Raising Grey: Chapter 45—Doing What Must Be Done

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

Chapter 45—Doing What Must Be Done

ANASTASIA

True to his word—and probably out of a sense of duty—Christian comes to the connection room with me in the morning and tries to meditate, which is probably the reason that it doesn’t work.

“It’s no use, Butterfly,” he says, interrupting me ten minutes into my meditation. “It’s not helping.” I sigh.

He’s sitting cross-legged lotus style in front of me. I move to sit in front of him in the same position.

“Are you comfortable?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says, almost sarcastically.

“What are you thinking about?”

“Work and us and the twins and…”

“That’s your problem,” I tell him. “That’s not meditating.”

“It’s so quiet!” he says, somewhat whiney. “When I try to clear my mind, a million thoughts pop up. Our trip to Detroit, having to deal with Freeman, what color is the sky…” I think he threw that last one in there to be sarcastic. “It’s the same as when I was trying to do it before. The only difference was that then, the quiet let the monsters in.” I move closer to him until our knees touch.

“Give me your hands,” I instruct him. He dutifully gives me his hands. “Now breathe with me… slowly. Slow deep breath in, fill your lungs completely…” I take in a deep breath. “Now count slowly to yourself as you exhale through your mouth.” He blows his breath out a little fast, so I have to instruct him a little more.

“Make an ‘o’ with your lips and exhale soft and slow, like you’re blowing on a dandelion. Count at least three seconds.”

“I’ve never blown a dandelion,” he protests.

“Okay, pretend like you’re blowing something else,” I say. I thought of gently blowing out a candle. I can tell by his facial expression where his mind goes.

Figures.

“In through your nose, deep breath,” I coach again. “Out through your mouth…”

Of course, it’s perfect this time, and I have to fight the visual of him blowing on my clit.

“In through your nose, out through your mouth… In… Out…” Once I see that he’s gotten the hang of the breathing, I move to the next step.

“Now, close your eyes and calm your breathing,” I tell him. “Breathe normally, but still feel the good air coming in, and the bad air going out. Concentrate on that serene feeling of cleansing and freedom.”

I can see when the serenity hits him. His face softens, and his shoulders relax. His breath becomes more and more even and a few moments later, he sinks into a complete sense of calm.

I don’t release his hands. I just sit there with him, close my eyes and finish my meditation.

Several minutes later, I stretch my neck and come out of my meditation. I open my eyes to see Christian still sitting across from me, still breathing, still relaxing. I gently stroke his hand with my thumb so as not to startle him too much. He slowly opens his lids, and cool, gray irises look back at me.

“How was that?” I ask. His eyes shift for a moment, then he breathes again and nods.

“Good, actually,” he replies. “Better than the last time. My mind still wandered every now and then, though.”

“That’s okay,” I tell him. “Meditation is about focus, but the silence tends to make you focus on the wrong things. We’ll try this a bit and see if it works for you, then we’ll try some more advanced techniques. Tell me, how do you feel?”

“More… relaxed,” he says as if searching for the word, “like thinking isn’t such a trial. Maybe ‘trial’ is the wrong word…” He trails off.

“I think you’re getting it,” I say, rewarding him with a sweet smile. His expression is soft, though he doesn’t smile. I gaze into his eyes and see a myriad of emotions there, things that I know he can’t verbalize. Last night at the lake was the first time I’ve ever seen my husband so sadly and desperately passionate about anything. If there was another time, it’s been erased by the accident. Even Montana didn’t have him this passionate or openly maudlin, that he showed me. The Elliot misunderstanding was certainly maudlin, but not this passionate. This time…

God, we’ve been through so much in such a brief period of time, and goddammit, we’re both amateurs! My only gauge is a psychopathic cheating ex who eventually hanged himself in a jail cell. Christian has no prior gauge at all. Some days, I wonder how we make it out alive.

At first, I think it’s my imagination, but I realize the space is closing between us… like in slow motion. The emotions prevalent in his eyes now are longing and, I think, hope.

Kiss me…

He doesn’t say it, but I hear it. I release his hands and take his face gently in mine. Closing the space between us, I press tender kisses on his lips, closing my eyes and feeling the softness. I slant my mouth over his and deepen the kiss only slightly, and he slides his hands around my waist. I push my hands into his hair and massage his scalp with my fingertips. He pulls me to my knees while rising to his own and envelops me in his arms, pulling me closer to his body.

We taste one another, slowly and gently, and I feel our connection—like it was before Madrid… and Liam. I feel my Christian, my lover and my protector, and I chance the moment of feeling safe and loved in his arms, like we used to be. He pulls slightly away from me and looks into my eyes.

“We… should get our day started,” he says, his voice soft, but raspy. “There’s a lot we need to do.”

“Yeah,” I say, gently brushing his uncut hair off his forehead. We share another gaze before he rubs his nose against mine and I reciprocate with another gentle kiss to his lips.

Crawling…

He lifts me effortlessly from the floor and places me gently on my feet. He takes my hand and leads me out of the connection room.

“I’m going to work from home today,” he says as he closes the secret door, “get some things settled for the trip to Detroit. Leave the twins here. I’d like to spend some time with them.” I smile. He’s been quite the doting father since his return. He was attentive before. I mean, he never neglected them except for his momentary check-out after Burt died and then this time—going off to Madrid and not seeing or speaking to them for weeks. I’m sure that he wants to make up for lost time, but he has his whole life to do that, as long as he doesn’t continue to do that check out thing when times get tough.

Try to think positive, Dr. Grey. It’s all you’ve got right now.

“I need to go to the Center, but I won’t be gone long,” I tell him. “I’d like to spend some time with them, too.” He smiles at me and releases my hand before going off to his bathroom. There’s still a small rift between us, but we’re working on it. I just want things to be the way that they were before Liam darkened our door.

Liam…

I swear to God, if I ever see that guy again, I’ll nail him square in the balls!

*-*

“No, we’re not going, dear,” Grace says to me while were sitting in my makeshift office. My office is being painted for my self-funded remodel. “Unfortunately, it’s too short notice. The Center will once again be without administration and I also have my shifts at the hospital. I couldn’t go if I tried. And Luma has a job, too, though I’m sure her generous boss would be willing to give her time off for this,” she says playfully. I often forget that Luma works for Christian. I just see her as family.

“Nonetheless,” Gail continues, “she has the girls to tend to. She needs to get them off to school in the morning and such. I do wish we could go, but to be honest, Christian is the one that’s going to need the moral support. Detroit was home to Carrick and Herman. Their worst memories are probably of Freeman, and they can handle that. Christian, on the other hand…”

She doesn’t finish her sentence, but she doesn’t have to. The monsters of Motown are often still chasing my husband during his darkest hours.

“I sincerely wonder what made him agree to go to Detroit in the first place,” she continues. “I certainly know that Carrick wouldn’t have asked him. We’re both only too aware of the horrible impact that place has had on him.”

“If I know my husband like I think I do, he just wants to be there to support his father,” I reply. “Don’t worry, Grace. He’ll be okay. I’ll keep my eye on him.” She sighs and shakes her head.

“You know how it is, dear,” she says, looking at her feet, “or at least you will. You never stop worrying about them no matter how old they get or how successful they become.” I squeeze her hand.

“Let’s go look at my office space,” I say, changing the subject. “I hear the painting is just about done and I can tell you what I’ve got planned…”

I’m delighted to find that the painting is completely finished, but unfortunately, it’s not dry yet. No matter, the furniture isn’t set to be delivered until Monday anyway as I was certain that the painting wouldn’t be done until then. Once we moved the furniture out, I realized that there was much more space in there than I thought. So, I’ve decided to make the office into two distinct spaces—a sitting area and the office area. The “office” portion is painted two tones of yellow, both muted, and the “Zen” sitting area is covered in a textured gray wallpaper. I wouldn’t have thought the two would go together, but when I looked at the furnishings that I chose, they were both the perfect choices to blend and separate the offices at the same time. Tongue and groove wood flooring will be laid over the weekend to finish things off.

“It’s going to be pretty minimalist,” I tell Grace as she’s eying the two separate colors of the room. “The need for change is prominent in my life right now… for obvious reasons.”

“Mmm,” Grace says in contemplation looking around the office. Does she not like the colors?

“What is it?” I ask.

“Oh, nothing, it just… This made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve changed my office,” she says. “It’s never been a priority. I came here, I did what I did, and I left. I’m only just realizing how much time I spend in that room.” She looks at me. “My office at the hospital is pretty cozy—warm and inviting. My space here looks like the principal’s office! I was so dead set against using any outside funds for the Center that I didn’t think about using my own funds for my personal space.” She turns to me. “Even though I’m only here on a part-time basis, it’s still something like 20 – 25% of my life.” I gesture around my empty office.

“You don’t have to convince me,” I point out. “I’m here more than you are, but then, I don’t have a full-time job either. How long has it been since you’ve updated the space?” She folds her arms and leans against the outside door jam.

“Like… never.” I just look at her. “Yes, I think it’s definitely time for a change,” and I can see the wheels turning.

“Grace, have you spoken to John?” I ask. He’s been MIA and mute for months now, even before Pops died. Exactly what’s going on with his son?

“Yes, I did,” she says, and her voice turns somber. “I’m not sure he’ll be coming back, dear.” My eyes widen.

“Why not?” I ask. “What happened?”

“His son is very sick,” she says. “I told you that he contracted something when they went home a while back. Well, the doctors here were no good in diagnosing what it was. They kept treating the flu and he kept getting worse—knocking on death’s door, in fact. So, they took him to a doctor overseas. They began treating him and he began to show improvement. What’s more is that they were able to isolate the virus. It’s a coronavirus that behaves a lot like SARS…”

“Were they treating him for SARS?” I ask.

“They weren’t treating him for anything because they thought it was the flu,” she replies. “You don’t treat the flu. You treat the symptoms and wait until it passes. When it didn’t pass, they started treating him for pneumonia. He was getting marginally better, but you’re looking at a virus, not an infection. That’s when John and Rhian decided to take him overseas. Too much time had gone by and he wasn’t showing enough improvement. Long story short, after lots and lots of brutal testing and agonizingly long nights, he’s been diagnosed with MERS.” I frown.

“What the hell is MERS?” I ask. I may need to do some continuing education for this one.

“Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome,” she says. My frown deepens. It’s sounds just like SARS.

“Is this something somebody made up?” I ask. “I swear, this sounds like somebody trying to get into a medical journal or something, and they’re using this kid to do it.”

“Well, he’s not the first case. In fact, several people have died from it over the last two years.”

“But you said he went to England,” I protest. “How can a kid who went to England contract something from the Middle East? Did they visit Iran, too? And why do they name illnesses after regions? It makes it sound like the entire area is infected.”

60662cdbb617d5bbbfb4c15950e146c6The West Nile Virus and the German Measles immediately come to mind. I’m seeing the old pictures in my head of children singing Ring Around the Rosie during the time of the Black Death. I know those origins are questionable, but the impact is just as strong as the uncertainty around this MERS thing.

“There were cases if it across parts of Britain as well,” she says. “It’s not unheard of that John’s son could have contracted it.”

“Well, what’s different about MERS? Why not just call it what it is? It’s SARS.”

“I’m not completely versed on this, dear, but the virus is a different mutation. It doesn’t spread as quickly as SARS, but it can be deadly nonetheless.” I sigh. It frustrates me when I can’t clearly understand things.

“Okay, so, that still doesn’t tell me why John’s not coming back,” I say.

“Well, the government won’t let his son back into the country until he’s well.” Now, I’m appalled.

“What?!” I nearly roar. “He’s an American citizen! Wasn’t he born here?”

“Yes, but he has a very aggressive strain of a disease that we’re not really schooled on yet, and if they have advanced knowledge and feel like he’s going to infect other ‘citizens,’ the government and the CDC can deny him re-entry. As a result, John is discontent with the United States right now and is questioning his intent to return.” I shake my head in disgust.

“I’d be discontent, too, if I were him,” I say. It’s not that John is one of my favorite people, but we’re talking about watching your son suffer, then being told that you can’t return to the land of the free and the home of the brave because someone slapped a label on what he has and they’re still discovering what’s under this label. I still think it’s SARS, but I’m not qualified enough to say.

“Have you told Christian?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“I only just found out… this morning, in fact. I was going to tell you, but you asked me first, so…” She trails off.

“I’ll tell him,” I say. “I won’t spring it on him yet with the lovely trip that we have ahead of us, but I’ll find the right time.” He considers John a friend, so he would definitely want to know.

*-*

“Help!” I hear Christian declare. “I’m being baby-mangled!”

I follow Minnie’s maniacal giggles to find my family. Christian is on the floor on his back, dramatically pretending to struggle to get free of a smiling and drooling Mikey, who’s on his hands and knees on top of Christian, pounding his flat hands on his father’s chest. Minnie is sitting up on a blanket nearby surrounded by pillows, bouncing and laughing hysterically at her brother and her father. I quietly take out my phone and begin recording.

“This looks like the end for King Christian,” my husband says in a narrating voice. “The Incredible Mikey has him subdued with no hope of escape!”

“No! No!” he continues, changing his voice to remain in character. “I’ll never yield!”

“Try though he might…” the narrator is back, “King Christian cannot defeat the Incredible Mikey. He tries one last tactic—the Terror Tickle!” Christian tickles his son and Mikey bursts into joyous laughter, his sister following suit for no particular reason whatsoever as she launches a plush toy across the pillow fort that connects with Christian’s tickle hand. Christian throws a mock-horrified look at his daughter.

“Hey!” he protests. “That’s outside interference! Whose side are you on?”

I have to cover my mouth to keep from bursting into laughter. Mikey’s hard guffaws result in a healthy amount of drool leaking onto Christian’s shirt.

“Uuuuugghh!” he exclaims. “The Toxic Droll Attack! I’m done for!”

I’m nearly choking on air over here. I can barely hold my phone straight.

“That’s it, ladies and gentlemen,” the narrator says, “King Christian is throwing in the towel, which he needs now for the toxic baby drool…”

Oh, dear Lord, help me.

My husband uses a burping cloth to clean the drool from Mikey’s mouth and as much of it as he can from his shirt before declaring the Incredible Mikey the new babyweight world champion. He stands to his feet, lifting his son in the air and presenting him as the new champion, spinning around and imitating crowd cheering sounds…

And then he sees me and stops in his tracks.

I’m finally able to release the laughter I’d been choking on ever since I started recording. My husband twists his lips.

“How long have you been standing there?” he asks, acting perturbed.

“Ever since you cried about being baby-mangled,” I tease. His expression doesn’t do anything to curb my laughter. “Do you realize how hard it is to take that stern look seriously while you have drool on your shirt and that adorable baby in your hands?”

He looks at his shirt, then at Mikey.

“She doesn’t understand how hard this Daddy thing can be,” he says to Mikey, “but that’s okay. You get me, don’t you?” I chuckle as I stop recording.

“It can’t be any harder than being the milk-producing snack bitch for two little people,” I laugh. Christian frowns.

“Oh, Butterfly, that sounds terrible,” he laments. I laugh it off.

“Well, it’s true,” I say, grabbing my swollen boobs. “Have they eaten?”

“They have, in fact,” he says, “maybe about an hour ago.”

“In that case, I have a date with a breast pump… and you might want to stop swinging the babyweight champion around or he might give you back his lunch.” Christian looks at Mikey who only laughs at his father.

“That might be a good idea,” he says, securing his son in his arms.

“Ms. Solomon is there anything ready that I can eat?” I ask as I’m passing through the kitchen. “I skipped lunch and just came home.”

“What are you in the mood for?” she asks, opening the Sub-Zero.

“Anything quick and dead,” I tell her. When I’m hungry, I’ll inhale whatever’s in that refrigerator. Ms. Solomon laughs.

“Give me fifteen minutes,” she says. “I’ll put something together for you.”

It only takes a few minutes this time to empty my pounding tits and change into some genie pants and a wrap shirt. I take a few moments to myself to meditate and re-center before I go back downstairs to join my family.

A heavenly smell greets me as I bend the corner from the hallway to the dining room, causing me to nearly sprint to the kitchen.

“My God, what did you do?” I ask when I see the spread on the breakfast bar.

“Nothing,” Ms. Solomon says, “Glorified grilled cheese and tomato soup.” She has a place set at the breakfast bar with a steaming bowl of creamy tomato soup. I sit at the breakfast bar and she sets a plate next to the bowl with the grilled cheese sandwich that she made—thick slices of bread with oregano and parsley grilled with Canadian bacon, Monterey Jack cheese… and something yellow. I bite into the heavenly creation and realize that it’s a slice of pineapple. I never would have thought to put that combination together, but it’s absolutely delicious!

“What made you think of this combination?” I say, rudely talking with my mouth full as she puts a cranberry spritzer down next to me.

“My stepmother was Samoan,” she says. “She used to make them for me and my brothers all the time.” I nod and take another healthy bite of my sandwich.

“Damn, what smells so good?” Christian comes into the kitchen and sees my sandwich. “Can I have a bite?”

“Touch my food and you’ll pull back a nub!” I exclaim, still chomping on Canadian bacon and pineapple. Holy cow, Batman, this is delicious. Christian actually looks at me in surprised horror. Ms. Solomon laughs.

“Sit down, Mr. Grey,” she chuckles. “Five minutes.” She turns around and gets to work on his sandwich.

“What happened to what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine?” he says while taking a seat next to me at the breakfast bar. I swallow the bite of heaven that I’m chewing.

“She’s fixing yours,” I say, as I take a spoonful of the creamiest tomato soup I’ve ever tasted. I groan in satisfaction and he tries to take my sandwich again. I smack his hand so fast and so hard that he snatches it back swiftly.

“Ow!” he exclaims. “Okay! I believe you!”

“You better,” I say, taking another spoonful of my soup and groaning again in satisfaction.

“Here, sir,” Ms. Solomon says, sitting a bowl of soup in front of him. “Work on that while I finish your sandwich. I don’t want to be responsible for any death or dismemberment.” I chuckle as Christian picks up his spoon and tastes the soup.

“This is delicious!” he says taking another spoonful. “Tomato bisque?” Ms. Solomon shrugs.

“I guess you could call it bisque,” she says. “I use different ingredients, though.”

“Another recipe from your stepmom?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“No, from my mom, before she passed away.” I get quiet. I don’t know anything about hers or Windsor’s family, but I just didn’t think to assume that her mother was dead.

“I’m sorry,” I say.

“Don’t be,” she replies, waving me off as she flips Christian’s sandwich. “It was a long time ago.” Christian tastes some more of his soup.

“This is so good,” he croons, taking spoonful after spoonful of the soup. I’m glad he likes it, so he can leave my damn sandwich alone.

“I’m glad you like it,” Ms. Solomon says, plating and slicing his sandwich before putting it in front of him. “What would you like to drink?” He looks over at my spritzer.

“I’ll have what she’s having,” he says before taking a huge bite of his sandwich. “Mmm… mm, mm, mm…” He chews the sandwich hungrily like a savage, so much so that I have to stop eating to observe the spectacle. He pays me no attention as he devours his food.

“I knew it would taste good,” he says, taking another monstrous bite that annihilates half of the half of sandwich that he had in his hand. I shake my head and tuck back into my food. It’s silent in the kitchen for about three minutes and then it dawns on me.

“Where are the twins?” I ask between bites of food.

“Still in the family room,” he says. “They’re safe in their Pack-n-Plays watching television. Keri’s in there with them.” He has already gobbled down half his sandwich—in three bites! And he wanted a piece of mine. I don’t think so, Hungry Jack!

“Is it safe to approach?”

Christian and I both stop eating and turn our heads to the voice coming from nowhere. Elliot is hiding behind one of the marble columns and all we see is his arm and a white handkerchief waving in the air.

“You tattled on me to my father, you fucking snitch,” Christian scolds. “I should kick your ass, you pussy.”

“Hey, I just wanted to make sure everything was okay,” he excuses. “You weren’t giving me any information and you looked like shit. No offense, but so did you, Montana.”

“Thanks,” I say sarcastically as I’m finishing off my soup.

“And now, you insult my wife. Don’t you have a home, now? Hell, for that matter, don’t you have a fucking job?” Christian snaps.

“I could say the same thing to you,” he says coming over to the breakfast bar and looking at what’s left of my sandwich. Without making eye-contact with him, I quickly grab what’s left of my sandwich and gobble down the last bite.

“You’re in my house,” Christian retorts. “Don’t ask me why I’m in my house. Why are you here?”

“I was in the neighborhood,” he admits, taking a seat next to Christian and now eying the other half of his sandwich.

“Elliot, so help me, if you touch my sandwich, you’ll leave this house in a body bag.” I look horrified at my husband.

“Damn,” I protest. “I only threatened to maim you.”

“Well, can I have one?” Elliot says. “I’m starving… and you know I’d never take your food.” He rolls his eyes at his brother.

“Well, then, you should have eaten before you got here…” The entire time that they’re sparring, Ms. Solomon has already put another sandwich in the frying pan and started the microwave to rewarm the tomato bisque. I shake my head and take my dishes to the sink.

“I could have done that, Mrs. Grey,” Ms. Solomon says.

“It’s alright,” I say, wiping my hands on a dishtowel.

“Go find lunch somewhere else, you moocher,” Christian says, still antagonizing his brother.

“So, Elliot, you said you were in the neighborhood,” I say, breaking the sparring match. “What were you doing in these parts?”

“Oh, the Miller place,” he says. “Mrs. Miller hasn’t changed anything since her husband died. It’s been ten years and she’s ready for a redo.” Christian finishes his lunch just as Ms. Solomon is putting the soup in front of Elliot.

“Careful, it’s hot,” she says as she takes Christian’s dishes and put them in the sink.

“You’re doing less building and more remodels now, bro?” Christian says.

“No, still doing builds,” he says, blowing a spoonful of soup to cool it. “Gia called me on this one. Said Mrs. Miller saw the pictures of your house on a preview of that show that supposed to be coming on, where you guys did the interview…” I look at Christian.

“I thought we were supposed to approve the showing before they aired it,” I say.

“We are,” he says, pulling out his phone. “Mac… call that woman, Sanchez… we’re hearing through the grapevine that people are seeing previews of our interview and we haven’t approved anything… yeah, my brother’s getting remodel requests because someone’s already seen the inside of my house… I’ll wait for your call.” He ends the call with Vee. “She hasn’t heard anything either. I hope we haven’t made a mistake letting this woman into our lives.”

