Chapter 03

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My shower is a little too hot, but when I step beneath the cascade of water, I find that I don’t care. The shower quickly fills with steam and it’s relaxing, like being in a sauna. I pick up the shampoo, pour a dab into my hand, and begin working it into the roots of my hair. As I tilt my head back to rinse, I think I hear the low groan of the glass door sliding open over the sound of the water, but I disregard it until I feel a pair of strong arms wrap around me.

A smile creeps across my lips as the arms move up my sides and begin to massage my breasts.

“Good Morning,” I tell him.

“Shh,” He whispers. “You don’t want Kate and Elliot to know I’m here, do you?” His lips brush against my shoulder, up my neck, and, when his teeth graze my earlobe, I moan.

“Put your hands against the wall,” He commands and I obey immediately. My skin tingles when his finger traces down the line of my spine. “Open your legs for me.”

I widen my stance and his finger drags lazily over my behind to the junction of my thighs. When his fingers find my clitoris, I exhale sharply, and he moans.

“You’re always ready for me,” He says approvingly, and his fingers slide inside of me, stroking and stretching me, preparing me for what’s to come. The anticipation builds and I feel my body begin to shutter. He steps forward, pressing his naked chest against my back, and grips my breast with his free hand while the other continues his sensual assault below. I can feel my knees begin to weaken when his fingers brush against the spot inside of me that promises to tip me over the edge.

“Mmm, right there?” He asks in a low, husky voice. I can feel his smile against the skin of my neck. He’s always so pleased with himself, knowing exactly what he does to me.

“Yes,” I breathe. He increases the pressure of his fingers ever so slightly, circling them around and around, but, just as I’m about to erupt, he removes them, leaving me hanging. I whimper with disappointment.

“I want you to come with me inside of you,” He whispers, grabbing me firmly to turn me around so that I’m facing him. His lips come down on mine and he thrusts his tongue into my mouth, possessing me entirely as he reaches for my leg and pulls it up so that I’m wrapped around him. I mirror the action with my other leg and now I’m totally at his mercy, pinned between him and the shower wall. Without breaking our kiss, he reaches down and positions himself beneath me, and in one, swift motion, he buries himself inside of me.

I cry out, unable to hold back, and the moment my lips leave his, he begins leaving a trail of kisses across my jaw while I pant with need. The water cascades over us, adding to the heat building in my skin. He pushes in and out of me and I begin to build again, faster this time and stronger this time, my approaching orgasm intensified from being robbed of this same sensation only seconds ago. He groans as he moves in and out of me, gripping my legs so tightly, I wonder vaguely if his fingers will leave behind bruises, but in this moment I don’t care… I want him to hold me tighter, to take me harder. I’m so close. I’m building, and building, and building, and…

“Christian!” I cry out as I come, hard, around him, my body so ignited by the pleasure I’m actually convulsing. He growls, increasing his fervor. I can feel that he’s getting close and it drives me on and on.

“That’s it, baby. God, I love it when you scream my name. You’re so fucking sexy when you come, Anastasia,” Christian encourages me as I wrap myself tighter around him, still reeling. He slams me back into the shower wall and just as he’s about to explode…

“Fuck!”

I sit bolt upright in my bed, staring around the dark room as if I’m lost. I’m still panting and I’m covered in a thin sheen of sweat, but I’m alone. He isn’t here…

I scowl. All the effort I put into not thinking about him during the day completely unravelled by my subconscious at night. It isn’t fair.

I shake my head slightly, trying to orient myself and dispel the vivid images still haunting me from my dream, and then turn to pick my phone up off the nightstand. It’s 5:30 in the morning, too late to go back to sleep but too early to get up for the gym. I groan as I roll out of bed, deciding maybe I should get up anyway and take a shower to try so I can get a grip on myself. `

Kate is already in the kitchen, buttering a piece of toast for a very sleepy looking Elliot, when I make it downstairs a little over an hour later.

