Chapter 39

kiss

After maybe two hours of sleep, I’m awoken much too soon by the engines of the yacht roaring to life and tugging us further away from the coast. Christian has his arm draped over me while his fingers run gently through the ends of my hair, and when I slowly open my eyes and glance over at him, I see that he still has Calliope, finally sleeping soundly, laid over his chest.

“Good morning,” I whisper hoarsely.

“Mmm,” he hums back at me, easing himself over to kiss the top of my hair. “Good morning.”

“Happy Birthday.”

He sighs. “Last year on my birthday I woke up with my cock in your mouth.” He moves his hand softly over Calliope’s back and then looks forlornly over at me. “Isn’t having kids fun?”

I let out a very tired laugh. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s gotten into her these past couple days. I can go give her to Kate if you want. Or your mom.”

“Oh, no. After how long it took her to go to sleep? We’re never moving her again. I live here now.”

I laugh again and then carefully lift myself off the bed to kiss him without waking the baby. I mean for it to be a quick, chaste good morning kiss, but when I try to pull away from him he moves his hand up to the side of my face, tenderly cups my cheek, and holds me in place. I moan softly as his lips move tantalizingly with mine and while I lose myself in the feel of him and the sound of our constrained breathing, my hand automatically reaches down his body and grips onto his waiting erection. His entire body tenses so I quickly try to withdraw my hand, but when I do, he groans.

“Do you think we can put her back to bed without waking her?”

“I think we should definitely try…”

He gives me a lascivious grin and then places the palm of his hand over the back of Calliope’s head so that he can hold her firmly against his chest while he sits up. I stare at her with the same nervous concentration I imagine someone would feel while watching a bomb being defused, but Christian is able to ease himself out of the bed and gently lay our daughter inside her bassinette without disturbing her. He takes a few careful steps back towards the bed, facing her and watching her carefully, but the only movement she makes is the gentle rise and fall of her chest while she sleeps. Once he’s absolutely sure the transfer has been successful, he turns back to me and his eyes cloud over with the intensity of his desire.

“Open your legs,” he commands briskly. I comply immediately and then watch him hungrily as he climbs into the bed over the top of me. My fingers trace up the well defined lines of the muscles in his arms as he leans down to kiss me, but just as I feel the pressure of his weight pressing me into the mattress, there’s a loud knock on our bedroom door that wakes Calliope.

“Wakie, wakie, birthday boy,” Elliot’s high, teasing tone comes through the door. “Mommy made you breakfast, schnookums.”

Christian props himself up on his elbows over me, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath as though he’s looking deep inside himself for patience he simply can’t summon over Calliope’s angry cries. “I’m going to kill him,” he says at last. “We’re in international waters, there isn’t anyone around us for hundreds of miles. I think I’m actually going to kill him.”

I giggle and push against his chest to roll him off of me. “Don’t. He’s the only one who can get the baby to stop crying.”

 

Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to calm my very sleepy baby down. She fusses a little as I carry her out to the dining room where the rest of the family is waiting, but once I’ve settled down next to Christian and given her the bottle the staff have warmed for breakfast, it takes only minutes for her to fall back asleep.

“Chocolate chip pancakes,” Grace says proudly, setting a giant, overfilled platter in the middle of the table. “Happy birthday, Christian.”

“Thanks, Mom,” he replies, and I find myself glancing worriedly over at her as she begins to serve him, wondering if she’s picked up on the bitterness in his tone. I don’t think she does though, because when she moves on to fill Mia’s plate, she’s beaming. She has her entire family around one table, healthy, happy, and enjoying each other’s company. I doubt there’s anything that could get to her right now. Not even me groggily swaying back and forth through the morning conversation, or Christian’s obvious yawns over his pancakes.

Once we begin eating, everyone seated around the table begins passing several different expensive gifts, and a few silly ones from Kate and Mia, to Christian before the discussion turns to our plans for the day. I expect Elliot to dismiss anything that doesn’t involve 250 horsepower jettisoning him through the choppy ocean water, but when Kate looks over at Christian and I practically falling asleep in our breakfast, she suggests we all hang around the yacht, relax, and spend some time with the whole family, and he doesn’t put up an argument.

“What are you sick or something?” Mia asks, raising an eyebrow at him.

“No, just sore. Christian bought those new machines and they’re fucking heavy.” He rolls out both of his shoulders to stretch his sore muscles and Christian smirks at him.

“You need to start lifting heavier, Elliot. You’re getting soft.”

“Shut up, Christian. I don’t need your advice, thank you very much. Shouldn’t you be out working on your dad bod or something?”

“You seem to be doing a good enough job on that for the both of us.”

Elliot narrows his eyes. “I’ll fight you.”

