Chapter 26

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Despite the fact that I’ve been running for thirty minutes to an hour every day, my morning jog never gets easier. I keep trying to convince myself that it’s the cold, that once spring finally comes I’ll be able to enjoy running through the neighborhood again, but I know that, in reality, it’s only going to continue becoming more and more difficult the further into my pregnancy that I progress.

“Okay, little girl,” I pant, reaching down to rest a hand on my belly as I round the corner that will take me back to my house, “Let’s keep this belly high and tight so I can keep this up, okay?”

There’s a small movement inside of me that feels like a response and it makes me smile. It gives me the last bit of motivation I need to keep up the pace to get me home, but that determination soon vanishes when I look up again and see the bourbon eyes and brown hair of the girl waiting for me at the end of the street.

I stop instantly.

“Always watching,” she says. “Always waiting.”

Suddenly, a hand appears from behind me and closes over my mouth to muffle my scream. I feel whoever it is wrap an arm around me, too strong for me to break away from, and begin pulling me back towards the street. I try to kick, I try to struggle, but as I fight I feel another set of hands on me.

“Ana!”

I try to scream again but the sound is muffled. No one is going to hear me. No one is coming for me.

“Baby, wake up!”

I’m jolted awake by a very concerned looking Christian, but I’m not immediately comforted by him hovering over me. If anything, I’m disoriented.

My eyes move wildly around the room, taking in my surroundings, and, as the previous night slowly seeps into my consciousness, my body finally begins to relax.

I’m not in Cambridge.

I’m in a hotel in Seattle.

Leila is 3,000 miles away.

No one will get to me here.

“Are you okay?” Christian asks, sliding into bed next to me, despite the fact that he’s still wearing a suit, and wrapping me in his arms.

“It’s just a nightmare,” I tell him, and he presses his lips into my hair.

“It’s the pregnancy hormones. The books say some pregnant women experience lucid dreams…”

“I keep dreaming about Leila,” I tell him. “That she’s waiting for me. She stands there, staring at me, and then someone grabs me.”

I hear him swallow. “That’s not going to happen. You’re very well protected, no one will get to you.”

“She was outside my house when I left. It was four o’clock in the morning and she was just sitting there. They said that she’s been there every night. She’s looking for a weakness, Christian.”

“And she’s not going to find one. I promise you, Ana. I won’t let anything happen to you. It was just a dream, baby.”

I take a deep breath, inhaling his familiar and comforting scent as I nestle into him, but when my cheek rubs against one of the buttons on his jacket, reminding me that he’s still in a suit, I pull away and look up at him.

“What time is it?”

“Almost two,” he says, and I frown.

“And you’re just getting home?”

“I’m sorry, I really tried. I’ve got three new contracts out right now, two companies in transition from acquisition, eight others that I’m chasing and are waiting on a response to their RFP, and at least six board members from PixC that I have to convince to vote for a merger with GEH rather than hire Ros.”

“Wait, you’re still chasing PixC?”

“Of course I am. You think I’d let her have it after she tried to sabotage me? After she turned her back on all of the work that we’ve done together with a second thought of the damage she’d leave behind? She’s not getting anywhere near PixC. I’m going to take it and then I’m going to turn it into something astronomically successful, the way only I know how to do. She can watch GEH thrive and grow… without her.

I frown. “I just can’t believe she’d do something like this. I mean, Ros isn’t the kind of person who’s ever been shy about confronting you, so I don’t know why she’d do all this behind your back and act so shady. Besides, she’s ALWAYS been there for you. Through everything. Why would she leave now when you’re both so successful?”

“People get greedy,” he says. “No one is ever satisfied being second. Everyone wants to be on top. Everyone wants the big job. Everyone. People use you to get what they want and then they toss you aside the second they get a better offer. Elena was right all along, I shouldn’t trust anyone.”

I sit up and turn back to look at him, suddenly furious. “What did you just say?”

“No, not you,” he says quickly. “I meant in business…”

“I don’t care what you meant,” I snap. “Don’t you ever say that Elena Lincoln was right to me. About anything. The only thing that she is, is a pedophile and I don’t even want you to speak her name.”

“You’re right, I’m sorry,” he says, shaking his head slightly. “I’m just tired. It’s late, we should go to sleep.”

I take a deep breath, nod, and then turn my cheek to him as he leans over to kiss me. He sighs at my less than warm reaction to his kiss, but when he gets out of bed and begins stripping out of his clothes, my irritation with his mention of Elena quickly fades away. Watching each tantalizing inch of the well defined ab muscles he reveals with every button he undoes reminds me of the silk nightgown I put back on after Luke left and the pantyless surprise waiting for Christian underneath, but when I hear him groan slightly as he climbs back into bed with me, the hope I had of maybe finally getting into the plans I had for this weekend fades away. He really looks wrecked, more so than I’ve ever seen him before.

“Come here,” he says softly while settling down into the pillows. He lifts his arm and I nestle into him, resting my head on his chest and curling my arm and legs around him. His lips press into my hair, but it’s only a few more seconds before I feel his entire body relax and his breathing slows and grows more steady.

“I love you, Christian,” I whisper, then close my eyes and allow his warmth to lull me back to sleep.

I wake up the next morning to the sound of rain rapping furiously against the windows and the low rumble of thunder. Most people find a storm brewing overhead to be ominous, a sign of trouble or something to fear, but I’ve always found a certain calm to the turbulence. The muted light through the dark clouds, the smell of rain in the air, even the thunder sounds therapeutic to me. I sit up in bed to gaze through the large windows that look out over the city to the sound, but when I’m not met with any kind or resistance from the blankets, I turn and look down at the space next to me only to find it empty.

A quick glance at the clock tells me it’s just after 7:30, but, even though he was out past two, I guess Christian is already awake, and since he let me sleep, I have a bad feeling he’s thrown himself into work again. There is a vain hope though that he’s just waiting for me to wake up on my own, or that he’s already finished whatever he’d left for this morning, but with the storm roaring through the windows, I can’t hear well enough to listen for any indication of what he may be doing, so I have to crawl out of bed to investigate.

I find him pacing back and forth in front of the windows in the dining room talking on the phone, his laptop and a few files open on the table behind him.

“GEH has the ability not only to sustain what PixC is, but to make it grow,” he says. “Our servers are already capable of handling an active user volume of over four times greater than what was detailed in your most recent subscription report and since the technology is all in house, we’ll operate at less than half the cost of what you’re currently spending in overhead. My developers are some of the greatest technological minds in the country and they understand the market. I’m fully confident that we could change the game here, do to Instagram what Facebook did to MySpace, but only if you agree to come on board.” He laughs. “Believe me, I can’t run everything on my own. I need people, people who understand the business, and people who are invested in the company’s success. I have no intention of firing anyone who can prove their worth. Excellent, then we’ll talk more after the paperwork is signed. Thank you, Holland.”

He hangs up the phone and lets out a long sigh of relief before turning back for his computer, but when he sees me standing in the doorway to the bedroom, he stops.

“Good morning.”

“You’re working again today?”

“Not all day,” he assures me. “I just a have a few more things to get settled and then I’m all yours.”

“Okay, then I’m going to take a shower. Breakfast afterwards?” He gives me a closed lip smile so I cross the room, kiss him quickly on the lips, and then turn back to the bedroom. By the time I close the door behind me, I can already hear him answering another call.

When I get out of the shower, I take extra time to dry and straighten my hair so that hopefully Christian will indeed be finished by the time I make it out to the sitting room, but when I’m finished, and I emerge from the bedroom, I find him on the phone again, schmoozing what sounds like another PixC board member while his fingers move over the keys on his laptop.

