Chapter 21

angry

We stand across the room from each other like the space between us is an impassable chasm filled with my betrayal and lies. The way he’s looking at me makes what I felt back at LAVO and on the cab ride home a hundred times worse. I’d told myself again and again that the reason I kept all of this from him was because I was afraid of his interference. But now part of me wonders if, deep down, I was afraid of this. I was afraid of the disgust I can now see in his eyes.

“Christian, I can explain.”

“Explain?” he repeats, almost incredulously. “Explain? What could you possibly say that would make me understand this?”

I shake my head. “I wasn’t thinking clearly. I got so wrapped up in everything that I just acted on instinct and by the time I realized what I was doing, I was in too deep…”

“What the fuck am I supposed to do with that, Anastasia? I mean, Jesus Christ, you weren’t thinking clearly? You signed fucking contracts! I have confronted you about this over and over again and every goddamn time you assured me there was nothing to worry about. You made me feel like I was paranoid! Jealous! Crazy! I trusted you, Anastasia. Do you have any fucking idea how difficult it is for me to trust people, and now you…” His words cut off with his mounting anger. He begins to pace and his hands ball into fists. “How long?”

“What?”

“How long has this been going on?”

“I uh…” No more lies, Ana. “Since October. Since the campaign.”

He lets out a harsh breath that looks as though it causes him physical pain. His pacing stops, but his body begins to tremble with rage. He pours himself another generous drink, slams it down as if it were water, then throws the glass against the chest of drawers in the corner. I let out a startled scream when the tumbler shatters and sends a million pieces of glittering glass across the carpet.

“Christian, please…” I plead, frightened by the severity of his anger. “If you’ll just calm down and talk to me—“

“I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to hear whatever excuse you’ve come up with to justify this to yourself. What I want is to go find Sawyer and beat the ever living shit out of him.”

“This wasn’t his idea. It was me. All me.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” He makes a disgusted sound and turns away from me, glaring out the widow at the glittering city lights all around us. I want to go to him. It’s a pull as strong as instinct that makes me want to throw my arms around him and promise that I will never betray his trust like this ever again. But I can’t. Everything he’s feeling right now is my fault. I’ve done this to him, and I don’t deserve his comfort after tonight. So I stay frozen in place, watching him in anguish.

“Were you ever going to tell me?” he asks at last. “Were you going to give me the chance to fight for you? For our family?” He turns to face me again, and for the first time since I stepped into this room, fury isn’t the predominant emotion on his face. It’s hurt. More than that, it’s devastation, and it hits me as though he’s slapped me across the face.

“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to stop. This was the only thing that made me feel like I was surviving and… I couldn’t stop. But I know that I fucked up and I’m so sorry that I lied to you. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I was trying to protect you and I thought what you didn’t know couldn’t hurt…”

“Well I know,” he says, coldly. “I know about your secret rendezvous with Sawyer all over the motherfucking city, about all the money you’ve been putting away, about Harrington… Was that to hurt me? As if all of this wasn’t going to destroy me enough, you brought Harrington into it?”

“He was a threat.”

“A threat? What the fuck does that even mean? You hired Harrington to help you leave me because you were scared of him?”

My brow furrows and I look up at him, confused. “To help me leave you? What are you talking about?”

“Your new apartment.” He turns, reaches into a leather bag resting on the floor by his chair, pulls out an oversized white envelope, and tosses it on the bed between us. “This came in the mail for you this morning.”

“You opened my mail?”

“When something comes to my house, addressed to my wife from Astor Harrington, you better fucking believe I opened it. Congratulations, Anastasia. The place looks great, you can move in next week.”

I pick up the envelope and pull out the loose sheets of paper inside. It’s the closing paperwork on the downtown apartment I’d bought as part of Astor’s moving expenses from Cambridge to Seattle. He plans to move at the end of the month, but since I purchased the apartment, it’s my name on the deed. Not his.

“I got on my plane as soon as it could leave and came straight here,” Christian says, “but you were already gone. Woods had no idea where you were and you didn’t answer my calls, so I had Taylor track your phone. I know you were at LAVO tonight, and I know you were in a private room with Luke Sawyer.”

“Oh my god. Christian, I wasn’t…”

“Why, Ana?” he interrupts. “What did I do that would make you do this to me? To Calliope. Don’t you realize what you’re taking from her? I can’t…”

His hands ball into fists once more and when he turns away again, like he can’t even stand to look at me, I ignore the warning inside that tells me to give him space and rush around the bed to him. He recoils from my touch, but I grab onto him anyway.

“I’m not cheating on you, Christian.”

“I saw you get out of the cab tonight. I saw Sawyer walk you to the door and I saw you kiss him.”

“On the cheek! He’s my best friend. I kiss him in the same way I kiss Kate, or Elliot… it was nothing. I was thanking him for staying by my side despite what I was turning into, for helping me see what I was really doing. I’m not sleeping with him. I would never, not with anyone… You’re the only person that I want and you know that.”

Anger flashes, hot and fast across his face again. “Don’t tell me what I know. This is what I know.” He picks up the envelope again and I quickly shake my head.

“That’s not what you think it is. None of this is.”

“Anastasia–”

“It’s not! I wasn’t in that club tonight to hook up with Luke, I was there to meet Damien Beaufort.”

He freezes and the fury momentarily recedes from his eyes. “What…? Beaufort? From Wiseman and Beaufort PR, Beaufort?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because you told me he was in the lifestyle and Alexis Young needed a new dominant.” He blinks like he’s having a hard time understanding what I’m telling him.

“Alexis Young? You mean… Gresham’s submissive?”

I nod. “I want to tell you everything, Christian. You just have to sit down and give me a chance. Please.”

I motion to the bed, but he doesn’t sit. He stares at me for a long time, uncertain, before he turns and picks up his bottle of bourbon again. He pulls the cap away, takes a long pull from the bottle, then sits back in his chair, the alcohol still clutched firmly in his hands between his knees.

“Alright. Talk.”

 

It’s not a quick discussion. I know the only way to move forward from here is to be honest with him and not hold anything back. I lay everything out in excruciating detail, even the parts that I have to choke out through my tears to explain. The nightmares. Andrew Lincoln’s voice echoing through my head standing outside of GEH while the building smoldered right in front of me. I tell him about the tape and how Luke got it, Kozlowski and immigration, my visit to Cambridge with Astor and Carter, and Alexis. The lengths I went to, and the moment it hit me. He doesn’t soften at all, and as I become more and more desperate for him to understand, for him to forgive me, I start making excuses again.

