Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 13

Wine is a deep and beautiful thing.

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

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

Fifty Shades Golden

Chapter 13

Eric Dane--Chapter 13 Small

TREY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now, I’m weary of this conversation.

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That didn’t go over well with Ron.

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

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

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

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

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

I told you that she was smart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m afraid not, Mr. Martindale…”

“Call me Felix,” he corrects her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, she’s not,” I confirm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

“And a bit bitter,” Gisela observes.

“Bitter? I didn’t notice.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

“Sir,” he answers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One more thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have the best PA in creation.

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

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

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

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


Briana Evigan Chapter 13small

GOLDEN

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

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

“You get laid?” he asks.

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

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

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

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

“Lunch, you caveman,” I scold.

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

“Why aren’t you getting up?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hitting what?” I ask bemused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ana…”

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

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

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

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

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

“What the fu..?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 12

Golden hasn’t died. She’s just been asleep for a while. The Muse will update as she feels inspired.

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

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

Fifty Shades Golden

Chapter 12

ericdane

TREY

I’m puffing and panting, trying to get air in and after a few moments of a reprieve, she has latched back onto my dick.

Goddammitmotherfuckinghellshitballsoffire!

I squeeze my eyes closed and hold my breath. Just a few minutes of this sensitivity and I’ll be ready to go again, just a few minutes… a few minutes…

“Well, that doesn’t look like the face of pleasure,” Golden’s voice says breaking through my concentration, “or even of pleasurable pain.”

What do I say? It’s not.

“No, Mistress,” I say in all honesty.

“So, why didn’t you safeword?” she asks, a bit perturbed.

“Because it wasn’t painful,” I admit. “Just uncomfortable.” She examines me for a few moments, then raises her brow at me.

“You’re multi-orgasmic,” she deduces. How the fuck…?

“Yes…” I respond slowly. She nods.

“Most of my clients are multi-orgasmic,” she says, now fondling my dick gently, a much more pleasant feeling, “but you all get to your… second coming… a little differently.” Shit, it almost feels like she’s tickling me.

“We’re still getting to know each other, Chopper,” she coos. “It’s only our second scene. You’ll have to be more forthcoming with what doesn’t please you.” She grabs the cockring and yanks it. I grunt loudly. That shit hurt.

“Yes, Mistress,” I croak, assuming that was some sort of punishment. I feel her hands on my dick again—they’re oily this time—and my cock is somewhat flaccid. She yanks again. Fuck! And again! Fucking hell! And a third time and…

Pop!

My balls are free. The cockring is still at the base of my shaft, but my balls are free. A gentle hand cups my tender testicles and roll them back and forth in the oily palm. God, that feels good—not erotic…yet, but soothing. I almost fucking purr. The blood flow to my dick is restricted and now, it’s involuntarily getting hard again, even though it was bound to happen with her ass still in my face and her soft hand still down there cupping my balls. I bite my lip to suppress a moan.

“There,” she says. “That’s more like it.” What she’s really saying is, “I so own you,” because she knows, right now, she does.

That soothing feeling on my balls is slowly beginning to become arousing, and I’m resenting being strapped down to this table. I want to grind my hips into her hand and feel some friction on the skin of my dick to match the soothing, aching, taunting of my balls. I close my eyes and try to focus on relaxing, but even with my eyes closed, I’m seeing her naked ass behind my eyelids… and I’m thinking about fucking it… something I’ll probably never have. Why am I torturing myself this way? Why am I letting her tortu…

Fuck! What the fuck is that?

I feel something at the head of my dick that feels like fresh pussy. My eyes jolt open, because I’m sure I still feel her hand on my cock. What the fuck?

Her ass is still in my face, so I know it’s not her pussy. Dammit.

It’s not her mouth. I know what her mouth feels like. Only after two scenes, I can pick that mouth out of a crowd. You can line up ten women and tell them to suck my dick, and I would know which one was Golden without even looking. I just ought to; every time she sucked my dick, I was blindfolded.

So, this ain’t her mouth.

What the fuck is it, then?

She holds my now very stiff dick in one hand and pushes the head of it inside of this thing… slowly… tightly… fuck!

It’s a Fleshlight.

Let me explain the dynamics of a Fleshlight. I have a Fleshlight. I’ve used a Fleshlight more than once. It’s not something that I would use on a regular basis, mostly because pussy is plentiful in my life and I don’t really need to, but when I was first discovering just how powerful my sex drive really was, most of my girlfriends couldn’t keep up with me.

Enter Fleshlight.

Fleshlight will spoil you for women. Why? Because fucking Fleshlight is almost like fucking a virgin every time. Granted, you don’t get the thrill of holding a woman, slapping an ass, kissing, and all the other perks that come with fucking a warm body, but if you’re looking for the ultimate nut and that’s it, Fleshlight is definitely the way to go. It can come with the opening to pussy lips, an asshole, a mouth, or ass cheeks and the inner texture can be smooth, ribbed, bumpy, swirly, you name it. If you spend your money on the real thing and not the knock-offs, every time you stick your dick in Fleshlight, that fucker is tight.

Every. Single. Time.

So, if you fuck it all night long, it’s tight while you’re in it. Then if you pull your dick out and stick it back in, you still get that first entry feeling every time—you know, that feeling when you’ve been away from your girl for a while and you’re about to tear the walls down and that pussy is so tight that you have to work your way into it, and she grimaces while you’re doing it? Yeah, Fleshlight is like that every time.

Every. Single. Fucking. Time.

So, imagine having this Temptress of Torture with your dick in one hand and the real thing Fleshlight in the other working your cock over like the master that she is. I nearly lose my fucking mind. She’s got one hand guiding my dick and the other controlling the Fleshlight. Her torment begins by rolling the head around the mouth of this thing, and I think this opening is an asshole. Life-like, fleshy, silicon massaging the head of my dick. I can feel my body trembling.

Next, instead of pushing the Fleshlight down on my dick, she uses her hand to push my dick up into the Fleshlight. First entry… tight as fuck…

“Uuummmph!”

It’s nearly fucking unbearable. She pushes and pulls my dick and I’m fucking this Fleshlight, wanting to climb the hell off this comfortable ass table, but completely immobilized and unable to move. Just a few tormenting strokes and she pulls my cock out of the Fleshlight. Fucking hell! My dick is fucking aching now. She gives it no reprieve from her gentle hands and I’m licking my lips, trying to soothe the dryness in my mouth. This is inhumane!

That damn thing is on my head again, massaging like first entry, and then…

“Uummmpppphh!”

First entry again. It’s so fucking tight, squeezing and caressing the head of my dick again. If I could move, my back would be arching right now. The head of my dick fucks this Fleshlight for several minutes until my cock is hot and hard and very, very excited.

She repeats this torment several times—the Fleshlight edging me, my cock fucking the Fleshlight, a long and slow stroke that leaves me gagging to come. Each agonizingly slow pull threatens to have my cock blow its load any second. I’ll never look at a Fleshlight again the same way as long as I live!

I’m clawing at the leather by the time she releases my dick this time, I won’t make it through another ruined orgasm like that.

Ruined orgasms. Fuck! Is that what she’s doing?

That new entry hits my dick again and the feeling is nearly excruciating. She knows exactly what she’s doing, and the tension has the rest of my body so tight and wracked with pain that I don’t think I’ll survive another entry, but first, I have to survive this fucking edging.

“Fuck!” I whisper. I can’t help it. My body aches and my cock is on fire.

“Did you say something, Chopper?” she taunts, but my mouth won’t work now. I can’t open my eyes right now as they are locked shut along with my gritting teeth and clenching jaw. My dick is on its own now. None of my muscles are listening to me. I’m at their mercy. Just when my balls are about to give up the fight, she pulls that fucker off the head of my dick. The opening caresses the tender frenulum, and I’m certain that she got a little jizz with that move.

“Fuck!” I grunt out again between grinding teeth. I think she’s scolding me… or something… but I can’t hear her. I can only hear the blood rushing through my ears; I can hear the sweat bursting from every pore and rolling down my body to the soft leather table, to my balls, in my face to my eyes; I can hear my muscles flexing and contracting each time that fucking portable asshole tortures my dick; I can hear my balls screaming for release and cursing me every second for subjecting them to this treatment…

But I can’t hear Golden.

First entry comes again, and I groan mournfully, unable to take even the slightest touch, and she knows it. She knows the man’s body too fucking well, because she knows exactly when you’re about to come. She holds the Fleshlight still—tight on my dick. I feel my shaft throbbing inside of it—not coming, just throbbing. I can hear my ragged breathing, feel my pulse accelerate, and I can still hear my blood, sweat, and muscles, too.

She just stays there for a few moments while my cock throbs and my balls tighten. I’m completely out of control of this situation, and she’s going to make me suffer. Maybe this is my punishment for speaking.

I’m ready to tap out.

Just as my muscles begin to relax only a bit, she pulls that fucking Fleshlight, and my body is alight again. Fuck punishment.

“Aaaww, shit,” I groan, somewhat resigned to my fate, but not liking it one bit. I’ve never had to come so bad that my body hurt. I’ve chased an orgasm before until I ached from the workout, but never this. When the Fleshlight starts to move again, I almost want to cry. I’m ready for this to stop, now. I’ve never been denied an orgasm and I’m certain that I don’t like it—the tightening of the muscles in my back, my balls feeling like they’re going to explode, and my dick as hard as a sausage about to burst from its skin, burning and aching so badly that…

“Aahh! Aahh! Aaaaaaahhhh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!”

She has pulled the Fleshlight off my dick now, but her mouth is stroking up and down over the skin of my frenulum while her tongue massages the tender, sensitive bundle of nerves. I’m exploding fantastically—painful jolts coursing through my cock as that powerful mass of muscle at the base of my balls pushes stream after hot stream of cum from my dick. I can’t see it; I don’t have to. I can feel every painfully pleasurable contraction, each one several seconds long. If nothing is coming out of my dick, it just ought to be, and I can’t open my eyes even if I wanted to.

She gives my dick that fantastic oral massage until the very last contraction, and I’m sure that she has emptied my scrotum for days to come! I’m choking on air, trying to get precious breath into my lungs. I can’t. I can’t concentrate on this one simple thing… breathing.

“Settle down, Chopper,” a soft, seductive voice says to me. “Relax. In through your nose, out through your mouth…”

I follow the instructions of the goddess’s voice, afraid that I’ll suffocate if I don’t. In through my nose, out through my mouth….

I feel the restraints release from my ankles. For some reason, that calms me a bit… and saddens me at the same time.

In through my nose, out through my mouth…

I can feel my muscles relaxing and my thoughts coming together now. Focus, Grey.

In through my nose, out through my mouth…

The restraints release from my wrists and I breathe a deep sigh of relief. I also lament the release a bit, because I know that our scene is over.

“Take all the time you need,” she coos. “I’ll see you upstairs…”

I don’t think I’ve fallen asleep, but I’ve clearly lost a little time. What the hell happened? I know she talked about transcending, but this was ridiculous.

I slowly lift my exhausted body from the table, first turning onto my side, then rolling onto my ass—still painful from playtime. That’s going to sting longer than the last one did.

God, I came so hard that I have to check under the table to see if brain matter is left down there.

Not even my cum. Did she cover the floor with something? Did she clean before she went upstairs? That’s not likely.

“Did she swallow?” I ask no one. That would have been impossible. Her mouth was sideways on my frenulum until my orgasm stopped. I know I came… good God, did I come! So, where’s the evidence?

My shaky legs carry me over to the valet where I retrieve my clothes and haphazardly get dressed. I was wrong—my dick and balls are tender, light, and so empty that she can do this to me anytime! I drag my ass up the stairs and Mr. Belvedere is just beyond the door, as usual. That creeps me the fuck out.

“Do you need anything?” he asks again and waits for instructions.

“Where is she?” I ask. “Why is she never here when I come upstairs?” Belvedere doesn’t react to my question.

“The lady’s visitors usually understand that any aftercare would be administered by me,” he says. “I’m a licensed home health care professional able to tend to any surface or subcutaneous wounds that do not require immediate medical attention. I understand that a level of trust and familiarity is required to allow a stranger—much less, another man—to administer your aftercare, in which case, you can feel free to employ someone else to do so at your discretion.”

That’s his subtle way of saying that I can forget about getting the Golden treatment for my aftercare.

“Did you…?” I don’t even know how to ask this question. “Did you come down there… after…?” His brow furrows, but his mask is soon impassive again.

“No,” he replies. “I don’t enter the dungeon until it’s empty.”

Then what the hell happened to my cum?

“Where is she?” I repeat my question.

“The parlor,” he says, gesturing in that direction. I don’t entertain his company anymore. I head straight for the parlor. I can hear music as usual. She’s listening to her revolutionary. I don’t know the song, but I know his voice. Is he all she listens to, or is this what she listens to after a scene? This song almost sounds like a love song. His voice is mellow and he’s talking about wanting to be with someone, then a woman’s voice comes in talking about having faith. It hardly sounds like the revolutionary she described.

I noticed his lyrics often talk about destiny, but he drags the word out… like “destineeeee.” What’s that all about?

It’s this moment that I realize that she’s wearing that same golden dress that I dry-humped her in. Hmmm…

“Are you coming in or are you just going to lurk there in the doorway?”

Jesus! Her voice startles me. What the fuck is going on with me tonight? It was just an orgasm, for fucks sake.

“I was listening to your revolutionary,” I admit. “That doesn’t sound like what I would expect from him.”

“That’s a sign of true genius,” she says, impassively. “They can change up seamlessly and still make good music. Sit.” She gestures to the sofa and turns to the bar. It’s amazing to me that she assumes that I can sit after one of our scenes. She makes a drink and when she turns around, I’m still standing.

“Rebellious man, aren’t you?” she says, holding a mixed drink of dark liquor. That’s odd for her. She’s a vodka drinker.

“Tell me, Mistress,” I begin, “just how many of your clients can sit after a scene?” She twists her lips.

“Point taken,” she says, “but more than you think. Many of them accept the aftercare.” I nod.

“And of those, how many are Dominants?” I inquire. She raises an eyebrow at me.

“It may surprise you to know that you’re not my only dominant personality, Chopper,” she informs me. “They may not all be Dominants in the playroom sense, but when it comes to being in charge, I have a few that can give you a real run for your money.” She hands me the drink. There’s a switch. The drink is for me. She made me a drink… she wants something.

“Are you going to let my arm fall off?” she chides. I take the drink from her and sip. Jack and Coke. Did she watch me? Did Belvedere tell her? What does she want?

“You’re right,” she says, and I’m wondering what she’s talking about. “I want something from you.”

Fuck, am I that transparent?

“You need to sit, because I want to sit and I’m not accustomed to people standing over me.” She gestures to the sofa again. “The cushions are memory foam—for just such an occasion as this.”

Well… okay.

I sit on the sofa. It hurts, of course, but then the cushion melds to my form and it doesn’t hurt so much. Why didn’t I notice this when I sat on this sofa before?

“I want information,” she says, taking a seat on the sofa across from me. Her revolutionary begins talking about belief in a higher power and she begins her questioning. “I know that you said Elena asked you to help her when her businesses were failing. I need you to give me more details on the matter.”

Okay, where the hell is this going?

“Exactly what details to you need?” I ask. “She wanted help, I refused. I didn’t consider us to be friends anymore and I owed her nothing. I was appalled and offended that she had the audacity to come to me in the first place.”

“Why would she think you had something to do with her demise?” She presses.

“Why are you so curious about this?” I ask. Her brow furrows.

“Why are you so evasive?” She retorts.

“I’m not evasive. There’s nothing to tell.” She examines me carefully, then her face changes.

“Oh, my God,” she says, her hand moving to her cheek. “You did do something to her, or you at least had something to do with her business failing.” How could she possibly know that?

“I never said…”

“You can’t bullshit a bullshitter, Trey!” she snaps, rising from her seat. “I can soft-shoe with the best of them, in and out of the courtroom! Why do you think I’m so fucking good at what I do, in and out of the courtroom?” She walks away from the sofa and begins pacing around her parlor.

“Look, Elena is the reason for her own destruction,” I press, and it’s the truth. “She’s too goddamn cocky and that’s what caused her demise.”

“Tell me what the hell you did, Trey,” Goldie insists.

“Tell me what this is all about,” I retort. I’m not giving her any information until she gives me some first.

“Goddammit, this is not some boardroom positioning game!” she yells, spinning around on me. “This is my fucking life! This woman broke your goddamn arm and now, she’s coming at me with her talons drawn and I don’t even know what the fuck I’m up against. Now, you give me full fucking disclosure right now or I’ll use my resources and find what I need on my own, and you can get the fuck out of my house and never darken my goddamn door again!”

Dammit to hell, I thought I was a Dominant until this moment. Her tone, the firmness in her voice, and the thought of leaving this house and never seeing her again would have me confessing to the Kennedy assassination.

“I. Did not. Destroy. Elena’s. Business.” I say firmly. “I will admit to one rumor. One rumor. Her demise after that was all her own doing.”

Goldie examines me further, then comes back to the sofa and sits across from me.

“Full disclosure,” she says again, crossing her arms and legs while glaring at me expecting.

“I’ll give you full disclosure, but that leaves me wide open. You have to give me something, too. That’s only fair… Mistress.” She played that card on me and she knows she did, so I’m playing it back.

“Fine, but you give me full disclosure first,” she retorts, quickly without flinching. She’s not going to back down from this. I throw my drink back and put the glass on the end table.

“A long time ago, right after I got into the lifestyle, Elena and I used to have a thing,” I begin. “We fucked a few times and that was it.” I raise my eyes to Goldie. Her gaze is impassive.

“Go on,” she says, giving nothing away.

“We stayed friends,” I continue, “fucked once in a while, shared submissives, but the sexual part of the relationship just faded. She tried to get it back every now and then, but it never happened.”

“How long?” I look at her again. “The last time, how long ago was it?” I strain to think, then shrug.

“Four or five years, maybe, I don’t know exactly.” She nods.

“Continue,” she demands.  I clear my throat, more than a little miffed that she’s ordering me around outside the dungeon… not that she orders me around inside the dungeon. Nonetheless…

“She did challenge me to get you,” I say. “She knew that I would never have you the way that I wanted and she taunted me about it. The more she taunted me, the more I wanted you. The more she told me that I would never have you, the more determined I became to get you. You became an obsession, but you already knew that. You drove me out of my mind and you weren’t even there…”

I’m straying from the story.

“Anyway, the day you shot at me, I should have become discouraged, but I wasn’t. I just wanted you more. The whole series of events that followed that is why Madame Petra is so convinced that I solely orchestrated her downfall.” I pause.

“I’m listening,” Goldie says, and I continue.

“I saw her the day after you and I shared our… first orgasm,” I say. “That’s when she told me about the guy who raped you.”

“He didn’t rape me,” she hisses. “Rape indicates a violent act—some poor waif getting held down, beaten, and some asshole tearing into her while she cries and begs him to stop. That’s not what happened to me. I said, ‘no,’ he forcefully persisted.  He was stronger than me, so I stopped resisting. You can’t very well be a Domme with your face beaten all to hell because some asshole wanted some pussy and you refused. When he was done taking what didn’t belong to him, I made sure that he fucking well wasn’t ever going to do it again. So, while I understand the concept of ‘no means no,’ and the rape laws are what kept me out of jail, I wasn’t raped—I was robbed. He took my body without my permission, so I took his fucking legs.”

Ooookay. Well, I won’t get into the logistics of that with the counselor. The details are still the same.

“Um, okay. So, when she told me about the incident with the gun, I became enraged and ended our friendship. Then I spread one rumor to a submissive or three that her salon had a bedbug infestation. It gave women the heebie-jeebies and that was enough to alert the health department to go check her out. They found nothing, but it did no good. Her reputation was already on a downward spiral.” Goldie examines me with narrowed eyes.

“That’s it?” she questions. “There’s nothing else?” I shake my head.

“There’s nothing else,” I confirm. “Rumors happen all the time. Restaurants get bad grades from the health department, close up shop, clean things up and reopen for business. They don’t shut down. She was so busy with the ‘deny’ game that she didn’t bother with any kind of damage control. That’s why her businesses failed—not because of me.”

“You’re telling me that the entire fall of the Salons to the Elite was an imaginary bedbug problem?” she asks in disbelief. Before I can nod, she speaks again. “Things are starting to make sense now, but that doesn’t explain the broken arm. How did she figure out that it was you?”

“She put two and two together,” I admit. “I still denied the whole thing, but she wasn’t deterred. She’s totally convinced that I had something to do with it, but she doesn’t know what. She came to ask me for help and I refused. Somehow, at that moment, she knew. She launched a potted plant at me and I put my arm up to shield my face. The rest is history.” Goldie shakes her head.

“With a good ad campaign and a few strategically placed testimonials, she could’ve avoided all of this. Yet, she’s trying to find scapegoats…” Goldie is up and pacing again. “While she rightly has you penned for whatever role you played in this, she now has her claws pointed at me.” I frown.

“What?” I ask confused.

“Once she discovered that we’re engaging, I became your partner-in-crime in her downfall.”

“How did she find out that we’re… engaging?” I ask. I sure as hell don’t talk to her ass anymore.

“I told her,” Goldie says. “And you know that if you two were still friends, you would have told her, too. So, don’t judge me.”

Well, she got me dead to rights there.

“Her hope was that you would dethrone me, for lack of a better word, so I called to gloat, that I had you and we had reached an agreement, and that I was still sitting on the throne. She flipped out. Started calling me names, declaring that we were in this together all along, threatening me… It probably didn’t help that I stopped going to her salons shortly before the rumor circulated.”

“Well, I certainly wasn’t trying to implicate you in all of this. Hell, I thought we’d never see each other again.” She raises and eyebrow at me.

“That’s why you kept that necklace for six months?” she inquires. “Or found another one just like it.” Dammit to hell!

“I’ve asked myself the same question,” I admit.

“Whatever the case may be, I could give a fuck less what goes on with her. Nobody died, but she’s convinced that I’m in on it and now she and her psycho husband have their sights set on me!”

Wait… what?

“What are you talking about? What do you mean she and her psycho husband?”

“Yeah, I had the displeasure of meeting that freaky frosted fuck at the Civil Community Fundraiser a couple of weeks ago. She thinks I have something to do with whatever it is that you did. I’m sure she’s told him about it, too. No doubt, they’ve had lovely conversations about me. Why do you think Jesse is following me around? Did you think I just suddenly found the need to hire a bodyguard?”

“But why the fuck would Linc care? Yeah, he’s probably pissed about the businesses, but not enough to come after you, I wouldn’t think…”

“Oh, no, I think that may have had something to do with you. At least in the beginning, I’m sure it did. He made a huge display of referring to me as your ‘new piece of ass’—in front of Senator Earnhart, I might add, and probably to several other attendees of the fundraiser until I threatened him with a lawsuit. From there, he cornered me on the smoker’s balcony in the goddamn cold and proceeded to feel me out to be his own concubine. When I was less than receptive to his advances, he assaulted me by blowing smoke directly in my face.”

I feel my blood pressure rising. Linc actually went after her because he thought she was with me. Then, when he found out that she wasn’t, he actually went after her—aggressively! I don’t know which of those pisses me off the most. He’s calling me out. I don’t know why, but he is. He hasn’t had enough of Christian Grey making a fool of him, I see. I guess I’ll have to give that platinum-headed pencil-dick what he’s asking for.

“That fucking asshole,” I say out loud. “Me and Linc, it’s personal, Golden.”

“Personal in that you were fucking his wife?” she asks coolly. My mouth forms a thin line.

“He never knew,” I tell her. “He suspected, but he never found out…”

“But he did know, Trey,” she retorts. “You don’t have to see someone’s dick in your wife’s pussy to know they’re fucking, and he knew. So, what did he do?”

“The only thing he could. He started a rumor. Had the press knocking at my door.”

“Well, like you said, damage control could have taken care of that…”

“I didn’t need damage control,” I reply. “A well-placed ‘What the fuck are you talking about’ here and a ‘What the hell do I look like to you’ there was enough to throw those dogs off the scent, especially since our sexual relationship was headed downhill by that time anyway.”

“That’s damage control, Chopper,” she says, and there’s that fucking name again. “And what did you do after that?”

“I facilitated the closing and/or acquisition of seven of his subsidiaries. Three of them were crucial to his business.” She nods.

“And that’s why it’s personal,” she says, “why he’s after me. I’m an acquisition… or so he thinks.” I raise my brow at her. “He found out the hard way that it doesn’t really do to fool with me, and I didn’t even have to draw my firearm.”

Draw her firearm… that leaves me a bit uncomfortable.


Briana Evigan Ch 12 small

GOLDEN

That dick has had all it can take right about now. I can’t even describe the angry throbbing and pulsing each time I swirl that head around the opening of the Fleshlight and push it in, not to mention the shivering and painful groans Chopper emits with each new entry, each slow and agonizing stroke, and each teasing withdrawal. He’s going to come like a fucking rocket. And as soon as I see that tension just under his balls and at the base of his dick, I pull that Fleshlight off and…

“Aahh! Aahh! Aaaaaaahhhh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!”

I wrap my mouth sideways around that dick and frenulum and tickle and manipulate ferociously, and there’s my 21-gun salute—no disrespect intended. He’s shooting off long, impressive streams of hot white passion, making me glad that I remembered to put a disposable lining on the floor before the fireworks began. I wouldn’t want to clean it up and I just feel funny leaving it for Blake to do, even though I know that he would. But damn, the release is so hard that he could put somebody’s eye out!

I continue to manipulate and watching the magnificent show out of my peripheral. God, I wouldn’t have missed that for the world. I stroke and suck and lick until the long, purposeful, concentrated streams become short, forced spurts, and then oozing drips squeezing the last iotas of pleasure from his body and balls.

His orgasm was massive, and I have to coach him to breathe properly so that he doesn’t hyperventilate. I know he’ll most likely have a short period of incoherence once he catches his breath since I still have him strapped down, and he’s in the perfect position for sleep. He came so fucking hard that I’m certain that the massive release of prolactin, oxytocin, and melatonin he’ll feel in about 20 seconds will have him loopy and punch-drunk as fuck. So, after I release his binds and see his body relaxing into total submission, I whisper, “Take all the time you need. I’ll see you upstairs.”

I don’t even know if he heard me. His body has sunk into the soft leather of the table and he’s floating somewhere in the cosmos in a state of semi-consciousness that grasps every man after he’s had an orgasm… well, almost every man.

I quietly slide the floor cover from under the table, roll it up, and dispose of it, quickly cleaning the spots where Mr. Impressive shot his load too far and missed the cover. God, that dick is something else and should be registered as dangerous with the ATF!

I dressed a bit for his fantasy. He didn’t fool me one bit with this necklace. He’s a Domme and this has “collar” written all over it. He knows I’ll never be his submissive, but to make him come so hard while I’m wearing it that he thinks he shot pieces of his brain out of his dick, so much so that he has to lie helpless on the table until his muscles regain some of their strength—yeah, that’s about as close to the fantasy as he’s going to get…

Lying there, face down on my submissive table. From where I’m standing, I can see his body rise and fall from the regulated breathing that comes right at the point of subconscious relaxation. It’s that point where a man would normally fall asleep right after sex, but he has the proverbial “one eye open” because he’s in a place where he knows he can’t stay. I can also see the pink and red welts on his back from the one tool I used tonight—my flogger. Masterful, artistic stripes adorn his back and ass, and for him not to be a submissive, he achieved subspace at least three times in the process.

Last, but certainly not least, I can see his dick—flaccid from a severely intense orgasm but hanging impressively through the hole in the table nonetheless. I lick my lips looking at it, thinking about it…

And totally forget where I am.

He talks about me teasing men with my body and my charms—that thing is enough to dicktimize any woman alive. Elena was right in using him to try to get me to heel. If he fucked me with that tool, I’d be completely ruined.

It’s not that it’s the biggest I’ve ever seen. He’s well-endowed, but I’ve seen bigger. I have one client who’s so big that I wouldn’t allow him anywhere near my pussy with that wall of meat even if I was into fucking. But Chopper, that piece of meat is beautiful, and the way he responds, and it responds when he’s aroused… good God. To call it a masterpiece is a massive understatement.

I shake myself out of my inner musings, wrap my body in golden silk, and ascend the stairs. I was wearing something different when he arrived. He’s sure to recognize this dress when he sees it. With a nod to Blake, I go to my parlor and pour myself a drink. I’m in the mood for something mellow, but it has to be Pac. My endorphins and hormones are always on the wild when I’m done with a scene, even if I come. That’s why I need a few moments of silence with a vodka and a lollipop at the clubs. People think it’s all part of this untouchable image that I portray, but it’s not. It’s the equivalent of what Trey is doing down there on my table right now—regrouping; basking in the splendor of the moment and slowly coming down from a high. That’s why I don’t want to be disturbed when I go to my table, but someone invariably does, anyway. It’s the nature of the beast.

Here at home, in my parlor, it’s vodka and Tupac—any Tupac. He speaks to the rebel and the poet in me. He was so misunderstood because of the genre of music he chose to record. Only those of us who peeled back his layers and truly saw what was underneath—the activist, the philosopher, the poet, the revolutionary—could even understand his struggle or what he was trying to accomplish in his short life.

I choose a playlist that I always considered Tupac’s love songs, even though none of his music was… is particularly romantic in any way. As my mind and body descends from its hormone-induced high, a million thoughts swirl through my head and I have to try to narrow my thinking down to one or two. The two most prevalent thoughts right now—Trey’s dick… and Elena and her frosted phantom husband.

Talk about different ends of the spectrum.

I haven’t heard anything from the blonde bitch or her white-haired counterpart since the party, but the truth is that I’ve never truly faced her has a nemesis, so I have no idea what to expect. Her husband is so fucking transparent that he doesn’t scare me. The tidbits that Mrs. Lincoln likes to drop, however, can be more dangerous than anything that he could do to me and I need more information on what I’m up against, because I’m ready to go balls to the walls with this bitch if I must.

And I’m getting the feeling that I must.

She’s too damn quiet, and I don’t trust her.

I feel him before I see him, and I turn around to see him gazing at me. Don’t fall in love, Trey. It’s bad for your health.

“Are you coming in or are you just going to lurk there in the doorway?” I ask, snapping him out of whatever daydream had him standing there staring at me…

*-*

After I threaten to stop seeing him, he tells me everything that happened between him and Blondie. I probably wouldn’t have fucked with him at all knowing that they were once intimate. I don’t like sharing anything with that plastic bitch, but what’s done is done, and ending our situationship at this point would truly be and exercise in futility. I did, however, get some valuable information on why Mrs. Lincoln thinks I’m in on the conspiracy that destroyed her salons. Trey’s right. He really didn’t destroy her business. Her stupidity and lack of action did that. Why didn’t she go about the business of damage control when the rumors broke? Rumors are just rumors—they don’t become truths unless you give them life—or do nothing and just let them fester.

However, I stopped frequenting Esclava very shortly before the rumors started. Then she doesn’t see me for several months, during which time, her and Trey’s friendship is terminated, her salons fail, and she gets into a physical altercation with him where she breaks his arm and ends up getting arrested. Then, I pop back up on the scene, and Trey and I are suddenly a thing.

I would think something was rotten in Denmark, too, if I were her, but that’s one of Blondie’s fatal flaws. She’s transparent and she doesn’t strategize. Anyone in any line of business needs that simple skill. Nonetheless…

Here I sit in my parlor with Trey getting that same angry gleam in his eye that the Senator got when I told him that Linc accosted me. The Silver Specter is making a lot of enemies in a short span of time. I hope he got the hint to stay the fuck away from me as I have a feeling that my wrath will be the least of his worries if he doesn’t take heed.

“What do you mean he found out the hard way?” Trey asks about Linc’s lesson to leave me alone.

“You mean besides the fact that I told him I’d cut his dick off and he reacted as if it would be a pleasurable experience?” I ask. “Jesse had him suspended in pain for a few minutes before he was unceremoniously escorted from a very exclusive party.”

“Jesse?” Trey asks with a frown.

“My bodyguard,” I say as I refresh my drink.

“Suspended in pain? Do elaborate.” I shrug.

“Some type of pressure point hold on his shoulder when he grabbed my wrist,” I say, waving him off. “He’s harmless. The big bad brutes don’t scare me, but the two of them together—that might be a problem.” Trey scoffs. What’s so damn funny?

“Elena and Linc don’t work together on anything,” he says. “They’re like oil and water and I don’t even know why they’re still married.” I raise my brow at him.

“Have they ever had a common nemesis?” I ask sipping my drink. Trey shrugs.

“I don’t think so,” he says. “Not that I know of, anyway.”

“And now they do,” I point out. “Two, in fact, depending on how you look at it. Blondie wants to see you fall, and the Silver Dog wants to see me bow.” I put my drink on the bar. “It looks like we’re going to be co-conspirators whether we want to or not.”

“That doesn’t seem so bad to me,” he says suggestively. I twist my lips at him.

“Down, boy,” I chide.

*-*

Armed with the information that I now know about Blondie’s salons, I decide to go on a bit of a fishing expedition. No use in Trey having all the fun. You want to accuse me of having something to do with closing down your salons? Send that frosted ice king of a husband of yours after me like I’m some cheap acquisition? Okay, bitch. You want to see what dirty looks like? I’ll show you what it looks like. Let the punishment fit the crime.

I start with Bowie, then Chroma. Then I move to Stella and Circa. Once I explain my plight, no one really wants to talk to me. No one wants to get involved… or they know Blondie and don’t want to cross her. Nonetheless, I leave my card with instructions to contact me or pass the word along if they should come across any information.

It’s not until I get to Gene Juarez that I get any luck. After having spent the morning with a big goose-egg of co-conspirators, I decide to take a different tact going into Gene Juarez. Since I’m usually wearing some sort of wig during my jaunts and scenes at the clubs and my daytime hairstyle is the Miss Trunchbull bun, I haven’t bothered with any kind of cut and condition since I stopped going to Esclava. So, needless to say, I’m in desperate need of some TLC, not to mention that my feet are barking from being all over downtown Seattle this morning.

 

Managers and appointment takers may not want to talk, but pedicurists and stylists, yeah… they’re chatty.

“I know I don’t have an appointment, and I’ll take anybody who can squeeze me in, but it’s been a looooooong morning at the courthouse and my feet are in agony. I would kill for a deluxe pedicure right now. I’ll even pay in advance…” I reach into my wallet and pull out my Amex black. I’ve already scoped the basic price list on the other side of the counter. A classic pedicure is $55. By me saying that my feet hurt and I want a deluxe, they can easily work me for $200, not to mention the sparkles in the hostess’s eyes at the sight of my Amex.

“No problem, ma’am,” she says to my Amex—er, I mean, to me. “I’m sure we can fit you in.” I sigh like she’s saving my life.

“Thank you,” I breathe dramatically. I’ll save my hair for the next salon. She looks at her book and makes a quick call.

“Eve will be ready for you in about ten minutes. Do you mind waiting?” she asks.

“Not at all,” I say, pulling out my phone and texting Blake to call me in five and again in fifteen. With me standing at her podium, she has no choice but to talk to me.

“So, what do you do at the courthouse?” she asks. I’m dressed like a court reporter, but unless I’m fucking an extremely generous judge, she knows there’s no way I can be a court reporter, waving an Amex black around.

“I’m an attorney,” I say, slightly over-exaggerated exhaustion lacing my voice. I’m tired, but I’m not that tired.

“Really? What kind of law do you practice?” I laugh and wave her off.

“What don’t I practice?” I jest. “Corporate, defense, family law, civil litigation… all of it.” She raises a brow.

“I thought attorneys usually specialized in one area,” she said. I twist my lips as if in consideration of her statement.

“Generally, yes,” I tell her, “but I’m a wretched overachiever. All you have to do is pass the bar, then you can go in whatever direction you please. My specialization is criminal law. Everything else from there is continuing education, extra classes in college, and basically being self-taught.”

The hostess, whom I discover is called Venus, is visibly impressed.

“Really?” she probes. “You must be in pretty high demand. Sounds pretty lucrative.”

“Yes, and it can be,” I say with a chuckle. “The fees on one of my corporate cases alone paid for my house…” That’s the truth, “… but most of my criminal cases, I take pro-bono, especially if I’m dealing with a family who is underprivileged or living paycheck-to-paycheck and just can’t afford an attorney. I have to believe the defendant, too.”

“Why would you take them pro-bono?” she asks. “Why not just let the public defender handle it?”

“Because at the risk of hurting someone’s feelings, public defenders suck!” I say emphatically and Venus laughs. “I would never want to put an innocent person’s fate in the hands of a public defender. Not only that, I think the real criminal act is in requiring someone to pay for decent representation to defend themselves in court for something that they didn’t do.” And Venus is impressed again.

“That’s extremely noble,” she says, unable to hide her awe. “Doesn’t that cost you a lot though?”

“I can afford it,” I dismiss her. “What’s really bad is some mother having to put her house up to pay for a defense attorney because her son was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.” My phone rings and I retrieve it.

Blake. Right on time.

“Hello, Darling,” I say into the phone.

“Hello,” Blake says without missing a beat. “Should I call you ‘darling,’ or will the normal greeting suffice?”

“The usual. Thank you,” I say in a playful, coy voice.

“Very well. And what can I do for you, Mistress?”

“You already have,” I reply. “Thank you so much. I found someone to do my pedicure. I thought I’d be completely lost after that last experience.”

“Ah, I see,” he says. “A plan is afoot?” Nice play on words.

“Oh, definitely,” I reply. “I left that establishment so quickly, I didn’t take time to find another one. Now I think I have.”

“Very well. Is there anything else you need me for, Mistress?” I smile.

“I always do, but you’re a sweetheart for calling. Talk to you soon.”

“Goodbye, Mistress…” I can hear him smiling through the phone.

“Bye-bye.” I end the call and smile at the phone.

“Your sweetheart?” Venus says. I giggle coyly.

“I’d be lost without him,” I reply honestly without answering her question. Her brow furrows.

“You had a bad experience at another salon?” she asks. I roll my eyes dramatically and scratch my arm.

“Oh, you have no idea!” I say, my voice heavily lamenting. I lean in to Venus like I’m about to reveal a secret. “I had a client secure my services for being traumatized at a local salon. One of the big ones!” I whisper the last words.

“Really?” she says, completely sucked in to the conversation.

“Yes,” I say, looking conspiratorially over my shoulder as if to be sure no one else heard me. “Imagine my horror when I discover that it was the same salon chain that I had been frequenting for at least a year prior. Unsanitary conditions, rumors of being closed by the health department, possible bedbugs…” I shiver.

“Oh, yes!” Venus says, realization dawning. “Esclava!” A few heads turn in our direction. Jackpot.

“Yes!” I say, gesturing in a motion for her to keep it down. No, Venus, talk louder! Talk louder!

“I heard about her,” Venus says. “I think she ended up closing, didn’t she?” I nod.

“Yes, she did,” I confirm. “Supposedly, the claims were untrue, but that wretched woman never released a statement confirming or denying any of the accusations unless I missed it!” She didn’t, I’ve already checked and confirmed with Trey. She was too busy trying to put the fires out to be concerned with a little thing like damage control.

“I don’t know, I never saw one,” Venus says.

“Neither did I,” I say leaning in again, “and let me tell you. I’m an attorney and I know from experience that the innocent scream their plight from the rooftops! The guilty stay silent and hope not to get caught. That’s why they often ‘plead the fifth amendment.’ It protects them from incriminating themselves.”

I can see the wheels turning in Venus’ head, just now putting two and two together about one Mrs. Elena Lincoln. And with all the heads turning this way, someone is bound to stop and ask her about the conversation we were having when they come to cash out.

“It has wreaked havoc on my nerves ever since I heard about it!” I say, scratching my neck and arms intermittently. “I’ve been to my doctor for a thorough examination… twice! I’ve had my home inspected at least three times. All the professionals say that there’s absolutely nothing to worry about, but the whole thing still gives me the heebie-jeebies. Oh God, just the thought of it…!” And I’m scratching again. Venus also begins to scratch instinctively. Bingo.

“Venus, I’m ready for the next client.” An exuberant woman a little younger than me comes from the back. She smiles widely at me, silently welcoming me to the salon.

“Well, Ms. Olivet, I can guarantee that you won’t have that experience here. Now, you go on with Eve and relax. Let us take care of you.” She smiles a winning smile in my direction as well.

“Thank you so much,” I say, flashing my own array of perfect pearly whites. “And please, call me Ana…”

Moments later, I’ve struck up the same conversation with Eve after faking a second call with Blake, assuring him that I’ve found a “clean” salon with wonderful staff who have really made me feel welcome. By the time the conversation is over, Eve has put the bits and pieces together and questions what bad experience I had, and the staged conversation ensues again. She confides in me that several of their clients were previously clients of Esclava. I feign concern of breaking attorney/client privilege. However, first, there’s no client—yet… but she doesn’t know that. Second, I’m only talking about my own experiences. I can produce a bill for a home inspection in a second if I need to, but if my plan falls into place, I won’t have to.

“You’re right, though,” she says as I sit there letting my toes dry, “if none of that stuff was true, she would have denied it… hard. This was her business, after all. Have you ever seen any bugs in her salon? My understanding is that everything was white, so you couldn’t miss them.”

“Well… no,” I admit, truthfully, “but I got a really bad feeling about the place and I stopped going. Then, I heard about the infestation and…” I start scratching my arms again.

“Oh, God, please stop,” she says grabbing my hands. “It’s psychological, honey. You’re fine. You dodged a bullet. Look, why don’t I see which of my friends are available and we’ll give you an afternoon of beauty? Unless you have to get back to the courthouse…” I wave her off.

“The good thing about being a highly sought-after attorney is that you basically make your own hours… unless there’s a case scheduled…” and I’m working on one right now.

“Well, then it’s settled. What’s your budget?” I laugh good-naturedly.

“Sweetie, there is no budget. Do your worst.” Eve beams at me and I can see the dollar signs in her eyes. What the hell, might as well. It’ll all be money well-spent if I can bring Blondie to her knees.

She should have left well enough alone. She already made Trey into an enemy. Then she turns around and attacks the man. As if siccing him on me like some rabid dog in heat wasn’t bad enough, then she throws threats at me because her plan actually worked, and Trey and I struck an intimate agreement. Then she goes to the fundraiser, smears my name all over the room, and sets yet another beast loose on me in that eerie, classless, creepy arctic wolf that she calls her husband!

This bitch has gone too far, and even though I have several minions and clients who want a piece of her and Linc, I want her to know that I’m after her ass. I want her to wonder what the fuck is going on now then look up and see me. You want the blade, bitch, you got it, and I’m about to slice you in two.

“Okay,” Eve says after ending a phone call that I didn’t even know she was on. “We’re going to start with a lemon verbena skin treatment, because you’re going to scratch the skin off your arms. This mixture and massage will make you forget all about that other place, and the aroma therapy will be good for you in helping to ease your heebie-jeebies. We’re going to free that hair of yours and give it a revitalizing conditioning treatment and once that’s done, you’ll get our skin-refreshing facial and I’ll give you a modest manicure to compliment your hands. You’ll feel like a new woman…”

Three hours of being plucked and pampered and I spill my guts to anyone who’ll listen about how horrified I was by the rumors of “that woman’s” shop after I had been frequenting her establishment for so long. When I go back out to settle my bill, I have to admit that Eve was right. I do feel like a new woman. I have a flawless makeover showcased by a full halo of lush brunette curls with soft honey highlights… nothing too dramatic. I step into the reception area to see Jesse sitting impatiently on one of the posh sofas. Shit, I had forgotten all about him

“That gentleman claims to be waiting for you,” Venus says as she tallies my bill. “Stalker?”

“Something like that,” I say. “Bodyguard.” Venus raises a brow at me and I hand her my Black card again. “Please include a tip for my operators—$50 each. They were incredible.”

“Each?” Venus clarifies. “How many were there?” I start counting on my fingers.

“Shelly, Lena, Raye, Livy, Dawson, and…” I’m trying to think of the other member of the team that helped rejuvenate this body. “Oh! Sage! That’s her name. And don’t forget yourself—I appreciate you fitting me in. And Eve, for heaven’s sake, Eve! Make it $75 for Eve! It’s like she made one call and an entire troop of people showed up and made my life worth living.” I giggle.

“Ms. Olivet!” she gushes. “Ana… you’re too generous!”

“Think nothing of if,” I say, throwing my shiny, beautiful mane over my shoulder. “I was an itchy, scratchy mess when I came in here. Your staff put me at ease and made me feel like a million bucks…” which they really did. “Can I set a future appointment right now?”

So, in looking to pluck the hen who caused me so much grief, I actually found a new salon. I hadn’t been going to one since I left Blondie… I didn’t see the need. My own grooming practices are pretty meticulous, and my nails never stay the same past the weekend. I can’t very well show up in a courtroom or boardroom with golden nails. As I’m leaving, she gives me my biggest payoff yet.

“Did you happen to bring any extra business cards with you?” she asks. “It appears that some of our clients… well, they may have overheard our conversation and they’d like to… talk to you about any recourse they may have against that woman. Apparently, we’ve gained quite a bit of her clientele.”

And now I realize just how fortuitous the situation is. The other salons most likely had nothing to lose or gain by talking to me about Elena because they didn’t gain any of her clientele—one or two, maybe, but not enough to rock the boat. Most of her clientele most likely came here.

“I’m certain that I do,” I say, digging through my purse. “If I don’t, I’ll bring more.” I dig into my inside pocket and retrieve the wad of business cards that I had there for just such an emergency. I hand her the cards and thank her again for the wonderful service.

Jesse’s pupils dilate when he sees me.

“I was going to ask if you fell in, but… damn…” He examines me as I tie the belt to my coat around my waist. I walk out of the salon and the winter sun catches the glints of highlight in my hair. I look good and I know it. I open my phone and call Chanelle.

“Offices of Olivet, Attorney at Law. How can I help you?”

“Shut it down, Chanelle,” I tell her. “I won’t be back to the office today.”

“So, I guess you didn’t get my message that Richard Steele is here again,” she laments. I sigh.

“No, I didn’t, and tell him that I won’t be back into the office and you have to shut down. If he gives you too much trouble about it, call the cops.”

“Will do. Have a great afternoon.” I end the call and look at Jesse.

“Take me to Community. After all that grooming and shaving, no one fed me. I want something quick and fresh.”

Community Grocery and Deli is a little place that’s tucked away inside of the opening to a parking garage. It’s a gem in Seattle and if you didn’t know it was there, you’d never know it was there. They have the best teriyaki anything in the whole damn city. Although you can’t pay me to eat soy, their teriyaki tofu even looks delicious.

While Jesse waits for our orders, I walk around the establishment and grab a few things. Not the hugest selection in this little store, but great for a quick grab. As I walk around to the other side of the coolers, who do I find standing there looking at the organic sodas? Organic sodas? I digress.

Jake.

Hmm, he works downtown, so I guess I had to run into him somewhere down here. It would be at one of my best-kept secret holes in the wall hiding in plain sight.

“Ana! Wow,” he says, his voice breathy. “You look… great.” Yes, I know this. I try not to roll my eyes.

“Hello, Jake,” I say impassively, reaching past him in the cooler to get my not-organic soda.

“What are you doing here?” he asks. I fold my arms.

“I could ask the same thing of you,” I retort.

“Well, I work here,” he says. I raise my brow.

“At the deli?” I ask. He chuckles.

“No. Downtown.”

“Well, so do I.” That’s when I realize that when he asked what I was doing here, he wasn’t talking about the deli. He was talking about the city. The nerve of him! Like I need his fucking permission to be in my own hometown.

“Is there something I can do for you?” I ask, with my arms folded.

“I didn’t know you were still in town,” he says. “I thought you left.”

“I did,” I say. “I came back. I’ve been in town for quite some time, now.”

“Why?”

“Because this is my home,” I reply. “My parents are buried here. My roots are here.”

“Home is where the heart is…”

“Exactly,” I say, unaware that I’m making his point for him.

“You never thought about us?” he asks. I frown.

“What about us?” I ask, shaking my head. He sighs.

“I liked you a lot,” he says, perturbed. “It was really shitty how things went down.” I drop my head and sigh.

“It… was a long time ago,” I say with a shrug. “It was a dumb thing that happened.”

“What dumb thing happened?” he asks, closing the space between us. “All I knew was my bike got fucked up and my parents said that I couldn’t talk to you anymore.”

I try not to react. He could have asked me. Somehow, he could have asked me what happened, but he didn’t. I’m not all bruised about it. I never really was. Yeah, I liked him, but I had bigger fish to fry—like staying alive.

“It’s been almost twenty years, Jake. Is it even important anymore?” I ask.

“Twenty years,” he says, coming even closer to me, “and here you are—different name, but same city. Something brought you back here and we just keep bumping into each other.”

“You want to know what brought me back here?” I ask. “I love Seattle. I love everything about this city, and my mom and dad are buried here.” He frowns.

“I thought the Steeles were your mom and dad,” he says, “That you were adopted…”

“I was adopted,” I tell him. “My dad adopted me, and then he and my mother were killed in a car accident. The living Steeles are my adopted aunt and uncle.” And why am I telling you this? “Anyway, it’s moot. If you’ll excuse me…” I try to walk away, and he puts his arm around my waist, pulling me back to him.

“Ana, please…” he says, his voice soft and coaxing. What? You’re kidding, right? “Don’t leave yet, please?”

I’m angry when I spin around to face him and give him a piece of my mind. Back when I liked you, when I really needed someone, you didn’t want to be bothered with me. You didn’t ask me what happened—not even in secret. You just dismissed me because your parents said that you had to. That’s what everyone did—my uncle, my aunt, my cousins, you—nobody asked me what happened. Nobody gave me the benefit of the doubt. Now, I’m grown, and everybody wants to get in my face. Good God, just go away!

I haven’t said anything aloud. I don’t get the chance. Jake’s lips are on mine right there in the grocery area—next to the organic sodas. My back is against the cooler door and he’s holding me gently around my waist, his other hand cupping my cheek. His lips mold gently into mine, soft and coaxing, and his tongue glides across my bottom lip. When he pulls back from my mouth, there’s pure desire in his eyes, and I’m a bit stunned.

What. The fuck. Is this?

“I’m sorry,” he says, breaths away from my face. “I had to do it… just once.”

“And now you have,” I say, my voice low and controlled. “Now, back up off me.” He’s crestfallen.

“Ana…” he begins, his voice laced with disbelief.

“Back. Up. Off. Me.” I enunciate each word, trying to relay to him that my next request will be physical. He gets the hint and releases me, putting some space between us. “Jake, what the fuck was that? Do you just randomly walk around kissing girls in grocery stores?”

“I… couldn’t resist. I’m sorry…”

“Try harder next time,” I warn. “We seem to keep bumping into each other and I can’t explain that, but if you think that gives you license to ‘reach out and touch’ me without my permission…” My voice is rising, and I’ve now attracted the attention of the two other shoppers in the grocery area of the deli. Now, Jesse has come around the coolers and is staring at me in awe.

“Three other people in the store… I can’t leave you alone for a minute!” I think the words are out of his mouth before he considers what he’s saying. Jake examines him critically.

“Gee, Kevin, you’ve changed,” he says sarcastically before turning his attention back to me. “He’s not what you usually go for.”

“What the fuck do you know about what I usually go for?” I hiss, openly offended by his insinuation. “Meet Jesse, my bodyguard. And you may want to be careful about touching me without my permission. He doesn’t take too kindly to that.” Jake looks back at Jesse.

“How ya doin’, Jess?” Jake says.

“Get yo’ smart ass outta here, man,” Jesse says, and nothing else. His tone indicates that he’s not in the mood for any bullshit and Jake takes the hint.

“Hopefully, I see ya ‘round, Beautiful,” Jake says haughtily before leaving the grocery area. Conceited, egotistical asshole.

“What is it about you that brings out the worst in men?” Jesse asks. I don’t say it aloud, but I know what it is. Pure animal magnetism. They don’t know what to do with themselves; they just know they gotta have it.

They’re literally like dogs. They see it a mile away, then they smell it, then they attack. After getting all dolled-up at Gene Juarez this afternoon, no doubt I’m emitting the Golden vibe, and he had a moment of weakness—just like Linc—since he has no fucking idea who Golden is.

“Get used to it,” I retort as I sashay around him into the deli area to retrieve my late lunch.


A/N: Golden’s after-scene Tupac Shakur playlist:

Who Do U Believe In?
Whatcha Gonna Do?
Still Love U
Gave U My Heart
When Thugs Cry

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 37—In Other News…

I’ve been going through and “liking” posts and for some reason, I’ll go back, and WordPress is removing some of my likes. I may have to look for blog hosting elsewhere. This thing is getting on my nerves!

Also, in going through my mailing list, I’ve noticed that a lot of people with “me.com” or “icloud.com” emails have been bouncing a lot. These mediums may have something in place to prevent you from getting a lot of unwanted or junk email and mine may be getting caught in that. I’ve had about five people so far with those extensions tell me that they haven’t gotten emails from me since 01/04/18. With only a few exceptions, I’ve been sending out emails for every chapter. I’ve counted, and that’s five emails that you’ve missed, and my emailer is saying that they’re bouncing. Once again, be sure to add my contact emails—bg.holmes@butterflysaga.com AND bronzegoddess@butterflysaga.com—to your contacts list. It may help in curtailing the misdirection of the emails. 

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 37—In Other News…

ANASTASIA

Souvinier Bouquet

Christian is antsy as hell trying to get Mia alone and find out what she’s going to do with the leftover food. In the meantime, there was nearly a barroom brawl over the bouquet when she tossed it, wine-colored bridesmaids elbowing guests left and right to get their hands on that souvenir bouquet. Sure enough, one of those cows emerged with it, and I’m almost positive that she wrenched it from someone’s hands.

The garter toss wasn’t quite so brutal. In fact, it was very tame and moved along quite quickly. Marlow’s little fart-dress-wearing girlfriend appeared to be a bit perturbed that he didn’t take part in the ritual. Had I been her, I would have been relieved as she’s no more that 16 years old and wasn’t the one who caught the bouquet.

I’m still looking for my husband and wondering if he has cornered his sister yet when an extremely pale-faced Courtney catches my attention.

“I know it’s bad form to leave before the bride and groom, but I have to go. Will you please make my apologies to Mia?” She looks like she’s just seen a ghost and Vickie is ready and set to get her out of here. I grasp her arm and she panics. What has her so shaken?

“Wait. What’s wrong? What happened?” I ask concerned. “Whatever it is, we can take care of it.” Her shoulders fall and she looks as if she’s going to cry.

“My grandparents are here,” she says, resigned. “I don’t think they saw me. It’s a big place and they wouldn’t expect me to be here.” Her voice cracks on the last word. I put my hand on her shoulder.

“You really should at least let them know that you’re still in town,” I tell her. “You’ve come so far. You’re about to start school. You work so hard at the Center. We’re actually friends. You’re nothing like the person you used to be.” She shakes her head quickly as tears escape down her cheeks.

“We’ve hurt each other enough,” she says, just above a whisper. “It’s better to just leave it be.” Vickie puts her arm protectively around Courtney’s waist.

“I’ve told her the same things,” Vickie says. “She’s become a remarkable young lady. Mia even smiled at her in the receiving line.” The corner of Courtney’s mouth rises, her gaze fixed to the floor.

“It’s the joy of the wedding,” Courtney excuses. “She’ll come to her senses tomorrow.”

“It’s you,” I say, rubbing her arm trying to comfort her. “You’ve changed and we all see it.” She sniffles.

“You’re all really sweet,” she says, crossing her arm over her body and grasping Vickie’s hand. “I don’t… I don’t want a scene. If there ever will be a time for reconciliation—and I’m not saying that there will be—this isn’t that time. I’m just going to go. Please… just tell Mia everything was really beautiful…” She’s breaking down again and Vickie goes into protection mode. She’s very feminine, but she becomes quite the stud when it comes down to Courtney.

“I’m going to get her home. Please, make our apologies,” Vickie beseeches. I smile.

“Mia’s so enthralled, she won’t even notice, but I’m sure she’s happy that you came.” Vickie smiles and turns her attention to Courtney.

“Come on, baby,” she says, as she guides Courtney towards the exit. I watch them leave, then scan the room for Addie. I promised that I wouldn’t tell her that Courtney was still in town and I won’t. It wouldn’t matter. I don’t see her anywhere.

“Hey, you,” my husband’s voice breaks my concentration. He looks like an entirely different man!

“You look a lot better!” I observe. “Did you work something out with Mia?”

“I didn’t have to,” he says, handing me a copy of the program and pointing to something on the bottom of one of the pages. It’s a very long list of charities where the food from the reception is going to be sent.

“See?” I sing. “You were worried for nothing. She had it taken care of all along.”

“Yeah,” he says. “My whole family knew about my food issues and I had no idea. I feel kind of stupid.”

“Don’t,” I tell him, wrapping my arms around his waist. “You’re still trying to open yourself to people. It’s going to take some time.”

“Yeah.” He looks just past me as he kisses my forehead. “So, um, either he has to pee really bad or Marlow is itching to talk to you,” he says. I raise my gaze and sweep the room, my eyes falling on a twitchy Marlow. He’s not looking this way right now. He’s talking to his twitchy date.

“How do you know he wants to talk to me?” I ask.

“Because his eyes have been darting over here for the last few minutes,” he says. I sigh.

“Well, he’s your protégé. He could want some of your time,” I retort.

“Ten will get you twenty he wants you,” Christian counters. I frown.

“He doesn’t want to talk to me!” I retort. “Not after that ‘time of the month’ comment.”

“Well, he’s been talking to me all night. I think he wants you.”

“Ugh!” I kiss his lips and sit in my seat. “Okay, the doctor is in.”

“I don’t think it’s the doctor he wants. It’s Ana,” Christian says, taking his seat and raising his gaze to Marlow, who is now making his way towards us. “Five, four, three, two…”

“Hey… Ana… you wanna dance?” Marlow asks quietly. Christian leans in to me.

“Not the doctor.” I roll my eyes at him.

“Sure, Marlow,” I say as I follow him to the dancefloor. I don’t even pay attention to what song is playing. I hold my arms up for him to take me in hold and he looks at me, puzzled.

Oh, dear God.

I put his hands in the proper position and we begin to sway in that terrible two-step that everyone does who can’t dance. He can’t lead. He can’t even do a box step.

“So, the wedding was nice,” he begins.

“Yes, it was beautiful,” I agree.

“I didn’t know you and Christian could sing,” he adds.

“It’s not something we do often,” I say lightly. “The vocalist bailed. It was an emergency.”

“You guys sounded great together.”

“Thank you.” There’s silence for a moment or two.

“Maya seems to think you hate her,” he blurts out. Ah, the plot thickens.

She’s flattering herself,” I retort, without hesitation. “I’d have to care about her to hate her.” Marlow’s eyes roll around.

“Okay, she was right,” he says. “What did she do?”

“She didn’t do anything,” I tell him. “I don’t like her air of entitlement. Everyone here is here because they were invited. Sophie was invited. You were invited. Even she was invited. The only two people entitled to be here are the bride and groom. The rest of us are privileged to be allowed to share their day because in some way, we are a part of their circle. But look around you, Marlow. That’s circle’s pretty damn large. And the larger that circle becomes, the further the people in that circle get from the core and your date is about as far from the center of that circle as anybody can get. So, I just think she has a lot to learn about guest etiquette and I truly hope she plans on taking a lesson or three if you plan on bringing her to any family gatherings at my home.”

Translation: train your dog or leave that bitch in her cage.

“Okay,” Marlow says after a swallow. “I’ll… talk to her,” he says, uncomfortably.

“You do that,” I say, “and while you’re at it, you should probably use a little more discretion when you speak as well, young man,” I scold. Sweat sheens on his forehead and I know he’s even more nervous than before. He should be.

“Um, yeah, about that…” he begins.

“Yeah, about that…” I say, mocking him, “how can you be so evolved about everything else and be so archaic about that? You bend my husband’s ear about everything else—you had better bend it about women. You’ve got the best source in the world for it. I swear, that was the most insensitive thing I’ve ever heard you say. I was being flippant about that time of the month because I knew that most guys understand that’s when we’re wacky, but I never would have said that if I thought you’d blow it off that way.”

“I wasn’t blowing it off,” he protests, weakly.

“Don’t give me that, Marlow, that’s exactly what you were doing. And okay, you don’t have any knowledge yet on how to handle these things, but I’m telling you—get some! You’re coming into manhood, quickly! Time out for games. Be the person that I know you can be. You’ve come a very long way, and I’m proud of you even though you pissed me off today, but you still have a long way to go. Go ahead, be young, have some fun, live your life, but there are times when you have to develop and let go of some of that stuff—and let me tell you something. Introducing a young lady to your mentor and his wife is a time when you and she should know that she should be representative of you. If she’s not, don’t introduce her. If she is, and she acts like that, then you need a lot of work. Do you get where I’m coming from with all of this or do you think I’m just giving you a hard time?”

“No, no, I get where you’re coming from,” he says, his voice a bit defeated.

“Good, because I can understand a diamond in the rough and if that’s what she is, she needs a hell of a lot more polishing, and if she’s not, throw that lump of coal back.” I’m almost relieved when the song is over because I’m tired of the back-and-forth swaying, and I’m sure that Marlow can do without any further berating. I take a step back out of his grasp.

“And take some dance classes,” I say, and his expression is horrified. “You’re going into the business world. You don’t know what situation you’re going to find yourself in or when, but I can guarantee you that dealing with him…” I point at my husband, “… you’re going to find yourself at more than one black tie affair. You may even find yourself trying to seal a deal in a setting like this. I can guarantee you that Soul Train one-step-two-step is not going to cut it. You need to learn a proper ballroom, a foxtrot, and waltz… at least.”

I glance over at Maya, who’s sitting at their table examining us on the dancefloor with her hands clasped in her lap. I look back at Marlow.

“You want to play around with these flighty little high school girls, fine. You’re young. You’ve got time, but prioritize.”

I’m actually transmitting Sophie’s frustration and I know this, but I can’t help it. I detest girls like Maya. She’s Mia’s catty bridesmaids in training, and I hate being around them. I hope either she gets a clue or Marlow does. Christian’s expression is bemused when I get back to the table.

“You don’t look particularly happy,” he says. I shake my head.

“Mold him, Christian,” I demand. My husband frowns.

“I… thought I was,” he says.

“You’re molding the mind,” I tell him. “Mold the man,” I say, folding my arms.

“Um, okay. Elaborate.”

“Men like you and my father have me spoiled,” I admit. “You’re chivalrous; you’re gentlemen; you’re considerate; you know how to dance!” He frowns.

“That last one was kind of random,” he points out.

“It may have been random, but it’s still true,” I tell him. “Can you imagine going to one of your acquisition meet-and-greets, holding one of your new colleagues around the waist and doing a two-step?” He grimaces.

“Duly noted.”

“And that comment about not being concerned about a woman’s time of the month? Really? He’s how old?”

“He’s only seventeen, Butterfly,” he protests.

“And what were you doing at seventeen, Christian?” His face hardens.

“My story is so different than his,” he points out.

“All of our stories are different,” I tell him. “What was I doing at seventeen?” He’s silent for a moment. I was hiding in a woman’s shelter trying to go to college. “It’s never too soon to break bad habits, to teach him more productive ones. And if I’m giving bad advice, then I’ll shut up. Let him do what he wants.” I clam up, suddenly feeling like I shouldn’t be having this conversation.

“Don’t be like that,” my husband says, pulling me closer to him. “I’m only saying let him be a kid for a little while longer. We’ve both had experience with having our childhood snatched away from us a bit too soon. Adulthood will creep upon him soon enough, and when it does, he’ll have all the guidance he needs to make sure that he goes in the right direction and does the right things. In the meantime, let him have a little fun. There’s still time, baby. He’s not a bad kid. You know that.”

I do know that. I’m just pissed because Sophie was slighted.

“Yes, I do,” I sigh. “I made him feel a little shitty.”

“He’ll get over it,” he says. “His girl was kind of frosty to Sophia. I’d say they’re even.”

“You saw that, too,” I say, making eye-contact with him.

“Sophie is 13,” Christian points out. “The comments that girl made to her had obvious sexual overtones. Even I heard them. Why? Just why?” I shrug.

“I have no idea why, but Sophie’s presence threatened her. And if the presence of a 13-year-old girl threatens you, you’ve got some serious problems.”

“No kiddin’… uh oh.” My husband’s conversation is cut short when his gaze is drawn to something just across the room. I follow his eyes and see Ethan looking a bit lost in the sea of guest and wandering around the room.

“That doesn’t look like a happy groom,” Christian observes.

“No, it doesn’t,” I concur, “and don’t look now, but I think he’s headed this way.”

His head still darting from side to side, Ethan is indeed headed towards us. He doesn’t stop scanning the room until he gets to our table.

“I seem to have misplaced my bride,” he says, his face a bit verklempt.

“Excuse me?” I say, perplexed. That’s physically impossible.

“I know, right?” he says, catching my obvious meaning. “You’d think with all that dress and those damn sparkly things, I’d never miss her. She’s the brightest thing in the room.” I can’t help but note a slight bit of ire in Ethan’s voice, but I do my best to stamp down Dr. Grey. Nobody asked for her right now. Ethan falls into a nearby chair and scrubs his face.

“You alright there, Ethan?” Christian asks, examining him.

“Yeah,” Ethan says from under his hands. “It’s just been a helluva day, man. No way in hell Carrick could foot the bill for all this by himself. He must’ve hocked the family jewels for this. I have to give him something. Did you see those cakes?” He raises wide eyes to us. “I fully expected people to pop out of there! Or for the damn things to open and reveal the real cakes! I didn’t even know they could make cakes that big! And a castle? A damn castle? With lights!” His eyes are a bit wild now. “We cut the cake with a sword,” he adds incredulously. “Where have you ever seen that? A sword!” he repeats as if he’s waiting for it to make sense.

“A groom’s cake… that’s a castle… big enough for me to walk into… that we can cut with a sword. What, no knights to stand guard? No moat? No drawbridge?” He really doesn’t sound pleased about the cakes at all. This may have been a bit too much. He’s shaking his head when he reaches into his pocket and retrieves his phone. He powers it on and waits for a moment or two, saying nothing.

“You didn’t know about the cakes?” Christian asks Ethan, breaking the silence between the three of us.

“I knew they would be big,” he says without raising his head. “She told me that hers would be seven layers, so I was thinking, you know, the seven-layer cakes that would be like, you know…” and he’s trying to gesture his hands in a fashion to demonstrate a normal to somewhat large wedding cake. “We went to the bakery together,” he says finally, giving up on attempting to describe what he expected to see. “We chose the flavors—Nutella, pink champagne, and amaretto—and I chose Italian cream for the groom’s cake. And yeah, I chose the castle. I thought it would be kind of cool, but the model in the bakery was about 14 inches by 12 inches and it stood about a foot and a half tall. I didn’t expect that!”

The moment he turns his body to gesture over his shoulder at what’s left of the colossal castle cake, our attention is drawn to Mia “holding court” in the middle of a small crowd of guests heading in our direction. She’s beaming as the center of attention, like she always does, and Ethan shifts gears immediately like he hadn’t been bitching moments earlier about the sheer enormity of a cake he really didn’t expect.

“Oh, shit,” he quietly hisses as he slides his phone back into his pocket, straightens his hair, and rises from his seat to face Mia. Christian and I stand with him.

“E,” Mia chirps, closing in on her husband, who now has the brightest smile plastered on his face for her benefit. “What’s the name of that restaurant that you took me too that had the great food and the sake drinking contest…?”

“Umi,” Ethan answers, his voice subdued.

“That’s it!” Mia declares. “I couldn’t remember it for anything. C’mon, Nae wants to hear the story, but I don’t tell it nearly as well as you do.” She takes Ethan’s hand and moves to walk back to her crowd of guests, but Ethan hesitates, his head rolling around in frustration until his chin lands in his chest. Mia stops and turns back to Ethan.

“Hey,” she says, her voice concerned. “You okay?” Ethan sighs.

“You go on and talk to your friends. I’m going to go and get a drink,” he replies. Mia frowns.

“E… what’s wrong?” Mia presses. I can see in his face that Ethan doesn’t want to have this conversation right now, but he sees that he doesn’t have a choice.

“This,” he says, his eyes rolling around the theater. “I can’t take anymore. It’s a lot. I need a break. There’s a whole bunch going on and this is quite a bit to drink in. I don’t know what else is going to pop out at me next.”

“There’s nothing else, Ethan,” Mia says softly.

“Good, because I don’t think I could take anything else,” he says, the words rushing out of his mouth. Mia’s eyes are on the floor now. Ethan puts his hand under her chin and lifts her face so that their eyes meet.

“Mia,” Ethan says soberly. “I love you very much, and I don’t want you to be unhappy on our wedding day. I agreed to any and everything you wanted because you wanted it. All I want is you, and I have to be honest. I’ve had enough of all of this, and if you want to stick around for this production any longer, I’m going to go get a drink and find a quiet corner somewhere to be alone. My head is spinning from all this. I feel like a debutante being presented to society and not in a good way.”

He leans in and kisses her gently on the cheek, holding her there for a long moment, then he reaches in his pocket and retrieves his phone again. He turns the phone around to her so that she can see her smiling face—his screen saver.

“My phone is on, now, if you need to find me. Go. Mingle with your friends.”

There’s no malice, anger, or resentment in his voice when he speaks. He’s just… tired of all this. He’s going to let her have what she wants, but he’s played along for hours and he doesn’t want to play anymore. He kisses her on the cheek again, releases her hand, and walks away. Christian looks at me, then falls in step behind Ethan. As they head towards the bar, I look over at Mia and can’t quite read her expression.

Is she hurt?
Embarrassed?
Upset?
Angry?
Ashamed?

She wordlessly watches her new husband walk away from her and a single tear escapes from the corner or her eye.

“Mia?” I say softly. She sniffs and sighs heavily.

“I need to make my final rounds,” she says, her voice cracking. “It’s time to say ‘goodnight.’” She laughs tragically. “My maid of honor was kicked out—can you help me?” I know what she means. She needs to put on the happy face and try not to fall apart. There will also be the unending question of, “Where’s Ethan” as she’s making her way around the room. I take her hand and nod.

“C’mon, sis. Have you lost those shoes yet? Because if you haven’t, now would be the time.” She nods and reaches under her yards of skirt to remove the insanely embellished shoes… still the sharpest pair of shoes I’ve ever seen in my life.

“Let’s make it happen,” she says, carrying the magnificent creations in her hand as she screws up the courage to face her guests.

The ordeal takes 45 minutes… and I really don’t think she enjoys a second of it. She’s the quintessential lady, smiling and thanking everyone for coming. Half the people she’s speaking to, she’s never met in her life.

When she has spoken to the last guest she plans to greet, Mia finally makes her way out of the main ballroom

“Can someone call my husband, please?” she asks, her voice exhausted and—if I’m honest—a bit defeated. I pull my phone out of my clutch and quick dial my husband.

“Hey, Butterfly,” he answers.

“Are you still with the groom?” I ask.

“I am.”

“Is he sober?”

“Quite. He only had one drink. He’s not maudlin, he just wanted to get away from the crap… and to vent,” he says.

“Good, because his wife has made her rounds and is ready to go.” I hear him saying something, probably to Ethan, then he’s back on the line.

“They have a helicopter,” he says.

“Seriously?” I ask.

“Can you see them getting out of here any other way?” he asks. Actually, I can’t.

“Good point.” I turn to Mia. “You have a helicopter?” She nods.

“It’s just taking us to the plaza. We have a limo waiting there for us.”

“How do you get to the helipad?” Like magic, her wedding planner—who I now know as Skye—appears with Ethan, and my husband who is still on the phone with me. I end the call since the proximity is now giving me feedback.

“How did you we were out here?” I ask.

“Low background noise,” he says. “It was either here or the restroom.” He moves next to me as Ethan closes in on his wife.

“You look exhausted,” he says softly.

“I’m fine,” she replies, raising doe-like eyes to his.

“I just bet,” he says, sliding his arms around her waist and placing a soft, sensual kiss on her lips. Mia visually melts into his arms and closes her eyes at his touch, her sigh signaling that she wishes to be any place but here at this moment.

“Soooo… it’s a wrap,” Skye says. “Let’s get you kids airbound.”

Ethan gives Mia another squeeze before they turn to face us. Christian hugs his sister and I give Ethan a hug and congratulate him again. When they switch, Christian and Ethan shake hands and Mia takes me into a firm hug.

“Thank you… for everything. God couldn’t have blessed me with a better sister.”

I have to fight back the tears.

“You’re welcome… for everything. Enjoy your honeymoon and your new life, Mrs. Kavanaugh.”

“I know, right?” she giggles happily. We share one last hug before she releases me and turns back to her husband. Ethan scoops his wife up in his arms—sparkly dress and all—and falls in step behind Skye to wherever they will board the helicopter. I turn to my husband and release a sigh.

“They survived!” I exclaim.

We survived!” he corrects. He takes my hand and leads me back to our table.

“I envy them being able to take the helicopter and escape,” I admit. “This is one of those times I wish we could employ Charlie Tango.”

“Yes, the old boy would be quite handy right now, wouldn’t he?” Christian agrees.

“Ethan seemed much better,” I observe. “He was nearly fit to be tied when you guys left us.”

“Yeah,” he says. “He took his share of responsibility for enabling Mia—for giving her a free hand in the wedding planning and allowing her and Mom free reign in whatever they wanted to do, but he admits that this was nothing like what he expected. This was exactly what I expected. He turned a little green when I reminded him that the belly-dancers and pink flamingos had been nixed and we have no idea what else got the axe.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s right!” I say in horrified realization. “There was a lot more on the menu, so to speak.”

“Indeed,” he replies. I shiver to think what else was planned that didn’t make it to the ceremony and how poor Ethan would have reacted to that.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the bride and groom have left the building,” is announced over the loudspeaker. I look up at Christian and we share the same incredulous, disbelieving look before bursting into laughter.

“I’m ready to go,” I say. “I’ve had enough of this for one day.”

“It’ll be at least an hour before Jason can get the car around to get us,” Christian laments.

“I don’t care how we get out of here. Let’s just get out of here,” I whine. He nods and takes my hand. He pulls me through the crowd, through the dressing room area in the back and to one of the back exits.

“You might set off the alarm!” I warn.

“Who the fuck cares? The reception’s over.” He pushes the door and to our delight, no alarm. “Service entrance,” he says, with a wink. There are several members of the staff wandering around, smoking cigarettes and chatting.

“Don’t mind us,” Christian says, and I giggle as he weaves me through the inquiring faces in the alley. He pulls out his phone and dials a number.

“Jason, bring the car around to the front. Call me when you’re there.” He ends the call and I frown at him.

“I thought you said it’ll take an hour for Jason to get the car around,” I protest.

“I might have exaggerated. It’ll probably take about 25 minutes, but while he’s moving, he’s drawing the Paparazzi’s attention. And, where are we?” He talks while he’s rushing me along. I giggle again.

“Escaping down a back alley, like fugitives,” I chuckle as my heels click against the concrete. We get to the end of the alley and I find myself scurrying behind my husband down the street adjacent to the freeway to evade the Paps. It’s not an easy escape as there is a fence and a curb that we must negotiate. However, once we clear the perils that are the alley and Convention Place, we cruise easily down Pike Street, where Christian effortlessly hails a taxi. He helps me into the back seat and climbs in behind me.

“Slater Park, Mercer Island,” he says to the cabbie. No sooner he turns around and starts driving, Christian descends upon me, covering my lips with hungry kisses. I ignite immediately, thrusting my hands into his hair. My husband is hot anyway, but when he’s clawing hungrily at me like this, he sets my soul on fire. I’m trying to be satisfied with just the kisses, but I’m burning as his hands wander over my body and ignite me in all the right ways and places. My euphoria is interrupted when we feel the taxi jerk suddenly, and our attention is brought to the darting eyes of the cabbie in the rearview mirror as well as his dangerous proximity to the car in front of us.

“Sorry,” he says, meekly. Christian reaches into his pocket and pulls out his wallet. He takes out a few bills which I’m sure are hundreds because that’s all he carries, and throws them into the front seat.

“I know you’ve seen more than this, so keep your eyes on the road and try not to fucking kill us all!” he snaps. The cabbie’s eyes grow large as he retrieves the cash.

“Yes, sir!” he says obediently and pins his eyes firmly in front of him.

And my husband descends upon me again.

His kisses become more intense, more purposeful, and I melt in his arms. I whimper into his mouth as his hand wanders down to my breast and pinches my nipple. Oh, God, I’m going to lose it.

Just then, he groans and pulls his lips from mine, fishing his phone out of his pocket.

“Yeah,” he grunts, then listens. “Get out of the car and wait for about twenty minutes, then pick us up at Slater Park.” He ends the call, shoves his phone back into his pocket, and turns his attention back to me.

“Where were we?” he growls as his mouth covers mine again.

By the time we get to the bridge, I’m trying for all I’m worth not to wrap my leg around him while he continues to deliciously devour my flesh. I’m so hot that I could combust at any moment. Noting my dilemma, he puts my leg around his hip and continues to grope and kiss me.

“Stay calm,” he breathes into my mouth as his hand travels up my dress and between my thighs. Oh, shit. “Don’t let on…”

His hand slides effortlessly into my panties and he begins to gently stroke my burning clit.

“Don’t come yet,” he whispers as he licks the corner of my mouth. “Hold on… let it build…”

I bite my lip and try to close my legs a bit more to fend off the building intensity.

“Ah, ah, ah,” he scolds. “If you do that, I’m going to make you scream in the back of this car.” I gasp as his finger strokes meticulously, rhythmically, over and over, building and burning until…

“We’re here, sir.”

The cabbie’s voice pulls me back from the edge of my orgasm as I only just now remember that we aren’t alone, despite Christian’s prior threat.

“Thanks,” my husband barks before opening the door and leaping from the taxi, nearly dragging me behind him. We stand there in silence and wait until the cabbie pulls away and is out of sight. Then, my husband drags me behind him again, looking for something. He finds what he’s looking for in a nearby cluster of trees.

I have to run on my tiptoes to keep up with him, my spiked heels occasionally sinking into the grass. He pins me against a large tree and kisses me hungrily again. I’m still hot from the fondling in the taxi. He pulls his lips from mine and slowly descends to his knees. He kisses my exposed inner thigh through my split and I almost lose my balance. His hands travel under my dress, pushing it up just enough for him to inhale deeply and smell his prize. He closes his eyes as if in ecstasy and licks the outside of my panties. I gasp at the feeling of his tongue against my outer lips. He probes deeper and his tongue is licking and massaging my clit through my panties. My head falls back against the tree trunk as the fire he was igniting in the back of the taxi burns once more. I feel him grab my panties and pull them down, just past my hips to reveal my pussy, and his head is buried again between my legs.

“Oohh,” I whimper as his hungry, hot tongue makes contact with my clit. He tastes me over and over, moaning each time his tongue runs across the sensitive bundle of nerves. It feels so good and I have to lean on his shoulders to keep from sliding down the damn tree. My legs start to tremble and he lifts one, throwing it over his shoulder to help me stay upright… and opening my pussy wider to his talented tongue. His hands reach up and cup my breast roughly, kneading them sensually as he continues to feast delectably on my aching clit.

His hungry licks turn into determined sucks and devouring mouthfuls and I know it won’t be long now. He reaches up and caresses my lips with his fingers. I realize this is the hand he used to finger me in the car, and I suck his fingers into my mouth, fellating them hungrily as his technique on my clit becomes more determined. I’m panting wildly, his fingers deep in my mouth and his hand firm on my tit when it happens.

“God! Christian!” I nearly scream when the climax hits me. He groans into my pussy and squeezes my tit a little harder, sucks my clit a little deeper and I explode magnificently, clutching his hair while he holds me up against that tree. His wet fingers move from my mouth across my face, down, and to my neck as I whimper and pant through this intense pulsing and burning. Once the orgasm has waned to a gentle throb, he kisses my clit gently and replaces my panties. He rises to his feet and thrusts his tongue into my mouth. I’m high and still aroused, tasting my juices on his tongue. I move my hands to his belt and try to unbuckle it, intent on returning the favor, but he halts my progress.

“No,” he says firmly. “Jason will be here any minute.”

Shit, I forgot about Jason.

Christian helps me put myself back together and leads me from the bunch of trees. I’m nearly composed when we get back out to the lighted area and a stretch of road where Jason will be able to see us. He puts his hand on the small of my back and pulls me over to him.

“You taste mighty fine, Mrs. Grey,” he mumbles, the scent of my arousal on his breath. Don’t get in Jason’s face, I think to myself, or he’s going to get a whole lot more than he bargains for.

“You bring that out in me, Mr. Grey,” I say, carefully watching his lips as he licks them, knowing I can smell myself on his breath. For the second time, I move to reach for his crotch and I see headlights shine at the end of the road.

Fuck! Jason. Dammit.

When the Audi approaches, Christian moves quickly to open the door for me so that Jason doesn’t exit the car.

*-*

He’s out of his jacket before we even cross the threshold. I instinctively leap into his arms and he catches me, as usual, with two handfuls of ass. Squeezing tightly while devouring my lips, he carries me up the stairs to our bedroom. I can feel the tip of his erection protruding through his pants and I try to grind down on it, but he’s holding me firmly.

“Anxious?” he growls.

“Yes!” I pant over his lips. He bursts into the doors and slides me to the ground, kicking the doors closed behind him.

“So am I,” he groans, his lips never leaving mine as he unclips the hook-and-eye at the back of my neck and unzips my zipper. I make quick work of the buttons on his shirt, ripping it out of his pants while he pushes my dress from my shoulders. I quickly remove the dress and let it fall to the floor while he unbuckles his belt and unzips his pants. He removes his shirt and I push my hands inside the back of his pants and boxers and squeeze his tight, firm ass. He does the same thing to my ass while his tongue plays seductively with mine. He grinds me against his erection and I don’t want to wait any longer. I push his pants and boxers past his hips, reach between us and grab his cock.

“Ugh!” he groans loudly as I squeeze it hard in my fist. He toes out of his shoes and pushes his pants and boxers to the floor, removing them and his socks at the same time. He quickly removes his T-shirt and pushes me down on the bed. Climbing over me, naked, he grinds his hips into my panty-clad clit and I groan loudly.

“Christian! Please!” I protest, trying and failing to remove my shoes.

“Leave them on!” he commands, his voice throaty and full of lust. He pulls my panties aside and positions his head at my opening. Before I can say anything, he pushes inside me, his cock burning my walls and making me dizzy.

“Yes! Oh, yes!” I exclaim as he penetrates me and his hips immediately begin to move with purpose. He grabs both breasts, still in my bra, and kneads them roughly as he plunges into me.

“Shit, you feel so good,” he groans, his hips rolling and thrusting and pushing me quickly to my second orgasm. I don’t speak. I just enjoy. He’s lost in his own passion right now and he’s taking me with him… and I fucking love it! He undoes my bra and nearly rips it from my chest, concentrating his gaze on my tits as he plunders into me over and over. It’s so hot, that hungry, lustful look in his eye as he watches my breasts wobble while he fucks me.

“Fuck!” he hisses as he drops his body over mine, his hips pushing my legs open wider. His hands travel to mine and his fingers entwine with my fingers. He holds my hands down and buries his face in my neck as his hips and dick grind deliciously into me. He groans louder and louder into my neck as I feel him getting thicker and harder, his thrust more intense. I can barely breath as the orgasm attacks, ripping a scream from my throat and a tear or two from my eyes as my husband holds me down and punishes me with his dick.

“Fuck! So tight! Too… tight… fuck! Fuck!” he gasps as I feel him begin to pulse and throb inside me while I ride out this wild orgasm.

I’m coughing and gasping for air when he cups the side of my face and peppers the opposite cheek with tender kisses… while he’s still fucking me! I know he came. I know he did! But he’s still fucking. He raises his eyes to mine and yes, I can even see in his eyes that he came… but he wants more.

He pushes off my body—still inside me—and rips those useless, soaked panties off me. Lifting my hips off the bed, be begins to plunder me again, methodically—hitting that magic spot even though he knows I’ve just come.

“Don’t move your hands!” he commands in a harsh whisper. “I don’t want to stop to tie you up, so stay. Right. There.”

And I don’t fucking move.

He hits that spot over… and over… and over… and in about ten minutes, I’m back at the mountaintop, ready to blow. When he senses the change in my body, he puts his arms under my knees, holding my legs wide and pummeling my poor little pussy.

“Oh, God,” I protest again, arching my back and keeping my wrists plastered to the bed.

“That’s it, Baby,” he growls. “Feel it. Show me that you like it. You look so fucking good… so fucking beautiful…”

That’s all it takes to start the ascent again, and it’s burning deep, so much so that at first, I didn’t know that I wasn’t actually having an orgasm… until the real orgasm hit.

“Oh, Go-o-o-od!” I weep as my body starts the tremble. Christian fights to hold me in the position so that I can finish… but he loses the battle.

“Fuuuuck!” he exclaims as one stiletto-clad foot flies to his shoulder, the other still suspended from the knee in his hand, and he thrusts hard into me… several times… causing the explosive orgasm that I was already having to go on and on and on.

“Oh, God! Please! Stop!” I cry as the intensity becomes too much for me, but my husband is gone, his body violently chasing his orgasm. I don’t think I can hold out much longer and several strokes later when I’m at my wits end…

“Fuuuuu-uuu-uuu-uuuuck fuck-ing hell fuuuck!” I don’t recognize his voice as he appears to be crying for mercy, his body stiffening and trembling wildly at the same time. He’s weak with pleasure and unable to hold his body up, only the unforgiving stiffening of his muscles holding him in place as his head hangs helplessly from his neck, sweat dripping from the ends of his curls and his body jerking impulsively with each throb of his finally emptying dick.

Thank God!

I prepare myself for the inevitable, for him to fall helplessly on top of me once nirvana releases him and allows his muscles to relax… it takes a long, long, time. I’m worried for a moment, but then he collapses—helpless, spent, and breathless, still inside of me and unable to move. I reach down and stroke his wet hair, bringing him slowly back to earth. Several minutes later, I think he’s fallen asleep on me when he says,

“That was incredible.”

“Yes, it was,” I concur. “What got into you?”

“I don’t know,” he admits. “The playfulness of running down that alley, being in the back of that taxi… I just… felt free… and I wanted to get into you!” He growls the last word.

“I’m glad you did,” I say, still stroking his hair.

*-*

Liam didn’t come looking for me Monday morning. He went straight to Grace. That left me able to get some real work done instead of this babysitting shit. Granted, he has gorgeous blue eyes and he’s really nice to look at, but I resent his presence here and really want him gone as soon as possible. Not only that, I’ve felt the need more than once to remind him that I’m taken. It’s been nothing particularly forward, but he tried to get me to go to lunch with him again and he even went so far as to ask me out for a drink once.

“It’s a harmless drink,” he had said, “just to unwind from all this damn work we’ve been doing.”

Since he insisted on diverting the conversation away from any romantic interest, I did the same when I declined, noting that I’m breastfeeding. It doesn’t help that we slip into a relaxed comfort and sometimes even a playful banter when we work together. I have to concentrate when I talk to him—on looking into his eyes just long enough to get my point across, but not staring as it’s very easy to get lost in those lipid pools on any human being. I also have to avoid gazing at the bridge of his nose, because that offends him. So, I’m a little more relieved than I should be when Tuesday comes around and he goes straight to Grace again.

“Come on, Friday… come on, Friday…” I think to myself.

Ever the hopeful optimist, I forget that forces beyond my control are constantly at work to destroy my little world and crumble my happiness and very existence. One such force that I erroneously failed to acknowledge at the moment got its modern identification in 1949 when a development engineer at Edwards Air Force Base named Captain John Murphy became frustrated with a malfunctioning electrical component. About the lab technician would had wired the component, he remarked “If there is any way to do it wrong, he will.” Although there is more evidence that the concept was born well before this time, supposedly, this was the first assignment of Murphy’s Law…

Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

Still praying for Friday, but once again lulled into a false sense of comfort, I’m dismayed—for good reason—when Liam approaches me on Wednesday morning while I’m working in one of the classrooms.

“I see you’ve been meeting with Grace for the earlier part of the week. What’s the order of business this time?” I ask when I see him. He scratches his cheek.

“You,” he answers. I’m taken aback.

“Me?” I ask, bemused. He nods. Why the fuck…?

“Besides that first week, I’d like to know when exactly she plans on you investigating the Center,” I say with distaste. “Exactly why am I the focus of the investigation now?” He sighs.

“The financial report was just as flawless as the first week,” he says. “It shows consistent growth in the Center and no reason or cause for concern for future stability. When the board didn’t see a problem there, they shifted focus.”

The Board,” I say incredulously, “I’ll just bet the board saw me as a potential problem!” He sighs again and drops the pretenses.

“She let it slip that there’s some bad blood between her and the Center,” he admits. “When I waited for an explanation, she hinted at cutting corners and shabby qualifications—detrimental positions that could affect the outcome of the investigation being filled due to nepotism instead of choosing a qualified candidate for the job.” And now we get to the crust of things. She opened the door, so…

“She had her eye on this position for several years and I showed up and stole it from her,” I say with no remorse. “There had to be a reason why Grace hadn’t filled it all that time. She was overwhelmed with work, unable to pay attention to any of the smaller duties necessary to keep the Center running. There were areas of the Center knee-deep in dust and I just started cleaning them—yet, we had a cleaning crew. The first day I started working here, there was an angry young man who wouldn’t speak to anybody. Most of the staff here treated him like he was contagious. I got through to him, took him on, and now, he’s at Seattle Prep, getting great grades and making a huge difference in the area he grew up in.

“I have more success stories of families that have been mended and reunited or moved from dangerous situations and able to move on with their lives than you have time to hear, yet because she didn’t get the job, she feels that I wasn’t qualified? It’s sour grapes and nothing more. I’m a doctor with a medical degree; I spent my internship working with broken families. What has she done? What are her qualifications? Does she have experience or education in social work or administrative management that I’m not aware of?”

“Social work, no. Management, yes,” he says.

“Well, congratulations for her, but it doesn’t give her the right to besmirch my qualifications.” I slam my pen down on the table, angry that this woman has found a way to control us because she didn’t get a job all those months ago. God, how much time has passed? She probably combed through every application since she got that job, waiting for something with our name on it.

“Well,” he’s sounding a little nervous now, “it’s just that accreditation is a huge responsibility. We can’t afford to let anything slip through the cracks, that’s all.” I stare at him, my mouth agape.

“Slip through the cracks?” I repeat, my voice several octaves higher than normal. “There are several schools in Washington State that don’t even deserve to be considered schools—federally accredited schools who don’t make the mark on local scoreboards. Do you investigate those schools, too, or is this a privilege reserved only for those people on Ms. Felton’s radar?” He shifts uncomfortably in his seat and if this were a fight, I would have him on the proverbial ropes right now.

“It’s just my understanding that with you being the assistant director and with new twins and your husband that there may have been some cutting corners in the licensing process and she says that she just wants to make sure everything has been completed properly.” I gasp, and he immediately knows that he has said something wrong.

“It’s…” he stumbles. “You know how people may look for fulfillment in things other than their home life and may throw efforts into outside projects… and the importance of the success of those tasks may overshadow proper protocol—skipping important steps and using connections, as it were, to push different initiatives through the system…” Well, that didn’t make matters any better. Careful, Liam, you’re choking on that foot.

“I like. My life. Just fine,” I say, succinctly. “And tell your boss that she would do well to keep my personal life out of this professional matter. Make no mistake, Mr. Grey does have the power to make this whole thing go away—push things through the system, as you so delicately put it—but I don’t want that and neither does Grace. We want this whole thing to be legit and on the up and up, and Christian’s intervention would only take away from our credibility. This is a place for people to get help, to get education, to feel safe, and if they see that a dollar can sway our opinion one way or the other, they won’t feel that way.” Liam’s eyes sharpen and he’s a bit taken aback.

“I’m… sorry,” he begins, “I didn’t mean to demean or discredit you in any way, and I certainly didn’t mean to offend you.” He’s sincere, I can tell, but for now the damage is done.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Westwick, your boss doesn’t share your sentiment,” I state, gathering my things. “Her entire intention in this exercise in futility is to hold up our goal, discredit us and find fault with us. She has used every single tactic that she could to keep us from getting our final stamp of approval, and I personally don’t feel like playing her game anymore.” I stand, stacking my papers and files, while closing my laptop.

“I swear that I’m doing everything that I can to make sure that this isn’t a personal attack,” he says. I raise my eyes to him again, this time, in scrutiny.

“Have you seen anything in the time that you’ve been here that indicates that we need an in-depth investigation as to whether or not we were following the rules?” I accuse. “Does anything look rushed, unnatural, or staged to you? Does anything here look like we haven’t been working for years to get to where we are now? Has anybody had anything contrary to say about the Center except your boss? Have you had cause to question my qualifications anytime during any of our conversations? You come here armed with information about my personal life that has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the Center and you don’t see this tactic for what it really is? You really think this is just somebody doing their job?”

Again, he’s stunned to silence, examining me. I gather the rest of my things in my arms.

“You let your own eyes and ears tell you what you need to know. Talk to whomever you need to talk to; draw whatever conclusions are necessary. Then, you tell the boss whatever the hell you want, because I’m done with this charade.” I march indignantly out of the room and towards my office to find some lunch.

I’m back in my office, going over our paperwork for the hundredth time looking for any loopholes we might have taken, any ammunition that Gloria would have to use against us to justify the charade of jumping through hoops that she’s putting us through. Knowing that I’m not going to find one and that this will never end if I don’t take action, I push the reports, my laptop, and my iPod away from me and make the call that I said I would wait until the end of the investigation to make.

“Al, I need you to file a formal complaint against Gloria Felton of the Washington State Licensing Board. I also want a complaint lodged with the Department of Early Learning, Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the US Department of Education.”

“Whoa! Jewel, wait… what’s going on?” Al protests.

“This woman has done everything that she can to discredit the Center and to hinder our progress for becoming a fully-accredited learning facility and day-care center because of her own personal conflicts and I’ve had enough! She’s still holding a grudge because she volunteered with the Center years ago when I first got here, and Grace chose me over her as the assistant director because she wanted another licensed doctor on the administrative staff! Gloria has never gotten over it; she threatened us way back then and now, she’s making good on that threat. She’s even gone so far as to send an inspector down here armed with details about my private life. This is personal—stemming from when she was released from the Center years ago, and she shouldn’t be in charge of this!”

“Okay, okay, I get it. It’s crystal clear. I’ll file whatever you need with whatever agency you choose, but you know that with an open investigation, it’s going to set back your accreditation.”

“We’re not going to get it anyway!” I yell the painful truth into the phone. “We’ve followed every rule, every regulation, every tiny little bullshit request she’s given us and every time we pass with flying colors, she finds something else!” The adrenaline tears begin and I can’t stop them. I’m so angry and disappointed that I could hit something right now. “A chip in the wall paint; a crack in a floor tile; a teacher with a less-than-perfect grade-point average… There’s always going to be something that she can pick at—some small thing that she can scrutinize use to hold us up! She wants us to give up, but I’m not going down without a fight! I’m kicking and screaming until there’s nothing left!”

The adrenaline tears turn into angry wrenching sobs as I go over to the window and unsuccessfully attempt to compose myself. “All this work,” I weep, “all this time, these years we’ve invested… I can’t believe all our efforts can be shot to hell by some spiteful bitch with a bug up her ass!” I sob into the phone in the most unladylike fashion.

“Jewel, I really need you to calm down,” Al pleads. “I’ll get right on it, okay?” I nod as if he can see me and end the call, weeping into my hands. A few moments later, Grace and Chuck come barreling into my office.

“Ana! What’s wrong?” Grace asks.

“We’re not going to get it!” I sob. “He could go back to that office shitting rainbows out his ass about how great we are and we’re still not going to get our accreditation.” God, I’m so frustrated that I feel like I’m just going to explode—literally explode! “I’ve already called Al. I know what this is. She’s the boss! She can keep us tied up in bureaucracy for years! She has no intention of giving us accreditation because I got this job and she didn’t! And when it’s conveniently leaked to the news that we were denied accreditation and some puffed-up story as to why, what do you think that’s going to do to us? To our reputation? To our credibility? All this fucking work!”

I’m screaming now and attracting an audience of people not afraid to approach the mayhem—security, Jesse, Marilyn…

Liam.

I fall into Chuck’s arms, weeping for the demise of the dream Grace and I had for a full-functioning help and educational center. This investigation is going to take forever—years, maybe. Any decision for or against our accreditation will be withheld pending the outcome of the investigation. Great, just fucking great!

*-*

I’ve sent the twins home with Keri and Marilyn so that I can strategize about restructuring what the Center has to offer since our accreditation will be indefinitely tied up in the complaint process. So much was riding on our being accredited—continued education, the day care and preschool, a form of home schooling so that children of families in hiding would still be able to learn without falling behind. We can still run the day care center, we just can’t do anything related to early learning in the process. It makes me so mad that one woman’s vendetta can so easily ruin something that could have been so useful and helpful to the community.

I guess it’s back to the drawing board.

Intent on working a few more hours on formulating a whole new game plan that didn’t stray too far from the one we had been working on for the last year and a half, I go to the community room to see if there are any sandwiches left in the vending machine.

“You’re still here,” I hear a voice say from behind me. I turn around to see Liam sitting on one of the sofas in the community room, his tie undone and his shirt open to the top two buttons.

“So are you,” I say, turning back to the vending machine. After finding a turkey sandwich, I make my purchase along with some green tea.

“Why are you working so late?” he asks. Why do you care?

“I’m trying to revamp our plans for the community center since it looks like we won’t be getting our accreditation anytime soon.”

“Oh, ye of little faith,” he says, and I’m not amused. “Don’t you want to know why I’m still here?”

Not particularly, I think to myself.

“Well, I was trying to save my investigation and your accreditation,” he says. “After witnessing what I did today, I did a little research on your accusations, which turned up quite a bit that I’m not at liberty to dispose right now, but I can say that I think you were right.” I glare at him.

“You doubted?” I ask, turning now to face him. “You thought I was making this all up?”

‘You’d be surprised what I’ve come across, so I had to be sure.” He leans forward, clasping his fingers together with his elbows on his knees. “You’re very passionate about your work.”

You have no idea.

“The thought of someone needing help and not being able to get it is unacceptable to me,” I say, taking a seat next to him on the sofa. “In particular, children in bad situations is a real sore spot. Why should a child be held back or fall behind in their class because Mom is afraid to let them go to school for fear that their abusive husband will get to them? Why should someone who was dealt a bad hand or has made a bad decision not be able to pursue their high school diploma or GED? These women—and, yes, men, too—may be running from horrible, or even life-threatening situations. They come here for sanctuary, for help to start over, to find shelter, maybe a job and a new life and they may need daycare.  There are so many opportunities I wanted to bring to the community, but this selfish cow has decided that’s not a good idea because she has a bone to pick with us. It’s my understanding that she volunteered here for years and she knows what we do. How she could deny these services to people that need them in good conscience is beyond me.”

I open my sandwich and the accompanying mayo packet and spread a healthy amount on the bread. I just realize that I’m starving and take a healthy bite. God, it tastes like filet mignon.

“Well, I wouldn’t give up hope just yet,” he says. “You never know what may happen.” I scoff before taking another large bite of my sandwich, chewing hungrily before I swallow it. He’s strangely silent while watching me eat.

“I’m no stranger to bureaucracy, Liam,” I tell him. “And I know a hopeless situation when I see one. I’m not one to easily admit defeat, but I am realistic. We’re just going to have to rethink our strategy and find another way to help people in the forever-time it takes the licensing board to address our complaint. It hurts, terribly, but it’s not the end of the world.” I continue eating, lost in thought for a moment and thinking that one of the things we could provide is an after-school program—something besides tutoring—some kind of latchkey program or something where kids can just chill out and unwind after school. We don’t have that, and I was so concerned with the accreditation portion of things that I wasn’t thinking about the simple community services that we could provide.

I’m pondering the new idea for so long that I’ve finished my sandwich and most of my tea. I raise my eyes to see Liam staring at me.

“What?” I ask. He points at me.

“You, um…” he stutters, then points. “You… have a little…” He reaches to my face and brushes what I assume are crumbs off my cheeks. The touch is soft… intimate… and in a moment, I’m caught in his gaze—those otherworldly blue eyes that capture me with an emotion that I can’t identify. They change and they look like cool water, clear and refreshing. My lips part slightly as I’m caught, trapped, motionless, waiting… I feel him coming closer, see him coming closer, his warm hand on my cheek, and I relax. A familiar warmth settles through me as I gaze into his deep, blue eyes.

Blue… blue… no… something’s wrong here. Something’s very wrong here.

I press my hand to his chest to halt his progression. He’s going to kiss me.

“Liam, no,” I stop him. “I’ve told you. I’m married.”

He pauses inches from my face, from his goal, and it’s only now that I hear the determined progressing thud of expensive, Italian leather shoes. I turn my gaze towards the sound and right into the steely, blazing eyes of my angrily charging husband.


A/N: She did it again… another juicy cliffy. Don’t kill me… but hold on to your seats. It’s about to get bumpy.

The Paramount Theater doesn’t have a helipad, but for the sake of the story, we’re pretending that it does.

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

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

 ~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 36—Kavanaugh Celebrations 

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 36—Kavanaugh Celebrations 

ANASTASIA

Boys can be such doodyheads!

Geez, did I just say doodyheads?

Well, I didn’t say it, but I thought it…

Have I been drinking?

After last night? Hell, no!

I’m just pissed as fuck at one Marlow Johnson. How could he be so damn insensitive? Well, he really wasn’t insensitive. He has no idea how Sophie feels about him. It’s just a childhood crush, and it’ll pass, but what he said about periods. I know teenage boys don’t give a fuck about things like that and they’d like to think it’s none of their concern, but damn, I guess I just wanted to think that Marlow might be different from other teenage boys in that aspect. I mean, he is different from other teenage boys in a lot of ways, but… well, nobody’s perfect.

“Permission to engage,” I hear my husband’s voice say from behind me. I turn around to see him waving a gray napkin in surrender.

“Wrong color,” I say, crossing my arms.

“What was that all about?” he asks. I shake my head.

“Reverse hero worship,” I admit. “I have high hopes for your young protégé. Sometimes, I forget that he’s still a bonehead kid with raging hormones.” I look down at my phone and close Jason’s text.

“Sophie get going okay?” he asks. I nod.

“Yeah. Chance took her home.” I raise my eyes to him.

“I didn’t think Marlow would bring a date,” he says. “He told me he was escorting his mom.”

“Where is Marcia?” I ask. I noticed that Marlow and Maggie are present, but no Marcia.

“She wasn’t feeling well, so she stayed home. Marlow secured a date at the last minute. He said he didn’t want to bring anybody because girls get kind of clingy at weddings.” I shake my head.

“And apparently, guys get kind of stupid,” I retort. Christian raises an eyebrow.

“It appears that girls are a bit more out of character,” he recounters. I look at him expecting. “Well, look at Sophie. I’ll have to admit, she was darling in her dress. I’m glad there weren’t more boys her age here or we may have had to beat Jason off with a stick. Her knowledge of food is phenomenal, and her dinner conversation was extraordinary—well beyond her years. But the banter between her and Maya… where did that come from?” I raise my eyebrow at him.

“Where indeed,” I say, as I see the little tart just over his shoulder emerge from the ladies’ room. Pretending not to see her, I continue the conversation with my husband just loud enough for her to hear.

“Why that high-school girl took a veiled cheap shot at a tween’s dress in front of people who consider her family, I have no clue. However, why Sophie sliced that horrendous fart of a dress that she was wearing from two seasons back, I get that. I realize that she’s young and inexperienced, but she should probably remember her place when she’s a guest at someone’s wedding around people that she clearly doesn’t know.” I glare at my husband and see the little cow shift uncomfortably in my peripheral before she scurries back into the ballroom.

“And… you weren’t talking to me just then,” he observes.

“I certainly was not,” I confirm. He shakes his head and puts his arm around my waist, ushering me back into the reception.

“Come. Champagne and dancing for you…”

A glass or two of champagne later, and I’ve loosened up a bit. After last night, I steer clear of the hard stuff. Couples are canoodling here and there all over the room waiting for the bride and groom’s first dance, Christian and I included, when we’re interrupted by some guy trying to talk shop over Christian’s shoulder.

“Not talking business at my sister’s wedding reception,” Christian says flatly.

“Oh, come on, Grey. Everybody talks a little business at social functions,” the guy coerces.

“Not talking business at my sister’s wedding reception,” my husband repeats, never changing his facial expression or even making eye contact with the guy. The guy glares at Christian. Then he turns to me and his gaze softens.

“You should get him to loosen up,” he says, with a smile. “He’s far too intense.”

“Oh, he loosens up just fine,” I retort. “He just didn’t come to his sister’s nuptials with intentions of turning them into a business meeting.” I smile softly at the asshole, who adjusts his tie, raises his drink, and walks away.

“Nice comeback, Mrs. Grey,” Christian says, nuzzling me behind my ear.

“I learned from the best,” I coo with a wink. “I need the restroom, dear.” I kiss him on the cheek and he reluctantly releases me. I quickly relieve myself and return to the floor as I don’t want to miss any of the festivities—and I do mean quickly—I’m not gone ten whole minutes, and yet…

I turn my back for an iota of a second, just long enough to piss and wash my hands, and this Lily bitch is all up in my husband’s face. She must think I won’t stomp a mudhole in her ass because we’re at Mia’s wedding. If you’re bad enough to try me, bitch, I’m bad enough to fuck you up. I make a B-line over to where this cunt is trying to put the moves on my man.

“Christian,” I hear her purrs as I approach, “it’s been so long since we’ve talked.” She closes in on my husband with outstretched arms, her dress only a breath away from a nip slip. Christian steps away from her grasp.

“We never talk, Lily,” he says coolly, avoiding her embrace. She pouts seductively.

“Just one hug, Christian,” she says, nearly rushing him and about to catch him in a bosom hug.

Oh, enough of this shit.

“Oh, no, I don’t fucking think so,” I say, putting first my arm, then my entire body between her and my husband.

“Excuse you!” she hisses at me.

“No, excuse you,” I retort. “You have clearly lost your mind if you expect me to stand here while you attempt to put those sacks of silicone all over my man! You might want to put those things away because he clearly doesn’t want you,” I say to the scandalous tramp standing before me offering herself to my man like free leftovers.

“She’s right,” Christian says. “I clearly don’t want you, so you might want to cover yourself up.” She giggles. She actually giggles.

“Don’t be coy, Christian,” she says in a sultry voice. Christian just shakes his head and pulls me close to him.

“Let it go, baby,” he says softly in my ear. “You won’t have to see her ever again after this.” Just as I’m nodding my acknowledgement, she retorts,

“But you will.”

“He’s married, you sow!” I whip around on Lily, finally having had enough of her blatant disrespect and overt flirting with my husband. She almost doesn’t acknowledge my outburst until Christian looks over at me. Then she turns affronted attention to me.

“Excuse me?” she says, as if I have no right to say anything to her at all.

