Chapter 31

I’m bobbing anxiously by the time I step out of the elevator onto Christian’s floor, but Luke takes his sweet ass time dragging along behind me. He saunters towards the security key mounted against the wall as though he’s got all the time in the world to get there. And, once he finally does, he twists his badge in his hands and studies the black box as though he has to figure out how to unlock everything. It takes me actually threatening to march over and punch in the override code myself for him to finally press the plastic he’s holding against the scanner. He grins as we both hear the lock click open, and I yank open the frosted glass door. I ignore the clearly pleased look on his face and hurry forward until I walk into a scene I hadn’t been expecting.

Ros is bent over, supporting herself against Andrea and Olivia’s desk. The way Christian’s receptionist and assistant look at her, I’m worried she might be having a mental break.

“It’s just another chip on his shoulder, right?” Ros asks in a slightly hysterical voice. “It’ll make him fight harder. It’ll make him sharper, more ruthless. He’ll pull us through this. He has to, there’s just no other choice.”

“Ms. Bailey, Can I get you—” Andrea begins, but Ros’s tawny eyes shoot up to her with a look so wild that she immediately falls silent.

“He’s Christian Grey, Andrea. This doesn’t happen to him, doesn’t happen to us.”

“It’s just one client,” Olivia offers, but Ros shake’s her head.

“It’s not just this client. It’s the fusion project. It’s still in his head and now his confidence is shot to hell. He’s…” She turns like she’s going to start pacing, and her eyes fall on me for the first time. “Ana!”

“What happened?” I ask. I feel Luke behind me, placing a hand on my shoulder and squeezing. He’s reacting to my voice, which has suddenly lost all of its strength.

Ros swallows, then looks down at the floor. “We didn’t get the contract.”

I’d been holding my breath, expecting the worst. This isn’t the worst, not by far. Christian’s missed out on deals before, had clients decide to go in a different direction. It’s never so much as phased him.

“Okay, so he gets another one.”

“There isn’t another one.” She takes a deep breath and looks up at me. No longer frantic, her eyes look dead. “It wasn’t just about this contract, it was about the doors this deal would have opened, the pipeline it would have created, the contacts we would have made. There was real potential. Now, it’s just gone…. And we have nothing in its place.”

The way the last word breaks across her lips frightens me. I can see in her now the same hint of worry and uncertainty that Christian’s been trying to hide from me for weeks. Somehow seeing it from Ros makes it more real. Christian looks at everything like it could be the end of the world, it’s one of the reasons why he needs Ros so much. To bring him back to reality when he starts getting paranoid or feels like he’s made too many missteps, when he’s really sliding through everything like skates on freshly smoothed ice. If Ros is this scared, then things are worse than I’d imagined. And if Ros is this frantic, Christian is…

I take a purposeful step forward, but she reaches up to stop me.

“You really don’t want to go in there, Ana. It’s not good.”

“That means I have to.” I shrug off her touch and move around her, ignoring Andrea and Olivia’s stares as I start down the hall to Christian’s office.

I don’t pause to knock, even though the door is closed. I know he’s alone. He isn’t sitting in the strong, leather chair behind his gargantuan, solid desk like I expect him to be. At first the office looks completely empty. Then I see a movement out of the corner of my eye, and find Christian standing off to the right, staring at the city through the window. There’s an empty tumbler dangling from his right hand and when I glance over at the bar, I see the decanter of scotch is open and much emptier than it was the last time I was here.

“Christian?”

His shoulders rise and fall, then, slowly he turns to face me. None of the anxiety I saw in Ros is present in him at all. The moment his eyes find mine, his body relaxes and the smile that stretches across his face is so easy, so heart-stoppingly gorgeous that my breath catches in my throat. He tosses the tumbler on a small table next to the sitting area between us and charges toward me, cupping my face tenderly in his hands, and he brings our lips together. I nearly giggle as he sweeps me into the door and pins me between the solid wood and his rock hard chest.

“Christian, what are you doing?” I squeal. He silences me with another kiss, deeper this time. His tongue crosses my lips and takes full possession of my mouth. I hum and let my body melt against his, pulling myself as close to him as I can possibly get. The morning full of romance crashes over me again all at once, and suddenly I’m climbing him like a tree. Too desperate to be close to him, to peel away his expensive suit and feel his skin against mine, to care about anything else.

Not even the taste of the scotch that is so fresh on his tongue that I can feel the burn of the alcohol.

“Wait,” he breathes against me, grinning at my enthusiasm. “I really did intend for us to have lunch together.” His hands release their grip on my thighs and I slide down him until my feet hit the floor. He takes half a step to the side and I see that a table has been set for the two of us. Two covered dishes rest on either side of a bucket of champagne. There’s a single rose in the center of the table with three small tea light candles resting amongst the fallen petals. I smile at it, feeling the sweetness and the intimacy of his wants in the gesture.

“I thought you wanted reciprocation from this morning? I seem to remember receiving vague threats in my email about it.”

He gives me a lascivious smirk. “If you thought the promises I made to you were vague, I’d be happy to clear up any misunderstandings right now.”

“You said something about a spanking…”

There’s a flash of light across his gray eyes, a response to the challenge in my voice. He leans into me, the tip of his nose just barely grazing the line of my jaw, all the way up, until his lips are at my ear. 