“She had Elena’s book, Christian. You know just as well as I do what that would have done to us had she sent it to anyone. What was I supposed to do?”

“Supposed to do? What were you supposed to do? You were supposed to come to me.” It’s the first thing he’s said since I started and the words are heavy with an emotion I can’t put into words, but that I can feel deep in my heart. He stands up, looking wildly around the room at everything but me. “You were supposed to tell me that you weren’t coping. You were supposed to tell me that you were in pain and that you were scared so that I could handle it appropriately. You were supposed to tell your husband you needed help, not Luke fucking Sawyer!”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

“Why, Ana? Why wouldn’t you talk to me? No, worse… why would you lie to me and tell me you were fine when you weren’t and then run off to him?”

“Because it was killing you.”

“Excuse me?”

“Don’t you remember what it was like in those weeks after it happened? When I was sobbing uncontrollably while I was awake and screaming when I slept? When a knock on the door felt like I was being attacked and I was sure that the phone ringing would bring threats of violence? You missed physical therapy appointments, you stopped going to work, you hardly ate or slept… I fell apart and you nearly killed yourself trying to put me back together again. Don’t you see how much worse that made it for me? I was hurting you because I was too weak to deal with this and I couldn’t live with that anymore. I just wanted everything to go back to the way it was. I wanted to be your Ana again. This thing with Luke, it felt like control. It felt like I had power again and as long as I could maintain that, I could live my life. I could feel normal, I could be the woman that you married… I didn’t tell you because if I did you would stop me and I didn’t want to stop.”

“But you’re not the woman I married. You’re not my Ana. Not like this.”

I nod. “I know. I see that now, and I’m done. I promise, Christian. It’s over.”

“So what do we do now? Where do we go from here?”

“I’ll go to therapy. I’ll talk to Flynn and work out my shit. I’m not going to fight you anymore.”

He sighs and hangs his head. “I don’t know if that’s enough.”

A cold chill runs over me and my heart feels like it drops into my stomach. “What?”

“You went to Sawyer, Anastasia!”

“Because of Lincoln!”

“No, this isn’t just about Lincoln anymore, you’ve made this about us. This is about your complete and utter lack of faith in me. It’s about you trusting another man with what you’re going through more than you trust me. And Sawyer… I don’t know that I can just get over this again. Not this time. Not like this.”

“No.” I get up from my place on the side of the bed and take his face with my hands so I can look deep into his eyes. “No, that’s not true. That’s not what it was… I trust you, Christian. I do. This was all just a huge mistake!”

“Yeah.” He pushes my hands away moves out of my reach. I start to shake as I watch him staring blankly into the open space in front of him, making an internal decision without allowing me any input. “I’m… I’m going to go on a walk. I need some time to think.”

“What? No, Christian…” I reach out for him, but he catches my wrist before my fingers make contact.

“Away from you.” He releases me as he walks away and I’m too stunned to chase after him. The sound of the door closing behind him is as loud as a gunshot and it hits me in much the same way. I stumble towards the door and place my hands against the wood, feeling each of the grains with my fingertips as though some detail will be off and I’ll realize this has all been a dream.

It’s not though. I did this. And he left. In the course of an hour, my entire world has been shattered. And with Christian gone, there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

Dazed with grief, I try to make it back to the bed, but I stumble over my feet and fall to the floor. The pain from hitting the ground doesn’t even register in my body. I’m already too consumed with hurt more dire than anything physical could ever be. I’ve betrayed the man I loved, destroyed him in the process, and now… I might be about to lose him.

No. Not might. He’s gone. He heard everything, and he left anyway because he didn’t want to be with me.

He doesn’t want to be with me.

And it’s my fault.

At that thought, I burst into tears. My body shakes with the force of the pain it’s trying to expel, but there’s no escape. The loss of him fills every one of my pores and seeps into my blood until all that I am has been reduced to pain. Every cell in my body aches for him and is left wanting. I can curl into a ball and hold myself as tightly as I can manage, but there is no comfort. There is only the absence of Christian.

The man I love.

The man who has been everything to me.

The man who has faced the fires of hell by my side and merely held tighter to my hand.

 

An hour passes, then another, but Christian doesn’t return. I’ve resigned myself to the idea that he won’t, that maybe he’ll just get on his plane, fly back to Seattle, and move his things out of our home before I have the chance to stop him. But, just as the clock ticks past two in the morning, the electronic sound of the keypad beeps through the too quiet room, and the metal lock clicks open.

I sit up, face red, puffy, and soaked with tears, and take my first real breath in hours as the door opens and I watch Christian step inside. He looks gaunt. Ghostly. And despite the air of certainty I know he’s fighting to maintain, I can still see the shadow of pain behind his eyes.

“You came back,” I whisper.

“Of course I did. This is where you are. Where else would I go?”

As quickly as I can, I scramble off the floor so that I can throw my arms around him, but his hands catch me and he holds me back at arm’s length.

“I can protect you, Anastasia,” he says. “Better than Sawyer. Better than anyone. You have nothing to fear because I will never let anyone hurt you again.”

“I know.”

“No, you don’t. If you did, you never would have done any of this. You would have come to me. But you didn’t, because I failed you. Because I let Lincoln get to you.”

“No…’

He shakes his head. “It’s never going to happen again. I won’t let it. And if you knew how much I really meant that, the lengths I’m willing to go to so that it doesn’t…” He takes a breath and his whole body tenses under the weight of his declaration. I stand motionless, waiting, until he relaxes again and finally pulls me into his chest. “I love you, Anastasia. Please don’t underestimate that.”  

“I won’t,” I promise. “I don’t. I’m done, I swear to you. I trust you, Christian. And I love you more than anything in the world.” Standing up on my toes, I kiss him with the force of everything I feel for him, but his lips hardly move against mine at all. He doesn’t part his lips for my tongue, he doesn’t even kiss me back. All too soon, he pushes me away from him and holds my gaze with his cold, gray eyes.

“Tell me that he means nothing to you.”

“Who?”

“Sawyer. I need to hear you say that he is nothing.”

“He’s my best friend. That’s not nothing.” His jaw clenches and I can feel him start to move away from me, so I grab onto his hand and push it tightly against my chest. “This is yours. My heart is yours. Every beat is for you and only you. Nothing and no one will ever change that. I love you, Christian. I’m only ever going to love you.”

