Chapter 33

fifty-shades-of-grey-vancouver-10

I’m very emotional the day of my last final and it has nothing to do with my pregnancy. Each exam I’ve completed, each professor who has wished me luck as I left their room for the last time, it’s all been a part of the long, drawn out countdown of my last days of Harvard. And now that the true final day is here, all I want is to go back. To stay a little while longer. This place has changed me, given me everything, and I’ve fought for it. Beyond the countless hours of studying and the dozens of sleepless nights I’ve suffered through when the workload was overwhelming, it seems like the odds that I’d make it here have been constantly stacked against me. But I never gave up. I got here. I’m graduating tomorrow. There’s only one test left between me and my degree and the enormity of the life change that’s about to occur, has had me breaking down all morning.

I wipe a tear away as Luke helps me out of the back of the Lexus so that we can make our way into the Baker Center for the last time.

“Good luck, Ana!” Kommer calls to me from the driver’s seat, and I turn to wave to him before we head into the building. When I get to class, the atmosphere around me is electric. The perfect warm days we’ve been having mixed with the tangible sense of freedom in the air has everyone in such a good mood that even the notoriously difficult exams Dr. Boylston gives can’t dampen anyone’s excitement. I even receive a few smiles and waves from people I’ve been in classes with for multiple semesters but who have mostly been scared off by Luke and Kommer’s constant presence around me the last few months.

“Alright, settle down!” Dr. Boylston says as he enters the room and hands a stack of exams to the person sitting in the front right desk. “All exams must be completed in a University issued blue book, and if I see any cell phones out, I’ll collect your test and excuse you from the rest of the exam. You have 90 minutes. Good luck.”

Luke winks at me as I pick up my pen and begin reading through the first essay question. The exam is complicated and each question requires so many pages to fully respond, that my biggest concern suddenly becomes the 90 minute time limit. I glance up at the clock every few minutes, pushing my pen across the paper as quickly as I can, but as the 89th minute ticks by, I place my last period on the page.

“Done,” I say, relieved, and as I stare down at the words scrawled across the paper, the finality of that word really hits me.

Done.

I’m done.

“Congratulations, Ana,” Luke smiles at me. “Now, come on. Your family will be here soon to celebrate.”

I nod, get out of my seat, and take my exam to my professor. He smiles as he takes it, wishes me a good summer and a safe delivery, and after shaking my hand, I turn and leave the room knowing I’ll never come back again.

Once we get outside, it’s like I’m seeing campus for the first time. It’s like I’ve forgotten how beautiful it really was and while we make our way into the car, I find that I can’t look away from any of it. Even as Kommer pulls into the street, I turn to stare out the back window and continue to watch until the last of the buildings completely disappear from view.

I can’t believe it’s really over or how much I already miss this place, and I haven’t even actually left yet.

“I’m just dropping you off,” Kommer tells us as he turns onto our street. “Mr. Grey’s plane should be landing within the next thirty minutes and the traffic reports aren’t good.”

“That’s fine,” Luke says, and when the car stops, he quickly jumps out of the passenger’s seat to help me out of the back.

Now that we’ve finally made it to graduation, most of my house is packed away in boxes, ready to be loaded into a truck on Sunday and shipped back to Seattle, where it will be stored until Kate closes on the apartment she’s currently stuck in escrow with. It has most of the living room blocked off, which is fine because I need to get upstairs and into the shower so I can get ready for dinner with Christian’s family anyway.  As I make my way past the dining room though, which Christian is using as an office today, I glance over and see him on the phone, but looking up at me and waving me in.

“No, that all sounds fine. Can you hold just a moment, Ros?” He pulls the phone away and looks at me expectantly. “How’d it go?”

“Really good. Kommer is on his way to pick your family up from the airport so I’m just going to jump in the shower real quick.”

“Do you want me to join you?” he asks suggestively, and I smile but shake my head.

“And face the wrath of Ros Bailey? No, thank you.”

“Okay, I’ll be done soon.” I nod and turn for the stairs, but he calls out to stop me again. “Ana?”

“Yeah?”

“You did it. Congratulations, baby.”

“Thank you,” I say, my smile widening, and as he returns to his phone call, I start up the stairs two at a time.

Apparently Kommer was right about traffic because even though it takes me over an hour to get fully ready, the Greys still haven’t arrived by the time I get downstairs. Kate and Carter are home though, so I perch myself on the kitchen counter while they talk about their last finals, judging how they think they did.

“Whatever, it’s done,” Carter says irritably after complaining about a particularly terrible exam. “And once I’m done having dinner tonight with my family, I’m going to drink away every memory I have of these last two weeks.”

“Every memory?” Kate checks, and Carter smiles at her.

“Well, maybe not every memory…” He pulls her against him, making her squeal, and the affection between the two of them makes me smile. It also reminds me that Christian is still working rather than hanging out with us, but as I look back towards him, I’m distracted from my dissatisfaction by the sight of my Lexus in the driveway, which I can see through the dining room window.

“Ana!” Mia shouts as she comes through the front door, so I quickly jump down from the counter to scurry from the kitchen to the living room. The moment she sees me, her face breaks into a huge smile.

“Hey, Meems!” I laugh as I wrap my arms around her, squeezing her tightly while I shift her from side to side. “How was your prom?”

“Great, except that Pippa Conrad won prom queen and now she walks around like she’s queen of the world or something. I’m starting to see why Christian liked fighting so much in high school. Man, I’d love to punch her in the eye.”

