Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 13

Wine is a deep and beautiful thing.

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

Explicit details of sex and BDSM scenes from here on out. Some may be hot while others may not be to your taste… and not necessarily CG with Ana together. Proceed at your own discretion, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Fifty Shades Golden

Chapter 13

Eric Dane--Chapter 13 Small

TREY

I’ve negotiated the harvesting rights with three of the main eastern hardwood timberland families that supply Lincoln Timber and I’m working on the western softwoods. Lincoln has had harvesting agreements with these families for over a decade and never saw the need to renegotiate or to lock in exclusivity, mainly because these families didn’t fight for a better price per hectare of commercially harvested wood. As a result, Lincoln took advantage of their naïveté and opted not rock the boat as he was basically clearing their land for a song.

This won’t break Lincoln, but it will place quite the strain on his main lines of business as well as dip heavily into the insane profits he has been enjoying over at least the past several years. Raw, treated, or processed, he now has to buy the timber—or the right to harvest it—from me. As I have negotiated handsome compensation with the families—far more than Lincoln was offering but still enough to turn a profit—he would have to do some major reorganizing to make an offer that would meet mine, much less beat it.

With the coup that I’ve pulled in securing the eastern timberland—and the western softwood is pretty much just a formality now—I’m set not only to make handsome amounts of money from Lincoln Timber now having to purchase its main supply from me, but I could also go into the lumber business myself as one of this asshole’s competitors. As it stands right now, this development may not put him out of business, but it’ll make his company pretty fucking uncomfortable and wreak havoc on his profits for the next couple of years no matter what his contingency plan.

Maybe I should look into acquiring some of his expiring contracts…

“Can you tell me why the hell we’re suddenly clawing at Lincoln Timber’s main babies?” Rockford asks when he brings me the finalized contracts for the eastern timberland families.

“Isn’t it obvious?” I respond to my head of legal. “I’m picking a fight.”

“I can see that,” he says. “I’d just like to know why.”

I used to like this guy. I used to like his cockiness, his arrogance, and his balls the size of Texas, especially in negotiations. Now, he’s just irritating as fuck.

“As long as you’ve been my attorney, you honestly don’t recognize a cockfight when you see it?” I ask with a frown.

“Don’t insult my intelligence, Christian,” he retorts, somewhat affronted. “Of course, I recognize a damn cockfight. I just want to know why him and why now?”

Rockford may be my attorney, but the hell if I’m telling him that putting this frosted fucker in his place is another way of paying tribute to my Mistress while getting back at a nemesis at the same time.

“I’m not ashamed to say that it’s somewhat personal,” I say, flatly. “He calls me all cocky and demanding answers after his wife tried to kill me with a fucking concrete flowerpot, and now it’s wafting back to me in social circles that he’s talking about me at parties, balls, and social events.” His brow furrows.

“I haven’t heard anything,” he says, accusing.

“That would be because we don’t travel in the same social circles,” I reply, my voice condescending. It doesn’t get by him. I follow up with another jab. “If you think for one moment that you have your ear to the ground on every little thing that goes on in my life, you’re wrong. You know a lot, Phil, but you don’t know it all.” Hell, you don’t know the half of it. He raises a brow at me.

“Fine, it’s your funeral,” he says, stacking the papers in front of him. What the fuck…?

“And just what do you mean by that, Mr. Rockford?” I ask crisply, trying not to refer to him as the asshole that he’s being right now.

“Why would you want to push the hand of the most powerful timber producer and processor in the country?” he retorts. Who the hell is this pussy standing before me? Careful, Rockford, your slip is showing!

“Are you serious?” I ask incredulously while sitting back in my seat. “Do you realize that with 30 days of intensive negotiation, aggressive acquisitions, and concentrated redistribution of resources that I could be the most powerful timber producer and processor in the country? While Lincoln must constantly stay on his toes to hold his position, I do this shit for fun! I could stop production on the thousands of lines of business and acquisitions that I have my hand in right this very moment and there would still be enough passive income, liquid assets, and capital for my entire living family and three generations to come to live like kings and queens, and you’re standing here insinuating that I should feel some kind of reverence or fear for that glorified Paul Bunyan?”

Rockford sits in the chair across from me, examining me like I’ve just given him a bit of information that he was never fully aware of. Have you been asleep all these years? Exactly how many supposed industry giants and wannabe moguls have you watched fall at my feet?

“For the sake of argument, let’s assume that platinum-haired lumberjack released his worst, most fearsome wrath upon me. What could that be?” I question. “What could he do to me that I couldn’t flick off my shoulder like a worrisome fly? Go ahead, tell me. I’ll wait.”

Rockford clears his throat and loosens his tie. Apparently, he’s forgotten just how cutthroat I can be.

And, so has Linc, but he’s soon to revisit that lesson in spades. Closing those sawmills put a huge cramp in his production for nearly a year. This undertaking will make our last encounter look like a grammar school dance. Once I’m done with his largest east and west coast suppliers, I plan to target his oversees productions next. Sure, he’d be able to make up for the lost American timber with his European sawmills and providers, but not if he doesn’t see the attack coming, and no matter what the strategy, the solution won’t be cheap… or easy.

Having no comeback for my question, Rockford sits mutely facing my desk.

“Have we met…” you sniveling little weasel? “If you strain your little brain and think really hard, you can probably count on one hand the negotiations that were not favorable for me in all the years you’ve worked for me, and not once was any of those failures by any fault of my own. Now, unless there’s something that you know that I’m not aware of about that silver haired, washed-up phantom trying to wield power that he clearly doesn’t have, I suggest that you keep your angst-ridden opinions to yourself, be sure that my transactions are legal and airtight, and continue to make a fortune off me by doing exactly what you love.”

And now, I’m weary of this conversation.

“What’s happening to you?” I ask. “You sat in negotiations with Cross and let a woman show you that her balls were bigger than yours… and I’m not even talking about the attorney. She lopped your dick off and fed it to you! Now, you reach into that imaginary bag of courage on your hip and you have the inkling to confront me about my business tactics while cowering in fear to that washed-up old woodchuck? Who the fuck are you and what have you done with my cutthroat legal counsel?” He looks at me in sincere distaste.

“That’s… um… harsh and unnecessary, sir,” he grovels.

“Yeah, and you’re pathetic and pitiful. Get out of my sight, Phil,” I say, disgustedly breaking my gaze with him, “before I discover that you’ve totally lost your killer instinct, at which time, you’ll be completely useless to me.”

He knows not to say anything else. He knows that I’ve heard enough. He silently rises from his chair and leaves the room.

I’m going to have to secure new legal counsel, sooner rather than later. I toy with the thought of hiring Golden, but I already know that’s a lost cause. I wouldn’t even approach her like that. She wouldn’t want to work for me in that capacity, nor would I want her to. It’s just… not good to mix that kind of business and personal relationship.

*-*

So, I’ve committed myself to giving a speech at the Seattle Businessmen’s Conference this evening and I almost dread the idea of even showing up. With the coup I have in the works, anybody with half a brain and their eye on the boards can see that I’m acquiring the gathering rights to several of the national timber suppliers. It’s been a week since I secured the eastern timberlands and today, I locked down one of the western softwoods. I’m confident enough in my holdings so far that I’ve tiptoed into the Canadian lumber market. This quiet activity has caused small shifts in lumber stocks across the NASDAQ and NYSE with stockholders wondering what’s in the buzz and will it remain a buzz or turn into chopper blades.

Between that and quietly keeping my ear to the ground for new legal talent, the social-business scene is the second-to-last thing on my mind, and the last thing being targeted by some colleague’s young granddaughter looking to snag a guy just like dear old dad… or granddad.

“Hello, Christian.” Her smooth Brazilian voice answers. “I was wondering if you would wait until the last minute to call me. You know I don’t like to be rushed.”

“Hello, Gisela. My apologies. I forgot about it until the last minute.”

“As always,” she says.Uma história provável…”

“English, Gisela,” I scold. “I’m bilingual and Portuguese is not one of those languages.”

“No matter, why do you call, Christian?”

“You know why I call, Gisela,” I retort, using her choppy English. “Are you available?”

“Last minute again. Will you be sending me a gown… and jewelry?” I roll my eyes. It’s a good thing I have these things already in the guest room for just such an emergency.

“Of course, it’s not a crime to call and check with me, you know,” I scold. “You know I may forget, but you always seem to remember.”

“And miss the opportunity to give you a hard time? Why would I do that?” she asks matter-of-factly. “Besides, in my country, the woman does not approach the man; the man approaches the woman. You will send a car for me, no?”

“No,” I say, “I and my driver will pick you up at eight. And Gisela, don’t make me wait. I have to give a speech tonight.”

“Nem!” she exclaims. “How you say, keep your shirt on. You have gown here and I’ll be ready. Tchau.” She ends the call. I call Mrs. Jones with instructions to choose the white gown and emerald jewelry set and have it couriered to Gisela immediately.

Gisela Serra (Adriana Lima), Christian's go-to date for red carpet affairs--Chapter 13Gisela Serra is much like me in many ways. She graduated with a master’s in finance, but instead of going to work for one of the big firms, she invested her own money and became a self-made millionaire. Like me, she knows her shit, has no interest in a long-term relationship, and is always up for a good fuck once in a while. Unlike me, she’s never worked a day in her life and enjoys these red-carpet outings and hanging on the arm of whatever mogul chooses her as a bracelet that evening.

I’m her mogul of choice, however. She’ll wait for me, even break a commitment for me. Once, for the Carpenter’s Guild dinner, Ron Baristol of Baristol, Freedman, and Young requested her company and she accepted. Then I called, and she cancelled with Ron. It was nearly a brawl when we got to the dinner because apparently, she didn’t tell Baristol that she was cancelling with him to attend the dinner with me. When he approached me, I had no idea what he was talking about. When he told me, I couldn’t help but laugh.

That didn’t go over well with Ron.

I stated that I merely asked Gisela to accompany me. I didn’t know that she had prior arrangements or that she had cancelled them. He called me a cocky asshole and took a swing at me. I stepped aside, and he went sailing into the table with the ice sculpture. We were both asked to leave.

Needless to say, the Carpenter’s Guild didn’t get a donation from me that year and I declined their invitation the next year. The president and chairman both showed up at Grey House to ascertain what the problem was and when I reminded them of the mishap that had me removed from the festivities two years prior when I didn’t confront the guy and never raised a hand to him, they apologized profusely and had Baristol, Freedman, and Young removed from the guestlist completely. I can imagine that a similar conversation occurred at the Carpenter’s Guild headquarters when Mr. Freedman and Mr. Young discovered they were no longer welcome at the annual dinner.

I have nonetheless asked Gisela not to cancel any further engagements for me. If I haven’t contacted her by noon the day of an event, which is cutting it very close, I won’t contact her at all, leaving her free to accept any invitations that she may have on ice. Gisela is the only woman who has ever been seen with me on the red carpet—well, except Juliet when we were dating. So, of course, there’s a lot of speculation, but neither she nor I will entertain any of it. She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she’s rich—so I don’t have to worry about her latching onto me for my money—she doesn’t want a commitment, and she’s a great occasional fuck. Who could ask for more?

Me and my Brioni tux show up promptly at 8pm to retrieve Gisela. She’s prompt for once, as I was fully prepared to leave without her this time. I hate being late. It’s tacky.

“You said you had speech to give,” she says. “I only like being center of attention when is good for me. Fashionably late is no good when you are on the program.”

I told you that she was smart.

Dinner was uneventful. They always serve something pretentious at these dinners like lobster tail or filet mignon in tiny little servings, instead of choosing something classically delicious like veal or lamb chops, or even chicken. Hell, I’d even go for shrimp linguini if I knew I didn’t have to stop at a burger joint or something when it was all over to keep from gnawing my arm off! I always signal Taylor a half-hour before I’m ready to leave so that he can stop and get food before I and my date even get in the car.

I’ve made my speech, the usual mumbo-jumbo about responsible business and helping the community and growth through change… blah blah blah. I believe in all those things. It’s just that the conference never wants to hear anything else—like avoiding the common tricks of the market, interpreting trends so that you don’t end up losing your life savings or your business slosh fund, determining a good acquisition prospect from a lemon. I could use the same fifteen minutes that they have me speaking this gobbledygook and hit all three of those topics and probably save at least 50% of the businesses in attendance from making at least one of those three mistakes.

