Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fifty Shades Darker CHAPTER 14


Christian on his knees at my feet, holding me with his steady gray gaze, is the most chilling and sobering sight I have ever seen—more so than Leila and her gun. The vague alcoholic fuzziness I’m suffering from evaporates in an instant and is replaced by a prickling scalp and a creeping sense of doom as the blood drains from my face.
I inhale sharply with shock. No. No, this is wrong, so wrong and so disturbing.
“Christian, please, don’t do this. I don’t want this.”
He continues to regard me passively, not moving, saying nothing.
Oh fuck. My poor Fifty. My heart squeezes and twists. What the hell have I done to him? Tears prick my eyes.
“Why are you doing this? Talk to me,” I whisper.
He blinks once.
“What would you like me to say?” he says softly, blandly, and for a moment I’m relieved that he’s talking, but not like this—no. No.
Tears begin to ooze down my cheeks, and suddenly it is too much to see him in the same prostrate position as the pathetic creature that was Leila. The image of a powerful man who’s really still a little boy, who was horrifically abused and neglected, who feels
unworthy of love from his perfect family and his much-less-than perfect girlfriend . . . my lost boy . . . it’s heartbreaking.
Compassion, loss, and despair all swell in my heart, and I feel a choking sense of desperation. I am going to have to fight to bring him back, to bring back my Fifty.
The thought of me dominating anyone is appalling. The thought of dominating Christian is nauseating. It would make me like her—the woman who did this to him.
I shudder at that thought, fighting the bile in my throat. No way can I do that. No way do I want that.
As my thoughts clear, I can see only one way. Not taking my eyes off his, I sink to my knees in front of him.
The wooden floor is hard against my shins, and I dash my tears away roughly with the back of my hand.
Like this, we are equals. We’re on a level. This is the only way I’m going to retrieve him.
His eyes widen fractionally as I stare up at him, but beyond that his expression and stance don’t change.
“Christian, you don’t have to do this,” I plead. “I’m not going to run. I’ve told you and told you and told you, I won’t run.” All that’s happened . . . it’s overwhelming. I just need some time to think . . . some time to myself. Why do you always assume the worst?” My heart clenches again because I know; it’s because he’s so doubting, so full of self-loathing.
Elena’s words come back to haunt me. “Does she know how negative you are about yourself? About all your issues?”
Oh, Christian. Fear grips my heart once more and I start babbling, “I was going to suggest going back to my apartment this evening. You never give me any time . . . time to just think things through,” I sob, and a ghost of a frown crosses his face. “Just time to think. We barely know each other, and all this baggage that comes with you . . . I need . . . I need time to think it through. And now that Leila is . . . well, whatever she is . . . she’s off the streets and not a threat . . . I thought . . . I thought . . .” My voice trails off and I stare at him. He regards me intently and I think he’s listening
“Seeing you with Leila . . .” I close my eyes as the painful memory of his interaction with his ex-sub gnaws at me anew. “It was such a shock. I had a glimpse into how your life has been . . . and . . .” I gaze down at my knotted fingers, tears still trickling down my cheeks. “This is about me not being good enough for you. It was an insight into your life, and I am so scared you’ll get bored with me, and then you’ll go . . . and I’ll end up like Leila . . . a shadow. Because I love you, Christian, and if you leave me, it will be like a world without light. I’ll be in darkness. I don’t want to run. I’m just so frightened you’ll leave me . . .”
I realize as I say these words to him—in the hope that he’s listening—what my real problem is. I just don’t get why he likes me. I have never understood why he likes me.
“I don’t understand why you find me attractive,” I murmur. “You’re, well, you’re you . . . and I’m . . .” I shrug and gaze up at him. “I just don’t see it. You’re beautiful and sexy and successful and good and kind and caring—all those things—and I’m not. And I can’t do the things you like to do. I can’t give you what you need. How could you be happy with me? How can I possibly hold you?” My voice is a whisper as I express my darkest
fears. “I have never understood what you see in me. And seeing you with her, it brought all that home.” I sniff and wipe my nose with the back of my hand, gazing at his impassive expression.
