Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fifty Shades Darker CHAPTER 8


Sawyer talks into his sleeve again.
“Taylor, Mr. Grey has entered the apartment.” He flinches and grabs the earpiece, pulling it out of his ear, presumably receiving some powerful invective from Taylor.
Oh no—if Taylor is worried . . .
“Please let me go in,” I plead.
“Sorry, Miss Steele. This won’t take long.” Sawyer holds both hands up in a defensive gesture. “Taylor and the guys are just coming into the apartment now.”
Oh. I feel so impotent. Standing stock-still, I listen avidly for the slightest sound, but all I hear is my aggravated breathing. It’s loud and shallow, my scalp prickles, my mouth is dry, and I feel faint. Please, let Christian be okay, I pray silently.
I have no idea how much time passes, and still we hear nothing. Surely no sound is good—there are no gunshots. I begin pacing around the table in the foyer and examine the paintings on the walls to distract myself.
I’ve never really looked at them before: all figurative paintings, all religious—the Madonna and child, all sixteen of them. How odd?
Christian isn’t religious, is he? All of the paintings in the great room are abstracts—these are so different. They don’t distract me for long—Where is Christian?
I stare at Sawyer and he watches me impassively.
“What’s happening?”
“No news, Miss Steele.”
Abruptly, the doorknob moves. Sawyer spins like a top and draws a gun from his shoulder holster.
I freeze. Christian appears at the door.
“All clear,” he says, frowning at Sawyer, who puts his gun away immediately and steps back to let me in.
“Taylor is overreacting,” Christian grumbles as he holds out his hand to me. I stand gaping at him, unable to move, drinking in every little detail: his unruly hair, the tightness round his eyes, the tense jaw, the top two buttons of his shirt undone. I think I must have aged ten years. Christian frowns at me in concern, his eyes dark.
“It’s alright, baby.” He moves toward me, enveloping me in his arms, and kisses my hair. “Come on, you’re tired. Bed.”
“I was so worried,” I murmur, rejoicing in his embrace and inhaling his sweet, sweet scent with my head against his chest.
“I know. We’re all jumpy.”
Sawyer has disappeared, presumably into the apartment.
“Honestly, your exes are proving to be very challenging, Mr. Grey,” I mutter wryly. Christian relaxes.
“Yes. They are.”
He releases me and taking my hand, leads me across the hallway and into the great room.
“Taylor and his crew are checking all the closets and cupboards. I don’t think she’s here.”
“Why would she be here?” It makes no sense.
“Could she get in?”
“I don’t see how. But Taylor is overcautious sometimes.”
“Have you searched your playroom?” I whisper.
Christian glances quickly at me, his brow creasing. “Yes, it’s locked—but Taylor and I checked.”
I take a deep, cleansing breath.
“Do you want a drink or anything?” Christian asks.
“No.” Fatigue sweeps through me—I just want to go to bed.
“Come. Let me put you to bed. You look exhausted.” Christian’s expression softens.
I frown. Isn’t he coming, too? Does he want to sleep alone?
I’m relieved when he leads me into his bedroom. I place my clutch bag on the chest of drawers and open it to empty the contents. I spy Mrs. Robinson’s note.
“Here.” I pass it to Christian. “I don’t know if you want to read this. I want to ignore it.”
Christian scans it briefly and his jaw tenses.
“I’m not sure what blanks she can fill in,” he says dismissively. “I need to talk to Taylor.” He gazes down at me. “Let me unzip your dress.”
“Are you going to call the police about the car?” I ask as I turn around.
He sweeps my hair out of the way, his fingers softly grazing my naked back, and tugs down my zipper.
“No. I don’t want the police involved. Leila needs help, not police intervention, and I don’t want them here. We just have to double our efforts to find her.” He leans down and plants a gentle kiss on my shoulder.
“Go to bed,” he orders and then he’s gone.
I lie, staring at the ceiling, waiting for him to return. So much has happened today, so much to process. Where to start?
I wake with a jolt—disorientated. Have I been asleep? Blinking in the dim glow the hallway casts through the slightly open bedroom door, I notice that Christian is not with me. Where is he? I glance up. Standing at the end of the bed is a shadow. A woman, maybe? Dressed in black? It’s difficult to tell.
In my befuddled state, I reach across and switch on the bedside light, then turn back to look but there’s no one there. I shake my head. Did I imagine it? Dream it?
I sit up and look around the room, a vague, insidious unease gripping me—but I am quite alone.
I rub my face. What time is it? Where’s Christian? The alarm says it’s two fifteen in the morning.
Climbing groggily out of bed, I set off to hunt him down, disconcerted by my overactive imagination. I am seeing things now. It must be a reaction to the dramatic events of the evening.
The main room is empty, the only light emanating from the three pendulum lamps above the breakfast bar. But his study door is ajar, and I hear him on the phone.
“I don’t know why you’re calling at this hour. I have nothing to say to you . . . well, you can tell me now. You don’t have to leave a message.”
I stand motionless by the door, eavesdropping guiltily. Who is he talking to?