But, they’d rather hear that I’m building up small businesses in underprivileged neighborhoods. Anybody with a dime can do that. I want to tell you how to keep or multiply your dimes so that you can build up more businesses… but okay.

After the food and the speeches comes the networking. Time to hob nob and mingle with other CEO’s, each of us trying to finagle information out of the other about the next big cash windfall. Gisela and I are in a group talking shop with Stan Warren, Arnold Fishburn, and Felix Martindale—all CEO’s of their own companies, and at the moment, my date has the floor.

“Well, while all of the traders were trying to play the bull market, I made a mint on LAM and FDC… buying low and selling high,” Gisela says, sipping her champagne through the mingling and networking time after dinner.

“Now, how do you know?” Warren asks. He’s hanging on her every word. Not only does she look hot as fuck with this elegant gown wrapped around that beautiful ass, but when she opens her mouth, advice from the finance gods spews forth.

“You have to watch the trends,” she says. “You have to be willing to read the charts and look for the candlesticks in the buy-sell cycle…”

“Now, that’s where you’ve lost me,” Martindale says. “This is why I let my broker handle all of that.”

“If that’s so, I hope you don’t plan to get rich off the market. He’s doing that for you and fifty to a hundred other people or more and your returns are mediocre at best. Am I right?” He nods.

“I do alright,” he says, not wanting to admit his mediocre returns. She nods.

“If alright is okay with you, then you’re doing fine.”

She’s further captivating her audience with terms that I would also much rather leave to my broker when I see an ashen-faced beauty heading in my direction on the arm of another of my colleagues. He’s an attractive man, but an older attractive man… and she’s much too young for him. I know this, because I’ve known this woman Biblically.

“Gentlemen,” Reginald Hornsby says as he approaches. “Are we having the same boring conversations that we have every year?” His date clings to his arm and does everything she can not to make eye-contact with me.

“Right now, Ms. Serra is telling us how lousy we’re doing at the stock market,” Fishburn says, and we all laugh.

“I’m doing no such thing, sir,” Gisela says, mocking disdain. “I was just explaining to the gentlemen…” and she goes into the short version of Investing 101 with Hornsby, whose date is carefully avoiding mine and Gisela’s gaze now.

“So, when do you plan on sharing your talents with the rest of us?” Warren says. I know I’m not the only one who caught the double-entendre, but I don’t let on. Gisela doesn’t belong to me—she’s just my date for the evening, and the last thing I want is yet another scene.

“I only watch my own picks, Mr. Warren,” Gisela says sweetly. “I’m successful because I stick with the best and sell the temporary risers. It takes stamina and fortitude, but it’s a small sacrifice for the payoff in the end. I didn’t succeed by putting a little bit in every pot. I concentrated my efforts and shot the big guns, so I landed the big game.” Gisela coyly sips her champagne, having totally understood what Martindale was getting at and simultaneously shooting him down in front of his colleagues.

“I think what Stan was aiming at…” Oh, she knows what Stan was aiming at, “… is do you have any plans on trading professionally so that others can make the kind of profits that you are,” Martindale says.

“I’m afraid not, Mr. Martindale…”

“Call me Felix,” he corrects her.

“Felix,” she corrects. “Focusing on a few lucrative investments is what put me in the position that I am. So, now I don’t have to work for my money. My money works for me. Watching a trend and getting out before it tanks, I can do that for myself. I can’t do that for a group of people. For me, it’s a recipe for disaster. I’d be spreading myself and my own assets too thin and I wouldn’t be able to do other investors any justice.”

“Is that how you got so rich, Grey?” Warren asks. “Taking tips from this little beauty here?” He’s such an ass.

“I dabble in investing, Warren, but as you know, I made my fortune in mergers and acquisitions.”

“Yes,” Hornsby says. “There’s a little murmur on the wire about you and lumber.” And it begins.

“There’s always a murmur on the wire,” I say, dismissing the topic.

“Come on, Grey,” Warren coaxes. “Let us in on it. How about a little insider trading?” Fishburn frowns deeply.

“You’re kidding, right?” he says, distastefully. “You trying to get us all arrested?” And now, it’s time for me to text Taylor about those burgers.

“Come on, we’re just talking shop,” Warren excuses. “People do it all the time. No harm done.”

“Stock tips are one thing, Stan. Inside information is something else entirely. Geez, did Raj Rajaratnam, Martha Stewart, and Angelo Mozilo teach you nothing, man?” Fishburn scolds.

“Oh, for the love of God! Lighten up, guys,” Warren chides. “It’s not like Grey here is working for the SEC. Right, Grey?” He rips the air with a garish laugh and I just glare at him, sipping my champagne. “C’mon, Grey, we’re waitin’… You’re not spying for the SEC, are you?”

He’s still smiling, but his voice is accusing like he’s speaking for the entire group.

“You never know who’s listening… Stan!” I hiss his name before taking a swallow of my champagne. The group falls silent as eyes shoot from me to Warren.

“You know, I don’t know much for a silly little master’s degree holding female,” Gisela says, “but I do know that companies that are pegged as SEC whistle-blowers don’t do well on the corporate scene. That kind of slander can be very damaging to an established corporation.” She takes a sip of her champagne.

“I don’t think that matters to Mr. Warren, Gisela,” I say, still glaring at his now paling face. “He’s already shown everyone present that he has the tact of a goat and the class of a toad. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit to find that he doesn’t have the common sense of a toothpick.”

Warren looks very uncomfortable now and starts to do a little shuffle on his feet.

“Well, look what I’ve started,” Hornsby says. “Excuse me while I go curb my nicotine habit. You’ll be okay?” he says to Caramel. I had forgotten she was among us. She nods and gives him a sweet smile. He kisses her cheek and leaves the group. If he’s her Dom, he’s not acting like it. She would have had to follow him for the smoke break. She watches attentively as he leaves the room as if she’s urging him not to stay away long.

“You all are a bunch of pussies,” Warren says. “One mention of the SEC and insider trading and a bunch of powerful businessmen turn into a bunch of bed-wetting pansies! I’m going to smoke.” And he’s off behind Hornsby. I wonder what that conversation is going to be like.

“Excuse me,” Caramel says, and she leaves the group as well. Maybe she’s decided that she needs a cigarette after all.

“For the record, Grey,” Martindale begins, “none of us think you’re an SEC snitch. He’s full of shit.” I sip my champagne again, bottoming out my glass.

“It wouldn’t do me any good,” I reply. “I have investments in other companies, but GEH is not publicly traded. That fuckface has completely forgotten that in whatever plight he’s on. What would it serve me? I mean really… what?

“Nothing at all,” Gisela says, “Now go on over and get us a refill of champagne.” I look over my shoulder to flag a waiter, but none are close by. I locate the bar and see Caramel standing there, most likely waiting for her own refill. I turn my gaze back to Gisela who gives me a knowing look, raises her brow, and hands me her empty flute.

“Must I?” I say, lowly, while taking her empty glass.

“Yes,” she says with a smile. “Go on.” I roll my eyes and walk over to the bar. I sigh softly and speak.

“Hello,” I say, trying not to startle her.

“Hello,” she replies, finally making eye-contact with me.

“Two champagnes, please,” I tell the bartender. He nods and takes my empty glasses, setting them to one side. “I didn’t know Hornsby…” I trail off. She glares at me.

“He doesn’t!” she snaps. “And he doesn’t know that I ever did, either.” I flatten my lips and nod.

“You know, you not saying anything and avoiding my gaze is more conspicuous than you just acting natural,” I warn.

“That’s easier said than done,” she says and turns away from me. This close to her, I can see a gash near her eye. It’s healed, but the scar looks pretty fresh, and I’m certain that it wasn’t there before.

“What happened to your eye?” I ask, wondering if her new not-quite-Dom likes it rough.

“It was…” She looks around conspiratorially to make sure no one is listening. “It was from Mistress,” she hisses, quietly. “She punished me… repeatedly… when I tried to return.” I frown deeply.

“She hit you in the face?” I sneer. She nods.

“One night while I was on my knees, she slapped me… with her big ring.” She closes her eyes as she remembers. “Blood got in my eye, but she was just disgusted and told me to go to the hospital. I did. They stitched me up, only two stitches.” She points at her eye. “It was so much blood, I would have thought it would have been more. I didn’t go back to her after that.”

“I’m sorry, Car…” I stop myself as she raises her eyes to me. “Tammy. I never meant for any of that to happen.” She drops her head.

“My friends made it seem so glamorous, but it never was,” she admits without raising her head. “Mistress had me crawling on the floor and doing unthinkable things. It’s like she wanted me because I was beautiful, and she hated me for the same reason.” She shakes her head again. “Even with you,” she begins, “you were never physically cruel, but you treated me like just what I was… a whore. Reggie does, too,” she says, looking for her date. “He buys me nice things, he gives me money and takes me places. He just doesn’t know what I used to be. I always dread him finding out…”

“He won’t find out from me,” I assure her. She twists her lips but says nothing. She looks at Gisela.

“She’s not a submissive,” she says with finality.

“No, she’s not,” I confirm.

“Figures,” she says. “I have to go before Reggie comes back. Goodbye… Trey.” She takes her champagne from the bar and walks away. Wow. Elena got pissed at Caramel and tried to disfigure her. That sounds like something that twisted cow would do. I take my two champagne flutes and go back to Gisela. She seems to have loosened up since Warren left with his insider trading and double-entendrés.

“How are you?” I say, handing her a champagne flute. She takes a large sip.

“Can we go now?” I look at my watch. It’s been twenty minutes since I texted Taylor. I look at my phone. Sometime during my talk with Caramel, Taylor texted that he’s outside.

“Yes, we can go now,” I say. She throws back her champagne and hands me the empty glass. I bottom out my glass as well and extend my elbow to her.

“Well, well, well, looks like somebody’s got a hot date!” and Warren returns just as Gisela takes my arm. She squeezes just a bit as a sign of her ire. I roll my eyes.

“Goodnight, gentlemen,” I say. Warren is sharing a private joke with Martindale who seems none too amused. Warren continues to laugh garishly as he stinks up the area with the lingering odor of cheap cigar smoke. He couldn’t even buy the good kind.

“Oh, and Stan?” I say, garnering his attention as well as that of the others in the group.

“You’re an asshole.” His boorish smile turns into a sneer as I lead my date away from his presence.

“Go, Mr. Grey,” she says, quietly, as I drop our flutes off at the bar on our way out.

*-*

Gisela and I are comfortable on the white rug in front of the fire in my apartment. I’ve shed my tuxedo jacket and vest and undone my bowtie and she’s shed her shoes. We feed our raging hunger while discussing the evening’s events and other minutia.

“You have met someone,” she says, before taking another bite of her burger. I raise my brow at her.

“No one that I want to marry,” I admit, “but… she can grow on you.”

“Was it the mulatto woman?” she asks. What mulatto woman?

“Oh, God, no,” I tell her. “She was just an ex-bedfellow.”

“And a bit bitter,” Gisela observes.

“Bitter? I didn’t notice.”

“You wouldn’t,” she says. “She would wait until you are talking and stare with disdain. She would much rather not see you again, much less to see you with a woman on your arm.” She takes another bite of her burger.

“How did you know there was someone?” I ask. “There’s always someone…” A sub, a fuck-buddy…

“Not like this one,” she says after she swallows her food. “The others, they take the edge off. This one, she has found your… key. She is your ground.” I frown.

“My ground?” I ask, bemused. She ponders her words.

“I say it wrong,” she says, and thinks for a moment. “She… grounds you.”

“She grounds me?” I ask incredulously. “She’s a hot little number and I love her company, but I hardly say she grounds me!”

“Um-hm,” she says, taking another bite of her burger. “You have sex with this woman?” she asks while shielding her mouth. Hmm…

“Not in a matter of speaking, no,” I reply. She won’t let me fuck her.

“Let me rephrase,” she says after a moment. “You come with this woman?” Dammit, just how much does she know?

“Yes,” I say, after hesitation. She nods.

“She have your key,” she says. I shake my head.

“What are you trying to say?” I ask frustrated. What the hell does she have your key mean?

“She… know you. She know your combination… she know your buttons…” Goddammit, Gisela!

“You’re trying to say she knows what makes me tick,” I say for her. She waves her hand.