“Good morning,” She says sweetly when I step up to the counter next to her and pull a mug and the box of Twining’s down from the cabinet. “Did you have pleasant dreams?”

“What do you mean?” I ask, too quickly, and I feel my face heat as blood rushes to my cheeks.

“I mean, did you sleep well?” She replies suspiciously.

“Oh… uh, yeah,” I say, diverting my eyes and moving to the stove to retrieve the kettle. Kate grabs a jar of jam and a bowl of fruit she prepped last weekend out of the fridge and takes a seat next to Elliot, who yawns loudly.

“You’re up early,” I say to him as I put the kettle on to boil.

“I have to drive down to Providence to inspect a new building that’s going up,” He says. “Make sure it’s not going to collapse and kill everyone, or flood, or whatever.”

“Glad to hear you’re so invested in the project,” I say sarcastically.

“Mhm,” He mumbles, sounding entirely insincere.

“You’re meeting with Dr. Ralston today, aren’t you?” Kate asks.

“Yeah, I’ve got to go down to the admissions office first and find out what’s going on with my account, but we have a meeting after that.”

“Did you pick an article?”

“Yes, Kate,” I say rolling my eyes at her enthusiasm. “I didn’t however, make any progress on my manuscript so… that’ll be fun to talk about.” The kettle begins to whistle so I pour the hot water in my mug and slip in a tea bag before joining Kate and Elliot at the breakfast table.

“You’ll get it,” Elliot says, and I look over at him, surprised.

“Awh, Elliot. That’s so sweet of you,” I say, a sentimental kind of smile creeping across my lips.

“Whatever. You’re just… I mean that… Nerd,” He says, giving me an awkward glance before returning to his breakfast, and I laugh. Apparently his insult capabilities are severely diminished before 7 AM.

“Are you going to be back from Providence in time for dinner?” Kate asks, but before Elliot can reply the phone rings. The three of us exchange expectant glances, each looking at someone else to answer it, before Elliot finally sighs and gets up from the table.

“Isn’t like 3:30 AM his time?” I ask, looking at Kate with an annoyed expression.

“He can’t sleep, Ana! There’s business to business ’cause business is businessing,” She jokes, and I hide my giggle behind my hand as Elliot answers the phone.

“Hello?” He says. “Hi, Christian. Nope, Ana is still in bed because she’s lazy and generally unmotivated in life.” I shake my head and try to scowl as I laugh silently. Jerk. “No, I’m not going to go wake her up. Because she’s mean, and she’s small but she’s scrappy. She can bring the pain. I don’t know, I don’t know her life. Yes, she’s alone.” He says exasperatedly. “Yes, I’ll tell her you called. Look, I’ve got to get to work. See you Friday? Cool. Laters.”

He hangs up the phone and collapses into his chair, picking uninterestedly at his food.

“I think it would be kind of funny if you answered the phone tomorrow, Ana,” He says, and I narrow my eyes at him.

“Do you?”

“Yeah. I mean, really, I just wanna know if he knows what he would say if I were to hand the phone over to you, or if he just calls every day knowing that you won’t answer, but that you’ll know that he called.”

“I don’t really care.”

“I do, though. What if he like, freaks out and just hangs up. It would hilarious,” He says. He looks down at his watch and then groans. “I’ve got to get going. Have a good day at school,” He tells Kate, leaning down for a goodbye kiss. He grabs his coat and a briefcase resting by the back door and then turns to call back to me as he heads out for his car.

“Good luck today, Ana!” He says, and I wave good-bye to him through the glass.

“You ready for the gym?” Kate asks.

“Let’s do it.”

After a rewarding 45 minutes on the treadmill and my second shower of the day, I find myself in the Harvard Admissions office. It’s busy for them this time of year since most high school students are sending in their college applications, so I have to wait in an old padded chair for nearly an hour before someone can help me.

“Miss Steele?” A woman in a fuchsia colored blazer says. I stand and she waves for me to follow her back to her desk. “What can I do for you today?” She asks when she sits down.

