Saturday, September 1, 2012

Bonus: Meet Fifty Shades

Meet Fifty Shades

Monday, May 9, 2011
“Tomorrow,” I mutter, dismissing Claude Bastille as he stands on the threshold of
my office.
“Golf, this week, Grey.” Bastille grins with easy arrogance, knowing that his
victory on the golf course is assured.
I scowl after him as he turns and leaves. His parting words rub salt into my
wounds because despite my heroic attempts in the gym this morning, my personal
trainer has kicked my ass. Bastille is the only one who can beat me, and now he
wants another pound of flesh on the golf course. I detest golf, but so much business
is done on the fairways I have to endure his lessons there too . . . and though
I hate to admit it, Bastille does go some way to improving my game.
As I stare out at the Seattle skyline, the familiar ennui seeps into my consciousness.
My mood is as flat and gray as the weather. My days are blending together
with no distinction, and I need some kind of diversion. I’ve worked all
weekend and now, in the continued confines of my office, I’m restless. I shouldn’t
feel this way, not after several bouts with Bastille. But I do.
I frown. The sobering truth is that the only thing to capture my interest recently
has been my decision to send two freighters of cargo to Sudan. This reminds
me—Ros is supposed to come back to me with numbers and logistics.
What the hell is keeping her? Intent on finding out what she’s playing at, I glance
at my schedule and reach for the phone.
Oh, Christ! I have to endure an interview with the persistent Miss Kavanagh
for the WSU student magazine. Why the fuck did I agree to this? I loathe interviews—
inane questions from inane, ill-informed, vacuous idiots. The phone
“Yes,” I snap at Andrea as if she’s to blame. At least I can keep this interview
“Miss Anastasia Steele is here to see you, Mr. Grey.”
“Steele? I was expecting Katherine Kavanagh.”
“It’s Miss Anastasia Steele who’s here, sir.”
I scowl. I hate the unexpected. “Show her in,” I mutter, aware that I sound
like a sulky teen but not giving a fuck.
Well, well . . . Miss Kavanagh is unavailable. I know her father, the owner of
Kavanagh Media. We’ve done business together, and he seems like a shrewd operator
and a rational human being. This interview is a favor to him—one that I
mean to cash in later when it suits me. And I have to admit I was vaguely curious
about his daughter, interested to see if the apple had fallen far from the tree.
A commotion at the door brings me to my feet as a whirl of long chestnut
hair, pale limbs, and brown boots dives head first into my office. I roll my eyes
and repress my natural annoyance at such clumsiness as I hurry over to the girl
who has landed on her hands and knees on the floor. Clasping her slim shoulders,
I help her to her feet.
Clear, bright-blue, embarrassed eyes meet mine and halt me in my tracks.
They are the most extraordinary color—guileless, powder-blue—and for one awful
moment, I think she can see right through me. I feel . . . exposed. The thought
is unnerving. She has a small, sweet face that is blushing now, an innocent pale
rose. I wonder briefly if all her skin is like that—flawless—and what it would
look like pink and warmed from the bite of a cane. Fuck. I stop my wayward
thoughts, alarmed at their direction. What the fuck are you thinking, Grey. This
girl is much too young. She gapes at me, and I almost roll my eyes again. Yeah,
yeah, baby, it’s just a face, and the beauty is only skin-deep. I want to dispel that
unguarded, admiring look from those big blue eyes.
Showtime, Grey. Let’s have some fun. “Miss Kavanagh? I’m Christian Grey.
Are you all right? Would you like to sit?”
There’s that blush again. In command once more, I study her. She’s quite attractive,
in a gauche way—slight, pale, with a mane of mahogany hair barely contained
by a hair tie. A brunette. Yeah, she’s attractive. I extend my hand, and she
stutters the beginning of a mortified apology and places her small hand in mine.
Her skin is cool and soft, but her handshake surprisingly firm.
“Miss Kavanagh is indisposed, so she sent me. I hope you don’t mind, Mr.
