Chapter 32

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I spend most of the next morning pacing back and forth on the third deck, waiting to see Charlie Tango gliding through the sky towards us. Christian left before I woke up this morning. Well, it was actually the ignition of the rotor blades on the helicopter that did wake me up, but it’s been hours since he left and there’s still no sign of him.

“You sure you don’t want breakfast?” Kate asks, her voice surprising me as I hadn’t heard her come up behind me.

“I’m fine,” I tell her.

“He’ll be back soon, Ana. Waiting up here isn’t going to make him get back any faster. Come have breakfast with us. Elliot wants to get out on the water early this morning, you should come with us.”

I turn to look at her and since I am a little hungry, her pleading gaze is able to sway me. Besides, she is right. I have no idea when Christian is going to be back. It could take him a while to even leave Seattle as I’m sure Mia isn’t going to be very happy after Luke practically yanked her off the street last night and held her hostage in Escala.

“Alright,” I sigh, but just as I turn to follow her inside, I hear the steady thrumming of helicopter blades in the distance. We stand back, shielding our faces from the wind that sprinkles us with sea spray, and give Christian a wide berth as he lowers Charlie Tango onto the yacht. The second the rotor blades switch off, the passenger’s side door opens, and Mia leaps out onto the deck, storming angrily towards us.

“Hey, Mia,” I greet her, but she ignores me, instead continuing inside. “Not good, huh?” I ask Christian as he comes up next to me.

“She hates me,” He sighs and I give him a sympathetic smile.

“Well, sometimes that happens when you step in to help someone who needs it,” He nods and then holds up a box for a 12 panel drug test.

“I need to find my mom,” He says, but he only takes one step before he turns back to face me, looking slightly awkward. “Oh, and… the next time you talk to Luke, tell him I said… thanks.”

“I will,” I reply, smiling, and then he turns to head inside, taking the stairs down to the 2nd deck two at a time. Kate wraps her arm through mine, squeezing it reassuringly, and then leads me forward after Christian.

I spend the entire day with Kate and my mom while the rest of the Greys negotiate their way through the hostage negotiation that is trying to talk to Mia. Grace goes in first, drug testing kit in hand and tries to appeal to Mia rationally. Unfortunately, the sound from Mia’s room travels very well through the open rooms of the yacht, so we hear everything from Mia arguing and fighting against everything her mom says, to Grace trying to keep calm as she expresses her anger and disappointment in Mia’s lies and their subsequent concern over the drug use she’s been hiding from them. We try to ignore them, Elliot and Carrick even attempt to spark up conversation, but Christian buries himself in a book on the sofa next to me, though, since he stares down at it for nearly 15 minutes without turning the page, I don’t think he’s actually reading.

“Mia, we’re trying to help you,” I hear Grace say, imploring now. “You don’t know how dangerous this path you’re going down is. I see it every day, believe me. You have to realize the kinds of devastating consequences this type of behavior can have. I love you too much to watch you have to go through this.”

“Jesus, Mom. You’re so overdramatic,” Mia replies bitterly.

“Overdramatic? Don’t you realize that this pattern of behavior is what led to Christian becoming your brother in the first place? His mother died because she made the same choices you’re making right now.”

“And you probably regret that, don’t you? Another imperfect kid screwing up what should be your perfect life. Dad cut Christian out the second he did something you didn’t approve of. Am I next?”

“Amelia Grey! Of course not, and how dare you say that to me. Your father and I have done everything that we can to provide you kids a loving, nurturing home and give you every opportunity you deserve,” Grace says firmly.

“Then why are all your children so fucked up?”

I feel my gut clench as I feel the blow of Mia’s words, and my heart aches for Grace. I quickly glance up at Elliot sitting across from me and can tell he’s uncomfortable as he looks down at his hands in his lap, but Christian just continues to stare impassively down at his book, listening intently so he doesn’t miss a single word. Carrick, however, gets out of his chair and walks angrily towards Mia’s room. A few seconds later, his shouts reverberate down the halls and soon, Grace comes out to the living room to join us with tears in her eyes.

“Mom…” Elliot says, getting off the couch and moving to wrap his mother in a hug.

“l’m sorry,” She says as she tries to stop herself from crying into Elliot’s t-shirt, while she listens to Carrick screaming and promising Mia she’ll never use her phone, her car, or see her friends again until she graduates high school. “You shouldn’t see this.”

“I’m not twelve anymore, Mom. It’s okay,” Elliot says as he leads Grace over to the couch. He sets her down and gets her a glass of water, which she drinks as Carrick storms angrily back into the room.

“You shouldn’t yell at her like that, Carrick,” Grace says quietly when he sits back in his chair, obviously still fuming, but he shakes his head.

“She doesn’t get to talk to you like that,” He says, picking up the paper he’d been reading before he got up.

“Well, screaming at her is not going to make her open up to us,” Grace replies, and she sets down her glass of water and gets off the couch. “I’m going to go try again.”

“Why don’t we take a break from the good cop/bad cop routine?” Elliot says, reaching out and pulling his mother back. “Trust me, it’s not going to help right now. Give her some time to think and calm down and it’ll be much easier to talk to her.”

“Yeah,” Kate agrees, nodding as she stands up. “This is supposed to be a fun, Fourth of July weekend. Let’s go get out on the water. I’m sure we can all imagine how much restraint it’s taken Elliot not to say the word jet ski’s this morning.”

“I mean, I wasn’t going to suggest it…” Elliot says innocently. “But since you brought it up.”

