Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 16

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 16

ANASTASIA

“Shit! Are you serious?” I hear my husband bark into the phone. “She drove off? It wasn’t an accident?” He’s silent for a moment. Who drove off what? What the hell is he talking about?

“Is she dead?” he asks a few moments later and I really want to know what the hell is going on now.

“Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck! What the fuck else can happen? I’ve got to tell Butterfly…”

“Tell. Me. What?” I say, and a horrified gaze turns to me. That’s when I realize that he forgot I was in the room.

“Get the car ready,” he says into the phone. “Tell all the details we’ll meet everybody at SeaTac.” He swipes his phone and puts it back in his pocket. “Baby,” he says, taking my hands and leading me to the bed to sit me down. “There’s been an accident… we don’t really know if it’s an accident…”

“Who, Christian?” I ask. I know it’s a she, I just need to know who.

“Carla,” he says quickly. My brow furrows.

“Carla?” I ask. “Carla drove off of something?” “An overpass,” he says. “She’s on her way to the hospital. It doesn’t look good.”

It doesn’t look good. How do I feel about that? She’s my mother… I never said that I wanted her to die, but I was prepared not to see her again until I was burying her. How do I feel about this?

“Butterfly?” Christian asks, squeezing my hands. “Are you alright?” I shake my head.

“Yeah,” I say, still shaking my head. “Yeah, we gotta go. Let’s go.” I heard him tell Jason to get the car ready. We should really get moving. I stand and Christian stands with me. We move to the door and the moment we open it, Marilyn is standing there about to knock. I look at the solemn look on her face and she no doubt examines the solemn look on ours, or at least on Christian’s.

“You know,” she says.

“How do you know?” Christian asks.

“Christian,” she shows us her phone. “It’s on the news.”

“Fuuuuuuuck!” he yells, thrusting his hands into his hair. “Couldn’t they give her daughter a chance to be notified before the fuckers zeroed in for the kill?”

“They’re reporting that your security team contacted the police, so they’re probably assuming that she already knows.”

I’m eerily calm while my husband is pulling his hair out, putting his hand in the smalls of both our backs and guiding us quickly towards the stairs. I don’t really hear anything around me. I’m trying to process the information that I just got.

Carla threw her car over an overpass… at least they think she did, they’re not sure. She could have lost control of the car, or fell asleep at the wheel or…

“Ana?”

Christian and Mare both call my name at the same time, bringing me back from my mental wanderings.

“Do you have everything you need?” Christian asks. “Your purse, your phone…?”

“Oh,” I say, coming back to the here and now and thinking to retrieve the things that I need before I leave. I go back upstairs and grab my essentials, then take a detour to the twins’ room. Mikey is sleeping in his crib, but Minnie’s not there.

“I love you so much, little prince,” I say, brushing his hair with my fingers. “You’ll never, ever know the feeling of thinking that Mommy doesn’t love you… ever.”

I kiss my fingertips and touch his head before going in search of my daughter. I find her in the family room with Keri. When I hold my hands out to her, she reaches out to me in a gesture that warms my aching and confused heart.

“I love you, Minnie Mouse,” I say, hugging her close to my body. “You’re going to grow up to be a beautiful woman and Mommy will be there every step of the way.”

I kiss her little chubby cheeks and she pats mine in return, blissfully oblivious to the fact that I’m telling her that I’ll never put her through what Carla put me through. I quickly hand her back to Keri and fight the tears that are threatening to fall. I go back to the grand entry and Marilyn is standing there with Windsor. She’s buttoning her coat and Windsor is holding mine.

“Mrs. Grey?” he says as he holds my coat open. I allow him to help me into it and note that Christian has disappeared. As I’m tying my belt, I see him at the top of the stairs coming from the direction of our bedroom and the nursery and I realize that he was saying his goodbyes to Mikey. As he’s descending the stairs, Jason comes bursting into the front door and catches my gaze. His eyes are immediately sympathetic, and I think he’s about to tell me that my mother is dead.

“Any more news?” I ask as flatly as I can, my voice still cracking from saying goodbye to my daughter.

“No, Ana,” he says, softly. “No news yet.” I nod and put my gloves on. I want to yell that I’m not at the brink of tears because of Carla, but I just skip it and head out to the car.

I have no idea how quiet, loud, bumpy, harrowing, or otherwise uncomfortable or distracting that three-hour flight was because I spend the entire thing lost in thought. Flashbacks of my childhood play in my mind over and over again like a movie, as clear as if it all happened yesterday…

Daddy and Mommy dancing in the living room…

German chocolate cake for my fifth birthday… and sixth… and seventh… and eighth…

My books and all the many places I traveled to, telling Mommy and Daddy about the adventures when I returned…

The things me and Mommy used to make—crafts and dresses and maps to go on the walls…

Dancing with Daddy in the living room and getting to love the Motown sound…

We’re all back at the Waldorf Astoria and back in the rooms that we kept reserved for the trial. Christian wants to eat first, but I have no appetite. I really want to get to the hospital and see the extent of the damage. Christian instead gives the task to Jason to find us something to eat, which he no doubt delegates to someone else since he’s going to be driving us to Summerlin Hospital where my mother has currently been admitted.

“I’ll be here for you for as long as I can, Sunflower,” Daddy tells me, “but I’m not going to the hospital. I’m sure you can understand why.”

“I understand, Daddy,” I tell him, returning his embrace as he hugs me. “I’ve got a feeling this is something I’m going to need to do alone anyway.” I don’t look at Christian when I say that because I can feel the hey-what-about-me gaze boring into my back.

Twenty minutes later, we’re at the administration desk trying to get information on Carla. My name is Grey, previously Steele, and my mother’s name is Morton. So, trying to prove that I’m next of kin is like pulling teeth. They finally locate my mother’s medical records and see that Anastasia Steele is listed as next of kin, and I’m able to go to the intensive care unit to see my mother.

Dear God, she looks awful.

She’s in a private room, which is some comfort since I didn’t want to deal with anyone taking pictures or anything. It was hard enough to get in with the paparazzi newly fired up and trying to get a story. Christian is right, those people are vultures. Had I discovered that my mother was dead and had to come and identify the body, some asshole would be outside shoving a mic in my face asking, “How do you feel about that?”

No sooner I get into the room and ascertain that it actually is my mother lying in the bed post-op, her surgeon comes into the room with her chart.

“Mrs. Grey, hello,” he says, “I’m Dr. Lei Jianhong…”

Huh?

“Just call me Dr. Lee. It makes life easier for all parties involved.” I nod and turn my gaze back to my mother.

“I won’t lie to you, Mrs. Grey. There’s a lot going on here. Mrs. Morton’s vehicle had airbags, which offered her some protection, but she wasn’t wearing her seatbelt. As a result, she was ejected from the car during the accident. Now, that’s an awful thing when you consider a vehicle going over a bridge onto the road below and into oncoming traffic. However, it turned out to probably be a blessing in disguise—as much as a nearly fatal car accident can be considered a blessing—since your mother’s car exploded on impact and she was ejected from the car most likely as part of the explosion. However, the airbags didn’t prevent her from being ejected when the car hit the ground below.”

Was anyone else hurt?” I ask, noting that he mentioned the car possibly falling into oncoming traffic.

“Thankfully, no,” Dr. Lee says. “No other vehicles were involved in the accident, even on impact with the road below.”

In short, I listen to Dr. Lee tell me that my mother was thrown around like a rag doll—battered to and fro by the air bags, violently ejected from the car on impact or when it exploded, jettisoned into the air God only knows how far, then took one of the worst tumble-and-rolls the human body could have possibly taken before her body finally came to rest several hundred feet away basically at the bottom of a concrete basin.

She has two broken legs, a fractured skull, several broken ribs, a broken neck, a severe pelvic fracture and internal bleeding that required surgery, multiple contusions—obviously—both of her lungs are collapsed, and she’s currently in a coma. It’s a wonder she’s alive.

Oh, and she’s most likely paralyzed.

“Your mother has visibly suffered a spinal injury, most likely a form of anterior cord syndrome. Without all the complicated doctor speak, it means that she’s probably going to be paralyzed from the waist down.”

Great. Fucking great. So, if she does wake up from this, she won’t be able to walk.

“Is the condition permanent?” I ask flatly, still looking at my mother.

“There’s no way to tell right now,” the doctor says, and I continue to stare silently at Carla.

“Mrs. Grey?” I turn my gaze to him. “It’s been my experience that coma patients can sometimes hear what you say, feel the energy that you’re giving them… and that if she wakes up, her recovery can depend totally on her support system.”

In a nanosecond, in my peripheral I see my husband loading the rounds about to fire with both barrels. I put my hand up to silence him without taking my eyes off the doctor.

“Dr. Lee, do you know who I am?” I ask. “Do you know my story at all?” He purses his lips.

“I’m afraid I don’t,” he says. “I’ve heard some murmurings around the hospital, but I’m afraid I don’t.” Okay, so that means he gets the short version.

“My full name is Dr. Anastasia Rose Steele-Grey,” I tell him, my voice even and controlled. “So, had you decided to use that ‘complicated doctor speak’ that you referred to earlier, my husband wouldn’t have been able to follow you, but I probably would.

“I don’t live here, Dr. Lee. I live in Seattle, WA. I’m only here because the verdict in my case will be read tomorrow—the case in Green Valley where the teenager was branded and beaten. I was that teenager. I spent three weeks in a coma at the age of 15 as a result of that beating, not to mention the coma that I experienced 1 ½ years ago that lasted 12 days and resulted in temporary short-term amnesia. Long story short, I’m fully aware of the dynamics and the aftermath of a coma—medically and personally.”

“Dr. Grey, I’m sorry, I didn’t…”

“But most of all,” I interrupt, my voice still controlled, “you should know that my relationship with this woman is hostile at best, nonexistent in most cases. When I was in that coma for three weeks at 15, she wouldn’t stay in the hospital with me because of what people were saying about us. I could’ve died and she may not have even known. She was aloof and detached from the entire situation. My mending and recovery had absolutely nothing at all to do with her. It was my father and my sheer will and determination to survive.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with my mother when and if she wakes up from this, but I’m going to thank you in advance not to judge me or lecture me on my reactions or my behavior, because any care and concern that I choose to extend to this woman, I will be doing it out of the kindness of my heart and because my conscience has led me to do so, not because she deserves it from me at all.”

I stop talking and allow the words—and the silence—to settle in the room for a while.

“I understand, Dr. Grey,” he says. I nod.

“Good. Now, does my mother have health insurance?” I ask.

“She does.”

“Is it the good kind?” I ask. “Will it cover everything that she needs?”

“It’s adequate,” he responds.

“Adequate isn’t good enough,” I say, reaching into my purse and retrieving my Amex Black. “Any human being deserves the best care that you can give them. You make sure this woman gets just that.” I hand him my Amex Black.

“Um, I wouldn’t handle that, Dr. Grey,” he says, refusing the card. “You would handle that with administration.” I look over at Christian and he leaves the room without a word.

“Whatever she needs,” I tell him. “The best possible care. If it’s not covered, that Amex will be on file. If it needs approval, I’m sure my husband will make sure our contact numbers are available.”

“We’ll make sure she gets the best care, Dr. Grey,” he assures me.

“Good. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like some privacy, please.” I turn back to Carla and Dr. Lee leaves, closing the door behind him.

“Well, well, well,” I say, putting my hands on my hips, “would you lookie here. My, how the tables have turned.” I shake my head at her frail body, tubes and IV’s everywhere, those awful compression stockings on her legs.

“I wonder if you can hear me,” I continue. “Did you do this on purpose? Was this a call for attention? Because you got it, but at what cost?

“It would serve you right if I just let you lay here and die,” I say, “if I just walked away and didn’t look back until they called me and told me that you had taken your last breath. But I won’t do that, Mother, because I’m a better human being than that. I’m going to give you what you didn’t give me. I’m going to give you the best care and I’m going to make sure that you’re comfortable. I’ll contact your job and let them know what happened to you. I’ll make sure that all of your affairs are in order, because that’s what family is supposed to do. They’re supposed to take care of you. But, hear this, Mother, and hear it good.

“This changes nothing. Beyond the concern and sympathy that I would feel for any human being in this situation, I feel absolutely nothing for you, and I’m not ashamed of it. You caused me so much suffering and so much pain, and it took me years to get over it, but I did. I got past it and healed, and I learned not to let it run my life, but it was hard. It was almost impossible. When I finally let you go, you found a way to keep poking your head into my life. I thought I would never be rid of you.

“Now, here you are, completely helpless. You need me and I know you do, but I can’t even find it in my heart to care. And I hate you for doing that to me. I hate you for ripping my mommy away from me and replacing her with this cold, unfeeling, unkind, horrible human being that watched me suffer—that contributed to that suffering. It’s an awful, gut-wrenching, agonizing feeling to let go of your mommy, but I did. And now, I don’t have anything left for you.

“So, don’t worry, Mother. I won’t let you die, and I do feel bad for you that this happened. I’ll make sure that you get the best care, and hopefully, you’ll make a full recovery, but that’s all I’ve got for you.”

I twist my lips and take another look at her before I leave her room to go find some coffee and some food.

*-*

“Canyon Meadows rehabilitation, this is Lana, how can I help you?”

“Yes, I need to speak to someone about one of your employees,” I reply

“Well, you would most likely want human resources, but they’re not open right now. Will this person not be able to make it to work? Were you looking to report an absence?” Lana asks.

“Well, yes, but… it’s going to be more than just an absence.” There’s a momentary pause.

“Is this about Carla?” she asks. I’m a bit stunned, more stunned that she knew about my mother by name.

“Yes… yes, it is,” I reply.

“Oh, God… she’s not…” Lana trails off.

“No, no, she’s still alive,” I say. “I just wanted to touch bases with her job to let you know that she’s severely incapacitated at the time.”

“Yes, we know,” Lana says. “We saw it on the news. May I ask to whom I’m speaking?”

“This is Anastasia Grey.” The line is silent.

“Ana… her daughter?” she asks. I nod as if she can see me.

“Yes,” I say. Of course, she’s been talking about me.

“May I ask what hospital she’s in, Mrs. Grey,” Lana asks.

“She’s at Summerlin Medical Center,” I reply.

“I’m so sorry about this, Mrs. Grey,” she says. “I’m certain that you have this under control, but if there’s anything that we can do… anything, please let us know.”

“I will, thank you,” I tell her.

“Carla is a vital member of our staff and she’s very important to us,” she continues. “The patients love her and… we all love her…” Her voice is cracking a bit. I have to fight to keep from saying the incredulous, “Really?” When I don’t respond, she adds, “Just know that we’re praying for her. Please, tell her that we’re praying for her.” I purse my lips before answering.

“I will,” I respond. “Thank you again, Lana.”

I end the call and look over at my mother. To say that I’m at a loss for words would be an understatement. I don’t know what to make of this at all. I know that my mother has had the capacity for kindness in her life. She was the best mom in the world when I was a kid, before she decided that our life with Daddy wasn’t enough for her. I don’t know what happened, what snapped in her mind to make her the heartless, selfish bitch she became when she got with Stephen, but I know that she was once a very loving and caring human being. It appears that person has resurfaced, only… not for me… too late for me…

“Your coworkers are praying for you,” I tell her. “Lana sounds pretty broken up about your accident, so if you did this on purpose, it was a selfish thing to do since it appears that there are people who really care about you. So, you need to hurry up and wake up and get better so that you can get back to those people.”

Why am I so detached from this? I feel like I’m talking to a stranger, not the woman who birthed me into the world. I’m taking about as much responsibility and concern for her as I would a stray cat that I discovered was hit by a car and took it to the hospital. Hell, I’d probably have more concern for the cat.

“Hey,” I hear my husband enter the room. “You haven’t eaten much. Do you need anything?” I sigh.

“Yes,” I say. “I need to get out of here. There’s nothing more I can do right now, and I really want a bath. Were you able to get everything squared away with the hospital and her care?

“As much as I could,” he says. “Your mother has advanced directives.” My brow furrows.

“Advan… why didn’t the doctor tell me that? What kind of advanced directives?” I ask appalled.

“I don’t know, they wouldn’t tell me, but they’ll probably tell you…” I’m out of the room and headed for the nurses’ station before the words are out of his mouth.

“Excuse me,” I get the nurse’s attention at the desk.

“Yes, ma’am?” she replies.

“I’m Anastasia Grey. Carla Morton is my mother. I was just told that she has advanced directives, and nobody told me. What are they?”

The nurse’s eyebrows rise in surprise and she immediately picks up the phone in front of her.

“I’m paging Dr. Lee right now, Mrs. Grey,” she says.

“Would it be in her chart?” I ask.

“Yes, but Dr. Lee most likely has it. The chart on her bed only has her vitals.” I nod and I suddenly feel helpless. The phone at the nurses’ station rings and she answers it. She explains that I’m standing at the station and I have questions about my mother.

“He’ll be right up, ma’am,” she says, and I nod again, deflating a bit. I take a seat in the waiting area just beyond the nurses’ station and wait for Dr. Lee. Christian sits next to me and takes my hand in his. I’m pretty certain that he thinks I’m broken up about my mother, but I’m not. I somewhat resent the thought that people think I should be… if that’s what he’s thinking. I just want to get the hell out of here and get into a bath!

“Dr. Grey…” I hear Dr. Lee off to my right. I’m on my feet walking towards him in moments.

“My mother has advanced directives?” I ask without greeting him.

“Yes,” he says, his brow furrowed.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I inquire. He pauses.

“I’m sorry… Dr. Grey, you are her next of kin. I thought you knew,” he excuses. I’m frustrated now. He’s right. He had every reason to believe that I would be aware of my mother’s wishes. I put my hand on my forehead.

“Can you tell me what they are, please?” I ask. He opens the only chart that he has in his hand.

“It’s simple,” he says. “Do not resuscitate if her heart stops and 30 days assisted if she’s comatose.” I roll my eyes and drop my head. If she had the wherewithal to plan and sign a DNR, she’s going to have a cow if she wakes up from this thing and she can’t walk.

“Is there anything else I may need to know?” I ask calmly. He shakes his head.

“No,” he says. “Her prognosis is the same as it was when she arrived… not really good, I’m afraid.” I nod.

“I’ve got a really rough day ahead of me tomorrow, so I’m going to go back to my hotel. Please call me if anything changes,” I say.

“I will, Dr. Grey.”

“Thank you for everything, Dr. Lee,” I say before heading down the hall towards the elevator.

*-*

“All rise.”

I’m not necessarily dressed for court this morning. I’m deliberately garbed in a violet silk pants suit with flashy buttons, a matching belt, and a black bustier with my signature black sky-high stilettos. Am I making a statement?

Yes.

I’m not hiding anymore, and I don’t mind being seen. I don’t care what these assholes in this town think about me anymore. No matter what I do, they’re going to find something wrong, so fuck ‘em. Chew on this for a while.

Whatever the verdict, I’m going to strut out of here with my head held high, because if 18 people can look at what happened to me—repeatedly, I’m told—and find this man not guilty, then the justice system is shit, and I’ll find my own fucking justice.

The jury is led into the courtroom once again after the judge has taken his seat. I have to admit that of all the defendants in the cases I’ve been a part of—and there’s only been two others—Vincent Sullivan looks the most solemn. There’s no cockiness in him at all. He’s clearly terrified because he doesn’t know what’s about to happen to him.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have you reached verdicts?” the judge asks.

“Yes, your honor, we have,” the foreperson replies.

“Bailiff, would you please retrieve the verdicts from the foreperson.”

The bailiff retrieves a stack of papers from the foreperson and hands them to the judge, who reviews them for several moments, and there’s a long silence in the courtroom before he speaks again.

“So, the verdicts appear to be in proper order. This is in the Las Vegas Justice Court, Clark county, state of Nevada, case number 807154C-0404, the State of Nevada vs. Vincent Sullivan. The jury having reached verdicts, Mr. Sullivan and your counsel, would you please stand?”

There’s no hope in Vincent Sullivan’s face whatsoever and when the judge tells him to stand, he almost can’t raise his head. The judge begins to read the verdicts.

“We the jury duly impaneled and sworn in the above entitled action upon our oath, do unanimously find the following verdicts in the counts as charged in the indictments.

“Count one, assault accompanied with acts of extreme cruelty and substantial bodily harm, we find the defendant guilty as charged in the indictments.

“Count two, battery with a deadly weapon with substantial bodily harm, we find the defendant guilty as charged in the indictments.

“Count three, battery without a weapon with substantial bodily harm, we find the defendant guilty as charged in the indictments.

“Count four, conspiracy to kidnap in the first degree, we find the defendant not guilty.

“Count five, kidnapping in the first degree, we find the defendant not guilty.

“Count six, manslaughter for fetal homicide, we find the defendant guilty as charged in the indictments.

“Count seven, attempted murder, we find the defendant guilty as charged in the indictments.”

Five out of seven—excellent!

“Is this your true verdict, so say you one and all?” The judge asks and the jury concurs. The judge then instructs the jury that they will each be questioned concerning the verdict.

“Juror number one, is this your true verdict…?”

Vincent Sullivan sits with his head face down on the table, his body shaking with sobs as each juror is surveyed for their verdict, and they each answer in the affirmative. I always wonder what’s going through a defendant’s head as they sit there crying once convicted for something they actually did. I can fully understand someone crying if they’re wrongly accused and wrongly convicted of a crime, but I was there for this one, and I’ve got the scars to prove it. So, while he sits there racked with grief and distress, all I can think is, “What the fuck are you crying for?”

The verdicts are so entered into the record, and sentencing is set for March 4th. That’s like two and a half weeks that I’m still tethered to this place. As Vincent Sullivan is lead weeping from the courtroom, the judge gives the jury some additional instructions and after what seems like an eternity later, court is adjourned. I realize that the verdict isn’t the only reason I’ll be here in Las Vegas. I would be somewhat stuck here anyway because of Carla. A 30-day directive… one way or another, I’ll know what’s going on with her by mid-March.

I don’t have to wonder why she decided to have a DNR. She works with hospice patients. She has probably watched people helpless, suffering, and dying slowly and decided that she didn’t want that for herself. I always thought a DNR meant no heroic measures at all, but apparently, there are different degrees of it.

Larson makes a B-line to us once the court is dismissed. I think I hear him saying something about justice, and I vaguely hear him say that I’ll be able to speak at the sentencing, which I already knew. I don’t really care right now. I still think that ambush that he pulled with Whitshit was pretty fucked up and he’s not my favorite person at the moment. I stand from my seat and don my Jackie O’s before leaving the courtroom.

“Annie, are you okay with that?” Daddy asks. I look up at him.

“I’m fine with that, Daddy,” I tell him. “Somebody else finally got to see what these people did to me, and they said it was wrong. That’s what I needed. I didn’t need to watch them copping pleas and getting lighter sentences for squealing on each other. I needed somebody to see it. It’s been buried all these years, and somebody finally saw it. Whatever they decide to do to him, they saw it, and they can’t unsee it. That’s what matters.”

The verdict made it outside before we did, if that’s even possible. It’s a tad chilly in just my silk suit, but I still stroll leisurely down the stairs of the court as I put my black leather gloves on and head to the car. The press is still clamoring for a statement, and Vee didn’t return with us this time.

“Anastasia, how do you feel about the verdict?” one of the reporters calls out. I stop on the stairs and turn to the flashing and live cameras.

“I feel that the jury did the best they could do under the circumstances, and I’m satisfied with that,” I reply.

“What about the fact that they came back ‘not guilty’ on the kidnapping charges?” another one asks.

“You can’t win ‘em all,” I say with a slight shrug, then I turn and proceed down the stairs to the car.


CHRISTIAN

“You’re sure she drove her car off that overpass?” I ask Jason.

“No, sir, I’m not,” he says, “but there were two witnesses driving behind her who pulled over when her car went through the guardrail. They called the police—not the security detail—and according to Alex, they have somewhat conflicting accounts of the accident, but both descriptions indicate that she drove off that overpass.”

“Is there any other possible explanation for this?” I press. Jason shrugs.

“There could be,” he says. “She could’ve fallen asleep at the wheel or lost control of the car…”

“Or someone could have hit her… one of the cars that stopped,” I say.

“It’s not impossible, but why would they stop?” he asks.

“To make sure the job was done,” I reply.

“Then why call the police?” he asks. “They were on the freeway. They could have just kept going.”

“They had already stopped. No doubt, the fire and two cars stopped on the freeway drew attention. Once they were in it, there was no backing out.”

“I don’t know, boss,” he says. “It sounds a little far-fetched to me. If other cars were stopping, let someone else call the police. Why put their name on the report?”

“The car’s on fire on the road underneath an underpass. There goes any evidence. The body is lying there in a concrete basin. The victim most likely didn’t see it coming. They could make up any story they want,” I say.

“Are you smelling something, boss?” he asks, “Or are you exercising your Constitutional right to create conspiracy theories?”

“I’m always smelling something, Jason,” I reply. “Ever since I realized I’m not untouchable, there’s always something on the grill.”

“Well, that’s a healthy dose of realism,” he counters, “but I have to say, I still think it’s a bit far-fetched.”

“Well, we won’t know until she’s awake,” I say. “You’ve checked her financials?” he nods.

“She’s got a couple of bank accounts. She’s got one account, though, that verifies what she said in court.” I frown.

“Remind me,” I say.

“That the money that she got from Anastasia has been put into a separate account and she hasn’t touched it. It started at about 90 grand a couple of years ago. It’s back up to just over a hundred now.”

“She sold a house in Green Valley,” I remind him. “That could have come from that.”

“It could,” he says, “but you should know that property values are about the same in Summerlin as they are in Henderson. Her everyday accounts have some padding that would account for selling her four-bedroom, two-and-a-half story, 3500-square-foot house in Henderson, paying off the remaining mortgage and property taxes, and purchasing a two-bedroom, two-bath, 1200-square-foot house in Summerlin with no mortgage.”

I twist my lips. I can’t help but smell a rat when it comes down to this woman. She just testified in a case where one of Henderson’s wonderful citizens was convicted on five of seven counts and will most likely be in jail for a really long time… although her car went over the bridge before we got the verdict.

“Make sure we have as detailed a breakdown as possible of her income, assets, and expenses,” I say. “Butterfly may need that information. Have we heard anything from Alex about this Drake fucker? I want his head on a platter and it’s never taken Alex this long to get me the information I need.”

“He’s still looking,” Jason says. “From what he’s found so far, the guy is clean. He’s looking for other creative ways that you can possibly get to him.”

“I don’t care if the guy is clean or not. I want his ass for what he tried to do to Butterfly,” I say.

“In his defense…”

Defense?” I interrupt him. “You’re really going to defend this guy?”

“In this case, yes,” Jason says. “And I need you to hear me out.”

“I don’t want to hear anything that’s going to defend the man that tried to turn the 15-year-old version of my wife into a gold-digging little bitch trying to get her big come-up when she was branded like a fucking animal!” I bark.

“Well, this time, you’re going to have to listen to me, Boss, because any other time when somebody has done some shady shit, I’m right there with you. This time, you’re about to punish a guy just for doing his job.”

I’m ready to deck him. I’m fucking ready to deck my head of security and best friend.

“What did Drake do that Lincoln’s lawyer didn’t do? That David’s lawyer didn’t do?” he asks. “Right or wrong, whether their defenses were half-cocked—like Lincoln’s—or totally founded, they were just doing their jobs. They were defending their clients. You can’t expect them to come to court and do any less. Now, I don’t know what unicorn birdie from another planet made Lincoln’s lawyer believe that they could get away with that cock-and-bull defense, but hate it or love it, Boss, David’s defense and Sullivan’s defense had grounds.”

“You’re bullshitting me, aren’t you?” I ask flatly.

“You can’t see it,” he continues. “You’re too close and this is your Butterfly. We all know what that guy said about her was bullshit, but the jury didn’t. The only way to save his client was to take Her Highness out of the victim’s seat and put his client in it. If he could paint your wife as the wanton slut and these other vicious teenagers as people who would stop at nothing to make her pay for her heinous behavior, well then, it’s easier to paint Sullivan as a victim afraid for his life.

“You may not like it, but that’s what the defense saw when it came to Her Highness. That’s what her attackers saw. You heard yourself that Whitmore is either in complete denial that he raped her or he’s a really good fucking actor. So, if all parties involved are going by his word, what the hell do you think they’re going to believe?

“Then we find out that Sullivan is really in love with the guy, so if Larson’s theory is correct and he’s just a spurned lover, then we’re back to the impression of Anastasia—that she’s a gold-digging bitch, according to the man he loved, and she got to Whitmore before Sullivan did. Either way, it’s all open for interpretation from the outside looking in, and the job of the defense is to make sure that the jury interprets it his way.

“I’m not saying that you don’t have a right to be upset about what he said. Fuck, we’re all upset about the shit he said. I am saying that you’re trying to destroy a man for just doing his job. It’s like trying to get a cop fired for pulling you over for speeding, and the radar says that you really were speeding. I want you to think about that as you go after this guy.”

In reality, he’s right, but I don’t want to hear his logic right now. I want the man to suffer that caused my wife this undue pain. I’m not trying to do the right thing, dammit. I just fucking want somebody to suffer!

And going after his ass wouldn’t make me any better than the fuckers who branded my wife… because somebody had to suffer…

Dammit.

“Get out,” I say defeated, turning away from Jason.

“Call me when you need me,” he says behind me.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…”

I now have to kybosh my thoughts of seeing Drake on a stake, which ain’t gonna be easy, so I turn my attention back to the time we have to be in Vegas and how to handle it. At least now, we have a somewhat definite time span of when we’re going to be leaving this place. Sentencing in Vincent Sullivan’s case will be on March 4th, and by the 15th or 16th, we’ll know what’s going to happen with Carla Morton.

So, how do I make this place bearable for my wife until then?

“I want to stand by Jewel in this,” Allen says when I approach him for assistance, “but as far as I’m concerned, that woman doesn’t deserve an ounce of sympathy. All I think about when I think about this entire situation is that I could have lost my best friend, and that fucking cunt didn’t care one little bit, not one little bit. I’m full of concern for the human condition, but that woman… she could die tomorrow and the only thing I would be concerned about is how it’s affecting Jewel.”

“And in the meantime, Jewel is in this hellhole trying to figure out what needs to be done for her,” I remind him. “What are you going to do if she comes to you for advice?”

“Tell her to pull the plug,” he says flatly.

“I’m serious,” I tell him.

“I am, too,” he replies. I look at him and realize…

“You are serious!” I say.

“Yes, I am,” he says flatly. “If Carla Morton has a DNR, she clearly doesn’t want to live in a vegetative state. Right now, that’s exactly where she is. The machines aren’t keeping her heart beating, but they are keeping her functioning, and when she comes out of that coma—assuming she can even remember who she is—she’s not going to be able to walk. Jewel now not only has to break that to her, but if she lives, Jewel has to be attached to her some kind of way for the rest of her fucking life when all she’s been trying to do since she was 15 years old was get the fuck away from her.

“Legally, she can pull the plug on that woman, and the fact that she has a DNR totally suggests if she knew that she would wake up in the state she’s in now, she’d probably want it that way. And we’re not going to mention the thing that no one seems to want to say out loud—that maybe Carla Morton really did drive off that overpass, that she really did try to kill herself, which is a whole new set of problems that Jewel doesn’t need.

“All the evidence suggests that Carla Morton did not want to live and does not want to live this way. If she wakes up from this, she’s going to require 24-hour surveillance not to do this again. Based on her DNR alone, Jewel could pull the plug and she would be within her legal rights. So, if she asks me, know in advance that that’s going to be my legal advice.”

“Allen,” I say, calmly. “We need another plan of action. You and I both know that Butterfly won’t be able to live with that.”

“Then she better not ask me,” he says. I roll my eyes.

“She’s here,” I say again. “We’re here, and we have to be here for a while. Besides pulling the plug on her mother, what can we do to make this pill easier to swallow?” Allen thinks for a minute.

“Bring her babies,” he replies. I turn a horrified gaze to him.

“What?” I ask, aghast.

“Bring the twins,” he repeats. “That would make this pill much easier for her to swallow.”

“She’s not going to let me bring the twins down here!” I say finitely. “The last thing she wants to do is expose her children to this place. And besides, there’s nothing for them to do down here.”

“There’s plenty for them to do down here,” he counters. “And all you have to do is get in touch with the concierge you’ve got in your pocket that can pull Cirque de Soleil tickets out of his ass and he’ll turn one of these suites into Disneyland, and you know it.”

Well, he’s right about that. I just don’t know how I feel about the twins being here. They’re safe in Seattle. They have a whole fleet of people looking after them there…

“Hey, you asked, that’s what I think,” he says. He’s not really the fountain of knowledge right now telling me that he’s going to tell my wife to pull the plug on her mother.

“I’ll think about it,” I say.

“Think about what?”

Our conversation is interrupted by Butterfly. She’s been at the hospital all afternoon since we left the courthouse and she’s just getting back to the hotel.

“Well, you’re a surprise,” I say calmly, willing Allen not to mention the conversation that we were just having. “How’s Carla?”

“The same,” she says as she gets a bottle of water from the minibar. “Her room is full of flowers.” I turn a surprised furrowed brow to my wife.

“What?” I exclaim as she cracks the seal on the top and takes a healthy drink of water.

“Her room is full of flowers,” she repeats. “When I say full, Christian, I mean bursting out the fucking door.” I look over at Allen and raise a brow at him.

“Why would you do something like that?” Allen asks.

“I didn’t. None of those flowers are from me,” she says, coolly, coming back into the living room and taking a seat in one of the large chairs facing me and Allen. “From what I can tell from the ones that had cards, they’re from her job, from coworkers, and from patients. As I was leaving, more were coming from places like Three Square, Goodwill, Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada. There’s even a teddy bear there from the family of an 8-year-old girl who died of Leukemia. I found out that my mother did hospice care for her out of her home.” Allen twists his lips.

“How does that make you feel, Jewel, about your mother?” he asks. Jewel rolls her eyes.

“A whole lotta fucked up,” she admits. “Here’s this woman who was everything in the world to me until I was about 13 years old. Then, I slowly cease to exist to her except as a tool to hurt my father. I have what still is to this day the worst experience of my entire fucking life, and she left me alone and wrote me off through the entire fucking thing. Even then, I was nothing more to her than a fucking payoff.

“She pops up after I’m kidnapped, pretending that she cares when the entire time, I know she was just trying to get back in my good graces so that she could get some money. Even her pickled husband was playing ambulance chaser—for lack of a better term—trying to get security to beat him up so that he could get a lawsuit.

“She starts talking shit about me when she finds out that Christian and I are getting married—more press time, woo woo!” She twirls one finger in the air, and I can tell she’s getting angrier and angrier by the second.

“When I bring her to Seattle to find out where the fuck her mind really is, and she shows me, I give her what she wants and send her on her way. Then, she shows up at my home the next day acting all reformed and remorseful and shit, trying to give the money back and putting on this huge fucking performance about how she just wants me in her life and she doesn’t need the money and wah, wah, wah…”

Her voice mimics a crying woman when she discusses Carla’s performance.

“For four years, that woman and her husband were the very bane of my existence. And to a teenager, four years is a lifetime, especially when you spent a portion of one of those years in a coma and recovering from a beating that most people wouldn’t have survived, and one person didn’t!”

Oh, yeah, she’s mad.

“Why did she testify?” she demands. “What did her testimony do? Why did we even need it? The only thing I could see was another opportunity for her to get into the limelight. It didn’t help the case at all!”

“It corroborated the story that Whitmore’s father paid them off,” I say.

“He wasn’t on trial here,” Butterfly retorts. “He’ll never be on trial. He took a plea; he can’t even appeal. Her testimony was useless. The only thing it corroborated was how horrible a mother she was. Why would anybody want to announce that?”

As much as I don’t want to admit it, I now believe it was her final attempt to show Butterfly that she had changed her ways. When the only response she got from it was me and Jason showing up on her doorstep telling her to leave Anastasia the hell alone, that may have been the final blow for her. Jason told me that many of the following nights were spent with her on her patio drinking something out of a cup and crying. Maybe she really did throw her car off that overpass.

“Butterfly, did I ever tell you that I went to see your mother the night before she left Seattle?” I ask. She raises her gaze to me. “We had a very harsh heart-to-heart, if you can call it that. I believe that’s why she came to see you the next morning to really try to make amends. It’s possible that she was telling the truth—that our conversation sunk in and she saw the err of her ways.”

“I don’t remember if you told me or not, but it doesn’t matter Christian,” she replies, flatly. “Either you love somebody, or you don’t. Either you’re concerned about them or you’re not. She didn’t care about me. She didn’t love me. What you said to her shouldn’t have made a difference to her at all. Those feelings that she was professing, that conviction that she was feeling, she should have felt that all on her own the minute I brought her to Seattle. This changes nothing.

“And now, she has a room full of flowers like she’s Mother fucking Theresa!” she says, launching herself from her seat and pacing the floor. “And the cards… they love her. She’s a wonderful human being. She’s the most valuable employee they’ve ever had. She’s a devoted volunteer or a treasured friend. She’s all these wonderful fucking things that she couldn’t be for me!

“I’m her flesh and blood,” she cries, angry tears burning a trek down her face. “She birthed me into this world. I have children now—I know what that’s like. Carrying life in your body for nearly a year, nurturing and loving them inside of you and never knowing that you could love someone so much that you’ve never met until they put that baby in your arms. How can you even allow a speck of dust to fall on their little heads let alone behave stoically while a group of vicious people beat them damn near to death?”

Is she talking about herself or the twins?

“We were happy!” she wails. “We were happy and then suddenly… she wasn’t! She turned everybody’s life upside down. She destroyed our happiness, our love, our lives, our contentment… because suddenly, she wasn’t happy! She wasn’t happy, so we all deserved not to be happy.

“Sometimes, my daddy wanted to kill himself!” she sobs. “Many times, I just wished I was dead! She didn’t care! She didn’t care at all! And now, she’s a fucking guardian angel! She’s the end-all-be-all wrapped up in human form! She’s all that and a bag of chips to a bunch of fucking strangers and she couldn’t be that to me! I needed her! I needed her more than anything in the world! I needed her love and care and concern, and she could give it to me! God, what did I do to deserve that?”

She’s screaming now, having a full-on meltdown. I want to grab her, to hold her and tell her that it’s not her fault that Carla was a horrible woman and mother when she needed her, but she has turned her back to me and is now facing the darkness out the window and the lights of the strip.

There’s a knock at the door of the suite and I look at Allen. He leaves the room to answer it and Butterfly doesn’t even respond. She’s standing at the window sobbing, still spewing all the ways that Carla neglected her and allowed Stephen to emotionally abuse her. Even now, I want to dig that fucker up, beat his ass and kill him again for what he put her through. Thank God, he didn’t procreate.

“I can hear her down the hall! What’s going on?” I hear Ray’s voice from the foyer. Allen is trying to explain what’s happening, but Ray comes barreling into the living room with Allen and Jason on his tail. He stops in the doorway and examines the situation. I’m near the entrance, looking at Butterfly who is across the room looking out the window, sobbing, and still berating her comatose mother.

Ray and Jason just stand there in awe and confusion.

“I don’t get it!” she wails. “I don’t get it! Why couldn’t I just stay with Daddy? We were happy! We would have lost her, but I still would have been better off! She hated me before we left Seattle, I knew it! I knew it in the way that she treated me! I knew it before we even got to Nevada! She fucking hated me! How can you hate your child? How can you put your body through those changes and agony and mental and physical trials and bring a life into this world only to hate it? How is that possible?”

