Chapter 18

pont des art

There’s almost something magical about walking hand in hand with Christian through the streets of Paris in the early morning. It’s Christmas Eve and people rush past us in the same flurries as the flakes of snow that have been falling since early this morning. We’ve been here for two days now, and spending all day yesterday making our way from one famous landmark to the next has taken it’s toll. I’m tired and sore and I’d love nothing more than to be in bed with a warm cup of tea and a great book, but I choose to ignore my discomfort and the heavy droop in my eyelids because today is the first day I’ve had Christian all to myself. Today, I don’t have to worry about balancing my attention between my mother and Christian’s family, or Gia’s lingering gazes at my boyfriend, or even the exhaustion and pain I’d witnessed Carrick trying to hide all day yesterday. We don’t even have Luke or Taylor shadowing our every move. Today, nothing exists but me and Christian, and the most romantic city in the world.

We stop first at a small cafe where we can sit by the window and watch the last minute Christmas shoppers rushing past, overloaded by colorful packages. Christian brings tea and an assortment of the most decadent looking pastries from the counter for us to enjoy while he pulls me close into his side and we try to make up stories to go with the distressed looks on people’s faces as they pass the window.

“Oh, this guy,” I start, pointing to a man across the street who is looking down at his phone and then up at the names on the storefronts  with confusion. “His wife told him to buy their son’s gift weeks ago but he just kept putting it off. Now it’s Christmas Eve and he’s been to six different toy stores and can’t find the newest, greatest action figure that his son has begged for since October. If he can’t find it, not only will his son be devastated, but he’ll probably hate him forever and stop believing in Santa Claus.”

“That’s horrible,” Christian admonishes me.

“Mmm, but the real lesson in the end is that it was never about the toy. His son is going to wake up happy on Christmas morning anyway because all he really wanted was to share Christmas with his father, who he loves and looks up to more than anyone else in the world.”

He wraps his arm around me and pulls me into him, leaning down to kiss my hair. “That sounds like one of those Christmas movies you’d see on the Hallmark channel.”

“Almost,” I agree. “It’s loosely based off of Jingle all the Way, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

“Anastasia! You plagiarized Christmas? I’m shocked.”

I giggle and then tilt my head up to kiss him softly on the lips before nodding out the window at a young woman wearing a red knit hat, looking almost forlorn as she slowly meanders up the street.

“What about her?”

“Well, she holds Christmas very close to her heart. Her family is very important to her and Christmas is one of the few times a year they can be together. They don’t have a lot of money, but, on Christmas, that’s never mattered because they’ve always had each other. Unfortunately, this year, her miserly boss hasn’t granted her a Christmas bonus or even a day off to spend with her family. Profit, he tells her, is more important than silly holidays.”

“A Christmas Carol?” I ask, raising an eyebrow at him. “You’re really going to try and rip off Dickens to me?”

“No, it’s actually true. I know her. She works for GEH. I’m the miser.”

I laugh. “Well then, Mr. Scrooge. I may not be the ghost of Christmas past, or the ghost of Christmas yet to come, but let’s see if I can give you a change of heart.” I reach up to pull his face down to mine and he moans slightly as my tongue pushes past his lips. His arms tighten around me as I move closer into him, as close to him as I can possibly be. I feel my body melting against him as his tongue massages mine with long, careful strokes. His lips are soft and gentle against mine, but there’s still electricity between us. A pull as strong as gravity that draws me to him and, mercifully, won’t let go.

“I love you, Anastasia,” he whispers before placing another quick, soft kiss upon my lips.

“And I love you.”

He hums a low, pleasure filled sound at those words and kisses me deeply again, moving his hands through my hair as he pours his love into me. When he pulls away though, he glances briefly over his shoulder, smirks, and then nods to the door.

“Let’s get out of here. I think we’ve put on enough of a show for the good patrons of Café Verlet.”

“Making out in a booth at a public cafe? That’s very brazen of you, Mr. Grey.”

“It’s very French of us, Miss Steele.” I smile at him and take the hand he offers me as we climb out of the leather padded seats and make our way back to the bustling Rue de Richelieu. Christian asks if we should take a cab, but I’m too enamoured by the activity and the life of the city to observe it through a car window, even if it does mean a long walk. Still, it’s a little cold, so Christian takes my hand in his and tucks them both into the pocket of his wool coat to keep our conjoined fingers warm.

I’m not sure where we’re going, but I think it’s possible we may never get there because we stop so many times. I’ve never been in a city quite like this, surrounded by street performers, artists, and musicians, all braving the cold and the snow to share their gifts with the tourists. There are contortionists, and violin players, we even pass two guys rapping very quickly in French, and even though I can’t understand what they’re saying, I’m fascinated. It’s easy to find a connection to the culture in the language.

A few blocks up the road, we walk through a square where a crowd of people are gathered around a group of men playing several different instruments, swaying back and forth while the man in the front sings the final bars of Frank Sinatra’s Come Fly with Me. His deep baritone is rich and decadent, and his presence is so commanding that we can’t help but stop to listen. As he croons out the last note over the final beats from the band behind him, the crowd around us bursts into applause, and Christian and I are quick to join.

“Merci,” the singer says, taking a bow. “Thank you. Merci.” Several people step forward to place money in the open trumpet case on the ground next to them and while the singer nods in gratitude and scans the crowd, his eyes stop on me.

Zut alors!” He exclaims, his french accent more pronounced in his regular speech than his singing voice, where I hadn’t noticed it at all. “Pardon me, ladies and gentleman, but I have just laid eyes on the world’s most beautiful woman and she has taken the very breath out of me.”

I blush as I feel a few pairs of eyes turn back towards me, and the heat in my cheeks only increases as the singer continues to speak.

“Where do you come from, mademoiselle?”

“We’re here from the United States,” I reply, stepping in closer to Christian and wrapping my arm around him.

“Ah, and a beautiful man as well. There is only one thing that would bring such a couple to the streets of Paris on Christmas Eve.” He pauses, and his eyes glitter. “Love. I can see it. A woman never is more beautiful than when she is glowing with love and this young lady glows brighter than the stars.”

I turn my head to look up at Christian, beaming, and the radiant smile he gives back to me almost makes me weak at the knees.

“This next song is for you, the lovers,” the singer says, and he turns back to his band. Soon the bass player begins plucking at the strings in rhythm with the guy behind the keyboard and as the snare drum kicks in, the singer turns around.

“L, is for the way you look, at me. O, is for the only one, I see. V, is very, very, extraordinary, E, is even more than anyone that you adore. And love, is all that I can give to you. Love Is more than just a game for two. Two in love can make it, take my heart and please don’t break it. Love, was made for me and you.”  

The trumpet player starts and Christian surprises me by pulling our hands from his coat and spinning me around. With a gentle tug, he pulls me against him and we begin to sway back and forth in time with the music. It’s a very strange thing. Part of me thinks I should be embarrassed dancing here in the middle of a crowded square, being gawked at by not only the crowd surrounding the band but also the onlookers from the street, but I’m not. They don’t exist. Here, in one of the most crowded cities in the world, I’m in my own little bubble with Christian, staring into the depths of his gray eyes and seeing nothing but the unrelenting love staring back at me. I hardly even register when the trumpet stops and the words begin again, but as the singer belts out the very last, Love was made for me and you, Christian dips me backwards and a joyous laugh bubbles through my lips. He eases me back up slowly, kissing me the moment his lips are able touch mine, and when the music dies out, once again, we’re surrounded with the sound of applause.

Christian kisses me once and then walks through the crowd to put some money in the trumpet case. I blush again at the smiles of the people who make their way past me as they continue on with their day, then cling to Christian as he returns to me and sweeps me further into the square.

“Did you plan that?” I ask, noting the band seems to be packing up now that we’re leaving.

“No,” he shakes his head. “But it would be really fucking smooth if I did.” I laugh and then lean into his side as we continue on down the road.

It takes a while, but eventually we make it to the banks of the Seine river and I smile broadly as Christian turns me towards the glass pyramid that stands before the Louvre. I know that art has always been one of Christian’s greatest loves, anyone could see that by the almost gallery like quality our living room at Escala has taken on, and the history behind the thousands of artifacts gathered here is something I can’t wait to sink my teeth into. It’s the perfect way for us to spend an afternoon together. A flawless marriage of our sometimes very different interests.

The museum is astoundingly huge, so we start with just the paintings and drawings. I’ve seen pictures of the most famous of these artworks a hundred times before, the Mona Lisa, the Wedding at Cana, Liberty Leading the people, but seeing them in person and hearing Christian talk about them makes them feel brand new. I’ve never been talented at painting, or sculpting, or any kind of art really, so I’d never paid much attention to it as a subject before. After we leave the paintings and make our way to the next exhibit though, I think Christian may have converted me.

I’m most excited about the Greek and Roman artifacts and reading the long detailed placards that tell me everything there is to know about each of the impeccable statues and pottery pieces laid out over the display tables. I spend a long time at the Sarcophagus of the Muses, reading through the provided information three different times between staring at the carvings in the stone. It’s not the most impressive of the sculptures around us, and the women depicted are not the most beautiful, but there’s something about the symbolism of this piece, about how the literature, art, and philosophy inspired by the muses ensures immortality and the salvation of the soul, that really resonates with me. I spend a long time studying it, learning the names, faces, and purpose of each of the women carved perfectly into the sides of the sarcophagus. I probably could have stayed longer, but we’re on a schedule and Christian assures me that the Egyptian exhibits can’t be missed.

We stay at the Louvre late into the afternoon, and even though we must have walked miles through the different exhibits, I feel less tired leaving the museum than I have this entire trip.

“Where to now?” I ask Christian as we walk through the front doors and out into the lazily drifting snowflakes.

“The hotel,” he says. “I’ve promised my mother we will join them for Christmas Mass.”

“Oh,” I reply, feeling slightly taken aback.

“But, if that makes you uncomfortable, I can tell them no,” he says, misreading my cues.

“No, not at all. I just… I didn’t realize that you would be interested in attending something like that. I’ve never seen you go to church before and you’ve never talked about your beliefs or anything so I just assumed you weren’t religious…”

“I’m not,” he says. “I mean, I went to church with my family when I was very young and I’m a confirmed Catholic, technically, but I turned away from all of that a very long time ago. My mother, on the other hand, is devout and it means a lot to her to have her family with her at Christmas Mass. I haven’t been since… well, since our Freshman year.”

“Oh. Well, we should go then.”

“It won’t be completely terrible, I promise. We’re going to Notre Dame and the Christmas service is actually supposed to be really special.”

“Notre Dame?” I repeat, my excitement peaking.

“Yes. I’m willing to take bets that, at least once, Elliot is going to wander into one of the balconies and proclaim sanctuary. That or he’ll be singing Hellfire under his breath while he feels his girlfriend up in the pews.”

“How many Hail Mary’s do you think it would take to make up for interrupting a church service for a Disney reenactment anyway?” I ask, but he simply rolls his eyes, chuckles to himself, and then leans down to kiss me once more before leading me to the closest cab.

We have a little time once we get back to the hotel, so we decide to take a shower and commit a few of our own sins before we go and absolve ourselves at church. When it’s time to get ready though, I find myself combing through the clothes Christian pre-bought for this trip with absolutely no idea what I’m going to wear. I think most of this is either too much or too revealing for a religious service, but Christian is dressed in a three piece suit, so I can’t exactly pull jeans and a sweater out of my suitcase.

I decide to combine a few of the outfits and end up in a knee length, light gray bell skirt and a structured white top with a swooping neckline and ¾ sleeves.  I pair it with simple black pumps, then head into the bathroom to redo my hair and makeup for the second time today. When I’m finished, I slip into the red wool trench from my closet, pin the fastener with the overly large snowflake embellishment that I snagged from a couture store yesterday afternoon into my hair, and then cling to Christian’s arm as we make our way down to join is family.

“You look beautiful, dear,” Grace says, holding her arms open for me as we descend the stairs into the lobby, but between my headpiece and her giant hat, it’s difficult for us to hug each other. My mom, who had sworn off all religion when she left home at eighteen because of some traumatic childhood experiences, has decided not to join us tonight, so we leave the hotel with just Christian’s family. As we walk through the front doors though, it becomes apparent that our time walking through Paris yesterday has taken it’s toll on Carrick. He looks much paler and weaker today than he has this entire trip. It’s obvious enough that Christian releases my hand and falls in line right behind him with Elliot, as though they’re afraid he’s going to collapse. They have to help him get into the first town car waiting for us against the curb outside, and I frown once I realize there isn’t enough room for all of us and we’re going to be travelling to Notre Dame with Elliot and Gia alone.

“So,” Gia says, distracting me by hooking her arm through mine as we make our way to the second car. “How was your day? tell me everything.”

“Anastasia,” Christian says, interrupting Gia by opening the door for me and directing me to take a seat on the far side. I’m grateful when I see there are two different sets of seats inside, facing each other like you would find in a limo, so there will be some distance between us and his brother for the duration of the drive. Unfortunately, the separation doesn’t mean we don’t have to deal with her constant chatter.

“Ana,” Gia prods me again once we’re shut inside the car and we start moving, and I hesitate for a moment as it takes me a second to remember her question.

“Oh, it was great. We had a romantic breakfast, explored the city a little, and went to the Louvre. It was really special.”

“Christian!” She exclaims with an impressed kind of shock. “I didn’t know you were such a romantic. Do you know that your brother took me on a pub crawl this afternoon?”

“I thought it would be fun,” Elliot says defensively. “Until I remembered she doesn’t eat carbs and beer is basically liquid bread…”

“Mhm,” She says, admonishing him, but then smiles. “He made it up to me though.” She holds her wrist out and shows us a sparkling diamond tennis bracelet.

“That’s really beautiful,” I compliment her and she lights up.

“I know, right? I’ve been dying to go to Cartier since we got here but I thought I was going to have to con you and Mia into a girl’s trip. Then Elliot just surprised me with a spur of the moment shopping spree. Isn’t he the best?”

“The best,” I agree.

“So how was the Louvre, Christian?” She continues without missing a beat. “What was your favorite part?”

“Spending the afternoon with Ana,” he replies, and her face melts as though she’s looking at a basket of puppies.

“Awh, that’s so sweet. Elliot, isn’t that the sweetest thing you’ve ever heard?”

“Yeah, he’s so precious,” Elliot replies. He leans forward and tries to pinch Christian’s cheeks but Christian gives him a hard glare that tells him that would be a mistake. I wait to see if Elliot is going to test him, push him in only the way a big brother can, but he doesn’t. He taps him lightly on the cheek two times and then leans back into his seat, pulling on Gia’s legs so that they cover his lap and leaning over to whisper in her ear.

Christian rolls his eyes and uses the lapse in conversation to pull out his phone and catch up on the emails he’s missed throughout the day, and as I watch him replying to something from Ros, I realize I haven’t looked at my phone once since I got here. I reach over for my bag, finding it extremely low on battery but thankfully not dead, and open the text messages I have from Kate.

 


So where are you going?


Anaaaaaaaa!


Well, MIA texted me, because apparently she loves me more than my best friend. Paris?! Is it amazing?


I miss you 😦


I stare at her last message and it feels like a knife in my heart. She’s stuck back at home with Ainsley and Eliza, probably thinking I’ve forgotten all about her as I galavant through the streets of Paris bonding with Gia, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I miss her too, so much, especially hearing Gia’s giggling across the car with me, so I quickly send her a text back.


I miss you too.


I stare at the phone, waiting for her response, but it doesn’t come before we pull up in front of the cathedral. Christian helps me out of the back of the car and as I look around at the front entrance of the famous building, I’m surprised by the number of people milling in and out.

“There’s so many people,” I whisper to Christian.

“It’s the most famous cathedral in the world,” he replies. “Do you know how hard it was to get reservations for Christmas Eve mass?”

“You had to get reservations?”

“Yes, and if anyone asks, you’re a confirmed Catholic.”

I put my finger to my lips to show I can keep the secret, and then grip tightly to his fingers as we’re directed inside. The interior of the cathedral is incredibly beautiful. There’s a long aisle down the middle with blue and gold tiles paving the way to an actual golden altar, which stands three stories high. The last of the Parisian sunlight shines in through intricate stained glass windows over the pews, which are made of rich, cherry colored wood and are filled to the brim with people.

Avez-vous une réservation?” A man asks as we step into the aisle.

Oui, pour sept personnes. Sous le nom Grey,” Christian replies. The man checks his list, using his pen to check each of the names, and then stops when he gets to our reservation.

Grey, oui. S’il vous plaît, monsieur, suivez-moi.” He turns around and leads us halfway down the aisle where we are seated on the end of a long pew and left to wait for the service to begin. It doesn’t take long as I think we got here a little late, but when it does begin, there is a lot of fanfare around it. An organ begins to play and the doors at the back of the cathedral open for several men in ornate robes, who walk slowly up the aisle. As they move, everyone around us rises to their feet and a hush falls over the overcrowded room. They fall in line into chairs at the front except for one man, who is dressed in purple and wears a small red hat on top of his head. We continue to stand while several young boys caring poles with a candle on the end light the candles on the altar. Then the organ stops, the man in purple at the podium speaks, and everyone sits once again.

The service itself is hard to follow because it’s entirely in Latin. I’m mostly able to simply enjoy the amazing choir and the hymns and Christmas music they sing, and that in itself is a wonderful experience. Christian sits silently next to me for the entire service, his hand clasped gently around mine. He doesn’t bow his head in prayer when everyone else does nor does he doesn’t sing with any of the hymns,  but he rises when the others do and he holds the bible open in his hand. I think for a moment that his reticence is because he doesn’t understand Latin any better than I do, but that proves to be wrong when the crowd responds in unison to something the priest has said and he joins them without hesitation. In the end, this entire experience shows me a different side of him I’ve never seen before, and it’s strange but also heartwarming.

The service ends with a single woman rising from her seat in the choir and moving to the center. The organ plays behind her and she begins to sing O Holy Night.

Her voice is clear and strong, even when she begins softly. There’s a delicate vibrato behind every note that draws me in and has me captivated by her. She too sings in Latin, so I can’t understand her words, but the passion she sings with creates a connection that makes me believe that I can understand her.

As she transitions into the second verse, the choir behind her joins in and the song is transformed from something beautiful, to something ethereal. I don’t know whether it’s the shine in the gold behind her or flicker from the thousands of candles around the cathedral, but she seems to glow. As she hits the final high note, throwing everything she has into this one grand moment, I feel tear break over my water line and roll slowly down my cheek. I can’t bring myself to wipe it away until her song is finished and the entire cathedral bursts into applause.

“That was incredible,” I whisper to Christian and he smiles down at me.

“She’s amazing.” He lifts my hand to his lips and, after the priests have exited, he rises from the pew and helps me to my feet before leading me back into the aisle. I expect him direct me towards the exit, following the crowd generally flowing in that direction, but he doesn’t. He waits for the rest of his family to make their way from the pew and then we all head down the aisle towards the altar. There’s a small line there of people kneeling on the steps in prayer before a table covered in candles in glass jars, and we fall in behind them. When we get to the front of the line, Grace takes the few steps and then reaches out for one of the wooden sticks next to the table, holds it in a flame til it catches fire, and then places it over the wick of one of the unlit candles on the table before her. Once the flame catches, she kneels down on the stair and folds her hands in prayer.

“What is she doing?” I whisper to Christian.

“It’s for my Dad. She’s praying for a donor.” I nod once, and then turn back to her, seeing her in a new light. Grace is a doctor, a woman of science, but here she is, praying for a miracle. For the life of her husband. It’s moving, but also slightly devastating.

When she gets to her feet, Elliot, Mia, and Christian all step forward and each take on of the sticks in their hands to light their own candles. Mia kneels down to pray, the same as her mother, but Christian and Elliot simply walk back down the steps to stand next to Gia and I. Once Mia stands, Christian takes my hand and tugs, trying to pull me back up the aisle, but I stop him. My gaze is frozen on the candles flickering on the table before us, on the angels looking down at us. I take a deep breath and step forward, taking a stick of my own and placing it in the flame before lighting the candle next to the once Christian lit himself. As the wick begins to burn, I stare at the resulting flame. I don’t feel comfortable kneeling prayer, but if any of this could possibly be real, and standing here after that amazing service, it feels like it could be, I want to do my part for Carrick.

“Thank you, dear,” Grace says as I walk back down the steps. She wraps an arm around me, squeezing me tightly, and then places a soft kiss in my hair. She doesn’t release me, not even to Christian, until we are out of the cathedral.

“Well, shall we find a place to go to dinner?” Carrick asks, and while everyone starts to pull out their phones to do exactly that, Christian shakes his head.

“I’m sorry, but I’m going to steal Ana away again. I have a private dinner planned just for the two us.”

“Okay,” Grace sighs. She steps forward to hug both of us, but stops Christian when he moves to turn away. “We will see you in the morning though, won’t we?”

“I expect everyone will meet in my suite bright and early to unwrap gifts.”

“Good,” she nods. “Have a good evening, son.”

“You too.” He kisses her cheek once more and then turns to clasp my hand, and I wave over my shoulder at his family as we wander off into the night.

“So, where are we going for dinner?” I ask once we’re out of view of the others.

He shrugs. “I actually haven’t made plans, I just wanted to have you alone again. But, we can find a place along the way. I thought we could take a walk up the Champs-Élysées. All the trees have been covered in Christmas lights and it’s supposed to be breathtaking. We’ll end at the Arc De Triomphe, and you didn’t get to see that the other night with the others. It really is something.”

“Sounds perfect.”

He pulls me under his arm to shield me from the cold breeze and we make our way up the avenue, engaging each other in deep, real conversation, the way we haven’t been able to since we’ve been living so far apart. The snow drifts around us, and over the sounds of the river flowing beneath the bridge we have to cross to the to the Champs-Élysées, I can hear the faint sound of carolers in the distance and metal clinking against metal.

“Wait a minute,” I tell him, stopping as I get a good look at the bridge around us. “Is this the Pont des Arts?”

“The what?” Christian asks.

