“That’s it, baby. Christ!”
I let my head fall back and moan as Christian’s hands move up and cup each of my breasts. He pinches my nipples between his index and middle fingers and the sharp bite of pain radiates through my entire body and wraps around the tight ball of pleasure building more and more potent in my belly. I reach down to place both of my hands on either of his thighs and lean back so that every time I rise and fall, he’s hitting me in exactly the right place.
“Don’t come yet, Ana,” he warns me, but I don’t slow my pace. “Ana…”
His hands move down to my waist and he pulls me off of him. I whine as I fall on the bed, but he cuts off my protest with a hard, dominating kiss while he climbs over the top of me. “Because I fucking said so.”
I moan as he thrusts inside of me again, harder this time. His cadence is slow but purposeful and nearly bruising. Everytime he pushes into me, the force rocks me backwards so I wrap my arms and legs around him to keep myself anchored, but his punishing rhythm makes it impossible for me to hang on and my nails scrape down his back. He groans and kisses me again, so fiercely that I worry my lips will be swollen before he even pulls away.
“More,” I plead, and he lets out a lust filled moan before pulling out again, flipping me over onto my stomach and pulling my hips into the air. His hand comes down hard on my ass, making me gasp in both surprise and pleasure, and then his knees move between mine and force my legs as far apart as they can stretch. The position he puts me in feels precarious, but when he plunges inside of me again, I dig my knees and fingers into the comforter to find balance so he doesn’t have to stop. He’s so deep this way it’s like I can feel him in my tonsils. He leans over the top of me and sucks softly at my earlobe before whispering into my ear.
“Tell me how it feels, baby.”
“Deep. Full. Incredible. Please, don’t stop. Don’t ever stop.”
“Never,” he agrees, and then rams into me again. I turn to bury my face in the pillow so I can scream without worrying about Mrs. Jones or our new nanny hearing us, but he quickly wraps his fingers through my hair and turns my head again so my cries echo through the room around us. The louder I am, the harder he thrusts, and it continues to cycle on and on until my blood begins to flame through my veins with the promise of an impending orgasm.
“Oh, Ana…” he groans. “Mmm, you’re getting so tight.”
“You’re going to make me come.” My voice is too high, too full need. He’s been drawing this out all afternoon and I worry the desperation that drips from each of my words will make him pull back and once again leave me teetering on the line between all consuming pleasure and agony, but he doesn’t. His hand moves back down to my ass and digs into my skin, pulling at my lips and opening me further to him. Even my breaths start to shake with anticipation and I can feel his body start to tighten over the top of me.
“I want you to come at the same time I do, Ana.”
I whimper. “Then come.”
“Not yet. Almost.” He’s panting now and each harsh breath washes over my ear and radiates down my body like a shiver.
“Almost. Almost. Fuck!” His hand moves beneath my chin and he tilts my lips up to his. The moment his tongue crosses into my mouth, my entire body seizes and I know I’m not going to be able to hold back anymore.
“Christian, I’m going to… “
“Now,” he commands, and on cue I explode. Every pulse of my orgasm is so intense I seem to convulse beneath the confines of Christian’s body and his responding, guttural groans of pleasure resonate with the hungry animal inside of me. I’m lost in a haze of hedonistic lust that is absorbed in the simple idea of him coming inside of me and how much satisfaction I find in it. To take him. To accept him. I want all of his pleasure and feeling what he’s experiencing sends me into a deep, carnal spiral that has me reeling long after the heat of my orgasm has died away.
“Oh my god,” I whisper once he’s finally pulled away and collapsed onto the bed next to me. My chest heaves with exertion and makes my head feel heavy. “You are so goddamn incredible at what you do, Christian Grey.”
He lets out a soft laugh and then turns a sexy, well satisfied smile on me. “Let’s not go out tonight. Let’s stay here, in bed, and just do this until we can’t anymore.”
“Mmm, as tempting as that sounds, and believe me, it does, we promised. Besides, we can’t miss Kate and Elliot’s anniversary.”
“Why? They should be celebrating the same way I want to.”
“By fucking me?” He glares and I laugh. “They want us there, so that’s where we’re going to be. It’s one night, Christian.”
He frowns. “This isn’t even really their anniversary. They broke up for ten months, they don’t just get to pretend that didn’t happen. Their new anniversary starts in July.”