She sobs some more and now there are four men in the room who have no idea how to handle what’s going on with her. We’re all looking at each other and back to Butterfly in befuddled helplessness.

“I would have sent her the money,” she says, and I’m wondering what the hell she’s talking about. What money?

“I would have gotten a job after school, or Daddy would have sent it. I know he would have. Had we known any of this would happen, any of it at all, we would have done everything in our power so that I wouldn’t have to go with that woman!”

“Butterfly, what are you talking about?” I finally ask. What money—the $750,000 they got from Whitmore? Ray didn’t have that kind of money and even she knows she wouldn’t have been able to make that with an after-school job.

“She called me a tax deduction!” she screams. What? What did she say?

“Huh?”

“I asked her… w… why,” she sobs. “I asked h… her why… she didn’t… let me stay… with Daddy. She said because he would get the tax deduction!” She spit the last part out. “It’s always been about money with her! That’s all it’s ever been! I’m her daughter! I suffered! And she called me a tax deduc…”

She whirls around to see a group of men standing there, stunned and helpless. She takes note of the looks on our faces and her gaze rests on Ray’s. I turn to look at him and he looks totally broken and sad, like there’s something he could have done to prevent what happened to her. He has to know that he did everything in his power and that there was nothing else that he could do.

Butterfly can’t face any of us right now. She breaks down in mournful sobs and runs to the bedroom, slamming the door behind her.

We all just stand there looking at each other for a moment.

“I’ll… I’ll call and check on her later,” Ray says, his eyes glassy and red with unshed tears. “Call me if she needs me.”

“I will, Ray,” I say, sympathetically. He’s the first to leave.

Jason just looks at me, his expression unreadable. It looks like a combination of questioning and that helplessness that we all feel right now. Finally, no doubt feeling like there’s nothing else that he can do at the moment, he leaves the suite behind Ray. I look over at Allen and he’s looking at the door that Butterfly slammed behind her. You can hear her weeping.

“She wasn’t talking about herself, Chris,” he says before turning his gaze to me. “She was talking about her children. The circumstances may have been about her, but the anger, the hurt, and the disbelief that anyone could be this cruel to their own child, that’s about the twins.”

I know this. I know what he’s saying is true, and yet…

“Bring her babies,” Allen reiterates. “They won’t only brighten her days and make this easier to bear, but she needs them. Get them here as soon as possible.”

“Allen…” I try to protest.

“Chris. Bring. Her. Babies.”

A/N: It’s funny that Darcy’s comments at the end of episode 13 suggested that we bring the kids to Vegas and I had written this episode in the previous weeks and had just finished writing the following episodes when I posted episode 13.

I know I threw you all a curve ball… so far. The comments from the last chapter were saying things like, “Ding, dong, the witch is dead,” and “OMG, Carla killed herself,” and all I could say while I was reading them was, “But is Carla dead… yet?”

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

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 15

It was a close race between Old World Charm and Classic Rustic Tuscan, but Old World Charm won.

I won’t even begin to tell you how horrid my holiday was. It’s not even worth repeating. Let’s just get on with the story.

Falala, my snowflakes are on my front door greeting everyone who comes to my home for the New Year. ❤ A little good news is that we’ve been having some warmer days and we’ve finally passed the winter solstice, so the days are a minute or so  longer each day and it helps a bit with my seasonal depression. 

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 15

ANASTASIA

I immediately regret knocking on Marilyn’s door without calling. I don’t know what she’s doing or even if she’s awake yet. When she opens the door, I can clearly see that she’s been crying. She’s not a sodden and soppy mess, but her skin is blotchy, and her eyes are still a bit glassy.

“I knew it was you,” she says. “No one else would be knocking since Vee and Fergus have their own room, and everybody’s probably avoiding me like the plague.”

“Well, I don’t know if anyone is avoiding you,” I say honestly as I enter and close the door behind me. “Unfortunately, I know from experience that you can’t hide grief, no matter how hard you try. It’s impossible. If only people wouldn’t be so terrible about how they interpret it.” She falls down on the sofa in her sitting area and I take a seat next to her.

“I won’t ask how you’re holding up,” I say. “My visit has many reasons.”

“Shoot,” she says.

“First, I’m shamelessly checking up on you,” I tell her. “You left suddenly last night and even though you handled the situation with grace, it couldn’t have been easy.” She sighs.

“It wasn’t,” she says. “To come back and hear a table full of people talk about how they thought you were bulimic or anorexic…” She shakes her head. “Thanks for defending me, by the way.”

“I wouldn’t say that I was defending you,” I admit. “I just think it’s very rude to talk about someone behind their back that way when you have no idea what was going on. Then, they would all be smiling in your face when you came back to the table. All they had to do was ask if they were that concerned. If you didn’t want to tell them, you wouldn’t tell them, but don’t just jump to conclusions.”

“Well, thanks for whatever you did,” she replies. We’re silent for a moment, then I strike up the conversation again.

“The other reasons I came by was, well, we don’t talk anymore. I know that you’re hurting, and I don’t want to push it, but your doctor did say that therapy might help, and some yoga or meditation. I’m great with all those things, you know,” I press.

“Yes, I know…” and that’s all she says.

“I miss being able to talk to you,” I tell her, “but I don’t know what to say right now without being insensitive to your feelings.” She sighs again.

“I guess I won’t know what bothers me until it bothers me,” she says. “I don’t want you to think you can’t talk to me. I’m just trying to muddle my way through this life, and to be honest, I don’t quite know how.”

“That’s one of the reasons I want you to be able to talk to me… about anything. And if we can’t do that just yet, then let’s try some of the other relaxation or stress-relieving techniques. Any illness or hurt has to start mending somewhere, Mare, or you just stay sick.” She shakes her head and rolls her eyes.

“Have you tried to eat anything yet?” I ask. “Have you had your smoothie or anything?” She shakes her head. “Good, because I’m starving. All I’ve had is coffee. So, I’m going to order some breakfast—and a smoothie and a carafe of orange juice—and we’ll see where it goes.” She nods.

“Okay,” she cedes. “I haven’t showered yet, so I’ll do that while you wait for breakfast.” I nod and she heads off to the shower.

I call downstairs and order double servings of a traditional southern breakfast in case anything on the tray tempts her nostrils and she decides to give it a try. Then I check my phone again and the pictures of me that are on Facebook. There have been several likes and comments, some good, some bad as I would expect. I wanted attention in that dress, I sure as hell got it. I don’t know if my father or Mandy is on social media, but I’m kind of hoping that they don’t see this even though they were front and center for the fashion show.

“Why the face?” Mare asks as she comes out of the bedroom in one of the hotel terrycloth robes. Wow, that was fast. I turn my phone to her, and she looks at the picture.

“You’re on Facebook?” she asks.

“Apparently,” I say, scrolling through the pictures once more.

“No, I mean you have a Facebook profile?” I frown.

“Oh! Yeah, but there’s nothing on it. It’s very non-distinct. I don’t even know if I’m going to put anything on it with the publicity I’m getting down here. So much for ‘What happens in Vegas.’” I put the phone on the coffee table.

“Do you really want a social media presence?” she asks. “It can be even more intrusive than the paparazzi.” I shrug.

“I don’t know,” I tell her. “Right now, I only use it to chat with my friend from Australia. She’s the one who convinced me to set it up. I really can’t see any other use for it right now.” She sits on the sofa.

“Nights are the worst,” she says, her head down. “I lay in bed praying for sleep to come to me, and even if I’m exhausted, it takes forever. We slept in knots. We’re both heat-seekers, so if either of us awoke and the other was too far away, we would move over and snuggle in and go back to sleep. There’s no heat in my bed anymore, so I can’t sleep. I can’t even find the slight peace I had before I met him… and that’s why I cry a lot at night.”

“Only at night?” I press.

“Mostly at night,” she says, “but there are some nights that just run right into the day because I don’t sleep at all. Even when I fall asleep, I wake up and remember that he’s not there, so I’m just crying again.”

Oh, dear. So, now she’s not eating or sleeping. No wonder she doesn’t look well. She’s killing herself.

“I’m a realist,” she says. “I don’t expect this to go away overnight, but it’s been nearly three months and I feel like this just happened yesterday. When will this get easier?”

“I don’t have that answer for you, Mare,” I respond. “Breakups really suck.”

“This is so much more than that,” she confesses. “I’ve had breakups before. I was sad, disappointed, angry… nothing felt like this. Nothing has ever felt like this. I feel like somebody died.”

Yeah, unfortunately, that’s what breaking up is—your relationship died. And if you were really in love, there’s no telling how long you mourn the deceased.

“I miss him so much,” she says, wiping a tear from her face… and now she’s crying again. “I miss his smell, his voice, his touch. I miss him holding me and our crazy after-sex talks.” She throws her head back and looks at the ceiling, the tears falling down her temples now.

“He was supposed to get a promotion at City of Lights,” she says. “I wonder if he got it…”

A knock at the door signals that breakfast is here and I’m certain that getting Mare to eat at this point is going to be an Olympic feat. The tray smells wonderful as the porter rolls the tray into the suite. I thank him and roll the tray into the dining room. I begin to uncover the plates and set them on the dining table—double servings of fluffy scrambled eggs, home fries, hominy grits, ham, and biscuits with sausage gravy, and of course, a fruit and vegetable smoothie and orange juice.

“That’s a mountain of food,” she says when she sees it.

“And I’m starving,” I tell her, “but I’m hoping something might tempt you to nibble. If not, I’ve got your smoothie and some orange juice.” She smiles weakly as she takes a seat at the table, sitting on her feet in one of the chairs.

I begin to load my plate with the delicious food and pour myself a fresh cup of coffee and some orange juice. Jesus, I really am hungry.

“I’m going to change my phone number,” Mare says, playing with the straw of her smoothie. My brow furrows.

“Why?” I ask.

“It’s hard waiting and hoping that he’ll call,” she says. “It may be an exercise in futility, but it’ll be a step in the right direction for me.”

An attempt to let go… I get it.

“Are you sure?” I ask.

“No,” she says, “but I’m going to do it anyway.” She sips her smoothie. I chow down on my breakfast while Marilyn talks, telling me that she needs to go shopping for some new clothes as none of her old clothes fit anymore. I want to take her to the spa for a complete treatment—mani, pedi, exfoliating, massage, cut and color. She’s totally wearing her grief and it needs to be scrubbed, plucked, and rubbed out of her, but I think that may be too much too soon.

“How long did it take you to get over Edward?” she asks, and she surprises me by retrieving a fork and picking at some of the eggs on the plate, eating very small bites, but eating.

“I honestly don’t remember,” I tell her, finishing the last bites of my breakfast and refilling my coffee from the pot. “You have to keep in mind, though, that my story is much different than yours. I was betrayed and cheated on, so in addition to losing the man that I loved, I had to deal with healing from the deliberate pain that he put me through. That part took a long time.”

“I’m not saying that my situation is better or worse than yours,” she says after swallowing another mouthful of eggs, “but Gary really was the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life so far. So, I don’t know which is worse—having your heart ripped out, stomped on, and destroyed by someone who was supposed to love you, but finally getting away from that loser… or knowing that the man who makes your heart leap with excitement and love is alive and well and walking this earth and never wants to speak to you again… for something that you did.”

Yeah, that’s a tough call.

“Well, you know how when someone dies, they always tell you to remember the good times?” I begin.

“That doesn’t help,” she says. “It only intensifies the reality of what I’ve lost.”

“I get that,” I say, “but you can’t get rid of those memories. They’ll always be there, and they’re good memories. It’s strange that you asked me about Edward,” I say looking into my coffee cup. “Vee had just come up to the room to discuss my wardrobe reveal on Facebook this morning…”

“I bet that went well,” she says sarcastically. I raise my gaze to her.

“Let’s just say that she won’t ask about my clothes in the future,” I say. “Anyway, Christian and I began to talk about the implications of our wardrobe choices last night, how the men were catcalling from their seats, but the women were more brazen in their pursuits.”

“Whoa, I missed something, huh?” she asks, finishing the eggs to my delight.

“Yeah, you did, but nothing huge, just a tiny floorshow. Nonetheless, the conversation got me to thinking about Edward and our relationship—how the women knew that we were together, but they were unbelievably brazen in flaunting the fact that they were fucking him. They were so disrespectful to me that I couldn’t even go out anywhere anymore. They were everywhere! Everywhere I went—clubs, social events, anything—they were always there. I remember that I even changed some of my interests, sought out different things and different groups of people, but no matter where I turned, someone from that core group of women was always there and I couldn’t escape. That’s not surprising, because there was so many of them.

“I’ve been with my husband for three years now,” I continue. “We have two beautiful children and a wonderful life. I had dropped that man nearly four years before I met my husband, but even now, I find myself lost in melancholy sometimes about the things that he put me through. I had nightmares about the kidnapping for a long time, but seeing him intimate in so many ways with so many women…” I trail off and finger my coffee cup.

“He’s been dead for nearly a year now. He can’t hurt me anymore, and he couldn’t even if he was alive, but the ache of what he put me through, I can always go back to it just like it happened yesterday. It’s always going to be there even if it’s not as intense as it was when I was in the thick of it. I sometimes have to push those thoughts away by force, remembering that those times won’t come back.

“I know the grass always looks greener on the other side,” I say, feeling the anguish rise in my throat again, but swallowing it back down, “but I know from painful experience that when you love someone and your heart is broken, it eventually mends. It may not mend as quickly or as seamlessly as we would like, but it does mend, and remembering the good times aren’t so bad. But when someone treats you like shit, makes you feel like shit, makes you doubt everything you thought you knew, makes you walk away from nearly everyone and everything you thought was familiar because you found out that you were the butt of the joke, you don’t get over that,” I say shaking my head.

“That pain comes back and back and back, and when you think it’s gone, something happens to jar the memory and it’s peeking its head back into the door at you again. So, I know that you’re hurting and I’m not minimizing your pain, but if I had to choose between your pain with Gary and my pain with Edward, I’d choose yours, because I know you’ll mend one day. Try to take a little comfort from that even though I know it’s not much.”

It’s quiet for a moment as I twirl my coffee mug and she sips her smoothie.

“I didn’t mean to bring you down, Bosslady,” she apologizes. I shake my head.

“You didn’t,” I inform her. “I selfishly thought to come down and check on you and talk to you because Edward and his harem had come to mind while I was in my suite as a byproduct of a prior conversation. I hope you don’t mind.”

“I don’t,” she says. “I’ll just have to take your word for it about this whole mending thing, though.” I take her hand.

“Look, I was going to see if I could find a yoga place nearby, just to get some air, but while I was searching, I found this meditation center. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried meditation before, but when I’m totally lost and out of my center, it helps me find my way back. It’s not a complete cure-all, but it’s a really good start.”

She twists her lips skeptically at me, but finally gives in.

“Okay,” she says.

“And if you like, we can go to the outlet mall and grab a few things.”

“You hate the mall, Bosslady,” she says.

“Yes, but this is different,” I tell her. “You need some things and a little retail therapy never hurt.”

*-*

I stop to say goodbye to Daddy and Mandy and to tell Christian where I’m going, and Chuck and Carol accompany me and Mare to the Las Vegas Meditation Center. Not very original, I know, but the center is very professional and informative. The guide doesn’t inundate Marilyn with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, but she—like me—can see Mare’s dis-ease without much effort.

“Confusion in your life is often brought on by confusion in your spirit,” Maya says. “This often leads to bad decisions, lack of self-care, and overall poor health. At the root of it all, everybody wants to be happy, whatever happiness means to each person. The source of true happiness is found inside. If you have a lot of confusion, anger, sadness, and discord, there’s no way you can find peace. No matter what’s happening outside, you won’t find happiness until you find peace inside. That’s the goal of meditation. You find the method that’s best for you based on what is ailing you most right now. What’s at the crust of your discontent?” Mare pauses for a moment.

“A recent breakup,” she replies. Maya nods.

“Was it mutual?” she asks. Mare shakes her head.

“It was not,” she replies.

“So… it has left you broken and out-of-sorts,” Maya observes.

“Very much.”

“How long?” Maya asks. Mare clears her throat.

“Two months… two weeks… one day,” she says, whispering the last two words. I feel so bad for her.

“Still new,” Maya says softly. Mare nods, obviously fighting back her tears.

“When two people come together, they become one. When you split, you lose a part of yourself and you’re forced to get it back without that other person. That’s why they’re often called your ‘other half.’ You have to find yourself again,” Maya says. “It’s a long journey, but you must take it.” She takes Marilyn’s hand. “I suggest Zen or transcendental meditation. I’ll get you started with some books and quick techniques. Don’t try to read everything, you’ll get overwhelmed…”

I follow Maya and Mare around the center, and I have to admit that the information she’s providing is quite solid. She doesn’t talk to Mare about getting over Gary. She talks about finding the center that she lost when she and Gary split, about finding one good thing in each day that makes her feel a little better—no matter how big or small—even if she has to create that one good thing.

She could put me out of business if more people paid attention.

I hand Maya my Amex Black once she has given Mare a solid jumping-off point with books, some music, and even some candles and a meditation pillow.

“I got it, Bosslady,” Mare says.

“You wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t dragged you here,” I tell her. “Besides, you won’t have a choice but to give it your all if I get it for you.”

“Don’t take her card,” Mare says to Maya before looking back at me. “That’s exactly why I have to get these things myself,” she says. “I do want to get better. I do want to come out of this, so I need to do this.” She hands Maya her card, and I can’t argue with her logic. I’m proud of her for feeling this way, but I’m beginning to regret introducing her to Gary. I wouldn’t have done it had I thought either of them would end up in this kind of pain, and I know they’re both hurting.

We take our wares back to the car and Chuck drives us to the other end of the world and the Outlet Mall. It’s well into the afternoon by the time Marilyn has found enough pieces to cover her for a couple of weeks as we don’t know how long we’ll be here. We stop at the food court and I don’t bother trying to get her something to eat. We go straight to Tropical Smoothie and we both have one for lunch.

“I call his voicemail in the middle of the night,” she says as we’re sitting at a table in the food court, “the one at City of Lights. I never leave a message. I just listen to his voice.” She drops her head and sighs sadly. “How am I ever supposed to get over him if I can’t let go?”

“Time, Mare,” I say. “That’s what it’s going to take. Nobody said that you would just stop loving him, and nobody’s saying that you have to, even now. It would be impossible. Your love for him isn’t a curse, even though it hurts. It’s a beautiful thing, and you may have to use that love to get over him, if that’s what’s in the stars.” She raises her gaze to me.

“Why would you say that?” she asks. “What else could possibly be in the stars?”

“Anything!” I tell her. “Anything at all can be in the stars. Who am I to say? And who are you? We all have to die one day, but we do everything we can right now to live and that’s what you have to do even though death is inevitable. But Marilyn, death is the only thing that’s inevitable. So, yes, anything is in the stars. Do you understand?” She swallows and nods.

“I get it,” she says. “Now, can we go? I’m really tired of being strong right now.” I nod and stand.

“Let’s go,” I say, grabbing some of her bags.

*-*

“I was wondering if Mac had chased you away from me for the day,” Christian says when I get back to the suite.

“No, just… trying to help Marilyn out of her funk, as much as anybody can,” I say, dropping a bag of my own wares.

“How is she?” he asks, helping me out of my coat.

“The same,” I tell him. I go to the kitchen and retrieve a bottle of water. “She’s trying to cope, but… I know you don’t have any experience with breakups, but this is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. I tried comparing her situation with my breakup with Edward…”

“How the hell did that happen?” he asks.

“Don’t ask,” I say, taking a few healthy chugs of the cold water. “A series of dominos. Anyway, I feel like my breakup with Edward was worse…”

“I concur,” he interrupts. I twist my lips.

“I just didn’t spiral down the wormhole as badly as she did,” I finish. “It was rough, and I had several years of withdrawal, and I was able to recoil and get on with my life, even though I didn’t have a relationship for several years. She’s destroying her health, and if she doesn’t come out of this pretty soon, it may be irreparable.”

“So, what now?” he asks. “She’s obviously going to need some intensive therapy.”

“She doesn’t want to go through therapy for a breakup,” I tell him. “She’ll barely talk to me about it.”

“This is more than a break-up…” That’s what she said. “This is affecting her health and everything and everyone around her.”

“Yeah, I know. She opened up a bit today and I’m hoping she’ll get a little better after this. We’ll just have to see.”

“I hope you’re right,” he replies. He doesn’t say anything more but what he doesn’t say is louder than what he says, and his implication is correct. Neither of us wants her to find out the hard way that she’s got to come up out of this funk and fast. Nobody is expecting her to wake up one day and be “all better,” but she’s got to get on the road to better because she’s going way down the rabbit hole.


CHRISTIAN

Butterfly reluctantly decides to stay in Vegas for a few more days to see if the jury comes to a verdict with the promise to our babies that we’ll be home on or by the weekend. Al opts to stay with her since he knows that, one way or another, we’ll all be back in Vegas next weekend. She and Al spent Sunday afternoon watching 80’s movies while I caught up on things happening at GEH. I kept the block of rooms just in case anyone wants to come back on short notice.

Monday and Tuesday were just like regular workdays for all parties involved, except we set up shop in a Las Vegas hotel. Butterfly and I Skype into the department head meeting, and the peasants are just as subservient, obedient, and accommodating as they are when we’re there. I love the fact that my wife shows no sign of weakness in front of the staff even though this has been one of the most trying times she’s faced in a while—and she’s faced a few! However, she still exercises her authority as necessary in the meeting, asking specific questions about progress on the issues she discussed with various members of the management team, doling out praise for a job well done, additional instructions for the “next steps of the process,” as she put it, and swinging the Butterfly sword when necessary on those who aren’t making the mark.

“She’s just what we needed,” Lorenz says in a private video chat. “No matter how much you shook your fist in here, it was still business as usual. Everybody waited to see who would get the fist or the ax, but no one was moved enough to make a significant difference. When she came breezing through here like, ‘Shape the fuck up or ship the fuck out because I will close this whole thing down, they believed her. We believed her. Even Ros got her ass in gear.”

“I guess there’s nothing like fresh new hell to get the ball rolling in the right direction,” I tell him.

“Yeah,” he concurs. “I don’t know what’s going on these days with her personal life, but she’s thrown herself full force into her work. You’d be impressed.”

“That’s the Ros I know,” I reply. “Though I hope everything works out for her, I really don’t want to know the details. I don’t mean to be insensitive, but I can’t empathize with where she is at the moment.”

“Hear, hear,” he concurs. “I won’t judge, but I don’t get it. I’ll just leave it at that.”

I appreciate that he doesn’t want to discuss the situation any further. There’s not a lot I have to say on the matter. I end the call with a few instructions and move on to other issues at hand.

Later that evening, my wife dons a sexy black dress with straps across the chest and an alluring peekaboo oval right at her cleavage, while I slip into basic black Armani, and we take a little drive up the strip in a 2015 Audi A5 with a moonroof that Jason procured earlier in the day. We decided to forego security for this little trip since the paparazzi has seemed to die down since the trial has ended and the jury is now in deliberations.

I’m pleasantly surprised that Butterfly enjoys the view of the strip through the sunroof during our drive. I veer west on Spring Mountain Road and proceed to our destination, a small Japanese restaurant called Aburiya Raku. It has some pretty good reviews and when we arrive, we see that there are mostly Japanese clientele. When the native ethnic group is en masse in the establishment, you know you’ve made the right choice.

We enjoy a variety of delicious Robatayaki items all grilled on oak binchotan—yakitori Chicken, duck, and Kobe beef skewers, including Kurobuta pork cheek and asparagus with bacon. We also have salmon roe and direct flamed eggplant. The sea urchin looked less than appetizing, so we shied away from that delicacy. We have the three-sake sampler—Juyondai and Isojiman both served cold, and Kubota sake heated. Kubota is normally a very dry sake, but when served heated, it has a softer flavor.

The experience is just what we needed to loosen up and just as we’re leaving, Butterfly needs to go to the restroom. She’s in there for a while and just as I’m settling the bill, I almost go to the restroom to see if she has fallen in when she comes storming back to the table, snatches her coat and purse and marches out the door of the restaurant.

What the fuck?

I quickly walk out behind her and the moment I clear the door, she begins walking towards the car. What the hell is going on? We just had a wonderful meal and now, she’s walking like she’s trying to escape from the police and huffing like a bull. I hit the key fob to unlock the car and she’s in the passenger seat before I can even get to her to open her door. When I get in the car, she’s breathing heavily in the seat next to me, sweating, her chest rising and falling lusciously underneath the straps of her dress.

“Drive!” she demands. My brow furrows.

“Butter…”

“Drive!” she hisses again. I don’t give her a chance to say it a third time. I drop the gear and peel out of the parking lot, not sure where I’m going.

“I hate this place!” she hisses. “I fucking hate this fucking place!” She rifles into her purse and pulls out a small bottle of hand sanitizer. She dumps a healthy amount of it into her hands and scrubs vigorously. She then dries her hand with a paper towel that was haphazardly shoved into her purse.

What the hell did she do in there, kill somebody?

I don’t ask what’s wrong. I quietly drive and wait for instructions for my wife to tell me where we’re going. Are we going back to the hotel? I don’t turn on the strip. I just drive down Spring Mountain Road until the street starts to curve and the neighborhood looks a little shady. I get back to a main street and, knowing that I turned left on Spring Mountain to get to the restaurant, I turn right on the main street.

At first, the neighborhood still looks pretty unsavory, and I wish I had Jason with me. After a while, the speed limit slows to a crawl, and I realize that we’re in the college district.

Butterfly still hasn’t said anything. She just sits there looking ahead of her.

I drive through the college district for a few miles until the road that we’re on ends and I have to veer to the right since I’m in the right lane…

And I end up driving through the airport.

Now, I’ve been to many airports in many cities, in many countries, on nearly every continent, and I’ve yet to find one that isn’t difficult as hell to navigate. McCarran is no different.

Here we go loop-de-loo for about 15 minutes and I finally manage to get to the other side of the airport… thank God. The bad news is that I now know that we are not only on the other side of the strip—which I suspected—but we’ve also passed our hotel.

And my wife is still silent. Okay, enough of this shit.

The airport interchange or connector or whatever the hell it is also ties in with the freeway. So, now I need to get off the freeway. The first exit says Sunset, only “exit” is misleading. It’s a maze of go-around-another-loop-onto-another-connecter-then-veer-right-onto-another-ramp-and-you-had-better-know-where-you’re-going-when-you-finally-get-to-the-street.

Left, or right?

Since we’ve crossed and we’re on the other side of the hotel, I think we need to go left because we need to head west. I turn left when the light turns green and proceed down Sunset Road. I’m sure the next light has to be Las Vegas Blvd and we can head back to the hotel.

Wrong.

The next light is Eastern. If we haven’t gotten back to the strip yet, we’re going the wrong way. That’s it. I need to find somewhere to pull over so that I can check the GPS and get us back to the Waldorf. After we’ve driven in silence for a while, my wife barks at me.

“Turn here!”

I’m actually startled a bit and I make an immediate right where she tells me to turn. My hands grip the steering wheel and I’m actually relieved to find that there were no vehicles or pedestrians to my immediate right, or I would have surely hit them. The area is well-lit even though it’s very late and I wonder where we are.

“Butterfly…” I begin, my voice scolding as I want to chastise her for startling me while I’m driving.

“Turn here!” she barks again.

“Ana!”

“Turn!”

I narrow my eyes at her and turn. We’re clearly in a park as I notice we pass a baseball field. There’s no talking to her right now. She’s livid about whatever happened in the moments that we were separated. We’re leaving the lighted area and driving more into a darker, shaded area now.

“There!” she barks. “Park there.”

I pull up next to a partially wooded area and turn the car off. Butterfly is facing forward, blankly looking ahead, no longer breathing heavily, but still breathing fire, nonetheless.

“Butterfly, what the he…”

“Take your pants down,” she says impassively. I frown deeply.

“What?” I retort in disbelief.

“Take your pants down!” she repeats, her head whipping towards me.

“Anastasia, I hardly…”

“Do you wanna talk or do you wanna get fucked?” Hell, really? I’ve never seen her like this. She is simmering angry… and ordering me to drop trou. If I protest right now, I’m afraid that I’ll risk that second option being taken off the table for the rest of this cursed trip. “Take. Your. Pants. Down.”

She’s not going to repeat that shit. I obediently undo my belt, my button, and my fly. Lifting my hips, I pull my pants down just above my knees and before I can get my ass back into the seat, she leans over, grabs my cock and takes the whole thing in her mouth.

“Whoa!” I exclaim, not prepared for the attack.

“Shut up!” she hisses. I have no idea what has her in this mood—and so goddamn bossy. I resent it a bit, but I like it much more than I resent it. She’s not my Domme; she’s someone else, but just as sexually demanding as my Domme.

My dick was flaccid a moment ago, but it hardens almost instantly with her technique—slow, deep, and hard… forceful, taking me from base to tip with no difficulty at all.

“Fuck!” I hiss quietly, one hand gripping the leather door handle while the other grasps the armrest between us. She’s fucking me so hard with her mouth that I only have a small amount of room to thrust up into her mouth on her downstroke. I wasn’t prepared, and I have to concentrate on not coming immediately. It only takes moments to get me so hard that I could knock down the trees in front of us with my dick at this moment. She’s going to fucking murder me…

She moves quickly, lifting her dress and rising to her knees. She pulls her dress up over her ass and before I can think or protest, she straddles me and kisses me deeply. Fuck, what is she doing?

She pushes the buttons on my door and my seat slowly reclines enough until she feels comfortable. I watch in aroused awe as she hoists one leg up on the armrest that my hand was previously occupying, the other nestled in the seat between my body and the door. Her legs are open wide and even though she’s still wearing her panties, I can smell her insane arousal.

Panties… she makes quick work of that, too.

Apparently, in her haste, she forgot to remove them. She grunts impatiently, and I hear the distinct sound of tearing fabric. Unwilling to just pull them aside and take care of business, she rips them off and tosses them into the passenger seat.

Fuck! My dick is hard and hot at the sight of that. She’s going to tear me apart.

She reaches between us and guides my head towards her opening. Upon finding her prize, she looks me in the eyes—hers already a deep blue, not royal like when she’s about to come, but damn near indigo. Fuck, that turns me on all by itself. Steadying herself on my shoulders, she works her way down onto my shaft without taking her eyes from mine, slowly taking me inch by inch.

“Sssssss!” I hiss as she envelops me.

“Quiet!” she whispers, glaring at me, still pushing her pussy down onto me. Her mouth opens when she takes me, but no sound comes out. She sits there for a moment, not moving, just wrapped tightly around my erection. Now, my mouth opens. She’s so tight and hot—not warm, hot—and she feels so damn good. A tortured breath escapes my parted lips and the hand that was previously on the armrest now rests on her bare hip.

She grabs my face as sticks her tongue into my mouth, giving and taking the most lavish and sensual kisses. I groan in agony at the decadence of being buried inside of her while she kisses me like this. I lap into her mouth, tasting her deeply as my dick gets harder and harder inside her. She breaks our kiss and my lips feel bereft, but she alleviates that issue by rising off my dick and falling achingly slowing back onto it.

Oh, God… this is too fucking much for me…

She grinds so. Damn. Slow, up and down on my cock, causing an unbelievable burn on my skin. I don’t even know how she has the control to move that slowly. The entire time, she doesn’t take her eyes off mine. We’re so close that our foreheads are nearly touching, our open mouths breaths from each other, and I’m at her fucking mercy.

“Fuck me,” she breathes, but I don’t know how. I don’t know how to move this slowly, this meticulously, without breaking her rhythm. I don’t move yet and she rises and falls a few more times. I hear her gasp and her pussy gets wetter, so she changes—just a bit—her stroke a little faster, but only a little, and still incredibly deep and painstakingly slow.

She feels so good riding me slow, her cunt sliding all the way to the very tip of my cock then slowly and painfully devouring me balls deep. It’s an exercise in torture, and she’s insatiable… hungry. I groan at the intense burn and the tightening in my cock.

“Hold it!” she growls, grabbing my face again. “Fuck me. I want to feel that hard cock.”

Fuck, this is insane! We’re not in a scene, but with her taking charge this way, I know I better obey and not come. I revert to my stamina exercises—painful minutes and hours of training as a submissive where I was fucked, fondled, and teased deliciously and ordered not to come. This is so much worse, so much hotter and sweeter and it feels so good, over and over, torturous minute after minute after minute of sweet, painful manipulation of my dick.

“Don’t come,” she commands in a husky voice when she feels me thicken. “Fuck me.”

Don’t come, Grey. Don’t come.

Our mouths are wide open, the passion and pleasure so deep and intense that we can only dart our tongues out occasionally to taste one another.

I grip her ass, raw and naked and juicy, her hips sliding slowly up and down my cock. Fuck, it’s so good. I only have to move my hips infinitesimally to get the deepest penetration, but God when I do…

“Fuck!” I hiss. I’m not going to make it. I close my eyes and try to concentrate on not coming, because the sight of her on top of me, the smell of our intermingling arousal, the sound of her wet pussy coating my erection as she rises and falls over me—It’s fucking with every one of my senses, not just the obvious ones.

“Ana, baby…” I groan as I squeeze that sweet ass on her every downstroke, trying not to guide her talented hips over my cock—not that I have to—but I sure take advantage of pressing my fingertips into her skin and squeezing that ass on every gyration.

She’s fucking torturing me, her hips and ass claiming me in slow, controlled movements, and that’s the only part of her body that’s moving. Oh God, she’s milking me… milking me so hard with meticulous, intent hip rolls. I feel like I’m fucking floating as she fucks me deeper, slower… I’m going to come…

The car jerks and I’m snapped out of my Nirvana. What the fuck was that?

Somehow, the car lurched into gear amidst our sensual dance and we were slowly moving forward the entire time. My senses blurred, I’m trying to figure out what has happened and where we are. The car has stopped moving and the ruffle of leaves around us helps to clear my fuzzy mind. We’ve rolled into a bunch of trees or shrubbery or something and except for the back of the car, we’re surrounded by flora.

My wife never stopped stroking.

There could have been an earthquake around us, and she probably wouldn’t have stopped.

“Don’t stop!” she says without lifting her head to observe our surroundings. “Almost there…”

Almost? Shit, if it weren’t for the distraction of the trees, I’d be blowing off inside you right now!

Thank God for trees!

I grab that ass again, my fingers spread out over each of those juicy, bare cheeks. Thank the forces of inertia for that brief interruption, because this party was about to be over… but the inertia in my wife’s hips and her continued hip rolls and concentrated strokes on my eager dick assures that my reprieve is short-lived.

Her hair has fallen into my face. One of her fingertips has slipped into the corner of my lips and it tastes good. She’s panting into my mouth and I’m breathing her breath as I’m panting my own. She’s totally owning me.

“Ana…” I breathe hopelessly as I feel her tightening around me.

“God… Christian…” she squeaks as she cums hard on my cock, fucking me through her orgasm and never losing her rhythm. Her pussy is so juicy that I can feel her nectars sliding down my dick with each stroke. The prior distraction of the collision completely gone, I sink my fingers deep into the meat of her ass and meet her orgasmic strokes, still not having to lift my hips very high as she’s controlling my thrusts. Moments later, I let go.

Boy, do I let go!

I hold her hips and ass hard so that only the top half of my dick is inside her. I can feel my cock thumping and pumping so hard that it hurts… really hurts.

“Gah!” I whisper-choke through the painful ecstasy as my dick thumps so hard with each muscle contraction from my balls that I can feel it violently pushing against the walls of her pussy. My legs are trembling with the unbearable and seemingly never-ending pleasure and I wish I had a camera recording the hot action of my hands tightly gripping my wife’s beautiful ass while my dick—only partially inserted inside of her—visibly throbs madly as it empties violently into her hot pussy. The visual sends me into a whole new series of squirts, vibrations, and tremors—if that’s even possible—and my body is useless and shaking underneath her as I come and come and come…

What seems like several minutes later, my wife crawls off of me, retrieves her panties from the passenger seat and begins to clean herself.

“Not that I’m complaining, but do I get to know what brought that on?” I ask as I slide my pants and boxers back into place.

“Stupid bitches in the bathroom,” she says, still cleaning herself. “I don’t want to talk about it.” I sigh and get out of the car to survey the damage. We’re stuck in the trees and the front of the car is sunk in mud up to the bumper. Jesus Christ. I pull out my phone and call Jason.

“Sir?”

“Can you track my phone and come and get us?” I tell Jason. “I have no idea where we are. Get an Uber or a taxi—I don’t care—just come and get us.”

“We’re at Sunset Park,” Butterfly grumbles, “and send a damn tow truck.” The line is silent for a moment.

“Did she say tow truck?” Jason asks. I try not to get irritated. Whatever’s bothering Butterfly, she’s irritated enough for the both of us and that hot fuck didn’t seem to help.

“Yes,” I tell him. “We’ve had a bit of a mishap with the rental…”

“I’ll be there in ten.”

*-*

“Keep your clothes on,” she says. “Drop your pants and sit down.”

My wife has given me a few instructions when we arrive back at the hotel, and I’m going to do what she tells me since nothing that has happened so far has softened her sour mood since we left the restaurant.

I dutifully drop my pants and sit in the large chair with the large ottoman in front of it. While I’m sitting there, she goes off into the bedroom and I hear her rummaging through something. Make-up? Luggage?

She comes back with a travel-sized bottle in her hand, but I can’t see what it is. Standing on the other side of the ottoman, she undoes her dress, pulls it off her shoulders and lets it drop to the floor. Her bra soon joins it and she’s standing before me in nothing but strappy stiletto sandals.

And my dick is rock-hard again.

Her eyes go immediately to my jutting erection and she guides her hand down to her pussy. She begins playing with her clit and my mouth immediately starts to water. What the fuck? Let me do that!

She opens the travel bottle and I soon realize that it’s some type of oil. She puts a little of it on her finger and returns it to her clit. She moans and drops her head back as she pleasures herself in front of me and Greystone starts to do a dance while watching her fondle that shaven jewel.

Fuck, she’s fucking cruel.

When her head rises again and her eyes meet mine, she steps next to me, holding the bottle over her shoulder upside down. I don’t have to see it to know that the oil is dripping down her back.

Stay calm, Grey.

Grey may be staying calm, but Greystone is animated and untamable.

She turns around and sits on my lap, discarding the empty bottle across the room to parts unknown. Her beautiful oily back is staring at me and the oil has rolled down to her beautiful and now oily ass. I can’t help it. I rub the oil into her skin and over her cheeks. She grinds over me and I bite my lip as her pussy lips glide over the outside of my erection.

Shit, the oil and the friction are almost too much.

I gently coat her rosette with the oil that has leaked there and push my thumb inside. She moans her pleasure and grinds harder.

Fuck, that doesn’t help.

Watching her hips roll on my dick with my thumb penetrating that delicious ass, I’m certain that she wants me to come this way. As soon as Greystone is hot and ready to blow, she stops her gyrations.

“Fuck!” I hiss as the sensation slowly eases away. She stands, my finger popping out of her asshole, and she turns around. She straddles me, facing me, but still not letting my dick into that luscious pussy. It’s erect behind her and she adjusts herself, her hands on my shoulders, so that’s it’s nestled between her oily ass cheeks.