“You Americans and your expressions. You know what I mean.” She takes another bite of her burger. “Our arrangement will soon end,” she adds, her mouth full. I glare at her.

“I’m not in love, Gisela,” I protest. “I enjoy myself, as always, but she’s not different than the others.”

“She is different,” she retorts, “and she makes you different.”

And now I see. Having Golden as my Domme has changed my demeanor in some way. Gisela sees it… and she doesn’t want it. Fair enough.

“Should I call for Taylor to take you home?” I say, gathering my trash to dispose of it.

“What?” she confronts. “Has your new dominant lover now robbed me of my tryst?” She’s frank. “Surely, you don’t think I just turn down dates for your company.”

I raise my brow and extend my hand to her to assist her off the floor.

“You know the way,” I say to her as I gesture towards my fuck room. She saunters to the room like she owns the place, reaching back and undoing her zipper as she walks. Oh, Ms. Sierra, you have no idea what you’ve unleashed. Then again, maybe you do.

I eat that pussy until her brain seeped from her vagina, then fuck it back up into her head again. She’s totally useless when I send her home. Make you think twice about kicking me to the curb, minha querida, but if you choose to do so, then it’s your loss.

*-*

A few weeks later, I’m knee deep in negotiations with the Canadians for softwood when I get a call about a “terrible ruckus” in the lobby.

“Caldwell Lincoln, sir,” Taylor informs me. “It’s to the degree that we may have to call the police.”

Where’s the safest place to meet this asshole? I thought the first-floor conference room would be safe, but his psychotic wife hurled a potted plant at me in there and broke my fucking arm.

“Make sure there are no projectile objects in the first-floor conference room and take his ass in there,” I say. “If he moves in the wrong way, shoot him, and tell him I told you so.”

“Yes, sir.” I have no doubt that Taylor will shoot that fucker before I even get downstairs. Fuck, are there any other precautions that I should take before I go down there? I call Welch.

“Sir,” he answers.

“I need high alert. Linc is downstairs causing a commotion, and I swear I won’t hesitate to drop this fucker…”

‘The police have already been alerted, sir,” he says. “I’m on my way to the first floor.” I end the call. There’s no use in playing with this man. I remove my suitcoat, vest, and tie and leave my office, headed for the executive elevator.  

Jason isn’t the only one surprised to see me enter the first-floor conference in rolled-up shirt sleeves.

“Casual day at the office, Grey?” Linc seethes. He’s certainly locked and loaded, but so am I.

“I don’t need to ask why you’re here, so cut the shit,” I say. “You wanted my attention, you got it, so handle your fucking business.”

“You think you’re fucking big shit,” he hisses. “You don’t think I know who you are? What you do? You don’t think I know that on top of trying to take my business, you fucked my wife?” Old news.

“Linc, I don’t know what you think you know, but more importantly, I don’t care. I don’t care if you think I fucked your wife in your bed,” which I have. “All I care about is that you continually think you have power over me and don’t seem to realize that you have none,” I growl as I shamelessly close the space between us.

“What the fuck are you trying to prove, you stupid piece of shit?” I continue. Are you that fucking dense? You’re a small dog trying to play in a yard that’s way too fucking big for you. You’re too thick to realize you’re out of your league and you need to stay in your goddamn place! I’m a rottweiler and you’re a beagle. You’re in the wrong cage, you Napoleonic fuck!

“Three weeks,” I say, holding up three fingers. “Three weeks, and I’ve secured 60% of your western lumber interests. Do you think you have the capital to match the Canadian government’s softwood lumber regulations? In a month—or less—you’ll be buying your domestic lumber from me. There’s your business savvy, Linc. What’s next?”

“You’re such the big man,” Linc taunts. “You can talk major shit with a whole battalion of security backing your ass up.”

“Everybody step the fuck back—now!” I demand, and the security staff in the room all slowly spread toward the door and windows. “Even if he’s beating my ass, nobody touch this asshole unless he pulls a weapon—any weapon. You all know how his wife likes potted plants.” I turn back to Linc and move to the middle of the conference room with my arms open, waiting.

“You want to take a swing, you old fuck? Take your best shot. You wanna go mano-e-mano, me and you? You go for it. I can guarantee you, none of these men will fuckin’ touch you. I’ll lay your ass out like the geezer you are. C’mon, you old fuckin’ goat. Stop talking that shit, because I’ve already shown that I’m better than you in the business world, so c’mon. Stop talking that shit and bring it.”

He’s standing there staring at me like I’ve already hit him. He didn’t expect this. I don’t think he knew what to expect. He got that corporate posturing that he was expecting, but it was more than he could bite, so this was his back-up plan? And he won’t take advantage of it? You gotta be kidding.

“You need some encouragement, Linc?” I taunt mercilessly. “You need some help on that road? That journey you started and can’t finish? Look me in the eye, Linc. Have I really fucked your wife?”

I glare at him with the carnal knowledge of that once-blonde-bombshell that he once coveted as his beautiful wife and he lunges at me. His move was so predictable that I only have to step out of his way to leave him sprawling past me and into the opposite wall. I shake my head. It’s Baristol all over again. True to my command, the security detail parts and allows him to splat into the wall without touching him. He turns around, enraged, glaring at me and regrouping for another attack.

He lunges at me again, more controlled this time and with a lot of force, but his right cross is wide and wild. I duck and come up with a left to the gut and a right to the side, finishing with a flat kick to the solar plexus with a size-12 Berluti sending him squarely back to the wall he just vacated with a hard “thud.”

“C’mon, Silver Fox,” I say, clenching my fist and preparing for his next move. “You can do better than that.” His eyes narrow and he comes at me full force, his shoulder and all his weight hitting me square in the abdomen and nearly knocking all the wind out of me as he slams me hard against the opposite wall. He gets some good gut and kidney punches in on me—enough to hurt a bit, but not enough to disable me. I clench my fist and clasp my hand over it, bringing it down hard on his spine, which I know hurt like hell, the second hit bringing him to his knees, allowing that same size-12 Berluti to connect with his jaw, producing a satisfying “crack” and flipping him over and onto his back.

He coughs and spits blood onto my conference-room carpet—that pisses me off—but fights to catch his breath and no doubt, gather his wits.

“That’s all you got, old man?” I ask, a little winded with my fist clenched and ready. “You talk all that shit and all you got is a bum-rush and a couple of gut punches? No wonder your wife was fucking me. Is your game as weak as your fight?”

He glares at me from the floor. He wants to retaliate, but his attempts to get off the floor fail.

What? That’s it? I’m just getting started.

“Yeah, that pussy was good once upon a time,” I jeer, “while you were jet-setting the world, fucking young models and getting young Jamaican girls pregnant.” As if it could, his face turns whiter than it already was.

“What? You didn’t think I knew? You don’t think I know everything you do, everywhere you are the minute you leave the states? Your shit is fucking easier to find than ‘Where’s Waldo’ because you’re too goddamn cocky to cover your fucking tracks. Go ahead, Linc, do your worst. Once I’m done kicking your ass, I can guarantee that you, your business and your name will be shit no matter where you turn!”

I can see the defeat when it settles in his eyes. The fight is over—the physical fight and the cock strut, and I barely broke a sweat. I roll my sleeves down and brush the wrinkles out. Stepping right over him, I head to the door of the conference room and open it to leave.

“Say something!” I warn turning back to Linc. “Say something to the cops. Say something to the press. Say something to anybody. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Breathe my name in any direction ever again and I will fucking bury you!” I turn to Taylor.

“Get him the fuck off my floor and out of my goddamn building and get somebody in here to clean up his bodily emissions.” I pull my cufflinks out of my pocket and walk to the elevator. I don’t push the call button since I see that it’s already on its way down. As the elevator rings, I see Linc walking out of the conference room with security walking behind him. I see the elevator begin to open, but I turn my attention to the frosted fuck about to leave my building.

One more thing.

“Lincoln!” I bark, gaining the attention of everyone in the lobby, including Linc.

“Stay the fuck away from Olivet!” I hiss. “You don’t know who you’re fucking with and I can guarantee you that at least nine people of power in this state will bury you… twice. I may or may not be one of them!”

He shows no fear, but that cockiness that he’s famous for is buried behind a swollen, bloody face and somebody’s handkerchief. He walks to the revolving glass door as I insert and snap my second cuff-link. Once he’s out of the doors, I turn around to see Phil Rockford standing in front of the closed elevators.

“Balls,” I bark to him and he jumps at my voice. “Remember those? That’s what they look like. Grow them back… or quit!”

He stares at me for a moment and I realize that he’ll never grow his balls back. I brush past him and get on the elevator.

“Andrea!” I shout, almost before the elevator doors open.

“Yes, Mr. Grey?” she says calmly, no reaction whatsoever to my ire. I hate and admire that at the same time.

“Get in touch with Bonde and Associates. I’m going to need feelers for a new head of legal. Cutthroat—tell them to keep the pussies to themselves.” I breeze past her to my office.

“Yes, sir,” she says, unfazed, momentarily typing on her keyboard. When I look back, she’s already on the phone.

Never shaken.
Never stirred.
Why can’t my head of legal be that way?

I go straight to the en suite and wash my hands. I feel dirty. That fucker bled, but he didn’t bleed on me. I still feel dirty.

I grab my suitcoat, vest, and tie and walk back out of my office.

“As soon as possible,” I hear Andrea say. “We will begin vetting as soon as we get the candidates information.” I call the elevator and realize that someone has called it before me and it’s not waiting for me. I’m irritated again, not that I wasn’t before.

“Confidential, as always. I am your sole contact… Special instructions? Yes, sir. Cutthroat. Keep the pussies to yourself.”

I have the best PA in creation.

The elevator opens, and Taylor moves to step off. Seeing me standing at the door, he maintains his position in the back of the elevator. I get in the elevator and push the button for the parking garage since Taylor’s express key is already in the keyhole.

“Did you make sure that asshole got his ass out of my building, into his asshole car and on his asshole way?” I hiss.

“Yes, sir,” Taylor responds. The remainder of the ride is silent, as is the ride back to my apartment. The moment he pulls into the parking garage at Escala, I leap out of the Audi SUV and into my Spyder. Without a word, I start the car, throw it into gear, and take off.

I pull up in front of the club, my hands a fearsome grip on the Audi’s steering wheel. I can barely contain my anger, visions of Linc’s snarling, smirking face taunting and pissing me off. None of my normal calming techniques are working and I’m certain that working over a submissive won’t work tonight either. I will fucking kill a sub right now. I call Golden instead, almost praying that she’s available.


Briana Evigan Chapter 13small

GOLDEN

“You’re awful limber today,” Kevin says as we hold another of our impossible poses.

“Not as tense as I usually am,” I say, trying to concentrate on my count.

“You get laid?” he asks.

“None of your business,” I retort. It’s time to release and, as usual, he holds me there. “Let me down, Kevin.”

He drops me with a grunt, like he always does—dick still hard, but he’s not groping me. He hasn’t since we had dinner. When I asked him why, he told me that we’d agreed to be friends and he wasn’t going to jeopardize that by being a gropy asshole. He can’t do anything about the erection, though. Holding me in those unreal poses that showcase my flexibility with nothing but dancer’s ass staring back at him is more than he can take. He won’t apologize for the physical reaction, but he can try to behave himself otherwise.

“You hungry?” I ask as I get up from his pounding erection.

“Famished,” he says, and I catch his double meaning.

“Lunch, you caveman,” I scold.

“I know what you’re talking about,” he says, sitting up and drying the sweat from his face with his shirt. “I’ll meet you back here after showers.” I raise my brow at him.

“Why aren’t you getting up?” I ask.

“Because I’m going to sit here and watch you walk away. Isn’t it obvious?” Geez, he has no shame since I sucked his dick. I shake my head and give him the show he’s waiting for as I turn and leave the studio and head to the showers.

We enjoy a late lunch at Dueminuti Pasta, an Italian restaurant on Capitol Hill that specializes in homemade pasta and fresh sauces with ingredients from local growers.

“He did that in the middle of a grocery store?” Kevin asks as he loads his fork with pasta. I nod.

“He grabbed me like they do in those corny romance movies and he kissed me, right there in the store, like I was supposed to swoon when he was done.” I shake my head. “Does that happen in real life?” I ask. “Guys kiss girls and they just swoon and fall into their arms and their beds?”

