This time, when the sun comes up, Christian is wrapped all the way around me. It’s how we’d fallen asleep, and neither one of us moved an inch away from the other all night. Even now, when I need to get up and check on the sick baby I’d put to bed the night before, I’m struggling to wiggle out of his embrace. Instead, I squeeze the arm he has draped over the top of me and push ever so gently back into him. I’d meant it as the best I’m-getting-up-but-I wish-I-wasn’t hug I could manage, hoping that I wouldn’t wake him. I do, though, and his arms immediately pull and hold me tight against his solid form.
“No, actually I think you’re perfect right where you are,” he says, his voice still hoarse with sleep. I hum in agreement.
“I know, but I need to get up.” I push away again, but he offers no slack in his hold, so I don’t go anywhere. I smile at his persistence, feeling more wanted and cherished than I have all week. It makes it difficult to continue protesting with any kind of conviction. “Christian, let me go.”
“Never.” He rolls on top of me, stretching his body over mine and using his weight to hold me in place. “Don’t go to work today.”
“I’m in the middle of a gigantic project with very tight deadlines, I have to go to work today.”
“I know exactly where you are in that project and your app is nowhere near ready for testing phases. Anything else you have to do, you can do from home. Stay with me.”
I roll my eyes. “Coming from the man who has literally been sleeping at work for the last week.”
“Exactly, I’ve earned a day off and the only thing I want with that time is to spend it with you.” He leans down and nuzzles my nose. “Let’s get on my plane and get out of town for a few days. We could go meet up with Mia in Prague and spend the weekend with her. Or we could go somewhere with a beach. Maybe… Bermuda? Bahama?” He starts to sing softly. “Come on, pretty mama.”
I laugh. “And what about your daughter?”
“My daughter would have a fabulous time in Kokomo.”
“Except that she’s sick.”
The enticing smile he’s using against me disappears in an instant. “What do you mean, ‘she’s sick’?”
“I had to pull her out of daycare yesterday because she had a fever. The nurse at her pediatrician’s office said to give it a day and see if it went down, and if not to bring her in.”
He leaps out of bed, scooping up the suit pants he’d carelessly discarded on the floor the night before, and pulling them on while he rushes through the door. I try to remind him to take the thermometer with him, but he’s already gone. With a sigh, I climb out of bed to retrieve it myself before I join him.
He’s speaking in a gentle voice when I walk into Calliope’s room, too low for me to make out the words. I watch him lift our daughter from her crib like she’s a wounded puppy. She curls around him, making the most pitiful sounds as he cuddles her and starts to sway.
“Owie, Daddy,” she whines.
“Come here, Calli-lilly,” I say, moving around Christian so I can swipe the thermometer across her forehead. It beeps almost immediately and my heart sinks. 101.2. She’s worse than yesterday. “Well, it looks like you’re going to get your wish. I’m going to have to take her to the doctor, so there’s no way I’m going into work today.”
He nods and brushes his hand softly over Calliope’s curls. “I’ll call Dr. Robinson if you’ll get her ready?”
I’m so used to doing absolutely everything on my own that his offer comes as a shock. “Oh, great! Thank you.”
He passes Calliope to me gingerly, then places a quick kiss against my lips before he darts from the room. Calliope starts to cry the moment her daddy isn’t in her sights anymore, so I sing to her while I get her dressed. To my complete and utter shock, it works. She stops mid-wail, tears still rolling down her cheeks, and stares at me. Either her fever is making her hallucinate or The Beach Boys might actually be the cure for all ailes in life.
Once she and I are ready, we head downstairs to find her dad. He’s in the kitchen talking with Luke and Taylor.
“Yes, sir,” Taylor says with a nod. He turns away but Luke hangs awkwardly behind, looking as though he’s holding back from saying something.
“Was I unclear, Sawyer?” Christian asks.
“No, I just… If she’s not going into work and you’re going to be home all day… Can I… Could I take the day off?”
Christian raises an eyebrow at him. “You want a day off? You’ve never asked me for a day off in the entire time you’ve worked for me.”
“Yeah well, we were up late drinking last night and… uh, I hung out with Calliope all day yesterday. If she’s sick, I should probably…” he pauses, unsure of his next words. “Take it easy?”