“The love lock bridge. Look, there’s padlocks on the railing. You’re supposed to write your name and your true love’s name on one and then you lock it to the bridge and throw away the key. It means that your love will last forever.”

“Does it?”

“Mhm. Oh, I wish we had lock,” I say dejectedly, but when I look up at him, he’s smiling down at me.

“You mean like this?” He reaches into his inner jacket pocket and pulls out a golden padlock with a silver key stuck in the bottom. I light up as he hands it to me, along with a sharpie, and leads me to the side of the bridge. I rest it on top of the railing and, as neatly as possible, I write:

Christian ❤ Anastasia

“Do you want to do the honors?” I ask, holding the lock up for him.

“You mean the vandalism?” He smirks, but reaches down for lock, checks briefly over both shoulders for anyone who may be watching, and then quickly secures it around the chain link below the railing. He yanks the key out of the bottom and hands it to me and I gently place a kiss on the cool metal before tossing it over side into the black water below.

I lean onto the railing and stare at the view off the bridge, the lights glittering in the distance, the people laughing and talking as they walk along the sidewalks on either side of the river, all muted through the thin veil of snowflakes swirling around us.

“This has been the most perfect day,” I tell Christian as I feel him press up against me from behind and wrap his arms around me.

“It really has,” he agrees. “Are you cold?”

“A little.”

“Here.” He shrugs out of his coat and wraps it around me, and as I move so that I can slide my arms into the warm sleeves, I feel something strange inside of me.

“Oh!” I gasp, my hands flying down to my stomach.

“What?” Christian asks, the concern immediately apparent. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I…” But my voice cuts off again as I feel the unfamiliar fluttering sensation again. It’s like an involuntary muscle spasm or a twitch, but inside my stomach, and as I feel the tingling sensation, like a gentle tumbling or rolling feeling, I realize…

“I can feel her moving!” I exclaim, turning to face Christian. His eyes widen.

“You can?” He asks. I nod and his hands reach down underneath all my layers. I cringe slightly when his cold hands make contact with the skin on my stomach, but I’m too elated from finally feeling some movement from the baby I’ve been carrying inside of me for almost four months now to care too much.

I laugh as I feel the fluttering once more, like it’s trying to prove to me that it’s real, but Christian frowns.

“I don’t feel anything,” he says. I bite down on my lip, feeling a twinge of regret that he’s missing out on this remarkable moment.

“Here,” I say, adjusting his hands so they’re right over where I can feel the movement. He waits a few more seconds but, eventually, he shakes his head.

“I don’t feel anything,” he repeats.

“It’s faint, not like a kick or anything. It feels like… I don’t know, popcorn? Maybe it’s too early for you to feel it too.”

“Yeah,” he nods, and although, at first, there’s a small flash of sadness in his eyes, it’s quickly replaced by excitement. “But you can feel it? She’s moving and you can feel it?”

“I can feel her,” I tell him again. “I can feel our baby moving, Christian.”

“Oh, Ana.” He leans down and kisses me, his hands shooting up to cradle each side of my face as his lips part mine and our tongues entwine. His kiss is passionate, consuming, and as I let his love wash over me, the fluttering in my stomach starts again and tears begin to well in my eyes.

“What’s wrong?” He asks.

“Nothing is wrong,” I say, my voice thick as I try to keep myself from crying. “Absolutely nothing is wrong. Christian, I am so happy right now. I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” He whispers, and he leans down to kiss me again. When he pulls away, he stares at me adoringly for a moment and then, out of nowhere, his express changes. There’s conflict in his eyes, like he’s warring with a decision he doesn’t want to make.

“Wha-” I begin, but he cuts me off.

“I had a plan,” he says, speaking aloud, but not really as though he’s speaking to me.

“A plan? What do you mean?”

“I had a plan,” he repeats. “I… Ray is going to call you tomorrow and I was going to ask to speak to him. After Christmas dinner, I was going to take you the Palace of Versailles. I’ve reserved every room, even the opera house, so that we would have it to ourselves. There’s a string quartet and they were going to play a version of the song that was playing when you said yes to me at the Paris in Vegas. The Paris… that’s why we’re here. There are 10,000 flowers being delivered… and candles. So many fucking candles. You wouldn’t believe what goes into ordering candles. Different shapes and sizes. Color. Scented, unscented. Who’s going to light them? How will the be arranged? What about fires? It’s ridiculous, but I planned it. It’s ready… for tomorrow.”

“What are you talking about?” I ask, looking up at him as though he’s gone crazy.

“I can’t wait until tomorrow,” he says. “I can’t wait another second.”

He reaches into his suit jacket and pulls out a small black box with the words Harry Winston engraved on the top in delicate silver leafing. The same box I saw in his desk drawer a month ago.

“Oh my god,” I whisper, and he takes my hand and then, slowly, lowers himself down onto one knee.

“Anastasia Rose Steele,” He begins. “I love you, more than I ever knew a man could be capable of loving a woman. You are my everything. You are my beginning, and I want you to be there at my end. I want you by my side from now until forever. I want you to share every moment of my life with me. You’re already my soulmate, but would you do me the extraordinary honor of also becoming my wife?”

He opens the box and inside is the most exquisite diamond ring I’ve ever seen. It’s a solitaire, square, and immaculate, floating over a thin band, which is paved in diamonds itself. It’s breathtaking and as I look between the ring and the love I see reflecting up at me behind his eyes, I lose my breath. I can’t speak. I can’t move. Tears continue to pour from my eyes until eventually, I nod.

“Yes,” I reply, my voice hoarse as I force it through my lips. “Yes, of course I will marry you. I love you, Christian Grey.”

His returning smile is triumphant, but I only get to see it for a second before he leaps back to his feet and brings his lips crashing down on mine. It’s hard to kiss him back because I can’t control the smile on my face.

He breaks away from the kiss and then lifts me into the air, spinning me around, looking as though he’s won the superbowl or something. When he sets me down, he takes my left hand in his and slips the outrageous ring onto my finger. I hold it up in front of me, admiring the way it seems to catch even the muted light shining all around us. It really is the most beautiful ring I’ve ever laid eyes on.

His hand entwines with mine as we make our way across the bridge and up to the Champs-Élysées, his fingers playing with the ring around my finger the entire way.

“It fits perfectly. How did you know my ring size?” I ask him.

“Kate,” he says. “She snuck into your jewelry box months ago, last summer while I was in New York, and brought it with her when I took her to the jewelry designer to get her opinion on the ring a few days later. She’s better at keeping secrets than you think she is.”

“Apparently, “ I laugh. “I can’t imagine how much it’s been killing her to keep this secret for months.”

He pulls me back into him, holding me just to feel me against him, and as we walk together up the glittering road lined with Parisian shops, restaurants, and cafes, I think to myself that this might be the best night that anyone has ever had. It’s a long walk, but I’ve never been more content, and when we finally make it to the Arc de Triomphe, Christian leans over, presses his lips into my hair, and whispers, “Ever mine, Ever thine…”

“Ever ours.” I finish for him, and then turn to take his lips with mine once more.

Next Chapter

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Chapter 17

Image result for the ritz paris imperial suite

The hours and hours of ocean stretching out endlessly below our flight that afternoon is slightly disheartening because the view doesn’t give me any clues about where we may be headed. I’ve tried fishing for information but the only thing I’ve been able to get out of Christian at all is that we will be spending Christmas wherever we’re going and I’d already gathered that much by the Christmas presents I’d seen in the cargo hold when I went to give my own luggage and packages to the flight crew. I suppose travelling together is a good way to eliminate choosing one set of parents over the other to spend the holiday with, but I my excitement over this trip is slightly dampened when I think about the fact that staying in a hotel room means we probably won’t have a tree on Christmas morning. Still, we’ll all be together and I suppose, in the end, that’s what matters.

“Are we at least going somewhere it could snow?” I ask, turning away from the useless view out the window to Christian, who has been reading some new contract in the seat next to me for most of the flight.

“Does it snow in the Bahamas this time of year?” He asks, looking up at the seat in front of him as though he really isn’t sure of the answer.

“The Bahamas?” I repeat excitedly. “We’re spending Christmas on the beach?”

“No.” He shakes his head. “I’m just curious about global weather patterns.”

“Christian!” I whine, but it doesn’t do any good. He simply lifts my hand to his lips and kisses each of my fingers individually.

“We’ll be there in a little over an hour,” he says.

I pout and let out a harsh huff through my nose before turning to stare sulkily out the window again, making a mental note to plan something secret for him sometime over this break so that I can hold it over him. See how Mr. Control Freak deals with not knowing what’s going to happen next.

Soon, the sun begins to sink below the horizon and everything out the window becomes shrouded in the night. I can vaguely make out the a glow of city lights in the distance, but without any significant landmarks, I can’t distinguish which city it actually is. There is snow though, so I at least know we’re not in the Bahamas.

Once we land, we find three cars waiting for us on the tarmac and I feel a rush of excitement as I look at the European license plates mounted on the front bumper of each vehicle. If I knew more about how European licensing worked, I could probably distinguish which country I was in, but I don’t, and Christian hurries me into the backseat of the Mercedes town car closest to us before I get a chance to examine them too closely.

“Alone at last,” he whispers as everyone piles into the cars behind us and the flight crew begins loading our luggage and presents into the trunk. I want to point out that there’s technically a driver in the car, but he reaches into my hair and pulls me to him so that he can claim my lips with his, and continues to kiss me even after the car pulls away from the airport. There’s something deliciously sensual about this kiss that has me completely enraptured. It’s not fiery and passionate, or filled with the pent up longing from spending so much time apart, which has become the norm over the past few months. It’s soft and sweet, an expression of love, and, as I enjoy the soft touch of his fingers in my hair and his tongue entwining slowly with mine, I let go of the apprehension I feel about the unknown parts of this trip and just let myself melt into him.

“I want this to be the most amazing week of our lives,” he whispers against my lips. “I love you, and I’m proud of you and how hard you work. I want you to show you that. This week, I want to forget about everything that’s gone wrong back home and just celebrate you.”

“Celebrate us,” I correct him. “I love you too, Christian, so much and I don’t know what I could have ever done to deserve you. Just sitting here next to you, having you look at me the way you are right now, makes me the luckiest girl in the entire world.”

The right corner of his mouth ticks up into a half smile and he leans over and kisses me again, deeper this time, and it’s enough now to ignite the heat between us, but just as I begin clawing at his clothes in a desperate attempt to get as close to him as possible, he stops and nods through the front window.

“We’re here,” he whispers. “Look.”

I turn in the direction of his gesture, and, as the dark outlines of trees along the sides of the highway begin to thin and we turn the corner to see brightly illuminated skyline of the city, I immediately catch sight of the iconic pointed structure glittering on the far right of the panoramic cityscape.

“Oh my god,” I whisper. “It’s the Eiffel Tower. We’re in Paris?”

“We’re in Paris,” he confirms, entwining his fingers in mine as I begin to bounce up and down in my seat, feeling the intoxicating mixture of excitement and impatient anticipation coursing through me. Over the past few years, Christian has taken me to the most amazing places, but this… Christmas in the city of love? It’s like a dream come true.

When we get to our hotel, two men in crisp white shirts, black vests, and black ties rush to the car to open the door for us, and, as Christian takes my hand to help me out of the car, I look up at the awnings over the stone archways, which tell me that we’re at the Ritz.

“Bonsoir, Monsieur Grey, bienvenue au Ritz Paris,” one of the men in suits greets us.

“Je vous remercie, on est très content d’être ici,” Christian replies, in perfect French. “Les valises dans cette voiture doivent étre apportées à ma suite. Ma famille est dans les voitures de derrière et les leurs devraient se garder séparamment, mais soyez certain que tous les cadeaux de tous les trois véhicules arrivent à la même suite. L’arbre est-il bien installé dans la suite?”

“Oui, Monsieur.”

“Bien.” Christian reaches into his wallet and pulls out one hundred euros and, as he graciously accepts the tip, the bellhop turns to me.

“Bienvenue à Paris, Nous sommes à votre service.”

“Uh…” I reply, feeling slightly awkward as I have no idea what he just said.

“Merci,” Christian says for me, and after the bellhop nods, he pulls against my hand and leads me beneath the covered entryway and through the gilded front doors.

The lobby is pure, classic French opulence and as we all glance around, I realize I’m not the only one taken by the grandeur of it all. Even Christian’s family, who are all used to luxurious accommodations, look floored by the intricate marble floors, the chandeliers sparkling from the ceiling, and the grand staircase covered in red and gold embroidered carpet and winding it’s way to the second floor.

“Oh, Ana…” My mother breathes. “This place is amazing.”

“Of course it is,” Gia interjects. “It’s the most expensive hotel in Paris.”

“Only the best for the girl I love,” Christian says, leaning over to kiss my hair. My mom smiles at us and then hurries forward to the front desk with Grace and Carrick. Gia gives us a sideways glance, but when I catch her looking at us, she simply smiles back at me, entwines her fingers with Elliot’s, and turns away.

It takes a while for everyone to get checked in but once we all have keys to our rooms, we coordinate dinner plans and then head our separate ways towards our rooms. Christian and I are escorted to our suite by a hotel employee and the moment I step through the doors, I’m nearly rendered speechless. Suite is a modest term for the room as it’s really a fairly sizable apartment. We enter through an opulent entry way, which flows seamlessly into a beautifully decorated sitting room with tall windows that overlook the gardens below and give us a fantastic view of the city. The ceilings in this room must be at least twenty feet high, which I’m only able to determine because of the enormous, twelve foot Christmas tree twinkling at us next to the fireplace. I feel as though I must be beaming at it as I gaze at the sparkling gold and silver ornaments and the ocean of presents I saw in the plane, which have already been neatly stacked beneath its branches. I don’t know how he does it, but Christian always manages to make everything perfect.

To the right of the sitting room is a bedroom that is done all in white and powder blue and has it’s own adjoining bathroom. I glance interestedly down at the bed and the half dozen silk covered pillows artfully arranged there, but Christian tells me that we won’t be sleeping in this room. When we make our way to the left side of the suite and see the second bedroom, I see why.

This room is quite possibly one of the most beautiful bedrooms I’ve ever seen in my life. Everything is gold or cream, and every surface contains a unique and intricate detail. The walls are dressed in paper, colored in a dark golden filigree pattern. The marble fireplace is hand carved and topped with candlesticks and a mirror that must be over seven feet tall. There is a crystal chandelier hanging over the gilded bed, which is so large I think it has to be custom made. It’s the kind of room I would expect to see on a tour of a palace and would discover that kings had once slept here, and as Christian comes up behind me and wraps his arms around my middle, I find that I’m not far off.

“It’s a replica of Marie Antoinette’s bedroom,” he explains. “Everything is exactly the same, down to the last detail… well, except maybe the alarm clock on the beside table.”   

“It’s gorgeous,” I marvel. “Seriously… I don’t even want to leave. Can’t we have dinner here tonight? There’s plenty of room for everyone in the sitting room and I’m sure this hotel has room service. We could have a night in with the family and then come in here and you can make love to me again and again and again…” My voice trails off as I feel him begin to nuzzle my neck softly, but he doesn’t move forward towards the bed or begin exploring my body with his hands.

“I promise you, Anastasia, you and I will indeed push this bed to the limits of its structural integrity,” he says, turning me so that I’m facing him. “But I didn’t bring you almost 5,000 miles away from home to stay in the hotel room. I want to show you Paris and I have reservations tonight at three star Michelin restaurant.”

“So you plan to wine and dine me before you bed me?” I ask, tilting my head all the way back to see into his eyes.

“You have to have dinner before you can have dessert.”

“Not if you break the rules,” I whisper against his lips. “Let’s break the rules.”

He leans forward and kisses me, his tongue immediately invading my mouth and tangling with mine, but I’ve only just wrapped my arms around his neck when we hear a knock on the door.

“Get dressed for dinner,” he says. “We’ll pick up right here when we get back.”

I sigh and nod, then hold onto his hand as long as possible as he leaves to answer the door. When I’m alone, I move to the back of the suite where there is a closet too large for a hotel room, and am unsurprised to find it already full of clothes for the two of us. A smile crosses my lips as I lazily drag my fingers over the sleeves of the amazing couture hanging on my side. He’s put so much thought into every detail this weekend and as I see the proof of that all around me, I feel almost a little overwhelmed by the love I feel behind every gesture. It’s not just the couture or the fancy hotel room, it’s not even Paris. It’s the little things. It’s being sure to invite my parents along on a family vacation because we should be spending Christmas together. It’s remembering my doctor’s appointment this morning and rescheduling it for me so that I didn’t have to wait to know the gender of our baby. It’s the words he said to me in the car and every kiss we’ve shared since we’ve been reunited. The proof that he truly, truly loves me, the same way I love him, and all I want out of this week and the rest of the time I have with him before school starts again is to just pause and appreciate what we have together, right now, before this precious little girl that we’ve made together comes into the world and changes our lives forever.

 

For dinner I pick a fairly short black dress with long sleeves covered in an intricate beaded design that has an Asian inspired feel, knowing the days I can get away with a dress like this are numbered. It’s a little cold out for how short the dress is though, so I pair it with the thigh high leather boots I find tucked in the long box on the closet floor. There’s a mirror on the back wall of the closet that I use to examine the outfit I’ve put together and my first thought is that it’s a little much, but Christian said we’re going to a three star Michelin restaurant, and we are in Paris, the fashion capital of the world. I don’t know if it’s possible to over dress. My only hope is that I’m decent enough at hair and makeup to look like I belong in these clothes, and as I make my way back into the bathroom to finish getting ready, I realize how much I really wish Kate were here instead of Gia. Not only would I feel more comfortable with my best friend around, but she’d be willing to come up here and make me gorgeous before dinner.

When I’m finally ready, lamenting my adequate though less than perfect makeup and hair choices, I pick up the black military trench from the chair by the door and join Christian in the sitting room. He’s pacing back and forth in front of the Christmas tree, holding his phone to his ear and catching up on the things he’s missed at GEH over the last few days. But, once he sees me, he stops in his tracks.

“Thank you, Ros,” he says, not taking his eyes off me. “Have the revised contracts faxed to my hotel. I’ll sign and send them back in the morning.”

“Do you like it?” I ask, twirling a little as he slowly lowers his phone.

“Like it?” He repeats incredulously. “Fuck dinner, get your ass back in that bedroom.”

“Sorry,” I say coyly, “But I actually am a little hungry now. I am eating for two after all.” I wait for his responding chuckle, but it doesn’t come. His eyes continue to rake hungrily over me, and, just before moving forward to close the distance between us, he drags his tongue over his bottom lip.

“You have no idea how incredible you look right now, do you?” He asks.

“You don’t think it’s too much for dinner?”

“Yes. Yes, I think it’s far too much. Take it all off, right now.”

“Christian!” I exclaim, pushing him playfully, but he simply captures my wrist and drapes it over his shoulder, pulling me into him so that he can attack my mouth with his. I push myself into the kiss, letting the desire I feel pour into him, until I feel his fingers begin to play with the hem only a few inches below my behind.

“Our family is waiting for us,” I protest. “We’re going to be late and you know how cranky Elliot gets when he’s hungry.”

“Our family,” he repeats, clearly pleased by the words. He pulls back a little to glance over me once more, and when he looks back up at me, he gives me sly, half-smile. “I’d like to do something tonight, something we’ve done before and that resulted in an afternoon I still often think about to this day.”

“What?” I ask. He reaches into the pocket on the inside of his dinner jacket and pulls out a black box, like a jewelry box, but much bigger. I think through the things we’ve done in the past to try and figure out what’s inside, but I nothing comes to mind until he pulls back the hinged lid and I see the silver balls I wore on the yacht last year for his birthday. Most of that day is a blur or lost in a haze of memories I’ve purposefully tried to forget, but the uncontrollable desire I felt burning through me as I felt those balls pull and shift inside of me is something I remember vividly, as if it happened yesterday.

“Do you think you can handle it?” He taunts me, but I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. I couldn’t last time. I’d practically dragged him to bed with me after only having them in for an hour, and then I threw myself shamelessly at him once I’d gotten him alone. I’m already fighting the pregnancy hormones that make my mouth water just smelling him, this might be asking for disaster. But there’s a challenge in his voice that’s hard to resist, and a reward that might just be more than worth the suffering.

“Yes,” I whisper.

“Good. Turn around.”

I bite down on my lip and then turn away from him, bending at the waist and holding onto the ankles of my boots when I feel his hand press lightly on my upper back. There’s a low sucking sound behind me as he puts the balls in his mouth to lubricate them, and when he kneels down behind me and swipes my panties to the side with his index finger, I clench as I feel the cool metal press against my lips.

“Easy, baby,” he says. His hand moves down my behind so that his thumb can reach my clitoris, and the contact makes my muscles relax so that he can push the balls inside of me. His fingers linger against me for a moment and, once I begin to moan, he leans forward and traces his tongue over me until I become so lost in the sensation that it becomes too difficult for me to hold myself up in my heels. He moves my panties back over me before helping me straighten myself again, and while I’m adjusting my dress, I feel the weight of the balls inside me and have to clench to keep them in place.

“Don’t take those boots off,” he says, smiling at me as he watches me struggle to adjust to the balls. “I want them wrapped around me later.”

“Yes, Sir,” I whisper back, and he groans.

“Let’s go,” he says. “While I can still force myself to leave.”

Getting downstairs is a challenge all in itself thanks to the silver balls, but I’m pleased to find that I’m not the only one who took the opportunity to dress up. Mia is wearing a tight jumpsuit with a bodice that’s open from her neck to her navel, which I can tell makes both Christian and Elliot slightly uncomfortable, and Gia is dressed in head to toe leather. Even my mom and Grace come down the stairs in glittering cocktail dresses, their arms draped over their very dapper looking husbands’ elbows.

The city lights around us are absolutely breathtaking but, as we drive through the light snow flurries on our way to dinner, I don’t know what’s more distracting, the world famous architecture all around me or Christian’s fingers slowly creeping up my thigh. He leans over to kiss my neck and I feel it resonate between my legs. Each time his lips press into me or his fingers graze my skin, deep, carnal desire spikes within me, and I know the silver balls are to blame. They’re not uncomfortable, but I am constantly aware of their presence, and focusing on holding them in place and the feel of them shifting around inside of me with each little movement of my body quickly has me regretting my decision to wear them tonight.

