I don’t see Christian again for the rest of the night. I stay hidden in our room, fuming. Continuing the argument in my head and landing vicious barbs that I’ll be glad I never really got the chance to say to him in the morning. Really, I’m just waiting for him to come after me. To make it right, the way he always does in the end.
But not tonight. He locks himself in his office downstairs and Calliope is carried between us according to her constantly changing whims. I actually keep her up later than I should, waiting to see if Christian will come through the door to help me give her a bath. He doesn’t, and I put her to bed alone.
When I wake up to find his side of the bed cold and empty the next morning, I decide to go looking for him. But I barely make it two steps from our bed before my stomach rolls, and I have to cover my mouth to hold back vomit as I run for the bathroom. Each horrible, deep wretch carries a sense of loneliness that reverberates deep in my bones. The last time I did this, I was by myself. On the other side of the country with the entire heartland lying between Christian and me. But he was always only a phone call away. And if I chose to make that call, he’d sit there and offer reassuring words that were like life preservers when I was drowning in misery. If I called him now, would he even answer? I don’t know the answer to that and the uncertainty I feel pounds like a fist against my heart.
The tears that well in my eyes have nothing to do with how sick I am. I sob between retching, wishing I could curl up into a ball and wrap my arms around my body, instead of around the porcelain bowl in front of me. When I hear a soft knock against the door frame behind me, my heart flutters for a moment. Then I turn, and find Gail’s indigo eyes looking down at me with concern, instead of Christian’s stormy gray ones.
“Are you alright, Mrs. Grey?”
“Yeah.” I nod weakly and reach up to flush, then pull a square of toilet paper off the roll to wipe my mouth. “Where’s Christian?”
She frowns. “He left very early this morning.”
“Of course he did.”
“But…” She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small, rectangular box. “He did ask me to pick these up for you.”
I take the box from her and glance down at the label, a fresh wave of tears pricking at the corners of my eyes as I realize what she’s handed me. The nausea lozenges I survived on during my last pregnancy.
“He loves you, Anastasia,” Gail says, softly. “I know that you disagree right now, but that hasn’t changed. He cares. So much.”
I nod, dashing a tear out of my eye, because… I know that. I know that no matter how distant he feels from me, he’s never going to leave. I know that no matter how angry he is, he’ll never stop loving me. I know that no matter how cold and indifferent he may act, every one of his thoughts is occupied with me. Our love has been tested too many times for me to doubt its staying power, but that doesn’t erase the pain of what he suggested or the callousness in his voice as he doubled down. It doesn’t take back what he wants me to do, and the very thought of following through with that… No, I can’t even think about it.
“Congratulations, Ana,” Gail says to break the tense silence. “If that means anything.”
“It does.” I look up at her with tear-filled, but grateful eyes, and smile, before I break down again.
Ten minutes later, I have the crying and the nausea under control enough that I’m able to peel myself off the bathroom floor and get ready for work. I breeze through it, not caring much about how good my makeup looks or what I’m wearing. It’s hard to care about anything at all besides the cold war brewing between Christian and me, especially after I do try to call him and am greeted immediately by his voicemail.
But when I go to wake up Calliope so I can get her ready for daycare, the burden of that pain is lightened a little. Changing her, dressing her, hearing each little happy sound that escapes her lips as I pull her hair through small, pink rubber bands… it all pulls me into her in a way that is more intense than usual. The attachment I feel to her is somehow stronger today. Every familiar feeling of pregnancy that comes over me is like a secret that only she and I have shared. And it all reminds me of just how much I love being a mother. How much I love her. How much I already love the baby growing inside of me.
When I drop her off at daycare, I have to hold back tears.
She couldn’t care less.
“Ana?” Evan questions me when we leave Calliope’s daycare and my hand hovers over the elevator buttons. 30 will take me to Christian’s floor. G will take me back to the car. I debate between the two buttons for enough time to make my entire security team shift anxiously behind me, then sigh as I press my finger into the button for the garage.