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” Christian says coming up behind me. “It was always a hassle having to start over at new schools all the time.”

“I love how that’s what you focus on,” she says, rolling her eyes, and she releases me to go to him.

“Hello, Darling!” Grace coos as she comes through the doorway with Carrick and Elliot in tow. “Congratulations, we are so proud of you.”

“Thank you, Grace.”

“How’s the baby? Has the third trimester been tough?”

“A little, but I’m managing. Your son has been a tremendous help getting me through everything.”

“I doubt that,” Elliot says, replacing his mother and hugging me tightly to him. “Christian’s always been more of a nuisance than a help.”

“To you maybe,” I laugh. I reach up to flick him on the forehead and while he takes a moment to look at me as though he can’t believe my audacity, eventually his open mouth breaks into a grin and he hugs me once more.

“It’s so good to see you. It’s not the same back home without you and Christian around.”

“Well, you’ve only got a couple more days,” I assure him, gesturing to the moving boxes and then stepping to the side so that I can greet Carrick. But when I see what he’s wearing, I stop, and feel my lips press together in a pout as a sudden wave of emotion hits me.

“Do you like it?” he asks, twisting from side to side to model his My Daughter is a Harvard Graduate t-shirt. “I had enough made so that I can wear a different color every day we’re here.”

I cover my hand with my mouth as my bottom lip begins to tremble. “I love it. I really love it. Thanks… Dad.”

He smiles and pulls me into a tight hug.

“Oh my god, Kate!” Mia squeals. I turn around and see that Kate and Carter have joined us in the entryway, and now Mia is clinging excitedly around her middle.

“Meems!” she exclaims, mirroring her excitement.

“Mom didn’t know if you were going to be here or with your own family. I’m so glad you are!”

“You didn’t think I’d let you sneak through here without saying hello, did you?”

“Of course not,” Grace says, stepping forward to hug her. “It’s so good to see you, dear.”

“You too, Grace,” Kate replies, groaning as she squeezes Grace as tightly as she can. “You too.” Grace twists her head to kiss Kate on the cheek and as she steps back, Carrick moves forward to take her place.

“That is a great shirt,” Kate laughs, and Carrick smiles.

“Thank you. There was a time when I’d hoped I could make one that said daughters.” Her face falters slightly, but she recovers her smile when she steps forward to hug him, and as his arms close around her, Carter coughs behind them.

“Carter,” Carrick says. “Good to see you again.”

“Mr. Grey,” Carter replies. He holds out his hand and they shake, but once he releases Carrick’s hand, he moves straight past Grace and Mia to Elliot.

“Hey, man. How’s it going?” Elliot asks, reaching out to shake his hand as well. Carter glances down at it, hesitating for a moment, before he finally reaches forward and grips his fingers with an excessive amount of force. I bite my lip as I turn to look at Christian. Kate told Carter last week that she and Elliot had started texting again, and as a result, Elliot’s imminent arrival has been the subject of a lot of stress for her. Apparently, Carter hasn’t lost any of his possessive nature in the three years since he and I broke up. No ultimatums have been made, but his general attitude about Kate spending time with Elliot is not something he’s hidden.

“Elliot,” Carter says tersely. “It’s good of you to come and support Ana. I know it means a lot to her.”

“Well, she’s my sister so…” he replies awkwardly, and when Carter releases his hand, he immediately begins flexing his fingers. Carter gives him a tight smile and then turns back to Kate.

“Well, baby, I better go. My parents are going to be arriving soon and they’re going to want to get dinner as quickly as possible.”

“Okay, have fun. Send your mom my love,” Kate says. She moves past Grace so she can kiss him good-bye, but Carter doesn’t go in for a polite, chaste peck. He pulls her tightly into his body and brings his lips to hers in a deep passionate kiss that is clearly meant to make a statement. Especially when he rolls his face to the opposite side of hers and we all see his tongue moving through her mouth.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” he tells her, and she nods. “Have a good night, baby. I’ll miss you.”

“You too,” Kate says, and with one last kiss on the tip of her nose, he turns to leave.

“Well, we should be thinking about dinner, too,” Grace says, breaking the awkward silence that lingers after Carter’s exit. “It’s starting to get late, I imagine Christian and Ana are starving.”

“I’ve made reservations at The Table,” Christian says. “And, since graduation is tomorrow, we should hurry. It’s most likely going to be very crowded.”

“Do you have plans with your family tonight, Kate?” Carrick asks. She shakes her head.

“No, my family won’t be here until tomorrow.”

“So why didn’t you go with Carter?” Elliot asks.

“Oh, his family is… um. They’re just about their family. It’s okay though. I’m just going to stay in tonight and polish my speech. Make sure I’m ready to knock ‘em dead tomorrow.”

“Absolutely not,” Grace says. “We’re not leaving you here alone on the eve of the most important day of your life so far. You should be celebrating! You’ll come to dinner with us.”

“Oh… I don’t want to intrude.”

“You’re never an intrusion, my dear. Come, I won’t hear another word about it.” Grace sweeps her arm out to gesture her through the front door, and Kate smiles before wrapping an arm over Mia’s shoulder to walk with her out to the car.

“See you there?” Elliot asks, looking to Christian and me as he turns to follow his parents.

“We’ll be right behind you,” Christian affirms, but once Elliot leaves and closes the door behind him, Christian’s hands are suddenly on me, pulling me flush against his body so he can take my lips with his.