“I got a letter from my dad and he said that his checks for my tuition have been returned. We’re a little confused by why that is.”

“Okay, let me take a look at your account. What’s your student ID number?” She asks. I recite the number I’ve used for practically everything school related for the last three years and her fingers begin tapping hurriedly over the keys on her computer.

“It looks like…” She says, leaning into the screen as if to read the words more carefully. “Well, it looks like your balance for the fall semester was paid in full on August 1st, and your balance for the spring semester was paid on December 27th.”

“Can I ask how?”

“It was done via electronic payment.”

“Well, my dad is overseas, he’s in Iraq. He couldn’t have paid that…”

“I’m sorry, are you asking me to refund the payment? Because that’s not something we’re able to do.”

“I’m just afraid it was done in error and when it’s corrected, I’ll lose credit. I’m on scholarship so I don’t know how that was applied or if everything was sent back.”

“Well, let me see if I can find out what happened here…” She says, pressing the buttons on her mouse a few times, and then clicking her tongue as she reads the new information.

“The only thing this tells me was that the payment was made by CTG,” She says when she turns to look back at me.

CTG? What is that like an acronym or something? Credit… transaction… What is G? And then it hits me. It isn’t an acronym, they’re initials. C.T.G. Christian Trevelyan-Grey.

I frown. Does he think he can buy me back?

Well, I’m sorry Christian but unlike you, I can’t be bought. I’m not some company you can buy up and incorporate into your life. Real life doesn’t work like mergers and acquisitions.

“And there is no way you can refund the payment?” I ask, having to consciously keep my temper under control. This isn’t her fault after all…

“I’m sorry, once a payment has been processed it is non-refundable,” She says.

“Well, thank you for your help,” I tell her, and then shake her hand as I turn to leave her office. I don’t know how to handle this from here… I don’t have the money to pay him back and since he paid the full amount before my scholarships were applied, the checks that got sent back won’t be enough to cover the full total. But I’m not going to accept Christian’s bribery. Once I graduate, I guess I’ll just make my student loan payments out to him rather than the bank. He’s not paying for me to go to school. I don’t want anything to do with his hush money.

I hurry out of the building for my meeting with Dr. Ralston, who is waiting patiently in his office with doughnuts. I take one graciously as he takes my article submissions and then turns the conversation back to my manuscript.

“How’s the novel progressing?” He asks.

“It’s… not. I’ve spent the last few nights trying to get back into it, but I always run into the same problem. I just don’t know how to make this right for my main character in the end.”

“Well…” Dr. Ralston ponders. “What do you want for Isaiah? Do you want him to find closure? Acceptance?”

“Maybe…” I reply, but he senses my hesitation.

“What’s your message here, Anastasia? You’ve written about loss and living with depression, what do you want people to know about those things?”

“Well…” I hesitate again. “I guess maybe that, he can’t be fixed… but that he can survive.”

“Okay,” Dr. Ralston says, encouraging me to continue.

“For him, it isn’t about getting back to who he was before, but trying to discover who he is now, because… this terrible thing happened, and he’s not the same anymore. The person he was before is gone and this new person is damaged, and scared, and… untrusting, but he’s a survivor too. The very worst happened and he lived through it. Surely, there has to be light on the horizon if you’ve already experienced the worst.”

“So who is he now?”

“I don’t know yet…”

The wooden office chair Dr. Ralston is sitting in creaks as he leans back and smiles at me, pondering his response. “You need to feel it,” He tells me at last.

“What do you mean?”

“You need to feel the loss and decide what it would take to for you to find the new you. You say he’s damaged, and scared, and untrusting, well, he needs to decide if he’ll let it go and move past it, or if he’ll let it crush him. It’s up to you to decide what that looks like.”

“Feel it… right,” I say thoughtfully. “Thank you, Dr. Ralston. You’ve given me a lot to think about.”

