Chapter 31

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“I think the design of this app is really clever,” Jack says, as he flips through the beta version of the new Grey Books app open on my iPad. “It’s clean, user friendly, well lit…”

“And the page turn animation is really good,” I tell him, “Just swipe your finger across the page.” He does and then he smiles.

“Yeah, that’s great,” He hands me back the iPad and I feel a burgeoning sense of accomplishment. I can’t wait to show this to Christian.

“We’ve added some additional features since we last spoke, Miss Steele,” Barney tells me. “And I think you’ll be pleased. Just pick a word on the screen and hold your finger over it.”

I look down at the open book on the iPad and press my finger over the word fraudulent. After a second, the word becomes highlighted and a small menu opens on the screen above it with options for definitions, etymology, pronunciation, and grammatical usage.

“I love that,” I say, looking up and smiling at him.

“And this is just the first version. Our creative development team is coming up with new stuff every week. Wait until you get to see the actual eReader. It’s incredible.”

“Well I for one can’t wait to see it,” Jack says, winking at me. I smile back at him and prepare to offer Barney my own encouragement, but I’m cut off by a knock on the door.

“Yes?” I ask, and Taylor steps into my office.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, Miss Steele. But your parents are scheduled to land at Sea-Tac in 45 minutes.”

“Right,” I nod, and then I turn to smile at both Jack and Barney. “Please keep me informed of any further progression. I’d like to have the beta version complete and ready to show Miss Bailey and Mr. Grey as soon as possible.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Barney agrees. The three of us get out of our seats and both Jack and I shake Barney’s hand gratefully. I collect my things from my desk, tell Jack that I’ll be out for the rest of the day, and then follow Taylor out towards my Lincoln.

Unlike Prescott, and even Luke, Taylor never takes me out the front doors. The first time he had to navigate me through the photographers outside the front doors of SIP, he went into his office and immediately took it upon himself to call the city and have them zone out a place in the alley off the back left side of the building that only SIP has access to as registered parking. Regular security patrols and increased police presence keep the parking area free of any paparazzi, and since these changes have been made, the paparazzi outside my office have all but disappeared and there hasn’t been a single picture taken of me coming into or leaving work. Even Kate texted me last week to tell me how boring my Google Alert had become.

A lot of things are different with Taylor, and that became glaringly apparent from the very first day he was assigned to be my CPO. That first morning, I got up, got ready for work, and the second I stepped into the foyer he was behind me. I hadn’t even told him I was leaving, he just… knew. A few days later, I decided to use the gym downstairs because Christian was blasting 2Pac through the speakers in the gym in our apartment while he worked out with his trainer, and it hadn’t even crossed my mind to ask Taylor to come, but he was by my side all the same. I haven’t been able to make a single move in the past week and a half without Taylor stalking along behind me like a shadow I couldn’t shake if I wanted to.

“Would you like to listen to music, Miss Steele?” Taylor asks, glancing at me in the rearview mirror as we make our way down the freeway towards the airport.

“Sure,” I shrug and he reaches down and turns on my preferred radio station. I feel a fleeting sense of wistfulness as I think about Luke’s refusal to play my music in the car.

You need less of this top 40 garbage in your life, Anastasia,” He’d chide me. “I’m making you a better person.”

I let out a small laugh to myself at the memory and then stare longingly out the window. “Something wrong, Miss Steele?” Taylor asks.

“No, I’m fine,” I sigh and then I look up towards the front seat, locking eyes with him in the mirror. “Taylor? How do you feel about Luke?”

“Luke Sawyer is a good man,” He says. “A loyal man. A good soldier.”

“Soldier?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes, ma’am. He served a two year tour under me in the first infantry for the United States Army. He proved he was a good man in a tight spot. It’s what made me recommend him to Mr. Grey when he asked me to hire a security team when I was first brought on.”

“Luke never told me he was in the Army,” I say, surprised. “That’s weird. After everything I’ve talked to him about with my dad… I wonder why he never mentioned it.”

“It’s harder for some people to talk about what goes on over there,” Taylor says. “That last year we spent patrolling the Afghanistan/Pakistan border was not exactly filled with things I’d like to tell my grandchildren about one day.”

“Oh, I’m sorry…” I say sadly. I have to look away from Taylor as the small prick of fear that has crept into my mind from time to time over the past three years resurfaces. My dad has been in Iraq for a long time, in an active war zone. I know that changes people and I’m worried about the person who is going to come back to me. I’ve heard horror stories of soldiers coming back from the Middle East with crippling PTSD… if that happens to my Dad, I’ll never be able to forgive myself.

