I can still taste her. The entire drive into the city I stare at my phone, trying to concentrate on the notes Andrea drew up for my pitch this morning – but it’s pointless. The only thing I can think about are the still warm memories of her writhing over our bedsheets, her thighs pressed tightly against my ears, her moans filling the air around me like a symphony. I stare at the still mostly empty sidewalks of downtown Seattle passing by, trying to hide an erection like I’m in high school. I should be with her. I should be in her. Instead, I’m spending the morning of our first wedding anniversary heading into a lion’s den that, for the first time in my career, I’m not confident I’m going to come out of on top.
The tight grip of failure, loss, and humiliation seizes my gut, and I grit my teeth at the early morning sunlight reflecting off a thin line of iridescent fluid leaking down the center of the street. At least it’s nice today. The sunshine will make Ana happy, and that’s not nothing. Anything that makes her smile these days is important. Through all of this, the thing I care most about is making sure she still has everything she deserves. I may lose everything – but she won’t.
I’ll guarantee that.
“Taylor, will you call Sawyer?” I ask, glancing up at the driver’s seat.
“Yes, sir.” He presses the button on the steering wheel and says Sawyer’s name after the Bluetooth prompt.
“Good morning, Taylor,” Ana’s CPO answers, immediately.
“Morning, Luke. I’ve got Grey on the line.”
“Did Gail get the CD I made this morning to you?” I interject.
“And the note? That’s important.”
He lets out a breathy chuckle. “Yes, sir. It’s all in the car ready to go. We’re just waiting on your mother to pick up Calliope and we’ll be out the door.”
I nod to myself. “Good. There should be flowers there when you arrive, and I’ve arranged for a delivery every hour for the rest of her day.”
He hesitates for a moment, and I can hear his smile in his response. The kind that tells me he thinks I’m being ridiculous. “I’ll be prepared, sir.”
“Good. And… Luke?”
“Uh… yes, sir?”
“Just – make sure she has a good day today, okay?”
“I’ll do my best, sir.”
“Good.” I nod to Taylor and he kills the call. I glance back at the screen of my phone to read an email Ros sent, but I’m barely through the first sentence on the page before my mind drifts back to my wife and I’m dialing Ana’s assistant to make sure she has lunch with me on her calendar.
“I want a confirmation when she gets in the office. Let Andrea know.”
“Sure thing, Mr. Grey. And hey… Happy Anniversary!”
My chest somehow manages to expand with joy and pride, and constrict with pain at the same time. “Thank you, Abigail.”
My building is empty when I arrive, but the executive suite is in full pandemonium when I step off the elevator. Ros is screaming at an assistant, Olivia has the phone pressed tightly to her head with one hand and a finger in her other ear to try and block out the noise, and Andrea’s buried under a mountain of paperwork stacked so tall, I only know she’s sitting behind it because I can see the very top of her platinum-colored ponytail.
“Oh good, you finally decided to grace us with your presence,” Ros says, her ire turning on me the moment we make eye contact. I take a breath to brace myself. I’m used to sparring with Ros, but it’s been different these past few weeks. There’s resentment behind the flames in her eyes now. She tried for months to get me to pull my head out of my ass over this fusion project, to make me see what I was doing to our company… but I ignored her. Ros’ advice is invaluable. She’s smart, she knows the industry, and she’s got the instincts of a wolverine. It’s why she’s my number two. It’s why she’s the only person I’ve ever been able to trust with my business. But the anger that’s carved into every frown line, and the accusations that undercut every word she speaks out loud, tells me that trust is no longer reciprocal.
It’s not just that I destroyed my company, I’m dragging Ros down with me. And it’s starting to look like it’s not just our business relationship on the line. She looks at me like I’ve betrayed her, and I didn’t know before how much that would feel like a knife in my chest.
I take a deep breath to tamper my response to her jabs, knowing anything I have to say will only set her off. Instead, I head for reception, peer over the paper tower, and find my assistant.
“Good Morning, Mr. Grey. Would you like a coffee?”
“Yes, please. And… a favor.” She wrinkles her brow. “Ana has a big presentation this morning, and I want to make sure it goes well for her. Would you go down to the bakery on 3rd and get the pastry box you usually bring to the Management Meeting, and coffee for her staff? Sawyer can tell you how many employees she has in the office this morning.”
Her mouth drops open like she isn’t sure what to say, and her eyes flit over the papers in front of her. “Uh… I can…”
“No!” Ros interrupts, her heels clacking across the foyer as she stomps toward me. “She’s preparing for the sales pitch you have to make in eighteen minutes, Christian. I need you to stop thinking about Ana for two goddamn seconds and get your fucking head in the game.”
My fist balls together so fast, I can feel the pull of my skin over my knuckles. I start to shake as the anger builds inside of me, but before I have the chance to explode all over my COO, Olivia pokes her head up. “I can do it. I’ll forward the calls downstairs to Crystal for an hour and be in and out.”
My teeth clench, holding back the nasty words I want to throw at my business partner, and nod. “Thank you, Olivia.”
She nods and reaches for her purse, while Ros huffs and storms away muttering, ‘un-fucking-believable’ under her breath. I glare over my shoulder at her, then stop Olivia so I can scribble one more note – one more piece of me – to give to Ana. She smiles as she takes it, then dashes out the door. I drag my feet to my office.
The weight of all the problems GEH is facing falls on my shoulders the moment I slide into the chair behind my desk. It isn’t good. I don’t even think I’ve truly let myself see just how close we are to collapse. How close I am to losing everything I’ve ever built. My email is overflowing, the inbox on my desk is a mess, there’s a light blinking on my phone telling me there are messages waiting for me. With an air of dread, I reach down to pick up the handset and press my finger into the button that dials my voicemail.
And suddenly, my wife is moaning in my ear. Her breath is heady, her words are filthy. She’s touching herself, and she’s graphic enough that I can close my eyes and picture exactly what it is she’s doing that’s making her pant through whispered curses and whine through her ecstasy.
God I want her.
We don’t have a lot of time together right now. I often get home after she’s gone to bed and leave before she wakes up. The disconnect between us has me craving her. It takes everything I have in me not to reach into my pants and follow her lead through the voicemail, but I know I’ll be useless for the rest of the morning if I do. If I could afford to come, I would have done it inside of her before I left. So, as I listen to her finish while screaming my name, I pull my computer towards me and start an email.
From: Christian Grey
Date: July 23rd 2012 07:58 AM
Subject: Lewd Voicemails
To: Anastasia Grey
I am going into a meeting and I’m hard. You should expect to be spending a good amount of time this afternoon over my knee to make up for it. And once I’m finished with that gorgeous ass of yours, I’m going to lay you over my desk and fucking worship you.
Sexually Frustrated and Painfully Erect CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings
I jump slightly as I send off the email and look up. I hadn’t even noticed the door opening, but, sure enough, Ros stands there with an impatient look on her face, tapping her foot on the marble floor. I close the screen of my laptop, set the phone back in its cradle, and pull my jacket over the front of my pants.