“No, you listen. I asked you, and now I am telling you. Leave her alone. She’s nothing to do with you. Do you understand?”
He sounds belligerent and angry. I hesitate to knock.
“I know you do. But I mean it, Elena. Leave her the fuck alone. Do I need to put it in triplicate for you? Are you hearing me? . . . Good. Good night.” He slams the phone down on the desk.
Oh shit. I knock tentatively on the door.
“What?” he snarls, and I almost want to run and hide.
He sits at his desk with his head in his hands. He glances up, his expression ferocious, but his face softens immediately when he sees me. His eyes are wide and cautious. Suddenly, he looks so tired and my heart constricts.
He blinks, and his eyes sweep down my legs and back again. I am wearing one of his T-shirts.
“You should be in satin or silk, Anastasia,” he breathes. “But even in my T-shirt you look beautiful.”
Oh, an unexpected compliment. “I missed you. Come to bed.”
He rises slowly out of the chair still in his white shirt and black dress pants. But now his eyes are shining and full of promise . . . but there’s a trace of sadness, too. He stands in front of me, staring intently but not touching me.
“Do you know what you mean to me?” he murmurs. “If something happened to you, because of me . . .” His voice trails off, his brow creasing, and the pain that flashes across his face is almost palpable. He looks so vulnerable—his fear very much apparent.
“Nothing’s going to happen to me,” I reassure him, my voice soothing. I reach up and stroke his face, running my fingers through the stubble on his cheek. It’s unexpectedly soft. “Your beard grows quickly,” I whisper, unable to hide the wonder in my voice at this beautiful, fucked-up man who stands before me.
I trace the line of his bottom lip then trail my fingers down his throat, to the faint smudge of lipstick at the base of his neck. He gazes down at me, still not touching me, his lips parted. I run my index finger along the line, and he closes his eyes. His soft breathing quickens. My fingers reach the edge of his shirt, and I run them down to the next fastened button.
“I’m not going to touch you. I just want to undo your shirt,” I whisper.
His eyes open wide, regarding me with alarm. But he doesn’t move, and he doesn’t stop me. Very slowly I unfasten the button, holding the material away from his skin, and move tentatively down to the next button, repeating the process—slowly, concentrating on what I am doing.
I don’t want to touch him. Well, I do . . . but I won’t. On the fourth button, the red line reappears, and I smile shyly up at him.
“Back on home territory.” I trace the line with my fingers before undoing the final button. I pull his shirt open and move to his cuffs, removing his black polished stone cufflinks one at a time.
“Can I take your shirt off?” I ask, my voice low.
He nods, eyes still wide, as I reach up and pull his shirt over his shoulders. He frees his hands so he’s standing in front of me naked from the waist up. With his shirt off, he seems to recover his equilibrium. He smirks down at me.
“What about my pants, Miss Steele?” he asks, raising an eyebrow.
“In the bedroom. I want you in your bed.”
“Do you now? Miss Steele, you are insatiable.”
“I can’t think why.” I grab his hand, pull him from his study, and lead him to his bedroom. The room is chilly.
“You opened the balcony door?” he asks, frowning down at me as we arrive in his room.
“No.” I don’t remember doing that. I recall scanning the room when I woke. The door was definitely closed.
Oh shit . . . All the blood rushes from my face, and I stare at Christian as my mouth falls open.
“What?” he snaps, glaring at me.
“When I woke . . . there was someone in here,” I whisper. “I thought it was my imagination.”
“What?” He looks horrified and dashes to the balcony door, peers out, then steps back into the room and locks the door behind him. “Are you sure? Who?” he asks his voice tight.
“A woman, I think. It was dark. I’d only just woken up.”
“Get dressed,” he snarls at me on his way back in. “Now!”
“My clothes are upstairs,” I whimper.
He pulls open one of the drawers in his chest of drawers and fishes out a pair of sweatpants.
“Put these on.” They are far too big, but he is not to be argued with.
He swipes a T-shirt, too, and quickly pulls it over his head. Grabbing the bedside phone, he presses two buttons.
“She’s still fucking here,” he hisses down the phone.
Approximately three seconds later, Taylor and one of the other security guys, burst into Christian’s bedroom. Christian gives them a précis of what has happened.
“How long ago?” Taylor demands, staring at me all businesslike. He’s still wearing his jacket. Does this man ever sleep?
“About ten minutes,” I mutter, for some reason feeling guilty.
“She knows the apartment like the back of her hand,” says Christian. “I am taking Anastasia away now. She’s hiding here somewhere. Find her. When is Gail back?
“Tomorrow evening, sir.”
“She’s not to return until this place is secure. Understand?” Christian snaps.
“Yes, sir. Will you be going to Bellevue?”
“I’m not leading this problem to my parents. Book me somewhere.”
“Yes. I’ll call you.”
“Aren’t we all overreacting slightly?” I ask.
Christian glowers at me. “She may have a gun,” he growls.
“Christian, she was standing at the end of the bed. She could have shot me then, if that’s what she wanted to do.”