“Okay,” Carrick nods, though his voice still sounds a little unsure. “Maybe missing out on some fun will encourage her to drop the attitude and talk to us…”

“You go,” Christian says, finally setting the book down and then reaching over and picking up the drug test kit from its place on the table in front of his mom. “I’ll deal with Mia.”

“Christian, she just had her dad yell at her. Let’s just give her a minute before the yelling starts again,” Grace says.

“Oh, I’m not going to yell,” He says, and we all turn and watch him walk down the hallway, listening carefully and he opens the door to her room without knocking.

“Go away, Christian,” She says, and then suddenly her voice becomes more urgent. “Hey, what are you doing? Put me down! Christian, stop!”

A there is a loud crash and then the sound of a door slamming closed. “Pee in the cup, Mia. You’re not coming out until you do.”

And she doesn’t. Hours pass, the rest of us go on about our day, enjoying the water and the sunshine, but Mia never leaves the bathroom and Christian never leaves his post at her door. I go into the room every half an hour, trying to put an end to the stalemate, or at least to convince Christian to give someone else a turn so that he can go enjoy himself for a while, but he isn’t interested. He sits on the floor next to the bathroom door all day. I come in with dinner for both him and Mia around 6:30 and then sit there with him reading until past eleven, but nothing changes until Mia falls asleep on the fluffy rug on her bathroom floor and Christian finally gives in and puts her to bed.

The next morning, I wake up to Christian pacing back and forth across our living room floor, talking into the Satellite phone while Ros gives him a rundown of everything that has happened at GEH with him away over the last day and a half. His hair is ruffled, which isn’t hard to figure out why as almost the instant I notice it, his hand shoots up and begins running roughly through it. As he issues the long list of rapid fire instructions, most of which mean nothing to me except that I think they’re talking about Lincoln Timber, I sit up and stare at him, biting my lip apprehensively as I listen to the strain of stress in his voice. This weekend was supposed to be a relaxing few days away from work and the sale of Esclava, but it hasn’t been, especially with everything going on with Mia. I want to find a way to be able to help him unwind, at least for today, but before I come up with a way to even just convince him to leave Mia alone for a few hours, he hangs up the phone, tosses it aside, climbs back into the bed with me and begins attacking my lips with his.

It takes me by surprise, and I actually let out a small yelp, which is muffled by his lips, as he pushes me back into the bed. It takes only a second for me to catch up to him though and then succumb beneath his fervor. I feel a mounting sense of excitement building within me as I feel his hands move up my side towards my breast and for the first time in over two weeks, I have hope that this is more than just a kiss. Tentatively, I reach up and wrap my fingers in his hair, moaning into his mouth as he slips the straps of my camisole over my shoulders and yanks it down rather than over my head so he doesn’t have to break our kiss.

His erection presses into my leg and the muscles south of my navel clench in response. I arch my back, pressing my now naked breasts up into his t-shirt and as his lips break away from mine and begin moving south, I let out an exalted moan as I anticipate his mouth on my breast. But before I can even feel the gentle scrape of the stubble on his chin, he stops.

I look down at him and feel the jubilation deflate as I see the look of tortured hesitation on his face as he stares down at me. He closes eyes, shaking his head a little as his hands grip tightly to the sheets next to me in frustration.

“What can I do?” I whisper and he looks up at me, taking a deep breath.

“I don’t know…” He replies disappointedly. “Look, Ana… I want to. I really fucking want to, I just…”

“I know,” I tell him, and as I watch him take a deep breath and then lean down to place a gentle kiss on the tops of either of my breasts, an idea pops into my mind. I bite down on my lip as I contemplate whether or not I should even bring it up, but if we’re going to get past this, and I know that we both really, really want to get past this, maybe it’s necessary.

“Can I try something?” I ask him. He looks up at me uncertainly, and for a minute, I don’t think he’s going to let me but after a moment of contemplation, he nods slowly but continues to look at me with suspicion in his eyes.

I push against him so that he rolls off of me and onto his back in the bed next to me, and I sit up, looking very purposefully in his eyes.

“I love you, Christian.”

“I love you, too,” He replies, still wary since he’s not sure what I’m doing.

“I want you to take off your pants,” I tell him and he opens his mouth to protest, I stop him. “I’m not going to touch you.”

He nods, but he still doesn’t move. So I pull my camisole over my head and tug my pajama shorts and panties off so that I’m naked next to him, and as his eyes drag hungrily over my body, he takes a deep breath and slowly lowers his pants and his boxers from his hips. I steel myself and lean down to kiss him, softly and deeply, pouring as much of my love into him as I physically possible, before I lie back, facing opposite of him so that my shoulders are touching his hips and my feet are resting against the headboard. Slowly, I move my leg over his chest and plant my foot on the other side of him, spreading myself so that he has an unobstructed view between my legs. His eyes widen, remaining fixed on me as I gingerly slide my hand down my stomach, over my pubic bone, and then brush my fingers lightly over my clitoris.

A small, involuntary gasp escapes my mouth and as my fingers begin to move, and I watch his lips for an oh so tantalizing “o” as he moans and reaches down for his erection. He continues watching my hand, his own hand moving faster when mine does, or stopping all together and gripping tightly whenever I stop and use my hips to grind against my fingers for friction.

“Inside, Anastasia,” He whispers huskily. “I want you to push your index finger inside of you.” I do as he asks, moaning as I feel the wet heat around my finger. “Another one,” He instructs me.

I slide another finger in to join the first, moving them in and out of me and swirling them around inside of me the way he always does. The feeling, combined with watching his penetrating gaze on me and seeing him pleasuring himself, has me quickly climbing to the edge of release.