“Yeah,” I nod, picking up the portfolio I’d spent all afternoon yesterday putting together for this presentation. Our last ray of hope. She moves to the side so I can lead the way to the conference room where Andrea has set up a teleconference with our client in Texas. Even though I can taste the ire in the air between us, she still lets me take the lead. She still follows me into the room. She still sits at my side.
“Thank you,” I murmur to her while we wait for the client to appear on the blank screen in front of us. She turns and raises an eyebrow at me.
“For still being here. For fighting with me, instead of…” The rest of the sentence is too painful for me to continue. Ros is one of the most highly sought after talents in the country. I was fending off the wolves coming to poach her from me while I was on top. I know the offers she’s getting now, and I honestly don’t know what’s making her stay. But I’m grateful for it, and I want her to know it now in case things get worse. Because if she does leave, things will get ugly between us. And then she’ll never know.
Her face stays blank, but I see the flames in her eyes die down. She glances over me, probably trying to gauge my sincerity, then, slowly, nods. “Don’t fuck this up, Christian.”
The screen on the other side of the table changes and Gutierrez appears in the empty space. Both Ros and I change in an instant, like we’re performing a play and the spotlight just found us. She offers her most dazzling smile, and I sit up straight in my chair and pretend that my company isn’t failing. That I’m not on the edge of financial ruin. That every second I spend in this chair talking to him isn’t time with my wife that I can’t protect anymore.
“Good Morning, John,” I say with all the confidence in the world. “Glad you could join us.”
Ros and I walk out of the conference room feeling like we’re able to take a breath for the first time in months. She’s practically shaking with pent up excitement and questions that she won’t let out until we’ve completely left the room, despite the fact our call ended over five minutes ago. Once the door is closed behind us, she lets out a laugh that sounds more like relief than joy.
“That went really great, right?” she checks. “I’m not crazy. He really seemed like he’s gonna go with us, didn’t he?”
“Yeah, he did.” I start toward the lobby and find my assistant so focused on her computer screen that she doesn’t even look up when I approach.
She gasps and jumps in her seat, then her cheeks flush bright crimson. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. What can I do for you, Mr. Grey?”
“We should be hearing back from Gutierrez within the hour. I want us to hit the ground running on this one, so the moment that phone call comes through, I want you to get Welch in my office. You’ll need to arrange to have the plane ready tomorrow morning so the three of us can get down to Texas to look at property for the facilities.”
“Olivia isn’t back yet?”
“She texted me a few minutes ago. There was a long wait at the bakery, but she linked up with Sawyer and confirmed that she’ll have the delivery in time for Mrs. Grey’s meeting this morning. And I spoke with Abigail a few minutes ago, the flower deliveries have arrived as scheduled and Mrs. Grey confirmed lunch for this afternoon.”
“And you’ve already ordered in from the place by Escala? It’s her favorite.”
“Yes, sir. It should be arriving just before Taylor drops Mrs. Grey off. I pulled a table out of the events storage closet and will have it set up in your office in time for lunch.” She points over her shoulder to the clear face of the drink cooler she keeps for clients, which I see is currently filled with a bouquet of two dozen long-stemmed red roses.
“Excellent. Thank you, Andrea.” I turn to Ros and find her grinning from ear to ear.
“I’ll get in contact with some property managers, get an idea of what’s available in Texas. We’ll re-group once we’ve got Welch.”
I nod and she spins on her heels to hurry back to her office. After another deep breath, I let the feeling of stability wash through me. The relief is powerful, and it carries me back to my office with a new spring in my step. The feeling of sinking into my chair couldn’t be more different from this morning. Gone is the dread, gone is the shame… I can get us through this, and the sunlight I finally see breaking through the dark clouds of failure has me feeling like myself again – and the old me never waited for a deal to be finalized before I got started.
The old me never had room for doubt.
I open my laptop to get started, but Ana’s response to my earlier email comes through just as I start to get settled in.
From: Anastasia Grey
Date: July 23rd 2012 09:00 AM
Subject: Unexpected Wonders
To: Christian Grey
Well, I’ve spent the morning crying over all the amazingly sweet things you’ve done for me. And I think the roses on my desk are very closely verging on a gift, despite a very specific agreement between you and I that we wouldn’t be doing that this year…
Completely Wooed Editor-In-Chief, Greenwich Small Press
I roll my eyes at the gift line, but smile as I type out my response.
From: Christian Grey
Date: July 23rd 2012 09:04 AM
Subject: Reparations, choose your own adventure
To: Anastasia Grey
Let’s agree to call it even. Or better yet, let me make it up to you over, and over, and over…
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings
She doesn’t immediately respond, so I assume she’s busy making preparations for her presentation. And since I have my own preparations to make, I let it lay. Gutierrez still hasn’t called with the official go ahead, but I get started regardless with calls down to legal to start the contracting, and to HR to draft job postings for the workers we’ll need to hire in Texas to build the infrastructure. I’m just going through the short list of project managers I have available to temporarily relocate when my phone rings.
And I have to actually stop myself from diving for it.
Instead, I take a moment to sit back in my chair, straighten my tie, and take one last breath. Then, slowly, I pick up the phone and bring it to my ear.
“Mr. Grey, I have Mr. Gutierrez on the line for you.”
“Thank you, Andrea.” She warm transfers the call and after politely excusing herself, I jump right back into sales mode. “Great to hear from you again, John. I was ju—“
“I’m sorry, Grey. This is actually just a courtesy call. I uh… I’ve decided to explore a different opportunity.”
My voice catches in my throat. I sit in silence for several, uncomfortable seconds, utterly speechless. I’m blindsided. What the fuck happened? “I’m sorry, I uh… was there something we didn’t cover in our meeting this morning? I’m very confident we can make absolutely everything you’re asking for happen.”
“I-“ He sighs. “Look, we’re talking about taxpayer money here. Millions of dollars in taxpayer money. I’ve just been made aware of some of your company’s… financial issues, and if I made this investment knowing what I know now, and your company went under… it’s not a risk I can take. I’m sorry, Grey. But my answer is no.”
“John-“ I begin, but it’s too late. He hangs up and I’m left with nothing more to argue with than a dial tone. A thousand things race through my mind at once, all tinted with different shades of fear and shock. And the resounding fact that this was it, that this was my very last shot, pulses behind it all.
The phone ringing breaks through the existential dread, and my heartbeat quickens. For a split, blissful second, I think it’s Gutierrez calling me back to tell me he made a mistake. It was a bad joke; he was looking at the wrong information… instead Andrea tells me that it’s Carmen Gallagher.
A feeling of foreboding moves over me like a dark cloud when I ask her to transfer the call.
“Gallagher,” I greet her, coolly.
“I don’t have much time to talk, Grey. I’m actually just about to step into a meeting with your wife. But I did want to let you know that you will be getting a call from Gutierrez this morning declining to sign your contract and the reason it fell through for you is… well, me. You see, I’ve also been in talks with him for weeks about this fiber optics project and he and I had a really productive conversation after your meeting this morning where he agreed that GEH just… isn’t a safe investment right now. So, he’s going to work with me instead. I’m sure he’ll give you some kind of run around, let you down easy. But I wanted you to know that I took this from you. That I won, and you lost.”