“Yes, I’m very excited about what the future is going to bring to PixC,” he says. “We’re going to accomplish great things together. Thank you again for your support.” He hangs up the phone and turns his full attention to whatever he’s typing until I come up and close the screen of his laptop on his fingers.

“What would you like for breakfast?” I ask, but instead of answering he looks up at me with almost a little shame reflected in his eyes. “No,” I complain. “You said you just had a few last things.”

“I do, I’m just… going to need a few hours.”

A few hours?!”

“And then I’m yours for the rest of the weekend.”

“You mean until I leave tomorrow? I came early to spend an extra day with you’re giving me less than half of the time I get on a normal weekend.”

“Ana, do you think this is what I want?” he snaps. “Do you think I like being in my office until two o’clock in the morning when I know you’re here waiting for me? Do you think it makes me feel good to know you’re here enjoying one of the very few nights you spend in Seattle with Sawyer instead of me?”

“Well, no…”

“I want to stop working,” he interrupts me. “I want to be able to put all of this way, take you into that bedroom, and spend the rest of the weekend in bed making love to you, but I can’t. I am running this company completely on my own now and I have over 30,000 employees relying on me to keep us functioning. I’m sorry but I don’t have time to come home for dinner or go out to breakfast right now. I don’t even have time to fucking breathe…” He pauses to quell the frustration growing more and more apparent in his voice and when he speaks again, his tone is conciliatory. “Call Mia. Take her out to breakfast and go shopping. She’d love to spend the day with you and by the time you get back, hopefully I’ll be finished.”

I take a breath, weighing his words until I eventually shake my head. “No, I’m not going anywhere.”

I turn away from him and head back into the bedroom for my suitcase, looking for my laptop, and after I’ve retrieved it, I return to the sitting room and set up next to him on the dining room table.

“What can I do?” I ask him.

“What?”

“You don’t have to do this alone. You can’t do this alone. So, give me something to do and I’ll do it. Let me help you.”

He stands there, motionless, considering me for a moment, but eventually nods.

“Alright,” he says. He pulls out my chair for me at the table and waits until I’m able VPN into the GEH server through the app that is still on the desktop from my internship over the summer. Once I’m logged in, he drags several things into my secure user file and then moves his chair over next to mine to walk me through what to do.

It’s mostly contracts with changes made by his legal time that I’m supposed to review, but there are also a few requests from clients he’s currently chasing, asking for details about whichever GEH service Christian has entered in a bid to provide for them. I’m actually surprised, as I being responding to those requests, that Christian would trust me to take on this task, but once I start digging through old proposals that Ros had drafted and sent to clients, using them as examples but customizing them to the specific needs the client has listed in the RFP, I actually find that I’m not only kind of good at this, but that I’m enjoying it. Not just the feeling of accomplishment I get when I’m able to complete each request with no help from Christian, or the satisfaction of getting to write something with no academic purpose for the first time in so long, but sitting here with Christian while he’s in his element and feeling as though I’m a part of it, that we’re once again conquering something together, that’s the real gratification.

I look up at him, sitting at the head of the table next to me, and smile at the look of focused concentration on his face as his fingers fly over the keys on his laptop. Even without the suit and tie, and despite the stubble still splattered across his cheek, he looks every bit the CEO. Calm, confident, and in control, like he was born for this.

“Can I help you?” he asks, glancing up from his laptop when he realizes I’m staring at him, and giving me a sardonic look.

“No,” I reply with a smile. “You just look kinda cute over there, that’s all.”

Kind of cute?” he asks, as though the vague qualifier has hurt his feelings, and I laugh.

Very cute,” I correct myself. “Extremely cute. Handsome. Sexy. Like the man I love more than anything else in the world.”

He smiles. “Well, you’re not so bad yourself.”

I place my elbow on the table and rest my chin in the palm of my hand so that my fingers cover the grin that the playful tone in his voice elicits, and then unfold my leg out from under me and reach it under the table between us so that my foot is in his lap. He sits back in his chair and turns his focus back to his screen, but his hands come down and massage my foot under the table. When I let out a low, appreciative moan, his eyes flit back up to me and he smiles.

“How’s it going over there?”

“Good, this is my last one.”

“Already?” he asks, suddenly sounding dubious, and when I nod, he moves his hand away from my foot so that he can use the touchpad on his laptop. I deduce from the sounds of him clicking the mouse but not typing anything that he must be reading over the work I’ve done, so I shake my head before I continue reading through the document I have open. After a minute or so of silence, he leans back again, smiles, and lets out a small, unintelligible noise that sounds almost impressed.

“This is good, Ana. Very good. But where did you get these performance metrics for the technology development?”

“Oh… out of the R&D file. That client just seemed really concerned about performance guarantees in their Statement of Outcome Standards so I thought concrete numbers would help GEH stand out. Especially because they’re so good. They’re bidding for new service because the last company they contracted with had a security breach after all, and these metrics show that GEH can prevent that from happening again.”

“No, I know… this is great… I just wonder, how do you have access to the R&D file?”

“What?”

“Your profile should be set up under SIP, so you should only have access to the user folders that pertain to that division. That’s why I had to drag all these files into your personal folder… You shouldn’t be able to see anything for research and development.”

“Oh, well… it’s all here.”

He gets out of his chair and comes around the table, clicking back through the portals to each different division of his company and then frowning as every icon he clicks reveals several files, including ones that only he is supposed to have access to.

“Hold on,” he tells me, reaching across the table to pick up his phone. I watch as he selects a contact and begins pacing back towards the windows of the suite, staring out at the rain until whoever he’s calling picks up.

“Walker,” he says briskly. “I’m with Anastasia right now and she’s VPN’d into the GEH server on her company laptop. She should only be able to view the SIP portal but it seems like she has access to the entire server. Yes, thank you.” He pauses for a moment, and turns back to me. I raise an eyebrow at him and he pulls the phone away from his mouth, covering the microphone with his hand.

“He’s looking at the permissions on your profile,” he says, and then immediately turns back to the call. “What? No, why would her profile mirror mine? Well, then Welch made a mistake. Yes, remove her. If she loses her laptop, then whoever finds it will have access to confidential information in every single division of my company and that’s not a risk I’m willing to take. Who else has that access? Well, find out. I’m going to need an audit done on every profile on the GEH server. If there’s one mistake, there could be more. Yes, I understand how long that will take but if people are accessing things they shouldn’t be, I need to know. Thank you, Walker. Have a good weekend.”

He hangs up the phone and I turn around in my chair to face him. “So, Welch thought I was more important than I really was, huh?”

“I wouldn’t put it that way, but… I guess. I don’t know what he was thinking.”

“Maybe because I started out as kind of your PA? Does Andrea have the same permissions you do?”

“She shouldn’t,” he says. “But I suppose we’ll find out.” He takes a deep breath and then rejoins me at the table, only this time he takes the chair next to me.

“Do you have anything else you need me to do?” I ask.

“No, I think I actually may be caught up. Thank you for your help today, baby. You never cease to impress me.”

“I learned from the best.”

He smiles. “You want a job? I need a new number two.”

“Mmm, tempting… but no.”

He breathes out a soft laugh through his nose and I smile as I climb out of my chair and into his lap, straddling him so that my knees are on either side of his legs.

“Does that mean that we can get back to the Valentine’s Day weekend I had planned?” I ask.

“That depends,” he says. “What are your plans?”

