Chapter 04

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It’s slightly unnerving how little Dr. Flynn’s office has changed in the last two years. The books on his bookshelf are in the exact same order as they were the last time I had regular session with him, and the same faces look down on me from the picture frames on the walls. Even the decorative design on the kleenex box sitting on the coffee table between us is the same. It makes me feel like I’m right back where I was that summer before my senior year, talking about Elena Lincoln over and over and over again, and I don’t like it. Not even because I hate thinking about the way things were between Christian and I back then and how hard it was going through that time in our lives, but because, now, I’d give anything for that to be the reason I was sitting on this couch again. The reason I’m back, the reason Flynn is currently sitting across from me and staring at me with that patient, understanding look, is a hundred times more difficult to deal with than something as innocuous as Christian running a salon with a woman I despise.

Of course, Christian is late to our session. Again. He has been every Wednesday for the past three weeks and I’m starting to get suspicious that it’s not actually GEH that’s been keeping him. He’s been asking me to go to therapy for myself for months to no avail, so now he’s trying to force me into it. But I won’t let him. This session is for Christian. I’m here for Christian.

While Flynn sits across from me, waiting for me to start, I scroll through my email on my phone and do some online shopping for Calliope. I’m just submitting payment for the world’s smallest, most adorable Harvard sweatshirt when Flynn finally shifts in his chair and clears his throat to get my attention.

“You know, Ana, my time has already started.”

“I know, Christian is just caught up at work. I’m sorry.”

“You’re here. You and I could talk.” His tone is encouraging but careful, the way Christian’s is whenever he tries to bring up what happened or once again implores me to attend my weekly scheduled sessions in this office. It instantly has me on guard.

“What, are you two collaborating now?”

“Is that how you feel? That the people in your life are working against your best interests?”

I raise an eyebrow and cross my arms over my chest, sinking back into the couch and staring back at him defiantly. “No.”

“Christian tells me you’ve had some difficulty talking about what happened. He thinks that you’re struggling more than you’re willing to admit, but everytime he suggests you seek help you shut down.”

“I don’t shut down, I just don’t need therapy. I’m fine.”

“I don’t think your husband agrees with you.”

“That’s because my husband has a pathological need to fix things and he’s been looking at me for months like I’m this broken thing that just needs to be put back together. But I’m not. I’m fine. He only wants me here because he’s been in therapy since he was four years old, so it’s his knee jerk reaction for every problem.”

“I don’t think that’s true. I believe it was you who pushed him to come see me in the beginning. In fact, in our early sessions, he made it clear to me that the only reason he sat in that chair was because you made it an ultimatum for your relationship. Clearly, you thought it was helpful then, so what makes it different now?”  

“Because we’re not talking about Christian, we’re talking about me. Therapy is only helpful to people who need it. I’m not one of those people.”

He nods. “Okay, tell me about that. Why do you think it was good for Christian and not for you?”

“Because Christian had a relationship with a woman who molested him and abused him for years and didn’t see anything wrong with it. He needed therapy to understand what she really did to him. I have no illusions about what Andrew Lincoln was. He was a sick, sadistic man who let a grudge he held against a nineteen year old drive him to murder. He was insane, and violent, and the world is a better place now that he’s gone. But he’s gone and I have come to terms with that. I don’t want to talk about him. I don’t want to think about him. I just need some time to feel what I need to feel about what happened to me and to my family without everyone around me trying to decide what is best for me and treating me like a china doll they all watched shatter across the floor and now are desperately trying to glue back together again.”

The longer I speak the more the emotions I spend all my time trying to suppress begin to bubble out of me, and the power-high I’ve been riding all afternoon vanishes the instant I let myself say Andrew Lincoln’s name aloud. My voice is higher than normal, my muscles are tight, and there’s a dry ache building the back of my throat that I know means I’m about to cry. I break eye contact with Flynn, take a deep breath to gain control of myself, and prepare what I’m going to say when he starts to argue with me. But he doesn’t. He nods.

“Okay.”

I look up, my brow furrowed in confusion. “What?”

“Okay. If you think you’re coping well on your own, I’m not in a position to tell you otherwise. Given what you’ve been through, I think time is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask of those you love. We don’t have to talk about Andrew Lincoln if you don’t want to.”

“Oh.” I let out a long, relieved breath. “Thank you. You’re the only person who’s said that to me.”

“You’re welcome, Anastasia. How’s your writing going?”

“My writing?”

He smiles. “I read your book. I thought it was fantastic. Isaiah’s journey to find hope after such a dark time was heartbreaking, and beautiful. I saw a lot of you in him, Anastasia, and a lot of what you shared with me here, in this very office. I think you worked through your feelings and your pain in a very meaningful and productive way. In fact, I can see now why it drove Christian’s realization so effectively. I hope it’s something you’re continuing. Have you started something new?”

“Yeah.” I nod.

“What’s it about?”

“It’s um… It’s a love story. I started it last summer, because I felt like I had spent so much time writing about the bad parts of my relationship with Christian that I wanted to change and write about everything that’s so wonderful. It was a good distraction over the last few months, focusing on the things I’m grateful for rather than the things I’m not.”

“Was? Is it finished?”

I press my lips together in hesitation. “Yes. And… no. I mean, I’m at the end but something about it feels wrong. I’ve read through it three times since I finished, trying to figure out what it is, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I don’t know. But the story is about Christian, the way he loves me, and the way I love him, so I need it to be perfect. It’s not done until it’s perfect.”

“That seems like a tall order.”

“It is, but it’s my job.” I take a deep breath and shake my head. “I’ll figure it out. I just need… I don’t know.”

“Well, you used to work in publishing. If you weren’t writing this story, if you were a fiction editor, say, and one of your authors came to you with this problem, what advice would you give them?”

I stop and think about that. It’s not an angle I’ve considered before, but, surprisingly, it works.

“Distance helps,” I tell him.

He raises an eyebrow at me. “What do you mean?”

“Sometimes, when your stuck in the weeds like this, it helps to put the project away for a while. To find something else to work on, clear your head, and return with brand new perspective. Distance.”

“Okay, so how can you accomplish that? Do you have any other projects you could focus on for a while?”

“No, I’ve…” I stop, because a new thought stops me. I don’t have another project I can work on now, and I don’t want to step away from my novel for something unproductive or that isn’t meaningful enough to deserve my time. But if the idea is to completely occupy myself so that I can return to my writing with new, fresh perspective, there’s a new possibility that I didn’t give any credence before. Now, though…

“I got a job offer this afternoon,” I say.

“Oh?” Flynn looks intrigued, so I nod and sit up for the first time since I entered this session.

“Yeah. There’s a publishing house in Seattle that needs an overhaul. Their sales are dropping, they’re not signing as many new authors… I’ve been there before, with SIP. I know how to help them, I have the experience, and I have a unique perspective of both sides of the industry that would be difficult to find in another candidate.”

“That’s true,” Flynn agrees. “So, they reached out to you?”

“I had a conversation with the president of their New York office today before lunch, and he said they’d be very interested in interviewing me. He kind of implied that, if I wanted it, the job was mine.”

“Sounds like a perfect fit then.”

“But they’re competitors with Grey Publishing,” I argue. “Taking this job would mean that I’d be working against the best interest of my husband’s company.”

“Ah, that does complicate things.”

“Yeah. I couldn’t–”

“Am I interrupting?” Flynn and I both turn and see Christian poking his head through the door of the office. There’s a mixture of nerves and hope muddled together in his eyes as he glances between Flynn and I.

I smile. “No, not at all. Come in.”

He steps into Flynn’s office, closes the door behind him, and joins me on the couch. His hand wraps around mine and quickly raises my fingers so he can press his lips into each and every one of them. Once he’s finished, he pulls our conjoined hands into his lap and turns to face our therapist.

