Chapter 41

The next morning, I wake up all stuffy again. But this time, it’s accompanied by just enough nausea to make getting ready for work a truly miserable experience. I’m so pale that my makeup looks too dark on my skin, and the effort I’m trying to put into blending it seems to be more effective at making my arm as tired as the rest of my body than it is at transforming my face into something presentable.

“You still feel like you’re going to die?” Christian asks, sauntering lazily into the bathroom behind me. He’s already dressed in a perfectly pressed, gray suit that’s the same shade as the tie tucked beneath his jacket. The deep curves and lines of his build are obvious through his suit, and they make me stare inappropriately. Gawk, really. 

He’s a monochromatic dream, and I can’t do anything about it because I feel like I’m about to hurl all the nothing I have in my stomach all over the bathroom floor.

“It’s just a little nausea,” I reply, though my voice comes out much more quiet than I intend as I take a deep breath, lay my hand over my chest, and try to focus on not throwing up. Christian comes up behind me and moves his hand to my forehead. “You don’t feel warm, but something is clearly making you sick. I guess it must be the horrible, horrible failure of your app…”

His teasing grin broadens with each of those final words. I meet his eyes in the mirror and glare at him. Last night, Barney ran maintenance on the Greenwich Library app, and it somehow created a whole host of errors he hasn’t been able to resolve yet. Nearly eight hours have passed since everything went down and every avenue we possess for customers to reach out for support has been completely inundated with complaints.  For our first week, this has the makings of disaster written all over it.

“You do my tech,” I sneer at him. “This is a GEH problem, not a Greenwich problem.”

“Yeah, tell that to the thousands of reviewers on the app store right now.” His eyes glint with mirth, and I toss my blending sponge into the sink before rounding on him like a tornado.

“Why are you so happy about this? Did you do it on purpose? Is this some kind of sabotage or something?”

“Oh, please. I wish I could have come up with something this perfect. This is the kind of gift that can only be ordained by the gods of the free market.”

I cross my arms and narrow my eyes. “I’m really starting to see why everyone who works with you hates you so much.”

“Who works against me. You were the one who wanted it to be this way. Just say the word, my love, and I can have your new corner office ready in under an hour.”

“Mmm, tempting offer. But since I know your failing publishing house is already relying on stealing leads from me, I think I’ll take my chances with Greenwich.”

He shrugs. “Suit yourself. I’ve got to go into the office early this morning and I’m going to take Calliope with me. Is there anything you need before I go?”

Automatically, I rise up on my tiptoes to kiss him. But just before our lips touch, my stomach heaves again and I have to pull away. Once more, he places a worried hand over my forehead, then frowns. 

“Eat something before you go, and take it easy today.” 

“M‘kay.” He leans to press his lips against the spot on my forehead still flushed from his touch, then turns back through the door to our bedroom, flashing one last devastatingly handsome smile back at me before he’s gone. When I look into the mirror again, I take a deep breath and hold it until I feel like I’ve got control again. It’s mind over matter and in my ‘I’m just not going to be sick’ mindset, I manage to finish my makeup and get ready without any more trouble. 

Once I’m downstairs though, I’m faced with a new kind of trouble. For the first morning in a long time, Luke isn’t here. Evan Woods is the one in the raven colored suit and sunglasses, leaning against the kitchen counter with a cup of coffee. And he isn’t alone. Smith and Wyatt are hovering around the center island, and there’s a woman talking to Gail who I’ve never seen before. They look like a pack of wolves. Perfectly in sync. Docile for the moment, but deadly should the need arise. 

It makes the hairs on the back of my arms stand on end.

“Good morning, Mrs. Grey,” Woods greets me. 

I take another, soothing breath. I did after all, sign up for this to give my best friend a shot at love. “Good morning, Evan. And, just Ana. Please.” 

“I–uh…” he hesitates, but when he sees the look on my face waiting to argue, he stops and gives me a pacifying smile. “I’m sorry. Ana.” 

The silence that follows is uncomfortable. There’s an unspoken truth in the air around us about the reason he’s had to come back, instead of being here the whole time, and I’m still too ashamed over the things I did to acknowledge it. Thankfully, Gail breaks the tension with the smile and a metal to-go cup filled to the brim with hot tea. 

“What can I make you for breakfast, Ana? Yogurt and granola? Some eggs?” 

