Chapter 24

Untitled

I’d really hoped that Christian already being in Cambridge meant that he’d want to stay for the whole weekend. His unexpected arrival had been doubly exciting because not only did it mean that I’d get to spend more time with Kate and Ethan, but also that I was going to get a week off from the long, arduous flight to Seattle. When I get home from class on Friday though, all of that excitement vanishes when I walk through the sliding glass door and find my suitcase leaning against the kitchen counter, packed and ready, next to Christian’s.

I have to actually hold back a groan when I see it. I know that he’s got a lot going on at work right now and that he probably is still worried about being away from his dad for too long, but the idea of getting on a plane and flying five and a half hours when it feels like I don’t have to is about the absolute last thing on the planet I want to do today. So, even though I understand his reasons for wanting to go, I decide I’m going to try and plead my case to stay. But, when I follow the sound of his voice into the living room, I find him, Taylor, and Luke sitting around the coffee table in deep discussion.

“I mean, it’s enough for when she’s on campus…” Luke says. Taylor nods, but looks as though he’s weighing something in his mind as he turns to Christian.

“I just don’t think one more person is going to be enough.”

“That’s what I have,” Christian says. “Just you and Ryan. If she has a driver, Sawyer doesn’t have to leave her side.”

“That’s not necessarily true,” Luke says. “I think we need a female. The issue is Leila getting her alone and I can’t go into public bathrooms or locker rooms with her. What if she and Kate want to go to a spa or something? That’s exactly the kind of place Leila would be able to corner her and she’ll be vulnerable.”

“She doesn’t do well with female CPOs,” Christian says, but Luke shakes his head.

“She didn’t do well with Prescott, and, honestly, I don’t blame her. That woman was awful.”

“We’ll have to go outside the GEH security team,” Taylor says. “I don’t have any female security officers on staff right now.”

Luke nods. “I know some people in Boston who could give me some names. And, l can do the vetting this time. I know which personalities she’ll gel with and which she won’t. She’s more likely to follow security protocol if she likes her CPO.”

Taylor nods. “And I think we need someone who can watch every point of entry on the house throughout the night. We don’t have the protection here that we do on Escala.”

“I also don’t think it would be a bad idea to change the locks and add a second deadbolt to the front door. I’d even go as far as replacing the sliding glass door in the kitchen with doors that can have multiple locks put in them and that aren’t made of glass.”

“I agree,” Christian says. “And that driveway is dark at night and you can’t see it from inside the house unless someone has their headlights on. We need motion sensor lights so the cameras will pick up anyone moving around the exterior.”

“That’s simple.” Taylor nods. “We can have all of the infrastructure items installed by the end of the weekend. I’ll just need to find an additional man to Kommer for the overnight detail.”

“No, two more,” Christian says, shaking his head. “I want someone assigned to Katherine as well. She’s a vulnerability. If Leila goes after Kate then Ana will put herself in danger to try and protect her.”

“Agreed,” Luke nods.

“Two, then, and the female officer Luke will find in Boston,” Taylor says. “I’ll let Kommer know he’s being transferred to Cambridge tonight and then go through the names I’ve already vetted to fill the other spots. It shouldn’t take more than a week to find someone suitable but we’ll need to get them set up with apartments and transportation here. Do we all agree that Luke should move in here and take the guest room?”

“Absolutely,” Christian says. “She shouldn’t ever be alone with only Kate in this house.”

“Alright,” Luke agrees. “Then I’ll make some calls to have the locks changed and the lights installed while everything else is being done. I can stay behind to keep on eye on things while you’re gone if Taylor wants to stay on duty tonight.”

“Of course.” He nods. When it’s clear no one has anything else to add, they all rise from their seats but stop when they turn and see me lurking in the archway between the living room and the kitchen.

“Hey, baby,” Christian says awkwardly. “How was class?”

“Fine. Can I talk to you for a minute?” Christian nods to both Taylor and Luke, dismissing them, and once they’ve left the room I step forward and wrap my arms around him. “So, it’s really about to get tighter around here, huh?”

“That was the deal.”

“I know. Thank you for thinking about Kate. It would destroy me if something happened to her because of me.”

“Then you understand how I feel. Part of me still wishes you would just come home. Leaving you here now, knowing what we know… I think I’m going to go out of my mind.”

“I’ll be on my best behavior,” I promise. “And Luke won’t let anything happen to me.”

