Chapter 29

“Maybe she…” 

“She isn’t.” 

“Well, what if she…?”

“She doesn’t.”

“But she could…” 

“She won’t.” 

I frown at Luke from the passenger’s seat. The traffic is heavier than normal because of an accident on 2nd Ave, so we’re stuck behind a long line of bright red taillights and angry horns. Luke stares through the windshield, irritated, cursing under his breath about the idiot in front of us. I know it’s not the traffic that’s bothering him.

“I’m just saying that when Christian and I broke up, I thought I’d never want to be with him again, and we’re celebrating our one year wedding anniversary next week. Look at Kate and Elliot!” 

“Yeah, the problem is that you and Kate never actually changed your minds. You never fell out of love with Grey.” 

“She fell out of love with you? She said that?”

He lets out a long breath. “It doesn’t matter what she said, it’s over. I don’t even care.” 

“Luke…” 

“You should be happy.” He turns to me, a wide grin masking the emptiness in his eyes. “The gang’s back together again.” 

“Well, of course I’m glad you’re back, but I don’t need you to put on a brave face for me. You said you loved her. Don’t you want me to like… I don’t know, cuddle with you all night and tell you how pretty you are while you cry all over me? I could bring chocolate ice cream and cookie dough.”

He laughs. “Could you imagine telling your husband that you weren’t coming to bed with him because you needed to come cuddle with me?” 

“He didn’t mind when I did it with Kate.” 

“You were already in Cambridge when Kate and Elliot broke up. And Kate and I are not equal best friends in the eyes of the law.” 

“I know, I know… you’re my actual best friend.” 

“Damn right.” He gives me a side smile, but as he turns his attention back to the traffic, his good mood fades again and I watch his blue eyes suddenly go hollow. 

“Luke, what can I do?” 

“Drop it.” 

I slump back into my seat, feeling guilt seep into every one of my pores. Luke only lost Jade because he was forced into a choice between me or her, and I wasn’t even the one he wanted to choose.

“It’s not your fault, Ana,” he tells me, as if he can read my mind.

“I don’t know if that’s true.” 

“Then fine, it’s your fault.” I turn a pained look on him. He grins back. “Nope, you’ve ruined any shot I have at future happiness. I guess you really owe me one, Steele.” 

“Yeah.” I turn back and stare solemnly out my window as we finally start to move again. “Tell me something I don’t already know.” 

He flips the turn signal to merge over to the parking garage next to my building. “Can I tell you something, though? For real?” 

“What?” 

“It’s killing me. But having something to move on to is a lot. You’re not just my job, you’re not just my best friend. You’re the home I can always go back to when I feel like I have nothing left. So, thank you.” 

I reach across the space between us, and squeeze his arm. “You don’t have to thank me. We’re family, Luke. Family is forever.” 

He smiles, then starts to shake his head. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love you, you love me. Let’s talk about sports or something.” 

I laugh. He pulls into a parking place, then takes my bags before we head to the elevators. 

I’m in a great mood getting into the office. Not just because Luke is back, but because, for the first time in a long time, I have good news to share at our weekly staff meeting. I’m actually a little giddy as I collect everything I need to get started. Just one last look at my email before I head out…


From: Chrisitan Grey

Subject: Problematic Distractions

Date: July 16th 2012  08:49 AM

To: Anastasia Grey

I’ve been trying to read this proposal in front of me for almost twenty minutes, but I can’t absorb any of it because I can’t stop thinking about how beautiful you looked this morning. I should have dragged you from Calliope’s daycare to my office. 

What a shame.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings


I type a hurried response. 


From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Loose Jargon

Date: July 16th 2012  09:10 AM

To: Christian Grey

So I’m ‘problematic,’ huh?

Anastasia Grey

Editor-in-Chief, Greenwich Small Press


With a smirk, I hit send and reach over to pull my freshly printed agendas out of the printer cartridge. Christian’s response comes just as I’m closing down my computer. 


From: Christian Grey

Subject: Problems

Date: July 16th 2012   09:11 AM

To: Anastasia Grey

Only if I’m going to save my company. 

Have lunch with me this afternoon. 

Chrisitan Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings


From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Hot Commodity

Date: July 16th 2012   09:13 AM

To: Christian Grey

Can’t. I’ve heard rumors GP is chasing a hot new prospective author. I couldn’t let the competition just walk away with a potential best-seller, now could I?”

Anastaisa Grey

Editor-in-Chief, Greenwich Small Press


Piling everything in my arms, I scurry off for my meeting. I’m the last to arrive, which I hate, but part of me can’t stop smiling either. Christian’s email banter is like a homing beacon, drawing me back to him.  

I’ve missed that kind of back and forth between us. I haven’t seen much of his playful side since the end of the fusion project. Actually, I haven’t seen much of anything except the CEO.

Not even the dominant…

I settle down at the head of the long table in the conference room, smiling up at my team. Before I can even start though, Stevens stands so that the entire room turns their attention to him. 

“Did you make a decision on the Hawkins manuscript I sent you on Friday?” 

“I haven’t read it,” I reply, patiently. He gives me the exact bitter look I expect.

“You haven’t approved one of my manuscripts in nearly six weeks. I’ve tried attacking this from all angles, and given you a little bit of everything. What are you looking for?” 

I pause, the corners of my mouth creeping up into a smile. “Do you want to tell them, Jacki?” 