More than anything, I just wish I could abandon my morning, go home, and crawl into bed until Christian decides he’s ready to come home and work this out with me. But I promised Hailey I would work harder for her than Grey Publishing did. That I would make Phoenix a best-seller. So, I drag myself into my office, intending to stay put and ignore the rest of my staff while I do my best to fulfill that promise. I’ve only gotten a good ten minutes into the marketing plan I’m putting together though, when there’s a knock on my door.
My heart once again beats like the wings of a hummingbird, desperately hopeful that I’ll look up and he’ll be there. I’m shocked, however, when I do look up and I see Carmen Gallagher standing in the doorway.
I didn’t even know she wasn’t in New York…
“Carmen,” I start. “Uh… come in.”
“Thank you, Ana.” She saunters forward, moving slowly as she lowers herself into the chair across from me. The corners of her mouth are turned slightly down and there’s an uncomfortable confession trying to conceal itself in the deep brown irises of her eyes, as though she’s holding onto a perturbing secret.
It doesn’t make any sense.
“We’ve surpassed 200,000 subscribers,” I begin in earnest. “My projections had been hopeful at 50,000, and we’ve more than quadrupled that within the first quarter. I’ve been running numbers with accounting and I really think it’s enough to make this next release we’ve got… big. As in quarter of a million copies sold. Maybe half-a-million. I’m not sure, I have to work with our printers to figure out what our max capacity might be but, in terms of potential…”
“Ana.” She holds up a hand to stop me and gives me a patient smile. It makes my nausea return, so I take a breath and slip another lozenge in my mouth while she gathers her thoughts. “I’m selling GSP.”
My blood goes cold. “What?”
“Sold, actually. Effective Monday.”
“Wh-“ I lose the word half-way through, along with all the air in my lungs. Suddenly, everything around me seems very far away and there’s an almost vacuum like silence filling the room that makes the words I’d told Hailey only two days ago echo in my head.
I’m going to work so incredibly hard for you.
As the shock wears off, reality comes rushing back. Only now, it’s all colored red. “I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to do. No matter how impossible, no matter how unreasonable… I have done everything you’ve asked me to do. I’ve taken a crumbling press in a dying industry and made it sustainable. Profitable, even! I just signed a new title two days ago that I know will be a best-seller!”
“I know. It isn’t about that…”
“I got an offer I couldn’t refuse.” I stare at her, unblinking, expecting more. She sighs, the guilt returning to the lines around her eyes. “Your husband made a play last night. He’s been quietly buying the controlling shares of our largest clients. The ones who use our fiber optics services. If I didn’t agree to sell GSP, I was going to lose everything. So I took the red-eye out of New York to sign the contracts for the sale in his office early this morning. Greenwich Small Press will be absorbed into Grey Publishing. I don’t know much about what that will entail except that he plans to keep you in charge, and he doesn’t plan on laying off any staff.”
I stiffen. The crimson red tint that colors the room seems to pulse at the edges of my field of vision. I feel hot, like my blood has started to boil through my veins rather than flow like a life giving river. The slash of rage that cuts through me is so intense, I can taste it. And it bites me back with the same, sharp snap of black pepper.
Carmen shifts awkwardly in her chair. “I’m sorry it ended this way, Ana. Really, I am. I truly enjoyed working with you and I was very much looking forward to seeing how far you were going to take this library project you came up with… You really are everything everyone told me you were.”
An hour ago, that would have meant more to me than just about anything ever said to me by a professor, an editor, a publisher… Now, it’s empty. It’s a platitude. It’s a cruel shift of the guilt she feels over the coals she’s dragged me over again and again.
“Get out of my office,” I breathe in disgust. She looks taken aback.
“You’re not my boss anymore, and I am so incredibly tired of trying to kiss your ass. So please, just get the fuck out of my office.”
She stutters for a moment, but doesn’t grasp anything to say back. My glare never breaks as she turns to leave, and the ice behind it is enough to silence her final pause at the door and send her down the hallway.
I reach for my purse and stomp out behind her.
“Ana?” Evan calls, standing up in surprise when he sees me storming towards the front doors. I shoot an impatient look in his direction.
