Chapter 11

Image result for police lights

“What do you mean you’re in trouble, what’s going on?” I ask, reaching for the remote to turn the movie off so that I can hear her better.

“I’m at a party and the cops just pulled up outside. There’s alcohol and some… drugs in the house.”

“What do you mean drugs? Mia, what’re you doing?”

“Ana!” She says, desperate this time as I hear her begin to cry. “I don’t have time to explain right now, but if they catch me, they’ll arrest me and my dad will kill me. Please, please come get me!”

“Mia, you’re dad’s a lawyer. You should really call him…”

“No! My parents can’t find out about this, Christian can’t find out about this… Please, you have to come and get me!”

I war with myself briefly, knowing I should probably call Carrick, but the panic in Mia’s voice sways me. “Where are you?” I ask her.

“I’ll text you the address. Please hurry,” She begs.

“I’m on my way,” I tell her. “Stay where you are and if the police find you in the house, do NOT resist them.” I hang up the phone and am relieved when I turn around and see that Luke is already in motion.

“Where are we going?” He asks.

“I don’t know, but it’s Christian’s sister and she’s in trouble. She’s at some party that got busted by the cops. She’s going to text me the address of where she’s at, can you take me to pick her up?”

“Of course I can, let’s go,” Luke says and he picks up his jacket and follows me out the door. When we get down to the garage and into Luke’s car, he pulls out onto the road and drives towards the freeway, taking out his cellphone as he goes.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

“If it’s Mia, I have to call Mr. Grey.”

“Don’t,” I beg him. “She said she didn’t want him to know and if anybody is going to go over there, it really should be her Dad.”

“Ana, Mr. Grey is a powerful man. He can help her, probably more than a lawyer could at this point.”

“I don’t think that’s true, Luke. Can we please just check it out for ourselves first? I want to know how bad it is so I know who would be better to call.”

He looks at me, unsure for a moment, but after a second of hesitation, he puts his phone back into his pocket and signals to merge onto the I-5.

The address that Mia sends to me is for a house a few blocks off the UW campus on 36th Ave. The street is blocked off by at least three different police cars throwing red and blue light over the cars parked alongside the street, so Luke has to park his car at the end of the road.

“I’ll be back,” I tell him, ignoring his protest as I jump out and hurry down the sidewalk to the house where I find several kids, most of whom look to be at as old as I am, lined up on the curb in handcuffs. When I look up to the house, I can see Mia sitting on the front step of the porch and so I maneuver my way around the car in the driveway to approach the officers standing closest to her.

“Excuse me, officer?” I say, and he turns to look at me. “My name is Anastasia Steele and I’m, um… I’m responsible for the girl over there, Mia, for the weekend. I’m here to pick her up, is there a problem?”

“You’re responsible for her?” The officer asks, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, her parents are… out of town and she’s staying with me.” I tell him and the way he smirks at me in response tells me he knows that I’m lying and I feel my heart begin to beat furiously in my chest. Fuck

“I’m sorry, Miss Steele is it?”

“Yes.”

“Well, Miss Steele, we’ve already been in contact with the party responsible for Miss Grey and he’s on the way to pick her up.”

“Oh, I uh-,” I stammer, but there’s nowhere for that sentence to go and so I stop under his hard glare. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m a family friend and she called me and asked for help.” I admit. “Would it be okay if I waited with her for Mr. Grey to pick her up?”

He looks at me suspiciously for a minute and then nods. I give him a grateful smile as I make my way up the stairs and sit on the step next to Mia.

“Did they call my Dad?” She asks.

“Yeah, he’s on his way,” I tell her and she hangs her head, looking nearly on the edge of tears. “Mia, that’s not a bad thing. This is what your dad does. You’re sixteen. They can arrest you for this and what do you think a criminal record is going to do for your chances of getting into Juilliard?”

“Why does it matter? I’m not going anyway.” She says bitterly and I grind my teeth together.

“So you’re just going to throw away any chance you could have of going? Mia, you’re not going to college for two more years, a lot can happen between now and then. Don’t sabotage yourself.”

“My dad doesn’t change his mind, Ana. You saw what happened with Christian and look how that turned out for everyone.”

