I had met to that point and what happens? He turns out to be the goddamn spawn of Satan! My already shredded heart was put through such hell that it took years—years—for me to let anybody near me.

“Enter Christian Grey. After a tumultuous beginning, we fall in love only for me to find out that he has a psycho, stalker, pedophile ex-lover and—oh, yeah, Satan’s spawn is hanging in the bleachers waiting for his chance to attack!

“Crazy pedophile wreaking total havoc on our relationship and me and Mr. Grey have a brief falling out. The moment I come to my senses about the cause of the fallout, Satan’s Spawn kidnaps me and his fucking psycho sidekick damn near beats me half to death while I’m cuffed to a bed.

“I’m rescued! Yay, right? Only we go to Anguilla and shit happens where I lose my mind there, too—more than once!

“So, we get back and announce our relationship to the world, and the crazy blonde pedophile continues to wreak total fucking havoc on our lives for months… restraining orders; crashing my father’s wedding; kissing my boyfriend; trying to kill Jason; trying to kill Christian; trying to kill me…”

This is playing out like a goddamn Greek tragedy. If I hadn’t been present for most of it, I’d swear she was exaggerating.

“In between there somehow, I apparently mistakenly thought my wedding was called off and escaped to Montana, rethinking my entire purpose in life, only to return to the whole aforementioned murder-death-kill scenario.

“Oh, and let’s not forget Mommie Dearest!”

Yes, let’s not forget her.

“Once we finally do get married, halfway through our honeymoon, Satan’s Spawn pulls a hole card and we have to come back and I discover the most joyous revelation of my life after vomiting on the prosecuting attorney and passing out on the goddamn stand.”

At least she didn’t mention me having a spy at her bachelorette party.

“Then comes the hacker and the fundraiser fiasco, and immediately after we put those things to rest, I get T-boned by a fucking ex-sub who almost kills me and Chuck! Nearly a year later, I still don’t have all my memories back.

“After more hiccups than I care to count, I finally bring two healthy babies into the world, a joyous occasion that was overshadowed a few months later by Val’s tumor and Pop’s unfortunate passing—not things that directly happened to me, but deserve inclusion due to the fact that a) when Pops’ died, my husband turned into an emotional infant and locked me out of the bedroom that we shared, b) I sat for days wondering if my best girlfriend was going to die after we had treated each other like shit for months and c) they were both cause to postpone our Italian vacation.

“A few months later, I find that all my hard work for Helping Hands is being questioned by a spiteful, vindictive bitch with an ax to grind and then, the last thing… the very last thing I ever thought could happen happened! I feared that maybe one day, my husband would seek something that I wouldn’t be able to give him and might look for it in the company of another, but I never, ever thought that another man would come between us. It was never on my radar, not even in the furthest recesses of my mind. And then…” She holds her head down and shrugs, shaking her head and still chuckling sadly.

“I know I’ve forgotten something, but I think you get the idea,” she adds, still laughing tragically. “I. Am a walking. Fucking. Tragedy. I’m the goddamn damsel that’s always getting tied to the fucking railroad tracks in those badly made, corny, black-and-white silent films. And what a horrible thing to happen—being tied to the railroad tracks and seeing your demise coming at you full speed and hoping and praying that someone’s going to save you because you can’t save yourself. And trust me, the train has run me over more times than I’ve been rescued, yet there I am… dismembered on the railroad tracks, trying to put myself back together again. Those attacks and accidents weren’t even merciful enough to kill me… just scar me forever—physically, mentally, and emotionally—then set me back in this ragtag, patchworked body with my ragtag patchworked heart and my ragtag patchworked mind to fight another day.”

She laughs again, but by now, tears are streaming nonstop down her cheeks. She shakes her head and drops it before she adds, “For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”

Now she’s quoting scriptures? This is really getting bad.

“Ana, can’t you see that this is exactly why you need to talk to Ace?” Gail tells her, leaning in like it’s a one-on-one conversation. “You can’t stop bad things from happening. You might be right, the fates may be cruel, and they may be waiting for things to get great so that they can drop another test on you, but you can’t spend your life waiting for that. You can’t do that to yourself… or your children. What kind of freedoms can they have if you’re always waiting for them to get run over by a bus?”

Butterfly sighs, now fully weeping while listening to Gail.

“I lived in mourning for many years after God gave me a wonderful man and then decided to take him back. We have no children and now, I can’t bear any children of my own. Lo, and behold, another wonderful man happened into my life.” She looks over at Jason.

“He was the worse person for me,” she laughs. “We work together; he has a dangerous job… but those damn fates…” She looks back down at her hands before she raises her eyes to Butterfly.

“He was almost killed, and I thought that destiny was going to punish me again, but he wasn’t. He came back to me and even though it happened in a pretty cruel way, he even brought me a daughter.”

Jason’s gaze softens, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen more love in his eyes… except on their wedding day in Anguilla.

“And then you welcomed me into your family—even against the wishes of my employer…” I drop my head and twist my lips. She’s right. I didn’t want to blur any lines between me and my staff, but Butterfly had different plans from the very beginning. “…And you had two beautiful babies, and I get to help raise them. So, I didn’t get to bear any children of my own, but I sure as hell have a family.

“One thing that I learned from losing my Douglas and living in mourning for all those years before I found my Jason, gained a beautiful daughter, and a beautiful family is that yes, bad times are always going to happen for as long as you’re alive. But think about it really hard… The bad times don’t follow the good times. The good times follow the bad.”

Butterfly raises her eyes to Gail, her lip trembling. She swallows hard.

“I want to believe that so badly,” she says. “It would make all of this so much easier to bear… I just can’t see how to get past this huge, crashing abyss I feel in my soul.”

“I just want us to get back to being us,” I say, disappointed, “but… from what you’re saying, that might not happen.” She shrugs, smiling sadly.

“I love you too much to lie to you,” she confesses. “Give it time. You never know. Maybe I’ll see what Gail is saying. I’ll go back to Ace and maybe… maybe I’ll get comfortable enough to forget this feeling of impending doom.”

It’s not until this moment that I fully realize what my leaving really did to her. It shook her foundation in everything she believed in. Maybe there was too much of her inner security wrapped up in me, but didn’t I make it that way? Didn’t I make her the most important thing in my life, bumping heads with her several times on matters of her security, safety, and well-being? I’m Christian Grey—self-proclaimed possessive and controlling asshole. I must have everything important to me encased in this protective bubble so that I know that it’s safe. She was in that bubble—figuratively and literally—and that’s what she became accustomed to. I took care of her life, her body, and her heart, and she expected me to keep doing that…

And then, one day, I didn’t.

I left her out there in the elements without any shelter and she had to fend for herself against the foul weather. As a result, she got a really good look at just how bad the hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, typhoons, blizzards, avalanches, sandstorms, wind and hail could really be. Every bad thing that ever happened to her all came back at     once and all the progress that she had made in all of her therapy sessions went down the drain. A lot, if not all, of her safety and progress was directly linked to me and I took it away in one fell swoop…

I was the one who opened the door to finally finding out what happened in Green Valley.

I was the one who swooped in with my whirly-bird and rescued her from the clutches of the bad guys.

I was the one who held her as she cried when she cut ties with her mother.

I was the one who stood by her side and fought her friends when she was catatonic for several days.

I was the one who was there for twelve days when she was in a coma and waiting when she woke up, even though she didn’t know who I was.

Then, she turned around looking for that safety net at a very crucial moment in our relationship, and I wasn’t there… I was gone… and she fell, and she might still be falling.

I’ll make it up to you, baby. I swear I will.

“I guess I just have to work harder at showing you that everything’s not impending doom,” I say, matter-of-factly, “at making sure that you know that I realize that I wasn’t there when you fell and I’m really sorry for that; letting you know that I know I’ve shaken your trust to the very core and it may take me the rest of my life to get it back, but I’ll fight that long if it means that in the end, you know that I’ll never let you fall again. I don’t care how long it takes… I love you and I want you to trust me again, trust us again, trust life and love again. I’ll do any and everything to restore that trust. It may take a really long time, but I don’t care. You won’t have to forget that impending doom, because I’m going to chase it away. I’m going to spend every day of my life chasing it away until you trust again. I made a horrible mistake, Anastasia. I ran when I should have listened. As a result, everything we’ve built has been destroyed. Please, forgive me. Please, please, forgive me.”

“Not… everything,” she says, her voice small. I raise my eyes to look at her. “I still love you… with all my heart…”

“But you don’t trust me,” I say. “That is everything, but I’m not giving up hope. I’ll do everything I can to make you trust me again.”

I suddenly ache inside. That pull—that connection that we’ve always had suddenly feels stronger than it ever has, and I feel that if she doesn’t come to me now, I just may pass out. She leaps from her seat and launches herself into my arms. She’s as light as a feather and as heavy as lead at the same time and it feels like the wind has been knocked out of me as I hold her to me with all the inner strength I can muster.

“I don’t know…” her small voice begins, her face buried in my neck.

“Sssh,” I soothe, rubbing her back and holding her close to me. “I do…”

*-*

I’m sitting at the breakfast bar resting my face in my hands and watching Gail put the finishing touches on an exquisite homemade seven-layer German chocolate cake. Only moments after our emotionally taxing discussion, Butterfly excused herself and went to take a nap before dinner. I immediately felt that hopeless feeling again and only wanted to make things right in her life… when I suddenly made a horrendous discovery.

“Today is Butterfly’s birthday,” I lament right after she leaves the den. Gail and Jason look at each other and back at me.

“Fuck! It is,” Jason responds, slapping his hand to his forehead. “We fucking forgot. How could we fucking forget?”

“Look at everything that’s been going on,” Gail interjects. “My birthday would be the last thing I would be thinking about in the midst of all this shit!”

“I’ll bet that’s not how Butterfly feels,” I say, pulling out my phone to see if Al is still in the house.

“Yep,” he says when he answers the phone.

“Today is Butterfly’s birthday,” I say into the phone.

“Yep,” he says, with no surprise. I roll my eyes.

“You didn’t think to remind me of this when we talked?” The line is silent.

“Are you serious?” he asks. “Are you fucking kidding me? You’re her goddamn husband and you forgot her fucking birthday? Now you wanna blame me? Seriously?” Oh, shit, I’ve pissed the man off.

 “Look, I’m sorry. There’s a lot going on, okay?” I apologize.

“No shit, Sherlock,” he replies.

“Did she mention anything while you all were visiting?”

“Not a word,” he says. “I think it’s the furthest thing from her mind.” Like Gail said.

“Are you still here?” I ask.

“Yes, but she just went up to bed. I think she’s down for the night…”

“No, she’s not. She’s taking a nap. Come to my den. I need your help…”

I used to sit in the kitchen and watch my mother like this on those few occasions when she would make something special. She was a very busy doctor and she didn’t get to cook much until we got older. She spent as much time with us as possible when we were kids instead of in the kitchen. She’s the reason that I don’t want my children raised solely by nannies. My mom was the best, and even though I may not have acted like she was the world to me, she really was. There was this one time when she made this chocolate cake for me from scratch. It was just for me, and I remember how special she made me feel making that cake just for me…

“I need you to do me a huge favor and I don’t want you to laugh at me.” Gail’s eyes widen as she puts the cake spatula down on the counter and turns her attention to me.

“Okay,” she says, waiting for my request. I sigh heavily and spit it out.

“I want you to teach me how to cook a nice meal for my wife,” I say finally. “I’m not trying to be a master chef. I just want to cook her a nice meal and I’m afraid that if I try to do it alone, I’ll burn the house down.”

I raise my head to look at her and she’s glaring at me like she’s just seen a ghost. I try to understand that this is a strange request but give me a fucking break here. I’m trying to do something nice for the woman I love.

“You want to cook?” she finally says, astonished. I nod.

“Yes,” I reply, already afraid that this will be an impossible task. Gail sighs.

“It takes patience, Christian,” she says. “You’re not a very patient man.”

“I at least want to try,” I say. “I just want to do something nice for her. I buy her shit all the time. This will be different, something I can do myself. It doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal—I know that would take forever, but something nice… and edible.” A small smile plays with Gail’s lips.

“We’ll try,” she says. “When do you want to do this? You all are always home at the same time, unless you don’t care if she knows.”

“No, it has to be a surprise,” I tell her. She nods.

“Sophie has been asking to learn to cook a few dishes. You’re in luck, we’ve only just started. I can kill two birds with one stone if you don’t mind a teenager in your cooking class.” I sigh again. I don’t care who’s in the cooking class as long as she agrees to help me… and Butterfly doesn’t find out.

“Thank you,” I breathe. “I’ll come home early, when Sophie is getting off school. We’ll work out some form of communication so that I’ll know if Butterfly is at home…”

Just like that, Gail becomes my co-conspirator.

Having unlimited resources affords you the luxury of not only being able to put together a birthday party in only two hours, but also to be able to secure the perfect gift that’s not only thoughtful and somewhat extravagant to the average person, but also utterly necessary. As luck would have it—bad luck, that is—I’m the only person in the inner sanctum that forgot it was Butterfly’s birthday. Everyone else had presents at the ready and was only looking for a good time to “engage,” so to speak. So, when Al activated the contingency and managed to get Butterfly’s closest friends to the Crossing on short notice, everyone came bearing gifts. Mine is an Australian cruise that we’ll be taking in December, no excuses or postponing.

At 7pm sharp, I send Val to rouse my Butterfly from her slumber and bring her to the dining room. As much as I’ve promised that birthdays will no longer be a day of angst for my wife, this one was nearly ruined again—this time, because of me. Three birthdays this woman has spent with me and not one of them have gone off without a hitch. Oy vey!

After fifteen minutes have passed and still no sign of my wife, I begin to worry until I see a beautiful vision in sunshine yellow bend the corner around one of the large columns.

“Surprise!” everyone yells. The gathering is small, not everyone that I would have hoped but enough of our closest friends and family.

“Wha…?” Butterfly is stunned. An impromptu Food and Libations with the Scooby Gang and plus ones, the extended family from the Crossing, and my parents made it, too. A small table is set up with the gifts and the German Chocolate cake made by Gail and decorated with large chocolate flowers and the words “Happy Birthday Mommy.” The twins sleep in their Pack-n-Plays on either side of the table, guarding the cake and gifts from possible interlopers. Little Mindy occasionally peeks into the Pack-n-Plays under her mother’s watchful eye. Little Harry had just been put down to sleep and as I am told, has been battling a small cold. So, even though Ray is here, Mandy and Ana’s little brother couldn’t make it.

“I couldn’t let her come down when she first awoke,” Val apologizes. “She looked like she had been attacked by wolves. She never would have forgiven me.” I walk over to my sweet, stunned bride and put my hands on her forearms.

“I want to say that we had this elaborate plan, but we didn’t. We all just wanted you to know how much we love you.” She looks around the table at her friends and the family we could gather before she throws her arms around me and buries her face in my neck.