“I’m going to GEH. If you’re coming, you better move.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He’s already in motion as he swings his blazer off the back of his chair. I’m at the elevator before he catches me, but once we’re released again, he doesn’t slow me down. In fact, as out of control with anger as I feel right now, having him drive probably gets me there much faster.
Normally, I’d already be planning the over-the-top speech I’d give him the moment he was in range of my shouts, but my mind is empty. Mostly because, beneath the rage, I’m incredulous. This isn’t our normal tête-à-tête, where he screws me over and I throw it back in his face until he escalates it again. That’s all just foreplay.
This? This is a punishment.
Evan sticks to me like glue as I stalk towards the elevator and slam my finger against the button for Christian’s floor. I don’t even pause when Andrea stands up to greet me from behind her desk. I move for my husband’s office as if it were a pre-destined path, ready to unleash the volcanic eruption building inside of me that will make his worst moments look like angry kitten videos on YouTube.
But when I throw open the double doors at the end of the hallway, I’m met with an empty room.
“That’s what I was going to tell you,” Andrea says from behind me. I round on her and actually feel a good degree of the heat inside of me being doused away when I see her cringe.
“Sorry. It’s not you… I—“ I take a breath, letting it slow the beat of my heart. “Where is he?”
“He had an appointment this morning. He told me not to expect him back today.”
Did he actually schedule an appointment he knew I wouldn’t show up for?
No… if he had, he would have made sure my security team got me there, whether I liked it or not. They haven’t so much as stepped in my way all morning.
“What kind of appointment?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “I don’t know, he made it himself.”
“Oh, no one is more shocked than I am, believe me. The man has me put reminders on his calendar to call his mother.”
Irritation bubbles up somewhere amongst the anger, and I spin on my heels towards Ros’s office to see if she has some idea of who he might be meeting with. She doesn’t though, so I decide to pull Calliope out of daycare early and wait for him at home. He did, after all, tell Andrea not to expect him back in the office, which could very well mean he intends to go home early.
She’s the only thing that keeps me sane while I wait. Just like this morning, I feel as if it’s impossible to be close enough to her. She pulls away from me over and over again while we’re sitting together on her playroom floor, too interested in the toys she’s been away from all day let me snuggle her the way I want to. So, I settle for watching her. Just staring and soaking in everything she does. Memorizing every sound she makes. Letting the harmonious trill of her laughter tattoo itself across my heart.
It might be the pregnancy hormones, or just the overpowering love of a mother, but I find myself fighting back tears as the love I hold for this beautiful baby girl overwhelms me. A love that somehow, impossibly, has multiplied with this new life growing inside of me. Love for another child. Love for Christian’s child.
“Ana?” Evan’s head pokes through the gap in the slightly ajar door. His voice is pleasant enough, but the look on his face is all apprehension. “Mr. Grey is at the gate.”
I look down at Calliope and my heart starts to thud heavily in my chest. The fight I’ve been anticipating is already waging in my gut, pulling me into a battle I know that I have to fight. I kiss the soft curls that are the same shade as mine and whisper that I love her before I pass her off to Mackensie and leave the room I’m now praying is at least decently sound proof.
I’m already screaming at him before he’s even come through the door.
“Who in the actual fuck do you think you are?!”
There isn’t surprise or hesitation in the gaze that meets mine. He’s ready for me, and I recognize the stiffening of his back and the arms that cross over his broad chest as defense.
“Your boss, actually.”
“And how dare you. How fucking dare you bring my career into this, Christian! As if everything I’ve poured my heart and soul and desperate desires into over the last few months is nothing more than an inconsequential chess piece that you can maneuver out of my reach because you’re mad at me. You said that you wouldn’t bring this fight between us. You said this war was between Grey Publishing and Greenwich Small Press. ‘Never between us.’ But this isn’t business, Christian. This is punishment.”
He raises an eyebrow. “This acquisition has nothing to do with your…” His eyes move down to my stomach, and when he speaks again, his voice is so tight, I’m surprised he can wrap it around coherent words. “Condition. I have been in negotiations with Gallagher for months to acquire GSP, ever since you were hired. I’d proposed this particular deal last week at your launch party. She gets the fiber optics deal out of Texas and Barney goes to work in her R&D department; I get you.”
