Chapter 53: Epilogue

Christian’s PoV:

She has me actually fucking panting when I finally have to reach down, take her by the hair, and pull her mouth away from my cock. The woman is relentless, like she’s trying to suck the soul out of me, and as the muscles in my thighs twitch with anticipation of the release I’d just stopped, I think she might have nearly succeeded. 

“I wasn’t finished,” she says with swollen lips, the words labored like she’s just finished running a 5k. 

“Not nearly,” I agree. My fingers twist more tightly into her hair and I yank her up to me, sliding my tongue past her lips when her mouth drops open with a gasp from the quick shock of pain. It takes her a second to catch up to me, then her soft lips begin to move fervently and her tongue battles with mine for control. It’s a struggle my inner-dominant won’t allow me to entertain. 

I flip her on her back and spread out over the top of her, letting her feel as much of my weight as I know she can handle. She squirms fruitlessly beneath me. I give her a taunting smile, trying to encourage her struggle, then spread her legs apart with the tops of my thighs. 

“Are you ready for me?” I ask, stroking my cock against her entrance. She groans and tries to push down on me. 

Always so greedy.

“I’m ready,” she whimpers. “Can’t you feel how wet I am for you?” 

I can. She’s already soaked the tip of my cock and I’ve barely brushed through her lips. Her skin is flushed, her chest heaves with each needy breath she draws in. Her eyes bore into mine, half-crazed with desire. It all makes me want to bury myself deep inside of her until I’ve fucked all rational thought from us both. But I know the longer I keep her in this suspended state of need, the harder she’s going to come. And fuck do I want to blow her goddamn mind. 

“Say it again,” I tell her, and she’s so well attuned to my wants that I don’t even have to clarify what. 

“For you,” she repeats. “I’m wet for you. Only you. So wet. Please, Christian!” I stroke her clit with the pad of my thumb as she starts to beg. It makes her voice shrill and much too loud with our kids sleeping just across the hall. I reach up and cover her mouth, then slam inside her until I’ve bottomed out. Her eyes go wide as she screams into my hand, then roll back into her head. 

“That’s it, Ana. Feel me. Feel how perfectly I fit inside of you. Like you were fucking made for me.” I give her a few hard, punishing thrusts as I make my point. “You. Are. Mine.

She lets out a rough, broken groan in agreement and starts to push back against me. I take her by the hip, holding her in place so I can hammer in and out of her as fast and hard as I please. She takes everything I give her and sobs for more. The rougher I get, the more swollen she becomes, the tighter she is around me. It’s fucking heaven and if I could stay here, in this moment forever, I would a million times over.

She shakes her head away from my hand and screws her eyes tightly shut. “Fuck, I’m going to come. Oh….god….”

“Open your eyes, Anastasia. Look at me.” 

She struggles, but eventually her eyelids pry back. The moment her bright, blue irises meet mine, she starts to convulse around my cock. The strangled, almost inhuman sounds that force their way out of my wife make me so hard, I think my brain might be a little oxygen deprived from all the blood being diverted to my groin. I certainly can’t think straight. Can’t think of anything except continuing to pound into her with everything I’ve got. As she starts to get louder, I lean down and kiss her, swallowing each one of her cries of ecstasy. 

I can feel it when she starts to come down, so I reach between us and start to rub circles over her clit, trying to keep her flying while I approach lift off. She starts to gasp like she’s in pain. I’m overwhelming her. But when I falter, she shoots me a dangerous look and hisses, “Don’t you dare fucking stop.” 

So I don’t. I increase the pressure, change the angle, push until my balls are pressed so hard into her it’s nearly painful… then the quivering starts again and I lose everything I have inside of her in a spectacularly violent eruption. 

Our breathing melds together in a harsh, unpleasant melody that slowly smooths out into something calmer. My erection twitches inside of her and she smiles, looking like an angel floating on a cloud of euphoria. Her dark hair is a tangled mess on her pillow, but the way it frames her face makes her look stunning. 

All these years, and she still absolutely takes my breath away.

I reach up and lovingly brush the backs of my fingers over her cheeks, basking in her loveliness, until there’s a sudden, loud pounding on our door. 

“Mom!” Calliope screams, the sound still shrill even though it’s muffled by the barrier between us. I take a deep breath, silently express my irritation to Ana, then turn my head in the direction of our daughter. 

“Get away from the door, Calliope!” 

“But, Dad! They’re ruining everything!” 

With a defeated sigh, I straighten my right arm and lift myself high enough off the bed that Ana can roll out from underneath me. I immediately miss her warmth, and as I watch her throw on my sweatpants and t-shirt, I decide to take a moment to gather myself before I go find out what the boys have done that’s upset their sister so much. 

I might kill them otherwise. 

My eyes move around the room, finding nothing new or interesting to settle upon. We’ve spent a lot of time here throughout the years, but somehow this place will only ever really hold the early memories for me. Like the feeling of pure bliss I’d get when I’d arrive here after being away from Ana for far too long. That’s the strongest one. Stronger even than the memories caged inside these walls that used to bear more pain than I knew I was capable of carrying. 

That’s how it is with us. The good has completely erased all of the bad. The painful memories from our youth have been buried beneath years and years of love and happiness. They’re so far gone, we can hardly even remember the details of the terrifying things we’ve had to persevere through. That Ana has had to survive. 

I’m thankful for that. 

It took about five years after I left GEH for her to shake the last of her ghosts. I think it was the success of Phoenix that made her start to hope again for the first time, so I’d encouraged her to use the profits from that release to buy another press so that Grey Publishing could grow. Another year passed, another best-seller, and another printing press. 

By the time she came to me and told me she was ready to release the novel she’d written about our love story, she’d grown her publishing company large enough to be able to publish it herself. Everything about that book was her decision, her vision. And when the accolades came pouring in, she’d bathed in them instead of turning away in fear. 

And that’s when I knew I made the right decision. 

I may have slipped up over the years and started a new company… or seven. But it never lasts more than eighteen months or so. I always sell before it gets big enough to take over our lives or drag me back down into the dirtiest parts of the rat race. I always choose her. I always choose our children. 

And I’ve never regretted it. 

After a few minutes, I climb out of bed and go through my suitcase until I find a pair of workout shorts and clean shirt. I can hear Ana screaming at the twins all the way up the stairs and when I get down to the kitchen, I find both of them pinned to the wall with their mother’s finger moving threateningly between each of their faces. Calliope stands behind Ana, her arms folded over her chest while she glares at her brothers. I glance up through the kitchen window to see what the fuss is all about and when I see it, my teeth grind together and I count to three so I don’t start shouting right along with my wife. 