“Aw, fuck,” I groan low as I take her hips in my hands. She moves just right, and my dick is rubbing between her ass cheeks.

“Fuck!” I bite out as I take a nipple in my mouth and suck hard, causing her to cry out.

“Ah! Christian!” That hip roll keeps going and I squeeze her cheeks, pushing them together so that they grip my dick as I torment her nipples, first one, then the other. I know I can make her come this way, and soon…

“Stop!” she cries, her voice tortured. She stops and I stop, and she fights for a moment to catch her breath. My pending orgasm ebbs away as she takes a brief reprieve, but her next move lets me know this round will soon be over.

After her momentary time-out, she reaches behind her and dexterously locates my aching cock, now oily from her ass. After stroking it a few times, she guides the tender head back to her ass… and her asshole.

Oh, shit.

I sit paralyzed as she manipulates and guides Greystone to one of his very, very favorite places. My breath catches when the head breaches her rosette. I bite my lip again, trying to prepare myself for the pleasure and not simply blow my load from the mere thought of what’s going on.

She rises and falls infinitesimally, working my cock into her ass and again, I have to concentrate on not coming. After a minute or so of glorious coercing, her tight ass finally accepts my aching shaft and she lays that beautiful body back on the ottoman.

She’s holding her ankles and riding my dick anally, laying back on this ottoman and spread out before me. Her lush tits are bouncing before me and she looks and feels fucking divine! Over and over, several minutes of torturing and tempting me with her tightest orifice. I’m going to come this way. There’s nothing I can do to stop it.

I grab her hips again and thrust up into her tight ass, short deep thrusts that massage my head and squeeze my cock and feels so good. She writhes on top of me and her body flushes. She bites her lip as that sheen of sweat shows up on her skin. If she comes, I’m right the fuck behind her so I might as well help her along.

I rub my thumb upward, repeatedly against that oily clit. It takes about a minute and her back is arching up, the top of her body suspended in orgasm and ecstasy and pushing her hips and ass against my dick. I thrust up into her a few more times and I’m hanging in yet another trembling orgasm, as intense as the first an hour or so ago.

“Fuck! Ana! Shit!” I cry out as I push myself into her clenching ass, gritting my teeth and pushing my head back into the chair as I swear brain matter is once again shooting from my cock. To this day, I have felt nothing like Anastasia’s ass and I’m certain that I’ll be out for the count as usual after that sweet, Valium-laced, anal session. I soon discover that my wife has other plans.

I am fucked, sucked, licked, gripped, and rubbed into complete oblivion for the better part of the early morning hours before my wife finally taps out and grants me reprieve somewhere around dawn. What the hell happened in that bathroom?

*-*

“Oh, I’ve missed my babies so much!”

The moment we walk into the house on Friday, Butterfly zeroes in on the twins. Mikey runs into his mother’s arms and Minnie, still not as balanced as Mikey, toddles over to my wife and they share a three way embrace that lasts for several long moments. I couldn’t get in on the love until she was ready to release one of them. She didn’t even take her coat off for a full twenty minutes.

We had decided to leave Las Vegas mid-afternoon on Friday as we knew that if the jury reached a verdict after 2:00pm, they wouldn’t be able to get everyone back in court in enough time to deliver it, and court wouldn’t be back in session until Monday. When we landed in Seattle and Allen checked his texts, it turns out that’s exactly what happened. Larson informed him that after asking to see the video three more times and reviewing Vincent Sullivan’s testimony twice, the jury had reached a verdict early Friday evening. We would have to be back in Vegas on Monday morning, and we’ll find out at that time when the sentencing will be… if there will be a sentencing.

As such, my wife threw herself into being Mommy from the moment we walked in the door. She normally dresses in what I would call office attire or business casual when we fly, but not on Friday. On Friday, she was all jeans, sweatshirt, and sneakers so that the moment she got home, she didn’t even have to change her clothes. She was right in the middle of the family-room floor with the kids and it was blankets and forts all weekend. We didn’t spend one night in our own bed.

I had learned that the 1914 Centennial Para Vintage Tawny blend had arrived from Barossa Valley on Thursday, and I was hoping to give it a whirl on Valentine’s Day, but nooooooo. Mrs. Grey had other plans. Mrs. Grey pointed out that we had been having wild sex the entire time we were in Las Vegas and that she now wanted to spend quality time with her children, knowing that we had to go back to that dreaded place again the next day. I remind her that it’s probably only going to be a day trip unless the sentencing is going to be this week and she reminds me that the Tawny blend will still be here when we get back. So, floor blankets and forts it is.

“Baby,” I ask while we’re preparing to catch the plane again on Sunday, “are you ever going to tell me what happened in that bathroom at Raku?” She sighs heavily and sits on the bed.

“There were a couple of women in the bathroom,” she says. “They saw me come in. They knew I was in the stall. They proceeded to talk major shit about me… major shit. I couldn’t even tell if they really knew who I was, but the six degrees of separation attached me to the blue dress from karaoke, and they knew the dress, and they knew you… or at least they knew your face.

“Whatever the case may be, they were just talking about how you looked too good to be with me and they were pointing things out like my big hips and I’m short… They brought up the blue dress and the fact that, ‘Well, at least this dress looks better than the blue one, but not by much.’” She’s mocking the girl’s words, so I know she was repeating them verbatim.

I opened the door and looked at them, and they’re standing at the sink glaring at me like, ‘Oh, you still here?’ They knew I was in there. They were deliberately picking a fight, and you know me! You know I could have given them one… but I was just so tired. I’m tired of people just not liking me or hating me or judging me for no reason. I’m tired of people expecting me to act a certain way or look a certain way or dress a certain way or be a certain way. I’m not Michelle Obama. I’m not required to greet everyone I see—smile and wave to the townsfolk when I arrive. I’m a young woman who just wants to live, and they won’t let me live!

“So, I was just tired. I looked at those women, and I had nothing—no snappy comebacks, no zingers, no cracks about their five-and-dime dresses and shoes, nothing. I just got the hell out of there. I didn’t even wash my hands.”

Oh, well that explains the hand sanitizer incident. I was wondering why she used so much.

“The entire time we were in the car, all I could think was, ‘When am I going to discover that someone doesn’t like me for something that I directly or deliberately did to them?’ Everybody that I’ve come in contact with so far doesn’t like me for some abstract bullshit or imagined wrongdoing, or some stupid shit like my big hips, I’m too short, and you’re too good for me. It was just more than I could bear at the moment.” I walk over to her and put my arms around her.

“You know that none of that matters to me, right?” I say, sincerely, while looking into her eyes.

“I know that, I do,” she says. “I’m just trying to find a way to deal with this shit. Every time I think I’ve got it under control, I can handle it, some dumb shit happens again and I’m back on the ledge again.”

I hold her close to me and try to comfort her, especially since we’re about to get back on the plane again to go back to Vegas. We’re just waiting for Lawrence to tell us that he has retrieved Ray and they and Allen will be meeting us at SeaTac. My pocket buzzes and I’m sure that it’s Jason calling to tell me that we’re ready to go. I retrieve my phone and swipe.

“Yeah?” I answer.

“Sir! Jesus! We’ve got a problem!” I furrow my brow.

“What? What is it?” I ask.

“I’ve called the police! I don’t know what we should be doing!” Jason is frantic. I’ve never seen him like this… or heard him like this.

“Take a breath, man. What are you talking about? Called the police about what?” I ask, trying to get him to calm down. I hear him swallow hard before he speaks.

“Carla Morton just drove her car off an overpass.” 

A/N: So, anyone who lives in Vegas knows that Sunset Park doesn’t really have trees in a marsh like that—there are trees, but not enough for a car to get lost in. Hell, nowhere that I know of in Vegas has trees like that accessible to a vehicle since we’re sitting smack on top of the desert, but I took a bit of creative license here.

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

Grey, Continued: Season 5, Episode 14

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 14

CHRISTIAN

Lunch manages to end on a high note with Butterfly showing Cynthia and Larry pictures of the twins at Christmas and their first birthday and talking about the accreditation at Helping Hands and all the things the Center will be able to do now that they’re licensed. I’m very happy to move the conversation away from the trial. We’ve decided to stay, and now we need to make the best of our time while we’re here awaiting this damn verdict. Much to my surprise, Butterfly suggests that we all go to Karaoke since most of our party will be returning to Seattle tomorrow. Cynthia and Larry decline, but it looks like our party will be going to make fools of ourselves on stage.

Although we’re in better spirits as we watch the living statues perform in the middle of the mall/casino, our spirits take a nosedive the moment we see him.

“Brian? What the…?” Ray begins.

“I swear I’m not following you,” he says with his hands up. Butterfly and I are both glaring at him like we could shoot him where he stands.

“What, did you come for a shopping trip?” I nearly hiss. He turns his glare to me.

“As a matter of fact, I did,” he says. He reaches into his jacket and just as Jason is reaching into his, Cholometes pulls out a mirrored box. Inside the mirrored box is another box—blue… Tiffany blue to be exact. He opens the box to reveal what looks like a 2-carat solitaire stone set in a platinum band with eight round brilliant diamond set in the band.

“I’m going to ask Shawna to marry me,” he says to Ray.

“Thank God,” my wife says, probably a little louder than she intends and never making eye-contact with Brian. He brings his gaze down to her and I’m immediately on guard.

“I see that’s good news to you, Ana,” he says. “I’m glad to hear that.” Butterfly raises a hateful gaze to Cholometes that doesn’t even faze him.

“You’re here in Las Vegas to attend the trial of the bastards that beat and burned me 15 years ago. Yet, you say that you’re here to support my father. The last time I saw you, you tried to announce to a room full of my family and friends—particularly my father—that I and my husband engage in an alternative lifestyle. Forgive me if I question your motives, Mr. Cholometes!” she spits, her voice full of venom, before she turns to her father.

“We’re going to the car, Daddy. You can meet us there when you’re done talking to your friend.” She marches away with Chuck right behind her. I glare at Cholometes for a moment, then fall in step behind my wife. I hear Ray talking to him as we leave.

“Bri, I appreciate your support and friendship, but in the future when you want to drop into town, you may want to call first.”

“Good idea,” I say to myself as I catch up with my wife.

“Baby…”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she says. “I want to go to the Fashion Show Mall and buy a skimpy dress to wear to karaoke tonight.”

“We’re in the middle of a mall right now, baby,” I point out.

“I don’t want to risk running into him again!” she says. Duly noted… then I pause.

“How skimpy?” I ask.

“Nearly non-existent,” she says. “I’ll be with my husband.”

And she wasn’t kidding.

She bought a short cobalt-blue, spaghetti string dress that fit her like a second skin that she plans to wear without a bra. What’s more is that she found a pair of cobalt-blue thigh-high soft suede stiletto boots to wear with the barely-there dress. To make matters worse, she bought a white bridal cape trimmed in fur with a hood, so that you were sure to see her coming.

Fucking hell.

“Your dad is going to be there,” I protest, trying to get her to reconsider her wardrobe choice.

“And I’m a grown ass woman with twins,” she replies. “If he’s never considered the fact that I’m a sexual being, now would be the time to get over it.”

I had to buy something, too, because I hadn’t planned on attending any social events. So, all I brought are suits and sweats, and hell if I’m wearing either of those out with her tonight. So, what do I buy?

I find the most Beckham-esque pair of black slacks that I can find in that they fit a man’s muscular legs, ass, and groin area very nicely and leave nothing to the female imagination. I pair them with a thin muscle turtleneck T-shirt and a pair of Mahogany brown ankle boots that pretty much sends the message that my wife is not the only one who’s going to look tempting on the streets of Vegas. She examines me with a scrutinous eye before we leave the suite and simply laughs as we head for the elevator.

Everyone comes out with us tonight, including Mac’s husband, Fergus, which unfortunately means that Marilyn is the only dateless person this evening. At first, that gives me cause for concern, but she assures me that she’s okay and plans to have a good time. She even intends to sing a song.

Jason’s eyes bulge from their sockets when he sees my wife’s attire. Ray is equally speechless when she removes her cloak. Of course, Allen can be counted on to fan the flame.

“Well, well, well, Hot Mama, what’s gotten into you?” he asks.

“A little bit of hell from Sin City, that’s all,” she replies taking a seat. Jason looks at me and I just raise my brow and shrug. He, on the other hand, sighs and rubs his forehead. He knows that dress has the makings for a long night.

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We’re at a local bar in a casino called Ellis Island in downtown Las Vegas, as if we hadn’t spent enough time down here already, but this place is rumored to be one of the best karaoke spots in town. If I’m honest, the food’s not bad either. We arrived early and commandeered one of the large tables that look like picnic tables. We’ve deliberately skipped dinner to partake of the greasy bar food, because that’s what Butterfly wants—chicken wing dings, loaded steak fries, jalapeno poppers, fried mushrooms… all the things that usually mean a night of indigestion, not to mention a steady flow of a drink called “Adios.” Hopefully, I won’t have to carry her into the suite at the end of the night, but even if I do, she deserves to let loose after the week that she’s had.

When the massive amount of food arrives, everyone digs in and I’m thrilled beyond words to see that Marilyn takes a few bites of a wing ding! That was worth the trip all on its own.

More than one man has eyed my Butterfly in this delectable fucking dress with her nipples at full attention. I’m trying not to go all Neanderthal on the fuckers, but they’re getting on my fucking nerves. The women eyeing me are a bit more discreet, but the gesture offers me little to no comfort.

The first to be called up from our little group is Fergus. He gives his wife a kiss and mounts the stage.

“Hold on a minute there, lad, before ya start,” Fergus turns to the crowd. “Do any of ya Americans know anything about good Irish drinkin’ songs?”

I don’t know anything about Irish drinking songs. I look over at my wife and she shakes her head and shrugs, but his question receives a bit of a reception from the crowd.

“Well, let’s give it a lil shot. If I say, ‘And it’s no, naaaay, neveeeerrrrr…” He pauses and several people in the bar clap four times.

“Oooooohh! I see ya do!” he says with his jolly Scottish accent. “Well, let’s do a round of The Wild Rover!” He turns to the DJ. “Okay, lad, let’s give it a go.”

A rousing introduction of what sounds like banjos and violins pipe through the speakers, and Fergus begins singing about spending all his money on drinking but coming home with gold in store. When he gets to the first round of the “No, nay, never” chorus, a few people in the bar clap with him.

Now, here’s the thing about Irish drinking songs… well, I should say this Irish drinking song, because I haven’t heard any other ones. It’s a very happy song. In fact, in a room full of drinking karaokers, it’s infectious. So, by the time he gets to the second round of the chorus, more people are clapping with him. By the third chorus, my wife and I are clapping with him. By the fourth and fifth chorus, the entire bar is singing along with him.

He gets a rowdy round of applause when the song is over and an enthusiastic roar to sing it again… which he does, and it’s just as much fun the second time around.

After a few other performers, Ray goes to the stage and sings Lionel Ritchie The Only One. Apparently, Mac hasn’t had enough to drink yet to show her vocal skills, but James is beckoned to the stage a while later and belts out a very good version of Michael Bublé’s Save the Last Dance for Me.

To my dismay, three or four songs later, my scantily clad wife is called on stage and sings a very animated version of Katy Perry’s Roar.

And Christ, did she roar!

I’m sure that a good portion of the power behind that song was fueled by alcohol, but she doesn’t seem impaired at all. Of course, the catcallers are yelling shit like, “Yeah, baby, roar on over here,” and “I’ve got something to make you roar,” but they were largely drowned out by the power of She-Women waving through the crowd and “roaring” along with my wife.

No sooner the little “tiger” is ready to take her seat that the DJ beckons her back to the stage with Al. They cling to one another and sing That’s What Friends Are For. I see my wife getting misty-eyed when the song is over, and she hugs her best friend. So, I’m happy when one of the other patrons belts out Sweet Caroline, which is one of those songs that unites people across all genres.

A few songs later, Amanda produces an amazing rendition of Celine Deon’s Because You Loved Me, and now Allen is looking for a song to sing for James since everyone seems “so sappy and sentimental” as he put it—everyone, that is, except…

At first, you can’t tell what the song is because you just hear the guitar strumming a single tune for a few beats, but when she opens her mouth…

“There’s a fire starting in my heart, reaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark…”

Marilyn’s voice has so much soul in it that everyone at the table is taken aback. We’re all listening intently as she finishes the first verse, and if you close your eyes, you don’t know that this isn’t Adele.

“The scars of your love remind me of us, they keep me thinkin’ that we almost had it all…”

I look over at Butterfly and she’s staring at the stage like she’s never seen this person before. Marilyn’s eyes are closed as she sings the song and when she hits the chorus, her voice reverberates through that place like she’s giving a concert—and the crowd reacts as such, but Marilyn is in her own world belting out this song like a pro.

“Did you know she could sing like that?” I ask, leaning over to Butterfly.

“Not a clue,” she says, still gazing at Marilyn, who continues to captivate the crowd.

“Turn my sorrow into treasured gold. You’ll pay me back in kind and reap just what you sow…”

She’s clapping with the rhythm of the clapping in the song as she sings this part, almost like it was rehearsed, but each time she gets to that chorus, she belts it out and the women in the bar transform into backup singers.

“You played it, you played it, you played it, you played it to the beat.”

She ends the song perfectly as the music ends and steps quickly off stage to thunderous applause. She proceeds pass the table, not stopping to look at any of us.

“Marilyn!” Butterfly calls behind her.

“I’m fine,” she calls back. “I just need the restroom.” Butterfly moves to stand, but I prevent it, shaking my head when she looks at me strangely.

“Let her go,” I tell her. “She obviously needs a little alone time.”

Butterfly at first gives me a look that screams how dare I hold her down like that, but deflates when I point out that Marilyn needs to be alone.

“Well, that explains a lot,” Mac says, taking a sip of her drink. I frown.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“I knew that crying was more than just a bad dream,” she says. “I just didn’t want to be intrusive. Bad breakup?” I look at Butterfly who shrugs. I can see Ray looking over at us expectantly, especially after he saw Marilyn kiss me on the cheek.

“The worst,” Butterfly says. “It’s not like we can keep it a secret anymore. I can’t reveal the details, but… it’s pretty brutal.”

Physically brutal?” Ray presses. Butterfly purses her lips.

“Daddy, I love you, but that’s none of your business. Bad break-up, that’s all you get, which is more than I should have said.”

“No offense, Ana, but it’s the elephant in the room,” Amanda says. “I don’t know her very well, but every now and then, a bit of personality shines through. She’s not usually this quiet girl that everybody’s seeing now, is she? And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that she doesn’t eat. I thought she was bulimic, but like Vee, I didn’t want to intrude.”

“What made you think bulimia if you hadn’t seen her eating?” Mac asks.

“I don’t know, maybe I’m thinking anorexia…” Amanda says.

“Can we please not talk about her this way?” Butterfly interjects fervently. “It’s rude and intrusive, not to mention narrow-minded to draw conclusions without knowing the entire story!”

“Thanks, Bosslady.”

We all turn to see Marilyn standing just at the end of the long table where we’re sitting. Amanda’s face pales and she chokes out her apology.

“Marilyn! I’m sorry… I didn’t mean…” Marilyn holds her hand up to silence Amanda.

“It’s okay,” she says. “It’s easy to get the wrong idea. I and my boyfriend didn’t see eye-to-eye on a very important matter and it resulted in our break-up. I wasn’t ready, not that I think I ever would have been, but it can’t be fixed now. I’m doing better with it now than I was before, but as you can see, I’m still not taking it very well. I’m ingesting what I can—doctor’s orders—but apparently, the first thing to leave after you lose your heart is your appetite… along with a bit of your sense of self-preservation, so…”

She trails off, and Mac and Mandy look more than a bit sheepish.

“So, I’m not bulimic and I’m not anorexic. I’m just broken-hearted,” Marilyn says with a shrug.

“I’m so sorry, Marilyn,” Amanda says again.

“Really… it’s okay. I totally understand. To be honest, I’ve become a bit accustomed to being Sideshow Bob… and I know Bosslady’s not going to tell you guys anything, so you heard it from me.” She mocks a half-bow. “Jason? Can one of the guys take me back to the hotel? I think I’ve had enough fun for the night.”

“Maybe we should all go…” Mac begins.

“Oh, please, don’t,” Marilyn protests. “I already feel bad that I put a big damper on the night. If everybody leaves because of me, I’m going to feel really shitty.” She turns to Jason and he nods to Lawrence.

“Christian, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll take you up on that separate room for the night,” she says. I look over at Mac who’s staring at me wide-eyed and beseeching. I clear my throat.

“I… took the liberty of getting a separate room for Mac and Fergus,” I say. “I know how it can be for married couples who haven’t seen each other in a week, so I thought… you know… just in case?” She nods.

“Goodnight, everyone,” she says as she retrieves her coat and purse and leaves with Lawrence. Mac releases a breath she was holding.

“Thank you, Christian!” she sighs heavily. “I feel twelve types of shitty now.” Butterfly doesn’t say anything. She just leans back into me. Everyone is quiet now and the tension can be cut with a knife.

“Okay,” I announce. “We’ve all had a pretty shitty week, and although what has happened to Marilyn is indeed tragic, she has requested that we don’t end the night on her account. So, Jason, please flag down a waitress so that we can get another round of drinks, and Mrs. McIntyre, I believe since you initiated the event that has thrust us into this current state of melancholy…” I’m speaking with an exaggerated tone to lighten the mood of the revelers, “… that it’s only fair that you turn in one of those little sheets and get up there and get to performing.” Mac twists her lips and snatches one of the song books from the table.

“I didn’t see you grace us with a performance, Mr. Grey,” she shoots.

“Oh, my request is already in,” I correct her. “I’m just waiting for them to call my name.” Butterfly turns to look at me.

“Really?” she asks.

“Yes, really,” I reply. “Did you think I was going to let you have all the fun?” She rolls her eyes.

“I’ll prepare myself,” she says.

“For what?”

“For all the women that are going to rush the stage when you start singing,” she replies.

I think I owe an additional debt of penance, too,” Amanda says as she begins to thumb through the song book.

I watch as Amanda and Mac begrudgingly submit their selections and Butterfly thumbs through the book. I don’t think she plans on singing another song. I think she’s just trying to find something to do with her hands.

“Jewel?” Allen says, garnering her attention. When she looks up, he just gazes at her. She looks back down at the book.

“I don’t know what to do,” she says quietly. “She’s so sad and I know this will pass, but I know from experience that it could take a really long time. In the meantime…”

She trails off and she continues to thumb through the song book. I slide my arm around her waist to try to comfort her.

“I know it’s not the same, Jewel, but she’s got you. She couldn’t ask for a better friend or Bosslady at a time like this…”

“But is it enough?” she interrupts, firmly but quietly. “I swear to God, she looks like she’s dying.”

Allen can’t counter because he knows that she’s right.

“We’re doing everything we can, baby,” I tell her, “and she’s doing what she can to get through this. I know it’s hard to watch, but we’ve just got to give her time.” Butterfly sighs and nods. Just as I’m about to say something else encouraging, the DJ calls my name. I kiss my wife on the cheek and go to the stage.

I chose a song that’s clearly out of my range, but I’ll make it work. The familiar intro plays, and my wife raises a questioning gaze to me as I begin to sing…

“I could stay awake just to hear you breathing, watch you smile while you are sleeping, while you’re far away and dreaming…”

Butterfly’s mouth falls open as I croon the lyrics. After a few lines, her face softens, and she sinks into the music.

“Lying close to you feeling your heart beating, and I’m wondering what you’re dreaming, wondering if it’s me you’re seeing…”

I’m no Steven Tyler, but I adjust the high keys to fit my voice and continue singing to my girl.

“I don’t wanna miss one smile, and I don’t wanna miss one kiss…”

She’s looking at me with those big ocean blue eyes that I could just fall into and I’m trying very hard to finish the song. It’s just a song, I know, but it reminds me of how much I love her and how lucky I am to have her.

“I don’t wanna close my eyes, I don’t wanna fall asleep ‘cause I’d miss you, Baby, and I don’t wanna miss a thing.”

As the lyrics end and the music is still playing, I can hear someone saying something over the applause, but I just want to get back to my girl. I sit down and pull her onto my lap, and she kisses me sweetly on the cheek. It’s tender and special and if I’m honest, I’m a little verklempt by the gesture.

“Jesus, Chris, you could’ve said ‘excuse me’ before you nearly knocked the poor girl down,” Allen scolds as he returns to the table after turning in more song requests. What the hell is he talking about?

“I didn’t knock her down! She’s on my lap!” I protest.

“Not that girl… that one.” He points to some girl just on the other side of the stage. She’s with a group of what I assume are her friends and she does not look happy.

“Who the hell is she?” I ask. I look at Butterfly and she shakes her head and shrugs.

“Oh, don’t ask her,” Allen chides. “She was just as moonstruck as you were. She was one of the fan club that gathered at the stage when you started singing.”

“Oh, you can’t be serious,” I say and Butterfly laughs.

“I told you,” she says, still giggling.

“I wasn’t even that good,” I point out.

“You were good enough,” Allen says. “You had a party of about five meandering at the stage.

“Couldn’t they tell I was singing to her?” I ask, gesturing to my wife.

“I’m sure they could, but I don’t think it mattered,” Mac says. “When you finished your song, that girl threw herself right in your path, and you politely pushed her right out of the way like a saloon door.” Butterfly sputters a laugh again.

“And I missed it,” she chuckles.

“You were otherwise occupied, dear,” Mandy chimes in.

“I should go apologize,” I say.

“No, you shouldn’t,” Butterfly says. “Vee says people could tell that you were singing to me, but she obviously didn’t care. So, I’ll tell you what. I’ll try to smooth things over since it was rude to knock the girl out of the way, because if you go over there, she’s going to see it as an invitation.” I raise a brow at her.

“It’s that or nothing,” she says. “I’ll be happy to sit here and drink and order more wing dings and watch my family sing.” She shrugs. I guess it couldn’t hurt to let her try to apologize for me. She didn’t shove the girl.

“Chuck is going with you,” I condition.

“Chuck can stay right where he is,” she retorts. “It’s 30 feet away. If she’s got a gun, she can shoot us from here,” she adds, throwing back her drink, then strolling over to the table with the women. I watch as she animatedly talks to the women and the one in the pink and white dress sneers at her a bit. They have a brief exchange then Butterfly shrugs, says something else and proceeds to leave.

She looks like she’s about to come back to the table when I vaguely hear something come from one of the women at the table that makes her stop in her tracks. Her mouth opens slightly in surprise before she turns around and takes the two steps back to the table. She says something to the girl, whose face transforms into a mask of horror. Her friends’ faces all range from shock and awe to badly hidden amusement. Butterfly stops the waitress and says something to her, and the waitress nods and leaves. Butterfly then smiles, waves, and walks back to the table.

“Do I even want to know what just happened?” I ask. She shrugs again with a smirk on her face.

“I apologized on your behalf, or at least I tried,” she begins. “She was surprised that you’re my husband; I didn’t bother to ask why. She didn’t accept my apology, so I just shrugged and said, ‘Well, I tried.’ Just as I was about to leave, she said that my husband shouldn’t have let me leave the house like this.”

“Oh, Lord,” Mac says.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she tells Mac. “I just told her that her friends shouldn’t have let her leave the house like that. Then, I bought them a round of drinks.” Allen nearly chokes on his drink and James has to pat his husband’s back and hand him a napkin.

“I guess I missed the thrust here,” I say.

“That, my dear Chris, is called shade,” Al says. “Friends don’t let friends go out looking like crap and that pink and white dress that she’s wearing looks like it came from the dollar store.” I shake my head.

“I can’t take you anywhere,” I jest to my wife.

“Hey, it’s not my fault that other people don’t know how to act around me,” she says.

“None of this has anything to do with the number of ‘Adios’s’ you’ve consumed, right?”

“Maybe,” she replies, “a little bit. Hey, you were the one who swerved her on stage. I was just trying to soften the blow.”

“The hell you were!” I accuse. “You were trying to rub it in.” She smiles.

“Maybe… a little bit,” she repeats.

“And what the hell is a ‘swerve?” I ask. She and Al laugh.

“Google it,” she says, “along with shade. Be sure to look for the urban dictionary definitions.” She resumes her perch on my lap.

“You really can’t blame me,” she says. “You do this to women wherever we go. It’s like they’ve never seen a handsome man in their lives, and they don’t know what to do with themselves when they see you.”

“Oh, like you don’t have the men in here sniffing the floor just to get a whiff of the soles of your boots,” I counter. She laughs heartily.

“More chicken wings,” she demands mirthfully, “and another Adios… and a glass of water.” The waitress actually waves at her from across the room and Butterfly nods.

“Did she just actually take your order?” I ask and she nods.

“We have an agreement,” she replies. “Daddy, are you having a good time?”

“Actually, I am,” Ray says. “It’s been quite a while since we’ve been out… what with the business and Harry. I thought I’d feel a little out of place with all these young people, but this is really fun, as long as no one says anything about the old coot sitting at the table with all the youngsters.”

“They better not,” Amanda says, leaning over to kiss Ray tenderly on the lips. “If they think Ana defended her man, they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Ray smiles at his wife suggestively as she caresses his cheek, and I kind of get what Jason means when he says we need to get a room.

After a few more drinks and a lot more chicken wings, Mac is finally called to the stage to… grace us with her version of Hit Me Baby One More Time… and now I know why she had to be tipsy to sing, because she can’t carry a tune with a bucket!

Not long after that, Amanda gives us a moving rendition of Come Away with Me, although that song is already a bit melancholy and moving on its own.

We sit and listen to several other songs—both good and bad—and I’m really ready to call it a night when the DJ calls my wife’s name again.

“What?” I ask. “When did you turn in another song?”

“Al took it up there for me,” she says, rising from my lap. Oh, dear God, here come the catcalls again. She goes up to the stage and a song begins that I’m familiar with, but… there’s no way she can sing this song alone.

“I finally found someone who knocks me off my feet, I finally found someone who makes me feel complete…”

She effortlessly begins to sing a song—a duet, no less—and she’s singing both parts! Of course, she sounds fantastic, even singing the guy’s part. I don’t think the crowd really knows what to make of it.

“My favorite line was can I call you sometime…” Although she sounds good, the song sounds empty. She’s looking at me and singing and… Okay, I know what she’s doing now. Why didn’t she just say so? I rise from my chair and walk up to the stage and begin to sing with her on the second verse.

“Did I keep you waiting?”
“I didn’t mind…”
“I apologize.”
“Baby, that’s fine.”

It’s funny that this is where I came in on the song because I actually did keep her waiting while I was trying to figure out what she was doing. I’m getting flashbacks of us doing the impromptu duet at Mia’s wedding. We really surprised everyone and it’s not an experience that I’ll soon forget.

“This is it! Oh, I finally found someone, someone to share my life…”

I slide my arm around her waist and pull her to me in this nothing shred of a dress. She                                       feels fucking divine. I can inconspicuously caress her curves as we sing the song, but it’s getting a little hard to concentrate… literally.

“My life has just begun, I finally found someone.”

I nearly want to jump her fucking bones as the music dies, but her father would probably beat the hell out of me. Instead, I plant a passionate kiss on her lips right there on stage. There’s a reason to catcall, you fuckers.

“They didn’t have Love All the Hurt Away,” she breathes against my lips.

“Just as well,” I reply, kissing her softly. “Things might have gotten indecent.”

I step off the stage and take her hand, helping her down as well before we hear the dreaded and predictable suggestion about a room. We’re just sitting back in our seats when the DJ calls Allen to the stage. I nip and nibble at my wife’s ears, neck, and exposed shoulders while Allen sings to his husband about starting Back At One. When the song is over and Allen returns to the table, Ray confesses that he’s ready to go back to the hotel.

“This is really a lot of fun and I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but I really need some shut-eye.”

“So, do I,” I concur. “Being merry and shoving off girlfriend-hopefuls is hard and stressful work and I’m beat!”

The rest of the karaokers concur that it’s time to call it a night and we head for the cars.

*-*

She drops her cape right on the living room floor when we get back to the hotel. She doesn’t even bother to turn on any lights. She just walks over to the window where I can see her silhouette. I retrieve her cape from the floor and toss it over the back of a nearby chair, my jacket joining it. I close the distance between us just a little, leaving a few feet so that I can admire her body. She turns around and slowly walks toward me, closing the remainder of the space between us.

Neither of us speaks, and she never looks into my eyes. She only raises her gaze to my lips. The moon or the lights from the Strip or something is shining into our suite. I don’t know and I don’t care. I only know that it’s just enough light for me to see her—watch her tempt me.

She leans in just a bit, closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She holds it for a few seconds, then blows it softly out of her mouth. She’s… smelling me. Shit, that’s hot.

I still don’t move because I want to see what she does next. She opens her eyes, still focused on my lips.

Don’t breathe, Grey. Don’t fucking move.

She raises her hand and moves to touch my lips… but she doesn’t. Instead, she touches her own, her fingertips barely ghosting over the skin before she replaces them with her tongue, only faintly licking where her fingertips have been before disappearing back into her mouth.

Fuck, this is unbearable.

Her teeth worries that same lip only for a moment and her hand drops back down to her side. She leans in as if she would kiss me, but stops—a breath away from my face and her mouth not quite high enough to kiss.

She just stands there with her hooded eyes still looking at my mouth and licking her own lip. I’m so busy concentrating on her mouth as much as she’s concentrating on mine that I don’t realize where her hand has gotten to until she nearly breaks me. She reaches out and teases my dick with a single finger, stroking it only once from tip to base. Her touch is like hot fucking fire and it’s one of the most grueling endurance exercises I’ve ever experienced not to react to her surprise caress.

Without saying a word, she turns away and walks toward the bedroom, her ass a magnificently animated display in that illegal dress. As she struts across the floor to the boudoir, she slowly removes her dress with her back to me, skillfully sliding the thin material down her torso, past her hips, and off her luscious ass, bending over to pick it up just as she crosses the threshold of the bedroom and tossing it somewhere off to the side. She’s still wearing those sinful suede thigh-high boots and a nearly nonexistent blue thong.

I walk to the room behind her pulling my shirt over my head as I go, totally intent on a wild, hard, and deep stand up and deliver when I get my hands on her. I won’t even need to take off my pants for the first fuck.

ANASTASIA

“Christian…! Please…! No more…” I beseech as I’m panting beneath him. We both came so many times last night that I completely lost count, and now, I’m awakened by an incredibly hard dick and my husband’s need to pound into me once more… or, I should say several times more.

“No more…” he pants into my neck, his hands entwined with mine as he’s resting his weight on me and chasing his own breath. The room is silent for several moments, save the sound of our breathlessness. Then, he turns his head and plants tender kisses on my cheek.

“What’s gotten into you?” I ask, finally able to speak, but still a little winded.

“You know what got into me,” he says, planting open-mouthed kisses on whatever part of my face and neck he can reach. “That goddamn dress… I wanted to fuck you right there on stage. That shit drove me fucking crazy. That damn thing was barely brushed onto your body and your damn nipples were sticking out of it like you were fucking freezing the entire time. I had to talk my cock down for half the night.”

“Mmmm,” I purr both at his words and his kisses. “Maybe I should wear it more often then.”

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“No, the hell you won’t,” he threatens. “Not unless you want me to follow you everywhere you go with a medieval mace. Then I’d literally be beating them off with a stick.” I scoff gently.

“Says the man who physically shoved a woman out of his path last night,” I tease.

“She liked my voice,” he jests.

“Oh, I’m just so sure that’s all that it was,” I retort. “It had absolutely nothing to do with those Triple H pants you were wearing.” He raises his head and looks at me.

“What the hell is a Triple H?” he asks.

“Not what,” I giggle. “Who… Triple H is a professional wrestler.” He frowns.

“I didn’t know you liked wrestling,” he says.

“I don’t,” I reply, “I just know who Triple H is.”

“Well, how do you know who he is if you don’t like wrestling?”

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“I saw him somewhere,” I admit, “on a poster or a commercial or something… and he can really fill out a pair of jeans!” Christian growls at me deep in his throat.

“Oh, come on,” I accuse, “there’s some starlet somewhere that gets your boxer briefs in a wad.”

“No, there’s not,” he says confidently. I twist my lips at him.

“You’re telling me that you never had a celebrity girl crush?” I say incredulously.

“Well, yeah, but they’re all old now,” he says.

“Well, Triple H is no spring chicken,” I jest.

“But he’s not as old as mine… and I bet he’s in better shape, too,” he defends.

“I’ll be the judge of that,” I say playfully. “Who are yours?” He clears his throat.

“Mine were Katherine Deneuve and Jane Fonda—when they were both much younger,” he confesses.

“You’re an old soul, Christian,” I say.

“And you’re not, Ms. Motown?” he defends. I shrug.

“Yeah, but… is Katherine Deneuve even still alive?” I ask. He shrugs.

“I think so,” he says. “I hadn’t heard that she died. If she is still alive, she’s like 80 now.”

“Well, Jane Fonda still looks good,” I say.

“Not as good as she did when she made Barbarella!” he points out. I laugh heartily.

“So, you don’t have any current girl crushes at all?” I inquire.

“Yeah, you,” he says, going back to kissing my neck and jaw.

“Very cheeky, Mr. Grey. I guess I should find that dress in red, huh?” he raises his head again and gazes at me.

“Okay, keep it up, Mrs. Grey,” he says, grinding his hips with his cock—though flaccid—still inside of me.

Okay, okay,” I surrender. There’s absolutely no way I can withstand another round, much less a possible punishment fuck.

When he finally rises off me, the separation is agony. I have been thoroughly well-used, and I can barely walk. I’m in need of some cold water in my nether regions, but who the hell wants to sit in a cold bath?

Me if I want to cool the fire in my loins.

I sit on the edge of the tub and use the shower head to spray some cool water on my crotch. Jesus Christ, that feels good. That man isn’t going to be able to touch me for a week if he keeps this shit up.

Once I’m cooled down a bit, I don a terrycloth robe and go to the bedroom. I check my phone since I haven’t spoken to the twins this morning and I see that I have an instant message from Laura. She probably wants to know how the trial went. I didn’t call her on Friday with any updates. I swipe the phone and check the message.

You made the tweets again, my dear. Nice dress!

Oh, shit. I click on the link Laura provided and there I am—several pictures of me, in fact—singing with Al, singing with Christian, singing alone, even talking to the table of girls before I ordered their drinks—and that dress is screaming “fuck me!”

What was I thinking?

Oh, well, it’s done now. I’m sure I’ll hear some hell from Vee or Christian any second now. I suddenly realize that there are no pictures of Christian in his come-hither gear besides the picture of us singing together—just me. And there’s that damn double standard…

Fuck ‘em. I look good.

I unwrap my hair and pull out the hair dryer. It takes forever to dry this shit now, but I let it grow this long, so…

Christian enters with wet hair and draped in a towel, so I assume he used the other bathroom while I was dousing my pussy in the en suite. He chooses a pair of jeans, some boxer briefs and a T-shirt, and he’s ready in about 10 minutes. I silently curse him for being able to allow his short hair to air dry, but my only other option is to cut mine, and that ain’t happening.

Fifty-eleven-trillion years later, I’m finally done with my hair and I’m now wearing a jersey and yoga pants as we have no plans of going anywhere today. I go to the kitchen to see if there’s any coffee in there, pondering what I want to do for breakfast. Christian isn’t out here, but there is a pot of coffee.

