Raising Grey: Chapter 22—Submissive

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 22—Submissive

CHRISTIAN

I can feel myself rising to full height before I even get out of the car. The ride back to the Crossing was silent and I haven’t heard a word from my wife, which is a bit surprising considering she spent part of her morning with one of my prior submissives. I, on the other hand, spent the afternoon grilling an uneasy Jason on how Sandra Beasley was able to get so close to my wife so easily. I also set Alex to the task of finding out exactly what the hell happened to one Ashanda Beasley—information that I plan to keep on tap in case I need it to deal with Sarah Bradley in the future.

My wife isn’t home when I arrive—another fact that I find surprising, but it’s still a bit early. I head to my office to try to finish some work, but I’m widely distracted by the events of the day and the fact that Anastasia still isn’t home yet. Early in the evening, Jason requests an audience.

“I have an answer for you, sir,” he says, as he marches across the open area of my office. He hands me the file on Ashanda Beasley, a preliminary background check requested about ten days ago as protocol for the interview. Initially, everything is standard and nothing is cause for concern except for a red flag for age and date of birth. Further investigation required was returned as the outcome. I raise my gaze to him.

“This report came in this morning, sir, right before the interview. She decided to do it anyway.”

She… my wife.

“Why wasn’t I notified?” I ask.

“We didn’t know who she was,” he says. “As far as we knew, she was Ashanda Beasley with a flag on her birthdate. It could’ve been a typo. We were still investigating and as quickly as the information was filtering in, I was processing it and giving it to you. The moment I discovered that Beasley was Bradley, I turned on that cable channel. That’s when I came to your office.”

“So, we knew something wasn’t right before she went to the interview. We just didn’t know what it was.”

“Correct.”

“And because we didn’t have all the information, and this small thing got past us, she made the final call to do the interview,” I summarize. Jason sighs quietly.

“Correct.” I nod. I can’t blame him. It was a small security issue, so we thought, and he was working to handle it. My wife, who can be a force to reckon with, is the one who decided to break protocol and proceed with a yellow light on the background check.

“Thank you, Jason.”

“Sir…” I raise my gaze from the report. “You should know that this happened before.” I glare at him.

“What?” I nearly hiss.

“We had one other instance where Her Highness proceeded with an interview before a final report came in. We had a preliminary background check and we were awaiting confirmation of a few more details. It was one of the larger networks where security definitely wouldn’t be a concern and in the end, the complete background check came through okay—after the fact—and there weren’t any issues. It turned out to be a situation of a judgement call which worked out in her favor, but nonetheless… sir—protocol.”

“I get it, Jason,” I say, turning my gaze back to the blaring red flags on the preliminary background check in my hand. “Thank you.”

He leaves me alone in my office to wait… so I wait. Wait for my wife to arrive so that I can hear her side of this story.

I don’t have to wait long.

“I’m surprised you didn’t call me,” she says as she marches a bit indignantly into my office.

“I’m surprised you didn’t call me,” I retort coolly, and she’s a bit taken aback by my tone.

“You sound displeased,” she says, crossing her arms as she reaches the front of my desk. Displeased… I test the word.

“Curious,” I say. Displeased doesn’t quite describe one of the emotions that I’m experiencing right now. “That was a very uncomfortable situation with Ashanda Beasley.”

“Very,” she confirms, her voice sharp, and now I know why her tone didn’t sit well with me when she was in the studio right before she left.

She knows. And she’s cross with me. Interesting. I rest my elbows on the armrests and entwine my fingers in front of my chest.

“So, what’s your take on it?” I ask. She scoffs a sarcastic smirk.

“My take?” she says, sardonically. “Well, how about yet another catty little misinformed bitch trying to get information?” I nod.

“Perhaps,” I concede, “not to mention the curiosity of a spurned ex-submissive,” I add. She raises her brow.

“Oh,” she says, in surprise, “we’re being forthcoming.”

“I see no reason not to,” I say matter-of-factly. Her eyes narrow a bit.

“I had been saying that I had an interview with Ashanda Beasley for days. It might have been useful to know that I was facing off with one of your ex-submissives,” she says, her voice crisp.

“Well, I might have been able to forewarn you had I had any clue in the world who Ashanda Beasley even was,” I say nonchalantly, my hands still casually clasped in front of me. “That’s not even her real name, but then again, those kinds of things are revealed in thorough background checks.”

I gaze knowingly at her and wait. I can see the moment the penny drops. Thorough background checks.

“Right now, I’m trying to ascertain who’s responsible for this,” I say calmly. “I agreed that you be able to do these interviews if we take the necessary precautions so that you aren’t exposed to danger, discomfort, emotional blackmail, or being ambushed and in one way or another, I think you’ve gotten some of all of those.” I know I’m right and she can’t even argue with me. She’s standing there trying to find a rebuttal, but she’s knows I’m right, too.

“Right now, what I want to know is who dropped this ball.” She doesn’t know that I already know who dropped it. She’s going to have to tell me. “Rapping with Rob, there was no way to know that asshole was going to sit there with a pussy in your face. The ratings whore, they’re everywhere. That’s a chance that you take sitting in anyone’s seat. But an ex-sub… that can be found with a little digging. It apparently didn’t take you or me long to figure out that’s who you were sitting with this morning and a little due diligence would have told us that before you sat in that seat… so who dropped the ball, Anastasia?”

My voice is eerily calm and even and she raises her eyes to me.

“You already know,” she says.

“Do I?” I ask. “What is the protocol when you plan to do an interview? Who gets notified first? What’s the chain of communication? What’s the approval process so that we know that it’s safe for you to be sequestered in a booth with another person… or other people? Who gives the go-ahead or the red light on such actions? How do we know you’re going to be okay? Who. Dropped. The ball?” She takes a deep breath and releases it.

“I did,” she says, though unapologetically.

“You were adamant about being a part of your own security,” I remind her. “You wanted to know the protocol; you wanted to be informed; you even wanted to be present in some of the security meetings. Suddenly, you’re going into the public eye to discuss intimate details of your life and security isn’t important anymore?”

“It was a small cable station in Lynnwood. It was the last interview I agreed to do. I wanted to reach a small community of people who may have thought there were no resources available to them. I didn’t see the harm in it…”

“Except that there was harm in it,” I say finitely. “There was a predator lying in wait for you and although she wasn’t aiming to physically harm you, she was aiming to harm you—to defame you on her little show and expected you to sit there and take it. It could have been avoided had you followed protocol and waited for the clearance, and now I find that you did this more than once.”

I sit quietly and wait for her response. She stands defiantly gazing at me, not challenging me, but not taking down either.

“That’s twice,” I say, standing from my chair and walking around my desk, “twice this past life has come back and smacked me in the face in less than two weeks, not to mention the many times it’s smacked me in the face before now.” I clench and release my fists and pop my neck while looking at the floor, my control hanging on by a thread. I’ve got to do something about this.

I’m weighing my options carefully. My old methods aren’t effective anymore. Out of sight, out of mind means that opponents—in this case, these fucking ex-submissives—grow more and more brazen when you’re not in their faces all the time. Sarah Bradley was married and had moved on. She was supposed to be the least of one of my fucking worries. Hell, I have two ex-submissive that I don’t even know where the fuck they are! I’ve got to do something I haven’t done before. I’ve got to throw some water on this fire somehow or it’s just going to get bigger. But tonight…

I raise my eyes to my wife. My wife, who can’t follow simple instructions put in place to guarantee her safety. Her expression is a bit more contrite now that mine has hardened slightly, but only slightly.

“We agreed on a protocol when you decided to do these interviews and you didn’t adhere to it,” I say, flatly.

“I did adhere to it,” she retorts. “I only strayed a couple of times.”

“It only takes once to fall into the wrong hands, and you did,” I counter.

“I had Chuck with me the entire time,” she defends. “You saw that.”

“And what if this had been someone desperate, like Elena when she had your gun?” I shoot back coolly. “At that close proximity, would Chuck have been able to save you?”

Her face pales and I know that I’ve made my point. I turn away from her to indicate that I won’t take a rebuttal to my next statement.

“We’ll address this more later,” I say finally and wait to hear her leave the office. It takes a moment, but she leaves. I release the breath I’m holding and pop my neck again, that fragile control still teetering on the head of a needle. I sit down at my desk, steeple my fingers over my lips, and ponder my next move.

*-*

“Activate two-way communications.” Ding. “Locate Anastasia Grey.”

“Ana.”

“Mrs. Grey, may I see you in our bedroom, please?” After a long pause.

“Okay.”

“End two-way communications.” I go into my dressing room and retrieve a box that I’ve had for a while containing an object that I’ve only recently acquired. I come back into the bedroom and wait for my wife. She enters a minute or two later, a curious expression on her face.

“I am who I am,” I begin. “I won’t change. I’ll always require structure and control. When something interferes with that, I struggle to maintain balance.” I pause. “You broke the rules today in a big way. What’s more, you’ve done it before and you know that’s unacceptable.” I hand her the box in my hand—a large, black velvet box that can easily be mistaken for jewelry. However, she jumps in surprise when she opens it to reveal something quite different.

“Oh!” she gasps. Then she examines the object inside carefully. “It… looks like… you,” she says, her voice soft and incredulous. What she sees is a life-sized dildo—a perfect replica of my semi-erect dick.

“Yes, it does,” I confirm. “I’ve had a mold for years. I only had them made for… special submissives. I’ve done some pretty deviant things with them in the past and now… I’ve had a fantasy for a long time of doing some things to you… with you. This is the perfect opportunity.” She swallows hard. Yes, my love, you should. “I want you to shower—thoroughly—with the natural coconut body wash and the microfiber towels. Miss nothing, and I mean nothing! When you’re done, your garments will be on the bed. Put them on and come to the playroom.”

She swallows again, then drops her eyes before walking to her en suite. Good girl. I go to my closet and retrieve the bag of items I purchased a while ago for just such an occasion—a pair of black lace thongs, a short black silk robe—deliberately too short to cover anything, and a pair of sky-high black Louboutins. Yes, I know that she has several pairs, but this pair is mine! Solely for my use, pun intended. It’s a simple pair of shoes, really—whole pumps, patent leather, red-bottomed platforms. I take the rest of the items in the bag to my dressing room to change into my uniform.

If she’s as thorough as I told her to be, I’ll have plenty of time to set up. After I’ve changed, I go to the playroom to make sure all of the new items that I’ve been dying to use on her are ready to be broken in. I have a shit-ton of new toys that have been crying for my attention and today, I’m going to finally put them to use.

I’m a patient man. I place my oils, flogger, crop, wrist restraints and various other items in clear view. I want her to know that her body is mine and I plan on playing every inch of her skin like my goddamn piano tonight. Oh, the things I plan to do to her… the anticipation is succulent!

I hear her before I see her—those sky-high stilettos announcing their approach across the wooden floor outside the door. It slowly opens and there she stands. I can smell the coconut all the way over here, or maybe it’s the coconut oil I brought in with me. Nonetheless…

“Come in, Anastasia,” I command her. She walks into the room and her eyes nervously dart to the floor as she attempts to see whatever she can see without raising her head.

“You can look around, Anastasia,” I tell her. “I want you to see what I have in store for you.”

She raises her head and her eyes scan the room. She’s seen most of the things before, but I don’t think the sex sofa or the spanking bench were here before. The sex chair, the bondage chair, and some of the mechanical masturbators may be new editions as well… all waiting for you, Mrs. Grey. We won’t use them all… tonight, anyway.

I approach her and as I get closer, her eyes drop to the floor. I stroke her nipples, protruding from the silk robe and her lips part. I pull the belt holding the robe together and untie it, allowing it to fall open and reveal her beautiful breasts and that sexy thong. I begin to circle my prey.

“If you have never believed me before, believe me now when I say… I’m going to fuck you senseless.” She gasps loudly at the revelation. “I’m going to have you in every way possible, in every orifice that I can fill—several times. I’m going to bring you to your very wits ends. This will be like no workout you have ever had in your life.”

Her breathing increases as I pull the robe from her shoulders from behind her and let it fall to the floor. Yes… that ass… that beautiful, juicy, alabaster ass… well, not for long.

“You’ll feel pleasure and pain, ecstasy and torment. You can make noise—you’ll have to, trust me—but you can’t speak unless you safeword. Only two tonight. You won’t need the third, because you’re going to come so many times that you’ll be delirious before the night is over.” I lean into her and speak right in her ear. “What are your safewords, Anastasia?”

She jumps when I ask her, then in a breathy voice, says her safewords.

“Bells and whistles.”

“Bells and whistles. Very good.” I quickly attach leather and fur cuffs to her wrists. “Now, I’m going to punish you a bit for your disobedience. Then, I’m going to use you and fuck you until I’m satisfied. Don’t. Forget. Your safewords, Anastasia.” I say the words firmly. I’m going to take her to the very edges of pain and pleasure, of control and insanity. If it becomes too much for her and she doesn’t say so, I’m going to be fucking pissed. I believe my tone has communicated my drift.

“Yes, Sir,” she acknowledges. “Bells and whistles, Sir.”

“Very good.” I move her to the portable deluxe bondage frame and attach her wrists to it above her head. I twist her hair in a messy bun and secure it with a hairclip. Time for a few lashes…

“Ah!” she cries out as the first lash of the flogger wraps around her body. It was a bit of a surprise. I should have warned her, but I wanted the element of surprise. Her body responds immediately. Her breath is wild and ragged. She’s flushing in parts of her body that I haven’t even struck and she has already started to sweat… that erotic sheen that shines over her body when she’s aroused.

Anastasia likes the flogger.

She told me from the very beginning, from the first time we discussed my involvement in the lifestyle, that the flogger fascinated her. Every time I’ve used it since that day, she has responded spectacularly.

I strike again, allowing the straps to wrap around her hip and slide off her ass. She jerks in her restraints, but gasps and moans like the sexual nymph that she is. I strike again, two times quickly. Her fists clench and he head falls back. Her mouth is open, gasping for air. I strike her again and again and again, reigning blows on her back and ass. Her skin is slightly pink… and beautiful. Fuck, I’ve missed this! We haven’t been in the playroom in so long and I have fucking missed this. I strike her a few more times until her moans sound a bit tortured, then I drop the flogger, my dick literally about to explode out of my goddamn pants. I walk to the front of her panting body hanging from the frame.

I’m horny to the point of pain. She’s panting and I take her chin in my hands, lifting her face to mine. I think she started to enter subspace and I need to bring her back. I need you lucent for this session, Mrs. Grey.

Wakey, wakey, Mrs. Grey. We haven’t even started.

“Open your mouth.” She obeys without opening her eyes, and I insert a fairly large item into it.

“Suck,” I command as I walk behind her and admire her now hot pink skin—not yet as red as I want, but getting there. I pull a blindfold from my pocket and apply it to her eyes, depriving her of sight. This should be interesting… and intense.

“Stick your ass out, Anastasia,” I command. She bends slightly and sticks out her ass.

“Farther!” I bark. I know she has to stand on her toes a bit and stretch her arms to stick that ass out like I want it, so do as I fucking say! Like magic, her ass is out and ready for me.

“It’s so fucking beautiful,” I tell her, caressing the cheeks and squeezing hard. “Yes… it’s lovely.” I kneel behind her and kiss each cheek. Then I rip the lace thong from its place and toss the pieces somewhere out of my way. I kneed and kiss her ass, parting the cheeks and blowing a long gust of air against her rosette. She gasps and it puckers then pushes back out to greet me. I like that. I blow again and somehow, the heels of those sky-high stilettos lift off the floor. I knew you could bend over more, Mrs. Grey. Let’s see how far you can go.

I lick the rim of her rosette with just the tip of my tongue. She gasps loudly and lets out a surprised whimper. When I do it again, she trembles a bit. Yet another thing I know that she loves—anal play, but she’s never had it like this. I open her wide and lick deep, massaging her rosette repeatedly with my tongue. I’ve never done this to her before and she gasps, and squirms and pulls on the restraints. Her voice is high pitched, ecstatic, surprised. She loves it, but doesn’t know how to handle it. When she seems like she can’t take it anymore, I stop and come around to the front of her.

“Open your mouth,” I tell her, hardly able to contain my own arousal. She opens her mouth and releases the large butt plug I put there, one with the big black fluff ball on the end. The last time she had one of these things in her ass, she drove me out of my goddamn mind! I can barely contain myself now. I hope I don’t come in my goddamn pants.

I walk around to the back of her and slowly start to insert the large plug into her ass.

“Huhh, huuuhhhh,” she starts to whine a bit, trying to relax and remain still. I slowly push it in a bit farther and a bit farther, watching her nipples getting harder and harder until they’re almost red. When her ass accepts the plug and swallows it up to the fluff ball, I have to stop and take a moment. I’m breathing almost as hard as she is.

‘Oh, that’s beautiful,” I groan, rubbing my dick through my pants and admiring her ass. I pick up the flogger again and run it up her legs and between her thighs so that she knows what’s coming. I reign a few strikes over her body—just her back and the back of her thighs—occasionally pulling and twisting the butt plug. Her noises are so fucking carnal that I almost come just listening to her. It’s time to move on.

I release her from one frame and attach her to the adjustable frame that I have over the sex sofa. Not really a sofa at all, this wonderful piece of machinery is a super hands-free sex machine, made to accommodate two women at the same time. Though I never intend to have two women on it, I liked its versatility better than the one-person machine. It’s fitted with a masturbator, but not just any masturbator. This custom baby has 27 settings, ranging from moderate vibration to damn near electric shock, slow and circular stroke to rabbit fuck, and not only can the ribbed base move independently to massage her clit in the right position, but the shaft can be adjusted to any angle to accommodate whatever position I place her in.

Oh, but here’s the best part—it accommodates any dildo with open-end attach ability, and it has expanding sides and a lube release function. I have attached the ChrisDick dildo to it, so she will truly have the sensation of my live dick inside of her. This damn thing cost a fucking fortune, but I’m hoping it’ll be worth every penny.

“Climb aboard,” I instruct her. She can’t see anything, so I have to guide her, verbally and physically, to climb on to the sex-horse portion of the sex-sofa, then guide a dick to her opening that’s technically mine, though not attached to my body. I position her backwards on the horse and very close to the edge as the front of the machine has the seat for the second “girl,” and I want to have access to all sides of her.

“Slide down on it, Anastasia.”

Her breathing is rapid as she slides down on the life-like dildo. She has to take her time because although it’s the same size as my semi-erect dick, when it swells, it may be a bit bigger than me.

“Sit,” I command her. “All the way down.” She swallows hard and sits on the dildo, and I know that it’s filling her. Now that she’s on the horse, her arms aren’t stretched as much as they were before. Now, it’s time to test the settings.

With the controls in my hand, I start with a low hum and a small circular grind.

“Haahhh!” she breathes passionately. Fuck, she’s so goddamn sexy. I only leave the setting there for a few moments before I intensify the vibration and the stroke. She whimpers helplessly and throws her head back. I experiment with several combinations, watching her body squirm and listening to her cry out as she pulls on her restraints. Occasionally, I push and pull and twist the black puff ball hanging out of her ass, and watch her shiver.

“God, I wish you could see yourself,” I groan. “You are so fucking hot!”

I set the masturbator at a medium stroke and vibration with no clitoral stimulation. I don’t want her to come too soon. While she’s still bound I move the restraints on the frame so that her arms are straight out to the sides and slightly raised. The ChrisDick is slowly circling inside her. She tries to regulate her breathing, but watching her and knowing that she is so turned on that she can barely stand it is making me hard as a fucking rock. I oil my hands thoroughly with the coconut oil so that I can touch her. I can’t wait to get my hands on that body. I’m going to torment the fuck out of her tonight; use her sexually in every way possible; make her come until she completely surrenders and then, if I’m not quenched, make her come some more.

I stand next to her trembling body. Her legs are open on the horse, so she has no other choice but to absorb the pleasure, absorb the punishment. I look over the front of her and see ChrisDick—pink and veiny just like when I’m ready to fuck all night—sliding in and out of her, slowly teasing that sweet pussy. The way that I have her bound on the horse, she has no purchase to move. She can only sit there with her legs open and let the dildo fuck her… or so I thought.

I slide one oily hand behind her upper back, stabilizing her. She gasps at my touch. Oh yes, sweet girl, we’re just getting started. With the other hand, I spread the oil generously on her breasts, kneading and massaging them expertly by cupping the mound and with a gentle squeeze and upward rub, caressing the oil into her skin and closing my hand over the nipple before allowing each finger to run over the nipple against my thumb with a brushing pinch before I release the breast. I repeat this move several times on each breast and her breath quickens uncontrollably, pushing those soft, ample mounds into my hand with each pant. I can feel the electricity surging through her body every time my full, oily hand rolls over the nipple. I know I can make her come this way, and I torment her for several minutes while I watch her breasts pink up and pebble in my hands. She slowly starts to grind her hips into ChrisDick, imitating—and I can imagine, complimenting—its circular motion. So much for no purchase to move.

“You like that,” I groan in her ear and my voice causes an immediate tremor.

“Yes… Sir,” she pants.

“Still,” I command softly as I admire her breasts in my hand. She stills immediately, panting as if she’s run a marathon and whimpering in frustration. Oh, I could do this all night—watch her tremble and her beautiful glistening breasts, but I guess I should move on. There are so many other ways I want to torture her.

I indulge myself a little more with her breasts as I move the other oily hand from her back to her ass, spreading the oil across the cheeks and into the top of her crack. The puff hanging out of her ass is bobbing with each heated breath and I pull on it, just enough to make her rosette pucker outward a bit with the pressure. She throws her head back and cries out in unfettered ecstasy. I push the butt plug back in and turn it, then pull gently again and hold it against her puckering ass. She cries out again, like a trapped animal.

“Sir… please… ladybug!” she squeals.

“I told you not to use that one,” I warn her, still pulling on the plug and massaging her breast while ChrisDick rolls inside of her. “If you come, you come, but if you come before I tell you to, I’ll punish you.”

I hear her whining in her chest, fending off her orgasm which I make her do for a few more long minutes—not long, but probably an eternity to her. I guess it’s time for her first orgasm. This body has been through a lot and I don’t want her to be too wrung for what I want to do next.

I adjust the bondage frame and move her restraints so that her arms are above her and bent now. She breathes and audible sigh of relief when I release the butt plug and cease the breast massage. Only a brief moment to catch your breath, Lady Anastasia. She’s now slightly tipped back and I have to adjust the masturbator so that it tips with her or the stroke can be quite painful. She’s leaned back like she’s in a reclining chair, not a lot, just enough so that the horse can push against the butt plug and her clit is exposed.

“Oooooohhhh,” she laments, no doubt feeling the sensation of the butt plug inside of her.

Hold on, Mrs. Grey. I’m about to blow your mind.

She will have to use her muscles to counteract discomfort in this pose. She picks up on that quickly and grabs the frame to hold herself up. I adjust ChrisDick to a slow stroke and swell—the orgasmic pulse she’s accustomed to when I’m about to come.

“Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” she cries, long and loud, her ab muscles tightening and her own juices beginning to coat the dildo. She’s so close.

“Fuck it,” I command. “Let me see you grind it.”

She moves her hips and that beautiful ass against the slowly pivoting dildo that looks like my dick. I could just watch this for hours, it’s so fucking hot! I quickly step out of my shoes and socks, drop my pants, and unbutton my shirt. Taking my dick in my hand, I stroke it gently, mimicking the move of the dildo and pretending that it’s my actual dick sliding in and out of her making that delicious wet sound. There’s still a little oil on my hand, so when I run it across the head, the sensation is torturous! I don’t want to come in my hand, so I stop the stroke and roll my examination stool right up to her trembling body on the horse.

“You can come, now, Mrs. Grey,” I command, and I latch my mouth onto that tender throbbing, waiting clit. The sound that rips from her is feral and primitive as I watch her ab muscles tighten and she shamelessly strokes into my mouth and against the dildo and the butt plug, restraints be damned! Oh, my fuck, this is too much even for me! I reach up and massage and pinch those aching pebbled nipples. With the sensation onslaught—her pinched nipples, the butt plug being pushed into her ass by the horse, ChrisDick slowly pulsing and fucking her like I would, and my hot mouth clamped down on her pulsing pussy while my tongue flicks her pebbling clit—she erupts into one of the most violent and explosive orgasms I have ever seen. Her biceps and forearms flex impressively as she pulls herself in a continuous chin up. You could break bowling balls on her tight abs right now, and I can visually see the muscles thumping in her pelvis.

I move her body back to an upright position after the first orgasm and the cock moves with her. She’s wheezing and breathless as I remove her blindfold. I take a few moments to admire her gorgeous body, covered in sweat and wrung from her first orgasm. Having her at my mercy revives a bit of that control I felt slipping earlier… and arouses the fuck out of me.

“Look at me,” I nearly growl as I touch my body, she slowly raises her head a bit and her hair splits like a curtain as her eyes land on my body. My muscle tone isn’t as sharp as it could be, but I’m still very well defined, and her eyes feast hungrily on me as I outline the sinews of my abs. I caress my stomach with one hand while pouring the coconut oil down my chest with the other, allowing it to drip slowly down my body undisturbed until it reaches my dick.

Her head bobs with each breathless pant, and she raises it a little more to get a better view of me. Still bound to the frame, she’s looks like a starving, horny, wet nymph hanging from a cross and gazing at a feast. I rub the oil over the skin of my stomach, causing it to glisten and my abs to look more defined. Even from here, with her hair partially blocking her face, I can see her pupils dilate. I pour more of the oil down my stomach while she watches and I see her hips start to move. The dildo is still fucking her.

My dick starts to pound, so I take it in my hand. I grip it hard and spread the oil up my shaft starting from the base and all the way up and over the head. Fuck, it feels so good as I fuck my oily hand, and I close my eyes for a brief moment to feel the burn in my cock. I can’t help but groan as I reach down and caress my tight, aching balls while pumping my rod slow and hard, punishing the sensitive skin of the head with every pass.

I open my eyes to see her focused on my cock, literally drooling and licking her lips and still fucking that dildo while she watches me masturbate. It’s almost my fucking undoing.

I quickly release my cock and watch it jut upward angrily, spilling a bit of precum in protest.

I adjust her position on the sex-horse and angle her body and the dildo so that she’s still bound to the frame, but she’s now lying forward, face down with her head hanging off the horse. Perfect.

While I set ChrisDick to an upward Doggie-style circular grind and thrust behind her with an occasional squirt of female lubricant and a gentle vibration on her clit from the ribbed base, I adjust my examination stool directly in front of her so that my dick is right at her face. I have a joyous time fucking her mouth in this position. She’s completely helpless and I get to watch her body sensuously and wetly thrusting and grinding on a hard, pink replica of my dick. I gather her hair at the nape and guide her head over my cock, thrusting slowing into her mouth and feeling my orgasm burning hot and fast in my balls. I watch that pretty round ass and that ball of fluff bouncing on the horse and I know that she’s about to come at any moment. I want to reach down and grab that butt plug one more time, but I’m too busy concentrating on these masterful jaws locked on my cock. I cup her chin and cheek at the same time and bring her mouth down onto my dick over and over, the sensation causing a freezing stillness in my spine until…

“Good God!” I grind out of my throat as I explode hard in her mouth, my knees shaking hard with the release. I squeeze my eyes shut as my dick pulses in her mouth and when it’s finally over, I open my eyes and bring my gaze down to see my wife coming a second time. Right in the middle of her orgasm, I reach down and pull the butt plug from her ass, causing her to scream and nearly weep around my dick. I always wanted to do that while she was coming. It’s such delicious torment and ecstasy at the same time and I know it intensifies her orgasm.

Her body is convulsing as she begins to descend from her climax and my cock is reloading for the next round. The Dom is alive and well and ready for action. Although it’s obvious that she’s my lover—and I’m loving the fuck out of her—tonight, she’s completely my submissive and no matter what we do, she’ll spend this night in cuffs.

I climb on the horse behind her and hear her whimper in what sounds like dismay. I squeeze the coconut oil on her ass and watch is slide over her cheeks and down her split. I rub the oil in, paying attention to her sensitive rosette and her skin still pink from the flogger. Now, that shit turns me on.

I grip my cock and spread the oil on my hand over the pink skin. I concentrate on the head for a moment, then direct it to her rosette, using her asshole to increase the stimulation of my sensitive skin. She’s a bit open from the large butt plug and I groan as my head slips in—a slow, but easy, wet, oily, hot insertion.

“Ugh!” I lament as she closes around me, enveloping my head and causing the rest of my dick to harden instantaneously. I love Anastasia’s ass. When I say I love Anastasia’s ass, I mean I fucking love, love, love Anastasia’s ass!

I grasp her hips and sink my fingers into the meat, pulling her ass back onto my dick over and over and watching the head reappear and disappear inside that gorgeous tight hole. When my dick is hard and thumping and has to be deeper inside her, I adjust her to sit up and lean back against me.

“Fuck us both,” I command her, and she grinds against my cock in her ass and the dildo in her pussy the same time. The whole time, I’m grasping her hips, rubbing her body, and tormenting her nipples at the same time, enjoying the feeling of her coming apart in my hands… which she does, exploding in orgasm once again around both my cocks.

I keep my dick in her ass, but I lift her from ChrisDick from a moment. I’m still not done torturing her, though. With my dick still pulsing inside of her, I’m able to reach to a nearby table and retrieve more tools—nipple clamps and a smooth, silver vibrator. I torment her nipples from behind her for a while, making sure the nipple clamps are one setting too tight to heighten each orgasm from this point forward. She’s more sensitive now, so she’ll need more stimulation in order to come. Once her nipples are ready to pop like squeezed berries, I turn the vibrator on and stroke it up and down her tender clit—stroke, then remove… stroke, then remove… stroke, then remove. Too much stimulation, and it’ll hurt instead of arouse.

I can hear her getting wet again; I can smell her arousal; and my dick is still hard and buried in her ass. So, I start to stroke. I thrust deep, fucking her ass, stroking her clit with the dildo, and tormenting her tits. I’m so ready to blow that I rise very quickly and, to my surprise, so does she. She’s keening with each stroke, then moaning, then crooning. Several strokes later, she tightens like a fucking vise on my dick and comes quite violently—tears springing from her eyes and sweating like crazy. I grab her tits and hold her down onto me as I blow hard into her pulsing, gripping ass.

Now, I have to wait. Her ass always knocks me out for the count, but not this time. Oh, it was magnificent and explosive, but Dom Dick is still alive and kicking. He’s just pulsing like a fucking monster. She could use a break and I need to clean up before Dicky Boy can see any more action. I slide out of her ass and adjust her—restraints and all—to lie down on the sex-horse. I use the leg rests to get off the horse and come around to her face.

“Don’t get too comfortable,” I say to her panting, weeping face before I proceed to the en suite. I almost feel a little guilty for putting her through the paces this way… almost. I close the door and take my time, washing and sanitizing my dick with soap and water and personal wipes. It doesn’t stand down, but it relaxes a bit, and the pulsing stops. I really don’t want it to stand down. I’m just trying to give her clit a little break. I moisten two clean washcloths with cold water and go back into the playroom.

bdafcb1a1580b33a0b8113faa16fb629She’s not panting anymore. She looks motionless. Is she asleep? I approach her face to see that she’s awake, but quite subdued. I adjust her on the horse again so that she’s sitting up. I scan the floor to find the clip that has long since escaped her hair, leaving her ridiculously long tresses falling wildly over her head like that girl in that one horror movie.

We can’t have that.

I find her clip over by the wall underneath the table that holds an assortment of toys. God only knows how it ended up over there. I retrieve it and gather her hair behind her head again, clipping it loosely in the hairclip.  Her eyes are downcast and her arms hang listlessly from the wrist restraints. She’s shredded, but submissives often are during a good workout. I lift her chin and wipe her face with one of the moistened washcloths. Her skin comes back to life as I clean the salty treks of tears from her cheeks.

I move behind her and remove ChrisDick from the sex-horse. It’s time for position two, my friend. I attach it to the second masturbator at a right angle to the “sofa” portion of the sex-sofa. I imagine that it’s only called a sex sofa because the seat reclines a bit. Nonetheless, I get ChrisDick into position and oil him up so that he can take her ass while I enjoy the walls of her succulent core.

I come back to my wife and release her from the bondage the frame. While she’s still on the sex-horse, I retrieve ankle cuffs and attach them to her ankles. I take her hand, help her off of the sex horse and lead her to the sex sofa.

“On your knees, Anastasia.”

She situates herself on her knees on the seat and I attach her ankle cuffs to loops the leg rests on either side of the sex-horse. There are slots in the headrests that were perfect to insert a chain, so her wrist cuffs are fastened there.

I slap her still-stripped-pink ass and command her to back up onto ChrisDick as I guide it into her anal opening. She inhales sharply as the head of the dildo breaches her rosette.

Now, it’s my turn to get into position.

I attach the control to ChrisDick to a slot on the seat next to where I’ll be sitting and crawl into the seat underneath her. Now, she’s no longer on her knees. She’s lying on top of me, in my arms, and she’s looking very vulnerable. This is intimate… too damn intimate to just be fucking, and just like that, the submissive is gone.

I gaze at her for a moment, into the eyes of the woman that I love, and I kiss her softly. Surprise registers on her face, so I kiss her again, and again, and as I deepen the kiss, I starts the dildo in a slow, torturous motion, in her ass. She moans softly in my mouth and I grasp her cheeks, opening her more to the dildo and its penetration. She whimpers and her body responds, her tongue tangoing sensually with mine. I’m getting hard against her belly and I feel her grinding against me. I don’t want her to go without me, so I adjust, pull my hips back, and slide into her. She gasps in my mouth and I gasp right along with her as I thrust into the heat of her core.

“Oh, good God, this is fucking perfect,” I hiss as I cling to her hips, find the right position, and thrust up unto her. She writhes on top of me so perfectly, so lusciously, my dick aching inside her almost instantly. She’s so hot and so beautiful and we fit together so perfectly on this goddamn machine.

“Talk to me,” I say, softly. “Tell me what you feel.”

“So good,” she breathes, “it feels… so good…”

“Good,” I say with a quick wet kiss. “Good,” another wet kiss. “That’s what I want.” I kiss her deep and sensually and continue the slow fuck in front while ChrisDick runs that beautiful ass. I can feel the push and pull through her walls; the tremor of her ass and I wonder if the front and back orgasms will be simultaneous.

I don’t know if they’re simultaneous, but I feel one of them in this position. I think it’s vaginal, but I can’t tell. I just hold her close and keep fucking her because her body feels so good against me. I don’t move into a faster stroke. I maintain a slow, deep grind and keep the same grind with ChrisDick in her ass, unrelenting even when she comes a second time on top of me. Her body is weak and I know it, but she won’t tap out. She won’t give in, and I’m glad that she won’t because I’ve only had one orgasm in this position, and I want to keep loving her this way until I’ve had my fill.

I don’t know how long we’ve been at it, staring at each other when she could hold her head up; kissing softly, then sensually; me rubbing her hips, her back, anywhere I could touch her; deeply and slowly sexing her pussy and holding her cheeks open while ChrisDick fucked her ass; marking her on her chest, shoulders and neck below her collar-line. I swear I’m nearly ready to tap out when I feel that familiar ache in my lower back that signals the approach of a paralyzing orgasm.