“I’m sure it’s just a misunderstanding,” I say, afraid to let on that I’m thinking the same thing. By now, Ms. Solomon has set yet another of her delectable sandwiches in front of Elliot. He has already dug into it and opted for apple juice. “So, Elliot, who’s Gia?” I ask, trying to change the subject until we hear from Maria.

Elliot was thoroughly enjoying his sandwich but stops mid-chew at the mention of this woman’s name. He looks over at Christian, then back at me.

“She doesn’t know about Gia?” he asks, his mouth full. What’s in this damn sandwich that makes us all forget our manners? Christian shrugs like, “No big deal.”

“Why should I know about Gia?” I ask.

“Elliot used to fuck her,” Christian blurts out before finishing his cranberry spritzer. Elliot quickly swallows his food.

“More importantly,” he retorts, “she did your boat.

Aah, the plot thickens. This is the woman’s touch that I saw all over the Slayer.

“I see,” I say, taking my husband’s glass and walking over to the sink.

“Thanks, Lelliot,” I hear him hiss. “I think I’d like for you to leave now!”

“I just started eating!” Elliot protests quietly. “Besides, you’re the one that blurted out that we used to fuck.”

“Oh, but the fact that Gia did my boat—that needed to be known, right? I don’t talk to the woman anymore, but you’re doing remodeling jobs with her…”

I know exactly what Elliot’s doing. He’s trying to take the focus off himself by casting it on Christian. I know how to deflate that agenda.

“So, Elliot,” I turn back to the bickering brothers, “Gia’s a decorator?” He nods. “And how does Val feel about you working with an ex-girlfriend?” He stops mid-chew again and raises his eyes to me.

“She doesn’t know,” he says after swallowing his food, “and she wasn’t a girlfriend.”

“Do you think it’s a good idea for you to be working with someone whom you’ve previously bedded, and your wife doesn’t know?” I press.

“I’m not screwing the woman now,” he protests. “It’s just a lead. A lead is a lead.”

“So, she’s not working on the remodel with you.” It’s a question formed as a statement.

“Well, yeah, she’s working on the design plans but… I’m not messing around with her…”

“But you used to,” I press. Elliot gets quiet. “Trust me, Elliot, secrets in a relationship can be disastrous.” I look over at Christian, who raises his gaze to me. I know only too well of what I speak. I could have lost my marriage because I didn’t come to my husband when I knew Liam was attracted to me and I still had to work with him.

“Tell her before she finds out from somebody else, like some gossip rag that may see the two of you together at the Miller mansion.”

Before he has the chance to respond, I leave the kitchen and go into the family room with my babies. The topic is a bit too much for me to stomach right now. My mood immediately turns sour and I need little bundles of pink and blue to reverse its affects.


CHRISTIAN

“Nice fucking going, Elliot!” I hiss. “Did you intentionally come over here to upset my wife or do you have a purpose?”

“You know I wasn’t trying to upset her…” His excuse is weak.

“What the fuck were you doing, then?” I counter. “More importantly, she did your boat.” I mock his voice in a very unflattering manner. “I realize that you were in the Caribbean enjoying the sun and surf, but I’m certain that Valerie told you what we just went through.” He slaps his forehead.

“Shit, man, I forgot all about that,” he laments.

“I. Haven’t!” I bark. “I’m still fucking living it! You wanna know why we looked like shit last night? It’s because we were out on the lawn crying over whether we should even continue being married or not!” Elliot’s eyes widen.

“Dude… I’m sorry. I just panicked. The spotlight shined on me and I just… panicked.”

“So, you thought you’d get the heat off you by throwing me under the bus? How’d that work out for you?” I glare at my brother.

“It was a fucked-up thing to do, man,” he admits. “I’m really sorry. I wasn’t thinking.” I twist my lip.

“Yeah, whatever.” I stand from the stool. “She’s right. Tell your wife that you used to fuck Gia and that you’re working together. Now, finish your fucking lunch and get the hell out of my house.” I brush past him.

“Christian, really, I’m sorry, man. It was a bonehead…”

“I agree,” I say, interrupting his apology. “I heard you the first time, and I accept your apology, but I can’t talk to you right now. Finish your lunch and leave.”

I turn away from my brother and walk into the family room. My wife is sitting on the floor with a baby on each shoulder. She’s humming softly while simultaneously and masterfully rocking them to sleep. I sit on the sofa next to where she’s sitting on the floor and watch my children contentedly falling asleep on her shoulder as she sings to them. I can’t make out the tune, but they’re slipping comfortably into slumber. I take out my phone and snap a few pictures of my son and daughter lying peacefully on their mother’s shoulder. When she’s certain that they’re asleep, she asks me to help her put them down. We put each of them in their Pack-n-Play. They’ve gotten too big for the nappers. We stand there for a moment, silently looking down into the Pack-n-Plays.

“I… slept with Victoria once,” I blurt out. She turns her gaze to me.

“Victoria who?” she says, and then it hits her. “Vickie?” she asks incredulously. “Courtney’s Vickie? She’s gay!”

“She… was indecisive at the time,” I say.

“Indecisive,” she says in the same incredulous voice, low enough not to wake the twins. “So, you made her realize she was gay?” I roll my eyes.

“No,” I say defensively, “I mean, she was already gay, but I was her last hurrah,” I clarify. I sigh. “I was still Elena’s submissive and I didn’t want a girlfriend, but I was away at college and I wanted to fuck. She wanted one last round. It was a means to and end for us both.” She raises her brow at me but says nothing.

“Elena beat the hell out of me when she found out,” I continue. “I think that was the last real punishment she ever gave me. I resented it. I was young and horny, and she was always there to fulfill that need when I had it. Yet, at college, she wasn’t—so what was I supposed to do?” I sit on the sofa as I recall my short stint at college. Two years. Two agonizing years, the first year I was completely celibate. It was torture.

“She wanted me to be all hot for her when I came home on vacations, and believe me, I was, but this time…”

I recall the not-so-fond memory of telling my Mistress that I had been with someone else…

“What’s going on?” she asks while were having dinner at her estate. “Something’s different.”

“No, Mistress,” I say, trying to hide the truth from her.

“Don’t lie to me, pet,” she purrs… more like growls. “What’s going on?” I sigh. I can’t keep if from her. I couldn’t if I tried.

“I’ve… been with someone… else,” I choke, unable to raise my gaze to my Mistress. There’s a long pause before she responds.

“I see,” she says, putting her wine on the table. “So, I assume you’ll be wanting to end our arrangement.”

“No!” I retort, quickly, raising my eyes to hers but dropping them just as quickly. “No, Mistress, I don’t.”

“You can’t mean that!” she barks. “You’ve been with someone else. You touched someone else without my permission, and you let her touch you! Surely, that means this is not what you want anymore.”

“That’s not true, Mistress,” I say, nearly begging. “I was counting the days to get back to you…”

“While in the arms of another woman!” she scolds viciously. “Then, I had to pull the truth out of you. Would you have even told me?” I nod.

“I would have,” I choke, “eventually. I just… didn’t know how.”

“I’m sure you didn’t!” she hisses, tossing her napkin on the table before standing. I stand as well, just like she taught me. “Go to the playroom. Strip, and wait for me there.”

I listen to her heels click angrily across the marble floor. Son of a motherfucking bitch…

I’m in for it now…

I remember some pretty bad beatings at the end of the Pedophile’s tools, but that was one of the worst. It was awful. Then while my skin was bruised and on fire—broken in some places—she made me fuck her and fuck her until she had enough, commanding me not to come. Then she sent me away, horny and in pain. She didn’t see me for the rest of spring break.

I remember coming home that summer and announcing that I wouldn’t be returning to school. It was a two-fold reason, the main one being that I could do what I needed to do without a Harvard education. The second was her. I was back at school afraid to even look at another girl for fear that Mistress had a bird on a wire somewhere that would fly back to her and tell her what I was doing. I was miserable. I wanted to be back in Seattle with my Mistress, where I could fuck. And I wanted to start my own business.

“How did she end up in Seattle?” Butterfly asks, breaking the silence between us. “Did she follow you?” I shake my head.

“No,” I tell her. “That’s how we connected. We were both from here. She finished her degree and with her business knowledge and her design savvy…” I flourish my hands to demonstrate that Victoria is now exactly where she wants to be.

“Well,” she says, walking over to where I’m sitting and stands in front of me. “You should be more worried about her with me at this point than I should be about her with you.” I shrug. “You told me because of what I said to Elliot?” I raise my eyes to her, then drop them again with a nod.

“It would have come out at one time or another,” I say. “It really didn’t mean anything… to either of us. It was just sex, but it’s better that you hear it from me than you hear it from anyone else.” There’s a short silence.

“And Gia?” she says. I raise my eyes to her. “You were a bachelor before you met me,” she says. “There was no reason for Jack and Jill bathrooms in the master suite. There was no reason for his and hers parlors/saloons when it was just you. The whole place should have been decked out like a bachelor pad, yet there were areas specifically designed with a woman in mind. You’re saying that there was no reason for Gia to think that woman was her?”

“Absolutely not!” I say definitely. “I was under no misconception that she was hopeful of wanting more, but that was by no encouragement from me. With the exception of Victoria in my college years, my only sexual relationships before you were with submissives… and one Domme.” God, I’m glad that part of my life is over.

“Fine,” she says, leaning down taking my hand. “That’s all that needs to be said about this issue. Let’s go get packed for Detroit.” She gives my hand a pull and I rise from the sofa. I look back at our children once more to make sure that they’re asleep and fall in line behind my wife.

Butterfly removes a garment bag and puts three outfits in it with lingerie, accessories, and toiletries. We’re only going to be there overnight—why is she packing so much?

“Is that, like, a rule with women or something? Pack enough clothes for a long weekend when we’re only staying for a day?” She looks at me.

“I have something casual, something business, something semi-formal. You never know what’s going to happen.”

“I know that we’re not going to be there long enough for you to need all those clothes,” I say, packing a single suit, linen shirt, shoes, and accessories in my garment bag, along with my toiletries pouch.

“Then if we don’t, no harm done,” she says as she begins to brush her hair. I don’t harp on it because I know she’s been having this doomsday mentality about everything lately. This could be another one of those things.

I’m heading to my bathroom when I hear my phone buzzing on the nightstand. I go back to the bed and pick it up. I don’t recognize the number.

“Grey,” I answer.

“Christian, I am so sorry!” I don’t recognize the voice immediately. “It’s Maria. Sanchez. I swear to God, I don’t know who dropped the ball, but those promos were not supposed to run until I spoke to you.” Indeed. I just bet.

“One minute.” I get my wife’s attention when she comes back out of her dressing room.

“It’s Maria Sanchez,” I say, waving at her and changing my phone to speaker. “You’re on speaker, and my wife is here.” She clears her throat.

“I was just telling Christian that I don’t know how the promos started without my knowledge. We’re still trying to find out who dropped the ball on this one, but I was going to call you tomorrow to see if your weekend was free. I was going to bring the footage to Seattle and we could all view it together in that beautiful theater of yours—promos and all—and you could tell me what you think.”

“Before we discuss that,” my wife interjects, “I’d like to know how footage of our interview—promo or not—made it on the air without our permission and apparently, also without your knowledge. Isn’t there some kind of order about things, some kind of clearances that have to be in place and some programming manager that has to organize what’s being shown and approve the lineup or something before it’s aired? Or is there some buffoon like grip boy grabbing things and handing them to someone and they just put it on a reel?”

Bravo, Butterfly! I couldn’t have said it better myself! I’m having flashbacks of the conversation that I had with Maria about Butterfly being the real firecracker between the two of us, and my beautiful wife is showing that it doesn’t do to fuck with her.

“Ana, I assure you, this doesn’t happen often. I’ve had all your footage placed under lock and key—the clips, the finished product, the promos, everything. The only thing that I can say as an explanation is that we’re planning for you guys to lead Sweeps Week, and this is the time that we start showing the promos for that week. Someone may have seen the schedule and pulled the promo not knowing that we didn’t get clearance from you yet. I’m so sorry about that. I know that this incident along with the incident with Reggie doesn’t really give you a feeling of security and faith in my network right now, but please, this was my fault for not being clear in my communication and handling of the promos. I take full responsibility for this and I beg your forgiveness for my carelessness.”

At least she owned the mistake. That counts for something and restores some of my faith in her. Butterfly, I’m not so sure.

“What’s next, Maria?” I ask impatiently. She sighs.

“We need you to view the footage as soon as possible,” she says. “Like I said, I can fly out to Seattle on Friday…”

“We won’t be here,” I interrupt. “We have urgent business in Detroit and we’re flying out tomorrow.”

“Will you be there all weekend?” she pries. “I can meet you in Detroit if you like…” Oh, hell, no!

“No, that won’t be necessary,” I tell her. “Plan to meet us Sunday morning back here in Seattle. We should be done with our business by Friday evening and that gives us a day to get back home and settle down.”

“Good, I’ll do that. And again, I’m really sorry.” I nod as if she could hear me and end the call. I raise my gaze to Butterfly.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” she reinforces.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I say as I go back to my closet for casual wear and another suit to pack for our trip.

*-*

I hate this place.

I sincerely hate this place.

The last time I came anywhere near this hellhole, I discovered that the man who tormented me as a child and haunted my dreams for decades thereafter was indeed not tucked away in a jail cell somewhere but is somewhere wandering the world right now free as a fucking bird. Then I returned home to find that my wife was nearly killed by one of my crazy ass ex-subs. This place has absolutely no good memories for me—coming or going.

The minute we enter the airspace for DTW, my stomach starts churning and my spirit drops. My only comfort is that I’m holding the hand of my beautiful wife as we descend into Dante’s hell. My father doesn’t think I see him eyeing me out of his peripheral, and I think he’s more concerned about me than he is about the purpose of this trip. That’s exactly the opposite of what I want. I want to be moral support for him. It’s counterproductive if he must worry about me while we’re here.

“Are you okay?” my wife asks as I gaze out the window at the view beneath us while we descend into the airport. I nod.

“I’m fine,” I fib, “but I wouldn’t be lying if I said that I’ll be glad when this trip is over.” She squeezes my hand and smiles at me. She’s probably thinking the same thing that I am—It’s too late to back out now, so I might as well be useful.

We land at Detroit Metro at a little after 5:00pm local time. Jason has secured two vehicles for us while we’re here–one for Dad and Uncle Herman, and one for the three of us. Dad will be going to the private investigator’s office to see if there’s any information that he can get from them. He knows that legally, they don’t have to tell him anything, but armed with the fact that he’s an attorney and that his and Uncle Herman’s notices of the will reading mysteriously disappeared from the US Mail, he’s hoping that he can get someone to break under pressure. There’s no confidentiality between the agency and Freeman; they’re just not under any obligation to tell my father anything.

“No Audis, huh?” I ask when I see the generic SUV that my best friend has procured… maybe not generic, but generic to me. He raises his eyebrow at me.

“You’re kidding, right?” he asks. “In the land of the Big 3? You’re lucky if you find a Volkswagen.” I shake my head and help my wife into the large Lincoln Navigator. Thank God this is only for one day.

The attorney, who used to have an office in downtown Detroit, has now moved his practice to Troy. Thank God! We reserved a hotel room in Birmingham, halfway between Troy and Uncle Stan’s place in Farmington. Since Detroit Metro Airport is in the southeastern portion of the Mitten, and Farmington, Birmingham, and Troy are all in the northern metropolitan suburbs, the drawback is that unless we want to take some insanely crazy and unnecessary detour, we have to drive through the west side of Detroit.

The good news is that we don’t have to stop.

Dad drives the Navigator with me, Uncle Herman, and my wife inside to Uncle Stan’s house, while Jason takes the MKS to the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham to get me and my wife checked in. He’ll meet us later at Uncle Stan’s house to take us back to the hotel.

I’m in contemplation as we travel down the I-94 headed for the Southfield freeway that will take us to the northern suburbs. I fucking hate being here. I fucking hate it. I see nothing that rings any bells or causes any feelings of déjà vu, but I hate being here anyway. I hate what this place represents. I hate everything about it.

There’s a giant ass fucking tire on the side of the road. A giant ass fucking tire. It’s great advertising, but whose fucking idea was that? Uniroyal… yeah, while I’m driving down the fucking freeway, I’m going to remember Uniroyal.com, right? Shit, I’ll remember it if I have a blowout right there by the damn giant tire.

We turn onto Southfield Road and there are more residential areas—nice ones, and I realize that we must not be in Detroit yet. Even at night, I can tell that we’re in a nicer area.

“Remember the Glass House, Rick?” Uncle Herman’s voice breaks my train of thought and I see him pointing to a ten or twelve-story glass building to the right of the freeway.

“How can I forget?” Dad says as we pass the building. “Dad used to take us to every event that ever happened at that place,” he says to me in the mirror, “like he owned the place.” He turns his attention back to the road. “He was really proud to be a Ford employee. It meant something back then.”

“It doesn’t anymore?” I ask, turning my attention to my father. He half shrugs.

“I don’t know, son,” he says, his voice nostalgic. “Back in those days, everybody wanted to work at Ford or one of the Big Three. It meant that you made it in Motown, because even though it was hard work, it was really good money. For a lot of people, the factories made the American Dream come true. It… just doesn’t seem that way anymore.” He falls silent and that’s when I see the sign.

Joy Rd, 1 mile…

We’re in Detroit.

I take a deep breath and look around at my surroundings. Again, even in the dark, you can tell by the change of scenery that we’re in the city. It doesn’t look run-down that I can tell, except for certain patches of it, but it’s not as vibrant-looking as the neighborhoods and areas surrounding the airport. Sensing my tension, Butterfly squeezes my hand. I squeeze back but continue to look out the window at the city. Large, vacant fields can be seen by the sides of the freeway—lots where buildings once stood. The landscaping is splotchy and some of the grass that lines the inclines has died. Even the freeway itself is unkept—badly patched tar jobs that look like someone just spilled the compound over the road; brown stains dripping down the concrete of bridges and overpasses from badly rusted fences. I’m sure this is not the only city in America that looks like this, but right now, I’m only seeing Detroit.

Plymouth Rd, Schoolcraft Ave, 1 mile…

There are orange construction cones on this part of the freeway, but I swear that I can’t see any work being done—just the right lane of the freeway being blocked off and slowing our commute out of this God-forsaken city. I think Dad says something to me, but I’m not sure. I see a few more houses on the edge of the freeway, and then we pass another main street.

I feel like I’m holding my breath. I feel like my bio-mom’s decomposing body is going to jump in front of the car at any moment… or one of the fucking Myricks… or somebody—another crackhead or a john or…

96, Downtown Detroit, Lansing, 1 ¼ mile…

Trash discarded from cars or from God knows where collects in masse at the base of fences where the wind has carried it as far as it can go and the metal acts like a net gathering the debris. Graffiti lines the concrete walls and even some of the overpasses and medians. How the hell do you vandalize a median on a busy freeway?

5, Grand River, Fenkell Ave, 3/4 mile…

More small houses line the side of the freeway and even though they don’t look as bad as some of the prior houses, the neighborhood is still run down. I hold my breath as we drive under an overpass that’s so rusted and corroded that I’m afraid it’s going to collapse on our car!

McNichols Rd, 1 mile…

I can see more trees. The houses are getting larger. A church with a steeple… but still quite a bit of debris and dead shrubbery on the freeway.

More trees, more houses. The grass is greener down here, but the road and the medians and walls are still very unkempt.

7 Mile Rd, ¾ mile…

Another church. Damn, how many churches are on this road? With this many churches around, there shouldn’t be a junkie, a pimp, or a crack whore in sight, and yet…

The walls are tall in this part of the freeway. It makes me feel… trapped. I take a deep breath, but I don’t think I release it.

102, 8 Mile Rd, ¾ mile…

Eight Mile. Eight Mile Road. Eight Mile marks the end of Wayne county and the beginning of Oakland county. This far west, that means Southfield and Oak Park, three-quarters of a mile away.

As if the grass and the trees know that we’re about to leave Detroit, they begin to show beautiful autumn colors and the lush fullness of green that precedes a long winter’s sleep. There’s very little—if any—debris in the road and the overpass we just went under actually looks ornate, with fresh, black wrought iron fences lining the banister. Even the road itself looks newer.

102, 8 Mile Rd, ½ mile…

Now the signs are taunting me. None of the other signs had any ½-mile markers, just ¾ and 1 mile. Come on, Oakland county…

The walls get tall again, like prison walls, and as the road rises towards the 8-Mile exit, there are more houses—a lot more—and another ornate overpass with wrought iron fencing. And then we cross 8 Mile, and that breath that I took in a mile or so back comes rushing from my chest with so much force that I nearly choke on air.

North 10 to West 696, Lansing, ¾ mile…

39, Freeway ends, ¾ mile…

Southfield Rd…

I’m still choking on air and my wife is squeezing my hand and rubbing my back. Dad says something about pulling over and Uncle Herman is asking if I’m okay.

“I’m fine,” I gasp, “Keep going. Keep driving.” For God’s sake, please don’t stop.

Smooth roads, beautiful lush trees and grass, quaint houses and impressive businesses and office buildings… Not the crème de la crème of the area, but we’ve definitely left Detroit.

I made it.

*-*

“God, am I glad to see you guys,” Uncle Stan greets us when he opens the door. “I hadn’t heard anything, so I thought you just decided not to come.”

He gives Uncle Herman a robust hug before looking at his brother with sincere adoration in his eyes. They say a few words about missing each other and such before Uncle Stan takes Dad in his arms and hugs him just as robustly. I somewhat usher my wife in front of me to give myself more time to prepare for my hug. I’m still very uncomfortable with people hugging me, and even though Uncle Stan is family, he’s still a virtual stranger for the most part. I don’t want to offend him, though, by shunning his hug or stiffening up when he embraces me. Dad whispers in his brother’s ear, squeezes his forearms and smiles widely. Uncle Stan returns the smile and nods before turning to my wife.

“May I?” he says, opening his arms to Butterfly.

“Of course, you may,” she says sweetly, opening her arms to welcome him. “It’s so good to see you again,” she says as they embrace. I plaster a half-smile on my face and wait for their exchange to end, steeling myself for my turn. When they part, Stan’s smile widens, and he grabs my hand, shaking it vigorously and jovially with the other hand clasped on top.

