Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 16

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

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

Season 5 Episode 16

ANASTASIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You know,” she says.

“How do you know?” Christian asks.

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

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

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

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

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

“Ana?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daddy and Mommy dancing in the living room…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear God, she looks awful.

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

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

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

Huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, and she’s most likely paralyzed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dr. Grey, I’m sorry, I didn’t…”

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

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

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

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

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

“She does.”

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

“It’s adequate,” he responds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes… yes, it is,” I reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will, thank you,” I tell her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, ma’am?” she replies.

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

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

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

“Would it be in her chart?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” he says, his brow furrowed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will, Dr. Grey.”

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

*-*

“All rise.”

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

Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five out of seven—excellent!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


CHRISTIAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Remind me,” I say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In his defense…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dammit.

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

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

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m serious,” I tell him.

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

“You are serious!” I say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” I ask, aghast.

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ll think about it,” I say.

“Think about what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, yeah, she’s mad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is she talking about herself or the twins?

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

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

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

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

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

Ray and Jason just stand there in awe and confusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Huh?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Allen…” I try to protest.

“Chris. Bring. Her. Babies.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

Grey, Continued: Season 5, Episode 14

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

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

Season 5 Episode 14

CHRISTIAN

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

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

“Brian? What the…?” Ray begins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Baby…”

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

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

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

“How skimpy?” I ask.

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

And she wasn’t kidding.

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

Fucking hell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Christ, did she roar!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Marilyn!” Butterfly calls behind her.

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

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

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

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

“What do you mean?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks, Bosslady.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Maybe we should all go…” Mac begins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really?” she asks.

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

“I’ll prepare myself,” she says.

“For what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And I missed it,” she chuckles.

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

“I should go apologize,” I say.

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

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

“Chuck is going with you,” I condition.

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

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

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

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

“Oh, Lord,” Mac says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Maybe… a little bit,” she repeats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fuck, this is unbearable.

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

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

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

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

ANASTASIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She liked my voice,” he jests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was I thinking?

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

Fuck ‘em. I look good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You already know?” he says. I nod.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“From a sequestered jury,” I point out.

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

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

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

“Well, that may have to change…”

What? What the fuck did she just say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5b285a986f95924a4357f1d3425eb293

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

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

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

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

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

“Well?” I say defiantly.

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

“You don’t have anything to say?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I do not do that!” I defend.

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

“Asshole,” I mumble.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really?” he says. “And what did?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brazen.

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

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

She was brazen and I had lost.

“Butterfly?”

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

“Are you okay?” I nod.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I fucking hate dominoes.

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

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

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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 13

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

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

Season 5 Episode 13

ANASTASIA

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

What the fuck do you think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey,” he says, cautiously.

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

“How much did you hear?” he asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She swallows.

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

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

I get my wish.

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

Dog.

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


CHRISTIAN

What the fuck did she just say?

“You want a what?” I ask in horror.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s what I said,” she replies.

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

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

I guess we’re getting a dog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your Highness…”

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

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

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

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

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

“We’ll work it out,” he says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Does anyone have plans for this Friday evening?” Mac says, taking a forkful of her salmon.

“Ray and I are going to see Penn and Teller,” Amanda says. “I’ve always wanted to see them, and the tickets are almost impossible to get, but the concierge was able to score some for us.” Mac nods.

“What about you, Al?” she asks.

“Oh, Cirque du Soleil, baby,” Al says. “The minute I knew we were coming to Vegas, I booked tickets.”

“Which show?” she asks.

“O,” he says, and it sounds like Eau, “I really think you would like it, Jewel. It’s a water show.” Butterfly raises her gaze to him.

“A water show?” she asks. “Really?” Al nods.

“Yeah,” he says. “A giant pool sets the stage and there’s synchronized swimming and aerial acts—dramatic costumes and original music… I can’t wait to see it.” Butterfly smiles faintly.

“Then, I await your review, Mr. Forsythe,” she replies, and Al returns her smile.

“What about you, Marilyn?” Mac asks. “Any plans tonight?”

Nobody has shared Marilyn’s latest emotional dramas with Mac, and this is one of those times that I wish we had given her some kind of heads up. She shares a suite with Marilyn, so I thought she may have some kind of idea, but if I know Mac, she’s plugged into GEH every night or getting updates from Josh or the internet on all things Christian, Ana, and Las Vegas Hazing Trial. So, she probably hasn’t seen what Marilyn may or may not be doing.

“No,” Marilyn says softly, “no plans for me besides binge-watching Game of Thrones.” Seeing the need to pull attention away from Marilyn, Al jumps in.

“What about you, Vee?” he asks.

“Sleeping!” she chimes in quickly, causing gentle laughter to rumble across the table. Even Butterfly chuckles a bit. “Once I do the regular check-ins of all the spots and the home office, it’s me and the sandman. Fergie’s flight gets in at 4:26am and I want to be awake to meet him at the airport.”

“Fergie?” Amanda asks, her brows furrowed.

“Fergus,” she says, “my husband.”

I knew that she was married, but I didn’t delve since he gave me no cause for concern.

“Fergus,” James says. “Do you mind if I ask the origins of that?”

“Not at all,” Mac says. “Fergie’s a full-blown, red-blooded Scotty! “

“No kidding!” James says. “With a kilt and everything?”

“He wore it to our wedding,” she says, with a smile.

“Now, is it true that the kilt has to be made a certain way, or can they just go buy one?” Ray asks.

“Anybody can just go buy one,” Mac says, “but any old body had better not wear any old kilt to Scotland or to any traditional ceremony of any kind…” and off my head of PR goes talking about the different types, colors, and measurements of kilts. How did we get into this conversation? Once I get a chance, I interject.

“Would you and Fergus like a private room for the weekend?” I ask, considering that she’s sharing a room with Marilyn.

“Oh… no, we’ll be fine. Fergie and I have been married for many years, Christian. We know how to behave.” I smile and nod at her. “But if we’ll bother Marilyn…”

Uncomfortable that the attention is back on her and her half-empty bowl of consommé, Marilyn shakes her head quickly and diverts her gaze from anyone at the table. The gesture mainly goes unnoticed.

After dessert and a bit more conversation, the group begins to disperse for their Friday evening plans. Butterfly goes to the bedroom to begin her long session of Facetime with the twins and I’ll join her in a moment, but first I steal a moment with Marilyn.

“How are you?” I ask, not knowing how to ask the question that I want to ask.

“I’m fine,” she says, looking at me questioning.

“Is there anything you need?” I ask. “Anything I can do to make you more… comfortable?”

Her questioning gaze slowly morphs into one of understanding, and the corners of her mouth turn up slightly.

“No, Christian,” she says, “I’ll be fine.”

“You… haven’t been eating,” I say, broaching the conversation carefully.

“The doctor says I have to take it slow,” she replies. “Smoothies, vitamins, water-based soups… I always vomit when I try to eat solid foods. It’s because my body, unfortunately, has become accustomed to eating itself. So, introducing regular food again is a process. She prescribed me Ensure and Pedialyte to be sure that my body is getting all the nutrients that it needs, and I’m getting in the smoothies and consommé so that Bosslady doesn’t have me involuntarily hospitalized…”

Or me.

“So… it’s almost like… tube-feeding…” I say cautiously.

“That’s exactly what it is,” she admits, “only I’m consuming voluntarily.” She drops her head. “I’m trying to get back to ‘normal’ as quickly as I can. My… situation has just been harder on me than I ever thought it would be.”

“I understand,” I reply. Without any respect to my personal feelings about her decision, I still think Garrett’s an asshole for leaving her like this. “Did you want me to get you a private room for the weekend?” I ask. She smiles and surprises me by taking my hand.

“No,” she says. “I’ll be fine. I’m a big girl. I live in the real world and I know that it doesn’t revolve around me. There’s plenty of space between Mac’s bedroom and mine. I’m sure that I won’t hear anything if she and Fergie decide to have some alone time, okay?”

I nod. I just want her to be comfortable. She surprises me again by standing on her toes and giving me a kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you, Christian,” she says sincerely. “You’re like the overbearing big brother I never had.” She gives my hand a squeeze before leaving the suite. I catch a glimpse of Ray, who frowns at me, then excuses himself from his wife.

“What was that about, son?” he asks, and I know that I owe him an explanation since he doesn’t know the nature of this relationship besides the fact that Marilyn is Butterfly’s personal assistant.

“Can you keep a secret?” I ask him in all seriousness. He raises his brow.

“It depends on the secret,” he says, his voice a bit sharp.

“Well, I can,” I reply, “and all I can tell you without betraying Marilyn’s confidence is that my wife and I are concerned about her health. She’s lost an unhealthy amount of weight in the last few months and no one in our group can attest to her eating any solid food all week. Can you?”

I see the wheels turning in Ray’s head, but he doesn’t answer.

“She’s important to my wife, so that means that she’s important to me. Whatever you see from me is nothing but concern and what you see from her to me is most likely gratitude. Anything else that you want to know, you’ll have to ask my wife or Marilyn.” He twists his lips and nods.

“I see,” he says. “You’re a strange man, Christian.”

“So I’ve been told,” I concur. “Go… you’ll miss your show.” He nods once. I’m certain that he’s not really sure what to make of the situation as he leaves and joins his wife.

“Christian,” Mac is getting my attention once the suite is nearly empty. “I don’t want to hurt Marilyn’s feelings, but I did book a room for tomorrow night. I’ll let you know what the room number is as soon as we check in.” I nod.

“Make sure you expense it,” I tell her.

“Thank you. It’s no offense to her. She’s a wonderful girl, but she cries at night… almost incessantly! I went in to comfort her the first night and she swore that she was okay, that she had a bad dream… but I’ve heard her crying other nights. Trust me, it doesn’t bother me except that I want to go in and talk to her, but I get the feeling that she doesn’t want to talk. The only thing is… that it doesn’t lend to set the mood for romance when you haven’t seen your guy for a week.”

“I totally understand,” I tell her. “Believe it or not, I think she would, too. Let me know what room you got when you check in and we’ll put it on our bill, too.”

“Thank you, Christian. You’re a prince among men,” she says before leaving the suite.

“So,” Jason says, sliding in for his chance for alone time, “do you agree that we should get back to Seattle some time during this trip?”

“I think it’ll help with her stress levels if she knows that you and Chuck are getting some time in with your ladies during this ordeal.” He sighs.

“She’s going to have to get some time in with her babies or she’s going to lose her mind. We both know that.”

“Yes, I know,” I reply. “Facetime helps, but it’s not the same. You know, those little munchkins have the most healing hugs…”

“Yes, I do know,” he says, fondly, “and it doesn’t change as they get older.” I smile.

“We’ll play it by ear,” I say. “I figure once it gets to the twelve-day mark, one of you will have to go home for the weekend. Hell, at that point, we may have to go home for the weekend.”

“Then, it’ll work out perfectly,” he says. “If we all go home for the weekend, no harm, no foul. As much as I respect Her Highness, you know that I’m not going to leave you in another state without me, right?” I feel a sudden warmness in my heart for my bodyguard and best friend.

“I know,” I acknowledge.

*-*

I’m sitting the in the living room of the suite at about 2am. We Facetimed with the twins for hours, even watching one of the Disney movies with them until they fell asleep. My wife fell into a contented rest—finally—after Facetiming with our children. After Jason gave me a report on Carla Morton’s and Pamela Whitmore’s uneventful Friday evenings, I worked for a few hours, played the piano for about twenty minutes and now, I’m as bright as a bunny, staring at the fire in the gas fireplace.

I’m wound so tight by all the mental stress of everything going on that I can barely think. My method of dealing with stress has always been to work out or fuck. I’ve already worked out and I’m back where I started from, and I don’t want to put myself upon my wife right now. I have to read her moods and when she finally fell asleep, her mood was not screaming, “Take me, take me now!” But I need something very physical right now or my head’s going to burst.

I get on the floor in front of the fire with my back against one of the chairs and shed the only piece of clothing that I’m wearing, my sweatpants. My cock is limp, not flaccid, but not hard either. I’m going to have to give him some motivation, but what? Pornos have never been my thing since I’ve always been so sexually active. I don’t have one of those Tenga eggs I used after Butterfly had the twins. Those damn things needed no motivation whatsoever. All I have is my hand and my imagination. I don’t even have anything to use for lube.

My cock looks so pitiful that I don’t even take it in my hand. I close my eyes and think of a time that I was so hot and so hard that I couldn’t stand it. The Tenga experience comes to mind, but it’s not enough to get me hard. Butterfly in the playroom… yeah. She always looks delicious in the playroom. The problem is that my mind keeps flashing from scene to scene to scene and although it’s a wonderful replay, I can’t concentrate on any one scene. Just when I’m about to give up, I think about the “red” photo shoot, and the perfect memory pops up behind it…

Santa Baby!

Fuck, that night was so hot! Our first Christmas Eve together. Her goddamn skills were lethal… are lethal. She hasn’t fucking lost her touch. In no time, one hand is rubbing my chest while the other wanders down to my balls, cupping and rubbing them firmly as my cock slowly firms to attention.

I see her ass peeking out of a red Santa skirt and shimmying at me in my mind’s eye and my cock throbs in appreciation of the memory. I move my hand from my balls to the base of my cock and squeeze, feeling it thicken in my hand. The anticipation that I felt waiting for her that night was driving me out of my mind. She was rolling and stripping and singing—long red boots on mile-long legs and a delicious ass that’s even thicker and juicier now than it was then.

I groan in my chest as I imagine that ass wiggling in my face, causing my shaft to lengthen and thicken even more. I grip it hard and give it one firm stroke.

“Fuck!” I hiss, looking through the gap between her legs at her beautiful mound clad in sexy red panties. I give my cock a slap, and another one immediately thereafter. I feel pleasure shoot through my groin almost blinding me. I stroke it again… and again… avoiding the head and feeling the shaft getting harder and harder in my hand. My breathing is becoming more labored as my dick gets hotter and the skin gets tighter. I want to grab the head, but that means I’ll come too soon, and the pressure of the week will still be trapped and needing to release.

I need to edge. I don’t want to, but I need to…

Still remembering the sensual show my wife-then-girlfriend gave me on Christmas Eve, I stroke my cock a little faster, a little deeper, a little harder. God, I wish I had some oil or some lube, but my saliva and precum will have to do.

On one of the strokes, I get the picture of her pulling my hips to her, dropping to her knees, and sucking my cock into her mouth. My hand runs over the head and collects the precum there, causing me to arch my back and thrust into my hand once. I thought I would come, but I quickly move my hand back to the shaft and away from the sensitive head, spreading the small amount of precum that I gathered over the tight skin of my cock. Fuck, this shit is torture…


ANASTASIA

I open my eyes and I’m in bed alone. My husband is nowhere to be found. I remember that we’re in Vegas, explaining my unfamiliar surroundings. I slept like the dead, but it’s still dark. What time is it?

I look at the clock—2:18am. I throw the covers off and see that I’m wearing the terrycloth robe and a pair of panties. I must’ve fallen asleep in them, but the room is dark, and the suite looks dark beyond the bedroom door. Where’s Christian?

I get out of bed and go in search of my husband. When I come out of the bedroom, I see the fire is lit in the fireplace. Noting that the living room is dark, I head towards the office area, but stop in my tracks when I hear moaning to my left.

What the fuck…?

I quickly turn around and head towards the sound, surprised to find my husband sitting alone on the floor in front of the fire. His eyes are closed and he’s naked. His legs are spread wide and he’s leaning back on the loveseat, his other hand rising up and down slowly on his erection.

I watch him lost in his passion; his expression strained as he pleasures himself. He looks amazing—a masculine deity in human form pleasuring himself on the floor of my Las Vegas suite. In the middle of all this hell, I get to watch this beautiful hunk of man working his gorgeous hunk of meat while his pecks, abs, and biceps flex involuntarily to the sensation in his cock.

I lick my lips, then bite the flesh of the bottom one. I have no idea why he’s masturbating in the living room, but he looks so sexy. I open my robe and rub my heating skin as his breathing becomes louder. He’s going to come soon… but then I watch as he moves his hand from the head, halting his speedy ascent to orgasm.

Do it again, I think to myself as my hand caresses my abdomen.

He looks lost… lost in his own little world, gripping his cock and stroking it with such force that it looks as if he may just yank it right off!

I reach down into my panties and find my clit. With each slow stroke of his cock, I stroke my clit, working myself into a heated frenzy.

He groans as he draws pleasure from his grip, and I shiver as I imagine what he must be feeling. His breathing becomes rhythmic matching his sliding hand and I close my eyes, my own orgasm not too far on the horizon. When I open my eyes, he has opened his eyes and he’s looking at me, still stroking his member. I’m shocked. I don’t know what to do. I feel like an intruder… on my own husband!

“Are you just going to stand there and watch?” he growls. What else am I supposed to do? You’re out here beating your meat instead of in our bed fucking me and I have no idea why. What’s more, I just got caught wiggling my bean watching you.

“Come here,” he commands me as his hips rise to meet his slowly stroking hand. I walk over and stand over him.

“Get rid of the robe… and the panties.”

I drop the robe to the floor and slide my panties down my thighs until they fall at my feet.

“Straddle my thighs.”

He’s breathless, very near orgasm, but I hear his Dom voice hidden in his arousal—not full Dom, but commanding. I stand over him and begin to drop down on him.

“I didn’t say straddle my dick. I said straddle my thighs.”

Fuck. He sounds mad! Is he mad? I straddle his thighs further away from his dick.

“Move back.”

Huh? Oookay… I slide further back toward his knees.

“Lean back on your hands.” Um, okay. I lean back on my hands. “Further! As far back as you can go!”

Okay! Bossy much?

“Feet flat on the floor. Knees up—spread ‘em wide!”

I do as I’m told, and I see what he’s doing now. I can’t easily lean forward, my legs are open wide, and I’m completely exposed to him. Without another word, he begins to stroke my clitoris with the head of his penis. The fire I had started a moment ago is beginning to roar again. I bite my lip as my clit starts to throb.

“Keep your hips still. Don’t move unless I tell you to.” I nod. His aim is so controlled. He fucks his hand deep and slow while using it to guide the head and a very small portion of the shaft to the bottom, tips, and sides of my clit. Only the head occasionally dips inside of me for lubrication, but the bulk of the stimulation are my inner and outer lips… and my clit… my entire clit!  Shit, it feels so good—a sensual massage with the head of his dick on my completely exposed clit.

“Yeah. That’s it. Feel it, baby,” he groans. I can’t control my breathing or my tongue as it darts in and out of my mouth, over my lips and teeth trying to absorb the immense pleasure he’s bringing to me. I want to grind against him, but not only is it difficult to move, but he also told me to keep still.

My breasts feel so heavy. Even though I stopped breastfeeding a week ago, I’m still producing milk—not as much, but it builds up if I don’t pump. It aches to be released when the children need to be fed… and when I’m aroused as my breasts are one of my erogenous zones… very erogenous zones!

He reaches between us with his fingers on my butt cheek; he opens my lips and strokes the side of my clit. The pleasure is almost unbearable. He’s so hard and each time he rises into his hand, his hard cock hits the underside of my clit just at the opening of my vagina… and my G-spot. I’m nearly blind from the friction and satisfaction. I don’t know what to do with myself. I throw my head back and get ready for the tsunami that’s about to hit.

“Christian! Christian!” I’m almost afraid of the orgasm that approaches. My legs are weak from this position and I won’t be able to keep still. My arms begin to tremble, and my legs start to shake.

“Fuck, you’re beautiful!” he groans as he continues to thrust and torment me. “Can you be any fucking hotter?”

Soon the sheer force of the climax that wracks my body causes my elbows to give way.

I’m going down.

Just as quickly, Christian wraps his arms around me and snatches me onto his exploding erection. Some of his semen squirts outside of me, but most of it is emptying into me as he holds me prisoner against his body, grunting like an animal.

He catches his breath very quickly, then lays me down between his legs, opening them wider so that I can lay my back on the floor. He brings my legs forward so that my knees are around his hips.

Whew! Thank God! I felt like a contortionist for a minute there.

While I’m resting and catching my breath, he licks his thumbs and rubs my tender nub. It hurts at first, but he’s gentle, coaxing me back to arousal with his cock still inside of me. When my tongue licks the inside of my lip and my knees rise higher widening my legs, he begins a slow stroke—only short enough to thrust his head and a portion of his dick into me. His ass doesn’t leave the floor. He licks his own lips sensually as he watches his cock slide in and out of me.

“Yes,” he says carnally, hissing as he breathes in. “That’s what I need… right there.” I feel his legs widen, but his stroke never changes. He takes my hand and puts my fingers in his mouth, licking them salaciously.

Fuck, that’s hot.

He takes my fingers out of his mouth and brings my wet fingertips down to my clit.

“Stroke it, baby,” he says in that same animalistic tone he came with. “Stroke it good. Don’t be shy…”

Yes, sir!

I begin with the slow stroke I did while I was watching him, rubbing deeply on every thrust, only I don’t have to imagine this time. He’s inside of me. I reach down a little further to caress his dick on the upstroke.

“No!” he hisses. “Just yourself! Only touch yourself. I want a full view of that glorious clit.”

Oh, God, he’s making me so hot! This is a three-finger job.

I wet my fingers again, tasting our intermingled juice and strumming my libido even further, then stroke my clit with my new moistened fingers, moaning when my wet tips may contact.

“Yeah, baby,” he says, just above a whisper, his hot cock seeming to thicken with the next mini-thrust. “That’s it right there, baby. Work that clit… you look so good.”

Knowing that he’s watching me and loving it has to be the biggest mind-trip I’ve ever felt. I close my eyes and thrust my breast forward, taking one of my nipples in my free hand and pinching it hard. The sensation shoots right to my clit and the other hand and I groan loudly. I feel a small amount of milk escape, but I don’t care.

“Oh, baby,” he says, his tone a mixture of arousal and reverence. “Keep going, baby. Don’t stop.”

I pinch my nipple again, teasing it and arousing it to firmness, remiss that I can’t easily reach the other one. Christian gasps deeply and snatches me off the floor.

“Don’t stop,” he hisses, his whispered voice thick with his arousal. “Keep touching yourself.”

It’s hard to reach my nipple, but there’s still enough space between us to stroke my clit, so I keep stroking, stroking myself into blind pleasure. He sucks my neglected nipple into his mouth and I nearly scream, stifling the sound as it escapes my throat.

“Do you feel that?” he says in that same aroused whisper as he mini-strokes into me. “Do you feel it?”

Fuck yeah, I feel it. From this angle, he’s at the perfect depth and aim to hit my G-spot, and I’m wiggling my bean.

“Uh-huh!” I answer helplessly.

“Fuck me just like that,” he breathes. “Can you do it? Can you fuck me like that?”

“Uh-huh! Uh-huh!” and I begin the stroke that where he left off. I only have my knees because one hand is on my clit and one was on my breast, but has now abandoned that task to concentrate on clit and fuck. It takes a minute, but I get the mini-stroke back… better, in fact, because I have to wiggle a little bit to reach my g-spot.

“Oooooh, my God,” he groans, “ooohh, my God, yes!” His hand travels up my thighs to my hips, grasping them firmly but not hindering my movement. He bites my nipples again—first one, then the other before taking it into his mouth and sucking hard. I’m fucking going to come. I have to slow down the stroke on my clit to stop the rise before the game is completely over!

“Kiss me,” he hisses, “Fucking kiss me like you mean it!”

Before I can even think about it, I take a handful of his hair with my free hand, snatch his head back and slam my mouth to his, thrusting my tongue inside and licking feverishly like I’m searching for buried treasure. He moans hard as his grip tightens on my hips and we share a kiss that last almost a lifetime. He breaks the kiss and looks into my eyes, his own hooded.

“Are you still stroking it?” he asks whispered. “Are you still stroking it for me?”

“Uh-huh,” I pant, now wildly wiggling my clit while I ride him, and he thrusts into me.

“Make it come, baby… make it drip all over me.”

I wiggle my bean slightly harder and before I know it, my knees lock in the “up” position so that I’m just gripping the head of his cock and I squeal out a crippling orgasm that has me gripping his shoulders for support.

“Fuck! Fuck! Ana, fuck!” he yells as he squeezes my thighs, holding me in place as my core torments the head of his cock, milking his cum in an equally violent orgasm.

“Oh, God,” he pants as I fall helpless into his lap and onto his still throbbing cock. “Oh God oh God oh God oh God oh God I needed that so bad.”

“Why… didn’t you wake me?” I pant.

“Ssssshhh, Ssshhh, shh,” he silences me as his head lolls then lies in my breasts, his arms firmly around my body now. “Sssshhhh…” I’m assuming he doesn’t want to lose the moment. It’s not really important now anyway, is it?

*-*

“Daddy, this is Cynthia Crestwood. Auntie Cyn, this is my father, Raymond Steele.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Steele,” Cynthia says, extending her hand to my father.

“Ray, please,” he says, accepting her proffered hand. “The pleasure is all mine, really. This is my wife, Amanda.”

“A pleasure, Cynthia,” Mandy says. “Is it okay if I call you Cynthia?”

“Of course,” Auntie Cyn says, shaking Mandy’s hand, “and call him Larry.” She points to her husband with a smile who shakes Daddy and Mandy’s hand.

“A pleasure, Ray, Amanda,” he says kindly.

“Mandy, please,” Mandy says. The six of us—and our security—have convened at the Cheesecake Factory in Caesar’s Palace for lunch. Of course, we immediately talk about the elephant in the room.

“So,” Larry begins says once we’re seated and have placed our orders, “I’ve been following the trial on Court TV. That was quite the revelation near the end there.”

“I didn’t know Court TV picked up the trial,” I say, looking over at Christian, who shakes his head. “I thought channel 13 was there—KTNV.”

“KTNV is affiliated with Court TV,” Auntie Cyn says. “The trial was on replay most of the night.” I shake my head.

“So, once again, America got to see me carried out of a courtroom. That’s just great.” They would have seen it on the news anyway, but a cable network with national affiliates? Yeah, groovy.

“You had us worried there, dear,” Auntie Cyn says. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I tell her. “I don’t do well in high anxiety situations. Try though I might, something always happens. Nonetheless, here I am.”

“I’m not an insensitive jerk,” Larry says, “but I have been known to miss a cue. So, if I happen to take the conversation somewhere that you would prefer it doesn’t go, please feel free to tell me to shut the hell up.” The rest of us laugh.

“I appreciate that, Larry…”

Lunch is filled with talk about the trial, how we think the jury might sway. We all gave our honest opinion based on the presentation of the evidence. No one came out and said that they believe the jury is going to come back with a not guilty on all counts, but everyone has a doubt or three.

