When I wake up the next morning, I lie there reliving the best parts of my dream so I don’t forget them. I can hear Kate’s slow steady breathing in the bed next to me and it makes me feel guilty ruminating over every touch, every brush of Christian’s lips. I feel my teeth sink into my lower lip as I picture his hand caress the skin on my stomach as he moves his fingers lower, lower, lower…
A sudden quick procession of knocks on the door pulls me out of my fantasy and I look at the alarm clock, which tells me it’s 07:15 AM, and then at the door. Who would be bothering us at this hour?
Kate sits up in the bed, being jarred awake by the sound, and looks around the room dazed.
“Was that someone knocking on the door?” She asks sleepily.
“I think so,” I say, and we hear another string of knocks as if in confirmation. Kate throws her blankets off of her as she storms angrily towards the door, obviously ready to let whoever woke her up have it. She pulls open the door and her face hardens even further.
“What, Grey?” She snaps.
“Is Anastasia awake?” I hear him ask.
“No,” Kate says shortly and begins to shut the door.
“Kate!” I exclaim and she shoots an incredulous look at me. I climb out of bed and go to the door.
“What is it, Christian?” I ask.
“Come to breakfast with me,” He says, not a question.
“It’s too early, Annenberg isn’t even open yet,” I tell him but his face doesn’t falter..
“Come to breakfast with me,” He says again, and I can hear the purpose behind his words. I pause for a moment, pondering whether or not I even want to spend time alone with him until I decide my need for answers is more pressing than my concerns about his attitude
“Let me get dressed,” I tell him and I close the door, turning to face Kate as I walk to my dresser. She watches me skeptically as I dress and when I turn to leave she gets out of bed to stop me.
“You’re really going to go with him?” She asks incredulous.
“It’s just breakfast, Kate,” I say defensively.
“Just breakfast? Ana, after these last few weeks I don’t know why you’d ever speak to him again. Besides how would Carter feel if he knew you were going out with another guy?”
“It’s not a date,” I argue.
“Ana,” Kate she says in a tone that tells me she doesn’t believe for a second Christian just wants to have a friendly breakfast together.
“Kate,” I say in the same skeptical tone as I open the door. Christian is waiting for me in the hallway and when I close my door behind me, he begins walking at a brisk, purposeful pace down the hall.
He leads me out to the parking lot and I nearly roll my eyes when he pulls out his car fob and the car that beeps to life has the unmistakable four rings of an Audi on the front. He walks to the passenger’s side and holds open the door for me. I slide into the roomy leather seat and wait patiently for him to take the driver’s seat. Without a word, he pulls out of the parking lot and turns onto the main road. I look out the window as we pass restaurant after restaurant but he doesn’t stop. Instead, he begins pulling on the freeway.
“Where are we going?” I ask finally.
“Out of town,” He says
“Why?” I ask. “Are you going to kill me and dump my body?”
“You think I would have let Kate see you leave with me if that’s what I was doing?” He responds dryly and I narrow my eyes at him.
“Glad to see you’ve put some thought in it at least.”
“I know a lot of people in Cambridge,” He explains flatly. “I don’t want to be bothered or interrupted.”
“Or overheard?” I ask speculatively, but he doesn’t respond. He just continues to look somberly towards the road. I feel more often than not, I’m confused by Christian. Asking him questions is like navigating through a minefield. Clearly he wants to talk to me, otherwise we could have just gone to breakfast or Annenberg or somewhere in town, but he’s also being very obvious about the fact that he doesn’t want to talk… I don’t know, maybe he did just want someone to go to breakfast with and he doesn’t want people to overhear me and my questions. Or maybe he just wants to thank me for taking care of him last night. Resigned to silence and the fact that I’m probably not going to get any answers to my questions, I too just look out the passenger window and watch Cambridge disappear behind us.
