Chapter 42

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I’m sitting on the floor of Christian’s closet, a half packed suitcase open behind me, staring hopelessly up at the line of neatly hung clothes over my head. It’s really too bad I can’t take Gail back to Cambridge with me. Everything in here is perfectly coordinated and categorized by garment type, and each category is color coded. It’s the most well put together closet I’ve ever seen and one of the thousands of things I’m going to miss about living in this apartment with Christian.

I sigh and begin folding the t-shirts on the floor in front of me, tossing each one forlornly into the suitcase as I make my way through the pile. I don’t know if it’s being forced to pack yet again, or just my lack of desire to actually leave that’s making this whole process so difficult and lengthy, but I feel like I’ve been doing this for hours. Guilt grips my stomach as I climb off the floor and start sorting through the hangers again. I can lie to myself all I want, but I know exactly why I’m dragging my feet and stretching out this process.

I’m avoiding Christian.

He’s been in a terrible mood since we got back to Seattle this morning, spending most of the day locked up in his office and the rest of his time snapping at me over every little thing or moping around the apartment. I know he doesn’t want me to leave, and I know he’s been dreading this day, probably all summer, but being irritable about it isn’t going to make it so I don’t have to go and he’s ruining our last day together.

I shake my head. I need to stop thinking of this as our last day together. Neither one of us is dying, I’m just going back to school. I’m going to see him all the time and talk to him every day. It’s not going to be like it was before.

I take a deep breath, feeling reassured once again as I reach up and take the sweatshirt I took from my dad’s closet in Montesano off the hanger, fold it, and put it in the suitcase. Staring down at it, I realize that maybe I can make these consolations to myself because I’m used to being separated from the people I love. The only times Christian has ever been without loved ones, he was truly alone. Maybe this is triggering some sort of abandonment thing with him.

“Hey,” Christian’s voice says behind me, and I jump in surprise a little before turning around to face him.

“Hey,” I reply, cautiously.

“Do you want to go out to dinner tonight?” He asks.

“Out?” I repeat. “You mean, you don’t want to stay in?”

He shrugs. “I wanna do whatever you want to do.” His eyes shift down to my suitcase and he frowns, glaring at it like it’s the reason I have to leave. “You’re not finished packing yet?” He asks, his voice sharp again as he looks back up at me.

“It’s harder packing to go back than it was packing to come here,” I say defensively. “I don’t want to leave something here that I’m going to need once I’m back in Cambridge, but I don’t want to have to pack a giant suitcase every time I go back and forth either. I don’t know whether to leave some clothes here or…”

“You should only be taking the things you absolutely need,” He says bluntly. “Everything else needs to stay here, including your clothes. You live here, Anastasia. Cambridge is temporary, this is your home.”

I sigh as I drop the shirt in my hands into the suitcase and take the few steps across the closet to close the distance between us. He doesn’t immediately wrap his arms around me, but after pressing myself tightly into him, he gives in and quickly encloses me in a hug.

“I know this is hard, Christian…” I begin.

“Stop,” He interrupts me, his voice still harsh. I look up at him, feeling a little hurt by his attitude and I think seeing that reflected in my eyes softens him a little because he lets out a long breath and then relaxes a little. “I just…” He says, but then quickly changes direction. “You live here, Anastasia. I just want you to think of this as your home.”

“This is my home,” I agree and he nods, looking a little more reassured.

“Well… I guess you should take whatever you want to take. If you think you’re going to need these clothes in Cambridge, I can buy new clothes for you to keep here.”

“You’re too good to me,” I say, smiling up at him. He leans down and kisses me, slow at first and then more insistently the longer our lips touch.

“Mmm, maybe you’re right,” He tells me. “I don’t want to go out tonight. I want to spend your last night here, alone, together.”

“It’s not my last night,” I tell him, repeating my thoughts from earlier. “I’m leaving tomorrow, but this is still my home, remember? I’ll only be gone nine months and I’ll be home for a week in November, almost a month over December and January, a week in March… Add all that in with the trips we’ll both take back and forth and it’ll be like I never left.”

“You sure you won’t reconsider coming home every weekend?”

I laugh. “I know it’s been awhile since you’ve been to university, but I assure you, my dear Mr. Grey, that the idea of weekly, bi-coastal travel is not only implausible, it’s utterly absurd.”

“Okay there, Harvard,” He says, rolling his eyes. “Why don’t you spend a little less time in here working through your linguistic grandstanding and more time packing. I’ll order some food and we can watch a movie.”