Christian eyes him suspiciously, but nods. “Sure. Since I don’t intend to let Ana out of my sight, take the day.”
“Thanks, Grey.” Luke turns to me. “I’m going to get a hotel room, so I’ll see you in the morning?”
“You’re getting a hotel room?”
“Yeah. You know, there’s… contamination here, or whatever.”
I narrow my eyes at him. “What’s going on, Luke?”
“Nothing,” he says, but it’s the same tone he uses when he says ‘I don’t want to talk about it, Ana,’ which immediately tells me that whatever this is, it’s about Jade. He walks out of the kitchen. I pass Calliope to Christian and go after him.
He stops and turns to face me, folding his hands behind his back and giving me a passive look. “Yes, Mrs. Grey?”
“Don’t Mrs. Grey me, and don’t act like I don’t know you well enough to know you’re not getting a hotel room to avoid Calliope’s germs.”
He laughs. “Brilliant work, detective.”
Oh yeah, if he’s being this evasive, it’s definitely about Jade. I just need to make him say it.
“Why don’t you want to stay here tonight, Luke?”
“Because Taylor has very strict rules about staff bringing random girls back to your house for the night and I don’t plan on adding a request for a background check to my seduction technique.”
The excitement boiling inside of me fizzles out in an instant. He’s not going to see her. He’s just in the grief stage where he wants to fuck anything with two legs.
For all his talk about not being Kate, they’re exactly the same person.
“Luke… that’s not going to make any of this easier. Don’t you remember what you said to me when Christian and I were broken up and I was dealing with it by partying four nights a week?”
He snorts. “Four nights a week? Really trying to rewrite history here, aren’t you?”
I narrow my eyes at him. “You can’t lose her by losing yourself, and that’s not the guy you are.”
“Well maybe I’m not ready to lose her.” He turns around and walks through the living room and down the hallway that leads to the staff quarters at the back of the house. I want to go after him, but Christian’s already packing up to go.
“Ready, baby?” he asks.
“Yeah.” I take Calliope, then grasp his hand and let him tug us both out to the garage. Once again, Calliope lies limply in her carseat, looking miserable. She doesn’t say anything, or make any noises at all really as we head out to the freeway. It makes me wish I’d sat in the back with her again. I reach back to hold her hand and the car is suddenly filled with the sounds of an incoming phone call. Christian pushes a finger into the bluetooth.
“Good morning, you brilliant, magnificent, always right when I am wrong, titan amongst mere mortal men… uh… look I’m really bad at grovelling. Can you just accept that that’s what I’m trying to do here so we can move on?”
Christian laughs. “But I was enjoying it.”
She groans. “You were right, okay? I’m sorry that I doubted you.”
“Thank you, but I actually didn’t ask you to call so I could say, ‘I told you so.’ I’m going to have Jacquline release a statement about the fusion project this afternoon and I expect there will be a good deal of press about it over the next few days. I think that’s a good opportunity to re-evaluate our prospects with Gutierrez in Texas.”
“He signed with Gallagher, Christian.”
“And once I make a phone call to the Department of Financial Services in New York, Gallagher Corporation is going to be in serious danger of losing their telecom licensing. Guitierrez is about to find himself looking for a licensed fiber optics contractor, and I think the media coverage GEH is about to enjoy might just draw his attention.”
“I guess I could send him some of our updated numbers… I don’t know, it kind of feels like a dirty move, don’t you think? Gallagher isn’t going to just take this lying down.”
“It is a dirty move. And it’s only my first. If Gallagher has a problem with what’s about to happen, she should have been a little more respectful when she had the opportunity. Get me Gutierrez, Ros. No excuses.”
“Alright, I’ll reach out to his office and let you know what he says.”
“Good. Tomorrow, though. I’m unavailable for the rest of the day.” He hangs up the phone and glances back in the mirror, though I think he’s looking at Calliope instead of the traffic.
“What was that?” I ask.
“A statement,” he replies easily. “One every person who tried to come for me is about to hear loud and clear.”
I feel a strong sense of trepidation brewing in my gut, but before I can figure out how to voice my concerns, a more pressing one presents itself.
“Where are you going?”