“Mia…” I begin but stop when a set of headlights floods the front porch with blinding light. We both turn to look at the car at the end of the driveway and the man that gets out. I reach over to squeeze Mia’s knee encouragingly, but when the man steps into the beam of light streaming up at us, I see that it isn’t Carrick, it’s Christian, and his livid expression is a strange contrast to his perfectly tailored tuxedo. He must have come straight here from the charity event…

“Oh no,” Mia groans, and I look at her, surprised for a moment. We both know how much Christian adores Mia and the lengths that he would go to in order to protect her. Sure, he looks angry but I would think she’d be pleased to see that it was him who showed up since she’s so worried about how Carrick is going to react. Maybe Luke’s right and Christian has enough influence now to sort this out for her and if he takes her home, her dad will have time to cool off before he talks to her.

Christian comes up the walk and reaches his hand out for the police officer hovering near us. “Thank you, Sergeant,” He says. “I appreciate your leniency in this situation.”

“It’s my pleasure, Mr. Grey. I’m sure she’s a good kid. It’s her first offense so hopefully a warning tonight will be enough to keep her out of trouble in the future,” The officer says, and Christian nods before turning a hard glare on his little sister.

“Get in the car, Mia,” He says harshly, and as she complies immediately, standing quickly and hurrying away from the porch towards the car in the driveway. Christian turns to me and some of the anger dwindles as he raises an eyebrow at me in confusion.

“Ana? What are you doing here?” He asks.

“Mia called me. She asked me to come and pick her up.”

“How did you get here?”

“Luke. He’s waiting for me at the end of the street.”

“So… you two made up then?”

“Yeah, he came over tonight to apologize and we talked it out. We were watching a movie when Mia called.”

“I see…” He says and I can tell by the set of his mouth that he’s not pleased with this new development, although I’m not sure why. He knows Luke and I are friends.

“Well, we’re headed back to Escala, I can give you a ride. I’ll let Sawyer know that his services are no longer required this evening.”

“Okay,” I agree, and I get up from the slightly damp wooden step and follow Christian to his car. He holds open the door for me and I slide into the backseat next to Mia who has her hands buried in her face.

Even though the interior is dark, I know this is the nicest car I’ve ever been in. But it’s hard to take any of it in as I’m acutely aware of Mia shaking in the seat next to me, sobbing. Why is she so nervous about Christian?

“It’s going to be okay,” I tell her, trying to be reassuring, but she just shakes her head in response.

Once Christian slides into the front seat, he nods and Taylor begins backing out of the driveway. Christian touches the illuminated screen in the dash, scrolling through a long list of contacts before finally selecting Luke’s name. The car is filled with the sound of the long drawn out ring of the phone, and then Luke’s voice comes through the stereo.

“Mr. Grey?” He says, his cool, professional tone of voice back.

“I have Anastasia with me. You can go home, Sawyer,” Christian says briskly.

“Yes, sir,” Luke replies and Christian reaches up for the screen again to end the call.

Mia’s able to stop crying as we drive through the narrow residential streets and past the campus, but by the time we pull onto the I-5 South towards Seattle, Christian still hasn’t said anything.

“You’re not going to tell Dad, are you?” Mia asks quietly.

“Don’t, Mia,” He says, in the same cold tone. “I don’t want to hear a single word out of you.”

Jeez, he’s really mad.

I look over and see Mia’s lip begin to quiver again and I reach over and grasp her hand. I don’t know if Christian is going to want me to go back to my own apartment when we make it back to Escala, but I hope he lets me go up to his penthouse with him and Mia. I think it would be better if there was some kind of buffer there between the two of them until he calms down.

Taylor drops us off at the elevators once we arrive in the parking garage and then turns up the ramp towards Christian’s parking places. I don’t have to ask Christian whether or not he’d be okay with me coming up to his apartment because once the three of us step into the elevator, he simply pushes the button for the penthouse and inputs his code. I can feel the anger fuming off of him as the elevator whisks us up to the 31st floor and when the doors slide open and he steps into the empty foyer, I have to nudge Mia a little to get her to walk forward.