“Sounds perfect,” I tell him. “I’ll be done in thirty minutes tops.”

He kisses me once more before turning around to leave and, once I have something other than sulky Christian to look forward to at the end of all this packing, I find that I’m much faster and efficient at getting it done. It’s only fifteen or so minutes before my suitcase is completely packed and I have everything ready to go. The only thing I’m missing is Christian’s Harvard t-shirt, which I desperately need so that I can sleep in it when I’m not with him. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be in my drawer. I look through Christian’s drawers but it isn’t in there either, although I do find that his panty collection has grown…

I roll my eyes and look through the hangers again, thinking maybe Gail made a mistake and hung it up, but it’s nowhere to be found. A small pang of panic begins to kick in as I start digging through the dirty clothes hamper, but I don’t find it there either. Not that I had expected it to be, the only things in here are the things I took with me to Hawaii and I purposefully didn’t take that shirt with me because I didn’t want it to need to be washed when I was ready to pack it.

When a second look through my drawers again leaves me empty handed, I make my way out of the bedroom and through the apartment, passing Christian emptying cardboard containers of chinese food onto plates as I walk through the kitchen and into the laundry room. Both the washer and dryer are empty so now I’m completely stumped. Where the heck is it?

“Christian?” I ask, coming back out into the kitchen. “Do you know where my Harvard t-shirt is?”

“You mean my Harvard t-shirt?” He asks dryly, and I narrow my eyes at him. I have no time for semantics right now.

“No, my Harvard t-shirt. I’ve claimed it as my own and I’m taking it with me. Have you seen it?”

“Not since you wore it last,” He says, smiling a little, which reminds me that the last time I was wearing it, he was pulling it off of me and throwing it carelessly across the room. So, he’s the reason it’s gone missing. I frown and then stomp back towards the bedroom. Christian calls for me to come back and eat but I can’t do anything now until I find this stupid t-shirt.

Thirty minutes later, I’m still empty handed and thoroughly depressed. It’s not here. Somehow, it’s grown legs and walked away. I’ve torn this entire room apart and I can’t find it anywhere.

“You can take another one of my t-shirts with you, Ana,” Christian tries to reassure me as he finally coaxes me out of the room to eat, but that doesn’t make me feel any better.

“It’s not the same,” I tell him. “I’ve worn that shirt almost every night since we’ve been back together. It’s mine and I can’t just replace it with any old t-shirt…”

He wraps his arm around me, rubbing his hand over my shoulder comfortingly, and kissing my hair as I pick up a plate and carry it with me to the dining room table. Once he sits across from me, I take a deep breath and force myself to push aside the disappointment so I’m not the one with the bad attitude that ruins the last few hours we have together for the next couple of weeks.

Once dinner is finished, I let Christian pick a movie while I clean the dishes and throw away the empty containers, but I almost regret that decision when I get out to the living room and find that the movie he’s picked is Bicentennial Man.

“Didn’t we just talk about how I find this to be one of the most boring movies ever made?” I complain as I plop down on the couch next to him.

“You did,” He agrees. “Which is why I picked it. I wouldn’t want you to miss most of a movie you had any interest in watching.”

I smile briefly as he leans over me, pushing me back into the couch as his lips claim mine. My body shifts automatically so I can wrap myself around him and hold him as close to me as possible. His kiss is slow and deep, and I take my time to enjoy the feel of his tongue and his taste. His hands creep beneath my t-shirt and he slowly begins to explore my body. His fingers trace soft circles over my skin and it sends tingles through my entire body, until they move down to my side and I suddenly jerk away from him.

“That tickles,” I say, giggling against his lips and he lets out a small, satisfied sounding moan. Soon, I’m desperate for more than the hot but chaste make out session, so I grab hold of the hem of his t-shirt and quickly begin to yank it up over his head. He moves up onto his hands so that I can undress him and when he lowers himself back down on top of me, his lips travel down my jawline to the curve of my neck.

“You’re so beautiful, Ana.” He whispers in between kisses. “I’m so in love with you.”

“I love you, too,” I moan, tilting my hips up towards his. He moans softly and then pulls my t-shirt over my head, before pushing my breasts together and burying his face into my cleavage to kiss me again.

“Oh, Christian,” I say, feeling my body begin to writhe as I become more and more intoxicated by the feel of him.

“I want you, baby,” He says softly. “I want to be inside of you.”

