Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 15

It was a close race between Old World Charm and Classic Rustic Tuscan, but Old World Charm won.

I won’t even begin to tell you how horrid my holiday was. It’s not even worth repeating. Let’s just get on with the story.

Falala, my snowflakes are on my front door greeting everyone who comes to my home for the New Year. ❤ A little good news is that we’ve been having some warmer days and we’ve finally passed the winter solstice, so the days are a minute or so  longer each day and it helps a bit with my seasonal depression. 

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

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

Season 5 Episode 15

ANASTASIA

I immediately regret knocking on Marilyn’s door without calling. I don’t know what she’s doing or even if she’s awake yet. When she opens the door, I can clearly see that she’s been crying. She’s not a sodden and soppy mess, but her skin is blotchy, and her eyes are still a bit glassy.

“I knew it was you,” she says. “No one else would be knocking since Vee and Fergus have their own room, and everybody’s probably avoiding me like the plague.”

“Well, I don’t know if anyone is avoiding you,” I say honestly as I enter and close the door behind me. “Unfortunately, I know from experience that you can’t hide grief, no matter how hard you try. It’s impossible. If only people wouldn’t be so terrible about how they interpret it.” She falls down on the sofa in her sitting area and I take a seat next to her.

“I won’t ask how you’re holding up,” I say. “My visit has many reasons.”

“Shoot,” she says.

“First, I’m shamelessly checking up on you,” I tell her. “You left suddenly last night and even though you handled the situation with grace, it couldn’t have been easy.” She sighs.

“It wasn’t,” she says. “To come back and hear a table full of people talk about how they thought you were bulimic or anorexic…” She shakes her head. “Thanks for defending me, by the way.”

“I wouldn’t say that I was defending you,” I admit. “I just think it’s very rude to talk about someone behind their back that way when you have no idea what was going on. Then, they would all be smiling in your face when you came back to the table. All they had to do was ask if they were that concerned. If you didn’t want to tell them, you wouldn’t tell them, but don’t just jump to conclusions.”

“Well, thanks for whatever you did,” she replies. We’re silent for a moment, then I strike up the conversation again.

“The other reasons I came by was, well, we don’t talk anymore. I know that you’re hurting, and I don’t want to push it, but your doctor did say that therapy might help, and some yoga or meditation. I’m great with all those things, you know,” I press.

“Yes, I know…” and that’s all she says.

“I miss being able to talk to you,” I tell her, “but I don’t know what to say right now without being insensitive to your feelings.” She sighs again.

“I guess I won’t know what bothers me until it bothers me,” she says. “I don’t want you to think you can’t talk to me. I’m just trying to muddle my way through this life, and to be honest, I don’t quite know how.”

“That’s one of the reasons I want you to be able to talk to me… about anything. And if we can’t do that just yet, then let’s try some of the other relaxation or stress-relieving techniques. Any illness or hurt has to start mending somewhere, Mare, or you just stay sick.” She shakes her head and rolls her eyes.

“Have you tried to eat anything yet?” I ask. “Have you had your smoothie or anything?” She shakes her head. “Good, because I’m starving. All I’ve had is coffee. So, I’m going to order some breakfast—and a smoothie and a carafe of orange juice—and we’ll see where it goes.” She nods.

“Okay,” she cedes. “I haven’t showered yet, so I’ll do that while you wait for breakfast.” I nod and she heads off to the shower.

I call downstairs and order double servings of a traditional southern breakfast in case anything on the tray tempts her nostrils and she decides to give it a try. Then I check my phone again and the pictures of me that are on Facebook. There have been several likes and comments, some good, some bad as I would expect. I wanted attention in that dress, I sure as hell got it. I don’t know if my father or Mandy is on social media, but I’m kind of hoping that they don’t see this even though they were front and center for the fashion show.

“Why the face?” Mare asks as she comes out of the bedroom in one of the hotel terrycloth robes. Wow, that was fast. I turn my phone to her, and she looks at the picture.

“You’re on Facebook?” she asks.

“Apparently,” I say, scrolling through the pictures once more.

“No, I mean you have a Facebook profile?” I frown.

“Oh! Yeah, but there’s nothing on it. It’s very non-distinct. I don’t even know if I’m going to put anything on it with the publicity I’m getting down here. So much for ‘What happens in Vegas.’” I put the phone on the coffee table.

“Do you really want a social media presence?” she asks. “It can be even more intrusive than the paparazzi.” I shrug.

“I don’t know,” I tell her. “Right now, I only use it to chat with my friend from Australia. She’s the one who convinced me to set it up. I really can’t see any other use for it right now.” She sits on the sofa.

“Nights are the worst,” she says, her head down. “I lay in bed praying for sleep to come to me, and even if I’m exhausted, it takes forever. We slept in knots. We’re both heat-seekers, so if either of us awoke and the other was too far away, we would move over and snuggle in and go back to sleep. There’s no heat in my bed anymore, so I can’t sleep. I can’t even find the slight peace I had before I met him… and that’s why I cry a lot at night.”

“Only at night?” I press.

“Mostly at night,” she says, “but there are some nights that just run right into the day because I don’t sleep at all. Even when I fall asleep, I wake up and remember that he’s not there, so I’m just crying again.”

Oh, dear. So, now she’s not eating or sleeping. No wonder she doesn’t look well. She’s killing herself.

“I’m a realist,” she says. “I don’t expect this to go away overnight, but it’s been nearly three months and I feel like this just happened yesterday. When will this get easier?”

“I don’t have that answer for you, Mare,” I respond. “Breakups really suck.”

“This is so much more than that,” she confesses. “I’ve had breakups before. I was sad, disappointed, angry… nothing felt like this. Nothing has ever felt like this. I feel like somebody died.”

Yeah, unfortunately, that’s what breaking up is—your relationship died. And if you were really in love, there’s no telling how long you mourn the deceased.

“I miss him so much,” she says, wiping a tear from her face… and now she’s crying again. “I miss his smell, his voice, his touch. I miss him holding me and our crazy after-sex talks.” She throws her head back and looks at the ceiling, the tears falling down her temples now.

“He was supposed to get a promotion at City of Lights,” she says. “I wonder if he got it…”

A knock at the door signals that breakfast is here and I’m certain that getting Mare to eat at this point is going to be an Olympic feat. The tray smells wonderful as the porter rolls the tray into the suite. I thank him and roll the tray into the dining room. I begin to uncover the plates and set them on the dining table—double servings of fluffy scrambled eggs, home fries, hominy grits, ham, and biscuits with sausage gravy, and of course, a fruit and vegetable smoothie and orange juice.

“That’s a mountain of food,” she says when she sees it.

“And I’m starving,” I tell her, “but I’m hoping something might tempt you to nibble. If not, I’ve got your smoothie and some orange juice.” She smiles weakly as she takes a seat at the table, sitting on her feet in one of the chairs.

I begin to load my plate with the delicious food and pour myself a fresh cup of coffee and some orange juice. Jesus, I really am hungry.

“I’m going to change my phone number,” Mare says, playing with the straw of her smoothie. My brow furrows.

“Why?” I ask.

“It’s hard waiting and hoping that he’ll call,” she says. “It may be an exercise in futility, but it’ll be a step in the right direction for me.”

An attempt to let go… I get it.

“Are you sure?” I ask.

“No,” she says, “but I’m going to do it anyway.” She sips her smoothie. I chow down on my breakfast while Marilyn talks, telling me that she needs to go shopping for some new clothes as none of her old clothes fit anymore. I want to take her to the spa for a complete treatment—mani, pedi, exfoliating, massage, cut and color. She’s totally wearing her grief and it needs to be scrubbed, plucked, and rubbed out of her, but I think that may be too much too soon.

“How long did it take you to get over Edward?” she asks, and she surprises me by retrieving a fork and picking at some of the eggs on the plate, eating very small bites, but eating.

“I honestly don’t remember,” I tell her, finishing the last bites of my breakfast and refilling my coffee from the pot. “You have to keep in mind, though, that my story is much different than yours. I was betrayed and cheated on, so in addition to losing the man that I loved, I had to deal with healing from the deliberate pain that he put me through. That part took a long time.”

“I’m not saying that my situation is better or worse than yours,” she says after swallowing another mouthful of eggs, “but Gary really was the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life so far. So, I don’t know which is worse—having your heart ripped out, stomped on, and destroyed by someone who was supposed to love you, but finally getting away from that loser… or knowing that the man who makes your heart leap with excitement and love is alive and well and walking this earth and never wants to speak to you again… for something that you did.”

Yeah, that’s a tough call.

“Well, you know how when someone dies, they always tell you to remember the good times?” I begin.

“That doesn’t help,” she says. “It only intensifies the reality of what I’ve lost.”

“I get that,” I say, “but you can’t get rid of those memories. They’ll always be there, and they’re good memories. It’s strange that you asked me about Edward,” I say looking into my coffee cup. “Vee had just come up to the room to discuss my wardrobe reveal on Facebook this morning…”

“I bet that went well,” she says sarcastically. I raise my gaze to her.

“Let’s just say that she won’t ask about my clothes in the future,” I say. “Anyway, Christian and I began to talk about the implications of our wardrobe choices last night, how the men were catcalling from their seats, but the women were more brazen in their pursuits.”

“Whoa, I missed something, huh?” she asks, finishing the eggs to my delight.

“Yeah, you did, but nothing huge, just a tiny floorshow. Nonetheless, the conversation got me to thinking about Edward and our relationship—how the women knew that we were together, but they were unbelievably brazen in flaunting the fact that they were fucking him. They were so disrespectful to me that I couldn’t even go out anywhere anymore. They were everywhere! Everywhere I went—clubs, social events, anything—they were always there. I remember that I even changed some of my interests, sought out different things and different groups of people, but no matter where I turned, someone from that core group of women was always there and I couldn’t escape. That’s not surprising, because there was so many of them.

“I’ve been with my husband for three years now,” I continue. “We have two beautiful children and a wonderful life. I had dropped that man nearly four years before I met my husband, but even now, I find myself lost in melancholy sometimes about the things that he put me through. I had nightmares about the kidnapping for a long time, but seeing him intimate in so many ways with so many women…” I trail off and finger my coffee cup.

“He’s been dead for nearly a year now. He can’t hurt me anymore, and he couldn’t even if he was alive, but the ache of what he put me through, I can always go back to it just like it happened yesterday. It’s always going to be there even if it’s not as intense as it was when I was in the thick of it. I sometimes have to push those thoughts away by force, remembering that those times won’t come back.

“I know the grass always looks greener on the other side,” I say, feeling the anguish rise in my throat again, but swallowing it back down, “but I know from painful experience that when you love someone and your heart is broken, it eventually mends. It may not mend as quickly or as seamlessly as we would like, but it does mend, and remembering the good times aren’t so bad. But when someone treats you like shit, makes you feel like shit, makes you doubt everything you thought you knew, makes you walk away from nearly everyone and everything you thought was familiar because you found out that you were the butt of the joke, you don’t get over that,” I say shaking my head.

“That pain comes back and back and back, and when you think it’s gone, something happens to jar the memory and it’s peeking its head back into the door at you again. So, I know that you’re hurting and I’m not minimizing your pain, but if I had to choose between your pain with Gary and my pain with Edward, I’d choose yours, because I know you’ll mend one day. Try to take a little comfort from that even though I know it’s not much.”

It’s quiet for a moment as I twirl my coffee mug and she sips her smoothie.

“I didn’t mean to bring you down, Bosslady,” she apologizes. I shake my head.

“You didn’t,” I inform her. “I selfishly thought to come down and check on you and talk to you because Edward and his harem had come to mind while I was in my suite as a byproduct of a prior conversation. I hope you don’t mind.”

“I don’t,” she says. “I’ll just have to take your word for it about this whole mending thing, though.” I take her hand.

“Look, I was going to see if I could find a yoga place nearby, just to get some air, but while I was searching, I found this meditation center. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried meditation before, but when I’m totally lost and out of my center, it helps me find my way back. It’s not a complete cure-all, but it’s a really good start.”

She twists her lips skeptically at me, but finally gives in.

“Okay,” she says.

“And if you like, we can go to the outlet mall and grab a few things.”

“You hate the mall, Bosslady,” she says.

“Yes, but this is different,” I tell her. “You need some things and a little retail therapy never hurt.”

*-*

I stop to say goodbye to Daddy and Mandy and to tell Christian where I’m going, and Chuck and Carol accompany me and Mare to the Las Vegas Meditation Center. Not very original, I know, but the center is very professional and informative. The guide doesn’t inundate Marilyn with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, but she—like me—can see Mare’s dis-ease without much effort.

“Confusion in your life is often brought on by confusion in your spirit,” Maya says. “This often leads to bad decisions, lack of self-care, and overall poor health. At the root of it all, everybody wants to be happy, whatever happiness means to each person. The source of true happiness is found inside. If you have a lot of confusion, anger, sadness, and discord, there’s no way you can find peace. No matter what’s happening outside, you won’t find happiness until you find peace inside. That’s the goal of meditation. You find the method that’s best for you based on what is ailing you most right now. What’s at the crust of your discontent?” Mare pauses for a moment.

“A recent breakup,” she replies. Maya nods.

“Was it mutual?” she asks. Mare shakes her head.

“It was not,” she replies.

“So… it has left you broken and out-of-sorts,” Maya observes.

“Very much.”

“How long?” Maya asks. Mare clears her throat.

“Two months… two weeks… one day,” she says, whispering the last two words. I feel so bad for her.

“Still new,” Maya says softly. Mare nods, obviously fighting back her tears.

“When two people come together, they become one. When you split, you lose a part of yourself and you’re forced to get it back without that other person. That’s why they’re often called your ‘other half.’ You have to find yourself again,” Maya says. “It’s a long journey, but you must take it.” She takes Marilyn’s hand. “I suggest Zen or transcendental meditation. I’ll get you started with some books and quick techniques. Don’t try to read everything, you’ll get overwhelmed…”

I follow Maya and Mare around the center, and I have to admit that the information she’s providing is quite solid. She doesn’t talk to Mare about getting over Gary. She talks about finding the center that she lost when she and Gary split, about finding one good thing in each day that makes her feel a little better—no matter how big or small—even if she has to create that one good thing.

She could put me out of business if more people paid attention.

I hand Maya my Amex Black once she has given Mare a solid jumping-off point with books, some music, and even some candles and a meditation pillow.

“I got it, Bosslady,” Mare says.

“You wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t dragged you here,” I tell her. “Besides, you won’t have a choice but to give it your all if I get it for you.”

“Don’t take her card,” Mare says to Maya before looking back at me. “That’s exactly why I have to get these things myself,” she says. “I do want to get better. I do want to come out of this, so I need to do this.” She hands Maya her card, and I can’t argue with her logic. I’m proud of her for feeling this way, but I’m beginning to regret introducing her to Gary. I wouldn’t have done it had I thought either of them would end up in this kind of pain, and I know they’re both hurting.

We take our wares back to the car and Chuck drives us to the other end of the world and the Outlet Mall. It’s well into the afternoon by the time Marilyn has found enough pieces to cover her for a couple of weeks as we don’t know how long we’ll be here. We stop at the food court and I don’t bother trying to get her something to eat. We go straight to Tropical Smoothie and we both have one for lunch.

“I call his voicemail in the middle of the night,” she says as we’re sitting at a table in the food court, “the one at City of Lights. I never leave a message. I just listen to his voice.” She drops her head and sighs sadly. “How am I ever supposed to get over him if I can’t let go?”

“Time, Mare,” I say. “That’s what it’s going to take. Nobody said that you would just stop loving him, and nobody’s saying that you have to, even now. It would be impossible. Your love for him isn’t a curse, even though it hurts. It’s a beautiful thing, and you may have to use that love to get over him, if that’s what’s in the stars.” She raises her gaze to me.

“Why would you say that?” she asks. “What else could possibly be in the stars?”

“Anything!” I tell her. “Anything at all can be in the stars. Who am I to say? And who are you? We all have to die one day, but we do everything we can right now to live and that’s what you have to do even though death is inevitable. But Marilyn, death is the only thing that’s inevitable. So, yes, anything is in the stars. Do you understand?” She swallows and nods.

“I get it,” she says. “Now, can we go? I’m really tired of being strong right now.” I nod and stand.

“Let’s go,” I say, grabbing some of her bags.

*-*

“I was wondering if Mac had chased you away from me for the day,” Christian says when I get back to the suite.

“No, just… trying to help Marilyn out of her funk, as much as anybody can,” I say, dropping a bag of my own wares.

“How is she?” he asks, helping me out of my coat.

“The same,” I tell him. I go to the kitchen and retrieve a bottle of water. “She’s trying to cope, but… I know you don’t have any experience with breakups, but this is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. I tried comparing her situation with my breakup with Edward…”

“How the hell did that happen?” he asks.

“Don’t ask,” I say, taking a few healthy chugs of the cold water. “A series of dominos. Anyway, I feel like my breakup with Edward was worse…”

“I concur,” he interrupts. I twist my lips.

“I just didn’t spiral down the wormhole as badly as she did,” I finish. “It was rough, and I had several years of withdrawal, and I was able to recoil and get on with my life, even though I didn’t have a relationship for several years. She’s destroying her health, and if she doesn’t come out of this pretty soon, it may be irreparable.”

“So, what now?” he asks. “She’s obviously going to need some intensive therapy.”

“She doesn’t want to go through therapy for a breakup,” I tell him. “She’ll barely talk to me about it.”

“This is more than a break-up…” That’s what she said. “This is affecting her health and everything and everyone around her.”

“Yeah, I know. She opened up a bit today and I’m hoping she’ll get a little better after this. We’ll just have to see.”