“What are we talking about?”

“My book,” I say quickly, before Flynn can speak. “He read Escape, and he was telling me what he thought.”

“Your book?” Christian repeats, a hint of disapproval beneath his flat tone. He looks back and forth between us before eventually dropping my hand from his and pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. “I don’t understand why you’re fighting me on this, Ana.”

“I’m not fighting you on anything.”

“Yes! You are.”

“No, I’m not. Christian, I’m fi–”

“I swear to god, Ana. If you tell me you’re fine one more time.”

“But I am!”

“No, you’re not. Fine isn’t waking up screaming almost every night and fighting me off of you like you think I’m going to hurt you.”

“That’s…” I hesitate, at a loss for words. “I can’t control that, Christian. Don’t you think I want to?”

“But that’s what I’m telling you, Ana. You can’t control it because you’re not dealing with it. I know. This used to happen to me all the time and it didn’t stop until I admitted I needed help and worked through the problem.”

“This is different. We’re different, Christian.”

He shakes his head. “I wish I could show you how wrong you are about that, Ana.”

“Well, this might be an opportunity,” Flynn interrupts. “In my experience working with patients suffering from PTSD–”

“I don’t have PTSD,” I correct him, but he gives me the same doubtful look someone would give a child who was caught doing something wrong and tried to deny it anyway. It breaks my confidence a little, and, as I start to fidget uncomfortably, he continues.

“Like I said, in my experience working with patients suffering from PTSD, I’ve observed a pattern of isolation. Feeling stuck and obsessing internally over something that happened in the past can make a person feel alien, like there’s a separation between them and everyone around them that they just can’t get past and they’re living in a different world than everyone else. It’s why support groups are so useful. It helps with the isolation to know that someone can truly empathize with you. Christian, perhaps if you share your experience, it might make Ana more comfortable sharing hers.”

He stares back at Flynn, unblinking. “She knows my past.”

“She knows what happened, but she might not know your experience. You say that you see similarities between what she’s going through and what you’ve gone through in the past, take this opportunity to explain what you mean.”

He still doesn’t immediately say anything. Instead, he sits back in his chair and stares irritably at Flynn, chewing on the side of his index finger. Eventually though, he sits up again, takes a deep breath, and looks at me.

“It’s the dreams.”

I swallow the lump that grows in my throat when I see the pain in his eyes and reach out for his hand, but he moves it away. The rejection stings, but I don’t think it was really purposeful. He looks down at our hands for a long moment, blinks, then wraps his hand around mine and shifts his gaze back up to my eyes.

“I just want to help you, baby.”

“I know, and I appreciate that. But I don’t need you to save me, Christian. I’m fine, really.”

He shakes his head. “Alright. If it’ll make you see reason…” He pauses, looking as though he’s having trouble summoning the right words, then takes a deep breath and continues. “I don’t remember a lot about my life before Grace and Carrick. I don’t remember what my biological mother looked like or what she did with me if she was ever sober enough to pay attention to me. I don’t even know that times like that existed. But some things I remember perfectly because for years, I saw them every night in my dreams.”

“Your mother?” I check. He shakes his head.

“The scars on my chest… I remember how I got each and every one of them. I remember the first time so vividly that sometimes I can still smell the burning flesh under his cigarette. I remember his voice and the sound of his boots as he stomped around the house trying to find me. I can still feel the crack of his belt as he beat me over the side of my mother’s filthy couch. But she’s not there in any of the dreams. She’s not trying to protect me, she’s not trying to stop him…”

He’s not looking at me anymore. He’s staring off into space and I wonder if that’s because he sees it now just as clearly as he did in his dreams. Or as clearly as I can still see the slow creep of blood as it pooled around Gia’s lifeless body. That’s a common theme in my own nightmares, no one coming to save me. I can scream for Christian, I can beg for Luke to find me, but no one ever comes. When I picture Christian as a small child, dangling over the arm of a sofa while being held down with one strong hand and beat with the other, it’s only too easy for the faceless man he describes to morph into Lincoln. And then I’m there too.

“Most of the time,” Christian continues, “I’m at home alone, hungry and scared because it’s dark and I don’t know when my mother will get home. There was a place in the back of my closet I used hide. I liked it because I could see my bedroom door through the crack between the closet door and the wall, but there was enough junk in the closet to hide me from plain sight if anyone came in. It felt safe, comfortable, even though I was hungry. So hungry. Until I could hear the front door open, and, instead of hearing my mother fumbling around trying to get to her room, I heard his boots.”

“It’s okay, Christian,” I say, trying to stop him. The fear in his voice resonates with my own and makes my chest feel tight. I grip his hands tighter and shake my head. “It’s okay, I understand. It’s the same.”

He looks back over at me, and reaches up to brush his thumb across my lower lip to stop it from trembling.

“I’m a grown man,” he continues, “and that sound still terrifies me. It didn’t matter if it was getting closer or farther away, it terrified me. Because I knew, no matter what, he would find me eventually. He always found me, and when he did, he always hurt me. He liked it. I have seen the pleasure he took in my pain and in my fear reflected in his eyes a thousand times. The burn made me scream, and that was satisfying to him, but the belt… The belt he could draw out, savor each and every lash until I bled. I was four. There was no way I could get away from him or the belt, and when I tried he hit me harder. He liked it when I tried.”

A hot jolt of pain and disgust flashes through me like a bolt of lightning and, suddenly, I can smell Linc’s cologne on me again. Christian is sitting close enough to me that I can feel the heat of his breath wash over me when it speaks and it makes the thoughts of Lincoln pinning me to the floor and telling me all the vile things he planned to do to my body feel close, and too real. I couldn’t fight him either. He was so much stronger than me that even as I pushed and kicked to get away, he held me down beneath him as easily as if I laid perfectly still.

I can’t take it. My breath feels like it freezes inside my lungs and I start to shake.

“Stop,” I beg him. “Stop.”

He doesn’t. “I could feel it in my dreams, the pain of every lash. But that was never enough to wake me. Especially when I got older. What woke me every time was the feel of his hands on me…”

“Stop!” I jump to my feet and back away from the couch, holding my hands out in front of me protectively. “Stop, okay? I’m done. I want to go home.”

“Ana, this is what I’m trying to tell you,” Christian argues. “It doesn’t go away on its own. You have to deal with this or it’s just going to get worse. Believe me, I’ve lived through this.”

“I want to go home,” I say again.

“No. I’m not letting you run from this anymore.”

“Christian!”

“Alright, alright,” Flynn finally intervenes. “We’ve moved past productive space. Everyone take a breath and lets get back on track here.”

“No. I’m done. I want to go home.”

“Ana, I’m sorry…”  

“I want. To go. Home!” I snap, then turn and storm out of Flynn’s office. They both call out for me to come back, but I don’t. I push through the door into the lobby, find a chair, and sit there, shaking and trying not to cry, until Christian finally comes after me.

“I’m sorry, Ana,” he says, looking down at me with regret.

I shake my head. “No, you’re not.”

“Yeah, you’re right. I’m not. I meant to scare you. I want to break down your walls and make you open up to me.”

“Great.”

“Ana, I just… I know how hard this is and I know that what your doing now isn’t going to make it any easier. It only gets harder and I don’t want you to go through what I did. Please, baby…”

I meet his eyes with mine and I can feel him silently imploring me as we stare at one another. It’s difficult, because I know he’s in pain too, but I’m not strong enough to do what he’s asking of me. I used to be. Before, there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do to stop Christian from looking the way he does right now. But I can’t anymore. That part of me is gone, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to get it back.

“I’m sorry that this is hard for you,” I whisper with shame. “But I want to go home.”

