End of Chapter 40
The heat is oppressive. Christian proposed to Ana in December, but he chose the end of July to actually fucking marry her, which means we land in Vegas for his bachelor party in 110 degree heat. Heat that doesn’t get any better driving through the sandy flats that lie just outside the city. Even in the back of the air conditioned limo, it’s almost as if you can feel the wavy lines of heat rising up off the open desert all around us.
“Where the fuck are we going?” Christian asks, finally looking up from his phone. “I thought we were staying at the Venetian?”
“We are,” I assure him. “We just have one pit stop to make on the way.”
He lets out an exasperated huff. “Look, Elliot. We don’t have to make a big deal out of tonight. Let’s just go back to the hotel, have a few drinks, and maybe order the fight.”
“Ugh,” Ros moans. “I knew I should have gone with Ana.”
“Will you two just trust me a little, please? We’re not going back to the hotel and watching pay-per-view, this is your bachelor party, Christian. We’re celebrating.”
“I’m not going to lose any of… this just because I’m getting married. Mostly because I wouldn’t do this even if I was staying single forever. Bachelor parties are for men who want to hang on to their bachelorhood. I couldn’t be more thrilled to leave mine behind me.”
“Then don’t think about it as mourning the loss of your freedom, think of it as celebrating your days of being a bachelor coming to an end. You’re getting married on Saturday, Christian. We all just want to celebrate that.”
The limo comes to a stop, but Christian continues to stare at me uncertainly. His indecision and hesitance hangs in the air, making the back of the limo feel tense, until the driver finally comes around to open our door.
“What do you say, Christian? You know Ana and Kate aren’t sitting in their hotel room having a quiet night in. You really want to go back to the room and spend the whole night imagining what your bride to be is up to?”
The tightness in his lips becomes more pronounced, but after another second or two, he nods. “Fine. But just as a heads up for any other bachelor parties you might be planning in the future, driving someone out to the desert just outside of Las Vegas is a little murdery.”
“Well it wouldn’t be a party without at least one casualty. Come on, you’re gonna love this.”
I step out of the limo and Ros, Taylor, and Dad follow with Christian bringing up the rear. When he steps down into the sand and looks up at the reason we’re here, his mouth actually drops open.
“That’s not the…”
“The Hennessey Venom GT? Yeah, it is.”
“That’s the fastest sports car in the world.”
“And, with only eleven manufactured, it’s also the rarest. Care to take it for a test drive?”
He looks around. “Out here?”
“Well… I would have hated it if traffic got in your way. They say it can get to 200 mph in less than fifteen seconds.” I reach in my pocket and pull out the stopwatch I’d stowed earlier. “We should test that.”
His face breaks into a broad grin and he claps me on the shoulder. “Yes. Yes we should.”
I laugh as he turns and walks towards the car, so quickly I wonder if he’s trying to stop himself from running.
“Shotgun!” Ros says, smiling, and as the man from the company leasing us the car steps out and hands Christian the keys, she skirts around to the passenger’s side door.
I don’t even have to be in the car to see the enjoyment Christian gets out of it. It’s obvious in the way he flies over the flat desert and cuts deep treadmarks turning on a dime in the dirt. The roar of the engine is so powerful that it seems to echo, even in the open like this, and I can feel the vibrations of the motor in the ground through the soles of my shoes. Once Ros has had enough of Christian driving like a maniac, my dad takes a turn, and a few minutes after that, he swings by to me pick up. The engine purrs and revs of its own volition while I hurry to get my seatbelt fastened.
“You sure you don’t want to drive?” he asks, grinning over at me.
“Nah, the speed thing is really more your deal. Just don’t get us killed, huh?”
“No promises.” He slams his foot down to the floor and we take off. At first, I’m surprised by the G force. It feels as though my stomach is being pulled back into the seat behind me as we cut effortlessly through the flat desert, but once I become accustomed to the speed I start to feel the rush of adrenaline. It’s like we’re kids again, riding Grandpa Trevelyan’s quads out on the dunes by the sea, or racing way too fast down a dangerous run in Aspen. Hearing Christian laugh, seeing him actually let go of the stiff CEO and really enjoy himself like this… I’d almost forgotten what that was like. And being here now makes me realize how much we’ve let all the distraction and things we think we have to do interfere with what’s actually important. What actually makes us happy.