“That’s a pretty shit deal for GEH.”
“It might have been a month ago, though that wouldn’t have stopped me from making it. But with your app overperforming the way it is and Sawyer integrating seamlessly into my R&D department to take Barney’s place, we’re going to be just fine.”
I shake my head. “That’s all bullshit anyway. Carmen told me that this wasn’t what she wanted. It was your play and she had to take the red-eye here to appease you. That’s what you were doing in your office all night, right? Threatening her with a hostile take-over unless she immediately caved and gave you what you wanted?”
His expression goes cold, verging on deadly. “I told you I was coming for you. I warned you that you weren’t prepared to take me on. I always win, Anastasia. Remember that.”
His eyes once again move down to my stomach and I start barreling towards him. I don’t even know why. Whether it’s to beat my fists against his chest or to fall in his arms and cry, I need to release the hurt and anger and defeat all compounding inside of me like an insidious pressure cooker. But when I take a step towards him, he backs a step away. At first, I’m hit with a cold, unfamiliar prick of rejection that’s more intense than I would have been able to prepare for, even if I had expected it. That dejected kind of embarrassment melts away, though, when I realize that the step Christian took makes him wince.
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing, I’m fine.”
“Fine?” I make a quick movement, like I’m going to lunge at him. He flinches and takes another step back that, this time, makes him grunt in pain. I raise an accusatory eyebrow at him.
He sighs. “I just had a minor… procedure done this morning. I’m fine.”
Procedure? I think back to what Andrea had told me in his office earlier. After dismissing that he’d made good on his threat from yesterday, I’d assumed she meant he was in a meeting. But thinking back on it, she said he had an “appointment.” As in… doctor’s appointment.
“Are you okay?” I ask, the anger now completely overcome with worry. He eyes me wearily, as though he doesn’t trust the authenticity of my concern, and nods.
“I’m fine.” He winces again. “I just… need an ice pack.”
“What’s wrong? What happened?”
The lump in this throat moves as he makes room for the confession I see in his eyes he doesn’t want to make. “I had a vasectomy.”
I feel my face morph from apprehensive to completely blank, but that seems to be the only thing I really register. The word hangs in limbo between us, and I have to repeat it several times before it really sinks in.
He had a vasectomy. He’s decided that he’s done having children, and so he’s made it an impossibility. No discussion, no concern for any future possibility of what I might want. He wants this pregnancy terminated and all future talk of children erased from our vocabulary.
The rage comes back in full force, though, this time, the room around me isn’t colored red. Everything is sheathed in blinding white that’s so hot, even I can feel its danger. And it all pulsates around Christian.
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
The vitriol in my voice makes him cringe slightly, but he doesn’t back down. “You said yesterday that I should be using condoms. That’s not going to happen, but you were right. It’s just as much my responsibility to keep us protected as it is yours. I’ve done that now.”
“By taking away any chance of us ever having more children?!”
His teeth snap together, grinding slightly as he forces his words through them. “Maybe I haven’t made it clear how I feel about you being pregnant, Anastasia…”
“Oh, you’ve made yourself plenty fucking clear.”
I’m shaking my head, and realize only after I’ve taken several steps, that I’m backing away from him, arms up protectively between us. Putting distance between us… like I’m about to run.
Panic flashes across his face and his reaction happens more on instinct than rational thought. He charges through the foyer and grabs me, pinning me to the wall at my back and caging me in with his body. I let out a terrified gasp and, to my relief, his bruising grip on my arms loosens.
Loosens, but does not let go.
I watch his face crinkle with pain. His head falls between us and his body stops trembling. When he looks up at me again, there’s no more fire behind his ashy eyes. Only a plea for understanding.
“Please, Anastasia. If you want more children, I will give you more children. As many as you want. We can adopt, we can use a surrogate… Hell, we can open a boarding house and raise every homeless child in the city if that’s what you want. Just. Not. You.”
