Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fifty Shades Darker CHAPTER 20


CHAPTER 20

“You’ll marry me?” he whispers, incredulous.
I nod nervously, flushing and anxious and not quite believing his reaction—this man whom I thought I’d lost. How could he not understand how much I love him?
“Say it,” he orders softly, his gaze intense and hot.
“Yes, I’ll marry you.”
He inhales sharply and moves suddenly, grabbing me and swinging me round in a most un-Fiftylike manner. He’s laughing, young and carefree, radiating joyful elation. I grab his arms to hold on, feeling his muscles ripple beneath my fingers, and his infectious laughter sweeps me up—dizzy, addled, a girl totally and utterly smitten with her beautiful man. He puts me down and kisses me. Hard. His hands are on either side of my face, his tongue insistent, persuasive . . . arousing.
“Oh, Ana,” he breathes against my lips, and it’s an exultation that leaves me reeling. He loves me, of that I have no doubt, and I savor the taste of this delicious man, this man I thought I might never see again. His joy is evident—his eyes shining, his youthful smile—and his relief is almost palpable.
“I thought I’d lost you,” I murmur, still dazzled and breathless from his kiss.
“Baby, it will take more than a malfunctioning 135 to keep me away from you.”
“135?”
“Charlie Tango. She’s a Eurocopter 135, the safest in its class.” Some unnamed but dark emotion crosses his face briefly, distracting me. What isn’t he saying? Before I can ask him, he stills and looks down at me, frowning, and for a moment I think he’s going to tell me. I blink up into his speculative gray eyes.
“Wait a minute. You gave this to me before we saw Flynn,” he says, holding up the keychain. He looks almost horrified.
Oh dear, where’s he going with this? I nod, keeping a straight face.
His mouth drops open.
I shrug apologetically. “I wanted you to know that whatever Flynn said, it wouldn’t make a difference to me.”
Christian blinks at me in disbelief. “So all yesterday evening, when I was begging you for an answer, I had it already?” He’s dismayed. I nod again, trying desperately to gauge his reaction. He gazes at me in stupefied wonder, but then narrows his eyes and his mouth twists with amused irony.
“All that worry,” he whispers ominously. I grin at him and shrug once more. “Oh, don’t try and get cute with me, Miss Steele. Right now, I want . . .” He runs his hand through his hair, then shakes his head and changes tack.
“I can’t believe you left me hanging.” His whisper is laced with disbelief. His expression alters subtly, his eyes gleaming wickedly, his mouth twitching into a carnal smile.
Holy hell. A thrill runs through me. What’s he thinking?
“I believe some retribution is in order, Miss Steele,” he says softly.
Retribution? Oh shit! I know he’s playing—but I take a cautious step back from him anyway.
He grins. “Is that the game?” he whispers. “Because I will catch you.” And his eyes burn with a bright playful intensity. “And you’re biting your lip,” he says threateningly.
All of my insides tighten at once. Oh my. My future husband wants to play. I take another step back, then turn to run—but in vain. Christian grabs me, and in one easy swoop while I squeal with delight, surprise, and shock. He hoists me over his shoulder and heads down the hall.
“Christian!” I hiss, mindful that José is upstairs, though whether he could hear us is doubtful. I steady myself by clasping his lower back, then on a brave impulse, I swat his behind. He swats me right back.
“Ow!” I yelp.
“Shower time,” he declares triumphantly.
“Put me down!” I try and fail to sound disapproving. My struggle is futile—his arm is firmly clamped over my thighs—and for some reason I cannot stop giggling.
“Fond of these shoes?” he asks amused as he opens the door to his bathroom.
“I prefer them to be touching the floor.” I attempt to snarl at him, but it’s not very effective as I can’t keep the laughter out of my voice.
“Your wish is my command, Miss Steele.” Without putting me down, he slips off both of my shoes and lets them clatter to the tile floor. Pausing by the vanity, he empties his pockets—dead Blackberry, keys, wallet, the keychain. I can only imagine what I look like
in the mirror from this angle. When he’s finished, he marches directly into his overlarge shower.
“Christian!” I scold loudly—his intent is now clear.
He switches the water on at max. Jeez! Arctic water spurts over my backside, and I squeal—then stop, mindful once more that José is above us. It’s cold and I’m fully clothed. The chilling water soaks into my dress, my panties, and my bra. I’m drenched and I cannot stop giggling.