“Oh, they’re very, very dirty, Mr. Grey.”

“How dirty?”

“Mmm,” I hum, pressing my lips into his for a quick but sensual kiss before I answer. “I want you to tell me about your most forbidden fantasies and then I want to act out each and every one with you.”

“I like the sound of that,” he says huskily, and then leans forward to kiss me again, deeper this time. His tongue invades my mouth as his hands come up and slide into the roots of my hair on either side of my head. My hips begin gyrating over him as he kisses me, and in return, I feel his erection growing inside his pants.

“So, start talking,” I tell him. “What are your fantasies, Christian?”

“You mean besides fucking you on this table right now?” he whispers back, but I shake my head.

“Oh no, you’re not getting off that easy. This game isn’t just about sex… it’s about intimacy and trust. I want us both to be open enough and comfortable enough to share our deepest desires with each other.”

“So you’ll be sharing too?”

“Should I start?”

“Abso-fucking-lutely.”

I smile and then place one last kiss on his lips before leaning back and looking into his eyes. He waits expectantly, but even though this was my idea and just kissing him and touching him already has me unbelievably turned on, I’m suddenly a little trigger shy. But I meant what I said about building trust between us, and in order to do that, I have to allow myself to be vulnerable with him. So, after a bracing breath, I force myself to maintain eye contact with him and begin.

“Well, lately I’ve been thinking about being with you at a party or an event, like a wedding or something. Somewhere public, but also somewhere where no one really knows who we are. Where we’re just two people in a crowd.” I bite down on my lip as the memory of this particular fantasy begins swirling around in my mind, and then reach down into his pants to begin stroking my hand softly over his erection. He moans slightly, but doesn’t break eye contact.

“And what happens at this event, Anastasia?”

“We’re dancing,” I tell him. “And you’re being a little brazen with your hands on my body for having so many people around us. Your gripping onto my ass, reaching around me to hold each of my breasts in your hands… you kiss my neck in that way that immediately gets me wet.” I moan. “You’re torturing me, getting me so hot and ready for you that we both know there’s no way that we’re going to make it home.”

“Oh, baby,” he whispers as my hand tightens around him. He reaches down to undo his fly and releases his erection, allowing me full access to pleasure him while I continue.

“When it becomes too much for either of us to take anymore, you pull me off the dance floor and into a little room off to the side. There’s only a thin wall between us and hundreds of other people, but we’re too lost to care. All we can think about it tearing into each other, and that’s exactly what we do. You rip my clothes away from my body because you’re too impatient to undress me properly and, once I’m naked, I wrap my body around you and you carry me to a couch that is the only thing in the room for us to fuck on.”

“Keep going,” he says. His hands move up my bare thighs and under the shorts I’m wearing, and his fingers start teasing me through my panties while I continue to work him over with my hand. It takes all the strength I possess, but somehow I manage to stop myself from giving in and ravaging him right here and now so that I can go on.

“You start by going down on me and, oh god, it’s amazing. In fact, now I might have to add some stubble to your face when I imagine it because it feels so incredible.” I lean forward and lightly run my tongue through the coarse hair on his chin, and he groans.

“Let me do it now,” he breathes, but I shake my head.

“Not yet.” I swallow the lust building up inside of me and continue. “Once you make me come, I can’t get you out of your pants fast enough, but while I fumble with your belt and the buttons and zipper, you start sucking my nipples. Pulling at them with your lips and your teeth, fuck!” I yell out, as the fingers on his free hand move up under my t-shirt, under my bra, and begin pinching my nipple hard. After a few panting breaths while he toys with my breast and my clit, I start again, stroking him faster now and trying to mirror what I’m describing to him with my hand.

“I finally get you out of your pants and I drop to my knees and start sucking you like my life depended on it. Your hands twist in my hair, forcing me to take you deep in my throat, even holding me in place while you fuck my mouth, until you’re just about to come.”

“Baby,” he says in a slightly shaking voice. “Let me fuck you now.”

“Not yet,” I reply. “When you pull out of my mouth, you throw me onto the couch and your hands grab each of my thighs really hard and force my legs apart. You stroke your cock against my clit for minute, bringing me right back to the edge before you plunge inside of me and the second you break through my lips, I come hard around you, but you don’t stop fucking me as hard as you can. You have me screaming for you and so, just as I start to come down from my orgasm, the door opens and several people come inside.”

“So you want be caught?” he asks, but I shake my head.

“Not just caught…” His brow furrows for a moment, so I lean forward and kiss him again, tangling my tongue with his while my thumb drags the bead of precum leaking out of him around the head of his cock. “Once they come into the room,” I continue, “You stop for a moment, but you haven’t come yet and you can’t stop now. They gape at us for a moment but, after the initial shock of finding us wears off, they just shut the door and you start fucking me again. You’re like an animal uncaged, taking me hard and rough, like you’re trying to prove something to our audience, and it makes me come again. I call out your name, making sure they all know that you’re making me come and then you explode inside of me, filling me to the brim until you’re completely spent.”

“Exhibitionism, huh?” he asks, and I nod slowly. A slow smile creeps across his lips as his finger moves through my lower lips and sinks inside of me, making me moan. “That’s kind of hot.”

“Just the tip of the iceberg,” I admit.

“Then do go on.”

“Okay, well… sometimes when I go to sleep at night when I’m in Cambridge, I’ll close my eyes and then imagine that you show up in the middle of the night. I’m asleep, but I wake up to you touching me. I try to open my eyes but you’ve blindfolded me so the only way that I know it’s you is by your breathing, your smell, and the way you touch me, the way that only you can. You take my hand in yours and try to tie it to my headboard, but I yank it out of your grip and try to struggle away from you. You’re on top of me though and your body is holding me down, pressing me into the mattress, and you lean down and whisper in my ear, telling me not to fucking move.”

“Mmm, but I’d love to have you try and resist me. To fight back. Force me to overpower you.” His voice is rough now, like gravel, as he bucks his hips up into my hand, trying to draw more friction from my fingers still gripped tightly around him.

“And I do, for as long as I can, until you have me tied to the bed. Once I’m subdued, you’re not gentle with me. You take everything you can from me and still demand more. You use my body in any and every way you find pleasurable, even if it hurts me a little. Oh, and your dirty talk… god I love it when you talk dirty to me when you’re really fucking me. You spank me, you pull my hair, your hand wraps around my throat… you do whatever you want to me, because you can.”

“Because you’re mine,” he growls.

“Because I’m yours,” I agree.

“You want me to treat you like a whore, baby?”

“Yes,” I breathe in reply, and he sinks a finger inside of me and begins swirling it around.  

“What else do you fantasize about?”

“Well…” I pause, tightening and loosening my grip around his erection while I attempt to work my way through the lust filled haze clouding my mind with his fingers hitting that important place inside of me with every tantalizing stroke. “I’ve um… I’ve never been with a girl before…”

A harsh, visceral growl erupts from deep inside his chest and suddenly we’re not in the chair anymore. He practically throws me onto the table before he begins attacking my clothes with the fervent hunger of a starving, wild animal. I lift my hips for him to remove my bottoms, and once he’s flung my shorts and panties across the room, he’s inside of me. It’s sudden and unexpected, and the lack of any kind of preamble actually makes me cry out in surprise, but the high pitched noise gives way almost immediately to a well satisfied, feral moan that comes from deep inside of me.

