The pain killers do their job a little too well over the next day or so. I feel like I’m out of it most of the time, but by Wednesday, the nagging ache in my shoulder has nearly completely faded and when I wake up in the morning to Christian’s offering of more pills, I decline.
“You’re feeling better?” He asks.
“Yes,” I tell him. I sit up, feeling overly groggy from multiple days of sleeping way too many hours. “I need to take a shower and get out of this room. What is everyone else doing today?”
“They’re out on the mountain.”
“Should we join them?” I ask dubiously, not sure I really want to go back out on the slopes.
“No,” He says sternly, and I feel a little relieved.
“Can we go out and do something else? We could go sledding or on one of those carriage rides we saw going through town.”
“I don’t think so, Anastasia,” He says. “You need some rest.”
“Christian, I’m fine! I feel great!”
“Good, then let’s do something else. Here. Where I don’t have to worry about you,” He says, using a tone meant to end the discussion. I roll my eyes but don’t push it anymore. We’ve only got a few more days here and I don’t want to spend that time fighting with him. He tips the pills back into the bottle and sets it on the nightstand. I follow him with my eyes as he moves across the room and pulls the white t-shirt he’s wearing over his head preparing for a shower. He walks towards the bathroom and as I watch the way his muscles move under his skin when he goes, I feel the irritation melt away.
“I have an idea of what we could do,” I say, trying my best to be seductive.
He stops and turns to look at me, not realizing what I’m saying until I purposefully bite down on my bottom lip.
“Oh no, Anastasia,” He says. “You’re supposed to be resting. My mom wants you to take it easy.”
“So be gentle,” I coax him. He sighs and shakes his head, but his smile is good humored.
“It’s seems I’ve created a monster, Miss Steele. It was only just over a week ago that you would have been thrilled by the prospect of having to read a book all afternoon.”
“There’s plenty of time to read books. We have today and tomorrow and then I’m going back to Vegas and you’re going back to Seattle and I won’t see you again until we go back to Cambridge.”
“We go back to Cambridge on Sunday.” he chuckles.
“That’s beside the point,” I argue.
“Get some rest, Anastasia.
I pout at him but he ignores me and continues into the bathroom. I hear the shower turn on and have to fight the urge to slip in with him. Instead, I put on a pair of sweatpants, dig through my bag for a suitable book, and make my way down to the kitchen to pour a bowl of cereal. Christian joins me twenty minutes later and we watch the news while we eat breakfast together.
Most of the day goes by fairly slowly as I fight boredom. I use every opportunity I can to prove to him that I feel better and to coax him back upstairs, but he’s unshakable. I can tell I have an effect on him every time I brush against him or bend over to pick something up off the ground, but by the end of the day, I’m still unable to change his mind about this new abstinence fatwa.
The others still aren’t home by 7:30 that night, but since I know they should be back soon, I decide I can help Grace out by making dinner. So, while Christian reads in front of the fire in the living room, I season some chicken to bake, steam some broccoli, and get to work on a creamy white sauce. Once the chicken is nearly cooked through, I put some bowtie pasta on the stove to boil and by the time the others get back from their day of skiing, I’m laying out dishes of chicken pasta on the dining room table.
“Oh thank god, I’m starving,” Elliot says, dropping his bag, boots, and skis by the door without care.
“Me too, and it looks great. Thank you, Ana,” Carrick agrees. I smile at him as we pile around the table. While we eat, the other’s recount their day of fun and I feel pinpricks of jealousy at their stories.
“This is delicious, baby,” Christian says, leaning over a kissing me appreciatively before turning back to his food.
“Ew,” Mia groans at her brother’s display of affection.
“Ew is right,” Elliot says, nudging Mia playfully in agreement.
“What? You don’t think your brother is cute?” I ask mockingly.
“Maybe…” Elliot says. He sets his fork down and concentrates hard on Christian, as if he is examining him. “I think he might be once you get past his hideous face and horrible personality. Yeah, maybe then.”
“Christian doesn’t have a horrible personality,” Mia says defensively. “He’s just mean to you because you’re a jerk.”