“Alone at last. You know this is the first time I’ve had you all to myself in three days?” He kisses me again, and reaches down for the hem of my dress.

“Hold on there,” I tell him, but even when I pull away from his kiss, his lips simply move down past my jaw. “Christian! You’re family is already on the way to the restaurant, we don’t have time for any funny business.”

“I know,” he says, continuing to suck lightly on my neck. “I just want you prepared for what’s in store for you tonight. When I finally get you all to myself, for real, I want you ready for me.”

“Ready, huh?”

He leans back and wags his eyebrows at me once. “Really ready. Should I go get the Ben Wa balls?”

“You have them here?”

“Oh, baby. I’ll never go anywhere without them again. I love what they do to you.” I moan as he leans in to kiss my neck again, but as I feel myself begin to melt in his strong arms and my already fragile self-control starts to wane, I force myself to push away from him.

“We have to go. You and your silver balls will just have to wait.”

“If you say so.” His smile is mischievous, and while I stare back at him suspiciously, he kisses me one last time before taking my hand and leading me through the back doors where our security team is waiting by the car.

 

Christian was right, The Table is extremely crowded. The line going out the front door wraps around the side of the restaurant for a whole block and every parking place within close distance is filled. Taylor circles the block to let us out near the door so, while Christian, Luke, and I head inside, he can find parking on the next block over.

“Do you have a reservation?” the overly flustered hostess asks once we’ve fought our way inside.

“Grey,” Christian replies. “I believe the rest of our party has already arrived.”

Relief crosses her face as she nods, probably because she can actually help us instead of telling us how long we’re going to have to wait or turning us away. She says something into the microphone on her headset and a few seconds later another girl appears to lead us to a private dining room at the back of the restaurant where Kate and Christian’s family are already seated, laughing together as they glance over the menus.

“Over here, Ana!” Mia says, pointing to the open seat on her right. Christian takes my hand and leads me to her, pulling my chair out for me, and as I sit down, I glance over to see that Kate is seated on her left, next to Elliot, and the two of them seem to be having a conversation all their own. I pick up my own menu and start glancing through the entrees but Christian doesn’t touch his. Instead, he leans over towards me, like he’s going to share mine, but as I tilt the stiff paper towards him, his hand slides up my inner thigh under the table and disappears beneath my dress.

“What do you want, baby?” he asks, his voice laced with double entendre, and I swallow hard.

“Uh… a salad, I think.”

“Something, light? That surprises me. I thought you’d want something much more…” his breath hisses between his teeth as his finger slip beneath my panties, low enough that only I can hear. “Exotic.”

My thighs clench together and I bite down on my bottom lip to suppress a moan as his fingers begin to toy with my clitoris beneath the table. I take a breath and turn the page. “Filet Mignon then. If I’m going to splurge, I want it to be… excellent.

“Mmm,” he hums. “Excellent does sound right on par for tonight. I’ll have the same.”

“You do that,” I laugh, but the sound is cut off by a surprised gasp when he very suddenly pushes one of his fingers inside of me and then presses firmly against the front wall of my vagina as he pulls it out.

“Ana?” Kate asks, turning a concerned look on me. “Is everything alright?”

“Yeah.” My voice is too high. “I just need some water.”

Christian smirks as he pulls away, and while I set my menu down, take a sip of water, and try to re-engage with the conversation around the table, he subtly lifts his finger to his mouth and sucks on the end. When I turn to look at him, he licks his bottom lip and wags his eyebrows again.

Thankfully the waiter comes in then, so I’m given respite from his very erotic distractions.

“So, Ana, how did finals go?” Carrick asks, once we’ve placed our orders.

“Good. I have one that I’m worried about. My Trans-Reformation English Writing professor was the only professor who wouldn’t let me make up for the work I’d missed after spring break, or after the two doctors appointments I had that conflicted with his class. So I have a B. I had to get an A on the final to keep my 4.0 average and Dr. Weisberg grades particularly tough. And, he doesn’t submit his grades until the last possible minute so I won’t get to know how I did until 8 o’clock tonight.”

“That’s just horrible,” Grace says. “Why on earth would he refuse to allow you to make up what you’d missed after hearing what had happened to you?”

Kate snorts. “You’d be surprised. The prestige and power placed upon some of the professors here give them such a complex that they liken a student missing their lectures to a crime against God. I had to appeal to the dean of students for the same type of behavior when I was laid up after my surgery last January, even though I had special permission from the University to take my classes from home until I’d been cleared by my doctors to return to campus.”

“You had surgery in January?” Grace asks, and Kate’s face goes blank.

“Oh… I… Uh…”

“She was in a skiing accident,” Christian says quickly. “With her friends from New York.”

“Right,” Kate agrees. “Yeah, I had a bad fall and I had to have surgery.”

“You didn’t tell me that,” Elliot says, his voice colored with concern, and as she shrugs, Grace shakes her head and turns to Carrick.

“Well, it seems like our family had a lot of bad luck needing surgeries this winter, but I’m glad you and Carrick both came out for the better. In fact, didn’t you have something you wanted to tell Christian, dear?”

Christian looks up at his father, who smiles. “I completed my last scheduled round of chemo last week and we had a new scan done a few days ago. It came up clean. I’m officially in remission.”

“What?” Christian repeats, in disbelief.

“I’m cancer free.”