“It’s never happened to me,” he says, filling his mouth with pasta.

“Well, it wasn’t going to happen to him either,” I reply before taking a mouthful of
Ragu’ alla Bolognese. I love this place. Mom used to bring me here all the time.

“Do you want me to tell him that I’m hittin’ it?” Kevin asks. I frown and swallow my pasta.

“Hitting what?” I ask bemused.

“Hittin’ it,” he repeats over a mouthful of pasta. “He saw us at dinner once. If I tell him I’m hittin’ it, he’ll back off.”

“Oooh! You mean hittin’ this!” I say, pointing to myself. “No, don’t tell him that.”

“Might solve your problem,” he says, before drinking his soda. Silly little man.

“He saw us sitting at a table eating dinner. He walked up and spoke to me like you weren’t even sitting there. He left when he was damn good and ready. When he saw me in the grocery a few days ago, the thought that I might be fucking you never even crossed his mind. If it did, the only thing he was thinking was, ‘How can I snatch?’ He wasn’t concerned that you may have been there first or even that you may be still hittin’ it. All he was concerned about was ‘Can I get in?’ And that may be all he wanted—to hit it once, but he was trying, and you didn’t make one bit of fucking difference. There’s no honor among men. If you saw me and you wanted me, you wouldn’t have any honor for him if you thought he was fucking me, and you expect him to have honor for you?”

“Who the fuck said anything about honor?” Kevin retorts. “He’s a hoe. And if I tell him that I’m hittin’ it and he pursues you, that gives me a reason to beat his monkey ass.”

“Oh, yeah, that’ll help,” I say sarcastically. “You see the really big white guy over there with his arms folded that just scarfed down enough Pomodoro for four people?” Kevin looks over at Jesse. “If Don Juan Jake decides that he wants to fuck with me again, that’s what he’ll be hittin’, or I should say that’s what’s going to be hittin’ him. The only reason he didn’t get pulverized the first time is because I stopped Jesse from killing him.” I smile and eat my pasta.

“You don’t let a guy have any fun,” he pouts.

“I do,” I correct him, “but that’s not the nature of our relationship.”

*-*

“Step back, ma’am,” Jesse says. “I don’t want to have to restrain you.”

“You won’t do a damn thing to me, you gorilla, or I’ll have your ass arrested for assault!”

“You’re trespassing right now, you stupid bitch!” I retort behind Jesse. “He could break you in half right now and be within his rights.”

“You shut up!” she screams. “You shut the fuck up! I don’t want to hear anything out of your goddamn mouth right now!”

“Then why the fuck are you in my office?”

A few days after my lunch with Kevin, I get a text from him just as I’m entering my office to a very unwelcome visitor.

**Elena was here looking for you. She’s pissed. **

“You’re a little late, there, Kev,” I mumble.

“I’m going to wring your little neck, you fucking cunt!” she hisses and attempts to lunge at me. Jesse’s long arm of the law stops her before she can move two centimeters, his large hand pinning her firmly against the wall.

“I said. Step. Back. Ma’am,” he reinforces, his voice low and calculated. At first, she’s appalled and shocked, but she finds her composure and smiles at him.

“Are you one of her submissives, pet?” she says in a sweet, condescending voice. Jesse doesn’t flinch. I’m sure he’s heard worse. She turns her gaze to me. “You need your dog to protect you, you little pussy?” she taunts. God, you have no fucking idea what you’re dealing with.

“Stand down, Jesse.” I say coolly. Jesse looks back at me without moving his hand from her chest.

“Ana…”

“Stand. Down,” I growl. Reluctantly, he moves his hand from Blondie’s chest and takes a few steps to the side. I close the space between us.

“Now,” I say steely, “there’s no Jesse between us, but be careful, Elena,” I spit her name with disdain. “Because if you touch me, what I do to my clients will be a walk in the park compared to what I’ll do to you.”

Her eyes narrow but she doesn’t fucking touch me.

“I’m not one of your fucking toys, Goldie.”

“And I’m not one of your little slaves, Blondie,” I retort with just as much contempt. She reaches into her way-too-large bag and Jesse reaches into his holster. Without looking at him, she snatches a folded piece of paper and thrusts it in my face. I don’t move to take it, so Chanelle snatches it from her hand. She turns on Chanelle.

“What the fu..?”

“Bitch you don’t know me I will slap the white offa’ you,” Chanelle snaps all in one breath while still glaring at Elena. I don’t think anyone has ever said that to her and she doesn’t quite know how to take it, so she stands there in stunned silence while Chanelle examines the document.

“It’s a summons,” Chanelle says, throwing the paper back in Elena’s face. “Your ass is being sued. You must have pissed somebody off.” The paper falls uselessly to the floor as Elena continues to glare at Chanelle.

“Thank you!” she hisses hatefully. “I already knew that.”

“Then why the fuck did you ask what it was?” Chanelle snaps before going back to her seat. Elena watches her walk to the reception desk and sit down, but she doesn’t say anything else to her. I guess she thinks better of going toe-to-toe with a sistah from the hood who just warned her that she would slap her into another nationality.

“What I want to know is what the fuck this is all about,” she spits at me.

“Oh, that part’s easy. This is from your previous clients—women who were rendered damn near dysfunctional from getting services at your infested establishment.”

“My salons were not infested!” she screeches. “I was cleared by the board of health!”

“Well, according to these women, they’ve had nervous itches, some of them for weeks at a time,” I say calmly. “They have medical bills to prove that they couldn’t rest for fear that their homes were infested with bed bugs. They’ve had to pay for costly inspections and exterminations and one woman actually did find bed bugs in her home. There was no other connection except for you and she’s included in the class action suit.”

With such a large demographic, the bed bugs could have come from anywhere, but civil cases just need a preponderance of evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Her biggest admission of guilt was her lack of proactive counter measures. The innocent scream it from the rooftops. She kept quiet in an attempt to keep publicity away from her. It worked, but eventually, it backfired.

“You’re such a spiteful little tramp,” she seethes. “I know you were in on this entire thing from the very beginning. I just know it.” Well, you know wrong, Blondie, and I’ve had enough.

“Now, what I want you to do is dig deep into your brain and pull out some of those logic cells that haven’t been bleached beyond use, assuming that you still have some left. Once you find them, I want you to summon them forward to your ears and allow them to comprehend the words that are coming out of my mouth. Are they there? Are you listening? Let’s hope so.

“I. Had nothing to do. With the fall. Of your funky-ass salons!” I say slowly and forcefully. “At the time of your demise, I hadn’t spoken to Christian for several months. I didn’t know anything had happened to your dime-store face-painting and hair-cutting nickelodeons until well after you lost your shit and broke his arm. By the time I saw him again and knew that anything had happened, it was healed!

“Bedbugs? Seriously? Bedbugs? Five-star restaurants have been closed for rodents, roaches, flies, unsanitary conditions. They clean it up and they’re open in a month. And you got shut down for bedbugs—all your salons in the greater Seattle area for fucking bedbugs! And you think I had something to do with that. That’s one of the most amateur attacks I’ve ever seen in my life—and it worked! I’m astonished that it worked, because you’re an idiot.

“If I wanted to do you in, Blondie, you wouldn’t have to guess. You would have no doubt that it was me because I would have left my mark all over it. We wouldn’t even be standing here talking, missy, because you. Would be. Completely. Destroyed. Your name, your license, your reputation, your money, everything! I would have completely decimated you. Bedbugs? Have we fucking met? That’s laughable. If I wanted your ass that badly, when they came to investigate you, they fucking would’ve found something, and it would’ve been more than any goddamn rodents! They would have found shit on you that would have left you unable to talk your way out of a paper bag.

“Damage control, you stupid blonde bitch. This entire thing could have been avoided by damage control, not by throwing a fucking cement pot at Seattle’s most influential citizen! You’re such a fucking fool! You were so busy plotting my downfall that you never saw that I could have helped you! You could have combated this entire thing with just a few strategically placed press releases. Instead, you had your head so far up my ass trying to find some shit that you could use that you couldn’t even see the forest for the trees. You left that door wide open, and your prior clients are taking full advantage of it. Who am I as a capitalist in America to pass up this opportunity?”

I bend down, pick up the summons, and shove it in her face.

This is what I do, Elena!” I say, shaking the summons in her face. “I don’t know or fucking care who all was involved in spreading a goddamn rumor, but this is what I do. I take on cases when people come to me with valid legal issues. You wanna be pissed at me, be pissed about the right thing. Be pissed about this!”

I fling the summons in her face and she catches it this time.

“Now, get the fuck out of my office and never speak to me or come near me again. If you do, I’ll have him shoot you and her beat you Moroccan, assuming I don’t get to you first. I’ll see you in court.”

She stands there for a moment, the three of us waiting for another word to come out of her mouth so that we could draw straws on which of us would get to shoot or beat her. She must’ve seen the killer instinct in one—or all—of our faces, because she scurries out of my office without another word.


A/N: Raj Rajaratnam, Martha Stewart, and Angelo Mozilo all had big cases in insider trading.
“Minha querida”—loosely translated, “My dear.”

The Pinterest board for this story can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/fifty-shades-golden/.

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

 

 

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 42—Unbreak My Heart

I have to admit that I was surprised to see so many people express a tone of disappointment in Ana’s feelings. I’ve had times and events in my life where I had to get up every day and push myself just to get to the next minute—where I felt like the world was just going to gobble me up, and I couldn’t talk about it. Talking about it gave it life and I was just trying to deal with it so that I could have the strength to open my eyes the next day. I really thought most people would be able to relate to that… to that feeling of, “My God! What else can go wrong in my life? The minute I sit down and get comfortable, something else happens.” I guess I’m the only one, or at least in very lean company. It’s sad that I appear to be one of the seemingly very few that can empathize with that, but I guess it’s a good thing that the vast majority apparently hasn’t had that experience.

So, this is my second to last prewritten chapter, but the Muse is finally stirring a bit, so I wouldn’t worry about the future.

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 42—Unbreak My Heart

ANASTASIA

I spend more time venting and crying with my friends, trying to release the anguish and the hopelessness I feel about the situation. I cry and cry and cry with my best friends holding me for I don’t even know how long. I’m exhausted when it’s all done and glad that Christian didn’t walk in on the display. I’m broken from the self-pity and mourning by the two-way coming to life and telling me that one or both of my children have stirred.

“I’ll go,” Val offers as she stands from the sofa.

“No, I’ll go,” I say, standing behind her and drying my eyes with my sleeve before Al gives me a handkerchief. Those two little bundles of love are the light and joy of my life. Right now, I don’t want to miss a moment with them… even if some evil monster is waiting in the wings to snatch them away from me.

“I’ll come with you, then,” she says with a smile before looking at Al.

“I’ll clean up and put the leftovers away,” he says, his brow furrowed as he examines me. “I’m worried about you, Jewel,” he adds. I smile sadly, my eyes tender from crying.

“I’ll live, Al,” I reply before leaving the parlor.

I’m glad that Keri and Gail didn’t get to the nursery before I did. I really didn’t want to enter into the room to inquiring minds about my obviously red and puffy eyes. We walk in and both children are unsettled. Val gestures me to Minnie’s crib while she goes to Mikey.

“Hey, little man,” I hear her say. “What’s all that noise?” She lifts him out of his crib and quickly checks his diaper before taking him to his changing table. I do the same with Minnie, cooing at her and taking comfort in her beautiful cherubic face with my blue eyes staring back at me under a mop of Christian’s red hair. I had noticed that just in the last month or so, both my children gained their eye color, and Minnie definitely has my eyes while Mikey sports his father’s under my deep mahogany hair. Minnie is happy to get that soiled diaper off her bottom and I let her skin air out a bit before putting another on her.

“Mmm,” Val says, “I love changing diapers.” I grimace as I look over at her and she laughs. “Not the dirty diaper part,” she says. “The part where they’re all clean and you get to use the powder and stuff and they have that new baby smell.” It causes me to chuckle and I welcome the warmth of laughter. As I’m closing Minnie’s onesie, Gail and Keri enter with fresh warmed bottles for the babies. Val throws a look at me and I keep my back to the door. Reading my actions, she takes over.

“Take a break, ladies,” she says, sweetly, heading them off at the door. “We’ve got this watch.”

“Oh,” Gail says in surprise. “You’re fine?”

