Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 6

No email this time. Still training for my promotion. I’ll post as often as I can.

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 6

ANASTASIA

It’s my babies’ first birthday!

I’m walking on sunshine making mental plans for their first birthday party tomorrow. I’ve counted the guests and I’m going through my phases of Better Homes and Gardens again, only this time, it’s the birthday edition—if there is such a thing—and I’m not depressed or running from dread. I’m so filled with glee that I could just burst. There’s no GEH or Helping Hands today as I have to be sure that everything is just right for Minnie and Mikey’s birthday.

My guest list is all set—small but large for a birthday for a couple of one-year-olds, but who cares? Nothing could ruin my mood today, but surprisingly, something pretty damn morbid made it a whole lot better. The television is playing in the family room and I’m listening to the local news channel. I’m sitting at the breakfast bar working on the menu for tomorrow’s party when something on the news catches my attention.

“Within the last hour, we’ve learned that Washington State Penitentiary inmate and former Seattle socialite Elena Lincoln has suffered a massive stroke…”

I rubberneck to the television and feel my body floating into the family room. I don’t even remember getting out of my seat. I watch as a picture of an extremely much older-looking Elena Lincoln flashes across the screen. She didn’t look like that when she went in. I know she didn’t. Her natural hair had grown out, and it was brown. This woman, though she looks much older, has blonde hair… and she’s smiling… and she’s outside! And she looks like she’s wearing makeup! Where did this picture come from?

I’m pondering what the fuck is really going on in that goddamn prison when this bitch is supposed to be in maximum security and she’s able to get her hands on hair dye and makeup… and she’s fucking outside! I can’t see the surroundings behind her or if she’s wearing prison garb, so she could be in the exercise yard for all I know, but hair dye? And makeup? Tupac couldn’t even get a decent haircut when he was in jail!

I’ve missed the entire newscast lost in my wondering, and I scramble for the remote to rewind live TV. I’d die of suspense waiting for the story to come back on.

“Ana, what is it? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

I hear Gail’s voice, but I’m too focused on getting back to the story that I don’t even respond to her. I get back to the point where I see She-Thing’s picture on the screen and stop the rewind just before the story begins. I listen to the last bits of a story about the homeless people under the viaduct before the story begins to play again.

“Within the last hour, we’ve learned that Washington State Penitentiary inmate and former Seattle socialite Elena Lincoln has suffered a massive stroke. Lincoln was administered a routine flu shot when shortly thereafter, she began to show symptoms of a stroke. Prison officials indicate that Lincoln complained that she was dizzy, so she was instructed to lie down. Her symptoms became increasingly worse until she became unresponsive…”

“Is she dead?” I ask aloud. The words shocked me coming out of my mouth, but I don’t regret it. I want to know if the Pedo-Bitch is dead!

“Lincoln appears to have been in a coma since Wednesday, but has regained consciousness a short while ago…”

The Bitch is stomping her feet like Rumpelstiltskin while I attempt to appear unaffected.

“Although she is awake, Lincoln appears to have suffered extreme paralysis as a symptom of the stroke. At this time, she is unable to walk, move, or speak. There is currently no information on if the condition is permanent.”

Well, that’s something. The Bitch settles a bit.

“Questions arose as to whether Lincoln could have had an adverse reaction to the flu shot. Toxicology reports tested for the flu vaccine and revealed that she was given the same strain of the virus given to all the inmates and staff of the prison. Reports indicate that there was no way the flu shot could’ve caused a stroke.

“Lincoln will be moved to a minimum-security prison where a special team will oversee her care in hopes of a recovery.”

“She had a stroke from a flu shot?” I ask aloud.

“That’s impossible,” Grace says, and I forget that she was in the room. I look over at her.

“Not that I really care what happens to the bitch,” I tell her. “To be honest, it would have been good news had they said she was dead, but a stroke from a flu shot? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Well, they clearly said it couldn’t have been caused by the flu shot,” she replies. “It has to be coincidence. Maybe she got some really bad news, or she had high blood pressure or something. There has to be an explanation.” She shrugs.

There is.

It suddenly dawns on me—my husband’s words a few days ago when I asked how things went with Greta Ellison.

“Nobody’s dead… except the book, and it won’t be back.”

Nobody’s dead except the book, and it won’t be back. That is so ominous, but I guess he’s right. The book, indeed, will not be back.

“Damn,” I say, gazing at the television, the news moving on to another story. “Karma’s a real bitch.”

“You look relieved,” Gail says, her brow raised when I turn to look at her.

“I am,” I reply. “There’s no use in lying. That woman is pure evil, and I’m surprised that it hasn’t consumed her from the inside out well before now.” Gail twists her lips.

“You’ll get no argument from me,” she says matter-of-factly, “the bitch shot my husband.”

Once I get over the initial shock of Elena’s fate, I walk around for the rest of the day on a damn cloud. I consider whatever happened to that bitch a necessary evil. She’s one miserable person who was hell-bent on destroying the lives of potentially dozens of families. I wholeheartedly believe that the world would be a better place without her, and I don’t regret those feelings. I only regret that the stroke didn’t finish her off.

Second only to my two darling bundles of joy, it’s the best present I’ve gotten in a year.

My husband didn’t seem surprised.

“Did you hear about She-Thing?” I ask when he gets home.

“I sure did,” he says, coming into the family room as I’m decorating for the birthday party. “I wish the bitch had died.”

“I said the same thing,” I reply. “Maybe we should ease up on that before we bring some bad Karma onto ourselves. “

“No problem. I don’t want to talk about her anyway. So, a month ago, Santa Claus shit all over the house. Now, we’ve got Minnie and Mickey Mouse droppings.” I glare at him.

“First of all, you better be glad my children aren’t down here to hear you cursing or I’d find some way to make you pay for it, and I don’t mean a swear jar. Second, I’m having a great time, so don’t you come raining on my parade, Christian Grey!” I’m pointing at him with a Minnie Mouse wand made of a black glitter Minnie head with a pink glitter bow on it attached to a wooden dowel.

“Careful where you shake that thing!” he warns. “I don’t want fairy dust all over me!”

“Fuck you, Dr. Killjoy,” I declare.

“Oooh! Who needs the swear jar now?” he teases, capturing me in his arms and tickling me, his fingers madly manipulating my ribs.

“Christian, stop!” I giggle helplessly.

“What? What was that? I don’t think I heard you…”

“Stop or I’ll pee myself!” I warn. He stops tickling me and pulls me into his arms.

“Well, we don’t want that,” he says, kissing me softly.

“You seem in a better mood today,” I observe, closing my eyes as he peppers gentle kisses on my lips, my neck, and my jaw.

“It was a better day,” he says between kisses. “Somebody came in there and put the fear of God into my staff and they’ve been getting their shit together.”

“Mmm… have they now?” I say, still absorbing his tender kisses.

“Mmm-hmm,” he says, gently tasting my skin.

“Sheesh, get a room,” Jason says, coming from the mudroom and through the family room.

“We don’t need a room. We have a house,” Christian retorts, “and you’re in it.”

“Along with a very impressionable teenager,” he remarks. Oops, he’s right. Sophie should be around any minute to help me with the hors d’oeuvres and sandwich fixings for tomorrow.

“Look who’s talking,” I say as Christian releases his embrace. “You come in kissing Gail every day.” He pauses as he reaches his wife to do just that.

“I kiss her,” he concurs, “I don’t maul her in the middle of the family room. We’re not making out amongst the Disney paraphernalia. Hello, Love,” he says, turning to his wife and kissing her sweetly.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Christian says, forcefully pulling me back into his arms. “I’ll maul my wife whenever and wherever I damn well please… but I will be mindful of the teenager.” He looks at me again and pops a fast, hard kiss on my lips eliciting a giggle from me.

“So, what’s going on at the Ivory Palace?” I ask my husband. “Finney and Ros finally get their asses in gear?”

“Among other things,” he says. “Everybody’s waiting for the Queen of Hearts to come breezing into the office… ‘Off with their heads!’” he jests, still holding me close to him while ceasing his kissing. “It’s one thing to have one hardnosed boss, but two… and then whatever gets pass me or—heaven forbid—you, is now being picked up by the executive team who are also afraid of having their craniums severed.” He raises a brow.

“Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere!” I declare. “That’s all we needed in the first place. Why the fuck did I have to come down there and put some fire under these assholes? And what’s with the Queen of Hearts analogy? That woman was insane. I’m not that bad.”

Queen of Hearts

“Well, get used to it because that’s what the ‘peasants’ are calling you,” he says. “And the Queen of Hearts may have been insane, but she was powerful. Insane or not, if she said a head came off, a head came off, and you proved that by sending Mosele home for a short ‘vacation’ to ponder his position. And let’s not forget the fact that you came breezing in there that Monday morning in this fierce red dress daring someone to test you. And those who did were made quick examples—not down the line, but in that same meeting. I think these people know who their dealing with.”

“Must we refer to them as peasants?” I ask. It sounds so unpleasant and elitist.

“If they can call you ‘Queen of Hearts,’ I can call them ‘peasants.’ And trust me, they have a plethora of unsightly names for me, so I’m being kind.”

Jesus, I would prefer not to have the company have the us/them mentality, but unfortunately, it looks like it may be what we need to get things done.

“Speaking of the executive team, how’s Ros doing with her dilemma?” I ask.

“I have no idea,” he tells me. “I don’t want to be in her personal life that way. While I truly do sympathize with her familial woes, I’m sure that I would prefer not to be in her proverbial bedroom that way. I can’t empathize with her at all because she made a vow to one woman when her heart was with someone else. I can’t speak to what she should have done or what she should do now. I can only say that it’s not my arena.”

I try not to frown. Ros is his second in command, so he very well should be concerned about her familial woes. However, I guess as the psychiatrist between us, I’m going to have to keep an eye on the situation myself. However, his reaction—though very calm and PC—is not getting past me.

“What?” he asks, obviously noting my contemplation.

“You have some very distinct opinions about this,” I say. He raises a brow. “I live with you. I’m married to you. I fuck you. I can read between the lines,” I say, answering his unasked question. He adjusts his posture, about to make a point.

“I can clearly say that’s something that I would never do,” he says. “When I asked you to marry me, that’s where I wanted to be. I had the choice to stay in my lifestyle and be with whomever I chose whenever I chose—that’s not what I wanted. I wanted you. I want you. So, the concept of wanting someone else after I said that I wanted you is something I can’t fathom. But you…”

He pauses. What the fuck? What about me?

“I’m with you. I love you. I know you well enough to know that this is where you want to be. That whole Westwood bullshit was a blip in the radar for a few different reasons, but I know this is where you want to be. The thought that you would marry me while you still had unclear feelings for someone else only to have those feelings resurface years after we said our vows—I would be murderous. I wouldn’t even know how to handle that.

“So, right now, while I am concerned about Ros, I have to compartmentalize this whole thing. What she did was selfish and cruel, and now she’s trying to find the easiest way out of the situation she created. She totally created this monsoon, and now she’s trying to get out of it without getting wet. And where the fuck does that leave Gwen?”

He’s beginning to get angry, but I can see him visibly trying to shake off his anger with Ros.

“I see,” I say, calmly. “So, your empathy strikes again, but this time, it’s striking with Gwen. How does that feel?”

He raises his gaze to me and I’m looking at him with soft but inquisitive eyes, nothing confrontational. He couldn’t empathize with Ros because he would never do that. The only thing that he could do is put himself in Gwen’s shoes, and it’s infuriating him.

“Pretty pissed off,” he says, his voice calmer, “which is why I can’t talk to her about it. When her personal shit interfered with her job, I got involved. Where it doesn’t interfere with her job, I’m out of it.” He shakes his head. I nod and put my hand on his cheek.

“I think that’s best,” I tell him. “I’ll handle it. Like you said, as long as she does her job, right?” He closes his eyes and nods, leaning into my hand.

“Thank you for not getting mad,” he says. I scoff a laugh.

“You almost had me for a minute there, Grey, but luckily, I learned to listen,” I say with a wink and a smile. We hear the clearing of someone’s throat, and we turn to see Marilyn standing there.

“Um, I hope I’m not disturbing you,” she says. Christian laughs. I turn to him.

“What?” I ask.

“She just did a ‘Jason,’” he says with mirth. My brow furrows.

“A ‘Jason?’” I ask. Christian cocks his head at me.

“If we’re in the midst of a conversation—or anything else—when Jason walks into the room, what does he do to get my attention?” I roll my eyes.

“You mean besides tell us to get a room?” I say, turning to Marilyn. “You’re not interrupting, Mare, what’s up?”

“I got a call from Alex. He said he tried to call you twice but no luck.” I begin looking around for my phone. Where is my phone?

“Hell, I don’t know where my phone is. Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. He said that you were looking for a final background check on Jade Goldwin. He emailed it to you,” she says. Oh, yeah, her.

“Thanks, Mare. Did he say that there was anything to be concerned about?”

“Not to me,” she says with a shrug. “I would think if there was cause for concern, he’d ask me to get you to the phone, so I would say not.” I nod.

“I agree, but I’ll look at it anyway,” I say. She nods and smiles before heading back off towards the elevator.

“Jesus, has she lost more weight?” I was hoping he wouldn’t notice that, but she has. My silence is enough for him. “Butterfly, this is not good. She’s really going to hurt herself if she doesn’t stop this!”

“I know, I know,” I lament. “I’m the doctor, remember?” He gazes at me for a moment.

“Her parents aren’t here,” he says, firmly. “She doesn’t have a significant other anymore. I hate to do this, but it’s you, baby. It’s all you.” I roll my eyes.

“I know, Christian, I’m just trying not to ambush the girl right now…”

“You may not have a choice. She’s slowly killing herself!”

“She just got back…” I excuse.

“Nearly three weeks ago!” he counters. I deflate. He’s right. She needs to eat.

“I’ll talk to her,” I say.

“You may need to do more than that,” he cautions.

“Like what?” I recounter.

“I don’t know, but you may need to do more than that! This is serious! She’s really hurting herself right now.”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” I say, hoping to halt the conversation. Jesus, I’m not the one starving myself for crying out loud. I just have to figure out what to do.

“So…” he says, stalling, “what’s with this Jade Goldwin?” Holy cow, that’s the way to change gears.

“She’s coming to the party,” I tell him. “She’s in Maxie and Mindy’s Mommy and Me class, and she has a son the same age as Mindy. I just wanted to vet her before she came to my house and head her off if necessary.”

“Oh? How did you meet her?” he asks. Now he’s interested. Good grief.

“Maxie and I were shopping, and we bumped into her at the Marketplace.” He nods. I know he wants more information. I roll my eyes for the umpteenth time. Where the hell is my phone?

“Keep doing that and they might get stuck that way,” he says, swiping his phone and touching the screen. I’m about to roll my eyes at him again when I hear the muffled sound of our song playing. I look around and back at him, and he’s holding his phone up, showing me that he’s calling me. Where the fuck is my phone?

It goes to voicemail and he calls it again… and again. It took four times for me to find the damn thing between the sofa cushions. How the hell did it get there?

I swipe the screen and the battery is nearly dead. It’s a good thing I found it, or I may have never found it.

“Don’t you have a case or a clip or something for that?” he asks.

“No, Mr. Grey, I keep it in my purse, and I didn’t go anywhere today!” I snap.

“Touchy,” he teases.

“Annoying,” I counter in the same sing-songy voice. I open my email and click on the pdf attached.

“Yeah, she’s Jane Q. Housewife,” I say, scrolling through the document. “Twenty-nine, married, four boys just like Maxie said.”

“And her husband?” Christian asks.

“Sells insurance for a local company,” I tell him. “Small beans.” He nods.

“Who’s coming?” he asks.

“Just Jade and her youngest,” I say, closing my phone. “Maxie vouches for her, so she can’t be all bad.”

“Who all is coming?” he asks.

“All the grandparents, the godparents—Mia bowed out this time, the Scooby Gang… except for Gary, Luma and Herman and the girls, Marlow’s bringing Maggie and probably a date…” Sophie will love that, “… and our newest guest Jade and her little boy, English.”

“English?” Christian says in horror.

“I didn’t name the kid,” I say, with a shrug.

“Dear Lord,” Christian says. “That poor kid is going to be teased incessantly.”

“You don’t know that, Christian,” I scold.

“Baby, I’ve traveled the world and I’ve never met anybody anywhere named English,” he points out.

“Okay, so he has a unique name,” I argue, “It’s not wild or crazy, like Fallopion or something. It’s just different.”

“You’re so sweet,” he says, stroking my cheek. “He’s going to get teased. Whoever came up with that name, that’s grounds for divorce.” I gape at him.

“You’re kidding, right?” I ask in horror. He raises a brow.

“Am I?” he asks, impassively.

“You’re saying that when we have another kid, if for some reason you’re indisposed and I come up with a name that you don’t like, you’ll divorce me?” My voice rises to a squeak on the last two words and I think hearing it come out of my mouth makes him realize just how ridiculous he sounds.

“Well, no, but you wouldn’t name our child something ridiculous like English!” he quips.

“And what if I did?” I say, putting my hands on my hips.

“Then there would definitely be some papers filed somewhere,” he says, “maybe not for divorce, but we would be changing that kid’s name. And anyway, it’s a moot point because we sat down and picked our children’s names together, months before they were born. So, why are we arguing about a kid who isn’t even ours?”

I twist my lips and fold my arms. The argument does seem a tad ridiculous.

“You were the one who started talking about divorce,” I pout.

“Yeah, and you were the one to actually take it literally,” he retorts. “Divorce you? Over a name, even? Seriously?” Asshole.

“Be useful and grab that garland,” I pout.

“Hey, wait, I’m not getting roped into decorating,” he protests.

“Oh, yes, you are!” I whirl around on him. “You came in here pissing on my happy place then we’re talking about everything from Elena to Queen of Hearts to Ros to Westwood to Marilyn to some random kid named English to divorce and dammit I want my happy place back!” I say the entire sentence without breathing and he just gazes at me.

“I got your happy place right here,” he remarks, matter-of-factly and I roll my eyes for the 101st time today.

“Grab the damn garland, Christian.”

*-*

It’s Saturday, the day that we meet with Artemis and Savvina, but that’s not until much later. Right now, Minnie and Mickey Mouse decorations are exploding all over my dining room and family room much like yuletide exploded all over my house for Christmas. I’m definitely in the mood to celebrate.

There are two giant Number One balloons to greet you at the door. One has a Mickey Mouse head and the other, a Minnie Mouse head. There’s also a Minnie and Mickey sign that reads, “Welcome to the birthday clubhouse.” Once they don their Minnie or Mickey Mouse party hats, the kids get to munch on “Daisy’s garden vegetables,” “Goofy grapes,” or various melons cut in the shape of Mickey’s head and garnished with blueberries and pineapple. There’s always a way to get kids to eat healthy if you make it fun.

They also get to build ham and turkey sandwiches out of bread, turkey, ham, and cheese all cut in the shape of Mickey’s head with choices of lettuce, tomato, pickles, and condiments as well—or they can choose to have Mickey shaped chicken nuggets or a hot dog from the “Hot Diggity Dog” bar. There are games and bubbles and prizes to keep them occupied, but let’s face it—who’s not going to have fun in Mickey Mouse land?

I was smart enough to know that “Hot Diggity” dogs and chicken nuggets wouldn’t cut it for the parents. So, we have the option of what I call “Chicken Bacon Crack Pinwheels,” Rueben pinwheels, quinoa salad, and seven-layer dip, along with the aforementioned fruits and vegetables. The drinks were either “Pirate Punch” or “Sea Water” from the Pirate Mickey drink bar, and various Mickey and Minnie Mouse cupcakes are spread around the house, along with the Mickey/Minnie birthday cake on the kitchen counter.

Sophie has help me with most of the same-day preparation, like she always does. She wants to be a chef or a caterer, and she loves preparing the food and decorating the house. She’s so grown up for her age that I’m a little afraid that she might be missing her childhood. With a mother like Shalane, though, she’s probably already missed it. She’s seen too much for her age, and once you see certain things, you just can’t unsee them.

Sophie shed her purple tresses shortly after her last altercation with Marlow’s most recent date on Christmas, and after a visit to Miana’s, Jason is glad to see her enter with shiny, beautiful, billowing blonde waves. She actually looks a little older, but it’s most likely because that purple hair made her look so much younger to me.

She gleefully helps me finish setting up for the twins’ party which, as we all know, is really a celebration for the parents, but I don’t care. My little brother will be here. Max is bringing Mindy and I even told her that she was clear to bring Jade to the party since they’re such good friends. I should definitely get to know her if they’re that close.

Celida and Mariah will be here. At the tender age of 6 and 8, they love parties for whatever reason. Maggie’s coming, too. I don’t know if Marlow will be bringing a date this time, but I almost wish that he wouldn’t. It usually ends miserably for him and for Sophie. Until she gets over this crush that she has on him, she’s not going to behave. She’s a woman scorned at 13, and most women scorned don’t even know how to behave as adults!

Mia has decided to sit this one out, but the grandparents and godparents will be here, and of course, our resident waif, Marilyn. I hope I can get her to eat some cake or something before Christian declares martial fucking law!

The guests are now arriving and surprisingly, Maxie, Phil, and Jade arrive before Al.

“Forgive me,” Jade begins, “if I seem a little out of place today. I can’t believe I’m here—this place is absolutely astonishing. And the decorations—dear God! Did you do this all yourself or did you have help?”

“Well, both, actually. I did it myself, but I had a little help, too. My biggest helper was this young lady right here…” I snag Sophie as she’s walking by. “This is my resident party helper, Sophia. Sophie, this is Jade, and you know Maxie and Phil.”

Sophie smiles and waves shyly.

“Hi,” she says sweetly.

“Hi, Sophia,” Jade says, “or do you prefer Sophie?”

“Sophie’s fine,” she says. Jade smiles.

“This is my son, English,” she says. English is older than the twins, but he manages a smile and a wave from his mother’s arms.

“English,” Sophie says, as if testing the word, “I’ve never heard of that as a name before.”

“He’s named after his paternal grandfather,” she says. “My husband insisted.”

“Oh,” I say, “so it’s a family name.” She nods.

“I would have chosen something normal, like Chad, or Blake, or Worcestershire,” she says, rolling her eyes, and I know the last one was a joke, but with a name like English, you can’t be too sure.

“It’s unusual,” I say, “but it’s nice.”

“Thank you,” she says. “It does sound distinguished at the very least.” I see my husband and decide to poke a little fun at him.

“Christian, come, meet our guest,” I say loudly so that he can’t ignore me or try to get away. He raises his brow at me because he knows what I’m doing, but I don’t care.

“This was my other helper,” I say to Jade when he comes over to us. “He hung a piece of garland or three.”

“A piece of…” My husband trails off in mock horror and I pretend to ignore him.

“Christian, this is Jade and her son, English,” I say, introducing them.

“It’s very nice to meet you,” he says with a nod of his head.

“Likewise. Thank you for having me,” Jade replies cordially.

English is an unusual name, isn’t it, Christian?” My husband throws a side gaze at me. “It’s a family name,” I tell him. “He’s named after his grandfather.” Still grounds for a divorce, Sir?

“Is that so?” Christian says. “Tell me, what is the origin of that name.”

“I have no idea,” Jade says. “As ridiculous as it sounds, I’m assuming it’s English! I can’t even derive a nickname from that, so I just call him Eddie.

My knees buckle and I’m literally choking on nothing. Christian catches me as I’m going down and makes an excuse to get me away from Jade. He takes me over to the pirate bar and I sit down.

“I’m fine. I’m fine. I just wasn’t ready. It caught me off guard,” I excuse.

“Okay, so you can just sit here until you’re back on guard,” he says, kneeling in front of me.

“Really, Christian, I’m fine,” I assure him. “That’s just the last name I expected to hear at my children’s birthday party.”

“Well, maybe Maxine should tell her friends to do some homework before she brings them around,” he states.

“Oh, please,” I lament, “aren’t I considered enough of a prima donna to the public without people having to know my life history before they visit me? Besides, what would we do, tell her to change her son’s nickname because of my ex-boyfriend? Just let it go.”

I raise my head just in time to see Maggie giggling with Sophie, and a few moments later, Marlow enters… with a date, and not the girl from Christmas. Jesus, what was that, a month ago?

“You may need to talk to him,” I say to Christian while gesturing to Marlow. He looks over his shoulder at Marlow, then back at me.

“What?” he asks

“The girls,” I whisper harshly. “He brings a different girl to every event.”

“He’s young, Butterfly,” he excuses. “He’s not attached to anybody and I know he practices safe sex.” I know that too, but…

“He brought one girl to Mia’s wedding in September; another one to Thanksgiving; another one to Christmas; and now another one to the twins’ birthday. That’s four girls in five months! You don’t see anything wrong with that?” Besides the fact that it’s totally tormenting Sophie, it just doesn’t look good… and it’s not smart!

“He’s a young boy sowing his oats like young boys do. He’s no dummy. He won’t get caught up in a bad situation. I don’t see the problem.” I cock my head at him.

“Oh? So, if Michael brings a string of girls home from the ages of 15 to 18, you wouldn’t have a problem with that?” I ask.

“No,” he says matter-of-factly. Is that so, Mr. Grey? I fold my arms and square off.

“And if Mackenzie brings home a string of boyfriends?” I say, and just let the words hang in the air. His face blanches and he begins to look a little ill.

Mm-hmm, that’s what I thought. What’s good for the goose is going to be good for the gander in this house, Grey. So, if you don’t want to see your little princess doing it, don’t think I’m going to allow little Master Grey to get away with it either.

“Talk to him,” I say, firmly before rising from the breakfast bar and going back to the dining room.

I greet my guests and assure everyone that I’m okay, chalking my coughing spell up to an unexpected bout with my own saliva. Marlow introduces me to his date—Tasha, I think her name is. It doesn’t matter. I’m sure that I won’t see her again after today.

Sophie and Maggie have taken to getting the children situated and playing “Pin the bow on Minnie” when Al finally decides to grace us with his presence.

“Sorry we’re late,” he says, and that’s all he gives me by way of an explanation, not that I need one. He and James are both as loose as a noodle and look like fresh, new daisies. I’m sure sex was involved.

“You nearly missed your godchildren’s party, you sex fiend,” I say, my voice low.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” he says waving me off. “You haven’t even opened presents yet.” I roll my eyes. “Who’s the bird with Maxie?”

“That’s Jade,” I tell him. “She’s in a Mommy and Me class with Maxie, which they probably had to miss to come to this party.” He looks at me.

“You sound a little snippy,” he observes. I glare at him.

“Jealous,” I say, honestly. “Maxie got married before me; had her baby before me; and now she’s moving on to new friends without me. Yeah, I’d say I’m just a little snippy.” I look over at Jade and Maxie having a conversation with Val.

“Jade calls her Max,” I say with disdain. “Her son’s name is English.” Al frowns.

“English? That’s his name?” he asks. I nod. “That’s odd. Where did that come from?”

“Apparently, it’s a family name. And get this, his nickname is Eddie.” Al literally winces at the mention of the name. “Yeah, my sentiments exactly, only a little more graphic.”

“Well, she seems like a nice enough person,” he says.

“She is,” I admit. “I just resent the fact that she’s apparently taking my place.” Al scoffs.

“Darling Jewel, she may be friends with our Maxine, but trust me—nobody can replace you.” He puts his hand on my shoulder.

“You’re sweet,” I tell him as we go to join the party.

Everything is going well, and the children are having a really good time playing games, opening prizes, and blowing bubbles. I’m with Minnie most of the day, standing her on her feet and coaxing her to walk with me, which she does. She’s doing very well keeping her balance and standing for several moments until she realizes that she’s standing, or she moves too fast to get to some new toy or adventure. Then she’s back on her hands and knees again. I think it’s adorable and, sure enough, after a few hours of guidance, she’s toddling around more than she’s crawling. Christian gets a few videos on his phone since I’m detained with entertaining. We’re just finishing singing “Happy Birthday” to the twins and I’m cutting and serving cake when I hear it.

“Is constantly twirling your hair an art form or can anybody do it?”

Oh, dear God. I raise my gaze to see Sophie, once again, facing off with Marlow and his date. Tasha looks at Sophie, appalled.

“Is this little brat talking to me?” she asks Marlow while pointing at Sophie. Marlow appears to be trying to smooth things over while Sophie stands there looking like she had nothing to do with Tasha’s current mood.

“No, Marlow! Does she speak to any other adult in this room that way?” Tasha shoots. I know what that means. Marlow is 17, so this girl is probably 18, and by pointing out that she’s an adult, she most likely just turned 18 and she’s smelling her adultness. I sigh.

“Nice one, Sophie,” I lament quietly.

“I don’t care,” I hear Tasha say. “In our house, children know to stay in a child’s place. Someone apparently forgot to teach her that!” She is furious. She throws a murderous look at Sophie and walks away.

“Seriously, Sophie?” Marlow hisses. “Jesus Christ, what’s going on with you?” and now, he’s livid, too as he goes after Tasha. I take this opportunity to make my way over to Sophie.

“Sophia!” I say quietly, “seriously, you’re going to have to stop this. Marlow is going to despise you if you keep this up.”

“I wasn’t trying to tease her,” she excuses, “it just slipped out. She stood there the entire time twirling her hair around her finger. Jesus, is she that flighty or is it a nervous tick?”

“And if it wasn’t her hair, it would be her shoes, or her dress, or her voice. This is getting out of hand!”

“What does it matter what I say?” she says. “He still going to do her.”

“Sophie!” I exclaim appalled.

“They’re so obvious! How can he not see it?” My question is how can you see it so clearly? “How can he even like these girls? They’re scatterbrains. They have the attention span of a goldfish. None of them even show up again after the first time!”

That’s what I said, but that could have a lot to do with you.

“Well, for whatever reason he likes them, he likes them, and you’re going to have to stop being rude to them. For one thing, it’s not very ladylike at all. And for another thing, I defended you when that girl passively aggressively insulted you at Mia’s wedding. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see how she made you feel although Marlow was clueless. What ground do I have to stand on right now when you’re behaving the same way she did? And third, and most important…” I put my hand on her shoulder and hold her gaze.

“I’m very fond of you, Sophie,” I say. “I consider us good friends, but I don’t like for anyone to insult the guests that come to my home and you do that repeatedly with Marlow’s dates. If they lash out at you first, I completely understand your need to defend yourself. But when you say disparaging things against them for no reason, that’s unacceptable behavior, Sophie.”

This is the first time that I’ve had to scold Sophie and I really don’t like it, but it’s necessary. She shrinks a bit as my words sink in.

“I really didn’t think about it that way,” she says. “I still think they’re flighty little thots, but I don’t want to make you guys look bad. I’m sorry, Ana.” I nod.

“You might want to apologize to Marlow and his date,” I tell her. She grimaces.

“I can’t do that,” she squeals quietly. “He already hates me, and I couldn’t face him right now… or her. Please don’t make me do that I’ll die!” She says the last part all in one breath, and I really believe she would just keel over and die if she had to face Marlow right now.

“Well, I can’t and won’t force you to do anything, Sophie, but you might want to think about your behavior and what damage has already been done.” She sighs heavily as if I’ve just pardoned her from the death penalty.

“Sophia!”

I discover that I may have spoken too soon. Gail’s voice interrupts our conversation and she is none too happy as she comes marching over to us.

“Sophia, is it true that you said something unkind to Marlow’s date?” Gail accuses. Sophie’s mouth falls open and she looks in horror over at Marlow. When I glance at him, he and his date are looking in our direction like they’re waiting for the ax to fall. Oh, this is just great.

“I can’t believe it,” Sophie says incredulously, her voice three octaves higher than normal. “He snitched on me?”

“So, that means that it’s true,” Gail accuses, a statement not a question.

“I was just kidding around, Momma Gail,” Sophie excuses. “It’s not my fault she can’t take a joke.”

“That’s because she didn’t find it funny,” Gail says. “You can’t say mean things about people and think it’s okay. It’s very unbecoming, and you owe them an apology. You march over there right now and apologize.”

As if Sophie’s face could show any more horror, she glares over at Marlow and his date then turns her gaze back to Gail.

“No,” she says, calmly, her voice resolute. You could knock Gail over with a feather right now.

“Excuse me, young lady?” Gail says in disbelief.

“I’m sorry, Momma Gail, but I’m not going to apologize. He already won. He snitched on me for hurting his girlfriend’s feelings, and now they’re staring at me waiting to see what kind of trouble I’m going to get in. So, he won. I’m in trouble, I already know it, but I’m not going to apologize.”

Sophie stands firm on that sinking boat that she’s not going to apologize. To already be convicted of the crime, she pled her case very well for a 13-year-old kid. Right now, Sophie would rather run naked down the I-5 than to go over there and apologize to Marlow and that girl. Gail looks at her stepdaughter and knows that it’s a lost cause to try to make her apologize.

“The party is over for you, young lady,” Gail says firmly. “Go to your apartment. You’re grounded for the rest of the weekend.” Shit, there goes my helper.

“Yes, ma’am,” Sophie says dutifully, and marches past Gail without looking back at me or at Marlow and his date. I roll my eyes before Gail turns around to look at me.

“What?” she says. “She was wrong. She’s going to turn out to be a bully if we don’t nip this in the bud.”

“I highly doubt that,” I say, “but don’t be too hard on her. You know, teenage angst, sibling rivalry… She was probably just giving her ‘brother’s’ date a hard time, nothing more.” I do the finger quotes around the word brother knowing damn well that it’s more than that, but she’s not a bully. She’s lashing out because she’s jealous.

“I don’t know,” Gail sighs. “I hope you’re right.” She walks over to Marlow and his date and says something to them. I turn away and head over to the food table. I can’t help but empathize with Sophie again. Even though she was clearly wrong, he told Mommy on her. There’s no better or more thorough way to drive home the fact that he looks at her as nothing more than a child than to tell Mommy that she said something wrong. There’s no way in hell Sophie was going to apologize after that. She’ll most likely gladly take the grounding and hide under her bed for the next two days.