“It’s wonderful to see you again, Christian,” he says cheerfully. “I don’t know if I thanked you properly but thank you… thank you for everything!”

His smile is bright like sunshine, like a naïve child. If I had to categorize the brothers, I would say that my dad is the intellectual, Herman is the caretaker, Freeman’s the asshole, and Stanley is the sensitive one.

“Anytime, Uncle Stan,” I reply, still waiting for the death grip hug.

“Welcome! Welcome to my home.” He releases my hand, but only touches my arm. “Please,” he says, flourishing his other hand in front of us to usher me inside, “come in. Make yourself comfortable.”

“What smells so delicious?” Butterfly asks, as we enter the living room. I realize that Dad must have quickly said something to Stan about my haphephobia. I try not to sigh audibly when I realize that he’s not going to hug me, but he still managed to make me feel as welcome and loved as everyone else.

A/N: DTW—the airport code for Detroit Metro Airport. It stands for Detroit/Wayne.

Christian references “the Mitten.” For those who may not already know, the lower peninsula of Michigan looks like a mitten.

~~love and handcuffs

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Raising Grey: Chapter 16—Days of Our Lives

For everyone who tried to open the link for “Meet the Slayer” from the email last week, I’m sorry. There was something wrong with it… I have no idea what it was. Hopefully, there won’t be the same problem this week.

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

Chapter 16—Days of Our Lives

ANASTASIA

Well, this is a mess.

Milk everywhere and the sheets are sticking to me.

I’m hung over like fuck and my husband is nowhere to be found. The rocking of the boat is making me nauseous, so I’m going to have to get off here soon, but fuck if I can move.

We fucked like animals last night.

First, I just had to fuck him. And then, the motion of the boat swaying on the water was enticing—while I was drunk anyway—so I had to fuck him again. Then more fucking and more fucking and after the fourth cosmic orgasm, I tapped out. I know he thinks I won’t remember what happened last night, but I remember every single stroke.

And now, I’m sick.

I don’t appreciate that he left me here with no clothes. What does he expect me to do—go back to the house wrapped in a sheet like a goddamn toga? Where the fuck is my phone? I lift my head to locate some form of communication…

Who the hell shifted the room?

“Oh, God,” I lament, falling back onto the bed in dizzy helplessness.

“Whoa, easy there, killer,” my husband’s voice wafts to my ear as he enters the stateroom. “You’re paying for those Cosmos… and dearly.”

“What did you put in those killer cocktails?” I accuse, throwing my arm over my face.

“Only the best vodka and triple sec known to man,” he says, pushing something into my hand. “Here.”

I open one eye to see that it’s ibuprofen. I put them in my mouth.

“Drink this,” he presses. I shake my head. “Drink,” he says more firmly. I try to lift my head and he lifts it further, forcing me to take several swallows of orange juice. “You’re going to have to sleep it off. I’ll stay here with you. You’re going to make me do something I’ve never done before.” I open one eye and look at him questioning. “Work on my boat.”

“No,” I protest, “don’t do that. I can get to the house.” I try to lift my head again to no avail.

“You can’t even get out the bed, Butterfly,” he teases. “I’ll work here. It’ll be another first. And if it makes you feel any better, all of the Grey wives are in the same condition.”

Which means no one will be at Helping Hands today, but I just can’t be concerned about that right now.

There’s an obvious pause in the air.

“Do you remember last night?” he asks. I nod.

“Every stroke,” I reply. I hear him sigh.

“I enjoyed it immensely,” he begins, “but I was hoping that I didn’t take advantage of you.” I close my eyes.

“I told you, I took advantage of you,” I say, and that’s the last thing I remember.

I awake still in the main stateroom, sweating like a pig. I’m still sticky as fuck and my boobs weigh a fucking ton. I realize that the smell of food and the sound of running water is what woke me. My head still stings, but my stomach is no longer doing flip-flops… except from hunger. I lift my head as much as I can and try to sit on the edge of the bed.

“Whoa-hoa, wait, wait.” My husband rushes to my side. He looks fucking scrumptious bare-chested in just jean shorts. I think my mouth actually starts watering.

“Damn, woman,” he says, as he saunters over to me, reading my mind. “I can barely fucking keep up with you. I’m gonna have to start working out every day again.”

He gently gathers me into his arms and the sticky sheets fall reluctantly from my naked body. He carries me into the bathroom and slowly lowers me into a hot bubble bath.

“Too hot?” he asks. I shake my head as I sink down into the water.

“It’s perfect,” I say, closing my eyes.

“Don’t fall asleep,” he says, taking his phone out of his pocket.

“I won’t.” He puts his phone up to his ear.

“She’s out of bed. You can come in now,” he says before ending the call. My brow furrows.

“Who was that?” I ask.

“Staff. They need to change the sheets.” I sigh.

“How long have I been asleep?”

“All morning.” I glare at him. “I only woke you to eat. I’d let you sleep all day.” He hands me a glass of ice water from the vanity beside him. “Hydrate.”

I taste the water against my parched lips and before I know it, the glass is empty.

“That makes me happy,” he says as he refills the glass from a nearby bottle. I nearly empty it again before handing it back to him.

“My babies,” I protest.

“You have nannies,” he chides, “and enough breast milk stored to feed them for a week.” I nod. I still want to see them. I need to see them every day. I miss them when I don’t see them… and my milk starts leaking.

“I need to pump,” I tell him. He shakes his head.

“No, you don’t,” he says. He sits on the edge of the bath and cups underneath my breast under the water with one hand. With the other hand, he starts up near my shoulder and does a firm but gentle stroke down to the areola and nipple. The bubbles near my breast dissipates a bit as milk spills into the water. My boobs are full and with no little mouths here to empty them, they’re demanding immediate relief, and getting it at the gentle touch of my husband’s hands. Several minutes later, the first boob is light and empty and he starts on the second and I’m effectively getting a milk bath in my own breast milk.

“Where did you learn to do that?” I ask. “I mean, how did you know?”

“I learned to do it when you first decided to breast feed,” he replies. “I just never got the chance because you were always feeding the twins or pumping. We have two babies and you probably produce twice as much milk as you need to.” I raise my eyebrows.

“You like it, too,” I remind him, remembering all the time he’s latched onto my nipples while we were making love, sometimes hastening my orgasms… including last night.

“Yes, I do,” he admits while still relieving my breast. “Have you ever tasted your breast milk? It’s sweet.”

I have, but I don’t admit it. I just look coquettishly up at him as he fondles my breast.

“I can’t milk you like this,” I tease. He turns his gaze to me.

“Oh, yes you can, and you do. Often,” he retorts. After several minutes of relieving the second breast, he retrieves one of my natural sponges that he most likely had brought out from my bathroom sometime this morning, wets it with the milk bath and begins to squeeze the water over my back and shoulders. It feels heavenly.

“I thought the idea was to wash the milk off me. Now I’m bathing in it.”

“Ssh,” he chides as he continues wet my back with the water from the sponge. I sit silently as he bathes me, then washes my hair with a luxurious foaming shampoo that smells like lavender. Washing my hair is such a task because it’s so goddamn long, but I think he likes it. I think he would wash it and condition it and play in it every single day if I let him.

But then, neither of us would do anything else.

I’m squeaky clean and smelling like lavender and something else—jasmine, I think—as he dries me off and dresses me. When he leads me back to the main stateroom, now fitted with fresh, clean bedding, I realize that there’s yet another thing my husband likes.

Boho. My husband likes boho. And vintage. Vintage boho is even better. Oh, and white. Me in white does something for him. That’s why I’m always in white when he chooses a weekend for TPE. It’s probably also why he nearly lost his shit during the White Wash Fashiongate back in the spring. Anyway, I shake my head when I see that of all the things that could have been chosen for me to lazy around in today, I find white lace undergarments and a short white boho cold-shoulder dress. And of course, he must dress me.

Brunch. It’s about 2:00… he’s let me sleep the morning away.

“I don’t give a damn. I would have let you sleep all day,” he said.

We eat in the dining salon, only because we don’t want the insects to bombard us on the deck. Brunch starts with an insane antipasto tray—tri-colored olives, artichoke hearts, seasoned mozzarella balls, peppadew peppers, Jamón Ibérico, prosciutto, manchego cheese made from lamb’s milk, and slices of fresh French bread and Melba toast along with an assortment of domestic and exotic sliced fruits including figs, mango, kiwi, dragon fruit, mulberries, and fresh coconut.

The main courses are even more insane—oversized biscuits with bresola and melted havarti cheese and a smear of citrus jam; Moroccan baked eggs with red peppers and spinach; broccoli and cheesy cheddar pie; butterscotch sticky buns and homemade fruity Sangrias—minus the alcohol, of course. I tried to be dainty and ladylike, but I was so damn hungry, that food didn’t stand a chance. I ate enough food for me and for two other people and once I had my fill, Christian told the skipper to set sail again and off we go on a little coast of the small lake in our big boat.

Christian leads me to the forward deck, where we get comfortable on that bench in front of the helm where I thought no one would sit while the boat was moving. Surprisingly, it’s very pleasant up here with the breeze blowing gently on us, whipping my husband’s hair around and giving him that model look again. I crawl into his lap and he cradles me there while still managing to work on his laptop.

At first, I’m fine to interrupt my husband’s busy afternoon, if you can call it that, and just snuggle on his lap as he masterfully manages to tap away on his laptop while still cradling me close in his arms. I close my eyes and think of how blessed I am to be in this place at this moment. I’m rich. I’m filthy fucking rich… but that’s not even the best part. The best part is this man who loves me with everything that he has inside of him and never fails to show me what I mean to him. Even when he’s being an asshole, nine times out of ten, he has my best interest at heart—my safety and the safety of our children.

Oh, and our children—maybe they’re the best part. I’m a mom—I’m twice blessed with a little prince and princess, and I get to love them and watch them grow into a young man and young woman. I get to shape their lives and help make them upstanding citizens and good human beings, like Daddy did for me.

Daddy… maybe that’s the best part. In spite of my hateful, vengeful, selfish mother, he has loved me through everything… even things he could really grasp, like discovering that Christian and I practice a BDSM lifestyle. He has always come to my rescue even when Mom tried to keep us apart. Our reunion may have been delayed, but it couldn’t be denied. Now, he’s given me a cool stepmom and an adorable little brother, and he’s going to adopt me… He’s going to be my real daddy.

I’m a successful doctor. I have my family and my friends and my health… my health. Twice, outside forces tried to take me out of here, tried to kill me or at the very least, break me. But I survived. I pulled through comas twice. Twice, for fucks sake! Most people don’t recover from one and I came back twice! If that’s not a sign that I’m supposed to be here, I don’t know what is. I have a bigger purpose and it’s not meant for me to die yet. Whatever that purpose is—whether I’m living it now through these many blessings or whether it’s something huge that’s still to come—I’m supposed to be here, and I’m thankful for every minute.

I raise my nose to my husband’s neck and sniff. He smells delicious… and clean. Not his usual Armani… something fresh and musky. I sniff again and his smell fills my nostrils and bombards my brain. He smells divine. It causes a warmth to flow through my body and settle into my stomach. I press my lips onto his neck and kiss him gently. He doesn’t respond, so I kiss him again. He’s still tapping away at his laptop, so I kiss him again… and again, enjoying the feeling of his skin on my lips; enjoying being cradled in his lap on the deck of his boat—our boat—in the sunshine; feeling his heartbeat against my hand under the warm skin of his chest.

I close my eyes and allow the sensations to envelop me, to comfort me, sitting comfortably in his lap with his strong arm wrapped around me and still tapping away on his computer, running the world. I gently brush my lips across the skin of his neck, admiring him, loving him. This gorgeous, powerful man loves me… me. A nobody from Montesano with a broken past who clawed herself out of tragedy, and he wants me.

I feel his head turn toward me, blocking my access to his neck, and I open my eyes. He’s gazing at me with unknown emotion in his eyes—his knowing look mixed with power and a touch of desire and something else, I don’t know what. He places his laptop on the seat next to him and presses the gentlest kiss on my lips. Then again… and again. I close my eyes again as one arm tightens around my body while the other hand cups my jaw and he kisses me softly, again and again until the kisses become longer and firmer. I hear another boat on the lake pass us by, but it’s just background noise to me.

The hand on my cheek sinks into my hair and he holds my head steady as he kisses me even deeper, both of us taking little nips and tastes of the others lips and mouth. It’s a soft, sensual necking session—not hard and dirty like the others we’ve had, but gentle and emotional, passionate nonetheless. What a beautiful way to spend a Monday afternoon—on the forward deck of our superyacht, lounging in the sun, indulging in the sweet taste and kisses of my man.

*-*

“So, we’re here live today with one-half of Seattle’s power couple, Anastasia Grey. Mrs. Grey hit the scene about two years ago when she snagged the heart of Seattle’s richest and most eligible bachelor, Christian Grey, becoming the Ana in the now famed ‘AnaChris.’ Now, Ana, we know that you have some very pressing and important issues that you want to discuss, but you have to give us a little entertainment for our boring lives. Now, we talked about a few things before the show, so I know to watch my step if I want to keep my job.”

Radio personality Robert Large of KVFT’s “Rappin’ with Rob” morning show laughs at his own joke, but he’s knows it’s the truth, that he better keep the conversation respectful if he wants to stay employed and avoid the wrath of Christian. Since KNTZ dropped the ball by trying to force me to appear on their show at 5am instead of the 10am spot that I was originally booked for yesterday, I kyboshed the entire interview and decided to discuss my issues with Rob instead. I should thank KNTZ because I got to spend the day with my husband and decompress and now, I can press my agendas with a fresh mind.

“I don’t know how much entertainment I can offer you, but let’s see what you got,” I reply with a smile.

“First, I’ve been dying to know. Who came up with AnaChris?”

“I have no idea!” I respond, eliciting a laugh from Rob and the two other personalities in the studio. “I think it’s… strange, to say the least, that they merge our names together like that—like we can’t stand alone, but I’m used to it now.”

“So, this wasn’t yours or Christian’s idea to let the world know that you were ‘for keeps?’” he asks.

“Why would we need a nickname for that?” I respond to his question with a question of my own. “It didn’t work out too well for Bennifer, and if that’s my only hope, I might as well throw in the towel now.” Light chuckles fill the studio.

“So, um, how did you guys meet?” he asks.

“Well, I don’t want to divulge too many details, but I’ll tell you that it certainly wasn’t a match made in heaven,” I confess. “I hated him and I think he hated me, too.”

“You hated Christian Grey?” one of the other personalities asks in awe. I shrug.

“I didn’t know who he was,” I reply. “I didn’t have a reason to know who he was. All I knew was that I didn’t like him. Even if I had known who he was, I still wouldn’t have liked him. Granted, he’s gorgeous and everything, but he had it all and he knew it and he wanted to make sure that everybody else knew he knew it… and I just didn’t like it.”

“So, how did he finally win you over?” Rob asks.

“Let’s just say persistence pays,” I laugh. “He didn’t chase me or anything, but he was the one who made the first move. Let’s face it, with a face like that, it’s not hard to be persuaded by charm.”

“So, charm is what got you?” the third personality says. I look over at him and glare.

“Yes, charm is what got me,” I say with no further explanation. Rob clears his throat.

“Yeah, yeah, I could see that,” he says, throwing a threatening glare at Personality #3. “So, let’s talk about other things. It was in the news that the Greys recently had a death in the family…”

We talk for a minute with no more words from Personality #3. I think he feels it’s his job to sit and wait for an opportunity to trip me up. I’ll have to watch him.

“So, your best friend married Christian’s brother Elliot…”
“What, if anything, can you tell us about Mia’s upcoming nuptials…?”
“I sorry about your loss. How is the family holding up during this time…?”

About ten more minutes of frivolous ice-breaking talk before we get to the meat of things.

“So, now, I know you have some big issues that you want to address, so let’s get to them.”

“Okay, which one do you want to talk about first?” I ask.

“Why don’t we start with the accusations that you indicated were brought against you, if that’s alright with you.” I nod.

“Yes, well, I’m hoping to get some kind of investigation going on the governing body that handles investigating these kinds of charges. Not that I need another project, but my treatment by the board has sparked a bit of a crusade on the whole ‘fair practices’ thing involving complaints filed against doctors for abuse.”

“Can you be more specific about the situation?” Rob asks.

“Since it’s still under investigation, I’m limited as to what I can say. However, a nameless, faceless person made an unwarranted and untrue anonymous accusation against me and I was called before a panel of ‘professionals’ to state my case. Only, it was far from a professional situation. I had to turn in all my jewelry, electronics, and my purse at the door of the establishment as if I was being booked for a crime. They had me in a room for more than four hours with no clock and no person who wouldn’t even speak to me. I had no idea who had accused me. I had not opportunity to examine any witnesses or defend myself. When they called me before the panel, they were disrespectful to me. They wouldn’t address me by my professional title. They asked completely irrelevant questions about things that had nothing to do with the case and they treated me like I had already been convicted.”

“How can any question meant to sniff out someone accused of patient abuse be irrelevant?” Personality #3 strikes again.

“For instance, my dress has nothing to do with a patient being abused,” I retort.

“It does if your dress was being used to entice the patient,” he says matter-of-factly.

“That’s just clothing,” I retort. “Nothing I wear makes me guilty of a crime unless it’s a crime of fashion. It certainly doesn’t make me guilty of abusing a patient and—as I said—was completely irrelevant to the situation at hand. People wear different clothes for different reasons because they like how they look or they serve a purpose. Someone else’s perception of what I wear should not be used as evidence that I may be guilty of misconduct. For example, I take great offense to your shirt. So, you say ‘blondes do it better.’ Blondes do what better? I’m a brunette and you knew that I was coming on the show today, yet you chose that shirt.

“And while we’re talking about inappropriate and offensive attire, let’s discuss that tattoo prominently displayed on your arm directly in my face. I find it extremely offensive to have to sit in this studio to your immediate right and have to stare for the better part of an hour and a half at a woman spread wide-legged on your extremely large bicep with her clitoris showing in very great detail.”

Rob rolls his eyes and puts his hands in his hair.

“Notwithstanding the colorful slogan on your shirt and the even more colorful tattoo, I think it’s unprofessional that you didn’t put some mousse or something in your hair to tame that wild, awful mohawk. But those are all just perceptions, right? No one in the real world has to see you except the poor women and interns who work here and must be subjected to your suggestive shirt, offensive tattoo and bad choice of hair. That may mean that your judgement and your taste in clothing might need tweaking, but it doesn’t mean that you’re guilty of sexual harassment… or does it?”

I let the question hang in the air for a while as Personality #3 shifts uncomfortably in his seat.

“And with that, we’re going to commercial,” Rob says.

“Clear,” I hear from the booth behind me. I gesture to Marilyn to come over to me and I stand and meet her halfway.

“Find out who he is,” I whisper to her. She nods and leaves the room.

“What the fuck, Judd, are you trying to become the next sacrificial lamb?” Rob hisses at Judd, who looks at Rob like he has no idea what Rob is talking about, which he probably doesn’t. “Shut the fuck up for the rest of my goddamn interview, you hear me, you attention-seeking clown?”

I pretend not to listen the conversation, and although Judd has only rubbed me the wrong way, he appears to have pissed Rob the hell off.

“She’s just being sensitive, man,” Judd defends. “I didn’t say shit wrong to her.”

“The show is called ‘Rappin’ with Rob,’ not ‘Rappin’ with Judd.’ I’ve been trying for damn near a year to get this interview and you’re not going to fuck it up for me. Now, shut the fuck up before I have you removed from the goddamn booth, live!

Rob turns his attention to me as I return to my seat.

“I’m sorry about this, Ana,” Rob says. “I swear…” I hold my hand up to silence him.

“It’s okay,” I say, readying myself for the next part of the interview.

“I think… to get your point across, it might be better if from this point on, I referred to you as Dr. Grey,” he says, observing me for reaction.

“I think that’s a good idea, thank you,” I say with a nod.

“I will be presenting some opposing point of view next. Please don’t take it personally,” he cautions. I nod.

“Thanks for the warning,” I tell him. “Blindsiding someone who has agreed to a live interview is uncomfortable and extremely unprofessional.” I didn’t turn my gaze to Judd, but I didn’t have to. The look from hell that Rob throws in his direction says it all.

“Again, I apologize for that, Dr. Grey. I’ll do my best to assure that it doesn’t happen again,” he says through clenched teeth while still glaring at Judd, who is now sitting back in his seat with his arm prominently pushed forward and giving me a better view of his offensive tattoo than I had before. You want attention, you got it. I pull out my phone, open the camera, and snap a picture of the offensive thing as well as Judd’s profile. My phone is back in my purse before anyone can even question what the click was. The booth is quiet for the rest of the break before we hear the signal that we’ll be back on the air in fifteen seconds.

“We’re back and you’re listening to ‘Rappin’ with Rob.’ Our guest today is Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey and we’ve been talking about—among other things—these accusations of abuse that have been levied against you and your subsequent hearing and the treatment by the panel. You indicated that they treated you like a criminal.”

“Yes,” I continue. “I was sequestered in a room very much like a holding cell—and not just from the people who were witnesses in my hearing. I was sequestered from anybody except from one person left in the room to watch me and who didn’t speak to me for hours. That’s mental warfare, Rob. It’s a textbook tactic used to break down any defenses that you have before you meet with the panel… and it worked.”

“It broke down your defenses?” he asks.

“Yes, it did,” I confirm. “By the time I met with the panel after sitting in that room in silence for hours, I was already convinced that I wouldn’t be extended fairness and impartiality. When I went before the panel, I was set to just answer their questions and let the chips fall where they may… until they started firing questions at me about my personal life that had nothing to do with the accusations.”

“The board gave a statement, dismissing your claims as opinion and conjecture,” Rob interjects. “What do you say to that?” I chuckle.

“I say that’s pretty strange, because those are the exact words that I used with them about the accusations against me,” I respond. “A disgruntled person called and made false accusations against me and as a result, I was treated worse than a criminal.”

“Who called?” Rob asks. “Have you confronted the person?”

