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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chapter 7 - Mutual Benefits

I wake Saturday morning to an empty bed.  I know Christian was there for the 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. feedings, but he’s absent now.  The clock says 7:45 a.m.  After using the bathroom and pulling my mane back into a hair tie, I go to check on Teddy and locate my darling husband.  As I approach the nursery I hear a voice.  I tip toe closer.  It’s Christian.  Talking to Teddy.  Just the thought of it is melting my heart.   
“Theodore, you must understand, parenting is not my bailiwick.  Your mother seems to have an instinct for it, though.  It is my hope her mother’s intuition will counteract my deficiency.  I am amenable to learning, however.  I have already acquired a bit of knowledge, but it seems the books don’t convey the truly useful things.  For instance, don’t put a full baby on his belly.  Your mother has a solid grasp of these things.  She will teach me.”
I’m concealed pressed against the wall just outside the nursery.  The tears have welled up and my heart is so full my chest actually hurts.  I should step inside, but Christian continues and I am frozen to the spot.
“I have compiled a bit of information these past nineteen days.  Your old man has learned that babies are quite soft to touch and warm to hug.  Not quite enough for a book, heh Theodore?  Don’t fret.  Your mother will know the rest.”  I can’t hold back, the tears are streaming down my face. 
“Now, Theodore, about your mother.  You are one lucky young man.  Your mother is, in a word, extraordinary.  Not everyone gets such a mother.  You must treasure her.  I do.  See, my boy, this is what I’m thinking.  I know you and I are going to have contention between us.  There is no point in denying it.  I’m told I have a strong personality, and I am betting you will also.  I presume we will be like two bricks, and when you bang bricks against each other they have a nasty habit of breaking and crumbling.  This is where your mother comes in to play.  She will be the mortar between us, son.  She will bond us together.  As long as we have her, everything is copacetic.  And, if I may finally make my point, it is essential, Theodore, that we keep her.  That is the key to everything.”
I’m on the verge of sobbing now.   Not everyone gets such a mother.  For a split second I am on the brink of bolting back to our bedroom so Christian doesn’t catch me here.  But I’m overcome with the urge to embrace my husband, fifty shades and all.  I take a deep breath, push off the wall, and roll my shoulder around the door jamb.  And I’m rewarded with a most beautiful sight.  Christian, in all his splendor, clad in pajama bottoms snuggling a freshly diapered and equally bare chested infant.  Teddy’s head is nuzzled up under Christian’s chin.  My husband looks up at me, greeting me with a cheerful “Well, good morning to you Mrs. Grey.”  I smile, but nevertheless he notices my red eyes and it changes his tone instantly.  “Ana, what’s wrong?”  I pause, trying to find the right words.  Christian quickly loses patience “Anastasia, tell me. Now, please.”  The ‘please’ takes effort from him as he mitigates his tendency to command.
Christian is seated in the glider, so I walk next to him and kneel down leaning on his legs, looking up into his gray eyes.  “You, Christian Trevelyan Grey.  You are a numinous being and I am in your thrall.”  I rest my chin on his knee.  “I just had a flash forward to many conversations between father and son.  I see you explaining the universe; from finance to baseball to music.  You have so much to share.”
Christian eyes me and cocks his head to the side.  “Well, Mrs. Grey.  It is reassuring to know I have use as a didactic influence.”  He is using self deprecation to divert me.  This morning I’ll allow it.  I know when to leave a moment alone, and this moment deserves to be stretched.      
“I love you, Christian.” 
The intimacy we are feeling spills over wonderfully to the rest of the day.  I make us pancakes for breakfast and we have a picnic lunch in the meadow.  I even convince Christian to nap with Teddy and me. 
At 4 p.m. sharp Ryan informs us that Ms. Susan Boone has arrived. 
Ms. Boone is our babysitter for the evening, and is also auditioning for the nanny role.  She has been staffed to us by the most exclusive domestic help service in the Pacific Northwest, she has passed the Welch background security check, she survived an interview with Christian.  And I like her. 
Christian is carrying Teddy as we enter the living room to greet Ms. Boone.  She stands to greet us and appropriately greets Teddy in that high pitched voice everyone uses when talking to babies.  Ms. Boone is about five foot six with bright red curls pulled back into a barrette.  She is wearing a light blue fitted button down shirt, tails out, black stretchy slacks that look flexible for moving around, and black ballet flats.  If she is to be our nanny, we would be her third family in twelve years.  Each of the other two families kept her until their children were elementary school age.  I know from both her background check and our interview that her family is in Oregon, and she has had a boyfriend for the past three years. 
“Ms. Boone, Mrs. Grey will go over everything you need to know about Teddy for the evening.  When she is finished, I’ll be reviewing our security procedures and protocol.”  Ugh, protocol.  The control freak has decided that Ms. Boone shall remain in the room adjacent to Teddy’s while he sleeps until we arrive home.  Then someone from the security crew will retrieve her to the security conference room for debriefing.  If she needs to speak with us, she will let them know.  I think this is ridiculous, but I can’t fault my husband’s thinking.  He does not want to have to receive a routine report late in the evening, especially if we are feeling, um, amorous.     
Christian is continuing “We won’t actually be leaving until seven fifteen.  This will give you time to acclimate and ask any questions.  Do you have any questions before we start?”  She shakes her head.  “Then I will leave you in Mrs. Grey’s capable hands.”  Christian hands Teddy to me and gives me a peck on the forehead. 
I smile at Ms. Boone.  “Why don’t I show you where the bottles are first?”  I jerk my head towards the kitchen and Ms. Boone follows.  I open the refrigerator to show the three bottles on the middle shelf.  One last pumping this morning and I had met my goal.  “The bottles are in the here, you can warm them using a plastic container of warm water.  There is an instant hot spigot over here by the sink.  I will be nursing Teddy around six, and you should expect him to be hungry again around nine, and then around midnight or one a.m.”  Ms. Boone follows me to the family room.  I show her the swing, the boppy, the pile of receiving blankets.  I explain that tummy time doesn’t seem to be high on Teddy’s agenda.
“Mrs. Grey, have you tried tummy time on the boppy?”  No, I hadn’t, so I shake my head.  “It is a little easier for them to see, and their weight isn’t all on their belly.  Give it a try.”  I think I will.  I note that I like the tone she uses, helpful, but not condescending.   
We head up to the nursery and I show her diapers, wipes, pajamas, all the vital things.  She doesn’t seem to have many questions.  “Mrs. Grey, Teddy and I will be fine.  Is this your first night out?” 
“Was it that obvious?”
Ms. Boone smiles at me and puts her hand reassuringly on my shoulder.  “It will be fine, Mrs. Grey.  Though I’m sure your son will miss you, he and I will have a lovely evening.  Go out. Have fun.”  I know the missing me part probably isn’t true, though it is nice that she threw it in there.  I lead Ms. Boone back to the family room where Christian is now waiting for us and I hand Teddy over to her.
“Ms. Boone, I am going to start getting ready.  I’ll meet you and Teddy in the nursery at six to feed him.”  I turn to Christian “I’m going to shower and get ready for Franco.”  I give him a peck and head upstairs. 