Christian pauses for a moment to rein in his temper, I think. In a menacingly soft voice he says, “I’m not prepared to take the risk. Taylor, Anastasia needs shoes.”
Christian disappears into his closet while the security guy watches me. I can’t remember his name, Ryan maybe. He looks alternately down the hall and to the balcony windows. Christian emerges a couple of minutes later with a leather messenger bag, wearing jeans and his pinstriped blazer. He drapes a denim jacket around my shoulders.
“Come.” He clasps my hand tightly, and I have to practically run to keep up with his long strides into the great room.
“I can’t believe she could hide somewhere in here,” I mutter, staring out the balcony doors.
“It’s a big place. You haven’t seen it all yet.”
“Why don’t you just call her . . . tell her you want to talk to her?”
“Anastasia, she’s unstable, and she may be armed,” he says irritably.
“So we just run?”
“For now—yes.”
“Supposing she tries to shoot Taylor?”
“Taylor knows and understands guns,” he says with distaste. “He’ll be quicker with a gun than she is.”
“Ray was in the army. He’s taught me to shoot.”
Christian raises his eyebrows and for a moment looks utterly bemused. “You, with a gun?” he says incredulously.
“Yes.” I am affronted. “I can shoot, Mr. Grey, so you’d better beware. It’s not just crazy ex-subs you need to worry about.”
“I’ll bear that in mind, Miss Steele,” he answers dryly, amused, and it feels good to know that even in this ridiculously tense situation, I can make him smile.
Taylor meets us in the foyer and hands me my small suitcase and my black Converse. I am stunned that he’s packed me some clothes. I smile shyly at him with gratitude, and his returning smile is swift and reassuring. Before I can stop myself—I hug him, hard. He’s taken by surprise, and when I release him, he’s pink in both cheeks.
“Be careful,” I murmur.
“Yes, Miss Steele,” he mutters.
Christian frowns at me and then looks questioningly at Taylor, who smiles very slightly and adjusts his tie.
“Let me know where I’m going.” Christian says.
Taylor reaches into his jacket, pulls out his wallet, and hands Christian a credit card.
“You might want to use this when you get there.”
Christian nods. “Good thinking.”
Ryan joins us. “Sawyer and Reynolds found nothing,” he says to Taylor.
“Accompany Mr. Grey and Miss Steele to the garage,” Taylor orders.
The garage is deserted. Well, it is nearly three in the morning. Christian ushers me into the passenger seat of the R8 and puts my case and his bag in the trunk at the front of the car. The Audi beside us is a complete mess—every tire slashed, white paint splattered all over it. It’s chilling and makes me grateful that Christian is taking me somewhere else.
“A replacement will arrive on Monday,” Christian says bleakly when he’s seated beside me.
“How could she have known it was my car?”
He glances anxiously at me and sighs. “She had an Audi A3. I buy one for all my submissives—it’s one of the safest cars in its class.”
Oh. “So, not so much a graduation present, then.”
“Anastasia, despite what I hoped, you have never been my submissive, so technically it is a graduation present.” He pulls out of the parking space and speeds to the exit.
Despite what he hoped. Oh no . . . my subconscious shakes her head sadly. This is what we come back to all the time.
“Are you still hoping?” I whisper.
The in-car phone buzzes. “Grey,” Christian snaps.
“Fairmont Olympic. In my name.”
“Thank you, Taylor. And, Taylor, be careful.”
Taylor pauses. “Yes, sir,” he says quietly, and Christian hangs up.
The streets of Seattle are deserted, and Christian roars up Fifth Avenue toward the I-5. Once on the interstate, he floors the gas pedal, heading north. He accelerates so quickly I’m momentarily thrown back in my seat.
I peek at him. He’s deep in thought, radiating a deadly brooding silence. He hasn’t answered my question. He glances frequently at the rearview mirror, and I realize he’s checking that we’re not being followed. Perhaps that’s why we’re on the I-5. I thought the Fairmont was in Seattle.
I gaze out of the window, trying to rationalize my exhausted, overactive mind. If she’d wanted to hurt me, she had ample opportunity in the bedroom.
“No. It’s not what I hope for, not anymore. I thought that was obvious.” Christian interrupts my introspection, his voice soft.
I blink at him, pulling his denim jacket tighter around me, and I don’t know if the chill is emanating from within me or from outside.
“I worry that, you know . . . that I’m not enough.”
“You’re more than enough. For the love of God, Anastasia, what do I have to do?”
Tell me about yourself. Tell me you love me.
“Why did you think I’d leave when I told you Dr. Flynn had told me all there was to know about you?”
He sighs heavily, closing his eyes for a moment, and for the longest time he doesn’t answer. “You cannot begin to understand the depths of my depravity, Anastasia. And it’s not something I want to share with you.”
“And you really think I’d leave, if I knew?” My voice is high, incredulous. Doesn’t he understand that I love him? “Do you think so little of me?”
“I know you’ll leave,” he says sadly.
“Christian . . . I think that’s very unlikely. I can’t imagine being without you.” Ever . . .
“You left me once—I don’t want to go there again.”
“Elena said she saw you last Saturday,” I whisper quietly.