Auntie Cyn feels that the kidnapping charge may not stand because they didn’t definitively prove that Vincent Sullivan physically had anything to do with the kidnapping. Daddy says that if he gets off on the kidnapping charge, he’ll probably get off on the conspiracy charge, too.

While Larry feels that Sullivan should get whatever they charge him with and more, he feels that the guidelines surrounding attempted murder may mean that the jury is going to come back with a not guilty on that one. While he’s definitely guilty of assault, battery, and manslaughter, Larry feels that attempted murder might be a stretch.

Amanda feels that the whole “diminished capacity” thing is bullshit. As a court reporter, she doesn’t buy it for a second. She’s seen the defense a lot—some succeed and some fail—and according to her, his case holds about as much water as a fishing net.

“It’s the criminal equivalent of ‘the dog ate my homework,’” she says, somewhat disgusted. “People who fall back on that as a defense take away from those who may truly have been in a diminished capacity. The guidelines to prove diminished capacity are so strict now that you basically damn near have to prove that you were either clinically insane or that you were not only in imminent danger, but also immediate danger at the time of the commission of the crime, and it’s all because people are so busy crying wolf!”

“What’s the difference?” Christian asks.

Immediate danger or peril is imminent, but not all imminent peril is immediate. Immediate danger is not a written doctrine or legal concept yet, but it’s one of the things that certain people may look for—and informed jurors are aware of—before a defendant takes the stand.

“Being mugged at gunpoint is immediate danger. It’s also imminent danger. Being threatened about a crime that’s going to happen tomorrow, that poses possible imminent danger for something that’s going to happen tomorrow and something that may happen to you in the future. You’ve got time to do something about it!”

“I felt that way, too!” Christian says. “Even if he really felt that he was in danger of retaliation, by his own admission, he had a whole day and possibly more to tell somebody what was going to happen, but he didn’t. He said he thought it was going to be a harmless brand like his brother’s frat brand, but even that’s assault if it’s against your will.”

“Exactly,” Mandy says. “Even if he really thought it was going to be harmless, he made a bad judgment call. Even though he knew in advance that this harmless thing was going to happen, he decided not to tell anybody. He sat on it for a whole day and didn’t breathe of a word of it to anyone who could’ve prevented it. He also made it appear that he was afraid of Carly from the very beginning. Why was he so afraid for his life if it was supposed to be this harmless thing?

“Good point,” Larry says.

“I’ve heard of sudden peril, though,” Auntie Cyn says.

“That’s a totally different type of law and a completely different concept,” Mandy says.

“Indeed,” Ray says.

“And back to the concept of imminent danger,” Mandy continues, “he could’ve told somebody what was going to happen the next day and prevented this whole thing from happening. He thought it would have put a target on his back—or at least he claimed he did, but it would have put a target on Cody and Carly’s back if anything happened to him or Ana. As diehard as his brother was to protect him—had something happened to Vincent, he wouldn’t have rested until those responsible were under the jail. And if he was really in danger, he could have relocated or his brother could have arranged some kind of protection for him—something, but those options were not dangerous. They were inconvenient! As a result of his lack of action, a girl was brutally beaten and burned, her baby was murdered, and he’s claiming the dog ate his homework.”

“Bravo!” Auntie Cyn says quietly clapping her hands.

“Very well said, baby,” Daddy says, quietly clapping as well.

“Hear, hear,” Larry says, raising his soda.

“Now let’s just hope the jury agrees with you,” I say, and the celebration stops. Everyone turns to look at me.

“See, here’s where I’m the Doubting Thomas,” I admit. “We’re talking about a group of people who share the community with this man. They share all the same values, the same beliefs, the same thought processes. There’s no doubt that he did these things to me. The question is his intent and state of mind. Two psychiatrists gave us the entire lowdown of the feeling of imminent danger. Neither doctor fully corroborated his claim that he felt he was in imminent danger, not to mention immediate danger. Was I the only one to see that?”

“No, you weren’t,” Christian replies. “I saw that, too.”

“So,” I continue, “unless those magic twelve people have the same thought processes that you do and not the same thought processes that he does, he’s getting off.”

“It only takes one, Ana,” Mandy protests gently.

“And then the best we get is a mistrial,” I say, “at which point, we’re going through all of this again. I hope we have—as you said—a panel of informed jurors. Otherwise, this whole thing was a waste of my time.”


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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 12

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

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

Season 5 Episode 12

CHRISTIAN

“Yeah, get mad because I left you there and made you walk home, but rape? Please!”

Is this fucker actually saying that he didn’t rape my wife? That she made all this shit up? Is he seriously sitting there on the stand spouting this shit? I’m so angry that I feel the bench shaking. It takes a moment to realize that it’s not me.

“Boss?”

Jason’s earnest whisper causes me to look over at him, and I see my wife… shaking so violently that she’s causing the entire bench to shake.

“Ana?” I reach over and put my hand over her clenched fist, but she doesn’t respond.

“Ana?” I say louder. She raises her gaze to me. Her blue eyes are pale, paler than I’ve ever seen, and the whites are becoming more and more bloodshot by the second.

“Mrs. Grey?” I hear a voice calling her and I think it’s the judge, but I’m too busy trying to figure out what’s going on.

“Jesus, Ana, what’s wrong?” I ask. I’m flailing. Now, Ray has made his way over to us and he’s trying to assess the situation.

“Annie?” he says. “Sunflower, talk to me.”

“Mrs. Grey, you’re disrupting these proceedings!” the judge says.

“With all due respect, your honor, I don’t think she can help it!” I snap at him before I know it. When I look back at Butterfly, Jason is examining her eyes and Ray is still trying to get her attention. She’s shaking more violently now and still hasn’t uttered a sound.

“Is she epileptic?” the judge asks. I can’t think to answer.

“No, sir, your honor,” I hear Al say, “but she suffered a severe head injury in a car accident a little over a year ago.”

“It appears bad luck seems to follow her everywhere.”

That was Whitmore’s voice, the only thing that could cause me to take my eye off my wife. I see the devil when I see this man. I see Edward David multiplied exponentially because what he did, he did to a 15-year-old girl. At this moment, I’m wondering if it’s as easy to get to a fucker in prison in Nevada as it is in Seattle.

“You need to shut up,” the judge says in an uncharacteristic moment while pointing his gavel at Whitmore. “Bailiffs, clear the courtroom. Fifteen-minute recess.” He pounds his gavel and everyone except our party has left the courtroom in 60 seconds. Whitmore slow-steps pass us in the shackles, smiling down at my convulsing wife who probably doesn’t even know he’s walking by.

She’s shaking even more violently now, and I don’t know what to do. My first instinct is to lay her down, so I ask for help getting her into a prostrate position. When I do that, her heels click madly on the wooden bench and I realize that her head is going to do that, too. Jason removes his jacket and tries to make a pillow for her with it, but that doesn’t help. I kneel next to her and hold her head in my hands.

“Baby, can you hear me?” I ask, helplessly. She doesn’t respond. Her eyes are tight, and she’s shaking violently.

“Get paramedics in here,” the judge says. I can’t do anything but hold her close to me and let her shake.

*-*

It’s been forever since we got here. I mean, truly, forever. We’re at the University Medical Center waiting to hear the verdict on my wife. Since we came in through the emergency room, there’s nothing we can do but sit here and wait. Since they had no idea what was wrong with her and she doesn’t have epilepsy coupled with the fact that she has a previous serious brain injury, they did a quick evaluation, gave her muscle relaxers and immediately took her to get an MRI and a CAT scan.

And now, we wait. For hours and hours and hours, it seems, we wait.

Court has long since adjourned for the day and the entire entourage is now here in the waiting room. I tried to convince Ray to stay in court, to be my eyes and ears, but he was having none of it. No matter how I pleaded, he just said,

“Give it up, Grey. I’m going with my baby girl.”

Allen reluctantly agreed to stay in the courtroom along with James, Marilyn, and a few members of our security staff. However, Jason, Chuck, Mandy, Ray, and I have been painstakingly waiting all afternoon and evening for some word on Butterfly. Every time that door opens from the back, I’m waiting for some doctor to come out and tell me what’s going on with my wife. It’s agony, because that door opens a whole fucking lot. When I feel like I’m finally going to lose my mind…

“Family of Anastasia Grey…”

We all stand at once until everybody realizes that we can’t all bum rush the doctor.

“Ray?” I say, gesturing for him to come with me to see what the doctor has to say. We walk over to him and I almost can’t bear to hear what he might say.

“She’s fine,” he says, and I feel like my chest is going to cave in. Most doctors introduce themselves first, but I’m glad he led with, “She’s fine.”

“I’m Dr. Carver, I’m the head of neurology. We’ve run several tests on Mrs. Grey. We always want to eliminate the worst-case scenarios and we were able to do that quickly. It appears that she had a severe panic attack, honestly one of the worst I’d ever seen, but considering her neurological history and what you’re telling me that she’s going through right now, I’m not at all surprised.”

“Is she… is she awake or… what’s happening now?” I don’t know what to ask.

“She pretty much slept all afternoon,” he says. “She may be awake all night, but right now, the only thing wrong with her is that she’s hungry as a bear… her words, not mine.” I sigh heavily and thrust my hands into my hair, trying desperately not to collapse onto the floor in relief.

“When… can I see her?” I say, trying to remain calm.

“Right now,” he says, “Come with me.”

He leads me and Ray through the big doors that I had been watching all evening and down the magic hallway where all of the doctors and nurses had disappeared for hours during my agonizing wait. A turn here and a turn there and we’re in a big community room with beds separated by curtains. My wife is in the last bed on the end.

Well, I don’t like this at all.

The television is playing, and she has it set on the news channel, no doubt looking for some news about the trial.

“It’s limited coverage,” she says. “Either not much happened in the case today or nobody got a picture of me being carried or wheeled from the courthouse… or however you got me out of there.” It bothers me that she doesn’t remember.

“Nobody got pictures,” I tell her. “Unless someone in the courtroom said something, no one even knows.” She nods and mutes the television.

“Can I go now?” she asks the doctor. “No offense to you, doc, but the very last place I want to be right now is in a Las Vegas hospital.”

“It’s hard not to take offense to that, Mrs. Grey,” he admits.

“Do you know why I’m here?” she says flatly. “I spent weeks in a Las Vegas hospital when I was a kid. Nobody came to see me. Nobody cared. I don’t want to be here.” Dr. Carver smacks his lips.

“Oookay,” he says. “I’ll get your discharge papers ready. Make sure that you see your own doctor about this when you get back to Seattle.”

“Will do,” she says and throws the covers off.

“Do you need help, Sunflower?” Ray asks as she retrieves the plastic hospital bag with her things in it and Dr. Carver leaves the room.

“Thanks, Daddy,” she says. “I’ve got it.” Ray nods in that helpless but accepting way that I feel right now.

“Do you want to talk about this?” I ask.

“Not here,” she says as she shamelessly steps into her panties while Ray and I watch.

“I’m going to step out and give you some privacy,” he says, kissing her on the forehead.

“You changed my diapers, Daddy,” Butterfly protests.

“That was almost 30 years ago, Sunflower. You’re a grown woman now. I’m going to step out and give you some privacy.” And he leaves. I turn back to Butterfly.

“He told me that you were hungry. What would you like to eat?” She pauses as she pulls on her skirt.

“Roberto’s,” she says, pulling it up and zipping it in the back. My brow furrows.

“What’s Roberto’s?” I ask.

“Greasy Mexican food. I want carne asada fries with everything, two fish tacos, two California burritos, and two chicken quesadillas.” She snaps her bra in the back and proceeds to stuff it with tissues. At first, I’m wondering what the hell she’s doing and then I realize that she has no breast pads. I pull out my phone.

“Sir?” Jason answers.

“Butterfly is being discharged. I need you to find a place called Roberto’s and place an order for pick-up…”

“It’s 24-hours. He can have it delivered to the hotel,” Butterfly interrupts stoically, still getting dressed.

“I’d rather someone pick it up to make sure that it’s right,” I tell her. She shrugs as she buttons her shirt.

“Whatever works,” she says, searching the bag for her shoes.

“I’ll text you what she wants,” I tell him and quickly compose the text while he’s still on the line.

“Mexican food,” he says as he reads my text. “Does she want Corona, too?” Hell, she might. I turn to ask her just in time to hear her shoes clicking out of the little curtain pod. She has finished dressing just enough to be presentable with her shirt hanging out of her skirt, has taken her things in the plastic bag and is now headed for the nurse’s station. Shit.

“We’ll get something from the minibar,” I say, ending the call and rushing behind my wife who is walking with purpose.

“Excuse me,” she says when she gets to the counter.

“Yes?” the nurse behind the desk answers.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I have to get out of here. Dr. Carver is discharging me, and I just need the papers. I’d like to have them now, please, or I’m leaving AMA.” The nurse is a bit taken aback.

“It… wouldn’t be AMA, ma’am. You just wouldn’t have your discharge papers.” She shakes her head.

“Fax them to the Waldorf,” she says, throwing her free hand up and proceeding towards the exit.

“Ana!” I call out to her, but she keeps walking. I turn to the bemused nurse, just as bemused as she is.

“Can you do that?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“Not without a written release from her,” she replies cautiously.

“Butterfly, they need you to sign something!” I call out. She waves her hand again and disappears around the corner.

“We’ll figure it out later,” I say to the nurse. “Thank you.” Once again, I shuffle to catch my wife who simply follows the exit signs and finds herself in the waiting room.

“Ana, are you okay?”
“Jesus, you scared us!”
“Jewel, you’re going to give me a stroke.”

“I’m fine,” she says coolly as she’s putting her coat on. “I didn’t mean to scare you all, but I need to get the hell out of here.”

Our party falls silent, most likely seeing her earnest and waiting for instruction. Jason isn’t here and I’m assuming he went to get the food. While I’m trying to see what the transport plan is, Butterfly and I make a startling realization at the same time.

Paparazzi. Just outside the door.

Butterfly gets a determined look on her face and I know that it’s showtime.

“Shit!” I hiss as she takes off towards the exit.

The automatic doors open, the flashes go off, the questions are flying at her and she does not stop. Anybody who gets in her way is going to get bowled over and I think they know it.

She is hauling down that sidewalk towards the parking lot. It’s like she doesn’t even hear or see these people around her. And if anybody gets in her way, may God have mercy on their souls.

She doesn’t need protection. She’s got a force field around her right now that says if you come near her, she’s going to kick you in the balls. Even her hair is bouncing with purpose, and the way that she’s striding in those stilettos, they might as well be track shoes.

“Butterfly, do you even know where you’re going?” I ask, taking long strides to keep up with her.

“I’m walking towards cars,” she replies. “I’m assuming my chariot is somewhere in there.” I sigh again and take out my phone.

“I see the flashes, sir,” Jason answers.

“Good. Be quick before she runs out here and jumps on a bus,” I warn.

“Don’t tempt me,” she replies.

“Jason?” I plead.

“To your left, sir,” he says. Like a ray of light from heaven, the black SUV pulls up in front of us. Butterfly doesn’t wait for me. She opens the front door, climbs inside and closes the door behind her. I’m surprised, as is Chuck, so he and I and Mandy and Ray just scramble into the back.

“Who’s going to get my food?” she asks.

“We’ll pick it up on the way,” Jason replies.

*-*

I don’t ever think I’ve seen my wife eat that much food. I’ve heard a reference to it—Chuck talked about the mountain of food that she ate in Anguilla when we had that fight, followed by the looting of the candy store, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen her eat this much. She doesn’t eat too fast, but she does eat it all, finishing her meal with a 32-ounce Dr. Pepper.

I just order salmon from room service and eat at a safe distance.

When she has finished her mound of Mexicana, I finally approach with caution.

“Do you want to talk now?” I ask. She shrugs.

“What is there to talk about?” she asks. “That fool raped me, and all this time, I just thought he wasn’t admitting it. I had no idea this is what was going on.”

Okay, I have to admit I’m a little lost.

“He still didn’t admit it, Butterfly,” I say, nonplussed. I don’t know what she’s getting at.

“And he’s not going to,” she shoots, angrily. “He’s never going to, not even to himself. When he came to GEH all cocky and shit, I thought he was just being an asshole… which he was of course. I had no fucking idea this is what was going on the whole time! Fifteen-year-old me didn’t get it at all, but damn near 30-year-old me—the one with the degree and the specialization in human mentality—yeah, I get that shit loud and clear now!”

I’m glad we’re in the penthouse, because she is having a fucking meltdown.

“Please forgive my ignorance,” I say calmly. “I need you to let me in on it. He’s a rapist. We know it. What am I missing?”

“You don’t understand, Christian,” she says, her voice laced with some unknown emotion—dread, fear, I don’t know, “Cody. Whitmore. Really. Doesn’t. Think. He raped me,” she says slowly. “He really felt like he had a right to do what he did to me, and when Stephen and I confronted him, he really felt like I was lying. Don’t you see what this means? There’s no telling how many other girls he did this to, and I know there were more by Carly’s reaction when I confronted her and Pamela Whitmore’s reaction on the phone. Jesus, how many times has he done this after he became an adult? He probably used what they did to me to keep girls quiet! The man is a serial rapist! He has to be! Thank God he’s locked up, but what’s going to happen once he’s free?”

She leaps from her seat at the table and the carnage of empty Mexican take-out trays so swiftly that her chair falls hard to the floor behind her with a thud.

“What the fuck is wrong with these people?” she seethes. “His father knew! He knew! He paid to shut me up! Was I the first? Was I the last? Was I somewhere in the middle? How could he walk around all cocky and shit knowing that his son was this fucked up? And Pamela fucking Whitmore—is she fucking clueless or delusional? And she had the nerve to call and threaten my children with that monster that she raised?”

She’s coming totally unglued, and justifiably so. How in God’s name can that fucker believe he didn’t rape her? Of course, he raped her! Is he suffering from that same shit that Lincoln claimed she had?

“He really thinks I lied on him,” she shrieks. “He really thinks he’s the victim here, and that’s why all this shit happened! Take one sexually depraved, mentally unstable, teenage lunatic and add one blindly obsessed, entitled, radically misguided, boneheaded bitch and you’ve got the teenage version of Natural Born Killers! And she’s procreated! Dear God in heaven!”

She falls on her knees with her fists clenched in front of her, cursing at the floor.

“He’s a sexual deviant! A fucking psychopath!” she wails. “Even his Daddy knew! That’s why he paid to shut me up. I can’t stand the fact that he’s breathing the same air that I breathe. It’s bad enough thinking that he lied about the rape all these years, but to know that he actually thought it was okay! He thought he was entitled! They almost killed me, fucking killed my baby, because he thought he was entitled. Fucking hell! You fucking miserable bastard!!!!”

She screams her dismay to anything or anyone that can hear her, and now I have to stop it. I can’t stand it anymore.

I fall down on my knees in front of her and gather her firmly in my arms. She fights me violently at first, but I have a strong grip on her and I’m not letting her go.

“No! No! It’s not fair!” she shrieks as she uselessly struggles in my arms. “It’s not fair. I hate him! He deserves to die! I hate him! It’s not fair! It’s not faaaaaaiiiiiiiiiirrrrr!”

Realizing that she’s not going to get away from my grasp, she screams and cries before her head falls limp on my chest. She’s mumbling something through her tears, but I just hold her there for an eternity, my head resting on hers as she weeps bitterly.

*-*

I didn’t get much sleep last night. I knelt on the floor with Butterfly until my knees were numb. She wailed for so long that I thought she would have another panic attack, but she didn’t. She just cried until her voice was gone, then she whimpered for several more minutes until she was exhausted, and I gladly carried her to bed, holding her and watching her as she slept.

I would gladly spare her all this pain and the realizations that we’re making as the trial proceeds. It was pretty damn dirty for Larson not to tell us that Whitmore had gotten a plea, too. Springing that shit on us at the trial wasn’t cool at all. I can only assume that he thought that Butterfly may not show up if she knew that Whitmore would be testifying. She had already confronted Madison-Perry, so it wouldn’t have been a big deal for her to have seen that witch on the stand, but Whitmore? Maybe he was going for shock value. If that was the case, that shit fucking worked in spades.

Maybe that’s what he was referring to when he said, “Expect anything.” Asshole.

I spent most of the night at the piano once Butterfly fell asleep. It was too late to call Seattle once we got back to the hotel, so we didn’t get a chance to speak to the twins. I can’t help but wonder how Ray feels watching all this. He tried to rescue her, but Carla wouldn’t let him do it. Now, she has to relive all this stuff in front of an audience and even make new discoveries like the shit she just discovered about Whitmore.

He’s not going to be rehabilitated in prison, because he hasn’t accepted what he’s done, and quite frankly, no one else knows. He’s just going to be punished for his part in the beating, and that’s all. I need to see if there’s anything else that can be done about his punishment while he’s in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections…

I got a little sleep on the sofa, but I’m awake again a couple of hours later to give instructions to the rest of the entourage, as we are so lovingly referred to in the press. I won’t subject Butterfly to anything she can’t deal with and I think going to court today after yesterday’s episode may be a bit much.

I’m still in a T-shirt and sweats when I sit down at the table with Ray, Allen, and Jason that morning. We’ve had breakfast brought to the room and we’re discussing what may happen in court today.

“It’s getting on time for us to get going,” Ray says. “Don’t you think you should wake Annie so she can get dressed and get some breakfast?” I sigh.

“Yesterday was really bad, Ray,” I inform him. “She came home and had another breakdown. I don’t think she’s going to make it to court today…”

“Oh, yes, she is.”

My thought is interrupted by Butterfly’s voice. I turn around and she’s fully dressed and ready to go.

“And you had better hurry and get dressed, or you’re going to be left behind,” she adds.

“Baby,” I protest. “I don’t think it’s a good idea after what happened yesterday.”

“I’m not going to let them win, Christian,” she says. “I have to see this through. I can’t stop now.” I put my hands on my hip, drop my head and sigh.

“Butterfly, in all honesty, you and courtrooms just don’t get along,” I say in frustration. She rolls her eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah—Fainting, Regurgitating, Convulsing Grey. I get it, but I’m still going. Are you going with me?” I look at Jason and Ray, roll my eyes and shake my head.

“Give me ten,” I say, before going back to the bedroom.

*-*

My wife is beyond untouchable this morning. She hasn’t shut me out, but it’s crystal clear that today, she’s facing this mess with her beautiful rack stuck straight out and taking this shit head on. She’s wearing a three-piece gray tweed pants suit with black leather gloves, a small black clutch, and black Louboutin suede stilettos. I briefly protested about her wearing no overcoat and she informed me that we weren’t in Seattle and her tweed suit jacket was heavy enough.

When the Audis pull up to the courthouse stairs, she sees that the police already have the press restrained. So, she leaps out of the car and begins her sprint up the stairs, surprising everyone—including the press.

“Shit, go!” I bark at Jason and Chuck, who dash out of the Audi behind her. I sigh heavily and prepare for my ascent.

“What’s that about?” Ray asks when we get out of the car.

“She’s had enough of this,” I tell him. “I hope this doesn’t go on much longer.”

“I hope not either,” Al says, joining us. “She’s rebelling. There’s going to be no controlling her shortly.”

There’s no controlling her now.

As we begin to ascend the stairs, I hear various cracks from the press:

“Jesus, how the hell can she run like that in those damn shoes?”

“I’d be a track star if I could move that fast.”

“What is Anastasia Grey running from today?”

“She’s running from you!” I say to the person who asked the last question. “It’s one of the worst times of her life and she still can’t get any peace. What do you expect?”

I just couldn’t take it anymore. We’ve got a damn reporter in the courtroom. They know what’s going on. What more do they fucking want?

“Christian?” It’s Mac. She’s right behind me with a firm grip on my elbow. My first inclination is to snatch my arm from her, but no need to give these fuckers a show. I turn away from the assholes and finish my ascent to the courtroom, taking the stairs two at a time.

We’ve apparently missed the rest of Whitmore’s testimony while we were at the hospital. I don’t think we would have wanted to hear it anyway. However, when we get into that courtroom, I’ve got a fucking earful for Larson.

“Exactly when did you plan to tell us that Cody Whitmore got a deal, too?”

“It was a last-minute decision, Mr. Grey,” Larson says. “It turns out that Carly Madison-Perry had no idea who Vincent Sullivan was, so she couldn’t testify to his presence, intent, or state of mind. We needed someone who could. He’s arguing diminished capacity. We needed someone that was present at the beating that could tear that defense apart. He had a viable defense just by the violence of the act alone…”

“Except that he was the first one that burned her!” I retort. Larson sighs and drops his head, then raises it again.

“You missed the second half of Whitmore’s testimony,” he says. “He destroyed that defense that Sullivan was a terrified participant. Whatever Sullivan says today is going to be highly overshadowed by the picture Whitmore painted. He had several character witnesses yesterday, but none of them chipped away at the picture of this kid who was willing to do anything to be one of the cool kids. I’m telling you, Whitmore was our star witness.”

“I thought she was your star witness!” I accuse, pointing at my wife. Larson deflates again and doesn’t respond.

“You said it was a last-minute decision. How last-minute?” I demand. He swallows.

“Monday morning… right before trial,” he confesses.

“It’s Friday,” I point out. “You had time to warn us. We might have avoided what my wife went through yesterday. How can we possibly trust you now?”

“I don’t trust anybody in this place,” my wife says impassively while gazing at Larson. “Let’s get this done.”

She takes a seat without another word. I glare at Larson before moving to sit next to my wife.

“Mr. Grey,” he calls out. I turn to face him again.

“I know the system has failed you in the past, but that’s because no one did anything. I’m doing something now, sir. Please, trust me. Trust the system to work this time.” I pause for a moment.

“I’m not the one you have to convince… counselor.” I glare at him for a few more moments, allowing my words to sink in before taking a seat next to my wife.

The prosecution concluded its case yesterday with Whitmore’s testimony and the defense began its presentation with the character witnesses for Sullivan that Larson mentioned. Today, the witnesses continue to stream in, one of which is a current girlfriend who testified that Sullivan still has nightmares about what happened that day. Her testimony was deflated when it was discovered that she and Sullivan broke up six months before his arrest, so she couldn’t really attest to the possibility that he still has nightmares.

Larson is going at the character witnesses with extreme gusto now, apparently more determined than ever to convince Butterfly that he’s really on her side and doing what’s best to win the case. I don’t doubt that he is. I just want to see it done with as little pain and inconvenience to my wife as possible. After three witnesses and two hours of listening to Sullivan’s accolades, Butterfly stands and leaves the courtroom before the fourth witness is called. I stand and walk out behind her.