Fuck, we’ve been working towards this one all night.

I fight not to quicken the pace, but can’t help deepening the stroke. My wife responds immediately. I have unwittingly clamped my hands tighter on her hips and ass cheeks, holding her immobile as ChrisDick and I drill relentlessly and deliciously into her. She closes her eyes tightly and moves the only part of her body that she can. Pushing off the back of the headrest, she lifts her upper-body from mine and throws her head back, her face frozen in a horribly painful sex grimace.

She stays that way for several long moments as the growing ache in my back now traveling through my tailbone and my rectum to my prostate causes my hips to thrust a little harder. Just as the ache begins to burn lava in my nuts, she stiffens like steel and releases a blood-curdling scream from her very soul. Her body tightens around me and I only have moments to pump wildly into her and chase my own pleasure before we lock together like mating dogs and her vacuum syphons pulse after agonizing pulse of madly climaxing ecstasy from my body. I can’t even describe these sounds I’m making. I hear them, but I can’t describe them…

Long, primal animalistic, grunts? I have no fucking idea.

I hear momentary popping in my ears, probably from my wife’s screaming, or maybe from my own primitive noises, but my body is spent. If she doesn’t safeword, I’m going to.

I float down to Planet Earth and realize that I won’t have to. My wife’s body has fallen limp on top of mine. She’s no longer in any kind of kneeling position and ChrisDick is no longer inside of her. He’s just thrusting uselessly back and forth, occasionally kissing an ass cheek with the tip of his head. I push the controls to stop his thrusting and turn my attention back to my wife. She had an orgasmic tear-burst earlier, but now, her full weight is pressed against my body, her head turned so that she’s lying on my shoulder facing away from me, and she’s weeping freely and deeply, her body shaking slightly with her sobs.

I slide my arms around her to comfort her, my dick still pulsing inside of her vibrating walls, and allow her to weep.

*-*

“You’re quiet,” I say to my wife as we ride into Grey House on Tuesday morning. She’s looking out the window at the scenery as it passes by before she turns to me. I can tell that she’s searching for her words, but instead, she shrugs one shoulder and turns back to watching the buildings pass by out the window. I reach over and gently caress her hand, garnering her attention once more.

“Are you okay?” I ask, concerned. “Did I hurt you?”

“No, Christian,” she says, “of course not.”

“Did I upset you?” I ask, still searching for the answer to her melancholy mood.

“No, you didn’t upset me,” she replies.

“Then, what did I do?” I ask, “because I know I did something.” She throws a quick glance at the back of Jason’s head, a gesture that tells me two things. One, she doesn’t want to discuss anything in the car with Jason and two, I’m right… I did do something. Resigned to the fact that I’m just going to have to wait to find out what’s bothering her, I bring her hand to my lips and place a gentle kiss on her skin, which elicits a small smile from her. I place our clasped hands in my lap, where they remain for the rest of the ride into Grey House.

She’s quiet the entire time—through the walk through the lobby, the long elevator ride up to the top of the ivory tower, down the hallway to my office… and I never release her hand, afraid of what I’ve done to put her in this mood. We stop momentarily at Andrea’s desk where I give her instructions to have Mac meet us here in half an hour and Butterfly greets Andrea and Luma with a wave and a smile.

I usher my wife into my office and close the door. She finally releases my hand and walks over to my desk. Even though we were both thoroughly well-fucked last night, watching her walk in these suits that she wears to Grey House that are supposed to be business suits turns me on to no end. The fact that she pairs these suits with the sexiest stilettos known to man doesn’t help the matter, either. That Hugo Boss suit looks as if it were tailor-made for her body and that jacket is cut just short enough to give me the perfect view of that ass.

Focus, Grey.

“Tell me what’s wrong,” I say, cutting the silence. “What have I done?”

She sets her purse in one of the chairs in front of my desk and releases a sigh.

“I don’t know what to think about last night,” she says, her voice uncertain. My brow furrows.

“What do you mean?” I ask. “I thought you enjoyed yourself.”

“I did… for the most part…” I cross the room and close the space between us.

“There was something you didn’t enjoy?” I ask. She shrugs one shoulder.

“Not as such,” she says hesitantly. “I felt… and you said…” She sighs. “There was some punishment,” she says finally. “I don’t really know why.” I raise my eyebrows at her.

“You don’t know why?” I ask. “But we discussed it. You clearly broke protocol…”

“But is that why I was being punished, Christian?” she says, turning around to face me. “This meeting that we’re having, the conversation that we had yesterday, the entire tone of our scene last night and the fact that I slept in cuffs—all of that speaks to a larger intent, not a breach in protocol.”

She’s getting flustered as she speaks. I’m looking for some kind of defense and I’m finding none. I was angry that we didn’t know beforehand that Butterfly was going to be interviewing live with Sarah Bradley, but angry with whom? Sarah Bradley, yes; maybe my security staff for not keeping a closer eye on her; maybe myself for not being more diligent about background checks before Butterfly made appearances, but she’s right. Her breach in protocol may have been what brought this to light, but it wasn’t what really set me off. What really set me off was my lack of control over the whole situation…

Over these subs who keep popping up like recurring fucking nightmares…

Over my security staff who would have alerted me the second that inconsistencies showed up on a background check, but didn’t because there were only moments to make a decision and Anastasia had already made it…

Over my wife, who didn’t follow simple instructions put in place for her safety and as a result, put herself directly in the line of fire…

For one moment, I missed the unquestioned order of my old life and I needed to have it back. My wife is a smart woman. She’s a doctor—a psychiatrist at that, and as I play back the conversations and events of last night, besides what she’s already pointed out, I know what the clues were that led to how she’s feeling right now.

“I am who I am. I won’t change. I’ll always require structure and control. When something interferes with that, I struggle to maintain balance.”

“I’m going to punish you a bit for your disobedience. Then, I’m going to use you and fuck you until I’m satisfied.”

My thoughts about how much I missed flogging her, about being with a submissive. They obviously came out in my actions. I even made a mental note that she would be a submissive all night and subsequently had her sleep in the wrist and ankle cuffs. I know the moment I felt my control slip and the moment I got it back… but I wasn’t open with her about the reason for the scene, and she knew it.

I fucked up.

I run my hands through my hair. I don’t know how to explain this. I could easily tell her that it was my need to regain control over the situation—but that’s not what I said. I said something else and that’s not what she felt… and that’s not good at all.

“I’m sorry,” I breathe heavily, leaning against my desk, my chin in my chest. I feel like shit. Our relationship is never supposed to have this type of undertone—never—even when then physical outcome may be pleasurable. I can feel her staring at me, but I can’t even look at her right now.

“I should have said something,” she says, after a long silence. Yes, you should have. I wasn’t in the right mind and yes, we both enjoyed ourselves, but last night could have gone wrong in so many ways and if it left her feeling this way, it did go wrong. I don’t know if I’ll be able to use any of the toys or apparatuses on her from last night again.

“I’ll… be more careful,” I say. It’s all I can think of, but it hardly seems like enough. I almost feel like I’ve battered her or something.

“Look at me, Christian.” I can’t. I can’t even raise my head. “Christian, look at me!” I know I have to or I’m punishing her for my bad behavior again. So, I turn my head to meet her gaze.

“You didn’t hurt me,” she says, trying to assure me. “It was intense and very pleasurable, but your reasons… you have to be careful.” She walks over to me and puts her hand on my cheek. “As your submissive and your wife, I have to be able to know why you’re doing the things that you’re doing to me. I have to be able to draw the line in my mind between our activities.” I nod.

“I accept that,” I say firmly, “but as your Dominant, I need you to tell me when you’re unsure. Just like you have a problem with me imposing something on you after the fact, revealing something like this to me after the fact is unacceptable. That’s why you have safewords, Ana.” I drop my head again. This is one of the fundamental rules of BDSM—trust. She trusts me with her body and limits and I trust her to tell me when I’m going too far or breaking the rules… and she didn’t.

“I’m… sorry, too,” she says, her voice small. I can’t comfort her right now. As her husband and Dominant, I’m a combination of angry and disappointed… in us both. Neither of us handled the mechanics of this situation well at all and although it could have turned out much more disastrously than it did, the psychological impact on our relationship could be a bit intense. What’s going to happen the next time we decide to play? The next time a punishment is issued? Has her trust in me been shaken to the point of questioning my intentions each time we engage? What about my trust in her to tell me if something is unacceptable or beyond her limits?

Am I reading too much into this?

We must have stood there pondering the concept for much longer than we thought, because my intercom buzzes and Andrea tells me that Mac and Josh are here for our meeting. I tell her to give us a minute and stand up straight to face my wife. It’s only now that I realize that she’s been crying.

“I didn’t mean to do this to you,” I say, wrapping my arms around her waist. “It’s a sorry excuse and I know it, but that fucking control thing, and I didn’t exercise it the right way.” She nods as she takes in a shuddering breath.

“I know,” she says. “I know you well enough to know that’s what it was. I just needed you to realize that… and recognize that’s what it is before we start… and not label it as a punishment, because it’s confusing for me. I don’t know what to think and I don’t know how to process it… and when I question punishments…” She trails off and looks up at me, letting me know that I haven’t made it easy for her second-guess my decision to punish her, and she’s right. I nod.

“Point taken. We’ll both do better… okay?” I say, my voice beseeching. She nods and I kiss her gently on her lips. “Now, go wash your face before Mac and Josh think I’m a monster.” She nods and I kiss her again before sending her to the bathroom. When she’s in the restroom, I summon my publicity team to my office.

“Well, either you’ve just been fucked or you’ve had a rough morning,” Mac says. What the fuck?

“What?” I nearly hiss at her.

“Your hair looks like a goddamn Wildman,” she says, pointing at my head. I run my hands through my hair in a futile attempt to tame it.

“The latter,” I say, taking a seat behind my desk. “You’ve seen Ana’s interview by now.”

“We have,” Josh says, moving Ana’s purse to my desk and sitting in the chair. “I would ask what that was all about, but there are so many answers to that question.”

“I don’t think my wife is going to be doing any more appearances,” I say, “by her own choice. However, I feel that if we allow that to be her final public appearance, it sends a negative message to the media—that she can be frightened away, and I know that’s not what she wants.” Mac twists her lips and nods.

“I see what you mean,” she says. “She needs to do at least one more.”

“It needs to be strong, controlled,” I tell her. “We can’t have any more Judd Rossiter, Random Ratings Whore, local cable chicks trying to piggyback off of her. This has got to stop. She’s going to have to lay low for a while until I can find a way to gag Rossiter. With charges against him for assaulting Ray, he’s going to be talking to anybody who’ll listen and getting a gag order is proving to be harder than I thought.”

I’m considering gagging this fucker my own way.

“We could do a taped interview,” Mac suggests.

“That’s what I was thinking, but I have a bigger agenda in mind.” Butterfly comes out of the restroom, looking refreshed and ready to face the world—nothing like she did moments ago.

“How do you make everything you wear look so good?” Mac says. Butterfly smiles.

“It ain’t easy,” she replies. “So, I know my husband has a plan in light of the bitch who cornered me yesterday. Has he let you in on it yet?”

“No,” Josh says. “I think he was waiting for you.”

“I was,” I say as I bring her over to me and coax her onto my lap. “There needs to be one more interview—television. Local or national, I prefer national. It’s going to be pre-approved material; it’s going to be pre-recorded; and it’s going to be both of us.” Mac’s eyes widen.

“Are you serious?” she exclaims. “Why would you want to do that?”

“For a lot of reasons,” I begin. “First, if we give them a little of what they want, we take away some of the splendor of what they’re looking for. Remember the press conference in 2012? Things got a little quiet after that. Now, my wife has been doing these appearances and dropping little tidbits. All the while, other cans of worms are being opened along the way. Give them a tiny peek into our lives, how we met, who we are—take away some of the mystery. At the same time, press a couple of our own agendas.”

My wife looks over at me and realization dawns. She gets what I’m trying to do. Not only do we need a unified front, but we also need to send a message to stop fucking with us.

“She knows something I don’t know,” Mac says about Butterfly. Butterfly turns to Mac.

“Just like GEH knows that the Greys stand together as an impenetrable unit and enemies and oppressors will fall at our feet, my husband wants to send that message to the world.”

“And you agree with this?” Josh asks.

“Wholeheartedly,” she responds without hesitation. “I’m tired of being under attack—emotionally, physically, and figuratively—so much so that I’m willing to stand at the front gate of my mansion with a loaded AK-47 to prove it.” Mac frowns.

Physically?” Butterfly’s eyes widen.

“Hello? Car smashed into me in November? Coma for twelve days? Lost memory?”

“Oh… yeah… sorry,” Mac apologizes. “So, you’ll have your choice of networks. Any preferences?”

“I’ll let you get started on that, first. Let me know what you come up with and we’ll narrow it down,” I tell her. She nods.

“Let’s start putting together a platform, then,” she says and takes a seat in front of my desk. “This should be interesting…”


A/N: 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

 

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Raising Grey: Chapter 18—I Can See Clearly Now…

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 18—I Can See Clearly Now…

CHRISTIAN

“I’m sorry, Marilyn, but I’m not waking her. Anastasia had a rough night last night, and I don’t expect for her to wake for at least another three hours.”

“I’m sorry, Christian, but this is really important,” Marilyn presses. “There are two shows vying for her attention and she’s been trying to get both spots for weeks! If she doesn’t make a decision today—like now, they’re going to give these spots to someone else!”

“Then, make the decision,” I say calmly. “That’s why she hired you.”

“I wouldn’t dare make this decision without her input!” she retorts. “She’d have my head on a platter.”

“Well, you’re going to have to make it today,” I say calmly. “Listen… I swear I’m not being difficult. She had a bad night, a very. Bad. Night. Unless you tell me that you see Armageddon coming over Lake Washington, I’m not waking her.”

Butterfly has been asleep for maybe two and a half hours after staying awake all night keeping an eye on me. Unless she comes down those stairs on her own, I’m not disturbing her for at least another three hours. Even my mother has called about some letter she wrote to the licensing board and I refuse to disturb her right now.

“I’ll take whatever fallout you would take for this, but I’m not waking her. She needs to rest.” I hear Marilyn sigh on the other end.

“She’s going to have my neck,” she says defeated.

“Did you do anything wrong?” I ask.

“No, but she gave me specific instructions that the moment either of these GM’s called to find her wherever she is.” I lean back in my chair and sigh.

“Okay, let’s talk,” I say. The line gets quiet.

“What?”

“Let’s talk. What’s going on with these two GM’s?”

“Well, they both need somebody to fill their Monday morning spot,” she says.

“And this same thing happened last weekend,” I tell her. “What is it? Do they all wait until Sunday afternoon to fill their Monday morning spots?” I’m serious with this question. I recall that Butterfly wasn’t happy when the radio station called eighteen hours before show time to move her mid-morning interview to 5am.

“I don’t know,” she says. “I think they sometimes just have a change in programming.”

“So, let me tell you what’s happening,” I say crossing my legs and getting comfortable. “Butterfly had a somewhat volatile interview last Monday, after which she dropped a little fire on the press on the sidewalk when she left. I breezed through and threw a little gasoline on that fire so that when she had her Wednesday and Thursday interviews, they were pretty tame for the most part… but the fires were already burning. Are you following me so far?”

“Um, yeah,” she says with a little uncertainty.

“Now, there are a few unanswered questions as well as some fuses that can be lit for the first show that can get her on the hot seat, which is what they’re trying to do now—not necessarily trying to back her into a corner, but trying to pin her down to information before she gives it to anyone else. Have you seen today’s society page?” The line is silent again.

“Since when do you read the society page?” she asks.

“Since my wife started doing radio interviews,” I tell her, “and since a boater somewhere captured pictures of us making out on my private yacht! You wanna know why both of those stations are burning up your phone right now? Because we’re in the news today… not only because we were stealing kisses while sharing an ice cream cone at the zoo yesterday, but also because that asshole disk-jockey Judd whatever the fuck his last name is, was making noise at a bar last night after having too much to drink about recently being placed on administrative suspension after five women from the radio station accused him of sexual harassment. This after my wife made it very clear that he behaved inappropriately towards her on the air. You wanna know why they’re chomping at the bit to get her to commit to them before the sun goes down? Because they know that Butterfly is prone to do any impromptu interview if you shove a mic in her face and they’re trying to avoid that. They want an exclusive.

“Let them know that she’s not available right now and that when she is, she will discuss with them when and if she can make an appearance. Be firm, Marilyn. Let them know that as important as her cause is to her, she will not be pressured into committing to a Monday morning live spot less than 24 hours before the red light comes on. No matter who it is that’s asking for the interview, it’s unrealistic, and it’s not going to happen. You know it and I know it and if she were standing here, she’d tell you the same thing. She’d say that she needed to think about it and to try to come up with an alternative. So, give them that choice—to come up with a reasonable alternative and I’ll bet you that if they want her bad enough and they’re not up to anything sneaky, they will.” She’s silent for a few moments.

“Yeah… that makes sense,” she says, uncertainly.

“Of course, it makes sense,” I tell her. “They’re not calling the shots, she is. I know my Butterfly. She doesn’t want to come off as a diva and she doesn’t want to be difficult, but she won’t be ‘pushed over’ either and they need to know that. KNTZ tried that shit and totally lost the interview. They wanted the Senator in her spot and they got it. It was a good gamble, but in the process, they lost Butterfly. I can guarantee you that somebody somewhere is banging their head against a wall wondering if there’s some way that they could have secured both of those interviews without trying to stick her in a spot when the roosters crowed. Because that’s what cost them the interview—it wasn’t that they wanted to move her. It’s where they wanted to move her to. Think like they are and negotiate slots. She depends on you to tell her what her schedule is. You are Ana when she’s not there. You represent my wife to the public before they see her. You’re as important as she is, if not more, because you’re the gatekeeper. They can’t both have the same slot. Negotiate the space—it’s as simple as that. One of those spots is more attractive than the other and you know it is. You just have to think outside the box to figure out which one it is.” There’s another pause.

“Thank you, Christian,” she says. “You’ve helped me a lot… but please tell Ana to call me as soon as she wakes, okay? Maybe by then, I will have smoothed out an interview schedule for tomorrow.”

“Good deal,” I say before exchanging pleasantries and ending the call. Just as I’m picking up the paper again, Jason taps on my office door. I raise my head as he walks in.

“You look somber,” I say. He sighs heavily.

“I’m trying to get myself ready,” he says. I nod. He and Sophie have to be in court tomorrow for the custody case. They usually don’t move this quickly, but Shalane Deleroy is looking at jail time… plus, I know a few influential people and I wasn’t going to chance that crazy bitch getting “cleaned up” and taking Sophie away from Jason. So, as long as we could get the case in front of a judge while she’s still awaiting trial, it’s cut and dried.

“Are you ready?” I ask.

“Oh, I’m more than ready for the trial,” he says, “but this bitch is coming over here today.” I sit up in my seat.

“Today?” I bark. “Why?”

“She wants to see Sophie,” he says. I roll my eyes. He has to make Sophie available for reasonable visitation. It’s likely that he’ll have to do that even if Shalane has to do time. I shake my head.

“Don’t leave her alone with that bitch,” I say. “Make her come inside.” Jason furrows his brows.

“You want her in the house?” he asks, surprised.

“No, I don’t want her in the house,” I say, “but she can’t be outside of this house with Sophia. She tried to sell her to a drug dealer, for God’s sake. Why does she want to see her now?” I shake my head. “No, I don’t trust that bitch for shit. They can bring her through the mud room and around the back. She can talk to Sophie in the community room, in her apartment, or on the back patio, but she can’t leave the grounds with her.”

Jason examines me for a moment, then his eyes soften.

“You would think Sophie was your daughter,” he says, trying to hide a smirk.

“Well, she’s my honorary niece and I feel responsible for her,” I retort. He smiles widely.

“Thanks, Boss,” he says sincerely, “I thought we’d have to go to a park again. The paps were getting wise to that routine and Shalane likes an audience.”

“Don’t mention it,” I tell him. “When can we expect the witch?” He looks at his watch.

“In about an hour,” he laments.

“Why is she coming to see Sophie the day before she’s supposed to go to court?”

“Probably to guilt trip her into saying something nice about her tomorrow. She doesn’t understand that it won’t matter. The judge wants to hear what Sophie has to say, but with what Shalane is charged with, it won’t make a bit of difference in the decision.”

“You should be able to keep her from influencing Sophie that way, or at least trying to,” I protest.

“I don’t want anything to get in the way of tomorrow,” he says.

“Trust me, that bitch tried to sell your daughter. Nothing’s getting in the way of tomorrow.”

*-*

My wife awoke rested and feeling much better a few hours later. Chuck and I are treated to a show of our women doing yoga in the backyard near the pool. Chuck has that faraway look in his eyes when he watches her and we talk for a while about their future and when he plans to propose to her again. He insists that he doesn’t want to rush it, but that he’d marry her on a moment’s notice if she said, “Yes.” Jason comes out to the patio to sit with us, joking that it’s a good thing that his and Gail’s apartment is in the middle between Chuck’s apartment and Sophie’s or Chuck would need soundproof walls. Chuck apologizes and promises to keep it down to muffled screams of passion from now on. Just as we comment that Shalane is two and a half hours late for this oh-so-important visit with Sophie, Jason gets a call that the witch has arrived. He goes off to get Sophie just as my hot wife and our nanny finish their session.

“Did you enjoy the show?” she asks, toweling off the sweat from her body.

“Bring that body over here and I’ll show you how much I enjoyed the show,” I say, wagging my eyebrows. She walks closer to me, still drying her body.

“God, you’re insatiable, Mr. Grey, and I’m all sweaty,” she protests. I grab her wrist and pull her quickly into my lap, eliciting a fit of giggles that I love to hear from her so much.

“And you point is?” I say, situating her firmly on my lap. “I love the way you smell,” I confess, kissing her sweaty neck.

“Behave, now,” I say. “We have others around.” At that moment, I look over at our “others” and Chuck has a handful of Keri’s ass, proclaiming what a “fine piece of meat” she is.

“I don’t think they care,” I say, nuzzling back into my wife neck and licking the salty sweat from her skin. She giggles again and I hear someone clear their throat behind me. We all turn our gaze to see Lawrence and Shalane Deleroy standing on the patio just this side of the French doors. Deleroy looks nervous, but not nervous enough to put a leash on her tongue as she distastefully observes the PDAs she’s witnessing while Lawrence’s gaze seems to be transfixed on… Keri.

“Well,” Deleroy says indignantly, “so much for decorum.” My wife is rising off my lap and talking at the same time.

“Bitch, you are all the way in my house now and I have no love lost for your ass. Keep talking shit in my house and I will happily slap your ass back across the bridge!” I catch my wife’s wrist just as she gets to Deleroy, who is now cowering behind Lawrence.

“Whoa, settle, tiger,” I say softly. “That’s not your fight.”

“It is when she walks in my house talking shit,” she hisses before turning back to Deleroy and pointing a finely manicured finger at her. “One more word,” Butterfly threatens, “Just one more word out-of-line…”

“Making friends as usual, I see,” Jason says as he, Sophie, and Gail all come from the direction of the apartments.

“Sophie! Baby, I’ve missed you!” Deleroy says a little too enthusiastically as she holds her arms open for Sophie, who doesn’t move towards her mother.

“What do you want, Mom?” Sophie says softly. Deleroy drops her arms.

“I see he’s turned you against me,” Deleroy says. Sophie turns to leave. “Sophia!” she calls, and her voice sounds a little desperate. Sophie stops and comes back to Jason’s side.

“I already told you, Mom, I’m not going to let you talk badly about Dad anymore. If that’s why you came, then you can leave.”

This girl is way too wise and has seen way too much to be so young. She’s gaining some of her childhood years back being here with us and being around the babies, and around Luma’s girls when they come over. Even her apartment, though fully functional, is decked out with things that a little girl her age should have. She’s been much more rounded since she been here than I remember when she first got here. She’s more outspoken and she seems to have more fun. She’s relaxed… until her mother comes around.

“Let’s go, Sophie. I’d like for us to have a talk,” Deleroy say.

“In light of the circumstances and the case tomorrow, your visit with Sophia will take place on the grounds today,” Jason says, firmly. Deleroy looks horrified by this revelation.

“You’re saying that I can’t even be alone with my child anymore?” she asks in dismay.

“Of course, you can. You just can’t leave the grounds,” Jason says, before turning to Sophie. “Sophie, where would you like to visit with your mother?”

“She can come to my apartment,” Sophie says, her voice none too pleased.

“Your apartment?” Deleroy exclaims. “These people have you living alone and you’re only twelve?”

“There’s the word!” I have to catch my wife around her waist to prevent her from lunging at Deleroy, who turns white as a ghost at the gesture. Sophie, however, is not one to let the comment drop so easily.

“No, Mom, I’m not alone here! I’m never alone here. There are people here with me all the time—Momma Gail, Daddy, Mr. Christian, Ms. Ana, Chuck, Keri—and when they’re not here, there’s always somebody else. What you did—leaving me in that house with no food and no phone for three days while your creepy drug dealer kept coming by looking for you right before you tried to trade me off for drugs—that was alone. This is not alone. I’m not alone here. I’m never, ever alone!”

The patio is silent while Sophie faces off with her obviously delusional mother.

“And I realize that I’m not a priority in your life and I don’t think I ever was, but try to keep up, Mom. I’m thirteen.” Though her voice was shrill and angry moments ago, Sophie’s voice is low and cool when she delivers this bit of information. Then, she drops the final bomb on her mother. “Your visit was at twelve. It’s two thirty. You’re late and I don’t want to see you. You can leave now.”

Sophie turns and walks back towards the apartments.

“Sophie!” Deleroy calls after her, but she doesn’t stop walking. “Sophia!” Still no response as Sophie disappears into the jungle patio. “Go get her!” she hisses at Jason. “The court says I still have visitation!”

“Yes,” Jason agrees, “supervised visitation at an agreed time. Your visitation was at noon. You missed it.” Deleroy wrings her hands, looking past Jason as if she’s desperate for Sophie to return.

“I was detained,” she says, her voice shaking.

“I know,” Jason says calmly. “You’re tweeking.”

So, that’s why she’s shaky and nervous. Damn, it’s so fucking obvious, I wasn’t even paying attention. Deleroy narrows her eyes and lashes out on Jason, ignoring his last comment.

“You are not better than me, Jason!” she yells. “I’ve had bad luck and that’s all. I’ve made mistakes, but you can’t hold them over my head for the rest of my life! You move her into this fortress and I can’t even get to her! You and that cow and this prima donna are filling her head with bullshit…”

Butterfly almost got to her with that last statement, but I was fast enough to pull her back… and now she’s furious.

“Goddammit if you’re not gonna let me beat ‘er ass get ‘er the fuck outta my house!” She screams it all in one breath—and I do mean screams.

“You need to leave before my wife kills you!” I exclaim, because I’m a strong man, but holding back a flailing, snarling, scratching, angry cat is not an easy task. I hear some word fly back and forth, but I’m too busy trying to keep my wife from committing a felony. When things seem like they’re going completely out of control, a shrill voice brings everybody to a screeching halt.

“Go! Mom! You’re high!”

Butterfly stops flailing in my arms and all eyes are on Sophie.

“Sophie… baby…” Deleroy squeaks.

“I will. Not. See you. When you’re high! Go. Now!” Sophie’s fists are clenched and I think everyone knows to let her handle this.

“Sophie, I’m not…”

“Oh, my Goooo-ooo-ooodah!” Sophie says in pure frustration. “You’re so full of shit!” she screams. Jason’s head jerks back, but there’s nobody on this patio but Sophia Taylor and Shalane Deleroy.

“I never mattered to you!” she screams. “Even before the drugs, I never mattered! I was a way to piss Dad off, or a way to get more money from him, or in the end, a trade-off for a quick fix! I was a kid, Mom, not fucking blind!”

Gail’s eyes are large and she hisses at nearly every word that comes out of Sophie’s mouth.

“Get out! Get! Out!” Sophie’s screaming, but nobody moves. She looks at all the adults, her eyes glassy and full of fury.

“Do I live here or not??” she screams at whomever will answer. Everybody’s too stunned to reply, so I do.

“Yes, Sophie. You live here.”

“Then, get her out of here!” She’s pointing at Shalane and screaming at Lawrence. “Get her out!” I throw a quick look at Lawrence who immediately turns on Shalane.

“Ma’am,” he says, giving her an opportunity to leave on her own. She looks at him with disdain.

“You can’t make me…”

“Two of the occupants of this residence has requested your departure. You are now trespassing, which is a crime in Seattle. You can walk, or I can remove you. You have ten seconds to decide.”

Shalane looks wide-eyed at Lawrence, then at Sophie, who looks like she will beat Deleroy back across the bridge. With probably one second to spare, she decides that she would rather walk, turns indignantly, and leaves with Lawrence right on her heels. A few seconds after her departure, Sophie breaks down. Butterfly wiggles from my grasp and goes to her, wrapping her arms around Sophie as she sobs. Jason runs his hand through his hair, obviously trying not to hit something.

“I’m… sorry…” Sophie chokes through her tears as every woman on the patio cocoons protectively around her.

*-*

Butterfly and I go to court with Jason and Gail the next afternoon as moral support and witnesses for Jason. Al tried to prepare us, but we don’t know what to expect. Shalane is present with her attorney and she has brought a few witnesses with her as well. We don’t know any of these people, but of course, they all sing praises about how good a mother Shalane is and how well she takes care of Sophie. When they are examined by Al about Shalane’s drug use and attempt to trade Sophie for methamphetamines, they suddenly get the stammers and complete amnesia about these particular incidents. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see through the theatrics and determine that these are not credible or believable witnesses.

Standing against a gainfully-employed father who unwittingly supported this woman’s drug habit through generous amounts of continued child support for several years, a billionaire businessman and entrepreneur, a respected psychiatrist and member of the community who donates her time and professional services to a local community center whose mission and vision is to assist battered and unfortunate families to be self-sufficient and safe—oh, and a police officer armed with an arrest report that this strung-out mother was apprehended in a drug raid with said child in attendance, possibly with intent to trade said child for a fix—yeah… not much ground to stand on, Deleroy.

But our presence wasn’t the poison pill.

Sophie wasn’t allowed to be present during the presentation of the custody case. However, her deposition was taken in chambers with both attorneys present. The judge felt that she needed to be free to express her true feelings. Had they seen this young lady on my patio yesterday, they would have known that this wouldn’t be an issue. The video of Sophie’s deposition is played for us just before the judge renders his decision.

“How old are you, Sophie?” the judge asks.

“I’m thirteen,” she replies.

“And you know why you’re here, right?” she nods.

“You’re trying to decide if I live with my mom or my dad,” she says. The judge nods.

“What kind of grades do you get in school?” he asks.

“I get A’s and B’s mostly,” she says. “I got a ‘C’ in gym though.”

“Why did you get a ‘C’ in gym?” he asks.

“I was losing points because I kept coming to class with the wrong color shorts on,” she says.

“Why did you do that?”

“I needed yellow, green, or gray. I didn’t have any of those colors, so I wore what I had. I told my mom that I needed yellow, green, or gray and she said she would get them, but she never did. So, I got a ‘C’ in gym.” She shrugs.

“You don’t seem to care too much about that ‘C’ in gym,” the judge says.

“Worse things happen,” she says with a shrug.

“Worse things like what?”

“Like not seeing your mom at all for weeks at a time,” she says. “I mean, she was there, I just never saw her. She was asleep when I came home from school, or she was in the room with one of her boyfriends. I had to cook for myself… when there was food in the house…”

“There were times when there was no food in the house?” he asks. She nods.

“Near the end, yeah,” she says. “At first, it was just Mom wasn’t around, I didn’t have her breathing down my neck all the time, great. Then, these guys started coming around and I never saw her. Then, she would be gone for days and I knew she wasn’t there. Then, we started running out of food and I had to make what I could… Is my Dad going to see this?”

Jason sits up straight in his seat and listens carefully to what she says.

“You’re saying that you don’t want your dad to see this?” the judge asks. Sophie shakes her head. “Why not?”

“Because he’s gonna be mad at me,” she says.

“Why do you think your father is going to be mad at you?” She rolls her eyes.

“Because one day a while ago, there wasn’t any food in the house and I was hungry and I went to school and I ate out of the garbage.” Jason’s hand flies to his mouth. He closes his eyes and his head drops.

“Why do you think he would be angry with you for that?”

“Because I never told him,” she says with a sigh. “I was trying to protect my mother.”

“Why would you want to protect her from something like that?” the judge asks. “You were hungry…”

“Because she’s my mom,” Sophie says, like the answer was obvious. “She’s done some really messed-up things, but she’s still my mom.”

Now Deleroy’s head falls. She covers her face and cries.

“So, you still love her,” the judge asks.

“Of course, I love her!” Sophie nearly shrieks. “She’s just… not a good mom anymore.”

Deleroy chokes back a sob. Even for a strung-out, soulless, cold-hearted bitch who tried to sell her 12-year-old daughter, this must be hard to hear.

“Was she ever a good mom?” the judge asks.

“That’s hard to say,” Sophie replies soberly. “I think she was. I didn’t have anything to compare it to until I saw Ms. Ana with the twins…”

Butterfly covers her mouth and gasps. I reach over and grasp her hand.

“Those are babies, though. Everybody likes babies.” Sophie smiles playfully. “But when she thinks nobody’s looking, she smiles at them and she kisses them. She tells them that she loves them and I know they don’t know what she’s saying. You just… know that she would do anything for those babies…” Sophie trails off.

“You didn’t feel like that with your mother?” Sophie shrugs again and looks like she’s searching for her words.

“I’m a little older now than I was when I was living with Mom, and…” she trails off again, sighs, and starts to fidget with her fingers. “Do you know that Momma Gail calls me ‘Pumpkin?’” she says, smiling. “Daddy calls me ‘Baby Boo.’ Mom calls me ‘Sophie’ or ‘Sophia.’ Everybody calls me that. Ms. Ana and Mr. Christian call the twins ‘Minnie and Mikey.’ Isn’t that cute?” she nearly squeals.

“Yes, it is,” the judge agrees, lightheartedly.

“Mr. Christian… he calls Ms. Ana ‘Butterfly,’ and when they don’t think I can hear them, Daddy calls Momma Gail ‘Love’ and Keri calls Chuck ‘Choonks,’” she giggles.

We have to be careful around this little girl. She sees and hears everything.

“I even heard one girl’s mom at school calls her ‘Nooka.’ I don’t even know what that means, but her name is ‘Ember,’ so I know it’s a nickname.” She drops her head sadly.

“What does that mean to you?” the judge asks.

“It means that these people love each other,” she says, sadly. “Mom never had a nickname for me. As far back as I can remember, Daddy called me ‘Baby Boo,’ but Mom never had a nickname for me. Just… Sophie… Everybody calls me ‘Sophie…’” she sounds as if she’s going to cry.

“You don’t like ‘Sophie?’”

“It’s okay, it’s my name… but shouldn’t your mom have a different name for you? I mean, something that nobody else calls you? Like everybody calls ‘Minnie and Mikey’ ‘Minnie and Mikey.’ But Mr. Christian and Ms. Ana might call ‘em ‘Mouse,’ or ‘Little Man,’ or ‘Big Man,’ or something like that… I know I’m not making sense…” she says.