They’ve taken a sheet and painted, ‘CALLIOPE GREY HAD TO RETAKE THE SATs BECAUSE HER FIRST SCORE WASN’T HIGH ENOUGH TO GET HER INTO HARVARD,’ on it in bold, black letters. It’s currently draped over our car in the driveway. 

With a clenched jaw I give them both a very unamused look. Luke flinches, which means it was his idea. 

“Take it down,” I tell them, and both he and Teddy nod before hurrying out of the kitchen. 

“Lucas Elliot!” I call. He stops, meets my gaze, then sighs.

“I’m sorry, Cal.” 

She narrows her eyes. “You’re dead to me.”

“Hey,” Ana says, nudging our daughter with disapproval. Calliope turns to her, the anger gone now and only a desperate sense of pleading lingering in the gray of her eyes. 

“Do you think I’m a fraud?” 

“No!” Ana says, quickly. “You worked so hard to get here. You’ve earned it, Calli-lilly.” 

“But they’re not wrong. Oh, god… am I going to be the stupid kid in my class?” 

“Absolutely not,” I say firmly. She looks at me, and I move to her, bending down so I can stare straight into the eyes that are like mirrors to mine. “You are the most incredible young woman this university has seen in almost twenty years.” I glance at Ana, then back to Calliope. “You are a Grey. Don’t you dare forget what that means.” 

She smiles. “Okay, Daddy.” 

“Now go get ready or you’re going to be stuck unpacking this afternoon instead of out enjoying all the freshman orientation activities.” 

“Okay.” She looks at her mom. “Help me pick something to wear?” 

“Of course.” 

Calliope turns and skips up the stairs two at a time. Ana brushes her fingers over my chest, giving me an adoring look as she follows. It’s like a siren’s song, calling me to pursue her. But, instead, I turn my attention to my sons, who trapse back into the kitchen looking much too satisfied with themselves. 

“This is a big day for her,” I tell them seriously, and they each give me an equally serious look in return. 

“Dad, we’re her little brothers,” Teddy says. “If we didn’t make every single moment of her life just a little bit miserable, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs.” 

I shake my head. “That’s not how my kids love each other. My kids are an impenetrable force of solidarity. Unless you’re telling me that’s changed and I should actually be up there using her moment of weakness to find out who took my Lamborghini out last month?” 

Luke elbows Teddy harshly in the ribs and he grunts before he speaks up. “You know, I think we should go tell Callie how proud we are that she got into Harvard. It’s really an accomplishment when you think about it.” 

“Yeah, she worked so hard,” Luke agrees. 

I roll my eyes and walk over to the counter where my wallet and keys are laying, pull out a hundred dollar bill, and hand it over to Teddy. “Why don’t you guys go into town and get breakfast for everyone, huh? Make yourselves useful.” 

“Can I keep the change?” Teddy asks. 

“Yeah. But I swear to god, if you come back here with McDonalds on your sister’s first day at Harvard, I’m going to knock you upside the head so hard that Calliope’s first SAT score will be a fantasy for you.” 

“Deal,” Luke says, snatching the cash out of his brother’s hand and bolting for the door. Teddy calls after him and disappears. I cringe as I watch them fighting with each other inches away from the SUV… so close to the perfect black paint. 

Once the boys pull out of the driveway, I head upstairs to peek in on Calliope. She’s switching between two different blouses, holding each of them up against her and looking to Ana and Jade, who is watching through the screen of Ana’s phone, for approval. I pause, wondering if I’ll hear Sawyer’s commentary echoing in the background or if he’s buried in the lab at GEH. Once Welch retired, Luke was his chosen candidate for the head R&D spot. He’s not just good, he’s intuitive and daring. Now my Thursday night drinks with Ros are little more than bragging sessions about all the success GEH is having without me. 

When that happens, I always make sure to pay the check. You know… with the Endurance money she still has to pay me every quarter.

Ana turns to me and raises an eyebrow, but I just wink back at her and leave the fashion decisions to the girls. 

It’s not an area where my opinions matter or are even welcomed anyway.

I make my way across the hall, into Ana’s old room, and pull out my phone. My dad told me he wanted updates of every single thing that happened the moment Calliope touched down in Cambridge, but apparently having a grandchild attending his alma mater isn’t important enough to drag him away from his meetings because when I call his office, I get his secretary. 

“I’m sorry, sir. President Grey is currently in a meeting with the ambassador from Montenegro. He won’t be available for several hours.” 

“Can you pass me onto his press secretary?”

“Sure. One moment, please.” 

I roll my eyes when I’m put on hold and classical music begins to play. I’d never thought about the hold music that would play at the White House before my father was elected two years ago. Now, every time I hear it, it sounds ridiculous. 

“This is Katherine Grey,” Kate answers in a rush. 

“This is your brother-in-law.” 

“Hi, Chrisitan. I’m just about to step into a press conference, is this an emergency?”

“Yes, I’m afraid it is.” 

“Oh god, what’s wrong?” 

“My baby girl is going to college today and I don’t know how I’m supposed to just… leave her here.” 

“Awhhhh.” She draws the sound out for several long seconds. “You’re going to be fine. Just remember how it felt when your parents dropped you off at Harvard.” 

“I do remember how it felt. I didn’t want to be here and I practically begged them to take me back home. Why does she want to leave me, Kate?” 

Kate laughs. “Oh, she’ll come back. She’s stubborn and independent like her mom, but she adores you. No way she stays away for long.” 

“Oh no, I’ll make sure of that.”

“Of course you will. I’ve really gotta go, so if you need someone to coddle you more, you’re going to have to have to call Elliot. He’s golfing with the Senator from Maine this afternoon though, so he might ignore you. Just saying.” 

“Well, if I were him and I was golfing, I’d probably be too embarrassed to answer my phone too. Kennedy beat him last time we played.” 

“Kennedy is on her high school’s golf team. They were the top ranked team in the nation last year.”

“And it’s clear she had a teacher who wasn’t her father.”

Goodbye, Christian,” Kate says, laughter ringing behind each word. 

“Bye, Kate. Love you” 

“Love you too.” She hangs up and I briefly consider calling my mother, but I can see the car pull into the driveway, so I let the girls know there’s breakfast waiting for them, then make my way downstairs. 

The boys come in carrying a single box and a cardboard drink holder filled with coffees. When I lift the lid of the container and see that all they’ve brought back is an assortment of pastries, I give them a very unimpressed look. 

“You said not McDonalds,” Teddy argues. I take a breath, ready to let him have it, but Ana comes down the stairs and looks into the box like she’s looking at a chest full of treasure. 

