Chapter 22

Image result for lakeside bbq

When I wake up Sunday morning, the first thing I’m aware of is the soreness between my legs. I haven’t even moved and I can already feel the dull ache, but there’s a deep rooted sense of satisfaction in it. It immediately brings back memories from the night before. He was different last night. I’m used to rough sex with Christian but last night was more than that, and as I replay everything he did to me, I actually find myself having to evaluate my feelings on what happened.

He tied me up. That wasn’t so bad… Actually, I think it was kind of… hot. He didn’t use the fact that I couldn’t move to force me to do something I didn’t like or hurt me. He checked on me and made sure I was okay with what he was doing to me and then he got me off. Multiple times.

Tying me up was good.

He spanked me. More than that, he punished me. He was trying to control my body and when I didn’t do what he asked… he spanked me.

That I’m not sure about.

Okay, he didn’t hurt me. I think he could have. Actually, I think that’s normally the point, but he didn’t. In fact, I kind of liked it. Especially when he hit me… there. I’m not sure I like the punishment aspect of what he did, but… actually, I’m not sure about that either. It’s kinky and dirty and part of me liked him taking control of me. I didn’t really expect that…

Holy shit, am I into this?

I bite down on my lip nervously as I think about my third, mind-blowing, orgasm and what he said to me right before I fell off the edge.

I want you to call me Master.

Okay, maybe this I have an issue with. Tying me up, great. Spanking me, fine. But the Master thing isn’t just kinky sex… that’s crossing the line into BDSM.

I think.

Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know anything about BDSM, well except for what he’s told me about his past with Elena, and that I don’t want.

I know that he’s told me that part of him has always wanted to be a dominant, but I’ve told him before, I don’t want to be his submissive. I like him taking control in bed, but that’s where it ends. The BDSM stuff, that goes outside of the bedroom. Doesn’t it? I mean, with Elena, Christian had rules about who he could talk to, how many rings he had to answer the phone, what he could do with his free time… I don’t want that. I need to know if that’s what Master meant to him, because if it did…

No.

No I don’t believe that’s what it meant. Christian loves me. What Elena did to him, what they had together, wasn’t love. Honestly, I don’t even know enough about it to know if it was truly BDSM or just more of her abuse, and frankly, based on past experience, I think I should err on the side of abuse…

I need to talk to him. We need to talk about what happened.

I open my eyes and roll over, thinking I can ease into this conversation by waking him with a kiss. When I look at the warm thing cuddled up next to me though, I see that it’s not Christian, it’s just a pillow. He’s not here.

Pulling the covers back, I quickly hop out of bed, picking up his t-shirt to throw on before I remember that’s what he used to wipe me down after he uh… marked me last night, and as I think about that, I have to admit that, that was kinda hot too…

Ugh… what’s the matter with me?

I pull a different, clean t-shirt out of his suitcase and then walk down the hallway in search of Christian. I find him pacing in the kitchen, talking on his phone.

“What do we need to do to get it done on time?” He asks whoever it is that he’s talking to. He sounds irritated. “Do it then. I don’t care what it costs, just get it done.”

He turns around and sees me standing in the doorway and his expression shifts.

“I need to call you back,” He says, and then he pulls the phone away from his ear and hangs up.

“How long have you been awake?” I ask.

“Just an hour or so… Something came up with the state deal, I had to take care of it,” He explains. “How are you feeling?”

“Sore,” I say, “But in the good kind of way.”

“Are you… Okay?” He asks, hesitantly.

“Yeah. I think so, but I have some questions,” I tell him. He nods, takes me by the hand, and leads me to the couch in the living room. When we sit down, I can tell by the way he stares at me that he’s nervous, but that I have his full attention.

“So… where did that come from?” I ask.

“I don’t know…” He says. “I mean, I’ve wanted to do some of those things to you for awhile, but I don’t know why I chose last night to do them. It just kind of escalated. I was just going to tie you up. I wanted to see you like that, know what you looked like when you came and couldn’t move. I liked it. I liked going down on you, pushing you past your orgasm and knowing you couldn’t push me away. It was hot. So I took it a step further. I blindfolded you because I wanted you to feel everything I was doing to you. When you take one sense away, the others become sharper. I wanted you to really feel me fucking you.”

“Then why didn’t you want me to come?” I ask.