“She didn’t.” He frowns.
“You didn’t go to see her, when I left?”
“No,” he snaps, irritated. “I just told you I didn’t—and I don’t like to be doubted,” he scolds. “I didn’t go anywhere last weekend. I sat and made the glider you gave me. Took me forever,” he adds quietly.
My heart clenches again. Mrs. Robinson said she saw him.
Did she or didn’t she? She’s lying. Why?
“Contrary to what Elena thinks, I don’t rush to her with all my problems, Anastasia. I don’t rush to anybody. You may have noticed—I’m not much of a talker.” He tightens his hold on the steering wheel.
“Carrick told me you didn’t talk for two years.”
“Did he now?” Christian’s mouth presses into a hard line.
“I kind of pumped him for information.” Embarrassed, I stare at my fingers.
“So what else did Daddy say?”
“He said your mom was the doctor who examined you when you were brought into the hospital. After you were discovered in your apartment.”
Christian’s expression remains blank . . . careful.
“He said learning the piano helped. And Mia.”
His lips curl in a fond smile at the mention of her name. After a moment he says, “She was about six months old when she arrived. I was thrilled, Elliot less so. He’d already had to contend with my arrival. She was perfect.” The sweet, sad awe in his voice is affecting. “Less so now, of course,” he mutters, and I recall her successful attempts at the ball to thwart our lascivious intentions. It makes me giggle.
Christian gives me a sideways glance. “You find that amusing, Miss Steele?”
“She seemed determined to keep us apart.”
He laughs mirthlessly. “Yes, she’s quite accomplished.” He reaches across and squeezes my knee. “But we got there in the end.” He smiles then glances in the rearview mirror once more. “I don’t think we’ve been followed.” He turns off the I-5 and heads back to central Seattle.
“Can I ask you something about Elena?” We are stopped at some traffic lights.
He gazes at me warily. “If you must,” he mutters sullenly, but I don’t let his irritability deter me.
“You told me ages ago that she loved you in a way you found acceptable. What did that mean?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” he asks.
“Not to me.”
“I was out of control. I couldn’t bear to be touched. I can’t bear it now. For a fourteen, fifteen-year-old adolescent boy with hormones raging, it was a difficult time. She showed me a way to let off steam.”
Oh. “Mia said you were a brawler.”
“Christ, what is it with my loquacious family? Actually—it’s you.” We’ve stopped at more lights, and he narrows his eyes at me. “You inveigle information out of people.” He shakes his head in mock disgust.
“Mia volunteered that information. In fact, she was very forthcoming. She was worried you’d start a brawl in the marquee if you didn’t win me at the auction,” I mutter indignantly.
“Oh, baby, there was no danger of that. There was no way I would let anyone else dance with you.”
“You let Dr. Flynn.”
“He’s always the exception to the rule.”
Christian pulls into the impressive, leafy driveway of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel and parks near the front door, beside a quaint stone fountain.
“Come.” He climbs out of the car and retrieves our luggage. A valet rushes toward us, looking surprised—no doubt at our late arrival. Christian tosses him the car keys.
“Name of Taylor,” he says. The valet nods and can’t contain his glee as he leaps into the R8 and drives off. Christian takes my hand and strides into the lobby.
As I stand beside him at the reception desk, I feel utterly, utterly ridiculous. Here I am, in Seattle’s most prestigious hotel, dressed in an oversized denim jacket, oversized sweatpants, and an old T-shirt next to this elegant, beautiful, Greek god. No wonder the receptionist is looking from one to the other as if the equation doesn’t add up. Of course, she’s over-awed by Christian. I roll my eyes as she flushes crimson and stutters. Jeez, even her hands are shaking.
“Do . . . you need a hand . . . with your bags, Mr. Taylor?” she asks, going scarlet again.
“No, Mrs. Taylor and I can manage.”
Mrs. Taylor! But I’m not wearing a ring. I put my hands behind my back.
“You’re in the Cascade Suite, Mr. Taylor, eleventh floor. Our bellboy will help with your bags.”
“We’re fine,” Christian says curtly. “Where are the elevators?”
Miss Flushing Crimson explains, and Christian grasps my hand once more. I glance briefly round the impressive, sumptuous lobby full of overstuffed chairs, deserted save for
a dark-haired woman sitting on a cozy sofa, feeding tidbits to her westie. She glances up and smiles at us as we make our way to the elevators. So the hotel allows pets? Odd for a place so grand!
The suite has two bedrooms, a formal dining room, and comes complete with grand piano. A log fire blazes in the massive main room. Jeez . . . This suite is bigger than my apartment.
“Well, Mrs. Taylor, I don’t know about you, but I’d really like a drink,” Christian mutters, locking the front door securely.
In the bedroom, he puts my case and his satchel on the ottoman at the foot of the king-size four-poster bed and leads me by the hand into the main room where the fire is burning brightly. It’s a welcome sight. I stand and warm my hands while Christian fixes us both a drink.
After a moment, he joins me by the fire and hands me a crystal brandy glass.
“It’s been quite a day, huh?”