It falls on deaf ears. I’m too embroiled in the hurt and anger over what he’s done to even attempt to hear the reason in what he’s asking for. There is no reason. He’s altered our entire future, his own body, without even talking to me about it first. What would he do if I were to go… get breast implants without telling him, or if I were to suddenly feel very generous and donate a kidney to a complete stranger? Except, no… those aren’t even comparable because none of those things would take away futures he hadn’t even yet had the chance to wish for. None of those things put a limit on the family we’ve started together. A limit I now see he’s already surpassed.
“Do you even like being a father? Or is this all just a charade you put on because you knew I wanted kids?”
If Christian could ever look like he hated me, I think I get a glimpse of it right then and there. His hands tighten around my arms until I whimper, and the intensity in his eyes once again flames so hot, it’s like I can feel it burn my skin.
“How dare you. I love Calliope just as much as you do. I do everything for her. I am an excellent father, and you can feel however you want about this situation, but I will not allow you to take that from me.”
The cold, dangerous tone in his voice sends a real wave of regret washing through my body until the apology is all but bubbling through my trembling lips. But I swallow it back, because, even though I’m the one who will have to take every one of his blows, this fight isn’t about me.
“You’re a father to this baby too, Christian. Because I am pregnant. Am. As in, current state of being. That’s not going to change. No matter what you say, no matter what you do, I have every intention of having this baby. So you really need to get used to the idea that you’re going to be a father of two.”
He shakes his head, the cruelty that fills his gaze still spilling over me like poison. “No. I told you, this isn’t up for discussion. I’ve made the appointment for you tomorrow morning so that you can take the weekend to recover. You are going, and I will get you there by whatever means necessary.”
“You can’t force me to…”
“No!” He slams his fist so hard into the wall beside my head that it goes straight through the drywall. “I’m not fucking fighting with you about this! I will not lose you!”
“Mr. Grey,” Evan’s nervous voice comes from the living room. Christian’s eyes snap in his direction. “Maybe you should… uh, take a step back from your wife for a minute. Get some space. Calm down a little.”
He looks down at me again, softening as he registers how far beyond his control he’s let himself go. He pushes off the broken wall and backs away from me, not making eye contact.
“I’m sorry… but it doesn’t change anything. We’re not doing this. You’re going to the doctor tomorrow morning and I’m not going to hear another word about it.” He moves away from me, the surety of his statement reflected in his walk. He pauses as he approaches the new head of my security team. “She doesn’t leave the fucking house. Understand?”
Evan glances uneasily between us, his eyes lingering on mine for much longer than they do on Christian’s.
“Yes, sir,” he finally responds, and Christian stalks out of the room.
I don’t hesitate. Evan looks as though he wants to say something comforting to me, but I blow right past him. I’m single minded, driven by an instinctual fear that only a mother can feel.
I head straight for Calliope’s playroom and immediately scoop her up into my arms. She whines as the toy in her hand falls to the floor, but I don’t stop to pick it up. I don’t stop when Mackensie calls after me. I don’t stop when Gail looks up as we come into the kitchen. My purse is on the counter, so I shift Calliope on my hip and swing an arm out to snatch it up without stopping. The moment my hands close around the leather straps, I hear the first shouts from my security team coming from their office.
Just keep moving.
Pounding on the button to open the door as I hurry into the garage, I move straight for the SUV. But only because it has Calliope’s car seat in the back. I don’t have any of the things I need for her. No diapers, not a single change of clothes… nothing. The car seat is non-negotiable.
I pull open the back door and thrust her into the seat. She’s surprised and starts to cry as I pull the straps over her, but it doesn’t stop me. I buckle her in faster than I ever have before and then slam her inside. Without her weighing me down, I sprint for the drivers side, digging in my purse for my keys as I climb through the door and take my seat behind the wheel. The door to the house swings open and four heads fill the newly open space. I slide the keys into the ignition and yank the gear shift into reverse, and Smith’s hand darts out to close the garage door and cage me in.
I’m prepared to back out either way, but Evan reaches up and stops him before I have to do anything really stupid. His fingers wrap around his wrist and fold his elbow back just long enough for me to make it out of the garage. I can hear the ensuing argument as I back down the driveway.