It looks like it rained last night and the last of the dark storm clouds are still lingering overhead. As we get farther north though, the sun begins to break through the blanket of gray above us and Christian groans and reaches over to the glove box. I move my knees out of the way so he can open the hatch door and he reaches inside to pull out a pair of sunglasses. I turn to look at him as he puts them on and I realize for the first time how different he looks. He must be extremely hung over, I mean just hours ago he could barely walk. He’s wearing a tshirt and hoodie rather than the smart button up/jacket/sweater combination that I’m used to. Rather than looking as though he just finished a photoshoot for GQ, as he usually does, he looks like any other guy you would find on a college campus after a rough night of partying.
“I’m sorry,” He says quietly, taking me by surprise. I look at him confused. I’m sorry was definitely not what I was expecting.
“What?” I respond, and he continues without looking at me. His mouth tightens and I see him swallow hard as if he’s trying to hold back words… or vomit maybe.
“I’m sorry,” He says again, more firmly this time. “You wanted an apology, fine. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I lost my temper, I’m sorry I touched you, I’m sorry I kissed you. It was wrong, unfair of me, and I’m sorry.” His fingers grip the steering wheel so hard I watch as his knuckles turn white.
“Um… thank you,” I say hesitantly. He glances over at me quickly, probably to see my reaction to his apology and then turns his eyes back to the road as he continues.
“I’m also sorry about what I said to you on the quad that day after class. I was cruel and it was a lie. I’m sorry for the way I’ve treated you since that day. I don’t want to stay away from you, Anastasia. I want us to be… friends.”
I stare at him, dumbfounded. Where is this coming from? I think Christian might actually be the most confusing man on the planet. One minute he’s angry with me for violating his privacy, the next he’s completely ignoring me and now he’s apologizing and wants to be friends?
“You want to be friends?” I ask skeptically.
“Yes,” He says and takes a deep breath to continue. “Look, it’s complicated. I can’t be around you the way that your other guy friends can. I’m not like that Jose guy you know or even Elliot.”
“What do you mean?” I ask. He swallows hard and sighs with resignation before he speaks.
“I’m fucked up, Ana. I’m really fucked up and if you were smart, you’d stay away from me. I tried to stay away from you, to let you be, to keep you away from all of my bullshit, but I can’t do it. I want to know you, I want to be around you and talk to you and listen to you, and I can’t keep ignoring you. But there are things about me, about my life, that I can’t tell you and I need you to be okay with that if we’re going to be friends.”
“What can’t you tell me?” I ask
“Ana…” He pleads and I narrow my eyes at him.
“Is it about Mrs. Lincoln?” I ask, and his jaw tightens.
“I don’t know how I can make there are things I can’t tell you any more clear, Anastasia,” He reiterates, and I roll my eyes.
“So you want to be friends, but you don’t want to tell me anything about yourself and I’m just supposed to be okay with that?” I ask, and I can hear the anger I’m feeling starting to leak into my tone.
“Just some things,” He clarifies.
“Some things like Mrs. Lincoln?”
“Yes,” He says, and in that moment, I feel as if all the fears I have and all of my speculations are confirmed. Christian can’t tell me about Mrs. Lincoln because whatever they are doing is wrong and there aren’t many things a middle age woman could be doing with an 18-19 year old boy that he would want to hide.
“I’m not okay with that,” I say quietly, and his head turns sharply to look at me.
“Anastasia…” He pleads, but I cut him off.
“No, Christian. I’m not going to be try and be your friend when you’re living some secret double life that I can’t know anything about. You’ll be lying to me and I don’t make it a habit to maintain relationships with liars.”
“I can’t talk to you because everything I do tell you, you immediately turn around and tell Kate who is dating my brother,” He says in a low, hostile, growl.
“So tell me not to tell her and I won’t,” I say and he takes a sharp, hopefully calming breath through his nose and turns is focus back on the road. I too look forward and realize we are in a small town made up of small red brick buildings.
“We’re here,” Christian says quietly as he pulls into the parking lot of a small diner. I open the door to the Audi and climb out onto the wet pavement. Christian walks around the car to meet me and we go into the diner together.