For Christian, that’s an open space and fast car.
For me… Well, it’s only Kate. But to have her, really have her…
Just the word starts a repellant kind of reaction in my body. It’s not something I’ve ever even considered before. In fact, I’ve avoided the very idea like the plague. When all the girls I dated before Kate would get the look in their eye like they thought we could be something serious, I knew it was my cue to bounce, immediately. I’ve always perceived the entire institution of it as a form of imprisonment. But even if that were true, I can think of a lot worse things than being locked away with Kate forever.
“Christian, can I ask you something?”
He jerks the wheel so the tires lock and we spin out, around and around, until finally we come to a stop. He lets out a deep, satisfied breath, then turns to look at me.
“Are you… nervous at all about getting married?”
“No.” His voice is utterly confident. “If anything, I’m anxious. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this forever.”
“So, you don’t feel like this might actually be a horrible mistake that could ruin everything you and Ana already have?”
He raises an eyebrow at me. “What’s going on, Elliot?”
I take a breath. “I’m… I’m going to ask Kate to marry me.”
“Yeah. I picked out the design for the ring on Monday. Cartier is custom making it for me.” I pause, but he doesn’t say anything. I think because he’s waiting for the why, not the how. “She said we can’t have a future together if I’m never going to marry her, but I can’t not have her in my life anymore. She is my future. So, if this is what she wants, if this is what it’s going to take to get her back, I’m going to ask her to marry me.”
“But… is that what you want?”
I shrug and then shake my head before turning imploring eyes on my brother. “Why do you want to marry Ana?”
“Because I love her,” he answers immediately. “Because I can’t imagine not spending every second of the rest of my life with her. Because I want her to know the depth of my commitment and I want to say those vows out loud to her. To me, marriage means family, and I want Anastasia to be my family. I want her forever.”
“I want all those things too, I just don’t think marriage is necessary to have all of that. Why is everyone so set on the whole marriage equals forever thing?”
“Why are you so set against it? What are you afraid of?”
I exhale and look down at the dash, unable to look him in the eye. “The pressure. I love Kate more than anything else in the world, but what if we get married and it’s not everything she wanted it to be? Or what if I don’t live up to what she has been expecting in a husband ever since she was a kid? What if it’s not the same between us anymore? Everyone always says marriage changes everything and I don’t want it change. I love her and what we have exactly as is… well, was.”
“But what if it gets better?” I look back up at him, and he exhales, then turns in his seat so that he’s facing me. “Elliot, do you love Kate?”
“Is there anything in the world that could change the way you feel?”
Not if this year has taught me anything. “No.”
“Then what if being married makes you feel closer to her or strengthens the connection you have with one another? What if you’ve only scratched the surface of how capable you are of loving her, and creating this bond opens you to a whole new world of possibility?”
“That’s why I’m in it. When I look at Ana and think of her, not as just my girlfriend or even the woman I love, but as my wife.” He stops and shakes his head, almost as if the potency in the idea is slightly overwhelming. It’s encouraging, and for a moment I can almost see things the way he does. The image is one I’ve never pictured before. Kate in a red sweater, leaning over the island of my parents’ kitchen counter. There’s a christmas tree sparkling in room behind them and as she chats with Anastasia, two tiny humans streak across the kitchen in front of them, laughing and screaming. Ana scoops up the little girl with the dark brown hair, and Kate reaches for the other, more vaguely defined child, and swings them through the air. Her eyes glitter with contentment. Surprisingly, the imagined scenario doesn’t bring the sense of defeat that I’ve been accustomed to, like this is all my life has amounted to. It doesn’t feel settled for or mediocre. If anything, there’s hope.
Katherine Grey, my wife.
“Look,” Christian says, interrupting my daydream. “Kate is an amazing girl. You’d be lucky to have her. But marrying her just to keep her around is only going to create resentment between the two of you. Marriage is something you have to go into fully committed and ready, or you’re right, you’re going to get divorced and you’re going to lose her again. Don’t give her that ring unless you are absolutely sure that you want her to have it.”