“That’s okay,” Christian shrugs. “I bench more than you.”

“Psht, doubt it.”

“I’m just saying… you should have maybe taken advantage of having Gia around when you did. That girl knew her way around a gym. Why don’t you call her up and see if she’ll train with you?”

“Because I don’t want to, Christian,” Elliot snaps, emphasizing Christian’s name as he glances sideways at Kate. “That relationship is exactly where it should be. In the past.”

“So you haven’t heard from her?” Christian asks.

“No!”

“Not even an angry post break up text or a late night booty call?”

“No, Christian, I haven’t heard from her since she moved out of my house and I haven’t wanted to. We’re done, she’s out of my life. Drop it.”

“Hmm…” He frowns as he reaches for his glass of water, and as Elliot unsuccessfully tries to change the subject from across the table, I reach down and grip the free hand he rests absentmindedly on my knee.

“Everything okay?”

“Fine.”

“Then why the sudden interest in Gia?” The table falls silent and, as everyone turns to look at Christian and I, Elliot drops his silverware out of frustration and it clangs loudly against his plate.

“For the love of god, can we please stop talking about her?”

“No,” Christian says. “I’m afraid we can’t.”

“Christian?” Carrick checks, and with a deep breath, Christian pulls his hand away from mine and rests them flat over the table.

“Taylor can’t find her,” he says at last. “She was at Ana’s baby shower when we announced Calliope’s name, and because she had her own security, who attended Taylor’s meeting the day that Ana was kidnapped, she knew Ana would be alone. She went on family vacations with us, she was at family dinners, she and I were alone in a gym together on several occassions… She’s one of Taylor’s prime suspects for the inside leak but, to the day she moved out of your house, we can’t find anything on her. She hasn’t purchased any property or applied for a mortgage or lease, the tabs on the license plates of her car are expired, and her insurance wasn’t renewed. We tried tracing the number we had to find her, but her phone has been turned off and none of her bank cards have been used since April. She’s just… gone.”

“Gone?” Elliot repeats. “She can’t be gone, where would she go?”

I get a sickening feeling deep in my stomach when I turn and look at Christian, only to see him raise his eyebrows at Elliot in a way that suggests the answer to his question should be obvious. And it is obvious. Elena said there were more we didn’t know about, but if we didn’t know them, they wouldn’t be targets. Just like Hyun. Just like Leila.

“You said there were dings in the walls when she moved out…” I say, turning to look at Elliot. “What if that wasn’t from furniture? What if there was a struggle?”

His eyes dart back and forth as he considers this and the color slowly drains from his face, but he quickly composes himself and shakes his head. “No, she texted me after she was out, she left a note at work saying she was quitting…”

“Handwritten or typed?” Christian asks.

Elliot takes a breath and then mashes his lips together, refusing to answer as he looks down at the half eaten pancakes in front of him, and Christian nods.

“I’m going to need the security footage of your building from that day. We need to see who left that letter.”

He nods, looking almost sick, but as he picks up his own drink, Mia coughs uncomfortably from the other end of the table.

“Ummm, Christian….?”

“Yeah, Meems?”

“I um… I think that…”

Her words cut off when an unexpected thumping sound echos around the room so loudly it makes everyone jump and both Kate and I scream in surprise. We turn to the source of the sound, my adrenaline spiking and rushing through my blood, but realize it was just a bird flying into the window. As I place my hand over my racing heart though, Calliope starts to cry again.

“Oh, Calli-lily,” I say, rocking her gently in my arms as she screams her displeasure at being woken for a second time this morning through the startled silence still hovering over the table. “Shhh, it’s okay. Ugh, she’s so tired.”

“We’re supposed to feel bad about her not getting enough sleep?” Christian says through another great yawn, but as I reach of over and gently push him, he slowly gets out of his seat and nods to the archway behind him. “Why don’t we take her back to bed? She’ll sleep better separated from the noise of everyone enjoying Mom’s delicious breakfast, and you and I can try to get another hour or so of rest before we start our day.”

“Okay,” I agree. Christian helps me out of my chair and I quickly cross the table to give Grace a hug. “Thank you for breakfast, it was delicious.”

“You’re welcome. Enjoy your nap.”

“I will. Believe me, I will.”

She smiles as I walk around the table, pausing to lean down and kiss my father on the cheek, but before Christian reaches out for me, he stops and rests his hand on Mia’s shoulder.

“We’ll talk later, okay?” She gives him a tight smile and nods, then Christian places his hand on my lower back and leads me out of the dining room towards the stairs.

