I should be on top of the world.
A week after its launch, the Greenwich Library has already surpassed over 200,000 subscribers, a number that has had Christian more and more worried by the day, and I’ve received official confirmation from Harrington that Grey Publishing has agreed to terminate Hailey Lewis’ contract. To his surprise, GEH has decided to waive all termination fees and recouped costs. To my surprise, I had several orgasms pulled out of me under the vengeful bite of Christian’s restraints. I should be flying so high that the lights of Seattle below me would dissolve into distant pinpricks, like starlight.
Instead, I’m on my knees in front of the toilet.
I really thought I’d kicked this…
“Please leave,” I beg for the third time while Chrisitan re-gathers my hair in his hands to keep it out of the path of my projectile vomiting.
“Not a chance.”
I take a breath to argue, but the words are cut off by a gross sounding heave that expels what absolutely has to be the last of whatever is left in my stomach. Tears run down my face as I struggle to catch my breath from the repeated retching, and Christian runs his hand lovingly over my back.
“Can I get you something?”
“No.” Wiping the tears away, I push down on the silver lever to flush away the vomit, along with whatever is left of my dignity, and scoot back to slump against the wall. At the very least, I do feel a sense of relief. Like that last round really did get up whatever was making me sick. Now, I just feel drained. “I think I’m done.”
Christian holds onto me as I climb back to my feet and find my balance, something that shouldn’t be as difficult as it is. He frowns, holding me steady.
“I’ve got meetings I can’t get out of this morning, but I’ll come back and check on you after lunch. Get back in bed and stay there. I’ll have Gail bring you up some toast.”
“Unnecessary.” I meander back to the sink and swish with a gulp of mouthwash. Once my mouth is clean again, I pick up the abandoned eye shadow palette resting on my countertop, pouting slightly when I see that at least two of the pressed powder pans cracked from the force of being thrown down on the marble before I sprinted away. My go-to shade is covered in loose powder that collects too heavily on my brush and leaves my unfinished eye much darker than the other. “I’m going into the office today.”
“Like hell you are.” He moves to stand in the doorway, as though he’s actually going to block my way if I try to pass. I meet his eyes in the mirror.
“Christian, I don’t have a choice. I’ve been a little preoccupied stealing Phoenix from you and basically everything else I have to do has gone to shit. I’ve got a lot to catch up on.”
“It’ll be there tomorrow.”
“Along with a whole new day of work.” I close the palette and toss it carelessly into the drawer with the rest of my makeup, then turn and kiss him softly on the cheek. “I know you’re scared I’m going to run your publishing company out of business, but that’s just something you’re going to have to accept, baby.”
He glares at me. “That’s going to be awfully hard to do when I lock you in this house.”
With a laugh, I slip past him, pale and slightly green through my makeup, but dressed and ready for work none-the-less. “You can try, but I’m at the top of my game, Grey. Unstoppable.”
“You are.” Strong arms wrap around me from behind, pulling me back against him. “But you’re not going to stay that way if you don’t take care of yourself. I swear to god, I might as well fire every single person on my security team. The biggest threat to you, is you.”
I let out a small laugh through my nose, but just the tiny little bit my abs contract to force out the sound triggers my gag reflex, and I have to swallow to keep the bile in my stomach from rising up my throat. Thankfully, I manage it without Christian noticing.
“I’m not going to argue with you if you’re thinking about cutting down the number of people stalking me everywhere I go.” He rolls his eyes and tightens his hold when I once again try to move away.
“Please stay home.”
“Look, if I get any worse, I’ll come home… after my meetings.”
He takes a deep breath that’s filled with all of the arguments he still wants to make, but he nods in agreement. Probably because he knows it’s the best compromise he’s going to get. With a softly whispered, “I love you,” he leans in and presses his lips to mine.
I linger there for about three seconds until I have to sprint for the bathroom again.
“Ana…” his warning voice grumbles, following me into the bathroom.
“I’m fine!” I call back.
But I’m not fine.