“Dad.” He sounds breathless as he quickly jumps out of his seat and walks around the table towards his father. The moment Carrick stands, Christian pulls him into a tight embrace. Grace laughs happily and Mia reaches over to squeeze my arm, but even though I hear Kate get out of her seat so she can hug Carrick as well, I can’t move. I can’t do anything, I can’t even breathe. My throat goes painfully dry, tears spring to my eyes, and before I know what’s happening, I burst into deep, gut wrenching sobs.

“Ana,” Elliot says, getting up and moving past Mia so that he can pull me into his chest. “It’s alright. This is good news.”

“It’s amazing,” I choke out. “I’m sorry, this isn’t the right reaction. I’m just overwhelmed. I’m so relieved, for you, for Christian, for Calliope, for everyone at this table.” My voice cuts off as another sob works its way out of my chest and Carrick releases Kate, who also has tears in her eyes, to come and wrap me in a hug. “I’m so happy Calliope is going to have you in her life,” I whisper to him. “You’re going to be an amazing grandfather, Carrick.”

“Well, she’s one of the most important reasons I fought through this,” he says. “Because I really can’t wait to hold that little girl in my arms.” He kisses me on the cheek and then passes me back to Christian, who holds me so tightly, it’s hard to breathe at first. I twist my arms under his and hold him close, moving only to reach up and kiss him softly on the chiseled line of his jaw. When he pulls away, the smile on his face is so genuine and filled with joy that it almost brings me to tears again. I know how hard this has weighed on him, I know the fear that has filled his heart every day since Carrick collapsed last Thanksgiving, and finally, we’re past it. We can move on.

He kisses me once before releasing me, and as I lower myself into my chair, he steps around me and hugs Kate. I watch while he subtly turns and whispers something in her ear, and after he kisses her on the cheek and then pulls out her chair for her to sit again, tears begin rolling more freely down her cheeks.

“What was that?” Elliot asks, eyeing Christian suspiciously as he returns to me.

“Nothing,” Kate says, shaking her head and wiping away her tears. “Christian and I have just gotten really cl-lose.”

“Hey,” he says, reaching up and rubbing his hand gently over the backs of her shoulders. “It’s alright, we’re all good here. No tears, okay? Jesus, between you and Ana, is there something in the water here?”

“No, I’m just really happy that you’re better,” Kate says, looking up at Carrick. “I’ve worried about you and… and I’m just really happy that you’re going to be okay.”

“Thank you, Katie,” he says.

The doors to the dining room open and the waiters carrying the trays filled with our food begin circling the table. After they’ve ensured there’s nothing else we need, we’re left to eat in solitude, and as we enjoy our meals the joy from Carrick’s news seeps into our conversation and fills the room with laughter.

“So, how’s your house after Gia left?” Christian asks, turning to Elliot. “Any significant damage?”

Elliot frowns and then shakes his head. “No, actually. Once she texted me that she was out and told me where she’d left her key, I called one of the contractors I work with and had him go back to the house with me, but it was fine. It looked like whoever helped her get her shit out wasn’t very careful, because there were a few dings in the walls and she took a chair that wasn’t really hers, but other than that everything was fine. And she’s just disappeared since then. I went into work the following Monday preparing myself for the ‘let’s keep it professional talk’ but she wasn’t there. Her office was cleaned out and there was a letter of resignation on her desk. She hasn’t called or texted me, she changed her number… she’s just, gone. I guess she really is fucking pissed.”

“Enough to quit her job?” Christian asks, and Elliot shrugs.

“I guess. I keep waiting for someone to call me for a reference, and I’d give her a good one because her work was never an issue, but there’s been nothing. It’s kind of weird actually, like she’s disappeared.”

“Weird,” Christian repeats uncomfortably. “Right.” I turn to look at him, trying to gauge his expression, but my attention is very quickly distracted by Grace, who seems to be eager to change the subject.

“Ana, where’s Ray?” she asks. “We were surprised he didn’t fly here on Christian’s jet with us.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t my ideal diversionary tactic because my father’s late arrival has been a very tense subject all week. I take a deep breath and hear Christian do the same. “He’s flying in tomorrow morning,” I reply, but she raises an eyebrow, not willing to let me get away with such a dismissive response.

“That surprises me. I would have thought he’d want to spend as much time as possible with you, especially since you haven’t been home in over a month.”

“He does, it wasn’t really his choice.”

“Oh, it was his choice. The fact that anyone is giving into her tantrum is a choice,” Christian interrupts. His mother looks over at him, surprised by the sudden hostility in his tone, and I sigh before I explain.

“My mom and Christian aren’t in a great place right now…”

“No, don’t act like we’re equal players in this, Anastasia. I never said or did anything to that woman to make her…”

“Okay, okay,” I cut him off with a conciliatory tone. “My mother has formed some opinions and said some things to Christian that are making it very difficult for them to have a relationship right now. Still, Christian offered to pay for her flight out here but she refused and said she didn’t want his um… money.” Christian snorts as I leave out my mother’s very colorful descriptor of that particular word. “So, she bought her own ticket, which is for very early tomorrow morning, and then asked me to pick her up from the airport. When I told her that I was going to be busy tomorrow morning getting ready for graduation and offered to have Luke or Taylor come pick her up, she said she was here for me but that as long as she was here, she wanted nothing to do with Christian or the people he paid. She and I got into an argument over it and I ended up telling her that if she was going to act that way then she could rent her own car or pay for a taxi and she went on a very long tirade about how I didn’t even care if she came at all, and how she’s my mother and Christian is keeping me away from her, turning me against her…”

“She yelled at you until you cried,” Christian interjects.