I nod and his gray eyes gaze at me searchingly, concerned.
“I’m okay,” I whisper reassuringly. “How about you?”
“Well, right now I’d like to drink this and then, if you’re not too tired, take you to bed and lose myself in you.”
“I think that can be arranged, Mr. Taylor.” I smile shyly at him as he shuffles out of his shoes and peels off his socks.
“Mrs. Taylor, stop biting your lip,” he whispers.
I blush into my glass. The Armagnac is delicious, leaving a burning warmth in its wake as it glides silkily down my throat. When I glance up at Christian, he’s sipping his brandy, watching me, his eyes dark—hungry.
“You never cease to amaze me, Anastasia. After a day like today—or yesterday, rather—you’re not whining or running off into the hills screaming. I am in awe of you. You’re very strong.”
“You’re a very good reason to stay,” I murmur. “I told you, Christian, I’m not going anywhere, no matter what you’ve done. You know how I feel about you.”
His mouth twists as if he doubts my words, and his brow creases as if what I’m saying is painful for him to hear. Oh, Christian, what do I have to do to make you realize how I feel?
Let him beat you, my subconscious sneers at me. I scowl inwardly at her.
“Where are you going to hang José’s portraits of me?” I try to lighten the mood.
“That depends.” His lips twitch. This is obviously a much more palatable topic of conversation for him.
“On what?”
“Circumstances,” he says mysteriously. “His show’s not over yet, so I don’t have to decide straight away.”
I cock my head to one side and narrow my eyes.
“You can look as sternly as you like, Mrs. Taylor. I’m saying nothing,” he teases.
“I may torture the truth from you.”
He raises an eyebrow. “Really, Anastasia, I don’t think you should make promises you can’t fulfill.”
Oh my, is that what he thinks? I place my glass on the mantelpiece, reach over, and much to Christian’s surprise, take his glass and place it beside mine.
“We’ll just have to see about that,” I murmur. Very bravely—emboldened by the brandy, no doubt—I take Christian’s hand and pull him toward the bedroom. At the foot of the bed I stop. Christian is trying to hide his amusement.
“Now you have me in here, Anastasia, what are you going to do with me?” he teases, his voice low.
“I’m going to start by undressing you. I want to finish what I started earlier.” I reach for the lapels on his jacket, careful not to touch him, and he doesn’t flinch but he’s holding his breath.
Gently, I push his jacket over his shoulders, and his eyes stay on mine, all traces of humor gone, as they grow larger, burning into me, wary and needful? There are so many interpretations of his look. What is he thinking? I place his jacket on the ottoman.
“Now your T-shirt,” I whisper and lift it by the hem. He cooperates, raising his arms and backing away, making it easier for me to pull it off. Once off, he gazes down at me, intently, wearing just his jeans that hang so provocatively from his hips. The band of his boxer briefs is visible.
My eyes move hungrily up across his taut stomach to the remains of the lipstick line, faded and smudged, then up to his chest. I want nothing more than to run my tongue through his chest hair to savor his taste.
“Now what?” he whispers, eyes blazing.
“I want to kiss you here.” I run my finger from hipbone to hipbone across his belly.
His lips part as he inhales sharply. “I’m not stopping you,” he breathes.
I take his hand. “You’d better lie down then,” I murmur and lead him to the side of the four-poster bed. He seems bewildered, and it occurs to me that perhaps no one has taken the lead with him since . . . her. No, don’t go there.
Lifting the covers, he sits on the edge of the bed, gazing up at me, waiting, his expression wary and serious. I stand before him and slip off his denim jacket and let it drop to the floor, then I shuffle out of his sweatpants.
He rubs his thumb over the tips of his fingers. He’s itching to touch me, I can tell, but he suppresses the urge. Taking a deep breath and beyond courageous, I reach for the hem of my T-shirt and lift it over my head so I am naked before him. His eyes don’t leave mine, but he swallows and his lips part.
“You are Aphrodite, Anastasia,” he murmurs.
I clasp his face in my hands, tip his head up, and bend to kiss him. He groans low in his throat.
As I place my mouth on his, he grabs my hips, and before I know it, I am pinned beneath him, his legs forcing mine apart so that he’s cradled against my body between my legs. He’s kissing me, ravaging my mouth, our tongues entwined. His hand trails from my thigh, over my hip, along my belly to my breast, squeezing, kneading, and pulling enticingly on my nipple.
I groan and tilt my pelvis involuntarily against him, finding a delicious friction against the seam of his fly and his growing erection. He stops kissing me and gazes down at me bemused and breathless. He flexes his hips so his erection pushes against me. . . . Yes. Right there.
I close my eyes and moan, and he does it again, but this time I push back, relishing his answering moan as he kisses me again. He continues the slow delicious torture—rubbing me, rubbing him. And he’s right—getting lost in him—it’s intoxicating to the exclusion of everything else. All my worries are obliterated.