“I don’t think I could keep it down.” 

“You sure?” She sounds like she isn’t, but I nod in return as I look at the woman she was speaking with before. 

“Who are you?” 

“Teressa Harper, Mrs. Grey. I’m joining your security team with Woods.” 

“Are you?” I glance back to Evan, and he nods. There’s a sinking kind of feeling that takes hold of my stomach, but I try to push it aside. This is going to be the new normal, and I’ve got to accept that. 

I’ve seen what happens without them, and that’s not a situation I plan on reliving.

“Well, we’re going to be late.”

“We’re ready when you are, Mrs. Grey.”

****

I feel the first real impact of Luke’s absence when we pull up in front of my office half an hour later. The internet has been buzzing all morning about some groundbreaking deal Christian has made with the sovereign prince of Monaco and the invitation for a meeting with the Supreme Leader of North Korea he received over the weekend. Since there’s about a 50% chance he could be in the car with me on any given day, more and more paparazzi have taken to gathering in the courtyard in front of my office. Luke always managed to keep them at bay without trouble. The moment they notice him missing from my team, they move in like jackals. 

“Mrs. Grey, do you have any comments on the grant Grey Enterprises Holdings announced this morning to supplant the city budget shortfalls?” 

“Where’s Sawyer? Did your husband fire him because he uncovered your affair?” 

“Does Mayor Grey intend on challenging the Governor in next year’s primary?” 

I recede slightly as the wall of cameras moves in. Harper slides out of the SUV and into the small pocket of space behind me. We’re able to move a few feet forward, but when one of the photographers reaches out to grab my wrist and pull me back, chaos breaks out. Harper’s arms wrap around me from behind and suddenly I’m being shoved forward. The man who reached for me falls short because a hand comes up and wrenches his arm behind his back. In the span of a breath, Wyatt has him on the concrete. Woods falls to the ground to help restrain the reporter now fighting Wyatt, and Smith comes around and pushes the other photographers back, shouting orders. Meanwhile, I’m being dragged to the doors of the building, and the scene unfolding behind me is lost in a white burst of camera flashes. 

It’s day one, and my ridiculous entourage has already caused a scene. 

Harper shuts me away in the elevator like it’s a secret room no one will ever find. As she reaches for the button to my floor, I give her a dark look and pull out my phone. 

LUKE

Surprise! I got BOTH Woods AND Harper.

It’s not going great.

I FUCKING told you!

They are literally brawling with the

paparazzi, Luke.

😂😂😂

That’s amazing actually

I’m kind of jealous…

I’m glad you’re entertained.

You made the choice. You had to know Grey

was going to go overboard… AGAIN.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you end up

with a new Endurance car that just so

happens to be armored lol

Yeah. 🙄

Just give them a chance and let them

do their job. We’re talking a forever kind

of regret if I let you push me out and

something happens to you.

Ugh, isn’t it a little early for a guilt trip?

Be good.

I keep my phone in my hand until I’ve stepped through my office doors and Abby pops up from her seat behind reception. She’s grinning, but the sunshine spewing out of her slowly clouds over as she reads my face. 

“Abby, I need you to get my husband’s publicist on the phone, please.” I glare pointedly at Harper, who is ostensibly unapologetic. “We need to do some damage control.” 

My newest CPO shrugs. “Mr. Grey has been very clear. No one touches you.”

That doesn’t mean you…” My voice is so tight, it snaps like a guitar string and ends up silent before I get the whole sentence out. I mash my lips together and take a deep breath, firmly planting the look on Luke’s face last night when he knew he was going to leave with Jade right in the forefront of my mind. “Have you heard from Barney?”

She nods. “The app’s been back online for the last fifteen or so minutes. One of the data loads was corrupted and it… I don’t know, he started saying a lot of tech stuff after that that I didn’t much care about. The point is, it’s working again.” 

“Thank god.” She hands me two goldenrod colored post-it notes with messages scribbled across them in her heartsick teenage girl handwriting. There’s even a heart drawn in the corner of the one from Christian confirming our dinner reservations for tonight. I roll my eyes, but smile to myself, as I push my way into my office. The sentimental lift to the corners of my lips stretches to a full grin when I look at my desk and see a paper coffee cup sitting next to a chocolate croissant. There’s a note that’s been torn from the pad of paper sitting next to them. 

I told you to eat something. 

