Chapter 15

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She could have slapped me. She could have stormed up to me, pulled her fist as far back as she could reach and punched me hard across the face. It still wouldn’t be as devastating as those six words. Woods reaches out with his arms, holding them around me like he’s afraid I’m going to drop Calliope, or maybe just to take her from me, but I don’t relinquish her. The news of Christian being in imminent danger, that he might be hurt or worse, only makes me cling more tightly to our daughter.

“Ros…”

She shakes her head, then dashes the tears from her eyes with the backs of her hands and turns away from me. The police officer who has spent all afternoon keeping me back is standing a few feet away from us, facing the building and listening to the words coming through the speaker attached to his shoulder. She grabs his arm to get his attention.

“I need to know about the lab.”

“Ma’am, step back please.” He takes hold of her forearms, the same as he did to me, and tries to steer her back towards the crowd. She shakes him off, refusing to be dismissed.  

“This is my company and I need to know what’s happening to my people down there.”

“I’m sure you’re worried, but I don’t have any information for you at this time. If you could just step back and…”

“Christian Grey is trapped in that lab!”  She screams the words at him and waves her arm in the direction of the still smoking building. Behind me, the whispers of speculation and prayers from the crowd of onlookers that have been like a constant buzzing background noise for the last few hours goes silent. There is a reporter standing only twenty feet away from us and she stops in the middle of whatever she’s saying into the camera to gape back at us. Everything seems to stop. One second in time that’s suspended outside of reality, and then it all comes crashing down.

The police officer grabs the radio and reiterates what Ros just told him into it, which comes across more as confirmation than new information. Someone behind me shouts that Christian is dead and the sentiment is carried through the crowd like the swell of a wave, repeated over and over again.

“For god’s sake!” Ros shouts, her words like venom as she turns to face them. “His child is right here!”

“Ros!” My eyes flash in warning, then I turn to Woods in a panic. My hands shake as I reach out for him and simultaneously lower Calliope’s face to my shoulder. “Your jacket, now! Give me your jacket.”

He shrugs out of the dark gray suit jacket and hands it over to me. I manage to throw it over Calliope just before the reporter is able navigate her way across the glass covered sidewalk with her camera crew and shoves her microphone in my face.

“Mrs. Grey, KIRO 7 news. Can you confirm that your husband is trapped inside the laboratory where the explosion took place?”

“I, uh…” Calliope starts to cry again, incensed as she fights against my hold to get out from under the jacket. The reporter’s eyes flash down to her shape in my arms with a desperate kind of hunger. She covers the microphone with her hand and leans into her film crew.

“Keep the camera on the baby.”

Shit. I turn my back on her and look at our nanny, hoping my eyes convey how desperately I need to her listen and not ask questions. “Kensie, take Calliope. Go back to the house and pretend like everything is normal. Mommy and Daddy are just working late. We’ll meet you there as soon as we can.”

“Yes, Mrs. Grey.”

I move between Kensie and the camera, using my body to block as much of Calliope as I can while I shift her into the nanny’s arms just in case the jacket slips. “Keep her covered.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Kensie reaches down for my hand and squeezes my fingers. It’s a simple gesture of support, caring, but it feels too much like a condolence. I yank my hand out of her hold like she’s burned me.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Grey.”

“It’s fine, just go.”

She nods, then wraps Calliope tighter in her arms as she turns to leave. The crowd behind her is tight, rowdy with the arrival of those with family members who work in the building, and my heart clenches while I watch her try to push through them. I nearly call her back when I see her and my still crying child being jostled by people trying to get the officer at the line’s attention by screaming their questions over the constant noise of the crowd.  

“Woods, go with Calliope,” I say, not taking my eyes off Kensie’s ponytail, the only part of her I can track through the sea of people. “Don’t let anyone near her and keep reporters away from the gates once you get home. I don’t want her to be scared.”

“Mrs. Grey…” He leans in real close to keep the microphones still held in my direction from picking up what he’s saying. “My orders come for your husband and I’ve been instructed never to leave your side.”

“Then he can yell at me for sending you away after they pull him out of that lab!” I should care that there are cameras on me. I should care that everyone within earshot is hanging on my every word, hoping for some kind of new information I might have simply because of who I am to the company’s CEO. But I don’t. The only thing I care about is what is happening to my husband right now and that Calliope isn’t exposed and put in danger of being targeted because we weren’t careful enough with her in a crowd of strangers. Still, he doesn’t move to follow after Kensie.