“That’s it, baby,” I encourage him. “Fuck me harder. Oh god!” My nails dig into his forearms, which are rock hard from the strain his putting into holding me as tightly as he can. His fingers dig into my hips while he holds me above the table and pulls me back into him with each, hard thrust. It almost feels as though he’s trying to drill through my pelvis, and in this moment I want him to. I want him to give me everything he’s got, to satisfy every one of my darkest, most forbidden desires, and to get off while he’s doing it.

“You’re so wet,” he says through his labored breathing. “God, I love you like this. I love seeing in your eyes how much you need my fucking cock.”

“Please, Christian,” I whimper. “I need to come, please make me come.”

He growls again and then flips me around on the table, more carefully this time so that I can catch myself on my hands and keep my belly from slamming into the table, but once he’s sure that I’m steady his hand disappears from my hips and comes down hard on my ass. I cry out in pain as the force of the blow reverberates through me and then whimper when I feel his tongue brush over my hot skin.

“You said you wanted it rough,” he says.

“I do.”

“Then, you’re going to get it rough. Tell me if it’s too much.” He hits me again, with the same force, and while it’s almost enough for me to stop him, I don’t have to because he thrusts inside of me again, and his hand moves back to my hips. I press my palms into the table and push back on him, greedily taking everything I can from him until I feel the stirrings of an orgasm building inside of me.

“That’s it, baby,” he groans. “Give it to me. I want you to come.”

“I’m so c-close. Don’t stop.”

I feel a sharp bite of pain as his fingers really start digging into my skin, and when his hand moves up my back, twists through my hair, and yanks roughly so that my head falls backwards, I let out a primal kind of yell and then come hard around him.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he hisses through bare teeth. “You’re so fucking tight when you’re coming, baby. Oh fuck, you’re going to make me…”

“Come for me, Christian,” I whine as the pleasure continues to overwhelm me. “Come with me.”

“Not yet. I’m not… fuck!” I hear him grunt as he moves in and out of me, keeping me flying while trying to delay his own release, but when I come down and stop convulsing around him, the increasing urgency inside of him doesn’t recede.

“Fuck, I can’t stop,” he pants. “You want to give me your mouth, baby?”

“What?”

“Get on your knees. Oh, fuck…” He pulls out of me and yanks me up off the table. I turn quickly and sink to the floor, and the second my mouth closes around him, he thrusts into the back of the throat and explodes. The warm liquid of his release fills my mouth and drips down my throat, but I don’t shy away from the bitter taste. The temporary discomfort of swallowing the thick liquid is overshadowed by the satisfaction I take from the look of complete and utter euphoria on his face. The way his mouth drops open, the way all the tension in his muscles releases at once, and the deep, gratified sound that rattles in his throat.

“Holy shit, baby,” he breathes. “Fuck, you’re incredible.”

“Mmm,” I hum in response, dragging my tongue over his length as I slowly pull him out of my mouth. “Right back at you, Grey.”

I drag my hands up his thighs, but he reaches down and entwines his fingers with mine and pulls me up to kiss me. My body presses into his as he reaches for my hips and lifts me so that my legs wrap around his waist and I have to hold myself tightly around him to keep from falling backwards.

“I’m not ready to be done with you yet,” he tells me. I smile against his lips as he turns and leads me back into the bedroom, caressing my tongue with his until we’re standing before the bed. He kneels down on the edge of the mattress and slowly lowers me onto the bedding without breaking our kiss, but once I’m flat on the bed, his hands begin to roam around my body.

“Your breasts are bigger,” he notes as he kneads them purposefully.

“Everything is starting to feel bigger,” I reply ruefully.

“I love your body, Anastasia,” he says. “You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes on.”

I smile and then pull his mouth down to mine again, pushing my tongue past his lips and tangling it with his. He matches my enthusiasm, pouring his love into the connection created through our lips, until he eventually begins moving down my body. He leaves a trail of soft kisses against every inch of my skin on his way south, stopping only when his face moves between my legs and only then to admire the sight before him.

“Oh, baby,” he whispers, and then leans forward to place a gentle kiss against my clitoris. A shudder runs up my body as I feel his tongue, and then his lips again. He moves deliberately, carefully, allowing the pleasure to build slowly until it’s burning in my skin.

“You taste so sweet, Anastasia,” he says.

I moan. “Don’t stop, Christian. Oh god, you’re so, so good.”

He groans and the sound sends vibrations through me, heightening the already euphoric sensation that drags me, inch by inch, closer to the edge. My body begins writhing over the bed, moving independently of any thought or ounce of control I possess, but Christian’s strong hands hold my hips to his face so that I can’t escape his mouth. I grind against him, growing greedier and more audacious with each passing second, until eventually the heat boils over and creeps through my bloodstream with such intensity it’s like physical, molten pleasure.

“Christian!” I scream as it begins to overwhelm me.

“Yes,” he hisses. “That’s it, give it to me. Come on my tongue. Fuck, baby.”

His mouth seems to envelop me, sucking, licking, teasing, even nibbling at me, until he’s seen me all the way through. I pant harshly as I come down and then moan as I feel him brush the tip of his erection against my opening.

“Again?”

“Yes. Fuck me again, Christian.”

“No,” he says. “No, this time, I want to make love to you.”

He sinks inside of me, stretching me slowly and allowing me to feel every inch of him until he’s buried to the hilt inside of me. Once I’m filled, he lays over the top of me, takes my hand in his, and begins pulling out with the same achingly slow rhythm. It’s maddening, and bewildering, and extraordinary all at the same time. It’s not the friction or the lust that drives me towards release this time, it’s the feel of his skin against mine. It’s the heat of his breath on my neck. It’s the sweet words of love and reassurance that he whispers into my ear. And, though it takes longer to get there, the eventual promising rise of my orgasm is stronger, more intense than before, and I revel in it as the warmth unravels and begins to spread through my body.

“You feel so good, Anastasia,” he says, his voice tight as his rhythm grows less and less controlled. “Do you think you have one more in you?”  

“Yes,” I reply. “But I want you to come with me.”

He moans and his fingers tighten around mine as he begins to really move inside of me, each hard thrust punctuated by my sharp, keening cries. As the perfect metric pace of his cadence changes and his breathing grows harsher, it’s almost as though I can feel him building towards his final release and my body instinctively paces my rise with his. He stares down into my eyes, holding my gaze as the heat envelops us both and when I watch his mouth fall open again in a silent gasp of pleasure, the quivering inside of me intensifies to the full blown shudders of an orgasm. His gasps are no longer silent as he tumbles over the edge after me and for a moment we soar together, experience the pinnacle of the physical manifestation of our love together. It’s perfect, life affirming even, and the glow of our mutual indulgence surrounds us long after the final pulse of either of our orgasms fades away.

“I love you, Anastasia,” he whispers against my lips. “You are my everything.”

“I love you, too,” I tell him. “So, so much.”

He kisses me again, softly, and brushes his fingers against my cheek. I fight the smile his touch elicits so that I can relish in his mouth and his tongue, but I’m eventually pulled away from this kiss by an entirely different distraction.

“Oh,” I gasp, and then smile as I feel the rolling movement inside of me. “I think you’ve woken your daughter up.”

“Oh, really?” Christian asks. I nod, so he moves his hand down to my belly, but the moment he touches the bare skin on my bump, he immediately yanks his away as though he’s been burned.

“Oh my god,” he says.

“What?”

“I-I felt that.”

My eyes widen. “You did?”

He nods and then slowly places his hand on my belly again, and when I feel her movements shift back across my belly once more, his eyes widen and a disbelieving kind of smile slowly begins creeping across his lips.