I smile and reach over to brush my hand over his cheek. “It’s something to celebrate. We promised we wouldn’t let moments like these pass us by anymore, remember?”
“I’m not. I have plenty to celebrate right here.”
I squeal as he reaches around my body and grabs my ass and then lean in to kiss him again. It’s long and lingering and wonderful, but as much as I’m willing to let him tempt me into staying right here with him all night, Kate has done so much for me and tonight is for her.
“I need to get ready,” I whisper against his lips. He groans, but ultimately releases me, then lies back with his hands behind his head to enjoy the view as I climb out of bed.
It’s not the only view to enjoy. The sweeping vista of Lake Washington through the glass that makes up the back wall of our new bedroom is breathtaking. We’ve been in the new house for over a month now, and I still go out on the balcony every morning with a mug of tea to just stare out at the water. Everything is so peaceful here. Our days are no longer filled with the noise of sirens, garbage trucks, and city traffic. Now, it’s just soft autumn breezes that carry the smell of the water and sounds of children’s laughter from the houses closest to us. I’m so grateful that Christian had the foresight to buy this place when he did. The new house has been my own personal haven since the incident in July and being here was the first that that made me feel like moving on was truly possible.
After gathering the clothes that Christian tossed carelessly across the floor in his hurry to get inside of me, I bite down on my lip and turn a coy look back on my husband.
“You know, I do have to take a shower…” His responding smile is immediate.
“Well, then we better make sure you get good and dirty first.” He leaps out of the bed like a hungry jungle cat and I shriek with glee as he chases me into the bathroom.
We stay beneath the cascade of hot water for far longer than we should, but when I’m finally able to pull myself out of Christian’s persistent hands and get myself ready for tonight, I’m in a really great mood. Elliot has planned an elaborate evening at Seattle’s most exclusive, and expensive, restaurant, which means we’re all getting dressed up. It’s the rare opportunity I have to pick out a beautiful dress and be a little indulgent with makeup without worrying about putting on a public persona, which makes the hour in front of the mirror I spend getting ready feel more like fun and less like a chore. I dance around my bathroom in the special french lingerie I’ve specifically selected to drive Christian wild when we get home later, while shamelessly mouthing the lyrics to the N’Sync Christmas album playing on my phone. If this last year has taught me anything, it’s that I should never take anything for granted, and right now that means listening to Christmas music in October.
Calliope likes it, obviously because she’s inherited my excellent taste, and she giggles in her bouncy seat as I pirouette in front of the bathroom counter. I look down at her, beaming.
“Is that funny?” I coo, and when she laughs again, I unbuckle her from her seat and start to dance with her. She’s already dressed in the tiny powder blue gown I ordered for her a few days ago, and as we sweep across the floor, she looks just like a princess.
“Hold still,” I hear Christian say from the doorway, and then turn to see him holding his phone up to take a picture. I turn, trying to hide behind the baby as best I can, and give him an indignant look.
“Don’t you dare!”
The camera clicks, and when he looks down at the image on his screen, he smiles. “Perfect. Pouting about it just made you all the more adorable.”
I glare, but the discontent is short lived after he steps into the room and sweeps Calliope out of my arms.
“Regarde ma jolie petite fille!” He lifts her over his head and pushes his face into her tummy, making vicious sounding snarls until she starts to laugh. The way he is with her, so light and happy, makes my heart melt and when he finally pulls her down into his arms, my smile is so broad my cheeks start to hurt.
“I’m telling you, Ana. We have to look into the world record for most beautiful baby, because I’m pretty sure we’ve got it in the bag.”
I laugh, then lean over Calliope and start kissing her entire face. “World’s best baby.”
When I pull away, Christian places a single finger beneath my chin and pulls my lips up to his. I hum with pleasure, deepening the kiss, and his hand slides down my throat to the low cut hem of my lingerie.
“Something for you to think about, rather than touch,” I say, slapping his hand away. “This is a present you’re going to have to open later.”
“Oh, Mr. Grey, the things I have planned for you later are very rude indeed.” My eyes twinkle with lascivious promise, and I watch his mouth twist for just a hint of a second with desire. The desire that is spawned by my words is tangible as it hangs in the air between us, but eventually he takes a deep breath and steps back to lean against the bathroom wall.