She practically sings it to me through the phone. I can hear the satisfaction in her voice more clearly than any word she speaks. It’s not a phone call anyone would’ve dared make to me six weeks ago. Now, one of my most loathed business rivals is openly gloating to me about how she’s fucked me over. How she’s put the final dagger in the heart of my company. And why wouldn’t she? What do I have left to retaliate with?
I tremble with rage. I want to scream at her. I want to eviscerate her. I want to tell her everything I truly think about her and company… but somewhere behind the blood red hue that saturates the world around me, I remember my wife anxiously pacing around our dining room, practicing the presentation she’s about to give the woman on the other side of the phone in just a few minutes. I remember how quiet the nerves made her all weekend, and how the possibility of failure left her unfocused and pale. I feel my own defeat and know that I can’t put Ana through it as well.
So, I choke back my pride, and get off the phone without screaming.
After that, the silence in my office feels oppressive. It’s like I can feel each and every soul I’m responsible for on the floors beneath me like pricks of heat all over my skin. What am I going to tell them? What am I going to tell Ros, or Welch? What am I going to tell Ana?
I get up and move to the bar on the far side of the wall and pour myself a drink. Then another. And another. The expensive aged Scotch that should be savored sip by sip starts disappearing from the bottle like well-vodka at a college party. I feel woozy by the time the knock comes on my office door, and when I turn and see both Ros’s and Welch’s anticipatory smiles, I start to feel nauseated.
“Well?” Ros prompts, skipping into my office. “Are we ready to get started? What’s the plan?”
I pour another drink and turn to face the wall. “There is no plan. He didn’t take the deal.”
Shocked silence is all I get while I slam back another drink, then Ros starts to panic. “What do you mean he didn’t take the deal? I was in that meeting, he was practically begging to sign the contract on camera! What the fuck happened?”
“What do you mean, Gallagher?”
“She got him on the phone after our meeting, laid out all of our financial problems. Convinced him we weren’t a safe investment. He’s going to sign with her instead.”
The color drains from Ros’s face until she looks completely bereft. Lifeless. Unconsciously, she shakes her head from side to side, staring off into space like she’s watching a horrific accident unfold. “That’s it. We don’t… we don’t have anything else. What are we going to do?”
She looks at me for answers, and for the first time in our entire partnership, I don’t have any. I shake my head, and she takes a long, shaky breath before she turns and hurries out of my office. I hear a broken breath escape as she leaves that sounds too close to a sob.
“You can go,” I say to Welch. He lingers, staring at me like he isn’t sure if he should listen or not. I turn back to the scotch and drink until he leaves.
Through the haze of alcohol, I spend the rest of my morning undoing everything I did before that phone call, and desperately raking through our RFP lists and market analyses for any opportunity we may have missed. While Andrea sets up the table for mine and Ana’s lunch, I comb through old notes I’ve left myself on past projects for any nuggets of genius I’ve overlooked that might lead to new ventures… But there’s no stroke of inspiration in my drunken state, only defeat. Eventually, I can’t bring myself to look at it anymore and I get out of my chair, walk to the window, and stare at the city I used to own with despair.
Her voice is like a bell ringing through the morning over a smoldering city that somehow withstood a siege. Like the first song of a Robin as spring starts to melt away the winter. Just hearing it makes me breathe in relief. I turn to look at her and feel the misery melt off me. She looks stunning. She always looks stunning. And the moment I have her in my sights, the distance between us becomes oppressive.
Tossing the empty tumbler on a side table, I cross the room in three long strides, pull her into me, and kiss her deeply before she even has the opportunity to speak. The giggle that sounds sweeter to me than any music fills my ears as I push her back into the door and wrap her around me, consuming her mouth and drinking in every ounce of her to wash away the bitter taste of my own defeat.
“What are you doing?” she asks when I finally release her lips. I smile and kiss her again. Deeper this time. Softer and with more intent. I let my hands move over her and pull her as tightly against me as I can manage. She bites down on my lip and tightens her hold on me, wraps her legs around me, tangles her tongue around mine… It takes everything I have not to undo my pants and lose all of my worries inside of her for the rest of the afternoon.
“Wait,” I manage, pulling her away from me again and grinning at the pout I get in return. “I really did intend for us to have lunch together.”
She peaks over my shoulder at the table Andrea set for us earlier, curiosity glittering in her crystal blue eyes. A sentimental smile crosses her lips as her gaze moves around the table to the flickering candles and the dark, red rose petals.
“I thought you wanted reciprocation from this morning?” she asks, turning to look up at me through her long, thick lashes. “I seem to remember receiving vague threats in my email about it.”
Threats? Oh, sweetheart… “If you thought the promises I made to you were vague, I’d be happy to clear up any misunderstandings right now.”
“You said something about a spanking.”
The memories of her moans through my voicemail flood through me, and my cock twitches inside my pants. I do want to spank her. I want to watch her skin pink beneath my hands. I want to hear the way she cries out in pleasure for it. I want to feel how wet it makes her. My blood feels hot with need as I lean down, and she swallows to hide her desire as I press my lips to her ear and tell her exactly what I truly want from her.
“I’m going to strip you naked, Anastasia. Slowly. Carefully. Until you are completely bare and I can look or touch any part of your gorgeous body that I fucking want.” The fantasy swims through my mind like I’m watching a movie. The ache for what I describe to her fills me so intensely, I only just manage to not throw her on the table, rip away the tight little skirt she’s wearing, and plow her into next fucking week. “Then, I’ll put you over my knee and spank you while you tell me again every single thing you did to yourself this morning.” She whimpers in a way that tells me how much she wants exactly what I’m describing to her, so I grit my teeth to emphasize just how fucking serious I am, and just how bad she’s going to get it. “You’ll take it until you’re so sore that you’ll feel it the next time you try to put your hands between your legs and take what you know belongs to me. Then I’ll lay you out, bury my face between your legs, and stay there until you’ve come so many times that you’ll need a day off just to remember how to move again. And that is when I’ll fuck you.”
She swallows and looks at me with doe eyes that are hopeful for every single thing I’ve promised her. Instead of delivering, I sigh and take half a step away from her.
“But we only have an hour right now. And I’m not going to indulge in you until I can really lose myself.”
I nod. “Yes, tonight. Right now…”
Slipping my hand into hers, I start for the table, pull out her chair, and pour us both a flute of the Bollinger I bought to celebrate the Gutierrez win with Ros. It tastes bitter as I take my first swallow, but that disappears when Ana lifts the catering dish on her plate and acts like the takeout container she finds inside is a gourmet meal. I chuckle at her enthusiasm, then dive in behind her. But we only have a few moments of blissful silence before her eyes turn cautious and she starts hesitating over the food I usually watch her inhale.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asks.
I frown. “About what?”
“Your meeting this morning.”