Oh, he’s so exasperating. Talk to me, damn it!
“Are you going to kneel here all night? Because I’ll do it, too,” I snap at him.
I think his expression softens—maybe he looks vaguely amused. But it’s so hard to tell.
I could reach across and touch him, but this would be a gross abuse of the position he’s put me in. I don’t want that, but I don’t know what he wants, or what he’s trying to say to me. I just don’t understand.
“Christian, please, please . . . talk to me,” I beseech him, wringing my hands in my lap. I am uncomfortable on my knees, but I continue to kneel, staring into his serious, beautiful, gray eyes, and I wait.
And wait.
And wait.
“Please,” I beg once more.
His intense gaze darkens suddenly and he blinks.
“I was so scared,” he whispers.
Oh, thank the Lord! Inside, my subconscious staggers back into her armchair, sagging with relief, and takes a large swig of gin.
He’s talking! Gratitude overwhelms me, and I swallow, trying to contain my emotion and the fresh bout of tears that threatens.
His voice is soft and low. “When I saw Ethan arrive outside, I knew someone had let you into your apartment. Both Taylor and I leapt out of the car. We knew and to see her there like that with you—and armed. I think I died a thousand deaths, Ana. Someone threatening you . . . all my worst fears realized. I was so angry, with her, with you, with Taylor, with myself.”
He shakes his head revealing his agony. “I didn’t know how volatile she would be. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how she’d react.” He stops and frowns. “And then she gave me a clue; she looked so contrite. And I just knew what I had to do.” He pauses, gazing at me, trying to gauge my reaction.
“Go on,” I whisper.
He swallows. “Seeing her in that state, knowing that I might have something to do with her mental breakdown . . .” He closes his eyes once more. “She was always so mischievous and lively.” He shudders and takes a rasping breath, almost like a sob. This is torture to listen to, but I kneel, attentive, lapping up this insight.
“She might have harmed you. And it would have been my fault.” His eyes drift off, filled with uncomprehending horror, and he’s silent once more.
“But she didn’t,” I whisper. “And you weren’t responsible for her being in that state, Christian.” I blink up at him, encouraging him to continue.
Then it dawns on me afresh that everything he did was to keep me safe, and perhaps Leila, too, because he also cares for her. But how much does he care for her? The question lingers in my head, unwelcome. He says he loves me, but then he was so harsh, throwing me out of my own apartment.
“I just wanted you gone,” he murmurs, with his uncanny ability to read my thoughts. “I wanted you away from the danger, and . . . You. Just. Wouldn’t. Go,” he hisses through clenched teeth and shakes his head. His exasperation is palpable.
He gazes at me intently. “Anastasia Steele, you are the most stubborn woman I know.” He closes his eyes and shakes his head once more in disbelief.
Oh, he’s back. I breathe a long, cleansing sigh of relief.
He opens his eyes again, and his expression is forlorn—sincere. “You weren’t going to run?” he asks.
He closes his eyes again and his whole body relaxes. When he opens his eyes, I can see his pain and anguish.
“I thought—” He stops. “This is me, Ana. All of me . . . and I’m all yours. What do I have to do to make you realize that? To make you see that I want you any way I can get you. That I love you.”
“I love you, too, Christian, and to see you like this is . . .” I choke and my tears start afresh. “I thought I’d broken you.”
“Broken? Me? Oh no, Ana. Just the opposite.” He reaches out and takes my hand. “You’re my lifeline,” he whispers, and he kisses my knuckles before pressing my palm against his.
With his eyes wide and full of fear, he gently tugs my hand and places it on his chest over his heart—in the forbidden zone. His breathing quickens. His heart is beating a frantic, pounding tattoo beneath my fingers. He doesn’t take his eyes off mine; his jaw is tense, his teeth clenched.
I gasp. Oh my Fifty! He’s letting me touch him. And it’s like all the air in my lungs has vaporized—gone. The blood is pounding in my ears as the rhythm of my heart rises to match his.
He releases my hand, leaving it in place over his heart. I flex my fingers slightly, feeling the warmth of his skin beneath the thin fabric of his shirt. He’s holding his breath. I can’t bear it. I make to move my hand.