“Trouble in the happiest place on earth?” My husband’s voice breaks me out of my thought process as I fill my plate with a few pinwheels.

“I just lost my party helper,” I say, taking another pinwheel. “Sophie was poking fun at Marlow’s date, something about twirling her hair on her fingers, and Marlow didn’t like it. Apparently, he told Gail and now Sophie’s grounded.” Christian frowns.

“He snitched on her?” he says. I raise a shocked gaze at him.

“That’s exactly what she said!” I say, surprised.

“Well, yeah, me and Mia used to do shit like that to each other all the time—me and Elliot, too—but we didn’t snitch on each other.” I smile and shake my head.

“I think it might be a different dynamic here, Christian,” I say before I realize that I’m saying too much.

“How so?” he asks, and before I get the chance to trip over my tongue, he continues. “He considers her a little sister and that’s just how she’s acting, like a bratty little sister trying to embarrass him in front of a girl. But hell, he snitched. He broke the sibling code.” I frown.

“There’s a sibling code?” I ask incredulously.

“Well, apparently not with him,” Christian says. “I know there are some siblings who’ll squeal if you left the top off the mustard, but in our family, Vegas rules applied—what happened outside of Mom and Dad’s knowledge stayed outside of Mom and Dad’s knowledge.”

Well, that’s scary. Stuff was going on right under their nose and they didn’t know it. That’s probably why Pedo-Bitch could so easily get to Christian and almost to Elliot. Everything was so hush-hush.

At this point, I don’t know who’s side I’m on.

“Yeah, well, I’d say the lines are drawn in the sand now,” I say, eating a pinwheel.

“I’d say you’re right,” my husband concurs.


CHRISTIAN

“When you are in a submissive role, your duty is to serve. However, it cannot only be your duty. It must be your desire. You cannot force this relationship–it has to be something that you want… crave or desire, even. Some soumises are born, some are cultivated. Either is fine, but this must be something that you want to do for yourself, or you’re wasting your time.”

Pussycat and I are sitting in our mentors’ den. The sessions with them and our attendance at the Munches have been highly rewarding and very informative. Pussycat has done lots of research on her own along with several assignments given to her from Savvina. She has brought several questions to our sessions, and today’s question has to do with tasks.

Tasks are generally set in a 24/7 D/s relationship, which ours is not. However, Pussycat points out that she can see how having a task or even several tasks would help her to maintain a submissive mindset. It doesn’t mean that she is releasing any of her independence. It just means that she’s acknowledging that I’m her Dominus and she, my soumise—and that in that role, she has the attitude of service, which is why Savvina is speaking on the duty of a soumise to serve.

“Service is a relative term,” Savvina continues. “It may mean that you perform direct duties required by your Dominus or it may not. It may also mean that you make yourself available for what he needs, or that you assist him with a skill or ability that he may not have. The possibilities are endless, and the two of you will set the guidelines for how you will serve him or what your specific tasks will be, if any.” Pussycat looks at me.

“Are there any specific tasks that come to mind that you think you may require of me?” she inquires. I ponder for a moment.

“None come to mind immediately,” I admit, “but I’m certain that we’ll come up with something.”

As we’re speaking, the coffee service arrives and is placed on the table in front of us. Savvina dutifully prepares two cups of coffee—one for Artemis, and then one for herself. She prepares Artemis’s cup with cream and sugar, and then her own before she sits back to enjoy the coffee. Pussycat’s and my cup remain empty.

I immediately see this as a test from our mentor if Pussycat is willing to serve—literally, although I’m not sure this is what she meant when she asked about tasks and service.

Noting that Savvina didn’t pour any coffee for us, Pussycat pauses only for a moment before retrieving the silver coffee pot and pouring a small amount into her cup. She replaces the coffee pot and takes a sip of the coffee. Then she retrieves the coffee pot again and fills my cup nearly to the brim. She adds a bit of cream and sugar before stirring it and handing me the cup and saucer, which I graciously accept. She then prepares her own cup and relaxes in her seat to enjoy her coffee.

“Why did you pour your cup first?” Savvina asks.

“I didn’t pour my ‘cup’ first. I poured a tasting in my cup,” Pussycat responds.

“And why would you do that?” Savvina asks. “Why would you pour coffee for yourself before pouring coffee for your Dominus?”

“Because I didn’t make the coffee, and it wasn’t made in my home,” she says. “How he takes his coffee is dependent on the brew, so I had to taste it to know what to put in it.” Savvina raises a brow and looks at me.

“Does she normally serve your coffee at home?” Savvina asks.

“Never,” I reply. “As of late, I’ve been leaving the house very early–before she wakes. It’s not something that I require her to do. Our staff makes sure that the coffee is prepared before either of us wakes. I sometimes leave so early that I just get coffee at the office.”

“How do you know how he takes his coffee if he’s never home or you’re not awake when he drinks it?” Savvina asks Pussycat, and she’s at a loss for words. If I didn’t know better, I would swear that she was affronted.

“If you are serving your Dominus, you should never drink or eat before he does,” Savvina says, and crosses her legs definitively. Pussycat is silent for a moment, her brow furrowed, and just as Savvina begins to speak again, she interjects.

“I disagree,” she says, crossing her legs as well. Savvina’s brow rises again.

“And why is that?” she prompts Pussycat.

“If I make my own coffee, then I want it strong and black. If he drinks my coffee, he wants it black, too. It’s been that way since the first cup of coffee he drank at my apartment more than two years ago. Coffee in restaurants or at the office are a good, robust blend, but not as strong as mine—as is the coffee made by my staff at home. In that case, he’ll take a little creamer, but not sugar. Designer coffees usually have a flavor of their own, so he won’t take anything in those either, unless he opts for a shot of espresso. If coffee is particularly weak, it’s nothing but English tea to his palette. So, he takes it with cream and sugar. So, I beg to differ with you, because if it’s coming from a strange pot, unless he’s pouring his own coffee, I don’t know what’s in the pot. So, I have to taste it before I serve him.”

Touché.

“Well,” Savvina says, “The teacher has been duly chastised.” She takes a sip of her coffee. “This is a perfect example of service being a relative term and the two of you setting your own guidelines for your definition of service. You came to me with a question about tasks and service, and you ended up educating me on one of the most important aspect of the D/s relationship—that it’s totally a la carte, and that each couple writes their own rules and guidelines for their relationship.” She turns to me. “You should be proud.”

I look at Pussycat, who’s unsuccessfully resisting the urge to smile. I reach over, take her free hand, and kiss it gently.

I am, very proud.

*-*

“I’m going to stop breastfeeding.”

I’m shocked to hear this announcement come from my wife as we’re riding into GEH on Monday morning. She lives to breastfeed our children and now she wants to stop?

“May I ask why?” I probe. She drops her gaze.

“There are so many reasons to stop,” she admits. “I’m more active outside of the home, with GEH and all, and even without GEH, I’m going to be more active with Helping Hands. We’re going to Vegas in a week and we don’t know how long we’re going to be there. I can’t go to the bathroom and pump every few hours and I don’t want to risk leaking all over my clothes. Most importantly, our children are drinking out of sippy cups and eating solid food. They just turned a year old. It’s time.” I twist my lips.

“You don’t seem too happy about it,” I tell her. She sighs. Breast-feeding was how and when she bonded most with the children. Now, she’s not going to be doing it anymore.

“We all have to be weened in one way or another,” she says with a shrug. “We might as well start doing it now before I start suffering from separation anxiety.” I take her hand and kiss it gently.

“I’ll be here for you,” I say. “And if I’m honest, I’m being a little selfish, too. Watching that nectar drip from your breast when you’re full and you come is very sexy.” That elicits a giggle from her.

“I know. I guess we’ll just have to ween you, too.”

I try not to stare at Marilyn throughout the morning, but she’s getting thinner and thinner and it’s not looking good on her. When she catches me staring at her, I ask her for a moment of her time.

“You’re going to Las Vegas with us, right?” I ask.

“That’s my understanding,” she replies.

“You know Las Vegas has some of the best cuisine in the country,” I inform her. “World-renowned chefs have restaurants there in some of the casinos and hotels. Have you possibly thought about which ones you may want to visit?” She sighs and rolls her eyes.

“I hadn’t given it any thought,” she says, her voice a bit perturbed, but I don’t allow it to sway me.

“Butterfly and I are hoping to go to Americana one night while we’re there. You’re welcome to come. I hear the food is exquisite…”

“I know what you’re doing, Christian,” she says. “You haven’t talked about any of the shows, none of the sights, not the nightlife or even the spas. You’re only talking about the food.” I purse my lips.

“I’ve known you as long as I’ve known my wife,” I say. “I’ve never seen you this thin… and you’ve gotten thinner just over the last couple of weeks. You barely touch your food at dinner if you eat anything at all and I have no idea what you’re eating throughout the day. You’re fading away in front of us…”

Marilyn hugs her iPad to her body like a shy schoolgirl as I drone on about eating and meals, and I get the feeling that I’ve lost her, so I stop talking.

“I’m not trying to preach to you,” I say, softening my voice. “That’s the very last thing I’m trying to do. I just don’t want to see you cause undue harm to yourself.”

She nods, and a single tear falls down her cheek. Shit.

“I’m sorry if I spoke out of place or if anything I said offended you,” I add.

She nods again, but doesn’t raise her head.

“Can I get you anything?” I ask.

“I just need to go to the restroom,” she says, her voice small.

“Yes, of course, by all means…”

She’s out of the office before the words are out of my mouth. My en suite would’ve given her more privacy, but I get the feeling that she wants to be as far away from me as possible. She brushes past the reception desk and nearly runs into Butterfly on her way to… the restroom.

“Mare?” Butterfly calls after her, but she continues her bolt down the hallway. Butterfly turns to me and storms into my office.

“What did you say to her?” she demands, Momma-Bear loins girded for battle. I roll my eyes and thrust my hands into my hair.

“I didn’t say anything wrong,” I say, my voice squeaky as I explain myself to Mistress. “I just informed her that Vegas has a lot of good cuisine and world-renowned chefs and that she was free to try any of them. I just thought that something may awaken her palette again and encourage her to eat.” Mistress deflates immediately.

“Oh… that,” she says, her voice somewhat small as she falls onto my sofa. “I don’t know what to do, Christian. I know this isn’t good for her. I can’t force feed her, but she’s got to stop this.”

“At the risk of sounding insensitive,” I say, sitting down next to my wife, “she’s going to have to address this before she gets on that plane. She’s going on this trip in an official capacity. She’s flying on a GEH jet, and she’s staying on a GEH dime. There’s all kinds of liability involved if something happens to her while she’s on this trip. Though it was small, she had a medical procedure two months ago and she’s not looking well at all. She needs to be medically cleared to travel, not to mention her doctor needs to see what’s become of her.”

“Don’t you think that may be a bit drastic?” she replies. I can’t even find the words to respond to that. My face must display utter horror as I scoff and gesture wordlessly to the door that Marilyn just hastily exited.

“Alright, alright,” she says, raising her hands in surrender. “You’re right. I’ll talk to her. I’ll get it done.” I lean over and kiss her.

“It’s for her own good, Butterfly,” I say. She drops her head and worries her scar.

“I know,” she says, her voice full of defeat.

Son of a bitch, where the hell is Garrett? The girl could die, and he wouldn’t even know. Would he even care? He’s a real fucking prince among men, I swear!


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

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 5

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 5

ANASTASIA

To say that I was surprised to find out that Ros’ marriage was over is the understatement of the century. To find out that her wife left her because Ros wants to be with someone else completely floored me.

When I think about her situation as I would a patient, I have to be objective with my opinions. When I’m talking to someone that I know, it’s a little harder to find that objectivity.

On the one hand, she’s a person in an unhappy marriage. True, she shouldn’t have married Gwen if she was in love with someone else to begin with. However, be that as it may, we’re dealing with the present and where she is today, what her next move should be in terms of her own happiness. If she were a patient, my advice to her would be that I can’t encourage anyone to leave their marriage, but that life is short, and happiness can be fleeting—you have to grab it where you can, or you may lose it. What decision will make her happiest in the long run?

There would be questions about the lesser of two evils and which choice would have the least severe consequences, because both choices will have consequences. Once she has weighed all of her options, then she can decide as to which choice would be best for her.

On the other hand, I know this woman. She works closely with my husband, and I want to grab her and shake her and ask her why the fuck she would do this to another person. She married Gwen hoping that Gwen would make her happiness complete when her heart was with someone else. Love is such a precious thing that I have no idea why you would do that to someone.

She’s crying and broken, and she says it’s because she hurt Gwen and she really didn’t want to do that, but I don’t know if that’s true.

It could be that she’s scared shitless to leave the familiar and branch out into the uncertain, but she can’t stay with the familiar because Gwen doesn’t want her anymore.

It could be that after she has weighed her options, she really does love Gwen and want to stay with her over this Monique girl, but that ship has sailed because Gwen doesn’t trust her anymore.

Or it could be exactly what she said—she’s hurting because she hurt Gwen and Gwen doesn’t deserve that.

Her position is not an enviable one. She’s going to suffer a loss no matter what she does. However, I sincerely have a hard time finding sympathy for cheaters. As long as she pulls her weight at GEH, that’s fine by me.

Apparently, my husband had some kind of “Come to Jesus” talk with her and Finney, much like the one that I had, but obviously more effective as Finney went scurrying from the room on a mission to be more proactive, and Ros was reduced to a slobbering, blubbering mess confessing her infidelities and the breakdown of her marriage, something that we later discover that Finney didn’t even know. None of us can really empathize with her on this as we’re all on our first marriages and have no intention of leaving.

In other news, I’m about to pull the final rug from under one ex-GEH research assistant, Ms. Deanna Corman. She is ruing the day that she crossed me and came on to my husband—in my presence, no less—she just doesn’t know how much she’s ruing it, yet. I’ve decided to let her in on the punchline today.

The last few weeks have been a bit inconvenient for Ms. Corman. Her neighborhood has been papered with her pictures and details of her little petty citations—nothing major, just embarrassing.

I procured every available billboard in the Seattle area and filled them with little factoids about her without posting a picture or mentioning her name… initials maybe, but not her name, unflattering things like:

DC will offer you a good time, then sue you if you refuse.

There’s no way that she wouldn’t know the boards were about her—information about her being a homewrecker and unemployable, things that the average person may not even figure out. However, if you see it and you know that it’s you, you assume everybody knows that it’s you.

GEH got a call about one of the billboards from some attorney. Of course, they had no idea what the guy was talking about since I paid for the billboard under an alias. Don’t worry, DC, it’s only for a couple of weeks.

Probably some of the most satisfying results were the fact that her surveillance officer informs me that she was excused from two restaurants because the fliers that I circulated somehow made it to the restaurants. I honestly don’t know how that happened, but… bonus!

She’s been refused three interviews from companies that are close to GEH and can barely get an interview anywhere since Christian damn near owns everything except the Space Needle.

There have been other tiny little inconveniences, and I’m not sure if she knows that I’m at the base of her misery. However, she’s the only one who hasn’t dropped the lawsuit against GEH. All the other plaintiffs knew a losing battle when they saw one and got out while the getting was good. Little Ms. Corman apparently wants some visibility since word got back to us that she was fired because the boss wanted her, and she was ready to reciprocate until I threatened her. Granted, this is only rumor mill—nothing in print—but if she wants attention, I’m the bitch to accommodate her.

She received long-stemmed roses at her home today stating that a certain billionaire wanted to meet with her to clear the air, inviting her to dinner in a private room at Christian’s club downtown. What she doesn’t know is that the billionaire that’s coming to clear the air is me.

I’m sure to arrive well before her so that I can enjoy my meal before she gets there—duck a l’orange with sautéed cabbage, roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes. Certain that she plans to be fashionably late, I instruct the server to wait until my guest arrives to bring her meal to the table and in the meantime, I order two chilled bottles of Cristal—one for now, and one for when she gets here. The meal is superb, and I enjoy every bite of it while waiting for my prey to arrive. Just as I’m finishing my tiramisu, the server announces that she has arrived. I nod for him to show her in. The look on her face is priceless when she clears the large velvet curtains and finds that it’s me sitting there at the table instead of Christian.

“I see that you dressed the part,” I taunt of her cocktail dress that’s not even a sneeze off her snatch. “Unfortunately, I don’t bat for that team.” She narrows her eyes.

“I don’t need this,” she says. “I’m not dealing with this.” She turns to leave.

“Oh, no, you’re going to sit your ass down or three wives will receive very unflattering pictures of you with each of their husbands, including the one who put a gun to your head last year.”

She whirls around and stares at me in disbelief. I raise a brow at her, daring her to call my bluff. Her stare changes to a glare, and she slides into the seat across from me. I gently dab the corners of my mouth and take a sip of my champagne.

“You’ve had quite the spell of bad luck over the last month,” I say, smiling. “You lost a really great job with a really reputable company, billboards announcing your extra-curricular activities, being thrown out of classy establishments, interviews refused… you’re just the happy whore of Seattle, aren’t you?”

“Says the woman who has to threaten people to keep them from fucking her man,” she says, rolling her neck. I chuckle lightly.

“But you didn’t get to fuck him, now, did you?” I say with a smile.

“I ain’t dead yet,” she shoots back.

“That can be arranged,” I retort flatly and glare at her, my eyes piercing. Her resolve shakes a bit, but she’s determined not to give me the satisfaction of seeing her sweat, but she doesn’t understand that I already have.

“You’re feeling awfully brave,” she taunts. “I could be wearing a wire.”

“For what?” I ask. “If you’re wearing one, fine. You won’t get anything you can use in court… for what? What are you going to use—the fact that you’re a hoe that comes on to other women’s husband’s and we all know it? Yes, Your Honor, I’m guilty of calling this skank ass, sleazy, tramp-ass bitch a whore! Lock me up! Throw away the key! Nasty bitch.”

“I’ve already got something,” she says. “You said my death could be arranged.”

“I didn’t say by whom,” I retort calmly. “You’re currently fucking three other women’s husbands. You’re not fucking mine. But that’s okay, because I know you’re not wearing a wire. You’re not that smart.” Her face hardens as I sip my champagne.

“I appreciate your chutzpah,” I tell her. “You’ve got to be really brave or really stupid to pretend you still have the upper hand in this matter. While I would love nothing more than to drop kick your ass off the edge of the earth, I think watching you squirm worked out a whole lot better. Keep fucking with me, little girl. You ain’t seen nothing yet.” Realization finally dawns as she realizes what I’m saying.

“All this shit was you?” she asks incredibly. “The billboards, the restaurants… all this shit was you?” I shrug playfully.

“Guilty,” I say. “It’s only slander if it’s not true.” I smile and take a bite of my tiramisu. She leaps out of her seat and gets in my face.

“I oughta kick your fucking ass right here and now!” she threatens. Chuck emerges from the shadows behind her, but she doesn’t see him.

“You go right ahead and try,” I taunt, leaning forward into her face. “By the time I’m done with you, they’ll be finding parts of you on five different continents.”

She jerks back a bit, but still doesn’t sit.

“I’m your worse fucking nightmare, bitch,” I tell her. “I’m a wife who’s madly in love with her hot husband and her happy home and you’re threatening that. But what’s more, at the very least, I’m a comfortable billionairess with a really great setup and you’re trying to muscle in on my fucking territory, and you thought I was just going to roll over and take that have you lost your fucking mind?”

I say the last part all in one breath and she still hovers over me.

“Sit. The fuck. Down.” I say threateningly, but she doesn’t, so Chuck so graciously comes from his post and not so gently helps her back to her seat. Her eyes widen when she sees him—or feels him, I should say—and she turns an incredulous glare to me.

“You ain’t shit without your security,” she says. I swallow another bite of delicious tiramisu.

“That sounds like something I heard in a movie once,” I taunt. “’You ain’t shit without that gun, are you?’ I think that’s what she said. And yet, she still didn’t fuck with the bitch with the gun.” I sip my champagne.

“Christian came on to me,” she declares, changing tact. “He’s only putting on a show for you. I’m who he really wants.”

“Oh, I believe that,” I say laughing sarcastically. “And during your pillow talk, did he tell you about the time I made him come so many times that he had to beg me to stop?”

Her eyes widen and she can’t believe I just said that.

“You bounce your little ass on their dicks, and you suck their cocks and they shoot to the moon for you and you think you’ve done something? Has even one of those fuckers left their wives for you? You’re just some hot little hole to shoot a load in—a readily available piece of ass. They leave a couple of C-notes on the nightstand for you and ‘Thanks until next time, babe.’ And if that’s what you want, then fine, you got it. But bitch, I’m a wife. I got the kids, the mansion, the cars, and the name. What’s more,” I lean in closer to her, “I’m a young, flexible, horny freak and there’s nothing I don’t do. So, while you’re spouting about the dicks you can suck and fuck, believe me, Christian Grey ain’t one of ‘em!

“Do you really think random community pussy is that powerful?” I ask her with a frown. “The man married me; I’ve had two children for him—twins, the apples of his eyes—and notwithstanding the ridiculously generous prenup that you knew nothing about, I own half his company! You’re just some little tramp trick hoebag handing it out to anybody with a couple of pennies to rub together hoping for the big windfall. What could you have possibly hoped to achieve by crossing me?

“I only did this because you pissed me off,” I say, sipping my Cristal. “You tested me, and you tried me, and you dared me to call you on your shit. Or maybe you knew I would, and you were hoping I would give you something that you could use in court.

“I didn’t even have anything to prove by doing this to you, Deanna,” I say, finishing my champagne, “nothing in the world to prove but the fact that I can. This wasn’t even a coup. This was just some little thing I did in my spare time. I was just having a good time at your personal expense. Hell, it’s only money to me. Imagine what I could do if I really put my mind to it?

“Do yourself a favor. Walk away now. We are an at-will company with a positive drug test from a sampling of your hair from a reputable global testing company. No matter what lawyer you fucked that convinced you that you can win this, you can’t win. If you feel like wasting your time and money, be my guest… sue away. You’ll be stuck in litigation for years and in the meantime, I’ll be clocking your every move, taking note of every hard-up, married thousandaire you take up with, and reminding you that the Grey reach is infinite.”

I slide a hard drive across the table to her with several pictures of her most recent escapades.

“A bit of my research,” I tell her. “You can keep that.” I stand and retrieve my purse. “Enjoy your meal. Try the duck—it’s delicious.”

I turn around and walk out of the room and Chuck falls in step behind me. I stop at the server who’s standing just outside the door.

“Pour the lady some champagne, please,” I say. “She’s extremely thirsty.”


CHRISTIAN

“Do whatever you need to do, just be safe.”

Those were my wife’s words when I left the house this evening. Things have come to a head much faster than I expected and it’s time to move forward with the rest of the plan.

During our Downtime session on Friday, she told me about her meeting with Deanna Corman, the one final holdout on the wrongful termination lawsuit. She informed me about how, without my knowledge, she single-handedly launched a smear campaign on that poor girl that was utterly merciless and completely untraceable. Her final blow was the meeting where she informed Ms. Corman—who arrived thinking that she was coming to see me—that her demise could be more than dinner talk if Ms. Corman thought for one moment that she was going to muscle in on my wife’s cushy lifestyle.

That was a gangster move.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I thought it time to tell her my plans for our not-so-favorite author and her clan of unmerry men and women. After all, it was she who told me that I had better do something about the Pedophile or she would. I couldn’t let that happen.

I let her in on the things that were happening to Holstein—the box of live rats, the cliché cement shoes, and the plans I had for him this weekend. There was no use in drawing out the situation once I got the word that everything needed for Ms. Ellison had been done and secured. She’s really the big fish, because she’s got the pen.

“But what about Elena?” Pussycat had asked. “She has the original story. What’s to stop her from hiring another ghost writer? It’ll obviously be difficult, but from what you say, the warden won’t even be a factor anymore. She can just convince the new warden that she has the story of a lifetime and we’re back where we started from.”

I love my little Pussycat Butterfly, but she obviously underestimated my ability to tie up loose ends. I informed her about the Pedophile’s little accident and the fact that they’ll be culminating in a finale that Mrs. Lincoln won’t soon forget.

Our arrival at GEH on Monday morning was epic. The lobby was filled with the usual morning chatter until Mr. and Mrs. Grey showed up. My wife has been wearing these amazing power outfits and Monday was no different. She came breezing through the lobby in a gray sleeveless pencil dress cut right above the knee with a matching tailored gray blazer, sporting a pair of classic black Louboutin sky-highs and her signature Jackie O’s. She strode through that hallway with all the class, style, and power of the perfect CEO and I’m certain that the silence that ensued was just as much for her presence as it was for mine, if not more.

That morning, the power wife went off to her meetings with Lorenz in tow and I got updates on Project Alcatraz.

The Pedophile has been spending quite a bit of time in the infirmary—broken ribs, sprained ankle, and most recently, a strange bout with what appears to be food poisoning. Funny that she’s the only one who got it. She even suffered from a really bad forced haircut, which resulted in nearly all of her hair being cut off by the barber so that she didn’t look completely ridiculous.

Even the poor little smart-mouthed receptionist has been getting her due. For several consecutive days, gifts have been arriving at her home precisely when her husband is present and she’s not. That wasn’t very easy to pull off since there’s only a small window between the time that he gets home from work and the time that she gets home from work. Apparently, however, it worked… a little too well.

Coupled with the gifts, there’s been a gentleman perched across the street from her house… just watching, nothing else. He was conspicuous, meant for her and her husband to see. Mr. Receptionist could obviously be seen pointing at the guy one day and demanding that she tell him who the guy was, especially in light of all the gifts she had been receiving. She disappeared into the house with her husband while they were still arguing.

Apparently, she emerged Monday morning wearing sunglasses and looking like she had been through Armageddon. Sources at the prison informed us that the fucker has battered her… badly. She wouldn’t make a police report as, with everything going on, she knew the situation with her and with the warden were somehow related. She just didn’t know how.

I felt more than a tad guilty as I was only trying to cause a bit of inconvenience for her. I didn’t expect it to go this far. Hell, I don’t know what I expected. Nonetheless, Operation Receptionist halted immediately, and an anonymous call was placed to the police regarding how she showed up to work on Monday morning and requesting a wellness check at her home. No word yet on how that turned out.

However, the biggest news of the weekend was all about the warden. He fell prey to a harmless drug that knocked him out and landed him in a very compromising position—a position that landed on the front page of nearly every available news outlet on Monday morning. I say nearly every news outlet because some of them are unable to show the pictures due to their graphic nature, although the local morning shows took the liberty of blurring out the good parts while reporting the breaking news.

Supposedly, the good warden bats for the same team and was photographed in very compromising positions with what is revealed to be a gay, male hooker. Of course, the warden didn’t show up for work Monday or today with the press following him around, and with good reason. However, he probably should have been more careful where he parked his car.

This morning, armed with a search warrant based on an anonymous tip supposedly from the gentleman friend that he spent the night with, the police raided Holstein’s car and found four kilos of coke, an undetermined amount of meth, and an illegal firearm. My team takes credit for the gun; the drugs were a bonus. Apparently, the good warden was into a lot more than I thought he was.

So, with the warden completely out of the way and everything in place for this bug that keeps buzzing up my ass in the most lethal ways, I’ve informed my wife that the final steps are in place to assure that the Pedophile’s book never gets published, and that the skank that keeps inserting herself into our lives is not able to do it again. She knows how far I’ll go to protect my family, but this is bigger than just my family. This is decades and decades of young boys who have been victimized by that sick bitch, and now both these unscrupulous cows are trying to find a way to capitalize on her wretched behavior. I can survive the shit she might throw at me. There are several others out there who may not.

Thus, my wife’s warning to be safe.

We’re in one of the Fords tonight when Jason pulls up to yet another warehouse. We’re in all black again, both strapped with our Glocks and ready for any eventuality—very James Bond/Mission Impossible… quite fitting since this bitch has the disguise ability of Ethan Hunt.

She’s going to wish she hadn’t used it tonight.

A private text to her “Dom” phone requested her presence at a secluded location in an adequate disguise so as not to be recognized. She was then abducted in the old-fashioned manner and transported to this warehouse at approximately 10:00pm. Alex called me on our burners to tell me that she was in position, and I let her stew for an hour or so. When Jason and I arrive at the warehouse, she’s naked, duct-taped to a chair and gagged. A look of sheer horror comes over her face when she sees me enter the room.

“Wanted a little eye-candy, did you?” I ask Alex. He shrugs.

“That was a bonus,” he says. “I had to make sure that she wasn’t wired.”

“Where are her clothes?” I ask.

“In her car,” he says.

“And her car?” I press. “Did anybody leave any DNA behind?” Alex scoffs.

“Probably, but good luck finding it,” he says matter-of-factly. “That DNA and her bald man costume have both been thoroughly burned along with her car—down to the frame—which is now being deposited into a very large, but obscure, body of water as we speak.” I nod and turn to a trembling Ms. Ellison.

“And we meet again,” I say as I move to stand in front of her. “I’m dying to know what she told you that made you think I couldn’t get to you.”

“Here’s what I really don’t understand. You know that you’re playing with fire and you know who holds the torch. How can you not expect me to come at you with every incendiary device in my arsenal? My complacency has cost me way too much already and I refuse to allow myself, my family, or any of these other people that she has hurt become collateral damage on your twisted road to recognition. I’m going to put this matter to bed once and for all, and it’s never going to rise again.”

I can see her screwing up her courage for one last stand. Good. That’s what I want. In your final attempt to save your life, you’re going to tell me all your fucking secrets.

“Ms. Ellison, I’m not going to snap your wrist this time. I’m going to snap your fucking neck, and I’m going to enjoy it, if you don’t answer every fucking question I ask you quickly and truthfully.”

“Oh, you need information,” she says. “So, without my cooperation, you don’t get what you need. That’s quite the predicament.” She sounds so confident. I just laugh.

“Impressive,” I say, turning to Alex. “She’s duct-taped to a chair, surrounded by four men—any one of which could put a bullet in her ass right now and not care—and she still thinks she has the upper hand.”

“I may not have the upper hand,” she says, her voice trembling, “but there are other people involved, other people with things at stake, and they’ll see to it that the book is published, even if I don’t do it!” I’m unmoved. I turn back to her.

“Well, then, what good are you to me?” I ask, callously. “I could just get rid of you right now and move on to the others, right?” Fear clouds her eyes and she tries to speak, but nothing comes out.

“Is that what you’re looking for?” I add, with my hands extended in a shrugging manner. “You want a legacy? Because if I fuck you up right now, or I turn you over to any of these powerful, crazy motherfuckers you’ve named in that book, that’s all that’s going to be left—your legacy, which will most likely be worthless, because no one will be around willing to cosign this crud that you’re trying to print.

“Do you think I’m the only one looking for the total decimation of this bullshit? Do you think I’m the only one that knows you’re the fucking ghost writer, BD Simmons? Do you have any idea how easy it was to find your ass? You weren’t even creative! A civilian found you—a vanilla civilian at that! I gave your powers of stealth way too much credit, but I underestimated you at the same time. That’s something I don’t intend to do again.

“Oh, and don’t think she’s going to walk away from this either,” I taunt. “Why do you think you haven’t seen her for weeks?” I smile fiendishly.

“So, we’re going to try this again, and I’m going to hope—for your sake—that you want to keep your miserable fucking life and that you’re going to tell me everything that I want and need to know about everyone involved in this endeavor so that I don’t have to waste precious time looking for answers. Now…” I crouch down in front of her and rest my elbows on my knees.

“The difference between me and you is that I’ve got time. You, on the other hand, are not leaving this room. I don’t care if you eat; I don’t care if you sleep; I don’t care if your shit blocks up in your ass and comes out of your fucking throat. I and my friends are going to ask you questions which you are going to answer and then we’re going to check the validity of your answers. Each time you lie or fail to tell us everything, we’re going to break a finger. If too much time passes and we can’t validate what you’re telling us, we’re going to break a finger. When we run out of fingers, we’ll move to your toes. But my dear, when you run out of toes, you run out of time.

“With or without you, I will look under every rock in every slimy, sleazy slum of the country and I will turn over every diamond in every mansion of every billionaire who ever breathed to discover who all has a hand in this. If you’re writing her story true to tale, you already know that she’s most likely molested dozens of young boys, myself included. Whatever dirt or harm can be done to me by that book, I can recover, but all those other boys… their families, my children… you don’t give a fuck and neither does she. I have nothing at all to lose, Ms. Ellison, so let’s begin, shall we?”

I step away from her and remove my jacket, tossing it to Alex and revealing my Glock and harness. I grab a nearby chair and turn it backwards. I sit down and lean my arms on the back of it, glaring at her the entire time. I don’t think I saw this much fear in the eyes of the hackers when we questioned them.

An hour later, I have more information from this lying cunt than I ever thought I’d get. Alex immediately dispatches teams and special ops to verify her information. The faster we can get this thing laid to rest with the least amount of people knowing, the better. As it turns out, the Pedophile convinced the Cunt that less was more, too. So, no one had intimate details of the book except for the two of them. That was a condition of the publishing because although it could be leaked that a book was being written, had any of the details of the book leaked, the book would be worthless.

We already knew that the warden was in on the process. We just didn’t know how deep in he was. Basically, all he did was arrange special meetings for them and the passage of information. According to her, he’s pretty clueless, too. We’ll see.

I’m sitting in front of her glaring at her with a pair of vice grips in my hand when Jason walks into the room. He’s completely undercover. He looks like a member of the SWAT team. He wasn’t this incognito when we were dealing with Dodd and his crew. He looks down at the vice grips in my hand and back up at me. It’s no surprise why I have them. If this cunt lies to me, I’m going to be the first to break one of her fingers.

“The coast is clear?” I ask.

“Yes, sir,” he seethes, glaring at Ellison sitting naked in the chair.

“You okay?” I ask cautiously. He turns his gaze back to me.

“I’m trying to remember that I don’t hit women, sir,” Jason says, his voice menacingly low.

“Don’t worry,” I say, holding up the vice grips. “Maybe she’ll lose a finger.” He’s still glaring at her.