The noodles dangling from my chopsticks slip back into the container as my grip loosens. I blink, the sickening mixture of failure and shame seizing my stomach again and turning my appetite against me. I put the carton back on the table and stare at it, too embarrassed to even look at her.
“You know about that?”
“Ros is having a meltdown in your lobby.”
Of fucking course she is. Angry pricks of heat dance across my scalp as I reach for the noodles again, so I can stab my chopsticks into the container and pretend it’s the redheaded traitor I used to consider my best friend. “Great.”
What did happen? What do I say to her? I’m washed up? I don’t have it anymore? The man you married is not the man sitting in front of you on your first wedding anniversary? I’m a failure, and I don’t know how to admit that to the woman I’ve spent the last five years trying to deserve. “I got beat. Someone got in ahead of me and made the deal before I could.”
“Who?” she asks, and it’s like spitting out needles saying the name to her.
Her eyes shift and her mouth drops open like she wants to respond, but nothing comes out. I watch her struggle to find something to say, and as the silence stretches into multiple seconds, I watch her eyes color with pity.
It feels like poison.
“I’m sorry, Christian.”
I shake away the apology. “I don’t want to talk about it. I’d much rather hear about your morning. You spent all day yesterday worrying about your presentation and you haven’t said one word about it.”
“Oh.” Her teeth sink down into her bottom lip while she tries to pull back her smile. I can see the pride ignite in her eyes, but I can tell that she’s trying to hold back her elation in light of what she apparently saw in my lobby. “Carmen approved the project. I thought I was dead in the water when I was going over the financials, but she went for it exactly as I proposed it.”
Part of me wants to roll my eyes. I’m incredulous, actually, at how much she still doubts herself, even after all she’s accomplished. “Of course she did,” I reply, letting the certainty I feel over her success and the pride I have for her leak into my words. “Your idea is brilliant, Ana. Simple, useful, easily marketable. God, and to think I was this close to getting you to come back and work for me instead.” She takes the fingers I hold up to demonstrate just how close I actually was, and kisses each of them before she wraps her hand in mine and finally lets her excitement out.
“The best part was the way that it happened. She wasn’t sold so she asked my team what they thought and… they stood up for me! They told her that they’d seen my methods work and it made them trust me. Even this guy who hated me when I first started. They convinced her to take a chance on me.”
Just like SIP. Just like Random House…
“Because you’re an effective leader.” She blushes and lifts her napkin to try and cover her embarrassed smile, so I take her hands and run my thumb gently over her fingers to let her feel my pride, my support, and my love. “So, what are your next steps?”
“Uh… Abby is getting me the numbers for some app developers. I’ve got a budget of $80,000 to do the app redesign, so I need to find someone who will give me the most for that price.”
$80k? Briefly, I think of the conversations I had with Welch and Barney about the eReader we did for Grey Publishing, and the corresponding apps we created for customers with Apple or Android products. Just the licensing would eat up a significant portion of her budget, not to mention the labor costs for outsourcing the programming… Very quickly, I realize that the path Gallagher has my wife on could lead her to failure that’s outside of her control.
But not outside of mine.
“What about me?” I suggest. She furrows her brow.
“Hire me. I can contract out my R&D department for your app design. Welch and Barney could have it done for you in less than thirty days, and I guarantee they’ll give you a better product than anything else you’ll find out there. Especially for anything under six figures.”
“You would give me Welch?”
I shake my head. “I’m not giving you anything. For eighty grand, Grey Enterprises Holdings will design an application for Greenwich Small Press.”
“But we’re competitors…”
I feel the muscle in my jaw tick. She’s not wrong – Grey Publishing’s first obstacle was overtaking Greenwich in the Seattle Market, and I fought hard to make that happen for Ana. But the words coming from her sound like a threat I have to immediately neutralize. Thankfully, I can do it with honesty. “No, Carmen and I are competitors. You and I, we’re a team. I want every success for you, baby. I want to watch you rise to the top of your industry and then rule over everything you’ve conquered like a queen. My queen. Even if that means I have to swallow my pride and let Gallagher claim the win alongside you. I can help you here. Besides, it’s mutually beneficial. I have an empty pipeline, remember?”
She offers me a small, awkward smile – but I know her well enough to know she’ll take the offer when I paint it as an opportunity to help me. In the same way there’s nothing I would ever deny her, she’s shown me that she won’t turn her back on me. And if I can use that to help ensure she has everything she needs to make her vision successful, then so be it.
“Alright,” she agrees with an elated smile. “I’ll send you over a proposal this afternoon.”
“I’ll be watching for it diligently.”
She lets out a small sound filled with excitement and disbelief before picking up her glass and clinking it against mine to seal the deal. But I don’t even get to swallow the bite of food I take immediately after our toast before she’s launching herself from her seat into my lap, and starts attacking me.
I don’t put up a fight. While her lips press into mine, and her ass grinds on my groin, I slide my hands up her thighs to her hips and hold her to me. She pants into my mouth when she feels the return of my erection, and I suck eagerly on her tongue. Her breath turns heady, filled with want, but just as I’m about to abandon my earlier declarations about waiting for tonight, we’re interrupted by a knock on the door.
“I’m coming in there in ten seconds, Christian,” Ros’s annoyed voice calls. “One, two, three.”
I let out an irritated breath, then help Ana back into her seat just as my COO makes it to ten and eases her way into my office. Relief crosses her face when she sees I don’t have Ana naked, spreadeagle on the table, and takes a step inside.
“It’s our anniversary, Ros,” I growl at her. “You’re treading on very dangerous territory interrupting me right now.”
She turns an icy look on me, her contempt bleeding into her response. “Funny, I said the same thing about you when you blew up our parking garage and drove our company into the ground.”
I swear to god, I don’t even know how I hold it back. Rage fills me so completely, and so quickly, I’m not sure if Ana’s flinch is for me or Ros. My hands ball into fists, and when I speak, the one word I’m able to get out sounds like a threat. “Rosaline…”
“We need to go over some financials,” she interrupts with utter disinterest. “I can’t do this without you, Christian. You’re the CEO. If you’re going to save your company, then this needs to be your priority right now. No matter what day it is.”
I can feel myself trembling with anger. Just seconds ago, all of this was miles away. Now it’s all over my wife’s face. Again. My misjudgment, my hubris, my failure all muddled together in the deep pools of her eyes. The heat of Ros’s gaze shines down on us like a super villain’s death ray until the uncomfortable atmosphere finally pulls Ana out of her seat.
“It’s fine, I’ve got to get back to the office anyway,” she says. My mouth drops open in protest, but the words cut off when she gives me a mischievous and entirely alluring smile, holding up her takeout container. “But I’m taking these with me.”
She starts to gather her things, and I blink furiously, working through excuse after excuse to get her to stay. But as much as it kills me, even my best excuse is weaker than the urgency of what my COO is holding in her hands right now. With a terse nod, I also push out of my chair. But as I take my wife’s hand and lead her to the elevators, I avoid all eye contact with Ros. I ignore the interns working through mountains of paperwork on a conference room table we pass, I ignore the attempts from my assistant to get my attention, and I ignore the ever-present gaze of her CPO as I take her in my arms and kiss her goodbye. And I don’t stop when the elevator announces it’s arrival, when the doors roll open for her, or when Sawyer has to kick his foot out onto the track to keep them from closing. I persist through everything, and pour all of my love into her so that she’ll feel it until I can have her back again. Until we can really be alone.