Grey.” Her voice is quiet with a hesitant musicality, and she blinks erratically,
long lashes fluttering over those big blue eyes.
Unable to keep the amusement from my voice as I recall her less-than-elegant
entrance into my office, I ask who she is.
“Anastasia Steele. I’m studying English Literature with Kate, um . . . Katherine
. . . um . . . Miss Kavanagh at Washington State.”
A nervous, bashful, bookish type, eh? She looks it; hideously dressed, hiding
her slight frame beneath a shapeless sweater and an A-line brown skirt. Christ,
does she have no dress sense at all? She looks nervously around my office—
everywhere but at me, I note with amused irony.
How can this young woman be a journalist? She doesn’t have an assertive
bone in her body. She’s all charmingly flustered, meek, mild . . . submissive. I
shake my head, bemused at where my inappropriate thoughts are going. Muttering
some platitude, I ask her to sit, then notice her discerning gaze appraising my
office paintings. Before I can stop myself, I find I’m explaining them. “A local
artist. Trouton.”
“They’re lovely. Raising the ordinary to extraordinary,” she says dreamily,
lost in the exquisite, fine artistry of my paintings. Her profile is delicate—an upturned
nose, soft, full lips—and in her words she has mirrored my sentiments exactly.
“The ordinary raised to extraordinary.” It’s a keen observation. Miss
Steele is bright.
I mutter my agreement and watch that flush creep slowly over her skin once
more. As I sit down opposite her, I try to bridle my thoughts.
She fishes a crumpled sheet of paper and a mini-disc recorder out of her
overly large bag. Mini-disc recorder? Didn’t those go out with VHS tapes?
Christ—she’s all thumbs, dropping the damned thing twice on my Bauhaus coffee
table. She’s obviously never done this before, but for some reason I can’t fathom,
I find it amusing. Normally this kind of fumbling maladroitness irritates the fuck
out of me, but now I hide my smile beneath my index finger and resist the urge to
set it up for her myself.
As she grows more and more flustered, it occurs to me that I could refine her
motor skills with the aid of a riding crop. Adeptly used it can bring even the most
skittish to heel. The errant thought makes me shift in my chair. She peeks up at
me and bites down on her full bottom lip. Fuck me! How did I not notice that
mouth before?
“Sorry, I’m not used to this.”
I can tell, baby—my thought is ironic—but right now I don’t give a fuck, because
I can’t take my eyes off your mouth.
“Take all the time you need, Miss Steele.” I need yet another moment to marshal
my wayward thoughts. Grey . . . stop this, now.
“Do you mind if I record your answers?” she asks, her face candid and
I want to laugh. Oh, thank Christ.
“After you’ve taken so much trouble to set up the recorder, you ask me
now?” She blinks, her eyes large and lost for a moment, and I feel an unfamiliar
twinge of guilt. Stop being such a shit, Grey.
“No, I don’t mind,” I mutter, not wanting to be responsible for that look.
“Did Kate—I mean Miss Kavanagh—explain what the interview was for?”
“Yes, to appear in the graduation issue of the student newspaper as I shall be
conferring the degrees at this year’s graduation ceremony.” Why the fuck I’ve
agreed to do that, I don’t know. Sam in PR tells me it’s an honor, and the environmental
science department in Vancouver needs the publicity in order to attract additional
funding to match the grant I’ve given them.
Miss Steele blinks, all big blue eyes once more, as if my words are a surprise
and fuck—she looks disapproving! Hasn’t she done any background work for this
interview? She should know this. The thought cools my blood. It’s . . . displeasing,
not what I expect from her or anyone I give my time to.
“Good. I have some questions, Mr. Grey.” She tucks a lock of hair behind her
ear, distracting me from my annoyance.
“I thought you might,” I mutter dryly. Let’s make her squirm. Obligingly she
squirms, then pulls herself together, sitting up straight and squaring her small
shoulders. Leaning forward she presses the start button on the mini-disc, and
frowns as she glances down at her crumpled notes.
“You’re very young to have amassed such an empire. To what do you owe
your success?”