“Mrs. Grey, perhaps you should come back to the house with—“

“No! No, I’m not going anywhere.” I lean in too, meeting him the rest of the way, and wrap my arms around his neck in a hug so that I can press my lips right up to his ear. “Please, Evan. The only thing that is going to keep me together right now is knowing that Calliope is at home safe. I need you to make sure that happens. I need you to make sure that she’s not scared. Please.”

He hesitates, but eventually nods. I mouth the words ‘thank you’ to him, and he turns me back to face Ros, Andrea, and Olivia.

“Those three,” he says, pointing at each of them in turn with his index finger. “You never leave their side. Do you understand me? Not for anything.”

The look on Ros’s face as she stares at the building tells me that she’s not going anywhere anytime soon, so it’s an easy promise for me to make.

“I won’t leave until he’s out.”

“Alright. Then… keep your cell on you, and take this.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a slender black cylinder. I recognize it instantly, because Luke made me carry a similar one last year after we found out Leila was following me. Pepper spray.

“Stay safe, Ana.” It’s the first time he’s used my name instead of Mrs. Grey, and I once again have to bite my lip to keep it from trembling. I give him a nod, because it’s all I can manage, and he turns and snakes through the crowd, following Kensie and Calliope to the car. It’s one weight of a million lifted off my shoulders and I get just one second to breathe freely. But sending my bodyguard away has immediate consequences and it comes in the form of hands that grab me from behind.

“Mrs. Grey, do you have any information to give the public regarding Christian Grey’s condition?”

The reporter. Without Woods hovering inches behind me, she’s immediately more aggressive. I try to take a step back, but she takes one with me, her microphone held so closely to my lips I’m sure she’s picking up the sounds of my breathing. It’s suffocating and more than a little intimidating, but thankfully the sound of clacking heels and repeated no, no, no’s bring Jaqueline to my rescue.

“That’ll be enough, Susan,” she says, getting in between me and the reporter with her arms held out in front of her like a protective barrier. “Mrs. Grey will not be answering any questions at this time.”

The reporter leans back on her heels and raises a skeptical eyebrow at her, but Jaqueline holds her ground. With a shake of her head, Miss Kiro 7 News steps back and motions for her camera crew to follow her back to their previous recording spot. They stop though, when an important looking town car pulls up on the street just behind us and Carrick steps out.

“Mayor Grey!” She picks up the cord to her microphone and makes towards the street, but the crowd keeps her from ambushing him. The frustration of being denied access to yet another important interview is clear on her face as she holds out her microphone and attempts to shout questions over the noise of people, street traffic, and emergency crews, but by the time Carrick makes it to me his security team has escorted her away.

“Ana,” Carrick breathes in relief, immediately pulling me into a tight embrace. “Thank god, you’re not hurt.”

I shake my head against the lapels of his jacket, holding back tears. “I wasn’t here. I was walking and I heard the explosion…” There’s more I want to say, but my throat is growing tighter with each and every word.

“Where’s Calliope?”

“Home,” I reply lamely. “With Kensie and Woods.”

“And Christian? Is he…?”

I can’t hold it back anymore. I let out a choking sob into his chest and start to shake. “I don’t know, I don’t know. All they’ve told me is there was an explosion in the R&D lab and he was inside. I don’t even know if they’re trying to get him out…”

“Let me see what I can find out.” He kisses the crown of my head and then releases me, moving with purpose towards the same officer who has rebuked both Ros and I all day. I turn and glance back at Christian’s partner and best friend. She has one arm folded so tightly across the front of her designer jacket that I’m not sure how she’s breathing, and three fingers from her other hand are pressed to her lips.

“They’re going to get him out,” I tell her, wrapping an arm around her back and laying my head on her shoulder. “They have to get him out.”

“Unlimited energy,” she replies. Her eyes are glassy with worry again and I’m not entirely sure the words she says aloud are directed at me. “This is what happens when you try to fuck around with the laws of physics. God damn it, I told him…” Her lips press tightly together and she takes a deep breath through her nose. “I swear to god, if he makes it out of there alive, I’m going to kill him.”

With all the uncertainty still hanging in the air, her words would be a cruel if I couldn’t see how much it hurts her to say them. She’s terrified, not just for her building or for her company, but for her best friend. So I squeeze her tighter, and let myself fall apart on her pretty jacket.

“I know. Me too.”