“No,” he says quickly and places his hand once more over mine, pressing my fingers against him. “Don’t.”
Emboldened by these two words, I shuffle closer so our knees are touching and tentatively raise my other hand so that he knows exactly what I intend to do. His eyes grow wider but he doesn’t stop me.
Gently I start to undo the buttons on his shirt. It’s tricky with one hand. I flex my fingers beneath his hand and he lets go, allowing me to use both hands to undo his shirt. My eyes don’t leave his as I pull his shirt open, revealing his chest.
He swallows, and his lips part as his breathing increases, and I sense his rising panic, but he doesn’t pull away. Is he still in sub mode? I have no idea.
Should I do this? I don’t want to hurt him, physically or mentally. The sight of him like this, offering himself to me, has been a wake-up call.
I reach up, and my hand hovers over his chest, and I stare at him . . . asking his permission. Very subtly he tilts his head to one side, steeling himself in anticipation of my touch, and the tension radiates from him, but this time it’s not in anger—it’s in fear.
I hesitate. Can I really do this to him?
“Yes,” he breathes—again with the weird ability to answer my unspoken questions.
I extend my fingertips into his chest hair and lightly brush them down his sternum. He closes his eyes, and his face creases as if he’s experiencing intolerable pain. It’s unbearable to witness, so I lift my fingers immediately, but he quickly grabs my hand and replaces it firmly, flat on his bare chest so that the hair tickles my palm.
“No,” he says, his voice strained. “I need to.”
His eyes are screwed up so tightly. This must be agony. It’s truly tormenting to watch. Carefully I let my fingers stroke across his chest to his heart, marveling at the feel of him, terrified that this is a step too far.
He opens his eyes, and they are gray fire, blazing at me.
Holy cow. His look is blistering, feral, beyond intense, and his breathing is rapid. It stirs my blood. I squirm under his gaze.
He hasn’t stopped me, so I run my fingertips across his chest again, and his mouth goes slack. He’s panting, and I don’t know if it’s from fear, or something else.
I’ve wanted to kiss him there for so long that I lean up on my knees and hold his gaze for a moment, making my intention perfectly clear. Then I bend and gently plant a soft kiss above his heart, feeling his warm, sweet-smelling skin beneath my lips.
His strangled groan moves me so much that I sit back on my heels, fearful of what I’ll see on his face. His eyes are screwed tightly shut, but he hasn’t moved.
“Again,” he whispers, and I lean into his chest once more, this time to kiss one of his scars. He gasps, and I kiss another and another. He groans loudly, and suddenly his arms are around me, and his hand is in my hair, pulling my head up painfully so that my lips meet his insistent mouth. And we’re kissing, my fingers knotting into his hair.
“Oh, Ana,” he breathes, and he twists and pulls me down on to the floor so that I am underneath him. I bring my hands up to cup his beautiful face, and in that moment, I feel his tears.
He’s crying . . . no. No!
“Christian, please, don’t cry. I meant it when I said I’d never leave you. I did. If I gave you any other impression, I’m so sorry . . . please, please forgive me. I love you. I will always love you.”
He looms over me, gazing down into my face, and his expression is so pained.
“What is it?”
His eyes grow larger.
“What is this secret that makes you think I’ll run for the hills? That makes you so determined to believe I’ll go?” I plead, my voice tremulous. “Tell me, Christian, please . . .”
He sits up, though this time he crosses his legs and I follow suit, my legs outstretched. Vaguely I wonder if we can get off the floor? But I don’t want to interrupt his train of thought. He’s finally going to confide in me.
He gazes down at me, and he looks utterly desolate. Oh shit—it’s bad.
“Ana . . .” He pauses, searching for the words, his expression pained . . . Oh? Where the hell is this going?
He takes a deep breath and swallows. “I’m a sadist, Ana. I like to whip little brown-haired girls like you because you all look like the crack whore—my birth mother. I’m sure
you can guess why.” He says it in a rush as if he’s had the sentence in his head for days and days and is desperate to be rid of it.