Why did I let him take me out of that hotel suite? I could have struggled.

We’re seated immediately once we get to the restaurant and once Christian has pulled my chair out for me and I’ve settled down at the table, he takes his seat on my left and immediately returns his hand the little bare skin there is between the top of my boot and my panties under my dress. I sit up straighter and try to cover the blush his feather soft touch brings out of me, but no one seems to notice as we’re all being handed menus. Unfortunately, everything written on the card in my hands is in French, so I can’t use it as a distraction and I have to let Christian order for me.

“Shall I order wine for the table?” Christian asks everyone.

“Yes, I’m afraid you and Mia might be the only ones who can order,” Grace says, shaking her head slightly as she sets down the menu. “It seems I should have taken French with the two of you.”

“I’m still going to say Spanish was more valuable,” Elliot says. “Christian might be able to order wine in a Michelin restaurant in Paris, but I could order us a bucket of beers and a round of margaritas in Cabo and, let’s be honest, which sounds more fun?”

“Wine,” I sigh.

“Well, it looks like water for the both of us. Right, Ana?” Gia asks, winking at me, and I smile back at her, praying it’s not the grimace I think it is.

“You’re not even going to cheat in Paris, Gia?” Christian asks. “We’re on vacation. Surely, you won’t let this amazing bread go to waste.”

“Christian!” She exclaims, her voice brightening as she reaches across the table to brush her fingers over his forearm. “You’re supposed to be my fellow health nut. I thought we were in this together and now you’re saying you’re going to abandon me for gluten?”

“I’m afraid I am,” he says, and when she shakes her head with disappointment and pretends to wipe away a tear, he laughs and then tightens his hand on my thigh. I glance down at his wrist, which is the only thing I can see as his hand is under my dress, and, for the first time since we’ve sat down, I feel uncomfortable.

Is he flirting with Gia while feeling me up?

I shake my head. Of course he’s not flirting with Gia. Christian wouldn’t flirt with another girl right in front of me, especially not his brother’s girlfriend. It’s the balls again, making everything sexual, and maybe a little bit of me projecting the blame for Kate’s pain onto this girl, who is admittedly a little hard to handle and who can be kind of rude sometimes, but who hasn’t really done anything wrong other than date my best friend’s ex-boyfriend. Normally, that would be a free pass to hate her, but it’s all the more complicated that her ex-boyfriend just happens to be one of the people closest to Christian, and the only thing that has made Elliot happy in months is this pair of legs with blonde hair.

“I can have wine with dinner, can’t I?” Mia asks, distracting me, and Grace narrows her eyes at her as she mulls it over, but eventually nods.

“One glass,” she says, but as Mia celebrates, I brush Christian’s hand off my leg and push my chair away from the table.

“Where are you going?” He asks.

“The bathroom,” I tell him. “It’s been forty-five minutes, and your daughter has decreed it’s time for me to go again.”

“Well, if my daughter says…” Christian smiles up at me, and I nod before turning for the bathroom.

I want to splash cold water on my face and try to get a grip on myself while I try to rationalize this less than favorable reaction I seem to be having towards Gia. I don’t know why I’m having this strong of a reaction and, if she’s  going to be around, I don’t want to feel this way towards her. I don’t need that kind of animosity in my life. I stare up in the mirror and, as I force myself to be honest with what I’m feeling, I realize that I’m a little threatened by her. She’s beautiful, perfect even. Enough that I don’t think I could have competed with her on my best day, and I won’t see a best day again for a long time. I’m growing rounder by the day, while she remains flawless. While Christian remains flawless. It was hard enough not feeling insecure beneath the perfection of Christian’s body when I was thin myself, but I’m terrified that once this pregnancy is no longer just a small, hardly noticeable bump, he won’t look at me in the same way anymore. My body is going to change forever after this. Is Christian still going to want me the same way after I have this baby?

I shake my head to try and dispel the troubling though and focus on his reaction to me coming out of our room tonight. He knows I’m pregnant and even though it’s not out of control yet, it’s still noticeable, and he’s lusting after me anyway. He said before that he’ll find me just as desirable when I’m nine months pregnant as he did before, and he hasn’t given me any indication that wasn’t true. I need to trust him, trust in the love he’s constantly showing me over and over again. Nothing could come between that. Not even little miss perfect.

I decide that the sex haze that’s been clouding my mind since Christian put the silver balls inside of me is messing with my good judgement, so I make my way towards one of the bathroom stalls to remove them, but am stopped with the door opens behind me.

“Ana?” A voice says, and I look over my shoulder to see Gia stepping through the bathroom door.

“Hey,” I reply, forcing myself to smile as I shift back to the sink the sink and turn on the water to wash my hands.

“That Balmain is amazing on you,” she says. “Seriously, you can’t even tell that you’re pregnant.”

“Uh… thanks,” I say awkwardly, looking down at my dress and trying to accept the compliment rather than assume it’s some backhanded insult.

“I thought, maybe… we should talk,” she says. “And I should apologize. I said things last night that were uncalled for. It’s difficult for me with… Kate. Elliot has her kind of pedestal and it feels like I’m never going to measure up, you know? I have a hard time dealing with that and sometimes it brings out a side of me that I’m not really proud of. But I really like Elliot, and I like his family. You’re apart of that too, and I want us to be friends.”

“Yeah,” I agree. “I want us to be friends too. I can see the difference in Elliot since he’s met you and that makes me glad that he has you in his life. But so we’re clear, Kate’s my best friend, more than that, she’s practically my sister, so I will always defend her.”

“I know, and that’s fair. You’re a good friend. I respect that. Maybe it’s best, we just don’t talk about her.”

“I can live with that,” I agree.

“Good. Then, friends?”

“Of course.” She smiles her flawless, eye catching smile and holds her arms open to hug me. I hug her back, but, despite her warm and perfectly friendly demeanor, something in this hug seems cold.

“I’d better get back out there,” I say, pushing away from her. “Christian will worry if I’m gone to long.”

“He’s really an amazing man,” she says, and my lips pull together in a tight smile.

“Yeah.” I step towards the door as she moves around me for the bathroom stall, but before I push my way back into the restaurant, I pause and turn back to face her.

“You know that Elliot doesn’t want to get married, right?” I ask her. “He doesn’t want a wedding and he doesn’t want kids. Ever.”

She stops and the friendliness in her face falters slightly. “Sometimes we don’t really know what we want until it’s happened,” she says. “Sometimes, it’s not about what you’ve planned or what you think makes you happy because, in reality, you just hadn’t met the right person yet. A person who can change you. Who’s perfect for you. Sometimes we make decisions because we don’t know that we’re settling for something less than we deserve.”

“I don’t think that’s how Elliot feels,” I warn her. “I know that’s not how Elliot feels.”

“Things change, Ana. Things change for everyone.” She turns and closes the bathroom door behind her and once again, I feel an overpowering negative reaction to what she’s said. For some reason, everytime she talks I feel like she’s using some kind of doublespeak to hide what she really means, like a politician, and it has my protective side on alert. But I don’t know if that’s what’s really happening so I don’t know if I should say something to Elliot about it and risk starting something that could be damaging to his relationship with me, with Christian, or if I should chalk it up to paranoia and insecurity making me react to things that aren’t really there. As I make my way back through the restaurant, I’m still unable to decide which it is.

When I get back to the table, I find both Carrick and Grace are missing, and Christian, Elliot, and Mia are all staring intently at the main doors as though they’re waiting for an a-list celebrity to walk in.

“Where’re your parents?” I ask as I take a seat next to Christian.

“Outside,” he replies, not taking his eyes off the door. “Dad has to check in daily with his doctor for any UNOS updates.”

“So no word yet on a transplant?”

“Not yet.”

I frown as I too look over at the door, unsure if I want to rehash this argument again. “Christian… I should get tested.”

“No.” He shakes his head. “It’s not going to be you.”

“It could be.”

“Honey, you know what you’re saying, don’t you?” My mom interjects. “You couldn’t possibly…”

“Mom,” I say, cutting her off before she can finish, but Christian nods his head in agreement.

“Ana, you’re pregnant. You can’t undergo a live organ transplant surgery without putting both yourself and our baby at serious risk.”

“For five more months,” I argue. “If I’m a match then once I give birth…”

“He doesn’t have five months,” Christian interrupts and the bite in his voice makes me fall silent. I’d forgotten the timelines, six months without treatment. We’re almost through the first month and he hasn’t been able to have any chemo yet because we’re still waiting on the transplant. Christian’s right, I can’t help, but I hate not knowing if I’m a viable candidate. Seeing him, seeing all the Greys going through this and feeling powerless to do anything has kept me up over countless nights. Getting the test and knowing for sure that I wasn’t a match would alleviate some of the guilt I feel being the only one who hasn’t offered to donate… but then, if I was a match and still couldn’t undergo the surgery, I don’t know if I could live with that either and I know that’s why Christian won’t even let me try.

“Gia offered to get tested,” Elliot says, and Christian, Mia, and I simultaneously snap out of the nearly trance like state we’re in staring at the door, waiting, and turn to him

“What?” I ask, sure I must have heard him incorrectly. “She… she… what?”

“You two have only been dating a month,” Christian says.

“I know,” Elliot replies. “I told her she was being crazy, but she offered and it’s… it’s Dad.”

“She knows that this is serious, right?” I check. “This isn’t botox or lip fillers, this is major, life threatening surgery. She’ll be under anesthesia, she’ll have weeks of recovery… there could be complications, she’ll be giving up a piece of a vital organ. She’s willing to go through all of that for a guy she’s been dating a month? Not even for you, for your dad. Someone who is essentially a stranger.”

“I don’t know,” Elliot says. “It was the night we found out that none of us were viable candidates. I nearly had a breakdown in the car and she… offered. I don’t know if she was serious, I told her no, but… the window is closing. What if she could save Dad?”

Christian hesitates a moment, staring back at Elliot as though he’s actually swayed by his words. As though he’s actually considering it…

“No,” I interject. “I’m sorry, but no. Does no one else see how crazy this is?”

“How crazy what is?” Gia asks as she retakes her seat next to Elliot.

“Nothing,” he says, reaching over for her hand and smiling innocently at her. “Just that… we’re here. In Paris.”

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” She asks, and Elliot nods before leaning into kiss her. Christian and I glance uneasily at each other, but I don’t know if we’re thinking the same thing. He couldn’t really be considering this as an option… could he?

The door to the restaurant opens, Carrick and Grace re-enter, and we all deflate as we see the slightly disappointed look on their faces as they approach the table.

“No luck?” Elliot checks, and Carrick shakes his head but puts on a smile.

“Soon,” he reassures us. “It’s going to happen soon.”

“Yes,” my mother agrees. “Yes it is.”

Carrick reaches over and places his hand on her shoulder, a gesture of gratitude, and then turns to me to change the subject. We talk about school and my nerves about coming up on my last semester, but no one around the table seems to be able to truly relax until our food comes out and we’re distracted, not only by the decadent french cuisine, but the amazing presentation. It’s not only delicious, it’s beautiful, and as we being to eat, everyone’s moods perk up and the conversation flows towards easier topics.

Elliot is really the savior of the evening, his sense of humor setting the mood for the rest of the night. He tells us some of his latest stories from some of the job sites he’s been on, and while I’m glad for the lightened atmosphere, each time I break down into laughter, I’m immediately reminded of the silver balls I never actually removed. Once, I even let out an audible gasp as I feel them move inside of me, and Christian gives me a overly pleased sideways glance before returning his hand to my thigh and sliding it up under my dress. I clench my thighs together, trying to tame the growing desire building between my legs and to stop his hand from going any further, but it’s too late. The night of pent up frustration has me too far gone and, once I’m sure everyone is engrossed in their dinners and in Elliot’s story, I open my legs and allow Christian’s fingers to touch me over my panties.

“Should we order dessert?” Grace asks, once everyone’s finished eating. “It’s getting a little late.”

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly,” my mother replies. She places her napkin on her plate to signal she can’t eat another bite, and then turns towards Grace and Carrick. “I’d love to take a walk to work off some of this food and maybe see a little of the city.”

“The Arc de Triomphe is just a few blocks away from here,” Mia says, looking down at her phone. “It’s really beautiful when it’s all lit up at night.”

“Well then, let’s go see it,” Carrick suggests, but as everyone nods in agreement, Christian simply tightens his hand around my leg and looks regretfully around at his family.

“You should all go,” he says. “But it’s been a long day and I think Ana’s tired.”

“Tired,” I agree immediately. “Yeah. Pregnancy, you know how it is.”

“But you’ll miss the sights!” Mia says.

“We’ll see it,” Christian assures her. “I wouldn’t let Ana miss any of the city.”

“Okay,” Grace agrees, reluctantly, “but we must explore the city as a family in the morning. I want us to make the most amazing memories on this trip. Together.

“Of course,” Christian agrees. He slips cash into the book the waiter has left to pay the tab and then everyone pushes away from the table. We hug each of them good-bye, Elliot giving Christian and I a knowing smile to show that we’re not fooling him at all, and then wait as they begin making their way down the block before we hurry into the backseat of the waiting car.

The moment Christian has given the driver instructions and we’ve pulled out onto the street, he nearly attacks me. His tongue finds its way into my mouth while his hand slides under my dress again. I wait for him to pull my panties to the side and maybe replace the balls inside of me with his fingers, but he doesn’t. Instead, he simply presses his fingers repeatedly against the lace still firmly in place between my legs, and while I initially want to protest, the words are cut off by a low moan. Each quick beat of pressure moves the balls back and forth inside of me, and that sensation, along with his touch over my clitoris and a night of anticipation has me sprinting quickly towards an orgasm.

“Oh my god,” I whisper so quietly into his ear that my voice is only a breath.

“You’re so wet,” he says. “I can feel it through your panties.” I bite down on my lip to hold back a small whimper as the sensation increases. “I can’t wait to feel it on my tongue,” he continues, and his words are nearly my undoing.

Unfortunately, just before his expert touch sends me tumbling over the edge, the car stops in front of our hotel and the doormen begin rushing towards the car. Christian quickly tugs my dress back down, and then takes my hand, helping me out of the car and offering the men in suits welcoming us back to The Ritz gratitude before leading me back inside.

He wastes no time practically dragging me across the lobby and up the stairs towards our room. Our suite has a hallway all to its own and once we’ve made it around the corner, I find myself pushed back into the wall where Christian’s lips find mine and his body envelops me. We begin fumbling blindly along the wall towards the suite, unwilling to break apart even to take the few steps down the hallway to get to the door. When we finally do get there, I reach into the pocket of Christian’s dinner jacket for the key to the room and feel along his arm to place it into his hand without ever breaking our kiss. He presses me into the door, his teeth sinking into my bottom lip and tugging gently as he struggles with the lock.

Once the door is opened, I nearly fall backwards into the room, but Christian’s arms tighten around me, keeping my body flush against his. He slams the door closed behind us, lets the key fall to the ground, and his hands reach for my  hips and lift me so that my legs wrap around his waist while he carries me into the entryway. We don’t make it to the bedroom though though, not even close. There’s a table against the wall on the left of the foyer that he practically throws me onto before I wrap my fingers in his jacket and pull him back to me, wrapping my legs around him before claiming his lips once more.

Our synchronized breathing is loud as our hands fly uninhibitedly over each other. I pull his jacket from his shoulders and down his arms, letting it fall carelessly to the floor before working on his tie and the buttons on his shirt. He reaches around to pull at the zipper on the back of my dress, exposing just enough skin for his lips to move down my neck and for his teeth to sink into my bare shoulder. I hiss, the sharp flash of pain further heightening my arousal, and then give up on undressing him properly. Gripping onto the part of his shirt I’ve already managed to open, I yank each side, hard, until I’ve completely unveiled him and the floor around us is covered in tiny plastic buttons.

“Fuck baby,” he groans as my hands move down to his belt.

“Fuck me right here, Christian,” I pant into his mouth. After I’ve undone the metal fastening in his belt and worked my way past the buttons and zipper of his pants, I reach inside to grip onto his rock hard erection, dragging my thumb over the tip where a bead of precum has already formed. He moans and tilts his head back, letting me work him over with my hand for a few seconds before glancing back down at me with a new fire blazing behind the gray in his eyes.

“I want to do so much more to you than I can right here,” he says. “I’m going to fuck you out of your goddamn mind.”

I gasp as he sweeps me into his arms again and then curl my body around him. His erection, now only partially contained by his Calvin Klein’s, presses into my panties and I squirm against it, picturing in my mind how easy it would be to simply slide down onto him here in his arms if it weren’t for the fabric barrier between us and the balls still taking up space inside of me. Why didn’t I take them out at the restaurant?

When we get to the bedroom, Christian lays me on the bed so that I’m on my hands and knees and then immediately kneels down on the mattress behind me. I feel his hand grab onto the hem on my dress and then roughly yank it upward while his other hand pulls my panties over my hips. In the next second, his hand comes down quick and sharp on my ass and the balls inside of me are jolted forward.

“Holy fuck!” I scream as the movement seems to electrify my already out of control need.

“Too much?” He checks, panting slightly.

“No. Spank me again.”

He does, over and over again. Each sting of his hand against my skin resonating in every cell of my body. I beg him for more and he complies eagerly. Heat rises in my flesh, burning, sending me spiraling down into the darkest depths of desire until I can’t take it anymore.

“Fuck me, Christian!” I nearly scream “Please!”

He leans over and kisses the hot skin, and then drags his tongue up the curve of my behind. His fingers reach between my legs, sinking inside of me for a brief second to pull on the black string connecting the silver balls, and, as they exit my body, I almost come.

“Not yet, baby.” Christian says, seeing the tremble in my thighs, and while I let out a small pouting noise, he rolls me over onto my back, moving me further onto the bed. He kisses me again and, while I reach up to cup each side of his face, I feel his hands move to my panties and begin to work them down my legs over my boots. I’m too anxious to let him fully undress me, so while he pulls my panties over my heels, I yank my dress up over my head and toss it to the side of the bed.

“What are you waiting for?” I pant, wondering why he’s just standing there staring at me.

“Your bra,” He whispers. “Take off your bra.”

I reach back for the clasp, fumbling for just a second in my haste to get it open, and then yank it off of me and toss it to the floor with my dress.

“Lie down,” he instructs me, and, as I do, he moves over to the second suitcase he brought with him but that the hotel staff didn’t unpack. I turn towards him, watching with interest as he unzips his bag and pulls out what, from here, looks like a leather strap.

“Open your legs.”

I give him a curious look as I pull my knees up and he climbs onto the bed.

“Wider,” he commands, and I obey.

The strip of leather in his hand is actually some kind of harness that I’m slightly confused by until he straps one of the loops at the end around my thigh, circles the long part of the strap around the back of my neck, and then secures the loop on that side around my other thigh. After he’s tightened everything, I try to extend my legs to test the amount of room I have to move, but they don’t budge, and I can’t close my legs. I’m held open, completely at his mercy.

He smiles before turning back for his suitcase and pulling out another set of restraints and a blindfold. Unfortunately, Ms. Antoinette’s bed is not ideal for tying someone to the headboard, so Christian has to get creative and instead attaches each of the wrist restraints to the legs on either side of the bed. Again, once the tie is secure, I attempt to pull against it, but it doesn’t move.

I glance up at him as he moves back onto the bed over me and then lowers the blindfold to my face.

“But I want to see you,” I protest.

“I don’t want you to be able to anticipate what I’m going to do to you,” he says. “I just want to you feel.” He slips the blindfold over my eyes, and once I’m shrouded in darkness, I can do nothing but wait. I can at least feel him moving on the bed on top of me, but when he touches me, I still find myself unprepared.

“Mmm,” I moan as his tongue rolls over the nipple on my right breast. He teases me this way for a moment, using his lips and teeth in conjunction with his tongue, and while I writhe under his expert ministrations, his hand slides softly over the swoop of my other breast, down the curve in my stomach, and over my hip bones, leaving a trail of goosebumps in his wake. I tilt my pelvis up to him, trying to guide his fingers to where I need them most, but he doesn’t need my help. There’s no preamble before they slide inside of me and begins swirling around, pumping in and out, bringing me right back to where I was as he yanked the silver balls out of me.

“Oh god, yes,” I hiss, doing everything I can to push back against his fingers. It doesn’t do much as I can’t move, but the movement of my hips seems to do something to Christian because I hear his low groan and soon his mouth is gone from my breast and his tongue is tracing the line of my hip bone.

“You’re so sexy, Anastasia,” he whispers into my skin. “I don’t know if you could understand the hold your body has over me. I want you so much.”

“Then take me,” I plead. “Please, Christian. I need you.”

“Soon, baby. Soon. I want to make you come like this first.” He pushes his fingers inside of me again, but instead of continuing to pump them in and out, he curls them forward, stroking the front wall of my vagina until I cry out and my legs begin to tremble. His free hand comes up to rest just above my pubic bone and when he pushes down ever so slightly, pressing into the fingers already inside of me, the trembling rocking through my body turns into the true quivers of an orgasm and I have to close my fists around the ties connecting me to the bed so I don’t start thrashing away from him.

“That’s it, Ana. God damn, you’re so fucking sexy when you come,” Christian growls, and suddenly his fingers are gone, replaced immediately by his mouth. I feel his tongue thrust inside of me, and it sends a whole new spike of pleasure coursing through me. His mouth presses into me, sucking and pulling, manipulating my clitoris with the movement of his lips while he fucks me with his tongue. It’s so intense, I don’t think I’ll ever come down, but eventually I do and he immediately moves up my body, grips tightly to my chin, and pulls my lips apart so he can force his tongue into my mouth.

I moan as I taste my arousal on him and then suck lightly on his tongue when he tries to pull away. It entices him to elongate our kiss until he can’t take it anymore and I feel his erection pressing against my still quivering clitoris.  