The room is filled with the sound of our combined moaning as we lose ourselves, apart, but still very much together. I yearn to kiss him, to have any connection with him as inch towards my climax, but there’s no way I could reach him from here and with the promise of an orgasm currently lingering just out of reach I don’t want to move or do anything to stop it. My breathing comes harsher, louder, as Christian lets out a low growl in response.

“You’re so wet,” He says, his voice husky now and practically dripping with lust. “Are you getting close, baby?”

“Yes,” I whisper, because that’s all the strength I can coax from my voice in this instant.

“Look at me,” He says, and I open my eyes, and turn to look at his hand moving agilely, and efficiently over his erection. “No, Ana,” He growls, “Look at me.

My eyes move to his, and I’m immediately entranced by his dark but purposeful stare. His gaze bares into me with fire hot intensity that seems to burn right through me, breaking through all barriers and eliminating everything around us. There is connection in it, the uniting factor that I’m craving and it’s enough to push me over the edge and into oblivion. My orgasm rips through me, hard enough that I can’t focus on maintaining the rhythm of my fingers in and out of me, and the second I stop, my hand is pushed away and Christian’s longer, thicker fingers replace them. The intrusion sends a new, longer wave of pleasure through me, and I begin to writhe over the bed sheets while his fingers move in and out of me, his other hand continuing to move steadily up and down his erection just a few inches from my face. My body shudders as I come down, and while I begin to melt into the mattress, I hear the broken staccato of his breathing and I realize he’s getting close now too.

“Touch me, Anastasia,” He says, a pleading note in his voice and I turn and immediately reach out, wrapping my hand softly around his and we move together for only a minute until he pulls his hand away entirely, leaving me to finish him on my own. I grip him firmly, moving my hand up and down the way I’ve watched him do for the past several minutes and he groans, pushing his hips up into my hand as his eyes focus on what I’m doing to him.

“That’s it, baby,” He says. “Oh, fuck, I’m almost there…” I tighten my hold on him, my tongue brushing hungrily across my bottom lip as I feel him swelling in my hand and I know he’s just about to erupt.

“Can I use my mouth?” I ask him.

“Yes! Oh god, yes,” He practically begs and immediately, I lean over and wrap my lips around him, my tongue swirling around the head of his erection before I pull him greedily into the back of my throat. It takes only seconds before he erupts and I feel warm, bitter liquid filling my mouth and oozing down my throat. Normally, this isn’t something I’m a huge fan of. It always sounds hotter in theory that it is in practice and semen isn’t the easiest liquid to swallow, but seeing the look on his face as he finally finds release pushes any reluctance I may have aside, leaving only room for me to indulge in and enjoy his pleasure.

When it’s over, and I swallow the last of his release, he pulls me up and kisses me, and despite the fact that even I can still taste him in my mouth, there is no hesitation in his kiss, or in his invading tongue.

“I love you,” I whisper against his mouth and again, he groans. He kisses me for what might be seconds or hours, I’m not sure as time seems to mean very little as I allow myself to be entirely wrapped up and consumed by him. When he does pull away though, he looks into my eyes, searching them, and then gives me a carefree and deeply loving smile.

“Thank-you, Anastasia,” He says. “For not giving up on me. I promise, from now until forever, I’m going to be the man you deserve.”

“You always have been,” I reply, and then I lower my lips to his once more.

When we finally leave our room that morning, I’m able to convince Christian to have breakfast with our families and then come out onto the deck to relax for a while, while Carrick tries again with Mia. He brings the book he was trying to read all day yesterday, and we spend a very peaceful afternoon under the sun and taking in the cool sea breeze as we make our way back towards Seattle so that we can watch the fireworks over the sound once it gets dark.

Two of the personnel Christian has hired to staff the yacht are professional masseuses, so while Kate and my mother enjoy a relaxing massage on the upper deck, Elliot and I discuss our hopes for the upcoming football season and Christian and Bob talk cars. I was right before when I told Bob that Christian would probably let him drive the Bugatti if he asked, and so, while Bob can barely contain his excitement at the prospect of getting to drive the car once we get back to Seattle, Christian goes into all the details and specifications that made him chose that model in the first place, and then all the aftermarket modifications he’s done to make it as fast and as quiet as possible.

“Alright, I’m done,” Carrick says, sounding slightly defeated as he shuffles out onto the deck and collapses into an open lounger. “If she doesn’t want to talk, she can just sit in there and pout until she does. I can’t fight with her anymore.”

“I’ll go,” Grace says, removing the ice pack from her eyes and sitting up, but Carrick reaches out to stop her.

“Maybe we need a different plan,” He tells her and she settles back into the chair. “We’re not getting anywhere and validating this temper tantrum she’s throwing is just ruining this weekend for everyone. I say, we let her stew in there alone and when we get back, we can take her in to see Dr. Flynn. She may not want to talk to us, but he seems to have a way with getting people to open up and getting to the root cause of the issue.”

“I don’t want to just leave her in there,” Grace says, “It doesn’t feel right having all of our family together but keeping her locked away in a room.”

“You can’t force her, Grace. We’re not keeping her anywhere, she’s secluded herself. We know she’s safe, we know she’s not going to get in trouble. If she wants space right now, maybe giving it to her isn’t the worst idea.”

Grace frowns but eventually she nods and settles back into her chair, taking a long drink of iced tea and picking up a magazine to read.

“You know, it’s kind of a shame Dr. Flynn doesn’t have kids,” Elliot muses aloud. “Our family could have put them through college by now.”

“Instead, we’ll put him into early retirement,” Carrick laughs. “Trust me, not having kids to worry about and obsess over is a special reward all in itself.”