“I hope you’re right,” he replies. He doesn’t say anything more but what he doesn’t say is louder than what he says, and his implication is correct. Neither of us wants her to find out the hard way that she’s got to come up out of this funk and fast. Nobody is expecting her to wake up one day and be “all better,” but she’s got to get on the road to better because she’s going way down the rabbit hole.


CHRISTIAN

Butterfly reluctantly decides to stay in Vegas for a few more days to see if the jury comes to a verdict with the promise to our babies that we’ll be home on or by the weekend. Al opts to stay with her since he knows that, one way or another, we’ll all be back in Vegas next weekend. She and Al spent Sunday afternoon watching 80’s movies while I caught up on things happening at GEH. I kept the block of rooms just in case anyone wants to come back on short notice.

Monday and Tuesday were just like regular workdays for all parties involved, except we set up shop in a Las Vegas hotel. Butterfly and I Skype into the department head meeting, and the peasants are just as subservient, obedient, and accommodating as they are when we’re there. I love the fact that my wife shows no sign of weakness in front of the staff even though this has been one of the most trying times she’s faced in a while—and she’s faced a few! However, she still exercises her authority as necessary in the meeting, asking specific questions about progress on the issues she discussed with various members of the management team, doling out praise for a job well done, additional instructions for the “next steps of the process,” as she put it, and swinging the Butterfly sword when necessary on those who aren’t making the mark.

“She’s just what we needed,” Lorenz says in a private video chat. “No matter how much you shook your fist in here, it was still business as usual. Everybody waited to see who would get the fist or the ax, but no one was moved enough to make a significant difference. When she came breezing through here like, ‘Shape the fuck up or ship the fuck out because I will close this whole thing down, they believed her. We believed her. Even Ros got her ass in gear.”

“I guess there’s nothing like fresh new hell to get the ball rolling in the right direction,” I tell him.

“Yeah,” he concurs. “I don’t know what’s going on these days with her personal life, but she’s thrown herself full force into her work. You’d be impressed.”

“That’s the Ros I know,” I reply. “Though I hope everything works out for her, I really don’t want to know the details. I don’t mean to be insensitive, but I can’t empathize with where she is at the moment.”

“Hear, hear,” he concurs. “I won’t judge, but I don’t get it. I’ll just leave it at that.”

I appreciate that he doesn’t want to discuss the situation any further. There’s not a lot I have to say on the matter. I end the call with a few instructions and move on to other issues at hand.

Later that evening, my wife dons a sexy black dress with straps across the chest and an alluring peekaboo oval right at her cleavage, while I slip into basic black Armani, and we take a little drive up the strip in a 2015 Audi A5 with a moonroof that Jason procured earlier in the day. We decided to forego security for this little trip since the paparazzi has seemed to die down since the trial has ended and the jury is now in deliberations.

I’m pleasantly surprised that Butterfly enjoys the view of the strip through the sunroof during our drive. I veer west on Spring Mountain Road and proceed to our destination, a small Japanese restaurant called Aburiya Raku. It has some pretty good reviews and when we arrive, we see that there are mostly Japanese clientele. When the native ethnic group is en masse in the establishment, you know you’ve made the right choice.

We enjoy a variety of delicious Robatayaki items all grilled on oak binchotan—yakitori Chicken, duck, and Kobe beef skewers, including Kurobuta pork cheek and asparagus with bacon. We also have salmon roe and direct flamed eggplant. The sea urchin looked less than appetizing, so we shied away from that delicacy. We have the three-sake sampler—Juyondai and Isojiman both served cold, and Kubota sake heated. Kubota is normally a very dry sake, but when served heated, it has a softer flavor.

The experience is just what we needed to loosen up and just as we’re leaving, Butterfly needs to go to the restroom. She’s in there for a while and just as I’m settling the bill, I almost go to the restroom to see if she has fallen in when she comes storming back to the table, snatches her coat and purse and marches out the door of the restaurant.

What the fuck?

I quickly walk out behind her and the moment I clear the door, she begins walking towards the car. What the hell is going on? We just had a wonderful meal and now, she’s walking like she’s trying to escape from the police and huffing like a bull. I hit the key fob to unlock the car and she’s in the passenger seat before I can even get to her to open her door. When I get in the car, she’s breathing heavily in the seat next to me, sweating, her chest rising and falling lusciously underneath the straps of her dress.

“Drive!” she demands. My brow furrows.

“Butter…”

“Drive!” she hisses again. I don’t give her a chance to say it a third time. I drop the gear and peel out of the parking lot, not sure where I’m going.

“I hate this place!” she hisses. “I fucking hate this fucking place!” She rifles into her purse and pulls out a small bottle of hand sanitizer. She dumps a healthy amount of it into her hands and scrubs vigorously. She then dries her hand with a paper towel that was haphazardly shoved into her purse.

What the hell did she do in there, kill somebody?

I don’t ask what’s wrong. I quietly drive and wait for instructions for my wife to tell me where we’re going. Are we going back to the hotel? I don’t turn on the strip. I just drive down Spring Mountain Road until the street starts to curve and the neighborhood looks a little shady. I get back to a main street and, knowing that I turned left on Spring Mountain to get to the restaurant, I turn right on the main street.

At first, the neighborhood still looks pretty unsavory, and I wish I had Jason with me. After a while, the speed limit slows to a crawl, and I realize that we’re in the college district.

Butterfly still hasn’t said anything. She just sits there looking ahead of her.

I drive through the college district for a few miles until the road that we’re on ends and I have to veer to the right since I’m in the right lane…

And I end up driving through the airport.

Now, I’ve been to many airports in many cities, in many countries, on nearly every continent, and I’ve yet to find one that isn’t difficult as hell to navigate. McCarran is no different.

Here we go loop-de-loo for about 15 minutes and I finally manage to get to the other side of the airport… thank God. The bad news is that I now know that we are not only on the other side of the strip—which I suspected—but we’ve also passed our hotel.

And my wife is still silent. Okay, enough of this shit.

The airport interchange or connector or whatever the hell it is also ties in with the freeway. So, now I need to get off the freeway. The first exit says Sunset, only “exit” is misleading. It’s a maze of go-around-another-loop-onto-another-connecter-then-veer-right-onto-another-ramp-and-you-had-better-know-where-you’re-going-when-you-finally-get-to-the-street.

Left, or right?

Since we’ve crossed and we’re on the other side of the hotel, I think we need to go left because we need to head west. I turn left when the light turns green and proceed down Sunset Road. I’m sure the next light has to be Las Vegas Blvd and we can head back to the hotel.

Wrong.

The next light is Eastern. If we haven’t gotten back to the strip yet, we’re going the wrong way. That’s it. I need to find somewhere to pull over so that I can check the GPS and get us back to the Waldorf. After we’ve driven in silence for a while, my wife barks at me.

“Turn here!”

I’m actually startled a bit and I make an immediate right where she tells me to turn. My hands grip the steering wheel and I’m actually relieved to find that there were no vehicles or pedestrians to my immediate right, or I would have surely hit them. The area is well-lit even though it’s very late and I wonder where we are.

“Butterfly…” I begin, my voice scolding as I want to chastise her for startling me while I’m driving.

“Turn here!” she barks again.

“Ana!”

“Turn!”

I narrow my eyes at her and turn. We’re clearly in a park as I notice we pass a baseball field. There’s no talking to her right now. She’s livid about whatever happened in the moments that we were separated. We’re leaving the lighted area and driving more into a darker, shaded area now.

“There!” she barks. “Park there.”

I pull up next to a partially wooded area and turn the car off. Butterfly is facing forward, blankly looking ahead, no longer breathing heavily, but still breathing fire, nonetheless.

“Butterfly, what the he…”

“Take your pants down,” she says impassively. I frown deeply.

“What?” I retort in disbelief.

“Take your pants down!” she repeats, her head whipping towards me.

“Anastasia, I hardly…”

“Do you wanna talk or do you wanna get fucked?” Hell, really? I’ve never seen her like this. She is simmering angry… and ordering me to drop trou. If I protest right now, I’m afraid that I’ll risk that second option being taken off the table for the rest of this cursed trip. “Take. Your. Pants. Down.”

She’s not going to repeat that shit. I obediently undo my belt, my button, and my fly. Lifting my hips, I pull my pants down just above my knees and before I can get my ass back into the seat, she leans over, grabs my cock and takes the whole thing in her mouth.

“Whoa!” I exclaim, not prepared for the attack.

“Shut up!” she hisses. I have no idea what has her in this mood—and so goddamn bossy. I resent it a bit, but I like it much more than I resent it. She’s not my Domme; she’s someone else, but just as sexually demanding as my Domme.

My dick was flaccid a moment ago, but it hardens almost instantly with her technique—slow, deep, and hard… forceful, taking me from base to tip with no difficulty at all.

“Fuck!” I hiss quietly, one hand gripping the leather door handle while the other grasps the armrest between us. She’s fucking me so hard with her mouth that I only have a small amount of room to thrust up into her mouth on her downstroke. I wasn’t prepared, and I have to concentrate on not coming immediately. It only takes moments to get me so hard that I could knock down the trees in front of us with my dick at this moment. She’s going to fucking murder me…

She moves quickly, lifting her dress and rising to her knees. She pulls her dress up over her ass and before I can think or protest, she straddles me and kisses me deeply. Fuck, what is she doing?

She pushes the buttons on my door and my seat slowly reclines enough until she feels comfortable. I watch in aroused awe as she hoists one leg up on the armrest that my hand was previously occupying, the other nestled in the seat between my body and the door. Her legs are open wide and even though she’s still wearing her panties, I can smell her insane arousal.

Panties… she makes quick work of that, too.

Apparently, in her haste, she forgot to remove them. She grunts impatiently, and I hear the distinct sound of tearing fabric. Unwilling to just pull them aside and take care of business, she rips them off and tosses them into the passenger seat.

Fuck! My dick is hard and hot at the sight of that. She’s going to tear me apart.

She reaches between us and guides my head towards her opening. Upon finding her prize, she looks me in the eyes—hers already a deep blue, not royal like when she’s about to come, but damn near indigo. Fuck, that turns me on all by itself. Steadying herself on my shoulders, she works her way down onto my shaft without taking her eyes from mine, slowly taking me inch by inch.

“Sssssss!” I hiss as she envelops me.

“Quiet!” she whispers, glaring at me, still pushing her pussy down onto me. Her mouth opens when she takes me, but no sound comes out. She sits there for a moment, not moving, just wrapped tightly around my erection. Now, my mouth opens. She’s so tight and hot—not warm, hot—and she feels so damn good. A tortured breath escapes my parted lips and the hand that was previously on the armrest now rests on her bare hip.

She grabs my face as sticks her tongue into my mouth, giving and taking the most lavish and sensual kisses. I groan in agony at the decadence of being buried inside of her while she kisses me like this. I lap into her mouth, tasting her deeply as my dick gets harder and harder inside her. She breaks our kiss and my lips feel bereft, but she alleviates that issue by rising off my dick and falling achingly slowing back onto it.

Oh, God… this is too fucking much for me…

She grinds so. Damn. Slow, up and down on my cock, causing an unbelievable burn on my skin. I don’t even know how she has the control to move that slowly. The entire time, she doesn’t take her eyes off mine. We’re so close that our foreheads are nearly touching, our open mouths breaths from each other, and I’m at her fucking mercy.

“Fuck me,” she breathes, but I don’t know how. I don’t know how to move this slowly, this meticulously, without breaking her rhythm. I don’t move yet and she rises and falls a few more times. I hear her gasp and her pussy gets wetter, so she changes—just a bit—her stroke a little faster, but only a little, and still incredibly deep and painstakingly slow.

She feels so good riding me slow, her cunt sliding all the way to the very tip of my cock then slowly and painfully devouring me balls deep. It’s an exercise in torture, and she’s insatiable… hungry. I groan at the intense burn and the tightening in my cock.

“Hold it!” she growls, grabbing my face again. “Fuck me. I want to feel that hard cock.”

Fuck, this is insane! We’re not in a scene, but with her taking charge this way, I know I better obey and not come. I revert to my stamina exercises—painful minutes and hours of training as a submissive where I was fucked, fondled, and teased deliciously and ordered not to come. This is so much worse, so much hotter and sweeter and it feels so good, over and over, torturous minute after minute after minute of sweet, painful manipulation of my dick.

“Don’t come,” she commands in a husky voice when she feels me thicken. “Fuck me.”

Don’t come, Grey. Don’t come.

Our mouths are wide open, the passion and pleasure so deep and intense that we can only dart our tongues out occasionally to taste one another.

I grip her ass, raw and naked and juicy, her hips sliding slowly up and down my cock. Fuck, it’s so good. I only have to move my hips infinitesimally to get the deepest penetration, but God when I do…

“Fuck!” I hiss. I’m not going to make it. I close my eyes and try to concentrate on not coming, because the sight of her on top of me, the smell of our intermingling arousal, the sound of her wet pussy coating my erection as she rises and falls over me—It’s fucking with every one of my senses, not just the obvious ones.

“Ana, baby…” I groan as I squeeze that sweet ass on her every downstroke, trying not to guide her talented hips over my cock—not that I have to—but I sure take advantage of pressing my fingertips into her skin and squeezing that ass on every gyration.

She’s fucking torturing me, her hips and ass claiming me in slow, controlled movements, and that’s the only part of her body that’s moving. Oh God, she’s milking me… milking me so hard with meticulous, intent hip rolls. I feel like I’m fucking floating as she fucks me deeper, slower… I’m going to come…

The car jerks and I’m snapped out of my Nirvana. What the fuck was that?

Somehow, the car lurched into gear amidst our sensual dance and we were slowly moving forward the entire time. My senses blurred, I’m trying to figure out what has happened and where we are. The car has stopped moving and the ruffle of leaves around us helps to clear my fuzzy mind. We’ve rolled into a bunch of trees or shrubbery or something and except for the back of the car, we’re surrounded by flora.

My wife never stopped stroking.

There could have been an earthquake around us, and she probably wouldn’t have stopped.

“Don’t stop!” she says without lifting her head to observe our surroundings. “Almost there…”

Almost? Shit, if it weren’t for the distraction of the trees, I’d be blowing off inside you right now!

Thank God for trees!

I grab that ass again, my fingers spread out over each of those juicy, bare cheeks. Thank the forces of inertia for that brief interruption, because this party was about to be over… but the inertia in my wife’s hips and her continued hip rolls and concentrated strokes on my eager dick assures that my reprieve is short-lived.

Her hair has fallen into my face. One of her fingertips has slipped into the corner of my lips and it tastes good. She’s panting into my mouth and I’m breathing her breath as I’m panting my own. She’s totally owning me.

“Ana…” I breathe hopelessly as I feel her tightening around me.

“God… Christian…” she squeaks as she cums hard on my cock, fucking me through her orgasm and never losing her rhythm. Her pussy is so juicy that I can feel her nectars sliding down my dick with each stroke. The prior distraction of the collision completely gone, I sink my fingers deep into the meat of her ass and meet her orgasmic strokes, still not having to lift my hips very high as she’s controlling my thrusts. Moments later, I let go.

Boy, do I let go!

I hold her hips and ass hard so that only the top half of my dick is inside her. I can feel my cock thumping and pumping so hard that it hurts… really hurts.

“Gah!” I whisper-choke through the painful ecstasy as my dick thumps so hard with each muscle contraction from my balls that I can feel it violently pushing against the walls of her pussy. My legs are trembling with the unbearable and seemingly never-ending pleasure and I wish I had a camera recording the hot action of my hands tightly gripping my wife’s beautiful ass while my dick—only partially inserted inside of her—visibly throbs madly as it empties violently into her hot pussy. The visual sends me into a whole new series of squirts, vibrations, and tremors—if that’s even possible—and my body is useless and shaking underneath her as I come and come and come…

What seems like several minutes later, my wife crawls off of me, retrieves her panties from the passenger seat and begins to clean herself.

“Not that I’m complaining, but do I get to know what brought that on?” I ask as I slide my pants and boxers back into place.

“Stupid bitches in the bathroom,” she says, still cleaning herself. “I don’t want to talk about it.” I sigh and get out of the car to survey the damage. We’re stuck in the trees and the front of the car is sunk in mud up to the bumper. Jesus Christ. I pull out my phone and call Jason.

“Sir?”

“Can you track my phone and come and get us?” I tell Jason. “I have no idea where we are. Get an Uber or a taxi—I don’t care—just come and get us.”

“We’re at Sunset Park,” Butterfly grumbles, “and send a damn tow truck.” The line is silent for a moment.

“Did she say tow truck?” Jason asks. I try not to get irritated. Whatever’s bothering Butterfly, she’s irritated enough for the both of us and that hot fuck didn’t seem to help.

“Yes,” I tell him. “We’ve had a bit of a mishap with the rental…”

“I’ll be there in ten.”

*-*

“Keep your clothes on,” she says. “Drop your pants and sit down.”

My wife has given me a few instructions when we arrive back at the hotel, and I’m going to do what she tells me since nothing that has happened so far has softened her sour mood since we left the restaurant.

I dutifully drop my pants and sit in the large chair with the large ottoman in front of it. While I’m sitting there, she goes off into the bedroom and I hear her rummaging through something. Make-up? Luggage?

She comes back with a travel-sized bottle in her hand, but I can’t see what it is. Standing on the other side of the ottoman, she undoes her dress, pulls it off her shoulders and lets it drop to the floor. Her bra soon joins it and she’s standing before me in nothing but strappy stiletto sandals.

And my dick is rock-hard again.

Her eyes go immediately to my jutting erection and she guides her hand down to her pussy. She begins playing with her clit and my mouth immediately starts to water. What the fuck? Let me do that!