Christian signals, then takes an exit off the freeway he shouldn’t take if he’s trying to get to Calliope’s pediatrician’s office.
“Dr. Robinson’s office said they couldn’t see her until three,” Christian says, turning again, and now I know exactly where he’s heading. “So I called my mom.”
A few minutes later, we pull into the parking lot of Seattle Children’s Hospital. I stare at the imposing stone and glass structure and shake my head. “Calliope has a fever, Christian. Your mother is a pediatric surgeon. This place is for children with cancer. Don’t you think this is a little overkill?”
“Do I ever think anything is overkill?”
“Your mother’s time is valuable.”
“Then it’s a good thing she values Calliope more than her time.”
He gets out of the car and pulls Calliope out of her carseat. I follow him through the automatic doors into the sterile reception area, but we bypass the desk. He walks straight to the surgery floor, then turns a charming smile on the young woman sitting at the nurses station.
“I’m looking for Dr. Trevelyan-Grey.”
She blinks up at him and flushes a deep scarlet. “Yes, Mr. Grey. She’s expecting you. If you want to take Calliope down to room 201, I’ll have her meet you there.”
“Thank you.” Taking my hand once more, we make our way to the room she mentioned, flip on the lights, and close ourselves inside. Christian takes the chair in the corner. I perch on the exam table, holding Calliope in my lap.
Both of us use the time to scroll through our emails. I even reply to a less than thrilled one from Carmen, which is a response to the message I sent letting her know I’d be out again today. She seems less confident than Christian was that I’ll be effective working from home.
“Good morning,” Grace says, sweeping through the door dressed in a white coat and sporting a huge smile on her face. Her eyes immediately zero in on Calliope, and, as she sees the sad look in her eyes and the pink in her cheeks, she gives an overdramatized look of compassion. “My poor baby, do you not feel good?”
Calliope recedes into me instead of responding. Grace nods and sets about the room, collecting what she needs to take Callie’s vitals. She’s sluggish, so it’s difficult to get her to cooperate with anything. Grace has to check her nose and throat over my shoulder.
“Oh, I think we’ve found the problem,” she says when she places the tip of her scope into Calliope’s ear and she immediately screams and jerks away. I offer her soothing words, promising her Gigi isn’t going to hurt her. Grace peers through the device into my baby’s ear. “Yeah, she’s got a lot of fluid build up. I’ll take a swab and run it down to the lab, but I think it’s probable that she’s got a middle ear infection.”
“Oh, Calli-Lilly,” I pout, cuddling her close to me.
“What does that mean for her?” Christian asks.
“Well, she’s probably in some pain, so I’d get her some baby Tylenol. That’ll also help with her fever. But other than that, it should clear up on its own in a few days.”
“What?” Christian snaps. “Clear up on its own? She has an infection! Don’t you think she needs… antibiotics or something?”
“No, the fluid will drain in a few days and it’ll take the infection with it. If it doesn’t, then we have a bigger problem and we’ll probably have to put in some drainage tubes, but let’s not worry about that until it happens.”
“So you’re telling me that my daughter has a middle ear infection and the best you’re going to give me is, ‘give her baby aspirin’?”
“Tylenol,” Grace corrects him. “She needs acetaminophen for her fever, there’s no acetaminophen in aspirin.”
“The medical professionals in this town, I swear to God.”
“Christian, this is good news,” I tell him. “It means she’s not as sick as we thought.” He’s grumbling to himself, ignoring me. I turn to Grace. “Thank you. I’m sorry we interrupted your day for this.”
“Oh, it is a terrible imposition. But you could pay me back by giving me another grandchild who will get sick and interrupt another one of my very important days.” She smiles, but Christian gives her a severe look.
“That’s not going to happen.”
Grace frowns at him. “Then I’ll send you my bill.”
“Good.” Chrisitan kisses his mother’s cheeks, then takes Calliope from me, giving her a look that says he’s sorry no one is taking her debilitating disease as seriously as he is. We wait for about 15 minutes until the lab results come back confirming Calliope’s ear infection, then collect the prescription Grace had written out and given to her MA that just says ‘baby TYLENOL’ on it. Christian crumples it in his fist, but puts it in his pocket instead of throwing it away.