Christian takes a deep breath and his lips press together in a thin, angry line. “Fine. Let’s go then.”

He doesn’t say anything more as we walk to the car. He holds my hand and opens the door for me, but he doesn’t speak. When Taylor pulls out of the downtown parking garage, he pulls out his phone and immediately goes into his email.

I chew on the inside of my cheek, wondering if it’s better to try and work through the anger and resentment brewing between us now, in front of our security, or spend an evening playing nice and trying to act like everything is normal in front of our daughter and then get into a blowout right before bed. Neither sounds ideal.

“Mia’s birthday is this weekend,” he says, interrupting my silent struggle, but still not looking up at me.

“Yeah,” I reply. “Has your mom told you what we’re doing?”

“Well, we we’re going to do something big since she’s turning eighteen and we really haven’t done anything to celebrate her getting into Harvard, but Mia has asked for something small. A dinner with just the family.”

“Oh, okay.”

“I was thinking we could do it at our house. Mom and Dad are pretty much full time at the apartment downtown now, so we have the most space.”

“Our house? I don’t know… I have a thing this weekend.”

“A thing?”

“A writer’s summit. I’m doing a signing Saturday afternoon. I won’t be able to cook dinner.”

“That’s fine. Just decide what you want to do and I’ll take care of it.” His tone is still curt, and it makes every word he speaks feel like a chastisement.

“Okay. Mia likes Italian, right?” He nods, his eyes still focused on his phone. “Lasagna, then. Or maybe a soup? It’s been a little cold this past week.”

He doesn’t even react that time, much less suggest something else. His fingers move over the keyboard of his phone, and his eyes never leave the screen.

“I guess, we’ll need to find a gift, too,” I continue, trying to force him to at least look at me. “Something special since she’s eighteen.” I wait for a response, but, again, nothing. I bite my lip and start twisting my fingers together uncomfortably in my lap. “My dad bought me like a hundred dollars worth of lottery tickets when I turned eighteen and, I didn’t win anything, but it was fun. What do you think?”

“I think she’s going to have access to an $8 million trust fund in four years. Lottery tickets seem frivolous.”

“Well, everything’s frivolous when you have money. It’s not like there’s a single thing the world she actually needs. She purposely buys your dad the ugliest tie she can find for Father’s Day every year. That’s frivolous.”

“Fine. Get her lottery tickets, then. Whatever you want, it’s fine.”

“She’s your sister, you know her better.”

“Then I’ll take care of it.”

“Christian…”

“Hang on.” He lifts his phone to his ear and waits half a second before he launches into a long exposition of business speak with Ros. I wait a few minutes for him to finish, but it becomes clear very quickly that his conversation isn’t going to be brief. My heart sinks and I start to feel uncomfortable in a way that I really haven’t before. I know Christian is angry about me refusing therapy yet again, but normally when he’s angry he yells. Yelling I can deal with. This is worse. Much worse.

I turn and stare out the rain splattered window, thinking about the session we just went through. I can remember, from the first time we had counseling together, that Christian didn’t like the place it always left us in immediately afterwards, because I always left hurt and angry. Was this what it felt like for him? Did he feel like everything he was sure of before was suddenly slipping through his fingers? Or do I only feel this way because of the things I just listened to him say?

Because he was right when he said he understood. The fear he described feeling because of his nightmares is exactly how I feel when I’m trapped in mine. And the confusion between the dream and reality right when you wake up… Except that actually might be worse for him. When I wake up, when I’m first able to hold onto something real, the fear from my dreams vanishes as quickly as it came. I know that Andrew Lincoln is dead. I know that the terror he puts me through in unconsciousness will stay there and never come for me again. Christian doesn’t have that luxury. The man who tortured him is still out there, somewhere, and the only thing Christian has to protect himself from him is anonymity.

Christian Grey and anonymity.

It sounds like an oxymoron.

I wonder if he’s still afraid.

His words swirl through my head the rest of the drive home, becoming more and more real and threatening on every repetition. I can picture everything he said so clearly I can almost hear the stomp of the man’s boots on the floor, or smell the faint scent of whiskey and cigarettes wafting off of him. It makes me nauseous to think about Christian as a defenseless child being burned with the bright red cherry of a cigarette. It’s bad enough that, by the time we get home, I have to excuse myself for the restroom while he goes to relieve Kensie and get Calliope dinner.

I lock the door behind me when I step into the downstairs bathroom, then turn to stare at my reflection in the mirror. I look pale, clammy even, but I don’t throw up like I thought I would. Instead, I start to shake and tears pool in my eyes. My knees give out, I sink down onto the cool, tile floor, and I begin to cry.  There’s an image of Christian as child, huddled beneath his bed, praying to God that no one finds him, stuck in my mind. But as I try to shake it away, it changes and my whole body tenses as a gunshot rings in my ears and the memory of the man that I love staggering backwards and collapsing to the floor plays so clearly it’s like I’m watching it happen right in front of me all over again.

“No,” I whimper, reaching for my phone. “No, no, no.”

My fingers shake as I dial Luke’s number and I try the best I can to blink away the tears while I listen to my phone ring.

“Hey, how was therapy?” he answers.

“Luke…”

“Ana? Are you okay? What’s wrong?” His voice is urgent, scared, which makes him difficult to answer.

“Luke, I need to-to kno-w…”

“Ana, what happened? Are you hurt?”

“No, I’m fi-ine.” I take a breath to try and steady my voice. “I’m fine. Please tell me that you have contacts in Detroit.”

“Detroit? No, I don’t think so…”

I swallow again. “Correct that.”

“What? Ana, what’s wrong?”

“After Cambridge, our next target will be in Detroit. I need you to make contacts in Detroit so we can make that happen.”

“Why?”

“Can you do that, Luke? Or do I need to figure something else out?”

“No, I can do it. Of course I can do it. But… Ana, what’s going on?”

His reassurances calm me down enough that I can breathe without sobbing, and after a few, calming breaths, I can speak regularly. “Nothing. Just another name to add to the list.”

“Um, okay…”

“I’ve got to go, Luke. Let me know when you’re ready.”

“Ana-”

I hang up and let my head fall back against the door. I can’t go join my husband until I know I’m fully in control of myself again, so I wait. With my eyes closed, I sit there and let myself relax, just to see if the images of the beautiful copper haired little boy who looks like my husband will return. Thankfully, they don’t. Having a plan of action seems to have effectively soothed the fear of this threat just like our plan this afternoon soothed so many others. I get off the floor, wash the evidence of my tears from my face, and take a deep breath before opening the door and searching through the house for Christian and Calliope.

“Hey,” he says, looking up with concern when I enter the dining room. “You okay?”

“Yeah, of course I am. I just wanted to wash my makeup off.” I smile broadly and hold my hands out for my daughter. “Hey, munchkin! How was your day?”

“Dada,” she says, reaching out for me with her tiny fingers.

“No, baby,” Christian corrects her. “That’s Mama. Can you say mama?”

“Dada!” she repeats, more instantly this time. Christian looks up at me with regret, but I shake my head and pull Callie into me.

“It’s fine. Yes, Dada. Dada’s home, huh? Yeah.” She giggles as I kiss her all over her face, then lower her back down into her high chair. Christian, or possibly Gail, has already prepared her dinner so once I set her down. Christian scoops up another mouth full of mashed peas and swirls it around her mouth before she finally takes a bite.

“There’s salad in there,” he tells me. I turn to look at the kitchen and nod.

“Sounds great. Can I get you some too?”

“Yes, thank you.” He grins as Calliope leans forward in her chair, arms and fingers stretched out as far as they can go, and makes a series of small cackling sounds through her mouth full of peas. I laugh, feeling the last of the anxiety I was holding in my body melt away at the sounds my funny little girl makes, then turn to the kitchen to get dinner for myself and Christian.