“Miss Steele?” Taylor asks, clearly noticing he’s lost me.

“Sorry,” I apologize. “So, you think he’s good at his job then? Did you think it was right for Christian to fire him?”

“That’s not my call to make, Miss Steele.”

“No, I know. I just wondered how you felt about it.”

“I think Luke Sawyer is very good,” He says evenly. “I’d trusted him probably more than anyone else on the team when it came right down to it, but this job is all about compatibility. He’s a good CPO, but he’s not a good CPO for you. You cloud his judgment too easily.”

“What about you and Christian?” I ask. “You don’t think he clouds your judgment?”

“What do you mean, Miss Steele?”

“I mean, you’re here with me instead of with him. He’s the one with the money, and the name, and the crazy ex out to get him. He’s the one who people want to hurt. You’re the best he has, don’t you think you should be with him?”

“Mr. Grey does what he’s supposed to do, Miss Steele. He wants security around and he utilizes my team properly. He doesn’t look for opportunities to sneak out alone.” He glares pointedly back at me and I feel my cheeks blush with chagrin.

“I know, I’m sorry,” I admit ruefully. “It’s not that I’m trying to make a point or anything… When I left Prescott behind I was just trying to do the right thing and protect myself and Christian the best way I knew how. I tried to be careful. Christian can be over protective sometimes, you know? And I…”

“Mr. Grey is overprotective because your safety is paramount to him, Miss Steele. Mr. Grey worries all the time about how exposed your connection with him has left you and if anything were to ever happen to you, even by accident… well, I don’t think he’d get past that. I don’t know if you understand just how much you mean to that man.”

I swallow the lump that the guilt brewing in my stomach causes to rise up into my throat. I do know how much I mean to Christian, how much he loves me… I’d always just thought his concerns about my safety were an overreaction. I mean, why would someone try to hurt me? I take a deep breath as the unwelcome answer trickles into my brain. Because that’s not how life works, Ana...

Why did Dylan Abernathy want to hurt Kate? He didn’t know anything about her until he happened to see her in a computer lab on a random school day. And he almost hurt me. I think of the crowds of paparazzi I’ve been pushed through following the different scandals that have had my name splashed all over the papers this summer, and the bumps and bruises I’d gotten from having cameras slammed into the back of my head when Prescott couldn’t keep a wide enough birth around me. I think of the people out there I do know want to hurt me. Leila Williams… and Elena Lincoln.

“Okay,” I nod. “You’re right. No more ditching security. I’m sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize,” Taylor says, an understanding undertone in his voice. “There’s an adjustment period to this kind of lifestyle, Miss Steele. Everyone goes through it. You should have seen the look on Mr. Grey’s face the first time I followed him to a public restroom.”

He chuckles to himself and while I examine his small smile, I realize there is a hint of sentimentality in it. Taylor cares for Christian, I think more than he’s willing to let on, and it gives me new profound sense of appreciation for him.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get over how strange it feels to drive directly onto the tarmac at the airport. Several Sea-Tac employees in fluorescent orange vests guide Taylor to a place out of the way where we can park and wait, and once the car comes to a stop, I lean over to stare up into the sky at the plane slowly descending towards us. The dark gray in the tail of the plane with the huge white letters spelling out the familiar GREY logo makes me smile as Christian’s brand new acquisition touches down and begins taxing back around to where we’re waiting. Taylor lets me out of the back seat just as the plane doors open and my mom appears, nearly bouncing with excitement while she impatiently waits for the stairs to be lowered for her to exit the plane.

“Ana!” She calls, running towards me and wrapping me in her arms. “Oh, sweetheart! I’m so happy to finally see you.”

“You too, Mom!” I reply happily. “Did you have a good flight?”

“It was fine,” She says, and as I turn to Bob, he shakes his head in dismay.

“It was absolutely incredible. That plane is beautiful and it was very kind of Christian to send it for us,” He says and I smile at him and move to give him a hug. There is a bouquet of flowers tucked into his left elbow, which he shifts out of the way so that he can wrap his arms around me, and I glance over at them with interest.

“Did you bring me flowers?” I ask.

“No, these are for your mother. From Christian. They were waiting for us when we got on the plane.”