-I love you

I laugh softly through my nose and pick up the cup of coffee, inhaling the rich, aromatic steam before taking a long drink. Clearly, my new security team is filled with narcs, but if fresh breakfast delivery is the consequence of that… I might get used to it. 

The croissant is gone before I even get logged into my computer, and because the universe bends to Christian Grey’s will, having something in my stomach actually does alleviate the last of my nausea. I dial into the conference call with my editor feeling completely back on my game.

Until lunch…

I’m meeting Hailey Lewis and despite the fact that I want this meeting to feel completely natural and casual, I’ve spent all of my free time this morning diligently planning everything I’m able to control, right down to the wine we’ll be having– which I’ve pre-paid for this time. 

When I’m finally ready to leave, though, I step out of my office and nearly run right over the top of Harper. She reaches out and grabs hold of my arms to keep me steady and as I turn a furrowed brow back to her, she actually looks contrite.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Grey.” 

“Was there something you needed?” 

Her face knots with confusion. “No ma’am.” 

“Then why are you…?”

“She’s been there all day,” Jacki calls from her desk on the other side of the room. I turn to her and get a contemptuous look in return. The steam I’ve been running on all morning dies out and I’m left feeling heavy. Or overburdened. Either way, it’s suffocating. 

“I don’t need a bouncer, Harper.”

“No, ma’am.” She gives me one sharp nod, but doesn’t take a step away from the door until I do. She’s on me like a shadow as I stop to let Abby know I’m on my way out to meet with Hailey, and then I’m surrounded by bodies again. It only takes me to the elevators before that suffocating feeling becomes too much.

“Okay, I don’t need all of you everywhere I go. This is ridiculous. Evan and I can manage a trip down the street just fine.” 

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” Smith begins. “But Taylor said…” 

“I don’t care what Taylor said. I’m Taylor’s boss, and I’m telling you to go find another place to be.” 

Wyatt reaches out a conciliatory hand. “Mrs. Grey–” 

“I think she’s right,” Woods says. “This is a business meeting after all, and it’s hardly professional to show up to a one-on-one meeting with a posse… Mrs. Grey and I will be just fine on our own.” 

“Those aren’t Taylor’s orders, Woods,” Harper argues. He turns to her, towering over her, and looks down into the deep blue depths of her eyes with a level impassivity that’s chilling. 

“Is Taylor here?” 

“No.” 

“Then I’m in charge, and my orders are that the three of you stand down.” There’s a meaningful glint in his eye that seems to rattle Harper a bit, and she nods before she takes a step back. The elevator doors open and Woods ushers me inside, alone. 

“Thank you,” I tell him. “I just…” 

“You don’t like feeling babysat,” he finishes for me. 

I shake my head. “I don’t like feeling controlled. I know you guys are just trying to protect me and I don’t want to make that job any more difficult than it already is. I want you here. I’m grateful that you’re here. It’s just… I feel like I can’t move. I need to be able to breathe, Evan.” 

He nods, but keeps his eyes trained on the numbers ticking lower on the panel over the doors. “I get it. A lot of this isn’t your choice and people are always telling you that you don’t have control over it… that’s gotta drive you a little crazy.”

I smirk. “Been talking to Luke?” 

“All morning.” He sighs. “Look, if I’m going to be here, and believe me, your husband is paying me very well to be here, then I don’t want this to be difficult. I don’t want to worry about you running away behind my back and I don’t want to have to hover over you and Kate while you’re watching movies on the couch together. I want this, between us, to be like it was with you and Sawyer. I want you to trust me, and I wanna trust you.”

The car fills with the high ping that announces our arrival at the lobby and my cheeks pull back with the doors. 

“Good.” Thrusting my arm through the crook in his, I pull him from the elevator and start marching for the SUV.  “Tell me about yourself, Evan. Let’s get real personal.” 

We spend the drive to the restaurant in the heart of downtown getting to know one another and building the friendship it’s going to take to make this arrangement work. It has me in high spirits by the time we arrive. Especially because this particular restaurant is mine and Kate’s favorite place to go with one another. That’s why I picked it. The pink velvet chairs, crisp white linens, and pretty flower arrangements that sit in the middle of the round tables are perfectly girly and happy under the crystal chandeliers. It’s exactly the place to sip rosé and gossip with your girlfriends, and I want Hailey to feel like she’s meeting with a friend this afternoon, not a publishing executive. 