“Elliot just called. Apparently there’s some concert or something that he wants us all to go see after dinner downtown and there won’t be any parking, so he wants us to pick them up since we have a Taylor to drop us off.”
“What? No. We’re not going there.”
“To Pioneer Square?”
I give him a pointed look to both illustrate that Pioneer Square is not the issue and that he should know exactly what I’m talking about.
Once the dust settled from the incident with Lincoln and we finally started to get back to our normal lives, Kate decided that she was ready to move in with Elliot again, but she didn’t want to live in the house that he shared with Gia. She’d helped him pick that house out the summer before and he’d shared it with another woman, so being there just felt like betrayal to her. He ultimately agreed to sell, but it was scooped off the market much more quickly than the new house they were building in Medina could be finished. So, they’ve been living in Escala in the interim. It’s been great for both of them being so close to work, but not so good for family gatherings. I haven’t been back since that night, and I never intend to.
Christian starts to look the way he does when he’s going to try and talk to me about what happened, so I quickly turn and reach for my mascara to give me a legitimate excuse for telling him I don’t have time to deal with this right now.
“Flynn still has you on his schedule, Ana. You should go and see him.”
“I do see him.”
“I mean, alone. Not just with me.”
“I’m fine!” I realize I’m shouting and that is an entirely inappropriate response for the message I’m trying to convey, so I take a breath and try again. “I’m fine. I just don’t want to go back to Escala. I’ve been very clear about that and you agreed.”
He wants to argue with me, I know he does, but he won’t. Instead he lets out a disappointed sigh and nods his head. “You’re right, I did. I’ll have Andrea send a car.”
“Fine.” My tone is meant to dismiss him, but he doesn’t leave. He comes up behind me and places a hand over the exposed part of my hip, so gently that his touch gives me goosebumps. When he drags the tip of his nose up the curve of my neck, my whole body shivers.
“I love you.”
Instantly, my irritation vanishes. “I love you too.”
“Mmm.” His lips press softly into the sensitive place just below my ear. “Get dressed. Any longer in just this and you and I are going to be very, very late.”
I laugh, step out of his reach, and then make eye contact with him in the mirror. “Then go.”
He smiles and disappears from the bathroom with Calli still tucked in his arms. I take a deep breath, turn up the volume on my phone, and start with the mascara again.
We’re the last to arrive at Canlis and Elliot is clearly irritated. He practically glares at Christian as he pulls out my chair at the table, but Kate’s over excitement to get Calliope in her arms quickly eliminates his ability to be openly indignant towards us. Christian knows this, so he gives Elliot an almost arrogant smirk as he relinquishes the baby and settles down into his seat next to me.
“Good of you to join us, Son,” Carrick says. “I must have called you three times today. I was beginning to worry.”
“I’m sorry, Ana and I have been a little pre-occupied this afternoon and I didn’t see your calls until we were already on the way. Is everything alright?”
“The team keeps telling me it is, but I’m concerned that this tape isn’t everything we’re hoping for. The man had an affair, which is terrible, but I’m not convinced it’s enough for Seattle voters to vote out their three term incumbent mayor. We should be focusing more on the systematic corruption he’s turned a blind eye on.”
Christian shakes his head. “We are, Dad, but believe me when I tell you this is your ace in the hole. It’s not just an affair. He used his position and taxpayer money to keep what he was doing secret. Government funds were spent on hotel rooms, weekend getaways, gifts. I’ve had every PR expert in this city keeping that narrative constant on the airways since the story broke, it’s going to ruin him. Come November, you’re going to be mayor, Dad. Trust me.”
“You really don’t think this is going to come back and bite us in the ass? I mean, the whole October surprise thing, isn’t it kind of… petty?”
“That footage wasn’t ours. It was sent to King 5 anonymously.” Carrick gives Christian a suspicious look but he doubles down. “I swear, I really didn’t have anything to do with it. I’m sure it was sent by a concerned citizen who knew you really could do some good after you were elected. People believe in you, Dad.”
“What if whoever sent that tape tries to use it as blackmail later? As some kind of leverage for getting me into office?”
“I don’t know how they could. You didn’t pay for it, you didn’t even release it. Your hands are completely clean of this, Dad. You just need to relax and be grateful. This is a good thing.”