 

Once we get Calliope down for the third time this morning, Christian cuddles up next to me in bed and begins to kiss me softly up and down the curve of my neck, but while I’m sure the heavy petting is meant to lead to sex, we both fall asleep before either one of us can even remove any clothes. It’s nice though. The hour long nap in Christian’s arms provides us with just enough energy to enjoy the rest of the afternoon with our family, and Calliope isn’t disturbed again until she wakes on her own, ready for another bottle.

After moving back out to the main living space to rejoin the others, we sit on a pair of lounge chairs out on the deck under a huge white umbrella while Kate, Mia, and Elliot splash around in the pool, our father’s take to fishing again, and Grace curls up on the couch beside us with a romance novel. Christian is in heaven having uninterrupted time to play with our daughter, and while I laugh along with the two of them, I can’t help but refocus my attention once again on Kate and Elliot and how they’re behaving towards one another.  I notice that Kate has masterfully covered the scar in her skin with a black one piece swimsuit that’s cut low enough in the front to not make any one question her sudden inclination towards modesty. Elliot seems plenty enough distracted by the cleavage she’s showing and as I catch him not so subtly staring at her for the tenth time this afternoon, Christian nudges me with his elbow and nods towards them.

“If they have sex on my birthday and I don’t, I’m going to be fucking pissed.”

“They’re not going to have sex,” I tell him. “They’re not even together.”

“Mhmm,” he hums disbelievingly, and as I roll my eyes and turn back to look at the pool, I watch Elliot chase Mia out of the water onto the smooth, teak deck.

“Just give in, Mia,” he threatens her. “You’re going underwater and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“I don’t think so. Not by you!” They run two laps around the pool, Mia just managing to avoid the very tips of his fingers as he reaches for her, and then she sprints to the waist high rail that surrounds the third story deck and climbs on top of it.

“Amelia!” Grace shrieks in terror, but Mia just looks back at us with a wicked grin and launches herself off the rail, somersaulting down until we all hear the loud splash in the ocean below. Christian passes Calliope to me and immediately bolts out of his seat, hurrying to the rail where Elliot is already standing in shock, but after an agonizing few seconds of panic, relief colors both of their faces when the sounds of Mia’s laughter echo up to us from the water.

“Mia, are you crazy?” Elliot shouts down at her.

“Awh, come on. Don’t be a baby, Elliot. Jump!”

“You have no idea what’s down there!” Christian argues.

“Yes I do! Ocean! Come on, Christian! YOLO!” Mia begins making chicken sounds up at her brothers, but as they both glance at one another, silently questioning what they should do, Kate shimmies in between them.

“Excuse me, gentleman,” she says, and just like Mia, she climbs onto the railing, springs high into the air, and tumbles over the side of the yacht in a graceful dive that creates a splash so subtle, I can’t hear her hit the water from where I’m sitting. Thankfully, Elliot smiles, which I take as a sign that she’s made it over alright, and climbs on the railing to cannonball after her.

“Oh good lord,” Grace says, cringing away from her children and shaking her head. I should have followed her lead because while Grace picks up her book again, Mia and Elliot both call out for Christian, and like the fool he is, he too climbs up on the rail.

“Christian!” I scream, but it’s too late. Like Kate, he leaps off the side with the grace of a professional high diver and plummets into the ocean below. I turn panicked eyes on Grace, who automatically reaches out and gestures for me to pass her the baby, and then rush to the rail. He’s just emerging from the white cloud of bubbles in the water below as I lean over the side of the yacht.

“Are you crazy?” I yell at him as he quickly turns his head away from the wave of water Elliot throws at him with his arm. “You’re a father now!”

“It’s not as high as it looks,” he calls back to me. “And it’s fun. Come on, baby.”

I cross my arms and shake my head at him. “You’re insane.”

“Ana! Ana!” Mia begins to chant, but when I cock my head to the side and give both of them a look which makes it clear that climbing over this railing is simply not going to happen for me, Christian nods to the end of the boat and reaches through the water to begin pulling himself towards it.

“Come to the bottom deck, we’ll pull the jet skis out.” Immediately Mia, Kate, and I turn to look at Elliot. His shoulders rise from the water and he lets out a heavy breath.

“I mean… if we have to.

Laughter sounds over the water as Kate splashes water into his face and begins swimming after Christian, while I turn back to Grace. “Are you okay? I don’t have to go if you’ve had enough baby time this weekend.”

“If you try to take this baby from me, I will scream.” Her face is hard and serious as she says the words, but as I gape back at her, she smiles and lets out a soft breathy laugh. “Go, Anastasia! Have fun with the man you love. Calliope and I will be just fine.”

“Alright,” I agree, although hesitantly as I really could just stay here the rest of the afternoon losing myself in the feel of her in my arms and her perfect angelic face. Especially since Christian has been hogging her all day, and it already feels as though I’ve barely been able to hold her. “Just call if you need us to come back.”