While Evan grabs a chair at the front of the restaurant, the hostess leads me to a perfectly set table near the back where we’ll mostly be to ourselves. I smile at the soft pink petals scattered across the table, resting at the base of shiny crystal wine glasses. I’m a little early, so the waitress brings me a glass of wine to keep me occupied while I wait. It’s good, because I don’t even get the rim of my glass to my lips before the scent of the wine hits me, and reinvigorates my nausea from this morning. 

Oh, shit.

Cringing away from the glass, I glance at the clock on my phone and calculate the hours it’s been since I’ve eaten. It’s been awhile. Clearly, too long. So I send back the rosé and order Shirley Temples instead, hoping the soda will settle my stomach and the syrup will keep it fun. The fizzy pink drink is placed in front of me just as Hailey slides into the padded chair on the other side of the table.

“This place is cute,” she says. 

“Isn’t it?” I swallow, commanding myself to get a hold of the clenching inside my gut that tells me I want to throw up, and to my surprise… it works. With a deep breath, I’m able to turn a smile on her and completely relax. “This is where my best friend and I meet for lunch when we’re in the city.” 

Her cheeks flush and she lifts her glass to clink the edge of mine, and I wave over the waitress to take our orders. 

For the most part, I try to keep the conversation away from business. I ask her about her weekend, plans for the fall, if there are any men in her life… it doesn’t take much to get her to start gushing to me about her whole life story. I laugh when she tells a joke, I let my mouth drop open in shock when she tells me something outrageous. I lean in to her. I mimic her body language. Everything I can think to do to let her know that I’m absorbed in her, I do. 

And it’s deliberate, but it’s not malicious. 

I actually do find her stories of growing up on a farm on the east side of the mountains charming, and her anecdotes of being in the city are hilarious. The woman is an amazing story teller, and that’s why I’m here. 

“What about you?” she asks, taking what I think may be the first breath she’s had since she sat down. Her eyes glisten with delight as she sips from her straw.  “Are you writing anything?” 

“Can I tell you a secret?” 

“Absolutely.” 

“A month or so ago, I finished the hardest story I’ve ever written.” 

Finished!” 

“Don’t get excited, I’m not ready to put it out into the world yet. It’s a little… I don’t know. Too personal, I guess.” 

“What’s it about?” 

“My husband. Well, us. I’ve been writing it ever since I left Havard and it’s probably the most personal thing I’ve ever written. It’s taken forever, but it’s finally finished, and I’m very happy with it.” 

“So. Give. It. To. The. World.” She claps her hands to emphasize each word and I laugh. 

“I don’t know. I’m just not sure I’m ready to receive the world’s input, you know? Sometimes the reaction isn’t always like yours.” 

“Meh. Let the haters be your motivators.”

A wave of cold sweeps over me that comes so out of nowhere, I glance up to see if we’re sitting under an air conditioning vent. We’re not though, so I shake away the shivers and brighten my voice as I reach for my Shirley Temple. 

“I’m going to have to get over it, though. Lydia will murder me if I don’t give her something soon.” 

“Giiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirl.” Hailey leans back in her chair and pushes her arms out in front of her, like she needs space to get the words out. “I’ve worked with Lydia. You think she’s bad? You should try getting something published with Elizabeth Morgan.” 

My heart flutters excitedly. “Oh?” 

“The woman is insane. She wouldn’t know good literature if someone smacked her upside the head with it, and, believe me, I’m about to.” 

“What do you mean?”

She leans in, propping her elbows on the table. “Remember the part in Phoenix where she follows that light spirit into the cave and finds the magical pool?” 

“Yeah, and it shows her the truth about the people she’s fighting for.” 

“Exactly. Crucial plot point, right? Elizabeth wants me to cut the whole thing.” 

“What?!” 

“She thinks it’s too passive. She wants me to just rewrite the scene where she comes back to camp to be the first time she witnesses the motives that she’s missed. ‘Show don’t tell.’” Her voice raises at the end, taking on a mocking tone that’s actually surprisingly close to Elizabeth’s North-East dialect. “God forbid there ever just be enlightenment over violence.” 

 “It also just doesn’t make sense for the people she’s working with. Their cruelty is systemic and hidden beneath a well written code of morals and ethics that makes what they’re doing on the surface seem like justice, when it’s really genocide. To have them be open about what they’re really doing would be the same as having them admit they were the bad guys.”