“I totally forgot,” she breathes in soft sobs. “I love you, too.”

*-*

She had a wonderful time. She spent the evening listening to what was going on in everyone else’s life since it was already known that the last month of her life had been a complete disaster. Having spent most of the summer taking care of Val, then being there for me and my family when Pops died, followed almost immediately by Mia’s wedding then yet another event that we’ll come up with some horrible nickname for, there hasn’t been any time to connect with her friends on the frivolous and fun level that friends should.

After two years together, Marilyn and Gary have decided to move in together. There are still no wedding bells on the near horizon, but they’re both so busy that they don’t spend nights apart at all and, according to them, it makes no sense to pay rent in two places when they most often only stay in one.

So… Courtney and Vickie are a real-life couple. Yeah, that’s news to me. I wouldn’t have been surprised that they were fucking around, but a couple… yeah, I’m surprised. Courtney’s going to school for social work, which is a real shocker to me since she was truly a lost cause a year ago as far as I was concerned. But, I have to admit—Aunt Tina, Mom, and Butterfly were right. She has changed significantly. I don’t think her grandparents would even recognize her now.

Valerie and Elliot will be moving into their house next weekend. The house is ready, but they didn’t want to come straight home and then have to prepare for packing and moving. Valerie’s things are all in storage since she let her apartment go right after her diagnosis and Elliot’s refusal to let her out of his sight. Elliot still has his apartment, but he’s going to be shedding most of his bachelor gear—as is my understanding—for new furnishings in the new house. They should be ready for a housewarming in a few weeks.

Maxine announces that she has decided to open her own practice. She feels that it’s time that she offers her services in a different arena without being under someone else’s payroll. Butterfly encourages her to do that and jokes that she will come and see Maxine should she find herself in need of a job again. A scoff and a dirty look come from both my mother and me to the party’s amusement. Butterfly also informs her friend that she owns an office building downtown with empty office space. I had completely forgotten that I had gifted Butterfly’s office downtown to her and there is currently space for rent. So, Maxine now has the new location of her practice.

There’s no sex tonight. The day was just too heavy, even with the successful joviality at the end of the evening. Butterfly and I watch Disney movies in the family room with the twins in their Pack-n-Plays. She finally falls asleep somewhere after their midnight feeding and I lay in bed with her in my arms staring at the ceiling, thinking how close I came to losing it all over a terrible misunderstanding.

My wife could have died when she fell off that cliff. Chuck saved her life yet again. She may never recover from this impending doom syndrome. I can see it in her eyes. She used to be such a free spirit and now, she’s approaching everything with a level of emotional caution that’s clearly visible to everyone around her. She’s agreed to start seeing Ace again. I’ll give Dr. Baker a call, too. Somebody’s got to help us out of this situation in which we’ve found ourselves or we’ll never be able to get ourselves back.

Having laid awake next to my wife for about three hours with no hope of falling asleep, I slide out of bed and go to my old faithful companion in hopes of calming my nerves enough to find slumber. I stop at the bar in the entertainment room and pour myself a brandy, then stop in my office to get my voice recorder before escaping to my den and my baby grand.

I never know how to verbalize my feelings, which is why I ran my cowardly, selfish ass to Madrid instead of staying here and communicating with my wife. I thought I had come so far during the time that we’ve been together. I’ve come a long way, granted, but not nearly as far as I need to if I can come this close to losing her because of this. I start the voice recorder and just start playing. At first, I have no idea what I’m doing, what I’m playing, or why I’m recording… but I do. I just keep playing, keep recording… and keep singing.

You look at me and I begin to melt, just like the snow when a ray of sun is felt…

She’s so broken, and I broke her. Just like she always does, she put on a good face for the rest of the world, but deep inside, she’s fragile and afraid. Somehow, I—or something else—always exploits that fear and that vulnerability. I have to make sure that she knows that I’ll never be the one to do that to her again. I have to know that I’ll never do that to her again. She can’t take it. She won’t survive going through this too many more times.

And now that your rose is in bloom, a light hits the gloom on the Grey…

Yeah, I know that’s not the Grey the song meant, but that’s how I feel—lost without her and so found when she’s near me. Song after song flows from my soul, my fingers, and my mouth. I don’t really know the purpose. I just sing and play what I’m feeling, what I need her to feel.

And when you smile, the whole world stops and stares for a while…

How I could have thought that for one second her thoughts and heart would stray to someone else is beyond me. Even now, playing the probable kiss over and over in my head, I no longer see her gazing in his eyes. I no longer see him closing in to touch his lips to hers. I only see her hand on his chest, pushing him away, fending him off from our bubble, our life and our love…

I knew I loved you before I met you, I think I dreamed you into life…

I have to get her back… back to the sassy Dr. Steele that I met in that community center, the woman who calls me Grey when she’s cross with me, the woman who cries adrenaline tears when she’s pissed and wants someone to pay for whatever has her feeling that way instead of shrinking into sofas or in fetal positions on the floor—not for myself, but for her… and yes, for me, too…

If ever I believe my work is done, then I’ll start back at one…

She has to know that I love her, what she means to me, what she’ll always mean to me. She has to know that, yes, there will be some bad times—some shadows and some tears, we can’t avoid them—but I’ll always be there to love her and hold her, to make sure that she’ll never feel the way she feels right now ever, ever again. God, I love you, Butterfly. I love you so much. I’ll spend the rest of my life proving to you that I love you and I’ll never let you down like this again… never again…

I never knew what my life was for, but now that you’re here, I know for sure…

I have died every day waiting for you, Darlin’ don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years…

You make me feel so brand new and I want to spend my life with you…

All of me loves all of you, love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections…


A/N: Ana’s quote about sudden destruction comes from the Bible: I Thessalonians 5:3

Here are the songs that are referenced in Christian’s midnight serenade.

On the Wings of Love—Jeffrey Osborne
Kiss From A Rose—Seal
Just The Way You Are—Bruno Mars
I Knew I Loved You—Savage Garden
Back At One—Brian McKnight
Spend My Life With You—Eric Benet ft. Tamia
A Thousand Years—Christina Perri
Let’s Stay Together—Al Green
All Of Me—John Legend 

Other songs that were on the recording, not mentioned in the chapter:
Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You—George Benson, Glenn Medeiros, Westlife… take your pick
I Will Be Right Here Waiting for you—Richard Marx
Thinking Out Loud—Ed Sheeran
Because You Loved Me—Celine Dion

Not sure if anyone cares, but years ago, I used to watch a sitcom called The Facts of Life. One of the characters—Tootie—wrote and performed a dramatic reading that I never really understood until I became an adult and people were always expecting something of me. When my Muse deserted me (and believe me, y’all, she deserted me—I thought I was going to be wrapping up the Butterfly Saga), Tootie’s dramatic reading came to me. To me, it translated into, “You can’t expect for me to just keep churning out shit when you need it and just take what I can get when you’re ready to give it to me.” 

These last few chapters, my Muse took a beating… and she shut the fuck down. 

Now I know people may look at this and say, “We can’t say what we want to say or she’s going to stop writing.” That’s not necessarily true, but people do need to understand that creativity is a lot of hard work, and I’m feeling what’s being said. As many times as I’ve tried to explain things logically, my Muse—as is anybody’s—is as “at will” as they come. She was like, “I don’t have to explain shit! and took the fuck off. 

For those who think she’s overly sensitive, do me a quick favor. Start from chapter 37, and don’t read anything else but the comments(suspicion started in chapter 33; the “embers” started in chapter 37; the blaze started in chapter 38) . Start from the first comment in chapter 37 to the last comment in chapter 41. Read it first with an open mind, then picture that this was a piece of clay that you worked on months ago for several weeks, and these people are talking about your piece of clay. No matter how thick your skin is, no creative soul can walk away from that unscathed. 

If you’re interested in Tootie’s dramatic reading, it starts at the 15:45 mark and it’s only about a minute long. 

I’m done. I apologize for subjecting you all to my diatribe. I’ve actually lost readers for that. 

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 35—Grey Festivities!

So… Ethan. I should tell you guys that unless you come at Ethan directly with something—like his bachelor party or like his father when he was trying to use Ethan to spy on the Greys—or you come at his “Kitten” directly, he’s pretty much a standoffish kind of guy. I’m thinking that his overall lack of action up to this point may have painted him in a bad light. I’m saying that because I see more than a few people throwing verbal daggers at him (I’m not angry, I find this kind of funny) and I haven’t even developed the character yet.

So, I’m sitting here like, “Oh, dear God, what have I done?”

Somewhere down the line, I’ll have to try to develop him as I see him, because I’ve left his character kind of open for interpretation and the interpretations are like, “Yikes!” LOL.

He’s not a bad guy, folks. I’ve just left that door a little too open. 😉

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

Chapter 35—Grey Festivities

ANASTASIA

What the hell. He’s here? But he’s not spying on me? Don’t flip out, Ana. Don’t make a scene. Just go see what this is about.

“Val, I need you, hon,” I say, sliding back out of the booth. Val’s brow furrows.

“Is everything okay?” she asks concerned. I don’t want to draw any attention to us.

“Yeah, everything’s cool,” I say, flippantly, taking her hand. “I just need you for a sec.” She reluctantly follows me out of the club and into the wide hallway of the hotel. I take two steps away from the door and hear,

“Jesus Christ, Angel, are you trying to give me a heart attack in that dress?”

We both turn to the sound of the voice and see Elliot standing against the wall across the hall.

“El!” Val says. “What are you doing here?” Good question.

“Ethan’s party is at the Four Seasons. Lover Boy over there could see the party bus from the penthouse balcony and just had to see if it was the party bus.” Just as I’m about to look over there, I feel two strong arms slide softly around my waist.

“I’m sorry,” he purrs in my ear. “I shouldn’t have come.”

Every tiny bit of ire that was in me just melts away in an instant.

Lover Boy, huh?” I say, turning around to the puppy-dog look in my husband’s beautiful gray eyes.

“I’d much rather be with you than with this gaggle of drunken fools drooling all over themselves and…” he trails off.

“And…” I coax.

“That’s why we were on the balcony,” he says. “Live entertainment.” I open my mouth.

“Aahh, okay,” I say. I slide my arms around his neck. “You know I can’t stay.”

“I know,” he says, brushing his lips against my cheek. “I wish I hadn’t seen you in this dress. You look delectable.”

“Is that why you left from Grey House?” I ask. He nods.

“I didn’t want you to feel uncomfortable getting dressed. You look so good and I know that other men look at you.” There’s no use in trying to dispel that. I know that other men look at me, too.

“Other women look at you, Mr. Grey,” I protest softly. “You should hear these poor girls in here talking about you—’the one that got away.’ They’re a sorrowful bunch.” His eyes widen and his mouth falls open.

“They’re talking to you about that?” he asks in amazement and I nod.

“One of them has been watching you since puberty,” I inform him. “She’s probably got pictures of you in her hope chest. You’d be surprised how far a little liquor will go in loosening up some normally tight-assed bitches… and they like to use that word a lot. It’s a term of endearment, did you know that? They call each other all types of degrading things—hoes and cunts and whores and bitches and…”

His mouth is on mine in an instant, silencing and devouring me, his lips massaging mine, his tongue lapping into my mouth until I feel my pussy getting wet and my clit start to throb. I melt as he captures me by my nape, and I groan into his mouth. His body hardens against mine and I completely give in to him. He rewards me with a groan of his own and I have to fight to keep from climbing him right here in the hallway of this hotel.

“Do you know what you do to me?” he breathes against my lips. “Do you have any idea? God, you make me mindless.” His arms tighten around me as he pulls me closer to him. “You were so cute on the floor dancing with Val. I was going to leave after I saw you, saw that you were having a good time and I felt a little guilty, because I didn’t want you to think I was spying on you. I just wanted to see you…”

I know he’s telling the truth.

“When you were singing that song, I knew you were singing it to me. I knew that every word was for me. I felt it in every cell of my body and I wanted to run in there and fall at your feet. I was still trying to convince myself to leave when you started to sing the second song, only… you weren’t singing that song to me. I was singing that song to you.”

What was the second song? Oh, yeah… “I Have Nothing.”

I feel a tightening in my chest and I almost want to cry. He’s so sweet, I could just die.

“When you finished, I just stood against the wall and kept willing myself to leave, but I couldn’t move. I knew I couldn’t leave without seeing you. I’m sorry…”

I stand on my toes, grab the nape of his head and pull him down to me, pressing my lips hard against his. He groans against my lips and wraps his arms tight around me, pulling me close to him and infusing me with love and heat and passion. When we finally break our kiss, there’s need and longing in his eyes.

“I love you so much, Christian,” I whimper, my voice so heavy with emotion that I don’t even recognize it.

“I adore you, Butterfly,” he whispers, his voice gravelly and betraying his slipping control. We could probably drop and do each other right here on the posh carpeting but for the fact that someone would see us. I thrust my hand into his hair and my tongue back into his mouth, wanting to climb him and ravish him so badly while his hands wander wildly all over my body. My temperature is rising quickly and I’m feeling heat in all the right places…

“I knew it! I just knew it!”

I rip my lips from Christian’s and gasp, startled at the proximity of Mia’s voice. Dammit, Mia!

“Hi, Meelo,” Christian says coyly.

“Don’t Hi Meelo me,” she snaps. “I knew you guys were going to sneak out for some suck-face time. It’s so damn typical, as if you don’t live together. And where’s Val? She’s supposed to be counting holes.”

“She’s right there and nobody’s doing holes!” I exclaim pointing behind me.

“Doing holes?” Christian says bemused.

“Pub Golf,” I say, not realizing that I just made a big mistake in front of my very protective husband, but before he has the chance to berate me, Lily scoffs.

Valerie is the secret scorekeeper?” she says with that same horrible expression she wears all the time. “With her best friend playing?” she adds in an accusatory tone. I turn in Christian’s arm to face the group, who have all come out of the bar now.

“I’m not playing,” I announce. “Val let it slip that she was the secret scorekeeper and that I was losing. I told her I wasn’t playing. I can’t keep up. I’m having drinks with you guys, but no Pub Golf for me. I won’t know my name by morning!” I’m still slightly drunk as we speak!

“See… I’m drunk, not crazy!” Monica announces, pointing a tell-tale finger at me. “I knew you were a couple o’ shots short!” She can barely get the words out of her mouth as she laughs at my supposed calamity. “We’re still gonna get you liquored. We’ve got three more holes!” Oh, hell.

“Looks like you’ve made some friends,” Christian says in my ear.

“Just for tonight,” I reply, so that only he can hear me.

“So, where the hell is Val?” Mia says impatiently, trying not to slur her words. “We don’t have much time left to get these last three holes in!” I sigh.

“She’s right the…” I look over to where she and Elliot were when I last saw them, and the spot is empty. “Okay, they were there.”