We follow him into the living room, and I expect Christian to take us into his office where he keeps the only chairs in the entire apartment, but to my surprise, when I step through the arch from the foyer, I see a huge, angular, white couch, probably big enough to seat at least eight people, sitting in the middle of the room, and he walks directly towards it.

He bought furniture?

“Sit,” Christian barks at Mia as he begins pacing the floor. She does as he says, looking up at him, terrified, so I settle down next to her and grip her hand again.

“I don’t even know where to start,” Christian says in a low controlled voice as he glares down at Mia. “What the fuck were you thinking, Mia?”

“I wasn’t. I mean… I got into the Seattle Ballet Company,” She says. “They were having a party as a celebration for all of the new cast members. I didn’t want to be rude…”

“You didn’t want to be rude?” Christian asks, incredulously. “You’re sixteen fucking years old, at a party with alcohol and recreational drugs and you’re excuse is that you didn’t want to be rude?”

“I didn’t bring any of that stuff. I didn’t do anything,” She says defensively. “I just wanted to be there…”

“Don’t fucking lie to me, Mia. I can smell marijuana on you,” He growls. “Do you understand what kind of consequences the stupid decision you made tonight could’ve had? Do you even comprehend what you could have done to your entire fucking future tonight?”

“Calm down, Christian,” She says, anger growing in her tone now too. “It was weed, not heroine, and I’m fine.”

“Excuse me?” Christian demands. “Weed was not the worst thing they found in that house. Your new “cast members” were caught with cocaine, ecstasy, and LSD. You’re only fine because I made sure you were fine. You’re lucky the police called me and the Sergeant just happens to owe me a favor because they have every intention of prosecuting every single person who was at that party. You put yourself at risk for felony drug charges.”

“And you know all about felonies don’t you, Christian?” Mia spits back at him.

He freezes, and if possible, his face hardens even further. “What did you just say to me?” He asks in a deathly quiet voice.

“Who are you to lecture me? You got picked up by the police for the first time when you were thirteen years old. And what was it you were doing at sixteen? Oh… that’s right, you were having sex Mrs. Lincoln and lying to all of us. Don’t you dare think that I’m going to sit here and let you lecture me, Christian. I may have made a bad choice tonight, but at least I didn’t sell out everybody that I love.”

Christian’s shaking and I know an explosion is coming. I can feel the fury radiating from him like heat.

“Okay, okay,” I say, standing up and placing myself in between the two of them. “This isn’t helping anybody. Christian you should… go take a few deep breaths for a minute. I’ll talk to Mia and you can come back when you’ve calmed down.”

“Anastasia, this doesn’t concern you,” Christian says.

“Mia called me, not you. You’re just making this worse right now and you’re both going to continue to make it worse until you can reign in your tempers,” I say, being careful to include Mia in the blame as well. He glares at me for a long beat, then shoots an angry look at his sister before storming across the room and disappearing down a hallway towards the back of the apartment.

“Why would you say that?” I ask, turning to Mia. “That has absolutely nothing to do with what happened tonight.”

“Why shouldn’t I? All everybody ever talks about is that we should care about what Christian is going through but why should I care about him if he doesn’t care about me?”

“You know that he cares about you, Mia. Very much,” I tell her as I sit on the couch next to her and she rolls her eyes.

“Really? Because he didn’t see me for two years.”

“That wasn’t his choice. He wanted to see you, but…”

“Oh that was his choice and you should know that better than anyone, Ana,” She interrupts me, and I sigh.

“What’s going on, Mia?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you’re yelling at your Dad, you’re yelling at Christian, you’re going to parties that I know you know you have no business being at. I did the angsty teenage girl thing and I recognize a call for help when I see one. So, what’s going on?”

She pauses for a long moment, looking down at her fingers in her lap but I don’t shift my expectant gaze away from her. “You don’t know what it’s like being a Grey kid,” She says in a quiet voice. “People think that we’re so lucky because we have all this money, and the huge house, and we go to the best schools, but all of those perks come with expectations. We have to be the best at everything we do and follow this formula that my parents think is the only way a person can be successful: Musical Instrument, Foreign Language, Private School, Academic Achievement, Ivy League College… They treat us all like some kind of checklist. There wasn’t a big celebration when Elliot got into Stanford or whe, Christian got into Harvard, it’s what was expected of them, just like Harvard, or Yale, or Princeton is expected of me. I’m tired of it. I don’t want to be perfect, cookie-cutter little Mia, anymore.”