The hostess leads us to a booth near the window and asks us for our drink order. Christian takes off his glasses and again, I notice how rough he looks. His eyes are bloodshot with dark black circles and he’s paler than I’ve ever seen him.
“I’ll have a tomato juice if you have it, otherwise orange juice, a black coffee, and ice water.” He says hoarsely, and then looks at me.
“Uh… what kind of tea do you have?”
“We have Black, Green, English Breakfast, Chai and Black Currant.” The hostess recites.
“English Breakfast please, and could you just leave the bag out?”
“Sure thing.” She says brightly. She sets our menus on the table and then hurries away to fill our drink orders.
Christian rubs his hands over his face as if he’s trying to invigorate himself and then he picks up a menu. We glance over the selection in silence until a different woman who introduces herself as our waitress returns carrying a tray of drinks. She sets the tomato juice, coffee, and ice water in front of Christian, and the mug of hot water and tea bag in front of me. Christian immediately reaches out for the glass of water and gulps the whole thing down.
“Have you decided yet?” The waitress asks. Christian looks expectantly at me and I gesture for him to order first.
“I’ll have the vegetarian omelet with hash browns, a side of bacon, and wheat toast.” He says. The waitress writes down his order and then turns to me.
“I think I’m just going to have a bowl of fruit,” I say and when I turn to look at Christian he glares at me.
“That’s it?” He demands and I shrug. “No,” he continues, “She’ll have whatever your standard breakfast is. Eggs, hash browns, toast…” He turns to look at me, “Do you prefer bacon or sausage?”
“I’m really not that hungry,” I protest.
“Anastasia,” He chides me and I roll my eyes.
“Bacon,” I acquiesce and he confirms my choice with the waitress.
“How do you like your eggs?” she asks me.
“Scrambled is fine,” I say, and she picks up our menus.
“I’ll bring you some more water,” The waitress says to Christian.
“Bring a pitcher,” He tells her, and she nods before disappearing into the kitchen.
“I really don’t need a big breakfast,” I tell Christian and he turns his head which is resting in the palm of his hand to glare at me.
“You need to eat,” He says flatly and I shrug, deciding it’s better to just drop it than get into an argument in a restaurant in a strange town. Besides, from the looks of him, I don’t think Christian is up to it.
“Are you feeling okay? Maybe we shouldn’t have come so far,” I say.
“The food will help,” He says sitting up, I think doing his best to concentrate on me.
“What were you doing last night that got you so drunk anyway?” I ask. It takes him a moment to answer and even when he does, his voice is still hesitant.
“I’ve been having a… difficult week. There are some things that have come to my attention that I seem to be having trouble accepting.”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll get over it,” He says shortly.
“What, is this one of those things I’m not supposed to ask about?”
“When did you start dating Carter Reed?” He asks, and the sudden question takes me off guard.
“I… uh, we’re not, I mean, really, we’re not dating, just, I suppose technically, uh… We went on a date on yesterday.”
I see a muscle clench in his jaw and raise an eyebrow at him.
“What? You don’t like Carter?”
“No,” He says, his voice actually full of malice.
He snorts. “You mean besides the fact that he seems to have never met a cardigan he didn’t like?”
I glare at him and he shakes his head and continues.
“He’s regularly late for rowing practice, he can’t keep time, he’s crude and immature, and intelligence-wise I’m convinced he only got into this school because his father is a legacy.”
“I think he’s nice,” I say defensively.
“That’s because he wants to sleep with you,” He says and I feel the defensiveness turn to anger. I cross my arms as I reply.
“So?” I ask sharply.
“So, are you going to?” He asks, narrowing his eyes.
“Why would I tell you that?”
“Because we’re friends now.”
“Are you going to tell me why you’re sleeping with Mrs. Lincoln?”
If possible, the color in his face fades even more and his eyes widen.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” He says quickly and I glare at him.
“I think you do, Christian.” And as if to prove my point, I hear his cell phone ring. I smile at him smugly and hold my hand out as if to say go ahead answer it.
He glares back but he does reach into his pocket and as he looks at the screen on his phone, I see relief cross his face.