She opens the travel bottle and I soon realize that it’s some type of oil. She puts a little of it on her finger and returns it to her clit. She moans and drops her head back as she pleasures herself in front of me and Greystone starts to do a dance while watching her fondle that shaven jewel.

Fuck, she’s fucking cruel.

When her head rises again and her eyes meet mine, she steps next to me, holding the bottle over her shoulder upside down. I don’t have to see it to know that the oil is dripping down her back.

Stay calm, Grey.

Grey may be staying calm, but Greystone is animated and untamable.

She turns around and sits on my lap, discarding the empty bottle across the room to parts unknown. Her beautiful oily back is staring at me and the oil has rolled down to her beautiful and now oily ass. I can’t help it. I rub the oil into her skin and over her cheeks. She grinds over me and I bite my lip as her pussy lips glide over the outside of my erection.

Shit, the oil and the friction are almost too much.

I gently coat her rosette with the oil that has leaked there and push my thumb inside. She moans her pleasure and grinds harder.

Fuck, that doesn’t help.

Watching her hips roll on my dick with my thumb penetrating that delicious ass, I’m certain that she wants me to come this way. As soon as Greystone is hot and ready to blow, she stops her gyrations.

“Fuck!” I hiss as the sensation slowly eases away. She stands, my finger popping out of her asshole, and she turns around. She straddles me, facing me, but still not letting my dick into that luscious pussy. It’s erect behind her and she adjusts herself, her hands on my shoulders, so that’s it’s nestled between her oily ass cheeks.

“Aw, fuck,” I groan low as I take her hips in my hands. She moves just right, and my dick is rubbing between her ass cheeks.

“Fuck!” I bite out as I take a nipple in my mouth and suck hard, causing her to cry out.

“Ah! Christian!” That hip roll keeps going and I squeeze her cheeks, pushing them together so that they grip my dick as I torment her nipples, first one, then the other. I know I can make her come this way, and soon…

“Stop!” she cries, her voice tortured. She stops and I stop, and she fights for a moment to catch her breath. My pending orgasm ebbs away as she takes a brief reprieve, but her next move lets me know this round will soon be over.

After her momentary time-out, she reaches behind her and dexterously locates my aching cock, now oily from her ass. After stroking it a few times, she guides the tender head back to her ass… and her asshole.

Oh, shit.

I sit paralyzed as she manipulates and guides Greystone to one of his very, very favorite places. My breath catches when the head breaches her rosette. I bite my lip again, trying to prepare myself for the pleasure and not simply blow my load from the mere thought of what’s going on.

She rises and falls infinitesimally, working my cock into her ass and again, I have to concentrate on not coming. After a minute or so of glorious coercing, her tight ass finally accepts my aching shaft and she lays that beautiful body back on the ottoman.

She’s holding her ankles and riding my dick anally, laying back on this ottoman and spread out before me. Her lush tits are bouncing before me and she looks and feels fucking divine! Over and over, several minutes of torturing and tempting me with her tightest orifice. I’m going to come this way. There’s nothing I can do to stop it.

I grab her hips again and thrust up into her tight ass, short deep thrusts that massage my head and squeeze my cock and feels so good. She writhes on top of me and her body flushes. She bites her lip as that sheen of sweat shows up on her skin. If she comes, I’m right the fuck behind her so I might as well help her along.

I rub my thumb upward, repeatedly against that oily clit. It takes about a minute and her back is arching up, the top of her body suspended in orgasm and ecstasy and pushing her hips and ass against my dick. I thrust up into her a few more times and I’m hanging in yet another trembling orgasm, as intense as the first an hour or so ago.

“Fuck! Ana! Shit!” I cry out as I push myself into her clenching ass, gritting my teeth and pushing my head back into the chair as I swear brain matter is once again shooting from my cock. To this day, I have felt nothing like Anastasia’s ass and I’m certain that I’ll be out for the count as usual after that sweet, Valium-laced, anal session. I soon discover that my wife has other plans.

I am fucked, sucked, licked, gripped, and rubbed into complete oblivion for the better part of the early morning hours before my wife finally taps out and grants me reprieve somewhere around dawn. What the hell happened in that bathroom?

*-*

“Oh, I’ve missed my babies so much!”

The moment we walk into the house on Friday, Butterfly zeroes in on the twins. Mikey runs into his mother’s arms and Minnie, still not as balanced as Mikey, toddles over to my wife and they share a three way embrace that lasts for several long moments. I couldn’t get in on the love until she was ready to release one of them. She didn’t even take her coat off for a full twenty minutes.

We had decided to leave Las Vegas mid-afternoon on Friday as we knew that if the jury reached a verdict after 2:00pm, they wouldn’t be able to get everyone back in court in enough time to deliver it, and court wouldn’t be back in session until Monday. When we landed in Seattle and Allen checked his texts, it turns out that’s exactly what happened. Larson informed him that after asking to see the video three more times and reviewing Vincent Sullivan’s testimony twice, the jury had reached a verdict early Friday evening. We would have to be back in Vegas on Monday morning, and we’ll find out at that time when the sentencing will be… if there will be a sentencing.

As such, my wife threw herself into being Mommy from the moment we walked in the door. She normally dresses in what I would call office attire or business casual when we fly, but not on Friday. On Friday, she was all jeans, sweatshirt, and sneakers so that the moment she got home, she didn’t even have to change her clothes. She was right in the middle of the family-room floor with the kids and it was blankets and forts all weekend. We didn’t spend one night in our own bed.

I had learned that the 1914 Centennial Para Vintage Tawny blend had arrived from Barossa Valley on Thursday, and I was hoping to give it a whirl on Valentine’s Day, but nooooooo. Mrs. Grey had other plans. Mrs. Grey pointed out that we had been having wild sex the entire time we were in Las Vegas and that she now wanted to spend quality time with her children, knowing that we had to go back to that dreaded place again the next day. I remind her that it’s probably only going to be a day trip unless the sentencing is going to be this week and she reminds me that the Tawny blend will still be here when we get back. So, floor blankets and forts it is.

“Baby,” I ask while we’re preparing to catch the plane again on Sunday, “are you ever going to tell me what happened in that bathroom at Raku?” She sighs heavily and sits on the bed.

“There were a couple of women in the bathroom,” she says. “They saw me come in. They knew I was in the stall. They proceeded to talk major shit about me… major shit. I couldn’t even tell if they really knew who I was, but the six degrees of separation attached me to the blue dress from karaoke, and they knew the dress, and they knew you… or at least they knew your face.

“Whatever the case may be, they were just talking about how you looked too good to be with me and they were pointing things out like my big hips and I’m short… They brought up the blue dress and the fact that, ‘Well, at least this dress looks better than the blue one, but not by much.’” She’s mocking the girl’s words, so I know she was repeating them verbatim.

I opened the door and looked at them, and they’re standing at the sink glaring at me like, ‘Oh, you still here?’ They knew I was in there. They were deliberately picking a fight, and you know me! You know I could have given them one… but I was just so tired. I’m tired of people just not liking me or hating me or judging me for no reason. I’m tired of people expecting me to act a certain way or look a certain way or dress a certain way or be a certain way. I’m not Michelle Obama. I’m not required to greet everyone I see—smile and wave to the townsfolk when I arrive. I’m a young woman who just wants to live, and they won’t let me live!

“So, I was just tired. I looked at those women, and I had nothing—no snappy comebacks, no zingers, no cracks about their five-and-dime dresses and shoes, nothing. I just got the hell out of there. I didn’t even wash my hands.”

Oh, well that explains the hand sanitizer incident. I was wondering why she used so much.

“The entire time we were in the car, all I could think was, ‘When am I going to discover that someone doesn’t like me for something that I directly or deliberately did to them?’ Everybody that I’ve come in contact with so far doesn’t like me for some abstract bullshit or imagined wrongdoing, or some stupid shit like my big hips, I’m too short, and you’re too good for me. It was just more than I could bear at the moment.” I walk over to her and put my arms around her.

“You know that none of that matters to me, right?” I say, sincerely, while looking into her eyes.

“I know that, I do,” she says. “I’m just trying to find a way to deal with this shit. Every time I think I’ve got it under control, I can handle it, some dumb shit happens again and I’m back on the ledge again.”

I hold her close to me and try to comfort her, especially since we’re about to get back on the plane again to go back to Vegas. We’re just waiting for Lawrence to tell us that he has retrieved Ray and they and Allen will be meeting us at SeaTac. My pocket buzzes and I’m sure that it’s Jason calling to tell me that we’re ready to go. I retrieve my phone and swipe.

“Yeah?” I answer.

“Sir! Jesus! We’ve got a problem!” I furrow my brow.

“What? What is it?” I ask.

“I’ve called the police! I don’t know what we should be doing!” Jason is frantic. I’ve never seen him like this… or heard him like this.

“Take a breath, man. What are you talking about? Called the police about what?” I ask, trying to get him to calm down. I hear him swallow hard before he speaks.

“Carla Morton just drove her car off an overpass.” 

A/N: So, anyone who lives in Vegas knows that Sunset Park doesn’t really have trees in a marsh like that—there are trees, but not enough for a car to get lost in. Hell, nowhere that I know of in Vegas has trees like that accessible to a vehicle since we’re sitting smack on top of the desert, but I took a bit of creative license here.

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

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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 13

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

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

Season 5 Episode 13

ANASTASIA

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

What the fuck do you think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey,” he says, cautiously.

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

“How much did you hear?” he asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She swallows.

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

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

I get my wish.

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

Dog.

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


CHRISTIAN

What the fuck did she just say?

“You want a what?” I ask in horror.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s what I said,” she replies.

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

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

I guess we’re getting a dog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your Highness…”

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

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

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

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

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

“We’ll work it out,” he says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about you, Al?” she asks.

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

“Which show?” she asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about you, Vee?” he asks.

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

“Fergie?” Amanda asks, her brows furrowed.

“Fergus,” she says, “my husband.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know,” I acknowledge.

*-*

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

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

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

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

Santa Baby!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ANASTASIA

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

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

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

What the fuck…?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Straddle my thighs.”

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

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

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

“Move back.”

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

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

Okay! Bossy much?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m going down.

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

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

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

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

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

Fuck, that’s hot.

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

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

Yes, sir!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Uh-huh!” I answer helplessly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why… didn’t you wake me?” I pant.

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I appreciate that, Larry…”

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s the difference?” Christian asks.

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

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

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

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

“Good point,” Larry says.

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

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

“Indeed,” Ray says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 6

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

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

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

Season 5 Episode 6

ANASTASIA

It’s my babies’ first birthday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My husband didn’t seem surprised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fuck you, Dr. Killjoy,” I declare.

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

“Christian, stop!” I giggle helplessly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Queen of Hearts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He pauses. What the fuck? What about me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She just got back…” I excuse.

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

“I’ll talk to her,” I say.

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

“Like what?” I recounter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Touchy,” he teases.

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

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

“And her husband?” Christian asks.

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

“Who’s coming?” he asks.

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

“Who all is coming?” he asks.

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

“English?” Christian says in horror.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Am I?” he asks, impassively.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Grab the damn garland, Christian.”

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sophie smiles and waves shyly.

“Hi,” she says sweetly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” he asks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nice one, Sophie,” I lament quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sophie!” I exclaim appalled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sophia!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


CHRISTIAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And why is that?” she prompts Pussycat.

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

Touché.

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

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

I am, very proud.

*-*

“I’m going to stop breastfeeding.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s my understanding,” she replies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can I get you anything?” I ask.

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

“Yes, of course, by all means…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 1

I don’t want to start the season with a huge chapter note, but thank you guys for being there for me when my Mommy died. It really means a lot. It’s strange how life imitates art (and vice versa). I had this entire chapter written weeks ago—parts of it, months ago. Without giving spoilers, yes, some sad things happen, but they weren’t just added in when Mommy died. 

I also want to add my condolences to our beloved Falala. She lost her other fur baby this week. Please send her some love and support in comments here or on her post in “Do You Need To Talk” and let her know that we love her and we’re thinking of her. 

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

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

Season 5, Episode 1

ANASTASIA

The year 2015 came in like a lion, not a lamb.

“You don’t have to be strong for everybody Val. And you certainly don’t have to be strong for me.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Val says, somberly. “I’m not. I’ve just cried so much that I don’t think I have any water left.”

Val left the Crossing looking a little gray in the face. We awoke this morning to the most dreadful news. She had lost the baby.

“The doctor says that these things happen, especially after the strain my body had been through last year. She told me that there’s nothing wrong with trying again after a little while… but I don’t know.” Her voice cracks on the last word. I stroke her hand.

“When you’re ready,” I say softly.

“I don’t know that I ever will be,” she sobs, finding those tears that she didn’t think she had. “I was so excited! El was excited. Our lives had started anew in every way! Meg is gone; we have a new house; a new baby was on the way… and now this!” She covers her face and sobs into her hands.

“And it’s not over.”

I’m about to hug my sister and best friend when Elliot’s voice stops my progression. He comes over to the other side of the hospital bed and cradles her weeping body in his arms.

“You cry as much as you need to, Angel, but it’s not over. Your body is remarkable. It looked death in the face and flipped it the bird. And when your heart was ready to give more love, it was determined to produce new life. But, Angel…” He sits on the bed and puts his hand under her chin to lift her gaze to his.

“I’ve got you,” he says. “This beautiful body needs some more rest—some more time to heal from that prize fight that it won last year. Our hearts were eager and so was your body, but it just wasn’t time yet. It’s. Not. Over… and when you’re ready, it’ll happen, and not a moment sooner. I’ve got you, and you’ve got me. I’m not going anywhere, and if you decide that this experience was too much and it’s not for you, I’ll still be here—standing by your side and loving you through it. Okay?”

Val falls into his chest and weeps for a moment before composing herself.

“Isn’t he the most wonderful man in the world?” she says, gazing into Elliot’s eyes. I turn my head to the doorway to see my husband standing there with his hands shoved in his pocket. He looks forlorn as he watches his brother and sister-in-law working through the loss of their unborn child. He won’t admit it, but his empathy has come a long way since he’s met and married me and had children of his own. The pain in his face says it all.

“Second most wonderful,” I say softly.

*-*

The drive back to the Crossing is silent. Christian had leaped from the bed and sprang into action when he got the call, leaving Jason behind and almost leaving me as he leapt into the car and sped out the gate and across the bridge to the hospital. Now, he looks blankly in front of him as he concentrates on getting us and the car back to Mercer Island. Everything happened so fast that there was no time for the paparazzi to get wind of anything.

He’s still silent when we get back to the Crossing. He seems to be moving on autopilot. He drives into the garage, turns the car off, then exits. He walks mechanically to my side of the car and opens the door for me.

“Thank you,” I say softly as I exit, and he nods once. He closes the door behind me and places his hand in the small of my back, guiding me to the mudroom door. We both shed our outerwear and boots right there in the mudroom, and my husband releases a heavy sigh as both hands rake through his hair.

“Can I get something for you?” I ask, concerned. “Some coffee or something to eat? Neither of us had any breakfast.” He shakes his head.

“I…” He holds his head down for a moment as if to collect his thoughts. “I’m going to take a shower, first… just to try to…” he trails off. I put my hand on his back and he raises his gaze to mine.

“Okay,” I say, nodding. No need to explain, Mr. Grey. This is pretty big. He nods at me again and heads for the elevator. I sigh heavily and walk to the kitchen.

“Hey,” Gail says, coming from her office space in what used to be the small dining room. “How’s Valerie?” I sigh again.

“I don’t know,” I say, reaching into the refrigerator for sparkling water and cranberry juice. “As well as can be expected, I guess.” I fill a glass with ice from the dispenser and make a cranberry spritzer. I put the bottles away and drink my glass nearly half down.

“She was so excited,” I say, shaking my head. “She didn’t think she’d be able to conceive after Chemo. The good news is that she can conceive… but can she carry?” I cover my eyes and fight my own tears, my sadness for my best friend and sister.

“What did the doctor say?” Gail presses, concerned. “Did they tell her that she wouldn’t be able to?” I shake my head.

“No,” I say after drinking more of my spritzer. “From what they say, it was just too soon. Her body needs to get a little stronger before she tries to have a baby.”

“Well, that’s encouraging news,” Gail says, “although I know from experience that it does nothing for the current loss.” I raise my eyes to hers, vaguely remembering her telling me about miscarrying.

“Christian’s not taking it well,” I tell her. “When tragedy strikes his family…” I search for my words. “He’s a lot more empathetic than he used to be.”

“Did you all eat?” she asks. “Would you like for me to fix you something?” I should be hungry, but to be honest, I’m not… not in the slightest.

“Let me see what Christian wants to do and I’ll let you know,” I say, finishing my spritzer. She takes my glass and puts it in the sink, and I head to the elevator.

I lost a kid once, too, but I didn’t know that the kid was there, so I never had a chance to miss it… or want it… or not want it. I sometimes wonder what that kid would have been like had it lived. Would it have been a monster like my mother or its father, or would I have been able to show it enough love not to be a terrible person? Would I have been able to love it at all? Would I have kept it? Carla and Stephen probably would have made me give it up. I know one thing’s for sure—my life certainly wouldn’t be where it is now.

As the elevator opens, I think about Minnie and Mikey, my two little miracle babies. They were determined that nothing was going to stop them from getting here alive and healthy, not even a missile that put me in a coma for nearly two weeks and almost cost me my memories. I can’t even imagine how I would feel if something had happened to my precious angels before they were born. I’m stepping double-time to get to the nursery as I desperately need to see them.

I open the door quietly to find that I’m not the only one who needs some immediate baby time. Christian is standing over our daughter’s crib, gazing silently down at her sleeping body. He so transfixed on her tiny little form that he doesn’t even move when I open the door. I pull the door closed a little, just enough to watch him with our daughter. He stands there for several more moments before he kisses his fingers and gently taps Minnie’s head.

“I love you,” he whispers, stroking her red tresses gently for a few moments. He walks over to Mikey’s crib and Mikey stirs a bit, but falls back into slumber. Christian silently watches him for several moments.

“And I love you,” he whispers to his son, repeating the gestures that he just did with his daughter. I step away and close the door, leaving him to his moments with his children. Suddenly, a shower sounds like a very good idea.

I try not to cry in the shower. I’m overcome with sadness for Val and Elliot, but also with impending doom for the fate of my own children. They’re growing so quickly. I’ve been practicing helping Minnie stand and take steps on her own every day since Christmas. I don’t want to rush her, but I don’t want her to be developmentally too far behind her brother, either. They both have the chubby baby cheeks and thighs that just make you want to pinch them all day, and they’re eating more solid food than breast milk these days. I’m a little melancholy about having to wean them soon, which doesn’t help with my attempt not to cry.

I let a few tears fall as I wash, condition, and rinse my hair. I’ve composed myself once the shower is over, and I take the time to dry my hair and put it in a ponytail. I pull on a comfortable off-the-shoulder cable-knit sweater dress that I grabbed from the dressing room before my shower and I come out into our suite. Christian is lying on the bed on his back in sweatpants and a T-shirt, his hair still wet.

He’s staring at the ceiling and saying nothing. I climb in bed beside him. During these times, he usually tells me that he needs me. Making love when he’s feeling this forlorn often grounds him, helps him to remember that he’s not alone. This time, he seems different.

“Do you want to talk?” I ask as I lay on the pillow next to him. He shakes his head.

“I’m tired,” he says. “I’m really tired. I don’t remember being this tired in a long time.”

“You didn’t get much sleep,” I say, “and we got the call really early.”

“I’m exhausted,” he says, and sighs heavily. I don’t doubt that he is. He’s been going like a machine since Christmas, and this isn’t the first emotional overload-type thing that we’ve had in the last few days…

New Years’ Eve…

The festivities are no different than any other New Years’ Eve—good food, good friends, family, drinks… and fireworks. We, of course, have an excellent view of the fireworks at the Space Needle right from our backyard, and when midnight strikes, we kiss and toast the New Year in just like every other year. We’re all looking at the fireworks when we hear Chuck’s angered voice.

“Shit!” he hisses. We all turn to face him and he’s bolting into the house.

“Choonks, wah’s wong?” Keri calls after him.

“That’s not ginger ale!” he yells as he disappears into the French doors.

“Shit!” Jason says, abandoning the group and dashing into the house behind Chuck. Keri, Maddie, and Nelson all run in behind him while the rest of our guests just look on in confusion. Christian picks up the glass, sniffs it, and looks at me.

“It’s champagne,” he says gravely.

“Shit!” I hiss like Jason and Chuck before me and run into the house. I hear Christian excusing us as I dash through the entertainment room. It’s empty. There’s no one in the community area either. That’s when I hear agonizing noises like someone is being punched in the stomach.

I know what that is.

I follow the sounds through the community space and into Chuck and Keri’s apartment. Maddie and Nelson are standing horrified in the living room while Chuck and Jason are in the bathroom. Keri’s standing outside the door with tears in her eyes. Chuck is on his knees paying homage to the porcelain gods while Jason stands over him. I can hear his throat and stomach wrenching as he vomits everything he ate at the party… probably everything he’s eaten all day.

When he stops for a moment and breathes heavily, I think it’s over, but he starts again. I don’t hear that horrible sound of his insides splashing against porcelain this time. He’s still breathing like a bear though. There’s another pause and then I hear Jason’s voice.

“Stop, man! There’s nothing left!” he commands. “You’re dry-heaving now, it’s gone!”

They sound like they might be scuffling, and Jason repeats his command.

“Stop!” he says again. “There’s nothing left, Chuck!”

“I gotta make sure!” Chuck protests. Jesus, he’s determined not to let even the slightest bit of alcohol into his system.

“You got it, man, it’s gone,” Jason said. “You barely took a sip and you’re vomiting bile now. You’re dry heaving, there’s nothing left. I wouldn’t lie to you.” There’s silence for a moment. “Goddammit!”

I hear scuffling again and now Keri turns away from the bathroom and is fully weeping. I put my arms around her, and I can see into the bathroom. Chuck is sticking his finger down his throat trying to make himself vomit more, and he has already discharged everything he has in his stomach.

“Help him!” I mouth to Christian as Keri cries on my shoulder. Christian enters the bathroom and tries to help Jason restrain Chuck.

“Come on, Chuck,” Christian says. “It’s over. It’s gone, trust me.”

“You don’t understand!” Chuck wails, sounding almost like a child. “I can’t be that guy again! I can’t! I can’t be that guy…!”

We know what he’s talking about, and Maddie and Nelson know all too well. Maddie moves past all the big men and kneels next to her son, taking his face in her hands.

“You’re not that guy, Chuckie,” she says. “We can all see it, and we know it. We knew that guy. We knew him well, and even though we loved him, we didn’t like him very much. You’re not that guy anymore, Chuckie. We know you’re not that guy.”

“I’m sorry, Mom,” he weeps. “I didn’t mean to drink it…”

“I know Chuckie,” she says, softly with a smile. “Give yourself a break. There’s a difference between accidentally sipping what you thought was ginger ale and finishing off an entire bottle of gin. That Chuck is gone, and I’ve got my Chuckie back. You didn’t slip—you picked up the wrong glass. It was a mistake. So, please, stop hurting yourself.”

He looks his mom in the eyes and nods. Jason and Christian help him up and his legs are a little wobbly. He reaches for Maddie and she helps him to the sofa.

“Salt-water, please,” she says as Chuck falls down onto the sofa. Keri breaks our embrace to go to the kitchen. She quickly mixes salt and water and brings it to Chuck along with the kitchen garbage can. As he rinses the flavor of bile from his mouth and spits into the garbage can, Keri retrieves a bottle of water from the fridge.

“Dtink itahl, Choonks,” she says softly, having cleaned the tears from her face. He looks at her and effortlessly bottoms out the bottle. She nods her approval as he tosses the bottle in the trash. She sits on the sofa next to him and turns to face him. She pulls his head into her bosom, wraps her legs around him and cradles him in her arms.

“Easy nuh,” she says as she gently strokes his hair. She doesn’t care who’s in the room; she needs to comfort her Choonks. He lays on her breast and closes his eyes, wrapping his arms around her and settling in obvious contentment.

“We should go,” I say to all the onlookers, as Keri and Chuck are in their own world now. Jason puts the waste basket back in the kitchen and we head for the door.

“From now on, I fix my own drinks,” Chuck says as we’re leaving.

Present Day…

I had a session with him and his sponsor later that day. He said that sipping that champagne felt like the past burning a trek down his throat and all he could think of was to get it out. He knew he was going to vomit before he made it to the apartment, and he was trying not to do it in one of the sinks along the way.

Thoughts of everything that Joe had said about him in court was haunting him, and he could only see the alcohol as a devil inside of him—a parasite—and even the slightest drop of it would grow inside of him and consume him. I could tell by his intensity that if he could, he would have had his stomach surgically removed if it meant that there was no chance that there was any alcohol left in his system.

He never has to worry about relapsing. He’s dipsophobic now. I can’t say that’s any healthier than being an alcoholic as any kind of obsessive behavior is not good, but in the big scheme of things, this ain’t too bad of a phobia to have.

Turning my attention back to my nearly catatonic husband, I can’t help but feel rudderless at the moment, not quite knowing how to help him. It’s late afternoon now, and there’s no likelihood that he’ll be going into the office at all. In fact, he was so distracted by trying to get to Elliot and Val as quickly as he could that he had forgotten to call the office to tell them that he wouldn’t be there.

When Ros called, I answered the phone to inform her that he wouldn’t be in. She actually seemed a bit put off that I was telling her that he wasn’t going to be in. Not that I owed her an explanation, but I felt it was a professional courtesy to tell her why, and I took great pleasure in passively making her feel like shit when I told her the reason. Somebody’s going to have to put that trick in her place really soon because she’s really pushing the envelope.

That’s probably why my husband is exhausted right now. He hasn’t allowed any emotion to creep in, so to speak, since he’s been so busy busting balls at GEH. The fuck-ups are slowly beginning to turn around and the supposed lawsuits are falling as fast as they were filed, once the plaintiffs were told what their real chances of winning were and my husband made it clear that it would be a cold day in hell before—and I quote—“those goddamn drug addicts got another fucking dime from me to support their fucking habits.”

Now, he just needs to rest, for however long he needs it.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” I ask, looking at the side of his head as he gazes at the ceiling. He turns his head to me, his eyes glassy, tired, and sad, and I’m sure that he’s going to tell me that he needs me… and he does, but not in the way that I’m thinking.

“Can we just…” He sighs. He’s having a hard time finding his words. “Can I just hold you for a while?”

I look over into his beseeching gray eyes and my heart melts at his sadness. I move closer to him and situate myself comfortably on his chest with my arm around his waist, one leg bent over his. He embraces me firmly with both arms, then kisses my hair. I think of the lullaby that I sing to the kids when they’re feeling fussy, the French one about the eggs, and I hum it to him while I’m laying on his chest. He holds me close and tight as I hum the tune to him, and a few minutes later, I feel his chest begin to rise and fall as his breathing evens. I know I can’t move or he’ll wake, so I keep humming the tune until I fall asleep.



CHRISTIAN

My wife is amazing.

I know that Valerie is her best friend and like a sister to her, but she was more concerned with how I was feeling than anything else during this time. How am I feeling? I’m feeling very shitty. I feel shitty for lots of reasons and in no particular order.

I feel shitty because my brother was so excited to be starting his family and now, he’s had it ripped from him for no good reason.

I feel shitty because he has to watch his wife and the woman he loves suffer physically and emotionally through this, and there’s nothing worse in the world than not being able to stop the pain of the woman you love…

… except for not being able to stop the pain of your children.

Seeing him lose his child made me feel the most intense and powerful possessiveness that I’ve ever felt in my life! My babies, my heart and soul besides my beautiful wife… Jesus, if anything happened to my kids…

I feel shitty because I just want to make everything right again… everything… and I can’t.

Butterfly and I decide not to see our mentors on Saturday night under the circumstances. There’s no way that we would be able to concentrate on any of the tasks at hand.

We attended the Munch with Artemis and Savvina the weekend after Christmas, just to be introduced to other Domini and their matrimonial submissives, who refer to themselves as soumises, As I speak French, I know this is the French plural for submissive, but this is the adjective. I’m not sure that there is an appropriate noun. Nonetheless, I like it.

This group of people is almost like a club of their own, not that they separate themselves from the others, but that they share a common bond and tend to gravitate more towards those with like interests—as is usually the case in any BDSM circle.

I’m quickly learning that being a married Dominus, or just Dominus as Artemis prefers, is nothing like what I’ve been before. I’m learning to be a Dom all over again. I have to deprogram myself from what I used to be, what I’ve always known, and reprogram myself to a new way of being; a new way of responding; a whole new behavior. I can’t operate the way that I used to because I’m not the same person. BDSM served a specific purpose for me. It was a direct means to a particular end, and there were no emotions involved.

I was a sadist, but I’m not that man anymore.

As a result, everything has to be retaught. There was no way that I could bring Anastasia into my world with the theories, techniques, and mindset that I always utilized. It never would have worked, and that’s why we never found our balance.

Had I married a submissive who had been previously conditioned in the method that I practiced, the old way would have been fine, but that’s not who I married. What’s more is that none of the submissives who had been conditioned in that way ever lasted, because that’s not what I really needed.

If I’m honest, I used those women like old rags. Once they were dirty, I laundered them in showers and baths and sent them to be plucked and primed to my specifications only to use them again. I made it clear that I didn’t want these women, and if the old rags became too comfortable, I threw them out.

How could I possibly expect for this same mentality to work with my wife?

Artemis is bringing so many things to light for me. My entire method of operation was based on punishments and rewards. For a sadist who has plans to beat the hell out of you every Friday night, that’s a perfect formula…

I need to cause you pain to release mine and regain control, and if you’re a good girl, I’ll let you come.

If you misbehave, I’ll beat you some more, and after I’ve tormented you sexually in every way imaginable and had my fill of you—literally, then I’ll make you go to bed without an orgasm.

I want unequivocal, unquestioned loyalty and obedience and if I don’t get it, I’ll make you pay.

If I do get it, I’ll make your body scream in ways that you never thought possible.

I’ll take you from extreme to extreme. I’ll ruin you for all other men. You’ll learn to love it; you’ll yearn for it… ache for it… the pleasure and the pain.

You’ll learn to love it. You’ll discover that you can’t do without it… and the moment that you do, I’ll cut you off and end your contract.

I began our relationship with every move I knew. I pulled every masculine wile on her that I could—and then I released the demon. It was so powerful that neither of us could control it, and yet, we tried. We tried so hard that at some points, it almost destroyed us. And now…

Here we are, where we should have started in the first place. We’re both starting from scratch. Anastasia had no idea what she should and should not be doing, how she should or should not be behaving, what she should or should not expect as a submissive. Her entire concept was take as much as you can and when you’ve reached your limit, take a little more. Why?

Because her husband is a sadist.

I could—and would—give her whatever she could take. There was no measurement of “Maybe this is going too far.” It was just, “More? Okay!”

So, now, I have embarked upon the intricate journey of shedding the title and persona of the typical sadistic Dominant—talented though I may be—and completing the task of becoming the exquisite Dominus. As such, my wife is completing the task of becoming the soumise. At some point, our roles will switch again, but right now, we’re concentrating on this particular dynamic as it fits into our lives.

I don’t know whose journey is harder—hers, having to dispel the misconceptions that she’s had for the last few years during her escapades with me; or mine, having to deprogram most of the things that I learned from Lincoln and in Dom training all those years, or at least re-purpose them—for lack of a better description—to fulfill our current needs.

Anastasia is a strong and independent woman. It’s not in her to be a 24/7 submissive, nor would I want her to be. However, this new dynamic means exploring new territories and desires, both physical and mental, and there will be some sacrifices and compromises on both our parts. I’m going to have to sacrifice my old methods of relating the inflicting of pain, total surrender, and unconditional obedience to my pleasure and maintenance of control. These things must be balanced, and there’s a time and a place for all of them.

TPE requires complete surrender and unconditional obedience. However, while some relationships may be built upon that, ours is not. There’s a time and a place.

While inflicting pain can be quite liberating and erotic, it can’t always be the go-to technique in a relationship like ours. There must be a give-and-take on several levels when implements are used to inflict pain, induce pleasure, or administer punishment.

I was always hyper-aware of a submissive’s feelings and physical reactions, but only to the degree that their responses fulfilled my needs…

If I whipped you until you cried, so what? I fucked you until you came; now, go take a bath and get over it.

If you were twitching and jerking uncontrollably at the end of the scene, it’s probably because your orgasm was so intense that your pussy or your asshole was gripping and squeezing my dick endless until you drained my balls of every single drop of fluid I had to give.

I knew how to time torment and ecstasy perfectly so that I was certain to get everything I needed exactly at the moment that you got what you wanted. And if you didn’t get what you wanted, it was deliberate, and that’s usually what I wanted.

It’s all different now…

The Munch we attended was held at a local venue called “10 Degrees.” It clearly wasn’t what my wife expected and certainly nothing like the impromptu munch we attended at the BDSM club a few years ago. Although my wife chose to don a very sexy black bandage dress of a respectable length, she could have worn one of my grandmother’s vintage Lindy bop dresses and still fit in with this crowd at this location. On more than one occasion, my wife was swept away to a semi-private cluster of conversation with a group of submissive wives while I took the opportunity to converse and pick the brains of Artemis and some other attending Domini. It was during several such powwows that I discovered that my way of thinking was going to have to take a serious detour if this relationship was going to be functional and enjoyable for us.

Today was to be the day that we were going to explore our intimacy a bit more. One of those ways was going to be to choose a nickname for my wife when she was in the role of soumise. Baby came too easily, Butterfly is an everyday name, and Anastasia is clearly what I call her when I’m angry. Ana is what everyone else calls her, and Mrs. Grey is out of the question because I called all of my previous submissives by their last names and we’re trying to separate the old Dom from the Dominus. So, we have to come up with something else. I say “we” because even though I may be using the name, she has to respond to it. I think I’ll talk to her about that later when we’re alone. It shouldn’t be hard for us to come up with something without the assistance of our mentors.

Quite a bit happened in the past two weeks. I awoke the day after Christmas and realized that I had been a Grade-A ass all week to my wife and family, and while it was still imperative that I whip my company back into shape, something had to give… and soon! I took that Friday off and spent it with my wife and children like I should have done on Christmas Eve.

We exchanged our gifts and although we got each other plenty of those gifts that you purchase for the husband or wife who has everything, my biggest gift to Butterfly was the task of decorating our Italian villa as we will be spending six weeks there this summer even if Armageddon befalls us. She was absolutely thrilled. Concerned about leaving our children behind, she was even more delighted to discover that the family will be spending a portion of the summer with us as well, including our children.

Her most precious gift to me was a leather-bound album with various pictures of her and our children throughout the year—in color and black and white, various settings, some candid and some professional. She knows this kind of shit turns me into a big sap, and that’s why she usually waits to give these personal gifts on Christmas Eve. Of course, it took my breath away and I felt like the luckiest bastard on earth.

We also gave gifts to our staff, including the car that we had been promising Keri with the built-in car seats for the kids—a 2015 Chrysler Town and Country. I would have preferred an Audi, of course, but my wife previously informed me that not everyone wanted to drive an Audi, and Chuck informed me that Keri previously admired the Town and Country. As long as it had the safety features that I wanted, it was fine with me. So, Keri is now the proud owner of a metallic silver Chrysler minivan.

December 26 held one more surprise for the Grey family. Pops’ attorney from Detroit, Nathan Wu, called to tell us that Freeman had given up on the protest of the life insurance policy. Freeman was, quite frankly, eager to get his hands on his father’s house. We knew that this had to mean that he had signed the divorce papers as well, because he wasn’t going to allow any proceeds from Pops’ will to get caught up in his divorce. Little did he know that any of his inheritance was most likely protected property from the divorce, but honestly, none of us cared. Our biggest controversy now was trying to get Dad to accept his share of the policy as well as the money that he gave to Uncle Stanley and Uncle Herman.

That beautiful Apollo showed up, refurbished and playing beautifully this past Tuesday, and it has pride of place downstairs in the den with my baby grand. My father and my uncle came over to see it once it had been delivered, after which they called Uncle Stan and the three of them drank a toast to Ichabod while it played one of several preprogrammed songs in its new repertoire, Down by the Old Mill Stream.

Valerie is being released from the hospital today and, once again, we insist that they come and stay with us for a while as Valerie’s body recuperates—just for a few days, or a week, until she’s back on her feet. It’s a good thing we decided against the mentoring sessions tonight. We were needed at the Crossing much more.

My brother is clearly more concerned about Val in the loss of the baby than he is about himself. I can see through the façade, though. He’s been my brother longer that he’s been her husband. He’s crushed, but with everything that she’s been through, he can’t let Valerie know how he feels. He doesn’t want to stress her out and possibly send her into a relapse with her cancer and he’s very concerned about her health and getting her back to 100%. However, once she’s released from the hospital and they get to the Crossing, the truth all comes out.

“How are you holding up?” Butterfly asks Valerie once they release their embrace. Valerie nods.

“I’m doing okay,” she says with a sad, unconvincing smile. “One day at a time.” Butterfly takes her hands.

“I know,” she says. “Come on, let’s talk…” She takes Valerie’s hand and leads her through the dining room. Elliot gazes at her until they disappear into the family room.

“Do you want to talk?” I ask, and I’m certain that my voice startles him. “You look tired.” He twists his lips.

“I’m fine,” he says, his voice clipped as he walks towards the formal living room.

“You don’t look fine,” I say, falling in step behind him. He whirls around on me after he steps down into the living room.

“Oh, so you’re the psychiatrist now.” It’s a statement, not a question. “Montana, how you’ve changed.”

Definitely not fine.

“I’m not trying to piss you off, Elliot,” I say as I close the space between us. “I just want to make sure that you’re really okay. I know if this was Butterfly, I definitely would need some help… or a drink… or I would want someone to pay or tell me why this happened.” Elliot laughs sarcastically.

“Oh, the great Christian Grey and all his millions!” he quips angrily. “If he found out that his little wifey was allergic to water, he’d stop the rain from falling!” I purse my lips.

“I know you’re upset, Elliot,” I say, ignoring his ill-placed ire, “you have every right to be…”

“This isn’t about me!” he hisses. “This is about her! All the shit that’s happened to her! When no one else was there for her, I was there for her! I took care of her; I watched over her; I stood by her when everybody else went MIA—everybody! I did everything in my power to protect her… and I couldn’t!” he bites out. I frown.

“There are some things that you can’t protect her from…” I try to interject.

“Says the man who rescued his woman from kidnappers in a helicopter,” he retorts sarcastically. “Basically brought her back to life after she was nearly killed in a car accident, spent 12 days in a coma, and woke up not even knowing who you were!”

“But I couldn’t prevent those things from happening to her!” I counter. “I may have retrieved her from Vashon Island, but she was still taken and brutally beaten. And yeah, I sat next to her bed and cried and prayed while she was in a coma, but I couldn’t prevent the accident that put her there!”

“Don’t you dare!” he hisses angrily. “Don’t you dare for one moment pretend that you know what I’m feeling right now! You have no fucking idea—no goddamn idea in the world how this feels!”

His eyes are a veiny red and he’s furious, ready to charge. If I don’t pick my words carefully, we’ll be rolling around grappling on the floor—and I will not fight him right now. I take a deep breath through my nose and let it out, never taking my eyes off my brother who is standing in front of me poised like a gladiator, ready for battle.

“You’re right,” I reply. I pause for several moments and watch him deflate infinitesimally. “I have no idea what you’re feeling right now. I couldn’t even begin to imagine, nor would I want to. I know pain, and I know that you’re hurting, but I can’t empathize with the pain you’re feeling right now. I do know this much,” I say, closing the space between us. “You’re taking care of Valerie. Who’s taking care of you?”

His face changes. The fury mask fades in an instant and is replaced with the most mournful, drooping, angst-filled expression I’ve ever seen. My brother chokes out a sob, and then another before crumpling in despair. I catch him in my arms and lower the dead weight to the floor as he sobs uncontrollably.

“I tried… I tried… I did… everything… I could…” he weeps bitterly, unable to catch his breath. “She… needs me… she needs me… to be strong… but this… hurts… God… it hurts… so bad…”

His weeps quickly turn to uncontrollable heaves as he chokes out his grief for his loss. His body is shaking, and his muscles are flexing like he wants to fight, but he’s tight… tight in a ball… still holding it in…

“Let it out, bro,” I encourage. “Let it out. It’s okay to hurt. I’ve got you.”

I can tell he doesn’t want to weep too loudly for fear that Valerie will hear him. Even now, at one of his darkest moments, he’s thinking of Valerie. I let him cry and text my wife.

**Where are you? **

A few moments later, she texts me back.

**In the parlor. **

I reply quickly…

**Can you please keep Valerie down there for a while? My brother needs to vent. **

It takes her a minute to respond.

**I understand. Sure thing. **

Thank God I didn’t have to explain that. Having a psychiatrist for a wife certainly has its benefits. I put my phone back in my pocket and lean in to my brother.

“Let it out, Lelliot,” I tell him. “I swear she won’t hear you.”

He raises tear-filled eyes to me, and I nod at him, giving him permission to grieve properly. He closes his eyes and releases a heart-wrenching wail that tears me down to my very soul. The sound is so painful that it’s everything I can do not to grab him and shake him and tell him to stop screaming like this; that everything is going to be okay and this is not the end of the world, but he’s been holding this in. He’s been the tower—the strong front for his extremely fragile wife. He hid his feelings so well that no one knew what he was going through. It’s a wonder he didn’t have a psychotic breakdown through all of this.

I can’t grab him and shake him, but I can grab him.

He curls into a ball, covers his face with his hands and sobs openly, finally crying without a care about who may be listening. I can hear his pain… and it’s killing me. It’s killing me that I can’t take it away from him. He was right not to let Valerie see this. She wouldn’t be able to take it.

I curl my body over his, quickly wiping away the selfish tears that fall from my own eyes onto the back of his shirt.

“That’s good, Lelliot,” I say, hiding the tears in my voice. “Let it all out…”


ANASTASIA

Elliot tried, but he wasn’t able to hide the fact that he was broken when Val and I finally came from the parlor. They both have the same questions…

Why did this happen?
How did this happen?
Was there something they could have done to prevent it?
How will they keep it from happening again?

The truth is that there’s no right answer to those questions. The immediate answer is that Val’s weakened state could have contributed to this, but truthfully, perfectly healthy women have miscarriages all the time. There’s no explanation for it and at some point, you heal from the pain and try again.

However, there’s no telling that to a woman—or a man—who has just lost a child.

They spend time blaming themselves until they’re just not blaming themselves anymore. Sometimes, it’s quick and sometimes, not so much. The further along the pregnancy is, the harder it is to deal with the loss. Val was heading into her fourth month and she had begun to feel the quickening of the baby, so that made it all very real. Then, to have something happen like this, after you’ve felt the baby move inside you and you’ve started making plans for the new life… we should definitely be having a funeral right now.

After Val said that she couldn’t cry anymore, the floodgates opened like Niagara Falls once we got to my parlor. She polished off a bottle and a half of wine all by herself, and I let her. She cried and cried about how she’s a failure as a woman and a mother and I spent the better part of an hour trying to convince her that this was not true; that there was nothing that she or anybody could have done differently that could have prevented this; that these things just happen and as painful as they may be, sometimes, they just can’t be prevented.

My words did very little to comfort her.

Little did I know that Elliot was on the first floor having a breakdown of his own, and when he and Val were reunited, they could do nothing more than crawl upstairs and go to bed.

Christian and I sit down to dinner alone. He concentrates on finishing his meal, and I know it’s because he’s fighting with his emotions. He’s forcing himself to eat so that he doesn’t starve himself being overcome by his feelings. I don’t attempt to engage. We simply eat in silence and I let him finish his meal. Maddie and Nelson are still here until Monday, but they’ve been having more intimate meals with Keri and Chuck in their apartment since Chuck’s episode.

“The other soumises were telling me that communication is paramount in any healthy relationship,” I break the silence once we’ve finished our dinner and we’re having coffee, “especially a BDSM relationship.” He raises his gaze to me, his expression almost as if he forgot that I was sitting there next to him. He bottoms out his coffee and stands from his seat. Then he moves to the back of mine, signaling for me to stand and he pulls my chair out. He takes my hand and tucks it into his elbow. I feel a little flush come over me.

“Where would you like to chat?” he says. I’m taken aback. Anywhere will do. I would have been just fine sitting here at the table.

“The library,” I reply. We have two libraries and one of them became Marilyn’s office. We never use the other one.

He leads me to the elevator, and we take a silent ride to the lower level. I stop at the aquarium to say “hi” to Marty, who’s swimming obliviously in and out of her castles and reefs. As I take a moment to admire my fish, Christian retrieves a bottle of brandy and two snifters from the bar. We walk quietly to the library and I take a seat on the sofa. Christian turns on the fireplace and takes a seat next to me.

“Do you have anything in particular that you want to talk about?” he asks as he pours us each a brandy.

“Anything but Elliot and Val,” I say softly. He stops pouring for a moment, still looking at the brandy snifter.

“Agreed,” he says, and finishes pouring the drinks. He hands me one of the glasses and takes one for himself. We each take a large sip of the brandy before the conversation begins.

“We were supposed to come up with names tonight,” Christian begins. “I was thinking that I don’t know why we can’t do that activity on our own. It shouldn’t be hard.” I shrug.

“Yes, I can’t see why we couldn’t do that,” I reply.

“Mine should be easy,” he says. “I’ve only ever been referred to as Sir, Mr. Grey, or Master. Mr. Grey and Grey has definite connotations for us. Master feels like footprints from a past life. I don’t want to bring that into our relationship.”

“I agree,” I say, sipping my brandy.

“There are other options—Lord, Captain, Mister, Boss. The Latin Dominus is used as my title, as soumise is used for yours. It’s nice, but it seems a bit pretentious for you to address me that way. The rest of those seem over the top, except for Boss, and Jason sometimes calls me that. So, if you’re comfortable, I say we keep it simple and continue to use Sir.”

“I think that’s best,” I concur. “I did a little research on appropriate names for a submissive. They all sounded ridiculous.” Christian furrows his brow.

“Such as?” he asks, before sipping his brandy.

Baby girl, princess, kitten, honey bear, buttercup…” I rattle them off.

“None of those would fit for you because those are generally all names for littles. You’re not a little and I’m not a Daddy Dom, so those definitely wouldn’t work for us.”

“What’s a little?” I ask.

“That’s a whole other Dominant/submissive dynamic,” he replies. “It often involves age play where the submissive behaves at an age suitable for his or her Dominant, or at whatever age the submissive chooses.”

“Like adult babies?” I say with distaste.

“Yes, adult babies can be a type of a little,” he confesses. I shiver a bit.

“There are other types of littles?” I ask. He nods.

“They can be any age,” he says. “It depends on the preference of the couple.” I shake my head.

“That… sounds like someone who fantasizes about children,” I admit. “It doesn’t seem healthy. What place could that possibly have in a BDSM relationship?”

“Please don’t try to get me to explain that,” he beseeches. “I’m aware that the dynamic exists, but I couldn’t describe the fascination or attraction to it. I don’t have enough information on it, so I can’t defend or criticize it… and we’re getting off topic,” he chides gently. “Your name? Remember?”

“I like pet, but for some reason, I feel as though I should have a deep abhorrence for that word.”

“You should!” he says, nearly cutting me off before the words are out of my mouth. I lean back from him a bit as his tone is clipped and his eyes are sharp. Then, he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.

“This may be one of those things that slipped your mind,” he begins, “but Lincoln called me ‘pet.’” I nearly choke on my brandy.

“Oh… yeah… no,” I say, finishing off the amber liquid. He pours me another drink.

“I liked love and kitten,” I say,but Jason calls Gail Love…”

“And Ethan calls Mia kitten,” Christian says.

“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” I say, twisting my lips. “How about kitty? I like that one, too.”

“Too close to kitten,” he says. He moves the glass to his lips and stops.

“What is it?” I ask. He smiles widely before taking a sip of his drink.

“I’ve got it,” he says, placing his glass on the coffee table. “You like kitten and kitty, two variations of a feline, but we can’t use them because I don’t want to feel like I’m Domming my kid sister.”

“Your point?” I say. He leans in close to me, his face mere inches from mine.

Pussycat,” he breathes in his Dom voice… and my panties are instantly wet. I swallow hard.

“I… I like that,” I choke out, abandoning any bit of “cool” I may have previously had.

“I thought you would,” he says, retrieving his glass. “I like it, too.” He leans back on the sofa, swirling the brandy around in his glass and looking salaciously at me with a confident half smirk on his face. I clear my throat.

“We’re supposed to be talking,” I say, trying not to gulp down the rest of my brandy.

“I thought we were,” he says, raising an eyebrow at me.

“I… suddenly don’t know what else to say,” I pant, trying to remain calm, but failing miserably as I mindlessly swallow the rest of my second brandy and flinch as the spirits shock my throat and burn their way down my chest. Christian bottoms out his first brandy and puts the snifter on the table. He takes my glass from my hand and places it on the table next to his. Moving closer to me on the sofa, he leans in to me until I can only focus on his eyes through my hormone-and-brandy-induced haze.

“Weekdays have been a real bitch for me lately, Anastasia,” he says, his voice low and his face mere breaths away from mine. “Seeing that it’s Saturday night and the past two days have been just as shitty, what I’d like to do now is to take you upstairs to our room, tie you to our bed, and fuck you within an inch of your sanity. Or…” He leans in even closer, “I can bind your wrists and fuck you right here. It really doesn’t matter either way to me, as long as I get to fuck you. What do you say to that?” I swallow hard again.

“I’d say that I’d like that very much,” I squeak. His lips brush mine and he speaks the next words against my mouth.

“Upstairs… or here?” he breathes. The word is barely a whisper.

“Here.”

*-*

Christian is asleep and I’m wide awake, lying on the floor in the library. He’s wrapped around me and a blanket is wrapped around us both, the light from the moon and from the fire illuminating the room. This is only the second or third time in weeks that I’ve seen him sleeping so peacefully, which is a shame since two of those times were most likely aided by sheer exhaustion from concern for his brother.

Lying on my back and looking at the ceiling, I can’t help but go over the events of the holiday season…

Chuck tried to rip out his esophagus from swallowing a taste of champagne.

Mikey got up and just started walking out of nowhere, and Minnie’s not far behind him. We’re going to have to start childproofing the house very soon.

I got word that the bitch Deanna Carson who threatened to attempt to seduce my husband and then made good on her threat was one of the employees that was fired for failing the drug test and is now part of a class action suit against GEH. I plan to put a stop to that shit.

My husband is working long ass hours trying to save his company from going down the toilet and I can’t shake the feeling that he’s the only one who seems to care about it.

Carrick’s brother Freeman looks like he’s not going to be a problem for the brothers for a while. I don’t know what’s happening with the harassment charges that Christian brought against him and the assault charges from Burtie, but he dropped that ridiculous case protesting the legitimacy of the life insurance policy, and Lanie told me that he has signed the divorce papers and agreed to Nell’s demands. It would have left him in the hole a bit, but he got their house in Farmington and the proceeds from Burt’s life insurance as well as Burt’s house in Detroit. I don’t know the value of everything, but apparently, he got what he wanted.

I accused my husband of longing for a submissive from his prior life, which sent us into nearly a week of silence and avoidance and caused me to turn my home into the Land That Christmas Fucking Well Wouldn’t Forget in an attempt to escape the situation. I had to have the house professionally un-decorated to remove all that stuff… but I have it all stored away, just in case!

Marilyn flies back in today, and I can barely wait to see her! I asked if she needed a ride home from the airport, but she said that she would just like the evening to herself to regroup and acclimate to being back in Seattle. So, I’ll see her at the office tomorrow.

Harmony will be moving into Escala at the end of the week once the closing is final. I feel a bit melancholy about that, almost like I did when Daddy said that he was leaving the house in Montesano. Yes, that was where Christian gained his Dom legs and beat and fucked 15 brown haired submissives, but that’s also where we built our lives, where we cut our teeth on many firsts. The place holds some fond memories for us, and some not so fond ones as well, but it’s where we officially became The Greys.

And, of course, my sister and best friend lost her baby.

I think that about sums it up.

Feeling a combination of sorrow, nostalgia, and melancholy from reviewing the major events of the past few weeks, I feel a tear slide down my temple and into my ear.

Pussycat. We decided on Pussycat. Never in a million years would I have expected him to come up with that name, but surprisingly, I really like it. My mind immediately wanders to the conversations that I had with clusters of other soumises. Listening to them speak so freely about their relationships and their roles, being able to slip into a submissive state of mind so quickly and easily, being able to be everything my Dominus needs at a moment’s notice… I try very hard not to think about how far I have to go and how much I need to learn. I try to only focus on the journey and making this a rewarding experience for us both.

My mind then floats to my conversation with Savvina and how she basically told me that I had no idea what I was doing or feeling…

“No, you don’t. You don’t find Nirvana, peace, or even subspace until it’s over and he makes you come. This. Is. Not. Just. For. Him. As his wife, this is for you, too. Until you fully understand that, you’re in a dangerous place.”

I’m afraid. I’ll admit it. I’ve sat wondering more than once if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. This isn’t a game anymore. This isn’t “dabbling” as our mentors referred to it. This is the real thing—a real-life, full-on, BDSM relationship. We said that we wouldn’t be 24/7, but I don’t know how we can’t be. I’ve immersed myself in research and websites and blog pages, chats with trusted soumises, and everything that I’m reading and seeing and hearing says that you will submerge yourself in this lifestyle in one way or another.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to walk around in spandex and leather 25/8… or 24/7, but it does mean that you have to always be mindful of your Dominus just as he has to always be mindful of you—and there’s a lot involved in being mindful.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the onslaught of information that just popped into my head as I lie here in the dark in my husband’s arms, I squeeze my eyes shut tight, and another tear slides down my temple. On cue, my husband pulls me closer to him, and kisses the tear from my temple.

“Sleep,” he says, softly, and with surprisingly little effort, I close my eyes, and fall asleep.


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

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.

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

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 ~~love and handcuffs

Introduction to Seasons…

Someone made a really good point to me quite a while back in a comment in an attempt to make me stop writing. They told me that the story was really good, but that I should have stopped at Book III because that’s where the story stopped.

They were right.

Don’t panic; I’m not going to stop writing, but I just want to point something out and make an announcement to those of you who have seen a significant change in the writing from Book I to Book IV.

For a story to continue, characters must change, people must die, situations and dramas must develop—things don’t stay the same. As a result, you may lose readers. People may lose interest. They may not be happy with the direction of the tale.

And you know what? That’s okay.

I stopped watching TV because it just wasn’t holding my interest anymore, but I was still diehard on some series just because I was… until they didn’t hold my interest anymore either.

I fussed and I screamed and I jumped up and down and had a temper tantrum when Grey’s Anatomy killed off McDreamy, but people still watch Grey’s Anatomy.

There was an episode of Scandal where some young black kid was killed and Olivia Pope came to the rescue and some black activist looking for his fifteen minutes of fame starts bashing her right there on the scene loosely referring to her as a tool used by the white man to get the black folks to shut up (not his exact words), all I could see was some flighty-ass “brother” looking for attention and bringing separatism to the black community instead of relief to the family. As a result, I watched the first few minutes of that episode and never watched Scandal again, but other people watched Scandal all the way to the end.

And guess what? Shondaland didn’t die because I stopped watching and my story won’t die because certain people stopped reading and lost or lose interest. But Shondaland and my broken love affair with Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal (when it was on) made me realize something…

The “Christian and Ana Show” did end with Book III. That’s where they got married, had their kids, and their “happily ever after” began. Once you get to Book IV, you are now in the series—the soap opera. You are now in the Downton Abbey, the Days of Our Lives, the Game of Thrones (before it ended), General Hospital of the Christian and Ana saga and how they interact with other people and the other dramas that occur from those interactions.

As a result, Book IV will be renamed Season IV, and the chapters renamed Episodes. This way, there will be no confusion for those of the mind that the particular Christian and Ana story stopped at Book III. You’re right. The rest of the series is now called

The Misadventures of Christian and Ana and Their Crazy Friends

It will be named Misadventures for short, and each season will most likely still have a title of its own. Enjoy. Or don’t. But don’t ever suggest that I stop writing. I won’t 😊

Smoochies!

~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 94—The Christmas Song

Final chapter of Season Four…

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

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

Chapter 94—The Christmas Song

CHRISTIAN

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

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

Thank God!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait, let me take that back…

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

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

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

Yeah, at least 40.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her promise ring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stop.”


ANASTASIA

“Stop.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… And so is he.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shit! My mouth is watering.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear God, I’m doomed.

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

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

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

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

And then he begins to move… really move.

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

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

“Come for me!” he breathes sensually.

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You hid more,” I accuse. He nods.

“Yep,” he confesses. I just laugh.

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

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

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

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

“If you want,” I reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… And the burn starts.

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

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


CHRISTIAN

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

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

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

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

Her.

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

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

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

“What time is it?” she asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Elaborate.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, they won’t,” I protest.

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

I twist my lips. Busted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Titties!!
Shit! Pay attention, Grey.

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

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

“Twelve,” I mutter.

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

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

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

Fuck! This shit is starting to sting.

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

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

“See?” she says, petulantly.

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

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

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

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

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

And will my wife be okay?

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

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

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


EPILOGUE

What in the hell is happening?

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

I haven’t gotten any of my phone calls.

I can’t write any letters.

I haven’t seen Greta in over a week.

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey, Baby Fucker, remember me?”

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

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

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

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

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

Baby Fucker…

Oh, fuck!


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

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Raising Grey: Chapter 93—Holy Yuletide, Batman!

One more chapter after this one…

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

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

Chapter 93—Holy Yuletide, Batman!

CHRISTIAN

The last few days have been a damn nightmare.

Try though I might, I couldn’t get out of the office before 7pm because there was always a fire to put out.

Four of my department heads will bring in the New Year unemployed because, as I have discovered, two of them failed the drug tests and the other two are completely incompetent. The latter were part of the dismal audits that I conducted this week and I hadn’t even gotten to the former two departments yet. After having to move assistant department heads up to department heads, I now have to give them some time to figure out what’s happening in the department before I can rake anyone across the coals. The problem is, do I focus on them now while I have the chance to influence the progress and performance of the new department heads or do I give them an opportunity to acclimate?

Lorenz and I are up to our fucking nostrils in year-end bullshit and these inadequate, incapable ass leaders I’m supposed to have, and Rosalind has decided to teach me a fucking lesson by leaving me hanging right at the fucking holidays! Wait until her haughty ass comes back and finds out that 12 of our employees—two of them, department heads—had to be dismissed for testing positive for controlled substances. I don’t know how yet, but I’m going to find some way to make her pay for her actions.

My entire body felt like a taut rubber band at the end of the day. I had only planned to work until about noon since it was Christmas Eve, but catastrophe after catastrophe kept landing in my lap. The only good news I got involved another Elena Lincoln mishap, and the story about Holstein being rushed to the hospital with bubble gut after consuming our delivery of champagne. I’m so ready for the serenity of my sanctuary, but the moment we approach the driveway, the only thing I can think is…

What the fuck is this?

I was certain that we had the wrong address. I know that no other houses on the street look like mine, but this is crazy. This can’t be my house! I know that I’ve been preoccupied with what’s been happening at GEH, but I couldn’t have been this obtuse to what was going on in my own home.

When I finally get a good look at everything that has happened in this place, I don’t recognize my own home. It’s like Santa’s elves came in and vomited all over the joint. Sparkles and lights and bulbs and garlands and candy canes and pinecones everywhere! When the fuck did she ever find time to do all this??

When she said she was preparing the house for Christmas, I had no idea it was going to come out looking like this! And she had to do it all before Maddie and Nelson got here! When exactly did Maddie and Nelson get here?

Jesus, Mary and Joseph! And I had better be careful with that exclamation, because they all appear to be on my front lawn!

It’s late once I finished a grueling workout to both work off the day and try to whip my ass into shape before seeing Claude this weekend. I go to my office and finish up the last of some work before the holiday, then I head towards the elevator.

“I thought you would already be in bed,” Chuck says as I run into him and his father in the community area on the sofa.

“I’m on my way up now,” I say walking over to them. “Nelson, it’s good to see you again,” I say extending my hand.

“Likewise, young man,” he says, giving my hand a firm shake. “Long day?”

“Extremely long,” I lament, and he chuckles a bit.

“Don’t work too hard, son,” he cautions. “It’s worth nothing if you forget what you’re working for.” I hear ya, but this company ain’t gonna run itself.

“You two smell like… food,” I say, Chuck laughs.

“Your wife had us smoking meat in the barbeque kitchen,” he says, and I frown.

“You’re a guest!” I say to Nelson. He laughs heartily.

“When Momma says we’re helping with the meal, we’re helping with the meal. The only other option was bakin’. I aint no baker, Christian,” Nelson says with mirth.

“But smoked meat can be eaten any day of the week,” Chuck adds. “And with three turkeys and two hams, something had to be smoked.”

“Three turkeys?” I exclaim. “Who all is coming to my house?”

“From what I understand, the guest list is somewhere between 30 and 50,” he says calmly.

“You gotta be kiddin’,” I say. He shakes his head. “Is the party going to be down here?” I ask, observing all the decorations.

“I would venture to say that the party is going to be all over the house,” Chuck informs me. I frown.

“The rest of the house looks like this?” I say, pointing to the elaborately decorated Christmas tree. Chuck does this strange, knowing laugh.

“I’ll just say this,” he begins, “when she first said, ‘seven Christmas trees,’ I thought was a joke.”

“Seven!?” I exclaim, my eyes wide. “Seven fucking trees??” Nelson snickers again.

“Oh, boy, are you in for a surprise,” he says. “Go over to the French doors and just take a look into the backyard.”

I go over to the French doors and motherfucking hell… my backyard looks like daylight. They can probably see this shit from outer space.

“Oh, God,” I lament. Nelson sighs.

“You have been working too hard if you haven’t seen this, son,” he says. “Go take a walk around your house.”

“The walk is going to have to wait until tomorrow. I’m exhausted,” I confess. “Goodnight, gentlemen.”

They say goodnight and they fall back into their conversation. Afraid of what I may see on the first floor, I take the elevator straight upstairs like I do most nights and go straight to our bedroom.

Butterfly has fallen into what I can clearly see is one of the deepest sleeps ever. I’m sure to be right behind her, but…

This room is cold!

I get a fire going in the fireplace and quickly change into my pajamas. Did she know it was this cold when she came to bed? Is that why she’s wearing flannel?

I climb into bed next to her and I don’t even remember my head hitting the pillow.

It’s daylight when I open my eyes again. This is the first time I remember it being daylight when I awoke in several days. I’m in the same position that I was when I fell asleep. I look over at Butterfly, and she looks like she hasn’t moved either—maybe adjusted her head, because her hair has fallen over her face now. I brush the strands behind her ears and just gaze at her for a moment.

She looks unbelievably peaceful—absolutely no clue of the hell breaking loose at our empire, and apparently going absolutely crazy with decorations around the Crossing. I’ll take a look at them, but for right now, I need to stretch my legs and get my blood pumping.

“Nice of you to join us, Bro,” Elliot says as I program the treadmill next to him. “Didn’t you work out last night?”

“Yeah, but I always do a short one in the morning, too,” I say as I find my pace. “My trainer beat my ass last week and now he’s giving me shit.”

“Does that mean that I don’t have to arm-wrestle you for those pecan goodies this year?” he asks, bringing the treadmill into a cooldown pace.

“Dream on,” I chuckle. “I’m hoping my wife put some away for me.” Elliot laughs.

“You’ve got jokes,” he says. I pound on the treadmill for 15 minutes, just enough to get the blood pumping, then I go into my own cooldown.

“What did you mean by that?” I ask as I walk at a brisk pace.

“By what?” he says, drying his face and stepping off the machine.

“By that crack, you’ve got jokes. Did you eat all the damn cookies?” He laughs again.

“Cut it out, man,” he says as he cracks open a cold water and takes several large swallows. “Honestly, bro, there was just too much joy to the world going on in this house yesterday. I’ve never seen a giddier group of women in my entire life! I had to come out to the smoke session just to get a healthy dose of testosterone and cynicism!”

“Including Montana?” I ask, trying to gauge my wife’s mood.

Especially Montana!” he exclaims. “She was running around wearing a shirt with Santa Clauses all over it, literally barefoot in the kitchen. They nabbed my wife the minute she bent the corner and almost tried to recruit me until I escaped. I went to sleep and had nightmares about gingerbread men with all the cookies she baked.”

“She always bakes a lot of cookies at Christmas,” I point out. It means that I get those chocolate-pecan delights that I had to choke him for last year.

“No!” Elliot says, shaking his head. “No. No! You have no fucking idea, man!” I frown as I step off the treadmill.

“What the hell are you talking about?” I ask. He just glares at me as I dry the sweat from my brow. He grabs a cold water and tosses it to me.

“Hydrate, and come with me,” he says.

We walk to the elevator and I now notice cookies on surfaces that I don’t remember seeing them the night before. Those are my pecan goodies! How did I miss them? Is that what Chuck and Nelson were sitting there eating last night? Greedy bastards. I hope Butterfly put some away for me.

When the elevator gets to the first floor, I see that nearly every surface in the family room has a plate of cookies, and of course, there’s another Christmas tree, and more pine garland and bulbs and lights and bows and…

“Behold,” Elliot says, gesturing to the kitchen. The bar to the patio is covered with pastry boxes stacked high like bricks. There are cookie tins on a nearby table also stacked in a staggering pattern…

“Wha…” I can’t even get the words out of my mouth.

“Those are all full of cookies,” he says. “There are cookies in the pantry, and there are cookies all over the house. There are even cookies in the guestrooms—at least there were in mine and Val’s bedroom, so I’m only assuming they’re everywhere else.”

“Jesus!” I exclaim, looking around my kitchen.

“Oh, He’s here, too. He’s on the front lawn,” Elliot announces.

“I know,” I quip sarcastically. What the hell, she did all this in three fucking days! I walk through my Christmas Village kitchen into my even more Christmas Village dining room that now looks strikingly like a holiday banquet hall. Tables are already set for a Christmas feast so I’m not really sure what the plan for breakfast is supposed to be.

An individual Christmas stocking containing flatware graces each plate on the dining table and the accompanying tables that have been commandeered for our apparent Christmas feast. A huge platter big enough to hold a turkey sits in the center adorned with gingerbread people creatively holding candy canes.

How the hell do you bake a gingerbread man holding a damn candy cane? And do I see actual Christmas sweater cookies??

“There’s no way she did all this on her own,” I say.

“Oh, she had lots of help, but she was the ringleader,” Elliot assures me. “Dude, I checked on Angel several times throughout the afternoon and evening yesterday just to make sure that she and the baby were doing okay. I can personally guarantee you that nothing you consume today will be store-bought. Be not surprised if everything you sink your teeth into, Montana had a hand in it.”

“Even these?” I ask, picking up one of the gingerbread men.

“Even those,” he says. “I got to devour some of the pieces that didn’t make it… they’re fantastic, even better than Mom’s. They got chocolate in ‘em!”

Better than Mom’s? I love my Butterfly, but nobody makes gingerbread cookies better than Mom’s.

“Taste it,” he says, noting my skepticism. I bite the little guy’s leg and the flavor is delectable. It’s crunchy and airy and delicious!

“Those are the ones that have been sitting out to get what Montana calls the ginger ‘snap.’ Wait until you try one of the ones that have been sealed and are still moist. They’re fucking insane!”

Good Lord. I don’t know whether to be impressed or worried. I’m looking at this gingerbread man like he’s going to give me the answers and all I can hear him saying is, “Ouch!”

“I… take it from your silence that you weren’t in on all of this,” Elliot observes. I shake my head.

“No,” I say, flatly, still savoring the flavor of yet another confection my wife will have now introduced me to. Elliot is too silent for too long and I raise my gaze to him

“What?” I ask.

“Christian… I’m going to say something, and if it’s none of my business, you tell me to shut up and I’ll back off.” I nod and wait for him to finish.

“Is everything okay between you and Montana?” I sigh.

“I… I think so…” I don’t know that anything is particularly wrong.

“You think so?” he asks.

“Well, we had a disagreement this weekend, but…” I trail off.

“You squashed it?” Elliot asks. “Everything’s square now?”

Shit. I don’t think so.

“Well,” I say, “we didn’t see eye to eye on something, but we didn’t fight. It was just a difference of opinion. We said how we felt about it and then we dropped it, but… well, I’ve been working. There’s all kinds of crazy shit going on at GEH and… I haven’t really talked to her all week.” Elliot frowns.

“How can that be?” Elliot asks. “You still sleep together, don’t you?”

“Of course, we do!” I snap. “Every fucking night!”

“Then how is it that you…” He trails off. A look of realization dawns on his face.

“Out with it, Elliot,” I spit.

“I saw Jason last night, but I didn’t see you,” he observes. “I didn’t even see you at dinner and it was Christmas Eve. I didn’t see you until you came to the gym this morning, and I’m guessing that Montana doesn’t spend a lot of mornings in the gym.”

The accusing tone of his words make me feel defensive at first. I told him that my company is having problems. Butterfly knows that. What does he expect me to do right now?

His next words, however, are very sobering.

“Do you remember Mom’s episode?” he asks. “When Montana had to rush her to the hospital? Do you remember how she was acting before that happened—how irrational she was? Do you remember how insane Mia’s wedding was, and how more insane it would have been had she not cancelled half the shit Mom was doing?”

“Elliot, are you trying to tell me that my very youthful wife is perimenopausal?” I inquire.

“No,” he says, his tone serious. “But I am saying that if you can look at all of this and say that everything is okay, you got blinders on. This house looks fucking fantastic—for a woman who’s been planning for Christmas since Labor Day. Has she been?”

I bite the inside of my jaw but don’t answer.

“I don’t know how long it took her to do this, but we came to see you guys last week, this house didn’t look this way—not a bulb, not a light, not a piece of garland, not even a bare Christmas tree. What do you have, like five of them fully trimmed now?”

“Chuck says there’s seven,” I correct him. He twists his lips.

“Let me let you in on a little secret,” he says putting his arm around my shoulder. “If you knew exactly how many cookies she has in this house, you’d own stock in sugar right now…”

I probably do, but I’ll let him make his point.

“She made so many damn cookies that she could probably pass them out all over the greater Seattle area and you would still have enough of those pecan cluster things to last you until spring.”

Well, that’s comforting… and frightening.

“She pulled off something better than Martha Stewart and worthy of Architectural Digest and the Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Issue in less than a week and you didn’t even know it, so I’m venturing to say that she did it in just a few days. Can you really look at this—all of this—and say that this is normal? Because if you can, I’ll throw my tongue over my shoulder and shut the fuck up right now.”

I sigh heavily still looking at the gingerbread man with no foot.

“Have you seen these?” he asks, presenting another plate of cookies. My brow furrows.

“Mickey Mouse?” I say, looking at the spread of elaborate decorated mouse cookies. “I kind of get the Christmas sweaters, but why Mickey Mouse?”

“Um, maybe because you have two little Mouseketeers, and this is their first Christmas?” Elliot points out. “You do know that you have a candy-themed Christmas tree with a red polka-dot tree skirt that screams Minnie Mouse, right?”

Shit! Can I be that much of an asshole? It’s now that I realize that I did all of my Christmas shopping really early, but none of my gifts have been wrapped.

“Look, Bro, I’m not going to lecture you about how to be a husband. I’m still learning myself, and you’ve had more time at this than I have. But I am going to caution you to pull your head a little out of GEH and stick it a bit more into your family. There’s a whole lot going on here and you completely missed it. You love that company, but it’s not going to love you back, and it sure as hell ain’t gonna keep you warm at night or raise your children.” He pats me on my shoulder.

“Think about it,” he says. “I’m going to go shower and wake my Angel.” He brushes past me and heads towards the large staircase. Shit, I’ve got to go and wrap my gifts for my family and take a damn shower myself, and Elliot has given me quite a bit to think about, and I just realized…

There are cookies all over this damn house and none in my office or den.

I head to the elevator to my den to wrap my presents before everyone wakes, snagging a plate of those pecan clusters along the way.

*-*

I soon discover why the tables were set for dinner instead of breakfast. No one immerged until noon! What kind of festivities were going on in this house while my back was turned?

I’m able to get my presents wrapped before anyone sees me, but I don’t know which tree to put them under, so I just put them under the one in the family room. I hear activity in the kitchen and Christmas carols piping softly through the sound system, so I think it’s safe to say that the house is coming alive. I take the elevator up to the second floor and there’s still no activity. As I duck into my room, I hear laughing women in the nursery. I want to stick my head in, but I’m almost certain that the laughter will stop if I do, so I just go into my room.

Butterfly’s not here and she’s not in her shower, so I assume that she’s in the nursery with the twins. I fell in the bed too tired—and cold—to shower last night, so I start my shower and strip out of my workout clothes. When I step in, the water feels good beating on my head and back. I just stand there for a while and let it massage my scalp.

Jason was trying to tell me that something wasn’t right a few days ago. Now Elliot is telling me that Christmas Village is a blaring sign that something is wrong. I can’t confirm or deny either one because I haven’t really seen or spoken to my wife all week—not because I didn’t want to, but because there was so much on my mind that I didn’t want to dump it all on her. But now that I think about it, the last words that we really had was about her thinking I wanted another woman. We… haven’t talked since then.

I towel-dry my hair thoroughly when I get out of the shower. Something tells me that casual isn’t going to cut it today, but hell if I’m wearing a suit. So, I find a crisp pair of burgundy slacks and a two-textured black shirt with a pair of bespoke shoes. This will have to do. I’ll admit that the vigorous workouts must be doing me some good. My biceps and pecks look amazing! Then again, it could just be the shirt.

My family and various guests are mulling around eating hors d’oeuvres and sipping various beverages. Everybody’s not here yet, but those who have arrived have the same idea I do—no red-carpet garb, but don’t be a damn slouch. I walk over to Elliot and fill my glass with whatever red drink is in the punch bowl next to him. It’s really delicious. Cider? Cranberry? Both? I don’t know, but it’s good.

“The dead has arisen,” Valerie jests. “I thought you were going to miss Christmas completely, which would have been a real tragedy, because look!” She gestures around the house. “Isn’t this just the most? The very most?” She sounds downright giddy talking about the décor. Elliot raises his brow and takes a sip of his Christmas punch to avoid having to say anything.

“Yeah, it’s something,” I respond. “What do you say, there, Elliot?” I say, putting him in the spot. The corner of his lip rises along with one of his brows.

“Yes! It is quite the display!” he says enthusiastically. “Angel and I were just talking yesterday about how we couldn’t figure out for the life of us how Montano found the time, energy, or motivation to pull this off. What do you think, bro?” he says conspicuously, and volleys that ball right back into my court.

Asshole.

“The stars of the hour have arrived!”

My wife’s sing-songy voice rescues me from having to banter with my brother and when I turn around, a sight greets me that nearly knocks the damn wind out of me. Butterfly is walking into the room in this layered mock-wrap burgundy rock-a-billy cocktail dress—it’s gorgeous! I can tell that it’s one of my grandmother’s dresses and if she dressed like this all the time, it’s a wonder she and my grandfather didn’t have 15 kids!

She’s wearing a pair of burgundy Louboutin sky-high peeptoe platform stilettos that fade to black at the toes and her hair is in this swoopy kind of multidirectional chignon. She looks fucking scrumptious! She’s got my children with her and I swear to God, she looks like a sexy ass Mrs. Claus with two gorgeous little Christmas elves!

“Where’s your Santa outfit, Bro?” Elliot says quietly in my ear.

“I didn’t get the memo,” I say, a little more wistful than I intended. Minnie’s wearing a little red dress with Minnie Mouse on it and a Santa hat with little mouse ears. Mikey’s wearing a red jogging suit with one Mickey Mouse on the shirt and the pants.

“Where’s Mikey’s hat?” Val asks. Butterfly looks down at Mikey.

“He kept taking it off, so…” she shrugs. She’s got something attached to her arm and to Mikey’s arm, it almost looks like a leash!

And Mikey’s walking! When the fuck did Mikey start walking?

“When did that happen?” I ask aloud, pointing to my son. My wife looks down at Mikey again and then looks back up at me.

“Yesterday,” she says calmly. “He just got up and started walking.”

“Actually,” Gail interrupts, “he just got up and started walking to Momma. We were playing just fine on the floor in the nursery until Ana walked in. Then he just got to his feet and ran to his mother.” Ana looks down and smiles sweetly at our son.

That kind of stings. A somewhat knew that I may not be here to see my children’s first steps just because of the nature of my life, but when it really happened… That hurts a little bit.

“Steele!” Valerie says, closing in on my wife. “Are you wearing Mickey Mouse earrings?”

“Mickey and Minnie,” she says, turning her head so that Valerie can see.

“Where on earth did you find those?” she asks. “They look custom made.”

“At the Marketplace aren’t they adorable?” she beams all in one breath.

My wife looks like a million bucks and I look like a troll—I should probably change clothes, but into what? Nothing in my closet can make me look that good.

She hands Minnie off to Valerie and lifts Mikey in her arms. They head off to the kitchen towards Maddie talking about… whatever, and I kind of feel like the odd man out in my own house.


ANASTASIA

Everything turned out wonderfully!

Everyone loves the decorations. Since dinner is going to be quite early, we decided to forego breakfast and lunch for hors d’oeuvres, finger foods, cookies and drinks. Our family and friends are slowly beginning to file in and I’m surprised that Al isn’t one of the first people in attendance. That’s not like him.

“Oh my gosh, Ana, you look adorable!” Grace says as she and Carrick arrive with Luma, Herman, and the girls. “And the Nutcracker soldier at the guard’s booth is priceless. How on earth did you manage to pull this off?”

“Sheer will and determination,” I reply with a laugh, “and a whole lot of Christmas spirit. It was really a lot of fun. I had Sophie to help and the staff was magnificent… and look what I got for Christmas!” I say. I put Mikey down on the floor and he walks right over to his grandma. She gasps and scoops him up in her arms.

“Oh, wow, he’s walking!” Grace beams. “Who’s a big boy!” she exclaims happily, and he rewards her with infectious baby giggle.

“Well, would you look at that!” Carrick says, his smile wide and sincere.

“Who wouldn’t be just full of excitement and joy with something like that?” I say.

“Christian looks a bit subdued,” she points out and looks at me. I twist my lips and shrug.

“It’s GEH,” I say, furrowing my brow a bit. “It’s got him really distracted. I’m hoping he loosens up and gets into the holiday spirit as the day goes on.”

“I can’t see how he wouldn’t!” Grace says, looking around the room. “I saw the formal living room and that gorgeous display in the grand entry and now this. Does the entire house look like this or just the main floor?”

“Well, I didn’t disturb the work areas downstairs—the offices and such—but besides those rooms, the sub levels and the main floor look like this,” I tell her. “Except for the outside balconies, I didn’t bother the second floor either. You see that Gulliver dropped some of his decorations on our lawn, and the backyard turns into Santa’s landing strip at nightfall,” I say a little sarcastically.

“I tried to control myself,” I excuse, “but every time I did one thing, my brain said, ‘do that, too!’ and then I… this is what happened.” I gesture flippantly around the room. “I’ll be the first to tell you that I got carried away, but I don’t regret a moment of it.”

“Well, it looks fabulous, let me tell you. I’m going to be taking a tour of the grounds to get some pointers,” Grace compliments.

“Well, let me know when you want to wander. I’ll be glad to wander with you,” I say.

“Oh. My God. This is too much! Too much!” Mia says, bursting into our conversation with two different Mickey Mouse Christmas cookies in her hands. “How did you come up with these?”

“Those were a collaboration,” I admit. “Sophie came up with a really great idea and the theme fit in perfectly with my little mice and their first Christmas.”

“Genius. Sheer genius,” she says as she bites into one and hands one to Ethan. “And they’re delithous!” she says with a mouthful of cookie. Ethan bites into his cookie and nods.

“Yeah, these are really good, Ana,” he says.

“Thank you,” I reply. “Try the gingerbread men on the dining table. They have chocolate in them.”

“Oh, dear God, I’m going to be in the gym for a week straight,” Mia says.

“Yes,” I say unapologetically. “Yes, you are.” She and Ethan head off to maim a gingerbread man or three and Grace garners my attention again.

“You were right, by the way,” she says. “My doctor said that sometimes we do need to change up the HRT, and she prescribed me a different med and dosage. It’ll take a while to see if it works, but at least there’s hope, right?” I smile.

“Excellent. You just never know; you know what I mean? I’m just glad my hunch was right. Just, don’t wait so long next time if you feel like something is kind of off, okay? If you’re wrong about it, at least you can eliminate that issue, right?”

“Vah vah vah voom!” I hear Al’s announcement as he walks into the kitchen. “Mrs. Claus never looked like that in any of the pictures I’ve seen.” I laugh.

“I’m not Mrs. Claus,” I chide.

“You coulda fooled me!” he says, putting his hands up and gesturing around the room. “The only thing missing is Rudolph and Dasher on the roof and Santa’s legs hanging out of the chimney.” My eyes widen.

“Aw, that would’ve been cool!” I whisper loudly, Al shakes his head.

“I’m done,” he says. “You’re hopeless. Give me kisses.”

I hug my best friend and kiss him on the cheek. As I greet James, Grace and Carrick excuse themselves and take my little prince off to parts unknown.

“The place looks incredible, Ana,” James says. “You did this in a week?”

“Try three days,” I say with a tight smile. Al raises a knowing look at me.

“You’re shitting me,” he says.

“I had a lot of help,” I excuse. “Gail even called in a team of extras.” James laughs but Al is less amused.

“Well, no offense, but I’m ravenous, so I’m going to attack some treats. Allie?” James says.

“I’ll be right along,” Al says. “I need to chat with Jewel a bit.” James nods and kisses his husband on the cheek before leaving us to our conversation. Al’s gaze turns accusing.

“Three days?” he says. “Even if you didn’t physically do all this work on your own, it doesn’t take a shrink to know that something’s not quite right about this setup.” I roll my eyes trying not to be transparent.

“It’s Christmas, Al,” I whine heavily.

“Aaaand what’s wrong?” he says, folding his arms and calling me on my bullshit.

“What’s right?” I hiss. “My PA is totally MIA, which is driving me fucking crazy, one of my best friends won’t even speak to me…”

“Chris is chained to a computer at GEH,” he interjects. I huff and roll my eyes again.

“Don’t even get me started on that place,” I seethe.

“Or that man,” Al points out, once again not allowing me to evade.

“Allen, it’s Christmas,” I say deliberately. “Enjoy my over-the-top decorations and my fabulous food and shut the hell up about real life, okay?” I warn. He raises an eyebrow at me.

“This conversation’s not over, Jewel,” he says.

“It is for now,” I caution. “Go find your godson, and good luck keeping up. He’s walking now.” His eyes widen.

“For real?” he says, abandoning the previous conversation.

“For real,” I say, trying to walk away.

“Don’t you want to know why I was late?” he asks.

“Not really, no,” I say, refusing to take the bait.

“Well, I’ll tell you anyway. I went to see Gary.”

That gets my attention.

“And?” I ask, my eyes trained on his face, which is a bit more solemn now.

“He’s okay,” he says, soberly. “He looks well… not happy, but well. He’s staying in a studio closer to his job, nothing special, not homey at all. He’s actually living out of his luggage.”

“Did you tell him anything about Marilyn?” I ask.

“I didn’t tell him anything about Marilyn because I don’t know anything about Marilyn,” Al says.

“So, what did he say?” I press. “What is he doing?”

“Nothing much, and nothing much—sitting at his little studio apartment watching television.” My eyes widen.

“On Christmas?” I ask appalled.

“Yep,” Al nods. “He said that he would rather eat pizza and binge-watch Game of Thrones than to be around people right now.”

“Well, that’s just ridiculous,” I say, folding my arms.

“Maybe so, but honestly, Jewel, he wouldn’t be happy here right now. It’s cute and all, don’t get me wrong, but yuletide threw up in this place! The depressed and broken hearted are not looking to have a ‘holly jolly Christmas.’” I sigh heavily. I wouldn’t be so sure, best friend.

“At least he’s speaking to you,” I say, and I turn and march away from him with my arms still folded, trying not to admit how slighted I feel. I do my best to shake off the feeling that one of my best friends would rather watch reruns of pale medieval women training dragons than spend the day with me. It’s incredibly selfish, I know, but I still feel that way.

“Isn’t this great?” Sophie says bounding over to me in a Christmas T-shirt and jeans. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more Christmasy house, ever!” She’s smiling widely and eating cookies, her purple hair pulled back into a ponytail.

“Mia really loved the Mickey Mouse cookies,” I inform her.

“She did?” she beams, and I nod. “Well, I think Uncle Elliot and Uncle Christian like them all,” she adds. “Uncle Christian had a handful of the pecan cookies and he was elbowing Uncle Elliot away from the gingerbread men. Ms. Grace had to make them stop.”

I laugh heartily at Grace scolding her sons about cookies.

“Hey.”

I turn around and look into the face of my husband. I haven’t seen him all week and quite frankly, he looks different. His chest looks wider… broader. Is that a new shirt?

He looks damn good, probably from all that working out.

“Hey,” I respond.

“You’ve been pretty busy, huh?” he says. I shrug.

“A bit,” I admit. “I had to do a lot in a little bit of time.” He nods.

“You certainly did a lot,” he says matter-of-factly. “I see that you pretty much created a cookie factory. You tried some new flavors?”

“Not really.” Does he really want to talk about cookies? “New shapes, yes. Icing on the sweaters and the mice. Chocolate in the big gingerbread men…”

Those are really good,” he admits.

“That’s Maddie’s recipe,” I tell him. “Are those going to replace the chocolate pecan as your favorites?”

“Not in a million years,” he says, and kisses me gently on the cheek. I smile a small smile at him before he goes to converse with Carrick and Herman.

God, those pants really look good on him…

“Ana…”

I break my gaze from my husband’s ass and turn around to greet Marcia… and a very tall and very handsome black man.

“Hey,” I say, pulling her into a hug. “I’m glad you could make it.”

“Are you kidding? I wouldn’t miss it,” she replies. “You really outdid yourself!”

“I may have gotten a little carried away, but it’s the babies’ first Christmas, so…” I shrug and trail off.

“Ana, this is Zachary,” she says, introducing me to her companion.

“It’s nice to meet you, Zachary” I say extending my hand. He takes my proffered hand.

“Zach, please,” he says, looking at me strangely. “Wait a minute… Ana… Anastasia Grey?” I raise my brows.

“Yes?” I reply cautiously.

“All this time, you’ve been telling me about Ana… it was Anastasia Grey?” he says to Marcia. Marcia nods.

“Yeah,” she says in an expecting tone.

“And when Marlow talks about Christian… Christian Grey?” he says. Marcia nods again.

“That would be correct,” she says. He scoffs a laugh.

“Is something wrong?” I ask.

“No, I’m sorry,” Zach says. “She talks about you all the time and I just never put the two together. I feel kinda like a dope.” I sigh inwardly. No trouble allowed on Christmas.