I am here in this moment with him—my blood singing in my veins, thrumming loudly through my ears, mixed with the sound of our panting breaths. I bury my hands in his hair, holding him to my mouth, consuming him, my tongue as avaricious as his. I trail my fingers down his arms, down his lower back to the waistband of his jeans and push my intrepid, greedy hands inside, urging him on and on—forgetting everything, except us.
“You’re going to unman me, Ana,” he whispers suddenly, breaking away from me and kneeling up. He briskly pulls down his jeans and hands me a foil packet.
“You want me, baby, and I sure as hell want you. You know what to do.”
With anxious, dexterous fingers, I rip open the foil and unroll the condom over him. He grins down at me, his mouth open, eyes misty gray and full of carnal promise. Leaning over me, he rubs his nose against mine, his eyes closed, and deliciously, slowly, he enters me.
I grasp his arms and tilt my chin up, reveling in the exquisitely full feeling of his possession. He runs his teeth along my chin, eases back, and then slides into me again—so slow, so sweet, so tender—his body pressing down on me, his elbows and his hands on either side of my face.
“You make me forget everything. You are the best therapy,” he breathes, moving at an achingly leisurely pace, savoring every inch of me.
“Please, Christian—faster,” I murmur, wanting more, now.
“Oh no, baby. I need this slow.” He kisses me sweetly, gently biting my lower lip and absorbing my soft moans.
I move my hands into his hair and surrender myself to his rhythm as slowly and surely my body climbs higher and higher and plateaus, then falls hard and fast as I come around him.
“Oh, Ana,” he breathes as he lets go, my name a benediction on his lips as he finds his release.
His head rests on my belly, his arms wrapped around me. My fingers forage in his unruly hair, and we lie like this for I don’t know how long. It’s so late and I am so tired, but I just want to enjoy the quiet serene after-glow of making love with Christian Grey, because that’s what we’ve done, gentle, sweet lovemaking.
He’s come a long way, as have I, in such a short time. It’s almost too much to absorb. With all the fucked-up stuff, I am losing sight of his simple, honest journey with me.
“I will never get enough of you. Don’t leave me,” he murmurs and kisses my belly.
“I’m not going anywhere, Christian, and I seem to remember that I wanted to kiss your belly,” I grumble sleepily.
He grins against my skin. “Nothing stopping you now baby.”
“I don’t think I can move I’m so tired.”
Christian sighs and shifts reluctantly, coming to lie beside me with his head on his elbow and dragging the covers over us. He gazes down at me, his eyes glowing, warm, loving.
“Sleep now, baby.” He kisses my hair and wraps his arm around me and I drift.
When I open my eyes, light is filling the room, making me blink. My head is fuzzy from lack of sleep. Where am I? Oh—the hotel . . .
“Hi,” Christian murmurs, smiling fondly at me. He’s lying beside me, fully dressed, on top of the bed. How long has he been here? Has he been studying me? Suddenly, I feel incredibly shy as my face heats under his steady gaze.
“Hi,” I murmur, grateful that I am lying on my front. “How long have you been watching me?”
“I could watch you sleep for hours, Anastasia. But I’ve only been here about five minutes.” He leans over and kisses me gently. “Dr. Greene will be here shortly.”
“Oh.” I’d forgotten about Christian’s inappropriate intervention.
“Did you sleep well?” he inquires mildly. “Certainly seemed like it to me, with all that snoring.”
Oh, playful teasing Fifty.
“I do not snore!” I pout petulantly.
“No. You don’t.” He grins at me. The faint line of red lipstick is still visible around his neck.
“Did you shower?”
“No. Waiting for you.”
“Oh . . . okay.”
“What time is it?”
“Ten fifteen. I didn’t have the heart to wake you earlier.”
“You told me you didn’t have a heart at all.”
He smiles, sadly but doesn’t answer. “Breakfast is here—pancakes and bacon for you. Come, get up, I’m getting lonely out here.” He swats me sharply on my behind, making me jump, and rises from the bed.
Hmm . . . Christian’s version of warm affection.
As I stretch, I’m aware I ache all over . . . no doubt a result of all the sex, dancing, and teetering in expensive high-heeled shoes. I stagger out of bed and make my way into the sumptuously appointed bathroom while going over the events of the previous day in my mind. When I come out, I don one of the over-fluffy bathrobes that hang on a brass peg in the bathroom.
Leila—the girl who looks like me—that’s the most startling image my brain conjures for conjecture, that and her eerie presence in Christian’s bedroom. What did she want? Me? Christian? To do what? And why the fuck has she wrecked my car?
Christian said I would have another Audi, like all his submissives. The thought is unwelcome. Since I was so generous with the money he gave me, there’s not a lot I can do.
I wander into the main room of the suite—no sign of Christian. I finally locate him in the dining room. I take a seat, grateful for the impressive breakfast laid before me. Christian is reading the Sunday papers and drinking coffee, his breakfast finished. He smiles at me.
“Eat up. You’re going to need your strength today,” he teases.
“And why is that? You going to lock me in the bedroom?” My inner goddess jerks awake suddenly, all disheveled with a just-fucked look.
“Appealing as that idea is, I thought we’d go out today. Get some fresh air.”