“And you’ve given me a lot to read,” He says, leaning forward to pick up the articles I’ve brought with me. “I’ll scan through these and pass them off to Miss Kavanagh, she’s my editor.”

“Thank-you, sir,” I reply guiltily since I already know exactly who Miss Kavanagh is. I pick up my bag, thank him again, and disappear from the office, knowing I have just enough time to jot down some ideas before my next class.

I spend the afternoon thinking I’m lucky that I have work tonight because a slow night in the library is perfect for getting some writing done. Unfortunately, when I get to work, Charlotte, the new library aide, gives me a project down in the archives that prevents me from being able to write at all, and when I’m finished and am back to working at the circulation counter, I see Luke walk through the front doors.

“How’s it going, Steele?” He asks.

“Surprisingly busy,” I tell him, “Buuut… I think I’ve got direction for my book now.”

“That’s awesome, sounds like you’ve had a productive day.”

“I have,” I agree, and then narrow my eyes to look at him more seriously. “Can I tell you something ridiculous?”

“Always.”

“Do you remember that ex-boyfriend I told you about, Elliot’s brother?”

“No, but only because you made me swear never to bring him up again,” He says, and his subsequent smile makes me laugh.

“Don’t make me laugh, this isn’t funny!” I giggle.

“Okay,” He says, suddenly serious. “Yes, I remember you telling me about this horrible person who makes everything terrible.”

I roll my eyes.

“Well, my Dad’s tuition checks got returned so I went down to the admissions office to find out what was going on, and it turns out, he’s been paying my tuition.”

“Your ex-boyfriend has been paying for you to go to Harvard? That’s… generous.”

“No, you don’t understand. He’s trying to buy my forgiveness. He has a history of thinking you can solve problems with big payouts.”

“Still…” Luke says. “That’s… I don’t even know… What does a semester at Harvard cost? Twenty-thousand dollars?”

“A little more than that… He paid for the year so just under forty-five thousand.”

He whistles. “Forty-five thousand dollars and you’re not ready to forgive him. He must have done something really bad.”

I glare at him. “Is that a man thing? Thinking you can just buy people off and everything will be okay?”

“Well, no. But, forty-five thousand dollars? Compare that to the salary of someone working campus security…”

“Well, it’s practically nothing to him, so it’s not even really that flattering,” I say, wishing now I hadn’t said anything. He’s making me feel like an ungrateful child. Shit, is that how I’m acting? No. No, I know exactly what Christian is trying to do. He thinks paying my tuition will win me back, but he’s wrong. He can’t buy me. Ugh… Maybe Kate would have been a better person to vent to.

“Almost fifty-thousand dollars and it’s nothing to him? What does he do?” Luke asks.

“He owns some big company in Seattle,” I say offhandedly, picking up a book and inputting the new call number into our system.

“Wait… Seattle? And he’s Elliot’s brother?”

“Yes.”

“As in Elliot GREY? Are you telling me that your ex-boyfriend is Christian Grey?”

“That’s him.”

“Oh my god, Ana! He doesn’t just own a company, he owns THE company. He’s like… stupid rich!”

“No, he’s just stupid,” I say, rolling my eyes as I pick up another book.

“Seriously, Ana! If he’s paying your tuition, he obviously still cares about you. I mean, I don’t know what he did, but have you considered the kind of life you could have with someone like him?”

“Luke…”

“Sorry, I forgot. We’re not supposed to talk about him,” Luke says hastily, looking properly chastened by my tone. “I just wasn’t prepared to find out you’re ex-boyfriend is Time Magazine’s Man of the Year.”

“Yeah, well, that’s all in the past now. As far as you’re concerned, he’s Lord Voldemort.”

“Lord Voldemort?”

“He Who Shall Not be Named.”

Luke laughs. “Alright, Alright. What time do you get off?”

“In just a few minutes, why?”

“Do you wanna come to my house and watch a movie tonight? It can be one of those awful, boring, black and white ones you like,” He says, trying to tempt me, and, again, I laugh.