“Oh my god, I love this place,” she says, reaching in eagerly and taking out a pain au chocolat. When her teeth break through the crusty exterior, she lets out a long moan that makes my cock twitch, then looks down at our son. “Amazing. Thank-you, sweetheart.” 

She leans over and kisses Teddy on top of his head. He gives me a sly smile knowing that if Ana’s happy, I have no choice but to let it go. 

Point to you, kid.

Calliope is too nervous to eat, so after Ana, Luke, and Teddy finish their pastries and I’ve helped my daughter triple check that she hasn’t forgotten anything, the girls pile into the car while the boys help me connect the tow-trailer filled with boxes we’re going to have to load into Calliope’s dorm to the back of the SUV.

It’s frustrating getting onto campus because the roads are too narrow and overly packed and I’m towing an extra six feet behind me. The secret service, who took over for Taylor once my father was elected, are usually very good at staying invisible and out of our way. Today, they’re just another black car clogging up the fucking road. 

They’re the reason you don’t have to hire another Sawyer. They’re the reason you don’t have to hire another Sawyer. They’re the reason you don’t have to hire another Sawyer… 

When we finally make it to the unloading area near the dorms, I feel as though I’ve just driven my family straight through a battlefield. Each and every one of my nerves is frayed, which makes the prospect of saying goodbye to my daughter in a few minutes a little daunting. 

“Alright, boys,” I say, stepping out of the car and moving to the trailer. “It’s a long trek to Grays so let’s do this in one trip, okay?” 

“Make the goons carry it,” Teddy complains, glancing at the wall of suits forming behind us. Just like Ana, he’s not a fan of his 24-hour security detail. But I can’t let these guys go just because my family finally feels safe, the way I did with Woods, Harper, Smith, and Wyatt. 

“They can’t do their jobs if their hands are full,” I remind him. “So load up.”

“Bet I can carry more than you,” Luke tells his brother. Teddy gives him a look like he’s offended by the very notion and begins to pile his arms with boxes. Two more, in fact, than Luke carries. When Teddy walks away, teetering slightly as he balances the precarious pile in his hands, and makes his way blindly towards Grays Hall, Luke looks back at me and grins. “Sucker.” 

I laugh, then throw an extra box on his pile and start gathering things to carry for myself. Ana comes up next to me and takes a box into her hands. 

“What are you doing?” I ask, though it’s more of an accusation.

“I’m not helpless, Christian.” 

“We’ve got it under control.” I shake my head and move to take the box out of Ana’s hands, but Calliope steps up next to me and puts her hands on her hips. 

“Are you implying that she’s somehow too delicate to carry a 10lb box? Because that’s extraordinarily misogynistic, Daddy.” 

Right. She’s in college now.

“Fine.” I reach into the trailer and pick up one of the smaller boxes and dump it in Calliope’s arms. “After you, Princess.” 

She makes a face but turns down the path the same way her brothers went. Ana smiles, then we turn and take a walk we haven’t taken together since we were nineteen. 

Grays Hall is exactly as I remember it. The lacquer on the banister of the staircase has exactly the same sheen. The 4th step up still makes the same unique creaking sound. I’ve thought about this place more times than I could ever count. In a way, it represents the true genesis of my life. I’d like to take a moment to pause and really breathe it all in, but when Ana skips a few steps ahead of me, and I catch sight of her ass wrapped in those tight little jeans of hers… I’m suddenly no longer interested in taking trips down memory lane. 

If only my hands weren’t otherwise occupied…

We make our way up the 2nd landing and wind through the other students to the middle of the hallway. Calliope has to dig her keys out of the orientation packet we got yesterday. Once she finds them, she pauses for a moment to look at the door in front of her and takes a deep breath. 

“Come on, Callie. Your shit’s heavy,” Teddy complains. Calliope rounds on him. 

“I am at Harvard University and I am having a moment.” 

“Shut up, Teddy,” I tell him. He grumbles and shifts the boxes in his hands. 

Calliope slides the key into the lock and opens the door, but before she can take a step forward, both Teddy and Luke push past her and into the room. 

“Theodore Raymond and Lucas Elliot, I swear to God…” Ana says, threateningly. Calliope rolls her eyes, then looks at me. 

“You okay?” I check.

“Are you kidding? In an hour, they’re going to be on a plane back to Seattle and I’m not going to have to see them again until Thanksgiving.” 

“You’ll come home before Thanksgiving, Calliope.” My voice drops, a clear warning cutting through each word. “Even if I have to fly back here and drag you home myself.” 

“And he will,” Ana says. She raises her eyebrows at her. “Believe me.” 

Calliope laughs and moves forward to walk into her new room with her mother. I smirk at the back of their heads, adjust my grip on the boxes in my arms, and follow after them. 

The room is almost identical to the one Ana and Kate shared our freshman year. Two twin sized beds sit parallel to one another on opposite sides of the room. Identical wardrobes and desks are situated haphazardly around them. Though the room is empty, it’s clear that Calliope’s roommate has already arrived. Exactly half of the room has been decorated, almost as though there was a line drawn down the middle.

“Mom, look!” Calliope shrieks, discarding her box onto the empty bed and running to the window. “We have a view of the yard!” 

“Gorgeous,” Ana agrees. “Oh, just wait for the fall to come. All the leaves change colors and it makes everything look so magical. You’re going to absolutely love it here, Calliope.” 

Callie bites her lip, trying and failing to hold back her excited smile. 

“Damn,” Luke interrupts. “Cal, your roommate’s a dime.” 

He’s leaning over the other girl’s desk, staring at a picture tacked to a bulletin board. 

“Hold on there, Luke,” Teddy says. “I think that’s… I think that’s drool on your chin.” 

Calliope rounds on me. “Dad!” 

“Boys, go wait out in the car,” I tell them firmly. “We’ll be out in a few minutes.” 

“You’re not supposed to go to Dad first,” Luke spits at his sister, offended. Calliope crosses her arms over her chest, looking almost exactly like her mother.

“Fight it in court.” 

“I’ll fight you right here.” Luke starts for his sister, but I grab him by the collar and yank him back. 

“I said, go wait in the car. Now.” 

“Fine,” Teddy says. “See you later, Calliope. Make good choices, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” 

Calliope’s brow furrows. “That’s contradictory advice. You never make good choices.” 

“Yeah, well, you know what I mean.” He glances at me and Ana, then leans forward and gives her a hug so quick you would think he was trying to not be seen. “See you at Mom’s birthday.” 

He squeezes out the door and Luke pulls out of my grip so he can move to his sister. His temper, as hot and quick as mine, has fizzled out under the much more earnest look he gives her. “Seriously, don’t make me have to come up here and kick some guy’s ass, okay?” 