“So don’t be,” I tell her. “But this isn’t the way to do that, Mia. You don’t carve your own path through the woods by burning down the entire forest. Have you even talked to your parents about the way you feel?”

“Of course I have.”

“I mean, really talked. Without the yelling and the drama and the threats about Elena Lincoln.”

“What’s the point?” She asks, looking down at her hands again. “I know what they’ll say. I watched Christian fight my dad on Harvard for over a year and it didn’t get him anywhere.”

I don’t get a chance to respond to that, because Christian comes back down the hallway dressed in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. He’s strapping a pair of black, fingerless gloves with pads over the knuckles on his hands as he looks up at Mia, still clearly riddled with anger.

“I’m going down to the gym,” He says. “I’ve called Mom, she’s on her way to pick you up.”

“You called our parents?” Mia asks, panicked.

“Of course I called our parents. What did you think was going to happen? You were just going to hide out here forever? You have to go home at some point, Mia.”

“I thought maybe you of all people could be on my side for one night. You know what I have at stake here, you know what Dad is going to do and you told him anyway? Some brother,” She says coldly and then turns to look away from him. Christian scowls, shaking his head with frustration and then disappears into the foyer.

“I’m so dead,” Mia groans, resting her head in her hands when we hear the sound of the elevator door closing.

“Don’t be dramatic, Mia,” I tell her, and she looks up at me with a pleading look in her eyes.

“My Dad is going to make me quit ballet now. You know that, right? There’s no way that after what happened tonight he’s going to let me be in the Seattle Ballet Company and without that there’s no way I’m going to get anywhere near Juilliard. I can’t believe Christian called our parents, he’s such an asshole.”

“Hey!” I say, firmer now. “You made the choice to go to this party tonight, not Christian. I know you can’t see past your anger right now, but he helped you. Your parents could be picking you up from a police station right now but instead they’re picking you up from here. Which do you think is going to go over better for you?”

“It’s not going to change the fact that I’m still about to lose everything.”

“Maybe… but that’s not Christian’s fault, Mia. You made this choice, not him, and there are consequences to that choice. If your dad makes you quit your ballet company it’s not because Christian asked your mom to come pick you up.”

She frowns, but doesn’t say anything else. I get up and head to the kitchen to get her a glass of water because, once she calms down and the adrenaline starts to work its way out of her system, I can see her starting to sway a little from the alcohol or marijuana, I can’t tell which. She sips it slowly while we sit there in silence until, once again, we hear the ping of the elevator and the sound of high heels on the marble floor of the foyer. I turn around to look through the archway and see Taylor appear, leading Grace into the living room. To my surprise, Grace is smiling.

“Anastasia, I didn’t expect to see you here,” She says brightly. She holds her arms out for me and, although I’m confused by her attitude, I get up to hug her. When she releases me, she looks around the room as if she’s searching for something.

“Where’s Christian?” She asks.

“Uh… he went down to the gym for a while,” I tell her, and she frowns but then nods and looks down at Mia.

“Did you have fun with your brother tonight?” She asks and Mia looks back at her, perplexed, and then nods slowly.

“Um… yeah. It was great,” She says carefully and Grace smiles.

“Good. I’m glad you two are finally getting to spend some time together. I know he missed it. I was hoping I would get to talk to him before we left, but it’s getting late and we need to get back to your dad. I suppose I’ll have to call him tomorrow. Are you ready to go?”

“Yeah,” Mia says, grabbing her bag and quickly standing from the couch. It’s clear Grace doesn’t know anything about the party and Mia looks ecstatic, but I’m confused. Clearly, Christian has covered for her but with how angry he was when he stormed out of here, I don’t understand why.

Grace tells me that she’s planning a dinner for all the family to get together and makes me promise I will send her my schedule so that I can be there. I assure her that I wouldn’t miss it for the world and both she and Mia wave goodbye to me as they head back into the foyer and disappear into the elevator.