“Because if you can control it, hold it off, it’s so much more intense. I was watching you while you came in my mouth. You were magnificent. So… uninhibited. Liberated. I love seeing you like that, Anastasia. You’re never more beautiful. I’m greedy, and even as I watched you coming down, I knew that I wanted more. I wanted to push you farther, I wanted to make you come harder than I ever had before. I wanted to know, to see, to feel what that was like. So I wanted to bring you to the edge and hold you there for as long as possible, keep you building, until I finally let you go. I wanted to control that.”

“So, why did you let me come then? You said yourself you could have stopped me. Did you want to punish me for not doing what you told me to?”

“I’m not immune to you, Anastasia. I don’t have perfect control. I felt it when you started getting close and I knew you weren’t going to be able to stop it, but in that moment… You were hot, and wet, and tight around me. I couldn’t have stopped for anything in the world.”

“But you punished me…”

“Yes,” He says, guilty now. “I wanted to spank you. I wasn’t trying to hurt you, I didn’t want to hurt you. I’ve tried it with you before and you liked it. I also like it. I enjoy rough sex, Anastasia. I like being rough with you. I like pulling your hair and digging my fingers into you while I fuck you as hard as I can… and I like spanking you. It turns me on to watch your skin pink beneath my hands. It turns me on to see my handprint on your ass. I wanted to spank you, and so I did. If you didn’t like it, then I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.”

I know most of this. I’m okay with rough sex. I’m okay with hair pulling. I’m okay with spanking. I take a deep breath and ask the question that will tell me if I’m okay with exactly how far he took that rough sex last night.

“Why did you tell me to call you Master?” I ask. He looks away from me, staring down at my fingers fiddling anxiously with the hem of his t-shirt while he finds the words to answer.

“I like dominating you, Anastasia,” He says. “Having you like that, feeling you succumb to me and whatever I want to do to you, knowing that I have control over your pleasure, knowing that everything you feel is planned. and deliberate, and all mine… I’ve fantasized about that for years. But it’s just a fantasy, a role play. I wanted to dominate you in bed, to know what it felt like to have you at my mercy. I liked it. I liked it a lot. Master is a mindset, an acknowledgement from you that I owned your body in that moment. I was about to come, it just came out, and when you said it… I liked it, Anastasia. If that’s too much for you, then… I’m sorry. I should have, I don’t know, warned you, talked to you about it… but this is me. This is what I’m into and if you’re not then, you’re not. I can accept that. Last night doesn’t have to happen again.”

“Okay, but how far does that fantasy go?”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you want me to be your submissive?”

He pauses again, carefully considering his words before he speaks. “Sometimes,” He admits. “I love you, Anastasia, and I love making love with you. I don’t want to give that up. But, sometimes… yes. Sometimes I would like you to be submissive to me when we have sex.”

“Just when we have sex?” I ask and his brow furrows for a moment until his eyes widen with sudden understanding.

“Ana, I don’t want you to be MY submissive,” He says. “You’re my girlfriend, you’re the love of my life. That kind of relationship is… It’s just… I don’t want that for you.”

“For me?”

With you,” He corrects himself. “I don’t want that kind of relationship with you.”

“Why?” I ask him and he gives me a confused look in response.

“Because you’re more than that to me. You’re my everything, Anastasia. I don’t want to change what we have together, I wouldn’t give that up for the world.”

“So, just when we have sex?” I clarify once more and he nods.

“Sometimes,” He adds. “And only if you want to.”

“Okay,” I acquiesce, and he looks shocked.

“Okay?”

“Yes, okay,” I repeat. “I enjoyed last night, Christian. In fact, I really enjoyed last night. So, if that’s your fantasy, then I’m willing to do that with you. But I want you to do one thing for me.”

“What?”

“The next time you go and see Flynn, I want you to talk to him about why you don’t want the life of a submissive for me.”

“Why?”

I shake my head. “I just want you to talk to Flynn about it. Promise me.”

“Okay…” He says, still looking confused, and I nod and get up off the couch.

“Well, then let’s get packing. I have a lot of reading to catch up on and this place doesn’t seem to be conducive to that.”

It doesn’t take us long to have everything packed and the house locked down again. I double check that I’ve turned off the gas and the water as Christian carries our bags out to the car, then deadbolt the back door and follow out after him. A sad kind of nostalgia crosses over me when Christian turns back onto the Olympic highway towards Seattle that is very similar to what I felt when Ray and I left home three years ago. I turn to watch my too-small-for-big-dreams hometown shrink in the distance through the back window of the Lincoln until I can’t see it anymore. When I eventually sigh and turn around again, my phone buzzes in my pocket.