He insists that we stop by a pharmacy on the way home, despite the fact that I have plenty of baby Tylenol at the house. Then he corners a pharmacist and spends five minutes having a serious discussion about the best way to dispense the medicine, dissolvable tablets or a liquid.
We end up with both.
Once we get home, Christian immediately gets to work setting things up for Calliope. He makes her a little bed made of blankets, pillows, and couch cushions, then he sets her up with a humidifier and places a lukewarm compress against her ear. He gives her a dose of Tylenol, lies down on the floor next to her, and turns on her favorite cartoons.
I bring them both a plate of lunch.
“I need to go get some work done. Can I get you anything?”
He looks up at me serenely, his hand gently stroking Calliope’s arm, and shakes his head. I frown down at them, because I want nothing more than to be doing exactly what he is. But I missed most of my day yesterday, and the Greenwich Library is a gigantic undertaking that requires tasks to be completed daily in order for it to be ready in time for it’s launch date. So, I lean down and kiss them both, then drag myself to my office.
It’s rough. There’s more than enough in my inbox alone to keep me busy for hours, but I can’t lose myself in it. My mind is completely occupied with Calliope. Trudging through the hours as I separate manuscript prospects, approve previous titles for inclusion in the library, send a few emails back and forth with legal regarding the changes in our contracts, and review shipping manifests for both the printing press and the warehouse, feels like fighting a war. Each task I accomplish just makes me look at everything I still have left to do. Things I wouldn’t get done today regardless of whether or not I was at home. I can feel myself getting overwhelmed, but I manage to calm myself, remind myself of the stakes, and labor through my endless to-do list.
Eventually, Christian comes to rescue me.
“It’s six o’clcok,” he says, grabbing the arms of my chair and physically turning me away from my computer. “You’re off the clock.”
“Okay, I just need to…”
He silences me with a kiss, refusing to allow any excuses. “It’s six o’clock, Anastasia.”
“It’s six o’clock,” I agree. Then I pull away from him, log off my profile, and shut down my computer. He smiles at me.
“I’ve missed you.”
“Me too. Where’s Calliope?”
“In bed. Mackensie put her down about forty minutes ago. I was just going to go wake her up for dinner, but I thought I’d come get you first.” He gives me a pointed look. “I knew you’d be the difficult one.”
He nods. “She moved back in this morning.”
I squeal and run out to the living room to hug her, but the moment I walk through my office door, I smell the most enticing smell I could imagine and it makes me stop as suddenly as if I hit a brick wall.
They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and oh-ho-ho did I not know what I had in Gail until I’d lost her. Every single day has been more overwhelming than the last since she left as I’ve had to face the magnitude of exactly how much she really does for us.
However much Christian paid her to come back, it isn’t enough.
The reunion I have with Gail is tearful, as is the reunion I have with her cooking. Actual tears of joy spring to my eyes as I dive into her seared scallops. Christian laughs at me over his glass of wine.
Having dinner together in our home feels like a rare privilege. We’ve almost forgotten how to work together to feed the baby and ourselves. Each time we bump into one another, or knock something over onto the table trying to get out of the other’s way, we start to laugh. He takes my apparently very clumsy hands in his after I accidentally push down on the serving dish and scorch part of my palm, and brings them to his lips.
“Better?” he asks, placing one last soft kiss on the already fading red mark. I nod, humming in gratitude. Then we start moving in tandem again, better this time, like taking just a moment to physically connect was all it took to fall right back into our old habits.
Once dinner is over, Christian carries Calliope to the tub and does most of the work bathing her while I hover over him and enjoy watching them interacting with one another. She’s different tonight, despite the fact that she doesn’t feel well she’s happier and much less resistant. I know that it’s because she’s missed this, having us both here to give her our complete and undivided attention. So when Christian insists he be the one to dress her in her pajamas and then sweeps her into his lap for her bedtime story, my heart feels full beyond capacity again.
“Hey,”I say, grabbing on to his t-shirt to stop him from walking away after we’ve gotten Calliope to sleep and closed her door behind us. He turns to me, one eyebrow cocked. I move to wrap my arms around his middle. “I love you.”
He smiles, surprised by my declaration but pleased that I’ve made it. “I love you too.”