He takes a breath and nods, but as the conversation switches back to Kate and Elliot, I look down at the salad in front of me and push it around my plate with the end of my fork. Once Christian was out of the hospital, he immediately sued the Seattle Police Department for their own negligence in what had happened. Unfortunately, that lawsuit is currently being held up in a slew of bureaucratic loopholes and roadblocks through the King County court system, and the security footage we released to clear my father of the charges filed against him ultimately led both the police and the FBI to consider the case closed based on the confessions and ultimate death of Andrew Lincoln.
All of my worst fears about what would happen with the police after this was over have been realized. No follow up investigations are being done into the additional people Linc may have had working for him but were never caught, there hasn’t been anything done about the prison guards who allowed Elena Lincoln to be smuggled out of prison during the highly publicized riot only to be later found gruesomely murdered herself, and not one officer or detective has faced even reprimand over the failures to protect one of Seattle’s most notable residents, despite the overt threat that was brought to their attention over and over again. Carrick had warned us that this was going to be pushed under the rug, it was too damning to the people in power in this city, but Christian refused to let it. As a family, we decided that if the people in power weren’t going to help us, they needed to be replaced, and so, at the very last second, Carrick entered into the Seattle Mayoral race.
If he wins, when he wins, he’ll be able to appoint his own chief of police, who won’t let this go. Not just in our case, but for everyone. Three people died in the apartment fire Linc set to try and cover his disposal of Charles Gresham, their families deserve justice just the same as we do. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to do everything in our power to make sure Carrick overcomes the deficit his late entry has left him in with the voters so that he takes office in January. For Christian, that means providing funding, using his connections around the city to garner support, and hiring the best of the best to advise and run his father’s campaign. For the rest of us, it means something different.
“You okay?” Christian asks, reaching beneath the table to place a reassuring hand on my knee. I glance over, give him a closed lip smile, and then very purposefully turn my attention to Grace and Kate, who are talking about construction on her new house.
“You would think Elliot being the owner of the construction company building the house would mean fewer headaches and delays, but I swear something new comes up every week to push our moving day further out.”
“Well, if you didn’t keep changing your mind on what you wanted every three days…” Elliot says defensively, but when Kate turns to glare at him, he immediately falls silent.
“You’ll be settled soon enough,” Grace assures her. “Christian and Ana waited months for their home to finish being remodeled, and look how beautifully it turned out in the end. Speaking of which, I’m thinking about remodeling our kitchen and I wanted to talk to you about where you ordered your counters from, Anastasia. I can’t get over how beautiful your marble is.”
“Tuscany,” Elliot answers. “And trust me, it’s not worth it. That whole transaction was a nightmare.”
“But it’s the best of the best,” Christian insists.
“Mhm.” He rolls his eyes and then jumps a little before reaching into the pocket of his dinner jacket to remove his phone. When he sees the number, he frowns.
“No phones at the dinner table, Elliot,” Mia says, her tone annoyed because Grace had only just taken her phone away a few minutes before.
“Hold on, it’s work. I have to take this.”
“Now?” Kate asks.
“I’m sorry, I’ll be right back.” He gets up from the table and disappears through the dimly lit dining room, but as the conversation between the family turns to a new subject, I make eye contact with her and note that she looks a little rueful.
“Fine,” she says, but the smile she gives me doesn’t reach her eyes.
Our entrees arrive before Elliot gets back, which doesn’t seem to sit well with Kate. I watch her glances to the door Elliot disappeared through become more pointed and angry the further we get into the meal and by the time he finally does come back to the table, she’s practically shaking.
“I have to go…” Elliot says nervously, picking up his glass of water to take a drink before pulling his coat from the back of his chair.
“You’re not serious,” Kate replies.
“I’m sorry, baby. Emergency. They need me down on a job site right now. Enjoy your dinner and I’ll meet you guys at the concert later, okay?”
“Elliot, it’s our anniversary.”
“I know, and I wish I could stay, but I can’t. I’ll get back as soon as I can. Promise.” He leans over to kiss her cheek, but she moves out of the way.
“I would think long and hard about your decision to leave this restaurant right now if I were you, Elliot Trevelyan-Grey.”
“I don’t want to go, Kate, but I have to. I’m sorry. I’ll be quick, I swear.”