“Yeah, well he’s only nice to you because he knows you won’t be around long before Mom and Dad sell you on the black market for your organs,” Elliot says, and despite the fact it may be one of the lamest comebacks I’ve ever heard, I have to stifle my laugh in a napkin. I guess that proves how badly I need to get out of this house.
“Elliot,” Grace says, her tone a warning.
“Sorry, Mom. I didn’t mean to blow your cover,” Elliot says.
“You guys are acting like you’re thirteen,” Kate says disapprovingly.
“I am thirteen,” Mia says, and I can no longer stifle my giggle. Christian looks down at me, amused, and then shakes his head.
“You’ll have to excuse her, she’s been on painkillers for days,” He teases me.
“Or just stuck in the house with nothing to do,” I say, gently nudging him in the ribs.
“Are you feeling better, Ana?” Grace asks.
“Yes, much. I think I’m good as new.”
“Awesome! Then you’re coming out with us tomorrow?” Ethan asks, and I shake my head.
“I think I left whatever desire I have to ski on Hyde Park,” I say, and he nods his head but Elliot turns to Christian, a look of near panic crossing his face.
“Christian, you’re going to come out, right?” He asks urgently. “We haven’t skied together all week, and this is probably our last chance this season.”
“And leave Ana here alone all day? I don’t think so,” Christian says. I frown, realizing in that moment as whiny as I have been about being bored, that he’s been stuck here too. It may be a good idea, how ever much I hate to admit it, for me to take it slow here at the cabin, but Christian shouldn’t miss out on the fun. It wasn’t his fault I fell… and that’s when I realize, he’s punishing himself for me getting hurt. That’s what all of this is, even the no sex thing. He’s sulking.
“Christian, I’ll be fine. Go! Have fun!” I beg him, but he shakes his head and I frown, feeling as though this confirms my assumption.
“I could take a day off,” Kate offers. I smile at her and turn to Christian.
“See, I’ll be fine. Go out and enjoy yourself,” I tell him.
“Seriously, I think I might be a little skied out,” Kate adds. “My body could probably use the rest. I haven’t been this sore in a long time.”
“That’s not the skiing, baby,” Elliot says.
“Elliot Trevelyan-Grey!” Grace exclaims.
“That’s enough, Elliot,” Carrick says, in the same tone Ray used to use with me when I got in trouble when I was little. Elliot shrugs and continues eating, but I see him raise his eyebrows suggestively at Kate, who shakes her head with exasperation.
“I really don’t mind, Christian,” Kate continues. “If you want to go out and ski with Elliot and Ethan, Ana and I can hang out here and watch movies or something. Ooh, let’s binge watch Grey’s Anatomy all day.”
“Yes,” I say seriously, pointing at her across the table in acknowledgement for her excellent idea.
“I’m not going to leave you, Ana,” Christian says.
“Then you’re watching Grey’s Anatomy, ’cause that’s happening,” I tell him, and him and he rolls his eyes.
“You’ll stay here all day?” He asks Kate.
“Cross my heart,” Kate replies.
“And you’ll just be watching TV? Nothing too strenuous?”
“Not a single thing,” I add.
“Looks like I’m heading out with you in the morning, Elliot,” Christian says after a brief hesitation. I smile, feeling I’ve gained a small victory until Grace speaks up.
“You girls can’t just sit inside all day and watch TV,” she says. “You’re on vacation. Go, do something! Enjoy yourselves before you have to go back to school.”
“Mom, you said Ana needed rest,” Christian says, immediately defensive.
“She says she feels fine, Christian,” Grace says dismissively. “If she’s over the residual pain, I think that she’s right and she’s probably good as new.”
“Probably doesn’t make me feel great,” He says.
“Well, going out doesn’t have to be something strenuous. Why don’t we have a girls day in town?” Elena suggests. “We could go to the salon and the spa in the resort.”
“If you’re not going to stay in and watch a stupid TV show, then I’m staying here,” Christian says, trying to head her off, but she counteracts him.
“Like you’d have any more fun in the salon with us girls, Christian. Ana is right, you should go and enjoy yourself. Heaven knows you haven’t been able to all week staying here taking care of her.”