His mood seems to improve as we eat. He laughs with Callie as he feeds her and when he looks over at me, I can see happiness glimmering in his eyes. He goes with me to give her a bath once dinner is finished and while I wash her, he takes everything she hands him (toys, bottles, handfuls of bubbles) and thanks her for each and every one of them. Once she’s washed, he wraps her in a towel and carries her off to the nursery while I clean the mess we’ve left behind. A few minutes later, I find her dressed and curled up in his arms in the rocking chair by the crib while he reads her favorite bedtime story out loud.

“Ung, Dada!”

“Yeah,” he says brightly, pointing at the page open in front of them. “That’s a bunny. Do you know what bunnies do?” She looks up at him with wide eyes and he scrunches his nose up several times until the tip of his nose is pressed into hers. She reaches up and grabs his cheeks with her fingers, then tries to contort her face the way her dad does. It’s adorable.

I laugh and Christian looks up at me standing in the doorway. The smile he gives me then is genuine and loving, and I can’t help but smile back. Closing the book, he sweeps Calliope up into his arms and lays her gently in her crib.

“I love you, baby girl,” he tells her as he winds up the mobile over her bed. I pick up the baby monitor, hook it on the rail by her head, and kiss both of her chubby, pink cheeks.

“I love you too.”

She yawns and blinks several times, so Christian and I both back slowly away from the crib, waiting for her to start crying. But she doesn’t. We turn out the light and ease the door almost closed without her putting up a fuss.

“I think we’ve done it,” I whisper to Christian. “I think we’ve officially gotten her to be okay with bedtime.”

“I think you’re right, Mrs. Grey.”

With a smile, I lean up on my toes and kiss him. His lips play softly against mine for a moment, but all too soon he pulls away and brushes my cheek with his thumb.

“I’ve got some things I need to take care of. I’ll be in my office if you need me.”

“Oh,” I reply, taken aback. “I-uh… okay.”

He kisses me softly one more time, then squeezes my hand and turns down the hall in the direction of his office. I stand there watching him go, feeling dumbfounded. I thought maybe he’d worked through his feelings from therapy on his own, but apparently not. Normally, I’d let him stew on his own for a while before I tried to talk to him, but I don’t like the way this feels between us right now. It’s different, standoffish, and it makes my scalp prickle. So, instead of leaving him be, I quickly come up with a contingency plan, then turn and make my way to our bedroom. There’s a new nighty in my lingerie drawer that I bought last week, and after freshening up in the bathroom for a moment, I slip into the smooth silk and lace, cover myself in a loose bathrobe, and head to his office.

He’s sitting at his desk on his laptop when I slip inside, and he doesn’t look up at me as I approach.

“What if you didn’t work tonight?”

“Can’t. Busy.”

“I thought we should talk…”

“Oh, now you want to talk?”

“Christian–”

“Look, Ana, I get it, okay? This isn’t easy for you to talk about and that’s fine. I know that you’re still scared, but that’s never going to change if you don’t face it. It’s going to get worse. Believe me, I’ve been through it. I know.”

I shake my head. “It’s not the same.”

“It is though.” He pulls my hand so that I move to stand between his knees and looks up at me, his gaze imploring. “It kills me to see you like this, baby. It kills me to see how it’s changed you. You’re not as open with me as you used to be, you’re not as warm or trusting. I love you so much, Anastasia, and every time I look into your eyes and see the walls that you’ve put up to try and hold yourself together…” He stops, shakes his head, then lifts my hands so he can kiss my fingers again. “Please, baby. Let me help you.”

“You do help me,” I reply, unable to conjure enough force behind my words to keep my voice from trembling. I pull his hands around my waste, then crawl into his lap so that my knees are tucked under each of his elbows. He leans into me, resting his forehead against my sternum, but I take his face in my palms and force him to look up at me.

“I know this has been difficult, and I know that you mean well, but I’m just not ready to talk about it yet. You need to give me some time.”

He shakes his head. “Everyday you get a little colder. A little more closed off. That’s not the girl I fell in love with. I’m afraid that if I give you anymore time I’m going to lose you completely.”

“I’m not going anywhere. I promise. I’m still your Ana. I’m always going to be your Ana. I love you, Christian. More than anything else in the world. And nothing will ever make me feel more whole than your love. No matter how dark it gets, no matter how much I feel like I’m drowning, you’re always there. Your love is like a life preserver. That’s how you help me.”

“It’s not enough.” He tries to look away, but I stop him.

“Just tell me one thing. Would you do anything to protect me?”

“Of course I would.”

Anything? Maybe even something you know you shouldn’t but that you know will make Calliope and me safer.”

“What do you mean?”

I bite my lip, choosing my next words carefully. “If there was a threat and you were worried about me and our daughter, would you do everything in your power to stop it, even if what you were doing was… not necessarily moral?”

He hesitates for a long moment, and then nods. “Yes. I would do whatever was necessary to keep you safe, no matter what it cost me.”

“Would you tell me.”

His mouth pops open, but he doesn’t reply. Almost as if he can’t force the words out because he knows that if he were to promise me he would, it would be a lie. I can see that in the conflict etched across his face, and it helps. It strengthens my resolve.

“It’s okay,” I tell him, then lean down and press my lips into his before he can speak. Not in the same, chaste way I’ve kissed him all night, but in a way filled with meaning and promise. My hands never move from the sides of his face as my tongue invades his mouth, and soon, with me writhing and grinding in his lap, his hands move up and start to pull away the robe tied around me.

“Tell me you love me,” I whisper.

“I love you.”

“Show me.”

“Oh, baby…” he breathes, the desire in his voice clear. I move away from his lips and work my way down his body, leaving a trail of kisses in my wake. He groans as I sink to the floor and pushes back his chair to give me room. I look up and hold his gaze as I start to unravel his belt and undo his fly. The gray looking back at me turns molten as I close my hands around his erection.

“Well look what we have here,” I say coyly, running the flat of my tongue up his entire length. His breath hisses between his teeth and he tilts his pelvis towards me, encouraging me. I gently kiss the tip, then pull away. “I’ll wait for your command, sir.”

He smiles, then tangles his fist in my hair. “Suck my cock.”

“Mmm.” My tongue dashes across my lips and I sit up on my knees and lean into his lap, keeping my lips wet and tight around him as I pull him all the way into the back of my throat. He shudders, and it makes my entire body feel hot and ready. Setting a pace that matches the thrust of his hips, I suck him over and over again. With every pass of my tongue over the tip of his erection, I moan as though tasting the steady bead of precum dripping out of him is like being fed a rare delicacy. His fervor increases with mine until he’s tense, panting, and growling with wild need each and every time he hits the back of my throat.

“That’s it, baby. Almost there.”

I groan with pleasure and tighten my lips around him, but, just as I think he’s about to explode, his phone vibrates loudly on his desk and I freeze.

“Fuck,” he hisses, reaching out to silence the call. I wait until he tosses his phone back on his desk before taking him back in my mouth, but I’ve only just begun when his phone starts buzzing again.

“Hold on, baby.” He picks up the phone, reads the name on the screen, and frowns. “It’s Ros…”

I can tell by the hesitation in his voice that he’s expecting this call, and that it’s important. So I nod and pull back, but he stops me from getting up. I raise an eyebrow at him while his conflicted gaze shifts between me and his phone, but after a second or two, his mouth sets in a firm line of determination.

“Be very quiet,” he warns me, then he guides my mouth back onto his erection and answers the call. “Ros? No, of course not. Did you hear back from Sullivan?”