“I won’t,” Calliope laughs. 

“No, she won’t.” I add. They both look at me, grinning, then hug each other goodbye. 

“See you later, goober,” Calliope says. 

“Yeah, you too, Miss Priss.” 

He turns to leave, but there’s a blonde haired girl standing in the doorway looking at us sheepishly. “Sorry, I uh…” 

“Summer?” Calliope asks. 

She nods. “Yeah, are you Call.. uh…Cali-ohp?”

“Calliope, but you can just call me Callie,” she corrects her. 

“Oh, thank god. Hey, Callie.” 

“Hey, yourself,” Luke says. He wags his eyebrows at Callie’s roommate. She looks as though she’s trying not to laugh. 

“What are you? Fourteen?” 

“Sixteen,” he corrects her. “Which is coincidentally a number just over twice as high as the number of zeros on the end of my trust fund, if you get my drift.” 

“Luke, Uncle Sawyer gave me a can of pepper spray and I’m about fifteen seconds away from using it on you.”

“No need, Cal. It’s hot enough in here already.” 

“Oh my god, GET OUT!” Calliope picks up a pillow from the pile of things we’ve carried in and hurls it across the room at him. Luke dodges it easily, then he holds up his hand like he’s talking on the phone.. 

“Callie can give you my number. Call me, baby.” 

“Lucas…” I warn him. He grins and disappears into the hallway. 

“I’m sorry about that,” Calliope tells her roommate. “Little brothers, you know…” 

“I don’t, but I’ll trust you.” They each laugh awkwardly, then Callie turns to us. 

“Uh… these are my parents. My dad, Christian Grey. And my mom, Ana..”

Summer’s face goes pale and she raises a hand to cover her mouth in shock. “Oh my god, you’re Anastasia Grey.” 

“Yes,” Ana says gracefully. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Summer.” 

“Meet me? Oh my god, I can’t believe… I… and you’re… Oh my god, you have no idea how much I love you. Your Love and War series seriously raised my expectations of men so high that I’ll never find love.” 

Actually, that was me, but go on…

“Oh, I hope not,” Ana says. “But, thank you.”

“Would you, I mean, if it’s not super rude of me to ask… would you sign your book for me? I have one here. I had to make sure I had a copy with me.” 

“Sure,” Ana says. Summer moves to her bookshelf and Calliope gives me a slanted look, clearly not pleased that she seems to be paired with her mother’s one woman fan club. She’s not a fan of Ana’s War and Love series, because it’s both erotic and based so closely on our relationship that the male lead’s name is Tristan. Calliope has said over and over again that she has no interest in reading about her parent’s sex life, but from the moment Ana got the deal to turn her novels into a movie franchise, she hasn’t been able to avoid it.

I chuckle back at her and wrap my hands around her shoulder. Ana hands the book back to Summer, then turns to face Calliope. 

“I guess we’ve gotta let you get to it.” 

“Already?” Calliope asks sadly. Ana nods, then opens her arms. Calliope seemingly vanishes from my side, she moves to her mother so quickly. By the time Ana gets her arms around her, they’re both in tears. 

“Call me every single day, okay?” Ana makes her promise. Calliope nods. 

“I can come home whenever I want, right? Even if it’s not a long weekend?” 

Whenever you want.”

Calliope takes a deep breath and nods, then hugs her mother again. “I’m going to miss you so much, Mommy.” 

“I know, baby. Me too. But we’ll be here for homecoming weekend with Uncle Elliot and Aunt Kate, and Daddy and I are going to come for the Yale game.” 


It takes a good amount of time, but Ana finally releases her, and Calliope turns to me. 

“This is your last chance, kid. You sure you don’t want to just stay home and live off of me forever?” 

She laughs. “As enticing as that sounds, I think I’ve gotta try to make it my own way. My dad sort of set this impossibly high standard and created perpetual motion at 24 so… you understand.” 

I nod, wanting to give her the same kind of lighthearted response she’s given me. But suddenly, my throat is a little tight. So, to buy myself a few seconds, I reach into my pocket, take out my wallet, and remove a brand new American Express card. 

“This is for you,” I tell her. “And as long as your grades stay above a B average, you can use it to your heart’s content.” 

“Really?” Calliope asks, her face lighting up like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center I used to take her ice skating under when she was small. 

“Really. And if you get into trouble or if you need anything, anything at all, just call me. I can be here in seven hours, okay?” 


“Come here, Princess.” She falls into me and I wrap her up in a hug so tight, I lift her several inches off the ground. The thought crosses my mind that I could bolt. I could toss her over my shoulder and take her back to the car, drag her back to Seattle, and lock her in her room. I own the plane, no one would even know… But instead, I set her down and kiss the top of her head. “I love you, Calliope.” 

“I love you too, Daddy.” 

With a sad smile, I turn from her and immediately reach for Ana. Her hand in mine is the only thing that keeps me together as we leave our daughter’s room. Once we’ve closed the door behind us, though, Ana breaks. 

“Christian!” she sobs, pushing her face into my chest. “How did this happen? She was just a baby a few years ago, wasn’t she?” 

“A few seconds ago.” 

“I’m not ready for this. How am I supposed to live a day without her? Who am I going to hang out with?” 

I snort. “Sawyer, probably.” 

That gets to her. She giggles into my shirt, then pulls away to look up at me. Her eyes still glisten with tears. “What are we going to do when the boys leave for school?” 

“Don’t be ridiculous, Luke isn’t going to get into college.” 

She slaps me across the arm and I lean down to kiss her softly on the lips. “Once the kids are gone, you and I will have each other. Forever.” 

“Mmm, that does sound absolutely perfect.” 

“Good, hold on to that. Because this,” I gesture back to Callie’s room. “This hurts like a motherfucker.” 

She laughs in agreement, then takes me by the hand and tries to drag me down the hall. I stop her.

“Hold on.” With purpose, I step to the room directly across the hall from Calliope’s and knock sharply on the door. Fifteen seconds later, a tiny redheaded girl in jean shorts and a Harvard t-shirt appears in the doorway.

“Yes?” she asks. I glance down at her and breathe a sigh of relief. 

“Nothing, I’m sorry to bother you.” She gives me a confused look and closes the door. When I turn to Ana, she’s got her hands on her hips and one eyebrow raised. 

I grin and take her hand so I can lead her down the hallway to where we’ll join our sons. “I just had to check.” 

Chapter 52

“Ho’d dis, Mommy.” Calliope holds out a plastic block to me, part of a set she’s trying to fit through the right shaped holes on the toy in front of her. I take it and stare at her face, which is screwed up in concentration as she decides which slot the plastic star in her other hand will go through. “Here?”