Her mouth sets into a thin line, so he gives up on the idea of a kiss good-bye and gives the rest of his family a sheepish look before hurrying away from the table. Once he’s gone, I see Kate’s entire body tense and her grip tightens on the fork in her hand.
“This stuff happens,” Christian says, trying to play the peacekeeper. “You can’t always plan for catastrophes when you own a company. I’ve had to leave Ana in the lurch before.”
“Really?” Kate’s tone is more hard and skeptical than curious.
“Yeah. I missed nearly everything she planned for Valentine’s Day last year. She spent that night alone. No, worse, with Luke. It killed me, just like I know it’s killing Elliot to leave right now.”
Her shoulders rise as she takes a deep breath, but she still doesn’t seem to be put completely at ease by Christian’s reassurances. For the rest of the meal, she’s quiet and mostly withdrawn from the conversation around the table, so after we’ve left and Taylor has dropped us off in the heart of Pioneer Square so we can all make our way to the concert venue, I purposefully fall behind the others so she and I can speak privately.
“Are you okay?”
“One night, Ana. All I wanted was one night where I felt just as important as his job. I mean, is that too much to ask?”
“No. And you are important to him, Kate. Christian was right before. You know he would rather be here with you than anywhere else in the world.”
“Do I?” The overt doubt in her tone has me slightly taken aback and I think she can see that because she looks away and takes a second to choose her words carefully before she continues. “I know he loves me, okay? I know that, but maybe love means something different to him than it does to me. I don’t know… I just… I worry that this is turning into exactly what it was right before we broke up and I’d kind of forgotten how this felt, you know? To be abandoned all the time. To be his second choice. I know what it’s like not to have him, to miss him all the time, and it’s excruciating. I can’t do that again. But this…” She pauses again. “This isn’t better. Carter was willing to marry me, Ana. Carter wanted to marry me, and I turned him down. For this.”
The pain in her voice wounds me but I don’t know how to comfort her. She knew what she was getting before she ever got back together with Elliot, she said she’d accepted it, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Maybe she thought he’d change his mind. Maybe she’s changed hers.
“Kate, you know that Elliot doesn’t want marriage, don’t you?”
“Yes, Ana. He’s been very clear about that.”
“No, but… you really know that, right? You’re not secretly holding out hope that one day his perspective on the world will change and he’ll realize marriage is what he’s wanted all along?”
“No, I’m not. I don’t care about a wedding, that’s not what this is about. I told you that I’m perfectly fine if we never get married as long as he was in this for real, forever, but that’s not what this is. I need him to show me that I mean more to him than just someone who he can have fun and hang out with but is also willing to give him sex. I need to feel like his love means something. I need to know that he’s really committed before…” Her words cut off and I feel my brow furrow.
“Oh my god, look!” Mia cries, and Kate’s attention is diverted away from me to the open space in the square in front of us. Music has started from somewhere and the crowd of people milling around, which I thought was concert traffic, suddenly breaks out into an elaborate choreographed dance.
“It’s a flash mob,” Kate says, narrowing her eyes, and, slowly, the stress from our conversation about Elliot melts off her face as she takes in the remarkable sight before us. The whole performance is impressive, with professional level dancing, singers, and some incredible acrobatics. Both Mia and Grace pull out their phones to record but before I can follow their lead, two people come up behind us and hook their arms through Kate’s to drag her forward. My first reaction is to panic, to reach forward, pull her back, and scream for help, but it becomes apparent very quickly that what’s happening isn’t malicious. Her involvement is part of the performance.
They take her into the middle of the square, set her down in a single chair, and hand her a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. From then on, everything the performers do is directed only at her, and as I finally recognize what song they’re all dancing and singing to, I realize what’s happening and my eyes start to prick with tears.
The crowd of dancers parts and in the middle of the newly formed aisle, Elliot stands, grinning at Kate. He walks towards her as the flash mob finishes the final verse of the song.
Cause it’s a beautiful night,
We’re looking for something dumb to do.
I think I wanna marry you.
Is it the look in your eyes?
Or is it this dancing juice?
Who cares, baby.
I think I wanna marry you.
Christian steps up behind me, places his arms around me, and kisses me gently on the cheek. “Did you know about this?” I ask.