“No, you’re making perfect sense,” the judge says, “but just because your mom didn’t have a special nickname for you didn’t make her a bad mom, did it?”

“No, I guess not,” Sophie says, and now she’s mum on the subject.

“Why don’t we get to the important stuff—why we’re here… where you want to live,” the judge says. “Your opinion is important here.” Sophie sighs.

“Are you going to listen to me or are you going to throw out what I’m saying because I’m a kid?” she asks.

Jason looks back at me and I swear we must be sharing the same look of awe.

“I’m going to listen to you, Sophia,” the judge says. Sophie obviously looks at Allen and Deleroy’s attorney before looking at the judge, then back at her hands.

“My mom has a problem,” she says, her voice cracking. “She didn’t always have this problem, but she has it now. She wasn’t always a bad mom… she really wasn’t. She kept me away from my dad, and that hurt, but she still wasn’t a bad mom…”

Deleroy is weeping now.

“But when she started that stuff, she changed. Everything changed. I was… ten or eleven, maybe… but I could tell things were different. She lost weight, she didn’t wash, she looks old… her teeth in the back are rotting away. She smells different, she acts different… Daddy was sending a lot of money for child support. I know he was, but there still wasn’t enough! Things just got bad and then they got worse and now… Mom might go to jail. What’s going to happen to me then?

“I spent a lot of time with my mom and I was barely ever able to see my dad. I wanna live with my dad,” she says without raising her head.

“Is that the only reason you want to live with your dad?” the judge asks.

“Mom’s not a good mom anymore… I wanna live with my dad,” she says again. “She never let me see him,” Sophie says, raising her head. “When I asked to call him or go see him, she always said he was too busy. For a long time, I thought my dad didn’t want me and she let me keep thinking that. Who does that?” She drops her head again.

“Even after everything that’s happened, Dad’ll still let me see Mom any time I ask him. He’s never kept me away from her… I just can’t be alone with her because she’s on that stuff. And I want her to get better, I really do, but I can’t live with her. I was hungry and unhappy and lonely… I don’t want to live with her…”

“What if she gets better, though?” the judge asks. “What if she goes into rehab and she’s not using anymore? We can make it so that you live with your father for a little while and then go back and live with your mother once she’s all better.”

Jason visibly tenses, but relaxes again when he sees Sophie shaking her head.

“I don’t want to go back and live with my mother,” she says, tears streaming down her face. “I only have a few more years and then I’ll be a grown up. Momma Gail likes me, Ms. Ana likes me, I get to play with the twins; I don’t have to be all by myself all the time. Nobody messes with my stuff. I get to go on field trips at school… and now, I know my dad wants me. I always knew that everything she was telling me about him wasn’t true, but now, I get to see it for myself. He spends time with me and tells me about when he was a kid… even about when him and Mom were married, before they started fighting. I talk to Ms. Ana about everything! She’s smart and she wears great clothes!”

I try not to laugh at her comment, but the rest of the courtroom is not so successful.

“And she gets me. I don’t know how, but she gets me. And Momma Gail… if something makes me sad or I don’t feel good, she’s always there. She has all these different home remedies for stuff and I think she could heal anything!”

Again, we laugh.

“I wanna stay with my dad,” she says her voice breaking and becoming somber. “I wanna stay with Mr. Christian and Chuck and Ben and Keri and… I feel like I got a real family now. I don’t wanna be alone anymore. If you send me to live with my mom, I’m gonna be alone again. I don’t wanna be alone.”

There’s a long moment of silence before the judge speaks.

“Thank you, Sophia,” he says. “Any questions from counsel?” the judge asks.

“No questions, Your Honor,” I hear Allen say.

“No questions,” the other attorney says, and the screen goes black. Deleroy hits her attorney on the arm and gestures to the front of the court as if to ask why he didn’t examine Sophie. He never even looks at her.

“It’s a difficult decision to tear a child from either parent, especially in a situation like this. I know to the layman, this may seem like a cut-and-dried case. The mother is quite possibly facing jail time for being caught in a drug raid. She’s obviously battling an addiction, which always stands to destroy the family and, most of all, the life of the child. There is some question about the intention of the mother to trade the child for drugs on the night of the raid. However, without concrete evidence or an outstanding charge, this accusation is speculation and perception and could just be the interpretation of a very frightened child of the night’s events. In a case like this, I’m driven to consider giving second chances to parents who are on the track of redemption. However, I must also consider the best interests of the child.

“In speaking to Sophia Taylor, I feel that she’s a very rounded, very wise teenager. I’m certain that she’s not easily coerced and I can see right through a child who has been coached. Sophia is craving real love and attention—a healthy home life and familial relationship. Not only does it appear that she has been deprived of this in recent years, but she’s also been deprived of basic companionship and guidance in her life. Her wisdom—such as it is—has been acquired from observing situations outside of hers; from watching the children at school interact with their parents even before she saw the interactions of the Taylors and the Greys. You only saw portions of the conversation that Sophia and I had and the parts that you didn’t see revealed that Jason Taylor went a long way to teach his daughter valuable life lessons and to be an active part of her life long before she came to live with him in March.

“In weighing the parental impact on Sophia of the time that she has lived with her mother and the impact of the time that she has lived with her father and in light of the current circumstances, the pending criminal trial, the mother’s current dependency, and the testimony of the child in question, I believe it to be in the best interest of the child to grant permanent primary custody of the minor child, Sophia Loren Taylor, to the father, Jason Taylor.”

I do my best not to stand and cheer while Deleroy gasps and cries out, “No!” in one of the most dramatic and theatrical displays I’ve ever seen. The judge continues by revoking the current child support order and asking if Jason requires child support from Deleroy. He declines, citing that his suspicion is that his child support was her only source of income, so there’s not much that she can give him. The judge informs him that he is free to revisit the child support order at a later date.

“Mrs. Deleroy, I don’t think you’re completely beyond redemption,” the judge continues. “Take this time for reflection and rehabilitation. Whatever the outcome of the criminal case against you, there’s always hope for recovery, and that’s what you need to strive for. Mr. Taylor, it’s the order of this court that you must make Sophia available for reasonable visitation with Ms. Deleroy. Supervised visitation is allowable and advisable until such time as Ms. Deleroy has successfully completed a medical drug rehabilitation program. In the meantime, I wish you all luck. Court is adjourned.” And the gavel falls.

“All rise.” We all rise except for Deleroy who is crumpled in a mound on the table, weeping bitterly. When the judge leaves the courtroom, she turns and lets loose on Jason.

“You bastard!” she cries. “You took my daughter, you son of a bitch! Are you happy now?”

Jason just looks at her and without a word, exits the courtroom while she’s still screaming profanities.

A few feet down the hallway, Sophie is sitting on a bench with a social worker awaiting the outcome of the trial. When she sees her father, she leaps to her feet, her eyes wide.

“Daddy?” she says, her eyes hopeful. A smile spreads across Jason’s face.

“We’re going home, Baby Boo,” he says as he opens his arms wide. Sophie squeals with delight and runs down the courthouse hallway, launching herself into her father’s arms.


ANASTASIA

“So, Judd Rossiter…”

After I woke from a very peaceful rest yesterday and right before my outside yoga session with Keri, Christian informed me to call a very frantic Marilyn who had called earlier that morning with two shows that wanted me to appear the next day. What the fuck? When I talked to Marilyn, it was Good Morning Seattle and Prominent Pacific, two of the shows that I had been targeting ever since I decided that I wanted to do radio interviews.

Fuck!
Fuck!
Fuck!

“What’s happened?” I had asked Christian. I knew something had to happen for them to suddenly be chomping at the bit to get me when they kept telling me, “We’ll be in touch,” before.

“You mean besides the fact that you’re becoming famous in your own right?” he said. “Somebody turned in another impromptu picture of us at the zoo cuddling under that umbrella.”

“That’s not news,” I told him.

“Oh, and Judd Rossiter is going down for sexual harassment of five women on his job—after you made a stink about that clit tattoo.”

So, that’s it. Juicy gossip about a local radio personality with a pussy on his arm. None of my causes were worth radio time, but the great Christian Grey takes down a disc jockey for flashing cooch at his wife, now that’s news! Okay… I’ll play your game, but you’re not going to like it…

So, Marilyn booked Seattle for Monday morning at 10am and Pacific for Tuesday at the same time. And now, here I sit with Sandra Price on Good Morning Seattle with her trying to get some gossip out of me. I told her when I sat down that I wanted to talk about my causes, and she went straight in to Rossiter.

“What about him?” I ask innocently.

“Give us the scoop. What’s the deal?” she says, leaning in for the kill.

“I don’t know what you want to hear,” I say shrugging. “You know as much as I do about the situation.” She glares at me a bit.

“Oh, come on, Ana. Inquiring minds want the deets. We hear that he’s being sued for sexual harassment by five women at the station.”

“Well, there you have it. What do you need me for?” I ask. “Was this a lead-in for how this relates to my treatment by the licensing board for those fabricated sexual misconduct accusations? Because if it was, we can skip the lead-in and go right to the story.” Sandra glares at me for about four seconds and I smile at her. “Sandra, I think this is what they call ‘dead air.’” She snaps out of her trance and tries to get back on track with the interview.

“I was just trying to get your side of the story, but if you don’t want to tell it…” she taunts.

“I’ve already told it, Sandra. I realize that you’re probably not supposed to listen to the competition, but if you want to stay on top of what’s going on in Seattle, you probably want to listen to that interview.” Tired of beating around the bush and trying to get information from me about the story, she starts asking direct questions.

“Is it true that Christian went down to the station all He-Man and demanded that Rossiter be fired?” she asks. I shrug.

“You have to ask Christian that question,” I say, knowing that an answer in the affirmative or the negative would both be a confirmation.

“Surely, you know if your husband came down to the radio station,” she prods further.

“I didn’t see him,” I answer honestly, and leave it at that.

“Don’t be coy, Ana, it’s not cute,” she quips, still trying to get me off my game.

“Don’t be deceptive, Sandra, it’s not professional,” I retort, and her eyes narrow again. “I love good gossip as much as the next person, but I only talk about what I know. I know that this topic was exposed on another radio station last week and that if you would like the ‘deets’ of that occurrence, you should probably get a sound bite from the radio station like everybody else did. I also know that your people called my people on a Sunday morning to book me for this slot today, at which time, you were informed that I would talk about my treatment by the licensing board after being falsely accused of sexual harassment charges as well as the work that I and my mother-in-law are doing at Helping Hands. Yet, when I get here, you’re asking about something completely unrelated—something that I was not and am not prepared to talk about, and I wonder if you ambush all of your live guests this way.”

Sandra’s mouth flies open. We’re live—she can’t stop me. She was hoping to catch me up in the Judd story, and now I’ve turned the tables.

“’Ambush’ is a pretty harsh word, don’t you think?” she says, in the most non-threatening tone she can muster.

“Oh,” I say, with the same pretentious softness, “I’m so sorry if I misspoke. What exactly are we doing?” Sandra’s eyes cut to something behind me and I look over my shoulder. In the control booth behind me is another woman in a red blazer with her arms folded. She’s glaring at Sandra with a look of death and there’s a man beside her with a large white dry-erase board with instructions in big bold black letters.

ASK ABOUT THE LICENSING BOARD

I turn back to Sandra, who’s still looking over my shoulder. I clear my throat and get her attention. When she turns her glare to me, I point to her microphone.

“Dead air,” I say. She looks down at her card.

“Of course,” she says, “just trying to brighten our dull little lives with a little juicy stuff. You know how that is.” She flashes a phony smile. I retort with the phoniest laugh I can muster to be blasted across the airways. Before we have a chance to start the interview back up again, Sandra’s recorded voice comes over the sound system with,

“We’ll be right back after these messages.”

“Clear,” I hear from the control booth and Sandra suddenly pales. In two seconds, the red blazer storms into the room and gets in Sandra’s face.

“Stick to the goddamn script and cut the ratings whore shit unless you want to end up back on the 4am weather report tomorrow.” Red Blazer says the entire thing through her teeth and Sandra doesn’t respond. She quietly picks up her index cards and stacks them without a word. Red Blazer doesn’t even acknowledge me. She breezes right back out of the booth and Sandra and I sit there for two minutes of total silence. When the control booth calls out “We’re on in five,” I’m almost relieved to hear the intro music start up again.

“And welcome back to Good Morning Seattle. Our interview continues with Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey, psychiatrist and assistant director of Helping Hands…”

And just like that, we did the interview that I agreed to. The person who conducted this interview was nothing like the “ratings whore” sitting in the room two minutes ago. It’s like the body snatchers came into the room and took the first bitch away, replacing her with this professional woman asking relevant questions about my issues.

As it turns out, this had nothing to do with me. Good Morning Seattle really did want to get me into a morning slot because of the exposure that I’ve been getting lately, and they were totally fine with me discussing the licensing board and Helping Hands. It was Sandra Anchorbitch who, like Judd Loser, was trying to get a few minutes of more fame with her “ratings whore shit,” as Red Blazer put it. Honestly, there’s always one. That’s how the sacrificial lamb was born in the first place. They’re not on every show and hopefully, there won’t be one on Prominent Pacific, but we’ll just have to see.

The afternoon is much better than the morning, although I must admit that I didn’t know what to expect at Sophie’s custody hearing. Courtrooms and I haven’t been the best of friends, and I didn’t relish the idea of having to be in one again, much less having to take the stand. The case is very volatile and I have no idea what’s going to come out in the examinations, especially since Sophie will be living in our house if… when the judge grants Jason full custody. People tend to villainize me and Christian at every turn and I expect for this situation to be no different.

I had no idea how wrong I would be.

I don’t know where Shalane found this attorney, but she should have kept searching. If I didn’t know better, I would swear that Jason hired the guy! He made Jason’s point for us more times than not. Shalane’s character witnesses were unreliable at best. I wouldn’t say that they were shady, but they didn’t help her case any. The attorney’s cross examination did nothing to pick apart our testimony. His questions basically only clarified what we had already said.

The most agonizing part of the entire case was listening to Sophie talk about how she didn’t really feel motherly love. She went on and on about nicknames and I don’t know if that meant anything to the case, but it meant everything to me as a psychiatrist. She never felt the special love that a child should feel from a mother than turns your heart to mush… the love that make my voice turn into Alvin and the Chipmunks when I see “Mommy’s little man” or “Mommy’s Minnie Mouse.” She clearly missed out on that from her mother, and although she had a hard time verbalizing it, she did so perfectly.

Shalane can’t see past her own loss. She’s so busy blaming Jason for her problems that she can’t see her own mistakes. When Jason walks out of the courtroom without a word with my husband on his heels, I just watch and listen as Shalane spews profanities at him. There’s no mention whatsoever of being a better parent or taking care of her child, just what he took from her. I stay behind for a moment and watch the temper tantrum. Jason doesn’t even react. He just leaves the courtroom while she’s screaming at him. She finally turns her gaze to me, still sniffling and slobbering.

“What?” she weeps. “You wanna kick my ass now?” she says, recalling our near-encounter yesterday. No, Shalane, you’re doing a good enough job of that all on your own.

“Stop. Thinking. About. Yourself,” I say coolly. Shalane’s anger falls and her face turns to stone. “You are her mother. No one will ever take your place. She loves you. Nothing will ever change that. Get yourself together! She needs you! She will always. Need you!”

I don’t know if I got through to her, but she didn’t rebut. I can only see Carla and how everything was always about her. It wasn’t always that way, but it was that way when it counted. I moved past it, but I’ll never get over it. I’ll never get over not being important enough to my mommy. I don’t want that fate for Sophie.

I glance over at her attorney who gives me a nearly infinitesimal nod. It turns out that he really is one of the good guys.

When I leave the courtroom, an elated Sophie is wrapped around her father and they’re both laughing like they’re at Disneyland. When he walks out hand in hand with his little girl, we’re met by a few paparazzi on the stairs, always looking for a story. The little lady handled like a pro.

“I’m going home with my daddy. That’s all.”

And that was all.

*-*

“Listen, Ana,” Shelby Fisher says as I sit in the preshow briefing, “I want to hear about Judd Rossiter, too. I heard the radio show. I heard what you said to him. The world knows that Christian Grey went down to that radio station, although nobody really knows what happened because the station is mute about it. Judd is talking about it on every slime show he can do and freedom of speech says that he can do that. I’d like to get some inside on it, but I won’t if you say ‘no.’”

I sigh. So, Judd is mud-slinging. It’s not just bar talk; it’s more than that. I nod.

“How much time before we go on the air?” I ask.

“About fifteen minutes,” she says. I nod again.

“Let me talk to my publicist really quickly and I’ll get back to you on that, okay?” She nods.

“That’s fair,” she says. I pull Marilyn into one of the nearby conference rooms and lock the door. I hope nobody was using this room right away.

“Google Judd Rossiter,” I tell her as I dial Grey House.

“Elva McIntyre.”

“Vee, it’s Ana. Listen, Judd Rossiter is apparently running off at the mouth about his stroke of bad luck with the ladies at his job. Do you know what he’s saying?” I can hear her typing away at her keyboard.

“I know he was yapping about it, but so far nothing’s come up about you or Christian. Just sour grapes about the women who are accusing him…”

“Oh, shit,” Marilyn’s voice breaks through Vee’s explanation.

“What?” I ask.

“Seattle Nooz’ live webcast this morning has him portraying you as a prude that needs a good fucking and Christian as the billionaire messenger boy that you’ve got by the balls. He’s basically saying that Christian came into the station after you called him and that because of that visit, the girls making the accusations were planted… and the Nooz is running with that.” I sigh and roll my eyes. This shit happens all the time, but I just don’t need it when I have two major causes that require the spotlight.

“I heard,” Vee says, “and I see. You can’t avoid it. Address it, but don’t focus on it. Don’t stoop to his level. Do it like Ana. Handle it… don’t feed it.” I nod. I know what to do.

“Tell Christian,” I say. “He doesn’t need to be blindsided by this. I’ll be at Grey House this afternoon before I go to the Center.”

“You got this, Ana,” she says before she ends the call.

“Yeah, I got this,” I mumble, before turning to Marilyn. “You’re coming into the booth with me. Find as much as you can…”

“So, what’s the verdict?” Shelby asks. I sigh.

“I appreciate you letting me know that you want to address the issue. Because you asked instead of ambushing me, we’ll devote no more than ten minutes to that discussion, but we must remain professional. I reserve the right not to address something, but I’ll try to answer your questions.” She nods.

“That’s all I can ask,” she says. Three minutes later, we’re on the air. She begins by asking for a short recap of what’s going on.

“I really hate to focus on this situation when there are so many other important topics to discuss, but I realize that it can’t be ignored,” I begin. “Long story short, I brought to light how his behavior was inappropriate. I also mentioned that it probably made other women in the workplace uncomfortable to have to look at that. What happened after that, I can only speculate, but I’m sure that you can relate to the concept of several people speaking up after one speaks up? I can only guess that after I spoke up about the inappropriate tattoo that other women may have found the courage to speak up about their experiences with him as well.”

“He’s painting it as a big set-up from an uptight woman with an ax to grind,” she says. “I have to admit that you have never struck me as ‘uptight,’ so what’s that all about?”

“The entire time I sat in that booth with female anatomy staring at me, I took every measure to remain professional—even in expressing my distaste with his offensive tattoo and suggestive attire, I remained tactful and diplomatic. Maybe he’s not accustomed to that type of response and that’s why he calls me ‘uptight.’ I can actually understand that. If the only thing you’re used to is women diverting their gaze or gasping in horror, I would imagine that you wouldn’t know how to properly describe someone confronting you on the vulgarity of your personal representation in the workplace.” Shelby’s brow rises.

“Wow. Nice,” she says with a chuckle. “What about his comment about your husband? We all know that Christian Grey can make things happen.”

“Well, I’ll say this,” I say. “I know that my husband is very protective of me and for good reason. I’m the mother of his children; I’m the wife of a billionaire, and let’s face it—I haven’t had the best of luck, right?” I say with a shrug. “I’ll repeat what I said on Monday. I didn’t see him at the station, but if he did show up, what husband in his right mind would have the power to speak up about his wife being disrespected and not do it?

“We ask for the manager in a restaurant when the service is bad—not millionaires and billionaires and power players, just regular people who expect to be respected. Yet, my husband is being portrayed as henpecked because he may or may not have defended me against someone’s inappropriate and predatory behavior.  Maybe chivalry is dead where that guy came from, but all the upstanding men in my life defend their women—their wives, daughters, and mothers. So, I don’t really know what else to say about that.” Shelby does a small fist pump in the air and we share a silent giggle.

“What about…” She pauses for effect and to let me know that a big one is coming. “… the claims that the women that are making the accusations against him are planted?” I literally laugh out loud.

“That’s just ridiculous!” I exclaim shamelessly. “I can’t even begin to speculate what kind of planning has to go into executing something so ludicrous! You would have had to know exactly when I was going to be on the show then plant people months in advance as employees to be ready for when I showed up! What’s more, you would have had to know that he would have flashed this thing at me! Do you see how ridiculous that really is?” I say, my voice high.

“Clearly,” Shelby agrees.

“I would really like to know how those women feel about that accusation,” I say, matter-of-factly. “I’d be interested in knowing what the station has to say about it. This is an open investigation on his professional behavior. Seriously, if these women are traumatized enough by this, it could lead to workplace lawsuits and he’s just talking about it everywhere like it’s the weather. He’s got a bone to pick with me because he’s got an open vajayjay in my face and he’s not even thinking about these other women. Then again, he wasn’t thinking about them in the first place, now was he?”

Shelby shakes her fists and looks to the heavens mouthing, “Gold!”

“Oh, my God, vajayjay!” she says, through her laughter, and I just realized I let that out of my mouth. Oh, well… she loved it.

“I’m not going to have a sparring match with this man,” I begin after our laughter subsides. “There’s a character flaw at play when you think it’s okay to display a tattoo like that to women with whom you do not have intimate relationships. It’s that simple. It’s offensive. It’s suggestive. It’s vulgar, and somebody spoke up about it. When that one person spoke up about it, all of the people who felt that his behavior—whatever his behavior may have been—was offensive, suggestive, or vulgar all spoke up about it. When you make a decision to go against the grain, you have to live with the consequences. I’m all for self-expression, but he can’t show up with an exposed naked woman on his arm in the workplace any more than I can show up naked to my job at the help center.” Shelby makes that shrug face.

“I… think that says it all,” she says with a nod. “Thank you so much for addressing that and so eloquently. Now, let’s get to the real reason for your visit. I know you normally talk about the licensing board first, but I’d like to switch it up and talk about Helping Hands. Apparently, your mother-in-law, Dr. Grace Trevelyan Grey is a successful pediatrician here in Seattle and she’s been the director of this organization for many years. I hear that you guys have been doing some great things for the community down there…”

Best interview I’ve had yet. I got to address that asshole, Judd, without going into the gutter and Shelby had really done her research. She painted Helping Hands in the best possible light with statistics and testimonials, even bringing to light the span of services that we’ll be able to provide once the accreditation is complete. I’m thoroughly pleased with the outcome of this appearance and Shelby has asked me to come back for an update after the accreditation goes through.

“You. Are. Phenomenal!” Vee says when I call to check in with her after we leave the station. “You’re going to put me out of a fucking job, you know that?”

“Not a chance,” I tell her. “We need you. As you can see, I need you.”

“He needs you,” she says quietly. “Don’t ever repeat this, but he’s been such a better man since you’ve come along. His image was taking a silent hit that year you showed up—stoic, cold ass businessman with no heart and he was fine with that. Now that you’re here… he just a better man.” I smile.

“Thanks, Vee,” I say sincerely. “Tell that better man that I’m on my way there.”


A/N: 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 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/

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 13—We Are Family

Okay, so far in the casting for Ana in “Golden,” Jessica Parker Kennedy is getting dusted. Brianna Evigan is in first place and Mila Kunis is a very close second. So, I think it’s safe to say that our choices will be between Brianna Evigan and Mila Kunis. Stay tuned!

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 13—We Are Family

CHRISTIAN

That was torture.

Pure, unmitigated, undiluted torture.

That woman’s ass is kryptonite and I could barely get inside before I was pulsing and pounding and ready to come and what do I do? I ask her not to come so that I can make love to her for the rest of the night. I regretted it the moment I suggested it, because I knew the process would be damn near unbearable. The thought nearly brought tears to my eyes. Not only was my inner horndog Rumpelstiltskin-stomping-mad, but Greystone was already promising to make me pay dearly for that request.

And make me pay, he did.

Butterfly’s ass is a thing of beauty and a wonder to behold, but when I get to sex it…

God, she was so tight and ready. Thrusting into her ass while holding her close to me, kissing her and gazing into her tormented eyes, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I had come several times in her ass—tiny, involuntary orgasms and seepages of semen that I had absolutely no control over, and Greystone didn’t wane. This wasn’t Dom Dick; this was something else, something that enjoyed the tiny releases, but threatened a deadly detonation when the act was finally complete; something that knew that I had to keep my stamina until the bastard that was currently sharing our bed was gone forever.

Rubbing that ass and pushing her down onto me…
Grabbing that waist and those hips and guiding her to grind into me…
Throwing her leg over my hips, kissing those breasts and lips while I massaged her clit and penetrated her core while still loving her ass…
Holding her hard against me and gently squeezing her neck while I pump repeatedly into her…

The small bursts were more torment than pleasure as the big explosion loomed dangerously in my balls and back. It was agony—sweet fucking agony—to keep from blowing wildly inside of her as I took her ass and loved her for hours from every possible angle. I made sure that sweet, hot pussy didn’t get neglected, but my dick stayed in that ass for the rest of the night.

And her orgasm was the longest she had ever had. When it started, it hung there for a minute, not coming to full climax for quite some time. I was inside of her holding back this crippling explosion when she first stiffened, so it seemed like for-fucking-ever before she finally hit her pinnacle, but if I’m honestly estimating, it was only about two minutes. But, shit, two minutes is a long fucking time to hold back a climax. We’re talking like 26 in orgasm years!

“Oh, God. Oh, my God, you feel so good. So good… it feels so good… so good…”

I was in her ear encouraging her to let go and come. No matter how hard she fought it, she wouldn’t return from this one. Tears were streaming down her face and her breaths were heaving and tortured as I held her close to me and continued to drive slow and deep into her, sensually rubbing her breasts and her body while licking and tasting her skin. A when she finally came…

God, when she finally came…

A mournful sob wrenched from her tortured soul and could feel her ascending, slipping away from me… so I held on. I held on and buried my body into hers as the atomic explosion in my balls blasted brutally through my dick and flooded us both with so much cum, we should have drowned. Holding her tight against me was as much to keep her from floating away into the heavens as it was to still her violent gyrations on my expanding, pulsing dick. When I say that my dick was popping, I mean that it was thumping and bumping and pulsing and popping and aching and not only was her tight anus flexing and tightening and squeezing every bit of seed from me, but her round, luscious, slippery ass cheeks were rubbing against me, massaging and tormenting me into one of the deadliest nuclear blast I’d ever felt in my life! Skyrockets and firecrackers can’t even begin to describe what was going on and I can only imagine that a camera shot down there would have captured a scene of such immense pulsing, vibrating, expanding, and throbbing of my dick and balls that it most likely imitated my shaft still fucking and thrusting into her ass on its own!

David had to be exorcised.

We had done it once, but this time, he made it in through her insecurities. I saw it in her eyes even though she said nothing. He was in her soul and her mind and our bed and he had to be purged.

So, I did.

I kissed her and loved her and touched, rubbed, and sexed every inch of her body until she knew that she belonged to me and I belonged to her. Nothing and no one would ever cause me to stray and she had to know that my body and soul are unequivocally and irrevocably hers.

Hopefully, she knows that now.

I knew she was unconscious before my dick stopped pulsing in her ass, but I couldn’t move. Even after the orgasm waned, there was still unbelievable pulsing in my dick inside of her ass that made it impossible for me to pull out, impossible for me to move, so I pulled her tighter against me and stayed buried inside of her, kissing her shoulders, skin, neck and hands gently until her breathing regulated and I knew she had moved from unconsciousness to sleep. I wasn’t worried. I know that it happens sometimes with real intense orgasms, but I couldn’t rest until I knew she had transitioned from one state to the other.

I fell asleep with my dick still pulsing in her ass.

Now, I find myself with morning wood buried deep inside of her, trying to find a way to pull out that will cause the least discomfort. Rip the Band-Aid off, I guess.

So, I did…

And while my Butterfly only whimpers in her exhausted slumber, I actually come again, squirting small amounts of semen on her beautiful ass. Kryptonite, I tell you. Fucking Kryptonite…

I grab a cup of coffee and go down to my office to check my emails. The house is alive with activity and Marlow has stopped by to help Taylor with some project in Sophie’s apartment. She’s all giggly and girly, something that appears to be flying right over Marlow’s head, but doesn’t get by Taylor in the least. I shake my head and dread the moment that Minnie Mouse gets that look in her eye about some young… guy. I move on to my office and fire up my computer. I normally don’t look at alerts with my name on them unless they say something about the business world, but this one caught my eye immediately.

Papa Bear Grey Goes Ballistic

What the fuck? Was somebody in that club last night? This can’t be good, and I was a lot of things with that bitch at that table last night, but Papa Bear is not one of the terms that I would use to describe it. I click on the link and realize that the headline has nothing at all to do with Greta Ellison or that club. A still of a surveillance photo appears on my screen—surveillance from my goddamn office! I’m sitting at my desk and Mac is standing in front of it.

What the ever-loving fuck!! Not again! Not fucking again! Barney assured me that we were safe! What the fucking fuck!!

I already know what conversation this is. This is when she cautioned me about threatening the press and, of course, the article describes me as the great protector, ready to throw myself in front of the oncoming train to keep my family out of the limelight during their suffering. That’s all well, fine, and good—Mr. Hero—but right now, I only have one question burning in my head.

Who the fuck am I firing today?

I call Barney’s cell first.

“Sir?” his voice is surprised, no doubt wondering why I’m calling him on a Sunday.

“I’m looking at surveillance from my office on the internet right now. It makes for a very interesting story. Can you tell me how this happened when you assured me that we’re airtight?” There’s silence for a moment.

“What?” he asks bemused. “That’s impossible! Security cameras are on their own servers all by themselves. They’re not even on the same mainframe. When I tell you that surveillance is unhackable, I mean it’s totally unhackable! It would be like hacking someone’s pedometer. It’s so a network all its own, even the most skilled computer technologists would have no fucking idea how to get in there.” My eyes narrow.

“If it’s so damn unhackable, why isn’t the entire mainframe on the same network? And how did someone upload private surveillance to the internet?” I seethe.

“Imagine trying to put your entire mainframe on a pedometer,” he says matter-of-factly. “You may want to call Alex on this one.”

“Don’t make plans for the day,” I growl. “I’ll be in touch.” I end the call and dial Alex.

“Sir,” he answers.

“Can you tell me why the hell I’m looking at surveillance from my office on the goddamn internet right now?” The line is quiet.

“You don’t know?” he says hesitantly.

“I. Don’t. Know. What?” I ask as patiently as I can. Another pause.

“Oh, fuck, I’m not taking the fall for this!” Alex bellows into the phone.

“I think you better tell me what the fuck is going on!” I bellow right back. “Who the fuck is responsible for this shit?”

“That would be me.”

A confident, casually-dressed Mac strolls into my office, folding her arms when she gets to the front of my desk.

“Her!” Alex says into the phone. “When she’s done explaining what’s going on, call me if you have questions, but know that as your publicist, she has almost as high a level of security clearance as I do. Can I go now?” I narrow my eyes at Mac.

“I’ll be in touch,” I say before ending the call. “I’m waiting.”

“It’s perfect PR,” she says, closing the rest of the space between her and my desk. “The phones have been ringing all morning. It’s brilliant! Take me, but leave my family alone. You can’t write this stuff. It’s media gold.”

“I’m still not feeling the love,” I hiss, “and I fail to see how this is media gold, as you put it.”

“They need to see you as a person, Christian,” Mac says, “a man, with real feelings, instead of this robot who walks around mindlessly destroying people if they don’t bend to his will. There’s no use in pretending that you don’t have weaknesses—they already know you do. Your wife and children are all over the news and now, your mourning family. You don’t know how to use candid moments to your advantage. You had to be convinced that Ana was media gold even though you’d seen it for yourself. Or have you conveniently forgotten the very first time a camera was shoved in her face and a very unfortunate reporter named Cheryl Deems who couldn’t get anybody to hire her after she became Ana’s first sacrificial lamb?”

“That wasn’t the first time a camera was shoved in her face,” I correct her, while simultaneously making her point. “I don’t like surprises, Mac. I wake to this on a Sunday morning with no warning whatsoever.”

“Would you have let me do it if I told you?” she says, taking her stance once more. I don’t respond. I really don’t need to. “I’m totally responsible for your public image now and you have to trust me to know what I’m doing.”

“I don’t see where this was necessary at all,” I continue to protest. “It’s like you said, everybody already knows that I would give anything and do anything for my family. What good did this do?” Mac sighs.

“When the story broke with you threatening the press at your grandfather’s funeral, you came off as a hothead. It didn’t matter that your family was grieving over the loss of its patriarch. You’re news; anything that happens to you is news, no matter how tragic. And all these people were trying to do was their jobs and report the news, and you issued a personal threat to the entire crowd that made the news for several days thereafter. My guess is that after today, you won’t hear another word about the hothead who threatened the press, but you will hear a whole lot about Papa Bear Grey.

“You can’t buy this type of publicity, Christian, and if you must be in the public eye, have them on your side as a defender and protector and not the haughty asshole who thinks he can do whatever he wants whenever he wants to whomever he wants, even if it may be true.”

I sigh and fall back into my seat. I would prefer no publicity at all and I’m certain that given a few days or so, the threats to the press would have been yesterday’s news. I would rather the splendor of it would wear off like it does with every other hot news bit that has occurred so far. No one even talks about the Pedophile or Edward David anymore—even though he unwelcomely crept into our bedroom last night, so to speak—neither of them are news anymore. Even the Green Valley case has gone somewhat quiet in the past few months. The Pedophile’s accusations against Butterfly never went public, so yes, the media is chomping at the bit for AnaChris news and the most exciting thing they’ve gotten is dinner and a nightclub. But if they think that exploiting my grandfather’s death and my family’s suffering is going to be the way to get their headline, they’re sorely mistaken and I’m just the one to show them.

So, I guess the whole Papa Bear thing isn’t such a bad idea after all.

“Mac,” I sigh, “you and I are going to have to do something about our communication. This is completely unacceptable… and you get to apologize to Barney and Alex for the reaming I gave them this morning, and I expect you to do just that.” She nods. “So, what now? I thought ‘leak’ and the rest of the world is going to think ‘plant,’ which is what it is.”

“Let them think what they want,” Mac replies. “We’ll be mum on it for the first few days and see where the monster goes on its own. Something like this is always a calculated risk, which is why you play it carefully. Whichever way it goes, we let it go.” I frown.

“So, if the public believes that this is a plant, we let them believe that?” She nods and I frown deeper. “I don’t see where that’s a good idea.”