“I said I don’t hit women, sir,” he says. He marches over to the cunt and backhands her—hard! So hard that I damn near hear her neck snap and she cries out from the pain. When she raises her head, she’s spitting blood.

“Thieving, lying accessories to attempted murder… yeah, I can hit them just fine!” he hisses before turning back to me.

“We weren’t followed,” he informs me. “Her bank account has been cleaned out as has her safe deposit box earlier today. Her apartment is being cleaned as we speak.” She frowns, no doubt wondering what we’re talking about. I’ll tell her… when it’s time.

It’s about 2am as all the information Ellison has given us starts to flood into the warehouse—hard copies of pieces of the manuscript; research and data on all of her electronic resources. However, we did find a link to the cloud and to her storage there where she backed up most of her documentation, notes, outlines and draftsstorage that she failed to disclose.

I suppose she doesn’t need that index finger.

Once she’s finished screaming from the pain and is coherent enough to realize that I would gladly make good on my prior threats, she gives up four more cloud storage locations that contained more pictures, names, and information.

Good God in heaven. This crazy bitch has been fucking little boys from even further back than I thought. Her penchant for the underage was honed in Amsterdam when she was living with her sick aunt—and it never stopped. She was fucking kids even before she married Linc, and it never stopped. The more information that streams into our databases, the more horrified I become. I turn angry, disgusted eyes to this bleeding bitch taped to the chair.

“You knew,” I say, my stomach churning and my frown deep. “How long did you know?”

She’s weeping, unable to answer my question. Her lip and cheek have swollen from when Jason backhanded her. We just heard about the book late last year. She has an unbelievable amount of research on an insane amount of people. The carnage this book could have caused is immeasurable. I can’t see her just finding out only a few months ago that Elena was a pedophile and then accumulating this much information in that period of time. I can’t even see her being able to swallow that realization in just a few months—not even a horrible, conniving bitch like her!

She had some time to process this… to absorb this. I don’t know how long she knew, but this bitch knew! How could you even associate yourself with someone like that? She fucking knew!

Before I even realize what I’m doing, a size 11 ½ black hiking boot is planted squarely between this bitch’s tits, and she and the entire chair go flying into the air, landing several feet behind her with a loud thud. She shrieks in pain and I think she may have hit her head.

“You’ve secured any and all copies of that manuscript?” I ask Alex through gritted teeth.

“All the ones that we could find,” he says. “Manuscripts and notes—the outlines are very detailed… you should know that they have real names in them, including yours.” I shake my head. Retrieving the vice grips, I march over and roll the cunt in the chair over to her side to gain access to her hands again and firmly grip her next finger in the teeth of the tool. She cries out in pain.

“Is there anything else?” I growl. “You lie to me this time and I swear to God, I’m not going to stop when I hear the bone break!”

“No!” she screams. “No! I swear to God! There’s nothing else! I told you everything! Google, Dropbox…” and she just starts naming off all of her cloud storages, all of her data backups, hiding places for manuscripts in case we may have forgotten something, even confessing that there were drives and documents hiding in the car, which Alex assures me is a charred frame at the bottom of the ocean.

“You dumped it in the ocean?” I ask in horror. “That’s not a secluded body of water.”

“Are you aware of every bank, beach, tributary or coast that feeds into the Pacific Ocean?” he asks, flatly. No… no, I’m not.

“Duly noted,” I say. I turn back to Greta fucking Ellison.

“Tape her mouth,” I instruct. “Well! I’ve heard enough.”

She struggles uselessly, crying as two of the guys wrap tape around her mouth several times. I stand in front of her, looking down at her one last time.

“I told you that you would regret fucking with me. You didn’t believe me. I let you go once. I won’t make that mistake twice.” Her eyes widen and she’s trying to say something through her gag. I think it’s “please.” I don’t care to hear it.

“Instructions, sir?” Alex asks.

“Get her out of my sight and make sure that she doesn’t come back,” I reply, watching Ellison’s face pale to nearly white under her duct tape gag.

“You’re certain, sir?” Alex asks again. I turn to him.

“I was almost killed because of this woman,” I say through my teeth. “My personal bodyguard and best friend took a bullet that was meant for me from a gun that she stole and gave to the assailant.” I turn to Ellison. “I confront her thieving, conspiring ass with my evidence and she scoffed at me—through her grimace, that is, since I was trying to break her fucking wrist. In my kindness—or naiveté, take your pick—I warned her and let her leave that place in one piece and what does she do? She conspires with that murderous, pedophile bitch once again to ruin my life and quite possibly the lives of countless other people.

“Even behind bars, that bitch is a pestilence—a disease—and you want to give her a fucking voice, the most powerful voice of all…  a goddamn book. You’re as bad as she is. In fact, you’re worse, because you keep fucking going and you think you can’t be punished. Well, you can rest assured, BD Simmons, that after today, she’s going to be silenced and so will you.”

Tears form in her eyes and she begins to sob behind her gag. Sorry, cunt, I feel no sympathy for bitches who conspire to kill and destroy me. I turn back to Alex.

“If you’re asking if I want her to die, I don’t—but I don’t fucking want to see her again… ever.” Alex nods.

“You and Jason leave now, sir,” he says. “Plausible deniability.” I nod.

“I get it,” I say, grabbing my jacket and taking one final look at a terrified Greta Ellison. I turn back to Alex.

“Ever!” I reinforce before leaving the warehouse.

Jason drives us to another location, yet another of GEH’s obscure acquisitions. I see the Audi parked there along with who I assume is another member of Alex’s black ops team. Apparently, he’s somehow gotten clearance to get these guys without Colostomy’s help, because he said nothing about having to contact him for this mission.

“I need you to come inside, sir,” Jason says, and I follow him into the building with the black ops guy behind us carrying a bag. We enter the building and ride up the elevator to a secured loft.

“I need your clothes,” Jason says. He’s right. That bitch’s blood, tears, and DNA are probably all over me. “You can shower in there.”

I strip right there in front of Jason and the stranger and march to the shower to scrub away any evidence. When I come back, Jason has already showered and changed and is handing me a pair of boxer briefs.

“What about her?” I ask as I step into my underwear. “Won’t my DNA be all over her?”

“I’m assured that it’ll be taken care of, sir,” he says. “Plausible deniability.” I nod and continue to get dressed.

Once I’m clothed, we leave the loft. Off in the distance, I see our other black ops guy with a fire blazing in front of him. Jason signals to him and he nods before we get into the Audi and drive home.

The dawn is breaking when we get to Mercer Island. Everything all around us is proceeding as normal. No one looks at us like we’ve most likely made one woman disappear and will later be responsible for the incapacitation of another. And you know what?

I don’t care one bit.

It’s surprising how one can turn into a totally vicious and lethal animal when it comes down to survival. I totally believed my wife when she said that I had better take care of this or she would, and I wasn’t going to let her get her hands dirty with this shit. If the justice system can’t do their job of keeping this bitch on a leash, then I will. Holstein’s out, Ellison’s gone, and now it’s Lincoln’s turn. Just as I’m thinking about the bitch and how soon we’ll be putting our plan into action, Jason informs me as we’re walking into the mudroom…

“It’s flu season, sir.” I purse my lips and nod.

“That it is,” I say knowingly while removing my boots.

Butterfly is still wide awake when I come into the room. I knew she wouldn’t be able to rest until I returned. She makes eye-contact with me but says nothing until I remove my clothes.

Do we sleep now? Do we talk? Do we eat something, because I’m starving!

“Um…” She’s just as lost as I am. “How did it go?” I guess that’s a safe enough question under the circumstances.

“Nobody’s dead,” I say, pulling on a pair of sweatpants and sitting on the bed next to her, “except the book, and it won’t be back.” She moves behind me and leans her chin on my shoulder, gently rubbing my arms.

“That’s all I need to know,” she says, with a kiss on my shoulder. “I think we’ve earned a day off, don’t you?” I sigh heavily, feeling the weight of the world lifting off my back.

“I think you’re right.”


LINCOLN

I’m back in the hole. Why the hell am I back in the hole? I didn’t even do anything! But these fuckers dragged me straight from the infirmary to the hole. I’m really beginning to worry now. Where the hell is Ron? And why the fuck hasn’t Greta contacted me? I haven’t heard anything.

Things were pretty good for a long time. Sure, I had Christian’s threat about his precious wife and their ridiculous little family. Twins… talk about over-achieving. It’s not enough the bitch gets herself knocked up as soon as they get married. No, she has to spit out two at once! That’s probably how she got him to marry her in the first place. He was having second thoughts—I know he was. That’s why the little cunt ran off to Montana. Had it not been for that damn restraining order, I could have gotten him a suitable submissive and this never would have happened.

But no, almost seven months to the day they got married, she spits out twins. She was pregnant when they got married. She trapped him and he was too stricken to even see it.

Now, I’m in this place and I’m afraid to walk around out there anymore. My skin is saggy, and my body is starting to ache everywhere, and not just from these stupid accidents either… if that’s what they really are. At least in here I’m not getting randomly thrown against walls or tossed down the stairs. Jesus, I don’t know how much more of that my body could take.

Ron was providing my dye jobs—not the flaxen blonde I’m accustomed to, but a strawberry blonde. Anything’s better than this dull brown, which is showing again at the roots, by the way. This is becoming utterly ridiculous! I want some fucking answers.

“I want to see the warden,” I tell the guard when he brings my dinner. “I have a right to see him and I want to see him!” He smiles.

“You want to see the warden?” He smirks. “I’ll send word up right away that you want to see the warden.”

He raises a brow at me and leaves the cell. He’s probably bullshitting me. He’s not going to tell Ron that I want to see him. Nobody else has. I shake my head, sit on my bed, and eat my dinner.

A while after I’ve finished my meal, I hear the guard coming back down the hallway.

“Hands, Lincoln,” she says. Okay, they must be taking me to see Ron. Finally! I can find out what the hell is going on!

I stick my hands out of the small square and the guard shackles me.

“You know the drill,” she says, “other end of the cell.” She watches me through the small square as I walk to the far end of the cell. When she opens the door, she steps in with another female guard and a third woman dressed in a suit.

Who is this, the prisoner liaison? Where the fuck is Ron?

“Elena Lincoln, prisoner number 582625, ma’am,” the guard says. Ma’am? What the fuck?

“Lincoln,” the woman says. “I’m informed that you desperately needed to see me.” You were?

“Who are you?” I ask, bemused. She raises her brow.

“I’m Sylvia Mumford,” she says. “I’m the new warden.”

New warden! Fuck me!

“You asked to see me, Mrs. Lincoln?” she says, her voice impatient. Shit, what the fuck do I say?

“What… what happened to R… Mr. Holstein?” I ask.

“Mr. Holstein is no longer with the Department of Corrections… well, not in an official capacity anyway.” The guards chuckle behind her and she throws a look over her shoulder, not even making eye-contact with them, and the bitches stop laughing. Hell, I need her on my side. How to do that?

“Mr. Holstein was arrested and taken into custody, and thus, relieved of his duties.” I bite the inside of my lip. “Is that what you wanted to know, or did you want something else?”

“Well… yes,” I stutter. “I want to know why I’m in the hole,” I ask. I at least need to know that much. She turns to the guards.

“Why is she in the hole?” she asks.

“Lincoln’s been getting into a lot of fights on the tier lately. We’re not sure why,” one of the guards say. “The first couple of times, the detail just says that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nobody seems to know why she was pushed down the stairs,  and McCooley used her body as a ping-pong ball the other day. We don’t know what brought that on either.”

Mumford takes a closer look at me and frowns.

“How long have you been incarcerated?” she asks.

“Nearly two years from the first date of my arrest,” I reply. What does that have to do with anything?

“You’ve been here for almost two years, and you’ve got brown roots?” the new warden inquires. Oh, shit. How do I explain this?

“I… got a beauty day for good behavior,” I excuse. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

“Good behavior,” she says, incredulously. “You’re literally bouncing off of walls and you got a beauty day for good behavior? And a beauty day includes a wash and trim, a manicure and pedicure, maybe a clear polish if you’re lucky. A beauty day does not include toxic dyeing chemicals that are prohibited in the prison.”

“I…” I don’t have an explanation for her.

“Well, that stops now,” she says. “Some things are going to change around here. I run a tight ship, and there will be no special favors anymore. I will, however, find out why you’re in the hole. What are you in for?” Oh, shit, here we go.

“Attempted murder,” I say, leaving off the rest. She shrugs.

“Well, that’s big for the justice system, but not so bad for the prison system. Have you made any enemies? I would think not since you got that whole beauty day.” Now, she’s mocking me.

“Um, warden,” one of the guards says, “Lincoln may very well have several enemies. She might be in here for her own protection.”

“Oh?” she says, turning back to me. “How so?”

“She’s not just here for attempted murder. There are probably several women on the tier that wouldn’t mind… a few moments alone with her.”

“Like whom?” Mumford asks.

“Like every mother on the block,” the guard replies. “Aunties, sisters, even cousins…”

“Spit it out, Redford. Why is she here?” Mumford says impatiently. “Did she try to kill a kid?”

“No, but she’s done some other things,” Redford says. “She’s doing 25 years for child pornography, statutory rape, and molestation.” The warden’s eyes widen.

“Twenty-five years!” she says, appalled. “Good God, 25 years? What the fuck did you do?” she says, throwing a glare back at me.

“Apparently a whole lot,” Redford says, when I take too long to answer, “to a whole bunch of boys… for a long time. She pled to the 25 years. Our only guess is that sometimes the block simmers down and leaves her alone and other times, they’ve got it in for her. She’s been on the bad end of quite a few mishaps over the last month or so.” Mumford’s brow furrows in contemplation.

“Lincoln,” she says. “That name is familiar to me…”

“She was all over the news for her trial…”Redford says. Mumford ponders a while longer before a look of realization comes over her face. Oh, shit. I’m screwed.

“And she’s all over the news now!” the warden says. “The word is that you’re writing an exposé about your encounters—about your crimes!” I swallow hard and clear my throat.

“I’m writing a memoir…” I excuse.

“About your encounters!” Mumford accuses. “How is that even possible? The law says that you can’t profit from your crimes!”

“I’m only writing about my life!” I defend. “And I’m using a ghostwriter, whom I haven’t been able to speak to in weeks.”

“You shouldn’t have been able to speak to them at all!” she declares. “This is preposterous! Who would authorize…?”

She trails off and her eyes widen again. I can see the nickels dropping left and right. There goes my book; there goes my privileges; there goes my protection; there goes everything. The warden turns her gaze from me and back to the guards.

“Does the population know about this?” she asks, completely ignoring me.

“About…?” the other guard asks for clarification.

“That she’s writing a book!” the warden barks. “That she’s planning on exploiting her crimes and these children that she raped and their families for personal gain!”

Goddammit!

“Um, I don’t know, ma’am,” Redford says. “Usually if something like that is in the prison population, we would know.”

“Oh, give it time,” Mumford says, angrily. “It’s probably only on the gossip rags and tabloids, but don’t worry. It’ll be on the regular news in no time, especially with Holstein’s recent arrest. It only broke on the dark news over the last couple of months. It’s my job to know these things. You’re prison guards in a maximum-security facility. It’s your job to know it, too.” She turns to me.

“The bad news, Mrs. Lincoln, is that you won’t be leaving solitary confinement for a while. The good news is that this is probably the safest place in the prison for you to be. No matter your crime, it’s my job to ensure your safety, and that’s what I intend to do. In the interest of the greater good, this is where you’ll be staying for a while until I can get to the bottom of just how far this goes. And you don’t have to tell me; I know that Holstein was in on something. You’ve had a ghostwriter coming to visit you and you’ve got blonde hair, for Christ’s sake!”

The bitch does a military turn and walks out of the cell. I’m waiting to hear the cell door close so they can remove these damn cuffs when I hear her talking to someone in the hallway instead.

“What’s that? Who’s it for?” she asks.

“Lincoln,” I hear someone say. “She didn’t get a flu shot before she left the infirmary.”

“It’s January!” Mumford exclaims. “She should have gotten a flu shot months ago.”

“I don’t know, ma’am, but her chart shows that she hasn’t gotten one,” comes the reply. I thought I already had a flu shot. I don’t know anymore. I’ve got bigger problems. What the hell am I going to do now? I’m totally cut off from everything! This is a disaster!

“She may not even need it now,” the warden says sarcastically. “I guess we don’t want any of the staff getting sick. Go on and give it to her,” I hear her say as her voice disappears down the hall. The cell door opens again and two nurses and another guard walk in—a guy I’ve never seen before.

“I’ll take it from here,” he tells the other two guards, and they leave.

“Have a seat, Lincoln,” one of the nurses says as she puts on her rubber gloves. I sigh and sit down. I have to stay in here. Granted, I’d rather be here than on the tier where they want to kick my ass regularly, but I was on my way out of here to an easier block. Minimum security, Ron promised me. All those times I sucked his tiny dick and let him come on my face, promised him the lion’s share of the profits from my book, and it got me nothing! It landed me here and now he’s in jail, too.

“Ah!” I say after the needle goes in and the vaccine is injected. “Shit, is it supposed to burn like that?”

“You might be having an adverse reaction to it,” the nurse says nonchalantly. She removes the needle and puts a cotton ball on my arm with a bandage.

“Shit, that really burns,” I say again. I don’t ever remember a flu shot burning like that.

“Aaaww, poor wittle baby don’t like da needle?” the other nurse teases, and the guard laughs. I roll my eyes at her. Bitch.

I suddenly feel heavy all over, like the weight of Atlas is on my back. This shit really sucks. I was this close—this close—to a cushier setup, to more privileges, to blowing the lid off of what would be the biggest scandal greater Seattle had ever seen, and what happens? Holstein gets arrested and Greta fucking disappears. She probably got word that Holstein got nabbed and ran for the hills. I could have fixed this… even without Holstein.

My head feels like a brick… really feels like a brick. I’m trying to focus and I’m suddenly seeing double.

“Thomtis wong…” Huh? The second nurse turns to look at me.

I can’t see straight, something’s wrong. That’s what I’m trying to say, but it comes out more like “Thatha fee som…”

“What the hell…” The second nurse is trying to lay me down on the bed, but it just looks like the room is spinning. The guard just stands there looking at me, while the first nurse calmly says, “Radio the infirmary. Tell ‘em we need a stretcher in the hole.”

She’s awfully fucking calm while I’m losing the ability to move my limbs.

“Mrs. Lincoln,” the second nurse says. “Mrs. Lincoln, can you hear me?”

Her voice is fading down a long tunnel, as is her face…

*-*

I open my eyes in a well-lighted room. I’m lying on my back and my head is elevated. I can’t move. I must be restrained, but I can’t move anything. My throat feels like sandpaper and I can’t even swallow. I can focus a bit and there’s someone sitting next to my bed… another nurse. I’m back in the infirmary.

I’m thirsty.

I’m thinking the words, but I’m so damn weak, I can’t even form them to come out of my mouth.

I’m thirsty.

Wait a minute…

I’m thirsty.

Wait a fucking minute. I’m fucking talking and nothing’s coming out! And I can’t move! Anything! Not my head, not my hands, nothing! What the hell is going on?

Hey, fucking nurse lady! Look over here! I can’t fucking move.

It takes an eternity, a literal eternity, but she finally looks over at me.

“Ah, Mrs. Lincoln, you’re awake,” she says in a pleasant voice. I look at her with frightened, beseeching eyes.

What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I talk or move?

“Give me just a minute, okay?” she says. She gets up and walks to the door, looks up and down the hallway, then closes the door and walks back over to me.

“Now, listen to me carefully, Sunshine,” she says, her smile wide. “Right now, you can’t talk. You’re going to hallucinate. You may even have a nightmare or two. You can’t walk; you’re going to be very dizzy very often; and unfortunately, there’s some vomiting and incontinence in your future. You’re having all of the symptoms of an acute cerebrovascular accident, or in laymen’s terms, a sudden stroke. However, Mrs. Lincoln, this was no accident.”

I think my eyes widen when I look at her. At least, that’s what they did in my mind. I know one thing for certain—I’m drooling, because she’s wiping my mouth.

“You’ve been diagnosed with a stroke. There’s no reason to believe otherwise, and there’s no reason to look for anything else. Now, I and my team are going to be in charge of your care, and we’ll take really good care of you. This condition could be permanent, or it could be temporary, but no matter what happens, when and if you come out of it enough to form words, you’ll never be the same again. You’ll probably be in a wheelchair and most of your thoughts will just be considered the ramblings of a delusional old woman. Knowing that, I can tell you this.” She leans closer to my face.

“I know you’re completely cognizant. I know that you can understand every word that I’m saying, so listen to me carefully. You’ve pissed off some really powerful people, and they want you to shut the fuck up. That flu shot that you got a few days ago… wasn’t a flu shot. It’s a little substance that mimics a stroke if it’s ingested or absorbed and it’s completely traceable—if you know to look for it.

“There’s only been about a dozen cases of poisoning from this substance and to my knowledge, only one of them resulted in death. That’s because it was ingested purposely and in a large quantity to bring about a suicide. That’s not what’s happening to you, however, Mrs. Lincoln.”

What the fuck is happening to me then? In my mind, I’m yelling, but there’s no sound in the room except the voice of this wretched woman apparently describing my fate.

“The people you pissed off want you to know that you pissed them off. They also know that you know who they are, so I don’t have to name them for you. You’re in this current state of purgatory because you need to think about what you’ve done. You’ve spent most of your life taking advantage of people, and once you were caught, you were determined to make your victims pay for your mistakes. The penal system may mostly be for punishment, but it’s also for rehabilitation. It’s a time to reflect on your mistakes and see if there’s some way that you can give back while repaying your debt to society. You weren’t doing either.

“Now, I don’t want you to take this personally. I’m just doing my job. My job is to care for you and keep you alive, but it takes a cold person to take an oath to care for people and watch them suffer at the same time. I am that person, Mrs. Lincoln. You’re not my first or only case like this, and you won’t be my last. This is what I do, and I and my team are well paid for it. So, here’s the deal.

“I’ve done my research on you. I know exactly why you’re here. I’ve read your story and I’ve seen your trial. I’ve got three children, Mrs. Lincoln—all boys. The youngest is 18. At any given time, my boys could have been one of your victims. I don’t feel any sympathy for you. I’m taking care of you because I’m being paid to do it. This experience is going to depend solely on you. It can last for six months, or it can last until I retire and pass the baton on to someone else. Either way, you’re going to be so screwed up when the fog somewhat clears that nobody will ever believe we had this conversation, and somebody will always have to take care of you.”

Dear God, this is not happening. This is fucking not happening. I can’t say anything; I can’t move; and this bitch is sitting here taunting me about how my life is in her hands! She can drag this out as long as she wants—as long as they want, and she’s already told me that this drug that they’re using on me can kill me. Oh, God, I know I’ve done some terrible things, but I don’t deserve this…

“Now, that look,” she says, pointing to me, “that’s a dangerous look, Mrs. Lincoln. That look, where your pupils constrict that way and your eyes sharpen, that look is telling me that you want to fucking choke me.” She smiles, because she knows that she’s right. “You’re going to want to control that urge, because I can hurt you in ways that don’t leave bruises.”

I’m doomed. I’m fucking doomed.

“That’s more like it,” she says.

The bitch can read my expressions. My eyes are the only things that move right now, and the bitch can read my fucking expressions.

“Now, in the next few days, you’re going to be moved to minimum security, where we can keep a closer eye on you, and assist in your rehabilitation and recovery. You’re trapped in your own mind, Mrs. Lincoln, so I suggest that you do what I said and take this time to reflect on your life and your mistakes, because right now, that’s all you have is your memories.”

The bitch smiles at me again and leaves me alone in my room. Whatever drug they’re giving me, I can’t even form the tears to cry. I wish I could die right now. I really wish I could die and just end all this. My best years are well behind me and everything I could possibly look forward to is gone.

I know Christian is a part of this if he didn’t engineer the whole thing by himself. But she said I pissed off powerful people, so there has to be some others in on this, too. Did Greta sell me out? Did all my clients and prior pets gang up on me? It can’t be a coincidence that Ron gets arrested and I get ambushed. Or is Greta going to write and sell the book without me? She’s got all the information—is that her plan?

Who cares? Who fucking cares now? Greta’s not going to sell that book. The people in that book are the reason that I’m in the situation I’m in now. Greta’s risking everything if she still tries to publish that book. She has probably met the same fate that I have if not worse… if they found out who she is.

A prisoner in my own mind… indeed. I only have my memories to keep me company until I go insane from the solitude, my only companions being the tormentors paid to keep me in this state. I close my eyes and try to remember a happier time. It’s the only thing that’s going to keep me sane…

Of course, I think of Christian… the day Grace brought him to me to hopefully straighten him out. He was a beautiful, beautiful boy with a gorgeous body. I enjoyed breaking him in and teaching him so much. He’s the only one who ever warmed my heart…

Young Christian in Elena's head in S5 E5

Behind my eyelids, I see a flash of light, and suddenly, I’m in the courtroom. It’s the day of my verdict, and that gorgeous boy is standing at the podium. He’s not the impressive, strong, virile man I last saw here in the visitation room. No, he’s that well-built, spry, angry young boy I met all those years ago. He’s glaring at me—sharp, gray eyes pierce me under a mop of unruly dark reddish-brown hair. He opens his mouth and he speaks… the same words he said to me that day that broke my heart. I never forgot those words, and he’s speaking them now… my favorite pet…

“I hope you rot! I hope that your evil festers in you and boils you from the inside out every day of your miserable life. I hope you live a long, long life of pain, suffering, and unhappiness. I hope your days from now on are filled with nothing but hopelessness, misery, and despair.”

I release a mourning, animalistic wail from my soul that I’m sure shakes the foundations of the earth, only… I’m the only one who can hear it. No sound is coming from me, and I can’t even have the cleansing cry that I need to lighten the burden on my heart.

I’m in hell. I’m really, truly in hell, and there’s no escape…

I finally see it. It’s really true what they say. Karma’s a real fucking bitch.


A/N: This was a very refreshing chapter to write. Payback all around… 

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

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~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 94—The Christmas Song

Final chapter of Season Four…

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

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

Chapter 94—The Christmas Song

CHRISTIAN

She hasn’t stopped moving for twenty minutes all day, even after we sat down for dinner—which was glorious, by the way, and lasted for hours!

Even the hors d’oeuvres were magnificent. We had some kind of gourmet mushroom pastry things that melted in your mouth; smoked salmon tartines with capers; lobster toast with avocado; Asian meatballs with a variety of dipping sauces; some kind of delicious fried potato bites; mini crab cakes and something with zucchini and goat cheese. There was an army of people here, so even though there were lots of finger foods, there wasn’t enough to get full.

Thank God!

I know she had a hand in the meal. There’s no way she just made the cheesy garlic smashed potatoes. And who came up with bacon brown sugar brussel sprouts? The combination doesn’t even sound appealing, but they were delicious! And Keri—I know it was Keri—made this dish called Caribbean rice and peas. That wasn’t just rice and peas! It was outstanding!

There was some divine side dish that involved bacon, pineapples, and water chestnuts. Butternut squash and roasted asparagus… there was so much food, I can’t even remember everything. And fresh smoked ham and turkeys for Christmas! Why the fuck didn’t I think of that?

Besides the deadly cookies, the desserts included an ambrosia salad the likes of which I’ve never tasted before, a delicious chocolate cake that Maddie called Mexican chocolate pound cake, and a delicious apple pie so large that it looked like it needed to be cut with one of Mia’s wedding swords!

Elliot teased me mercilessly about the dinner I missed last night—stuffed beef tenderloin, herb potato stacks, cider-glazed carrots with walnuts, balsamic green beans with pearl onions, and some kind of buttermilk crescent bread that he couldn’t name. I was almost jealous until I partook of the Christmas feast.

She has finally sat down in the family room playing with the children—on the floor! In that dress and those shoes! She really looks adorable playing Mrs. Claus, handing out presents that she purchased for everyone, and every third or fourth gift, opening one with one of the twins. We normally have a special gift swap on Christmas Eve, but it didn’t happen last night since I came to bed so late… like I’ve done every night this week. Last week, she wandered in the middle of the night and I was able to see her. This week, I guess she was working so hard on the house and on Christmas that she was too beat to wander.

She’s spoken to me a few times today—cordial, not cold, but not necessarily warm. I keep trying to convince myself that it’s because she just has so much to do being the hostess of this huge party. I had no idea it was going to be this big, but with the exception of a handful of extras that showed up this year, this is what my Mom does every year.

Wait, let me take that back…

It was just me, Elliot, and Mia at first. Ethan would come sometimes and then there was Kate. The Pedophile never missed a Christmas, but for the most part, that was it. We occasionally had someone come over, but even then, it was only one or two people.

As time passed, the crowd grew a bit—Kate kicked off and then there was Valerie. There was no more Pedophile because… well, because Butterfly. With Butterfly came Ray, Mandy, and later, Harry. She also brought Al with her. Then there’s Luma and the girls… and the list goes on.

At Mom’s house, we may have had 10 or 20 people, but here, we’ve got about 40—Courtney and Vickie; James is here; we’ve got Marcia, Maggie, and Marlow; he brought a date as did Marcia; Jason’s family, Chuck’s family…

Yeah, at least 40.

I think I’ve tasted every kind of alcohol we were serving today. I’ve had beer; I’ve had wine; I’ve had spiked eggnog; I snuck off for a double shot of Scotch. Now I’m standing in the doorway, leaning on the wall watching her in the family room still being the little entertainer, while I’m sipping on rum-spiked hot cider with a cinnamon stick. It’s delicious.

“I know that look,” I hear Jason say as he stands beside me. I frown.

“What look?” I ask. He points to my face.

“That look,” he says. “You’ve got that look in your eye again like she’s going to run away.” I turn back to Butterfly, watching her laugh and playing with our children.

“She already has,” I reply, sipping my drink without taking my eyes off of her.

It’s very late as our guests finally make it to the door. No one drank too much and if they did, they were here long enough to let the buzz wear off. Even my buzz has worn off a bit.

We still have a few meanderers and Butterfly is in the kitchen preparing leftovers to stay in the fridge and others to go to Helping Hands and a few other shelters in the area. Lots of cookie tins and boxes left the house today and there are still lots more, so I don’t have to fight with Elliot over… hell, over anything. There are so many damn cookies in this house, we could open a store.

The only people left are close friends and family—people who are staying the night or may be staying the night and are helping with the cleanup and packing of the leftovers. I feel like I’m in the way, so I get another spiked cider and steal away while no one’s watching.

I go to the yoga room where Butterfly has placed several memories on the shelves. I see she has placed a few more up here. There’s a picture of her and Valerie. It looks like they were in college. There’s a Mickey Mouse and a Minnie Mouse “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament…

What’s this? Is that what I think it is?

I pick up a clear box that appears to be sealed shut. I think it’s plexiglass. There’s a ring in it…

Her promise ring.

If it’s sealed in the box, it means that she doesn’t plan to wear it anymore. I don’t know how I feel about that. I mean, it’s up here with a bunch of other things that clearly mean something to her, not to mention that she’s wearing a handful of platinum and diamonds that says she’s my wife… so, why do I feel a sudden cringe in the fact that it’s sealed in this box?

I go to our bedroom and don’t even turn on the light. I sit in the sitting room and look out the French balcony doors at the night sky. I can see the lights and bulbs and the seventh tree in the backyard from here. Dear God, there’s a lot of fucking lights back there. The dock looks like a runway and the big boathouse appears to be a lighted square floating on black water.

I sip my cider and sit down. Why do I feel like she’s pulling away from me? Yeah, I’ve been working a lot, but she knows that I have to. Is she still feeling slighted from my slip-up this weekend? I thought I made it glaringly clear that I’m not interested in any other women. I want her.

I run my hand through my hair and sit on the loveseat. I lament my current situation while I finish my cider sitting in complete darkness. I’m thinking about going to get a refill when I see the door open from my perch in the sitting room. She sticks her head in and I watch her shadow look conspiratorially from left to right before she steps into the room and closes the door.

She turns on the bedside light, just enough to cast a slight glow by her side of the bed. I watch her remove her earrings, her necklace, and her bracelet. She sits on the side of the bed and stretches her neck as if in pain. Then she falls heavily back on the bed with a thud and a sigh, her arms stretched straight out to either side of her.

I walk to the doorway between the rooms, lean on the door jam, and just watch her for a moment. She’s about to crash. Whatever had that adrenaline going is seeping out of her and she may just fall asleep in that dress—that gorgeous, sexy, stunning dress…

“Tired?” I say, coming out of the shadows. She pops up like a Jack-in-the box and stares at me.

“Busy day,” she says, and it almost sounds like her voice is cracking.

“I can tell,” I say coming into the room. “Busy week.”

“It was… a special day,” she adds, “Our friends and family… Maddie and Nelson… and the twins first Christmas.” She almost sounds like she’s making excuses.

“Everything was beautiful…” including you. Did I tell you that? She smiles weakly.

“I had a lot of help,” she says dismissively, badly imitating mirth as she rises from the bed. “I’m going to go take a shower, okay?”

Her voice is nervous. It’s like she doesn’t know how to be in the same room with me anymore. She proceeds to walk past me and head to her en suite with both hands in her hair trying to remove the bobby pins. I reach out and place my hand on her stomach just as she’s passing me.

“Stop.”


ANASTASIA

“Stop.”

His voice is low and breathy when he stops me. I literally freeze at the sound of it. His hand touching my stomach is like a wall, preventing me from moving any further. My hand is still holding the first bobby pin I tried to remove; my arms still suspended in the air. Even my breathing seems to have stopped.

He moves behind me like a stalking lion, his hand still on my stomach, his fingers now splayed like the bars of a cage. I can feel him looking at me, examining me, and I don’t know what to do.

Instinctively, I slowly let my arms fall. I’m way too tired to hold them in that position anyway. As if I just sent him a signal, he pulls me closer to him with the splayed hand and I feel his breath on my shoulder. It’s hot when it seems like it should be cool. He hasn’t been drinking much, just a couple of beers and maybe a double-shot or two all day… has he?