“Oh,” I say, smiling again, and then turning to my mother. “See, I told you he was sweet. That was thoughtful of him.”

“Or his secretary,” She says, and my smile immediately disappears.

“I’m sure he has Andrea doing much more important things than buying flowers, Mom. Christian is a very caring person who I’m sure just wanted to do something nice for you.”

“Well, he did make it so that I could see my daughter this weekend,” She says, but I know the concession is just her way of heading off an argument.

“Where is Christian anyway?” Bob asks.

“He’s meeting us at Escala,” I tell him. “He had a few things to take care of back at GEH before he took the weekend off.”

“What’s Escala?”

“It’s where we live,” I say, and I hook my arms through each of theirs and drag them back towards the Lincoln with me.

“Mr. and Mrs. Adams,” Taylor says formally as he opens the back door for us.

“Mom, this is Jason Taylor,” I say, introducing them. “He’s my bodyguard.”

“Bodyguard?” Mom asks, shocked. “Why on earth do you need a bodyguard?”

“Just a precaution, ma’am,” Taylor says. “Miss Steele’s safety is Mr. Grey’s highest priority.”

My mom raises an eyebrow at him, but doesn’t say anything else as she climbs into the backseat of the car. I follow after her, sitting in the middle, and once Bob is in the car, and Taylor closes the door behind him, he turns to look at me.

“Mr. Grey,” He says, impressed. “That still trips me out. Last time I saw him, he was a nineteen year old kid and now he’s this big shot, important man!”

I laugh. “Yeah, you should see him when he’s at work. He’s very intimidating.”

The entire drive back to Escala is filled with my mom excitedly pointing to things out the window as she reminisces over everything she’s missed since she moved away from Washington. She shows us where she and Ray used to go to dinner when they came to the city and all of her old favorite stores. Bob shakes his head with exasperation when I make a big show of pointing out Qwest Field and when he rolls his eyes and lets out a low Steelers cough, I elbow him playfully in the ribs.

When we pull into the parking garage under Escala, Taylor stops in front of the elevator to let us out, but I ask him to drive up the ramp to Christian’s parking spaces instead. He raises a questioning eyebrow at me.

“Bob likes cars,” I explain. “I think he’d like to see some of Christian’s.”

Bob’s eyes widen with excitement as Taylor nods and drives up the ramp, but as we pass the security gate and the line of cars comes into view, Bob’s excitement is overcome by astonishment.

“Holy shit,” He whispers. “Oh my god, is that a Bugatti?”

“Yep,” I nod, and he immediately jumps out of the car, practically running up to the car and peering into the windows.

“Are all these his?” Bob asks me as my mom and I step out of the Lincoln.

“Well, the Audi belongs to his housekeeper, the BMW over there is Taylor’s, and the Lincoln is mine, but the rest are all Christian’s.”

“That’s a Maybach,” Bob says, nearly awed as he walks over to the car on the other side of the Bugatti.

“The Lincoln is yours?” My mom asks, raising an eyebrow at me.

“For the summer,” I nod, and then I walk over to join Bob. Her attitude is rubbing me the wrong way and since we’re about to be stuck on a boat together for three days, I think it’s best I let her get over this mood she’s in before I blow up at her.

“This is amazing,” Bob says, squatting down next to the car to check out the tires.

“Well, I’m sure Christian would let you take it out for a drive if you asked. Even the Veyron.” I tell him.

“Don’t play with me, Ana,” He says, holding up a warning finger and I laugh.

“Miss Steele?” Taylor interrupts me. “We’re on a schedule.”

“Oh…” I say, and then turn back to Bob. “Well, we better get upstairs then.”

He pouts but gets to his feet and then reaches for my mother’s hand as we make our way down the ramp and back to the elevators. Once we’re inside and Taylor has entered the code to the penthouse, I turn to my mom.

“You’re going to be nice, right?” I ask her, seriously.

“What do you mean, Anastasia?”

“I mean, I don’t want you acting the way you have been since I’ve picked you up around Christian. He put a lot of thought into this weekend, and I’d appreciate it if you took that into consideration and thanked him. I’m not saying you have to shower him with hugs and kisses, but you have to be nice to him.”

She takes a deep breath and then gives me a tight smile. “Fine, I’ll be nice.”

“Good,” I say. The elevator pings as we make it up to the 31st floor and I feel a rush of nerves wash over me. We step out into the foyer, Christian’s voice floating in around us from the great room and as I brace myself for the first meeting between him and my mother since we broke up, I glance over at her and notice her appraising the apartment around her with interest.