Egad! His Highness can work a coffee pot! I never knew!

I pour myself a cup—black—and allow the warmth to flow through my body. It feels good, but I need food. As I’m reaching for the room service menu from the dining table, Christian comes from the other side of the suite where I assume the office space is.

“Mac is on her way over,” he says, looking at his phone. “Apparently, someone at the bar knew who we were and now, we’re on someone’s Facebook feed.”

“Yeah, mostly me,” I say, drinking more of my coffee. He raises his gaze.

“You already know?” he says. I nod.

“I saw them when I got out of the shower. Laura sent them to me.” He scoffs a laugh.

“Why do we need Mac when we’ve got her?” he laughs.

“I tend to believe that, depending on the source, things hit social media before they hit the mainstream,” I reply. I take another sip of my coffee and there’s a knock at the door. No doubt, it’s Vee. Christian walks across the suite to open it and she breezes in with her tablet in her hand.

“I knew that dress would be trouble the minute I saw it,” she says as she and Christian join me in the dining room.

“Trouble in what way?” I ask. “I’m not running for office!”

“No, but you are the representation of a multibillion-dollar conglomerate,” she retorts, “not to mention that we’re here waiting for the verdict on a very sensitive case.”

“From a sequestered jury,” I point out.

“And the fact that you had to point that out means that if they had seen you last night, you know that there would be a problem…”

I’m trying not to look gape-mouthed at this woman as she seems to be lecturing me on my choice of dress! No one has ever lectured me on my choice of dress! Even Christian, who may have a word or two to say every now and again, didn’t lecture me last night. He just got in on the fun.

“Understand something, Vee,” I interject, attempting to diffuse the situation before I really begin taking it too personally. “I dress for no one. I never have and I never will. The only time I wore what someone besides my husband suggested I wear was when I came out of the closet as his girlfriend. Fifty to 75% of my wardrobe is imitation or genuine vintage. None of my shoes rise less than four inches—preferably six—including my wedges and some of them are platforms, more affectionately in some circles referred to as stripper heels. If I wore what other people thought I should wear, I’d never wear anything I liked!”

“Well, that may have to change…”

What? What the fuck did she just say?

I’m flabbergasted. She’s droning on about something and Christian his completely mum. Have I stepped off into the fifth dimension or something? Signed a prenup—check. Legally changed my name—check, check. However, the memo that indicates that PR gets to tell me how to dress must’ve gotten lost in the mail.

I’m certain that my husband’s silence means that he’s waiting to see how I’m going to react. He’s about to see right now.

“Okay, Vee? Stop,” I say, putting my hand up in the “halt” position. I think she’s stunned.

“I. Am a grown woman,” I begin. “I went out on a Saturday night to a bar in Las Vegas. I wore a party dress to that bar in Las Vegas. I had a good time at that bar in Las Vegas, which is something that I didn’t expect to do in Las Vegas. I don’t regret anything that I did, wore, or said last night. Although I have no intention of dressing like a hoochie every night, I may decide sometime in my lifetime to once again wear something provocative!

“I wasn’t acting unseemly. I wasn’t drunk in public. I didn’t get arrested. I wasn’t in a girl fight, although the possibility was pretty good. If I wore a habit or a burqa, someone would still have something to say. So, whatever damage control you feel you may have to do for ‘Anastasia’s Sultry Little Blue Dress…’ do it!”

I think she’s even more stunned than she was when I told her to stop. When she looks over at Christian, his hands quickly fly up in surrender, so she turns back to me.

“You do realize that if you dress like that on a regular basis, I’m going to be putting out fires all the time,” she advises me.

“Number one,” I say, crossing my arms, “I don’t dress like that all the time and you know it. You’re just uneasy because, as a consenting adult, I see nothing wrong with what I wore last night and because I won’t agree with you that there was something wrong with it. Number two, if I do decide to dress like that all the time, get your buckets ready. Nobody tells me what I can and can’t wear, not even him,” I say pointing to my husband.

5b285a986f95924a4357f1d3425eb293

6470905e01ecf8f5b2d132729de4607c“I know how to behave in public, Vee. I didn’t wear that dress to a country club or to meet the mayor. I wore it to a bar. J-Lo and Beyoncé have both worn less, on the red carpet, no less—in front of many entertainment cameras and national news outlets. We all talked about how scandalous it was, said our ‘ooo’s and ah’s’ like Smurfs and got over it. If my dress is the talk of Wall Street today, there’ll be another story tomorrow. Get a grip!”

Vee is still stunned, and I know why. I don’t want her to think I’ll be difficult, but we’ve got to get one thing straight.

“Vee, in most cases, I lean to your expertise and I will continue to do that, but unless I’m walking down 4th Street in a string bikini bottom and pasties on my tits, don’t tell me what to wear.”

She finally seems to be coming around to the crust of the conversation.

“Well, then,” she says, pursing her lips, “think I’ll just go on back to my room and… fuck my husband.” She makes some kind of goofy face and just leaves after that. I turn to Christian who’s making a face of his own, more like, “It wutn’t me.”

“Well?” I say defiantly.

“Well, what?” he asks, trying to hide his mirth.

“You don’t have anything to say?”

“I didn’t have anything to say last night. Why would I have anything to say right now?” he points out. I roll my eyes.

“What I don’t understand is why every little thing we do ends up being front page news before we’ve even had our coffee!” I say, throwing my hands in frustration. “You were on the other side of the world holding a giant reptile and the news was stateside before we were. Twice now, Laura’s told me about my day—from Australia—and I’m still here in Vegas!”

“I think you said it yourself, baby, it’s the nature of the beast,” he says calmly while refilling his coffee cup. He’s awfully cool for a conversation centered around my state of dress—or undress, as it were.

“Hey,” I say, “what gives? You’re usually in a tizzy about my Lindy bop dresses and you’re not having a cow over this?”

“Well, first, when I saw the bobble-head, I knew the conversation was already over.” I furrow my brow deeply at him, so he does this wild shaking thing with his head that looks like he’s having a fucking seizure!

“What the fuck is that?” I ask, wide-eyed.

“That’s what you do when someone says something that you can’t believe,” he says. My mouth gapes.

“I do not do that!” I defend.

“Ask. Anyone!” Christian says, firmly standing his ground. “The minute that neck starts working, I step back… even if I’m the reason that neck starts working.”

“Asshole,” I mumble.

“Be that as it may,” he says unfazed, “there are also a lot of other reasons I’m not flying off the handle, not the smallest of which is that you were with me,” he begins. “Not only that, I was with you when you bought the dress and the boots. I knew what to expect. I also had another realization.”

“And what’s that?” I ask. He sips his coffee.

“I think I’ve always known it, but I’m still amazed to see it in action. Women are very brazen when they see something they want. I’ve seen men try to make a move, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them as brazen as I’ve seen women. You could be at the park with your woman and your entire family and some female will come right up and try to put the moves on you.

“From what I’ve seen, men are subtle. They’ll wait until your guy’s not looking, then they’ll try to slip you a number or get you alone. As soon as the guy steps up beating his chest and telling them, ‘Woman, mine,’ they generally go away, but not women. Women will argue with you and taunt you, try to get the man at a later date… what’s that all about?” I shake my head.

“I don’t know,” I tell him. “I’m a shrink and I don’t fucking know. I’m one of those women who feel that there are certain things that should say that a man is off limits,” I begin counting on my fingers, “a wedding ring, an announced commitment, the fact that a woman is hanging on his fucking arm… but no. They do it with you all the time, they did it with David—they just walk right up like they don’t fucking see me! The girl on the wine train, Greta, Deanna, this bitch at the bar. Or I become America’s Most Hated just because I’m with you.

“There’s no way to combat that shit, and these women are becoming more and more brazen as time goes on. They look at me and convince themselves that I’m nothing and no one, that I’m a trophy wife and they step right in.” Christian sighs.

“Well, the point that I was making was that your dress, although it got a lot of attention, it wasn’t a threat to me. The catcalls came from the audience just like they came from the pool when you were in the bikini contest on the cruise. Except for the crazy couple that approached us—and the female approached us first—I didn’t have to worry about it. Nobody walked over to you, sending you margaritas; nobody asked you to take walks with them on the promenade, and even last night—nobody sent a drink to the table with ‘regards.’ Even earlier this week in the Skybar, the moment I made my presence known, that guy thanked me for the drink and went on his way.”

“He was harmless,” I say, waving him off, “and your presence didn’t make him leave.” He scoffs.

“Really?” he says. “And what did?”

“When he noticed that you were there, he made a comment about how intense you looked. He acknowledged that he thought you might have wanted him to leave, but he didn’t leave. When I told him that you were my husband, that’s when he left,” I say.

“Exactly!” Christian says. “The presence of your husband. Made. Him. Leave. And baby?” he leans in to my ear. “They’re never harmless. Women may be brazen, but men are smooth. No matter how polite they are, they have one goal, and Westwick should have shown you that.”

He raises a quick brow to me, then kisses me on the cheek before he goes back to the office area. I want to be pissed, but I can’t. If I can use Greta, Deanna, and a random stranger bitch in a pink and white dress as an example, he can certainly use Liam.

I sit at the table with my coffee looking into the cup, and somehow transport back to a time when I realized that women were brazen…

We were meeting a large group of friends at a martini bar. I had arrived first and sat at one table with a group of friends. More of our group were sitting at various other tables. Eddie arrived shortly after I did. Even though we were living together, we had driven separate cars because we were coming from separate locations.

Chelsie was there. She had disappeared for a while, right after I caught them the first time. Well, I hadn’t caught them. I saw the evidence and I confronted her with it. Her guilt made her leave, but she returned. And when she came back, she was stronger, different…

Brazen.

He greeted her before he even greeted me. He leaned down and whispered a conversation in her ear. I watched as her hand with insanely long acrylic nails reached up and caressed his face next to hers. I watched them for a long time, wondering and knowing at the same time that she was fucking my man again. I asked myself, “Could this be true?” But I knew that no one behaved that intimately if they were just friends.

I still played dumb to it, all the way until some of my other friends said that she was bragging about having him, that I knew who I was living with—knew what I had gotten into. I played dumb for the longest time, but she flaunted it in my face, and when I confronted her about it again, she threw a veiled threat at me.

She was brazen and I had lost.

“Butterfly?”

My reminiscence of one of the many women my ex had fucked is broken by my husband’s voice. I was a different woman, then, too. I was weak, and tired, and I couldn’t fight anymore.

“Are you okay?” I nod.

“Yeah,” I say, abandoning my now cold coffee. “I’m going to check on Marilyn,” I add, standing from the table. I move pass him and he catches my arm.

“The dress really wasn’t that big a deal, baby,” he assures me. I nod.

“I know,” I say, and I do. “What’s she gonna do—issue and apology for my attire?” He still examines me.

“You haven’t eaten anything,” he presses.

“I’m going to order something in Mare’s room… see if I can’t tempt her to eat a little something.”

Unable to argue with that logic, so he kisses me on the cheek and releases my arm. I smile tightly as I go to the bedroom to retrieve some shoes.

I fucking hate dominoes.

A/N: I don’t know if anyone else does this, but when my thoughts begin in Vegas and end up in Germany, I call that a “domino.” I start with one thought that leads to another one and another one and another one until I end up somewhere completely different than where I started. Ana and Christian started with a dress and Ana ended up in a recollection of her no good, lying, cheating ex-boyfriend.

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

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 13

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 13

ANASTASIA

Dear God, I just couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t stand it! I seriously felt the walls closing in on me listening to this elite club of fuckers somehow try to make what this asshole did to me okay. Then, here comes this brainless fucking cum-sucker with the nerve to get in my face and accuse me of “doing” something to the snot rag who tried to kill me! And then, to top it all off, my beloved husband who watched me battle with this shit for years asked me if I was losing my mind.

What the fuck do you think?

Do you know anybody who would be able to keep their mind throughout this shit? And how many times do I have to go through this to get all the motherfuckers that did this to me? How many more times do I have to hear that my accusations are besmirching upstanding and stellar members of society… at least after 2001, that is. Am I wrong for wanting to just line them all up and use their glutes for target practice? Just empty several clips into their ass meat until I feel justified?

I couldn’t say that I didn’t care what happened in this case… I did, I really did, but if I had to listen to one more shining testimonial of this fucker, I would have leapt over that half wall and ripped his eyes out myself. And everything that accompanied my attempt to take a breather made it all the more necessary for me to get the hell out of that building.

Daddy silently walked with me as I wandered through the interactive aquarium that was almost identical to the one we visited in Australia. I didn’t look at the fish. I just walked around the aquarium enjoying being near the water. There’s no water in Vegas, except Lake Las Vegas which is quite a way from here. We’re in the middle of the city, in one of the not-so-desirable neighborhoods to be exact… not that being downtown was any safer. Nonetheless, this was as close to my kindred element that I was going to get without a 45-minute drive.

Yet, after about an hour of communing with the deep blue, I realized that I needed to get back into that courtroom, as much as I didn’t want to. So, I had Chuck take us to Chipotle, then we headed back to the Justice Court.

I had walked in just in time to hear the last part of Larson’s cross-examination of Vincent Sullivan, which shed a whole new light on why the fucker burned me, and now it’s time for closing arguments. I half listen to what the counselors are saying, reviewing a lot of the relevant testimony and what I thought the jury might be thinking…

“So, you’ve heard a lot of conflicting testimony over the past several days,” Larson begins. “You’ve heard Anastasia’s mother admit that she was an unfeeling, uncaring social climber who wanted nothing else but to fit into a society where she never belonged. You’ve heard damaging testimony from Amber Whitmore that she clearly remembers the defendant meeting up with a group of kids that night at her home dressed all in black, and seeing her brother coming home in a black cape like the cape we saw on the video and smelling like he had gone camping. Among other things, you’ve heard the defense paint a picture of an unscrupulous young gold digger looking to snag a rich boyfriend.

“Let’s just assume for a moment that Anastasia Steele was that person. Let’s just say for the sake of argument that you agree with everything they said about Anastasia Steele Grey. Did she deserve what you saw in that video? At any point, did anything you heard during these proceedings in its worst interpretation indicate that she deserved what you saw happen to her? I’ve been horrified during my tenure by stories and images of ostracization, by ill-fated misfits being teased and bullied—but I have never in my life seen anything this disturbing except in the movies. Attack her from behind, knock her unconscious, strip her naked and throw her in the trunk of a car, drag her begging and screaming to a bonfire, beat her, burn her, kick her, spit on her, urinate on her, and kill her baby, then leave her for dead? Really?

“They want you to believe that Cody Whitmore was this innocent young rich boy who was targeted by this young girl trying to make a name for herself on his back. Even if by some stretch of reality that could have been true, where and when does that make this act warranted and acceptable? Where and when does the alleged scheming of a teenage girl equate to attempted murder? At what point was Cody’s alleged victimization equal to Ana’s?

“And after hearing and seeing all this, this man…” he points to the defense attorney “wants you to classify this situation as unfortunate.” He says the last word slowly and with deep contempt, then pauses for effect. “What’s more, he wants you to view one of the alleged aggressors as the victim.”

He holds up a picture of Cody’s mugshot and the unrecognizable picture of me in the hospital after the beating, both retrieved from the Henderson Police Department.

“I would have to say that if any one person with any small amount of intelligence and capability of logical thinking can look at these two pictures and say that this man is the victim of the two, I’ll quit my job and never sit at the prosecutor’s table again, because I’m clearly on the wrong side of the law. If there’s anything that you heard that can justify that kind of violence against a young girl based on a theory of what they think she was doing at the time, my argument is futile and there’s really nothing else to be said.

“He took a plea for a lighter sentence,” he adds holding up Cody’s mugshot, “and anybody—anybody—who had anything to do with this…” he holds up the picture of me, “… is just as guilty as he is.”

That line of defense confused me. I’m clearly the victim—that’s indisputable. Clearly, if I were the worst and most opportunistic slut who ever existed, it still wouldn’t excuse what they did to me. I just corroborated what the video said… what happened to me, but Whitshit is testifying against Vincent Sullivan, talking about his participation in the attack. Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to try to discredit Whitshit as opposed to trying to discredit me? Why make Whitshit look like the victim? He took a plea. What was the logic behind this defense?

“Now, we have new evidence—verbal, but evidence, nonetheless. No one would have known that the defendant had feelings for Cody Whitmore, and he doesn’t deny it. His entire defense was built on the claim that he was afraid of the Bonnie and Clyde combination that was Carly Madison and Cody Whitmore. Yet, his story changed to say that Cody made him feel at ease, smoothed things over once it was revealed that the defendant was romantically smitten with him.

“So, which version of his story should we believe? He said he didn’t know Anastasia Steele. Yet, he pressed that brand into her back with so much vigor—listened to her scream, watched her squirm… and then he did it again, after he gleefully participated in viciously beating her and humiliating her. He said he didn’t know her, but he gives a detailed description of a nobody… a social and fashion misfit, a Plain Jane in the wrong place, but he didn’t know her.” Larson shrugs.

“Some guy screwed some nobody in high school. Wasn’t that a regular occurrence? Didn’t that happen all the time? Why would you care… unless you had feelings for that guy? And now, she has to pay, right? That’s how Carly Madison felt. Why wouldn’t Vincent Sullivan feel that way when he admittedly had the same feelings for Cody Whitmore?”

This argument goes on for at least another 40 minutes, after which Drake takes the floor to dispel it. I barely listen as Drake paints Vincent Sullivan as a young misguided kid afraid for his life when he took part in my mutilation. Maybe he was afraid for his life, I don’t know. They did it to me; why wouldn’t they do it to him? Nonetheless, that night, he made the decision that his life was more important than mine, and today, I make the decision that mine is more important than his.

I’m elated when the judge gives the jury instructions on the interpretation of the law and dismisses them to deliberate. This leg is over, and now the waiting begins. I watch Christian exchange some words with Larson as Jason stands nearby. The courtroom begins to clear, and I get a better view of him. His hair looks like he’s been pulling at it for the last several hours. He looks down at his phone, then raises his eyes to me. He does a double take when he sees me in the back of the courtroom with Daddy and Chuck. Daddy is talking to Mandy and Chuck is quietly sitting next to me like the professional that he is. Christian walks away from Larson, who’s still talking to him, and makes a B-line for me.

“Hey,” he says, cautiously.

Hey? I guess I really can’t expect him to say anything else, can I? I wave a gloved hand at him. Daddy and Chuck correctly read the temperature of the conversation and move away to give us privacy.

“How much did you hear?” he asks.

“Enough,” I say, my legs crossed, and my gloved hands clasped in my lap.

“Are you angry with me?” he asks. I roll my eyes and sigh.

“I don’t know how I feel,” I say folding my arms. “I’m tired of being the goddamn damsel in distress! For once, I want people to look at me and say, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t fuck with her,’ instead of saying, ‘Oh, poor Anastasia Steele,’ or making me out to be a perfectly horrific villain. Twice now, someone has done something unimaginably violent to me, and twice the defense has tried to make it look like I set upon these poor boys with my toxic pussy! I mean, Jesus, I was 15! Who in their right mind deliberately plots to get pregnant at 15? And I was a virgin! He admitted it on the stand!

“There are so many unscrupulous, promiscuous girls out here who don’t care about their bodies or who they hurt or whose life they ruin. Carly Madison was a perfect example… but me? I was a good girl. I was an honors student who minded my own business and just wanted to be left alone. My biggest concern was getting away from Carla and Steven and getting back to Daddy. I was raped and then brutalized, and this is what I get? What the hell is the world coming to when the bad girls are protected and the good girls aren’t safe?

“A lesser person or just someone else who hasn’t enjoyed the good fortune that I have later in life would go completely insane trying to figure out the logic or the fairness in all this. I completely understand firsthand how something like this could cause someone to become a drug addict or continue a destructive cycle because this could drive you out of your fucking mind!”

I drop my gaze and shake my head, unable to see the reasoning in anything that’s happened in the last five days. What if the jury comes back and they believed Sullivan? Or Whitshit? What if they come back with a not guilty verdict because they bought his story about being afraid for his life. He wasn’t afraid of me, so why did I get punished?

I’m worrying my scar and as I raise my head, I catch a glimpse of Drake looking back at me in the courtroom. I don’t even look at him long enough to read his expression. I scoff and divert my gaze, standing up and walking out of the courtroom.

I’m almost at the elevator when I hear my name. I cringe at the sound of it. Christian and I turn around to see Larson quickly walking towards us.

“Dr. Grey, I really feel that things look good in our favor,” he says, humbly. I try not to shake my head.

“What did he get?” I ask, flatly. Larson’s brow furrows. You know what I’m asking you, fucker. What did he get? Larson straightens his back.

“He got the same thing Madison-Perry got,” he says. “Thirty years on various counts, including kidnapping, battery, and manslaughter. The only difference is that he has a possibility of parole in 18… because he didn’t brandish one of the irons.”

I twist my lips. That’s something. I expected them all to get away with it.

“Your final performance was very good,” I say, unfazed. “Let’s see what the jury thinks.” I turn to the elevator and Chuck pushes the down button before I do. I put my sunglasses on and watch the doors.

When the elevators open on the first floor, the press is clamoring outside. The police are gone now that the trial is over and it’s our own duty to get safely from the door to our cars. The three members of our security are standing at the door waiting for us to get there and our three SUV’s are waiting out front. However, standing at the end of the hallway on the other side of the building, I see someone that garners my immediate attention.

I ignore my husband’s call and march down the hall to where I see Pamela Whitmore standing. She straightens her dress, retrieves her purse and turns to leave, nearly bumping right into me. I’m clearly shorter than she is, but in my stilettos, we’re eye to eye. I stand there glaring at her for several moments, one hand clasped over the other. She doesn’t look nearly as menacing as she sounded over the phone, but I’m living proof that looks can be very deceiving. When I finally speak, my voice is very controlled.

“Your son. Raped me. And then he and his piece of shit girlfriend orchestrated my abduction, brutal beating, and torture, and the subsequent death of my unborn child, nearly killing me in the process. Then, your audacious husband paid off my worthless stepfather and my unscrupulous mother to keep me quiet. I suffered tremendous physical and emotional pain and torment at the hands of all of you, and you have the unmitigated gall to call my place of business and taunt me? Make veiled gestures towards my children?”

I pause for a moment and allow the words to sink in. Her skin blanches a bit, but there’s no other indication that what I’m saying is having an effect on her. So, let’s try this.

“If you dare come anywhere near me… anywhere near my family… I. Will kill you.”

I look her square in the eyes and I don’t blink, waiting for a reaction from her. At first, I get none, and then…

She swallows.

That’s all I need. I turn around and march back over to my husband.

“We can go now,” I say, walking past him and heading for the door.

I get my wish.

Apparently, when I open the door, the chill that I emit is colder than the outside. I dash down the stairs in my stilettos to near silence and easily get into my awaiting chariot with my husband very close behind me. The paparazzi must have known that if they approached me right now, I’d chop ‘em up and feed ‘em to my dog.

Dog.

“I want a pit bull,” I say once the car is loaded and we’re on our way back to the hotel.


CHRISTIAN

What the fuck did she just say?

“You want a what?” I ask in horror.

“A pit bull,” she repeats. “I want a pit bull.” I look over at Ray and his expression lets me know that I’m completely on my own.

“You want a pit bull?” I ask incredulously. “When you said that you wanted a dog, I was thinking a Chihuahua or a Shih Tzu or a Pomeranian… I wasn’t thinking a pit.”

“Well, that’s what I want,” she says defiantly.

“We have children,” I protest. “Pit bulls are dangerous dogs, Anastasia…”

“No, they’re not,” she retorts. “They’re family dogs. They’re only raised and trained to be dangerous and ours won’t be raised that way. And because we do have children, I want a thorough-bred, pit-bull puppy… with papers, but I want a pit. And we’ll hire the best trainer to train us and the puppy.” She’s thought about this and I can’t argue with logic.

“Thorough-bred, top of the line, and we all get trained,” I confirm.

“That’s what I said,” she replies.

“Okay, you’ve got a deal, but Ana?” She raises a brow to me. “If that dog even snaps at one of my children, I’ll shoot it myself.”

“You’d have to get to it before I do, but that won’t be necessary.” I sigh.

I guess we’re getting a dog.

Butterfly and I have a vigorous workout in the hotel gym. I find it very difficult to keep up with her, and I finally have to stop her workout and force a cooldown so that we can meet the rest of the family for dinner. She has to shower unless she wants to sit at dinner all sweaty.

We all meet up for dinner in my and Butterfly’s suite to discuss what would be happening next. Ray wants to be here for Butterfly but admits that he has a business that he needs to check on and wants to get back to Washington by Monday. Mac needs to get back to GEH as well to make sure Josh hasn’t burned the place down. James needs to get back as well, but Al is on the fence about going with him. He wants to be where Ana is through this ordeal and I can understand that. I’ve given instructions to Jason to have the jet ready to fly back to SeaTac on Sunday afternoon. Butterfly is reserving her decision for Sunday morning.

The plan is for us to stay until the verdict, but we don’t know how long that’s going to take. Getting back to Las Vegas in time for the reading once it’s announced that the jury has reached a verdict could be almost impossible, but Butterfly’s mood has changed significantly with today’s events—including her confrontation with Pamela Whitmore. So, we’re definitely playing it by ear right now. As we speak, she’s sitting in her chair to my right in a terrycloth robe with one foot up in the seat. She’s picking at a chicken Caesar salad, looking as though she’s a million miles away.

“Butterfly?” I say, trying to get her attention.

“What about security?” she says without raising her eyes. “I’m sure they’d like to see their families, too. We surely don’t need ten people here now.” I look over at Jason and he nods.

“Jason will coordinate who needs to go and who needs to stay and who can leave,” I reply.

“What about him and Chuck?” Butterfly says, still looking at the crispy junks of Romaine lettuce. “Gail and Keri must be pulling their hair out, not to mention Sophie.”

I look over at Jason, beseeching for him to help me out here.

“Your Highness…”

“Please,” Butterfly says, cutting him off and raising her eyes from her salad for the first time to look at him, “call me ‘Ana…’ just while we’re here.” She sounds like she’s pushing her voice from her chest with great effort. Softness covers Jason’s gaze.

“Old habits are hard to break,” he confesses.

“Please,” she repeats, “try.” He nods.

“Ana,” he says, “this is what we do. We know how this works and we’re accustomed to it…”

“The ladies shouldn’t suffer because you have to be here for us,” she protests. “When you were both out mending due to occupational injuries, we each had a different detail.”

“We’ll work it out,” he says.

“Don’t just say that to appease me,” she says. “I don’t want anyone in my life to suffer just because I have to be here, and Gail, Keri, and Sophie are in my life, too.” Jason nods.

“Duly noted,” he says. “We’ll work it out… Ana. I promise.” She nods and turns her attention back to her salad.

“I miss my babies,” she says. That gets my attention.

“We can have that jet ready in twelve hours,” I say, looking at Jason, who nods.

“No,” she says. “I’ll get some nice, long Facetime tonight before I go to bed, then spend the weekend with my family and friends here. We’ve got lunch with Auntie Cynthia tomorrow. I really want you to meet her, Daddy. I don’t know if you guys met at the wedding or not,” she says raising her gaze to Ray. “She’s the biggest reason I survived once they brought me back here.”

“You never told me that,” Ray says. Butterfly shrugs and turns back to her salad.

“There wasn’t much reason to talk about this place once I left,” she says, “wanting to put it all behind me, you know. I really should have done a better job of keeping in touch with her but…” she shrugs and trails off.

“I understand, Annie,” Ray says. “I’d love to meet her. I don’t think our paths crossed at the wedding unfortunately.” Butterfly smiles weakly and turns back to her salad. I throw a knowing glance at Ray, who twists his lips and turns back to his meal.

I can’t help but glance over at Marilyn, who doesn’t appear to look any healthier than she did when we left Seattle. Although we’ve all had our choice of meal, Marilyn only ordered a bowl of consommé and I’m beginning to get a little more than concerned about her. Jason assures me that her lunch smoothies are packed full of as many green vegetables that he can camouflage in there as well as half a scoop of organic protein. It makes me feel better, but I’m still very concerned about her. Butterfly told me that the doctor gave her the go-ahead and some instructions to work her way back into eating more, but something’s got to give soon, or this girl is going to waste away to nothing.

“Does anyone have plans for this Friday evening?” Mac says, taking a forkful of her salmon.

“Ray and I are going to see Penn and Teller,” Amanda says. “I’ve always wanted to see them, and the tickets are almost impossible to get, but the concierge was able to score some for us.” Mac nods.

“What about you, Al?” she asks.

“Oh, Cirque du Soleil, baby,” Al says. “The minute I knew we were coming to Vegas, I booked tickets.”

“Which show?” she asks.

“O,” he says, and it sounds like Eau, “I really think you would like it, Jewel. It’s a water show.” Butterfly raises her gaze to him.

“A water show?” she asks. “Really?” Al nods.

“Yeah,” he says. “A giant pool sets the stage and there’s synchronized swimming and aerial acts—dramatic costumes and original music… I can’t wait to see it.” Butterfly smiles faintly.

“Then, I await your review, Mr. Forsythe,” she replies, and Al returns her smile.

“What about you, Marilyn?” Mac asks. “Any plans tonight?”

Nobody has shared Marilyn’s latest emotional dramas with Mac, and this is one of those times that I wish we had given her some kind of heads up. She shares a suite with Marilyn, so I thought she may have some kind of idea, but if I know Mac, she’s plugged into GEH every night or getting updates from Josh or the internet on all things Christian, Ana, and Las Vegas Hazing Trial. So, she probably hasn’t seen what Marilyn may or may not be doing.

“No,” Marilyn says softly, “no plans for me besides binge-watching Game of Thrones.” Seeing the need to pull attention away from Marilyn, Al jumps in.

“What about you, Vee?” he asks.

“Sleeping!” she chimes in quickly, causing gentle laughter to rumble across the table. Even Butterfly chuckles a bit. “Once I do the regular check-ins of all the spots and the home office, it’s me and the sandman. Fergie’s flight gets in at 4:26am and I want to be awake to meet him at the airport.”

“Fergie?” Amanda asks, her brows furrowed.

“Fergus,” she says, “my husband.”

I knew that she was married, but I didn’t delve since he gave me no cause for concern.

“Fergus,” James says. “Do you mind if I ask the origins of that?”

“Not at all,” Mac says. “Fergie’s a full-blown, red-blooded Scotty! “

“No kidding!” James says. “With a kilt and everything?”

“He wore it to our wedding,” she says, with a smile.

“Now, is it true that the kilt has to be made a certain way, or can they just go buy one?” Ray asks.

“Anybody can just go buy one,” Mac says, “but any old body had better not wear any old kilt to Scotland or to any traditional ceremony of any kind…” and off my head of PR goes talking about the different types, colors, and measurements of kilts. How did we get into this conversation? Once I get a chance, I interject.

“Would you and Fergus like a private room for the weekend?” I ask, considering that she’s sharing a room with Marilyn.

“Oh… no, we’ll be fine. Fergie and I have been married for many years, Christian. We know how to behave.” I smile and nod at her. “But if we’ll bother Marilyn…”

Uncomfortable that the attention is back on her and her half-empty bowl of consommé, Marilyn shakes her head quickly and diverts her gaze from anyone at the table. The gesture mainly goes unnoticed.

After dessert and a bit more conversation, the group begins to disperse for their Friday evening plans. Butterfly goes to the bedroom to begin her long session of Facetime with the twins and I’ll join her in a moment, but first I steal a moment with Marilyn.

“How are you?” I ask, not knowing how to ask the question that I want to ask.

“I’m fine,” she says, looking at me questioning.

“Is there anything you need?” I ask. “Anything I can do to make you more… comfortable?”

Her questioning gaze slowly morphs into one of understanding, and the corners of her mouth turn up slightly.

“No, Christian,” she says, “I’ll be fine.”

“You… haven’t been eating,” I say, broaching the conversation carefully.

“The doctor says I have to take it slow,” she replies. “Smoothies, vitamins, water-based soups… I always vomit when I try to eat solid foods. It’s because my body, unfortunately, has become accustomed to eating itself. So, introducing regular food again is a process. She prescribed me Ensure and Pedialyte to be sure that my body is getting all the nutrients that it needs, and I’m getting in the smoothies and consommé so that Bosslady doesn’t have me involuntarily hospitalized…”

Or me.

“So… it’s almost like… tube-feeding…” I say cautiously.

“That’s exactly what it is,” she admits, “only I’m consuming voluntarily.” She drops her head. “I’m trying to get back to ‘normal’ as quickly as I can. My… situation has just been harder on me than I ever thought it would be.”

“I understand,” I reply. Without any respect to my personal feelings about her decision, I still think Garrett’s an asshole for leaving her like this. “Did you want me to get you a private room for the weekend?” I ask. She smiles and surprises me by taking my hand.

“No,” she says. “I’ll be fine. I’m a big girl. I live in the real world and I know that it doesn’t revolve around me. There’s plenty of space between Mac’s bedroom and mine. I’m sure that I won’t hear anything if she and Fergie decide to have some alone time, okay?”

I nod. I just want her to be comfortable. She surprises me again by standing on her toes and giving me a kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you, Christian,” she says sincerely. “You’re like the overbearing big brother I never had.” She gives my hand a squeeze before leaving the suite. I catch a glimpse of Ray, who frowns at me, then excuses himself from his wife.

“What was that about, son?” he asks, and I know that I owe him an explanation since he doesn’t know the nature of this relationship besides the fact that Marilyn is Butterfly’s personal assistant.

“Can you keep a secret?” I ask him in all seriousness. He raises his brow.

“It depends on the secret,” he says, his voice a bit sharp.

“Well, I can,” I reply, “and all I can tell you without betraying Marilyn’s confidence is that my wife and I are concerned about her health. She’s lost an unhealthy amount of weight in the last few months and no one in our group can attest to her eating any solid food all week. Can you?”

I see the wheels turning in Ray’s head, but he doesn’t answer.

“She’s important to my wife, so that means that she’s important to me. Whatever you see from me is nothing but concern and what you see from her to me is most likely gratitude. Anything else that you want to know, you’ll have to ask my wife or Marilyn.” He twists his lips and nods.

“I see,” he says. “You’re a strange man, Christian.”

“So I’ve been told,” I concur. “Go… you’ll miss your show.” He nods once. I’m certain that he’s not really sure what to make of the situation as he leaves and joins his wife.

“Christian,” Mac is getting my attention once the suite is nearly empty. “I don’t want to hurt Marilyn’s feelings, but I did book a room for tomorrow night. I’ll let you know what the room number is as soon as we check in.” I nod.

“Make sure you expense it,” I tell her.

“Thank you. It’s no offense to her. She’s a wonderful girl, but she cries at night… almost incessantly! I went in to comfort her the first night and she swore that she was okay, that she had a bad dream… but I’ve heard her crying other nights. Trust me, it doesn’t bother me except that I want to go in and talk to her, but I get the feeling that she doesn’t want to talk. The only thing is… that it doesn’t lend to set the mood for romance when you haven’t seen your guy for a week.”

“I totally understand,” I tell her. “Believe it or not, I think she would, too. Let me know what room you got when you check in and we’ll put it on our bill, too.”

“Thank you, Christian. You’re a prince among men,” she says before leaving the suite.

“So,” Jason says, sliding in for his chance for alone time, “do you agree that we should get back to Seattle some time during this trip?”

“I think it’ll help with her stress levels if she knows that you and Chuck are getting some time in with your ladies during this ordeal.” He sighs.

“She’s going to have to get some time in with her babies or she’s going to lose her mind. We both know that.”

“Yes, I know,” I reply. “Facetime helps, but it’s not the same. You know, those little munchkins have the most healing hugs…”

“Yes, I do know,” he says, fondly, “and it doesn’t change as they get older.” I smile.

“We’ll play it by ear,” I say. “I figure once it gets to the twelve-day mark, one of you will have to go home for the weekend. Hell, at that point, we may have to go home for the weekend.”

“Then, it’ll work out perfectly,” he says. “If we all go home for the weekend, no harm, no foul. As much as I respect Her Highness, you know that I’m not going to leave you in another state without me, right?” I feel a sudden warmness in my heart for my bodyguard and best friend.

“I know,” I acknowledge.

*-*

I’m sitting the in the living room of the suite at about 2am. We Facetimed with the twins for hours, even watching one of the Disney movies with them until they fell asleep. My wife fell into a contented rest—finally—after Facetiming with our children. After Jason gave me a report on Carla Morton’s and Pamela Whitmore’s uneventful Friday evenings, I worked for a few hours, played the piano for about twenty minutes and now, I’m as bright as a bunny, staring at the fire in the gas fireplace.

I’m wound so tight by all the mental stress of everything going on that I can barely think. My method of dealing with stress has always been to work out or fuck. I’ve already worked out and I’m back where I started from, and I don’t want to put myself upon my wife right now. I have to read her moods and when she finally fell asleep, her mood was not screaming, “Take me, take me now!” But I need something very physical right now or my head’s going to burst.

I get on the floor in front of the fire with my back against one of the chairs and shed the only piece of clothing that I’m wearing, my sweatpants. My cock is limp, not flaccid, but not hard either. I’m going to have to give him some motivation, but what? Pornos have never been my thing since I’ve always been so sexually active. I don’t have one of those Tenga eggs I used after Butterfly had the twins. Those damn things needed no motivation whatsoever. All I have is my hand and my imagination. I don’t even have anything to use for lube.

My cock looks so pitiful that I don’t even take it in my hand. I close my eyes and think of a time that I was so hot and so hard that I couldn’t stand it. The Tenga experience comes to mind, but it’s not enough to get me hard. Butterfly in the playroom… yeah. She always looks delicious in the playroom. The problem is that my mind keeps flashing from scene to scene to scene and although it’s a wonderful replay, I can’t concentrate on any one scene. Just when I’m about to give up, I think about the “red” photo shoot, and the perfect memory pops up behind it…

Santa Baby!

Fuck, that night was so hot! Our first Christmas Eve together. Her goddamn skills were lethal… are lethal. She hasn’t fucking lost her touch. In no time, one hand is rubbing my chest while the other wanders down to my balls, cupping and rubbing them firmly as my cock slowly firms to attention.

I see her ass peeking out of a red Santa skirt and shimmying at me in my mind’s eye and my cock throbs in appreciation of the memory. I move my hand from my balls to the base of my cock and squeeze, feeling it thicken in my hand. The anticipation that I felt waiting for her that night was driving me out of my mind. She was rolling and stripping and singing—long red boots on mile-long legs and a delicious ass that’s even thicker and juicier now than it was then.

I groan in my chest as I imagine that ass wiggling in my face, causing my shaft to lengthen and thicken even more. I grip it hard and give it one firm stroke.

“Fuck!” I hiss, looking through the gap between her legs at her beautiful mound clad in sexy red panties. I give my cock a slap, and another one immediately thereafter. I feel pleasure shoot through my groin almost blinding me. I stroke it again… and again… avoiding the head and feeling the shaft getting harder and harder in my hand. My breathing is becoming more labored as my dick gets hotter and the skin gets tighter. I want to grab the head, but that means I’ll come too soon, and the pressure of the week will still be trapped and needing to release.

I need to edge. I don’t want to, but I need to…

Still remembering the sensual show my wife-then-girlfriend gave me on Christmas Eve, I stroke my cock a little faster, a little deeper, a little harder. God, I wish I had some oil or some lube, but my saliva and precum will have to do.