“I can feel her,” he whispers. “I can feel her!”

I beam at him and the excitement becoming more and more obvious in his expression the more I too feel her moving inside of me. He moves so that he can place both of his hands on my bump, and we both lay there, as still as possible, while we wait for any further shift or change. When it comes, we laugh together.

“I can’t believe it,” he says, awed. “It’s like… it’s real now. She’s really in there.”

“She’s really in there.” I giggle.

He looks up at me, grinning so widely I can practically see the joy radiating off of him, and I reach down to brush my fingers through the strands of his hair just above his forehead.

“You know, you never told me YOUR fantasies,” I tell him.

“You really want to know?” he asks, and I nod.

He takes a breath. “I fantasize about having dinner with you on a Tuesday. About waking up next to you every morning and going to bed next to you every night. I like to think about introducing you to people as my wife, not my girlfriend or my fiance, and I dream about watching you holding our daughter in your arms, singing to her as you put her to bed. I love fucking you, and I love making love to you. I love that you can be so dirty between the sheets with me, and I love indulging in every one of the things we both find pleasure in, but the thing that I fantasize about, is a life with you.”

I bite down on my lip, but as I attempt to pull him up towards me, he stops me and gives me a devilish grin.

“Although, I am fully in support of watching you live out your fantasy of being with another woman…”

“Of course you are,” I giggle, and then drag his lips to mine.

“I love you,” he says.

“And I love you. Happy Valentine’s Day, Christian.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day, baby.”

Next Chapter

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44 thoughts on “Chapter 26

  1. Good to see her getting her priorities right and helping him. And we now know that whoever had access to Ana’s computer had access to confidential information in every single division of the company. Hmmmm!

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  2. I’m worried because of two reasons:
    1.Anastasia’s very detailed fantasy about Christian coming Cambridge and blindfolding her. If someone heard this (which I think did) they might abuse Ana and she wouldn’t even complain because she thinks it’s Christian.
    2.The baby is a girl. Ff writers usually prefer to stick with canon genders in babies so I’m afraid that they’ll lose this baby and Teddy will come later.

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    1. You are right, but let’s hope you are not. Any of those two things would be horrible. I hope Tara doesn’t make us suffer like that, the poor couple has already been through too much drama to add rape or a miscarriage, which would be fatal because Ana would already be very advanced in her pregnancy (so I do not think that is the case).

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    2. That’s not true Fifty Ff has stories with a girl as first child. It is actually easier to deliver a girl first due to smaller frame than boys and a C section is avoided. Oversize babies not included.

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  3. Well just like Michael jackson’s song dirty Diana we caught a glimpse of Dirty Ana! And boy was it great🦋 But poor Christian is so distracted he is not aware of who is messing with his company. I still say it’s Hyde but most likely he penetrated thru the SIP server and he still has someone planted there to work the magic. Oh Tara you have taken this story to a whole new level of wonderful every week. You have us at the edge of the seat waiting to see who strikes next. Great job as always.

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  4. You don’t know how much I loved the photo. I don’t know, I find it so beautiful and full of romantic meaning…
    Well, about the laptop, I think that things start to get clear… The laptop… I have to say that you have a twisted mind, I don’t know how you do to give so many laps to the history … but I love it, it makes it unexpected.

    And you make me fall more for Christian in every new chapter… Omg, the last paragraph I was almost crying… You’re making it very difficult for me to find a guy with these high expectations.

    Can’t wait for the next!!

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  5. Christian’s plate is so full with work, Ana helping him is great. The server is compromised. Who? Not liking Ana’s nightmare, too close for comfort. Ana’s fantasies were very hot but Christian’s fantastic! Hot VD’s lemons. Thank you for the sexy update, Tara. You’re simply the best! Xoxo daytona

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  6. WOW H.O.T!!!!!!! So Ana found a way to be close to Christian while he worked and wound up helping him and finding another problem with the security within GEH. Who’s fault was it that Ana had access to everything? Hopefully Ana is the only one with that access or he has even bigger problems? I am thrilled that Christian is making headway with PixC. I so hope that comes true so that he can stick it to Ros who I am still so disappointed in. Then he has to go after any company that Ros thinks she has a chance with for her betrayal!!?? Does Ana really have a fantasy about being with a woman???????????????????????????

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    1. And that IS the issue for me—just who all ELSE has access to the GEH servers? And could ANA’s supposed all-access have been used to GIVE that all-access to others? It looks like PRIME and important people at GEH have been targeted, and since the access to GEH servers now obviously was NOT secure, then Ros COULD have been set up. So could Welch. Of course, Welch COULD have been the person to start all this for the Conspiracy in order to give them ALL-Access, all the time, to MULTIPLE people.

      I’m intrigued to see what the audit turns up. AND this will TIP OFF the Conspiracy to their possible DISCOVERY, if Christian manages to terminate their access.

      Again, I am still hoping that Ros is innocent in all this. And I still feel she COULD be innocent, particularly if multiple people have all access to the servers.

      But Ana’s LAPTOP is the key, I feel. WHO KNOWS how long her laptop has been compromised? It could have been done over the SUMMER when she was there and then re-accessed through the house in Cambridge. Because if Ana had ALL ACCESS from ANYWHERE, then the Conspiracy may not have even needed her laptop to just get in under her name. Christian will HOPEFULLY have his tech guys identify just WHEN someone accessed the GEH servers under Ana’s name. ANA could be ruled out as having done this if things were accessed when she was in class or other times when she would NOT have been using a computer, which security would be able to verify.

      Christian clearly hasn’t yet realized the FULL implications of the laptop issue. HOPEFULLY, the audit will alert him to the FULL problems. The PROBLEM to this is that we STILL don’t know who all is working against Christian. The very people behind the audit could be with the Conspiracy and vested in protecting their tracks.

      But if Ana’s LAPTOP and her GEH ACCESS have been compromised, just what ELSE is compromised as a result?

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  7. I knew it! So Ana’s laptop IS the explanation, at least in part, to the GEH server issue—she DOES have access to everything through the laptop. And WELCH supposedly did it. At this point, Welch really DOES seem to be a possible bad guy.

    This chapter brings several possible scenarios to life. I really wish Ana would have thought to tell Christian that her laptop WAS left unattended in Cambridge during the storm until she returned. I think that someone has been longing in under Ana’s all-access, and the FIRST question I have is just WHO gave Ana all-access? WAS it Welch? And SECONDLY, was it while Ana was still at SIP?

    We don’t know just how long the Conspiracy has been acting against GEH. If it WAS in the summer, the Conspiracy probably took advantage of all the OTHER things going on at GEH. Absolutely ANYONE could have had access to Ana’s laptop without her knowing it at SIP. After all, Welch and Barney came to her office to go over the e-reader stuff, so any number of people may have had access to Ana’s laptop OR her GEH access at that time.

    At this point, Welch seemingly still looks to be the guilty party. BUT you would think someone as smart as Welch would cover his tracks better. Even in the original books by EL James, Christian used Ana’s laptop in order to be closer to her at times, so it would be reasonable to assume he might do so while in Cambridge and discover the access that Ana has, as happened here.

    However, if Welch WAS set-up, someone KNEW what they were doing. And it seemingly HAS to come from within GEH. Wonder if anyone has checked on where Welch is now? For all we know, the Conspiracy could have recruited him AFTER his firing OR even kidnapped HIM in order to get further intel and access.