“I have reservations for us at seven,” I finally whisper against her lips. “I’ll pick you up from work at six-thirty.”
She responds with a breathy smile. “I’ll be thinking of you until then.”
There’s an honesty in those words, and an intention behind them that makes it feel impossible not to follow her onto the elevator. I kiss her again to buy time, but eventually she pulls away. Clinging to the edges of her fingers until she moves beyond my reach, I stand there, longing for her, as the doors close and she disappears from my view.
My chest feels hollow.
The moment she’s gone, the world is heavy again. Overbearing. The walk back to my office feels like a walk to the gallows, and Ros – my executioner, is there waiting for me. She’s pissed. Pissed about what I’ve done, pissed about what we’ve lost, and pissed about Carmen Gallagher. While we sit and make painful cut after painful cut, she takes every opportunity to remind me that it’s my fault. That I’m the reason 25% of our staff is going to be laid off by the end of today, that my decisions led to the letters that I now have to write or phone calls I have to make to investors begging for more money, or more time to pay off the debt I’ve already accrued. She leaves my office late in the afternoon with resentment pouring off of her, leaving me desolate as I close out my day.
My daughter isn’t even here. Usually, when I’m low like this or business is really beating the fuck out of me, I have her to escape to. Just like her mother, fear and pain don’t exist around Calliope. She’s summer sunshine wrapped in a tiny package I can hold against me to soak in her joy and melt everything else away. With the hours I’ve been working to undo the damage done by the fusion project, I could probably fit the total amount of time I’ve been able to spend with her over the past month into just the amount of time I spent with Ros this afternoon. I miss her, desperately. And I’m missing her. How many milestones happened while I’ve been in this office? How many more nights of putting her to bed, or breakfasts in the morning, or giggles in the car am I going to have to give up? I don’t know, and I’m not looking forward to finding out.
The only thing I’m looking forward to at all is my night with Ana.
After hours of brain-draining analyses and calculations, more fighting with Ros, and several humiliating phone calls, I shut everything down and head to the parking garage. Taylor is there waiting for me, but I wave him away as he reaches down to open the back door to the Maybach. He raises an eyebrow at me, then jerks his head to the right and takes a protective step in front of me as the garage fills with the piercing sound of tires screeching on smooth asphalt. The pearly sheen of familiar gray that covers my Lamborghini moves around the corner and comes to a stop a few feet away. When the butterfly doors open, a very satisfied Andrea steps out and smiles at us.
“We won’t be needing security tonight, Taylor,” I tell him, clapping him on the shoulder and starting towards my assistant. “Thank you, Andrea.”
“Oh, any time, Mr. Grey,” she grins. Taylor gives me a worried look as I step into my car, but doesn’t say anything to stop me. Probably because he knows it would be wasted breath. I navigate my way around the expensive cars that belong to my company’s executives, then turn onto the street outside and put the pedal down to make it to Ana.
Sawyer escorts her out of the building just before six thirty. She’s changed into the black Chanel I had Andrea drop off at her office on her way to pick up the car, and she’s still trying to get her shoes on as she makes her way up the breezeway. I get out of the car to greet her and, just a few steps away from me, she stumbles in her heels. Both Sawyer and I reach out to catch her and when his hand grips onto the outside of mine, I turn to glare at him.
“I’ve got it, Sawyer.”
He lifts his hands in quick surrender and takes a step back from my wife. “Sure thing, boss. She’s in your hands for the rest of the night. “
Ana’s hand snaps in his direction, then her eyes start scanning the street behind me. “You’re not coming with us?”
Sawyer shakes his head, which means the chain of communication is working and he’s already been forewarned by Taylor that I’ve requested no security tonight. “Nope, just you two love birds tonight.”
He laughs at the squeak in her response and starts down the sidewalk. “Have fun, you two. Make good choices. Use a condom.”
“Not a fucking chance,” I hiss in disgust. Sawyer doesn’t hear me, but Ana does. She rolls her eyes, even though her smile is broad and dazzling as she hooks her fingers into my jacket, and drags me to the Lamborghini. I help her into the car, then slide in opposite her and take her by the hand, soaking in the peace I feel with her like a mineral bath at an expensive spa.
At the restaurant, I pull into the valet and give the hotel employee who eagerly runs up to me a hard, evaluating stare. He holds out his hands meekly for my keys.
“She’ll be in excellent hands, Mr. Grey. I assure you.”
“Uh huh.” The employee takes the keys and slowly moves around me to climb into my car. I watch him pull away, carefully calculating the distance between the paint and the retaining wall around the landscaping until he turns a corner and roars out of sight. Ana takes hold of my tie and drags me into the hotel behind her.
The restaurant is on the 44th floor, which gives us nearly a full minute alone together inside the elevator. I let my hand slide down her lower back and play across her ass, and when she giggles and pushes herself into my side, my fingers dip under her skirt and brush along the lines of her panties.
“Stop it!” she says, slapping me playfully across the chest as the ping of the elevator announces our arrival. She steps out onto our floor with a pink glow in her cheeks that makes her absolutely radiant. Watching her ass sashay away from me as she heads into the restaurant manages to erase the last remnants of the foul mood lingering in me from this morning. I take her hand and lean down into her, brushing the tip of my nose against hers as I tease her with my lips. The view makes it feel like we’re on top of the world, far separated from all the problems that fester down below, until I hear an unwelcome voice call my name.
“Is that Grey?”
Both Ana and I turn to watch Bill Fitchett, a real estate developer and bonafide jackass, walking towards us with the kind of cocky grin splattered across his face that makes my hand twitch with the need to punch him.
I assume the same look of fake enthusiasm I’ve learned through encounters with countless men just like him over the years, and reach out to shake his hand. “Bill. How was your dinner?”
“Delicious,” he smirks. “I’m surprised to see you here, though.”
“I mean, I thought you’d probably be somewhere more in your… price range. The Olive Garden, maybe?” He grins at his own audacity, and this time, the only thing that keeps me from hitting him is the squeeze of Ana’s fingers around mine. The act I’ve put on drops in an instant, and I give him a look that tells him just how dangerous the path he’s on will be for him. “Careful, Fitchett. My father’s administration has just proposed new housing policies that’ll run slumlords like you out of this city forever. Where do you think you’ll eat then?”
The same unearned courage that rang so clearly in Gallagher’s voice over the phone this afternoon shines back at me through his flat, dark eyes. “You think I’m afraid of Carrick Grey? The man’s a laughingstock after you beat his failed tax hike. But hey, like father like son, am I right?”