I feel his lips brush across the bare skin of my neck and the exposed part of my shoulder, and a bolt of shock begins at my stomach where his hand is pressing me and shoots up to my neck where his lips are brushing me. Good God, what the hell?

He continues to brush his lips across my exposed skin. His free hand starts at my wrist and his fingertips move slowly up my forearm and bicep. When he reaches my shoulder, he clasps it with just a little firmness and his brushing lips turn into kisses.

I swallow hard and close my eyes. When the kisses turn to gentle nips and open-mouthed kisses, I tilt my head to give him better access. He responds without hesitation and the inner flame is almost immediate.

And there’s that breath I lost a moment ago, coming back all at once. Control yourself, Steele… er, Grey! The panting is almost embarrassing!

His hand moves up to my face and he cups my chin from behind, gently pulling my head further to the side to gain more access. His tongue licks my skin and he nips my earlobe, causing an involuntary shiver. He slowly turns me around to face him, his hand from my stomach now on my waist and his hand from my chin now gently cupping my cheek, his fingertips in my hair.

I don’t raise my gaze to him. I’m focused straight ahead at his black shirt open at the neck, his chest rising and falling with rhythmic breaths. He slides his hand to my chin again and gently lifts my face to bring my mouth to his. My eyes flutter closed involuntarily as he presses his lips to mine. His hand moves back to my face and his fingertips caress my neck just underneath my ear.

His kiss is soft and teasing at first. His every move is an act of deliberate seduction as he bites my lip and caresses the bite mark with his tongue before placing his lips over mine once more. I move my hands up his arms to his shoulders then his hair. I tilt my head and lean into the kiss, opening my mouth to invite him in. It seems like so long since I’ve tasted him. He’s delicious, and I’m starving…

… And so is he.

Without breaking our kiss, he wraps his arms around me and lifts me effortlessly off the floor. With me now face-to-face with him, his tongue probes my mouth hungrily and I have absolutely no escape from his ravenous kisses… not that I would want to.

I don’t know that he’s carrying me back to the bed until I feel the mattress on the backs of my calves. With one arm still around me, he uses his free hand to unzip my dress and unhook my bra while still devouring my lips. I taste the cider and rum on his tongue as it explores my mouth and I wonder if it’s him or the alcohol that’s ravishing me right now.

Truth is, my body’s so on fire that I don’t care.

He lays me down and guides us so that we’re lying properly on the bed, finally breaking the kiss. Still hovering over me, his mouth moves to my neck again and his hands push my dress and bra slowly off my shoulders. As his mouth plants open kisses on my shoulder, my dress and bra travel further down my arms. I’m doing the best that I can not to breathe like a bear, but his lips against my skin is sending shivers all over me.

The further down my body the dress moves, the further down his lips travel—my neck, my chest… Once my dress is far enough down my arms, my eager nipples pop free from my bra, taut from arousal and incredibly swollen with milk since I haven’t pumped since before I got dressed. He zeroes in on them immediately, laving them gently with his tongue, then taking them into his mouth and sucking hard, first one and then the other, before releasing them with a sensual pop.

I’m squirming underneath him, so hot that I could just combust right here and now. He moves further down my body—my clothes and his mouth. When my hands are free, he tosses my bra onto the floor and continues the journey down my body. I don’t know what to do with my hands now that they’re free, but I want to touch him. So, I thrust my hands into his hair as he continues to shower my breast, chest, and torso with kisses.

When he gets to my hips, he slides his hands into my panties so that he’s able to remove my underwear, pantyhose, and dress from my hips all at the same time. Before he frees me from my pantyhose and underwear, he opens his mouth over my covered crotch and breathes three long, hot breaths over my panty-clad core. I’m nearly crawling out of my skin with need now, and he slowly and tortuously slides my clothes down to my calves.

He removes my dress first and tosses it on the floor. Then he takes off my stilettos, one by one before sliding my panties and my stocking first off one foot and then the other. He stands at the foot of the bed just looking at me, his hungry gray eyes roaming from my feet all the way up to my starving blues. His lips are parted and his breathing his heavy but controlled. Stop tormenting me, man!

He’s looking me in my eyes, staring at me as he sensually unbuttons his shirt. There’s no playfulness in his eyes as he strips for me. He’s serious, and he wants me.

He’s stepping from foot to foot as he undoes his cufflinks and at first, I think he’s growing anxious. I realize that he’s toeing out of his shoes and using his feet to remove alternative socks. His eyes still haven’t left mine when his cufflinks fall carelessly from his hands onto the floor and he peels out of his shirt. His chest is broad… so broad! I know that it always has been, but it’s broader than I remember. Has it been that long… or am I just that hot?

After dropping his shirt to the floor with his cufflinks, he undoes his belt, then the button and fly of his pants. Grasping the waistband of his slacks and boxer briefs, he slides them both off his hips then stands before me. His beautiful abs, muscular thighs, and semi-hard erection all look fucking glorious.

Shit! My mouth is watering.

He climbs onto the bed and crawls to me. He lifts my foot to his mouth and sucks my toe hard. My first thought is, “Wait… I haven’t showered and I’ve been on my feet all day!” but he has no regard for that. He sensually feasts on each toe, finishing by running his thumbnail firmly down my instep. I gasp and attempt to crawl away, but he has a firm grasp on my foot and ankle. I drop my head back and take in a deep breath.

When I bring my gaze back to his, he’s crawling further up the bed. My leg is over his shoulder now and he’s parting my thighs, but my other leg is underneath him. He settles between my legs and begins to kiss my thighs, softly, alternating between lips, pecks, and open-mouthed kisses like he did with my body. I groan inside because he has me in a somewhat immobile position and I want him. God, I want him now!

His mouth moves quickly to my outer lips, then my inner lips. Just as his tongue teases right around my clit, I reach down and caress his hair once more. As if he was waiting for me to do that, he grasps each of my wrists and pins them to the bed on either side of me, becoming human shackles.

I’m completely immobile… and this is fucking hot.

Using his mouth to open my lips, his tongue laves deliciously over my clit. I feel the texture and massage of his tongue coupled with the hot air of his breath and I sink into the pleasure. He suckles my clit then laves it again and I feel my chest flutter. I gasp twice, trying to adjust to the manipulation. God, it seems like it was so long ago when he last touched me. It wasn’t that long was it?

His lips close over my clit, and when I look down at him, I see his head moving, sensually rotating between my legs and he concentrates on feasting on my clit. Happily resolved to my fate, I drop my head onto the pillow and close my eyes, concentrating on the rhythm and heat of his mouth.

I can move nothing but my head with my wrists locked down on the bed by his strong hands and half my lower body pinned down by his chest. He knows this. He wanted me immobile. I can do nothing but absorb the pleasure that his tongue and mouth is bringing to my aching, hungry core and he knows that. I’m rising fast and with his rhythm, I’m sure that’s his intention.

As my breath intensifies and I’m getting closer and closer to climax, he releases my wrists and moves his hands up my body, clasping them both over my swollen breast, pinching one nipple firmly while flicking and massaging the other. I gasp quietly at the pleasure and revel in the joy of being able to thrust my fingers into his hair again.

He consumes my pussy with just enough firmness—not too gentle and not too intense—to cause a steady rise from the first lick to now. His massage of my breast is just enough additional stimulation to cause that delicious rumble and tightening in my pelvis. My clit is hardening, and I can feel it against the rough texture and sensual, exquisite rolling of his tongue. I try very hard not to grind into his mouth because I don’t want him to change this perfect rhythm, but I can barely move anyway.

Trying to hold my body still only intensifies the sensation, and I jerk once involuntarily against his mouth. He doesn’t change his rhythm, but he grips my breasts a little tighter, squeezing the nipple with his thumb and forefinger, and with the flick of his thumb across the moisture of the other nipple, I come magnificently in his mouth. I grab his hair with one hand, the sheets with the other and pushing my breasts into his hand and my pelvis into his mouth, I release an animal groan that has been trapped in my soul for a week.

God, it feels so good, and yet he’s so controlled in pulling it out of me, doing only what’s necessary to prolong the orgasm to the very last burn until I have to beg him to stop. Even then, he licks the outside of my lips, the area in the crease of my pelvis, the tender skin of my inner thigh—still tormenting me as I struggle not to squirm too much underneath him.

I’m spent, but he’s just getting started, slowly moving up my body once more, taking big mouthfuls of my skin as he rises—my mons, my navel, my stomach, my breasts… again. God, this man is too much for me. I can’t resist him.

He positions himself between my thighs with one of my legs on his hip, and he grinds into me, against me, the length of his penis rubbing against my tender clit. Jesus, it hurts, and it feels good. It’s now that I wish I had pulled these damn pins out of my hair because a few of them are now stabbing me in my scalp. I turn my head to give myself some relief from the constant jabbing and concentrate more on the jabbing in my nether regions.

He’s propped up in his elbows and I can feel his breath on my jaws, his cock stroking against me, up and down, up and down, up and down. On his downstroke, he nips my jaw and adjusts his hips so that with his next upstroke, his head breaches my opening. I take a deep breath as I feel him concentrating on his cock, pushing it deeper into my resisting cunt. When he forces it into me in the final thrust, I gasp, and he groans deep in his chest. He doesn’t move for a moment, running his hands down either side of my body until they reach my hips.

Dear God, I’m doomed.

He pulls out once, then thrusts again, slowly, and I instinctively turn to face him, but turn away again when the pins stab me in the back of the head. A few seconds later, he rolls us both onto our side, my leg still wrapped around his hip and his dick still hard and deep inside of me. One of his legs is bent and between mine, holding my leg open and over his hip. The arm that’s under my body is holding me firmly against him, his hand flat in the small of my back, his fingertips splayed across the top of my ass.

And he’s stroking into me, slow and deep. I’m at an angle where I can feel him against every wall of me, and it feels wonderful! I try to look at him, but I can’t help but close my eyes and get lost in the sensation of him inside of me, all over me, loving me.

With his free hand, he caresses my scalp, and with every stroke, his fingers search… stroke and search, stroke and search, stroke and search. I’m well on my way to my climb to Nirvana when I realize that with the mesmerizing rhythm of his fingers and his hips, he’s pulling the pins from my hair, one by one. I pay attention to one particularly worrisome pen leaving my hair and I feel him gently flick it to parts unknown behind me—probably on the floor—and even though I wasn’t laying on it, I feel the relief once it’s been removed. Now, he’s massaging my scalp where the pins were, and the relief feels orgasmic all by itself. Coupled with the burning and increasing pleasure in my pelvis, I feel like I’m going to lose my damn mind.

Once the last pin is out, he runs his fingers through my hair to make sure that he hasn’t missed any. When he’s certain that he’s removed every single pin, he rolls me over onto my back again and swivels his hips to gain maximum penetration and leverage. I gasp at the deepness, and I know that I’ll be coming very soon. He buries his face in my neck and grasps both my hands, pinning them to the bed with his fingers entwined in mine.

And then he begins to move… really move.

He’s squeezing my hands tight as he grinds deep into me, the thrust of his hips causing my body to push up on the bed slightly with every stroke. My core is on fire and he just keeps pushing and pushing, his mouth licking, sucking, and kissing wherever it’ll reach. His hunger and need are consuming me, and his masterful ministrations are more than my starving pussy can withstand.

“Christian!” I gasp as I feel my thighs tighten and my stomach begin to tense.

“Come for me!” he breathes sensually.

His voice triggers my passion and before I know it, I’m spiraling and floating in another hot and heady orgasm. My breath is taken away and although every muscle clenches with untold pleasure, I can only get gasps and whimpers out of my throat and chest.

“Ah! God! Yes!” I hear his muffled voice exclaim painfully as his hips press forcefully into mine and his body stiffens. I feel his cock pulsing inside of me as he comes, and his grip on my hands tightens immensely. The squeezing hurts a little, but I’m fighting more with catching my breath than freeing my hands.

I feel him jerk a time or two, his breath ragged, and he loosens his grip on my hands. Thank God. I’m still having problems catching my breath when he lifts his head and looks at me. He brushes the hair away from my eyes, the holds my face in both his hands, planting tender kisses on my lips, over and over again.

*-*

We’ve finally calmed after several minutes, and I’m lying on his chest in post-coital bliss, sleepy and content but no longer exhausted. He’s gently caressing my hair and my arm, and I’m enjoying a closeness that we haven’t shared for at least a week.

“This might not be the right moment to ask this,” he says softly, “but I have to know. Whatever made you think that I would want another sub—anybody else but you?”

I sigh heavily. I knew this was coming. I might as well tell him the truth.

“I dreamed about Elena,” I reply, my voice small. “The conversation that she had with me at your parents’ house. She told me that you would bore of me, that you would want what you had before. She told me that I was no more than #16, and that when you were done playing with me that you would go back to the way that you were. And that same day, you told me that you were thinking about the way things used to be. The timing was too much.” He sighs, and I can tell he’s frustrated.

“Why didn’t you tell me that?” he accuses. “I’ve been thinking that you thought I would randomly run into another woman’s arms and all this time, you’ve been haunted by a dream?” I raise my gaze to him.

“Do you see how ridiculous it sounds coming out of your mouth?” I ask. “How do you think I felt with it running around in my head? With me letting it come out of my mouth the way that it did? You’ve awakened me screaming from bad dreams more than once, but the monsters of my past have been the unwelcome companions of my nights more times than you know. Who do you tell about nightmares? ‘Hey, yo, Doc, I’ve been having bad dreams. Can you give me something for that?’” He shakes his head and presses me down onto his chest again.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you,” he says. “Your sensitivity is one of the reasons I love you so much, but one day, I swear it’s going to drive you to an early grave.”

I know he’s right. I try to channel the negative energy so that it doesn’t turn into the Boogeyman again, but I couldn’t help it. Having him be the asshole and barely spending time with me or his kids just exacerbated my concerns.

“I’m not being sensitive about this week, though, Christian,” I point out. “The only reason I knew you were alive is because I didn’t get the next of kin notification.”

“I know, I know, but it was a really shitty week,” he excuses.

“Yeah, tell me about it!” I quip sarcastically. He looks at me.

“From the looks of things, you were having a great time,” he says without malice. I raise up onto my arms and glare at him.

“There’s a life-sized infant Messiah at my gate,” I begin. “The Jolly Green Giant dropped his tree trimmings at my portico and Frosty the Snowman shit glow balls in my backyard. My boathouse is so bright that it could literally lead the three wise men to the promised land. There’s a generator keeping the dock illuminated to alert passing ships that there’s ‘Land ho!’ I’ve single-handedly eliminated the rainforest for the Christmas trees, and I’ve baked enough cookies to feed the island of Cuba.

“Decembertime ejaculated all over my entire one-trillion-square-foot house! Google satellite picked up my house and had to turn away to refocus. The only thing I left out was ice-skaters in the infinity pool. This all occurred in less than three days—do you consider this normal?”

“Um, no,” he says, “when you put it that way… But really, the house is beautiful. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that you went overboard. Well, not the first… Elliot wouldn’t let me live it down, but I think it was overboard in a good way. The Mice are walking or trying to walk, and they had a great Christmas—you may have to give up your yoga room sooner than you thought because they got a whole lotta shit from every direction. The cookies were phenomenal. What are you going to do with all those damn cookies?”

“I’m giving a lot of them away,” I admit. “Don’t worry, I’ve hidden about five dozen of your beloved chocolate chip pecan.”

“On top of what was displayed?” he asks. I nod. “Well, then, I think I have about seven dozen, then.” I raise my gaze to him again.

“You hid more,” I accuse. He nods.

“Yep,” he confesses. I just laugh.

“Figures,” I reply. We’re silent for a moment.

“We didn’t get to exchange gifts for Christmas Eve,” he says. I sink into his chest a bit.

“No, we didn’t,” I say, lamenting that we missed our tradition.

“I can tell you what I got you… if you want.” I look up at him again.

“If you want,” I reply.

“It’s hard to get someone a gift who already has everything, so I got you the same thing I did last year,” he says. “Come hell or high water, we’re going to Italy next year. I’m having the house prepared for our vacation, and you can change anything you like when you get there. We couldn’t go this year because of my grandfather’s death, and I’m certain that you weren’t ready to leave the twins so soon.”

“I’m still feeling nervous about leaving them,” I say. “Maybe it’s because we just got back from Australia.”

“Well, not to worry,” he replies. “We’ll be spending a little time in Italy alone, and then the twins and some of the family will join us.” I smile widely.

“I think that’s a wonderful and thoughtful idea,” I say throwing both my legs over his body. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he says, kissing me gently. He gazes into my eyes and his kisses become purposeful—tender, but a bit more intense.

“This is what I miss the most when we’re apart,” he breathes between kisses. “Kissing you… tasting your mouth and your skin…”

This is what you miss the most?” I ask, surprised. He pulls his face back so that his eyes meet mine.

“Yes,” he says, his eyes a piercing gray, “and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I’m doing it wrong.”

He sits up with me in his arms and dips me so that I’m cradled in one arm. He cups my cheek with his free hand and covers my mouth with his. His kiss is gentle, but probing… coaxing, so that my mouth automatically does what he beckons. His tongue does a gentle exploration of every crevice of my mouth, stopping to engage mine every so often. His lips knead mine at just the right firmness to make me want more… and more.

His hand pushes back into my hair, and now he’s peppering my lips with wet, licking kisses that feed my arousal. I try to reach for his hair only to find that it’s awkward and slightly out of my reach, so I grasp onto his bulging bicep, which only fuels my arousal even more. His breathing is controlled—like he’s running a marathon and he’s trying to conserve his breath.

I, on the other hand, am puffing like a fucking freight train.

His wet, licking kisses turn into soft, probing tastes of my lips and tongue again and his hand moves from my cheek to around my back, trapping me against his body. His lips meld to mine in that manner that takes my breath and now, I can grasp his hair. I have to… I feel like I’m going to faint.

My body is ablaze, and I feel like my skin is crawling… no, tingling… tingling all over. He’s still only kissing me—only kissing me, that’s an understatement—but my pussy is burning like a fucking forest fire. I’m trying to control my thoughts, trying not to be such a hopeless, horny little nymph, but when he releases a soft, short moan into my mouth, I can’t even think anymore.

I whimper as my body explodes with need and he responds by pressing me harder against him. His lips continue their sensual massage and now, his tongue starts a rhythm against mine that’s a lot like what he does on my clit.

He’s tasting me. He’s really tasting me.

I’m a ball of hot, horny mush now as he literally goes down on my mouth, making my clit jealous… and sensitive… more sensitive by the second, in fact. I try not to squirm in his arms, but my attempt at control is only making it much worse. Each lick, each rhythmic and skillful pass of his tongue against mine is causing a fire down below that I can’t explain or quench. I feel his erection growing against my hip and the combination of thoughts of all these things collides with the licking and licking and licking inside of my mouth…

… And the burn starts.

I don’t know how it started on its own and I don’t care, I squeeze my thighs together and almost instantly, my clit bursts into a fantastic clitoral orgasm. I moan into his mouth and he continues his rhythmic licking kiss, this time, his erection grinding into my hip, getting harder and harder and demanding to be acknowledged. I fucking can’t breathe as this orgasm burns through my core and makes me light-headed. As I begin to come down from it, his licking kisses become soft, peppered pecks against my mouth.

“You naughty, dirty girl,” he says, impishly against my lips. “You came.” And he descends upon me again.


CHRISTIAN

I’m awake before I really want to be. Getting out of bed early to turn on the asshole means that I’m on an early-to-rise schedule that I can’t really turn off even when I don’t plan on going in to work. We had one more orgasm after I showed her the meaning of “what I miss most when we’re apart…” Well, she had two if you consider the one that she had in my lap. I assume that she won’t be fit for anymore sex for a couple of days, but if she is, I’ll certainly be ready.

She lays on my arm with her hair sprawled across the bed behind her and I just stare at her. I adore her. I hate it when she hurts. She and the twins are my whole life, but lately, I haven’t really had the chance to show them what they mean to me with the fucking incompetence running through my company. These people have never been as lackadaisical as they are right now, and I know it’s my fault because I really have gone soft on them.

My arm is asleep, but I’m not moving. I could sit here and gaze at her in wonder all fucking day. She turned our house into a winter wonderland for our twins and most likely, for herself, too. She baked all those damn cookies and even came up with new ones that were absolutely fantastic! God, I wish she had any idea how much she means to me.

And her dreams. Fuck, I can’t even argue. I know only too well how it feels to be haunted by night phantoms. Years and years of therapy didn’t make them go away. The only thing that chased them away was…

Her.

I really should have made more effort to see her this week, to talk to her, I was just so distracted…

I lay in the bed for I don’t know how long just pondering all the clusterfucks going on at GEH and gazing at her at the same time, thanking God that she belongs to me and that she hasn’t opted to just get off this crazy Grey ride and run for the hills. I’m so lost in her beauty and her splendor that I don’t even recall when she opened her eyes and began returning my gaze, but she’s staring at me now. I brush stray hair from her face and push it behind her ears.

“Did I wake you?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“What time is it?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I reply honestly, still tracing her face with my fingers. She stretches her neck.

“Is your arm asleep?” she asks. I nod.

“Um-hmm,” I confess. She lifts herself slightly and I stretch my arm, getting the blood to circulate again. She moves around a bit and she looks a little stiff.

“Would you like a massage?” I ask. She nods.

“My neck,” she says, worrying one side just above her shoulder.

“Turn over,” I say. She raises a brow at me.

“You’re not going to launch a sneak-attack on me, are you?” she asks. I chuckle.

“Not unless you want me to,” I say with mirth. She turns over and I move behind her, careful not to put my weight on her. She’s right—when I touch her neck in that spot, the muscle feels like a knot.

“Arms down, relax,” I instruct her. When she obeys, I begin to work the knot out of her neck and shoulder. You would think I did launch a sneak attack on her the way that she’s moaning right now. If I didn’t have a larger task at hand, that’s probably what I would be doing right now with all the orgasmic sounds she’s making.

“Is that better?” I say, kissing her shoulder once I feel that the knot is gone.

“Much,” she says, stretching and rolling her head around. When I get off her back, she turns over to look at me. “So… GEH…” She trails off and I sigh.

“Yeah,” I lament. “It’s in bad shape—not comparatively when you look at other companies, but comparative when you look at where we were five years ago. It’s in such a state of disarray.”

“Things change, Christian,” she says, sitting up and taking the sheets with her. “You changed. Of course, the company would change, too.”

“I know,” I say, recalling everyone’s accusation that I’ve gone soft. “I don’t even recognize the place anymore,” I say, leaning on my elbow, “and it doesn’t help that Ros chose now to take a vacation.”

“Yeah, how convenient of her to choose to take an impromptu vacation right at that crucial moment when shit hits the fan,” she quips. I sigh.

“I can’t discipline her for taking a vacation,” I inform my wife. “She never takes a vacation…”

“But we both know there was a message here,” she interrupts me, “and the moment that she feels that her message is louder than yours, you’ve officially lost control.”

I hate to admit it, but she’s right… and dammit, why does she have that sheet over her beautiful breasts?

“I’m going to give you a little lesson in basic business management, husband. You know a whole lot about business obviously, but there’s something that you’re missing.” She adjusts herself on the bed, and she’s still covering those gorgeous mounds.

“You didn’t finish college—obviously because you didn’t need to, but there’s one class you should have taken before you dropped out and that’s Management 101. You missed some crucial points that you need right now. There is a problem, and it is your fault, but not for the reasons that you’re thinking.” I raise a brow. Now she has my attention

“Elaborate.”

“You see apathy and a lack of control. You see sloppiness and a clear disregard for authority. But Christian, this didn’t just start yesterday. This didn’t just start last month. How long has this been going on, do you even know? Can you even determine that, or would it take a whole other audit to tell you when that happened? These people stopped caring and became sloppy a long time ago. You just didn’t see it until now and even then, somebody outside of your company had to bring it to your attention.

“What happens when the iron fist stops banging, because believe me, you cannot maintain the iron fist and live the life that you have become accustomed to with your wife and family. So, what happens when the pendulum stops swinging—everybody goes back to the same old schedule of fucking up?

“You no longer have the control of the fear that you wielded once before. You still have the respect, but not the fear, because they’ve seen that there can be a kinder, gentler you. You went from being Gordon Gekko to the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man, and now you’re going back to being Gekko and a lot of them are not buying it. How else would you explain employees in a zero-tolerance environment in an at-will state partaking in recreational drugs?”

Shit, now even my wife is saying that I’m soft.

“You can’t be everywhere all the time, but your presence needs to be. It was before, but I don’t think you’re going to get that kind of control back unless you want to lose the person that you are now in other areas of your life.”

I know what she’s getting at. I know she would never make me choose between my family and my business, but there’s a huge rift in progress here, and I don’t know how to deal with it besides taking a bite out of people’s asses.

“It’s the only thing they understand, Ana,” I tell her. “They don’t see the dangers of the situation unless you put it right in their faces and threaten their livelihood. The only fire they feel under them is the complete loss of their livelihood.”

“And to some degree, they need to feel that, but by the time they feel that, it’s not a burn. It’s consuming! You’re firing people, shit’s not getting done, you’re back at square one in a lot of areas and what does that do? This is something that needs to be caught in the bud, not when the bud becomes a branch and is sprouting leaves. This review that you’re doing shouldn’t be done when you see a problem. Your current method of annual reviews is not working.”

“Okay, I’m listening… and why are you covering your breasts?” I ask.

“Because they’ll distract you,” she replies matter-of-factly.

“No, they won’t,” I protest.

Yes, they will,” she points out. “It’s distracting to you now that I’m covering up.”

I twist my lips. Busted.

“Duly noted. Continue.” She crosses her legs lotus-style under the sheets before continuing.

“This problem shouldn’t be presenting itself to you for solving only when the problem pops up. The annual evaluations that you’re using right now aren’t working. The company should be going through company-wide evaluations every six months, and you shouldn’t be the one doing them. They should be evaluating themselves and telling you why they should keep their jobs. They should not only be showing you in productivity, but they should also be showing you in performance and they should be telling you why they should be allowed to stay in the positions they currently hold.

“There should be at least a mid-year evaluation and a year-end evaluation and if they fail these evaluations, then their jobs are in jeopardy, like a probationary employee to see if they can improve their performance. There needs to be a guideline or bar set so that they can meet that bar, or they’re probationary and if they can’t improve significantly to keep their job, then they get let go. This way, you see the problems as they begin, not when they’re nearly out of control.

“Right now, you’re saying that the problem lies primarily with the department heads, and actually, it does. But know this, Christian—shit may roll downhill, but the smell rises. If department heads were motivating the people in the trenches to do what they needed to do, you wouldn’t have half the problems that you have right now. You don’t just have shitty department heads. You have shitty people in the trenches, too, because trust me—they’ll do whatever you allow them to get away with. And if I’m wrong about that and you have untapped talent in the trenches, then apparently, somebody’s not paying attention.

“You must have a system of making everyone accountable that doesn’t involve you having to come in a roll heads every year. That’s not your job. You put other people in place to do that, and they need to be doing it. There needs to be feedback on every level, and the people in the trenches need to have a voice because they can most likely pinpoint most of your problems faster than your spreadsheets.

“If you want to have your hands on the pulse of what’s going on at the heart of the company, you should be seeing weekly or monthly production reports and comparing those trends with the ones from before. The evaluations that you see from the bottom-up should match the production that you see in those reports and if you don’t, that’s when the hammer falls. By the time you see a problem, it has gone from a spark in the basement to damn near a nuclear explosion. You need to be finding these things when they spark… or at least before the plutonium is added.”

“Okay, wait, things are bad, but don’t you think you might be just a tad dramatic?” A look of sheer horror comes across my wife’s face.

“Hmmm, let’s consider the evidence!” she says a bit angrily, and the sheet falls as she begins counting on her fingers.

Titties!!
Shit! Pay attention, Grey.

“A hacker got in and moved millions of dollars from your account. You almost didn’t find out until the money started moving. Over a year later, the program that basically saved your company is still on a shelf.

“My background check on a bitch trying to fuck you was the catalyst for the drug tests that sniffed out… how many people actively using drugs in your company?” Damn… the count is now up to…

“Twelve,” I mutter.

“An ‘outsider’ came in three times and pointed out something that was going on in your company that initiated full-blown ass-raking sessions…”

“Wait a minute, three times? Three times where?”

“The XRC90 transmitter…” she’s counting on her fingers again, “the fact that SEEKNID was still sitting on the shelf, and the Mole—which damn near indirectly cost my life, by the way!”

Fuck! This shit is starting to sting.

“Okay, okay… I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Calm down, please.” I put my hands on her arms and try to calm her. She’s getting so upset that her lovely, plump breasts aren’t even the slightest distraction right now. She takes a deep breath and releases it.

“I don’t want to spend the entire day talking about GEH,” she says. “We have guests in the house, I never did get that shower that I wanted last night, and my breasts feel like they’re about to explode!” She grabs her oh, so swollen breasts and milk sprays out of one of them.

“See?” she says, petulantly.

“Okay, I’ll make you a deal,” I say, moving closer to her. “You pump, because I know you need some instant relief and as much as I would like to, I don’t think I can supply that much relief this morning. While you do that, I’ll run us a bath. We can relax, I can clean you up and help ease some of the stress off of you and then we can enjoy our day with our guest and our family. Deal?”

She sticks her lips out in the most adorable little pout. I can tell that she still has fight in her, but no reason to fight.

“Deal,” she acquiesces. I kiss her pouty lip and get out of bed to start our bath.

I’m going to pick her brain a bit more about her Management 101 ideas. Sometimes, the best advice comes from someone who’s not in the fire with you… an outsider, she called herself. I hate that she feels that way. Maybe she’s referring to her position when she discovered the things that she found, but she wasn’t an outsider when she found the flaw in the XRC90 transmitter. She was half owner of the company then.

And Ros. Fucking Ros. What possible message could she be trying to send to me at this point? She’s been my second in command for years. She knows how important she is to the business. We’ve bumped heads more than once, but now she decides to just take off, not only at Christmas, but right when the fire begins to blaze the highest. What the fuck is she playing at and why the fuck is she choosing to play now?

And will my wife be okay?

We kind of discussed why she felt the need to go Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Edition all over the mansion—which took a lot of fucking work, by the way—but did we dig the core out of the problem or just kind of brush over it a bit? I discover that I’m probably the last to learn that she’s not seeing Ace anymore, at least not weekly, so who does she talk to about this shit?

And Green Valley. Fuck, Green Valley. The trials are coming. It’s really beginning. How many fucking times are we going to have to fly to Vegas for her to go through this every time one of those fuckers goes on trial? She’s going to have to relive this shit over and over again and I don’t think either of us considered that when we started this crusade. It’s almost a blessing for two of those fuckers to have taken a plea and at this point, I’m beginning to wish that the rest of them would, too…

But Butterfly wants her day in court. She wants her voice to finally be heard and no one can deny her that. I can only hope to God that I don’t fucking murder these assholes with my bare hands when I see them. And I swear to God, none of them better get off easy, or I’m going to track them down myself and do the world a fucking favor.


EPILOGUE

What in the hell is happening?

Absolutely nothing is going how I planned. There’s so much that needs to be done before the book is ready to print and I can’t get in touch with anybody or get anything done!

I haven’t gotten any of my phone calls.

I can’t write any letters.

I haven’t seen Greta in over a week.

My cell was raided and all the creature comforts that I did have were taken away.

One of those fucking reporters leaked too much of the damn story too damn soon. There’s so much damn speculation that by the time the book comes out, I don’t even know how effective it’ll be.

And Tier Time has become hazardous to my health once again! I was somewhat protected. Now, it seems like it’s open season!

Last week during breakfast, I got caught up in a fight that had absolutely nothing to do with me. Two women got into a brawl, I got physically pulled into the fight, and it seems like they were swinging at me more than they were swinging at each other! I’m still sporting a shiner from that one.

And before I even healed from that altercation, I had an unfortunate encounter with a flight of stairs.

“Hey, Baby Fucker, remember me?”

No, I don’t remember you! I didn’t even fucking see who you were! That’s all I heard before I went tumbling down the stairs—metal stairs, in fact! It’s a wonder I didn’t break my fucking neck!

Now, I’m in the infirmary in excruciating fucking pain from a sprained ankle. I’m lucky that’s all I got, but they won’t even give me pain killers. I’m not a fucking drug addict! Why can’t I have something to dull this pain?

Every time I ask for Ron, they laugh at me and ignore my request.

I’ve been cut off from everything I had access to before and nobody’s listening to me. What the fu…

No Greta…
No Ron…
No letters…
No calls…
No protection…
Details have been leaked…
And they’re calling me “Baby Fucker” again…

Baby Fucker…

Oh, fuck!


A/N: Gordon Gekko is a fictional character from the Wall Street franchise—Wall Street in 1987 and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps in 2010. Gekko is famous for the phrase, “Greed is good.” This fictional character was a corporate raider and the perfect “corporate psychopath.” Michael Douglas won an Oscar for the role that he played so well that many people, agencies, and governments blamed Gekko for several financial crises for 20 years after the film first aired. At the 2008 UN General Assembly, Douglas had to “check” a reporter for calling him “Gordon.”

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 ~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 89—Still Minding the Monsters

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

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

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

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

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

We did it, y’all! ❤ 

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

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

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

Chapter 89—Still Minding the Monsters


CHRISTIAN 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you need some help?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two dried roses and a few stray rose petals…

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

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

A picture of us singing at Mia’s wedding…

Her and Allen dancing at his wedding…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Coffee, Mr. Grey?” Andrea asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But why shine a light on me?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

“So, it begins,” he says. I nod.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What if he doesn’t drink it?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You gonna talk to Kavanaugh?” Jason asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, sir,” he says frostily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Andrea, get me an appointment with Bastille…”


ANASTASIA

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

God, do I miss Marilyn.

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

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

Ace… hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Believe me, I know.