“Butterfly!” I catch her as she’s walking towards the lounge area looking at her phone. She stops and raises her gaze to me. “Are you okay?”

“No!” she says firmly. “That asshole was the first to burn me! The pain was so bad that I passed out and didn’t wake up for three weeks! He scarred me for life! The hell if I’m going to sit there and listen to the whole of Nevada talk about how fucking great of a guy he is!”

“Baby, I understand,” I say, keeping my voice calm, “but the way that you left looks bad to the jury. You have to go back in there.”

“I told you, Christian, I don’t trust anybody in this place anymore,” she says. “I can’t fathom how anybody who has any idea what’s in that video can sit there on that stand and talk about how fabulous he is; how he’s such an asset to the community; how great a friend he is; how kind he is… I can’t stand it anymore. This great fucking guy left me with two grotesque burns on my back and only stopped because he thought I was dead! No! I’m not listening to this shit anymore. I can go to the bathroom, or to the lounge, or outside to the fucking car and talk to my children or read emails or scroll through Facebook—anything but listen to any more of this shit!”

“They didn’t see the video, baby, but the jury did…”

“And now the jury is being inundated with all these testimonials about how wonderful he is, everything he’s done for the poor and the sick…” She says the last part in a mocking tone. As she’s ranting, the courtroom doors fling open and out runs Larson, Ray, and Al, followed by a few others headed towards the bathrooms and lounge. I look at Al questioning and he mouths the word “recess.”

“Annie, are you okay?” Ray says, approaching us quickly. Butterfly just stares at her father without answering. After waiting for a response, Larson chimes in.

“Dr. Grey, it’s almost done. Please, come back into the courtroom.”

“No!” she barks. “I trusted you and you let me get ambushed in there! You facilitated it! I had no preparation whatsoever for that bastard being in the courtroom much less finding out that he got a deal. And now I have to sit and listen to people praise the man who could have killed me?”

“You’re a miserable bitch! You should be ashamed of what you’re putting Vince through!”

It only takes a second for everyone in our group to look to the left at some woman who’s throwing this insult at my wife. I didn’t even get a good look at her, but I thank the heavens for fast reflexes because I literally have to catch my wife in midair as she lunges at this unknown female with both hands. Jason is a second too late, but right on time to hear me growl,

“Get this woman away from my wife now!”

The entire ordeal probably didn’t last twenty seconds as the horrified instigator is being ushered away from us by our security.

“Watch the video, you stupid bitch!” Butterfly yells after her. “It’ll probably be on YouTube next week! Then you can see what Vince put me through!” I roll my eyes and shake my head as I hold my flailing wife hurling harsh words after the woman.

“Anastasia, have you lost your mind?” I ask forcefully, and out of nowhere, she stops flailing.

“Put me down,” she says calmly.

“No, Anastasia, you’re acting crazy,” I say.

“You’re going to see just how crazy I can get if you don’t put me down,” she says, still eerily calm.

“Put her down,” Mac says, coming out of the courtroom. I look at her and then at the back of my wife’s head before I slowly put her down. She straightens her jacket and puts her Jackie O’s on as she marches to the stairwell. I move to follow her, but Mac stops me.

“Let her go,” Mac warns. I look at Chuck.

“Go!” I hiss and he runs behind my wife. Ray is right behind them before I get the chance to say anything.

“She’s done,” I hear Mac say and I turn to her and the questioning glances of Marilyn and Amanda.

“She’s just pissed, as well she should be,” I reply.

“No, she’s done,” Mac says, then turns to Larson. “Whatever you have to do to win this trial, you have to do it without her. She’s done.”

“I don’t understand,” I say, pushing my hands through my hair. “She was lights and sirens to get in here this morning, and now she’s done?”

“Christian, yesterday she was confronted by her rapist in a surprise attack and now today, she gets to hear about how the guy who disfigured her back, left her in a coma, and contributed to the death of her unborn child is being treated unfairly by her and the court,” she says flatly. “I’ll come up with a press release for what just happened, but we need to decide what we’re going to do now because she’s quite possibly not coming back.”

I sigh heavily. We’ve turned our entire lives upside down to see this thing through. One of us has to. Chuck and Ray are with her now. I have to represent her in this courtroom. I have to. I look at Larson.

“You have to do what you have to do without her, but you better do it, because this damage is going to be irreparable if you don’t.” I say nothing else to him and walk back into the courtroom.

*-*

The longer I sit here listening to the Vincent Sullivan Parade of Good Deeds, the more I want to leap across this half-wall and choke the bastard. I can understand why Butterfly couldn’t listen to this anymore. It’s enough to make you gag! However, the final character witness before lunch gives me—and the jury—something more to chew on.

His name is Owen Carey. He went to school with Vincent Sullivan. He knows a lot about Sullivan, and the defense thought that Owen was going to sing all the accolades of the witnesses before him. However, once he took the stand and started talking, his tune changed, and Drake had to treat him as a hostile witness.

Owen, as it turns out, is Sullivan‘s on-again-off-again gay lover. The girl who testified earlier—Regan—wasn’t his girlfriend. Regan was his beard.

Owen had been waiting for his in with Sullivan since high school. They weren’t dating back then, but they hung around the same people. They and their gay friends would rate the guys in high school by who was the most “fuckable.” Even though Owen wanted Sullivan, Sullivan had his sights set on someone else.

“Vince wasn’t afraid of Cody Whitmore. Vince was in love with him,” Owen said. “He would’ve done anything Cody asked as long as it meant that he could be near him.”

Now, this could have gone either way, had the next thing not happened.

“Oh my God, Owen how could you!”

The court has to be brought to order as Vincent Sullivan cries out in despair of his gay lover’s betrayal.

Now, if anybody in this courtroom is like me, none of us cares that he’s batting for the same team. What’s more important is that his entire defense is based on the fact that he participated in this ritual because he was afraid for his life. If there’s any truth to what Owen says, how can you be deathly afraid of someone that you secretly covet?

Once Drake saw that his defense was heading south and ceased questioning, Larson goes in for the kill, drawing out all the juicy details of Sullivan and his sexual tendencies. I wouldn’t know why he was doing it until later.

“You show up as a character witness just to destroy his character and defense. As much as I would love to believe you, why should I? How do we know that you’re just not another scorned lover looking for revenge?” Larson asks as he wraps questioning.

“I don’t know. Maybe I am,” Owen replies. “Most likely I am, but that doesn’t change the fact that Vince was in love with Cody Whitmore. He probably still is. He could have testified against Cody and put Cody away. Instead, he let Cody do it to him. That’s love. And if you don’t believe me, check out my Facebook. I’ve got an album called Throwback Thursday with all kinds of pictures from GV High back in the day. You’re sure to find a couple of candid shots of Vince making googly eyes at Cody when he wasn’t looking.

“I don’t know anything about this Anastasia girl, and I didn’t pay any attention to what happened to her. I can’t give you any info on that because I didn’t keep up with it and it didn’t affect me… sorry, but shit happens, excuse my language. But I can tell you about Vincent Sullivan, and he followed Cody Whitmore around like a sick puppy. I don’t know exactly when this burning thing happened, but the closer to the end of the school year it got, the more he followed Cody around until Cody’s friends had to tell him to back up.”

Jesus, this fucker had female and male admirers. My girl didn’t stand a chance.

The last person to testify before lunch was Sullivan’s psychiatrist who painted the case of how someone can be coerced to violent and even deadly acts if they feel that their own life is in jeopardy. I noted how he painted this picture very vividly and clearly, but I’m not sure from his testimony that he’s convinced that Sullivan was afraid for his life. Even in cross examination, he kept referring to a “deep-seated fear,” but to me, he never confirmed that Sullivan committed this act because he was afraid for his life.

I attempt to call my wife at lunch to ascertain where she is and if she’s okay, but her phone is going straight to voice mail. Shit! Jason informs me that Chuck checked in shortly after they left, indicating that he has taken her and Ray to the interactive aquarium somewhere on the east side of town and will soon be taking them to lunch somewhere. She is not answering her phone, and besides texting his wife to tell her that he was okay, Ray isn’t either.

God, I want to talk to her so badly, to tell her about the surprise witness and the fact that the shrink didn’t fully uphold Sullivan’s claims. I would normally check my emails and see if anything is afoot at GEH, but I can’t even do that right now. I really want to talk to my girl…

**I love you. I’ll tell you what happened when I see you. I hope you feel better. **

As it turns out, Sullivan’s entire defense was his character witnesses—one of whom turned on him—his shrink who really didn’t solidify his defense, and his own testimony, which we’re about to hear now.

“Vincent, there’s no denying that you took part in this horrible act. You’re on the recording assaulting this young woman in a most violent way. Can you tell us how you came to be a part of this ritual?” Sullivan drops his head.

“I knew the girl from one of my classes,” he says. “She… was nobody. She wasn’t that attractive. She wore cheap clothes. She didn’t have any friends. She didn’t stand out at all—just some poor Plain Jane in the wrong place.

“I hung around with all of ‘em—Kevin, Brian, Rich, Will—we weren’t best buds, but we hung out. I got wind that they were going to a bonfire over at one of the ranches on Wigwam. Of course, I wanted to go.”

“So, you’re saying that you didn’t find out about the bonfire until the day that it occurred?” Drake asks.

“No, I knew about it sooner, earlier that week, and so did Owen! There were a lot of people talking about it, how Carly had a surprise show planned and it was supposed to be such a big night. Her family was swimming in money; I thought she was going to have a rock band there or something.”

“When did you learn differently?” Drake presses.

“Two days before it happened,” he says, his voice low. “I still didn’t know the whole story, but I knew that they were planning to punish somebody for something. Carly was known for doing shit like that… but Owen was right, and since our relationship is over, I guess I don’t have to keep it a secret anymore.” He throws a glare at Owen.

“I did want to be around Cody,” he admits. “I knew he was with Carly, but I just wanted time alone with him. I knew I could’ve turned him if I had the chance.” Drake clears his throat.

“What made you think you even had a chance with Cody Whitmore?”

“How do you think half of them figure out that they’re gay?” he says. “Do you have any idea how easy it is to turn a straight boy gay? Yeah, some of them realize that they were born that way, but the other half has to be introduced. They don’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I want dick.’ Just like there are gateway drugs, there’s a gateway here. We don’t all follow the same path to get here, but some of us were led through that gate.

“There’s a whole lot of ‘straight’ men out here that are closet gays and you don’t even know it. If Owen hadn’t opened his big mouth, you wouldn’t have known about my sexual preference. And I’m not gay, I’m Bi!”

“So, what does any of this have to do with the evening in question, besides the fact that you wanted to be around Cody Whitmore?” Drake asks.

“The day before the bonfire, we were all hanging out at lunch…”

“We?” Drake asked.

“A bunch of us. I couldn’t tell you who all they were. I can tell you that it was me and a few others that I’m not going to name, girls and guys, and Cody and Carly. That’s when she told us what she had planned. She mentioned the brands, but I had seen college guys get brands from their frats. My brother has one, so I thought it was no big deal. I thought it was going to be one brand on her ass or something. I didn’t find out until I got there that it was going to be more.”

“You knew the day before. Why didn’t you warn Anastasia or tell the police? Your brother?” Drake says.

“Carly singled me out,” he says. “Either she could tell that I liked him, or she already knew. I believe she thought I was competition, and since I knew what they were going to do, she deemed me her handler. I told her I didn’t want to do it; I didn’t want to be part of that shit, but she started taunting me—saying that I would go tell my brother, that if I wasn’t there and I didn’t do it and somebody found out, she would know who told.”

“She threatened you?” Drake asks.

“Not in so many words, but she was planning a bonfire where she was going to brand a girl in front of a crowd! What more would she do to me if I didn’t do what she told me?”

“And what about Cody? Did he threaten you?” Sullivan shakes his head.

“Cody was cozying up to me and I really thought he was feeling me. Carly saw that; I know she did. What better way to make sure that I wasn’t a threat than to make me part of the crime? Cody kind of smoothed things over, told me that it wasn’t going to be a big deal, that it would just be a little mark for her to remember her place. He made me feel at ease, so I agreed. But Owen was right about something else. I wasn’t afraid of Cody, but I was scared shitless of Carly Madison.”

There are several more minutes of talking about Carly and her plan, how things transpired that day, claims that Cody and Carly never let him out of their site because they thought he would tell somebody what they had planned. He paints this whole good-cop-bad-cop picture of the teenage Bonnie and Clyde all the way until they got to the branding.

He claims that he didn’t know that they had hit her over the head and kidnapped her. How did he expect for her to arrive, in Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage wearing glass slippers? He maintains that he was afraid for his life, even though he can be seen as one of the boys viciously—and sometimes gleefully—kicking, beating, and pissing on my wife, and when it came time to brand her, he didn’t hesitate until she wasn’t moving anymore.

His scared shitless performance is pretty good, but I never bought it from the beginning. Knowing what I know now, it doesn’t jibe at all with his account of his state of mind.


 ANASTASIA

Daddy, Chuck, and I return to the courtroom and slip back in unnoticed, taking seats in the back instead of on the front row. I catch a portion of Vincent Sullivan’s defense testimony that he was afraid of Carly and, as it turns out, in love with Whitshit. I guess Amber Whitmore was right. He is gay. Part of me can understand being afraid of Carly. I was terrified of her for years after what she did to me. The other part of me is screaming that his ass is full of shit.

Figures that he would be in love with Whitshit. I never saw that coming.

“What were the brands, Vincent?” Larson asks when he moves to cross-examine.

“Excuse me?” he says, a little taken aback.

“Let me rephrase, what did you brand into that young girl’s back?” Sullivan swallows.

“Cody told you…”

“And now I’m asking you,” Larson interrupts. “What did you brand into Anastasia Steele’s back?”

“It was… letters,” he says finally.

“Letters?” Larson says. “Just letters? What were they, your initials?” Vincent clears his throat.

“No,” he says.

“Let me help you.” Larson says. He retrieves a remote and pushes a button. A large screen monitor comes alive with side-by-side pictures of my back, one at 15 with fresh, oozing brands, and one from a couple of years ago where the scars are incorporated into the garden. They must have introduced these into evidence while we were at the hospital and Whitmore was testifying.

“Do you remember now, Vincent?” he asks. “Do you remember the letters now?” He walks back over to the table and retrieves a long, metal object. Oh, fuck, is that what I think it is? Did somebody keep those fuckers all these years?

“Do you remember taking a white-hot branding iron like this one…”

Like this one… thank God. That’s not the original weapon.

“… From a burning bonfire and pressing it into that young girl’s flesh? How about this one?” He retrieves a second iron and I can only assume that he has a replica of the “W” and the “H” that Sullivan burned into my back. “Do you remember now…?”

“Yes, I remember,” Sullivan says through his teeth. Now isn’t the time to get froggy, dude. You’re on trial.

“What were the letters?” Larson asks again.

“W and H,” he replies.

“And what were they supposed to spell?” Larson asks, but Sullivan doesn’t answer. “We’ve got three of the letters right here in our face on her back, Vincent. What were they supposed to spell?”

“Whore!” he spits out. The room is silent for a moment.

“Did you think Anastasia Steele was a whore?” Larson asks calmly.

“I didn’t know her,” he replies.

“You didn’t know her,” Larson says, “but you personally executed the first two letters of the brand. Were you going to do the entire brand before you thought she was dead?”

“Objection, relevance,” Drake says.

“How is this not relevant?” Larson asks.

“He didn’t do the rest of the brand,” Drake says. “He’s not on trial for what he would have done.”

“It speaks to state of mind and intent,” Larson asks, “but the answer probably is irrelevant now!” He’s pissed.

“Objection is overruled. Continue, Mr. Larson.” He turns back to Sullivan.

“Were you going to do the entire brand before you thought she was dead?” he repeats.

“I don’t know,” Sullivan replies.

“Let’s try it this way. Were you the one assigned to do the entire brand or was someone else going to take over after your first two letters?” Sullivan just shakes his head uncertainly.

“You stood there holding the second brand after someone said that they thought she was dead. Were you going to do the third brand before Carly Madison pushed you out of the way?”

“I… no… I… no, I wasn’t,” Sullivan stutters.

“I see. So, you were afraid for your life… afraid enough to brand her twice, but not enough to finish the job,” he taunts. “You really thought that she could kill you, but not this helpless and bound young woman that you all had beaten the hell out of, is that it? Just a little ‘mark’ on her butt, you said? Only you didn’t burn her butt, did you? And it wasn’t a little mark, was it?” Larson pauses.

“No…”

“It was supposed to be five!” Larson declares firmly. “Five brutal, vicious, and permanent burns… on her back! Your brother’s fraternity brand is permanent. What did you expect?”

“I don’t know…”

“You never intended to leave ‘a little mark’ on that woman! You leaned into that brand! You pressed that hot metal on her back while she screamed in agony, her skin searing the entire time until she passed out!

“You were with your friends; they were all going to the bonfire, even after they knew what was going to happen; and Cody smoothed things over when Carly scared you so badly. So, what you’re basically saying is that you were peer pressured into kicking, spitting on, urinating on, and burning a young girl—an act that would land her in a coma for three weeks and result in the death of her unborn baby. Is that what you’re saying?”

“I was scared!” Sullivan retorts firmly. “I was scared for my life! Everybody knew who they were—who their parents were. Everybody knows the power they had. Yeah, here’s a little nobody they wanted to make an example of, but they were ruthless, and we all knew it! They owned that school. They made an example of anybody they wanted, and nobody stopped them.  I was scared shitless that if I didn’t go along with them, I was gonna be next.” Larson’s eyes narrow, and now it’s them again. Didn’t he say a minute ago that he wasn’t afraid of Cody?

“You were scared,” he says. It’s a statement, not a question. He walks over to the evidence table and retrieves a picture.

“Imagine how terrified she was,” he says, shoving a picture in his face. I can only imagine that it’s one of the pictures of me, 15-years-old and black and blue. Vincent doesn’t even look at the picture. He sits there silently glaring at Larson for several moments.

“What’s the matter?” Larson says. “Can’t look at her? Weak stomach? Too gruesome? It’s your handiwork—don’t you want to see your masterpiece?”

“Objection, your honor,” Drake says.

“To what?” Larson says, whirling around to Drake. “Did he deny what he did? We all have to look at pictures of this nearly dead beaten and broken 15-year-old girl why doesn’t he?” He says the last part all in one breath. He seems to be getting a little emotional.

“I’m going to overrule your objection, Mr. Drake, but Mr. Larson, get on with it,” the judge cautions.

“No worries, your honor,” Larson says, shooting a glance back over to Sullivan. “I’m done with show-and-tell for now.” He puts the picture back on the evidence table and walks over to Sullivan.

“You said they made an example of anyone they wanted. You’ve seen them do this before?” Larson asks.

“Objection,” Drake declares. “The parties he’s referring to are not on trial here, and it’s hearsay.”

“No, but Mr. Sullivan is, and he says he was afraid for his life, so let him tell us why,” Larson retorts.

“I’ll allow it,” the judge says. “Proceed, Mr. Larson.” He nods and turns back to Sullivan.

“Mr. Sullivan, do you need me to repeat the question?” Larson asks.

“Carly had a different target every week,” Sullivan says. “Slip a mick in somebody’s Coke and then watch ‘em trip out through fourth hour; running a scavenger hunt with somebody’s car parts on the football field; taking pictures of girls naked in the locker room and posting ‘em around the school—stupid shit like Carrie at the prom! But this? This was the first time I had seen anything like this in my life! If I hadn’t already pissed, I would have pissed my pants.”

“Oh, we’re weeping for you,” Larson cracks. Surprisingly, there’s no objection or chastisement.

“Do you know why Cody Whitmore appeared in court yesterday? Because, as you recall, he knew who you were. He testified that you almost begged him to be a part of ‘the little party.’ But you know who didn’t testify? Carly Madison-Perry. She was supposed to, but she had no clue who you were. Cody was only too happy to fill in the blanks, and from your own testimony, you were very fond of Cody, but scared to death of Carly. So, now, you expect for the court to believe that you were in mortal fear of a girl who had no earthly idea who you were?”

“She does know who I am,” Sullivan seethes. “She knows exactly who I am!”

“’She was nobody,’” Larson continues, reciting Sullivan’s description of me. “’She wasn’t that attractive. She wore cheap clothes. She didn’t have any friends. She didn’t stand out at all—just some poor Plain Jane in the wrong place.’ Your description sounds very personal for someone that you didn’t really know. What made you analyze her in such detail?”

“That’s just how she appeared to me,” Sullivan says, “nobody special, nothing much.”

“Nobody special,” Larson repeats. “Nothing much… yet Whitmore wanted her, and not you.”

Whaaaaaat the fuck…

“Who did she think she was, wandering into the school with her nothingness and her nobodyness and sleeping with the guy that you had been lusting after for so long? How dare she get a piece of Cody before you did, right?”

Fucking hell! Could it be? Could this be true?

“Why did you have to burn her in the back? Of all the people there, why did it have to be you?”

“Carly told me to,” he says, his voice cracking.

“Did she?” Larson accuses.Did she really… or did you want to show Cody that you could do it? Did you want to get her back because she had Cody first? You didn’t know this girl—you said it yourself. How could you do something so personally vile to someone you claim you didn’t even know? That’s the worst kind of criminal, someone who could viciously attack another person they don’t even know. Is that who you are?”

“Stop! Stop!” Sullivan cries, ripping at his hair and weeping. “I was scared! I was scared!” He buries his face in his hands and cries. Larson just looks at him.

“I don’t believe you, Vincent,” Larson says calmly, while shaking his head. “Not because I’m here seeking justice for this crime, but because there are too many inconsistencies—with your witnesses, with your account of the events leading up to the attack, with everything. It’s not adding up. The only thing we have that’s telling the 100% truth is that video and those pictures. Somebody in this room is lying, Vincent… and I think it’s you. No further questions.”

Damn, that was a slam dunk. Whether he wins or not, that was a three-pointer from behind the foul line and nothing but net.


A/N: Natural Born Killers was a Quentin Tarantino/Oliver Stone movie made in 1994 about a Bonnie and Clyde couple that went across the country committing mass murders and leaving only one witness alive to tell the tale of the massacre. If you are familiar with Quentin Tarantino’s work, you know this was some pretty intense and sick stuff. So, I can only say that if you never seen it before, you just have to watch it understand Ana’s reference.

For those who may not know, “nothing but net” is a phrase coined by the NBA maaaaaaaaaaaaaaany years ago—like waaaaaay back in the nineties (lol). It actually came from a McDonald’s commercial where Larry Bird and Michael Jordan are having a shooting contest for a Big Mac and fries. The food has long since gone cold by the time the ridiculous and impossible contest is over, but the term “nothing but net” lived on to describe a “swish,” which is when a player scores and the ball goes through the net without touching the rim, making that satisfying “swish” sound because the ball touches nothing but the net.  

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

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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 11

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

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

Season 5 Episode 11

CHRISTIAN

She doesn’t fool me one bit.

Neither of them does.

Carla is delivering a reformed, make-amends performance worthy of sainthood and Butterfly is falling for it hook, line, and sinker. Once Carla’s testimony is over, we adjourn for the day and Butterfly needs a nap. I send her back to the hotel with Chuck, telling her that I want to quickly check on one of my local interests. I don’t know if she bought it, but she doesn’t argue. I don’t want to go to Las Vegas, then go all the way to Summerlin for the stop I need to make just to have to come all the way back to Las Vegas.

The houses in the area are modest, but tidy. It’s certainly a far cry from the sprawling homes in Green Valley. Jason rings the doorbell. When there’s no answer, he knocks persistently.

“No comment. Go away,” she yells through the door.

“Open the door, Carla,” I demand. There’s silence for a moment, then I hear a chain lock and a deadbolt. She opens the door and she looks even smaller than I remember—even smaller than Butterfly. Is that possible? Her eyes rise to my face and her expression is bemused at first, right before all the color leaves her face.

“Why… Is she…?” She appears to be holding her breath and first, I just stare at her. It takes a moment for me to realize what she couldn’t ask.

“Anastasia’s fine,” I say flatly. Carla gasps in a breath, stumbling forward a bit as her knees appear to give out from underneath her. Jason’s innate sense of chivalry kicks in and he catches her as she stumbles out the door. She appears disoriented for a moment, but quickly recovers and straightens, somewhat pushing Jason away.

“I’m fine… I’m fine,” she says, the color returning to her face. If I didn’t know better, I would swear she was embarrassed. “Would you like to come inside, or do you just want to give it to me from there?”

Is this woman crazy? Does she think we’re here to pay her more money? Does she think she did us a favor by throwing herself in front of the bus?

“Give you what?” I nearly hiss, trying not to lunge at her.

“Whatever verbal or physical lashing you have for me,” she says, matter-of-factly.

“Oh, you’re very good at playing the victim,” I retort, not falling for this reformed Carla act for one second. She rolls her eyes, but not in irritation. If I had to guess, I would say that it was more in resignation.

“Okay, I see you’re going to give it to me here,” she says with no malice, shifting her weight as her shoulders fall in a gesture of defeat as she looks at me expecting. I shake my head.

“What’s your game, Carla?” I demand. “Ana’s been hurt by this shit enough. I won’t stand by and allow you to victimize her any further. So, tell me what the hell you want.” She sighs again.

“I would say, ‘nothing,’ Christian, but I already know that you won’t believe me.”

“You’re right, so what do you want?” I hiss.

“Nothing,” she says, and nothing more.

“Carla, I don’t know why you’re dragging this out. Let’s just get this done and over. How much?” She sighs and folds her arms across her body. With her head cocked to the side, she remains silent.

“Out with it, Carla. How much… or are you holding out for Anastasia?” She sighs again, and is now leaning against the door frame, still in silence. She looks at me, unblinking, unaffected. I can’t help but wonder how practiced that look is—not because I think she’s up to something right now… just because it’s so fucking perfect. I look at Jason.

“Give it to her,” I tell him. He reaches into his jacket and pulls out the check I had drafted, now in a sealed envelope. She doesn’t move to take it.

“What’s that?” she asks, her arms still folded.

“A check with a lot of zeroes on it. Take the money and don’t bother Anastasia.” She shakes her head and glares at me, now in what looks like disgust. She stands up straight, putting her hand on the door.

“Are we done?” she asks, looking at me and not Jason or the check.

“Take the money and go away, Carla,” I seethe. “You’ve had your moment of fame. There’s no way in hell I’m going to allow you to use this as an opportunity to weasel your way back into Ana’s life just so that you can hurt her again. Take the money and stay away from my wife.” She drops her gaze to the floor.