“I’m going to strip you naked, Anastasia. Slowly. Carefully. Until you are completely bare and I can look or touch any part of your gorgeous body that I fucking want. Then I’ll put you over my knee and spank you while  you tell me again every single thing you did to yourself this morning. You’ll take it until you’re so sore that you’ll feel it the next time you try to put your hands between your legs and take what you know belongs to me. Then I’ll lay you out, bury my face between your legs, and stay there until you’ve come so many times that you’ll need a day off just to remember how to move again. And that, is when I’ll fuck you.”

I swallow, but my throat has suddenly gone dry.

“But we only have an hour right now. And I’m not going to indulge in you until I can really lose myself.”

“So, tonight.” I lick my lips and his eyes move down to my mouth.

“Yes. Tonight. Right now…” he takes my hand and leads me to the table, pulling out my chair and pouring me a glass of bubbly, pink champagne before taking the seat next to me. I lift the metal lid on the dish in front of me, expecting some fancy catered lunch, but there’s a cardboard take-out box waiting for me. I eye it suspiciously until I pop the top and find the noodles I’m obsessed with from the place right around the corner from Escala. I don’t even know that I’ve had them since we’ve moved.

I give him a look that I hope conveys all the dirty things I’m going to do to him later for this and start to dig in. He chuckles, then picks up a pair of chopsticks and starts on his own container. We eat in silence for a few long, drawn out minutes until I can’t help but ask the question that’s been plaguing me since I stepped through the doors.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

He furrows his brow. “About what?”

“Your meeting this morning.” My chopsticks freeze, hovering over the container in my hand while I wait for his reaction. It isn’t a good one. He places his food back on the table and sits back in his chair without looking at me.

“You know about that?”

“Ros is having a meltdown in your lobby.”

He makes a disgusted sound and shakes his head as he once again reaches for the takeout container. “Great.”

“What happened?”

“I got beat.” His tone is flat, devoid of any emotion, so I can’t really read much into what he’s said. He still isn’t looking at me though, and that speaks volumes more than words could. “Someone got in ahead of me and made the deal before I could.”

“Who?”

“Carmen Gallagher.”

My stomach drops. He’s told me before that Gallagher Corporation is one of his biggest competitors in the telecommunications industry. He hadn’t cared much about the impressive amount of progress they’d made in their fiber optics technology in the last year because he’d had it set in his mind that he’d be moving on to fusion energy. Carmen could have the scraps he left behind. Now, he’s back to square one and the consequences of his inaction with Gallagher Corp. are proving to be more drastic than he had anticipated. That’s what I was seeing in Ros earlier, that’s what I’m seeing in him right now.

“I’m sorry, Christian,” I tell him meekly. He shakes his head.

“I don’t want to talk about it. I’d much rather hear about your morning. You spent all day yesterday worrying about your presentation, and you haven’t said a word about it.”

“Oh.” I bite my lip to try and reign in the victorious smile that nearly breaks my face in two every time I think about that meeting and how it had happened. Why it had happened… “Carmen approved the project. I thought I was dead in the water when I was going over the financials, but she went for it exactly as I proposed it.”

“Of course she did.” He grins at me like my success is his own. “Your idea is brilliant, Ana. Simple, useful, easily marketable. God, and to think I was this close to getting you to come back and work for me instead.” He holds his fingers up, only an inch apart. I grab his whole hand and bring it to my lips, kissing each one of his fingertips before pushing my hand into his.

“The best part was the way that it happened. She wasn’t sold so she asked my team what they thought and…. They stood up for me. They told her that they’d seen my methods work and it made them trust me. Even this guy who hated me when I first started. They convinced her to take a chance on me.”

“Because you’re an effective leader.” His grin widens again and as I blush into my napkin, he once again pulls my hands from my face and makes me look at him. “So, what are your next steps?”

“Uh… Abby is getting me the numbers for some app developers. I’ve got a budget of $80,000 to do the app redesign, so I need to find who will give me the most for that price.”

He shrugs. “What about me?”

“What?”

“Hire me. I can contract out my R&D department for your app design. Welch and Barney could have it done for you in less than thirty days, and I guarantee you they’ll give you a better product than anything else you’ll find out there. Especially for anything under six figures.”

“You would give me Welch?” I ask, dumbfounded. He shakes his head.

“I’m not giving you anything. For eighty grand, Grey Enterprises Holdings will design an application for Greenwich Small Press.”

“But we’re competitors…”

“No, Carmen and I are competitors. You and I, we’re a team. I want every success for you, baby. I want to watch you rise to the top of your industry and then rule over everything you’ve conquered like a queen. My queen. Even if that means I have to swallow my pride and let Gallagher claim the win alongside you. I can help you here. Besides, it’s mutually beneficial. I have an empty pipeline, remember?”

The silence grows louder as I chew over his proposal. I don’t know what there is to think about. Welch is the best there is. I’m not going to find anything even near the kind of quality he could give me for what I can offer in return. And I’ve worked with him before, so I know we can work well together. Communicate clearly. He’s the one person on the planet I would trust to take my vision and make it something concrete, exactly the way I’d imagined it to be. And Christian isn’t going to screw me over. If anything, hiring him means nothing will rest until I’m 100% satisfied.

“Alright,” I agree, at last. “I’ll send you over a proposal this afternoon.”

“I’ll be watching for it diligently.”

We clink our glasses together, and as I take a sip, I eye him curiously. From what I can tell, everything around him at work is falling apart. Everything he’s built, everything he’s sacrificed for, is all at risk because of one bad decision. I’ve read what they’re calling him in the papers, seen the accusations news pundits have hurled at him for being so careless with so many people’s jobs. But none of that leaks into this deal between us. He doesn’t let his resentment for Carmen interfere with my goals. He doesn’t care that my success in this instance could mean a crushing blow for his own printing press. He only cares about me. While he’s crashing down to earth in a flaming ball of disaster, he’s willing to let me be the rising star.