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I reluctantly move back to the chair and sit down.

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

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

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

“Elaborate,” he says, crossing his legs.

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

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

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

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

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

The lifestyle?” he asks. I nod.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who’s Pamela Whitmore?” he asks.

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

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

“I found that out the next day. I’m going to Vegas at the beginning of the year. One of the fuckers who directly burned me is going on trial, and Whitshit’s girlfriend Madison-Pussy took a plea to testify against him, but of course, he’s been arrested, too. He’s been in there for quite some time. The upcoming case must have struck a sore nerve with her. So, once again, his jailtime and just desserts are my fault.” I shrug.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Deal,” he replies.

*-*

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

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

And I’ve effectively fired my shrink.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

My fears…

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

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

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

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

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

As usual…
Only not…

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

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

“… Including your bratty little children.”

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

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

The million-dollar question is… how?


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

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

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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raising Grey:Chapter 85—Business As Usual? 

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

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

Chapter 85—Business As Usual? 

CHRISTIAN

“I still think you overacted about the snake,” I say coming out of my dressing room while straightening my tie.

“Whatever,” she replies, “be glad I don’t cut you off,” she threatens.

“I’d find a way to make you give in,” I say confidently

“You think so, huh?” she challenges. I raise an eyebrow.

“You want to test the theory?” I retort just as haughtily, daring her to try me and begging her to do it at the same time. I’ll have your pretty little ass clawing at the walls. She ponders the theory for the moment, then turns and leaves the bedroom.

“I thought not,” I say under my breath as I follow her out of the room.

“You’re going back to the Center?” I inquire, noticing that she’s dressed for work as we descend the stairs. She sighs.

“Yes,” she says, “for now. I have responsibilities, but I don’t know what the future holds yet. I still don’t appreciate being disregarded that way, so we’ll just have to see.”

“What will you do if you leave the Center?” I ask. “Stay at home?”

“We both know I’d lose my mind,” she replies. “I haven’t gotten that far yet. I gave some thought to starting my own cause, but… that seems so catty and that’s certainly not my M-O. I just wish she could truly see what she did. It’s unacceptable and I just can’t tolerate it… and I won’t keep talking about it with you because I don’t want you to feel like I’m trying to make you take sides against your mother.”

“I don’t think that,” I say, placing my hand in the small of her back and leading her to the kitchen.

*-*

“Ronald Holstein on the line, sir,” Andrea says through the intercom. “I’ve been telling him all week that you were out of the country and expected back today. He’s been calling every day nonetheless.”

“Whenever he calls, tell him that I’m in meetings until further notice,” I reply. Let his ass stew for a while until I decide what I want to do with him… and we won’t be doing some simple shit like kidnapping his fucking dog, either.

“Yes, sir,” Andrea says.

“I know you’ve got a hundred meetings today, but you’re going to want to hear this,” Josh calls in my office from the reception area before I close the door. I gesture him in, and he closes the door behind him.

“Sir, let me start by saying that it’s not my business what you do in your private life, but I’m sure that you hired me because I’ve always got my ear to the ground and because I’m more insightful than most.” I already don’t like the sound of this.

“I’m listening,” I say as I gesture to the chair in front of my desk.

“Well, the puzzle is falling together, sir,” he says taking the seat. “Elena Lincoln is still talking to whomever will listen, but now she’s starting to say a little more.” I frown.

“A little more like what?” I ask.

“She’s saying things like people in high places are going to fall when her book is published,” he says. “She insinuated these things before, but she didn’t come out and say them. Now, she’s saying them—to other reporters and it’s filtering back down to me. I was going to make another trip back up there to see her, but I really don’t think I need to. Her diarrhea of the lips along with Ron Holstein’s foot-in-mouth syndrome has pretty much given me all I need.

“I should tell you that her conversation is not nearly as cloaked as she thinks it is. I only say that because it wouldn’t be wise to give away her story before publishing, or her book would be worthless. Bearing that in mind, I can only assume that she’s not fully aware of how much information she’s leaking and, sir, anybody with even the slightest inside hook would have no problem finding you in her code speak. What’s more is that they would probably find a few others, too… I did.”

Oh, fuck, this just keeps getting worse and worse.

“Okay, Josh, I need you to give it to me straight,” I say. “I can’t follow any more riddles.”

“Nineteen out of 20 journalists don’t have the background information or resources that I have,” he begins. “They could get it, but it would take a lot of work and even more time. By then, the story would be blown wide open. She didn’t give me the name of her ghostwriter, but she gave me her pen-name—BD Simmons. There’s no risk in giving me that because there’s nothing else published in that name. However, these ladies aren’t as savvy as they pride themselves to be.

“I don’t know what they’re expecting, but I can almost guarantee that Lincoln is counting on the safety of the prison walls, as ironic as that sounds. Her ghostwriter has anonymity on her side. For whatever reason, they’re both underestimating the danger of the situation. Knowing what I know about Lincoln—the public information and the inside information, you should know that it doesn’t take too much ingenuity to figure out what BD Simmons is an acronym for.”

No, it doesn’t. I figured it out the minute he said the name. BDSM.

“So, of course, the first thing I did was check her old haunts, her old sources, her submissives…” Jesus, this is so much more of this conversation than I really want to have with Josh. “The logical paths lead to three of her girls—two still studying journalism and one with a degree in literature. They all have other… interests at this time, according to Alex, but one has been visiting her at the prison, quite freely I might add.”

“And who is that?” I ask.

“That would be one named Greta Ellison. It didn’t take much more than context clues to figure out that she was BD Simmons.”

“Fucking hell!” I hiss, trying not to curse too loudly or crash something against the nearest wall. Why the fuck do I keep letting these people get away and the minute I let them out of my sight, they bite me?

“Get Welch in here!” I bark into the intercom.

“Yes, sir,” Andrea replies.

“You’re sure that Ellison might not be just filtering the information through to her? Like being a liaison between Lincoln and the ghostwriter?” I ask, not wanting to believe that I was gullible enough to set this bitch free instead of crushing her when I had the chance.

“Sir, to be able to stand in a court of law and tell you that Greta Ellison is Lincoln’s ghostwriter, I can’t. To look you in the eye and tell you with at least 95% certainty that Ellison is her ghostwriter, that I can do. No matter what your content, you can’t get a decent feel for the story—for what the real author wants to portray—without a face-to-face meeting. Even with every fact airtight and recited to you, you wouldn’t be able to relay a successful story without meeting personally with the subject, and Ms. Ellison does that a lot.”

She has no other reason to meet with Lincoln. There’s nothing for her to gain from the acquaintance, and I threatened her the last time we met. I let her ass go, but I threatened her…

And she threatened me.

 “You think you’re so much. You’re not untouchable, Mr. Grey, and I’m just the one to prove it!”

This should come as no surprise to me. I remember our first meeting. She wasn’t just an airhead when I interviewed her. She was brilliant. She was perfect. She knew all the right things to say and do to get me where she wanted me and that can’t be taught. She’s wily, cunning, sly, and conniving… and she’s smart. Now, she seems dead set to destroy me and my family by any means necessary. I’ve got to destroy her first.

The gloves are off… all the way off.

“I won’t say, ‘Good Morning,’” Alex says as he opens my office door. “I can already tell it’s well past fucked up.”

“That’s an understatement,” I say coolly, my mind travelling more miles per hour than I can clock. “Close the door and have a seat.” Alex enters and closes the door behind him.

“This thorn is never going to go away,” I say, standing from my chair and walking to the window. “She’s on the watch list. How was it that she was seeing Lincoln and we didn’t know?”

“The same way that she stole Her Highness’s gun, sir,” Alex says. He scrolls through his tablet and hands it to me.

“She’s like Ethan fucking Hunt, sir. She can physically turn herself into anyone, male or female. There’s no way to tell who she is when she leaves her home. We didn’t even know that she was visiting Lincoln until we worked our way backwards and reviewed Lincoln’s visitor logs…”

Do I even want to know how he got access to Lincoln’s visitor logs without Holstein’s cooperation?

“Then we coordinated the people leaving the apartment with the people returning. She hasn’t gotten smart enough to change disguises before she gets home. Then again, she doesn’t need to.”

I scroll through the pictures and see men and women of every nationality identified as Greta Ellison. I even had to turn the tablet around to confirm the person was her a few times. Height and build don’t change. Shape can be masked by clothing, but she’s definitely different people.

“A few times, she logged in to see Ron Holstein, so he’s definitely in on it,” Josh adds.

“Yeah, I figured as much,” I say, still swiping through the many faces of Greta. She’s dangerous—extremely dangerous—and she must be stopped.

“Josh, who have you deduced could also be in this book?” I ask. He twists his lips. He doesn’t want to tell me.

“High-profile officials,” he says. “Some politicians, philanthropists, businessmen like yourself…” That’s all I need.

“Any way to get word to them without totally letting the cat out of the bag?” I ask. “You know, they don’t need to know where the information is coming from and I don’t even need to know who they are… it’s better that I don’t. Just a little tip-off that they may soon be in a tell-all book about their dirty laundry that may make it look even dirtier than it really is.” His brow rises.

“I see what you mean. I may need your help, Alex,” he says.

“I’m at your disposal,” Alex says.

“Then, get on it,” I tell Josh. “I’ll have more questions for you once I sort my rambling thoughts.”

“I’ll keep you posted,” he says as he stands to leave.

“Alex, you stay. I need more information from you.” Josh pauses, but only briefly before he leaves the room. I go over to the desk and flip the switch that scrambles recording signals in my office, even my own.

“She’s a chameleon,” I say, once I know that I’m no longer being recorded. “She’s a fucking dangerous, pestilence ass chameleon that’s not going to fucking go away.” I walk to the window.

“Do you know that I presented her with proof that I knew she was the one that stole my wife’s gun?” I continue. “I had her pinned in a BDSM club between three people that could have killed her with our bare hands, confronted her, threatened her, and let her go and she still came back?” I hiss angrily.

“Yes, sir, I do,” he says. Of course, you do. It’s your job to know. It only takes a minute to ponder what needs to be done.

“Ellison is smart. She’s cunning and she’s brilliant. She gave that gun to a woman that she knew was unstable, delusional, desperate, and had a bone to pick with me. She knew what that woman was going to do with that damn gun, and she gave it to her anyway.”

“Yes, sir,” Alex concurs.

“That woman tried to kill me with that gun,” I say, handing him the tablet, “and had it not been for Jason, she would have succeeded. As an accessory, Ellison tried to kill me.” Alex cocks his head and ponders.

“With the right evidence, a court of law would say that you’re absolutely correct…”

“Fuck the court of law!” I bark. “Because of those two conniving, murderous cunts, my bodyguard and best friend took a bullet for me and that’s the only thing that saved my life and nearly cost him his!” Alex examines me.

“What do you propose?” he asks.

“Get started with Josh to alert the other officials that they’re technically in the hot seat. Between my world-class security team and my extremely savvy PR department, I’m sure innuendo can be circulated to the press without upheaval or suspicion.” Alex casts a knowing gaze upon me.

“You’re creating a smokescreen,” he says.

“I wouldn’t call it a smokescreen,” I reply, “just more people of interest. I was the center of her last trial. The spotlight is already going to be on me. I want to see how many other people we can cast center stage.”

“I know we’re not being recorded,” he says. “I need to know what you have in mind.”

“You know what I have in mind!” I retort sharply. “She’s a thorn, a deadly thorn in my side and she needs to be extracted… and her little dog, too.”

“Are we talking Lincoln or Ellison…”

“We’re talking both!” I say before the words are completely out of his mouth. “But we can’t be sloppy. The minute that smokescreen starts, I need shit to get rolling on the lot of them… Lincoln, Ellison, Holstein, and his haughty ass secretary, too.

“Why the secretar…?”

“Because she pissed me off!” I hiss… and she doesn’t know who she’s fucking dealing with. Alex straightens his back.

“What are we talking here, and in what order?” he asks.

“Punishments for Lincoln begin immediately—subtle at first, but by the time it’s over, she’ll know who it is.” I’ll come up with something creative for her at the end so that she won’t be willing or able to fuck with me ever again. “Save the secretary for last. I just want her seriously inconvenienced, extremely uncomfortable, and if I forget while pursuing the bigger fish, it’ll be your responsibility to make sure those wishes get carried out.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Holstein? Thorough retaliation—annihilation, if possible. My only requirement for him is that he gets to live,” I growl. “His begins the moment the signals start to rise from the smokescreen, so get that going now.”

“And Ellison?” he asks. I only glare at him. Ellison… big, little bitch with too much power, real and assumed. She’s become more than an inconvenience! I don’t know if she’s chasing money, fame, or revenge, but whichever it is, it’s going to cost her dearly. She has no idea how far this woman has taken her down the rabbit hole, if for no other reason but the information that she’s given her, let alone how she plans to use it.

My silence answers his question.

“Duly noted,” he says, rising from his seat. “Anything else?

“I want to be there for every step of what happens to Ellison until I tell you that I don’t,” I say.

“Yes, sir,” he says coolly before opening the door to leave the room. I know that I’ve already missed a meeting and Andrea didn’t inform me. She knows me so well that she probably knew to reschedule with me in a meeting with Josh and growling for Alex. Just as Alex reaches the elevator, I hear something I don’t think I’ve heard in all the years that she has worked for me.

Andrea raises her voice.

“Mr. Holstein, I don’t care who you are or who you think you are, but I am a professional, and unless you can conduct your calls to this office with a little professionalism and decorum in the future, I will disconnect your calls every time I hear your voice. How’s that for a short-skirted, pencil pushing answering machine… sir?

Whoa! Holstein said the wrong thing to the wrong person and Andrea’s giving him what-for on this end of the line.

“Well, if you think you haven’t gotten through to him before, let’s see how successful you are now!” She slams the receiver down and closes her eyes, taking a deep breath. Alex and I make eye-contact before he nods and boards the elevator. When Andrea opens her eyes, I’m peeking around the door jam at her.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Grey, but you don’t pay me enough to put up with the names he just called me.” My face falls.

“More than a ‘short-skirted, pencil-pushing answering machine?” I ask, as if that wasn’t bad enough.

“Much more,” she says, her voice low.

“The next time he calls, put him on hold,” I say. It’s time to put my plans into action for this fucker as soon as possible. I don’t disrespect Andrea and I won’t allow anyone else to do it, either. His dick has gotten way too big for his pants, and I’m about to whack it down a couple of inches.

*-*

Al was two steps ahead of me and conferred with my accounting department about the best way to itemize and categorize my assets for a will. He’s slowly working his way through the process, setting up a trust for each of the children and placing other items in a revocable living trust, and several other terms of mumbo-jumbo that I trust he’ll handle and explain to us when it’s time to sign the final documents. I inform him that we’ll plan to have dinner with him and Valerie and their significant others sometime this week to discuss some of the particulars and to get some things in writing should I and my Butterfly meet an untimely simultaneous demise. We set aside Wednesday for the meeting, pending Valerie and Elliot’s acceptance of the invitation and, of course, Butterfly’s approval.

It’s later than usual when I get home and all I can think is that I can’t wait to be in my wife’s arms. Today was packed full of catching up with whatever work and catastrophes that simply couldn’t be solved without my presence not to mention plotting revenge on my enemies. I didn’t even eat lunch, so I’m hungry in more ways than one. Just as we’re pulling into the garage, my cell rings.

“Grey,” I say without looking at the phone.

“Hello, Christian,” my mother’s voice says. I try not to sigh loudly into the phone. My last conversation with my mother involved her trying to get the inside scoop on what my wife’s plans are in terms of the Center. Now, she has spent an entire day with my wife… and she’s calling me. What is it now?

“Hey, Mom,” I say, trying to sound casual. “What’s up?”

“Is Anastasia home yet?” Why would she call me and ask me that? Why wouldn’t she call Butterfly? And yet…

“No…” I say, slow and uncertain, as I look over at the bin where her vehicle usually is and it’s empty. “Is everything okay?”

“She’s probably just still at the Center,” Mom says. “You may want to go down there and get her. It’s been a long day.” I’m noticing that my mother’s tone is a bit labored, like she’s extremely tired.

“What happened, Mom?” I ask. “Did you two have a fight?”

“No, we didn’t have a fight,” she says, slightly exasperated, “and you said that you were going to stay out of it, so that’s what you should do.”

Well!

“I didn’t call you for that reason, anyway,” she continues. “I called you because, like I said, it’s been a long day and she was still closed in her office when I left, so it might be a good idea for you to go and get her.”

Jesus Christ. This day has already been horrific. The last time I popped up on my wife at the Center unannounced… no, I won’t think that way. Mom says I should probably go and get her, so I’m going to get her.

“Okay, Mom, I’m on my way now,” I say, and Jason looks over the seat at me.

“Okay. Goodbye now.” And just like that, she ends the call. What the hell happened at the Center today? I’m just looking at my phone wondering what’s going to be waiting for me when I get to Butterfly.

“Sir?” Jason says, reminding me that we’re still sitting in the car.

“We’re going to the Center,” I inform him.

“What’s wrong?” he says with concern.

“Nothing that I know of, but Butterfly isn’t here and she most likely still has the children with her. I’d like to go and bring them home.” He twists his lips at me. “While we’re on our way, you can call Chuck and make sure that everything is okay, but my mother just called and told me to go get my wife, so I’d like to see her, okay?”

There. I’m not trying to catch her in anything, nor do I think I would. I just want to go get her.

“Very well, sir,” he says, and starts the car again. As we’re crossing the bridge, he put Chuck on the speaker.

“As far as I know, she’s fine,” Chuck says through the speakers. As far as he knows…?

“Why wouldn’t you know?” I ask.

‘Because she’s been holed up in her office all afternoon,” he says. “She hasn’t come out and when I went to check on her, she called through the door, ‘Leave me alone! I’m busy!’ So, knowing that she’s okay, I did what she asked and left her alone. I do know—through the grapevine—that she and Grace had an intense conversation today and Grace didn’t look happy when she left. She stayed all day, but she was less than pleased.”

“Why are you telling us this?” Jason asks.

“Because I think that’s why she’s still in the office,” he said. I sigh.

“She fought with Mom,” I say. Mom said they didn’t fight. Jesus, the day was at least as hard for her as it was for me and now, she’s hiding out. “Thanks, Chuck,” I say.

“You’re welcome, sir,” he says and ends the call. Jason looks at me, questioning.

“The mission hasn’t changed. Get me to my wife.” I wonder if she’s hiding from me thinking her argument with my mother is going to cause us a problem? I’m even more eager to get to her now than I was before.

Hurry up, Jason. She needs me…


ANASTASIA

“She hasn’t given you any idea when she’s coming back? Or if she’s coming back?” Courtney asks.

“Neither,” I tell her. “She’s never taken a day off in her life that I can remember, not even for doctor’s appointments…” which makes me question when she ever went before the whole pregnancy scare. “Then she takes them all at once. I’m still depositing her check into her account because she has nearly a lifetime in sick time accrued and she only ever used vacation time when I did so…” I trail off.

“Well, I’m certain that I won’t be as efficient as Mare was, but I’ll be happy to fill in for her the best that I can.” I sigh.

“Thank you, Courtney. Every little bit helps. I know that you have your own set of responsibilities here and I won’t interfere with your work, but of course I’ll pay you extra for helping me out. If Marilyn hasn’t decided what she plans to do at least by the new year, I’ll look into hiring someone more permanent.” It hurts to say that.

“I hope everything is okay with her. This is so out of her character. It had to be something really bad, and no, I’m not pumping you for information.” She looks down at her notepad and writes something on it.

“How are things with you and Addie?” I ask. Courtney raises her gaze to me.

“Still a little tense, but we’re talking,” she says. “Grandfather has made it clear that I’m still not getting any money from them and I’ve made it clear that I never intended to see them again, so the last thing I expect from them at this point is money. I don’t think I would want it even if they offered it to me. It reminds me too much of who I was and what I was doing… and how I felt when Grandmother disowned me. No… I think I’ll be happier earning my own way and making a life with Vick, whatever that life may be.”

“I’m glad that the two of you are talking, but you know I had nothing to do with this, right?” She rubs my forearm.

“Yes, Ana… I know,” she says. “Grandmother says you only talked about it after she confronted you. I know you would never betray my trust.”

“That’s what’s most important to me,” I tell her. “I’m all for a happy ending, but I won’t take credit for a victory that means you think I betrayed your confidence.”

“I know better,” she says with a smile. “I knew from the very beginning that it wasn’t you. I knew when I saw your face when I walked into your office. I may have been focused on Grandmother, but you were clearly horrified,” she adds matter-of-factly. “We’ve… got a long way to go. I don’t know if it’ll ever be back the way it was. Maybe it’s better if it’s not. Scratch that—it’s definitely better if it’s not.” She folds her arms around her body. “I… don’t like that Courtney. I don’t know how I lived with her for so long. No matter what happens, I don’t think I could ever go back to being her. For one thing, I’m sure I’d lose Vick. She won’t take any of my crap. She calls me on my shit any and every time I try to pull it, and she supports me in everything I do. What’s more, she knew me when I was that other crazy bitch, and she still loves me. Can you imagine?”

“Your grandmother knew and loved you, too,” I point out.

“No, she didn’t,” Courtney corrects. “She may have loved me, but she didn’t know me. She thought she knew me. She knew the façade. When she saw the real me, she thought that was the façade. When she found out that it wasn’t, she couldn’t take it. That’s why she sent me away.” She sighs and stands.

“I’m going to find something to do now,” she says. “I’ll be at your beck and call of course, but as you know, there’s lots that need my special attention… and I do better when I’m moving around.” She goes to the door, opens it and steps out. I follow her to the door.

“You’re sure this isn’t going to be too much for you,” I reinforce.

“Nah,” she says, hugging her laptop. “Outlook isn’t a foreign language for me. We use it in school for the syllabi and to keep up with our classes. I just have to spend a little time deciphering Mare’s hieroglyphics and we’ll be fine. Plus, I get an up close and personal look into the super-secret life of Anastasia Grey.”

She does a spooky little wiggle of her fingers and smiles before walking away down the hallway. I turn to go back into my office, but a shadow catches my eye. She doesn’t move or speak, but I can see her standing in her doorway, or at least her shadow cast on the floor of the hallway. I say nothing. I just go into my office and close the door.

Now, she’s lurking. She won’t even face me. Yet another reason why I feel this is no longer the place for me. There was a job that needed to be done here—some things that needed to be fixed. I fixed them. I did my job, but the job isn’t completely finished. So, I’m going to finish my job here and then I’m going to find something else to do.

What, I have absolutely no idea. Maybe I’ll get in touch with Josephine Kennedy, our sponsor for Broadmoor. She’ll probably have some suggestions. I don’t need to be in any kind of executive position. I just want to be somewhere that I can do some good and my opinion is valued.

Knowing that I don’t have much time to implement the learning programs needed before the school year starts, I immediately get to work researching the necessary requirements for a learning coordinator. I fire off a text to Keri to meet me in the office as soon as she has a moment.

Every time someone knocks at my office door, I get the willies. I don’t want to talk to Grace at all, to have her confront me about my absence or to rehash why I feel like she should treat me with more respect and consideration. These things should be understood. You hired me to do a job; then let me do it and don’t interfere with it. If you’re going to interfere and do things your way, what do you need me for?

Anyway, this time, it’s Keri at my door.

“Ya wanted ta seh meh, Annah?” she asks cautiously when she enters the room.

“Yes, please, come in,” I say. She slowly walks in and takes a seat. I can tell that she’s nervous, so I get straight to the point. “I need your help.” She looks shocked.

“You do?” she says, her surprise evident. I nod.

“First, I need to ask how the process is going with getting your teaching certificate here in the states. Were you still planning to do that, or had you changed your mind?”

“Noh! I mean, yes! I mean…” She’s terribly nervous. I’ve never called her into my office in an official capacity, ever, and she’s not quite sure how to handle it.

“Keri,” I say, rising from my seat and walking over to her. “Relax. You’re not in any trouble or anything like that. I just… I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone. I need some information and I just want to know what your immediate plans are.” Keri sighs heavily and rolls her eyes a bit.

“Ah’m sawtty, Annah,” she says. “Ah jus feel lak Ah’m bein’ cawled to da ptincipal’s awfice!” She laughs. In effect, she is, but only because the principal needs her help.

“I understand,” I say.

“Yes, I steel plan on gettin’ mah teachin’ cehtificate heyah. Ah cahl de school bohd ahnd dey sey Ah got ta tek de necesetty exams foh residency. Ah alreaty apply foh the exams since mah degtee is enough foh da requyment. So, Ah’m wehtin’ foh dem ta tell meh when da test gwine be and Ah should be okay.”

“They didn’t say anything about your citizenship or anything like that?” I ask.

“Ah’m heh on a work visa. Ah can keep dah sem visa or get a new one if I choose to teach. Ah wold luv to teach, Annah. I miss me bebbies.” I know that she’s talking about her students in Anguilla.

“Have you thought about becoming a resident?” I ask. She shrugs.

“Anguilla ask de sem ding when I cawled for mah recohds an cehtifications. Dey say, ‘ahe ya gwine stey dere in da states or ya come back to Anguilla?’ I tell dem it not my immediate plan ta stey, but don know what happen in de furtah.” I frown.

“You may go back to Anguilla?” I ask sadly.

“Me don know,” she says honestly. “Anguilla me home. I could nevah leave hah forevah. But me heart wit me Choonks. Das wheh Ah mus be.” That’s an enigmatic response.

“Does Chuck know that you’re somewhat on the fence about returning to Anguilla?” I ask. She nods. “How does he feel about it? He can’t be happy.”

“He not,” she says. “He tinks me run out da doh anyday wit mah bags. I tell him, ‘Choonks, don tek it dat weh. Ah jes not wannah lose meh woots, das all. Jes like yah not wannah stey in Anguilla becuz yah home heyah, I no wannah be in Anguilla witout yah, but Anguilla me home, too. Meh woots deyah. I don wanna lose dat.’”

“So, we’re not talking about packing your bags and moving back to Anguilla when your visa is over. We’re just talking about being able to go back to Anguilla as you please so that you don’t forget your roots.”

“Yeh,” she says, confidently. “I noh move back to Anguilla. Lek I seh, mah heart wit me Choonks. Ah havta be wheh he is.” I sigh heavily. It would be a devastating day all around if we lose Keri.

“Well, that’s good to hear,” I admit. “My second question is more detailed. You worked with small children in Anguilla, right?”

“Yeh, all me bebbies primery school, some younga,” she says. I nod.

“I’m trying to come up with a plan of action to get started with our early-learning program when the school year starts. I have some good solid ideas that we presented to get our licensing and accreditation, but now we need to tweak it and get it ready to roll out. I could really use some help.”

I confer with Keri about what direction we should take in terms of curriculums. I know that the subjects in Anguilla will most likely probably vary from the subjects in America, only because of the difference in culture and the direction of the curriculum as it relates to the region, but I’m certain that the basis is the same. I’ve done a little research to get a basic framework, but I’m definitely going to need some help in nailing down the particulars.

Keri turns out to be invaluable. We’re at it for hours fine-tuning our curriculum and learning plans. We’ve already done some interviewing for teachers and tutors, and we’ll have to make some decisions this week, which means that whether I want to or not, I’ll have to meet with Grace.

There’s no use putting it off.

Once I’ve finished with the basic curriculum, I ask Keri to look it over and see if there’s anything else that we may need. I don’t want to present this outline and framework to the teachers and tutors that I plan to hire, and it turns out to be total garbage. Then I send a text to Grace that we need to chat about the teaching staff and to let me know when she’s available to do so.

It was like carving my tooth out with a chisel just to send the text.

Not half an hour after I hit send, Grace is at my door.

“May I come in?” she asks. I sigh inwardly.

“Please,” I say, standing and gesturing to the seat in front of me. She enters and sits down, and I close the door behind her. I jump right in.

“The school year is starting in a few weeks and I don’t want to be caught unprepared like we have these last terms,” I say, picking up the papers showing the progress that Keri and I made and handing it to her. “We already conducted several interviews and with where we plan to start, I would think we don’t need too much staff right now—a few teachers and a tutor or two and someone to act as principal or superintendent just over the scholastic portion of the program…”

I continue discussing what I think would be the best direction for the preschool and tutoring program—afterschool classes, playgroups, and eventually, a possible part-time homeschool, particularly for at-risk families, namely residents in the dorms while Grace looks over the proposals and plans that Keri and I have collaborated on so far.

“You’ve been quite busy,” she says raising her eyes to me. “I’m glad the Center won’t suffer because of our disagreement.”

I wouldn’t say that just yet, Grace.

I continue the conversation as if nothing had been said about our disagreement and make suggestions as well as request input on who would be the best candidates for the positions we would like to fill as we really need to get the ball rolling like right now. Grace gives her opinions on who she thinks will fit the immediate bill and luckily, except for one, they were the same people that I think will work best. I cede to her judgment for the last person, selfishly thinking that if they didn’t work out, I wouldn’t have to be the one to contend with it. She would.

It’s a bit late in the afternoon when we bang out our initial steps and final choices, and I’m more than ready to discontinue the conversation. I’m not, however, ready to pick up the conversation that she wants to have.

“I really feel I did the right thing,” she says with conviction.

“Grace, this conversation is moot,” I say matter-of-factly. The time for us to have this conversation has passed.

“You won’t even discuss it with me?” she asks, her voice rising an octave in disbelief.

“No,” I say finitely. “I don’t want to fight with you or dispute this with you anymore. What you did could have had disastrous results, and if you can’t understand that, there’s nothing for us to discuss.” She sighs.

“Fine. I was wrong,” she says, almost like a petulant child. I shake my head.

“You don’t get it,” I say. “I’m not looking for capitulation. I don’t need you to admit that you were wrong. I need you to see that you were wrong. Courtney had come miles from where she started. Her progress was fucking immeasurable. Addie barely recognized her as the hell that she sent back to her hellhole hometown. What you did could have set her back far beyond her starting point, and what would you have to say had that happened? What could you have possibly said to me—to Courtney—had you, in your self-proclaimed omnipotence, destroyed all the work that she put in to achieve what she achieved?”

“Can’t you see that sometimes, everything isn’t answered by theory and book-smarts? Sometimes—oftentimes—there’s emotion involved, and you just have to go with your gut?” Her voice is beseeching.

“I can see that, Grace, but can you?” I retort. “Logic dictates that the strides made by Courtney should have had her running back to Addie to present her new self—to show her grandmother that she was nothing like the person Addie last saw. The fact that her grandmother felt that she was nothing, she had to prove her wrong—for herself, but in the process, she made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with the source of her uncertainty. When they parted ways, Addie pretty much told her that she was better off dead. She cremated and buried Courtney’s mother this past summer with no pomp and circumstance, and you just take it upon yourself to say, ‘Oh, it’s a good idea to shove these two into each other’s faces!’ If you can’t see what’s wrong with that, just how fucked up a judgment call that was, then you’ll do it again and I can’t tolerate seeing all my hard work destroyed that way. I might as well go back to my practice.”

“I… I… I didn’t know…” she stammers.

“Of course, you didn’t know!” I bark. “There’s a lot you didn’t know! I’m the psychiatrist! I have all the inside scoops on what’s going on in these people’s minds because that’s what I do! And you had the audacity to be offended because I pointed that out! I don’t diagnose the intricate illness of children—that’s your specialty, not mine! But they share their deepest, darkest secrets with me because of my station and I act accordingly! She trusted me! She trusted me with her secrets and her feelings, with her life! And you exploited that! Can’t you see that? Can’t you see that you orchestrated a train wreck that could have destroyed them both and they just got lucky and walked away?”

“I… was just… following my instincts,” she says, resigned.

“Well, congratulations, doctor,” I say, clasping my hands on the table. “This time, your instincts were correct, and in the process, you undermined everything I do. The very basis of my profession is privacy and trust—respecting the rights of the patient. You know the Hippocratic Oath, and you totally disregarded mine, then haughtily walked away smiling when you did it. I can’t work like that. I can’t have someone’s mental well-being in my hands and in the back of my head, constantly fearing that you’re going to make a decision that’s going to unravel the intricate tapestry that I’ve taken months… or years… to create with one of my patients based on your instincts.” I silently shake my head, indicating that this is definitely a no-go for me.

Grace bites her lip and takes a seat, humbly clasping her hands in her lap.

“Can you, for just a moment, see where I’m coming from?” she says, her voice shaking slightly.

“No…” I begin.

“Please… let me finish,” she beseeches without raising her eyes. It’s my turn to be petulant, but I just defiantly fold my arms and sit mute.

“Addie… is my friend,” she begins. “She’s been my friend for a long, long time—even longer than that crazy bitch who victimized my son.”

That kind of stings… and causes me to let my guard down a little.

“You may have known how Courtney felt, but I knew how Addie felt. She felt hurt and betrayed, and that’s what made her say the things she said to Courtney, but most of all, she was heartbroken. She felt that she would die and have nothing to show for her bloodline. She had such high hopes for Courtney, and when she saw those hopes dashed to the rocks…” She stops and swallows.

“I’m not saying that you wouldn’t understand,” she says. “You’re a mother, so you have to know that we only want what’s best for our children. Courtney’s mother was such a disappointment and Addie had her hopes in Courtney even when everybody told her that it would be a lost cause. When she finally accepted that those hopes were destroyed, it was the most traumatizing thing that had ever happened to her. She tried to move on, but she was crushed.

“That’s the reason I advocated for Courtney in the first place,” she adds. “After everything that she had done and all the problems she had caused, I just wanted to help my friend. It was wonderful seeing the progress that she was making, but Addie was still hurting… deeply hurt. We didn’t hear anything about her daughter because she couldn’t mourn her daughter. To her, it was all a lost cause.

“I found out about Adele—that’s her daughter’s name—at Mia’s wedding. I had been trying to indirectly arrange a meeting ever since. I knew Courtney was at the wedding, but by the time I had heard about Adele, Courtney had already left.