Oh Christ! Surely she can do better than this? What a fucking dull question.
Not one iota of originality. It’s disappointing. I trot out my usual response about
having exceptional people in the U.S. working for me. People I trust, insofar as I
trust anyone, and pay well—blah, blah, blah . . . But Miss Steele, the simple fact
is, I’m a fucking genius at what I do. For me it’s like falling off a log. Buying ailing,
mismanaged companies and fixing them, or if they’re really broken, stripping
their assets and selling them off to the highest bidder. It’s simply a question of
knowing the difference between the two, and invariably it comes down to the
people in charge. To succeed in business you need good people, and I can judge a
person, better than most.
“Maybe you’re just lucky,” she says quietly.
Lucky? A frisson of annoyance runs through me. Lucky? No fucking luck involved
here, Miss Steele. She looks unassuming and quiet, but this question? No
one has ever asked me if I was lucky. Hard work, bringing people with me, keeping
a close watch on them, second-guessing them if I need to; and if they aren’t up
to the task, ruthlessly ditching them. That’s what I do, and I do it well. It’s nothing
to do with luck! Well, fuck that. Flaunting my erudition, I quote the words of
my favorite American industrialist to her.
“You sound like a control freak,” she says, and she’s perfectly serious.
What the fuck?
Maybe those guileless eyes can see though me. Control is my middle name.
I glare at her. “Oh, I exercise control in all things, Miss Steele.” And I’d like
to exercise it over you, right here, right now.
Her eyes widen. That attractive blush steals across her face once more, and
she bites that lip again. I ramble on, trying to distract myself from her mouth.
“Besides, immense power is acquired by assuring yourself, in your secret reveries,
that you were born to control things.”
“Do you feel that you have immense power?” she asks in a soft soothing
voice, but she arches her delicate brow, revealing the censure in her eyes. My annoyance
grows. Is she deliberately trying to goad me? Is it her questions, her attitude,
or the fact that I find her attractive that’s pissing me off?
“I employ over forty thousand people, Miss Steele. That gives me a certain
sense of responsibility—power, if you will. If I were to decide I was no longer interested
in the telecommunications business and sell up, twenty thousand people
would struggle to make their mortgage payments after a month or so.”
Her mouth pops open at my response. That’s more like it. Suck it up, Miss
Steele. I feel my equilibrium returning.
“Don’t you have a board to answer to?”
“I own my company. I don’t answer to a board,” I respond sharply. She
should know this. I raise a questioning brow.
“And do you have any interests outside of your work?” she continues hastily,
correctly gauging my reaction. She knows I’m pissed, and for some inexplicable
reason this pleases me enormously.
“I have varied interests, Miss Steele. Very varied.” I smile. Images of her in
assorted positions in my playroom flash through my mind: shackled on the cross,
spread-eagle on the four-poster, splayed over the whipping bench. Fucking hell!
Where is this coming from? And behold—there’s that blush again. It’s like a defense
mechanism. Calm down, Grey.
“But if you work so hard, what do you do to chill out?”
“Chill out?” I grin, those words out of her smart mouth sound odd. Besides
when do I get time to chill out? Has she no idea of the number of companies I
control? But she looks at me with those ingenuous blue eyes, and to my surprise I
find myself considering her question. What do I do to chill out? Sailing, flying,
fucking . . . testing the limits of little brown-haired girls like her, and bringing
them to heel . . . The thought makes me shift in my seat, but I answer her
smoothly, omitting my two favorite hobbies.
“You invest in manufacturing. Why, specifically?”
Her question drags me rudely back to the present.
“I like to build things. I like to know how things work, what makes things
tick, how to construct and deconstruct. And I have a love of ships. What can I
say?” They distribute food around the planet—taking goods from the haves to the
have-nots and back again. What’s not to like?
“That sounds like your heart talking, rather than logic and facts.”
Heart? Me? Oh no, baby. My heart was savaged beyond recognition a long
time ago. “Possibly, though there are people who’d say I don’t have a heart.”
“Why would they say that?”