And that’s where I lose the last shred of self-control I have.

I practically leap from my seat to his lap. There’s still food in his mouth when I begin kissing him, but I don’t care. I pull away just long enough for him to swallow and attack him again. His hands position themselves on me like he’s going to move me away from him at first, then they clamp down on me like he’s never going to let me go. I grind on his lap, pushing my lips hard against his and burying my tongue deep in his mouth.

We’re interrupted by a knock on the door.

“I’m coming in there in ten seconds, Christian,” Ros’s voice sounds through the thick, oak barrier. “One, two, three…”

Christian lets out a deeply disappointed sigh, then moves me back into my chair before he turns an expectant gaze to the door just as Ros reaches “ten.”

She inches her way inside, peering carefully as though she’s afraid of what she might see, and is ready to slam the door shut in an instant if we hadn’t reacted to her warning. When she finds us sitting at the table together, she lets out a relieved breath and steps inside.

“It’s our anniversary, Ros. You’re treading on very dangerous territory interrupting me right now.”

“Funny, I said the same thing about you when you blew up our parking garage and drove our company into the ground.”

I flinch at the blunt honestly behind her words. Christian starts to shake. When he speaks, his voice is so low and even that it makes my hackles stand straight up.

“Rosaline…”

“We need to go over some financials,” she says. “I can’t do this without you, Christian, you’re the CEO. If you’re going to save your company, then this needs to be your priority right now. No matter what day it is.”

His jaw clenches, but I get up out of my chair and turn to kiss him on the cheek. “It’s fine. I’ve got to get back to the office anyway. But I’m taking these with me.” I pick up the carton of noodles and turn to pick up my things.

Christian’s eyes dart up to me and I can see in them how much he really doesn’t want me to leave, but he doesn’t say anything. He nods, then gets up and takes my hand, not even sparing a passing glance at Ros as he walks to me to the elevators. The kiss he gives me goodbye lasts long enough that Luke has to stand in front of the elevator doors to keep them from closing before I get in, and he pours so much emotion into that kiss that I almost change my mind and stay.

“I have reservations for us at seven,” he says, so close our lips brush together with each word. “I’ll pick you up from work at six-thirty.”

“I’ll be thinking of you until then.”

He moans and kisses me again. This time, I’m the one who has to be strong enough to break the kiss and when I pull away, he clings to my fingers until they slip from his grip. My heart seems to fall at the same rate as the elevator.

“Everything alright?” Luke checks.

“No, not really. But he’ll figure it out. He always does.”

Christian is true to his word. I leave my office at 6:29 and find him standing next to the Lamborghini in front of my office, arms crossed over his chest. He’s dressed in the same suit he was wearing earlier, despite the fact that Luke brought a short, black cocktail dress from my closet for me to change into half an hour ago. I nearly stumble in the stilettos I’ve hastily thrown on as I move towards the car, and both Luke and Christian reach out to catch me.

“I’ve got it, Sawyer,” Christian says, glaring sideways at my bodyguard. Luke takes it in stride.

“Sure thing, boss. She’s in your hands for the rest of the night.”

“You’re not coming with us?” I look around for the familiar SUV I assume will follow us to whatever restaurant we’re going to, but it’s not there.

“Nope, just you two love birds tonight.”

“Really?”

Luke grins and takes two steps back. “Have fun, you two. Make good choices. Use a condom.”

“Not a fucking chance,” Christian says under his breath, quiet enough that Luke can’t hear him. I roll my eyes at both of them, then wave at my best friend and step through the door Christian holds open for me. He’s sliding into the driver’s seat a few seconds later, and then we’re pulling into traffic, and making our way deeper into downtown. His hand clings to mine, absentmindedly playing with my wedding ring as he smoothly winds his way through the streets of Seattle. It’s quiet the entire drive, but it doesn’t feel uncomfortable. It’s almost like a release. Like, after a long day, we both just need to sit and soak each other in for a while.

He takes me to a restaurant called 44, which is on the eponymous floor of a gigantic new skyscraper downtown. Though the restaurant itself is only a couple of months old, I’m already well aware of it’s reputation. Grace and Carrick waited six weeks to get a reservation, Kate and Elliot still haven’t been able to make one.

And Elliot designed the building the restaurant is in.

We pull into the valet and my door springs open for me. I step out, scanning the bushes for cameras and keeping my knees firmly pushed together as I climb out of the too low car. Christian hesitates before handing the keys over to the man working the valet.

“She’ll be in excellent hands, Mr. Grey. I assure you.”

“Uh huh…” He doesn’t sound sure, and his glare only intensifies when the keys are finally yanked out of his hand. Even when he comes around the car and pulls me into his arms, his eyes stay focused on the Lamborghini until it finally roars out of sight. I shake my head and grab onto his tie, dragging him into the building with me.

We take advantage of the empty elevator on our way up to the restaurant, trading flirty touches that verge all the way up to obscene by the time we make it to the 44th floor. I’m blushing as I walk hand in hand with Christian into the restaurant, but all the warmth bleeds out of me in an instant while we’re standing, waiting for the host, and I hear an unwelcome voice approach from inside the restaurant.

“Is that Grey?” It’s Bill Fitchett, a local real estate developer who we’ve met several times at the black tie functions I’ve had to accompany Christian to on behalf of GEH. My first impression of him was that he was a dick, but I’ve since refined that. The man is a complete fucking asshole.