“When I say that I was trusting my instincts, Ana, I’m not just saying that I thought it was a good idea. My friend was suffering, and I just didn’t want to see her suffering anymore… and I knew that seeing Courtney—how beautiful she is and how far she’s come—would do her some good.” I roll my eyes nearly to the point of agony.

“Why. Didn’t you. Explain that to me?” I nearly seethe. “Why didn’t you come and talk to me?”

“Because just like you had confidences, I had confidences…” she begins.

“But it was okay for you to disregard mine!” I nearly shout, causing Grace to jump a bit in her seat.

Settle down, Grey.

I take a deep breath and address the situation again.

“The progress that I made with Courtney in eleven short months is more than I’ve done with a lot of people in years, and you could have undone all of that. That’s what I need you to see. This situation is the epitome of that old saying about the road to hell and good intentions. I can appreciate that you saw your friend suffering and you wanted that suffering to stop, but your. Methods. Were wrong. You threw a blowtorch into a vat of gasoline and prayed that it wouldn’t explode, and instead of alienating one person, you could have alienated three—one of which was your very close friend.

“As much as I want to say that the biggest betrayal here was to Courtney’s right to privacy and to Addie’s suffering, I can’t even say that,” I say, and she raises glassy eyes to me. Yeah, this is going to sting, Dr. Grace, so get ready for it. “The biggest betrayal is that you dismissed me. You dismissed my expertise and my feelings. It caused friction in my marriage and discord in my professional life. But you know what’s even worse, Grace? What you probably never even considered even up to this very moment? You. Destroyed. My trust! Did you think about that? Did you think about the fact that I have to trust the person that I work with and I don’t trust you anymore?

“I can’t be effective under those conditions, and I can’t just wave that off. When you’re dealing with the human mind, at any given moment someone’s sanity can be hanging in a delicate balance. One wrong word, one wrong action, can be the difference between a breakthrough and suicide—and I’m not exaggerating.” I immediately think of Ace’s shark’s tooth.

“I should have come and talked to you,” she says just above a whisper, her voice cracking.

“Yes,” I say softly, but firmly. “You should have…” and now, it’s probably too late. Grace takes a deep, shuddering breath and stands.

“Let me know what you decide to do,” she says without raising her eyes to me. “I’ll understand either way.” She turns and quickly walks out of my office. I hear her heels clicking at a quick pace down the hall and just before she closes the door to her office, I hear her begin to weep.

Dear God in heaven, I think to myself as my face falls on my arms on my desk, my hair splayed wildly over my hands and arms like a blanket. What am I going to do now…?

*-*

“Hey…”

My head feels like lead and my eyes hurt from crying. I can only imagine that I look like pure hell from having cried myself to sleep at my desk and when I turn towards the soft, melodic voice, my husband is looking lovingly at me while stroking my hair out of my face.

“Hey,” I barely squeak out. “What are you doing here?”

“It’s late… and Mom called me,” he says. “She told me that you were still in your office when she left and that it might be a good idea if I came to get you.”

“I don’t know what to do, Christian,” I lament, on the brink of tears again.

“Well, you won’t think about it tonight,” he says cupping my cheek. “Right now, I’m going to take you home, bathe you, feed you, and make love to you. Then, you can conquer this in the morning.”

I don’t have the will or desire to fight him. I’m tired of thinking, dreaming, fretting about this whole thing. It’s getting on my nerves. I stand and proceed to leave the building and had it not been for Chuck, I might have left without my children. Mom of the year.

My husband keeps his promise, making sure that I was fed, bathed, and loved. Nonetheless, at 2:49 in the morning, I find myself staring at the ceiling while he’s sleeping comfortably next to me. I don’t know how long I’ve been lying here, but I decide that I don’t want to lie here anymore. I quietly roll out of bed and retrieve the first shirt that I can find. It’s the linen shirt that Christian wore to work, and it smells like him. It’s comforting. I put it on and button it before leaving our suite.

The children are sound asleep and I don’t want to disturb them, so I go to the kitchen to get something to drink. After I fix a spritzer, I sit at the breakfast bar, trying to think of something to do. I look at my phone and begin to scroll through it. Some time between the time I got home and now, my contacts, calendar, and apps had all been moved to the new phone.

When did he find time to do that?

I had already forwarded my calls to the new phone, but it’s probably time to leave the new number on the old message so that I can retire my 4S soon. I decide to take a look at my emails. I had cleared most of them at work, but I hadn’t looked at the junk mail to see if anything had been misrouted.

Sure enough, something had.

To: Anastasia Steele-Grey
Re: Web Presence
Date: Saturday, December 13, 2014, 14:14
From: Laura Kelly

Hey there, Sheila!

Just a little nudge from down under to remind you to finish setting up your social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—but start with Facebook. It’s probably best for social media virgins. I know you said you had to talk to your PR people before you could pull the trigger. Remember what I showed ya!

Jax was a little depressed after visiting his mum’s grave, even more depressed when we got back to the ship and there was no Chris to shoot the shit with. You’ll have to come back and see us sometimes, or we’ll look you up next time we’re in the States.

Look for LauraLee Kelly on Facebook. You can’t miss me!

Missing you guys already!
Laura

Laura showed me the basics while we were on the cruise and we ran around her social media accounts a bit, but we never actually set up an account for me.

Social media. Facebook. Hmmm…

Screw PR. I’ll just create an alias.

I go to iTunes and download the Facebook app. Sign up with an email.

Back up.

I go to Gmail and create an alias email just for this purpose. You can’t be too careful.

First name… Anastasia

Last name… hmmm.

Lambert.

There’s no taboo attached to that name for me anymore. It’s a name that I used to escape, and I escaped, so…

Welcome to Gmail!

Back to Facebook.

Sign up. What’s your name?

Anastasia Lambert.

Hmm… it still feels too obvious.

Mercer Mistress… Hell, no!

Mercer Doctor Lady.

Good enough for now.

Upload a profile picture…

Butterflies!

I do a quick internet search and find a picture of a black and white butterfly that reminds me of Marty.

Perfect!

I download it to my phone, then upload it as my profile picture.

Invite your friends… well, I only have one that I know of on social media…

LauraLee Kelly. I need her email. Nah, I’ll look her up and invite her to be my friend. It’s faster.

I have access!

LauraLee Kelly.

She’s right. I find her quickly and send a friend request. I create the same account with Twitter, then I make the mistake of going to Facebook and Twitter and doing a search for my name.

There are a million of me!

I could make a page with my real name and no one would be any wiser, but no. I’ll hide behind Mercer Doctor Lady. Not very creative or catchy, I know, but it’ll fit the bill. I answer a few questions about books and hobbies.

There’s nothing on my timeline since I don’t have any friends, so I see what Facebook has to offer.

Videos… relationship advice… reality TV snippets… groups that might interest me… comedy…

I like comedy.

I watch several comedy videos and share many of them to my timeline.

I’m dying laughing over Steve Harvey and Family Feud…

Ellen Degeneres, well, I love her. I follow her and Steve on Facebook.

The Real Housewives of what? Where? What real housewives behave this way? And you’re still married? These women need to get a damn life!

“What are you doing down here?”

I’m startled by Christian coming to the kitchen in his pajama pants. I’m even more startled by something else…

Daylight.

“I was just… I couldn’t sleep,” I say. Hell if I’m telling him I spent all night on Facebook. His gaze softens.

“I didn’t do my job, then,” he says, closing the space between us. I put my phone down and sigh.

“It’s not you,” he says, “and I don’t want to pull you into the middle of what’s happening between me and your mother.”

“She said you didn’t fight, but I have a feeling you did,” he says. I look up at him.

“You thought I fought with your mother and you still brought me home and took care of me?” he shrugs.

“She’s my mother and I love her very much, but she went home to her husband. You’re my responsibility.” I wrap my arms around his waist and lean on his chest.

“I love you,” I say, breathing in his scent.

“I love you, too,” he says. I sigh. “You’re holding it in. You have to tell somebody.” I lean back and look up at him, twisting my lips.

“She looked like a broken puppy when she left my office, and I heard her crying,” I say. “She broke us… plain and simple. She broke us as a team. I have to trust who I’m working with. That’s it. I don’t expect you to take sides here, I really don’t, but I have to say it out loud. She broke us. She broke the team, and I don’t know if it can be fixed.”

“Any idea what it would take to be fixed?” he asks.

“Time, for one,” I admit, “and I’m not sure I’m willing to put it in.” She begged me last year to give Courtney a chance and I did, and we built something, and then she tossed it out like trash. Fuck how Courtney was feeling; fuck what Courtney wanted; Addie was more important.

“You’re taking it really personal, baby. Can you tell me why?” he asks.

“Because this could be anybody,” she says. “This could be a scared and battered wife and mother hiding from her abusive husband. I put in the work and get to the core of this girl’s deepest, darkest secrets—get her to where she’s not afraid to fall asleep at night; to where she finally sees that she’s out from under the oppression of her abusive husband and can do something with her life… move forward like Marlow’s mother did. And then Grace somehow brings the abusive father back into the picture. All that work I’ve done for nothing, and her only excuse and reasoning is that she’s following her instincts.

“Yes, that’s more graphic. Addie wasn’t abusive, but Courtney was crushed, crushed enough to never want to see her grandmother again, and Grace disregarded that… disregarded her feelings, disregarded her wishes, disregarded my work as a person and a professional. It’s very personal, Christian. How can I work with someone like that?”

“Then… why were you crying?” he asks.

“Because I obviously hurt her, and I didn’t mean to. We didn’t fight, but I was merciless in my explanations. She put her friend’s feelings over all professionalism and trust, the very basis of my profession. If she’s going to make decisions over my head without any consideration for my wishes, opinions, or input, then why am I there? I feel strongly about that, but I didn’t mean to hurt her—and I don’t know if she was hurt over understanding what she did to me or the concept of losing me.” He hugs me again.

“You’ll figure it out, baby. I know you will,” he encourages, “but doesn’t it feel better to get it out?”

“A little,” I say, sinking into his embrace.

“What have you been doing down here all night?” he asks. I twist my lips and look up at him, then push my phone over to him.

“Facebook?” he says, mirthfully. “You’ve been on Facebook all night?”

“Watching videos,” I say. “I don’t have any friends online.”

“You’ve got one, Mercer Doctor Lady,” he says and hands my phone back to me.

Laura accepted my friend’s request.


A/N: Ethan Hunt is Tom Cruise’s character in Mission Impossible. He was a master of disguise and could make himself or anyone else look like anyone anywhere.

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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 82—Now, Where Were We?

Danger—Aussie accent ahead. Turn away now.

There are probably some bad attempts at French laced in here, too. Beware, you’ve been warned!

All other previous disclaimers still apply.

Chapter 82—Now, Where Were We?

ANASTASIA

I am on fucking fire.

My body is completely alight with orgasmic release and I’m still trembling for more. I didn’t know he packed toys and I have no idea when he had the time to do it because I packed his bags, but I’m sure the fuck glad he did.

Maybe he picked something up when we separated in the Marketplace.

Who the fuck cares?! Get back to the “alight with orgasmic release” part!
I have to agree with the Bitch on this one.

He’s rubbing my ass and playing with that heavenly butt plug while I catch my breath and come down from a blinding climax. His hands anoint the sides of my body from just under my arms all the way down my thighs to my knees before he issues the command that I hoped I would hear.

“Turn over.”

I roll over onto my back, still blindfolded and mindful of the butt plug still inserted.

“Are you comfortable?” he asks when I’m situated.

“Yes,” I whisper, my hands resting on the bed on either side of my head.

“Good,” he says. I feel him leave the bed for a moment and I wonder with anticipation what he’s doing. I take this time to try to decipher the scents in the room. Lilac for sure… no, maybe it’s jasmine… mixed with…

I hear him come back into the room and feel the bed dip when he returns. I feel a strawberry against my lips, so I open my mouth and take a bite. As I’m chewing, I feel his body over mine and his lips cover my mouth. I open slightly, and cool wine flows from his to mine. I swallow the mouthful of strawberry and wine, totally food seduced at this point. A bit of the chocolate confection from dessert passes my lips and I savor the flavor as his body rises from mine, and moments later, oiled hands anoint my neck and shoulders.

He keeps me alight with sensations, causing one to flow right into the other—the strawberry into the wine into the chocolate and back into the massage. I purr with satisfaction as his oily hands travel from my shoulders down and over my breasts and nipples over my torso and abs and down to my pelvis. He reoils his hands to spread copious amounts around my mounds, my outer lips, the sensitive crevices at the junction of my thighs and pelvis and my top and inner thighs.

His hands travel masterfully all over the front of my body, touching and tempting me. Then, I feel a strawberry at my lips again. I bite and chew and wait for the wine, but it doesn’t come. Instead…

“Ah!”

Gentle pressure closes over my nipple. I bite my tongue and breathe in. It’s not his mouth—it’s a nipple clamp, the adjustable kind. I wait as he secures it, just enough to plump and sensitize my nipple. He doesn’t dawdle. He goes straight to the other one, which has become taunt in the process, and attaches the second clamp. He pauses for a moment, and even blindfolded, I can tell that he’s admiring his handiwork.

I feel him cover my body again, his erection pressing into my leg—and his mouth closes over one nipple and the clamp. I cry out in arousal, pushing my breast up towards him as his hand teases the other nipple in the clamp.

“Christian…” I whimper, so turned on that I can barely think. I keep my hands on the bed next to my head—it’s better this way—and his mouth feasts on my nipple while his fingers play with the other. Then he switches, giving both nipples the benefit of his talented tongue. I have to hurry and swallow the strawberry so that I don’t choke on it from my radical breathing, and the sweet flavor lingers on my tongue while my man stimulates my nipples.

It’s glorious!

He moves away from my nipples and slowly slides down my body, rubbing and planting kisses along the way. My breathing is more controlled when he gets to my feet and starts a gentle massage with the oil again. Yes, that’s jasmine. It’s a favorite scent of his… and mine, along with cinnamon and vanilla. His massage is gentle and firm at the same time, relaxing my ankles, my calves, my knees… and giving my throbbing clit a brief reprieve to recuperate. I know Christian Grey enough to know that the orgasmic stimulation is far from over, and it’s not the butt plug or the nipple clamp that’s giving it away.

It’s the thigh massage. The way that his hands are spread open on my thighs, kneading upwards so that his thumbs run across the crevices gently over my outer lips, he’s about to attack.

He straddles my legs again and there’s a pause in his massage. When he returns, the texture of the oil is different. Even though I can still smell the jasmine in the air, it’s not as strong. It’s not in the oil, and I’m very soon to find out why.

“Mmm… mmm…” I groan. He continues his massage, up the top of my thigh, across those sensitive crevices, over my outer lips, only this time, the tip of my clit is protruding ever so slightly, and his thumb zeros right in on it. He runs his oily thumb up and down just inside my lips with each upward motion of his hand, pressing my clit in and pushing it up, stroking it just so between my lips. I want to crawl off the damn bed as I try to stifle my whimper.

“Let me hear you, baby,” he encourages.

“Ah,” I gasp, the heat so hot and the moan releasing some of the pressure in my chest. His thumbs feel so good, one stroking my clit and the other teasing the crevice between my pelvis and thigh.

“Christian!” I breathe, grabbing my breasts and stimulating the nipple clamps there. I hear him gasp and he continues to rub intermittently, giving me seconds to recoil before I’m squirming on the bed again in ecstasy.

He moves his hands to my thighs and pushes them open—not eagle-spread, but open enough. He puts his hand over my mons, pressing firmly and squeezing just enough to heighten arousal, using the base to open my lips so that the clit protrudes just a little more than it did when he pleasured it with his thumbs.

Well, maybe more than a little more… I feel air on the underside. I can tell that he’s positioned between my legs, on his knees maybe…

“Oh, God,” I gasp deeply as I feel something I’ve never felt before—wet, smooth, soft. He starts at the tip of my clit with a titillating tickle, and I turn my head and bite my lip, sinking into a pleasure I’ve never felt before.

Is it a feather? No, it’s much heavier… thicker than a feather.

It moves from the tip of my clit, slowly down the underside and over the surface of my inner lips. Then it travels back up the same way that it started.

It moves up… and down… and up… and down… up and down… and up and down… flicking over and off the top of my clit just once… then it comes back… starts at the tip and moves down the underside and over the inner lips… then up again… then down… The strange stimulation is sending ripples through my body and even causing my thoughts to stutter—enough to ignite and keep me burning, but not enough for orgasm unless he keeps going and going and going. He’s exquisite in his meticulous movements, back and forth masterfully, like an artist.

An artist…

That’s what it is! It’s a paintbrush!

This has to me the most agonizing, glorious new thing I’ve ever felt! Wherever he got this idea, I owe ginormous homage and he needs to tell me how I can get some, too! This is fucking genius!

My whimpering is almost embarrassing, but this feeling is divine and irresistible. I can’t be silent… I can’t keep still… dear God, my stomach muscles are fucking aching and my pelvis is actually cramping with pleasure! How can that be?

Several moments later, the brush makes its final stroke and I’m panting in ecstatic exhaustion. Every time I’m about to come, he changes the rhythm and stimulation so that it brings me back a bit, not enough to start over, but enough to stop the rise to orgasm. It’s maddening—and magnificent!

Next, I feel cold air on my clit. He’s blowing on it, I know he’s about to dive in and taste the rainbow. What will he do—deep massage with a firm tongue? Fast, tormenting flicks to bring me to a quick release? A deep clitoral suck accompanied by a two-finger g-spot stimulation? Oh, no. Not just yet. Mr. Grey has other plans for me.

He lays his head on my inner thigh while placing his hand gently on the other to spread my legs. His tongue licks lazily over my inner lips and up to my clit, firming a bit when it gets to that fiery bundle of nerves, up and down like he’s casually licking an ice-cream cone. He repeats his lick over and over, his breath panting gently in contentment as his tongue covers all the necessary skin, never missing a spot in a gentle, sensual erotic caress.

“Oui… oui… mon amour,” I breathe as I flex my tightening clit. His massage doesn’t change, though his grip tightens a bit on my thigh, his hand presses flatter on my stomach and he continues to lick… and lick… and lick…

Fire is burning in my chest and my stomach is quivering madly, right where he’s pressing it—not to mention this infernal butt plug is still in my ass and that pleasure hasn’t ceased since the first orgasm! The rhythm syncs with my body and I feel the tightening in the small of my back.

And so does he.

The rhythm stops and he lifts my legs to expose my core and ass. He holds one leg up and commences a circular feast, around and around with a flexible rolling tongue—his entire tongue—as his free hand pushes, turns, pulls, and manipulates the butt plug.

Putain d’enfer, il l’a encore fait!

I whimper, nearly sob, my protest as my core continues to burn, but the orgasm backs away. I can’t take much more of this. The massage is delicious, round and round with his tongue masterfully covering my clit then traveling down to my vaginal opening and back up to madly manipulate that love button. Over and over he repeats the cycle, causing me to tremble and my muscles to clench painfully, but if it rises again and he changes rhythm, I’ll certainly expire.

I need it deep! I want to come!

“S’il vous plaît,” I whisper my plea, my voice desperate. “S’il vous plaît…”

He groans in his chest and situates himself between my legs. He throws my legs over his shoulders, reaches around my hips and cups both breasts, clamps and all.

“S’il vous plaît,” I groan again, more loudly this time, certain that he’s going to deny my again. Even though it’s heightening my pleasure, I can’t take any more. He massages my breasts firmly, causing my nipples to pebble in excitement. He parts my lips with his and proceeds to give my core the deepest, most sensual kiss—no teasing; his tongue, lips, and mouth are purposeful.

“S’il vous plaît, Christian, s’il vous plaît,” I beg. I’m desperate. The massage is so deep, so hot, I’m right fucking there. If he stops me this time, I’ll scream… I’ll cry… I’ll rip his fucking throat out! He can’t stop!

He massages harder, squeezes harder, kisses deeper, licks and sucks wildly, his mouth is watering all over my core, causing a delicious slip-and-slide sensation down there. I clamp my hands over his and squeeze and he moans, diving deeper into my core…

God, don’t stop… please don’t stop…

My back is so tight that it hurts, and when the orgasm starts to creep, I literally sob in my throat. I won’t be able to stand it if he stops.

I feel my legs cramping, stiffening… no…

I lock my ankles behind him and thrust my pussy into his mouth begging him in my native language not to stop and let me come. His kiss reaches down into me and wrenches a painful, merciless orgasm from my loins that has me screaming, still begging him not to stop—literally paralyzed with pleasure and pain as this climax wraps around my clit, these nipple clamps, and that butt plug all at the same time.

I think I’m still coming in my ass when he leaps to his knees, lifts my already elevated hips to his pelvis and thrusts double-digit inches of hard, hot, pulsing meat inside me. I scream at the pleasure. I love his mouth and tongue, but nothing feels like his dick!

“God damn, you’re so fucking hot!” he growls as the plunges into me over and over, like an animal. He thrusts and thrusts and thrusts, mindlessly, before he throws his head back and growls loudly, his eyes squeezed shut and his face twisted. He’s breathing like a bear and I don’t know if he came, but he snatches his rock-hard dick out of me. He tortures my clit with the head of his dick over and over, breathing and grunting like a bear before sitting flat on the bed.

“Turn around!” he growls, his voice deep and hungry. I move very quickly. “On your knees!” he commands. Okay, doggie-style. “Give me those pillows.”

Okay, not doggie-style.

I get into position as instructed. He opens his legs and rests them on my calves.

“Get comfortable, however you have to. Get on this dick and fuck me til you come.”

Til I come? I just came! You sure about that, Grey? I look over my shoulder at him questioning and he glares back at me as if to say, “What the fuck are you waiting for?’

Okay, you asked for it.

I wait for him to lie back on the pillows and I sit down on his pelvis—not on his dick, on his pelvis. I bring my calves from under his knees and open my legs as wide as I can.

This is my damn party? Then, I’m going to have it.

I grab that beautiful rock hard and veiny piece of flesh and stroke gently. The oil from my pussy is coating his skin and he grunts when I grab him.

“Get on with it!” he demands.

“Quiet!” I hiss. “This is mine now.” He forcefully grabs my hips as a warning, and I throw a glance over my shoulder.

“What are you gonna do?” I taunt. “Fuck me?” I glare at him, still teasing the head of his cock with my oily hands. His hips move ever so slightly to match the stimulation as he grits his teeth.

That’s what I thought. And now, Mr. Grey, I’m going to drive you crazy.

I begin to rock my hips up and down so that my open pussy strokes the side of his dick while my oily fist still grips and manipulates his head.

“Shit,” he hisses softly as he grips my hips. That’s right, Grey, just lay there and let me do what I do.

The veins on the side of his cock stimulate the underside of my clit and I lick my lips. Damn, that feels good. I get a little lost in the feeling of his glorious cock rubbing against my clit and I forget for a moment that there’s a man attached to it that’s going to come quickly if I don’t stop. His agonized groan brings me back to the here and now.

How about a little tease, Grey?

I plant my feet on either side of his hips and steady my hands on the bed on either side of him. Using only my hips, I massage my clit with the head and side of his dick—achingly slowly pumping my pelvis so that my clit rides up… and down…  and up… and down… over the slit and pulsing ridge of his head and partially down the side of his shaft.

“Oh, my God, yes,” I breathe as I watch the show between my legs; the head of his dick appearing and reappearing just beyond my mons; the burn of the friction going straight through my core…

“Jesus!” he prays quietly as his hands reach around my body and tease my tender nipples. One of the nipple clamps has fallen off, but both nipples are still hot and taut.

“Uh!” I groan, throwing my head back as pleasure once again shoots from three different directions. I know this has had the same effect on him that his changing rhythm had on me—that he’s still on fire, but has drawn back from “ready to blow.” I slide against that dick a few more times, biting and licking my lips in my own ecstasy until I’m nearly over the edge myself, and then I stop. I need that magnificent piece of meat inside me for this orgasm.

I resume the initial position he requested, situating myself between his legs and my calves under his thighs, causing him to bend his knees and open his legs very wide. With my ass in the air and the ass plug staring him in the face, I reach between my legs and thrust my finger into my core. I momentarily stifle the moan that wants to escape, but fail in the effort when I drag the moistened finger over my throbbing clit and massage it gently.

“Christ, baby, you’re so damn hot,” he breathes forcefully.

Like you wouldn’t believe, Mr. Grey, like you wouldn’t fucking believe.

I reach down and grab his cock and rub the head against my clit two or three times more before I guide him to my hungry opening. There, I hold him in place while the opening and lips of my aching pussy gently and slowly tease the head of his cock. I can feel the ridge just inside my vagina as the release and reentry make that luscious, wet “kissing” sound. I’m insanely turned on by this, so with him watching it, I know that he’s losing his fucking mind.

“Anastasia,” he breathes, his voice tortured, “God, you’re too much…”

“You make me this way,” I reply, my voice steeped in passion like a mindless horny nymph.

A few more vaginal kisses and I slide effortlessly down onto his cock, all the way to the balls. He groans loudly and places both hands on my ass. I start a rhythmic glide with just the slightest directional roll, raising my ass up towards him when I drop onto his dick, then pulling my hips down and forward when I rise off of it. His pleasure sounds are tortured, deep, and sexy, and my core is on fire filled with his thumping meat.

“Christian,” I mewl, “you feel so good… you’re so hard…”

I fight to keep my rhythm now with him filling me wall to wall. I know he’s rising to orgasm because he so thick and wide inside me, and I am once again producing that heat and wetness that’s accumulating on his dick and leaving an arousal cockring at the base near the balls. It would be embarrassing if it wasn’t so fucking hot and I wasn’t so goddamn turned on.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Grey,” I pant breathily. “I’ll come… I’ll come really fucking hard for you.”

“Fuck!” he hisses as he rubs my lower back, and I can feel his thighs tightening with pleasure. He wants to enjoy it, so he’s going to hold out until I blow. I push back onto his dick repeatedly so that I get maximum penetration and he groans again.

“God!” I gasp as I pump harder. His hands are still grabbing my ass and one of them moves and pushes the butt plug.

“Oh, God,” I exclaim, the pleasure so much that I can’t concentrate on my movement anymore. I straighten my body and balance on my knees, still bouncing on that wonderfully, deliciously hard cock. One hand moves to tease the nipple still painfully confined in the nipple clamp while the other shamelessly moves to circle my burning clit. I feel the sensation rise immediately from my feet, taking only a few seconds to overtake my thighs. Just as it begins to tingle and burn deep inside my core, he grabs my hip and pulls the butt plug out.

I scream and detonate into such a dangerously violent orgasm that I can’t even tell what the fuck is going on at the moment. All I know is fire and light and dizziness and trembling and screaming… lots and lots of screaming. My attempt to seduce my husband has backfired and I’m having one of the longest, hottest, heaviest, most mind-numbing orgasms I have ever fucked myself into.

I don’t know how long it is before I come down from that electric display and experience, but when I do, I’m on my knees, my chest flat on the bed with hair sticking to my sweaty face, panting profusely. Once I’m able to breathe a bit, I lift my head just slightly and catch him in the mirror. I didn’t know it was there.

He hasn’t come. I know he hasn’t because he’s still very hard inside me, but he’s smirking at my back—clearly unaware that I can see him.

Mo-ther-fucker, I’ll show you…

I put my hands flat on the bed and curl my back like a cat stretching from a deep sleep. Then, I roll my hips again, like I did in the beginning, only faster… and harder… and faster!

I get another glimpse of him in the mirror and that smug look has left his face. His hands have grasped my hips again, trying and failing to control my thrust as his mouth alternates between biting his lip and clenching his teeth.

“Slow it down, fuck baby, slow it down,” he begs breathlessly. Fuck you, Grey. Come, you cocky motherfucker.

“Uuuuhhhh!” I moan sensually, knowing that the sound of my voice will help to set him off, and partially because I absolutely adore how he feels inside me, even though there’s no hope of me coming again tonight. I lean up on my knees again and thrust my hands into my hair, lifting it sensually over my head, closing my eyes and puckering my lips as I roll my hips relentless and fast over his cock.

“You feel so good,” I mewl truthfully, “so good…” I add a gasp to the last two words and his breathing is no longer controlled. He’s losing it.

“Good… Fuck…” he hisses as he grabs my hips right below my waist and sinks into the bed a bit to angle his cock more.

That’s it, Grey. Give it to me. I’m going to milk you dry.

I fall back onto the bed with a helpless mewl, steady myself on my hands, and bounce my ass on his dick in an intense buns-of-steel workout while clenching my Kegels so hard that it’s a wonder my IUD doesn’t pop out like an orange seed. After a few minutes of bouncing and listening to my own mewling, I glance in the mirror to check on my husband.

His head is thrust back and he’s firmly holding my hips. His lips are moving like he’s saying something, but nothing comes out. After a few moments, his eyes return to our joined bodies and I reach behind me a stick a finger in my ass where the butt plug used to be.

“Oh, fuck!” he growls at the sight and begins to wildly thrust into me, overpowering my smooth, massaging stroke. He pumps into me feverishly, gritting his teeth and grunting and throwing his head back again. When the first cry of orgasm escapes his lips, I rise off his cock, open my ass, and capture his ejaculating shaft between the cheeks. Surprised and impassioned, his eyes open wildly, and his mouth is gaping as he’s gasping for breath.

I roll my still-oily ass over his squirting dick and watch him gaze in amazement as I hold it between my ass cheeks and pump the cum from his balls.

“Fuck!” he chokes. “Oh, God, do that! Do that! Fuck, yes! That ass! Oh shit! Shit! Shit! Shiiiiittt!”

His eyes are plastered to my ass like he can’t believe what he’s seeing—a fantastic stream of candle-lighting shooting up out of my oily ass from his dick. My husband sounds like he’s passing a kidney stone and I’m taking extreme pleasure in watching his haughty ass irk out an orgasm as intense as the one I just had. In fact…

I raise my hips, swivel and drop my pussy onto his still pulsing cock. He screams as I pull and push slow and hard, flexing my Kegels over his dick to mimic the tighten-release-push-pull of an oily handjob on the head and walls of his shaft.

“Gooooooooooddamn! Goddamn! Goddamn! Goddamn!” He’s twitching and trembling as he rides out the aftershocks and I smile to myself as he finally falls limp, breathless, and helpless, his body silently calling for mercy.

*-*

Had it not been for Jason calling to wake us, we might have missed out on the day’s events. As it turns out, a car will be arriving at 9am to take us to the Barossa Valley for a wine tour. The Valley is only an hour away, but Christian rightfully had them coordinate everything with Jason. I’m a bit jealous right now because for all intent and purposes, Jason is Christian’s Marilyn… and Andrea is Christian’s Marilyn. And Andrea has a Luma. Marilyn doesn’t have a Luma. She organizes my life all by herself.

I really miss Marilyn.

As we’re a bit pressed for time, I use the en suite to pump, shower, and prepare for the day while Christian uses the second bathroom. I can’t have another day where I don’t speak to my children, so when I’m done pumping and prepping, I call my babies for a little facetime. Keri informs me that Minnie is becoming a bit crabby and wouldn’t take her bottle last night. I’m certain it’s because she’s accustomed to the changeup between the rubber nipple and the breast—and she’s not getting one of those. This is further driven home by her elation to see my face on the phone and her subsequent displeasure with having to give the phone back to Keri. I can’t stand to hear her anguish, especially since I’m inadvertently causing it, so I hand the phone to Christian and let him get a little baby time while I try to nurse the wounds of my breaking heart.

“It happens all the time, baby,” he says, putting his arms around me and trying to comfort me while I stare out the window overlooking the City of Churches.

“Was she still crying when you ended the call?” I ask, never turning to face him.

“She settled a bit,” he says, pulling me against him… which means that she was still crying, just not as much. I suddenly can’t wait to have her in my arms.

“I’m a terrible mother,” I say, wiping away a tear.

“Don’t be ridiculous. You are no such thing,” Christian scolds gently. “You’re both having a bit of separation anxiety. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. Now I want you to stop that ridiculousness right now. It’s not true and I don’t have to tell you that.”

“I just… I shouldn’t have left her,” I protest.

“She’ll be fine,” he coaches. “What are you going to do when she goes to school?”

“Oh, God,” I say, and I’m overwhelmed with emotion. I drop my face in my hands and begin to weep. I hear my husband sigh heavily and I can imagine that he’s totally exasperated with me, and that just makes me cry harder.

“Don’t cry,” he says softly, turning me around to him and wrapping his arms around me. I stand there and weep into his T-shirt for several minutes until it’s covered in colored moisturizer and tears and he has to go and change it, and I have to wash my face and refresh my make-up. I still don’t feel good about leaving my baby, but I feel a little better since I’ve had my cry… I think.

Christian emerges in a white Izod over his jeans, declaring that he has no more T-shirts and will have to have the ones he has laundered since we still have two more days—including today—and the trip back to Seattle. Quite frankly, I like the Izod better.

39f548032e3227319813a69b6ab79224-christian-grey-jamie-dornan

I’m looking very Sex and The City in a comfortable flowy Halston Heritage lavender mini cut just above the knee and a pair of Louboutin Madmonica spiked open-toe cork wedge sandals. We rush down to breakfast so that we aren’t starting the day and an hour-long car ride to wine country on an empty stomach. That definitely wouldn’t be a good idea. My little crying spell and the subsequent cleanup cut our eating time in half, so we have a simple breakfast of eggs, Canadian bacon, roasted tomatoes, toast and juice—something that we can eat quickly, but not too quickly, before the car arrives.

“You were sleeping like the dead,” I say quietly to Christian during breakfast.

“I put in a lot of work last night,” he says proudly. “Bringing your beautiful wife to three orgasms is quite the feat.” He winks at me.

“Oh, really?” I challenge. “And I guess I had absolutely nothing to do with that last one, huh?” I raise my brow at him.

“Well… I… you… um…” Amazing. I’ve brought my husband to a stuttering mess.

“Um-hmm,” I say, filling my fork with food. “Well, while you opted for quantity—which was quite nice—I concentrated my efforts on quality. How do you think I did?” I throw an innocent gaze over at him, full well remembering watching him in the mirror muttering silent prayers while I rode his pulsing shaft relentlessly.