“Which is why instead of children, I’m going to travel and keep my money all to myself. Maybe one day, I’ll have a luxury yacht of my own, and a whole fleet of jet skis. That, Dad, is pure joy.”

“Hey!” Grace exclaims. “Having children is the most rewarding and greatest gift any person could experience and one day, hopefully in the next year or two, you’ll have your own child to love and nurture so you can know what a joy and honor it truly is.”

Elliot laughs, a little too hard, and when he finally can pull words together through his gasping breaths he looks up at his mother. “Sorry, mom. You’re going to have to go elsewhere. This grandchild farm is closed for business.”

“You mean you don’t ever want to have kids?” Grace asks.

“Nope. Why would I? I have all the child I’ll ever need right here,” He reaches around me to shove Christian who glares back at him.

“Fine,” Grace says bitterly, and then turns to Christian. “You’ll give me grandchildren, won’t you dear?”

“Sure,” Christian says, “Ten, fifteen years from now, that’s something I’d be willing to consider.”

“That’s not funny,” She says quickly.

“It wasn’t supposed to be,” He replies and she glares at him. “I’m not even married yet, Mom. Why don’t we let Ana graduate first before we start planning her future as the mother of your grandchildren.”

“She’ll graduate in May. We could have grandbabies by this time next year!” Grace says happily and I lean over to narrow my eyes at her.

“You know I’m sitting right here, right?”

“Yes, I very much intended for you to hear that,” She smiles and I shake my head.

“I don’t think a year is an unreasonable amount of time…” She says loftily, and Elliot gives her a solemn look.

“Well, we all knew Mia was headed down the wrong path, but I always wanted better for her than teen pregnancy…”

I laugh, but Christian reaches around to punch Elliot in the arm for the very insinuation that his baby sister could be having sex and as he turns his attention back to Bob, I hear the door that leads into the yacht slide open.

“Mr. Grey,” Taylor interrupts us. We all turn our attention in his direction and I feel my stomach drop at the look on his face.

“Yes?” Christian responds.

“Oh, uh, no sir… your father,” He holds out the satellite phone towards Christian. “It’s your assistant, sir. Mrs. Lincoln is on the line with a counter offer and she wants to know if you want her to patch her through to you?”

“Yes,” Carrick says, quickly getting off his sun lounger, and reaching for the phone in Taylor’s outstretched hand. He takes a long breath, readying himself, and then puts the phone to his ear.

“Isabel? Yes. Put her through.”

We all stare at him anxiously, while he waits, and we know the instant she’s put on the line because Carrick’s face immediately sours.

“Mrs. Lincoln,” He greets her formally, and then he frowns as he listens to whatever she says. “Absolutely not, that’s not even close to the number we gave you. I’m sorry, but you know what those salons bring in. You’ve been quick to brag about it every chance you could, remember? Because I know what the answer will be. Fine, hold.”

He pulls the phone away from his ear and then looks down at Christian impatiently. “$850,000.”

“Funny, that doesn’t sound like $1.2 million,” Christian says tersely, not looking up from the book in his lap.

“But it is an offer, Christian. An offer made 24 days before the deadline, which is 24 days sooner to have all of this over with.”

“And $350,000 short of what of I’m willing to sell them for. I’m not negotiating with her, Dad. I’ll close them down and take the loss before I give them to her for one penny less than $1.2 million.”

Carrick nods and puts the phone back to his ear. “It’s $1.2 million, Elena. I can save you a lot of trouble and tell you that it’s $1.2 million right now, and it will be $1.2 million on July 26th. Come back to me with a way to make that work, or don’t come back to me at all.” I watch him roll his eyes and then hang up the phone without another word. He hands it back to Taylor and then sighs as he settles back down into his lounger.

“This month can not be over soon enough,” He says.

“I don’t understand,” Grace chimes in. “Why are you offering to sell her the salons at all? Why not just put them on the market right away?”

“Because she’ll pay what I want,” Christian answers. “I won’t get $1.2 million on the market, hell, I won’t get $850,000. But Esclava is it for her, she’ll pay what I ask in the end. I know $1.2 million is just about everything she has, buying the salons will put her right back where she was before I saved her. She can go back to that, struggling just to keep her head above water, or she can have nothing at all.”

“I like the idea of nothing,” Grace says, and Christian actually looks up at her, surprised. “You want $1.2 million for the salons?” She continues. “I’ll pay that.”

“What?” Christian asks, as though he hasn’t heard her correctly.

“Do I write you a check or do we use a wire transfer?”

“You want to buy the salons?” Christian clarifies, his voice skeptical, but his mother nods. “Why? You’re a doctor, you don’t have the kind of time to run a business…”

“I don’t plan on running them,” Grace says. “I plan on immediately closing them down and then standing back as she watches everything she’s worked hauled out and put where it belongs, in a dump truck.”

He’s quiet for a minute, contemplating this, until he shrugs and then looks back at his mother. “I suppose I don’t have to sell. I could just fire her, close the doors…”

“$1.4 million,” Grace counter offers and again, he looks up at his mother confused. “I want to do this, Christian. I want to be the one to take the thing that makes up her entire world and rip it apart right in front of her. You have no idea how much I want that. I’d pay $10 million if that’s what it took.”

Christian looks from his mother to his father, and Carrick nods, agreeing with Grace. “Fine,” Christian says, “$1.2 million, but I’m going to donate the money from the sale to your foundation and match it with my own.”

“Deal,” Grace says, smiling broadly and reaching her hand out to shake Christian’s. He laughs, shakes his head good humoredly and takes his mother’s hand.