“I can’t. I really have to work on my manuscript. Besides, it’s my turn to cook dinner.”

“Okay,” He shrugs, but I can tell he’s disappointed.

“We’ll do something soon. Kate and Elliot are going out of town this weekend, we can hang out then,” I suggest.

“Sounds great.” He smiles.

While I finish inputting the last few books, Luke tells me an unfortunate story that happened earlier today when someone living in the dorms called campus security, but when he got there, it turned out they had a clogged toilet.

“So to say that it was a shitty day is a little too on the nose,” He says, and I laugh but give him a pitying look. Once I’m finished, I let Charlotte know I’m leaving and Luke insists on walking me to Kate’s car, even though it isn’t even dark out yet. Seriously, I’ve never met someone who takes their job as seriously as Luke Sawyer. I hug him goodbye before slipping into the passenger’s seat of Kate’s Mercedes.

“How did it go with Dr. Ralston?” Kate asks as she pulls away from the curb.

“Good. I think I might be able to pick my book back up.”

“That’s awesome! He sent me your articles today and I can’t even decide which ones I want. Well done, Ana.”

“Oh thanks,” I say, feigning modesty, waving my hand at her as if to brush her off, and then devolving into laughter.

When we pull up into the alley behind our house, I see that Elliot has made it back from Providence. He’s already got Sports Center blaring in the living room, so Kate follows me into the kitchen and settles down on a barstool to chat while I pull the defrosted hamburger out of the fridge for tacos.

We set the table, laying out the taco shells and all the ingredients I’ve chopped up, and Elliot drags himself away from the TV and settles down at the table just as I set down the bowl of taco meat.

“This looks delicious, Ana,” He says, smiling at me, and I thank him as I pass Kate a bowl of rice and beans.

“Thanks, Elliot. Is your building going to fall down?” I ask.

“No,” He grumbles. “But the drainage wasn’t adequate and it’s an expensive fix so my boss is going to be pissed.”

“I’m sorry,” I tell him.

“Did you find out what was going on with your tuition, Ana?” Kate asks.

“Yeah…” I reply hesitantly, which is a mistake because the awkwardness in my tone immediately catches her interest.

“And?”

“Turns out… Christian paid my tuition before any of my scholarships, or loans, or Ray’s payments came in, so they were all sent back because I had a zero balance.”

Kate drops her fork. “He paid your tuition? Oh my god, isn’t that like fifty thousand dollars?”

“Almost,” I say sheepishly.

“Christian gave you fifty thousand dollars?” Elliot asks, and then continues, grumbling under his breath. “I wish he’d give me fifty thousand dollars. I’m the one that’s nice to him.”

“Trust me, if I could, I’d give it to you,” I tell him, darkly.

“Easy there, trust fund,” Kate says pointedly at Elliot before turning back to me. “So, what are you going to do? Are you going to have them refund him?”

“They said they can’t,” I tell her. “I guess I’ll just pay him back instead of paying back student loans.”

“You guys aren’t really surprised by this are you?” Elliot asks. “I mean, I know that I don’t have to tell you that he’s still in love with you, Ana. He’s called here every single day for two years even though you haven’t picked up the phone once. Every time I talk to him, you’re all he asks about. He’s just trying to do something nice for you.”

“I don’t want his money, Elliot,” I say, pushing my rice around my plate. I really don’t want to get into this with him, he already has it bad enough being caught in the middle of Christian and Carrick. Thankfully, Kate is the one to speak next.

“Well… at least Ray isn’t out tuition money now,” She says. “He can do something really great when he comes home.”

“Yeah,” I reply.

“And Christian won’t charge you interest…” Elliot adds. “If he lets you pay him back at all, which I doubt he will.”

“Oh, I’ll find a way,” I promise him, but before he can reply the phone rings.

“Why don’t you ask him yourself?” He says, gesturing to the phone, and I roll my eyes and turn back to my dinner. Elliot gets up from the table and takes the phone off the receiver.