“I will,” she promises.

“Have fun, kiddo!” my dad calls over his shoulder from the port side of the deck. “Just stay on the other side or you’ll scare all the fish away.”

I laugh. “Yes, daddy.”

After kissing Grace quickly on the cheek and thanking her for sitting with Calliope, I rush to the bedroom and change into a swimsuit. It’s a little revealing for how comfortable I’m feeling with my body right now, so I slip a loose, open knit tunic over my head to try and cover up a little before darting down the steps to the bottom deck, where I find the others jumping and diving off the much more sturdy railing into the cool, deep blue water below. I shiver slightly as my bare feet touch the wet wood on the sun drenched deck and then watch as Christian tucks his body from on top of the steel rail and then pushes back, stretching towards the water in a much too easy looking back flip.

“Show off,” Kate says, but she too climbs on the rail, takes a deep breath and then leaps into the air, folding her body in a perfect pike before she falls backwards into an arrow straight dive.

“You two could give a guy a complex,” Elliot says.

“Sucks to suck,” Christian laughs from somewhere in the water.

“Oh, yeah?” Elliot looks over at Mia and they exchange an evil grin with one another before backing up several paces and leaping over the railing together. The resulting splash is so big, I can see it over the solid rail, from the back of the deck and, judging by Kate’s scream, it completely covers both her and Christian. There’s a series of smaller splashing sounds in the water, until I see Christian swim up to the boat launch off the back of the yacht and pull himself out of the waves. His hand reaches up to wipe the excess water off his face and, though he’s already smiling broadly, his face brightens even further when he sees me standing there.

“I thought we were jet skiing?” I ask, my voice accusatory.

“We will. But the water is great. You should swim with us for a while.”

I shake my head and pout my lips. “It’s cold.”

“Not really.” He reaches out for my hand as though he’s going to tug me towards the water and I immediately flinch away.

“Don’t…”

“Don’t?” he repeats, and then he smiles again for half a second before shaking his head with dismay and taking a step back. “Well, if you don’t want to get wet…”

“I do not,” I affirm. He nods and moves to turn away from me, but, so fast I hardly even have time to react, he turns back, leans down to grab me tightly behind the legs and throws me over his shoulder.

“Christian!” I scream in protest, but he doesn’t stop. He moves quickly to the boat launch and, ignoring my screams and the furious way I move my arms and legs to escape from him, he dumps me overboard. My lungs seem to almost seize as the icy water permeates every pore of my body and when I break through the surface again, gasping for air and see him smiling at me, I shake my head and narrow my eyes.

“You are so fucking dead,” I threaten him. He laughs and dives back into the water right beside me, and I wait for him to re-emerge before I immediately place both of my hands on top of his head and force him under again. He captures one of my legs underwater to pull me down with him and as we both come back up for air, I’m lost to a fit of giggles as we splash one another. He generates far more water than I do however, as his arms really are much thicker than mine, so I quickly swim backwards and use my feet to churn up as much as I can to push back at him. Unfortunately it’s not a very well thought out plan because I’ve only just got him with one really good splash when his hand wraps around my ankle and I find myself being dragged back towards him until he wraps my legs around his waist, pulls me flush against him, and kisses me hard on the mouth.

“I love you,” he tells me.

“I love you too,” I reply. “Even though I think you’re kind of a butthead right now and you taste like salt.”

He laughs and dumps me backwards into the water again.

 

We spend the rest of the afternoon swimming around the yacht and then finally cruising through the water on the jet skis. It’s a much less… erotic activity than it was last year when he had the silver balls inside of me, but it’s nice being able to wrap myself around him while the cool sea spray sprinkles over our legs and the hot June sun shines on us from above. There’s even a brief period where he turns control over to me, although it’s very brief because I manage to dump us both in the water while trying to jump through Elliot’s wake. Still, by the time we pull back into the yacht and head up to the main deck where dinner is being served, my face hurts from smiling so much throughout the day and I feel more relaxed than I have in weeks. I was right, we needed this weekend. And from the way Christian looks, happy, and actually as young as he truly is, he needed it too.

“I take it you didn’t catch anything today…” Elliot says, taunting his father slightly as we sit down at the table to a plate of chicken.

“Yeah, a bunch of rowdy kids came tearing through the water on a bunch of jet skis,” Carrick says, narrowing his eyes at him. “Funny how we didn’t catch anything.”

“The nerve of some people,” Elliot smiles back. Carrick laughs and reaches over to clap him on the shoulder just as Grace passes me a bowl of salad.

“So, Ana, I’ve been meaning to ask if you’ve found a venue for the wedding yet? I called the archbishop at St. Andrews and they’ve had a cancellation at the end of July. Infidelity, terrible… but wonderful for you and Christian.”