She blushes. “I uh… I found a piece that Ana approved.” 

My entire staff reacts, most faces going blank with shock, a few eyes widening with excitement. 

“She’s underselling it,” I say proudly. “I started it Saturday morning and I was on the phone with the author’s agent that night to schedule a meeting. Jacki and I are having lunch with him this afternoon to try and get him to sign with us.” 

“Try?” Stevens raises an eyebrow. 

“He has other offers. At least two other publishing houses.” 

“Grey Publishing?” Roger, the man who’d made his suspicions about my connections to GP known on day one, looks at me with apprehension. 

“Yes,” I reply, purposely ensuring my voice holds the exact same amount of confidence as before. The nervous glances around the table tell me my team doesn’t feel the same. 

“We’ve never been able to poach an author from GP. Elizabeth Morgan has basically unlimited resources to invest in her authors. Your… er… husband gives her anything she asks for.” 

Sometimes, the competition between Christian and I can be fun. Sometimes, it makes my mouth taste like bile. 

“Well, I doubt she’s going to get much out of him right now.” My tone is brisk, a warning that any further conversation about Chrisitan will lead them into something treacherous. They seem to get the message because when I move on to review the latest sales reports, no one says a word.

Once my meeting ends, I do the same thing via video call with the New York office. Now that I have a prospect for our next big release, one that I think will actually meet Carmen’s impossible demands for 50,000 units, I’m willing to ease the reins on the New York press a little. There’s a coffee table book I think will sell well this fall, so with maybe too much hope, I give the release my approval.

I only have a few minutes once my meetings end before Jacki and I need to leave for our lunch. I stop by her desk before we head out to give her a pep-talk.

“You ready?” 

“I don’t know. I think so.” She looks a little green. “I’d feel better if I didn’t feel like the entire future of the company was basically riding on us convincing him to sign. Rodger wasn’t wrong. We’ve never beat GP on a signing. Not even close.” 

“Don’t worry about any of that. You have had incredible success this year. He would be lucky to have you representing his work. We just need to make him see that, which…” I hold up a folder filled with the data I compiled from Jacki’s last release. “You can leave to me.” 

“I don’t know what I’d do without you, Ana.” 

“Oh, you’d be fucked.” I smile, then I gesture for her to lead the way to the door. Luke is there waiting for us and between the two of us, we get Jacki so hyped that by the time we pull up to the restaurant, she’s almost forgotten that failure is even a possibility. It makes me radiate with happiness, which I direct straight at Luke. Once again, I’m reminded that he’s not just a hired bodyguard. He’s my partner in crime. 

The restaurant where I’m taking Lyonel Pierce, our potential new author, is the kind I had to drop Christian’s name at in order to get a reservation. It’s not the typical kind of place we’d meet with authors, but I’m desperate for this signing and I’m pulling out all of the stops. Even if that means dipping into my own pocketbook to make it happen…

The host leads us to a semi-private table near the back that sits in front of huge windows that provide scenic views of the sound. We’re the first to arrive, so I order wine for the table, because it’s what Christian would do. I even order a bottle I’ve seen in his private stores down in my cellar. It arrives at the same time as Lyonel and his agent, Collin Bennett.

“Collin!” I greet him with warm familiarity, as though we are old friends. I’ve never actually met him in my life, but I figure it can’t hurt to try and jump ahead a few steps in our working relationships, considering the other two Seattle publishing houses have a head start. 

“Anastasia,” he replies. Where I may be too familiar, my name sounds awkward and unnatural coming from his lips. Lyonel seems to notice. 

“You’ve met before?” 

“We spoke on the phone.” I give him my most dazzling smile and motion for him to sit down. He does and the waiter begins to fill his glass with the wine I’ve selected. I order appetizers and try to keep the conversation fun and casual all the way up until our entrees arrive. 

When the time finally comes for us to make our pitch, Jacki and I work flawlessly with one another. She reassures him of the process, I spell out all of the resources we’re able to provide in support. She tells him how hard she’ll work for him, I offer the numbers that back up her claims. By the time we’re finished, his agent looks intrigued. Lyonel is unreadable. 

“Well, what do you think?” Collin asks, his attention zeroed in on only his client.

“It all sounds great,” he says. “But… I looked into your company a little bit and your last release vastly underperformed. I read that you had cancelled one of your authors’ second options because you were having some financial problems. Is that something that could happen to me if I were to sign with you?” 

Jacki’s mouth thins so much, it isn’t even visible anymore. I offer him a reassuring smile. 

“There are never any guarantees. But I have absolutely every hope, every reason to believe that you are going to be a huge success. You do this with us, you give us your full commitment to making this release as loud as it can be, and we’ll take care of you.” 

He frowns, contemplating. I can see the decision rolling around in his brain behind his eyes. But just as I’m about to close the deal, I’m interrupted by a very embarrassed looking restaurant manager. 

“Excuse me, Mrs. Grey. I’m afraid your credit card has been declined.” 

I blink. “That’s impossible.” 

“I’m very sorry, but we’ve tried it three times.” 

He hands back my American Express, and I stare down at it in confusion. How could it possibly be declined? It doesn’t even have a limit… 

“Do you have another form of payment?” 

“Uh…” I reach for my purse, catching the uneasy glances Lyonel shoots at Collin. It makes the empty card slots in my wallet feel like open wounds. 