She points at an opening and looks at me for approval. I give her an encouraging smile.

“There’s only one way to find out.”

She looks at the star she’s holding one last time, then places it against the hole. The five points slip through easily, and she turns wide eyes back on me.

“You did it!” I celebrate along with her, scooping her into my arms. I wrap her up and kiss every inch of her face while I tell her how proud I am over and over again. Her laughter chimes gloriously in my ears. Her smell fills every breath I take, and it starts an uncontrollable chain reaction. At first, it’s almost cleansing… But it changes.  It starts with an unexpected wash of unease that quickly and irrationally unravels into paranoia, then fear, then…

“Christian!” My hands lock down as Calliope moves to pick up another toy, and she whines while she tries to struggle out of my grip. I pull her against me and scurry to my feet, turning panicked eyes on the windows laying dark and dormant behind the curtains of the hotel room. The hairs on the back on my neck rise and an eerie, invasive feeling overcomes me, like I’m being watched. Maybe there are cameras in the room. Maybe they’re waiting for us to leave, or tracking the movements of our security team.

“Ana?” I spin towards Christian’s voice just as he steps into the room, and the moment his eyes fall on me, his face melts with concern. “Come here.”

I don’t move, so he takes the few steps it takes to close the distance between us and wraps both me and Calliope in his arms. She starts to struggle again, but my hands stay firm.


“Ana, give her to me.”


“Ana…” He reaches up and grasps my face, cupping my chin so he can tilt my head up and force my eyes to his. He holds my gaze until I start to breathe again, and my grip relaxes. Calliope stops squirming. He slides his hands against her sides and pulls her out of my arms, resting her on his hip. I start to protest, but his lips cut me off before I’ve even formed the first word.

It calms me.

“What happened?” he asks, pulling away from the kiss.

“Nothing. I just…” I pause, pressing my lips together and shaking my head as I struggle with just how ridiculous I’m being. “I just smelled her.”

His eyes narrow. “Okay… I don’t really know what I can do about that…”

My shoulders deflate a little and I bury my face into him to try and hide my growing anguish. “I don’t think I can leave her.”

I feel him take a deep breath, and release it as though he’s been waiting for this to come all day. Honestly, he’s probably been waiting for it since we left Seattle. “You don’t have to.” I shoot a pointed look back at him, but he maintains every ounce of sincerity. “You don’t have to.”

“Christian, this is the biggest night of your life. I’m not missing it.”

“This isn’t the biggest night of my life.” He tilts my chin up again, refusing to let me hide from him. “Not by far.”

Somehow, even with the phantom of a tremble still haunting my lip, I manage to smile. The real kind that makes the cold trepidation in his eyes warm a little. I stare back into the depths of those dark gray irises and go through the breathing exercises Flynn gave me for situations just like these.

“That’s better,” Christian whispers when he feels me relax. He sweeps a hand over my cheek, then turns for the door. “Mackensie!”

“Yes, sir?” Our nanny pops her head through the open door and Christian holds Calliope out for her.

“Will you give her a bath and put her to bed, please?”

“Sure thing.” She takes my daughter and turns her toward me. “Say good night to Mommy.”

“Nigh-nigh, Mommy.” I smile again and lean in to kiss her on the cheeks, but when Mackensie turns and leaves the room, the uncomfortably familiar feeling of dread fills the void she leaves behind. Automatically, I reach down and cradle my stomach protectively. Christian pulls my hand away and draws my eyes to his again.

“Have I told you how absolutely beautiful you look tonight?”

“Not yet.” My eyes move down to my dress. It’s a deep emerald green, with a long flowing skirt that’s cinched at my waist, a plunging neckline, and long sleeves that hide the barely healed scar on my shoulder. “Kate bought the dress…”

“I’ll have to remember to thank her. You are absolutely breathtaking, Anastasia.” He smiles and pulls a flat box from the inside of his tuxedo jacket and holds it out for me. “This is for you.”

I turn nervous eyes down to the hinged lid he pulls back, and feel my breath catch when I see the necklace laid on the black velvet inside. Three thick rows of diamonds make up the chain, and there are tendrils of increasingly large diamonds and emeralds cascading delicately towards the center, which would fall between my cleavage. It’s gorgeous, and so, so over-the-top.

“H-how much did this cost?” I breathe. 

Christian frowns. “Don’t worry about it…”

I swallow thickly, unable to move. I know if I reach for it, my fingers will tremble, and Christian will notice. I know if I look at him, he’ll see the sudden alarm in my eyes. So I just stand there and stare at it, and that gives me away just as much as the other stuff would.


“I-I—” I tuck my lip beneath my teeth, and he reaches out to tilt my face up to his. His eyes meet mine, immediately searching.

“Red,” he mutters when he doesn’t find the answers himself. I press my lips together, and draw in a long, uneasy breath.

This is Flynn.

After I lost it that first night back home, Christian went with me to go see Flynn the next morning. Last time, after Lincoln, he was looking for answers. He wanted Flynn to tell him how he could fix me so we could get back to normal. This time, the only thing he’s cared about is keeping me from shutting him out again. From hiding from him. And so now we have a safeword. Any time Christian says it, I have to tell him what I’m thinking. I’m not allowed to lie, and I’m not allowed to hide the ugliness. And has to make that safe for me. Whatever confession I have to give, he has to respond with love.

It’s actually managed to build a very deep sense of trust between us. So, in the spirit of that, I take a deep breath and continue. 

“Luke told me awhile ago that I had been targeted before because of my wedding ring. It’s just… there are going to be photographers at this event tonight, and I don’t think I want to be seen in…” 

I let the words trail off because I know he’ll fill in the blanks himself. He does, and I wait for pain or rejection to color the heart-stoppingly beautiful features of his face, but it doesn’t come. He nods, closes the lid to the jewelry box, and reaches down to take my hand. 

I don’t know if I’m waiting for his fingers to shake with suppressed irritation, or tighten in a show of pain, but I definitely don’t expect it when he slips off my wedding ring and tucks it into his palm. He lifts my bare finger to his lips, and gently kisses the tattoo there. Then he moves to the room safe, locks the jewelry inside, and turns to reach for me. 

“Come, love.”

He leads me into the main room where Taylor is gathered with Evan, Smith, Wyatt, and Harper. All five of them look up as we enter the room.

“Taylor, would you please go over the plan for tonight with Anastasia?”