I look over at him, blink away the picture of Christmas morning still playing in my head, and then slowly nod. “Okay. I’ll remember that. Thanks, Christian.”
After our ride through the desert, we head back to the hotel to change and prepare for a much needed night out. Christian’s attitude about his bachelor party has vastly improved. He and Ros don’t break away to discuss business even once, his phone never leaves his pocket while we’re drinking cocktails in the cigar lounge, and he and dad talk enthusiastically and laugh with one another over dinner. He’s even loosened up with Taylor a bit, inviting him to have drinks with us and to join us once we head into the casino to do some gambling. When the hostess of the high roller lounge sits us down at a table, Christian buys an extra ten thousand dollars in chips so he can play.
“Sir, I couldn’t…” Taylor says wearily, but Christian shakes his head.
“Nonsense. We’re celebrating my impending marriage, Jason, and you have done a lot for Anastasia and me. Please, have a seat.”
Christian gestures to the empty chair, but Taylor continues to hesitate until the hostess comes around, beams at him, and asks him what he would like to drink. Finally, he exhales and smiles gratefully at her. “A Manhattan, thank you.”
“Good man,” Christian says, then empties his own tumbler of bourbon and asks for another one.
At first, our card game is tight and competitive. But as the alcohol starts flowing, we all start getting a little loose with our chips and big pots are being won with extremely low card hands. My dad pulls in nearly $4,000 on a pair of sixes, and Ros wins a grand on nothing at all.
“The woman can bluff,” Christian says, as she rakes in her chips. “That’s exactly the kind of straight faced lying that got us LightWare back in 2009.”
“That wasn’t lying,” she replies defensively. “It was just… creative truth telling.”
“Well, whatever it was, it bought Escala.”
“And it cleaned me out,” I add, looking down at the empty table in front of me. “I think it’s time for more drinks.”
Christian shakes his head, wobbling slightly. “I think I’ve had enough.”
“Nah, you’re still sitting up. You’ve got a long way to go, brother.” I signal to the cocktail waitress to refill our drinks, fully prepared to ignore Christian’s protests, but they never come. Once he has a fresh bourbon in his hand, he drinks half of it in one gulp and picks up his newly dealt hand of cards.
Eventually, it’s just Christian and Taylor left in the game, and watching them face each other is like watching a battle of titans. Taylor stopped drinking at his one Manhattan, but even with Christian red faced and leaning slightly on the table for support, they both maintain perfect poker faces.
“To you, sir,” the dealer says looking at Taylor.
“None for me, thank you.”
“And you, sir?”
“Just one.” Christian tosses a card face down on the table, then picks up the card the dealer slides back to him, and glances up at Taylor again. “How much do you have left there?”
Taylor looks down and runs his thumb over his pile of chips. “Three grand.”
Christian glances over his own pile, silently counting how much he has left to play with, then reaches into his jacket pocket to pull out his checkbook. On the table, he quickly makes out a check for an additional $1,100, and pushes it and the rest of his chips into the center. “Then let’s get this over with, shall we?”
Taylor raises an eyebrow at him, then glances down at his own hand. There’s a moments hesitation before he finally sighs, and then pushes his chips out to meet Christian’s.
“Call,” he says, and Christian lays down his cards.
“Two pair,” the dealer says. “Threes and nines.”
Taylor nods, lays down his own cards, and both Ros and I smile broadly as the dealer calls out the hand again.
“Three Queens. Winner.”
“Bravo!” Ros says, clapping as Taylor pulls nearly fifty thousands dollars worth of chips towards him. “It’s great to finally see Christian lose at something that has absolutely no effect on me whatsoever.”
“Well, enjoy it,” Christian replies bitterly. “Most people only see a miracle once in their lifetime.”
We laugh as the casino manager brings Taylor a voucher for his chips and Christian signs the tab with a ridiculously large tip for both the dealer and our waitress. Then we get up from the table to head off for the club I’ve booked this evening.
“Where are you headed?” the waitress asks.
She shakes her head. “The Mirage is dead. You should head over to Omnia at Caesars Palace. David Guetta is DJing tonight and it’s supposed to be fire. They’ve got the best drink specials, light shows…” She glances over at Christian. “And friendly cocktail waitresses.”