“There is no excuse for you!” I seethe, no longer able to restrain myself. I won’t yell. I won’t make a scene, but I’ll beat her fucking ass if she doesn’t get away from this table. “He has a wife… and children! You desperate cunt!”

“How dare you!” she says, doe-eyed and surprised.

“How dare you, you indiscreet guttersnipe!” I feel my blood pressure rising. Someone should intervene before I get to the tears.

“Steele?” Val’s voice floats to my ears. “You okay?”

“Someone needs to remove this piece of trash from my presence before I do it myself!” I say through my teeth. I can feel Christian’s arms tighten around my waist. He’s preparing for the inevitable. Lily scoffs and Val decides now is a good time to intervene.

“I really think you should go away,” she says to Lily. Lily’s hands rest defiantly on her hips.

“I’m part of the wedding party. You can’t make me leave,” she says, rolling her neck on every word.

“I’m part of the family and yes, I can,” Val says, closing the space between them. Now, I’m chomping at the bit to get closer to this girl, but Christian is holding me tighter and tighter. Just as she’s about to rebut, big brother Elliot steps in.

“Look here, girlie,” he says to Lily, “you need to be anywhere but right here at this moment, because if you touch this one, I’ll fuck you up.” He pulls Val to his side. “And if you touch that one…” He points to Christian, “… she’ll fuck you up.” He points to me. Lily laughs loudly.

“Oh, please. Whatever,” she says incredulously. Now it’s Christian’s turn to speak.

“Lily, I don’t want to embarrass you, but what’s more, I don’t want to ruin my sister’s wedding. So, I’m going to grace you with my conversation by saying this to you one time.” She smirks victoriously at me and turns her attention to Christian. He leans in close to her and says,

“Get. The fuck. Out of my face. I don’t want you. I never have. If you come near me again… ever… I’m going to have my security remove you from my presence and then, I’ll get a restraining order against your ass. Your unwanted romantic overtures are bordering on harassment.”

Her face falls immediately and the smirk she wore moments before is now plastered on my face.

“You are worse and more persistent than any stalker I’ve ever had, and my stalkers have tried to kill my family. That makes you a danger to me, my wife, and my children. I never gave you the slightest bit of encouragement, and I don’t know what ever gave you the idea that you ever had a chance with me, much less that I would leave my wife for you. I’m not even attracted to you. I never have been and even if I ever was, what makes you think I would leave my wife and family for you? Now do yourself a favor and tuck your tits and what’s left of your dignity back into your bra and get the hell away from me!”

And there’s that look again… My God, she has that hideous look perfectly.

“You’re just saying that because she’s here,” Lily responds. Father in heaven, help us. Another delusional bitch. What the fuck, do they grow on trees?

“I’ve always said that, Lily,” he reinforces. “I don’t have to put on a show for my wife. Name one timeone time—when I gave you the slightest hint that I ever wanted you. Go ahead, I’ll wait.”

Lily knows that she can’t name any times because she would have to call Christian a liar to his face. I’ve seen her be forward at Grace’s house, on Christian’s boatbut I can’t believe that she would do this at Mia’s wedding reception. Isn’t she supposed to be, like, Mia’s best friend or something?

“Christian, if you would just give me a chance…” Her voice is haughty. She’s not even embarrassed enough to sound humble in her indiscreet and unbecoming begging.

“Oh, God, somebody make it go away,” Christian says mocking despair. I will! I will! If you just let me go…

“Lily, what are you doing?” Mia says, making her way over to us.

“Shamelessly coming on to my husband while I’m damn-near sitting in his lap,” I say before I can stop myself… and regret it immediately. Mia reacts, but not like I expected.

“You said you wouldn’t,” she says flatly to Lily. “You promised you would behave.” Lily stands mute. Mia sighs. “I should have known,” she says, shaking her head. “You weren’t even speaking to me for a while, then all of a sudden, we were best friends again. I should have known it was all about Christian. And what did you do to the maid of honor dress? You look like a stripper!” she exclaims. Finally, she just shakes her head and waves to someone. “You need to leave,” she says. Lily frowns.

“What?”

“You need to leave, Lily!” Mia reinforces. “I want you to leave now before you embarrass me more than you already have.”

“Mia, please,” Lily beseeches. “I was just talking, I swear…”

“Is that why my sister-in-law looks like she’s ready to crawl out of my brother’s arms and scratch your eyes out? Because you were just talking? What the fuck did you say?” Lily falls guiltily silent this time.

“Just about any inappropriate thing that popped into her head,” I add, “while offering her fake double-D boobs plated and served to my husband while I’m standing here. She didn’t even acknowledge my presence until I called her a cunt. She’d fuck him right here on the floor while I and the reception watched if he let her!”

Okay, my mouth needs a leash and my anger has already gotten loose and is running around the room. Mia’s reaction is swift. Her arm is up in the air, gesturing to someone to come over to us. Two suited members of someone’s security come over to our table.

“She’s leaving… now!” Mia gestures to Lily. “Please show her out.” Lily’s mouth falls open.

“You said you would give me a chance,” she says. “I was just talking.” I’m about to say something when Mia puts her hand up to silence me.

Yeah, it’s probably best that I keep my mouth shut come to think of it.

“We will talk about this later, but right now, you’re ruining my reception and I want you to leave. People are looking at you!”

Sure enough, I look around the room and we now have the attention of more than a few party-goers.

“We’ll talk once I’m back from my honeymoon, but please… just leave now, please.” Lily frowns deeply, then moves to hug Mia. Mia is a statue.

“I’m sorry,” she says. “I really was just talking to him.”

“He’s married, Lily,” she says flatly. “They’re in love, in case you’re the only person in the world who’s blind to that. This isn’t news. You’re making a fool of yourself throwing yourself at my brother. He’s not being cruel or playing hard to get. He just doesn’t want you.” She holds her head down. “And I was a fool to think you really wanted to mend fences with me.” Lily now looks terrified. Why, I’m not really sure.

“Mia, I did…” she protests. “I do, I really do.”

“Why?” Mia asks, “so that you can have the opportunity to get closer to my brother?” She shakes her head before continuing. “Just leave, Lily. Leave now. We’ll talk about this later.” Mia won’t make eye-contact with her and Lily finally turns to leave.

“And Lily,” Mia calls out. She turns around. “There are a lot of people outside waiting for a story. The story is me leaving on my honeymoon with my husband. If you give them anything else besides you’re leaving because you don’t feel well, not only will I shun you for the rest of your life, but I’ll also make sure that you’re quite persona non-grata. Not a social circle on the west coast will come anywhere near you. And if you say anything adverse about my family including my sister-in-law, I’m sure my brother could make that nationwide and more than just social circles.”

Worldwide,” Christian throws in, to Lily’s dismay. She looks at him with the most crestfallen look I’ve ever seen, except for maybe the one on the Pedophile right before they took her away. “I told you to leave me alone. You should have listened.”

That’s when she turns that horrible sour face to me.

“And stop looking at my wife that way!” Christian snaps, startling everyone in the general vicinity. “You look like that ugly rock fish.”

“Stonefish,” I correct him. I was trying to place what that face looked like and that’s it!

“Whatever. It’s ugly.” Christian gestures to Jason, who walks over to us. “Keep an eye on her,” he says. “She keeps throwing stinkfaces at my wife.” Lily gasps.

“I’m not going to do anything to your precious Anastasia!” She knows my name! Who knew? All this time, she acted like I didn’t exist.

“I know,” Christian retorts. “I’m just making sure you know, too,” he hisses. Lily and I both glare at him.

“How much money do you spend just watching people?” I blurt out before I think about it, but Christian and Jason are unfazed.

“Apparently, not enough,” he replies, “and I’m going to start giving the order to shoot first and ask questions later if the wrong person comes near you,” he adds without taking his eyes off Lily. Now he gets the stink face.

“You’re not all that, Christian,” she says. “I was just talking.”

“Yeah, well, my sister said she doesn’t want you here anymore, so talk while you’re walking.” She huffs indignantly and heads toward the entrance to the ballroom.

“You’re giving her more credit than I would,” I say to Mia, noting that she said she would talk to Lily later.

“I’m not giving her shit,” Mia says. “I just want her out with the least amount of drama possible. I never plan to see her again. We fell out because she was mad that I didn’t hook her up with Christian in the first place. She fell back in when she found out I was getting married. I should have known what she was really up to, that trifling skank.” Mia drops her head. “Now, I have no one to do my damn maid of honor toast.”

She stomps back towards the bride’s table and I feel totally responsible for this since I’m sort of the reason the tramp was kicked out of the reception.

“Mia!” I call after her. Mia stops midstride and turns to face me. “I’ll do it.” Her brow furrows, then her gaze softens.

“I can’t put you on the spot like that,” Mia says. “You already had to fill in for a vocalist who will never get another job again if I have anything to say about it!” she hisses. “Thank you for that, by the way. You guys were wonderful. You sounded better than the people we hired.”

So we were told.

“It’s no trouble, Mia,” I say softly, closing the space between us. “It’ll be something short and impromptu, but it’ll be sincere. Can you even imagine what Lily might’ve said if what you said about her is true?” Mia thinks for only a moment.

“Yeah, you’re right,” she says. “I have no idea what I would’ve have done without you today,” she says with a sigh. “I’ll let Skye know there’s a change in plans.” She smiles at me and heads to her wedding planner. I watch her walk away and roll my eyes. God, this day just keeps getting better and better.


CHRISTIAN

Well, once we rid ourselves of one Lily in heat, my wife then volunteered herself to do the maid of honor toast. I don’t know why they couldn’t just let the best man do his toast and call it a day, but far be it from me to piss on somebody’s wedding. My baby had an idea to fix what was broken, and that’s fine by me.

As it turns out, Mia had come looking for Lily because it was time for the toast, so my wife is whisked away to charm the guests once more.

“For those of you who have been living under a rock and have not seen the tragedy that is my life unfolding for the last two years, I am Anastasia Grey.”

A huge round of applause and laughter fill the room at Butterfly’s not-so-flattering self-introduction and she curtsies on the stage.

“Thank you, you’re too kind. As you know, Mia is my sister-in-law through my husband, Christian. And it appears that I’m going to be pulling double duty tonight as the maid of honor unfortunately had to leave. I’ll apologize in advance because I was not prepared for this, so I’m just shooting from the hip, so please bear with me.

“First, I will, of course, begin by thanking our wonderful waitstaff who kept the food coming and the drinks flowing, our band, our wedding party, the wedding planners, the staff and security of Paramount Theater and of course, of Grey Enterprises Holdings for stepping up in a pinch, and certainly and not least of all, Carrick, for the bottomless checkbook!”

Another rousing round of applause and laughter as Dad stands and takes a dramatic bow while Mom and Mia laugh hysterically.

“The first time I met Mia, it was just over two years ago,” Butterfly begins, as the laugher dies down. “We bonded over the French language and Jimmy Choos.” Mia smiles at her. “Her brother called her ‘Meelo’ and she called him ‘Cwis’ and I thought it was the cutest thing I had ever heard. It made me long for a sibling, but more so, it helped me see that true love could never be tarnished.

“Mia likes to play. She’s a fun-lover, but make no mistake. She’s loyal to the point of murder.” More laughter fills the room. “I wish I was kidding about that. I’ve seen this little kitten turn into a wildcat when it comes to the people that she loves. I’m just glad to be one of the people that she loves.” Butterfly turns to Mia, who is clearly fighting back tears.

“I remember the night of their engagement,” Butterfly says. “Mia was doubting Ethan’s feelings for her and Ethan had planned to propose all along. The entire family was there. Mia screamed and we came running into the house like it was on fire…”

More laughter.

“Even then, Ethan proved that nothing was more important to him than Mia’s happiness and everything that I’ve seen since then has shown me more and more of the same. So, ladies and gentlemen, raise your glasses to Ethan and Mia. We wish you all the love and happiness your hands and hearts can hold, and Ethan, she’s a real handful… and she’s all yours now!” There’s even more laughter as the theater raises their glasses and spouts various congratulations to my sister and her husband. Her speech was short and sweet and to the point. I’m sure whatever Lily had planned was going to be nothing like that.

My wife makes her way back to our table—and my arms—and I kiss her gently on the lips.

“You were eloquent and gracious as always, my love,” I tell her.

“Thank you, darling,” she says, sweetly. As I kiss my wife, the lights go down and there’s an announcement that the bride and groom will now have their first dance. A fog machine begins to fill the room with fog and an image of a night sky is projected over the floor and fog. It gives the room a blue, ethereal hue. A soft female voice begins to sing Mary Lambert’s version of “She Keeps Me Warm” and we see Rita Oro emerge onto the stage with the band as Mia and Ethan take their place on dancefloor and glide effortlessly through the fog.

I coax my beautiful wife from her seat and bring her to my lap, cuddling her in my arms and holding her close to me while pressing gentle kisses to her neck as we watch my sister and her new husband share their first dance. I think about our first dance in our castle and I’m filled with that same love all over again, that same newness I felt when she first became Mrs. Christian Grey.

“And I can’t change, even if it I tried…” I whisper in her ear, repeating the words to the song that I feel in my heart, that I couldn’t stop loving her no matter what happened in this life; that she would always mean the world to me and losing her would break me down to nothing. She melts in my arms and I feel so much love and warmth that I could just burst. She wraps her arms around my neck and snuggles into me, swaying with me in our seat as Mia and her husband—and now her wedding party—dance to Rita Oro’s serenade. I love her so much. I can’t see my life before or without her. Rita stops singing and I can’t seem to untangle myself from my wife.

“I won’t bother with the wisecracks. I’d be wasting my breath,” I hear Elliot’s voice.

“I think you would,” I retort. She uncurls herself from me and kisses me softly on the cheek.

“I love you,” she whispers.

“I love you more,” I reply.

“Not likely,” she says, and I smile.

“We’d be debating that one all night,” I say, stroking her cheek. she laughs, too.

“Yes, we would.” She strokes my hair. I kiss her on the cheek.

“Alright,” Mia says, breaking our lovefest, “enough of the sucky-kissy. Get on the floor and dance.”

“With. Pleasure,” I say, taking my wife’s hand and leading her to the dancefloor as yet another love song begins to play.

Dancing with my wife is one of my most favorite things to do—for several reasons. For one thing, I love to watch her move. It doesn’t matter if she’s gyrating that little body to a funky pop beat, or grinding to a sultry love song against me, I adore seeing her sway her hips back and forth and swirl those dainty hands in the air, and fling her hair to and fro. And when she touches me, when she pushes her hands up my chest under my jacket to the thump of some tribal beat, her when her fingertips caress my nape as I’m holding her close and we’re dancing to a slow song, I’m gazing in her eyes and seeing my future and every good thing that every has and could happen to me…

And one stupid fucker after another comes wandering up to me trying to get my attention. One after another, I ignore them until I just can’t take it anymore.

“Grey, how are you, man?” McFarley says, yet one more interruption while I’m trying to dance with Butterfly, and I continue to sway with my wife without acknowledging his presence.

“I say, Grey, how ya doin’ there?” He’s fucking not going to go away. Did he think I didn’t hear him? I’m looking at my wife like I’m starving and she’s lunch. Does he really think I prefer to look at him instead of her? I lift my gaze from my wife and turn my head to him.

“I’d be doing much better if you’d leave me the fuck alone,” I inform him. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m dancing with my wife. I’m not deaf, I’m ignoring you. Now, will you please take your rude ass to another part of the dancefloor and intrude on someone else’s space?”

I turn a fierce glare to him that silences him immediately and he almost scampers away from us. I turn my attention back to my wife.

“You know it’s just going to continue all night,” she says. “If they could have gotten away with interrupting you at dinner, they would have.” She gently strokes my nape to comfort me. I have to admit, it’s working.

“I know,” I reply, “and I know that I may end up talking business with someone before the night is over, but I choose that discussion. They’re not going to swarm in on me like I’m Don Corleone and this is Minnie’s wedding.” I tighten my arms around her waist and deliberately rest my hands on the top of that luscious ass. “And they certainly aren’t going to interrupt me while I’ve got this body in my arms.”

And I’m a man of my word. Dance after dance after dance I spend on the floor ignoring probably dozens of interruptions until my wife declares that her feet hurt and she can no longer trip the light fantastic. We walk gingerly back to our table and I put her feet in my lap. I remove those delicious sandals from those dainty little feet and begin to massage those dainty little toes. My poor wife is doing her best not to make sounds of ecstasy in the seat next to me, but she’s not doing a very good job. So, she just closes her eyes and lets the chips fall where they may. It’s a good thing Herman and Luma have taken the girls home, because these sounds are a bit obscene, and I can’t help the smile that creeps over my lips at the looks we’re getting from other people who aren’t dancing.

“I see you’re a little too big to fit under my porch.”

I look over my shoulder and see the kindly old face of the woman that used to leave me lemonade and cookies, that is, before I took up with the Pedophile.

“Aunt Tina,” I say, with fond affection. She laboriously bends and kisses me on the cheek. “I would stand, but…” I gesture to the feet of my nearly catatonic wife.

“Oh, don’t you dare,” she says, making her way to the chair next to me. “What I wouldn’t give to have Samuel around to massage my feet, God rest his soul. She’s a pretty little thing,” she says, gesturing to Butterfly.

“She’s my whole world,” I say, gazing at my wife, “her, and my children, that is,” I correct, looking back at my childhood confidante. “How are the kids? I know they’re not kids anymore.”

“Hardly,” she says. “Have kids of their own, and some of them have kids of their own,” she laughs. “It’s been a good life for me, Christian. These old bones are tired.” My brow furrows.

“Why are you talking like that, Aunt Tina?” I ask. “You’re not well?” She shakes her head.

“Doctors give me six months, maybe a year if I do chemo, but my body’s just too weak for it. Look at me, I can barely stand. My children want me to do the chemo, but what kind of quality of life would that be for me if I’m going anyway?” I sigh, my heart suddenly heavy.

“Oh, Tina,” I lament.

“Now, none of that!” she scolds gently. “I’m 91 years old. I’ve had a wonderful life. I couldn’t have asked for more. I have beautiful children and grandchildren and even some great-grandchildren. None of my babies died before me. Yes, my Samuel went home, but it was his time to go, and he had a good life, too. We built a home and a good life; he left me comfortable. We’re leaving our children and their children comfortable. I have no regrets, not one! So, don’t you be frettin’ me and feelin’ sorry for me and makin’ me feel sorry for myself, okay?” she scolds. Aunt Tina always had a way of putting me in my place. If I had continued to come to her porch more often, maybe I wouldn’t have fallen into the clutches of a child molester, but then there’s a string of what if’s in my life.

“So… are any of the kids back home with you right now?” She nods.

“Harmony came home,” she says. “She and her husband separated last year. Things just didn’t work out. She was on the fence about what she wanted to do anyway. She finished school and the divorce still isn’t final, yet, so there’s that. She’s doing some work-at-home thing so that she can be close in case I need her. She doesn’t need to work—she just wants to stay busy, I think.”

“What is her degree in?” I ask.

“She’s got a BS in social work.” I look over at Butterfly, who appears to have drifted off into a massage-induced nap. I reach into my jacket and pull out my phone. Swiping the screen, I open my contacts.

“Can you put her information in there?” I ask. “Helping Hands may be able to use her services, if she’s interested. I’ll pass her information onto my wife and mother and they can give her a call.” Tina smiles and takes my phone, enters Harmony’s information, and hands it back to me.

“Your commercial still runs sporadically,” Tina says, handing the phone back to me. I examine the information to familiarize myself with it before saving it. “She saw it once and mentioned that she’d like to get involved in something like that. She’ll be glad to know that you offered to have Ana and Grace give her a call.” Almost on cue, Mom and Dad return to the table.

“Tina, you look lovely,” Mom says, bending to kiss Aunt Tina on the cheek. “I’m so glad you could make it. How are you feeling, dear?”

“This is one of my better days,” Tina smiles. “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. I would have had Harmony roll me in her if I hadn’t been up to it,” she adds with a laugh.

“Where is Harmony?” Mom asks.

“She’s around,” Tina says, scanning the room for her daughter.

“Oh, she’s here,” I ask, in surprise. Mom looks at me, bemused. “Tina was telling me that Harmony has finished her bachelor studies in social work. I have her phone number and was going to pass it on to you or Butterfly to talk to her about possibly being of some use at Helping Hands.”

“Being of some use? Are you serious?” Butterfly is awake as if she’s been taking part in the entire conversation the whole time. “Who are we talking about? A bachelor’s degree in social work? Where?” She’s as bright as bunny like she wasn’t out cold just seconds earlier. I can’t help the laugh that escapes me.

“Butterfly, I don’t think you’ve formally met Tina Franklin. She’s a dear friend of the family.” Aunt Tina extends a shaky hand to my wife. Butterfly removes her feet from my lap and reaches the distance across me to ease Tina’s difficulty.

“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, dear,” Tina says.

“The pleasure in mine, Ms. Franklin,” Butterfly smiles.

“Tina, dear, please,” she says.

“You may remember that I told you I used to sneak under Tina’s porch and she would give me lemonade and cookies,” I say. No realization comes across Butterfly’s face.

“Did you tell me this before or after…?” She trails off. I take her hand.

“Before,” I say softly. She nods and smiles sadly at Tina.

“He’s probably told me the story,” she says. “Unfortunately, as you most likely already know, I had a terrible accident last year and I’ve lost a lot of my memories.”

“Don’t you worry your sweet little heart about it, dear,” Aunt Tina says. “We hold on to the important stuff.” She winks at Butterfly. “We were talking about my daughter, Harmony. She’s back home now to take care of me and may soon be looking for some way to put her degree to use. I’ve already given Christian her number in case you or Grace want to contact her…” My wife glances over at me.

“I asked for it,” I tell her, fearing that she may be having flashbacks of “the mothers and the daughters.”

“I didn’t say anything,” she says with a laugh. Tina chuckles.

“With a face and bod like that, I’d watch him like a hawk, too, dear,” Tina says impassively. Mom and Butterfly burst into laughter. Dad just shakes his head.

“I’m so glad that you two are having such fun at my expense.” My wife turns a scrutinizing eye to me, still laughing.

“I have one word for you,” she says, crossing her arms. “Lily.”

Point. Taken.

“Oh, that’s why she’s not here,” Dad says.

“Yeah, that’s why she’s not here,” Butterfly confirms.

“Lily,” Tina chuckles. “There’s a piece of work… and did I see Courtney here?”

“You… may have,” Butterfly says nervously.

“I thought Addie sent her home,” Tina says.

“She did,” Butterfly says. “Courtney decided to stay and make it on her own. She’s asked that I don’t inform her grandparents.”

“That may be a moot point if they bump into each other,” Tina points out. I look at Butterfly, who shrugs.

“I won’t engineer a meeting, but I’ve told her several times that I think she needs to talk to her grandparents,” Butterfly begins.

“As have I,” Mom chimes in. “She’s quite a different woman from who she was a year ago.”

“Yes,” Tina says, “anyone can see that just from looking at her.” Butterfly looks at her in amazement.

“You can?” Butterfly asks. Several surprised eyes turn to my wife. “Well, think about it. I’m with her all the time. I know there’s an emotional and a character change, but if there’s a physical change, it’s been gradual, so I wouldn’t notice it.”

Courtney

Courtney

“Well, there has,” Tina says. “I only observed her for a few minutes with her companion, but she carries herself much differently. She looks, behaves, and speaks like a lady. I’ve watched her for years and I’ve never seen this Courtney…” She turns to me. “… Just like I’ve never seen this Christian.” She looks at my wife. “You have an amazing effect on people, dear. My Harmony doesn’t need any fixing, but if you have this kind of effect on the people who do, I’d love for you to meet her.” Butterfly smiles shyly.

The Butterfly effect… I keep telling people just how powerful it is.

“Tell me, why doesn’t she want to talk to Addie and Fred? I won’t say anything—it’s not my place, but I’m just curious.”

“I’m not at liberty to say,” Butterfly responds. “When people talk to me, a lot of what they say falls under doctor/patient privilege. It’s hard for me to draw a line, so to be safe, I’m mum on all of it.”

“Well, there’s no privilege here,” Mom says. “I’ll still be discreet, though. I’d hate to betray her confidence. Short version, there was some very hurtful things said and Courtney thinks it’s just better to let sleeping dogs lie than to open old wounds.” Tina shakes her head.

“She couldn’t be more wrong,” she says. “Life is too short, too precious. You never know which day is going to be your last. She’s going to have to rectify this or she’s going to regret it for the rest of her life.”

“Hear, hear,” Mom says.

“I couldn’t agree more,” Butterfly says.

“There you are.” Our attention is drawn to an attractive, young brunette with a very short haircut who has made her way to our table. “I was talking to Greg and Lisa, and I turned around and you were gone.” Tina smiles an accommodating smile.

“And now I know how she felt when she was six years old,” Tina jests, eliciting a laugh from us. “This is may daughter, Harmony, everyone. Harmony, you remember Grace and Carrick…” Harmony extends her hand.

“Yes, I do. It’s good to see you again,” she says, greeting them both with handshakes and cheek kisses.

“And I don’t know if you met Christian,” Tina says. Harmony extends her hand to me.

“A little out of my age rank, but of course, I’ve heard of you. It’s nice to meet you, Christian,” she says, shaking my hand. She’s considerably younger than me, maybe early twenties at best, and already separated… that’s sad.

“Likewise,” I reply, politely.

“And this is his wife, Anastasia,” Tina completes the introductions.

“The other half of the famous AnaChris,” Harmony says, extending her hand. “You’re even more beautiful in person,” she adds sincerely.

“Brownie points for you!” Butterfly exclaims, accepting her hand while everyone chuckles. “We were just talking about you. Your mom informs us that you’ve recently completed your bachelors studies in social work.” Harmony throws a loving glance at her mother.

“Mom’s very proud of that,” she says, and I can imagine that Tina has probably mentioned it to anyone who will listen. “Yes, I just finished my studies in June. It was… difficult, but I got through.”

“So, what are your plans from here?” Butterfly asks.

“Well, I need my master’s before I can be licensed, so I start those classes next week. Luckily, since I’ve already secured my bachelors, I can complete my master’s in a year instead of two.”

“Tina says you’re working,” I ask. “You’re going to do them both?” And take care of your mother.

“No,” she admits. “I was only working to fill the time. An idle mind and all that,” she says, waving off the topic. Butterfly and Harmony are off on the topic at hand and I scan the room looking for Courtney. I admit that I can’t find her anywhere. Granted, the venue is huge, but I know what she looks like and I should be able to pick her out of the crowd. Tina puts her hand over mine on the table.

“Elena has been writing to me from prison,” she says. My chest immediately tightens at the mention of that woman’s name. “She’s talking about being reformed and such. She’s quite destitute.”

I don’t react. I don’t really want to know how Elena’s doing at all.

“She asks about you often,” Tina says. “I put together that years ago, you were one of her boys.” My eyes widen.

“You did?” I ask in horror. She nods.

“Yes,” she says. “I don’t blame you. Teenage boys think with their dicks. As a man though…” She trails off.

“I know,” I say, pushing my hands through my hair. “I know, Aunt Tina. I want you to know that as soon as I figured it out, I went on a mission to bring her down. I’m the reason she was caught. I found the boys that she was molesting.” Tina nods.

“I know, and I think she knows, too. She’s not certain, but you know that she never takes responsibility for anything that she does. I truly believe that she’s no threat up there in prison, and her letters are the rantings of a crazy woman, but I don’t know who else she’s writing to.”

I hear her warning loud and clear. Elena’s reach from prison is what caused Butterfly to be called before the licensing board on trumped-up charges of sexual misconduct. I may need to find out just who she’s been talking to in the weeks since our last visit.

“Thanks for the heads up, Aunt Tina,” I tell her.

“Anytime,” she says with a smile. “And now, I think it’s time my chaperone got me home. It’s getting to be past my bedtime. And if you get a chance, come on by and have some lemonade and some cookies for old times sake, okay? I’ve always got ‘em. And I’ll understand if you don’t, but always remember that Aunt Tina loves you… and I’m so proud of you.”

She leans forward and places a tender kiss on my cheek. I close my hand over hers.

“I’ll never forget you, Aunt Tina, and you’ll always have a place in my heart.” She cups my face and smiles. I help her out of her seat and Harmony is by her side in a moment.

“We’ll talk. You have my card,” Butterfly says.

“Sure thing,” Harmony nods. “Come on, Mom, let’s get you home.” I put my arm around my wife’s waist and watch Harmony lead Aunt Tina out of the theater, knowing that this may be the last time I see her.

“Why is it that the only time family and friends really come together is for events like this?” I ask. “Weddings and the like?” I never take my eyes off Tina’s retreating back.

“We get caught up in the mundane tasks of life,” Butterfly says after a pause. “We keep meaning to call someone, meaning to catch up with someone or go have lunch, drop by or say ‘hi…’ and then we get that call.” I turn my gaze to her. “That call that there’s bad news or the doctors don’t have any hope…”

I turn back to the exit and Aunt Tina and Harmony have left.

“… That there’s been an accident,” I say, my voice cracking, “or they need a kidney… or there’s cancer…” I feel my wife’s hand on my chest and I turn back to look at her, her beautiful blue eyes full of sympathy. I wrap my arms around her and bask in her love, so glad that I didn’t lose her last year when that crazy submissive T-boned her car.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the bride and groom to cut the cake!”

Good Lord, I thought they had already cut the cake. It’s late! Let’s just get this over and done.

So… now, I see that two of the huge things hiding in the corners behind these huge drapes are cakes—not just any cakes, the bride’s and groom’s cakes. Now, I’m one of the most ostentatious fuckers that ever lived. I am the epitome of go big or go home, but these cakes are the most extreme displays of largess and waste that I’ve ever seen in my life. Whoever created these monstrosities should be ashamed of the man-hours and materials invested in their manufacture with the level of starvation going on in the world right now. These two monstrosities are unveiled from the corners and the crowd rightfully gasps in amazement.

The cakes are on platforms that are rolled to the center of the floor in front of the stage on cranes. The cakes are nearly impossible to describe. Ethan’s WTF expression says it all.

Mia’s cake is a seven-layer intricate creation of flowers, columns, and tiers. The base of the cake is at least five to six feet in diameter and the first layer is quite possibly two feet thick. Each additional layer gets thinner until the top layer is about a foot thick—maybe the thickness of an average cake. All in all, the cake itself without the platform, is probably about ten feet tall, with realistic flowers and columns and bridges and balustrades and intricate details that are probably all edible. I don’t even know how they assembled the damn thing.

The groom’s cake is worse. It’s a castle—a fucking castle, complete with blue towers… several towers, something like twelve or fifteen of them! The castle is white with bricks and windows and doors and battlements and stairs and more flowers at a base that’s wider than Mia’s. Oh, and there are lights inside.

The cakes are so large that Mia and Ethan complete disappear behind them and must make their way around to the front of the bride’s cake in order to cut it. And what utensil is presented to them to cut the cake?

A sword… a fucking sword. Nothing else is long enough to reach the cake.

I shake my head in pure disgust. If every guest on Mia’s insane guest list took home a serving of cake equal to an entire normal cake, there would still more cake left over than anybody knew what to do with. There still must be enough filet mignon and duck confit prepared in the kitchen to feed a fucking army because I sure as hell didn’t order lobster until I got here, so there had to be enough food on hand to handle contingencies. This level of waste is abhorrent, and I have to find out what they’re going to do with the leftovers from this wedding.

“You don’t look happy at all,” my wife observes. I shake my head.

“Look at those cakes, Anastasia,” I say, my face hurting from frowning. “I spent the first four years of my life in squalor—starving, in agony—and somewhere, right now, in this city, there’s another child feeling that same pain and she’s got those.” I point in dismay at the ridiculous cakes. “I understand wanting the best—I really, really do, but this…” I gesture at the monstrous creations again. “There’s no explanation or excuse whatsoever for that.”

My brain immediately starts running through the calculations of what the pounds and pounds of flour it took to make those cakes could have done for the homeless—bread for sandwiches and pasta for entire meals. It’s probably a ridiculous concept right now, but with all the philanthropic causes that I support behind the scenes, this is exactly where my mind goes when I see something so utterly wasteful. Yes, I spend extravagant money on things for myself and my wife and children, but I am equally generous in my humanitarian endeavors, because they’re just that important to me.

“Maybe we should step outside,” my wife says, turning around in my arms, her expression serious, “or out in the lobby and take a picture or three—get away from this scene for a while.” I shake my head, more to shake off the figures of what I know those insane cakes costs and how that money could have been put to such better use.

“No, I’ll be fine. I’m fine,” I say, attempting to appear normal.

“No, Christian, you’re not,” my wife says firmly. I look down into her eyes and she stares at me. “You just called me Anastasia.

Shit, did I? I try to review my words in my head, but I can’t remember. I just… I can’t believe those fucking cakes. I look back at my sister and her husband and they’re beaming, laughing and feeding each other hunks of what had better be the most luscious and delicious cake ever made by human hands!

“I’m sorry, baby,” I say, running my hands through my hair, “I expected a three-ring circus, but as God is my witness, I didn’t expect this.”

“Don’t apologize,” she says, gently rubbing my chest. “Shots were fired for the goddamn wedding kiss, for fuck’s sake. When the minister said, ‘You may salute your bride,’ she was literally fucking saluted!” That makes me chuckle a bit, but did little to comfort my unease about the level of excess I’m witnessing tonight. I hold my wife close to me and sigh into her hair. I wonder how often shit like this was going on when I was hungry, hiding under the kitchen table or in the closet, praying that fucker wasn’t lighting another cigarette…?

“Bro, you okay? You look sick.” Elliot’s voice brings me back to the here and now, and I have to say that I’m glad it did. I had no idea I had slipped back into the squalor of the lost boy because of a fucking wedding cake.

“I’m fine,” I lie. I’m anything but fine. I have to find out what she’s doing with this leftover food. I will personally spend the night having this shit sent to a GEH facility for storage and distributed to the homeless and hungry tomorrow if I have to.

“He’s not, but there’s nothing that can be done about it, so don’t ask,” my wife says, her tone serious as she wraps her arms protectively around my waist and lays her head on my chest. It’s comforting, and it keeps the monsters away.

“That’s some cake, huh?” Elliot says, holding Val close to him.

“Yeah,” I sigh, “that’s some cake.” Elliot turns to look at me.

“She always was over-the-top, bro,” he says, and I hear the sympathy in his voice. “You couldn’t expect this to be any different.” I look over and meet his gaze.

“Yeah, I know.” I look back at the ridiculous cake and watch as it appears that they are setting up for some other performance or something in the middle of the room.

“It’s the food thing… isn’t it?” he asks. I look at him again and he doesn’t break his gaze. “You used to take food from the table and shove it in your pockets. You hid it in your room. You hid it in the treehouse. You hid it places and forgot about it. Mom would find it all the time. I didn’t know what was wrong with you, so I asked Mom. She told me that before you came to live with us, you didn’t have enough to eat, that you were often hungry, and that you were afraid that you were going to be hungry again. It explained why every single time at every single meal you ate every single thing on your plate. That’s why I always slipped you my Brussel sprouts when Mom wasn’t looking.”

I remember that.

“You never took more than you could eat; you never left anything behind; and you often got irritated with anybody who did. Even now, you still clean your plate. You don’t leave a morsel behind.”

I never knew my brother paid that close attention to me. I didn’t know that I still exercised those practices, either. I have serious issues with wasted food, but I try not to impose my issues on others, and I try not to be anal about them in my eating habits, but apparently…

“And now…” He gestures at the two obscenely large edifices that pose as cakes behind Mia and Ethan, and I’m just realizing that in our back-flashing of my food issues, we’ve missed the bouquet toss. No matter—I wouldn’t have been able to watch it with the lavish wasteful confections as a backdrop anyway.

“Well, that’s our cue, bro,” Elliot says. “The Caribbean is calling our names. If we wait any longer, we’re going to miss our flight.”