“No!” I squeal. “Put me down!” I swat him again, harder this time, and Christian releases me, letting me slide down his now soaked body. His white shirt is stuck to his chest and his suit pants are sodden. I am soaked, too, flushed, giddy and breathless, and he’s grinning down at me, looking so . . . so unbelievably hot.
He sobers, his eyes shining, and cups my face again, drawing my lips to his. His kiss is gentle, cherishing, and totally distracting. I no longer care that I am fully clothed and soaking wet in Christian’s shower. It’s just the two of us beneath the cascading water. He’s back, he’s safe, he’s mine.
My hands move involuntarily to his shirt as it clings to every line and sinew of his chest, revealing the hair scrunched beneath the white wetness. I yank the shirt hem out of his pants, and he groans against my mouth, but his lips do not leave mine. As I unbutton his shirt, he reaches for my zipper, slowly sliding the clasp down my dress. His lips become more insistent, more provocative, his tongue invading my mouth—and my body explodes with desire. I tug his shirt hard, ripping it open. The buttons fly everywhere, ricocheting off the tiles and disappearing onto the shower floor. As I strip the wet material off his shoulders and down his arms, I press him into the wall, hampering his attempts to undress me. “Cufflinks,” he murmurs, holding up his wrists where his shirt hangs sodden and limp.
With scrambling fingers, I release first one and then the other cuff, letting his gold cufflinks fall carelessly to the tiled floor and his shirt follows. His eyes search mine through the cascading water, his gaze burning, carnal, heated like the water. I reach for the waistband of his pants, but he shakes his head and grabs my shoulders, spinning me round so I am facing away from him. He finishes the long journey south with my zipper, smoothes my wet hair away from my neck, and runs his tongue up my neck to my hairline and back again, kissing and sucking as he goes.
I moan and slowly he peels my dress off my shoulders and down past my breasts, kissing my neck beneath my ear. He unclasps my bra and pushes it off my shoulders, freeing my breasts. His hands reach around and cup each one as he murmurs his appreciation in my ear.
“So beautiful,” he whispers.
My arms are trapped by my bra and dress, which hang unfastened below my breasts, my arms still in the sleeves but my hands are free. I roll my head, giving Christian better access to my neck and push my breasts into his magical hands. I reach round behind me and welcome his sharp intake of breath as my inquisitive fingers make contact with his erection. He pushes his groin into my welcoming hands. Dammit, why didn’t he let me take his pants off?
He tugs on my nipples, and as they harden and stretch under his expert touch, all thoughts of his pants disappear and pleasure spikes sharp and libidinous in my belly. I lean my head back against him and groan.
“Yes,” he breathes and turns me once more, capturing my mouth with his. He peels my bra, dress and panties down so they join his shirt in a soggy heap on the shower floor.
I grab the body wash beside us. Christian stills as he realizes what I am about to do. Staring him straight in the eye, I squirt some of the sweet-smelling gel into my palm and hold my hand up in front of his chest, waiting for an answer to my unspoken question. His eyes widen, then he gives me an almost imperceptible nod.
Gently I place my hand on his sternum and start to rub the soap into his skin. His chest rises as he inhales sharply, but he stands stock-still. After a beat, his hands clasp my hips, but he doesn’t push me away. He watches me warily, his look intense more than scared, but his lips are parted as his breathing increases.
“Is this okay?” I whisper.
“Yes.” His short, breathy reply is almost a gasp. I am reminded of the many showers we’ve had together, but the one at the Olympic is a bittersweet memory. Well, now I can touch him. I wash him using gentle circles, cleaning my man, moving to his underarms, over his ribs, down his flat firm belly, toward his happy trail, and the waistband of his pants.
“My turn,” he whispers and reaches for the shampoo, shifting us out of range of the stream of water and squirting some on to the top of my head.
I think this is my cue to stop washing him, so I hook my fingers into his waistband. He works the shampoo into my hair, his firm, long fingers massaging my scalp. Groaning in appreciation, I close my eyes and give myself over to the heavenly sensation. After all the stress of the evening, this is just what I need.
He chuckles and I open one eye to find him smiling down at me. “You like?”
“Hmm . . .”
He grins. “Me, too,” he says and leans over to kiss my forehead, his fingers continuing their sweet, firm kneading of my scalp.
“Turn round,” he says authoritatively. I do as I’m told, and his fingers slowly work over my head, cleansing, relaxing, loving me as they go. Oh, this is bliss. He reaches for more shampoo and gently washes the long tresses down my back. When he’s finished, he pulls me back under the shower.
“Lean your head back,” he orders quietly.