“Because they know me well.” I give her a wry smile. In fact no one knows
me that well, except maybe Elena. I wonder what she would make of little Miss
Steele here. The girl is a mass of contradictions: shy, uneasy, obviously bright,
and arousing as hell. Yes, okay, I admit it. She’s an alluring little piece.
She recites the next question by rote.
“Would your friends say you’re easy to get to know?”
“I’m a very private person, Miss Steele. I go a long way to protect my privacy.
I don’t often give interviews.” Doing what I do, living the life I’ve chosen, I
need my privacy.
“Why did you agree to do this one?”
“Because I’m a benefactor of the university, and for all intents and purposes,
I couldn’t get Miss Kavanagh off my back. She badgered and badgered my PR
people, and I admire that kind of tenacity.” But I’m glad it’s you who turned up
and not her.
“You also invest in farming technologies. Why are you interested in this
“We can’t eat money, Miss Steele, and there are too many people on this
planet who don’t have enough to eat.” I stare at her, poker-faced.
“That sounds very philanthropic. Is that something you feel passionately
about? Feeding the world’s poor?” She regards me with a quizzical expression as
if I’m some kind of conundrum for her to solve, but there is no way I want those
big blue eyes seeing into my dark soul. This is not an area open to discussion.
“It’s shrewd business.” I shrug, feigning boredom, and I imagine fucking her
smart mouth to distract myself from all thoughts of hunger. Yes, that mouth needs
training. Now that thought is appealing, and I let myself imagine her on her knees
before me.
“Do you have a philosophy? If so, what is it?” she recites by rote again.
“I don’t have a philosophy as such. Maybe a guiding principle, Carnegie’s ‘A
man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take
possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.’ I’m very singular, driven.
I like control . . . of myself and those around me.”
“So you want to possess things?” Her eyes widen.
Yes, baby. You, for one.
“I want to deserve to possess them, but yes, bottom line, I do.”
“You sound like the ultimate consumer.” Her voice is tinged with disapproval,
pissing me off again. She sounds like a rich kid who’s had all she ever wanted,
but as I take a closer look at her clothes—she’s dressed in Walmart, or Old Navy
possibly—I know that isn’t it. She hasn’t grown up in an affluent household.
I could really take care of you.
Shit, where the fuck did that come from? Although, now that I consider it, I
do need a new sub. It’s been, what—two months since Susannah? And here I am,
salivating over this brown-haired girl. I try a smile and agree with her. Nothing
wrong with consumption—after all, it drives what’s left of the American
“You were adopted. How far do you think that’s shaped the way you are?”
What the fuck does this have to do with the price of oil? I scowl at her. What
a ridiculous question. If I’d stayed with the crack whore, I’d probably be dead. I
blow her off with a non-answer, trying to keep my voice level, but she pushes me,
demanding to know my how old I was when I was adopted. Shut her down, Grey!
“That’s a matter of public record, Miss Steele.” My voice is arctic. She
should know this shit. Now she looks contrite. Good.
“You’ve had to sacrifice a family life for your work.”
“That’s not a question,” I snap.
She blushes again and bites down on that damned lip. But she has the grace
to apologize.
“Have you had to sacrifice a family life for your work?”
What do I want with a fucking family?
“I have a family. I have a brother and a sister and two loving parents. I’m not
interested in extending my family beyond that.”
“Are you gay, Mr. Grey?”
What the fuck! I cannot believe she’s said that out loud! The unspoken question
that my own family dares not ask, much to my amusement. How dare she! I
have to fight down the urge to drag her out of her seat, bend her across my knee,
and spank the living shit out of her, then fuck her over my desk with her hands
tied tightly behind her back. That would answer her question. How frustrating is
this female? I take a deep calming breath. To my vindictive delight, she appears to
be acutely embarrassed by her own question.
“No, Anastasia, I’m not.” I raise my eyebrows, but keep my expression impassive.
Anastasia. It is a lovely name. I like the way my tongue rolls around it.
“I apologize. It’s um . . . written here.” Nervously, she tucks her hair behind
her ear.