The moment he speaks ill of my father, Ana’s hand is no longer enough to hold me back. I let her go and take a step towards the scum in front of me to keep her out of whatever may happen next. “Yes,” I say in warning. “Like father, like son. And once he’s thrown you out like the fucking piece of trash you are, I’ll buy everything you’ve ever worked for and dismantle it piece by piece.”
“That’s an awfully loud bark for a dog who doesn’t have any bite anymore.” He stares back at me, back straight, trying to show me how unintimidated he is. But I hear the quiver beneath his words.
“I’ll see you around, Fitchett.” I reach back for Ana and lead her towards the host hovering nervously a few feet away. Fantasies of the ways I’d bring him down if I still had the full force of my empire behind me swim to the front of my mind, and the satisfaction I take in each and every single idea makes me turn them all into promises. And because she’s made for me, Ana skips up to my side and leans in close to my ear.
“You want me to hold him down and you can punch him?”
I grin and turn to her. “As much as I’d love to remove that man from a few of his teeth, he’s not really worth it. Besides, once I’m back on top, he’ll be one of the first people who gets a reminder of exactly who I am.”
“One of the first?”
“Oh, I have a list.”
Her eyes glitter with nerves as the waiter stops and gestures for us to enter the private dining room I’ve reserved for us. I turn to her, waiting for her to go ahead of me, but she doesn’t move.
“Is… Carmen on that list?” she asks instead.
“Several times.” The alarm on her face grows, so I smile and promise her it’s a joke before nudging her into the dining room. After all, part of my power is the ability to hide some of the darker parts of my reign from her – so what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
After settling down at the table and waving the waiter out of the room, I reach for a glass of champagne and raise it towards my wife. She picks up her glass and stares at me, radiant in her anticipation of my toast.
“To the happiness we haven’t even had the chance to experience yet. I can’t wait for every second of the future I get to spend with you, Anastasia.”
She lets out an embarrassed but pleased sound and clinks her glass against mine. I watch her take a sip, then lean in and chase the bubbles down her throat with my tongue. While we wait for the waiter to return for our order, I stare into her eyes and tell her how beautiful she is, kiss her irresistible lips, and run my hands through the silky strands of her hair. Through dinner, she tells me about everything she’s done since she left my office this afternoon to prepare for her new app project. Her proposal did come over late in the day, but I was too in it with Ros to review it. Not that it matters. Anything and everything she wants, she gets. I don’t care about anything else.
“Can I get you anything for dessert?” The waiter asks at the end of our meal. Ana glances up at him with the dreamy look in her eyes that’s enchanted me all evening.
“It was all very delicious, but I don’t think I could possibly eat one more bite.”
“Then she’ll take the chocolate mousse home,” I interrupt. The waiter nods and heads back to the kitchen, and Ana turns an inquisitive look in my direction.
“My mother said it was to die for and you might want something sweet later on.”
“And if I don’t?”
I smirk. “Then I’ll eat it off you when you start begging for my cock tonight.”
Her cheeks flush pink with desire and her teeth dig deep into her bottom lip, which feels like a tantalizing invitation to start ravishing her mouth the way I’ve wanted to since she was in my office this afternoon.
“A thing I’m never going to get to do, because you had to order the goddamn dessert,” she pouts. I can see her squirming in her seat, and a quick glance at her seat shows me she’s pressing her thighs tightly together in search of friction.
She wants me. No, she needs me… the way I always need her. It’s a state I want to live in, a high I want to ride as long as possible before I allow either of us the release we both want. Besides, the most surefire way to make her come like fucking freight train tonight is to build her up as much as I can. The higher I make her climb, the farther she’ll fall.
“Patience, my love. You know what happens when you get greedy.”
Ana pouts, but she turns in her chair and occupies herself with her napkin while we wait for the waiter to return. I watch her breath return to normal, the color in her cheeks fade away… She’s getting better at controlling her desire, which is not what I’m going for tonight. So, I offer her a wicked grin, then lean in, press my lips to hers, and let my tongue drive her right back to the edge of insanity.
She’s almost rude when the waiter returns with our dessert, and her hand tugs harshly against mine the entire way down to the valet as she attempts to rush me out of the hotel. I’m almost surprised she didn’t suggest getting a room…
“Take me home,” she whines once we’re back in the car. Her hand moves up my thigh and stops just short of my groin. I can feel the heat of her on my cock through my pants, and it makes my muscles twitch with anticipation. I could take her home. I could have her in our bed within a half-hour and be in her seconds after that. I could make the rest of tonight about losing myself in her orgasms and screams of pleasure, I could release every ounce of stress built up inside of me with every pounding thrust…
But the night is young, and I want this anniversary, our first anniversary, to be memorable. To be meaningful. And a girl hanging on her tatted up boyfriend on the corner of Madison St, gives me an idea of exactly how to make that happen.
Afterall, what do I really have to lose anymore?
I turn to her, smiling as I take her hand in mine. “You wanna have a quarter-life crisis with me?”
Her eyes turn cautious, but she doesn’t immediately say no. “What do you mean?”
With a quiet laugh, I hit my turn signal and head down to SoDo. The reflection of my Lamborghini looks odd and out of place in the windows of the convenience stores and tobacco shops we pass, but I persist. We drive past a bar with loud music pumping out into the streets, a strip club with neon lasers peeking through the cracks in the blacked-out windows, and few scantily clad girls hanging out on the sidewalk – eyeing my car with intrigue.
Ana takes it all in with a furrowed brow. “You’re not going to try and like… buy ecstasy off someone, are you?”
“No,” I reply, glancing over at her with a look that says she should know better.
“Then why are we—”
We pass a Payday loan shop, and I finally see the sign I was looking for. Ana’s words cut off as I take a sharp left across the street and pull into the parking lot of a rundown building with a bright yellow sign over the door that says ‘Tattoo.’
She stares at the sign like she suddenly doesn’t understand English, and I smirk at her.
“You wouldn’t let me get you a gift,” I say, reaching for the door and stepping out onto the pavement.
“You’re getting a tattoo?” she shrieks in disbelief, but I’m already out of the car. I reach up to pull the door down behind me, then head straight through the glass front doors where I find a dark-haired woman standing behind the counter. She glances up at me like she’s annoyed when the bell over the door rings, and a large pink bubble protrudes from her red lips.
“Good evening,” I begin. “I was hoping you had time to do a tattoo tonight?”
She shrugs. “Depends. What do you want?”
“My wife’s name. Anastasia.”
She chomps on her gum a few times, considering. Her eyes move down to the immaculate cut of my bespoke Versace suit, and her mouth ticks slightly. Then she turns and picks up a large binder off the back shelf and opens it on the counter in front of me just as the bell rings and Anastasia enters the shop.
“This her?” the tattoo artist asks. I nod and she turns the book to Ana instead. “Pick a font, sweetheart.”
“Your name,” I reply.
Ana’s mouth drops open. “You’re not serious.”
“Oh, I’m dead serious.” Her eyes go wide as she stares back at me, like she thinks I’ve lost my damn mind, and she starts to shake her head. When she speaks, I recognize the same negotiating caution she uses when she knows Calliope is on the verge of a tantrum.