He nods. “Smith, Wyatt, and Harper will remain here with Calliope and Mackensie. All three of them will have a communication line with me.” He reaches up and taps his ear to draw attention to the earpiece. “We have body doubles for both you and Mr. Grey, and I will be taking them through the hotel to the limo waiting out front, while the two of you are escorted to the car we have waiting for you out back. When you arrive, you’ll be taken through a private entrance we’ve arranged with the venue, and they’ll have you seated first. You will not be exposed to the public at all.”

I take a deep breath, actually feeling a little better now that I can visualize it. “Okay.”

Taylor gives me an affectionate smile, then steps to the side so I can start for the doors to our suite. I don’t move though, and Christian doesn’t push me.

“Are you ready?” he asks instead. Clenching my teeth in apprehension, I reach over for his hand and nod. He pulls me from the room, and the moment we’re through the door, all of my senses sing to life. I can hear my heart pounding in my ears, as my pulse starts to race. It’s like in a vacuum. Sound changes, the walls around me feel like they’re closing in. I have to focus to control my breathing. 

When the elevator dings, I throw myself protectively in front of Christian. He simply wraps his arms around me and carries us both inside.

My thoughts move to Calliope as we descend to the ground floor. I want to think through every single way someone could try to get to her, and then double check with Taylor that he’s made preparations for it. Maybe even ask if he’s thought of anything I haven’t. But that isn’t healthy, so instead I look at the numbers and repeat each one in my head to keep my thoughts busy.

“Did you see the edits Stevens sent for Phoenix?” Christian asks, while Taylor and Evan murmur quietly to one another behind us.

I nod. “I have more to send back. I was planning on doing that tomorrow morning before we leave.”

“Are you happy with his performance so far?”

I press my lips together. Obviously, I haven’t been in any shape to go back to work, and since I’d already sent Jacki to New York to take over the newly rebranded Grey Library, Christian asked me to pick someone to step in while I was out. I chose Stevens, and when he asked the obvious follow-up in the meeting where Christian offered him the job, he’d told him I was taking extended maternity leave.

A few days after that, a card came to our house from my employees, congratulating me for our upcoming bundle of joy. Christian was standing right next to me when I opened it, but he didn’t say anything. He’s gone to every one of my doctor’s appointments, held my hand, and listened to the plan Dr. Baker and I have put together in complete silence. He hasn’t mentioned termination again, but he also doesn’t really talk about my pregnancy at all. Grace thinks that means he’s coming around, but I’m not sure. If he’s accepted it, he hasn’t said it, and the strange cold war surrounding this one thing that could be so good and healing for us right now, is instead incredibly lonely.

But I’m too much of a coward to say anything because I don’t want to fight with him again and drive him back to that– No. It’s fine. We’re fine.

I nod and squeeze his hand as the elevator doors roll back and our security leads the way into the brightly lit corridor on the other side. There’s a man and woman standing there, dressed identically to Christian and I.

“Your doubles for this evening, Mr. Grey,” Taylor says, gesturing to each of them. Christian reaches out a hand for the man, but I miss the introduction because I’m too focused on the handshake. Christian’s hands are much larger than this man’s, and his shoulders are broader. And my hair is a shade darker than the woman next to him. She might be a little taller than me too…

Will anyone else pick up on those differences?

Christian turns another concerned look on me when I don’t respond to something the woman says directly to me, so I shake away my daze and work my face into a smile. “Thank you so much for being here tonight,” I tell her. She responds in a thick, Swedish accent.

“It’s my pleasure, Mrs. Grey.”

“Shall we?” Taylor asks, gesturing for our doubles to start towards the lobby. They do, and when both Taylor and Woods fall in around them, I feel a shock of panic.

“Wait, I thought Evan was going to take us to the car!” I hiss, while the flashes from the paparazzi waiting outside the main entrance reflect like Christmas lights off the wall in front of us.

“No, I am,” a voice says behind us. I spin so fast I nearly disorient myself, and the grin Luke gives me as Christian reaches out to steady me has me instantly irritated. That irritation vanishes though when his jacket shifts, and I see the gun strapped to his chest.

He doesn’t even work for us anymore.

“Ready?” he asks, turning his gaze up to Christian. He nods and Luke turns to a door that tells us it is for staff only, and ushers us inside. Jade is there waiting, dressed in a gown the exact same shade of cherry as her lips. She squeals excitedly when she sees me and thrusts her arms around me.

“Oh my god, isn’t this place magical? I’ve never left the US before, did Luke tell you that?” Her joy is so innocent and resounding that I can’t help but be swayed by it. Even if it’s only a little, her smile brings me a sense of levity that is welcoming. When I glance at Luke, I can tell he notices the difference. And the smile I get in return tells me that I’m getting a glimpse of why he’s fallen so in love with her.

Christian takes my arm and leads me through the narrow hallways to the kitchen, then through a back-storage area to a loading dock that can’t be seen from the street. There’s a car there waiting for us, but we have to wait for Luke to clear the alley before we can step outside. It isn’t the limo our decoys left in. This car is much less conspicuous. The windows are tinted so darkly that I don’t know if you’d be able to see inside even if you pressed your face directly against the glass, and the door is so heavy when Luke pulls it back for us, that I’m sure it’s reinforced with bulletproof armor.

“You nervous, big shot?” Luke asks as Christian steps aside to let me crawl into the back seat. I catch his frown as I move past him.

“Like you wouldn’t believe.”

“Why? You know you’re going to win, right? You created perpetual motion. You’re literally going to be considered one of the fathers of modern science.”

“I know.” His response is confident, but uninterested, and Luke gives him a strange look as he climbs in after us.

While we drive through the autumn drenched streets of Stockholm, Jade points through the windows and beams with excitement back at Luke each and every time she spots something new. He stares back at her, glowing. Absolutely soaking in every ounce of her radiance.

Christian looks at me as though he’s worried I’ll start to cry.

“I’m trying,” I whisper to him, grateful Luke is currently lost in his own little world.

“I know.” His fingers untangle from mine so that he can brush them through my hair and rest gently against the side of my head. My eyes shift to his and the look of understanding and love that pours over me is like catching the very end of a rope right before you know you’re about to fall. I swallow and inch closer to him, as though immersing myself in his aura will ward off the trepidation. He leans in and presses his lips to my ear. “I don’t have any expectations, Anastasia. I’m just going to love you.”

I breathe him in as he pulls back and stares into the depths of his eyes, looking for any hint of insincerity. There’s only devotion. I haven’t seen any sign that he may be losing patience with my constant breakdowns or increasing worry that I may be slipping too far, the way that it was last time. He hasn’t buried himself in work, trying to come up with his next powerplay that will once again elevate him beyond the reach of his enemies. 