I smile, feeling a rush of excitement at this new challenge. He thinks he’ll get through a business call with my mouth around his cock? We’ll see about that.

Making as little noise as possible, I set back to work. It doesn’t take long for me to get him right back to where he was just before Ros called, but surprisingly his voice remains smooth and even every time he responds to her. It’s hot. More so than I anticipated. As I massage him with my tongue and push him deep into the tightest parts of my throat, I’m reminded a little of the fantasy I shared with him forever ago. Any second, Ros may notice something is off. She could catch us. And the possibility of that has my blood nearly boiling.

“Right,” Christian croaks, the first sign of strain breaking through is voice. I take that as the best sign I’m going to get that he’s getting close and push myself into him as far as I can go, then swallow him over and over again.

“Hold on a second, Ros,” he says, then pulls the phone as far away as he can reach, tightens his free hand in the roots of my hair, and comes down the back of my throat. My entire body sings with pleasure as I feel his thighs convulse and tremble beneath my hands. When he’s finished I refuse to stop until he pulls me off of him. When he does, his eyes flame down at me with desire, and I bite down on my lip as he puts the phone back to his ear.

“That all sounds great,” he says, with as much control as he can muster. “Send me the details and I’ll look over them in the morning. I’ll have Andrea schedule a meeting for us in the afternoon to discuss. Excellent. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Have a good night, Ros.”

He hangs up, tosses his phone back onto his desk, and then lifts me from the ground. I reach behind me to push his laptop out of the way while he moves me onto the desk in front of him, then lie back to enjoy the feel of his lips as he kisses up my thigh.

“You. Are. So. Fucking. Sexy. Ana,” he says, kissing me between each word.

I prop myself up on my elbows, and smile down at him. “I serve at your pleasure, Master.”

“You’re damn right you do,” he replies, then he dives face first between my legs. I fall back again, arching my back high off the desk and tightening my thighs around the sides of his head. And, as I writhe and pant under the expert way his tongue moves over me, I resolve to myself that I’ll never let Christian see me suffering over what happened again. From this moment on, I will be his Ana.

Only his Ana.

I just have to find a way to make that possible.

Next Chapter

 

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38 thoughts on “Chapter 04

  1. The Detroit angle was not even remotely on my radar of concerns. Who knows what looking into Christian’s ancient past will do?

    My heart breaks for Christian as well as Ana in this one. Clearly, Christian sees what all of this has cost Ana AND recognizes, on multiple levels, how deep under Ana really is. He can see what Ana has lost and how cold she is becoming—he just can’t figure out a way to help her out of it.

    AND I can only imagine what Christian will think and feel when he finds out what all Ana has stirred up behind his back, ESPECIALLY when it comes to Detroit.

    At least Ana has MULTIPLE people that truly want to help Ana. And I cannot see Christian giving up on Ana. STILL, Christian already feels left out in the cold. How on earth will he handle the whole Luke angle?

    And Ana now thinks she has Christian’s unspoken “blessing” to continue doing what she is doing to hunt down and punish the wrongdoers on her own.

    This looks to get worse before it gets better.

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  2. The Calliope stuff is adorable. I loved hearing the description of the bath with Calliope handing Christian multiple things (bubbles!) just to hear him “thank” her for her actions. But wonder why her little stubbornness won’t say “mama?” Calliope seems to be a “daddy’s girl” like Ana.

    But Calliope’s presence will hopefully give Ana more reasons to actually fight to get back to a happy place. I’m just worried that some of Ana’s actions will give people reasons to look TOWARDS Ana and her family.

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  3. Lastly, Ana’s renewed commitment to living in Denial in the end continues to be troubling. ESPECIALLY now that she has resolved to try to LOOK the part that even she realizes she can’t be right now. Meaning she will continue to shut Christian out in the increasingly important tasks she sets for herself.

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  4. I’m not really liking this ana. I know she’s a victim and suffers from ptsd and she’s in denial, but I think she is becoming someone she won’t like at the end. How is any of what she’s doing different from what Lincoln did? And, Luke I never thought he would let her do something like this. She’s cheating on Christian with Luke, statistics say women who cheat are mostly doing it emotionally. She talks and searches for him instead of her husband who’s supposed to be her best friend and partner.

    Someone needs to get her down from her high horse and make her look at herself, she’s on a revenge path and it’s bound to come back and bite her in the ass. She’s acting like a martyr trying to protect her family instead of being honest with herself about her revenge.

    Now that Christian shared with her the nightmares maybe it’s time for her and Kate to have a talk. Maybe she can at least give her something to think about and point out some things.

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    1. I agree with you, Gabeliz: and she’s going to stir up this hornets’ nest just as Kate’s getting ready to have her baby. She doesn’t seem to even think of Kate & reciprocating her pregnancy support.

      I know … it’s fiction … it’s only a book … but it’s a VERY gripping book, Tara, and you’re doing a GREAT job of getting everyone riled up about Ana going off the rails and Luke allowing her to do so.

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  5. My guess that Ana will find closure to all of her trauma once she’s able to get everyone involved in the Lincoln situation behind bars or suffering from monetary and personal losses. I really hope she would allow Taylor Welch and Barney help her. They have a wealth of resources she can use. She also needs to take therapy more serious to help her fears. But damn it can’t all happen at once or this story would be over before we blink. Fantastic stuff as always.

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  6. You know, I found myself refreshing this page, waiting for the next update.

    And now that it’s here…I wish I didn’t.

    Not b/c it wasn’t excellent – OMG IT WAS – but b/c I can already feel the darkness, I can already feel the desperation… and I am getting legitimately scared for Ana.

    B/c Detroit? Are you SERIOUS?!?!?!?!

    I wish I could go into further details & the multitude of breadcrumbs the way Torik can… but I can’t. B/c all I’m feeling is this stomach-curdling anxiety, this legitimate FEAR that Ana is slowly but surely turning into Andrew Lincoln.

    It’s…nauseating.

    I read somewhere that we are cruel to others b/c we see our worst qualities mirrored in them. I see that happening here – Ana being so harsh (who deserves it, admittedly) to Lincoln…when she herself is going down that same dark path.

    Even the sex…it was tainted w/ something dark…and not THEM.

    It makes me happy that she isn’t going to release her book yet…not when Ana is in this headspace. It doesn’t feel right, ya know?

    Kudos to you, Tara. Seriously. It is truly an excellent author who makes their readers feel the content on a visceral level. Well done, madame.

    NEXT MONDAY IS SO FAR AWAY DEAR GOD…LOL

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  7. I’m in agreement. I don’t really like this Ana. I agree she is cheating. It breaks my heart that she is going through this, and it’s easy to say she should not be so selfish, but then again we’ve not ever experienced what she has.

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  8. This chapter is amazing as always. Random question, does anyone remember which chapter Ana told Christian her fantasy of being in public. It’s for… science reasons.

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  9. The book is just beginning, plenty of hurdles to overcome. Loopholes on Ana’s actions are already showing, will be the source of more unfortunate circumstances that will develop in the story.
    Ana using sex to gain back the interest of Christian is not enough if she is keeping secrets from him, trusting Luke in carrying her revenge because she knows Christian would never allow her safety being compromised. Is she going to ask for more help from others to obtain credible information about the Detroit connection or just going to be Luke.Trying to be the heroine that would completely save Christian Grey from his childhood nightmares forever once the pimp is eliminated.
    Ana thinks she is passed the Lincoln incident just listening to Christian who can still vividly describe his childhood through his nightmares and ready to go after the Detroit connection herself.
    Ready and all buckled up for more. Ready for next Monday and thank you, Tara.