“No, absolutely not. I told you to tell her $1.2 million, that’s less than half that,” Christian says into the phone as he paces the floor of the living room. “I don’t care if it gets rid of her sooner, and I don’t care what the return is on my original investment. When I bought those salons she had one location in White Center that was on the edge of collapse. I turned it around. I built it into what it is, and I will be compensated accordingly. I’m done giving her things for free. If she wants them, she can pay for them, or someone else will. I’m not negotiating with her. Good. Then I’ll see you in about an hour. Bye.”

He hangs up the phone and then turns to look at me, a small smile creeping into the corner of his mouth as I walk forward and push myself into his arms faster than he can open them.

“Hi, baby. I missed you too,” He chuckles to himself, and I beam up at him as he leans down to kiss me. When his lips pull away from mine he looks up, takes a breath, and then smiles at my parents still lingering in the open space behind the couch.

“Mr. and Mrs. Adams,” He says. He releases me from his arms and stands up straighter, but his hand reaches down and blindly entwines itself with mine. “It’s good to see both of you again.”

“It is, it’s been a long time, Christian,” Bob says pleasantly, and he walks forward with his hand outstretched. Christian takes it and then looks back at my mother, who takes a deep breath and then smiles.

“Hello, Christian,” She says, a little stiff, but managing to eliminate the contempt in her voice from earlier.

“Did you enjoy your flight?” Christian asks. “The staff is still new, I hope you didn’t have any problems.”

“No, it was fine,” She replies and when I give her a pointed look she adds, “Thank-you for arranging this trip, we’re very grateful. And, thank-you for the flowers. That was thoughtful of you.”

“It’s my pleasure,” He says with a smile and then he looks down at me. “Well, should we get going? My family is anxious for us to join them.”

“You haven’t had them waiting down at the marina for us, have you?” I ask, disapprovingly.

“No, they’re already gone. They’ve been out on the water since early this morning.”

“Then how are we getting there?” I ask him, but he just gives me a mischievous smile and leads me back through the kitchen, into the utility room and through the door that leaves to the service entrance. We step into the elevator, My mother, Bob and Taylor piling in behind us and Christian presses the round “R” button. We make the short assent one floor and when the doors open again, a cool, clean breeze wafts in around us, and my mouth drops open as I look at the white and gray helicopter resting on the helipad in front of us.

“You’re flying us?” I ask, turning to look at him excitedly, and he nods. I bite down on my lip as I’m filled with a slightly overwhelming sense of glee and he tugs gently on my hand to pull me forward.

He opens the door and then holds my hand as I climb up into the front seat of the helicopter. While Taylor climbs into the back, helping my mother and stepfather fasten themselves in, Christian lowers the straps of the front harness down over my shoulders and around my legs, pulling them tightly and then leaning into kiss my lips.

“Finally,” He breathes with exaggerated relief. “I can be sure you won’t escape.”

I roll my eyes, but can’t keep the smile off my face as I try to contain the giddiness building up inside of me. Christian steps down from the ledge on the side of the helicopter, closes and secures the door, and then makes his way around to the pilot’s seat. Once he’s inside, he slides on the sunglasses Grace and Carrick got him for his birthday, picks up a headset, and motions for me to do the same. I watch him reach out for the complicated looking board in front of him and flip a bunch of switches, press some buttons, and adjust a lever, with a look of absolute concentration on his face.

“You sure you know what you’re doing?” My mom asks nervously, her voice echoing in my headphones over the sound of the spinning blades above us. I turn to face her and nearly laugh as I see her nervously trying to glance down at the city far below us over the edge of Escala.

“Mr. Grey is an excellent pilot,” Taylor assures her, and Christian turns to wink at me as he pulls his fingers away from the instrument panel.

“Tower, this is Charlie Tango, Golf-Golf, Echo, Hotel, preparing to enter Sea-Tac airspace. Please confirm clearance for take-off. Over.”

We wait in silence for only a second when an unexpected voice replies. “Clearance granted, Charlie Tango. Please proceed on heading zero nine zero. Over.”