I take another breath. “Anyway, it got bad so that when my dad called me and I told him what happened, he offered to fly to Georgia first, talk her down before she got here to try and head off any arguments that would have happened when she got here, and then fly with her to Boston so that he could rent a car and drive them both down.”

“Oh, well… that’s very diplomatic of him,” Grace says carefully. “But I’m sorry that it means you missed a day with your father.”

“Me too,” I say, tearing the bread on the edge of my plate into tiny pieces.

“She’s making this about her,” Christian says, reaching over to place a hand on my knee. “She always tries to make everything about her and I’m not going to have it this time. Not about this. This is your graduation, Ana, your moment. Let’s not waste any more of your day talking or worrying about her.”

“Right,” Carrick adds. “This weekend is about Ana. In fact, I think we could do with a toast.” He raises his glass and tilts it towards me. “We are so very proud of you, Anastasia. Both for all that you’ve accomplished, and for the woman you have become. We could not wish for a more perfect woman to have in our family. Congratulations on graduating from Harvard.”

“To Ana,” Christian confirms, raising his own glass, and the rest of the family follows.

“And to Kate!” I add. “She’s our valedictorian, and no one deserves it more.”

“To the valedictorian!” Mia exclaims.

“Hear, hear,” Elliot adds, and finally, everyone drinks.

 

Everyone is in very high spirits when we finally leave the restaurant, and the excitement is only heightened when the high ping of an email coming in sounds from both mine and Kate’s phones.

“Grades are in,” Kate says, looking down at the screen of her phone and I immediately fish mine out. Inside the email there’s a link to the student portal that lists our final grades, and I find myself holding my breath as I click the screen and read the text that pops up.

 

Student Name: Steele, Anastasia R.

Course Schedule:

Political Journalism Writing: 97.6%

Advanced Fiction Writing Workshop: 99.3%

Literature of the Enlightenment Period: 94.1%

Kaleidoscopic Romanticism: 97.5%

Trans-Reformation English Writing: 90.9%

Cumulative GPA: 4.0

 

“Well?” Christian checks, and I smile up at him.

“4.0 intact!” He smiles back at me and quickly moves to wrap his arms around me, congratulating me again as he spins me once through the air and passes me off to his family.

“Okay, we can’t just call it a night now,” Kate says. “We should go out! I’ve been stuck in the house studying for the last two weeks, I’m graduating tomorrow, I want to spend time with all the people I love and I want to celebrate.”

“You kids go have fun,” Carrick says. “We’re gonna turn in.” He pulls Mia toward him, silently demonstrating that she’s a part of his we, but he doesn’t do the same for Elliot.

“Uh… sure,” Elliot says. “What do you want to do?”

“Mmmm, let’s go down to Mac’s Pub and shoot some pool. Christian and Ana can play doubles with us.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Christian says. “I think Ana and I are going to head home. We’ve got a big day ahead of us tomorrow and she needs… rest.”

I glance over and meet his gaze, and when I see the twinkle of lustful promise hiding behind the steel gray looking back at me, the pent up frustration after a night of hiding him playing with me under the table sends a wave of vindictiveness washing through me.

He wanted anticipation? I’ll give him anticipation.

“No, I want to go!” I say, pouting as I turn and press against him, and he frowns.

“What?”

“Well, we’re going home on Sunday, and my parents are going to be here tomorrow. This is really our last free night in Cambridge.”

“And you want to spend it at a bar playing pool?”

“Sure do. In fact, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.” I pivot my body to shield what I’m doing from Kate and Elliot and then reach down to grip him through the front of his pants. His muscles tighten and a huge, taunting grin spreads across my face, but as the understanding dawns on him, the corner of his mouth upticks into a cocky kind of smirk.

He’s up for the challenge.

“Then that’s what we’ll do.” He gestures for Luke to lead the way to the car and as he takes my hand in his, Kate wraps her arm through Elliot’s and bounds after us.

Taylor doesn’t seem very excited about the idea of Mac’s Pub, probably because, like The Table, it’s overly crowded, only here we don’t have a private dining room Luke can stand outside of monitoring everyone who goes in and out. We have to wait in the car for a few minutes for Kommer, Cardella, and Harrison, Kate’s bodyguard, to arrive, and when they do, Taylor sets Harrison and Kommer at both of the entrances to the bar and instructs Cardella and Sawyer to basically attach themselves to Christian and I while he meanders through the bar to keep an eye on everything, and everyone. The entire night, if I move, so does Cardella. The waitresses popping through the crowded tables aren’t allowed to bring us any drinks. Taylor watches everything being made and delivers it to us personally. Even the three tonic waters with lime that I ask for, which don’t even have to be mixed.

“That’s a very crowded table,” I say to Christian as Kate sinks the seven ball in the top right corner. “They’re beating the pants off us.”

“Someone should be,” he says under his breath. I smile and take a quick grab at his exquisite ass before moving around the table to watch Kate miss a bank shot on the two.

“You’re up, Ana,” she sighs. I scan the table for the best shot on a striped ball, but as I bend over the rail, Christian calls out to stop me.

“Hold on just a second,” he says, making his way around behind me. “Your posture’s off.”

I feel his hands on my hips and then feel him press into my backside, hard and ready, and it makes my thighs clench with excitement. He bends me farther over the table and then uses his hands to pull my behind more firmly into him.