“Sure,” Val says confidently, “but thanks for the vittles!” The ladies all laugh good-naturedly before Gail adds, “Okay, call us through the two-way if you need us.”

Not wanting to seem rude, I look slightly over my shoulder without revealing my face to them and say, “Thanks, guys,” as normally as I can and attempt to throw them off by concentrating on cooing at my baby. “Is that Mommy’s precious girl? Yes, you are…”

It works.

When Keri and Gail clear the room, I sigh in relief that I didn’t have to convince more people in my life that I’m okay when, in fact, I’m not.

“Thanks,” I say to Val, lifting Minnie into my arms and setting up shop in the window seat with my baby and a bottle since I just had wine. The window seat is what I’m accustomed to, now.

“Don’t mention it,” she says, sitting in Mikey’s rocker and testing his bottle before giving it to him. “Why don’t you come and sit in the rocker? It might help to break old habits.” I look down at my nursing daughter.

“Maybe next time,” I tell her. “I don’t want to disturb Young Miss when she’s eating,” I lie. The truth is that the seat gives me some form of familiarity and comfort now that I’m no longer watching the bridge. I just don’t feel like explaining that to everyone. It would be like telling them that the cliff where I fell is now my favorite spot. It was once, but now, I’ll just be reminded that I could have fallen to my death on a drunken binge.

Val distracts me from my own problems by telling me more about her and Elliot’s Caribbean cruise. I wasn’t surprised that the cruise took them to St. Maarten but not to Anguilla. The boat would probably be larger than the island. She told me about Harrison’s Cave and the beautiful 17th-Century plantation houses and it made me long for our trip to Anguilla. I definitely need a vacation right now to cleanse my body and soul of what’s going on in my life. We had to postpone our Italian vacation, probably until next year since we plan to stay for quite some time. I can’t lie, though. A cruise to anywhere for a week or two would be right up my alley right now.

There’s a tap at the door and Val and I look at each other. It’s one of the men, we already know, but Christian would have just walked in. So, it has to be Al or Elliot. Jason and Chuck would already know that their women are not in the nursery. The door opens and sure enough, there’s my best friend, but behind him is my husband—my tall, beautiful, muscular husband… the cause and cure for my distress all wrapped into one.

“Hey, ladies,” Al says. “How’s it going?” His bad attempt at nonchalance coupled with Christian’s deeply examining gaze on me lets me know that these two gentlemen have been talking… about me. Al is only concerned about me and I love him for it, so I sigh in resignation.

“Better,” I say, unable to hide the crack in my voice from my earlier crying. Christian is obviously uncomfortable looking at me, and I think it’s the window seat. It has definite connotations, and he and Val would much rather that I not sit in it. He stops at the rocker on his way over to me.

“How are you feeling, Val?” he says, placing his hand on her shoulder. She smiles up at him.

“Good,” she nods. “The vacation was fantastic—just what I needed.”

“I’m happy to hear that,” he says to her, genuinely. “You look very well.”

“Thank you,” she says, sincerely and they both turn their eyes to Mikey.

“Hey, Mikey,” Christian says. “Have you been taking good care of these ladies?” Mikey squirms and coos as if in response to his father’s question. Christian gently strokes his hair and turns his attention to me. He walks over to the window seat where Minnie and I sit, Minnie gazing dreamily up at me after being fed and changed. That look would make me move mountains for her. Christian looks intently at me before turning his attention to his daughter.

“Hey, Mouse,” he says, softly, stroking his daughter’s hair like he just did his son’s. He looks longingly at her for a moment before kissing her forehead. Then he gazes at me and does the same, stroking my cheeks where tears stained earlier. He examines me wordlessly before saying, “Al, can you take over? I’d like to talk to my wife.”

“Absolutely,” Al says. “Give me that bundle of pinkness!”

“Oh, no,” Val chides. “You take our godson. I want a little time with our goddaughter. I haven’t seen them in a month!”

“Fine by me,” Al says, relieving Val of Mikey before she comes over and takes Minnie from my arms. I ache a bit when she leaves my grasp but follow Christian out of the room nonetheless as he leads me by the hand. When we get to the hallway and he closes the door, he embraces me solidly and kisses me deeply, catching me totally by surprise. I gasp at the longing, giving nature of the kiss, my hands falling lazily at my sides as his hand flattens against my back, pressing me firmly into his body. My head lulls back and I let him have my lips, my mouth, my tongue—feeding me while he feasts on my kisses. I don’t know if I’m breathing or not, but I bask in the warmth and safety of his arms, the tenderness yet firmness and possessiveness of his kiss… giving and taking at the same time. When our lips part, I can feel the breath between us. I keep my eyes closed to commit the moment to memory—for cold nights when…

“You know how much I love you, don’t you?” he says, his lips only brushing mine.

“Yes,” I breathe, my eyes still closed, drunk and a bit wobbly from his kiss and his presence.

“Good,” he breathes, taking my lips again.

After an intense, but quick impromptu make-out session in the hallway, Christian leads me to our room. I moved back in a few days ago, realizing that it didn’t really make much sense to sleep in the guest room anymore. I still have problems getting to sleep, but it’s getting better. It’s especially easy when Christian finds that I can’t rest and finds some way to worship my body until I’m tuckered out. I can really see that he’s trying. I wish I could just settle into the comfort.

Instead of stopping at the bedroom, he leads me right into my bathroom and lifts me up onto the marble vanity. He turns on the cold water and retrieves a clean washcloth. After wetting the washcloth and wringing most of the water out of it, he stands in front of me, lifts my chin and begins to sponge my cheeks.

Can’t hide anything from Mr. Grey.

I close my eyes and the cool cloth moves to my eyelids. The relief on the swollen orbs is immediate. I hear him moistening the cloth again and this time, he holds my head all the way back and places a compress over my eyes. A few moments later, a second cloth is sponging my cheeks, my jaw, and my neck again.

“Your cheeks are still tear-stained,” he says softly, “and your eyes are red and puffy. You look tired.” I don’t respond. I just sit on the vanity and let the protector and caregiver have his way, savoring these moments and committing them to my mental Rolodex. He let me sit there for several minutes—or at least it felt that way—replacing the compress one time, and letting the cold water soothe the ache from my eyes as he gently sponges my face with the other washcloth. He stops at my lips and sponges them gently. He’s now caressing my lips with his fingertips and the cloth and my breath catches. He adds gentle kisses to the mix and I melt at the sensation. My senses are all hyper-focused on my lips and his lips and his fingers when his mouth softly covers mine again, molding gently into them and against them.

Somehow, I feel this is not enough for him.

His arms move to my waist then quickly up my body, lifting my arms and placing them demanding over his shoulders. I immediately take my cue and wrap my arms around his neck, thrusting my hands into his hair. He gasps into my mouth and wraps his arms around me again, curling his body around mine while taking and giving feverish kisses. My body is alight again as he holds me and kisses me, melding into me and devouring me and I wrap my legs around his hips. He pulls my shirt out of my jeans and caresses the skin on my stomach and back.

My back… the garden.

I blaze like fresh, new embers as my body fires with arousal. My breath quickens and his tongue leisurely and sensuously explores my mouth until I feel that I can’t take it anymore. He pulls back from me and gazes into my eyes. Seeing whatever it is that he needs to see, he lifts me from the vanity, my body still wrapped around him, and takes me to our bed.

Lying me down on my back, he removes my hands from his neck and places them on the bed, holding them down in both of his while he kisses me. I can barely stand it; I’m suddenly so goddamn needy again. His lips travel from my lips to my neck while his hands slide down my arms to the buttons at my breast. I leave my hands by the side of my head. I keep my eyes closed as his lips follow his fingers, unbuttoning my shirt, down my breast, my torso, my belly.

Christian…

That familiar yearning swells up in me and I can hardly breathe. I want him to make it right—take away this feeling of fear and sadness… make it like it once was between us… please, make it like it was…

He unhooks the clasp of my bra between my breasts and pushes the cups aside, gently cupping my breasts while he kisses the mounds. His tenderness is driving me mad. I’m almost dysfunctional with need.

He kisses along the waistband of my jeans as he opens the button and unzips my pants, kissing along the waistband of the hip-hugger panties underneath. I bite my lip to keep from making a sound, taking deep breaths to control my passion and my body. There’s a bit of movement on the bed, and then he pushes his hands into my jeans, grasping the waistband and pulling them and my panties off at the same time, pushing my ballet flats off my feet before my pants and underwear pass my ankles.

There’s a pause for a few moments, but when he climbs back up to me, I feel his skin against mine—his whole body. He’s naked. I feel his erection against my thigh as he lifts me from the bed, kissing me deliciously while pushing my bra and shirt off my shoulders. He lays me back on the bed, his face never more than a breath from mine. He kisses me again as his hands run down my body, caressing my sides and hips until he reaches my thighs.

He pulls them up, roughly opening me to him, his rock-hard erection pressing into my stomach. God, I want him so badly. I need to feel him, need to put another moment in the reservoir—another cherished time… please… hurry.

He slides his arms under mine until he’s cupping my shoulders in either hand, then he nestles his erection between my legs, between my lips. God, he feels so good. I throw my head back as his lips find the valley of my breasts and he grinds the length of his shaft up and down along my lips, my labia, my clit…

Oh, my God… Oh, my God, this is torture.

Neither of us says anything or makes a sound. He just continues to drag his length up and down as he kisses wherever his mouth can reach. When he clamps down on a nipple, then teases it with his tongue, I feel my orgasm building, knocking at the door in no time flat. Just as I think it’s about to blow, he stops and rises off of me a bit. He looks hungrily into my eyes and pushes my legs open farther with his body. Simultaneously, he takes both of my hands and plants them above my head, my arms bent with his fingers entwined in mine, while raising his hips to position the head of his long hard cock at my vaginal opening.

He pauses for a minute, holding my gaze while his hips are suspended in the air. Without warning, he thrusts all the way into me, balls deep, pulling my hands down at the same time for leverage. A searing pain rips through me like I’m losing my virginity all over again, but it’s quickly replaced with the pleasure that left my loins only moments ago. He trembles at the first drive into me, both of us still managing to remain silent through what was obviously a very powerful feeling in our nether-regions. Three strokes later and I’m gasping through my orgasm as Christian pushes slowly and deeply into me, kissing my cheek, my neck, the corners of my mouth.

I’m whimpering out the aftershocks as he settles his weight onto me and begins to make love to me, holding my hands down and pushing into me, his full body lying over mine, his skin rubbing against me as if he needs as much of it to touch as possible. His mouth covers mine and he bestows upon me the most delicious, succulent kisses my soul can take. I’m lost in him and he’s owning me, pushing himself into me—mind, body, and soul. I relish in the feeling, absorbing every stroke and every emotion—the hot, hardness of his dick; the meticulous concentration in his stroke; the possessiveness of him holding my hands down; the luscious kisses that give and take from my lips. It’s only minutes after the first orgasm that the second one begins to creep into my loins. The onslaught of sensations overwhelms my senses and my second orgasm burns against his cock once more, this time leaving lots of juices to coat his erection.

He finally releases my lips and I can feel his gaze on me even though my eyes are closed.

Open your eyes.

I think I heard it, but I’m not sure. Nonetheless, I open my eyes, my gaze no doubt swimming in satisfaction from my prior two orgasms.

You’re so beautiful.

Again, not sure if I heard it, but I see it in his eyes and feel it in his delicious grind. I feel myself rising again and wonder how many times I can come in quick succession. God, it feels so good, and this one decides to give lubrication before it strikes.

“Oh, God, baby,” he says softly in my ear, “your so wet… so hungry for me…”

“Yes, Christian,” I breathe as my third orgasm quickly creeps up on me, “only you.” He raises his eyes to me, never losing his rhythm.

“Say it again,” he whispers.

“Yes… Christian…” I gasp as the feeling crawls through my thighs and up my pelvis, “only you.”

“Again… please…” His stroke deepens, and my pelvis threatens to implode. I throw my head back in sweet agony as it approaches quickly… almost… almost…

“Only… Christian… only you…” He groans, sweet and deep, his face buried in my neck, pushing me so high, so deep, my God…

“Please…” he beseeches me deep from his chest, “… again!”

I can’t withstand it any more.