“What the fuck, Woods?” Harper screams at him.
He shakes his head and waves to the other cars. “Well, follow her!”
They scatter as I pull out onto the road and start towards the freeway. I haven’t even made it out of our neighborhood before Christian’s name appears on the screen and his call rings insistently through the stereo speakers. But I reject him, and the call from Taylor that comes after it. I can see the shiny black car holding my security team in my rear-view mirror, making every turn I do and keeping a close enough distance that no car could merge between us.
Where do I go?
My first thought is Kate, but since she and Elliot never come out on the same side when they get involved in arguments between Christian and me, they’ve decided to stop being involved at all. So, I take the next best option.
“Hey, what’s up?” Luke answers almost immediately after the phone begins to ring. His light, happy tone is at odds with the painful sobs trying to claw their way up my throat.
“Where are you?”
“Uh… I’m at Jade’s apartment. Is everything alright? Why are you crying?”
I sniff, pulling back my emotions so I can focus on driving. Calliope is in the car after all. “Where is Jade’s apartment? I’m coming to you, right now.”
“32nd Avenue. Go north on 522 and turn left after the Taco Bell. I’ll meet you downstairs.”
“I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
He hangs up, not asking why, not pushing for details I refused to give him. He’s just there, waiting for me in the parking lot when I pull into his apartment complex.
“What’s going on?” he asks when I leap from the car and yank Calliope out of her seat. I turn to answer him, but the four bodies climbing out of the next car over do that for me.
“Mrs. Grey, you need to return to the house immediately,” Wyatt orders. I scoff and push past him, and he actually tries to grab onto me to make me stop. He ends up grabbing Luke instead, who steps between us with a careless smile playing at his lips.
“Ah, Wyatt. I’m flattered, but I have a girlfriend and… she’s something special.”
Wyatt’s hands fall to his side and his eyes shift uncomfortably to the rest of his team. “We have orders. She’s coming with us.”
I pull Calliope into me, pressing one of her ears to my shoulder and covering the other with my hand. “I’m not going anywhere with you. Back the fuck off!”
“Mrs. Grey…” Harper starts, but Luke cuts her off.
“I think she’s made her position pretty clear. Why don’t you guys just chill? I’ll take care of it, alright?”
Smith grinds his teeth together. “You’re not on this team anymore, Sawyer. You take her up there, I’m going to have to get Taylor involved.”
Luke laughs, his eyes glittering with humor as he nearly doubles over. He makes a show of wiping a tear away as his chuckles die down and he maneuvers Calliope and me to the stairs that lead up to his apartment. “You do that.”
We climb to the third floor, then he leads me down a dark, narrow corridor to a door near the end. The paint is peeling away from the wood, the number is hanging wrong, and Luke has to shove his body weight against the door to get it to open, but he’s all smiles as he leads me inside. My guess is that it has everything to do with the dark haired beauty lying casually across the couch with another pretty girl I’ve never met before. But based on her similar dark hair and eyes, I assume they’re related.
The strange girl looks up from the TV as we come through the door, and when her eyes meet mine, she goes stiff.
“Oh my god. You’re…” She stops, sputtering slightly, then turns to Luke. “You weren’t lying. You really are best friends with Anastasia Grey?”
Luke grins. “No autographs, please.”
“Holy shit… “ She turns to me, mouth agape, and Jade rolls her eyes.
“Ana, this is my sister, Amber.”
“And I am a huge fan of your husband’s,” Amber continues in a rush. “I’m a physics student at UW and I’ve been following his Endurance project very closely and can I just say… he’s just… and he… no else has ever… he’s SO AMAZING!”
I stare at her blankly for a few seconds, and then completely dissolve into tears.
“Hey!” Luke croons, pulling Calliope out of my arms and passing her off to Jade so he can wrap me in a hug. “What happened?”
I push away from him and take a deep breath to get a grip on myself. Then I blink up at him through tear saturated lashes. “I’m pregnant.”
“Oh.” He says the word like it’s a shock. A bad shock. And as he starts to process the news, he begins to nod. “Yeah, I can see how that would go. I take it he’s not happy.”