Christian looks over at him and the fake smile he reserves for business associates moves across his lips. “Bill. How was your dinner?”

“Delicious. This place really is something else. I’m surprised to see you here, though.”

“Oh?”

“I mean, I thought you’d probably be somewhere more in your… price range. The Olive Garden, maybe?”

Christian’s face goes from pleasantly removed to savage in a blink. “Careful, Fitchett. My father’s administration has just proposed new housing policies that’ll run slumlords like you out of this city forever. Where do you think you’ll eat then?” 

The man grins wickedly. “You think I’m afraid of Carrick Grey? The man’s a laughing stock after you beat his failed tax hike. But hey, like father like son, am I right?”

Christian takes a step towards him, his face more menacing than I’ve seen it when I wasn’t in immediate danger. His cold eyes fall on the smaller man, and his voice drops so deep that it sends a chill over my arms, and leaves me with goosebumps.

“Yes. Like father, like son. And once he’s thrown you out like the fucking trash you are, I’ll buy everything you’ve ever worked for and dismantle it piece by piece.” 

“That’s an awfully loud bark for a dog who doesn’t have any bite anymore.”

Christian’s face breaks into the kind of unnerving, devilish smile that leaves the promise of calamity tattooed on your soul. “I’ll see you around, Fitchett.” He turns and nods casually to the host, then reaches back for me.  Bill stares vindictively after us as Chrisitan pulls me into the restaurant.

“You want me to hold him down and you can punch him?” I ask, skipping up to Christian’s side. He actually grins down at me.

“As much as I’d love to remove that man from a few of his teeth, he’s not really worth it. Besides, once I’m back on top, he’ll be one of the first people who gets a reminder of exactly who I am.”

“One of the first?”

“Oh, I have a list.”

My lips press together nervously. “Is… Carmen on that list?”

“Several times.” I glance up at him in alarm, but he assuages my concerns with a joking smile and pushes me into the dining room. The host tries to pull my seat out for me, but Christian shoos him away the second his hand comes to rest on the back of my chair. The wine has been pre-ordered, so he pours us each a glass before settling down into the seat across from me.

“To the happiness we haven’t even had the chance to experience yet,” Christian says, raising his glass in the air. “I can’t wait for every second of the future I get to spend with you, Anastasia.”

I’m floating out of my seat as I clink the rim of my glass against his. It’s like we’re in a magical room that has the power to erase everything outside it’s four walls. I forget about the food we’ve ordered the moment the waiter disappears through the doors because I’m so lost in Christian’s, eyes and the love that’s shining through them.

We talk a little more about my new project over our entrees and while he won’t give me any advice, I hope to at least read his response to all the ideas I have for the future, once this subscription service is completely solvent. For the most part, he’s completely stoic. But I manage to get the smallest hint of a reaction out of him when I suggest networking with companies who produce textbooks that we could then contract though universities, so I make a note to look more seriously into that later. All thoughts of work soon melt away though as we both lose ourselves in the delicious food and drink. When the waiter finally returns, Christian and I are pushed as closely together as our chairs will allow and he has me nibbling off the end of his fork.

“Can I get you anything for dessert?” The waiter asks, smiling warmly at the obvious affection being exchanged between us. I shake my head.

“It was all very delicious, but I don’t think I could possibly eat one more bite.”

“Then she’ll take the chocolate mousse home,” Christian adds. The waiter nods and ducks out of the room, while I turn a questioning gaze on my husband.

“I will?”

“My mother said it was to die for and you might want something sweet later on.”

“And if I don’t?”

He smirks. “Then I’ll eat it off you when you start begging for my cock tonight.”

I shiver and bite down hard on my lower lip. My chest flames with heat that leaks steadily down into my pelvis. Christian’s eyes narrow in on my mouth. The way he stares at my lips, the burning desire I see reflected there as he does, makes staying planted in my seat a gargantuan task I’d be willing to equate with summiting Everest.

“A thing I’m never going to get to do, because you had to order the goddamn dessert.” The need I feel for him is wrapped so tightly around each word that they come out in barely more than a whisper. His eyes flick quickly down below the table, at my thighs pressing together, and then move back to mine.

“Patience, my love. You know what happens when you get greedy…”

He’ll just make me wait longer

A vision of being tied down to our bed and beyond desperate to come while he drives me further insane licking chocolate mousse off my nipples runs through my mind. It almost makes me whine. We don’t have to worry about waking Calliope, so he doesn’t have to worry about holding back. If he wants to make me beg, he’ll draw it out until I’m screaming for it. 

I give him a spiteful look but shift in my chair to try and get a hold of myself. He watches as my body releases the building tension with each deep breath I take, seemingly not pleased that I’m able to regain control so quickly, then leans in and kisses me deeply until the waiter returns with the mousse.

After that, I would have sprinted to the car if Christian weren’t holding me back like an anchor.

It takes way too long for the valet to return with the Lamborghini, and then much longer as Christian paces around the car to make sure there’s no damage. He at least has the decency to over tip once he finds the car in the same immaculate condition he’d left it in. Once we’re pulling away from the hotel, I reach over and drag my hand up his thigh.

“Take me home.” It’s a plea, and one he doesn’t seem to want to indulge. He stares out at the brake lights blinking red back at us over and over again, like he’s considering something.

“You wanna have a quarter-life crisis with me?” he asks, turning a playful smile in my direction. I give him a skeptical look, but one that says I’m willing to go with the joke, if that’s what this is.