“Take me,” I whisper back. He groans, and both of his hands grip tightly to each of my breasts, toying with them for a moment before pulling down the cups to expose my nipples to his mouth. I revel in the feeling of his tongue lavishing me for a moment until he pulls away suddenly and begins pulling my leggings and panties off of me.

“Now you,” I whimper, feeling a little cheated that he’s still clothed. He lies down flat over the top of me, holding himself on his elbows and kissing me again as I reach down and undo the buttons of his jeans and slowly pull down the zipper. He groans when I reach inside his pants and grip his erection over his boxers, and then pulls his hips up so I can ease his jeans down.

Once he’s naked, he presses into me again and I can feel his erection pressing against me. I rock my hips back and forth as much as I can, inviting him to cross the threshold, but he doesn’t immediately thrust inside of me. Instead, his hand brushes against my skin once more, from the side of my face all the way down to my outter thigh, and he hooks my leg around him. Once he’s completely ensnared by my arms and legs, he reaches down and grips his erection, guiding it as he slowly eases himself inside of me.

I let out a long, drawn out moan of pleasure as I feel him sink all the way into me and freeze. His tongue invades my mouth again as he holds himself there, deep inside of me for a moment, and then eases back.

“Open your eyes, Ana,” He instructs me. “I want to see you.”

I do as he asks and we stare deeply into eachother’s eyes, moaning softly as we make love. In this moment, feeling as close to him as I possibly can, I can’t believe how lucky I am. This man, this perfect, beautiful man, loves me. That certainty spurs me on, invigorates my entire body, and makes every tiny gesture and movement so much more meaningful and pleasurable.

“Oh… Christian!” I gasp, my fingers gripping tightly to his naked back as I feel the deeply satisfying feeling of pleasure intensify.

“Ana,” He whispers, my name almost a prayer on his lips. “My Ana.”

“Yours,” I agree.

He circles his hips, testing my limits and eliciting a deep carnal moan from me before he pulls back once more and then slams into me.

“Oh, fuck!” I cry as the sudden ferocity radiates throughout my entire body.

“You like that, baby?” He asks.

“Yes,” I reply, my voice entirely too needy.

“Mmmm, then let me hear you.” He groans and he repeats the motion, pulling slowly out of me and allowing me to really feel him before he slams forward again. The dichotomy between his slow withdrawal and hard thrusts has me thrown off balance and soon I begin to build. The warmth is intense, spiraling out from deep inside me and spreading quickly through my limbs, from the tips of my fingers, to the tips of my toes. I moan again as I feel myself begin to tighten, and he lowers his lips to my neck again, just below my ear.

“Not yet, baby,” He says softly. “I want to come with you.”

“Please, Christian.” I reply, pleading. He kisses my neck once more and then pulls back and begins thrusting into me, deep and hard, so that I find myself struggling to hold back my orgasm.

“Christian!” I cry out. “Oh fuck, I’m going to come.”

“Wait, Anastasia,” He says through clenched teeth. “I’m almost there. Wait for me.”

I hold my breath, unsure of what to do to stop the billowing sense of pleasure but that just seems to intensify everything.

“I can’t,” I whimper. “Fuck, Christian…”

“Almost. There,” He pants. I feel him grip the pillow my head is resting on as his tempo becomes slightly harsher and more erratic. “Fuck, Ana. Come for me. Right now, come for me.”

My body detonates at his words and I clench tightly around him again and again as I feel him empty his release into me. His lips crash into mine, muffling my screams of ecstasy as my orgasm consumes me. I’m lost, dazed, and by the time I come down, my whole body is shaking.

“I love watching you come,” Christian whispers, and I let out a low moan because that’s all I can manage. We lay there for a few moments, with him still buried inside of me, panting and reveling in the connection between us. Eventually though, he pulls out of me and I wince slightly as I feel the loss. He shifts me slightly, wrapping me in his arms as he spoons me and we both bask in the euphoric, post-coital bliss.

“I love you, Anastasia,” He whispers, kissing my shoulder.

“I love you, too,” I reply. He squeezes me quickly and then brushes his fingers up and down my forearm as we turn our attention to the movie.

“Christian?”

“Hmm?” He mumbles.

“Can we please watch something else?” I ask and he laughs before picking up the remote and flipping back to the guide.

It’s raining the next morning, a clear sign that summer is over and fall is on the way. I stare gloomily out the window of our bedroom, my mood reflecting the bleak weather as I think about all of the rain that I’m going to miss while I’m 3000 miles away from my home.