“Actually, Christian and I were also hoping to talk to you about that this weekend. I think we’ve decided that instead of the big, white wedding, we’d rather have a small ceremony at your house, if that’s okay?”

“Really?” Her face lights up. “Oh, absolutely! We could use the boat house for your bridal suite and make a carpet of rose petals down to the water for your aisle. I know exactly where we’ll have the ceremony. Oh! And on the west lawn we can set up a tent for your reception with a dance floor and flowers and lights. We’ll have the perfect view of the sun setting over the lake. It’ll be absolutely beautiful!”

“Thanks, Mom,” Christian interrupts. “But I actually don’t think that’ll be necessary.”

“What?” I ask, turning a very confused look on him.

“Andrea found an opening at Thornewood. It’s a castle over in Lakewood and it’s really quite stunning. Very opulent and luxurious, the pictures will be phenomenal. We can get married out in the gardens, there’s a grand ballroom for the reception, and they can accommodate up to 250 guests, which means we only need to eliminate a hundred names from our original list.”

“You mean… your original list,” I counter. “I thought we agreed we wanted a small ceremony with just close friends and family?”

“Because we were having to compromise… This place will do anything and everything you want. However you want it.”

“But… I-I…”

He grips my hand reassuringly. “You’re going to love it, Anastasia. I promise. Our wedding is going to be beautiful, exactly the way you always dreamed. And I’ve made sure Andrea will have the capacity to help you with whatever you need so we can get this done without overwhelming you.”

“Wait, so you’ve already booked it?”

He nods. “I put the deposit down yesterday.”

“Christian…” I take a deep breath to quell my rising frustration and slowly count to ten. As I do, images of the wedding he describes flashes through my mind. Me in an extravagant white gown, walking down the aisle to the slow melody of soft music floating around me and through a crowd of faceless people to the place where Christian is waiting for me under a stunning canopy of white wisteria. I can picture him taking me into his arms in the middle of an empty dancefloor, beaming at me as he twirls me around through the group of onlookers and camera flashes. I can envision our toast and cutting an enormous wedding cake, which we feed each other graciously instead of smashing into the other’s faces. It’s a beautiful dream, one I think any girl would want, but it just doesn’t feel like us.

Will I be happy with a wedding that feels as though it was meant for someone else? Ten years from now, when I look at the undoubtedly beautiful pictures of what should be the happiest day of my life, will I feel any regret that I didn’t stand up for what I really wanted? I don’t know. But it’s not often Christian isn’t willing to give me exactly what I want, and since this is the second time he’s insisted on a lavish ceremony, it must be important to him. Perhaps there’s a reason that he’s not telling me. Some deep rooted insecurity that seems to come out anytime the concept of forever between him and I comes up. Looking at him now, and the uncertainty behind his eyes, I wonder if that’s exactly it. When I brought up Astor’s inclusion on the guest list, he’d argued that he’d wanted to make a statement that I was his and he was mine. Perhaps that wasn’t entirely truthful. Perhaps he wants that statement for himself and the grand wedding fulfils that need for him. Looking at him now, and the careful uncertainty reflected in his eyes, I actually think that may be the exact reason.

I take a breath and nod. “Okay. If you love it, then I’m sure I will too. I can’t wait to see it.”

He smiles at me and then lifts my fingers to his lips. “Me either.”

 

After dinner, we move back into the sitting room where we’d played games the night before, and while we spend most of the night talking as a family and taking turns with a very silly Calliope sprawled out on her favorite blanket in the middle of the floor, eventually her playful mood subsides and as Grace takes her back into her arms, a heavy silence falls over the room. We all seem to glance at one another, unsure of what to do, and when Elliot begins looking for the remote to turn on the satellite TV so he can get an update on the Mariners, Grace lets out a low cough to clear her throat.

“So…” she says coyly. “I brought Mia’s cello and Elliot’s old guitar. It’s been so long since I’ve heard the three of you play together, I thought tonight you’d give us all a little treat.” Her eyes move over to the piano Christian had put in the corner of the sitting room last summer. Christian and Elliot make eye contact, silently asking one another if they’re up to it, but Mia scoffs and shakes her head.

“I don’t want to play with Elliot.”

“Why not?” Elliot asks, clearly offended.

“Because you never practice,” she says. “And I don’t really feel like playing an exciting medley of Row Row Row Your Boat and Mary Had a Little Lamb for our family right now.”

“I know much more than that.” He rolls his eyes as he gets off the couch and disappears through the archway that leads to main cabins, and when he returns there is an acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder that he tunes as he walks. Christian once again lifts our conjoined hands to place a gentle kiss against the tips of my fingers and then peels himself off the couch to take his place at the piano bench. I watch them say something quietly to one another, and once Christian nods, Mia folds her arms across her chest in defiance and we all settle back as the first high note from the piano sounds around us.