“We located the source of the call and because it’s still an open case, I’m unable to speak on it at this time. However, I will say this. Not only were the allegations bred out of pure jealously and made solely to harm me, my livelihood and my reputation, but they were also totally fabricated. So, my impeccable record had the potential to be smudged and possibly irreparably impacted not due to any wrongdoing on my part, but simply because somebody had an axe to grind. That’s completely unacceptable.”

“But what about those people who really do abuse the position?” Rob asks. “There are laws in place right now that require another person be present during more intimate examinations because of misconduct by doctors who have taken advantage of patients in vulnerable situations. Isn’t this process in place to hold doctors to a level of accountability?”

“Of course,” I reply. “The system is supposed to work that way. It’s supposed to be engineered to protect the patient because they trust us with their health, both mental and physical. What I’m purporting is not a dismantling of the system—that would be in total opposition of patient safety. What I am recommending is a re-evaluation and reconstruction of the process by which they go about fact-finding. Knowing what I know now, I’m concerned about the omnipotent power given to a disgruntled patient, an angry ex-boyfriend, or some unstable person with a vendetta against a hospital for the color of their scrubs.”

“Dr. Grey, aren’t you exaggerating just a bit?” Rob retorts.

“Not at all,” I defend. “Someone called the board and lied on me, and the lie was absurd! With absolutely no concrete evidence, they pulled me in, put me in a cell for four hours, and treated me like a criminal before they even questioned me. They summoned patients from the group therapy sessions that I was facilitating at the time—totally violating their privacy—my husband, my former superior… When they didn’t get what they wanted from those witnesses, they pulled me in and began an interrogation that not only called into question my style of dress but also accused me of having… and I quote… ‘a lover’s quarrel’ with my husband in front of twenty other people before we even became a couple.

“They went on a vicious fishing expedition based on a fabricated accusation and with that kind of unchecked power afforded them, good doctors are going to be afraid to properly treat patients, concerned that someone’s displeasure is going to result in the loss of their license. You tell me if that’s an exaggeration.” Rob nods.

“I admit, it does seem a little drastic to say the least,” he continues. We talk a little more about the hearing and what I would like to see in terms of fair treatment for the accused as well as thorough due-diligence. We move on to Helping Hands and I refrain from discussing our problems with yet another licensing board, focusing instead on our current projects, work in the community, and success stories. I completely forget that Judd is in the room until I hear him shift in his seat and grunt at one of my comments about the women’s self-defense classes I’ve been teaching.

“You need a bathroom break, there, Judd?” Rob warns, ready to make good on throwing him out on live radio.

“Naw, I’m good,” Judd replies, and I still don’t turn my attention to him. Rob and I engage in some harmless banter about my being able to take down a man much bigger than me in a self-defense situation, sharing a few secrets on air about how women can protect themselves in an attack. I continue my plugs for Helping Hands, peddling the services that we offer to anyone who may be in need while covertly requesting donations to keep the services available to the community. The interview ends on a good note with us having addressed all of the issues I hoped we would while throwing in a little entertainment as well. The drama was minimal as far as I’m concerned, but I’m sure that a certain control-freak billionaire will feel otherwise.

“I really appreciate you coming today, Dr. Grey, and even more so completing the interview after that little bump in the road that we experienced.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” I say waving him off. “I’m a psychiatrist and well-versed in the workings of the human mind. I’ve learned a lot in my studies and my experiences and much like Freud and his discussions about the male preoccupation with size and its compensation, I’ve learned that a person’s constant need to seek attention and attempts to make others feel small or inferior are often cries for help or signals of a much deeper-seated problem on their part.”

I can feel Judd sizzling to my right, but I don’t give him the satisfaction of looking at him at all. Instead, I reach in my purse and pull out my phone while Rob is doing his wrap-up and turn up the ringer. I fully expect to see at least three texts from my husband asking about the asshole to my right, but I’ve got none.

Clear,” I hear again from behind me.

“Thank you again, Ana, really,” Rob says again. “I wish it could have gone just a little smoother for you.”

“Happens all the time,” I tell him. “Somebody somewhere always wants to unseat the ‘princess.’ I’m more accustomed to it than you can imagine.” Marilyn comes into the booth and hands me a business card. “Arnold Jay,” I read it aloud before looking up at Rob. “General manager?” He nods.

“Um, yeah,” he says, twisting his lips and dropping his head to rub his neck. I turn the card over.

“Judd Rossiter,” I read aloud. I don’t see it, but I can feel Judd’s head rubberneck when he hears his name. I look up at Rob again.

“Um…” he pauses and slowly points at Judd.

“Hmm,” I say with a nod before dropping the business card in my purse and proffering my hand to Rob.

“You’ve been great, Rob, a real professional even in your rebuttals. If I know my rich, powerful husband at all, he or someone in his camp has been glued to the radio for the last hour and a half. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from him.” Before the words are out of my mouth, my phone starts singing, “Love All the Hurt Away.” I look at the screen and see my husband’s coy smile staring back at me. I swipe the screen and answer the phone.

“Hey,” I say softly.

“Still in the booth?” he asks firmly.

“Yes,” I respond.

“Still with an audience?” he asks.

“Yes.”

“Did that asshole really have a woman’s clit staring at you for the last two hours?”

“High up on the bicep, in vivid color, with a sleeveless T-shirt. You can’t miss it, and it was only an hour and a half,” I reply. “I have a picture for you. I’ll send it to you. I was accused of being sensitive even though I wasn’t supposed to hear it. I’ll let you be the judge.” I hear a combination of a sigh and a throaty growl on the other end while behind me in the DJ’s booth, Judd murmurs, “What the…?”

“I’m on my way to the GM’s office right now. It shouldn’t take long. Send me that picture.”

“I figured you would be. Love you.” We end the call and I quickly text the picture to my husband. “Looks like you might be hearing from him sooner than we thought. You’ve been a delight, Rob,” I say with a smile before nodding to Personality #2 and walking out of the booth.

“It’s been real, Judd,” I hear Rob say in a low voice as I’m walking out.

When I get outside, there are two more Audi SUVs parked right in front of the radio station with three members of GEH security standing in front of them. Geez, he really wants his presence known. I hear Chuck groan next to me as we both spot the paps off the right waiting for me to exit.

“You know the drill, Chucky,” I say sweetly. “It happens at every appearance.”

“Yeah, I know,” he says and opens the door for me to exit. The cameras flash and the questions start flying, but I don’t answer any of them because I just gave an interview, until one question makes me stop at the door of the SUV.

“It is a free country, Mrs. Grey, and no one could see the guy. What was wrong with him having a tattoo?” I turn around and face the reporter.

“He can plaster whatever he wants on his body, but when you come to work, there’s a level of decorum that you need to maintain, especially when you’re dealing with the public on any level. Even the most casual and physical jobs have some kind of policy for appearance and unless you’re a bouncer in a strip club, I highly doubt that fully exposed genitals in graphic detail is considered appropriate for the workplace. Although someone may find that thing interesting and attractive, I’m a straight, heterosexual wife and mother, and I have no interest whatsoever in female genitalia besides my own. So, no, I didn’t appreciate having that thing staring at me for an hour and a half—which he never bothered to cover it up—and contrary to your claim that ‘no one could see the guy…’” I pause and raise my hand. “…Someone did! I wonder how many other women who work here wishes that he would have the common courtesy to cover that damn thing up, or did he just put it on display for li’l ole me?”

I don’t wait for a rebuttal. I get in the SUV and close the door behind me. Marilyn is beside me in moments with Chuck and Carol sliding into the front seat. Carol is Marilyn’s personal security and she’s good at her job. I once saw her body-check a reporter who was trying to grab Mare’s skirt to make her turn around.

“He’s got us sandwiched. I think he wants us to wait,” Chuck says, observing the SUVs on both our bumpers. I sigh and text my husband.

**Tell them to move. **

About a minute later, the SUV in front pulls forward and Chuck starts the car, pulling away from the curb.

“Where to?” he asks.

“The Center,” I reply.


CHRISTIAN

“I’ve heard about your threats to the press, Mr. Grey,” Jay says to me as I stand in his office. “We enjoy a level of protection from that sort of thing, but I still would rather not have the wrath of Grey descend upon our little local station here.”

“Well, then, I suggest you do something about the asshole who sat in front of my wife for two hours like this!” I hiss, showing him the full and clear profile of the fucker putting an open pussy on display for a young wife and mother after she informed him that the tattoo offended her. “That’s completely distasteful, disrespectful, and unacceptable and no one should be subjected to seeing that for nearly two hours on a live radio show, let alone a married, heterosexual mother of twins!”

“I agree that this was highly inappropriate and I assure you that I will address it immediately,” he says with authority. “May I please have your assurance that there won’t be bids on my station or retaliatory action from GEH?” He knows me well.

“As long as you’re sure to address this issue, you have my word,” I tell him. He nods.

“I’m very glad that we could come to an understanding, Mr. Grey,” he says, proffering his hand to me. I shake firmly.

“Good day, Mr. Jay,” I say and leave the office. As I’m walking out, I get a glimpse of the three DJs who interviewed my wife this morning. I pick out the Judd character from the profile and that obscene tattoo on his arm. He’s a big guy, probably a bully, and my fists clench as I see him sitting all cocky in his chair outside of the GM’s office.

“Sir,” Jason says, breaking my train of thought. He knows me enough to know that I’m ready to crack this meathead’s fat neck. His voice causes Judd’s head to rise and he meets my gaze. I glare hard at him—make a move, you steroid-pumped asshole. I’ll drop you to your knees. Instead, Judd never moves from his seat, but doesn’t relay anything with his eyes or expression, either, because I’m two seconds off that ass.

“Sir, we have to go,” Jason warns again and I turn and fall in step behind him.

“You really fucked up, man” I hear someone say behind me. “Jay is going to fry your ass.”

He better.

I’m not happy to find that my wife has already left when I exit the building, even though I already knew that she would be gone. I really needed to talk to her about the pictures that were released in the tabloids and on the internet this morning. Now, she’s going to see them before we get the chance to talk. Mac was in my office before I even had my coffee, showing me the latest headline on AnaChris:

My Kind of Day at the Office

Apparently, one of the boats on the river yesterday got some pretty candid shots of my wife and me on the deck of our yacht. The photos are grainy, but you can still tell that it’s us. So, even though it wasn’t the paparazzi, thank God, now we have to worry about just anybody taking pictures of us in a public restroom or walking across the street, much less on our private yacht!

Who among us wouldn’t love to spend Monday afternoon on a luxury yacht with a beautiful girl on your lap? This is what it means to have it all. Christian Grey is pictured here with his… boat, cruising down Lake Washington with a brunette beauty on his lap. And who is that beauty? Why, it’s Ana, of course. Measuring at least 130 feet, the Slayer—as this monstrosity is named—can do no more than float down this tiny lake with Seattle’s king and queen on its forward deck. One picture may say a thousand words, but these pictures tell an epic saga of love and passion. We’re surprised the photographer didn’t catch more than a mere hand on a thigh with the way these two are going at each other. So, sorry ladies. AnaChris appears to still be wild and kicking!

The article had a series of pictures with Butterfly in my lap while I work on my laptop and proceeding through our make-out session, catching shots of our passionate kisses and the few times that I groped her outer thigh under her dress. I sigh, not certain how Butterfly will feel after she’s seen the article if she hasn’t seen it already. That’s probably why that gorilla asshole felt like he could take liberties with her today. We’re married, you fuck. What makes you think she would want to see a pussy shoved in her face just because someone caught pictures of her husband groping her? Asshole.

Al told me that my wife needs more normal, but I don’t know if or how we’re supposed to get it with radio spots and cameras shoved in her face all the time.

“Hey, Christian,” my cousin’s voice comes through my speaker once I’m back at the office.

“Hey, Nolanda, how’s it going?” she laughs in my ear.

“Must you always be so formal?” she teases. I nod as if she could hear me.

“Old habits are hard to break,” I say with a smile.

“Well, since you haven’t started calling me Nollie, yet, please call me Lanie. I really hate that name.”

“Lanie it is, then,” I assure her. I hear her sigh on the other end.

“I just wanted to give you an update,” she says. “Call it postcards from Hell,she says. I brace myself for the news she’s about to give me. “I was right to hire a bodyguard for Mom. My father has lost his mind. All of our childhood, my mother’s mementos, things that her mother gave to her that she wanted to give to me… gone. Baby pictures, her parents’ wedding picture, her mother’s jewelry box—all gone. That asshole busted an antique armoire with a sledgehammer and left the pieces on my grandmother’s lawn.”

“Fuck, are you serious?” I lament. Freeman is out of his skull. What the fuck is wrong with this man?

“Completely,” she says. “Grampa still hasn’t been interred next to Grandma, so we think he’s just keeping the ashes. There was a very small ceremony here for him, but it’s my understanding that barely anyone attended. That pissed him off even more. He’s staying away from Burtie because he doesn’t want to go back to jail, but he’s doing every hurtful thing he possibly can. I did find out, though, that Burtie doesn’t have a boyfriend because he’s afraid to openly live his life. So, he really won’t be leaving anything behind… but Mom…” she pauses.

“What about your Mom?” I ask.

“The house and home she helped to build, her life, her friends, her parents… This is really hard on my mother.” I hear her sigh heavily.

“What is she going to do?” I can’t hide my concern.

“She’s certain that she can’t stay,” she says. “My father is too unstable. Her attorney assures her that she doesn’t have to be present for any of the divorce proceedings unless they call her for something to testify so… she and Burtie are coming back to California with me on Friday.” I sigh heavily. That’s really good news to me even though I know it will be hard for Nell.

“I take it that she’s not happy about it,” I say.

“Not at all,” Lanie replies. “She built her entire life here and now she has to leave it because she married a psycho, sadistic, beyond narcissistic asshole. I’ll just be glad to get my family out of here. I know that it’ll take some getting used to, but they’ll love it out in California. No more snow and cold weather; it’s beautiful all the time; and by the time she takes my father to the cleaners not to mention my husband’s unending stream of income, she’ll be set for life. There are all kinds of activities and things she can become involved in and Leo and I plan on spoiling her to death. We’ve had enough of this hell that man had put us through all these years!” I nod.

“What about her parents?” I ask. “You said he knows where they live.” I hear Lanie laugh through the phone.

“Oh, we don’t have to worry about them. My father dumped some wood on the lawn, but I can guarantee you that’s as far as he’ll go with Mr. and Mrs. Weldon. My grandfather is retired military and has an armory in his dining room. Dad wouldn’t dream of fucking with this man.”

“Well, it sounds like everything is all planned out. How’s Burtie doing? Will he need plastic surgery?”

Lanie and I talk for a little while longer about her brother’s condition, her family’s impeding exodus to the west coast, and her father’s stroke of bad luck—what with losing his family, charges for assault and battery and harassment, and this mysterious IRS audit of his last three years earnings and assets right when Nell’s attorney is doing discovery for their divorce. Go figure.

I arrange to have the jet ready at Detroit Metro Airport for their return as they will most likely have too much stuff to check baggage and way too much to ship. It’s easier to just bring it all down at once. When I’ve finished the call with Lanie, my mind immediately goes back to Butterfly and her need for normal. She’ll be going to the Mariners game with Ray next weekend, so I think I’ll set up some normal for us this weekend. I make a few calls and just as I’m finishing up, I get a text from my wife.

**Have you seen the headlines? Someone caught us on the boat… **

*-*

**It appears that we’re having guests for dinner. **

Butterfly texted me from her session with Ace on Friday afternoon to tell me to come home as soon as possible as people were descending on our home. When I get there, I barely have time get inside and put my briefcase down when the front door beckons that our guests have arrived, and I still don’t know who it is.

Windsor escorts our guests into the dining room and I’m greeted by my two cousins and my aunt—Lanie, Burt, and Nell—along with Lanie’s husband, Leo. As it stands, they’ve arranged to stay the night at the Fairmont and take the jet to California in the morning. Butterfly and I welcome them to our home and we all sit at what could be an awkward dinner. However, Butterfly is determined not to let that be so.

“How are you feeling, Burt?” she asks. He doesn’t look as bad as I thought he would, but he’s clearly wearing the scars of his battle with his father. I feel bad for him because he’s a fairly attractive young man and now, he needs extensive dental work and maybe some reconstructive surgery.

“As well as can be expected,” he says, his voice sad. Butterfly immediately picks up on his tone.

“Are you talking to anyone?” she asks, and everyone raises their eyes to her. Burt drops his gaze and shakes his head.

“No,” he says. “My medical is through Dad’s job and… and… I don’t want him to know anything.”

“They wouldn’t be able to tell him anything about your treatment,” Butterfly informs him. “I can tell that this may be a bit difficult for you, so we’ll talk later, okay?” Burt nods like a child and doesn’t say much of anything else for the rest of the meal. Lanie and Leo talk about the plans they have for the family when they get back to California. They’re going to buy Nell a place of her own on the coast, but she and Burt will live with Lanie and Leo until they find exactly what they want. They haven’t yet decided if they want to live together or have their own spaces, but they plan to play it by ear when they get to California.

“So, what line of business are you in, Leo?” I ask.

“Silicon Valley,” he says. “Technology—hardware and software. You name it, we can build it.” I nod.

“Really?” I say, with interest. “Mergers and acquisitions here. I’m just about to acquire a company with a supposedly revolutionary new transmitter…”

“I know,” he says, “the Waymark XRC90. It’s the talk of the technology industry.”

“It is?” I say, throwing a look at my wife. “How so?”

“It’s going to revolutionize the industry,” he says. “Many firms in the valley and across the country were hoping to get their hands on the technology, but once the word got out that they were in bed with Grey Enterprises, everybody just fell back. The bids are still coming, you know, but most of us are sure that you’ll get the deal. There are still the diehard hopefuls, though.”

“Hmm,” I say. “My wife found some discrepancies in the test results and ordered another set of prototypes be built which confirmed the inconsistencies.” Lanie turns to Butterfly.

You found the discrepancies?” she asks. Butterfly nods.

“My husband and the executive team always have their eyes on the big picture. Someone in the management team usually catches things like this and I’m sure that they would have given the opportunity. He was going over some of the particulars of the deal with me when I noticed the skewed results in the statistical data.”

“Damn, Montana,” Elliot interjects, “I didn’t know you were involved with the business like that. Way to go!”

Montana?” Leo asks.

“Yeah, Ana Montana. It’s a nickname that just kind of developed when we first met,” Elliot clarifies. “I have a way of just giving people nicknames that may fit.”

“That, he does,” I add, recalling the colorful names that he had for one bleached-blonde pedophile… and let us not forget You-Are-Not-The-Father Kate.

“I should tell you that in addition to being one of Seattle’s best psychiatrists, my wife is 50% owner of my company,” I say, bringing the conversation back around to its original content, and now all eyes are on my wife.

“How did that come about?” Leo asks.

“Wedding present,” Butterfly responds. Leo looks at Christian.

“Really?” he asks. “I love my Lanie, but I don’t think she could handle 50% of Carpathia Technologies.”

“I know I couldn’t,” Lanie says.

“I don’t have to handle anything I don’t want to,” Butterfly clarifies. “This was more of a measure of securing our children’s future and the continuity of the company should anything happen to my husband.”

“Wouldn’t the board take care of that?” Leo asks.

“I don’t have a board,” Christian clarifies. “I’m privately owned.” Leo whistles.

“All that money,” he says, “I was sure you were a publicly traded company.” Christian shakes his head.

“You’re looking at GEH’s stockholders, besides my children in the near future. Butterfly is really smart. She’s proven time and time again that she has an eagle eye and can make tough decisions if need be. I trust her implicitly.”

“You’re Butterfly?” Nell says, pointing to my wife. Butterfly nods. “That’s really sweet.” It’s the first thing she’s said all night and her voice is laced with melancholy.

“I never put together that my Lanie could possibly be a Grey related to Grey Enterprises,” Leo says matter-of-factly. “Small world.”

“That’s been the consensus,” Val says. “So famous and yet… not,” she adds with a shrug.

“Hear, hear,” Butterfly agrees. “Except here in Seattle, where we can barely get a moment’s peace.”

“In certain arenas and certain situations, everybody knows who we are. Other times, people don’t even know we exist,” I point out.

“I sure as hell didn’t,” Burt says quietly.

“Neither did I,” Lanie says. “I didn’t know anything about Grey Enterprises until… all this.”

All this… what a mess all this has been.

“So, Christian, has your team figured out why the results of the transmitter are skewed?” Leo asks. I shake my head.

“No, not yet. We’ve been working on it, but none of the testing is consistent.”

“You’re family now, so I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Hopefully, one day, you’ll return the favor.” He winks at me. “There’s a fatal flaw with the schematic. Your usual IT guy won’t be able to find it. You’ll need a specialist…” He hasn’t met my usual IT guy, but luckily, I have a specialist, too. “It’s not in the construction, Christian, it’s in the processing.”

“Why don’t you just tell me what it is?” I ask.

“I just did,” he says. “That’s as far as my guys were able to get while we had the schematic.”

“How did you get the schematic?” I ask. “It’s already patent-pending.”

“We were in the running,” he says with a smile, “until GEH showed up.” He shrugs. “It’s okay. I had sour grapes before, but knowing that the technology will be secured by someone in Lanie’s family, I feel better about losing, just… don’t put me out of business, okay?” I laugh.

“Don’t hurt my cousin and you’ve got a deal.” He returns my laugh then turns to Lanie and squeezes her hand.

“Not a chance,” he says. “This woman is going to be the mother of my children. She’s my whole life. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her; nothing I wouldn’t give her. Everything I have belongs to her now.” I look over at Butterfly.

“I know, I know,” she says with a coy smile.

“So, what’s for dessert?” Elliot says.

*-*

Butterfly has stolen Burt out to the patio off the family room and Lanie and Leo are occupied with Gail and Keri, all cooing at the twins who have bellowed for their 9pm feeding right before going off to bed. My brother and his wife decided to turn in early and Nell sits quietly in Butterfly’s recliner, sipping coffee and watching her daughter and son-in-law interact with the babies. I walk over to the ottoman near the recliner and sit down.

“Is it okay if I invade your space?” I ask. She sits her coffee on the end table next to the recliner.

“Actually, it’s me who’s invading your space,” she says. “I can’t thank you enough for what you all have done for Nollie… for my whole family. I feel like I’ve failed them.” I’m not the shrink here, but I can’t help but ask…

“Why?” Nell shakes her head.