“That’s better,” he whispers, and as he moves a step back, I take a deep breath and make the shot. The nine bounces off the bannister and knocks the four into the side pocket.

Elliot laughs. “Oh my god, you guys are the worst at this game.”

“We knew they would be,” Kate adds. “Not everyone can be as fucking awesome as we are.” He laughs again then slides up next to her, and with a wave of his arm they suddenly launch into a crazy complicated handshake that involves involves synchronized kicks and jumps, even sound effects. When they’re finished, Kate breaks down in laughter.

“Alright, I’ve got to go to the bathroom,” I say, rolling my eyes, and as I hand my drink to Christian to hold, he raises an eyebrow at me.

“Do you want me to come?”

“Oh yes, Mr. Grey,” I reply, and then lean up on my tiptoes to whisper in his ear. “But I think Cardella can escort me just fine.” His responding groan makes me smile, and when I turn and walk away with Cardella, I purposefully sashay my ass back and forth as I cut through the crowd.

We stay for two more games, which last a little more than an hour, and the entire time we spend in the crowded bar is a convoluted game of cat and mouse between Christian and I. In the bathroom, I pause to take a very revealing picture of my cleavage to text to him, even making sure a noticeable amount of my nipple is visible in one. He responds by sending me a series of his own explicit text messages, only his are spelled out in words, not pictures. By the time I start stroking my cue with the tips of my fingers, trying to seem as though I’m doing it absentmindedly until I turn and look him dead in the eyes, he’s had enough of the game and on his next shot, he purposefully sinks the eight ball.

“Ooh, bad luck, bro,” Elliot says, but Christian simply shrugs and hands his cue back to Luke.

“That’s fine. Ana and I need to get home anyway, it’s getting late. Please, stay and enjoy the rest of the night. Your drinks are on me.”

“Well if you insist. Taylor! The Russian Imperial Stout!”

Christian shakes his head as Taylor moves to the bar to fetch Elliot’s $20 beer, but when he returns, Christian takes my hand and nods for him to lead us out to the car, and all I can do is give Kate a quick wave goodbye before I’m being pulled from the bar.

It’s a tense ride as I feel Christian’s hands itching to reach out for me the entire way home, and when we finally do finally pull into the driveway, he practically bolts from the car.

“Give us one hour,” Christian says to Taylor, and after his responding nod, I’m pushed through the back door and into the kitchen, where Christian practically attacks me. His lips are fierce against mine, his hands firm against each side of my face as he pushes me blindly towards the living room.

“We’re not going to make it upstairs,” he says, his words muffled as he doesn’t remove his lips from mine. “After a night like tonight, I need your mouth. I need you to make me come.”

I hum in approval, and he reaches for one of the pillows on the couch to drop on the floor in front of him so I can comfortably settle down on my knees and begin work releasing him from his pants. When my fingers wrap around him, I stroke my hand up and down his length a few times before placing a soft kiss on the tip of his erection.

“Enough teasing, Ana,” he growls. His fingers twist in my hair and he thrusts past my lips, groaning with deep, real pleasure when I’ve enveloped him to the very end of my limit, and the sound sends a shiver of satisfaction through me. I love this, love when he’s taken over by pure, primal need and lust. Love that I’m the only one who can satisfy the overpowering desire driving him. And so, I tighten my lips, suck hard, and enjoy the other gratified sounds he makes while I set to work.

“Yessss, Ana. Fuck, just like that. Just like that.”

I hum and moan as I move my mouth up and down his length, swirl my tongue across his perfectly smooth skin, and use my hand to add more friction or to tug gently on his testicles. A few times, I feel his body shift as a sharp lance of pleasure washes through him and his legs tremble. Soon, the muscles in his abs begin to pull and tighten, his erection stiffens to its full potential in my mouth, and with a loud, harsh groan and a quick, deep thrust, he spills his release into my throat. I push as far forward as I can, pressing my nose into his lower abdomen as I swallow him over and over again, making his whole body shake. When it becomes too much, he reaches down and pulls me off of him, immediately claiming my lips with his and kissing me with deep, burning passion that makes me feel loved and desperately wanted.

His fingers reach for the zipper on the back of my dress as he guides me back towards the stairs. It pools to the floor, followed quickly by my bra, and when I take my first step up onto the stairs, Christian stops me, pulls me tightly against him to kiss me for a long drawn out moment, and then eases me down on the step three above where he’s standing.

“I’ve had mine,” he says. “It’s your turn.” I moan as he kneels down on the bottom step and then pries my knees apart. His fingers slide up my thighs and hook around my panties, and while he slowly eases them down my legs, he never breaks eye contact with me. The connection has me instantly wet.

“Don’t expect these back,” he says as he tucks my panties into his back pocket, but before I can come up with any kind of clever, biting response, he dives in to me and my mind goes completely blank.

“Oh, yes,” I breathe as he begins to lap at my clitoris. My head tilts back and my mouth falls open as I revel in the feel of his expert tongue. There are few things in the world I could compare to the extent of his talent and the way he’s able to make me feel, but if true nirvana is real, I imagine it has to include Christian’s mouth between my legs.

His lips move to join his tongue and as he begins to suckle on me, the pleasure is intensified tenfold and I can’t help myself from reaching into his hair and holding him against me. My hips begin to jerk as I desperately seek the friction I need to reach the point of release, and as his whole mouth begins moving in conjunction with my hips, heat begins to bloom from the point of contact between us and rushes through my blood until my entire body is seized with the pulsing grip of a powerful orgasm.