She doesn’t know her own questions? Perhaps they’re not hers. I ask her, and
she pales. Fuck, she really is very attractive, in an understated sort of way. I
would even go so far as to say she is beautiful.
“Er . . . no. Kate—Miss Kavanagh—she compiled the questions.”
“Are you colleagues on the student paper?”
“No, she’s my roommate.”
No wonder she is all over the place. I scratch my chin, debating whether to
give her a really, really hard time.
“Did you volunteer to do this interview?” I ask, and I’m rewarded with her
submissive look: eyes large, nervous about my reaction. I like the effect I have on
“I was drafted. She’s not well,” she says softly.
“That explains a great deal.”
There’s a knock at the door, and Andrea appears. “Mr. Grey, forgive me for
interrupting, but your next meeting is in two minutes.”
“We’re not finished here, Andrea. Please cancel my next meeting.”
Andrea hesitates, gaping at me. I stare at her. Out! Now! I’m busy with Little
Miss Steele here. Andrea blushes scarlet, but recovers quickly.
“Very well, Mr. Grey,” she says, and turning on her heel, she leaves us.
I turn my attention back to the intriguing, frustrating creature on my couch.
“Where were we, Miss Steele?”
“Please don’t let me keep you from anything.”
Oh no, baby. It’s my turn now. I want to know if there are any secrets to uncover
behind those beautiful eyes.
“I want to know about you. I think that’s only fair.” As I lean back and press
my fingers to my lips, her eyes flick to my mouth and she swallows. Oh, yes—the
usual effect. And it is gratifying to know she isn’t completely oblivious to my
“There’s not much to know,” she says, her blush returning. I’m intimidating
her. Good.
“What are your plans after you graduate?”
She shrugs. “I haven’t made any plans, Mr. Grey. I just need to get through
my final exams.”
“We run an excellent internship program here.” Fuck. What possessed me to
say that? I’m breaking a golden rule—never, ever fuck the staff. But Grey, you’re
not fucking this girl. She looks surprised, and her teeth sink into that lip again.
Why is that so arousing?
“Oh. I’ll bear that in mind,” she mumbles. Then as an afterthought she says,
“Though I’m not sure I’d fit in here.”
Why the hell not? What’s wrong with my company?
“Why do you say that?” I ask.
“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?”
“Not to me.” I’m confounded by her response.
She’s flustered again as she reaches for the mini-disc recorder. Shit, she’s going.
Mentally I run through my schedule for that afternoon—there is nothing that
won’t keep.
“Would you like me to show you around?”
“I’m sure you’re far too busy, Mr. Grey, and I do have a long drive.”“You’re
driving back to WSU in Vancouver?” I glance out the window. It’s one hell of a
drive, and it’s raining. Shit. She shouldn’t be driving in this weather, but I can’t
forbid her. The thought irritates me. “Well, you’d better drive carefully.” My
voice is sterner than I intend.
She fumbles with the mini-disc. She wants out of my office, and for some
reason I can’t explain, I don’t want her to go.
“Did you get everything you need?” I add in a transparent effort to prolong
her stay.
“Yes, sir,” she says quietly.
Her response floors me—the way those words sound, coming out of that
smart mouth—and briefly I imagine that mouth at my beck and call.
“Thank you for the interview, Mr. Grey.”
“The pleasure’s been all mine,” I respond–truthfully, because I haven’t been
this fascinated by anyone in a long while. The thought is unsettling.
She stands and I extend my hand, eager to touch her.
“Until we meet again, Miss Steele.” My voice is low as she places her small
hand in mine. Yes, I want to flog and fuck this girl in my playroom. Have her
bound and wanting . . . needing me, trusting me. I swallow. It ain’t going to happen,
“Mr. Grey.” She nods and withdraws her hand quickly . . . too quickly.
Shit, I can’t let her go like this. It’s obvious she is desperate to leave. Irritation
and inspiration hit me simultaneously as I see her out.
“Just ensuring you make it through the door, Miss Steele.”
She blushes on cue, her delicious shade of pink.