I let out a noise that makes it clear that’s the understatement of the century. “He wants me to… to end it.”
“And what do you want?”
“He doesn’t care. He made the appointment. He told me I was going by any means necessary, so… I left.”
“When’s the appointment?”
Luke lets out a long, heavy exhale, then turns and glances around the room. It’s nice, not having to live through each excruciating detail again to make him understand. He knows me well enough, knows Christian well enough, to fill in the blanks on his own. To know the situation I’m in now, and what it means. Why I came here.
Because Luke will always take my side.
“Well, you can stay here if you want, but we don’t really have a lot of… space.”
I too glance around the room, and realize only then how cramped it is. The living room isn’t much bigger than my entryway. Just a slouchy sectional and TV take up almost the entire space. There’s one small bedroom off to the left, and a crowded kitchen behind me. And that’s it…
“Oh, right. That’s okay, though. I can just go… to… uh…” I bite my lip as I fail to come up with a single place Chrisitan won’t immediately find me, and Luke lets out a long sigh. He turns to Jade.
“You mind if I take off for the weekend?”
“Where are you going?”
He grins and lets out a small growl as he leaps on top of her and smothers her face with kisses. “Somewhere Grey won’t follow us.”
She narrows her eyes. “How are you going to get all the way to Saturn and back by the end of the weekend?” Luke laughs and she shoves him off of her. “Fine, go. I’ve got work all weekend anyway. Be good, though.”
“Aren’t I always?” He flashes her a toothy grin that once again has her rolling her eyes. Then kisses her on the cheek once more and moves to the window, slowly pulling the curtain aside so he can peer down at the parking lot where my security team is still huddled.
“They’re not going to leave,” I tell him. “No matter where we go, they’re going to follow us.”
“I know,” he says, then he holds his hand out to me. “Give me your phone.”
“My phone?” He waves his hand more insistently, so I reach into my purse to retrieve it and give it to him, ignoring the missed call notifications that litter the screen. He pulls his own phone out of his pocket and turns back to Jade.
“Wanna help me out?”
“Is it cool spy shit?”
He chuckles. “Kind of. Take the back way down to my car and go out the south entrance. I want you to drive to Sammamish. Ana, here, is going to book you the most expensive suite in the resort there, and you and Amber can spend the rest of the night pampering yourself and ordering room service. Her treat.”
Both girls look up at me eagerly, but I stare at Luke, confused. “Uh… sure?”
They shriek with giddy excitement and leap up from the couch, hastily pushing Calliope back into my arms so they can run off to pack some things to take. Luke unlocks my phone and dials the number for the resort he promised his girlfriend. He books their best suite and ensures there are strawberries and champagne waiting for their arrival. It’s my name, however, that he leaves on the reservation, though he tells them the keys will be picked up by my assistant. Ms. Jade Marroquin.
Twenty minutes later Jade and Amber are ready to leave. Luke walks them to the back door, which leads to a small balcony with a sketchy fire escape that drops into a back alley. He asks for Amber’s keys, which she hands over before he sweeps Jade into his arms. They kiss goodbye and exchange several whispered secrets that are only meant for the two of them, then he helps her onto the ladder over the railing and holds it steady and she and Amber climb down. Once she’s gone, I follow him back into the house and throw the hand not clinging to my daughter up in frustration.
“What is going on?”
“I slipped our phones into her purse.”
He lets out a heavy sigh. “Well, since I’m officially no longer a member of your security team, I guess I can tell you that there’s a tracking device on your cell phone that sends an alert to Taylor every time you leave the Seattle city limits. There’s also a tracking device in my car. In about fifteen minutes, I expect Woods down there is going to get a phone call demanding to know why you and I are driving across the I-90 bridge while they’re all still at my apartment. He’ll track Jade to the hotel and confirm you have a reservation there.”
“And what happens when they realize they’re not really following me?”
He waves his hand as if to bat that very unimportant concern out of the conversation. “We’ll be long gone by then.”
“Where are we going?”
His brow furrows and he looks at me as though the answer should be obvious. “Lake Sylvia.”