“Oh, Ana…” She turns and takes me into her arms, holding me up as I devolve into a sobbing mess. There’s too much here that’s too familiar. My eyes screw tightly shut to fight against the tears rolling down my cheeks, but blocking out everything going on around me only allows new visions to fill my head. Memories of Christian in a hospital bed, battered and unresponsive. The pain on his face during physical therapy that helped him regain his strength after surgery. The sound of the gunshot that gave him the wound that made physical therapy necessary in the first place.

“Oh god, what is it?”

I look up from Ros’ shoulder and see Elliot standing a few yards away. His eyes are wide and terrified. His hair is windblown. His cheeks are pink. Did he run here from Escala?

“What’s happened?” he asks again, moving closer to me. “Christian isn’t…?”

I shake my head, or maybe I’m just shaking so hard it does it all on its own. “I don’t know.”

“Jesus.” He takes me from Ros and tucks me inside his strong arms, then looks over the heads of the police officers and paramedics roaming around the empty space in front of us like they’re going to have all the answers. “Dad? Dad!”

One arm leaves my shoulder as Elliot reaches up to wave his father over to us, and while Carrick approaches, he turns me so that I’m facing him too. It’s not just Carrick walking towards us. He’s flanked on either side by a police officer and a fireman, both of whom wear important looking badges that I assume mean they’re in command.

“Well?” Elliot demands.

“The fire from explosion caused a collapse at the entryway. The parking garage above them caved in and now they’re trapped behind a wall of rubble and rebar. We can’t shift anything until we know it won’t cause a further collapse.”

Elliot looks at the fire chief. “I can help with that. I’m an engineer and I built this building. I know everything about it, brick by brick.”

“Good, get to the lobby,” the fire chief says. “My men will tell you where to go from there.”

Elliot nods and runs forward, but no one has asked or answered the only question I care about. “What about the people inside? Is anyone… hurt?” It’s the most I can stand to ask.

The police chief frowns. “We’re not sure, Mrs. Grey. The power system has failed inside the lab and all of our efforts to get some form of communication inside have failed.”

“What do you mean failed?”

“Oh my god.” Ros hand drops from her mouth to her chest. “He was worried about hacking… The lab was encased in lead so outside signals couldn’t get through to the systems inside.”

Because he had been hacked before. Because Andrew Lincoln had used the GEH servers against him before.

Ros takes a breath, and regains all of the composure she’s let slip since she was pulled out of the building. “So, we don’t even know if they’re alive in there?”

“No, ma’am. But we are doing everything in our power to get to them and get them out safely, I promise you that.”

“Oh, god!” I double over and begin sobbing into my hands again. Carrick is at my side in the next instant, pulling me back into him and nodding towards the officers.

“Then get to it, Captain. Keep me updated of any progress.”

“Yes, sir,” the officer responds, and both he and the fire chief turn and hurry away from us.

Carrick attempts to comfort me, but there’s no way I could find comfort in the hours that follow. I had thought, foolishly, that Elliot’s involvement in the rescue would move things along. That he would be so desperate to save his brother that he’d throw caution to the wind and dive head first into the debris that had him enclosed inside the lab. But he doesn’t. He spends hours evaluating the structural integrity of the support beams surrounding the caved in opening, ensuring that moving any of the concrete won’t cause further collapse. The logical part of me understands why this is a necessity. But my heart seems to tear further apart with every passing minute that Christian doesn’t emerge from the GEH building.

As the sun sinks low in the sky, and the shadows from the other skyscrapers around us grow longer over the sidewalk where we stand, the crowd noise begins to die down. Dusk sets in and the only sound left is staccato thud of helicopter blades over head and the shouts of the emergency crews below. I can’t feel anything. Not the pangs of hunger or the dry ache of thirst. My phone has been buzzing non-stop in my bag, but I ignore it. When candles start being passed around, like defeat has been accepted and we’re now collectively mourning the loss of the eight people now confirmed to have been in the lab at the time of the explosion, I hear a voice echo inside my head that I haven’t heard outside of my nightmares since that fateful night last July.

Looks like I still got him in the end.

“No!” I scream, pulling each of my hands out of Carrick’s and Ros’ hold. They look at me like they think I’ve lost it, and maybe I have. I shake my head, trying to dispel the echo of Andrew Lincoln’s voice, and back away from my loved ones. “I can’t stand here anymore. I can’t stay here and wait, doing nothing!” The police charged with crowd control have thinned out over the last few hours, giving me an opportunity to slip through and make it to the building if I run. I take it.

Carrick shouts my name to get me to come back and the few officers that are too far away to actually do anything issue warnings, but that’s not what stops me. A pair of strong hands latches onto my arm from behind and yanks me back. I look over my shoulder and nearly break down again when I see who has ahold of me.