Fuck!

“Here,” Luke says from across the table, reaching into his wallet for his own credit card. A strange mixture of gratitude and shame flashes like a shock of heat over my skin. Privately, I give him a look that tells him that I’m not going to leave him on the hook for this. 

The bottle of wine I ordered was $1,500 alone.

“So,” I start again, stumbling slightly as I try to regain my bearings. “What do you say, Lyonel? Are you willing to take this chance with us?” 

He takes a deep breath, his fingers nervously toying with the napkin in front of him.

“I need to think about it,” he says at last. “Review my options.” 

My stomach drops as if he said no. My intuition tells me he did. I try to summon words, any coherent words to offer him, even just to stall. But the only thing I can think of is the coffee table book I approved earlier that morning. 

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

Lyonel gets up from the table and I walk him all the way to his car, making appeals the entire way. I’m trying to keep the increasingly urgent desperation I feel from leaking into my voice, but lyonel’s reaction makes me think that maybe it does. 

“Thank-you, Mrs. Grey,” he says, reaching out to shake my hand before he climbs into his car. “I’ll be in touch.” 

“I look forward to it,” I say weakly. The car pulls away, and the reality of what just slipped through my fingers hits me like a bucket of ice cold water. 

“Come on,” Luke says, coming up behind me and rubbing the goosebumps from my arms. “Let’s go back and you can figure out how you’re going to fix this.” 

I don’t go back to the office. I can’t face my employees until I once again come up with a plan to trudge forward. So, once I drop Jacki off at GSP, I stop by GEH to pick up Calliope and Kensie, and the four of us head home. 

Strangely, the house is empty when we arrive, and Gail didn’t leave a note to say where she’d gone, or if she’d be back to prepare dinner. I send her a text to find out as Kensie sets Calliope up on the floor with enough activities to keep her from wandering too much, but there’s no answer. 

Luke spreads out on the couch, and turns on the TV. I take a seat next to my baby, far enough away that she doesn’t take an interest in the stacks of papers I lay out on the coffee table, close enough that I can tickle her with my toes every time she does something so adorable that I can’t let it slide without giving her some kind of affection. It happens enough that, before I know it, I’m sprawled out on my back, holding her over me, bouncing her just enough to make her giggle. All of my worries and stress from the day seem to wash off me with the sound of her laughter. I glance up to see if Luke is as engrossed in the sound as I am, but he’s not looking at us. He’s frowning down at his phone.

“Problem?” I ask, sitting up and caging Calliope inside my arms and legs.

He shakes his head, and I see the brief flash of pain break through the mask he’s worn all day. 

“Is it Jade?” 

“No.” His voice is quiet, almost a whisper. “In fact, it isn’t Jade. I texted her this morning. She hasn’t responded.” 

“Maybe she’s just busy.” 

“Maybe.” 

I frown, then look down at Calliope, who is bouncing up and down in my arms to the music in a commercial playing over my shoulder. I scoop her up and drop her into Luke’s lap, knocking the phone right out of his hands. 

“Ana!” 

“Just hold her for a minute,” I tell him, as though I know a secret that he doesn’t. He glares at me, but his arms instinctively wrap around my daughter. 

“Hi, Wook,” she says, bouncing in his lap a little. He smiles at her. 

“Hey there, Calliope Kate.” She lets out a cackily laugh. When he joins in with her, she slowly pulls herself to her feet, unsteady on his legs, but held firmly by Luke’s sure hands. She leans forward and wraps her full pink lips around the tip of his nose. 

“Ew!” he laughs, his voice alight with joy. “What are you doing, Callie?” 

“Kissy,” she replies. He leans forwards and starts kissing her all over her face. Thirty seconds and he’s completely melted. The happiness Calliope can inspire in just about anyone she comes into contact with can be a powerful drug. Even if it’s only a placebo. 

We get up then to get her dinner ready, since I still haven’t heard from Gail. I take my time, lingering at the table long after Calliope is finished eating. Chrisitan hasn’t made it home in time to put her to bed in… I don’t even know the answer to that. I want to try and keep her up for him, but, eventually, she starts to nod off in her high chair.

“I’m going to get the munchkin ready for bed,” I tell Luke, getting up and pulling Calliope into my arms. She cuddles into me, nestling her face in the crook of my neck. 

“Okay, you want me to do something about dinner for us? I can order a pizza.” He gives me a devilish grin. “Don’t worry. I know how hard up for cash you are right now, so it’s my treat.”

I glare at him. “Pizza sounds great. I’ll grab some cash.” 

The pizza is waiting for me by the time I get Calliope down, hot and already paid for. He brings a twelve pack of cheap beer from his fridge in the apartment where he, Taylor, Gail, and Kensie live. We spread it all out on the kitchen counter, then move to the living room and start looking for a movie to watch together. 

“Let me guess…” He lets the cursor on the TV hover over It Happened One Night. I smile at him. 

“You’re the sad boy, you choose.” 

“Really?” 

“Really. Lay it on me, Luke. Do your worst.” 

He exits the library of movies stored on the TV and switches over to Netflix, choosing the first movie he sees with fire in the thumbnail. I roll my eyes and start to devour my piece of pizza. I should be working, looking for our next best shot at a mega-successful release, or at least trying to figure out how to keep my publishing house afloat until I do find what I’m looking for, but I’m drained. I need this. Actually, what I need is my husband, but I have no idea when he’ll get home. It’s after nine now…

“Now you see,” Luke says. “That would never happen in real life. Did you see the size of that explosion? No way you’re walking away from that.” 