I smile. Ultimately, I decided before we came that getting a stripper to do a private show for Christian would just end up being awkward for everyone. He wouldn’t be into it and I can’t imagine a worse feeling for a girl than being paid to dance naked on someone who would rather she didn’t. But, that doesn’t mean some scantily clad waitress paying extra close attention to him for the night wouldn’t give him the same kind of rush. Especially if she’s continually serving him alcohol.
“Thanks,” I say gratefully, then turn to the rest of my party. “To Omnia, then.”
The club is packed and we don’t have a reservation. Ultimately, it means dropping nearly three grand at the door to buy a table and bottle service, but once we’re through the doors and get a taste of the party going on inside, it’s all worth it. The whiskey and vodka flows between Ros, Christian, Dad, and I, and the thumping music keeps the energy high and electric. Unfortunately, I was wrong about the waitresses. Though they’re dressed fairly scantily and each and every one who passes us gets real close and personal with Christian, he shows absolutely no interest, preferring instead to play quarters with the rest of us and taking the resulting shots. Ros, though, is elated by the attention of the beautiful women only all too willing to flirt back with her, and soon, the music and alcohol have her dancing on the table with two waitresses and a girl from two tables over.
“You know,” I say, looking up and watching her long, shapely legs as she dances over the top of us. “If she wasn’t gay, you two might have hit it off… she’s pretty fine.”
Christian shakes his head. “Not a million years.”
I roll my eyes. “You’re just too blinded by Ana. It’s not cheating if you admit another girl is hot.”
“I just don’t see the point in even looking. I’m not going to be interested in anything I find.”
“Really? What about…” I turn and glance around the packed club, my eyes moving from one overly sequined dress to another, until I spot a blonde and brunette dancing together on a table a few booths away. Their hair moves wildly, their bodies sway in perfect time with one another… there’s no question they’re hot. “What about them? Check out the ass on that brunette.”
Christian looks over his shoulder in the direction I nod, but when he sees the girls I’m talking about, his eyes narrow, and then his face tightens with anger. “Yeah, that’s my ass.”
He practically jumps out of his seat and begins charging through the crowd, actually pushing people out of the way as he goes. I follow close behind, shooting apologetic looks to the incensed people he leaves in his wake. When he gets to the table in question, he reaches up, grabs Ana by the wrist, and yanks her off the table onto the sofa.
“What the fuck are you doing?” he yells into her face and she actually cowers beneath him.
“Christian? I thought you were going to 1Oak?”
“Is that why you’re half-naked, standing on a table and shaking your ass for the entire damn world to see?”
I look up at Kate, who’s eyes suddenly light up with anger in defense of her best friend, but when Ana pulls Christian down on the couch with her and then climbs into his lap, I grab onto Kate’s wrist to stop her from getting in between them.
“I think Ana’s got it under control.”
She blinks a few times, as if she’s having trouble getting her eyes to focus, but the heated anger burning in their beautiful green color slowly dies away and she smiles. “What are you doing here?”
“A cocktail waitress in our hotel told us the party was here tonight, so we thought we’d check it out. I thought you were going to Hyde?”
“We were, but it was too far. You try walking up the Strip in these.” She turns and lifts her foot up so I can see the outrageously high stilettos she’s wearing.
“Seems like a planning flaw,” I tell her, and she smiles again.
“Yeah, I’ve made a lot of mistakes lately.” I furrow my brow, wondering what she means, but the movement across the table of Ana and Christian getting out of the booth, and Christian pulling her into the packed crowd away from the table, stops her from explaining herself. “Ana!”
Ana turns and gives Kate an apologetic smile, but does nothing to fight against my brother’s grip as they disappear into the throng of people.
“Well, that sucks,” Kate pouts. “Party’s over, I guess.”
“It doesn’t have to be,” I tell her. My dad and Ros join their significant others at the table, fully occupying their attention, so I reach out for Kate’s hand. “Dance with me?”
“Yeah,” she says with a smile, then places her hand in mine.