    So this chapter opens up SEVERAL possibilities of ways that GEH’s server has been COMPROMISED. And Christian is also assuming that the problem can NOW be taken care of since they have identified the issue. It will be VERY interesting to see how the Conspiracy responds to this IF the GEH team is successful in terminating people’s all-access to the GEH server.

    Wonder who ELSE at GEH has ALL ACCESS to the GEH server???? I hope that Christian has spoken to a TRUSTED employee at GEH that really will be able to identify just who all has access AND WHEN they got such access.

    But I absolutely LOVED Ana and Christian working together. Ana really IS Christian’s match in every way. She was able to take on some of the burden for Christian AND free him up to have some happy time with her afterwards. And LOVED that Christian finally felt the baby move. Christian has been so stuck in the messy present that he hasn’t been able to look forward to the FUTURE of being with Ana and their child.

    Still have so many unanswered questions that have to wait for future chapters. I wonder just what Ros and Welch are doing now. Did Ros take the job at PixC, that is assuming that she was even really offered it? I STILL think that Ana’s assessment of Ros is the correct one, but only time will tell.

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  8. And the ELENA comment—it is almost as if the Conspiracy head is TRYING to remind Christian of Elena’s lessons about trusting no one. Again, I think there must be SOME ties to Elena or Andrew Lincoln in all of this somewhere.

    I hope Ana is still with Christian when he learns the results of the GEH server audit. While I am sure these things take some time, a preliminary search should produce some results quickly. And since Ana is at Christian’s side right now, he is likely to tell her, especially if it involves her laptop.

    (Quite frankly, if Christian were smart, he ought to KEEP Ana’s laptop with him and give her a new one in order to study it. Like others, I am bothered by the possible ACCESS to OTHER things that the Conspiracy has through Ana’s laptop–like maybe some kind of tracer OR access to Ana’s sexting and face chats with Christian. REALLY creepy if someone ELSE has been seeing Ana OR Christian during their intimate moments via computer!!!)

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  9. And Ana’s NIGHTMARE presents real possibilities. After all, she is supposed to run daily now. So it IS the one time that the Conspiracy could get her, quite frankly. It depends on how much damage they are willing to do. If Ana is ONLY with a couple of security people, the Conspiracy could easily enough use a sniper-type individual to kill or tranq the guys with ease and then grab Ana. It all depends on just where Ana chooses to run and how many people the Conspiracy Head has at hand to deal with the kidnapping. And how quickly the Conspiracy henchmen can mobilize—after all, they have to follow Ana, either by vehicle or by foot, and risk being targeted before completing the mission.

    But Christian seems sure that he has enough people to protect Ana. And I am still wondering just WHY Leila would park where she parked for several days in a row. She is being OBVIOUS about it. Really brazen, so if she IS still helping “HIM,” then you would think that she would bother to at least TRY to camoflage her efforts. So CURIOUS as to what is going on THERE.

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  10. Awe!!! He got to feel the baby, how sweet! I thought it was great that Ana stayed and helped him out and it led to the discovery that she had access to all GEH files. Hopefully, this will lead to more discoveries. I thought at first that when Christian said, Elena was right, you can’t trust anyone that the light bulb was about to go off that maybe, this was a set up to show him he can’t trust anyone. Ana’s good about reflecting on things so maybe she think about that later and come to that conclusion herself. I’d like to think that at least Ross wouldn’t betray Christian. I know she’s tried to get ahold of Christian several times, I’m surprised she hasn’t tried getting ahold of Ana yet. Love, that Ana got sexy time with Christian finally! Hopefully, she get the chance to wear her nightgown too. Hot lemon! 🍋 🔥🔥🔥! Christian and Ana doing what they do best!!! Each other! 😍 Thanks for the update!

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  11. Who in the world is the Mole? GEH servers have been compromised and I believe Ros was set up! Good gravy was a bloody mess is brewing!
    Thank goodness Ana helped and they discovered she had all access, wouldn’t that be a RED FLAG for CG! Ana’s dream will it come to a attrition? Oh my it is Elena and Jack commiserating together?

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    1. You know, you do present a definite POSSIBILITY. After all, Gia HAS had access to SO MANY codes and other things through Elliot, who would NEVER think to distrust her. We really don’t know how tech-savvy OR evil Gia may be. Gia DID have unfettered and unlimited access to Christian’s apartment at the time of Welch’s dismissal.

      To me, Gia has seemed to be massively immature and to stalk off in a huff easily and quickly when offended. Someone like that would not seem to be capable of such a plan.

      YET Gia has ALWAYS wanted to get close to Christian. She even chose ELLIOT’s supposedly scheduled meeting as a chance to show Christian what she could do. And NOTICE that Gia was at GEH right around the VERY time of Ros’ supposed “defection.”

      GIA would LOVE to be the “New Ros.” She would have Christian dependent on her for SO MUCH in relation to GEH, and she would have unlimited access to him at all hours of the day. And THAT is what Gia wants most of all—she keeps TRYING TO FIND WAYS to get to Christian, both personally AND now professionally.

      But I still don’t see Gia being behind it all—I see her as more willing to TAKE ADVANTAGE of the situation that presents itself. She would DEFINITELY be a WILLING recruit to the Conspiracy, IF it promised her some sort of position close to Christian in order to further her plan of seducing him. Certainly getting rid of ANA is another goal of Gia, so her interests and the Conspiracy’s interests are ALIGNED, but ONLY to a certain point.

      After all, you HAVE to remember that Gia would NOT want a POOR Christian. So taking Christian down completely would NEVER serve Gia’s wishes. She wants the RICH AND POWERFUL Christian Grey. She just wants to ensure HER PLACE in his empire. So at some point, her interests and the Conspiracy’s wishes do NOT align.

      But I still wonder if Gia THINKS she is working for the Conspiracy AND that it has a different plan–just to get rid of Ana and others at GEH in order to put their people in. Gia would be FINE with that, as long as SHE gets what she wants, and Christian retains the WEALTH AND REPUTATION that would serve her ultimate goal of Social Climbing.

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  12. Great chapter!

    I feel bad for Christian coming home at two in the morning… He needs a break…

    I think Ros is innocent.. Like Ana said she is not the type to go behind the back.

    About Ana’s laptop.. That is very alarming. Just hope that they will find who is behind all this.

    And that was some seriously HOT lemon…
    Loved that Christian could feel the baby and loved the last paragraph… It made me fall in love with Christian all over again… ♥♥♥

    Your writing is just fabulous. I can’t understand how you make all this up… Can’t wait for more. Love you loads. 🙂

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  13. GREAT CHAPTER TARA! I HATED THAT CHRISTIAN WAS SO BUSY HE DIDN’T HAVE TIME FOR ANA…. BUT SHE CAME TO HER SENSES AND HELPED HIM! IT WAS SO NICE FOR THEM TO WORK TOGETHER, THEY FINISHED IT IN TIME TO HAVE LOTS OF HOT FUN! I CAN’T BELIEVE ANAS LAPTOP WAS COMPROMISED. BY WHO? WELCH? WAS HE THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD DO THAT? I CAN’T BELIEVE HE DID ALL OF THAT STUFF TO CHRISTIAN. HE WAS VERY GOOD WITH HIM. HE HELPED KEEP THINGS RUNNING SMOOTHLY FOR GEH. WHY? I THINK HE WAS SET UP. I HOPE THEY FIND OUT IF ANYONE ELSE HAS ACCESS TO THOSE FILES AND HOW IT HAPPENED! I LOVED THAT CHRISTIAN AND ANA TALKED ABOUT FANTASIES! THEY WERE SO HOT. I WAS MELTING HERE! DAMN WOMAN! I CAN’T WAIT TO READ THE NEXT UP DATE TO SEE WHAT’S GOING ON. ONE MORE THING, I HATE LEILA! IS SHE TRYING TO CAUSE ANA TO HAVE A MISCARRIAGE? I KNOW THAT BITCH WOULD DO ANYTHING TO GET NEAR CHRISTIAN… BUT DOES SHE REALLY BELIEVE THAT’S POSSIBLE? FORGET IT LEILA! THANKS TARA!