“Well, not unless you’re Jason Statham.” 

Luke nods, knowingly. “That’s true. The man’s a genius.” 

I want to roll my eyes, but we’re both distracted by the beep of the security alarm that tells us an exterior door has opened. Luke’s hands tighten as we glance over the back of the couch. 

It’s Chrisitan.

He looks exhausted. Worse, he looks half-dead. It’s nearly nine-thirty, which means he’s been in the office for over thirteen hours today. Knowing him, he didn’t take a single break. Still, his eyes manage to find their strength as he glances suspiciously between Luke and I on the couch. 

Luke sighs. “See you tomorrow, Ana.” 

“Good night.” I smile as he gets off the couch and walks back to the kitchen for the abandoned beer.

“Luke,” Chrisitan calls, making him stop with a hunch before he cautiously turns back to face my husband. 

“Mr. Grey?” 

Christian stares back at him for a second, then nods to the beer in his hands. “May I?” 

“Oh,” Luke says, looking down at the half-empty case. “Yeah, sure.” 

He reaches into the box, pulls out a can, and tosses it easily to Christian. Then he looks over at me as though that was one of the weirdest exchanges of his life. “Night, Ana.” 

I wave at him, then turn my attention back to Christian. He reaches into one of the pizza boxes on the counter and pulls out a slice, ignoring the stack of plates as his heavy footfalls lead him into the living room. I eye him curiously, like I’ve never seen the man before. He’s sitting here in a $7,000 Brioni suit, chewing Domino’s pizza and drinking warm Rainier. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Chrisitan drink anything out of a can before.

“How was your day?” I ask.

“Long,” he grunts back. “I’m sorry. I really wanted to be home to put Calliope down with you. I tried. But then my lawyers called…” He shakes his head, as though trying to dispel a bad memory. “How was she?” 

“Good. I pulled her out of daycare early so she and I spent all afternoon together.” 

“Why did you pull her out early? I thought you had a meeting with that new author this afternoon? I expected you’d be drafting contracts when I got home.” 

I frown, shrinking into the sofa cushions next to him. “I did have lunch with a new author today. It didn’t go very well.” 

“Oh… baby.” He reaches for me, pulling me into him, but I squirm away. I lost to him after all, he’s not exactly the person I want to comfort me. Honestly, I’m surprised he’s not gloating. 

“Well he’s going to sign with Elizabeth, so congratulations.” My words are bitter, and they make him smile. It’s the first real spark of life I’ve seen in him since he came through the door. 

“Really?” 

Ah, there’s the gloating

“Mhm. And he was my best shot to right the ship. Now we’re sinking again.” I cross my arms over my chest, trying to hold onto the anger so that my eyes don’t well with helpless tears. It doesn’t matter, Christian can read me like the Sunday paper. 

“There will be others, Ana. You’ll find what you’re looking for and then you’ll work your magic. As much as I would love to see Carmen Gallagher have to choke on that loss, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that you’re going to figure out a way to make this right, and then blow us away with the results.”

He’d have me, right then and there, if I hadn’t heard the rancorous way he’d said Carmen’s name. 

“I thought you and Carmen were friends…ish?” 

He makes a face, almost like what I’ve said has offended him. “Carmen Gallagher and I are not friends. We understand one another. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t feel a grim sense of satisfaction if say… her plane disappeared over the ocean somewhere.” 

“That’s a little much, don’t you think? Everything okay between you two?” 

“Ever since the public found out about my company’s… financial problems.” He says the words like they’re coated in poison. “The vultures have started circling. Carmen Gallagher is a particularly ravenous bottom feeder.” 

I look away from the darkness swirling like smoke in his eyes, and stare down at my fingers instead. “Are we going to be alright, Christian?” My voice is barely audible.

“Of course we are,” he replies. “I don’t want you to worry about anything. Nothing will change for you.” 

“My credit card was declined today.” 

His whole jaw goes tight and a deep line mars his perfect forehead. “What?” 

“When I tried to pay for lunch, they told me my card was no good. Luke had to pay.” 

“I’ll make a phone call tomorrow. That won’t happen again.” His voice is even, calm. But I can hear the anger just below the surface. 

“Chrisitan… “ I angle towards him, snuggling as close as I can without actually crawling into his lap. “Tell me how bad it is.” 

He swallows, then reaches over and cups the side of my face. He stares into my eyes for a long time, stroking his thumb across my cheek as he drinks me in. I almost think he’s going to blow me off entirely until he adjusts in his seat, an arm on the back of the couch propping up his head. His palm falls from my face to my lap.

“Kate threw me a bone. Kavanagh Media is fully switching over to Grey Fiber Optic service starting in August. I’ve got a meeting first thing Monday morning with the CEO of a company in Texas that has government contracts, so if we can make a deal with them, we might have an opening into Texas for another state project. And, we filed for a patent today on a new kind of energy efficient battery that we’ve developed with some recycled tech from the fusion project. My manufacturing plant is going to start production next week. If all of that goes exactly the way I need it to, GEH should stay afloat.”

Should? I swallow against the tightening in my throat. 

“What does that mean for us?” 