I pull her all the way out to the center of the dance floor so that the crowd is dense enough around us to fully cut us off from the rest of our group. As I take her into my arms, people touch us or bump into us from all sides, but it’s oddly isolating. The music is too loud to hear her speak, and between the flashing lights and glitter confetti dancing through the air around us, it’s almost hard to make her out. Still, I can feel her, and she moves seductively with every slight bit of pressure I use against her hips.
The bass bumps loud and steady and Kate turns in my arms, pressing her ass into my dick. Her scent wafts over me and the way she grinds against my groin immediately has me hard, but when I try to push her away so I can hide it from her, she reaches down and grips me through the front of my pants.
“We should talk,” she says, then takes my hand and drags me off the dancefloor before I can respond. Unfortunately, there’s not much reprieve from the loud music and people, so it takes her a while to find somewhere to escape. But, at the top of a windy staircase on the second floor, there’s a small dark alcove off to the side of the restrooms that is mercifully empty.
With alcohol still coursing steadily through my veins, I nearly lose my balance when Kate pushes me inside, but there’s a wall for me to catch myself on and the moment I’m able to regain my footing she’s pressing herself into me.
“Kat–” Her lips, and then tongue, quickly cut off my protest, but, as much as I would love to take advantage of everything she’s throwing at me right now, I know that she’s drunk and could very well not be in the right frame of mind to make the choice to do this with me.
“Kate, stop,” I say, locking my fingers around each of her hips and pulling her off of me.
She shakes her head. “It’s fine, I want you.”
“No.” I move my face to avoid her lips as she leans into me again. “No, it’s not fine. It don’t want to be a mistake for you tomorrow.”
“You won’t be. Elliot, I really want you.”
“Yeah, right now. But…”
“No, Elliot. I want you. I want you to be mine again. I miss you and I just want to be with you. Only you. Forever.”
“Wait… what about last week? At dinner you said that the reasons we broke up before hadn’t changed. What about marriage? Kids?”
She shakes her head. “I don’t care. You’re right, we have Calliope, and Mia might have kids someday. We’ll be the best aunt and uncle in the world. You and me, together.”
“And… you’re cool with that?”
She nods. “Marriage and kids don’t mean anything to me if I can’t have them with you. I see that now. You are what I want, Elliot Grey. Forever. If you look at me now and promise me forever, then I’m willing to let go of all the other stuff and just be yours.”
“Kate… I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if I can even take you seriously while you’ve been drinking.”
“This has nothing to do with the alcohol. I told Ana in the limo ride to dinner tonight, before we even started drinking, that I was going to tell you this after the wedding. But I don’t want to wait until the wedding is over. I don’t want to wait another night. Just tell me that you love me, and I’m yours.”
I have no idea what to do. She’s offering me everything I’ve wanted since the second she broke up with me, but I don’t know if I can trust that she really means what she’s saying. I’m scared that if I tell her now that I’ve never stopped wanting her and give in to what she’s proposing, then I’ll be the bad guy who took advantage of a drunk girl in a club when the sun rises. But I don’t want to reject her either. I want her with the same passion that I see in the depths of her eyes. And with my own head swimming with alcohol, it feels impossible not to just give in and ravish her.
“Kate…” I begin, taking a breath to steel myself. “I love you. I love you so much that I feel like I’ve died every day, over and over again, not being with you. I want everything you just said, but I love you enough to wait until you can say them to me sober.”
Her eyes narrow, and then a coy smile plays at the corner of her lips. “The first time I ever fucked you I was wasted and it gave me the greatest thing I’ve ever had. Fuck sober.”
She throws herself into my arms again, using her body and forward momentum to push me into the wall at my back, and her lips come crashing down on mine. The kiss is deep and aggressive, but soft too. It brings me back to a time when we were happy and in love, and after hearing what she’s said and feeling what she’s pouring into me through her kiss, I can’t fight her anymore. I don’t want to.
My arms wrap around her and pull her tightly into my body. I power through her kiss, my tongue tangling with hers until I have just as much control as she does. She moans into my mouth and pulls herself further into me, as though she’s climbing me, and I fully enjoy her enthusiasm until her hand moves down to my belt buckle.
“Kate,” I hiss, admonishing her as I push her fingers away.
“I want you,” she whispers back. Her eyes plead with me, so I reach up to grip her chin with the dip in my hand between my thumb and fingers and kiss her again.