In fact, he’s barely worked at all.

All GEH business is currently being conducted out of my house. Ros shows up at my door every day at the same time that Flynn does, and while I have my session with him on the sofa in the living room, Ros disappears into Christian’s office. They work until my time with Flynn is done, and the moment he leaves, so does Ros, and Christian turns his full attention back to Calliope and me.

“I love you too,” I whisper through the darkness between us. He smiles, presses his lips to mine, and kisses me with all the love I need to feel to remember I’ve got him back for good.

“Wait, where are we going?” Jade asks when the car suddenly turns down a side street and the long line of limousines filling the road leading up to the venue disappears behind us. Luke shoots a cocky look down at her.

“We’re VIPs, baby.” She rolls her eyes and shakes her head, then plops back into the seat and crosses her arms over her chest with disappointment. The back sides of the tightly packed buildings that make up the alley we turn down to get to the back entrance are much less scenic than the public street.

The car stops outside an unassuming brick wall set with an industrial looking door. There’s a woman waiting there in an impeccable black gown. She smiles as Luke pulls back the door and Christian steps out, eagerly reaching out a hand for him.

“Welcome, Mr. Grey. I’m Eva Karlsson, and on behalf of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, let me just tell you how happy we are that you were able to attend tonight.”

“The honor is mine,” he replies as he shakes her hand. She beams and turns to me, but before her hand can wrap around mine, Luke starts impatiently pushing us towards the door.

“Okay, inside, inside, inside…” he repeats to us over and over again. Eva looks shocked and indignant as he practically shoves me past her, but Christian moves so quickly in response to his orders that she doesn’t have time to argue. In fact, Luke keeps his urgent pace as he leads us through the maze of hallways, so she doesn’t even really get the opportunity to offer Christian the welcome speech she has prepared for him before we emerge in the ballroom where the ceremony will take place this evening.

The room is enormous, filled with dozens of round tables that are set with fine china and glittering centerpieces. Though a few people have already begun trickling in from the ruckus that’s going on behind the doors on the other side of the room, it’s mostly empty, and as we’re led to our table near the stage, I glance at the entrances all around us. Taylor stands at one and Woods is already posted at the other. Both of them are checking tickets for every person who enters.

Their plan seems to have gone off without a hitch, and as I’m settled down into a seat between Christian and Luke, I start to breathe easy again.

Until I start thinking about Calliope…

“Christian!” Grace calls, hurrying across the ballroom with open arms for her son. He turns to go to her, so it’s Luke who sees the shift in me. While the rest of our family starts towards us, he reaches up to touch his earpiece.

“Harper, you there? You got eyes on the baby? Go to her.” He reaches up and peels the clear rubber out of his ear and hands it to me. I scrunch my brow together as I take it, but when I hear the small, sleepy sounds Calliope makes on the other end, I shoot him a grateful look.

“Hey, beautiful,” Kate says, coming around the table to give me a hug. “How are you?”

“I’m alright.”

She glances over at Luke, who shrugs, and after taking a long breath, she leans down to kiss me on the cheek. “I’ll come take Christian’s chair when they call him up there, okay?”

If they call him up there,” Elliot argues. “Let’s not forget there are three other people nominated, and one of them discovered a new wavelength frequency, so let’s not count our chickens, okay?”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Elliot.” Christian rolls his eyes, and Elliot chuckles before sliding into a seat next to Kate. He accepts hugs and congratulations from my father and Kim next, who both come around the table to me once they’ve passed my husband off to Mia. Ros comes next, then Welch and a few other high-ranking GEH engineers. And just as everyone starts to settle down, he turns and comes face to face with his father.

They stand there, staring at each other for a moment. Then slowly, Carrick’s face breaks into a glowing smile. “I am so fucking proud of you, son,” he says, and Christian’s lips go tight.

“Thanks, Dad.” They hug, and it lasts much longer than I’ve ever seen them embrace before. I think I see Carrick whisper something into Christian’s ear, and he nods before he pulls back and claps his father tightly on the shoulder. Grace reaches a shaky hand for her husband as he comes to sit next to her, and I feel a wave of elation when I see the profound sense of satisfaction that shines back at me behind Christian’s eyes. He takes a seat and reaches for my hands, kissing the back of my fingers before entwining our fingers and tucking them both into his lap.

Dinner is served and it gives us the chance to forget about the stakes of tonight and enjoy each other’s company. We’re served a special kind of fermented fish as an appetizer that we’re told is a Scandinavian delicacy. I have to have it moved as far away from me as possible, because the smell immediately makes me want to vomit, but that just seems to provoke Luke and Elliot. No one else will touch it, so they start piling it on their plates.

“First to puke loses,” Elliot says, glancing at my best friend. Luke raises an eyebrow.

“What does the winner get?”

“To be Master of the Universe, obviously.”

“My million-dollar prize,” Christian offers, and Elliot’s face breaks into a huge grin.

“Oh, fuck yeah.” He takes the last scoop of fish and gives Luke a taunting smile. “You ready?”

Luke nods and picks up his fork. Mia gives them a count down and once she says, “go!” they both start shoveling food into their mouths. Elliot immediately starts to gag. Luke’s like a machine.

“Oh my god, it’s so bad,” Elliot groans, struggling with everything he has not to lose what he’s managed to get down. His face is beat red, he keeps involuntarily cringing… he looks over at Luke like he’s suddenly concerned he might not be human. “What the hell, dude?”

Luke swallows the very last bite and tosses his fork on his plate. “I have to live off Jade’s cooking now, nothing phases me anymore.”

“Hey!” She slaps him across the chest and he laughs, pulling her into him and smothering her with kisses. 

“Oh my god, you smell like that disgusting fish!” she says. The indignant look she tries to give him through the smile she can’t hold back makes me giggle, and Christian squeezes my hand under the table.

“More champagne?” the waiter checks as he passes by.

“Water for her, please,” Christian says, nodding to me, and Grace winks at me from across the table. I turn to look at him, for any sign of what he’s thinking, but the lights dim, and the first speaker takes the stage.

The speeches are endless. Presenters, nominees, past winners, foundation members… the ceremony drags on for hours. I spend the beginning listening to Mackensie read to Calliope, and then her soft breathing as she falls asleep. But once Luke takes his earpiece back, I lean into Christian and fight the jet lag and pregnancy hormones that make me want to sleep. I’m just about to lose that battle, when they finally call Christian’s category.

I hold my breath as they talk about all the amazing progress that has been made in the field of physics this year, and my heart starts to pound in my chest when they bring up Endurance.

“And so without further ado, please help me welcome this year’s recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics, Mr. Christian Grey.”