I spend the entire drive into the city dry heaving and feeling as though every thought I have is run through molasses first. There are once again photographers lingering outside my office that I don’t have the energy to deal with, so I ask Smith to drive me around back where Evan leads me up a shady alley occupied by a man passed out with a needle in his arm. The back door is heavy and has to be forced open, but we manage to get into the service elevator without incident.
I lean against the wall as we start the journey up, concentrating on breathing and reminding myself of everything I absolutely have to get done today so that when the doors slide open, I can pull myself together and strut into my office as if I own the whole fucking world.
Because I’m a Grey.
“Good morning, Ana,” Abby greets me with her usual bubbly smile. I try to return her enthusiasm as she holds out the stack of phone messages she’s taken for me, but I’m so exhausted, I’m not sure it’s even possible to succeed. There’s nothing here that can’t wait, so I thank my assistant and turn to the rest of my staff.
“Can I have everyone gather in the conference room? I’ve got some big news to share.”
“We already saw the numbers,” Stevens calls. “You’re kicking ass, Ana. We get it. We love you. We don’t need to have a whole meeting about it…”
“Oh, you have no idea how much ass I’ve been kicking. Conference room. Now.”
There’s an unpleasant concerto of groans and squeaks from chairs, scrapes and clings from supplies being gathered, and an overall hum of curious babble as everyone files into the tiny room next to my office. Most eyes turn to Abby, looking for clues, but she keeps the news locked up tight behind a terrible poker face. The joy she’s basking in over being in the know shines so brightly through her self-satisfied smile that it could be picked up from space like the Luxor beam.
“Abby?” I start, breaking through her reverie.
“Oh, shit!” Her eyes go wide before she darts back out to reception in a panic. I giggle to myself as she tromps back in with Penny, both of them ladened down with thick copies of printed manuscripts that they start to pass around the table.
“Whatever projects you’re working on are on hold,” I announce to the room. “This is our next big release, and I need every pair of eyes on it.”
“Phoenix?” Jacki asks. “I thought Lewis signed with Grey Publishing?”
“She did. But she and I had lunch yesterday and we had a really great conversation about her goals and her vision for her career and she decided that GP just wasn’t putting her on the right course. So…” I reach into my bag and pull out Hailey’s new contract. “She signed with us instead.”
“But she’s under contract…”
“Was. Through some mildly threatening maneuvering on my part, GP has released her from her contractual obligations without any objection.” I grin. “Though I assure you, my husband was not very happy about it.”
Laughter fills the room, then is overcome with boisterous chatter. There’s pride in the glances that are shot in my direction, and elation in the excited proclamations that punctuate the otherwise pervasive thrum. The confidence I feel in promising a 50,000 unit release is reflected back at me, even as I make the statement. The people around this table really believe in me, and, for a moment, I think I might start to cry…
“I just can’t believe it,” Rogers says. He’s been quiet, mostly staring off into space while the people around him celebrated. “We’ve never beat Grey Publishing on a release. Never. Not once.”
I smirk at him. “Well get used to it. There’s a new big dog in town, ladies and gentleman.”
Cheers ring out and Rodgers starts a round of applause, holding my gaze as he slowly gets to his feet. It’s overwhelming. I can feel my face flame cherry red, so I start to shake my head and wave them toward the door.
“Alright, alright… Everyone back to work. I mean it, this one has to be perfect.”
The excited energy dwindles in the room long after my staff has finally shuffled back to their desks. But as I gather my things, I start to feel woozy again and have to lean over on the table for support. Probably because it takes me so long, Evan peaks into the room to check on me. When I look up at him, he’s expression turns down with concern.
“Mrs. Grey, maybe we should take you home.”
I shake my head. “I’m fine. I just need to sit down for awhile.”
On the way to my office, Penny stops me to say that Kate called while I was in the meeting, so I put a return phone call at the top of the list of priorities I’m compiling in my head. I don’t even get the chance to reach for my phone though, because the second I’m settled down in my chair, I’m hit with a wave of nausea that has me bending over my waste basket. When I’m finally able to pick up the phone and dial Kate’s number, I fall back in my chair and actually think it might be time to admit defeat.
I should have listened to Chrisitan.
“Kavanagh Media,” Kate’s receptionist answers. “How may I direct your call?”