Her mouth drops open and her body sags in the pretty, velvet chair. “You get me so much. Ugh, why couldn’t you have come to me and asked me to sign with you like two days earlier?” 

I take a steadying breath. “It’s not too late, Hailey.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“I mean that you’re still in the very early stages of this journey with Grey Publishing, and if you don’t want to go further with them… you don’t have to.” 

She snorts and shakes her head. “Yeah, if I want to pay about ten million dollars in penalties.” 

“It’ll be closer to $10,000.” 

“And I’m not a billionaire. $10,000 is almost six months rent for me, Ana.”

I smile, tasting the first hint of victory on the end of my tongue. “Well then it’s a good thing you made friends with a billionaire.” 

Her eyebrow curves with confusion, so I reach across the table and take hold of her hand.  

“I see the brilliance in your work, and I won’t make you change it to suit whatever narrative I want to tell. I will protect you, and I will work tirelessly to make Phoenix a success in exactly the way you want it to be. If that’s what you want to work with, say the word, and I’ll pay your contract termination fees.” 

“Y-you will?”

“I have a lawyer on stand-by who can take care of everything and make this very easy for you. One phone call. That’s all it’ll take.” 

She isn’t looking at me. Her eyes stare, unfocused, into the space between us while she processes what I’m telling her. I can feel the victory, so I reach into my bag for the pristine stack of papers that are waiting there like my secret weapon. When I lay the Greenwich contract on the table in front of her, she stares quietly at it for a long time. Then she nods, turns for her own purse, and pulls out a cheap, ballpoint pen that she uses to scratch her name across the signature line at the back. 

The moment her pen lifts from the paper, I’m hit with a swell of emotion so powerful, I could cry. 

I did it. 

Despite Scott, and Carmen, and even Christian… I finally fucking did it.

“I’m going to work so incredibly hard for you,” I tell her, once again placing a warm hand over hers. She grins.

“Yeah, I know you will.” 

The rest of our lunch centers around Phoenix. There are a few changes she’s thought through in the months she’s been in limbo, and I poke and prod for updates on the sequel. When we leave, it’s with promises of future lunches and a warm hug, and I think, as I watch her walk away, that it might not have been for show. I think I might be on the verge of becoming really good friends with Hailey.

“Ana?” I turn to the curb where Evan is standing in front of the back door to my SUV. He grins. “I take it your meeting went well.” 

“As though it were scripted.” I skip to the car and climb into the backseat as he pulls open the door for me. Once he’s inside, he adjusts the rearview mirror and meets my gaze. 

“Back to the office?” 

“Actually, we’re headed to 86 W. 3rd St.” 

The soft eyes in the mirror turn to stone with a blink. “You sure that’s a good idea?” 

“He played dirty first.”

“Alright…” He says the words like he doesn’t really believe them, but he still hits the turn signal and slides out into the crowded lane. Minutes later, we pull up in front of a generic looking high rise, just a few blocks from my office. It’s a multi-purpose building that houses an astounding number of small businesses. I find the name of the private law firm I’m looking for on the directory in the lobby, and follow it’s directions to the 2nd floor. His name is written across the door in shiny gold letters. 

“Good afternoon, are you a client?” the woman sitting behind the desk in the tiny, crowded entry asks. 

“Yes. Ana Grey.” 

She nods and picks up her phone. “Mr. Harrington, Ana Grey is here to see you.” 

I glance through the window, but I’m barely able to distinguish the color of the shudders on the building across from us before the one and only door in the office swings open. Astor Harrington strides out with a welcoming grin plastered across his face. 

“Well, this is a surprise. What can I do for you, Ana?”

“A contract termination. I signed an author this afternoon who needs some helping getting out of her current contractual obligations with Grey Publishing. There will be financial penalties, but you can bill those directly to me.” 

“Sure. Do you have her contact information?” 

“Of course.” 

I hand him a card with Hailey’s address, phone number, and email, then allow him to make a copy of her signed GSP contract and the GP contract that contains her termination provisions. There isn’t much small talk exchanged, just an assurance that the transition will go smoothly. I’m overly grateful for his help as he walks me out of the cramped office, but I hold out my hand when he offers me a hug goodbye. 

“Have a good afternoon, Mrs. Grey,” he says, the corners of his eyes wrinkling with humor as he shakes my hand. I wink, then make my way down the hall. 