“You are the CEO of a multinational corporation, you can’t have tattoos!” Reaching up, she flicks both of her hands to the side as if she’s laid out a buffet of truth I hadn’t considered, and now I’ll come to my senses. I ignore her and tap against an intricate script font with an ‘A’ I think is written beautifully enough to ascribe it to Anastasia forever.
“I think I like this one.”
Again, I ignore my wife’s protest, holding the artist’s eye and tapping more insistently against the picture. She pops another bubble between her lips in thought before she nods, reaches for a piece of paper, and takes about 2 ½ minutes to draw out Anastasia’s name.
“Like that?” she asks, holding the paper up to show me her work.
“Perfect.” I grin and turn to my wife, who still looks absolutely flabbergasted. “What do you think? The classic: over the bicep? On my side? Across my heart?”
She blinks, her mouth open, and her cheeks flushed pink. She turns, gaping at the artist, before turning back to me and shaking her head to rid herself of the shock. “Well… somewhere you can hide it.”
I shake my head – clearly, she doesn’t understand the purpose of this exercise. “If you think I’m going to put your name on my skin just to hide it, you’re missing the point entirely. I want people to see it. I’d get it across my forehead if it made you happy.”
For the first time since she read that sign outside, Ana manages a nervous laugh. She blinks a few times and weighs her head from side to side, then her eyes move to each of the places on my body I mentioned. She seems to dismiss each one quickly, and I think I’m going to have to make the call myself, until she reaches for my hand, pulls my arm out, and gently drags a finger over the sleeve of my jacket.
“I always think it’s really sexy when you’re wearing a button down and you push your sleeves up. I like this part of you. Besides, you’ll never be able to jack off again without seeing my name.”
And remembering what I’m missing. I laugh and look at the tattoo artist. “Forearm it is.”
She pops another bubble with a smack, then spits her gum in a trashcan before waiving for both of us to follow her into the back. I shrug out of my jacket and hang it up on hook by the door – then turn to Anastasia and smirk as I slowly roll up my sleeve. She smiles but almost immediately starts chewing nervously on her bottom lip – and that makes my blood heat as I sit in the black leather tattoo chair.
The artist makes a stencil out of the work she’d shown me in the lobby, then places it against my forearm. “What color you want, Hot Shot?” she asks, as she pulls away the piece of paper and I see the outline of the words on my skin for the first time.
“That blue there,” I say, pointing at the color swatch she holds up for me. “It’s the same color as her eyes.”
“Sure thing, Stud.”
Ana moves closer to me as the artist loads the ink into the tattoo gun. When the room fills with the whirring buzz of the needle, I see her take a deep breath and hold it – so I reach out and hold her hand. You know, to keep her calm.
“Alright, here we go. One, two…” After a second’s pause, I feel the needle press into me. My teeth grit together as I wait for the pain, but it’s not as bad as I was expecting. It’s really more irritating than anything.
“Is it awful?” Ana asks, and I shrug.
“It doesn’t feel great, but it’s bearable.”
“Yeah, but you’re half masochist.” The artist laughs as she fills in the curves of the ‘S’. It really only takes her about two minutes to fill in the outlines of her stencil, and as I see her work come to fruition, I feel a fire building in my chest. An almost primal feeling overcomes me, and it fuels the need I’ve spent the entire night tampering. Exactly one year after our wedding day, I’ve found yet another way to forever tie myself to Anastasia – and she’s holding my hand while I do it. The nerves start to leak out of her eyes, and the same sense of deep satisfaction – of raw desire – shades the irises that now match the script on my arm.
When the artist finishes, and starts to wipe away the blood that’s mixed with the ink , Ana smiles. “Oh my god, Christian. I can’t believe you actually just did that…”
“I can,” I reply, staring at the piece now permanently inlaid in my arm. I reach into my pocket, pull out my wallet, and pass my credit card to the artist, all without ever looking away from the tattoo. “I absolutely love it.”
“Glad to hear it,” the artist says, rolling back to me with my credit card and a receipt. “Here’s your card back, handsome. I just need an autograph.”
The whole thing comes out to $75, but I scribble $200 on the total line and sign my name. When the artist sees the size of the tip, her eyes start to glitter with dollar signs and she looks up at Anastasia.
“What about you, Sweetheart? Gonna let him show you up, or can I ink you too?”
All the heat and satisfaction building inside of me over the tattoo is instantly doused with ice. “No,” I tell her, then I get out of the chair and take my jacket off the hook, commanding Anastasia to follow me with a glance back.
She doesn’t move. In fact, she crosses her arms over her chest.
“Um, excuse me? You didn’t ask for my permission before you came in here and made permanent decisions about your body.”
Oh, Ana. With a deep breath, I let the impatience her petulant tone brings out of me bleed into my response, which echos with my dominant timber. “No, I didn’t.”
“So, why do I need yours?”
I feel the shift in my expression – the firm set in my jaw, the hardening of my gaze, the audacious furrow in my brow. “Because that’s not the way we work, my love.”
She rolls her eyes, and as the Dominant I normally force to lie dormant rises to the surface and overcomes my good judgment, my hand twitches.
“You can’t tell me you wouldn’t love to put your name on me permanently,” she says. “I could put it right on my ass.”
She turns and shakes her ass in my direction, but I don’t look down. I don’t even care anymore that the tattoo artist is leaning back in her chair, chewing on her fingernail like she’s catching up on the latest drama on some trashy reality TV show.
“Not gonna happen.”
“Pity.” Ana shrugs. “The ultimate claim and Christian Grey doesn’t want to make it.”
She thinks that a tattoo is the ultimate claim? The woman has my ring on her finger and my last name on her child. And that’s not even considering what I plan on doing to her later tonight… “The only marks I want to see on you, Anastasia, are the ones I put there myself.”
“Kinky,” the artist finally interjects. I glance in her direction, before rolling my eyes and reaching out to my wife. Before I’m able to pull her out of the shop behind me though, she tugs her hand out of mine and gives me a look of defiance.
“No, I don’t think I’m quite ready to leave.” I round on her, but before I can properly react, she dashes back into the back room with the tattoo artist and slams the door behind her. I’m ready to follow her, throw her over my shoulder, and carry her ass back to the car – but when I reach down for the doorknob, it doesn’t turn.
“Ana?” I try twisting the knob again and come up empty handed. She doesn’t respond to me, so I reach up and bang on the door, calling her name one more time. Again, there’s no response. I can hear them talking inside, so I lean into the door and try to hear what they’re saying. Once I hear the buzzing of the tattoo gun, I pound on the door until my fists ache. “Anastasia!”
The buzzing stops and a few seconds later, the door opens. I glare down at her, my jaw locked so tight I can barely force the words through my teeth.
“What did you do?”
She holds up her and flips me off. Or I think she’s flipping me off until I realize the finger she’s holding up to me is her ring finger. Her wedding ring is gone, and in its place are three letters etched in charcoal gray. C. T. G.