The room erupts in deafening applause and somehow, Kate’s shriek of exaltation still manages to ring around the room. I turn to Christian to find him already looking at me, a look of determination set on his face that doesn’t match the taste of victory in the air. He holds tight to my hand as he gets out of his seat, dragging me with him, then pulls me into a deep kiss that is entirely inappropriate for the venue. I can hear the vague whoops and hollers echoing through the still ringing applause, but he doesn’t let me go until Elliot reaches out and physically grabs onto him.


He pulls back and the hard lines I’d seen in his face right after they called his names have smoothed out into complete serenity. “I love you,” he says.

“I love you too.”

The carefree smile that touches his lips as he squeezes my hand and steps away from me makes my heart skip. I stay on my feet, following him with my gaze as he makes his way onto the stage. True to her word, Kate slips into Christian’s empty seat, and pulls me down with her just as he begins to speak.

“Good evening,” he begins. “And thank you to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for this incredible honor. It’s one I humbly have to share with my entire team. Frederick Welch, my head engineer. I had an idea, and his brilliance is what made it a reality. The outstanding team of scientists who led this discovery with noble hearts and unrelenting belief. The weight of their contributions is so significant, that it seems inadequate for me to be the one standing before you tonight. My contribution was mostly paying for it, and even that was made possible through the tireless efforts of my COO and dearest friend, Rosaline Bailey. GEH will become Endurance, but I am not Endurance. This team is Endurance. And because of the excellence this team represents, and the work I know that they will continue despite their already resounding success, I have found peace in the decision I’ve made about the future of the technology and the company that controls it.”

There’s a curious murmur around the room, and both Carrick and I exchange confused looks.

“I am resigning as CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings,” Christian says. “Effective immediately. Rosaline Bailey will step into my place and all future communications regarding the evolution of the Endurance project will come from her and the GEH team. I have no further comment.”

And that’s it.

He turns around and walks off the stage. The crowd devolves into an uproar as people try to figure out what just happened. Even me. Did he just… did he just give up GEH? I turn to Ros, and when she looks back at me, a single tear rolls down her cheek.

“Is this real?” I ask her, noting that she doesn’t look particularly shocked. When she nods, I scramble out of my seat and fight my way past Luke and through the throngs of people and camera flashes until I get to him. His hand closes around mine at the same time Woods grips onto my back and Taylor slides up on his other side. They push us through the chaos to the back entrance we came through, then lead us quickly through the hallways to the car that’s already waiting for us.

“Wait, what about everyone else?” I ask when he pulls open the door for me to get in.

“They’ll find their way back to the hotel.” I glance nervously back at the doors, but climb into the car and slide across the seat to make room for Christian. I can hardly even wait for the door to close behind him.

What the hell did you just do?!”

“What I should have done years ago, but was too selfish to do.” He takes my hands in his and looks deep into my eyes. “When I finished Endurance, the moment I succeeded, I knew that I was going to get everything I ever wanted. Those deep wants, the ones that come from all that trauma in my childhood. But when I had that realization, I didn’t feel anything. There wasn’t any profound sense of relief or life-affirming accomplishment. It felt like anything else. Like completing the state project, or signing a lucrative contract. And while everyone around me celebrated like it was the greatest day of their lives, I just wanted to get home to you. The only thing that makes me feel the way I thought Endurance would make me feel… that I thought GEH would make me feel, is you. Is looking into your eyes, tasting your lips, hearing you tell me you love me… That’s what I care about. That’s the only thing I care about. I don’t choose GEH, Anastasia. I don’t choose the hell that comes along with the ambition and ruthlessness GEH brings out of me. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I choose you. I choose Calliope.” He swallows, then slowly reaches down and places a hand over my stomach. “I choose our family.”

I think my heart may have burst.

“You mean… you—you–”

“Without GEH, I can be here for you every step of the way. I can carry you through this pregnancy. I can make this safe for all three of you. I promise you, I am going to get you through this, no matter what it takes, because… I want it too.”

“You do?”

“I do. I really, really do.”

I let out a loud, sharp sound that’s somewhere between an exalted laugh and sentimental sob, then take his face in my hands and crash my lips to his. He kisses me back, telling me over and over again how much he loves me.

“It’s not going to be like last time, Christian,” I whisper against his lips. “I’m going to do everything Dr. Baker tells me to do. I’m going to be perfect, I swear to you.”

He pulls back and gives me a pointed look. “Can I get that in writing?”

I laugh and start shaking my head, the disbelief still hanging over me like a bad feeling you can’t shake. “What does this mean for us? Is it going to go back to the way it was before Endurance? I mean, when we thought we were going to lose everything?”

He shakes his head. “No. Ros and I have agreed to a very generous severance package and… I still own the patent on, well, almost all of GEH’s technologies. Including Endurance. We’ll be collecting royalties as long as those technologies are in use.”

“So… we’re good?”

He laughs. “Our great-great-great-great grandchildren will be good.”

There’s a turbulent storm of emotion building inside of me that’s becoming harder and harder to suppress. I push my lips together to keep them from trembling, and his eyes melt with concern.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s all just hitting me. No more business trips.”

He smiles. “No more business trips.”

“No more long hours.”

“No more long hours.”

“I’ll have you. Always.”

“Always.” He scoots closer to me, and cups the sides of my face with his hands. “I told you after I finished Endurance that the only thing I wanted was to be with you. Now I will be. I’ll be a better husband. I’ll be a better father. I’ll be a better man. From this day forward, I’m giving myself to you, the way you’ve always, wholly, given yourself to me.”

The sincerity beneath his deep timber resonates in my soul in a way that brings me peace. That gives me visions of futures I’ve never seen before where we’re wrapped up in only each other, in only our children, and we’re blissfully happy about it. There aren’t dark figures lingering in the shadows. The pictures aren’t painted with a slightly ominous shade. Everything is just washed in golden light, wrapped in feelings of serenity and contentment. As I once again imagine picking up a slightly bigger Calliope and tossing her into a pile of leaves while Christian chases two little vaguely outlined children around us, my eyes well with tears.

“I can’t believe it,” I sniff, dashing the tears away. “You did it. After all this time, you really, actually did it.”

He frowns. “Did what?”

“You’ve given me the world, Christian.”

He blinks and stares back at me, a smile slowly crossing his lips as love shadows every line and curve of his face. He leans in and hovers a few precious centimeters from me, then slowly pushes his lips into mine. It’s the most meaningful kiss we’ve ever shared. So deep, so sweet, so tender… It’s the kind of kiss they write epic poems about, and it’s that kiss that leads us into our happily ever after.

The End.