Once, they’re gone, I collapse back onto the couch, the events of the night catching up to me and leaving me exhausted. The leather on the sofa still smells brand new and reminds me of the significance of its presence. It’s a sign of change and that Christian’s moving forward. I glance around the room for any other furniture he may have purchased, but there isn’t anything else. Still, this is progress.

Unfortunately, I know that right now he’s sulking, probably still angry, but also hurt by the things Mia said to him. I know that his intentions were good and that he was just trying to understand and help his little sister, even if he was angry. He shouldn’t be left alone to feel like the bad guy right now. He doesn’t deserve that, and so, I peel myself off the couch and take the elevator down to the gym so that I can make sure he’s okay. When I get down there, I find him near the back wall pummeling his fists into a boxing bag with everything he has.

“I think it’s dead,” I say as I come up behind him and he freezes for a minute before turning back to face me.

“I’m sorry you got dragged into this, Anastasia.” He says, bitterly. “She shouldn’t have called you.”

“It’s okay,” I tell him. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” He says, but he throws another hard punch into the bag which tells me that he isn’t.

“She’s a teenager,” I say, trying to be reassuring. “Worse, she’s a teenage girl. They do stupid things.”

“You don’t think I know teenagers do stupid things?” Christian asks, not pausing his attacks as he speaks. “I think I wrote the book on adolescent mistakes.”

“So why are you so mad at her?” I ask and he turns to look at me like I missing something that should be obvious, so, I continue. “I mean, I know why you’re mad at her, but this is more than mad, Christian. I’ve seen you mad, but not so mad that you had to leave the room to pulverize an innocent piece of gym equipment.”

“She was doing drugs, Anastasia,” He says.

“I know, and that was wrong, but I don’t think it’s something that’s a habit for her. She gave into peer pressure, and that sucks, but I think tonight was probably enough to put a little fear in her so that it doesn’t happen again. At least all she did was smoke a little pot, she could have been doing ecstasy or tripping on LSD. Weed’s not even as bad for you as alcohol is…”

“Are you seriously defending her doing drugs right now?”

“What? Like you’ve never smoked pot?”

“No. Never,” He says, disgustedly. “Have you?”

“Well… yeah, like, once, back in high school. In fact, I think I was pretty close to Mia’s age.”

“Great,” He replies, turning around and, if possible, hitting the bag even harder.

“Christian, what’s going on?” I ask and he turns a fiery gaze on me.

“Do you know how my birth mother died, Anastasia?” He asks and the vitriol in his tone is so intense, I find myself stepping back a few paces before I answer. I remember, faintly Elliot telling me about Christian’s childhood, once, a long time ago, before Christian and I started dating. I can’t remember if he told me how she died, only that after Christian was brought into the hospital, he had shown signs of abuse. That’s the only part that’s stuck with me.

“No,” I tell him, honestly.

“My birth mother was a crack whore, Anastasia. She died of an overdose and I was alone with her body in her dirty, little drug den for four days. It was her pimp that finally found me and, even after he left the house, it still took him hours to raise the alarm. Probably because he was disappointed that he didn’t get to beat the shit out of me one last time before they took me away.”

I flinch. I can remember now that Elliot had told me this, but hearing it from Elliot in a diner in Cambridge is not that same as hearing it, in detail, from Christian. Thinking of him as a small child, dirty and scared as he hovers over the body of his dead mother, alone for days, leaves me winded. It’s too much, especially when I think of the additional trauma he suffered at the hands of Elena.

“Christian,” I say my voice quiet and a little shaky as I fight of the overwhelming sadness that feels as though it’s trying to choke me. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize…”

“Well, now you do,” He says, and he turns around and begins punching the bag again.

“Hey, stop,” I tell him, rushing forward so that I can see his face, but he doesn’t stop throwing blows into the bag. “Christian, stop!”

“I can’t stop, Anastasia,” He says, as his fists begin to rain violently over the vinyl cover. “I can’t stop.”

“Why?”

“Because this is when I would call Elena,” He says, and the second the words are out of his mouth, I can tell by the way his face morphs into a look of horror that he wishes he could take them back.