“We’re ready to go,” Christian says sulkily as he comes up behind me, places each of his hands on my arms, and kisses me softly on the cheek.

“Okay,” I sigh. I reach down to pick up my purse off the bed, and give the room one last examining look, as though the t-shirt I never found is suddenly going to appear out of nowhere. It doesn’t though so I shamble out of the room and close the door behind me.

The SUV is idling a few feet away from the elevator when we get down to the parking garage and while I expected to see Taylor behind the wheel, I hadn’t expected to see Luke sitting in the front seat. I realize this is a ridiculous oversight on my part since Luke is moving back to Cambridge with me, so of course he’s going to be on the flight, but I hadn’t really thought the actual leaving part much. The reminder that he’ll be there actually brightens my spirits a little bit.

We climb into the back and make our way through the wet streets of downtown until we merge onto the I-5 South and continue on to the airport. Christian’s jet is once again waiting for us on the tarmac and when we get out of the back of the car to board the plane, I’m again surprised when I find Kate by herself.

“Hey, where’s Elliot?” I ask, plopping down in the seat across the aisle from her.

“Oh, he had some things to take care of with the house and his new company,” Kate says, brushing off my comment. “He wanted to come but he’s just got so much to do… We said our goodbyes already.”

I frown, but decide to let it go. In only a few short hours I’m going to be saying my own goodbyes to Christian and once he leaves, I’m not going to want to harp on about how sad it is that he’s gone, so I’m not going to do it to Kate.

It feels like it takes much less time for us to take off than it did when we went to Hawaii, which I suppose is normal when you’re dreading something. Once we’re in the air, Christian picks up a book to read, but Luke seems to want to talk rather than let me do the same.

“Do you like my new hat, Ana?” He asks, slicking his hair back and then slipping a fitted New England Patriots hat over his head.

I glare at him. “Take that garbage off right now.”

“I have to fit in!” He argues, but I shake my head.

“If you’re going to be following me around, you’re not going to be repping the Patriots. I’d literally rather be murdered.”

He laughs and tosses the hat on the seat next to him. “So, where’s your car, Kate? Didn’t you drive it here?”

“My parents are having it shipped to me.” She replies, not looking up from her Cosmo. “I don’t know though… I think I might trade it in once we get there. It’s getting kind of old.”

“We’re going to get to go car shopping. Right, Ana?” Luke asks.

“Mhm,” I mumble, taking a sip out of the bottle of Snapple I brought with me.

“Oh, about that,” Christian interjects. He shifts in his chair so that he can pull his wallet out of his back pocket and take out a credit card to hand to me. I look down at the thick black plastic and slowly trace my fingers over the letters etched into it that spell out my name.

“What is this?” I ask.

“It’s for you to use while you’re at school,” Christian explains. “There’s no limit on it so you can use it to buy your car and then whatever else you need throughout the year.”

I narrow my eyes at him.

“You paid for my school again, didn’t you?” I ask.

“Yep,” He says, seemingly unconcerned as he picks his book back up. I shake my head but lean over and kiss him on the cheek.

“Thank you,” I tell him and he smiles without looking up at me. Luke and Kate spend the next few minutes talking about cars and just as I think I’m about to be able to cuddle into Christian and lose myself in a book, Kate pulls me back in.

“Have you heard anything about your book, Ana?” She asks.

“I got an email from Dr. Ralston a few days ago. He says it’s finished and edited, but he’s not going to be able to meet with me for a couple weeks after the start of the term,” I tell her.

She nods. “Are you going to go through the whole process of query letters and finding an agent, or are you just going to have it published through SIP?”

I shrug. I don’t really want to answer that question in front of Christian because I do actually want to try and get it published outside of SIP, but I don’t know how he’ll feel about that. Part of me feels like having him publish it will take away from the feeling of accomplishment I’ll feel from actually having something published. He’d accept it whether it was good or not, just because I’d written it. Having a publisher that I don’t sleep with accept my work feels more validating.

“What’s happening with SIP anyway?” Kate asks. “I thought Christian bought it for you? Are you going to sell it?”

“No,” He replies. “I’ll just have to hire a different director. It’s still profitable and it’s possible Ana will change her mind after graduation and decide she wants to go back.”

“Who are you going to hire as director then?” Kate asks.

“Jack Hyde,” I respond, but Christian raises an eyebrow at me.