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  14. Oh Wow! That was HOT! I love how naughty her fantasies were and his were so sweet. I’m sure someone had access to her laptop while it was in Cambridge during that snow storm. I wonder what else they’ll uncover while going through all the profiles in the GEH server?!

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  15. I also thought before that Ana could be a good help for Christian in any manner she is able to cut on the overload of work. She can do it she is smart and a fast learner. Welch is a prime suspect in compromising the GEH server and didn’t Ross also work with Anna on SIP, she was actually in charge there at the time before the problems occurred. Christian was in heaven being able to feel the fetal movements. It is a life worth waiting for the arrival. Good for them to have a time together of her fantasy enacted, but the true lovemaking is all that matters and worth being in Seattle. I am not so sure about taking so much time writing about her fantasies. I just skip parts of it. It is just me so just ignore me. I am interested to read how Christian is progressing and tackling all the problems to move his company forward and making it even bigger to show he is the best in the business and still able to live a good family life even with all the upheavals being thrown their way, they will succeed. Thank you, Tara.

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  16. Great chapter, like always! I feel like that’s not even needed to be said.

    I love their intamacy, but I also hope that this “girl” stuff is just talk. It doesn’t seem right that Ana can be so jealous, but then want to be intimate with a girl… and let Christian be apart of it or at least watch.

    I don’t know… might just be me though.

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    1. I’m with you there. Christian has always been super possessive of Ana. I think the thought of girl-on-girl action is his fantasy but the REALITY is not something that he would want. He wouldn’t want to share Ana.

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      1. I agree. I can’t see Christian EVER wanting Ana to be intimate with ANYONE other than himself. He does not want to share her love, and at the end of the day, THEIR LOVE is what is the ultimate goal and result of their lovemaking. Someone else does not belong in that.

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  17. I still can’t see Ros being guilty of this sabotage. Quite frankly, even IF she was the selfish back-stabbing horror story that Christian currently thinks she is, the chances of discovery AND of her plan with PixC to backfire is just TOO great. Christian could certainly takeover the company prior to Ros having time to turn it around, so WHY would Ros risk EVERYTHING on something that had little chance of working.

    The FAR more plausible plan would be for the Conspiracy to set Ros up in order to get rid of her. Christian might be forced to trust OTHER GEH employees that DO have connections already to the Conspiracy rather than Ros, who they KNEW they could not turn. So if you can’t recruit or bribe someone to join the Conspiracy, then you discredit them and get them fired.

    So I see the Conspiracy setting up the most LOYAL and highest-ranking employees of GEH in order to get them fired and out of the way. That way, Conspiracy-level members within GEH get bumped up OR have obstacles to their access removed. I mean, it was WELCH’S JOB to discover security breaches, so getting rid of him at the time when they did seems WAY too convenient for the Conspiracy.

    And again, the ONLY EVIDENCE is emails sent from the GEH server. A server that we now KNOW has been seemingly COMPROMISED. Ros has supposedly denied sending the incriminating emails. So WHO could have sent them, IF not her??

    But I AM surprised that Ros has not reached out to Ana. Ros gave Ana advice to handling Christian in ADSOF, and she stuck by him DESPITE the trials that could have ruined GEH. Ros HELPED Ana with SIP, so she WORKED with Ana as well as socializing with her outside of GEH.

    And Ros would HAVE to know that if anyone would hear her out, Ana would. And Ana would be the ONLY one who could actually get Christian to reconsider his actions towards her. So WHY has Ros NOT reached out to ANA?

    I do believe that Christian has made a mistake in not at least investigating Ros’ claims that she did NOT do what she is accused of doing. I’m still hoping that Ros will contact Ana, AND that Ana will hear her out and investigate.

    Only time will tell what Ros’ next move will be. EAGERLY awaiting the next chapter installment, as always!!!

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    1. I’m just waiting for it all to click for Christian… The GEH servers are compromised… the only evidence against Welch & Ros were emails found on the COMPROMISED SERVERS… Ros and Welch were pretty much the people he trusted the most at GEH… Hopefully this audit will make the light bulb go off in his head!

      And I completely agree about Ros. It IS surprising that she wouldn’t contact Ana directly but I’m hoping that will change soon! I think Ana might actually be the one to put the clues together. She definitely needs to tell Christian that the laptop was left unattended during the snow storm.

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  18. “People always make the best exploits. I’ve never found it hard to hack most people. If you listen to them, watch them, their vulnerabilities are like a neon sign screwed into their heads.”
    – Elliot Anderson

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  19. Great chapter. That’s how Roz was framed surely with the server problems. Can’t wait to find out. Thank you.

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  20. I just re-read ABSOF Chapter 25, and it was highly illuminating, given what is going on now.

    In that installment, Sawyer is able to check the GEH server, without issue, and finds Elena’s flight reservations, etc. ALSO, it is WELCH in this chapter that Sawyer asks to check into the bar where SOMEONE, not paparazzi, snapped pictures of Ana (and Luke) while Christian was in NY. And WELCH finds the ties to Elena having been there.

    So Elena DOES have motivation for wanting Welch eliminated from GEH. She was trying to separate Christian and Ana at that time, and she was conveniently at the sex shop that Ana and Kate went to. And NOTICE Ana’s reference to ISAAC’s comments about Elena bringing girls to Christian’s office.

    So Isaac was involved with ALL the minutia of Elena’s business AND personal attempts to isolate Christian and/or go after Ana. And Isaac was VERY manipulative in that scene with Ana, which shows JUST how much he has learned from his mistress.

    But that chapter is TELLING to me. At that time, at least, Welch was helping to EXPOSE Elena FOR Sawyer and Ana and was working WITH Sawyer. PLUS, BOTH Sawyer AND Welch had FULL access to the GEH SERVERS, as BOTH were able to find potentially incriminating things on Elena, INCLUDING going into Christian’s OWN EMAILS.

    So the GEH servers sure sound relatively easy to compromise, at least for ANYONE in security OR that Welch gave access to. And since TAYLOR is head of security, he keeps ONLY the people that he can vouch for AND that he trusts, AT LEAST UP UNTIL NOW. With the UPGRADE of the threat, Taylor has had to hire OUTSIDE security people that he does NOT know personally. So if SECURITY personnel ARE given all-access, then the Conspiracy MAY HAVE WANTED more people hired in the hopes of getting their OWN individual in.

    Sigh. So at least in ABSOF, Welch was actively HELPING Sawyer to expose Elena. So it makes it FAR less likely that Welch would KNOWINGLY work with Elena or her accomplices. FURTHERMORE, it would make Welch a READY TARGET for the Conspiracy, given his ability to unearth their communications/machinations.

    So I’m still leaning more towards Ros AND Welch being targeted by the Conspiracy RATHER than helping said Conspiracy. Only time will tell.

    (By the by, I would actually LOVE Sawyer’s take on what he thinks about Welch and Ros. Sawyer has obviously worked more closely with Welch in the past, and he trusted him then. I actually hope Ana ASKS Sawyer about his ACCESS to the GEH server and whether or not he previously was able to HACK the system OR if he and others were given access by Welch when asked. Could be a VERY illuminating conversation!)