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  10. Tara- hello, I am new to posting to your story, certainly not new to reading along. Some of us are like wine…….we get better with time……about posting. LOL

    Love where you are going with this book, Love that you are realistic about how a hostage/shooting situation would have changed the relationship with Ana and Christian (A & C from now on in my posts). I am not worried about the dark times ahead, one must get through the night to savor the day. How could there not be horrific pain to deal with after such an incident. They witnessed things that trained law enforcement professionals often need counseling over.

    While I am totally on board with Ana’s strife and private war, I am ever watching for Christian to continue to boil and eventually add to the havoc in the relationship. He can only hide in his love for his baby daughter for so long, especially when he needs things to be right with the mother. We know that he is not one to take no for an answer, and we know that he needs control in everything involving his wife (and child). So when he can’t control her- ala get her to open up and confront the problem at hand, he is not going to be easy to deal with. Hence, I see choppy and stormy waters ahead. I like the dangerous cliff edge you have Ana dancing on- who is really the Dom in this chapter……
    NOT Christian
    sneaky, very sneaky .

    I’m on board, carry on!
    (Relax folks- it makes for a sweeter reunion.)

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  11. Sorry for the second post, but it was a thought I really wanted to share and forgot to add to my earlier comment.

    (Cripes, sorry Tara- I will try not to do this often; Be long winded and forgetful. Let me just trademark ‘cripes’ now, kind my thing.)

    I know there is going to be gnashing of teeth about Ana’s “go to” person being Luke right now. I think readers need to remember the careful plotting of their relationship thru out the first three books that Tara wrote. When I hear the term “like brother and sister” , THIS is what I think of. I know what people mean when they post that A seems like she is cheating on C by going to Luke for help in accomplishing something. But that is exactly where is should stop, at least it does for me, and here is why.

    The best example goes to the scene where I think most fans can’t get their head around, and that is from the book and movie that the characters are based on. C should have never gone to Elena because he couldn’t emotionally deal with some ‘news’. I am going to leave that there, because this comment section is about Tara’s Fifty Shades. Hence, A going to Luke for assistance to contain what she still feels is a threat to her husband and baby takes on a different meaning. She needs help accomplishing something that requires sources that Luke would have experience with. He proved himself very handy in investigative techniques in dealing with Lelia and is able to keep it under the radar; so he is the go to for A now. She needs the old fashion “gum-shoe” work to be done and Luke is the guy for it. I would feel differently if she was going to him for advice on ……… oh, stuff like Christian’s emotional attachments or needs. She is being driven by NEVER wanting anyone or any thing to be able to hurt the people she loves. Not by something that C has done or said. She is not running to Luke, she is asking him for help to contain a perceived threat.

    Now, with that being said- I do not feel like A is cheating on C by going to L. Nope.
    Now, how C will see all this sneaking around him to achieve a level of safety that he feels is HIS job to provide is a question that only Tara can answer. I am sure she can do that in oh, say 100 or more chapters. I for one will not be complaining.

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  12. “If everyone fought fire with fire, the whole world would go up in smoke.”
    – Lemony Snicket
    “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change it ourselves.”
    – Viktor E. Frankl
    “Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.”
    – Hugh Prather
    “The costs of keeping secrets include our growing isolation due to fear of detection and the ways we shut down inside to avoid feeling the effects of our behavior. We can never afford to be truly seen and known even by ourselves.”
    – Sharon Salzberg

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  13. Thanks for the chapter. I’m already on edge about where the story is going and its only chapter 4. That is what a great story should do.

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  14. So is Anna dead-set on getting revenge? She’s destroying everyone that was even remotely connected to this whole mess and now she’s looking into Detroit as well? Is she going go after the pimp that abused Christian? Will there be no end? She’s turning into into him(A Lincoln) which makes her just as bad as he.

    Good story! Can’t wait to see if my assumptions are true. 😊😊

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    1. You sum up my EXACT concerns for Ana as well.

      BUT there is still HOPE, in my opinion. Elena, sadly, was so ruined and messed up from her childhood that the ONLY way to save herself was to become this completely selfish individual that used others for her OWN means and power. In other words, control THEM before they control you, which only led to more cycles of hatred, abuse and destruction. Same with Andrew.

      But ANA had something that Andrew and Elena lacked: a true foundation of being able to LOVE others and CONNECT with them and to FEEL FOR THEIR PAIN. Ana saved others, who are grateful for everything she did AND the struggles she endured herself, all for love. So there is SYMPATHY and love AND an unwillingness to give up on Ana by all those that truly LOVE her.

      So Ana has known real love. And FELT real love. In the end, that HAS to be more powerful AND a reason to fight through the pain more powerful than Revenge. SOMETHING will have to re-awaken Ana to have her actually SEE what the path she has taken could lead to.

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  15. All that Christian expressed about Ana being distant, not warm in their relationship, doesn’t she feel it’s true? She’s shutting him. She insisted Christian went for therapy in order for their relationship to continue. This was to ensure he gets well and over with his baggage but she doesn’t see she’s in the same shoes now but that she’s well, needs time to enter therapy. Here Christian gives in. Detroit next!? Behind Christian’s back? With Luke in secrecy to carry out? All spell trouble. Calleopie is holding her parents together, she gives them much pleasure and joy. Look forward to your masterful skills in revealing more. Thanks, Tara. Xoxo daytona

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    1. THAT’s the problem right now–there really is NO relationship between Ana and Christian because Ana is NOT about “life” right now and moving forward herself. That is why she KNOWS, instinctively, that her book is “off.” She has written a HOLLOW book about just the happy-go-lucky parts of a relationship that IGNORES all that she and Christian really ARE to each other.

      A REAL RELATIONSHIP is overcoming pain and making sacrifices and compromises to really SHARE YOURSELF with someone else and CONNECT with that person. In other words, COMMUNICATING what all is going on within one’s self, EVEN WHEN IT IS NEGATIVE and awful. Only by RECOGNIZING that trauma and MOVING FORWARD can one get out the cycle. Ana is just STUCK right now in fight-or-flight mode. She can’t see her way OUT of that “trapped” mentality.

      Elena had almost succeeded in turning Christian into a warped and cold individual LIKE HERSELF that only USED people for sex and power. CHRISTIAN was thus stuck in that fight-or-flight place of USE or BE USED. NOT a real connection or relationship wtih another person AT ALL.

      ANASTASIA SAVED Christian by showing him what a REAL relationship could be like. By taking out all the “bad” in her new story, she effectively isn’t portraying a REAL, deep and meaningful JOURNEY that the two of them shared TOGETHER. She is almost dwelling in a place where “faking it” is the substance of the relationship, not on REALLY being there AND COMMUNICATING and moving forward with someone else.

      RIGHT NOW, you are EXACTLY right that Ana is “SHUTTING CHRISTIAN OUT.” In effect, Ana is shutting HERSELF off from her OWN life and her OWN EMOTIONS, because she is hurting and SO AFRAID. Rather than moving forward, planning goals, thinking about her career or books, she is concentrating on hurting OTHERS that hurt her. Burn the Earth and everyone that remotely can harm you, NO MATTER whether those persons might be in need of mercy as well. Cut out the feeling and humanity so that no one can hurt you anymore. BAD place to be that can be used to justify BAD and unfeeling acts.

      But our HOPE can be found in Christian, who deep-down KNOWS what it is like to BE in the place Ana was in. He hasn’t been able to fully communicate this with Ana yet, but he is TRYING. He KNOWS that he and Ana aren’t connecting emotionally. BUT HE HAS BEEN WHERE ANA HAS BEEN. And somehow come out of it BECAUSE of Ana. So he WON’T just give up on her.