I can vaguely recognize the melody of what they’re playing, but without the tell-tale 80s synths and beat from the drums, I can’t place the song until Elliot looks up at Kate and begins to sing lyrics I recognize.

I’ve been waiting, for a girl like you, to come into my life. I’ve been waiting, for a girl like you, a love that will survive. I’ve been waiting, for someone new, to make me feel alive. Yeah, waiting, for a girl like you, to come into my life.”

Grace begins swaying next to me and my dad keeps the beat with his foot and his thumb drumming against his leg, but Elliot doesn’t shift his focus away from Kate. Their eyes stay locked on one another as Elliot very purposefully sings each and every lyric directly towards her, and when the final notes of the music he and Christian play slowly fades away and we all break into applause, still, his eyes never leave hers.

“What are the rules about Foreigner in this house?” Carrick asks pointedly.

“That they’re the greatest foreign invasion since the Beatles?” Mia replies with a laugh, but when Carrick turns to glare at her, Elliot slams his hand down over the strings of his guitar and he and Christian pick up the beginning riffs of Working Man by RUSH. Over the next hour, they take requests for songs and I’m impressed by Christian’s ability to generally get through anything we throw at them. Eventually though, after dozens of old country songs my father asks to hear and entirely too much old ‘70s rock that only the Grey children know, Kate and Mia begin to get restless.

“Can we play something from this century, please?” Mia begs.

“Britney Spears literally came out with an album like three months ago,” Kate interjects. “What are you even doing with your lives?”

“No, no, no,” Grace interrupts. “Something from Adele. Oh, I just love her new album.”

“Ugh, Adele is so boring,” Mia complains. “We need something fun that we can get up and dance to. Like Kesha, or that new Rihanna song. What is it, S&M?”

“It does feature Britney Spears,” Kate says, but Christian shakes his head.

“I’m not playing that song.”

“Yes, thank you,” I say dryly. “What about Bruno Mars? I sing Just The Way You Are to Calliope before bed every night. She loves it.”

“Uh, Dr. Dre or nothing,” Elliot says, and while that starts a whole new argument over rap vs. pop between him and his sister, Christian puts a stop to it with the simple press of his fingers against the piano keys and few soft sung lyrics.

I wanna be a billionaire so fucking bad… by all of the things I never had.” The room erupts into laughter, but the pause is short lived before Elliot joins in on the guitar. “I wanna be on the cover of Forbes magazine, smiling next to Oprah and the Queen. Oh everytime I close my eyes, I see my name in shining lights. Yeah. A different city every night oh I, I swear, the world better prepare, for I’m a billionaire.

I squeal as Elliot takes over the rap part of the song and Kate pulls me off to dance with her. We all laugh at the ridiculousness and irony of the song not only being played on a multimillion dollar yacht, but that Christian Grey himself continues to sing the chorus. Even Carrick buries his hand to hide his laughter as he shakes his head, and Grace makes a face at Calliope, who seems to be entranced by the people dancing all around her. Kate practically falls over when the song ends as she dissolves into a fit of giggles, and while I grip tightly onto her, gripping my side, which is a little sore from laughing so hard, Elliot places his guitar back in his case and turns to Christian.

“You know, that song makes me realize how much you’re slacking there, Christian. What have you even done for Katrina victims?”

He laughs. “Very little.”

“Selfish.”

“You’re right. How dare I be seventeen.” He rolls his eyes, but Elliot just smiles.

“How dare you indeed.”

Christian reaches up and softly punches Elliot in the arm, which makes him laugh and hold out his hand to help Christian off the piano bench. It’s late now, so my father gets up to excuse himself for the night, which Grace and Carrick also take advantage of, and while they say goodnight to each of us, Elliot finally finds the remote and flips the TV to ESPN. Kate curls up on the couch next to him and Mia reaches for a magazine she brought along, but Christian makes eye contact with me and very subtly nods towards the archway that leads to our bedroom. I bite my lip.

“Uh… Kate?”

“Yes, m’dear?” she replies, not looking away from the TV.

“How would you feel about watching Calliope for awhile? Just until you go to bed…”

“But for at least an hour,” Christian interjects, and as he looks at her very purposefully, a knowing smile stretches across her lips.

“Yeah, I can do that,” she says. “Happy Birthday, Christian.”

“Thank you,” he replies, his voice almost curt as he immediately reaches down for my hand and tugs me out of the room and through the archway that places us at the bottom of the stairs which lead up to our bedroom.