“I should have protected them more… both of them. I feel like there’s more that I should have done as a mother so that this wouldn’t be happening right now.”

“You had no way of knowing that Freeman would snap on Burt this way,” I protest.

“I… I can’t agree with that,” she confesses. “Somehow, someway, I think I knew something like this would happen. Burtie is perfect—the perfect student, the perfect child, but he’s gay. Not my husband’s idea of the ideal heir to the Grey name.”

“Do you think that’s why Freeman attacked Burt?” I ask in horror, “Because he’s gay?” Nell shrugs.

“I have no way of knowing what made Freeman snap on Burtie,” she says. “Nollie’s right, he resented her for not being born with a penis. He treated her deplorably and you can’t tell me that wasn’t partially my fault for not protecting her better.” I don’t argue with her on that point. Part of Freeman’s arrogance and haughtiness—if not all of it—stemmed from the fact that no one challenged him on his asshole behavior. “I was trying to make sure that life was at least bearable for all of us. In the process, Nollie took the brunt of the emotional abuse. He even resented me for having her.” She wipes a tear that has escaped down her cheek.

“Was he ever violent before?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“Not towards his family,” she replies. “He’s a hothead—always has been, but he never hit any of us.” She sighs heavily. “He put all his hopes in Burt—his boy, his man-child. Then Burt announced that he was gay. We’ve known for years. I knew when Burtie was a teenager, before he even told us. Freeman refused to listen. It was like if he didn’t accept it, it couldn’t be true.” Nell shakes her head.

“I don’t know, Christian. I don’t know if this was the last straw for him… that Nollie wasn’t going to be around for him to bully anymore, so he turned his attention to Burt—to his imperfectly gay son and lashed out on him just for choosing to love differently.” I’m getting angrier and angrier at this asshole.

“Have you tried to talk to him at all?” I ask. “Have you asked him why he did it?” Tears flow freely from her eyes now.

“I still love him, Christian,” she says, raising sad, brown eyes to me. “I don’t want to leave him, but I have to. He’s a monster—he’s a terrible person inside. I don’t know why I stayed so long. I knew that he would take care of me, that he would be strong. He came from a family with good, solid moral values…” She sniffs. “I know that Burtie would like to know why this happened, but I don’t. I would rather believe that the man I’ve loved for more than thirty years just snapped and couldn’t deal with his anger when he lashed out on my only son—our only son—and beat him near to death, than to believe that he looked at the son that he loved, that he put on a pedestal and hung all his hopes on, saw what he felt was an imperfection and did this to him.” She begins to weep bitterly.

“I’m sorry, Christian,” she says through her tears. “I’m sorry for being so weak and for not being able to protect them. I’m sorry for pulling your family into this mess, and I’m sorry for the way that he treated you and your father when we were here the last time. I’m sorry for not speaking up when I knew his behavior was so deplorable.”

I close her in my arms and allow her to cry for a few moments.

“Sssh,” I say, caressing her back gently. “Don’t cry, Aunt Nell,” I comfort her. “You couldn’t control his actions any more than you could stop loving him at the drop of a hat, even if he is a raging asshole.” Her crying calms a bit. “A very wise woman once told me that everything happens for a reason. You can’t stop Burt from being who he is and I hate that Freeman brutalized him so badly, but Lanie has a safe place for you guys to go and even though you have to start over again, you can still be very, very happy.” I pull her face back and look at her.

“And Aunt Nell, that asshole did one thing right. He married you. That means that you’re my family, and if you ever need anything… you or Burt or Lanie… you let me know.” She smiles through her tears.

“You call her ‘Lanie,’” she says, her voice cracking.

“She asked me to,” I reply.

“I like that. It’s pretty. I think I’ll call her ‘Lanie,’ too,” she says.

“I think she’ll like that.”

“You called me ‘Aunt Nell,’” she says, and I smile. “All my nieces and nephews call me Aunt Nellie. Can you call me ‘Aunt Nellie?’” I smile widely at my aunt.

“I can do that,” I say, nodding at her and wiping the tears from her cheek.

“You have a beautiful smile,” she says. “It says something about your heart. I can see why she loves you.” Her lip begins to tremble again. “I wish I didn’t love him so much,” she weeps quietly. “I wish I could hate him, but I can’t! I just… can’t forgive him for what he’s done to my children! I was such a fool! I’m still a fool!”

She sobs harder and harder, mourning the breakdown of her family, and I can only hold her while she cries.


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

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 15—Anchors Aweigh!

READ CHAPTER 15A FIRST!!!!!
READ CHAPTER 15A FIRST!!!!!
READ CHAPTER 15A FIRST!!!!!

If you are on my email list and you received an email from me today, PLEASE READ IT!!! Some things are going to change. As always, if you notice you haven’t gotten an email from me for RAISING GREY (not “Golden”), let me know.

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

Chapter 15—Anchors Aweigh!

CHRISTIAN

I love my boat.

God, do I love this boat.

I don’t want to blame my wife for the time I’ve spent away from my boat, but I blame my wife. This was once one of my escapes, my refuge—but since I met her, I haven’t needed to escape. Even when we fight, she’s been my happiness. As a result, I haven’t seen my beloved Slayer in over two years.

The Slayer is a highly-modified, one-of-a-kind, customized version of the Richmond Status Quo. At 150 feet long, my tri-deck Superyacht stands over two stories tall and has six staterooms—five double berths and one with two twin berths as well as additional crew quarters that sleeps eight. With four levels, a family or two could live on this baby and not run into each other for days until bedtime! She’s a stunningly gorgeous, ridiculously expensive watercraft with high-end mahogany furnishings and trimmings, granite and marble counters, flooring, and basins, gold fixtures, stainless-steel columns and railings and top-of-the-line appliances and accessories.

3aad44679a276fb401ad913b6bd8a7d0The only thing more stunning than my gorgeous, ridiculously expensive watercraft at this moment is my exquisitely hot wife in a daringly sexy, white, plunging bathing suit and hip wrap strolling onto the deck of my gorgeous, ridiculously expensive watercraft. If my brother weren’t so in love with his wife, I’d be a bit worried.

“You can navigate this monster?” Butterfly asks as she and Valerie cross the passarelle. I chuckle.

“I can and have, many times,” I confirm. “I’ll have help today, though.” She shakes her head.

“You never cease to amaze me,” she says as she removes her sandals and places them in the basket for street shoes before stepping onto the aft deck. Valerie follows suit, but takes a pair of the boat slippers instead of going barefoot.

“Cargo shorts, Christian?” Valerie teases from under her large sunhat. I smile.

“I like to be comfortable on my yacht,” I retort. Her shoulders shake with laughter.

“So, I see. Maybe you can give my husband some pointers to get him out of those jeans.” I raise my eyebrow at her.

“I think that’s your job,” I counter. She touches her fingertips to her palm in a small clap.

“Touché, you’re getting better at it.” I frown.

“At what?” I ask.

“Having a sense of humor,” she says with a wink before heading off towards the main salon. I laugh inwardly that she and I can rib each other so easily when a few months ago, I thought she was the spawn of Satan for how she was treating my wife. I head off behind her and we nearly bump into my wife just beyond the sliding doors.

“What’s wrong, Steele?” Valerie says. I lean over my wife and realize that her expression is a bit tense.

“Butterfly?” I ask. She looks up at me as if she had no idea I was standing there. I think she didn’t.

“It…” She pauses. “It looks like… a parlor.”

Ah, yes. The total masculine Superyacht with feminine touches. Tread lightly, Grey.

“I think that’s what it was supposed to be,” I answer honestly. She looks around the room again.

“You’ve… entertained here?” she asks carefully.

“Yes,” I say, “but only my family.” She nods. She walks over and leans on the piano—the only piece in the room that appears to reflect my taste. She seems afraid to venture any further, so I gently guide her by cupping her elbow.

“I had a very talented decorator that came highly recommended,” I tell her as I guide her through the feminine-decorated room. It absolutely looks like a parlor, like I would never spend a moment in here, but the woman in my life would lounge in here for hours at a time, eating bon-bons and reading the latest gossip column. “There are several lounge areas on the yacht, but since I gave her carte blanche…”

“Her…” Butterfly turns her gaze to me as we pass the large entertainment center that separates the main salon from the elegant dining salon. My little blue-eyed goddess is letting her green-eyed monster show.

“Yes,” I continue, while gesturing around the stylish dining salon before guiding her to the galley, where a few of the staff have set up shop for our day—and possibly, night—trip. “Since I gave her carte blanche with only instructions for what kind of woods and materials I wanted to be used, she felt that some areas definitely required a woman’s touch.”

“Did you plan to entertain on this boat?” she says while examining the gourmet kitchen. I look around and realize that Valerie has conveniently disappeared. Either she knew this would be a difficult conversation or she just decided to tour the yacht on her own.

“I hadn’t before, but I could see it happening now,” I say, quietly. Her eyes soften when she looks up at me, but she quickly diverts her gaze before turning back to the dining salon. “Talk to me, Butterfly.”

“It’s a beautiful kitchen,” she says, fingering one of the place settings on dining table. “This entire deck is beautiful… like it was made just for the little woman, only…” She trails off.

“Only there was no little woman,” I finish for her. I take her arms in my hands. “I don’t know why she did it, but I like it. I was hoping you would like it, too.” She drops her head. “It didn’t make sense to me before, but now it does… because you’re here. I rarely ever spent any time on this deck at all… not even to sleep, but now that you’re here, it all makes sense.” She frowns at me.

“Why would you sleep on this deck?” she asks. I take a deep breath and gesture to the doorway on the other side of the dining room. We walk through an opulent foyer straight across to the master bedroom. My wife’s mouth hits the floor.

“Those two doors are his and hers bathrooms, but I’ve only used the ‘his’ bathroom and only when I sail with a skipper, or else I sleep in the captain’s quarters upstairs.” She turns to me gape-mouthed.

“His and her bathrooms.” It’s an appalled statement, not a question. I nod. She walks to the doorway of the ‘hers’ bathroom and I wait in the bedroom for her to return.

“And no woman has ever slept in this room.” It’s a statement again.

“No,” I respond. “You’ll be the first.” She sits on the bed for a moment.

“Well, that sounds promising,” she says, softly. I almost don’t want her to see the sigh of relief I release, but I’m glad that part is over.

I show her around the rest of my boat—the other luxurious decks, the hot tub, the bars… By the time we’ve set off for a day on the lake, it appears that the “woman’s touch” crisis has been averted. Since the lake is more shallow waters than the ocean, we’re on a slower sail today, like a drift, just enjoying the sunshine and the cool breeze. My boat is really too big for the lake and I can’t do anything much more than coast in these waters. Even though I said I wouldn’t do it, I’m most likely going to have her moved back to the marina so she can really stretch her legs.

But that’s not a concern for today.

Today, I just want to enjoy my time with my wife… and Valerie and Elliot, of course. The skipper doesn’t really need me since we’re traveling at the slowest speed imaginable and once I make sure everything is okay at the helm, I go in search of that sexy, white bathing suit.

PixieI find Butterfly and Valerie lounging in the mahogany chaises on the upper aft deck just off the Skylounge. They’re sharing some private joke and I can see them laughing through the glass doors. Valerie has gotten comfortable around us, as I see that she has removed her sun hat and is showcasing the small amount of hair that has grown back on her head. It almost looks like a very short and stylish pixie cut, just without the long bang.

“Has she thought about wearing her hair like that all the time?” I ask Elliot who, to my surprise, is behind the Skylounge bar. He shakes his head.

“I tell her that it’s beautiful all the time, but I think she thinks I’m only saying it to make her feel better. It really looks nice, doesn’t it?” he asks. I nod.

“I suits her,” I say, turning back to him as he fills a glass with ice, then pops open a Pepsi. I’m suddenly overcome with a rush of melancholy. I brush my hands over my face to try to wipe away the feeling.

Pops.

“What’s up, bro?” Elliot asks, zeroing in on my change of mood. I sigh.

“I miss the old guy,” I say honestly, resting my arms on the bar. “I’ve been talking to my shrink and she and Butterfly have been trying to help me through my… grief… It’s a slow process, though. Some days, I’m okay and other days, I just want to go to Mom and Dad’s and sit on the patio and talk to him like we used to. That man crawled into my heart in no time and snuggled in tight and now… it’s hard to imagine life without him.”

“I know how you feel,” he says. I look up at him and he’s gazing into his glass of Pepsi. “I didn’t have as close a relationship with him as you did, but…” He trails off for a moment. “I was really young when my parents died—really young, but I still remember them like it was yesterday.” He smiles sadly. “I remember my dad throwing me up in the air and catching me, and I would laugh and laugh. It felt like I was flying. I remember the night I woke up screaming from a bad dream and my mom came bursting into my room like Wonder Woman.” He laughs openly at the thought. “Here I come to save the day,” he sings the Mighty Mouse tune and I don’t bother correcting him, because I’m sure that’s exactly what he meant to do, but then his face falls.

“I remember the day the social worker told me that they were never coming back,” he says, his voice low. “I remember her saying that I would have to go to foster care because neither of them had any family.” He looks up at me. “Both of my parents were foster kids, too.”

“I… never knew that,” I reply. He nods.

“I never told anyone,” he confirms. “I mean, Mom and Dad knew, but… who else really needed to know?” He looks out at Valerie. “I want to make her so happy,” he says, “but I’m so glad that I have a family even though hers is shit, so that if anything ever happens to us…” I reach over the bar and grab his shoulder.

“You know you never have to worry about anything,” I assure him, “and nothing’s going to happen to you.” He sighs heavily.

“I don’t live in gloom in doom, Christian,” he says. “I’m sure you already know that, but losing my parents at an early age and then seeing the start that you and Mia had… almost losing my Angel and now Pops… It just has a way of making you look at life more soberly.” He lifts his glass of soda. “Pun intended.” I run my hands through my hair.

“Will the feeling ever get… any easier?” I ask. My brother raises glassy eyes to me.

“It’ll get easier,” he says, “but it’ll never go away, and it’s not supposed to. You’re supposed to remember them and never forget the lessons and love they blessed you with. Sometimes, I miss my mom and dad so much that it seems like I can’t bear it, but then I think about Mom and Dad—Grace and Carrick,” he clarifies, “and how lucky I was… am… that they adopted me. I think about you and Mia and that I didn’t have it nearly as hard as you guys, not even in foster care… that at least I had parents that loved me and cared for me even though they were ripped away from me. I think about how far you guys have come and how proud I am that you’re my family…”

That tear that’s been threatening his eye finally falls down his cheek.

“I think about how wonderful my life turned out in spite of the bad, and that makes it easier to bear… that, and time.” He smiles up at me and I return his smile. I have a treasure trove of experience at my disposal to help me through this process and I didn’t even know it—my beautiful, intelligent wife; surprisingly wise brother; a very good shrink; my loving parents…

My parents…

“Thanks, Lelliot. I didn’t mean to bring you down, man,” I say apologetically. He wipes the tear away and waves me off.

“It comes and goes.” He raises his gaze to me. “You’ll see.” I nod.

“I’ll be right back, okay?” I say. He nods. I squeeze his hand and make sure he’s okay before I head off to the Master’s office. I take out my cell phone since I know I still have reception on the lake.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Dad.”

“Christian, hi. What’s going on, son? Enjoying this Sunday morning?” He sounds in good spirits.

“Yes, I am,” I reply. “How are you, Dad?” I hear him sigh.

“As well as can be expected,” he says. “Thanks for asking.”

“How’s Uncle Herman?”

“He’s holding it together,” Dad replies. “It’s still so new.” I nod as if he can see me.

“Yes, I know,” I say, my voice soft. The line is silent for a moment.

“It’s a big world without him in it, isn’t it?” Dad says, his voice sympathetic.

“Yes,” I say, noting his tone, “but I was calling to check on you.”

“I know, son, and now I’m asking about you. How are you doing?” My turn to sigh.

“Ana’s been an angel,” I tell him. “She’s my rock. I don’t know how I could get through this without her.”

“Yes, I know what you mean. You know what your mother means to me and Luma… my God, I think Herman would be a basket case without her.”

“I’m glad he has her,” I reply. “I’m glad we all have loving women to help hold us together.”

“I can’t tell you how happy you mother and I are that you’ve found someone to spend your life with,” Dad interjects. “We had hoped, but… well, we never thought anyone would be able to get through your shell. We knew that it was there to protect you, but we thought that you’d never let anyone in. Now, look at you—a husband and father… two grandchildren for me and your mom! Son, we couldn’t be prouder of you.” I laugh.

“A lot better than the day I told you I wasn’t going back to Harvard, huh?” I jest. Dad laughs, too.

“Worlds better,” he confirms through his laughter before it fades. “We just didn’t know what to expect, son,” he adds. “When you said you weren’t going back to school, I saw it as rebellion. I was at the end of my rope. I felt like we had done all that we could do and…” He trails off.

“I know, Dad,” I tell him. “I wasn’t the easiest kid to deal with, I know.”

“It wasn’t your fault, son,” he interjects. “There was so much going on in your life, in your mind… and with that crazy woman seducing you and feeding you God only knows what…” He trails off again as the anger rises in his voice. He’ll never forgive Elena for taking advantage of me after I had already been victimized. “Well, that’s all over now. You’ve done well for yourself, Christian, and I’m very happy about that.”

“So am I, Dad. So, you and Uncle Herman are holding up?”

“Yes, we are. Thanks for your concern,” he says sincerely. “Hey, what are you doing today? I’m firing up the grill and Grace is making that crab dip that you like so much. We needed something to lighten the mood around here.”

“Is the dock clear?” I ask. He pauses.

“Um, yeah. Esquire is in the boathouse.”

“Good. We’ll sail over in an hour or so.” Another pause.

“You got that monster on the lake??” he asks, surprised. “How the hell did you get it inland?”

“It wasn’t easy,” I confess, “but at the end of the season, I think I’m going to ship her back to ocean waters. She’s going to lay pretty dormant on the lake.”

“You’re telling me!” he exclaims. “What is that thing—130, 135 feet?”

“One fifty,” I correct him. He whistles.

“So right now, you’re just floating,” he observes.

“Pretty much,” I confirm. “I won’t be able to take her over a few knots or I might capsize some of the smaller boats on the water.”

“I could’ve told you that, son.” I twist my lips even though he can’t see me.

“And how could you have told me that, Dad?” I ask, a bit sarcastically.

“Why do you think Esquire is in the boat house and The Judge is at the marina?” The Judge. Hell, I forgot all about The Judge. I didn’t even think he still had that boat.

“Do you ever get out to her anymore—The Judge, I mean,” I ask.

“Not for a while,” he answers. “A lot’s been going on in our lives in the last couple of years.”

“Tell me about it,” I concur. “I don’t think I’ve been on my boat since summer of 2011.”

“Since when did you start calling it a ‘boat?’” Dad teases. I chuckle.

“Nasty habit I picked up,” I say with mirth. “Throw a couple more burgers on that grill. We’ll be there shortly.”

“Who’s with you?”

“Just me and Elliot and the girls,” I tell him.

“Okay then, we’ll see you shortly.” We say our goodbyes and I end the call with my father before going back to the bar with Elliot. He’s still nursing the Pepsi, or maybe it’s a new one, and he’s gazing out the glass doors at our wives lounging on the chaises. I’ve never seen my brother so smitten in his life, and he was pretty damn smitten with Kavanaugh.

“Hey,” I say, garnering his attention. He slowly turns his gaze to me. “I’ll teach you how to make a Cosmo. Remember how wild they drove our wives at that night club?” Elliot frowns at me.

“When the hell did you learn how to make a Cosmo?” he says.

“Something I picked up,” I say, “after I saw what an animal my wife became at that nightclub.” He raises his eyebrow at me.

“I’m all ears, man,” he says, stepping aside as I unlock the liquor cabinet and pull out a wooden box. Inside—a $3000 bottle of vodka made with Himalayan water and Russian winter wheat.

“You’re breaking out the Stoli for cosmos?” Elliot asks in amazement. I throw a knowing look at him.

“You lookin’ to get laid later or not?” I ask matter-of-factly. He shrugs and grabs the martini shaker.


ANASTASIA

“So, this is how the rich and famous live,” Val jests while we lounge on the deck of Christian’s boat, Motown music piping from hidden speakers.

“Stop acting so surprised,” I tell her. “Elliot’s been treating you like a queen and I know it. When that house is finished, it’s going to rival the Crossing. There’s nothing that man won’t give you if you ask.”

“Yes, I know,” she replies, her voice sounding melancholy. We don’t say anything for a moment. We just sit there in momentary silence.

“Do you ever worry that you might lose it all?” she asks after a long quiet moment. I look over at her.

“Lose it all?” I ask, “like… how?”

“Like you’ll wake up one day and it’ll all be gone… like you’ll open your eyes and it’ll have all been a wonderful, beautiful dream that must now come to an end.” I turn to face her on my chaise.

“What’s brought this on, Val?” I ask. “Nothing’s going to happen to make you ‘lose it all.’ Elliot loves you; you’re building a house—or rebuilding, I should say. We’ll be having Thanksgiving at Grey… whatever you guys are going to name that place. And right now, we’re cruising on the lake on a luxury yacht looking like the two rich hotties that we are, and you’re talking about losing it all?” She shrugs.

“I got cancer, Steele,” she announces. “I never in a million years would have thought that I would get cancer—not in a million years, but I got it, and it almost killed me. It almost cost me everything and everyone that I love. Ask me back in college if I could have told you that this would happen, if I could have even predicted the slightest chance of it happening, and I would have said, ‘Hell, no!’ I was kicking ass and taking names—getting my degree, being all I could be… I was counting the money from my great marketing job before I even started making it. Ask me if I thought Mom would die and Dad would become an asshole and my brother would become a worthless piece of shit. I’m just glad my father has money so that he doesn’t come looking for me!”

She sighs heavily and sits back in her chaise. I know my friend and I know more is coming. I’m just waiting for her to reload.

“You can’t imagine what it meant to me that Mom put away my college fund,” she says. “Not only was I able to live comfortably and finish school without worries, but I was able to get out on my own and make my own money—be my own success… and I was able to meet you… and Al, even though he called me Ice Pussy for the first year.” She laughs a tragic sounding laugh. “Not yet, Mom. Not yet.”

We’ve only talked about Val’s mom once or twice in the decade that we’ve been friends. I know that some disease took her, too, but that’s all I know. She just… won’t talk about it.