“Christian,” she says, before raising her eyes to mine. “You’re trespassing. Please, get off my porch.” With that, she closes the door quietly, and I hear the chain and the deadbolt engage.

To say that I’m stunned is an understatement. She turned down the money without even knowing how much it was. There was no fight in her—none of the arrogant little sawed-off opportunist that visited Seattle a couple of years ago and left my wife a weeping mess. I still can’t help but wonder what her angle is.

“Sir?” Jason interrupts my contemplation. “Could it be that she really doesn’t want anything?” Hell, no. This bitch is up to something.

“For her sake, I hope so, because if she does anything to hurt my wife, I’ll bury her ass right next to her husband.”

“You won’t have to,” her muffled voice says from the other side of the closed door. Jason raises his eyebrows at me. I turn and walk down the stairs and off her porch.

“Keep an eye on her while we’re here. I don’t trust her,” I tell him before we get into the car.

*-*

“How was your visit?” Butterfly asks when I get back to the hotel about an hour and a half after we left the courthouse. It looks like she fell asleep right on the sofa, still in her clothes from court. I drop my coat in a nearby chair.

“You know, don’t you?” I ask examining her expression.

“Of course, I know,” she says matter-of-factly. “Did she take the money?” I pause before I sit.

“No, she didn’t,” I say taking the seat where I put my coat. She nods.

“I had a feeling she wouldn’t,” Butterfly says, sitting up.

“Don’t be fooled, Butterfly,” I warn. “She’s up to something.”

“Maybe she is, and maybe she’s not,” she says. “If she’s not, then we’ll get done with this trial, we’ll go home, and she’ll leave us alone. If she is, taking that money wouldn’t have served her purposes. Money runs out, and if she needs more money, it would serve her better to be in my good graces. Taking that check from you would have been the opposite of productive if that’s what she’s trying to do.”

“Are you thinking about letting her into your good graces?” I ask honestly.

“I don’t know what I’m thinking,” she says, folding her arms. Oh, shit. “I do know this, though. That’s not the same woman I grew up with—either time. She’s not that good an actress. Whatever she was, whether it was the wholesome mother who loved me and put me first in her life, or it was the selfish bitch who ignored, fed on, or profited from my pain, she was that person 100%. She never half-steps—she’s all in. Neither of those people were on the stand today. Nonetheless, one flawless testimony of the absolute, pure, and unmitigated truth is not going to redeem what she put me through.

“Notwithstanding all the crap that I endured; I needed my mother. I needed her love, I needed her care, I needed her attention. I just needed her to see me, to really know me, and she didn’t. She didn’t know anything about me. She didn’t know my favorite color, my worst fears, my hearts desires… she didn’t even know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Most of all, I just wanted her to hug me… just hug me and show me that I’m still a person. Do you have any idea how it feels not to be hugged for years?”

I maintain a passive expression, but the inner me raises a brow at her as if to say, “Seriously?”

“I’m sorry,” she says immediately. “That was selfish of me.” She sighs heavily. “Life is gonna be hell for her now in Green Valley.”

“She doesn’t live in Green Valley anymore,” I say. Butterfly’s brow furrows.

“She doesn’t?” she asks. I shake my head.

“She lives in Summerlin now,” I inform her. “It’s an affluent neighborhood—not as affluent as Green Valley, but affluent.”

“Did she sell the house in Green Valley?” Butterfly asks.

“Most likely. She’s working as a CNA. The property taxes alone on that place was probably more than she made in a year.” Butterfly thinks for a moment.

“Summerlin,” she says. “That’s west, right?” I nod.

“Yes,” I reply, “very west.”

“Doesn’t she work in Boulder City? Or is she working somewhere else now?” she asks.

“You’re assuming I know,” I say, testing her knowledge.

“I know you know,” she replies, expecting. I raise my brow at her.

“Yes, and yes,” I reply. “Yes, she’s working somewhere else and yes, it’s still in Boulder City. She was at a nursing home before. Now, she’s at a rehab and hospice facility.” Her brow furrows again.

“Jesus, they have those together?” she asks. I nod.

“Apparently,” I reply.

“So, either you walk out of there or your carried out,” she mumbles. “I don’t remember this place much, but it’s a bit of a stretch from Summerlin to Boulder City, isn’t it? If I remember right, Summerlin is like northwest Vegas, and Boulder City is southeast on the other side of Henderson. Did I get that right?”

“Yeah, you’ve got that right,” I say. “It’s about the distance between Seattle and Tacoma,” I tell her.

“What the hell did she do that for?” Butterfly asks.

“She probably wanted to get as far away from Green Valley as possible,” I reply.

“There are other places that she could have moved to on the other side of Henderson. All she had to do was cross the freeway—it’s like a whole other world, but without knowing her motives, it’s a moot point.” Butterfly falls silent for a moment, and I’m pondering my approach, but I’m halted by her next words.

“Don’t lie to me again,” she accuses. I freeze and consider my response.

“I didn’t lie to you, Anastasia,” I correct her. “Carla is local, and she is totally and completely in the very center of my interest right now.”

“Yes, but you know as well as I do that you made it appear that you were going to check out a business interest. I knew the moment we left the courtroom that you were going to see Carla. So, label it whatever deception you want, just don’t do it again.”

Busted. She’s right.

“I’m sorry,” I say, with no additional retort. “The last thing you need from me is dishonesty, especially now.”

“Very true,” she replies, running her hands across her forehead once, then resting her chin on her palms. I stand and walk over to her, waiting for permission to sit next to her. When she doesn’t protest, I sit and put my arm around her.

“Your favorite color is blue,” I begin, and she looks over to me. “Your worst fears have to do with this place—that these monsters would come for you, or that they would raise children that would turn out like them and then exist in a world with your children.

“Your heart’s desires when you were young were to travel to exotic places one day and to see the world. When you got older, they changed. You wanted to help people. You wanted to make sure they didn’t go through the same thing that you went through and if they did, you wanted to make sure that they knew that they weren’t alone… that someone cared, and someone was there to help them.

“You didn’t know what you wanted to be when you grew up. You didn’t find that out until later when your guidance counselor suggested psychiatry, and you saw that that would be the way to realize your second heart’s desire.

“I can’t take the place that she should’ve filled, but I can love you with everything, and I can show you that you are more than a person—that you are life to at least three people and very likely more than that. And even though I do know how it feels not to be hugged for years, I can’t imagine being deprived of that feeling now… especially from you. You have the opportunity to give that love that you didn’t get in your teenage years to two beautiful little humans, to nurture two little lives and turn them into great people, and you’re off to a damn good start.”

She stares at me for a moment with those guileless blue eyes before crawling to her knees and planting a warm, deep kiss on my lips. I wrap my arms around her and feel her pushing me backwards, so I lie down on the sofa, taking her with me and allow her to do what she wants with me.

*-*

“What did she do last night?” I ask Jason over coffee in the morning, curious about Carla’s activities.

“According to surveillance, she sat on her back deck all night and cried. She went inside a few times to refresh a warm drink, but she sat on her patio for the entire night.” I twist my lips. It’s going to take a lot more sad nights to match the tears you’ve ripped from my Butterfly, you worthless cunt.

“I had two more guys fly in this morning,” Jason says, “to replace the guys that watched Morton last night. They’ll rotate for twelve hour shifts so that everyone is sharp.”

“Good man,” I say finishing my coffee. “Let’s round everyone up and get to the courthouse.

Our entourage is getting better. We’ve learned how to pace ourselves to keep up with Butterfly as she’s sprinting up the stairs to the courthouse. The press no longer tries to get pictures of her. They’re lucky if they can even get a video of her.

She seems a bit more amiable when she enters the courtroom today. We take our seats and the regular pomp and circumstance ensues while the defendant, judge and jury arrive. Then the prosecution calls its next witness.

As it turns out, there were other officers that asked questions about the case in the beginning, but all trails ran cold since George Sullivan was the lead officer on the case. So, even though the other officers testified about working the case, none of them ever had any concrete evidence or leads to follow. I often wondered how George Sullivan was able to bury everything so thoroughly, or if he had a partner at the time. How was it possible that even other officers couldn’t find any evidence? Hell, I didn’t even know that there were other officers involved. Even Sullivan himself said that he was the only officer on the case, but that’s probably because there was no one else assigned to the case and no one else had any evidence. I guess it’s pretty easy to bury a case when there’s an entire community involved in the cover-up.

As Sullivan is claiming diminished capacity, he had to be examined by the state’s psychiatrist as well as his own. It’s not to establish that he was crazy at the time of the attack, but that he felt that he was in imminent danger or fear of his life when the incident occurred.

While the state’s psychiatrist doesn’t dismiss that Sullivan was afraid of some type of retaliation, he doesn’t appear to have been afraid for his life. It was more likely that he was trying to fit in, which he admitted to in relation to his participation in unrelated events.

After lunch, court is back in session and…

“The state calls Amber Whitmore to the stand.”

Butterfly’s eyebrow rises, but she shows no other emotion. No doubt she, like many other onlookers, would wonder why the state is calling Amber Whitmore to the stand before Madison Perry or why she’s been called to the stand at all. A while back, when I knew we would be going to trial, I let Larson I was aware that she knew something about the attack and that’s why she left. I told him about the conversation that we had when I talked to her a couple of years ago and she responded to tell her brother and father that their secret was “safe” with her and to leave her alone. I told him to do what he wanted with the information. Apparently, he subpoenaed her.

“Permission to treat this witness as hostile,” Mr. Larson asks.

“Granted,” the judge says.

“That won’t be necessary,” Amber says matter-of-factly. “You’ve got me here now; I’ll tell you what I know.”

“That’s good to know, Ms. Whitmore,” Mr. Larson says, and Amber nods once. “Why are you here today?”

“Because you served me with a subpoena,” she replies.

“You’re not here to share what you know about this case?” he asks.

“At the risk of sounding callous, Mr. Larson, I could have gone my entire life hearing nothing else about this case or this place. I’ll tell you what I know because you’ve threatened me with contempt of court if I don’t. So, let’s get on with this so I can go home.” She folds her arms.

“Very well, then. How was your relationship with your father and your brothers?”

“My relationship with Landon was just fine. With Cody and my father, it was strained at best,” she replies.

“Who is Landon?” Mr. Larson asks.

“My oldest brother,” she replies. “He was rarely home throughout his senior year.”

“And why do you say that your relationship with Cody and Franklin Whitmore was strained?”

“Cody was an entitled jerk,” Amber reveals, “and he was my father’s favorite child.”

“Objection, your honor, speculation,” Drake interjects.

“The witness is only explaining the relationship as she saw it,” Mr. Larson retorts.

“Then she must make it clear that she’s stating opinion and not declarations of fact,” the judge says. “Sustained. Continue.” Mr. Larson rolls his eye.

“Ms. Whitmore, why did you say that Cody was your father’s favorite child?”

“Because from what I could see, Cody could do no wrong. Cody was caught out after curfew and brought home by the police more times than I could count. Anybody else caught out that many times would have been taken in for repeated violations, but not Cody. I don’t know what happened with the arrest records or the tickets that he was supposed to get, but the next thing I knew, he got that Jeep. No more arrests, because he was in a car instead of out loitering somewhere with his friends.

“What did that say to me? Get caught out after curfew, get a car—but only Cody, because the first time I got caught out after curfew, I was grounded for a month.”

“I see,” Mr. Larson says. “Is there anything else that made you feel like Cody was the favorite?”

“Too much to name—what do you want to know?” Amber asks.

“Let’s talk about the day you knew anything about Anastasia Steele,” Mr. Larson says. Amber scoffs.

“Well,” Amber begins. “Let’s see. I’ll have to start that with Carly Madison…”

“Objection, your…”

“I’m only talking about their relationship I’m not accusing her of anything I can’t even mention her name?” Amber blurts out all in one breath.

“Counselor,” the judge says, “give the witness an opportunity to respond before you object to it.”

Chastised, Drake takes his seat.

“Continue, Ms. Whitmore,” Mr. Larson says. Amber rolls her eyes.

“If I were to speculate,” she begins, throwing a glare at Drake, “I would say that Carly was at our house more than she was at home. Sometimes, she would just be hanging out at our house just waiting for Cody to get home, and my mother and father let her do it. If Cody was considered entitled, Carly was much worse. There were even times that my mom would call her parents to tell them that Carly was spending the night. I don’t even know what the context was. How do you possibly get away with spending the night at your boyfriend’s house at least twice a week when you’re 15 or 16?

“What’s more, she slept in his room! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what was going on, but apparently, her parents—and mine—were okay with this kind of behavior.”

“What does that have to do with Anastasia Steele?” Mr. Larson asks.

“When Anastasia and her father showed up accusing him of raping her, that was the first time I had any idea who she was and even I thought it was a bunch of bull. Girls all over the school were drooling all over him, and he had ready and willing pus… coochie delivered right to his doorstep. Why would he need to go and rape some girl?”

“Did something happen to change your mind?” Mr. Larson asks.

“A whole lot happened,” she says. “I remember one night a bunch of kids showed up at our house. I thought they were going to some kind of party because they were all wearing dark clothes. Carly laughed when she saw me, thinking I wanted to tag along—which I didn’t. My brother told me that it was way out of my league anyway. I recognized the flunkies that usually hung around my brother and his girlfriend, but Vincent stood out to me that night.”

Vincent Sullivan raises his gaze to her, looking at someone else in the courtroom for only the second time—the first one being his brother. Drake is at the ready with his objection, I’m sure.

“Why?” Mr. Larson asks.

“Because it was unusual,” she says. “He never hung out with this crowd that I knew of, and I would have known… because I liked him.”

“You liked him how?”

“He’s very attractive,” she replies, “and for a while, I thought he was gay, but I found out that he wasn’t. He had a girlfriend. That made him off limits, but I still liked him, and I could pick him out of a crowd. I started having second thoughts that night because if he was one of the people who hung around my brother…” She trails off.

“You didn’t like your brother’s friends?” Mr. Larson asks. Amber shrugs.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t like his friends. I didn’t want to be around anybody who hung around my brother. It’s like I told you, my brother was a jerk. I don’t know if he’s still a jerk because I haven’t talked to him in several years, but he was a real jerk then. You know what they say—birds of a feather flock together, and I had no desire to be in that flock.

“When Cody got home that night, he was wearing a cape over his clothes, and he smelled like he had gone camping. My brother never went camping a day in his life. The next day, it was all over the news about the girl that was found beaten and burned damn near dead, and that Monday, it was all over the school. A little while later, we found out that it was Anastasia Steele and I never put the two together until…” She trails off again.

“Until what?” Mr. Larson presses.

“Summer sucked,” she says after a short pause. “Landon and Cody could come and go as they pleased, but I spent the entire summer on lockdown because of what happened to ‘that Steele girl.’” She uses the finger quotes to illustrate that I was a topic of conversation related to her shut-in. “As a result, I was home when the money transaction took place.”

“What money transaction?” he asks.

“My father handed $750,000 to Anastasia’s father to ‘keep her quiet.’ About what, I never really found out, but I had my suspicions. It was either about the ‘supposed rape’ that I thought was impossible, or it was about the attack. We had heard nothing else about the supposed rape that I knew of and it had happened months before. She had bigger fish to fry with the attack. So, I assumed that it had something to do with the attack.”

“Why didn’t you say anything before?” Larson asks.

“Because I was afraid,” she admits. “I was afraid of my father, but he’s dead now. So, I can tell what I know. I couldn’t wait to get out of Green Valley—to run away from a truth I couldn’t tell. My father wouldn’t pay for my college, so I just left. I got a job and paid my own way through school. I moved to New York, got married, started my own business, and never looked back. None of them attended my wedding when I got married, and I didn’t attend his funeral when he died. I had no intention of ever coming back to Nevada until I got the subpoena and threatened with jail time if I refused.

“I moved away, and I was just glad to be away from it, but it was like it never happened. Nothing happened, nobody said anything—not even Anastasia—I was wondering if the entire thing was in my imagination. Not even the cops said anything. How could the cops not say anything? This was a horrible beating of a young girl in a small upscale part of Las Vegas, and nobody said anything, not even the police. At the time, the only thing that assured me that it wasn’t in my imagination was that the whole town was running scared because nobody knew what happened—or at least, nobody said so. We had crazy curfews. We had to travel in packs, like wolves. The entire thing was surreal.

“When I heard what happened to the girl, I thought her family would go nuts—demanding answers and seeking justice… but nothing… not a peep. There’s no amount of money that you could pay me to be silent if somebody did to my kid what they did to her.

“But you did have a price, Ms. Whitmore. What was it?” Mr. Larson asks.

“He threatened me to shut the hell up, so I did. I paid it, and now I’m speaking. My father was a cold, wicked, heartless man, and I don’t doubt for one second that he was aware of my brother’s involvement before the incident occurred. Or maybe he wasn’t, but he knew that Cody was going to do something. That’s just how they were. The amount of money that exchanged hands that night… I already knew they had paid for that girl’s silence. Now, I know why.”

“No further questions.”

“Your witness, Mr. Drake,” the judge says.

“Ms. Whitmore, weren’t you always jealous of your brother?” Drake asks.

“Yes, I was. I was jealous that he was the apple of Daddy’s eye and that he could never do anything wrong, but more so, I was jealous because my father never abused, mistreated, or ignored him. He saved that for me.”

“Well, if you were jealous of your brother and you have that much contempt for him, why should we believe you today? Isn’t this just another way for you to get back at him for how you felt about him all these years?” Drake continues. Amber laughs.

“That’s brilliant the way you brushed right over that part where I was abused, mistreated, and ignored so that you could focus on the fact that I was jealous, but that’s okay. I really don’t care if you believe me or not. I came to tell my story and I did. Now if you let that little weasel go—you let that little criminal walk—that’s on you, not me.”

“Objection, your honor. Cody Whitmore is not on trial here.”

“Sustained.”

“You’re assuming that I’m talking about my brother,” she says. “I’m talking about anybody that had anything to do with this event—my father, my brother, my mother, any of the people who beat her, the people who watched, the cop who ‘investigated’ the crime, the prosecutors who didn’t dive deeper and demand more evidence and investigation, the parents who were willfully blind to the possibility that their children could have something to do with this: ‘Not my little Johnny, no…’” she says in a mocking voice.

“… Her parents for not being proactive and trying to seek justice on her behalf; the community for not demanding answers to what happened to this little girl in their neighborhood on their watch… Everybody failed her! Everybody’s a criminal as far as I’m concerned. That’s why I don’t live here anymore!” Amber is passionate with her response.

“Since you’re feeling like the neighborhood and everyone else had such a civic duty, why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you say anything?” Drake accuses.

“To whom?” she asks animated, raising her hands to the defense attorney. “To the ‘investigating’ officer? To some other police officer? To my parents who—as far as I knew—were in on the whole cover-up? Everything I had was hearsay. Who was going to corroborate it—the people who were busy sweeping that shit under the rug?”

“Ms. Whitmore…” the judge warns.

“My mom knew,” she continues, gesturing across the courtroom to a woman about Carla’s age with dark hair, staring at Amber. “I’m sure that my father didn’t let her in on everything, but she heard things just like I did. She knew and she covered it up, too. What was I supposed to do, go to her? I sure as hell couldn’t go to my father!”

“But even as an adult, you didn’t do or say anything. You just left…”

“You’re damn straight I left!” she confirms. “An entire community cover-up and now the kids that did this to a 15-year-old girl are all adults and I’m going to stick around? Hell, no! Lil ole me and my single voice crying out for justice in a sea of piranhas? Who was going to protect me… you?” He pauses for a moment before asking his next question.

“Maybe everyone else in the community was as scared as you to come forward, feeling like something would happen to them, too.” Amber purses her lips and shakes her head.

“Maybe you’re right, but everybody’s hands weren’t tied, sir,” she says finitely. “I was in a bad situation because my family was right in the middle of it, and I was afraid of my father, but no matter how you try to paint that picture, everybody’s hands weren’t tied, and you know that. That’s why we’re here now.”

Drake glares at her, no doubt trying to discredit her testimony, but throws in the towel once he realizes that his crusade is futile.

“No more questions, but I do have an objection, your honor.”

“And that is?” the judge asks.

“I fail to see what this witness’s testimony has to do with this particular case,” he says.

“Mr. Larson?” the judge asks.

“It places the defendant in Mr. Whitmore’s company, very possibly on the date of the attack hours before it occurred—which lends to the level of premeditation and intent as well as to the degree that the defendant also benefited from the alleged cover-up.”

The courtroom is quiet as the explanation sinks in. I was wondering what good Amber’s testimony was going to do myself… until now.

“Do you have any objection to that reasoning, Mr. Drake?” the judge asks.

“No, your honor,” he replies.

“Based on that information, do you have any further questions for this witness?”

“No, your honor.”

“Mr. Larson is this witness excused?” the judge asks.

“Yes, your honor,” he says.

Upon getting official confirmation from the judge that she is excused, Amber Whitmore bolts from the stand and out of the courtroom. No doubt, she’s got her luggage in a rental in the parking lot and is headed straight to the airport. I would if I were her.

There are a couple more testimonies from miscellaneous witnesses, including the dispatcher that took the call from Sullivan and the owners of the property where Butterfly was beaten… Carly Madison Perry’s parents. The state couldn’t charge them with anything because the property had public access and without George Sullivan’s cooperation on the evidence found there, the Madisons couldn’t be charged with anything. Additionally, they didn’t find out until much later that the incident occurred on their property.

Butterfly isn’t so worn out this time when we get back to the hotel, but I hate it that she feels this place is such a prison.

“So, I have an idea,” I say, taking her hand when we get back to the suite. “The days are going to be awful, we know that, but we’ve got to do everything we can to make it through however long we have to stay in this place. So, let’s make the evenings and nights as fun and relaxing as we can.” She scoffs a bit.

“I don’t know how fun we can make this place, Christian,” she says. “I mean, I realize that it’s Vegas and all, but it’s just hell to me.”

“Can I ask you a question?” I say. She shrugs and nods. “Besides the trial, has it really been hell here?”

“You mean besides the Paparazzi and the Twitterpated bitch?” she asks.

“In all honesty, baby, that could happen anywhere,” I remind her. She shrugs.

“So… if you had a bad day back at home, where would you want to go?” She sighs.

“Does this place have a treadmill?”


ANASTASIA

Honestly, that’s all I wanted last night—to exhaust myself on some kind of workout machine. I would have preferred a heavy bag, but that wasn’t an option. So, the treadmill it was. I couldn’t quite recall the workout that I was doing on our six-week-weekend after I had the twins, or I would have done that, but I’m sure I ran a marathon on the treadmill before I showered and quickly talked to my babies before I passed out in bed without dinner.

Knowing that I went to sleep last night with my hair wet—which is an absolute no-no—my inner alarm wakes me to flat iron it with steam. While I’m sitting there toiling with my hair, I’m watching some morning show on television… more like listening to it. Some show called LV CawfieTyme is playing in the background as I straighten my hair. Two female hosts are talking about local news.

There’s a kind of funny story about a guy who just moved into a Las Vegas valley home and decided to test and see if there are thieves in his area. His surveillance camera captured footage of a guy stealing a package off his porch. He shared the footage with the morning show in hopes that someone might recognize him, but only to expose the guy for being a thief. There’s no need to apprehend the guy or the package as the box is filled with dog poop.

The Clarion Hotel and Casino is going to be demolished next week. There’s a detailed diatribe about when it opened and how many people owned it. Apparently, it’s a big thing when one of the casinos is demolished, I suppose.

“Everybody knows, though, that the hottest topic is that Green Valley assault case,” one of the hosts says. I try not to drop my damn flat iron since I know they’re talking about my case, unless there’s another Green Valley assault case in progress right now.

“Yeah,” the other host says. “As I’m told, a Seattle socialite has come back to Vegas seeking ‘justice’ on a group of kids who jumped her 15 years ago.” This bitch actually did the finger quotes around the word “justice.” I have to stop straightening my hair and put the flatiron down before I burn myself.

“What’s with the finger quotes?” the first host—a blonde—asks. “If somebody beat the snot outta you, wouldn’t you want justice, too?”

“There are fights in high school every day,” the second host—a redhead—replies. “I just think this one’s been sensationalized a bit.” The blonde’s eyes widen, and she clasps her hands together.

“How so?” she asks the redhead.

“Well, this happened in 2001—14 years ago. It got a lot of press for a minute, because nobody really knows what happened, but then it died. Then, two years ago, she marries a billionaire and suddenly, it’s front page news again. That’s 2013. What happened for 12 years that it wasn’t so important, and now it is?

“I completely think it’s sensationalized,” the redhead continues. “She’s staying at the Waldorf right now with something like 50 people and she had some woman thrown out because she tried to say, ‘Hi.’ Careful, Vegas. If you bring her an espresso with too little froth or her caviar is room temperature, she might have your restaurant closed down.”

That’s not what the fuck happened, and I should call that station and expose that bitch for slander, but I’m sure it would only make matters worse.

“Um, Peggy, I’m not one to dispute you, but I really want to avoid a lawsuit here,” the blonde retorts before looking down at some papers on the table in front of her. “First of all, the Seattle ‘socialite’ is Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey, business-woman and psychiatrist…”

“There’s a combination,” Peggy comments sarcastically. The blonde raises her eyes from her papers for a moment.

“Yes, it is, isn’t it? And impressive at that,” she says before looking back down at her papers. “Although all of the members of her party have not been identified, who has been identified are her husband, her father, and her personal assistant, and the party numbers 16, not 50…”

“Well, she…”

“Let me finish, Peggy, and then you can have your comments,” the blonde says. I still haven’t gotten her name yet.

“Well! Excuse me! I thought we were hosting a morning talk show!” Peggy retorts.

“We are, and I’m talking. You’ve given your opinion and what you think are the facts and I didn’t interrupt you. Show me the same courtesy while I give the facts that I’ve found.”

There’s silence for about five seconds before the blonde continues.

“As I said, her party numbers 16, which includes friends, family members, and various members of her security. Concerning the woman who was thrown out of the Waldorf, you’re correct that she tried to speak to Anastasia Grey, but that’s not why she was thrown out of the hotel. The woman who we’ll just refer to by her Twitter handle—Sassyvelmalou—tweeted a derogatory statement about Anastasia complete with a picture because Anastasia’s security asked Velma not to bother her…”

And there’s that picture of me again looking like hell warmed over sitting in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria while the host is still talking.

“Now, the Waldorf has guaranteed Anastasia’s privacy during her stay for the duration of this ordeal and this woman violated that policy. What’s more, I’ve since learned that Anastasia wasn’t feeling well, which is why her security asked this stranger to step back. The Waldorf has since issued a statement to that exact fact, so I just don’t want to see the show get sued because you may have gotten your facts mixed up.”