“No, I’m not.” He says.

“You’re not?”

“Of course not. He was there before the merger, when the company was failing. Why would I appoint someone as director when they’ve already clearly demonstrated their ineptitude?”

“I worked with him all summer,” I argue. “I thought he did great.”

“And that’s why I didn’t let him go when we did our first quarterly review,” He says. “But he thrived because he was working under a strong leader. Everything that created the turn around SIP went through was because of you. My hope is that he’ll be the same kind of asset to Elizabeth.”

“Elizabeth?” I ask, and he nods.

“Elizabeth Morgan. She’s an outside hire with a strong background in literature, just as you were. I found her at HarperCollins and after a lunch and some email negotiations, she agreed to come on board. She started on Monday.”

“Oh,” I say, frowning a little as I remember promising Jack I’d put in a good word for him. I should have asked about this sooner… I really do think he would have been good.

I’m a little put off by how long the flight feels as I have the realization of how many times I’m actually going to do this over the next nine months. I suppose it will leave me plenty of time to do homework, except that I won’t have any wifi, but by the time we’re making our descent into Boston, I’m so antsy from being seated for so long that I’m bouncing up and down in my seat, unable to keep myself from fidgeting. Christian on the other hand, stares morosely out the window like we’re on our way to a funeral. I frown as I look over at him. Maybe Elliot had it right, and Christian should have stayed behind. In a little more than an hour, he’s just going to be right back on this plane, making the long flight back to Seattle, only this time… he’ll be alone.

“You okay?” I ask him, reaching over to hold his hand.

“Yeah,” He replies, though his tone of voice makes him entirely unconvincing. He sighs and tosses his book on the seat across from us. “Let’s get you home.”

When the plane finally comes to a stop and we’re allowed to de-board, Christian and Luke help put mine and Kate’s luggage in the back of the cars he’s rented to take us back to Cambridge. There are two so that I have something to drive until I can buy a car, and it means that Christian and I get to drive back to Cambridge alone together. He’s quiet almost the whole way, but his hand never leaves mine and every now and then he lifts my hand to his lips.

I look eagerly out the window once we start passing the familiar landmarks near the University but, strangely, as I look at the surroundings that have been my entire life for the past three years, I feel no sense of homecoming. The tops of the red brick buildings over the walls that line Massachusettes Ave, that for so long represented salvation to me, now just feel like… school. The narrow city streets that used to give me a delighted sense of East coast charm now feel cramped and suffocating. In truth, as we pull onto Maple Ave and I see our house coming into view, I start to feel a little homesick for Escala.

“Here we are,” Christian says once he’s pulled up the alley into the parking behind the house. I sit there for a moment, not ready to move, but eventually I’m spurred into action when Kate and Luke pull up beside us and start unloading luggage.

The house is a little musty from being empty over the long summer months and it’s hot. I hurry to the air conditioner to try and cool the place down and then, while Christian takes my bags up to my room, I turn on the water and the gas before climbing up the stairs after him. When I walk through my bedroom door, I find him examining it with a furrowed brow.

“I know, I know. It’s not a penthouse apartment,” I tease him and he rolls his eyes.

“Where’s the bed I bought?” He asks, looking down at the full sized bed I’d put in here shortly after I came back from Savannah the first year we’d moved in here.

“It’s in the guest room,” I reply. “I uh… I didn’t want it in here after, well… you know.”

He takes a deep breath, frowning, and then nods. I can feel a sudden awkwardness in the room and I realize how much this place represents distance between us. This is the place we were never destined to be happy together. I’d done everything I could to remove all traces of him from this room after he’d broken my heart. Just down the stairs is the room where I’d turned my back on him, thinking I was leaving him forever. All of that is behind us now, but somehow… it feels like the sentiment lingers in the walls of this house. Maybe that’s what’s bothering him…

“Hey,” I say, crossing the room and wrapping my arms around him. “You know how much I love you, right?”

He smiles and nods again. “Yeah.”

“I can get a new bed if you want. A bigger bed. My mattress isn’t very good anyway.”

“I kind of like that it’s smaller,” He says. “It just means you’ll be closer to me.”

I laugh and then reach up onto my tiptoes to kiss him, before turning to my bag so I can start unpacking. When I lift the lid to my suitcase though, I find something unexpected.