“I love it when you’re this wet for me,” he says, his voice nearly awed as he slides his erection over me, coating himself in my arousal. “Do you have any idea how good you look right now? Tied up and needy. I’ve fantasized about you like this for weeks.”

“Then fuck me, Christian,” I moan.

“Like this?” He pushes inside of me slowly, too slowly, leaning over me and inching his way forward until I’m completely full of him, and then easing his way back out.

“No,” I pout. “Fuck me, Christian. I want it hard. I want you to rip me apart.”

“Oh, like this…” His voice is amused but I don’t have time to be irritated with him because he suddenly slams forward, burying himself into me as deeply as he can before pulling back and taking me just as roughly again.

“Yes,” I hiss. “Oh god, yes!”

His pace is relentless, arrhythmic, never allowing me to predict what he’s going to do, and it keeps me right at the edge, building and building so quickly tears begin pooling in the corners of my eyes.

“My hands,” I groan, pulling against my restraints. “Give me back my hands. I want to touch you, Christian. I need to touch you.”

He never falters in his stride as he reaches up to my wrists and deftly unbuckled the cuffs that have me restrained. The moment I’m free, I engulf him in my arms and he moans at the feel of more skin on skin contact.

“You feel so fucking good, Ana,” he groans as he reaches down to begin circling my clitoris with his thumb. “I can’t get enough of you.”

“Don’t,” I reply, sounding entirely too needy. “Don’t ever stop.”

“Never,” he replies. “I love you.”

His free hand tightens around my side, just below my breast, as he continues to pummel into me. I can feel sweat begin to bead up through my skin while I pant from the exertion of taking his punishing rhythm. His own breathing is laced with pleasure filled gasps and moans, the occasional fuck slipping through whenever his unpredictable thrusts slam into my g-spot, making my walls clamp tightly around him. The heat builds between us, his own body now becoming slick with sweat, and the pheromones radiating off of him invigorate my already heightened senses, pushing me right to the edge. My entire body begins to shake as I approach the point of no return and I know, by the rolling pleasure already radiating from my core to my fingertips, that the power behind this orgasm has the potential to rip me in two.

“Fu-ck,” I manage to say between pants. “I’m gonn-a, I’m gonna… oh fuck, Christian. I’m gonna come.”

He groans and then presses down into me, his teeth sinking into the conjunction of my neck and shoulder, and as I scream at the fusion of pain and pleasure, he thrusts against the perfect place inside of me, and I unravel beneath him. My body practically convulses as shockwave after shockwave of blinding ecstasy rolls through me, and Christian never lets up. I know he can feel it, I can hear the change in his breathing every time I clamp down around him, but he continues on as though he’s still trying to get me to the point release. I tighten my grip around him, clawing into his back as I attempt to anchor myself to earth, and it elicits a loud, dark growl from deep in his chest.

“Fuck, baby…” I pant as I finally spiral my way back down, but still he continues.

“Again, Ana. I want it again. Come for me again.”

“Wh-what?”

“Again!” He practically shouts, and I cry out as I feel him slam forward once more. The aftershocks of my orgasm are still pulsing through me, overwhelming me, but somehow also pulling me right back to the edge, fueled by the authoritative ring in Christian’s voice.

“I-I can’t,” I tell him, my voice quivering as the pulsing heat flames through my blood. “Christian, I can’t!”

“Yes you can,” he growls back. “Give it up for me, Ana. Come for me again.”

I press my lips together and I try to squirm away from him, but it’s useless. His body is too heavy and I still can’t move my legs. He has me right where he wants me.

“Come on, baby,” he whispers. “Lose yourself in me. Let go.”

He kisses me again and I eagerly welcome his tongue into my mouth. I expect him to be dominant, assertive… possessive, but he isn’t. There’s a strange juxtaposition between the hard, demanding rhythm of this thrusts inside of me, and gentle loving way his lips move against mine. There’s connection here, and it gives me everything I need to do exactly as he’s asked. To lose myself in him. This is what I want, to be as close to him as human possible. To take the love I feel for him and transform it into something physical, something tactile, that we can both experience together in a form of pleasure unparalleled by anything else. The increasing heat between my legs responds to that, and soon, I’m climbing right back up to the precipice.

“Let go, baby,” Christian moans into my mouth. “Let me feel you.”

I whimper slightly as my body responds to his command. There’s no turning back now, so, with a silent prayer for my sanity, I relinquish what little control I have and let the overpowering sensation have me. It hits me with a force so powerful that my vision goes white for a split second and everything but the feel of Christian’s body pressing into mine is lost to the rapture. When I’m able to refocus and see the look of uninhibited pleasure on his face just before I feel the faint ripple of his release inside of me, I think that together, we might have found nirvana and now that we’ve reached it, I hope that we never find our way back.

Next Chapter

Chapter 16

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I’m nearly giddy with excitement as I make my way out of my Advanced Poetry Writing final and not only because I leave feeling as though I did really well, despite the fact that it was the test I felt least prepared for, but also because it was the last thing I had to do before break. I’m now looking at nothing but 34 uninterrupted days with Christian, which, over the past week, has now become a necessity. I’m finally over the constant nausea that plagued my first trimester. I haven’t even had to use one of the peppermint lozenges since last weekend. Unfortunately, the hormone changes of my second trimester have created an entirely different problem, one which has made the 3000 miles of distance between Christian and I even more unbearable. I have never wanted sex more than I have this past week and no amount of iChat has been able to sate the hunger.

The one silver lining is that it seems Christian is just as anxious for our reunion as I am because when I called to tell him that Kate wouldn’t be flying back to Seattle with me, he decided he was going to come along with his plane and meet me in Boston. He should be landing at the airport in the next hour and the anticipation behind that thought sends a shiver up my spine. My only concern now is whether or not I have to wait until we reach cruising altitude before I tear into him.

When I leave the Bravern Center and make my way to the car with Luke, I’m glad to see that Kate is already in the car so that we don’t have to go back to the house, but it also makes me a little sad when I remember why she’s not flying home with me today. Before I meet Christian out on the tarmac, I’m dropping her off at the main terminal and she’s getting on a flight to New York, where she’ll stay until Christmas Eve. Then she’ll fly to Seattle for Christmas but, a few days later, she’ll head straight back to New York to join Ainsley for New Years and a week of skiing at her family’s villa by Lake Placid. After that, she’ll come home to Cambridge for the remainder of winter break. It means I’m most likely not going to see her until next semester starts unless I can somehow convince her to come to the GEH New Year’s Eve charity gala Christian and Ros are hosting, rather than fly off to spend New Year’s in Times Square. And, since Elliot’s already RSVP’d to the event with Gia as his plus one, I’d say the odds of that happening are approximately zero.

“Promise me that we’ll spend at least one day together over break,” I say sadly as we pull onto the freeway towards Boston. “Even if it’s just hanging out at your house and watching Netflix all day. I haven’t seen Ethan in forever and I realized last fall over Dad’s weekend that I’ve forgotten how much fun your dad can be.”

“Sure.” She nods. “It’ll have to be pretty close to Christmas though, I’m probably flying back to New York on the 27th or the 28th.”

“That soon?” I ask, and she shrugs.

“I mean, what else am I going to do? “

“You don’t want to spend time with your family?” I ask her. “I mean, you’ve barely been home this semester. Don’t you miss your mom?”

“Of course I do,” she says. “But I’ll see her at Christmas and I’m sure we’ll do something together, just the two of us, while I’m there. I’m kind of used to not spending too much time with my family because over the past few years, I’ve spent most of my time with the Greys.”

“Oh…”

“Yeah. Being in Seattle just… kind of reminds me that I’m not now, so I don’t really like spending too much time there. Especially because you’re the only friend I really have there and that’s where you are. With them.”

“Well, I don’t have to be, Kate. Not all the time.”

“Yes, you do. Carrick has cancer, you need to be there, and that’s okay. I could have been there too, but I made this choice instead. I’m fine with that, I just need to figure out where I go from here. I need to find the place I belong.”

“What does that mean?” I ask. “You’re not… you’re not going to move away when we graduate, are you? I mean, before last summer, you couldn’t wait to move back home.”

“That’s because last summer, Seattle was home. I thought my life was going to be a lot different than the way it’s turned out when I said that.”

“So, you’re going to move then? You’re not coming back home?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugs. “My dad wants me to come work for him, but I think next semester, I might start looking for job opportunities elsewhere. Maybe New York.”

“Well…” I hesitate, trying to hide the fact that I feel nearly devastated by this news. “I want you to be happy, that’s all I really care about, but I wish you could be happy in Seattle. You’re my only real friend there too, and I’d hate it if you lived all the across the country from me.”

“Hey,” Luke interrupts me indignantly from the driver’s seat. “I’m sitting right here.”

“She said it,” Kate giggles. “It can’t be taken back now.”

“Mhm,” he mumbles. “Let’s just see what happens if you move to New York, Kavanagh.”

“It’s just an idea,” she sighs. “I have a lot in Seattle, and I’m not sure if I’m willing to give all of that up or not. Besides, someone has to be around to expose my goddaughter to all the right things in life.” She reaches over and places her hand over my belly. “Christian will probably have her in all kinds of designer wear when we all know she was made exclusively for Chanel.”

“Oh, you’re sure it’s a girl, huh?” I ask.

“It better be,” she replies and I laugh. I haven’t thought much about the gender, or which I’d prefer, I’ve been too preoccupied with the daunting challenge of motherhood to be too concerned whether I’ll have a son or daughter. But the subject does make me wonder which Christian will want.

When we get to the airport, I give Kate a long hug and make her promise to keep in touch, even when she’s out having the time of her life with Ainsley. She agrees, kisses me on the cheek, and then turns for the main entrance to the airport. I wait just long enough to see her long, platinum hair disappear through the automatic doors, and then bolt back for the car. Christian’s plane should be landing any minute and I need to see the man about a problem…

My thighs press together in anticipation as Luke swings back around the airport to drive directly onto the tarmac, and when we arrive, I’m surprised when we find there are two cars already waiting there.

“Hm,” I muse out loud. “Do you think it’s possible another private jet is about to land?”

“Maybe,” he says.

“Maybe?” I repeat, catching the small satisfied tilt to his voice that makes me think he’s hiding something. “What do you know?”

“A lot of things,” he replies. “Some that I can tell you, some I can’t.”

“What can’t you tell me?” I reply, but he gives me a look that lets me know his lips are sealed. “Okay, what can you tell me?”

“That your boyfriend’s plane is inbound.”

I glare at him, but turn for the window to see the familiar jet quickly approaching, and my irritation is quickly forgotten.

When the plane touches down, I can’t hold back my excitement long enough to wait in the car until the stairs drop, so I step out onto the pavement and try to keep myself from bouncing up and down. Luke has slightly more realistic expectations for how long it actually takes before they open the doors, so he waits in the heat in the Lexus instead of moving to the back to remove my luggage. I don’t worry about him though, I’m too engrossed by the slowing of the propellers inside the jet engines on the wings and the sound of the plane slowly powering down. He’s here, he’s finally here, and the anticipation is tangible.

After what feels like forever, the doors open and the stairs are lowed from the plane, but when I begin running to meet Christian, I’m surprised when he’s not the person who comes through the door.

“Ana!” My mother cries.

“Mom?” She skips down the steps and wraps me in a tight hug, which I think I’m a little too shocked to return properly. “Wha- what are you doing here?”

“Are you surprised?”

“Yes,” I breathe, trying to keep the disappointment out of my voice, but when I turn to look back at the plane and see not only Bob, but Mia, Grace, and Gia coming down the stairs as well, I think my mouth actually pops open. What is going on?

“Ana, darling,” Grace says, opening her arms for me. “How were your finals, dear?”

“Uh… uh…” I stutter.

“Don’t be too excited to see us,” Mia says pointedly as she too steps forward to hug me.

“I am, I’m just… surprised. What is everyone doing here?”

Mia steps back and then drags her fingers across her lips as though she’s zipping them closed and then throws away the key. I stare down at her suspiciously for a second before turning to look back at the plane, where I finally see Christian. He and Elliot are holding onto a slightly unsteady Carrick, helping him down the stairs, and I’m slightly taken aback when I get a good look at him. It’s only been three weeks since I’ve seen him, but the difference is remarkable. He’s lost a noticeable amount of weight, half of his hair has been shaved off, and the side of his head is marred by a still angry looking scar from the brain surgery he had almost two weeks ago.

“Careful,” Christian says, as they take the last step down onto the pavement, which is slightly higher than the others. One of the flight crew rolls a wheelchair out from the cargo hold and Christian and Elliot each hold tightly to Carrick’s arms as he lowers himself down into the chair. “You okay, dad?” Christian checks.

“I’m fine, son,” Carrick answers, sounding slightly irritated. “Go. Go see your girl.”

“Okay,” Christian nods. He turns and the stress on his face is instantly gone when he sees me standing with the rest of the family. We both move towards each other and once I wrap my arms around him and his lips touch mine, I’m instantly overcome with the warm feeling of home.

“What are you doing?” I ask. “What’s going? You flew everyone out here just to… fly back to Seattle with us?”

“No,” he shakes his head. “We’re not going back to Seattle.”

“What do you mean? Where are we going?”

He smiles down at me and kisses my lips once more before looking up at Luke, who is now waiting patiently beside the Lexus.

“Luke,” Christian says. “Would you please take Mia, Elliot, and Gia back to the house? Taylor will drive our parents, and I’ll be taking Anastasia back myself.”

“Yes, sir.” Luke nods, and then he turns towards the car parked behind my Lexus. “Miss Grey, Miss Matteo.”

“Fine,” Mia grumbles, as she turns to follow after Luke. “But I get to hang out with Ana when we get back to the house. No funny business, Christian.”

“We’ll see,” he says, rolling his eyes. My mother leans over to kiss me on the cheek and then makes her way to the SUV parked in the far back, where Elliot is helping Carrick get into the backseat. Christian opens the passenger door to the Lexus for me and I climb in, but wait impatiently for him to get into the car as well so I can find out what the hell is going on.

“Well?” I demand when Christian closes the driver’s side door behind him. “Where are we going?”

“Right now? Back to your house,” he says. I give him a pointed look, but he just smiles back at me. He always gets so much damn satisfaction out of knowing things I don’t. “We’re taking a trip,” he says at last. “I wanted to do something really special for you when you graduated but since you’re going to be just about nine months pregnant when that happens, I thought now was as good a time as any.”

“But what about my doctor’s appointment in Seattle tomorrow? I’m supposed to have an ultrasound with Dr. Greene at 11:30.”

“I’ve rescheduled it with your Obstetrician here in Boston. We’re going there first thing tomorrow morning and then heading straight to the airport.”

“And then where?” I test him.

“You’ll see,” he says, smiling again, and I let out a huff of frustration. I hate not being in the know and I bet, since he convinced everyone else to come, I’m the only one who doesn’t know where we’re going tomorrow.

“Well, what do you plan on doing with all these people tonight? I don’t have room for them all in my house.”

“I was going to book a hotel room for everyone but my mom was insistent that we all be together. I think she just wants family around as much as possible right now.” I purse my lips together as I don’t really want to argue the sentiment, but the logistics haven’t changed. I don’t have a place for both of our families to sleep. “It’s only for one night,” Christian assures me, as though he can read my mind. “We’ll figure something out.”

“I was hoping to have some… uh, alone time with you,” I tell him. “That little problem I told you about over the phone hasn’t changed.”

“The problem where you can’t stop thinking about how good my dick tastes?” He says, giving me an over satisfied sideways glance

“Christian Grey!” I exclaim, surprised by his brazenness, but his returning smile is unapologetic.

“Believe me, Anastasia, I haven’t forgotten. I will have you alone, and soon. Don’t you worry about that.” He reaches over, places his hand on my knee, and my legs instinctively open for him. I feel the muscles deep inside me clench again as the hormone fueled ache suddenly roars to life, an ache that now won’t be satisfied at least until we go to bed tonight. I have no idea how I’m going to get through the evening with Christian close enough to touch, but still out of reach because of my now very full house.

When we get home, Luke and Taylor unload everyone’s luggage, and then leave to stay at Luke’s apartment for the rest of the night, which leaves me with seven people to find a place for. Thankfully, figuring out the sleeping arrangements doesn’t seem to be the priority as no one has eaten since early this morning and everyone is starving.

“Should we go out to eat?” Grace suggests.

“No, let’s order something,” Elliot says. “We’ve been flying all day and I think we should relax tonight since we’re going to be walking all over the place when we get to…”

“Our destination,” Christian cuts him off. “You know, the SURPRISE destination?”

“Right,” Elliot agrees. “Anyway, we have plenty of time to go out when we go you-know-where, let’s just chill. Give Dad a chance to save up some energy before he has to drag himself all over…”

“Elliot!” Christian snaps, clearly irritated, but I can tell by the way that his eyes glint when he looks back at Christian that he’s doing it on purpose now. He laughs, and then pulls Gia’s arm so that she falls onto the couch on top of him, and then shifts her into his lap. It’s uncomfortable watching him nuzzle her neck and then kiss her softly on the cheek, especially because they’re sitting only a few feet away from the wall where there’s still a picture of Kate and Elliot wrapped lovingly around each other while they sit on a giant rock in the sand at Shipwreck Point on the Washington Peninsula. Oh shit, I wonder how Kate’s going to feel about Elliot and Gia staying here tonight…

“Well, what is there to order, babe?” Christian asks, turning to me, and I have to force myself to peel my eyes away from Gia and Elliot to answer him.

“Um, Pizza or… Chinese,” I reply. “Unless you want to go out and pick something up.” Christian frowns but turns to his Dad.

“Pizza or Chinese?”

“Pizza!” Elliot calls from the living room. “Oh my god, can we please order from Angelo’s. I seriously haven’t found a decent substitute in Seattle.”

“Pizza sounds good,” Mia says from her perch on top of the counter in the kitchen.

“Then pizza it is,” Carrick says. “Ana, do you want to order?”

“Sure, what does everyone one want?” I ask, but then immediately turn to Elliot. “Not you, I know what you want.”

He smiles at me and winks, but Gia catches my eye. “I’ll have whichever salad has the most protien in it with no croutons or dressing.”

“None at all?” I ask.

“I don’t eat carbs,” she says, and then shrieks as Elliot grabs onto her sides. It takes everything I have in me to keep from rolling my eyes.

“Okay, so she’ll have a bowl of lettuce. What about everyone else?”

“Well, I suppose Elliot is going to get whatever has the most meat on it, so why don’t you order a combination or a veggie for the rest of us, try to balance it out,” Grace says.

“Sound good to you?” I ask Christian, but he shrugs.

“Get what you want, if Gia is just going to have a salad, I think I’ll have one too.”

“Oh… Okay.” He leans over and kisses me on the forehead before heading back out to the living room to join Elliot and Gia. Grace reaches over to touch my shoulder affectionately before she and Carrick follow after him, Mia quickly hurrying along in their wake.

“We’re fine with whatever,” my mother says. I put on a smile for her as I nod and offer her my cheek, and then watch them disappear into the living room with the others.  

Angelo’s is still programmed into the house phone, so I pick it up off the wall, hold down the number four button, and then stare at the happy family picture my living room has become as I place the order.  Christian is smiling at Gia as she throws her head back in laughter, and, for some reason, it makes my entire body feel tight. He’s usually not so… comfortable with people. But, looking at the way they’re interacting with each other now, he seems to have gotten awfully close to her in the past few weeks, and I don’t really like it.

I let out a harsh huff as I hang up the house phone, but, before I head into the living room with the others, I pull out my cell phone to send a quick text to Kate.

 

So, It turns out I’m not going back to Seattle. Christian has something planned and he brought the entire family to Cambridge for the night. Elliot and Gia are staying here…

 

I want to wait for her response, so I decide to pull plates and silverware out of the cupboards to look like I’m doing more than just awkwardly hanging around the kitchen. Thankfully, Kate must have been holding her phone when I texted her because her response is almost immediate.

 

What?! They’re staying at our house?

 

Yes. I’m sorry, I didn’t know, and it was Christian’s idea so I can’t really say anything about it…

 

Do NOT let them sleep in my room. It’s not Elliot’s room anymore.

 

I frown down at the text and then shake my head. She really thinks I’d be obtuse enough to give her bedroom to her ex boyfriend and his new girlfriend? I’m just about to tell her that I’d planned to put my parents in her room, and to make sure that’s okay, when my attention is drawn by Christian.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“Nothing,” I say, “I’m just getting plates.”

“We’ll deal with that later, come join us.”

“I will,” I reply, but when I look down at my phone to text Kate again, I hear him sigh and then walk across the kitchen towards me.

“What’s wrong?” He asks.

“Nothing’s wrong,” I reply, but, eventually, I break under his persistent stare. “I just.. I wasn’t expecting this.”

“Are you upset?”

“No, not really. It’s just… a lot of surprise, that’s all. I kind of had an idea for how I wanted to start break and this is just kind of throwing me for a loop.”

“Will you just trust me?” he asks, taking a step closer to me and holding me by the arms. “You’re going to love everything I have planned for us. I promise.” I smile up at him and he leans down to whisper in my ear. “And I’m not just talking about what I have planned for tonight…”

He presses his lips into my neck, just below my ear, sending a shiver over me, and, as I moan and squirm away from the sensation, he moves to kiss me for real, but is stopped by Gia’s voice coming from behind us.

“Christian,” she begins. “I finally got that email response from Barney. He’s got some ideas about the interactive interface you wanted for the lobby in the new building.”

“I’ll be right there,” he says, and as she nods and turns to leave the room, Christian faces me once more. “Later,” he promises, and he kisses me softly on the forehead before turning around to exit after Gia.