I willingly comply, and he carefully rinses out the suds. When he’s done, I face him once more and make a beeline for his pants.
“I want to wash all of you,”
I whisper. He smiles that lopsided smile and lifts his hands in a gesture that says “I’m all yours, baby.” I grin; it feels like Christmas. I make short work of his zipper, and soon his pants and boxers join the rest of our clothing. I stand and reach for the body wash and the freshwater sponge.
“Looks like you’re pleased to see me,” I murmur dryly.
“I’m always pleased to see you, Miss Steele.” He smirks at me.
I soap the sponge, then retrace my journey over his chest. He’s more relaxed—maybe because I’m not actually touching him. I head south with the sponge, across his belly, along the happy trail, through his pubic hair, and over and up his erection.
I peek up at him, and he regards me with hooded eyes and sensual longing. Hmm . . . I like this look. I drop the sponge and use my hands, grasping him firmly. He closes his eyes, tips his head back, and groans, thrusting his hips into my hands.
Oh yes! It’s so arousing. My inner goddess has resurfaced after her evening of rocking and weeping in the corner, and she’s wearing harlot-red lipstick.
His burning eyes suddenly lock with mine. He’s remembered something.
“It’s Saturday,” he exclaims, eyes alight with salacious wonder, and he grasps my waist, pulling me to him and kissing me savagely.
Whoa—change of pace!
His hands sweep down my slick, wet body, round to my sex, his fingers exploring, teasing, and his mouth is relentless, leaving me breathless. His other hand is in my wet hair, holding me in place while I bear the full force of his passion unleashed. His fingers move inside me.
“Ahh,” I moan into his mouth.
“Yes,” he hisses and lifts me, his hands beneath my backside. “Wrap your legs around me, baby.” My legs fold around him, and I cling like a limpet to his neck. He braces me against the wall of the shower and pauses, gazing down at me.
“Eyes open,” he murmurs. “I want to see you.”
I blink up at him, my heart hammering, my blood pulsing hot and heavy through my body, desire, real and rampant surging through me. Then he eases into me oh-so-slowly, filling me, claiming me, skin against skin. I push down against him and groan loudly. Once fully inside me, he pauses once more, his face strained, intense.
“You are mine, Anastasia,” he whispers.
“Always.”
He smiles victoriously and shifts, making me gasp.
“And now we can let everyone know, because you said yes.” His voice is reverential, and he leans down, capturing my mouth with his, and starts to move . . . slow and sweet. I close my eyes and tilt my head back as my body bows, my will submitting to his, slave to his intoxicating slow rhythm.
His teeth graze my jaw, my chin, and down my neck as he picks up the pace, pushing me onward, upward—away from this earthly plane, the teeming shower, the evening’s chilling fright. It’s just me and my man moving in unison, moving as one—each completely absorbed in the other—our gasps and grunts mingling. I revel in the exquisite feeling of his possession as my body blooms and flowers around him.
I could have lost him . . . and I love him . . . I love him so much, and I’m suddenly overcome by the enormity of my love and the depth of my commitment to him. I will spend the rest of my life loving this man, and with that awe-inspiring thought, I detonate around him—a healing, cathartic orgasm, crying out his name as tears flow down my cheeks.
He reaches his climax and pours himself into me. With his face buried in my neck, he sinks to the floor, holding me tightly, kissing my face, and kissing away my tears as the warm water spills down around us, washing us clean.
“My fingers are pruny,” I murmur, postcoital and sated as I lean against his chest. He raises my fingers to his lips and kisses each in turn.
“We should really get out of this shower.”
“I’m comfortable here.” I’m sitting between his legs and he’s holding me close. I don’t want to move.
Christian murmurs his assent. But suddenly I’m bone tired, world-weary. So much has happened this last week—enough for a lifetime of drama—and now I’m getting married. A disbelieving giggle escapes my lips.
“Something amusing you, Miss Steele?” he asks fondly.
“It’s been a busy week.”
He grins. “That it has.”
“I thank God you’re back in one piece, Mr. Grey,” I whisper, sobering at the thought of what might have been. He tenses and I immediately regret reminding him.
“I was scared,” he confesses much to my surprise.
“Earlier?”
He nods, his expression serious.
Holy shit. “So you made light of it to reassure your family?”
“Yes. I was too low to land well. But somehow I did.”
Crap. My eyes sweep up to his, and he looks grave as the water cascades over us. “How close a call was it?” He gazes down at me.
“Close,” he pauses. “For a few awful seconds, I thought I’d never see you again.”