Google Alert: Christian Grey

The Seattle Weekly, June 6th 2010: A Portrait of Christian Grey. There has been a lot that has been said about Christian Grey. The success of his business, his philanthropic endeavors, his age, even his face have been tabloid fodder since the doors of GEH were opened in 2008. But that’s not the Christian Grey I know…


“Kate’s article came out early,” I gasp once I click on the Google Alert and see her name and picture at the top of the page. “She’s in the Sunday issue.”

“What?” Christian asks, and I scroll to the beginning of the article and begin to read aloud.

A Portrait of Christian Grey

There has been a lot that has been said about Christian Grey. The success of his business, his philanthropic endeavors, his age, even his face have all been tabloid fodder since the doors of GEH opened in 2008. But that’s not the Christian Grey I know.

I met Christian Grey my first week as a freshman at Harvard University. He lived just across the hall from my dormitory and on the day I moved in, I watched him coming back from rowing practice, look over at me watching him from my room, and then close the door in my face. My first impression of Christian was that he was arrogant and kind of douche bag. But I didn’t know him. Back then there weren’t paparazzi that followed him everywhere he went, no one cared to know who made his custom designed three piece suits or what car he was driving. Back then he was just the guy on the third floor who was lucky enough to have a room all to himself, who was weirdly private, but who all the girls agreed was ridiculously hot.

And then he fell in love with my best friend and roommate, Anastasia Steele.

Watching the two of them together was like watching two people discover their true selves. Christian looked at Ana (and still does) with such devotion and captivation that one would assume he’d never seen a woman before. They did everything together, went everywhere together, he even brought her home to spend holidays and vacations with his family because her Dad is a soldier and currently serving in Iraq. No one could doubt the depth of their feelings for one another, and as I saw who he was with Anastasia, I got to know the real Christian Grey.

He’s absurdly caring, generous, only funny when he doesn’t mean to be, obnoxiously good at everything he does, smart, ambitious, stubborn, and above all else, extremely protective. In January 2008, Anastasia was attacked in our dorm room by a man named Dylan Abernathy. He had been following me around campus for months, stealing personal items of mine, even keeping a log of my schedule and the things that I was wearing every day. He had broken into our dorm that morning to take more things from me and Anastasia was unlucky enough to come home alone while he was there. Mr. Abernathy got away that day, but Christian no longer felt comfortable having his girlfriend in that room while my stalker was still at large. So he moved both me and Anastasia into his room with him. He allowed me, the girl who had caused plenty of problems for him with his girlfriend and who often hadn’t been on his side, to live with him for three weeks. He walked me to every one of my classes, he was with me every morning in the gym, he even escorted me down to the drugstore to buy tampons and stood in the hot, stuffy laundry room with me while I washed my clothes.

On Valentine’s Day that year, Mr. Abernathy once again entered our dormitory building, but on that occasion, he brought a gun with him. That night he murdered six people in an attempt to end my life, and when he got into my room, Christian risked his own life to stop him. That is the single most terrifying moment of my life and I made it through because of Christian Grey.

That’s how I know that he never pressed himself upon Leila Williams. Christian Grey is not a man who tolerates violence against women. He is not a man who would ever consider using his position of authority to take advantage of a young woman, sexually or otherwise. He’s in love with a girl who he met three years ago and from years of friendship, I know that that has never changed. Anyone who really knows him will tell you that there is only one woman for Christian Grey, and she’s a Harvard student, who has an affinity for black and white movies and Twining’s English Breakfast Tea. I know Christian Grey never had any kind of sexual relationship with any of these women, because he is in love with Anastasia Steele, and I know what that means to him.

Katherine Kavanagh

Investigative Journalist, Kavanagh Media.

 

“Awh, Kate,” I say, glancing over the article once more.

“Tampons,” Christian scoffs. “She had to throw that one in there. One trip to the drug store and I’m never going to live it down.”

“It shows how much you cared,” I reply. “She’s trying to paint a picture, Christian.”

“Well… I can’t hire her too,” He says, joking now. “After both you and Elliot, I think I’ve filled my nepotism quota.”

I laugh. “I don’t think she’s looking for a job. Although, with all the trouble you seem to get into in the press, it might not be bad idea for you to acquire your own media subsidiary.”

“Why do you think I bought a publishing company?” He asks with an amused smile. “You have a printing press, right? Get to work, Steele. We’re in the middle of a PR crisis.”

I laugh and slip my phone back into my pocket as Christian reaches over for the radio, forcing me to listen Iron and Wine and AWOLNATION before we finally compromise on Coldplay.