My world stops. Oh no.
This is not what I expected. This is bad. Really bad. I gaze at him, trying to understand the implication of what he’s just said. It does explain why we all look the same.
My immediate thought is that Leila was right—“Master is dark.”
I recall the first conversation I had with him about his tendencies when we were in the Red Room of Pain.
“You said you weren’t a sadist,” I whisper, desperately trying to understand . . . make some excuse for him.
“No, I said I was a Dominant. If I lied to you, it was a lie of omission. I’m sorry.” He looks briefly down at his manicured fingernails.
I think he’s mortified. Mortified about lying to me? Or about what he is?
“When you asked me that question, I had envisioned a very different relationship between us,” he murmurs. I can tell by his gaze that he’s terrified.
Then it hits me like a wrecking ball. If he’s a sadist, he really needs all that whipping and caning shit. Oh fuck. I put my head in my hands.
“So it’s true,” I whisper, glancing up at him. “I can’t give you what you need.” This is it—this really does mean we are incompatible.
The world starts falling away at my feet, collapsing around me as panic grips my throat. This is it. We can’t do this.
He frowns. “No, No, No. Ana. No. You can. You do give me what I need.” He clenches his fists. “Please believe me,” he murmurs, his words an impassioned plea.
“I don’t know what to believe, Christian. This is so fucked-up,” I whisper, my throat hoarse and aching as it closes in, choking me with unshed tears.
His eyes are wide and luminous when he looks at me again.
“Ana, believe me. After I punished you and you left me, my worldview changed. I wasn’t joking when I said I would avoid ever feeling like that again.” He gazes at me with pained entreaty. “When you said you loved me, it was a revelation. No one’s ever said it to me before, and it was as if I’d laid something to rest—or maybe you’d laid it to rest, I don’t know. Dr. Flynn and I are still in deep discussion about it.”
Oh. Hope flares briefly in my heart. Perhaps we’ll be okay. I want us to be okay. Don’t I? “What does that all mean?” I whisper.
“It means I don’t need it. Not now.”
What? “How do you know? How can you be so sure?”
“I just know. The thought of hurting you . . . in any real way . . . it’s abhorrent to me.”
“I don’t understand. What about rulers and spanking and all that kinky fuckery?”
He runs a hand through his hair and almost smiles but instead sighs ruefully. “I’m talking about the heavy shit, Anastasia. You should see what I can do with a cane or a cat.”
My mouth drops open, stunned. “I’d rather not.”
“I know. If you wanted to do that, then fine . . . but you don’t and I get it. I can’t do all that shit with you if you don’t want to. I told you once before, you have all the power. And now, since you came back, I don’t feel that compulsion, at all.”
I gape at him for a moment trying to take this all in. “When we met, that’s what you wanted, though?”
“Yes, undoubtedly.”
“How can your compulsion just go, Christian? Like I’m some kind of panacea, and you’re—for want of a better word—cured? I don’t get it.”
He sighs once more. “I wouldn’t say cured . . . You don’t believe me?”
“I just find it—unbelievable. Which is different.”
“If you’d never left me, then I probably wouldn’t feel this way. You walking out on me was the best thing you ever did . . . for us. It made me realize how much I want you, just you, and I mean it when I say I’ll take you any way I can have you.”
I gaze at him. Can I believe this? My head hurts just trying to think this all through, and deep down I feel . . . numb.
“You’re still here. I thought you would be out of the door by now,” he whispers.
“Why? Because I might think you’re a sicko for whipping and fucking women who look like your mother? Whatever would give you that impression?” I hiss at him, lashing out.
He blanches at my harsh words.
“Well, I wouldn’t have put it quite like that, but yes,” he says, his eyes wide and hurt.
His expression is sobering and I regret my outburst. I frown, feeling a pang of guilt.
Oh, what am I going to do? I gaze at him and he looks contrite, sincere . . . he looks like my Fifty.
And unbidden I recall the photograph in his childhood bedroom, and in that moment realize why the woman in it looked so familiar. She looked like him. She must have been his biological mother.