I hug him tightly. “I can’t imagine my life without you, Christian. I love you so much it frightens me.”
“Me, too,” he breathes. “My life would be empty without you. I love you so much.” His arms tighten around me and he nuzzles my hair. “I won’t ever let you go.”
“I don’t want to go, ever.” I kiss his neck, and he leans down and kisses me gently.
After a moment, he shifts. “Come—let’s get you dry and into bed. I’m exhausted and you look beat.”
I lean back and arch an eyebrow at his choice of words. He cocks his head to one side and smirks at me.
“You have something to say, Miss Steele?”
I shake my head and clamber unsteadily to my feet.
I am sitting up in bed. Christian insisted on drying my hair—he’s quite skilled at it. How that happened is an unpleasant thought, so I dismiss it immediately. It’s after two in the morning, and I am ready to sleep. Christian gazes down at me and reexamines the keychain before climbing into bed. He shakes his head, incredulous once more.
“This is so neat. The best birthday present I’ve ever had.” He glances at me, his eyes soft and warm. “Better than my signed Guiseppe DeNatale poster.”
“I would have told you earlier, but as it was your birthday . . . What do you give the man who has everything? I thought I’d give you . . . me.”
He puts the keychain down on the bedside table and snuggles in beside me, pulling me into his arms against his chest so that we’re spooning.
“It’s perfect. Like you.”
I smirk, though he can’t see my expression. “I am far from perfect, Christian.”
“Are you smirking at me, Miss Steele?”
How does he know? “Maybe.” I giggle. “Can I ask you something?
“Of course,” he nuzzles my neck.
“You didn’t call on your trip back from Portland. Was that really because of José? You were worried about me being here alone with him?”
Christian says nothing. I turn to face him, and his eyes are wide as I reproach him.
“Do you know how ridiculous that is? How much stress you put your family and me through? We all love you very much.”
He blinks a couple of times and then gives me his shy smile. “I had no idea you’d all be so worried.”
I purse my lips. “When are you going to get it through your thick skull that you are loved?”
“Thick skull?” His eyebrows widen in surprise.
I nod. “Yes. Thick skull.”
“I don’t think the bone density of my head is significantly higher than anywhere else in my body.”
“I’m serious! Stop trying to make me laugh. I am still a little mad at you, though that’s partially eclipsed by the fact that you’re home safe and sound when I thought . . .” My voice fades as I recall those anxious few hours. “Well, you know what I thought.”
His eyes soften and he reaches up to caress my face. “I’m sorry. Okay.”
“Your poor mom, too. It was very moving, seeing you with her,” I whisper.
He smiles shyly. “I’ve never seen her that way.” He blinks at the memory. “Yes, that was really something. She’s normally so self-possessed. It was quite a shock.”
“See? Everyone loves you.” I smile. “Perhaps now you’ll start believing it.” I lean down and kiss him gently.
“Happy birthday, Christian. I’m glad you’re here to share your day with me. And you haven’t seen what I’ve got for you tomorrow um . . . today.” I smirk.
“There’s more?” he says, astounded, and his face erupts into a breathtaking grin.
“Oh yes, Mr. Grey, but you’ll have to wait until then.”
I wake suddenly from a dream or nightmare, and my pulse is thumping. I turn, panicked, and to my relief, Christian is fast asleep beside me. Because I’ve shifted, he stirs and reaches out in his sleep, draping his arm over me, and rests his head on my shoulder, sighing softly.
The room is flooded with light. It’s eight o’clock. Christian never sleeps this late. I lie back and let my racing heart calm. Why the anxiety? Is it the aftermath of last night?
I turn and stare at him. He’s here. He’s safe. I take a deep steadying breath and gaze at his lovely face. A face that is now so familiar, all its dips and shadows eternally etched on my mind.
He looks much younger when he’s asleep, and I grin because today he’s a whole year older. I hug myself, thinking about my present. Oooh . . . what will he do? Perhaps I should start by bringing him breakfast in bed. Besides, José may still be here.
I find José at the counter, eating a bowl of cereal. I can’t help but flush when I see him. He knows I’ve spent the night with Christian. Why do I suddenly feel so shy? It’s not as if I’m naked or anything. I’m wearing my silk floor-length wrap.
“Morning, José,” I smile, brazening it out.
“Hey, Ana!” His face lights up, genuinely pleased to see me. There’s no hint of teasing or salacious contempt in his expression.
“Sleep well?” I ask.
“Sure. Some view from up here.”
“Yeah. It’s pretty special.” Like the owner of this apartment. “Want a real man’s breakfast?” I tease.