“What’s this?” I ask, holding up something small and hard wrapped in blue tissue paper. He smiles as I unwrap it and immediately my breath catches in my throat. It’s a tiny bottle of sand. The words written on the tag in Christian’s handwriting read:

Kauai, Hawaii. August 27th 2010

“I don’t know if you could know what this means to me,” I say softly, looking down at the bottle and fighting back tears.

“Not nearly as much as that week meant to me,” He replies. I smile and brush my fingers over the bottle before crossing the room and placing it on the shelf where the old one sat, look at it appreciatively, and then return to my suitcase.

Christian walks around the room for a minute while I unpack, picking up random things and looking at them with mild interest before eventually, he pulls his phone out of his pocket, looks down at the screen, and sighs.

“I’ve got get back to the airport,” He tells me. “I’ve got an early meeting in the morning.”

“Well, thank you for bringing me back to school,” I tell him and he gives me a sad kind of smile.

“Of course,” He says. I shut the lid to my suitcase and start walking towards the door so that I can walk him to the car, but before I get there, he stops me.

“Wait,” He says, and I turn around to look at him. Slowly he begins unbuttoning his shirt and I narrow my eyes at him, wondering if he’s hoping to get in a quickie before he leaves, but once he pulls open his shirt, I see what he’s doing.

“My harvard t-shirt!” I exclaim giddily, and he smiles at me as he reaches back to pull it over his head.

“I figured it would be better if it smelled like me,” He says and when he tosses it over to me, I immediately bring it to my face and inhale the clean, manly smell that is wholly Christian.

“Thank you,” I say, pouting my gratitude at him as I fold the t-shirt and set it gingerly down on the bed. Once he’s put his button down back on, I reach my hand out for his and we walk out of the room and down the stairs together. Luke has brought the rest of mine and Kate’s things in from the car, so Christian offers to drive him over to his new apartment so he can start unpacking himself. Luke nods, accepting his offer with a professional thank you, and then disappears out the back door to give me and Christian one last moment alone.

“Call me when you land in Seattle, okay?” I ask, now holding back tears.

“I will,” He promises. “And, call me in the morning so we can figure out where you’re going to buy your new car. I want to get that taken care of before you start school on Thursday.”

“Okay,” I nod.

“I’ll see you next weekend for your birthday,” He tells me and I nod again as he sweeps me into his arms and kisses me deeply. A long, lingering kiss that leaves me breathless and feeling weak at the knees, and reminds me of what I’m about to let walk out my door.

“I’ll miss you, baby,” He whispers against my lips, and I moan in agreement.

“I’ll miss you too, Christian,” He kisses me once more and then, very reluctantly lets me go. I follow him to the back door and then stand there as I watch him climb into the driver’s seat of one of the rental cars and wave to me before he slowly backs down the alley. A deep sinking feeling takes hold of my stomach as I watch the car turn onto the street and disappear from view.

He’s officially gone.

“Hey,” Kate says, coming up behind me while I sniff and reach up to wipe away a tear. “You’ll see him really soon.”

“I know,” I nod, accepting the hug she pulls me into.

“In a way,” She tells me. “I’m almost a little glad that it’s just the two of us now. No Elliot and no Christian. We started this journey together, just you and me. I’m glad that it’s you that will be here with me as we close it out.”

I smile at her. “Me too, Kate. I couldn’t have done any of this without you. Don’t tell Luke, but you really are my best friend.”

“No promises,” She says with a laugh.

I hug her again, but it’s very brief as we’re interrupted by the shrill ring of the house phone. She gives me a challenging look that makes me roll my eyes.

“I’ll get it,” I say with dramatic over enthusiasm and she laughs as she turns towards the stairs. I cross the kitchen and quickly glance at the caller ID which displays Christian’s name. A small smile creeps into the corner of my lips as I pick up the receiver and hold it to my ear.

“He-llo,” I drawl and I hear his low chuckle in response.

“Just checking,” He says, and I giggle.

“Have a safe flight,” I tell him. “I love you.”

“I love you too. Bye, baby.”

“Goodbye.”

I hang up the phone and look at it longingly for a moment, my teeth sinking into my bottom lip as I take a moment to appreciate how far we’ve come since the last time I stood in this kitchen. As difficult as this summer has been, it’s been the greatest of my life. I have the man of my dreams back, and although he’s controlling and temperamental and extremely overprotective, I love him with every ounce of love I have to give.

As I turn to walk out of the kitchen and take the stairs to my bedroom so I can unpack, I realize, I wouldn’t want him any other way.

Next Chapter

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