Peggy tries to interject, but the blonde holds up a finger to indicate that she’s not finished.

“According to the information I was able to ascertain from public records, Anastasia Grey—then Anastasia Steele—was attacked and brutalized by a mob of teenagers, both male and female, badly burned, and left unconscious and naked in a field. The beating left her comatose and she lost her baby.” She lays the paper on the table and continues to speak as various members of the audience gasp.

“Now, whatever you may think of her, that was brutal and unnecessary. Where I come from, ‘getting jumped’ means three or four girls are angry with you, so they fight you after school. And then somebody gets suspended, may get expelled, and if it was really bad, somebody might be arrested. In all my years on earth, I have never seen anyone get beaten, tormented, and left for dead, and that’s considered getting ‘jumped.’ I’ve reported on supposed gang initiations that were less brutal.

“What was done to that poor girl was vicious, evil, and criminal, and anyone who thinks it was less than that needs their head examined. Oh, and by the way, if I didn’t have the resources to go after the people who wronged me and killed my baby at the age of 15, but after 12 years, I did, I’d go after them, too.”

The studio audience applauds once she’s finished with her information and Peggy sits there looking a bit sheepish.

“I’m not saying that what happened to her wasn’t horrible,” Peggy back-peddles once the applause dies down. “I was just pointing out that as horrible as it may be, it wasn’t pursued until she became a billionaire.”

“Well, there’s an explanation for that, too,” the blonde says. “But I won’t debate it on air. You may want to Google the name George Sullivan.” She clasps her hands over her papers. “You went to Green Valley High, didn’t you Peggy?”

Peggy suddenly falls silent while the first host awaits her answer. Getting none, the blonde continues.

“It was right around the same time Anastasia Steele was there, wasn’t it?” the blonde presses. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you say that you were the class of ’03?” There’s more silence before Peggy responds.

“I don’t know anything about that beating,” Peggy says coolly. Oh, now it’s a beating! “I didn’t hang out with any of those people. My family had just moved to Green Valley the year that happened.”

“I wasn’t insinuating that you knew anything,” the blonde says, matter-of-factly. “I was just wondering what the social environment was like during that time. You see from most of the on-the-street interviews that we’ve done, most people thought it was just urban legend, and now we discover that it’s true. A police cover-up, a girl beaten nearly to death, an entire community and no one has a clue what happened… what was it like being on the inside of that community?”

Peggy throws a hateful glare at her co-host and narrows her eyes. If she doesn’t have anything to hide, why is she so defensive? She was so verbal a moment ago about the temperature of my fucking caviar, and now she’s all mum and I don’t know anything about that beating. She probably knows something. I couldn’t pick her out of a crowd, but she probably knows something, if only by hearsay.

“All I know is that we had strict curfews and our parents wouldn’t let us out after a certain time for months. That entire situation totally ruined my entire school year,” she says haughtily.

“Hmm, is that right?” the blonde says. “I can’t even imagine what it did to Anastasia Steele’s school year.”

The silence in that studio could be heard in space.

“We’ll be back after these messages,” the blonde says before the screen fades to black.

Peggy… her name doesn’t ring a bell, her face isn’t familiar, and I really don’t give a fuck who she is right now. If she’s involved at all, somebody will roll on her ass in hopes of a lighter sentence. She was probably just another one of those entitled cunts at that school who felt like I got what I deserved, or she just didn’t care.

I turn the television to a jazz music station and finish straightening my hair.

*-*

Every day, I’m becoming more and more weary of the dance that occurs as we’re trying to get up these stairs. Today, I nearly pass Jason in my mad dash to the front door. I’m on the morning news shows. They’re using whatever pictures they can find of me. Who cares what they get today?

It’s Thursday, and I’m told the prosecution is calling its last witness today, which is most likely Carly Madison Perry. That’s going to be four days—or three and a half—of nothing but prosecution testimony. Is the defense going to be just as long?

As usual, we take our seats and, Vincent Sullivan is led in, then the judge and the jury and once the movement has stopped, the prosecution calls their final witness.

“The state calls Cody Whitmore to the stand.”

What? What the fuck? What?

Whitshit is escorted into the courtroom in a suit and tie—and shackles!

It does my heart good to see him ushered in like the common criminal that he is, taking the small steps that the shackles allow with the clanging of the chains announcing his arrival.

But why is he here? I thought Carly was testifying against everyone.

He quickly scans the room and does a double take. His eyes dart around to several locations and his face immediately blanches pale. He stops in his tracks as he looks around the room and his two uniformed escorts have to urge him forward to the stand. When he takes his seat, he immediately locks his gaze with mine and his eyes narrow. I glare right back at him.

How’s that tooth, Whitshit?

“State your name for the record,” he’s told once he’s sworn in.

“Cody Elvin Whitmore,” he says stoically.

“Son of a bitch,” Christian whispers. When I look over at him, he’s glaring at Whitshit. I elbow him to let me in on the secret. He leans over.

“He got a deal, too,” he whispers. “He had to if he’s here.” I look back at Whitshit and I can feel my blood beginning to boil.

Son of a bitch. This is what he meant when he said, “Expect anything.”

“Cody, do you remember the events of the afternoon and evening of March 10, 2001?”

“Vividly,” he responds.

“You went to school that day like any other day, correct?”

“Yep,” Whitshit says.

“And tell the court what happened after school.”

“We were going to do a BB that night…”

“What’s a BB?” Mr. Larson asks. Cody turns to me and smiles.

“A bitch branding,” he says, coolly. I feel a chill as I look into his dark eyes. I remember seeing them that night, through the hood and mask, just like I saw hers. They looked right at me, stared into my terrified eyes, laughed at my tears, and tormented me. And now, he’s sitting in the witness stand, jeering at me and taunting me as he tells the story.

I open my mouth and tap my front tooth, the one of his that I know I knocked out and raise my brow at him. That smug smirk falls from his face.

“And how did you know what a bitch branding was, Cody?” Mr. Larson asks.

“I’d heard about them,” he answers.

“Heard about them?” Mr. Larson asks. “From whom?”

“Objection, your honor. Relevance?” The defense pipes in.

“Sustained,” the judge says. “Get to the point, counselor.”

“I’m only trying to establish if this was a regular occurrence in the community, your honor.”

“Careful, Mr. Larson,” the judge says and Mr. Larson nods before turning back to my rapist.

“Cody…” Mr. Larson begins.

“Mr. Whitmore,” Whitshit corrects him.

Mr. Whitmore,” Mr. Larson says sarcastically, “You said that you heard about the bitch brandings—how did you hear about them?” Whitshit smiles and looks at me again.

“People talk,” he says. “You just hear it… around.

“I see. Had you ever been to a bitch branding before this?” Mr. Larson presses.

“Objection! Your Honor, really?” the defense protests.

“Mr. Larson, you’ve been warned,” the judge cautions.

“I didn’t ask if he had ever participated in one. I asked if he had attended one. His presence today already confirms that he participated in one!” Mr. Larson turns an angry glare to Whitshit’s defense attorney.

“You’re treading thin ice, counselor.” Good grief, how many warnings does this guy need? Is he trying to throw the damn case? He better fucking not, or I swear I’ll lose all morals I’ve ever had and hunt him down like a damn dog! He turns back to Whitshit.

“I refuse to answer to prevent self-incrimination,” Whitshit responds with a smile, and the courtroom erupts in murmurs. Sonofabitch! Is this asshole saying that he’s done this shit before? Was it here in Green Valley? Who else is walking around with fucking brands? What the fuck?

“Order!” The judge says as he bangs his gavel. “Order in the court or I’ll have the room cleared.” The courtroom silences after a few moments.

“Does that answer your questions, counselor?” Whitshit says with a smirk.

“Yes, it does,” Mr. Larson says. “And some. Thank you.” Whitshit’s smirk falls again.

“I didn’t give you anything,” he says cockily. “You and I both know that.” Mr. Larson cocks his head at Whitshit.

Mr. Whitmore…” Mr. Larson says his name in that sing-songy way that Mr. Smith says Mr. Anderson in The Matrix, and it makes your skin crawl. I’m sure that Whitshit now wishes he had just let the man call him Cody. “Have you ever heard the term ‘pattern of behavior?’” Whitshit shrugs.

“Why should that mean anything to me?” he says clasping his hands.

“Because you just confirmed one,” Mr. Larson says. Whitshit scoffs.

“How?” he retorts. Mr. Larson turns to the judge.

“He asked,” the judge says, gesturing for Mr. Larson to continue. He turns back to Whitshit.

“You pled your right to silence to prevent self-incrimination when directly asked about bitch brandings. You just implied in a room full of people, including the jury, that you may have…” He turns to the jury and opens his hands in a shrugging manner.

“… Or may not have…” He turns back to Whitshit, “… taken part in a prior bitch branding, a brutal act that now has a name, like hazing. I don’t know how many people in this room have ever heard of that term. I know that in all my years as attorney general, I haven’t. It even has a clever little abbreviation…” He turns to the jury again. “BB,” he says to the jury before turning back to Whitshit.

“So, now, we see that a group of teenagers possibly premeditated an attack on an innocent young girl using an abbreviation that many if not all of you knew. And you just pled the fifth against self-incrimination. Pattern of behavior, Mr. Whitmore,” Mr. Larson finishes. Whitshit turns red with fury.

“I don’t want to testify anymore!” he barks.

“That’s fine,” Mr. Larson says. “You can go back to your cell, but you’ll be forfeiting your plea deal and you’ll have to stand trial. Bailiffs?” Mr. Larson heads back to the table. As the bailiffs move toward Whitshit, he rolls his eyes and sighs.

“Fine! What do you want to know?” he hisses, causing the bailiffs to halt their approach.

“First, I want you to remember that you’re under oath,” Mr. Larson warns, “and just like we found this dirty little secret, I won’t stop until we find every little thing you choose to lie about. Do we understand one another?”

“Objection, your honor, he’s intimidating the witness!”

“Mr. Larson,” the judge warns.

“I’m simply informing him that I will do my job to the best of my abilities should this office discover that he has perjured himself. Do we not warn every witness who sits on this stand against perjury?” he asks. The judge sighs.

“He’s right, Mr. Drake,” the judge cedes, “but get on with it. The witness is already incarcerated for his role in this matter. Can we please get to this case?” Mr. Larson nods.

“You said that you were talking to a group of friends about doing a BB that night,” Mr. Larson says. “What happened next?” Whitshit purses his lips.

“They asked who the candidate was and why,” he says. “I told them it was some little bitch who lied on me about raping her.”

“And who was the candidate?” Mr. Larson asks.

“You mean the bitch?” Whitmore says, stressing the word so hard that it appears to hurt to say it. “Anastasia Steele.”

“Let the record show that Anastasia Steele is now Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey,” Mr. Larson says, and Whitshit scoffs. I shake my head almost infinitesimally.

I’m a doctor. Despite everything that happened, I’m a doctor. When they picked your ass up, when I knocked your tooth out in my husband’s building, you were still nobody. You didn’t even take advantage of your daddy’s name and the family business, crooked though it may have been. You were nothing and you’re less than nothing now, and you have the nerve to sit on the stand like you’re still running shit?

It’s at that moment that I realize just how small he really is. I mean I knew that he was a small man, but I think this is the smallest I’ve ever seen him—that I’ve ever seen anyone. And this is the man who raped me, who helped to orchestrate one of the most horrific events of my entire life and not only am I much, much more than he is all on my own, but also if he wasn’t in those shackles, I could beat him within an inch of his life.

He’s nothing… absolutely nothing, and it took me this long to see it.

I cock my head and look at him like a strange animal. When I was fifteen, he was Satan. He was all powerful and I just wanted to get away from him and this place. Look at me now and look at him. His life is ruined… totally ruined.

I involuntarily scoff a laugh and the room falls silent with many people looking over at me. I clear my throat and pretend to cough.

“I’m sorry,” I say just below a whisper, covering my mouth to conceal my inner smile that has burst through to my lips. I realize when I refocus that I’ve missed some of the testimony.

“Carly couldn’t wait to get her hands on her,” Whitshit says. “All she wanted was for her to shut the hell up.”

Shut the hell up about what? I wasn’t talking to anybody! Nobody would even listen.

“So, you told your girlfriend that you and Ms. Steele had sex, and your girlfriend forgave you, but wanted revenge against Ms. Steele?”

“Looks that way,” Whitshit says.

“Why?” Mr. Larson asks.

“Objection,” Drake says. “The witness can’t testify to what someone else was thinking.”

“Sustained,” the judge says.

“I’m sorry, I’m just trying to figure out the logic here. You were the one who owed Carly Madison loyalty at the time, not Anastasia Steele. If it were true that, as you and the defense would like for us to believe, Anastasia Steele slept with you willingly, it totally escapes me why any woman—even a teenager—would want to beat and torture the girl who slept with her loser boyfriend but completely forgive her loser boyfriend for cheating on her!”

“Objection! Your honor!” Drake nearly yells.

“What?” Mr. Larson says in actual surprise. “I’m just making an observation.”

“You’re stating an opinion, counselor. Get on with the questioning,” the judge says. I feel a chill go down my spine.

“First of all,” Whitshit says, leaning forward in his seat, “Carly was crazy, and crazy in love with me. The combination turned out to be toxic. That’s why I dumped the bitch…”

“At the altar, I’m told,” Mr. Larson says.

“No better place to drive my point home,” Whitshit says proudly. “And second, it was true.”

“What was true?” Mr. Larson says, his brow furrowed.

“That we had sex. I picked up that little troublemaker at school one day and offered to give her a ride home. Yeah, she was a hot little thing and I could tell nobody else had hit it, so I decided to make my move…”

I can feel my chest tighten. Is he really going to tell this story?

“She got in my jeep and we’re driving around, laughing and talking. She’s giggling and giving me all the signs. I drive to a place where we can have some privacy. We climb in the back seat and we’re getting all hot and heavy, and we finally get into it. Yeah, it was rough breakin’ in a virgin, but it wasn’t my first time. I knew what I was doing.”

Oh, God, is he serious? He must be talking about somebody else, because he’s sure as hell not talking about me.

“Next thing I know, she’s in the back seat cryin’. Probably freaked out because she saw I popped her cherry. Now, I got this poser, white trash wannabe cryin’ and bleedin’ all over my seats when a few minutes earlier, everything was all good! So, I told her to get outta my Jeep. I threw her damn bookbag out behind her and left her standing there. I didn’t want anybody to see us together, and nobody would believe I fucked her anyway…”

He’s starting to blur a bit, but I can still hear him loud and clear.

“Yeah, we had sex, but the next thing I know, she and her father or stepfather or whoever the hell he was are at my house telling my dad I raped her!” He throws his hands up and scoffs in disbelief. “Why would I take from her what I could get from anybody? All the girls wanted me. I was the biggest ticket in school! I was already dating the head cheerleader!”

My muscles are tightening, and my body is starting to betray me. If I wasn’t there experiencing that rape first-hand, I would believe everything that’s coming out of his mouth right now. As if I haven’t suffered enough at the hands of this fucker, he turns to me when he drives his point home.

“Yeah, get mad because I left you there and made you walk home, but rape? Please!”

Oh, dear God in heaven. If I have any more epiphanies in this room, my head is going to burst. He was actually pissed at me for crying in his jeep. Does this fucker really believe he didn’t rape me… that he was fucking entitled to do what he did to me? Jesus, I think I’m going to vomit again.

I see the room shaking and I can’t breathe. Christian is in my line of sight, but I can’t hear anything. His mouth is moving, but I can’t hear the words coming out of his mouth. People are moving towards me, but I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe…


A/N: Of course, the writer would know that Cody was getting a plea before the episode was written. However, the reader wasn’t supposed to know until this episode. I mentioned something in chapter 89 of Becoming at Ana’s last session with Ace about Cody’s plea. If you go back and read, it’s not there anymore. You’re not crazy. I jumped the gun when I put it there. I wasn’t supposed to, so I removed it. Sorry for the confusion.

Twitterpated is a phrase that Owl used in “Bambi” to explain to the young men that the birds were in love. I borrowed the phrase in this episode to talk about the Waldorf guest that besmirched Ana on Twitter. 

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

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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 10

I have realized that portions of the Las Vegas storyline must be done in chunks as the ending of certain chapters will only lead to immense frustration. As such, here’s another chunk of Green Valley. Don’t get used to it, though. I’m certain that I can’t maintain this pace indefinitely.

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 10

CHRISTIAN

She doesn’t know that she’s the most important thing in the world to me. She can’t be serious. I’m here, aren’t I?

It’s this place. It’s this place and this trial and shit. She’s not herself. How could she be? This place is worse than hell for her and this trial is Herculean! I know that’s it. That’s got to be it…

Of course, GEH is important to me. It has to be! But she can’t possibly think that my company means more to me than my family… and the twins! Jesus, does she think that I care more about that company than my own children?

Think about it, genius. She’s absolutely right. Whenever your baby bellows, you come running, no matter what’s going on. Even Ros knew that when she threatened to talk to you about taking the company public that it wouldn’t happen. The only one who’s not accepting that GEH is the most important thing in your life right now is you.

She’s not expecting you to let go of the reins of your baby. She’s just expecting to be a priority in your life when she needs to be.

She’s accepting it. She’s being a team player even to her own detriment. You’re the one in denial.

“Fuck,” I hiss quietly, pushing my hands through my hair. No way in hell I’m going to allow my wife to feel like she—and my children—are not a priority in my life. No way in fucking hell. This is going to take a lot of work.

With no other task to keep my mind occupied, I set out to find something for dinner. She’s taking a bath, so I’m certain that she doesn’t want to go out, and room service is just not going to cut it. As I’m trying to consider what to do next, I get a text from Jason.

**Dinner plans, sir? **

While my wife is in the bath, I text Jason to come to our suite.

“Is everything okay, sir?” he asks when he gets there.

“My wife seems to think that my company is more important to me than her and my children,” I reply as I take a seat at the dining table. Jason raises both brows at me but says nothing.

“And, you think so, too,” I add, dismayed.

“GEH has always been the priority in your life, sir,” he says, taking the seat cater-cornered from me. “For over a decade, she’s been your bedfellow even above your fembots. No offense, sir, but she even came before your family sometimes—I mean, before you were married. With all due respect, I hope Her Highness doesn’t expect that to change.”

“She doesn’t,” I say, shamefully. “It’s glaringly and unpleasantly clear that nothing comes before GEH… but I’m a husband and a father now, and that’s got to change. There’s got to be a compromise.”

“You got a call,” he says. I raise my head and he’s giving me a very knowing look.

“You know me well,” I lament. “It really couldn’t be avoided, and I was only on the phone for fifteen minutes.”

“It doesn’t matter, Boss,” and now I’m Boss. “In this place, at this time, she needs you. She needs you more than she ever has. Even with all these people, they would mean nothing if you weren’t here. You are the leading man; you are front and center. The rest of us—we’re just supporting cast. The show can’t go on without you. So, if for any reason you’re not present, including GEH…” He trails off.

“Duly noted,” I say, rubbing my hand across my eyes, “like you wouldn’t believe.” We sit silently for a moment, then I say, “Five o’clock days, Jason.” I raise my gaze to him, and his brows rise again.

“Really?” he asks. I nod.

“Even I know that it’s going to be impossible all the time, but the late evenings are going to be the exception, not the norm. I’m going to need you to help me with this.”

“How so?” he asks. I shrug.

“I don’t know—give me a ring or send me a text at a quarter to, reminding me what time it is, I guess.” He twists his lips and nods.

“I can do that,” he says. Good… that’s a start.

“Nothing on Drake yet, I suppose,” I comment. He shakes his head.

“I haven’t heard anything from Alex,” he replies. “I’m not really sure there’s much that we can do except make him a bit uncomfortable, unless we find some dirt on him.” I shrug.

“There’s always something to be found,” I reply, “and if not, then we’ll make him fucking uncomfortable.” Even David’s defense attorney didn’t piss me off like this guy. I wouldn’t mind seeing him panhandling for food after what he’s put my Butterfly through.

“Why must every defense attorney I’ve ever come in contact with be such a fucking sleaze?” I ask, mainly as a rhetorical question.

“Well, think about it,” Jason says. “This is the third trial that we’ve been to in as many years. In each of the trials, all the defendants had a little bit of money or were part of a high-profile case. Beat that rap and you can write your own ticket but consider this. What kind of person does it take to defend someone that they clearly know is guilty?

“David kidnapped Her Highness and chained her to a bed. At least five people saw that. We had video of her kidnapping and a voice recording of her begging for help, yet that broad still tried to paint Her Highness as the villain and the indirect cause of her own kidnapping. And let’s not even rehash the defense of the batty blonde bitch who shot me. Seriously, how can we even begin to justify that level of sleazoid?

“And now, we’re looking at a group of kids—now adults—who is looking at, in the very least, manslaughter. We’re going to see some defenses worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy, trust me.”

I’m beginning to wonder what kind of can of worms we’ve opened. This isn’t going to be one clean trial and the bad guys get locked up. This isn’t even going to be one clean trial. Several people have been arrested for what they did to Butterfly. She’s going to have to go through this over and over and over again. Will she even be able to tolerate that?

The only comfort that I’m getting from any of this is that Madison-Perry and Van Dyke have already taken a plea. Which means that they’re already in jail and can help put away their accomplices. I don’t look forward to the next several days of testimony any more than Butterfly does.

“Where is she now?” he asks.

“She’s in the bath,” I say, “boiling off the day, she said. She had two vodka rocks at the bar, and she hasn’t even eaten yet.” I remember promising her a double shot of vodka while we were in court and she sought it out on her own before I could keep my promise.

“So, she’s going to need something with a little weight to it,” Jason acknowledges. “I’ve never known her to be allergic to anything. Have you?”

“Nothing but beef when she was pregnant. What did you have in mind?”

“Something exotic,” he says. “I think you could use some help tonight.”

“I don’t like surprises, Jason,” I warn. He purses his lips and cocks his head at me.

“Have I ever steered you wrong?” he asks. I don’t reply. He hasn’t. “Mm-hmm. Give me half an hour.”

I use that half-hour to reflect on things that need to be done to accomplish this compromise that I need for my family and my company. She’s been spending more time at GEH as of late. She even has her own office now, right down the hall from mine. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that any woman would be worthy of having a space like that in my building—half-owner of my company, wielding the same power that I do… not even Ros.

I’m constantly in awe of her—of her strength and her intelligence, how she changed my life so drastically when I wasn’t even expecting it. How I would be absolutely nothing without her right now…

I walk to the en suite and peek inside. Her hair is wet and she’s sitting in the bathtub. She’s facing away from the door just staring out of the window at the night and the lights over the strip. I can almost guess that she’s staring at nothing.

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I quietly enter the bathroom and retrieve a comb from the vanity before kneeling behind her on the floor. Placing a towel on the floor, I realize that her hair still has conditioner in it. I pull her hair from the bath water and, starting with the ends, I gently begin to comb the tangles out. It takes several minutes, but she sits quietly and allows me to proceed. I retrieve the detachable shower head and set the water temperature at lukewarm. She holds her head back and allows me to rinse the conditioner out. I gently wring the excess water from her long tresses and give it another comb through.

“Dinner will be here soon,” I say. She sighs heavily.

“Would you like for me to dry your hair?” I ask. She doesn’t respond.

“Would you like for me to braid it?” I ask.

“Yes, please,” she says softly. Thank God. I thought she wasn’t speaking to me!

I carefully separate her hair into three sections and begin the task of braiding it into a long, beautiful braid. I fasten the end with a ponytail holder and retrieve a bath blanket.

“Come on, Butterfly,” I say, holding it open for her. “Dinner will be here soon.”

I help her stand from the bathtub and she walks into the bath blanket. She wraps it around her body as I use a second towel to squeeze and dry the excess water from her hair. I hear the doorbell and realize that Jason has returned with dinner.

“Come out, soon. That’s dinner,” I say. She nods and I kiss her on the cheek before going out to greet Jason. He has two bags of food when he enters, and I set the table for two.

“What did you get?” I ask

“Indian,” he says as he begins to empty the bags. “Coconut goat, lamb shahi korma, shrimp curry, tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, seekh kabob and shrimp tandoori. I also got some cheese naan and sweet mango chutney.” Everything smells really good.

“The servings are small,” I say. I’ve tasted several cuisines, but I don’t think I’ve had authentic Indian before.

“Trust me, you’ll have leftovers,” he says. “Whatever entrée you choose, take a portion of rice—about the size of a small ice-cream scoop—and put it on the plate first, then put the entrée over it. Take small amounts, Boss. This stuff is rich.”

He shows me what each entrée is, and I taste each one. He’s right, it’s rich… and delicious. The mango chutney looks like orange marmalade and is very sweet, not my preference. I’ll let Butterfly have that if she wants it.

“I know she’s a Cabernet girl, and that she’s had two vodkas already, but A, a Pinot Noir is going to pair best with the richness of the food and B, she’s going to have some good substance with the food. So, she’ll be fine, even though she’s already had a couple of drinks. I was able to secure a decent rosé from the concierge, probably not the million-dollar bottles that you’re accustomed to, but he assures me that it’s not a bad blend.”

I nod. I don’t know how Butterfly is going to feel about the Pinot Noir. However, even though she prefers Cabernet, I know that’s not the only wine she’ll drink.

“Thanks, Jason. I think it’s safe to say that we’re in for the night,” I inform him.

“Then, I’ll see you in the morning,” he says with a nod and leaves the suite. I leave the covers over the food so that it doesn’t get cold. Then, I go back to the room to retrieve my Butterfly.

She’s standing there staring into the bureau drawer at her night clothes with her towel still wrapped around her and her braid falling incredibly long down her back. She’s not moving—she just looks like she’s daydreaming. When I step up behind her, she raises her gaze to me in the mirror. It’s unassuming and has no malice. She’s just… standing there.

I look down in the drawer and remove a flannel shirt. It looks warm and comfortable and I think it’ll fit the mood. I hand it to her and kiss her on the cheek again, leaving her to change.

The rosé is already slightly chilled, not too cold, so I uncork it to allow it to breathe. I retrieve two wine glasses as well as two bottles of Voss from the minibar. I doubt that she was concerned about being hydrated while she was drinking. When I turn around, she’s walking across the living room in her bare feet and button-up flannel shirt.

“I’ve never tried Indian before. I hope you like it,” I say.

“I love Indian food,” she says as she takes a seat at the table, her feet underneath her in the chair. “Mmm, that smells like curry.”