After looping my belt back through the metal buckle, I take her hand and drag her back out into the main floor, pushing a little too eagerly through the crowd as we go. Once we’re outside, we slide into the first available cab and the moment I’ve given the driver direction, Kate climbs into my lap and kisses me again.
It’s like being in high school. I can’t remember the last time I’ve made out with a girl this long without being inside of her, but the traffic getting out onto Las Vegas Blvd has us trapped in the back of the taxi for well over half an hour. I actually like it, though. It feels intimate, and that’s what I’ve missed with Kate. Not just sex, but a connection that comes from truly knowing someone who knows you just as well in return, and then loving them both for and in spite of all of it. That was what I couldn’t replace when I lost Kate. The thing that made her my soulmate. And feeling her lips against mine and hearing her soft moans and whispered I loves yous as we make our way to the hotel, I feel that connection so strongly, it’s as if it were never lost to begin with.
We don’t break apart once we get to the Venetian. The entire trip to my suite is clumsy because I’m so absorbed in kissing and touching Kate that I can’t even be bothered to look where we’re going. Being closed in the elevator, alone, is almost enough to break what small amount of will power I have left and I nearly take her right there. But the elevator doors open before I fully get my fly undone, so I’m forced to hold out until I get her into the room.
“Say it again,” she whispers against my throat while I fight to get the door to the room unlocked. “Forever. I need to hear you say it again.”
“Forever,” I promise.
Finally, I get the door open and we both stumble inside. Kate nearly falls backwards in her shoes, but I manage to catch her and pull her into me again. As I stare into her eyes, muted in the moonlight, my heart swells nearly to the point of bursting.
Happiness is this moment defined.
“I love you, Katie,” I say, kissing her again. “I’m never going to let you go again.”
She nods and places her hands on either side of my face, staring deeply into my eyes. “Never. This is it, okay? You and me.”
“You and me.” I sweep her into my arms and she leans in to kiss me again while I carry her off to my room. Once inside, I don’t even bother dropping her onto the bed before I climb after her. We fall together, and with my body pinning her small frame beneath me, the animal takes over. My lips and tongue move down her body, tasting every inch of her skin and delighting in it.
“Fuck, I want you,” I whisper, and her hands tangle in my hair encouragingly.
“Then take me. Fuck me, Elliot.”
Her dress is loose and made of a thin material that feels delicate to the touch, so rather than fumble blindly in the dark for her zipper, I grip the fabric at her neckline and tear it open. She whimpers with anticipation as I completely shred the dress down the front, then begin work on the front clasp of her bra while kissing her neck. With her breasts exposed, I only have her panties left to remove, so I reach down for the tiny bit of lace wrapped around her hips while I begin lavishing her nipples with my tongue. Her back arches high of the bed and her moans fill the dead air around me, exciting me, leaving me so hard that my cock starts to ache.
I sit up on my knees to get the condom from my wallet, while Kate begins unfastening my belt again. It’s distracting, especially when she frees my erection and immediately takes me into her mouth.
“Oh fuck,” I hiss. “Mmm, that’s it, Katie.”
She hums and pulls me deep into her throat, holding me there and swallowing over and over again. Each time her throat tightens around the head of my cock, a shockwave of pleasure jolts through me. I’d nearly forgotten how good she was at this, and with all the anticipation that’s built up on the ride over here, I know that if I let her continue it won’t be long before I explode in her mouth.
“Stop, baby. I don’t want to come before I get a chance to fuck you and I’m already close.”
She whines in disappointment but falls back on the bed again. Her eyes glint in the light pouring in through the windows and the shadows that fall across her perfect body accentuate the curves in her breasts and her hardened nipples. My mind floods with all of the things I want to do with her, to her, each more dirty than the next. I pull the condom from the wrapper and move to roll it over my dick while drinking in the sight of her, but as my eyes move down from her breasts and over her stomach, I notice something that takes the breath out of me.
There’s a scar on her side.
One she didn’t have the last time I saw her naked.
One that I recognize immediately.
It’s the same scar that I helped my father dress and bandage a dozen times after his surgery last January. After the impossible transplant that saved his life. The condom falls from my hand as I freeze and instantly, all thoughts of sex fall out of my mind.