His easy dismissal of her comes to mind: No one of consequence . . . She’s responsible for all this . . . and I look like her . . . Fuck!
He stares at me, eyes raw, and I know he’s waiting for my next move. He seems genuine. He’s said he loves me, but I’m really confused.
This is all so fucked-up. He’s reassured me about Leila, but now I know with more certainty than ever how she was able to give him his kicks. The thought is wearying and unpalatable. I am so tired of all this.
“Christian, I’m exhausted. Can we discuss this tomorrow? I want to go to bed.”
He blinks at me in surprise. “You’re not going?”
“Do you want me to go?”
“No! I thought you would leave once you knew.”
All the times he’s alluded to me leaving once I knew his darkest secrets flash through my mind . . . and now I know. Shit. Master is dark.
Should I leave? I gaze at him, this crazy man that I love, yes love.
Can I leave him? I left him once before, and it nearly broke me . . . and him. I love him. I know that in spite of this revelation.
“Don’t leave me,” he whispers.
“Oh, for crying out loud—no! I am not going to go!” I shout and it’s cathartic. There, I’ve said it. I am not leaving.
“Really?” His eyes widen.
“What can I do to make you understand I will not run? What can I say?”
He gazes at me, revealing his fear and anguish again. He swallows. “There is one thing you can do.”
“What?” I snap.
“Marry me,” he whispers.
What? Did he really just—
For the second time in less than half an hour my world stops.
Holy fuck. I stare at the deeply fucked-up man I love. I can’t believe what he’s just said.
Marriage? He’s proposing marriage? Is he kidding? I can’t help it—a small, nervous, disbelieving giggle erupts from deep inside. I bite my lip to stop it from turning into full-scale hysterical laughter and fail miserably. I lie back flat on the floor and surrender myself to the laughter, laughing as I’ve never laughed before, huge healing cathartic howls of laughter.
And for a moment I am on my own, looking down at this absurd situation, a giggling, overwhelmed girl beside a beautiful fucked-up boy. I drape my arm across my eyes, as my laughter turns to scalding tears. No, no . . . this is too much.
As the hysteria subsides, Christian gently lifts my arm off my face. I turn and gaze up at him.
He’s leaning over me. His mouth is twisted with wry amusement, but his eyes are a burning gray, maybe wounded. Oh no.
He gently wipes away a stray tear with the back of his knuckles. “You find my proposal amusing, Miss Steele?”
Oh, Fifty! Reaching up, I caress his cheek tenderly, enjoying the feel of the stubble beneath my fingers. Lord, I love this man.
“Mr. Grey . . . Christian. Your sense of timing is without doubt . . .” I gaze up at him as words fail me.
He smirks at me, but the crinkling around his eyes shows me that he’s hurt. It’s sobering.
“You’re cutting me to the quick here, Ana. Will you marry me?”
I sit up and lean over him, placing my hands on his knees. I stare into his lovely face. “Christian, I’ve met your psycho ex with a gun, been thrown out of my apartment, had you go thermonuclear Fifty on me—”
He opens his mouth to speak, but I hold up my hand. He obediently shuts his mouth.
“You’ve just revealed some, quite frankly, shocking information about yourself, and now you’ve asked me to marry you.”
He moves his head from side to side as if considering the facts. He’s amused. Thank heavens.
“Yes, I think that’s a fair and accurate summary of the situation,” he says dryly.
I shake my head at him. “Whatever happened to delayed gratification?”
“I got over it, and I’m now a firm advocate of instant gratification. Carpe diem, Ana,” he whispers.
“Look Christian, I’ve known you for about three minutes, and there’s so much more I need to know. I’ve had too much to drink, I’m hungry, I’m tired, and I want to go to bed. I need to consider your proposal just as I considered that contract you gave me. And”—I
press my lips together to show my displeasure but also to lighten the mood between us—“that wasn’t the most romantic proposal.”
He tilts his head to one side and his lips quirk up in a smile. “Fair point well made, as ever, Miss Steele,” he breathes, his voice laced with relief. “So that’s not a no?”
I sigh. “No, Mr. Grey, it’s not a no, but it’s not a yes either. You’re only doing this because you’re scared, and you don’t trust me.”