When Evan pulls open the doors of the front entrance for me, I’m immediately confronted with a Maybach idling innocently on the curb directly in front of the doors. The back door opens and a pair of long legs step out, dragging my very angry looking husband out of the car and onto the sidewalk. 

“You know, Luke isn’t a snitch,” I mumble to my bodyguard so Christian can’t hear. He chuckles. 

“It wasn’t me.” With a nod, he directs my attention to a black town car parked across the street. “There’s the rest of you team.” 

I sigh, rather than roll my eyes, then let the happiness of my win beam through me as I traipse forward to Christian. He takes hold of me the moment I’m in his reach, and pulls me roughly into the backseat. Once I’m closed inside, the car starts to move. 

“Care to explain?” he growls. 

I laugh, then reach in my bag and dump Hailey’s signed contract on his lap. He narrows his eyes in suspicion, then picks it up and scans the first few paragraphs before flipping back to the signature page. Once his eyes trace the elegant loops of Hailey’s signature, he turns his glare back to me.

“How’d you manage this?” 

“You might be a better businessman than I am, Mr. Grey. But people like me more than they like you. Especially Hailey.” 

He snorts. “Enough to bury herself in debt? You know I’m just going to rake her over the coals for this until she changes her mind, don’t you?”

The elation in my expression turns to fire. “No, that’s the beauty. You see, I never intended Hailey to pay a dime to come to Greenwich. In fact, I had planned on having the whole transition expensed out through Carmen, but then I thought… why would I take this chunk out of my budget to give to you, when we’ve been filling our bank accounts with all this Endurance money like we live in Smaug’s lair?”

His face goes blank. “You used my own money…” 

“I will if you bill me for it.” Unbuckling my seatbelt, I move out of my seat and crawl into his lap, sealing my lips against his before he can start again.  “Don’t ever try to steal an author from me again. I’m a Grey, and we don’t take that shit laying down.” 

“Oh, fuck…” He groans, then a hand comes up to cup the back of my head, pulling me deeper into our kiss. I hiss when I feel his hand tighten in my hair, then moan and thrust my tongue deep into his mouth. He sucks on it, each pull of his lips soaking my panties a little bit more. 

I reach down between us and start to fumble with his belt and zipper. He doesn’t try to stop me when I take his heavy erection into my palm. So once I’ve got him free, I wrap both of my fists around him and slide them up and down his length, from root to tip, keeping my grip tight enough to make his eyes roll back into his head.  

His hands move to my knees, then slowly drag their way up my thighs. He pushes my skirt back and his fingers brush the lace edge of my panties. Then one hand disappears and, behind me, I hear the low drag of the glass divider between us and Taylor as it seals closed. 

“We’re only a few minutes from Escala,” he says, quivering slightly as I squeeze his round, swollen crown. “Let me take you there and eat you until you beg for my cock.”

“We don’t need to go to Escala, I’ll beg right now.” 

“Will you?” 

I swipe my thumb over his tip, swirling the bead of moisture there around the tight skin. He shivers, but his eyes never falter, baring into mine. I let my teeth sink into my bottom lip and nod. 

“Please.”

A hand reappears in my hair, gripping the roots tightly enough to make me shriek with pain. 

“Please, what?” 

“Fuck me. Right here, right now. Please.” 

He gives me a cruel smirk. “And why would I do that?” 

“Because I need you. I need this.” I squeeze him until he grunts, then start to stroke him again. The muscles hidden beneath his slacks tense and release with each pull of my hand and his eyes turn to liquid mercury. “Please, Christian.” 

The hand still on my thigh dips between my legs and rudely pulls my panties to the side. I’m almost clumsy in my rush to nestle his thick cock against my wet folds, but his hands stay firm on my hips and guide me exactly where I need to go. I start to sink down on him, reveling in that first, delicious stretch. But I’ve barely taken his head, when the fingers on my hips dig harshly into my flesh and stop me in dead air. 

“This isn’t over between us, Anastasia. I don’t give up either.” 

“Then may the best woman win.” I let the playfulness glimmer through my eyes while I try and rock my hips to take some of the friction I’m shaking for.  I can’t move, and he isn’t wooed by my revelry. 

“Who are you?” he demands instead. His fingers dig into me, and I see the answer he’s waiting for written in his eyes. My teeth catch my bottom lip as the obedient smile begins to play across my face. 