Once we’re back in Seattle, Christian and I spend the afternoon locked away in our respective home offices. I’m pleased that I’m actually able to get through the first few chapters of each of the manuscripts I’ve brought home with me and I place them back in their folders along with the diligent notes I’ve kept. I’m starting to notice a pattern in the success each novel seems to be having, and I think it has a lot to do with the person representing each book. Not that any one of them isn’t capable of doing well. In fact, each of the agents currently employed under SIP has had at least one marginally successful author. I think the problem lies in who is tackling which project, there seems to be a correlation of interest in the genre and the success of the book. I think if I limit the agents to working within the genres that interest them rather than continue this weird rotating cycle they have going on, we’ll see better results across the board.

I’m just finishing up the list of actionable items I’ve written down to take with me into the office tomorrow when Christian sticks his head through the door.

“Are you at a stopping point?” He asks.

“Sure, why?”

“I was thinking we could go over to my parents for dinner. My mom texted me yesterday and asked if we would join them. It’s just about dinner time.”

“Yeah, let’s go.” I close the book in front of me and power down my laptop before walking around my desk and taking his hand.

Kate’s car is already in the driveway when we get to the Greys’ house, but other than that there isn’t any sign that anyone is home. We knock on the door and wait for several minutes but no one ever comes to answer. Christian peaks through the windows next to the door, looking for any sign of movement inside, before eventually reaching down for the door handle and just letting himself inside.

When we walk through the entrance hall and into the living room, we find the house completely empty.

“Where is everyone?” Christian wonders, staring at the empty room with confusion. “My mom invited us over…”

“Maybe we should have called first?” I suggest. Christian turns to walk towards the kitchen but before his hand even falls out of mine, we hear a scream float through the glass in the back door. Christian looks anxiously at me and we both run for the backyard. When we make it to the patio, we find Elliot, Kate, Mia, and Grace snapping beans on the back patio table and Carrick standing over a smoking bbq grill.

“Elliot!” Kate says, brushing water that looks as though it spilled out of the cup tipped over on the table off of her legs. “It’s so cold, you’re such a jerk.”

“It was an accident!” He says defensively, but he’s laughing so hard he seems to be having difficulty getting out the words.

“Keep laughing, and I’ll accidentally drown you in the pool,” Kate says, throwing a green bean at him.

“Don’t waste the food,” Mia says indignantly, looking at Kate, and she shrugs as she takes her seat again. Christian grabs my hand and leads me to the table.

“Hey,” He says and everyone looks in our direction.

“Christian!” Grace says, with delighted surprise. “Ana! What are you doing here?”

“We thought we’d join you for dinner,” He says, “If you’ll have us.”

“Of course!” Grace replies. “Have a seat, grab some beans.”

Christian pulls a chair out for me and then takes the seat in between Mia and I. We both reach into the oversized mixing bowl full of green beans and as we carefully snap off the ends, Christian looks over at his little sister, who seems to be purposefully avoiding eye contact with him.

“How’s it going, kid?” He asks, nudging her slightly with his elbow. She takes a deep breath and then gives Christian a tight lipped smile.

“Peachy,” She says shortly and then turns back to her work. I watch Christian glance uneasily at his mother but after she gives him a reassuring nod, he tries again.

“I’m going to New York tomorrow,” He tells her.

“Is that so?” She replies, uninterested.

“Yeah, and I was thinking that if you’re not doing anything for the next couple days, maybe you could come with me. I have a private jet reserved and I could get tickets to the ballet or maybe a Broadway show. You could bring a friend if you wanted to.”

Mia’s hands freeze, and then she drops her handful of beans and turns her cold glare on Christian. “That sounds great, Christian. Except that I can’t go to New York with you, I have a job now. Which you should know all about.”

“Mia…” Christian begins diplomatically, but she cuts him off by standing abruptly from the table.

“Have fun in New York, Christian,” She says and then she disappears into the house. Kate, Elliot, and I each stare silently down at the beans we’re trying to keep occupied with while Christian gapes after his sister, looking lost, and Grace lets out a long, drawn out sigh.

“I can’t wait until I no longer have any teenagers,” She says, picking up some beans for herself.

“Should I go talk to her?” Christian asks, but Grace shakes her head.

“Don’t give her the attention. She’ll come around.”

“You shouldn’t let her get away with that,” Carrick says, coming up behind Grace, taking a bean out of the bowl and biting the end off of it. “She shouldn’t be allowed to talk to people that way.”

“It’s a phase. Both Christian and Elliot went through it too,” Grace says. “I’ll talk to her once I’m finished here.”