“Roger, Tower. Charlie Tango, over and out,” Christian says and he reaches forward, pulling gently on the control stick between his legs and we steadily rise into the air. An elated laugh bubbles out of me as he takes us forward and we fly out over the city towards the sound. Normally, I’m not a big fan of heights but there’s something so monumental about being here, seeing Christian so capably doing one of the things I know he loves, that not just anyone can do, and having him share it with me, that fear is pushed aside and I can only feel elation. I smile down at the tiny sailboats I can see cutting their way through the water, smaller jet boats weaving in between them and leaving long white trails in their wake that look vaguely like contrails.

I can hear my parents excitedly pointing at Mount Rainer off to the south, but I’m so enraptured with the water below us, I have a hard time looking away. The sound is a deep, royal blue, glittering beneath the sunlight, and as I concentrate on the streams of green that flow through the water like a river, I see something break the surface and shriek.

“Oh my god, look! Whales!” I cry, pointing down to the water for my mom and Bob to see. There are four orca whales swimming in a tight group, their black backs hard to distinguish against the water except when one of the them blows a stream of water out of their blowholes. I giggle as I watch them dipping above and below the surface and then gasp in shock as a fifth one I hadn’t seen jumps out of the water, twisting in the air so that his long, white belly is facing us, and then goes crashing back down into the water again with a tumultuous splash.

“Christian, look!” I squeal excitedly and I hear his laughter echo in my ears.

“I see it, baby,” He tells me. I look over at him, his eyes flicking briefly up to me and I feel a surge of contented happiness.

“I love you,” I tell him and he smiles.

“I love you too, Ana.”

The flight lasts a little over an hour, most of which is spent over open ocean. We’re a few miles off the coast of Cape Flattery when I see a small white dot appear in the endless stretch of blue ocean.

“There she is,” Christian says, nodding towards the yacht as it comes more clearly into few. When we’re just a little ways away, I can make out something small moving around the yacht and for a second I think it might be more whales.

“Elliot and those fucking jet skis,” Christian says exasperatedly, and I laugh. Kate and Elliot wave up at us and turn their machines back to the yacht as Christian reaches down for his instrument panel and starts flipping switches again, preparing to land. I feel the first pang of anxiety as the helicopter begins to hover above the yacht and I see the tiny little helipad perched on the third deck. It’s all for nothing though, as Christian pushes the lever in front of him to lower us towards the deck, setting her down with so little effort it feels like he could have done it with his eyes closed.

“That was incredible, Christian,” I tell him as the rotor blades stop spinning and I pull off my headset. He smiles at me, reaches for my hand and lifts my fingers to his lips.

“Well, then I’ll have to take you up more often,” He promises and I agree eagerly. He steps out of the helicopter and makes his way over to my side, helping me out of my harness and then lifting me so that I slide against him as he slowly lowers me onto the deck of the boat. Hope springs within me as I realize the ease in which he’s just allowed me to touch him. It’s been slow progress over the last two weeks, or maybe it just feels that way, with the touch issue, so this is a huge step. We still haven’t made love since his big Elena realization, actually, since my disastrous birthday surprise, but as he stares down into my eyes, keeping them open and locked on me as he leans down and kisses me, I wonder if maybe this weekend…

“This is quite the yacht, Christian,” Bob says, staring down over the back deck at Kate and Elliot climbing off the jet skis and hurrying inside. “When Ana said we’d be spending the weekend on a yacht, I didn’t picture anything like this.”

“She’s top the line,” Christian says, grinning at him. “Come with me, I’ll show you and Carla and your cabin and then we can join my parents for dinner on the main deck.”

“Great!” He says happily, and he reaches back for my mom’s hand while a few crew members in clean white shirts and navy colored pants rush forward to help Taylor unload the luggage from the helicopter.

Once we’ve made sure my parents are able to get settled in, Christian and I take a few minutes to unpack our suitcases in our room, which I quickly find already holds a few too many tantalizing memories for me to focus clearly on the task at hand. Especially when he decides to change shirts and I’m treated to the view of every one of the muscles in his abs stretching as he pulls his shirt over his head and then stands there, in all his glory, while he finds something else to wear.

“You’re staring, Anastasia,” Christian accuses me when he catches me looking at him out of the corner of his eye.

“Can you blame me?” I reply, continuing to gawk at him unabashedly and he lets out a small, quick laugh.

“No, not really. I quite enjoy staring myself,” He says, and he turns to walk towards me, gently placing his hands on each of my hips as he stares down deeply into my eyes. “The view is so beautiful.”

“We could be late for dinner, you know,” I tell him, my eyes moving down and focusing in on his lips. “No need to rush…”

“Aren’t you hungry?”

“Not for food.”