“It is,” I say, “curry shrimp, to be exact.” I put a scoop of rice on her plate.

“You can give me more,” she says.

“It’s very rich,” I tell her, “and we have three entrées.”

“And you can give me more rice,” she says. I shrug and scoop more rice into her plate. She looks at me expecting, so I scoop even more onto her plate.

“Thank you,” she says, taking one of the containers with the entrées. “What’s this?”

“Coconut goat,” I reply.

“Ooooooo!” she sings, placing a respectable amount of goat and gravy over a portion of her rice. “And this?” she asks as I fill her water glass. I look over at the second entrée.

“Lamb shaki something,” I say, now pouring the wine. She laughs.

“Lamb shahi korma?” she corrects me. I shrug.

“Sounds right,” I say, taking my seat and placing some rice on my plate.

She places some of the lamb and the shrimp curry on her plate over the rice, then places some of the loose meats and vegetables on the side. She looks at the last two containers. Opening one, she sees the mango chutney. She puts a small amount on a small saucer and tears off a piece of the cheese bread for dipping. She opens that last one and produces something that looks like moist donut holes covered in coconut shavings. She removes two of them with a spoon and put them on the saucer with the chutney.

“Do you know what that is?” I ask. Jason didn’t tell me. She nods, and I look her expecting.

“It’s gulab jamun,” she says. “It’s kind of hard to explain. It’s a spongy round cake made with powdered milk, filled with a nut stuffing, and soaked in honey syrup. It’s more than that, but that’s the best way to explain it.” My brow furrows.

“That sounds very sweet,” I say.

“It is,” she replies. I shake my head and continue placing entrées over my rice.

“Mmm,” she says with appreciation while taking a mouthful of food. “Thish ish delishish,” she says shamelessly with her mouth full.

“I’m glad you approve,” I say. “I’ll let Jason know.”

“Tell him that I’ll be eternally grateful if he can procure some of these kabobs for lunch tomorrow.”

“Will do,” I say, taking a forkful of the food. It really is very tasty. We eat in silence for a while with Butterfly appreciating her meal, including the rosé.

“I want a copy of my hospital records from here,” she says. “Even as a doctor, it never occurred to me that something with my head had to cause the coma. Of course, it had to—I had two hematomas. There’s a whole lot that could explain.”

“Such as?” I ask between bites.

“Adrenaline tears,” she says. “They may not be adrenaline tears. They may be something else. I rub my forehead… I used to rub fire into my forehead before I started rubbing my scar. Where was the hematoma—was one of them on my forehead? Was that nervous tick some phantom pain that I didn’t recognize like the throbbing I get when I rub my scar? And the fact that I faint when I get really upset…”

“Wouldn’t Dr. Hill have seen any of those things when you had the accident?” I ask. She shrugs.

“Maybe,” she says. “Who knows? I’m not a neurologist, so I couldn’t tell you. If none of them left any scar tissue behind, maybe not, but I still want to know.”

“That’s a good enough reason,” I say, eating more of my meal.

After dinner, we call home and check on the twins. Both children babble incoherently into the phone, which immediately lightens Butterfly’s mood a bit. So as not to be caught too off guard, we have Mac handling the online onslaught of information about the trial, but we take a look at the local news. When the coverage of the story comes on, thankfully, it’s very brief.

“Opening arguments were heard, and testimony began today in the Henderson case of Vincent Sullivan. Sullivan has several charges in the assault of Seattle psychiatrist and billionairess Anastasia Steele-Grey. In 2001, Grey and Sullivan were both students at Green Valley High School. The attack is said to have taken place in Green Valley. Grey and her entourage entered the courthouse this morning in a perfectly choreographed formation that prevented press and even onlookers from getting anywhere near her. Those looking for photo ops were hard-pressed—literally—to even get a good shot of her.

Sources say Dr. Grey testified today along with law enforcement officers, first responders, and the doctor who treated her after the attack. News 13 will keep you abreast of the story as it develops.”

I mute the television and look over at my wife who’s just staring at the screen now. I won’t make love to her tonight. It seems inappropriate under the circumstances.

“What do you want to do?” I ask. She sighs.

“Let’s just go to bed,” she says. She adjusts herself and gets under the covers. It’s way too early to go to sleep, but I’m aware of my wife’s ability to sleep at will and get rid of the day.

I turn off the television and lay next to my wife for hours while she sleeps.

*-*

She’s cold and silent as she gets dressed for court in the morning. Cold may not be the correct word, but she’s very detached… extremely aloof.

She has decided to skip breakfast in case she hears something in the morning that’s going to cause her to vomit again. She has vowed not to skip lunch, however—barf sessions notwithstanding.

We called the hospital to try to get a copy of her medical records that morning. As it turns out, she can get them, but she has to request them in person. As the medical records department is open during the same hours that we’re going to be in court, that’s not going to be an easy task. Also, she’s Anastasia Grey now and she has to prove that she was Anastasia Steele. So, we have to get a copy of her birth certificate and our marriage license sent down here—or go back to Seattle to get it.

We take the same formation when we get to court the next day, but Butterfly warns everyone to keep up with her this time because she doesn’t feel like doing the covert stroll. She prefers to “just get the hell up the stairs.” In the process, she bumps into her father and Allen more than once on the way into the courtroom.

The glasses are off as soon as she clears security and she impatiently waits on the other side of the checkpoint for everyone else to clear. Apparently, she feels that if she can hurry up and get this day started, she can hurry up and get it finished.

We flow into the elevator as usual and other people attempt to get on with us. However, our security purposely stands in front of the elevator doors like sentinels, forming a big wall of man and not allowing anyone else onto the elevator. A few complain that there’s plenty of room for more people, but the bellyaching falls on deaf ears as the doors close.

Butterfly steps off the elevator like she’s alone when the door opens on the eighth floor. She has put on the independent hat and she’s not accepting any tenderness from me. I can tolerate that when she’s angry, even when she felt that she had to put on the brave face at Christmas, but not today. Not now…

“Excuse us for a moment,” I say as I place my hand in the small of my wife’s back and lead her away from our entourage. She has replaced her Jackie O’s by now, but I can still see her puzzled look behind the tinted lenses.

“It is imperative… that you allow me to be here for you,” I say to her questioning eyes. “I have to sit and listen to this—listen to what happened to you… watch what happened to you. It was hell for me sitting through that trial, knowing what David and Harris did to you… but I saved you from that. I couldn’t save you from this. I couldn’t stop this from happening. Yes, I took a call from GEH yesterday, but I’m here for you today. You have to let me be here for you.”

I whisper that last sentence with earnest, and she takes in a quick breath, her expression softening almost to sympathy.

Don’t feel sympathy for me, Butterfly. Just don’t shut me out… please.

Her hand gently cups my cheek and she gazes at me for a moment before she stands on her toes in a vain attempt to reach my lips. I lean down and allow her to plant a tender kiss on my lips. When she pulls away, she gently caresses my cheek and her beautiful blue eyes give me the comfort—and the strength—that I should be giving her. I take her hand in mine and kiss it gently, giving it a squeeze before leading her into the courtroom.


ANASTASIA

I wasn’t trying to shut him out. I was just trying to stand on my own. I felt like I needed him yesterday when we got back to the suite and he wasn’t there for me. I don’t want to fall apart and see that he’s not there for me, so I have to stand on my own.

I didn’t realize that he’s leaning on me as much as I’m leaning on him.

Being able to be there for me and hold me up and rescue me if I need it is what’s holding him together. If I take that away from him, he’ll fall apart. What a predicament to be in.

Ain’t we a pair.

The morning is pretty tame—jurors and Vincent Sullivan enter, nurses and doctors from the hospital testify about my condition, my lack of visitors, how strange they thought it was that nobody cared about me or came to see me until Daddy showed up and slept in my hospital room until it was time for me to be discharged. I’m not completely sure what that had to do with the case in and of itself, but there it was.

Jason got my kabobs for lunch which made me very happy. Daddy called them strange, because they didn’t look like the kabobs that he’s accustomed to. Then, he tasted them… and he ate four of them.

Marilyn tried to eat one, she really did, but it was no use. Ever efficient, Jason got her a strawberry, banana, and spinach smoothie made with almond milk. It seems my husband and I aren’t the only ones who have been keeping an eye on her. Sorry, Mare, there’s no escape. She does, however, seem extremely grateful for the smoothie, and she’s drinking her Gatorade.

The morning was such a breeze, I knew I should have prepared myself for the big boom after lunch, but I didn’t. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for this…

“The state calls Carla Morton to the stand.”

“Who?” I say aloud, completely forgetting where I am.

“Mrs. Grey,” the judge warns, “please refrain from further outbursts.”

I don’t even apologize. I’m too damn shocked to apologize. What the fuck could she possibly have to say?

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The doors open and a woman enters the courtroom, only, it’s not Carla… is it? She looks a bit like Carla, but this woman is more refined. None of that over-the-top, grandiose garb that I’m so accustomed to seeing her in. No—black suit, messy bun with deliberate tendrils framing her face, modest make-up… Even her stride is more contained. You’d think with $100,000 she’d get those brows done, though.

He said it. He fucking said it. Expect anything. What the fuck are you up to, Larson?

“State your name for the record.”

“Carla Louise Morton,” she says clearly.

“Can you tell us your relationship to this case?” She sighs.

“Anastasia Steele-Grey is my daughter.”

“Why are you here today, Mrs. Morton?”

“To tell what I know,” she says.

“Let’s start by making something clear. You’re estranged from your daughter right now, aren’t you?” Mr. Larson asks.

“Yes, I am.”

“Can you tell us why?” he presses.

“Because I was a terrible mother,” she says flatly. “I cared more about myself, the pursuit of my own happiness, and my then-husband than I cared about my child.”

Wha…?

“That all sounds past-tense, Mrs. Morton. It sounds like you’ve seen the err of your ways.”

“I have,” she admits, “but it’s too late, now.”

“You’re still alive and healthy. So is Anastasia… why is it too late?” Carla smiles sadly.

“Some wrongs you just can’t right, counselor,” she says finitely.

Well! Knock me over with a feather.

“So… why the appearance today?” Mr. Larson asks.

“My husband and I helped perpetuate this mess. We helped with the cover-up; we facilitated my daughter’s misery… All of this is because of me. This is the very least I could do, and I do mean the very least.

Who is this woman?

“Why should we believe you, Mrs. Morton? You’ve had plenty of time to come forward. Why now?”

“Why now? Why not now? It’s all coming out anyway.” She shrugs and looks at the jury. “Believe me if you want. Don’t if you don’t. All I can do is tell the truth. If it does any good, wonderful. If it doesn’t, then things won’t be any different than they’ve already been all these years, will they? The same acts of violence will still have been committed against a young girl; the perpetrators—whoever they may be or claim not to be—will have gotten away with it once again, and we’ll all go on our merry way.”

“Are you receiving any kind of reward or compensation for your testimony. Mrs. Morton?” Mr. Larson asks.

“Yes, I am,” she says clearly. I knew it. I knew she wasn’t doing it for free. “I’m receiving immunity from prosecution for anything that may be revealed from my testimony or these proceedings. Yes, I know it’s selfish, but I’m alone and I prefer not to have to live out the remainder of my days in prison.”

Oh… well… that’s… not really compensation. It’s no less than the deal these assholes are getting for turning state’s evidence, and she didn’t burn me with a branding iron.

“Let’s examine that word compensation, Mrs. Morton. You’re a widow, am I correct?”

“Yes,” she says. “My husband died a couple of years ago.”

“You indicated in your deposition that you previously received substantial compensation in relation to this case. Can you tell us in your own words what you meant by that?”

Carla’s eyes go to the ceiling and she looks extremely uncomfortable.

“Let me start by saying that I was never a victim, here,” Carla begins. “I was selfish, and I didn’t take the proper actions at the time. If I had, I could have prevented all of this.” She bites her lip then begins her tale.

“Anastasia came home very late one day. She looked like she had been attacked by wild dogs. She was crying, she was walking funny, and she was bleeding. She told us that she had been raped by one of the boys at school.”

“And who did she say the boy was?”

“Objection,” the defense interjects. “There have been no arrests or convictions in any related rape case.”

“Your Honor, this testimony leads to motive, and she’s not stating for a fact that Anastasia was raped. She’s stating what her daughter told her and the events that followed.”

“Overruled… but tread carefully, Mr. Larson,” the judge warns, and Larson nods before turning back to Carla.

“Continue Mrs. Morton,” he says. “Who did Anastasia claim had raped her that day?”

“Cody Whitmore,” Carla states.

“And what happened following this accusation?” Mr. Larson asks.

“My husband, Stephen, went with Anastasia to confront the boy and his father. They were gone for an hour or so and when they returned, Stephen was convinced that Anastasia had lied. He said that the boy was rich and had a beautiful girlfriend who was there with him at the time. He said that after talking to Cody and his father, there was no reason that he could see that Cody would want to rape Anastasia. He chided her for lying and causing him to embarrass himself in front of the Whitmores, and we all just forgot about it.”

Not all of us, I think as I stare at the courtroom floor, wound so tight that I could break. Christian’s hands gently grasp both my arms, causing me to look over at him. At that moment, the entire courtroom is silent, and several people are looking at me. It’s then that I realize that I didn’t think the words. I said them out loud. I gasp, and my fingers fly to my mouth as I remember that the judge has already cautioned me about courtroom outbursts.

“I’m sorry,” I say, shaking my head and addressing the bench. “I didn’t know I verbalized my thoughts.”

“You’re free to remain for the proceedings, Mrs. Grey, but once again, you must refrain from further outbursts,” he warns.

“Yes, Your Honor. It won’t happen again.”

“Continue,” the judge directs Mr. Larson, and he turns his attention back to Carla.

“So, you say that you all just went about your business after the rape allegation. What happened next?” Carla shrugs.

“Some time after that, a few weeks or so, maybe, Anastasia just went missing. We didn’t know where she was and to be honest, we didn’t care. I was so wrapped up in wanting to belong in a town where I never had any hope of fitting in and, quite frankly, Stephen never liked her. He didn’t have any children of his own and he never wanted any. As hard as I tried to get Anastasia to show him the respect of a father—or stepfather—she was having none of it. It would have been easier for me and Stephen if I had just left her in Montesano with Ray, but…” She trails off.

Fucking hell, they didn’t even want me—not at all, neither of them. She only took me to hurt Daddy. And she wants to know why I don’t want anything to do with her now.

“A few days after Ana disappeared, we got wind of this story. There was this child—a teenager—in the hospital and she had been there for a few days. I didn’t think it could be Ana at first. Why would she be in the hospital? And why wouldn’t they call me? After a while, curiosity got the best of me and I went to the hospital to see if I could identify the unidentifiable girl still in a coma… and it was her.”

“So, you identified Anastasia,” Larson says. She nods, appearing to fight back tears.

“She looked awful, but I knew it was her. At first, I felt sick and worried, but then, the police kept asking me questions… Do I know who did this to her? Why hadn’t I contacted the police sooner since she had been missing? Was she involved in any kind of occult or satanic worship? It was horribly embarrassing! I had no idea what Anastasia had gotten herself into where she ended up in the hospital looking like a piece of over-tenderized beef!” Carla shakes her head.

“I don’t even remember what I told the police about why I didn’t call them, but they bought it. Come to think of it, I talked to the officer who’s in custody now, so…” She shrugs, coming to the same conclusion that I have. She could have told him that she was vacationing on the moon and didn’t give a fuck if I was on Mars at the time and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

“I’ll be honest with you and tell you that I have no concept of the passage of time,” she admits. “Ana’s room was completely bare. It was like, if the hospital staff didn’t have to deal with her, they wouldn’t deal with her, either.”

She’s exactly right. That’s exactly how they made me feel.

“Nobody came to see her. Nobody came to check on her. She was a complete outcast and I was an outcast every time I came to the hospital. I began to resent her for putting me through this—for the label and the looks that I would get for whatever she had gotten herself into. I stopped coming until I got the call that she had come out of the coma.”

I don’t make eye-contact with that woman. I grind my teeth to keep from saying anything, to keep from calling her every unimaginable name I can think of. She doesn’t even have the decency to sound remorseful for her behavior.

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 “I showed up when she came out of it, but I knew that she would be okay, so I didn’t come back after that. Mom of the Year,” she says, throwing up those “peace signs” with both hands like Richard Nixon. We all know that she’s being sarcastic, and this is the first sign of any self-scolding I’ve seen since she started recounting the incident.

 “She was in the hospital for a long time, and I should have known that he was going to come for her…”

He?” Mr. Larson interrupts.

“Ray… her stepfather.”

“My father,” I grumble in my chest, the words coming out like I’m clearing my throat. What are they going to do—hold me in contempt of court for clearing my throat?

“I guess he’s her father now… with the adoption and everything.” He was always my father, you wicked, old, lying witch!

“Anyway, I avoided his calls for weeks. I don’t know how he heard or knew that something was wrong, but he knew. Sure enough, he showed up on my doorstep, demanding to know where his Annie was…”

“Now, we need you to clarify. How did Ray not know what was going on with his own daughter?” Mr. Larson asks.

“I didn’t tell him,” she admits. “He was in Washington; we were here. I never spoke to him. I left him and my life there behind. It wasn’t until he showed up here that I realized that Anastasia had still been talking to him. I had no idea and I didn’t expect him to show up, so I had nothing prepared to tell him. I don’t even know how he got into the hospital to see her since he’s not on any of the records, but I guess them having the same last name—and no one else coming to see her—afforded him some leniency.”

Thank God, or I wouldn’t have had anyone at all, thanks to you.

“I wanted to know what was going on, but I didn’t want to know badly enough to go up there and face Ray… and once he got there, he never left. When he was leaving, it was when Ana was being released from the hospital, and he told me in no uncertain terms that he was taking her with him. All I could see at the time was that I wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore—the funny looks when I came to the hospital or even went to the local grocery store. She was just in the way. This was the opportunity to alleviate that situation, not to mention that there would be one less mouth to feed.

“The rumors kept circulating about what happened to her long after she was gone. She didn’t remember anything. The baby was gone, so there was no way to determine who the father was…”

“You never referenced a baby,” Larson interrupts.

“She was pregnant at the time of the attack, and the baby didn’t survive. They told me the moment I got to the hospital. I didn’t think to put two and two together with the time of the alleged rape. Like I said, I had no concept of time and it didn’t matter enough to me at the time to calculate. It was easier to pretend like it was happening outside of me than to accept that I was involved in any way. Sending her away with Ray removed me from the situation and did away with the problem, or so I thought. The rumor mill was still very active. Many people had no idea what happened to her—myself included—and there were lots of questions… Lots of questions and no answers. Ana didn’t have any answers either, and apparently, that makes everybody uncomfortable

“The next thing I knew, Stephen came to me telling me in no uncertain terms that we had to bring Ana back to Nevada. I protested. I was sure that just like any other rumor, this one would die with time. He was not. I couldn’t understand why he even cared. So, it’s not going to die. What’s the worst that could happen? She’ll become an urban legend. There was no evidence of any kind for any type of investigation. They didn’t even keep DNA from the baby that I knew of, but Stephen was adamant that she had to come back. I stalled and stalled and stalled for as long as I could. Finally, he told me about the money—well, some of it, anyway. As far as I knew, it was half a million dollars. It turned out to be more.

“He told me that our getting the money was totally dependent on Ana coming back to Nevada where she could be watched. He said that she had already fabricated this whole story about the Whitmores and their son, and that Frank Whitmore was more than willing to pay to keep her from spreading any more lies and ruining their reputation in the community. She’s afraid right now, he had said, but when she’s no longer afraid, she’s going to start talking again.

“So, we got in the car and drove straight to Montesano without stopping. We showed up with no warning, because I’m certain that if I had told Ray that we were coming to get her, he would have hidden her somewhere. She cursed and she fought; Ray begged us not to take her back. He even threatened me with state intervention, but we both knew that had he done that, she would go to foster care since he had no legal rights at the time.”

“I’m confused—why was she carrying his name when he had no rights?” Larson asks.

“Anastasia was only a few months old when her biological father died. It was very easy to change her name once Ray and I decided to get together. It was even easier for her to assume her biological father’s name when we got back to Nevada. We put her in a different school under a different name and that was that.” She brushes her hands together as if to sweep away dirt.

“Only… that wasn’t that,” Larson says. Carla purses her lips.

“No, it wasn’t,” she admits. “Whitmore kept tabs on us like we were slaves. He wanted to know what Anastasia was doing every minute of every day. We didn’t even know what she was doing every minute of every day! We didn’t know anything about her grades. We knew nothing about her friends, if she even had any. She would leave at the crack of dawn and not come back until well after curfew. Stephen grilled her a few times, threatening to throw her out of the house. She would just egg him on. ‘I’ll go back to my real father,’ she would tell him.

“We figured out that she had a job at one point, and Stephen tried to get her to turn over the money she was earning, but to no avail. He even turned her room upside-down once looking for it, which wasn’t hard since there wasn’t much in there. Anyway, one day, she left for school and never came back. When after a couple of days, we didn’t see her, we filed a missing person’s report. There wasn’t much that we could do really since she was beyond the age of consent, but Whitmore had a fit, threatening us to produce Anastasia or give him back the money he had given us. Stephen just laughed in his face. That money had long since been gone and not once while Anastasia was back in Nevada for that year or so had she mentioned anything to do with the incident. Either she really didn’t remember, she was scared out of her wits like Stephen said, or she completely blocked the whole thing out, but we never heard another word about it until years and years later.”

“So, Whitmore was harassing you for Anastasia’s whereabouts. What did you do?” Mr. Larson prods.

“I called Ray,” Carla continues. “I told him to tell me once and for all where Anastasia was, and he freaked out, too. He cursed me from here to the Congo for not letting her stay there with him, and now neither of us knew where she was. I still thought he was full of it until he showed up on my doorstep again demanding to know his daughter’s whereabouts. That’s when I knew… I knew that she had run away, and I would probably never see her again. I didn’t know how to feel about it at the time. I wouldn’t allow myself to feel any remorse or regret and I certainly wasn’t going to accept any responsibility for the situation, heaven forbid.” She drops her gaze and shakes her head before continuing.

“A few days later, Ray went back to Montesano with more questions than he had when he got to Vegas. Whitmore harassed us for a few more months, but then, everything just got quiet. The whole incident just faded to black and we all just… went on, doing our thing.” She shrugs nonchalantly.

“So, just for informational purposes, when did you see your daughter again?” Larson asks.

“About three years ago,” Carla says. “There was some kind of alert released in the news and on the internet about this missing woman. I never would have known about it at all, but I was at work one day and one of my coworkers was following the story on her tablet. I saw the ‘call to arms’ that Christian and his lawyer had done, and it was on a repeating loop—they kept saying her name. So, I got to a computer and I Googled it. That’s how I found her.”

“So, we’re talking now at least ten years since you’ve seen your daughter…”

“Yes,” Carla confirms.

“She never tried to contact you. You never knew if she was dead or alive.”

“I was fairly certain that she was okay. If she had died, someone would have contacted me.”

“No one contacted you when she was unconscious in the hospital,” Mr. Larson points out.

“She wasn’t dead, either,” Carla points out. You’re just a real fucking sweetheart, aren’t ya, Mom?

“So, now you know that she’s in Seattle, or that she’s missing from Seattle. What do you do?”

“I tell Stephen that we need to get to Seattle. I knew Ray wouldn’t tell me anything and if I wanted to know what was going on, I had to find out for myself.”

“Mrs. Morton, as far as you knew, Anastasia had been missing for over a decade. Now, it was so important for you to find her. Why?” Carla sighs and rolls her eyes in that way again—that you’re not going to like what I’m about to say way.

“Because I did my research on this stranger and discovered that a really important man was looking for her. By the look on his face, I could tell that she meant something to him. He looked broken and defeated, like he wouldn’t survive another moment without her. Stephen didn’t want to make the trip. He didn’t see the point. I convinced him that if we show up while Ana was going through yet another tragedy and show our support, she might allow us back into her good graces.”

“How did that change his mind and why was it important to you after all these years?” Mr. Larson probes.

“She was dating a billionaire. Wouldn’t you want to be in her good graces?” There are various murmurs and whispers around the courtroom. This was nothing I didn’t already know.

“And when you arrived?” Mr. Larson asks.

“She shunned me,” Carla says. “She wanted nothing to do with me and anyone within five feet of her did everything possible to make sure Stephen and I didn’t get near her. We finally gave up and came back to Nevada.”

“But that wouldn’t be the last time you saw her…” Carla shakes her head.

“No, I saw her again at Stephen’s funeral, then again later that year. She brought me to Seattle to talk. It didn’t go well. She gave me $100,000 and told me to get out of her life forever. That’s the last time I saw her in person.”

“You’ve done some sparring with her in the tabloids.” Carla dons a tragic smile.

Mom of the Year, remember?” she replies.

“And now you’re here…”

“Yep,” she confirms. “Now I’m here.”

“No further questions at this time, your honor.” Mr. Larson takes his seat.

“Your witness, Mr. Drake,” the judge says, and the floor goes to the defense.

“Mrs. Morton, that’s quite the story you have there about the tumultuous relationship that you’ve had with your daughter over the past several years,” he begins.

“Isn’t it?” she replies, unmoved.

“You had nothing to say to the police at the time of the attack; no information for the hospital; you barely even spoke to your own child,” he outlines.

“I think I’ve already established those facts, counselor.” Counselor. She sounds like me… or is it I who sounds like her?

Drake basically rehashes all of the events that Carla has already narrated for the court and many people—Carla and the jury included—are just looking at him waiting for him to get to the point. He soon begins to turn the story to make it look like I was a woman—or girl—scorned and that my whole intention was to trap Cody Whitmore in the first place.

“‘Why should we believe you, Mrs. Morton? You’ve had plenty of time to come forward. Why now?’” he says, repeating the words of Mr. Larson, once he thinks he’s made his point. “Why now, indeed. Your daughter is no longer the helpless little fifteen-year-old girl she wants the court to believe that she was. She’s now a very wealthy woman out for blood because of a plot gone wrong…”

“Objection, your honor. Gross speculation!” Mr. Larson declares.

“Sustained. Counselor, do you have an actual question or are you going to narrate the story for us… again?”

“Apologies, your honor. I’m sure that the court would like to know how Mrs. Morton conveniently failed to see what was happening with her daughter all of those years and now, she suddenly has a clear recollection of every single detail of the incident in question… or at least how it relates to her.” Carla scoffs loudly.