I almost forgot that he’s going to be leaving on his honeymoon as well tonight. All of our lives were put on hold when we got word that Pops didn’t have long left to live. I was planning to take my wife to Rome this summer for our first anniversary. That was a big no-go.

“You guys have a great time and a safe trip,” I tell him, shaking his hand.

“Tell her we stayed as long as we could, but it was either sneak out or crash the garter ritual.” He shrugs.

“I’ll tell her. Get going.” I pat him on the back in a bro-hug. Butterfly is hugging Valerie and wishing her a safe trip, making her promise to take lots of pictures. We send them off to say goodbye to Mom and Dad as we turn out attention back to floorshow of the girl who caught the bouquet and the guy who caught the garter. Apparently, I missed them both. How, I have no idea.

My wife attempts to comfort me throughout the minutiae of other things occurring in the next several minutes of the reception or so—bubbles appear from somewhere and there’s a dance line of some sort. I’m glad to see that those monstrous cakes are wacked up all to hell, but there’s still a whole lot of them left, and I do get to see those solid gold inscribed boxes Elliot referred to earlier. I’m waiting for an opportunity to get my sister alone, just a moment or two, and it’s like the girls on the sidewalk when I was a kid waiting for a chance to jump in on jump-rope. As soon as I get my chance though…

“Mia, a minute?” She examines me.

“I know that face, big brother. What did I do?’ Geez. I don’t want to scold her on her wedding day. How do I approach this? I suddenly feel like a kid about to ask his mother for a forbidden lollipop.

“I… um… if you don’t have prior arrangements… there’s… quite a few leftovers and… well… that’s a lot of cake, and…” I sigh. She chuckles.

“This is about the food thing, isn’t it?” she asks, and now I’m gape-mouthed.

“You know about the food thing?” I ask, amazed.

“Of course, I know about the food thing,” she says, obviously. “We all know about the food thing, Cwis, we love you.”

I’m standing here literally scratching my head. How did I not know they knew?
Because I never let them in.

Mia puts her hand on my arm.

“Did you think Mom didn’t know you were eating Elliot’s Brussel sprouts?” she asks, raising her eyebrows. I just shake my head and scratch my eyebrows.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what are you going to do with all the leftover food?” I ask. She smiles.

“Find a program,” she says. “Page ten, bottom left.” She kisses me on the cheek and walks away into a crowd of guests.

I nearly have to scour the entire theater to find a program that hasn’t been claimed by someone. I quickly flip to the back of the book and go to page ten and scan to the bottom left.

**Remaining food and confections from today’s festivities will be donated and distributed among the following charities:
Operation Nightwatch
Compass Housing Alliance
Pioneer Square’s Union Gospel Mission
St. Martin De Porres
Mary’s Place
Sacred Heart Shelter
Helping Hands…

The list is so long that I don’t have time to read all the names. I fall into a large seat nearby, a huge weight having been lifted off my shoulders. I felt like it was my responsibility and mine alone to be sure this food didn’t go to waste. It’s. So. Much. Food. And somebody somewhere is painfully hungry like that little boy under the kitchen table while all this food is sitting here going God only knows where.

But it’s not going God only knows where. She’s going to make sure that it goes to someone who needs it. It won’t go to waste.

I breathe.
I breathe again.
I feel light.
I feel so much better.
Thank you, Mia.
Good God, thank you.


A/N: Christian references Don Corleone because in movie The Godfather, the Don is required to receive anyone who requests an audience on the day of his daughter’s wedding.

Part II of the wedding is complete. On to part III! 

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

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

 ~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 35—Grey Festivities!

So… Ethan. I should tell you guys that unless you come at Ethan directly with something—like his bachelor party or like his father when he was trying to use Ethan to spy on the Greys—or you come at his “Kitten” directly, he’s pretty much a standoffish kind of guy. I’m thinking that his overall lack of action up to this point may have painted him in a bad light. I’m saying that because I see more than a few people throwing verbal daggers at him (I’m not angry, I find this kind of funny) and I haven’t even developed the character yet.

So, I’m sitting here like, “Oh, dear God, what have I done?”

Somewhere down the line, I’ll have to try to develop him as I see him, because I’ve left his character kind of open for interpretation and the interpretations are like, “Yikes!” LOL.

He’s not a bad guy, folks. I’ve just left that door a little too open. 😉

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 35—Grey Festivities

ANASTASIA

What the hell. He’s here? But he’s not spying on me? Don’t flip out, Ana. Don’t make a scene. Just go see what this is about.

“Val, I need you, hon,” I say, sliding back out of the booth. Val’s brow furrows.

“Is everything okay?” she asks concerned. I don’t want to draw any attention to us.

“Yeah, everything’s cool,” I say, flippantly, taking her hand. “I just need you for a sec.” She reluctantly follows me out of the club and into the wide hallway of the hotel. I take two steps away from the door and hear,

“Jesus Christ, Angel, are you trying to give me a heart attack in that dress?”

We both turn to the sound of the voice and see Elliot standing against the wall across the hall.

“El!” Val says. “What are you doing here?” Good question.

“Ethan’s party is at the Four Seasons. Lover Boy over there could see the party bus from the penthouse balcony and just had to see if it was the party bus.” Just as I’m about to look over there, I feel two strong arms slide softly around my waist.

“I’m sorry,” he purrs in my ear. “I shouldn’t have come.”

Every tiny bit of ire that was in me just melts away in an instant.

Lover Boy, huh?” I say, turning around to the puppy-dog look in my husband’s beautiful gray eyes.

“I’d much rather be with you than with this gaggle of drunken fools drooling all over themselves and…” he trails off.

“And…” I coax.

“That’s why we were on the balcony,” he says. “Live entertainment.” I open my mouth.

“Aahh, okay,” I say. I slide my arms around his neck. “You know I can’t stay.”

“I know,” he says, brushing his lips against my cheek. “I wish I hadn’t seen you in this dress. You look delectable.”

“Is that why you left from Grey House?” I ask. He nods.

“I didn’t want you to feel uncomfortable getting dressed. You look so good and I know that other men look at you.” There’s no use in trying to dispel that. I know that other men look at me, too.

“Other women look at you, Mr. Grey,” I protest softly. “You should hear these poor girls in here talking about you—’the one that got away.’ They’re a sorrowful bunch.” His eyes widen and his mouth falls open.

“They’re talking to you about that?” he asks in amazement and I nod.

“One of them has been watching you since puberty,” I inform him. “She’s probably got pictures of you in her hope chest. You’d be surprised how far a little liquor will go in loosening up some normally tight-assed bitches… and they like to use that word a lot. It’s a term of endearment, did you know that? They call each other all types of degrading things—hoes and cunts and whores and bitches and…”

His mouth is on mine in an instant, silencing and devouring me, his lips massaging mine, his tongue lapping into my mouth until I feel my pussy getting wet and my clit start to throb. I melt as he captures me by my nape, and I groan into his mouth. His body hardens against mine and I completely give in to him. He rewards me with a groan of his own and I have to fight to keep from climbing him right here in the hallway of this hotel.

“Do you know what you do to me?” he breathes against my lips. “Do you have any idea? God, you make me mindless.” His arms tighten around me as he pulls me closer to him. “You were so cute on the floor dancing with Val. I was going to leave after I saw you, saw that you were having a good time and I felt a little guilty, because I didn’t want you to think I was spying on you. I just wanted to see you…”

I know he’s telling the truth.

“When you were singing that song, I knew you were singing it to me. I knew that every word was for me. I felt it in every cell of my body and I wanted to run in there and fall at your feet. I was still trying to convince myself to leave when you started to sing the second song, only… you weren’t singing that song to me. I was singing that song to you.”

What was the second song? Oh, yeah… “I Have Nothing.”

I feel a tightening in my chest and I almost want to cry. He’s so sweet, I could just die.

“When you finished, I just stood against the wall and kept willing myself to leave, but I couldn’t move. I knew I couldn’t leave without seeing you. I’m sorry…”

I stand on my toes, grab the nape of his head and pull him down to me, pressing my lips hard against his. He groans against my lips and wraps his arms tight around me, pulling me close to him and infusing me with love and heat and passion. When we finally break our kiss, there’s need and longing in his eyes.

“I love you so much, Christian,” I whimper, my voice so heavy with emotion that I don’t even recognize it.

“I adore you, Butterfly,” he whispers, his voice gravelly and betraying his slipping control. We could probably drop and do each other right here on the posh carpeting but for the fact that someone would see us. I thrust my hand into his hair and my tongue back into his mouth, wanting to climb him and ravish him so badly while his hands wander wildly all over my body. My temperature is rising quickly and I’m feeling heat in all the right places…

“I knew it! I just knew it!”

I rip my lips from Christian’s and gasp, startled at the proximity of Mia’s voice. Dammit, Mia!

“Hi, Meelo,” Christian says coyly.

“Don’t Hi Meelo me,” she snaps. “I knew you guys were going to sneak out for some suck-face time. It’s so damn typical, as if you don’t live together. And where’s Val? She’s supposed to be counting holes.”

“She’s right there and nobody’s doing holes!” I exclaim pointing behind me.

“Doing holes?” Christian says bemused.

“Pub Golf,” I say, not realizing that I just made a big mistake in front of my very protective husband, but before he has the chance to berate me, Lily scoffs.

Valerie is the secret scorekeeper?” she says with that same horrible expression she wears all the time. “With her best friend playing?” she adds in an accusatory tone. I turn in Christian’s arm to face the group, who have all come out of the bar now.

“I’m not playing,” I announce. “Val let it slip that she was the secret scorekeeper and that I was losing. I told her I wasn’t playing. I can’t keep up. I’m having drinks with you guys, but no Pub Golf for me. I won’t know my name by morning!” I’m still slightly drunk as we speak!

“See… I’m drunk, not crazy!” Monica announces, pointing a tell-tale finger at me. “I knew you were a couple o’ shots short!” She can barely get the words out of her mouth as she laughs at my supposed calamity. “We’re still gonna get you liquored. We’ve got three more holes!” Oh, hell.

“Looks like you’ve made some friends,” Christian says in my ear.

“Just for tonight,” I reply, so that only he can hear me.

“So, where the hell is Val?” Mia says impatiently, trying not to slur her words. “We don’t have much time left to get these last three holes in!” I sigh.

“She’s right the…” I look over to where she and Elliot were when I last saw them, and the spot is empty. “Okay, they were there.”

“Oh, great,” Mia says, throwing her hands in the air. “You sneak away for suck-face-time and she crawls away for a 10-minute quickie. Just stick around, girls. She’ll be out any second now with JBF hair…”

The words are no sooner out of her mouth when around the corner comes a very disheveled Elliot and Valerie. Val is unsuccessfully trying to smooth the JBF hair that Mia rightfully said she’d be sporting while Elliot, who is now wearing most of Val’s lipstick, didn’t even bother trying to straighten his hair. He looks like cats have been playing on his head and his zipper is undone.

“See? See?” Mia says, pointing to exhibits A and B. I stifle a laugh.

“Dude, your fly!” Christian says. Elliot pauses, looks down at his pants, and closes his zipper.

“What was your rush?” Mia scolds. “It’s not like everybody didn’t know what you were doing. You could’ve taken a moment to make yourselves presentable.”

“Yeah, scorekeeper,” Lily snarls. Geez, is she always that ugly? Even a hot dress and make-up doesn’t help that grimace. Val glares at me.

“Nice going, Steele,” she accuses. I point to Mia.

“I didn’t out you, she did,” I defend. “Then Lily tried to out me, but I announced that I wasn’t playing, so…” I trail off and shrug without looking at Lily, who I know is turning her snarling grimace on me.

Christian says that Lily looks like a gargoyle in Chapter 34 RG“Jesus!” Christian says. I raise my gaze to him and he’s turning away. “That woman looks like a goddamn gargoyle!”

I can’t even stifle my laughter on that one.

“Sorry, sis,” Elliot apologizes. “It was the dress.” Mia grunt.

“Ugh! To the bus, bitches!” she says, a bit perturbed and begins to lead the way, then she stops and turns to face us. “Bitches… not horndogs!” she says to her brothers, before proceeding to the front door.

“It looks like we’ve pissed off your sister,” I say to my husband.

“She’ll get over it by the eighth hole.” He takes my chin and turns my face to his, placing such a soft and succulent kiss on my lips that I have to put my hand on my chest to steady myself.

“Go, have a good time. Make my sister forget I crashed her party.” He kisses me on the nose. “I love you.”

“I love you, too…”

“Are you guys that touchy-feely all the time?” one of the girls asks when we get back to the bus. I don’t bother trying to remember everyone’s name. I won’t see most of them after tomorrow.

“Every waking fucking moment,” Mia chimes in before I can answer.

“Of every damn day,” Val adds. I gasp.

“Says the girl who got a nooner at midnight in the hotel bathroom!” I retort, appalled. The bus breaks into loud laughter, including Mia.

“You heard him,” she defends. “It was the dress.”

“He must really love that dress. It was the only thing intact when you came out the bathroom!” I shoot. More laughter. Val is trying to comeback and she’s usually pretty good with it… except when I’m drunk. When I’m liquored, they’re just lined up waiting, like darts, and anybody’s a target.

“Well, at least, I wasn’t necking in the hallway! You guys didn’t even see us leave!”

“Yeah, we would have snuck away to the bathroom, but it was already taken!” A couple of the girls are on the floor now. Even though the jokes by themselves aren’t that funny, the continued reference back to the bathroom is just enough to keep a bunch of drunk women laughing. Even poor Mia can’t hold it together. I don’t even know if Val and Elliot actual went to the bathroom, but she must have because she’s not saying anything to dispel it.

“Steele, you’re a real piece a shit, you know that?” Val laughs.

“Yeah, and I still couldn’t get to the bathroom…”

*-*

With time ticking away even before suck-face-time and the midnight nooner, there would not be enough time to get three holes in before “last call.” So, we go to one more bar, content to do two holes on the party bus, and the girls don’t let me out of the last three holes. So, hole seven is done on the bus. Hole eight is done in the last bar we go to—with the rowdy “fooooooooouuuuuurrrrr” announcement that a bunch of drunk women are playing Pub Golf. I always thought you yelled “four” before barfing. We never found out. Nobody barfed, not even me and not even after doing the ninth hole on the party bus.

I don’t remember getting home, though.

I remember swirls and swirls of alcohol… three shots in under an hour and quite possible more, I’m not sure.

Then I remember music and pretty, pretty lights.

Then I remember Mia crying and thanking me and telling me and Val how much she loved us and what a great time she had. I think Val and I are crying, too… or at least I am…

Then I remember… the Audi, I think… and nothing after that.

Now, I’m kind of floating in the arms of this fire-haired god I can’t quite see…

“No,” I protest weakly. “I’m married…” The god chuckles softly.

“I know,” he says. “To me.” I force one eye open.

“Christian?” I squeak, still unable to focus.

“Ssshhhh,” he says softly while carrying me to our room. “Come, you inebriated goddess. Let’s get you to bed. You need rest…”

*-*

I’d say it was somewhere around noon when I finally opened my eyes, and only because I was forced to do so against my will.

“If you want any hope of possibly getting to Mia’s wedding, you need to get up now.”

My husband’s voice gently rouses me from sleep and I want to hit him in the head with a sledgehammer! I want to sleep! Until next June! Dammit!

“Mia’s probably not going to make it to her own damn wedding,” I grumble, remembering just how toasted she was… while I was still coherent, that is.

“Oh, contraire, my love,” he informs me. “My baby sister called three hours ago to tell me to make sure those ‘cows are out of bed and at my wedding at three,’ her words exactly. I don’t know what secret elixir she has coursing through her veins, but she was as bright as a bunny.”

“She and the bridal party had some kind of detox treatment at Miana’s,” I groan.

“That’s a good idea,” he suggests.

“I’m not going to Miana’s,” I grumble without raising my head. He twists his lips.

“Whatever treatments Mia had for the ladies, we can have here in an hour.” I raise my head slightly.

“Make it happen.”

*-*

This is one of those days when it really pays to be rich.

I don’t feel the slightest bit of guilt as hot towels, massaging hands, fresh vegetable trays, vitamin-B-infused shakes, and plenty of water slowly begin to bring the life back into my alcohol-ravaged body. No, I’m not setting a good example for Sophie, who has joined me in the lower-level spa, but at this point in time, it doesn’t matter. I need help.

“How is Operation She’s All That?” I ask as I begin to get my wits about me.

“It’s okay,” she says. “It was a pretty good idea. I’m not so scared to approach people and I can spot the phonies from the real ones in the first few minutes.” I nod.

“Very good,” I say. “And what about that other situation?” She frowns, bemused. “The guy?” She drops her head.

“Still pretty much the same,” she says. “I haven’t thought about it much until today.”

I bet I can guess why.

“Why today?” I ask, hoping I can get her to open up. She looks at me like a cornered rat for a moment. Then, she drops her head and sighs. Just when she’s about to open her mouth…

“Time for fresh towels, Mrs. Grey!” One of the girls from Miana’s pipes in loudly, bringing a fresh set of steaming towels into the spa. I don’t know whether to hug her or slap her as I need fresh towels for my detox, but one look at Sophie, and I can tell that the moment is lost. I just roll my eyes.

“Thank you,” I say as she removes the lukewarm towels, wipes my skin down, and replaces them with hot ones. I have to admit that I can feel the toxins leaving my pores and I can’t be too upset. I turn back to Sophie and change the subject.

“In moderation, a drink every now and then is a good thing,” I tell her. “It helps adults to loosen up after a long day or to celebrate the moments of their lives. It can even be medicinal. But in excess, everything is a bonehead move, and drinking is no different.” I put my hand on my head.

“I don’t get the idea of bachelor parties,” Sophie says. “Why get drunk the night before the wedding? You have to stand up at the wedding. You’re sick and hung over in a church. That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Grown-ups are stupid,” I groan. “I didn’t even drink as much as some of those women. I wonder how they even got out of bed this morning!”

“You were watching what they were drinking?” she asks.

“We played Pub Golf,” I confess. “They had drinks at every bar we went to. I skipped some!”

“Steele!” Val bellows and I realize that my headache isn’t quite gone yet.

“Oh, fuck!” I hiss quietly.

“Ana!” Sophie scolds. I open one eye.

“Oh, fudge,” I say begrudgingly.

“There you are,” Val says appearing in the doorway of the spa. “You didn’t have to tell me we were having spa day.”

“We’re not,” I tell her. “I’m detoxing and you weren’t drunk.” She put her hands on her hips.

“How many drinks did you have, Sophie?” Val accuses.

“She wouldn’t judge me,” I throw in. Sophie giggles and Val just shakes her head.

“Now, I don’t feel so bad about showing you this,” she says, scrolling through her tablet and thrusting it in my face. There’s a link that says Headline—And she sings, too.” I click the link to see a recording of myself singing All The Man That I Need. I sit up straight on the table.

“Oh, shit!” I say, looking at the video. It has clearly been taken with someone’s cell phone. I thought we had gotten away with it last night. Nobody said anything. Nobody let on that they knew who I was, but somebody got me on camera.

“You guys did karaoke?” Sophie says, looking over my shoulder. “I didn’t know you could sing.”

“Dammit!” I hiss. “We’ve got a primetime interview coming up! Christian’s going to shit bricks.”

“No, he’s not,” Val says. “He’s already seen it.” I raise bemused eyes to her.

“Excuse me?”

“He’s already seen it.” She shrugs.

“What did he say?”

“Nothing. He just laughed and said he saw it live.”

“Did he think this was your recording or did he know this was online?” I press.

“He knows it’s online,” she replies. “You’re singing karaoke, Steele, you’re not stripping.”

“You’re very good,” Sophie says. “Is there anything you can’t do?”

“Apparently, stay out of the press,” I say, lying back down on the table.


CHRISTIAN

No tie.

I don’t even want to go to this damn thing and if I could get out of it, I would. However, it’s my baby sister’s wedding and I do want to be there for her. I’m going to forego the tie, though. I’m going to be comfortable and I’m going to hope for the best, that she was able to curtail most of the over-the-top things that Mom put in place and that this is going to be a classy affair and not the three-ring circus that I fear it will be.

One can always hope.

A caravan of Audis will be leaving from the Crossing since everyone going to the wedding will be leaving at different times. The twins are too young to sit still through a wedding and reception, so they will be staying behind, but Sophie will come to the wedding with Butterfly and me. Valerie and Elliot will be on a plane very soon after Mia and Ethan cut the cake, and I’m going to be trying to leave before the bride and groom even get out of the reception hall if I can.

I thought I’d be waiting forever, but I’m very happy to see my wife and my honorary niece come around the columns from the formal dining room, dressed and ready for the wedding. Sophie is wearing a skater dress with an embroidered top and a flare, teal skirt with modest heels while my wife is wearing a sultry forest green bodycon dress with a plunging v-neckline and an overlapping v-split that shows just enough of a flirty thigh to make me hungry, attached to nude sandals that wrap around her ankles giving the image of mile long legs… again.

Down, Grey. Sophie’s with her.

“Ladies, you look lovely,” I say, trying to behave myself and wanting to tell my wife that I’m going to have my hand in that split all fucking night.

“Thanks, Uncle Christian.” Uncle Christian. When did that happen? Hmmm. Oh, well. I did call her my honorary niece. I guess it’s not too weird to be Uncle Christian. I step between them and present an elbow to each of them.

“Shall we?”

My ladies smile and each take an arm as I escort them to their chariot.

*-*

Getting to the door of the Paramount Theater is impossible. The streets are blocked and you can’t get past the Paparazzi to get to the cleared portion of the road to get where you’re supposed to enter. At this rate, Mia won’t have any guests at her wedding.

“This is ridiculous,” Butterfly says. “They can’t block the only entrance to the only street that we can get through.”

“They can and they have,” I tell her. Mia’s wedding is set to start in about an hour and all of her guest are outside on the perimeter. I’m thinking fast. They’re not playing fair and now, neither am I.

“Jason, I need every member of GEH security out here in twenty minutes.” His eyes grow large.

“Every member?” he says.

“Everybody you can get here in twenty minutes.” Jason makes one call and I get a little perturbed at first, but I realize that he must know what he’s doing. In ten minutes, black suits begin to surround my car. Jason gets out and I see my wife and Sophie getting a little nervous. Five minutes later, my phone rings. It’s Jason.

“Yes?”

“I’ve got 35 and more on the way.” Well, damn. I end the call and get out of the car. When I look back, there is a sea of black suits behind me. Fucking hell. They’re my men and I’m intimidated.

“Who has cameras?” I ask. Starting from the front, they each start raising their hands moving all the way to the back.

“Start recording and follow me.” I say and make my way to the front line where the Paps are blocking the cars from getting through.

“Jason, either you go or send somebody back to the car with my wife,” I say. He nods and gets on the phone.

“Chuck’s back in the car,” he says. I nod.

“Bring three and come with me.”

Jason, three other guards and I walk into the very front of the crowd of Paps while pictures flash and cameras are rolling from both sides.

“Once again, my security has cameras trained on this event and the fact that you are blocking private property and my sister’s guests cannot get to her wedding. That’s a problem that I and the fifty plus and counting trained men behind me can rectify and I am willing to fight lawsuits to do so. Are you willing to risk injuries, broken bones, disfigurement, and destroyed equipment to stop me?”

These bravado motherfuckers don’t think I’m serious, so I give a signal for security to move in and start pushing these fuckers back. Now, I realize that there’s a lot of money in getting the right shot for the Paparazzi, but I can’t help but wonder what goes through one’s mind when they see a wall of about 50 black suits coming at them—thick and big enough to block out the sun and not one of them is less that 1.9 meters tall. Yeah, needless to say, these “they-better-not-touch-me” assholes started backing the fuck up. Several members of my security staff had to form walls from one road block to the parking lot and valets just so that cars could get through while other members just had to direct traffic. I swear to God, I had no idea that people could be this disrespectful and inconsiderate. Some of the vendors couldn’t even get in… which may have been a blessing in disguise.

I’m outside for a full half hour just waiting to see if most of the guests are at least going to be able to get inside the venue. When I see that things are moving as smoothly as they can without my assistance, I go in search of my wife.

As expected, the marquee outside announces the wedding of Mia Grey and Ethan Kavanaugh. Come one, come all—big, extravagant, over-the-top, crazy event happening here! No wonder the Paparazzi had the only opening to the venue locked up tight!

When I enter the lobby, it almost looks like the staging area for the Oscars, minus the giant gold statues—opulent seating areas and wall dressings, the crème de la crème dressed in their designer best mulling about and conversing in clusters. Pictures are being taken everywhere! There are booths set up for what appear to be souvenir shots and what look like publicity photographers. I almost expect Jimmy Kimmel or Billy Crystal to pop out any second, or someone from E! asking everyone “Who are you wearing?”

Mia has employed her own security for the event and they’re everywhere as well. I wonder why these assholes weren’t outside helping the guest get inside? Fucking amateurs.

The lobby doors open to the huge main venue and when I get inside of the theater, I swear I’ve walked into another dimension. The walls are completely carpeted with flowers and the theater chairs have been removed, transforming the entire main floor into an ethereal garden-like ballroom. The space is reception ready, decked out in Mia’s colors of wine and slate gray, with strategic uses of shades of white to offset the darker colors. A wine-colored, red-carpet aisle stretches down the middle of the room where the wedding party and guests can enter, leading to a dramatic yet elegant arch in the front of the theater, where the wedding will take place. The stage is set for a band and entertainment, and there are several large movie screens high on the walls, currently displaying slideshows of Mia and Ethan at different stages of their relationship.

Mia and Ethan

Ethan and Mia

The décor is still a bit over the top. There are luxury media stations situated all over the place. Uncertain of their intended purpose, I investigate and discover that they have many functions including but not limited to menu selection, printing pictures, and finding your seat—which is how I find my wife. After locating my place in this huge mass of craziness, I weave through the crowd taking in the splendor—for lack of a better word—of everything I couldn’t possibly describe in a million years.

There’s a large tree in the middle of the room just off to the side of the aisle, draped with thousands of crystals and ribbons.

I feel sorry for anyone with allergies, because between the crazy centerpieces adorning the tables and hanging from the ceiling in some cases, not to mention the floral-carpeted walls, I won’t even begin to guess how many flowers are in this room.

I could be crazy, but I’m probably not… but I think I see small cannons in the floor. Why there would be cannons in the floor, I have no idea. They can’t shoot off fireworks indoors, though I wouldn’t put it past Mia, or Mom during her moments of “looney.”

I’m counting at least four displays hidden behind curtains that will, no doubt, be revealed later. I can only imagine what awaits us behind these swags.

The bridal table is nowhere to be found, and these four displays are way to small to conceal something like that. That big reveal has me frightened.

Mulling around among the guests are waitstaff in costumes. One of them is obviously Marilyn Monroe. Another could be Michael Jackson, but I’m not entirely sure. A third might be… Morticia Addams?

What theme is this?

  I won’t even begin to figure out the oddly placed floating votive candles with colored pearls or beads in the water.

I finally spot my wife pondering the surroundings with Sophie, Luma, Mariah, and Celida.

“I wonder where the pink flamingos were supposed to fit in all of this,” I say when I take my seat next to my wife. She scans her eyes around the room and shakes her head.

“I have no idea,” she admits. “Were they supposed to be in a pen somewhere or roam freely among the guests? And belly dancers?” she questions. “Where in the hell would belly dancers fit in this situation? Why?” She shrugs.

“Remember, she wasn’t herself,” Luma reminds us. “And this isn’t all of it. Mia stopped a lot of it.”

“Have you seen this?” Elliot and Valerie join us at the table with magazines in their hands. When they hand one to me, I realize that it’s not a magazine. It’s Mia and Ethan’s wedding program. It just looks like a magazine, glossy cover and all.

“Are your serious?” Butterfly says, taking the book from Valerie’s hand and beginning to thumb through it. “Wow, I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s like the 25th anniversary edition of People Magazine.”

“No kidding,” I say, thumbing through what appear to be advertisements, yet another history of Mia and Ethan’s life, more instructions on the stuff you can get from the media centers, and a play-by-play of the evening beginning with “guests enter” and ending with “reception ends.” I’m at a total loss for words.

“This is way over the top,” Elliot says. “This is the toned-down version of the reception? I got a sneak peak of the wedding favors. Do you know what the hell they are?” I frown.

“What?”

“Inscribed, gold boxes. I don’t know what’s in them.” My eyes widen.

Real gold?” I ask. He nods.

“Real gold. Party favors, man. Dad’s going to be paying for this shit until he’s dead.” I shake my head. I’m going to ask my father if he needs some help footing this bill. There’s no way he can pay for all this shit. I know my dad is loaded, but this is crazy even for me.

“I know what you’re thinking, man,” Elliot interrupts my thoughts. “He’s not going to accept it.”

“This is ridiculous,” I tell my brother. “There’s no fucking way he can foot all this. He’s probably hocked up to his fucking eyeballs. I’m going to find out.”

“Well, good luck with that, because here they come.”

I look over my shoulder and spot my mother first, a vision in a stunning wine gown that I know had to be custom made for this event. Elliot and I stand to greet our mother.

“Mom,” I say, taking her hands and kissing her cheek, “you look breathtaking.”

“Thank you, Christian,” she says, her smile bright and sincere. Elliot leans in and kisses her.

“You really look beautiful, Mom,” he says.

“Thank you, son. I don’t know what to do with all these compliments,” she gushes. Dad pulls her chair out and she takes her seat.

“They’re right. You’re gorgeous,” Butterfly says. “I feel a bit underdressed.”

“Nonsense,” Mom waves her off. “You look adorable. It’s perfect. I’m the mother of the bride. I’m supposed to look like the opening act.” She and Butterfly laugh lightheartedly. “Really, though, I had it made during that time, so…” She trails off and waves her hand flippantly when she says “that time” in an attempt to explain the extravagance of the dress.

“Well, you look absolutely stunning,” Valerie says, “and I’ll try not to look like a troll in your presence.”

“You kids,” Mom laughs. “Thank you all very much.” She looks around the room. “Mia did a good job toning things down, but there’s still quite a bit going on.”

Yikes, she admits it! So, I’m not crazy.

“It’ll be fine, dear,” Dad says, taking Mom’s hand. We all engage in conversation about the venue and wild decorations when a frantic little woman comes skittering up to my mother.

“I’m sorry I don’t mean to bring you problems right now but we’ve got a problem,” she says all in one breath while frantically clapping the tips of her fingers together repeatedly.

“The wedding is beginning in fifteen minutes. We can’t have a problem!” Mom snaps at her. It only takes a moment to figure out that this is the wedding planner.

“Well, we do! The soloist for the march song isn’t here!” Mom turns in her seat.

“What do you mean she’s not here?” Mom squeaks. Dad takes her hand again.

“She couldn’t get past the blockade, so she left!” Mom’s eyes widen.

“She’s been paid!” Mom shoots. “All these people could get past the blockade and she couldn’t? Where the hell is she?” Mom’s getting pissed.

“On a plane back to California!” the planner says. “I’ve called in every favor I can. I can’t find a replacement on this short notice.”

“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Mom hisses. “Can’t the guy sing the song by himself?” The planner sighs.

“I’m sure he could, but it won’t have the same effect,” she says, her voice defeated. “Mia wanted the image of her and Ethan singing to each other.”

“I am going to ruin this woman,” Mom growls under her voice. The planner looks panicked again, then her eyes fall on Butterfly.

“You!” She points at my wife. “I saw you on the internet! You can sing!”

“What?” my wife exclaims. “Me?”

“Yes, you! I saw you! I heard you! Do you know ‘To Have and To Hold?’” Butterfly is stunned.

“Well… yeah, but, that was karaoke! I can’t sing professionally!” she protests.

“You’ll have to do! Come with me! You’ve got fifteen minutes to practice.” Butterfly is terrified.

“I can’t!” she squeals her protest. “Mia will hate me forever if I destroy her song.”

“Mia will die a thousand deaths if she doesn’t get her song!” the planner exclaims. My mother looks at Butterfly and clasps her hands together, begging.

“Please please please please please please please…” That’s it. Umgawa… come, wife. I stand up and take my wife’s hand.

“Come on, baby, you can do it,” I say, not giving her any more opportunity to protest. We don’t have any time to waste. “You sounded like an angel last night and I’m not just saying that because I love you. Pretend like you’re singing to me.” I pull her along behind me as we follow the wedding planner and I hear her sighing behind me. We get backstage to where the band is and she makes quick introductions of the band, the male singer, and my wife… not me.

Hmpf.

The singer smiles widely and comes over to my wife, closing his hand over hers and telling her not to be nervous. The band runs through the instrumental of the song and the male vocals so that Butterfly can hear where she’s supposed to come in. I know this song pretty well. It’s by Christian Baustista. It’s one of the songs I thought about for our wedding. The words are pretty, I just thought they were too generic. I remember them, though.

Partner, companion, lover and friend
Keeper of all things I hold dear
I see you before me and my heart is filled with joy
For everything that has brought me here
And I have tomorrow to look forward to
For God has given me you…

And suddenly, I’m not real comfortable with the way this fucker is looking at my wife singing these words.

“You sing that better than Madge,” he says to my wife in a tone that I really don’t like.

“Thank you,” she says, and she glances at me. I can tell that she’s uncomfortable.

“You sound good, but you look like you’re gonna fall off the stage,” the planner comments. “You need to loosen up.”

“Maybe if I hold your hand,” the guy suggests, and reaches for my wife. That’s it. I walk towards my wife and her eye is on me the moment I move in her direction. She looks as if she almost wants to leap off the stage. I can see it in her eyes, but I’m on her before she can move.

“Give me the mic.” I hold my hand out to the guy and he doesn’t move. I turn a menacing look to him.

“You want her to loosen up, give me the mic, Skippy.” He begrudgingly hands me the mic and I turn to the band.

“Hit it.” They begin the soft lilting chords of the song and I look into my wife’s eyes as she starts to sing…

“This very moment right here and now begins the journey of my dreams…”

She relaxes into the song and the word come easily and smoothly. She sounds like the angel at karaoke that sang that Whitney Houston song last night. When Skippy’s part comes, I don’t give him the chance to intercede. I just start singing…

“Partner, companion, lover and friend, keeper of all things I hold dear…”

I know how I sound. I don’t sing often, but you can’t play a musical instrument without being able to hold a tune.

Our voices together sound celestial and when we harmonize, it’s like we’ve been practicing for years. Our chemistry is hot enough to burn the damn room down. When we’ve finished, the room falls silent and no one can speak.

“You two,” the planner says, breaking the silence. “Get out there. You’re singing that song.” I turn to my wife, who’s now smiling coyly at me.

“We’re up,” I say softly, rubbing my nose on hers.

“Wait a minute,” Songboy protests. “I’m the vocalist here. I can still do my job.”

“Yeah, but we need her and he makes her relax, so we need him,” the planner says.

“I can make her relax,” Songboy says. “You just didn’t give me a chance.” She looks at him like he has two heads.

“Are you missing something here?” she says, pointing between me and Butterfly. Songboy looks at me, then Butterfly, then the planner.

“What?” he says, perturbed. Butterfly leans around me and shows him her left hand and the obscene diamond and platinum rings on her fingers. Once he gets a good look, I flash the art deco ring on mine. He twists his lips as if our marriage is nothing more than an inconvenience to him. You better step back, junior.

“Well, you said Madge wasn’t getting paid for not singing. I’m getting paid,” he protests. “He’s not blockin’ my money.”

“Nobody’s blocking your money. You’re just not singing with my wife!” I hiss. “Fucking pussy,” I add, under my breath.

“If I was such a fucking pussy, you wouldn’t be worried about me singing with your wife!” he retorts. I whirl around on him.

“Are you trying to get fired and get your ass kicked?” I challenge.