There isn’t a mark on Ana’s body that I don’t know. Not a scar, or a freckle, or mole. Her skin is flawless in a way that mine isn’t – completely unmarred from the cruelty or vindictiveness of those who have abused her. I cherish the smooth, silky texture of her skin and would do anything to prevent her from ever being marred – the way I was.
But the ink on her finger is different. I didn’t think it would be, but staring at the evidence in front of me immediately makes it apparent that it is. It feels almost like a vow renewal, a recommitment exactly one year after she gave herself to me. A symbol of her fidelity that she’ll never be able to remove.
I look away from the tattoo as a new, powerful wave of desire courses through me, and her teeth sink into her enchanting lip. “Go get in the car,” I growl at her, and she hurriedly ducks beneath my arm and heads straight out of the shop. I give the artist one last look as she cleans up after us, then throw another $300 on the counter before following my wife out into the parking lot.
She can’t easily close the doors to the Lamborghini by herself, so I help her in, then take my place behind the wheel and peel out of the parking lot. The heat between us is out of control, and unlike my fusion project – I have no desire to contain it. I’ve barely started down the road before she’s reaching over the console between us and tugging at the buckle of my belt.
“Show it to me again,” I command as she fishes my cock out of my pants. She gives me a minx-like smile as she lifts her finger for me, then leans down and takes my cock all the way into her throat without any pretense. I growl in pleasure and grip the steering wheel to keep me from reaching down, grabbing a fist full of her hair, and fucking her mouth. It’s difficult to hold back, but she doesn’t make me regret it. She sucks me like an oil reserve in a gas crisis. Her hand moves in tandem with her mouth, constantly applying friction and spit to every inch of my cock. It’s fucking insane, and as the promising heat of an orgasm creeps up the inside of my thighs, my vision darkens around the edges and I have to yank her off of me.
“Any more of that and you’re going to get us killed.”
She whimpers in disappointment, then looks back at my cock as though she wants to tear out of my grip and swallow me again. We both breathe so heavily in anticipation of what is waiting for us at home, we’re practically panting together as we fly down the back streets towards our house. Every stop sign, every red light, ends with us clashing together in a passionate kiss that only leaves our clothes intact because there isn’t enough time at each stop for either of us to properly tear into the other.
I do manage to get her zipper halfway down her back while we wait for the gate to open, and when we finally pull into the garage, I don’t even reach back to close the doors before I take her in my arms and carry her upstairs.
Truth be told, I can’t even tell you if I turned off the fucking car.
In our bedroom, I fall onto the bed still clinging to her so that I don’t have to separate from her for even the second it would take for me to crawl into bed after her. Her hands move into my hair and tug harshly as I greedily take what I want from her mouth and tear away every stitch of fabric that separates her from me. The second her breasts are visible to me, my mouth is on them. I follow each and every new inch of skin I reveal pulling her dress off with the flat of my tongue. It makes her squirm and moan beneath me, and the sound drives the last of my sanity out until I’m nothing more than an animal about to savage this woman.
Her dress falls to the floor and I grab her delicate lace panties with each of my fists to shred them down the middle. She yelps in pain as the band breaks around her hips and I move up her body to swallow it along with the rest of her moans.
“Fuck me, Christian,” she pleads. “I can’t wait anymore, please…”
It’s not a request I need. I reach down and pull my cock through my still open fly, and plunge inside of her. As I bottom out, pull back, and give her everything I have again, her head rolls back and she lets out a throaty groan.
“Always wet for me,” I breathe into her ear, pushing into her again and again, harder each time, until the sounds that escape from my wife sound almost inhuman.
“Only for you,” she whimpers, her voice breaking. “Always for you.”
I groan in satisfaction, then reach down and pull her leg over my hip so I can fuck her deeper. So I can touch more of her, so I can worship her the way that she deserves to be worshiped. The woman who stood by me. The woman who loved me through my worst mistakes and my darkest times. The only person who doesn’t look at me now like I’m a shell of the man I used to be. I use the pleasure I know how to build inside of her to show her how much that means to me. To show her what she means to me. That she’s my entire world.
My lips caress every inch of her skin I can reach. My fingers dance over every part of her body that I know will make her writhe beneath me. I whisper my devotion into her ear. Her moans and screams of pleasure fill our bedroom, covering the creaking sounds our bedframe makes as I test the limits of its integrity. As she lets out a particularly powerful gasp, her arms wrap around me, and her nails start to dig into my skin, scraping all the way down my back until I’m just about to explode. But I don’t pull back. I don’t stop. I won’t. Not until…
“Christian!” Her scream is shrill in my ear as she starts to come. I can feel every pulse of her on my cock in time with the thundering beat of her heart against my chest. She thrashes beneath me, like the pleasure is so overwhelming she has to escape from it. But I hold her in place. I force her to take every ounce of it. When her first orgasm fades away, I change my pace until the second comes, then the third….
“Fuck!” she cries as her orgasm begins to dissipate. She looks disoriented. Her hair is matted to the sweat on her brow, and her eyes are wild and unfocused. She breathes like she’s just finished a triathlon, and when I finally build her up to her fourth of the night, a tear rolls down her cheek and she shakes her head.
“Please, Christian. I can’t… I can’t…”
“I want one more,” I whisper against her, pushing into her with long, deep strokes that come slow and steady, rather than hard and punishing. “Come for me one more time, Ana. Come with me.”
She pants while her head bobs up and down, but she looks up at me with new determination. I stare back into her eyes, holding the connection, pouring my love into her and reiterating it with every purposeful stroke of my cock. We start to build together. Each meaningful point on our climb to paradise comes together in perfect harmony. We moan the same way. We move the same way. We come the same way.
“OH GOD!” she screams, as the pleasure finally explodes out of me. Every pulse of her milks my cock perfectly, draining me of everything – including bits of my sanity I don’t think I’ll ever get back. I lose it all inside of her. The stress, the pain, the fear, the humiliation… everything that’s happening over the last few months is gone – except for the love I hold for her. It’s overpowering how much I feel for her in this moment, this one perfect moment. And when she repeats those feelings back to me, I groan in relief and press my lips to hers.
Because what this whole thing has finally let me accept, is the staying power of her love. Of my love. Of what we have together. It doesn’t matter what anyone does anymore, those feelings are indestructible. Nothing could shake the foundation of Anastasia and I now. We’re inseparable, like Hydrogen. More necessary than Oxygen. Stronger and more adaptable than Carbon. We’re built out of something that cannot occur naturally – because we made it ourselves.
And then suddenly, it’s like lightning hits. The solution to all of my problems with the fusion project, at that moment, comes into crystal-clear focus.
There’s nothing that exists that can withstand the heat of the core.
There’s nothing that exists that can eliminate the friction that stops the motion.
“Christian? Are you okay?” Ana asks, but I shake my head and hold up a hand so the spark of inspiration that’s hit me won’t fizzle out. I cannot force what already exists to contain an energy source – I need something stronger. Something more adaptable. Something I make myself…
“What are you—”
“I need a chemist,” I interrupt her, then I leap out of bed, scoop my pants off our bedroom floor, and fly downstairs to my office so I can call Welch.