“Oh, great,” Mia says, throwing her hands in the air. “You sneak away for suck-face-time and she crawls away for a 10-minute quickie. Just stick around, girls. She’ll be out any second now with JBF hair…”

The words are no sooner out of her mouth when around the corner comes a very disheveled Elliot and Valerie. Val is unsuccessfully trying to smooth the JBF hair that Mia rightfully said she’d be sporting while Elliot, who is now wearing most of Val’s lipstick, didn’t even bother trying to straighten his hair. He looks like cats have been playing on his head and his zipper is undone.

“See? See?” Mia says, pointing to exhibits A and B. I stifle a laugh.

“Dude, your fly!” Christian says. Elliot pauses, looks down at his pants, and closes his zipper.

“What was your rush?” Mia scolds. “It’s not like everybody didn’t know what you were doing. You could’ve taken a moment to make yourselves presentable.”

“Yeah, scorekeeper,” Lily snarls. Geez, is she always that ugly? Even a hot dress and make-up doesn’t help that grimace. Val glares at me.

“Nice going, Steele,” she accuses. I point to Mia.

“I didn’t out you, she did,” I defend. “Then Lily tried to out me, but I announced that I wasn’t playing, so…” I trail off and shrug without looking at Lily, who I know is turning her snarling grimace on me.

Christian says that Lily looks like a gargoyle in Chapter 34 RG“Jesus!” Christian says. I raise my gaze to him and he’s turning away. “That woman looks like a goddamn gargoyle!”

I can’t even stifle my laughter on that one.

“Sorry, sis,” Elliot apologizes. “It was the dress.” Mia grunt.

“Ugh! To the bus, bitches!” she says, a bit perturbed and begins to lead the way, then she stops and turns to face us. “Bitches… not horndogs!” she says to her brothers, before proceeding to the front door.

“It looks like we’ve pissed off your sister,” I say to my husband.

“She’ll get over it by the eighth hole.” He takes my chin and turns my face to his, placing such a soft and succulent kiss on my lips that I have to put my hand on my chest to steady myself.

“Go, have a good time. Make my sister forget I crashed her party.” He kisses me on the nose. “I love you.”

“I love you, too…”

“Are you guys that touchy-feely all the time?” one of the girls asks when we get back to the bus. I don’t bother trying to remember everyone’s name. I won’t see most of them after tomorrow.

“Every waking fucking moment,” Mia chimes in before I can answer.

“Of every damn day,” Val adds. I gasp.

“Says the girl who got a nooner at midnight in the hotel bathroom!” I retort, appalled. The bus breaks into loud laughter, including Mia.

“You heard him,” she defends. “It was the dress.”

“He must really love that dress. It was the only thing intact when you came out the bathroom!” I shoot. More laughter. Val is trying to comeback and she’s usually pretty good with it… except when I’m drunk. When I’m liquored, they’re just lined up waiting, like darts, and anybody’s a target.

“Well, at least, I wasn’t necking in the hallway! You guys didn’t even see us leave!”

“Yeah, we would have snuck away to the bathroom, but it was already taken!” A couple of the girls are on the floor now. Even though the jokes by themselves aren’t that funny, the continued reference back to the bathroom is just enough to keep a bunch of drunk women laughing. Even poor Mia can’t hold it together. I don’t even know if Val and Elliot actual went to the bathroom, but she must have because she’s not saying anything to dispel it.

“Steele, you’re a real piece a shit, you know that?” Val laughs.

“Yeah, and I still couldn’t get to the bathroom…”

*-*

With time ticking away even before suck-face-time and the midnight nooner, there would not be enough time to get three holes in before “last call.” So, we go to one more bar, content to do two holes on the party bus, and the girls don’t let me out of the last three holes. So, hole seven is done on the bus. Hole eight is done in the last bar we go to—with the rowdy “fooooooooouuuuuurrrrr” announcement that a bunch of drunk women are playing Pub Golf. I always thought you yelled “four” before barfing. We never found out. Nobody barfed, not even me and not even after doing the ninth hole on the party bus.

I don’t remember getting home, though.

I remember swirls and swirls of alcohol… three shots in under an hour and quite possible more, I’m not sure.

Then I remember music and pretty, pretty lights.

Then I remember Mia crying and thanking me and telling me and Val how much she loved us and what a great time she had. I think Val and I are crying, too… or at least I am…

Then I remember… the Audi, I think… and nothing after that.

Now, I’m kind of floating in the arms of this fire-haired god I can’t quite see…

“No,” I protest weakly. “I’m married…” The god chuckles softly.

“I know,” he says. “To me.” I force one eye open.

“Christian?” I squeak, still unable to focus.

“Ssshhhh,” he says softly while carrying me to our room. “Come, you inebriated goddess. Let’s get you to bed. You need rest…”

*-*

I’d say it was somewhere around noon when I finally opened my eyes, and only because I was forced to do so against my will.

“If you want any hope of possibly getting to Mia’s wedding, you need to get up now.”

My husband’s voice gently rouses me from sleep and I want to hit him in the head with a sledgehammer! I want to sleep! Until next June! Dammit!

“Mia’s probably not going to make it to her own damn wedding,” I grumble, remembering just how toasted she was… while I was still coherent, that is.

“Oh, contraire, my love,” he informs me. “My baby sister called three hours ago to tell me to make sure those ‘cows are out of bed and at my wedding at three,’ her words exactly. I don’t know what secret elixir she has coursing through her veins, but she was as bright as a bunny.”

“She and the bridal party had some kind of detox treatment at Miana’s,” I groan.

“That’s a good idea,” he suggests.

“I’m not going to Miana’s,” I grumble without raising my head. He twists his lips.

“Whatever treatments Mia had for the ladies, we can have here in an hour.” I raise my head slightly.

“Make it happen.”

*-*

This is one of those days when it really pays to be rich.

I don’t feel the slightest bit of guilt as hot towels, massaging hands, fresh vegetable trays, vitamin-B-infused shakes, and plenty of water slowly begin to bring the life back into my alcohol-ravaged body. No, I’m not setting a good example for Sophie, who has joined me in the lower-level spa, but at this point in time, it doesn’t matter. I need help.

“How is Operation She’s All That?” I ask as I begin to get my wits about me.

“It’s okay,” she says. “It was a pretty good idea. I’m not so scared to approach people and I can spot the phonies from the real ones in the first few minutes.” I nod.

“Very good,” I say. “And what about that other situation?” She frowns, bemused. “The guy?” She drops her head.

“Still pretty much the same,” she says. “I haven’t thought about it much until today.”

I bet I can guess why.

“Why today?” I ask, hoping I can get her to open up. She looks at me like a cornered rat for a moment. Then, she drops her head and sighs. Just when she’s about to open her mouth…

“Time for fresh towels, Mrs. Grey!” One of the girls from Miana’s pipes in loudly, bringing a fresh set of steaming towels into the spa. I don’t know whether to hug her or slap her as I need fresh towels for my detox, but one look at Sophie, and I can tell that the moment is lost. I just roll my eyes.

“Thank you,” I say as she removes the lukewarm towels, wipes my skin down, and replaces them with hot ones. I have to admit that I can feel the toxins leaving my pores and I can’t be too upset. I turn back to Sophie and change the subject.

“In moderation, a drink every now and then is a good thing,” I tell her. “It helps adults to loosen up after a long day or to celebrate the moments of their lives. It can even be medicinal. But in excess, everything is a bonehead move, and drinking is no different.” I put my hand on my head.

“I don’t get the idea of bachelor parties,” Sophie says. “Why get drunk the night before the wedding? You have to stand up at the wedding. You’re sick and hung over in a church. That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Grown-ups are stupid,” I groan. “I didn’t even drink as much as some of those women. I wonder how they even got out of bed this morning!”

“You were watching what they were drinking?” she asks.

“We played Pub Golf,” I confess. “They had drinks at every bar we went to. I skipped some!”

“Steele!” Val bellows and I realize that my headache isn’t quite gone yet.

“Oh, fuck!” I hiss quietly.

“Ana!” Sophie scolds. I open one eye.

“Oh, fudge,” I say begrudgingly.

“There you are,” Val says appearing in the doorway of the spa. “You didn’t have to tell me we were having spa day.”

“We’re not,” I tell her. “I’m detoxing and you weren’t drunk.” She put her hands on her hips.

“How many drinks did you have, Sophie?” Val accuses.

“She wouldn’t judge me,” I throw in. Sophie giggles and Val just shakes her head.

“Now, I don’t feel so bad about showing you this,” she says, scrolling through her tablet and thrusting it in my face. There’s a link that says Headline—And she sings, too.” I click the link to see a recording of myself singing All The Man That I Need. I sit up straight on the table.

“Oh, shit!” I say, looking at the video. It has clearly been taken with someone’s cell phone. I thought we had gotten away with it last night. Nobody said anything. Nobody let on that they knew who I was, but somebody got me on camera.

“You guys did karaoke?” Sophie says, looking over my shoulder. “I didn’t know you could sing.”

“Dammit!” I hiss. “We’ve got a primetime interview coming up! Christian’s going to shit bricks.”

“No, he’s not,” Val says. “He’s already seen it.” I raise bemused eyes to her.

“Excuse me?”

“He’s already seen it.” She shrugs.

“What did he say?”

“Nothing. He just laughed and said he saw it live.”

“Did he think this was your recording or did he know this was online?” I press.

“He knows it’s online,” she replies. “You’re singing karaoke, Steele, you’re not stripping.”

“You’re very good,” Sophie says. “Is there anything you can’t do?”

“Apparently, stay out of the press,” I say, lying back down on the table.


CHRISTIAN

No tie.

I don’t even want to go to this damn thing and if I could get out of it, I would. However, it’s my baby sister’s wedding and I do want to be there for her. I’m going to forego the tie, though. I’m going to be comfortable and I’m going to hope for the best, that she was able to curtail most of the over-the-top things that Mom put in place and that this is going to be a classy affair and not the three-ring circus that I fear it will be.

One can always hope.

A caravan of Audis will be leaving from the Crossing since everyone going to the wedding will be leaving at different times. The twins are too young to sit still through a wedding and reception, so they will be staying behind, but Sophie will come to the wedding with Butterfly and me. Valerie and Elliot will be on a plane very soon after Mia and Ethan cut the cake, and I’m going to be trying to leave before the bride and groom even get out of the reception hall if I can.

I thought I’d be waiting forever, but I’m very happy to see my wife and my honorary niece come around the columns from the formal dining room, dressed and ready for the wedding. Sophie is wearing a skater dress with an embroidered top and a flare, teal skirt with modest heels while my wife is wearing a sultry forest green bodycon dress with a plunging v-neckline and an overlapping v-split that shows just enough of a flirty thigh to make me hungry, attached to nude sandals that wrap around her ankles giving the image of mile long legs… again.

Down, Grey. Sophie’s with her.

“Ladies, you look lovely,” I say, trying to behave myself and wanting to tell my wife that I’m going to have my hand in that split all fucking night.

“Thanks, Uncle Christian.” Uncle Christian. When did that happen? Hmmm. Oh, well. I did call her my honorary niece. I guess it’s not too weird to be Uncle Christian. I step between them and present an elbow to each of them.

“Shall we?”

My ladies smile and each take an arm as I escort them to their chariot.

*-*

Getting to the door of the Paramount Theater is impossible. The streets are blocked and you can’t get past the Paparazzi to get to the cleared portion of the road to get where you’re supposed to enter. At this rate, Mia won’t have any guests at her wedding.

“This is ridiculous,” Butterfly says. “They can’t block the only entrance to the only street that we can get through.”

“They can and they have,” I tell her. Mia’s wedding is set to start in about an hour and all of her guest are outside on the perimeter. I’m thinking fast. They’re not playing fair and now, neither am I.

“Jason, I need every member of GEH security out here in twenty minutes.” His eyes grow large.

“Every member?” he says.

“Everybody you can get here in twenty minutes.” Jason makes one call and I get a little perturbed at first, but I realize that he must know what he’s doing. In ten minutes, black suits begin to surround my car. Jason gets out and I see my wife and Sophie getting a little nervous. Five minutes later, my phone rings. It’s Jason.

“Yes?”

“I’ve got 35 and more on the way.” Well, damn. I end the call and get out of the car. When I look back, there is a sea of black suits behind me. Fucking hell. They’re my men and I’m intimidated.

“Who has cameras?” I ask. Starting from the front, they each start raising their hands moving all the way to the back.

“Start recording and follow me.” I say and make my way to the front line where the Paps are blocking the cars from getting through.

“Jason, either you go or send somebody back to the car with my wife,” I say. He nods and gets on the phone.

“Chuck’s back in the car,” he says. I nod.

“Bring three and come with me.”

Jason, three other guards and I walk into the very front of the crowd of Paps while pictures flash and cameras are rolling from both sides.

“Once again, my security has cameras trained on this event and the fact that you are blocking private property and my sister’s guests cannot get to her wedding. That’s a problem that I and the fifty plus and counting trained men behind me can rectify and I am willing to fight lawsuits to do so. Are you willing to risk injuries, broken bones, disfigurement, and destroyed equipment to stop me?”

These bravado motherfuckers don’t think I’m serious, so I give a signal for security to move in and start pushing these fuckers back. Now, I realize that there’s a lot of money in getting the right shot for the Paparazzi, but I can’t help but wonder what goes through one’s mind when they see a wall of about 50 black suits coming at them—thick and big enough to block out the sun and not one of them is less that 1.9 meters tall. Yeah, needless to say, these “they-better-not-touch-me” assholes started backing the fuck up. Several members of my security staff had to form walls from one road block to the parking lot and valets just so that cars could get through while other members just had to direct traffic. I swear to God, I had no idea that people could be this disrespectful and inconsiderate. Some of the vendors couldn’t even get in… which may have been a blessing in disguise.

I’m outside for a full half hour just waiting to see if most of the guests are at least going to be able to get inside the venue. When I see that things are moving as smoothly as they can without my assistance, I go in search of my wife.

As expected, the marquee outside announces the wedding of Mia Grey and Ethan Kavanaugh. Come one, come all—big, extravagant, over-the-top, crazy event happening here! No wonder the Paparazzi had the only opening to the venue locked up tight!

When I enter the lobby, it almost looks like the staging area for the Oscars, minus the giant gold statues—opulent seating areas and wall dressings, the crème de la crème dressed in their designer best mulling about and conversing in clusters. Pictures are being taken everywhere! There are booths set up for what appear to be souvenir shots and what look like publicity photographers. I almost expect Jimmy Kimmel or Billy Crystal to pop out any second, or someone from E! asking everyone “Who are you wearing?”

Mia has employed her own security for the event and they’re everywhere as well. I wonder why these assholes weren’t outside helping the guest get inside? Fucking amateurs.