“You think I would really willingly go to a concert Elliot picked out for Kate? God, we could have been subjected to… Katy Perry.” The mock disgust in his voice makes me laugh and I turn to beam at him.
“You Grey men…”
He smiles, and then kisses me quickly before we both turn to look back at Kate and Elliot in the middle of the square. The crowd surrounding them, including all of us, collectively holds their breath as Elliot reaches into his jacket pocket, pulls out a small, black box, and sinks down to one knee.
“Kate, I love you with all of my heart and the fact that I didn’t do this the very moment I met you makes me the biggest idiot in the entire world. There is no amount of time I could spend with you that would ever be enough. I need forever. So, Katherine Agnes Kavanagh, love of my life, will you marry me?”
She looks as though she’s gone into shock. Her eyes are wide as she glances between him and the ring in his hand, but she doesn’t move, she doesn’t speak, and soon the air is thick with an uncomfortable kind of anxiousness. Elliot swallows and holds the ring out further to her.
Her bottom lip starts to tremble and she glances around at all of us gaping at her. Her hesitation makes me cringe. This is actually happening. Elliot is down on one knee, finally putting aside the selfish part of himself to give her the one thing she’s wanted since day one, and instead of jumping up and down with joy, she looks devastated. Why? She just told me she needed to see some kind of commitment from him and here he is, on bended knee. Fuck, maybe that’s it. Maybe this is too late. Is she going to say no?
“Elliot…” Her voice shakes. “I-I don’t know what to say. I didn’t think that you would–”
“I know,” he interrupts her. “I was stupid when I told you I didn’t want this. I do. I really do, Kate.”
She brings her hand up to cover her mouth, and a tear falls from the corner of her eyes. The problem is, it’s not really a happy tear. “Baby, I want to marry you so much it hurts, but there’s something you need to know before you really ask me this question…”
His face falls and his complexion quickly develops an almost green tint. “What?”
She swallows and looks at all of us once last time, clearly wishing she didn’t have to say what she’s about to with an audience. When she speaks, her words come out in a whisper. “I’m pregnant.”
Oh my god.
I look up at Christian and see that his mouth is open in shock. Every one of us is paralyzed in this moment, wanting to look away from the now completely blank expression on Elliot’s face, but none of us can. It’s like a bad car accident on the freeway. He looks like she’s just hit him with a freight train and now he’s left reeling, unable to react and unable to speak. The tension from his complete and utter lack of response is so thick that each second feels like an eternity, and eventually Kate starts to sob.
“Please say something,” she pleads.
Elliot blinks, then swallows, and looks back up at her again. “Me? I asked you a question, Katie, and you haven’t answered me. Will you marry me?”
“You mean… you’re still asking?”
“Of course I am.”
“But… you said you didn’t want this. You said that… that…”
She starts choking over her tears again, so Elliot scrambles to his feet and forces her to look into his eyes. “What I want is you, Katie. All of you. Everything about you. You are all I’ve ever wanted.”
“Elliot.” Her face breaks into a huge smile and she starts nodding her head. “Yes! Yes, yes, yes, I’ll marry you.”
He smiles, but his hands are shaking so badly when he moves to put the ring on her that he drops the box entirely and the platinum band rolls far enough across the cement that Christian has to stop it with his foot.
“Smooth, Elliot,” he says, handing it back to him, and Elliot’s cheeks pink as he takes the ring from his brother and slides it onto Kate’s finger. As she leaps into his arms and kisses her brand new fiance so passionately that she has to have forgotten about the crowd of people still standing all around them, the tears pooling in my eyes finally break over my lower lids and begin pouring down my cheeks, and Christian pulls me tighter into him.
“I guess this makes it official, you two are officially going to be sisters. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.”
I smile and glance down at Calliope, sleeping peacefully in the stroller in front of me, and then look back up into my husband’s eyes. “Yeah, but then again, I already have more than I could have ever dreamed. I have you. I love you, Christian.”
“I love you too, Anastasia. Forever and always.”
And there, in the light of the sunset pooling in the square around us, applause breaks out for Kate and Elliot’s happiness and Christian lowers his lips to mine in an all consuming kiss that resonates through every cell in my body.
Finally, everything is right.
Everything is perfect.
The Final Shade of Fifty coming February 2018