Dinner is lively, much more so than Thanksgiving was, and the light, easy conversation continues on into the living room well after the dishes are finished and the pizza boxes have been trashed. Christian’s finds anyway he can to touch me as we’re seated at the table, or cleaning up, and each seemingly innocent touch has me spiraling right back down into the desperate sex haze I’ve been fighting off for the past week. Unfortunately, there’s no way for us to sneak away and deal with that properly, because once we’re seated in the living room, we’re pulled apart and made the center of attention of two different conversations. Christian is answering questions about some new company that specializes in sustainable energy and technology he’s acquiring for his father, while I’m basically asked to recount every final I’ve taken this last week to our moms.  Soon though, the conversation turns to the baby and, as my mother and Grace start comparing nursery ideas and all the things they’ve both already purchased for the baby, I feel like there’s some kind of unspoken competition going on between them. A kind of Best Grandma Thunderdome, where only one can reign supreme.

“When is your next ultrasound, Ana?” Grace asks, finally including me in the conversation.

“Tomorrow,” I tell her. “We’re going to get a 3D ultrasound so we should get to see our first really clear picture.”

“And you’re just about sixteen weeks?”

“On Friday.”

“Then they should be able to tell the gender!” she says excitedly, turning to my mom. “Just think, tomorrow we’ll know if we’re going to have a grandson or a granddaughter!”

“Which do you want, Ana? A boy or a girl?” My mother asks.

“I don’t know,” I reply with a shrug. “A boy, probably. One just like Christian.”

“Trust me, you don’t want one just like Christian,” Grace says. “He was a beautiful little boy, but he was a handful.”

“Which is why I’m a hoping for a girl,” Christian says, coming up behind his mother and kissing her on the cheek.

“Girls are so dramatic,” my mother argues. “When Ana was little, I swear to you, every little thing was the end of the world. If she lost one of her berets or dribbled water on the pages of one of her books, you’d think someone was burning the house down. I don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t been for Ray. That man has the patience of a saint. He was the only one who could get through to Ana. He was the only one she would listen to.”

My smile falters slightly at the mention of my father, and as I look down at my fingertips resting in my lap, my mother reaches out and clasps her hand around mine.

“Have you heard anything from him?”

“No,” I shake my head. “I’ve written him probably five or six times over the last three weeks, but I haven’t heard anything back.”

“Well, he’s a long way away,” she tries to reassure me. “The mail takes awhile. He’s probably just gotten your letters and he’s waiting to talk to you about them until he calls on Christmas.”

If he calls on Christmas,” I say with chagrin. “He couldn’t get off the phone with me fast enough on Thanksgiving.”

“He’s going to call, baby,” Christian reassures me. I look over to give him a quick, tight lipped smile, and grasp the hand he places on my shoulder, but neither of us can say anymore as Mia interjects in an extremely impatient tone.

“Christian!”

“Okay, okay, Mia,” he says, shaking his head slightly. “She wants to watch a slasher movie. I told her she had to wait until I got you back from our mothers.”

“Well, she’s all yours,” Grace says with a broad smile.

“It’s a little late to start a movie, isn’t it?” My mom asks, looking down at her watch. “It’s already past 11.”

“We have plenty of time to sleep on the plane tomorrow,” Elliot interjects. “I vote movie.”

“Plenty of time, huh? So, we’re going somewhere far…”

“No guessing games,” Christian warns me, and, as my mom and Grace get off the couch to let him sit beside me, I give him a searching glance, trying to glean anything from his expression. It’s fruitless though, as usual he gives nothing away and I have to settle for cuddling into his side while Mia puts the movie in the DVD player. Still, when his arm wraps around me and I feel the comfort of being nestled into him, I have to admit it’s a pretty good consolation prize.

Mia picks the most gruesome movie we own, and it ultimately sends both Carrick and Grace, and my parents to bed. I spend a lot of time with my face buried in Christian’s side, cringing away from the blood and gore on the screen, so when I hear Gia’s sudden exclamation, I not only jump, I nearly scream.

“Oh my god!” She says incredulously as she glances at the dimly illuminated screen of her phone.

“What?” Elliot asks, not taking his eyes off the killer holding a chainsaw.

“Your ex is making headlines again. Perez Hilton just posted pictures of her at some club opening with Ainsley Calloway and Eliza Whitney. God, I don’t know what is trashier, her friends or that dress.”

“Excuse me?” I ask angrily, and I feel Christian tense next to me.

“Oh not you, Ana,” Gia says, as if that’s what I was worried about. “I’m talking about the new pack of glitterati she’s using to try and stay relevant. Is it me or does she look a little coked out to you?” She holds her phone up for Elliot, her face plastered with a look of haughty superiority, and protective anger for my best friend flames inside of me.

“I’d be very careful about what you say next, Gia,” I warn her. “This is her house and I have no problem asking you to leave it.”

“This isn’t her house though,” she says. “It’s Christian’s. But that’s obviously the Kavanagh way, glomming onto anyone with more fame or money to get ahead. With these socialites she’s found, she’s practically made a career out of it.”

In an instinctual movement, I try to launch myself at her, but Christian’s hands clamp down hard around my arms, holding me in place.

“Ana…” he begins, trying to be diplomatic, but I ignore him.

“Do you want to say anything else?” I spit at her. “Because I may be pregnant, but that just puts me in a higher weight class than you and I will kick your ass.”

“Calm down, Anastasia. Look, I’m sorry that the truth hu-” she starts, but Elliot cuts her off.

“Hey, knock it off, okay?”

“Excuse me?” she asks, anger flaring in her eyes as she turns to him. “Are you defending Katherine Kavanagh to me right now?”

“No,” he shakes his head. “Kate’s… whatever, I don’t care. But you don’t need to be a bitch about her in front of her best friend.”

“A bitch?” Gia repeats, and when Elliot doesn’t say anything back, she pushes his arms off of her and bolts out of the seat they’re sharing. “Don’t touch me.”

“Gia…” Elliot calls as she storms out of the room, but when we hear the sliding glass door slam closed, he sighs and wrenches himself out of the chair, dragging his feet a little as he follows after her.

“She was being a bitch though,” Mia says, and Christian shakes his head, before turning to look at me.

“Let’s go to bed,” he suggests, but I purse my lips together and fold my arms over my chest.

“I’m not tired.”

“I’m not suggesting we go to sleep,” he says.

“You could have said something to her, you know,” I snap, ignoring the suggestion in his voice. “Kate’s your friend too.”

“That’s Elliot’s drama to deal with.”

“Well, it shouldn’t be,” I reply, and, to make the point clear that I’m not going to go up to bed with him after what just happened, I reach for the blanket on the back of the couch, wrap it around myself, and turn my attention back to the movie.

“Oh, come on, Ana,” he nearly groans.

“Not. Tired,” I repeat.

“What about your problem?”

“Oh, I have no problem, Christian. I’m doing just fine.”

“Fine,” he says, straightening on the couch and putting an inch or so of distance between us. I realize immediately that this was a bluff on my part, a poor one, and he’s calling it. I do have a problem, a major one. After having him touch me all night, my desire for him has never been more potent or out of my control, even now when I’m half mad at him for not defending Kate. He knows that. He’s using that.

“Kate’s just having a hard time,” I say, both in defense of my best friend and in a vain attempt to distract myself from the electric pull I feel in the small space between Christian and I.

“I know,” he says. “I think I understand better than anyone exactly what she’s doing.”

“What do you mean?”

He turns and gives me a look that suggests he thinks the answer should be obvious, but when I don’t show any signs of recognition, he sighs.

“Ana, how many CEOs do you know who regularly appear on the cover of tabloids or celebrity gossip sites?”

“I don’t know…” I admit. “Zuckerberg, maybe? He got his own movie.”

“Because he’s a social media magnate who has made a career out of getting personal. I’m talking about people like Philippe Dauman, Brian Roberts, or Jeffrey Bewkes?”

“Who?”

“Exactly. They’re CEOs of some of the most well known companies in the entire world, but no one knows who they are and that’s because, generally, no one cares.”

“So what makes you so special, Mr. World’s Most Eligible Bachelor?”

“I chased it,” he says. “I courted it. I did everything I could to have a strong media presence and to cultivate public interest in me and my company.”

“So you’d be more successful?” I ask.

“So you would see me,” he says. “You wouldn’t talk to me and I didn’t want you to be able to forget about me. I wanted to be on the magazines you picked up, on the news channels you flipped through, everything. I wanted your attention, so I used the media to get it. That’s all Kate’s doing now. She wants her name on the Perez Hilton because she doesn’t want Elliot to be able to not think about her.”

“And do you think it’s working?”

“Are you kidding me?” He replies. “Why do you think Gia hates her so much? He’s not exactly subtle about how much he’s still in love with her.”

“Not enough to change his mind about marriage or kids,” I say, turning back to the TV.

“No, and that’s why he’s with Gia now. He knows he can’t give Kate what she wants and he wants her to be happy, so he’s trying to move on and let her live her life. I don’t fight with Gia because I’m just trying to be supportive of that. He was in a lot of pain when he was alone, but he’s doing better now. Gia’s… the way she is, but she’s good for him.”

“You really think so?”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” I sigh. “I’ll try to be nicer.”

“I don’t know if I want that,” he says seductively. “You’re kind of hot when you’re mad.”

“Or really?” I reply, feeling the burn of the desire deep inside of me growing hot once again at the sound of the deep timber in his voice.

“Hey,” Mia snaps, turning an angry look on both of us. “Are you two going to talk through the whole movie?”

“No,” Christian shakes his head. “I think we’re going to go to bed.” He turns to me, the implication of his words lying between us, and I nod. His eyes brighten, and he quickly stands from the couch, pulling me up with him and leading me straight for the stairs.

 

The next morning, I’m awake earlier than the west coast dwellers, so I ease myself out of Christian’s arms and make my way downstairs to put on some coffee. The hissing and gurgling noises coming from the machine are so loud, I’m worried that it’s going to wake everyone in the house, but I have a mission this morning, and the noise is the perfect way to cover up my phone call to Luke for anyone who might be able to hear me from upstairs.

When I’m off the phone, I take a look around but don’t find Gia or Elliot anywhere, so I assume they must have gotten a hotel last night after all. Mia is sprawled out, dead to the world, on the couch, and since it’s a little chilly, I cover her with a blanket, and pace back and forth in the kitchen waiting for Luke to arrive.

“This is the weirdest early morning errand I’ve ever had to do,” Luke tells me, when I ease the door open for him almost thirty minutes later. “Do you know how hard it was to find this at this hour?”

“Sorry, I thought we were going to be in Seattle or I would have picked them up days ago,” I tell him. “I would have gone out myself, but I didn’t want Christian to wake up and find me gone.”

“That’s alright. That’s what best friend’s are for, right?”

I roll my eyes. “I swear, between you and Kate, I’m going to lose my mind,” I tell him, as I pour him a cup of coffee and set it in front of him on the dining room table. “One day you’re going to realize that the two of you are actually perfect for one another and you’ll hook up and leave me behind forever.”

“Been there, done that.” He shrugs, and I nearly drop the carafe in my hand.

“What? You hooked up with Kate?” I hiss, trying to keep my voice down so I don’t wake everyone in house. “When? How? Why?

“We got bored,” he replies. “It only happened once.”

“When?”

“Remember that weekend in October when you made me stay here with her so she wouldn’t be alone in the house and you went off to Seattle and Grey got really pissed that I didn’t come with you? Well, we ran out of things to talk about about an hour after you left, so we found something else to do. I’m not her CPO.”

I’m almost dumbfounded. I never suspected for even a second…. I mean, Kate is terrible at keeping secrets. How did I not know this?

“I just…” I shake my head, trying to clear my thoughts. “I didn’t realize you were into Kate like that. You’re so ambivalent towards her. I mean, shouldn’t you at least be better friends now?”

“No. It’s not like I have anything against Kate, but I don’t really think it changed anything between us. Like I said, we were bored. Sometimes sex is just sex, Ana. Just because you fuck someone doesn’t mean you’re going to have babies and be with them for the rest of your life.”

“Well, apparently, it does for me,” I laugh, but as he too cracks a smile, I suddenly get a mental image of him and Kate together and I cringe away from it. “I can’t believe you and Kate… Ugh, I think I need a shower.”

“I don’t know how that’s going help,” he says. “That’s where we did it.”

“You fucked her in my shower?” I ask, appalled, but he laughs and shakes his head.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding.”

“I’m going to kill you.” I reach across the table and push his shoulder, but as he laughs at me, I hear Christian’s voice come up behind me.

“Sawyer?”

“Good morning, Mr. Grey,” he says.

“Good morning,” Christian replies. “Did you not get my email last night? We won’t be leaving for the airport until after ten.”

“Yes, sir. I was just… um…”

“He was coming to take me to the gym,” I interrupt, trying to cover for him since part of the reason he’s here is a surprise for Christian. “Kate and I go at this time every morning, but I told him that I had a doctor’s appointment.”

“Oh, well… we need to leave soon, so if you’re going to take a shower, you should do that now.”

“Okay,” I agree. “See you later, Luke.”

“See you later, Ana,” he says, and then gives me a wicked smile. “Enjoy your shower.”

“I hate you so much,” I reply. He laughs as he gets up from the table to return to his car and when Christian gives me a questioning look, I just shake my head, take his hand, and pull him along with me to my bedroom, where I fully plan on getting him naked again.

Just as I expected, everyone wants to be at this appointment with Christian and I because of the possibility of finding out whether we’re having a boy or a girl, and, apparently, waiting until we drive back home is just too much for them to handle.  But, when we arrive in the waiting room of Dr. Baker’s office, I’m surprised to see Gia and Elliot are already there waiting for us. Wherever they went, it seems as though they’ve made up from last night, because they can’t seem to keep their hands off each other. It’s still awkward and uncomfortable for me to see him with her like that, but after what Christian said last night, I try to be more open minded about it. Elliot and Kate aren’t going to be together, so this is something I need to accept.

“Anastasia?” Dr. Baker’s nurse calls, and I quickly jump out of my seat and follow her through the doors to the examination room with Christian, eager to be separated from Gia’s constant giggling and Elliot’s too broad grin. Thankfully, I’m Dr. Baker’s first patient this morning so the wait isn’t long after her nurse has taken all my vitals before she comes in to see me.

“How are you feeling, Anastasia?” She asks as she takes a seat next to me.

“Fine,” I reply. “The nausea is gone, which is a huge relief, but I’ve been more tired over the past few weeks and that’s been a little difficult to deal with.”

“Unfortunately, that’s normal,” she says, looking down at my chart. “I am a little concerned with your blood pressure, which is pretty high. Have you been experiencing any headaches, blurred vision, or pain?”

“No,” I reply, shaking my head. “We have had a fairly stressful couple of weeks though. Christian’s father was diagnosed with stage four cancer.”

“Oh goodness, I’m so sorry to hear that. I guess that does explain the changes we’ve seen in your vitals though, so hopefully, that will all be resolved in the next few weeks. I would like to keep an eye on it though.”

“Okay,” I agree.

“I do have a question,” Christian says, and Dr. Baker turns to look at him. “She still goes to the gym every morning, and I just want to know how safe that is for her pregnancy.”

“What kind of exercise do you do at the gym?” She asks.

“Mostly cardio. I usually do thirty minutes on the treadmill and some resistance training.”

“Is that normal for you?”

“Yeah, it’s been my standard for about two and a half years.”

“Well, if you’re already a runner, I wouldn’t be too worried about it, at least not until your third trimester. A treadmill can be fairly high impact though, so if you want to run, I would suggest maybe using a jogging path outside rather than a machine. I’d limit any lifting exercises you might be doing, but  exercise is a great stress reducer, so I don’t see any problem with you continuing a modified version of your current routine.”

“Okay,” I agree, but I know Kate isn’t going to be happy. I’ve always loved running along the river on campus, but she doesn’t like her workout routines being dictated by the weather. I might have to start taking Luke with me, instead of Kate.

“Anything else?” She asks.

“I don’t think so,” I reply, and when Christian shakes his head, she reaches over to pull the heavy ultrasound machine closer to the examination table.

“Then let’s take a look shall we?”

I lie back and pull up my shirt so that she can spread the cold, blue goo on me before dragging the wand over my belly, which is finally rounding out into a small, but noticeable bump. Christian and I both stare at the picture on the screen, amazed by how vastly different it looks from any other ultrasound we’ve gotten before. It isn’t just a white shape on a black background anymore, the 3D image looks like a real baby. We can see fingers and toes, their lips, nose, eyes, even ears. The picture is mesmerising and while the doctor pauses to take measurements and screen captures, Christian and I both take an audible breath as we watch our baby scrunch up it’s little face, before relaxing again. It’s the first time I’ve seen any real movement and as I focus harder on the image, waiting and hoping to see it again, I feel tears prick at the corners of my eyes.

“I love you,” Christian says, leaning down to whisper in my ear. “So very, very much.”

“Alright, everything looks really great,” the doctor says at last. “And, we are in a very good position today. How do you feel about finding out the sex?”

“Yes,” I nod excitedly, but before the doctor can say anything, Christian squeezes my hand tighter so that I look at him.

“What if we didn’t?” He asks. “What if we wait and just let it be a surprise?”

“Can you tell?” I ask Dr. Baker. She smiles and nods, and I bite my lip as I contemplate waiting another five months to find out the gender.

“I can’t wait,” I tell Christian. “I have to know. Dr. Baker, could you write it on a piece of paper for me, and he can decide if he wants to know later?”

“Of course,” she says. She turns for the machine and hits the button to print all the images, and while I use the rag she hands me to wipe the gel off my belly, she scribbles the sex of our baby down on a piece of paper, tucks it into an envelope, and hands it to me. I wait for her to leave the room and for Christian to turn to pick up my coat and purse from the chair behind him before I peel back the tab on the envelope and read the congratulations message inside. The moment I see the word written on the card, a smile breaks across my face. I didn’t know what I wanted before this appointment, but now that I see it in black and white, I’m filled with unbridled, resounding joy.

“The look on your face right now…” Christian observes, and when I look up at him, I see him smiling just as broadly as I am. “Okay, you’re right. I can’t wait either. What does it say?”

“You’re sure?” I check.

“Yes,” he nods. “Tell me.”

“What if I show you instead?” I ask.

“Show me?”

I give him the same look he gives me when he knows something I don’t, then reach into my purse for one of the canisters that I had Luke pick up for me this morning and pull out the one with the proper colored cap. His eyes widen when he sees what’s in my hand.

“Don’t…” he begins, but it’s too late. I laugh as I press down on the plunger and he tries to cringe away from me, but it’s no good.

“There,” I say when the canister is empty. “Now you can tell everyone.”

“You’re a terrorist.” He helps me into my coat and then follows after me as we make our way through the office back towards the waiting room, but before we step through the door to rejoin our family, I pause and turn back to him.

“This is ridiculous,” he says, glancing down at his t-shirt and jeans with dismay.

“You look adorable,” I reply with a giggle. “You’re not disappointed are you? You didn’t want a-”

He puts his finger against my lip to silence me. “Why would I be disappointed? For once, everything is absolutely perfect.”

“I’m happy too,” I tell him, and then lean up to press my lips into his. “I love you, Christian Grey.”

“I love you, Anastasia Steele.”

I bite down on my lip, trying to reign in my ridiculous smile, and then glance over him once more. “Well, shall we?”

“After you,” he replies, shaking his head good humoredly and motioning for me to go through the door first.

“Wait here,” I tell him, and then take a deep breath and turn for the waiting room. The moment I step through the door, seven pairs of eyes immediately snap up to me.

“Well?” my mother shrieks. “Were you able to find out the gender? What are we having?”

“Christian wants to tell you,” I tell them and I reach back and open the door again. He walks out with his arms held up at his sides, looking uncomfortable being put on show for everyone but still beaming with happiness. He’s covered, head to toe, in bright pink silly string.

“Oh my god, it’s a girl!” Mia shrieks, and she launches herself out of her chair at Christian, followed quickly by our now teary eyed mothers.

Next Chapter

Fifty Shades Missing

Hey everyone,

I got a request on Facebook about a week ago for my very first story, Fifty Shades Missing (Other aliases: Fifty Shades Down and Fifty Shades Continued). As you may be able to tell from the multiple titles, I was very indecisive and impatient when I first began writing, and I feel like that was reflected in the story telling, which is why I deleted it off of FanFiction in the first place. The writing isn’t great, but it was a first effort, and I learned a lot, and without this story I would have never started A Different Shade of Fifty, so I’m happy I put it out there.

For those of you who have requested this story, I hope you enjoy it. For those of you who are simply curious and want to take a look, I just want to give you the caveat that this is not nearly the caliber of Shades of Fifty. Still, I hope you will enjoy it for what it is.

Also, sorry if you got a billion emails. I tried to take the website offline while I posted but I was informed that didn’t work. Again, my apologies.

For those of you who haven’t subscribed, please do so!

Lots of Love,

WishingMrGreyWasHere

Epilogue

ANA’S POV

Christmas 2013:

“Christian!” I gasp, my hands clasping around his bare back as he makes love to me on the floor of the family room in front of a crackling fire. The christmas tree twinkles in the corner.

Slowly, achingly slowly, he pulls out of me and then pushes back in, pushing, pushing, pushing, Ah!

He leans down kisses me, his tongue rolling through my mouth, and I groan. My whole body is alight with need and sensation.

“You’re body is so beautiful, Anastasia,” he says when his lips separate from mine. He moves my hair to the side and kisses, sucks, and nibbles on my neck just below my ear. He’s moving inside of me at a maddeningly slow pace. It’s torture, but also exquisite to feel every inch of him as he plunges, purposefully, in and out.

“What did I do to deserve all of this?” he asks, and his hand runs over my naked breast. “I’m a lucky man, Mrs. Grey.”

“Christian,” I moan again, desperate for release.

“Are you ready, baby?” He asks, and I can feel rather than see his smile against my skin.

“Yes, Christian, please!” I beg and he swirls his hips around, circling inside of me. His rhythm quickens and I feel the muscles deep inside begin to tighten.

“Oh god, I’m so close,” I moan and he groans.

“I love having you like this, baby. Slow and deep. You feel so good, Anastasia.” His arm reaches up under my leg and pulls it further up, towards my chest and I feel him thrust deeper inside of me. I’m building and building.. fuck!

“Christian!” I yell and I come, gloriously, feeling him move in and out of me as my nerve endings explode.