“The more you deny, the more it makes something true,” Mac retorts. “If they really believe it’s planted information, big deal—people plant information all the time, but your reaction was real. And planted or not, they’ll be able to see that. You were primal in your rage when you talked about your family and how the press never gives you peace. Yeah, they may believe that the footage was deliberately given to the press, but they sure as hell won’t mistake your reaction for acting. Josh and I were a bit terrified by you.” I roll my eyes.

“And if they think it was leaked?” I ask.

“We go with it,” she replies. We’ll tell them that a disgruntled now-ex-employee leaked the footage and we keep the comments to a minimum—possible legal action, punitive damages, gag order, blah, blah, blah. You get the idea.” I’m still not certain about her tactic, but she’s right. I can only trust her at this point. I shake my head and turn to my computer screen.

“So,” she says, sitting in the seat in front of my desk. “Rollins?” I look at her briefly, then back to the computer screen.

“He disobeyed a direct order from my wife that directly had to do with GEH. He had to go.” She nods again.

“I know, but did you have to make such an example of him?”

“Yes, I did,” I reply. “These people have to know how serious I am about my wife being half owner of my business. Do you know how smart my wife is? Have you really sat down and talked to her? She minored in finance in college and while I’m sitting here chatting with her about one of the mergers we’re doing as a distraction from my grandfather’s death, she immediately spots skewed results in the statistical data.

“I can see it in your eyes, Mac, that wasn’t a setup,” I say, calling her out on her obvious suspicions. “She saw the error, she went to quality, and she told him to build the prototype and try to mimic the results. It had nothing to do with me until that asshole had spent the entire day sitting on his fucking hands before he came to me to nix the whole idea and handle things with the little wifey. I expect for people to jump when she’s says jump just like they do when I say jump. I know they may not respect her like me, but they very well better start!” She nods again and smirks.

“It appears she’s full of surprises,” she says knowingly. “Remember this conversation the next time you try to argue with me about what she can and can’t do.” She winks and heads for the door. “Can I go now?” I wave my hand for her to leave and look back at my emails. I swear to God the women in my life will one day be the death of me.


ANASTASIA

Pool party!

It’s the middle of July and I have this beautiful pool that I have not yet used. So, just before lunchtime, I activate the contingency and let everyone know that there will be Food and Libations all afternoon poolside at Grey Crossing. Be there or be square.

Be there or be square… good grief.

I found an adorable wraparound swimsuit just before Pops fell ill and never got a chance to wear it under the circumstances. Today is the day—a multicolored bandage high-waisted bikini that accentuates my new body perfectly.

When I go in search of my husband, Gail tells me that he’s down in his office with Mac, and I’m certain that I don’t want to know what fire requires her presence at our home on a Sunday morning unless he chooses to share it with me.

“I need a summer poolside feast for the afternoon,” I tell her. She raises her eyebrows at me like I’ve lost my mind.

“It’s… already afternoon,” she says, a little dismayed.

“Yes, and there’s a lot of afternoon left,” I inform her. I smile playfully. “I should have been more specific,” I say. “I want to spend the afternoon poolside with my friends and whoever wants to join us. Since we’ll be poolside, we’re talking things like fresh fruits, kabobs, chicken salad, finger sandwiches… that kind of thing.” Her eyebrows rise in acknowledgement.

“Oh,” she says, her voice lighter, “you had me scared for a minute. That, I can do.” I nod.

“I’m sorry,” I say mirthfully. “I know Sophie’s doing some remodeling today and you have your hands full with the regular duties. I can try to order something if it’s too much.”

“Nonsense!” Ms. Solomon’s voice says from the pantry. “You have a staff! That’s why we’re here. Let us earn our paychecks!” Gail smiles and shrugs one shoulder.

“What she said,” she replies. I return her smile and go to prepare my babies for a day at the pool. Christian and I agreed that we wanted to keep our relationship with the newer staff at a strictly professional level, but we both must admit that it’s been hard to do that with Windsor and Ms. Solomon, and especially with Keri. Speaking of which…

When I get back to the nursery, my two little bundles are already dressed and ready for a day at the pool. Keri is wearing a beautiful tropical wraparound maxi dress and she’s cooing at Mikey while Minnie enjoys tummy time in her crib. My little darlings are two delicious in their matching Mickey and Minnie Mouse swim suits.

a9d4f1d6357e101d717559bb21a44f7e“Oh, don’t you just look scrumptious!” I say to Minnie. She pushes up onto her knees and rocks feverishly, smiling widely at the sound of my voice. Her two little front teeth have cut in and she’s happier and more sociable now that she’s not in constant discomfort. She’s babbling these days and as far as we can tell, she’s forming some word close to “bottle” or “boob.” We just know that it’s a bah-bah-bah sound and usually comes around feeding time. Mikey is a little slower with his development and I would be remiss to say that I’m not more than a little worried. However, Dr. Nahabedian has told us not to worry; that boys are generally slower to develop than girls. Still, I’m a bit anxious.

“How is Mommy’s little Minnie Mouse?” I coo as I lift her from her crib in her black suit with a red frilly skirt with polka dots and white ruffle-butt bloomer. She smacks my cheeks softly while giggling profusely as I make the “brrrr” noise with my lips. I carry her over to her brother’s crib where Keri is having similar interactions with Mikey.

“Have you already put sunscreen on them or do we need to do it now?” I ask Keri. She nods.

“Yes, I’ve already done it,” she says, still smiling at Mikey.

“Where would I be without you?” I say, sincerely.

“Lost,” she says, sweetly, “just like I would be without you.” She winks at me and I know she’s referring to us giving her a job as our au pair.

“You know you’re helping us just as much as we’re helping you, right?” I ask.

“I find that hard to believe, but thank you… for everything.”

We gather my children and their diaper bags and head for the elevator to go to the pool. When we arrive, the baby tent is already set up with the Pack-n-Play’s nearby. Keri gets the twins set up inside with their toys while I inflate their floaties for when we’re ready to take them into the water.

653d170e88444f26a95956b1b1102b8dSlowly, but surely, my friends begin to show up and the food is brought out to the outdoor dining room. The staff has managed everything I recommended and included guacamole and chips, sunny orange-lemonade, refreshing flash-frozen fruit chunks, and a plethora of other summertime goodies as well and my usual favorites—pinwheels and bruschetta. Christian has even fired up the grill and is cooking hot dogs, bratwurst, and hamburgers… under Jason’s watchful eye and tutelage, and Chuck has set up as bartender in the outdoor dining room for mixed cocktails and Mojito slushies made to order, and he can also watch Keri with the twins in her hot little two-piece with the black wrap-bra and tiny bottoms with the Aztec designs.

 

Of course, Al is the first to show up. He saunters over to where I’m enjoying a cocktail and

Keri is nearby, splashing her feet in the pool while keeping an eye on the twins in the baby tent.

“Damn, diva! You are rocking that suit!” Al says, as he joins me on a chaise near the pool.

“Thank you, Mr. Fleming-Forsythe,” I reply, “You’re looking rather spiffy yourself,” I comment about his electric blue swim trunks with black stripes. “But tell me… is it safe to let your man out the house looking like 150 pounds of ripped chocolate in a black and white nylon wrapper?” Al’s mouth falls open.

“You’re one to talk!” he accuses quietly. “You got Diamond Dick over there with his jewels barely tucked and stuffed into a navy-blue holster! If he sneezes, I’ll get a good look at cut and clarity!”

I was just taking a sip of a Cosmo at that moment. He’s lucky he’s not wearing it.

“Damn, Allen, seriously?” I say, choking down the alcohol.

“Hey, you started it,” he says as he lays out on the chaise. “I need to cook a bit, my love. My skin is a bit too alabaster.”

“I know what you mean,” I say, examining the total lack of pigment in my own complexion. “I’m feeling a little lily-white myself these days.” I begin to put suntan lotion on my skin.

“Did you see the news about your husband this morning?” Al says as he dons his shades and gets comfortable. I sigh.

“No, but I knew something was up when Gail told me that Mac was down in his study with him this morning.” I finish my arms and grab a towel. “Can you untie me please?” Al sits up and glares at me.

“You’re going topless?” he gasps, dismayed. “With that rack? You might make my husband go straight!” I laugh out loud.

“Not completely, silly,” I chuckle, “but I can’t tan right with the wraparound because the straps are too wide. Now, untie me… and do my back while you’re at it.” Al unties my wraparound bikini top while I cover my breasts with the towel.

“Well,” he says as he applies a generous portion of suntan lotion to my back, “the day of the funeral, you saw that the paparazzi were present en masse…”

“Fucking vultures,” I say before I know it. Those fuckers are worse than that church that camps out at the funerals of fallen soldiers and homosexuals to protest the service and harass the family of the deceased.

“Well, your husband felt the same way, so much so that he had his security team taking pictures of the photographers and issued personal threats to each one of them.” I spun around in my seat and looked at him.

Personal threats?” I ask. Al nods. “To each of them?” He nods again. “Oh, fuck.”

“Mac shared your sentiment,” he continues. “She confronted him about the appropriateness of his actions on Thursday when he got back to the office, well after one of the reporters had aired his threats. He went nuclear on her—told her that he didn’t care if they came after him; that he wanted them to come after him; that if they ruined him, then maybe he wouldn’t be news anymore and they would leave his fucking family alone. He was totally willing to sacrifice himself if they left his family alone. He didn’t apologize for his actions and he vowed that he meant every word. He was like a lion standing on his hind feet to protect the pride.” He does the gesture for me to turn around.

“Okay, so, what happened? Why is this news again if it broke on Thursday?” I ask, turning my back to him so that he can finish with the suntan lotion. I have to admit that I hadn’t seen or heard anything about the threats until just now and I was at Grey House on Friday.

“She had this conversation with him in his office, which is always under security surveillance. The surveillance went viral this morning.” I spin around to face him again. “Dammit, Jewel! Be surprised while you’re facing the other direction, please!”

“You just told me that private surveillance from my husband’s office just went viral! Do we have another hacker?” My mind immediately goes to all the times we fucked in that office.

“It was Mac! Now turn around!” he barks.

“Mac was the hacker?” I ask horrified.

“No! She got the footage from Alex and leaked it on purpose—to make Chris look more human for threatening the press. Now, turn around!” I narrow my eyes at him.

“You could have led with that, you cow,” I say begrudgingly turning around so that he can finish my back.

“Shut up and listen, heifer,” he retorts. “We’re waiting to see where the media is going with it. Our response right now is silence. No one’s giving them anything. But you’ll probably notice that you haven’t seen any paparazzi hiding in bushes or around corners all week.” Come to think of it, I haven’t. “They’re taking him at his word, seeing if he’ll do what he said. My guess is that a few heads are going to roll, even though no pictures of your family from the funeral ended up in the media… only the footage of him threatening the press and the subsequent surveillance footage. They’re calling him Papa Bear Grey.

“Papa Bear Grey?” I nearly cackle. “You can’t be serious.”

“Totally,” he says. “Nobody would dare fuck with him or any of you right now.” I shake my head.

“I take it he didn’t know about this. Otherwise, there would be no reason for Mac to be here on a Sunday morning.”

“I’m not sure, but I don’t think he did. Now that he does, he’s just waiting like the rest of us… silently.” He finishes my back and closes the suntan lotion. “All done, my dear.”

I situate myself on the chaise and cover my boobs with the towel, folding it so that it only covers my mounds and not the rest of me.

“I can’t wait to see how this ends up,” I say, facetiously.

Al and I sunbathe for a while as I tell him about the night Christian and I had confronting Greta Ellison. I leave out the part where we fuck all night because seeing him charm Greta gave me flashbacks of the dirty, lying cheater with two first names. I finish my Cosmo and listen to my babies cooing behind me as my skin tans to a lovely shade. Al is still talking about… something… as I feel myself drifting off to sleep…

“Hot damn, that’s a sight,” I hear my husband’s voice say. I open my eyes to see him standing over me, playfully licking his bottom lip and smiling at me. He looks hot as fuck with windblown hair and sunglasses, gazing down at me with the sun shining behind him. I know I’ve fallen asleep, but I don’t know for how long. I’m not burned, so it must’ve only been a few minutes.

“Cut and clarity,” Al says from the chaise next to me. I throw a horrified look at him.

“Allen!” I hiss as quietly as I can.

“What?” Christian asks, curiously.

“Just Allen being an ass,” I say through my teeth. I hold my towel against my breasts as I sit up to greet my husband. “What brings you over here? You wanted to get a better look?” I ask, raising my eyebrow. He smiles and sits on my chaise.

“No, but that’s a good reason to stay,” he says playfully. “How are you?” I know what he’s talking about. Last night was an intense night, emotionally and physically. I couldn’t find the words to tell him what I was feeling. I knew that the insecurity that I was feeling about his interaction with Greta Ellison was unwarranted, but when you get into a certain state of mind—particularly one that you’re already familiar with—it’s hard to get out of it.

“I’m fine,” I tell him. “You did a good job of reassuring me,” I add with a smile.

“It was my pleasure… literally,” he says, closing in on me.

“Too much information!” I hear from the peanut gallery to my left.

“Then stop listening!” I hiss at my best friend.

“Kind of hard to miss it,” he says, still lying on his back and soaking up the sun.

“Roll over or you’ll burn, Snow White!” I bark, hoping that giving him a task will distract him from our conversation.

“Take your own advice, Fairest of the Fair,” he says, shifting position onto his stomach.

“He’s right, you know,” Christian says, gently rubbing my skin. “I’d hate for you to burn, and not just because it means I couldn’t touch you.”

“Yes, heaven forbid Mr. Grey can’t have his playtime.” Goddammit, Allen!

“Allen, if you don’t shut up, I’m going to begin a detailed conversation about cunnilingus,” Christian says calmly.

“What?” Allen protests, mocking innocence. “She doesn’t have a bratty little brother… well, she’s got a little brother, but he’s not old enough to be a brat, yet. Somebody’s got to fill in.”

“Eating hot, dripping wet pussy,” Christian says.

“Shutting up,” Al replies, and I have to stifle my laughter. Christian turns back to me.

“Are you okay? Really?” I can see his soft, concerned eyes. I shrug.

“Sometimes you can’t avoid old ghosts creeping up on you.” I gently stroke his cheek, slightly prickly from his designer stubble. “But you do a very good job of chasing them away.” I hear Al on the chaise next to me take a breath to retort.

“Clitoris,” Christian says before he can speak.

“Not a word,” Al says quickly. Christian turns back to me.

“I’ll talk to yours later,” he whispers. “Now, turn over.” I do as he says while he holds my towel over my breasts. “Do you need me to do your back?”

“No, Al did it for me earlier,” I reply.

“You been fondling my wife?” he asks Al.

“Sure have, and you can fondle me to get even if you like,” Al retorts.

You asked for that one, Grey.

“I’ll send your husband over,” Christian replies, a bit uncomfortably. Al chuckles.

“I was just fucking with you,” Al says, “Chocolate covered me already.”

And they just keep flying.

“You really want to have that pussy-eating conversation, don’t you?” Christian shoots back.

“Good Lord, what did we walk in on?” I hear Maxine’s voice and a cooing Mindy off to my right.

“My husband and best friend are sparring,” I say, without lifting my head. “They’re trying to see who can make the other more sexually uncomfortable.”

“Who’s winning?” I hear Elliot’s voice say.

“I can’t tell just yet,” I say. “Christian had Al on the ropes with talk of vaginal satisfaction, but Al came back with a request for Christian’s man-hands and now, I’m a little unclear what the score is.”

“It’s two to three I think, Chris’ favor,” Al says, “but I haven’t said anything yet about my obsession with the taste of chocolate.” I roll my eyes under my sunglasses. This will never end.

“Hey, Al?” Christian says. Al foolishly turns to look at my husband, who does a “V” with his fingers and flicks his tongue between them several times. Al shakes his head and lays back down on the chaise.

Game. Set. Match.

Christian slaps my ass and goes back to the barbecue kitchen to man the grill with Jason. Once he’s out of earshot, Al pulls his glasses down and glares at me.

“What?” I ask him as Maxie gets comfortable on the chaise on the other side of me while Phil holds Mindy.

“Jewel!” he says. “That thing is long as fuck! He needs to put it on a leash!”

You should see his dick.

“Exactly which part of him got you pregnant?” he continues, as if reading my mind.

“Fuck!”

All seven adult heads spin to see which angel-baby voice produced this word. Mindy is sitting there proudly clapping her hands for her audience… and her new word.

“She’s talking?” Val says with large eyes, having joined the party with Elliot and the Guests.

“Repeating,” Phil says, none too pleased, “only particular sounds that she hears with emphasis,” he adds, looking at Al.

“Sorry,” Al says, lying back on chaise. Maxie leans back and begins to play with Mindy.

“Al, when you have kids, I’m coming to your house and saying random curse words all day,” Phil threatens.

“Who says I’m having kids?” Al retorts. I frown.

“You don’t want kids?” I ask.

“It’s not on my immediate agenda, no,” he replies.

“I thought you wanted kids,” Val says, slathering sunscreen on her arms. “James doesn’t want them?”

“We’ve had the conversation,” he says. “I’m not in any rush and we’re both a bit hesitant, what with still having to fight for gay rights. It’s hard to imagine having to bring up a child in a society that doesn’t really accept its parents as a couple.” I sit up, holding my towel to my breasts.

“But you’re godfather to my children,” I protest, garnering the attention of all the people at the party now. Al sits up and faces me.

“Here’s the thing, Jewel,” he says, resting his elbows on his knees. If—heaven forbid—something happens to you and Chris, there are going to be a lot of people in line to take The Incredibles over there. I doubt that there will be any battles, but you have Carrick and Grace, Ray and Mandy, and even Elliot and Val or Mia and Ethan are in line before me. They’re family… and I’m a lawyer. I know my pecking order. But rest assured, Chocolate and I have already talked about this and if that dreaded day ever comes and no one protests it, my hat is still in the ring.”

I’m suddenly deflated. I hadn’t even thought about the fact that Al would truly have no legal right to our children if something happened to us. I don’t know why I didn’t think about it. I just didn’t.

“Hey, Steele,” Val interjects, noting my obvious change in demeanor. “Everybody knows how important Al is to you and to the Wonder Twins. Even if they do go to someone in the family, no one would try to keep him out of their lives.”

That brings comfort, but very little.

“Okay,” I nod. “I know. If you’ll excuse me…” I move to get off the chaise and grab my bikini top. I look over into the baby tent and my two little angels are fast asleep.

“Jewel, I’m sorry… I….”

“No, it’s not you,” I stop him. “I need to pump.” I walk to the house with my breast covered and quickly go to the nursery. When I’m attached to the breast pump, I go over the conversation I just had in my head. Al called them the Incredibles and Val called them the Wonder Twins. Everyone else refers to them as Minnie and Mikey—a play on “Minnie and Mickey.” Everybody calls them some sort of cartoon character, and right now, they’re napping by the pool wearing costumes of their original namesakes. I smile to myself thinking of how much everyone loves them, and hoping beyond hope that there won’t be a battle for them if something ever does happen to me and Christian…

“Hey,” I hear my husband’s voice quietly come into the nursery. “You okay? Everybody’s worried about you.”

“Yeah,” I say as the miracle contraption fills one bottle and Christian attaches a second. “Mindy blurted out a very colorful word after hearing Uncle Al say it, to which Phil responded that he would get revenge by cursing around Al’s children every day. Al then announced that he had no intentions of immediately having children, which brought us around to the conversation of him being our children’s godfather. He brought up that legally, he’s the last man on the totem pole and probably wouldn’t get the kids anyway, but he would always be available to them. And it just got me thinking…”

“Thinking what?” he asks.

“We hope to be here for our babies, but what happens if some terrible accident occurs and we’re both untimely ripped from this earth? What’s going to happen to our babies? I would hate to think that our families would fight over the twins, but we both know that death brings out some very bad emotions in people. I don’t think I could stand the thought of our children being in a tug-of-war.”

“Our families would never do that,” he says.

“We don’t know that, Christian,” I retort. “What do we want for our children? I always assumed that Val and Al would take some kind of joint responsibility for my kids if something happened to me, but I never, ever considered the other people that would be involved—the baby’s father, his family… Common sense dictates that this should be considered, but I never did. I never have.” I raise my eyes to the ceiling and finally admit my thoughts—the thoughts of a young, broken woman years ago…

“I knew that I was going to have children. I was certain of that… but I was so busy seeing myself alone that I never considered the other half of the child.” I bring my eyes back to Christian. “We’ve got to definitively decide the fate of our children if something happens to us. When I checked out, Maxie showed you that someone will step up and try to take the reins even if they don’t have the authority.” He examines me and sighs. I move the breast pump to my other breast and begin to empty it.

“And consider this,” I say once the pump is reattached. “My mother is the only blood relative that I have that I know of except for a grandmother that I don’t really care to know. What’s to stop either one of them from trying to lay claim to my children once we’re gone? They have just as much right as anybody—even more so than Ray—to our children. This one little door left open could let all kinds of rodents into the barn.”

He drops his head. He knows I’m right. Minnie and Mikey will be heirs if something happens to the two of us and although our close family may have no concern with that, vermin are very likely to come out of the woodwork should Christian and I come to an unfortunate demise.

“What should we do?” he asks.

“Call a family meeting,” I say. “Include Allen. He’s an attorney. So is Carrick, and as far as I’m concerned, they both have an interest in this. Find out how everyone feels, then put our wishes in a will and everybody has to stick to it.”

“What’s to stop someone from contesting the will?” he asks as he replaces the bottle on the pump.

“It’s a chance that we have to take,” I say. “Who among our family can you see contesting the will except for my mother and any of my long-lost blood relatives? We’ll include in the will that I’ve been estranged from my mother since I was seventeen. If I die tomorrow, that’s still more than ten years. Any judge anywhere would see that she was only in it for the money and that being with her—someone my children won’t even know exists—would not be in the best interest of the children. Not being a snob, but I’m about to… Even my step-father is more financially well-off than my mother… Oh, my God!” Christian frowns.

“Baby, what’s wrong?” he says, noting my change of demeanor.

“Why didn’t I think of this sooner?” I ask aloud. Whether he decides he wants my children or not, I should have done this the moment I turned eighteen.

“Baby, you’re scaring me. Please tell me what’s going on,” Christian says. I turn to him.

“I’m going to ask Daddy to adopt me.” He frowns again.

“You’re… it’s a little late for that, don’t you think?” he asks.

“No, it’s not,” I tell him. “If you are incapacitated, Daddy is my power of attorney. He should have just as much rights and say-so to anything and everything that I have or anything to do with me as my mother ever had, and hate it or love it, if we both die, she’s my next of kin!” He shivers at the thought.

“Fucking hell how soon can we get this ball rolling?” he asks all in one breath…

*-*

“Jesus Christ, Jewel, what did I start?” Al asks dismayed when Christian and I get back to the pool.

“A conversation that really should’ve happened more than ten years ago,” I tell him. “We’re going to have a family meeting to decide what happens to our children, and you’re going to be a part of that meeting, but in the meantime, I need you to start the process for my dad to adopt me.”

“You want Ray to adopt you now?” Marilyn asks, she and Gary having joined the party while I was pumping milk.

“Yes. We would have done it sooner, but my mom’s a bitch,” I say flippantly. “Once I was free from her, I didn’t think about it until now. He needs all the legal rights that any father would have because he is my father, and I don’t want anyone trying to squash his rights.” Al looks over at Christian.

“She’s not talking about my family,” he says, answering Al’s gaze. “In terms of blood relatives and any legal rights, Carla can come through here and brush him aside. As much as it pains me to say, if we’re both gone, she’s Butterfly’s biological next of kin. And when we went national with Butterfly’s retrieval from that asshole on Vashon Island, she was on the first available bird to get to Seattle—once she discovered her daughter was dating a billionaire. What do you think is going to happen if something happens to us and she can get her hands on two miniature cash cows?”

“Your family would fight her tooth and nail on that and most likely win. She doesn’t have the resources…”

“I don’t care!” I interrupt Al. “My dad is my dad, and we should have made it legal a long time ago. I want to make it legal now. Does Carla have to be notified because she’s my birth mother?” Al shakes his head.

“You’re an adult,” he replies. “In the state of Washington, Ray can adopt you, but Carla doesn’t lose her parental rights.”

“Carla lost her parental rights a long time ago,” I retort, “and I’m going to make sure that our will says that she is to have nothing to do with my children, but I don’t want her whisking in here on her broom thinking she has rights to lay claim to anything and brush my father out of the way. That’s what this is about. Whatever we decide to do with our children, with our fortune, with whatever we leave behind, she can no longer say that Daddy is not my Daddy. That’s what this is about.” Al sighs and nods.

“I’ll get right on it,” he says. I sigh heavily.

“How long will it take?” I ask.

“Well, you’re an adult, so we don’t need an adoption report. We’ll need an adoption petition, consent form from you, then findings and conclusions filing and the decree of adoption. It’ll take me about a day to draw those up, then you and Ray sign them and we file them with the court. After that, the process can take six weeks to six months, usually shorter for adult adoptions with no contest,” he says.

“Can Carla contest it?” Christian asks.

“She could. It would delay the proceedings a bit, but most likely not stop them. But she can’t contest what she doesn’t know.” I purse my lips.

“I’ll pay her,” I say immediately. Christian looks over at me.

“Butterfly…” he protests.

“I’ll pay her!” I repeat. “If she finds out about the adoption and she contests it, I’ll pay her to go away. Whatever she wants, I’ll give it to her.” Christian sighs. He and Al have a silent conversation and Christian nods almost unnoticeably.

“Fine, I’ll get on it first thing tomorrow. You may want to let Ray in on this, though,” he says almost facetiously. I nod. Daddy is finally going to really be my Daddy. I’m so happy, I could burst.

“Can we party now?” Val interrupts. “I’m ready to hit the pool and eat and have cocktails. This serious shit is starting to be a real downer.”

“Shit!” Mindy declares, clapping her hands wildly and giggling profusely. Dear God, please don’t let Minnie start speaking that soon. She’s going to know every curse word in the English language, and some in French.

*-*

Once we turned attention away from the serious shit, as Val put it, the party was back to the light-hearted banter we started with. Val freely took a dip in the pool and lazied away in the sun without her wig. Mia and Ethan finally joined us around dinnertime and talked happily about wedding plans. Grace is in seventh heaven that she gets to plan Mia’s wedding down to the last detail and we’re certain that it’s going to be the Broadway production that Grace has been waiting for. She and Mia think exactly alike, so we’re expecting a grandiose affair… even before Mia announces that we should be “red carpet” formal for the reception. Christian immediately rolls his eyes, totally dreading the fanfare that he knows will be his sister’s nuptials. I squeeze his hand and kiss his cheek.

“We were married in a castle, dear,” I say softly in his ear.

“And my mother still thought it wasn’t big enough,” he reminds me. “She’s in charge this time. The reception will be standing room only. Mia had a marquee at the Faces of Abuse premier. She may have the damn color guard at the door. The paparazzi will be her photographers…”

“Stop,” I chide him as Mia continues to describe her wedding.

“Her wedding will be at the Paramount theater,” he continues whispering in my ear, “a venue that holds 2000. She won’t know most of the people in attendance. Her wedding will be displayed across the marquee—The Greys present Mia and Ethan’s Wedding, September 20, 2014, 6pm. We need to be ‘red carpet ready,’ which means if the police don’t have the street blocked off, we won’t be able to get to the front door.”

As much as I hate to admit it, the more he describes this event, the more it sounds like this is really what’s going to happen.

“Um, Mia, how about security and access?” I ask. “How will you be sure that those on the guest list can get in and those who aren’t don’t?”

“Private security and the police,” she says. “The mayor and the governor will be there.” Oh, of course, I think to myself.

“Along with every judge in King County,” Christian whispers in my ear.

“I know what you’re thinking, big brother,” Mia calls him out. “You can have your precious security there to protect you from the paparazzi, but it will be totally unnecessary. No one will be there that wasn’t invited.” Christian doesn’t look convinced.

“I know I shouldn’t be thinking about ditching my sister’s wedding, but I’m thinking about ditching my sister’s wedding,” Christian whispers to me.

“Don’t you dare!” I whisper back.

“This coming from the woman who won’t be in her wedding,” he says quietly.

“Don’t try to blackmail me, Christian,” I retort a little firmly. Mia wanted me to be in her wedding, but seeing the responsibility that I carried taking care of Val while she was sick, my twins, and all the other day-to-day things that were going on in my life, I got a pass from all the dress fittings and bridesmaids duties, as did Val for reasons of her health, of course. After seeing the lineup of the twelve women that she will have in her bridal party, I was glad not to be part of it.

Four of the women are bratty little debutants, far worse than Courtney ever was. However, since none of them tried to blame Mia for their thievery, I guess they made the cut. Five of them are Mia’s sorors, or—as they refer to themselves—sands. I’ve never liked sorority girls and to be honest, I didn’t know that Mia was a sorority girl. Had she not been my husband’s beloved Meelo, I’m not sure we would have hit it off. Though I do love her dearly, I now understand some of the traits that I see in her that drive me batshit.

I’m not saying that all sorority girls are bad, don’t get me wrong. However, the ones that I encountered during my college years at U-Dub were the quintessential mean girls. I don’t know what the issue was or why not being part of a sorority at the time made you pond scum, but these Gamma Phi Sigma Gamma Beta Rho Kappa bitches really rubbed me the wrong way. I was a poor pre-med student. I didn’t have time for that shit. It was Green Valley all over again. The only difference was that I had gone through self-defense classes with Daddy and had started Krav Maga with Luc. I would have fucked the bitches up for touching me. They were verbally cruel very often, but hell—I had already been through the worst. That shit they were talking… sticks and stones. It left a bitter taste in my mouth for sorors, though.

The final three women—including Mia’s best friend, Lily—are none other than three of the daughters. Yes, those daughters. Two of them were present when I beat the Pedophile’s ass the first night that I met the Greys. Lily wasn’t one of them. But apparently, she had… or still has… a big thing for Christian even though he completely ignores her presence when she’s around. It actually borders on rude behavior, causing me to ask him if there was history between them.

“Not per se,” he had responded. “She just seems like trouble to me.”

I asked Elliot if I needed to be on my guard around her. She had come to the Manor a few times to discuss wedding plans while we were staying there. She was obvious and downright irritating with her greeting to Christian… and in her blatant refusal to greet me. I didn’t let it bother me, because I felt like it was just sour grapes on her part. Elliot told me Lily did everything in her power to get Christian. Even when the family thought he was gay, she was determined to convert him back to pussy. She was so pushy and overbearing that Christian just resolved to have nothing to do with her.

“It was embarrassing,” Elliot had said. “She would throw herself in his path; she would speak to him and he wouldn’t acknowledge her. One day, she nearly chased his car down the street.”

“Oh, you have to tell me this,” I prodded.

“He was leaving, going back home or wherever he was going, and she came out and went to his driver’s side window. She was talking to him, and he started the car. He actually started rolling away from her and she was still talking, running next to the car. She didn’t even have enough sense to be embarrassed by it. She just kept talking and running, saying that something must be wrong with him not to want her. That night when you met the family, had she known he was there, Madam Creeps-A-Lot would have been the least of your worries.”

“Who the hell is Madam Creeps-A-Lot?” I had choked.

“That Lincoln bitch,” he said matter-of-factly. “No, Lily would have been your biggest competition for Christian’s attention that night. You could have been sitting in his lap and she still would have been hitting on him. When you guys went upstairs to go to bed, she would have been knocking at the door.”

Sure enough, Lily’s facial expressions every time she sees me are worse than bitter-pill-swallowing Liona. I hadn’t seen or heard of this woman anytime during our relationship or my pregnancy, but when we moved into Grey Manor, she was there once or twice a week easily. Mia would whisk her off to some room and they would talk wedding stuff as far as I knew, but the moment Christian showed up, there she was. She was in his face, smiling and batting her eyelashes, and he never gave her a moment’s notice. Yet, when she turned her attention to me, she looked like those ugly people on the Twilight Zone whose faces turned into those horrible masks they wore.

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The visual is actually pretty scary.

“Hey, I was just kidding,” I hear my husband’s voice say, pulling me back to the here and now. “Where did you go?”

I just shake my head. The truth is that I would rather not be in Mia’s wedding. If my wedding was considered ostentatious, her wedding is going to be a three-ring-circus for sure. Mine wedding was the party of the century. Hers will be the event of the millennium. It should truly be televised. The over-the-top creation of a mother who didn’t get to plan her sons’ weddings and a daughter who wants every bell and whistle imaginable. I wouldn’t want that type of attention.

Then the thought of having to spend any extended amount of time with pampered and spoiled debutantes who have probably never seen a hard day in their lives and stuck up sorority girls who are probably worse than anything I ever encountered at U-Dub. Oh, and let’s not forget the scorned daughters of the fundraising committee who saw me at my best and worst, defending my then-boyfriend from a predator and—much like that predator, believe I put some spell on him to make him marry me. Maybe I trapped him with my twins. I was pregnant when we got married after all, right?

I swear, I won’t allow this to make me look at my sister-in-law any differently. She has some annoying ways about her, but she’s still one of the sweetest and bubbliest people I’ve ever met, even though her friends are stuck-up little bitches who would rather see me dead or disappear…

“Baby, are you okay?” Christian asks with concern in his eyes. Mia still hasn’t stopped talking about her wedding plans and Pops’ suggestion that she use votives with gray rocks as centerpieces and lavender in her bouquets instead of baby’s breath. I remember being that excited about my castle and my one of a kind dress and my vintage Bentley. Was anybody thinking of me the way I’m feeling about Mia’s wedding party right now? I sigh.

“I’m just… beginning to feel the same way you are about this wedding,” I confess. He frowns.

“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean… I was just kidding,” he says.

“Part of you was,” I say, looking over my shoulder at him. “Part of you is having the same feeling of dread that I’m having right now and wishing the whole thing was over… the cameras, the publicity, the paparazzi, the fanfare… From what I hear, the bridesmaids are all… not my type of people. Do you know anything about the groomsmen?” Christian shrugs.

“Friends of Ethan, I’m told,” he says.

“Possible family?” I ask. “Definitely possibly Kavanaughs?” He sighs.

“I know some of his mother’s side will be there. Daddy Kavanaugh is not invited.” I sigh and nod.

“And then there’s that,” I say. “Mia’s going to be a Kavanaugh. Has anybody really thought about that?” Christian twists his lips.

“She’ll always be a Grey,” he says. I shake my head.

“No, Christian, she’s about to be a Kavanaugh. How do you and Elliot feel about that?” I look over at Val, laughing happily with Mia as she continues to regale details of her big day. “How will Val feel about that?”

God, I’ll be glad when this is over.

A wedding at an historic theater that can accommodate 2000 guests…

Holy cow, Batman.


A/N: 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 9—Goodbye, and Hello

So, in case you haven’t already heard, I’ve finished editing my ORIGINAL WORK and I’m about to prep it for publishing. I’m looking for cover art and researching the best way to market it—whether it will be offered electronically only or as a traditional book. We’ll have to see. Anyone with suggestions or leads for good cover artists at a reasonable price, please hit me up on Facebook or in the “contact me” link in the menu. Marketing leads and assistance will be appreciated as well.