“Can I come?” Mia asks, cutting off whatever Christian was going to say.
“Of course you can dear. I think it would be just wonderful for us all to get away and have a little pampering,” Grace says. “Kate is right, all this skiing has my back tied up in knots and I’d love a massage. Besides, I think a spa day would do wonders for Ana’s recovery.”
“It’s settled then, while the boys hit the mountain, the girls will stay back at the resort and rejuvenate ourselves,” Elena says.
“Whimps,” Elliot says. The conversation moves on as Mr. Lincoln begins to tell a story of something embarrassing that happened to Grace on the ski lift today, but I have a hard time focusing. I’m glad Christian is going to get out and have fun, but as I begin to mentally calculate the cost of this spa day we’re now having tomorrow, I feel a sense of dread cross over me. I haven’t spent any of my last paycheck from the library so I think I could afford a few things, but I honestly have no idea how much spa services in Aspen cost. There is the check Bob gave me for Christmas that I deposited before I came…
“What’s wrong, Ana?” Christian asks softly.
“Nothing, I’m just… thinking about tomorrow,” I tell him.
“If you don’t think you’re ready, I’ll stay here with you. Don’t let them push you into something you think is too much,” He says.
“It’s not that. I really do feel fine, Christian, and I want you to go out and have fun,” I say. I look up at Elena, conscious of her looking at me and not wanting this conversation to go any further with her listening. Christian notices me looking at her and turns back to me, guessing wrong at what I’m worried about.
“Just stay with Kate all day and she won’t be able to say anything to you,” He says, leaning over and speaking so low only I can hear him.
“I know,” I say, turning to face him. “I’ll be fine.” He narrows his eyes at me for a moment while trying to rationalize my mood and as I stare into his eyes, I see the moment he figures it out.
“I’ll give you my credit card,” He says. “You don’t have to worry about these kinds of things anymore, Ana.”
“Christian, I don’t want your credit card. I’ll figure it out,” I say shaking my head and turning back to my nearly empty plate of pasta. I look up and see Elena looking between us, a smug smile painted across her face.
“I don’t know, Dad. We might have to go easy tomorrow. Christian has barely been out all week,” Elliot says pointedly, thankfully taking Christian’s attention off of me. “I think he’s gone soft.”
“That just means he’s going to be more limber than you, son,” Carrick says. “What do you think, Christian? Ready to show us all how it’s done on the slopes tomorrow?”
Christian turns his eyes pointedly down at the now empty plate in front of him, ignoring his father’s question. There is an awkward silence that falls over the table.
“Christian,” Grace says. “Your father asked you a question.”
“Oh I heard him,” Christian says, looking up to his mother. Grace frowns and her eyes narrow with disappointment, but Carrick stops her before she can say anything.
“It’s fine, Grace. Just… leave it alone,” He says. “What are you kids planning for tonight?”
“I don’t know,” Elliot says, clearly grateful for the ease of the tension. “I think we’re all pretty beat so maybe just a movie or a board game or something.”
“I’ve been doing nothing but watching movies and reading all day,” I say, disappointed. “Let’s do something fun.” I see Christian’s alarmed expression as he turns to look at me, but I ignore him.
“Yeah, I agree. What did you have in mind, Ana?” Kate asks.
“I don’t know…” I say.
“We could build a giant snowman,” Mia suggests.
“Or a snowball fight,” Ethan says.
“Yes!” Elliot exclaims. “A snowball fight! I am so on board with that.”
“Boys vs. Girls,” Mia add excitedly.
After a general murmur of agreement, I look at Christian, who is staring down at me doubtfully.
“You’re sure you’re feeling better?” He asks.
“Positive,” I tell him.
“I don’t see any reason why not. As long as she feels comfortable.”
“Please, Christian?” Mia pleads.
He looks at me worriedly once more but, eventually, he nods his head.
“Excellent,” Elliot says, picking up his plate and taking it to clean in the sink before rushing upstairs to change. We follow after him, Christian entwining his fingers with mine as he pulls me up the stairs behind him.