“Now, I have this great husband that’s so much more than I deserve. I can choose to go back to my fantastic career any time I want… or not. We’re about to move into this fabulous house. I got all my friends back and they’re all happy and married or in loving relationships. Everything’s coming up roses… for all of us, so why do I have this horrible feeling of impending doom?” I reach out and take her hand.

“It’s normal, Val,” I tell her. “Your brush with death was barely six months ago. If you didn’t see your life flash before your eyes, you should be seeing it now. This is so… ordinary. How long have you felt like this?” She shrugs.

“I don’t know. I think just since Burt died.” I hold my hands out in a “tada” kind of way.

“There you have it,” I tell her. “Someone else’s death almost always brings your own mortality to the forefront. The Greys have just gone through something extremely traumatic and you were there to see it—the entire time, battling your own tumor without even knowing it. That has a way of causing one to take a serious self-inventory. I wouldn’t worry about it too much, Val. Don’t let the anxiety overshadow the bigger picture. You made it! All is well and it’s going to stay well. Enjoy this time. You deserve it and everything you’re getting right now. To be honest, I’d be a little concerned if you didn’t have this kind of reaction at least once after everything that’s happened to you.” She looks over at me through her cat-eye sunglasses.

“You really think so? I’m maybe just being a little melodramatic?” she asks. I put my index finger and thumb close together.

“Just a tad, but hey, you deserve to be, and that’s my professional opinion.” She smiles at me and reaches out for my hand. I return her smile and clasp her hand in mine. “By the way, your hair actually looks cute like that if you can get used to it being short for a while.”

“After the fiasco this weekend at the country club, I’m leaning towards only wearing the wig on very special occasions,” she giggles. We sit in silence for several more moments before our husbands come out of the sliding glass doors.

“Oooo, holding hands—a little girl on girl action?” Elliot jests with two glasses in his hand.

“Nah,” Val says. “You’re hot, Steele, but you don’t have the equipment.”

“Ditto,” I deadpan. “What’s this?”

Christian walks over to me with two drinks in his hand—his beloved Scotch and what looks like the perfect freaking Cosmo!

“You’ve got a bartender on board, too?” I ask, in surprise.

“Nope,” Elliot says, “my brother and I made these with our own two little hands.” I look at Christian and he nods. I throw a knowing look at Val and I know we’re both thinking the same thing.

What the hell have they brought us?

They’re both standing over us holding these pretty pink creations like the cats who caught the dead mouse and is now bringing to its owner for praise. I sigh and try not to show my trepidation, which doesn’t get past Christian, who’s hiding a smirk.

“Just try them,” he says, handing the crystal-clear glass to me, now sweating from the cool drink inside. I take the super-large martini glass from him and take a sip.

Wait a minute… I take another sip and turn to Val.

“This is good!” I exclaim with wide eyes. “Try it!”

She raises an eyebrow to me, but takes the glass from Elliot and takes a sip.

“Oh, my,” she says before taking another sip. “These are delicious!”

“I know, right?” I say, taking a large swallow of the fabulous concoction. “You made these? Really?” I ask my husband. He nods.

“I saw how much you liked them at the Havana, so I learned how to make them…”

“And he taught me!” Elliot announces proudly. “Using elixir from the gods, of course.”

I have no doubt that my husband’s choice of four or five-digit vodka and triple-sec is responsible for the fact that this has to be the best Cosmo I’ve ever tasted in my life!

“Well, keep ‘em comin’!” I exclaim, taking yet another drink.

“Ah, ah, ah. No inebriation for you just yet, my pet,” he says, sitting on the chase next to me. “We’re having lunch with my parents first, then the afternoon will be ours to lazy around in the sun.” I frown.

“Lunch with your parents? When did that happen?” I ask. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy lunch with Grace and Carrick—I just didn’t know that it was on the agenda.

“I called to see how Dad was doing and he told me that he’s got steak and shrimp on the grill. So, we’ll cruise by there for an hour or so and then be on our way.” I nod.

“Okay. Sounds good to me.” I sip my Cosmo again. “Keep feeding me these and I’m likely to agree to anything.”

“That’s my plan,” he says, waggling his eyebrows before closing in for a sensual kiss.

*-*

“Who wants steak?” Carrick asks as he brings another round of grilled sirloins to the picnic table by his dock.

“I do!” Christian declares, spearing a huge hunk of beef off the plate.

“Count me in,” Elliot follows, his mouth already full of food. I’m enjoying a tasty sirloin burger—added to the menu at Grace’s request—and some of her delicious homemade potato salad.

“Now, what are you going to do with the food the crew cooked?” I ask Christian. He shrugs.

“We’ll eat that, too. There’s still dinner and a whole gang of security staff if we can’t finish it.” Carrick freezes for a moment.

“Fraternizing with the help?” Carrick says mockingly.

“Things change,” he says, taking a healthy bite of his steak. “Dad, this is so good.”

“It always is, son,” Carrick says with a smile before going back to the grill. Christian leans in to his mother.

“How’s he doing?” he asks. Grace looks off at her husband turning meat on the grill.

“As well as can be expected,” she says. “He’s keeping busy—cases and all, you know. He feels so guilty for wasting so many years not speaking to his father. After talking to his brothers and seeing what the true basis was for all the animosity, I’m afraid he might kill Freeman if he ever sees him again.”

“It would serve him right,” I say over a mouth full of sirloin burger. Christian and Grace glare at me, surprised. “Sorry, too many Cosmos.”

“They bring out the truth,” Grace says, folding her hands on her lap. My turn to glare. “He’s a wretched, horrible man. Look what he’s done to his family. He alienated his daughter, damn near killed his own son, came across the country to fight his brother in his own house, nearly had his nephew arrested, stressed his father out in his last days… the man is a menace! He’s worthless in every sense of the word and I don’t know how no one has beaten him to a pulp way before now!”

“Hear, hear,” Carrick says, adding more meat to the mountain of beef already on the table.

“Dad, there’s plenty of food. Why are you still cooking?” Elliot says.

“Because Mia got wind of steaks on the barbie and she and about five of her wedding party will be descending upon us any minute.”

“Oh, hell,” Christian says aloud, and he’s up and on his way to the boat with his plate. I roll my eyes.

“Wait for me,” Elliot calls to him and falls in line behind his brother carrying his plate of food as well.

“Dad, you and Uncle Herman come on board for some cards when you’re done grilling!” Christian calls back to his father.

“Will do!” Carrick calls to his son. I frown.

“Did I miss something?” I ask Grace. She chuckles.

“Surely you remember the fundraising meeting where we first met. Most likely, the girls willing to give up their Sunday afternoons are doing so with hopes of getting a glimpse of my sons. They don’t think I notice that they become scarce every time the committee comes around.” I shake my head.

“They’re both married now!” Val exclaims. “Don’t these skanks have any shame?”

“I guess not,” Grace says. “I haven’t seen any of them ‘turn it down’ the slightest bit even after the boys got married.”

“You must be talking about the wedding girls,” Luma says joining the conversation.

“We are indeed,” Grace says. Their behavior must be pretty bad for Luma to have noticed.

“Ladies do not behave that way where I come from,” she says. “I never understand why American girls treat their bodies like buffets… this boy and that boy, I just don’t understand.”

“Not all American girls,” Val corrects her and Luma concedes.

“Forgive me, you are right. Not all American girls, but some I have seen. It’s so sad. And they are so pretty.”

“That’s relative,” I say. “Honestly, a lot of their beauty is store-bought.”

“I think we’ve cooked enough meat, darling. Go and join your sons!” Grace calls out to Carrick as he’s taking the last of the steaks and burgers off the grill. He nods to her and turns the grill off.

“Herman, get the hat off your face and let’s go teach the boys a lesson,” Carrick tells his brother.

“Will do,” Herman says, stretching while removing his hat from his face. Just as Herman and Carrick disappear onto the passarelle, I hear the incessant giggling… or I should say cackling… of girls off in the distance.

“Don’t look now, but I think we’re being ‘descended upon,’” Grace says as I notice that Mia’s group of five or six has expanded to her whole fucking wedding party.

“Just fucking great,” Val says as she dons her sunglasses. I join her and close my eyes in an attempt to block out these crowing bitches. I soon learn that it’s going to be an impossible task. I don’t even understand how Mia can tolerate the company of these women for more that a few minutes at a time, let alone request—or even allow them to be in her wedding!

Mia has never struck me as one of these girls… except when she made the crack about the homeless when she was insulting Courtney.  I think I’m just a little too close to the situation, because even though it irritated the fuck out of me, I still never considered her snobby or entittled. This group, however, is dripping affluenza and it’s driving me batshit. My attempts to meditate and block them out only work for about fifteen minutes. Grace is the first of us to tap out.

“If you ladies will excuse me,” Grace says. She makes her exit as these hungry heifers start gnawing on sides of beef like starving dogs. Funny, I thought debutants and sorority girls were taught how to eat like ladies in public. I guess that’s only when billionaire suitors, self-made millionaire entrepreneurs, and trust fund boys are around. This crowd is acting like it’s feeding time at the zoo.

The zoo… that would be a nice, normal day for me, Christian, and the twins… I would hope…

“Holy shit, look at that boat,” one of the girls say, as if they just noticed the Slayer moored at the deck. They probably did just notice it—too busy shoveling quarters of Bessie down their throats.

“That shit is hot. It screams power,” another girl says, throwing a knowing look back at the first.

“Thank you,” I say conspicuously, drawing the attention of a few of the girls in the group.

“Excuse me?” The second girl says, eyeing me in a manner that questions how I dare invade her space, let alone her conversation.

“I said, ‘Thank you,’” I repeat, looking at her without removing my sunglasses. “You said my boat was hot, and you’re right, it does scream power. So, thank you.”

She turns her nose up like she’s smelling something bad, and she and her cohort go back to join the other girls sucking down cow leg quarters. Val and I turn to each other and giggle.

“We should probably just go on back to the boat,” she says, through her snickering. “I’m certain that current company would rather we weren’t here in the first place.” We were here first; they descended on us! But considering the fact that I don’t want to be around them anyway…

“I think you’re right. Let’s go,” I say, getting up from the lawn chair and gathering my shoes and sunhat. Almost on cue, my husband comes out onto the main aft deck.

“Butterfly!” he calls out. “Your phone is ringing like crazy! I think you should come and get it!”

“You can answer it!” I call back. “I’m coming!” I watch as he answers my phone and I hear the collective sigh behind me.

“There he is,” one of the crowd says, I have no idea which one. I look over my shoulder at the salivating girls who don’t bother to acknowledge my presence even though they all know who I am.

“Yeah, that’s mine, too,” I say, and one by one, they tear their gazes from my hot husband and land death glares on me. I roll my eyes and begin to walk towards my boat.

“Jesus, what a bunch of classless cows!” Val says as we walk towards the boat.

“Cows sucking on cows,” I snicker. “How appropriate.” I look up just in time to see Christian walking down the passarelle towards me, looking model perfect in his aviator sunglasses with his copper curls blowing in the breeze. I can’t help but lick my lips and I watch him walk towards and when he notices, he does this little come hither thing with his hands.

Mr. Grey, are you trying to get fucked on your parents’ lawn?

I run the few feet of distance between us and he bends his knees just as I approach. I leap into his arms and he doesn’t even stumble. With two handfuls of ass and me wrapped around his body, he shoves his tongue down my throat in one of the most passionate public displays of affection I’ve ever known.

And now I’m horny.

“Time for more Cosmos,” he says seductively when he pulls his lips away from mine.

“You’ll get no argument from me,” I concur. “Who dare call me on a Sunday afternoon?”

“Marilyn. It’s about tomorrow’s radio spot. I told her you’d call her right back.”

“Good man,” I say as I shove my tongue in his mouth again. He squeezes my ass harder as he groans into my mouth.

“Okay, you two, plenty of rooms on the boat,” Val scolds. “Let’s take this party away from prying eyes. Besides, while you’re mauling each other, I want my man.”

“You rang?” Elliot appears from nowhere, scooping Val into his arms. Before she can respond, he cups her nape with one hand and tilting her head a bit, plants his lips firmly over hers in a long, luscious kiss. Christian just stands there with me still in his arms as we both gape at Elliot and Val mouth fucking on the lawn… with a large audience. Val gasps when their lips part and her eyes are glazed over like she doesn’t know where she is.

“Hi,” Elliot says in a soft voice. “Miss me?”

Val’s mouth is hanging open and she’s trying not to gasp like a school.

“Uh-huh,” she squeaks. I have to cover my laughter. I thought I was bad…

“Damn, brother,” Christian says. “If I didn’t have my hands full, I’d applaud right now.”

“You should talk,” Elliot says, “with that oral porno you just put on.” He releases Val’s nape and slides his arm around her waist. “Come on, Angel.” He holds her protectively close to him as he walks her back to the boat. Christian looks at me.

“Walk… or ride?” he says suggestively. I smile coquettishly.

“Ride,” I respond with the same promise he had in his voice a moment ago, and he carries me back to the boat.

Three Cosmos and maybe seven hands of Poker later, I’m laid out on the loveseat in the main parlor, barely able to hold a conversation with Val. KNZT wanted to move my radio spot to the break of freaking dawn to make space for someone else that they had been trying to snag. Marilyn tried to convince them to leave the schedule as is, but they insisted that if I wanted my concerns heard, it would have to be on the 5am spot. Tomorrow is the day I planned to talk about my sexual misconduct hearing and how badly I was treated. While it is a message that I want to be heard, I’m not willing to be pushed to 5am when the rooster crows to spread that message. I turned into a bit of a prima donna and told her to tell them, “Maybe some other time, then.” I don’t even want the spot now, even if they kept it at the regular time. I’m too pissed that they broke into my lazy Sunday afternoon with this bullshit, so I hope the other person that they have to fill the spot is worth it.

bc2f30901f31891a136675675b45a6efI’m nicely inebriated when Val excuses herself and walks out of the sliding doors. Now, I’m not stumbling drunk, but I’m more than slightly impaired… not so impaired, though, that I can’t see a coven of the wedding girls on the aft deck with my husband. One of them—I don’t know which—is wearing a red bikini that shouldn’t even be seen in public. Not only is it not covering her ass at all, but even from here, I can see where she’s freshly waxed and her bra is only covering the nipples of her $10,000 boob job.

I struggle a bit to get to my feet, hoping that my presence will at least make this bitch back the fuck up off my man. I get to the sliding doors just in time to hear Val talking to the naked girl.

“You look hot,” Val says. What the fuck, oh friend of mine?

“Thank you,” the girl wearing the red Band-aids says to her.

“No, really… you look hot.” Val gives her a good solid push and she flies through the back gate and off the Aft Deck. She’s flailing in the most unladylike manner trying to catch herself before she lands very ungracefully into Lake Washington. I nearly fall over myself in the most hideous laughter. I can’t even stop myself. Christian is trying—and failing—to hold the serious CEO face as he watches the performance of a drowning woman in the lake.

“Somebody better go get her,” I choke. “She might drown from that performance alone.”

Nobody moves to save her as apparently these swimsuits are for show, not for flow. Christian grabs the life preserver from one of the lockers of the yacht and throws it out to her.

“If you’re really drowning, you better grab it, because your friends will let you die,” he says over the edge. We watch as she swims—yes, swims—over to the life preserver and clings to it for dear life.

“Did you see that?” I say pointing to her like a five-year-old tattling on a talker. “Did you see her swim? You’re such a faker!” and I’m so drunk.

“Anybody else feel like coming on to my brother-in-law?” Val says with her hands on her hips.

“There’s plenty of lake!” I throw my arms open and giggle unceremoniously.

“There’s only two of you and a lot of us,” one of the girls points out.

“And I’ve never fought a girl before, but if any of you put your hands on either of them, I’ll make an exception.” The voice belongs to my husband and once again, I want to stop, drop, and fuck him—even more now than before.

“What’s going on?” Elliot says, coming down the stairs from the upper deck. “I thought you were coming to get more gin.”

“He was, but he was intercepted by a litter of stray kittens…” Val begins.

“And one wet one!” I giggle, pointing at the girl who has finally decided to stop her water aerobics and get out the lake. “I thought cats didn’t like water.” I make hissing and scratching noises like an angry kitten before breaking into another fit of giggles.

“Steele, you’re toasted. I hope you didn’t have plans for tomorrow,” Val laughs at me.

“Not anymore!” I declare happily. “I want another Cosmo!”

“Coming right up,” Christian says. “Mia’s friends were just leaving. Ladies?” He gestures to the passarelle and several women turn disbelieving gazes to him, horrified that he’s actually throwing them off the boat. Hell, they weren’t invited in the first place.

“I’ve never been so insulted in my life!” one of the girls says.

“You’re young yet! There’s plenty of time!” I yell and Val’s laughter bursts across the deck and part of Lake Washington. Once the last of the kittens have disembarked, Christian retracts the passarelle to prevent them from coming back onto the boat.

“Bye!” I yell conspicuously. “It’s been a blast. Well, except for her—more like a splash!” I laugh maniacally at my own corny joke.

“Oh, my God, Steele, stop, please…” Val says, chuckling to herself. “Get this woman a drink or something. Put something in her mouth.”

“I’ve got something to put in her mouth,” Christian says and I gasp wide-eyed at him.

“Too much information,” Val says. “Get her another Cosmo…”

*-*

So much fun! So, so much fun on the boat! Since my morning appearance was cancelled, I decided to take the day off tomorrow and spend the entire afternoon drunk out of my mind. My husband didn’t have that luxury since he likes to make sure his boat is being handled properly, but he wasn’t alone since Elliot doesn’t drink.

I wasn’t alone either. Carrick and Herman had a few more than usual and repeatedly kicked the boys’ asses in Poker. I have a feeling that Elliot and Christian let them win a hand or three, but as it turned out, they needed it. As afternoon turned to dusk, Herman and Carrick sank into maudlin about their father, and the four men took a melancholy trip down Memory Lane—something that I’m sure at least three of them needed. Elliot admittedly didn’t get as close to Pops and Christian did, but he confessed that he still misses the old guy. We all do.

Grace and Luma were granted access onto the Slayer and the ladies chewed the shit about everything and nothing while the two sober gentlemen assured that there was a steady stream of Cosmos coming down to the Main Salon. I admittedly drank the most with Grace coming in second and Val close behind her. Luma doesn’t drink much, so she nursed one or two. We were singing and dancing and acting like total fools until Luma—the level-headed one—declares that they should call it a night. It really was a lot of fun, but she’s right. I’m dead on my feet.


CHRISTIAN

“There’s no getting her into the house tonight,” I say to Elliot. “She’s out cold.” He nods.

“Ditto, but I’m going to get Angel to bed. She doesn’t like waking up in strange places.” He scoops his sleeping wife into his arms. “Goodnight, Bro. Great times.” I smile.

“Yeah, it was.” He carries Valerie down the passarelle and across the lawn. I go back to the main stateroom where my wife has fallen asleep in her bathing suit, not having swam once all day. I sit on the edge of the bed and just watch her sleep. I so wanted to make love to her in this bed. She would be the first woman I ever fucked on my boat, ever allowed on my boat besides staff and family, but I guess that’ll just have to wait for another day. It was a wild afternoon, to say the least, what with Mia’s catty friends inviting themselves onto my boat and Valerie’s ceremonious “das boot” of one of the girls right off the deck into the water. I had to stamp down the chivalrous gentleman in me and refrain from jumping in after her, but I did throw her the life preserver. All of Mia’s friends can swim and I know that. They made a point of getting into the pool with the slinkiest swim suits throughout high school, sticking their asses in the air to entice me and Elliot. I don’t know if it ever worked with Elliot, but I was interested in an entirely different flavor at the time… and none of them could even slightly fit the bill.

Dad and Uncle Herman let loose a bit. Even when they got a little melancholy about Pops, we were still having good times. God, I miss that old man, even more so now hearing about his younger days from Dad and Uncle Herman. Apparently, Pops was a bit of a Casanova, and Ruby found some of his pictures from his younger days of his many admirers and thought they were current. It wasn’t a happy day in the Grey household that day, but fortunately, they straightened it all out. Uncle Herman and Freeman were still kids when it happened and Dad wasn’t born yet.

Uncle Herman and Luma make a really nice couple. She seems to care for him a lot and he leans on her tremendously during this difficult time. He gets this look in his eye when she’s around like… I don’t know, like a teenager falling in love for the first time. That’s the best thing I can compare it to. It’s new love, fresh and untainted. I’m really happy that in the midst of all this sadness, he’s able to find some joy.

I look over at my sleeping Butterfly and remember the feelings of first realizing that I loved her. It was scary as shit. You’re vulnerable and open to whatever hell the other person wants to put you through. I wasn’t ready for that. I was independent and strong. I had no intention on allowing one of the pretty little brown-haired girls to have that kind of control over me…

Until she came along.

Even now, I couldn’t tell you how it happened… how I let it happen. I mean, yeah, she was gorgeous and I wanted her, but I wasn’t trying to fall in love. If anything, I wanted to conquer her, to make her submit so that I could knock her off that damn high horse she was on when we first met. Dr. Steele. My name is Dr. Steele, I mock her in my head. Insolent little sawed-off…

Now, she’s my whole life… her and my babies… my whole fucking life.

Christian Grey, family man. Had you asked me just three short years ago, I would have said, “No way in hell.” Now, I can’t see it any other way. I run my hands through my hair and rest my elbows on my knees.

“You look sorrowful,” her soft voice says from behind me. I look over my shoulder and she hasn’t changed positions. She’s just looking at me, looking all edible and delicious.

“You’re supposed to be sleeping,” I say, remembering that she was drunk out of her mind not an hour ago.

“Well, I’m not,” she says in a sexy, come hither voice. I can tell that she’s still a little liquored.

“You need to rest, baby,” I coax, turning to her a bit. “You’ve had a lot to drink.”

“What if I don’t want to rest?” she says, curling her arms over her head and resting one wrist on top of the other. Fuck!

“Baby, I remember when you were wine drunk. You could barely remember what happened the next day.”

“Drunk sex is fun and I guarantee you, I’ll remember fucking you.” Shit, Anastasia, you’re making this harder and harder for me… literally!

“I don’t want to take advantage of you, Butterfly,” I warn. She sits up and unhooks the halter around her neck. Two pieces of material fall down to her waist and two gorgeous mounds of flesh spill out before me.