Please note that this is NOT the Fanfiction that I am publishing. I’m not ready to close it down, which is what I would have to do if I decided to publish my Fanfic. This is an entirely new story that I wrote and I hope you guys will like it. A sample of one of the lemons from the story can be found in the “More Work From The Goddess” menu on the left under the first “Lemon Drop.”

About the last chapter, all I can say is “people are going to be people.” They’re going to fuck up; they’re going to piss you off; and it ain’t gone stop. If it did, this would have been a very short story—very hot, but very short. When Christian learns all of his lessons and stops being an ass and Ana becomes the perfect wife all the time, the story is over and I’ll stop writing it.

 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 9—Goodbye, and Hello

CHRISTIAN

Butterfly nearly has to hold me up as we follow Pops’ casket out of the church. I’m squeezing her hand for dear life and she’s squeezing mine right back. We file out of the church and move to various positions around the front door and watch in solemn and grieved silence as they load Pops’ remains into the hearse and drive off, headed for the crematorium. We can’t all go to the crematorium, so Dad and his brothers take one limo while Mom, Luma, and Lana ride with Mia and Ethan in the second limo. Elliot and I and our wives will ride in one of the Audis.

One of the Audis.

It’s not until the second limo drives away that I realize that there are a lot of Audis in front of the church—quite possibly every vehicle in my damn fleet. When did this happen? Beyond the line of Audis, basically blocking the view of the entrance to the church, is a police barricade and it stretches around the church as far as I can see. The press is contained on the other side of the street. No doubt, they’re on the rooftops and hanging out of windows with telephoto lenses, too.

I frown and look at Jason.

“What is this?” I ask.

“I got in touch with Alex for back-up. He called in a favor.” I nod and pat his shoulder.

“Thank you,” I say softly before getting into the car with my wife.

*-*

The day is a bit of a blur after that. I meet a lot of people—more of my father’s family came from Detroit than we thought. Everyone readjourns at my parent’s house for the repast, but all I can do for most of the day is stare out onto the patio, where Pops and I had many conversations over the past few months.


ANASTASIA

The service was truly beautiful.  There were many more in attendance than we thought we would see. Ros and her wife were there and Lorenz showed up, too. There were a few others I recognized from department head meetings and a lot of people that I didn’t recognize at all. I could see Carrick’s family resemblance in some of the mourners, so I was happy to know that at least some of his family from Detroit made the trip to pay last respects and see Pops for the last time.

I’ve never been good with seeing my husband break down. Watching him lose his composure during the eulogy was almost more than I could stand. I knew I had to be strong for him during this time, so I fought my emotions and helped him through his. He sat silently in the car the entire ride back to his parents’ house. He almost seemed robotic when we exited the car and walked into the house. I feel kind of lost without him to lean on and now, I must admit that I can’t wait to get to my children.

When I get to the nursery, Minnie is awake, but Mikey is fast asleep. Keri tells me that he’s just been put down for his nap and Minnie is soon to follow. I don’t want to disturb the routine, so I just kiss them both and go back downstairs.

Grace is busy getting everything prepared for guests that she knows will be arriving soon. There’s enough food prepared to feed a small third-world country. I go in search of Christian and find him standing in the great room at the fireplace with a scotch in his hand. At least, I think it’s scotch. I put my hand on his back and feel him immediately deflate.

“Are you okay?” I ask softly. He puts his drink on the mantle and says nothing. He turns around and wraps his arms around me, burying his face in my neck. I don’t remember ever seeing him this forlorn. He clings to me for several moments before I feel him slowly begin to release me. When I turn my attention to him, he’s looking behind me like he’s seen a ghost. I turn my attention to where he’s looking. He’s gazing at the door in disbelief. A group of people enter, and among them is a slightly older version of… me!

What the hell?

I gaze at the woman for a moment. It’s a creepy thing to come face to face with your twin.

Your twin… of course!

“Come on, Christian.” I take him by the hand and lead him into the foyer and over to the group of people who have just entered. As we approach, I hear one of the women say, “Mom… look!” My twin turns to me and has the same reaction that I do.

“Oh… my God,” she says softly.

“Ana, Christian,” Grace says extending her hand to me. I take it while my husband still looks on in stunned silence. I already know what she’s about to say. “This is Shannon Bell and these are Herman’s children…”

She introduces Herman’s children and I try to be polite, but they’re all just staring at me, so I take this moment to address the elephant in the room.

“I know, the resemblance is uncanny. Herman’s already told me. Imagine how I feel.”

“Please, forgive my rudeness,” Shannon says. “It’s just that… you’re a mirror of my younger self. I didn’t think that was possible! You look more like me than my daughters.”

I look around and only see one daughter, who happens to favor the Grey side of the family, but no other daughters. Then I remember that Shannon remarried and has other children.

“Well, you look more like me than my mother… except you’re much taller,” I say, trying to lighten the mood. It works. Shannon laughs a bit nervously as her children whisper among each other. “This stunned gorgeous man is my husband, Christian.” Shannon extends her hand to Christian.

“It’s nice to meet you, Christian,” she says cordially. He takes her proffered hand.

“It’s… nice… to meet you, too,” he stammers, still at a loss for words. More people begin to enter the house and I notice that a lot of the women take a moment to admire my husband.

“How did you know Burt?” Shannon asks, clasping her hands in front of her.

He’s my grandfather,” Christian says. “Was my grandfather. Carrick is my father.”

“Shit! He’s family!” I hear one of the ladies hiss as she passes, and I can’t help but chuckle to myself.

“You’re one of Carrick’s children?” she says, somewhat in disbelief. “Are you the oldest?”

“Middle,” he says. “My brother Elliot is the oldest. My sister Mia is the youngest…”

They hold a short conversation and a few moments later, the Grey Brothers walk solemnly into the house. Each of them gravitate towards their significant others, Luma appearing out of nowhere to comfort Herman. I don’t know if she knows who Shannon is, but she walks right past Shannon to Herman, who nearly crumples over in her arms, making it known that at this moment, there’s nowhere else that he’d rather be. Grace abandons her guests to soothe Carrick, his eyes red-rimmed and tired. Stanley weeps quietly in his wife’s embrace. It must have been very difficult for them having to go to the crematorium and say their final goodbyes to their father before giving the final command to incinerate his remains. Not one of them looks like he’s more than twelve years old at this moment and each of them looks like he would crumble to the ground without his woman holding him up.

This sight seems to syphon the life out of Christian—what was left of it, anyway—and he, too, looks like a broken man. I put my arm around his waist and I feel him leaning on me. He turns his body into me, away from the painful sight before us. He sighs as I literally hold him up for a few moments, then takes another cleansing breath and stands up straight. He nods at me before turning back to his father and uncles.

I turn my attention to the mourning men just in time to see Luma gently wiping tears from Herman’s face. Lana has taken Stan away to somewhere more private, and Grace and Carrick start toward the dining room with one arm around each other, much like Christian and I are holding each other now. Herman looks up and catches sight of his oldest son.

“Junior,” he says in surprise, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you! Thank you… thank you for coming.” Herman, Jr., hugs his father fondly.

“Don’t mention it, Dad,” he says with a sympathetic smile.

“Hi, Daddy,” Herman’s daughter says.

“Liz,” he breathes. His son releases him and he envelopes his daughter warmly, closing his eyes as if she’s soothing his heart.

“Hey, Pop,” his youngest son says from behind him. With Liz still in his arm, he gathers his youngest into his other arm and sighs heavily.

“Ricky,” he whispers. “I’m so glad you’re all here. You don’t know what this means to me.”

“Sure, we do, Dad,” Junior says. “That’s why we’re here.”

They share a few more moments of warm hellos before Herman finally releases them and takes Luma’s hand again.

“How’s your mother?” he asks them. “I hope she’s well.” Liz points to Shannon now standing behind him and next to us. Herman never even noticed her.

He raises his head and catches sight of Shannon, his gaze disbelieving.

“Shannon,” he says incredulously. “You’re here.”

“Yes,” she says, softly. “I know what Burt meant to you. I know this is hard on you and your brothers.”

“Thank you,” he says, still in shock and awe. A few seconds later, he appears to snap out of it and brings Luma forward. “This is Shannon,” he says, “my ex-wife and the mother of my children. Shannon, this is Luma, my…” He looks down at Luma and she returns his gaze.

“Companion?” she says, her voice uncertain. He shakes his head, still gazing at her.

Girlfriend doesn’t sound right,” he says to Luma, who is still looking at him expecting. “My lady?” he says, and a small smile forms on Luma’s face, as if they had only just come to the decision at this moment. Herman brings Luma’s hand to his mouth and kisses it gently. “Shannon, this is my lady, Luma.”

Shannon smiles widely and extends her hand to Luma.

“It’s lovely to meet you,” Shannon says. Luma accepts her proffered hand.

“Lovely to meet you, too,” she says. “You have beautiful children…”

And just like that, awkwardness averted

*-*

Christian is as cordial as he can be under the circumstances, but I know he’s forcing it. I can tell, and I just want to take him to our room and feed him some hot chicken soup, hold him in my arms and caress his hair until he falls asleep and this day is behind us. I want to help him any way that I can, but I also hope that he utilizes Dr. Baker during this time, because he’s hanging on by a thread right now.

After we meet Herman’s children, we meet some of Pops’ friends from Detroit. I was so surprised to see more than just his children and grandchildren here. Herman’s children are all married and were accompanied by their spouses, though none of them brought their children along. Stan’s children are away at school and one is in high school, so they didn’t make the trip. I was very surprised, though, when he brought two other grandchildren over to meet us.

“Christian, Ana, this is Nolanda and Burton Grey, II. These are Freeman’s children.”

Christian stiffened upon hearing Freeman’s name. Nolanda waved at us and Burton proffered his hand to Christian.

“A pleasure to meet you, sir,” Burton says with a genuine smile. Christian accepts his hand.

“You’re Freeman’s son?” Christian asks cautiously. Burton nods.

“And you’re my cousin… Uncle Rick’s son, right?” Christian nods. Burton releases his hand. “Uncle Stan has told me a lot about you. He said you’re the reason he was able to come down to see Grampa before he died.”

“Indirectly, yes,” Christian says, letting his guard down a bit.

“That was really nice of you,” Burton says. “I know it would have torn him up not to see Grampa before he passed away.” Christian smiles sadly.

“Your uncle is a good man,” he says. “If he didn’t have the reputation and record he has on his job, it’s questionable that I might have been able to get any help in getting him here. It took very little effort on my part.”

“You’re being modest, Christian, but thank you,” Stan says. “I really wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.” Christian acknowledges him with a nod.

“Everyone calls me Nollie,” his daughter says a little solemn, stepping forward a bit. “I hate it, but I’m used to it.”

“Why don’t you have them call you something else?” I ask.

“Because it’s stuck for nearly thirty years and it’s hard to break old habits,” she says with a shrug.

“I’ll call you whatever you want,” I press. She smiles.

“Nollie’s fine,” she says. “The whole family calls me Nollie. It’s okay.” I knew she would rather be called something else, but if anybody referred to her as anything else among her family, she probably wouldn’t answer.

Freeman’s children are nothing like him and while chatting with them, I find it hard to believe that they even grew up in the same house with him. I’m never stereotypical, but from his mannerisms, my bet would be that Burton is gay. He’s obviously Pops’ namesake and he indicates that his father is proud of that fact and that Herman, Jr., didn’t get the name first. I think that’s kind of fickle, but that’s just me. And yes, as I suspect, Herman’s son Ricky is named after Carrick.

“Nolanda’s a very unique name,” I say to Nollie. “Are you named after anyone?”

“Yes,” she says, “the first-born son that I was supposed to be.”

Christian and I both frown, but Stan and Burton don’t react.

“I’m sorry?” I say bemused.

“Yeah,” she continues. “I was supposed to be a boy. No gender typing, no ultrasound pictures, just the good old-fashioned faith in the male-chauvinist gods of the universe that my father’s magic sperm was going to produce a strapping young boy in his image. When I was born, if he could’ve, he would have shoved me back in until I grew a penis… at least that’s how my mom tells it.” I’m staring gape-mouthed at her until Christian has to tell me to close my mouth.

“Surely it can’t be that bad,” I declare.

“Oh, it’s worse,” she continues. “You’ve heard of Anne Boleyn.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Yes, Anne of a Thousand Days,” I say. She nods.

Image result for anne of a thousand days“It was worse. You know how King Henry blamed Anne for not producing a male heir when the entire time, it was his DNA contribution that determined the sex of the baby.” She says. I nod. “Mom said that my father treated her like she was a failure for having a daughter before a son. She was devastated. She didn’t even want to have any more children. That’s why Burtie is seven years younger than me.” I shake my head.

“That’s horrible,” I say softly.

“That’s Freeman,” Christian says. Nollie raises her gaze to him.

“You’ve met him,” she says. Christian examines her.

“You didn’t know?” he asks. She shakes her head. “Oh, we’ve met alright,” he says. “You’ll forgive me for saying so, but your father’s a real pill.”

“There’s nothing to forgive,” she says. “You’re being kind.” By now, Stan has left us to get more acquainted.

Nolanda?” I say, emphasizing her name. “How is that a boy’s name?”

“It’s Nolan with a feminine suffix,” she says. “There was some kind of argument about who got to use Grampa’s name and I don’t know what happened there, but Nolan was a back-up. I think my father lost and Uncle Herman ended up naming Junior Herman after I was born and… I don’t know, but nonetheless, it’s Nolan.”

I can tell that she would much rather talk about something else, so I change the subject and ask about the relationship of the cousins back in Detroit and if they have any family reunions. That conversation goes on until we’re called for dinner, where conversation continues around the table among the cousins, the brothers, and the uncles. Except for the fact that we just paid last respects to Pops, this is an old-style family union… the kind that I, and I can imagine Christian, have never had. He loosens up a bit at dinner, but I can tell that he’s still miles away.

Dessert and coffee are basically a buffet free-for-all, and the house becomes one big mix and mingle again. The conversation in the cluster of brothers eventually wanders around to the elephant in the room—that being the missing brother.

“Actually,” Stan says, looking around for listening ears, then leaning in to the immediate group, “I was surprised when you told me that Nell came out here with him. She’s been unhappy for years… at least that’s what she told Lana a few years ago. As far as I knew, they would be on the outs pretty soon.” We all look at Lana. She gives a non-committal gesture before speaking.

“I’m surprised they’ve lasted this long,” she says. “I was sure after he refused to pay for Nollie’s college that Nell would leave.” Herman frowns.

“I never knew he didn’t pay for her college,” he says. Stan shakes his head.

“He told her that there was no need for her to go to college since he could get her right into Ford.”

“But Burton went to college,” Shannon interjects. “Did he have a change of heart when it was Burt’s chance?”

“Nope,” Stan says. “Burt got a free ride—four years, engineering, U of M.”

“I bet Freeman wasn’t too pleased with that,” Carrick says before taking a sip of his drink.

“On the contrary, he was ecstatic,” Stan corrects and now I interject.

“How so?” I ask incredulously. “His daughter had to go to Ford or else, but he’s happy that his son went to college?”

“His son got a free ride,” Stan says, “further reinforcing male superiority.”

“And there’s that line in the sand,” Herman says.

“Well, what happened with Nollie?” I ask. “She didn’t get to go to school. Did she end up going to Ford?”

“No,” Stan says. “She worked odd jobs at first—clerical, bookkeeping, administrative assistant. Then she got in with the state, the unemployment division, I think. They paid partial tuition reimbursement and she paid for the rest and went to school while she was working. She only just graduated less than a year ago.”

“What’s her degree in?” I ask.

“Finance,” Stan says. “I have a sneaking suspicion that she’s making some serious plans to fly the coup.”

“She’s still living with Freeman?” Carrick asks.

“She moved away from home a while ago, didn’t she?” Herman asks.

“Yes,” Shannon offers, “but she’s still in Detroit. She and Liz are close and I think Stan is right. Expect an escape plan really soon.”

“What makes you think so?” Lana asks. Shannon shrugs.

“Liz shares things with me in confidence. Let’s just say that I’m expecting something to happen. I don’t know what and I don’t know when, but something’s coming.”

Christian is pulled away from the conversation to show Ros and Lorenz out and I immediately start looking for Nollie. I don’t see her anywhere in the immediate vicinity, so I excuse myself and begin searching for her. I don’t know if it’s morbid curiosity or what, but I would like for her to fill in some blanks about her horrible father. After searching all the rooms on the first floor, I look out the French doors and find her on the infamous bench.

You should start charging people for sessions on that damn bench.
I should, shouldn’t I?

I snag two glasses of wine from a passing server’s tray and exit the French doors, headed in her direction. I approach her and hand her one of the glasses of wine.

“I’m a red drinker. I hope you are, too,” I say. She smiles and takes the wine.

“I am, thank you,” she says, taking what looks like a welcome sip. I sit next to her and sip my own wine, more pleased than I thought I would be to get away from the crowd.

“Some of our married-in second cousins are hot for your husband,” she says, still looking out on the lake.

“Well, they can get in line,” I say, sipping my wine again. “He has more admirers than I can count.”

“And he has you,” she says, turning her gaze to me.

“He only has me,” I say, returning her question before looking out at the water. “I know he loves me, so I don’t worry about admirers. I feel that if someone else can take him from me, he wasn’t mine to begin with and I don’t want him.”

“He knows this?” she asks. I shrug.

“He knows that cheating is a deal-breaker for me,” I say, turning back to her. “I’ve been down that road. I have no desire to go down it again. I’d rather be alone.”

“Prenup?” she asks. I nod.

“Yep,” I say without giving any more details.

“And you’d still leave?”

“In a heartbeat,” I say. “If someone else is in his heart, his arms, or his bed, there’s no room there for me. So, I would gladly let him go and disappear from his life if he feels like someone else would make him happy.”

“But you have kids,” she protests.

“He could still be a father to his kids without having to deal with me,” I say finitely. There’s a pause.

“You’ve thought about this.” I’m silent for a while.

“Only because I’ve been through it before,” I say, “not because Christian gives me any cause for doubt. I was dating a real hoe, for lack of a better word. It was agony—there’s no other way to describe it. Once I left that alone, I vowed never to put myself through that again, no matter how much I loved the guy. It’s that simple.”

We’re both silent again for a while before I broach the topic that brought me came out here. I start with the obvious.

Nollie?” I ask, questioning the nickname. She looks down into her wine glass.

“Rhymes with Ollie,” she says, her voice showing a hint of sadness. “Like I said, I was supposed to be a boy. By the time I was three, I thought I was a boy. That’s as far back as I can remember.” She takes a drink of her wine. “Nolanda… no Nalanda, Nolanda—it’s a pretty name… if only it wasn’t supposed to be Nolan.” She sips her wine again and sighs.

“I met Freeman,” I tell her. She chuckles.

“Hit it off really well, didn’t you?” she says sarcastically.

“I should probably correct myself,” I say. “I didn’t really meet Freeman. I learned of his existence when he and Carrick got into a fist fight and my husband tried to kill him.” She turns her gaze to me.

“Really?” she says in awe. “Christian tried to kill my father?”

It sounds so bad when she says it like that.

“Yeah, Dad brings happiness and glee wherever he goes.” She says the word with emphasized disdain as she bottoms out her wine glass. I wave to Liona, not sure that she’ll acknowledge me and shocked as shit when she does. She exits the French doors and walks over to me.

“Will you please get Ms. Grey a refill?” I ask as politely as I can. She turns to Nollie.

“Certainly. What would you like, ma’am?” she says.

“Actually, is there any way I can get a vodka rocks, please?” Liona nods and turns to me.

“Mrs. Grey?” she says. “Anything for you? Another red?” She points at my glass.

“Cabernet Sauvignon, please,” I say. She nods before taking Nollie’s empty glass and heading back to the house.

“I seem to talk to a lot of people on this bench,” I say, thinking about the many conversations I’ve had just a few feet from the Greys’ French door, including the conversation with Elena the day she outed Christian.

“You’re easy to talk to,” she replies.

“It’s practiced,” I tell her. “I’m a psychiatrist.”

“In-house family shrink,” she says without reacting. “That explains it. Well, in case you hadn’t already noticed, I’m not ‘Daddy’s Little Girl.’ I didn’t get to play with dolls, wear cute clothes, or even act like a girl until Burt was about five years old and could catch a ball. By then, it was too late. I was twelve and already a stud. My father wanted me to be a tomboy, so for the first several years of my life, I was—and I was attracted to girls.” She pauses, contemplating for a moment. “Maybe ‘attracted’ is the wrong word. I hung around boys a lot and they liked girls and talked about them, so I appreciated girls. When it became time to ‘pair up’ so to speak, I chose girls. I know it’s not this way for everybody, but mine really was a phase. It was rebelling against my dad, it was shock value, I don’t know, but at first, I liked girls and then I didn’t. I wanted men. Girls didn’t do anything for me. Although I really did appreciate the female form and still do—like yours, you’re pretty hot—you don’t have the right equipment. I could do a ménage-à-trois in a second, but a man must be present…”

She trails off as Liona returns with our drinks. I bottom out the rest of my wine and replace it with the fresh one Liona has brought while Nollie takes her vodka rocks.

“I don’t know why I’m telling you this,” she says, taking a sip, “but hey, we’re like cousins-in-law if there’s any such thing.”

“The Greys have never used the ‘in-law’ title with me,” I tell her. “If I ever have to be specific in introducing them, I would use different terms. For example, depending on the situation, I would introduce Grace as the director of Helping Hands or as my husband’s mother. Mother-in-law just doesn’t cut it for me.” She examines me over her glass for a moment.

“You guys must be very close,” she says.

“I’m close with all of Christian’s family,” I inform her. “They’re good people.” She nods.

“In that case, cousins,” she says, taking a healthy swallow of her drink. “If you don’t mind my asking, do you come from money?” I shake my head.

“Hardly,” I reply. “I come from modest beginnings—not poverty-stricken or poor, but humble.”

“Did you get the title?” she asks. I frown, then almost immediately catch her meaning.

“Oh, you mean gold-digger? I certainly did, not from the Greys but from nearly everyone else. I couldn’t possibly want this man because I’m in love with him. It had to be the money. It doesn’t matter that even though I wasn’t rich, I was pretty well off when I met him—thriving practice downtown, a million-dollar condo on Elliot Bay, driving the latest model, pimped-out car. I didn’t need Christian’s money; I had my own, I just didn’t have Christian’s money. So, that had to be the only reason that we were together.” I sip my wine. After a pause, I ask, “How did things turn out with your father—you know, like girls? I hear he refused to pay for college for you and Burt.” She turns a glare to me, but only for a moment.

“Did Burt tell you that?” she asks. I shake my head. “Well, he would have paid for Burt, I can guarantee it. But I’ll just say this. When I get back to Detroit after Grampa’s funeral, I’m running away with my boyfriend Leo. We’ve been dating for two years now and he asked me to marry him. I said, ‘yes.’ We never set a date, but once Grampa passed away, all I could think was, ‘Seize the day!’ My father has never met him. Why? Because he comes from money and is filthy rich in his own right—much like your husband, but I suspect not as rich.”

There aren’t many people in the world as rich as Christian.

“Mom has met him once, but she doesn’t know the whole story. We fly back to Detroit Metro Airport tomorrow and we land at nine pm. Leo will meet me at the gate and we’ll take the redeye to Vegas. By noon Monday, I’ll be Mrs. Leonardo Carpathia and by Wednesday evening, we’ll be starting our new life in California.”

Wow… Freeman even alienates his kids.

“Nobody knows?” I ask.

“My cousin Liz suspects, but no, nobody knows.” I can’t help but wonder why she would fly all the way back east just to immediately come west again. What’s the point in that?

“Why don’t you just catch a flight from here to Vegas?” I ask. “You’re going to be terribly jetlagged.” She ponders the thought.

“I hadn’t even considered it. I don’t want Leo to think I’m getting cold feet. Plus, I already have my return ticket to Detroit.”

“Is it just the money?” I ask. She examines me, then twists her lips.

“Ana, I’ve known you for five minutes. I won’t take your money,” she says skeptically.

“Well, there’s two slight problems with that logic. One, we’re family—by marriage, but family nonetheless. Two, you wouldn’t be taking my money. You’d be taking my jet.” She frowns.

“Your… jet?” she asks. I nod.

“My husband and I own a private jet. So, you would be taking the jet to Las Vegas.” She ponders the thought, so I sweeten the deal.

“Think about it. Four and a half hours back to Detroit, at least, most likely in coach. Wait for the redeye, maybe two hours…”

“Three,” she corrects me.

“Okay, three hours, then nearly five hours back to Vegas, and that’s only if both flights are non-stop.”

“Which they’re not,” she laments.

“Or,” I continue. “Two and a half hours in a luxury jet. You can stay the night here in Seattle or spend an extra night in Vegas, but you won’t have to spend the night in an airport or airplane. And there’s a third perk that I failed to mention.”

“What’s that?” she asks.

“My husband hates your father,” I tell her. “He tried to have Christian arrested after he and Carrick beat the hell out of each other and he ceremoniously insulted everyone in the family standing in his brother’s house, including me. If I tell my husband your plan, I can guarantee he would get a perverse joy out of aiding and abetting your escape.” A devious smile creeps across her face.

“Where would I begin?” she says, excitement lacing her voice.

“Call your guy,” I say. “See if it’s utterly necessary that you come back to Detroit.” She smiles widely and pulls out her cell phone. She dials the number and puts the call on speaker. He picks up on the first ring.

“Hey, baby,” he says, dragging out the last word with longing. “I miss you so much.”

“I miss you, too, Leo,” Nollie says, matching his longing. “I have you on speaker and I’m here with my cousin.”

“Hey, Liz,” Leo says, cheerfully. Nollie smiles.

“Not that cousin,” she says, with mirth. “It’s kind of why I’m calling you.” There’s silence for a moment.

“What’s up, baby?” he says, his voice laced with concern.

“It’s not bad,” she says to calm his obviously rising fear, and I hear him sigh on the other end. He’s got it bad. “Is there any reason why I have to come back to Detroit before we fly to Vegas?” Another pause.

“I don’t know what you’re getting at,” he says. “I thought we wanted to fly together.”

“Baby, I just want to get there and marry you—the quickest and easiest way possible. I’m already on the west coast. I should have just gotten a commercial flight from out here straight to Vegas instead of flying all the way back to Detroit just to get back on a plane and fly back…”

“I thought you wanted to thumb your nose at your Dad when you got on the plane with me,” Leo protests.

“The fact that I’m not in attendance for him to ignore when he comes to pick up Golden Boy will be enough thumbing for me,” she replies. Golden Boy… that sounds spiteful. “Besides, I have filthy, stinking rich cousins who hate my father and would love nothing more than to put me on a private jet straight for Vegas!” I laugh out loud at the “filthy, stinking rich” description.

“Really?” he asks, his voice rising an octave. “No waiting until you get back to Detroit?”

“No waiting, baby. You say the word and my cousin says it can be arranged.”

“Oh my God how soon can they get you there?” he asks all in one breath. She giggles and looks at me.

“How soon do you want her there?” I say into the phone. “I’m Ana, by the way, one half of the filthy-stinking-rich-cousin couple.”

“Well, it’s very nice to meet you, Ana,” Leo says. “I assume it might take a little fancy footwork to get the jet ready and for my girl to make her excuses to her family. So, I’ll just leave it up to you guys and you just let me know. I’ll be on the first available bird as soon as you say the word.” I nod to Nollie.

“I’ll let you know as soon as I do. I love you!” Nollie says.

“I love you, too, baby. I’ll be waiting for your call.” They end the call and she looks at me.

“So, take a breath and compose yourself, then we’ll go on in and talk to my husband.” She nods while clutching her phone. She’s like a kid at Christmas.

“What about Burt?” I ask, noting the Golden Boy comment. “How’s your relationship?”

“My father’s golden boy?” she says with a small bit of disdain. “It was strained for years, but then he saw how our father drew a line in the sand between us and he tried to make up for it. Unfortunately, your brother can’t make up for your father refusing to be a father. We’re okay, though. We’re great friends and I know it wasn’t Burt’s fault.” She sighs. “By the way, I’m changing my name… from Nolanda to Yolanda.” I frown.

“You hate the name that much?” she nods.

“It’s not my name,” she says. “It’s his first-born son’s name, the one that he never had. It’s not mine. Mom says that she suggested Yolanda when he said Nolanda, and I like Yolanda. Like I said, Nolanda is a boy’s name with a feminine suffix. It’s sloppy seconds! I won’t go through life with that stamp.”

“You said everyone calls you Nollie, though,” I point out. “Won’t the new name confuse your husband?”

He doesn’t call me Nollie,” she says. “He calls me Lanie. And the moment I go to change my married name to Carpathia, I’ll be changing my first name to Yolanda.” I smile.

“It’s a whole new life for you,” I say, “and I have a feeling that you’re well overdue.” She sighs heavily and looks at the sky, the sun starting to set over the water. When she brings her gaze back to mine, they’re glassy with unshed tears.

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” she says, her voice shaking. We finish our drinks and head back to the house.


CHRISTIAN

I hear conversations going on around me and I’m doing my best to focus on what everyone is saying. I’ve gleaned a few important points from a few conversations…

Freeman’s wife will most likely be leaving him.

All of Uncle Herman’s children are married and have families of their own.

Everybody was really happy to see Dad again and meet the cousins they never knew.

Some of my extended cousins have the hots for me.

I’m fairly certain that Courtney and Vickie were fucking in the treehouse. At the very least, they were making out.

Burton is gay.

Elizabeth and Nolanda are very close even though Nolanda is a few years older than Elizabeth.

Uncle Herman will fly back to Detroit with Uncle Stan next week—just for moral support—to give Pops’ remains to Freeman. I’m letting them take the jet.

Speaking of the jet…

“Christian, I have something to ask you.” My wife and Nolanda approach me during my introspection at the fireplace.

“Yes, what is it?”

“Nollie has a dilemma and I offered our services to assist her. I know I should have consulted you first, but I felt that you wouldn’t mind since she’s family.”

Oh, God. Is my newfound family going to start mooching off of me already?

“I’m listening…”

My wife explains the entire situation to me and her offering the jet to Nolanda to fly to Vegas sometime in the next twenty-four hours. I look at her impassively, prompting Nolanda to speak up.

“It’s okay, Ana,” she says with no malice. “I can take the flight back to Detroit.”

“No, no, I’m just thinking,” I say.

“Don’t panic. That’s his ‘pondering’ face,” Butterfly assures her. Nolanda starts to wring her hands.

“I don’t mean to impose,” she says, nervously. “Ana suggested it and… I… just…” I hold up my hand to halt her stammering.

“No… it’s not…” Now, I’m stammering. “Herman and Stan are taking the jet sometime this week to take Pops’ ashes back to Detroit. I just want to make sure the trips aren’t too close together.” Her eyebrows rise.

“Oh,” she says, her voice a few octaves higher than before. “You mean… you don’t mind?”

Mind? Let me think about this. My cousin, Freeman’s daughter, effectively hates him. She’s not only running away to get married without his knowledge, permission, or participation, but she’s also marrying a rich man—seemingly Freeman’s worst nightmare—and I get to facilitate that. Hmmm… one more moment please…” Butterfly gently punches me in my arm.

“Stop torturing the girl,” she says, playfully. “So, when are Herman and Stan supposed to be taking Pops back to Detroit?”

“I don’t know, but either way, I have to get that plane ready to fly.” I put my finger up to tell her to give me a minute while I call Jason.

“Yes, sir,” he answers.

“Jason, can you please call the hangar and tell them that the jet needs to be ready to take off anywhere in the next twelve to twenty-four hours? It’ll be a trip to Vegas and immediate flight back. Also, let them know to be on standby for a similar trip to Detroit in the next couple of days. Let me know about the Detroit round trip. I don’t know if it’ll be overnight or not. I want one of the security staff prepared to go with Herman, too. He’s going with Stan for moral support, but I don’t want any problems out of Freeman.”

“Understood, sir.” I end the call and turn around to my wife and cousin. “So, when did you intend to fly to Las Vegas?” I ask.

“Well, I was leaving with Burt to catch the noon flight back to Detroit Metro tomorrow. I would say anytime tomorrow would be fine. My fiancé is just waiting for the word and we’ll be on our way to our new life.” I text Jason to make sure the jet is ready to fly to Vegas by noon. She’ll go to the airport with Burt, but that’s where they will part ways.

“What are you going to tell Burt?” Butterfly asks.

“I’ll say my goodbyes at the airport so that he doesn’t have time to tell the almighty father,” she says. “By the time my father knows anything, I’ll already be in Vegas probably sipping a cocktail at some fancy hotel.”

“Do you need me to get you a room?” I ask her. She smiles.

“Let me see what Leo has up first,” she says. “He’ll probably want to plan something himself.” I nod.

“Does Burt have a boyfriend?” I ask, not thinking about how inappropriate the question was before it came out of my mouth. Nolanda raises her eyebrow at me before she speaks.

“See?” she says. “The only person who doesn’t seem to want to accept that fact is my father. Every time Burt tries to tell him, he changes the subject—like if he doesn’t hear it, it won’t be true.” She shakes her head.

“I wasn’t trying to pry,” I qualify. “I was only asking because once he gets back to Detroit, he’s going to be the object of your father’s discontent. It’s my understanding that he’s still living at home.”

“He is,” Nolanda confirms.

“Well, he may need somewhere to go, at least for the night.” She nods.

“I’ll ask him when we say goodbye tomorrow…”

*-*

We make plans for Nolanda to be on the jet at noon, right after Burt boards the plane. The rest of the family had already booked later flights or flights for Monday to return to Detroit. I ask Nolanda if she’s concerned about Burt’s safety. She’s convinced that Freeman will only dote even more on his Golden Boy once she gone. Although she tries to convince me that her and Burt’s relationship is fine, her reference to him shows that their relationship has taken an obvious beating.

I want so badly to make love to my wife tonight, but I can’t get in the right mindset to even try. Noting my inability to connect with my amorous side, she snuggles in bed with me, wrapping her body around me and caressing my scalp in that way that she does. I must have unknowingly been exhausted, because in moments, I’m asleep.

I’m awakened by the ringing of my cell phone and the sun shining in my eyes from the window. We forgot to close the curtains before we fell asleep. The bed is empty and I wonder where my wife has snuck off to.

“Hello,” I answer in a groggy voice without even looking at the caller ID.

“Sir, the jet is ready. They just need instructions from you.” It’s Jason. I look at my watch. Shit, it’s 9:30. Burt and Nolanda will need to get to the airport soon.

“Okay,” I reply. “The flight should be around noon. It’ll be my cousin, Nolanda Grey.”

“Yes, sir,” Jason says and we end the call. I sit up and throw my legs over the edge of the bed. It’s now that I realize just how much I drank in my maudlin state yesterday because my head is hurting and swimming and I didn’t even know that I was drunk.

“Fuck, not today,” I lament. I go to the en suite and turn on the shower, vainly searching the medicine cabinet for aspirin or ibuprofen. Finding none, I let the warm water run on my scalp and help to clear some of my foggy brain. Of course, thoughts of Pops flood my thoughts and I have a hard time controlling my emotions. There’s no one here right now, so I just let the tears fall and mingle with the shower water. I so wanted to hope that some miracle would happen and he wouldn’t be taken away from us. I wanted to be so much stronger when the inevitable happened, but seeing my father and his brothers break down after the cremation wiped every bit of fortitude I had left in me. The rest of the night is a bit of a blur except for preparing the jet and falling asleep with my wife.