The lobby doors open to the huge main venue and when I get inside of the theater, I swear I’ve walked into another dimension. The walls are completely carpeted with flowers and the theater chairs have been removed, transforming the entire main floor into an ethereal garden-like ballroom. The space is reception ready, decked out in Mia’s colors of wine and slate gray, with strategic uses of shades of white to offset the darker colors. A wine-colored, red-carpet aisle stretches down the middle of the room where the wedding party and guests can enter, leading to a dramatic yet elegant arch in the front of the theater, where the wedding will take place. The stage is set for a band and entertainment, and there are several large movie screens high on the walls, currently displaying slideshows of Mia and Ethan at different stages of their relationship.

Mia and Ethan

Ethan and Mia

The décor is still a bit over the top. There are luxury media stations situated all over the place. Uncertain of their intended purpose, I investigate and discover that they have many functions including but not limited to menu selection, printing pictures, and finding your seat—which is how I find my wife. After locating my place in this huge mass of craziness, I weave through the crowd taking in the splendor—for lack of a better word—of everything I couldn’t possibly describe in a million years.

There’s a large tree in the middle of the room just off to the side of the aisle, draped with thousands of crystals and ribbons.

I feel sorry for anyone with allergies, because between the crazy centerpieces adorning the tables and hanging from the ceiling in some cases, not to mention the floral-carpeted walls, I won’t even begin to guess how many flowers are in this room.

I could be crazy, but I’m probably not… but I think I see small cannons in the floor. Why there would be cannons in the floor, I have no idea. They can’t shoot off fireworks indoors, though I wouldn’t put it past Mia, or Mom during her moments of “looney.”

I’m counting at least four displays hidden behind curtains that will, no doubt, be revealed later. I can only imagine what awaits us behind these swags.

The bridal table is nowhere to be found, and these four displays are way to small to conceal something like that. That big reveal has me frightened.

Mulling around among the guests are waitstaff in costumes. One of them is obviously Marilyn Monroe. Another could be Michael Jackson, but I’m not entirely sure. A third might be… Morticia Addams?

What theme is this?

  I won’t even begin to figure out the oddly placed floating votive candles with colored pearls or beads in the water.

I finally spot my wife pondering the surroundings with Sophie, Luma, Mariah, and Celida.

“I wonder where the pink flamingos were supposed to fit in all of this,” I say when I take my seat next to my wife. She scans her eyes around the room and shakes her head.

“I have no idea,” she admits. “Were they supposed to be in a pen somewhere or roam freely among the guests? And belly dancers?” she questions. “Where in the hell would belly dancers fit in this situation? Why?” She shrugs.

“Remember, she wasn’t herself,” Luma reminds us. “And this isn’t all of it. Mia stopped a lot of it.”

“Have you seen this?” Elliot and Valerie join us at the table with magazines in their hands. When they hand one to me, I realize that it’s not a magazine. It’s Mia and Ethan’s wedding program. It just looks like a magazine, glossy cover and all.

“Are your serious?” Butterfly says, taking the book from Valerie’s hand and beginning to thumb through it. “Wow, I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s like the 25th anniversary edition of People Magazine.”

“No kidding,” I say, thumbing through what appear to be advertisements, yet another history of Mia and Ethan’s life, more instructions on the stuff you can get from the media centers, and a play-by-play of the evening beginning with “guests enter” and ending with “reception ends.” I’m at a total loss for words.

“This is way over the top,” Elliot says. “This is the toned-down version of the reception? I got a sneak peak of the wedding favors. Do you know what the hell they are?” I frown.

“What?”

“Inscribed, gold boxes. I don’t know what’s in them.” My eyes widen.

Real gold?” I ask. He nods.

“Real gold. Party favors, man. Dad’s going to be paying for this shit until he’s dead.” I shake my head. I’m going to ask my father if he needs some help footing this bill. There’s no way he can pay for all this shit. I know my dad is loaded, but this is crazy even for me.

“I know what you’re thinking, man,” Elliot interrupts my thoughts. “He’s not going to accept it.”

“This is ridiculous,” I tell my brother. “There’s no fucking way he can foot all this. He’s probably hocked up to his fucking eyeballs. I’m going to find out.”

“Well, good luck with that, because here they come.”

I look over my shoulder and spot my mother first, a vision in a stunning wine gown that I know had to be custom made for this event. Elliot and I stand to greet our mother.

“Mom,” I say, taking her hands and kissing her cheek, “you look breathtaking.”

“Thank you, Christian,” she says, her smile bright and sincere. Elliot leans in and kisses her.

“You really look beautiful, Mom,” he says.

“Thank you, son. I don’t know what to do with all these compliments,” she gushes. Dad pulls her chair out and she takes her seat.

“They’re right. You’re gorgeous,” Butterfly says. “I feel a bit underdressed.”

“Nonsense,” Mom waves her off. “You look adorable. It’s perfect. I’m the mother of the bride. I’m supposed to look like the opening act.” She and Butterfly laugh lightheartedly. “Really, though, I had it made during that time, so…” She trails off and waves her hand flippantly when she says “that time” in an attempt to explain the extravagance of the dress.

“Well, you look absolutely stunning,” Valerie says, “and I’ll try not to look like a troll in your presence.”

“You kids,” Mom laughs. “Thank you all very much.” She looks around the room. “Mia did a good job toning things down, but there’s still quite a bit going on.”

Yikes, she admits it! So, I’m not crazy.

“It’ll be fine, dear,” Dad says, taking Mom’s hand. We all engage in conversation about the venue and wild decorations when a frantic little woman comes skittering up to my mother.

“I’m sorry I don’t mean to bring you problems right now but we’ve got a problem,” she says all in one breath while frantically clapping the tips of her fingers together repeatedly.

“The wedding is beginning in fifteen minutes. We can’t have a problem!” Mom snaps at her. It only takes a moment to figure out that this is the wedding planner.

“Well, we do! The soloist for the march song isn’t here!” Mom turns in her seat.

“What do you mean she’s not here?” Mom squeaks. Dad takes her hand again.

“She couldn’t get past the blockade, so she left!” Mom’s eyes widen.

“She’s been paid!” Mom shoots. “All these people could get past the blockade and she couldn’t? Where the hell is she?” Mom’s getting pissed.

“On a plane back to California!” the planner says. “I’ve called in every favor I can. I can’t find a replacement on this short notice.”

“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Mom hisses. “Can’t the guy sing the song by himself?” The planner sighs.

“I’m sure he could, but it won’t have the same effect,” she says, her voice defeated. “Mia wanted the image of her and Ethan singing to each other.”

“I am going to ruin this woman,” Mom growls under her voice. The planner looks panicked again, then her eyes fall on Butterfly.

“You!” She points at my wife. “I saw you on the internet! You can sing!”

“What?” my wife exclaims. “Me?”

“Yes, you! I saw you! I heard you! Do you know ‘To Have and To Hold?’” Butterfly is stunned.

“Well… yeah, but, that was karaoke! I can’t sing professionally!” she protests.

“You’ll have to do! Come with me! You’ve got fifteen minutes to practice.” Butterfly is terrified.

“I can’t!” she squeals her protest. “Mia will hate me forever if I destroy her song.”

“Mia will die a thousand deaths if she doesn’t get her song!” the planner exclaims. My mother looks at Butterfly and clasps her hands together, begging.

“Please please please please please please please…” That’s it. Umgawa… come, wife. I stand up and take my wife’s hand.

“Come on, baby, you can do it,” I say, not giving her any more opportunity to protest. We don’t have any time to waste. “You sounded like an angel last night and I’m not just saying that because I love you. Pretend like you’re singing to me.” I pull her along behind me as we follow the wedding planner and I hear her sighing behind me. We get backstage to where the band is and she makes quick introductions of the band, the male singer, and my wife… not me.

Hmpf.

The singer smiles widely and comes over to my wife, closing his hand over hers and telling her not to be nervous. The band runs through the instrumental of the song and the male vocals so that Butterfly can hear where she’s supposed to come in. I know this song pretty well. It’s by Christian Baustista. It’s one of the songs I thought about for our wedding. The words are pretty, I just thought they were too generic. I remember them, though.

Partner, companion, lover and friend
Keeper of all things I hold dear
I see you before me and my heart is filled with joy
For everything that has brought me here
And I have tomorrow to look forward to
For God has given me you…

And suddenly, I’m not real comfortable with the way this fucker is looking at my wife singing these words.

“You sing that better than Madge,” he says to my wife in a tone that I really don’t like.

“Thank you,” she says, and she glances at me. I can tell that she’s uncomfortable.

“You sound good, but you look like you’re gonna fall off the stage,” the planner comments. “You need to loosen up.”

“Maybe if I hold your hand,” the guy suggests, and reaches for my wife. That’s it. I walk towards my wife and her eye is on me the moment I move in her direction. She looks as if she almost wants to leap off the stage. I can see it in her eyes, but I’m on her before she can move.

“Give me the mic.” I hold my hand out to the guy and he doesn’t move. I turn a menacing look to him.

“You want her to loosen up, give me the mic, Skippy.” He begrudgingly hands me the mic and I turn to the band.

“Hit it.” They begin the soft lilting chords of the song and I look into my wife’s eyes as she starts to sing…

“This very moment right here and now begins the journey of my dreams…”

She relaxes into the song and the word come easily and smoothly. She sounds like the angel at karaoke that sang that Whitney Houston song last night. When Skippy’s part comes, I don’t give him the chance to intercede. I just start singing…

“Partner, companion, lover and friend, keeper of all things I hold dear…”

I know how I sound. I don’t sing often, but you can’t play a musical instrument without being able to hold a tune.

Our voices together sound celestial and when we harmonize, it’s like we’ve been practicing for years. Our chemistry is hot enough to burn the damn room down. When we’ve finished, the room falls silent and no one can speak.

“You two,” the planner says, breaking the silence. “Get out there. You’re singing that song.” I turn to my wife, who’s now smiling coyly at me.

“We’re up,” I say softly, rubbing my nose on hers.

“Wait a minute,” Songboy protests. “I’m the vocalist here. I can still do my job.”

“Yeah, but we need her and he makes her relax, so we need him,” the planner says.

“I can make her relax,” Songboy says. “You just didn’t give me a chance.” She looks at him like he has two heads.

“Are you missing something here?” she says, pointing between me and Butterfly. Songboy looks at me, then Butterfly, then the planner.

“What?” he says, perturbed. Butterfly leans around me and shows him her left hand and the obscene diamond and platinum rings on her fingers. Once he gets a good look, I flash the art deco ring on mine. He twists his lips as if our marriage is nothing more than an inconvenience to him. You better step back, junior.

“Well, you said Madge wasn’t getting paid for not singing. I’m getting paid,” he protests. “He’s not blockin’ my money.”

“Nobody’s blocking your money. You’re just not singing with my wife!” I hiss. “Fucking pussy,” I add, under my breath.

“If I was such a fucking pussy, you wouldn’t be worried about me singing with your wife!” he retorts. I whirl around on him.

“Are you trying to get fired and get your ass kicked?” I challenge.

“Make your move, Money,” he taunts. Oh, Mr. Melody is feeling lucky. I remove my jacket and hand it to the first set of hands near me, which happens to be my wife. Suddenly, the songster’s eyes widen and he starts to back up. People don’t seem to realize that under these tailored suits, I’m a thick motherfucker.

“You were saying, Tweety?” I ask, closing the space between us. I’ll leave you an ink blot on the fucking floor.

“Naw, n-nothin’, man, we cool,” he stutters, his hands up in a defensive position as if to push me away. I feel my wife’s hand on my arm, and the calming effect is instantaneous.

“Christian, come on, let’s go. The wedding’s starting any minute. We don’t have time for this.” I glare at Songboy and back away, reaching for my jacket and taking a few deep breaths.

“You ready to do this, baby?” I ask, stroking her cheek. She takes a few deep breaths of her own.

“I’m ready.”


ANASTASIA

Ethan's face when he see's Mia

Ethan’s face when he sees his bride

I don’t know who created streak-free mascara, but they made a mint today. There isn’t a dry eye in the building as Christian and I sing that song. Mia’s dramatic entrance from behind large drawn wine-colored velvet drapes was even more dramatic when she actually removes her veil at the top of the aisle to make sure that her eyes aren’t playing tricks on her, after which she cries the entire trek down the aisle when she realizes that her brother and sister-in-law are serenading her entrance. Ethan is stunned by his bride’s beauty, but is also amazed along with the bridesmaids who are all stunned into a very unattractive, drooling, hungry stupor as no one expected to see Christian on stage with a microphone. This will be one for the record books, but apparently Eric was getting a little to comfortable in rehearsal and I was already nervous about fucking up the song without his flirtatious overtures.

“You sing that better than Marge…”
“Maybe if I hold your hand…”

Geez, can you be more transparent? And how the hell did he and the rest of the band get through the roadblock and this bitch that was supposed to be singing with him didn’t get through? I’m with Grace, I want her ass on a platter.

After Mia’s tearful entrance, Christian and I hastily make our way off the stage to get to our seats to see the rest of the wedding. Grace never stops crying. I don’t know if it’s the menopause or the song or the wedding or what, but she weeps the whole time.

Even though the decorations are insane and I’m sure that there are many other extravagant surprises in store for us, the ceremony is traditional and beautiful… but that’s where the traditional ends. As it turns out, I’m glad that I didn’t bring my children to the wedding because they would have been traumatized by the kiss. Once the minister announces that Mia and Ethan are husband and wife and that he can salute his bride, Ethan takes the lovely Mia into his arms and kisses her passionately, after which several explosions ensue and the wedding guests are showered with thousands and thousands of white rose petals. I can only assume that they were shot from some kind of mechanisms in the floor. However, they were ignited with no warning. So, instead of being enchanted by the fairytale aura of raining rose petals, the room was full of screaming women all wondering what the hell is going on for the first few seconds until we realize, “Oh… flower cannons.”

I can just envision my poor inconsolable babies right now, jerking in terror and then screaming, staring at me like, “What the fuck, Mom?”

Another reason we had to get the hell off the stage so quickly is because it somehow or another dismantles itself so that Mia’s table can emerge. Ask me how, I don’t know, but, yeah… during the receiving line from hell, the archway is scooted away, the stage extends out into the room somehow and Mia’s table “appears.” Flowers, flowers, and more flowers—a floral centerpiece the length of the table that dangles from the ceiling with floating votives in globes hanging from the flowers. I noted the random floating votives throughout the reception, an homage to Mia’s conversation with Pops before he died.

“Nix the candle stands. I like the floating votives better. And the stones on the bottom should be gray—not iridescent. The iridescent stones look like dollar store dressing!”

She chose various colors—pearls, gray, rose, red, white, flowers, or nothing at all… but no iridescent.