I strip and proceed to the shower.  I have half an hour before Franco arrives at five, nurse at six.  My ‘dressing assistant’ should be here around 6:30.  Whatever happened to blow drying my hair, borrowing a dress and shoes from Kate and heading out the door?  Where is the girl who would be ready in fifteen minutes?  Have I really allotted two and a half hours?  To rationalize it a bit, thirty to forty minutes of it will be nursing, so that part does not count. 
At five after five, Christian knocks on the bedroom door and asks if I’m ready for Franco.  I am in a knee length silk bathrobe with cotton lining, so I tell Christian to send him in. True to form, Franco gives me kisses on both cheeks, tells me I don’t look at all like I had a baby (bless him!).  I describe the dress and Franco is impressed that I will be wearing something requiring double sided tape.  “Mrs. Grey, you will be magnifiqué!  Make sure photographers see you, you will be red carpet ready.”  He then proceeds to demonstrate how he thinks I should stand with my hips twisted towards Christian and looking over my shoulder so the back of the dress shows. That may be how they do it in Hollywood, but I think Christian would confiscate any cameras that captured the back of the dress.  It is one thing to wear it, another to print it.
Franco and I settle on an up do to show off my neck and so my back is truly bare, not even my hair covering the top.  He pulls it back softly off my face and secures it high on my head, then methodically creates curls that cascade in every direction, including a few wisps framing my features.  Part of me likes it; part of me wants to know who this woman is in the mirror.   
“Mrs. Grey, if I may say, Mr. Grey will be blown away, along with most of the other men tonight. If anyone fails to appreciate you…well, if he is good looking, give him my number.”  I screech laughter at Franco’s audacious directive and implication.  I walk Franco to the top of the stairs and give him a double cheek kiss goodbye.  Ryan, who likely saw us exit the bedroom on the monitor, is waiting at the foot of the stairs to escort Franco out.  After descending the stairs, Franco yells back up to me “Remember Mrs. Grey, turn your hip to show off the dress!” 
It is just before six, so I head to the nursery.  Ms. Boone is on the floor with Teddy, who is lying on his back on a blanket, playing this little piggy.  “Mrs. Grey, are you ready to feed him?”
“If he is ready for me.  Are you hungry yet, Teddy?” 
“Mrs. Grey, I’m sure he is.  Even if it is a little early, I can always give him the bottle a smidge early for the next feeding.  Plus, you are on a schedule.”  She picks Teddy up and waits for me to sit in the glider before handing him over.  “I’ll be next door, just give a shout when you are done.  And let me do the burping…I don’t want to risk any spit up in your hair.”  Ms. Boone just keeps scoring more points.
Once I’ve finished nursing and relinquished Teddy to Ms. Boone, I return to our room and run into Christian in the doorway.  He has his tux hanger over his shoulder and his shoes in his hand.  “Mrs. Grey, there is a Ms. Adele Quinn downstairs.  She seems to think you require assistance dressing?”  Did I not tell him this?  He seems a bit befuddled.
“Yes, I do.  The dress is a little…complicated.”  I really don’t know how to explain it.
With his hands full, Christian uses his nose to trace my jaw line and whispers in my ear “is it complicated to remove, also?”  I can’t stop the blush from invading my cheeks. 
“I think removal is considerably less complex, Mr. Grey.  You have nothing to fear.” 
Christian gives me a peck on the tip of my nose.  “Thank you for allaying my anxiety, Mrs. Grey.  I renounce the master suite to you and shall prepare myself in the guest room.”  With that, he turns and strolls down the hall. 
I walk to the top of the stairs and spy Ryan waiting again at the bottom.  “Ryan, could you send Ms. Quinn up, please.”  Though I hate to practically shout down the stairs, as I am clad only in a thin robe, I think it best.  Ryan disappears and reappears momentarily with Adele at his heels.  She has the dress draped over her arms and is carrying a large saddlebag with the shoulder strap across her body.  Ryan offers her assistance and she refuses.  I greet her at the top of the stairs and lead her into our bedroom.
As soon as we are there, Adele takes charge.  “Mrs. Grey, I feel it works best to get everything out and ready before we start assembling.  So, I have the dress here.”  She proceeds to hang the dress over the bathroom door, lays the saddlebag on the bed and opens it.  It actually opens more like an excessively large vanity kit, and inside it has little compartments for everything.  There is a rainbow of thread spools, sewing needles, safety pins, bobby pins, nail polish, super glue, de-static spray, hand lotion, and detergent sticks.  She retrieves a list from the front pocket.  “Now, starting from the skin out, we need undergarments, stockings if you are wearing them, shoes, nursing pads, wrap, and purse.”  As I move through the room gathering items and arranging them on the bed, she is checking them off her list.  She double checks against the paper once everything is laid out.  “Very good, and what are you thinking about jewelry.”
I had not thought about jewelry at all and said as much.  Adele proceeded to eye the dress, then me, then back to the dress.  “Mrs. Grey, I’m thinking with your hair up, you need some notable, but not overwhelming earrings.  I would leave the neckline bare.  Then maybe a bracelet.  I wouldn’t overdo it.  Let’s let the dress speak for itself.  I personally don’t believe in wearing a watch with a formal dress, unless you are anticipating a dull evening with an early exit.”  She raises an eyebrow at me.       
“No, Adele, I am anticipating a delightful evening, and I will stay as long as I can keep my eyes open, though I make no guarantees when the clock will strike for this Cinderella.”  She chuckles at my reference and I move to the jewelry box to pick out some things.
I select two earring choices, my Cartier diamond ‘second chance’ earrings and the sapphire studs with dangling platinum teardrops that Christian gave me for Christmas.  For bracelets I have my charm bracelet, which I usually wear for everyday and the sapphire and platinum tennis bracelet that matches the earrings – a valentine’s gift.  Then I remember the silver cuff purchased on our honeymoon, and I add it to the selection.  Adele nods approvingly at the selection, but says we’ll finalize the accessories after the dress is on me.
For the next twenty minutes, I simply do what I am told.  Deodorant, make up (what little I wear), panties, garter and stockings.  Even shoes.  Finally we are ready for the dress.  Adele slips the nursing pads into the pockets the seamstress at Neiman’s added, and holds the dress out for me to step in.  Once the dress is on and zipped to just above my behind, she pulls a roll of tape out of her toolkit and very gingerly places segments of tape under the cusp of the dress, from one shoulder, to the base, and up to the other shoulder.  She presses firmly, checks the line of the dress front and back, makes some adjustments, and looks satisfied.  Adele gestures towards the mirror and I step over to take a look.
I look good, I think.  Very good. 
“Can you sit, Mrs. Grey?”  I sit on the edge of the bed for a minute then stand again.  The dress is intact and Adele looks pleased.
“Now, Mrs. Grey, dance.”  What?  She sees my confusion.  “Mrs. Grey, I want to ensure the dress will not move, and that you have the mobility you need.  Start with a slow dance.  Raise your arms to your partner and sashay a bit.”  Feeling a tad foolish, I raise my arms to my imaginary partner and begin to dance.  “Is it pulling at your arms?  Anywhere uncomfortable?”  I shake my head, all is good.  “Okay, let’s try something a little faster.”  She is dancing along with me now as we move and shake, looking absurd without music.  “Okay, stop Mrs. Grey.  Let me check.  Everything is staying put.  One last test.  Let’s really rock out this time.”  Rock out?  I shrug and give it my best, though I think I resemble a seizure more than dancing.  Adele finally stops me, and eyes the dress from all angles.  She runs her fingers around the taped edge, and at last gives a satisfied nod.
Adele next leads me over to the dresser where the jewelry is waiting.  She holds up one of the Cartier and one of the sapphire earrings and then decides.  ‘Second-chance’ wins.  Since the sapphire earrings are out, so is the bracelet.  She deems the charm bracelet too casual, and I agree.  The cuff is perfect.
“Mrs. Grey, you will turn many heads tonight.  If you need to remove the dress, the tape should have enough sticky left to just be put back on and pressed down.  But just in case.”  She holds up the roll of tape and shows me that she is putting it in my purse. “If you do remove the dress, make sure you bring a girlfriend with you to help you back in.”  I nod.  I don’t think I’ll be removing the dress.  Even though I vividly recall last year, with 23 days of restrictions left I think the risk is minimal.  “Well, then.  We’re all set.  I’ll carry your wrap and purse downstairs.  Wait here for a few minutes, then make your entrance.”  Entrance?  It’s just Christian down there, really, what entrance? 
However, I do as I’m told.  After three or four minutes, I take one last look in the mirror and head out.  I pause at the top of the stairs and spy a much larger audience than I was anticipating.  Lined up at the where the foyer transitions to the living room are Taylor, Sawyer, Harry, someone I do not know, Gail, Ms. Boone and Teddy, and Adele.  Christian is off to the left in the living room proper and is looking up at me expectantly.  Ok, here goes.
I lift the hem of my dress and descend the stairs as gracefully as I can.  My subconscious is screaming ‘JUST DON’T TRIP’.  After successfully navigating to the bottom I take a few purposeful strides forward, then strike a pose emphasizing the slit that approaches the top of my thigh – I have my left leg out and my hand on my hip.  I saw some actress do this repeatedly at the Oscars to show off her leg quite effectively.  Christian is smiling and starts to walk towards me. 
I hold up my hand to stop him “Patience, Mr. Grey.”  Then I take two steps and spin around to show him the back.  I force myself to count to fifteen before spinning back again.  One look at Christian’s face and I know I’ve hit the target.  In classic fifty style, he gets ahold of himself quickly and conceals his expression, but not before I’ve seen.
Christian strides over to me, kisses me chastely.  “Mrs. Grey, that… is some dress.  What there is of it.  Now let’s say good night to our son and have a quick drink before we are on our way.”  Ms. Boone brings Teddy over and we each give him a kiss before she whisks him off to the family room.  Gail fawns appropriately, then head back to the staff quarters and Adele gives me a quick wink before Sawyer escorts her out the door.  Christian waves over the man I don’t recognize.  “Ana, this is Serrano.  He will be part of our detail tonight along with Taylor, Sawyer, and Harry.  Ryan and the regular weekend staff will stay here.”   I’m curious why we need four for the evening, but I don’t question it.  After all, I’m now accustomed to having three with just Teddy and me.  Serrano and I greet each other.  Then Christian gives Taylor a nod and the four of them make their way out.
Christian takes my hand and leads me over to the picture windows.  The sun is just setting over the sound and the view is phenomenal.  Christian steps up behind me reaching his arm around to hand me a glass of champagne.  I feel his hand on my exposed back below my neck as he lets his fingers fall the length of me.  His fingers then trace the edge of the dress starting at my right shoulder, down to my tailbone, and back up. “Mrs. Grey, I like how this dress gives me access to your skin.  I will certainly utilize that to my advantage this evening.”
I turn to him.  “Christian, you don’t need any advantage.  You’ve already won me, game, set, and match.”  I return his kiss from before, somewhat less virtuously. He smiles at me, walks over to the coffee table and returns with a jewelry box in his hand.
“This is for you, Anastasia.”
I look at the velvet covered box.  “Mr. Grey, I would ask what this is for, but if I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned to accept graciously and lovingly the gifts you give simply because you can.” 
Christian takes my hand and puts it over his heart.  “Mrs. Grey, you assume too much.  This gift is not without purpose.  This is a thank you.  Thank you for being my wife.  Thank you for giving me a son.  Thank you for making us a family.”  His gray eyes are looking into mine intensely.  Then he moves my hand to the box.  I lift the lid and catch my breath.
It is a pearl choker, with four strands of pearls, and an exceptionally large emerald at the center.  I know nothing about the cost of jewelry and I cannot even fathom what this is worth.  “Christian, it’s beautiful” I say as I run my fingers across the pearls and circle the emerald.  Christian removes it from the box and gestures for me to turn around.  He reaches around my neck, clasps the necklace in place, and drops his hands around my waist with his palms resting on my stomach. We can see our reflection in the window.  The necklace is stunning.  Christian is breathtaking.  And I’m…I’m actually pretty impressed with how I look. 
We stay that way for a few minutes, watching the sunset and sipping champagne.  All too quickly it is time to depart.  Christian has arranged for our masks, the benefit is always a masked ball.  Mine is silver with green feathers lining the top that compliment the emerald.  Of course, he planned ahead.  Christian’s is also silver, with a green ribbon tracing the edge, so we are coordinated.
Ensconced in the black Audi, I see my reflection in the rear view mirror.  At once a realization washes over me.  “Ms. Quinn insisted I shouldn’t wear a necklace, did she know you were giving me one?”
Christian smirks “I would assume so.  Ms. Acton was aware.”  Of course.  The reason the dress and necklace are perfect together…the dress was picked with the necklace in mind.  I shake my head.  My husband is an expert at this sort of collusion.
Thinking of Neiman’s reminds me.  “Did I tell you I made a new friend?”  Christian looks as me puzzled.  “A mommy-friend.”
“No, Mrs. Grey, you didn’t.  What exactly is a ‘mommy-friend’ and where did you meet her?”  I explain that it is someone with a child the same age and tell him about our meeting.   “We’re going to have a play date on Tuesday.”
“Well, Mrs. Grey, aren’t you the social butterfly.  So what is this mommy-friend’s name?”
“Michelle and her son is Stephan. He’s two weeks older than Teddy.”
Christian is eyeing me with a serious expression.  “Ana.”  I know what he wants, but I’m not going to respond.  “Ana.”  He is using his commanding tone now.
“What, Christian?”
“For Christ’s sake Ana, what is her last name?”  Yes, I was right.  If he had his way, he would run a background check on everyone with whom I spoke.
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know!”  He pauses, searching for words.  “How do you know this isn’t someone who is seeking to take advantage of you in some way?  Someone who is seeking money?  Lawsuit?  Business favoritism?”
I sigh.  “Christian, I don’t.  But that is the precise reason why I didn’t want last names.  I didn’t want to change the dynamic so quickly.  Once people hear the Grey name, they treat me differently.  For just a bit, I thought I could be just ‘Ana, new mom’”. 
Christian is considering my words while gazing more through me than at me.  He is not pleased, but I sense he doesn’t want a confrontation just now.  Finally he resolves his conflict, puts his hand on my knee and says “We’ll discuss it later.”  It sounds ominous, but I push the thought to the back of my head.  We are going to a lovely event, we are going to have fun, and I, for one, do not want to bicker.  Not after the fabulous day we had.
“Mrs. Grey, are there any other appointments you have made of which I am unaware?”  Mercurial fifty is back to playful.  He is running his hand up and down my stocking where the slit exposes my leg.
“Well, sir, Teddy and I have lunch plans with my future sister in law on Wednesday,” I pause thinking if there is anything else “and though I have not yet invited him, I was contemplating asking my father to visit next weekend.”  Christian gives me a questioning look, so I elaborate, “He hasn’t seen Teddy since the hospital and the bachelor and bachelorette parties are on father’s day weekend.”  Though Ray came to visit as soon as Teddy was born, he quickly retreated back to Montesano once my mother arrived.  Actually, both Ray and José came to visit, as Ray is still not driving long distances since his accident last year. 
“Mrs. Grey, I think that may be a capital idea.  I, myself, was hoping to have a mentoring session with my new secretary.” 
“Oh, Mr. Grey.  She’ll have to check for a free appointment in her calendar.”  
The SUV pulls up to Carrick and Grace’s home amidst a line of cars.  Taylor and Sawyer rode with us, but Harry and Serrano took another car, I assume the white SUV, and have arrived ahead.  They are standing by the walkway awaiting us.  We slide out of the car and pause for the multiple sets of photographers.  I contemplate Franco’s suggested pose for a split second, but decided it would be even better to show off the necklace. 
“Did Franco know about the necklace?” I ask as we follow the path around the house to the cocktail tent.  Maybe that is why he wanted the up do.
Christian smirks “Would you tell Franco a secret?”  I guess not.  “I see Mia heading our way, brace yourself, dear.”  He’s right, we are poised at the tent aperture and Mia is making a beeline for us. Kate is on her heels.  They both look terrific, Mia is in a teal strapless dress with matching teal beads on her gold mask; Kate is in a red dress with black color block down the sides, showing off her fabulous shape, topped off with a red mask.  My husband kisses me on the temple.  “I’ll see about drinks.”  Then he abandons me to the approaching screeching noise.
“Ana, Oh. My. God.  Did Christian give you that?  It’s gorgeous!”  I love my sister in law, but she can be overwhelming.  Kate has joined us and Mia has pulled me to the side of the doorway.  “When did Christian give you this?”
My hand reflexively goes to the choker “He gave it to me tonight.”
“So he just gave it to you to go with the dress?  My brother is full of surprises!”  You don’t know the half of it.
“I think is it more of a ‘thank you’ for Teddy” I try to clarify.  Not that Christian wouldn’t give me a gift for no reason.
“A push present!”  Mia’s squeal has grabbed the attention of several people near us, who are now looking at me, or the necklace, or both.
“Steele, the necklace is beautiful.  I’ll say this for your husband, he has good taste.  It really goes well with the dress, too” Kate chimes in.  I laugh and explain that technically, the dress goes well with the necklace, since my plotting husband schemed to make it so. I give a quick spin so they can see the whole dress and am rewarded with Kate’s mouth hanging open.  “Who are you and what have you done with my shy self-conscious friend?  Seriously, Steele that dress is, well it’s…”
I cut her off, suddenly concerned that I’ve overdone it.  “Is it that bad?”
In unison Kate and Mia voice “Nooooooo.”
“Ana, it is THAT good” Kate reassures me.  “Did Christian issue sticks to his goons to beat off anyone caught staring?”
“Good evening, Katherine, Mia.”  Christian gives them each a quick peck and hands me a glass of champagne.  “To answer your question, I have asked that Taylor take a hot poker to the eyes of any man lingering his gaze for more than fifteen seconds.”   Christian wraps his arm around me and pulls me to his side possessively.  “Mia, are we not sitting with Mom and Dad tonight.  I saw we are at Table 2.” 
Mia giggles “We have been relegated to a kids table.”
“Yeah, what’s with that?”  Elliot has joined us. 
Mia proceeds to explain.  “You know Mom doesn’t believe in overstuffing tables?  No more than ten?  Well, Kate’s parents have taken our place at table 1.  If we sat there, with Grandma and Grandpop, that would make twelve.”  All the Grey children nodded their heads as if this made perfect sense. 
“Speaking of which, we should say hello to my parents before we are ushered to dinner.”  With that, Christian leads me across the tent to Grace and Carrick, who are amiably greeting the guests. 
Grace smiles at me as her eyes go immediately to my neck, while her husband is more subtle.  “Ana, dear, you look stunning.”  Grace wraps me in an embrace and Carrick follows suit.  “Oh, Christian, it is spectacular.”  Grace then leans into me “I was quite displeased with Christian that he had not presented you with a baby gift by Memorial Day.” 
I glance at Christian and catch him rolling his eyes.  “Mother, I can manage on my own the selection and presentation of gifts to my wife.”
“I know you can, dear, I just wanted to be sure you knew it was expected.”  Grace gives me a wink.  Just then, we hear chimes and an announcement for dinner, so we follow the crowd to the lawn area set for dinner and dancing. 
As we walk I whisper to Christian “I wasn’t expecting anything.  I mean, it is beyond beautiful, but it wasn’t compulsory.”
“I know, Mrs. Grey.  That’s why I love you.”  He takes my arm to stop our walking and lifts my chin so I look at him “And the necklace is pretty, but you are beyond beautiful.”  I wonder if he will always take my breath away so easily. 
We reach our table and it is as Mia said, a ‘kids’ table.  Christian and I, Elliot and Kate, Ethan and Mia.  We are joined by one of Elliot’s high school friends and his wife, and Mia’s friend, Lily, and her date.  Lily has her usual displeased expression, which seems to intensify when she sees me.  Will she get over it already?  I’ve run out of sympathy for someone still pining over a crush that is married and a parent.  Maybe it is cruel, but I decide to gloat a tad.  After Christian pulls out my chair for me I gesture with one finger for him to lean down for a kiss.  My subconscious is calling me a bitch, but my inner goddess gave me a high five.
Dinner is filled with conversation about Kate’s and Elliot’s wedding, Ethan manages to engage Lily’s date in some discourse, and Elliot regales us with a story about a confused materials order that showed up at one of his job sites.  As the meal progresses I become increasingly aware of pressure building in my breasts.  I sneak a glance at Christian’s watch and it dawns on me it is an hour past Teddy’s feeding.  Just before dessert I realize I am going to have to do something, though I’m not sure what.  I grab my purse and excuse myself, ignoring Christian’s questioning look.  I start towards the temporary facilities.  Deciding I’d be better off at the house, I change direction.  As I do, I catch a glimpse of Harry following me. 
I’m approaching the patio French doors when a very concerned Christian catches up with me.  “Ana, are you okay?” 
How do I explain this?  “I’m fine, I just have, um, a sort of situation.”  Christian gives me a look that says just spit it out already.  “When I planned for Teddy’s feeding, I didn’t account for me…well, what would happen to me if I didn’t feed him.” 
I watch the realization dawn on Christian as his eyes track downward landing on my breasts.  “Come” he commands as he takes my hand and leads me into the house.  We head up the stairs, but instead of leading me towards his childhood room he takes me down the second story hallway.  I quickly realize we are in the master suite and I’m not sure we should be here.  He guides me into Grace and Carrick’s bathroom and closes the door.
Christian is looking me over from head to toe.  “Ana, will we be able to get this dress back on?”
“The tape should still work, if not I have extra in my purse.”  
Christian accepts this answer and smirks as he traces his fingers along the neckline.  He then twirls his finger in the air directing me to turn around.  He unzips me then uses his finger to separate the tape from my body.  Lowering the dress over my hips and legs, he directs me, “Step out.”  He hangs the dress on the bathroom door hook.  I catch sight of myself in the mirror – high heels, stockings, lace panties, engorged breasts, major jewelry, and mask.  My snarky subconscious sneers ‘quite a sight, Steele...er, Grey.’
Christian turns me around with his hand on my shoulder and runs his hands up and down my arms eliciting an involuntary shiver from me.  “Christian, I’m going to start lea..”  Christian stops me mid-sentence with his finger on my lips.  He’s looking at me as if he wants permission, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what for. 
After another moment’s hesitation, Christian is kissing my neck slowly and his fingers are gently glancing the sides of my breasts. “Anastasia, close your eyes.  Don’t think.”  I obey and close my eyes and try not to let my thoughts overrun me.  I can feel milk start to seep from my breasts.  I breathe deeply to clear my head.
Christian’s lips kiss from my collar to my breast bone. Then, without warning, his mouth is on my right breast.  My mind starts racing…is this okay?  Is this too weird?  My inner goddess is screaming ‘Yes, Please’, my breasts just want some relief from the pressure, and I have to admit it feels good.  Not at all like nursing a baby.  Not. One. Bit.
“Anastasia, stop thinking.”  I take another deep breath and try to push all the conflicting thoughts from my mind.  I’m striving to focus on his touch when Christian moves to the other breast and simultaneously palms my sex.  This feels good, really good.  He is alternately orbiting my nipple with his tongue and sucking the whole breast, while his palm stimulates me.  
I finally surrender completely to the sensations as he moves my panties to the side and slowly circles my clitoris with his fingers.  A moan escapes me as I begin to feel the recognizable build in my belly.  Christian’s hand stops.  “Not yet, Ana.”  He waits for my breathing to slow, then starts again with his mouth and his hands working in a synchronized rhythm.
I am dripping with desire and Christian is running his middle finger along my folds.  I wonder if he is contemplating tossing Dr. Greene’s directive aside when I feel his hand move towards my back.  Slowly he eases his lubricated finger inside my back and my breath hitches.  The heel of his hand is pressing against my clit, his finger is easing slowly in and out of me, and his mouth is getting more aggressive on my breasts.  I can’t focus on all the sensations at once and my mind is getting scrambled; all I can think of is the need within me.  Christian is playing all my reactive areas at the same time.  He is a one man band and I am his custom crafted instrument.  My muscles start to clench and Christian seems to know.  He thrusts his finger in me deeply while pushing hard on my sex and clamping his lips down on my breast.  I lose myself to the sensations and I cry out “Oh, God, Christian!”
 Gradually my head clears.  I am in Christian’s lap on the bath mat.  I smile, giggle, and lay my head on his shoulder.  “Mr. Grey, you are full of surprises tonight.   I did not expect that.” 
I’ve made him smile.  “I love your laugh, Mrs. Grey.  Now, up you go.”  He swats my behind gently. 
Christian displays his uncanny competence as he re-constructs my attire.  His adroit fingers press the tape back into place.  He replaces one segment of tape with a fresh piece, makes adjustments, and declares me perfect for the public.  As we are about to leave an awareness hits me.  “Christian, I didn’t take care of you!”
I’m granted an award winning, panty melting, Christian Grey smile.  He leans to me and whispers “You’ll owe me one, Mrs. Grey.”  How does he make everything sound so hot!
As we make our way back across the lawn I have an epiphany.  “Christian, have you been thinking about doing that?”  I had been wondering what he was going through his mind when he watched Teddy nursing.
“Yes.”  He stops walking and looks pensive.  “Did you mind?”
I consider it for a moment.  Did I mind?  I felt like I should, but I didn’t.  It actually felt really good.  “No, I liked it.” 
Christian’s grin re-appears.  “I was concerned you would think I was a pervert.” 
I can’t help but laugh out loud and Christian starts laughing with me.  I reach up and run my fingers through his hair. “That is rich, Mr. Grey.”
We rejoin our group just as the first dance auction is underway.  As I am married and Kate engaged, we are thankfully exempt.  But Mia is up there with a gaggle of girls waiting to be bid upon.  Ethan has taken up residence with the other hopeful bidders.
Mia is the fourth one.  As the emcee is introducing her as a two time English Channel swimmer who hand carves Russian matryoshki dolls for relaxation, Christian and Elliott leave Kate and I and go and stand a few feet behind Ethan.  Kate and I give each other a ‘what are they up to’ look. 
The emcee calls out “Do I have any bids for the lovely and talented Mia?”
Ethan does not hesitate “One thousand dollars.”
The emcee replies “I have one thousand dollars for Mia.  Do I have any other bids for this lovely and talented woman?”
“Fifteen hundred.”  I’m totally taken by surprise.  Christian has just bid on his sister.  Ethan has spun around and is scowling at him.
“Two thousand” Ethan counters. 
“It looks like we have a bidding war folks.  The current bid is two thousand dollars,” the emcee announces.
“Twenty-five hundred.”  It was Elliott this time.  Both Elliott and Christian have stepped closer to Ethan, they have their arms crossed and are staring him down.  Ethan is looking furious at both of them.
“Three thousand,” Ethan bids.
“Thirty-five hundred,” Christian counters without waiting for the Emcee. 
“Four thousand.”  The crowd has silenced to hear Ethan’s last bid and now all eyes are on the brothers.
“Forty-five hundred,” Elliott bellows.
Ethan is glowering at the brothers.  He removes his tuxedo jacket, tosses it aside, turns to the emcee, and bids, “Five thousand.”  Immediately Ethan holds up his hands in a boxing stance aimed at the Grey boys, and the crowd is eating it up. I finally realize they planned this little show. 
Elliott and Christian step closer to Ethan.  Then the both gesture with two fingers at their own eyes then at Ethan – an ‘I’m watching you’ signal.  Christian nods to the emcee to go on.  And while the brothers give their best intimidating stares to their sister’s suitor, the bidding closes and Ethan has won for five thousand dollars.  The crowd erupts in cheers.
After the rest of the auction, we all move to the dance floor for the first dance.  The music commences and Christian is leading me around effortlessly.  “Christian, does Ethan have five thousand dollars?”  I know the Kavanaughs are quite well to do, but Ethan technically is a graduate student with no income. 
My husband smirks, “Ah, well, let’s just say he was sponsored for the evening.”
That explains it.  “Hmm…and when did the three of you cook up that little performance?  I have to say, I’ve never seen you ham it up like that before.”
Christian purses his lips a bit, “I’m not really fond of performing or comedy.  It was Elliott’s idea.  Honestly, it was the only way we could think of to get Ethan’s agreement to take the money.”  Now the picture comes together.
The dance is finishing and the emcee has retaken the microphone.  “Ladies and gentlemen, as some of you may be aware, we have a new feature to the festivities this year.  This year we have sold song dedications to be interspersed by the orchestra throughout the evening. Many of you have generously dedicated a song to someone special.  If you have not, there are still some slots left, so get your checkbook out and see me at the bandstand.  Our first dedication this evening is sponsored by Mr. Christian Grey and goes out to his wife, the lovely Anastasia Grey.”  I feel a deep flush rush my cheeks as all eyes turned towards me.   Christian takes me in his arms and there is a pregnant pause as I wait for the orchestra to commence.  With his musical knowledge, I am anticipating a captivating classical piece…which is why the onset of the songs startles me so much. 
You're insecure
Don't know what for
You're turning heads when you walk through the door
Don't need make up
To cover up
Being the way that you are is enough

Christian is moving me around the dance floor expertly to the beat.  I’ve heard this song on the radio, though I can’t recall the band for the life of me.  As they get to the chorus, my husband is mouthing the words at me.
Everyone else in the room can see it
Everyone else but you

Baby you light up my world like nobody else
The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed
But when you smile at the ground it ain’t hard to tell
You don't know
Oh Oh
You don't know you're beautiful

Christian is having one of his rare light-hearted moments and it is magnificent to watch.  I’m not the only one who thinks so, I catch Grace and Carrick watching with smiles.  As the song winds down to the last chorus, playful Mr. Fifty wraps his arm around my thighs below my bottom and lifts me up, spinning me around.

Right now I'm looking at you and I can't believe
You don't know
Oh Oh
You don't know you're beautiful
Oh oh
You don't know you're beautiful
Oh oh
That's what makes you beautiful
After a moment, Christian replaces me on my feet and giving me a promising, but publicly acceptable, kiss.  As the next song is to begin, Carrick taps him on the shoulder, cutting in.  The orchestra begins to play a waltz (talk about mixing it up!), and Carrick places his hand on my waist and takes my hand in his. 
“It has been quite a year, hasn’t it, Ana?” 
I have to agree.  “I do have to say the amount of change in the past year boggles my mind if I sit and think about it.” 
Carrick is thoughtful for a moment, “Do you think about it?”
“Well, not much.  I don’t have the time.  Though a night like tonight, one can’t help but think about where I was this time last year.”  I reflect on last year’s party and the after events for a second.  “As a matter of fact, Christian gave me these earrings last year.”   I shake my head so the earrings dangle.
Carrick smiles at me.  He looks pensive for a few seconds.  “Ana, you know Grace and I are here for you.  We love Christian with all that we are, but we know he can…”  Carrick hesitates as he searches for the words, “overwhelm.”  That is certainly true.  “If you need…if it gets…” 
I am slightly uncomfortable with this conversation.  I glance around and see Christian on the furthest side of the dance floor, with Mia. 
“It’s just…Grace and I have been there, we understand.  Well…if you ever need.”  Carrick’s voice trails off as the song is ending.
“Thank you.  Christian and I both know you and Grace are there for support.  I appreciate it.”  He seems satisfied with my response.
A man I do not recognize has stepped up behind Carrick and tapped him on the shoulder.  As his manners dictate, Carrick stands aside to be cut in on.
“Mrs. Anastasia Grey?”  Do I know him?  I don’t think so.
“I sorry, you have me at a disadvantage.”  Does he work for GEH?  A friend of the family?
“You are Mrs. Anastasia Grey?”  Does he know me?
“Yes, but I’m sorry…” before I can say any more he takes ahold of my hand and stuffs a folder paper in it.  I look down at my hand confused.
“Mrs. Grey, you’ve been served.”

43 comments:

  1. i like the way it ended, but now i cant wait to see whats gonna happen next!!! gonna drive me crazy waiting!

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  2. thanks for updating! cant wait for the next chapter to find out why ana was served!

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  3. Love it!! Cannot wait for the next update.

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  4. Oh please post the next chapter soon! Such a good chapter!!!!!

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  5. Everytime I hear that one direction song I think of Ana! Great chapter as always

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  6. Omg! This chapter was sooooooo good! Loved that you used the One Direction song. I thought of Ana when I heard that song as well. Probably because we have all been infected by the Fifty Shades affliction and can't seem to let these characters go. Thank you for helping keep the story alive with your wonderful writing. Your story is clever, humorous, ariticulate and sexy much like the original. I really appreciate your efforts. It makes my day when you post a new chapter. Thank you!

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  7. Yet again an Awesome chapter!!! So curious as to what Ana was being served for...cannot wait for the next chapter!!!! Love this story, thank you, thank you!!

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  8. WHHHHHHHAAAATT!? u can't stop there!

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  9. Once again, this was a wonderfully written chapter. I loved the fact that Christian and Ana attends the masquerade ball. Their first ball was one of my favorite parts of the original story. The tie-in with the jewelry was also a great concept. The scene with Elliot, Ethan and Christian showed how Christian truly loves his brother, even though they are very different people. The ending left my sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the next chapter. Please ma'am don’t make us wait too long.

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  10. Once again, this was a wonderfully written chapter. I loved the fact that Christian and Ana attends the masquerade ball. Their first ball was one of my favorite parts of the original story. The tie-in with the jewelry was also a great concept. The scene with Elliot, Ethan and Christian showed how Christian truly loves his brother, even though they are very different people. The ending left my sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the next chapter. Please ma'am don’t make us wait too long.

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  11. Oh my gosh! What a fantastic chapter! I was jumping out of my skin with excitement when I saw that you had updated this little tale. I then proceeded to neglect all of the duties that I should be doing tonight to read this chapter instead. And it was definitely worth it! Can't wait to see what the court papers are all about.

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  12. What a great chapter!!! Can't wait to find out why Ana was served! My first thought goes to her new friend that she met at the store.

    Can't wait for the next chapter!! So glad others knew that song, I am going to look for it on youtube!