“Make your move, Money,” he taunts. Oh, Mr. Melody is feeling lucky. I remove my jacket and hand it to the first set of hands near me, which happens to be my wife. Suddenly, the songster’s eyes widen and he starts to back up. People don’t seem to realize that under these tailored suits, I’m a thick motherfucker.

“You were saying, Tweety?” I ask, closing the space between us. I’ll leave you an ink blot on the fucking floor.

“Naw, n-nothin’, man, we cool,” he stutters, his hands up in a defensive position as if to push me away. I feel my wife’s hand on my arm, and the calming effect is instantaneous.

“Christian, come on, let’s go. The wedding’s starting any minute. We don’t have time for this.” I glare at Songboy and back away, reaching for my jacket and taking a few deep breaths.

“You ready to do this, baby?” I ask, stroking her cheek. She takes a few deep breaths of her own.

“I’m ready.”


ANASTASIA

Ethan's face when he see's Mia

Ethan’s face when he sees his bride

I don’t know who created streak-free mascara, but they made a mint today. There isn’t a dry eye in the building as Christian and I sing that song. Mia’s dramatic entrance from behind large drawn wine-colored velvet drapes was even more dramatic when she actually removes her veil at the top of the aisle to make sure that her eyes aren’t playing tricks on her, after which she cries the entire trek down the aisle when she realizes that her brother and sister-in-law are serenading her entrance. Ethan is stunned by his bride’s beauty, but is also amazed along with the bridesmaids who are all stunned into a very unattractive, drooling, hungry stupor as no one expected to see Christian on stage with a microphone. This will be one for the record books, but apparently Eric was getting a little to comfortable in rehearsal and I was already nervous about fucking up the song without his flirtatious overtures.

“You sing that better than Marge…”
“Maybe if I hold your hand…”

Geez, can you be more transparent? And how the hell did he and the rest of the band get through the roadblock and this bitch that was supposed to be singing with him didn’t get through? I’m with Grace, I want her ass on a platter.

After Mia’s tearful entrance, Christian and I hastily make our way off the stage to get to our seats to see the rest of the wedding. Grace never stops crying. I don’t know if it’s the menopause or the song or the wedding or what, but she weeps the whole time.

Even though the decorations are insane and I’m sure that there are many other extravagant surprises in store for us, the ceremony is traditional and beautiful… but that’s where the traditional ends. As it turns out, I’m glad that I didn’t bring my children to the wedding because they would have been traumatized by the kiss. Once the minister announces that Mia and Ethan are husband and wife and that he can salute his bride, Ethan takes the lovely Mia into his arms and kisses her passionately, after which several explosions ensue and the wedding guests are showered with thousands and thousands of white rose petals. I can only assume that they were shot from some kind of mechanisms in the floor. However, they were ignited with no warning. So, instead of being enchanted by the fairytale aura of raining rose petals, the room was full of screaming women all wondering what the hell is going on for the first few seconds until we realize, “Oh… flower cannons.”

I can just envision my poor inconsolable babies right now, jerking in terror and then screaming, staring at me like, “What the fuck, Mom?”

Another reason we had to get the hell off the stage so quickly is because it somehow or another dismantles itself so that Mia’s table can emerge. Ask me how, I don’t know, but, yeah… during the receiving line from hell, the archway is scooted away, the stage extends out into the room somehow and Mia’s table “appears.” Flowers, flowers, and more flowers—a floral centerpiece the length of the table that dangles from the ceiling with floating votives in globes hanging from the flowers. I noted the random floating votives throughout the reception, an homage to Mia’s conversation with Pops before he died.

“Nix the candle stands. I like the floating votives better. And the stones on the bottom should be gray—not iridescent. The iridescent stones look like dollar store dressing!”

She chose various colors—pearls, gray, rose, red, white, flowers, or nothing at all… but no iridescent.

 

Ethan and his groomsmen all wear classic, no-button formal length tuxedos, with wine-colored vests and ties while Mia’s innumerable bridesmaids—well, I’m certain they picked their own wardrobes. Their dresses look more like Jessica Rabbit than Mia’s does. They’re sharp as hell… deep wine, off the shoulder, lace illusion necklines with push-up breasts, lace-sleeves, empire-waist, mermaid-cut, floral lace trains, and vamp make-up—smoky eyes with silver shadow and deep wine lipstick with sparkles. These dresses had to cost a fortune. Someone should have told them that you don’t outshine the bride…

 

 

 

Not that they could.

Mia’s dress is a totally hand-sewn Haute couture one-of-a-kind masterpiece in Egyptian silk, exquisite beading, appliques, and Swarovski crystals; dark African mesh around the deep and plunging sweetheart neckline attached to a dramatic jeweled, choker collar and cutout back outlined in pearls and crystals. Delicate and intricate floral appliques are handstitched over the dress from the bodice to the knee, silver filigree complimenting many of the flowers in the mermaid-cut gown with its modest three-foot train. I can see little old ladies with needles sitting on the floor and ottomans surrounding this creation sewing flowers for weeks. No machine in the world could master stitchery this intricate and delicate without damaging the stones or the beading.

I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if that dress went into seven or eight figures.

I’ve spoken to a guest here or there, but when I make my way back to my seat, Sophie looks as if she’s tasted something bad. Dinner hasn’t been served yet, so I know that couldn’t be it. I lean down to her.

“Soph? You okay?” I ask.

“I’m fine,” she says, flatly, her eyes trained on her plate and her arms folded. I put my hand on the back of her chair.

“You’re clearly not fine,” I say. “Talk to me. You don’t look so good.” Her eyes quickly flash up, then back down and again, and I see the object of her affection… and dismay. Two tables over and down a bit is Marlow, and he has brought a date with him. Christian has his attention right now and the poor, awestruck girl at his side is drooling over my husband at the moment, but Sophie is so upset right now that you could fry an egg on her head! She focuses her gaze everywhere but on Marlow and I can’t let on that I know about her crush because she hasn’t confided that part in me yet, but I can’t just let her sit here like this. Just when I’m trying to figure out how to get her out of her funk…

“Sophie, come take a picture with us!”

Maggie, Mariah, and Celida all come barreling over to the table to retrieve Sophie, totally unaware of her inner turmoil over her crush. Without paying any attention to the expression on her face, they drag her from her chair and off to parts unknown to take the picture of which they speak. She doesn’t look left or right. She just mindlessly follows as the girls lead her away.

This is going to become a problem.

“Hey, beautiful,” my husband says, sneaking up behind me.

“Hey, yourself. When are they going to start serving some food in this joint?” I ask.

“Once they’re done with the pictures, I suspect,” he says, taking his seat next to me.

“Well, I’m famished and I’m ready to eat. I didn’t know I was going to have to sing for my dinner,” I jest. He chuckles.

“Neither did I, but you did well.”

“As did you,” I say, gently stroking his chin.

“Oh, geez, get a room,” Elliot says as he and Val make their way back to the table with Grace, Carrick, Luma, and Herman.

“I’d much rather get a plate,” I say, leaning back into my husband’s chest.

“I’ve put the word into the planner’s ear to try to wrap up the important photos before dinner gets cold,” Grace says. No sooner the words are out of her mouth is the announcement made that dinner is about to be served and everyone should take their seats.

“Thank God,” I declare, straightening in my chair. A few moments later, the guests from our table all return, including a very sullen Sophie. After a short “welcome and thank you” speech from Ethan, the first course is served. I tear into my salad like a starving man. I have no idea why I’m so hungry… oh, wait, yes, I do. I slept all morning due to a hangover and only ate crudités in the early afternoon. I haven’t had any real food all day and the first thing they bring me is salad. Bring on the meat, man!

“Settle down, killer,” my husband jests.

“The butterflies have vacated and this stomach needs sustenance, now!” I tell him. He laughs.

“Pun intended,” he teases. Butterflies. Ha, ha.

“Very funny. Make them bring me food before I gnaw my arm off,” I threaten.

The wait staff clear away our salad dishes and pepper our table with dishes of nearly every variety. Our food is nearly as diverse as the people serving it. I pay closer attention to our servers and realize that they’re not just in costume. There’s a theme.

Antony and Cleopatra…

Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy… There’s controversy for you.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton…

Sonny and Cher…

Baby and Johnny from Dirty Dancing…

Sandy and Danny from Grease…

Gomez and Morticia from The Addams Family…

And there are several more, but all our servers are dressed as famous couples. That’s pretty neat. I’m still stuck in the novelty of the concept when a small voice next to me makes a very adult request.

“Excuse me, but, please take this back. This is not what I requested.”

I turn to the young voice next to me and Marilyn is looking at Sophie like she’s has no idea what she’s talking about.

“I beg your pardon?” she says in her practiced Marilyn voice.

“This is not what I ordered,” Sophie repeats. “I ordered coq au vin. Can you please take this back and bring me coq au vin?” She’s holding the plate out to the server as if it’s offensive and Marilyn is eying it like she has no intention of taking it back.

“That is coq au vin,” she purrs, and she sounds as if she wants to add “Little girl.”

“No.” Sophie hands the plate to the blonde-wig-wearing server who doesn’t want to take it, forcing her to relieve Sophie of the plate. “That’s duck confit.” She walks over to Elliot and points just over his shoulder, careful not to come near his plate. “That’s coq au vin.”

Marilyn looks at the entrée in the plate in her hand, then at the entrée on Elliot’s plate, then at Elliot. He nods.

“She’s right. I asked for coq au vin,” he confirms.

“I’m sorry,” Marilyn purrs. “I’ll be right back.”

“Thank you,” Sophie says with no malice as the server goes to correct her mistake.

“How did you know you had the wrong dish?” Elliot asks Sophie. “I wouldn’t have known just by looking at it.” Sophie raises her brow then shrugs slowly.

“I… like food,” she says. “I watch cooking shows.”

“But you know food like duck confit?” Grace asks amazed. “That’s impressive.”

“Do you know all these dishes?” Luma asks. Sophie’s face lights up slightly and suddenly, there’s no more shadow of her disappointing crush.

“Um, I think so. Ms. Grace has fennel salad; Mr. Carrick, filet mignon. Mr. Herman has the lobster and mash and Ms. Luma has the broiled salmon. The girls all have the barbeque chicken and macaroni and cheese. Aunt Ana has the lamb with mint sauce, Uncle Christian, the lobster. Aunt Val has the blackened catfish and Uncle Elliot the coq au vin.”

Everyone is looking around the table at each other’s plates and asking what each of us is eating.

“Did she get it right?” Carrick asks, and so far, everyone nods. Sophie smiles coyly. “Very impressive, Sophie,” Carrick praises her. “Do you have an interest in cooking?”

“I didn’t at first,” she says. “I just liked watching the food channels. Then, I was watching them with my mom and we would try some of the stuff, and it was kind of fun…” Marilyn comes back to the table with a fresh steaming hot plate of coq au vin and set it in front of Sophie, apologizing for her mistake. Sophie smiles and nods as Marilyn leaves.

“Now,” Sophie continues, placing her napkin in her lap, “I just watch them because I like them and I want to try to cook some of the dishes I see. Plus, I like seeing how the dishes turn out and where they come from. I hadn’t thought about cooking, but I know so much about it that now, I probably will.”

The table engages Sophie in a conversation about food for quite some time as we enjoy a meal, quite frankly, fit for royalty. We clean our plates and thoroughly enjoy being enthralled in food conversation with a 13-year-old girl who knows more about wine parings than I do. Once the evening wears on to more food courses and dessert courses, drinks and music, the table starts to thin a bit and couples begin to pair, bringing Sophie’s attention back to her original ire.

It doesn’t help that her ire brings his date over to our table to introduce us.

“Hey, everybody, this is Maya. Maya, this is… everybody.”

I extend my hand and introduce myself and Maya smiles at me. Sophie stiffens next to me. Maya’s pretty—petite, and round… very round in all the right places. I don’t want to be the one to tell her that she’s wearing a dress that’s not very flattering on her. It’s an A-line dress with an empire waist. The problem is that she’s short and the dress is dating her. Not only is the cut wrong, but the color is wrong. It’s like gray, green, and mauve all mixed together and I have no idea who came up with this design. It makes her look old and instead of looking elegant and flowy, it makes her look frumpy.

Sophie twists her lips and turns away, but Maya zeros in on her. It’s almost like she can smell it—the possible competition that’s not even there because Marlow doesn’t even know that Sophie feels this way about him.

“Hi,” she extends her hand to Sophie. “You are?”

“Sophia,” Sophie says, taking her hand. Maya smiles.

“That’s a cute dress. My kid sister has one just like that. I think hers is pink, though.”

And there’s first blood.

“It does come in different colors,” Sophie says coolly while slowly withdrawing her hand. “I have teal and purple. Speaking of which, I’ve seen your dress before, too. Fashion week. 2012.”

Shots fired.

“The original was shorter, though,” Sophie continues, “or I think the model was just taller… and skinnier. And the color was definitely different. More vibrant, I think.” Maya’s lips tighten for a moment, then curl in a smile.

“Well,” she says, “I guess I’ll just have to… take it off, then.” She raises her eyebrows suggestively at Sophie before turning to Marlow. “I need the ladies room, babe. I’ll be right back.” She leaves without excusing herself.

Game.
Set.
Match.
Against a 13-year-old girl. Nice going, Maya.

“Uugh,” Sophie grunts and grimaces, placing her hands over her stomach.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“My stomach feels yucky,” she says, frowning. “I probably should have stuck with the duck.” No, Love, that’s the angry flip flops when the guy you have feelings for doesn’t feel the same way about you and the girl that he’s probably fucking just ran you over like a freight train. “I’m going to call my dad and see if one of the guys can take me home.” She rises from her chair and starts walking towards the door.

“I’ll take you home, Soph,” Marlow says. Sophie momentarily throws a seething look at him, which quickly softens.

“No,” she says. “I wouldn’t want to put you out, especially after your date went through all that trouble securing that dress.” Without another word, she turns around and walks out of the reception, and I have to move swiftly so that the blazing arrow that just went flying in Marlow’s direction doesn’t hit me.

“Did she just throw a shot at your date?” Christian asks, bemused. Marlow’s brow furrows.

“I think she did,” he replies. “What was that all about?” Seriously? Did you two miss the entire heavyweight fight that just took place in front of you when Maya wiped her feet on Sophie’s face then escaped to the bathroom to clean the blood off her shoes?

“Temperamental teenager,” I say, rolling my eyes and waving it off in an attempt to divert the conversation. “Who knows? It could be that time of the month.”

“TMI, Ana,” Marlow says. I turn my gaze to him.

“Um, don’t you date?”

“Yeah, but that part has nothing to do with me.” What the…? I hear Christian groan next to me.

“Well, you had better make it have something to do with you, young man, because unless something’s wrong with her insides, every woman you date is going to have that time of the month. And if you so callously shut it down like it has nothing to do with you, you’re going to find yourself awfully lonely on many a Saturday night, whether Aunt Flo is visiting or not!”

I stand, turn on my heels and march away from this young whippersnapper before I really give him a piece of my mind. How dare him just dismiss a woman’s period like it’s some kind of inconvenience and he just has to wait until it passes. I mean, I know most little bonehead boys who are just now figuring out what the heads of their dicks even look like feel that way, but don’t say that shit around me.

I go in search of Sophie, but she must have already found Jason, because she’s nowhere in sight. To be certain, I text him to see if she’s touched bases with him and he confirms that one of the staff has already taken her home as she looked a little green in the face.

Yeah, green with envy.


A/N: Part I of the wedding is complete. On to part II! 

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

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

 ~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 33—Just When You Thought It Was Safe…

NO EMAIL SENT YET!

So, if you were on my Facebook, you know that I’m introducing a new bit of a storyline, but I lost the damn picture of the actor that was supposed to represent the character. It was perfect, too! So when you read me say something about the guy that doesn’t really fit what we’ve seen or know of him, just try to picture it, because the picture was perfect and I wrote part of the storyline based on that particular picture… which was somehow gobbled up and destroyed by the internet! 😦 

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 33—Just When You Thought It Was Safe…

ANASTASIA

There are quite a few targets with destroyed heads and decimated balls at the armory that day. I don’t get any real satisfaction, though, until I decide to go to the open range and play with the semi-automatics and the pump-rifles. Then, I’m really able to release some steam. Fucking sick pervert standing there trying to get his jollies watching me breastfeed my kids. I hope his testicles shrivel up and fall off!

So that I don’t appear to be a total psychopath, I convince Maria to don a vest and some safety gear and instruct her on firing a few amateur rounds, just to show her how easy it really is. She has more fun than she expects and she’s a really quick study, especially since a lot of the newer, higher-powered firearms can be modified to be more lightweight and easier to handle.

Once Maria is satisfied with all the footage she has acquired, she and the crew wrap things up and head back to the hotel to get ready to go to SeaTac and New York while we head back to the Crossing. She informs us that she’s very happy with the footage she got and hopes to have everything edited and ready for sweeps week. We retain the right to see the finish product before it gets aired, a condition to which she heartily agrees.

I spend the afternoon trying to decompress from my moment in the spotlight because, quite frankly, it was a lot of fucking work and very fucking stressful. Now, I just get to sit and fret until the shit hits prime time and hope that Maria presents us in a great light and that the nation—the world—doesn’t misconstrue the message we’re trying to send, like the lovely Ms. Stanton.

Bitch.

The truth is, however, I would have taken a hundred Raynell Stantons and her snotty, superior ass attitude to what I discover is in store for me next. I had just settled in my office at the Center on Monday and was about to formulate my next move in Operation Accreditation when Grace steps somberly into my office.

“We’re going to have a visitor for the next few weeks,” Grace says. My brows furrow.

“Who?” I ask.

“Apparently, the licensing board feels that we need a close eye in finalizing our preparations for the school,” she says. “They’ll be sending a representative right over to make sure that we wrap things up properly.”

“You mean a babysitter,” I huff. “We’ve done every single thing they’ve asked—every single thing! Why do they feel like we need a babysitter now?”

“You know why,” Grace says. “Gloria… she’s still juicing that vendetta. I wish we didn’t have to go through her on the licensing board. She’s going through everything with a fine-toothed comb and anything that’s not perfect is going to hold us up.” I sigh angrily.

“It’s the letters,” I say. “It has to be. I sent twenty certified letters to the board detailing everything that we’ve done and questioning the delay. She probably has to justify that delay now. We need to file a complaint against her, Grace. You and I both know that this is a personal conflict of interest and discrimination and so does she. We’ve brought in experts and consultants to make sure that we have everything tight and she still finds ways to delay our final approval. I’m calling Al.”

“Ana, please,” Grace beseeches. “We simply can’t afford any more delays. A complaint would drag this thing out forever. This inspector only needs three weeks of close observation, then they’ll see first-hand that we’ve done everything that we’re supposed to do. Once that’s complete, this entire mess will be over. I’m certain of it.”

Poor, optimistic Grace. This will never be over until our licensing is out of the hands of Gloria Felton. Once this investigation is completed, she’s going to find another reason—some other loophole—to hold us up.

“I need you to take point on this one, Ana,” Grace adds apologetically, “be the first point of contact for the inspector.”

I sigh. Of course, I have to take point on this. I wouldn’t dream of having Grace do it after what she’s just been through, not to mention that Carrick, Christian, and the rest of the family would most likely have my neck.

“Three weeks, Grace,” I concede. “I’m giving this inspector three weeks to see that we have all our ducks in a row and that our ship is tight. If she doesn’t report back to that haughty bitch that everything is as it should be, I’m calling in the cavalry.” Grace nods.

“Fair enough, but there’s something that you should know about the inspector…” There’s a knock at the door. Grace and I both turn our attention to the open door and the figure standing there expectantly. I’m greeted by otherworldly blue eyes that make me gasp involuntarily.

Liam's EyesAre those things real??

“Hi, I’m looking for Grace Grey. I’m Liam Westwick from the Washington State Licensing Board.” Grace leans in close to my ear.

“The inspector is a guy.” I look over at Grace in horror.

“You want me to take point??” I whisper harshly. This man is fucking gorgeous—as tall as Christian, striking blue eyes, playful brown hair, glistening white teeth that even in a half-smile looks like sunshine, athletic build, and wearing a charcoal suit that looks as if it were hand-painted to fit his physic. Oh, and the biggest feet I’ve ever seen in my life—feet too big for his body, but still aptly camouflaged in designer leather shoes. Who has feet that big?

“Excuse me, do I have the right place?” he says, breaking my trance and apparently, Grace’s, too. I swallow hard and turn back to Grace. You gotta be fucking kidding me! Three weeks’ close work… with this? I mean, he’s no Christian… but damn!

“Yes,” Grace proceeds forward with her hand extended. “I’m Grace Grey. It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Westwick.” She shakes his hand politely.

“Liam, please,” he says politely, just like me… “Ana, please.”

“This is my daughter-in-law and the assistant director of Helping Hands, Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey. She has basically spearheaded our entire project.”

“Dr. Grey.” He extends his hand to me, his voice friendly, but professional. I take his proffered hand.

“Liam,” I say, shaking firmly. “And everyone calls me Ana.” I decide to steer away from my usual Ana, please. Well, we might as well get this circus over with. “I’ll be showing you around and answering your questions.”

“So, you’ll be my tour guide,” he says with a wide smile. More like your charge, I think to myself, trying not to project any venom in his direction.

“So to speak, yes,” I say, clasping my hands in front of me.

“Why don’t we show you around, Liam?” Grace says, no doubt, noting my obvious discomfort.  She holds her hand out in front of her, gesturing for him to take the lead, which he does. She falls in step next to him and I walk behind the two of them, resenting his very presence. He must know why he’s here. He can’t think this is some routine investigation if he’s reviewed our file at all.

“It’s quite the operation you have here, Drs. Grey,” he says halfway through the tour. I guess my silence must have been deafening and he has finally decided to engage me in the conversation.

“We’ve come quite a long way since Ana has been on board,” Grace says. “A year ago, I couldn’t see all of the improvements she’s helping put into place. Now, it just seems like the natural order of things.

“Grace, please,” I say, shunning the recognition. “A lot of people have had their hand in the changes taking place around here—Courtney and Jesse and the daycare staff, just to name a few. The volunteers…”

“Don’t be so modest, dear,” Grace says. “Most of those people are success stories from the Center, and who do we have to thank for that?” She smiles widely and I just hate that she’s shining the spotlight on me, but I just smile graciously and pray that this will be over soon.

“Exactly what will you be looking for during your visit, Mr. Westwick?” The question comes out more like “What are your intentions with my daughter?” He raises those unrealistically blue eyes to me.

“Liam,” he corrects me. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that you must have some idea of what you’ll be investigating,” I press. “Surely, you’ve read our file and there must be some indication as to why this investigation is necessary.” My tone is accusing, as it should be.

“No indication,” he admits. “Sometimes, these investigations are just random.”

“Random,” I say, my voice dripping with skepticism. “Is that what we are… random?”

“Um, I’m sure that what Ana means to say is that we can’t figure out why we were chosen for this particular investigation. We’ve done everything that’s been asked of us to the letter and now we’re being…”

“Subjected to an unnecessary investigation,” I say, no longer willing to exercise Grace’s diplomacy in the matter. “There’s absolutely no reason for our accreditation to be delayed any longer than it already has. We’ve gone above and beyond the needed state and federal requirements. We haven’t even requested government funding yet and we’ve far exceeded the preparations of institutions that have. Believe me, I’ve done my homework.”

Liam examines me curiously, like a fish in a bowl, and it only serves to piss me off. I give him a distasteful glare and he finally breaks his gaze.

“I only take the assignments given to me, Dr. Grey,” he says, reverting back to formalities. “It’s not for me to question why my superiors request an investigation. It is only for me to do my job.

“And may I be so bold to ask who your superior is?” As if I didn’t already know.

“I have different supervisors for different cases,” he responds.

“For this case,” I insist. He pauses.

“This comes straight from the top,” he says, as if that would pacify me. “Gloria Felton.”

I turn a knowing and disgusted gaze at Grace, who shares a glance with Liam, then turns her eyes back to me.

“It’s probably best if I don’t take the lead on this one,” I say. “I wouldn’t want to say or do anything to compromise the investigation.” I turn on my heels and march indignantly back to my office. Attractive though he may be, I have no intention of playing hostess to Gloria’s little lap dog. I see no reason for this circus and I refuse to be a part of it.

I order lunch in and spend the afternoon combing through reports, proposals, plans, and applications sent to the licensing board, trying to see if we’ve missed anything. I want all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed when I call Al to sue this bitch for discrimination and harassment. I get angrier and angrier sitting there dissecting our work with a critical eye looking for the slightest misstep—my reports, Marilyn’s research, Grace’s proposals—hours and hours of hard work and diligence just thrown to the dogs because some spiteful cunt has an ax to grind. I feel a little better after feeding the babies, but the moment I get back to tearing down our blood, sweat, and tears, I’m pissed off again. I’m pulled out of my angry inner tirade about how I wish I could just rip this bitch’s throat out by a knock at my door.

“Come in,” I call out. An excuse to take a break. I need something to break this flow of negative energy anyway. I raise my head to see Liam Westwick walk into my office.

So much for breaking the flow of negative energy.

I want to ask him if he’s lost, but I save the sarcasm. No use in antagonizing the lap dog.

Once in the office, he stands there staring at me for a moment and it makes me uncomfortable—not only because those striking blue eyes aren’t moving and he almost looks extra-terrestrial, but also because his gaze holds something else. Curiosity, maybe, I don’t know, but I want him to stop looking at me that way.

“Is something wrong?” I ask, trying to hide my sarcasm. He flinches as if my voice startled him and now, I want to know what the fuck he was thinking while he was staring at me.

“You’re…” he pauses before he says anything. “I didn’t know you wore glasses.”

Glasses? My glasses? He’s staring at my glasses? There’s nothing remarkable about my glasses. When I first saw them, I immediately thought of Buddy Holly, but when I tried them on—God only knows why—they really looked good on me. They drive Christian crazy…

Drive Christian crazy…

No! He couldn’t be…! I snatch my glasses off my face, certain that they’re having the same effect on Mr. Westwick. Fuck! That would be a disaster…

“Yes. I wear glasses,” I say, rubbing my eyes as they adjust to vision without the help of magnification. “What can I do for you, Mr. Westwick?” I hear him sigh.

“Mr. Westwick,” he repeats in slight dismay. “Nobody calls me ‘Mr. Westwick,’” he says in slight dismay. Well, there’s a first time for everything. “I’m not the enemy, Ana.”

Dr. Grey, I think to myself as he stands in front of my desk with his hands clasped in front of him.

“I was sent here to do a job. That’s all I’m trying to do. I’m not a henchman. I’m not on a witch-hunt. I’ll complete the investigation that’s required of me and I’ll be on my way. However, I’m not stupid or obtuse, either. I saw the looks that passed between you and Grace when I mentioned Gloria Felton. She’s mum about it, so I was hoping I could get some insight from you. Is there something that I should know?”

His blue eyes are sharp, now—piercing and serious—and if my ability to read people hasn’t faltered, he really doesn’t know what’s going on here. Nonetheless, he’s from the enemy camp as far as I’m concerned, and I need to proceed with caution. There’s nothing worse than sleeping with the enemy.

Fuck… bad analogy.

“Mr. Westwick…” I hear a short, frustrated gasp. “Liam,” I correct myself. He relaxes a bit. “I think you should proceed with your investigation with the information that you have at your disposal. There’s nothing that I can say that would be productive to your purpose unless it directly relates to the Center. Anything else that you need to know, you should ask Ms. Felton.” He twists his lips. After a moment, he gestures to the seat in front of my desk. I nod once.

“I just may have to do that,” he says, taking a seat. “There’s obviously something going on and I don’t want the investigation tainted in any way.” His eyes soften from the piercing, questioning glare he held before. His eyes change with every mood, every conversation. It’s like you can see right into his soul. If I was trying to read his thoughts, I would sit there and stare at them all day. Instead, I look between them so that I don’t get lost in them.

“And then there’s that,” he says, dropping his gaze with a slightly sorrowful laugh. I frown.

“There’s what?” I say. I didn’t say anything.

“Nine out of ten people focus on the bridge of my nose to keep from looking me in the eyes,” he says sadly while raising his gaze back to mine. “I’m thinking about getting contacts.”

I’m a little taken aback by his confession, not only because he caught me doing just that; not even because so many other people do it; but because he can tell when it’s being done and it actually bothers him.

“You have to know that your eyes are quite haunting,” I say before I think about it. The words were out of my mouth before I can stop them, but hell, it’s true. The corner of his mouth raises in a somewhat mocking smirk.

“Haunting as in intriguing or haunting as in scary?” he asks. My turn to twist my lips.

“Haunting as in… haunting,” I say, giving him nothing. He raises an eyebrow at me and I raise one right back.

“Okay,” he says, raising his hands in mock surrender. “Enough about my eyes.” He sits back in his seat. “The way I see it, I need direction so that I don’t go wandering aimlessly around this place. You want me out of here as quickly and seamlessly as possible. You show me what I need to see over the next three weeks, we work together and I’m gone.” I roll my eyes.

“Fine,” I concede, “but can we start tomorrow, please?” I need some time to regroup. He nods.

“Fair enough,” he says, extending a hand to me. “Good evening, Ana,” he says as I shake his hand.

“Liam,” I respond. He nods and leaves. I pull the ponytail holder from my hair and massage my scalp wildly, leaving my hair in that “attacked by wolves” mess that lets the onlooker know that today has been a bad day. Of course, Grace walks into my office just as I have mussed my hair and massaged my scalp.

“You know,” she says, “you and Christian both have a version of JPF hair.” I glare at her. Did my mother-in-law just say this to me? And she got it wrong, too.

“Don’t you mean JBF hair?” I correct her. She laughs, letting me know that she knows what I’m getting at.

“No, I mean JPF… Just Plain Frustrated. His hair normally looks like pygmies have been playing with it, and when your hair looks like that…” She trails off. “Look, I asked you to take point on this because you have your finger on the pulse of everything that has to do with the accreditation. I would have to research certain things, but if this is too much for you, I’ll do it.”

She’s right. I know this stuff like the front and back of my hand and asking anyone else to take point on it would be truly unrealistic and may even delay the investigation.

“No, I can do it,” I tell her. “We’ll give him the information that he wants and he can tell this woman that we’ve done everything that we need to do.”

“Really, Ana, you’ve got the babies, Christian, your life… I can do it,’ Grace presses.

“Yes, and I also have the accreditation of this organization,” I protest. “This is my ‘baby,’ too. I need to go on and see it through to the end.” She nods.

“I’ll help in any way that I can, and if it gets to be too much, let me know and I’ll take over.”

“I will,” I tell her. “Right now, I just want to get home to my husband and my babies.”

“Your babies are here,” she says knowingly.

“Yeah, and I want to get them home.”

Christian pounces on me right after dinner, citing that I’m wound so tight that he knows I’m in need of a few orgasms. He’s right. I’m so frustrated with this whole Gloria Felton witch-hunt and I just want it to go away. After my third orgasm has left me like butter, I tell him about the unnecessary rigors she has put us through and now, we have to suffer through this damn investigation, which is just going to put us off for three more weeks.

“You know I can make a call and find out what’s going on, maybe even make this whole thing go away,” Christian says, kissing my neck just under my ear.

“I know, and I love you for wanting to help, but I fear that any intercedence from you will be viewed as special dispensation and I don’t want anything to get in the way of valid accreditation for the Center. Don’t think I haven’t considered it, though,” I say as his lips gently meet mine. “It’s just… what was I saying?”

“Special dispensation,” he says, kissing my cheek and biting my chin.

“Oh… yeah,” I say breathily, “I understand why… she didn’t want the donation from you now. I didn’t before, but now I get it.”

“Um hmm,” he says, taking a nipple into his mouth and biting gently.

“Ah! Christian…” Three orgasms… is he trying to kill me? I thrust my hands into his hair just as he thrusts his cock into my core. “God!” I breathe out harshly. He takes my hands and entwines his fingers in mine, pinning them on either side of my head.

“All you have to do is say the word,” he says, softly, breaths away from my lips as he drills slowly into me, “and I’ll take care of it.”

“I know,” I pant, getting lost in the sensation of him stroking me, filling me.

“Good.” He bites my chin again. “As long as you know,” and his lips cover mine.

*-*

After waking to yet another orgasm from my insatiable husband, I go to the Center feeling refreshed—and thoroughly well used—ready to start the day and get on with this blasted investigation. Grace greets me the moment I get there.

“Remember,” she says, “I can always take over…”

“I know,” I say, thinking about how she and her son are so ready to rescue me, “but you know that I’m the right person to do this, right?” She smiles and squeezes my shoulder, heading off towards her office. I make sure that the twins and Keri are comfortably tucked away in the day care center. She likes helping with the other children while the twins are asleep, so this is a win-win for her and all parties involved. I can’t help but wonder at our luck that she agreed to come back to the States with Chuck every time I see her with the twins. I wonder if they’ll get married now that she’s staying?

Liam is a little late today and the moment he arrives, we go about the business of his investigation. He has specific things on his list that he wants to see in terms of the operations of the Center, which I have no problems showing him. Each section that he has to observe involves interviewing residents or clients, randomly picking employees and volunteers and reviewing their qualifications for the areas in which they work or the jobs they perform, and finally, reviewing records and reports to see how we keep track of progress, milestones, and projections. It’s all very professional and quite seamless for the most part.

Once the first week is over and Liam submits his initial findings, I’m sure that Ms. Felton will call off the dogs. The remainder of the investigation would only show more of the same and she would have to see that this was a waste of taxpayer’s money.


CHRISTIAN

“This is an excellent proposal, Marlow,” I praise my young protégé. He has come a long way from the angry young man Butterfly described to me the first year that we were dating. He goes quite the distance to protect his mother and sister since they escaped his abusive father two years ago even though he doesn’t have to as I have assigned a security detail to the entire family. Marlow had to work on his anger issues and learned to channel his focus to more productive tasks, such as taking on projects to help rebuild his community. He has since brought me several ideas on community outreach programs and revitalization efforts in his old neighborhood. His efforts have even encouraged other young people in the area to get involved now that they see that someone cares and wants to give back to the community.

His latest proposal involves reopening a recreation center that had been closed for several years due to lack of funding. It’s an ambitious endeavor, but not impossible. With GEH as a sponsor, he’s hoping to get the community center reopened by next summer. It doesn’t come without its drawbacks, though.

“I saw him again yesterday,” he says, looking down at the proposal in his hands and twisting his lips. I know he’s talking about his father, who still lives in the neighborhood, or at least he still frequents the neighborhood. I’m sure he just wants Marlow to know that he can still get to him if he wants.

“And?” I ask. “Did he say anything?” Marlow shakes his head.

“Naw,” he responds. “It’s like I said, ever since I visited him in jail and told him I’d lay him out if he ever came near me, Mom, or Mags again, he doesn’t say anything to me. He just wants me to see him. I think he tried to approach Mom though…” I sit up straight. Why did no one tell me about this?

“When did this happen?” I ask, my brow furrowed. He shrugs.

“About…” His eyes narrow as he tries to remember. “… A couple of weeks ago, I think. He got a surprise, though. Mom met this guy. Zack or something, they’ve been talking… nothing serious yet. She told me she thinks she saw Dad while she was out with Zack.” He chuckles. “Zack’s not a small guy.” I raise my eyebrow at him.

“You’ve spoken to Zack?” I ask. “You’re not a small guy, either.” He scoffs.

“I’m not a short guy,” Marlow correct me. He’s nearly as tall as I am, but not as muscular. “Granted, I’m working out and I’ve put on some weight, but I got a long way to go. I can take on my dad, but Zack…” He shakes his head. “I’ll still kick his ass if he fucks with my Mom, though. I didn’t come off all macho, because I know he wouldn’t believe me if I did, but yeah, we talked. I told him that I didn’t know how much Mom has told him, but that we’ve had a rough time and Mom doesn’t need any shit and if that’s what he’s bringing or ever thinking about bringing, he better turn around and take it somewhere else.”

“What did he say?” I ask.