 

Ethan and his groomsmen all wear classic, no-button formal length tuxedos, with wine-colored vests and ties while Mia’s innumerable bridesmaids—well, I’m certain they picked their own wardrobes. Their dresses look more like Jessica Rabbit than Mia’s does. They’re sharp as hell… deep wine, off the shoulder, lace illusion necklines with push-up breasts, lace-sleeves, empire-waist, mermaid-cut, floral lace trains, and vamp make-up—smoky eyes with silver shadow and deep wine lipstick with sparkles. These dresses had to cost a fortune. Someone should have told them that you don’t outshine the bride…

 

 

 

Not that they could.

Mia’s dress is a totally hand-sewn Haute couture one-of-a-kind masterpiece in Egyptian silk, exquisite beading, appliques, and Swarovski crystals; dark African mesh around the deep and plunging sweetheart neckline attached to a dramatic jeweled, choker collar and cutout back outlined in pearls and crystals. Delicate and intricate floral appliques are handstitched over the dress from the bodice to the knee, silver filigree complimenting many of the flowers in the mermaid-cut gown with its modest three-foot train. I can see little old ladies with needles sitting on the floor and ottomans surrounding this creation sewing flowers for weeks. No machine in the world could master stitchery this intricate and delicate without damaging the stones or the beading.

I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if that dress went into seven or eight figures.

I’ve spoken to a guest here or there, but when I make my way back to my seat, Sophie looks as if she’s tasted something bad. Dinner hasn’t been served yet, so I know that couldn’t be it. I lean down to her.

“Soph? You okay?” I ask.

“I’m fine,” she says, flatly, her eyes trained on her plate and her arms folded. I put my hand on the back of her chair.

“You’re clearly not fine,” I say. “Talk to me. You don’t look so good.” Her eyes quickly flash up, then back down and again, and I see the object of her affection… and dismay. Two tables over and down a bit is Marlow, and he has brought a date with him. Christian has his attention right now and the poor, awestruck girl at his side is drooling over my husband at the moment, but Sophie is so upset right now that you could fry an egg on her head! She focuses her gaze everywhere but on Marlow and I can’t let on that I know about her crush because she hasn’t confided that part in me yet, but I can’t just let her sit here like this. Just when I’m trying to figure out how to get her out of her funk…

“Sophie, come take a picture with us!”

Maggie, Mariah, and Celida all come barreling over to the table to retrieve Sophie, totally unaware of her inner turmoil over her crush. Without paying any attention to the expression on her face, they drag her from her chair and off to parts unknown to take the picture of which they speak. She doesn’t look left or right. She just mindlessly follows as the girls lead her away.

This is going to become a problem.

“Hey, beautiful,” my husband says, sneaking up behind me.

“Hey, yourself. When are they going to start serving some food in this joint?” I ask.

“Once they’re done with the pictures, I suspect,” he says, taking his seat next to me.

“Well, I’m famished and I’m ready to eat. I didn’t know I was going to have to sing for my dinner,” I jest. He chuckles.

“Neither did I, but you did well.”

“As did you,” I say, gently stroking his chin.

“Oh, geez, get a room,” Elliot says as he and Val make their way back to the table with Grace, Carrick, Luma, and Herman.

“I’d much rather get a plate,” I say, leaning back into my husband’s chest.

“I’ve put the word into the planner’s ear to try to wrap up the important photos before dinner gets cold,” Grace says. No sooner the words are out of her mouth is the announcement made that dinner is about to be served and everyone should take their seats.

“Thank God,” I declare, straightening in my chair. A few moments later, the guests from our table all return, including a very sullen Sophie. After a short “welcome and thank you” speech from Ethan, the first course is served. I tear into my salad like a starving man. I have no idea why I’m so hungry… oh, wait, yes, I do. I slept all morning due to a hangover and only ate crudités in the early afternoon. I haven’t had any real food all day and the first thing they bring me is salad. Bring on the meat, man!

“Settle down, killer,” my husband jests.

“The butterflies have vacated and this stomach needs sustenance, now!” I tell him. He laughs.

“Pun intended,” he teases. Butterflies. Ha, ha.

“Very funny. Make them bring me food before I gnaw my arm off,” I threaten.

The wait staff clear away our salad dishes and pepper our table with dishes of nearly every variety. Our food is nearly as diverse as the people serving it. I pay closer attention to our servers and realize that they’re not just in costume. There’s a theme.

Antony and Cleopatra…

Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy… There’s controversy for you.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton…

Sonny and Cher…

Baby and Johnny from Dirty Dancing…

Sandy and Danny from Grease…

Gomez and Morticia from The Addams Family…

And there are several more, but all our servers are dressed as famous couples. That’s pretty neat. I’m still stuck in the novelty of the concept when a small voice next to me makes a very adult request.

“Excuse me, but, please take this back. This is not what I requested.”

I turn to the young voice next to me and Marilyn is looking at Sophie like she’s has no idea what she’s talking about.

“I beg your pardon?” she says in her practiced Marilyn voice.

“This is not what I ordered,” Sophie repeats. “I ordered coq au vin. Can you please take this back and bring me coq au vin?” She’s holding the plate out to the server as if it’s offensive and Marilyn is eying it like she has no intention of taking it back.

“That is coq au vin,” she purrs, and she sounds as if she wants to add “Little girl.”

“No.” Sophie hands the plate to the blonde-wig-wearing server who doesn’t want to take it, forcing her to relieve Sophie of the plate. “That’s duck confit.” She walks over to Elliot and points just over his shoulder, careful not to come near his plate. “That’s coq au vin.”

Marilyn looks at the entrée in the plate in her hand, then at the entrée on Elliot’s plate, then at Elliot. He nods.

“She’s right. I asked for coq au vin,” he confirms.

“I’m sorry,” Marilyn purrs. “I’ll be right back.”

“Thank you,” Sophie says with no malice as the server goes to correct her mistake.

“How did you know you had the wrong dish?” Elliot asks Sophie. “I wouldn’t have known just by looking at it.” Sophie raises her brow then shrugs slowly.

“I… like food,” she says. “I watch cooking shows.”

“But you know food like duck confit?” Grace asks amazed. “That’s impressive.”

“Do you know all these dishes?” Luma asks. Sophie’s face lights up slightly and suddenly, there’s no more shadow of her disappointing crush.

“Um, I think so. Ms. Grace has fennel salad; Mr. Carrick, filet mignon. Mr. Herman has the lobster and mash and Ms. Luma has the broiled salmon. The girls all have the barbeque chicken and macaroni and cheese. Aunt Ana has the lamb with mint sauce, Uncle Christian, the lobster. Aunt Val has the blackened catfish and Uncle Elliot the coq au vin.”

Everyone is looking around the table at each other’s plates and asking what each of us is eating.

“Did she get it right?” Carrick asks, and so far, everyone nods. Sophie smiles coyly. “Very impressive, Sophie,” Carrick praises her. “Do you have an interest in cooking?”

“I didn’t at first,” she says. “I just liked watching the food channels. Then, I was watching them with my mom and we would try some of the stuff, and it was kind of fun…” Marilyn comes back to the table with a fresh steaming hot plate of coq au vin and set it in front of Sophie, apologizing for her mistake. Sophie smiles and nods as Marilyn leaves.

“Now,” Sophie continues, placing her napkin in her lap, “I just watch them because I like them and I want to try to cook some of the dishes I see. Plus, I like seeing how the dishes turn out and where they come from. I hadn’t thought about cooking, but I know so much about it that now, I probably will.”

The table engages Sophie in a conversation about food for quite some time as we enjoy a meal, quite frankly, fit for royalty. We clean our plates and thoroughly enjoy being enthralled in food conversation with a 13-year-old girl who knows more about wine parings than I do. Once the evening wears on to more food courses and dessert courses, drinks and music, the table starts to thin a bit and couples begin to pair, bringing Sophie’s attention back to her original ire.

It doesn’t help that her ire brings his date over to our table to introduce us.

“Hey, everybody, this is Maya. Maya, this is… everybody.”

I extend my hand and introduce myself and Maya smiles at me. Sophie stiffens next to me. Maya’s pretty—petite, and round… very round in all the right places. I don’t want to be the one to tell her that she’s wearing a dress that’s not very flattering on her. It’s an A-line dress with an empire waist. The problem is that she’s short and the dress is dating her. Not only is the cut wrong, but the color is wrong. It’s like gray, green, and mauve all mixed together and I have no idea who came up with this design. It makes her look old and instead of looking elegant and flowy, it makes her look frumpy.

Sophie twists her lips and turns away, but Maya zeros in on her. It’s almost like she can smell it—the possible competition that’s not even there because Marlow doesn’t even know that Sophie feels this way about him.

“Hi,” she extends her hand to Sophie. “You are?”

“Sophia,” Sophie says, taking her hand. Maya smiles.

“That’s a cute dress. My kid sister has one just like that. I think hers is pink, though.”

And there’s first blood.

“It does come in different colors,” Sophie says coolly while slowly withdrawing her hand. “I have teal and purple. Speaking of which, I’ve seen your dress before, too. Fashion week. 2012.”

Shots fired.

“The original was shorter, though,” Sophie continues, “or I think the model was just taller… and skinnier. And the color was definitely different. More vibrant, I think.” Maya’s lips tighten for a moment, then curl in a smile.

“Well,” she says, “I guess I’ll just have to… take it off, then.” She raises her eyebrows suggestively at Sophie before turning to Marlow. “I need the ladies room, babe. I’ll be right back.” She leaves without excusing herself.

Game.
Set.
Match.
Against a 13-year-old girl. Nice going, Maya.

“Uugh,” Sophie grunts and grimaces, placing her hands over her stomach.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“My stomach feels yucky,” she says, frowning. “I probably should have stuck with the duck.” No, Love, that’s the angry flip flops when the guy you have feelings for doesn’t feel the same way about you and the girl that he’s probably fucking just ran you over like a freight train. “I’m going to call my dad and see if one of the guys can take me home.” She rises from her chair and starts walking towards the door.

“I’ll take you home, Soph,” Marlow says. Sophie momentarily throws a seething look at him, which quickly softens.

“No,” she says. “I wouldn’t want to put you out, especially after your date went through all that trouble securing that dress.” Without another word, she turns around and walks out of the reception, and I have to move swiftly so that the blazing arrow that just went flying in Marlow’s direction doesn’t hit me.

“Did she just throw a shot at your date?” Christian asks, bemused. Marlow’s brow furrows.

“I think she did,” he replies. “What was that all about?” Seriously? Did you two miss the entire heavyweight fight that just took place in front of you when Maya wiped her feet on Sophie’s face then escaped to the bathroom to clean the blood off her shoes?

“Temperamental teenager,” I say, rolling my eyes and waving it off in an attempt to divert the conversation. “Who knows? It could be that time of the month.”

“TMI, Ana,” Marlow says. I turn my gaze to him.

“Um, don’t you date?”

“Yeah, but that part has nothing to do with me.” What the…? I hear Christian groan next to me.

“Well, you had better make it have something to do with you, young man, because unless something’s wrong with her insides, every woman you date is going to have that time of the month. And if you so callously shut it down like it has nothing to do with you, you’re going to find yourself awfully lonely on many a Saturday night, whether Aunt Flo is visiting or not!”

I stand, turn on my heels and march away from this young whippersnapper before I really give him a piece of my mind. How dare him just dismiss a woman’s period like it’s some kind of inconvenience and he just has to wait until it passes. I mean, I know most little bonehead boys who are just now figuring out what the heads of their dicks even look like feel that way, but don’t say that shit around me.

I go in search of Sophie, but she must have already found Jason, because she’s nowhere in sight. To be certain, I text him to see if she’s touched bases with him and he confirms that one of the staff has already taken her home as she looked a little green in the face.

Yeah, green with envy.


A/N: Part I of the wedding is complete. On to part II! 

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

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

 ~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 33—Just When You Thought It Was Safe…

NO EMAIL SENT YET!

So, if you were on my Facebook, you know that I’m introducing a new bit of a storyline, but I lost the damn picture of the actor that was supposed to represent the character. It was perfect, too! So when you read me say something about the guy that doesn’t really fit what we’ve seen or know of him, just try to picture it, because the picture was perfect and I wrote part of the storyline based on that particular picture… which was somehow gobbled up and destroyed by the internet! 😦 

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

Chapter 33—Just When You Thought It Was Safe…

ANASTASIA

There are quite a few targets with destroyed heads and decimated balls at the armory that day. I don’t get any real satisfaction, though, until I decide to go to the open range and play with the semi-automatics and the pump-rifles. Then, I’m really able to release some steam. Fucking sick pervert standing there trying to get his jollies watching me breastfeed my kids. I hope his testicles shrivel up and fall off!

So that I don’t appear to be a total psychopath, I convince Maria to don a vest and some safety gear and instruct her on firing a few amateur rounds, just to show her how easy it really is. She has more fun than she expects and she’s a really quick study, especially since a lot of the newer, higher-powered firearms can be modified to be more lightweight and easier to handle.

Once Maria is satisfied with all the footage she has acquired, she and the crew wrap things up and head back to the hotel to get ready to go to SeaTac and New York while we head back to the Crossing. She informs us that she’s very happy with the footage she got and hopes to have everything edited and ready for sweeps week. We retain the right to see the finish product before it gets aired, a condition to which she heartily agrees.

I spend the afternoon trying to decompress from my moment in the spotlight because, quite frankly, it was a lot of fucking work and very fucking stressful. Now, I just get to sit and fret until the shit hits prime time and hope that Maria presents us in a great light and that the nation—the world—doesn’t misconstrue the message we’re trying to send, like the lovely Ms. Stanton.

Bitch.

The truth is, however, I would have taken a hundred Raynell Stantons and her snotty, superior ass attitude to what I discover is in store for me next. I had just settled in my office at the Center on Monday and was about to formulate my next move in Operation Accreditation when Grace steps somberly into my office.

“We’re going to have a visitor for the next few weeks,” Grace says. My brows furrow.

“Who?” I ask.

“Apparently, the licensing board feels that we need a close eye in finalizing our preparations for the school,” she says. “They’ll be sending a representative right over to make sure that we wrap things up properly.”

“You mean a babysitter,” I huff. “We’ve done every single thing they’ve asked—every single thing! Why do they feel like we need a babysitter now?”

“You know why,” Grace says. “Gloria… she’s still juicing that vendetta. I wish we didn’t have to go through her on the licensing board. She’s going through everything with a fine-toothed comb and anything that’s not perfect is going to hold us up.” I sigh angrily.

“It’s the letters,” I say. “It has to be. I sent twenty certified letters to the board detailing everything that we’ve done and questioning the delay. She probably has to justify that delay now. We need to file a complaint against her, Grace. You and I both know that this is a personal conflict of interest and discrimination and so does she. We’ve brought in experts and consultants to make sure that we have everything tight and she still finds ways to delay our final approval. I’m calling Al.”

“Ana, please,” Grace beseeches. “We simply can’t afford any more delays. A complaint would drag this thing out forever. This inspector only needs three weeks of close observation, then they’ll see first-hand that we’ve done everything that we’re supposed to do. Once that’s complete, this entire mess will be over. I’m certain of it.”