“That’s very considerate, Mr. Grey,” she snaps.
Miss Steele has teeth! I grin behind her as she exits, and I follow in her wake.
Both Andrea and Olivia look up in shock. Yeah, yeah. I’m just seeing the girl out.
“Did you have a coat?” I ask.
I scowl at simpering Olivia, who immediately leaps up to retrieve a navy
coat. Taking it, I glare at her to sit down. Christ, Olivia is annoying—mooning
over me all the time.
Hmm. The coat is from Walmart. Miss Anastasia Steele should be better
dressed. I hold it up for her, and as I pull it over her slim shoulders, I touch the
skin at the base of her neck. She stills at the contact and pales. Yes! She is affected
by me. The knowledge is immensely pleasing. Strolling over to the elevator, I
press the call button while she stands fidgeting beside me.
Oh, I could so stop your fidgeting, baby.
The doors open and she scurries in then turns to face me.
“Anastasia,” I murmur, saying good-bye.
“Christian,” she whispers. And the elevator doors close, leaving my name
hanging in the air, sounding odd, unfamiliar, but sexy as hell.
Well, fuck me. What was that?
I need to know more about this girl. “Andrea,” I snap as I stalk back into my
office. “Get me Welch on the line, now.”
As I sit at my desk and wait for the call, I look at the paintings on the wall of
my office, and Miss Steele’s words drift back to me. “Raising the ordinary to extraordinary.”
She could so easily have been describing herself.
My phone buzzes.
“I have Mr. Welch on the line for you.”
“Put him through.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Welch, I need a background check.”

I pore over the executive summary for the hundredth time since I received it
two days ago, looking for some insight into the enigmatic Miss Anastasia Rose
Steele. I cannot get the damned woman out of my mind, and it’s seriously beginning
to piss me off. This past week, during particularly dull meetings, I’ve found
myself replaying the interview in my head. Her fumbling fingers on the recorder,
the way she tucked her hair behind her ear, the lip biting. Yes. The fucking lip biting
gets me every time.
And now, here I am, parked outside Clayton’s, the modest hardware store on
the outskirts of Portland where she works.
You’re a fool, Grey. Why are you here?
I knew it would lead to this. All week . . . I knew I’d have to see her again.
I’d known it since she uttered my name in the elevator and disappeared into the
depths of my building. I’d tried to resist. I’d waited five days, five fucking days to
see if I’d forget about her. And I don’t do waiting. I hate waiting . . . for anything.
I’ve never actively pursued a woman before. The women I’ve had understood
what I expected of them. My fear now is that Miss Steele is just too young and
that she won’t be interested in what I have to offer . . . will she? Will she even
make a good submissive? I shake my head. There’s only one way to find out . . .
so here I am, a fucking ass, sitting in a suburban parking lot in a dreary part of
Her background check has produced nothing remarkable—except the last
fact, which has been at the forefront of my mind. It’s the reason I’m here. Why no
boyfriend, Miss Steele? Sexual orientation unknown—perhaps she’s gay. I snort,
thinking that unlikely. I recall the question she asked during the interview, her
acute embarrassment, the way her skin flushed a pale rose . . . Shit. I’ve been suffering
from these ludicrous thoughts since I met her.
That’s why you’re here.
I’m itching to see her again—those blue eyes have haunted me, even in my
dreams. I haven’t mentioned her to Flynn, and I’m glad because I’m now behaving
like a stalker. Perhaps I should let him know. I roll my eyes—I don’t want
him hounding me about his latest solution-based shit. I just need a distraction . . .
and right now the only distraction I want is working as a salesclerk in a hardware
You’ve come all this way. Let’s see if little Miss Steele is as appealing as you
remember. Showtime, Grey. I climb out of the car and stroll across the lot to the
front door. A bell chimes a flat electronic note as I walk in.
The store is much bigger than it looks from the outside, and although it is almost
lunchtime the place is quiet, for a Saturday. There are aisles and aisles of the
usual crap you’d expect. I’d forgotten the possibilities that a hardware store could
present to someone like me. I mainly shop online for my needs, but while I’m
here, maybe I’ll stock up on a few items . . . Velcro, split rings—Yeah. I’ll find
the delectable Miss Steele and have some fun.