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  21. I agree — definitely Ros has been targeted by the Conspiracy, and very likely Welch, too. I’ve been wondering what Taylor is doing these days while Christian is so busy. Is he looking into Ros and Welch’s dismissals? What IS Welch doing now? Could he be trying to clear his name by hacking into the system, undetected by Walker? Christian just HAS to take Ros back, and I’d love Welch (with Sawyer) to crack the conspiracy.

    I don’t even want to consider Ana and baby being harmed!

    I LOVED Christian’s fantasy of coming home every night to Ana and waking beside her every morning — that’s real love.

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    1. You bring up another VERY interesting issue: Taylor is almost assuredly spread TOO THIN at this point. He was charged with 1) puting in an appropriate security system for Ana’s house in Cambridge, 2) hiring NEW people to be security for Ana AND Kate, 3) coordinate all the above AS WELL AS looking into Leila’s situation. And THAT is all in CAMBRIDGE.

      So HOW does Taylor adequately coordinate with everyone AND have time to look into the machinations of those in Seattle? IT WOULD FALL TO WELCH normally to look into the security of GEH, but we now have this Walker individual. And it sounded from Christian’s phone conversation that Walker already feels overwhelmed at the task presented to him of doing an audit of EVERY GEH Employees’ access INDIVIDUAL GEH servers.

      So things that normally would fall within Taylor’s realm of security seem to be falling by the wayside due to being spread TOO THIN all over the place, between Seattle and Cambridge. (And I REALLY think there may be a NY connection in their too, since we know that was where Andrew Lincoln re-incorporated Lincoln Timber, which is now ALSO under the GEH umbrella.)

      So the Conspiracy definitely seems to be going on the “Divide and Conquer” attack mode.

      (And that comment by Christian regarding Elena was illuminating in that SOMEONE behind this Conspiracy really DOES know how Christian tends to think. They KNEW what evidence would likely convince Christian to FIRE Ros and Welch, no further questions asked. So it DOES sound like, directly OR INDIRECTLY, someone knows Elena really well and has exploited what she knew of Christian.)

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  22. I really think Ros had been set up. And when it turns out to be true, when Christian realizes he’d done her wrong, I hope she does not come back and work for GEH. I think the woman’s had enough.

    Thanks for the chapter.

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    1. Like you, if Ros DOES turn out to be innocent, then you do wonder how the two could work together again. But Ros has worked with Christian for MANY years and KNOWS how he is. And Ros would HAVE to understand how it looks to PixC AND to GEH when the evidence SEEMS on its face to be irrefutable.

      Ros supported Christian at the time of the Elena trial even though it could have ended GEH (and her own career). She could have tried to distance herself or look for other employment, but she stood by Christian. And Ros has seen GEH grow through her own efforts, and she certainly has maintained a lot of central contacts in the business world.

      It just comes down to how motivated these two are to seeing THEIR MUTUAL DREAM through to the end. They BOTH started GEH, and they BOTH need to recognize the mutual efforts and skill-set of one another.

      Again, I see Ana playing a major roll in working with both of them. HOWEVER, we will have to see how successful the Conspiracy actually proves in destabilizing GEH. And who is actually CONCLUSIVELY behind the whole thing.

      I can see this from the point of view of both Ros AND Christian. But if I was Ros, I would be furious that Christian wouldn’t hear me out and give me a chance to find proof of innocence before assuming guilt. But to Christian, the GEH servers ARE the definitive proof. He will HAVE to see that they have been compromised first. (AND that is sad that machines get trusted over individuals, BUT Christian has seen TOO MANY people motivated by greed and their own desires that have screwed him over in the past, both literally AND figuratively. So Christian is more likely to trust an unfeeling machine then someone else. Elena HAS taught him way too well.)

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  23. I agree with the majority and have, all along, thought Ros to be the victim here as it is simply out of character for her to back-stab Christian so blatantly.
    Ana’s laptop should be the first clue to the hacking. Hopefully, Ana will put it all together soonest and get the two of them to sit down and talk it through.
    Perhaps some trickery on Ana’s part may necessary to get Ros and Christian in the same room. If, hopefully, she IS truly innocent, Ros has to be completely devastated by Christian’s actions and not even granting her the opportunity to tell her side of the story?! I figure C will have to do something major to woo her back and mend fences, big-time. Perhaps, although not a partnership as Christian would NEVER go for that – but, a better title for her that would be
    letterhead-worthy may be good for starters. Although it appears Welch may very well also be the victim of the conspiracy, I am optimistic for a reveal that he has been working, all along, behind the scenes with Christian.
    Marlene raised an excellent point re where is Taylor and what is he doing. Especiallywith all that is going on with the conspiracy, etc. – Christian should not be driving vulnerably with such late and crazy hours. His mind is in too many places and the concentration level that he needs right now may be compromised by his multi-tasking and, especially, fatigue. He would make for an easy prey.
    Must mention how proud I felt for C when he went the opposite route of Ana with regardo HIS fantasy… Coming home to and waking up with Ana was just about tear-inducing. Love it when he says/does something out of character.
    Tara – you never cease to amaze with your fabulous writing, along with spot-on and unexpected character ‘reveals.’ I start dreading the wait for the following Monday before I have even have finished reading the current chapter. Maybe, just Maybe, a surprise ‘bonus’ chapter for your loyal minions once in a while?! Even an abbreviated chapter would be oh so welcomed.
    P.S. Love YOUR Comments To Our Comments!!
    Oh – and GIA MUST GO!

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    1. I wish I could do bonus chapters, but lately even getting the regular chapter posted on time is killing me. I finished this one Monday morning, haha. In response to the “where is Taylor” question, he’s there, but like everyone else, he’s simply spread too thin to dig deep into anything that isn’t blatantly obvious, and whatever is going on and whoever is behind it, has done a very good job of not being obvious. Basically the whole Grey organization/team is in putting out fire mode, not searching for smoke.

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    1. Haha, I literally forgot about him (and realized it about 3/4 of the way through ADSOF) but didn’t care enough to try to bring him back in the story. I think if I wrote it over again, I’d take him out of the story completely. haha

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  24. In re-reading ASSOF 24 and 25, Christian seems to be VERY irritated with Gia. I tend to think something else HAS happened regarding Gia, either in some fight with Elliot or something else. Both times when Ana has noticed that Christian scoffed at the mention of Gia (and Gia’s OBVIOUS belief in her own importance), it was not a time or place to get further information.

    Hopefully, (hint, hint, oh great and wondrous fantabulous author, Tara) we will get clues in upcoming chapters regarding what Gia has been up to and how Christian’s refusal to let her have her way has affected his relationship with Elliot.

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  25. OOOOoooooooooo. Just had a thought. Elliot and Gia are going to St. Bart’s for Valentine’s weekend, and they are probably going without security. THAT might be who the Conspiracy targets, PARTICULARLY if Gia WAS a recent recruit who thought that the “kidnapping” was just a ruse to get Christian’s attention, so she could have provided the itinerary to Leila or someone else in the Conspiracy.

    After all, Leila’s car being parked down the street from Ana’s house may have been an attempt to throw security off while the Conspiracy looked ELSEWHERE for a target!

    (Now eagerly awaiting the next chapter and new arc that is coming! You just KNOW that means that the Conspiracy is stepping things up and not giving Christian enough time to adapt to the changes!)

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