“Are you ready to lose, Grey?” I ask as I slip into snow clothes. “I know it’s not something you’re used to so I want to make sure you’re mentally prepared.”
“There’s a reason I never lose, Anastasia,” He smirks back at me. “I’m ruthless and that won’t change just because we’re on opposite teams.”
“Good. I wouldn’t want to win thinking you’d thrown the game,” I say. He smiles and reaches out to pull me close to him, capturing my lips and kissing me deeply. I surrender for a moment, kissing him back with a furor born from the afternoon of sexual repression.
“If you’re really feeling better, we could skip the snowball fight,” He says suggestively, his hands running up my sides to my breasts. I slap his hand and squirm out of his arms.
“What’s the matter?” He asks.
“I’ll need full concentration on the battle field, Grey. I can’t allow you to get in my head. Besides, you’re the enemy now and I can’t be caught sleeping with the enemy.”
“Well if that’s how you’re going to be Miss Steele, you should know that I’ve been known to take advantage of my POWs.”
“Then I better not get caught, Mr. Grey,” I say. I hear Ethan and Elliot rough housing in the hallway and know that they’re getting ready to start. With a challenging look at Christian, I begin backing up towards the door and he looks like he’s ready for a chase until his phone begins ringing from his pocket. He takes out his Blackberry, and I think he’s going to reject the call until he looks down at it.
“Fuck, it’s Ros,” He says regretfully. “I actually do need to take this. Go ahead, I’ll be down in a minute.”
“You sure?” I ask, slightly disappointed.
“Yes, I won’t be long.”
I nod my head and turn for the hall, closing the door behind me while he answers the phone. I walk down the hall alone, as I assume the others are already outside, and once I get to the stairs, I can hear voices coming from the kitchen on the opposite side of the wall. This normally wouldn’t bother me except the first word I’m able to distinguish is my name. I stop to listen and realize it’s Elena speaking, so I sit on the step and try to hear what she’s saying.
“I’m not saying that I don’t think Anastasia has the potential to be a lovely girl, Carrick. I’m saying she’s dangerous. You know what Christian has gone through in the past, are you ready to open him up to the heartbreak of a girl who could be just using him to make up for her parents shortcomings?”
“I don’t think that’s the case. They seem very happy together. Christian seems happy and that’s not something Grace and I see a lot of,” Carrick says.
“Of course he’s happy,” Elena replies with exasperation. “They’re in the beginning stages of their relationship where it’s nothing but new experiences and hot sex. What happens when they have their first fight or god forbid, Anastasia finds someone even more gullible with more money?”
I hear footsteps behind me and turn to see Christian coming down the stairs. I wave my hand, silently telling him to be quiet, and point at the wall. He looks at me with confusion, but he listens too, and the moment he hears Elena and his father talking, I see him lean closer into the wall.
“Elena, I know your concerns and Grace and I are both touched to see how much you care for the kids, especially Christian, but I think your wrong. I really do feel that she likes him.”
“Well, why wouldn’t she?” Elena asks. “Did you see the skis he bought for her? The boots, the jacket… not to mention the earrings he sent to her for Christmas. What did those set you back, $2,000? $3,000 maybe?”
“Elliot spent the same amount on Kate for that Chanel bag he filled with plane ticket vouchers,” Carrick argues.
“Is Elliot planning on giving Kate his credit card to go to the spa tomorrow? I heard Christian offer his to Ana at dinner and she didn’t say no.”
“Wasn’t it your idea to go to the spa? Ana wanted to watch TV and you and Grace chose something else that she can’t afford. What is she supposed to do, Elena? Is this about you worrying for Christian or is it just because she doesn’t have the blessings that we have and you think that puts her beneath all of us?”
“I just worry about her intentions and what a broken heart would do to Christian,” Elena says defensively. “He’s made so much progress over the last few years and I don’t want to see it destroyed. That girls is dangerous.”
“How much money do you make?” Carrick says, a hint of anger in his voice.
“What’s your yearly salary, Elena? And not what is your household income, I don’t care what Andrew makes, what about you?”