“Is it safe?” I ask innocently, trying and failing to keep the irony from my voice.
Christian’s face falls, and his mouth presses in a line. “Where we’re going, it is. And it’s not a joking matter,” he adds sternly, narrowing his eyes.
I flush and stare down at my breakfast. I don’t feel like being scolded after all the drama and such a late night. I eat my breakfast in silence, feeling petulant.
My subconscious is shaking her head at me. Fifty doesn’t joke about my safety—I should know this by now. I want to roll my eyes at him, but I refrain.
Okay, I’m tired and testy. I had a long day yesterday and not enough sleep. Why, oh why does he get to look as fresh as a daisy? Life is not fair.
There’s a knock at the door.
“That’ll be the good doctor,” Christian grumbles, obviously still smarting from my irony. He stalks from the table.
Can’t we just have a calm, normal morning? I sigh heavily, leaving half my breakfast, and get up to greet Doctor Depo-Provera.
We’re in the bedroom, and Dr. Greene is staring at me open-mouthed. She’s dressed more casually than last time in a pale pink cashmere twin set and black pants, and her fine blond hair is loose.
“And you just stopped taking it? Just like that?”
I flush, feeling beyond foolish.
“Yes.” Could my voice be any smaller?
“You could be pregnant,” she says matter-of-factly.
What! The world falls away at my feet. My subconscious collapses on the floor retching, and I think I’m going to be sick, too. No!
“Here, go pee in this.” She’s all business today—taking no prisoners.
Meekly, I accept the small plastic container she’s offered and wander in a daze into the bathroom. No. No. No. No way . . . No way . . . Please no. No.
What will Fifty do? I go pale. He’ll freak.
No, please! I whisper a silent prayer.
I hand Dr. Greene my sample, and she carefully places a small white stick in it.
“When did your period start?”
How am I supposed to think about such minutiae when all I can do is stare anxiously at the white stick?
“Er . . . Wednesday? Not the one just gone, the one before that. June first.”
“And when did you stop taking the pill?”
“Sunday. Last Sunday.”
She purses her lips.
“You should be okay,” she says sharply. “I can tell by your expression that an unplanned pregnancy would not be welcome news. So Medroxyprogesterone is a good idea if you can’t remember to take the pill every day.” She gives me a stern look, and I quail under her authoritative glare. Picking up the white stick, she peers at it.
“You’re in the clear. You’ve not ovulated yet, so provided you’ve been taking proper precautions, you shouldn’t be pregnant. Now, let me counsel you about this shot. We discounted it last time because of the side effects, but quite frankly, the side effects of a child are far-reaching and go on for years.” She smiles, pleased with herself and her little joke, but I can’t begin to respond—I’m too stunned.
Dr. Greene launches into full disclosure mode about side effects, and I sit paralyzed with relief, not listening to a word. I think I’d tolerate any number of strange women standing at the end of my bed rather than confess to Christian that I might be pregnant.
“Ana!” Dr. Greene snaps. “Let’s do this thing.” She pulls me out of my reverie, and I willingly roll up my sleeve.
Christian closes the door behind her and gazes at me warily. “Everything okay?” he asks.
I nod mutely, and he tilts his head to one side, his face tense with concern.
“Anastasia, what is it? What did Dr. Greene say?”
I shake my head. “You’re good to go in seven days,” I mutter.
“Seven days?”
“Ana, what’s wrong?”
I swallow. “It’s nothing to worry about. Please, Christian, just leave it.”
Christian looms in front of me. He grasps my chin, tipping my head back, and stares emphatically into my eyes, trying to decipher my panic.
“Tell me,” he snaps insistently.
“There’s nothing to tell. I’d like to get dressed.” I pull my chin out of his reach.
He sighs and runs a hand through his hair, frowning at me. “Let’s shower,” he says eventually.
“Of course,” I mutter, distracted, and his mouth twists.
“Come,” he says sulkily, clasping my hand firmly. He stalks toward the bathroom as I trail behind him. I am not the only one in a bad mood, it seems. Firing up the shower, Christian quickly strips before turning to me.
“I don’t know what’s upset you, or if you’re just bad-tempered through lack of sleep,” he says while unfastening my robe. “But I want you to tell me. My imagination is running away with me, and I don’t like it.”
I roll my eyes at him, and he glares back at me, narrowing his eyes. Shit! Okay . . . here goes.
“Dr. Greene scolded me about missing the pill. She said I could be pregnant.”
“What?” He pales, and his hands freeze as he gazes at me, suddenly ashen.
“But I’m not. She did a test. It was a shock, that’s all. I can’t believe I was that stupid.”
He visibly relaxes. “You’re sure you’re not?”
He blows out a deep breath. “Good. Yes, I can see that news like that would be very upsetting.”
I frown. . . . upsetting? “I was more worried about your reaction.”
He furrows his brow at me, puzzled. “My reaction? Well, naturally I’m relieved . . . it would be the height of carelessness and bad manners to knock you up.”
“Then maybe we should abstain,” I snap.
He gazes at me for a moment, bewildered, as if I’m some kind of science experiment. “You are in a bad temper this morning.”