“Ma’am, get back!” An officer yells at me, his hand on the gun at his hip as he runs towards us, but Luke holds out his hand to try and diffuse the situation.

“I’ve got her, Officer,” he says. “Her husband is inside, you have to understand.”

“Yeah, well.” He takes his hand off his gun, and motions with his head towards the crowd. “Just get back in line.”

“Yes, sir.” Luke nods, then tightens his fingers around my arm as he leads me back to the same place I stood next to Carrick and Ros, except now Jade is there too, waiting with a jacket and a pair of sneakers in her hand.

“I saw you on TV,” she says, holding the shoes out for me. “I thought you could use these.”

“Thank you,” I whisper, unable to fully express my gratitude under the weight of my grief. She smiles anyway, and helps hold me up as I switch out my shoes.

“I’ll take those, Mrs. Grey,” Andrea says, reaching out for my heels. I hand them over but look down at them in disgust. They’re a part of today. They’re a part of this nightmare.

“I never want to see those again,” I tell her. She nods, then my attention is drawn away by the jacket Luke drapes over my shoulders.

Finally, long after dark has fallen and the clock has ticked past midnight, the metallic whir of saws echoing through the air stops. My breath catches in my throat and my eyes move away from the front doors for the first time in hours, searching for paramedics preparing to enter the building to care for the wounded after they’ve been extracted. There’s nothing though. Only a heavy silence that permeates everything around me.

My heart thuds in my ears. I shiver, but not because I’m cold. My future, my entire reason for living, is hanging in the balance, and I know in the deepest parts of me that this is it. I’m about to get the answers I’ve been waiting for all day. But when five minutes turn to twenty, then thirty… I’m not certain I’m ready for them anymore.

Please be okay.

Please be okay.

Please be okay.

“Look!” someone behind me yells. My eyes, closed in silent prayer, snap open and turn back to the doors. The emergency crews are wheeling a gurney out of the building and the sight of it floods my entire body with fear until I see the group of men ambling out behind it. Barney, Welch, three men in ash darkened lab coats, Taylor, and then…

“Christian!” I sprint forward and for the first time, no one stops me. He turns in the direction I call out his name, then abandons the medical professionals there to examine him and his team, and rushes towards me. We meet at the top of the steps, halfway between the building and the sidewalk, and I leap into his open arms. Dust and ash from his clothes surround us in a choking, murky cloud when my body makes impact with his, but I don’t notice. I’m single minded as my lips come crashing into his.

“Christian!” I sob into his mouth. “Oh, thank God! Thank God! I was so scared I was going to lose you.”  

“Never. I’m right here, baby.”

A days worth of anxiety and grief begin pouring out of me, and I can’t hold it back. His arms snake around me, holding me against him as though he’ll never let me go again, and he whispers a long myriad of promises and reassurances into my hair. I take a deep breath, and manage to calm myself enough to pull away from him, then glance up into his eyes.

“Oh my god, you’re bleeding…”

“Oh.” He reaches up and touches his hair line, which is matted with dark, congealed blood. “It’s nothing. I’m fine.”

But he’s not. Now that the initial relief of knowing he’s safe has passed, I can see the damage. He looks as though he’s been torn straight out of war movie. Every part of him is gray with dust, except the lines down the side of his face that are streaked with the color of flesh from sweat dripping down his brow. His fine clothes are branded with large swaths of black from the heat and flames of the explosion. His normal musk is gone, replaced by something acrid that has a distinct chemical quality to it. His beautiful face is painted with exhaustion.

“Christian Trevelyan-Grey!” Ros storms up into the space between us and shoves him roughly enough that he stumbles backward a few paces. He quickly regains his equilibrium, and looks at her in confusion.

“Ros?”

“Are you out of your goddamn mind?”

“It was an acc-” His words cut off as she shoves him again, though he doesn’t lose his balance the way he did before. They stand a few yards apart, staring each other down until Ros finally breaks with a chest heaving gasp and throws her arms around him. “I am going to yell at you so hard tomorrow.”

“I know,” he breathes back. “I know.”

She lowers her face into his dust covered shirt, takes a deep breath, and then moves aside for Carrick. Both men seem to stiffen as they stand before one another, waiting for the other to speak first. Apparently, not even tragedy is enough to break through this cold war they’re currently fighting.

“Are you hurt?” Carrick asks at last. Christian shakes his head.

“No, I’m fine. It was close but… I’m fine.”