“I’m a Grey.” 

“You’re goddamn right, you are.” The hands holding me still suddenly force me down and I take the entire length of him in one, forceful blow. “Now, ride me.” 

My body reacts to the command before my mind does. I move my knees to either side of his legs so I can lift myself just far enough to his tip that he doesn’t slip out, then sink down again. It’s slow at first. I use his shoulders to balance and his eyes to anchor me as I rise and fall like an incoming tide. It feels on the surface as though he lets me control the pace, but I know in my soul that every single movement my body makes, right down to the beat of my heart, is happening only on his terms. 

That’s most obvious when I try to move faster and those strong, unbreakable hands once again clamp down around me, forcing me to return to the agonizingly slow pace that makes me take notice of every long, thick inch of him spreading me open. When he presses his palm flat against my belly and begins to tease my clit with his thumb, I let my head fall back and try to soak in the pleasure. But as the eye contact between us is broken, he’s pulling me back again, shifting beneath me so that I’m sitting up straight and his cock is pressed into the exact place I need it. 

“Oh god, Christian. Right there… right… there…”

The wild sound of want that claws its way from his chest makes me whimper. I can feel everything inside of me starting to tighten and clench, and the more insistent my body’s reaction becomes, the more erratic he churns his hips. His body looks so powerful beneath mine,  but that power is seconds away from being beyond his control. 

And fuck do I want that. 

I want him to lose it. I want him to overwhelm me. I want him to pull me into a depth we’ll never crawl out of and hold me there with him forever. 

“Fuuuuck…” he hisses through clenched teeth. “You’re going to make me come so fucking hard, baby.” 

“Yes, please. Please, come in me. Please, please, please…

I let out a needy cry that’s followed for a series of unrelenting, breathless pants. The sound fills the space around us. My entire body is a tightly wound string that he expertly plucks with each deep stroke. I grind on him every time he bottoms out inside of me, and every subtle move I make draws a curse word from his lips. Each and every one of them is swallowed by the deep, passionate kiss that finally ignites the powder keg orgasm building inside of me and blows my goddamn mind. 

Our tongues tangle together in a dance only we know the steps to while my orgasm wrecks my body. I can feel him tighten with every vice-like clench of my insides around his cock. Sweat begins to bead on his brow and an impatiently angry vein pounds with his pulse beneath the skin on his neck. I keep pace with him as long as I physically can. But as the intensity of my orgasm drags me down to his chest and leaves me trembling, he thrusts up as deep as he can reach and empties himself inside of me. 

His shouts of ecstasy echo around us long after he’s stilled, and I melt with a deep kind of satisfaction that’s more powerful than the aftershocks of my orgasm.

We sit there together, chest to chest, heart to heart, until I notice the same parked car streak past the dark tinted window I saw a few minutes ago, and I realize we’re circling the block around my office. Christian spends our final lap devouring my lips until I’m craving a second round. All I get though is a small chuckle, as the car finally comes to a stop in front of my building. 

“Watch your back, Mrs. Grey,” he warns me as I step out onto the sidewalk where my security team is already waiting for me. I look back and see a devilish grin spread across his still swollen lips. “Now, I’m coming for you.” 

I give him the same grin he gave me back in his office a few weeks ago, lean into the car, and brush the tip of my nose against his. 

“I thought you just did.” 

Next Chapter

29 thoughts on “Chapter 41

  1. She has a bun in the oven! Great chapter as always massive thank you for brightening up a shitty Monday..until next week take care!

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  2. Okay I definitely feel like she’s pregnant I’m a little surprised Christian didn’t make her go to the doctor yet but I’m sure if she keep having symptoms of whatever she going on he’s going to and Ana’s security team…………..😬😬😬😬😬 but she has to deal with it for Luke’s sake and for her own safety and for her husband’s sanity,I personally think Ana claimed her victory to early because Christian is Christian he’s is hell of smart and he’s strategic so Ana be careful and don’t take your foot of the gas yet and I’m curious as to does Christian know she was there to see a.h or does he just believe she was ditching her security team as usual, because I don’t believe Christian would be as calm as he was if he knew that she was there to see him for ANY reason

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  3. I hope Ana is pregnant!!! Also so proud of Ana getting Hailey signed!! I hope Christian doesn’t play dirty it will end up biting him in the ass!! Love love love this story!!💖💖💖💖

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  4. I have a feeling Christian is going to do a takeover of Greenwich publishing and this way he will beat Ana. Lol
    Hope baby Grey 2 is on the way.