He nods and then leans down to kiss me. “I’ve missed you all day,” he whispers. “I can’t wait to have you alone tonight.”

“About that… Do we really have to fly back to Seattle?”

“Why would we fly back to Seattle?”

I look up at him with confusion. “But… my bag is packed. Our suitcases are by the door. I thought…”

“They’re coming to put in the security system this weekend and in order to get it done by the time Taylor and I leave on Sunday, they need us to vacate the house. We’re staying in a hotel for the rest of the weekend and Kate will go stay at Reed’s house with her brother.”  

“Wait, you’re making Kate leave?”

“I hardly think asking her to spend the weekend with her boyfriend is the same thing as making her leave.”

“Yeah, but she shouldn’t…” I stop and begin chewing on the inside of my cheek. I want to tell him that she’s supposed to be on bedrest and moving her to another house might be a little too much strain on her, especially with the amount of pain she experiences just going down the stairs some mornings. Unfortunately, I can’t say any of that and since Kate has managed to keep her surgery a secret from Christian this far, I doubt she’s going to say anything either. Still, she only has one more week before she’s supposed to be able to get back to school and move around again and I don’t want to set her back because we tried too much too soon. I suppose though that they did move her from Seattle to Cambridge much earlier in her recovery and she seemed to do fine…

“What’s wrong?” Christian asks, clearly seeing my hesitance, but I shake my head and smile up at him.

“Nothing’s wrong. I’m just going to go talk to Kate real quick, okay?”

“Alright. I have just a few more things to see to for work and then we can go. I have dinner reservations for us tonight.”

“Can’t wait.” I kiss him softly and then hurry up the stairs, pausing to rap my knuckles against Kate’s door, but not actually waiting for her response before I open it.

“What are you doing?” I snap when I see her standing in front of her closet going through a bin full of scarves, tossing the few she likes over her shoulder into the duffle bag open on the bed.

“Hey, Ana,” she replies casually. “Do you think this pattern is too much to go with that black sweater I got in New York a couple months ago?”

I shake my head with exasperation. “Why are you out of bed?”

“I’m packing. Christian asked if we could stay at Carter’s for the rest of the weekend while he installs security cameras in the house. You don’t think he’s going to put cameras in here do you? Because if he is, I’m going to need the names of everyone who will have access to that footage…”

“Kate, you’re supposed to be resting!” I walk forward, take the bin out of her hands, and set in back on the shelf in her closet, but when I turn to help her get back into bed, she stops me.

“I’m fine, Ana. I’m feeling really good today. The painkillers are doing their job and it’s nice to be up and around. I’m actually excited to spend the weekend at Carter’s. I’ve been in this house around the clock for over a month and I’m going a little stir crazy.”

“You have one more week,” I tell her. “The doctor said you needed to be on bed rest for six weeks and then you could ease back into regular routine. I don’t want you to strain yourself now and end up making it more.”

“I feel fine,” she assures me. “And I’m only going a couple blocks. Once I get to Carter’s house, I’ll get straight back into bed, I promise.”

I take a deep breath, not wanting to give in but knowing I don’t have a choice. Kate isn’t the kind of girl you can talk out of something once she’s decided on it, and if I try to fight her too hard, Christian will notice. “Alright, at least let me help you pack then.”

“Fine.” She turns back and sits on the end of her bed while I remove the scarf she’s thrown in the bag.

“And yes, I do think this is too much to go with that black sweater,” I tell her. “I think it’s too much to go with anything. This scarf is hideous, Kate.”

“How dare you, that’s Gucci.”

I laugh and toss the folded scarf back into the bin, then begin following her instructions around the room to get the things she wants to take with her. It’s like she’s packing for an extended three week getaway when in actuality, she’s only going to be gone two nights, but it’s nice to have the time alone with her. We talk and fold as we try and cram as much as possible into her duffel bag and soon we’re laughing so hard together that we almost don’t hear Champ’s barks coming from downstairs.

“Well, Carter and Ethan are back with the dog,” Kate says, and the moment the words are out of my mouth, I hear Champ’s barks turn to snarling growls.

“Champ, no! Bad dog! Knock it off!” Carter yells, and Kate giggles.

“Why does my dog hate Christian so much?”

“Probably because he took his place in my bed last night” I say. “Hopefully Christian takes that as him being a good guard dog and doesn’t say we have to get rid of him.”