“That’s an entirely different situation all together. Andrew and I are married…”
“And when you met him? You were a stewardess, right? What was the salary of a stewardess in the 80s? About $12,000 a year?”
“Carrick…” Elena begins but he cuts her off.
“What do you want me to do? Ground him? Tell him he can’t be with her? He’s an adult, Elena and he gets to make his own decisions.”
“He relies on you financially. Perhaps if you just lowered his credit limits…”
“Are you crazy? Jesus, Elena. No, this discussion is over,” Carrick says, interrupting her. “If Christian wants to be with Ana then Grace and I are both thrilled for him and I’m not going to listen to this talk anymore. The only thing I care about is my son’s happiness and the only thing I see when I see Christian with Ana, is a man in love. We didn’t know if he could have that after what happened to him and I’ll be damned if I’m the one to take that away from him.”
“How do you know he’s happy? He hasn’t even spoken to you once since Thanksgiving!” Elena argues.
“He hasn’t spoken to me because of all of this! Now, damn it Elena, I’ve had enough. Don’t bring it up again!”
Carrick storms forward into the living room, crossing the dining area to the window, and Christian and I hastily stand up so that he won’t realize we were listening. I take his hand, and together we slowly walk the rest of the way down the stairs as casually as possible, nearly bumping into Elena as we reach the first floor. She glances down at our interlocked fingers, scowls, and follows after Carrick to the living room taking a long drink of amber liquid as she goes.
Christian pulls me quickly through the living room and out the back door and I get a last glimpse of Elena settling down on the sofa next to Mr. Lincoln before the door closes behind me. Outside, it’s nearly completely dark and snow has begun to fall. Huge, white flakes drift lazily around us and I note that it’s going to be difficult to see before too long.
Christian and I take the stairs down to the hot tub and open a gate that releases us onto the thick white blanket of snow that covers the yard. Elliot, Kate, Ethan, and Mia are already there waiting for us, and the moment we come into view, Elliot starts throwing out instructions.
“We’ve agreed to an hour of prep-time,” He says. “You can construct your barricade and build up your arsenal in that time, but the second the hour is up, it’s war. Ready or not. First team to forfeit loses.”
“I’m going to make you eat those words,” Kate says.
Elliot nods his head, accepting the challenge and we split off. Kate wastes no time before issuing orders. We begin building a wall to crouch down behind while Mia starts making dozens and dozens of snowballs.
“Great job, Mia!” Kate says, as she examines the huge mound of perfectly packed snowballs tucked neatly behind our newly constructed snow fortress. “The boys won’t know what-“
Kate’s words cut off as an oversized snowball collides with the side of her head. The three of us whip around and see Elliot standing on the other side of a four foot high wall of snow, gently tossing and catching a second snowball in his hand. I don’t see Ethan or Christian.
“Time’s up,” Elliot sneers.
Kate glares at him and turns to give a command to start the fight, but Mia is way ahead of her. With lightning speed she begins hurling snowballs over the wall at her brother, hitting him twice in the face before he has time to react. The snow ball rolls out of his hand so in order to retaliate, he dives behind the barrier he’s built to retrieve more ammo. It takes only seconds but he stands up with a snowball in each hand and begins hurling them at us, bending over to collect another as soon as one leaves his hand. Elliot’s attacks are unyielding and I am hit several times before I fall flat to the ground in order to avoid the freezing barrage of snowballs.
“Throw something, Ana!” Kate calls, picking up snowballs with Mia and hurling them over the wall. I squeal and begin digging into the snow, making snowballs as I need and launching them at Elliot.
“Is that all you got?” Elliot says, laughing maniacally as he continues to attack.
“Where are Ethan and Christian?” Mia asks.
“They’ve got to be behind the wall. Maybe they’re the ones making snowballs?” Kate says.
“Well this just isn’t going to work!” Mia says. She stands up and jumps our barrier, batting snowballs out of the way as she hurls herself at Elliot. He catches her and falls to the ground and Kate and I stop our attacks to watch as they wrestle around. Mia puts up a strong fight but she’s no match for Elliot. He holds her to the ground and begins rubbing snow into her face.