“I’ll call my office and have the paperwork drawn up,” Carrick says, happily. “And then I’ll call Mrs. Lincoln and let her know you’ve brokered a deal.”

Carrick turns around and practically skips inside for the satellite phone and Christian reaches over to grasp my hand.

“I’ve got to go let Ros know Esclava is sold so she can schedule some time for us to begin separating it from GEH. I’ll be in the office in our bedroom, if you need me.”

“Okay,” I nod and he leans over and kisses me before he too gets up and disappears inside.

Christian spends the rest of the afternoon in his office while I play cards with Kate, Grace and my mom. He asks to have dinner brought into him instead of coming out to eat with the family, and everytime I go to talk to him and try and convince him to come join us, he tells me he just needs fifteen more minutes, even though those 15 minutes seems to mean hours. I feel a little disappointed as I make my way back through our bedroom, but I try to at least take a little solace knowing I got him to relax for a while during the day. Hopefully when GEH is more established, a little older, and he trusts the people working around him more, he’ll be a little more willing to let go and step away from work to enjoy his free time with me and his family.

I turn down the hallway for the stairs so that I can join the rest of the family in the dining room, but find myself pausing as I pass the door to the room where Mia is. It’s been awhile since anyone has come to check on her, so I pop my head in through the door to make sure she’s doing okay.

“Hey,” I say, when I see her sitting on the bed. She looks up to me and I frown when I see tears rolling down her cheeks. Quickly, I step fully into the room, close the door behind me, and go to sit next to her on the bed. She sniffles and then breaks down into tears again, so I pull her into my arms, rubbing her arm comfortingly.

“What’s going on, Mia?” I ask her.

“Nothing,” She says quickly, but there’s no sense of conviction behind her words. It sounds more like something she’s simply been repeating over and over again to the point where not even she believes it anymore.

“Come on, you know that nobody believes that. Look, I’m not your parents, and I’m not Christian or Elliot. If you need to talk to me, you can. I’m not going to lecture you or tell you what to do. I just want to make sure you’re okay, Meems.”

She smiles a little as I use Christian’s nickname for her, but she shakes her head. “There’s nothing going on, I’m just trying to… I mean, what I want is…” She stops, pursing her lips together in frustration as she struggles to keep back the words it seems she’s actually dying to let out. Instead though, she takes a long, deep breath, and then looks up at me with hollow looking eyes. “I think I might be screwing up.”

“Yeah…” I nod, sadly. “But it’s not too late to change that. You have a choice here, Mia. You can keep fighting against everyone who wants to help you, or you can let us in and we can get through whatever it is you’re going through together. We’re not here to do anything but help you. That’s all we want to do. We want to see you be successful. We want to see you happy. Does any of this make you happy, Mia?”

She bites her lip and then looks down at the bedspread. “No,” She says quietly. “Honestly… I’m a little scared. I think I’m in over my head. I didn’t think it would be like this. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

“I know. Look, I don’t know exactly what it is you’re, uh… doing but, I experimented a little in high school and I can tell you that it doesn’t ever get better, it only ever gets worse. It’s never going to be like that first time ever again, and you could lose everything chasing something you’ll never get back. Addiction ruins people, Mia, and it tears families apart. I know when Christian thought he lost his family, when he thought he lost you… it put him in a really dark place. I don’t want to see you get there. Don’t push your family away, they’re all you have.”

“They just don’t understand,” She argues.

“Maybe not. Maybe they can’t know what you’re going through because they’re haven’t experienced what you’ve experienced and they don’t feel what you feel, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have your best interest at heart. They just want to help, Mia, and they can if you’ll let them.”

She shrugs, very non-committal, and I sigh.

“I think they want you to go talk to Dr. Flynn,” I tell her. “He’s very good, and he does know what he’s talking about. He can keep a secret, Mia and he won’t use what you tell him against you, so if you don’t want to open up to your mom and dad, or Christian, just promise me you’ll try talking to him.”

“And… he’ll really keep a secret. No matter what?”

“As long as you haven’t murdered someone,” I say, narrowing my eyes at her, but she just lets out a short, harsh laugh, and shakes her head. I look up and see the vague outline of the Seattle skyline in the distance. It’s starting to get pretty dark so I know the fireworks will be starting soon, which means everyone is probably converging on the upper deck.

“The fireworks should be starting soon,” I tell her, “Why don’t you come out and watch them with us?”

“No,” She says, frowning once again. “I just want to be alone.”

“Okay, well if you change your mind…”

She gives me a half smile as I get up off the bed, lean over to kiss her on top of her head and then disappear through her door. I decide that if I can’t convince Mia to come out and watch the fireworks with us, I’m certainly not going to let Christian miss out, so rather than head back to the main deck with everyone else, I turn back for our bedroom. Before I get to Christian’s office door though, I hear low voices inside, and I stop as I realize what they’re saying.

“Look, Christian…” My mom says, sighing as if someone has asked her to do something she really doesn’t want to. “I know that you love her. I can see that just as clearly as anyone else can. I can see that you’ve done a lot for her this summer, and that you care about her. Hell, I can even see that you’re sorry for what you did, but that doesn’t take away the other things I’ve seen.”

“That first summer, when she broke up with you and came to Savannah, she cried for a week straight. And I don’t mean that she cried off and on, I mean she did nothing but cry for an entire week. She wouldn’t eat, she wouldn’t sleep, she just cried. Sometimes it was so soft I could only barely hear it if I stood right outside her door, other times it was so loud that I could hear her anywhere in the house, in the backyard, even shut away in the car in my garage. She was in agony and I couldn’t do anything to comfort her. Then after the first week, she slept. She slept 17-20 hours a day, everyday, like some kind of self preservation instinct had kicked in to protect her from the pain. That lasted another week and when she finally woke up and got out of bed, she was a different person.”