“Well, I’m finished,” Elliot says, tossing the last bean from his small pile into the bowl and then getting out of his chair. “This is woman’s work anyway. Come on, Christian, there’s cold beer in the fridge and a Mariners game about to come on TV.”

“Woman’s work?” Kate asks, clearly taking offense to his choice of words, but Elliot just gives her an innocent smile.

“I just mean that you’re so much more detail oriented and capable,” He says and Kate rolls her eyes.

“Get out of here before I snap you,” She says and Elliot laughs and kisses her on the forehead.

“I love you, baby,” He says and he picks up the beer sitting in front of him and walks for the backdoor, stopping before he steps inside to wait for Christian.

“You okay here?” Christian asks, and when I nod, he gets up and follows Elliot into the house.

Once we’re done with the beans, Grace, Kate, and I head for the kitchen to start putting together some side dishes. Kate asks about my weekend, which I recount with only the most basic details, though I do give her a covert look to let her know there is something we need to talk about later.

“Oh, and would you mind staying at the apartment with me this week?” I ask as Carrick comes into the kitchen with a dish full of meat from the grill in his hands. “Christian is going to be out of town and I don’t think he’s comfortable with me being there alone with Luke.”

“Sure,” Kate agrees. “It’ll cut probably 45 minutes out of my commute not having to fight traffic to get into Seattle in the morning.”

As she pulls plates down from the cabinet, I walk into the living room to let Christian and Elliot know that dinner is ready. They’re both so engrossed in the game the neither of them pays any attention to me and just as I reach town to twist my fingers into Christian’s hair to get his attention, the doorbell rings.

“Elliot get the door,” Grace calls from the kitchen, but Elliot doesn’t take his eyes off the TV.

“Can’t do it,” He yells back. “Bases loaded. Griffey just stepped up to the plate.”

“Elliot Grey!” Grace says disappointedly. I playfully slap Elliot across the back of the head and then turn towards the entrance hall.

“I’ll get it, Grace,” I call towards the kitchen, smiling to myself when I hear Christian’s and Elliot’s synchronized intake of breath and then groan of disappointment at whatever has happened in the game on the TV behind me. When I pull back the heavy front door, part of me expects to find someone selling something door to door or maybe a FedEx delivery, but to my surprise, it’s Andrea. We look at each other blankly for a minute and I can tell by her reaction that she’s just as shocked to see me here as I am to see her.

“Ana…” She says. “I-I thought you and Mr. Grey went out of town this weekend?”

“We did, we just got back this morning. We’re having a family dinner. What are you doing here?”

“I, uh… I came to see Mr. Grey.”

My brow crinkles with confusion as she just said she thought we were out of town, but I nod and turn to call back into the house.

“Christian!”

“No…” Andrea says, holding her hands out to stop me. “I meant the other, Mr. Grey.”

“Carrick?” I ask.

“Yeah, baby?” Christian asks as he appears in the entrance hall behind me, but his look of mild curiosity intensifies when he sees his assistant standing on his parents’ doorstep.

“Andrea? What are you doing here?” He asks.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt your dinner, Mr. Grey. I can come back if you-“

“What is it, Andrea?” He asks.

“I-um… I wanted to talk to your dad. I can prove that Leila is lying,” She says and the confusion on Christian’s face disappears as his expression goes blank.

“Come in,” He says flatly and Andrea gives us both a small smile and a nod as she steps through the entryway. We lead her back into the kitchen where Grace is tossing a salad and Carrick is taking his grilled kabobs out of the rubber container he used to bring them into the house and placing them artfully on a serving plate.

“Hey, you kids hungry?” Carrick says happily. “This is some of my finest work, if I do say so myself.”

“Dad,” Christian says, and the lack of good natured inflection in his tone catches Carrick’s attention. He turns around to look wearily at his son.

“What?”

“This is my assistant, Andrea Parker. She says she can prove Leila is lying about the sexual harassment.”

“Come with me,” Carrick says, quickly taking off his I Turn Grills On apron and leading us all back to his office. He closes the door behind him and asks Andrea to take a seat. I hover by the door as Carrick takes the chair next to her and Christian leans against his father’s desk.

“Tell me what happened,” Carrick says, picking up a notepad and staring purposefully at her.

“She texted me this afternoon,” Andrea says, and Carrick’s eyes widen.

“Show me,” He says.

Andrea reaches into her purse and pulls out her phone. I find myself moving across the room with interest and stand behind Carrick so that once she pulls open her text messages and hands the phone to him, I can read the conversation over his shoulder.

   text1 

tet4

text2

text5

text3

“Is this a company phone?” Carrick asks, when he’s finished reading the text conversation.