It takes me all of three seconds to spot her. She’s hunched over the counter,
staring intently at a computer screen and picking at her lunch—a bagel. Unthinking,
she wipes a crumb from the corner of her lips and into her mouth and sucks
on her finger. My cock twitches in response. Fuck! What am I, fourteen? My reaction
is fucking irritating. Maybe this adolescent response will stop if I fetter, fuck,
and flog her . . . and not necessarily in that order. Yeah. That’s what I need.
She is thoroughly absorbed in her task, and it gives me an opportunity to
study her. Salacious thoughts aside, she is attractive, seriously attractive. I’ve remembered
her well.
She glances up and freezes, pinning me with intelligent, discerning eyes—the
bluest of blue that seem to see right through me. It’s as unnerving as the first time
I met her. She just stares, shocked I think, and I don’t know if this is a good response
or a bad response.
“Miss Steele. What a pleasant surprise.”
“Mr. Grey,” she whispers, breathy and flustered. Ah . . . a good response.
“I was in the area. I need to stock up on a few things. It’s a pleasure to see
you again, Miss Steele.” A real pleasure. She’s dressed in tight T-shirt and jeans,
not the shapeless shit she was wearing earlier this week. She’s all long legs, small
waist, and perfect tits. She continues to gape, and I have to resist the urge to reach
out and tip her chin up to close her mouth. I’ve flown from Seattle just to see you,
and the way you look right now, it was worth the journey.
“Ana. My name’s Ana. What can I help you with, Mr. Grey?” She takes a
deep breath, squares her shoulders like she did in the interview, and gives me a
fake smile that I’m sure she reserves for customers.
Game on, Miss Steele.
“There are a few items I need. To start with, I’d like some cable ties.”
Her lips part as she inhales sharply.
You’d be amazed what I can do with a few cable ties, Miss Steele.
“We stock various lengths. Shall I show you?”
“Please. Lead the way, Miss Steele.”
She steps out from behind the counter and gestures toward one of the aisles.
She’s wearing chucks. Idly I wonder what she’d look like in skyscraper heels.
Laboutins . . . nothing but Laboutins.
“They’re in with the electrical goods, aisle eight.” Her voice wavers and she
blushes . . . again.
She is affected by me. Hope blooms in my chest. Not gay then. I smirk.
“After you,” I murmur, holding my hand out for her to lead the way. Letting
her walk ahead gives me the space and time to admire her fantastic ass. She really
is the whole package: sweet, polite, and beautiful with all the physical attributes I
value in a submissive. But the million-dollar question is, could she be a
submissive? She probably knows nothing of the lifestyle—my lifestyle—but I
very much want to introduce her to it. You are getting way ahead of yourself on
this deal, Grey.
“Are you in Portland on business?” she asks, interrupting my thoughts. Her
voice is high, trying to feign disinterest. It makes me want to laugh, which is refreshing.
Women rarely make me laugh.
“I was visiting the WSU farming division based in Vancouver.” I lie. Actually
I’m here to see you, Miss Steele.
She flushes, and I feel like a shit.
“I’m currently funding some research there in crop rotation and soil science.”
That, at least, is true.
“All part of your feed-the-world plan?” Her lips shift to a half-smile.
“Something like that.” I mutter. Is she laughing at me? Oh I’d love to put a
stop to that if she is. But how to start? Maybe with dinner, rather than the usual interview
. . . now that would be novel; taking a prospect out to dinner.
We arrive at the cable ties, which are arranged in an assortment of lengths
and colors. Absentmindedly my fingers trace over the packets. I could just ask her
out for dinner. Like on a date? Would she come? When I glance at her she’s examining
her knotted fingers. She can’t look at me . . . this is promising. I select
the longer ties. They are more flexible after all—they can accommodate two
ankles and two wrists at once.
“These will do,” I murmur, and she blushes, again.