“Yes, Anastasia,” He whispers gruffly. “Fuck, give it to me baby.” My orgasm goes on and on, intensifying as I hear Christian’s moan of pleasure when he finds his own release inside of me.

We lay together, basking in the glory of our post-coital bliss, and Christian runs his fingers over my skin.

“Can we wake him now?” He asks, and I turn disapproving eyes on him.

“It’s too early, Christian. Let him sleep. The presents aren’t going anywhere.”

He pouts and I lean over and kiss him. “You’re going to be impossible in a couple of years when he’s just as excited about the presents as you are,” I say, and he smiles at me. I kiss him softly once more and stand up to put my robe on. It is still too early to wake Teddy but I can get breakfast started so it’s ready when we do finally wake him. I pick up the baby monitor sitting on the table next to the couch and walk into the kitchen. I’m making homemade cinnamon rolls and Christian inhales deeply and moans approvingly when he smells them cooking in the oven.

I’m just pulling the buns out to ice when we hear the unmistakable cries for “Dada” over the baby monitor. Christian’s face breaks into a breathtaking, overly-excited smile and I laugh as he turns around and practically sprints up the stairs to retrieve Teddy from his crib.

When he comes back downstairs with our toddler in his arms, I’m setting breakfast out on the table. Christian grins as he sits down to his cinnamon roll and mug of hot chocolate with a candy cane sticking out over the side. I cut Teddy’s bun up into tiny pieces and he smiles broadly as he reaches down and pops them into his mouth.

“Mmm,” Christian says, looking over at Teddy.

“Yummy!” Teddy cries excitedly and I giggle. When we’ve finished, Christian wipes down the baby’s sticky face and fingers while I pile the breakfast dishes in the sink.

“Presents?” Christian asks, and I nod. He reaches down, takes Teddy’s hand, and leads him into the family room where the Christmas tree is surrounded by an outrageously large mountain of presents, nearly all of which are for Teddy.

I don’t know if I’ll ever stop loving watching how patient Christian is with Teddy. He sorts through all the presents, handing Teddy his gifts and watching delightedly as he struggles to rip away the wrapping paper. Teddy opens dozens of presents, clothes, toys, and even a model train that is really more for Christian to play with than Teddy. I reach under the tree and grab the small package I’ve wrapped for Christian.

“Teddy,” I say, “Give this one to Daddy.” Teddy stumbles over to me and wraps his little fingers around the small rectangular box. He runs to Christian and holds it out for him.

“I thought I got my present this morning,” Christian says lasciviously and I roll my eyes. I reach out, grab Teddy, and pull him into my lap as Christian tears the wrapping paper of the package. He opens the small box and pulls out a small white stick with a blue cap. His eyes widen as he looks down at the little digital screen that reads Pregnant.

“Really?” He asks, his voice trembling with his held back excitement.

I nod and he launches himself at me, pulling both me and Teddy into a tight hug.

“Oh god, Ana!” He says, and when he pulls away, there are tears in his eyes. “This makes me the happiest man in the world.” He reaches down and places his hand over my stomach.

“How far along?”

“Only about five or six weeks,” I answer and then his lips are on mine. I feel Teddy yank on my robe and we both look down at him. Christian picks him up, lifting him into the air, and spins him around. Teddy laughs and screams with joy as Christian pulls him down into a tight hug.

“Do you want to be a big brother?” he asks.

“No, I want presents.” We both laugh and Christian reaches out and digs with him through the gifts under the tree as I watch, staring at the two men who make my life complete.

The End.

 

Chapter 23

ANA’S POV

“It’s done,” Christian says as he hangs up his cell phone. I’m sitting on his desk and he looks up at me. “Leila said she practically ran from the apartment.”

I nod but I’m still feeling uneasy. All the people we’ve been fighting, they’re gone. The only problem left to face is us.

“What is it, Ana?” Christian asks. “It’s over. Linc and Elena are behind bars and Rachel is out of the picture.

“I don’t know what to do now,” I say. “We’re supposed to move on from here, but I don’t know how.” His eyes darken and he looks away from me, staring down at the desk or maybe into nothing as he speaks.

“Are you going back to Escala tonight?”

“I don’t know, Christian,” I whisper.

“What do I have to do, Ana? Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. I’ll give you anything, do anything. Just tell me what you want and it’s yours.”

“It’s not that simple. There isn’t a quick fix. I need to find a way to trust you again.”

“We could see Flynn,” Christian suggests.

Hm. That’s a good idea. He hasn’t been to see Flynn in months. Not since before the kidnapping, not since Teddy was born. Maybe Flynn could help us both.

“Yes, I think that’s a good idea,” I say.

“I’ll make the appointment tomorrow morning,” He replies. He stands and presses his forehead against mine. My body is aching for his touch but I don’t move.

“Stay with me tonight,” He breathes.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Christian. If I stay, we’re going to end up having sex and I don’t want us to just push these problems aside. I want us to deal with them so we can move on. I don’t want any more dark clouds hanging over us.”

“Ana,” he pleads, and I can feel his head shift slightly. He wants to kiss me and I want to kiss him, but I know where that will lead. I need to leave.

Slowly, I maneuver around him and slide off the desk. I’m walking out of the office when his voice stops me.

“Can I keep Teddy?” he asks. I turn and look at him, struggling with myself. I have had Teddy all week, but I don’t want to go back to Escala alone.

“Please, Ana,” He begs. “I’ve been alone in this house all week.”

“Okay, Christian,” I concede. “Call me in the morning.”

“I love you,” He says.

“I love you, too.”

I walk back into Escala with a heavy heart. Ryan and Sawyer have followed me home and when we emerge into the foyer, they head straight for Taylor’s office.

“Mrs. Grey?” Archer, my security guard, asks as he watches Sawyer and Ryan walk past.

“Archer. I’m bringing Mr. Grey’s team back on so I won’t be requiring your services any longer.” I reach into my purse, pull out a small white card and hand it to him. “This is Jason Taylor’s card. Give him a call. I’m sure he’s always looking for a good man.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Grey,” he says and he walks past me. I feel bad as I hear the elevator door ping. How is Christian so good at firing people?

I walk into the kitchen and pour myself a glass of wine, and as I’m staring out at the view of Seattle, I hear a loud crash and the sound of wood reverberating over the floor.

“Shit,” a voice says, and I set my glass down and walk around the counter to investigate. As I turn around the corner, I see Leila gathering items into a box and reaching out to pick up the canes that are rolling across the floor, Ryan rushes out into the living room.

“Mrs. Grey, the visitors haven’t…” He begins but stops as he realizes I can clearly see Leila standing in front of me.

“It’s okay, Ryan. I’ll call if I need anything.”

“Mrs. Grey?”

“I’m fine. Go,” I say and he turns around and disappears. I take two steps forward and bend down to pick up the canes that have rolled across the floor to me.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Grey,” Leila says, reaching out to take them from me. Her face is burning bright red. “I didn’t think you’d be home so soon.”

“Are you here by yourself?” I ask, hoping I’m not about to face the entirety of Christian’s sexual past.

“Yes,” She says. “The girls left right after Rachel did but Mr. Grey wanted all of these things gone before you got back here.”

“I see,” I say. “Can I help you?”

“No, Mrs. Grey,” She shakes her head. “This is the last of it. I’ll just see myself out.”

“Good-bye, Leila.”

“Good-bye, Mrs. Grey,” she says. She walks to the foyer but pauses and turns back to me. “I was sorry to hear about what happened to you. I know that must have been a nightmare for you and for Mr. Grey. I’m glad that he found you. It’s nice to see him happy.”

“Thank-you, Leila,” I mutter, not knowing what else to say. She nods and turns to leave. Are we happy? We were. So happy. Obliviously happy. Will we ever be there again?

I’m an emotional wreck the next morning but after our session with Flynn, I feel a little better. Christian and I have the same goals. We both want to be together in a fulfilling, passionate, nurturing relationship. We both want to be loving parents to Teddy. We just need to find a way to let go of the hurt and accept that at the end of the day, we both love each other deeply and neither one of us wants to hurt the other.

I’m not innocent in this. I’ve been blaming it all on Christian. He almost betrayed me, he contacted Elena, he went to Escala… but, just as he’s touched on those insecurities deep inside me, that I’m not enough because I can’t be a submissive to him, I’ve hit him back the same way. I have betrayed his trust as well. I think back to what he said in the session with Flynn.

Everytime it gets hard, you run.

And it’s true. When that package came, I didn’t even give him a chance to talk to me. I just stormed away and shut him out. When I found Elena’s phone, I couldn’t get away from him fast enough, and every time he tried to talk to me, I refused to listen. If I want him to earn my trust, than I need to earn his in return. No more running, Anastasia.

“Are you going back to Escala?” He asks when we’re in the parking lot outside Flynn’s office.

“No,” I say. “I think it’s time for me to come back home.”

He smiles. “Ride with me?”

“But I have my car,” I argue.

“Ryan can take it.” He motions to the SUV parked on the other side of the parking lot and Ryan gets out. I hand him my keys and climb into the front seat of the Saab while Christian buckles Teddy into the car seat behind me.

Driving down the highway to our house feels right. Christian holds my hand, rubbing his thumb over my fingers, while our baby sleeps in the back seat. This is everything I want. Right here in this car.

“What are you thinking about?” Christian asks as we pull up the driveway towards the house.

“How much I love you.”

“I love you too, baby. More than the world.”

When we walk into the house, I feel an overwhelming sense of relief. I’m home with Christian and Teddy, where I belong. Christian disappears into his office and I take Teddy out to the living room, planning on putting on a movie and relaxing on the couch with Christian for the rest of the afternoon. I’m looking over the movies when I hear Christian behind me. I turn and he’s standing behind the couch looking at me, determined, but also nervous.

“What’s wrong?” I ask. He comes around the couch and holds out a CD in a blank jewel case.

“What is this I ask?” shifting Teddy so I can hold him with one arm and take the disk from him.

“This is the CCTV footage from Escala, from that morning…” He begins. “There isn’t a camera in the playroom but I thought maybe you’d like to see the rest.”

I look down in the disk in my hand. Why didn’t I think of this? Of course there is security footage. This will prove it. I’ll know for certain what happened after all. I frown and hold the disk back out from Christian.

“You don’t want to watch it?” He asks.

“No,” I say. “I want to move on. I believe you, Christian, and I’m choosing to let go of these past few weeks and move on. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and if you say nothing happened, nothing happened. I don’t need security footage.”

He smiles and wraps me in his arms, and tells me, softly, that he loves me.

“Never again will I give you a reason to doubt me, Ana.”

We spend the rest of the afternoon watching movies and playing in the back yard with Teddy. Christian and I talk like we haven’t talked in ages and we watch the sunset over the sound. We have dinner alfresco on our balcony and when it’s time to put Teddy down for the night, I stand in the doorway and watch Christian sing him to sleep. I don’t know if I could think of a more appropriate lullaby than I’ve Got You Under My Skin and my heart melts as Christian moves away from the crib and gazes at me singing, Yes I’ve got you, under my skin.

He leans down and kisses me and as I feel his love wash over me, I know we’re going to be okay.

We walk down to the living room and I pour us two glasses of wine while Christian turns on his iPod. I want to laugh as I walk into the living room and hear the familiar guitar chords of Sex on Fire by Kings of Leon.

As the tempo picks up, Christian turns around and begins “doing the twist”. I laugh and when Caleb Followill begins to sing, Christian animatedly mouths the words along with him. Oh, playful Fifty, how I’ve missed you. He dances around the living room while I giggle and when the chorus begins, I can’t help it. I’m jumping around too, lip syncing along with Christian.

He reaches out for my hand and twists me into him, holding me close as we sway back and forth. When the song ends, he doesn’t let me go.

“I love you, Anastasia,” he tells me. “Let’s never fight again.”

“No,” I say, turning around so I’m facing him. “Let’s fight all the time. Because after the fight, comes the hot make-up sex.”

“Anastasia,” he says, feigning shock.

“We have a lot of fighting to make up for,” I say. “I hope you’re up to the challenge.”

“We aim to please, Mrs. Grey.”

He scoops me up into his arms, kisses me deeply, and carries me off to our bedroom.

 

Chapter 22

RACHEL’S POV

When I get to work on Friday, there is a new computer being installed on my desk. I’m surprised, isn’t it a little early for IT?

“Miss Carrington,” one of the IT guys greets me.

“Hello,” I say. “What’s all this?”

“Mr. Grey has ordered a computer for you, Miss Carrington. We’ll have it set up in no time.” I nod, place my purse in the bottom drawer and set off to start a pot of coffee. Where is Andrea? She’s always here before me. Seriously, sometimes I wonder if she sleeps here. Not last night, I guess.

Once I’ve got the coffee started, I grab a banana out of the snack drawer and head back to my desk, remembering: The submissive will not snack between meals, with the exception of fruit.

Andrea’s at the desk when I get back.

“Thanks, Gus,” She says as the IT guy walks away and her eyes snap up to me. She looks weird for a moment but then she smiles. She’s been acting weird this week, I wonder what’s up? Maybe something’s going on at home and that’s why she was late this morning. Is it too soon for me to ask a personal question like that?

“Good morning, Rachel,” she says. “I’m sorry I was late.”

“No problem, I got the coffee started. What’s with the computer?” I ask again.

“Oh..” She frowns. “Mr. Grey ordered it. He said he didn’t want me sharing an email program with you.”

I smile, oh yes. I’ve got him.

“He’s so weird sometimes,” I say with false bemusement. She narrows her eyes at me. Oh no, Andrea, this is one thing about Mr. Grey that I’m going to know and you aren’t.

The elevator pings and we both turn to greet Mr. Grey as he steps into the lobby.

“Good Morning, Mr. Grey,” I say, beating Andrea to the punch.

“Good Morning, Rachel,” He says, his voice is darker than usual, heady. My breath hitches as I realize he’s addressed me by my first name for the first time. He glances over me sending a shiver up my sigh. He’s so damn beautiful.

“Get me some coffee,” He commands, and he nods at Andrea before he enters his office.

“Huh…” Andrea says. “I was Miss Parker for a year before he started calling me Andrea.”

That’s because you can offer him what I can, Andrea.

He knows. I know he knows its me now and he’s… intrigued.

“Rachel!” Andrea snaps. “What are you doing? Coffee, now!”

Oh, right. I hurry to the break room and get a cup for… Master. Hmm. I like that. I wonder how this is going to work with Mrs. Grey? I know he has two houses. Will he meet me at his apartment and keep Mrs. Grey at home with the baby? Well, that’s for him to figure out. All that matters at the end of the day, is that I have him.

I smile with satisfaction as I stride purposefully across the lobby to the double wooden doors to Grey’s office. I straighten my skirt and walk inside. When I enter, his eyes glance up and he watches every step I take across the room. There’s something different about the way he looks at me. I’ts.. possessive almost. Oh yes, he wants this.

“Your coffee, Sir,” I emphasize the last word.

“Miss Carrington,” He says. “Have a seat.”

I move to the chair across from him and slowly sit down, his eyes following me as I go.

“What can I do for you, sir?” I ask.

“You’re fired,” He says simply, and my stomach drops. What? Shit!

“M-Mr. Grey?” I stutter. Fuck, I’ve read this whole thing wrong. He can’t be firing me for the -S stuff… he has no proof it was me. Does he?

“This is you, isn’t it?” He asks, turning his monitor towards me. “Stealing confidential documents of the GEH server?”

It’s a video of me at the desk, the day I found the contract. Cameras, fuck! Why did I look around?

“I-I,” I stutter. I don’t know what to say.

“I found a lot of interesting things on this video. You know, I never did get those contract revisions Mrs. Klein dropped off on your desk. And going through my phone? Miss Carrington…” he clicks his tongue disapprovingly at me. He’s mocking me. Well, Grey, if that’s how you want to play it.

“I don’t think you want to fire me, Mr. Grey,” I say softly.

“Oh, don’t you?” he asks.

“No, because what’s to stop me from sending that contract out? I’m sure Harvey Levin would love some personal information on the elusive Christian Grey.”

His eyes narrow and he brushes his finger over his bottom lip. “I’d rather hoped you planned on signing that contract.”

I breathe in deeply. I wasn’t wrong. He does want this. “You mean, you’re looking for someone to fulfil the terms of that contract for you?”

“I’m saying that just because our professional relationship has to end, doesn’t mean a contractual one can’t exist.”

I stare into his stone gray eyes. He reaches out and presses the intercom button on his handset.

“Yes, Mr. Grey,” Andrea answers

“Fax me the contract, Andrea. I need it by this afternoon.” He doesn’t take my eyes off of me.

“Yes, sir,” she says.

“We’ll need to set up a meeting place, so I can have you sign the contract this afternoon,” he tells me.

“There is coffee shop right around the corner from my apartment,” I tell him and he nods.

“I’ll have Taylor meet you there at 1:30.”

I smile. “Well, if that’s all Mr. Grey. I shall speak to you very soon.”

His mouth curls into a half smile and I turn to leave. Well, I’ll need to find a new job, but I’ve gotten what I want. Besides, I’m sure, after our first night together, Mr. Grey will give me an excellent reference.

Later that afternoon, I walk from my apartment to the coffee shop on the corner. I order a latte and sit by the window. I see Taylor walk in at 1:28.

“Miss Carrington,” he says, and he pulls out a manilla envelope and hands it to me. I reach inside and slide out the contract and read over it again. The only revisions he’s made has been to input my information. I sign my name on the bottom and date.

Taylor takes the contract back and hands me an envelope with the address to Escala, a time to meet him there, and a code to get inside.

Before heading home, I decide to stop by the salon. Per the contract, Mr. Grey will reimburse me for the services I have done and I want to make sure I’m perfect when I meet him this evening.

At exactly 7 o’clock I pull into Escala, parking in the spot the information Taylor gave me tells me to. I punch the code in the elevator and am whisked up to the 31st floor. I’m released into a beautiful foyer and walk out into a vast, modern looking living room. I don’t see anyone… Strange. I was sure he’d be here. Maybe he’s late? It doesn’t sound like him, but I guess he does have to get here without his wife knowing.

I’m distracted from my worries by the beautiful view of the Seattle skyline. Wow, I can see the whole city from up here. There is a noise behind me and I turn to see a girl with long light brown hair coming down the stairs behind me. Shit, Mrs. Grey? No, this girl is taller than Mrs. Grey. Who the hell?

“Hello,” She says to me. “You must be Rachel, or do you prefer to be called S?”

“Who are you?” I ask, my eyes narrowing.

“Uh, uh, uh,” she says. “Rule number one, no questions. A good submissive does as she’s told and never asks questions.”

I stare back at her blankly. What the fuck is this? Her eyes narrow slightly.

“We’re here to help, Rachel. You’re inexperienced and Mr. Grey will be very intimidating for a first timer. We’re going to… help you through the basics.”

“We?” I ask. She motions for me to follow her with her finger and heads back up the stairs. When I’m in the upstairs hallway, I see another brown haired girl standing outside an open door that pours light into the hallway. She’s standing with her head pointed down to the ground.

“It’s okay, Susie. You can look up,” the brown haired girl who led me up the steps says and the other girl, Susie, snaps her head up. She smiles at me too.

“Oh, Lulu, she’s overdressed,” Susie says. Lulu? The first brunette nods and Susie turns to address me.

“Strip,” Susie commands. Fuck she’s serious. No! Where is Mr. Grey?

“Uh, oh, Susie. It looks like Miss Carrington here just disobeyed a direct command. What would Mr. Grey do?”

“I bet Sophia knows what Mr. Grey would do,” Susie says. I hear the crack of a whip from inside the room and the sound of high heels clacking against hard wood. What?

Another woman, again a brunette, walks out of the room, brandishing a whip.

“Does there seem to be a problem, Leila?” Sophia asks and she glares down at me wickedly.

“It doesn’t look like Miss Carrington wants to wear the appropriate attire for the playroom, Sophia.”

“Oh dear, that is a problem. I think five lashes ought to cure that.”

“Mr. Grey would do six,” Susie says. Sophia raises the whip, shit!

“Okay, okay,” I say, and I strip down to my panties. Fuck, this is humiliating.

“Follow me,” Leila says and she leads me into a dark red room. I’m floored, there must be ten brown haired women in here. Who are these people? Ex-submissives? It would explain why they keep telling me what Mr. Grey would do. There is a girl on the floor next to the door, her hands on her knees. She too stares down at the floor.

“Amanda here is demonstrating submissive pose,” Leila tells me. “Get on you knees.”

I crouch down, nervous now. What are they going to do to me?

“Do you have a blindfold, Julia?” Susie asks.

“Absolutely, Susie,” another voice answers. I look up.

“Uh oh..” Lelia says. “She looked up without being told.”

“I don’t think she’s scared of the whip, Sophia. Better grab the cane,” Susie says, she looks down at me. “Mr. Grey loves the cane.”

One of the brown hair girls throws a long wooden cane across the room and Sophia catches it. She twirls it in her hand and then brings it down, hard, on my back. I scream as I feel the bite of the cane. Pain ricochets through me and my skin feels like it’s on fire. Fuck that hurt. That really fucking hurt.

“Have you had enough?” Leila asks, and I nod my head profusely, unable to speak as my skin is still blazing where I was hit.

Sophia bends down to my level. “Mr. Grey would do six,” she says again. I’m shaking.

“Get her up,” Leila says and Amanda and Susie pull me to my feet. Leila walks across the room, and stands in front of a large wooden cross.

“Here will do,” She says, and I’m dragged across the room by Amanda and Susie. They push me against the cross and my hands and feet are attacked by the woman who wrap leather straps around my wrists and ankles, restraining me. I can’t move.

“Which drawer, would Mr. Grey choose?” A girl sitting on a large wooden cabinet asks.

“She doesn’t have any limits,” Leila says. “I say, go broke or go home.”

The girl on the chest smiles and reaches down into a drawer, pulling out some horrible looking metal object. Where does that go? Fuck, what does Grey have in those drawers? She approaches me with a malevolent smile.