Poor, optimistic Grace. This will never be over until our licensing is out of the hands of Gloria Felton. Once this investigation is completed, she’s going to find another reason—some other loophole—to hold us up.

“I need you to take point on this one, Ana,” Grace adds apologetically, “be the first point of contact for the inspector.”

I sigh. Of course, I have to take point on this. I wouldn’t dream of having Grace do it after what she’s just been through, not to mention that Carrick, Christian, and the rest of the family would most likely have my neck.

“Three weeks, Grace,” I concede. “I’m giving this inspector three weeks to see that we have all our ducks in a row and that our ship is tight. If she doesn’t report back to that haughty bitch that everything is as it should be, I’m calling in the cavalry.” Grace nods.

“Fair enough, but there’s something that you should know about the inspector…” There’s a knock at the door. Grace and I both turn our attention to the open door and the figure standing there expectantly. I’m greeted by otherworldly blue eyes that make me gasp involuntarily.

Liam's EyesAre those things real??

“Hi, I’m looking for Grace Grey. I’m Liam Westwick from the Washington State Licensing Board.” Grace leans in close to my ear.

“The inspector is a guy.” I look over at Grace in horror.

“You want me to take point??” I whisper harshly. This man is fucking gorgeous—as tall as Christian, striking blue eyes, playful brown hair, glistening white teeth that even in a half-smile looks like sunshine, athletic build, and wearing a charcoal suit that looks as if it were hand-painted to fit his physic. Oh, and the biggest feet I’ve ever seen in my life—feet too big for his body, but still aptly camouflaged in designer leather shoes. Who has feet that big?

“Excuse me, do I have the right place?” he says, breaking my trance and apparently, Grace’s, too. I swallow hard and turn back to Grace. You gotta be fucking kidding me! Three weeks’ close work… with this? I mean, he’s no Christian… but damn!

“Yes,” Grace proceeds forward with her hand extended. “I’m Grace Grey. It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Westwick.” She shakes his hand politely.

“Liam, please,” he says politely, just like me… “Ana, please.”

“This is my daughter-in-law and the assistant director of Helping Hands, Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey. She has basically spearheaded our entire project.”

“Dr. Grey.” He extends his hand to me, his voice friendly, but professional. I take his proffered hand.

“Liam,” I say, shaking firmly. “And everyone calls me Ana.” I decide to steer away from my usual Ana, please. Well, we might as well get this circus over with. “I’ll be showing you around and answering your questions.”

“So, you’ll be my tour guide,” he says with a wide smile. More like your charge, I think to myself, trying not to project any venom in his direction.

“So to speak, yes,” I say, clasping my hands in front of me.

“Why don’t we show you around, Liam?” Grace says, no doubt, noting my obvious discomfort.  She holds her hand out in front of her, gesturing for him to take the lead, which he does. She falls in step next to him and I walk behind the two of them, resenting his very presence. He must know why he’s here. He can’t think this is some routine investigation if he’s reviewed our file at all.

“It’s quite the operation you have here, Drs. Grey,” he says halfway through the tour. I guess my silence must have been deafening and he has finally decided to engage me in the conversation.

“We’ve come quite a long way since Ana has been on board,” Grace says. “A year ago, I couldn’t see all of the improvements she’s helping put into place. Now, it just seems like the natural order of things.

“Grace, please,” I say, shunning the recognition. “A lot of people have had their hand in the changes taking place around here—Courtney and Jesse and the daycare staff, just to name a few. The volunteers…”

“Don’t be so modest, dear,” Grace says. “Most of those people are success stories from the Center, and who do we have to thank for that?” She smiles widely and I just hate that she’s shining the spotlight on me, but I just smile graciously and pray that this will be over soon.

“Exactly what will you be looking for during your visit, Mr. Westwick?” The question comes out more like “What are your intentions with my daughter?” He raises those unrealistically blue eyes to me.

“Liam,” he corrects me. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that you must have some idea of what you’ll be investigating,” I press. “Surely, you’ve read our file and there must be some indication as to why this investigation is necessary.” My tone is accusing, as it should be.

“No indication,” he admits. “Sometimes, these investigations are just random.”

“Random,” I say, my voice dripping with skepticism. “Is that what we are… random?”

“Um, I’m sure that what Ana means to say is that we can’t figure out why we were chosen for this particular investigation. We’ve done everything that’s been asked of us to the letter and now we’re being…”

“Subjected to an unnecessary investigation,” I say, no longer willing to exercise Grace’s diplomacy in the matter. “There’s absolutely no reason for our accreditation to be delayed any longer than it already has. We’ve gone above and beyond the needed state and federal requirements. We haven’t even requested government funding yet and we’ve far exceeded the preparations of institutions that have. Believe me, I’ve done my homework.”

Liam examines me curiously, like a fish in a bowl, and it only serves to piss me off. I give him a distasteful glare and he finally breaks his gaze.

“I only take the assignments given to me, Dr. Grey,” he says, reverting back to formalities. “It’s not for me to question why my superiors request an investigation. It is only for me to do my job.

“And may I be so bold to ask who your superior is?” As if I didn’t already know.

“I have different supervisors for different cases,” he responds.

“For this case,” I insist. He pauses.

“This comes straight from the top,” he says, as if that would pacify me. “Gloria Felton.”

I turn a knowing and disgusted gaze at Grace, who shares a glance with Liam, then turns her eyes back to me.

“It’s probably best if I don’t take the lead on this one,” I say. “I wouldn’t want to say or do anything to compromise the investigation.” I turn on my heels and march indignantly back to my office. Attractive though he may be, I have no intention of playing hostess to Gloria’s little lap dog. I see no reason for this circus and I refuse to be a part of it.

I order lunch in and spend the afternoon combing through reports, proposals, plans, and applications sent to the licensing board, trying to see if we’ve missed anything. I want all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed when I call Al to sue this bitch for discrimination and harassment. I get angrier and angrier sitting there dissecting our work with a critical eye looking for the slightest misstep—my reports, Marilyn’s research, Grace’s proposals—hours and hours of hard work and diligence just thrown to the dogs because some spiteful cunt has an ax to grind. I feel a little better after feeding the babies, but the moment I get back to tearing down our blood, sweat, and tears, I’m pissed off again. I’m pulled out of my angry inner tirade about how I wish I could just rip this bitch’s throat out by a knock at my door.

“Come in,” I call out. An excuse to take a break. I need something to break this flow of negative energy anyway. I raise my head to see Liam Westwick walk into my office.

So much for breaking the flow of negative energy.

I want to ask him if he’s lost, but I save the sarcasm. No use in antagonizing the lap dog.

Once in the office, he stands there staring at me for a moment and it makes me uncomfortable—not only because those striking blue eyes aren’t moving and he almost looks extra-terrestrial, but also because his gaze holds something else. Curiosity, maybe, I don’t know, but I want him to stop looking at me that way.

“Is something wrong?” I ask, trying to hide my sarcasm. He flinches as if my voice startled him and now, I want to know what the fuck he was thinking while he was staring at me.

“You’re…” he pauses before he says anything. “I didn’t know you wore glasses.”

Glasses? My glasses? He’s staring at my glasses? There’s nothing remarkable about my glasses. When I first saw them, I immediately thought of Buddy Holly, but when I tried them on—God only knows why—they really looked good on me. They drive Christian crazy…

Drive Christian crazy…

No! He couldn’t be…! I snatch my glasses off my face, certain that they’re having the same effect on Mr. Westwick. Fuck! That would be a disaster…

“Yes. I wear glasses,” I say, rubbing my eyes as they adjust to vision without the help of magnification. “What can I do for you, Mr. Westwick?” I hear him sigh.

“Mr. Westwick,” he repeats in slight dismay. “Nobody calls me ‘Mr. Westwick,’” he says in slight dismay. Well, there’s a first time for everything. “I’m not the enemy, Ana.”

Dr. Grey, I think to myself as he stands in front of my desk with his hands clasped in front of him.

“I was sent here to do a job. That’s all I’m trying to do. I’m not a henchman. I’m not on a witch-hunt. I’ll complete the investigation that’s required of me and I’ll be on my way. However, I’m not stupid or obtuse, either. I saw the looks that passed between you and Grace when I mentioned Gloria Felton. She’s mum about it, so I was hoping I could get some insight from you. Is there something that I should know?”

His blue eyes are sharp, now—piercing and serious—and if my ability to read people hasn’t faltered, he really doesn’t know what’s going on here. Nonetheless, he’s from the enemy camp as far as I’m concerned, and I need to proceed with caution. There’s nothing worse than sleeping with the enemy.

Fuck… bad analogy.

“Mr. Westwick…” I hear a short, frustrated gasp. “Liam,” I correct myself. He relaxes a bit. “I think you should proceed with your investigation with the information that you have at your disposal. There’s nothing that I can say that would be productive to your purpose unless it directly relates to the Center. Anything else that you need to know, you should ask Ms. Felton.” He twists his lips. After a moment, he gestures to the seat in front of my desk. I nod once.

“I just may have to do that,” he says, taking a seat. “There’s obviously something going on and I don’t want the investigation tainted in any way.” His eyes soften from the piercing, questioning glare he held before. His eyes change with every mood, every conversation. It’s like you can see right into his soul. If I was trying to read his thoughts, I would sit there and stare at them all day. Instead, I look between them so that I don’t get lost in them.

“And then there’s that,” he says, dropping his gaze with a slightly sorrowful laugh. I frown.

“There’s what?” I say. I didn’t say anything.

“Nine out of ten people focus on the bridge of my nose to keep from looking me in the eyes,” he says sadly while raising his gaze back to mine. “I’m thinking about getting contacts.”

I’m a little taken aback by his confession, not only because he caught me doing just that; not even because so many other people do it; but because he can tell when it’s being done and it actually bothers him.

“You have to know that your eyes are quite haunting,” I say before I think about it. The words were out of my mouth before I can stop them, but hell, it’s true. The corner of his mouth raises in a somewhat mocking smirk.

“Haunting as in intriguing or haunting as in scary?” he asks. My turn to twist my lips.

“Haunting as in… haunting,” I say, giving him nothing. He raises an eyebrow at me and I raise one right back.

“Okay,” he says, raising his hands in mock surrender. “Enough about my eyes.” He sits back in his seat. “The way I see it, I need direction so that I don’t go wandering aimlessly around this place. You want me out of here as quickly and seamlessly as possible. You show me what I need to see over the next three weeks, we work together and I’m gone.” I roll my eyes.

“Fine,” I concede, “but can we start tomorrow, please?” I need some time to regroup. He nods.

“Fair enough,” he says, extending a hand to me. “Good evening, Ana,” he says as I shake his hand.

“Liam,” I respond. He nods and leaves. I pull the ponytail holder from my hair and massage my scalp wildly, leaving my hair in that “attacked by wolves” mess that lets the onlooker know that today has been a bad day. Of course, Grace walks into my office just as I have mussed my hair and massaged my scalp.

“You know,” she says, “you and Christian both have a version of JPF hair.” I glare at her. Did my mother-in-law just say this to me? And she got it wrong, too.

“Don’t you mean JBF hair?” I correct her. She laughs, letting me know that she knows what I’m getting at.

“No, I mean JPF… Just Plain Frustrated. His hair normally looks like pygmies have been playing with it, and when your hair looks like that…” She trails off. “Look, I asked you to take point on this because you have your finger on the pulse of everything that has to do with the accreditation. I would have to research certain things, but if this is too much for you, I’ll do it.”

She’s right. I know this stuff like the front and back of my hand and asking anyone else to take point on it would be truly unrealistic and may even delay the investigation.

“No, I can do it,” I tell her. “We’ll give him the information that he wants and he can tell this woman that we’ve done everything that we need to do.”

“Really, Ana, you’ve got the babies, Christian, your life… I can do it,’ Grace presses.

“Yes, and I also have the accreditation of this organization,” I protest. “This is my ‘baby,’ too. I need to go on and see it through to the end.” She nods.

“I’ll help in any way that I can, and if it gets to be too much, let me know and I’ll take over.”

“I will,” I tell her. “Right now, I just want to get home to my husband and my babies.”

“Your babies are here,” she says knowingly.

“Yeah, and I want to get them home.”

Christian pounces on me right after dinner, citing that I’m wound so tight that he knows I’m in need of a few orgasms. He’s right. I’m so frustrated with this whole Gloria Felton witch-hunt and I just want it to go away. After my third orgasm has left me like butter, I tell him about the unnecessary rigors she has put us through and now, we have to suffer through this damn investigation, which is just going to put us off for three more weeks.

“You know I can make a call and find out what’s going on, maybe even make this whole thing go away,” Christian says, kissing my neck just under my ear.

“I know, and I love you for wanting to help, but I fear that any intercedence from you will be viewed as special dispensation and I don’t want anything to get in the way of valid accreditation for the Center. Don’t think I haven’t considered it, though,” I say as his lips gently meet mine. “It’s just… what was I saying?”

“Special dispensation,” he says, kissing my cheek and biting my chin.

“Oh… yeah,” I say breathily, “I understand why… she didn’t want the donation from you now. I didn’t before, but now I get it.”

“Um hmm,” he says, taking a nipple into his mouth and biting gently.

“Ah! Christian…” Three orgasms… is he trying to kill me? I thrust my hands into his hair just as he thrusts his cock into my core. “God!” I breathe out harshly. He takes my hands and entwines his fingers in mine, pinning them on either side of my head.

“All you have to do is say the word,” he says, softly, breaths away from my lips as he drills slowly into me, “and I’ll take care of it.”

“I know,” I pant, getting lost in the sensation of him stroking me, filling me.

“Good.” He bites my chin again. “As long as you know,” and his lips cover mine.

*-*

After waking to yet another orgasm from my insatiable husband, I go to the Center feeling refreshed—and thoroughly well used—ready to start the day and get on with this blasted investigation. Grace greets me the moment I get there.

“Remember,” she says, “I can always take over…”

“I know,” I say, thinking about how she and her son are so ready to rescue me, “but you know that I’m the right person to do this, right?” She smiles and squeezes my shoulder, heading off towards her office. I make sure that the twins and Keri are comfortably tucked away in the day care center. She likes helping with the other children while the twins are asleep, so this is a win-win for her and all parties involved. I can’t help but wonder at our luck that she agreed to come back to the States with Chuck every time I see her with the twins. I wonder if they’ll get married now that she’s staying?

Liam is a little late today and the moment he arrives, we go about the business of his investigation. He has specific things on his list that he wants to see in terms of the operations of the Center, which I have no problems showing him. Each section that he has to observe involves interviewing residents or clients, randomly picking employees and volunteers and reviewing their qualifications for the areas in which they work or the jobs they perform, and finally, reviewing records and reports to see how we keep track of progress, milestones, and projections. It’s all very professional and quite seamless for the most part.