“Don’t,” I say. “I kinda prefer that people don’t know who we are. They don’t know how to act around us. By the way, I saw Maggie, but where’s Marlow?”

“Oh, he’ll be along any minute,” Marcia says. “He stopped to pick up his date first.”

“Who is it this time?” I ask. “Is it the young lady from Thanksgiving?”

“I don’t know, I can’t keep up,” Marcia admits. “When it comes to girls, my son has the attention span of a goldfish!”

“Jesus, I hope that’s just a phase,” I lament.

“Trust me, it usually is,” Zach chimes in. “He’s a good-looking young man with a bright future. He can have his pick of young ladies right now and that’s what he’s doing. He’ll grow out of it or settle down when he finds the right one. He doesn’t strike me as the mindless, ‘play-the-field’ type of kid.”

“Well, I hope he’s at least practicing safe sex,” I add, thinking of the crack his date made at Mia’s wedding about taking off something Marlow didn’t like… or something to that effect.

“He is,” Marcia chimes in. “I keep him supplied with condoms even though he begged me to stop buying them. No way. Nope! I’m going to buy them until he’s grown and out of my house and even then, I can’t guarantee that I’ll stop.” I laugh heartily.

“That’s good to know,” I say. “He’s got a really bright future ahead of him. I’d really hate to see that ruined by unplanned events.

“Or some opportunistic little trick out there trying to make a fast buck,” Marcia emphasizes.

“Hear, hear,” Zach cosigns.

“Well, come on in,” I say, gesturing them further into the house. “There’s quite a bit to see and do.”

“I see,” Marcia says. “My goodness, you’ve really outdone yourself.”

“I blame the babies,” I laugh, leading Marcia and Zach over to some of the cookies.

“I hope I’m not too late,” I hear Marlow saying, walking into the room with an extremely attractive—and voluptuous—brunette. Jesus, what are they putting in the water? These teenagers now and their curves… they’re giving us adults a real run for our money.

“Nope, you’re right on time,” I say, gathering him into a hug. “Dinner should be starting pretty soon, but there are plenty of hors d’oeuvres to tame your tummy. And who do we have here?”

“This is Emily. Emily, this is Anastasia Grey,” Marlow says presenting his date to me.

“Emily! That’s it!” Marcia says almost inaudibly. I stifle a laugh.

“It’s nice to meet you, Emily,” I say with a smile and extend my hand.

“Likewise, Mrs. Grey. Thank you,” she says, taking my hand and giving it a shake. “Your house is fantastic!”

“Thank you, and call me Ana,” I reply. She smiles.

“Ana,” she repeats. “My mom would love this place. I grew up in a house where the Christmas tree was already trimmed for Thanksgiving and my mom makes her own fruitcakes. She has Santas from all over the world that she’s been collecting before I was born. She would never leave this place.”

“Well, by all means, make sure you take her some of my homemade Christmas cookies,” I say. “I’ve got a million of them.”

“Oh, you and my mom are gonna be best friends,” she laughs. “I’m so glad you’re normal.”

“Excuse me?” I say in confused laughter.

“When Marlow told me that we were going to Christmas dinner at the Greys, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, I knew you were beautiful, but in person, you’re gorgeous!” I try not to blush. “And then, we’re driving up to this big mansion and I’m totally expecting to see everyone sitting around with their legs crossed, drinking tea with their pinkies up, talking about the stock market or the weather or something appropriate. I’m so glad to see everybody walking around just being friends and being… normal. I didn’t even know what to wear.” I smile widely and put my arm around her shoulder.

“I think that’s the nicest thing anybody’s ever said to me,” I tell her, and she smiles widely. “And you look just fine.”

“I’m not kidding, Ana, you’re gorgeous. What’s your secret? I’ve been trying to drop this pesky fifteen pounds since freshmen year.”

“Why?” I ask. “You have impressive curves… I’m hope I’m not being to forward.”

“I’ve told her the same thing,” Marlow says. His mother gazes at him and he just shrugs.

“My hips and my butt are kinda big,” she says, her voice low and conspiratorial. I laugh.

“I don’t know if I can help you much there,” I say, with mirth. “This ain’t a petticoat that’s making this dress flair out.”

We laugh heartily and I can hardly believe that I’m having this refreshing conversation with a girl who can’t be older than seventeen.

“But I’ll tell you this,” I add. “I don’t count calories and I eat what I want, but I happen to like fresh and wholesome foods—kabobs, fajitas, anything Mediterranean, that’s my thing. I do yoga regularly. I know Krav Maga, although I haven’t done that in a while…” Mental note—find another trainer, “… and I have a gym in my basement—sparring and weights are my favorite.”

“No wonder you look so great,” she says a little wistfully. “You have natural discipline. I’m so excited that Ana Grey gave me her regimen!!” I curtsy.

“Glad to be of service!” I say. “Start the regimen tomorrow! Diets are a no-no today. There are treats and cookies abound, and the menu is fabulous, so make sure you save room.” I gesture towards the kitchen and the family. Emily smiles and walks in the direction I’m gesturing.

“Thank you,” Marlow mouths as he passes me, and I wink at him.

“She seems nice,” I say as Marcia closes in the space between us.

“She is,” Marcia says. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say she went to finishing school. She’s extremely well-groomed.”

“I think she’s too hard on herself about her weight,” I say as she walks away. She’s not a particularly small-framed girl, but she’s not overweight by any means. She has what I would call an impressive resume in the rear.

“I have to agree with you, but you know how high school is. She’s probably been teased for being two pounds too round.” I twist my lips. Yeah, I know only too well how high school is.

Marcia and Zach work their way into the crowd as Marcia introduces him to Christian. I can see “background check” in my husband’s eyes all the way from here. Sometime while I was being preoccupied, Harmony has joined the party and is talking to Mia and Ethan, and my dad, Mandy, and Harry have all slipped in, too. Harry is entertaining his nephew Mikey who is now running around like a madman. I have to hurry and get him some more sneakers now—with the hard soles.

Minnie has her own audience of women who are adoring her dress and trying to get her to stand so that her brother doesn’t leave her behind. Val helps her to walk a few steps, then releases her, and she walks a few steps on her own before falling on her little butt. The ladies all clap for her achievement, causing her to clap as well and burst into fits of giggles.

Christmas is looking mighty fine at the Greys.

“Hey,” I hear from behind me. I turn around to see Courtney and Vickie.

“Hey!” I say my face lighting up and reaching for a hug. “I’m glad to see you. Come in.” I kiss Courtney on the cheek, then Vickie.

“I hope you don’t mind us showing up like this,” Vickie says.

“Are you kidding?” I reply. “This is why I plan for ‘do-drops,’ because people do tend to drop in. Come on, the more the merrier. Look at this place, what do you think?” I say, proudly gesturing around the house.

“It’s definitely merry,” Vickie says with a laugh.

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” I cede with a smile. “Looks like Leavenworth, doesn’t it?”

“More like Whoville!” Vickie says. “The only thing you don’t have is the Grinch.”

“Yeah, he’s over there,” I say pointing in Christian’s direction. When I look at him, he’s laughing and apparently having a great time with Jason, Chuck, and Nelson.

“He doesn’t look too Grinchy to me,” Vickie points out.

“Maybe he’s had some of the spiked eggnog,” I say with a laugh.

“Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go over and have some of what he’s having,” Vickie says before kissing Courtney on the cheek and heading off towards Christian.

“She’s good for you,” I say to Courtney as we watch Vickie walk away. She puts her hand on Christian’s arm to get his attention and he greets her warmly with a hug. He hasn’t even hugged me today.

“She’s very good for me,” Courtney replies, gazing at her girlfriend. “The fucking best.” I turn my gaze to her.

“I would have thought you would be spending the holiday with family,” I say, trying to gently approach the topic.

“No,” Courtney says, looking down at her hands. “I gave Grandmother the things that I bought for her and Grandfather yesterday. I don’t think Grandfather will ever trust me again—that bridge is burned. I don’t like it but I’m okay with it. Vick’s family… well, they’re not very keen on this set up.”

“That you’re a girl, you mean?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“No, that I’m white.” My head does the bobble-thing.

“What?” I ask incredulously. Courtney nods matter-of-factly.

“Oh, yeah,” she says, looking back at Vickie once more. “Apparently they can deal with her eating pussy. They just can’t deal with her eating pink pussy.” I blink several times.

“You can’t be serious!” I say. “That’s one of the most medieval things I’ve ever heard!” And there’s that word again.

“Tell me about it,” she says. “I’ve already had to fight the whole bi battle—and quite frankly, after finding Vick, I’m pretty sure that I’m not bi, I’m gay—but now I have to fight the race battle, too? I mean this is ridiculous. Why can’t I just freaking love who I want to love, and they love me back without having to pass some damn test?”

“You can.”

We turn around to the deep voice that interrupted us right into gorgeous brown eyes and caramel skin.

“Forgive me for intruding, but I couldn’t help overhearing,” he says. “You can love whoever the hell you want. It’s nobody’s business but yours. You don’t have anything to prove to anybody, as long as the two of you are happy. Whoever else doesn’t like it can go to hell. It’s that simple.” Courtney’s eyebrows rise.

“Who… are you?” she asks.

“Oh,” I say, “I forgot you guys probably haven’t met. This gorgeous and insightful black man is James… Al’s husband.”

“Get the fu—…” She stops and covers her mouth. “Get outta here! Are you serious?”

“I’m serious,” I say. She extends her hand.

“It’s very nice to meet you! I had no idea,” she says.

“That I was black?” he says, taking her hand with a smile.

“No, that you were hot,” she admits without apology.

“I should warn you, she’s very frank,” I say to James.

“That’s not a problem,” James says with mirth. “I have the same problem with my family. I don’t know if it’s as bad for you as it is for me, but let’s just say that I and my husband won’t be going back to my hometown in the foreseeable future.”

“Boy, I need you to talk to my girlfriend. She’s feeling pretty bad about it…” and off they go toward Vickie.

I’m making my way around the house, preparing everyone to head into the dining room as dinner is going to be served soon when I see—and hear—Sophie in yet another sparring match with Marlow and his date.

“What? I didn’t say anything,” I hear Sophie say, and I can tell that this not-so-cordial conversation has been going on for at least a few volleys.

“Marlow, I heard Ana say that dinner is about to be served. Can we just go sit down?” Emily says, obviously trying to extinguish whatever’s going on.

“Yes, dinner,” Sophie says, “we have a lovely menu. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.” I hiss quietly to myself. Maggie’s mouth falls open with a gasp and her eyes widen like saucers. Sophie’s meaning didn’t get past anybody.

“Sophie!” Marlow exclaims in horror. Emily is clearly affronted and folds her arms.

“Little girl, what is your problem?” she asks pointedly. Little girl… oh, no. Sophie just shrugs her off.

“I don’t have a problem. Sorry if you think so,” she says. “Nice skirt, by the way. They’re making everything in plus sizes these days, huh?”

Oh. God. Shots. Fired.

Emily puts her hands on her hips and her expression says that if she were anywhere else, she and Sophie would be fighting right now.

“Those are pretty tall words coming from someone who looks like one of Rainbow Brite’s little friends,” Emily seethes, looking Sophie up and down before flipping her hair dramatically and walking away from the conversation. I want to rush in and save Sophie and scold Marlow for one of his girlfriends being rude to her once again… but Sophie started this one, so I can’t.

“Geez, Sophie,” Marlow says, clearly exacerbated. “What is wrong with you?” It’s a rhetorical question and he doesn’t wait around for an answer, walking quickly behind his date and catching her arm to smooth things over. After a short exchange of words, she flips her hair again and smiles coyly, hooking arms with Marlow and heading towards the dining room with him.

Crisis averted—for Marlow anyway. Sophie, on the other hand, looks like she’s going to hurl. I can’t even intervene this time because she brought it on herself.

Just when one catastrophe plays out in front of me, another is possibly calling me on my phone. There’s no quiet space in the immediate vicinity and I have to find one quickly before my phone stops ringing. I run to the mudroom, grab a coat—I think it’s Christian’s—and dash out into the garage. I swipe the screen and catch the call just before it goes to voicemail.

“Gary?” I say into the phone.

“Hey,” he says. He sounds so depressed.

“Hey!” I respond. It’s so good to hear his voice.

“Merry Christmas,” he says.

“Merry Christmas,” I reply. “How are you?”

“Shitty, but alive,” he says. I pause.

“Well, I’m glad to hear that you’re alive,” I reply. It’s quiet for a while.

“I don’t want to talk to her,” he says. “I don’t want to talk about her or see her… but I miss her.” I sigh.

“Yeah, that’s usually the way it is,” I say, “especially today.”

“Today sucks,” he says. “I gotta go,” he adds after a pause.

“Gary!” I say, desperately trying to catch him before he hangs up. “If you need me, Gary…” I trail off. He’s silent again, and for a moment, I think he hung up.

“I know,” he says. “Merry Christmas.” And he ends the call.

I feel worse now than before he called. I’m glad he thought of me and I’m happy to hear his voice, but he sounds positively miserable. I hate to hear the hurt in his voice and hate even more that I can’t take it away.

I don’t want to see her, but I miss her. What a conundrum to be in.

I look down at my phone to swipe it closed and see that I have another notification. It’s email. I almost ignore it, but it’s Christmas, so I decide to at least see who it is.

Shit! It’s Marilyn. What are the fucking odds?

She sent the email just after midnight. How did I miss it? I open my email app and go to her email.

To: Anastasia Steele-Grey
Re: I’m Alive
Date: Thursday, December 25, 2014, 00:15
From: Marilyn Caldwell

Merry Christmas Bosslady,

I hope today finds you well. I can’t say the same for myself—a little better, maybe, but not well.

I was glad to get the email from you. It’s good to know that there’s someone who hasn’t forgotten about me.

I’m depressed, Bosslady. Really depressed. There’s no use in beating around the bush when your boss is a shrink. I’m not in a good place at all and being here with my parents has been nothing but emotional and spiritual torture. My mother is a goddamn gospel bully. If there is a place in heaven for her, I’d be surprised. Jesus is probably embarrassed at the way she wields His name like a weapon throwing everyone into hell like she’s the final judge and jury!

I did manage to get out a bit. It was my only saving grace—the library, mostly. The movies, wherever I could go to get away from my mother’s swinging sword. Dad’s waving the blood-stained banner, too, but not nearly as badly as my mother. The way she talks about me, you would think my bed was just going to ignite any second with fire and brimstone with me in it.

The truth is, Ana, I couldn’t be alone. I didn’t trust myself. I wasn’t actively thinking suicide or self-harm or anything like that, but I couldn’t think from one moment to the next when Gary walked out. I certainly couldn’t sleep in our bed or live in our house, smell his smell… I probably would have done something drastic had I stayed. I’m only telling you this because I didn’t want you to think I was crazy coming to my parents knowing what was waiting for me when I got here. I needed some place to go. I couldn’t stay in Seattle and I knew that they would watch over me even if it meant that they were throwing me in hell every 15 minutes.

I’ve accepted that it’s over between me and Gary. I’m still not happy with it and I don’t know when or if I’ll ever get over it. I know the shrink in you would tell me that time heals all wounds, but this one is gaping and oozing, and rips open every night when I’m in bed alone. If it does heal, I’m afraid that it’s going to take a lifetime.

Having said that, I want to say that you’ve been the best damn boss a girl could have—paying me all this time even though you hadn’t heard from me and didn’t even know if I would be coming back. I thought about leaving and starting all over somewhere else—somewhere that there was no chance of running into the man that I love with all my heart, but who can’t stand the sight of me. You’ll forgive me if I’m not around for any of the Grey family functions if he’s expected to be in attendance, but it’s time for me to get on with my life and stop hiding out. It’s not healthy for me and whatever I’m going to do, I can’t do it hiding in my old childhood bedroom and enduring 16 – 18 hours of constant persecution.

So, Bosslady, I’ll be back in Seattle and back to work the first Monday of next month. I’m a little stronger now, but not strong enough to come back just yet. By giving myself a deadline, I have something to work towards, and by promising you that I’ll be there, I know I can’t back out.

I won’t ask if Gary has asked about me. He hasn’t tried to call, and he hasn’t reached out to me by text or any social media, so I’m sure he just wishes that I were dead. I will most likely forever be known as the woman who killed his baby. We weren’t ready for a baby. No matter how much he wanted it, we weren’t ready. I thought we were being so careful, but apparently not careful enough. Now, I’ve lost everything. I couldn’t win with this one, Ana. I just couldn’t win.

So, I’m going to have a little “me” time and be a tourist in my own city for the next 10 days to break the funk of what life is before I come back and put my big girl panties on. I’ll admit that I wanted to be hurtful, so I waited until my parents went to sleep, then I packed my things and moved out of the Hellbound Hotel and now I’m at the Doubletree. They won’t care anyway. Their only concern will be that I’m not there for them to torture me anymore.

Thanks for caring about me, Ana. Really. I’ll see you on the fourth.

Marilyn Caldwell
Personal Assistant to Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey

I’ll be the first to admit that her changed signature gives me hope. I almost want to jump through hoops that she’s coming back on the fourth, but I’m happier that she got out of the toxicity of her parents’ house. I wish she and Gary could see past this hurt and realize that they love each other very much. Honestly, she can see past it. He can’t.

I take a deep breath and let it out, then I check my face for tears or smudged mascara and go back into the house.


A/N: Ana mentions “Gulliver’s” decorations on the front lawn. She’s referencing Gulliver’s Travels and his visit to Lilliput.

Leavenworth is “Christmastown” Washington.

NEW CHRISTMAS PINTEREST PAGE 
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 ~~love and handcuffs