“Luke would be so devastated,” she says. “It would be like that scene in Homeward Bound when they’re driving away and the little boy is waving through the back window of the car… except, Champ is kind of dumb so I don’t think he’d make it back to us. He’d just find the first family that would take him and call it good.”  

We both laugh.

Once we’re finished packing, I heave Kate’s bag up onto my shoulder and then help her out of bed. She grimaces slightly as she stands, but once she’s upright, the pain in her expression fades and she’s able to keep it away as she moves slowly down the stairs. Christian looks at her suspiciously as I hand her bag to Carter but he doesn’t say anything. I wonder though, if I’m going to have to come up with some excuse later for why she’s being so reclusive. Or making me carry her bags…

“So, what’s the plan for tonight?” Kate asks.

“I don’t know,” Carter shrugs. “Hang out, maybe play some games. My roommate went home this weekend so we should have the house to ourselves.”

“Oh my god, we should have a Mario Kart tournament!” Kate says.

“I’m into that,” Ethan agrees, but Carter shrugs.

“With just the three of us?”

“No, the five of us. Christian and Ana are coming for tonight, aren’t you?” Kate asks. The three of them turn to look at us, and I frown, feeling a deep stab of regret in the pit of my stomach.

“Sorry. I think… I think we’re just going to go to the hotel, Kate.”

“Aw, come on, Ana!” she pouts. “You’re never here on weekends. Come hang out! It won’t be nearly as fun if you’re not there.”

“Sorry, Katie,” I tell her. “We’ll do something, just the two of us, next week, okay?”

She frowns, but, after glancing at Christian, nods. “Alright, have a good night.”

I lean over and very tenderly hug her before turning to Christian and following him out the back door where Taylor has already started warming up my Lexus.

Christian stops to open my door so that I can climb into the back seat and out of the cold while he stows our luggage in the trunk. Once he’s slid into the seat next to me, Taylor looks up in the mirror.

“Where to, sir?”

“Oleana,” he says, and Taylor nods before shifting the car into reverse and backing down the driveway. Before we can turn to continue down the road, I look back up at the house and see Carter and Ethan come through the sliding glass door, wrestling with Champ, who doesn’t seem eager to get back into Carter’s car after having just got home. Kate is laughing at them as she steps out of the house, but when our headlights turn off the driveway, she turns to look at our car. The humor on her face fades slightly as she lifts her hand to wave goodbye, and even though I know she can’t see me through the dark. I curl my fingers at her and then slump back into my seat.

“You okay?” Christian asks.

“Yeah. Part of me just wishes we were staying home so we could hang out with Kate and Ethan, but it’s probably better this way anyway.” I sigh. “You packed my laptop, right? I need to work some more on the article I’m writing for the Crimson next week.”

“Yeah, it’s in your bag,” he says. I nod and turn to stare out the window again, feeling the lingering sense of guilt that plagues me every time I leave Kate now, because it makes me replay Ainsley’s words from that boutique in Seattle in my mind.

Your best friend is moving on without you.

This weekend could have been the perfect way to include her without sacrificing time with Christian, but I guess that’s just one more thing Leila is taking away from me. Security. Freedom. Time with my best friend.

And all because Christian chose me, not her.

When we pull up outside the restaurant a few minutes later, Christian wraps his hand around mine and takes me with him through his side of the car. The early February air really is biting cold, so he pulls me in tight under his arm as he leads me inside and doesn’t release me until we’re led to a secluded table near the back. I’ve been here with Christian before, a long time ago when he still went to school here, and it looks the same now as it did all those years ago. The dim light is interrupted by a single votive in the middle of the small table, casting soft, flickering candlelight over the white tablecloth. It’s very romantic and I smile at him as he pulls out my chair out for me and then leans down to kiss the top of my hair.

Once we begin to glance over our menus though, it’s quiet between us, almost uncomfortably so, so once the waitress has taken our orders and left us alone again, Christian reaches across the table and takes my hands in his.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Mmm,” I hum. “Of course I am, I’m with you. I’m just… thinking about Kate. I need to find a way to make time for her during the week, but there never seems to be enough hours in a day anymore. Especially now that she has a boyfriend again. I wish I was more like you and could manage my time a little better.”

“You two should start running together again,” he says. “That’s an easy way to spend time together and get to talk. I think you need that. You’re happier when you and Kate are in a good place.” I give him a tight smile and take a drink of my water as I once again have to pretend there isn’t a reason Kate’s behavior has suddenly and inexplicably changed. I hate that I can’t just tell him, especially because I know that he’d want to show her his gratitude, but I made a promise. So, to prevent an accidental slip, I change the subject.