Once the first week is over and Liam submits his initial findings, I’m sure that Ms. Felton will call off the dogs. The remainder of the investigation would only show more of the same and she would have to see that this was a waste of taxpayer’s money.


CHRISTIAN

“This is an excellent proposal, Marlow,” I praise my young protégé. He has come a long way from the angry young man Butterfly described to me the first year that we were dating. He goes quite the distance to protect his mother and sister since they escaped his abusive father two years ago even though he doesn’t have to as I have assigned a security detail to the entire family. Marlow had to work on his anger issues and learned to channel his focus to more productive tasks, such as taking on projects to help rebuild his community. He has since brought me several ideas on community outreach programs and revitalization efforts in his old neighborhood. His efforts have even encouraged other young people in the area to get involved now that they see that someone cares and wants to give back to the community.

His latest proposal involves reopening a recreation center that had been closed for several years due to lack of funding. It’s an ambitious endeavor, but not impossible. With GEH as a sponsor, he’s hoping to get the community center reopened by next summer. It doesn’t come without its drawbacks, though.

“I saw him again yesterday,” he says, looking down at the proposal in his hands and twisting his lips. I know he’s talking about his father, who still lives in the neighborhood, or at least he still frequents the neighborhood. I’m sure he just wants Marlow to know that he can still get to him if he wants.

“And?” I ask. “Did he say anything?” Marlow shakes his head.

“Naw,” he responds. “It’s like I said, ever since I visited him in jail and told him I’d lay him out if he ever came near me, Mom, or Mags again, he doesn’t say anything to me. He just wants me to see him. I think he tried to approach Mom though…” I sit up straight. Why did no one tell me about this?

“When did this happen?” I ask, my brow furrowed. He shrugs.

“About…” His eyes narrow as he tries to remember. “… A couple of weeks ago, I think. He got a surprise, though. Mom met this guy. Zack or something, they’ve been talking… nothing serious yet. She told me she thinks she saw Dad while she was out with Zack.” He chuckles. “Zack’s not a small guy.” I raise my eyebrow at him.

“You’ve spoken to Zack?” I ask. “You’re not a small guy, either.” He scoffs.

“I’m not a short guy,” Marlow correct me. He’s nearly as tall as I am, but not as muscular. “Granted, I’m working out and I’ve put on some weight, but I got a long way to go. I can take on my dad, but Zack…” He shakes his head. “I’ll still kick his ass if he fucks with my Mom, though. I didn’t come off all macho, because I know he wouldn’t believe me if I did, but yeah, we talked. I told him that I didn’t know how much Mom has told him, but that we’ve had a rough time and Mom doesn’t need any shit and if that’s what he’s bringing or ever thinking about bringing, he better turn around and take it somewhere else.”

“What did he say?” I ask.

“He asked me if I was threatening him,” Marlow responds. Classic power play. Let’s see if my protégé has learned anything.

“And what did you say?” he shrugs and sighs.

“I told him I didn’t have time for threats,” he says, his voice exasperated. “I told him to take it however he wanted, but that my family has been through enough and we don’t need anymore drama. As long as he’s cool, we can be friends. The minute he brings drama, the moment he’s trouble, I ain’t ya friend—and you don’t wanna know me when I ain’t ya friend no more.”

He raises cool, green eyes to me and fixes his gaze on mine. Not necessarily the words I would have used, but pretty much the same sentiment—and if he added that glare, Zack got the message loud and clear and young Marlow is not just some young buck hothead lion cub trying to keep the next male cat away from his mom. He still needs a little buffing around the edges, but he’s polishing up very nicely.

“You’re still calling him Dad,” I say. He frowns. Yeah, I changed gears mid-conversation. “Your father. You call him Dad.” He shrugs again. I’m trying to break him of that habit. He does it a lot when we’re alone, but less when we’re around others.

“That’s just because I don’t know what else to call him,” he says. “Calling him by his first name, or even his last name seems like too much of a show of respect. I won’t ever call anybody else Dad because of what it means. Dad used to mean that I loved him, that I couldn’t wait for him to get home, you know. It was reserved for only him. Then, it warped into a word of hatred, contempt, and fear. So, yeah. My kids, they’ll call me Pop or Pops or even Daddy, but never Dad. That word is still reserved just for him… only him.”

I feel bad for Marlow detesting his father so much, but I guess it’s no more than I detest the crack whore, so…

“Well, he seems like a coward to me,” I say, “lurking in the shadows, trying to use fear and intimidation tactics. I think he’s more afraid of you than you are of him.”

“He should be,” Marlow confirms. “When I say I’ll take him down, I mean it, so he better not test me.” I nod and decide it’s definitely time to change the subject.

“You’ve got a date for the wedding next Saturday?” I ask. He rolls his eyes.

“God,” he nearly whines. “You know how much guys hate weddings?”

“Actually, most times they don’t,” I tell him. “They usually use them as an opportunity to hit on the bridesmaids.”

“The groomsmen use them as an opportunity to hit on the bridesmaids. Guys don’t want the girls they’re seeing to start getting any ideas,” he protests.

“Well, are you seeing anybody seriously?” I ask.

“Do I ever see anybody seriously?” he retorts. “I’ve got school and work and my projects… I have fun, but the girls I hang out with, they all know that we’re just hanging out. If I take somebody to that wedding, they’re gonna get all starry-eyed and stuff. I don’t have time for that.”

“So, you don’t have any female friend that you can just say, ‘I need a casual wedding date. Wanna go?’” He shakes his head.

“I don’t have any female friends,” he says.

“Well, if I have to go, you have to go. So, figure something out, young man,” I say, patting him on the shoulder. He rolls his eyes.

“I’ll escort my mom,” he says sorrowfully. “It’s not like I want to be there anyway. It’s gonna be a nightmare.” You’re telling me. As we’re still lamenting having to attend whatever shahoolawhatagans will be Mia and Ethan’s wedding, Andrea buzzes my intercom.

“Mr. Welch would like a moment,” her disembodied voice says. Alex normally just walks in. Why the formality?

“Send him in, and have you heard back from Capito’s camp for a conference call between our companies for some time in the next week?”

“Not yet, sir.” I shake my head. I turn my attention back to Marlow. “Get the information on the coding and ownership of the property. See if there’s been any interest in it since the community center was closed down or if it’s just been sitting dormant all this time. Get some background information on the surrounding businesses, too. It goes a long way to determine the future success of the project.”

“I’ve already started on that part,” he says. “A lot of the local businesses are struggling because traffic from the center diminished. Reopening it could be just the boost the neighborhood needs, in more ways than one.” My office door opens and Alex breaches the doorway, then stops, obviously expecting me to be alone.

“Get back to me as soon as you have that information,” I tell Marlow. He nods and stands, greeting Alex before leaving. “What’s with the announcing yourself?” I ask. “You don’t usually do that.”

“I didn’t know who you were meeting with,” he says, walking further into the office. “I’ve got some information and I don’t know who you want to hear it.”

“Information about what?”

“Not what… who.” He hands me a piece of paper. He’s talking to me as I’m reading the paper. “Dustin Carver, the PI who’s following your father. Pretty unremarkable guy, as you can see. He’s an everyday, average private dick, somebody that wouldn’t and shouldn’t arouse any kind of suspicion even for what he does. Just that typical type of guy that you might hire if you were trying to catch a cheating wife. He’s not highly sought, no special set of skills, nothing at all that would give even a child cause for concern—except one little thing…” I shake my head as my eyes land on the obvious glaring red flag that is definitely a cause for concern.

“His agency is based out of Detroit.” I walk over and toss the paper on my desk taking a seat in my desk chair, frustrated, Fuck! Will that place ever leave me alone? “Goddamn motherfucking shithole-in-the-wall God-forsaken Detroit!” I hiss.

“Well, shit. Tell us how you really feel.” Jason joins us, quickly entering my office and closing the door behind him. “I take it you told him,” he says to Alex.

“I did, and he’s not taking it very well,” Alex confirms.

“Of course, I’m not taking this shit well!” I bark. “A private eye from Detroit is all the way out here on the Pacific seaboard following my father! You know this can only be Sunset or fucking Myrick.” Alex sighs.

“There’s a third possibility,” Jason says. My neck snaps to him like someone hit me. Well, fucking out with it, man. “This is your father this guy is following, not various members of your family. It could be your uncle.”

My uncle? Why the fuck would Herman have a private eye following Dad around the city? It doesn’t make any damn sense… Then, while I’m trying to figure it out, Alex’s words come floating back to me.

Just that typical type of guy that you might hire if you were trying to catch a cheating wife.

Or if you were a cheating husband. Herman’s not my only uncle…

“Freeman,” I hiss. “Why the fuck would Freeman have somebody following my Dad?”

“Turnabout?” Alex says, with a shrug. “I can’t even begin to tell you what the guy was hoping to find, and we haven’t even established that it was Freeman who hired the private eye. We’re not sure who it was.”

“So, how do we find out?” I nearly growl. “I’m a resourceful fucking guy. So are you. What’s the fucking problem?”

“So, how far do you want to go with this?” he asks. Well, let me think. Not too long ago, three guys who had something to do with hacking into my company mainframe disappeared never to be heard from again. I’m currently suing a DJ for rightfully accusing me of having his ass kicked for talking too damn much, and you just delivered a dog back to a judge that you dognapped for giving my company fleet too many damn traffic tickets. Just how far do you think I want you to go? I fold my arms and wordlessly glare at him.

“Okay, let me reword that,” Alex says. “If I ruffle too many feathers and turn over too many rocks, I might find Sunset. What then?” He has a point, but in all honesty, what now?

“If Sunset is already under the damn rock, then what are we running from?” I retort. “It’s not like he can’t get to me if he wants to. And give this some serious thought. Detroit-based Mafioso searching for a man in federal protection sends an average loafer-wearing flatfoot-type private dick all the way from Motown to Seattle to follow my father? After he sends that Egyptian-thread-wearing consigliere out here last year? If that’s the case, then he wants the fucker to get caught. Shake that asshole down and find out what the fuck he wants. And if that’s not the case and this asshole is not from Sunset, shake that asshole down and find out what the fuck he wants!

Hopefully, these instructions leave nothing unclear to my heads of security. Alex nods and leaves my office without another word. Jason, however, stays behind, silently examining me.

“You’re tense,” he says, matter-of-factly.

“You think?” I snap. “Every time I put out a fire, another one is right behind it. I can’t get any goddamn peace. Has anybody investigated what the hell is going on with that fucker Freeman? My money’s on him. This doesn’t smell like Sunset at all. He doesn’t play amateur games. I don’t know much about the guy, but I know that much.”

“I’ve got someone on the way out there now,” he says, “the minute I thought it might be him. Sources say that things aren’t looking too good for him with that audit and the divorce. He could be looking for some kind of shakedown, maybe. Didn’t your father and Herman leave him the house?”

“I think it has to go through probate or something…” My intercom buzzing interrupts my statement. What now? “Yes?”

“I’ve left a message with Mr. Capito’s secretary, sir. However, the nine-hour time difference could pose a problem,” Andrea says through the intercom. She’s right. I forgot about that. This is becoming a nightmare. I’ve never had this much problem dealing with an international company before. I’ve always accommodated them, and they’ve always accommodated me. What the fuck it up with this guy? Is he just not familiar with international business etiquette? Getting information out of him has been harder than finagling pussy from a virgin and he wants me to do business with him?

“We may have to shoot for an early-morning-late-afternoon session, then, Andrea,” I tell her.

“Yes, sir.”

“Capito,” Jason says. “The Spanish company?”

“Madrid, yes,” I reply. “On the surface, the company looks prime for picking, but you know I didn’t become who I am by being a fool. This guy is hiding something and if this were anybody else, I’d just walk away.”

“Why not this guy?” Jason asks. “What’s different with him?”

“I have no fucking idea,” I tell him. “His financials were so damn cryptic that even our systems couldn’t analyze them. You know—garbage in, garbage out. Now, the arrows are starting to point in a direction and we’re trying to find out what it is. So, we’re hoping to get some more information from him… and he’s MIA.” Jason shakes his head.

“You’re like a dog chasing a bone, boss,” he says. I frown.

“What do you mean?” He hesitates before answering.

“I’ve seen you like this before,” he says. “Your fuse is short. You’re not snapping at anybody—at least, no more than usual, but you’ve got all these little firecrackers around you and they’re all poppin’… pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. They’re not really huge ones except maybe the thing with your mom; Ray getting arrested was no party; your grandfather died. Then, you’ve got the small-to-midland things—Rossiter, Ana’s adoption, the situations with the licensing boards. And then, we have those things we have yet to classify—this PI thing, the outcome of the interview, I don’t know where to put Mia’s wedding…”

That makes two of us.

“And that’s not all of it. Then, here comes Capito, an interesting little problem that’s right up your alley—an unsolved mystery that’s like a game of Clue, a company that you would normally not waste your time on because if he’s hiding one thing, he could be hiding a whole lot more, and there’s just too many fish in the sea for you to be chasing this one elusive rainbow fish only to catch it, gut it, and find out that you’ve opened Pandora’s Box. You’ve had that discussion with me many times on many deals that you’ve bypassed for less and yet, you’re chasing this one—like you need to keep your mind occupied. I don’t know what’s up, boss. If there’s some appeal that your great business mind sees in this company that I don’t see, I’m just going to step back and let you handle it. This isn’t my area of expertise, after all. But if you’re chasing something because you’re running away from something else or something’s going on in your head that you can’t sort out for some reason, you might want to get a handle on it. Just from what you’ve told me, something stinks about this company. And you said it many times… if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a damn duck. I don’t know what you’re looking for, boss, but it looks like a duck to me.”

He pauses for a moment to let his words sink in before he walks to the door.

“I’ll let you know what I find out about Freeman,” he says. I nod and he leaves. I hate when he’s so damn logical. I just think something else is going on with Capito and I want to know what the fuck it is, and maybe he’s right. Maybe I do need a distraction from all this other shit that’s going on in my life, but business is what I do. It’s what drives me, it always has—that, and being a Dom, and I can’t be a damn Dom 24/7. Who would really want to? I mean, I know some people who would, but I’m not one of them.

*-*

The day seemed to drag on forever and I’m only too happy to be home. Of course, the dragging part was only exasperated by the fact that Lorenz and Ros showed up in my office at a quarter to four with yet another urgent matter that required my immediate attention and didn’t get resolved until well past seven in the evening. The good news, another acquisition is signed, sealed, and delivered, and GEH’s net worth has increased yet again… a good day, overall, I would say.

Now, I’m wiped out… so, why am I headed down to my study?

When I get there and put my briefcase on the desk, I see why I was led to the lower level. Beyond the bubbles and the fish in the freshwater aquarium, I see a mass of mahogany hair leaning over a file or a notebook or something on her desk. She pushes a strand or two behind her ear to reveal her glasses, but it only falls back in her face as she continues to study whatever she’s reading. I’m drawn to her. Of course, I am. With 14,000 square feet of house, I’m drawn to this room because she’s next door.