“It’s my mother,” He says smugly and I feel my face shift with chagrin. He presses a button and lifts the phone to his ear.
“Hi, Mom,” He says and then pauses while she speaks. As she does, I see his mouth set in a frown and the gray in his eyes hardens.
“No,” He says finally. “I don’t know what she’s talking about. I didn’t even see Katherine Kavanagh last night.” He looks up at me and glares.
“I don’t know Mom, maybe she’s just a liar,” He continues. “No, I don’t need another session… No, I’m fine. Mom… Look, can I call you back? I’m out to breakfast with a friend. Yes, see, I told you, I’m fine. Okay, I love you, too. Bye.”
He hangs up the phone and looks sourly at me as if to reiterate his point in the car. I can’t talk to you because everything I do tell you, you immediately turn around and tell Kate who is dating my brother.
“That’s your fault,” I tell him. “I didn’t say anything to her, she heard you come home last night, just like everyone else in Grays hall.”
“Well, I wish she would stop giving Elliot a running commentary of my life. My mom is obviously using him to keep tabs on me and the last thing I need is for this to get back to…” He pauses, pressing his lips together in a tight line and looks out the window.
“Back to Mrs. Lincoln?” I ask and he takes a deep, almost resigned breath.
“Last night,” I continue. “You kept saying, you can’t tell her, I’m not allowed, if she finds out I’ll be in trouble…“
“I said a lot of stupid things last night,” He says quietly.
“Were they untrue?” I ask, his erotic words flooding through my mind once again and bringing back the warm feelings from my dream.
“Please stop biting your lip,” He says hoarsely and when I do, he glares at me darkly for a moment, but his gaze isn’t angry, there’s something else there. I stare back at him for a moment and in the intense moment between us I feel my teeth sink into my lip again. He nearly growls as he stands from the table and grabs my hand, leading me out of the restaurant.
“What are you doing?” I ask, surprised, as he makes his way around the back of the restaurant. He looks around as if he’s trying to make sure no one is watching and when he knows for sure we’re alone, he pushes me hard, although not in a way that hurts, against the wall.
He restrains my arms against the red brick wall and pins my body with his own and then, his mouth claims mine. His tongue desperately invades my mouth, probing me, greedily taking all I have, and I feel desire course within me. It burns through me, hotter and hotter like wildfire uncontrolled in the dry August heat. I struggle against his grip on my arms, wanting desperately to touch him, to run my fingers through his hair and hold him in this kiss forever, but he does not release me. I feel his teeth graze my lower lip, pulling it away from my teeth and then his tongue claims me again. His hands shift so that he’s holding both of my wrists with one hand and his free hand travels down my arms, bringing up goose bumps where his fingers brush over my skin. Down and down, I feel his hand graze over my sides, tracing the lines of my breast before continuing on down my back and over my backside where he grips me firmly and pulls my leg forward, hitching it around his waist. I can feel his erection pressing into me and in this moment, I don’t care that he hasn’t given me the answers I want or that we’re in a back alley in a town I’ve never been in. I want him. I need him. Everything else but this evaporates and I’m left only with my burning desire and need, but the kiss ends and he releases my leg, leaving me wanting.
“Christian,” I plead softly and he presses his forehead against mine, his panting breath matching my own.
“Wait for me,” He says, desperately.
“What?” I breathe, unable to comprehend his request through the haze of the desire still burning inside of me.
“Wait for me. It ends this spring, and I won’t sign again. Wait for me, Anastasia.”
“What ends?” I ask, my thoughts getting clearer the more time passes from the kiss but he shakes his head, a symbolic gesture to let me know he can’t tell me.
“I won’t tell, Kate.” I promise and he inhales and pulls away from me so I can see the battle in his eyes as he wars with himself over whether or not to speak.
“Please, Christian.” I beg, preying on his moment of weakness. He inhales deeply, and shockingly, he speaks.
“I’m sleeping with her,” He says, and all the heat from his passionate kiss fades, leaving me cold.