“Katherine Grey, it’s Ana.”
A pleasantly soft melody floats through the phone and I close my eyes, letting each sweet note calm away the contractions in my stomach. It works surprisingly well.
“I have the most exciting news you’ve heard all day, are you ready?” Kate’s voice abruptly breaks through the music.
I laugh, then immediately regret it. “Tell me.”
“You’re going to have to call your husband and tell him that he’s not going to see you tonight because you and I are going to use my press pass to get backstage at the Drake concert in Tacoma. I’ve already booked a hotel room.”
“Ugh, I wish…”
“You wish? What the fuck could be more important than Drake? And don’t say Christian because I know Christian, and I’m telling you right now, he’s not.”
This time my chuckle is cut off by a groan. “Stop making me laugh.”
“Because I’m dying.”
“It’s getting worse. The second I got out of bed this morning, I started puking.”
She snorts. “What? Are you pregnant?”
“No, that’s ridicul–”
The words come to an abrupt halt, like a car that hits a wall in a crash dummy test.
I’ve been absolutely wrung-out exhausted. Just like I was when I was pregnant with Calliope.
I’ve been constantly nauseous without a fever or any other flu symptoms. Just like I was when I was pregnant with Calliope.
Yesterday the wine at the restaurant had made me sick, just like the wine had at that dinner I’d joined Christian for in New York had made me sick… when I was pregnant with Calliope.
“Why are you so quiet?” Kate asks. “Holy fuck, are you pregnant?”
“No. No, I can’t be pregnant. I’m on birth control…”
“Like you were last time?”
I shake my head, even though I know she can’t see it. “No, last time it was antibiotics. I haven’t taken anything. I don’t even have to take my birth control. I got the implant.”
“When was your last period?”
I blink, trying to think. It’s difficult because they’ve been so light since I’ve changed my birth control that they’ve become nearly non-existent.
“I– shit, I can’t remember.”
“Oh my god, Ana.”
“No, I’m not pregnant,” I say again, as though it’s a fact. Because I need it to be a fact.
“I’ll go to the pharmacy and pick up some pregnancy tests. Meet me at Escala in an hour.”
“Ana, not taking a pregnancy test isn’t going to mean you’re not pregnant, and delaying finding out is denying my niece or nephew vital prenatal care.”
I can feel myself shaking. Niece? Nephew? Fuck.
“It’s not that, I just..” There are paparazzi outside and Escala is a very recognizable building… “Not Escala.”
“I thought you worked that whole thing out?”
“I did. That doesn’t mean I want to spend all my time there.”
“Fine.” I can hear the eye roll in her voice. “Meet me at Grace and Carrick’s apartment.”
“Aren’t they at work?”
“Yeah, that’s why it’s perfect. No one will be there to watch me cry.” The excitement in her voice is so apparent, it’s like I can feel it coming through the phone. I can’t seem to think at all, and after spending all morning oscillating between a well deserved power high and being violently ill, I’m suddenly completely numb.
“How are you going to get in?” I ask in a shaky voice.
“I have a key.”
“You have a key?!”
“Well, I guess that means they love me more than they love you.” The taunt behind her tone lands in exactly the way she meant it to. I scowl.
“Not if I’m pregnant, they don’t.”
Her bell-like laughter rings in my ears. “See, now you’re getting in the spirit. One hour, Ana. Don’t be late.”
She hangs up and I’m left drifting. There was this moment of realization I had once the doctor at the student clinic in Cambridge told me I was pregnant with Calliope. It was like the instant I knew she was there, a connection was made that allowed me to feel her. A constant awareness that she was there, like a hum that lived beneath my skin, and that I could always feel. There’s nothing else in the world that’s ever felt like that. And sitting there, I start to feel that exact same hum buzzing across every inch of my body.
I do my best to ignore it until it’s time to go meet Kate.
“Evan?” I call as I approach the small cluster of desks where my security team spends most of the day. All four pairs of eyes look up at me.
“What’s up, Ana?”
“I need you to take me to my mother-in-law’s apartment, please?”
“Sure thing, boss.” He picks up his coat and swings it over his shoulder. To my dismay, the other three follow us out.