“Give up little sister!” He commands as she giggles beneath him.
“No!” She screams, but she’s unable to scramble out from under him.
“We’ve got to help her,” Kate says. I nod and we move to jump the wall, but before we make it over, someone reaches out from behind us, grabbing Kate’s arm and pulling her back.
“I don’t think so,” Ethan says, and he too tackles her to the ground rubbing snow in her face. I whirl around and see Christian standing only a few steps behind me. They must have gone around the house to sneak up on us while we were distracted building our fort. I back up into the wall of snow, groping around the ground for a snowball to throw at Christian.
“Well, what do we have here?” He asks as he stalks towards me.
“Stay back!” I warn, unable to keep the laughter out of my voice.
“Oh no,” He laughs. “I warned you, no holds barred. But, if you come quietly, I’ll go easy on you.”
My fingers grip a snowball and I hold it up threateningly, causing Christian to stop in his tracks.
“Think about that, Anastasia,” He warns. As hard as I can, I bring my arm back and hurl the snowball forward, aiming at Christian’s face. He brings an arm up, blocking my projectile, and the moment the snowball bursts on his coat, he dives at me, grabbing me around the waist and slowly bringing me down into a fluffy snow bank and holding me down.
“Ahh!” I cry with delight as we sink into the snow. Christian sits up, keeping me on the ground between thighs and picks up a huge handful of snow.
“Surrender,” He orders.
“No!” I squeak, bringing my arms up to shield by face as I laugh uncontrollably beneath him. A shower of snow falls down over me as Christian dumps handful after handful of snow on my face. I try my best to squirm out from under him but I can’t move. I can see Kate a few feet away from me desperately trying to escape from under Ethan but she’s trapped too. It seems it may be a lost cause.
“I surrender!” I cry, spitting snow from my lips.
“What was that?” Christian asks, his hand pausing in midair while he waits for confirmation.
“I surrender, you win!”
Christian drops the snow into the bank next to us and moves my arms away from my face so he can kiss me.
“Your face is cold,” He says.
“I wonder why!” I reply. He laughs and helps me up from the ground. We save Mia from Elliot, who is now whitewashing her just for fun.
“You’re okay?” Christian asks. “I didn’t hurt you.”
“Just my pride,” I say, leaning in to kiss him once more.
“Let’s get some Cocoa,” Kate suggests. I look over at her red face and feel a shiver rock through me. Yes, something warm would be nice.
“Yeah and then we can get in the hot tub,” Ethan agrees.
We all make the trek up to the house, emerging through the back door covered in snow, and truly looking like war veterans.
“How’d it go?” Grace asks.
“We killed the girls,” Elliot says proudly.
“I can see that,” Grace says. “Poor Mia looks nearly froze to death.”
“We came in for cocoa,” Kate says.
“One cup, Mia, and then you need to get to bed. It’s late already,” Grace says.
“Mom…” Mia complains.
“No arguments,” She continues. “Hurry up.”
After thoroughly cleaning all the snow from our shoes and clothes on the tile by the door, we trudge across the dining room into the kitchen and begin steaming milk in a large pot on the stove. A small handful of marshmallows and I find myself very content, leaning over the kitchen counter listening to Elliot and Ethan argue who would win in a fight, Batman or Captain America.
“Alright, Mia. Time for bed,” Grace says as she, Carrick, Mr. Lincoln, and Elena come up behind us from the living room. She turns to Elliot and wraps him in a hug. “We’re going to turn in for the night too, dear. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Night,” Elliot says.
“Good Night, Mom,” Christian says, kissing his mother on the cheek.
“Good Night, Christian,” She replies, and turns to take Carrick’s hand to walk up the stairs.
“Dad?” Christian says, causing everyone to stop and look at him in shock.
“Yes?” Carrick replies, clearly just as surprised as the rest of us to have Christian suddenly speaking to him again.
“Good Night,” Christian says. Carrick’s faces breaks into a smile.
“Good Night, Son,” He says, and we watch as he disappears around the corner with Grace.