On one of the strokes, I get the picture of her pulling my hips to her, dropping to her knees, and sucking my cock into her mouth. My hand runs over the head and collects the precum there, causing me to arch my back and thrust into my hand once. I thought I would come, but I quickly move my hand back to the shaft and away from the sensitive head, spreading the small amount of precum that I gathered over the tight skin of my cock. Fuck, this shit is torture…


ANASTASIA

I open my eyes and I’m in bed alone. My husband is nowhere to be found. I remember that we’re in Vegas, explaining my unfamiliar surroundings. I slept like the dead, but it’s still dark. What time is it?

I look at the clock—2:18am. I throw the covers off and see that I’m wearing the terrycloth robe and a pair of panties. I must’ve fallen asleep in them, but the room is dark, and the suite looks dark beyond the bedroom door. Where’s Christian?

I get out of bed and go in search of my husband. When I come out of the bedroom, I see the fire is lit in the fireplace. Noting that the living room is dark, I head towards the office area, but stop in my tracks when I hear moaning to my left.

What the fuck…?

I quickly turn around and head towards the sound, surprised to find my husband sitting alone on the floor in front of the fire. His eyes are closed and he’s naked. His legs are spread wide and he’s leaning back on the loveseat, his other hand rising up and down slowly on his erection.

I watch him lost in his passion; his expression strained as he pleasures himself. He looks amazing—a masculine deity in human form pleasuring himself on the floor of my Las Vegas suite. In the middle of all this hell, I get to watch this beautiful hunk of man working his gorgeous hunk of meat while his pecks, abs, and biceps flex involuntarily to the sensation in his cock.

I lick my lips, then bite the flesh of the bottom one. I have no idea why he’s masturbating in the living room, but he looks so sexy. I open my robe and rub my heating skin as his breathing becomes louder. He’s going to come soon… but then I watch as he moves his hand from the head, halting his speedy ascent to orgasm.

Do it again, I think to myself as my hand caresses my abdomen.

He looks lost… lost in his own little world, gripping his cock and stroking it with such force that it looks as if he may just yank it right off!

I reach down into my panties and find my clit. With each slow stroke of his cock, I stroke my clit, working myself into a heated frenzy.

He groans as he draws pleasure from his grip, and I shiver as I imagine what he must be feeling. His breathing becomes rhythmic matching his sliding hand and I close my eyes, my own orgasm not too far on the horizon. When I open my eyes, he has opened his eyes and he’s looking at me, still stroking his member. I’m shocked. I don’t know what to do. I feel like an intruder… on my own husband!

“Are you just going to stand there and watch?” he growls. What else am I supposed to do? You’re out here beating your meat instead of in our bed fucking me and I have no idea why. What’s more, I just got caught wiggling my bean watching you.

“Come here,” he commands me as his hips rise to meet his slowly stroking hand. I walk over and stand over him.

“Get rid of the robe… and the panties.”

I drop the robe to the floor and slide my panties down my thighs until they fall at my feet.

“Straddle my thighs.”

He’s breathless, very near orgasm, but I hear his Dom voice hidden in his arousal—not full Dom, but commanding. I stand over him and begin to drop down on him.

“I didn’t say straddle my dick. I said straddle my thighs.”

Fuck. He sounds mad! Is he mad? I straddle his thighs further away from his dick.

“Move back.”

Huh? Oookay… I slide further back toward his knees.

“Lean back on your hands.” Um, okay. I lean back on my hands. “Further! As far back as you can go!”

Okay! Bossy much?

“Feet flat on the floor. Knees up—spread ‘em wide!”

I do as I’m told, and I see what he’s doing now. I can’t easily lean forward, my legs are open wide, and I’m completely exposed to him. Without another word, he begins to stroke my clitoris with the head of his penis. The fire I had started a moment ago is beginning to roar again. I bite my lip as my clit starts to throb.

“Keep your hips still. Don’t move unless I tell you to.” I nod. His aim is so controlled. He fucks his hand deep and slow while using it to guide the head and a very small portion of the shaft to the bottom, tips, and sides of my clit. Only the head occasionally dips inside of me for lubrication, but the bulk of the stimulation are my inner and outer lips… and my clit… my entire clit!  Shit, it feels so good—a sensual massage with the head of his dick on my completely exposed clit.

“Yeah. That’s it. Feel it, baby,” he groans. I can’t control my breathing or my tongue as it darts in and out of my mouth, over my lips and teeth trying to absorb the immense pleasure he’s bringing to me. I want to grind against him, but not only is it difficult to move, but he also told me to keep still.

My breasts feel so heavy. Even though I stopped breastfeeding a week ago, I’m still producing milk—not as much, but it builds up if I don’t pump. It aches to be released when the children need to be fed… and when I’m aroused as my breasts are one of my erogenous zones… very erogenous zones!

He reaches between us with his fingers on my butt cheek; he opens my lips and strokes the side of my clit. The pleasure is almost unbearable. He’s so hard and each time he rises into his hand, his hard cock hits the underside of my clit just at the opening of my vagina… and my G-spot. I’m nearly blind from the friction and satisfaction. I don’t know what to do with myself. I throw my head back and get ready for the tsunami that’s about to hit.

“Christian! Christian!” I’m almost afraid of the orgasm that approaches. My legs are weak from this position and I won’t be able to keep still. My arms begin to tremble, and my legs start to shake.

“Fuck, you’re beautiful!” he groans as he continues to thrust and torment me. “Can you be any fucking hotter?”

Soon the sheer force of the climax that wracks my body causes my elbows to give way.

I’m going down.

Just as quickly, Christian wraps his arms around me and snatches me onto his exploding erection. Some of his semen squirts outside of me, but most of it is emptying into me as he holds me prisoner against his body, grunting like an animal.

He catches his breath very quickly, then lays me down between his legs, opening them wider so that I can lay my back on the floor. He brings my legs forward so that my knees are around his hips.

Whew! Thank God! I felt like a contortionist for a minute there.

While I’m resting and catching my breath, he licks his thumbs and rubs my tender nub. It hurts at first, but he’s gentle, coaxing me back to arousal with his cock still inside of me. When my tongue licks the inside of my lip and my knees rise higher widening my legs, he begins a slow stroke—only short enough to thrust his head and a portion of his dick into me. His ass doesn’t leave the floor. He licks his own lips sensually as he watches his cock slide in and out of me.

“Yes,” he says carnally, hissing as he breathes in. “That’s what I need… right there.” I feel his legs widen, but his stroke never changes. He takes my hand and puts my fingers in his mouth, licking them salaciously.

Fuck, that’s hot.

He takes my fingers out of his mouth and brings my wet fingertips down to my clit.

“Stroke it, baby,” he says in that same animalistic tone he came with. “Stroke it good. Don’t be shy…”

Yes, sir!

I begin with the slow stroke I did while I was watching him, rubbing deeply on every thrust, only I don’t have to imagine this time. He’s inside of me. I reach down a little further to caress his dick on the upstroke.

“No!” he hisses. “Just yourself! Only touch yourself. I want a full view of that glorious clit.”

Oh, God, he’s making me so hot! This is a three-finger job.

I wet my fingers again, tasting our intermingled juice and strumming my libido even further, then stroke my clit with my new moistened fingers, moaning when my wet tips may contact.

“Yeah, baby,” he says, just above a whisper, his hot cock seeming to thicken with the next mini-thrust. “That’s it right there, baby. Work that clit… you look so good.”

Knowing that he’s watching me and loving it has to be the biggest mind-trip I’ve ever felt. I close my eyes and thrust my breast forward, taking one of my nipples in my free hand and pinching it hard. The sensation shoots right to my clit and the other hand and I groan loudly. I feel a small amount of milk escape, but I don’t care.

“Oh, baby,” he says, his tone a mixture of arousal and reverence. “Keep going, baby. Don’t stop.”

I pinch my nipple again, teasing it and arousing it to firmness, remiss that I can’t easily reach the other one. Christian gasps deeply and snatches me off the floor.

“Don’t stop,” he hisses, his whispered voice thick with his arousal. “Keep touching yourself.”

It’s hard to reach my nipple, but there’s still enough space between us to stroke my clit, so I keep stroking, stroking myself into blind pleasure. He sucks my neglected nipple into his mouth and I nearly scream, stifling the sound as it escapes my throat.

“Do you feel that?” he says in that same aroused whisper as he mini-strokes into me. “Do you feel it?”

Fuck yeah, I feel it. From this angle, he’s at the perfect depth and aim to hit my G-spot, and I’m wiggling my bean.

“Uh-huh!” I answer helplessly.

“Fuck me just like that,” he breathes. “Can you do it? Can you fuck me like that?”

“Uh-huh! Uh-huh!” and I begin the stroke that where he left off. I only have my knees because one hand is on my clit and one was on my breast, but has now abandoned that task to concentrate on clit and fuck. It takes a minute, but I get the mini-stroke back… better, in fact, because I have to wiggle a little bit to reach my g-spot.

“Oooooh, my God,” he groans, “ooohh, my God, yes!” His hand travels up my thighs to my hips, grasping them firmly but not hindering my movement. He bites my nipples again—first one, then the other before taking it into his mouth and sucking hard. I’m fucking going to come. I have to slow down the stroke on my clit to stop the rise before the game is completely over!

“Kiss me,” he hisses, “Fucking kiss me like you mean it!”

Before I can even think about it, I take a handful of his hair with my free hand, snatch his head back and slam my mouth to his, thrusting my tongue inside and licking feverishly like I’m searching for buried treasure. He moans hard as his grip tightens on my hips and we share a kiss that last almost a lifetime. He breaks the kiss and looks into my eyes, his own hooded.

“Are you still stroking it?” he asks whispered. “Are you still stroking it for me?”

“Uh-huh,” I pant, now wildly wiggling my clit while I ride him, and he thrusts into me.

“Make it come, baby… make it drip all over me.”

I wiggle my bean slightly harder and before I know it, my knees lock in the “up” position so that I’m just gripping the head of his cock and I squeal out a crippling orgasm that has me gripping his shoulders for support.

“Fuck! Fuck! Ana, fuck!” he yells as he squeezes my thighs, holding me in place as my core torments the head of his cock, milking his cum in an equally violent orgasm.

“Oh, God,” he pants as I fall helpless into his lap and onto his still throbbing cock. “Oh God oh God oh God oh God oh God I needed that so bad.”

“Why… didn’t you wake me?” I pant.

“Ssssshhh, Ssshhh, shh,” he silences me as his head lolls then lies in my breasts, his arms firmly around my body now. “Sssshhhh…” I’m assuming he doesn’t want to lose the moment. It’s not really important now anyway, is it?

*-*

“Daddy, this is Cynthia Crestwood. Auntie Cyn, this is my father, Raymond Steele.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Steele,” Cynthia says, extending her hand to my father.

“Ray, please,” he says, accepting her proffered hand. “The pleasure is all mine, really. This is my wife, Amanda.”

“A pleasure, Cynthia,” Mandy says. “Is it okay if I call you Cynthia?”

“Of course,” Auntie Cyn says, shaking Mandy’s hand, “and call him Larry.” She points to her husband with a smile who shakes Daddy and Mandy’s hand.

“A pleasure, Ray, Amanda,” he says kindly.

“Mandy, please,” Mandy says. The six of us—and our security—have convened at the Cheesecake Factory in Caesar’s Palace for lunch. Of course, we immediately talk about the elephant in the room.

“So,” Larry begins says once we’re seated and have placed our orders, “I’ve been following the trial on Court TV. That was quite the revelation near the end there.”

“I didn’t know Court TV picked up the trial,” I say, looking over at Christian, who shakes his head. “I thought channel 13 was there—KTNV.”

“KTNV is affiliated with Court TV,” Auntie Cyn says. “The trial was on replay most of the night.” I shake my head.

“So, once again, America got to see me carried out of a courtroom. That’s just great.” They would have seen it on the news anyway, but a cable network with national affiliates? Yeah, groovy.

“You had us worried there, dear,” Auntie Cyn says. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I tell her. “I don’t do well in high anxiety situations. Try though I might, something always happens. Nonetheless, here I am.”

“I’m not an insensitive jerk,” Larry says, “but I have been known to miss a cue. So, if I happen to take the conversation somewhere that you would prefer it doesn’t go, please feel free to tell me to shut the hell up.” The rest of us laugh.

“I appreciate that, Larry…”

Lunch is filled with talk about the trial, how we think the jury might sway. We all gave our honest opinion based on the presentation of the evidence. No one came out and said that they believe the jury is going to come back with a not guilty on all counts, but everyone has a doubt or three.

Auntie Cyn feels that the kidnapping charge may not stand because they didn’t definitively prove that Vincent Sullivan physically had anything to do with the kidnapping. Daddy says that if he gets off on the kidnapping charge, he’ll probably get off on the conspiracy charge, too.

While Larry feels that Sullivan should get whatever they charge him with and more, he feels that the guidelines surrounding attempted murder may mean that the jury is going to come back with a not guilty on that one. While he’s definitely guilty of assault, battery, and manslaughter, Larry feels that attempted murder might be a stretch.

Amanda feels that the whole “diminished capacity” thing is bullshit. As a court reporter, she doesn’t buy it for a second. She’s seen the defense a lot—some succeed and some fail—and according to her, his case holds about as much water as a fishing net.

“It’s the criminal equivalent of ‘the dog ate my homework,’” she says, somewhat disgusted. “People who fall back on that as a defense take away from those who may truly have been in a diminished capacity. The guidelines to prove diminished capacity are so strict now that you basically damn near have to prove that you were either clinically insane or that you were not only in imminent danger, but also immediate danger at the time of the commission of the crime, and it’s all because people are so busy crying wolf!”

“What’s the difference?” Christian asks.

Immediate danger or peril is imminent, but not all imminent peril is immediate. Immediate danger is not a written doctrine or legal concept yet, but it’s one of the things that certain people may look for—and informed jurors are aware of—before a defendant takes the stand.

“Being mugged at gunpoint is immediate danger. It’s also imminent danger. Being threatened about a crime that’s going to happen tomorrow, that poses possible imminent danger for something that’s going to happen tomorrow and something that may happen to you in the future. You’ve got time to do something about it!”

“I felt that way, too!” Christian says. “Even if he really felt that he was in danger of retaliation, by his own admission, he had a whole day and possibly more to tell somebody what was going to happen, but he didn’t. He said he thought it was going to be a harmless brand like his brother’s frat brand, but even that’s assault if it’s against your will.”

“Exactly,” Mandy says. “Even if he really thought it was going to be harmless, he made a bad judgment call. Even though he knew in advance that this harmless thing was going to happen, he decided not to tell anybody. He sat on it for a whole day and didn’t breathe of a word of it to anyone who could’ve prevented it. He also made it appear that he was afraid of Carly from the very beginning. Why was he so afraid for his life if it was supposed to be this harmless thing?

“Good point,” Larry says.

“I’ve heard of sudden peril, though,” Auntie Cyn says.

“That’s a totally different type of law and a completely different concept,” Mandy says.

“Indeed,” Ray says.

“And back to the concept of imminent danger,” Mandy continues, “he could’ve told somebody what was going to happen the next day and prevented this whole thing from happening. He thought it would have put a target on his back—or at least he claimed he did, but it would have put a target on Cody and Carly’s back if anything happened to him or Ana. As diehard as his brother was to protect him—had something happened to Vincent, he wouldn’t have rested until those responsible were under the jail. And if he was really in danger, he could have relocated or his brother could have arranged some kind of protection for him—something, but those options were not dangerous. They were inconvenient! As a result of his lack of action, a girl was brutally beaten and burned, her baby was murdered, and he’s claiming the dog ate his homework.”

“Bravo!” Auntie Cyn says quietly clapping her hands.

“Very well said, baby,” Daddy says, quietly clapping as well.

“Hear, hear,” Larry says, raising his soda.

“Now let’s just hope the jury agrees with you,” I say, and the celebration stops. Everyone turns to look at me.

“See, here’s where I’m the Doubting Thomas,” I admit. “We’re talking about a group of people who share the community with this man. They share all the same values, the same beliefs, the same thought processes. There’s no doubt that he did these things to me. The question is his intent and state of mind. Two psychiatrists gave us the entire lowdown of the feeling of imminent danger. Neither doctor fully corroborated his claim that he felt he was in imminent danger, not to mention immediate danger. Was I the only one to see that?”

“No, you weren’t,” Christian replies. “I saw that, too.”

“So,” I continue, “unless those magic twelve people have the same thought processes that you do and not the same thought processes that he does, he’s getting off.”

“It only takes one, Ana,” Mandy protests gently.

“And then the best we get is a mistrial,” I say, “at which point, we’re going through all of this again. I hope we have—as you said—a panel of informed jurors. Otherwise, this whole thing was a waste of my time.”


A/N: 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.

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 12

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 12

CHRISTIAN

“Yeah, get mad because I left you there and made you walk home, but rape? Please!”

Is this fucker actually saying that he didn’t rape my wife? That she made all this shit up? Is he seriously sitting there on the stand spouting this shit? I’m so angry that I feel the bench shaking. It takes a moment to realize that it’s not me.

“Boss?”

Jason’s earnest whisper causes me to look over at him, and I see my wife… shaking so violently that she’s causing the entire bench to shake.

“Ana?” I reach over and put my hand over her clenched fist, but she doesn’t respond.

“Ana?” I say louder. She raises her gaze to me. Her blue eyes are pale, paler than I’ve ever seen, and the whites are becoming more and more bloodshot by the second.

“Mrs. Grey?” I hear a voice calling her and I think it’s the judge, but I’m too busy trying to figure out what’s going on.

“Jesus, Ana, what’s wrong?” I ask. I’m flailing. Now, Ray has made his way over to us and he’s trying to assess the situation.

“Annie?” he says. “Sunflower, talk to me.”

“Mrs. Grey, you’re disrupting these proceedings!” the judge says.

“With all due respect, your honor, I don’t think she can help it!” I snap at him before I know it. When I look back at Butterfly, Jason is examining her eyes and Ray is still trying to get her attention. She’s shaking more violently now and still hasn’t uttered a sound.

“Is she epileptic?” the judge asks. I can’t think to answer.

“No, sir, your honor,” I hear Al say, “but she suffered a severe head injury in a car accident a little over a year ago.”

“It appears bad luck seems to follow her everywhere.”

That was Whitmore’s voice, the only thing that could cause me to take my eye off my wife. I see the devil when I see this man. I see Edward David multiplied exponentially because what he did, he did to a 15-year-old girl. At this moment, I’m wondering if it’s as easy to get to a fucker in prison in Nevada as it is in Seattle.

“You need to shut up,” the judge says in an uncharacteristic moment while pointing his gavel at Whitmore. “Bailiffs, clear the courtroom. Fifteen-minute recess.” He pounds his gavel and everyone except our party has left the courtroom in 60 seconds. Whitmore slow-steps pass us in the shackles, smiling down at my convulsing wife who probably doesn’t even know he’s walking by.

She’s shaking even more violently now, and I don’t know what to do. My first instinct is to lay her down, so I ask for help getting her into a prostrate position. When I do that, her heels click madly on the wooden bench and I realize that her head is going to do that, too. Jason removes his jacket and tries to make a pillow for her with it, but that doesn’t help. I kneel next to her and hold her head in my hands.

“Baby, can you hear me?” I ask, helplessly. She doesn’t respond. Her eyes are tight, and she’s shaking violently.

“Get paramedics in here,” the judge says. I can’t do anything but hold her close to me and let her shake.

*-*

It’s been forever since we got here. I mean, truly, forever. We’re at the University Medical Center waiting to hear the verdict on my wife. Since we came in through the emergency room, there’s nothing we can do but sit here and wait. Since they had no idea what was wrong with her and she doesn’t have epilepsy coupled with the fact that she has a previous serious brain injury, they did a quick evaluation, gave her muscle relaxers and immediately took her to get an MRI and a CAT scan.

And now, we wait. For hours and hours and hours, it seems, we wait.

Court has long since adjourned for the day and the entire entourage is now here in the waiting room. I tried to convince Ray to stay in court, to be my eyes and ears, but he was having none of it. No matter how I pleaded, he just said,

“Give it up, Grey. I’m going with my baby girl.”

Allen reluctantly agreed to stay in the courtroom along with James, Marilyn, and a few members of our security staff. However, Jason, Chuck, Mandy, Ray, and I have been painstakingly waiting all afternoon and evening for some word on Butterfly. Every time that door opens from the back, I’m waiting for some doctor to come out and tell me what’s going on with my wife. It’s agony, because that door opens a whole fucking lot. When I feel like I’m finally going to lose my mind…

“Family of Anastasia Grey…”

We all stand at once until everybody realizes that we can’t all bum rush the doctor.

“Ray?” I say, gesturing for him to come with me to see what the doctor has to say. We walk over to him and I almost can’t bear to hear what he might say.

“She’s fine,” he says, and I feel like my chest is going to cave in. Most doctors introduce themselves first, but I’m glad he led with, “She’s fine.”

“I’m Dr. Carver, I’m the head of neurology. We’ve run several tests on Mrs. Grey. We always want to eliminate the worst-case scenarios and we were able to do that quickly. It appears that she had a severe panic attack, honestly one of the worst I’d ever seen, but considering her neurological history and what you’re telling me that she’s going through right now, I’m not at all surprised.”

“Is she… is she awake or… what’s happening now?” I don’t know what to ask.

“She pretty much slept all afternoon,” he says. “She may be awake all night, but right now, the only thing wrong with her is that she’s hungry as a bear… her words, not mine.” I sigh heavily and thrust my hands into my hair, trying desperately not to collapse onto the floor in relief.

“When… can I see her?” I say, trying to remain calm.

“Right now,” he says, “Come with me.”

He leads me and Ray through the big doors that I had been watching all evening and down the magic hallway where all of the doctors and nurses had disappeared for hours during my agonizing wait. A turn here and a turn there and we’re in a big community room with beds separated by curtains. My wife is in the last bed on the end.

Well, I don’t like this at all.

The television is playing, and she has it set on the news channel, no doubt looking for some news about the trial.

“It’s limited coverage,” she says. “Either not much happened in the case today or nobody got a picture of me being carried or wheeled from the courthouse… or however you got me out of there.” It bothers me that she doesn’t remember.

“Nobody got pictures,” I tell her. “Unless someone in the courtroom said something, no one even knows.” She nods and mutes the television.

“Can I go now?” she asks the doctor. “No offense to you, doc, but the very last place I want to be right now is in a Las Vegas hospital.”

“It’s hard not to take offense to that, Mrs. Grey,” he admits.

“Do you know why I’m here?” she says flatly. “I spent weeks in a Las Vegas hospital when I was a kid. Nobody came to see me. Nobody cared. I don’t want to be here.” Dr. Carver smacks his lips.

“Oookay,” he says. “I’ll get your discharge papers ready. Make sure that you see your own doctor about this when you get back to Seattle.”

“Will do,” she says and throws the covers off.

“Do you need help, Sunflower?” Ray asks as she retrieves the plastic hospital bag with her things in it and Dr. Carver leaves the room.

“Thanks, Daddy,” she says. “I’ve got it.” Ray nods in that helpless but accepting way that I feel right now.

“Do you want to talk about this?” I ask.

“Not here,” she says as she shamelessly steps into her panties while Ray and I watch.

“I’m going to step out and give you some privacy,” he says, kissing her on the forehead.

“You changed my diapers, Daddy,” Butterfly protests.

“That was almost 30 years ago, Sunflower. You’re a grown woman now. I’m going to step out and give you some privacy.” And he leaves. I turn back to Butterfly.

“He told me that you were hungry. What would you like to eat?” She pauses as she pulls on her skirt.

“Roberto’s,” she says, pulling it up and zipping it in the back. My brow furrows.

“What’s Roberto’s?” I ask.

“Greasy Mexican food. I want carne asada fries with everything, two fish tacos, two California burritos, and two chicken quesadillas.” She snaps her bra in the back and proceeds to stuff it with tissues. At first, I’m wondering what the hell she’s doing and then I realize that she has no breast pads. I pull out my phone.

“Sir?” Jason answers.

“Butterfly is being discharged. I need you to find a place called Roberto’s and place an order for pick-up…”

“It’s 24-hours. He can have it delivered to the hotel,” Butterfly interrupts stoically, still getting dressed.

“I’d rather someone pick it up to make sure that it’s right,” I tell her. She shrugs as she buttons her shirt.

“Whatever works,” she says, searching the bag for her shoes.

“I’ll text you what she wants,” I tell him and quickly compose the text while he’s still on the line.

“Mexican food,” he says as he reads my text. “Does she want Corona, too?” Hell, she might. I turn to ask her just in time to hear her shoes clicking out of the little curtain pod. She has finished dressing just enough to be presentable with her shirt hanging out of her skirt, has taken her things in the plastic bag and is now headed for the nurse’s station. Shit.

“We’ll get something from the minibar,” I say, ending the call and rushing behind my wife who is walking with purpose.

“Excuse me,” she says when she gets to the counter.

“Yes?” the nurse behind the desk answers.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I have to get out of here. Dr. Carver is discharging me, and I just need the papers. I’d like to have them now, please, or I’m leaving AMA.” The nurse is a bit taken aback.

“It… wouldn’t be AMA, ma’am. You just wouldn’t have your discharge papers.” She shakes her head.

“Fax them to the Waldorf,” she says, throwing her free hand up and proceeding towards the exit.

“Ana!” I call out to her, but she keeps walking. I turn to the bemused nurse, just as bemused as she is.

“Can you do that?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“Not without a written release from her,” she replies cautiously.

“Butterfly, they need you to sign something!” I call out. She waves her hand again and disappears around the corner.

“We’ll figure it out later,” I say to the nurse. “Thank you.” Once again, I shuffle to catch my wife who simply follows the exit signs and finds herself in the waiting room.

“Ana, are you okay?”
“Jesus, you scared us!”
“Jewel, you’re going to give me a stroke.”

“I’m fine,” she says coolly as she’s putting her coat on. “I didn’t mean to scare you all, but I need to get the hell out of here.”

Our party falls silent, most likely seeing her earnest and waiting for instruction. Jason isn’t here and I’m assuming he went to get the food. While I’m trying to see what the transport plan is, Butterfly and I make a startling realization at the same time.

Paparazzi. Just outside the door.

Butterfly gets a determined look on her face and I know that it’s showtime.

“Shit!” I hiss as she takes off towards the exit.

The automatic doors open, the flashes go off, the questions are flying at her and she does not stop. Anybody who gets in her way is going to get bowled over and I think they know it.

She is hauling down that sidewalk towards the parking lot. It’s like she doesn’t even hear or see these people around her. And if anybody gets in her way, may God have mercy on their souls.

She doesn’t need protection. She’s got a force field around her right now that says if you come near her, she’s going to kick you in the balls. Even her hair is bouncing with purpose, and the way that she’s striding in those stilettos, they might as well be track shoes.

“Butterfly, do you even know where you’re going?” I ask, taking long strides to keep up with her.

“I’m walking towards cars,” she replies. “I’m assuming my chariot is somewhere in there.” I sigh again and take out my phone.

“I see the flashes, sir,” Jason answers.

“Good. Be quick before she runs out here and jumps on a bus,” I warn.

“Don’t tempt me,” she replies.

“Jason?” I plead.

“To your left, sir,” he says. Like a ray of light from heaven, the black SUV pulls up in front of us. Butterfly doesn’t wait for me. She opens the front door, climbs inside and closes the door behind her. I’m surprised, as is Chuck, so he and I and Mandy and Ray just scramble into the back.

“Who’s going to get my food?” she asks.

“We’ll pick it up on the way,” Jason replies.

*-*

I don’t ever think I’ve seen my wife eat that much food. I’ve heard a reference to it—Chuck talked about the mountain of food that she ate in Anguilla when we had that fight, followed by the looting of the candy store, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen her eat this much. She doesn’t eat too fast, but she does eat it all, finishing her meal with a 32-ounce Dr. Pepper.

I just order salmon from room service and eat at a safe distance.

When she has finished her mound of Mexicana, I finally approach with caution.

“Do you want to talk now?” I ask. She shrugs.

“What is there to talk about?” she asks. “That fool raped me, and all this time, I just thought he wasn’t admitting it. I had no idea this is what was going on.”

Okay, I have to admit I’m a little lost.

“He still didn’t admit it, Butterfly,” I say, nonplussed. I don’t know what she’s getting at.

“And he’s not going to,” she shoots, angrily. “He’s never going to, not even to himself. When he came to GEH all cocky and shit, I thought he was just being an asshole… which he was of course. I had no fucking idea this is what was going on the whole time! Fifteen-year-old me didn’t get it at all, but damn near 30-year-old me—the one with the degree and the specialization in human mentality—yeah, I get that shit loud and clear now!”

I’m glad we’re in the penthouse, because she is having a fucking meltdown.

“Please forgive my ignorance,” I say calmly. “I need you to let me in on it. He’s a rapist. We know it. What am I missing?”

“You don’t understand, Christian,” she says, her voice laced with some unknown emotion—dread, fear, I don’t know, “Cody. Whitmore. Really. Doesn’t. Think. He raped me,” she says slowly. “He really felt like he had a right to do what he did to me, and when Stephen and I confronted him, he really felt like I was lying. Don’t you see what this means? There’s no telling how many other girls he did this to, and I know there were more by Carly’s reaction when I confronted her and Pamela Whitmore’s reaction on the phone. Jesus, how many times has he done this after he became an adult? He probably used what they did to me to keep girls quiet! The man is a serial rapist! He has to be! Thank God he’s locked up, but what’s going to happen once he’s free?”

She leaps from her seat at the table and the carnage of empty Mexican take-out trays so swiftly that her chair falls hard to the floor behind her with a thud.

“What the fuck is wrong with these people?” she seethes. “His father knew! He knew! He paid to shut me up! Was I the first? Was I the last? Was I somewhere in the middle? How could he walk around all cocky and shit knowing that his son was this fucked up? And Pamela fucking Whitmore—is she fucking clueless or delusional? And she had the nerve to call and threaten my children with that monster that she raised?”

She’s coming totally unglued, and justifiably so. How in God’s name can that fucker believe he didn’t rape her? Of course, he raped her! Is he suffering from that same shit that Lincoln claimed she had?

“He really thinks I lied on him,” she shrieks. “He really thinks he’s the victim here, and that’s why all this shit happened! Take one sexually depraved, mentally unstable, teenage lunatic and add one blindly obsessed, entitled, radically misguided, boneheaded bitch and you’ve got the teenage version of Natural Born Killers! And she’s procreated! Dear God in heaven!”

She falls on her knees with her fists clenched in front of her, cursing at the floor.

“He’s a sexual deviant! A fucking psychopath!” she wails. “Even his Daddy knew! That’s why he paid to shut me up. I can’t stand the fact that he’s breathing the same air that I breathe. It’s bad enough thinking that he lied about the rape all these years, but to know that he actually thought it was okay! He thought he was entitled! They almost killed me, fucking killed my baby, because he thought he was entitled. Fucking hell! You fucking miserable bastard!!!!”

She screams her dismay to anything or anyone that can hear her, and now I have to stop it. I can’t stand it anymore.

I fall down on my knees in front of her and gather her firmly in my arms. She fights me violently at first, but I have a strong grip on her and I’m not letting her go.

“No! No! It’s not fair!” she shrieks as she uselessly struggles in my arms. “It’s not fair. I hate him! He deserves to die! I hate him! It’s not fair! It’s not faaaaaaiiiiiiiiiirrrrr!”

Realizing that she’s not going to get away from my grasp, she screams and cries before her head falls limp on my chest. She’s mumbling something through her tears, but I just hold her there for an eternity, my head resting on hers as she weeps bitterly.

*-*

I didn’t get much sleep last night. I knelt on the floor with Butterfly until my knees were numb. She wailed for so long that I thought she would have another panic attack, but she didn’t. She just cried until her voice was gone, then she whimpered for several more minutes until she was exhausted, and I gladly carried her to bed, holding her and watching her as she slept.

I would gladly spare her all this pain and the realizations that we’re making as the trial proceeds. It was pretty damn dirty for Larson not to tell us that Whitmore had gotten a plea, too. Springing that shit on us at the trial wasn’t cool at all. I can only assume that he thought that Butterfly may not show up if she knew that Whitmore would be testifying. She had already confronted Madison-Perry, so it wouldn’t have been a big deal for her to have seen that witch on the stand, but Whitmore? Maybe he was going for shock value. If that was the case, that shit fucking worked in spades.

Maybe that’s what he was referring to when he said, “Expect anything.” Asshole.

I spent most of the night at the piano once Butterfly fell asleep. It was too late to call Seattle once we got back to the hotel, so we didn’t get a chance to speak to the twins. I can’t help but wonder how Ray feels watching all this. He tried to rescue her, but Carla wouldn’t let him do it. Now, she has to relive all this stuff in front of an audience and even make new discoveries like the shit she just discovered about Whitmore.

He’s not going to be rehabilitated in prison, because he hasn’t accepted what he’s done, and quite frankly, no one else knows. He’s just going to be punished for his part in the beating, and that’s all. I need to see if there’s anything else that can be done about his punishment while he’s in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections…

I got a little sleep on the sofa, but I’m awake again a couple of hours later to give instructions to the rest of the entourage, as we are so lovingly referred to in the press. I won’t subject Butterfly to anything she can’t deal with and I think going to court today after yesterday’s episode may be a bit much.

I’m still in a T-shirt and sweats when I sit down at the table with Ray, Allen, and Jason that morning. We’ve had breakfast brought to the room and we’re discussing what may happen in court today.

“It’s getting on time for us to get going,” Ray says. “Don’t you think you should wake Annie so she can get dressed and get some breakfast?” I sigh.

“Yesterday was really bad, Ray,” I inform him. “She came home and had another breakdown. I don’t think she’s going to make it to court today…”

“Oh, yes, she is.”

My thought is interrupted by Butterfly’s voice. I turn around and she’s fully dressed and ready to go.

“And you had better hurry and get dressed, or you’re going to be left behind,” she adds.

“Baby,” I protest. “I don’t think it’s a good idea after what happened yesterday.”

“I’m not going to let them win, Christian,” she says. “I have to see this through. I can’t stop now.” I put my hands on my hip, drop my head and sigh.

“Butterfly, in all honesty, you and courtrooms just don’t get along,” I say in frustration. She rolls her eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah—Fainting, Regurgitating, Convulsing Grey. I get it, but I’m still going. Are you going with me?” I look at Jason and Ray, roll my eyes and shake my head.

“Give me ten,” I say, before going back to the bedroom.

*-*

My wife is beyond untouchable this morning. She hasn’t shut me out, but it’s crystal clear that today, she’s facing this mess with her beautiful rack stuck straight out and taking this shit head on. She’s wearing a three-piece gray tweed pants suit with black leather gloves, a small black clutch, and black Louboutin suede stilettos. I briefly protested about her wearing no overcoat and she informed me that we weren’t in Seattle and her tweed suit jacket was heavy enough.

When the Audis pull up to the courthouse stairs, she sees that the police already have the press restrained. So, she leaps out of the car and begins her sprint up the stairs, surprising everyone—including the press.

“Shit, go!” I bark at Jason and Chuck, who dash out of the Audi behind her. I sigh heavily and prepare for my ascent.

“What’s that about?” Ray asks when we get out of the car.

“She’s had enough of this,” I tell him. “I hope this doesn’t go on much longer.”

“I hope not either,” Al says, joining us. “She’s rebelling. There’s going to be no controlling her shortly.”

There’s no controlling her now.

As we begin to ascend the stairs, I hear various cracks from the press:

“Jesus, how the hell can she run like that in those damn shoes?”

“I’d be a track star if I could move that fast.”

“What is Anastasia Grey running from today?”

“She’s running from you!” I say to the person who asked the last question. “It’s one of the worst times of her life and she still can’t get any peace. What do you expect?”

I just couldn’t take it anymore. We’ve got a damn reporter in the courtroom. They know what’s going on. What more do they fucking want?

“Christian?” It’s Mac. She’s right behind me with a firm grip on my elbow. My first inclination is to snatch my arm from her, but no need to give these fuckers a show. I turn away from the assholes and finish my ascent to the courtroom, taking the stairs two at a time.

We’ve apparently missed the rest of Whitmore’s testimony while we were at the hospital. I don’t think we would have wanted to hear it anyway. However, when we get into that courtroom, I’ve got a fucking earful for Larson.

“Exactly when did you plan to tell us that Cody Whitmore got a deal, too?”

“It was a last-minute decision, Mr. Grey,” Larson says. “It turns out that Carly Madison-Perry had no idea who Vincent Sullivan was, so she couldn’t testify to his presence, intent, or state of mind. We needed someone who could. He’s arguing diminished capacity. We needed someone that was present at the beating that could tear that defense apart. He had a viable defense just by the violence of the act alone…”

“Except that he was the first one that burned her!” I retort. Larson sighs and drops his head, then raises it again.

“You missed the second half of Whitmore’s testimony,” he says. “He destroyed that defense that Sullivan was a terrified participant. Whatever Sullivan says today is going to be highly overshadowed by the picture Whitmore painted. He had several character witnesses yesterday, but none of them chipped away at the picture of this kid who was willing to do anything to be one of the cool kids. I’m telling you, Whitmore was our star witness.”

“I thought she was your star witness!” I accuse, pointing at my wife. Larson deflates again and doesn’t respond.

“You said it was a last-minute decision. How last-minute?” I demand. He swallows.

“Monday morning… right before trial,” he confesses.

“It’s Friday,” I point out. “You had time to warn us. We might have avoided what my wife went through yesterday. How can we possibly trust you now?”

“I don’t trust anybody in this place,” my wife says impassively while gazing at Larson. “Let’s get this done.”

She takes a seat without another word. I glare at Larson before moving to sit next to my wife.

“Mr. Grey,” he calls out. I turn to face him again.

“I know the system has failed you in the past, but that’s because no one did anything. I’m doing something now, sir. Please, trust me. Trust the system to work this time.” I pause for a moment.

“I’m not the one you have to convince… counselor.” I glare at him for a few more moments, allowing my words to sink in before taking a seat next to my wife.

The prosecution concluded its case yesterday with Whitmore’s testimony and the defense began its presentation with the character witnesses for Sullivan that Larson mentioned. Today, the witnesses continue to stream in, one of which is a current girlfriend who testified that Sullivan still has nightmares about what happened that day. Her testimony was deflated when it was discovered that she and Sullivan broke up six months before his arrest, so she couldn’t really attest to the possibility that he still has nightmares.

Larson is going at the character witnesses with extreme gusto now, apparently more determined than ever to convince Butterfly that he’s really on her side and doing what’s best to win the case. I don’t doubt that he is. I just want to see it done with as little pain and inconvenience to my wife as possible. After three witnesses and two hours of listening to Sullivan’s accolades, Butterfly stands and leaves the courtroom before the fourth witness is called. I stand and walk out behind her.

“Butterfly!” I catch her as she’s walking towards the lounge area looking at her phone. She stops and raises her gaze to me. “Are you okay?”

“No!” she says firmly. “That asshole was the first to burn me! The pain was so bad that I passed out and didn’t wake up for three weeks! He scarred me for life! The hell if I’m going to sit there and listen to the whole of Nevada talk about how fucking great of a guy he is!”