“Good.” The Adam’s apple in Carrick’s throat bobs as he nods his head, and, after a moment of hesitation, he steps forward and wraps his arms around his son. “Don’t do that to me again, Christian.”

“I won’t. I’m sorry.”

“I know.” Carrick nods, and sniffs hard. “I know.”

They pull apart, but Carrick doesn’t let go of Christian’s shoulder. Instead, he glances behind him, at the building, and his face turns serious.

“Look, I need to warn you. They’re going to–”

“Mr. Grey?” We all turn and see a young police officer approach the stairs from the direction of the building. Carrick’s hand immediately falls from Christian’s shirt.

“Yes?” he answers.

“I’m going to need you to come with me to triage, sir. Have a medical team look you over.”

“I’m fine, thank you.”

“I’m sorry, sir. That’s not an option.”

“It’s always an option. I know what an AMA is, consider this a refusal to be treated.”

“Well, if you’re refusing medical care, then I need you to step over here so we can have talk about the incident. I’m going to need a statement.”

“Oh.” He looks around blankly for a moment, caught unprepared, then nods. But Carrick calls out to stop him as he begins to follow the officer away from us.

“Christian!” He stops and turns back again. Carrick’s jaw tenses as though he’s trying to find a way to work around something he can’t bring himself to say. “Just… don’t say anything without a lawyer present.”

“What’s going on?”

“Sir, if you’ll come with me.” The officer tries to nudge him forward, but Christian doesn’t move.

“Dad?”

“Go, Son,” Carrick says. “Just remember that you don’t have to answer anything without a lawyer.”

I watch Christian’s chest expand with a deep breath before he breaks eye contact with his father and moves to follow the officer across the courtyard.

“Wait, is he being arrested?” I ask.

“No,” Carrick confirms. “Just detained until he can be questioned.”

“Questioned about what? What’s going on?”

That same look of being torn apart by some unsaid words crosses his face, and he shakes his head again. “You should call his lawyer, Ana.”

“Lawyer? You’re his lawyer, Carrick.”

“No, I’m not. Not anymore.” He takes a few steps closer to me, then hooks his fingers around my arm and pulls me aside. “Ana, this isn’t going to go away. He caused an explosion in the middle of the city. Three civilians were injured and I don’t even know what’s happened to the guy they brought out of the lab on a stretcher. The city of Seattle is going to have to open an investigation into what happened here today, and I’m the mayor now. It’s my job to oversee that investigation, so I can’t be apart of it. I can’t help you.”

I blink, feeling like all the air is sucked out of my lungs at once. “What does an investigation mean?”  

He swallows, and shakes his head again. “Call his lawyer, Ana.”

I nod, then move to Ros. Without Carrick, I’m not exactly sure which lawyer I need to get down here and she knows Christian’s corporate legal team better than anyone. She gives me a name, Andrea gets me a number, and thirty minutes later my husband has a team of men in pristine suits behind him refusing to let him answer any questions. It drags the entire interrogation process out, which seems excessive since he hasn’t been charged with anything. Elliot can’t stay to wait for answers because he’s got a new baby at home and Ros opts to go with the man who was injured in the explosion, a lab tech named Sheldon who broke his leg under falling debris. When the first rays of dawn start to color the sky above us, it’s only Luke and I left, and he holds tightly to my hand until Christian finally returns.

“Ready?” he asks, his voice like gravel and his eyes heavy with fatigue.

“Yes,” I reply, then turn to Luke. “Thank you for waiting with me.”

“Of course. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Christian gives him a tight smile and half a nod, then takes my hand out of his and leads me down to the street. There’s a car waiting for us, though it’s not being driven by anyone I recognize. I can see the clear wire connected to his earpiece though, so I assume it’s someone on Christian’s security team.

“Where to, Mr. Grey?” the driver asks.

“Home, please.” The driver nods and signals to turn into oncoming traffic, and Christian’s head falls against the headrest.

“What happened?” I ask.

“I don’t even know.” He opens his eyes and looks at me, but the cool confidence he normally exudes is gone. “We thought we’d figured it out. Welch built a prototype and I went down there to see it in action, but the cooling mechanisms gave out thirty seconds into his demonstration. There were safety precautions in place and every single one of them failed. Over and over again. We did everything we could to stop it, but it just kept getting hotter and hotter until eventually…”

“It exploded,” I finish for him.

He nods. “Thankfully the blast went up instead of out so we were able to avoid the shockwave. But everything was on fire then, blocking our way out, and the suppression system was damaged in the explosion. It took us over an hour to get it under control and then everything caved in. It was like every time we solved one crisis, something else happened.”