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  5. Wow, isnt it hot on the ride back to her office? I love that Christian can drop everything and come get Ana. Compared to pre-Endurance days. Love it, too, AH is a business associate, no insecurity on Christian’s part. Is Elizabeth Morgan the right fit for GP? Glad Ana managed to sign Hailey over. They’ll form a lovely friendship and business partners, they already love each other’s company. What will Christian do? He’s calm but I can imagine his killer plan in planning. Just what, cant envisage. Christian, dont be too harsh on Ana. She works hard and is determined to succeed, just like him. And she may be carrying their Baby Grey 2! Love, too, how Ana and Woods are mutually agreeable to work well together. As always, Thank You, Tara, for your beautiful work,❤💯

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  6. okay fully jumping on board the ana is pregnant train now and not one bit ashamed of it!

    buuuutttt also we are going to get to see her book?! honestly i might be a little more excited for this….

    also… is it too early to request an outtake for this chapter? would love to see this from christians POV

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  7. Four bodyguards to take the place of Luke? I’d be stressed, too. Poor Harper. Is it because she is a female CPO?

    The lunch with Hailey was fruitful, but the contract stealing is still deceitful. Christian doesn’t know everything that went on, but Elizabeth may put two and two together and regret teaming up with Sneaky Ana. And Harrington earned his travel expenses and shiny nee office space.

    Does Ana have a touch of the flu? I hope.

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  8. Oh, what an amazing chapter!

    I have the feeling that Ana might be pregnant but it could be my wish for babies is interfering with my logical judgment. Baby or not, what is crystal clear is that Taylor definetly know how they made them… proof being that he is always behind the wheel. I would love to read an outtake from his POV in moments like this when their employers are going at it like rabbits on the backseat or the room next door.

    Besides, is incredible the change on Christian. The fact that he knows that Ana went to see Astor and he didn’t go nuts just shows how much he trusts her. If you add all those moments with Calliope and joking with Ana, is a sight for sore eyes to see him so carefree. Is like the ultimate happy ending, and I love it.

    But you know what I love even more? They fighting on work field. I would love to see Ana on GP again (after all she already demostrated her value) because I kind of dislike Carmen, but I don’t know if I prefer their back and forth with authors.

    Thanks for making blue Monday a little less blue 😉

    See you next week,
    Andie

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  9. Husband and wife outsmarting each other and where will it end. It is like a game for them now and money is not even an issue anymore. Hope the game is only to make Ana a more savvy business woman and who else can be the best to emulate than Christian Grey. Of course Christian has to show up, he knew who she went to see. Ana has all the signs of early pregnancy, the urge could not wait and all is manageable in the backseat of the Mayback. Thank you very much, had fun reading it.

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  10. I finally had the time to catch up while I’m recovering from surgery. I also remembered how much I love your work. This is amazing. I’ve always loved their banter. I am disappointed that in order for Luke to be with Jade he can not be Ana PO anymore. Why can’t that job be shared so Luke can have a life too ? Taylor is with Gail so why not Luke.

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  11. So I’m pretty sure that Ana is pregnant, but I must be the only one hoping you’ve planted a red herring. I will be happy either way, (I LOVED your first pregnancy arc) but it would be nice to have just the family of 3 for a bit or some extra twist of drama. Was the wave of cold Ana felt in the restaurant a pregnancy symptom, or something else?

    Also, poor Hailey! I’m glad you established Ana was thinking of the makings of a great friendship building. It would be a shame for her to be strung along just for the sake of which Grey will “win”.

    Every chapter has been so great, and I’m so glad you found your renewed interest in this story. As a long-time reader of your work, your narrative is super strong and focused with each update. 😊

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  12. I love it that Ana got Haley to sign with her. Is that a sleazy lawyer or a good lawyer? What lawyer wants to hug their client? I so hope that Ana totally wins this over Christian. Ana is making friends with Evan Woods her new or should I say re-newed CPO. That Christian has 4 CPO’s on Ana is a lot. Who told Christian or did Taylor find out that Ana dismissed her other CPO’s?

    You do have to love that way they conduct a bit of business in the back seat. lol

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