“Wait!” Leila says. “We’re forgetting something. Addison?”

The girl against the far wall approaches and pulls out a camera. She brings it up to her face as Sophia hits me with the cane down again. I scream and the camera clicks. It’s a polaroid camera and I hear the picture begin to print. It clicks again and again as I try to regain my focus after the second blow.

“Insurance policy,” Leila whispers in my ear.

I can’t do this. I’d imagined kinky sex with a hot man, with Mr. Grey. Not being tortured and tied up by a group of crazy women. Is this what he’s into? More than handcuffs and ball gags? Sophia’s voice rings in my head: Mr. Grey would do six. I think back to the contract:

Which of the following types of pain/punishment/discipline are acceptable to the Submissive?

  • Spanking
  • Paddling
  • Whipping
  • Caning
  • Biting
  • Nipple clamps
  • Genital clamps
  • Ice
  • Hot wax
  • Other types/methods of pain

Fuck, that was serious? I look around at the canes and whips on the wall. No. I was thinking spanking, maybe a slap or two. This is some heavy shit. I don’t want that… I don’t want any of that.

“Stop!” I scream.

“That’s not a safe word, Rachel,” Leila says. “Mr. Grey only stops for safe words.”

Fuck… what was the safe word?

“Red!” I yell.

“Take her down,” Leila says, and, in seconds, I’m released. I look into the eyes of the women around me, staring at me, glaring at me.

“You’re all crazy!” I scream.

“No, we’re all submissives. This is what Master wants. Is it what you want S?” The girl with the camera, Addison, says. I need to get out of here, now!

I move quickly for the door, picking up my clothes, and begin to sprint for the stairs.

“Oh, Rachel,” I hear Leila call after me once I’m in the living room. Remember, you have the contract but we have pictures. I’d hate to hear anything about Mr. Grey on TMZ. Almost as much as I’d hate for everyone you know and love to see pictures of you tied to a cross, along with anything else Taylor can dig up…”

“I won’t!” I yell and I reach in my purse for the folder I keep the contract in. I dump it on the ground and run.

 

Chapter 21

ANA’S POV

In the morning, I’m blinded by the sunlight flooding in through the open windows. My head is throbbing. Ugh, why did I drink so much last night? Oh, right… Christian.

I turn over, trying to cover my eyes with my forearm and I feel a wave of nausea hit me. Oh no. As quickly as I can, I throw myself out of the bed and run for the bathroom.

“Ana?” I hear Kate ask from behind the door. I’m sure the violent sound has waken her. “Are you okay?”

“No,” I moan back. Slowly, I get up and turn on the faucet to rinse my mouth out. Then I turn to face her.

“You look terrible,” She says when I open the door.

“I feel terrible,” I tell her and I stomp back to the bed and bury myself in the duvet.

“Can I get you anything?” Kate asks, worried. Crap. I don’t think there is any food in the house. We haven’t been here in months. Well, I haven’t.

“I don’t think there is anything in the kitchen, Kate. Will you hand me my phone? I think I’m going to have to call in.”

She hands the blackberry to me and I call Roach. Mercifully, the call is short. When I hang up, I notice a text message from Christian.

 

How are you feeling this morning?

 

Nope. Not ready to face that yet. I put the phone on the nightstand and wrench myself to my feet. Kate helps steady me as the room shifts and pitches like a boat on the rough sea, and then helps me out to the kitchen.

“There’s some crackers here,” She says, digging through the cupboards.

“Crackers sound good,” I say, my head resting on the breakfast bar. We hear the ping of the elevator and my new security guards walk into the great room from the foyer.

“There’s a Mrs. Jones here, Mrs. Grey?” He says.

Mrs. Jones? I nod to him, and he disappears back into the foyer.

“Good Morning, Mrs. Grey,” Mrs. Jones says brightly as she walks into the room. My head pounds at her high, too loud voice and I groan. She’s carrying grocery bags though, so at least I’ll be able to eat something and absorb all this alcohol.

“What can I make you for breakfast?” She asks.

“How about an omelet, Gail? She needs something nutritious,” Kate says.

“Coming right up. Would you like one as well, Mrs. Grey?”

Kate nods and smiles as she takes the bar stool next to me and rubs her hand gently over my back. When Mrs. Jones sets the omelet in front of me, my stomach twists but I know I need to eat. I force small mouthfuls down and wash them down with orange juice. When I’m finish, I feel a little better, but not much.

“I’m thinking pajamas and movies, what do you think?” Kate asks, and I nod my head.

“Is there anything you need, Mrs. Grey?” Gail asks as I push away from the breakfast bar. “I’m going out this afternoon for the basics for you and Theodore but if you want anything special I can pick it up while I’m out.”

Truthfully, though I can’t allow myself to say it… What I want is Christian. Not this new Christian, the person he’s become since I was kidnapped. The constantly obsessed with finding kidnappers, contacting Mrs. Robinson, and nearly has his way with a submissive Christian. I want the playful, good husband, good father, slightly controlling but loves me wholly and irrationally Christian. Does all of this mean that I can never get that back? Do I have to let him go? I don’t want to. The thought is painful, intolerable, but I don’t know what to do with what’s been broken.

“Ana!” Kate calls to me and my head pounds.

“What?” I whimper back.

“It’s Elena, she’s on the news!”

I look over at the TV and see side by side pictures of Elena Lincoln and a man I’ve never seen but the TV tells me is John Lincoln. The pictures are mug shots. Oh, so it wasn’t a scene? Did Christian really have Elena arrested yesterday?

I try to mull this over in my head as the newscaster tells me about a trial date set for the kidnappers of one of Seattle’s richest businessman’s wife. Does this make a difference, now that I know he didn’t do what I thought he did with Elena in his office yesterday? I think about the package he received Sunday night and the mail that came through my office yesterday. It was signed S… Who is S?

“Did you know, Christian had her arrested?” Kate asks me.

“I-I saw Elena come out of his office in handcuffs yesterday, but I didn’t believe.,.” My voice cuts off.

“Ana. You know I love you and I’ll support you whatever you want to do… but are you sure you want this?” And I know she’s talking about a separation from Christian. The truth is, I don’t know. I’m just so hurt. I know I can’t just go back to the way it was. Not for a while at least. But to lose him completely? I shake my head at her and turn around, walking towards my bedroom.

When I’m alone again, I do a quick emotional inventory. Nope, I don’t think I’m going to cry… I change out of my t-shirt and into real pajamas. Okay, a pair of sweats and one of Christian’s t-shirts. When I turn around, I see the blue light on my blackberry blinking. I pick it up, there is an email from Christian.

 

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Sick day

Date: September 11th 2012 09:45 AM

To: Anastasia Grey

You’re that sick? I know what it takes to get you to take a day off work. Please call me, Anastasia. I’m worried. Oh, and Teddy is at the house with Mia. Would you like me to have her bring him to you at Escala? You can go home if you want to. I know you’ll be more comfortable there. I can stay in the apartment if you prefer.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

 

I type a response.

 

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Sick day

Date: September 11th 2012. 10:15 AM

To: Christian Grey

I’ll be fine, Christian. I just need the afternoon to recuperate. I’ll call Mia, and no, you can stay at the house. I’m too sick to leave right now.

Anastasia Grey

Commissioning Editor, Grey Publishing.

 

When I hit send, I exit out of the mail and dial Mia’s number. She doesn’t answer but before I can even start recording a voicemail, my phone beeps and tells me she’s calling on the other line.

“Hi, Mia,” I answer.

“Sorry, Ana. I was just laying Teddy down for a nap,” she says.

“That’s okay. Hey, Kate and I are having a movie and PJs day at Escala. Do you want to bring Teddy over and join us?”

“Sure!” She says. “I’m going to have to borrow some PJs though.”

“Oh there’s plenty there,” I laugh.

“I’ll be over soon, Ana. Laters!”

“Laters!” I say back, and I’m smiling when I hang up. Maybe this is what I’ve been missing. Girl time.

Kate, Mia, and I spend the afternoon watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Pretty Woman, and Bridesmaids. All three of us are laughing out of control and I realize that I’m not ready to give this up. The relationship between Mia and I would never be the same if I left Christian and things may even change between Kate and I, now that she too is a Mrs. Grey. Part of the reason I fell in love was Christian was his family. Grace, Elliot, Mia, even Carrick. They’re all my family now too because of Christian and I don’t want to lose them.

It’s getting dark and Mia has to head home. She hugs me and makes me promise we’ll do something like this again soon. I smile and tell her anytime, anywhere. Kate decides to go too. Apparently she feels guilty for ignoring her own husband while I’ve been fighting with mine and I don’t blame her. In fact, I feel a little guilty too. But when she leaves, Teddy and I are alone. It’s unsettling. Sure there is security here, but it’s not family.

After I’ve put Teddy to bed for the night, I stare out the window over the lights of Seattle. I remember I used to think of Christian as hiding from the world in his ivory tower. Is that what I’m doing now? Hiding from our problems instead of facing them? Maybe I should call, Christian. We really need to talk. I walk to the kitchen counter to pick up my blackberry when I’m distracted, once again, by my security guard.

“Mrs. Grey, there is an Andrea Weber here to see you,” he says.

“Let her in,” I say and he leaves to fetch her from the foyer. A few seconds later I see Christian’s assistant walking nervously towards me.

“Mrs. Grey,” she begins, “I hope I’m not intruding but I need to speak with you. You didn’t come to work today and I didn’t think this was a suitable conversation to have over the phone.”

“What is it, Andrea?” I ask, gesturing to the couch. She smiles gratefully and takes a seat.

“Mrs. Grey, I think your husband is being blackmailed… and I think it’s my fault.”

“What do you mean?” I ask and she reaches into her purse, pulls out an envelope, and hands it to me. I open the letter and read:

Your lack of response is disheartening, Mr. Grey. If you don’t want to play my game, I may have to tell your secret to TMZ. I’m sure the media would love to know the true Christian Grey. You have until Friday to decide. –S

I stare up at her and her eyes fall to the floor.

“Where did you get this?” I ask.

“He’s been asking me to shred the letters,” She hesitates and looks up at me more determined. “Ok, look. I know. I know about you, and Susannah, and Leila, and Caroline, and Charlotte, and…”

I hold my hand up and grimace. “I get it, you know.”

“The NDA you signed?” she continues. “I emailed it to him because I always email it to him. And the contract, I fax it to him. He likes it faxed to him so that it has a date and time stamp. There is only one electronic copy of that document, Mrs. Grey and it’s on my computer at GEH, only accessible from my profile… It’s password protected and even has a firewall on it so that IT can’t access it remotely. In fact, my entire computer profile was taken off the GEH monitoring system to prevent security or IT from finding those documents.”

“Sounds like my husband trusts you,” I say gently.

“He does, and he should, Mrs. Grey. I would never do anything to break that trust. Which is why when you handed me the list of hard limits. When I got this letter, I knew that “S” had the contract, so someone had gotten into my computer. I checked the document access history on my computer and saw the last time it had been accessed was in the middle of the day on September 3rd. Mrs. Grey, I haven’t accessed that document since…”

“It’s okay, Andrea. You don’t have to be embarrassed. Go, on.”

“The last time I accessed that document was last May when he had me fax it to him for you and my desk is never left unattended while the building is open. There is only one person who could have gotten into it. Mrs. Grey, I think I know who S is.”

“Who?” I ask.

“I don’t want to lose my job…” She says nervously.

“Don’t worry about that, Andrea. Tell me what you know.”

“It was her first day. IT was delayed in creating her profile because GP was moving into the building and they were busy setting up your systems on the network… so I was letting her use my email, my profile, until her’s could be set up. I didn’t think in the hour I was away, she would go through my documents and happen upon the one thing she couldn’t see. That she would be interested enough to open it and find the password for the contract.”

“It was Rachel?” I ask, horrified.

“I swear, Mrs. Grey, she was vetted. Her resume was perfect, we got her from Jeff Bezos’ office for god sakes. Her references were glowing… Even Taylor passed her without any hesitation. There was nothing in her past that would suggest she was capable of something like this.”

“What did my husband say when he interviewed her?”

“He didn’t. She was hired when you were recovering. He was working from home so he just asked me to send him the profile I had on her and he approved her. That was it. The first time he met her face to face was her first day. She was attracted to him, but they always are at first. I didn’t think it would turn into this…”

“No, Andrea. You couldn’t have known. Don’t worry, I’m going to straighten this out.”

“He’s going to fire me,” she says, and I can hear her struggling not to cry.

“No, Andrea. It’s not your fault. I won’t let him fire you.” I reach out and grasp her shoulder reassuringly.

Holy shit, this means the package wasn’t his fault. The letter, Elena… all misunderstandings.

“Archer!” I yell and my security guard runs into the room. “I need to get to my house, will you grab my coat?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he says and hurries off to get ready to leave.

“Andrea, will you watch Teddy for me? Or Call Grace or Kate?” I ask.

“I’ll watch him, Mrs. Grey. No problem.”

“Thank-you,” I say gratefully and I dart into the foyer.

“Christian!” I yell, as I barge through the front door of the big house. I hear a scuffling sound and he hurries around the corner so I can see him down the hallway.

“Ana?” He asks. “Where’s Teddy.”

“Andrea has him.”

“Andrea?”

“Christian, she told me. We figured out who “S” is. It’s your new assistant, Rachel.”

“Rachel? Miss Carrington?”

“Yes, she found the contract on Andrea’s computer and apparently… she’s crazy.”

“When? How?” He stutters.”Only Andrea has access to the contract. Why was she on Andrea’s profile?”

“Andrea said the document was accessed on September 3rd, before Rachel’s profile was set up. Andrea was on lunch and she must have found the document.”

His face shifts and he darts towards his office, I follow after him.

“What are you doing?” I ask, but he’s already on his blackberry.

“Barney, I need you to give me remote access to the security footage at GEH. I need the tapes of my lobby on September 3rd from 10am to 2pm. Christian sits down at his computer and logs on to a page that has the Grey Enterprises Holdings logo in the banner. He clicks around the page and a big black box pops up.

I watch as a mouse moves across the screen and pulls up a video. Barney must be feeding in the footage. He fast forwards through the footage quickly and I blush as I see myself storm into the office, knowing what the outcome of that meeting was. When I’m inside, Andrea leaves the desk and Taylor and Welch come out of Christian’s office.

“Slow it down here, Barney,” Christian says. The video slows to just faster than real time. I watch a woman come out of the elevator and hand Rachel and envelope. She walks to the door of Christian’s office, pauses, and then slowly opens it, only to straighten with shock and ease the door close.

“Well, that’s just fucking fabulous,” Christian growls as we watch Rachel shuffle back to her desk and bury her head in her arms. Nothing happens for a bit and then I come out of the office, followed by Christian. He sets his phone on the desk and then returns to his office.

“Why did you leave her your phone?” I ask.

“Andrea usually charges it for me,” He answers and we watch Rachel pick up the phone and look at it. “Although it looks like I’m going to have to get a charger in my office.”

She doesn’t set down the phone for several minutes and when she does, she’s looking around the office guiltily. Then she turns to the computer and stares at it for a minute. We watch as she straightens, looks wildly around the office, back at the computer, and then she begins digging through things on the desk. She lifts the keyboard and then types something into the computer. A few minutes later, Andrea walks in.

“Do we have another view of the computer screen there, Barney?” Christian asks. He pauses for minute, listening to Barney’s response. He frowns.

“Thank you, Barney.” Another pause and then Christian hangs up.

“Well that’s it right?” I ask. “That’s when she found it?”

“It has to be.”

“So what are you going to do?” I ask. His eyes darken.

“Well, fire her, to start.”

“But, Christian, she has the contract. What if she sends it to the media?”

“Then I’ll sue her for breach of her NDA,” he says cooly.

“That’s not going to change the fact that everyone will know. Your family. Christ, what about when Teddy is old enough to know what that means?”

“You’re not suggesting I give in to her demands?” Christian asks, appalled.

“No! Of course not. But what if we can find away to show her she doesn’t want what she’s asking for?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, if she wants to be a submissive, I think we should give her a crash course in Christian Grey, and I know just the way to do it.”

Christian hangs up the phone and I stare at him.

“Well it’s done,” he says, “Are you sure you’re okay with this?” I nod my head, though I’m not really sure.

“Well then,” he says, “Let the scene begin.”

 

Chapter 20

ANASTASIA POV

“Happy Birthday, to you. Happy Birthday, to you. Happy birthday, dear Ana. Happy Birthday, to you.”

I stir awake and turn to see Kate standing over me. She’s holding a stack of pancakes with three candles stuck in the center. I groan. I really don’t feel like celebrating.

“So I was thinking,” Kate says, sitting on the bed. “You should call into work and we should spend the whole day together doing awesome things.”

I sit up. “I can’t Kate. I’ve already missed too much work.”

“But it’s your birthday,” she pouts.

“I really don’t feel like celebrating,” I say. She pushes the pancakes into my lap and I smile, blowing softly until the candles are extinguished.

“I’m not letting you be miserable on your birthday. Fuck Christian. Let’s go out tonight. Somewhere amazing. I’ll call Jose!”

I smile. It would be nice to get out, to be distracted from the mess my marriage has become, and it would be nice to see Jose.

“What do you mean by amazing, Kate?” I ask.

“A club! We could go to Christia…. oh wait, no.” Her brow furrows as she thinks of a different idea.

“Just pick a small dive bar with a pool table. We can go get hamburgers, and french fries, and drink beer all night,” I say.

“If that’s what you’re into Anastasia,” she replies, disappointed.

I nod and hand her back the pancakes. “Here, I don’t have time for breakfast. I’ve got to get Teddy to Grace so I can get to work.”

“Oh Shit, Ana! Grace has that Leukemia fundraiser tonight. Do you think Mia will watch Teddy? I guess I can ask Elliot.”

“I’ll email, Christian. I’m sure he would like a night with his son.” I swallow the lump in my throat as I realize that I won’t be spending my birthday with my husband.

“Sounds good,” Kate says, leaping to her feet. She walks to the door and then turns back around. “Oh, those security guys you hired last night are here.”

“Tell them I’ll be ready to leave in half an hour.”

She nods and closes the door.

When I get to GEH, I’m met at the front door by Sawyer and Ryan.

“Mrs. Grey,” Sawyer greets me.

“Sawyer, Ryan. I no longer require your services. I have my own security detail that will watch over me. You are dismissed,” I say.

“I’m sorry. Mrs. Grey,” Sawyer responds. “I don’t believe you have the authorization to do that.”

I glare at him. “My name is also on the bank account your paychecks come from and I’m telling you, you’re fired.” I storm passed them, pleased as I hear my own security guards stop them from following me. We get into the elevator and ride up to the 19th floor.

“You two better stay here,” I tell my security team. “It won’t be long before my husband finds out and I’m sure he’ll be down here. He’s not to be allowed in. I also want you to keep out those two men from downstairs and a man named Jason Taylor, think of it as a proscribed list. In fact, if anyone comes to see me, have them approved by Hannah before you let them in.”

“Yes ma’am,” The tallest one replies. Archer, I believe. I nod and walk through the door.

“Good-morning, Ana!” Claire greets me and I smile at her, pleased by the feeling of normalcy. I stop at Hannah’s desk and she holds out a cupcake for me.

“Happy Birthday, Mrs. Grey,” she smiles.

“Thank you, Hannah. Mr. Grey will probably be down here in a few minutes, but he’s not to be let in. He’ll probably find a way though, so I’ll be keeping my door locked. I just don’t want you to panic.”

“Sure, Ana. Can I get you anything?”

“No, thank you,” I reply. I turn and enter my office, locking the door behind me. Whew, there is a relaxing sense of solitude being locked behind the door. I feel like I haven’t had time alone to think in ages.

I haven’t even got my computer started up yet when I hear the tornado that is Christian Grey blow through my office. The door handle jiggles and is then followed by three loud bangs.

“Anastasia, open the fucking door!” He screams.

I reach down for the intercom button on my phone and push it down, knowing he’ll be able to hear me better over Hannah’s handset.

“Go away, Christian. I don’t want to see you.”

“I’m not going to let you fire your security team, Ana. And I’m certainly not going to let you hire your own team to keep me away!”

“I don’t want you keeping tabs on me through security, Christian,” I snap and I release the intercom button. I’m done talking.

“Anastasia!” He yells, banging against the door again. I glare at the door and stick my tongue out. Childish, but effective. Surprisingly, my silence does it. I hear him storm away. Ha!

I get up and unlock the door. Everyone is staring at me and I immediately flush. Shit, why did he have to make a scene at work?

“Are you sure I can’t get you anything, Ana?” Hannah asks.

“Tea, please,” I say and I back into my office again. I hope Roach doesn’t come in here and yell at me for how inappropriate that was. Well, I guess he can’t since the scene was caused by his boss.

Hannah brings me my coffee and I smile up at her gratefully. “If you need anything else, Mrs. Grey, just let me know.”

I smile at her and she exits, leaving me in the peaceful solitude once again. I open my email and click through the first unread messages in my inbox. I’m not even half way through the second one when I hear the ping of an email coming in.

 

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Happy Birthday?

Date: September 10th 09:23 AM

To: Anastasia Grey

Anastasia. I don’t want to fight with you. Please trust me when I tell you I had nothing to do with that package last night. It’s your birthday. Please let me treat you tonight.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings INC

 

I scowl at the email. Well at least he remembered my birthday. I shake my head, of course he remembered. He may be a dick sometimes, but he’s not forgetful. And… he loves me. My lips press together at that thought. I haven’t cried yet and I don’t want work to be the place where the dam breaks.