The moment we’re no longer in sight of Kate, Mia, and Elliot, his lips are pressed firmly into mine. I briefly feel the wall at the bottom of the stairs at my back as Christian envelops me with his body, his desirous moans punctuating the hungry sounds of our kiss while his hands greedily explore my body, until, eventually, he lifts me into his arms, wraps my legs around his waist, and carries me the rest of the way to our bed without ever pulling his lips away from mine.

The long stream of moonlight shining in through the picturesque windows of our master suite allows me to see his face in the otherwise dark room. The sound of the yacht cutting through the ocean waves echos through silence around us while his fingers pull the crochet dress over my skin. I let out a eager moan as his lips begin to leave a trail of soft kisses over every inch of skin he reveals until he finally discards the meager material on the floor next to the bed and cups the sides over each of my breasts over my bikini top, pushing them together so he can bury his face in my cleavage.

“Christian,” I breathe longingly. His tongue traces the inside swell of my breast before he looks up at me, lustful fire glinting brightly in his dark eyes.

“Soon, baby. Soon.” His mouth moves over my nipple and he flicks it gently with his tongue before enveloping the hardening bud in his mouth and moving his lips soft enough that he’s not really sucking, but I can feel the tantalizing heat combined with his saliva in each and every movement. With a wanton moan I push back into the pillow and arch my breasts higher off the bed, into his mouth, and he groans a deep, needy sound as he clutches my now wet nipple tightly between his thumb and finger and moves to my other breast. I writhe beneath him, reduced to only a vessel full of want and need, until I’m eventually able to reach between our bodies, down his swim trunks, and grip his erection firmly in my hand. He lets out an audible gasp that fuels every one of my reward centers and encourages me on.

When his mouth moves away from my nipple, I gently push him away, rolling him onto his back on the bed next to me, and then climb over the top of him. My fingers hook beneath the band of his swim trunks and the moment I free his erection, before I’ve even pushed his shorts all the way down his legs, I take his cock in my mouth and suck hungrily.

“Oh, jesus, Ana,” he groans. I hum as I once again feel my own sense of pleasure in what I’m doing to him, and then wrap my fingers around the base of his cock, working my hand in opposition to my mouth and keeping my lips tight around him as I bob up and down. The tempo of his breathing increases with my pace, and soon I feel his hands on my ass, kneading me and using his thumbs to stretch my lower lips beneath my bikini bottom, until he unravels the ties keeping my swimsuit in place and pulls against my leg so that I move over his face, straddling him.

His erection is deep in my throat when I first feel his tongue against my clitoris, and my resulting moan around his cock makes his body shiver. I push down again, taking him as deeply in my mouth as I can and hoping the tightness of my throat makes up for the times I release my lips to gasp in pleasure over the feel of his mouth moving over me. Several times, he simply kisses me. A sweet, soft peck against my most sensitive erogenous zone that feels loving and romantic and pushes me far too close to the edge, far too quickly. My legs begin to tremble, my irregular breathing makes it difficult for me to maintain the rhythm I’ve set with my mouth, and my insides clench. He lets out a breathy laugh and I can feel him smiling against me as he moves his whole face over me, invigorating me all at once.

“Baby,” he says. “Already?”

“Mmm… you’re too good.”

“Good. Come for me. I want you soaking when I start making love to you.”

I feel a rush of cool air from his lips as he blows against me, and then the heat of his tongue. He begins to suck my clitoris, rolling it gently between his lips before he laps at me again, and the combination of sensations quickly overwhelms me until I fall apart in his capable hands. My whole body shakes as I pant over his still hard and waiting erection, feeling the waves of pleasure roll over me again and again, like high tide claiming more and more of the dry sand on a beach. The entire world melts away for a long moment that seems to go on and on, prolonged by the incessant work of his tongue swirling around my clitoris, until finally, the tide begins to receded and I’m once again in control of my body.

I kiss the tip of his erection and begin to suck again, but he quickly moves me off of him and tosses me carelessly back onto the bed. His hands grip the inside of my knees and pry them apart, as wide as the will go, and as he glances down at me, his face melts with desire.

“Stay just like this,” he commands me. “I want you open and waiting for me.”

“Where are you going?”

“I need a condom. You’re not on birth control yet.”

“Oh…”

He climbs off the bed and moves to his still packed bag, which is resting on a chair pushed against the wall. From the small front pocket, he removes a ribbon of blue foil packets, tears one away, and, as he moves back to me, he rips open the foil with his teeth. My hips squirm with uncomfortable impatience, but I watch him with near awe as he rolls the latex ring over his erection.

“Are you ready?” he asks, his voice husky with his desire.