“Kate…” My voice shakes. “Wha-what is that?”
“What?” She looks down as though she’s expecting to find something spilled or maybe even a scrape, but when she realizes what I’m looking at, her hand flies up to cover her side and she shakes her head. “Nothing. It’s nothing.”
I pull her hand away and run my finger over the familiar line. “This isn’t nothing. Where did you get this?”
“I told you, I-I was in an accident skiing last Christmas…”
“This isn’t from an accident, Kate. This is a transplant scar. This is the exact same scar my dad has and don’t try to tell me that it isn’t because I would know it anywhere. Where did you get this?”
She swallows. “I-I…”
“Holy shit, it was you, wasn’t it? You were the anonymous donor.”
She hesitates for a moment, but eventually, she nods.
My mind flashes back to the night of the surgery, New Years Eve. Kate had come to the GEH ball and found Gia and I together, then she ran away. When I went to explain myself the next morning, her brother told me she wasn’t home. I thought he was just trying to get me to leave because Kate didn’t want to see me, but that felt strange, even at the time, because Kate has never been the kind of girl who didn’t face what was in front of her. She should have come out and torn into me right there on the lawn for all the neighbors to see after what she saw the night before. It didn’t make sense, and now I see why. She really wasn’t home. She was in surgery.
Suddenly, so many missing pieces fall into place. This is why Ana got so confrontational with Gia and I after my father’s transplant. This is why Kate stopped partying with those socialites. This is why Kate and Christian became best friends out of the blue and started sharing all those private, emotional moments together. This is why Calliope’s middle name is Katherine.
“Wait… Christian knows?”
“Yeah. I was laid up for six weeks after the surgery and he figured it out one weekend when he came to visit Ana.”
“That son of a bitch, why didn’t he tell me?” Anger floods through me as I realize that my own brother kept this secret from me and let me continue on with Gia knowing that the woman I really wanted, who I truly loved, had saved our father’s life. I climb out of bed, storming across the room with the intent of busting into his bedroom and demanding to know why he kept this from me, but Kate catches me at the door.
“Don’t, Elliot. I asked Christian not to tell you. Begged him, even, so that he wouldn’t tell anyone.”
“Because I didn’t want you to think I did this to get you back. I didn’t want your family to feel indebted to me. That’s not why I did it.”
“Then why did you do it?”
“Because I love your dad and he was dying. Do you know what it was like for me when he was diagnosed? How badly I wanted to be at the hospital with all of you when he was getting treatment or when he had his first surgery for the brain tumor? I had to hear everything through Ana and half of what she told me wasn’t even about your dad, it was about how Christian was struggling watching him try to fight. Carrick is like a second father to me and I didn’t get to be there for him. Except for this. This is what I could do to help him. I didn’t want you to show up in Cambridge and make this about us. I wasn’t ready to take you back then and I wasn’t ready to let you back in my life. I didn’t want you to know.”
I’m actually a little taken aback from the hurt I hear in her voice. “Katie, you should have come… My mom and dad love you. They would have loved to have you there with them while my dad was going through treatment.”
She shakes her head. “You know Gia wouldn’t have let that happen. If I had shown up, she would have thrown a fit and you… would have been on her side. Could you imagine what that would have done to your family?”
Yes. I can imagine it so clearly, it’s like I’ve seen it happen before. And in a way, I think I have. My mom always preferred Kate to Gia, and she never even really tried to hide it. If there had been an argument about Kate being present while my dad needed help, Mom would have sided with Kate. Mia too, without a doubt. And, since Christian knew about the transplant, I can’t imagine he would have gone against Kate for anything. I wouldn’t let them all gang up against Gia, not while we were still together.
Just thinking about how I would have turned her away, knowing what I know now, makes me sick.
“Kate… I can’t believe you did this. I can’t believe I wasn’t there to take care of you after… You saved my dad’s life.”