He gives me a kind of half smile, and there is a small laugh in the breath that he exhales through his nose, but he takes his hands off my hips and then takes my hand and lifts it to his lips.

“Come on,” He says, “We shouldn’t keep everyone waiting.”

I take a deep breath in, trying not to let the slight sting of rejection get to me, and then give him a closed lip smile and nod for him to lead me out of the room.

When we get down to the dining room, we find my parents, Christian’s parents, Kate and Elliot all circled around the table, filling their plates. Grace has already pounced on my mother, happily chatting away and trying to catch up, Carrick and Bob are talking about some new line of golf clubs it turns out they’ve both just purchased, and while Kate picks at her salad, only half engaging in conversation with Grace and my mom, Elliot starts wolfing down his food.

“It’s okay, Elliot,” I laugh as I sit down next to him. “I promise they’re not going to take it away from you.”

“Well, duh,” He says though a mouthful of food. “Sun’s not going to last forever and I still have half a tank left on that Jet Ski.”

I look down at the sopping life jacket still draped over his shoulders, which is dripping steadily onto the carpet. “You couldn’t have taken that off before you came in here?” I ask him pointedly.

“No time,” He replies, and as he shoves another huge mouthful into his face, I shake my head and turn to take the bowl of salad Christian passes to me.

“Where’s Mia?” He asks, turning to his mom and she stiffens immediately and falls quiet. Christian turns to his dad and Carrick shakes his head ruefully.

“Your sister didn’t want to join us this weekend,” He says, and Christian raises an eyebrow.

“What do you mean she didn’t want to?” He asks. “You just left her at home by herself?”

“Trust me, dude,” Elliot interrupts. “It’s better this way. I’ve been trying with her all week, but she just wants to be left alone. I even left work early on Tuesday to go watch her ballet rehearsal and then take her to get ice cream and talk to her about how much I would love to spend the weekend with her but she told me to kick rocks. She’s a little bit too much like you sometimes, and just like you, sometimes the best way to get through to her is to give her a little bit of space when she asks for it, but be there when she needs it.”

Elliot gives Christian an I know it sucks but this is how it is look, but Christian ignores it entirely and waves Taylor over to the table.

“Go get me the satellite phone,” He tells him.

“What is calling her going to accomplish, Christian?” Elliot asks. “She’s having a bad attitude, there’s no reason to bring it on this glorious jet-ski filled vacation.”

“I’m not just going to call her,” He says as Taylor hands him the phone that looks like a mix between a walkie talkie and an old Nokia cellphone with a bright yellow casing around it. “I’m going to fly back to Seattle, pick her up, and bring her back with me.”

“But it’ll be dark, you won’t be able to find us,” I argue, but he ignores me, listening instead to the phone ringing in his ear. After a minute or so though, he frowns and pulls the phone away from his ear.

“She didn’t answer.”

“I told you, bad attitude,” Elliot says.

“She might be at work,” Grace offers, “But honestly Christian, you’re not going to convince her to come. I’ve been fighting with her all week.”

“Well, I’m not going to fight with her,” He replies, and he pulls out his cellphone to find another number and then dials on the satellite phone again.

“Hello,” He says, when the other side picks up. “This is Christian Grey, I’m looking for my sister, Mia Grey. No, she’s a waitress… is she not on shift right now? Yes, Ameila. What do you mean? What? No. Thank you.” His voice is cold as he hangs up and he turns to glare at his parents. “They said she hasn’t worked there since May.”

“What?” Grace says, her mouth falling open with shock. “What do you mean she hasn’t worked there since May? She’s been going four, five times a week, every week. Sometimes she doesn’t come home til three o’clock in the morning.”

Christian’s jaw tightens. “Well, what could a girl who was caught doing drugs at the beginning of the summer be doing out that late at night?” he snarls and now Carrick is the one who looks confused.

“Caught doing drugs?” He repeats.

“I picked her up from a party at the beginning of the summer, she’d been drinking and smoking weed.”

Grace shakes her head. “She’d been doing more than that…”

Christian turns to face his mother, watching her hand shoot up to cover her mouth as she shakes her head with disbelief, and then he shoves away from the table.

“Get Charlie Tango ready,” He instructs Taylor, “Let’s go.”

“What are you going to do, Christian?” Elliot says, reaching out to stop him. “Drive around Seattle calling her name out the window? If she’s not at work we have no idea where she is.”