“How’s work going? Ros seemed a little anxious when I was talking to you on the phone after my appointment the other day. Everything alright?”

“Yeah,” he nods. “She always gets that way when we’re on the verge of something big and this looks as though it could be one of the most lucrative deals we’ve ever had.”

“Ten million dollars,” I repeat, remembering Ros’s panicked pleas to get Christian off the phone.

“And that’s just to start,” he says. “Have you ever heard of PixC?”

“You mean like the website? It’s like Instagram, right?”

“Yeah, it’s the second largest photo sharing application in the social media world. Their CEO was in a plane crash a little over a month ago.”

“Oh my god! Is he okay?”

“No, Ana. He died.”

“Oh… Did you know him?”

He shakes his head. “I knew of him, but, no, I didn’t know him personally. Anyway, their company is bleeding because they’re not equipped to go on without him and so they’re quietly looking to sell.”

“So, you’re going to buy it?”

“Their financial advisor used to work for a company I acquired and he’s really good. I had tried to bring him into GEH before, but he want to PixC instead. Anyway, he called me and told me their situation, so I looked into it. The name is recognizable, they have seven million active monthly users, and now that their stocks have plummeted, they’re cheap. With my technology division, I think we can not only save the company, but we can make a run at becoming a social media giant. That could mean two to five billion dollars in annual revenue, and from only one division of my company.”

“Every year?” I ask, astonished. He smiles and I give him an accusatory look. “Are you secretly trying to take over the world?”

“It’s a secret?” he replies, and I laugh.

When we’re finished with dinner, I snuggle again into Christian’s side to try and avoid the cold as we make our way to the Lexus parked a little ways down from the door. Once we’re inside, Taylor turns back to us and asks if Christian intends to go straight back to the hotel, but he shakes his head.

“I think we’re going to be spending the rest of the evening at number four Merrill Street,” he says and I furrow my brow at his sudden change of plans until I recognize the address.

“Carter’s house?” I ask.

“I hear they’re having a Mario Kart tournament,” he says. “How could we possibly miss that?”

“Thank you,” I say, and then lean over to kiss him in a way that is probably a little inappropriate with Taylor being only a few feet away in the driver’s seat.

When we get to Carter’s house, we’re immediately greeted by Champ’s loud barks that don’t stop after Carter opens the door to let us in. He growls and snarls at Christian as he worms his way between us but, while Ethan grabs Champ by the collar to drag him into the back room and Kate begins apologizing from the couch, Christian waves them off.

“I’m perfectly fine with that dog acting aggressively towards men he doesn’t know being around Anastasia.”

“Oh, he knows you,” Kate says. “He just doesn’t like you. Champ is an excellent judge of character.”

“Is that why he sleeps in Ana’s bed?” Christian retorts. Kate’s mouth pops open, but quickly changes into a broad smile.

“Solid burn, Grey.”

I laugh and lean up on my tip toes to kiss Christian on the cheek before I move over to the couch to sit with Kate.

“You want a beer, Christian?” Carter asks hesitantly, and to everyone’s surprise, Christian nods. He even follows Carter into the kitchen and when they come back several minutes later, they’re talking to each other. Pleasantly.

Kate gives me a shocked look as they sit down at the table in Carter’s dining room together, but, as we sit and eavesdrop on them talking about Christian’s new Lamborghini and a few other expensive sports cars that are expected to be released later this year, her look of disbelief turns to smug satisfaction.

“I told you he just needed to get to know him. Look, you’d think they were best friends.”

“I honestly don’t believe it,” I say. “It feels like we’ve entered some kind of bizzaro world and now I don’t know what to do with my hands.”

“Grab a WiiMote,” Kate says. “The boys are occupied and, now that I’ve got you all to myself, you’re going down, Steele.”

It ends up being one of the best nights I’ve had in a really long time. Ethan puts on some music while Kate and I race each other on Mario Kart and the guys hang out in kitchen behind us. I’m almost floored by how long Christian willingly sits at the table with Carter, and not even just keeping up polite, shallow conversation either. He listens to Carter going over some of the things they’re currently talking about in his business classes and gives his take things, offered him some career advice for once he graduates, and when Carter asks him the question I didn’t even dare at the beginning of the year, about him possibly coming into guest lecture, he doesn’t immediately turn him down.