      And Christian has fallen prey to the SAME TYPE of Coping Mechanisms of Ana previously when he has gone behind her back planning multiple things, all for her safety, without consulting her. SO I’M HOPING that when the Luke and Ana plans come out, Christian will see it for what it is, Ana and Luke being in a bad place with their PTSD, than as Ana cheating on him. BUT CHRISTIAN HAS NEVER liked that Ana seemingly needed Luke when he was there. So I can’t see that ending well for Luke especially.

      BUT you are also right that CALLIOPE is a meaningful reason for Ana to fight to TRY to find a way to tap back into her humanity and get herself out of fight-or-flight response. AFTER ALL, there is MORE TO LIFE THAN JUST “SURVIVAL” or “SAFETY” mode.

      I can’t see Christian giving up on Ana. For Calliope’s sake, AND for his OWN sake, because he truly LOVES Ana and had a deeply meaningful relationship with her. He won’t let that go easily and without a fight, because it IS such a real and powerful relationship AND saved him previously to boot.

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  16. Ana’s healing is thru he undercover ops. She gonna take out the pimp! Now whether it’s a healthy way remains to be seen. I think Chris will be mad but he will see why she had to do it on her own . He will be pissed she confided in Luke.

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  17. I think one of the things I love most about Tara’s works is that you SEE why each and every character came to be as a result of the TRAUMA that each has faced AND HOW IT IMPACTS his or her LIFE. And WHETHER OR NOT that individual can move on to CONNECT with others. OR is just STUCK in life with a Scorched Earth policy of destroying anything and everything around them in order to get Revenge.

    Case in point: Elena Lincoln did NOT start out to be a bad person. SHE LOVED HER FAMILY. She tried to SAVE her sisters and endured horrific abuse in order to try to save her other two sisters from her fate. ONLY to find she was betrayed by the ONE person who should have tried to help: her mother, who also died at the hands of the same abusive individual that ruined Elena.

    So what happens to Elena? SHE CAN ONLY SEE RELATIONSHIPS as being based on POWER AND SEX. Even in Elena’s book, she states that Christian CHOSE ANA only because she must have been better than Elena in bed (of course, Tara uses much more colorful language that has Elliot snickering).

    So Elena could NEVER EMOTIONALLY CONNECT WITH ANYONE. Elena could NEVER see a relationship being based on common interests and goals or just sharing one’s day with one another. A relationship was ONLY A WAY TO CONTROL another individual and to get them to do her bidding, at least for Elena.

    Elena NEVER even realized that her life was LACKING from her being UNABLE EMOTIONALLY to connect with ANYONE. Her life was filled with hatred and the desire to HURT others in her own warped need to feel POWR and IN CONTROL, something that CHRISTIAN also struggled with in order to get past HIS trauma.

    Christian, himself, NEVER really gets over his trauma AND FALLS into the same dark and abusive type of relationships and NEED for POWER AND CONTROL. All the way UNTIL ANASTASIA comes along. FOR THE FIRST TIME, Christian TRULY CONNECT with someone ON AN EMOTIONAL LEVEL. He WANTS to talk to Ana. He likes hearing about her goals and about her life. He CONNECTS with her on an EMOTIONAL level, one person to another, BEFORE HE EVER EVEN SLEEPS with her.

    So ELENA WAS WRONG—Christian might have originally desired Ana, BUT HE LOVED HER because they had an EMOTIONAL connection. Christian was ACTUALLY ABLE TO DISCUSS with Ana what had happened to him, his relationship with Elena, etc.

    AND ANA EVEN NOTICES the difference in Christian AFTER he actually originally stops seeing Elena in ADSOF. Ana comments that CHRISTIAN SEEMS SO MUCH LIGHTER, more emotive, and HAPPIER when he comes around her. ANA FAILS TO REALIZE, at this time, about just how much she has impacted and changed Christian JUST by having an open and loving REAL RELATIONSHIP with him. Again, BEFORE they even had sex.

    HERE IN THIS CHAPTER, we see the Elena-ized Ana, who connects with Christian sexually BUT NOT IN ANY OTHER MEANINGFUL WAY. There previous relationship is practically GONE. Ana does NOT confide in Christian AT ALL.

    Ana’s REAL motivations right now are POWER and CONTROL over the people that wronged her. REVENGE is her real bedmate, quite frankly. Her GOALS and life are centered around REVENGE, not on MOVING FORWARD WITH LIFE and her family.

    EMOTIONALLY, Ana is WITHHOLDING HERSELF from Christian. AND she plans to CONTINUE to do this. She plans to “fake it” by pretending to be her “old self.” So even Ana knows that her FORMER INTERESTS in books, employment, etc. are really just gone. She can’t even really finish her book, because it is not “real”—it is a “fake” representation of just happily falling in love without dwelling on the hardships and surviving them TOGETHER by truly dealing with the Trauma TOGETHER.

    And YES, Christian WILL feel like Ana is almost cheating on their relationship, because the ONLY person Ana is telling her REAL INTENTIONS and MOTIVATIONS to is Luke, another individual that is currently JUST as scarred as her and looking to physically attack the problems through REVENGE as well. Two people with PTSD proceeding on a path of burning the world down until they, too, are burned, not only will hurt them, BUT will THREATEN everyone else, including the Greys, due to their actions. That can be the ONLY conclusion on a path like this. THAT WAS HOW IT WAS FOR ELENA, and later ANDREW.

    At the end of this chapter, Ana is DETERMINED to keep on her SAME REVENGE PATH. Only NOW, she plans to try to “fake it” better with Christian and SEEM to take interest in “regular life.” Christian is NOT going to be fooled, in my opinion. He KNOWS what an open and loving Ana is like, and he is NOT going to like the pale comparison that is NOT CONFIDING ANYTHING about her life to him AND IS UNABLE TO MOVE FORWARD with him on anything OTHER than revenge.

    So yeah, this marriage is effectively OVER if Ana doesn’t realize where she is going.

    Quite frankly, Christian is still there because he RECOGNIZES where Ana is coming from. He can remember that. AND realize that Ana SAVED him from all that. WHAT PROBABLY HURTS CHRISTIAN THE MOST IS THAT HE FEELS HE CAN’T SAVE ANA EMOTIONALLY THE WAY SHE DID FOR HIM.

    I just don’t know WHAT it will take for Ana to realize where she really is with herself. HOWEVER, I have faith in Tara that she didn’t just take us on this wonderful and moving journey of awakenings and meaningful relationships to have Ana ruined for good. I KNOW we have to wait. But the JOURNEY is so compelling and, at this time, sad, that you just want to shake Ana and wake her up to the DANGER that she is in of losing EVERYTHING as a result of HER OWN actions.

    My biggest fear, right now, is that a TRAGEDY will occur as a result of all that she has stirred up, and ANa will have only herself to blame. AND there is not too much to save of her REAL relationship with CHristian, at this point, at least emotionally.

    STILL, at heart, WE KNOW Ana is a GOOD PERSON. Who has SAVED multiple others through her kindness and quiet resolve to stand by others through their OWN troubles. So there is HOPE, too, that Ana can be SAVED somehow. AND CHRISTIAN IS TRYING. And not likely to give up on Ana either. So for now, I am just going on HOPE (and faith in our creator of this journey, Tara.) I KNOW Ana is STRONGER than Andrew or Elena and somehow WILL figure out how to find her way back.

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    1. I think revenge is maybe a small part of it for Ana, but mostly, I think she’s just scared out of her mind and trying to do whatever she can to feel safe. Elena maliciously hurt people just because she wanted to hurt them, I don’t know that that’s how it is for Ana. She wants to remove the threat in her life (to her husband and child), hurting people is an unfortunate consequence that is unfortunately necessary to what she feels she has to do. But I don’t think she takes joy in it. I think that’s part of the hesitation we see as she goes into the dry cleaner.