I remove my jacket and tie, tossing them both onto my desk chair before leaving my study. I pull my phone out of my pocket and log into the Crossing’s communications systems. Syncing the sound system with my iTunes, I choose the song I want and select Butterfly’s office as the destination. When I hear the sultry introduction begin, I open her office door to meet her surprised gaze. Closing the door behind me, I slowly walk over to my wife, drinking the sight of her and her initial deer-caught-in-headlights gaze that slowly morphs into wonder.

I’m, I’m so in love with you,
Whatever you want to do,
Is alright with me…

I take her hand and coax her from her seat. Those sexy as fuck glasses… damn! How does anybody make nerd glasses look so damn hot?

‘Cause you make me feel so brand new,
And I want to spend my life with you…

I caress the skin of her arms and watch the gooseflesh rise before moving my hands to her hips. Her lips part as she lifts her eyes to my face. The song is perfect as the words express exactly what I’m feeling. I love her so much that I don’t know what to do with myself sometimes. The feelings are scary and overwhelming and frightening all at the same time.

Let me say that since, baby, since we’ve been together
Loving you forever
Is what I need
Let me, be the one you come running to
I’ll never be untrue

I pull her body close to me and sway back and forth to the music, closing my eyes, breathing her in and absorbing her warmth. Her hands slide up my chest and she leans into me as the music wraps around us.

Oh baby, let’s, let’s stay together
Lovin’ you whether, whether
Times are good or bad, happy or sad
Whether times are good or bad, happy or sad

My hands slide up her back and into her hair. A sound escapes her throat that almost sounds like a purr and strikes something right in the center of me. I move my hands to her face, cup her cheeks and lean in, closing my lips over hers. She tastes as sweet as she always does, and I drink her in thirstily, my tongue lapping hungrily through her mouth.

Why, why some people break up
Then turn around and make up
I just can’t see
You’d never do that to me, would you, baby?
Staying around you is all I see…

Her fingers tangle in my hair and she pulls gently, again strumming that heat in the center of me. I crouch down and wrap my arms around her, lifting her as she wraps her legs around my body and we’re lost in the heat of each other. It’s like every movement, every action, every minute of the day was to bring us to this moment… to each other.

“Christian…” she breathes, as she quickly undoes the first buttons of my shirt. I don’t even know that’s what she’s doing until her mouth is on my throat. Fuck, her tongue is hot. I gasp out a breath and manage to fall back into one of the large seats in her office with her in my arms. She quick undoes the remaining buttons of my shirt, kissing, licking, biting, sucking, and nipping my neck and chest the entire time. I’m actually lightheaded with arousal as I realize the song has ended and started over. Thank God for that!

She’s hands, lips, mouth, tongue, and teeth all over me when I thought I was coming to her office to seduce her! My head is back on the chair and my mouth is open, gasping for air in extreme arousal as my wife makes quick work of my belt and zipper and I’m out of my pant and boxer briefs before I have the chance to protest. Well, they’re down at my ankles anyway.

“Gah, fuck!” I hiss as she bites the tender meat of my thigh before quickly settling in between my legs, and taking my cock in both hands. She doesn’t even take off those damn glasses! She just grabs the base of my hard shaft with both hands and shoves the whole goddamn thing in her mouth.

“Mother of God!” I yell before I even know it. I damn near lift out of the fucking seat. She hits my dick with such immediate suction that my eyes roll back in my head and I literally gag with pleasure, gripping the armrest fiercely to keep from climbing away from her.

“Goddamn! Goddammit!” I curse as her mouth and hands piston back and forth over my cock, viciously, with fervor and purpose! I can’t even move my hips to match her stroke.

“Baby! Fuck! Baby!” I choke. I’m not going to last long if she keeps this up. I was already a little anxious when I got home and didn’t know it. When I saw her, I graduated to heated. Now, I’m volcanic!

“Oh, God, baby, fuck!” I warn, mournfully as I feel that familiar feeling quickly creeping up in my back and my balls tightening. Just as my dick starts to thicken and lengthen and that vein starts to pulse, she releases me with a loud and vigorous “pop” causing me to cry out from the sensation.

“Fucking shit!” I hiss as I gulp in several deep breaths, trying to find my equilibrium. I realize quickly that it’s a futile exercise, as while I’m catching my breath, my limber wife has quickly stripped from the waist down and is now situating that luscious body on top of me.

“Oh, hell,” I lament, as I open my eyes, just as she positions the head of my weeping cock at her hot, wet opening. Situating her legs where she wants them, she drops that warm, tight pussy down onto my waiting dick, sheathing me all the way to the balls and moving nothing but her hips and ass, begins to ride me a rocking horse.

And again, I can’t move.

“Ha! Ha! Oh, shit! Oh, shit! Oh, shit!” Her hands are gripping the back of the chair on either side of my head and that pussy is dominating my dick, sliding effortlessly and masterfully up and down and up and down and up and down, faster and hotter and tighter and wetter with each stroke. I was just about ready to blow when she released me from her mouth, but now…

“Fu-fu-fu-fuck fuck fu-uck…” Shit, shit, shiiiiiit, what she’s doing to my dick! I swear to God, no other part of her body is moving but that ass and those hips and that pussy and she’s just staring at me through those fucking glasses while she’s milking the fuck out of my dick. I’m. Afraid. To move!

And here comes the burn.

I close my eyes and feel it creep my back and to my prostate, ready to blow.

“Watch me!” she hisses. I open my eyes and she’s glaring at me, her hair untamed, her blue eyes wild and feral behind those glasses. I’ll never be able to look at them the same again. I don’t know if my lips part or if my mouth was already open, but she rims my lips hungrily with her tongue, then bites my bottom lip to the point of pain.

That does it.

My balls explode maddeningly and almost unexpectedly into that enthusiastically pistoning pussy and I finally find the strength to grab her hips in an attempt to stop her movements and ease the searing burn.

“Don’t hold me down! Don’t hold me down!” she says against my lips, before thrusting her tongue into my mouth and kissing me passionately. I have to fight not to hold her bouncing pussy against my burning, throbbing, aching, emptying dick. It’s fucking agony and it feels so goddamn good that I want to fucking cry. I groan deep and hard in my mourning until the orgasm stops, and she’s merciless as she never stops riding me until the last drop is spent, claiming my cries as her prizes as she gives me sexy kisses, over and over, until I catch my breath.

“You… didn’t come,” I pant into her mouth.

“You’ll make me come later,” she purrs. “I know you will. I needed to feel you… needed to see you come apart beneath me… inside me…” and come apart I did. I’m still gathering sated shards of myself from the atmosphere.

“You’re unreal,” I breathe.

“As are you,” she replies, rubbing her lips gently against mine as she pushes the hair from my forehead. I kiss her softly, then gaze into her eyes.

“I need to take care of you,” I whisper…

And take care of her, I do… several times.


ANASTASIA

By the time the weekend arrives, I need to unwind like nobody’s business. Christian has been insatiable throughout the week and it’s been enough to get me through each day with this irritating and highly unnecessary investigation, but I’m always wound back up by the end of the day. The up and down and back and forth has me in a total state of confusion and disarray, so I grab my younger partner in crime, Sophie, and head to Miana’s on Saturday for a manicure and pedicure.

Sophie and I spend a lot of time together. Well, maybe not a lot, but enough. She talks to me about a lot of personal matters. I thought Gail would have a problem with her opening up to me more than her, but she admits that she’s just happy that Sophie finally has someone that she can relate to and that she only wants Sophie to be happy. Her and Sophie’s relationship is solid enough that she doesn’t feel threatened by our friendship, so when Sophie can steal a moment of my quiet time, she uses the opportunities to approach sensitive subjects.

“Ana, how old were you when you started… liking guys?” And here we go.

“Well, I don’t really remember,” I answer honestly. “My story is much different than yours, Sophie, but I guess my first real crush, I was much older than you. But the first guy I liked, I was probably a little younger… like eight or ten, maybe. How old are you now? Thirteen, right?” She nods. “Well, you’re certainly due. You’ve got a guy? Someone on the horizon?”

“Well, no… yes… well…” She sighs. “You know how girls go all crazy over One Direction, but they’ll probably never really fall in love with Harry Styles and get married and have kids unless there was a nuclear holocaust and they were the last two people on earth? Yeah, it’s kinda like that.” Her voice is laced with frustration. Young Sophie is under no misconception of her position in this situation, and I briefly recall the way she adoringly eyed Marlow at Elliot and Val’s reception.

“Ah, the ever-present ‘unattainable’ crush,” I confirm.

“Yeah, that guy,” she says. “’Forever just out of reach.’ My mom used to say that all the time about Uncle Christian.” Forever is right, and more like way out of reach for that bitch! “So, let’s just say that it got me thinking about guys and stuff, even though this guy may never be the one…” She says the last part with a touch of melancholy and I’m almost certain that it’s Marlow. They’re about four years apart in age. He’s nearly seventeen, and those are dog years to teenagers.

“So, is this guy Harry Styles or somebody that’s actually attainable?” I ask. She purses her lips.

“Not Harry Styles, but he might as well be, so definitely unattainable,” she says.

“You probably need to resolve your feelings for this guy, then,” I tell her. “Unrequited love sucks and it has a way of festering and making you bitter. Does he go to your school? Do you see him every day?” She shakes her head.

“No, thank God,” she says. “I only see him once in a while, but then when I do, it’s like no time has passed at all.”

Yeah, it’s Marlow.

“Have you told him how you feel?” I ask.

“Oh, God, no!” she answers in horror. “He’d probably laugh at me… and our relationship isn’t like that. It never was, and it most likely never will be, so it’s like you said. I just need to resolve my feelings for him. It’s just hard to do when I see him. I get all fluttery and girly and stuff and I don’t know what to do with myself…”

And she’s going to the wedding, so she’ll probably see him next weekend. Hence, the nervousness and agitation.

“So, what do you do when you’re around this guy?” I ask.

“Usually just gaze at him like a dork,” she says. Yep, definitely Marlow. “He has no idea, so I’m safe. I’ll just have to find some kind of way not to trip over myself whenever I see him. It’s not that often, so I should be able to survive it.”

“You already sound so grown up,” I tell her. “Are you making friends?” she shrugs.

“Not really,” she says. “I just started the new school, so I don’t really know anybody and it’s not like I really had friends at the old school.”

“You should use this new opportunity to make some new friends, Sophie,” I tell her. She looks at me.

“No offense, Ana, and I know you guys don’t treat me that way and don’t look at me that way, but in this neighborhood, I’m the help.” Oh, shit. I hadn’t even thought of that.

“Has somebody said that to you?” I ask.

“They don’t have to,” she says. “It’s how they act. I already know that if I approach any of them and they find out who I am, they’re going to shun me or their parents are going to shun me.” She’s right, too. People are cruel, heartless snobs, and I can’t stand the way that they think.

“Can I ask you a question?” she nods. “Would you care if anybody knew that you live here?”

“No,” she says, shaking her head. “Not really.”

“Would you mind that people knew that you and I are friends?” she frowns.

“Why would I mind that?” she asks.

“Now, here’s the big one, Sophie,” I say as I adjust in my seat and choose a nail color, handing it to the technician. “Are you ashamed for people to know what your father and your stepmother do?” She twists her lips.

“Not really,” she answers, choosing her own color of blushing pink and handing it to her technician. “They make good money and love their jobs. You guys treat us all really well. It’s just that the kids at school, they’re still going to see it as the help. I’d rather be on my own than to deal with that,” she admits. I see now.

“So, it’s not that you don’t want your friends to know what they do. It’s that you’d rather not deal with snobby ass, fake friends,” I conclude.

“Exactly,” Sophie responds. “I’ve been a loner for years. It’s not that hard.” So was I. It’s not the kind of life I want for Sophie.”

“What if you were popular?” I ask. “Could you handle that?” She laughs.

“That’s not going to happen. You have to approach people and be outgoing. You know, go to parties and malls and giggle… I don’t do much of that.” I shrug.

“You never know what might happen,” I say. Sophie examines me.

“You thinking about doing a She’s All That?” she asks. I cock my head at her.

“What do you know about that?” I ask. “That’s before your time.”

“Just a little,” she says, “and misfits tend to watch movies about misfits.” I examine her.

“You consider yourself a misfit?” I ask. She looks down at her hands, now transforming to the pretty pink color.

“Not like an outcast or anything,” she says. “I just really didn’t get a chance to fit in. Seriously, look at my life.” I nod.

“Yeah, I get it.” I look at my own nails and consider my own situation when I was in school. I could take being a misfit. It was being a target that was unbearable.

“Well, to answer your question, I do plan on doing something on the order or She’s All That, but maybe not so dramatic, so just be prepared.” She laughs.

“This is going to be funny,” she says, shaking her head. “Okay, I’m game.”


A/N: She’s All That is a movie from 1999 starring Freddie Prinze, Jr where he accepts a bet and attempts to turn nerd Rachel Leigh Cook into the prom queen.

So, the feature picture of Bradley Cooper AKA Liam Westwick is a backup that I had to find to serve my purposes. The one that the internet gobbled up completely fit the description that I wrote of Liam—charcoal gray suit, tall as Christian, outer-worldly blue eyes, cute half-smile, and feet as big as Texas. This picture was as close as I could get to the description and I’m lucky I still had a second picture that I found of his eyes! It might have been photoshopped by someone, but I don’t care. 

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

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

 ~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 5—Greys’ Night Out

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

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

Chapter 5—Greys’ Night Out

CHRISTIAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was all good…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ana,” she says, sweetly. “Yours?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mmm… tell me more,” I coax.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And that was?” I nearly growl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game on, baby.

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

Oh, no, you don’t, Mrs. Grey.

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

Now that I have your attention…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, shit! Greystone is at full attention now.

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

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

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

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

Patience, boy. I’m hungry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, then, everything you shall get.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, fuck me,” I exclaim in mirth.

“I thought I just did,” she retorts.

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

“What’s that?” she exclaims.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FuckingshithellfuckinghellsweetmotherMaryI’mgoingtodie.

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

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

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

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

Oh, shit… what the fuck have I done?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Again!” I hiss.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, fuck… I’m doomed.

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

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

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

“Ana…” I gasp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And my dick’s still not going down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here I thought I was in control.

She rides for only a few more minutes before…

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

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

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

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

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


ANASTASIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” I ask, bemused.

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

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

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

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

We fall asleep!

*-*

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

And he has morning wood.

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

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

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

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

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

“Better?” he asks, stroking my back.

“Better,” I say.

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

“I know,” I tell him.

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, no, really?” she laments. I nod.

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

“Not on your fucking life.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vitamin drinks? What is she talking about?

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” I ask concerned.

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

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

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

“It makes sense,” she says. “I will.”

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

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

Methan.”


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

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~~love and handcuffs