Kate pulls into the space next to me in the parking garage seconds after Smith cuts the engine of the SUV. She’s got a plastic CVS bag in her hand and a 10,000 megawatt grin plastered across her face.
“I got like ten different kinds,” she effuses. She holds out the bag for me and I take it, feeling it’s weight like a prison sentence. I can’t move. My feet feel as though they’ve been filled with concrete that’s been bolted to the asphalt, leaving me with no other option but to just stand there and shake. For the first time, Kate’s grin falters. She takes a breath before wrapping her arm through mine and pulling me to the elevators.
At the very least, my security team decides to give us space. Only Evan takes the elevator with us, and he stays in the hallway while Kate fishes out a key. I stand beneath the generic light fixture over the door, drowning in the growing certainty of what this test is about to tell me. By the time Kate gets through the deadbolt, I’m so washed with that same, knowing hum that it’s almost as though I can feel a heartbeat thrumming from inside my uterus.
“Come on,” Kate says, tossing her purse onto the couch as we stride through the barely familiar living room. We’ll use Grace’s bathroom.”
I clutch the plastic bag in my hand and follow her, concentrating so hard on breathing that I’m caught completely off guard by the security-summoning scream she lets out when she opens the door to Grace and Carrick’s bedroom. Evan bursts through the front door, gun drawn, and comes barrelling over the top of me. I blink uncertainly through the chaos as it unfolds around me and, automatically, place a protective hand over my stomach.
“What in the world?” Grace demands, wrapping a robe around herself as she comes through her open bedroom door. Evan immediately holsters his gun and glares down at the blonde laughing next me.
“What the hell, Kate?”
“I wasn’t expecting her to be here. Stand down, Clark Kent.”
Somehow, his look becomes darker. But it softens when he turns to me. “You alright, Ana?”
I nod, realizing too late that I’m still cradling my stomach. His eyes watch my hands fall to my sides, then turn solemn. “I’ll uh… I’ll give you some privacy.”
He leaves at my nod, but once he’s disappeared down the hallway, I’m left to answer Grace’s questioning stare.
“What are you girls doing here?”
“We, uh…” Kate hesitates. “We thought you would be at work.”
“I had an emergency appendectomy last night and had to come home to get some sleep. I was just getting ready to go in.” Her eyes move down to the bag in my hand and narrow suspiciously. “What’s going on?”
Kate bobs slightly, pressing her lips together to keep the excited words from tumbling out all over our mother-in-law like the vomit I’ve been unable to hold back all morning. I hold up the bag, trying to ignore the crinkling of the plastic that gives away the tremble in my hands.
“I’m here to take a pregnancy test.”
Grace’s eyes go as wide as dinner plates. It’s like she’s on an old-fashioned dimmer switch, her glow brightening as realization dawns.
I haven’t taken the test yet, but I nod anyway. Kate, surprisingly, is more practical. She takes the bag from me and moves past Grace into the bedroom. “That’s what we’re here to find out.”
An excited shriek disappears into the hallway behind Grace as she races for the kitchen to get me something to drink. Kate and I start pulling boxes out of the bag, trying to be organized about which test I should take first. Ultimately, I take a paper Dixie cup from Grace to pee in, and with unsteady hands, dip in each stick before laying them out in a line on the counter.
Then I start to pace.
“We shouldn’t get too excited,” Kate says, though the tone of her voice suggests she’s already well past ‘excited.’ “It could be negative.”
It’s not going to be negative.
“Right,” Grace agrees. “No reason to jump the gun here.” She pauses for about three seconds before locking eyes with Kate. “Oh, I hope it’s a boy!”
I turn to look out the windows that offer a spectacular view of the city and place a hand over my stomach, imagining a baby boy in place of a disconnected heartbeat. I can see him immediately, a perfect reflection of Chrisitan, the way Calliope is of me. In the few minutes it takes for the tests to develop, a whole life flashes before me. Scraped knees and grass stains, soccer games and football practices… Chrisitan in the garage, already having summoned his entire R&D team to help our son build a race car for the downhill derby. My heart swells to a fullness that makes my chest ache, that warms my blood with an overwhelming feeling of peace. Completion. When the timer goes off that tells us it’s time to check the results, a tear breaks over my waterline and, once again, my hands move to my stomach.