“He asked me if I was threatening him,” Marlow responds. Classic power play. Let’s see if my protégé has learned anything.

“And what did you say?” he shrugs and sighs.

“I told him I didn’t have time for threats,” he says, his voice exasperated. “I told him to take it however he wanted, but that my family has been through enough and we don’t need anymore drama. As long as he’s cool, we can be friends. The minute he brings drama, the moment he’s trouble, I ain’t ya friend—and you don’t wanna know me when I ain’t ya friend no more.”

He raises cool, green eyes to me and fixes his gaze on mine. Not necessarily the words I would have used, but pretty much the same sentiment—and if he added that glare, Zack got the message loud and clear and young Marlow is not just some young buck hothead lion cub trying to keep the next male cat away from his mom. He still needs a little buffing around the edges, but he’s polishing up very nicely.

“You’re still calling him Dad,” I say. He frowns. Yeah, I changed gears mid-conversation. “Your father. You call him Dad.” He shrugs again. I’m trying to break him of that habit. He does it a lot when we’re alone, but less when we’re around others.

“That’s just because I don’t know what else to call him,” he says. “Calling him by his first name, or even his last name seems like too much of a show of respect. I won’t ever call anybody else Dad because of what it means. Dad used to mean that I loved him, that I couldn’t wait for him to get home, you know. It was reserved for only him. Then, it warped into a word of hatred, contempt, and fear. So, yeah. My kids, they’ll call me Pop or Pops or even Daddy, but never Dad. That word is still reserved just for him… only him.”

I feel bad for Marlow detesting his father so much, but I guess it’s no more than I detest the crack whore, so…

“Well, he seems like a coward to me,” I say, “lurking in the shadows, trying to use fear and intimidation tactics. I think he’s more afraid of you than you are of him.”

“He should be,” Marlow confirms. “When I say I’ll take him down, I mean it, so he better not test me.” I nod and decide it’s definitely time to change the subject.

“You’ve got a date for the wedding next Saturday?” I ask. He rolls his eyes.

“God,” he nearly whines. “You know how much guys hate weddings?”

“Actually, most times they don’t,” I tell him. “They usually use them as an opportunity to hit on the bridesmaids.”

“The groomsmen use them as an opportunity to hit on the bridesmaids. Guys don’t want the girls they’re seeing to start getting any ideas,” he protests.

“Well, are you seeing anybody seriously?” I ask.

“Do I ever see anybody seriously?” he retorts. “I’ve got school and work and my projects… I have fun, but the girls I hang out with, they all know that we’re just hanging out. If I take somebody to that wedding, they’re gonna get all starry-eyed and stuff. I don’t have time for that.”

“So, you don’t have any female friend that you can just say, ‘I need a casual wedding date. Wanna go?’” He shakes his head.

“I don’t have any female friends,” he says.

“Well, if I have to go, you have to go. So, figure something out, young man,” I say, patting him on the shoulder. He rolls his eyes.

“I’ll escort my mom,” he says sorrowfully. “It’s not like I want to be there anyway. It’s gonna be a nightmare.” You’re telling me. As we’re still lamenting having to attend whatever shahoolawhatagans will be Mia and Ethan’s wedding, Andrea buzzes my intercom.

“Mr. Welch would like a moment,” her disembodied voice says. Alex normally just walks in. Why the formality?

“Send him in, and have you heard back from Capito’s camp for a conference call between our companies for some time in the next week?”

“Not yet, sir.” I shake my head. I turn my attention back to Marlow. “Get the information on the coding and ownership of the property. See if there’s been any interest in it since the community center was closed down or if it’s just been sitting dormant all this time. Get some background information on the surrounding businesses, too. It goes a long way to determine the future success of the project.”

“I’ve already started on that part,” he says. “A lot of the local businesses are struggling because traffic from the center diminished. Reopening it could be just the boost the neighborhood needs, in more ways than one.” My office door opens and Alex breaches the doorway, then stops, obviously expecting me to be alone.

“Get back to me as soon as you have that information,” I tell Marlow. He nods and stands, greeting Alex before leaving. “What’s with the announcing yourself?” I ask. “You don’t usually do that.”

“I didn’t know who you were meeting with,” he says, walking further into the office. “I’ve got some information and I don’t know who you want to hear it.”

“Information about what?”

“Not what… who.” He hands me a piece of paper. He’s talking to me as I’m reading the paper. “Dustin Carver, the PI who’s following your father. Pretty unremarkable guy, as you can see. He’s an everyday, average private dick, somebody that wouldn’t and shouldn’t arouse any kind of suspicion even for what he does. Just that typical type of guy that you might hire if you were trying to catch a cheating wife. He’s not highly sought, no special set of skills, nothing at all that would give even a child cause for concern—except one little thing…” I shake my head as my eyes land on the obvious glaring red flag that is definitely a cause for concern.

“His agency is based out of Detroit.” I walk over and toss the paper on my desk taking a seat in my desk chair, frustrated, Fuck! Will that place ever leave me alone? “Goddamn motherfucking shithole-in-the-wall God-forsaken Detroit!” I hiss.

“Well, shit. Tell us how you really feel.” Jason joins us, quickly entering my office and closing the door behind him. “I take it you told him,” he says to Alex.

“I did, and he’s not taking it very well,” Alex confirms.

“Of course, I’m not taking this shit well!” I bark. “A private eye from Detroit is all the way out here on the Pacific seaboard following my father! You know this can only be Sunset or fucking Myrick.” Alex sighs.

“There’s a third possibility,” Jason says. My neck snaps to him like someone hit me. Well, fucking out with it, man. “This is your father this guy is following, not various members of your family. It could be your uncle.”

My uncle? Why the fuck would Herman have a private eye following Dad around the city? It doesn’t make any damn sense… Then, while I’m trying to figure it out, Alex’s words come floating back to me.

Just that typical type of guy that you might hire if you were trying to catch a cheating wife.

Or if you were a cheating husband. Herman’s not my only uncle…

“Freeman,” I hiss. “Why the fuck would Freeman have somebody following my Dad?”

“Turnabout?” Alex says, with a shrug. “I can’t even begin to tell you what the guy was hoping to find, and we haven’t even established that it was Freeman who hired the private eye. We’re not sure who it was.”

“So, how do we find out?” I nearly growl. “I’m a resourceful fucking guy. So are you. What’s the fucking problem?”

“So, how far do you want to go with this?” he asks. Well, let me think. Not too long ago, three guys who had something to do with hacking into my company mainframe disappeared never to be heard from again. I’m currently suing a DJ for rightfully accusing me of having his ass kicked for talking too damn much, and you just delivered a dog back to a judge that you dognapped for giving my company fleet too many damn traffic tickets. Just how far do you think I want you to go? I fold my arms and wordlessly glare at him.

“Okay, let me reword that,” Alex says. “If I ruffle too many feathers and turn over too many rocks, I might find Sunset. What then?” He has a point, but in all honesty, what now?

“If Sunset is already under the damn rock, then what are we running from?” I retort. “It’s not like he can’t get to me if he wants to. And give this some serious thought. Detroit-based Mafioso searching for a man in federal protection sends an average loafer-wearing flatfoot-type private dick all the way from Motown to Seattle to follow my father? After he sends that Egyptian-thread-wearing consigliere out here last year? If that’s the case, then he wants the fucker to get caught. Shake that asshole down and find out what the fuck he wants. And if that’s not the case and this asshole is not from Sunset, shake that asshole down and find out what the fuck he wants!

Hopefully, these instructions leave nothing unclear to my heads of security. Alex nods and leaves my office without another word. Jason, however, stays behind, silently examining me.

“You’re tense,” he says, matter-of-factly.

“You think?” I snap. “Every time I put out a fire, another one is right behind it. I can’t get any goddamn peace. Has anybody investigated what the hell is going on with that fucker Freeman? My money’s on him. This doesn’t smell like Sunset at all. He doesn’t play amateur games. I don’t know much about the guy, but I know that much.”

“I’ve got someone on the way out there now,” he says, “the minute I thought it might be him. Sources say that things aren’t looking too good for him with that audit and the divorce. He could be looking for some kind of shakedown, maybe. Didn’t your father and Herman leave him the house?”

“I think it has to go through probate or something…” My intercom buzzing interrupts my statement. What now? “Yes?”

“I’ve left a message with Mr. Capito’s secretary, sir. However, the nine-hour time difference could pose a problem,” Andrea says through the intercom. She’s right. I forgot about that. This is becoming a nightmare. I’ve never had this much problem dealing with an international company before. I’ve always accommodated them, and they’ve always accommodated me. What the fuck it up with this guy? Is he just not familiar with international business etiquette? Getting information out of him has been harder than finagling pussy from a virgin and he wants me to do business with him?

“We may have to shoot for an early-morning-late-afternoon session, then, Andrea,” I tell her.

“Yes, sir.”

“Capito,” Jason says. “The Spanish company?”

“Madrid, yes,” I reply. “On the surface, the company looks prime for picking, but you know I didn’t become who I am by being a fool. This guy is hiding something and if this were anybody else, I’d just walk away.”

“Why not this guy?” Jason asks. “What’s different with him?”

“I have no fucking idea,” I tell him. “His financials were so damn cryptic that even our systems couldn’t analyze them. You know—garbage in, garbage out. Now, the arrows are starting to point in a direction and we’re trying to find out what it is. So, we’re hoping to get some more information from him… and he’s MIA.” Jason shakes his head.

“You’re like a dog chasing a bone, boss,” he says. I frown.

“What do you mean?” He hesitates before answering.

“I’ve seen you like this before,” he says. “Your fuse is short. You’re not snapping at anybody—at least, no more than usual, but you’ve got all these little firecrackers around you and they’re all poppin’… pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. They’re not really huge ones except maybe the thing with your mom; Ray getting arrested was no party; your grandfather died. Then, you’ve got the small-to-midland things—Rossiter, Ana’s adoption, the situations with the licensing boards. And then, we have those things we have yet to classify—this PI thing, the outcome of the interview, I don’t know where to put Mia’s wedding…”

That makes two of us.

“And that’s not all of it. Then, here comes Capito, an interesting little problem that’s right up your alley—an unsolved mystery that’s like a game of Clue, a company that you would normally not waste your time on because if he’s hiding one thing, he could be hiding a whole lot more, and there’s just too many fish in the sea for you to be chasing this one elusive rainbow fish only to catch it, gut it, and find out that you’ve opened Pandora’s Box. You’ve had that discussion with me many times on many deals that you’ve bypassed for less and yet, you’re chasing this one—like you need to keep your mind occupied. I don’t know what’s up, boss. If there’s some appeal that your great business mind sees in this company that I don’t see, I’m just going to step back and let you handle it. This isn’t my area of expertise, after all. But if you’re chasing something because you’re running away from something else or something’s going on in your head that you can’t sort out for some reason, you might want to get a handle on it. Just from what you’ve told me, something stinks about this company. And you said it many times… if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a damn duck. I don’t know what you’re looking for, boss, but it looks like a duck to me.”

He pauses for a moment to let his words sink in before he walks to the door.

“I’ll let you know what I find out about Freeman,” he says. I nod and he leaves. I hate when he’s so damn logical. I just think something else is going on with Capito and I want to know what the fuck it is, and maybe he’s right. Maybe I do need a distraction from all this other shit that’s going on in my life, but business is what I do. It’s what drives me, it always has—that, and being a Dom, and I can’t be a damn Dom 24/7. Who would really want to? I mean, I know some people who would, but I’m not one of them.

*-*

The day seemed to drag on forever and I’m only too happy to be home. Of course, the dragging part was only exasperated by the fact that Lorenz and Ros showed up in my office at a quarter to four with yet another urgent matter that required my immediate attention and didn’t get resolved until well past seven in the evening. The good news, another acquisition is signed, sealed, and delivered, and GEH’s net worth has increased yet again… a good day, overall, I would say.

Now, I’m wiped out… so, why am I headed down to my study?

When I get there and put my briefcase on the desk, I see why I was led to the lower level. Beyond the bubbles and the fish in the freshwater aquarium, I see a mass of mahogany hair leaning over a file or a notebook or something on her desk. She pushes a strand or two behind her ear to reveal her glasses, but it only falls back in her face as she continues to study whatever she’s reading. I’m drawn to her. Of course, I am. With 14,000 square feet of house, I’m drawn to this room because she’s next door.

I remove my jacket and tie, tossing them both onto my desk chair before leaving my study. I pull my phone out of my pocket and log into the Crossing’s communications systems. Syncing the sound system with my iTunes, I choose the song I want and select Butterfly’s office as the destination. When I hear the sultry introduction begin, I open her office door to meet her surprised gaze. Closing the door behind me, I slowly walk over to my wife, drinking the sight of her and her initial deer-caught-in-headlights gaze that slowly morphs into wonder.

I’m, I’m so in love with you,
Whatever you want to do,
Is alright with me…

I take her hand and coax her from her seat. Those sexy as fuck glasses… damn! How does anybody make nerd glasses look so damn hot?

‘Cause you make me feel so brand new,
And I want to spend my life with you…

I caress the skin of her arms and watch the gooseflesh rise before moving my hands to her hips. Her lips part as she lifts her eyes to my face. The song is perfect as the words express exactly what I’m feeling. I love her so much that I don’t know what to do with myself sometimes. The feelings are scary and overwhelming and frightening all at the same time.

Let me say that since, baby, since we’ve been together
Loving you forever
Is what I need
Let me, be the one you come running to
I’ll never be untrue

I pull her body close to me and sway back and forth to the music, closing my eyes, breathing her in and absorbing her warmth. Her hands slide up my chest and she leans into me as the music wraps around us.

Oh baby, let’s, let’s stay together
Lovin’ you whether, whether
Times are good or bad, happy or sad
Whether times are good or bad, happy or sad

My hands slide up her back and into her hair. A sound escapes her throat that almost sounds like a purr and strikes something right in the center of me. I move my hands to her face, cup her cheeks and lean in, closing my lips over hers. She tastes as sweet as she always does, and I drink her in thirstily, my tongue lapping hungrily through her mouth.

Why, why some people break up
Then turn around and make up
I just can’t see
You’d never do that to me, would you, baby?
Staying around you is all I see…

Her fingers tangle in my hair and she pulls gently, again strumming that heat in the center of me. I crouch down and wrap my arms around her, lifting her as she wraps her legs around my body and we’re lost in the heat of each other. It’s like every movement, every action, every minute of the day was to bring us to this moment… to each other.

“Christian…” she breathes, as she quickly undoes the first buttons of my shirt. I don’t even know that’s what she’s doing until her mouth is on my throat. Fuck, her tongue is hot. I gasp out a breath and manage to fall back into one of the large seats in her office with her in my arms. She quick undoes the remaining buttons of my shirt, kissing, licking, biting, sucking, and nipping my neck and chest the entire time. I’m actually lightheaded with arousal as I realize the song has ended and started over. Thank God for that!

She’s hands, lips, mouth, tongue, and teeth all over me when I thought I was coming to her office to seduce her! My head is back on the chair and my mouth is open, gasping for air in extreme arousal as my wife makes quick work of my belt and zipper and I’m out of my pant and boxer briefs before I have the chance to protest. Well, they’re down at my ankles anyway.

“Gah, fuck!” I hiss as she bites the tender meat of my thigh before quickly settling in between my legs, and taking my cock in both hands. She doesn’t even take off those damn glasses! She just grabs the base of my hard shaft with both hands and shoves the whole goddamn thing in her mouth.

“Mother of God!” I yell before I even know it. I damn near lift out of the fucking seat. She hits my dick with such immediate suction that my eyes roll back in my head and I literally gag with pleasure, gripping the armrest fiercely to keep from climbing away from her.

“Goddamn! Goddammit!” I curse as her mouth and hands piston back and forth over my cock, viciously, with fervor and purpose! I can’t even move my hips to match her stroke.

“Baby! Fuck! Baby!” I choke. I’m not going to last long if she keeps this up. I was already a little anxious when I got home and didn’t know it. When I saw her, I graduated to heated. Now, I’m volcanic!

“Oh, God, baby, fuck!” I warn, mournfully as I feel that familiar feeling quickly creeping up in my back and my balls tightening. Just as my dick starts to thicken and lengthen and that vein starts to pulse, she releases me with a loud and vigorous “pop” causing me to cry out from the sensation.

“Fucking shit!” I hiss as I gulp in several deep breaths, trying to find my equilibrium. I realize quickly that it’s a futile exercise, as while I’m catching my breath, my limber wife has quickly stripped from the waist down and is now situating that luscious body on top of me.

“Oh, hell,” I lament, as I open my eyes, just as she positions the head of my weeping cock at her hot, wet opening. Situating her legs where she wants them, she drops that warm, tight pussy down onto my waiting dick, sheathing me all the way to the balls and moving nothing but her hips and ass, begins to ride me a rocking horse.

And again, I can’t move.

“Ha! Ha! Oh, shit! Oh, shit! Oh, shit!” Her hands are gripping the back of the chair on either side of my head and that pussy is dominating my dick, sliding effortlessly and masterfully up and down and up and down and up and down, faster and hotter and tighter and wetter with each stroke. I was just about ready to blow when she released me from her mouth, but now…

“Fu-fu-fu-fuck fuck fu-uck…” Shit, shit, shiiiiiit, what she’s doing to my dick! I swear to God, no other part of her body is moving but that ass and those hips and that pussy and she’s just staring at me through those fucking glasses while she’s milking the fuck out of my dick. I’m. Afraid. To move!

And here comes the burn.

I close my eyes and feel it creep my back and to my prostate, ready to blow.

“Watch me!” she hisses. I open my eyes and she’s glaring at me, her hair untamed, her blue eyes wild and feral behind those glasses. I’ll never be able to look at them the same again. I don’t know if my lips part or if my mouth was already open, but she rims my lips hungrily with her tongue, then bites my bottom lip to the point of pain.

That does it.

My balls explode maddeningly and almost unexpectedly into that enthusiastically pistoning pussy and I finally find the strength to grab her hips in an attempt to stop her movements and ease the searing burn.

“Don’t hold me down! Don’t hold me down!” she says against my lips, before thrusting her tongue into my mouth and kissing me passionately. I have to fight not to hold her bouncing pussy against my burning, throbbing, aching, emptying dick. It’s fucking agony and it feels so goddamn good that I want to fucking cry. I groan deep and hard in my mourning until the orgasm stops, and she’s merciless as she never stops riding me until the last drop is spent, claiming my cries as her prizes as she gives me sexy kisses, over and over, until I catch my breath.

“You… didn’t come,” I pant into her mouth.

“You’ll make me come later,” she purrs. “I know you will. I needed to feel you… needed to see you come apart beneath me… inside me…” and come apart I did. I’m still gathering sated shards of myself from the atmosphere.

“You’re unreal,” I breathe.

“As are you,” she replies, rubbing her lips gently against mine as she pushes the hair from my forehead. I kiss her softly, then gaze into her eyes.

“I need to take care of you,” I whisper…

And take care of her, I do… several times.


ANASTASIA

By the time the weekend arrives, I need to unwind like nobody’s business. Christian has been insatiable throughout the week and it’s been enough to get me through each day with this irritating and highly unnecessary investigation, but I’m always wound back up by the end of the day. The up and down and back and forth has me in a total state of confusion and disarray, so I grab my younger partner in crime, Sophie, and head to Miana’s on Saturday for a manicure and pedicure.

Sophie and I spend a lot of time together. Well, maybe not a lot, but enough. She talks to me about a lot of personal matters. I thought Gail would have a problem with her opening up to me more than her, but she admits that she’s just happy that Sophie finally has someone that she can relate to and that she only wants Sophie to be happy. Her and Sophie’s relationship is solid enough that she doesn’t feel threatened by our friendship, so when Sophie can steal a moment of my quiet time, she uses the opportunities to approach sensitive subjects.

“Ana, how old were you when you started… liking guys?” And here we go.

“Well, I don’t really remember,” I answer honestly. “My story is much different than yours, Sophie, but I guess my first real crush, I was much older than you. But the first guy I liked, I was probably a little younger… like eight or ten, maybe. How old are you now? Thirteen, right?” She nods. “Well, you’re certainly due. You’ve got a guy? Someone on the horizon?”

“Well, no… yes… well…” She sighs. “You know how girls go all crazy over One Direction, but they’ll probably never really fall in love with Harry Styles and get married and have kids unless there was a nuclear holocaust and they were the last two people on earth? Yeah, it’s kinda like that.” Her voice is laced with frustration. Young Sophie is under no misconception of her position in this situation, and I briefly recall the way she adoringly eyed Marlow at Elliot and Val’s reception.

“Ah, the ever-present ‘unattainable’ crush,” I confirm.

“Yeah, that guy,” she says. “’Forever just out of reach.’ My mom used to say that all the time about Uncle Christian.” Forever is right, and more like way out of reach for that bitch! “So, let’s just say that it got me thinking about guys and stuff, even though this guy may never be the one…” She says the last part with a touch of melancholy and I’m almost certain that it’s Marlow. They’re about four years apart in age. He’s nearly seventeen, and those are dog years to teenagers.

“So, is this guy Harry Styles or somebody that’s actually attainable?” I ask. She purses her lips.

“Not Harry Styles, but he might as well be, so definitely unattainable,” she says.

“You probably need to resolve your feelings for this guy, then,” I tell her. “Unrequited love sucks and it has a way of festering and making you bitter. Does he go to your school? Do you see him every day?” She shakes her head.

“No, thank God,” she says. “I only see him once in a while, but then when I do, it’s like no time has passed at all.”

Yeah, it’s Marlow.

“Have you told him how you feel?” I ask.

“Oh, God, no!” she answers in horror. “He’d probably laugh at me… and our relationship isn’t like that. It never was, and it most likely never will be, so it’s like you said. I just need to resolve my feelings for him. It’s just hard to do when I see him. I get all fluttery and girly and stuff and I don’t know what to do with myself…”

And she’s going to the wedding, so she’ll probably see him next weekend. Hence, the nervousness and agitation.

“So, what do you do when you’re around this guy?” I ask.

“Usually just gaze at him like a dork,” she says. Yep, definitely Marlow. “He has no idea, so I’m safe. I’ll just have to find some kind of way not to trip over myself whenever I see him. It’s not that often, so I should be able to survive it.”

“You already sound so grown up,” I tell her. “Are you making friends?” she shrugs.

“Not really,” she says. “I just started the new school, so I don’t really know anybody and it’s not like I really had friends at the old school.”

“You should use this new opportunity to make some new friends, Sophie,” I tell her. She looks at me.

“No offense, Ana, and I know you guys don’t treat me that way and don’t look at me that way, but in this neighborhood, I’m the help.” Oh, shit. I hadn’t even thought of that.

“Has somebody said that to you?” I ask.

“They don’t have to,” she says. “It’s how they act. I already know that if I approach any of them and they find out who I am, they’re going to shun me or their parents are going to shun me.” She’s right, too. People are cruel, heartless snobs, and I can’t stand the way that they think.

“Can I ask you a question?” she nods. “Would you care if anybody knew that you live here?”

“No,” she says, shaking her head. “Not really.”

“Would you mind that people knew that you and I are friends?” she frowns.

“Why would I mind that?” she asks.

“Now, here’s the big one, Sophie,” I say as I adjust in my seat and choose a nail color, handing it to the technician. “Are you ashamed for people to know what your father and your stepmother do?” She twists her lips.

“Not really,” she answers, choosing her own color of blushing pink and handing it to her technician. “They make good money and love their jobs. You guys treat us all really well. It’s just that the kids at school, they’re still going to see it as the help. I’d rather be on my own than to deal with that,” she admits. I see now.

“So, it’s not that you don’t want your friends to know what they do. It’s that you’d rather not deal with snobby ass, fake friends,” I conclude.

“Exactly,” Sophie responds. “I’ve been a loner for years. It’s not that hard.” So was I. It’s not the kind of life I want for Sophie.”

“What if you were popular?” I ask. “Could you handle that?” She laughs.

“That’s not going to happen. You have to approach people and be outgoing. You know, go to parties and malls and giggle… I don’t do much of that.” I shrug.

“You never know what might happen,” I say. Sophie examines me.

“You thinking about doing a She’s All That?” she asks. I cock my head at her.

“What do you know about that?” I ask. “That’s before your time.”

“Just a little,” she says, “and misfits tend to watch movies about misfits.” I examine her.

“You consider yourself a misfit?” I ask. She looks down at her hands, now transforming to the pretty pink color.

“Not like an outcast or anything,” she says. “I just really didn’t get a chance to fit in. Seriously, look at my life.” I nod.

“Yeah, I get it.” I look at my own nails and consider my own situation when I was in school. I could take being a misfit. It was being a target that was unbearable.

“Well, to answer your question, I do plan on doing something on the order or She’s All That, but maybe not so dramatic, so just be prepared.” She laughs.

“This is going to be funny,” she says, shaking her head. “Okay, I’m game.”


A/N: She’s All That is a movie from 1999 starring Freddie Prinze, Jr where he accepts a bet and attempts to turn nerd Rachel Leigh Cook into the prom queen.

So, the feature picture of Bradley Cooper AKA Liam Westwick is a backup that I had to find to serve my purposes. The one that the internet gobbled up completely fit the description that I wrote of Liam—charcoal gray suit, tall as Christian, outer-worldly blue eyes, cute half-smile, and feet as big as Texas. This picture was as close as I could get to the description and I’m lucky I still had a second picture that I found of his eyes! It might have been photoshopped by someone, but I don’t care. 

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

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

 ~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 30—Monsters Inside

I’ve said, “thank you” so many times that I don’t know what else to say. You guys have been amazing over my past weeks with your patience and your thoughtfulness, checking in on me however you could—texts and messages and Facebook and posts here on the board and emails—I’m unbelievably overwhelmed by your kindness and I know I may have had a few funny moments under the influence of the medication (Baby Bronzy had a great laugh at my expense), but it means more to me than you guy will ever, ever know. Though I never met many of you personally, your friendships are ones that I will treasure until the day I leave this earthly realm… and beyond.

“Golden” is on a brief hiatus due to the medical issue, but will return hopefully before month’s end.

Very long informational author’s note at the end about this chapter. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to… I won’t be offended. 😉

This is a work or 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 30—Monsters Inside

ANASTASIA

I’ve just finished texting Marilyn about commandeering her weekend when I look over and see my husband frowning at his phone.

“What is it?” I ask him.

“Jason just sent me a cryptic message about a package being delivered and I have no idea what he’s talking about.” He’s scratching his head and trying to decipher the meaning of the message. I’m mentally crafting my twentieth and final letter to the licensing board and Gloria Felton that will probably have to wait until next week now that we have this interview on the docket in the next few days, when I see Jason walk past the conference room headed for Christian’s office with Alex close behind him.

“There he is,” I say, pointing to his head of personal security being followed by his head of corporate security. They look to be sharing a private joke between them. “He and Alex are going to your office.” Christian looks up at the doors just as Alex walks by.

“Andrea will redirect them to… Oooooh, that package!” he says. I furrow my brow.

“You recall?” I ask, bemused. Christian turns a slightly amused gaze towards me.

“Do you really want to know?” he says, his voice tinged with mirth. I sigh.

“Can I be arrested?” I ask. He chuckles.

“Probably not,” he responds mischievously. Probably, but not definitely. What has my husband done now? Jason and Alex step into the conference room, talking freely among themselves, but fall silent when they realize that Christian isn’t alone.

“Don’t get quiet now,” I scold like a chastising mother. “My husband has already insinuated that you all have been up to some kind of mayhem!” I add, gesturing to the three of them before putting my feet up on the conference table and crossing my legs at the ankles. “Let’s have it.”

Jason looks at Christian and Alex lowers his head and covers his mouth to stifle a laugh. Christian gestures to the men to proceed with the reason for their visit. Alex clears his throat.

“The dog has been returned safely, sir,” he says in an official voice. Dog? This is about a dog? Oh, I’ve got to hear the rest of this. I release a knowing laugh and when I raise my head, an expression that I can only describe as anticipatory terror mars the face of all three men. You see, when you’re aware that a woman has no idea what’s going on and yet she’s still laughing fiendishly—be afraid, be very afraid.

“Jason… Alex…” The two men look at each other, then back at me.

“Yes, ma’am?” Alex says.

“My husband runs a multibillion-dollar empire, but a few minutes ago, got a text that had him completely perplexed. He saw the two of you, and suddenly, the text made sense. When I asked him for details, the conversation went in the direction of could I be arrested. While I’m still somewhere in the gray area—no pun intended—on the complete legality of the situation, the three of you are laughing, and you come in here talking about a dog. You two—spill it. All of it. And don’t look at him.” I point to my husband. I want to know what the hell is going on and I won’t ask Christian’s permission this time. Amazingly, they’re both careful not to throw a glance at Christian, and Alex immediately starts talking.

“I don’t know if you were aware, but the GEH fleet was getting a lot of tickets and was in danger of being grounded,” he begins. “It turns out that Marvin Hammerstone was using Seattle PD to push his personal vendetta against Mr. Grey for refusing to lift the ban on his wife’s invite for Mr. Grey’s sister’s wedding. At his request, we had to send a message to Hammerstone without going too far outside of the law, so after a little research, we discovered that his wife was hassling him causing him to hassle Mr. Grey, so we had to put a little heat on her, for lack of a better term. The best way to do so was through her beloved Löwchen, so… we took her dog. Nothing else became more important than getting her dog back, not even the wedding.  Once he called off the ticket brigade and the existing tickets expunged—including the one you got last week—we sent the dog back.” I sit there for a moment, frowning at him.

“You kidnapped the man’s dog?” I ask. Alex shakes his head.

“We kidnapped his wife’s dog,” Alex corrects me.

“Semantics!” I snap, shaking my head. “You people are insane. Who woulda thought to kidnap the man’s dog?”

“Know your opponent. You do what you have to do,” Alex says with a shrug.

“And what if there was no dog?” I ask.

“We would have thought of something else,” he said. “The dog was easy. Had we gotten caught, the worst we could have gotten was a misdemeanor, even if they threw the book at us. But that dog was like a child to his wife. We were looking at hitting him where it hurt—valuable stuff. We got lucky on the dog.”

“Indeed,” I say, tickled and disgusted at the same time. “Can anybody possibly find out what all we get up to?”

“Not in a million years,” Christian assures me and Alex shakes his head.

“Good,” I say, putting my feet on the floor, standing, and strolling towards the door, “because if they could, ‘Guntucky’ would be the least of our worries.”

*-*

I nearly jump for joy when I get home and find two men in my workout room installing a heavy bag. Part of me is overjoyed beyond belief and the other part of me wonders what took so fucking long. Nonetheless, I’m glad to see the damn thing being installed. I don’t use one that often except when I need it like right away, and I don’t know why we didn’t think to have one installed right after the honeymoon… and the whole Edward David reveal on Santorini… but that’s water under the bridge now.

What should we be doing right now? Should we be picking out our wardrobe? Going over what we should and shouldn’t be saying for the interview? We’ve only got a few days and somewhere in there, we’ve got to deal with what’s going on with Grace. Carrick has been very quiet. Has there been any news? Seventy-two hours… would that be today or tomorrow? Did they decide to hold her longer? Shit, I haven’t checked in with Helping Hands all day, but I’m sure that Courtney or Marilyn would have called me had there been a problem. That reminds me though…

I go to my office and finish constructing my twentieth and final letter to the licensing board. I’ve worded it such that there are subtle hints that this will be my final communication with them on the matter—then I email it to Marilyn to get it going in today’s mail. We’re are just at the end of the business day and if she hurries, she can get it to the post office and it’ll be on someone’s desk on Thursday morning. Whether they open it or not is of little consequence to me, as long as I get that twentieth certified signed card back. Twenty certified letters to the licensing board and sixteen smarmy replies—that should get someone’s attention.

The school year has officially begun, and that bitch caused us to miss it again. I’ve had about all I’m going to roll over and take from that vindictive, self-serving cunt. If she wants to play dirty, I’m fucking ready to play dirty. I’ve had about enough of this shit…

Just as my mind is about to go on one of those Christian Grey nobody-does-this-shit-to-me-and-gets-away-with-it ­rants, my phone buzzes in my pocket and I have to stand to fish it out. I swipe the screen and see that it’s Carrick calling.

Grace.

“Carrick?” I answer. “What’s up? What’s going on?”

“Ana, hi. Are… you alone?” Well, it would be moot at this point if I wasn’t, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes. Why?”

“I need you to come to the hospital.” I frown.

“Of course, I’ll come, but you have to tell me why we’re being so secretive,” I reply. He sighs.

“Gracie is asking for you,” he says. I gasp.

“For me?” He’s silent. “No one else?” He’s still silent. “There’s something else, Carrick. Tell me what it is.” He sighs again.

“You’re a doctor,” he says. “We’re going to need help explaining what’s going on.” My hands fly to my mouth.

“Is she…” I can barely form a sentence.

“She’s getting a treatment plan,” he says quickly. “She’s not dying or anything, but… can you please just come? I don’t have time to explain this to my kids can you please just come?” He says the last part all in one breath.

“You realize I have to find some kind of way to explain this to my husband!” I implore him.

“I know… if it’s too much…”

“Oh, of course I’ll come!” I say, my voice almost scolding.

About 45 minutes later, Chuck and I are at the front desk of Seattle General Hospital informing the guard and the desk nurse that Dr. Thomas Cruey is expecting us. We would have been here sooner, but trying to get pass the iron grip of one Christian Grey was worse than trying to break out of prison.

“She’s my mother and you’re telling me that you can see her and I can’t?” he demands.

“That’s not what I’m saying at all,” I correct him. “I’m saying that there’s something that her doctor needs to explain and she and Carrick want me present. He said it’s because I’m a doctor, too. Apparently, they’re going to need some help explaining it to the rest of the family.”

“Well, what it is?” he continues. “Is she dying?”

“No, she’s not dy…”

“Well, what the fuck is it, then?” he shouts.

“I’m sure as hell not going to find out with you standing here screaming at me!” I retort.

That went on for about fifteen minutes until I refused to argue anymore and walked out of the house. Before he could threaten anybody’s job, I announced that if someone didn’t come with me, I was scaling the fence and getting an Uber.

Now, I’m on the elevator on my way to the psyche ward to meet Carrick, Grace, and Grace’s shrink. I changed out of the red that I was wearing as red can be a trigger color in some cases for some psychiatric patients depending on why they’re on the ward. Instead, I swap out the red for calmer colors—tan skirt with black shirt and jacket, black snakeskin stilettos. Chuck has to remain in the waiting area of the ward while I’m escorted beyond the security doors and down the stark white hallways to an office at the end. Carrick stands to greet me. He looks very tired, like he hasn’t slept in days, and I imagine that he probably hasn’t—not since Grace has been in here. He hugs me like he hasn’t seen me in decades, like I’m the Messiah, and I know that he’s just happy that someone else is here to help him bear the burden.

“Why didn’t you call me sooner?” I ask as he lays on my shoulder.

“And say what?” he says.

“I don’t know… ‘I need help,’ ‘I’m tired,’ ‘I’m losing my mind,’ ‘I’m scared…’”

“She’s smart.”

A voice from behind me startles the shit out of me and I had forgotten that we aren’t in the room alone.

“Dr. Cruey, this is my daughter-in-law, Anastasia Grey.” The kindly-looking older gentlemen stretches his hand out to me.

“I’ve heard a lot about you, Dr. Grey, from Grace and from Carrick,” he says. Hmm, I wonder that he should still be wanting to shake my hand, then. I accept his hand and shake.

“Dr. Cruey. It’s nice to meet you, sir.” He gestures to the seat.

“Please, have a seat. I’ll summon Grace.” I take a seat next to Carrick while the doctor makes a call.

“Why didn’t you call?” I whisper. “Come and stay with us or have one of us stay with you?”

“Because I was being watched,” he says softly. My eyes widen.

“By whom?” I ask. He shrugs.