“Ho… ho…” I try to speak as my third orgasm crashes down on me. I grip his fingers tight to force the words out of my mouth. “Ho… honly… y-you…Christian… only… only you… only you!” I cry out as my orgasm rips through me again, bringing passion and relief that I didn’t feel with the first two. My back arches and my hands tighten as I helplessly repeat the last two words through a climax blasting through my extremities and leaving me helpless to its wrath.

“Jesus!” he bites out as I feel him stiffen and empty hard, throbbing, and thick into me. His teeth grit and the same noise comes from his throat as he presses hard into me, unable to move through his paralyzing orgasm. He squeezes my hands until it feels like the blood flow stops and I lay there, allowing him to use me as the vessel that he needs right now and savoring every moment of it—his weight pressing down on me; his hands painfully gripping mine; his breath caught and held in his chest as his body is pulled taut, stretched like a rubber band and helpless until his passion releases him.

“Jesus… Jesus, Jesus…” he gasps as the orgasm finally releases his muscles. He showers my neck with kisses as he catches his breath, his cock still throbbing inside me, my core still throbbing around him.

“I didn’t…” he begins as he gently massages my hands. “Did I…?”

“No, no,” I silence him as he continues to catch his breath. He still kisses me as he moves to roll me on top of him.

“No, please,” I beg, wanting to feel his weight on me a little longer. He looks down into my eyes and I gaze back at him, beseeching him not to move. He lies back down on top of me, one hand cradling my cheek, the other still holding my hand over my head while he kisses my exposed cheek softly.

“And only you, my love,” he says softly, between kisses. “Only ever you…”

*-*

“This wasn’t my intention when I pulled you away from our children,” he says, caressing my stomach gently in our post-orgasmic haze.

“No?” I say, turning my gaze to him. He shakes his head.

“I really did want to talk… really do,” he replies, “but I saw you in the window and at first, I just wanted to get you out of there. Then, when the light hit your face, I knew that you had been crying. Al told me that you were upset, and he told me why, but he didn’t tell me that you were crying. I just wanted to wash your face and get rid of the puffiness in your eyes… but most of all, I just don’t want you to cry anymore.”

That’s not likely, dear. The fates are even using you against me right now. That’s why I’m internalizing every good moment, every precious and tender moment, every sensual moment, so that I don’t lose my mind when they decide to attack again.

“Jason and Gail want to have another… session with us, if you’re up to it. They were waiting in the den when I came to get you. They’re most likely off doing something else by now. Do you want to talk or would you rather not?” I sigh. Again, I know he means well, but right now, I don’t see that talking will help me.

“Sure,” I concede, wanting to appease him. I move to get up and he stops me.

“Not yet,” he says. “Just a few more minutes.” Fine by me.

“Okay,” I say softly, relaxing into his touch.

As agreed, a few minutes later, we rise and get back into our clothes. He takes me by the hand and leads me to the elevator. He stands behind me with his arms protectively wrapped around me while we ride to the ground floor. We go to his den, intent on calling Gail and Jason, only to find them tangled in each other’s arms, kissing passionately on the sofa. Though they are fully dressed, the distinct smell of sex hangs in the air. Christian stands there frowning for a moment and I’m in stunned awe. They didn’t even hear us come in. Christian clears his throat and although Gail jumps a bit, Jason just looks over at Christian.

“You better not have fucked on my piano,” he says, leading me into the room and examining his piano for—I don’t know, ass marks?

“No, we didn’t fuck on your precious piano,” Jason says. Gail hides her face while I stifle a laugh. “I won’t bother asking what took you so long. You look fresh as a bunny.”

“You should talk,” Christian says, satisfied that there was no coitus on his baby grand. “Don’t fuck in my den, Jason.”

You should talk,” Jason retorts. “Is there any room in this house you haven’t fucked in?”

“Yes, there is, and that’s beside the point,” Christian replies. “I fuck in my den. You don’t fuck in my den!”

“Okay, boys, that’s enough,” Gail says, after her face has turned fifty shades of red from pastel to crimson. “We got in a quickie while we were waiting we’re sorry it won’t happen again!” She spit it all out in one breath without raising her eyes to me or Christian and I’m fighting with all my might not to break out in hilarious laughter. I’m immune to this. Among other things, last year, I walked right in on these Neanderthals settling a bet on whether or not Christian and I were upstairs fucking. I remember leaving Chuck with a visual he’ll never forget. I also won’t embarrass her with the time that I was shoved under Christian’s desk pleasuring him when Jason walked in unannounced and it was my disembodied voice that convinced him to leave. I’m not modest about our sex life, but apparently, Gail is modest about hers.

“You should take a page from your wife’s book about humility, Mr. Taylor,” Christian says. “Thank you, Gail. It’s quite alright. Butterfly and I did take a while. We apologize.” She nods quickly, obviously anxious to change the topic. “As requested, we are here, though a bit detained.”

Gail straightens her clothes and sits up on the sofa. Jason sits up, too, and zeroes right in on me.

“You don’t talk much anymore, Your Highness,” he says, examining me. “Are you afraid that you’ll say too much?”

I shrug. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t talking. I just don’t have much to say.

“I… uh, it’s not intentional. I just don’t have much to say.”

“That’s not the Ana I know,” he says. “The Ana I knew before this whole mess was outspoken and had a lot to say. You’ve turned into a bit of a mute and you’ve missed four appointments with your therapist.” My eyes widen, and I glare at him.

“Are you keeping tabs on me?” I accuse. He looks at me with a surprised, horrified look on his face.

“Um, yah, that’s my job!” he retorts. “I knew what you were doing even when we weren’t here.” He gestures to himself. “Head of personal security? Everybody reports to me? Chuck, Ben, Chance, Rebe, Tate, Lurch… they all report to me?” He’s saying this waiting for me to catch the hint on how ridiculous my question was, which I do… I shrug and shake my head, murmuring my apologies.

“Accepted, but you still haven’t answered my question,” he says. “You haven’t seen Ace and you haven’t seen Dr. Baker,” he points an accusing finger at Christian. “What’s going on?” I turn my gaze to Christian. He hasn’t seen Dr. Baker?

“I see Dr. Baker on an as-needed basis, not regularly,” he defends.

“You don’t think it’s needed?” he asks.

“She can’t help me in terms of my marriage,” he protests. “Butterfly feels that she has a completely distorted view of what’s going on with her and that affects what advice she can give me about our relationship.”

“But what about what’s going on with you?” Jason asks him. Christian frowns.

“What do you mean?” he retorts.

“You thought your wife was cheating on you. You cut her off and ran away to the other side of the world without giving her the chance to explain. You don’t think that’s a problem on your part, like for instance, your trust issues? Your ability to give the woman you love the benefit of the doubt? Being able to control your anger reflex and ‘snap’ response?”

“I’m dealing with those things,” he says, running his hands through his hair. “I admitted that it was the wrong thing to do…”

“But it doesn’t stop it from happening again,” Jason says, interrupting his excuse. I hold my head down and wait for him to tear into me. I didn’t have to wait long.

“And you,” he begins. Here it goes. “You were seeing your therapist weekly before any of this happened. You shocked him so much that he showed up at the door! What gives?” I shrug again, noncommittal.

“I haven’t found the words,” I say, honestly. “I’d be wasting his time and mine.”

“So, you’re just going to sit here and let this thing tear you apart day by day where we can all see it,” he says. “You think I’m the only one who’s noticed that you’ve changed? You are a force of nature, Ana. You have the ability to move mountains with the flap of your little Butterfly wings, but lately, you’ve been as mute as a church mouse and as affective as a drizzle. You’re not talking to anyone, not even your therapist, and you as a mental health professional don’t see this as a problem?”

I don’t know how to answer him. The feelings that I have right now, nobody can fix, and talking about them just lays them out on plane for everyone to see and makes me feel like shit. When I don’t answer, Jason turns back to Christian.

“You say that you don’t need your therapist,” he begins. “What do you say about her not seeing hers? Is everything honky-dory between you guys?”

“I wouldn’t say honky-dory,” Christian admits. “I know she’s holding something back.”

Holding something back… you all want me to release? Fine, I’ll release…


CHRISTIAN

“Things aren’t terrible, but I can still feel a little distance between us,” I say honestly.

“Ana?” Jason prods, “What do you say to that?” She doesn’t raise her eyes.

“I would never want to leave him or anything like that, but…” She trails off.

But? There’s a but?

“But what, Ana?” Gail presses. “You have to be honest or you’ll never move forward.” She sighs and drops her head.

“I’m scared,” she says, softly, barely audible. “I’m afraid that as soon as I let my guard down and try to be happy, something horrible is going to happen. I never would have thought for a moment that something like this would happen between my husband and me. I thought our bond was unbreakable and unshakeable and could withstand anything. I thought that no matter what, no one would ever come between us—that when and if that crucial moment ever presented itself, we would both know that there was no room for anyone else and there was no way that someone would be able to work their way into our space. But when the time did come, I was wrong…”

“How were you wrong?” Jason asks. “That someone did work their way into your space?”

“No,” she says. “Liam never worked his way into our space. My eyes may have been stricken with what I saw, but that man never made it to my heart. Hell, he barely made it to my mind until he was in my sight or unless I was pissed about his presence. He never stood a chance. There was no room for him. So, what? He’s attractive. He’s not the first attractive man I’ve ever seen, and he won’t be the last. Have you met my therapist? My best friend’s husband? My brother-in-law? All attractive men that made me do a double-take when I first met them, but I never ended up in their arms or in their beds.

“When that man made a move on me, I stopped him. I did not see my husband and I stopped him. I didn’t have my arms around him pulling him in for a kiss—I stopped him. And the reward I got was that my husband left me for two and a half weeks and didn’t speak to me. The truth is that I can beat myself over the head for what I could have done differently over and over again, but it won’t mean anything. It won’t do anything. I didn’t meet this man at a hotel or even make a date for dinner. He invited me out to lunch and I turned him down for just this reason… for the speculation it could have caused. I can pick this situation apart more than I already have, and you know what I’ll get from it? The same thing that I already got…

“Don’t step wrong, Ana.
“Look straight ahead, Ana. Don’t look left or right…
“Don’t get comfortable, Ana. The moment you do, all hell is going to break loose.”

“You’re sounding a bit like the martyr, Ana,” Jason says. Butterfly laughs ironically and does a disbelieving nod.

“Of course, I do,” she says, defeat and resignation lacing her voice.

“Don’t discount her feelings, Jason,” Gail defends. “She has a right to her feelings.” Jason turns to look at his wife and back at Butterfly.

“You’re right,” he says. “I’m sorry. Maybe you can help me understand what it is that you’re feeling.” That’s pretty insightful. Butterfly looks up at him with a sad smile.

“I can understand why you feel that way, because if I wasn’t sitting in this body—in this life and mind, experiencing this shit first hand—I would feel the same way. This is one of the reasons why I don’t want to talk about it… none of it. It won’t make a difference.”

“Please, Ana,” Gail presses. “Tell us.” Butterfly shakes her head.

“Every time I got comfortable, something happened,” she says, still smiling. “Every time I thought I was going to be happy and I could sit back and take a breath and relax, something happened. Every single time! I’m a walking tragedy,” she says with a laugh. I don’t see what’s funny, but I think she may be going a little hysterical.

“It can’t be every time, Ana,” Jason protests. She laughs again, this time, with tears threatening her eyes.

“No?” she says, still sporting a wide smile and threatening to cry at the same time. “Let’s review, shall we?

“Right when I thought my mom and dad were happy, my mom suddenly became dissatisfied and left my dad. It only got worse—she ripped us apart deliberately, so set on hurting him for not being what she thought he should be that she didn’t care that she was destroying me, too.

“I was miserable at first, but I coped with it until I was able to settle comfortably into obscurity. Then what happens? The most popular boy in school pays attention to me and I was foolish enough to believe that he liked me… until he raped me. We all know how that turned out.

“Yes, I wanted to die, but I didn’t. Then Daddy came and got me, took me away from the horrible nightmare that I was living and nursed me back to health for a few months. I was right at the promise of tranquility—it was right there in arm’s reach—and they came and snatched me back to hell.

“I finally escape—finally escape—come back to Washington and start my life back over again… from scratch… all on my own. During that time, I meet this guy. He treats me like a princess. The cutest, most considerate guy I had met to that point and what happens? He turns out to be the goddamn spawn of Satan! My already shredded heart was put through such hell that it took years—years—for me to let anybody near me.