“What do you mean?”

He merely wags his eyebrows at me, then turns his attention back to the road. I expect him to merge left to get on the freeway, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t even go right at Pioneer Square, which would take us to any trendy club or bar he might want to go be stupid in. Instead, he stays on 2nd until it merges into 4th, and we end up in the seedy part of town where we’d once busted up Elena’s nightclub. I doubt our security team would be too pleased if they knew we were down here unaccompanied.

“You’re not going to try and like… buy ecstasy off someone, are you?” I ask, dubiously. He makes a disgusted face.

“No.”

“Then why are we—“ My words come to an abrupt halt when Christian makes a sharp left turn across the street and we pull up in front of a sleazy looking tattoo parlor.

“You wouldn’t let me get you a gift,” he says, that mischievous smile right back in place as he reaches for the door. My eyes widen in panic.

“You’re going to get a tattoo?!”

He doesn’t answer me. He climbs out of the car and slams the door behind him. I try my best to follow, but the butterfly doors are a little too tall for me, so it takes me a second to step up on the car and reach across for the handle. By the time I get the door down, he’s already inside talking to the girl standing behind the counter, who looks like a dead ringer for Bettie Page.

I yank back the door and hurry to his side.

“This her?” the girl asks. Christian nods and she slides a book towards me. “Pick a font, sweetheart.”

“For what?”

“Your name,” Christian replies, and my mouth pops open.

“You’re not serious.”

“Oh, I’m dead serious.” He grins and I shake my head.

“You are the CEO of an multinational corporation, you can’t have tattoos!” I throw my arms open, as if to emphasize how obvious the point should have been, but he reaches past me and taps his finger on one of the loopy-cursive fonts near the top.

“I think I like this one.”

“Christian!”

He taps the font again, this time making eye contact with the tattoo artist. She nods and picks up the book, then draws my name on a piece of paper and shows it to him.

“Like that?’

“Perfect.” He turns back to me. “What do you think? The classic: over the bicep? On my side? Across my heart?”

He’s really going to do this. I can see it now, in the determined glint shining behind his eyes. No matter what I say, no matter how logical or realistic my arguments are, he’s going to get a tattoo tonight.

Quarter-life crisis indeed.

“Well… somewhere you can hide it,” I say nervously. He shakes his head.

“If you think I’m going to put your name on my skin just to hide it, you’re missing the point entirely. I want people to see it. I’d get it across my forehead if it made you happy.”

I laugh, despite myself, then chew nervously on my lip. If he’s going to do this, I should at least think about where I’m going to want to see my name looking up at me for the rest of my life. I don’t like the idea of his side or his bicep. Across the heart has merit, it’s romantic at the very least. But if I had to pick my favorite part of him, a place I’d really like to brand…

“Here.” I trace my hands up his jacket from his wrist to his elbow.

“My forearm?”

“I always think it’s really sexy when you’re wearing a button down and you push your sleeves up. I like this part of you. Besides, you’ll never be able to jack off again without seeing my name.”

“Forearm it is,” he says with a laugh, then we follow the tattoo artist into the back where she directs Christian into a black, leather chair. I watch anxiously while she presses the paper into his skin and it leaves the stencil of the word she’s about to put there forever. Christian seems completely at ease.

“That blue there,” he says, pointing to the vials of color she presents to him. “It’s the same color as her eyes.”

“Sure thing, stud,” the tattoo artist says. Christian takes my hand while she positions his arm on the table, then presses the needle against him. He winces and my heart starts thundering in my chest.

This is actually fucking happening.

“Is it awful?” I ask. He shrugs.

“It doesn’t feel great, but it’s bearable.”

“Yeah, but you’re half masochist.” I roll my eyes and the artist chuckles as she swoops the tattoo pen around the loopy letters of my name. It only takes a minute or two. Then she’s swiping a cleansing towelette over the blue letters to clean away the blood, and it’s there.

My name. In ink. Forever.

It’s insane how much I actually love seeing it there.

“Oh my god, Christian. I can’t believe you actually just did that…”

“I can. I absolutely love it.”

“Glad to hear it,” the tattoo artist says, swiveling back towards us in her chair. “Here’s your card back, handsome. I just need an autograph.”

Christian takes the receipt she hands him and tips her triple the cost of the tattoo before he tucks his card back in his wallet. She grins and looks up at me.

“What about you, sweetheart? Gonna let him show you up or can I ink you too?”

“No,” Christian says with finality as he gets out of the chair. I blink back at him.

“Um, excuse me? You didn’t ask for my permission before you came in here and made permanent decisions about your body.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“So why do I need yours?”

“Because that’s the way we work, my love.”

I roll my eyes. “You can’t tell me you wouldn’t love to put your name on me permanently. I could put it right on my ass.” I turn around, wiggling suggestively, but he doesn’t even falter.

“Not gonna happen.”

“Pity. The ultimate claim and Christian Grey doesn’t want to make it?” I should care more that the tattoo artist is sitting there, staring at us with complete interest, but I don’t. And apparently, neither does Christian.

“The only marks I want to see on you, Anastasia, are the ones I put there myself.”

“Kinky,” the artist giggles. We both finally glance at her, then Christian tugs me back out to the front of the store. I stop and wrench my hand out of his.

“No, I don’t think I’m quite ready to leave.” I turn back and when Christian calls after me, I close the door and lock it so he can’t get in. He starts knocking a few seconds later, and the tattoo artist smiles at me.