I don’t want a bigger headache than I already have, so I stop crying, wash my hair and body, and get out of the shower. I put on a T-shirt and jeans with socks and sneakers and go in search of a hangover cure.

The house looks like a tomb. I make my way to the kitchen where Mrs. Thompson is cooking something.

“Well, you look like you’ve had a hard night. Do you want something to eat?” she says. I shake my head.

“Tell me we’ve got something for a headache,” I say, sitting at the breakfast bar and putting my head down on the counter. I hear some rustling around and a few moments later, a cold glass is set next to me. I raise my head to see Mrs. Thompson holding out a bottle towards me.

Ibuprofen.

“You angel from heaven,” I say, taking the bottle and immediately swallowing two pills with no water.

“Drink the water,” she scolds, “all of it.”

“It’s too late for water,” I reply, my voice gravelly.

“Humor me,” she says as she takes the bottle of pills from me. I lift my head and down the water in four or five swallows—before she turns back around—and put my head back down on the counter.

“Where’s the water?” I hear her say.

“I drank it,” I mutter. I know she doesn’t believe me and I see her in my mind’s eye looking around to see what I did with the water. “I drank it,” I repeat, holding my head up to show her my wet lip. She nods.

“Well, I don’t know how you drank it so quickly, but I’m glad that you did.” She takes the glass away and I put my head back down. “Tough day yesterday, huh?” she asks. I nod.

“No walk in the park,” I say. “Where is everybody?”

“I don’t know,” she says. “No one has come down except for your wife and the Jamaican nanny. I’m sorry, I don’t know her name…”

“Keri,” I mumble.

“Okay, Keri. She came down a little while ago to warm some milk and a little while later, Ana left with one of the guards to go for a run, I think.”

A run? Butterfly doesn’t run.

“Who did she leave with, do you know?” I ask. Mrs. Thompson shrugs.

“Christian, you know I only know Gail and Jason,” she chastises. “Short blonde hair, blue eyes… I’ve seen him with her before.”

“Chuck,” I say as I hear someone come into the kitchen.

“Hey, you’re awake.” Butterfly says as she puts her hand gently on my back. “You don’t look so good.”

“Thanks,” I say. “Why didn’t you wake me? I would have run with you.”

“Run with me?” she asks, bemused. “Christian, you know I don’t run.”

“Mrs. Thompson was under the impression that you went for a run.” I look up at Chuck and realize that he’s also in a T-shirt and sweats. That’s probably why Mrs. Thompson thought they were going running.

“No, Chuck took me to the gym,” I tell him. “I have a trial membership there until we go back home, at which time I’ll be making some changes to our own gym.” She gently scratches my scalp and I don’t know if the ibuprofen is kicking in or if she has the magic touch, but I immediately begin to feel relief, causing me to groan. “You slept like the dead,” she says softly.

“I was drunk,” I confess. She pauses her hand only a moment, then continues.

“You were?”

“Um-hmm,” I mumble, relishing the feel of her delicate hand on my scalp.

“Do you remember the discussion about the jet?” she asks cautiously.

“Um-hmm,” I mumble. “Jason called and woke me. He knows it needs to be ready for flight by noon.” I hear dishes set on the counter next to me.

“Eat,” Mrs. Thompson says. “Don’t argue.” Dry toast and orange juice. She’s always been like another mother to me ever since she came to work for my parents. I pick up a piece of toast and take a bite out of it. She’s right, I need to eat it.

“I’m going to jump in the shower really quick. Nollie and Burt will be here any minute. She told him that we wanted to take them to the airport to say goodbye.” I nod. She leaves and Chuck is still standing there. He takes a seat next to me, causing Mrs. Thompson to look at him strangely. She’s never seen me mingle with the help.

Only he’s more than just the help.

“I’m going to ask her to marry me,” he says, his hands folded in front of him. I look over at him.

“No shit?” I say, before taking another bite of my toast. He nods.

“I wanted to wait until after we knew for sure that she had a permanent situation and that she wasn’t pregnant, so that she can know that I want to marry her because I love her and I want to spend my life with her, not because I want her to stay in the country.” I nod.

“Do you plan to get married right away?” I ask. He shrugs.

“I’m not trying to rush to the altar, but I’ll do whatever she wants as long as she says ‘yes.’ She wants to wait a while, I’ll wait a while. She wants to be Mrs. Davenport tomorrow, I’ll take her to Vegas and marry her tomorrow,” he declares. I drink some my juice and my head is starting to feel much better, still throbbing a bit and full of thoughts of Pops, but this conversation is helping to distract me.

“What if she wants a big wedding? In Anguilla?”

“Then that’s what she’ll get,” he says, firmly. “She’s going to be my wife. I’ll give her anything she wants.”

“You’re so certain that she’ll say yes?” I question. He sighs.

“I believe the only reason she didn’t agree before is because she thought I was asking as a means to an end,” he points out. “I love her and I know that she loves me. If she says ‘no,’ I’ll wait for a few more months and ask her again. I’ll keep asking her until she finally agrees.” I raise an eyebrow at him.

“Persistent,” I say. “Have you decided when you’re going to ask?” He shakes his head.

“I haven’t planned anything elaborate, but I’ve got the ring in case the moment just feels right.” I finish my toast and juice.

“Can I get you anything, young man?” Mrs. Thompson asks Chuck. He smiles warmly at her.

“No, ma’am, but thank you,” he says to her before turning back to me. “I need to go shower, too. I took the opportunity to do some free weights while Ana worked out.” He stands from his stool and pats me on the back. “Oh!” he adds. “Mom and I got our court date.” I frown at him.

“What court date?” I ask.

“Against Joe,” he says. “There’s a judge that’s actually going to hear the case.” My eyes widen.

“You’re kidding? Seriously?” I respond.

“Somebody else, somewhere thinks what he did was bullshit.” Chuck shrugs before leaving the room.

*-*

“You’re what?” Burt asks his sister just before he’s about to board the plane.

“I’m not going back,” Nolanda says. “I’m miserable in Detroit. Dad doesn’t want me and Mom has her own issues with him, so I’m going to start a new life out here.” She just says out here, she doesn’t elaborate that she means the west coast.

“I…” Burt is at a loss for words. “What about…” He still can’t find his words.

“Are you worried about telling Dad?” she asks. “If you are, you don’t have to. Just tell him that I wouldn’t get on the plane.”

“It’s not that,” he says. “I mean, I know Dad will be mad, but…” He pauses and looks up at his sister. “This is my only chance to say goodbye.”

Nolanda smiles sadly at her brother, then pulls him into a warm embrace. He hugs her back and closes his eyes tight, a single tear escaping.

“Don’t be silly, Burtie,” she says. “You’re acting like you’ll never see me again. I’ll keep in touch and you will see me. I love you. Our father just won’t.”

“You’re never going to see Dad again?” Burt asks. She shakes her head.

“He’s never been Dad to me,” she confesses. “He never once showed me love… or kindness… or pride. I never had a Daddy and strangely enough, I don’t miss it. I wasn’t supposed to be here and he made that clear. Now, he doesn’t have to deal with his mistake anymore.” Burt shakes his head, tears flowing freely now.

“You are not a mistake!” he nearly barks. “You’re my sister! And I love you!”

“And I love you, too, Burtie,” she says. “You can come to me for anything. I’ll be changing my number, but as soon as I do, I’ll make sure that you always know how to reach me.” She hugs him again as they call for seating for his flight again.

“It was a really dirty thing you did,” he sobs into her shoulder, “waiting until the last minute to tell me.”

“I know,” she admits, “and I’m sorry. I just couldn’t have you trying to convince me to go back and talk to our father. There’s nothing more to say. Trust me, Dad won’t miss me and I’ll call and explain everything to Mom once I’m settled. Then you can come out and see me whenever you want and we can still talk all the time.” He pushes his head off her shoulder and nods.

“I don’t want you to do this, Nollie,” he says, his voice still shaking, “but somehow, I know that you have to.”

“I do, Burt,” she says, gently cupping his wet cheek. “I really do. Now go, before you miss your flight. We’ll talk soon, I promise.” He hugs her again and kisses her on the cheek before walking quickly to the gate and showing the attendant his boarding pass. He doesn’t look back as he boards the plane. Nollie sighs heavily and turns to look at me and Butterfly.

“I’ve got a jet to catch,” she says, tears rimming her glassy eyes.


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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 75—Emotional Rollercoasters

I want to thank everyone that donated to my GoFundMe project and that sent me well wishes and prayers. I have to take this test on 04/21/17 and as if I’m not worried enough about the results, they keep finding more things for me to pay for. So, keep me in your prayers. 

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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 75—Emotional Rollercoasters

CHRISTIAN

“Mr. Grey, how do you feel about the verdict and the sentence?”

The Paparazzi are all over us the moment we leave the courtroom. With my hand tightly clenched to my Butterfly, I take a long, deep breath of the beautiful Seattle air and reply,

“I’m glad it’s over.”

Butterfly and I take the stairs and slide into the back of the SUV, releasing each other’s hand only long enough to secure the seat belt. We’re well on our way back to the Crossing, as I recall the morning’s events in my head.

No one else said anything. The only sound that could be heard in the courtroom is Lincoln’s quiet keening. That’s when Judge Burgess drops the boom.

“I have to say that this has been one of the most incredulous cases I’ve ever sat on, and I’ve seen more than my share. I’ve listened to the testimony, heard the verdict now entered into the court records, and reviewed the evidence in an attempt to render fair judgment in this case. When I came to the decision, I waited to see if the statements from this day would sway me in any way as each person speaking would hope would happen. I’m surprised that Mrs. Lincoln had nothing to say on her own behalf when given the opportunity, but I can only assume that she must have felt that her testimony was damaging enough.” He turns his attention to the defense table.

“Mr. Underwood, I’m not in the habit of insulting defense attorneys in my courtroom and I won’t start now. So, please, take this statement with all sincerity when I say that I have no idea what made you think you could bring that defense into this courtroom. I understand that our justice system isn’t perfect, but I hold nothing but contempt for anyone who steps into a court of law and attempts to make a blatant mockery of it. I feel like you tried to become famous on the back of your client and that if anyone else is willing to touch her after this that she has a solid case for appeal, because you didn’t defend her. I don’t know which of you came up with that cock-and-bull plea and defense, but you’ve been watching too much television and you would have done better to plead her out than to present that nonsense to this forum. Maybe you felt that you had nothing to lose, and maybe you’re right, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a worse defense in my life than I saw during this case. I hope you’re satisfied.

“In response to your statement, you have to forgive me, but I truly feel that if your client was ‘well on her way to rehabilitation’ as you so proudly proclaim that she would never have come in here and tried to insult this court into believing that after 50 years on God’s green earth, she was exempt from responsibility for the consequences of her actions. No, Mr. Underwood, I believe exactly the opposite is the case with your client, and since you have chosen to introduce the facts and sentence of a prior case into these proceedings, let me also inform you that the only sense of justice that I feel was served by that light sentence she was given for the many charges against her is the fact that the State of Washington did not have to waste money on a trial and drag the lives and suffering of many innocent people and families into the public eye. But make no mistake, sir; I may have my opinions about the prior case and I can’t do anything about that, but in terms of this case, I will not allow your flowery speech and your fancy footwork to persuade me to hand down a sentence that will set a precedence to one day allow an attempted murderer to walk free.”

Underwood looks totally deflated and although I never bring my eyes to the Pedophile, I’m sure that she feels the same way.

“Mr. Grey’s statement was profound and powerful and most likely gives voice to those who suffered in silence, didn’t speak, or no longer have a voice. While I can’t do anything about the prior sentence, and although the sentencing in this case for Mrs. Lincoln has already been decided, his words ring such truth that I can only hope he feels that some sort of justice will be served in this court today.”

Justice was served right there at that moment… when somebody heard me and acknowledged. She could get a one-day sentence for her crimes for all I care. I’d be fine from this point on.

“Will the defendant please stand for sentencing.” It was a statement, not a question. The Pedophile stands and never raises her head. “Elena Gabrielle Lincoln, having been found guilty by a jury of your peers, I hereby impose the following sentences for your crimes:

“For possession of a stolen firearm—a Class B, level V offense, I hereby sentence you to 17 months and no possibility of parole.

“For first degree assault—a Class A, level XII offense, I hereby sentence you 129 months with a deadly weapon enhancement of five years with the possibility of parole after twelve years.

“For attempted murder—first degree assault with intent to inflict great bodily harm—a Class A, level XII offense, I hereby sentence you to 129 months with a deadly weapon enhancement of five years with the possibility of parole after twelve years.

“These sentences are to be served consecutively after any other imposed sentence with no credit on this sentence for time served. You are hereby reprimanded back to the custody of the Washington Department of Corrections.”

Sweet relief… sweet, sweet relief.

“Christian! I love you! I’ll love you forever!” she wails as she’s being dragged from the courtroom. Thirty-three years total—well, thirty-two years and eleven months—served consecutively with her other sentence, which holds no possibility of parole. That means 58 years, and she has to serve 25 from the first sentence, then a year and a half from the second. Then she has to go into the third sentence and serve at least 12 years from that one, and if she just so happens to have a parole board of bumbling idiots that would parole her from that one, she would still have to serve at least 12 years of the fourth sentence. This means that if someone looked at her old decrepit ass and said, “Hey, let her out on her paroles,” she still wouldn’t have any hope of seeing the outside of prison walls until she was 99 years old. It’s all I can do not to cheer and do a fist pump when I see her disappear behind those doors, never to be heard from again.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

Jason’s roar after we get to the bridge snaps me back to the here and now. What the hell? We just got great news—what now?

“Dammit! Thanks, Jax.” He ends the call. I’m glad Chuck is driving right now and not Jason. I didn’t even hear his phone ring. He’s dialing another number frantically and I’m waiting to find out what’s happened. “Manny, keep your eye on Tweety-Bird. The bitch made bail.”

Shit! I know what that means. Tweet-Bird must be Sophie and from the sounds of it…

“Jason?”

“Shalane made bail,” he hisses. “She put her house up and they let her ass walk.” He’s pissed.

“Sophie?” I ask.

“She’s got a detail at the school with her,” he said. “Even though I told them about the custody issue and that I’m now the parent of record, I don’t trust them not to let her take Sophie. I want to change her school, but we’re so close to the end of the school year that it wouldn’t be a good idea just yet.” We ride for a few more moments and just as we get into the gate at the Crossing, Jason gets another call.

“She did?… Good man. Maybe I’ll let her stay after all.” He speaks for a while longer, then ends the call. “She went straight from the jail to Sophie’s school. She didn’t even stop to change her clothes. Manchester headed her off, but couldn’t prevent her from going into the school. She couldn’t get Sophie, though. The school wouldn’t release her.” Jason chuckles. “She caught a cab,” he says. “She didn’t even get her car out of impound. She better spend that money wisely. She won’t be getting any more.”

When we pull into the garage, Butterfly says that she wants to go to the hospital. I debate if I want to go or not, but I think of Elliot and decide that I’ll go, too. She wants to change into something more comfortable. I’m only wearing slacks and a turtleneck, so I opt not to change. I notice that Chuck seems distracted while we’re waiting for Butterfly to change.

“You okay, Chuck?” I ask. My question brings him back from his daydream. He nods.

“Yeah,” he says. “My little catastrophes have nothing on what’s been going on in this house.”

“Little catastrophes?” I repeat. He waves me off.

“It’s nothing, really,” he says. “Joe got served with his papers from court last week. It turns out that we had to file in South Dakota, where Mom and Dad live. He’s blaming me because Mom is suing him, but what else is new?”

“Wow, he and Elena would make a great couple, don’t you think?” Chuck half-smiles. “Is that all?” Chuck shrugs.

“Keri,” he says. “She’s not doing too good. She had this cold… or at least we thought it was a cold. It hit the minute she got back to Anguilla and we thought it was just from the weather change. It held on for weeks. Now, she seems to be over it, but she sounds so weak and tired when I talk to her. I want to keep her on the phone to hear her voice, but at the same time, I want to let her go so that she can rest.”

“Do you need to go to her?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“I want to, but the babies have just been born and I can’t duck out now. Besides, I can’t fly to Anguilla every time she sneezes.” I raise my eyebrows.

“No… you can’t,” but you still look sick yourself that you can’t be with her.

“I’m fine, Christian, really. I’ll keep you posted,” he says, a bit too eager to get out of my presence. He misses her. I know he does, and the fact that she’s not well can’t be making that situation any better.


ANASTASIA

So, we finally get Sophie settled into the house and talking about things… and Shalane is trying to show up again. That has all kinds of implications. As much as Jason wants to keep her away from Sophie, that may be easier said than done.

Elliot has gone to stretch his legs. The pain and discomfort from sitting in one spot for more than 24 hours was more than he could tolerate. Christian coerced him to go for a walk the moment we got back to the hospital and I promised to stay here with Val, of course. She has no hair left. They shaved her completely bald… and I was complaining about a bald spot.

“Just have to outdo me in everything, huh?” I say. “I get in an accident and lose a patch of hair. You get a tumor and get your whole damn head shaved. You always had the coolest friends, the best clothes, the money… you were popular… but you never made me feel like less than a person, and you never let anybody else do it, either. That’s why I knew something was wrong when you changed. You were so cold. You were nothing like my sister.” I sigh.

“More than once, I wanted to find out what was wrong, but you wouldn’t let me in. You wouldn’t let me get close. But I never stopped loving you, Val. It was one of the worst break-ups of my whole life.”

I lay my head on her bed and, contemplating life with her gone and no hope of reconciliation, I weep. I weep until my chest rocks and feels like it’s going to cave in. I feel like it’s the end of the world. There’s no way that she can die without knowing how much she is truly loved. There’s no way she can die at all. It’s just… way too soon…

“There you go… with that… weeping shit again.”

A weak, barely-there voice causes me to turn my head to face her. It’s too heavy to lift off the bed, so I just lay there—still sobbing—watching her watching me. She’s watching me… am I dreaming? If I am, just let me stay here for a minute. She may say or do something sweet and if I move too suddenly, I might wake up. This may be the only way that she can reach me right now and I just want to stay here with her for a minute. But why is she still so weak? Dreams are funny things, I guess.

She raises her hand very slowly and lands it heavily on my cheek. She slightly moves her thumb in an unsuccessful attempt to wipe my tears away. It only makes me cry harder. I cover her hand with my own and turn my lips to her palm, kissing it repeatedly, just in case this is goodbye. Maybe that’s why it was so easy for Elliot to leave. Maybe she said goodbye to him, too.

Thank you, Val, wherever you are. I’ll always love you… always.

“Settle down… before you… hyper… hyper… ventilate, Steele… Grey…” she slurs. I’m trying, but it’s hard. My friend is here and I’m filled with relief, but for how long?

“You’re a terrible bitch,” I weep. “Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you go through this alone?”

“I wasn’t… alone… I had… El…”

“But you didn’t have me… or Al… or any of us… and we love you!” I snap quietly.

“I know, Steele… I just…” A single tear falls from her eye.

“I should have known,” I say, gently stroking her cheek. “None of this was like you, not in the slightest, not even on your worst day. I should have known.”

“I treated you like shit,” she protests, her voice slightly stronger.

“That’s why I should have known!” I wail. “You’ve never treated me badly. Even when I needed a smack upside the head, you were right there beside me.”

“How could you know?” she slurs. “It’s my head and I didn’t know.” I shake my head vigorously in denial… vigorously. No waking up! I’m awake! I’m awake and she’s awake! Don’t panic… don’t panic…

“I’m supposed to be your best friend. I should have known.” I squeeze her hand and kiss the back of it, my voice shaking and trying to remain calm, trying not to let her know that I thought I was talking to a figment of my imagination all this time. “Please get better soon. You have to meet your godchildren.” Her eyes become glassy and the tears fall.

“I… you ha… I’m still the godmother?” she weeps weakly.

“I couldn’t choose anybody else. It was always you.”

“Oh, Ana…” she’s weeping as much as her weakness will allow. I stand up and gently stroke her cheek.

“Ssssshhhh, relax now,” I soothe, “Don’t get upset. It’s not good for you.”

“I treated you so badly,” she sobs quietly. “I couldn’t control it. I could see it, but I couldn’t control it.”

“Ssh, no more,” I coax her as I push the call button. “It’s forgotten. It wasn’t you. I know now that it wasn’t you. When you feel like this, remember—it wasn’t you. It was the tumor, okay?”

“I’ve lost all of my friends… the people I love… my job.”

“You haven’t lost anybody, Val,” I tell her. “Look at this room. Do you think this is all Elliot?” She weakly looks around the room. “This…” I pick up a little arrangement with a tiny bear on it. “This is from Mindy. Maxie said she picked it herself… well, as much as a baby can point at a bear.” I laugh nervously and Val smiles at me. “I’m going to activate the contingency—not that I really have to. Everybody’s been here every day. Our friends will be here before day’s end. I promise.”

“Do you think so… after how badly I’ve treated everybody? Oh, my God… Al!” she laments.

“Especially Al. He’ll have a few of his choice gay words for you, but he’ll probably be here first.”

“Oh, God, how can I face him?” she weeps and I just sit on the bed and hold her hand. She’s going to beat herself up for a while over this and there’s really nothing I can do about that. I stroke her cheek with my free hand and just let her cry. There’s a commotion at the door and the nurse and a doctor comes into the room with a disheveled Elliot in tow behind them. He freezes when he clears the door.

“Angel?” I hear Elliot’s wispy voice over my shoulder.

“El,” she says longingly, her prior tears halting.

“Angel! You’re awake!” Whatever he has in his hands is now on the floor and he rushes to her beside. I quickly scramble to give him his place and he cups her face gently, kissing her several times.

“I didn’t know… I didn’t think you…” He can’t get a sentence out as his tears fall on her pillow. They need this moment, and I need to activate the contingency. I move to the door.

“Ana!” I turn around and there’s a panicked look in Val’s eyes. “Please… don’t stay away. Please come back.” I smile warmly at her.

“I will… and I’ll bring reinforcements.” She sighs sweetly and smiles before turning her attention back to an obliviously weeping Elliot. I step outside of the room to give them some privacy. Christian is standing there waiting for news.

“She’s awake,” I say, my voice barely there. His eyes grow large.

“She is?” he says and I nod. His eyes ask the question that his mouth doesn’t.

“She’s back,” I wail. He puts his hands on my upper arms.

Back back?” he asks, and all I can do is nod. “Oh, thank God,” he says, closing me in his arms. I know it’s been hard seeing me suffer all these months—even harder watching Elliot these last several days. So, I know his relief is genuine. I indulge in a relieving cry for a while, sinking into his chest while he holds me, then I pull myself together.

“I’m fine. I need to call Al,” I say. He nods and releases me with a kiss to my forehead. I dial Al as I’m walking towards the waiting room.

“Hey. What’s up, babe? I’m on my way to the hospital.”

“Well, that’s good, because you’re not going to want to miss this…”


CHRISTIAN

She looks very pale and frail when I Butterfly and I walk back into the room. We waited until the doctors and nurses left and gave us the go-ahead before we entered. Elliot is laser focused on her, so he doesn’t notice when I enter, but Valerie makes immediate eye-contact with me. She’s obviously weak and it’s hard to read her emotions right now, but she answers my question about her thoughts of my presence with two words…

“Hi, Christian.”

Her voice is so soft, so faint… I can barely hear her. I suddenly feel a twinge in my chest, like this is so serious and none of us really wants to lose her.

“Hey, Valerie,” I reply, my voice also very small. “How are you feeling?” I ask, sincerely.

“Bald,” she says, forcing a smile.

“I’m sorry,” I reply.

“Don’t be,” she says softly. “It’s for the best.”

She releases Elliot’s hand and holds her hand out to me. Her arm shaking and I know it’s hard for her to hold it up, so I don’t keep her waiting… though the gesture is more than a bit surprising. Elliot allows me to sit on the edge of her bed and I take her hand—much like she held mine when I was crying over Butterfly’s Montana sabbatical. The moment our hands touch, she starts to weep gently.

“I’m so sorry,” she squeaks, through her tears.

“Ssssshhhh,” I soothe, “None of that,” I say, caressing her hand for comfort. “I haven’t known you as long as Butterfly, and even I knew that it wasn’t you.”

“Yo… you’re a good man, Christian,” she stumbles, “A won… derful husband… to Ana and… I need you to know that… I would never… willingly treat her… that way… She’s my… Jewel… too…” She’s so overcome with emotion and weakness that she can barely speak. Butterfly immediately gets choked up, and I know that it can’t be good for Valerie to be this upset. “Please… forgive me.”

“There’s nothing to forgive,” I tell her, squeezing hand a little tighter and looking her in the eyes. “We. Know. It wasn’t. You. An intruder took you over and changed who you were, and we’ll all be by your side to chase that intruder away. Do you understand that? We’ll all be here.” I didn’t know I had closed the space between us. There’s maybe only a foot between my face and hers, and I have her hand clasped close to my chest.

That’s a first. I feel a little funny, now, but I won’t move until she understands that she’s not alone. My brother loves her; that makes her family. She’s about to go through a horrible ordeal after nearly pushing away everyone that could have walked through this with her. She needs to know that she’s not alone.

“Yes, Christian,” she says softly, her teary eyes concentrating on mine. “I understand.”

“Never alone,” I reinforce.

“Never alone,” she repeats.

“Damn straight!”

We all turn to the door to see where the added confirmation came from and find Al standing there more casual than I think I’ve ever seen him, in a T-shirt and jeans. His hair looks like mine does after a grueling day, so I know he’s been pulling it or torturing it somehow, and his eyes are bloodshot. James is standing behind him, just inside the door and I swear he looks like he’s holding Allen up.

“You bitch,” he says as the tears start to flow again. “I’m supposed to be the goddamn drama queen!”

Valerie breaks into laughter as much as her body will allow. Al breaks free from James and rushes to her bedside. Butterfly moves quickly and allows him access to their friend. She hugs him with her free arm and he kisses her repeatedly on the face and lips. I feel a small comfort knowing that he doesn’t just do that to Butterfly, but this is his family and he almost lost one of them.

“You’re a horrible human being for stealing my spotlight, but thank God that you’re back,” he weeps, holding her face in his hands.

“It’s good to be back,” she says, and the mournful tears start again. “Please, don’t ever forget that I love you…” She looks around the room at each of us. “… All of you. If this thing comes back…”

“It won’t!” Elliot says emphatically.

“But if it does,” she continues, “please don’t forget. Please don’t ever forget. I know this could kill me, but I’d die anyway if you all didn’t know how much I love you.”

You could hear hearts cracking all over the room. Each of us have had our own moments over the last several months of wondering what the hell was wrong with this woman… and each of us are feeling our own convictions now.

“We love you, too, you cow,” Al says, his voice still shaking.

“Ditto,” Butterfly squeaks.

“In my own way, I love you, too,” I confess, eliciting a small chuckle from Valerie’s throat before she turns her gaze to Elliot.

“Hey, you already know how I feel, Angel,” he says, longingly. “My life would be empty and lost without you.” The love that swells up in her eyes could chase away every ailment in her body. Part of me hopes that it will, as Elliot will be inconsolable if she doesn’t make it through this.

“And none of that dying shit,” James pipes in. “It would be a less exciting world without you, so you’re not allowed to die. You fight this thing!” She smiles weakly at James.

“Yes, sir,” she whispers.

*-*

Elliot feeds Valerie ice chips while Al and Butterfly try to catch her up on what’s been going on in the world. Al tells her all about the wedding, set to take place at our house next weekend—something intimate during a spring, sit-down party. The three of them immediately start discussing promising ideas for the wedding as well as what could be disastrous. Valerie suggests an indoor/outdoor thing since spring in Seattle is unpredictable and usually rainy.

Shortly thereafter, the rest of her friends come into the room, and the reunion of the Scooby Gang is complete, just as it should be. They talk about everything, catching Valerie up on all the things that have happened since she first blanked out, as she calls it…

The babies are here, of course. She will see them once she’s out of ICU.

I’m calling more people by their first name, including members of my staff who are now family instead of just staff.

David’s dead.

Dead dead?” she says, her eyes growing large. “Like graveyard dead?” Butterfly nods. “How the hell did that happen?”

Butterfly explains the whole thing about the crooked company, culminating with David’s “suicide.” Valerie looks a little remiss.

“He was an asshole,” she says, “but I never wished him dead.”

“Well, you’re a princess among women, because I had champagne when I heard the news,” Butterfly announces. “After everything he did to me, including handcuffing me naked to that bed and allowing that man to assault me, he’s lucky I didn’t drive to Walla Walla and spit on his remains!” And that’s the end of that conversation.

Sophie lives with us now because her mother is a drug addict that tried to sell her into slavery.

Chuck reunited with his parents and is suing his brother for a small country.

Keri was here and now she’s gone back home to Anguilla, but she’s been ill since shortly after she left and that has Chuck concerned.

While Butterfly closed her practice, Maxie is considering opening her own so that she can focus more on her family, which is timely since Phillip just got a raise and a promotion.

Sometime in the near future, we will be traveling to Italy as one of Butterfly’s push gifts was an Italian villa.

Garrett and Marilyn are pretty much the same and have no complaints. According to them, there’s enough going on in everyone else’s lives that they can just watch and be entertained.

“I need to say I’m sorry, you guys,” Valerie begins.

“Angel, no…” Elliot protests. Valerie put her hand on his bicep to silence him.

“I know, El,” she says, her voice gaining more strength, although she’s still clearly weak. “But I really have to say this. So, please, shut up and let me… I’m sick, you have to do what I say.”

The nervous chuckle that wafts through the room is more accommodating than sincere.

“If I could tell you what it was like being in this head for the last several months,” she begins. “It was like watching a terrible horror movie, only I was watching it and I was starring in it—a character in a real-life horror movie, where you can see the psychopath coming at you with the machete. You know he’s about to chop you up, but you can’t do anything about it. Then there’s the me that was in the audience, screaming at the dumb character to run out the door and down the street instead of upstairs and hiding in the attic where she was sure to meet her doom—but she couldn’t do anything but watch.

“I saw the looks on Ana’s face when I said those horrible things to her… the look of reservation at Maxie’s house when she handed Mindy off and left. That’s when I knew I had completely lost one of my best friends. It cut me to my soul, but I still couldn’t do anything about it. It was like, in my head I was saying something completely different, but when I opened my mouth and started hurling that stuff, all I could think to myself was ‘are you crazy?’

“After that, the alien just took over completely and I could do nothing but sit in the corner and watch while it pushed away everything and everyone I loved. There were moments when I came to myself and I thought I said something to let someone know what was going on in my head, but then I’d look around and I was alone—a solitude that I brought all upon myself.” She shakes her head.

“It wasn’t until El packed his things and I knew the last person that I had in the world was going to leave me that I was able to agree to see someone. Even then he had to take the reins… I still couldn’t do it. He told the doctors how I was acting and what was going on. I barely said anything.” She reaches over and takes his hand. “He saved my life. No matter what happens from here, he saved my life. He gave me back my mind… and I’ll love him forever for it.” She gazes into his eyes. “I want to spend my life with you, Elliot,” she says, her voice shaking. “Please don’t ever leave me.”

“Not a chance in hell,” he says, kissing the back of her hand. She smiles weakly at him before taking a breath and releasing it.

“I know everybody had… and has their theories about what was going on with me or what I was thinking. Grace and Mia will probably never speak to me again, especially after all Elliot had already gone through with Kate…” I don’t say anything about how Mom reacted when I told her about Valerie. I figure that when she’s ready, Mom will come and talk to her. “Whatever happens, know that I’m just glad that I was able to talk to you all and say that I’m sorry for anything that I said or did to offend you. I know that it was the tumor talking, but it was still my voice and my mouth, and I’m sorry if I caused any of you pain.”

“And that’s enough of that,” I hear my mother’s voice say from the entrance to the room around the corner. She has a huge bouquet of purple and white blooms as she comes completely into view. “Well! It looks like no one invited me to the party… and there’s no room anywhere for these.” Mom scans the room for a flat surface to put her flowers.

“I got it, Mom,” Elliot says, taking the monstrous bouquet from our mother and making room for it on the windowsill, currently already full of several bouquets from the rest of us.

“Grace, they’re beautiful,” Valerie says weakly. “What are they?”

“Windflowers and peonies,” she says. “They denote health and healing.” She sits next to the bed in the chair Elliot vacated to put her flowers in the window. “My son has never been so happy and so grounded as he is when he’s with you. I secretly prayed that we would figure out what was going on, although I never prayed for anything like this. You’ve only ever been a remarkable person, especially when that wretched woman tried to lay a child at his feet that didn’t belong to him. You stood by him, became his rock… I wouldn’t have expected anything less from him during your time of need.

“I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I’m certain that you’ll make a full recovery because you’ll get the best medical care that money can buy and you’ll have all the love and support that you need until and after you are whole again. I may be speaking for everyone, but for no one more than myself, when I say that I’m so glad that you’re back.” Valerie bursts into weak tears.

“I’m glad to be back, Grace,” she weeps. “It was awful! I so sorry…” My mother moves to sit on the edge of the bed next to Valerie and cradles her while she cries.

“There, there now,” Mom says as she rocks Valerie in her arms while we all watch in silence. “You get this all out, and then there will be no more crying about this. We all understand and we’re so glad that you’re here with us. You’re going to be fine now… just fine…”

*-*

“Christian!”

My wife gasps my name as she tightens around me, my rock-hard dick buried balls deep inside of her. I clench her ass and hold her against my throbbing member as she sits on my hips having dropped her weight hard onto my pelvis and grinding deliciously on my shaft as she holds onto the headboard. Her head thrown back, her face to the ceiling, she pants and moans loudly as she trembles atop me and my balls and penis empty wildly inside of her.

“Ffffffffffuuucccckkkkkkkkk!” I hiss, squeezing her ass so hard that I’m sure there’ll be handprints when I’m done. I want to get her into that new playroom and do some kinky, freaky shit to her, but with everything going on in the last few weeks, we haven’t even been able to look at the finished product yet, let alone take it for a spin. My dick throbs harder, empties faster, and burns hotter as I contemplate the things I want to do to her in that room.

“Dammit!” I pant as she falls over on top of me, spent and sated. “Goddammit!” I grab her head with one hand and guide her lips to mine, the other still squeezing her ass as I catch my breath. “Fuck, that was good.”

“Yes… it was…” she pants between kisses, her pussy still clenching my dick. I push up into her a few more times, my dick still burning and tender inside of her. What would be discomfort to someone else turns me on and I roll my hips so that the burn intensifies inside her quivering walls.

“You feel so fucking good,” I breathe against her lips as I wind myself up for round two of mid-Saturday morning sex. We had all stayed at the hospital for quite some time last night once Valerie regained consciousness. If I’m honest, all I wanted to do after all that damn emotion in that room was come home and bury myself inside my wife—to feel her tremor and clamp around my angry dick just like she did this morning. But when we got home, the twins demanded her attention—our attention, and she was just too wiped out to do anything after caring for our babies. So, I just brought her to bed and held her until she fell asleep.