“Love some.”
“It’s Christian’s birthday today—I’m making him breakfast in bed.”
“He awake?”
“No, I think he’s fried from yesterday.” I quickly glance away from him and head to the fridge so he can’t see my blush. Jeez, it’s only José. When I take the eggs and bacon out of the fridge, José is grinning at me.
“You really like him, don’t you?”
I purse my lips. “I love him, José.”
His eyes widen momentarily then he grins. “What’s not to love?” he asks gesturing round the great room.
I scowl at him. “Gee, thanks!”
“Hey, Ana, just kidding.”
Hmm . . . will I always have this leveled at me? That I’m marrying Christian for his money?
“Seriously, I’m kidding. You’ve never been that kind of girl.”
“Omelet good for you?” I ask, changing the subject. I don’t want to argue.
“Sure.”
“And me,” Christian says as he saunters into the great room. Holy fuck, he’s wearing only pajama bottoms that hang in that totally hot way off his hips—Jeez!
“José.” He nods.
“Christian.” José returns his nod solemnly.
Christian turns to me and smirks as I stare. He’s done this on purpose. I narrow my eyes at him, desperately trying to recover my equilibrium, and Christian’s expression alters subtly. He knows that I know what he’s up to, and he doesn’t care.
“I was going to bring you breakfast in bed.”
Swaggering over, he wraps his arm around me, tilts my chin up, and plants a loud wet kiss on my lips. Very unFifty!
“Good morning, Anastasia,” he says. I want to scowl at him and tell him to behave—but it’s his birthday. I flush. Why is he so territorial?
“Good morning, Christian. Happy birthday.” I give him a smile, and he smirks at me.
“I’m looking forward to my other present,” he says and that’s it. I flush the color of the Red Room of Pain and glance nervously at José, who looks like he’s swallowed something unpleasant. I turn away and start preparing the food.
“So what are your plans today, José?” Christian asks, seemingly casual as he sits down on a barstool.
“I’m heading up to see my dad and Ray, Ana’s dad.”
Christian frowns.
“They know each other?”
“Yeah, they were in the army together. They lost contact until Ana and I were in college together. It’s kinda cute. They’re best buds now. We’re going on a fishing trip.”
“Fishing?” Christian is genuinely interested.
“Yeah—some great catches in these coastal waters. The steelheads can grow way big.”
“True. My brother Elliot and I landed a thirty-four pound steelhead once.”
They’re talking fishing? What is it about fishing? I have never understood it.
“Thirty-four pounds? Not bad. Ana’s father though, he holds the record. A forty-three pounder.”
“You’re kidding! He never said.”
“Happy birthday, by the way.”
“Thanks. So, where do you like to fish?”
I zone out. This I do not need to know. But at the same time I’m relieved. See, Christian? José’s not so bad.
By the time José makes to leave, both of them are much more relaxed with each other. Christian quickly changes into T-shirt and jeans and barefoot he accompanies José and me to the foyer.
“Thanks for letting me crash here,” José says to Christian as they shake hands.
“Anytime,” Christian smiles.
José hugs me quickly. “Stay safe, Ana.”
“Sure. Great to see you. Next time we’ll have a proper evening out.”
“I’ll hold you to that.” He waves at us from inside the elevator, and then he’s gone.
“See, he’s not so bad.”
“He still wants into your panties, Ana. But can’t say I blame him.”
“Christian, that’s not true!”
“You have no idea, do you?” He smirks down at me. “He wants you. Big time. ”
I frown. “Christian, he’s just a friend, a good friend.” And I’m suddenly aware that I sound like Christian when he’s talking about Mrs. Robinson. The thought is unsettling.
Christian holds up his hands in a placating gesture.
“I don’t want to fight,” he says softly.
Oh! We’re not fighting . . . are we? “Me neither.”
“You didn’t tell him we were getting married.”
“No. I figured I ought to tell Mom and Ray first.” Shit. It’s the first time I’ve thought about this since I said yes. Jeez—what are my parents going to say?
Christian nods. “Yes, you’re right. And I . . . um, I should ask your father.”
I laugh. “Oh, Christian—this isn’t the eighteenth century.”
Holy shit. What will Ray say? The thought of that conversation fills me with horror.
“It’s traditional.” Christian shrugs.
“Let’s talk about that later. I want to give you your other present.” My aim is to distract him. The thought of my present is burning a hole in my consciousness. I need to give it to him and see how he reacts.
He gives me his shy smile, and my heart skips a beat. For as long as I live, I’ll never tire of looking at that smile.