I scream his name as I fall apart and grip tightly to the stairs, my knuckles turning white as I hang on for dear life. He growls a viscerally satisfied sound as he feels my lower lips convulsing around his tongue, and just as I think I’m going to go too far, that this time he may have actually pushed me past the brink of insanity, his mouth begins to slow. The pressure he exerts into me decreases and soon, it’s only his tongue on me again, moving against me so softly it’s just enough to keep the aftershocks of my orgasm tingling in my limbs without becoming too much to handle.

“You taste so fucking good,” he says when he finally pulls away from me, and while I watch his tongue dart across his lower lip, cleaning away the last of my release that lingers there, I sit up and kiss him hard, thrusting my tongue past his lips and tasting all the traces left of me inside. His tongue tangles with mine while his hands explore my body, palming my breasts and pinching my already hardened nipple between his thumb and forefinger, and when I whimper, he pulls away, stands, and holds his hand out to me.

“Come, I’m not nearly finished with you yet.”

I smile, take his hand, and let him lead me the rest of the way up the stairs to my bedroom. Once we’re inside, he quickly directs me to the bed and begins leaving kisses over every part of my body he can reach.

“You’ve already got me, Christian,” I whine. “I’m ready for you, take me.”

“So impatient,” he says quietly against the skin on my chest. “What happened to building the anticipation?”

I gasp as his teeth sink into the top of my breast, then reach down and grab him by the jaw, forcing him to look up at me.

“I’ve had anticipation, now I want you to fuck me.”

He raises an eyebrow and a devilish grin spreads across his face. “Your wish.”

So quickly that the movement leaves me a little disoriented, he flips me onto my knees and pushes me down onto the bed so that my ass is in the air. His knees knock against mine, silently telling me to spread my legs wider for him, and no sooner than I feel him positioning himself between my legs, he thrusts inside of me. I gasp at the sudden intrusion and then curl my fingers into the sheets, holding myself steady as his quick, harsh thrusts threaten to rocket me right off the bed. He’s rough, single minded in his quest for release, and I’m quick to catch up to his mood. Using my hands, I push back into him, even reach up to use the headboard for leverage. His hands dig into my hips as he pulls me against him with each punishing thrust.

“Harder, Christian. Tighter. Hold me tighter!” He growls and, somehow, increases the ferocity of his cadence, pistoning in and out of me so hard I feel the pleasurable reverberations in my bones. I cry out through my panting breaths that match his, and as I feel sweat from the exertion begin to bead through my skin, he pulls his right hand away from my hip and brings it down hard on my ass.

“Oh, fuck!” I scream. “Oh my god, it’s so good. Again, please!”

He complies, not once but several times over. Each hard slap against me echos through the room and is accompanied by the sound of his low, gravelly grunts, which resonate with something deep inside of me.

“God, your ass looks good,” he growls as he hits me for the fourth time.

“Don’t stop, Christian. Oh god, you’re going to make me… ah, make me…”

“Make you what, baby?”

“You’re going to make me… c-ome.”

“That’s right. What about when I do this?” He moves his hand down around the connection between our bodies and he gathers my arousal with his fingers, coating them until they’re slick, and then drags them up to the entrance of my ass. I feel him swirl the pad of his finger around as he coats me with moisture and then, slowly, his index finger sinks inside of me.

“Fuck!” I cry out as all of the muscles deep inside of me clench and the fiery heat intensifies. He begins to move his finger in and out of me, matching the rhythm of his thrusts, and when his middle finger joins the first, I detonate. My whole body trembles as my orgasm rockets through me, and he never falters in his stride as he works me through it, forcing the pleasure to go on and on until my vision starts to blur.

“Oh my god, Christian!” I pant through the roiling pleasure. “Come with me! Let go!”

“No,” he growls. “I’m not ready to be finished with you yet.” I bite down on my lip as my the largest muscle groups in my body tense and release with each electric shock, and he lets out an almost pained sounding gasp. “Fuck, you’re tight like this. You’re gonna make me…”

“Come for me!” I plead, but after two more harsh thrusts and a defiant growl, he pulls out and sees me the rest of the way through with his free hand.

My body feels so wrung out as I lower myself into the mattress, that I’m not sure I’m going to be able to move. I can’t even form coherent thought, which is fine, because Christian doesn’t seem to be interested in talking. He rolls me over onto my back and begins to devour my lips. I kiss him back with as much passion as I can muster in my completely subdued state, and as our lips and tongues move together, he begins to toy with my breasts again.

“I love how hard I can make you come,” he whispers against my lips, and I smile as I entwine my tongue with his again.

“Me too. And now it’s your turn. How do you want me, baby? Where do you want to come?”

He groans and deepens our kiss for a long beat, taking the time to truly explore my mouth before he finally pulls away and whispers, “In your ass.”

I freeze, and he pulls away, glancing down at me expectantly. His suggestion is unexpected, but not entirely unwelcome. We’ve done this before, and it was good, really good. I’m actually not sure why we haven’t done it since…

“Okay.” I nod, and his face melts with desire. He plants one more deep, soft kiss on my lips before he climbs off of me and out of bed to retrieve the small bottle of lube he keeps in his bedside table for emergencies. I roll over and watch as he pours a dab into his hand and begins to coat his erection with it, an arousing sight that has me aching to reach out and touch him again.