“I didn’t conveniently not see what was going on with my daughter, counselor. I refused to see it. I ignored what was happening. I was voluntarily and selectively blinded to what was going on. If I didn’t see it or accept it as real, then it didn’t happen. You want to make it look like I’m trying to victimize myself… I’m not. I never claimed innocence in this situation. I never claimed anything at all.”

“But you claimed the money when your husband told you to bring Anastasia back to Nevada,” he accuses.

“Of course, I did,” she confirms. “We were getting half a million dollars… as far as I knew.”

“And your conscience didn’t kick in at all when you saw that the father of the same person who allegedly raped your daughter was now giving you what you thought was half a million dollars?” Carla looks at him like he’s from another planet.

“Conscience?” she said incredulously. “Are you kidding? Have you not listened to anything I’ve said, or are you being deliberately obtuse? I had no conscience. All I wanted was the money! If it meant tolerating the little troublemaker for a while, then so be it. I didn’t care about her or what she was going through. She was nothing more than a thorn in my side, a pebble in my shoe. When she disappeared from school, it was good riddance. It didn’t matter to me that the money was coming from the father of the man who may or may not have raped her. His money was green and could spend just like everyone else’s. I was finally about to buy my way into proper society!”

“And did you do that, Mrs. Morton? Buy your way into proper society, that is?” he taunts.

“No,” she says matter-of-factly. “That money slipped through our fingers faster than we could count it. Stephen drank and gambled away half of it in the first eight months.”

“Oh, yes, someone else to blame—a dead man who can’t speak up for himself.”

“You’re right,” she says, flatly. “My husband is dead, and he can’t defend himself against anything I’m saying. Neither can Franklin Whitmore, because he’s dead, too. But I’m sure that an investigation of financial records from 2001 will reveal that there was a large exchange of money from Mr. Whitmore to my husband. Make no mistake, Mr. Drake. I loved my husband very much. I still do, and the only reason I’m making this statement to you now is because he’s not here to suffer for it.”

“Aren’t you just so selfless in your sacrifice?” Drake snarls. “I suppose we are to believe that this has nothing to do with the fact that your daughter is now a billionairess and you went to Seattle a while back after that same daughter miraculously stumbled upon evidence to make Green Valley ‘pay’ for what she experienced, and returned $100,000 richer.”

“This has everything to do with both of those things,” Carla replies incredulously.

What the fuck? Is she throwing her testimony?

“Fifteen years ago, my entire family was bought for three-quarters of a million dollars—most of that money, I didn’t even see, because I didn’t know he got that much. My daughter was raped, brutalized, and terrorized, and I stood by and watched…”

“Objection, your honor. Speculation. There’s no proof or conviction that the victim was raped.” The judge actually looks at the defense like he’s lost his head. His objection is valid, but I’m sure he’s thinking the same thing I am. Everything this woman is saying and all he pulled out of that was rape? He’s really stuck on that rape, isn’t he?

“Fine!” Carla says, clearly flustered. “Remove the word rape! My daughter was victimized in the worst ways imaginable for quite a long time and my husband and I not only stood by and watched it, we perpetuated it and we profited from it. Had it not been for the love of a man who had the determination and the resources to get to the bottom of this, we wouldn’t be here. My daughter would be seeing no justice for any of this. So, yes, the fact that my daughter is a billionairess now is totally the reason why I’m here! Had they not spent the resources to dig these worms out of their holes, that cop who buried evidence…”

“Objection. Your honor, really!”

“Sustained. Mrs. Morton…”

“Call it what you want,” Carla retorts. “Label it whatever is politically correct or whatever is allowable in these proceedings. There’s evidence that was buried, that was hidden, that was never discovered or revealed, that very well may have solved this case and put the perpetrators behind bars over a decade ago. The cop in charge of the case, he’s in custody now for just that reason. State it however it’s necessary for the record, sir…

“There was an alleged cop who allegedly stumbled on a bonfire where my daughter was allegedly brutalized and left for dead after she allegedly slept with the most popular boy in school or was allegedly raped by him. The alleged cop may or may not have been allegedly protecting his little brother who allegedly may or may not have been involved in the alleged attack where my daughter was allegedly left unconscious. What do you want? It doesn’t change what happened to her. Is that enough allegeds for you or am I allegedly in contempt of court now?”

The courtroom is silent while we all wait for Drake to object to the number of “allegeds” Carla used.

“You want to make me the bad guy, you go right ahead!” Carla continues. “I am the bad guy. I was a piece of shit mother who should have protected my daughter, and I failed! She’s my only child. There are no other children. And now, I can’t even get close to her because I fucked up and I’m dealing with that.

“You want to know what that $100,000 was? It was another payoff—for me to get the hell out of her life and not return. Do you know how that feels? At the time, it was, ‘Great! I finally got some cash! I can take a few days off work.’ Twenty-four hours later, it felt like dirt—like the money was burning my soul. I went back to her apartment and tried to give the money back. I begged her to forgive me, but she was having none of it. She washed her hands of me, and I haven’t heard two words from her from that day to this unless it was in the news.

“I’ll never be able to make up for what I did to my daughter. I can spend my life paying penance and I’ll never be able to fix this. That’s my cross to bear and I’m dealing with it. You want to throw me onto the railroad tracks, fine. It’s no less than I deserve and I’m okay with that. You can’t do anything worse than I’ve already done—than I put my daughter through, so what else you got?” Drake shakes his head.

“I’m sure we’re all hearing violins for you right now, Mrs. Morton, but I bet that hundred thousand was a nice consolation prize, wasn’t it?” he says smugly.

“No… it wasn’t,” she says. “I still have that money, every cent plus interest. I haven’t spent a dime of it. It’s still sitting in the bank—a useless fucking reminder that my soul is worth nothing but a dollar, and I have nobody to blame but myself. She wouldn’t take it back when I begged her to please allow me to make amends. So, since she’s my only surviving family, when I’m dead, she’ll get it back then. And if something happens to her before I die, it goes into a trust for the grandchildren that I’ll never meet.”

For the first time since she started her testimony, her voice cracks slightly, but she recovers quickly. This is a side of my mother that I’ve never seen. This is where I get my fighting spirit. She’s determined that no matter how they tear her apart, she’s going to make her point.

“You see, Counselor, in your attempt to discredit me, you’ve missed the entire point. My credibility was shot nearly 15 years ago when I failed to protect my child. I thought I made that clear right after ‘Carla Louise Morton.’ Either I failed in that task as well or you just weren’t listening. What you see now is an irredeemable woman attempting to make right one of her many wrongs. You stand here in front of intelligent human beings, trying to condone the beating, torture, and near-murder of a 15-year-old girl and you’re talking about my credibility and my conscience?

“Let’s just say for the sake of argument that this entire ludicrous picture that you’re trying to paint is correct—that I’m a terrible, wretched human being and these people shouldn’t believe a word that I’m saying.” She turns to the jury. “Let’s operate on that assumption for a moment, shall we?” She turns back to the defense. “Now, let’s assume that the picture that you’re trying to paint of my daughter is totally and entirely true. Let’s just assume that she totally lied about being raped and she willingly had sex with that boy and set him up to father her child so that she could get some kind of payout from his family. Let’s just assume, just for the sake of making your point, that she was the whore that they tried to make her out to be—that you’re trying to make her out to be right now! Let’s just assume that you’re correct.

“At what point in time, counselor, was it ever acceptable for that 15-year-old girl to be brutalized, victimized, beaten, pissed on, spat on, violated, burned, damn-near killed, had her unborn baby ripped from her body, and left for dead? This isn’t the Spanish Inquisition, and nobody made these people judge and jury over anything! So, you tell me—you tell us all while you have our attention. Since when in this day and time does a supposed act of immorality warrant that type of punishment and death? Go ahead, counselor. I’m all ears.”

Whoa! I’m speechless. Carla is on fire. Where was this Carla when I was suffering all those years ago?

“What’s the matter, sir? Cat got your tongue? You need a moment to formulate your response? Well, go right ahead; take your time. We’ll wait.” She folds her arms and glares at him, and I almost feel a small bit of pride at the way that she’s tearing into him right now. I see that same fight that I have when someone comes at me unjustly. This must be where I get it from.

“Nothing? No snappy comebacks? No sarcastic comments? No objections or rebuttals to everything I’m saying? Yeah, I would expect that you wouldn’t have a comeback for that kind of factual assault. You want to paint me to be an untrustworthy monster, go ahead. It won’t be difficult. I’ve already done most of your work for you. You want to paint my daughter to be an unscrupulous slut, well, good luck with that. You want to paint a person who took part in beating, branding, and pissing on a young girl as the victim? Yeah, good luck with that, too. I’d like to see how that turns out. In the meantime, sir, I have to live with what I did and who I was for the rest of my life. If you successfully convince 13 people that this was nothing less than a brutal bullying and hazing ritual that went all the way to the vicious, premeditated murder of an unborn child and attempted murder of my daughter, can you do the same? I’m curious—is being heartless, insensitive, and apathetic a requirement of being a defense attorney?”

Good question.

“I don’t know, Mrs. Morton. You tell me—is it a requirement of being a mother?” Touché, but it doesn’t faze Carla. Without missing a beat, she replies,

“Well, if it is, you and I have got it down to perfection.”

Drake is silent along with everyone else in the courtroom. We’re all waiting to see who’s going to speak first. Carla has set him into a perfect “check” position, and his next move is going to make or break his case. If he doesn’t have one, he should just conclude right now. If he does, it better be good.

He does… and it sucks.

“You just said something very interesting, Mrs. Morton,” he begins. “You referred to the accidental death of Anastasia’s unborn child as premeditated murder. No one—including Anastasia—knew that she was pregnant. Did you?”

Carla shakes her head, a smirk gracing her lips. If I didn’t know better, I would swear I see pity in her eyes.

“Before I answer that question, by a show of hands, is there anyone in this room that’s under any misconception that I was an inconsiderate, insensitive, idiot bitch at the time of this incident? Anybody? Anyone?” She’s waving her hand, waiting for someone to join her.

“Mrs. Morton,” the judge begins, “may I ask your purpose for that question?”

“Your honor, he seems determined to paint the picture of me as untrustworthy and not credible. I thought he, I, and this entire event did that quite nicely, but I don’t think he believes it himself.” The judge’s eyebrow hitches like he’s pondering her statement, then he remembers himself.

“Please, answer the question, Mrs. Morton,” he directs her.

“Gladly,” she turns back to the defense. “You’re trying to leave the image that Anastasia was a slut and that she deliberately got pregnant to set that boy up. To answer your question, no, I had no idea Anastasia was pregnant, but by your own description and innuendo…” She leans forward in her seat and closer to the microphone. “… Somebody knew.”

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New murmurings and gasps fill the courtroom, and members of the jury look at each other in realization as my mother sits back in her seat, her arm bent at the elbow, her index finger thoughtfully on her cheek and her thumb under her chin and her other fingers resting just below her lip. The judge bangs his gavel and demands order while Carla faces off with the defense attorney.

Shut up, Skippy. She’s destroying your case.

“Mr. Drake, would you like to continue?” His Honor instructs once the courtroom has quieted.

“No further questions, your honor,” he says, clearing his throat and showing false bravado as he walks back to his seat. His client quietly tears into him the moment he sits, but he doesn’t react to Vincent’s chastisement. He just looks at his notes like nothing is happening—like his case isn’t falling apart before his eyes and the little woman on the stand didn’t just hand him his ass on a platter.

“You may step down, Mrs. Morton,” the judge says. Carla nods and makes eye-contact with no one as she rises and exits the witness stand. She shows no emotion as she walks proudly in front of the occupants of the courtroom. I don’t follow her as she walks past us and to a seat in the back of the courtroom. She’s under no misconception of how I feel about her, but today, I’m conflicted about my feelings.

“Butterfly…” Christian’s voice interrupts my inner contemplations.

“Hmm?” I respond.

“Don’t let her fool you,” he says, reading my thoughts perfectly. I shake my head.

“I’m not,” I lie. This is not the woman I spent my teenage years with. Either she just put on the Oscar performance of a lifetime, or she clearly has seen the err of her ways and she’s willing to live with the consequences of her decisions, whatever they may be.


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

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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 8

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 8

CHRISTIAN

The trip to the District Court is… interesting. The I-15 freeway is nerve-wracking to say the least. Traveling down that stretch of road, you just want to close your eyes and pray that you don’t get killed. A six-mile journey takes all of 30 – 45 minutes in rush hour traffic, and we have to hit it coming and going for the next several days at least. I’m silently praying for safe passage. My wife, on the other hand, is sitting next to me silent and stoic.

The courthouse is clean and professional enough, but the distance in between once you exit the freeway reminds me of Detroit. Where Detroit has liquor stores every few blocks, here there are bail bondsmen everywhere you look. Downtown is full of apartments in desperate need of repair and no-tell-motels all over the place—or at least that’s what they look like to me.

At a certain point, you reach the business district that looks like it totally shouldn’t be here—clean lines, high rises, well-maintained streets… which they very well should be with all the construction we kept hitting on the way out here.

The parking is atrocious down here and we can’t afford to get out of town tickets in three rental SUVS, or worse, towed. As such, we have a plan for pickup and drop off at the courthouse. All non-security staff will form a perimeter around me and Butterfly with Ray and Allen in front, James and Mandy on either side, and Vee and Marilyn bringing up the rear. The five members of my security team that won’t be parking the cars will form a five-point star around the eight of us with Jason at the lead, two guards at the rear, and a guard on either side. Butterfly will be duly buried in the middle of several people…

… Which is a good thing.

We can barely get the cars to the curb for fear of running over the Paparazzi’s toes as we pull up.

“Fucking vultures,” I mumble. This is insane and I have no idea how we’re even going to get out of the car.

“Where were all these people when this shit happened to me?” Butterfly blurts out, breaking her silence. “Why weren’t they this fucking hungry for a headline then?”

Oh, shit. She’s already losing it.

Several members of the press have cameras pressed against the glass of the SUV’s, and we can’t even exit the vehicle.

“Baby,” I say, taking her hand and trying to put out the fire before it starts, “remember what we said about the press egging you on.”

“Oh, don’t patronize me, Christian!” she barks snatching her hand from mine. “I’m not out of the car yet! And it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon either! These people have no fucking respect whatsoever. We’re trying to get to court, not walking the fucking red carpet!”

Dear God, somebody save me. I’m in a little metal box with a woman who’s getting more and more irritated by the second and my attempts at reason are only making it worse. What’s more, we can’t get out of the little metal box.

Unbeknownst to me, the city of Las Vegas has foreseen this little problem and has prepared accordingly. I can hear someone on a megaphone saying something, but I can’t quite make it out over the throng of people. As the cameras move away from the tinted glass, I crack the window slightly to hear what’s happening.

“Step away from the vehicle. Move away, or you will be arrested for obstruction of justice. This is your final warning.”

That’s right. Butterfly is a key witness in a criminal case. If they don’t allow her to get out of the car, they’re obstructing justice. I look back at my wife who looks through the crack in the window with stunned awe as the press is pushed away from the car. A few moments later, Chuck and Jason exit the car and another security detail takes the driver’s seat.

The door opens and we see Chuck, Al, James and Jason standing there.

“Are you ready?” Jason asks. I look at Butterfly, whose previous anger has completely deflated. She nods, and Ray exits the car first, then Mandy. It’s everyone else’s responsibility to fall in line once Butterfly exits the car, because she’s running to the door the minute she’s out of the car.

I never understood the concept of the courthouse having fifty stairs that you have to climb to get to the door. What’s the purpose of that?

When I step out of the car, I scan this situation before I let Butterfly out. Every fucking local newspaper in the state must be here. We’ve never had this much pomp and circumstance in Washington, and we’ve been to two trials where each of us was a key witness.

The press is neatly pushed away from either side of the car with Las Vegas Metro Police officers in tan uniforms with batons drawn holding them back from blocking our path to the door.

Now that’s what I call protecting and serving!

The cameras are still flashing, but I expect that much. We can’t stop them from taking pictures, but they have to let us through. I lean down into the car and take my wife’s hand.

“Ready?” I ask. She sighs heavily and nods.

She swings her legs out of the car and her Louboutin stilettos are probably the only picture of her that the press gets this morning. She stealthily stands to her feet and everyone quickly falls into formation as those sky highs take the stairs like Rocky. She doesn’t fall; she doesn’t stumble; she doesn’t trip; and she’s shorter than everyone on the peripheral. So, I’m certain that no one got a picture of her.

When we enter the doors of the courthouse, she doesn’t even look like she broke a sweat.

The police keep the press at bay until we all pass the metal detectors and enter the main hallway. Mac has informed me that only one station—KTNV Las Vegas—will have access to the trial. Because the case is so sensational, several media outlets filed for courtroom media access, but only one was granted. Thank God for small favors.

I’m busy checking on my wife to see how she’s holding up when I’m greeted with the last fucking thing I expected to see at this moment. I prepared myself for everything… every possible eventuality. I didn’t prepare myself for this.

Cholometes! Brian fucking Cholometes!

He’s sitting in the waiting area near the elevators looking straight at us. I glance down at Butterfly and she hasn’t spotted him yet. She’s too busy girding herself for the experience ahead. When he sees us, he rises from his seat and begins his approach. I put myself in my wife’s line of sight and I look down at her.

“Prepare yourself, baby,” I say. “We’ve got company.” Her expression hardens.

“Whitshit?” she spits. I shake my head.

“Cholometes,” I reply. An instant look of horror mars her face.

“What?”

The response comes from Ray. Apparently, my voice wasn’t as low as I thought it was. I look over at him and he’s scanning the room.

“What are you doing here, Brian?” he says before Cholometes even reaches us. He slows his approach at Ray’s tone.

“You’re my friend,” Cholometes replies. “I came to support you… and the family.”

By the family, you mean my wife. She has all the support she can get, Colostomy, she doesn’t need you!

“You didn’t have to come,” Ray says firmly. Cholometes ignores the implication.

“It’s the least I could do,” Cholometes replies, “especially after the events of our last encounter.” His words hang in the air. I take Butterfly’s hand. You mean when you outed our lifestyle in front of all her family and friends? Is that the encounter of which you speak?

“My little girl’s got a rough time ahead of her, Brian. If you’re bringing any drama with you, you can take it right back where you came from,” Ray scolds.

“I’m only here for support,” he responds before looking down at Butterfly. “You have my word.” Butterfly scoffs and rolls her eyes.

“Let’s go,” she says to me. I quickly lead her away from the scene without a word to Cholometes. My main concern right now is protecting her as much as I can.

“He doesn’t get within five feet of my wife,” I say to Jason and Chuck as we walk away.

“If he does, I’ll kick him in the fucking balls,” Butterfly growls under her breath as we walk deliberately towards the elevators. The bell rings that the elevator arrives and when the doors open, our group all stream in in formation—except one.

Sorry, Colostomy, no room.

There’s actually plenty of room, but the glare of at least seven angry men may have persuaded him to catch the next car.

The floor is surprisingly quiet when we exit the elevator. There are a few people in corners chatting quietly about… whatever. Butterfly never raises her head. She quietly watches her feet as we walk directly to courtroom 8A.

And now we discover why no one is in the hallway.

There are several people in the courtroom, spread out on different benches. The two benches behind the prosecutor are conspicuously empty. We all file in, and Butterfly still hasn’t raised her head or removed her sunglasses. Upon hearing us enter, Larson and his colleague turn around. Butterfly takes her seat, but I remain standing.

“Mr. Grey,” he says as he approaches the balustrade between us.

“Mr. Larson,” I greet just as stoically. He turns to Butterfly.

“Mrs. Grey, are you ready?” he asks. She removes her glasses finally.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” she replies.

“Please, be prepared,” he says. “Sullivan is claiming diminished capacity—not that he was insane, but that he was coerced and intimidated… basically that he was too young to understand or unaware of the full impact of his actions.” She twists her lips.

“Why does that not surprise me?” she says a little too calmly.

“They’re going to show the video, and the pictures of your back. Things are going to get very graphic and pretty brutal…”

“Nothing they say or do is going to be as brutal as what they already put me through, so it doesn’t matter, does it?” she replies matter-of-factly. Larson sighs, no doubt noting the same hostility that I experienced in the car.

“They’re going to make you out to be the villain,” he warns.

“What else is new?” she replies.

“I just want you to be prepared for anything. Expect anything. Remember, we can’t mention the rape unless they do,” he cautions. She sighs.

“Mr. Larson, nothing could prepare me for this, but I’ll do my best.”

“That’s all I ask,” he says, finitely. He glances at me again, then returns to his seat.

We sit in the courtroom waiting for an eternity for the proceedings to start, but it’s clearly only about twenty minutes. We hear more people come into the courtroom, but we don’t turn around to see who they are. There’s a guy sitting at the defense table looking at a notebook in a ledger. Clearly, he’s the defense attorney. After a few minutes, a door opens on the side of the courtroom and in walks some guy in a suit and handcuffs. This is obviously Vincent Sullivan, but I didn’t commit his face to memory. I can’t even remember what his brother looks like at the moment.

Butterfly glares at him, but he doesn’t look our way once. Sullivan is escorted to the defense table where the bailiff removes his cuffs. In both of the other cases we attended, both defendants scanned the room, made eye-contact with us and either sneered or jeered at us, but not Sullivan. He’s been coached. He doesn’t look left or right. He looks down or at his attorney—nowhere else.

“All rise. The criminal session of the Las Vegas Justice Court, Clark county is now in session, the honorable Wilson Bates presiding.”

The court stands to their feet as Judge Bates takes the bench.

“You may be seated.”

Judge Bates looks at the file in front of him and sighs.

“I’m not looking forward to this,” he mumbles, almost to himself. I think he forgot he was mic’ ed. What did he mean by that?

“Docket number 807154C-0404, the State of Nevada vs. Vincent Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan you stand charged with assault accompanied with acts of extreme cruelty and substantial bodily harm, battery with a deadly weapon with substantial bodily harm, battery without a weapon with substantial bodily harm, conspiracy to kidnap in the first degree, kidnapping in the first degree, manslaughter for fetal homicide, and attempted murder. You have entered a plea of ‘Not guilty due to diminished mental capacity.’ Do you wish to change your plea at this time?”

“No, your honor,” Sullivan says after a brief conference with his attorney.

“Is the state ready to proceed?” he asks.

“We are, your honor,” Larson replies.

“Is the defense ready to proceed?”

“Yes, your honor, we are,” the defense attorney replies.

“Very well. Bring in the jury.”

The bailiff leads 18 people into the courtroom and the judge has them sworn in. He begins the somewhat tedious task of jury instruction, and it’s at this moment that we discover that the jury will be sequestered, as well they should be. I expected as much. This case is way too publicized already to have them exposed to outside forces while they’re listening to it. I feel badly for them because this is going to go on for a while.

Once he has completed his instructions to the jury, he announces that Mr. Larson will be presenting opening statements on behalf of the State.

“Thank you, your honor, if it pleases the court,” Larson says.

“Yes, sir,” the judge replies.

“Counsel,” he says to the defense attorney, who nods. Then he turns to face the jury.

“Anastasia Steele was a loner,” he began. “She was a good student, but a stranger in a strange land. She was implanted into the affluent neighborhood of Green Valley at 14, but she wasn’t wealthy or even well-off like the other residents of the community. She had come from humble beginnings—not impoverished or even unpleasant, but humble. She was raised for most of her life in the home of her mother and father in Montesano, Washington. However, as fate would have it, her parents split up, and Anastasia would come to Henderson with her mother to reside in the home of her mother’s future husband.

“The following years would not be kind to Anastasia, and one year in particular, she found herself knocked unconscious, kidnapped, bound, and subjected to one of the most brutal and violent hazing rituals in history—the degradation and branding of another human being.”

Larson handles the opening arguments like a seasoned professional. He paints a vivid picture of a young misfit with good grades in an unhappy home. He makes reference to the rape without calling it that, labelling it as the “incident” that sparked the attack.

He gives a chilling recount of how Butterfly was kidnapped while walking home from school, thrown in the trunk of a car, dragged to the bonfire, and then tortured by a group of teenagers.

He outlines a gruesome picture of a vicious mob and a brutal hazing ritual that left a 15-year-old girl in a coma for three weeks while her attackers went home to their beds and slept peacefully with no concern about the young girl they left for dead.

“That night, an officer happened upon the scene of the hazing, causing the participants and observers to scramble, leaving Anastasia Steele naked, burned, beaten, unconscious, bleeding, and left for dead on the ground. Her unborn child was inside of her, his or her little heart beating its final beats, if it hadn’t stopped beating already.”

Butterfly doesn’t react to the description, but various members of the jury are visibly affected by it.

“Anastasia was rushed to the hospital, underwent several procedures—one of which was to remove the remnants of the dead fetus from her uterus—and she spent three weeks in a coma. Meanwhile, the defendant and their co-conspirators who had executed this horrendous event and even recorded the whole thing on video, all went home to their fashionable houses and their comfortable beds, laid their heads on their pillows and slept, night after night. Anastasia was living the nightmare, but her vicious and brutal attack was reduced to nothing more than locker-room talk and urban legend.

“She was rescued from the hell that Henderson was to her, Green Valley, and taken back to Montesano by her father. She was enrolled in school and ready to rebuild her life until the father of one of the defendants paid off her mother and stepfather to bring her back to Las Vegas, where they could keep an eye on her and make sure that she didn’t spill their secret.

“Their secret stayed buried until a few years ago, when a routine background check unearthed a second name for Mrs. Grey—Anastasia Lambert, and that name led to a second set of school records, prompting an in-depth background check which uncovered the police reports and the horrific pictures you will see today of Anastasia’s broken body.

“Anastasia’s husband-then-boyfriend came to investigate the matter, setting off a chain of events that has led us here today. Simultaneously, Mrs. Grey—then Dr. Anastasia Steele—had begun seeing a patient for dignity therapy who, as it turns out, had recorded the video that you’re going to see today. This young lady was dying of a terminal illness and had sought out Dr. Steele to confess her involvement in Anastasia’s attack before she died.

“The video you’ll be seeing is 37-minutes long. It’s quite graphic and very brutal. It plays out like a horror movie. You must sit through the entire thing. We ask that you please prepare yourselves for the gruesome scene that you’re about to see. If any of you have weak constitutions, we will pause the playback while you compose yourself. However, we will resume playback because the video is evidence and you must see it in its entirety.

“As you are watching the video, ask yourself how it makes you feel. How it feels knowing that this is not a movie—this is not a re-enactment–that this really happened to a 15-year-old girl. Ask yourself how it feels knowing that no one felt that anyone should be brought to justice for this—not even the police. Ask yourself how it feels knowing that this could have been your child. Not one of them felt any remorse for what they did, and they don’t feel any remorse now. In fact, they’re trying to get away with it. How does that make you feel that something like that could happen in this day and time in the United States and no one is called to justice for it for nearly 15 years?