“Well…” Again, he pauses. Despite the bombshell he just dropped, he seems even less enthusiastic to share whatever he has to say next. Eventually, he gets up and walks away from me, keeping his back to me as he continues. “Ana, I’m going to be letting some of our staff go.” 

“Which departments?” 

“No, our… personal staff.” 

My mouth falls open. “Chrstian, you can’t fire Luke. He’s only been back one day and–”

“No,” he interrupts me, turning back to face me again. “Not Taylor or Sawyer.” 

“So…?” 

“I’ll speak with Makensie tomorrow morning. Gail left this afternoon.” 

My hand moves up to cover my mouth. It’s the only thing I can think to do because I certainly can’t think of a way to respond to that. Calliope is going to be devastated once she realizes Kensie isn’t coming back. I can’t even bring myself to think about Gail. 

Christian’s head falls, the confession of how dire our situation is breaking him. I’m on my feet in the next second, wrapping my arms around him. 

“I’m so sorry, Ana. I should have listened. I should have seen the evidence of what was right in front of me. I just… I really, really thought I could do this.” 

“I know.” My words are more true than I think he can even know. I felt the same kind of confidence he’s begging me to understand when I walked into that restaurant today. I’d even preemptively made decisions, made promises, assuming I’d already had the deal in the bag. Now, I have nothing. 

It’s poetic in a way. After everything we’ve survived, the thing to truly humble us was our own hubris. For the first time, standing there with him, it feels like we’re just two twenty-something kids who have no idea what the hell we’re doing. 

But neither one of us is a quitter and as long as we have something to fight for, we won’t stop. We have Calliope’s future to think about, and all of the dreams we each want the other to be able to achieve. 

“Don’t give up on me, Ana. Please.” His plea weighs heavy on my heart. I reach up and wrap my arms around his neck, pulling myself up so that my nose is only just not touching his. 

“I’ll never give up on you. We’re going to get through this. No matter what happens, you and I, we’re going to be just fine. You’re enough for me, Christian. You’re more than I ever even dared to be selfish enough to dream about.” 

He leans forward and kisses me, his lips pleading in their want. For a long time, all he does is kiss me. Deep. Slow. Sensual. His tongue caresses mine in a way that makes my entire body tingle. His hands move softly over me, bringing goosebumps to the surface of my skin that only become more pronounced with every soft moan or declaration of love that escapes his lips each and every time we part, even if it’s just for a second. 

God I love him

It’s overwhelming sometimes, like it’s too powerful for me to truly feel in its entirety all at once, because there’s not enough space in my heart to physically contain it all. That if I tried, I would burst apart like a dying star. So, I push into him. The powerful feelings of love and want and belonging overflowing from me, pouring into him. He drinks it all in greedily, like he’s just emerged from the desert after forty long days and nights and my lips are his very first taste of cool, clean water. 

I’m so absorbed in his kiss that I don’t realize it when he sweeps me up into his arms and carries me up the stairs to our bedroom. He falls onto the bed with me, but it could have been the couch or a cloud high above the planet for all I know. I’ve completely disappeared into him and the healing love we share between us. 

Long after our clothes have been tossed to the floor and we’ve both managed to tumble our way back to Earth from an absolutely astounding high, he lays next to me looking much lighter. Sated. He drags his index finger from my collar bones to my belly button, over and over again. We lay there, in comfortable silence, neither one of us quite ready to leave the other for sleep. 

“Do you remember last year when you were still pregnant and you had convinced yourself that I was sleeping with Gia while you were in Cambridge?” he asks. 

Her name makes me cringe with revulsion, but I nod. “I was stupid. It was the hormones.” 

He lets out a soft laugh, then props himself up on his elbows and looks down at me like I’m the most precious thing in the entire world.

“This is why she, and every other girl like her, never held any interest for me. Gia, Leila, even Elena… none of them would be here right now. None of them would have stood by me through this. When you say you love me, you really mean me.” 

“I do.” 

He closes his eyes, as though he’s suddenly in pain. “I don’t deserve you.” 

I take his face in my hands and force him to look up at me. “Yes, Chrisitan. You do. You are every bit the man today that you were before all of this happened. Nothing as stupid as money could ever change that for me. I love you.” 

“Sometimes, love doesn’t feel like enough to describe the way I feel about you.” He kisses me again, and for a moment, I think we’re going to pick up right where we left off. But then he pulls away and brushes his hand tenderly through my hair. “Would you mind if I brought Calliope in here to sleep with us tonight?” 

“You miss her.” It’s a statement, but he answers anyway. 

“More than you could ever know.” 

My face crinkles in pain when I hear the strain behind his words. With the hours he’s been working, he hasn’t really seen her for more than a few minutes a day for nearly a month. 

“Yeah,” I tell him. “Go get her.” He nods and places one last kiss against my lips. 

“I’ll be right back.” 

“I’ll be counting the seconds.” He laughs, but the second his heat disappears from my side, I start to count. 