He stares at me as though my words are not enough to assuage his fears, but eventually he takes a deep breath and pushes his fingertips into the skin on my chest. I’m once again holding back tears as I watch him war with the conflict deep inside of him, but eventually, he reaches into my hair and pulls me into a tight embrace.

“You are mine,” he says firmly, his fingers curling harshly in the roots of my hair.

“Yours,” I repeat back. With a harsh yank, he tilts my face up to his and kisses me hard, taking full possession of me with his mouth, and I let him. My body melts against his in submission, but when my fingers move up to the buttons of his shirt, he grabs my wrists and pulls my hands away from him.

“It’s late. You need to go to bed.”

I gape as he moves to pull down the blankets and makes room for me to lay down. His touch is overly careful as he tucks me in, and after kissing me softly on the forehead, he goes into the bathroom to undress. I wait in the dim lamplight for him to return, but once he climbs into bed next to me, he doesn’t wrap his arms around me or pull me flush against his body as he normally would. He rolls over, facing away from me, and turns off the light.

 

When my alarm goes off the next morning, I could lie sideways in the space between us.

“God, turn it off,” Christian groans, rolling to the other side of the bed. I move up onto my elbows and silence the shrill chirp of my phone, then close the distance between us and kiss the back of his shoulder.

“Good morning. How do you feel?”

“Like I was hit by a truck.”

“Can I get you something?”

“A lobotomy?”

I laugh, but he cringes away from the sound and pulls the blankets over his head. That though, is not surprising. The bottle of bourbon he was drinking from last night is still sitting on the table by the window and there isn’t much left inside. He’s usually not much of a drinker, so I can only imagine how hungover he must be.

As quietly as possible, I get out bed, pick out the clothes I’m going to wear today, and sneak into the bathroom to get ready for work. Normally, I’d probably take the day off to stay home and try and repair what’s been broken between us, but that’s just not an option. I’m in New York specifically for this book party, and my personal life lying in shambles isn’t going to be enough to postpone it. Not to Daves. Not to Scott. And definitely not to Carmen.

I’m just reassuring myself that leaving for the day will actually be a good thing since it’ll give Christian a chance to sleep off his hangover and think through everything we both said the night before, when I hear a loud rapping against our hotel room door.

“Shit!” Tripping over my shoes, I throw the mascara tube in my hand down on the counter and scramble out of the bathroom. Evan stands in the hallway, dressed in a clean suit that’s more formal than what I’ve seen him wear in months.

“Are you ready, Mrs. Grey?”

“Uh, yeah,” I whisper. “Christian’s still sleeping so I’m just going to let him know we’re leaving.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll wait here.” He turns so that his back is to the door and crosses his arms over his chest. I raise an eyebrow at him, but ignore the unexpected formality and make my way back to my husband.

“Hey, I’m about to leave. Do you want to get breakfast before I go in?”

“No,” he yawns. “I’m going to get a few more hours of sleep until it’s business hours in Seattle, then I’ve got some work to do.”

“Lunch then?”

“Sorry. Meetings.” He moves uncomfortably, keeping his eyes scrunched tightly closed. “Will you close the curtains before you leave?”

“Yeah.”

“Thanks.” He rolls over again and that’s it. I get up, pick up my purse, and close the curtains. Before I make it all the way out of the room though, I stop and turn back to face him.

“Christian?”

“Hm?”

“Are– are we okay?”

His head lolls to the side and, slowly, his eyes open. “Of course we are. Have a good day.” His voice sounds dead. Completely devoid of any emotion that would reassure me.

I swallow. “Okay. I uh… I have a party tonight for The Black Rose. I’ll be back late.”

“Have fun.”

“Alright. Feel better.” He hums his response, but as I turn for the door, he calls out to stop me.

“Anastasia.”

“Yeah?”

Wincing away from the pain undoubtedly pounding in his head, he sits up and looks over at me. “A few weeks ago, you logged into the GEH server from your office at home.”

“Oh… yeah.”

“Is this why?”

“Yes. Before you told me about Beaufort, I thought I might find someone in Elena’s old records.”

“Oh.”

“I’m sorry, Christian…”

“No.” He shakes his head. “I just thought you were trying to get some inside information on Grey Publishing. Steal some prospects, maybe. I was kind of looking forward to duking it out with you.”

“We still will.” I try and smile, hoping to lighten the mood. “I’ve got some stuff that’s going to blow you out of the water, Grey.”

“Yeah.” He lets out a long breath, then slides back down into bed. “I’ll see you tonight.”

I nod, though he doesn’t see because he’s already rolled over and his back is to me again. The whole exchange feels off, not like him, and once I’ve left and stepped into the elevator, I realize why. He didn’t tell me he loved me and never once have I left him without those parting words.

‘Stop it’, I mentally chide myself. Just last night, he told me not to underestimate his love and I promised I wouldn’t. He’s tired. He’s hungover. And I didn’t say it either. So I pull out my phone to text it to him.

“Mrs. Grey?” I look up from my phone and realize the elevator has stopped. Evan stands on the shiny floor of the lobby with his arm over the door to keep it open. I give him a grateful smile as I slip my phone back into my bag and follow him out to the street, but I’m keenly aware of the lack of vibrations against my hip that would tell me Christian responded as we make our way outside.

He’s probably fallen asleep. Relax.

We don’t hail a cab to get into work today. Taylor waits for us out on the curb, standing in front of a black SUV that’s so familiar, it’s like it has Christian’s signature scrawled across it. I smile at him as he opens my door for me, but his face remains stoic. Both he and Evan sit in the front seat, staring ahead as we pull into traffic, not saying a word.

Apparently, even my security is mad at me.

 

My day doesn’t improve much once I make it into the office. Scott is overly interested in the reason I left early last night and he spends the entire time we have to wait in the conference room for a 9 AM staff meeting with Carmen asking intrusive questions, trying to figure out where I went. Once the meeting starts, he and I immediately have to go on the defensive, explaining last quarter’s poor sales and assuring Carmen that sales trends are up this quarter and getting stronger as we go. But, once the meeting’s over and we make it back to Scott’s office to check the overnight numbers for The Black Rose’s pre-sales, we find our bravado was for nothing.

“Eleven-hundred?” Scott reads, looking at the screen with a combination of disbelief and revulsion. “How is that possible? That’s only twelve numbers higher than it was when we left.”

“Well, maybe people weren’t book shopping in the middle of the night,” I suggest nervously. “Maybe there’s an optimal window. 9 AM to 5 PM, or something.”

“We can’t afford a window, Anastasia. This is it. This book is floating both of our branches and if it doesn’t sell, we’re fucked.”

“You’re not looking at this right, Scott. The book hasn’t even been released yet. We’ve done one press announcement and we got over 1,000 pre-orders. We have the party tonight and the press tour he’ll go on once the book is actually released. There’s still time.”

“No. I think we’re doing something wrong with the marketing. Daves has too big of a following to be showing numbers this low. Maybe we need to find a way to tie this in with Stormy Nights. Pull his fan base in by reminding them of how much they’ve loved his work in the past.

“I don’t know that that’s such a good idea…”

He shoots a condescending look in my direction, like even I couldn’t be dumb enough to believe what I just said. “Really, Ana? You think it would be a bad idea to invoke his success and popularity to showcase his talent and tempt people into giving his latest work a chance?”

“I mean, yeah… you’ll see spike in sales, but you’re going to be drawing in the wrong audience. Stormy Nights was a supernatural, teen romance and The Black Rose is a gritty crime drama. The comparison is going to turn off the people who would actually enjoy the story and coerce a bunch of sixteen year old girls who are going to hate it into buying it. Either way, you’re alienating his future audience.”

“You give too much credit to the public, Anastasia. This isn’t about the genre, it’s about name recognition. People are drawn to things that feel familiar and everyone knows about Stormy Nights.”

I don’t know if it’s my worries over Christian, or the stress from my meeting this morning, but in that moment, something inside me snaps.

“No,” I say firmly. “I know that you have just as much invested in the success of this story as I do, but this is a GSP Seattle title, Daves is my author, and I’m saying no. The marketing materials are staying exactly as they are.”

“Excuse me?”

“Mrs. Grey?” We both look up and see Scott’s assistant standing in the open doorway.

“Yes?”

“You have a call from the Seattle office, one of your editors. Line one.”

“Thank you, Heather.” I move away from the desk, but pause on my way out the door to issue one last warning to Scott. “I’ll take care of The Black Rose. Stay out of it. I really don’t want to have to come back here next quarter and explain this title’s failure the way I just had to explain away everything you sent to press before I came on board.”

He narrows his eyes, but doesn’t make any arguments. I turn with a straight back and my head held high, and make my way to the empty desk on the back corner of the floor. It’s the first time I’ve been able to sit at my computer all day, so I have to turn everything on and log in as I pick up the phone.

“Ana Grey.”

“You’re not going to believe this,” the voice I recognize as Jacki’s answers.

“Please don’t give me bad news…”

“It’s the best kind of bad news. The 2nd print of Paige’s book went out today and I’ve already gotten calls for restocks. Two stores sold out in under an hour. We’re going to have to order a third print.”

“What?” My computer finally lets me into the system and I’m able to glance over the unread emails in my inbox. Four are the restock requests Jacki mentioned and one is a response from the warehouse informing me that there’s no backstock to fill the order. I pull up the sales matrix page so I can check the numbers and I’m floored. This book was released two weeks ago, and between yesterday morning and right now, we’ve already sold another sixteen hundred copies. “Holy shit,” I breathe in disbelief.

“I know. I think this might be the first time we’ve run into the problem of our press being too small for a release.”

“Then we’ve got to do better. I’ll call the printers and get another rush order done. We’ll have them do a third and fourth print simultaneously. Get ahold of Paige, and ask if she’d be willing to write a forward for the e-book version so we can encourage online sales and take some pressure off the press. And while you’re at it, put some pressure on her to get the pages for her next book.”

“Sure thing, Ana. I’ll call right now.”

“Good. And Jacki?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re my favorite person in the world right now.”

She laughs. “Thanks.”

Hanging up the phone, I let out a long sigh of relief, then hurry away from my computer back to Scott’s office.

“You coming to apologize?” he asks after I’ve knocked on the frame of his door.

“No. Actually, I came to let you know that one of my fiction editors just requested a third print of the title she’s currently representing. It’s only been two weeks and she’s sold almost 14,000 copies.”

“What?”

“Her online sales have been absolutely tremendous and the stores we restocked today sold out in an hour. This is shaping up to be more than hit, this might turn into a phenomenon.”

“What book is this? Why don’t I know anything about it?”

“It’s one of Jacki’s, and you don’t know about it because it was published by my branch. I okay’d it, and I didn’t need your opinion on the matter. Do you run everything on your frontlist by me before you send your completed manuscripts off to print?”

“Ana… there’s quite a bit of difference between you and me.”

“Is there?”

He sighs. “Look, this power struggle isn’t going to get you anywhere, darling. You’re not going to impress Carmen by fighting me at every opportunity. Quite frankly, it’s making you look desperate. Irrational. You gotta stop letting yourself get so emotional over everything.”

“Emotional?”

“I know it’s the way you girls operate, but if you just let me guide you, let me teach you how we do things here, you’ll be so much more successful. I know you can be good. You went to Harvard after all. You’re a smart girl.”

I let out a humorless laugh. “Yeah, I am. Which is amazing considering how fragile and hysterical I can be at times. Thank god I have you, Scott.”

His eyes move through the door as the volume of my voice rises. “Now come on, Ana.”

“You want to know the real difference between you and me, Wallace? It’s not that I’m just better educated, or that I work harder, or even that, out of the two of us, mine is the only name that has appeared on the New York Times best seller list… it’s that, while you’re in here crying over your poor pre-sale numbers for the book I told you was trash in the beginning, I’m going to be out there, helping my staff move 20,000 copies of a title you never would have let through the door in the first place.”

This time, I don’t even wait for his response. I turn on my heel, march back to my desk, and bury myself in work so I don’t spend the rest of my day worrying about Christian or imagining each and every satisfying way I could utterly decimate my New York counterpart.

 

There are more manuscripts in my inbox than I was prepared for, so keeping myself occupied is an easy task. By the time I come to a stopping point, most of the office around me has cleared out. I stretch to relieve some of tension that built up in my muscles from sitting all day and start to gather my things. But just as I turn to leave, I find my path blocked by Scott.

“Can I help you?” I ask.

“Yeah, I was just thinking… Look, Carmen was right. You and I have to find a way to work together. I know that I’m a little resistant to change and I have a way I like things done, so maybe I haven’t been the most accepting bringing you on board. But I sought you out for a reason, Anastasia. I think you’re going to be a huge asset to Greenwich and I want you to feel that way too.”

“Oh, well… Thank you.”

“Sure. I mean, I knew you were talented, your resume kind of speaks for you in those regards. But really getting to know you has proven you to be a whole different person than I expected you to be. Not everyone talks to me like you did this morning. It’s kind of sexy.”

My face goes blank and my back goes stiff. “Scott…”

“No, no, I don’t mean that I think you’re sexy… I mean, obviously you are, that’s not what I’m saying…” He takes a deep breath. “I just want you to know that you have impressed me. And I really appreciate all the work you’ve done. I’d really like it if we could move forward from here like real colleagues instead of, well, whatever we’re doing now.”

“Yeah, I’d like that.” He smiles and reaches out his hand, which I shake as briefly as possible before pulling away and nervously gripping the strap on my bag. He steps to the side so I can pass and I find myself walking quickly through the deserted cubicles to the lobby, where Evan is waiting. He stands and pushes the button to summon the elevator, and while we wait, I try to keep him physically between Scott and I until we make it to the street level and he starts to towards the subway, while I cross the sidewalk to where Taylor is waiting with the car.

“Everything alright, Mrs. Grey?” Evan asks, opening my door.

“Yeah, just…” I hesitate, and look in the direction where Scott disappeared.

“Ana?”

“Woods,” Taylor calls. “Boundaries.”

“Right. Sorry, sir.” He turns to face me, his face stony and impassive again.  “Mrs. Grey, if you’ll step inside the car, we’ll be on our way.”

I look between them and am once again reminded of what I left at the hotel. It’s after five now and Christian never did respond to the ‘I love you’ I sent on my way out the door this morning. In fact, he hasn’t texted me anything all day. And, I don’t think this sudden attitude change in the staff is a good sign for what I’ll find back at the hotel.

Maybe going to this party tonight isn’t such a good idea…

Getting desperate, I send Christian another text to check in and see how his day went, but all I get in response is the ‘read’ receipt beneath the words I sent. By the time I get back and am ushered out of the car by my security, I’m starting to panic again. I have an hour before I have to leave for the party so I think I might have just enough time to get him to sit down and talk to me again before I leave, but when I get to the room, it’s empty. It’s clear that housekeeping has come through, so I’d assume he’d been gone all day, except for the shopping bags sitting on the neatly made bed that weren’t there when I left this morning. Next to them is a note that says, ‘for tonight’ in Christian’s handwriting, so I bite my lip with nervous apprehension and look inside.

The first bag, from Bergdorf Goodman, contains a simple, Oscar de la Renta dress that’s professional and surprisingly modest. Not something Christian would normally choose for me. It’s most surprising feature, however, isn’t the cap sleeves or the high neckline… it’s the color. Gray. Not silver, not charcoal, not slate. Gray.

I lie the dress on the bed, and reach for the unbranded bag next to it, which holds, what I assume is, lingerie. It’s honestly hard to tell as there’s not much too what I pull out besides a tangled mess of strings. It takes me twenty minutes to figure out each piece and how to get it on my body, and once I do, I can barely look at my reflection..

The bra doesn’t even have cups and it fits more like a harness than underwear. Thin black strips wind below and around my breasts so that they’re supported, but still completely exposed. Panties seems too generous a word to describe the second garment. The band wraps around my waist in the same cage-like design as the bra, but the piece of lace that covers my most intimate part is half the size of my credit card. It’s all somehow more explicit than if I were completely naked.

After slipping into the gray dress, I only have enough time to touch up my hair and makeup before I have to leave. My eyes stay nervously focused on my phone as I’m hoping I’ll see a call or at least a text from Christian come through, but there’s nothing. I guess he really isn’t going to make an appearance before I leave, despite the clothes he left for me. So, before I go, I decide to leave a note promising him I’ll be back in a few hours and asking him to wait for me. Feeling the heavy burden of defeated acceptance, I slip the piece of paper I’d written on from the pad on the desk in the same place he’d left a note for me, just as Evan knocks on the door to hurry me along.

“Coming!’ I kiss my fingertips and press them into the note, then hurry across the room, but when I pull open the door, it’s not my CPO standing there waiting for me.

“Good, you’re ready,” Christian says. He’s dressed in a black tuxedo cut so immaculately that he might have been sewn into it. My eyes sweep over him, greedily drinking him in until I’m flushed with want, and he smirks. “I was right about the dress. It looks absolutely stunning on you.”

“Thank you…” I reply, my mouth dry. I swallow, and force my eyes away from the taut stretch of his pristine white shirt across his chest. “What are you doing?”

“You have a party to attend, I’m here to escort you.” From behind his back, he pulls out a single long stemmed rose with inky petals and hands it to me.

I stare down at it for a long, drawn out beat, then smile. “The Black Rose.”

“Exactly.” He leans in and brushes his lips lightly against my cheek, making me shiver, then moves up to speak softly in my ear. “And once the party is over, you are mine. Understood?”

Oh.

“Yes,” I breathe back.

I feel him smile against my ear. “Yes, what?”

“Yes, Sir.

“Good. Now come, it’s rude to be late.”

Next Chapter

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41 thoughts on “Chapter 21

  1. OH shit he thought she was cheating?!! OH boy soooo very far from the truth.. i am a bit nervous for their after party “party” hope he doesn’t go too far… but look forward to it! Man now she’s wondering about Scott? She def needs some help.. Can’t wait til next Monday!!!

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  2. OH MY GOD. It’s all I can say. No, I lie…. great chapter. I was so refreshing my inbox to get the message it was here and I was not disappointed. I’m so glad it is all out in the open but wondering how it will play now. Do you have a thought on how many chapters you might have? Getting myself mentally prepared I suppose! Again, fantastic writing!

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    1. I’d say we’re about half way. I don’t plan the story by chapter, I just have an outline of the story as a whole and split it into chapters as I go and that makes chapter count really hard to predict. For instance, I was planning on today and next weeks chapter to be the same chapter, but then I got to 6000 words and wasn’t close to where I’d planned on ending, so it got split.

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  3. I had an inkling that Christian thought Ana was cheating having read all the signs of his suspicion in previous chapters. The conversation i’m sure isn’t over but you can see how much effort they both are putting in to try and mend their relationship. I wouldn’t mind seeing Christian’s dom in action trying to regain control. I understand that Ana’s actions may have brought all of Christian’s insecurities out from hiding and here’s to hoping he doesn’t take them in a destructive way. This chapter hit all the right feels and i just kept wanting more. Coming to Scott, honestly i want that creep out of the picture asap. I can’t stand the arrogant pig.

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  4. OMG!!!! AWESOME CHAPTER. She should have known he would suspect her cheating. I’m glad she cleared up that she was not cheating. However, that still does not soothe the beast within Christian. Dom Christian is escorting her to her party. I hope she knows that 😉

    As for Scott. I. DO. NOT. LIKE. HIM. Red flags are going off all over. I never liked him from the time you first introduced him into the story. He screams “Jack Hyde” to me. I hope Christian can put him in his place, with Carmen present, BEFORE Ana finds herself in a bad situation.

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  5. It’s so hard to believe that their marriage and relationship is still young and fresh. They are trying to find their common ground to know each other better and improve their communication skills. I think you are doing an extraordinary job in the way their relationship is developing without giving up their believes or way of doing things. I can’t wait until next week for sure. Scott is an asshole who can’t be trusted and I would make a sexual harassment and bring inappropriate charges against him for today’s comments. Let’s see how Carmen would feel like after hearing his comments about women! Awesome chapter as always.

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  6. I hope we get an outtake of Christian’s POV for this part.
    I can only imagine what was going through his mind (and possibly still is) when he received the paperwork about the apartment until he made it to New York.
    I am afraid things are going to get worse before they get better for those two.
    Looking forward to next Monday’s chapter.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Amazing! First of all, I wanna congratulate you for being capable of writing this long chapter (or it seemed longer than normal to me).
    And second, way to make me think that Christian could actually leave Ana. I believe it for a moment. And I had my precious heart in a fist almost without breathing.

    And I am very sad, because I imagine that after the exchange between them (most likely redroom style sex), I supose you’ll write some conclusion and that’s it, the final. I can’t take it 😭😭😭😭 If I stop to think, I did waited for most than two years every Monday for your update. It’s such a beautiful feeling! I can’t wait for your original!

    Lots of love, Tara

    Andie xx

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  8. I don’t know what to say I’m all over the place. You have my mind spinning reading into this chapter which is a great thing. I have a awful feeling about Scott I don’t like him, he’s a womanizer, he’s scary and a psycho I don’t trust him. Now with Christian it’s going to take a lot to for that trust to come back. But then again I guess he cant be so hard on Ana because he has done the same. They both really need to open up on what happened and what they are feeling. They are both going to need to work together because I have a feeling things are just going to get exciting and dangerous. This is where their love will need to withstand what’s coming. Keep Calliope safe but I also have a feeling she will also be part of what is to come. Don’t know what is going to happen with Luke, Carmen, Alexis, Kozlowski, Aston, Carter and Damien Beaufort. But I cant wait to read. Great job as always.

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  9. Ana underestimated Christian’s capabilities in finding the truth. Being secretive allowed him to develop suspicions of her and losing trust affecting their relationship, even only temporarily the seed was already planted in his mind. How long will it take to be back to where they were before? It may take time but now she knows it is Christian’s responsibility to take care of her and not her trying to take care of him.At least she finally accepted the idea of seeing Flynn to help clear her inner mental imbalance since the Lincoln nightmare. Should I be looking forward to a dominant Christian and Ana punishment next?
    Christian attending the party and see how he can evaluate Scott Wallace while at it. He does not share, Ana is all his and he should show Scott that fact at the party. What could be the future waiting for these three. Awesome chapter, fun reading a bit of dominant Christian Grey. Thank you, Tara.

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  10. Well now.

    This seems very dark to me. I feel like C and A are in a very, very dark place.

    You have taken “angst” to a new height in your writing. In this story. And I have read every word in every chapter through all three and now into four books.

    I WANT to tell you where I am standing right now. What I am feeling.

    I read this chapter and then reread it, and read it again. Then I drove to work and found out how loud the speakers in my G-Car could go as I blasted Imagine Dragons- “Natural”. I feel this song is pounding through Christian’s veins right now- in this chapter. I feel that the words to that song was wrote for chapter 21. I have never, ever associated songs to fictional writing like this. Movie sound tracks yes……after I have seen the movie. But this, I can’t explain. I am just hearing this song – and the point I heard it was when Ana opened the bag with the dress and then the description…

    You are so GOOD, at painting the picture, the scenes for us in this journey. Right down to Callie’s dress at her birthday party. I love the visual as much as the emotional jolts and elation. But that dress speaks volumes to me about where Christian is emotionally. Then !!!!!! The underwear, or as you so aptly put it, the style and the lack of it. The “harness” look, the starkness and lack of playful ness of it. His whisper is a warning to me. His words whispered in her ear that she is his for the rest of the night after the book release party speaks foreboding to me of another kind of release.
    His anger.
    His fury.
    His need to be her dominate.

    I think the kind of pleasure he wants for himself falls in a category that only he knows, and knows well enough to make him feel like he is in control again. I feel that this may be the kind of night that safe words were invented for. Because after all, isn’t that the ultimate trust for Ana??? Because really, isn’t HE in the middle of the need for feeling so powerful, that no one, or thing can get in the way of his happiness? (Fusion energy? Has the man not seen the movie “the Saint” with Val Kilmer? LOL)

    I was braced for his finding out about her need to banish the monsters that live under her bed (so to speak). I was braced and felt like I was sure that while it would be hurtful to him that she would move forward at taking out potential threats that she felt was looming, he would eventually embrace her bold move and stopping at nothing to keep them safe. I was not…..as sure I would know how he would handle the thought of her cheating on him. And of course, he would think that of Luke given the information he has right now and what he saw. The thoughts that I could not clear from my head as I navigated the week between chapter 20 and 21 was how boiling mad Christian would be once he got the thought in his head that Ana was intimate with another man. Any man, let alone Luke.

    Now, we know that Ana has not been unfaithful. Yet, I am oddly very much in tune with Christian’s crushed feeling of trust with and in Ana. More in tune than I really thought I would be. I don’t want my well built foundation to be cracked now with Ana either. She is TOUGH, she is SMART and is such a strongly written person/character that I am feeling like a KU fan screaming for her team in the Final Four ( roughly translated for you non-Midwest basketball/sport fans- I am yelling like the man on the wrong fucking train) ….for Ana to be seen by Christian as someone who through a PTSD riddled conscious, wants the same thing he does. I want him to understand that she was doing what he IS doing- protecting those that they love at any cost. I fear……..what he is going to demonstrate is that she is really his, and that he controls her every desire and fear and in doing so , she is totally his and she shouldn’t doubt that again. I fear he has retreated to a dominate role and this night, she is damn close to his submissive.

    I am not sure what the morning light will bring after this party they are attending. I am not sure that there could be anything but a separation for a bit, or a continued silent treatment at the least as someone tries to wrap their head around recent events. I am not sure who is going to kick Scott Wallace’s butt, however, I feel confident that Christian only needs one taste of that jackass’ arrogance and we will see fireworks that makes the 4th of July pale. I am not sure that we won’t see the next chapter finding Luke in the hospital after he and Christian meet up, cause I don’t think Christian can handle “best friend” status right now. Or maybe it’s the other way around LOL. Actually – I do know, that stitches would be required for both.

    What I do know:
    I love reading this author. I love the passion for detail and a well told story. I love the dedication to keeping the characters “in character” and lastly, making Monday’s fun. It is no small feat to make a Monday, something to look forward to!
    I know that if she got me past Elena’s trips to Harvard to see Christian, a dislocated shoulder, a Stalker and shooting at the dormitory, that night in New York City and Ana running, and the long break that lead up to Ana interning at GEH and eventually finding the love in each other’s hearts, and the traveling back and forth to Harvard and Seattle, and almost losing the baby, and Gia’s flirting, and Lincoln shooting Christian, Christian getting Callie a pony for her birthday, and Christian blowing up the test lab at GEH, …………
    Then I am going to survive underwear that took Ana an hour to put on. We all will, and what’s more. We will like it. 🙂

    Two P.S.s
    1. Christian getting Callie a pony was really NOT that traumatic LOL
    2. I REALLY do love that Val Kilmer movie.

    Til next Monday- Tara you vixon!
    AJMackey

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  11. That is very hard for them, their talk and the truth, immensely mad Christian. His discovery and assumptions left him very hurt. After what Ana said the hurt is tenfold. Not going to him for help equivalent to not having faith and trust in him. Christian was frosty but it is understandable. His jealousy over Luke. This is what we fear throughout when Ana pursued Alexis’ case, the repercussion. After this whole episode Ana is ready to seek therapy and mend herself to be even stronger. Christian gives her the cold shoulder throughout the day, I am not used to that. I look forward to the party and would love to see Christian handles that turd, Scott! Play night is going to be very exciting and dark. That dress and underwear are prelude. Christian needs that, just hope doesn’t break Ana. Thank You, our amazing Tara. You really bring live out of the characters you write and I love it. Can’t wait till next week. LAH daytona

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  12. I hope Ana will speak to Christian about how creepy Scott is. That her intuition is telling her she had this uncomfortable feeling with asshole. I wish she will talk to him and trust him so they know not to leave her with him.

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  13. I have been reading your story since it was on fanfiction. You truly have a gift for writing. As usual you had me on the edge of my seat the whole time and left me wanting more.

    I was nervous for their relationship at first and now I’m worried for Ana. Like others, I hope Christian doesn’t go to far.

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  14. First off scott is DISGUSTING. Okay you’re chapters always put my head in a whirlwind in a good way I feel bad for Christian only because im sure feeling like your wife is cheating on you and planning on leaving you is a terrible aching painful feelings also that he feels like ana doesn’t trust him to protect her but that’s about as far as it goes because I feel like he would literally do anything “ANYTHING” to keep them safe so he shouldn’t be upset with her doing the same thing and i can just sense him doing something reackless that may get them even more off track with their relationship (sidenote-it was such a good thing that like didn’t walk her up to her room rhat would have been a complete disaster) idk if an Ana is getting a little better psychologically or if she’s in shock because she didn’t ask about her daughter whereabouts at all because I’m all for Ana being independent and working but I hope she doesn’t stay at GSP for long they don’t deserve her I want her to stay there long enough to prove to them that she does know how to run a publishing house and then then be like FUCK Y’ALL,BYE. and i hope Christian get Scott together real good great chapter and can’t wait for next Monday

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    1. I originally had planned for Luke to walk Ana up to the room but when I started writing it, I just knew it wouldn’t end well haha.

      I think Ana is confident enough in Christian as a father that she would know he’d ensure she was taken care of before he left, so she was free to worry about what seemed most pressing to her in that moment.

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      1. It had to be either or because I was just thinking about how she was with/about calliope at the beginning of this story like kind of a little paranoid(and I don’t want to call her paranoid because she’s a mothers who’s been through something and is just trying to keep her baby safe so I understand) and i don’t want Luke and Christian to fight each other like I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be pretty at all and then it would be bad situation for Ana too.

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  15. Great chapter. Oh Ana got lucky with his reaction so far. I’m sure she’s in for a long tiresome night and she might even be denied for a while. Can’t wait. Thank you.

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  16. Intense and emotional chapter that had me speed reading to find out what happened just so I could go back and re-read to enjoy it once again! 🙂
    Poor Christian……Putting myself in his shoes for moment, I can easily emphasize with him and what he “thought” was going on. And he gets lots of kudos for actually confronting Ana with all this evidence instead of building up a brick wall and isolating himself. This shows lots of emotional growth on his part. Let’s hope his inner Dom doesn’t screw it all up for them. They’re both on shaky ground and the punishment he wants to give her could completely disseminate their marriage. Tread very carefully, Mr Grey!
    Fantastic update, Tara. Monday’s only put a pep in my step because of your story!!❤️❤️

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  17. That was not a fun conversation but at least Ana did tell him everything. Christian actually thought that Ana was cheating on him with Luke no less! Boy was he wrong but he’s still not happy about Ana doing all that she’s done behind his back and confiding in Luke. I was doing a happy dance when he came back to the hotel to talk to Ana although not holding her in bed was not good for either of them. I’m glad that Christian is escorting her tonight to the book party. What’s with the dress and underwear? I guess we’ll find out in the next chapter. 😉 I hope that Christian lightens up and understands exactly what Ana was trying to accomplish for both of them?

    I take it that Christian had a talk with Taylor about security and the way they interact with Ana and hence the change in attitude in Woods and Taylor? Christian should know better by now that Luke and Ana are just good friends and that Luke has a girlfriend for goodness sake!