Fucking hell.

They’re swollen and full of milk and I love them when they’re this big! All full and bursting with life… and sexy.

“Baby, if I touch those things, they’re going to explode,” I growl.

“You got a problem with that?” she questions.

“Fuck, no!” I reach for her and she lunges at me at the same time. She’s devouring my lips and tongue and I’m grabbing handfuls of her tits and ass. She’s mauling me in every way possible, like she can’t get enough of me, and it’s making me hornier and hornier—but I have to let her lead this game. I said I won’t take advantage of her and I mean it. She’s pulling my hair and biting my lip and it’s taking everything in me not to slam her onto this bed and fuck her “to infinity and beyond.”

She pulls away from me just enough to snatch my T-shirt up my body and over my head before descending on my lips again. She has climbed onto my lap straddling me now and is grinding her body into my hardening dick. Fuck, she’s so goddamn hot, I can’t even control her. I groan into her mouth while squeezing her luscious ass.

“Lie down,” she whispers against my lips. I lay back and try to take her with me, but she wiggles from my grasp and out of my lap. She moves with the speed and agility of a cat as she undoes my shorts and slides them and my boxer briefs off my body. I don’t even have time to raise my hips to help her get them off. When she rises from removing my clothes, her lips lock tight onto my dick and she sucks the damn thing like a fucking straw.

“Fuck-ing-shit!” I hiss loudly, my hips nearly rising off the damn bed. She’s on her knees between my legs and her head is bobbing slowly as she torments my dick with one of the hottest, tightest blowjobs I’ve ever had in my fucking life.

“Baby! Fuck!” I groan loudly. She’s fucking killing me here! Slow, hard sucks and slurps on my dick feel so good, I’m damn-near mindless! I thrust my hands in her hair and it only makes her speed up, bobbing harder and faster and I can’t stand this shit. I try to think of anything I can besides this magnificent blowjob to prolong the situation, but it’s no use. I have to tell her.

“Baby… please… stop. I don’t want to come yet!” I throw my head back as I’m certain that I’m about to lose the fight, and she heeds my warning and releases my dick. Apparently, she doesn’t want me to come yet either. I take deep breaths to compose myself while she kisses my inner thigh over and over again, then my pelvis and up my torso. When I can see her eyes, she stands and slides her bathing suit off her hips.

Shit, she looks fucking delicious.

She climbs on top of me, thrusting her tongue in my mouth again and grinding her body against me, just enough to keep me hard and not enough to get me off.

“I fucking love you,” I growl into her mouth.

“I love fucking you,” she responds between kisses, “and I fucking love you, too.”

She sits up on my lap and raises her hips, positioning me at the opening of her core. I’m damn near breathless waiting to enter her and she slides down onto me without moving her eyes from mine. Her pussy sucks me in hard and I’m nearly ready to explode again. She doesn’t move. She just sits there with me inside of her, wrapped around me, warm and tight.

Don’t come, Grey. Don’t fucking come.

“If you move…” I try to warn her while squeezing her thighs.

“I know,” she says, still gazing in my eyes. “Calm down. I wanna fuck you.” I groan loudly.

“That’s not helping,” I lament, dropping my head back in defeat.

“Suck it up, Grey,” she growls. “I wanna fuck,” and she starts to move. Fuck! Fucking hell! Fuck! She feels so fucking good! I groan and squirm, count and try to think about other things—anything! Anything at all! But what she’s doing to my dick is criminal. She’s rolling and bouncing and grinding and I fucking want to come so badly that I could cry. I almost want to safeword this shit is so unbearable. Instead, I grab her ass and start pumping hard into her, trying to bring her to orgasm with me.

“I can’t stop it! It feels too good! I’m gonna come, baby…”

“Wait!” she says, and she halts her movements. I yowl in frustration, my orgasm burning in my balls and fading away as she sits atop me, holding my dick prisoner in her vise-like walls. I sit up with her on my lap, still inside of her, glaring at her hungrily. I dig my fingers into her back, the frustration becoming too much for me. She cries out and I worry that I’m too rough with her. Her tits are spilling on my chest, milk leaking down both our bodies.

I really need to suck those.

I put my mouth on her leaking breasts, alternating between licking and sucking her wet, taut nipples. I feel her shiver in arms as she watches me intently.

God, I want you to fuck me… I want to come hard inside you… This shit is more than I can take.

She pushes her hands into my hair and licks her lips as I lick her nipples. My dick is getting harder and more anxious inside her. She’s fucking torturing me. I want to grab her hips and lift her up so I can fuck her… push her down onto me so this burning in my shaft can release… something! I’m fucking dying here!

She has mercy on me and starts to move, slowly… very slowly. I groan deep in my throat when I feel the friction against my cock and the pressure slowly start to build in the base of my balls and in my lower back. She doesn’t speed up, though. She keeps stroking me, keeps fucking me, slow and deep. I’m about to lose my fucking mind. Instead of grabbing her and pressing her hard down onto me like I want to, I grab the sides of each tit with both hands, letting the milk flow out of one while I continue to lick and suck the other.

She gasps, whimpers, and groans in her chest as she thrusts her hands in my hair—and her pussy onto my dick. Yes! That’s it, baby. I won’t stop you this time. I won’t say a word. This torment is too much. I move my mouth to the other nipple that’s making us a sloppy, milky mess while she fucks me so sensuously. Good hell, my dick is going to supernova inside her when this is all over.

And why is this milky mess turning me on so much?

“Fuck me, baby,” I growl. “Fuck me good… make me come…”

So much for not saying a word. This shit is so good that my mouth has a mind of its own right now. She moves infinitesimally faster and I feel my cock getting thicker and harder inside of her. Suddenly, the mind of its own is silent and I can only concentrate on this searing pleasure in my dick and balls and pelvis. I can’t even move. I can only enjoy.

Fuck, this feels so good.

I can tell when she gets her rhythm and it starts to get good to her, because she puts her hands on my shoulders to steady herself and starts to bounce—a little at first, then harder and faster.

Hold on, Greystone. It won’t be long now.

I hold my head back and look up at her—my goddess, wet from sweat and leaking milk, riding me meticulously and slowly, her eyes open and staring at nothing… or at the heavens… or Nirvana just about to descend upon both of us. She’s celestial as she rises and falls on top of me, so beautiful—so fucking beautiful that I can’t stand it.

I love you… God, I love you so much… so much… so fucking much…

Her breath catches in her throat and her eyes close. I don’t know where she is now. I just know that she feels so good against me, on top of me, wrapped around me, in my arms…

I wrap my arms around her and hold her against me. It doesn’t hinder her rhythm, so I slide one hand down to her ass and slip it between her cheeks, fondling her rosette.

Her breath quickens and she tightens slightly around my cock, threatening to syphon my seed from me any second and I push past the barrier of her rosette into her anus. She shivers a bit and her hips roll just a little more against my shaft.

Shit, baby, you better come soon…

I’m trying to hold out, squeezing her hip and pushing my finger deeper into her ass. She’s bouncing faster and harder on top of me, against me. My hands full of cheeks, my finger in her ass, her bouncing like crazy on my dick.

It’s about to be over.

I finally press my finger in as far as it can go from this angle and move it around just a bit. In moments, she digs her fingers into my shoulders, stills her movements, and starts to shake. She’s whimpering and panting in a mindless orgasm that pulls me deep into her and squeezes my aching dick between her heavily and violently pulsing walls.

It’s. A. Wrap.

“Oohh-ho-ho, baby, God!” I lament, and I fall back onto the bed, taking her pulsing body with me while I empty fantastically inside her.

Now, that’s the way you christen a boat!


A/N: “To infinity and beyond” —Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. 

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 15A—Meet the Slayer

Instructions for this chapter:

So, I had another one of those moments where I wanted to interact with my characters and this is it.

After a small difference of opinion, Christian and I will take you on a tour of his luxury Superyacht, The Slayer. Just like Chapter 17B of Becoming Dr. Grey where Ana showed me around Grey Crossing, this chapter is “link-heavy.” So, if you are using a device that might be slowed down because of the links, you may want to move to a computer. 

When you click a link, the picture should open in a separate window so that you don’t lose your place. However, if you just want to see the pictures instead, you can see them here at the Meet The Slayer.

Again, I hope someone will actually read the chapter and click the pictures and walk through the yacht with me, but I do understand that different devices may have a problem with all the links. It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun, too, and you’ll get to see how two alpha attitudes (me and CG) interact when we’re together (he’s a real pain in the ass).

CG: I heard that.
ME: And…?

All of the same disclaimers apply. Have fun and enjoy…

Chapter 15A—Meet the Slayer

“Hi, again, my lovelies. Bronze Goddess here, but you can call me Bronzy. So, once again, I’ve found myself in—or in this case, on—another one of those magnificent Grey creations that require its own chapter. There will be no movie with this tour, but plenty of pictures on Pinterest so that you all can see exactly what I see as I take my tour of Christian’s beloved Slayer. I tried to just put a few descriptions of the boat in chapter fifteen, but Christian couldn’t stop going on about the damn thing in his point of view… and on and on and on. He chattered and babbled about everything from the C32 Ascert Caterpillar engine to the Simrad AP50 main Autopilot display with J50 junction box. Who wants to hear about that crap? Who even knows what that crap is? Will the boat sink? No? Good. Show me the cute stuff!”

“Will you please stop calling it a boat?” I roll my eyes at the sound of the arrogant, baritone hottie that I know is standing behind me on the dock.

“And what would you call it?” I say, turning around to find his hot ass standing there in a T-shirt and cargo shorts like he wore hiking in Anguilla. Fucking hell. Nobody makes cargo shorts look hot… except Christian Grey.

“It’s a superyacht,” he corrects me, standing there with his hands on his hips and his hair all windblown. I fold my arms, my floral maxidress blowing in the wind behind me. It’s sunny and today is a perfect day for a flower and an afro.

“I’ll give you ‘yacht,’ but I’m not calling it Superyacht,” I inform him.

“Well, that’s what it is,” he huffs. “Speaking of what we’ll be calling things, I’ll call you Lynn or BG. If I’m in a really good mood, I’ll even call you Ms. Holmes. However, I will not be calling you ‘Most High Writer of My Life’ or ‘Guardian of My Destiny.’ I also won’t disrespect you if you don’t disrespect me. So, I would appreciate it if you would refrain from making me do the Chicken Dance or the Macarena.”

I can’t help but giggle. The last time I was on Mercer Island, Jason decided to test my power as Wielder of the Almighty Quill, so I had to show him who was boss.

“Where is Jason anyway?” I ask.

“Staying as far away from you as possible,” he replies. “He figures if you can’t see him, he can’t piss you off. Chicken shit.”

“And you’re not afraid?” I ask, raising my eyebrow at him.

“No,” he says, flatly. “What’s the worst you can do to me?” I frown deeply.

“Christian, I write the story. I can do anything to you that I want.”

“And? So?” he challenges. “Are you going to kill me off? Are you going to kill Butterfly off? No, because you need us and you know it.”

“You’re a real asshole,” I tell him. “You know I just posted chapter seven and eight and nearly everybody hates you for how you treated Ana when Pops died.” He scoffs.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he says, waving me off. “Let she or he who is perfect amongst them cast the first stone.” I twist my lips.

“That’s not how the quote goes. It’s…”

“I know what it is and I said what I meant,” he interrupts me. “Three decades—three decades of fighting for my life in one way or another, beginning from before I could barely speak. I could scream, but I could barely form words. Yet, this woman comes into my life and yes, she has the ability to transform me and has done so in a lot of ways. But after two years of being with her, I’m supposed to be perfect after twenty-eight years of hell. There are people who have been through less than I have who are psychotic, schizophrenic, and bipolar and stay that way for the rest of their lives. But not Christian Grey. No—he has a hard time taming his emotions sometimes and he’s a dog and a monster who needs to be punished and Ana needs to withhold pussy and on and on. Hopefully, one day I’ll be that perfect person that they all think I should be!” I sigh heavily.

“Christian, nobody’s saying you have to be perfect,” I defend.

“The hell they aren’t!” he retorts. “I read all those comments, too, remember? How horrible I was for feeling how I was feeling and doing what I was doing. Did they forget that the first and last person that I had ever seen die that meant anything to me was the crack whore? I was four! I guess I was supposed to learn everything I needed to learn about death from that experience, right?”

Oh, God, how did we get on this topic? Oh, yeah, me and my big mouth.

“I’m sorry I brought it up,” I say, shaking my head.

“As am I,” he retorts. “But I can put it to bed without a problem. I’m just glad that my wife is a lot more tolerant of my mood swings and imperfections than others.” He turns around and walks down the dock. Turning about around to me, he says, “Do you want to see the boat?” I sigh. Now, he’s going to pout. He’s such a toddler.

“So, you’re going to be Vanna White?” I ask, falling in step behind him. He stops and turns a bemused frown to me.

rs_480x270-170330072209-480-vanna-white-wheel-of-fortune-032917

“Who’s Vanna White?” I almost have to catch myself from doing the Ana-bobble-head thing.

“You don’t know who Vanna White is?” I ask incredulously.

“Should I?” he asks matter-of-factly. I keep forgetting that if I don’t write it, he may not know it… but he should know this.

786638979_705184“Vanna White!” I say, like it should be obvious. “Hostess of Wheel of Fortune with Pat Sajak? The last thirty-years? ‘I’d like to buy a vowel?’ This is part of pop culture! How do you not know this?” He just looks at me impassively.

“Did you write it?” he asks as matter-of-factly as his last question.

“I shouldn’t have to write this!” I snap back. “Anybody born in America as well as several countries abroad in the last five decades should at least have some idea who Vanna White is!” I’m so frustrated. How the fuck does he not know who Vanna White is? I didn’t write that he was a Dominant and he became a Dominant. He was a Dominant before I wrote it!

“Well, I don’t,” he says, folding his arms and waiting. I can’t believe this.

“You fucking know who Justin Bieber is and you don’t know who Vanna White is!” I huff.

“You wrote that I know who Justin Bieber is,” he defends. “He has one or two nice songs in his vast repertoire of childish screeching. I’ve never watched gameshows. Why would I know who Vanna White is?”

“But you know she was on a gameshow!” I point out.

“Because you just said it!” he counters. “You said she’s on Wheel of Fortune!” Okay, and now I’ve had enough of this conversation.

“Show me the damn boat,” I huff, walking ahead of him to the passarelle.

“Stop!” he says just as I get to the end of the passarelle. It’s a wonder I didn’t fall in!

“What?” I say, perturbed and startled.

“Take off your shoes,” he says. “Put them in that basket. There are slippers there that you can wear if you want.” I frown.

“Are you serious?” I ask bemused.

“It’s either that or go barefoot,” he says. “No street or ground dirt or debris gets tracked into my yacht.” I frown. Is he really that much of a Prima Donna?

“This is ridiculous!” I say, removing my shoes and tossing them into the basket. He walks up the passarelle behind me, removes his shoes and tosses them into the basket. He replaces them with a nearby pair of deck shoes.

“You’ve never been on a yacht before?” he asks. I twist my lips.

“No,” I say snidely. “Some of us don’t make yacht money.” He smirks at me. Asshole.

“Well, allow me to educate you. There’s not a luxury yacht in the world that I know of that you can board wearing your street shoes. They’re called deck shoes and boat shoes for a reason.” He pauses and looks down at my feet peeking out from my maxi-dress. “Skip the slippers. You’ve got nice toes.” Then, he just walks past me like he just said, “Nice day today.” I’m all verklempt and stuff and he just strolls down the deck. I shake it off and once again, fall in step behind him.

“So, a little information about what you’re seeing,” he begins. “The Slayer is a highly-modified, one-of-a-kind, customized version of the Richmond Status Quo. It’s a 150-foot-long, tri-deck Superyacht with six staterooms—two twin berths and five double berths, so it sleeps twelve, not including the additional crew quarters that sleeps eight. The master stateroom is on this deck. The VIP Queen stateroom or captain’s cabin is on the upper deck and the remaining four staterooms are down below.

“This is the Main Aft Deck,” he says, gesturing around the beautiful deck decorated with multicolored teak woods, white cushions and accents, and stainless-steel columns and railings polished to shine like chrome. To our left on the main deck is a Bar with five luxurious built-in bar stools on quality teak flooring. There are two comfortable looking chaises in the space—darker teak with plush white cushions. To our right is a set of glass double doors flanked on one side by polished teak, mahogany-colored cabinets and on the other side by the stairs that lead to the upper deck.

“After you,” he says, gesturing to the glass doors, which slide open automatically. Suddenly, he’s the perfect gentleman, and I’m going to soak it up before he becomes Mr. Asshole again. I flash him a genuine smile and step into the doors.

“This is the Main Salon,” he says, as he follows me into the elegantly decorated living space. “This furniture is custom-made, of course,” he adds. “Everything I saw for yachts or boats either looked too nautical or too ostentatious. I felt like this was just stylish enough to meet my needs—class and sophistication without being pretentious.” I nod.

“I think you got it right,” I say, examining the custom upholstered tweed love seat with leather trim and the matching upholstered tweed & leather occasional chairs. There’s also a mahogany cocktail table, a round table with a table lamps and a large upholstered oval ottoman. On the right side of the main salon is a deep chair of the same material, another round table with a plant and, of course, a grand piano.

“Has Ana seen this space yet?” I ask while running my fingers along the piano, even though I already know the answer.

“We’re sailing later today for the first time,” he answers calmly.

“It’s just… it has beautiful touches—throw pillows and plants…” I allow my feet to sink into the luxurious wall-to-wall carpeting. Yes, I now see why you shouldn’t wear street shoes in this creation. It would be blasphemy. “It almost has a woman’s touch.”

“I would hope so,” he says. “It was decorated by a woman.” I raise an eyebrow at him.

“How do you think Ana would feel about that?” I ask cautiously. He raises an eyebrow right back at me.

“I don’t know,” he says with a shrug, “but my interior decorator was a woman, so there’s not much I can do about that.” Interior decorator… of course. “What? Did you think it was my subs?”

“I… didn’t… I…” I’m tripping over my tongue because that’s exactly what I thought, or at least someone that was romantically interested in him that was decorating the space with hopes of occupying it herself one day. The corner of his mouth rises in a knowing grin.

“No other women besides staff, family, the decorator, and now you, have been on my yacht,” he confirms. Can a black woman blush with embarrassment?

“Well, what if she gets the same impression that I did?” I ask, a little chastised. There goes that knowing smile.

“I guess I just have to trust you to make sure that she doesn’t,” he says. “Since you’ve seen it first, there should be no surprises for Butterfly, right?” He leans on the other side of the piano awaiting my response.

“Mr. Grey!” I exclaim, somewhat appalled. “Are you flirting with me?”

“Nah,” he says casually, “just schmoozing. Is it working?” I roll my eyes and shake my head.

“What’s that? A bar?” I ask, changing the subject and pointing to the rich mahogany structure in the middle of the room.

“No,” he says, pushing from the piano, “that’s the Entertainment Center. It holds a 60” LCD TV with satellite receivers and a state-of-the-art sound system. I’m sure you’ve noticed the mahogany theme,” he points out. I nod. He points to the ceiling. “Look familiar?”

Above my head, there is a coffered round tray ceiling with framed molding and a custom light fixture.

“Yes,” I say examining the ceiling. “It almost looks like the ceiling in the entertainment room at Grey Crossing… right above Atlantis.”

“Almost identical,” he confirms. “There’s custom mahogany veneer joinery and cove molding throughout the yacht. You’ll also see this same wall-to-wall carpeting in the living spaces, slab marble flooring in the companionways, and the teak flooring you saw before on all the decks.” He points to the windows. “Panoramic windows on every level and…” He pushes a button on a remote that I thought was for the entertainment center with the obscenely massive television. Instead, the shades rise on one side of the boat to reveal the sunshine. “Electric pleated Roman shades,” he finishes.

“Very nice,” I say, walking to the panoramic windows. “Every level?”

“Except the lower level,” he admits. I’m a water baby, so I get lost in the view out the window for a moment, planning my next cruise with my husband in my head.

“Shall we continue, Ms. Holmes?” he says in that smooth baritone voice. I give him a knowing look.

“Now, you’re going to have to cut that out because you’re married, I’m married, and you’re very alive in my head!” He chuckles deeply and gestures to the side of the entertainment center.

“Shall we?” he says again, beckoning me away from my first love… the water.

I walk around the entertainment center to find a Dining Salon with a beautiful table that seats ten—mahogany, of course.

“You planned on entertaining here?” I ask. “A dinner party, perhaps?” He shrugs.

“Maybe not before, but who knows what might happen now,” he says. I continue to take in the space. The dining salon and the main salon are one big space only separated by the large entertainment center. Along the back wall behind the large dining table complete with burl chairs and ten elegant place settings is a Buffet with Built-In Display Cabinets that appear to house the finest crystal and stemware. Another coffered ceiling—square—graces this room, the soffit accented by a Murano glass chandelier with silver leaf appliqué designs. The chandelier matches the wall sconces that I am just noticing decorate the walls through the main and dining salons. He leads me through an automatic door on the left of the built-in buffet.

“This is the Galley,” he says. “It’s a state-of-the-art kitchen with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and a Built-In Dinette.”

I won’t admit how jealous I am. The galley is actually a mini-gourmet kitchen and is bigger than the kitchen in my apartment! It has way more counter space, double sinks with black and white mosaic tile backsplash, and a television! There’s a four-door refrigerator and a four-dour freezer; two dishwashers; steamer, convection, and microwave ovens; a commercial five-burner cooktop stove and an oven range. The dinette is a custom U-shaped leather settee and mahogany dining table. The gourmet pantry and under-counter drawers offer more room for storage than my walk-in closet and all the drawer space in my bedroom combined—and that says a lot! The laminated multicolored floor matches the various shades of mahogany throughout the vessel.

“Good God, man,” I breathe. “Just these three rooms are way too much for one person.” He shrugs.

“Go big or go home,” he says, nonchalantly.

“What’s down there?” I ask, pointing to a stairway in the rear of the galley.