Maybe Kate and Elliot were right and it is a good idea to have some kind of secret handshake to ensure neither of us gets taken over by aliens. As it is, hearing him laugh at one of Carter’s jokes, I’m going through my mind to think of three questions only Christian Grey could answer, just to be sure.

After about an hour, the boys have started drinking and playing Quarters on the dining room table, which Christian doesn’t seem to be very good at and results in him taking several shots. The more he drinks, the more lascivious his glances across the room at me become. At one point, when we make eye contact, I see his tongue swipe tantalizingly over his lower lip and, along with the look he’s giving me, it actually makes me blush. I remember very clearly what happens to Christian when he’s intoxicated… and so does my behind.

“Good lord, how much alcohol are they giving him?” I ask, and Kate laughs.

“Don’t worry, not enough that he won’t be able to perform later.”

“That’s not a concern,” I tell her. “Although, if he keeps drinking I might need to be concerned about how sore I’ll be tomorrow.”

“I bet I’ll still win that contest,” she says, wincing slightly as she readjusts her position on the couch.

“Are you feeling okay?” I check.

“I’m fine, sorry. I think the painkillers I took this afternoon are wearing off, but I don’t want to take anymore until I’m ready to go to bed. It’s late and they’ll knock me out, but I’m having a really good time with you tonight, Ana.”

“Me too,” I tell her, but she winces again and I frown.

I glance over my shoulder at Christian, who is watching Ethan take a turn at getting the coin into the shot glass between them, and I wonder if part of the reason that she doesn’t want to take more painkillers is that she doesn’t want to risk Christian seeing her with a pill bottle.

“Do you want to do something else?” I ask. “This game makes you move around a lot, maybe that’s making it worse.”

“Yeah,” Kate nods. “Let’s play something with the boys. I’ve let your guy boggart my guy’s attention long enough.”

She calls out to Carter and asks them to come join us in the living room, and they tell us they will once they finish their game. Ethan goes through the movies to find something for us to watch while Carter and Christian come take their places next to Kate and me. The moment Christian’s pulled the blanket in my lap over him so that it’s covering both of us, his hand moves down over my thigh. I glance quickly over at Kate and Carter, worried they may have noticed something, but they’re currently arguing with Ethan over whatever DVD he’s pulled out of the cabinet.

“You’re so beautiful, baby,” Christian whispers as his hand moves between my legs. “God, I can’t wait to get you alone tonight.”

“Alone being the key word,” I whisper back as I clench my thighs together.

“Don’t,” he groans. Carter gets up to turn the lights out and once it’s dark and the movie starts, Christian’s hand becomes slightly more aggressive under the blanket. He presses against my thighs, opening my legs for him again, and then his fingers get to work once more. I bite down on my lip, nervous to be caught fooling around at first, but eventually giving in as the feel of him touching me overwhelms my good judgement.

“That’s it, baby,” he whispers softly. “Just don’t give me away.”

His hands begin to roam my body, becoming bolder the further into the movie we get. I let out several silent gasps as his fingers clamp tightly around my nipples beneath my bra or his teeth graze softly against the lobe of my ear. My eyes shift to Kate and Carter again, and then to Ethan lying on the floor in front of the TV, but they’re all far too engrossed in the movie to be paying any attention to Christian and I. The longer he touches me, the more I want from him, and so, when I’m sure we’re not going to be caught, I slowly move my hand over into his lap until I find the bulge in his trousers. His body stiffens when I wrap my fingers tightly around it and I begin moving my hand back and forth, but when I move to open his zipper, he reaches down to stop me.

“I don’t want your hand,” he whispers to me. “I want to fuck you. Right now.”

I react immediately to the feel of his breath against my skin and the raw need I can hear in his tone. I turn slightly towards him, moving as little as possible to avoid the off chance that we may attract someone’s attention and give him a coy smile.

“Should we leave?”

“No,” he says. “Right now. I don’t want to wait to get you back to the hotel.”

“But…”

“Excuse yourself. You’re pregnant. Pretend you’re going to be sick and go into the bathroom. I’ll come check on you in a minute.”

The shiver returns as he squeezes my leg tightly once, and then leans away from me. I take a deep breath and settle back into the couch, waiting a few seconds before reaching forward for the glass of water in front of me, bringing it up to my lips, and then letting my face shift with sudden urgency.

“Oh god,” I moan, brushing Christian’s hand off my leg and bolting out of my seat for the bathroom.