“You see, before she met you, my daughter was the kind of girl who read fairy tales and romantic novels and believed them. She was the kind of girl who had faith in people, in the goodness of the world, and most importantly, in herself. It was that kind of unyielding optimism and ability to dream that made her who she is and got her into Harvard when no one else in our family has ever even gone to college. But, she doesn’t read fairy tales anymore. Instead she reads books about psychology and overcoming depression. She doesn’t have the same blind hope that she used to, she looks at everything for what it is and expects the worst. She doesn’t dream anymore. That Christian, is because of you. That is the impact you have had on my daughter’s life. You may love her, you may want to be with her, but if you really want what’s best for her, you have to accept that it might not be you.”

I freeze, waiting for Christian’s response. He’s quiet for a minute and my muscles tighten with anger as I imagine him sitting there across from her, her words wounding him. Not what’s best for me? She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Christian is the only things that makes me feel whole, and loved, and alive. He’s absolutely what’s best for me and I’m about to storm into the room and tell her that myself, but I stop when I hear Christian begin to speak.

“You’re wrong, Carla.” He says. “I’m not the reason her reading choices have changed. She reads book about psychology and depression because she wrote a book about psychology and depression. She dreams just as big now as she ever did, her dreams are just different. She wants to publish novels and run a publishing house and she’s well on her way to accomplishing both of those things. My COO and I just ran the numbers on SIP this last week, and the turnaround has been more resounding and successful than either one of us predicted. That’s your daughter’s work and, in my experience, you don’t get those kind of results from people who don’t believe in themselves. I know I hurt her, and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do or sacrifice to be able to take back what she went through that summer, but I can’t. The only thing I can do is love her, cherish her, and promise to never do anything to hurt her again. I intend to keep that promise, Carla. Ana means more to me than anything in the world. More than my company, more than my family, more than my own life, and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t give her or do for her to make her safe and happy.”

“Fine,” My mom replies. “Christian, all I care about is that my daughter is happy and healthy and that she has the ability to achieve everything she’s worked so hard for. If you don’t stand in the way of any of those things, then I won’t say another word against you. But it isn’t my approval that you need to worry about.”

“What do you mean?” Christian asks.

“Ana has never put much stock into what I say or think, but that’s not true when it comes to Ray. Ana worships him, and his approval does matter to her. Do you think he’s going to approve of you when he finds out about the things you’ve done? When he gets back here and he finds out how you broke her, do you think he’ll walk her down an aisle in front of all of our friends and family, place her hand in yours, and ask you to take care of her for the rest of her life?”

“I love her,” Christian says defensively.

“So does he,” My mom argues. “He loves her more than I’ve ever seen any man love a child, and she loves him. If you want any future with her, you had better be prepared for what you’re going to say to him because you’re going to get one shot with him. One chance to prove to him that you’re a man he can trust his daughter’s future to, and a multibillion dollar empire, a fancy yacht, and a private jet won’t affect his judgement.”

“Those are just things, that’s not everything I want to give her. I want to care for her, I want to give her whatever future she wants. I want to be the man her father wants for her.”

“Then you have a year to prove that,” My mom says, there is a brief moment of silence and some muffled shuffling noises that I assume are from them standing up, and then my mom speaks again. “Don’t hurt my daughter again, Christian.”

“I promise you, I won’t,” He says.

“Good. Then, thank-you for sitting down and talking with me.”

I can hear them moving again so I quickly stand up straight and ease open the door to the office, trying to look surprised to find them both there and not like I’ve just been eavesdropping on their conversation.

“Ana,” My mom says, a little guiltily, when she sees me.

“We’re, uh… We’re about to pull into the bay. Everyone else is on the back deck, I wanted to come and get Christian so he didn’t miss the fireworks.”

“Well, we better get out there then,” My mom says. She gives me a tight smile and then reaches over and grips Christian reassuringly on his upper arm. He nods towards her in recognition, but as she turns to leave the room, I pull on him to keep him behind with me, and then wrap my arms around him.

“I love you, Christian,” I tell him.

“I love you too, baby,” He says, but his tone is a little off as I think he’s caught off guard by my seemingly out of the blue assertion. I pull my head away from his chest, keeping my arms locked tightly around him as I look up into his eyes.

“I just want you to know that, and that nothing, or no one could change that. Nobody. You and me, that’s all I care about.”

I hear him exhale, like he’d been holding his breath and then he leans down and presses his lips into mine. I kiss him back, my arms wrapping under his and hooking over the back of his shoulders so I can hold myself to him as closely as possible. When he pulls away, he leaves one last, gentle lingering kiss on my lips and then softly nuzzles his nose against mine, eliciting a gratified moan from me.

“Come on,” He says quietly, “Surprisingly, I don’t think they’d hold the fireworks for me.”

“Sucks just being one of the people, huh?” I ask and he laughs, then takes my hand and leads me out onto the back deck where everyone is already waiting, curled up under blankets on the various loungers or the sofa on the open deck. Christian pulls me down onto a large, circular lounger that is probably big enough for four people, but that we have to ourselves. The staff bring us a blanket since it is kind of chilly with the sea breeze blowing over us, and Christian tugs the blanket over the both of us and then wraps me in his arms while we stare up at the inky black sky.