“Ana?” Kate prompts me, her voice so anxious she doesn’t even sound like herself. .
“You look,” I reply. I don’t have to.
I hear the movement behind me as she races to the bathroom counter and starts sorting through the tests. Her exalted inhale confirms what I already know.
“Positive,” she breathes, as if that’s the best she can do. “Positive. Positive. Positive… they’re all positive!”
Of course they are.
“We’re having a baby!” Grace cheers. She and Kate grab a hold of one another and start bouncing together, chanting their joy again and again. Tears of bliss are rolling down Grace’s face when she finally turns to me. I can barely lift my arms to return her hug.
“Ana?” she checks. “Are you alright, dear?”
I’m not sure if it’s perceptible, but I shake my head. When I try to speak, I’m only able to do so in a whisper. “Christian doesn’t want any more kids.”
“Oh,” Kate waves her hand as if that’s very unimportant. “He says he doesn’t want any more kids, but have you seen the way he is with Calliope? She’s his favorite thing in the entire world, next to you. The man is completely head-over-heels in love with that baby. It’ll be the same with this one.”
“That’s true,” Grace agrees. “He’s always been resistant to change, but once that change happens, he embraces it fully. He’s going to be absolutely over the moon when you tell him, Ana.”
“You think so?”
Kate nods enthusiastically. “Remember, you were scared to tell him about Calliope too. You spent that whole day in a panic thinking he was going to lose his shit, and then he practically threw a party. Remember how happy he was? And he didn’t even know then how much he was going to love being a father.”
“Which he does,” Grace affirms. “More than anything.”
I nod. No one could deny just how much Christian loves Calliope. Surely, they’re right. Surely, he’ll fall for this baby exactly the way he fell for her. I already have…
I reach down and place a hand over my stomach again and that warm feeling of home blossoms inside of me once more. It’s happiness and hope and… fulfillment. It’s perfection.
I take a deep breath and summon the image of understanding and jubilation that had dawned on Christian’s face back in Cambridge and hold onto it with everything I have.
“I should make it special,” I say at last. “It wasn’t special last time, I just blurted it out. I should… come up with some way to tell him, right?”
Kate nods, her excitement returning. “I can make a Pinterest board of ideas if you want.”
“No…” I shake my head and glance down at my watch. It’s just after 11:30 in the morning. “He won’t be home until after six. I’ve got all day to figure it out.”
“Film it if you can,” Kate says. “Or I’ll have Luke hack it off your security cameras.” She laughs to herself, but Grace’s eyes flash very seriously in her direction.
“Can we do that?”
“Are you kidding me? The day we find something Luke can’t get into is the day someone becomes richer than Christian.”
Grace nods, and I can feel her happiness in this revelation in the goodbye hug she gives me on our way out. I’m sure she’s imagining all the production she’s going to put into the few seconds of security footage Kate will make good on producing, eagerly anticipating it’s entry into her perfect family archives.
Once we’re out of the apartment though, Kate lets me wallow in silence. I think she knows that I’m trying to sort through so many varying degrees of happiness and confusion and shock and fear. Evan doesn’t. The moment I’ve said good-bye to her and climbed back into the SUV, he meets my eyes in the rear-view mirror.
“Everything alright, Ana?”
I swallow. “I’m not going back into the office today. Please take me home.”
“Sure.” He starts the car and backs out of the parking space, while I reach for my phone to text Abby, letting her know I won’t be back in the office… and that she needs to schedule me an appointment with my OBGYN. Once she’s responded that she’s on it, I lean back and try to figure out how on earth I’m going to tell Christian.
I’m grateful for the hours I’ll have to figure out what to do before he leaves the office, until I get home and they’re all taken away from me. Christian is there, sitting on the couch in clothes it looks like he was working out in, sorting through the piles of documents stacked around him while the news plays at a quiet background level on the TV. When I come through the archway between the living room and the foyer, he looks up at me and gives me a sly smile.