“Paparazzi, I guess, I don’t know, but I was being watched and followed every day. Same guy.” The doctor is now observing us curiously. He really should have called us if he thought he was being watched. I cut the conversation for now. We’re going to need to get to the bottom of this.

“Grace will be here momentarily,” he says. “Is there something we should discuss?” He’s clearly concerned about our secrecy. I sit up straight and answer honestly.

“I was just continuing my questioning of my father-in-law of why he didn’t call one of us to come and stay with him or at least come and stay with us while Grace was here.” I turn back to Carrick. “I know that his brother is there at the Manor with him, but…” I trail off. “I don’t know. They just suffered the same loss—the loss of their father—and I just think that Herman may not be capable of offering the emotional support that Carrick needs right now.”

“There’s more,” Dr. Cruey correctly deduces. I look to Carrick and he nods. Cruey may be Grace’s doctor, but I’m Carrick’s.

“Well, yes,” I admit, still looking at Carrick. “He’s concerned about his privacy. He thinks the press may be watching. Christian and I are accustomed to that, but…” I gesture to Carrick as the explanation of the rest of the statement. I won’t give him any more. I’m concerned that we don’t know exactly who is following Carrick and we need to find out, but I won’t tell him that.

“May I ask why you felt the need to get Mr. Grey’s permission to share that information?” the doctor asks with a slight frown. “It seemed pretty harmless, and I was only asking because I’m treating his wife and I’m concerned about secrets.” I look to Carrick again for permission to reveal our relationship. He nods his assent once more.

“Because I’m not only Carrick’s daughter-in-law, but he has also confided in me on a professional level. So, he has the right to assume that anything that he tells me is protected unless we discuss it openly.” His brow furrows.

“Carrick, why didn’t you tell me this sooner?” the doctor asks.

“It never came up,” Carrick responds.

“Does Grace know?” Dr. Cruey asks.

“Kind of,” I respond. “I think, I mean, I told her that Carrick and I had talked when I tried to have a discussion with her once, but I don’t know if she knows the full extent…”

My explanation is interrupted by a knock at the door. The doctor beckons them to come in and Grace enters the office. She looks good. She looks rested, more rested than Carrick. She smiles widely when she sees me, and I can sense a total change in her demeanor. This is the Grace I know. I want to stand up and hug her, but I don’t know the protocol yet.

“Grace, good. Come in, please,” Dr. Cruey says. He comes around the desk and escorts Grace into the office. When she clears the door, Carrick stands and gives her a warm embrace. I sigh heavily. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to normal in a long time with them. He kisses her gently on the cheek.

“How are you, Gracie?” he says, softly.

“Much better than you, it appears,” she says with a sad smile, gently touching his cheek. “I’ll be fine now, Cary. You need to get some rest.”

“I’ll get some rest when you’re back home,” he confesses. Grace “tsk’s” and shakes her head. She looks past him at me and reaches out her hand. I grasp it firmly, the same hand I held in the ambulance on the way here.

“Thank you… for everything, and thank you for coming,” she says, her voice cracking.

“Of course,” is all I can say, unable to hide the emotion in my own voice, the events of our arrival flooding back to me.

“Everyone take a seat,” Dr. Cruey says, rounding us up before we get too emotional. Grace takes the other seat next to her husband and we all turn our attention to Dr. Cruey.

“Dr. Grey, Grace asked that you be here because she wanted another doctor present to help explain things to her family. What she’s going through shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s one of the most severe cases that I’ve ever seen and as you can imagine, I’ve seen more than a few.

“I knew after the first few minutes of talking to your wife that she wasn’t suicidal,” Dr. Cruey says, turning his attention to Carrick. “I could tell that she was very confused, and her behavior was a bit psychotic, but in a medical sense. She was disoriented and frustrated one minute, then she was forlorn and apologetic the next. Moments thereafter, she was angry and combative, suffering from an intense persecution complex. The width and range of her mood swings were a pendulum; the speed was a metronome.”

I look over at Grace, her gaze focused on her clasped hands. I can’t see her face, just that her head is down and she’s as still as a statue. Carrick reaches over and covers her hands with his, but she doesn’t move.

“I must tell you that it’s hard for her to hear this,” Dr. Cruey continues. “She didn’t and doesn’t see her behavior as badly as everyone else did or does. She couldn’t. She’s in the middle of it. Everything that she’s seeing and thinking and feeling is very real to her, and none of you understand. Carrick, you had the typical response to her actions and behavior—psychiatric ward…”

“I felt like I didn’t have a choice,” Carrick defends.

“I didn’t say that you were wrong. I said it was a typical response,” the doctor interrupts. “Her behavior was erratic, unexplainable, and highly out of character and the icing on the cake was the kitchen accident that no one could be sure was an accident.”

We all turn to Grace and the doctor stops talking. Grace raises her gaze to him when she notices the silence and then to Carrick and me.

“I didn’t try to kill myself,” she says firmly. “That woman was in my house and I wanted to know how in the hell she got in my house!”

“What woman?” Carrick asks.

“Kate,” Grace and I both say at the same time.

“Kate was in our house?” Carrick says, surprised. How does he not know this?

“That’s another story for another time,” I tell him directing his attention back to his wife. I want him to get to the point.

“Mia had dismissed me from anything that had to do with the wedding,” Grace adds mournfully. “She was so angry with me when she found out some of the things I had planned without her knowledge. I don’t know, they just didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time. Even now… I don’t know…”

The fact that she’s indecisive about her actions instead of dug-in in her victim role indicates a huge change from just a week ago.

“I really did want things to be so spectacular. I still do, but…” She shakes her head. “The more I try to explain things… the more I look at things and… everything just seems so surreal!”

“So, what’s causing all of this?” I ask finally. I can’t take the build-up anymore. Can we just get to the point?

“Dr. Grey… Ana, it’s very important that you help the family understand the seriousness of this. If they brush this off, it’s going to get worse, but they can’t feed into either. It’s going to be like raising a child.”

“I need to know what we’re dealing with here,” I say, quickly losing my patience. He sighs.

“Grace is suffering from one of the most severe cases of perimenopause I’ve ever seen,” he announces finally.

Menopause.

It’s menopause.

All that build-up for menopause.

I want to slap this man.

“And that look,” he says, pointing at me, “that reaction, is exactly what we need to avoid from her family.” You son-of-a…

“No, here’s the problem,” I say, leaning forward in my seat and pointing at him the same way that he’s pointing at me. “For you to be a mental health professional, you handled that all wrong! For starters, you don’t pull somebody’s family in and drag something out like that when they’re waiting to hear about a diagnosis! You have no idea what her family has been through waiting to find out if she’s okay. They’ve been pulled apart at the seams over this! I got into a fight with my husband this afternoon to keep him from coming here with me and now, I’m so glad that I did, because had he won that fight and you put him through what you just put me through…”

“Us…” Carrick growls through his teeth next to me. I turn my gaze to my father-in-law and his fists are clenched. He’s looking at the floor and his jaw is tight, like he’s fighting to maintain his composure. He didn’t know. He was waiting for the announcement just like I was. Fucking hell.

“If you had put my husband through what you just put us through, they would be surgically removing his fingers from your throat right now,” I finish my thought calmly. “I don’t know if you were made aware of this, but earlier this year, my best friend and Grace’s other daughter-in-law, was also displaying erratic, unexplainable behavior and we discovered that she had a brain tumor! So, while you’re doing this whole delayed, dramatic announcement thing, her family—myself and her husband included—are sitting in the wake of a cancer scare expecting the worst! This man just lost his father, for Christ’s sake! What kind of shrink are you?”

I think I’ve shocked the good doctor, because he’s sitting there staring at me a bit dumbfounded. Just as he’s about to retort, Carrick speaks.

“You didn’t even have to summon my daughter-in-law for this,” he says.

“I summoned Ana,” Grace interjects. We both look at her. “I didn’t think the family would take it seriously. I’m not really taking it seriously. The only reason I’m taking it seriously is because I’m living it!”

“Gracie, I’ve been prepared for this since the day I married you,” Carrick says. “I knew that we would be going through all of the ‘growing old’ syndromes together, so I knew I would deal with menopause. I’ve heard horror stories. I never knew how true they were, but I was still prepared. I just didn’t know that it would strike and you wouldn’t know that it was striking. You’re a doctor.”

“Well, if you had asked me before it happened if I expected menopause to be this bad, I would have said ‘no,’ so…” Grace trails off and throws her hands up in surrender. I look back at the psychiatrist, certain that he’s not the person that should be handling this now that we know that nothing is wrong with Grace’s head. She should be talking to her gynecologist about hormone replacement therapy or something. He’s nervous now, because he knows his approach to this situation was all wrong.

“I apologize for the method I used to inform you of Grace’s condition,” he begins. “I just wanted you to be informed before I told you what it was. Like Grace said, so many people don’t take it seriously.” I take a few deep breaths and realize that I need to remain professional because Grace hasn’t been released from this quack’s care, yet. He might be a perfectly fine psychiatrist, but he’s not what this situation calls for, although I do understand that he is a means to an end under the circumstances.

“Well, just so you know, when I speak to the family, I’m going to lead with the menopause part,” I say. He sighs.

“I highly recommend some kind of preliminary explanation, Dr. Grey…” he protests.

“Don’t worry, doctor,” I reply, firmly and professionally, “I can be very persuasive. Grace’s family will have a complete and clear understanding how dire this situation really is by the time I’m done. My question for you is what are we doing to get her as back to normal as possible? She’s a doctor. She doesn’t belong on this ward. She needs to be able to function and heal children and help people because that’s what she does. So, what do we need to do to get that Grace back?”

“I agree that she needs that normalcy back as soon as possible. Once I was able to pinpoint that Grace’s problem was perimenopausal, we put in a call to her GYN who was able to see her the same day since she’s on staff here at the hospital. She started Grace on a hormone replacement regimen. However, you will need to discuss with her family the stressors that may have helped to bring her to this point…”

I listen to the doctor, the entire time wanting to just leap across his desk and choke his ass. I’m trying to filter the useful information from his flowery gobbledygook, because he has just gotten on my last fucking nerve. I’m grateful to him for being able to help Grace and to pinpoint what was wrong with her, but for the life of me, I don’t know how somebody hasn’t killed him by now.

Grace really doesn’t need the final night of her 72-hour hold, but she has agreed to stay nonetheless to give us time to talk to the family. She will get some rest and face everyone with a clear head after they’ve had a chance to marinate over the news overnight. Carrick and I hug and kiss her goodnight and go out to the waiting room with Chuck. Carrick looks exhausted and I suddenly remember the little problem that we were discussing earlier.

“Chuck, I need you to get Jason on the phone. Someone’s been following Carrick and he doesn’t know who it is.” Chuck looks up at Carrick, then rises from his seat.

“How long,” Chuck asks.

“I don’t know,” Carrick replies. “Maybe a couple of days, since I left the hospital.”

“What can you tell me about him? Is it one guy or have you seen different people? Does he try to be discreet?” Carrick thinks for a moment.

“I think it’s just one guy. I haven’t seen anybody else. For the most part, he tries to blend in with the scenery, but when you see the same person in different places, you know you’re being followed.”

“What does he look like?” Chuck asks.

“Early to mid-thirties, maybe… blonde hair, average height—maybe six feet, a little stocky… well built…” Chuck’s brow furrows.

“You don’t need Jason. You need Alex.” He pulls out his cell and dials a number. He walks away from us and talks quietly into the phone. Carrick leans down to me.

“Who’s Alex?” he asks.

“Alex is the head of GEH Security,” I say, trying to strain and hear what Chuck is saying with absolutely no luck.

“I thought Taylor was the head of security,” he says, bemused.

“No, he’s the head of Grey’s personal security. Alex is corporate.” Carrick ponders that statement.

“Should I be concerned?” he asks. The truth is I’m asking that same question.

“Did he follow you here?” Chuck asks, interrupting my thoughts.

“I don’t know,” Carrick replies. “I don’t look over my shoulder. I just see him places. I figured he was one of the press looking for a story.”

“He doesn’t know,” Chuck says into the phone, then pauses for a moment. “How is he dressed when you see him?” Carrick’s brow furrows.

“Um…” He has to think hard to remember what the guy was wearing. “Button-down shirt and trousers, outer jacket and loafers… pretty casual.”

“Did you hear?… Yeah, it could be either one…  You got it.” He ends the call. “Where are we going from here?” Chuck asks.

“Well, we’ve got to go back to the Crossing and report on Grace’s condition,” I inform him. He nods.

“Can you wait about fifteen minutes?” he asks. I look at Carrick and he shrugs.

“I guess so. Let’s go get coffee.”

Down in the cafeteria, Carrick is quiet as he stares into his untouched cup of macchiato.

“Menopause,” he laments. “I left my wife because of menopause. I swore I wouldn’t do it and I did it.”

“You didn’t leave her, Carrick,” I correct him. “You took a break because you were suffering, too. Had you had all your wits about you while she was going through this and had not been dealing with Pops’ death, you would have knocked some sense into Grace about her behavior… well, not literally, but you know what I mean. People don’t give themselves enough credit for their own suffering in times like these. You’re not going to be any good to Grace if you don’t see this for what it is. Beating yourself up is not going to help at all.” He nods, but I get the feeling that he’s still knocking himself around a bit.

While we’re talking, my phone vibrates and it’s Christian. He’s going to have to wait for a minute, because I’m trying to put a fire out here.

“I just wish I could have been stronger. I didn’t expect it to be this bad for her, but I guess I have to realize what the doctor said—there was so much going on at once. There was no way that any of us could focus on any one thing…” I’m trying to focus on him, but my phone is vibrating again. I swipe the screen to ignore the call once more with a text that I will call back later. I’ll be home soon anyway and I really don’t feel like picking up our fight where we left off. This time he answers with a text. I sigh heavily and ask Carrick to excuse me for a moment. I swipe the screen and read the text.

**Answer your goddamn phone. **

He’s determined to fight with me. My phone vibrates again and I realize that if I don’t answer it, he’s just going to keep calling and if I turn off my phone, the fight is just going to be bigger when I get home. I feel like I’m facing the firing squad when I swipe the screen.

“Yes?” My voice is a bit more irritated than I want to relay, but I don’t think it matters at this point.

“We have a security situation going on and you didn’t think to call me?” he seethes into the phone. Several thoughts go into the three-second funnel at this moment…

We just got out of a meeting with a shrink who thought it was a good idea to drag out the revelation of a diagnosis.
Somebody’s following Carrick and we don’t know who it is.
Chuck is very likely setting up a sting right now and we’re in a holding position with no details.
Carrick is now blaming himself for not being prepared for a situation he promised he would be prepared for and I’m trying to talk him back from the cliff.
I have to go home and explain to the family that Grace is going through MegaMenopause and that we not only have to handle her with kid gloves, but we also have to know when to be firm with her.

And now…

My husband, who I fought with before I left the house to come to the hospital, is now on the phone speaking to me in his simmering voice because I didn’t notify him of a security situation. I turned it over to Chuck instead.

Once all those ingredients go into the three-second funnel and swirl around a bit, I press my fingers to my now throbbing scar and calmly deliver the three words that come out of the funnel.

“No, I didn’t.”

And off he goes. I don’t even know what he’s saying. I only know that my head hurts, and I suddenly want to find my neurologist in this joint and have him give me a sedative. Somewhere during my husband’s rant, the hand holding my phone just falls to the table, prompting Carrick to take it from my hand. I don’t even bother trying to stop him. He looks at the screen before putting the phone to his ear.

“Christian, what are you saying to this woman? She’s sitting here rubbing her head like she’s trying to start a fire… Well, I would, but I’m pretty certain that she didn’t hear the last ten seconds of whatever you were barking about because she’s gone into a stupor…”

Longer than that.

“Well, it’s not like there’s much that we can do. Charles told us to wait for a few minutes. As soon as he tells us that we can leave, we’ll be on our way… We’ll tell you all when we get there… I most certainly will not! We will tell you when we tell everyone else!… I most certainly will not, because I won’t allow you to badger her either. I realize that you’re a grown man and this is your wife and I respect that, but right now, I’m barely holding it together, son, and she’s helping me. I need you to respect that!”

There’s a long pause after that and I almost hate to see or hear what’s happening on the other end of the phone.

“Thank you. We’ll be there as soon as we can. Charles said fifteen minutes a while ago, so it shouldn’t be long now.” There’s another pause and he ends the call. My scar is thumping worse than ever now. I take a moment to rest my head on my arms on the table. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this night.


CHRISTIAN

“Sir, Her Highness and your father are coming into the gate now.”

It’s about goddamn time. We’ve been waiting here forever to hear what’s going on with my mother, ever since my wife ceremoniously forbade me to go to the hospital with her to find out for myself. How in the hell I let her out of this house without insisting on going with her, I’ll never know, but I’ll deal with her insolence later.

“What about the mystery man?” I ask.

“No longer a mystery,” Jason says. “Westin and Manchester headed him off at the bridge. My guess is that he was going to follow Mr. Grey all the way here or home if he could. He’s a private investigator. His name is Dustin Carver, or at least that’s who we think he is. Of course, no info on who he’s working for. Alex is getting everything he can from facial recognition, the car… we were even able to lift fingerprints from his phone.”

“Do I even want to know how they managed to do that?” I ask. Jason shrugs.

“Nothing sketchy,” he assures me. “We’ll have everything on who he really is. We just won’t know who hired him. There’s only so much of a shakedown you can do under the circumstances.” I sigh. This is just what we need right now—private eye following my dad. Why in the world would a PI be following Dad?

I stand from my desk and take the stairs up to the main floor. The family has begun to convene in the dining room. Mia and Ethan have been summoned to the Crossing for the “Big Reveal,” for lack of a better term, and they’re sitting at the table with Valerie and Elliot. Jason and I are coming around the column from the rear staircase just as Dad, Chuck, and my errant wife enter from the hallway leading from the front of the house.

… At least I think that’s my wife. She looks like banshees have been playing in her hair, but only one side. She’s been worrying her scar.

“Jesus, Steele, what the hell?” Valerie says. Butterfly looks at her, bemused.

“What?” Valerie points at her hair causing Butterfly to touch her head.

“Oh,” she says, trying to smooth it, but doing no good whatsoever.

“Just… just stop, stop,” Valerie says, going over to her friend and gently combing her fingers through Butterfly’s wild mane. “Damn, Steele, have monkeys been running through your head?”

“No,” Butterfly says, flinching as Valerie tries to detangle her tresses.

“Dad, why didn’t you tell her that her hair looked like that?” I ask quietly. The look my father gives me is murderous.

“I’m afraid I was a bit too distracted with my wife’s condition and the unknown gentleman following me to pay much attention to fashion, son,” he bites out. His tone is so brutal that I literally draw back. I almost want to slither away like a vampire from sunlight.

“So, um, not that I’m being insensitive or anything, but can we please worry about Montana’s hair dilemma later? I think I speak for everyone when I say that we’re all about to burst wondering what’s going on with Mom.” Butterfly nods and waves Valerie away from her hair.

“For those who may be wondering, she didn’t try to commit suicide,” Butterfly begins with no prelim.

“Oh, thank God,” Mia sighs heavily and almost collapses into Ethan’s arms. I had no idea she was carrying the situation so heavily. Then again, she did ban Mom from wedding duty and I have no idea what the rules were for the shower. She’s probably been carrying a lot of guilt while waiting to hear what’s happening.

“There’s no fatal disease—no tumor, no cancer.” And here comes Elliot’s big sigh. His concern was that he was going to have to go through a repeat of what he went through with Valerie.

“She’s not crazy; there’s no Alzheimer’s; and she’s not being deliberately obtuse, mean, or selfish.”

And now, it’s my turn to sigh. I was so sure that my angel was just leaving me—that I was totally losing her—but now I know that’s not what it is… but what is it?

I see now that my wife has systematically put all our fears to rest, but she still hasn’t told us what is wrong with my mother.

“Grace is staying in the hospital for one more night to get some rest and so that we can talk about what’s going on with her and help her through it,” Butterfly continues.

“Well, we know what’s not going on with her…” Valerie begins.

“She’s going through perimenopause, and it’s pretty much tearing her apart,” Butterfly announces.

“Wait a minute,” Elliot says, “all of this is from menopause?” Butterfly nods.

“It can come in like a lion or lamb. It just depends on the woman. It can be as simple as crying spells, mood swings, and hot flashes or as complex as hallucinations, vicious behavior and psychosis and anywhere in between,” she informs.

“Mom’s a doctor. Why didn’t she see this coming?” Elliot continues to protest.

“Most often, when something’s going on with your mind, you don’t see it coming, El,” Valerie interjects. “Grace may be a doctor, but being able to diagnose yourself or anybody else most likely requires logic and reason. How much logic and reason do you think she’s been exercising throughout this?” Elliot shakes his head.

“I’m sorry. I just don’t see how this could make my mother go totally off the rails this way,” he protests.

“Think of it this way, babe,” Valerie says, turning to face him. “You know those six days right before my period when I turn into Medusa?”

I see my brother literally shiver.

“Yeah, you do. Now, you see how you bend to my every whim, but you still avoid me like the plague because you’re afraid that I’m going to bite off your head and shit down your throat?” All the men in the room clear their throats uncomfortably.

“Yeah,” Elliot says, squirming a bit in his seat.

And you see how you wait until my period starts and then you mark the days off for me like a prisoner ticking off the days until his release?”

Elliot looks uncomfortably around the room at the rest of us. I haven’t had the joy of periods in months because Butterfly has been pregnant, and then she started breastfeeding. I can remember a bad PMS or two before that, but not many, so I just listen since I know absolutely nada about menopause. Ethan and Dad and even Jason all look a little uncomfortable with this topic of conversation, so I assume they can empathize a little more with my brother’s plight.

“Yes, dear, I get it, but we’re not talking about PMS…”

“Oh, but we are, Elliot,” Valerie corrects him, “because take those crashing, violent, merciless hormones that rip my body apart for a few days every month and turn me into an unrecognizable, unapproachable, snarling beast then multiply them exponentially, add in a few hot flashes—assuming she’s having those—some possible hallucinations, a bit of paranoia, several stressful situations piling up one after the other, and no relief in sight. There’s no period coming to relieve her. She could be going through this for a month, six months, or ten years. So, you imagine having to deal with crazy PMS Valerie on steroids for ten years, because I’m sure as hell not looking forward to being that person. So, when you see symptoms like what we’re seeing now, get my ass to they G-Y-N, because I’m going to need hormone therapy pronto.”

Valerie’s speech leaves the room silent and several people turn to look at Butterfly.

“Is that what’s going on with Mom?” Elliot asks. Butterfly sighs and nods.

“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” she replies.

“Shit, I should’ve known,” Mia says, hitting herself in the head. “Erin’s mother is going through the exact same thing right now. She’s like a damn alien! They had to send her on a sabbatical. God, it’s all so clear now. Why didn’t I see it sooner?”

“The wedding,” Dad intercepts. “You were distracted. It’s understandable. So was I…”

“… And I’m going to tell you, Mia, just like I told Carrick,” Butterfly inserts. “Beating yourself up is not going to help Grace. You both had other things on your mind just like Grace did. A lot of her behavior was masked by all the shit that she was doing. We only saw what was going on when we needed her. But think about something. We’ve all had some really massive thing happen to each one of us in the last 18 months. While each of those things happened to each one of us, they all happened to Grace.

“She had my accident, the birth of her grandchildren, Elena’s trial, both sons getting married, Val getting cancer, Pops’ death and currently Mia’s wedding, the eternally delayed Helping Hands accreditation, her still-grieving husband, and a stressful job at the hospital. On top of that, she’s perimenopausal. This is going to be like raising a child. She’s going to need our support, but we’re going to have to know when to have a firm hand with her, too, or we may find ourselves being manipulated.”

“I was afraid you were going to say something like that,” I lament.

“This was the situation you were facing with Hammerstone, Christian,” Dad says. “She couldn’t reel that in. She didn’t know how. She’s going to have a better handle on things now since she knows what’s going on and she’ll be taking meds and such, but she’s going to need some guidance… and she’s going to have to know what she can and can’t get away with… Mia.”

“I know, I know,” Mia replies, a bit crestfallen. “She’s still banned from wedding duty. She has to be. I don’t want her going back trying to redo a lot of the stuff that I’ve undone. There’s nothing more that she can do anyway. The wedding’s two weeks away. I’ll apologize in advance for whatever happens at my wedding that I am not aware of or that I wasn’t able to cancel.”

Great. It’s still going to be a three-ring circus. I just know it.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Dad says. “Right now, we need to make sure that we’re all on the same page when it comes down to handling your mother…”

We talk in detail concerning what’s going to be done about Mom and how she’s going to be “handled” while she’s going through menopause, but Elliot and I are still more than a little stumped as to how menopause can cause such a drastic change in a woman… not just any woman, our mother. Valerie explained it very well, but quite frankly, I never completely understood the dynamics of PMS either. Some of my submissives suffered from it while others didn’t—or at least I never saw it. It usually depended on what form of birth control they used or if PMS hit them throughout the week when I didn’t meet with them.

I’ve only had PMS interfere with a scene once in the many years that I’ve been a Dominant. One of my submissives was in so much pain from cramping that I found her in a ball in the shower in tears. I had to call Gail to come and help me find out what was wrong with her. As far as the bleeding goes, sex during a menstrual cycle never bothered me. A couple of my subs had a problem with it, but they soon got over it. However, you can’t very well fuck and flog a woman who’s doubled over in pain… unless you’re one completely insensitive asshole.

So, Mom’s going to be released sometime tomorrow after lunch and she has agreed to a meeting at the Manor once she’s home and settled. I’m somewhat shocked that my mother agreed to stay on the psyche ward one more night to get some rest so that she would be able to face us tomorrow. It really makes you think about how serious her situation must be when she could have rested just as easily in her own bed and still agreed to meet with us tomorrow. We would have left her in peace.

My wife steals away to tend to our children while I talk to my family a while longer. I try to convince Dad to stay the night with us, especially with Inspector Gadget following him around, but he declines. He finally leaves with Mia and Ethan shortly behind him, bidding us, “Goodnight” until tomorrow’s meeting.

And now… my wife.

It was like she openly kicked against everything she should have done today… and these are my parents! It’s menopause. Why the fuck couldn’t I go to the hospital? And that whole climbing the fence thing, that was just childish! That was nothing more than an overblown temper tantrum. And then they discover that Dad was being followed and she didn’t think to call me? I think it’s time Mrs. Grey is taught a little lesson.

I check in on my children and see that they are fast asleep, so I go to our bedroom to find my wife snuggling down in bed.

“That’s pretty presumptuous of you,” I say, invoking my voice. My wife slowly turns and looks over her shoulder at me like I’m an alien being. Not the reaction I was going for.

“Anastasia…” I begin. She leans up on one elbow, staring at me and says the last thing I expect to hear.

“No.”

I’m a bit taken aback. Did she just say, “No” to me?

“Excuse me?” I ask, trying to keep the Dom monster at bay.

“No,” she repeats. “You can fuck me. You can even angry fuck me if you want, but you will. Not. Punish me.”

Um, dear, that’s not the way this works! The errant submissive doesn’t choose when she gets punished.

“What makes you think…” She’s interrupting me before I can finish.

“And I’m not going to argue with you about it, either,” she continues. “I’ve done nothing that warrants correction and I’ll safeword if that’s what you need, but you will not punish me for anything that happened today.”

Just like that, the Dom is deflated. It’s like I’ve been hit head on in the stomach with a wrecking ball.

“I’ve lost every little bit of control over everything I possibly could have once we got back home, and you’re denying me the one way that I can regain control over any of this?” I seethe. She can’t be serious!

“You do whatever you need to do to regain control, Christian, but you’re not going to do it by punishing me—not tonight, and not for this.” She throws the covers off her body and sits up. “You’ll be setting a precedent. You’ll be telling me that I can never help any of your family ever again; that I have to choose between you and them; that your feelings are so all-important, and your word is so final that I can’t do anything that might disrupt your precious control even if it’s something that could be detrimental to the Grey collective.”

She’s pissed. She’s not just saying, “No;” she’s saying, “Hell, no!” I have never in my life had a woman shut down the Dom without verbally safewording, and she just did.

“You’ve defied me all day,” I protest.

“No, I haven’t,” she retorts. “We were the perfect team at Grey House, talking to the journalists and making our decisions about what we were going to do for the interview. Even when you all told me about that damn dog, I didn’t step on anybody’s toes. It wasn’t until we got home, and your father said that he wanted me at the hospital and not you that you felt defied. And it wasn’t me that was defying you even then; it was your father. So… what? You’re going to punish me because Daddy didn’t want you at the hospital?”

Goddammit! She fought with me before she left, not my father!

“My father didn’t keep me from going to the hospital…”

“So, you’re telling me that the fact that your father said that he wanted me at the hospital and me alone had nothing to do with the fact that you didn’t go.” She calls me right out on my shit, so I change tact.

“You didn’t inform me when there was an obvious breach in security,” I accuse. “I had to find out from Jason.”

“Which is who you should have found out from,” she interjects. “In matters of immediate security, lean to the judgment of security and wait for instruction—or did you forget that you fucked that into my head a couple of weeks ago?”

Fucking hell, she sounds bitter. She’s ready for a fight on this one. I rather enjoyed myself in the playroom and I thought she did, too. We talked about what happened and I thought we settled it. I guess I was wrong.

“It appears that conversation didn’t bury your trepidation from that day after all,” I observe, a little lost for words.

“It’s not my trepidation that’s the concern here, Christian. It’s your intentions,” she corrects me firmly. “I’m done rolling over and being the punching bag for family members going crazy, ex-submissives with an axe to grind, crazy DJ’s trying to prove a point, licensing boards who feel like they have my life in their hands, and yes, even your dick, whips, and toys. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve had to fight for control? How many times I’ve just wanted to run through the streets screaming? Do I come at you with a chastity cage every time that shit happens to me? No, because there’s a time and a place for it. There are times when I understand that’s what you need and it’s my job to give you what you need, but this is not one of those times. I had my heavy bag installed so that I don’t take my shortfalls or failures out on you, whatever they may be, and quite frankly, I’m fucking tired of people taking them out on me. So, if you think you’re just going to come in here and demand that I fall into submission because I was put in an impossible position and I did exactly what I was supposed to do, and you want to punish me for it, well then you can stick your dick, your whips, and your toys where the sun don’t shine, Sir!

Well! I’m totally at a loss for how to deal with this. What am I supposed to do with this information? I’m a Dominant, and I’ve been waiting all evening and most of the night to exercise my dominance on my submissive and now, she’s saying, “No?” What do I do with this?

This is very new. I’m standing here in my bedroom with my arms folded with my wife glaring at me like she’s daring me to make a move. In fact, that’s exactly what she’s doing. She hasn’t safeworded, but she said that she would, and she has—in no uncertain terms—forbade me to exercise any dominance on her. She has given me permission to angry fuck her, as she put it, but right now I don’t even know what that means. She threw up a wall on one of my basest coping mechanisms and although she didn’t safeword, it’s as if she has.

“Very well, then,” I say with a nod and leave our suite. I take the winding stairs down to the first level and walk through the now quiet house to the service stairs in the back and end up in the exercise room. I’m not angry. That much I can decipher. I’m confused… and totally out of control. I have pent-up energy and frustration and total mayhem boiling up inside of me and my muscles are all in knots. I have never had a woman or a submissive tell me no before—and mean it—ever, and I don’t know how to handle it.

I strip down to my boxer briefs and my bare feet and take to the treadmill. I pound away at that thing, setting the workout higher and higher every few minutes as it seems I’m not feeling the burn that I need. I close my eyes and imagine myself running down a mountain trail in the snow, the frigid air blasting in my face and punishing my lungs as I’m gasping for air.

My wife said she would safeword on me. My wife told me not to punish her or she would safeword on me. She would safeword on me. The way she looked at me, like I was a stranger, like she would scream if I came near her.

“… You can stick your dick, your whips, and your toys where the sun don’t shine, Sir!”

Yes, that would have been very nice, Anastasia, but unfortunately, you pretty much told me that I couldn’t shove my dick up your ass and it’s physically impossible and not quite desirable to shove it up my own.

I pound and pound and pound on that treadmill for I have no idea how long until my body is completely drenched with sweat, which is now dripping into my eyes. I step off the treadmill and dry my face, still feeling the knots in my muscles and the frustration tightening and burning in my chest. Once the stinging in my eyes has ceased, I focus on the newest addition to the workout room.

The heavy bag.

I slide my hands into the gloves and let loose on that thing until I see the sun rising over the lake.

She didn’t safeword on me, but she might as well have.


A/N: Inspector Gadget–old cartoon and later a movie about a bumbling detective who could only solve crimes with the help of his clever niece and her dog with the human IQ.

This is a pretty lengthy author’s note and if you don’t want to read it, that’s fine.

There was a nice handful of you who hit this nail right on the head as you were going along and I was really impressed, so bravo to you (the Goddess bows). My battle with menopause started at about 38 and it’s still in progress and not yet in full blast. My doctor refuses to diagnose it, but I know that’s what it is because (a) my body is going batshit berserk and (b) nothing in the WORLD compares to a hot flash! It doesn’t last long (unless you’re having one), but it is BRUTAL and can’t be compared to anything else in God’s creation! So, she can kiss my ass with that “it’s all in your head” shit.

Anyway, I’ve only seen three sitcoms or running television shows address menopause in my whole life. If I think hard, I’m sure I can come up with some movies, like Fried Green Tomatoes, but sitcoms and running shows are a continuing part of our lives. I always thought they should address things like that. I don’t watch television anymore, so someone would have to tell me if they address things like this or do they still address the obvious, like infidelity and teen pregnancy and Reality TV Hip Hop of the Ghetto bullshit like it was when I stopped watching?

Anyway, I digress…

The three shows that I saw address the issue were The Cosby Show, Little House on the Prairie, and The Golden Girls.

In the Cosby Show, Claire woke up one morning and just knew she had hit menopause. So, she floated through it in her usual Claire way. Her children thought she should be falling apart and when she didn’t, they all clustered around waiting for the other shoe to drop. So, she and Cliff staged a breakdown and the children all came to comfort her, telling her that everything would be alright, at which point she promptly came out of her breakdown and announced that she knew that she would be okay and asked why they were all acting like this was the Apocalypse? End of episode.

In Little House on the Prairie, Caroline Ingalls missed her period and announced to Charles that she was pregnant, but when she went to Dr. Baker, he told her that she wasn’t. The obvious conclusion was menopause. Afraid that Charles wouldn’t find her attractive anymore, she faked a miscarriage. Charles runs into the doctor and mentions Caroline losing the baby and the doctor tells him the truth. Caroline falls into a deep depression, so Charles takes her on a vacation to help bring her out of it and to renew their wedding vows and remind her that he still loves her. End of Episode

The most poignant one to me was The Golden Girls. Dorothy was having a terrible time of it and went to her doctor, who swiftly told her that nothing was wrong with her. She insisted that something was indeed wrong with her and asked him to run some tests. He did and returned with the same diagnosis. She went to another doctor who listened and correctly diagnosed her and came up with a treatment plan. Soon after, she was out to dinner with the girls and saw the first doctor at a nearby table having dinner with his wife. She walked over to his table and proceeded to let him have it for dismissing her concerns and telling her that nothing was wrong with her. He announced that he didn’t have to stay and listen to her and tried to get up and leave and his wife told him to sit down, shut up, and listen. Dorothy continued to give him the very real dressing down that he had coming for ignoring her very real illness before going back to her table and finishing her dinner. End of episode.

Personally, on more than one occasion, I have fallen very quickly into depression or wanted to kill Daddy for not taking a hot flash as seriously as I do. Those things are natural torment and I when I experience them, I need him to know that I’m going through my own personal HELL!

So now, after my crazy rambling, you all can go on with your day and feel free to comment about any of your personal experiences with menopause or the experiences of those you know.

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

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

 ~~love and handcuffs