“That’s thirty-seven minutes… thirty-seven live minutes of the most vicious attack on a young girl that you may ever see in your life. Remember that Anastasia Steele’s terror and pain lasted more than that thirty-seven minutes. Remember that no matter what you hear in this courtroom, no matter what pictures the defense may want to paint of Mrs. Grey, of her family, and of the alleged assailants, remember what you see with your own eyes. Remember what the video tells you—what you saw.

“You’ll hear testimony from others that may seem circumstantial, but I ask that you consider it in context with everything else that you’ll see and hear during this trial. Let’s give Anastasia the justice that she finally deserves. Thank you.”

Larson takes his seat. The judge then announces that the defense, Mr. Drake, will present opening statements.

“Thank you, your honor, if it pleases the court,” Drake says.

“Yes, sir,” the judge replies.

“Opposing counsel,” Drake says, and Larson nods.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I remind you of your instructions, that you must weigh this case on the facts. Although you may find yourself empathizing with the victim, although you must watch the cruelty of the action, you cannot decide this case on emotion. You must decide it on the facts. You must decide if Vincent Sullivan willingly and maliciously injured a young girl and caused the death of her unborn child. That’s going to be hard to do once you see the evidence.

“You’re going to be tempted to sympathize with the plight of a young girl who was victimized by a group of vicious teenagers, because that’s exactly what you’re going to see. No one is disputing that. What has brought us here today is Mr. Sullivan’s role in this act. And this is where it’s imperative that your personal prejudices and biases do not come into play.

“For one thing, we get a vivid picture of a poor young girl just trying to survive in the affluent neighborhoods of Henderson. They want you to believe that this poor little waif was an unsuspecting victim of an unnecessary violent act. While I won’t deny that this act was brutal and unfortunate…”

Unfortunate? What the ever-loving fuck? She was raped by a motherfucker who wouldn’t take no for an answer, and then beaten because she was raped! And he calls that shit unfortunate?

“… Don’t be cajoled into believing the ‘victimized nerd’ persona that’s being presented to you. This girl was a promiscuous opportunist looking to trap a young man simply because his family was well-to-do. This was no innocent that we’re dealing with. This was a young harlot who seduced the son of one of Green Valley’s most prominent citizens, lied on him about it and provoked him and his young girlfriend until a group of unidentified people saw through her scheme and put a stop to it. Did she deserve what happened to her? Did she bring it on herself? I can’t say, but I can tell you this. The prosecution has given you his version—his opinion—of what he thinks happened that night. As jurors, it’s your job to apply the law to this situation to determine Vincent Sullivan’s guilt or innocence.”

So, let me see if I’ve got this straight. You don’t want them to look at her as a poor little waif or a victimized nerd because that would be biased, but you want them to look at her as a promiscuous opportunist and that’s not? I’m confused.

“The boy that she targeted was a popular young man, a well-known athlete… and she was a misfit. She wanted to belong, to fit in by any means necessary, even if it meant trying to trap or blackmail one of the most popular boys in school, and she just played the wrong cards. I’m not saying that she deserved what happened to her, but I am saying that when you play a dangerous game, something dangerous is bound to happen.

“The video you’re going to see is dark. Forensics have verified its authenticity, but most of the assailants are hooded; and the key witness and videographer—God rest her soul—is conveniently deceased. Yet, the prosecution would have you believe that this powerful multibillionairess…” He’s pointing at Butterfly, “… just happened on this information—that an ailing woman with a terminal disease wandered into her office after 15 years with a key piece of evidence to put away several prominent members of our community; that we should now look at this suffering soul whose net worth is probably more than all of us combined and say, ‘Isn’t that so sad and tragic. Poor little rich girl.’”

His voice is so condescending that you can hardly believe that he’s talking about this brutally senseless act of violence that occurred to a 15-year-old girl. Yes, she’s a billionairess now, but this act didn’t happen to a billionairess. This happened to a nerdy teenager—an “A” student who wanted nothing but to graduate and get away from the hell that was an uncaring mother and an emotionally cruel stepfather and happened to be unlucky enough to get raped by the most popular boy in school.

Drake is trying to make Whitmore look like the victim. How can he be the victim when she’s the one who was raped and attacked? She’s the one who was beaten damn near to death. Her baby was beaten to death. How is he the victim?

“’People say believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.’ Those are the words to a song that my mother used to play all the time. What you see… You’re going to see a lengthy video of some kids doing some horrible thing to some other kid. And as that video is playing, some of you may become ill. Why? Because this was your first time seeing it and you were not prepared. This isn’t her first time seeing it…” He’s pointing at Butterfly. “But I can guarantee you she’ll vomit, and I’ll tell you why. It’s called practiced regurgitation. It’s what bulimic women do when they want to expel their food after a binge. They can barf on command. Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.”

He can’t be serious! His opening statement is to discredit her possible vomiting? I look over at Butterfly and she’s looking at him in utter horror. Is this really where he’s going with this? He’s not talking about Sullivan at all or his defense, only that the jury will have to review the evidence and determine if his acts were willful or malicious. The rest—and remainder—of his opening statement involved downplaying the content of the video, making Whitmore out to be the victim, and painting my wife as a wanton harlot out to snag a rich kid.

One of his final statements is to paint our marriage as her ultimate triumph in doing just that and using her newfound wealth to punish the good citizens of Henderson. For the love of God!

We painfully sit through several more minutes of this bullshit before the state’s case finally begins.

“The state calls Anastasia Grey,” Larson announces clearly. Butterfly takes a deep breath and walks to the witness stand. She’s sworn in and asked to state her name.

“Dr. Anastasia Rose Steele-Grey,” she replies and is told to be seated.

“Dr. Grey, what’s your specialty?” Larson asks.

“I’m a psychiatrist. I’m also the assistant director of the Helping Hands charity in Seattle, and I’m the executive director of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.”

Yes, sir, that’s my baby.

“I’m sure you’d like to get this over with as soon as possible, so let’s just get to it, okay?” Larson asks. Butterfly nods.

“I’ve called you first, Dr. Grey, because I want to set the scene for what the jurors are going to be seeing. I’ll be asking you several questions about the incident. I need you to be as detailed as possible and as succinct as possible. I know that’s going to be hard, but we must get to the facts. Do you understand?”

“I understand,” she nods.

“Tell us, when did you first arrive in Green Valley?”

“In 2000. I was 14.”

“Where were you before you moved to Green Valley?” Larson asks.

“We lived in Montesano, Washington.”

“How would you characterize your childhood, Dr. Grey?”

“It started out really good when we were in Washington. We had a great relationship, but once we moved to Vegas, everything changed.”

“Changed in what way?” Larson asks. Butterfly shrugs.

“It felt like my mother hated me,” she says. “I don’t know any other way to say it. She told my daddy that she was leaving because he couldn’t provide the type of life that I deserved, but when we left, she treated me like I was an imposition the entire time, like all of her problems were because of me. She was unhappy with my dad during the last year or so of their life together, so I thought that if she moved to a new life, maybe she would be happy, and things would change… but she wasn’t. At least she wasn’t happy with me.”

“So, what did you do?”

“I studied hard. That’s all I could do. My clothes were plain; I was poor. I obviously didn’t belong, and Green Valley made sure that I understood that. I resented it. I was happy in Montesano with my simple clothes and my simple life and my travel books. She said I needed to have more, and she brought me here—and gave me nothing but misery.”

“How was school?” he asks. She scoffs.

“School was school,” she says. “Study, do my work, get my grades, go home. I was teased for not having the things that everyone else had, but I tried to ignore it. Home life was much worse, so school and friends weren’t a big deal.”

“Were you abused at home?” Larson asks. She shakes her head.

“Not immediately,” she replies. “They never hit me, but the mental warfare was brutal. Even now, as a mental health professional looking back on it, I don’t know how I survived it.”

“What about your father?”

“We talked when we could, but she did everything in her power to keep us apart. She even had me saying cruel things to him when he called. She’s a miserable soul. To this day, I still don’t know what was going on.”

“Okay, so we’ve established that your home life was pretty miserable, and school life wasn’t much better. Did you have a plan of escape?”

“I was only 14 when we got here. Escape hadn’t even occurred to me. I was waiting for my mother to get what she wanted and stop treating me like crap. Eighteen was four years away. It was obvious that the only way I was going to college was through scholarships, so school it was. I liked school. I liked learning. It was the people that I didn’t care for.”

“So… at the beginning of 2001, you met one of the popular students in school, is that correct?”

“That’s correct.”

“Tell us what happened,” he says.

“Cody Whitmore offered me a ride home from school.”

“Did he take you home?” Larson asks. Butterfly shakes her head.

“After a… harrowing encounter, for lack of a better word, he left me stranded in the middle of the desert to find my own way home.”

“And after that encounter, what happened?”

“I went home and told my mother and stepfather what happened.”

“And?” Larson presses.

“My stepfather and I went to Cody Whitmore’s house to confront him and his father. My stepfather took one look at that house—all that money—and his whole tone changed. We went inside. Whitmore’s girlfriend was there and denied everything. His father wouldn’t hear anything after Whitmore denied everything, and my stepfather didn’t even raise his voice to fight for me. He apologized for disturbing them and we left. He berated me the entire way home.”

“Why do you think your stepfather didn’t fight for you?”

“Because he didn’t believe me,” Butterfly replies.

“And why do you think that was?”

“I can’t speak for Stephen Morton and he’s no longer with us to speak for himself—not that I believe he would—but I can tell you this. I already told you that my mother couldn’t stand me. He liked me even less. He took one look at that house, all that money, Whitmore’s gorgeous blonde girlfriend, and all I heard all the way home was that there was no way in hell that Cody Whitmore would want my ass. It was awful. I wish I had just kept the entire thing to myself or ran away from home… something.”

“I can imagine,” Larson says. “So, let’s get to that fateful day in March of 2001. Can you set the scene for us?” Butterfly’s expression hardens.

“From the time we had confronted the Whitmores all the way to that day, my life was hell. I was an open target for everybody. They were already teasing me, so I thought it wouldn’t make a difference if they were teasing me some more. I was wrong. If I left early from class, someone was waiting to antagonize me. If I stayed over and waited until the halls were cleared, someone was still waiting for me. It’s like they had assignments to get me and they didn’t even go to class until they got me.

“It was little simple stuff at first like gum in my hair, kicking or pushing me on the way down the hall, knocking my books out of my hand, flipping my lunch tray over… just bullying stuff. So, when they were following me home taunting me that day, I didn’t think anything different of it. I wanted them to stop, but what could I do?” Larson nods.

“What happened next, Anastasia?” he says softly. Butterfly closes her eyes.

“I remember feeling something in the back of my head. It was fast—it was like fire… like a hot knife jabbing into my skull. Then I saw… stars or flashes of light or something. I heard ringing… and then, nothing.”

“And what do you remember next?” he asks. She sighs.

“I opened my eyes and it was cold… and dark. I didn’t know where I was at first, but then… I saw the taillights shine in my eyes, and I felt the movement. I knew I was in the trunk of a car.”

She still has her eyes closed. Is she… regressing? Right there on the stand?

“What were you thinking?” Larson asks.

“I was horrified,” she says calmly, a single tear falling down her cheek. “I didn’t know what was going on.” She opens her eyes and looks at Larson. I’m relieved to see that she didn’t regress, but she’s pale as a ghost and she doesn’t look well.

“There’s only one reason to put a live human being in the trunk of a car, and it never ends well. Here I am—a live 15-year-old girl, bound, cold, and in the trunk of a car.”

Her voice is cold and even as another tear streams down her cheek. She wipes the tears away immediately as Larson continued.

“When did you realize what was going on?”

“Not for a while,” she says, her voice failing a bit. “When the trunk opened, all I saw was hoods. I thought I was about to be a human sacrifice in a Satanic ritual. But when they reached into the trunk and pulled me out, I could see that they were… my age—kids. All I could think was, ‘What the hell is happening?’

“Nobody talked to me. They just grabbed me out of the trunk and started dragging me across the grass. My head was still banging from whoever hit me and I couldn’t see anybody. I had tears in my eyes. I was still seeing spots from when they shined the light in my face. I could see the bonfire, though, and I knew it couldn’t be good.” She drops her head.

“I saw some of their faces because they were all wearing hoods, but they weren’t all wearing masks. The two that were wearing masks—I heard their voices. I knew exactly who they were. I begged for my life; I pleaded for them to tell me what I had done wrong…” She grabs the railing of the witness stand. She’s looking for strength, I can tell…

I’ve got you, Butterfly. I’m here. Be strong, baby.

She takes a deep breath and raises her head again. She already looks spent.

“Go on,” Larson says. She begins to worry her scar.

Come on, baby. You can do this.

She clears her throat.

“She got in my face. She said something to me…” Butterfly says.

“Who did?” Larson asks. Butterfly looks up as if to pull strength.

“The one he calls Carly Babe,” she says. She was searching for her words. “She taunted me, she called me a bitch, and then she slapped me. That must have been the ‘go’ signal, because they all came at me after that. The hits were coming from everywhere. They hit me everywhere… everywhere! I don’t know how long this went on. It just seemed like it wouldn’t stop.

There was nowhere to go,” she says, her voice cracking. “My legs and wrists were tied… I tried to roll away… I couldn’t get away. No matter where I tried to roll, a foot or a fist came at me, and they were peeing on me and spitting on me… oh, God…” She whispers the last two words before thrusting her hands into her hair.

“I couldn’t cover my face or my head or my mouth… I just wanted it to stop; I wanted somebody to help me… I called for my mother, but she wasn’t there…” Her words trail off, and she stops for a moment.

“Dr. Grey…?”

“After a while, one hit just ran into the other,” she says. “I was still screaming when the urinating and spitting started, but after a while, I just stopped. I was exhausted and I couldn’t scream anymore. Nobody was listening anyway. Nobody could really hear me. The smell of piss permeated my senses, and I just prayed to hurry up and die. When I felt that first burn, I was surprised that anything could cause more pain than I was already feeling, but I was certain that I was about to get my death wish.”

She’s never explained things to me like this… ever. My stomach is churning, thinking about this ordeal. I know what happened, but I imagined how horrible it must have been from what I’ve learned, heard, and saw. Even now, it’s worse than anything I ever imagine. Larson purses his lips and nods at her.

“Your honor, I like to introduce into evidence state’s exhibit one.” The judge nods and Larson turns to the jury.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to see the video of the night in question. You will first see the taped confession of Melanie Coleman, a terminally ill woman who confesses to recording the video live. Please prepare yourselves.”

I’m not ready to see this again. I’ll never be ready to see this again.

“Please remember that deathbed confessions are admissible and not considered hearsay,” Larson says. “These confessions often occur because a dying person wants to live their final days free of secrets they have been concealing throughout their lives. Know that Ms. Coleman died days after she recorded this confession.”

Larson somberly takes his seat as the video begins to play. A frail woman connected to oxygen declares her name and that she recorded the video on March 10, 2001. She introduces some of the people in the video, including her cousin—Carly Madison—but admits that she doesn’t know most of the assailants.

Today is the day. Today is the day that we send a message to everybody that doesn’t know just how we take care of things in our town. Today is the day that we show that little broke bitch that she can’t fuck with me or my man and get away with it!”

I watch with clenched fists as Carly Madison-Perry and her piece of shit boyfriend, Cody Whitmore, set the scene for the horror that will change my Butterfly’s life forever. I watch the petite young brunette being knocked unconscious and thrown into the back seat of a car.

Ray clears his throat. Amanda gasps.

They were still at the school. Students were everywhere! Nobody did a goddamn thing! Nobody said a thing! Even after the attack… nobody said shit!

There’s a conversation going on like these girls are headed to a slumber party right before the screen goes black… a fucking slumber party!

When the screen comes back, there are about five girls in the frame looking like witches in black on Halloween. They each say some Fuck with us and die type of bullshit before they take my Butterfly out of the trunk of the car. The camera zooms in on her. She’s been crying and she’s absolutely terrified.

I look over at my wife and she’s not paying attention. She’s holding her head down, even turns it away as the video plays, most likely trying to tune it out as much as she can. She leans her head on her hand, blocking her view of the screen. No one looks at her—they’re concentrating, horrified, on the events happening on the screen.

She can’t watch the video. The last time she watched it, she ended up catatonic for several days—but she lived this horror, and she knows exactly what she’s hearing.

The first time I saw this video, I didn’t hear it, but now I do. It’s faint, but it’s heart wrenching. You can barely hear it over the commotion of the vicious crowd—kicking, beating, and desecrating this poor girl—but when you hear it once, it becomes clear, almost like you can’t hear anything else over it…

“Moooommmiiiiiiieeeee!”

“Moommmmmiiiiieeeeeeeee!”

Moooooooooommmmiiiiiiieeeeeee!”

Jesus, my heart is breaking, and Ray looks as if he could leap out of his seat right now.

The video is nearing the end, getting into the worst part of the attack. Women have begun to cry as they hear her screaming for her “mommy.” I’m getting more and more enraged watching the callous, cold, and unbelievably cruel behavior of these monsters as they torture my Butterfly.

When the searing of her skin can be heard in stereo throughout the courtroom, and her wails of agony rip through my ears and heart, that’s when the vomiting begins, and my Butterfly is not immune. Even after having lived through it, her stomach still can’t take it once the video is played again. I want to rush to her on the stand, but I know that I can’t, and the court has actually supplied barf bags for just such an emergency. Five people lose their breakfast and several others are green in the face watching this display.

It seems like it takes forever for the video to finally end, but it was only a few minutes from the branding to the end of the video. Several of the jurors, the onlookers, and my wife are unable to compose themselves once the video is complete. Sullivan is looking down at the desk and Drake is simply examining the condition of the attendees in the courtroom with a bit of concern.

Yeah, asshole. Just because you can watch that shit without blinking doesn’t mean that every other human being can.

It’s music to my ears when the judge calls a brief recess and the jury is quickly led out of the courtroom.

Butterfly collapses in tears on the stand, having fought to hold herself together as the jury is led away. Why is she trying to be strong now? No one—except that fucking defense attorney—would blame her for falling apart during this time. She leans forward on the railing of the stand and weeps until her body shakes. She did the same thing when she had to identify the people in the video last year. I sprint around the balustrade to get to her taking long strides to get to the witness stand.

“No!” she shrieks, jerking away when I touch her without lifting her head. I’m shocked that she won’t let me touch her, but pretty certain that she wouldn’t let anybody touch her right now. Nonetheless, I turn my gaze—and my rage—towards the defense table. Sullivan still hasn’t raised his head, but when Drake catches my gaze, he immediately turns and begins to confer with his client. You despicable, reprehensible…

“Sir,” Jason says, breaking my gaze from the defense table. He needed to, and I think he knows that.

“Get Alex on the phone,” I say, my voice only loud enough for him to hear me. “I want everything he can get on this guy. This is going to be his swan song.” Jason nods, but doesn’t move. Don’t worry, I won’t kill him. I’m more concerned about Butterfly right now.

“My wife needs ice water,” I say, a little louder, my voice still rugged as Satan, “and a salt packet if you can find it.”

“I’m on it, sir,” he says, and turns to leave.

“I knew this would happen,” the judge says and produces a salt shaker from under his lectern, placing it on the side of his podium. “There’s a vending machine down the hall with water in it.”

“Thank you, your honor,” Jason says and dashes from the courtroom.

“Thank you, sir,” I say. “It’s much appreciated.” He nods and leaves the bench, going to his chambers. I take the salt and wait the eternity for Jason to return with the water. I glare at the defense while my wife weeps in the stand.

“Practiced enough for you?” I hiss at Drake. His brow furrows deeply.

“You’re not supposed to talk to me,” he says finitely.

“Why not?” I seethe. “Court’s not in session. There’s nobody here for your performance now!” No matter what he tries to get the jury to believe, he doesn’t believe that she practiced this reaction any more than I do. There’s no fear in his eyes, but he’s a bit dumbstruck. Sullivan continues to stare at the table in front of him like a good little puppy.

“Chris!” Al is in my line of sight almost immediately. “No,” he says, and that’s all he says.

“Come on, son,” Ray says, walking up next to him. “Let’s check on Annie.”

I’m seeing red. I’m seeing death and carnage and mayhem. I’m so sick of this shit. I’m so sick of my wife going through unnecessary stress and pain, and I’m really sick of Nevada and I’ve only been here for less than a day!

But I have to see about my wife.

I tear my gaze away from the not-so-cocky asshole at the defense table and go over to my wife. I move to the opening on the side of the witness stand to get closer to her, to speak to her before I try to touch her again.

“Baby?” I say, gently. “Baby, it’s me.” She throws her arms around me without looking, sobbing on my shoulder.

“I know, Baby,” I say, gently stroking her back. “I know.” She still says nothing but continues to weep.

“We can ask for a recess until tomorrow…” Larson says approaching us, his voice concerned. I’m just about to agree when my little waif squeaks in my ear.

“No… no… I have to do this… I can’t put it off anymore…” and she continues to weep. I blink the tears back in my eyes and look at Larson.

“She’s going to do it,” I say, just above a whisper. “I don’t know what’s going to happen if I get her out of this courtroom and she doesn’t do this today.”

That’s the truth. I really don’t know what’s going to happen. Larson examines me for a while, then nods.

“If you think that’s best,” he says, and he says it to me. I’m a little shocked. I lean in to my wife’s ear.

“Butterfly?” I say softly. She nods feverishly on my shoulder.

“She says, ‘yes,’” I tell him, doing everything I can not to fall apart myself. He nods and walks back to the prosecutor’s table. Jason comes back into the courtroom with two large bottles of water.

“Baby?” I say to my weeping wife. “We gotta pull it together now, okay?” I say. She nods, still sobbing. I pull her back from my shoulder and give her the water. She looks like hell. Her eyes are all puffy; her face looks like it’s going to explode.

Marilyn and Mandy return to the courtroom clinging to each other with Ray right behind them. They look like they’ve been through the wringer, too. I didn’t even know they had left. Ray was just standing next to me a minute ago… wasn’t he? Al looks like he may have shed a few tears himself, but James is clinging tightly to his hand. None of them have seen this video that I know of, and today, they got to see it on a wide screen.

“Ana?” Jason says softly, handing her the salt shaker. She shakes some in her palm and licks it out, letting it sit on her tongue for a while. Her crying has become sniffles, and I hand her my handkerchief to wipe her face. She dries the tears and her face is very red and swollen. Her eyes are so bloodshot that the whites don’t look like they’re there anymore. Jason removes his handkerchief from his pocket and douses it in water, some of it spilling onto the floor, and hands it to Butterfly. She covers her face in the cold, wet cloth and takes several deep breaths to compose herself.

The bailiffs come through with a garbage can and remove all the barf bags, including my wife’s, while she slowly and shakily pulls herself together. When she removes the handkerchief, some of her color has returned, but her eyes are still red, and she still looks like a train wreck.

“Do you want your purse?” I ask. “Your lip gloss?”

“I don’t care how I look,” she says, tying her long hair in a single knot behind her back, the shorter part falling over her shoulders. I stay at the stand with her while people begin to file back into the courtroom.

“Remember, if you feel like you can’t do this…”

“I can do it,” she interrupts me and clears her throat. “I can do it.” I nod and kiss her hand firmly.

“I love you,” I say, cupping her cheek. She swallows.

“I love you, too,” she replies, looking at me with bloodshot eyes. I wet the handkerchief again and wring it dry before giving it back to her with a fresh, dry one from my other pocket. I’m all out of handkerchiefs now. That’s a first.

I stay with her at the stand until the last possible minute when the bailiff tells me that I need to take a seat. I tear myself away from my wife and take my seat behind the prosecution. The same bailiff walks over to my wife and says something. She nods, and the bailiff walks to the door of the judge’s quarters. A few moments later…

“All rise…”

… And court is back in session.

“Mr. Larson, would you like to continue with this witness?” The judge says.

“Yes, your honor,” he says, and he walks over to Butterfly.

“The video says it all,” he says, with sympathy. She nods.

“That it does,” she replies.

“Can you tell the court which of the gentlemen in the video is Vincent Sullivan?”

“Objection, your honor,” Drake says. “With all due respect, the witness has no way of knowing which assailant is Vincent Sullivan if she’s face down on the ground.”

“If it please the court, your honor, I’m getting to how she can tell us which assailant is Vincent Sullivan,” Larson protests.

“I’ll allow it for now. Proceed, Mr. Larson.” He nods.

“Dr. Grey, did you know Vincent Sullivan?” Larson asks.

“I knew of him,” she says.

“How?”

“He was in my biology class. I saw him every day. He didn’t stand out or anything, but I saw him, so I knew who he was. He’s also right next to me in the yearbook. I’m Steele; he’s Sullivan.”

“The defense is right,” he says. “You were face down. How do you know who the people were who are behind you?”

“I watched that video more times than I would like, mostly because even though it happened to me, I still can’t believe it’s real. I still can’t believe that a bunch of kids who aren’t old enough to purchase cigarettes are capable of doing something this cruel.  Unless someone has given us another video of this event, I’ve watched that boy abuse me more times than I care to discuss.”

“So, once again, I ask you, can you tell the court which of the gentlemen in the video is Vincent Sullivan?”

“Vincent Sullivan is the guy that branded me the first two times,” she says clearly. “He’s the one that backed away when he heard that I might be dead.”

“Your honor, the state is entering into evidence exhibits 2 – 54.” Larson retrieves a folder and reveals several pictures of Vincent Sullivan on the night of the attack—stills pulled from the video along with his yearbook picture from 2001 and his current mugshots. Like Butterfly, the images haven’t changed much.

Larson also introduces pictures of a broken and battered Butterfly along with pictures of her grotesquely and freshly burned back, accompanied by pictures of the current scarring incorporated into the garden tattoo.

“Dr. Grey, I have to ask. These are some pretty graphic pictures. I can’t even see how someone could survive something like this and yet, you’ve indicated to me that you haven’t had any work done. I think we’d all like to know just to be able to effectively link you to this incident, how can this person that we see so brutally beaten turn out to be this person that we see today?” She sighs heavily, looks down, then raises her gaze back to Larson.

“I’m carrying permanent scars on my back, in my mind, and on my heart. I guess God saw fit not to have me wear them on my face, too.”


A/N: Criminal cases in Clark County normally initiate in the Las Vegas Justice Center and then move to the District Court. For aesthetic and creative reasons, I mention the District Court, but the descriptions of the courthouse and courtroom are the LVJC.

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

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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs