My stomach roils in uneasy protest. Come to think of it I’ve been feeling a little queasy all day; especially after the horrid hospital breakfast but I just put it down to stress. The tumbling sensation intensifies as my abdominal muscles clench and cramp sharply.
I drag in a lungful of air and hold it in; flooding my overrun system with a dose of oxygen I hope will settle my belly. “So what now?” I decide to take a seat, wincing at another spasm as I try to keep my mind on the thread of the conversation.
He cocks his head, a serious line burrowing into his forehead as he regards me, “We throw every resource we have into finding him. It will be easier now that we know who he is. With the extra men we can pile on the job we can make sure he doesn’t slip through our fingers.” A shadow crosses his face, together with his sour mouth and dull eyes offer a hint of his desperation to nail this bastard.
To some degree I think Taylor feels responsible, not for causing the problem but for the fact that Christian relies on him for his and our safety. I can see that he thinks he’s failed us with every strike and day this torment has lasted.
He takes a step toward me, his denim blue gaze now troubled as he places a fatherly hand on my shoulder. “Mrs Grey, is something the matter?”
I blow my bangs off my hot face, “I’m fine, just a little nauseous. It’s been a helluva week.” I give him a weak smile, not very convincing. His hand is warm, too warm as it rests on my shoulder. I have to resist the urge to shrug it off. Usually I wouldn’t mind the concerned gesture but my skin is hyper-sensitive, irritated. So much so I feel every little brush and slide of my clothes against it, it’s horrible.
Another breath and the feeling starts to fade – thank goodness. “So we stay here and wait while Christian dangles himself in the public eye to try and lure him out?” I surprise myself with the venom in my lilt, almost spitting the words at an undeserving Taylor.
He straightens, assessing me in a way that’s measuring, calculating. “That’s the plan.” His answer is unapologetic and straight to the point – no excuses.
It’s bad enough that I feel another ripple move through my abs but worse than that is the blood that simply drains from my veins. I see it on the parts of my body that are exposed, like my hands, as they go a deathly shade of pale. I become aware of the tiny pinpricks of sweat breaking out on my upper lip on a shiver that’s contrary to the flushed heat I’m doused in.
“Mrs Grey?” Taylor’s voice sounds distant, like an echo. It draws a frown on my face as I try to make sense of the strangeness of it through the slowing sludge of my brain. “Mrs Grey?”
I stagger up, a clammy palm making contact with him long enough to help me propel myself forward – my need to get to the toilet overriding all others. The first heave is powerful but not enough to produce what my body wants to expel. At least it buys me time to drag myself closer the bathroom. The next motion delivers a mouthful of puke that I barely contain until the following one expels that and the next batch into the toilet bowl that I’ve flung myself onto – just in time.
Eyes streaming, heart hammering I lurch and shudder, helpless against the violent force that’s driving my body to eject my belly’s contents and then some. Even when I’m bone dry, the retching producing nothing, the surge remains relentless. It leaves me utterly spent and with a throat so raw I fear it may be bleeding.
When the awful dry wracking sounds finally subside I slump against the bath, exhausted and dazed. What the Hell? My neck is barely strong enough to move my head in the direction of the tentative knock on the door pane.
“Annie, you okay?” Ray shuffles in, carefully. I don’t blame him, it smells like death in here and I’m sure I look it.
I manage to shake my head but my tongue is plastered to the sandpapery roof of my mouth, well stuck. With a little more confidence he steps inside, quickly pressing the flush button before he runs a wash cloth under the tap. He squats in front of me and wipes it along the seam of my mouth. “Do you want some water?”
Again I nod, too scared to move in case another wave quakes through me. He gives the cloth another rinse and leaves me with it to hold to my fevered brow. I’ve never experienced anything like this, so violent. Even retching from alcohol isn’t this severe. I hope I’m not coming down with something. I would hate to pass this on to anyone.
Ray intrudes on my thoughts with a glass of water. Gently he presses it to my lips and I take a tiny sip, swirling it around before swallowing it gratefully. “I’ll leave it here, don’t drink it too fast. Sips only.”
“Thanks,” I croak. “Chris?”
Ray eyes light up, “He’s with Collins,” indulgence tugs his mouth into a friendly curve. “They’re inspecting the jungle gym.”
Oh good. If I could I would smile, but I’m too weak. I’m glad he’s not around to see me like this.
“Do you need help getting up?”
I look up at him, fumbling through my options. More than anything I want to rid my mouth of the disgusting sourness then lay my hot cheeks on the cold tiles. I feel too shaky to move yet. “I just want to sit here for a minute if that’s okay?”
“Sure honey, I’ll keep your dinner in case you want it later. We’ll eat in ten, go lie down and let me know if you need anything.”
“Thanks dad,” I mumble, thankful that he’s here to take care of Chris and me if I need it.
He gives me a careful, timid look, “You sure you want me to go?”
In spite of the fact that he’s my dad I still feel self-conscious; this is too unpleasant to share, “I’m sure dad.” I try to give him a reassuring smile but end up snarling at him. With a nod and a turn he exits the bathroom leaving me to slide my length along the cool ceramic squares.
This is how I spend most of my night. Every time I think it’s over I get up, wash my face and try to get some sleep but shortly after my stomach starts it’s see-saw thing forcing another mad dash to the bathroom. I’ve not eaten anything so the heaves are dry but no less violent, sapping every ounce of my energy.
Twice I’ve managed to speak to Christian who is going out of his mind worrying about me but try as I might I’m too drained to give him the reassurance he needs. Both times I’ve had to end the calls so I could stick my head back in the toilet.
The hot and cold shivers bring on a clammy sheen of sweat. It makes me feel grimy enough to want to rip off my over sensitive skin. If I’m not bent over the bowl I lie on the tiles, dozing and dreaming of twisted things in an almost delirious state.
When I wake it’s with a start, my swollen eyes looking into a pair of shoes. “Mrs Grey, can I help you up? The doctor is here to see you.”
My lids flutter against the intrusion of light but it’s the bathroom’s not the day’s. Sawyer is standing over me. “What time is it?”
“It’s 6:00am ma’am, you’ve been here all night.”
I push myself off the floor, my cheek peeling away from the tile it’s been plastered to. Holding my position I wait for the wave and I’m relieved when it doesn’t come. Without Sawyer’s help I don’t think I would have made it to my room on my own. My muscles are all quivering, a useless jellied mass and I’m almost certain that something died in my mouth.
“Where’s Chris?” the sight of his empty bed sends a flicker of panic through my vacuous, nervous stomach.
“He’s with Ray ma’am. He wasn’t having a good night so Ray pitched him a one man tent at the end of his bed and he slept there.”
Poor baby, I think. I hate that I wasn’t there to soothe him but sleeping in a tent, albeit inside the house, would be akin to Christmas. “Thanks Luke.” Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself but along with the exhaustion I’m suddenly very tearful.
His indulgent, sympathetic smile is comforting. It tells me there’s so much more to him than what meets the eye. He seems sensitive, unlike what his burley physique and rough career choice suggests. “I’ll get the Doc.”
I cringe a little at the state I’m in, a smelly crumpled mess. No doubt this is some specialist doctor with a month long waiting list that Christian managed to bribe and cajole into this unearthly, early morning visit.
After a slight knock a casually dressed woman, somewhere in her mid-fifties, smiles at me around the corner of the door. I smile back because she seems friendly but mostly because she is a she. I seriously doubt that we’ll ever see another male doctor as long as Christian is around arranging the appointments.
“Hi, please come in.” My voice still sounds raspy from the rawness of my throat but I’ve not had another ripple roll through my belly so that’s got to be a good thing.
“Mrs Grey, good to meet you. I’m Dr Ellie Blair.” She shuts the door behind her and walks to my bedside holding her vintage style doctor’s case.
“Dr Blair, thank you for coming and it’s Ana, please.”
“Okay. Ana.” Her warm smile never leaves as she gingerly sits on the edge of my bed. “Let’s see what we’ve got here.” She reaches over me, her fingers gently feeling the glands along my jaw line. “Is there any chance you can be pregnant?”
“Uhm, no. I have and IUD.”
She checks my pulse, scanning her watch while she talks. “Christian said that you’ve been throwing up, do you have any pain? Any fever?”
By the way she says his name it’s clear that she knows him but I shove my curiosity aside, giving her a précis of my unfortunate bathroom antics. “I started feeling a little queasy around midday but I put it down to stress.” My mouth turns a rueful line, “We’ve been through a tough few weeks.”
She nods in understanding but waits for me to continue as she palpates my tummy. “Then, in the late afternoon, it came on suddenly and violently. One moment I was fine, the next I was sweating and cramping and shivering. I made a dash for the bathroom and I’ve been there ever since.”
I catch her sympathetic grimace, “And now? How are you feeling?”
I run through my symptoms, taking stock of what I feel. “Okay I guess. I don’t feel like retching my lungs out so that’s good right?” I offer her a grin to punctuate my little joke. “I’m very shaky, exhausted actually. It feels like my limbs are weighed down, heavy – like lead.”
In a surprisingly gentle, motherly gesture she pulls the covers over me then rests her hands in her lap. “That’s normal, you’ve not eaten anything, your blood sugar must be very low but I think the worst is over. Food poisoning’s a bitch but if you get rid of it the way you did it’s usually over as quickly as it started.” She winks, the swearword so contrary to her professional manner. “Sometimes there can be bacterial growth that will make you really ill but then you wouldn’t be feeling any better now.”
“Food poisoning?” I’m stunned, I was certain it was some killer stomach bug. There were moments I thought I was dying. I never knew it could be this brutal. Damn hospital food! “Am I going to need any medication?”
“I’d like you to take some electrolytes for the dehydration and try to eat something, usually dry biscuits or toast is good to start with. Take a bite and wait to see how you tolerate it and please, rest.” She pats my covered leg, as if to placate me. “Monitor yourself carefully. If the cramps, fever or nausea return call me immediately.”
She retrieves a card from her doctor’s bag and places it on the night stand. “Okay. Thank you.” I feel bad that she’s come all this way for a five minute consult. “I know my husband can be a little demanding. I’m sorry for dragging you out here, especially at this hour.” My first blush in hours brings a light shading of colour to my cheeks; who knows what Christian had to do to get her here.
She laughs. A real, nice throaty laugh. “You should have known him as a teenager.”
Oh, she does know him.
Before I can ask she elaborates, “I studied with Grace, we were BFF’s,” she smiles at her witticism, using a term that’s almost exclusively reserved for teenage girls. “I was a shoulder to cry on during his rebellious teenage years.” She shrugs casually, as if the support was nothing much.
Ah. Understanding dawns, she probably knows more about him that I do. I nod, seeing how Grace probably needed an empathetic ear. I know enough to know that he was very difficult until bitch-troll got a hold of him. Thinking of Elena and the things that he’s been through, including me and my recklessness, always leaves me with a nagging urge to fix him.
Since we’ve been back together, which in reality, has only been a stupidly short time, he’s grown so much. I’m in constant awe of the way he’s stepped into his role as a father and husband. I owe him so much; it makes me want to lay my world at his feet, make up for all the crap he never deserved.
Biting my lip I mull over the plan in my head as I regard the convenient doctor before me. “Dr Blair, can I ask you a favour?” It may be a little unconventional but I’m sure she’ll be able to help me.
By the time she leaves we’ve already sent a desperately knocking Sawyer away in his twin attempts to get an update for my super worried husband. Alone and feeling better after a few sips of salty-sweet electrolyte solution I reach for my phone. Twelve missed calls from Christian, all within the last hour, screams at just how eager he is for news. I call him back, keen to end his overzealous concern.
After only half a ring he answers anxiously, obviously waiting with the phone in his hand. “Fuck baby, tell me you’re okay!” If I wasn’t, his barking command would make it so by the sheer force of his will.
“Hey, I’m fine, better than my shot husband.” I pitch it just so, wanting to make it clear that I am just as worried about him.
He scoffs at me with a snort, “What’s the matter? What did Ellie say?”
I sigh, he still doesn’t get it. “Thank you for sending her by the way. She’s nice. She says I have food poisoning but apparently the worst is already over.”
I hear him let out an almighty breath, like he’s been holding it for hours. “It’s over? You’re feeling better?”
“I’m drained but since waking up this morning I’ve not been sick.”
“I’m glad; you scared the hell out of me.” This excessive apprehension is going to send him to an early grave but I’m relieved to note the strain seeping from his voice. “I’ll leave you to rest now. I just wanted to hear your voice. I love you baby.”
It’s impossible to miss the reluctance in his tone but as always he’s putting my needs ahead of his own. “Hey, I haven’t had my fill of you yet, I’ve missed you. Please talk to me for a little while longer.” To get my way I go into full pouty mode, taking full advantage of his weakness for me.
I can hear the smile in his words when he agrees – readily, “Okay, but only for a short while, you need to rest baby. What would you like to talk about Mrs Grey?”
“You, Mr Grey.” I reply unequivocally. “How are you feeling? Where are you?”
He gives me a contended sigh, “I feel good baby; I’m at the Fairmont – with Taylor and Brandon. Things will be kicking into high gear from now; I can’t wait to nail this fucker.” Just like that his happy baritone turns into a bark, the anger palpable even over the phone.
I cringe a little, always wilting under the weight of his anger even if it’s not directed at me. “Any new developments?” I ask with as much conviction as I can muster. I have a right to know.
This time his sigh is one of reluctance, spawning a panicky tightness in my belly. He’s been so open with me, if he’s keen to hide something it must really be bad. “Yes,” he grits though a clenched jaw but leaves it at that.
I let the silence grow between us, willing him to open up to me. When he finally relents I gulp a relieved breath, his promise to me obviously winning out. “The bastard is stir fucking crazy.” I can picture him running his free hand through his perpetually dishevelled hair. “Jeez baby. The photos, I can’t believe…” the crack in his voice is alarming, the despairing note even more so.
He takes a moment to compose himself, breathing deeply. “He managed to get so close to us.” The quiet delivery speaks volumes, he’s horrified.
Close to us or close to me and Chris? I wonder as my heart thuds into my stomach. Do I even want to know?
I decide to change direction. Right now I don’t have the energy to delve into some sickos mind, especially how it pertains to my precious family. “How did he know about your lifestyle?”
“I don’t know. I guess, much as I’d like to trust the NDA’s, they’re not iron clad.” I get a sense that he’s mentally paging through his little black book, looking for possible leaks as the familiar jabs of jealousy are like needles into my heart. I can’t help wondering what he feels when he thinks about that long list of beautiful, compliant subs.
After a beat or two he continues. “The scene relies heavily on trust but it’s not unfeasible that I was seen at a club, especially in the early days, and a rumour was started.”
Ah, the early days before he had a contractual sub at his beck and call. The thought does nothing to put my green-eyed monster back in her box. This guy unearthed more than a rumour though. He got hold of the picture and the stupid contact but I bite my tongue, what good would stating the obvious do?
“Did the police find any evidence that pointed to your lifestyle?” Exposure is something he’s always been very careful to avoid. Could all that come crashing down around him now? This time the shiver I feel is not from fever but from dread.
“Yes and no,” he states carefully, “our guy on the scene did.” What does that mean? I think with an irritable frown before realization comes barrelling through my naiveté.
“You’ve bribed a cop?” I smack the heel of my hand against my forehead in dismay. Could bribery and corruption be added to a dark dose of kink? Another thing that could seriously tarnish his golden boy status?
“No! Fuck no!” he sounds affronted but it lacks the complete conviction it should carry. Instantly I know there’s a measure of truth to my guess. I don’t jump in with an apology, not ready to believe that he wouldn’t go that far. Waiting I feel the tension between us build.
He senses my hesitation; his clever CEO mind calculating what he needs to tell me then spins the crap out of it. “He’s a friend. Sympathetic to my situation.”
Ah, a fellow kinky fucker, that’s almost as bad – planting a guy on a raid for inside information even if he doesn’t get paid.
I don’t press the issue though I’m unhappy with his shady ethics in this regard. “What did he find?” Again I feel the apprehensive clench as I wait for his reply.
“He found a folder.” He releases a resigned sigh as he gears up for his confession. “It had a copy of the photo from the blog and notes from his visit to the club.”
Shit! If we needed any confirmation we have it now.
“Did he manage to get any information from the club?” My heart is beating a sprint, heavy and high in my tight chest.
“No.” His answer is short, too short. There’s something he’s still not telling me. To show him that I know, I wait, filling the airwaves between us with a silence that’s pregnant with my quiet accusation.
Eventually I get another dragged out, longsuffering sigh – like a teenager exasperated with an overbearing parent – telling me how unreasonable he thinks I’m being. “Our guy managed to procure the folder for us.”
The spin and the euphemisms he’s using – all designed to soften the blows of his lawlessness – underestimates my intelligence. I can read between the lines as well as the next person. The insider cop stole the folder from the scene for Christian.
I’m suddenly spitting mad, the risk he’s taking by trusting someone who could use the information against him at any time and breaking the law by doing so has me properly riled. “You are not above the law Christian. I don’t like you taking risks like that with our future, you may have a lot to lose but so do we!” I hiss the words at him through gritted teeth, even narrowing eyes that he can’t possibly see.
“I don’t know what you expec…” He makes a start on his defence but then drops it, probably scrubbing a hand over his face or shaking his head to clear it. “Fuck!” he grinds out, annoyed.
I hold my breath, unsure where his mood is taking us when he floors me completely by agreeing with me. “You’re right, I’m sorry.”
“This whole thing, it’s pushed me into an impossible corner. It’s not my proudest moment and I’m less than happy sharing it with you.” His pouty, embarrassed tone stirs my heart to forgive without a second thought.
“Oh Christian. What are we going to do with you?” I tease, stealing a line he’s used on me a thousand times while a small smile plays on my lips.
He coughs to hide his scoffing snort but the uncomfortable tension is broken. I can’t help being pleased that we can talk without things escalating into a full scale war. Progress!
But then my thoughts are yanked back to their plan, its weight unshifting and at the forefront of my mind. “When are you going back to the office?” Every day he delays his ordinary routine is an extra day the cops have to find this sleaze ball without Christian exposing himself to further danger.
By another tired sigh I guess I’m being very trying today but he answers me nonetheless. “On Monday baby.” It’s abundantly clear that he knows I won’t like the answer but I know it’s pointless to try and dissuade him.
Cranky, stubborn man!
“I hate that you’re putting yourself out there.” My voice is low, almost a whisper. The full force of my fears bearing down on me with a merciless and shocking assault.
“I know baby. Better me than the two of you.”
Holy, fucking shit! It’s a slap in the face and a punch in the gut, if I were a man it would be a kick in the nuts as well. Hot, frustrated tears spill an angry deluge of salty heartache over my cheeks; a vice-grip has a hold of my heart as it bucks in my chest. “Christian!” I admonish him on a cry, touched and furious at his selflessness. “When will you understand how valuable you are to us?”
There’s so much more I want to say, I feel like shaking him, drumming my fists against his chest, howling at the moon – anything to get him to understand. I feel irrational in my angered desperation to make him see sense.
A reply seems unlikely, his silence a sure sign that he doesn’t share my view so I launch a full scale attack. “Under the greatest duress I let you cart us off to my dad’s because you worry about our safety but somehow you think we shouldn’t worry about yours? Let me spell it out for you – you pigheaded man – in clear and unobstructed words. I. Am. Terrified! For you, for us, for our future, just like you are! How would you feel if I flew myself out to Seattle today, defying everything you’ve asked me to do and glued myself to your side, putting myself in direct danger?” I’m shaking I’m so mad, flushed hot with rage and irritation.
“Don’t even think about it, it would kill me if something happened to you. Do you understand? Don’t think I won’t let Sawyer lock you up. Hear me now Anastasia! I. Will. Fucking. Loose. It!”
I’m not going to do anything stupid but I got what I needed, he is crazy mad. I take a steadying breath, ready to deliver my victorious line with measured precision, “My point exactly.”
The sharp suck of air I hear is what I was hoping for. I wish I could see his face as he works his single-minded head around this little bite of information. “That’s how you feel?” I can’t believe how stunned he sounds.
Boy he can be dumb sometimes.
“Of course Christian, murderous to say the least! I keep telling you but you just don’t seem to hear me.” The irony of this makes a nasty appearance in my head. He never managed to pierce through my self-doubt no matter how often he told me and look where it got us. Will I be able to penetrate his feelings of worthlessness with words? Will my actions ever be enough? Will whatever I do now always be up against the one big thing I did that told him otherwise? Fuck!
His voice turns low, slow, “That makes me so happy baby. Say it again.”
My heart misses at least two beats, I can hear the joy but the undercurrent is pure seduction, he’s turned on. Me worrying about him blows his mind. Without a moment’s hesitation I give him what he craves, praying that he’ll hold on to it. “I would die without you too.” It’s the utter truth; I only hope he gets it.
He hisses through his teeth as the sexual tension sparks into life between us, sizzling, jolting like lightning.
“Wow,” I breathe, taken aback.
He chuckles, wickedly loving what we do to each other. “You are feeling better Mrs Grey. I am pleased.”
There’s no mistaking the little bit of Dom bleeding through his husky baritone, maybe punishment for yesterday when I got him all hot and bothered. Delicious shivers ride my body just thinking about how pleased he is. I always get a reward if he’s pleased….
“Mrs Grey, much as I’d like to try and read your dirty thoughts the thing that would please me most right now is you resting. Now be a good girl and do as you’re told.”
I knew he would leave me hanging! I growl and he laughs, enjoying my frustration before things turn serious again. “Baby, Barney will be there later this morning; he needs to help the guys with some system glitches. He’ll be bringing you our mail from Escala and some more things for you and Chris. Please let one of the guys go through it before you open anything.”