“No, I’m doing this because I’ve finally met someone I want to spend the rest of my life with.”
Oh. My heart skips a beat and inside I melt. How is it that in the middle of the most fucked-up situations he can say the most romantic things? My mouth pops open in shock.
“I never thought that would happen to me,” he continues, his expression radiating pure undiluted sincerity.
I gape at him, searching for the right words.
“Can I think about it . . . please? And think about everything else that’s happened today? What you’ve just told me? You asked for patience and faith. Well, back at you, Grey. I need those now.”
His eyes search mine and after a beat, he leans forward and tucks my hair behind my ear.
“I can live with that.” He kisses me quickly on the lips. “Not very romantic, eh?” He raises his eyebrows, and I give him an admonishing shake of my head. “Hearts and flowers?” he asks softly.
I nod and he gives me a slight smile.
“You’re hungry?”
“You didn’t eat.” His eyes frost and his jaw hardens.
“No, I didn’t eat.” I sit back on my heels and regard him passively. “Being thrown out of my apartment after witnessing my boyfriend interacting intimately with his ex-submissive considerably suppressed my appetite.” I glare at him and fist my hands on my hips.
Christian shakes his head and rises gracefully to his feet. Oh, finally we can get off the floor. He holds his hand out to me.
“Let me fix you something to eat,” he says.
“Can’t I just go to bed?” I mutter wearily as I place my hand in his.
He pulls me up. I am stiff. He gazes down at me, his expression soft.
“No, you need to eat. Come.” Bossy Christian is back, and it’s a relief.
He leads me to the kitchen area and ushers me toward a bar stool as he heads to the fridge. I glance at my watch. Jeez, nearly eleven thirty and I have to get up for work in the morning.
“Christian, I’m really not hungry.”
He studiously ignores me as he ferrets through the enormous fridge. “Cheese?” he asks.
“Not at this hour.”
“In the fridge? No,” I snap.
He turns and grins at me. “You don’t like pretzels?”
“Not at eleven thirty. Christian, I’m going to bed. You can rummage around in your refrigerator for the rest of the night if you want. I’m tired, and I’ve had far too interesting a day. A day I’d like to forget.” I slide off the stool and he scowls at me, but right now I don’t care. I want to go to bed—I’m exhausted.
“Macaroni and cheese?” He holds up a white bowl lidded with foil. He looks so hopeful and endearing.
“You like macaroni and cheese?” I ask.
He nods enthusiastically, and my heart melts. He looks so young all of a sudden. Who would have thought? Christian Grey likes nursery food.
“You want some?” he asks, sounding hopeful. I can’t resist him and I’m hungry.
I nod and give him a weak smile. His answering grin is breathtaking. He takes the foil off the bowl and pops it into the microwave. I perch back on the stool and watch the beauty that is Mr. Christian Grey—the man who wants to marry me—move gracefully and with ease around his kitchen.
“So you know how to use the microwave then?” I tease softly.
“If it’s in a packet, I can usually do something with it. It’s real food I have a problem with.”
I cannot believe this is the same man who was on his knees in front of me not half an hour before. He’s his usual mercurial self. He sets out plates, cutlery, and placemats on the breakfast bar.
“It’s very late,” I mutter.
“Don’t go to work tomorrow.”
“I have to go to work tomorrow. My boss is leaving for New York.”
Christian frowns. “Do you want to go there this weekend?”
“I checked the weather forecast, and it looks like rain,” I say, shaking my head.
“Oh, so what do you want to do?”
The microwave’s ping announces that our supper is warmed through.
“I just want to get through one day at a time at the moment. All this excitement is . . . tiring.” I raise an eyebrow at him, which he judiciously ignores.
Christian places the white bowl in between our place settings and takes his seat beside me. He looks deep in thought, distracted. I dish the macaroni onto our plates. It smells divine, and my mouth waters in anticipation. I am famished.
“Sorry about Leila,” he murmurs.
“Why are you sorry?” Mmm, the macaroni tastes as good as it smells. My stomach grumbles gratefully.