“And I thought it was going to be a boring Monday night. Glad I was wrong.” She laughs. “Turn around and drop ‘em, girl.”

“Oh, I’m not actually getting a tattoo on my ass,” I admit. “This is all just a small little bluff to get him worked up a little before we go home.” She gives me a sweet smile and waves me over.

“Don’t be nervous, babydoll. We’ll do it quick, you’ll barely feel a thing.”

“I’m not nervous, I’m just… shocked, actually. You have no idea how out of character this is for him.”

“It’s not crazy, it’s expression. That dude in there, he’s got it bad for you, beautiful. He wanted to show that to you. Don’t you wanna show him?” She gets up and pulls me into the chair I didn’t actually take when she’d motioned for me to, and gives me a warm, understanding look. “I get it, you’re not ready for serious ink. We can do something small, something no one will ever notice.”

“I don’t know, I…” I sit up, using the arms of the chair to lift myself up, and the light catches my wedding ring. I stare at it for a moment, then pull it off and slip it onto the ring finger of my right hand instead.

“Do you think you could put his initials here?” I ask, and she waves at me like it’s the easiest thing in the world.

“No problem, it’ll take me 30 seconds. You want the same blue?”

“Uh, maybe gray.”

She nods and gives me a few choices. I pick a dark, charcoal color that’s almost black, and she loads up a fresh needle and cleans my skin.

“Anastasia!” Christian shouts through the door. I look down at her and nod.

“Deep breath,” she tells me, then I feel the needle. It’s sharp at first, but it’s not as terrible as I’d built it up to be. In fact, I’m more annoyed by it than I’m feeling any actual pain. And not thirty seconds after she started, she’s wiping me clean.

“Oh my god,” I say, smiling down at the CTG across my ring finger. It is small, but I fall in love with it instantly. Seeing his initials on me, knowing they’ll never wash away… it’s probably a good thing I’d locked Christian out or the tattoo artist might be getting an x-rated showing right about now. 

“On the house,” the artist says. “Or just included in that massive tip your husband just left me.”

“Thanks.” I tell her, then I hop out of the chair and unlock the door to face the angry bear on the other side.

“What did you do?” he demands the instant I pry the door back. I hold up my hand, sticking up my ring finger like I’m flipping him off. At first, all of the muscles across his body seem to tighten at once. But the longer he looks at it, the more he softens. Except his eyes. His eyes only grow more intense. When they finally move away from my new tattoo to my eyes, it’s like I’m looking into the depths of a violent storm. 

Oh hello, Sir. 

“Go get in the car,” he tells me in a husky voice that has a direct line to my libido. I nod and hurry for the door.

This time, Christian’s there to help me with the door to the Lamborghini. He’s quick and efficient getting me closed inside and then moving around the car to join me. We practically peel out of the parking lot, and before we’ve even hit the freeway, my hands are untwisting his belt.

“Show it to me again. Oh fuck, Ana…” He groans as I flash him my hand, then lean over and take his cock in my mouth. His hands tighten on the steering wheel while my lips tighten around his shaft and the engine roars louder as he flies up the highway. I hold him at the base of his now fully hard erection and suck him like he’s paying me for it. He grunts with each pull of my lips, each countering tug of my hand. I set to work on him with only one goal in mind, driving him absolutely wild. With my tongue, with my lips… I play with the lines of his cock and use my throat to tease his crown. I never let up the entire way, and by the time he takes the exit for our house, his hand twists in my hair and he’s tearing me off of him.

“Anymore and you’re going to get us killed,” he growls, the need I’ve awaken in him boiling at the surface. I pant with want just looking at him, and when he stops at the red light at the end of the exit, I lunge for his lips.

The rest of the drive home goes much the same. Both of us sitting in frustration until he has an excuse to stop the car for long enough that we can attack each other again. When we do finally pull in the garage, Christian doesn’t even bother closing the doors to the car before he’s pulling me up into his arms and carrying me into the house.

Somehow, we make it to the bedroom and all the promises he made to me this afternoon for the kinky night we would share together go right out the window. He falls onto the bed while still clutching me to him. There’s no time to plan or stop, there’s only him and the mass of his body that I need to touch as thoroughly as possible. He strips me out of my dress, kissing and licking me wherever he ends up. My shoulder, my elbow, my breasts, my stomach… He pulls the dress all the way off of me, then offers none of that patience to my panties. I actually yelp in pain as he rips them apart and yanks them off of me, but that yelp is quickly smothered by his lips.

“Fuck me, Christian. I can’t wait anymore, please…” He doesn’t need to be asked twice. Without even bothering to check if I’m ready for him, he plunges inside of me. I am ready though, so unbelievably ready, and he slides against me like steel against satin. “Oh, god!”

“Always wet for me,” he groans in wonder through his deep, harsh thrusts. I bounce with him, keening more and more each time he slams into me.

“Only for you. Always for you.” I stretch my body out under him, trying to press as much of myself into him without hindering him at all. He responds in kind. His hands move over every inch of me, greedily. He wraps my legs around him and moves so deep inside of me, it’s like he’s searching for unchartered territory. The powerful but steady pace he keeps up drives me closer and closer to orgasm, and it’s not just because everything he does feels so incredible. It’s because I can feel his love pouring into me with every push and pull. With every tender caress of his finger tips, or soft whisper of his lips. 