    Scott is still bugging me, there is just something not right about him!? He should be absolutely thrilled that the book that Ana championed is doing so well but instead he’s upset that she didn’t run it by him? Why would Ana want to do that when he already turned down a fabulous book that she was trying to get published already? I wouldn’t go to Scott for anything. Go Ana!

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  18. I’m conflicted. On one hand I understand CG’s attitude and hurt over Ana’s actions, but on the other, I think he needs to understand that he has. It been protecting them. He is too focused on this new project that he has lost sight of what matters most. In the past few chapters I have not felt their connection as strongly as I did before. And I really don’t like the fact he is dead set on no more children. I understand his fears but geez, at least discuss it. Also, why would he go directly to “cheating” with his assumptions? It seems pretty illogical for him(more thoughts on this at the bottom)
    I struggle with this book. On one hand I love it but on the other I have a hard time wrapping my head around all that is going on. And please! Get Scott out if there. I think Christian will need to put him in his place as a way to show he can take care of his own. And Ana better stay away from Luke. Regardless if she didn’t physically cheat, she emotionally did and that’s just as bad if not worse to men. Ana needs to finish strong at GSP and then get out of there and back to her home. I’m all for working outside the home, but this is not helping her family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I dont recall Christian saying or thinking he doesn’t want more children. What chapter was the on? I going back to reading try to find it.

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  19. I hope Dom Christian does not go to far and scare Ana too much and put her over the edge. They need to learn to communicate better. Glad she told him everything but he is shutting down and Dom Christian won’t be a good thing. Can’t wait until next Monday.

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  20. Oh My God!!!! Whoa🤭 I couldn’t switch gears fast enough. Horrified, crying, elated,scared, melting, scared, excited,and oh do we really have to end. And that’s only related to Ana and Christian. I am an emotional wreck now. I was right!!!❤️💃🎉👏🙌🏻🍾

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  21. Christian is still angry and very hurt. Even though Ana didn’t have an affair with Luke, she trusted another man with her thoughts over her husband. This might take a while to get over for Christian. What is Christian hiding from Ana? I feel there is a lot going on behind the scenes that he hasn’t told her. I wonder what Taylor and Woods are thinking about this. Did Woods know about what was gong on with Luke and Ana? What is going to happen to Luke? We all know what Christian does with his enemies. When they come back from the party and have punishment sex, Ana will still be in control and be able to stop it before it gets too bad. Christian would never hurt her. I’m glad it is out in the open. Again Monday is too far away.

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  22. When and how did Luke get that tape of the former mayor? I’ve gone back and re-read the chapter and the outtakes, but I can never find the answer to that question.

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  23. holy crap, that was amazing……….she’s lucky he didn’t beat the sh** out of her, but the night is young……………..

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  24. Just amazing! I’m so happy That all these secrets between Ana and Luke has finally come to and end. I knew Grey would think that Ana was cheating with Sawyer. Especially considering the history of Ana and Luke. Honestly I don’t Grey has ever trusted Luke. And this little incident regardless will always be in the back of Grey’s mind. .Although I was happy as shit that she was finally honest with with Christian. I totally understood why but as I have mentioned before I never understood why she couldn’t go to Christian with her fears. I know that Ana and Christian has a bond where I feels nothing could be unforgivable especially from Christian. I think we’re all happy that finally Ana would seek the help that she needs so that she can began mending her life back together.

    Scott reminds me of Jack Hyde {in a very bad way}. Ana really needs to read the signs of his behaviors and mentioned them to either Christian or Woods or just leave the dam company and build GP family business. And becomes Carmen and Scott worst nightmare. However, I think tonight Grey will witnessed Mr. Scott behavior first hand and will handle it appropriately.

    As always Tara an exceptional chapter! Thank You

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  25. Work has been kicking my ass, which is the reason that I haven’t been commenting.

    And apparently…you took that as a challenge & burst out with THIS doozy.

    Dear God, woman.

    I see a lot of comments about how CG needs to be careful with Ana… And while there’s a part of me agrees, there’s also another part of me that’s also…”I told you so.”

    I never claimed to be mature. I am EXTREMELY petty. LMAO

    I am honestly surprised that she didn’t think cheating was where his mind would go first, b/c CG has made his opinion of Luke QUITE clear.

    And you know what? She kinda DID cheat. B/c what do you call going to another man w/ your fears, & shutting your SO out? There are several different ways to cheat on your spouse, & not all of it is physical. Being emotionally & mentally naked can be seen as cheating, too.

    I always had a feeling that Ana would realize what she was doing a little too late… That CH would find out & just detonate. But this? This? This is worse & yet better, b/c while he doesn’t outright leave her, b/c while he appears to have e EVERYTHING under control… Inside of himself, he is an exploding volcano of emotion. And THAT detonation…THAT devastation…b/c YOU KNOW it’s gonna hurt, is, I think, the true litmus test for their relationship.

    How do you fight against the person you love the most? How do you get past that they don’t trust you to protect them? How do you survive knowing that you can trace all this…to YOU not being able to protect your own family, and you’re one of the richest men ever? How do you protect someone who…doesn’t appear to have faith in you? Who changed who they WERE b/c they were so scared?

    Oh yes… I noticed that, darling. How HE appeared to take the blame…b/c not protecting Ana & their baby? HIS fault, & HIS responsibility.

    Christ where’s Monday…!!!

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  26. Please don’t take this wrong, but is everyone forgetting what Christian did in the beginning of their relationship. I know that they were not married but Christian always ran to Elena when he felt scared or lost, or wanted to fuck, he didn’t go to Ana.

    So I guess what I saying is sometimes we tend to go to a friend. I not comparing Elena and Luke because Elena is the devil and Luke is an friend. Maybe Luke should of been stronger with Ana in making her realize that it was wrong not to say anything to Christian. But I think it would not have mattered because Ana told Luke she would do it alone.

    Ok I said my peace.

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  27. Very interesting voting. Many feel Christian should go hard on Ana. From the previous encounter Christian showed Ana that she had the power to control the situation in the bedroom with her safe word, BUT what if Ana feels she wants Christian to punish her and doesn’t safe word. It goes too far, and she is hurt because Christian goes to far because he trusted her to stop him. Now they are in the same situation as the “Belt Scene” in the original story.
    Should he go soft? Is this the time to make love to Ana to show her he will take care of her? Very interesting. I can’t wait to see what you write!!! Tomorrow is Monday!!!!

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