I can’t answer. Instead, I reach up and grip the roots of his hair, a little too firmly, with my fingertips and pull him down on top of me, claiming his mouth as I bask in the heat of his skin pressed against mine. While we kiss, his hips move absentmindedly so that the tip of his erection brushes against me, making me whimper until I capture his bottom lip between my teeth and tug gently.

He reaches down and begins purposefully moving his cock up and down through my lips, lubricating himself with my arousal, and when he speaks again, his voice is dripping with lust.

“Tell me what you want, Anastasia.”

“Christian, please…” The words come out in a breath and my head tilts backwards as I allow myself to be overcome with the anticipation, but his fingers wrap around my jaw and pull my face back down so that I have to look into his eyes.

“Tell me what you want, baby.”

I swallow. “You. I want you, Christian. All of you.”

“I love you,” he whispers, and then he plunges inside of me. My insides clench around him as he sinks fully into me and when my breath hisses through my teeth in an uncontrollable show of my pleasure, he lets out a long, satisfied groan.

“Fuck,” he whispers. “God, I’ve missed this. You feel so fucking incredible, Anastasia.”

“Take me, Christian. Lose yourself in me.”

He shakes his head. “Not yet. I just want to feel you.” I let out a disappointed sound and grind against him, desperately seeking friction, but his hand presses down on my hip and holds me in place. “Wait, baby,” he tells me, looking deeply into my eyes. “Just be here with me for a minute.”

Our eyes stay locked on one another for a long moment, while he’s still fully buried inside of me, until he eventually leans down and presses his lips into mine. Our tongues tangle together, our lips move in perfect synchronization, and as the ferocity of our kiss increases, so does his rhythm inside of me. He starts slow, controlled, and each tantalizing stroke of him moving in and out of me is complete and utter ecstasy. I feel my leg hitch up over his arm through the haze of pleasure taking over my mind, and the new position allows him deeper access. He moves against me in exactly the right place, in exactly the right way with each stroke in and out, over and over again. My fingers twist in his hair as I hold him in this deep and meaningful kiss that is the only thing more potent to me right now than the feel of his hands running over my body. Exploring me. Reclaiming me. Holding me tight, and refusing to let go.

He doesn’t whisper dirty words into my ear or throw me around and slap me hard on the ass. There isn’t the desperate barbarity I expected after six long weeks of drought. The hunger is there, but it’s different. It’s not about the pleasure or the release, it’s about the intimacy and the connection between us, and in this moment and it’s so much better than what I expected. Deeper and more meaningful. It’s the essence of him and of me, and after the absence of physical intimacy between us, it feels as though he’s recommitting himself to me. Each and every movement of him inside of me, of his lips touching my skin, or even his gaze as he stares down at me with complete love adoration feels powerful and momentous, and it sends a wave of overwhelming emotion over me.

Maybe it’s still my hormones trying to negotiate themselves, but I feel tears well in my eyes.

“Ana?” he checks when I reach up to brush the moisture from my lashes. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I love you so much, Christian.”

“And I love you. More than anything else in this entire world.” He kisses me again and pushes farther into me, holding himself there for a beat before pulling back and thrusting again. I pull him as tightly against me as I can and try to pour as much of the love as I’m feeling into him as our mouths move together in time with his thrusts. Soon, the heated passion between us morphs into the promising first hint of my approaching orgasm, and as I wrap my legs around him, I pull away just enough so that I can speak.

“Don’t stop. I’m going come.”

“I’m almost there too,” he replies. “Wait for me. Come with me.”

My teeth sink into my bottom lip as his pace increases and drives me closer to the edge. There’s a growing tightness in his lips against mine as he’s pulled closer and closer to his own release, and just before he explodes, his hand moves hard and fast down to the bed next to my head, his fingers grip tightly to the sheets, and his body trembles once more.

“Almost. There,” he pants with each thrust. “Are you there, baby?”

“Yes,” I moan.

“Then come for me. Let me feel you, Ana. Come for me, baby.”

My body reacts to his words as though his command holds physical power over me, and once again, I feel as though my body is being split apart by an orgasm so intense it blurs my vision and radiates all the way from the tips of my fingers down to my toes. I scream in pleasure as I’m ravaged again and again by the force of the pleasure coursing through me, and soon, I hear him cry out my name as he tumbles into the dark pool of reverential hedonism alongside me. I could stay, lost in this moment with him forever, but eventually it comes to an end, and I’m dragged back to earth admist the sounds of our unified heavy breathing. Once clarity comes back, and the final pulse of my orgams dies away, he reaches up to cup the side of my face and stares deeply into my eyes.

“Sometimes, I love you doesn’t feel like enough. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to really express the way I truly feel about you, Anastasia.”

“You just did,” I tell him, and as a smile plays at the corner of his mouth, he slowly leans down and kisses me once more.

Next Chapter

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