I shiver as I imagine what he’s gone through, then unbuckle my seatbelt and crawl into his lap.

“Ana…”

“No,” I whimper, cutting him off before he can tell me to get back in my own seat. My fingers curl into his shirt and I lay my head down on his shoulder, taking comfort in the steady rise and fall of his chest. It takes him a few seconds to accept that I’m not going to let him move me back onto the leather seat next to him, but once he does his arms wrap around me and he lays his cheek against my hair.

“I’m sorry, Christian.”

“We’re okay. Everyone was okay.” He kisses the top of my head, and we make the rest of the drive home in silence. The sky overhead is orange with the rising sun by the time we pull into the driveway. It’s nearly seven, and we should both be dead with exhaustion. But if Kensie got Calliope down at a decent hour last night, she should be waking at any time.

“I need a shower,” Christian tells me once we step into the kitchen.

I nod. “I’m going to check on the baby. I’ll be up in a minute.”

“Okay.” He leans over and kisses me softly on the lips, then untangles our fingers and pulls away from me. I feel immediately bereft. Not enough of the doubt and dread that plagued me all day yesterday have been washed away for me to feel comfortable having him out of my reach. I need him to hold me. I need to feel his heart beating under my hands and the heat of his skin pressed against mine. I decide I’m going to slip into the shower with him, maybe ask him to make love to me before we finally give in to our heavy eyelids and get some much needed sleep, but first I make my way up to the nursery.

The door to the guest room where Kensie sleeps when she stays overnight is closed, so I assume Calliope is still fast asleep. With as much care as I can manage, I ease open the door and tip toe across the floor, moving as slowly as possible as I glance over the railing of her crib. She’s staring at the mobile over her head, silent but wide awake. That is, until she sees me.

“Mama?”

My shoulders fall as all my plans for this morning fly out the window, but I smile and reach down to scoop her in my arms. She molds her body around mine and after giving her a few good morning kisses, I get her changed and let her help me pick out what she wants to wear for the day before I take her down to the kitchen for breakfast.

I expect things to be different. Our staff surely saw the news coverage of the accident and assumed that they wouldn’t be needed today, so I mentally go through what’s already been prepared for Calliope and debate whether or not I’ll need to make something for Christian or if he’ll want to get straight into bed. But when we get downstairs, it’s like I’ve walked into the movie Groundhog’s Day.

Gail stands in front of the stove, an omelet frying in the pan in front of her. Kensie is sipping a cup of coffee as she lays Calliope’s breakfast down on the tray of her high chair. And Christian stands behind the counter, dressed in a fresh suit, typing furiously on the iPhone in his hand. The scene is too familiar, too much like any other day. Like we haven’t been living through a nightmare for the past 16 hours.

“What are you doing?” I ask Christian as I place Calliope in her highchair. He doesn’t answer me right away, choosing instead to finish his email, or text, or whatever it is he’s doing with his phone.

“I’ve got to get back to the office,” he says, after finally putting down his phone and picking up the mug of coffee Gail has poured for him.

“What? What do you mean you’re going back to the office? Don’t you think you should stay home and take it easy for a few days?”

His phone buzzes on the counter and he picks it up while he answers me. “I can’t. I’ve got to be there to survey the damage, meet with my lawyer, and work with Andrea to find an offsite facility that’s large enough to relocate the fusion project to. Jacqueline is in a panic. This whole ordeal is going to be a PR nightmare and I’m going to need all the public support I can get now that everyone knows what we’re doing.”

My stomach drops. “Wait. You’re… you’re not going to scrap the project?”

“Of course not. We had a breakthrough yesterday.”

“Yeah, right before it exploded.”

“And we’ve learned from it.” He drains the rest of his coffee, slips his phone into his pocket, and moves across the kitchen to give me a kiss goodbye. “You should stay home today. Get some sleep.”

“Me? What about you?”

“I’ll be fine.” His hand brushes my cheek, and he gives me a small smile that I think is meant to be reassuring, but it misses that mark by about a hundred miles. I’m at a loss for words. What could I possibly say to explain why I don’t want him to go back to that building today that isn’t already obvious?

He leans down to kiss the top of Calliope’s head then looks up as the security officer who drove us home this morning enters the kitchen. Christian nods to him, then tells me he loves me again before following him out of the kitchen. And I watch him go, feeling like I’m stranded on an island in the middle of shark infested waters.

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