“Now you,” he says. I roll over on my side as he climbs back into bed next to me, and when I feel the warm, slick liquid touch my backside, I moan.

“You don’t have that clit vibe hidden away with the silver balls, do you?”

“No. But we can use your regular vibrator. It’s more cumbersome, but I’m committed.” I laugh, and then gasp as I feel the finger on his left hand slide into me. With his right, he reaches over my body for the drawer in my bedside table, but instead of simply pulling out the silicone pink vibrator that is my usual go-to, he pauses, smiles, and then pulls out the complicated purple monstrosity Kate insisted I buy at a Pure Romance party we went to about a year and a half ago.

“Oh, Anastasia…” he says, clicking his tongue disapprovingly. “You’ve been holding out on me.”

“I’ve never really tried that one…” I admit. “It’s intimidating.”

“Intimidating?”

“It thrusts!”

He raises an eyebrow again and then presses down on the on button. The butterfly on the front, which is meant to stimulate your clitoris during penetration, begins to buzz wildly while all the balls inside twist and rock and the very realistically molded penis begins to move up and down. Christian’s smile widens.

“Oh, I think we can do a lot with this.” He turns the vibrator off but keeps it in hand as he settles down in the bed next to me, and when he removes his finger, he moves his erection up against the entrance of my ass, pausing as he presses up against me.

“Ready?”

“Yes.”

Slowly, he pushes forward and I tense at first, but relax as his reassuring direction. Inch by inch he sides deeper and deeper until, eventually, he’s buried fully inside of me.

“Fuck,” he hisses. “I forgot how tight your ass was. You’re going to have to be quick, baby.”

“I’m fine,” I whisper in reply. “This is about you.”

“No.” He leans forward, shifting inside of me just enough to make me moan as he leans in to capture my earlobe with his teeth and sucks gently. “This is about us.”

I hear the low sound of vibration as he slowly eases back, and then feel the tip of the vibrator press between my lower lips as he moves forward again. He increases the intensity of the vibration, and as he pulls back out, he eases the vibrator inside of me with the same slow, careful pace.

“Oh my god!” I gasp, burying my face in the pillow as I feel a new sensation of complete fullness start to overwhelm me. He lets out a breathy sort of laugh as he continues to move, and then angles the vibrator so the butterfly is vibrating right against my clit. “Shit!”

“That’s it, baby. Feel this.”

He’s moves in opposition, but in tandem with the vibrator in his hand, pulling the vibrator back every time he thrusts forward, and vise versa, but always keeping the same pace. As I grow accustomed to his length inside of me, he increases his cadence and pace at which he fucks me with the vibrator. It’s absolutely incredible, unlike anything I’ve ever felt, and soon I’m lost in it. His breathing is harsh and broken in my ear as he quickly climbs towards release and it eggs me on, pulls me with him. In a record amount of time, I’ve gone from completely sated, to desperate and needy, to right on the edge of release.

“I’m going to come,” Christian groans. “Are you close?”

“Yes. Yes, I’m alm–alm—”

“Oh, baby!” He tightens his hold on me as he thrusts forward as hard as he can, doing the same with the vibrator when he pulls back, and once again I find myself overtaken by an intense, life affirming orgasm that rattles me to my core. It takes mere seconds after that for Christian to push into me as deeply as he can, and then still. The feel of his release, gives me one last spike of intense pleasure, but as he stops moving and pulls the vibrator from between my legs, the heat begins to dull and leaves us both swimming in a pool of post-orgasm bliss.

“It looks like you have been holding out on me.” I confess, once I catch my breath enough to speak properly.

“That was incredible. Something we’ll definitely have to do again.”

“And again, and again, and again…” I say, but he cuts my words off with a kiss until we hear a loud bang from downstairs.

“That’ll be Sawyer and Taylor,” Christian sighs. “I wonder what they’ll think when they find your clothes on the stairs?”

“I’m fairly certain they know what we’re doing up here. But still, if you plan on keeping them around for the long haul, you may want consider giving them some kind of bonus every time they find evidence of us having sex.”

“I only have a billion dollars, Anastasia,” he replies wryly, and I giggle. When he leans over to kiss me again though, he’s stopped when we hear another noise at the top of the stairs and we realize it isn’t Luke or Taylor.

“Carter, wait,” Kate says. “Slow down.”

“No, you’re mine. I’m going to show you tonight what that means.”

“I’m your– oh fuck! Mmm, Carter.”

“That’s right, feel that? Only I can make you feel that. Because you are mine.”

“Yours,” she repeats.

We hear Kate’s door open and slam closed and Christian looks down at me. “What do you think that was about?”

I shrug. “I don’t know, just some good old fashioned possessive sex. I’m very well versed in such matters.”

He nods, but his frown doesn’t falter. “Well, let’s get cleaned up and back into bed. You’ve got a long day ahead of you tomorrow, you need some rest.”

“Okay.” I pull back the covers and move to get out of bed, but before I even swing my legs over the side of the mattress, Christian wraps his hand around my forearm and pulls me back.

“But first…”

I giggle as he envelops my body and lowers his lips to mine, but the sweet moment of contact ends when we hear the very obvious sounds of Kate and Carter having sex come through the wall.

“And we can’t even be mad because we do it to them all the time,” Christian sighs.

I laugh. “Come on, time to get up.” He nods and then playfully chases me into the bathroom and into the shower, the one place where we can’t hear Kate and Carter and where we’re once again alone.

Just us.

Next Chapter

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