“You’re biting your lip,” he says and pulls on my chin.
A thrill runs through my body as his fingers touch me. Without a word, and while I still have a modicum of courage, I take his hand and lead him back to the bedroom. I drop his hand, leaving him standing by the bed, and from under my side of the bed, I take out the two remaining gift boxes.
“Two?” he says, surprised.
I take a deep breath. “I bought this before the, um . . . incident yesterday. I’m not sure about it now.” I quickly hand him one of the parcels before I can change my mind. He gazes at me, puzzled, sensing my uncertainty.
“Sure you want me to open it?”
I nod, anxious.
Christian tears off the packaging and gazes in surprise at the box.
“Charlie Tango,” I whisper.
He grins. The box contains a small wooden helicopter with a large, solar-powered rotor blade. He opens it up.
“Solar powered,” he murmurs. “Wow.” And before I know it he’s sitting on the bed assembling it. It snaps together quickly, and Christian holds it up in the palm of his hand. A blue wooden helicopter. He looks up at me and gives me his glorious, all-American-boy smile, then heads to the window so that the little helicopter is bathed in sunlight and the rotor starts to spin.
“Look at that,” he breathes, examining it closely. “What we can already do with this technology.” He holds it at eye level, watching the blades spin. He’s fascinated and fascinating to watch as he loses himself in thought, staring at the little helicopter. What is he thinking?
“You like it?”
“Ana, I love it. Thank you.” He grabs me and kisses me swiftly, then turns back to watch the rotor spin. “I’ll add it to the glider in my office,” he says distractedly, watching the blade spin. He moves his hand out of the sunlight, and the blade slows down and comes to a stop.
I can’t help my face-splitting grin, and I want to hug myself. He loves it. Of course, he’s all about alternative technologies. I’d forgotten that in my haste to buy it. Placing it on the chest of drawers, he turns to face me.
“It’ll keep me company while we salvage Charlie Tango.”
“Is it salvageable?”
“I don’t know. I hope so. I’ll miss her, otherwise.”
Her? I am shocked at myself for the small pang of jealousy I feel for an inanimate object. My subconscious snorts with derisory laughter. I ignore her.
“What’s in the other box?” he asks, his eyes wide with almost childish excitement.
Holy fuck. “I’m not sure if this present is for you or me.”
“Really?” he asks, and I know I have piqued his interest. Nervously I hand him the second box. He shakes it gently and we both hear a heavy rattle. He glances up at me.
“Why are you so nervous?” he asks, bemused. I shrug, embarrassed and excited as I flush. He raises an eyebrow at me.
“You have me intrigued, Miss Steele,” he whispers, and his voice runs right through me, desire and anticipation spawning in my belly. “I have to say I’m enjoying your reaction. What have you been up to?” He narrows his eyes speculatively.
I remain tight-lipped as I hold my breath.
He removes the lid of the box and takes out a small card. The rest of the contents are wrapped in tissue. He opens the card, and his eyes dart quickly to mine—widening with shock or surprise. I just don’t know.
“Do rude things to you?” he murmurs. I nod and swallow. He cocks his head to one side warily, assessing my reaction, and frowns. Then turns his attention back to the box. He tears through the pale-blue tissue paper and fishes out an eye mask, some nipple clamps, a butt plug, his iPod, his silver-gray tie—and last but by no means least—the key to his playroom.
He gazes at me, his expression dark, unreadable. Oh shit. Is this a bad move?
“You want to play?” he asks softly.
“Yes,” I breathe.
“For my birthday?”
“Yes.” Could my voice sound any smaller?
A myriad of emotions cross his face, none of which I can place, but he settles for anxious. Hmm . . . Not quite the reaction I was expecting.
“You’re sure?” he asks.
“Not the whips and stuff.”
“I understand that.”
“Yes, then. I’m sure.”
He shakes his head and gazes down at the contents of the box. “Sex mad and insatiable. Well, I think we can do something with this lot,” he murmurs almost to himself, then puts the contents back in the box. When he glances at me again, his expression has completely changed. Holy cow, his gray eyes burn, and his mouth lifts in a slow erotic smile. He holds out his hand.
“Now,” he says, and it’s not a request. My belly clenches, tight and hard, deep, deep down.
I put my hand in his.
“Come,” he orders, and I follow him out of the bedroom, my heart in my mouth. Desire races slick and hot through my blood as my insides tighten with hungry anticipation. My inner goddess somersaults round her chaise longue. Finally!

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