However, when I woke up with morning wood so hard that I could barely go to the restroom and piss around it, I climbed back into this bed, pushed up that night shirt, ripped those panties off, rolled that body on top of me and dropped that hot, juicy, wet pussy right down on my full-staff pole. At first, she protested, but only for a moment—only until she felt that stiff, rock-hard thickness reaching so deep into her body, pumping up into her so hard and fast that her entire body was bouncing in the air and she momentarily couldn’t speak. Then, she ripped off that nightshirt, grabbed those tits and rode like the wind!

That pussy was so hot and tight that I almost blew before she did. When that burning, agonizing, vise-grip hold became soaked, slippery, juicy goodness with her cum secreting from her walls and sliding down my dick, I fucking lost it, gladly mixing my juices with hers until we were both a slippery, sticky, gooey, hot, erotic mess grinding into each other and about to start the fire again, until…

Beeeeep…

Fuck.

“Ooooohhh,” Butterfly groans. “Ana,” she calls into the air as I continue to tease her with my stiffening dick and we wait to hear the cooing of our two little angels.

… But nothing.

“Ana,” she calls out louder, but still nothing. She partially pushes herself up and looks at me. I half roll my eyes and call into the air.

“Yes?” I call out, perturbed and angry to be interrupted.

“Sir, it’s Benjamin Lawrence. I’m just getting to the Crossing and there’s a development at the front. I tried to call J and I don’t know if he’s asleep or what…” He’s probably fucking, just like me! “… but his ex-wife is here demanding her child. She’s making a terrible scene. If he gets here, we’re going to need more reinforcements than just security.”

“Shit!” I hiss, pissed as fuck that I have to pull out of my goddamn happy place for this sad excuse of a human being at my front gate. Butterfly slowly rises off of me, recognizing the seriousness of the situation and the glide is agonizing… almost orgasm-inducing.

“Fuuuuuuccck!” I exclaim at the separation, the burn almost unbearable and only making me harder. She covers her mouth, her eyes wide.

“Sorry!” she whispers loudly as I clench my teeth and my dick throbs.

“Sir?” Lawrence beckons.

“I’m on my way, goddammit!” I hiss, my eyes squeezed tight. “End two-way…” and she grabs my dick.

“Fuck! Just leave it alone please just leave it alone!” I would fucking safeword right now if I thought it would help.

“I can’t just leave you like that,” she protests.

“We don’t have a choice—just leave it alone, please!” I beseech her.

“Sorry, sir,” bellows across the room and pisses me the fuck off.

“Fucking end two-way communications!” I belt into the air. At least his voice cured the erection.

*-*

I’m nearly too late by the time Butterfly and I are cleaned up, downstairs and outside in our portico on this brisk March morning. Gail and Sophie are standing just outside the door, Gail with her arms draped protectively over Sophie’s shoulder while Sophie clings to both of Gail’s hands with her own. Jason is already marching toward the guard house and front gate where Shalane is screeching like a banshee for Sophie to come and get in the car. I’m only lucky that the property of the Crossing is so large and somewhat obscured from prying eyes by walls, fences, and foliage, because this woman is really creating quite the scene. Butterfly stays at the door with Gail, pulling her warm sweater around her while I quickly fall in step behind Jason. He’s likely to kill this woman once he reaches her.

“Open the goddamn gate!” I hear him hiss.

“No, don’t,” I say to Williams in the guard’s booth. Lawrence is still on the other side of the gate with Shalane. “She’s unstable enough to drive that car through here if you open that gate,” I tell Jason. He narrows his eyes—not in defiance, but in anger. I think he was getting laid. We both look like angry bears right now.

“Just enough for a person,” he hisses, and the gate opens enough for him and I to walk out. I won’t let him talk to her alone. He might kill her.

“So now you need a bodyguard, Mr. Taylor?” His spiteful ex shoots as we walk through the gates.

“No, but you might,” I say before I can catch myself. I have no love lost for this classless, snippy, drug-addict little… “I’m here for your protection.” She fixes her mouth for a comeback, but Jason beats her to it.

“You’re trespassing and you need to leave,” Jason says quietly. “You can’t see Sophie at all. I don’t want you anywhere near my daughter.”

Your daughter?” she laughs haughtily. “Have you forgotten?” Shalane taunts, attempting to pull a trump card that she thinks she still has. “I’m her mother and I have a court order that says I have custody of her.”

“Not anymore you don’t,” Jason says, holding up the order from the judge. “This is a court order placing Sophie temporarily in my custody until the custody hearing. You can only have preauthorized and supervised visitation with her. If you show up any other time without invitation, I will have you thrown off the premises and arrested. If you continue to call my phone like a crackhead looking for her next fix, I will get a restraining order against you for harassment. If you show up at my daughter’s school, at practice, or at any of her extracurricular activities, I will have you arrested for violating a court order. But you know what?” He leans in closer to her.

“Let me make this perfectly clear to you so that there’s no misunderstanding. You. Will not. See Sophie until I say so, and right now, I say ‘no.’” She’s panicking, already shaking from what appears to be withdrawal. I can see her mind racing for a comeback.

“You can’t keep me from seeing her,” she says shakily. “You said that document at least says that I can have visitation.”

“It does,” he says calmly. “Preauthorized and supervised visitation, but I don’t see any time in my immediate schedule to preauthorize visitation for you. I’ll let you know.”

Shalane is seething. She appears to be losing every bit of her grip on reality.

“You can’t do that to me!” she screams. “You can’t keep me from my daughter!”

“You mean like the many times you kept her from me over the years?” Jason retorts. “I had reasonable visitation—not preauthorized or supervised and you wouldn’t let me see her at all! How does that feel? Not so good, does it? I would love to say that I’m doing this to get back at you, but I’m not! I’m doing this because you’re dangerous to my child!”

“You know I’d never hurt Sophie…” There’s a back and forth between them for a while and they have forgotten that other people are watching them for a moment, but out of the corner of my eye, I see a small frame walking quick time down the driveway and across the lawn towards us. Shit—Butterfly is coming to give this woman what for, no doubt. I’m surprised to see that the small form isn’t Butterfly at all.

It’s Sophie!

I’m trying to get Jason’s attention, but he’s too busy arguing with Shalane to pay me any attention. Shalane, however, stops the argument when she sees Sophie running in her direction with Gail and Butterfly running quickly behind her.

Shalane squats to scoop Sophie in a hug, but I can tell by Sophie’s expression that this isn’t going to be the tender reunion Shalane is expecting. Before any of us can stop her, before Jason even sees her, Sophie runs full speed—hands out in front of her—and slams into her mother. Totally unprepared for the blow, Shalane falls back hard on the gravel portion of the driveway. She’s stunned into silence as she scrambles into a sitting position.

“Sophia!” Jason yells, not pleased that Sophie struck her mother even though she may have deserved it. “What are you doing?”

“Really, Mom? Really?” Sophie is screaming, tears streaming down her face, fury in her voice and posture. “You were going to let those guys take me? You were really going to let them take me, Mom? Really?” She kicks the gravel onto Shalane lap as Jason tries to stop her. When that’s not enough, she takes handfuls of it and throws it at her mother, yelling insults about her being a drug addict that hates her daughter and was about to sell her off for a fix.

“All this time, I listened to you blame Daddy and I never understood why,” she cries as Jason finally restrains her, keeping her from hurling rocks at her mother. “He would never say anything bad about you except that you wouldn’t let me see him, but you called him all kinds of terrible names and told me that he didn’t have time for me. It was all lies. I know it was now. I see how he and Miss Gail live. He’s got plenty of time for me!”

“Sophie, I’m…” Shalane is broken, still sitting on the ground and now, crying.

“No!” Sophie interrupts, no longer flailing in her father’s arms. The fight is gone out of her, but she has a lot to say. “You spent all the money on drugs. You lied to me about my father. When there was nothing left, you were willing to give me away!” Sophie accuses, sobbing. “You took everything he ever gave me, and when you were about to go to jail, you wouldn’t even let him come and save me!” Her cries are mournful now. She truly doesn’t want to fight anymore. “You tried and tried to make me believe that Daddy was the bad guy when all this time… the bad guy was you.”

Jason’s grip drops from his daughter. He’s anguished seeing her hurt like this.

“Sophie, no,” Shalane says, weeping sincere tears at her daughter’s accusations. Sophie pushes her again—one last time.

“Go away, Mom,” she weeps bitterly. “Go away!” Sophie launches herself into Jason’s arms, squeezing him around his neck like she’s drowning and he’s the lifeboat.

“Don’t cry, Baby Boo,” he says, stroking Sophie’s bright blonde hair, trying to calm her, but Sophie is inconsolable. “I want you to go with Gail, okay? I need to take care of this. I’ll be in shortly. I promise.” She nods, still weeping and releases his neck. He kisses her on the cheek and hands her off to Gail, who takes her hand and she and Butterfly lead a heartbroken Sophie back to the house. He turns back to Shalane.

“You heard her… go away,” he says flatly. Shalane gawks gaped-mouthed up at him, still sitting in the gravel of the driveway.

“I bet you wish I were dead, now, don’t you?” he adds and she pales. She finally stands and attempts to straighten her clothes.

“I only told them that because I thought they would let me go,” she defends. “I thought they wouldn’t lock me up if they thought that I was all Sophie had.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it!” Jason retorts, no longer willing to be any kind of civil with this woman, for lack of a better word. “You didn’t want me to know what was going on! What the hell did you really think was going to happen? You were moving four kilos of cocaine with a 12-year-old girl in the car and then you tried to trade her to those fuckers! What the hell is wrong with you?”

“I wasn’t trying to trade her!” Shalane lies.

“Well, tell me, what the hell was it? Why the hell did she have to tell you that she wasn’t going with those assholes?” Jason retorts.

“She misunderstood!” Shalane cries.

“Well, she misunderstood the fuck out of that conversation then!” Jason hisses. “But I didn’t! And neither did the shrink she spoke to… or the police! And neither will the judge in family court!” Shalane’s face pales. She can’t talk her way out of this and she knows it.

“What you do with your own life, I couldn’t care less. But when it comes to Sophie, you fucking have to deal with me! You’ve been doing your very best for the last seven years to erase me from her life, and you’ve failed miserably, but now this? I shudder to think what could have happened to our daughter on a goddamn drug drop if the police hadn’t shown up, let alone with you trying to sell her into human slavery for your goddamn drug habit!” He is seething, so much that Williams has placed himself in position to intervene should he lunge at this sorry excuse of a woman.

“Getting caught was the best thing that could have happened to both of you,” he continues. “My guess is that your dumb ass was an offering from the fucker that sent you out there, and you took our daughter with you—for leverage, no doubt! Then you don’t have the good sense to call me when you get caught. I might have been able to help you in all of this, but no, you tell the authorities and Child Protective Services that I’m dead! If I hadn’t already filed a case, my daughter would be down at Spruce Street right now, and that would have been just fine with you, wouldn’t it, you contemptible bitch? Anywhere’s better than being with me, right? Her loving and devoted father who continued to pay you alimony and child support? Even paying for her to attend an exclusive private school while you continuously found ways to deny my court-ordered visitation because you were the cheating slut who couldn’t keep her legs closed! Anywhere but with me, where she could discover just how much of a lying, conniving, sniveling, greedy little bitch you really are!” Her face is now showing signs of fight and insult.

“You don’t have the…” she begins.

“SHUT! UP!” Jason growls. Williams steps forward and puts his arm between them, unsuccessfully trying to push Jason away from his ex-wife while whispering, “J, chill.”

“You have nothing to say to me!” he continues. “You put my daughter’s life in danger and then you tried to prevent me from saving her! She was traumatized. She was weeping when I got there. I don’t know if you’re going to get off on the drug charges, but now, there are separate charges against you for child endangerment. Did you know that?” Her expression says that she did.

“I knew you had bats in your fucking belfry, but I didn’t know that you were that goddamn crazy! You don’t get to see her unless she asks for you. Don’t you dare fucking call me. I’ll call you when she wants you. Unlike you, I won’t keep her from you if that’s what she wants, but she has to say so and I won’t force her. And if you get the bright idea to just take her from any location where she may be, not only will there be an arrest warrant issued for you for kidnapping, but there’s nowhere in the world that you’ll be able to hide from me. I will hunt you down like the filthy dog that you are and believe me, lady, I will find you. I’ve found people in witness protection. Finding your ass won’t be any harder than ‘Where’s Waldo.’”

His voice is menacing when he talks to her. She was married to him once and I’m sure she believes him when he says these things. She had better—I’ve seen him find someone in witness protection. She could treat him any way she wanted when she had Sophie. She doesn’t have Sophie anymore.

“Now get your ass away from this property, you selfish, treacherous cunt!” I know this conversation is over, so I step in before she tries to poke the monster anymore.

“You need to leave,” I tell her, stepping close to her and pointing to her car.

“He can’t just…” she begins, her voice desperate. As much as Jason doesn’t want to hear anything this woman has to say, I want to hear even less.

“Ms. Deleroy!” I declare in the sharpest, loudest Dom voice I can muster, “Leave! Now!” She shrinks back and gasps at the sound of my voice, frightened and whimpering as she scurries to her car, gets in, and makes a U-turn in the driveway to enable a hasty retreat, taking out part of the landscaping and three of the lane lights on her way out. I look at Williams who is still holding Jason.

“I’ll make the call and get it repaired, sir,” he says. I nod and put my hand on Jason’s shoulder and Williams releases him. He looks over at me, his eyes still fiery and menacing. They don’t scare me, though.

“Come on,” I say, gesturing with my head to the house. “We have families waiting for us.” That breaks his angry resolve. He looks one more time in the direction that his ex-wife traveled, then turns and walks with me back towards the house, towards our wives and children.

*-*

My wife looks adorable cooing at our daughter while our son is in his seat nearby and Sophie looks on, starry-eyed and content, like the horrible incidents of just an hour ago never even happened.

“So,” I begin, “your apartment only has one bedroom. Sophie can’t stay there. So, what are you thinking—maybe the other one-bedroom suite next to you guys? Do you think she’s old enough to stay in there alone? Or would you feel better with her in one of the guest rooms upstairs on the second floor?” Jason gazes at me for a moment.

“I don’t have custody, yet, Christian,” he says. “We might be jumping the gun.” I wave him off.

“No judge in his or her right mind would place Sophie back with her mother. And even if they tried, Sophie would protest… and win! Look at the comparison! Huge mansion on Mercer Island where father and stepmom are live-in employees and stepmom is at the residence all day as nanny for twins or… drugged-out mother living alone who disappears for several days at a time who took her daughter on a drug bust and then tried to use that daughter as a bargaining chip. Was arrested and almost let the child go to a group home, then had to put her house up as collateral for bail. Oh, did I mention that she’s been charged with crimes in relation to the drugs for which she has not been tried which means Sophie will most likely have to find someplace to live anyway. Yeah, I can so see a judge deciding that sending Sophie back to Shalane is in the best interest of the child,” I finish sarcastically.

“Okay, okay, I get the point,” Jason says. “It’s just that I never dreamed that I would ever be in this situation where I would be able to have custody of Sophie without the bitch dying, that’s all. It’s so surreal!” I nod.

“So, I think it’s time we start making preparations to have a teenager around the house.” Jason scrubs the back of his neck.

“Yeah, she’s going to be thirteen really soon,” he says. “So, what do we do?”

“I don’t know,” I tell him. “I’ve never had a teenager around the house.” He shrugs.

“Sophie’s so smart,” he says. “She’s wise beyond her years. She’s tried to hold on to her childhood, but things just keep happening and then she has to be an adult. She’s too young for that. I want to have some of her childhood, but for other parts of it, I know it’s too late.” He sighs. “I’m trying my best not to hate Shalane. She kept Sophie from me for so many years. All that time I could have been spending with her… as it was, our time together was like stolen moments. I was only able to spend time with her when it somehow served Shalane. Now, she’s going to be here full time and I don’t know what to do.”

“Well, this is the point where you have to take advantage of your resources,” I tell him. “You have a pediatrician who adopted three children at varying ages and raised them to adults at your fingertips. I’m sure she’d be more than happy to help you with what you should expect from Sophie in the coming days, weeks, and years. In addition, you live with a shrink.” He looks at me, blinking.

“I couldn’t see Ana professionally,” he says. “She’s too much like a daughter to me. I know I’m not that much older than her, but… you just can’t help how you feel.”

“So?” I say. “Does that mean that you don’t value her opinion? Let’s not forget that she’s the one who inadvertently discovered what Shalane was planning with Sophie and got Sophie to tell you and the police.”

“It’s not that, it’s just…” His sentence trails off.

“Use your resources, man. And if not, go talk to a child psychologist somewhere. Waste good money when you’ve got one of the best head doctors in the greater Seattle area living under the same roof as you.” I shrug.

“You’re biased,” he teases.

“You’re right. I am… and it’s absolutely true. How many lives have you watched that woman put back together again, including her own?” He ponders the thought as he looks over at Sophie and Butterfly and the fact that Sophie truly appears to be unscathed at the moment no matter how traumatizing the entire experience has been—and will be—for her.

“And again, you’ve made your point,” Jason says.

*-*

“Please… oh, God, please!”

Her hands are bound above her head, the restraints on each wrist attached to the opposite leg of the bed.

I’ve tormented her for several minutes with soft licking and sucking of her clit while her legs are tied open—her thighs restrained wide to the bed frame. I hold that delicious pussy open with my fingers—sometimes one side with one finger, sometimes both sides with my index and middle finger—just enough space to allow my tongue to get in there and torment those lips, the sides of her clit, the hood and the raw, sensitive underside over and over again, creating that intense burn that never goes away until she’s sated… gently tasting, licking and teasing with just enough moisture on my tongue to give her the slightly rough, gravelly feeling against that precious bundle of nerves and the soft, slick burn that edges her into insanity and keeps her right on the edge of orgasm until I want her to come. She’s blindfolded and the way her arms are bound, crisscrossed over her head, they press against the sides of her head, too, blocking her ability to hear.

I press down on the mountain of flesh right at the top of her slit… her Mons Venus… and it becomes firm and starts to pulse—hard—under my hand. Her orgasm is right there, violent, powerful and waiting. It only takes one never ender circle of the slightest increased pressure against her clit to…

“Oh, Goooooooooooooooood!” she wails, the Mons under my hand contracting hard and violently as this orgasm ripples through her, ripping her apart. I continue the circular pressure and she continues to wail, attempting to writhe, completely at my mercy. Only when there’s the slightest cessation of the bunched muscles under my palm do I stop my massage and quickly position my painfully aching and anxious cock at her opening. She’s still panting, still coming, still contracting underneath me.

Holding her hips down with both hands, immobilizing her, I push deep into her still quivering pussy.

“Fuuucckk!” I hiss as her pulsing walls and lips kiss and suck me deep. “Fuck, fuck, fuck…” I move my hips slowly, rhythmically, rolling our pelvises together and my dick inside along, around and against her walls at the same time, my full weight pushing down on my hands and her hips so that she can’t move a muscle. The feeling is agonizingly good—a truly deliciously painful burn, and I move slow and deep, so, so slow… deep grinding circles that have me shaking almost in no time.

“God, help me!” she chokes, her upper body trembling as her lower body has absolutely no purchase to move. God, she is so tight! I fight to keep my thumping, growing dick rolling, stroking, burning, slowly—so slowly, deep in that pussy.

“Fucking hell!” I hiss, stretching my tongue out of my mouth as I watch my dick, shiny and wet, slide in and out of this wet, shaved pussy, a ring of white cream being spread back and forth over my dick with every stroke, her arousal anointing me more and more with each push and pull, each in and out, and those pussy lips wrapping around my goddamn cock our juices mixing as I know I’m contributing precum to this delicious, hot, slick, silky mix.

“Fuck, baby!” I say, damn near drooling as I watch and feel the burn, the stroke, the blinding pleasure of our joining. “This shit is sexy as fuck!” I roll my hips so that the head hits each wall on the in-stroke. “Oh, God…” I groan as I almost lose it to the pleasure.

“Christian…” she wheezes, “Christian… God…”

I’ve got her now. Her pussy lips are hot… pink… wet… pulsing. Her mouth is open and she’s panting… lost in a world of passion and mindless ecstasy. I’ve hit that sweet spot and with her legs spread open and her hips held down, she’s at my mercy. She can’t do anything but absorb the pleasure.

“Yes, baby,” I coax as I roll my hips again, trying to block out the burning in my balls signaling my pending orgasm until I can get one more from her… one more fiery release. “I got you, baby. That’s it. Feel it, baby. I know you feel it. Shit, it feels so good… so hot and sweet and wet…”

She starts to tremble and pant, making no sound now, her body twitching uncontrollably… where she can move, that is.

That’s it, baby. Take it all…

I feel her pulsing, contracting, and though she’s silent and I have no idea if she’s coming or not, the feeling is so good—her tightening and throbbing and burning around me—that I can’t stand it anymore. I groan deep in my chest and bury myself hard inside her pussy, grinding so deep in that short, hard, inward and upward stroke against her that my body bows and arches backwards painfully. My jaws tighten so that my face actually hurts and my body stiffens so that my arms tremble from trying to support my weight as I push into her, grind into her, throb into her, empty painfully into her.

I hold my breath as this orgasm grasps my pelvis and holds me immobile with Nirvanic bliss. She pulses and tightens madly, milking and sucking every bit of nectar from my loins. When I finally release my breath and I’m able to move from the two massive hands that had my entire body in a choke hold, I look down at my wife—covered in a thick coating of sweat, gasping gently for air from her parted lips. Her chest rises and falls quickly, showcasing her gorgeous round breast and beautiful, taut nipples super-pink and pebbled from her intense arousal and orgasm, involuntarily spilling life’s milk down the sides of her mounds. I’m weak from the force of my orgasm… and my love for her, my awe at how beautiful she is in her ecstasy right now and how I want to kiss her and love her all over.

Still nestled between her legs, still cuddled in her sex, I release the restraints that hold her legs open. I rest my weight on her… still weak, sated… I release her wrist restraints and remove her blindfold. I gently lick the milk on the side of her breast that has escaped from her nipple. She doesn’t open her eyes. She’s too weak. I roll her over on top of me, her hair splayed over the back of her body. She releases a long breath and in seconds, she’s asleep on my chest. The weight of her body is so comforting atop mine that I don’t think I could count the breaths before I’m slumbering with her.


A/N: Eight more to go…

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

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Love and handcuffs  
Lynn X

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 25—Boundaries

I like to give insights into some of the characters each time I can. This week, it’s Chuck. If you remember, when Ana came to his house and tried to convince him to take the meds the first time, he confided in her about how bad his alcoholism was, how it destroyed his life, and how young he was when he first started drinking. The best comparison that I can give you all as a label for his unfounded fear and paranoia is a combination of PTSD and Hypochondria. He is afraid that this ibuprofen 800, which has to be prescribed, is going to cause him to feel high. As a result, he would recall the feeling that he had when he was drunk—hence, the crazy notion that these just-stronger-than-aspirin painkillers are somehow going to become a gateway drug for alcohol. He is so 100%, bona fide, genuinely terrified of ending up where he was before that he would rather deal with the pain without regard to how it’s affecting other people. What he doesn’t understand (yet) is that the body doesn’t heal if the mind ain’t right. As a matter of fact, it’s the exact opposite. He’s doing more harm than good.

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…

do-not-crossChapter 25—Boundaries

ANASTASIA

Christian has been looking at me all morning like I’m the precious Holy Grail. He has this goofy smile on his face and he’s up under me, keeping me really close. I can’t say that I mind. After the heavenly way that we made love last night, it must be written all over our faces that we’re sated beyond belief if anyone could be bothered to notice. Quite frankly, I think just about all of us are stuck in perpetual afterglow.

It’s about eleven AM when everyone makes it down to the dining room for brunch. It’s nothing fancy—Sunday’s brunch will be a much more detailed affair. Today, it’s just late breakfast. Christian is wearing an adorable T-shirt that says, “I love my hot pregnant wife.” I’m wearing a black T-shirt that depicts an X-ray of mom’s ribs, spine, and heart with a little baby boy X-ray and a little baby girl X-ray—complete with a pink bow—at the bottom near the belly.

“You guys have a million of those shirts, don’t you?” Elliot says and I shrug. “What are you going to do with them when the babies are born?”

“Oh, that reminds me,” Christian says after swallowing some coffee. “We might as well get this out the way now. We’ve decided that there’s not going to be a welcoming ceremony for the twins. It’s just not necessary. We’re going to have a christening at a time of our choosing and that will be enough.” Mia is visibly disappointed and Grace is nothing short of horrified. Christian says nothing else. He just kind of drops that on the table and leaves it there. With no additional explanation forthcoming, Grace decides to pry further.

“May we ask why?” Grace says, somewhat indignantly.

“No, Mom, you may not,” Christian says with no malice. Grace jerks back in surprise and Mia’s eyes widen. I think my father knows to keep quiet because he’s just looking silently back and forth between the women, waiting for someone to say something. Christian speaks before they do.

“These are our children. You made a suggestion about them, and we said ‘no.’ We don’t have to explain our decision to you. Please remember this moment while we are raising our children, because we will be remiss to explain decisions to the family unless and until we feel it’s necessary. Now, we don’t want this to spoil our brunch, so we really would like to move on.” Christian tries to move the conversation on, but Grace is still feeling a bit slighted.

“Ana, don’t you think a welcome ceremony would be just perfect? The very first Grey grandbabies?” I’m a bit stunned. Is she trying to do this again? What—does she switch places depending on who agrees or disagrees with her? Surely, she doesn’t expect me to contradict my husband, and in front of all of these people! My brow furrows and I feel heat rising in my cheeks.

“Well, I don’t necessarily think they would be the first Grey grandbabies,” I say. “Carrick has other brothers and I’m sure they’ve had children and grandchildren, too.”

“Oh, you know what I mean,” she begins, waving me off.

“Yes, I know what you mean,” I say sharply, a little too sharply. Christian places his hand on my leg and I drop my head for a moment and take a deep breath. When I raise my head, I have Grace’s—and everyone else’s—full attention.

“Grace, even if my husband and I were in disagreement, it’s a conversation that we would have in private, not in front of everyone at brunch. However, so that there’s no misunderstanding, I completely and totally agree with Christian on this matter. He did say that we’ve decided that there’s not going to be a welcoming ceremony for the twins. Know that he never speaks for me without my permission.”

I’m trying to hide my ire at this moment. Grace is truly a wonderful person, but there can be times when she can really be quite selfish and inconsiderate. Christian and I were just talking last night about the headache that was the guest list. After all these months, I still smart a bit from her disregard of my opinion when I said that we couldn’t have all of those people at our wedding. She’s doing the same thing now that she did then—attempting to garner support from the “opposing” spouse without any consideration for the fact that it might pit us against each other.

“I just thought that a welcoming ceremony would be nice. It was a very good suggestion. While I recognize and I don’t discount the fact that there are, in fact, other Grey grandchildren, these will be my first grandchildren. It would be like a coming-out party.”

Is she hearing herself? A coming-out party? For babies? Coming out of what—my womb? Is she serious? I look at Christian in horror and he gives me a look that says that the topic is closed and there will be no further discussion. Sorry, Darling, someone forgot to tell your mother! I’m certain now that had I agreed to this, it would have been a pompous display of over indulgence—the worse three-ring circus ever seen by mankind.

“Ray, how do you feel about this?” Grace asks, attempting to garner support for her cause once she sees that there was no response to her last statement.

“Grace…” Carrick scolds gently.

“I just want to know how he feels about it,” Grace says, refusing to let it go. Daddy places his fork in his plate and swallows his food, all eyes now on him.

“I’m fine with their decision,” he says, without looking at me for guidance. “I never had my heart set on it. I just said that I thought it would be a good idea.” He now turns to me. “I love Annie dearly and I’ll love my grandchildren just as much, but I can’t tell her how to raise them anymore than she can tell me how to raise Harry.” Thank you, Daddy! I can always count on him to be the voice of reason. However, Grace seems simply unable to let it go.

“Well, I just think…” she begins.

“Mother,” Christian interrupts her. She freezes and glares at him like he dare not interrupt her in his home at his dining table about his children. “Please. Drop it. It’s not going to happen. That’s it.”

Grace is completely crestfallen. She looks like someone just slapped her. She places her fork in her plate and proceeds to take small sips of her orange juice, obviously smarting from Christian’s most recent statements. Great, just great. There’s nothing better than a family squabble at breakfast, right? Apparently, Christian thought that was a splendid idea with the next topic of discussion he introduced.

“Pops, Uncle Herman, Ana and I talked about quite a bit last night and one of the conclusions we came to is that we would love for you guys to stay on at Grey Crossing for a while after Thanksgiving—maybe for just a couple of days or a week. With everything that was going on in our lives, we haven’t had an opportunity to spend any real time with you guys.” Uncle Herman looks at Grace and Pops looks at Ana.

“You’re sure it wouldn’t be too much trouble?” Pops asks. “Why would you two youngsters want some old fart hanging around?”

“It would be no trouble at all and I would really like for you to hang around for a while,” I reinforce. “I haven’t really had a chance to sit and talk to either of you as much as I would like. Please, we would truly love to have you stay for a bit.” He smiles conspiratorially at me, causing me to giggle and my anger to subside a bit. “Herman, you’ll love it… just for a few days.”

“This is quite some place you’ve got here,” he says. “I could see settling in for a day or a few if Dad doesn’t mind.”

“Pops, ball’s in your court,” Christian says. Pops smiles widely.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” Grace chimes in sharply. I turn a frowning face to her as does Christian, and she only makes eye contact with Pops. “Burt, you know we have everything set up for you at the manor. We’ve gotten into a good routine and you’re very comfortable with it. Besides, it may not be the best thing for you going from place to place and having to settle in again. And there are a lot of people here on a regular basis. Would you really get the peace and quiet that you’ve become accustomed to? No, I think it would be best if you returned to the manor tomorrow with us as originally planned.” Christian’s eyes fall to his plate. His elbows are on the table and he steeples his fingers over his lips. Carrick examines him silently, but doesn’t stop eating. Everyone else at the table has been quiet ever since the welcoming ceremony conversation started. I hope Grace knows her son as well as I know my husband, because he’s loading his guns, and the next words out of his mouth are going to burn.

“Gracie,” Pops begins, “while I do appreciate you and Rick allowing us to stay at the manor, I’m an old man, and I’m not accustomed to being told how and when I can come and go.” Grace is slightly taken aback.

“Burt, that wasn’t what I was doing at all!” she says, her voice sounding slightly aghast. “I was only saying that moving from place to place often affects your ability to sleep properly and with all the activity going on around here, you may not get the peace and quiet that you need to rest and heal. That’s all. I was by no means suggesting that you’re not allowed to come and go as you please.”

“No, that’s not what she was doing at all,” Christian pipes in, his voice cold and controlled. Elliot and Carrick stop eating and sit up straight, as does Mia. Lock and load…

“Pops has been here for three days during holiday festivities with several other people, many of whom aren’t here today and more of whom won’t be here after tomorrow. Not once has he mentioned discomfort, change in his sleeping patterns, or the inability to rest and relax. What’s more is that he had his dialysis treatment in the privacy and comfort of the guest suite last night. Did that cause you any issue, Pops, or is there something that I’m not aware of?”

“No, I didn’t have any issue,” Pops confirms. “I was very comfortable and able to rest when it was over.”

“That was my understanding as well. Tell me, Mom, what’s the difference between him coming here with you for four days and staying here with us for seven?”

Grace has been caught out and she is none too pleased about it. Before she has an opportunity to form a rebuttal, Christian has reloaded.

“Mia had a suggestion that you agreed with that we shot down because we decided that it was not what was best for our children. I didn’t wield my children as a weapon against you, Mother. Don’t try to do that with my grandfather.” Grace gasps, her face expressing true horror.

“Christian! How dare you speak to me that way! That wasn’t what I was doing and you know it!”

“No?” Christian retorts. “What was it, then, Mother? I have a home that’s bigger and more luxurious than most hotels. I have an enviable staff of security, cooks, and home maintenance. Hell, if he wanted a private nurse, I could have one here in an hour. You’re honestly going to try to tell me that this has nothing to with the fact that I refuse to exploit my children for the enjoyment of the adults? That this whole performance is solely based on the fact that even though you are fully aware of and personally witnessed my ability to wave my magic wand and make classic Bentleys appear out of thin air, that you will still question my grandfather’s comfort and recuperation in my home?”

He is not holding back. My husband is insulted and angry and although he has not disrespected his mother, he’s right on the brink.

“Christian, you are blowing this entire thing out of proportion,” Grace says, expressing the same eerie, angry calm as he.

“Am I?” he replies. “Would we be having this conversation if I had agreed to allow you to turn the birth of my children into a debutante ball?” It’s a real question and he’s expecting an answer. Grace only glares at him. Mia’s glare almost matches her mother’s, but not as harsh. Carrick and Elliot remain silent observers, appearing to take no one’s side.

“Christian, maybe we should just think about staying another time,” Pops says, attempting to keep the peace. One corner of Grace’s mouth rises in an ill-disguised smirk. However, she obviously celebrated her victory a moment too soon.

“Pops, if you have decided that you would rather not stay, I’ll respect that. But if you’re having second thoughts because my mother has somehow made this entire situation about her, then I urge you to please reconsider.” Christian’s words are curt and cut like a knife. Grace’s face becomes stony as she pushes her chair from the table and exits towards the kitchen. I look at Gail and just realize that poor Sophie has witnessed this entire breakdown. I look over at Jason and mouth, “Sorry.”

“She’s seen worse,” he says, only low enough for me to hear him. Christian’s head is down and he’s clearly battling with his words and his feelings about his mother’s behavior. Carrick rests his elbows on the table and rests his lips on his clasped hands.

“Daddy, aren’t you going to go talk to Mom?” Mia prompts.

“No,” he says, “Because they’re right. They’re both right. Grace just attempted to garner support by any means necessary and she was wrong. When she didn’t get her way, she decided to become the decision-maker for my father, saying that he couldn’t stay a week with his grandson. Who gave her that right and in what instance is that fair? In fact, yes, I am going to go and talk to your mother… and tell her how childish she’s acting right now.” He tosses his napkin down on his plate and stands.

“Carrick, no. Please, don’t,” I beseech him. He’s only going to throw gasoline on that fire. My words fall on deaf ears as Carrick is on his way to confront his wife on her behavior. “Ugh!” I groan in frustration. After such a lovely night, what a way to start the day.

“Christian, I’m not trying to cause any trouble between the family,” Pops says, now obviously feeling responsible for the discord. “I’d love to stay the week with you and Annie, but Gracie is clearly having a problem with it.”

Gracie is not having a problem with you staying here, Pops,” Christian replies, his anger barely contained. “Gracie is having a problem with not getting her way, so she is voicing her displeasure by exercising authority that she clearly doesn’t have. I love my mother, I really do, but if she thinks she’s going to bully, cajole, or pout herself into getting her way in decisions that affect my household, she is sorely mistaken and it’s better that she know this now before the babies are born.” Elliot falls back in his seat.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” he says, sipping on the last of his coffee.

“Indeed,” Mia hisses. Ethan has been ghastly silent the entire time. Although she hasn’t said anything, I’m feeling extreme hostility coming from Mia’s direction. No matter, I’m more concerned about Grace right now. I push my chair back and stand.