I spend the next few minutes reading and responding to the remaining emails. When I’m finished, I switch over to my calendar and my mouth drops open. There must be 50 things scheduled for today. What is all this? I click on the first meeting link and a pop up opens:

 

Event: Telecommunications Conference Planning

When: 08:30 AM [Cancelled]

Who: Telecommunications Committee

Where: Conference Call

Created by: Andrea Parker

 

Oh, this is Christian’s calendar. That’s right, I asked Rachel to sync my calendar with Christian’s. How does he get all of this stuff done in one day. I’ve got to hand it to him, the man is nothing if not organized. I click the next link:

 

Event: Personal Meeting

When: 09:30 AM

Who: E. Lincoln

Where: GEH Office

Created by: Christian Grey

 

Oh shit! I look down at the clock. 09:34. Well, assuming she’s punctual, she’s up there right now. I can feel it. The water works are coming. Why did I believe him? The words he said last night, about wanting to prove to me that he would never do anything like that ever again and now… here’s the proof. He was lying straight to my face. Is that why he ordered the whips and restraints? Is he using them on her now?

There is a knock on the door and I brush the backs of my hands over my eyes. “Who is it?”

“Hannah, Mrs. Grey. I have the mail and your tea.’

“Come in,” I say. She sets the mail on my desk.

“Thank you, Hannah.” I tell her, as I take the mug of tea. She looks like she’s going to say something but decides better and leaves the room. I reach out for the mail, needing a distraction from Christian’s secret-not-so-secret rendezvous with Mrs. Robinson.

It’s mostly just new manuscripts but there is one letter sized envelope. I turn it over in my hands and realize it’s addressed to Mr. Grey. It must have been put in the wrong box in the mail room by mistake. I open it hesitantly and immediately wish I wouldn’t have. It’s the list of Christian’s hard limits.

I accept your limits, Mr. Grey. -S.

Who is S? The submissive Elena brought for him? I’m suddenly overcome by rage, unable to take this and the meeting notification in one sitting. I storm out of the office and up to the 20th floor.

“Where is he?” I yell at Andrea when I get out of the elevator. Both she and Rachel are staring at the double doors to Christian’s office and their panicked gazes turn towards me. Rachel flies out from behind the desk to stand in front of Christian’s door. Well, that confirms it.

“Mr. Grey is unavailable right now,” Andrea says nervously. “He’s in a meeting.”

“Oh I know exactly what kind of meeting he’s in, Andrea.” I thrust the hard limits paper at her and her eyes widen with horror as she looks down and reads it. “You tell him to talk to the mail room about how they sort mail. I don’t want this shit in my office.”

The doors to Christian’s office open and I round on them, furious, but am surprised as I see Elena in handcuffs being escorted out by police.

It’s a scene Anastasia. Remember, this was the shit he was into before you were in the picture.

“Is this one of your sick, twisted games?” I shout at him, my glare darting between Christian and Elena. I feel the threatening sting of tears and race back to the elevator. He calls out after me but I ignore him, and disappear to the floor below.

I don’t get any work done for the rest of the day. I’m really looking forward to beer tonight with Kate and Jose, lots of beer. Hell, I might even get drunk. Oh shit, that reminds me, I need to get Christian to take Teddy. I reach out to type an email.

 

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Teddy

Date: September 10th 2012 11:52 AM

To: Christian Grey

I’m going out with Kate and Jose for my birthday tonight. I need you to pick up Teddy from your parents house before 7 and keep him tonight. Tomorrow, I will be moving into Escala. Note, I’m only telling you this because of our child. You are to stay out of the apartment except on an approved visitation schedule.

Anastasia Grey

Commissioning Editor, Grey Publishing

 

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Night out

Date: September 10th 2012 11:56 AM

To: Anastasia Grey

What are you doing tonight with Kate and Jose? I was hoping we could talk. I have dinner reservations for your birthday.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

 

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: MY night

Date: September 10th 2012 12:01 PM

To: Christian Grey

I am going to a bar and having drinks with my friends. I have nothing else to say to you. Cancel your dinner reservations, or perhaps take Mrs. Robinson.

Anastasia Grey

Commissioning Editor, Grey Publishing

 

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Please

Date: September 10th 2012 12:03 PM

To: Anastasia Grey

Please, Anastasia. I need to explain. It’s not what you think. I didn’t order those things last night and you’re way off on Elena. Please let me take you out for your birthday.

I love you

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

 

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Teddy

Date: September 10th 2012 12:06 PM

To: Christian Grey

I don’t want to spend my birthday arguing with you, Christian. I’ve already made plans. Will you take Teddy or do I need to get Mia or Elliot to do it?

Anastasia Grey

Commissioning Editor, Grey Publishing

 

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Teddy

Date: September 10th 2012 12:09 PM

To: Anastasia Grey

Yes, of course I will take Teddy. Enjoy your birthday. I love you.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

 

That night when I’m out with Kate and Jose, I don’t show much interest in hamburgers or french fries. The same can not be said for alcohol.

“But seriously, who does he think he is?” I slur over the table at Kate and Jose. I’m on my… I don’t even know how many beers and the room is fuzzy around me.

“He thinks he can just do whatever he wants and I’ll turn a blind eye?” I drain the bottle in front of me.

“Maybe we should get you some water, Ana,” Kate suggests.

“Or maybe, we should get me something stronger. Like brandy,” I pull out my black AMEX card. “Drinks on Christian everyone. Drink up!”

“Ana, I think you’ve had enough,” Jose says. He and Kate stand together and each grasp one of my arms.

“You sound like Christian. Always telling me what to do,” I say. “If I want to get drunk on my birthday, I’ll get drunk. Let’s do shots!”

“Ana, I”m taking you home,” Kate says. I hear the bell jingle over the door and turn. It’s then that I notice Taylor standing by the doorway. How long has he been there?

“Oh no. The party police is here.”

“Let’s get you in bed, Ana,” Kate says. I feel my stomach whirl and my hand flies up to my mouth to prevent myself from vomiting.

“Jesus, Ana,” Kate says and she’s pushing me through the crowd towards the bathrooms.

“You know, they always say you can tell if you have a good boyfriend if he holds your hair while you vomit,” I say, after I’m sure I have completely emptied my stomach. “Christian held my hair when I threw up that night. That night in Portland, do you remember Kate?”

“Yes, I remember.”

“You were there. Hey, that’s when you met Elliot.”

“Come on, Ana. If you’re finished, let’s get you off this disgusting floor and back home.” She pulls me to my feet and leads me out of the bathroom. Taylor is standing outside the door, looking anxious.

“Mrs. Grey?” He asks.

“She’s trashed,” Kate says.

“Where is her security detail?” Taylor asks.

“I sent them away!” I cry. “Birthdays don’t need security. Birthdays need tequila. Margaritas for everyone.”

“Did Christian send you?” Kate asks.

“No ma’am. It’s my night off. I just wanted to make sure Mrs Grey was okay.”

“Help me get her to the car?” Kate begs.

Taylor takes my arm from Kate and scoops me into his arms, carrying me outside. I wonder where Jose is? I look around for him and immediately regret it as the room starts spinning.

“Oh no,” I mumble.

“Are you going to be sick, Mrs. Grey?” Taylor asks.

“I don’t think so. Can I lie down?”

“We’re almost to the car, Mrs. Grey.”

I feel the refreshing relief of the cool night air and then I’m being lifted into the back seat of the Audi SUV.

“You’ll take her back to Escala?” I hear Kate ask.

“She shouldn’t be alone, Mrs. Grey. I think I should take her to the main house.”

“No,” Kate says. “She doesn’t want to go there. I’ll meet you at Escala. I’ll stay with her tonight.”

“Yes ma’am.”

The next thing I know, I’m in the big bed in my bedroom at Escala. Kate has stripped me down to my t-shirt and underwear and I feel like melting into the pillows. It’s so comfortable.

“Kate, where’s my phone?” I ask.

“It’s on the nightstand. Do you want me to sleep in here with you or can you call me if you need something?”

“Are you leaving?”

“No, I’ll just sleep in the guest room.”

“The submissive room,” I correct her.

“Jesus, Ana. You really are wasted,” She says. “I’ll check on you in a minute. I’m going to call Elliot and let him know I’m staying the night.”

I hear the door close and I fumble for my phone on the nightstand. Luckily, I have the number I need on speed dial so I only have to hold down the number 2.

“Anastasia?” Christian answers.

“I’m so mad at you,” I tell him. “I’m really, really mad at you.”

“Are you drunk?”

“I am very drunk, Mr. Grey. And I am horny as hell and I’m mad at you.”

“Anastasia, are you alone?” He asks, and I know even through the haze of alcohol that he’s mad. Who does he think is here?

“Kate’s somewhere,” I mumble

“And Jose?”

“I don’t know where he went, but I’m in our bed Christian and I want you to talk dirty to me.”

“Anastasia,” He says sternly. “You need to get some sleep. Christ, do I need to come over there?”

“Yes, Mr. Grey. You need to come everywhere.”

The door opens and Kate re-appears.

“Who are you talking to?” She asks and she sets a large glass of water on the nightstand. I hold my finger to my lips and shh her. She reaches out and takes the phone from me.

“Hello?”

“Jesus, Kate. How much did she have to drink?” He’s talking so loud I can hear him from the bed.

“I think she left the place dry,” Kate says.

I don’t hear his reply but I’m sure he’s mad. Good, be mad at someone else for a change.

“I’ll take care of her, Christian,” Kate says and she hangs up the phone.

“Noooo!” I whine and reach out for it. “I wasn’t finished.”

“You need to get some sleep,” She says and she climbs into the bed next to me.

“I’m mad at him, Kate, but I still love him.” I tell her.

“I know.”

“I love that he’s so smart and playful. And I love that he makes me come like a freight train.”

“Goodnight, Ana,” she says irritably.

“Goodnight, Kate,” I mumble, and I drift off into a dreamless sleep.

 

Chapter 19

ANDREA POV

When I get into work, Rachel hasn’t arrived yet. It’s 7am on Monday morning and Mr. Grey isn’t here which means that he and Mrs. Grey either had a really good weekend, or a really bad one. I’m hoping it’s the former and that either way, Rachel gets here before Mr. Grey does. I check my email again but I don’t have anything from him. He usually texts or emails me every Monday morning for his schedule but I haven’t heard from him since Saturday morning. All things considered, that probably isn’t a good thing. I hear a ping from the elevator.

“Sorry I’m late,” Rachel cries and I’m relieved.

“It’s okay, can you start the coffee? I’m getting everything booted up here,” I tell her. She nods, putting her purse in the bottom drawer and scurries off to the break room. Ten minutes later, the elevator pings again.

“Good morning, Mr. Grey,” I greet him. “Can I get you some coffee?”

He doesn’t say anything and instead storms past me, throwing his office door open and slamming it shut behind him so hard I feel the things on my desk rattle. Okay, bad weekend.

“Get a cup of coffee, quick,” I tell Rachel and she practically sprints to the break room while I gather up the first round of the mail for the morning. Rachel’s hands are shaking and she hands me the coffee. Mr. Grey has been particularly cold to her this last week and I suspect it’s because she looks at him like an idiot in heat every time he addresses her. Well, when she’s not cowering from him that is.

I take the mail and the coffee and gently knock on the door. There is no answer. Shit, maybe now isn’t the time? No, if I don’t follow the routine, he’ll be even more pissed. Maybe if I’m just in and out, don’t make a sound, he won’t say anything to me at all.

Quietly, I push open the door and rush to his desk. He’s sitting in front of his computer, furiously pounding on the keys. As calmly, and with as much control as I can muster, I set the coffee down in front of him and place the mail on the corner of the desk. He doesn’t acknowledge me. Whew!

I hear him tearing through the mail as I walk away.

“What the fuck is this?” he yells and I stop in my tracks. Fuck.

“What, sir?” I ask, turning to face him. He’s ripping open a large white envelope and pulls out a jeweled case. As he looks at it, his anger fades into confusion and then back to fury in a nano second.

“Where did this come from?” he snaps.

“It must have come in with FedEx yesterday,” I reply. “It was with the legal documents the weekend crew left on my desk.”

“Get this out of my sight,” He says, tossing the jeweled case at me. “And if Anastasia calls or comes up here, you let me know immediately, understand?”

“Yes, sir,” I say, picking up the case from the desk and hurrying out of the office. Bad weekend, definitely a bad weekend. He and Mrs. Grey must be fighting. I know that Mrs. Grey gets through no matter what so his reminder must be because he doesn’t think she is going to call or come up here.

“Is it bad?” Rachel asks as I sit down next to her.

“Really bad,” I respond. “I think he’s fighting with his wife. It’s never worse than when he’s fighting with his wife.” Well now it is… but she wasn’t around during the submissive days, or lack of submissive days I should say.

“What’s that?” She asks, looking down at my hand. I’m still holding the jeweled case and I look at it for the first time. It’s a copy of Rihanna’s single S&M and in permanent marker scribbled across the front it reads: I like it, like it.

Oh shit. I try to hide it from Rachel’s view but I’m sure she’s seen it. Well, I guess that’s what the NDA is for.

 

CHRISTIAN’S POV

It’s September 10th. Anastasia’s birthday. She didn’t answer any of my calls or emails from last night or this morning. I’m going to have to ambush her when she gets here. Make her talk to me. Shit, do I want to do that on her birthday? Today was supposed to be… well special. I have plans, so many plans. Is that all down the fucking drain? I look down at my computer and flip through my emails again, the same question from last night bouncing around in my mind. Who the fuck is “S”?

It’s someone who knows, so that limits the possibilities. Susannah maybe? This doesn’t feel like Susannah, it has more of a Leila feel to it, but I don’t think Leila would test me like this. Not knowing what she’ll lose. I pull a black book out of the top drawer of my desk, find the number I need and dial on my office phone. It rings eight times before someone answers.

“Hello?” The sleepy voice responds. Shit, it is pretty early.

“Susannah?” I snap. “Tell me it isn’t you.”

“Mr. Grey?” She asks.

“Tell me it isn’t you, Susannah, because if I find out it is, so help me…” I don’t even know how to finish the threat. I’m so preoccupied with my anger at Elena and Linc that I don’t have the capacity for ex-submissives right now.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mr. Grey. I didn’t tell anyone, if that’s what you mean.”

“You haven’t sent me any packages?” I demand.

“No.”

“Good-bye then, Susannah.”

“Mr. Grey?” She asks again, but I hang up the phone. Well if it’s not her, who the fuck is it? S… Submissive? Fuck it could be anyone of them. I spend the morning going down the list, but none of them seem to know what I’m talking about, and the ones who are married now are pretty pissed that I’m calling them.

It’s nine o’clock when my phone buzzes, and I reach down for it irritated.

“What?”

“Mr. Grey,” Andrea says hesitantly. “Mrs. Grey’s security team is out here, they would like to speak to you.”

“Send them in!” I demand and Sawyer and Ryan step into my office.

“What’s wrong?” I ask. Shit, did Elena get to her? Linc?

“Mrs. Grey fired us, sir,” Sawyer says and I glare at him.

“Mrs. Grey, doesn’t have the ability to do that,” I tell them, “Get back downstairs and do the job I pay you for.”

“We would, sir,” Ryan hesitates. “But she’s hired her own security team. They won’t let us in the office.”

“What!” I roar and I bolt out of my seat.

“Mr. Grey?” Andrea calls as I run past her desk and begin pounding on the elevator button. When it opens, I press 19 and pace around the tiny space until it releases me into the lobby outside of Grey Publishing. There are two men standing in suits on either side of the glass doors. I storm past them but one of them reaches out and grabs me by the shoulder, holding me in place and preventing me from going into the office.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” I ask, furiously.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Grey, but you are on Mrs. Grey’s list of proscribed visitors,” he says flatly.

“Excuse me?” I ask incredulous.

“I can’t allow you in, sir,” He says again.

“How about I own the fucking building and if you don’t get out of my way, I’ll call the police and have you both removed?”

The two men glance at each other and step aside, but they follow me as I make my way across the room. When I get to Anastasia’s office, the door is locked and I begin to pound on it furiously. I turn to look at Hannah, who cringes each time my fist hits the door.

“Anastasia, open the fucking door!” I call. I hear the long beep of a phone and Anastasia’s voice come from Hannah’s desk.

“Go away, Christian. I don’t want to see you.”

“I’m not going to let you fire your security team, Ana. And I’m certainly not going to let you hire your own team to keep me away!” I yell through the door.

“I don’t want you keeping tabs on me through security, Christian,” Hannah’s phone says.

“Anastasia!”

She doesn’t answer. I bang on the door again. Nothing. Everyone in the office is staring at me. I look down at my watch, fuck it’s almost time. I glare at the door. I’ll email her when I get back up to my office.

I’m sure everyone can feel the anger in the wake I leave as I stomp out of GP. When I’m back on my own floor, I walk single mindedly towards Andrea and Rachel.

“Are they in place?” I ask.

“Yes, sir. What’s…?” Andrea begins but I cut her off.

“Let me know when my 09:30 is here, Andrea. I am not to be disturbed during the meeting. No phone calls, no visitors. Not even Mrs. Grey, do you understand?”

“You want me to keep Mrs. Grey out, sir?” She asks skeptically.

“Yes.”

“Yes, sir,” She responds and I storm into my office, sit at my desk, and begin composing my email.

 

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Happy Birthday?

Date: September 10th 09:23 AM

To: Anastasia Grey

Anastasia. I don’t want to fight with you. Please trust me when I tell you I had nothing to do with that package last night. It’s your birthday. Please let me treat you tonight.

Christian Grey

CEO Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

 

I stare at the screen for another five minutes, but I don’t get a reply. The phone buzzes.

“Mr. Grey?” Andrea says. “Your 09:30 is here.”

“Send them in,” I say and I straighten my tie. The door opens and, dressed in a tight, low cut black dress, Elena walks in.

“Christian,” She says as she enters. The door closes behind her but she doesn’t approach my desk.

“Elena,” I say, gesturing to the chair on the other side of the desk.

“Why have you asked me here, Christian?” She asks.

“I want to talk to you. Anastasia left me and I believe she spoke with you before she made that decision. I was hoping you could tell me what happened?”

She seems to exhale and then saunters over to my desk, sitting gracefully in the chair across from me.

“She didn’t tell you what happened?” Elena asks.

“No,” I say, running a finger over my bottom lip. She raises and eyebrow, intrigued.

“She said she couldn’t trust you anymore, Christian. That’s the problem with romantic relationships over contractual ones. She can question your motives.”

“It seems I should have listened to you from the beginning, Elena.”

She smiles. “Yes, Christian.”

Her tongue runs over her top lip. “Is that the only reason you asked me here?” Her voice is suggestive.

“No,” I tell her. I stand up and walk languidly around the desk, tracing my finger across the wood as I go. When I’m standing next to her, my finger moves from the desk to her elbow and as I circle around her, I lightly run my fingertip up her arm, over the fabric of her dress on her shoulder, and up her neck. My thumb brushes the spot behind her ear and she shivers. I grasp the hair at the nape of her neck and yank her to her feet, holding her in place by her hair. She groans as I run the tip of my nose up her neck where my finger had just been.

“I want you to tell me where I can find Linc,” I whisper in her ear. She freezes.

“Why would I tell you that?” She snaps.

“Because he kidnapped and tortured my wife, Elena. You hired a man to kidnap and torture my wife under his orders, didn’t you.”

“Christian…”

I grip her hair harder, pulling, and she gasps with pain. I smile against her neck and reach out to take her arm, pulling it behind her and securing it with my hand and forearm.

“That’s what happened, isn’t it?” I hiss.

“Yes,” she moans. I force her down onto the desk and reach out for the ruler from the cup on my desk and run it lightly down her back.

“I may be out of practice, Elena. But I haven’t lost my touch. Tell me where he is.”

“I can take a little pain, Christian,” She purrs up at me. I laugh lightly, though not with humor.

“Would you like to find out how much?” I ask. She whimpers and I release her, walking back around the desk to my chair. I can see how flustered she is and I smile wickedly at her.

“I’ll make you a deal,” I say.

“A deal?” She pants.

“Last year, when I told you Ana was pregnant, you asked me to sleep with you. You told me you’d never had it as good as me since we stopped. You said you wanted me.”

“Yes,” She breathes.

“Well, if you tell me where Linc is, you can have me, anyway you want me. Anyway I want you.” My gaze is dark and I can see the effect my words have on her.

“Anastasia?” She asks.

“I told you. She’s left.”

Her lips press together as she resolves herself. “He’s staying at the Fairmont Hotel under the name Conor Parrish. Room 1489.” She licks her lips and stands up.

“Thank-you, Elena,” I say, and I raise my voice as I continue, “Detective?”

The room is suddenly full. A man in a sharp suit and a police officer come out of the coat closet against the far wall of my office. The double doors open and six more armed officers pour in. Taylor enters the room and closes the double doors behind him. Elena stutters and glares down at me. I’m impassive, my finger running over my bottom lip.

“That should be enough for a prosecutor, Mr. Grey. Good work,” the detective says, and Elena rounds on me, fury alight on her overly made up face.

“You betrayed me, Christian,” she hisses.

“No, Elena. The betrayal was yours,” I say. One of the officers approaches her, takes her right wrist and slaps a cuff over it. Once she’s fully cuffed, he reads her her rights.

“We’ll need you to come downtown and make a statement, Mr. Grey,” Detective Clark says.

“I’ll follow you,” I tell him and rise from my chair. We walk out of the office and I freeze. Anastasia is standing at the desk, presumably talking to Andrea, who is looking, horrified, at a piece of paper in her hands.

“Is this one of your sick, twisted games?” Anastasia shouts, her eyes shooting between me and Elena.

“Anastasia!” I shout. But she turns and steps into the elevator, disappearing to the floor below.

“Well, he wanted to ruin your marriage,” Elena sneers. “Looks like Linc wins after all, Grey.”

“Get her out of here,” I say coldly.

I walk across the lobby, press the elevator button for the detective, and. when it arrives, I let him know that I’ll meet him at the station. When they’re gone, I walk towards Andrea, who is burning bright red and holding the piece of paper out for me. I look down at it:

 

Hard Limits

No acts involving fire play

No acts involving urination or defecation and the products thereof

No acts involving needles, knives, cutting, piercing, or blood

No acts involving gynecological medical instruments

No acts involving children or animals

No acts that will leave any permanent marks on the skin

No acts involving breath control.

No activity that involves the direct contact of electric current (whether alternating or direct), fire or flames to the body.

I accept your limits, Mr. Grey. -S