1, 2, 3…

Next Chapter

33 thoughts on “Chapter 29

    1. YOU AND ME BOTH! I hadn’t even finished reading the OLD chapters, since I had originally not liked the direction the book was taking, WAY back when, and had stopped reading it altogether. (Admittedly, it felt THEN like Tara was either re-hashing the same type of stuff from previous books, with Christian and Ana facing the SAME type of bad mojo, or writing herself into a corner that I couldn’t see liking what came out of it. And it seemed to be lacking in an overall plan. Or maybe that Scott guy just pushed ALL my angry buttons, and I didn’t like seeing what he was getting away with and couldn’t stand to read further.) NOW, however, I’m absolutely LOVING it! The last five chapters have been WONDERFUL, given a LOT of little “nuggets” that you KNOW are great clues for what is to come. I HAD TO BINGE ALL FIVE CHAPTERS AT ONCE, which just shows Tara’s real GIFT for drawing you in!!!

      Of course, NOW I have to go back and read what happened before. After all, Tara ALWAYS has running clues, so I need to see if I have missed anything!!

      So looking forward to BINGE reading this weekend as well!

      (And TARA, sorry I had such a lack of faith in this one earlier. You just somehow KNEW when to stop it and KNEW when to start it up again!!!!! I’m absolutely LOVING this now and INTRIGUED over the stuff that is OBVIOUSLY going to result from the last 5 chapters! CAN’T WAIT FOR MONDAYS AGAIN!!!!!! THANK YOU for being the FIRST good and decent thing to come out of covid-19!!!!! I actually can say that I LOVE MONDAYS for the first time in AGES!!!!!!!!!!)

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      1. I’m so happy you’re loving the new direction!! To be honest, I think you’re right about the “lack of direction,” thing. I had an outline before, but nothing like I had for the first three— and I didn’t have the time to plan like I did the first three. I was thinking about Broken WHILE i was writing Different, and planning details and whole scenes and plot twists and dialogue and all kinds of stuff for Stronger while I was writing Broken. Final, I put together in two months and then just started writing and it kind of got confused along the way. I think part of the problem was that I was writing to try and tie up loose ends and lost track of the romance angle— which is a lesson I’m so grateful to have learned because I think it’s made me better (hopefully, judging by the last few chapters, right?)

        But yes, I have been dropping foreshadowing hints all over these chapters 🙂

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  1. I never thought I’d see the day he let Gail go. And having a credit card declined?? That has to hurt, I hope he can turn everything around.
    Great chapter! Thank you for the update! 😀

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    1. I’d wondered WHEN the credit cards would start to be an issue! After all, Christian put EVERYTHING and ALL major developmental researchers into this, which meant they were NOT doing what made the company a success in the first place. And Christian was unconcerned about getting NEW businesses in since he expected his “project” to take the company into entirely new places.

      So ALL the money was going into ONE thing, and neglecting EVERYTHING that had made the company what it was in the first place. That equals money going out AND virtually nothing coming in. And I think even GAIL saw this one coming!

      AT LEAST Christian is TAKING RESPONSIBILITY for his actions and what it almost meant for his company (after all, it seemed like Welch would have kept going with the project if Christian hadn’t FINALLY shut it down!). AND Christian seems to even have an inkling into WHY he was so motivated to go in this direction.

      Christian’s PRIDE resulted in a rather substantial potential FALL. But Christian is still Christian. And what he needed MOST was to hear Ana BELIEVED in him. REALLY believed in him. Christian has NOT lost what he had—he KNOWS how to be a SUCCESS. Just this time, he won’t take it for granted again. AND won’t put EVERYTHING into a potential UNKNOWN that could fail.

      OF COURSE, all of that is ASSUMING that Christian has enough left to right the wrongs. People made deals with Christian based on his NAME alone and the fact that he had NOT made poor decisions with his company OR failed before this. SO NOW Christian has to BUILD BACK his reputation. AND probably face an ENORMOUS amount of Lawsuits, both civil AND criminal. AND it could cost his Dad his elected position if it appears he is willing to go easy on his son, when the city HAS been caused damage by Christian. VERY VESTED in learning JUST what all Christian is facing AND what resources he has left to fight back!!!

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  2. So happy that Ana has Luke back, but I hate the price it came at… I get his job takes up a lot of time and that Ana is his only family in his life, but he deserves love too!!! I do hope they figure something out. Feel bad for Ana in regards to the crazy task that Carmen put her up to and how the lunch went with the author (how embarrassing)… though it seems that Carmen may be enjoying the Grey’s downfall. I do hope that this is rock bottom for GEH and that Christian’s plans can pull them from the ashes.

    Can’t wait to read what is next… hope it includes more time with Calliope!!!

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  3. Poor Luke! Glad Ana is there for him. So sorry for Ana and Christian. They do their best in their jobs but sometimes it is not to be. Love how Ana affirms her unconditional love for Christian, so, so wonderful and loving. They’re so strongly connected. They’ll conquer the world again, time is what they need. Christian has every confidence in Ana. I do, too, with Christian, as well. Calliope is a darling welcome all of them needed, precious! Sorry Gail had to leave. Thank you for the fantastic chapter, Tara. It is emotional and passionate. Take care. See you next week❤

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  4. Great Chapter! We can only hope that the Greys make it through the other side stronger then ever! Gail being let go! 💔💔 I hope they can get her back, as well as the other staff! Thank you for the update!

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  5. Christian and Ana have a bond made to last in their lifetime that have already overcome challenges in their paths and one more they can and will weather for they cannot give up on their future.The lack of household help is very minute, so did Christian let go of any GEH employees also. There is still daycare at GEH for Calliope to go. Thank you for the update until next

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    1. Ana’s MANUSCRIPT is a potential quagmire, though. You KNOW her current company would resent her publishing with Grey Publishing, ESPECIALLY if Carmen folds her company because Ana fails to find someone ELSE to publish with enough GUARANTEED numbers to sustain them. And I can’t HELP but wondering if Carmen ALWAYS had that in the back of her mind. PUSH Ana to feel the company is SOLELY going to float or not based on her, and wouldn’t Ana be willing to sacrifice to protect so many jobs AND her REPUTATION???

      YET the book could help Grey Publishing. HOWEVER, Grey Publishing is under GEH, which is in trouble right now. AND could Carmen actually TRY to prevent Ana being able to PUBLISH her book through GEH DUE TO THE NON-COMPETE CLAUSE????? (I’m ACTUALLY thinking Carmen INTENTIONALLY put Ana in the position she is NOW in to “force” Ana’s hand—Ana has to publish through CARMEN in order to save everyone ELSE’S jobs!)

      And Carmen would KNOW that Christian would NEVER sue Ana if Ana published through Carmen to save that company. If that was what it took for Ana to get the CHANCE to really turn Carmen’s company around, don’t you think Christian would put ANA’s needs above his own???? So I’m still SUSPICIOUS that Carmen actually set this whole little thing up—after all, she kind of WINS either way. Either she causes TENSION between Christian and Ana OR gets that book she KNOWS she would NEVER have gotten on her own in ANY other way!!!

      So that MANUSCRIPT could actually be a WHOLE other legal quandary waiting to happen!

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  6. Until now, I always thought that they would recover from this fiasco because I could conceive a world where Christian Grey didn’t have security on his payroll to protect his loved ones. However… you usually surprise me, and I’m starting to think that maybe you are going to take a total different path and make them a normal couple. But yet, that’s not your style, so I’m doubting my own theories.

    Either way, it doesn’t matter what the final will be, what I have to say is that you have a way with words that I haven’t seen in much authors. I’ve already told you lots of times but really, you never cease to amaze me with the way you put your reader in the story. I was suffering for Calliope, for all the desesperation and lose of faith of Christian, the reality check of Ana… even I could relate with Luke or Gail. And that’s not an easy job, to make a reader feel like she/he is on the story. So my congratulations!

    As always, you just made my horrible and frivolous Monday a little more sunnier. Can’t wait for more!

    Lots of love,
    Andie

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    1. Oh my goodness, all of this is so incredibly sweet! Thank you so much for the encouragement, it seriously means so much!!

      And maybe you should doubt your own theories. Maybe you shouldn’t. Maybe Gail is going to be the head of the new conspiracy? Who’s to say?

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      1. Well you got me haha. But You know, I trust Gail like I trusted Ros in a ASSOF, so I’m waiting patiently until her return.
        And well, What can I say… I like to encourage the authors that truly deserve it… if I can’t buy your book and help you a little with it, the least I can do is try to give you all of my support.

        Ps: after reading the chapter again, I’m thinking that maybe Ana is going to be the key to all this. Maybe she is going to get enouh of Carmen and lea e the company (not after saving it, not her style letting things unfinished) and maybe that little book that is incomplete will find the inspiration to be finished. Who knows… maybe Ana will be equal also on the income. yeeeeeeeeeeey can’t wait ☺️

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      2. Hey, I FREELY ADMIT that I DON’T like that Christian has so little staff around. AFTER ALL, we SAW what happened when ONLY Taylor was there when Scott attacked. Taylor couldn’t be EVERYWHERE, and CHRISTIAN ended up being the person to walk in on what Scott was trying to do to Ana.

        So being STAFFLESS leaves Ana AND Christian vulnerable. Leaves EVERYONE with INCREASED RESPONSIBILITIES at a time when they are ALREADY stretched thin. As is, there is now MULTIPLE gaps that could be attacked with immediate and extended family members. (Let’s hope Carrick has his OWN protective staff of SOME kind to protect him due to his current position. Still leaves WAY to many people vulnerable and stretched thin for my comfort, PARTICULARLY since this WHOLE thing, including Carrick’s new position, started with wanting to find out about the CORRUPTION in the police that is STILL unknown. THOSE individuals are MOTIVATED to resist being discovered AND likely to throw their weight behind anyone ELSE trying to finish Christian off!!)

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  7. I feel so sorry for Christian. His way of dealing with what happened with Lincoln and Anna was with the fusion project. He wanted to be in control so nothing like that could ever happen again. It’s so sad bless his heart he meant well. He’ll get it back I know he will nobody we’ll get ahead of Christian Grey. I never thought I’d see the day that Gail would not be there. Ana is going to have to learn the balance everything work, calliope, cooking, laundry, cleaning, because Christian sure isn’t going to be there to help if he’s working so many hours. It’s kind of exciting in a way to see him start back at the bottom and work his way up and he will be fine he’ll do it. I still feel bad for him I feel sorry for him cuz he meant well but Ana will be by his side through all of it. Excited for the next chapter

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  8. Cómo siempre otro gran capítulo.

    Ciertamente, son jóvenes y CG tiene mucho que aprender todavía y dentro de todas las consecuencias que su gestión realizó incorrectamente, aunque se entiende su profundo deseo de proteger a quienes más ama. Está aprendiendo que tener a Ana y Calliope con él y mantenerse unidos como pareja y ser un buen padre, es realmente lo que es importante. Separar sus ganancias de la seguridad económica familiar y sentar nuevas bases de protección. Gail es fiel y estoy segura que le apoyará en todo ésto.