“I know, and I’m glad that I did. You don’t have to feel guilty, Elliot. I had people there for me. This brought Ethan and I closer together, it brought Christian and I closer together, and it reminded me of what was important in life. Family. If I didn’t have this, I don’t know that I’d be standing here, in front of you right now. Because you are my family, Elliot. And Carrick, Grace, Mia, and Christian are my family too. That’s all I want from you and it took all of this for me to realize it. I don’t want a big fan-fare about this, I just want to be a family again. I just want forever.”
The sincerity in her eyes is so poignant, it’s sobers me up. In her confession, I feel something inside of me change. It’s like I finally understand what Christian tried to tell me earlier. Marrying her makes her family. Not in the way she already is, or even in the way I want her to be, but in a way that is much harder to articulate. It’s not about the marriage license or the wedding, it’s about showing her that I don’t just want her there when something tragic happens, but that she has the right to be there. That it’s not just nice to have her around when we have something to celebrate, that she belongs there. In the future that I envisioned for us, she was always supposed to be by my side, through the good and the bad. But through this confession, I can see that vision through her eyes. She would always be an outsider. Welcome, but never really integrated. Separate but equal. Ana is going to be a Grey in two days. That would mean that, in times of tragedy, Kate would be told what we were going to do, but Ana would be a part of the conversation.
And that thought pulls me right back to the waiting room of that hospital in Cambridge, watching Christian being completely destroyed as he was kept away from his own daughter and the woman he loved because there wasn’t anything written down to give him rights. The pain I saw him suffer through all could have been avoided by the piece of paper I’ve convinced myself that I don’t want. I know that he’s not going to love Ana any more next week than he does now simply because they’ve gotten married, but just that one example shows me how important their actual marriage is. He wants to make Ana his family, just as I want to make Kate mine.
Kate said to me back in the club that she doesn’t care about marriage or kids anymore, and that as long as I promise her forever, she’ll be fine if I never propose. I’ve already paid for the ring, but I don’t have to give it to her. I could take it back, sell it, or just put it away in a drawer and never think about it again.
She’s given me the out I’ve been desperate for, but.. I’m not going to take it.
She’s given her own flesh and blood to make herself apart of my family, a platinum band seems like a weak gesture to show her just how much I want her there too. After the sacrifices she’s made, how much she deserves to be there.
Love is about sacrifice, and if marrying her, giving her children means I have to sacrifice the carefree, easy, fun lifestyle I’ve always envisioned for myself, is that too big a sacrifice to ask? No. No, it isn’t. I feel the certainty in that more potently than I have ever felt anything before, and as the image of Christmas morning that I’d been fixated on earlier this evening flashes across my mind again, I realize that the hope I’d felt in that fantasy wasn’t hope at all. It was desire. This isn’t even a sacrifice. I want this too. I want to make her happy. I want to give her everything her heart desires. I want her to know just how much I love her and how much I want her to be my family.
I want to marry her.
“Are you mad?” she asks, pulling me out of my inner declarations, and the small note of fear beneath her voice nearly knocks the wind out of me.
“Mad? Why would I be mad?”
“I lied to you.”
“No, you didn’t lie. You told me as much truth as you knew I’d be able to handle. I’m sorry that I wasn’t strong enough, willing enough, to hear the rest.” I take her face in my hands and kiss her once again. Softly this time, and without the drunken urgency that pushed us into this room. Slowly, I back her up to the bed and lay her as gently over the sheets as I can manage. Through my lips and my touch, I try to convey the love and gratefulness I feel for her and attempt to show her how precious she is to me. It works, I think. She moans as I climb over the top of her and move between her legs. And when her body tells me she’s ready, and her eyes implore me, I slowly sink into her.
Her mouth opens in a soft, breathy gasp, but her eyes don’t leave mine. I move inside of her carefully, slowly, using the pleasure not just to get either of us off, but to show her what she means to me. That I love her, absolutely and without exception. And that I always will.
Her eyes finally break from mine as she starts to build towards her orgasm. Her head falls back, her mouth drops open, and her body tightens around me. When she lets go, she drags me with her, and in this moment of pure love making, I am overcome with the most intense orgasm I’ve ever felt in my life. It’s world changing, and has me not just intent on making this perfect woman my wife, but excited over it. Desperate for it.
“I love you, Katie,” I whisper against her lips. “Forever and always.”
“Forever,” she replies, and we kiss again.