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      1. Then that is probably what will save her in the end. After all, HOW far do you go to feel SAFE? And if you can’t even truly LIVE your life, than is “ultimate safety” worth it, especially if it leads to either a) harming of actual innocents, or b) fighting every last little cronie, no matter how small or insignificant, because s/he “might” be a risk down the line.

        So Ana isn’t as far gone as I previously feared, it seems. But she is sort-of hollowed out right now, unable to see past the Safety Quest. Unable to live her life or truly meaningful connect with others, but still nowhere near where Elena and Andrew were. STILL, though, the destructive capabilities stirred up by her actions will lead OTHERS far less humane than herself into declaring “war,” fearing what Ana might do to them, if discovered.

        So SOMETHING needs to happen to get Ana to see that her “quest” might never be over AND cost her everything to boot, if she doesn’t refocus her energies elsewhere.

        (Makes me really wonder how MIA is coping with all this, given how much younger she was when having to encounter all HER trauma and aftermath. Maybe THAT will help Ana re-assess her priorities.)

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  18. The PIMP angle:

    I can’t help but picture a situation where Luke actually locates the Pimp in a hospital somewhere, dying of complications from the lifestyle he has led. AND Ana comes to the hospital, actually planning to maybe poison the guy’s IV or something, until she actually SEES the man, coughing/hacking up blood, wasted away, having rampant sexually transmitted incurable diseases and the like.

    AND seeing the Pimp in that condition AND alone, without friends OR family to his name, actually triggers PITY in Ana, where she realizes that someone living a hate-filled life like the Pimp has NO ONE when it comes time to die, lost and alone and worthless. And THAT finally awakens Ana to what she could BECOME if she continues surviving on Hate and Revenge–someone that dies ALONE, wallowing in self-pity and hate. Who has only a life of victims to look back upon and NO positive contributions to the world.

    Like others have said, if it was just “that easy” for Ana to wake up to the path she is on, then the story would be over just like that. SOMETHING needs to re-awaken Ana’s HUMANITY and mercy. She is STUCK now in fight-or-flight mode. She can’t see her way to a better and happy future, because she is so afraid of a PRESENT threat of the former baddies/confederates of Andrew Lincoln. She can’t move FORWARD now. And neither can Luke, who can only find service in trying to HELP Ana with her quest to feel safe.

    Ana’s journey has definitely taken a turn that we can’t like or condone right now, although we CAN relate to her almost pathological NEED to keep everyone around her SAFE with her. BUT ANA HAS TO COME TO REALIZE THAT LIFE CAN’T BE ALL ABOUT JUST SAFETY OR YOU WILL FAIL TO JUST LIVE YOUR LIFE AND CONNECT WITH OTHERS. We just don’t know, yet, what it will take to “reawaken” that loving and wonderful person with goals and a future that was our beloved Ana of the other Shades-of-Fifty books.

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  19. This is a level of stubbornness that borders on stupidity. Now she is going to open a can of worms that don’t need opening. The pimp more than likely has no knowledge of Christian and she is going to remind him, as if they haven’t suffered enough. Please, let Luke talk some sense into her before it’s too late.

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  20. Great chapter. Hopefully by giving Christian his Ana she can find herself a happy medium. Can’t wait to see. Thank you

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  21. Here I was thinking this book was to give everyone closure on what happened to them but nope it seems like Ana is on a pad to destroy everything they worked for to achieve before Linc went cray cray on them. Ana is cheating with Luke and doesn’t even see the similarities with Christians sick relationship with the BT. I get being scared and even wanting revenge but I can not for the love of all the bunnies and kittens in the world fathom her desire to freeze Christian out like this. She is betraying Christian and she knows it and seems ok with it so when he finds out about her and Luke going behind his back how can he forgive her?

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    1. I really don’t understand why you would equate what she’s doing to cheating. Christian goes behind Ana’s back all the time and does all kinds of things with Taylor that impact Ana on real levels and no one ever accuses him of cheating. Luke really isn’t different than Taylor, they’re both their personal bodyguards and friends. In fact, Christian really did THIS EXACT SAME THING to her with the whole Plan B thing where he used HER OWN FATHER to go after people he suspected were in the conspiracy BEHIND ANA’S BACK. Yes, it turned out for the best, but couldn’t that be how she rationalizes what she’s doing now? That Christian kept secrets from her because he was concerned for her safety and it ended up saving her life? All their lives even? Ana wouldn’t be doing what she’s doing if she didn’t actually believe she was saving the lives of the people she loves and CHRISTIAN is the one who set the “ends justify the means” standard in their relationship.

      And she explained why she is freezing Christian out. If she told him what she was doing, he would stop her, and she feels this is what she HAS to do. Not want to. HAS to. She feels that if she doesn’t do this, her family is going to come to serious harm. And yeah, that’s not true and she’s making unhealthy rationalizations, but she’s traumatized and not making good choices. Luke, as her best friend, is probably hurting her more than helping her by enabling this behavior but he’s faced real trauma too AND he feels extraordinarily guilty over what happened that night because he blames himself for not protecting Ana and her family. He feels like he failed and he wants to make that up to her. So, yes, one should think Ana has adopted some very unhealthy and possibly dangerous coping mechanisms, she has, (even though the guy she went after really did sell her whole family up river without any regard to the actual plans of murder the man he was helping had) and we can worry for her, but to claim she’s being unfaithful to her husband for doing something he does to her repeatedly is grossly unfair.

      Lastly, yes, this book is about everyone finding closure. But if I just wrote that Ana went to therapy and she and Flynn talked it out, there would be no story.

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  22. I think too many of this comments are quite harsh. Yes Ana is set on a path that we know is going to do more harm than good. Even so, what she went trough is not something easily forgotten. She has suffered greatly and now is blind by fear (even so I had more faith in Luke, I thought he might be the voice of reason, but so far not so much, I know he should support her as her friend, but let’s be real, he is only feeding her fears) And last, for years Christian didn’t recognize his biggest issue and at the end that was what brought all of this upon them, he is not reaponsible for Lincoln’s or Elena’s actions but but those were consequences of severam of his missguided decisions. Now is Christian time to be patient as Ana was for so much time.

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  23. Wow, Did some of you people even read the first three books here?

    Because the whole “Ana is cheating with Luke” is misplaced fear and really, just plain not getting how the characters relationship has been designed. Luke has a very typical protective services thought process when it comes to Anastasia.

    Consider the facts- it makes this easy
    1. Ana has never emotionally connected like she has to Christian, with anyone, other than Christian. She wants to stay connected to him, what ever it takes, (read the last four sentences of chapter four)

    2. She watched her husband get shot, in the same room their child was in

    3. She thought she was going to die at the hands of Lincoln, and her husband was going to have to endure the act

    4. Her entire life will be guided by what she and Christian endured. Her decision making right now reflects that.

    5. Nobody is mad that Christian went against EVERYONE’s call that Ana was never going to survive after Callie was born. He made the decision to keep her alive and receiving treatment- she made it because he was going to do what he needed to do to help her.

    Same difference here. Ana is making decision based on her need to protect and see to it that her husband and the purest form of love between them, a baby, is never, ever harmed again. That they have every chance at a happy ever after. Christian will see himself in her, he will never hate her.

    Sometimes you have to do very unpopular things, make unpopular decisions to get the best result possible. In life, in love, in relationships.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Is Ana really considering going to work for Grey Publishings competitor? Is she really going after the pimp? That’s why she ask Christian is he would tell her if he was considering doing immoral to keep her and Callie safe because she wanted to throw that back at him later.

    Christian is right that Ana will never be free of her demons until she truly talks about them and excises them. Keeping all of her thoughts and emotions to herself is going to slowly destroy her. I hope it doesn’t.

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