    Ana, tendrá otro objetivo para demostrar que es una buena historia, ahora con esta nueva inspiración de lucha por superarse ante esta nueva eventualidad y el terrible suceso de Lincoln y sus secuaces.

    Tocando fondo, pero resurgiendo como el Fénix juntos y más fuertes.
    Sé que CG demostrará que no fue mera suerte y aprenderá algo de humildad en el proceso.

    Luke encontrará alguien que pueda entender la relación que Ana y él tienen y apoyar su firma de trabajo. Se aman como hermanos y es imposible para ellos separase.

    Gracias por darnos tanto. Eres una excelente autora.

    ♥️💐♥️💐
    😷🙏

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  9. I love how you are making them work so hard and sweat for their rainbow pot. Most stories including the original always have them over achieve but never struggle. This is some good writing and a fantastic story line.

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  10. Wow! Credit card declined. How embarrassing for Ana. Gail let go? Holy s–t. Callie’s nanny gone, too. Paging Gideon Cross.

    A reader suggested Ana’s manuscript might turn the tide for Greenwich Press, but I’d rather Grey Publishing publish Ana’s book (under another name perhap), and give the bird to Carmen. Now everybody, stop spending unnecessarily!

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  11. Oh man, this chapter has me nervous. Totally was not expecting GEH to be in that much trouble, and when I finished reading this chapter I had a knot in my stomach. I know the characters are fictional, but your story has made Ana and Christian feel very real and now I’m very worried for the trouble they are currently in. I do have a feeling things will get worse before they get better…something with Mia, Carrick’s cancer returning, or something happening to Ray. We’ve had a lot of failures and sad moments in this last book and I hoping for some small victories soon!

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  12. Two things scream at me in this chapter (well, actually, more do—but it is TWO of them that I’m admittedly most vested in).

    First up: It does NOT sound like Anastasia filed attempted rape charges. And, quite frankly, she SHOULD have. This Scott guy is MORE than the chauvinist I initially took him for. In fact, I find myself wondering why he pushed for Anastasia’s hiring in the first place, ESPECIALLY given his attitude towards women. Did he think Ana would fail and that would make him look better? HOW, since he had pushed so hard for her hiring? After all, since he CONSTANTLY undermined her and did EVERYTHING to undervalue and keep her from ANY kind of effectiveness, the ONLY thought I was left with was that he hired her in order to INTENTIONALLY keep her down. And maybe get Grey Publishing off his back. And he wanted to look good at Ana’s expense.

    (The other thing that DOES make sense is that Scott really IS the type of lazy guy that wanted to do as little as possible, thus making him unwilling to be in charge of BOTH of Carmen’s divisions. So he wanted Ana to take Seattle and maybe fail, making New York look better all the time. BUT that alone does NOT track with me. I’m REALLY intrigued to see what happens NEXT with Scott. Because you KNOW he has not gone away. In fact, his Lawsuit against Christian ensures he is hovering in the background. . . . )

    Scott CLEARLY filed assault charges against Christian Grey. He probably anticipated that Ana would file charges and wanted something for Leverage. Scott is out there and now MOTIVATED to go after Christian AND Ana since it sounds from the “flip” comment Ana made that Christian’s lawyers somehow kept Scott from getting Christian jailed. But lawyers take money—a LOT of money.

    Which brings me to the SECOND concern: Just WHAT were the lawyers calling Christian about? It could be THREE different things—charges for the fusion stuff from the first explosion. Charges for the SECOND obvious explosion. Possible civil lawsuits from MULTIPLE sources. OR the whole Scott affair.

    So I’m INTRIGUED to know about just WHAT the lawyers were contacting Christian about.

    Christian has WAY to many potential legal bombshells around him right now. And Scott sounds WAY too much like a LINCOLN kind of guy.

    AND I’m wondering about Carmen’s angle. She WANTS to test Ana. She hired her and gave her no power, allowing Scott to dominate what happened with the company, INCLUDING Ana’s division. Yet so easily lets Scott go. And I’d really LOVE some BACKSTORY about her history with Christian. Is this JUST competition??

    (I had always rather wondered if Carmen wasn’t trying to create some sort of leverage ALL her own, with Ana at her company. Especially since she didn’t let Ana have ANY real effectiveness, yet left JUST enough to enable her to let Ana take the blame for anything gone wrong. NOW, I’m just not so sure. I CAN’T HELP THINKING THAT CARMEN WAS THINKING ALONG THE SAME LINES AS SCOTT—that a VESTED Ana would do ANYTHING to keep the company from folding, INCLUDING sacrificing her OWN work. I even felt Carmen was PUSHING for this, WITHOUT coming out and saying it. SCOTT clearly KNEW Ana’s Manuscript would SAVE them. . . .)

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    1. Oh my god, welcome back!! I love this!

      To answer your first part, Scott is gone. I had this whole thing planned about a he said/she said thing, but there’s so much ahead that it became gratuitous. The important part is that Scott is gone, and Ana is in charge. Of a company. That competes with GEH. (This is not foreshadowing).

      I touched on the lawyers part a little in the dinner party chapter with Luke. Christian made a lot of deals and got a lot of money on the promise of the fusion project, and now there’s no fusion project. So he’s in a little bit of hot water.

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