“No, this is my personal cell phone,” Andrea says.

“Then I’m going to need you to sign a waiver,” Carrick says. He gets up and goes to his filing cabinet, thumbing through a long line of files until he finds the document he needs and then he hands it to Andrea. “I’m going to need copies of your text messages and your phone records. You’ll need to sign this release form to give your consent for these text messages to be used as evidence.”

“Am I going to have to testify?” Andrea asks, nervously.

“No, we’re not actually going to court. We have her admitting she lied in writing, we just need to prove without a doubt that she sent these messages and once her lawyer knows what we have, she’ll drop the charges. This is everything we needed, Andrea. Thank-you.”

“What do you mean, we’re not going to court?” Christian interjects.

“Trust me, son. Having the charges dropped is better than dragging this scandal out and dealing with the court system. The longer your company name is associated with this suit, the more damage it has the potential to do.”

“No,” Christian says, shaking his head. “No, I want damages. I want punitive damages. I want her to be an example to anyone who thinks they can fuck with me or my company. I want you to put her through the ringer, Dad.”

“Christian…” Carrick says hesitantly. “She’s a twenty three year old girl with no money and no job. You’re not going to get anything out of her and dragging her through the court system is just going to keep your name in the papers and in the news. It’s a lose-lose.”

He grimaces, clearly not pleased by the answer, but after a few moments pause he nods. “How long until this is taken care of, then?”

“That depends on Andrea,” Carrick says.

“Me?” Andrea asks, looking between Carrick and Christian with confusion.

“We have to prove that she sent the texts. That no one stole her phone or is communicating on her behalf.”

“So what do you need me to do?” Andrea asks.

“Text her back,” Carrick tells her. “Ask her to meet you somewhere to talk, somewhere public with security cameras. When she shows up, we’ll be able to prove she’s getting the texts.”

Andrea nods and immediately begins typing on her phone. We stare at her nervously until her phone buzzes with a response.

“She’s on her way,” Andrea says, picking up her purse. “What do I tell her?”

“Nothing. Just listen to her, don’t promise her anything, don’t mention anything about coming here or talking to either myself or Christian. Let her talk and when she’s finished, tell her you’re not interested and then leave.”

“Okay,” Andrea nods and then turns to Christian. “Dr. Gilpin-Faust has confirmed the meeting you requested for Wednesday morning, Mr. Grey. I’ve requested to have your flight redirected and will forward the new itinerary to you and Miss Bailey as soon as I have confirmation.”

“Thank-you, Andrea,” Christian says. “And… thank you for coming over here tonight.”

“Of course, sir. Have a safe trip. I’ll see you on Thursday.”

Christian nods and she hurries out of the room. I decide to leave Carrick and Christian to handle whatever they have to do with this new development in the case, partly because I know Grace, Kate, and Elliot are in the living room dying to know what’s going on, but also as a polite way to decline Carrick’s offer for a glass of the vintage 1955 scotch he keeps in a decanter on his desk. When I get back out into the living room, Grace and Kate are sitting anxiously on the edge of the sofa waiting, but Elliot is too engrossed in the baseball game to seem like he cares much.

“What happened?” Kate asks, the second I come around the corner and into view.

“They have text messages from Leila proving that she’s lying,” I tell them. “Carrick thinks he can get the charges being brought against Christian dropped.”

“Oh thank god,” Grace says. “This whole thing has made me so sick with worry.”

“But if the charges are just dropped, how does this get resolved in the media?” Kate asks. “Isn’t the whole point of this to clear his name, to clear your name?”

“I-I..” I stutter. I hadn’t thought of this. I guess I just assumed when the charges got dropped, there wouldn’t be anything else to report on and it would all go away. I hadn’t thought about the fact that without a public trial and a definitive verdict of not-guilty, the rumors about Christian will never be put to rest.

Kate gets up off the couch and begins walking hurriedly for Carrick’s office but as I turn to watch her leave, Grace holds her hands out for mine and then pulls me into a tight hug.

“I don’t want you to worry about this, Anastasia,” She says. “Carrick knows what he’s doing. He’ll protect his son, I know he will.”

I nod and then allow her to lead me back to the couch where I sit next to Elliot. Grace brings plates of food to Christian and Carrick, and then Elliot and I, and I spend the rest of the night occupying my mind by attempting to ruin the game for Elliot by asking too many questions. By the time Christian’s ready to go home, it’s the bottom of the ninth inning and Elliot’s about ready to strangle me as I continually pull his attention away from the screen.