“She’s not here, Christian,” He answers but immediately his face changes from irritation to confusion. I can’t distinguish the voice but it sounds like someone is yelling at him. “Whoa, Mom, slow down. I can’t understand you,” Elliot says. “Who? Are you kidding me? No, I didn’t know… No, I’m sorry. Is Dad okay? No, Mom don’t worry about Christian. I’m sure it’s a misunderstanding. I’ll call him and find out what’s going on. No, it’s fine… yeah, I’ll call you back. Okay, I love you. Bye.”

He hangs up the phone and runs his fingers through his hair the same way Christian used to when he was frustrated.

“What happened?” Kate asks, but Elliot doesn’t answer. He looks down at his watch, then pulls out his cell phone, and walks into the living room to make a call. Kate holds her finger to her lips, telling me to stay silent so she can hear Elliot’s conversation.

“Christian Grey, please. No Andrea, this is Elliot and I need to speak with him immediately. Yes, I’ll hold.” There is a long drawn out silence and when he speaks again he’s immediately angry. “What the fuck, Christian? Cut the bullshit, you know why I’m calling. No, Mom did. What the fuck are you doing having lunch with Elena Lincoln?”

I freeze when I hear her name and focus more intently on the conversation.

“Not a big deal? What the fuck do you mean not a big deal? A business meeting? What is that, like code for something? Are you fucking her again? Because I swear to god… What? No, I… Jesus Christ, hold on…”

I hear his heavy footfalls across the hardwood floor of the living room, and then the front door opens and slams behind him.

Kate looks at me with wide eyes but I just shake my head in disgust. Is anyone really that surprised he’s still in contact with the bitch troll? I mean, she bought him outright, surely she has to keep tabs on her investment.

“I don’t think I’m hungry anymore,” I say, standing from the table and stomping out of the kitchen. Kate calls out for me but I don’t stop. When I get to my bedroom, I slam the door behind me and collapse on the bed, the vague memory of his words outside the courthouse ringing in my ears.

I promise you it’s over Ana. She’s out of our lives.

I really don’t know why I’m upset. It’s just another lie. What’s one more piled on the heap? Did I really believe that after he lied for her she’d just disappear from his life forever? I roll onto my back, fuming. I ran out of tears for Christian Grey over a year ago, now all that’s left is anger. I pull open the lid of my laptop and begin typing furiously, not for anything productive but just a long, stream of conscious rant that I can delete when I’m finished and then move on. It’s therapeutic.

An hour passes and I’m ten pages into my expletive filled tirade when there is a knock on my bedroom door.

“Ana?” Elliot’s voice calls out. “Can I come in?”

“Sure,” I say, and the door opens. He looks worn out, like he’s just finished the longest day of his life and he’s ready to sleep forever. He walks around to the other side of my bed, lays down on top of my comforter, and stares up at the ceiling.

“It’s really hard being on his side sometimes,” He says eventually, and I snort.

“You mean you find it difficult trying justify his association with child molesters?” I ask sarcastically. “Weird.”

“My parents saw them together at a restaurant this afternoon. My dad freaked out and caused a scene before storming out and dragging my mom out with him. Christian said it was just a business meeting. I guess after what happened with Christian’s trial, my dad was still able to screw Elena pretty good in her divorce from Andrew. She got money but not enough to support her lifestyle so she opened this salon or something, I don’t know. Apparently she asked Christian for the money to start up and he actually fucking gave it to her. She sucks though, and it started going downhill pretty fast, so Christian stepped in to fix it. Now he owns part of it and takes in a percentage of her profits,” He finishes, through bared teeth.

“Well, that warms my heart,” I say, and Elliot narrows his eyes at me. “I was worried that he was just unselfishly helping her. I’m glad to hear that money is still his biggest concern.”

“Ana…”

“What?” I snap angrily.