“W-what?” I stutter. He stops hitting the bag and turns away from me. The fingers sticking out of the end of his gloves reach up into his hair as he paces around the gym. It takes a second for him to calm down and when he stops and looks back at me there is something in his eyes that is close to defeat.

“She knows me,” He says. “I know you don’t want to hear that, and believe me, I don’t want to say it to you, but she does. She gets me and she knows how to calm me down when I get like this.”

I take a deep breath, and swallow all the words about why she knows him so well that I instinctively want to hurl back at him.

Keep it constructive, Ana.

“She’s not the only person who can be there for you, Christian. That’s all we want. Your family and I, we want to be the people you can turn to. She wants you to believe that she understands you more than we ever could, but that’s only true if you keep shutting us out. We can be here for you if you’ll let us.”

“You’re not here, though. None of you were. It was only her.”

“I’m here now,” I tell him. “And I promise, I’m not going anywhere. You can talk to me. Give me the chance to be the person you would call.”

He stares at me for a minute and then takes a deep breath. I can see his body relax a little and when he speaks again, most of the strained tension in his voice is gone.

“Let’s go back upstairs,” He says. “I don’t want to talk down here.”

“Okay,” I agree and he nods and motions for me to lead the way back to the elevator.

Once we’re back in his apartment, he disappears into the back hallway again to take a shower while I lay back down on the brand new couch and stare out at the twinkling lights of the city through the huge, floor to ceiling windows. I thought the view from my apartment was beautiful, but this… high above everything else and with the long line of panoramic windows, he has a view of the entire city. It’s incredible.

As I watch the lights of the ferries gliding slowly across the inky black water of Elliot bay, I feel myself begin to relax, so much that when Christian returns and sits on the couch by my head, it startles me.

“Don’t get up,” He says gently, but I do anyway and turn to face him.

“I’ll fall asleep if I lay here any longer,” I tell him. “Your couch is very comfortable. I’m glad you’ve finally decided to move into your apartment.”

“Well, apparently when it’s empty, it freaks out this girl I’m trying to win back. I thought this was a good place to start.”

I look away from him, fighting the involuntary smile his words elicit as I run my fingers along the smooth leather. I don’t know how it does it, but with just his words he can make me want to forget everything and let myself take the leap again. When I look at him again, my eyes immediately zero in on his mouth, his lips which I’m dying to feel against mine…

Focus, Ana. This could be a breakthrough.

“I’m sorry about your birth mother,” I begin. “I didn’t realize just how horrible that whole thing really was.”

“Don’t be,” Christian says, “Her death was the best thing that could have happened to me. I was raised by a stable, perfect family instead of some whore who couldn’t even protect me from her pimp.”

The bitterness in his tone makes me cringe, though not as much as his choice of words and a sense of guilt that has plagued me for the past two years washes over me yet again.

“Christian, I need to apologize to you,” I say quietly.

“For what?”

“That day in New York…” I begin shakily, and I see his body tense. Clearly, this isn’t a memory he likes to think about. “When I left you on top of the Empire State Building, I called you a whore. That was uncalled for, and now that I know about your Mom… I realize that it actually was cruel and I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay…”

“No, it’s not. Look, sometimes, when I get angry, I say things that are out of line and that’s not fair to you. It doesn’t help anybody so, I promise you, it’s going to stop. I want everything we say to each other to come from a good place. I don’t mean to hurt you.”

“I don’t want to hurt you either, Anastasia. I love you, more than anything else in the world,” He says, and again, the words weigh heavily on my resolve. It’s hard to rationalize right now, sitting here with him and listening to him say these things, why I’m doing this. Why I’m setting all these limits, and boundaries… He loves me, and I love him. If I want to be with him, I should be with him… but then my brain summons an image of Elena and her smug face during the trial while she watched her perfect little plan fall into place around her and sent my world crumbling to the ground.

I haven’t seen her yet and apparently, neither have any of the people who have placed themselves around him to try and protect him from her… Christian hasn’t even really mentioned her other than tonight, but I know she’s lurking somewhere, waiting for any sign of weakness before she breaks in and burns everything we’ve built to the ground.