“Did she tell you to come home?”
My brow furrows. “What?”
“You went to my mother’s apartment and now you’re here. Was I right? Should you have stayed home?”
“Oh, uh… no.” I shake my head, his surprise presence leaving me a little dazed as I try to figure out what to say next. Thankfully, the fact that his presence is a surprise gives me the perfect diversionary tactic. “What are you doing home?”
His expression slips into something close to concern, but he moves his eyes away from mine and back to the stacks of papers around him before I can get a real read on what that slip means. “My meeting this morning was much more brief than I expected. The rest of this, I could work on from home and I thought there was a good possibility that you wouldn’t make it through the day. Not with the way you looked this morning when I left you.”
I press my lips together and move towards him, lowering myself on the sofa at his side and swinging my legs into his lap. He reaches down and pulls my shoes from my feet, then starts to rub. I moan and let my head fall back on the armrest.
See, he loves me. I shouldn’t be scared to tell him good news…
“What’s all this?” I ask, in a cowardly move to buy more time. He lights up.
“Well, this…” He straightens a stack of papers on the table, dotted throughout with yellow signature tabs. “Is an agreement I’ve made with Lamborghini to utilize Endurance technology.” His eyes flash with a kind of pleasure that’s usually reserved for me, naked and tied to his headboard. “They’ve agreed to let Welch do most of the design on the new model and he’s managed to integrate several features I’ve wanted for years.”
“So you’re getting a custom Lamborghini?’
“An energy-efficient custom Lamborghini that has more power than any combustion engine that’s ever been created.” His smile is as wide as I’ve ever seen it as he makes the correction, and it actually relieves a little bit of the pressure on my chest. He’s in a good mood. That’s good, right?
“What’s that?” I ask, nodding to the stack of papers on the other side of the table. Chrisitan looks at it before picking up a folder off the top of the pile and handing it over to me.
“That is from our lawyers. I’m adjusting Calliope’s trust fund.”
“Adjusting?” I open the folder and my eyes widen at the new number displayed at the top. “Holy shit, Christian!”
“I’ve made a lot of money over the past month.” He puts his hands up defensively. “I just want to make sure I’m taking care of my daughter.”
Of course he does. Because he’s a good father.
“I think you were taking care of her just fine with $10,000,000. This is…”
He shakes his head and cuts me off. “I walked away from ten million when I was in college. Put another zero on the end of that, I wouldn’t have walked away.”
I glare at him. “Well, I’m glad to know that money would have been enough to make you stay when I wasn’t.”
“That’s not fair. You weren’t supposed to go anywhere. If I had known what was waiting for me on the other side of that decision, I would have gone all the way through a PhD program to hang on to you.”
I laugh, and it obscures my retort. “No, you wouldn’t have.”
“No.” He grins. “But I would have done everything differently.” I sit up and lean into him, pressing my lips against his and savoring the taste of his love. I could stay there forever, but he pulls us both out of it with one whispered question against my mouth.
“What did she tell you?”
“My mother. If she didn’t tell you that you were sick and needed to come home, what did she tell you? It was obviously enough to get you to leave work, which I thought was an impossibility without some kind of crowbar.”
His eyes are alight with humor at his own joke, but I feel my stomach drop.
“Ana?” The smile on his face vanishes and he reaches up for my forehead again. “What’s wrong?”
There’s no point in delaying it. It’s not like he won’t find out and he’ll be more upset that I kept a secret from him. I didn’t have time to think of some clever way to ease him into the announcement, so I take a deep, reassuring breath, and reach into my bag instead.
Maybe he won’t be upset. Maybe it will be just like when I told him about Calliope.
With hands that are once again trembling, I remove the plastic sticks from my bag and place them one by one on the table in front of us. With each tiny clink against the glass surface, Christian’s eyes tick a degree wider and the color completely drains from his face.
“Tell me that’s not what I think it is.”
Okay. Not like Calliope.
I swallow, nervously. “It is. I–I have more… they’re all positive.”
His jaw tenses and he looks down at the pregnancy tests in front of him as with so much contempt it’s like he’s trying to make them burst into flames and burn out existence.