I roll my eyes. Mail? Really? But I don’t argue, “Okay. Thanks,” I mumble but I’m still waiting for confirmation from him, he needs to grasp how important he is to me, to us. “Can I just ask, are we clear on how much I love you now?”
I appreciate his tone turning sober, “Fair point, well made as ever Mrs Grey. I get it.”
“I hope so Christian.” I close my eyes pushing my fingers along my forehead, suddenly aware of every ounce of my exhaustion.
“Did you manage to speak to Flynn?” wisely he changes the subject.
“Oh shit! Yes. We’re supposed to Skype at 9:00!” I squeak, butterflies bothering my belly at the thought of laying myself bare.
“Cancel if you’re not up to it.”
I don’t know if I’m up to it but I can’t postpone it. More and more I see how much I need to sort out my own head. If that’s what stands between me and a happy future with Christian then it will be worth every excruciating delve into my messed-up psyche.
After a reluctant goodbye, I flop back onto my bed. Keeping up with the pace of Christian’s mercurial mood swings is a job all on its own.
My rumbling tummy gets me up and into Ray’s pantry. Mindful of my stomach I choose some plain crackers and eat a single one. I then head for a hot shower and a tooth brushing to end all tooth brushings. I feel a million times better when I join Ray and Chris in the kitchen. My little boy is delighted to see me as he jumps into my arms, a look of relief marring his innocent face. He’s already learnt to worry and the thought of that is an unwelcome burden on my mommy shoulders.
I get the lowdown on the tent sleeping and the jungle gym as he eats his breakfast with gusto. Ray and I smile at each other, just happy to share in his refreshing optimism. When Chris goes to brush his teeth I ask Ray for an hour’s privacy to Skype with Flynn.
By 8:00am I hear the familiar tech’s voice in the lounge as he greets the rest of the team. We all go out to meet him and Collins makes introductions all around. “Hi Barney, good to see you again.”
I remember him being painfully shy but friendly. He can barely make eye contact with me before he answers, staring at the floor. “Mrs Grey.” He nods. “Congratulations on your wedding an all.”
I try to give him a reassuring smile but he can’t look at me without blushing. “Thank you Barney.” It’s obvious why he likes computers.
“Ah, uhm. Here is your mail Mrs Grey.” He puts it down on the edge of the table, about the only spot that’s not occupied with wires and computers.
“Thanks,” I say a little absentmindedly as I wonder what could be in the long white box.
Before I can give it my full attention Chris pulls on my T-shirt. “Mommy can I watch cartoons please? Please?” He holds his hands together as if in prayer, those baby-blues blinking and persuasive.
“Sure baby but just for an hour.” He claps his hands and jumps on the couch while I fiddle with Ray’s collection of remote controls.
Collins’ voice breaks through my frantic button pressing as I try to figure out which one belongs to the TV. “Mrs Grey, we’re under strict instructions to check your mail before you open it. Can I do that now?”
“Uh-huh,” I agree, too distracted to concentrate on what he’s saying.
Just as I sort the channel for Chris I become aware of a sudden hush behind me, the guys all sucking in a collective breath.
“Holy goat fucker!” Barney’s incredulous exclamation has me clamping my hand over my mouth as I try to stifle a hysterical giggle. He may know everything there is to know about computers but cool expletives is not his forte. I pivot around, curious to see what has them so quiet and the usually mute Barney expressing himself in such a colourful manner.
The mirth in my eyes and the smile on my lips drop away as if it was slapped off. Collins, Carl and Barney all have their shocked gazes glued to the open white box. From where I stand I can see about a dozen red roses, all with long stems but they’re completely dead. Their usual saturated colour replaced with dull, dried, papery petals that only just bear a hint of the glorious jewel shade they once were.
Collins looks to me and then to the card in his hand. His hesitation couldn’t be any clearer. “What does it say?” My voice holds a nervous quiver.
“Mrs Grey I…” If I wasn’t so hell bent on being included I might have recognised the horror on his face, I might have reconsidered if it was worth me knowing.
“What. Does. It. Say?” I bark, gearing up for a fight.
Wordlessly he hands me the card, wincing as I take it from between his scissored fingers.
I should have realized that my trembling fingers already knew what was coming but my stubborn brain insisted I look. With glazed eyes I scan the neatly typed words that wring every measure of oxygen from my lungs.
My condolences on the death of your husband.
Be kind and review, please.