“Enter Christian Grey. After a tumultuous beginning, we fall in love only for me to find out that he has a psycho, stalker, pedophile ex-lover and—oh, yeah, Satan’s spawn is hanging in the bleachers waiting for his chance to attack!

“Crazy pedophile wreaking total havoc on our relationship and me and Mr. Grey have a brief falling out. The moment I come to my senses about the cause of the fallout, Satan’s Spawn kidnaps me and his fucking psycho sidekick damn near beats me half to death while I’m cuffed to a bed.

“I’m rescued! Yay, right? Only we go to Anguilla and shit happens where I lose my mind there, too—more than once!

“So, we get back and announce our relationship to the world, and the crazy blonde pedophile continues to wreak total fucking havoc on our lives for months… restraining orders; crashing my father’s wedding; kissing my boyfriend; trying to kill Jason; trying to kill Christian; trying to kill me…”

This is playing out like a goddamn Greek tragedy. If I hadn’t been present for most of it, I’d swear she was exaggerating.

“In between there somehow, I apparently mistakenly thought my wedding was called off and escaped to Montana, rethinking my entire purpose in life, only to return to the whole aforementioned murder-death-kill scenario.

“Oh, and let’s not forget Mommie Dearest!”

Yes, let’s not forget her.

“Once we finally do get married, halfway through our honeymoon, Satan’s Spawn pulls a hole card and we have to come back and I discover the most joyous revelation of my life after vomiting on the prosecuting attorney and passing out on the goddamn stand.”

At least she didn’t mention me having a spy at her bachelorette party.

“Then comes the hacker and the fundraiser fiasco, and immediately after we put those things to rest, I get T-boned by a fucking ex-sub who almost kills me and Chuck! Nearly a year later, I still don’t have all my memories back.

“After more hiccups than I care to count, I finally bring two healthy babies into the world, a joyous occasion that was overshadowed a few months later by Val’s tumor and Pop’s unfortunate passing—not things that directly happened to me, but deserve inclusion due to the fact that a) when Pops’ died, my husband turned into an emotional infant and locked me out of the bedroom that we shared, b) I sat for days wondering if my best girlfriend was going to die after we had treated each other like shit for months and c) they were both cause to postpone our Italian vacation.

“A few months later, I find that all my hard work for Helping Hands is being questioned by a spiteful, vindictive bitch with an ax to grind and then, the last thing… the very last thing I ever thought could happen happened! I feared that maybe one day, my husband would seek something that I wouldn’t be able to give him and might look for it in the company of another, but I never, ever thought that another man would come between us. It was never on my radar, not even in the furthest recesses of my mind. And then…” She holds her head down and shrugs, shaking her head and still chuckling sadly.

“I know I’ve forgotten something, but I think you get the idea,” she adds, still laughing tragically. “I. Am a walking. Fucking. Tragedy. I’m the goddamn damsel that’s always getting tied to the fucking railroad tracks in those badly made, corny, black-and-white silent films. And what a horrible thing to happen—being tied to the railroad tracks and seeing your demise coming at you full speed and hoping and praying that someone’s going to save you because you can’t save yourself. And trust me, the train has run me over more times than I’ve been rescued, yet there I am… dismembered on the railroad tracks, trying to put myself back together again. Those attacks and accidents weren’t even merciful enough to kill me… just scar me forever—physically, mentally, and emotionally—then set me back in this ragtag, patchworked body with my ragtag patchworked heart and my ragtag patchworked mind to fight another day.”

She laughs again, but by now, tears are streaming nonstop down her cheeks. She shakes her head and drops it before she adds, “For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”

Now she’s quoting scriptures? This is really getting bad.

“Ana, can’t you see that this is exactly why you need to talk to Ace?” Gail tells her, leaning in like it’s a one-on-one conversation. “You can’t stop bad things from happening. You might be right, the fates may be cruel, and they may be waiting for things to get great so that they can drop another test on you, but you can’t spend your life waiting for that. You can’t do that to yourself… or your children. What kind of freedoms can they have if you’re always waiting for them to get run over by a bus?”

Butterfly sighs, now fully weeping while listening to Gail.

“I lived in mourning for many years after God gave me a wonderful man and then decided to take him back. We have no children and now, I can’t bear any children of my own. Lo, and behold, another wonderful man happened into my life.” She looks over at Jason.

“He was the worse person for me,” she laughs. “We work together; he has a dangerous job… but those damn fates…” She looks back down at her hands before she raises her eyes to Butterfly.

“He was almost killed, and I thought that destiny was going to punish me again, but he wasn’t. He came back to me and even though it happened in a pretty cruel way, he even brought me a daughter.”

Jason’s gaze softens, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen more love in his eyes… except on their wedding day in Anguilla.

“And then you welcomed me into your family—even against the wishes of my employer…” I drop my head and twist my lips. She’s right. I didn’t want to blur any lines between me and my staff, but Butterfly had different plans from the very beginning. “…And you had two beautiful babies, and I get to help raise them. So, I didn’t get to bear any children of my own, but I sure as hell have a family.

“One thing that I learned from losing my Douglas and living in mourning for all those years before I found my Jason, gained a beautiful daughter, and a beautiful family is that yes, bad times are always going to happen for as long as you’re alive. But think about it really hard… The bad times don’t follow the good times. The good times follow the bad.”

Butterfly raises her eyes to Gail, her lip trembling. She swallows hard.

“I want to believe that so badly,” she says. “It would make all of this so much easier to bear… I just can’t see how to get past this huge, crashing abyss I feel in my soul.”

“I just want us to get back to being us,” I say, disappointed, “but… from what you’re saying, that might not happen.” She shrugs, smiling sadly.

“I love you too much to lie to you,” she confesses. “Give it time. You never know. Maybe I’ll see what Gail is saying. I’ll go back to Ace and maybe… maybe I’ll get comfortable enough to forget this feeling of impending doom.”

It’s not until this moment that I fully realize what my leaving really did to her. It shook her foundation in everything she believed in. Maybe there was too much of her inner security wrapped up in me, but didn’t I make it that way? Didn’t I make her the most important thing in my life, bumping heads with her several times on matters of her security, safety, and well-being? I’m Christian Grey—self-proclaimed possessive and controlling asshole. I must have everything important to me encased in this protective bubble so that I know that it’s safe. She was in that bubble—figuratively and literally—and that’s what she became accustomed to. I took care of her life, her body, and her heart, and she expected me to keep doing that…

And then, one day, I didn’t.

I left her out there in the elements without any shelter and she had to fend for herself against the foul weather. As a result, she got a really good look at just how bad the hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, typhoons, blizzards, avalanches, sandstorms, wind and hail could really be. Every bad thing that ever happened to her all came back at     once and all the progress that she had made in all of her therapy sessions went down the drain. A lot, if not all, of her safety and progress was directly linked to me and I took it away in one fell swoop…

I was the one who opened the door to finally finding out what happened in Green Valley.

I was the one who swooped in with my whirly-bird and rescued her from the clutches of the bad guys.

I was the one who held her as she cried when she cut ties with her mother.

I was the one who stood by her side and fought her friends when she was catatonic for several days.

I was the one who was there for twelve days when she was in a coma and waiting when she woke up, even though she didn’t know who I was.

Then, she turned around looking for that safety net at a very crucial moment in our relationship, and I wasn’t there… I was gone… and she fell, and she might still be falling.

I’ll make it up to you, baby. I swear I will.

“I guess I just have to work harder at showing you that everything’s not impending doom,” I say, matter-of-factly, “at making sure that you know that I realize that I wasn’t there when you fell and I’m really sorry for that; letting you know that I know I’ve shaken your trust to the very core and it may take me the rest of my life to get it back, but I’ll fight that long if it means that in the end, you know that I’ll never let you fall again. I don’t care how long it takes… I love you and I want you to trust me again, trust us again, trust life and love again. I’ll do any and everything to restore that trust. It may take a really long time, but I don’t care. You won’t have to forget that impending doom, because I’m going to chase it away. I’m going to spend every day of my life chasing it away until you trust again. I made a horrible mistake, Anastasia. I ran when I should have listened. As a result, everything we’ve built has been destroyed. Please, forgive me. Please, please, forgive me.”

“Not… everything,” she says, her voice small. I raise my eyes to look at her. “I still love you… with all my heart…”

“But you don’t trust me,” I say. “That is everything, but I’m not giving up hope. I’ll do everything I can to make you trust me again.”

I suddenly ache inside. That pull—that connection that we’ve always had suddenly feels stronger than it ever has, and I feel that if she doesn’t come to me now, I just may pass out. She leaps from her seat and launches herself into my arms. She’s as light as a feather and as heavy as lead at the same time and it feels like the wind has been knocked out of me as I hold her to me with all the inner strength I can muster.

“I don’t know…” her small voice begins, her face buried in my neck.

“Sssh,” I soothe, rubbing her back and holding her close to me. “I do…”

*-*

I’m sitting at the breakfast bar resting my face in my hands and watching Gail put the finishing touches on an exquisite homemade seven-layer German chocolate cake. Only moments after our emotionally taxing discussion, Butterfly excused herself and went to take a nap before dinner. I immediately felt that hopeless feeling again and only wanted to make things right in her life… when I suddenly made a horrendous discovery.

“Today is Butterfly’s birthday,” I lament right after she leaves the den. Gail and Jason look at each other and back at me.

“Fuck! It is,” Jason responds, slapping his hand to his forehead. “We fucking forgot. How could we fucking forget?”

“Look at everything that’s been going on,” Gail interjects. “My birthday would be the last thing I would be thinking about in the midst of all this shit!”

“I’ll bet that’s not how Butterfly feels,” I say, pulling out my phone to see if Al is still in the house.

“Yep,” he says when he answers the phone.

“Today is Butterfly’s birthday,” I say into the phone.

“Yep,” he says, with no surprise. I roll my eyes.

“You didn’t think to remind me of this when we talked?” The line is silent.

“Are you serious?” he asks. “Are you fucking kidding me? You’re her goddamn husband and you forgot her fucking birthday? Now you wanna blame me? Seriously?” Oh, shit, I’ve pissed the man off.

 “Look, I’m sorry. There’s a lot going on, okay?” I apologize.

“No shit, Sherlock,” he replies.

“Did she mention anything while you all were visiting?”

“Not a word,” he says. “I think it’s the furthest thing from her mind.” Like Gail said.

“Are you still here?” I ask.

“Yes, but she just went up to bed. I think she’s down for the night…”

“No, she’s not. She’s taking a nap. Come to my den. I need your help…”

I used to sit in the kitchen and watch my mother like this on those few occasions when she would make something special. She was a very busy doctor and she didn’t get to cook much until we got older. She spent as much time with us as possible when we were kids instead of in the kitchen. She’s the reason that I don’t want my children raised solely by nannies. My mom was the best, and even though I may not have acted like she was the world to me, she really was. There was this one time when she made this chocolate cake for me from scratch. It was just for me, and I remember how special she made me feel making that cake just for me…

“I need you to do me a huge favor and I don’t want you to laugh at me.” Gail’s eyes widen as she puts the cake spatula down on the counter and turns her attention to me.

“Okay,” she says, waiting for my request. I sigh heavily and spit it out.

“I want you to teach me how to cook a nice meal for my wife,” I say finally. “I’m not trying to be a master chef. I just want to cook her a nice meal and I’m afraid that if I try to do it alone, I’ll burn the house down.”

I raise my head to look at her and she’s glaring at me like she’s just seen a ghost. I try to understand that this is a strange request but give me a fucking break here. I’m trying to do something nice for the woman I love.

“You want to cook?” she finally says, astonished. I nod.

“Yes,” I reply, already afraid that this will be an impossible task. Gail sighs.

“It takes patience, Christian,” she says. “You’re not a very patient man.”

“I at least want to try,” I say. “I just want to do something nice for her. I buy her shit all the time. This will be different, something I can do myself. It doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal—I know that would take forever, but something nice… and edible.” A small smile plays with Gail’s lips.

“We’ll try,” she says. “When do you want to do this? You all are always home at the same time, unless you don’t care if she knows.”

“No, it has to be a surprise,” I tell her. She nods.