When we get back to Escala, I’m ready for bed. I know I should feel relieved, happy even that it seems like this Leila thing is going to be taken care of, wrapped up with a nice little bow of irrefutable evidence… But there was another time I thought we had a court case in the bag. I allowed myself to feel safe last time and that didn’t work out great for me. So, now my mind is racing through every possibility, both realistic and wildly impossible, of everything that could go wrong. It’s exhausting and I hope this isn’t what Carrick is going through, or what he went through last time. I feel like I’m going to go crazy.

“Are you tired?” Christian asks.

“A little,” I say flatly, and he gives me the kind of amused smile a parent gives a child when they’re clearly fighting sleep but insist they don’t want to go to bed.

“I just need to go confirm my itinerary for tomorrow,” Christian says gently as we walk into the living room. “Go get in bed, I’ll be there in a minute.”

He leans over to kiss my hair and then disappears down the hallway towards his office. I take a deep breath to try and relax and push away some of the stress and overpowering worry, and then shuffle off for our bedroom. There is a small suitcase waiting next to the door along with three suit bags laid over the back of chair next to it, and I purse my lips together as they remind me of Christian’s impending departure. At least Kate agreed to come and stay with me… Christian is right, this apartment is so big and separated from everything that being alone here for three days would be extremely lonely.

I don’t have the energy to change into pajamas so I simply strip out of my clothes and my bra and climb into bed. I lie there with my eyes closed, trying to shut my brain down and find some sleep, but it’s no use. The imagined scenarios of Leila somehow besting Carrick refuse to be quiet and as the image of her sitting on a witness stand crosses my mind, it morphs into memories of the trial. The emotionless look on Christian’s face as he answered the prosecutor’s questions with lies and Elena’s smug expression, smirking at me from across the room. Her perfect plan falling into place, her perfect submissive doing exactly as she asked.

I feel Christian climb into bed next to me and he lets out a low, approving moan as his arms wrap around me and he realizes I’m naked. He pushes himself flush against me and then reaches over to turn my face around so that he can kiss me. I don’t pull away, but I don’t push the kiss any further than he does. When his hand moves away from my face though and slides its way down to my breast, I break the kiss and look up at him uneasily.

“I’m tired…” I tell him. “I don’t know if I’m up for any kinky fuckery right now.”

He frowns. “Me either. I’m leaving in the morning and I won’t see you for a few days. I don’t want to fuck you right now, Ana. I want to make love to you.”

My expression softens and he leans down to kiss me again. His hand moves down, past my breast and over my stomach, until his fingers slip beneath the band of my panties and make contact with my clitoris. He teases me, softly, trying to heighten my arousal so that I’m prepared for him and I try and focus on what he’s doing, but I’m still too distracted by everything that happened at the Greys’ tonight. He isn’t deterred, though, by the lack of success his fingers seem to be having getting me wet.

He shifts me slightly and I lift my behind off the bed so that he can pull my panties off of me. He tosses them off the bed and then kisses me once more before he disappears under the covers. I breathe in sharply when I feel his tongue make contact and then move over my center until his lips encircle my clitoris and he sucks gently. His mouth moves slowly, carefully. There is a tenderness in the way his tongue caresses me. He’s making love to me with his mouth and for a brief moment, I can lose myself in it. I reach down to run my fingers through his hair, pulling the blanket down around his head so I can watch what he’s doing to me.

“There you go, baby,” He says softly when, finally, I’m wet for him. He pulls his mouth away, and stares down at me, gently touching me and stroking my lips with his fingers, but as I fall back into my pillow and can no longer watch him, my mind is commandeered by my previous concerns. I take a deep breath and do everything I can to block out everything but Christian.

Focus, Ana.

“Do you want me to make you come like this first?” He asks as he lowers his mouth onto me again.

“No,” I whisper. “I’m ready.”

He nuzzles me once more and then moves back up to take my lips with his. I hold his face, concentrating very hard on his lips against mine as he reaches down to position himself at my entrance. He pauses for just a moment, pulls his lips away from mine and looks down at me with a look so full of devotion and wonder, I find myself taken slightly aback.

“I love you, Anastasia Steele,” He says, and then he kisses me again and thrusts inside of me. I gasp, welcoming the fullness, and then wrap my body around his, holding myself tightly against him as I feel him pull away and then inch his way forward again.