“It’s so nice out here,” Kate says, under Elliot’s arm and laying so that her head is resting on his chest. “You don’t get to see the stars much in the city with all the light pollution.”

“Or clouds,” Elliot says, with a laugh. “Don’t forget where you are, babe.”

“Well it’s perfect tonight, not a rain cloud in the sky.”

“Praise be!” Elliot exclaims, a little over dramatically and we all laugh.

“Mom?” A small voice says behind us, and Christian and I both turn to look over the back of the lounger to see Mia standing in the doorway from the open deck.

“Yes, sweetheart?” Grace replies, clearly surprised to see her.

“Can I come watch the fireworks with you?” She asks timidly, and Grace smiles at her.

“Of course you can. I’d really like that.”

The corner of Mia’s mouth turns up into a small smile and she walks forward and climbs onto the lounger with her Mom who wraps her up in the blanket with her and kisses her, hard, on the cheek.

There’s a loud bang and suddenly the sky above us is illuminated with golden sparkles. Christian’s arms tighten around me again and I settle back down and stare up at the fireworks exploding over our heads. It’s beautiful and awe inspiring as the entire sky above us is filled with bright, colorful light, and the glittering trails seem to rain down over the top of us while the cheers from the shore echo out over the water. More than once, I gasp as the entire sky is lit up, and the boom from the explosion rattles deep in my chest. Every so often I feel Christian leave soft kisses against my hair, or against my temple, and when I turn to look at him, I see that he’s not focused on the fireworks display at all.

“You’re so beautiful,” He whispers, and when my teeth sink into my bottom lip to try and hold back my smile, he leans over and kisses me. There isn’t the sense of hesitation in his kiss that has been there since the Mayor’s Ball, but it isn’t an aggressive, fiery assault either. His teeth pull my lip, releasing it, and after his tongue brushes lightly over me, it slips purposefully into my mouth and begins massaging mine. I can taste the lingering remains from the wine he drank at dinner and it’s intoxicating, sweeping me away and wrapping me into him while his lips and tongue move gently, but purposefully, against mine.

I let out a low, soft moan, so that no one can hear but him and then I actually tense in surprise when I feel his hand brush up my thigh and then grab onto me so he can hook my leg over his hip, and I can feel his erection pressing into me. Oh…

“Let me take you to bed,” He whispers against my lips.

“Really?”

“Yes,” He affirms, and there isn’t any hesitation in his voice, only lustful need. I turn to look up at the sky, now completely filled with exploding light as rocket after rocket launches into the air and detonates into a glittering shower. The grand finale.

“Take me to bed, Christian,” I whisper, turning back to face him and he smiles and then presses his lips into mine again, only pulling away when the sounds of the fireworks go silent and the cheering, both from our families and the low, dull roar of the people on the shore, echo around us.

“Well that was really something,” Carrick says, “Being over the water really does make a difference.”

“It does,” Grace agrees. “And I’m so happy we had everyone here to enjoy it together.” She squeezes and kisses Mia once more and then turns to face us. “Thank you, Christian, for this wonderful weekend.”

“My pleasure,” He says. I feel him reach down to adjust his erection under the blanket, and then he stands and looks down at me. “We should be going ashore now, should we go pack?”

“Yeah,” I croak. He smiles, amused by the inability for me to pull off his perfect composure when I know what packing really means.

“We should get ready to go too,” Grace says, pulling the blanket back from her and Mia. Christian takes my hand and quickly leads me back inside, probably not wanting to walk to our room with his parents. I almost have trouble keeping up with him as he pulls me up the stairs to the 2nd deck. Once we’re in the room, he closes the door behind us and then pushes me into it, his lips coming down on mine as he reaches for the hem of my t-shirt. I lift my arms into the air, helping him remove it as quickly as possible and once he tosses it to the floor, he lifts me so that I can wrap my legs around his waist and continue to kiss him while he carries me off to the bed.

“What are you going to say when we dock and we still have to pack?” I ask him breathily, as he leaves a trail of kisses down my neck towards my collar bones and his fingers begin work on the buttons of my shorts.

“That was just an excuse, I had the staff pack everything for us once we turned back around for Seattle.” He says, not taking his lips off my skin. “I’m more concerned that I won’t be finished with you when it’s time to disembark.”

I groan, as his fingers reach under the band of my shorts, pulling them down and taking my panties with them. My skin feels hot as the need I feel for him, to feel him inside of me, blossoms out of control. I need to touch him, to feel his skin pressed against mine while he makes love to me, and so I reach out for his shirt and tug it upwards. He doesn’t stop me. He helps me, and once it’s gone, and I can drink in the glorious perfection that is his perfectly sculpted body, I lean forward and press my lips into his chest.

He exhales sharply, but it isn’t a sound of pain, it’s a sound of pleasure. It gives me a rush of confidence which I cling onto as I grip onto his arm and pull myself out from underneath him, pushing him back onto the bed so that he’s on his back before I climb on top and lower my lips to his. His hands reach up and unclasp my bra, yanking it off of me while I move my lips down the sharp, chiseled line of his jaw.

“My pants, Anastasia,” He says, his voice now rough and gravelly.

I smile and begin moving down, pausing only to run my tongue over the particularly inviting lines of his pectoral muscles and abs. When I get down to his jeans, I swirl my tongue briefly through the well kempt hair peeking out over the top of his waistband and then move further down, yanking open the tightly fastened button on his fly with my teeth.

“Oh fuck, Ana,” Christian groans. “Your mouth. I want your mouth.”