“He needs help. I don’t know what it’s going to take to get him away from her. He doesn’t even see what a terrible person she is. I don’t even think he fully understands how much damage she’s done to him,” Elliot says. “I need to do something… maybe I should take some time off work, go home for a while, and see if I can get him back into therapy.”

“He’s not your responsibility, Elliot. You’ve been killing yourself for two years trying to fix his mess, but you can’t force someone to get help if they won’t do it for themselves.”

“He’s my brother, Ana. You might be able to cut him out of your life, but I can’t. He needs family and that’s more clear now than ever. I don’t know if it’s because of what she did to him or his childhood that has him so blinded to what a terrible person she is, but I won’t let her have him. I want my brother back. I’m going to get my family back together if it’s the last thing I do.”

I frown because, as much as it drives me crazy that Elliot wastes so much energy trying to help Christian, it’s moving to once again be witness to the depth of love he has for his family. It makes me glad to think that one day, most likely, he’ll be married to Kate and that she’ll have someone so unwaveringly loyal by her side.

“I’ve been reading a lot lately about traumatic bonding,” He continues. “It’s this thing where someone develops this emotional tie with someone who abuses them and it’s really hard to get out of, kind of like Stockholm syndrome. I mean, she’s been building this relationship with him for seventeen years now. Seriously, since he was four years old. He can’t overcome that alone. It’s a psychological disorder and he needs professional help.”

“You told me he wouldn’t go see any of the therapists your mom suggested,” I say quietly.

“I think…” He begins very carefully. “I mean, maybe if you talked to him…”

“Elliot…” I groan.

“I’m just saying, Ana. You were the most important person in his life. Dad won’t talk to him or let him anywhere near Mia, he’s completely cut himself off from Mom, and he only talks to me to ask about you. Christian has always been distant with us, but never like this. When he was with you, it was better than it had ever been before. He acted like a part of our family and I miss that, we all do. I know he still loves you and if that love is strong enough to last all these years apart, it might be strong enough to convince him to get help.”

“I tried, Elliot,” I grumble. “I did everything I could to get him away from her and he threw it right back into my face.”

“I know…”

“He nearly broke me. Do you know how hard it was for me to come back from that? Why would I open myself up to that kind of pain again?”

“Because I’m selfish enough to ask you to, to beg you, if that’s what it takes.”

“Elliot…”

“Just… think about it?” He asks. “He’s coming here next weekend and maybe…”

“What!” I exclaim, turning sharp eyes on him.

“Yeah,” Elliot replies guiltily. “He’s getting some award in New York next Friday and I told him he should come and visit, you know, get away from work and Seattle. Dad told him he’s no longer invited to the dinner this weekend so I thought spending next weekend here, surrounded by family…”

“He’s staying here?” I interrupt him, now completely incredulous.

“Well… yeah. I mean, we have a guest room.”

“What he can’t afford a hotel room with all those millions of dollars?” I ask darkly.

“If he gets a hotel, he’ll lock himself away and just keep working. We’ll be lucky if he sees Kate and I for a dinner once the entire weekend. That’s all he ever does is work, and it’s making all of this worse. If he’s here, I can force him to stop working for a few days and maybe he’ll see how much he really misses his family, and he’ll realize that he’s in trouble.”

I shake my head, and Elliot sits up and grasps my hand. “Just think about it, Ana, please? I’ve done everything I know to do. I really think you can help him. I know you hate him now or whatever, but he’s my brother. I can’t give up on him.”

“I’ll think about it,” I tell him.

“Thank-you,” He says. He climbs off my bed and turns to leave the room, pausing by the door to turn and look back at me. “I’m really sorry that things didn’t work out between you and Christian. I’d have really liked to have you as a sister.”

“Well, give me Mia’s number,” I grumble, and he laughs.

“I would, but she’s not allowed to date. Ever,” He says.

“Goodnight, Elliot,” I chuckle.

“Goodnight, Ana,” He says, and he turns to leave, closing the door behind him.

Next Chapter

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