“Sophie has been asking to learn to cook a few dishes. You’re in luck, we’ve only just started. I can kill two birds with one stone if you don’t mind a teenager in your cooking class.” I sigh again. I don’t care who’s in the cooking class as long as she agrees to help me… and Butterfly doesn’t find out.

“Thank you,” I breathe. “I’ll come home early, when Sophie is getting off school. We’ll work out some form of communication so that I’ll know if Butterfly is at home…”

Just like that, Gail becomes my co-conspirator.

Having unlimited resources affords you the luxury of not only being able to put together a birthday party in only two hours, but also to be able to secure the perfect gift that’s not only thoughtful and somewhat extravagant to the average person, but also utterly necessary. As luck would have it—bad luck, that is—I’m the only person in the inner sanctum that forgot it was Butterfly’s birthday. Everyone else had presents at the ready and was only looking for a good time to “engage,” so to speak. So, when Al activated the contingency and managed to get Butterfly’s closest friends to the Crossing on short notice, everyone came bearing gifts. Mine is an Australian cruise that we’ll be taking in December, no excuses or postponing.

At 7pm sharp, I send Val to rouse my Butterfly from her slumber and bring her to the dining room. As much as I’ve promised that birthdays will no longer be a day of angst for my wife, this one was nearly ruined again—this time, because of me. Three birthdays this woman has spent with me and not one of them have gone off without a hitch. Oy vey!

After fifteen minutes have passed and still no sign of my wife, I begin to worry until I see a beautiful vision in sunshine yellow bend the corner around one of the large columns.

“Surprise!” everyone yells. The gathering is small, not everyone that I would have hoped but enough of our closest friends and family.

“Wha…?” Butterfly is stunned. An impromptu Food and Libations with the Scooby Gang and plus ones, the extended family from the Crossing, and my parents made it, too. A small table is set up with the gifts and the German Chocolate cake made by Gail and decorated with large chocolate flowers and the words “Happy Birthday Mommy.” The twins sleep in their Pack-n-Plays on either side of the table, guarding the cake and gifts from possible interlopers. Little Mindy occasionally peeks into the Pack-n-Plays under her mother’s watchful eye. Little Harry had just been put down to sleep and as I am told, has been battling a small cold. So, even though Ray is here, Mandy and Ana’s little brother couldn’t make it.

“I couldn’t let her come down when she first awoke,” Val apologizes. “She looked like she had been attacked by wolves. She never would have forgiven me.” I walk over to my sweet, stunned bride and put my hands on her forearms.

“I want to say that we had this elaborate plan, but we didn’t. We all just wanted you to know how much we love you.” She looks around the table at her friends and the family we could gather before she throws her arms around me and buries her face in my neck.

“I totally forgot,” she breathes in soft sobs. “I love you, too.”

*-*

She had a wonderful time. She spent the evening listening to what was going on in everyone else’s life since it was already known that the last month of her life had been a complete disaster. Having spent most of the summer taking care of Val, then being there for me and my family when Pops died, followed almost immediately by Mia’s wedding then yet another event that we’ll come up with some horrible nickname for, there hasn’t been any time to connect with her friends on the frivolous and fun level that friends should.

After two years together, Marilyn and Gary have decided to move in together. There are still no wedding bells on the near horizon, but they’re both so busy that they don’t spend nights apart at all and, according to them, it makes no sense to pay rent in two places when they most often only stay in one.

So… Courtney and Vickie are a real-life couple. Yeah, that’s news to me. I wouldn’t have been surprised that they were fucking around, but a couple… yeah, I’m surprised. Courtney’s going to school for social work, which is a real shocker to me since she was truly a lost cause a year ago as far as I was concerned. But, I have to admit—Aunt Tina, Mom, and Butterfly were right. She has changed significantly. I don’t think her grandparents would even recognize her now.

Valerie and Elliot will be moving into their house next weekend. The house is ready, but they didn’t want to come straight home and then have to prepare for packing and moving. Valerie’s things are all in storage since she let her apartment go right after her diagnosis and Elliot’s refusal to let her out of his sight. Elliot still has his apartment, but he’s going to be shedding most of his bachelor gear—as is my understanding—for new furnishings in the new house. They should be ready for a housewarming in a few weeks.

Maxine announces that she has decided to open her own practice. She feels that it’s time that she offers her services in a different arena without being under someone else’s payroll. Butterfly encourages her to do that and jokes that she will come and see Maxine should she find herself in need of a job again. A scoff and a dirty look come from both my mother and me to the party’s amusement. Butterfly also informs her friend that she owns an office building downtown with empty office space. I had completely forgotten that I had gifted Butterfly’s office downtown to her and there is currently space for rent. So, Maxine now has the new location of her practice.

There’s no sex tonight. The day was just too heavy, even with the successful joviality at the end of the evening. Butterfly and I watch Disney movies in the family room with the twins in their Pack-n-Plays. She finally falls asleep somewhere after their midnight feeding and I lay in bed with her in my arms staring at the ceiling, thinking how close I came to losing it all over a terrible misunderstanding.

My wife could have died when she fell off that cliff. Chuck saved her life yet again. She may never recover from this impending doom syndrome. I can see it in her eyes. She used to be such a free spirit and now, she’s approaching everything with a level of emotional caution that’s clearly visible to everyone around her. She’s agreed to start seeing Ace again. I’ll give Dr. Baker a call, too. Somebody’s got to help us out of this situation in which we’ve found ourselves or we’ll never be able to get ourselves back.

Having laid awake next to my wife for about three hours with no hope of falling asleep, I slide out of bed and go to my old faithful companion in hopes of calming my nerves enough to find slumber. I stop at the bar in the entertainment room and pour myself a brandy, then stop in my office to get my voice recorder before escaping to my den and my baby grand.

I never know how to verbalize my feelings, which is why I ran my cowardly, selfish ass to Madrid instead of staying here and communicating with my wife. I thought I had come so far during the time that we’ve been together. I’ve come a long way, granted, but not nearly as far as I need to if I can come this close to losing her because of this. I start the voice recorder and just start playing. At first, I have no idea what I’m doing, what I’m playing, or why I’m recording… but I do. I just keep playing, keep recording… and keep singing.

You look at me and I begin to melt, just like the snow when a ray of sun is felt…

She’s so broken, and I broke her. Just like she always does, she put on a good face for the rest of the world, but deep inside, she’s fragile and afraid. Somehow, I—or something else—always exploits that fear and that vulnerability. I have to make sure that she knows that I’ll never be the one to do that to her again. I have to know that I’ll never do that to her again. She can’t take it. She won’t survive going through this too many more times.

And now that your rose is in bloom, a light hits the gloom on the Grey…

Yeah, I know that’s not the Grey the song meant, but that’s how I feel—lost without her and so found when she’s near me. Song after song flows from my soul, my fingers, and my mouth. I don’t really know the purpose. I just sing and play what I’m feeling, what I need her to feel.

And when you smile, the whole world stops and stares for a while…

How I could have thought that for one second her thoughts and heart would stray to someone else is beyond me. Even now, playing the probable kiss over and over in my head, I no longer see her gazing in his eyes. I no longer see him closing in to touch his lips to hers. I only see her hand on his chest, pushing him away, fending him off from our bubble, our life and our love…

I knew I loved you before I met you, I think I dreamed you into life…

I have to get her back… back to the sassy Dr. Steele that I met in that community center, the woman who calls me Grey when she’s cross with me, the woman who cries adrenaline tears when she’s pissed and wants someone to pay for whatever has her feeling that way instead of shrinking into sofas or in fetal positions on the floor—not for myself, but for her… and yes, for me, too…

If ever I believe my work is done, then I’ll start back at one…

She has to know that I love her, what she means to me, what she’ll always mean to me. She has to know that, yes, there will be some bad times—some shadows and some tears, we can’t avoid them—but I’ll always be there to love her and hold her, to make sure that she’ll never feel the way she feels right now ever, ever again. God, I love you, Butterfly. I love you so much. I’ll spend the rest of my life proving to you that I love you and I’ll never let you down like this again… never again…

I never knew what my life was for, but now that you’re here, I know for sure…

I have died every day waiting for you, Darlin’ don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years…

You make me feel so brand new and I want to spend my life with you…

All of me loves all of you, love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections…


A/N: Ana’s quote about sudden destruction comes from the Bible: I Thessalonians 5:3

Here are the songs that are referenced in Christian’s midnight serenade.

On the Wings of Love—Jeffrey Osborne
Kiss From A Rose—Seal
Just The Way You Are—Bruno Mars
I Knew I Loved You—Savage Garden
Back At One—Brian McKnight
Spend My Life With You—Eric Benet ft. Tamia
A Thousand Years—Christina Perri
Let’s Stay Together—Al Green
All Of Me—John Legend 

Other songs that were on the recording, not mentioned in the chapter:
Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You—George Benson, Glenn Medeiros, Westlife… take your pick
I Will Be Right Here Waiting for you—Richard Marx
Thinking Out Loud—Ed Sheeran
Because You Loved Me—Celine Dion

Not sure if anyone cares, but years ago, I used to watch a sitcom called The Facts of Life. One of the characters—Tootie—wrote and performed a dramatic reading that I never really understood until I became an adult and people were always expecting something of me. When my Muse deserted me (and believe me, y’all, she deserted me—I thought I was going to be wrapping up the Butterfly Saga), Tootie’s dramatic reading came to me. To me, it translated into, “You can’t expect for me to just keep churning out shit when you need it and just take what I can get when you’re ready to give it to me.” 

These last few chapters, my Muse took a beating… and she shut the fuck down. 

Now I know people may look at this and say, “We can’t say what we want to say or she’s going to stop writing.” That’s not necessarily true, but people do need to understand that creativity is a lot of hard work, and I’m feeling what’s being said. As many times as I’ve tried to explain things logically, my Muse—as is anybody’s—is as “at will” as they come. She was like, “I don’t have to explain shit! and took the fuck off. 

For those who think she’s overly sensitive, do me a quick favor. Start from chapter 37, and don’t read anything else but the comments(suspicion started in chapter 33; the “embers” started in chapter 37; the blaze started in chapter 38) . Start from the first comment in chapter 37 to the last comment in chapter 41. Read it first with an open mind, then picture that this was a piece of clay that you worked on months ago for several weeks, and these people are talking about your piece of clay. No matter how thick your skin is, no creative soul can walk away from that unscathed. 

If you’re interested in Tootie’s dramatic reading, it starts at the 15:45 mark and it’s only about a minute long. 

I’m done. I apologize for subjecting you all to my diatribe. I’ve actually lost readers for that. 

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 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/

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nope, You Are Not Crazy; Miles Is On The Move…

I know you might be asking yourself, “What the hell happened? I thought we were in Dallas!” Well, you’re right. The rewrite of the story started in the lovely city of Dallas, Texas.

DallasTX

 

Alas, as I continued with the rewrites, I literally hit a brick wall with one of the most crucial and pivotal points of the story. Many times, Dallas and I were having disagreements as the story progressed. Yet, we managed to settle our differences–or, I should say, I conceded to the wishes of Dallas, and continued on.

The problem with that thinking is that when the artist makes too many concessions for the subject, the masterpiece becomes flawed at best. Dallas was unwilling to bend for me. He fought and fought and fought on location needs, specific shopping requirements, specific residence requirements, specific…. you get the idea. I am very unhappy that I have to switch locations because I really did fall in love with one or two aspects of the city, but one or two aspects was not enough to prevent the inevitable break-up of our relationship, especially when one of the issues that is causing me to have to divorce this locale is a state issue.

On my Facebook page, I indicated that an author should always follow their first mind. I am kicking myself for not taking this advice sooner. Dallas was my second choice. I am ashamed to even say why I strayed away from my first choice. Instead of further punishing myself for making a completely avoidable mistake, I am just going to correct the error and get on with the rewrites. I have done my research and I am positive that the new location (which should have been the location in the first place) will work out fabulously. So, having said that, I bid a tearful and fond farewell to the lovely city of Dallas, Texas and a gleeful and happy “Hello” to the beautiful city of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Chrlotte

 

I will be going back and changing the previous posts of “Journey of Miles” as soon as I get the opportunity, but I just wanted to let you guys know that you are not insane when you see that the next update takes place in North Cackalaky! (Oh, that’s North Carolina for my people outside of the U.S.)

See you in Charlotte!!!

Love and handcuffs,
BG Holmes aka Lynn