“She has to come home sometime,” He argues, but Grace shakes her head.

“I told her she couldn’t stay at the house alone,” She says. “She said she was staying with a friend.”

“Which friend?” Christian growls, but, though his parents answer at the same time, they each say different names. Christian immediately turns back on Taylor.

“Can you track her phone from here?” He asks.

“No, sir. Not from the yacht. Welch could, we could call him,” Taylor replies and Christian begins frantically dialing on the Satellite phone again.

“Welch,” He snaps, a little too harshly. I need a trace on a phone. My sister, she’s… missing. No, just… I need to know where she is. 425-462-1432. Verizon, registered under Carrick Grey. Yes, thank you.”

He hangs up the phone and begins to pace.

“So, when you find out where she is, you’re going to go get her?” Elliot asks. “I don’t know about that, Christian… Ana’s right. It’s getting dark, we’re out in the middle of the ocean.”

“I know our heading,” Christian says, “There’s instrumentation in the helicopter to get me back here.”

“And if you can’t convince her to come?” Kate asks.

“Then I will pick her up, put her over my shoulder, and carry her into the helicopter. And when we get back, I will lock her in the bathroom with a drug test.”

“I’m not sure I want her to be rewarded with a weekend on a yacht for lying to all of us,” Carrick says, before turning to Grace. “Who could we call to watch her for the weekend?”

“It’s the Fourth of July, everyone we know who would be willing to do that is out of town.”

“Elliot, do you have any friends who would spend the weekend at the house with your sister?” Carrick asks, but Elliot shakes his head.

“You don’t want any of my friends spending a weekend alone with your sixteen year old daughter. I don’t want that…” He says.

“Don’t you have a housekeeper, Christian?” Carrick asks. “Would she keep an eye on your sister at your apartment for the weekend?”

“I’ll call her,” Christian says.

“Uh, sir?” Taylor interrupts him. “Mrs. Jones has gone to Portland for the weekend, to spend the holiday with her sister.”

“Kate, what about your parents?” Grace asks.

“They’re with Ethan,” She replies, shaking her head.

“We could hire someone,” Carrick suggests but Christian isn’t a fan of that idea.

“I’ll just bring her back here,” He says, nodding again to Taylor, and I hold my hand up to stop whatever argument Carrick is going to use.

“I could call Luke,” I suggest, and Christian narrows his eyes at me, while Taylor peers over at him with a hesitant gaze. “He’d get to her faster than you would and he’d keep an eye on her. He’d be able to stay with her at your parents’, or at Escala… he could even bring her back to his apartment if you wanted him to.”

“Sawyer would be useful in this instance, sir,” Taylor says carefully. “Your entire security staff is on this yacht, so he’s the best available option for keeping tabs on her if you’re worried about her sneaking off again. Better security than any family friend would be anyway…”

Christian looks hesitantly between Taylor and I for a minute, the reluctance towards the decision clear behind his eyes, but he doesn’t have to answer us right away, because the phone in his hand begins to ring.

“Get me something to write with,” He tells Taylor as he answers the phone. Taylor takes a pad and pen off a table from the sitting room just adjacent to the dining room and hands it to Christian, who writes down Airport Way and Holgate St as he talks to Welch.

“I don’t know that intersection, where is it?” Christian asks, and the moment he gets his answer I see the color drain out of his face a little. “Thank you, Welch.” He says, and he hangs up the phone and looks at me.

“Where is she?” Carrick asks.

“She’s in the jungle,” He replies and Grace’s mouth pops open again.

“Alone?” She exclaims.

“What’s the jungle?” I ask, and Elliot turns to answer.

“It’s in south Seattle, just a really sketchy part of town. You don’t go down there unless you want to get stabbed or…” His words cut off and the annoyed look on his face melts away as he turns to look blankly at Christian. “Or if you want to buy drugs.”

“What’s Sawyer’s number?” Christian asks, looking at me, but I shake my head.

“I-I’d have to go get my phone,” I tell him, and I’m about to hurry off towards our bedroom to retrieve it, but Taylor hands Christian his cellphone before I move, with Sawyer’s number displayed across the screen. Christian dials, and then holds the phone up to his ear and begins pacing again.

“Sawyer, this is Christian Grey. I know you don’t work for me anymore, but I need you to do something for me. I’ll pay whatever you need I just… Okay. My little sister is in south Seattle, somewhere around Airport Way and Holgate, and I need you to find her, bring her back to Escala, and keep her there until I get there tomorrow morning. She is not to leave the apartment for any reason, until I get there to pick her up. Understand? Good. She drives a white Lexus, her license plate says Muggle. Call me back on this number when you have her. Thank you, Sawyer.”