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  13. Oh my! I can not wait for the next chapter. I love your writing and get soooo excited when the next chapter appears. Thanks x

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  14. Absolutely fantastic chapter--filled with many yummy scenes! The sweetness of Christian's "daddy time" in Teddy's nursery was so wonderfully sweet and tender. C & A smokin' hot lemon in the bathroom at the party was ha-cha-cha and completely unexpected! Holy smokes woman, that was SEXY!!! I loved the boys' bidding war during the dance auction & when Ana's green eyed goddess takes aim at Lily. What was ultimately painful to read tho....that damned cliffhanger ending!!! Lord, how could you be so cruel!! PLEEAASSE, do not leave us hanging for too long.... I just don't think my blood pressure can stand it! ;) Ha!!! As always, thanks so much for sharing your amazing imagination and talent with us... I adore your blog! --Wendy

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    1. I just had to comment on your post. You are funny with the "ha-cha-cha". And I agree with you!

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    2. Thanks for awesome feedback. Sorry about the cliffhanger...but you have to cut off a chapter somewhere ;-).

      Chapter 8 is coming along. About 1/2 way there.

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  15. omg cant wait 2 see whats gona happen fab once again , plz hurry with the next chapter i cant wait long or ill go nuts lol x

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  16. Excellent chapter! You have me spinning with the ending. Oh my god who can it be? (Elena? Jack?)can't wait for the next chapter.

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  17. Another great chapter! So eager to see what Ana is being served with...somehow related to Jack?? I loved Christian's and Teddy's scene and how the dress was chosen to compliment the necklace. Great great writing! I loved it! Please dont take too long for the next chapter! Thank you for keeping the magic of them alive!

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  18. What a cliffhanger!! Can't wait to read the next chapter!! Hurry, hurry :)

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  19. WHAT AN ENDING! I don't know what I am going to do with myself waiting for the next chapter. Please, please, please don't make us wait too long. That was a great chapter. I am so curious of what this entails. Also, loved the bathroom scene, really hot! :D

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  20. Love love love!! Especially the kf! More soon please!!!

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    1. I was having my own obtuse moment and could not figure out what 'kf' was...I finally did.
      And I'm glad you liked it.

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  21. LOVED each and every chapter just found out about this today...I can't wait to see what happens next...Idk who Ana could possibly be in trouble with?Maybe Jack?

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    1. I can't give anything away.
      Thanks for reading!

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  22. NOOOOOOOO!!!! You simply CANNOT do this to us, your loyal readers. Please don't leave us hanging for too long. I beg you. Dying here.

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  23. Fantastic chapter! So wild comparing them from a year ago...yes, they've changed but their kinky spark is so very much the same. I cannot believe how evil you are leaving that cliffhanger! Seriously, are you into delayed gratification or merely punishment?!?:). As always, thank you - Beth (BG Heron)

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  24. Ah the masked ball was one of my favourite chapters in the book - I love how you've written this one year later! And Christian, ah so sweet with baby Teddy. I can't wait to see what the papers Ana's been given are for! Fab work :)

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  25. That was soooooooo great! I loved the entire chapter as I have each of the previous. The scene with Christian and Teddy, details of the dress and jewelry, Christian's gift, the bidding scene was super cute, the song was absolutely perfect because I told my girls who are huge One Direction fans that Christian would dedicate that to Anastasia and of course I got the eye ball rolls because my obsession has gotten on their last nerve. LOL.........CAN'T WAIT FOR NEXT UPDATE! Your writing style is amazing, thank you. :-)

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  26. OMG sitting on the edge of my seat now! I can not wait for the next chapter! Loved this one! I love playful Fifty! He can be so incredibly sweet it melts my heart! Please don't make us wait long please!

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  27. Wow. What a freaking amazing chapter. Daddy time was sooo sweet. The bathroom scene.... yikes that was hot. and the ending!? please don't leave us hanging long!

    Best Chapter Yet. Absolutely perfect.

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  28. I just found this wonderful video of the New Direction song, watch it!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VqTwnAuHws&feature=relmfu

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    Replies
    1. I LOVE the piano guys. Have you ever seen their star wars tribute with warring cellos?

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    2. I just watched it earlier today!!! Amazing!!!

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  29. Please, post new chapter. WOW what an ending, did not except that. Love your writing, keeping in touch with the original chapters that we all love with a great new story to follow. Keep up the great work!

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  30. Great chapter! Loved Christian's "daddy time" with baby Teddy- so precious. Bathroom scene was Hawt! The bidding scene was also a lot of fun- it's nice for people to see Christian so completely transformed; so lighthearted. As far as being served, I have a couple guesses. I don't think it has to do with Elena because we know from cannon that Christian gifted her the salons, so she is financially set. Her ex-husband, Linc, is not. In the end of the last book, Christian pretty much destroyed his company because he was the person who bailed out Jack. So maybe having something to do with that? The other guess is something to do with Jack because Ana shot and maybe maimed him? Maybe he can't walk now? Just a guess. Anyhoo, please, please, please hurry with the next chapter. I'm thinking Ana is going to be upset with Christian because he didn't warn her any of this may happen. Great job as always!! Cheers, Adrena

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  31. i found you and read everything in one day! CAN"T WAIT FOR MORE!!!!!


    Tracy

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  32. Oh my goodness! I can't wait! What a stunning cliffhanger. I love, love, love the charity ball scene. It is a wonderful follow-up to the one in the book. And the scene in the bathroom was sizzling and quite unexpected. Don't keep us waiting too long for the next one.

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  33. Love this chapter, actually I love them all. I check multiple times a day and have read everything more than once. Thanks or writing

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  34. OH MY...where is the next chapter...please!!!!

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  35. Hi,
    Just wanted to tell you how much i love your chapters. I have even re-read them whilst waiting on Chapter 8. i cant wait.!!
    I really really loved the 'Daddy-Teddy' time,So sweet. The bathroom scene was, breath-taking,kinky and loving all at once;).
    I think we are all waiting with worry as to what happens next, but thats what cliff-hangers are for :(

    Next chapter please!!!

    xxxx

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  36. I'm sitting on pins and needles, constantly checking this page, hoping for an update! Great writing--can't wait to see where it goes next.

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  37. Please do post some more. I love your writing, the closest to EL James style and story plot

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I appreciate all comments - positive and constructive. Thank you for reading.