“It was just a shock, that’s all,” I repeat petulantly.
Clasping the lapels of my robe, he pulls me into a warm embrace, kisses my hair, and presses my head against his chest. I’m distracted by his chest hair as it tickles my cheek. Oh, if I could just nuzzle him!
“Ana, I’m not used to this,” he murmurs. “My natural inclination is to beat it out of you, but I seriously doubt you want that.”
Holy shit. “No, I don’t. This helps.” I hug Christian tighter, and we stand for an age in a strange embrace, Christian naked and me wrapped in a robe. I am once again floored by his honesty. He knows nothing about relationships, and neither do I, except what I’ve learned from him. Well, he’s asked for faith and patience; maybe I should do the same.
“Come, let’s shower,” Christian says eventually, releasing me.
Stepping back, he peels me out of my robe, and I follow him into the cascading water, holding my face up to the torrent. There’s room for both of us under the gargantuan showerhead. Christian reaches for the shampoo and starts washing his hair. He hands it to me and I follow suit.
Oh, this feels good. Closing my eyes, I succumb to the cleansing, warming water. As I rinse off the shampoo, I feel his hands on me, soaping my body: my shoulders, my arms, under my arms, my breasts, my back. Gently he turns me around and pulls me against him as he continues down my body: my stomach, my belly, his skilled fingers between my legs—hmm—my behind. Oh, that feels good and so intimate. He turns me around to face him again.
“Here,” he says quietly, handing me the body wash. “I want you to wash off the remains of the lipstick.”
My eyes open in a flurry and dart quickly to his. He’s staring at me intently, soaking wet and beautiful, his glorious, bright gray eyes giving nothing away.
“Don’t stray far from the line, please,” he mutters tightly.
“Okay,” I murmur, trying to absorb the enormity of what he’s just asked me to do—to touch him on the edge of the forbidden zone.
I squeeze a small amount of soap on my hand, rub my hands together to create a lather, then place them on his shoulders and gently wash away the line of lipstick on each side. He stills and closes his eyes, his face impassive, but he’s breathing rapidly, and I know it’s not lust but fear. It cuts me to the quick.
With trembling fingers, I carefully follow the line down the side of his chest, soaping and rubbing softly, and he swallows, his jaw tense as if his teeth are clenched. Oh! My heart constricts and my throat tightens. Oh no, I’m going to cry.
I stop to add more soap to my hand and feel him relax in front of me. I can’t look up at him. I can’t bear to see his pain—it’s too much. I swallow.
“Ready?” I murmur and the tension is loud and clear in my voice.
“Yes,” he whispers, his voice husky, laced with fear.
Gently, I place my hands on either side of his chest, and he freezes again.
It’s too much. I am overwhelmed by his trust in me—overwhelmed by his fear, by the damage done to this beautiful, fallen, flawed man.
Tears pool in my eyes and spill down my face, lost in the water from the shower. Oh, Christian! Who did this to you?
His diaphragm moves rapidly with each shallow breath, his body is rigid, tension radiating off him in waves as my hands move along the line, erasing it. Oh, if I could just erase your pain, I would—I’d do anything—and I want nothing more than to kiss every single scar I see, to kiss away those hideous years of neglect. But I know I can’t, and my tears fall unbidden down my cheeks.
“No. Please, don’t cry,” he murmurs, his voice anguished as he wraps me tightly in his arms. “Please don’t cry for me.” And I burst into full-blown sobs, burying my face against his neck, as I think of a little boy lost in a sea of fear and pain, frightened, neglected, abused—hurt beyond all endurance.
Pulling away, he clasps my head with both hands, tilts it backward, and leans down to kiss me.
“Don’t cry, Ana, please,” he murmurs against my mouth. “It was long ago. I am aching for you to touch me, but I just can’t bear it. It’s too much. Please, please don’t cry.”
“I want to touch you, too. More than you’ll ever know. To see you like this . . . so hurt and afraid, Christian . . . it wounds me deeply. I love you so much.”
He runs his thumb across my bottom lip. “I know. I know,” he whispers.
“You’re very easy to love. Don’t you see that?”
“No, baby, I don’t.”
“You are. And I do and so does your family. So do Elena and Leila—they have a strange way of showing it—but they do. You are worthy.”
“Stop.” He puts his finger over my lips and shakes his head, an agonized expression on his face. “I can’t hear this. I’m nothing, Anastasia. I’m a husk of a man. I don’t have a heart.”
“Yes, you do. And I want it, all of it. You’re a good man, Christian, a really good man. Don’t ever doubt that. Look at what you’ve done . . . what you’ve achieved,” I sob. “Look what you’ve done for me . . . what you’ve turned your back on, for me,” I whisper. “I know. I know how you feel about me.”
He gazes down at me, his eyes wide and panicked, and all we can hear is the steady stream of water as it flows over us in the shower.
“You love me,” I whisper.
His eyes widen further and his mouth opens. He takes a huge breath as if winded. He looks tortured—vulnerable.
“Yes,” he whispers. “I do.”

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