He hangs up the phone and sets it down on the table, then takes a deep breath and pinches the bridge of his nose like he’s trying to stave off a rapidly burgeoning headache.

“You’re going to pick her up in the morning?” I ask him and he nods.

“Yes.” He turns to his parents. “I’m going to fly back to Seattle in the morning and bring her back here. If you want to punish her, or ground her, that’s fine, but I want her here where we can keep an eye on her.”

Grace and Carrick look at each other, a silent exchange occurring between the two of them before Carrick finally turns back to Christian and nods. “Fine,” He says. “We’ll discuss tonight what we want to do, but if you want her here, then she should be here.”

“Good,” He says, and he takes my hand and leads me back over to the table where he pulls my chair out for me to sit down again. I thank him, and smile as I lower myself into my seat and once he’s seated beside me, he takes my hand again, pulling it over to rest in his lap.

Dinner is fairly silent after that. Christian continually glances down at the satellite phone, waiting for Luke’s call, Grace and Carrick keep leaning over to speak quietly into the other’s ear, and the rest of us simply focus our attention on our food. I look up at my parents, and I can see how uncomfortable Bob is being thrust into this strange family dilemma the Greys are having, but every so often my mother looks up at Grace, an emotion behind her eyes that I can’t quite place, but that would make me uncomfortable if Grace were to notice.

“Jesus, how long is he going to take?” Christian asks, more to himself than anyone else, a few minutes later.

“Well, he’s got to get to her before he can find her,” Carrick says. “You know Seattle traffic, and once he gets down there he still has to figure out where she is. Give him some time.”

“He’ll find her,” I say, reassuringly, but Christian doesn’t look pacified.

“You know what you need?” Elliot says, reaching out and gripping him on the shoulder. “You, my friend, need to go down to the bottom deck, walk outside, and get on a jet ski. No one is ever sad on a jet ski.”

Christian turns to look at his brother, and I expect anything from a short, irritated response to a long angry tirade to come bubbling out of him, but to my surprise, he laughs.

“What is it with you and the jet skis, Elliot?” He asks, continuing to laugh and the sound is so relieving it’s contagious, and soon everyone is joining in.

“Uh, they’re only the greatest joy in life, Christian. Obviously,” Elliot replies and Christian shoves his brother’s arm off of him, hard enough to knock him into Kate. Elliot responds by flicking a pea back at him. Grace gives them each warning looks, and they both sit up a little straighter, feigning civility, but I watch Elliot’s face cringe with pain as Christian stealthily punches him in the leg under the table.

The conversation starts again, easier this time with the lighter mood in the atmosphere. Grace turns back to my mother, telling her how happy she is that they’ve come and that we’re all together as a family again.

“I’ve hoped for years that Christian and Ana would find a way back together and now they have and it’s just wonderful,” She beams.

“Is that so?” My mother responds, looking up from her food and giving Grace a tight smile.

“I knew they’d get back together,” Elliot says. “Eventually.”

“Did you?” Kate asks, dubiously. “Was it the two years of unanswered phone calls that had you convinced?” But Elliot shakes his head.

“Everything I need to know about Ana and Christian, I learned from Journey. They told me it would be okay.”

“Journey?” Christian asks, raising an eyebrow at him.

Elliot grins, and begins to sing. “Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world. She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere.”

“Oh, god. Stop!” Kate exclaims, but she can’t hold back laughter.

Just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit. He took the midnight train goin’ anywhere.”

“Yeah, well that train’s about to go over the side of the boat if you don’t stop, Elliot,” Christian says, rolling his eyes.

“Yes, please,” Carrick adds. “Besides, we all know there is only one classic rock band we put our faith into in this house, and that is Rush. The greatest foreign invasion since the Beatles.”

I turn and see Christian suppressing a smile as he looks over at Elliot and I immediately know, from a conversation a long time ago, what they’re thinking. They both look up at Grace who smiles and then begins to softly sing, “And be a jukebox hero, got stars in his eyes…”

“Stop it,” Carrick says seriously, turning to glare at his wife but once Christian and Elliot join in, everyone around the table starts up and we get through nearly the whole song until the satellite phone starts to ring and everyone falls silent.

Next Chapter


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