He lifts his hips off the bed so I can pull down the waist of his pants, but I abandon my efforts the moment his erection is free so I can take him into my mouth. He lets out a long, drawn out breath and entangles his fingers into my hair as I wrap my lips around him, my tongue swirling around the head of his erection every time I pull back. He thrusts forward, so I give him a moment of control, relishing in the deep moans of satisfaction I draw from him.

“Come here,” He breathes, releasing my hair, but when I move up to kiss him, he stops me. “No, I want to go down on you while you suck me. Turn around.”

He pushes me back into the bed, flips me over, and drags me back up to his face. I gasp when his lips make contact with me, and when he reaches down, grasps his erection, and guides it to my lips, I open my mouth and suck him again.

He groans into me as I pull him deep into my mouth, and the combination of his moans against me and his erection, hard and smooth against my lips and tongue, awakens the carnal animal inside of me that only Christian can bring out. I moan and suck harder, take him deeper, use my hand to stroke him in opposition to the movements of my mouth. In response, he nearly devours me with his mouth. He dips his tongue inside of me and swirls it around, fucks me with his fingers while his lips work incessantly over my clitoris. I begin to feel heat rising within me, causing me to tighten around his fingers with the promise of impending release, but he stops.

“Don’t come,” He tells me, not taking his mouth away from me, and the feel of his breath against me does not help me obey him. “I’m not ready to be finished with you. I want to be in you for that, but if you come in my mouth, you’ll unman me, and I won’t get the chance.”

“Then fuck me, Christian,” I plead, removing him from my mouth but continuing to stroke him with my hand. “I don’t want to wait anymore.”

“Well, if you insist…” He says, leaving one last kiss on my clitoris, before pulling me away from him. I turn around while he positions his erection for me to lower myself onto and while I straddle his waist, he reaches down and rubs his thumb lightly over my clitoris.

“Easy now, baby,” He tells me, as the head of his erection comes in contact with my opening. “Nice and slow. I want to feel you taking every inch of me.”

I whimper a little as he breaks through my lips and I slowly lower myself down onto him, his thumb continuing to massage my clitoris. His free hand grasps tightly to my hips, and once he’s fully inside of me, he holds me down and I rock my hips back and forth.

“Ohhhh my god,” I breath, as I feel him stirring me up inside. His face tightens as he watches me moving back and forth, and his tongue slides across his top lip hungrily.

“That’s it, baby,” He encourages me. “Nice and slow.”

I pull up, and there is a shakiness to my breathing as I feel him sliding out of me, but before I rise all the way off of him, I stop, and then sink back down. My bottom lip begins to tremble as I relish in the pleasure of him inside of me, of really feeling him inside of me. The slowness, the deliberation, it isn’t about the rough, carnal friction or the pounding rhythm that drives us both to the edge of release, it’s about the connection of this moment. About being as close as we can be to one another and how good we can make each other feel through this physical expression of our love. My mouth falls open as the pleasure deep inside of me spikes and I lock eyes with him, finding them filled with his own strained sense of indulgence.

“Put your knees on my shoulders,” He tells me, and so I shift my legs to do as he says. “Now lean back. A little further…” He folds his knees upward, giving me something to grab onto as I slowly lean backwards, and once I get into the position he wants, he thrusts deeply up into me, directly into the place on the front wall of my vagina that is the epicenter of all my pleasure receptors. My body immediately tightens as the shock of pleasure sweeps through me and for a moment, I almost lose my ability to hold myself up with my legs. His other hand moves up to my other hip and he holds me in place as he thrusts forward again, once again hitting me in that perfect place. My thighs clench together and I whimper as he picks up speed.

“Oh my god, Christian!” I cry out, as I feel my entire body begin to shudder, building quickly to what I know will be an overpowering orgasm.

“Right there, baby?” He asks, his voice tight, like he’s pushing off his own release until I find mine. I nod quickly, unable to speak through high keening pouring through my lips in time with his movements. He groans loudly as he throws his head back and thrusts up into me harder. His hands pull me down onto him each time he moves, and soon the heat inside of me begins to bubble out of control, the tightening in my core winding to the point of breaking, and with one final thrust, I detonate.

“Christian!” I scream. My entire body begins to shake as I’m overcome with the force of my orgasm and I collapse on top of him. His fingers grasp my chin and turn my face so that his lips can claim mine. I kiss him back, trying to use my tongue in the commanding way he uses his, but I can’t maintain the kiss as several pleasure driven cries come unbidden from my mouth into his.

“So fucking hot,” He growls, before forcing his tongue back into my mouth. “That’s it baby, give it to me. Fuck, you’re going to make me come.”

I push down on him, moving my hips back and forth to coax him towards the same release he’s given me.

“Come for me, Christian,” I tell him, unable to keep back the needy keen to my voice “I want you to come inside of me.”

“Yes,” He whispers, and after three more hard thrusts, he groans and then finds his release. I let out a sharp, exalted breath and then lie down over him, pressing my body flush against his and reaching up to grip tightly to his hair while he fucks me through his orgasm.

“I’ve missed this,” He whispers when he comes down and his movements inside of me have stilled. I take a deep steadying breath, prop myself up on my elbows, and stare down into his eyes again.

“Me too. I love you, Christian,” I tell him and he lets out a low, approving moan.

“I love you too, Anastasia.”

I smile and then lean down to kiss him, but just before my lips touch his, there is a loud banging against the bedroom door.

“Alright you two, break it up,” Elliot’s voice call to us. “We’re here, let’s go.”

“Fuck off, Elliot!” Christian yells back. I laugh as he rolls his eyes and we quickly get out of the bed and dress so we can leave the yacht and re-enter the real world.

Next Chapter

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