“Ana?” Kate says, looking worried as she turns away from the movie.

“I’ve got it,” Christian says.

I duck into the bathroom, which is coincidentally the first bathroom I actually ever did get sick in because of my pregnancy, and then wait three or four seconds before Christian slips inside behind me, closes the door, and then twists the lock on the handle. His arms are around me immediately, bringing me into him so that his lips can find mine with a hungered, fervent kind of urgency. I moan into his mouth and he pulls away.

“You have to be very, very quiet,” he warns me. “Which is going to be difficult as I intend on being very rough with you.”

He turns me back towards the vanity and simultaneously bends me over the counter while he kicks my feet apart. His hands hook under the band on my leggings and begin pulling them off of me, all the way off rather than just far enough for him to get between my legs, and as he separates my pale pink panties from the black fabric he tosses carelessly to the floor and tucks them into the pocket of his pants, a smile crosses my lips. Apparently, he intends for this to be memorable.

I glance up into the mirror and watch as he pulls a silk tie from the back pocket of his jeans, and then raise an eyebrow at him.

“Why do you have…”

“A man has to be prepared, Anastasia,” he says as he curls the fabric around his hands and then moves it in front of my face like he wants to tie it around my head. “Open,” he commands.

“What?”

“I said you were going to have to be quiet,” he says. “I’m going to ensure you are. Open your mouth, Anastasia.” I do as he asks and he slides the silk of his tie between my lips, then quickly wraps each end around my head, over my hair, and secures them together in a tight knot. I move my neck, testing the freedom I have with his makeshift gag, and then let out a muffled, anticipation filled moan into the fabric as I hear the low jingle of his belt.

He leans over me again. “We don’t have a lot of time. You’re going to come quickly.”

I nod and then grip tightly to the countertop as I feel his erection brush against my lips. He thrusts forward in one hard motion that rockets me forward so violently that I would have crashed face first into the mirror had his hand on my shoulder not been simultaneously pulling me back into him. I readjust my grip on the countertop as he moves forward again and again, pistoning in and out of me as quick and as hard as possible. His hand moves from my shoulder to tangle in the roots of my hair and he pulls harshly, eliciting a sharp cry of pain that is lost in the fabric set firmly in my mouth.

Without breaking his relentless pace, he makes eye contact with me in the mirror to make sure I’m okay, but since I can’t respond to him, I simply move my hands further up the counter, gripping tightly to the inside of the sink for better leverage, and push back on him. A smile crosses his lips as he gets the message and his hand tightens even more around my hair as he continues to pummel in and out of me.

He wasn’t wrong before. We’ve only just begun but it’s not long before I feel heat blossoming inside of me like the bloom of a lotus flower, quickly spreading through my heated blood and reaching to the very tips of my fingers. My toes curl over the tile floor as my body forces me to surrender to the rapidly unravelling pleasure, my fingernails scrape against the porcelain on the sink, and my insides begin to shudder. All of it together tells Christian that I’m getting close, and he leans over me, pressing into me, until his lips brush against my ear again.

“That’s it, baby. Let go. I want you to come,” he whispers. I whimper in response and his hand slips down between my legs, his fingers finding my clitoris and moving in time with each of his strokes.

“Like that?” he asks, huskily. I nod and whimper as my  body begins to writhe and I hear him groan. “Fuck, I want to spank you. Really let you fucking have it.”

His hand moves down from my hair and grips tightly to my ass. His fingers sink into my flesh so hard, I imagine he’ll leave behind five dime sized bruises, but that thought doesn’t deter me. In fact, I hope he does. I want the reminder, the proof of where he’s been, and as his hands open me further, allowing him to stroke deeper into me, the pressure twisting tighter and tighter inside of me collapses in on itself like a supernova and sends shockwaves of warm pleasure rolling through my entire body.

“Fuck, Ana,” Christian hisses as my orgasm forces me to clench tightly around him. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!”

His hand disappears from my ass and wraps around mine on the counter as he tries to hold himself up while the force of his own orgasm hits him. I can feel his release filling me as he continues to move in and out of me, and when I look up into the mirror and see the cocktail of pleasure and strain in his face as he struggles to stay as quiet as he’s kept me, I feel a new wave of heat wash through me. Not another orgasm, simply deep, genuine satisfaction. The uninhibited pleasure he’s experiencing right now is because of me, because of my body, and I love that I do that to him. I love that he does this to me. I love that having this with him proves over and over again how perfect we are for each other.