“That leads to the crew’s quarters,” he says. We descend the stairs and he shows me the Crew’s Lounge, which isn’t as opulent as the entertaining spaces, but is very classy nonetheless. There’s a larger U-shaped leather settee with a Corian dining table, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, Corian countertop with microwave and coffee maker, and storage locker and drawers. A hallway to the right of the lounge leads to four very comfortable and nicely furnished crew quarters, pimped out a bit with large screen televisions, Blu-ray players, stereo systems, and video games.

We spend little time in the crew’s quarters as Christian is eager to show me the rest of the boat… er, I mean, yacht. Back up the stairs, through the galley we go, back through the dining salon and to a hallway on the right of the buffet. We walk through to the Main Deck Companionway—another statement in pure opulence for just a fancy nautical hallway. To the right is a door to the outer starboard deck, another built-in mahogany buffet, and the main day head, while a gorgeous winding staircase leading to the upper deck and another staircase with a mahogany and frosted-glass banister leading to the lower deck occupy the area to the left. Directly in front of the staircases is a Sub-Zero Wine Cooler.

Beautiful art prints decorate the walls of the hallway and my feet are treated to the cool smoothness of a marble floor… and even the head is lavish—mahogany radius bow-front vanity with a granite top, a Kohler sink and gold-plated fixtures, a vanity mirror and an overhead mirror. I have a hard time figuring out why a bathroom is this glamorous when this particular bathroom will definitely only be used for biological relief. But then, I suppose you can’t have glamour throughout the yacht, then one corner of the boat look like a simple water closet.

Beyond the Main Day head are two large mahogany double doors that lead to the Master Stateroom sitting area. The first thing you notice upon entering is the leather sofa and the built-in entertainment system. Mr. Grey and his lovely wife can lounge in this area and watch on-demand programs on a 46″ HD LCD TV with tuner and amplifier and a satellite receiver while enjoying refreshments from a Sub-Zero two-drawer refrigerator on a comfortable leather settee.

Beyond the sitting area is the Master Stateroom. In the center of the room is a king-sized pedestal bed with drawers underneath and boasting an upholstered headboard with a mahogany frame. There’s a built-in vanity and vanity chair on the port side, a built-in 12-drawer dresser on the starboard, two marble-topped nightstands on either side of the bed, and an imposing entertainment center at the foot of the bed—all in mahogany. The panoramic windows and Roman shades are in this room as well. The forward bulkhead just beyond the headboard is covered with mirrored panels and the ceiling displays a beautiful mahogany alcove with recessed lighting.

The entertainment system hides a 60″ HD LCD TV, also with an on-demand movie receiver. Between the vanity and the entertainment center is large walk-in cedar-lined closet with plenty of storage and drawers as well as a Sentry safe.

“You’ve fallen silent, Ms. Holmes. Are you speechless?”

His voice actually shocks me as I was so living vicariously through him and Ana for a moment, imagining myself on this luxurious boat… yacht… and sailing away to some quiet little island where no one could find me.

“Yes, I must admit I’m a little dumbstruck,” I reply. “I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t in this much awe when Ana gave me a tour of mansion.”

“That’s because you expected the mansion to look the way that it does,” he says. “You expect opulence when you see the outside of this massive piece of machinery, but you don’t expect this much.” I nod.

“It’s overwhelming,” I confess. “What made you decide on the mahogany throughout?”

“Overwhelming, huh?” he says. “You haven’t even seen the whole thing. Hold on to your panties.” He gestures me towards a door to the right of the bed. “Mahogany is classic, sophisticated… and comforting.” I frown.

“Comforting?” I would hardly say that all this rich wood was comforting. Classic and sophisticated, yes—but not comforting. Most of this wood is not the dark mahogany of Anastasia’s hair. It’s the reddish-brown mahogany that you would have expected to find on the maiden voyage of the Titanic… tragic ending, but a beautiful ship nonetheless.

… And probably not the best comparison.

“I find it comforting,” he says, “elegant, yet uniform… beautiful and orderly.”

I guess he would find something like that comforting. I still don’t get it. I walk into the doorway that he gestured to earlier and find a Master Bathroom decorated in marble, glass, and of course mahogany. The floor is marble, of course, and there’s a beautiful marble countertop with gold and glass accessories and fixtures. There’s also a mirrored ceiling is framed in the same familiar wood.

The same sconces from the salon area grace these walls as well as the walls in the master stateroom. The large marble shower and steamer with gold jets and fixtures as well as a marble bench is enviable. However, upon closer examination, what I thought was a mirror inside the shower is actually a large window—into the next bathroom! I rush out the bathroom, not taking note to where Christian is at all, and scurry to the other side of the bed, where I find another door… and Another Bathroom.

His and Her Bathrooms!

This bathroom is almost a mirror of the one on the other side of the window, only this one has a Jacuzzi tub. This is the hers. I walk out of the bathroom and find Christian sitting on the leather settee skimming through the on-demand selections. I fold my arms and gaze at him until I get his attention. He raises his eyebrows, then frowns.

“What?” he says, again. He can’t be that obtuse.

“His and hers bathrooms?” I ask, almost accusing. His brow furrows.

“That’s not his and hers,” he protests. “One has a shower and one has a tub.” I shake my head.

“That’s his and hers!” I exclaim. He shakes his head. “You know, for a smart man, you’re really dense. Who decorated your boat?” He shrugs.

“A friend of Elliot’s,” he says. “Some woman he was fucking at the time. Gia something.” I shake my head again.

“You spent what had to be at least a million dollars in mahogany and marble alone decorating this boat and you don’t remember the name of the woman who decorated it?” I lament.

“Why should I remember her name?” he asks. “She did the work, I paid her, she left. Had she fucked up, Andrea has her name and number.”

“Did she split the bathroom like that or was it that way when you bought the boat?” His lips form a straight line and he ponders the question.

“It wasn’t that way when I bought the yacht,” he says, correcting me. “She split it so that there would be space for both the Jacuzzi and the steam shower.”

“And, Mr. Brilliant Businessman, on what planet does a space that large need to be split in two to accommodate a Jacuzzi and a shower? Not only that, it’s awfully cozy that there’s a window in between. And if the space was so damn small, how did she have enough room to fit in another toilet and another vanity? You only have one ass!”

Suddenly, the wheels begin turning behind those gorgeous gray eyes.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” he says, standing to his feet and putting his hands on his hips. “Women are always simpering around me, I had no idea… she was fucking my brother, for Christ’s sake!”

“You have more money and you were Seattle’s most eligible bachelor. No offense to Elliot, but in her eyes, you were an upgrade.” He runs his hand through his hair.

“Well, at least I didn’t fuck her,” he replies.

“Yeah, but good luck explaining his and her bathrooms to your wife.”

“It could have come with his and her bathrooms as far she knows.” I put my hands on my hips.

“There’s only so much shit I can cover up, Christian!” I snap. “A lady’s touch all over the boat—yes, I said boat—and his and hers bathrooms in the master stateroom… Did you forget you married a doctor?” He sighs a frustrated sigh.

“I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it,” he says. “It’s not like I can remodel the damn thing before she wakes up. Besides, I love my boat and she will, too. Now, let’s continue the tour.”

I think I’ve angered him a bit, but he might as well face it now before he has to explain to Ana why his boat looks like he had a wife before he had a wife.

We proceed back through the main deck companionway and down a winding staircase—marble stairs framed in mahogany with beautiful etched and frosted glass inside the banister—leading to the Lower Deck Companionway.

“There are four staterooms down here,” he says, “three queens and one twin. They all pretty much look the same, so take your pick.” He does the Vanna White thing with his hands and I step into one of the Queen Staterooms. It’s modest, but very nice—queen sized bed, television, two nightstands with table lamps, alcove ceiling, and private En Suite. The mahogany still makes the space opulent, though it looks nothing like the master stateroom. The Twin Stateroom is the simplest of all—two twin beds, a nightstand, a cabinet, a closet, a television, and a private en suite. There’s one queen stateroom on either side of the stairs in this portion of the lower deck. Straight across from the stairs, the third queen stateroom and the twin stateroom flank a bookshelf that really doesn’t look like a bookshelf.

“What’s that?” I ask, pointing to the bookshelf. “A secret room?” He raises an eyebrow at me.

“You’re pretty smart, Ms. Holmes,” he says. “No, it’s not a secret room, but it is a hidden door. It leads to the crew’s quarters—easy access for changing linens and such.” I nod. Makes sense.

We ascend the marble stairs two levels to get to the Upper Deck Companionway. Directly to our left is another queen stateroom.

“This is the Captain’s Cabin,” he says. “It could also be another guest room, but if I chose to take a long sail for a few days, this is where I would sleep instead of the master stateroom—unless I hire a captain to sail instead.”

“Do you ever do that—hire a captain to sail instead of you?” He does the half-head shake, half nod.

“I have a first mate, so to speak, but each time I’ve taken her out, I’ve primarily been the captain.” I nod as I take in the décor of the captain’s cabin. I kind of like the way the queen-sized bed sits against the window so that you can awake to the view of the water. Besides that, it’s pretty standard like the other rooms—same mahogany trim and furnishings, but with a small half-bath.

“This looks more like you,” I tell him. “Solitary, but right at the helm of things.” He shrugs.

“I’ve actually spent more time here than any of the other staterooms. Even on trips that may be a couple of days… around the Sound or just relaxing on my boat with my family or something, I’ve been up here instead of that big room downstairs.” He rubs his chin and I notice that he’s calling it his boat, too. “Maybe you’re right about Gia,” he says. “I hadn’t thought about it before now, but I guess she could have been wishful thinking when she decorated the master stateroom—not knowing that I would spend most of my time up here.”

“Here’s my suggestion,” I say, linking my arm in his and leading him back to the staircase. “When Ana asks about it, be truthful. Tell her that you didn’t know at the time, but hindsight being 20/20 and all…” I trail off with a shrug. He nods.

“You’re right,” he says. “I mean, I didn’t plan it that way, and I sure didn’t end up with that predatory wench. She was fawning all over me and I seriously thought it was just the face, but now…” He rubs the back of his neck. He’s been hanging around Elliot a bit too long… or Carrick. “I sure hope she likes it.”

“She’ll love it,” I say, patting his arm and avoiding his back. “It’s beautiful. Say something profound like the fates must have known that you two would be together, something like that.” I pat his shoulder and quickly move to the other side of the stairs before turning to face him. “Where to, now?” I ask.

“To your right,” he responds, some of the heaviness leaving his shoulders. I pass another day head on the main deck and turn to my right. “Forward.” I nod and walk into the Pilothouse Office. This is a mahogany entryway—mahogany cabinets, walls, and small desk with a few controls—that leads into the Pilothouse. Now, this is an impressive space—two large Llebroc leather Captain’s Chairs, large leather and mahogany Raised Settee with a mahogany pedestal base and two teak steps, custom carpeting and a mahogany helm with more monitors, keyboards, joysticks, gadgets, and gizmos than I can describe. It almost looks like a really pimped-out video game setup.

“This screams power,” I say, caressing the luxurious leather of one of the captain’s chairs.

“It should,” he says, taking a seat in the other one and rubbing his hands on the mahogany helm. “This is my throne. I can and have spent hours at a time up here.” He gestures to the other seat for me to sit down, which I do. “Look out there,” he says, pointing forward. I turn my gaze to the beautiful view before us of Lake Washington.

“Now,” he says, “Imagine moving at 18 knots slashing through the water on a sunny day.” I frown.

“I’m sorry… you lost me at ‘knots.’” He smiles.

“It’s about 20 miles or 32 kilometers per hour. It doesn’t seem very fast in a car, but in a boat, it’s kinda sweet.” I smile back.

“You called it a boat again.” He shakes his head and rolls his eyes.

“Your bad habits are rubbing off on me.” He turns his gaze back to the windows. “I miss my boat,” he says. “I haven’t had much time with her since Butterfly came along.”

“She doesn’t like to sail?” I ask. I don’t remember writing that.

“It wasn’t her fault,” he replies. “I just never found the time. I didn’t even think about it until she brought it up yesterday. I have someone that comes out to the property and maintains her regularly, so the yacht didn’t suffer, but I can imagine she’s been a bit lonely.” He caresses the mahogany again and I smile inwardly, noting that he’s talking about the Slayer like it’s a woman.

Slayer,” I say, “did you come up with the name before you experienced it ‘moving at 18 knots slashing through the water on a sunny day?’” He chuckles.

“Silver-gray fiberglass slaying across the ocean… What else would I name it?”

“You’ve done ocean time with this monster?” He nods.

“I’ve gone up the coast to Canada a time or two,” he confesses. “She’s really made for the ocean, not a lake, but she’ll still maneuver fine in small waters. Land transport getting it onto the island was a real bitch, so that won’t happen again anytime soon.” He points to the controls on the helm. “You won’t understand anything about this and I saw you talking about me trying to describe my boat, so I’ll just say this… great engines, starboard and port—3850 total horsepower. That’s a lot of horses. Several compasses; awesome autopilot; two 96-mile scanners—one four-foot, one eight-foot; top-of-the-line communications system; and I can’t go any further without giving you a boating lesson.”

“That’s quite enough,” I say, holding my hands up in surrender. “In other words, it’s a really, really big boat.” I stand from the captain’s chair. The power is a bit too much for me. “It’s impressive that you can… drive this big rig,” I add.

“It’s just like operating any other yacht,” he says, downplaying the situation. “Everything’s just… bigger.” I twist my lips.

“Yeah, sure,” I reply. “The difference between ‘every other yacht’ and this creation is the difference between an SUV and an 18-wheeler.” He laughs aloud.

“Maybe not that different, but different,” he cedes. He points to a door on the starboard side. “We’ll go this way.”

“What about those rooms?” I ask, pointing in the direction we just came from.

“Patience, Ms. Holmes,” he scolds. “We have to see the foredeck first.” He points to the door again and I obediently open it and walk through to the Portuguese Foredeck.

“Wow. Do people actually sit up here while the boat is moving?” I ask. “I can imagine it gets pretty windy.”

“Sometimes,” he says, “not if we’re going at top speed, but it’s an amazing experience.” I examine the teak wood floors, tan and yellow bench and pillows, upholstered in outdoor materials, two Corian tables on polished stainless steel pedestals, and polished stainless steel  railing around the Deck.

“Definitely a far cry from the other décor of the boat,” I point out.

“That’s because this is one of the areas that’s totally exposed to the elements,” Christian says. “Go down there.”

I look to where he’s pointing and see the teak flooring narrow into a Walkway and Stairs that lead to the very front of the yacht… and there’s a bell. I walk down the stairs almost to the bow of the boat. Looking out over the lake, I almost feel like Rose when Jack was holding her hands and letting her fly at the nose of the luxury ocean liner.

And there’s that damn Titanic reference again.

I turn around to walk back to the stairs, but first, I ring the bell.

Back inside the yacht, we pass the stairs we ascended to get to this level and directly to my right—on the port side—is the Master Owner’s Office just beyond a pair of double-glass French doors. The room is thrifty in size, not in décor, like the rest of the vessel. This space boasts beautiful Sapele Pomelle wainscoting inlays and built-in cabinetry and storage. A custom-made Sapele bowed-front desk and office chair sit holding a computer and telephone and facing a large window with the same electric Roman shades, affording the owner a beautiful view of the ocean while he works. The office also has a 40” HD TV and a classic floor-model globe.

“You can’t get much work done in here,” I say, admiring the beautiful view from the large window.

“I hardly ever work in here,” he says. “This is one of the few times that I refuse to work—when I’m on my yacht—unless there’s an extreme emergency.”

“That’s a good practice,” I tell him. “It’s really beautiful and it’s built for rest and relaxation. Working here is almost a sacrilege!” He laughs again and gestures me towards the French doors.

“Still more boat to see, Ms. Holmes,” he says playfully.

“Yes, Mr. Grey,” I reply, proceeding through the French doors back into the upper deck companionway.

“To your right,” he says, gesturing me into yet another large, lavishly decorated space, “is the Skylounge. I can see immediately that the lounges are also his and hers. The Main Salon is hers, but…

“Now, this is a man’s room,” I say. I don’t point out the his and hers theme anymore, since I think he already gets it, but this spot is definitely for the guys.

“Yes, it is,” he says proudly. He describes the upholstered tweed & leather trim love seat, sofa, and occasional chair. “Those are robust pieces to indicate a gentleman’s space,” he brags. Of course, there’s a large leather occasional chair with a matching ottoman that puts you in the mind of a Laz-Y-Boy recliner, and the round mahogany glass top cocktail and end tables are large, solid pieces. Nothing dainty or ladylike in this space. I could see Mr. Grey relaxing with a quality Cuban cigar with a few businessmen discussing his conquest, if he were a smoker, that is.

And again, another abstract Titanic reference.

“You’ve seen them all over the yacht, but yes, that’s another built-in entertainment center. That’s the largest television on board. It’s a Sharp 90″ 3D television with all the options—on-demand movies, receiver-amplifier and satellite receiver.

“Over here is where I whip Elliot’s ass in Poker, and occasionally my father.” He gestures to a large 48″ Mahogany Game and Card Table with leather inlay. It has four leather game chairs with brass nail heads, each built almost like a king’s throne! “And this is the wet bar—standard stuff.”

“Standard, my ass,” I say. “There aren’t many standard Marble-Top Bars with state-of-the-art appliances, Mr. Grey. Maybe that’s standard for you…”

“That’s what I meant,” he says, raising his eyebrow at me. I shake my head.

“Many of my readers aren’t accustomed to your idea of standard, Mr. Billionaire, believe me,” I say. The well-stocked bar area has a Perlick 2-drawer refrigerator and ice-maker, a Fisher & Paykel dishwasher, a U-line wine cooler, and side-by-side sinks. Three woven rattan and leather bar stools invite the guests to relax with a delicious cocktail or a manly Scotch, neat. The Skylounge has all the prevailing mahogany accents, tray ceiling, wall-to-wall, carpeting, and Roman shades over panoramic windows seen throughout the yacht.

I proceed to the double sliding glass electric doors to the Upper Aft Deck, since I know that’s where we’re headed next. Like the deck below, this deck also has multicolored teak woods, white accents, and polished stainless steel. The Large Dining Table in the center of the deck is mahogany-colored polished teak with twelve matching teak chairs with white cushions. There’s storage in the base of the table as well as separate storage lockers with a polished teak countertop and teak storage cabinets. This deck also has the teak chaises and tables like the main deck as well as a 46” HD LCD television. There’s a refrigerator and sink for snacks and the same highly-polished stainless-steel columns and guardrails as throughout the yacht.

“Up the stairs, now, Ms. Holmes,” Christian says, gesturing me to the stairs.

“I thought you said you would call me Lynn or BG,” I whine. He flashes that all-American perfect 32-tooth smile at me and I try not to melt.

“Old habits die hard,” he says, in that voice. “My mood has improved.”

“Mr. Grey, we’ve discussed this,” I warn.

“I know,” he acknowledges, “but it’s fun watching you squirm a bit.”

“Did you forget that I’m in control of the quill and I can make you squirm a lot? I chastise gently.

“But you won’t,” he says confidently, gesturing to the steps again. I shake my head.

“Oh, no. You first,” I say. He shrugs.

“If you insist.” He proceeds up the stairs in front of me and one look at that ass and I immediately knew that I made the wrong decision. I look down and focus on my feet, holding my maxi-dress so that my feet don’t get tangled in the material.

Distraction! Thank God!

“Are you okay?” Christian asks from the top of the stairs. I look up and see concern lacing his eyes as I slowly maneuver the steps.

“Yes,” I say, squelching his concern. “These stairs seem narrower than the other stairs we took.” It wasn’t a lie—they are narrower.

“Yeah, I’m not really sure why, but they are a bit narrower than the others. Sorry I didn’t warn you. I didn’t think of it until now.” I wave him off.

“It’s fine. No harm done.” I look around the deck. “This is definitely for the sun worshippers,” I say. He nods.

“Yes,” he confirms, “this is the Flybridge Aft Deck, mainly used for sunbathing.” There are four simple chaises up here—teak with green outdoor cushions and chevron pillows on a fiberglass floor. Where the fiberglass ends and the teak flooring begins, there’s a Viking commercial stainless-steel gas barbeque grill right next to the Flybridge bar, which is almost a replica of the Aft Bar on the main deck, only this one has a 46” HD television behind the bar.

Just past the day head and the bar is the Flybridge Deck, which sports two more built-in upholstered settees—one on either side of the yacht—and surfboard-shaped teak tables with stainless steel bases. Further forward is a Dimension 1 Spa and Jacuzzi Tub on a three-step platform. There are lounging sun pads on either side of the tub with cushions. Overhead speakers pipe your choice of music across the deck.

“Well, that’s about it, Ms. Holmes,” Christian says. “The only things you haven’t seen are the Massage Room the engine room, and the helipad. Trust me, the massage room is boring—a massage table and cabinets. That’s all.”

“The boat has a helipad? You’re kidding!” I exclaim. He shakes his head.

“Not kidding,” he says. “It’s not a helipad right now, but with a few modifications, part of this boat can be quickly converted to a helipad.”

Well, now I’ve seen and heard it all.

“And there you have it, my friends—a tour of the beloved Slayer before they take her out on her maiden voyage in Lake Washington. And don’t worry, despite all of the Titanic references, she’ll come back in one piece.”

“What?” Christian interrupts me. “You were going to sink my boat?” I twist my lips.

“No, but you have to admit. It’s about as ostentatious as the Titanic, so I couldn’t help the obvious comparison’s including Leonardo Decaprio’s ‘King of the World’ moment at the bow.”

“You’re probably the only person who got on the yacht and didn’t do that,” he says.

“Oh, I did,” I say. “I just had a Rose moment instead of a Jack moment, and you’re interrupting my conclusion with my readers.” He twists his lips.

“Well, excuuuse me,” he says, pouting and drawing out the word. I roll my eyes.

“Anyway, folks, that’s our trip through this beautiful vessel. Join us for the next chapter when Christian takes his beloved wife on her first sail on the Slayer. In the meantime, I want a drink and a soak in that Jacuzzi before I leave. Christian, can you make me a Comso?”

“No,” he protests. “I don’t know how to make a Cosmo, although I should since they apparently drive Butterfly wild.” I smile.

“Don’t worry, I’ll teach you…” I say, as I lead him to the bar.


A/N: Although I didn’t do a movie of the boat, there is a virtual tour here  if you are interested in seeing it and have no problem with first-person moving graphics.

The album is here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/meet-the-slayer/ 

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