“It must have been a terrible shock for you, finding her in your apartment. Taylor swept it earlier himself. He’s very upset.”
“I don’t blame Taylor.”
“Neither do I. He’s been out looking for you.”
“Really? Why?”
“I didn’t know where you were. You left your purse, your phone. I couldn’t even track you. Where did you go?” he asks. His voice is soft, but there’s an ominous undercurrent to his words.
“Ethan and I just went to a bar across the street. So I could watch what was happening.”
“I see.” The atmosphere between us has changed subtly. It’s no longer light.
Okay, well . . . two can play that game. Let’s just bring this back to you, Fifty. Trying to sound nonchalant, wanting to assuage my burning curiosity but dreading the answer, I ask, “So what did you do with Leila in the apartment?”
I glance up at him, and he freezes with his forkful of macaroni suspended in midair. Oh no, that’s not good.
“You really want to know?”
A knot tightens in my gut and my appetite vanishes. “Yes,” I whisper. Do you? Do you really? My subconscious has thrown her empty bottle of gin on the floor and is sitting up in her armchair, glaring at me in horror.
Christian’s mouth flattens into a line, and he hesitates. “We talked, and I gave her a bath.” His voice is hoarse, and he continues quickly when I make no response. “And I dressed her in some of your clothes. I hope you don’t mind. But she was filthy.”
Holy fuck. He bathed her?
What an inappropriate thing to do. I’m reeling, staring down at my uneaten macaroni. The sight of it now makes me nauseous.
Try to rationalize this, my subconscious coaches. That cool, intellectual part of my brain knows that he just did that because she was dirty, but it’s too hard. My fragile jealous self can’t bear it.
Suddenly I want to cry—not succumb to ladylike tears that trickle decorously down my cheeks, but howling at the moon crying. I take a deep breath to suppress the urge, but my throat is arid and uncomfortable from my unshed tears and sobs.
“It was all I could do, Ana,” he says softly.
“You still have feelings for her?”
“No!” he says, appalled, and closes his eyes, his expression one of anguish. I turn away, staring once more at my nauseating food. I can’t bear to look at him.
“To see her like that—so different, so broken. I care about her, one human being to another.” He shrugs as if to shake off an unpleasant memory. Jeez, is he expecting my sympathy?
“Ana, look at me.”
I can’t. I know that if I do, I will burst into tears. This is just too much to absorb. I’m like an overflowing tank of gasoline—full, beyond capacity. There is no room for any more. I simply cannot cope with any more crap. I will combust and explode, and it will be ugly if I try. Jeez!
Christian caring for his ex-sub in such an intimate fashion—the image flashes through my brain. Bathing her, for fuck’s sake—naked. A harsh, painful shudder wracks my body.
“Don’t. It doesn’t mean anything. It was like caring for a child, a broken, shattered child,” he mutters.
What the hell would he know about caring for a child? This was a woman he had a very full-on, deviant sexual relationship with.
Oh, this hurts. I take a deep, steadying breath. Or perhaps he’s referring to himself. He’s the broken child. That makes more sense . . . or maybe it makes no sense at all. Oh, this is so fucked-up, and suddenly I’m bone crushingly tired. I need sleep.
I stand, take my plate to the sink, and scrape the contents into the trash.
“Ana, please.”
I whirl around and face him. “Just stop, Christian! Just stop with the ‘Ana, please’!” I shout at him, and my tears start to trickle down my face. “I’ve had enough of all this shit today. I am going to bed. I am tired and emotional. Now let me be.”
I turn on my heel and practically run to the bedroom, taking with me the memory of his wide-eyed, shocked stare. Nice to know I can shock him, too. I strip out of my clothes in double-quick time, and after rifling through his chest of drawers, drag on one of his T-shirts and head for the bathroom.
I gaze at myself in the mirror, hardly recognizing the gaunt, pink-eyed, blotchy-cheeked harridan staring back at me, and it’s too much. I sink to the floor and surrender to the overwhelming emotion I can no longer contain, sobbing huge chest-wrenching sobs, finally letting my tears flow unrestrained.