It takes him a moment to regain control of his breathing, but once he does, he removes the tie from around my head, pulls out, and crouches down behind me. I feel a small pang of embarrassment as I feel the shift of his release, but as it begins to drip out of me, he groans.

“So fucking hot.” His lips connect with my inner thigh, leaving a small, gentle kiss against my skin, before he stands up, picks up a towel off the rack behind us, and uses it to clean me up.

“I’m sure Carter is really going to appreciate that,” I tell him wryly as he tosses the towel into a hamper a few feet away from us.

“I care very little about what Carter does and does not appreciate,” he says, and I frown.

“I thought you were starting to come around with Carter. You two have been getting along so well tonight.”

“You think I got where I did in business by not being able to fake pleasant conversation with people I can’t stand?”

“But, why would you do that? If you hate him so much…”

“He’s important to Kate, and Kate is important to me.”

I smile, taken off guard for a moment by his sweet confession about my best friend, and then turn to wrap my arms around him. “She is?”

“Of course she is. She’s the person closest to the love of my life, the godmother of my daughter… and she donated part of her liver to my father.”

My face falls. “What?”

“You don’t have to pretend anymore, Ana,” he says. “I know you know that she was the donor who saved my father’s life.”

“But… but how do you know?”

“She’s not drinking, she winces every time she moves, and she hasn’t got up to dance with you once tonight even though her eyes have lit up a dozen times at different songs that have been played. She didn’t go to school today but she’s been hiding from me, which is not something that is usual for her, and when she moves too quickly, she holds her side, the same way my father does. I’ve known her for three years, you don’t think I can tell when something’s off with her?”  

I press my lips together, unsure if it’s still breaking my promise to Kate to talk to him about this now that he actually does know. But there really is no sense in denying it anymore and he’s expecting me to answer him, so I take a deep breath and nod.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because she didn’t want you to know. She doesn’t want anyone in your family to know.”

“Why?” he asks, and I narrow my eyes at him. “Elliot?”

I nod again. “She loves your family, but she’s moving on. You know what would happen if everyone found out. You know what Elliot would do. She doesn’t want him showing up here and making things awkward with Carter… or Gia.”

Gia,” he huffs irritably, but when his eyes meet my pleading gaze, he nods. “Fine. I won’t say anything.”

I lean up and kiss him, but he only allows my lips to linger against his for a second before he pushes me away.

‘I love you, but we’ve been in here too long. They’re going to wonder what we’re doing. Get dressed.”

“Okay.” I turn to pick up my leggings from the floor, aware of the fact that he hasn’t given me my panties back, but as we begin to put ourselves back together, Christian’s phone begins vibrating loudly.

“Who’s that?” I ask as he reaches into his pocket to pull out his iPhone. “Isn’t it a little late for work calls?”

“Ros, probably,” he replies, but when he looks down at the screen of his phone, he frowns. “Or it’s California…” He looks confused for half a second, but that quickly vanishes and is replaced immediately by alarm. “Fuck, PixC.”

I glance nervously to the door as we can both still hear the faint sounds of gunshots and explosions coming through the door from the movie, but Christian doesn’t seem to be deterred enough by the noise not to answer.

“Grey. No, that’s alright. What can I do for you, Hausman?” He’s quiet for a moment, having to concentrate very hard on listening to what the person he’s talking to is saying because he’s still a little inebriated, but the longer the other person speaks, the deeper the crease in Christian’s forehead gets. “What do you mean? Their stock is in free fall. They know they won’t survive fourth quarter, what makes them…?” He pauses again, presumably as the other person answers his panicked questions, and while he waits, the confusion in his expression turns to anger. “Who are they going to find in the next thirty days? Very motivated? Who is it?”

The tension in his face relaxes, but it isn’t replaced with relief. If anything, it’s shock, and it takes him a moment to speak again.

“Thank you, Hausman. I’ll be in touch.” He hangs up the phone, staring at it in disbelief for a moment, before finally looking back up at me.

“What was that?”

“That was… that was Richard Hausman, the financial advisor on the board of PixC that I was telling you about earlier. They’re backing out of our deal, out of our ten million dollar deal.”

“What? Why?”

“They think they can reclaim the company if they get the right leadership, so they’re going to try and replace their CEO rather than merge with GEH. They’ve already got an interview lined up.”

“Who is it? Would I know them?” I ask, and he nods.

“It’s Ros.”

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