I rise up onto my tiptoes and brush my lips against his, leaving feather soft kisses against his mouth until he finally takes over and pulls me deep into him. We’d talked earlier about maybe cuddling together on the couch and watching a movie tonight, but those plans are quickly abandoned and he walks me back to our bedroom without ever breaking our kiss.
Once we’re inside, he tosses me on the bed like a ragdoll, an implied warning for me to stay exactly where he’s left me as he turns back to close the door and dim the lights. I sit on my knees and watch him move around the room. My breath catches in my throat when he reaches behind his head and yanks his t-shirt off.
Even after all these years, he still manages to take my breath away. Every. Single. Time.
“Get the fuck over here,” I tell him, my voice strained almost as tightly as his pants. He folds his arms over that strong, beautiful chest, and cocks an eyebrow at me.
“That sounded an awful lot like a demand.”
“Maybe it was.”
His eyes flame at me from under hooded lids and the muscles in his arms twitch. It should make me nervous, but it doesn’t. It excites me. Makes me drip for him. Makes me willing to do anything he asks so long as I get my hands on him.
He licks his lips, unable to conceal his hunger. “Don’t move.”
A shiver runs through me while I watch him stock off for his closet and I actually feel my clit start to throb. I want to call him back to me, but I know that will only make him take longer. Instead, I strip out of all my clothes and lay back against the pillows, breathing him in while I listen to the ominous sound of leather and metal buckles clinking at me from the closet. For half a second, I almost consider touching myself while I wait.
“I told you not to move,” Christian’s icy voice calls when he’s stepped out of the closet. I furrow my brow at him.
“I left you dressed.” He drops a set of restraints on the bed. “I was very much looking forward to peeling every stitch of fabric off of you…”
I swallow and stare at him for a moment, considering my next move. Despite the restraints, I know he intends to make love to me tonight. It’s my decision now if I want to let him follow through with his plans, or if I’d rather coax out the dominant.
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t have taken so fucking long.”
Dominant it is.
He’s on me in the next second, his body pinning me to the bed so I can’t move. His hand grabs hold of a fist full of my hair, then he forces me to look in his eyes.
“You think that smart mouth of yours is going to taunt me into giving you what you want?” he hisses in my ear, the words verging on threatening. The throb in my clit intensifies. “You should know by now that you’re only going to get what I want to give you. What I want to take from you. And I know you fucking love that. No matter how desperate you get for me to make you come, you’d give it up just to please me.”
I whimper, angling my pelvis to his, trying to get some kind of friction.
“Say it, Ana.”
I want to. It’s true, after all. He could force me down on my knees right now and order me to suck his cock, come down my throat, and not touch me for the rest of the night, and I’d still fall asleep feeling accomplished. But I don’t want that. I want his touch. I want his tongue. I want him to fuck me.
“Say it, Ana,” he repeats, his tone harsher this time.
“Christian, please…” I squirm against him again. “I’ll beg.”
“I don’t want to hear you beg. I want you to tell me what you really want.”
It’s a final warning. If I don’t give him what he wants, he’ll spank me next. Although, that just makes me feel like I shouldn’t say it…
“I want to please you, Christian,” I say anyway. “Nothing else matters, just use me.”
He gives me a wicked smile. “Put your hands over your head.”
I do, and he reaches down for the restraints, securing each one to my wrists and to the bed. He pulls them so tight that I can’t even adjust the way my arm stretches helplessly over my head. The leather bites into my skin when I try, and it makes my nipples harden.
“Beautiful,” he says, bending down to flick his tongue around my pebbled flesh. I moan, arching my back to push my breast deeper into his mouth. To my surprise, he doesn’t punish my rapacity. He sucks, hard, against my breast, while his hands move up to firmly kneed the other one. My mouth drops open, the moans turning into silent screams of pleasure. I almost think I could come just like this.
Then he stops.
“Wait, no…” I beg. He climbs onto the bed, sliding his knee across the comforter until it’s pressed into my ribs. Then he swings the other over me and leans over to support himself on the headboard. His cock swings heavily, directly in front of my lips.
I comply without hesitation. There’s only so much of him I can take, since I can’t really move, and that makes him start to thrust. I moan around him, looking up at him, and then letting my eyes roll back into my head when he pushes into my throat. He groans and the gentle strokes he’s making in and out of my mouth, suddenly become much more insistent.