“You…” He clears his throat. “You… um… you did fine.” He quickly takes a sip of his coffee. I smile devilishly at him. I’ll just bet.

“Thank you, Mr. Grey,” I say, eating the food from my fork, chewing and smiling triumphantly. “By the way,” I add once I’ve swallowed my food. “Your choice of music…” I say, trailing off. He raises his gaze to me.

“Did you like it?” he asks.

“It was… a lot of new stuff. Some oldies… I didn’t think you were into the new stuff.”

“I can’t take credit for this song list,” he admits. “I typed a request into Pandora and just let it play.”

“What was the request?” I ask curiously.

“Baby-making music,” he says proudly. I burst out laughing.

After breakfast, a private van picks us up to take us on a beautifully scenic drive through the city of Adelaide and all the way north to the Barossa Valley. The ride will be approximately an hour long with plenty of sites to see along the way.

“Um, ma’am, I nohmally don’t comment on attiyah, but ya moight wanna chaynge ya shoes,” the driver says as we approach the car. Christian glares at him for a moment. He only glances at Christian momentarily before turning his attention back to me.

“It’s… foh ya comfoht, ma’am,” he adds. “There’ll be a lot of walking, ma’am,” he says in an attempt to get me to change my shoes. I immediately see the concern for my feet since I’m wearing wedges.

“Don’t worry about me,” I say with a warm smile. “Heels and I are old friends. I’d be much less comfortable in flats, and I have no problem taking them off if they become unbearable, which is not likely.”

“The touh is mohr than six hours, ma’am. If yoh’re shuh…” he urges once more. I appreciate his concern.

“I’m sure,” I smile. “Thank you for your kindness.” I elbow Christian in the side as he’s still glaring at the guy. “Stop it!” I chide softly. He looks down at me and I cock my head at him as an additional warning. When he appears to behave, I smile again at the driver and get in the van.

“Come on, Christian,” I chide gently to keep him from further harassing our driver. He leans in and sits next to me.

“The first thing he noticed was your shoes, huh?” he says as our security follows us into the van. It’s a late model Mercedes—it seats seven, but I’m not sure of the model.

“He’s probably trained to do that, dear,” I point out. “Can you imagine how many women have come on the tour wearing the wrong shoes and did nothing but complain the entire time?” The driver gets into the car and confirms what I’m saying.

“She’s roight, mate,” he says to Christian. “I don’t know whaht thehy’re expectin’, but plenty o’ sheilas get in wehring six-inch heels and thehy’re miserable halfway through the trip. Imagine how ya’d feel troying to enjoy ya day with blistahs on ya feet!! I always check an’ give ‘em toime and option ta chaynge. I’m sorry… I didn’t mean ta offend ya.” Christian sighs and waves him off.

“Don’t worry about it,” he says. “I’m just… very possessive of my wife, and it’s been an… interesting trip on that note so far.” I chuckle.

“Tell me about it!” I murmur mirthfully. The driver smiles in the rearview.

“Thanks, mate. Roight, then, shall we go?” He smiles widely and starts the car.

The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, including the gorgeous vineyards that lay before us once we clear the city limits. They’re everywhere along the road through the Adelaide Hills, from really small patches of land to huge estates. I’m captivated by the beautiful landscapes, but not so captivated that I can’t tell that my husband is distracted. Is he still pissed off at the driver?


CHRISTIAN

“I wanted to have more information for you before I called you with conjecture, sir,” Josh says as I’m drying my hair. I brought the phone into the en suite with me and it’s a good thing I did. Josh has information hot off “the presses” for me.

“What do you have?” I ask as I begin my grooming routine.

“Lincoln is talking to anyone who’ll listen. She’s a media dream and nightmare at the same time. She’s very indiscreet. She gives enough information to have you chomping at the bit, but it’s not hard for the educated researcher to decipher exactly who she’s talking about—they just can’t afford to speculate without further information.”

“Fuck, I was afraid of that,” I hiss around a mouthful of toothpaste. “How close is she to a release date?”

“She’s aiming for May,” Josh says. Shit, that means she’s got a lot of information already on paper, or at least shared with her fucking ghostwriter. “She’s got a good solid timeline in front of her and nothing between her and the tell-all but air and opportunity.” She picked the perfect time to leak her story—right after our exposé hit the air.

“Did she make you for working for me?” I ask.

“I don’t think so,” he says. “If she did, she didn’t let on, or she just doesn’t care. She didn’t give me the name of her ghostwriter either. She gave me a penname, but at the moment, it leads nowhere. I’ve got Alex looking into some things for me and I’m discreetly chasing a few leads myself.”

“Shit!” I hiss. “So much for nipping this thing at the bud.”

“Don’t lose faith,” he says. “It’s only been a few days. Sometimes, it takes a little more digging to find the buried treasure. That’s why I was waiting to call you…” and I got impatient and jumped the gun.

“She gave me pretty much the same information that she’s giving to any other reporter that comes through there,” he continues. “Everything she said to me, we’ve already read in the papers, but to her, it’s fresh and new information every time she gives it. So, I listen for fresh and new information. I listen for context clues that nobody else would know to listen for. Like I said, I’m chasing a few things to narrow down a few solid theories, but I won’t relay information that sends you in the wrong direction—I have to know for sure.”

“I appreciate that,” I reply with a disappointed sigh. I’ve been literally itching for some information on the crazy bitch, and pretty much… nothing.

“I do have some other information, though,” he adds. “The warden cornered me as I was leaving…”

Oh, now we’re getting somewhere.

“What did he want?” I ask.

He asked who I was working for. I told him that I was freelancing, that I’m hoping to get an angle that nobody else has gotten and I’ll sell my story to the highest bidder. It’s easier to get what you need from a crook if you come off as cutthroat and hungry than if you show any signs of ethics whatsoever.”

“What makes you think he’s a crook?” I ask. He scoffs. “I mean, I pretty certain that he’s crooked. I just want to know what makes you think he’s a crook.”

“Upstanding member of society and leader of industry has been trying to get in touch with you for several days on a matter that you know will directly affect him and you avoid his calls… You’re either crooked or stupid—or both!” I twist my lips. Excellent judge of character.

“He asked if I had gotten any material that was worth printing. I told him that I hadn’t. Everything that she gave me, I already knew. So, he dangles a carrot in front of me. He says the book, the story, and the possible subsequent movie rights are likely to blow the top off the social scene and quite possibly the financial scene. He knows it’s you. He didn’t say so, but he made enough references. I don’t know what Lincoln said, but he knows, and at this moment, he’ll protect her through the screenplay to get his payoff.”

Well, this is just fucking great. She didn’t have to tell him much of anything. Of course, he knows it’s me. I paid his ass off to keep her quiet. Now, he’s avoiding my calls and siding with her, giving her carte blanche when it comes to talking to reporters and her fucking ghost writer.

“He wants to get the profits from the book. She just wants to tell her story, but her story is so sick and twisted, I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to write it. The way she portrays the roles of certain characters, it’s not pretty. Her rendition will implicate people and suggest that they’re pretending to be victims when they fully participated in the activities.” She’s obviously referring to the fact that I became a Dom once I came of age and continued the BDSM lifestyle…

Or at least that’s what I thought.

“The brief description that she gave me made it look like she had a club—a coven, if you will—of pedophiles; that they engaged in consensual sexual relations with minors and that said minors joined the club and continued the cycle when they became of age.”

“Wait a minute… what?” I say, staring horrified into the mirror.  

“I can’t make it any clearer,” he says. “There are underground pedophile sex clubs all over the world. It’s disgusting, but it’s true. It’s a real movement, and there are a lot of people involved… a lot! Her basis from what I can see is that she was part of—or the head or madame of—one such organization. And Christian, she can say what she wants, because she’s writing it as fiction. So, whether it’s true or not, the sensationalism of it will have this shit flying off the shelves. Think O.J. Simpson and If I Did It.

Oh, hell. That’s already a horribly touchy subject. Now, we’re comparing my life and the lives of several other sexually victimized young boys to the story of a man who may or may not have nearly beheaded the mother of his children and her male companion?

And now, I don’t have Holstein’s cooperation because he’s more concerned with a piece of the possible pie. Fine, fuck it. They want to play dirty, then it’s dirty they’ll get.

“And no clue on BD Simmons.” It’s a statement in the form of a question.

“Nothing concrete,” Josh says. “Again, I won’t put flawed information into the hands of the most powerful man on the western seaboard.”

“Duly noted,” I reply. That really wouldn’t be wise. “I need you to keep me posted the moment you do get something concrete. My response to this matter will be swift and sure. Time and discretion are of the utmost essence.”

I end the call and try to pretend that this information has not soured my entire mood.

“You’re not here.”

My wife’s voice brings my attention back to the fact that we’re cruising along a country road on our way to one of Australia’s many famed wine regions. I can’t hide the fact that I’m completely distracted by the conversation that I had with Josh this morning. She’s probably going to be pissed that I called him, but… I have to tell her something.

“Excuse me, parlez vous français?” I say, leaning forward to the driver. He glances in the rearview mirror.

“I’m sorry, mate?” he says.

“Parlez vous français?” I repeat.

“Sorry,” he says, watching the mirror and the road, “not shuh whaht cha sayin’, mate.”

“No problem. Thank you,” I say, turning to my wife to have the entire conversation with her in French.

“J’ai parlé à Josh ce matin,” I say. She sighs.
(I spoke to Josh this morning.)

“Qu’a t’il dit?” she says.
(What did he say?)

“Il essaie toujours de savoir qui est l’auteur, mais Holstein protège Lincoln.” She rolls her eyes in frustration.
(He’s still trying to find out who the ghost writer is, but Holstein is protecting Lincoln.)

“Je le savais!” she hisses. “Je le savais putain! Cela explique pourquoi il ne prenait pas vos appels.”
(I knew it! I fucking knew it! That explains why he was not taking your calls.)

“Ça a empire,” I inform her. “Elle donne l’impression que nous étions un club secret de pédophiles… comme si nous étions un groupe entier cherchant des enfants et les recrutant plus tard dans leur cercle quand ils sont devenus majeurs.” Her eyes widen in horror.
(It gets worse. She gives the impression that we were a secret club of pedophiles… as if we were an entire group trolling for children regularly and later recruiting them into our circle when they became of age.)

“Vous n’êtes pas sérieux,” she whispers incredulously. “Qui dans leur esprit accepterait d’écrire quelque chose comme ça?” I shake my head.
(You’re not serious. Who in their right mind would agree to write something like this?)

“Tu sais aussi bien que moi qu’il y a un public pour tout, bébé,” I reply. “Vous devez juste trouver le créneau qui est prêt à écouter vos conneries.” She drops her head in her hands.
(You know as well as I do that there’s an audience for everything, baby. You just have to find the niche that’s willing to listen to your bullshit.)

“C’est irréel.” she laments. “C’est absolument irréel. Si je n’en étais pas personnellement conscient, je ne penserais pas qu’un être humain puisse survivre avec autant de mal. Je plaisantais quand je l’appelais «démon puant, méchant, sale, visqueux, visqueux, démone pédo-salope de l’enfer», mais que cette horrible reine diabolique appartient vraiment au plus profond les profondeurs du pire tourment éternel jamais imaginable. Il n’y a absolument aucune rédemption pour elle. Elle marche à pied détérioration, damnation et destruction et elle doit être détruite…”
(This is unreal. This is absolutely unreal. If I wasn’t personally aware of it, I wouldn’t think that any one human being could survive harboring this much evil. I was joking when I called her a ‘stank-ass, slutty, nasty, filthy, slimy, Pedo-Bitch She-Thing demon from hell,’ but that horrific, wretched, inhuman, devil queen really does belong in the deepest, hottest depths of the worst eternal torment ever imaginable. There is absolutely no redemption for her. She is walking deterioration, damnation, and destruction and she must be destroyed…)

I had all but forgotten about that name, but Butterfly is right. This woman is pure evil personified, the worst manifestation of Satanic personification—Princess Beelzebub unleashed on this earthly realm, and the world would truly be a better place without her in it.

My wife has completely gone off on a French tangent now. All the men in the car—including the driver—have gone a bit pale and are looking everywhere but at us, and as far as I know. I’m the only one who knows what she’s saying… maybe…

“Do you speak French?” I ask Lawrence. He shakes his head.

“German, sir,” he says. I look at Jason. I know Spanish is his second language.

“A word here and there, sir,” he says, “enough to know she’s pissed.”

“Stop talking about me like I’m not here!” Butterfly snaps. We weren’t… only that last statement, but I’m not going to be the one to dispute her on it. All the men quickly turn their attention to anything else—the scenery, the road, a speck of lint on the carpet, anything safe—while I turn my attention back to one angry little Butterfly.

“I shouldn’t have told you,” I confess, “at least not now. It’s going to ruin your day.”

“No, it won’t,” she says matter-of-factly, “because I know that you’re going to do everything humanly possible to rectify this situation. I know that you’re going to use your endless resources to make sure that this woman is not able to ruin the many, many lives that she could possibly ruin—now or ever again—with this ridiculous undertaking. You’re going to do what needs to be done to put an end to this—or I will.”

Three sets of eyes zero in on my wife and I’m sure it would have been four if the driver could look at her without putting us all at risk.

“Butterfly…” I begin my protest.

“I’m going to let you handle this, Christian,” she says, her voice unwavering. “I’m going to watch, and I’m going to let you handle it. But if for any reason, you are unable to stop this from happening, I want you to remember something—all those boys, their families, my children! I will stop at nothing and no one to terminate this ridiculous pursuit! She wants us to believe she’s crazy? Fine! I’m crazier! She will not jeopardize the lives of my children and that is my final word! And that’s not a threat, Christian, that’s a promise!”

I’m glaring at this woman possessed because I swear, I’ve never seen her before. Al usually tells me which version of “Ana” I’m dealing with when she steps out of herself, and he’s not here to identify this one for me. I’m quickly running through my head all the Ana’s he has introduced me to…

Knife-throwing Ana…
Marine’s Daughter Ana…
First-Blood or Rambo Ana…

Shit, I don’t know. All I know is that she’s glaring at me with the glassiest blue eyes I’ve ever seen, her pupils so constricted, they’re almost invisible. I fucking well better answer her.

“I. Will take. Care. Of this,” I say, finitely. She glares at me for a moment longer before she slowly nods once.

“Good,” she says firmly. “Keep me posted.” She turns her gaze away from me and back to the scenery going by outside the window. I throw a cautionary glance at Jason, who returns my glare before glancing over at Lawrence. A silent conversation ensues between the three of us to not let her out of our sight or she just might hurt someone today. The conversation inside my head is much more detailed.

Get this shit on lockdown or there’s going to be fucking hell to pay.

*-*

Tensions ease once we arrive at our destination. Butterfly has all but forgotten our conversation about the Pedophile, and it’s my job to ensure that her thoughts don’t wander in that direction again. Granted, it’s my fault they wandered in that direction in the first place, but I couldn’t keep the truth from her, especially since my ire and distraction was written all over my face.

“Hello,” a friendly gentleman greets us when we exit the Mercedes. “Ma nayme’s John. OI’ll be yohr touhr goide tahdeye.” I take Butterfly’s hand as Jason and Lawrence exit the vehicle.

“I’m Christian. This is my wife, Anastasia. These gentlemen are my security detail.” John’s brow rises.

“Political official, ahre ya?” John asks. I shake my head.

“No, nothing like that… but perfectly legal,” I assure him.

“Can nevah beh too syfe, eh mate?” he says with a nod before continuing directly to the next topic. “Tell me, whaht’s yohr expehrience with woine?”

Hmmm, how do I answer that?

“My wife is basically a Cabernet woman, but can be easily swayed with smooth reds,” I begin, and Butterfly playfully slaps my arm. “One of her favorites is the Screaming Eagle from Napa Valley. We discovered it on the wine train tours a couple of years ago.”

“Yes, OI’m quite familiah with the Screamin’ Eagle,” John confirms. “Which yeahr?”

“2006,” I confirm. “It’s apparently hard to find, but our concierge was able to locate a dozen and have them shipped to our home.” John nods.

“Have ya had tha pleasah of tha ’92?” he asks. I shake my head.

“I can’t say that I have.” John nods again.

“Extremely rahe vintage, mate,” he says, his voice laced with a bit of awe. “Aged in 60% new oak; it’s mohe puhple than woine colored and has a jammy black currant aroma mixed with hints of oak. Very difficult ta locyte and OI’ve huhd of bottles runnin’ upwuhds of 500,000 Amehrican!” He pauses for a moment. “Sorry thehre, mate. OI get a little carried awy talking about the woines.” I wave him off, playing down the fact that I’m thoroughly impressed with his knowledge of wines.

“Don’t be,” I excuse, “I’m a bit of a connoisseur myself, versatile with a preference to dry whites. I may pick your brain about what exclusive blends the region has to offer.” John smiles widely.

“OI’m yoh goiy, mate,” he says happily.

“I’m afraid we haven’t been able to expand our palates much since our honeymoon,” I add.

“Ah, newlyweds?” he asks. Butterfly giggles.

“Somewhat,” she replies. “We’ve been married for 18 months.”

“Yeah, thaht’s still newlywed,” John says. “Ahr little cornah of tha world hehr is whaht we cahl a woine town—everything hehr is centehred on tha woine.”

“I’ve heard that you have some award-winning Shiraz in these parts,” I coax. John smiles widely again.

“You huhd correct, mate,” he says gleefully. “Did ya do anythin’ special on ya honeymoon? Somethin’ that stuck out to ya, maybe?” I shrug.

“Well, our honeymoon started in Paris, then continued in Greece,” Butterfly says. “To be honest, the entire trip was pretty special, so it’s hard to pick just one thing. We had a tasting at Le Dokhan’s…”

“Ah, Le Dokhan’s!” John interrupts, “worhld-renowned champyne, oldest estahblishment in Pehris. You both must have vehry discuhning palates.”

“We’ve tasted a wine or three,” I confirm.

“Well, in thaht cyse, OI’ve got tha perhfect day in moind foh ya. Fahllow me and we’ll get stahted.”

He walks ahead of us and leads us to a rebuilt and refurbished 1962 Daimler Chrysler. Apparently, this beautiful classic car will be our transportation for the day.

“Ooo, very nice,” Butterfly says as she climbs inside.

John is quite chatty during the course of our tour and I’m very soon to discover why. He’s very proud of the Barossa Valley having lived here most of his life and conducted tours for over 20 years. He boasts having given this tour to dignitaries and wine connoisseurs from all over the world and promises to look me up so that he can add our tour to his updated list of bragging rights. He informs us that our tour has no specific itinerary and that if at any time we don’t like the course of the day to let him know and we can adjust accordingly.

We take a short drive to St. Hugo first. Although my wife was distracted with thoughts of Elena Lincoln’s demise on the trip to the valley, she’s quite attentive as John informs us of the history of St. Hugo. She remembered to bring the camera this time, and she’s taking several shots ranging from the picturesque countryside to quirky street signs pointing in various directions.

At the risk of sounding like the terrible snob that I can be, I’m extremely pleased with the vibe we’re getting from the Barossa Valley, and even more pleased when I hear of the settlement of the area. Most of Australia—particularly the ports we visited earlier in our vacation—was settled by convicts or others who had been exiled to Australia from England. Contrarily, settlers of South Australia and the Barossa Valley came looking for a better life. They were mostly merchants and farmers, those in search of their fortune on the shores and bush of Australia in the late 1800’s. Most prominent in this area were German settlers, and many of the vineyards they planted are still around today.

I’m not ashamed to say that the spirit that my Butterfly is gleaning from this area is much more relaxed and pleasant than the monsters she acquired at Port Arthur. So, yes, the snob in me is much more partial to the Barossa Valley, and I intend to do more research on our excursions in the future.

As we arrive at St. Hugo, John tells us that the current winery is comprised of original structures from the ruins of William Jacob’s winery, which was built over 150 years ago, as well as new additions designed to seamlessly tie in with the old ruins. We travel down a winding driveway with a stunning view of half-century-old cork trees—one of the few plantations of its kind in Australia.

Our tour begins with a short but refreshing walk through the vineyard. We note that some of the vines have been named and John tells us about how some of the names were chosen. One of the royal families came to the vineyard for an exclusive tour called the Sainthood Experience and the row of vines was named after them. Parcels from the vineyard of that row were picked and a custom wine was blended, where it is stored to age for three years and will then be delivered to that family. I don’t bother asking what that experience costs—I can imagine that even I would find it exorbitant.

After the tour, we head into a cozy tasting room, cellar door, and restaurant to literally enjoy the fruits of the field with a few other patrons of the vineyard. It’s easy to see that John is well known in the area. He takes pride in showcasing his knowledge and sharing his personal Barossa friendships and connections. It’s like he’s part of a special club that knows the inside scoop of all the secrets of the land—a wine fraternity, if you will.

Watching the wines being poured into the glasses is almost a spiritual moment. You can almost see the blends flowing out of the bottle and into the glass in slow motion, and your mouth waters with anticipation to taste it. The way the wine washes up from the bowl of the glass and gracefully caresses the sides enhances the experience. It’s almost like you’re watching a vintage being born in front of you even though you know that’s not the case.

Each tasting is accompanied by a very small gourmet entrée to complete the wine-tasting experience—a light degustation, not the complete chef’s experience, but we didn’t want that right now. Unlike the regular practice of pairing the right type of wine with the food, St. Hugo’s chef chooses his foods to complement the wines. After all, the wines are the stars of the show. The dishes are arranged with the wines according to taste—bitter, sweet, sour, fatty, savory, etc. We taste the various wines along with the simple dishes and ingredients and pick our favorites—which flavors we felt went best with each vintage, and which vintages we preferred over others. I’m pretty partial to the signature Shiraz while Butterfly predictably leans to an incredibly decadent Cabernet.

John is only too happy to inform the vintner that we would like three bottles of the 2005 Signature Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon to be packed and prepared to take back to the States. Reminding us of the tax and hassle of getting the wine through customs, he offered to send it directly to our address in Seattle. I wouldn’t have minded the tax on the wine—at $1000 a bottle, it couldn’t have been much for someone like me—but he raises a good point about the hassle of customs, and we may find more wine that we’d like to ship home. In light of that information, I agree to have the bottles shipped and give him our information for the shipping.

Just as I’m finishing the transaction, Butterfly scoffs loudly and indiscreetly. I frown and turn to her.

“What’s wrong?” I ask. I know she’s had a bit of wine, but it’s no more than we’ve had at a normal dinner and we’re just getting started, so it can’t be that.

“I must be one helluva hot dish!” she’s says uncensored. Okay…

“Well… yeah, but why is that a bad thing?” I ask.

“Because people can’t believe for the life of them that we just met, fell in love, got married, and started a family. I just have to be a trophy wife!”

That statement tells me everything I need to hear. There’s only one other group of people in the cellar door with us and they’re standing just to the left of her—two couples about our age examining the wine menu. At least the men are examining the wine menu. The women are looking over at Butterfly. They subsequently divert their gaze when they see me glaring at them.

“You are a trophy wife, baby. Get used to it,” I say loud enough for them to hear. They giggle and Butterfly gasps. “That’s because you’re one hell of a fucking prize. And the next time someone says that about you, just remember that they’re only saying it because they’re so goddamn jealous that they could chew out their own fucking tongues.”

I raise my brow at her and wait for acknowledgment. I get it in the form of her beautiful, coy smile that I know is only reserved for me. I lift her chin and kiss her gently.

“Never get upset about trolls, baby,” I say, still holding her chin, but looking at the cunts who disparaged her. “They’ve got nothing on you and they know it, and that’s why they try to cut you down.” I bring my eyes back to Butterfly’s. “Comprendre?”

“Oui, monsieur,” she replies sweetly. I brush her lips with another soft kiss.

“Let’s get out of here,” I say, taking her hand and tucking it into the crease of my elbow. “The riff-raff is starting to bother me.”

As we pass the couples still standing at the counter, I hear one of the men say, “Geez, what the fuck did you say?’”


A/N: Yes, they’re everywhere!

More music from the special night:
Usher—
Trading Places
Nelly and Kelly Rowland—
Dilemma
Usher—Lovers and Friends
Trey Songz—
All We Do
Slo Mo—
Ride
Jeremiah—
Birthday Sex
Guinuwine—
Differences
Trey Songz—
On Top
K Camp—
Blessing

Putain d’enfer, il l’a encore fait!—Fucking hell, he did it again!
S’il vous plaît”—”Please!”

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

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

The Australia Picture Board can be found here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey-the-trip-to-australia/ and the pictures from today’s chapter are in the “Adeliade,” “Peppers,” and “Barossa Valley” sections, and there are a lot of them!!

And of course, the regular Pinterest board is here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey/

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 72—Searching for Blue Skies

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

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

Chapter 72—Searching for Blue Skies

ANASTASIA

I haven’t been at the Center all week. It may be a bit selfish of me, but I just can’t reconcile myself to making executive decisions or putting in a year’s worth—or more—of work on a project just to have my work, expertise, decisions, and opinions dismissed and disregarded because I’m not the number-one-head-honcho. I don’t have a problem relenting when my idea may not be the best one or with taking orders, being a team player, or taking one for the team. Hell, trying not to rock the boat with Liam caused me to keep my guard down and not cut him off at the knees like I would have done anybody else who came on to me, and look what the hell happened there!

Courtney hasn’t called me either and that makes me feel like she’s certain that I betrayed her trust and set up a meeting between her and Addie. That pisses me off to no end considering all the time and effort she and I both put into building the relationship that we had.

I feel crappy getting Ebony into the Center and just disappearing like a specter in the night, but every time I think about going into the Center, I see Grace’s cocky smirk looking back at me outside of my office door. I don’t think anything felt more like a betrayal than her standing there with that smug expression on her face like she was right all along, and I was supposed to bow to her knowledge and wisdom. I’ve decided that if she can preserve herself from having one of her “episodes,” I need to exercise a little self-preservation as well and avoid any attacks of PTSD—or just the desire to punch my all-knowing-all-seeing mother-in-law and boss in the nose.

I know that I can’t avoid my responsibilities and commitments. However, when I awake in the morning, I go straight to the empty play area and do my yoga. Then I shower and dress in yet another pair of yoga pants and a comfy shirt before going down to get some breakfast. I know that Christian wants to say something about it, but he just examines my attire and proceeds to discuss what’s happening at Grey House… and with the Pedo-bitch.

“I’ve been trying all week to get in touch with the warden,” he says while sipping his coffee. “I’m fairly certain that he’s just avoiding my calls altogether. He has no reason to do that… unless he’s involved in some way.”

“Could that be the case?” I ask. “Think about it—how could she get manuscripts, excerpts, recordings, phone calls out to a ghost writer without help or permission? She can’t just do that. She’s got to have help.” Christian’s brow furrows.

“Shit, I never even considered that,” he says. It’s safe to say that this is one of the people that Christian may have had in his pocket. I remember that before I even left the building after visiting Edward, the warden knew I was there and was greeting me at the door. It looks like this one may have gotten away.

“So,” I begin, “looks like this problem may be a bit bigger than we anticipated.” I can see the contemplation lines forming in his forehead.

“Yeah,” he says, distracted, “I think you’re right. This may take a different touch.” He finishes his coffee and stands from the breakfast bar. “You’re going to be home today?” I nod.

“Between my office and the babies,” I tell him, finishing my eggs and bacon. “I need to fill in where my two employees aren’t today. Have you heard anything from Chuck?”

“The testimony was over yesterday. From what he said, it was pretty brutal. He’s going to stick around to see if he gets a verdict today, then he and Keri will most likely be on their way home this weekend either way.” He pauses for a moment. “Have you heard from Marilyn?” I twist my lips and shake my head.

“No, and I’m worried,” I say. “She and Gary are both avoiding my calls and I have no idea what kind of condition either of them is in. It’s starting to wear on me.”

“Well, don’t let it stress you out too much,” he says, kissing me on the forehead. “I gotta go, I need to put some things in motion.”

“Love you,” I say to his retreating back and he waves at me. I take my coffee and head down to my office. I need to go through my calendar for the next month and figure out Marilyn’s notes and reminders in case my P.A. decides Seattle just isn’t for her anymore.

The calendar is a bit of a mess to decipher. I can’t figure out what all of these reminders are. I guess when they pop up, I’ll see them and note what they are at the time. I see some interviews scheduled for next week. Right now, I don’t see myself returning next week, and I don’t see Marilyn coming back in that time frame to notify the Center that these people are expected. So, I forward appointment emails to Grace with “no reply requested.” I’m not trying to spark a dialog. I just think it’s only fair that she knows what’s on the agenda if I don’t plan to be there.

I call in and check my voicemails. One of them is one of the aforementioned interviewees requesting a reschedule due to an emergency. I make a note to call her and have her reschedule with Grace. Two are from fellow doctors who saw my interview and want to discuss their experiences with the licensing board. I’ll definitely be giving them a call back today. No time like the present.

Dr. Daisy Sharwin is a dentist who was also accused of sexual misconduct. According to her accuser, Dr. Daisy was touching her inappropriately. Once the findings were reviewed, it was determined that the patient was suffering from a mental illness and had wrongly accused the doctor during a psychotic episode. Dr. Daisy describes the same experience I had, being closed in a room for several hours with a guard who never spoke and no clock before being called before a panel of high-nosed superior officials who treated her with an unbelievable lack of respect. Although she was cleared of the accusations, she felt that she had no recourse for the way she was treated by the board—until I went public with my experience. Now, two voices are better than one.

Make that three.

Dr. Emma Falstaff, a local chiropractor, is accused by the wife of one of her patients of sexual advances. While her case is still pending, she described an experience very similar to mine and Daisy’s, the only difference being that she was able to keep her watch. I’ve instructed her to keep me updated on the outcome of her case. Whether she wins or loses, her treatment during the process is what I’m focused on. However, I don’t want her involvement in this action to compromise her case in any way.

Two more people to add to my contacts and track information. God, do I need Marilyn.

The only other voicemails I had at work were two hang-ups from unknown numbers. Having cleaned out all the voicemails, I turn my attention to my emails. One of Marilyn’s reminders pops up that I have a 3:00 with Lordes Avery. I click the link to follow the reminder and discover how to read the coding on my PA’s calendar without having to take an entire class on the nuances of Outlook, thank God! It’s not that I didn’t know how to use it before now. It’s just that her system of organization is so far advanced beyond us mere mortals that I never would have been able to figure it out without some kind of hint.

Three O’clock with Lordes Avery… hmm…

Should I call him? I didn’t make last Friday’s appointment, but I’m almost certain he didn’t expect to see me. I still get charged if I don’t cancel within 24 hours, so why bother fucking calling at this point? Should I return his oh-so-considerate gesture and send him a text? Naaaahhhh!

I go back to my emails and one pops up that nearly makes my heart stop. After trying to get a response all this time…

To: Anastasia Steele-Grey
Re: MIA
Date: Thursday, December 4, 2014, 23:21
From: Marilyn Caldwell

Dear Ana,

I’m sorry that I haven’t returned your calls. This whole thing has been more of a nightmare than I can even describe.

I had to tell my parents why I needed to stay with them for a while and as I told you, they’re staunch fundamentalists. The moment I confessed, they threw me in Hell. I came to try to get a break from the hurt and the pain and I just swapped one torment for another. My mother plays these wailing songs of repentance every day that drive me up the damn wall! I’m spending most of every day being preached to and cautioned to ask forgiveness for my sin and thrown into the “lake of fire.”

I haven’t been ignoring you, but not looking at my phone is easier than staring at it and waiting or hoping for a call from Gary that never comes. I’m an emotional wreck, Ana. Some days, I wake up so depressed that I just want to jump off a bridge somewhere. Other days, I realize that’s not the answer and I have to live with my decision and move on. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I know that no man—or woman—is an island, but the feelings that are plaguing me right now simply because I chose this path for an unplanned pregnancy is making me never want to touch anyone ever again. I certainly can’t tolerate anybody touching me right now. Being an island doesn’t seem like such a bad idea at the moment.

I’m sorry I can’t tell you when I’ll be back. Being here with my parents is nerve-wrecking as fuck, but it still beats the memories that I face in Seattle and all the things that Gary and I shared. It’s a geographical cure of sorts that’s like putting a bandage over a stab wound but having someone poking at it all the time. The alternative would just be having the wound gaping and seeping and bleeding and having someone just jab that knife in again every day. I’m sure you can see why the former torture is preferable to the latter.

I just can’t stand being in that apartment right now or doing any of the things that I used to do. This hurts so much. I’ve been hurt before, but never like this. There are some times when I truly want to just curl up in a little ball and die—which is different from being suicidal, so don’t worry, doctor. As much as I would like for the pain to stop, I’m not brave enough or stupid enough to end it myself. My parents would probably come into the room and try to exorcise my lifeless body (yes, it is that bad).

If you feel like you can’t hold my job for me, I’ll completely understand, but my mind is so fucked up right now that I would do more harm than good if I tried to work. I would be completely useless right now. I’m not going to read my email anytime soon, because I just realized that this would be another way for Gary to reach me, and I don’t want the disappointment of not seeing a letter from him. I’ll check it at some point, so if you do intend to fire me, it’s okay if you send me an email. I’ll see it eventually.

I’m sorry if I let you down, too.

Marilyn

Jesus, she sounds absolutely hopeless. I’m not so certain that she won’t attempt suicide with the despair I hear in her words. I have to trust her, though. Getting in touch with her parents would only make a bad matter worse, but her suffering all alone and enduring the religious bullying of her mother and father is not a good combination, either. I sigh and begin typing out my reply.

To: Marilyn Caldwell
Re: MIA
Date: Friday, December 5, 2014, 13:45
From: Anastasia Steele-Grey

Dear Marilyn,

Only because I had a hateful, cheating, worthless boyfriend can I say that I can empathize with your pain and the loss you feel. I know it’s not the same and the circumstances are quite different, but I know that feeling of emptiness and the constant inner bleeding that feels like it’ll never end. I’m here if you need to ramble about it.