“What about your birth control?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t take anything that should have made it less effective, I didn’t…” I shake my head, unsure of what else to add to the list. “I don’t know why it didn’t work. You must have superpowered sperm or something.”
His eyes flash to me, hot and angry. “That’s not funny, Anastasia.”
“I’m not trying to be funny.”
He pushes off the sofa and begins to pace back and forth across the living room rug, though pace doesn’t quite encompass the angry energy rolling off of him as he starts trying to reason through this problem aloud.
“You were… eight weeks pregnant when you started having symptoms with Calliope? That means you’ve got to be somewhere around there now. Eight weeks is early. We have time.” He stops pacing and stares blankly ahead for a few, long heartbeats. Then he turns to me, and his face looks somber. “I’m so sorry. I never wanted you to have to go through this… believe me. But I’m going to be here the entire time. For every part of it. No work. No distractions. I promise.”
Oh my god, Grace was right.
Relief boils over every cell in my body and the hopeful joy that I’d gotten just the smallest taste of in Grace’s apartment comes rushing back, filling my chest to its fullest capacity once again as my heart beats wildly in satisfaction.
“Of course I’m sure.”
“But… nine months is an awfully long time for you to solely be devoted to me. What about Endurance?”
“Nine months?” His brow crinkles, and when he responds, it’s in a voice that leaves no room for argument. “There will not be nine months, Anastasia. I’m not interested in having any more children.”
I frown. “Well, I’m sorry… we’re having a baby.”
“No. We’re not.” His back goes stiff while I blink back at him, uncomprehending. There’s a fight brewing in the set of his jaw when he tilts his head ever-so-slightly to the side, and trouble begins to brew in his gray eyes. “Do you need me to spell it out for you?”
I don’t, and the moment that ugly word pops into my head, it festers in the air around me. I have to leap from the couch and sprint for the bathroom to puke. Christian once again appears behind me as I heave again and again, but the gentle caress of his hand on my back isn’t comforting. I cringe away from him as my heart starts to race and it becomes harder and harder to draw breath. When I’m finally able to talk again, I’m on the edge of hysterics.
“Don’t touch me!” I take a step out of his reach and stare up at him with all the strength I can muster through my tear filled eyes. “Are you telling me that you want me to… to…” I can’t even say it out loud through the bile creeping up my throat, and the care and concern reflected in his moody eyes is at odds with the tense and unyielding set of his jaw.
“Yes. As soon as possible.”
“How could you?!”
“You can’t be serious right now…”
“I’m dead fucking serious. This is our baby, Christian! Calliope’s brother or sister… how could you even suggest…?”
He takes a step towards me, disregarding my earlier command and taking hold of me by the arms. The action demands I stare into his intense gaze as he starts to make his case. “Don’t think of it like that.”
“Don’t think of it like that? How the fuck else am I supposed to think of it?”
“Ana, this isn’t up for discussion.”
“You’re goddamn right it’s not up for discussion because it isn’t an option!” The protective fury brewing inside of me at the mere suggestion grows hotter with each word, which only provokes Chrisitan further.
“You almost died!” he screams back at me. “It is an actual fucking miracle that you didn’t and miracles are not something I’m willing to rely on when it comes to protecting your life. You didn’t live through that the way I did. You didn’t have to feel what it was like to lose you over and over again. You didn’t have to hear the heart beats on the monitor stop. You didn’t have to watch everyone we know and love give up on you one by one and have to actually fight them off just to keep you alive. I. Am. Not. Going. Through. That. Again.”
Each word is punctuated by his determined sincerity, but it does nothing to shake my resolve. Not even a chip in the foundation.
I look him dead in the eye and straighten my back. “It’s too late, Christian. If this is how you really felt, then you were free to wear a condom each and every fucking time we had sex. You didn’t.”
He grinds his teeth together, looking as though he’s trying to hold back a torrent of angry words, but I don’t stick around to hear them. He can yell all he wants, there’s no debate for us to have. I turn and march for the stairs.
“I’m making the appointment tomorrow, Anastasia!” His angry voice calls after me.
“Then you’ll be going alone!”