“Where are you going?” Christian asks, because he already knows where I’m going.

“I don’t want this to be this way,” I tell him. “I’m going to make sure she’s okay.” He sighs heavily and waves his hand.

“Pops, I’ll respect whatever decision you make,” Christian says and bottoms out his coffee. He rests his lips on his hands like his father did moments ago and says nothing else. I go in search of Grace and Carrick.

I can hear them near the back of the house near the barbeque kitchen. They’re not outside, but they’re as far to the back of the house as they can be without going outside.

“I wasn’t asking for anything unreasonable!” I hear Grace say as I approach. “What grandmother wouldn’t want to celebrate the birth of her first grandchildren?”

“If it were that simple, this wouldn’t be an issue and you know it,” Carrick retorts. “He offered you a compromise and you didn’t even see it, wouldn’t recognize it or even discuss it because you had to have it your way.”

“What compromise?” she asks. “He just said ‘no,’ then proceeded to chastise me in front of a room full of people!”

“If that’s so, it’s because you belittled him in his own home!” Carrick clarifies. “What are you thinking, Grace? Not only did you try to pit a wife—a new wife—against her husband, but you tried to come between a father and his daughter. Then you saw no problem with bringing my father into this! What’s the matter with you? Are you ill?”

“Of course, I’m not ill!” She snaps. ”Why would you ask me such a ridiculous question?”

“Because my wife in her right mind would never do what you just did!” he says firmly. I decide that this conversation is way too heated for me to intervene. Carrick is very displeased with his wife’s behavior and Grace refuses to see the err of her ways. I guess I’ll have to let this thing work itself out. I make my way back to the dining room.

“What happened?” Elliot asks, as I take my seat. I shake my head.

“I heard them talking and thought it best not to disturb them.” I place my napkin back on my lap.

“Oh? And what did you hear?” Mia asks in a sharp, somewhat scolding, but very accusatory tone. I raise my eyes to meet hers and she’s glaring at me. Her ire is palpable, almost suffocating. Why the fuck is she mad at me? I didn’t just decimate her mother at the breakfast table for acting like a spoiled, undisciplined child! I’m just the broad carrying the babies they want to exploit! Fuck it, I don’t have to put up with this shit! I push my seat back from the table without breaking her stare. Wordlessly, I throw my napkin into my plate of half-eaten food and march indignantly away from the table.

“Ana!” Christian tries to stop me, but I need to get the hell away from this situation before I say something I truly regret. The nerve of these people! In my house! At my table!

“Butterfly!” Christian catches my arm just as I get to the end of the hallway near the entrance to the kitchen. “Don’t run.”

“Oh, no. This time, I’m running. Yes, I’m running!” I repeat. “I came to a realization during my discussion with Ace yesterday that some running is good, and the good running comes when you’re trying to get the hell out of a bad situation before you make it worse!” I bark. My words reverberate through the house and bounce off the walls. Activity that was previously in the kitchen stills and the house falls silent, waiting for Earthquake Ana. Good! Now hear this!

“I refuse to go through some act of congress, government approved, emergency broadcast system, rat’s maze approval process with your family every time we have a major event in our lives! There are going to be more children, more weddings, graduations, birthdays, school dances, first dates, broken arms, illnesses… We ask for advice when we need it. We gladly open our arms for help, but the final goddamn word belongs to you and me, and I don’t need permission or approval to do what I want to do with my children or my life!”

I realize that I’m standing in the hallway yelling at my husband who hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s staring at me, his gaze impassive. I take in my surroundings and realize that the kitchen staff, who attempt to pretend to focus on something else, clearly had a front row seat to my outburst as did Grace and Carrick, now standing in the doorway of the family room. The dining room is not twenty feet away at the end of a very acoustic hallway and you could hear a mouse pissing on cotton from that direction.

Ladies and gentleman, this concludes today’s broadcast.

I brush past Christian, the kitchen staff, and a stunned mother- and father-in-law, through the family room and to the elevator. Luckily, it’s already on this floor and I don’t have to wait for it. I escape inside, welcoming the sound of the inside door closing behind me. The elevator takes me to the ground floor and I go straight to my Atlantis.

Where is she? Where’s my fish?

There she is. There’s my Butterfly. I press my nose and hands against the wall of glass and concentrate on my Butterfly fish as she swims in and out of the Greek ruins—not a care in the world, but to float freely in the water. She’s beautiful and free, and for a moment, I focus squarely on her… on the water around her… on floating freely through Atlantis. I feel like I’m there with her, letting the water flow over my skin and comfort me. All of my troubles wash away for the moments that I’m floating free on the waves of the water with my Butterfly. Many wonderful moments come back to me…

That chocolate cake at the last birthday party before Carla and Daddy split up…
The look on Al’s face when I returned to Montesano…
Meeting Val and Gary…
Mine and Edward’s first kiss…
Hearing Christian tell me that he loves me for the first time…
Maxie and Phil’s reception…
Holding little Harry…
Connecting with Christian on our honeymoon…
His look of contentment on the kitchen floor while lying his head on my stomach and feeling his children kick for the first time…

His arms slide around my belly and bring me to the here and now, away from my watery freedom and away from the peace that was Memory Lane. I open my eyes and immediately remember where I am and why I’m here. It feels wonderful to be in his protective arms, him holding me so close to him that nothing can pass between us, but it breaks my heart to be ripped away from my Atlantis.

I close my eyes and weep.

*-*

“Wake up, dear.” I open my eyes and try to focus. Again, I thank God for the dark walls in my bedroom. I hear the crackling, feel the warmth, and see the glow of the familiar fire in my bedroom fireplace. I don’t even know how I got here. Most likely, Christian carried me after I broke down at Atlantis. I’m still very tired and my head is heavy. What time is it? I rub my eyes and focus on who’s talking to me. Grace is sitting on the edge of the bed, looking down on me with maternal eyes that glisten a bit from the light of the fire. Mia stands just behind her with her hands clasped in front of her.

“I can’t help it,” Grace begins. “I get carried away. I know that’s no excuse, but…” she trails off. “I’m sorry. I’ll work on it. I promise.”

“Me, too,” Mia says, behind her. “You know me, I get caught up and my mouth goes before my mind and… I’m really sorry, Ana. I’ll work on it, too. I really will.”

I look from Grace to Mia and back to Grace. While I appreciate their apologies, I’m sorry doesn’t mean anything if you keep repeating the bad behavior. However, they did say that they would work on it, and there’s no use in grinding the ax at this moment.

“That’s all I can ask,” I respond. Grace smiles and strokes my hair.

“The makeup crew is here to get us ready for the Affair,” she informs me. I nod and sit up, throwing my legs over the edge of the bed. She helps me stand and I go to the shower to wash away the day.

I stand there and let the water run over my body. It’s a little warmer than I normally have it—not too hot, but warmer. I was already weepier than I liked before I got pregnant. Now I feel like the wrong wind can bring me to tears. Today was different—stressful, I’ll admit that. Christian adores his sister, I know that, but I’m growing weary of her flakiness. She always seems to need to get her way, like a child, but her demands are usually so extravagant and over the top. Who in their right mind thinks it’s a good idea to order a marquee for an event highlighting victims of abuse? Sure, the theme was movie premiere and it worked out well, but this wasn’t a real movie premiere. These were real people opening up some very private issues in their lives in hopes of helping someone else—and she orders a damn movie light!

Now, she thought we would really agree to allow her to feature our children in some excessive, exaggerated, pretentious and flamboyant display that Grace herself labeled as a coming out party? Then, she had the nerve to take a tone with me at my dining table? I might be overreacting. She did apologize and promise to do better. I’m just so tired of dealing with this. Sometimes, she’s like a child with ADHD and she thinks of no one but herself. She’s only a few years younger than I am, but she acts like a damn teenager!

I don’t know why I washed my hair. It was just washed yesterday and conditioned into heavenly softness, but the water on my scalp felt so good that I just couldn’t resist it. I guess it’s time to come out of my cocoon and face the world. My dress doesn’t have to go over my head, so I’ll get my hair and makeup done before I get dressed. I dry and moisturize my skin and put on a red and white peddle-pusher short set and ankle socks.

What will later be the children’s playroom has been converted into a makeshift beauty salon and the staff from Miana’s has descended upon my home again. I think it might have been a better idea just to have the massages done today instead of yesterday, but who am I to complain about being pampered twice. Luckily, that wonderful aloe vera treatment is still available, so since my hair is already wet, I have them do it again.

Mandy, Mia, and Grace are quite chatty, talking about the Affair and their dresses and whatnot. I’m more introspective right now, considering what life will be like once the babies are born and how I’m going to negotiate the inevitable issues that will arise with my in-laws.

“You’re a million miles away, Ana,” Mandy says, bringing me out of my spiral. I smile tightly and shrug.

“Maybe just a thousand,” I jest, trying to make light of the situation. She smiles softly.

“As my due date came closer, I was terrified,” she begins. “I started to have doubts…”

“About being a mom?” I ask, surprised.

“Not being a mom so much as being able to be a good mom,” she clarifies. “I had my first baby at 36. Did I have the maternal instinct? Would I know what to do?” She raises her eyes to me. “Will this cause any problems with his sister?”

“You were really worried about that?” I ask. “I loved Harry before we even met. He’s part of one of the greatest men alive—how could I not love him?”

“I know, and you never gave me any cause for doubt, and yet…” she trails off.

“The ‘what if’ monster rears his ugly head,” I say, dropping my eyes to my twiddling fingers.

“Exactly,” she concurs. “Murphy plays with your psyche and suddenly, every bad thing that could happen to your baby takes up residence in your head. The wind blows and your baby might get pneumonia. There’s a bombing in Pakistan and suddenly, terrorists are after your son. There’s an earthquake in southern California and you’re waiting for the light fixture to fall and take out your kid.” Good God, she’s reading my mind. I wish she could give me advice on how to deal with your sometimes overbearing in-laws, but she doesn’t have any… there’s only me, not to mention the fact that my overbearing in-laws are in the same room with us. “You try to keep him safe inside you, protect him from anything that could harm him, then you slip in the kitchen, and…” I raise my eyes to her as she trails off again.

“Murphy,” I say. She nods quickly.

“Murphy,” she whispers, her eyes closed and her voice thick with tears. That was a very scary day and I can only imagine what she must have been feeling, even more so now that I’m carrying my own children. She takes a deep breath and composes herself. “But luckily for me, fate had other plans. That horrid sister that I was worried about came to my rescue and saved my life and my baby’s life. She became one of my closest friends… And with everything she’s done for me and how she welcomed me into her family, it helped me realize that even though Murphy’s Law will always be lurking around the corner, I’ll always have someone there to help me out—besides my hot husband, of course.” We chuckle together at her comment about my Daddy. I sigh.

“When does this feeling go away?” I ask. The impending doom is agonizing sometimes.

“Never,” Grace chimes in gently and sadly. “It subsides a bit, you get used to it. You don’t feel like the sky is falling every day, but you are always watching for the big, bad wolf. I wish I could tell you that it goes away, but…” She reaches over and takes Mia’s hand. They entwine their fingers as Mia smiles adoringly at her mother. “… It doesn’t.”

I have a feeling that I wouldn’t want it any other way.

*-*

The limousines have arrived to take us to the Adopt-A-Family Affair. Just like last year, the ladies have decided to make an entrance down the marble stairs in our ball gowns. To prevent Christian from having a heart attack watching his pregnant wife walk down the stairs in stilettos, Al has graciously agreed to present himself to James as well by escorting me down the stairs.

I was pleased on Black Friday to find that they made maternity strapless bras as I thought I would have to make one of my regular strapless bras work for this occasion. This one offers more support for my heavy breasts—smooth without the underwire that might dig into my baby bump. I was a little worried about wearing a strapless dress, but this little puppy put my fears to rest. Pretty lace boy-shorts and nude thigh-high stockings complete my undergarment. My ball gown is royal blue—a draped silk chiffon bustier dress with a smoothed sweetheart neckline—and I pair it with matching blue Louboutin pump stilettos.

My hair is stunning, if I do say so myself—big barrel curls embellished with what appear to be four precariously placed bracelets peeking out in various bundles of hair and swooping demurely over my shoulder to hide the dreaded “short spot.” Not to have the jewelry outshine the dress, I wear parts of the 1932 collection…a simple string of 18k gold and diamonds with a bow and a single teardrop solitaire laying on my chest; the 1932 Franges bracelet—not the original, of course; and the chandelier diamond earrings. My makeup is soft and natural—a light coating of foundation to even my skin tone, the softest pale blushing to add just a hint of color to my cheeks, a light dusting of a shimmery eyeshadow on my lid, and a nude lip gloss tucked away in my purse to keep my lips moist.

We decide that the best order for us to enter would be by age, with Grace leading the line and Mia at the end. I watch my feet carefully as I take the stairs, careful to hold the balustrade, my clutch under my arm and my hand firmly wrapped in Al’s elbow. I can feel Christian’s gaze on me, but I concentrate on my feet. If I look at him, I’m likely to turn into a dribbling mound of goo, miss a step, and take out the entire procession.

I watch as Elliot takes his mother’s hand, kisses her on the cheek, and hands her over to Carrick, who has stars in his eyes as he gazes at his wife. Daddy greets Mandy at the bottom of the stairs, also with a kiss, and leads her off to the side so that Al and I can descend. He gives me a kiss and a “You look beautiful, Jewel,” before handing me off to a spellbound Christian.

My God, he looks magnificent. This black tuxedo from I don’t even know who fits him like a glove, every facet of his chiseled body accentuated by awesome custom tailoring. His hair is a beautiful coif of highly copper waves and curls. It almost looks like he highlighted it, but I know it’s just his hair capturing the light. His captivating gray eyes are sparkling dramatically as he gazes at me. My throat is dry and all of the breath feels like it has left my body. He takes my hand in his, brushing the back of across his cheek, then kissing it gently.

“Every time I think you can’t possibly be more beautiful, you surprise me,” he says wistfully. “You’re enchanting.”

“Thank you,” I whisper, barely able to get my words out. I gently touch his cheek with my free hand and he turns his face to kiss my palm. “You’re breathtaking,” I whisper. He smiles that full, 32-teeth beaming smile that makes me weak in my damn knees.

“Coming from you, that’s very high praise indeed, Mrs. Grey,” he says, sincerely. He opens my black wool swing coat and helps me into it. Once I’ve closed it over me, he folds my hand delicately into his elbow. “Your carriage awaits, my love.” This promises to be a lovely evening.

The Adopt-A-Family Affair is held at the same location as last year, and the press is out en masse as always. We have to stop and give a short interview so as not to appear rude or untouchable. I’m usually the one that engages the press, but I let Christian do most of the talking this time, speaking only when something is directed at me. I love when Christian answers the “When are the babies due” question with “Sometime soon.”

There are several eyes on us as we make our way through the dining area after we check our coats. I’m sure that we’re no more smartly dressed than any other couple in attendance, so it must be the fact that many people are surprised to see me still alive, pregnant, and on my husband’s arm. We locate our seats and he pulls my chair out and helps me to sit down. He has all of my wine glasses removed and inquires what type of soft drinks were available. I opt for ice water and a tropical fruit drink that tastes a lot like a virgin Piña Colada.

Many people make their way to our table to offer well wishes and tell me how beautiful I look. I recognize many of them from our wedding, but wouldn’t be able to tell you their names to save my life. I answer them politely, thanking them for their concern. More than one person attempts to pull Christian away to talk shop or network, but Christian gingerly declines, informing them that tonight is off limits and that he plans on spending the entire evening with his wife. Most respected that answer and accepted a promise to get in touch sometime during the month. One guy, however, was very persistent, not to mention quite rude.

“C’mon, Grey,” Mr. Unknown Hopeful says, “real businessmen don’t let the little woman dictate when they can make deals.” He ends his statement with a hearty and distasteful laugh, so sure of himself that he completely ignores my horrified glare—something that doesn’t get past my husband.

“Just for my own information,” Christian begins, “was it your intention to sabotage any hope of ever doing business with GEH? Because let me assure you, you’re doing a very good job of it.” Mr. Unknown decides to take another shot at Christian’s manhood, making some comment about who wears the pants in his family and who actually runs GEH. Before he gets a chance to continue his rant, he is first asked to leave, then ceremoniously removed from our table by Jason and Ben. I don’t know who the guy is, but I can wager that he probably won’t do business in Washington State again. There’s always one.

Several more people make their way to our table, again, mostly to small talk about the babies and to tell me how happy they are with my recovery. It’s almost like an Ana welcoming party right up until dinner is served. As if we haven’t already been eating enough to choke a horse these past days, this evening’s menu consists of deep fried Brie, French onion soup, smoked chicken and red onion salad, beef bouchée, poached sea bass, bacon-wrapped baked chicken with mushroom stuffing, and goat cheese tarts. As soon as the beef hit my noise, I realize why Christian forbade me to have that burger I wanted. I fight, determined not to let the smell of beef ruin my night. Luckily, I was able to overcome the initial attack of nausea and enjoy my dinner.

Al and I are having a great time people watching as some of the ladies are wearing some really ridiculous fashions. One woman was wearing this horrendous seafoam chiffon creation with way too much tulle underneath. Another one boasted this multicolored asymmetrical fashion “don’t” that just should have stayed on the rack. I have to say that the pièce de résistance would be the raven-haired tart in the red and melon mermaid gown where it appears that someone forgot half of the material on one side of the dress. I couldn’t help but notice her because she walked past our table three times during dinner. It wasn’t until the fourth time that I realized that she was most likely doing a runway show for Christian.

I so don’t care tonight…

I shouldn’t be surprised that my husband doesn’t notice her once, most of the time keeping his eyes on me or the hand that he’s fondling tenderly, playing with my wedding and engagement rings when he’s not paying attention to the drawing of the names. Christian keeps running his fingers gently up and down my arms, causing torturous shivers to travel back and forth up and down my back. I’m trying to keep my wits about me when his lips brush tenderly over my bare shoulder.

“Mr. Grey, we’re supposed to be paying attention,” I whisper.

“Oh, believe me, I am. I’m paying close attention,” he says quietly as he moves his chair closer to mine.

“Mr. And Mrs. Christian Grey!” the master of ceremonies announces our name. Oh, thank God, now behave yourself! We were number 75 this year, almost near the end. We got a family named Radcliff this year—a husband and wife and their new baby, new to Seattle and just getting started. We’ll meet them soon enough to ascertain their needs, but the moment the attention is off of us, Christian is gently kissing my neck.

“Christian, please,” I chide quietly. I can’t take much more of this. A knowing smile creeps over his lips and he entwines his fingers and mine and kisses the back of my hand.

“Yes, Mrs. Grey,” he says, “I’ll try to behave… for now.” He put his free arm around the back of my chair just as Melon Lady saunters in front of our table again.

“Are you lost?” Allen says, inconspicuously. It was enough to get her attention. She turns to our table and Al is glaring at her. I’m sitting under my man and he’s still kissing my hand, not paying her one bit of attention. She turns her gaze to us. Christian still hasn’t made eye-contact with her.

“Well?” Al says, loud enough for her to hear, but quiet enough to not draw attention. She glares back at him. “If you’re looking at that one, you might as well stop because you’re not going to separate those two with a hammer and chisel.”

Christian is still blissfully oblivious to the display. If not, he’s putting on a good show. He pushes the hair away from my ear with just the tip of his finger and plants a sensual kiss on the shell that causes my breath to catch in my throat. There is a table full of people here, none of whom seem to be paying attention to Melon Lady or to me and Christian.

“Your dress is beautiful, Mrs. Grey,” Melon Lady purrs, a blatant attempt to draw attention to herself. Yet, she still only has mine and Al’s.

“Thank you,” I say wistfully, still choking on the breath caught in my throat as Christian outlines my ear with his finger. God help me, I’m getting wet, and these thin lace panties aren’t going to hold anything in.

In a brazen move, Melon Lady puts her index finger in her mouth and bites gently. What the fuck? Christian still hasn’t looked at her, but I’m a captive audience. How dare her! In a public place! While I’m sitting right here!

Her tongue moves over her finger before her finger moves slowly from her mouth and down into her plunging neckline where she fondles the inside of her breasts. Okay, now I’m getting pissed. My brow furrows as I bring my eyes to hers and I’m greeted with the surprise of my life. She’s not looking at Christian…

She’s looking at me!

I gasp audibly as I make the realization. Holy cow… she’s coming on to me! My husband is one kiss short of fucking me right here at the dinner table and she’s coming on to me! With a final bite and lick of her lips, she winks and smiles at me, licking her teeth as she walks away. I turn to Al who is just as speechless as I am, then try to tell Christian.

“Christian! Did you…?”

“Um-hmm,” he says, planting an open-mouthed kiss just below my earlobe. “Even women find my gorgeous wife hot.” I don’t know how to take that. Part of me is very flattered while the other part is appalled that she would do that while my husband is obviously groping me. “I’m glad she didn’t touch you, though. We may have had a problem.”

“You wouldn’t have hit her or anything, would you?” He chuckles in my ear.

“You mean, like I would a man who would have touched you? No, I wouldn’t do that… at least not in public.” I gasp and look at him. “You. Belong. To me. I make it no secret that I’m very possessive of you, so if anybody comes on to you—male or female—then they are asking for whatever they get. Let her come sashaying by here again in that ridiculous dress.” He plants a gentle kiss on my lips. “I needed that little reality check, because I was fighting one of the biggest erections under this table that I think I’ve ever had.” I can’t help but laugh when he says that.

“You’re terrible, Mr. Grey,” I say playfully.

Dinner and the drawings are over before I know it. I barely recall hearing or seeing too much of anything except the name of the family that Christian and I would be adopting this year. My husband was so busy distracting me with his nibbling and fondling that I didn’t even know the dance music had started. Elliot looks a little forlorn as he settles back in his seat, knowing that being dateless meant no dancing for him tonight. Noting his solemn expression, his mother has other plans.

“I’d like a dance with my oldest son, please,” she says, flashing a genuine motherly smile as she holds her hands out to Elliot. His emotion is almost palpable as he takes his mother’s hands. Rising from his chair, he spins her around once, causing her to giggle like a schoolgirl as he whisks her off to the dance floor. Christian rises from his chair, never releasing my hand.

“I’d like a dance with my enchanting wife,” he says, his voice smooth and promising. He helps me from my seat and I feel incredibly graceful even though I probably weigh a ton. Vickie’s dress flows around me and makes me look like a delicate fairy when I move. He looks at me like I’m the only woman in the room. Ensnared by his gaze, I follow him to the dance floor.

Christian takes me in his arms and just starts to sway with me to some classic song that I’m not familiar with. Once the floor started to fill, the band broke into the big band numbers just like last year. They start playing “Night and Day” and my husband leads me effortlessly around the dance floor. Even though I am quite heavy laden with child, I feel like I’m as light as a feather. He makes me feel good, and right now when I’m feeling a bit unattractive, he makes me feel pretty.

“You dance divinely, Mrs. Grey,” he says, treating me to a dazzling, white take-no-prisoners smile.

“One does not dance like an angel alone, Mr. Grey,” I reply, matching his smile. He contemplates the statement for a moment.

“I’ve heard that somewhere,” he says, trying to place where the statement may have come from.

Mansfield Park,” I tell him, letting him off the hook. He ponders it for a moment before smiling again.

“And so it is,” he says. “I have Mrs. Grey quoting the classics! We must dance more often!” He dramatically holds my hand up in proper ballroom stance and holding on to me tightly, whirls me around the floor until I’m lost in fits of giggles. When he finally stops and gives me a moment to catch my breath, I see a shimmer in his eye, hiding behind the smile. It’s the same shimmer I saw when he gave his speech on Thanksgiving. My breath catches in my throat and he pulls me close to him. We’re still moving, but nearly standing still.

“Night and day under the hide of me, there’s an oh such a hungry yearning burning inside of me…”

His voice is like honey and I’m lost in his gaze… trapped—afraid that I may float away into hopeless oblivion if he releases me.

“And this torment won’t be through till you let me spend my life making love to you… Day and night, night and day.”

He cups my face in his hands and gives me a tender, soul-filled kiss right there on the dance floor. His eyes are always so descriptive. At this moment, they are saying so much. I’m frozen in his gaze and in everything that he’s saying to me with no words. The world around us falls away and there’s no one here but me and my love.

I love you, too, Christian.

I’ll never leave you.

You make me whole.

You’re my everything.

I can faintly hear the music fade in around us. He slides his hands down my arms until they reach my hands. Never taking his eyes off mine, he brings my hands to his lips and kisses them both. Our wordless exchange of love continues as I’m wrapped in the soothing sound of the music.

Do you know how much I need you?

About as much as I need you…

Good… As long as you know.

He raises my hand and spins me around until my back is to his front. He pulls me gently against him and puts his arms around me, resting his hands gently on our babies. They stir a bit, then settle immediately. I put my hands over his and we sway, just side to side on the dance floor. He sighs deeply and nestles his face in the crease of my neck and shoulder.

I feel so loved right now… so cherished and special.

I lean my head back on his shoulder and sink into him. Bringing my hand up to his head, I thread my fingers into his soft tresses. He groans softly and kisses me one time on my neck, pulling me closer to him as we float further into the music and each other as the leader sings about someone who is his everything.

I close my eyes.
I let him guide me.
I trust him completely.
He’s my life and my future.
I’ve never felt so safe and secure in my life.
I’m the luckiest girl in the world…


 

CHRISTIAN

It’s no surprise to me that some little skank at the Affair is attracted to my wife. What did surprise me is the fact that they let her in here dressed like that. It turns out that I’m indirectly acquainted with her. She’s the granddaughter of one of the sponsors—an old friend of our family. I’m surprised that I never met her personally, or at least I don’t think I have. She looks like a lady of the night, to put it nicely. She’s completely out of place. I’m sure Butterfly doesn’t think I’m paying attention, but I see every move the little slut is making on my wife. She better be glad I’m more concerned with distracting Butterfly than with her weak attempts to sway my wife to the other side. However, I don’t intend to let her malfeasance go unpunished, especially since it’s quite clear that she knows who we are.

I could hardly wait for the music to begin. I have to say that I was happy that Mom was able to pull Elliot out of his funk. It’s taking everything in me not to find Valerie wherever in the world she is and tell her what an A-1 bitch she’s being to my brother and my wife, not to mention the rest of my family. How dare that cow think she could keep Elliot away from his family! I don’t know what new drug she must be smoking or what bug of insanity has climbed up her pussy, but she’s got a hell of a lot to learn about the Greys if she ever thinks she has that kind of power.

I personally think she’s jealous of Butterfly. I think she’s angry because she’s no longer the center of Butterfly’s world. I can imagine that for those years that Butterfly was recovering from her relationship with David that Valerie was always there to pick up the pieces. She was the shoulder that Butterfly cried on—patted Butterfly on the head before she went off to taste her latest flavor of the month. Now, Butterfly doesn’t need that pat anymore. In fact, Butterfly really doesn’t need Valerie anymore. She’s independently wealthy—the key word here being “independent,” and Valerie can’t stand that.

Be that as it may, I can tell that my wife and my brother are miserable when her name comes up. Butterfly misses the friend that she once had, the one that stuck by her through thick and thin. My brother is caught between a rock and a hard place and doesn’t quite know what to do. What’s the common thread here? The common thorn in everyone’s side?

Valerie.

Quite frankly, I’ve got a good mind to just walk up to her and belt her one… but that would only make matters worse.

I didn’t keep my beautiful wife on her feet for too long. Though those stilettos are sexy as hell on her feet, screaming to be up around my neck, I know that she shouldn’t be standing too long in them. Her ankles will start to swell soon, not to mention that the height alone is tempting a twist of the ankle. So after the band sings “One Hundred Ways,” I take my lovely Butterfly and our precious cargo back to the table, where we continue to sway to the music in our seats—in each other’s arms, as if we were on the dance floor.

Just like last year, we are thoroughly exhausted when the night draws to a close and everyone—including Elliot—has an air of contentment around them. It’s so late when we get home that Elliot agrees to crash on the sofa in the family since every guest bed is taken. Gail meets us in the kitchen to send Amanda and Ray off to bed. They had intended to collect Harry before turning in, but as it turns out, Luma dropped by with the girls and the ladies tuckered poor Harry out. Pops and Uncle Herman stayed in, too, and while Gail kept an eye on Sophie, Mariah, and Celida, Luma visited with the gentleman. She and the girls only just left about an hour before we arrived.

Everyone turns in after dancing the night away and I take a moment to undress my lovely wife—sexy boy shorts and silk thigh-high stockings. She looks downright delectable as I massage her feet and ankles, but we made love Thanksgiving morning and again on Friday night, so I think I’ll just let her rest. I can tell that she’s grateful even though she says nothing. She never protests and she never denies me. Even if she’s tired, I can get her in the mood. Tonight, I want her to sleep.

Her hair is cascading in beautiful curls over her pillow. She hugs a body pillow that she bought to replace the two pillows under her stomach and between her knees. She’s simply gorgeous. There’s no better sight than seeing her sleeping peacefully with what looks like a smile on her face, her gorgeous mahogany hair strewn out on the pillow behind her, and her body swollen with my babies. Fuck if I’m not the luckiest fucker alive.

*-*

“You guys have made the news yet again,” Mia announces, laying out the society page of the Seattle Times at brunch the next day, “And a reputable paper at that.”

“Oh, what now?” Butterfly laments, looking at the paper to see what little tidbit was taken now. I remember the press being at the party last night, but nothing really memorable happened.

…Or so I thought.

“Oh-ho my God,” she giggles as we look at the society page. There are two full-color pictures of her in that gorgeous blue gown standing with me. In the first one, I’m standing behind her, attached like a vine and duly marking my territory. Someone has captured the moment when we were dancing to “Everything I Love.” Her eyes are closed and her hand is thrust into my hair. We are clearly lost in our own world. The second picture was the moment at the end of “Night and Day” when I kissed her.

“Don’t these people have anything better to do?” I say. I can’t hide my smile as I look at the pictures. “I guess they didn’t… you look stunning, baby,” I tell her, putting my arm around her waist and kissing her on her cheek.

“You’re not so bad yourself,” she says, coyly.

“I’m just the window dressing,” I protest. “You’re the Macy’s display.”

“Alright, alright, we get it. You’re both beautiful,” Al balks. “What does the article say?” Butterfly laughs at his impatience while Mia takes the paper back and begins to read:

“AnaChris was spotted last night shamelessly canoodling on the dance floor at the Greater Seattle Adopt-A-Family Affair. Ana is breathtaking in what we later learned is a Victoria Stewart original blue silk chiffon gown. Christian’s not looking too shabby in black cashmere bespoke Caraceni (don’t ask how we know). As always, Christian displays that he is absolutely smitten with his beautiful wife, who survived a very serious car accident and was released from the hospital just a week ago. With not a scratch or bruise in sight, Mrs. Grey illustrates that ‘pregnant’ does not mean frumpy, clumsy, or helpless. Moments before this picture was taken, the stunning couple was observed floating across the dance floor like professionals, lost in each other’s gaze and grasp. Sources say that Christian couldn’t keep his eyes—or hands—off of his enchanting wife, and that she is just as smitten with the her handsome, billionaire husband. Judging from these pictures, it’s no wonder Mrs. Grey is expecting twins in the spring. Way to go, AnaChris!”

“Oh, one day, they’ll be fascinated with something else and leave us alone,” Butterfly says.

“Don’t count on it,” I respond, kissing her again.

“Damn, Chris, do you ever let the woman breathe?” James teases.

“She’s breathing. See?” I lean in and nibble her neck and she giggles profusely. “Could she do that if she wasn’t breathing?”

“Christian, stop!” she says, playfully hitting my arm. “Not in front of company.”

“Don’t stop on our account,” Dad says, cozying up to Mom and nibbling her neck, causing her to break into fits of girlish giggles.

“See? My dad says I can continue.” I go for Butterfly’s neck again and she playfully pushes me away again.

“Eat your food,” she scolds. I kiss her on the cheek and turn back to my plate.

“Christian,” Uncle Herman begins, “If the invitation is still open, Dad and I would like to stay for the week.” I look at Pops, then at Mom. She sighs.

“I was acting like a spoiled child. I’m sorry,” she says all in one breath, but sincerely. “I have absolutely no problem with Burt and Herman staying here and I really hope you’ll forgive my behavior… as long as you don’t try to take them away from me!” She adds the last part in rushed playfulness, breaking the tension at the table and causing a chuckle from various diners.

“I can’t make any promises, Mom,” I tease. “I mean, if they fall in love with the Crossing…”

“Christian,” my mother warns in that tone that only a mother can.

“Yes, Mom, I won’t take them away,” I respond, sounding like an impetuous teenager. “But I got ‘em for a week!” I smile widely at Pops who returns my smile.

“Good, I’m glad that’s settled,” Pops says.

We finish our brunch in random chatter, talking briefly about what the week holds for each of us. Butterfly is doing as much as she can from home to get prepared for the Christmas season at Helping Hands. This is usually the time when they have the most traffic and do the most work. Butterfly’s impromptu interview before her accident caused an onslaught of donationsbig and smallto pour into the charity. Once the word got out that she was fighting for her life, the donations increased, allowing Helping Hands to expand their services to assist general hardship cases and not just at-risk women and children. She is anxious to get back to the center, but won’t take on the task until she gets the “all clear” from her neurologist. We have an appointment with him tomorrow.

I have some loose ends to tie up before the holidays set inmergers that need to be signed, some acquisitions to complete. I hate putting people out of work at Christmastime, so whatever redundancies are created will wait until after the new year. Even then, GEH is known for its placement assistance and severance packages. I still have a few messes to clean up with the miscellaneous subsidiaries, too. There are some possible legal issues that GEH has to face as well as some fines that will have to be paid.

I plan on throwing my prior legal team under the bus with this one, especially since most of my woes can be traced back to them. The only problem is that when something shady happens within a company, the head man in charge is always held responsible because it is assumed that he knows about everything. To that end, I have to clean up these messes as quickly as I can on my own, pay whatever fines and restitutions that I can to settle problems before they get to courtand then sue the fuck out of those assholes.

Elliot is happily taking on some new projects that are in the works before the holiday, but will kick into full gear after the holiday. He’s been talking to Ray about his particular area of expertise and I see that there will most likely be some serious collaborations in the future.

Everyone has some little thing here or there that they’re working on, but I would have to say that besides the twins due in early February, the most exciting news would have to be Allen and James’ engagement. They’re planning a spring ceremony and I have to say that I can’t even begin to fathom how to plan a gay wedding. I would imagine that it’s no different than a straight wedding, except that there’s two grooms. Butterfly is nearly bursting, ready to plan this ceremony. So there’s nothing to do now but set a date.

We all appear to be headed into the holiday season with bells on. Now, it’s just time to see how those bells are ringing.


 

A/N: Happy Birthday this weekend to Melissa, Pam. Danesh, Isabel, Margaret, SusieCC, and Maureen. I forgot anyone, charge it to my head and not my heart… and happy birthday. 🙂 

Music from the Adopt-A-Family Affair
Night and Day—Billie Holiday
Glenn Miller—Everything I Love
James Ingram—One Hundred Ways

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

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Love and handcuffs 🙂
Lynn X