I refuse to let his brutality be the factor behind his orgasm. While he grips my hair and thrusts deep into my throat, I swallow to make it tighter. I move the flat of my tongue around every part of him I can reach. I pull hard on him with my cheeks and with my lips. I feel him stiffen, swollen now to his absolute limit, so I expect him to pull back.
“I’m going to come,” he warns me. “Swallow.”
I can only hum my response and pull as much of him into my mouth as I can manage without breaking my restraints. It’s enough, because he calls out a strangled version of my name, and I feel him explode in a salty surge down my throat. Once he’s empty, he thrusts a few more times. Slower. More shallow. Then he pulls out, moves down the bed, and yanks my legs open with a kind of rude indifference that tells me he’s the one in control.
I can’t help it. The display of ownership has me burning with need for him. So the second his tongue slides across my clit, I come apart. It’s intense, weeks worth of missed connection and unreleased desire compounding the pleasure until my entire body trembles and I’m screaming his name. One long arm reaches up my body, his hand moving up to silence me while his mouth continues to devour me. The second I come down, he starts building me towards my second orgasm. It hits just as hard as the first and I end up thrashing so violently against my restraints, his hand slips and I accidentally bite down on his finger.
“Fuck, Ana!” he rasps, pulling away and then slamming his cock into me as I ride the final waves of my orgasm. He grunts, fighting against the pulses of my inner walls that try to push him out. Forcing himself in anyway.
“Yes!” I cry out. “Oh, god! That’s so good!”
“Quiet,” he warns, his mouth licking and sucking at mine between words. “You’ll wake the baby.”
I press my lips together, so hard my teeth are digging into them from the inside, and choke down my screams.
“Good girl,” he praises me. The angle changes slightly as he pushes my knees up into my breasts and opens me more to him. Again, I force a deep, pleasure induced sob back down. “Can you take more and stay quiet?”
I nod and he thrusts harder.
“More?” he growls again. I close my eyes, wrap my fingers around the leather restraints, and nod again.
It’s harder to hold back once he really lets himself go. The dirty words he whispers in my ear and the punishing rhythm he uses to pound in and out of me all have me so hot, I feel like I could combust.
When I do, my orgasm sparks deep in my gut and explodes through my entire body like fireworks. He once again brings his mouth to mine. With his lips muffling the sounds of my cries, I let them go. I don’t even try to hold back, and it has him thrusting into me so hard there’s a worrying creak coming from the frame of our bed.
He looks up at the headboard, taking his lips from mine, and I have to bite down on his shoulder to keep myself from screaming again. He hisses in pain, but it makes him start to thrust more urgently. His eyes are strained as he stares down into mine. Then every part of him tightens and the low but guttural sounds that force their way out from deep inside his chest make me feel like the sexiest woman alive. When he comes, I feel it fill me with surprising force. I wrap my legs around him, holding him inside of me, making sure he gives me all of it.
Maybe I am greedy tonight.
We lie there for a long time. Our breathing slows, and our heart rates return to normal. He doesn’t roll off of me. He nuzzles me, leaves soft kisses against the skin of my throat.
“Hm?” he hums, his content obvious.
“Can I have my hands back?”
“Oh, sorry…” He gives me a guilty look as he reaches up and releases the restraints. There are angry looking marks on each of my wrists, which he kisses tenderly before I wrap my arms around him.
“God, this feels good,” he says, and I laugh.
“Well, I should hope so…”
“No, not that.” He rolls his eyes. “Though, also that… But I mean just being here with you. Seeing Calliope during the day, getting to spend time with her while she’s awake… it feels so fucking good.”
“I know. It feels good to have you home too.”
“And I am home. Until Calliope is ready to go back to daycare. I’ll stay home with her so you can focus on your project.”
My face morphs with shock. “Really? You will?”
“You did it for me.”
I bite my lip, the gratitude and love swelling in my chest warring with one another so the victor can tumble out of me and land on Christian. I don’t wait to see which wins out, I release them both by molding my lips to his and whispering, “thank you,” over and over again.
He grins against my mouth and wags his eyebrows at me.
“Don’t thank me yet…” he says, then he starts to move down my body again.