“Baby, I understand,” I say, keeping my voice calm, “but the way that you left looks bad to the jury. You have to go back in there.”

“I told you, Christian, I don’t trust anybody in this place anymore,” she says. “I can’t fathom how anybody who has any idea what’s in that video can sit there on that stand and talk about how fabulous he is; how he’s such an asset to the community; how great a friend he is; how kind he is… I can’t stand it anymore. This great fucking guy left me with two grotesque burns on my back and only stopped because he thought I was dead! No! I’m not listening to this shit anymore. I can go to the bathroom, or to the lounge, or outside to the fucking car and talk to my children or read emails or scroll through Facebook—anything but listen to any more of this shit!”

“They didn’t see the video, baby, but the jury did…”

“And now the jury is being inundated with all these testimonials about how wonderful he is, everything he’s done for the poor and the sick…” She says the last part in a mocking tone. As she’s ranting, the courtroom doors fling open and out runs Larson, Ray, and Al, followed by a few others headed towards the bathrooms and lounge. I look at Al questioning and he mouths the word “recess.”

“Annie, are you okay?” Ray says, approaching us quickly. Butterfly just stares at her father without answering. After waiting for a response, Larson chimes in.

“Dr. Grey, it’s almost done. Please, come back into the courtroom.”

“No!” she barks. “I trusted you and you let me get ambushed in there! You facilitated it! I had no preparation whatsoever for that bastard being in the courtroom much less finding out that he got a deal. And now I have to sit and listen to people praise the man who could have killed me?”

“You’re a miserable bitch! You should be ashamed of what you’re putting Vince through!”

It only takes a second for everyone in our group to look to the left at some woman who’s throwing this insult at my wife. I didn’t even get a good look at her, but I thank the heavens for fast reflexes because I literally have to catch my wife in midair as she lunges at this unknown female with both hands. Jason is a second too late, but right on time to hear me growl,

“Get this woman away from my wife now!”

The entire ordeal probably didn’t last twenty seconds as the horrified instigator is being ushered away from us by our security.

“Watch the video, you stupid bitch!” Butterfly yells after her. “It’ll probably be on YouTube next week! Then you can see what Vince put me through!” I roll my eyes and shake my head as I hold my flailing wife hurling harsh words after the woman.

“Anastasia, have you lost your mind?” I ask forcefully, and out of nowhere, she stops flailing.

“Put me down,” she says calmly.

“No, Anastasia, you’re acting crazy,” I say.

“You’re going to see just how crazy I can get if you don’t put me down,” she says, still eerily calm.

“Put her down,” Mac says, coming out of the courtroom. I look at her and then at the back of my wife’s head before I slowly put her down. She straightens her jacket and puts her Jackie O’s on as she marches to the stairwell. I move to follow her, but Mac stops me.

“Let her go,” Mac warns. I look at Chuck.

“Go!” I hiss and he runs behind my wife. Ray is right behind them before I get the chance to say anything.

“She’s done,” I hear Mac say and I turn to her and the questioning glances of Marilyn and Amanda.

“She’s just pissed, as well she should be,” I reply.

“No, she’s done,” Mac says, then turns to Larson. “Whatever you have to do to win this trial, you have to do it without her. She’s done.”

“I don’t understand,” I say, pushing my hands through my hair. “She was lights and sirens to get in here this morning, and now she’s done?”

“Christian, yesterday she was confronted by her rapist in a surprise attack and now today, she gets to hear about how the guy who disfigured her back, left her in a coma, and contributed to the death of her unborn child is being treated unfairly by her and the court,” she says flatly. “I’ll come up with a press release for what just happened, but we need to decide what we’re going to do now because she’s quite possibly not coming back.”

I sigh heavily. We’ve turned our entire lives upside down to see this thing through. One of us has to. Chuck and Ray are with her now. I have to represent her in this courtroom. I have to. I look at Larson.

“You have to do what you have to do without her, but you better do it, because this damage is going to be irreparable if you don’t.” I say nothing else to him and walk back into the courtroom.

*-*

The longer I sit here listening to the Vincent Sullivan Parade of Good Deeds, the more I want to leap across this half-wall and choke the bastard. I can understand why Butterfly couldn’t listen to this anymore. It’s enough to make you gag! However, the final character witness before lunch gives me—and the jury—something more to chew on.

His name is Owen Carey. He went to school with Vincent Sullivan. He knows a lot about Sullivan, and the defense thought that Owen was going to sing all the accolades of the witnesses before him. However, once he took the stand and started talking, his tune changed, and Drake had to treat him as a hostile witness.

Owen, as it turns out, is Sullivan‘s on-again-off-again gay lover. The girl who testified earlier—Regan—wasn’t his girlfriend. Regan was his beard.

Owen had been waiting for his in with Sullivan since high school. They weren’t dating back then, but they hung around the same people. They and their gay friends would rate the guys in high school by who was the most “fuckable.” Even though Owen wanted Sullivan, Sullivan had his sights set on someone else.

“Vince wasn’t afraid of Cody Whitmore. Vince was in love with him,” Owen said. “He would’ve done anything Cody asked as long as it meant that he could be near him.”

Now, this could have gone either way, had the next thing not happened.

“Oh my God, Owen how could you!”

The court has to be brought to order as Vincent Sullivan cries out in despair of his gay lover’s betrayal.

Now, if anybody in this courtroom is like me, none of us cares that he’s batting for the same team. What’s more important is that his entire defense is based on the fact that he participated in this ritual because he was afraid for his life. If there’s any truth to what Owen says, how can you be deathly afraid of someone that you secretly covet?

Once Drake saw that his defense was heading south and ceased questioning, Larson goes in for the kill, drawing out all the juicy details of Sullivan and his sexual tendencies. I wouldn’t know why he was doing it until later.

“You show up as a character witness just to destroy his character and defense. As much as I would love to believe you, why should I? How do we know that you’re just not another scorned lover looking for revenge?” Larson asks as he wraps questioning.

“I don’t know. Maybe I am,” Owen replies. “Most likely I am, but that doesn’t change the fact that Vince was in love with Cody Whitmore. He probably still is. He could have testified against Cody and put Cody away. Instead, he let Cody do it to him. That’s love. And if you don’t believe me, check out my Facebook. I’ve got an album called Throwback Thursday with all kinds of pictures from GV High back in the day. You’re sure to find a couple of candid shots of Vince making googly eyes at Cody when he wasn’t looking.

“I don’t know anything about this Anastasia girl, and I didn’t pay any attention to what happened to her. I can’t give you any info on that because I didn’t keep up with it and it didn’t affect me… sorry, but shit happens, excuse my language. But I can tell you about Vincent Sullivan, and he followed Cody Whitmore around like a sick puppy. I don’t know exactly when this burning thing happened, but the closer to the end of the school year it got, the more he followed Cody around until Cody’s friends had to tell him to back up.”

Jesus, this fucker had female and male admirers. My girl didn’t stand a chance.

The last person to testify before lunch was Sullivan’s psychiatrist who painted the case of how someone can be coerced to violent and even deadly acts if they feel that their own life is in jeopardy. I noted how he painted this picture very vividly and clearly, but I’m not sure from his testimony that he’s convinced that Sullivan was afraid for his life. Even in cross examination, he kept referring to a “deep-seated fear,” but to me, he never confirmed that Sullivan committed this act because he was afraid for his life.

I attempt to call my wife at lunch to ascertain where she is and if she’s okay, but her phone is going straight to voice mail. Shit! Jason informs me that Chuck checked in shortly after they left, indicating that he has taken her and Ray to the interactive aquarium somewhere on the east side of town and will soon be taking them to lunch somewhere. She is not answering her phone, and besides texting his wife to tell her that he was okay, Ray isn’t either.

God, I want to talk to her so badly, to tell her about the surprise witness and the fact that the shrink didn’t fully uphold Sullivan’s claims. I would normally check my emails and see if anything is afoot at GEH, but I can’t even do that right now. I really want to talk to my girl…

**I love you. I’ll tell you what happened when I see you. I hope you feel better. **

As it turns out, Sullivan’s entire defense was his character witnesses—one of whom turned on him—his shrink who really didn’t solidify his defense, and his own testimony, which we’re about to hear now.

“Vincent, there’s no denying that you took part in this horrible act. You’re on the recording assaulting this young woman in a most violent way. Can you tell us how you came to be a part of this ritual?” Sullivan drops his head.

“I knew the girl from one of my classes,” he says. “She… was nobody. She wasn’t that attractive. She wore cheap clothes. She didn’t have any friends. She didn’t stand out at all—just some poor Plain Jane in the wrong place.

“I hung around with all of ‘em—Kevin, Brian, Rich, Will—we weren’t best buds, but we hung out. I got wind that they were going to a bonfire over at one of the ranches on Wigwam. Of course, I wanted to go.”

“So, you’re saying that you didn’t find out about the bonfire until the day that it occurred?” Drake asks.

“No, I knew about it sooner, earlier that week, and so did Owen! There were a lot of people talking about it, how Carly had a surprise show planned and it was supposed to be such a big night. Her family was swimming in money; I thought she was going to have a rock band there or something.”

“When did you learn differently?” Drake presses.

“Two days before it happened,” he says, his voice low. “I still didn’t know the whole story, but I knew that they were planning to punish somebody for something. Carly was known for doing shit like that… but Owen was right, and since our relationship is over, I guess I don’t have to keep it a secret anymore.” He throws a glare at Owen.

“I did want to be around Cody,” he admits. “I knew he was with Carly, but I just wanted time alone with him. I knew I could’ve turned him if I had the chance.” Drake clears his throat.

“What made you think you even had a chance with Cody Whitmore?”

“How do you think half of them figure out that they’re gay?” he says. “Do you have any idea how easy it is to turn a straight boy gay? Yeah, some of them realize that they were born that way, but the other half has to be introduced. They don’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I want dick.’ Just like there are gateway drugs, there’s a gateway here. We don’t all follow the same path to get here, but some of us were led through that gate.

“There’s a whole lot of ‘straight’ men out here that are closet gays and you don’t even know it. If Owen hadn’t opened his big mouth, you wouldn’t have known about my sexual preference. And I’m not gay, I’m Bi!”

“So, what does any of this have to do with the evening in question, besides the fact that you wanted to be around Cody Whitmore?” Drake asks.

“The day before the bonfire, we were all hanging out at lunch…”

“We?” Drake asked.

“A bunch of us. I couldn’t tell you who all they were. I can tell you that it was me and a few others that I’m not going to name, girls and guys, and Cody and Carly. That’s when she told us what she had planned. She mentioned the brands, but I had seen college guys get brands from their frats. My brother has one, so I thought it was no big deal. I thought it was going to be one brand on her ass or something. I didn’t find out until I got there that it was going to be more.”

“You knew the day before. Why didn’t you warn Anastasia or tell the police? Your brother?” Drake says.

“Carly singled me out,” he says. “Either she could tell that I liked him, or she already knew. I believe she thought I was competition, and since I knew what they were going to do, she deemed me her handler. I told her I didn’t want to do it; I didn’t want to be part of that shit, but she started taunting me—saying that I would go tell my brother, that if I wasn’t there and I didn’t do it and somebody found out, she would know who told.”

“She threatened you?” Drake asks.

“Not in so many words, but she was planning a bonfire where she was going to brand a girl in front of a crowd! What more would she do to me if I didn’t do what she told me?”

“And what about Cody? Did he threaten you?” Sullivan shakes his head.

“Cody was cozying up to me and I really thought he was feeling me. Carly saw that; I know she did. What better way to make sure that I wasn’t a threat than to make me part of the crime? Cody kind of smoothed things over, told me that it wasn’t going to be a big deal, that it would just be a little mark for her to remember her place. He made me feel at ease, so I agreed. But Owen was right about something else. I wasn’t afraid of Cody, but I was scared shitless of Carly Madison.”

There are several more minutes of talking about Carly and her plan, how things transpired that day, claims that Cody and Carly never let him out of their site because they thought he would tell somebody what they had planned. He paints this whole good-cop-bad-cop picture of the teenage Bonnie and Clyde all the way until they got to the branding.

He claims that he didn’t know that they had hit her over the head and kidnapped her. How did he expect for her to arrive, in Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage wearing glass slippers? He maintains that he was afraid for his life, even though he can be seen as one of the boys viciously—and sometimes gleefully—kicking, beating, and pissing on my wife, and when it came time to brand her, he didn’t hesitate until she wasn’t moving anymore.

His scared shitless performance is pretty good, but I never bought it from the beginning. Knowing what I know now, it doesn’t jibe at all with his account of his state of mind.


 ANASTASIA

Daddy, Chuck, and I return to the courtroom and slip back in unnoticed, taking seats in the back instead of on the front row. I catch a portion of Vincent Sullivan’s defense testimony that he was afraid of Carly and, as it turns out, in love with Whitshit. I guess Amber Whitmore was right. He is gay. Part of me can understand being afraid of Carly. I was terrified of her for years after what she did to me. The other part of me is screaming that his ass is full of shit.

Figures that he would be in love with Whitshit. I never saw that coming.

“What were the brands, Vincent?” Larson asks when he moves to cross-examine.

“Excuse me?” he says, a little taken aback.

“Let me rephrase, what did you brand into that young girl’s back?” Sullivan swallows.

“Cody told you…”

“And now I’m asking you,” Larson interrupts. “What did you brand into Anastasia Steele’s back?”

“It was… letters,” he says finally.

“Letters?” Larson says. “Just letters? What were they, your initials?” Vincent clears his throat.

“No,” he says.

“Let me help you.” Larson says. He retrieves a remote and pushes a button. A large screen monitor comes alive with side-by-side pictures of my back, one at 15 with fresh, oozing brands, and one from a couple of years ago where the scars are incorporated into the garden. They must have introduced these into evidence while we were at the hospital and Whitmore was testifying.

“Do you remember now, Vincent?” he asks. “Do you remember the letters now?” He walks back over to the table and retrieves a long, metal object. Oh, fuck, is that what I think it is? Did somebody keep those fuckers all these years?

“Do you remember taking a white-hot branding iron like this one…”

Like this one… thank God. That’s not the original weapon.

“… From a burning bonfire and pressing it into that young girl’s flesh? How about this one?” He retrieves a second iron and I can only assume that he has a replica of the “W” and the “H” that Sullivan burned into my back. “Do you remember now…?”

“Yes, I remember,” Sullivan says through his teeth. Now isn’t the time to get froggy, dude. You’re on trial.

“What were the letters?” Larson asks again.

“W and H,” he replies.

“And what were they supposed to spell?” Larson asks, but Sullivan doesn’t answer. “We’ve got three of the letters right here in our face on her back, Vincent. What were they supposed to spell?”

“Whore!” he spits out. The room is silent for a moment.

“Did you think Anastasia Steele was a whore?” Larson asks calmly.

“I didn’t know her,” he replies.

“You didn’t know her,” Larson says, “but you personally executed the first two letters of the brand. Were you going to do the entire brand before you thought she was dead?”

“Objection, relevance,” Drake says.

“How is this not relevant?” Larson asks.

“He didn’t do the rest of the brand,” Drake says. “He’s not on trial for what he would have done.”

“It speaks to state of mind and intent,” Larson asks, “but the answer probably is irrelevant now!” He’s pissed.

“Objection is overruled. Continue, Mr. Larson.” He turns back to Sullivan.

“Were you going to do the entire brand before you thought she was dead?” he repeats.

“I don’t know,” Sullivan replies.

“Let’s try it this way. Were you the one assigned to do the entire brand or was someone else going to take over after your first two letters?” Sullivan just shakes his head uncertainly.

“You stood there holding the second brand after someone said that they thought she was dead. Were you going to do the third brand before Carly Madison pushed you out of the way?”

“I… no… I… no, I wasn’t,” Sullivan stutters.

“I see. So, you were afraid for your life… afraid enough to brand her twice, but not enough to finish the job,” he taunts. “You really thought that she could kill you, but not this helpless and bound young woman that you all had beaten the hell out of, is that it? Just a little ‘mark’ on her butt, you said? Only you didn’t burn her butt, did you? And it wasn’t a little mark, was it?” Larson pauses.

“No…”

“It was supposed to be five!” Larson declares firmly. “Five brutal, vicious, and permanent burns… on her back! Your brother’s fraternity brand is permanent. What did you expect?”

“I don’t know…”

“You never intended to leave ‘a little mark’ on that woman! You leaned into that brand! You pressed that hot metal on her back while she screamed in agony, her skin searing the entire time until she passed out!

“You were with your friends; they were all going to the bonfire, even after they knew what was going to happen; and Cody smoothed things over when Carly scared you so badly. So, what you’re basically saying is that you were peer pressured into kicking, spitting on, urinating on, and burning a young girl—an act that would land her in a coma for three weeks and result in the death of her unborn baby. Is that what you’re saying?”

“I was scared!” Sullivan retorts firmly. “I was scared for my life! Everybody knew who they were—who their parents were. Everybody knows the power they had. Yeah, here’s a little nobody they wanted to make an example of, but they were ruthless, and we all knew it! They owned that school. They made an example of anybody they wanted, and nobody stopped them.  I was scared shitless that if I didn’t go along with them, I was gonna be next.” Larson’s eyes narrow, and now it’s them again. Didn’t he say a minute ago that he wasn’t afraid of Cody?

“You were scared,” he says. It’s a statement, not a question. He walks over to the evidence table and retrieves a picture.

“Imagine how terrified she was,” he says, shoving a picture in his face. I can only imagine that it’s one of the pictures of me, 15-years-old and black and blue. Vincent doesn’t even look at the picture. He sits there silently glaring at Larson for several moments.

“What’s the matter?” Larson says. “Can’t look at her? Weak stomach? Too gruesome? It’s your handiwork—don’t you want to see your masterpiece?”

“Objection, your honor,” Drake says.

“To what?” Larson says, whirling around to Drake. “Did he deny what he did? We all have to look at pictures of this nearly dead beaten and broken 15-year-old girl why doesn’t he?” He says the last part all in one breath. He seems to be getting a little emotional.

“I’m going to overrule your objection, Mr. Drake, but Mr. Larson, get on with it,” the judge cautions.

“No worries, your honor,” Larson says, shooting a glance back over to Sullivan. “I’m done with show-and-tell for now.” He puts the picture back on the evidence table and walks over to Sullivan.

“You said they made an example of anyone they wanted. You’ve seen them do this before?” Larson asks.

“Objection,” Drake declares. “The parties he’s referring to are not on trial here, and it’s hearsay.”

“No, but Mr. Sullivan is, and he says he was afraid for his life, so let him tell us why,” Larson retorts.

“I’ll allow it,” the judge says. “Proceed, Mr. Larson.” He nods and turns back to Sullivan.

“Mr. Sullivan, do you need me to repeat the question?” Larson asks.

“Carly had a different target every week,” Sullivan says. “Slip a mick in somebody’s Coke and then watch ‘em trip out through fourth hour; running a scavenger hunt with somebody’s car parts on the football field; taking pictures of girls naked in the locker room and posting ‘em around the school—stupid shit like Carrie at the prom! But this? This was the first time I had seen anything like this in my life! If I hadn’t already pissed, I would have pissed my pants.”

“Oh, we’re weeping for you,” Larson cracks. Surprisingly, there’s no objection or chastisement.

“Do you know why Cody Whitmore appeared in court yesterday? Because, as you recall, he knew who you were. He testified that you almost begged him to be a part of ‘the little party.’ But you know who didn’t testify? Carly Madison-Perry. She was supposed to, but she had no clue who you were. Cody was only too happy to fill in the blanks, and from your own testimony, you were very fond of Cody, but scared to death of Carly. So, now, you expect for the court to believe that you were in mortal fear of a girl who had no earthly idea who you were?”

“She does know who I am,” Sullivan seethes. “She knows exactly who I am!”

“’She was nobody,’” Larson continues, reciting Sullivan’s description of me. “’She wasn’t that attractive. She wore cheap clothes. She didn’t have any friends. She didn’t stand out at all—just some poor Plain Jane in the wrong place.’ Your description sounds very personal for someone that you didn’t really know. What made you analyze her in such detail?”

“That’s just how she appeared to me,” Sullivan says, “nobody special, nothing much.”

“Nobody special,” Larson repeats. “Nothing much… yet Whitmore wanted her, and not you.”

Whaaaaaat the fuck…

“Who did she think she was, wandering into the school with her nothingness and her nobodyness and sleeping with the guy that you had been lusting after for so long? How dare she get a piece of Cody before you did, right?”

Fucking hell! Could it be? Could this be true?

“Why did you have to burn her in the back? Of all the people there, why did it have to be you?”

“Carly told me to,” he says, his voice cracking.

“Did she?” Larson accuses.Did she really… or did you want to show Cody that you could do it? Did you want to get her back because she had Cody first? You didn’t know this girl—you said it yourself. How could you do something so personally vile to someone you claim you didn’t even know? That’s the worst kind of criminal, someone who could viciously attack another person they don’t even know. Is that who you are?”

“Stop! Stop!” Sullivan cries, ripping at his hair and weeping. “I was scared! I was scared!” He buries his face in his hands and cries. Larson just looks at him.

“I don’t believe you, Vincent,” Larson says calmly, while shaking his head. “Not because I’m here seeking justice for this crime, but because there are too many inconsistencies—with your witnesses, with your account of the events leading up to the attack, with everything. It’s not adding up. The only thing we have that’s telling the 100% truth is that video and those pictures. Somebody in this room is lying, Vincent… and I think it’s you. No further questions.”

Damn, that was a slam dunk. Whether he wins or not, that was a three-pointer from behind the foul line and nothing but net.


A/N: Natural Born Killers was a Quentin Tarantino/Oliver Stone movie made in 1994 about a Bonnie and Clyde couple that went across the country committing mass murders and leaving only one witness alive to tell the tale of the massacre. If you are familiar with Quentin Tarantino’s work, you know this was some pretty intense and sick stuff. So, I can only say that if you never seen it before, you just have to watch it understand Ana’s reference.

For those who may not know, “nothing but net” is a phrase coined by the NBA maaaaaaaaaaaaaaany years ago—like waaaaaay back in the nineties (lol). It actually came from a McDonald’s commercial where Larry Bird and Michael Jordan are having a shooting contest for a Big Mac and fries. The food has long since gone cold by the time the ridiculous and impossible contest is over, but the term “nothing but net” lived on to describe a “swish,” which is when a player scores and the ball goes through the net without touching the rim, making that satisfying “swish” sound because the ball touches nothing but the net.  

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

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 11

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 11

CHRISTIAN

She doesn’t fool me one bit.

Neither of them does.

Carla is delivering a reformed, make-amends performance worthy of sainthood and Butterfly is falling for it hook, line, and sinker. Once Carla’s testimony is over, we adjourn for the day and Butterfly needs a nap. I send her back to the hotel with Chuck, telling her that I want to quickly check on one of my local interests. I don’t know if she bought it, but she doesn’t argue. I don’t want to go to Las Vegas, then go all the way to Summerlin for the stop I need to make just to have to come all the way back to Las Vegas.

The houses in the area are modest, but tidy. It’s certainly a far cry from the sprawling homes in Green Valley. Jason rings the doorbell. When there’s no answer, he knocks persistently.

“No comment. Go away,” she yells through the door.

“Open the door, Carla,” I demand. There’s silence for a moment, then I hear a chain lock and a deadbolt. She opens the door and she looks even smaller than I remember—even smaller than Butterfly. Is that possible? Her eyes rise to my face and her expression is bemused at first, right before all the color leaves her face.

“Why… Is she…?” She appears to be holding her breath and first, I just stare at her. It takes a moment for me to realize what she couldn’t ask.

“Anastasia’s fine,” I say flatly. Carla gasps in a breath, stumbling forward a bit as her knees appear to give out from underneath her. Jason’s innate sense of chivalry kicks in and he catches her as she stumbles out the door. She appears disoriented for a moment, but quickly recovers and straightens, somewhat pushing Jason away.

“I’m fine… I’m fine,” she says, the color returning to her face. If I didn’t know better, I would swear she was embarrassed. “Would you like to come inside, or do you just want to give it to me from there?”

Is this woman crazy? Does she think we’re here to pay her more money? Does she think she did us a favor by throwing herself in front of the bus?

“Give you what?” I nearly hiss, trying not to lunge at her.

“Whatever verbal or physical lashing you have for me,” she says, matter-of-factly.

“Oh, you’re very good at playing the victim,” I retort, not falling for this reformed Carla act for one second. She rolls her eyes, but not in irritation. If I had to guess, I would say that it was more in resignation.

“Okay, I see you’re going to give it to me here,” she says with no malice, shifting her weight as her shoulders fall in a gesture of defeat as she looks at me expecting. I shake my head.

“What’s your game, Carla?” I demand. “Ana’s been hurt by this shit enough. I won’t stand by and allow you to victimize her any further. So, tell me what the hell you want.” She sighs again.

“I would say, ‘nothing,’ Christian, but I already know that you won’t believe me.”

“You’re right, so what do you want?” I hiss.

“Nothing,” she says, and nothing more.

“Carla, I don’t know why you’re dragging this out. Let’s just get this done and over. How much?” She sighs and folds her arms across her body. With her head cocked to the side, she remains silent.

“Out with it, Carla. How much… or are you holding out for Anastasia?” She sighs again, and is now leaning against the door frame, still in silence. She looks at me, unblinking, unaffected. I can’t help but wonder how practiced that look is—not because I think she’s up to something right now… just because it’s so fucking perfect. I look at Jason.

“Give it to her,” I tell him. He reaches into his jacket and pulls out the check I had drafted, now in a sealed envelope. She doesn’t move to take it.

“What’s that?” she asks, her arms still folded.

“A check with a lot of zeroes on it. Take the money and don’t bother Anastasia.” She shakes her head and glares at me, now in what looks like disgust. She stands up straight, putting her hand on the door.

“Are we done?” she asks, looking at me and not Jason or the check.

“Take the money and go away, Carla,” I seethe. “You’ve had your moment of fame. There’s no way in hell I’m going to allow you to use this as an opportunity to weasel your way back into Ana’s life just so that you can hurt her again. Take the money and stay away from my wife.” She drops her gaze to the floor.

“Christian,” she says, before raising her eyes to mine. “You’re trespassing. Please, get off my porch.” With that, she closes the door quietly, and I hear the chain and the deadbolt engage.

To say that I’m stunned is an understatement. She turned down the money without even knowing how much it was. There was no fight in her—none of the arrogant little sawed-off opportunist that visited Seattle a couple of years ago and left my wife a weeping mess. I still can’t help but wonder what her angle is.

“Sir?” Jason interrupts my contemplation. “Could it be that she really doesn’t want anything?” Hell, no. This bitch is up to something.

“For her sake, I hope so, because if she does anything to hurt my wife, I’ll bury her ass right next to her husband.”

“You won’t have to,” her muffled voice says from the other side of the closed door. Jason raises his eyebrows at me. I turn and walk down the stairs and off her porch.

“Keep an eye on her while we’re here. I don’t trust her,” I tell him before we get into the car.

*-*

“How was your visit?” Butterfly asks when I get back to the hotel about an hour and a half after we left the courthouse. It looks like she fell asleep right on the sofa, still in her clothes from court. I drop my coat in a nearby chair.

“You know, don’t you?” I ask examining her expression.

“Of course, I know,” she says matter-of-factly. “Did she take the money?” I pause before I sit.

“No, she didn’t,” I say taking the seat where I put my coat. She nods.

“I had a feeling she wouldn’t,” Butterfly says, sitting up.

“Don’t be fooled, Butterfly,” I warn. “She’s up to something.”

“Maybe she is, and maybe she’s not,” she says. “If she’s not, then we’ll get done with this trial, we’ll go home, and she’ll leave us alone. If she is, taking that money wouldn’t have served her purposes. Money runs out, and if she needs more money, it would serve her better to be in my good graces. Taking that check from you would have been the opposite of productive if that’s what she’s trying to do.”

“Are you thinking about letting her into your good graces?” I ask honestly.

“I don’t know what I’m thinking,” she says, folding her arms. Oh, shit. “I do know this, though. That’s not the same woman I grew up with—either time. She’s not that good an actress. Whatever she was, whether it was the wholesome mother who loved me and put me first in her life, or it was the selfish bitch who ignored, fed on, or profited from my pain, she was that person 100%. She never half-steps—she’s all in. Neither of those people were on the stand today. Nonetheless, one flawless testimony of the absolute, pure, and unmitigated truth is not going to redeem what she put me through.

“Notwithstanding all the crap that I endured; I needed my mother. I needed her love, I needed her care, I needed her attention. I just needed her to see me, to really know me, and she didn’t. She didn’t know anything about me. She didn’t know my favorite color, my worst fears, my hearts desires… she didn’t even know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Most of all, I just wanted her to hug me… just hug me and show me that I’m still a person. Do you have any idea how it feels not to be hugged for years?”

I maintain a passive expression, but the inner me raises a brow at her as if to say, “Seriously?”

“I’m sorry,” she says immediately. “That was selfish of me.” She sighs heavily. “Life is gonna be hell for her now in Green Valley.”

“She doesn’t live in Green Valley anymore,” I say. Butterfly’s brow furrows.

“She doesn’t?” she asks. I shake my head.

“She lives in Summerlin now,” I inform her. “It’s an affluent neighborhood—not as affluent as Green Valley, but affluent.”

“Did she sell the house in Green Valley?” Butterfly asks.

“Most likely. She’s working as a CNA. The property taxes alone on that place was probably more than she made in a year.” Butterfly thinks for a moment.

“Summerlin,” she says. “That’s west, right?” I nod.

“Yes,” I reply, “very west.”

“Doesn’t she work in Boulder City? Or is she working somewhere else now?” she asks.

“You’re assuming I know,” I say, testing her knowledge.

“I know you know,” she replies, expecting. I raise my brow at her.

“Yes, and yes,” I reply. “Yes, she’s working somewhere else and yes, it’s still in Boulder City. She was at a nursing home before. Now, she’s at a rehab and hospice facility.” Her brow furrows again.

“Jesus, they have those together?” she asks. I nod.

“Apparently,” I reply.

“So, either you walk out of there or your carried out,” she mumbles. “I don’t remember this place much, but it’s a bit of a stretch from Summerlin to Boulder City, isn’t it? If I remember right, Summerlin is like northwest Vegas, and Boulder City is southeast on the other side of Henderson. Did I get that right?”

“Yeah, you’ve got that right,” I say. “It’s about the distance between Seattle and Tacoma,” I tell her.

“What the hell did she do that for?” Butterfly asks.

“She probably wanted to get as far away from Green Valley as possible,” I reply.

“There are other places that she could have moved to on the other side of Henderson. All she had to do was cross the freeway—it’s like a whole other world, but without knowing her motives, it’s a moot point.” Butterfly falls silent for a moment, and I’m pondering my approach, but I’m halted by her next words.

“Don’t lie to me again,” she accuses. I freeze and consider my response.

“I didn’t lie to you, Anastasia,” I correct her. “Carla is local, and she is totally and completely in the very center of my interest right now.”

“Yes, but you know as well as I do that you made it appear that you were going to check out a business interest. I knew the moment we left the courtroom that you were going to see Carla. So, label it whatever deception you want, just don’t do it again.”

Busted. She’s right.

“I’m sorry,” I say, with no additional retort. “The last thing you need from me is dishonesty, especially now.”

“Very true,” she replies, running her hands across her forehead once, then resting her chin on her palms. I stand and walk over to her, waiting for permission to sit next to her. When she doesn’t protest, I sit and put my arm around her.

“Your favorite color is blue,” I begin, and she looks over to me. “Your worst fears have to do with this place—that these monsters would come for you, or that they would raise children that would turn out like them and then exist in a world with your children.

“Your heart’s desires when you were young were to travel to exotic places one day and to see the world. When you got older, they changed. You wanted to help people. You wanted to make sure they didn’t go through the same thing that you went through and if they did, you wanted to make sure that they knew that they weren’t alone… that someone cared, and someone was there to help them.

“You didn’t know what you wanted to be when you grew up. You didn’t find that out until later when your guidance counselor suggested psychiatry, and you saw that that would be the way to realize your second heart’s desire.

“I can’t take the place that she should’ve filled, but I can love you with everything, and I can show you that you are more than a person—that you are life to at least three people and very likely more than that. And even though I do know how it feels not to be hugged for years, I can’t imagine being deprived of that feeling now… especially from you. You have the opportunity to give that love that you didn’t get in your teenage years to two beautiful little humans, to nurture two little lives and turn them into great people, and you’re off to a damn good start.”

She stares at me for a moment with those guileless blue eyes before crawling to her knees and planting a warm, deep kiss on my lips. I wrap my arms around her and feel her pushing me backwards, so I lie down on the sofa, taking her with me and allow her to do what she wants with me.

*-*

“What did she do last night?” I ask Jason over coffee in the morning, curious about Carla’s activities.

“According to surveillance, she sat on her back deck all night and cried. She went inside a few times to refresh a warm drink, but she sat on her patio for the entire night.” I twist my lips. It’s going to take a lot more sad nights to match the tears you’ve ripped from my Butterfly, you worthless cunt.

“I had two more guys fly in this morning,” Jason says, “to replace the guys that watched Morton last night. They’ll rotate for twelve hour shifts so that everyone is sharp.”

“Good man,” I say finishing my coffee. “Let’s round everyone up and get to the courthouse.

Our entourage is getting better. We’ve learned how to pace ourselves to keep up with Butterfly as she’s sprinting up the stairs to the courthouse. The press no longer tries to get pictures of her. They’re lucky if they can even get a video of her.

She seems a bit more amiable when she enters the courtroom today. We take our seats and the regular pomp and circumstance ensues while the defendant, judge and jury arrive. Then the prosecution calls its next witness.

As it turns out, there were other officers that asked questions about the case in the beginning, but all trails ran cold since George Sullivan was the lead officer on the case. So, even though the other officers testified about working the case, none of them ever had any concrete evidence or leads to follow. I often wondered how George Sullivan was able to bury everything so thoroughly, or if he had a partner at the time. How was it possible that even other officers couldn’t find any evidence? Hell, I didn’t even know that there were other officers involved. Even Sullivan himself said that he was the only officer on the case, but that’s probably because there was no one else assigned to the case and no one else had any evidence. I guess it’s pretty easy to bury a case when there’s an entire community involved in the cover-up.

As Sullivan is claiming diminished capacity, he had to be examined by the state’s psychiatrist as well as his own. It’s not to establish that he was crazy at the time of the attack, but that he felt that he was in imminent danger or fear of his life when the incident occurred.

While the state’s psychiatrist doesn’t dismiss that Sullivan was afraid of some type of retaliation, he doesn’t appear to have been afraid for his life. It was more likely that he was trying to fit in, which he admitted to in relation to his participation in unrelated events.

After lunch, court is back in session and…

“The state calls Amber Whitmore to the stand.”

Butterfly’s eyebrow rises, but she shows no other emotion. No doubt she, like many other onlookers, would wonder why the state is calling Amber Whitmore to the stand before Madison Perry or why she’s been called to the stand at all. A while back, when I knew we would be going to trial, I let Larson I was aware that she knew something about the attack and that’s why she left. I told him about the conversation that we had when I talked to her a couple of years ago and she responded to tell her brother and father that their secret was “safe” with her and to leave her alone. I told him to do what he wanted with the information. Apparently, he subpoenaed her.

“Permission to treat this witness as hostile,” Mr. Larson asks.

“Granted,” the judge says.

“That won’t be necessary,” Amber says matter-of-factly. “You’ve got me here now; I’ll tell you what I know.”

“That’s good to know, Ms. Whitmore,” Mr. Larson says, and Amber nods once. “Why are you here today?”

“Because you served me with a subpoena,” she replies.

“You’re not here to share what you know about this case?” he asks.

“At the risk of sounding callous, Mr. Larson, I could have gone my entire life hearing nothing else about this case or this place. I’ll tell you what I know because you’ve threatened me with contempt of court if I don’t. So, let’s get on with this so I can go home.” She folds her arms.

“Very well, then. How was your relationship with your father and your brothers?”

“My relationship with Landon was just fine. With Cody and my father, it was strained at best,” she replies.

“Who is Landon?” Mr. Larson asks.

“My oldest brother,” she replies. “He was rarely home throughout his senior year.”

“And why do you say that your relationship with Cody and Franklin Whitmore was strained?”

“Cody was an entitled jerk,” Amber reveals, “and he was my father’s favorite child.”

“Objection, your honor, speculation,” Drake interjects.

“The witness is only explaining the relationship as she saw it,” Mr. Larson retorts.

“Then she must make it clear that she’s stating opinion and not declarations of fact,” the judge says. “Sustained. Continue.” Mr. Larson rolls his eye.

“Ms. Whitmore, why did you say that Cody was your father’s favorite child?”

“Because from what I could see, Cody could do no wrong. Cody was caught out after curfew and brought home by the police more times than I could count. Anybody else caught out that many times would have been taken in for repeated violations, but not Cody. I don’t know what happened with the arrest records or the tickets that he was supposed to get, but the next thing I knew, he got that Jeep. No more arrests, because he was in a car instead of out loitering somewhere with his friends.

“What did that say to me? Get caught out after curfew, get a car—but only Cody, because the first time I got caught out after curfew, I was grounded for a month.”

“I see,” Mr. Larson says. “Is there anything else that made you feel like Cody was the favorite?”

“Too much to name—what do you want to know?” Amber asks.

“Let’s talk about the day you knew anything about Anastasia Steele,” Mr. Larson says. Amber scoffs.

“Well,” Amber begins. “Let’s see. I’ll have to start that with Carly Madison…”

“Objection, your…”

“I’m only talking about their relationship I’m not accusing her of anything I can’t even mention her name?” Amber blurts out all in one breath.

“Counselor,” the judge says, “give the witness an opportunity to respond before you object to it.”

Chastised, Drake takes his seat.

“Continue, Ms. Whitmore,” Mr. Larson says. Amber rolls her eyes.

“If I were to speculate,” she begins, throwing a glare at Drake, “I would say that Carly was at our house more than she was at home. Sometimes, she would just be hanging out at our house just waiting for Cody to get home, and my mother and father let her do it. If Cody was considered entitled, Carly was much worse. There were even times that my mom would call her parents to tell them that Carly was spending the night. I don’t even know what the context was. How do you possibly get away with spending the night at your boyfriend’s house at least twice a week when you’re 15 or 16?

“What’s more, she slept in his room! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what was going on, but apparently, her parents—and mine—were okay with this kind of behavior.”

“What does that have to do with Anastasia Steele?” Mr. Larson asks.

“When Anastasia and her father showed up accusing him of raping her, that was the first time I had any idea who she was and even I thought it was a bunch of bull. Girls all over the school were drooling all over him, and he had ready and willing pus… coochie delivered right to his doorstep. Why would he need to go and rape some girl?”

“Did something happen to change your mind?” Mr. Larson asks.

“A whole lot happened,” she says. “I remember one night a bunch of kids showed up at our house. I thought they were going to some kind of party because they were all wearing dark clothes. Carly laughed when she saw me, thinking I wanted to tag along—which I didn’t. My brother told me that it was way out of my league anyway. I recognized the flunkies that usually hung around my brother and his girlfriend, but Vincent stood out to me that night.”

Vincent Sullivan raises his gaze to her, looking at someone else in the courtroom for only the second time—the first one being his brother. Drake is at the ready with his objection, I’m sure.

“Why?” Mr. Larson asks.