He stares into my eyes as he moves in and out of me. Slow. Sensual. Controlled. He moans and then lowers his lips to mine, his tongue invading my mouth and claiming me. I push myself into the kiss, try to focus on his movements, in and out, in and out, but I’m all over the place. One moment I’m lost in him and this physical expression of our love, and the next I’m distracted by the sudden need to pull out my phone or laptop and google past court cases where text messages had been used as evidence. I mean… how solid could a text be? There’s no voice or picture or even handwriting associated with it. Will security footage that won’t match a time displayed on the message do anything? Maybe I should also look up court cases where emails have been used as evidence before…

Fuck, stop it, Ana. This isn’t the time.

But it doesn’t stop. I can’t stop thinking about it. The constant worry is taking me out of it and I think Christian is starting to notice. He looks at me for a moment, a puzzled expression on his face and then he leans down to suck softly on the lobe of my ear. The tingling pleasure is a welcome diversion and I realize that I just need to allow myself to be consumed by him right now. I need to let my body take over, but I don’t know if I can do that with him trying to be so gentle with me. Maybe I do need kinky fuckery…

“Faster, Christian,” I urge him.

“No, Ana,” He says. “I want you slow. Just feel me, baby.”

I let out a huff of frustration that I try to cover with a gasp as he pushes deeper inside of me and then tilt my head to take his lips with mine. I reach up into his hair, moaning into his mouth, and try to encourage him with my hips to take me harder. He doesn’t though. His hands gently caress my neck as he continues to move slowly and deliberately, and as I’m finally able to wrap myself up in him, I begin feel the welcome heat building inside of me.

I relax back into the bed and try to let the heat have me. I don’t know why I’m worried so much anyway. It’s going to be okay, no matter what. Carrick says this thing isn’t even going to go to trial, that once they know what evidence we have against Leila, they’ll ask for a plea bargain but we’ll refuse and after a little pressure, they’ll drop the charges. We’re not even going to have to face court again. But… what if that doesn’t happen? Surely Carrick isn’t depending solely on that. He’s got to be ready for the possibility of court. Of course he is, he’s good at what he does. That’s the difference this time. Carrick is in charge, not a background player. He’s the one fighting…  

“I’m almost there, baby,” I hear Christian whisper. “Are you close?”

There is a heightened sense of urgency in his tone which drags me back into the present and I realize I’ve fallen out of it again. Fuck. I’m not close. Not even in the neighborhood of close. I’ve lost it again and at this point I think I just need to accept that it’s not going to happen for me tonight…

But this doesn’t mean it can’t happen for him. He’s close. I can see him through to the end.

“Fuck,” He hisses as I feel the pressure he exudes into me increase. “Come on, Ana. Give it up for me.”

I let out a long, drawn out moan and then grind against him. The muscles in his face tighten as he tries to hold back until he gets me to the point of release, but I know he’s just about to lose control.

“Oh, Christian,” I moan, as I clench the muscles deep inside of me to tighten my walls around him, encouraging him to let go. I push back up into him, trying to meet him thrust for thrust as best I can with him on top of me, and with my hips moving in time with his, and the use of my kegel muscles, he can’t hold off any longer.

“Ana!” He cries as he tips over the edge and erupts inside of me. I continue to move, riding it out with him until he comes down and then rolls over onto the bed next to me, pulling me into his arms as he tries to catch his breath. I snuggle into him, my back pressed into his chest and the tips of my fingers gently grazing his arm.

I feel him shift next to me as he props himself up onto his arm and kisses my shoulder. “Is something wrong, baby?” He asks.

“What do you mean?”

“You didn’t come…”

“Oh… no, I’m fine. I’m just… tired,” I tell him and then roll over so that I’m facing him, looking into his concerned eyes. “I don’t really want you to leave tomorrow,” I tell him and he frowns.

“I don’t either. I’ll miss you in bed next to me. I’m not looking forward to sleeping alone again.”

“You’ll call me, right?” I ask.

“Every night,” He promises me. “And every morning.”

“And you’ll email me during the day?”

“Until you get so sick of me, you’ll have to turn off your email notifications.”

“Okay,” I sigh, though the disappointment I feel at his impending departure still rings in my voice.

“Go to sleep, baby,” Christian says. He kisses me gently once more and then I roll over and cuddle into him. We lie there together in silence for a while, my mind still racing with worry, unable to shut down and find rest. Eventually though, the exhaustion over powers my racing thoughts, and my heavy eyelids droop, and I’m carried off into an uneasy sleep to the sound of Christian’s gentle, rhythmic breathing.

Next Chapter

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