She’s the reason for the boundaries right now. Before I allow myself to get swept up by the hurricane force that is Christian Grey, we have to try and deal with this traumatic bonding issue. I need to trust that he won’t break under her influence again and I need to be prepared to deal with whatever manipulative games she’s going to play. That’s where I went wrong last time, I underestimated her and the damage she had done to Christian.

It’s not a mistake I’m going to make again.

I look back up at Christian, studying him carefully. I’m here because he was having a hard time dealing with the Mia thing and he needed someone to talk to. That’s what I need to focus on right now.

“Why did you cover for Mia?” I ask him. “I mean, if the drug thing is your… boundary, why did you lie to your parents? I mean, I get not wanting her to be arrested and having a record because we all want such great things for her, but your parents could have punished her without jeopardizing her future.”

“My dad would have taken ballet away from her,” He says. “I’m starting to see a lot of myself in Mia, too much of myself that I don’t want to see. I don’t want her turning to something she shouldn’t to deal with this rebellious, angry thing she’s got going on, the way that I did. Ballet is a healthy outlet. Something she loves, and something that can keep her focused and on the right path so that she can get into a good school and do some growing up. I know what she’s going through, but I don’t want her making my mistakes.”

“But you left school. Are you saying you think that was a mistake?”

“I honestly don’t know,” He says, and then he sighs. “GEH is everything I always wanted it to be. It’s successful, more successful than even I had imagined, and I built it. It’s mine. But, it just… doesn’t make me feel the way that I thought it would and no matter what I do to make it bigger, better, more profitable… that doesn’t change.”

“You’ve been alone,” I tell him. “Success only means something if you have someone to share it with and we weren’t there. We… I abandoned you. But I’m here now, and I’m not going to leave again. We all want to be in your life, Christian, and that’s why we want you to get help from Flynn so that you can let Elena go. She’s poison to you and to every single one of us and we can’t fix what’s been broken as long as she’s still around.”

There’s a conflicted look on his face and I actually think that we may be right on the brink of a breakthrough but when I open my mouth to speak again, it’s a long, drawn out yawn that escapes, rather than words.

“You’re tired?” Christian asks.

“No, I’m fine,” I argue, but, unfortunately, I yawn again.

“Ana, It’s late. If you’re tired we can talk later. I like the idea of having plans to see you again.”

“No, you said you needed someone to talk to. I don’t want to leave unless I know you’re okay.”

“Then stay,” He says. “We can talk in the morning. I’ll sleep out here if you want me to.”

“But I thought…”

“I’m fine, Ana,” He interrupts me. “Really, and, thank you. Not just for sticking around but for being there in the first place. It means a lot to me, seeing how much you care about my family.”

“Of course, Christian,” I tell him, yawning again as I feel my eyelids begin to droop. “Well, I guess if you’re really okay, I should go back to my apartment.”

He frowns, exhaling deeply with disappointment that I’m not going to stay as he suggested, but nodding his head as if he hadn’t really expected me to stay anyway.

“Can I see you tomorrow?” He asks. “I could make dinner reservations or have something brought here.”

“I can’t, I’m sorry. I have plans with Kate and Ros tomorrow night. I’m going down to the market place in the morning, though. Around 7. You could come with me, if you wanted to.”

“I’d love that,” He says, looking up at me and smiling but when his gaze meets mine, his smile fades and I see a pained kind of expression cross his eyes. He looks at me with a kind of desperation that I don’t understand… he was happy just a second ago.

“I want to kiss you,” He admits, and my smile slowly fades away as I stare into his eyes which still seem darker than they used to be.

“I know… and that’s why I need to go,” I tell him. He lets out a low sigh, but nods. I get up from the couch and cross the room, the sound of my footsteps echoing behind me, but before I get to the foyer, I pause and turn back around to face him.

“Christian,” I say, and he turns to look at me. I take a deep breath and finally allow myself to say the words that I’ve wanted to say since I left that first night I came to this apartment. “I want to kiss you too.”

His somber expression shifts at my words, “You do?”

“Yeah. I do. Of course I do,” I tell him, and he gets off the couch, looking at me as though he’s hoping my decision to leave has changed.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” I promise, and then I turn back into the foyer and press the button for the elevator.

Next Chapter

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