“Because it was unusual,” she says. “He never hung out with this crowd that I knew of, and I would have known… because I liked him.”

“You liked him how?”

“He’s very attractive,” she replies, “and for a while, I thought he was gay, but I found out that he wasn’t. He had a girlfriend. That made him off limits, but I still liked him, and I could pick him out of a crowd. I started having second thoughts that night because if he was one of the people who hung around my brother…” She trails off.

“You didn’t like your brother’s friends?” Mr. Larson asks. Amber shrugs.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t like his friends. I didn’t want to be around anybody who hung around my brother. It’s like I told you, my brother was a jerk. I don’t know if he’s still a jerk because I haven’t talked to him in several years, but he was a real jerk then. You know what they say—birds of a feather flock together, and I had no desire to be in that flock.

“When Cody got home that night, he was wearing a cape over his clothes, and he smelled like he had gone camping. My brother never went camping a day in his life. The next day, it was all over the news about the girl that was found beaten and burned damn near dead, and that Monday, it was all over the school. A little while later, we found out that it was Anastasia Steele and I never put the two together until…” She trails off again.

“Until what?” Mr. Larson presses.

“Summer sucked,” she says after a short pause. “Landon and Cody could come and go as they pleased, but I spent the entire summer on lockdown because of what happened to ‘that Steele girl.’” She uses the finger quotes to illustrate that I was a topic of conversation related to her shut-in. “As a result, I was home when the money transaction took place.”

“What money transaction?” he asks.

“My father handed $750,000 to Anastasia’s father to ‘keep her quiet.’ About what, I never really found out, but I had my suspicions. It was either about the ‘supposed rape’ that I thought was impossible, or it was about the attack. We had heard nothing else about the supposed rape that I knew of and it had happened months before. She had bigger fish to fry with the attack. So, I assumed that it had something to do with the attack.”

“Why didn’t you say anything before?” Larson asks.

“Because I was afraid,” she admits. “I was afraid of my father, but he’s dead now. So, I can tell what I know. I couldn’t wait to get out of Green Valley—to run away from a truth I couldn’t tell. My father wouldn’t pay for my college, so I just left. I got a job and paid my own way through school. I moved to New York, got married, started my own business, and never looked back. None of them attended my wedding when I got married, and I didn’t attend his funeral when he died. I had no intention of ever coming back to Nevada until I got the subpoena and threatened with jail time if I refused.

“I moved away, and I was just glad to be away from it, but it was like it never happened. Nothing happened, nobody said anything—not even Anastasia—I was wondering if the entire thing was in my imagination. Not even the cops said anything. How could the cops not say anything? This was a horrible beating of a young girl in a small upscale part of Las Vegas, and nobody said anything, not even the police. At the time, the only thing that assured me that it wasn’t in my imagination was that the whole town was running scared because nobody knew what happened—or at least, nobody said so. We had crazy curfews. We had to travel in packs, like wolves. The entire thing was surreal.

“When I heard what happened to the girl, I thought her family would go nuts—demanding answers and seeking justice… but nothing… not a peep. There’s no amount of money that you could pay me to be silent if somebody did to my kid what they did to her.

“But you did have a price, Ms. Whitmore. What was it?” Mr. Larson asks.

“He threatened me to shut the hell up, so I did. I paid it, and now I’m speaking. My father was a cold, wicked, heartless man, and I don’t doubt for one second that he was aware of my brother’s involvement before the incident occurred. Or maybe he wasn’t, but he knew that Cody was going to do something. That’s just how they were. The amount of money that exchanged hands that night… I already knew they had paid for that girl’s silence. Now, I know why.”

“No further questions.”

“Your witness, Mr. Drake,” the judge says.

“Ms. Whitmore, weren’t you always jealous of your brother?” Drake asks.

“Yes, I was. I was jealous that he was the apple of Daddy’s eye and that he could never do anything wrong, but more so, I was jealous because my father never abused, mistreated, or ignored him. He saved that for me.”

“Well, if you were jealous of your brother and you have that much contempt for him, why should we believe you today? Isn’t this just another way for you to get back at him for how you felt about him all these years?” Drake continues. Amber laughs.

“That’s brilliant the way you brushed right over that part where I was abused, mistreated, and ignored so that you could focus on the fact that I was jealous, but that’s okay. I really don’t care if you believe me or not. I came to tell my story and I did. Now if you let that little weasel go—you let that little criminal walk—that’s on you, not me.”

“Objection, your honor. Cody Whitmore is not on trial here.”

“Sustained.”

“You’re assuming that I’m talking about my brother,” she says. “I’m talking about anybody that had anything to do with this event—my father, my brother, my mother, any of the people who beat her, the people who watched, the cop who ‘investigated’ the crime, the prosecutors who didn’t dive deeper and demand more evidence and investigation, the parents who were willfully blind to the possibility that their children could have something to do with this: ‘Not my little Johnny, no…’” she says in a mocking voice.

“… Her parents for not being proactive and trying to seek justice on her behalf; the community for not demanding answers to what happened to this little girl in their neighborhood on their watch… Everybody failed her! Everybody’s a criminal as far as I’m concerned. That’s why I don’t live here anymore!” Amber is passionate with her response.

“Since you’re feeling like the neighborhood and everyone else had such a civic duty, why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you say anything?” Drake accuses.

“To whom?” she asks animated, raising her hands to the defense attorney. “To the ‘investigating’ officer? To some other police officer? To my parents who—as far as I knew—were in on the whole cover-up? Everything I had was hearsay. Who was going to corroborate it—the people who were busy sweeping that shit under the rug?”

“Ms. Whitmore…” the judge warns.

“My mom knew,” she continues, gesturing across the courtroom to a woman about Carla’s age with dark hair, staring at Amber. “I’m sure that my father didn’t let her in on everything, but she heard things just like I did. She knew and she covered it up, too. What was I supposed to do, go to her? I sure as hell couldn’t go to my father!”

“But even as an adult, you didn’t do or say anything. You just left…”

“You’re damn straight I left!” she confirms. “An entire community cover-up and now the kids that did this to a 15-year-old girl are all adults and I’m going to stick around? Hell, no! Lil ole me and my single voice crying out for justice in a sea of piranhas? Who was going to protect me… you?” He pauses for a moment before asking his next question.

“Maybe everyone else in the community was as scared as you to come forward, feeling like something would happen to them, too.” Amber purses her lips and shakes her head.

“Maybe you’re right, but everybody’s hands weren’t tied, sir,” she says finitely. “I was in a bad situation because my family was right in the middle of it, and I was afraid of my father, but no matter how you try to paint that picture, everybody’s hands weren’t tied, and you know that. That’s why we’re here now.”

Drake glares at her, no doubt trying to discredit her testimony, but throws in the towel once he realizes that his crusade is futile.

“No more questions, but I do have an objection, your honor.”

“And that is?” the judge asks.

“I fail to see what this witness’s testimony has to do with this particular case,” he says.

“Mr. Larson?” the judge asks.

“It places the defendant in Mr. Whitmore’s company, very possibly on the date of the attack hours before it occurred—which lends to the level of premeditation and intent as well as to the degree that the defendant also benefited from the alleged cover-up.”

The courtroom is quiet as the explanation sinks in. I was wondering what good Amber’s testimony was going to do myself… until now.

“Do you have any objection to that reasoning, Mr. Drake?” the judge asks.

“No, your honor,” he replies.

“Based on that information, do you have any further questions for this witness?”

“No, your honor.”

“Mr. Larson is this witness excused?” the judge asks.

“Yes, your honor,” he says.

Upon getting official confirmation from the judge that she is excused, Amber Whitmore bolts from the stand and out of the courtroom. No doubt, she’s got her luggage in a rental in the parking lot and is headed straight to the airport. I would if I were her.

There are a couple more testimonies from miscellaneous witnesses, including the dispatcher that took the call from Sullivan and the owners of the property where Butterfly was beaten… Carly Madison Perry’s parents. The state couldn’t charge them with anything because the property had public access and without George Sullivan’s cooperation on the evidence found there, the Madisons couldn’t be charged with anything. Additionally, they didn’t find out until much later that the incident occurred on their property.

Butterfly isn’t so worn out this time when we get back to the hotel, but I hate it that she feels this place is such a prison.

“So, I have an idea,” I say, taking her hand when we get back to the suite. “The days are going to be awful, we know that, but we’ve got to do everything we can to make it through however long we have to stay in this place. So, let’s make the evenings and nights as fun and relaxing as we can.” She scoffs a bit.

“I don’t know how fun we can make this place, Christian,” she says. “I mean, I realize that it’s Vegas and all, but it’s just hell to me.”

“Can I ask you a question?” I say. She shrugs and nods. “Besides the trial, has it really been hell here?”

“You mean besides the Paparazzi and the Twitterpated bitch?” she asks.

“In all honesty, baby, that could happen anywhere,” I remind her. She shrugs.

“So… if you had a bad day back at home, where would you want to go?” She sighs.

“Does this place have a treadmill?”


ANASTASIA

Honestly, that’s all I wanted last night—to exhaust myself on some kind of workout machine. I would have preferred a heavy bag, but that wasn’t an option. So, the treadmill it was. I couldn’t quite recall the workout that I was doing on our six-week-weekend after I had the twins, or I would have done that, but I’m sure I ran a marathon on the treadmill before I showered and quickly talked to my babies before I passed out in bed without dinner.

Knowing that I went to sleep last night with my hair wet—which is an absolute no-no—my inner alarm wakes me to flat iron it with steam. While I’m sitting there toiling with my hair, I’m watching some morning show on television… more like listening to it. Some show called LV CawfieTyme is playing in the background as I straighten my hair. Two female hosts are talking about local news.

There’s a kind of funny story about a guy who just moved into a Las Vegas valley home and decided to test and see if there are thieves in his area. His surveillance camera captured footage of a guy stealing a package off his porch. He shared the footage with the morning show in hopes that someone might recognize him, but only to expose the guy for being a thief. There’s no need to apprehend the guy or the package as the box is filled with dog poop.

The Clarion Hotel and Casino is going to be demolished next week. There’s a detailed diatribe about when it opened and how many people owned it. Apparently, it’s a big thing when one of the casinos is demolished, I suppose.

“Everybody knows, though, that the hottest topic is that Green Valley assault case,” one of the hosts says. I try not to drop my damn flat iron since I know they’re talking about my case, unless there’s another Green Valley assault case in progress right now.

“Yeah,” the other host says. “As I’m told, a Seattle socialite has come back to Vegas seeking ‘justice’ on a group of kids who jumped her 15 years ago.” This bitch actually did the finger quotes around the word “justice.” I have to stop straightening my hair and put the flatiron down before I burn myself.

“What’s with the finger quotes?” the first host—a blonde—asks. “If somebody beat the snot outta you, wouldn’t you want justice, too?”

“There are fights in high school every day,” the second host—a redhead—replies. “I just think this one’s been sensationalized a bit.” The blonde’s eyes widen, and she clasps her hands together.

“How so?” she asks the redhead.

“Well, this happened in 2001—14 years ago. It got a lot of press for a minute, because nobody really knows what happened, but then it died. Then, two years ago, she marries a billionaire and suddenly, it’s front page news again. That’s 2013. What happened for 12 years that it wasn’t so important, and now it is?

“I completely think it’s sensationalized,” the redhead continues. “She’s staying at the Waldorf right now with something like 50 people and she had some woman thrown out because she tried to say, ‘Hi.’ Careful, Vegas. If you bring her an espresso with too little froth or her caviar is room temperature, she might have your restaurant closed down.”

That’s not what the fuck happened, and I should call that station and expose that bitch for slander, but I’m sure it would only make matters worse.

“Um, Peggy, I’m not one to dispute you, but I really want to avoid a lawsuit here,” the blonde retorts before looking down at some papers on the table in front of her. “First of all, the Seattle ‘socialite’ is Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey, business-woman and psychiatrist…”

“There’s a combination,” Peggy comments sarcastically. The blonde raises her eyes from her papers for a moment.

“Yes, it is, isn’t it? And impressive at that,” she says before looking back down at her papers. “Although all of the members of her party have not been identified, who has been identified are her husband, her father, and her personal assistant, and the party numbers 16, not 50…”

“Well, she…”

“Let me finish, Peggy, and then you can have your comments,” the blonde says. I still haven’t gotten her name yet.

“Well! Excuse me! I thought we were hosting a morning talk show!” Peggy retorts.

“We are, and I’m talking. You’ve given your opinion and what you think are the facts and I didn’t interrupt you. Show me the same courtesy while I give the facts that I’ve found.”

There’s silence for about five seconds before the blonde continues.

“As I said, her party numbers 16, which includes friends, family members, and various members of her security. Concerning the woman who was thrown out of the Waldorf, you’re correct that she tried to speak to Anastasia Grey, but that’s not why she was thrown out of the hotel. The woman who we’ll just refer to by her Twitter handle—Sassyvelmalou—tweeted a derogatory statement about Anastasia complete with a picture because Anastasia’s security asked Velma not to bother her…”

And there’s that picture of me again looking like hell warmed over sitting in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria while the host is still talking.

“Now, the Waldorf has guaranteed Anastasia’s privacy during her stay for the duration of this ordeal and this woman violated that policy. What’s more, I’ve since learned that Anastasia wasn’t feeling well, which is why her security asked this stranger to step back. The Waldorf has since issued a statement to that exact fact, so I just don’t want to see the show get sued because you may have gotten your facts mixed up.”

Peggy tries to interject, but the blonde holds up a finger to indicate that she’s not finished.

“According to the information I was able to ascertain from public records, Anastasia Grey—then Anastasia Steele—was attacked and brutalized by a mob of teenagers, both male and female, badly burned, and left unconscious and naked in a field. The beating left her comatose and she lost her baby.” She lays the paper on the table and continues to speak as various members of the audience gasp.

“Now, whatever you may think of her, that was brutal and unnecessary. Where I come from, ‘getting jumped’ means three or four girls are angry with you, so they fight you after school. And then somebody gets suspended, may get expelled, and if it was really bad, somebody might be arrested. In all my years on earth, I have never seen anyone get beaten, tormented, and left for dead, and that’s considered getting ‘jumped.’ I’ve reported on supposed gang initiations that were less brutal.

“What was done to that poor girl was vicious, evil, and criminal, and anyone who thinks it was less than that needs their head examined. Oh, and by the way, if I didn’t have the resources to go after the people who wronged me and killed my baby at the age of 15, but after 12 years, I did, I’d go after them, too.”

The studio audience applauds once she’s finished with her information and Peggy sits there looking a bit sheepish.

“I’m not saying that what happened to her wasn’t horrible,” Peggy back-peddles once the applause dies down. “I was just pointing out that as horrible as it may be, it wasn’t pursued until she became a billionaire.”

“Well, there’s an explanation for that, too,” the blonde says. “But I won’t debate it on air. You may want to Google the name George Sullivan.” She clasps her hands over her papers. “You went to Green Valley High, didn’t you Peggy?”

Peggy suddenly falls silent while the first host awaits her answer. Getting none, the blonde continues.

“It was right around the same time Anastasia Steele was there, wasn’t it?” the blonde presses. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you say that you were the class of ’03?” There’s more silence before Peggy responds.

“I don’t know anything about that beating,” Peggy says coolly. Oh, now it’s a beating! “I didn’t hang out with any of those people. My family had just moved to Green Valley the year that happened.”

“I wasn’t insinuating that you knew anything,” the blonde says, matter-of-factly. “I was just wondering what the social environment was like during that time. You see from most of the on-the-street interviews that we’ve done, most people thought it was just urban legend, and now we discover that it’s true. A police cover-up, a girl beaten nearly to death, an entire community and no one has a clue what happened… what was it like being on the inside of that community?”

Peggy throws a hateful glare at her co-host and narrows her eyes. If she doesn’t have anything to hide, why is she so defensive? She was so verbal a moment ago about the temperature of my fucking caviar, and now she’s all mum and I don’t know anything about that beating. She probably knows something. I couldn’t pick her out of a crowd, but she probably knows something, if only by hearsay.

“All I know is that we had strict curfews and our parents wouldn’t let us out after a certain time for months. That entire situation totally ruined my entire school year,” she says haughtily.

“Hmm, is that right?” the blonde says. “I can’t even imagine what it did to Anastasia Steele’s school year.”

The silence in that studio could be heard in space.

“We’ll be back after these messages,” the blonde says before the screen fades to black.

Peggy… her name doesn’t ring a bell, her face isn’t familiar, and I really don’t give a fuck who she is right now. If she’s involved at all, somebody will roll on her ass in hopes of a lighter sentence. She was probably just another one of those entitled cunts at that school who felt like I got what I deserved, or she just didn’t care.

I turn the television to a jazz music station and finish straightening my hair.

*-*

Every day, I’m becoming more and more weary of the dance that occurs as we’re trying to get up these stairs. Today, I nearly pass Jason in my mad dash to the front door. I’m on the morning news shows. They’re using whatever pictures they can find of me. Who cares what they get today?

It’s Thursday, and I’m told the prosecution is calling its last witness today, which is most likely Carly Madison Perry. That’s going to be four days—or three and a half—of nothing but prosecution testimony. Is the defense going to be just as long?

As usual, we take our seats and, Vincent Sullivan is led in, then the judge and the jury and once the movement has stopped, the prosecution calls their final witness.

“The state calls Cody Whitmore to the stand.”

What? What the fuck? What?

Whitshit is escorted into the courtroom in a suit and tie—and shackles!

It does my heart good to see him ushered in like the common criminal that he is, taking the small steps that the shackles allow with the clanging of the chains announcing his arrival.

But why is he here? I thought Carly was testifying against everyone.

He quickly scans the room and does a double take. His eyes dart around to several locations and his face immediately blanches pale. He stops in his tracks as he looks around the room and his two uniformed escorts have to urge him forward to the stand. When he takes his seat, he immediately locks his gaze with mine and his eyes narrow. I glare right back at him.

How’s that tooth, Whitshit?

“State your name for the record,” he’s told once he’s sworn in.

“Cody Elvin Whitmore,” he says stoically.

“Son of a bitch,” Christian whispers. When I look over at him, he’s glaring at Whitshit. I elbow him to let me in on the secret. He leans over.

“He got a deal, too,” he whispers. “He had to if he’s here.” I look back at Whitshit and I can feel my blood beginning to boil.

Son of a bitch. This is what he meant when he said, “Expect anything.”

“Cody, do you remember the events of the afternoon and evening of March 10, 2001?”

“Vividly,” he responds.

“You went to school that day like any other day, correct?”

“Yep,” Whitshit says.

“And tell the court what happened after school.”

“We were going to do a BB that night…”

“What’s a BB?” Mr. Larson asks. Cody turns to me and smiles.

“A bitch branding,” he says, coolly. I feel a chill as I look into his dark eyes. I remember seeing them that night, through the hood and mask, just like I saw hers. They looked right at me, stared into my terrified eyes, laughed at my tears, and tormented me. And now, he’s sitting in the witness stand, jeering at me and taunting me as he tells the story.

I open my mouth and tap my front tooth, the one of his that I know I knocked out and raise my brow at him. That smug smirk falls from his face.

“And how did you know what a bitch branding was, Cody?” Mr. Larson asks.

“I’d heard about them,” he answers.

“Heard about them?” Mr. Larson asks. “From whom?”

“Objection, your honor. Relevance?” The defense pipes in.

“Sustained,” the judge says. “Get to the point, counselor.”

“I’m only trying to establish if this was a regular occurrence in the community, your honor.”

“Careful, Mr. Larson,” the judge says and Mr. Larson nods before turning back to my rapist.

“Cody…” Mr. Larson begins.

“Mr. Whitmore,” Whitshit corrects him.

Mr. Whitmore,” Mr. Larson says sarcastically, “You said that you heard about the bitch brandings—how did you hear about them?” Whitshit smiles and looks at me again.

“People talk,” he says. “You just hear it… around.

“I see. Had you ever been to a bitch branding before this?” Mr. Larson presses.

“Objection! Your Honor, really?” the defense protests.

“Mr. Larson, you’ve been warned,” the judge cautions.

“I didn’t ask if he had ever participated in one. I asked if he had attended one. His presence today already confirms that he participated in one!” Mr. Larson turns an angry glare to Whitshit’s defense attorney.

“You’re treading thin ice, counselor.” Good grief, how many warnings does this guy need? Is he trying to throw the damn case? He better fucking not, or I swear I’ll lose all morals I’ve ever had and hunt him down like a damn dog! He turns back to Whitshit.

“I refuse to answer to prevent self-incrimination,” Whitshit responds with a smile, and the courtroom erupts in murmurs. Sonofabitch! Is this asshole saying that he’s done this shit before? Was it here in Green Valley? Who else is walking around with fucking brands? What the fuck?

“Order!” The judge says as he bangs his gavel. “Order in the court or I’ll have the room cleared.” The courtroom silences after a few moments.

“Does that answer your questions, counselor?” Whitshit says with a smirk.

“Yes, it does,” Mr. Larson says. “And some. Thank you.” Whitshit’s smirk falls again.

“I didn’t give you anything,” he says cockily. “You and I both know that.” Mr. Larson cocks his head at Whitshit.

Mr. Whitmore…” Mr. Larson says his name in that sing-songy way that Mr. Smith says Mr. Anderson in The Matrix, and it makes your skin crawl. I’m sure that Whitshit now wishes he had just let the man call him Cody. “Have you ever heard the term ‘pattern of behavior?’” Whitshit shrugs.

“Why should that mean anything to me?” he says clasping his hands.

“Because you just confirmed one,” Mr. Larson says. Whitshit scoffs.

“How?” he retorts. Mr. Larson turns to the judge.

“He asked,” the judge says, gesturing for Mr. Larson to continue. He turns back to Whitshit.

“You pled your right to silence to prevent self-incrimination when directly asked about bitch brandings. You just implied in a room full of people, including the jury, that you may have…” He turns to the jury and opens his hands in a shrugging manner.

“… Or may not have…” He turns back to Whitshit, “… taken part in a prior bitch branding, a brutal act that now has a name, like hazing. I don’t know how many people in this room have ever heard of that term. I know that in all my years as attorney general, I haven’t. It even has a clever little abbreviation…” He turns to the jury again. “BB,” he says to the jury before turning back to Whitshit.

“So, now, we see that a group of teenagers possibly premeditated an attack on an innocent young girl using an abbreviation that many if not all of you knew. And you just pled the fifth against self-incrimination. Pattern of behavior, Mr. Whitmore,” Mr. Larson finishes. Whitshit turns red with fury.

“I don’t want to testify anymore!” he barks.

“That’s fine,” Mr. Larson says. “You can go back to your cell, but you’ll be forfeiting your plea deal and you’ll have to stand trial. Bailiffs?” Mr. Larson heads back to the table. As the bailiffs move toward Whitshit, he rolls his eyes and sighs.

“Fine! What do you want to know?” he hisses, causing the bailiffs to halt their approach.

“First, I want you to remember that you’re under oath,” Mr. Larson warns, “and just like we found this dirty little secret, I won’t stop until we find every little thing you choose to lie about. Do we understand one another?”

“Objection, your honor, he’s intimidating the witness!”

“Mr. Larson,” the judge warns.

“I’m simply informing him that I will do my job to the best of my abilities should this office discover that he has perjured himself. Do we not warn every witness who sits on this stand against perjury?” he asks. The judge sighs.

“He’s right, Mr. Drake,” the judge cedes, “but get on with it. The witness is already incarcerated for his role in this matter. Can we please get to this case?” Mr. Larson nods.

“You said that you were talking to a group of friends about doing a BB that night,” Mr. Larson says. “What happened next?” Whitshit purses his lips.

“They asked who the candidate was and why,” he says. “I told them it was some little bitch who lied on me about raping her.”

“And who was the candidate?” Mr. Larson asks.

“You mean the bitch?” Whitmore says, stressing the word so hard that it appears to hurt to say it. “Anastasia Steele.”

“Let the record show that Anastasia Steele is now Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey,” Mr. Larson says, and Whitshit scoffs. I shake my head almost infinitesimally.

I’m a doctor. Despite everything that happened, I’m a doctor. When they picked your ass up, when I knocked your tooth out in my husband’s building, you were still nobody. You didn’t even take advantage of your daddy’s name and the family business, crooked though it may have been. You were nothing and you’re less than nothing now, and you have the nerve to sit on the stand like you’re still running shit?

It’s at that moment that I realize just how small he really is. I mean I knew that he was a small man, but I think this is the smallest I’ve ever seen him—that I’ve ever seen anyone. And this is the man who raped me, who helped to orchestrate one of the most horrific events of my entire life and not only am I much, much more than he is all on my own, but also if he wasn’t in those shackles, I could beat him within an inch of his life.

He’s nothing… absolutely nothing, and it took me this long to see it.

I cock my head and look at him like a strange animal. When I was fifteen, he was Satan. He was all powerful and I just wanted to get away from him and this place. Look at me now and look at him. His life is ruined… totally ruined.

I involuntarily scoff a laugh and the room falls silent with many people looking over at me. I clear my throat and pretend to cough.

“I’m sorry,” I say just below a whisper, covering my mouth to conceal my inner smile that has burst through to my lips. I realize when I refocus that I’ve missed some of the testimony.

“Carly couldn’t wait to get her hands on her,” Whitshit says. “All she wanted was for her to shut the hell up.”

Shut the hell up about what? I wasn’t talking to anybody! Nobody would even listen.

“So, you told your girlfriend that you and Ms. Steele had sex, and your girlfriend forgave you, but wanted revenge against Ms. Steele?”

“Looks that way,” Whitshit says.

“Why?” Mr. Larson asks.

“Objection,” Drake says. “The witness can’t testify to what someone else was thinking.”

“Sustained,” the judge says.

“I’m sorry, I’m just trying to figure out the logic here. You were the one who owed Carly Madison loyalty at the time, not Anastasia Steele. If it were true that, as you and the defense would like for us to believe, Anastasia Steele slept with you willingly, it totally escapes me why any woman—even a teenager—would want to beat and torture the girl who slept with her loser boyfriend but completely forgive her loser boyfriend for cheating on her!”

“Objection! Your honor!” Drake nearly yells.

“What?” Mr. Larson says in actual surprise. “I’m just making an observation.”

“You’re stating an opinion, counselor. Get on with the questioning,” the judge says. I feel a chill go down my spine.

“First of all,” Whitshit says, leaning forward in his seat, “Carly was crazy, and crazy in love with me. The combination turned out to be toxic. That’s why I dumped the bitch…”

“At the altar, I’m told,” Mr. Larson says.

“No better place to drive my point home,” Whitshit says proudly. “And second, it was true.”

“What was true?” Mr. Larson says, his brow furrowed.

“That we had sex. I picked up that little troublemaker at school one day and offered to give her a ride home. Yeah, she was a hot little thing and I could tell nobody else had hit it, so I decided to make my move…”

I can feel my chest tighten. Is he really going to tell this story?

“She got in my jeep and we’re driving around, laughing and talking. She’s giggling and giving me all the signs. I drive to a place where we can have some privacy. We climb in the back seat and we’re getting all hot and heavy, and we finally get into it. Yeah, it was rough breakin’ in a virgin, but it wasn’t my first time. I knew what I was doing.”

Oh, God, is he serious? He must be talking about somebody else, because he’s sure as hell not talking about me.

“Next thing I know, she’s in the back seat cryin’. Probably freaked out because she saw I popped her cherry. Now, I got this poser, white trash wannabe cryin’ and bleedin’ all over my seats when a few minutes earlier, everything was all good! So, I told her to get outta my Jeep. I threw her damn bookbag out behind her and left her standing there. I didn’t want anybody to see us together, and nobody would believe I fucked her anyway…”

He’s starting to blur a bit, but I can still hear him loud and clear.

“Yeah, we had sex, but the next thing I know, she and her father or stepfather or whoever the hell he was are at my house telling my dad I raped her!” He throws his hands up and scoffs in disbelief. “Why would I take from her what I could get from anybody? All the girls wanted me. I was the biggest ticket in school! I was already dating the head cheerleader!”

My muscles are tightening, and my body is starting to betray me. If I wasn’t there experiencing that rape first-hand, I would believe everything that’s coming out of his mouth right now. As if I haven’t suffered enough at the hands of this fucker, he turns to me when he drives his point home.

“Yeah, get mad because I left you there and made you walk home, but rape? Please!”

Oh, dear God in heaven. If I have any more epiphanies in this room, my head is going to burst. He was actually pissed at me for crying in his jeep. Does this fucker really believe he didn’t rape me… that he was fucking entitled to do what he did to me? Jesus, I think I’m going to vomit again.

I see the room shaking and I can’t breathe. Christian is in my line of sight, but I can’t hear anything. His mouth is moving, but I can’t hear the words coming out of his mouth. People are moving towards me, but I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe…


A/N: Of course, the writer would know that Cody was getting a plea before the episode was written. However, the reader wasn’t supposed to know until this episode. I mentioned something in chapter 89 of Becoming at Ana’s last session with Ace about Cody’s plea. If you go back and read, it’s not there anymore. You’re not crazy. I jumped the gun when I put it there. I wasn’t supposed to, so I removed it. Sorry for the confusion.

Twitterpated is a phrase that Owl used in “Bambi” to explain to the young men that the birds were in love. I borrowed the phrase in this episode to talk about the Waldorf guest that besmirched Ana on Twitter. 

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

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 9

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 9

ANASTASIA

“Your witness, Mr. Drake,” Larson says. “Your honor, the state reserves the right to redirect.”

“Yes, sir. Mr. Drake?” Drake comes around the defense table and prepares to face off with my wife.

“Mrs. Grey, you said that you’re the executive director of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc., is that correct?” Drake asks.

“Yes, it is.”

“What does that mean?” he asks.

“I’m 50% owner of the company and I participate in overseeing and directing the daily operations.”

“I see—the only thing is that executive directors are generally part of a non-profit organization. Is Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. a non-profit organization?”

“No,” I answer flatly.

“Then, why do you have a title for an incorrect business structure?” My brow furrows.

“My husband is the CEO of a corporation that doesn’t have a board. Do you want to pull him up here and ask him why he gave himself that title?”

“Oh, so you gave yourself that title?” I fold my arms.

“I’ll be glad to answer that question if you can tell me what it has to do with this case,” I say.

“Well, if you have nothing to hide, Mrs. Grey, it’s an easy enough answer,” he says with a shrug. I sit there looking at him with my arms folded. That doesn’t sound like a reason to me.

“Your honor, can you please direct the witness to answer the question?” he asks.

“In all honesty, counselor, I’d like to know what it has to do with the case myself,” the judge asks.

“It speaks to her character, your honor,” he replies.

“In what way?” the judge asks. Drake has no answer. “Okay, I’ll rephrase. She also said that she’s assistant director of a charity and a psychiatrist. How does being the owner of a company reflect on her character any more than anything else she says she does?”

Drake is still at a loss of words.

“That information is no more relevant than what she had for dinner last night. Please, move on, counselor.” Drake purses his lips and turns back to me.

“Mrs. Grey, for the benefit of clarification for the court, please tell us the nature of your previous relationship with Cody Whitmore.”

“We didn’t have a relationship.”

“No?” he asks. “Part of this case is that your unborn baby was killed during the attack. Do you know who the father was?” He knows exactly who the father was.

“The father was Cody Whitmore.” I reply. Small murmurs can be heard in the court.

“But you said you didn’t have a relationship with him. How could you have been pregnant with his baby if you didn’t have a relationship with him?” I raise my brow.

“Do you want me to answer that? Because I will,” I threaten.

“I asked, didn’t I?” he taunts. You got it, asshole. Wording is everything…

“As I said before, Cody Whitmore offered to give me a ride home from school one day. That harrowing encounter that I spoke of… he then forced me to have sex with him in the back of his jeep in the middle of the desert,” I say succinctly. There are more murmurs in the courtroom.

“Objection, your honor. She’s accusing Mr. Whitmore of a crime for which he has not been convicted.”

“You asked,” the judge says.

“Your honor, she can’t bring conjecture from another case into this one…”

“There’s no case,” the judge retorts. “You repeatedly asked her about her relationship, and she answered your question. Would you rather she perjured herself?” The attorney raises a brow. “Don’t answer that question. Your objection is overruled. Continue.” Drake turns his glare back to me.

“Mrs. Grey, when Mr. Whitmore forced you to have sex with him, did you tell him to stop?”

“Repeatedly,” I reply.

“A simple yes or no will do,” he says in a condescending tone. “Did you tell anyone?”

“I did,” I say, deliberately ignoring his simple yes or no instructions. He shrugs.

“There was never a case. Mr. Whitmore was never arrested. What happened?” I purse my lips. I don’t want to go through this. We’re not arguing the rape case.

“Isn’t it true that you lied when you accused Cody Whitmore of raping you?” he asks. There it is… he said it…

“No,” I say, forgetting about ignoring yes or no.

“Isn’t it true that your father confronted Cody and Franklin Whitmore in their home about this alleged rape and discovered that you were lying?” he presses.

“I…”

“If your own father didn’t believe you, why should we?” he barks. I lean forward in the seat.

“Are you going to let me answer a question or are you going to narrate a story that you weren’t even present for?” I retort. Drake is taken aback, but recovers quickly.

“By all means, Mrs. Grey, we’d love to hear your story. We’re all ears,” he says sarcastically.

“No, you’re all mouth, but I’ll speak whenever you’re ready,” I say.

“Mrs. Grey?” the judge warns.

“Apologies,” I say to the judge before turning back to Drake. “May I speak now?” He smirks at me and gestures for me to speak.

“No, my father did not confront Cody and Franklin Whitmore. My father didn’t find out what happened to me until years later. My mother didn’t even tell him. The man who was married to my mother at the time, now he confronted Cody and Frank Whitmore. And no, they didn’t discover that I was lying, because I wasn’t lying. They decided that I was lying. And remember, counselor, I never used the word ‘rape.’ I used the word ‘forced.’ You put the label on it. Then again, a rose by any other name, right?

“And to answer your final question, I don’t care if you believe me or not. Nobody else did, why should you? The baby’s not here anymore—there’s no DNA. So, there’s no way to tell if the baby was even Cody Whitmore’s. There are two important things, though. There’s a video and there are pictures—lots and lots of pictures. So, don’t believe me.” I turn to the jury. “None of you have to believe me… but believe the video.”

“That’s very convincing, Mrs. Grey, but the fact remains that when your relationship with Cody Whitmore…”

“I was raped,” I interrupt him.

“Objection, your hono…”

“I. Was. Raped!” I bellow. All my cool is gone, and if this fucker says that I had a relationship with that asshole one more time…

“You said it,” I continue furious. “You know that’s what it is. No little box that you try to put it in is going to change that. Your truth is not my truth! I was there! I was present when my virginity was unceremoniously and painfully ripped from me without my consent. The fact that you don’t have a nice little piece of paper or a case or a complaint or a conviction from a 15-year-old girl whose stepfather and mother silenced her for a fee won’t erase or undo the fact that I. Was raped!

“You can hold me in contempt of court. You can throw me in jail. You can fine me. You can do whatever you see fit, but what you’re not going to do is call what that man did to me a relationship. I was raped—and they can try him for it and convict him of it, or they can forget this conversation ever happened, but it doesn’t change the facts! Sex without consent is rape, and I was raped… Your Honor!” I turn to the judge on the last two words before turning my gaze back to Drake.

“Your honor?” Drake says, as if Butterfly had said nothing.

“Counselor, you purposely opened this can of worms. Now you need to deal with it. The witness answered your question about the ‘relationship…’” He physically does the finger quotes around the word relationship, “… that she had with the person in question. If there’s something unclear about the answer, you may ask for clarification—which you did, and you received it. She has made an accusation and the court may choose to act on those accusations, but you can’t make her change her answer. Objection overruled.” Drake rolls his eyes.

“Did your alleged rape have anything to do with this case?” Drake probes.

“Do you want me to answer that?” I say, folding my arms and crossing my legs. “I’ll gladly answer that question if you really want me to if for no other reason but to hear you bark another objection.” Drake looks at the judge.

“Your move, counselor,” he says.

“Yes, Mrs. Grey, answer the question,” he replies flatly. I cock my head at the counselor.

“If you ask the 15-year-old ostracized teenager who was hit over the head, thrown into the trunk of a car, spit on, ridiculed, beaten, fearing that they were going to throw her—bound—into that bonfire and burn her alive, she wouldn’t have an answer for you. She was screaming for her life, begging for her mother, and asking what she did wrong. She had no clue what was going on.

“However, if you ask the educated M.D. and psychiatrist sitting in front of you now, well-trained to identify the psychopathic mind, able to look back on the incident with 20/20 hindsight and knowing who perpetrated the act—well, she would give you a whole-hearted ‘yes,’ that her rape had everything to do with that attack!”

“Ob…” I cackle loudly at the beginning of his objection.

“You. Asked!” I abruptly and loudly interrupt his objection. “You should be objecting to your line of questioning if you don’t like my responses, counselor, and not my responses!” Drake looks at the judge.

“She’s got a point,” the judge says. “Mr. Drake, a bit of advice. You can direct your questions any way you see fit as long as it’s not in contempt of this court. You cannot, however, direct the answers of the witness because they answer ‘yes’ when you want them to answer ‘no.’ Your continued objections because you’re not getting the answers that you wish for will drag this case out for weeks and justice will not be served. That is why we’re all here, right?”

He narrows his eyes at the judge like he’s going to leap over the bench at him I’m shocked that he has that much hutzpah… or stupidity, whichever fits.

Drake turns his attention back to me and proceeds to ask me the same questions over and over again. He just rewords them, but they’re pretty much the same. I repeatedly tell him that I didn’t see anybody that night. I saw several figures in black outlined by a bonfire. I heard Carly Madison when she got in my face right before she slapped the stars out of me. I couldn’t identify anything through my tears or through lights being shined in my face and afterwards, through my eyes being swollen shut. After a while, I just begin to give him monotoned answers until he finally changes up a question on me.

“So, you have no idea who hit you, who burned you, who raped you…” Good grief, is this guy the defense attorney for Whitshit, too? He must be, because it’s imperative to him that I slip up on that rape accusation, which has nothing to do with Sullivan.

“Ah, ah, ah,” I interrupt him. “I know who raped me—that came first, but who hit me, who kicked me, who burned me? No, I had no idea from my recollections of that night except Carly Madison for certain. For all I know, it could have been you.”

He recoils a bit at my accusation, then he laughs.

“Mrs. Grey,” he says, his voice filled with mirth, “are you now insinuating that I was part of the attack that night?” He looks at the jury as if to say, “She’s lost her marbles.”

“I’m not insinuating anything, counselor,” I say, folding my arms again and sitting back in the seat. “It’s like I said, I have no specific recollection who attacked me that night because I couldn’t see. So, for all I know, it could have been you… but you’re not in the video.” There’s a pause and an eerie silence follows for a few moments.

“Well, you couldn’t see… maybe I was there,” he taunts.

“Were you?” I ask coolly, resting my elbows on the armrests and entwining my fingers together. “Because if you were, you’re occupying the wrong chair.”

My final words roll out with a low, vicious gravel and I stare at him intently, waiting for him to throw his next question at me. Instead…

“No further questions, your honor,” he says.

“Mr. Larson?” the judge says.

“Redirect, your honor,” Mr. Larson says, and the judge nods.