I cling to him, looking over at his new tattoo and feeling the same overwhelming sense of satisfaction that it’s there. It’s a feeling I can lose myself in, and when I do, my nails begin to scrape harshly down his back. He grunts, and his thrusts are thrown off kilter. For half a second, his control falters. Because of me. Because I do things to him that are sometimes overwhelming, the way he’s constantly overwhelming me. And that is enough to set me off.

“Christian!” His name comes out so loud, it reverberates around the room. He swims in it. Coaxes it out of me again and again as he drives into me without mercy. Not long after my first orgasm dissipates, the second one starts. My whole body starts to quake, my eyes roll back in my head. The pleasure is so intense, I can’t even get his name out anymore. I can’t say anything coherent. It doesn’t even matter. My body tells him everything I can’t communicate, and he orders the third orgasm from me as easily as he ordered our dinner this evening.

“Fuck!” I’ve tumbled back to earth again, but he’s already got me climbing. It’s mind boggling. Endless. I’m nearly on the edge of ruin and I don’t think I’ll be able to find my way back. “Please, Christian. I can’t… I can’t…”

“I want one more,” he breathes into the curve of my neck. “Come for me one more time, Ana. Come with me.”

I nod, fearing what he’s asking might actually break my psyche, but there’s nothing in me that wants to deny him. That even could deny him if I did want to. When he talks about owning me, it’s not metaphorical. My body responds to him in a way I have no control over, and the moment he makes his demands for more, I’ve already started to comply. I’m on the edge now, just one more perfect brush of his cock against my g-spot…

“OH! GOD!” It rips through me with the same ferocity he ripped away my panties. I arch high off the bed, feeling as though I’m levitating with the near gravitational force that’s pulsating through me. Christian’s face tightens, my walls clamping around him too tightly now for him to keep up his ruthless pace. He thrusts two more times, then lets out a strangled shout and stills deep inside of me.

I collapse on the bed, panting, being crushed beneath his weight and not finding it in me at all to care. He could smother me and, after what he’d just given me, it wouldn’t be the worst way to go.

“I love you,” I whisper, because that’s all I can do. He moans and moves his mouth to mine, kissing me deep and with long, languorous strokes of his tongue. I melt in the bed beneath him, perfectly content to let his kiss lull me off into a now much needed sleep. But suddenly, he stops. His lips freeze against mine and his entire body goes rigid.

“Christian?” I check. “Are you okay?”

He holds a hand up to silence me, and his eyes start darting back and forth like he’s trying to work through a difficult problem very quickly. 

“What are you…?”

“I need a chemist,” he interrupts, then he leaps out of bed and disappears through our bedroom door.

Next Chapter

24 thoughts on “Chapter 31

  1. TARA WHAT DID YOU JUST DID???? You just wrote what could be my favourite chapter. Top 10 definitely.

    I’m to excited about this chapter that I’m a little frantic but I’ll do my best…

    First of all… how is possible thay uou can write so hot thinks without writing a proper lemon? Truly talent of yours you have there.

    Second, I really loved the tattoo scene. I love when stoic, formal Christian Grey goes out of his mind and do something weird to show his love. Could he be any cuteer? And that carefree exchange between them really got me, even when Ana took the lead and showed Christian who makes the orders there. Really, I loved it more that you could imagine.

    And last but not least… I was preparing to forget about the fusion project but I can’t see why Christian would want a chemist if it wasn’t for it. And well… we already stablished that Christian’s feeling about a deal never go wrong… maybe the last (and hopefuly right) try? It was, maybe, a little bad for him to think about that after sex… but well, we know how men’s brain works sometimes, so it could be related hahaha

    And finally, I have to scold you. Do you have any idea how difficult it is for me, or for any woman, to find a stable relationship after reading about this wonderful Christian? as if it’s easy to settle for less or even find something remotely similar. Well, we’ll always have fiction. I could forgive you in exchange for a few fluffy outtakes, so you know 🤭😂

    Summing up, one of my favourite chapter, it had everything you could ask for.

    Thank you for giving us these wonderful treats!

    Lots of love,
    Andie

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  2. 😳 OMG TATOOS!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Sweet Baby Jesus. I NEVER saw that coming.

    How do you do it Tara? DO you just sit around and say to yourself, “ they will never see this coming hehehehe”. As you grin an evil smile and laugh like Vincent Price???

    Good Grief. I am not sure how I feel about this.
    …………
    ………
    ……

    Well, it is totally marking their territory. I mean forever marking each other as in ownership. An that IS so absolutely Christian.

    And then there is Luke- I love him, I love the powerful friendship you have cultivated with Ana and him over the years. Christian will NEVER get over that friendship, and to say he tolerates is is a stretch, but God, it makes for some of the best dialog you write.

    Carmen- Villain or genius…. I have thoughts about her. Some not so nice, others make her out to be a heroine with this is said and done.

    I love the “will he fail, or will he pull a stunning comeback” feeling. It’s like watching Russel Wilson in the fourth quarter with 9 minutes left and they are down by two touchdowns. I will always bet on Russell in that situation.

    …and I am all in with Christian too.