I don’t feel like you’ve let me down. More than anything, I just want you to be okay. You’ve always been a strong woman and you’ve always known what you want. Looking into a future of pure uncertainty is undoubtedly one of if not the scariest thing that can ever happen to someone. I completely understand that you need time to take self-inventory and regroup. I won’t preach to you as it appears that you have quite enough of that going on in your life. I will say, however, that you may want to reconsider your escape plan as the current one appears to be just another prison. Let me know if you need any help.

I will offer what advice I can as a doctor and as a friend. Get out of that house. If that’s where you choose to stay, okay—but don’t stay there every day all day. If your parents are playing “repentance music” all day, it’s psychological warfare and it’s adding to your misery. Didn’t you grow up in Spokane? Are any of your old friends still there? Maybe catch up with some of them. Go for a walk. Go to the park, the library, anything, but get out of the house and away from the weepin’ and moanin’ music. I can guarantee it’s not good for you.

I want to say more, but I think I’ve said enough. I don’t want you to feel like I’m going to chew your ear off or beat a dead horse. Keep me posted on how you’re doing. I may need to find a temporary replacement while you’re gone as I feel so damn helpless right now without you. I’m home today—not only because I don’t have my trusty assistant, but also because Keri is gone to South Dakota with Chuck for the case against his brother, Joe. Also, there’s been a bit of a development at Helping Hands.

Long story short, Grace engineered a meeting between Courtney and her grandmother without anyone’s knowledge or permission. When I tried to explain to her how wrong she was for what she had done, she basically snubbed me and ignored my concerns. I feel like she doesn’t respect me and any authority that I thought I had as her second in command is imagined. She acted the same way when we found out that she was perimenopausal, but that was understandable. She was reacting to a hormonal imbalance that had her doing things totally out of character. This was done with full consciousness and purpose, and her dismissing all my concerns and authority was equally purposeful.

So, I’m at home. I was trying to decipher what my calendar looks like for the next month and, as soon as I started to think like you, I figured it out. Except for Wednesday when we went to the reading of Tina’s will, I’ve spent most of the days with my babies, which turns out to be a welcome change. You know I already spend as much time with them as I can but spending day in and day out with them has been heaven. Once I’m done with the calendar today, I’ll be with them again for the rest of the afternoon. I’m thinking Mickey Mouse Clubhouse marathons or maybe Bubble Guppies. I haven’t decided yet.

Anyway, you keep me posted on what you’re doing and please call me or write me if you start to feel completely hopeless. I wouldn’t consider you weak, stupid, or cowardly, but grief can be a powerful thing.

Your Friend,
Ana

Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey
Assistant Director, Helping Hands

I click “send” to transmit the email and immediately begin thinking about Gary. This radio silence is bullshit and I’m not having it anymore. He may not want to talk to me, but he’s fucking well going to talk to someone.

“I’m activating the contingency,” I say.

“What?” Val says over the phone. “Why?”

“He and Marilyn broke up,” I explain. “It was ugly, and I can’t elaborate, but apparently, he’s not speaking to me.”

“Good God, Steele, when did you last speak to him?” she asks.

“Last Monday,” I admit. “I’ve been calling him nearly every day and he’s not responding. I need somebody just to verify that the man is still alive.”

“How’s Marilyn through all of this? Weren’t they living together?”

“Not well. I haven’t heard from her in a week and I just got an email from her last night…”

“An email?she interrupts.

“Yes, Val, an email.”

“Did she quit?” Val asks surprised.

“I don’t know,” I admit. “I know that she’s taking a hiatus right now and I’ve already told you more than I should have.”

“Alright, alright. I’ll call the others. We’ll track him down.” I end the call with Val and decide that I’ve done enough “work” for the day. It’s baby time.

*-*

Line up, everybody. It’s time to go outside!
Outside! Outside! Outside, everybody, outside!
Line up everybody line up line up line up my gup-gup-gup-gup-guppies!
Everybody get out! Get, get, get up, get out, get everybody go outside!!
Line ‘em up, here we go, here we go, here we go,
Everybody line up! Here we go outside!
Everybody let’s go, g-go-go-ga-get out-out-out-out-out-out-out-out-outside!
Bubble Guppieees!

My children are bouncing madly on the floor trying to say something that vaguely sounds like “outside” while I’m clapping along like a toddler singing the words with Mr. Grouper. I’m probably one of the few adults that knows every syllable of the Bubble Guppies Outside Song. The entire thing is only about 20 seconds long, but it’s such a good beat that it’ll probably never get old.

“Are we interrupting?”

I whirl around shocked out of my fucking mind at the sound of my husband’s voice. I’m so caught off guard that I feel like I’ve just been caught masturbating.

“Godda…” I catch myself knowing that our children are beginning to form words.

“Frag-nabbit, Christian, you scared the… ding-dang outta me!”

He and his unexpected guest are both standing there laughing at me and I want to hit them both.

“It’s early!” I scold. “What’re you doing home so soon?” and then I realize who’s with him.

“Vickie?” I ask, in confusion, scrambling to get off the floor. “Is Courtney okay?”

Vickie’s laughter fades and her brow furrows.

“Y… Yeah, Court’s fine,” she says, bemused. “She told me to give her a report on you, though. She said you hadn’t been to the Center all week… now, I’m confused.” I shake my head.

“Well, you can tell her I’m fine and I hope all is well with her. She’s still at the condo? She’s not moving?”

“Why would she move?” Vickie asks. “What am I missing?… Oh, you mean that thing with her grandmother? They’re talking, but she’s not moving back in with her as far as I know.”

“No… that’s… Never mind,” I say, waving her off. “If it’s not Courtney, why are you here?” She looks at Christian.

“She’s here to bring your summer wardrobe early,” Christian says, removing his suit jacket and tossing it over the sofa.

“Okay… why?” I ask.

“Because you need to decompress,” he says, sitting on the floor with the twins. “We both do. We’re blowing this popsicle stand and we’re taking our Australian cruise. We’re flying out of here first thing tomorrow morning and we’re leaving the country for a week.”

Well, I’m in shock.

“A… what?” Speechless.

“We’re getting the hell out of here,” he says. “It’s an emergency matter of extreme importance and detrimental to our sanity.”

“But… we… You’ve already told everyone that we’re going?” I inquire.

“I’ve told no one and neither will you,” he orders. “Only our staff knows that we’re going.”

Good Lord. I know we have that jet-setting kind of money and ability, but this still seems so sudden. At the moment, things seem so… undone.

“Baby,” he takes my hand, “we’ve been wound tight ever since Madrid—you more than me—we need to decompress or we’re going to self-destruct. The world will be here when we get back. It probably won’t even miss us while we’re gone.”

“My babies…” I protest.

“There’s enough breast milk stored to feed our children for a month and they have the best hand-picked nannies in the world. Keri should be back this weekend, and Harmony is here to help out. We’ll call them every day if you like.” I take a deep breath and hold it. Even though I hate leaving my babies for the slightest bit of time, he’s right. I need a severe change of scenery or I’m going to implode. I release my breath.

“Okay, Vick, show me what ya got…”


CHRISTIAN

“May I ask, is the warden in at all today?” I question. I’ve called Holstein every day this week. I’ve left messages on his voicemail and with this sow of a secretary of his who is now behaving like I’m taking up her precious time, and he doesn’t even have the decency to return my calls.

“Yes, sir. He’s here, he’s just not available,” she says, her voice a little impatient.

“Has the warden been in the office all week?” I further inquire.

“Mr. Holstein is a very busy man!” she says, her tone now scolding.

“That’s not what I asked!” I say, dropping decorum, my voice sharp. “I asked if the warden has been in the office all week. If you can’t answer the question, simply say, ‘I can’t answer the question!’” I’m calling on a business matter, you disagreeable cunt, so you can save that smart-ass attitude for someone else.

The line is silent for a moment or two. I completely expect her to hang up in my ear, but she surprises me by answering the question.

“Yes,” she replies, “the warden has been in the office this week.” That informs me that the fucker is simply ignoring me.

“I see,” I say, understanding that this asshole is going to evade my calls until I give up. You don’t want that, Ronnie, but since reason won’t prevail…

“Thank you,” I say roughly. “I know what I need to do now.”

“Wha…?” I don’t allow her to finish her statement—or question—before I end the call.

“Andrea, get Josh Shaler down here, please,” I say into the intercom. I’m already online planning my week before she acknowledges that she heard what I said.

My wife turned her entire life upside down to be available to my mother and Helping Hands, and now, she doesn’t even know if she’s going to stay there.

Her assistant exercised her right to choose, and now, she’s hiding out in eastern Washington somewhere—which is also putting a strain on my wife.

One of our nannies is in South Dakota with my wife’s trusted security detail dealing with a case against his brother that I can’t even describe.

And now, a woman who shouldn’t be able to reach us in any way whatsoever because she’s locked away for the rest of her miserable life is yet finding another way to reach out and cause us grief from inside prison walls and her fucking zookeeper won’t answer my goddamn calls.

It’s time for a vacation… a real one… now!

Before Josh even arrives in my office, I arrange for the jet to be fueled and ready to get us to Sydney, Australia. Take off will be 5:30am tomorrow morning and we’ll have a layover in L.A. to refuel and pick up a second pilot for the flight to Australia. I send off a text to Lanie to tell her that we’ll be in L.A. for a few hours in the morning, suggesting that we get together for breakfast. I’ve just requested that we activate our contingent cruise seating with the cruise line when Josh knocks on my office door.

“You wanted to see me?” he says, sticking his head in the door. I gesture for him to come inside.

“Are you still freelance?” Josh laughs as he takes a seat.

“No offense, sir, but when I leave here, I’m in disguise. So, yes, I’m still freelance.”

“Good. I’m sure you’ve heard about Elena Lincoln’s book,” I tell him, trying to keep my ire in check.

“I have,” he says. “I thought you were going to talk to the warden about that.”

“He’s avoiding my calls,” I declare. Josh raises one brow.

“Really?” he says. “I thought he was on our side”

“I thought he was, too. Apparently, he’s had a change of heart. Now, I’m completely in the dark and I want to know what the fuck is going on.” I punch out a text to Alex that I have a situation and he needs to come to my office.

“Okay, so I’m assuming that you want me to put my ear to the ground…” he begins.

“All the way to the ground,” I tell him. “I don’t like to be on the outside of critical information, and this is as critical as it gets. I don’t understand why this witch can’t just shut up and let people get over what she’s done to them. Does she really believe that crock of shit she said in court?”

“So, how badly do you need this information?” Josh asks. I raise my eyes to him. What the fuck is he asking me?

“What do you mean by that?” I ask him.

“I mean how low do you want me to go?” I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that.

“As low as you can go without getting caught,” I tell him. “I’m ready to pull some down-in-the-valley switches on this shit. I’ve had enough of running behind the eight ball on this woman…” Alex sticks his head in the door as I’m releasing to Josh. I gesture him inside. “She has caused immeasurable harm to more people and families than just me and mine and she won’t stop. I’ve had enough of this.”

“I take it we’re talking about Lincoln,” Alex says, taking the seat next to Josh. “No luck with the warden?”

“Yes, we are and none at all. He won’t take my calls and his smarmy ass secretary had the nerve to get a little salty with me on the phone today.” Alex purses his lips.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” he says. “The story is sensational. If she promises him just a couple of points or something off the publishing rights, let alone any possibility of screenplays and such, that’s enough palm oiling to buy her protection.” I ponder it.

Future palm oiling,” I point out. “The book has to be written first.” I look over at Josh. He raises a brow to me.

“I need as much information as you can get,” I tell him. “If you can find out who she might be talking to—even if it’s just family and friends. And I know they’re called ghost writers for a reason, but I’ll be forever in your debt if I can somehow get a name.”

“I’ll do what I can.” He stands to leave. “And Alex?” Alex turns to Josh. “Whatever you’re about to do, can you give me a couple of days before you do it? I’m just a reporter looking for a story. Your type of looking attracts attention.” He nods.

“I got you,” Alex replies, “but I can’t give you long.”

“If I can’t get what I need in a couple of days, I won’t get it,” Josh says. If I need more time than that, I’ll let you know.”

“Fair enough,” Alex says, and Josh leaves the room.

“So, I take it that I don’t need to explain anything,” I say to Alex.

“Nope,” he confirms. “Now, how low do you want me to go?”

“To hell,” I tell him, “and get me something on that high-nosed-ass secretary, too. I’m done fucking playing nice. I’m out of the country for the next week, but I’ll have my cell. Try not to use it if you don’t need to and get Jason in here for me.” I dial Victoria’s number as Alex leaves the room.

“This is Victoria.”

“Vickie, it’s Christian.”

“Christian, hi. Courtney was just asking me about you guys. Is everything okay?” I frown.

“Yes, why wouldn’t it be?” I ask.

“She hasn’t seen Ana in a week,” she says. “She wants to know if everything is okay.” Oh, that.

“Well, you’ll be able to ask her yourself shortly. I need you to meet me at the Crossing. I have one of those impossible tasks for you.”

“Oh, dear, what is it now?”

“My wife needs a summer wardrobe—casual, formal, and swimwear—a week’s worth in twelve hours or less.” The line is silent.

“You’re fucking kidding, right?” she says.

“No, I’m not. We’re on a plane tomorrow morning to an Australian cruise and excursion and we’ll be gone for a week. Can you do it or should I call a personal shopper?”

“Can I do some shopping?” she demands. “There’s no way that’s going to get done unless I can get some shit off the rack—and I gotta hit my best consignment shops.”

“Do what you must, just get it done. I’m going to be home at four and I prefer that you are there with me,” I inform her.

I’m going to charge you out the ass for this, Grey,” she says.

“What else is new?” I say.

“If I still liked men, I would make you fuck me till my hair curled!” Okay, she’s pissed.

“Your girlfriend wouldn’t like that, and my wife already gave me one pass when it comes to you. I doubt she’d do it again.” The line is quiet again.

“You told her?” Vickie asks horrified, “about us?

“Yeah,” I reply casually. “Months ago.” She scoffs.

“You’re fucking insane, you know that?” she says before hanging up on me. I look at my phone.

“See you at four.”

*-*

“I’m sorry, son. I’m not trying to pull you into this, I promise. I was just hoping that you could tell me what’s going on.”

“Nope, Mom, I’m sorry, I can’t,” I say. I came home from the Family Affair and heard my wife pretty much tell my daughter that she doesn’t like being married to me. I’m out of this shit.

“I haven’t seen or heard from her all week. I haven’t seen Marilyn for two weeks. When I hear from Ana, she forwards me the appointments that she’s scheduled for next week. So, it’s safe to assume that she’s not coming back?”

“It’s never safe to assume anything, Mom. You need to talk to my wife.”

“I—” She stops abruptly. “She doesn’t want to talk to me.” Well, that’s obvious.

“Well, I’m really sorry, but I don’t have any answers for you, Mom. You have to talk to Butterfly.” She sighs.

“Can you tell me… if she’s alright? Does she seem hurt… or angry?” Nope, Mom, not giving you that either. I can hear it now… Christian told me you were mad…

“She seems like herself,” I reply. “She gets up in the morning, gets dressed, exercises, eats her breakfast, and goes to her office—and I go to work. When I come home, she’s watching television or playing with the children… she’s being herself, like she normally does.” She sighs again.

“Okay,” she says. “Can you at least relay a message that I called, and I would like to know what’s going on please?”

“I can let her know that I spoke to you and that you’d like for her to call you.” She scoffs into the phone.

“You’re not crossing that line at all, are you?” she accuses.

“Not in the slightest, Mother,” I confirm, “not on your life.” She chuckles aloud.

“Smart man,” she says. “Love you, son.”

“Love you, too, Mom.”

Vickie’s driving up just as I’m getting out of the car. I hope she didn’t get too much shit off the rack. I don’t want my wife walking down the streets of Sydney or strolling down the halls of a luxury cruise ship looking like a dime-store tourist.

“If she swings at me, I’m going to kick you square in the balls,” she says, dragging a roller bag behind her while her assistant is carrying several shopping bags and a garment bag.

“Are your choices that bad?” I ask with a raised brow.

“You know what I’m talking about,” she says. Oh, the college fuck.

“I can guarantee you that she doesn’t care. Let’s go.”

The family room is strewn with bathing suits, summer clothes and evening wear, and my wife goes about the tedious task of trying to pick her wardrobe for the next week while Gail scurries to get her packed as she chooses certain pieces and vetoes others. Jason comes in with some packages that I need, and I’ve set up shop on the pool table nearby to make sure that all necessary arrangements are being made while my wife is giving instructions to her personal stylist and to Gail for pieces to commandeer from her dressing room. Two hours later, she’s packed and ready and I’m finishing up the necessary changes to our itinerary and accommodations while Jason makes plans for our security and moving to and fro in Australia.

“Tell Courtney for me that I’m fine and we’ll definitely talk in detail when I’m back from my trip,” she says to Vickie.

“Good,” Vickie says. “She’ll be glad to hear that.”

“Tell her that I may need her help on a task, too. And let her know that Harmony will be staying here with us indefinitely. I won’t be here, so she’s going to have double duty.”

“Will do,” Vickie says closing her bags and cases. “I’ll send you my bill,” she says to me. “I’d give it to you now, but I hate to see a grown man cry.”

“Just charge it to the Black,” I tell her. “You’ve got the number.” She shakes her head.

“Men like you with that kind of play money make me happy and irritate me at the same time.” She waves to Butterfly. “Have a wonderful trip.”

“Thanks, Vickie!” My wife calls as she leaves, then turns to me. “What is it with you and these crack-of-dawn flights?”

“You know where we’re flying, right?” I ask. She shrugs.

“Australian cruise—somewhere in Australia, I presume,” she says.

“Exactly,” I say. “That’s about a 20-hour flight without a layover, and we have one. Not only that, but we’re going to lose a day traveling to Australia. We’re going to leave Saturday morning, but we’re not going to get there until Sunday night.” She frowns.

“Well, that sucks,” she complains. “We’re going to lose a day of our vacation.”

“No, we’re not,” I inform her. “We’re going to get it back at the end of the week. That reminds me…” I reach into my pocket and pull out Jason’s latest acquisition for me. “Phones age in dog years. What do you have—like the iPhone 4?” She nearly growls at me.

“Four S,” she hisses. I reach into the bag and pull out an iPhone 6 Plus.

“Still dog years,” I tell her, handing her the 6 Plus.

“Ooo, pretty,” she says, examining the gold-toned phone.

“I’m glad you approve,” I say. “I couldn’t commandeer your number because it’s not my phone, but this one has been updated with all the usual apps that I know you use and the tracking software. Any apps that I don’t know you use, you’ll have to update yourself. You can forward your calls to this number or put a message on your old phone that your number has changed, but this is an international cell. You never know when I want to whisk my bride away to some exotic foreign country—like today.”

“Good point. I’ll just notify the necessary parties that my number has changed… maybe I’ll do it when I get back. I’ll forward the calls until then.” I nod.

“I can help you transfer all of your contacts and app information when you’re ready.”

“Naw,” she shakes her head. “That won’t be necessary. I’ll get Maril…” She trails off. Force of habit was about to cause her to say that Marilyn would do it. “On… second thought, yeah, when we’re back, I’d appreciate your help.” I nod.

“No worries,” I say, walking past her and proceeding to the stairs.

“I know you have a lot of power, Mr. Grey,” she says, falling in step behind me, “but can you please tell me how you decided on Friday morning that we were going to Australia and on Friday night, we’ve got travel arrangements? That’s a lot, even for you, sir.”

I pick her up and playfully throw her over my shoulder. She yelps as I take the staircase, two at a time with her over my shoulder. I place her back on her feet when we get to the top of the stairs.

“I had open tickets for the cruise, so I exercised my option,” I say walking to the bedroom. She falls in step behind me again. “I own a jet, so I had Jason arrange my pilots this morning. We’re making a bit of a change to our cruise. It was a seven day—we’re only doing five because I have plans for the weekend, so we’ll be disembarking at our last port of call.” I walk into my dressing room and try to figure out what I need to pack.

“Doesn’t that cost extra?” she asks, quickly selecting suits and a tux from my closet area. “Isn’t there a fee for disembarking early or something?”

“Yes, there is,” I say, watching her gather my wardrobe like a pro, complete with underwear, while it took her two hours to organize hers. “But this is what I wanted, and I have money, so…” I trail off.

“Do I get to know where this special destination is that requires us to disembark from a luxury cruise to get there?” she asks as she lays out my clothes. “Where are your garment bags?”

“They’re in storage,” I tell her, “and maybe I’ll tell you, maybe I won’t. I haven’t decided yet.”

“Will I like it?” she asks as I head for my en suite.

“You’ll love it,” I call behind me. “Activate two-way communications… Locate Windsor.”

“Windsor,” he responds.

“Windsor, I need you to bring my Alfred Dunhill luggage to the owner’s suite. I need the black rolling suitcase, the duffle, the toiletries bag and the garment bag.”

“Yes, sir,” he replies.

“End two-way communications,” I say.Alfred Dunhill Luggage--Chapter 72

“Hmmm, Alfred Dunhill,” she says, coming out of my dressing room. “And I’m carrying the Louis Vuitton. We’re going to look so pretentious.”

“And you care?” I ask. She shrugs.

“Not really,” she remarks, laying out more clothes on the bed… and I’m perfectly outfitted without lifting a finger—except to choose my toiletries from the en suite. I shake my head and scoff a laugh. “What?” she asks, bemused.

“How do you do that?” I ask. She looks at my cruise wardrobe and smiles.

“You have your special gifts and I have mine.”

*-*

“Are you sure you don’t mind us leaving you like this?” Butterfly asks Harmony as we’re about to leave the Crossing. “I know this can be a delicate time for you.”

“I’ll be fine,” Harmony replies. “Courtney and I are going to the mansion today so that I can start going through my things and Mom’s things that aren’t going to be confiscated and donated to charity. I really want to get the house cleaned out as soon as possible. I’ve got so much to do and lots to keep me occupied. I know I need to mourn Momma, but right now, I just want to keep busy.” Butterfly hugs her.

“Call if you need us. I have a new international phone now.” Harmony looks over Butterfly’s shoulder at me and I raise my brow.

“I won’t be calling you, Ana,” Harmony says. “Now, get out of here and have a great time.”

Butterfly says goodbye again to everyone and we get into the Audis with our luggage and head to the airport.

She sleeps for the entire flight to Los Angeles. It’s only three hours, but she’s dead in her seat the moment the seat belt light is off. I’m going through and responding to emails, giving instructions for the next week in my absence and putting out feelers on who might be Lincoln’s ghost writer. I may be sinister in my thinking, but she’s one of only two people that I can think of at the moment that I wish would just die.

I’ll also have to remember to tell Butterfly about Rossiter’s “settlement”—him agreeing to get the fuck out of our lives and stay the fuck out of our lives from now on. It’s my understanding that he’s actually going to lay down roots somewhere else, but not without the assurance that we’re going to be watching him wherever he goes. The very idea that he thought he would flash a raw, naked pussy painted on his arm at my wife and somehow get a payoff for it—the fucking nerve of this guy.

“I didn’t know if you would make it,” I say to Lanie and Leo when we disembark at LAX to refuel. “It was such short notice I thought we may have to just wait until next time.”

“I’m trying to be like you, man,” Leo says, grasping my hand and shaking. “I’m flirting with a couple of options for a private jet, but the right number of zeroes can get you a charter anytime. It’s only an hour flight for us from San Fran.” My wife and Lanie greet each other with a hug. That’s when I see Burtie.

He seems… shy and small for the lack of a better description. There’s a guy walking with him as he approaches us. He’s a little taller than Burtie—a nice looking guy with stylishly cut black hair and a medium to stocky build. He takes Burtie’s hand as they get closer and I note that this must be Leo’s cousin.

“How was your flight so far?” Lanie asks.

“I wouldn’t know,” Butterfly admits. “I was up most of the night preparing for the trip, so the minute we took off, it was ‘Goodnight, Nurse’ for me.”

“I couldn’t tell you either,” I say. “I assume that it was pretty smooth since I was able to work uninterrupted the entire way.” Butterfly glares at me.

“Yeah, that’s the only time he’s going to be able to work,” she declares, “when I’m asleep. This vacation is going to be a damn vacation, so I will definitely have a problem with him working during any of the time that I’m conscious!”

“Hear, hear!” Lanie says. Butterfly smiles widely at Burtie and opens her arms.

“Don’t I get a hug, cousin?” she says sweetly. He coyly returns her smile and walks into her open arms.

“It’s so good to see you,” I hear him say softly. She embraces him warmly.

“It’s good to see you, too, Burtie,” Butterfly says. I lean over and kiss Lanie on the cheek.

“And who is this?” Butterfly asks when she and Burtie release their embrace.

“This is Bernard,” Burtie says, taking the young man’s hand again and pulling him into the fold. Bernard waves like a shy little girl and smiles.

“Hi,” he says sweetly.

“Bernie, these are my cousins, Ana and Christian. Bernie is my fiancé.” Butterfly raises her brow.

“Well, it’s very nice to meet you, Bernie,” Butterfly says extending her hand to him.

“A pleasure,” he responds. “I know this is going to sound so stereotypically gay, but I saw you the moment you stepped onto the tarmac and that outfit is to die for!” Butterfly beams at the compliment.

“Thank you!” she says.

“I so love Jackie O!” he gushes.

“That’s exactly what I was going for!” Butterfly exclaims.

“Oh God she was like only one of the most elegant women that ever lived!” he says all in one breath.

“Absolutely! She was unbelievably iconic. You can’t go wrong matching any of her fashions…”

And this conversation is going to go on forever,” Leo says. “I should mention that my cousin is one of the most sought-after designers and personal stylists in the San Francisco Bay area. Right this way, please… we have a car.”

“To fit eight people?” I ask, thinking of Jason and Ben.

“Yes,” Lanie replies. “We procured a limo for just such an emergency.”

As Butterfly and Bernard continue to discuss the polished grace and timeless, easy elegance of Jackie Kennedy, we all make our way through the airport to the taxi stand where our limo awaits us. On our way to brunch in Beverly Hills, Leo and I talk about the strides we’ve made in identifying the variations in the XRC90 transmitter. The ink on the Waymark deal should be dry just after the new year.

“How’s Aunt Nellie? Why didn’t she join us?” I ask. Lanie looks over at Burtie who’s in an animated conversation with Butterfly and his fiancé.

“She’s better than she has been, but still not great,” Lanie says in a low voice. “She didn’t feel like coming out so early on a Saturday morning, but she sends her regards. She’s had a small setback though. She got word that my father is moving towards signing the divorce papers soon. Their lawyers are just hammering out the terms. It should be final any day now.”

“I thought that’s what she wanted,” I say bemused, “to put this thing to rest. You know how these things can drag on forever.” Lanie sighs and checks to see that her brother is occupied.

“Mom explained it to me like this. Imagine one of your children comes up missing. You search for them for months or even years, but you never find them. You finally give up hope and resolve yourself to the fact that if they were alive, they would have found a way to get in touch with you by now. You go about the business of living your life, putting yourself back together again and sometime later, the police show up. They inform you that they’ve found your child’s body.

“Now, even though you knew the child was dead because there was just no way that they could still be alive, the body makes it final. It makes the loss tangible and real. This is the equivalent of hearing that my father is going to sign the divorce papers. She now has the body, and it’s tearing her up all over again. He’s a horrible, wretched person, but that doesn’t negate the fact that she loved him for thirty-some-odd years.” Lanie finishes with a sigh.

“Does she know about the life insurance policy?” I ask. “And what about the house?”

“She knows about the life insurance policy and she knows that he’s protesting Carrick’s share of it. She’s sure that he’s just protesting it until the divorce is final, and she’s not waiting for that. As for the house, she’s never going back to Michigan, so he can have that, too, but his other assets are going to have to be split.” I shake my head.

“He got Pops’ house,” I tell her. “That’s what he wanted. He’s going to sell his house and pump the money into rebuilding Pops’ house.” Lanie’s eyes widen.

“What??” she exclaims, garnering the attention of everyone in the car, which is exactly what she was trying not to do.

“Sorry,” she says, trying to play the situation down. “Don’t pay me any attention, you know how I can get.” She waits for Bernie and Ana to attract Burtie’s attention again before she turns back to me.

“That dilapidated old hole?” she hisses just above a whisper. “That stack of sticks is worthless! I don’t even know how Grandpa and Herman stayed in it for so long. That place should have been condemned years ago!” I shrug.

“That’s my understanding, too,” I tell her. “But he’s going to put his house on the market and use the money to rebuild that ‘stack of sticks.’” She shakes her head.

“Well, it doesn’t matter. Mom’s ready for the ‘funeral.’ She’s had enough. There’s no way she can possibly move on with this divorce still in progress, and she’s not really sure how she’s going to move on when it’s over. Hell, my father has a girlfriend—it was over a long time ago. Mom just didn’t know it.”

“Why didn’t he just let her go instead of dragging her through all this hell?” Leo asks. “It’s cruel and unusual punishment to put someone through this.”

“Freeman’s so cocky, he thought it would never come to this,” I reply.

“I think it was just cheaper to keep her,” Lanie says. “Once he reached the 10-year mark, half his shit was hers.” I twist my lips.

“Yeah, I guess there’s that, too,” I cede. I look down the row at Burtie.

“How about Burtie?” I ask not much above a whisper. Lanie shakes her head.

“Bernie’s good for him, but he’s having a really hard time with this situation, too,” she says. “I don’t know which of these are harder to swallow, so I’m just going to toss them at you.

“His parents are getting divorced. That sucks for anybody under any circumstances. Now, before you say, ‘Hey, Lanie, they’re your parents, too,’ you need to see the difference. That’s his mom and his dad. That’s my mom… and my father. All these years, he’s just been my father, just the man who nutted and brought about my creation. All these years, before this shit, that’s been his dad. So, his mom and his dad are getting a divorce, and he has to contend with that.

“Also, just like Mom, he loves Freeman. All he has ever wanted was for Freeman to be proud of him, and this is what he gets to take with him—the fact that for whatever reason, he wasn’t good enough; that his beloved dad battered him so badly that his face is slightly deformed and some of his teeth were knocked out or had to be removed. And that’s number three.

“Burtie was always an attractive young man, but now he keeps his face down and he tries to fade away and not be seen. He’s got several teeth missing and that makes him feel subconscious, and then he has those two horrible scars on his face. He’s getting his implants this week and the surgery for the scars will be in the next two weeks, but that’ll take care of the physical damage. What about the emotional damage?”

I look down the row in the limo again and Butterfly has moved next to Burtie. She’s holding his hand and his head is down. Bernie is leaning forward very close to Burtie, holding his hand as well.

That looks like a session.

“Has anybody pointed out the name thing?” I ask, “Burtie and Bernie?”

“Several times,” Leo says, looking at his cousin and brother-in-law. “They appear to be really in love. I wondered how it could happen so soon. Burtie’s only been here for a few months, but Bernie says he’s been stricken ever since he first met Burtie in Michigan. According to them, ‘When you know, you know.’”

“Yes, I can attest to that,” I say, looking over at Butterfly.

“Was it love at first site for you, Christian?” Lanie asks.

“Oh, I know this story,” Leo interrupts. “So do you, babe. Remember the interview?”

“Oh, yeah,” Lanie says, looking at her husband and then back at me. “She hated you at first, but you were quite taken with her.”

“Bingo,” I confirm, “So, I can understand being stricken very early on. At the risk of being Devil’s Advocate, however, just be mindful that Burtie’s in a vulnerable and compromised position at the moment…”

I don’t know how to say what I’m trying to say without making Bernie sound like he’s trying to take advantage of Burtie’s predicament or without making Burtie appear to be a weakling looking for someone to hold him up. Luckily, I learn that I wasn’t alone in my concern.

“I’ve had the same conversation with my brother,” Lanie says softly. “His response assured me that he realizes his position and he’s aware of his feelings. He even admits that he’s susceptible to the smallest act of kindness right now, but that he’s certain that with Bernie is where he wants to be.”

“And I’ve spoken to Bernie,” Leo continues, “both because he’s my cousin, I love him, and I don’t want to see him hurt and because if he hurts Burtie, he’ll hurt my Lanie, and then I’d have to kill him. I’m certain that he’s going into this with both eyes open, but in all honesty, they’re both grown men and will make their own decisions. Only time will tell.”

I nod. I know that he’s right, but that poor guy is fighting some serious demons and some of them are written right on his face.

“At least pretty soon he won’t have the visible reminders of what happened,” I say with a sigh.

“At least there is that,” Lanie says. “He’s been seeing a therapist. He’s been working through some of his issues, but I’m afraid that the emotional betrayal is probably going to be there forever. He’s heartbroken. All he has ever wanted was for his father to be proud of him and now, the betrayal he feels from that unprovoked attack…” Lanie trails off and shakes her head. We’ve had this entire conversation in hushed tones, trying not to let it appear that we’re keeping a secret.

“So, we’re planning a spring wedding as Burtie is certain that all of his scars will have healed by then, and Bernie is willing to give that man anything he wants. Bernie does very well financially and Burtie has a very promising future in engineering. Neither of them is in a particularly destitute situation,” Leo says.

“Burtie just has a long way to go,” Lanie adds. “His self-esteem has taken a hit with the scars and the missing teeth, and he’s fighting depression and rejection from the man who, like Mom, he still really loves.”

“What about you, Lanie?” I ask. “You don’t feel anything, honestly? Nothing at all.” Even I feel a bit of a tug when discussing the crack whore every now and then. Lanie shrugs.

“I feel bad that my family was torn apart—that my mom and my little brother are struggling to find balance,” she says, matter-of-factly. “But I was abandoned a long time ago, cousin. You can’t miss what you never had.”

And there you have it.


A/N: I originally had Christian carrying a different brand of luggage, but changed it when that whole “black face” shirt came out. I’m sure can figure out which one he had before.

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~~love and handcuffs