“Dr. Grey, it’s clear that you didn’t see anyone that night. However, your description of what happened was very thorough. Yet, when the police asked if you remembered anything, you said that you didn’t. How is that possible? Did the video jog your memory?”

“I… remembered… everything,” I say slowly. “I didn’t remember it immediately upon awaking, but I remembered. Every kick, every spit, every stream of piss—the ones that hit my back, my chest, and the ones that went into my eyes and mouth,” she spits with disgust.

“I told my mother that I didn’t remember. I told my father I didn’t remember. I knew who had done this. I could hear their voices. They were taunting me and tormenting me. They were celebrating! But what good would it have done to tell? No one believed me, I was nobody! I was nothing! No matter what happened to me, nobody believed me. I almost died, and nobody would believe me if I told them what happened. If I had died, no one would have mourned me but my best friend and my father. There probably wouldn’t have even been a funeral!

“Tell somebody… for what? For what? I tried once to tell the truth and look what it got me. I told what happened before and look what happened. Where did it get me? Damn near dead at a bonfire where a bunch of teenagers beats me beyond recognition while countless others watched! They already thought I was dead, you heard them. If I tried again, they might really kill me. I was nothing! I was no one! Nobody believed me, nobody ever believed me! Why would I say anything after that? What good would it do?”

I look over at Drake.

“Then he has the nerve to accuse me of practiced regurgitation? Is that something he made up, because I’m a doctor—an MD—and I’ve never heard of it. I’ve heard of self-induced regurgitation, which usually involves a finger. I’ve heard of involuntary regurgitation, which you usually have no control over, but practiced regurgitation? Yeah, my Ph.D. didn’t cover that one, so I may have to go Google it!”

I wonder if that phrase sounds as ridiculous to everyone else now as it does to me.

“And by the way, I don’t have to practice regurgitation with that video because I lived that horror, and anybody who can look at that without some kind of physical or emotional reaction has a heart made of steel and a stomach lined with it!”

Drake isn’t fazed at all by what I’m saying. He doesn’t even bother to look at me. He’s probably heard much worse. He just looks down and scribbles something in his legal pad. I scoff, cock my head, and gesture to Drake to prove my point.

“My mother wasn’t even there. If nobody else in the world believes you, isn’t your mom supposed to believe you? Even after she got all that money, she didn’t believe me. You would think that after that kind of confirmation that something wasn’t right that something would have clicked in her head and she would have realized that I was telling the truth, but no. If anything, it made her treat me even worse for making her look bad in proper society!

“So, I lied. I was a non-person, and nobody was going to believe me anyway. So, I told everyone I didn’t remember, including the police. They questioned me and questioned me… No, they interrogated me—George Sullivan, in fact.”

“Objection—an open case, your honor,” Drake says.

“Sustained,” the judge says. I sigh.

“You said the police interrogated you,” Mr. Larson says.

“Yes,” I say. “I don’t know what I’m allowed to say, but this officer kept at me from the time I woke up in the hospital to the time my father took me back to Montesano. I was gone for months—starting a new life, and when they came and brought me back to this hell, there he was.” I gesture violently with both hands.

“I couldn’t get into any of the schools in Henderson, because I was so damn untouchable. They came up with whatever reasons they wanted to, but they wouldn’t let me in, and I sure as hell wasn’t going back to Green Valley. I went to a completely different school in a completely different district under a completely different name, and he still found me. He asked me at least eight times over the next year and a half if I remembered anything, and I gave him the same answer every time.

“Then my boyfriend came down here and shit started hitting the fan… And that’s when I knew.”

“Knew what, Mrs. Grey?” Mr. Larson asks.

“What they won’t let me say,” I reply matter-of-factly. “What he’s going to object to if I mention his client’s brother’s name and what he’s currently being charged with. So, I may not be able to say that, but I can say this. George Sullivan found me no matter where I was. I didn’t leave a forwarding address or a phone number when I ran away from Vegas. I just ran… but he found me. My daddy didn’t even know where I was, but George Sullivan did.

“For the first few years, he called me repeatedly trying to find out if anything had come back. No, nothing, I would tell him. I was trying so hard to push the entire situation as far back into the recesses of my mind as I could get it. It wouldn’t do any good for me to speak up. Nobody cared, just this one diligent cop from Henderson… right?”

“What did you do, Mrs. Grey?” Mr. Larson asks.

“I lived in fear,” I reply. “My father taught me to shoot… well! I can hit a mosquito off a soda can at 20 feet, and I still lived in fear. I had a total meltdown when George Sullivan called me three years ago and told me that someone was looking around in my alias. I was afraid they were looking for me again. He was afraid someone was going to find out what really happened.”

“Objection,” Drake says. “She can’t speak to the state of mind of someone who’s not here to confirm or deny.”

“Sustained,” the judge says. I roll my eyes.

“It doesn’t matter,” I say.

“It does matter, Mrs. Grey,” Larson says. “That’s why we’re here.”

“No, it doesn’t,” I say raising my eyes to him. “They can’t hurt me anymore. But I will tell you this. If anybody believes me or not, I know they’re listening. George Sullivan nearly went into a rage when my boyfriend came down here and started sniffing around. He threatened me—threatened me to call him off—pretending that he was protecting me all this time.” I scoff. “Protecting me… that’s rich.” I shake my head. Mr. Larson sighs.

“That’s all I have for this witness, your honor.” Mr. Larson says.

“Redirect, Mr. Drake?” he says.

“No, your honor,” Drake replies. Thank God! I’m ready to get out of here.

“Very well. It’s later than I thought, but we’re going to take an hour recess for lunch and resume testimony this afternoon. Court is in recess until 2:30pm.” He bangs his gavel and the jury is led out of one side of the courtroom while Vincent Sullivan is led out of the other side. Christian says something to Jason as I make my way over to our group. He holds the half-gate open for me and gently grasps both biceps the moment I pass through the gate.

“Are you okay?” he asks, examining my eyes intently. “What do you need?”

I can’t lie to him. I’m not okay. This whole thing is driving me nuts and I’m a nervous wreck… and it’s nowhere near over. So, I ignore the first question and answer the second one.

“A double-shot of vodka,” I reply. He envelops me in his arms and embraces me warmly.

“When we get back, I promise,” he says. I sink into his chest and just stand there for a while. I wish I could just stay like this and not have to deal with this crap, but…

“Jason is retrieving our lunch. It’s already downstairs. Come on, let’s go eat.” I nod and reluctantly pull myself away from my husband’s chest. He cups my cheek again and gazes into my eyes, raising his brows. I nod once and we proceed to the door.

“Mr. Grey?”

It’s Mr. Larson. He catches us just as we’re stepping away from the seats. He allows the people closest to us to file out of the room before he speaks.

“I want you to know that I was only doing my job when I contacted you about Mrs. Whitmore. I don’t regret that, and I’d do it again.”

My husband glares at him, but says nothing. He’s holding my hand firmly and I can tell that he wants to say something, but he doesn’t. This is the wrong place and time for you to bring that shit up.

“But… for how I behaved when we first met,” he continues, “sir, I am sincerely sorry. I truly hope you’ll accept my apology.”

My husband is clearly taken aback by his statement. I can tell that the anger is knocked right out of him and he’s a bit confused.

“Maybe one day, I’ll explain my reaction to you. Just know that I’m sorry, sir,” he says before he turns back to the prosecutor’s table to gather his things. I look up at my husband and he gazes back at me questioning. I don’t know how to take this either, so I just shrug.

“Mr. Larson,” he says. He has just finished stacking his materials and he turns around.

“I accept your apology,” he says, proffering his hand to Mr. Larson, who nods once and accepts the shake.

“Thank you,” he says, his voice low.

“Now, fry this guy,” Christian adds.

“Beyond recognition,” he confirms. “I’ll nail his ass to the wall.” Christian nods and releases his hand, then opens the gate for Mr. Larson to exit.

“Have a good lunch, Mr. Grey, Dr. Grey.” He steps out and leaves the courtroom.

*-*

We lunch on Capriotti’s subs, chips, and sodas, and although they are quite tasty, I’m hoping this isn’t what our lunch is going to look like every day. I can’t tolerate much more than this anyway on my nervous—and recently emptied—stomach. However, I ask Jason if he can find somewhere close that may deliver kabobs or chicken wraps or something else light, just in case I have another bout with practiced regurgitation. He vows to get on it.

I notice that Marilyn only sips on a Gatorade and a meal replacement shake for lunch. I also notice Christian’s reaction to her lack of real sustenance, but he doesn’t press the matter, probably because he’s too concerned about me. It doesn’t get past me that she didn’t eat anything at dinner yesterday either.

I feel like I’m headed to the gallows when we go back to the courtroom. The only good news about this whole thing is that I don’t have to testify anymore. We’re seated, Vincent Sullivan is seated, and the jury comes back in…

And Mr. Larson calls his next witness to the stand.

“The state calls George Sullivan to the stand.”

George Sullivan 02

The murmurs begin immediately. George Sullivan is led in through the same door that his brother Vincent came through moments ago. For the first time since he’s been in the courtroom, Vincent raises his head and a disbelieving gaze to his brother. George takes a seat on the witness stand and is sworn in. He’s wearing a dark blue suit just like his brother, and they’re sporting matching bracelets courtesy of the Department of Corrections.

I know that he’s about the same age as Jason, maybe only a couple of years older, but he looks older than my dad. He’s got the whole gray sideburn thing going on with the rugged thinning gray beard look. He would be attractive for an older gentleman… if it wasn’t for that whole obstructing-justice-evidence-tampering thing.

Vincent is just as horrified as I am surprised to see George on the stand. He’s going to testify against his own brother? After everything he’s done to protect him?

“State your name for the record, sir,” Mr. Larson says.

“George Randolph Sullivan.”

“And your current address?”

“Currently the Clark County Detention Center.”

“Mr. Sullivan, can you tell the court what your occupation was on March 10, 2001?” Mr. Larson asks.

“I was a police officer in the city of Henderson,” he says.

“And what’s your relation to this case, Mr. Sullivan?”

“I was the first officer on the scene of the attack,” he replies. Mr. Larson raises a brow.

“The first officer?” he asks. George Sullivan clears his throat.

“The only officer,” he clarifies. Mr. Larson nods.

 “Were you responding to a call of a disturbance?” he says.

“No, sir.”

“Was there an emergency or crime in progress that you were immediately aware of?” Mr. Larson presses.

“No, sir.”

“So, what brought you to this particular gathering?”

“I saw the fire from the street,” he says. “It’s illegal to open burn anywhere in Clark county.”

“That’s not what he told me,” Christian whispers to me.

“Did you expect him to tell you the truth?” I whisper back.

“So, what happened when you saw the fire? Did you investigate?” Mr. Larson continues his questioning.

“Yes, I did,” George Sullivan says.

“And then what?”

“As soon as I drove up to the fire, everybody ran away.” Mr. Larson retrieves another document from the evidence table.

“Your honor, the state is entering into evidence exhibit 104,” Mr. Larson says and hands the document to George Sullivan. “Mr. Sullivan, can you please tell the court what you’re holding?”

“It appears to be the police report from March 10, 2001,” he replies.

“Can you please read the highlighted section to the court,” Mr. Larson says. George Sullivan sighs.

“’There were several school age children surrounding the victim. When I arrived, they dropped her and ran away. Upon closer investigation, I discovered that she was unconscious and unresponsive.’”

“What did you do after that, Mr. Sullivan?”

“I called for paramedics,” he says.

“And then?”

“And then they came,” George Sullivan answers, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Let me rephrase my question. Was the victim naked?”

“Yes.”

“Did you try to cover her?”

“No.”

“Did you attempt to administer CPR?”

“No.”

“Did you do anything at all to assist Anastasia Steele in any way when you saw her lying nearly lifeless on the ground?” Mr. Larson presses. George Sullivan sighs heavily.

“No.”

“Did you check for a pulse…?”

“You asked me if I did anything to help her. I said, ‘No,’” George Sullivan snaps. Mr. Larson pauses.

“So, I just want to make sure that I have this correct, Mr. Sullivan,” Mr. Larson retorts firmly. “You saw her naked; you saw the burns; you saw the bleeding; you saw the bruises. You were still an officer of the law at the time, and you did nothing. Correct?”

Ouch! Double ouch!

“Correct,” George Sullivan nearly growls.

“How long did it take for the paramedics to arrive?”

“It’s Henderson. Three minutes, maybe?” he says.

“Are you asking me or telling me, Mr. Sullivan?” Mr. Larson says.

“About three minutes,” he replies.

“And how did you know where to tell them to come? Did you see an address? Did you know where you were?”

“The GPS in my squad car,” George Sullivan replies.

“So, you went back to your squad car to call the paramedics,” Mr. Larson presses.

“Yes.”

“Did you call for backup?”

“No.”

“Did you collect any evidence?” There’s a pause.

“I refuse to answer to avoid self-incrimination.”

And here we go. He satisfied his subpoena by showing up. He can corroborate what evidence they may have, but any of the circumstantial or uncorroborated evidence that can possibly be used against his brother, he can plead the fifth.

The judge has to call order to the courtroom, because several separate conversations have ensued.

“You’ve already said the perpetrators ran from the scene. Did they leave their cars behind? Did you gather any license plates?”

Of course, he did. He confessed that to me when he was trying to get me to call Christian off, but of course…

“I refuse to answer to avoid self-incrimination.”

“You show up at a bonfire where a girl is being brutalized beyond recognition. It’s your duty to protect and serve, sir. If you couldn’t do it, then you should have stepped down and let somebody else do it who could. You could look at that young girl and do nothing? You can even look at this now and feel no conviction for your actions, or lack thereof?” George looks over at his brother and his gaze softens before he says,

“I refuse to answer to avoid self-incrimination.”

Even now, he’s throwing himself on his sword for his brother. It would be admirable had I not been the girl at the receiving end of the brand.

“Thank God you didn’t work in my jurisdiction,” Mr. Larson seethes.

“Objection, your honor,” Drake says.

“Sustained. Counselor?” the judge warns.

“I have no further questions for this witness, your honor,” Mr. Larson says, his voice dripping with disgust. “It’s not like he’s going to answer them anyway.”

“Your witness, Mr. Drake,” the judge says.

“Mr. Sullivan, did you positively identify any of the teenagers who fled the scene that night?”

“I did not.”

“Did you personally examine any evidence that placed any perpetrators at the scene that night?” George Sullivan ponders the question.

“I did not.”

“Did any witnesses come forward to you with any information about the attack?”

“No.”

“When she was conscious, did Anastasia Steele give you any information about her attackers?”

“No.”

“Did you ask Anastasia Steele any time after the attack if she knew who her attackers were?”

“Yes.”

“Did she tell you?”

“No.”

“No further questions for this witness.”

The bailiff leads George Sullivan out of the courtroom, and he stares at his brother the entire time with sad eyes. I don’t know what to feel right now—anger, betrayal, sympathy… what the fuck, who cares?

The next witnesses to be sworn in were the paramedics. This is the first time I’ve heard this part of the story.

“I expected to find a full-on crime scene,” one of the paramedics explains, “or the area taped off or something, cops walking around checking things out… I only saw one guy. He walked right from his car and took us over to where she was. I thought she was dead. I wondered why he called us instead of the medical examiner. When I saw that she was still alive, we got to work.”

“What did you do?” Mr. Larson asks.

“We put a halo on her first, and then we had to get her onto the backboard. We couldn’t roll her over because her skin was hanging off her back. She was in really bad shape. I’ve seen people cut from cars with the jaws of life with less injuries than she had. Everywhere… just everywhere. She was bruised up and swollen all over. She smelled heavily of urine. Her hair was matted and sticking to her face and head. We had to put the IV in her foot.

“Like I said, we couldn’t roll her over to transport her. We put clean, wet gauze on her back before we covered her with a sheet and transferred her to the stretcher. It was pretty cold, and she was already at a risk of hypothermia. We had no idea how long she had been lying there, so we did try to cool the burns. The officer said he had only been there moments before he called us, but she was freezing.

“We had her face-down on the backboard, but we couldn’t put her face in the pillow, or she would suffocate. Rolling her on her side was too risky because she could roll over on her back. So, we had to fashion a head rest for her, like a massage table, so that she wouldn’t suffocate or get hurt further in transport. I called in a hot response priority 2 emergency—non-responsive female, approximately 16 years old, evidence of multiple blunt force trauma—and we got her to the ER.”

“Can you tell the court what ‘hot response’ is?” Mr. Larson asks.

“Lights and sirens,” he responds.

“What happened when you got her to the hospital?”

“Well, you know how those teams are. They want to roll you out and get you into trauma as quickly as possible, but we had to stop them and explain to them how we had her rigged in the ambulance…”

Drake didn’t have many questions for the paramedics. He asked them the same ridiculous questions that he asked George Sullivan—was anybody else at the scene when they got there; did they see anything; blah, blah, blah. Now it’s time for the doctor to testify. His story pretty much picks up where the paramedics left off…

“We couldn’t just yank her out of the ambulance, but we didn’t have any other way to transport her but to roll her onto her side. We could prop her body forward a little on pillows and stabilize her neck on the halo the same way. Then we just held her in place until we got her to the examination room.

“The paramedics told us that they took no pictures of her at the scene—that there was only one cop there and they thought he was waiting for backup, but he never touched the girl. For liability purposes and possible chain of command and evidence, we took pictures—before and after we cleaned her up.”

“You cleaned her up before you treated her?” Mr. Larson asks.

“We had to. We couldn’t see the scars or bruises except for those awful second-degree burns on her back. We couldn’t see who she was but cleaning her up didn’t help much. She didn’t have any fingerprints on file, no DNA. We had no way to identify her.” Mr. Larson goes to the evidence table and retrieves another document.

“Your honor, the state is entering into evidence exhibit 119,” Mr. Larson says and hands the document to the doctor. “Doctor, if you could, please tell us the extent of Ms. Steele’s injuries as indicated in this report.” The doctor clears his throat, pulls a pair of reading glasses from his pocket and put them on.

“The patient suffered from multiple contusions all over her body.” He reads a little more. “She had five broken ribs, a collapsed lung… two dislocated shoulders, a badly sprained ankle, several cuts and scrapes of unknown origins.” He flips the page.

“She suffered from two hematomas—acute subdural and epidural, the second of which caused the coma. Both hematomas were treated in the hospital. She had three second-degree burns on her back, and she was pregnant—approximately five weeks. The fetus ejected before she came out of the coma.”

Jesus, I had subdural and epidural hematomas? How did I never know this?

“How long was Ms. Steele in a coma?”

“Three weeks,” the doctor says.

“And what happened during those three weeks?”

“We were waiting for the police to come up with a missing person’s report, but nothing came up for days. One officer came almost every day, asking if she had regained consciousness. I thought it was pretty strange that he didn’t ask for any evidence.”

“Objection, your honor,” Drake says.

“Grounds?” the judge says.

“The doctor is testifying to the issue of whether the police collected evidence. He doesn’t know what they did or didn’t collect.”

“Your honor, the doctor is only stating that the police didn’t ask him for evidence,” Mr. Larson interjects. “The police would have had to consult with the attending physician or the parents before collecting evidence from an unconscious minor.”

“He’s right, Mr. Drake. Objection overruled. Continue, Mr. Larson.”

“Doctor, were you finished with your answer?”

“Well, only that we waited a week before we washed her hair in case they wanted evidence. After that, we had to wash it. It was putrid.”

“What happens next?” Larson asks.

“We wait,” the doctor says. “A couple of weeks later, this lady shows up and says she’s the girl’s mother. She gives us the name Anastasia Steele, shows us her birth certificate, and she’s Carla Morton. We asked why she hadn’t come forth sooner. She indicated that she thought the girl had run away. A few days after that, Anastasia wakes up. We had already released whatever findings we had to the police. That was pretty much the extent of our involvement except to make sure that she recovered—physically, that is.”

“Can you tell us what you mean by that?” Mr. Larson asks.

“You didn’t see this kid,” the doctor says. “I’m not a psychiatrist. I didn’t know what to say to her. Her mother had showed up and while I could suggest care, I couldn’t do anything without permission. This girl was messed up pretty bad. Had that been my daughter…” He trails off shaking his head.

“This kid was messed up pretty bad,” he repeats. “We could make sure that her body was healed. We couldn’t do anything else.”

The doctor finishes the story of my healing, indicating that I was discharged to Daddy and that was the last he had heard about it. Drake only asks if he’s certain about the length of my pregnancy, to which the doctor replies that in his professional opinion, I was five weeks pregnant.

I am exhausted, and I want to go to bed. Had he not called a recess until tomorrow, I would have walked out.

We gather outside of the courtroom and prepare for the building exit. Knowing the formation my family is going to take to keep me from being hounded by the press, I have to make an announcement before we get on the elevator.

“I want to thank every single one of you for making this trip. I couldn’t do this without each and every one of you.”

“You’re welcome, Annie.”
“Of course, Ana, we love you.”
“Sure thing, Bosslady.”
“Don’t mention it, Jewel.”

*-*

Home, sweet home… at least for the moment. I’m stepping out of my shoes as soon as we walk into the suite. I look back at my husband and he’s looking at his phone and frowning.

“Shit,” he hisses and sits down at the dining table, swiping his phone and putting it to his ear. “Lorenz… what happened?”

Lorenz? Did he say Lorenz?

“When did that happen?”

Jesus, they’re going to bother him while he’s here? Seriously? This is like one of the most stressful and most important moments of my life, and they can’t give him this time to be with me? I’m utterly surprised that these fuckers didn’t call him while I was in Labor and Delivery with my goddamn twins!

“Christian,” I say, intent on letting him know that I’m displeased with them contacting him unless the building is burning the fuck down. He’s listening intently on the line, his expression impassive, but he doesn’t acknowledge me calling his name.

What the fuck?

This is my time and, dammit, I want my time. I need to decompress from the shit that happened in court and I need his moral support more than ever. And now, I find that I have to share him with GEH during this time? These fuckers got my Christmas. They’re not getting this time.

“Christian!” I say more forcefully. He turns an intense glare to me that unnerves me a bit.

“This is my time, Christian,” I say firmly, my voice relaying a confidence that I had a minute ago but has faltered a bit with that glare.

“I just need a few minutes to get this straightened out,” he says, just as firmly.

“Why can’t they handle this on their own?” I say, trying not to whine. “We’re not on vacation…”

“I just need a few minutes,” he says again, his irritation rising. I can hear Ros through his phone, and she hasn’t stopped talking, so he must have muted the phone.

“God, I’m so tired of them not being able to make a decision without you!” I’m whining now. “This is my time and I need you!”

“Anastasia! I only need a few minutes!” he shouts, and I do mean he shouts.

He doesn’t wait for me to answer him. He turns his attention right back to the call, unmuting it so that he can interject with a question. If I respond to that, there’s going to be a fight. I know it, and I’m sure that he knows it, too.

I gaze at him in horror for about five seconds after he starts talking again. Then, I turn around and leave the room. I pick up my purse and shoes and march out of the suite, closing the door behind me.

I suddenly deflate once I leave the room. I suddenly feel… useless… no, meaningless. I probably shouldn’t, but I do. If there’s one time where I feel that I should take precedence over anything else, it’s now.

I can’t even lift my head. It’s like a boulder came out of nowhere and knocked all the wind and the fight right out of me. I watch the carpeted floor as I walk to the elevator. I mindlessly push the button and listen for the “ding” that’ll take me away from this floor. I don’t hear it, but the doors open, and I step inside, pressing the button labelled Sky Bar.

I put my shoes on while I’m in the elevator. I want to throw a temper tantrum. Part of me feels like I’m being unreasonable. The other part of me feels like my feelings never count. I’m supposed to understand, and the fact that I hurt or don’t like something doesn’t matter, whether it’s reasonable or not.

The elevator opens and I exit to a bar with floor to ceiling windows and an enviable view of the Las Vegas Strip, that is, if I didn’t totally resent being here. Fuck it, I need a drink.

I have to go to that courtroom every day and put on the strong façade, pretending that this stuff isn’t ripping me apart from the inside out. I have to listen to them portray me as a wanton slut at fifteen who was asking for it from Cody Whitshit and deserved to be tortured by a gang of ruthless, vicious teenagers. I have to relive the agonizing loneliness I felt and the bone-trembling fear that I was going to die that night; the feelings of wishing that I had died that night instead of having to stay here with the people who called themselves my parents.

All those horrible feelings are coming back to me. They’re rushing in on me—in the morning when I get up to get dressed to go to the courtroom; when I walk into the courtroom; when I have to sit and listen to this garbage—and today, I’m barely holding on by a thread.

As I sit here sipping my vodka rocks that Christian promised me when we took a break for lunch, determined not to get drunk since I must be in court again tomorrow for yet more abuse, I’m slowly—and finally—coming to grips with the fact that I and our family will always come second when it comes to GEH. Part of me feels that it shouldn’t be that way, that I and the twins should be first and foremost on his list of priorities. The other part of me feels as though things are just as they should be.

GEH was always his first real love. He built that company on nothing but a loan and an idea, and he’s become one of the most powerful men in the country—arguably, the world. Of course, he would want to nurture it and make sure that it remains well and profitable. Even I put everything in my life on hold to go down there and bang out some of the problems in the company.

As logical as that sounds, I still feel the churning in my stomach and the sinking and burning that comes along with ultimate rejection. I’m sensible; I know that’s not what’s going on, but I can’t ignore it… I’m undeniably jealous that she gets first billing.

I refuse to let the tears fall that burn my eyes right now, but the Bitch is inside bawling her eyes out and having a full-on temper tantrum.

“You look like you could use a friend.”

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A deep, smooth voice with a British accent breaches my thoughts, and I look over to see a very handsome black man sliding into the bar stool next to me.

What am I supposed to do? I could use a friend, but I really don’t want to engage some stranger. I can’t even think of a snappy comeback right now, but…

“Oh, the silent type, I see,” he says as he gestures to the bartender. “Can you make a bramble, mate?” he asks. The bartender nods and proceeds to mix gin with lemon and something else. I’m not really paying attention.

“It helps to talk,” he presses while the bartender mixes his cocktail. I sigh.

“I hope you don’t take this as me being rude, but I’m very married,” I say, looking at him only long enough to make my statement, then turning back to my drink.

“I gathered as much,” he says. “That rock you’re wearing can probably be seen from a space station.” The bartender brings his drink and sets it in front of him. “I’m not trying to bed ya, love. Like I said, sometimes, it helps to talk.” I push the short part of my hair behind my ear.

“That’s very kind of you, but I’m not in the practice of talking intimately to strangers.” He nods and takes a drink of his bramble.

“Well, talking to strangers is how you make friends,” he says. “Do you live here?” he asks, apparently still trying to break the ice.

“No,” I reply. “I’m here on business…” so to speak.

“What type of business?” he presses.

“That’s one of those intimate details that I’d rather not share,” I reply. Part of me wants to call Chuck for help. I shouldn’t have left the floor without him anyway. The other part of me is glad that he’s not here macho-ing up on this guy. I’m not really sure I could even tolerate it at the moment.

“I see,” he says, taking another healthy sip of his drink. “Well, I’m on vacation. I’ve always wanted to come to Vegas, to see what all the fuss was about. It’s pretty—lots of lights and things to grab your attention, but besides that, I’m afraid it’s not much.”

I could have told you that.

“My name’s Roland,” he says. What’s yours?”

“Anastasia,” I reply, not really sure I should have given him my name, but my innate good manners kicked in before my brain could tell my mouth to stop.

“It’s nice to meet you, Anastasia,” he says, lifting his drink in a salute. I just nod. I don’t have the strength to beat them off with a stick every time they approach me, especially not today. If I tell you that I’m married, that should be enough. Even though I know it’s not for some people, it’s enough for me.

I continue to sip my vodka rocks until it’s gone, then I ask the bartender for another. Roland is still chattering about something, but I’m only half paying attention—something about the shows on the strip and the cost of everything in Vegas, I’m not completely sure. I’ve already decided to leave the bar once I’ve finished my drink… I’m just not in any hurry to finish my drink.

At that moment, the bartender comes back to us with a second drink for Roland. Okay, I’m not drunk—he didn’t order a second drink.

“What is this?” Roland asks.

“Another bramble, sir,” the bartender replies.

“I… didn’t order this,” Roland protests. “I intended to, but I didn’t order it.”

“It’s compliments of the gentleman at the end of the bar.”

We both look to the end of the bar to see who ordered the drink for Roland.

“Very intense looking bloke,” Roland says. For some reason, his accent makes me think of Australia. We had our moments, but the trip was fun overall. I wish I was there now instead of here.

“I think he’s trying to get me to leave,” Roland says, his voice smooth. I raise my eyes to the “bloke” at the end of the bar and calmly turn back to my drink, taking a small sip.

“I think he is, too,” I say, pushing the short part of my hair behind my ear before turning to look at the handsome black man. “That’s my husband.”

Roland raises a brow at me, then looks at Christian. He raises his fresh drink to Christian again and nods before turning his attention back to me.

“It was nice talking to you, Anastasia,” he says, his voice still honey smooth. “I hope that whatever situation has you feeling and looking so defeated is rectified soon.” I purse my lips and fight back the tears that threaten to fall.

“Thank you,” I say, just above a whisper without raising my gaze from the glass. He stands up and walks away. I take a moment to compose myself, quickly wiping away the tear that falls just as Roland leaves the bar. I feel and hear him take the seat next to me.

“What’s his name?” he asks, with no malice. I look over at him briefly and he’s looking at me with kind eyes.

“Roland,” I say, taking another swallow of my drink before staring back into the glass.

“He’s attractive,” he observes. I don’t answer. “What does he do?”

“I don’t know,” I reply, without looking up from my glass. “I’m sure you’ll find out though.”

“Okay,” he says. “I guess I deserved that. You can’t be angry with me for wanting to protect what’s mine,” he adds. I look over at him.

“No, I guess I can’t, can I?” I say before turning my gaze back to my drink.

“You two talked for a little while. He doesn’t know who you are?” he asks.

“He did the talking,” I say, still staring down into my drink. “If he knows who I am, he didn’t let on.” He sighs.

“I protect what’s mine, Butterfly. GEH is mine, too,” he defends softly.

“I am very aware of that,” I reply, still coming to grips with the fact that no matter what happens, GEH will always be first. I’ve been jockeying with GEH for position for quite some time now. It’s high time for me to realize that’s a battle I’m not going to win. I’m not angry about it, just a little disappointed. Had I accepted it sooner, I might not have felt so forlorn at Christmas. It’s my own fault. How could I expect him to change just because he married me?

“You know you’re important to me, don’t you?” he asks. I nod. I know.

“You know that you and the twins are the most important things in my life, don’t you?”

What do I say? Do I lie to him? Of course, I know we’re the most important things to you, more important than your precious company that you’ve poured years of hard work, sleepless nights, and blood, sweat, and tears into to get it to where it is today…

“You don’t know?” he says after I’ve taken too long to answer. I shake my head as if to shake off a bad daydream. He turns his stool to me and leans his arm on the bar.

“I would give it all up for you. Don’t you know that?” he asks with earnest.

“I would never ask you to do that,” I emphasize, evading the question.

“But you know that I would,” he reiterates, waiting for me to acknowledge his confession. Maybe it’s the stress of the case, or maybe it’s the alcohol, but I can’t hold the tears back anymore.

“Sometimes, I don’t,” I say, my voice soft with tears falling down my cheeks. “The business that you’ve built provides us with an incredible life. It provides me and the twins with everything we could possibly hope for, possibly ever need… but I still feel like I come second to GEH. Isn’t that the most selfish thing you’ve ever heard?”

I bury my face in my hands and cry silently. I don’t want to draw attention to myself. If he doesn’t do what he does, how can we live the life that we live?

“How can this be?” he says earnestly, but quietly as he puts his arm around the back of my seat. “How can you possibly not know that everything I do, I do for you and the twins?”

“That’s not true,” I say, turning my tear-streaked gaze to him. “The twins and I benefit greatly from what you do, but you would do it whether the twins and I were here or not. I’m not asking you not to do it; I’m not asking you to change at this point. I know it would be impossible. I’m just trying to find a way to deal with this discovery…”

“What discovery?” he interrupts.

“That GEH always comes first!” I say firmly. “You say that we come first, and you may even think that, but it’s not true. I’ve always known that; it just didn’t affect me like it does right now. The only reason that I’m feeling extra sensitive at this moment is because I need you. I selfishly want all of your attention while I’m trudging waist-deep through bullshit, and I’m not going to get it. If anything of any importance happens at GEH, she’s going to get it first and I just have to stand in line!”

My voice is getting louder and I don’t want to make a scene. I stand from my seat and scurry out of the bar. I see Chuck standing to the right of the entrance as I brush past.

Of course, he is. I wonder how long he’s been standing there. Probably as long as I’ve been in the bar.

I’m not running away from the conversation. I just don’t want to have it in the bar.

I uselessly try to wipe the falling tears from my face in the most unladylike fashion and begin to search my purse for a tissue or something when I see a handkerchief in my peripheral. I take the hanky from my husband and attempt to dry my face. It’s completely illogical for me to feel this way. I know where I stand, and most days, I can deal with it, but today, I’m insanely jealous.

“I can’t believe that you don’t know you’re the most important thing in my life,” he says, his voice low. I don’t raise my gaze to him, and I don’t respond. Like I said, I know where I stand.

When the elevator arrives, I see an extra set of feet enter with us and I know that it’s Chuck. He wasn’t with me when I came down the elevator, so they most likely tracked my phone. We ride in silence until we get to our floor, and Chuck wordlessly leaves the elevator headed to the security suite. Christian moves in front of me, unlocks the door with the card key, and holds it open for me. I walk in and drop my purse on the nearest surface before taking a deep, cleansing breath and shakily releasing it.

“I call Downtime,” he says, his voice even. I turn to face him, glaring at him in disbelief.

“You’re calling Downtime now?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says. “We need the rules of Downtime, right now.”

I almost want to decline, but I know that would be a huge setback in so many ways. He removes his jacket and tie and tosses it onto the sofa. Then he comes over to me and unbuttons my shirt and pushes it off my shoulders. He reaches around me and unzips my skirt and lets it fall to the floor. He takes my hand and helps me to step out of the skirt, still crumpled on the floor, and leads me to one of the large chairs. He sits down first, then gestures for me to sit on his lap.

I roll my eyes inwardly, but I’m too tired to resist at this point. Still dressed in my underwear, shoes, and stockings, I take a seat on his lap. He removes my shoes and then adjusts me so that I’m somewhat cradled in his arms. It takes no time at all, and I’m in a submissive state of mind. My body relaxes and my mind rests and releases the tension of being second in line and of being in this place.

He strokes my arm with one hand and the outside of my thigh with the other, and we just sit here for several minutes in total silence. The sun has already set, and I have no idea what time it is. I’m just sitting here in the lap of my Dominus enjoying the moment, however long it lasts.

“Tell me why you feel that you’re not the most important thing in my life, Pussycat,” he says softly, and the words flow easily.

“Because I’m not, Sir,” I reply effortlessly. “Your company is more important. It always has been, and it always will be. Even when you left me and went to Madrid, you took your company with you. When I left and went to Montana, you came home and threw yourself into your company.

“No matter where we go, no matter what vacation we take, there has to be somewhere that you can set up and work. You may spend one day and maybe a night on your boat, but there’s an office on your boat. She tags along with us wherever we go. It’s so second nature to you that you may not even see it, but I do. I see it loud and clear; I know it’s true, and you just have to let me accept it.”

I hate that I have to be more self-sufficient, especially right now. I want to be the center of attention; I want everyone around me to have the sole purpose of making me forget why the fuck I’m here, but the truth is that the world doesn’t rise and set on me even when I feel like shit and I want it to be that way. And in this case, GEH will always be in the shadows, or maybe I’m in the shadows of GEH. Either way, she’s a bedfellow; it’s a reality and I just have to deal with it.

“I hate that you call it she,” he admits.

“Don’t you?” I ask, and I don’t need an answer. I already know.

“It’s like I’m cheating on you and that’s not what’s going on.”

No, it’s not. She’s the wife. I’m the mistress. She was here first and she got your name before I did. It’s a fact of life, and I’m not trying to change it anymore.

“Tell me what you’re thinking,” he beseeches gently.

“You’re not cheating on me,” I reply truthfully, “but I know my place. It’s just that at this moment, I don’t like it.”

“This is going to become a real point of contention for us,” he laments. “Yes, my company needs me, but I need you…”

“And I need you,” I reply, “I just have to learn how to share.”

He sighs. He doesn’t understand that I’ve accepted my fate even if I don’t entirely like it. I can live with it… sometimes. Other times, I just have to tolerate it. As much as he loves his company and he devotes time to it, he can’t admit the fact that it has first pecking order over me. I don’t want to say me and the twins, because I would hate to think anything has pecking order over his children. So, I choose to be willfully blind to that little detail.

“I’m going to prove to you that’s not true,” he says. “I’m not going to be that guy where you think my company is my life and you’re not.”

I know that he’ll try not to be that guy, but when his baby bellows, he’s going to come running, as well he should.

“You don’t have to prove anything to me,” I say, growing weary of the conversation. “May I get a glass of wine, please, Sir?” I ask.

“No,” he replies. “You had two vodka rocks already. You’ll have a hangover.”

He’s right, but I’ll need something if we’re going to continue this conversation and since he’s said that I can’t have a drink, I’m not going to continue this conversation.

I fall silent and allow him to talk about how he’s going to reprioritize his life. I hope that doesn’t mean that he’ll neglect GEH in an attempt to prove a point to me. It’s like I said, I’ve accepted my fate and I know my place, and more often than not, I can deal with it. It’s during those times that I need him that I have a hard time swallowing that pill.

“There was an unexpected situation that would seriously take too long to explain…”

There’s always and unexpected situation that would seriously take too long to explain. It’s the nature of the beast.

“It was time-sensitive, but I had to take the time to listen to what was going on. It was so urgent that neither of them bothered to email me. They couldn’t call, because they knew that I was most likely in court. So, they texted me… both of them! The decision had to be made quickly.

“There were two options—both options were extremely costly, but each option had its own set of circumstances and consequences. Ros and Lorenz were divided on which option was the best, and honestly, for good reason. No matter which option we took, there were huge opportunity costs involved, some of them involving tangling with foreign governments. I’m not trying to keep you out of the loop, but again, this is way too detailed to have to explain again…”

He didn’t have to explain that part. If there was a situation that had three members of the executive team with their level of experience at odds on how to solve it, that information was way over my head anyway.

“I had to be the deciding factor. There was no other way, and even I had a hard time deciding which course of action would be best. Even the time that I took to get back to them was critical.”

“Did you make a decision?” I ask.

“Yes, and even now, I’m not sure that I made the right one,” he admits, “but we had to do something. We couldn’t wait any longer. Under any other circumstances…” He trails off. “It was a difficult decision for me,” he admits. “I know it was impossible for them.”

I sit on his lap for a few more moments, reviewing yet another reason in my mind to put on my big girl pants.

“I’d like to take a bath now, Sir,” I request. I need to soak or something.

“You don’t want to sit with me anymore?” he asks. I don’t want to continue this conversation. I get it. I really do.

“I want to boil off this day,” I say, imagining that huge bath full of lemon grass or vanilla, maybe a candle or two…

“Okay,” he says, patting me on the thigh. I stand from his lap and head to the en suite and the huge sunken tub.


A/N: 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.

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~~love and handcuffs