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  3. Love this chapter. I love how sweet he had been over the past few chapters. The tattoo scene was sweet and hot. Your writing is so good. Only issue was timing there and jumping out of bed like that after such a great connection they just experienced. Hope she’s not too mad. I’m patiently waiting for the Christian Grey comeback. Once he’s back Carmen better watch it. I feel like he will do a hostile take over of her business and merge her company with Grey publishing. I can’t wait for his revenge lol

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  4. Christian is Ana’s cheerleader and make sure she succeed in all her pursuits where she is now in the business world. He had enjoyed his own success until the fusion project blow up and another failure is not going to bring him down. He has had multiple challenges to get where he was and had always get back on top. Successes are sweeter after tasting failures too. Getting tattoos is another way of showing the commitments he had to Ana and well, she could do the same also. Ana was getting another Christian super special in a non stop orgasms that could easily get her into her subspace. Christian has poured all his love to Ana in his lovemaking to a level that he must have gone over the top that he ends up having chest pains needing a medic or he cannot tame down his erection that he is having undue discomfort for why would he need a medic. Just making wild guesses and this is a wild chapter of entertainment. Thank you very much super writer, Tara. Until Monday

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  5. WOW. Part 1 was sweet… part 2 was… I think I need an ice bath because that was HOT. Christian Grey inked gives me all sorts of feels. Also what is he up to…? Can’t wait to see how this plays out between him and Carmen and Ana with her book….

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  6. Part two of their anniversary just blows me! Christian treats and loves Ana like his precious Queen. He is willing to take a back seat and let her glow and succeed. All the things he’s planned for their special day and will do for her is 110 percent into it. Just the simple takeout in his office, he just knows his love so, so well and keeps in mind. The tattoos are commitment to each other, I love them. It just shows how deeply and unconditionally they love each other. Having such a grand anniversary day, I’d think Christian is inspired and a bright idea comes to mind. I’d love to see he takes Carmen and Bill down. Thank you for another fantastic chapter, Tara. I forgot to let you know, I love Journey. Take care and see you.

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  7. Of course, I love it, Tara! You’re incredibly talented and so kind to your readers with your commitment and dedication. Thank You❤⚘

    Like

  8. How in the hell do you manage to pull soooooo many emotions out of me???!!! This chapter has taken me through the emotions of sadness, anxiousness, rage, love, horniness (lol), elation…..I hate seeing Christian in this slump and I pray it does not last the entire story. I’m praying the chemist is the answer to IMMEDIATELY get Christian and GEH back on top.

    I HATE Carmen and I hate that Ana works for her. I hated that douche that tried to cock strut on Christian at Restaurant 44. I can’t wait for Christian to make him eat his words and tremble in his fake knock off boots. UGH….PLEASE let this chemist get them back on top, quickly and make all the naysayers eat their words.

    Great story/chapter ❤

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  9. Love how C & A have really solidified their relationship. Seems stronger than ever. Part of me feels as though C offered to help with the platform development due to patent verbiage that he will put in the proposal that will also indefinitely benefit his company. Remember that Welch also has patent rights. We know that Ana ends up at Grey Publishing in the future take. Somehow that will play out. We also know that Christian still has his company with Welch and Ros in the future. Does the bullet wound or loss of kidney ever give Christian trouble?

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  10. 🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰
    This whole chapter!
    I hope Christian pulls it off, even if his timing wasn’t great! 😂
    I have a feeling Ana is going to be doing some BB moves! I love it all!
    Thanks for another great chapter!

    Like

  11. Beautifully writen chapter of true love and workplace angst. Christian has the knack of compartmentalizing his feelings for Ana and Callie. What an anniversary! The tattoos are a brilliant idea, Tara.

    And Christian suggesting GEH develop the ebook application will put Ana in the winners circle with a superior product and supply GEH with payroll dollars for the month! Carmen’s company outbid GEH on a company-saving contract? That hurts. Ros is hysterical, and the Greys run into an ass at the restaurant. Yeah, this calls for some wicked sex. Their action is so hot, it reminds Chrisyian he needs a chemist. (Or he needs alka seltzer!) Love this story and how it is developing.

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  12. What a fabulous chapter! Christian was so romantic oh my gosh. Usual Christian would have been pulling his hair out with this deal going bad. He’s almost like a new man. Putting everything behind him concentrating on their anniversary which was so sweet. I love the tattoos. I can just see it on his forearm and it is hot. Who would ever dream he would ever get a tattoo. I love that Ana got a tattoo on her finger it was just perfect. I hate seeing Christian down and not having his game on. It just makes me sad for him that that b**** Gallagher taking this deal away from him. Kudos to him for not taking it personally with Ana working for her. I don’t like seeing him down and out it just isn’t right. I hope something clicked perfectly in his mind for this Fusion project and that’s why he needs a chemist. I want everybody thst gave him s*** to eat crow. I would love to see him and his dad to get back together. He was so mad that he let so much time go by when Carrick had cancer and thought he was going to lose him. He thought he was going to lose all this precious time that he wasted with his dad and I would love to see it Go full circle for him and have them patch everything up. Wonderful chapter but then they all are. I so love love love this story.

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  13. I hope this means some good news is coming. I love your writing but have found this very sad in a way. I do love seeing how much Christian loves Ana.

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  14. This was one of those chapters where you simultaneously rush to read but take your time because it’s so good and you don’t want it to end! Really great character growth for Christian – he’s learning to lean on Ana when the are tough times, not pull away and deflect. Loved this!

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  15. I had figured Ana would somehow get Welch/Barney for the tech stuff from Christian. Glad to see this confirmed and that he is supportive of her efforts and her having the best team to try to save the publishing company.

    I can also see the possibility of Carmen folding the company ultimately anyways, and Christian buying it/absorbing it into Grey Publishing, assuming (from the covid-19 outtake) that Christian will find a way to re-ignite his company.

    AND I LOVE seeing how Christian and Ana’s closeness and her belief in him allows Christian to find his confidence again AND an idea—although at THAT TIME??!??! (Lucky they weren’t injured!)

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