“Is there anything else?” she says quickly—either she’s being super attentive
or she wants to get me out of the store, I don’t know which.
“I’d like some masking tape.”
“Are you redecorating?”
I suppress my snort. “No, not redecorating.” I haven’t held a paintbrush in a
long time. The thought makes me smile, I have people to do all that shit.
“This way,” she murmurs, looking chagrined. “Masking tape is in the decorating
Come on Grey. You don’t have long. Engage her in some conversation.
“Have you worked here long?” Of course, I already know the answer. Unlike
some people, I do my research. She blushes once more—Christ, this girl is shy. I
don’t have a hope in hell. She turns quickly and walks down the aisle toward the
section labeled DECORATING. I follow her eagerly. What am I, a fucking puppy?
“Four years,” she mumbles as we reach the masking tape. She bends down
and grasps two rolls, each a different width.
“I’ll take that one,” I say. The wider tape is much more effective as a gag. As
she passes it to me, the tips of our fingers touch, briefly. It resonates in my groin.
She pales. “Anything else?” Her voice is soft and husky.
Christ, I’m having the same effect on her that she has on me. Maybe . . .
“Some rope, I think.”
“This way.” She quickly scoots up the aisle, giving me another chance to appreciate
her fine ass.
“What sort were you after? We have synthetic and natural filament rope . . .
twine . . . cable cord . . .”
Shit—stop. I groan inwardly, trying to chase away the image of her suspended
from the ceiling in my playroom.
“I’ll take five yards of the natural filament rope, please.” It’s coarser and
chafes more if you struggle against it . . . my rope of choice.
A tremor runs through her fingers, but she efficiently measures out five
yards. Pulling a utility knife from her right pocket, she cuts the rope in one swift
gesture, coils it neatly, and ties it off with a slipknot. Impressive.
“Were you a Girl Scout?”
“Organized group activities aren’t really my thing, Mr. Grey.”
“What is your thing, Anastasia?” I catch her gaze, and her irises dilate as I
stare. Yes!
“Books,” she whispers.
“What kind of books?”
“Oh, you know. The usual. The classics. British literature, mainly.”
British literature? Bronte and Austen, I bet. All those romantic hearts and
flowers types. Fuck. That’s not good.
“Anything else you need?”
“I don’t know. What else would you recommend?” I want to see her reaction.
“For a do-it-yourselfer?” she asks, surprised.
I want to hoot with laughter. Oh baby, DIY is not my thing. I nod, stifling my
mirth. Her eyes flick down my body and I tense. She is checking me out! Fuck
“Coveralls,” she blurts out.
It’s the most unexpected thing I’ve heard out of her sweet, smart mouth since
the “are you gay” question.
“You wouldn’t want to ruin your clothing.” She gestures to my jeans, embarrassed
once more.
I can’t resist. “I could always take them off.”
“Um.” She flushes beet red and gazes down at the floor.
“I’ll take some coveralls. Heaven forbid I should ruin any clothing,” I murmur
to put her out of her misery. Without a word, she turns and walks briskly up
the aisle, and once again I follow in her enticing wake.
“Do you need anything else?” she says breathlessly, handing me a pair of
blue coveralls. She’s mortified, eyes still cast down, face flushed. Christ, she does
things to me.
“How’s the article coming along?” I ask in the hope she might relax a little.
She looks up and gives me a brief relieved smile. Finally. “I’m not writing it,
Katherine is. Miss Kavanagh. My roommate, she’s the writer. She’s very happy
with it. She’s the editor of the magazine, and she was devastated that she couldn’t
do the interview in person.”
It’s the longest sentence she’s addressed to me since we first met, and she’s
talking about someone else, not herself. Interesting.
Before I can comment, she adds, “Her only concern is that she doesn’t have
any original photographs of you.”
The tenacious Miss Kavanagh wants photographs. Publicity stills, eh? I can
do that. It will allow me to spend some more time with the delectable Miss Steele.
“What sort of photographs does she want?”
She gazes at me for a moment, then shakes her head.
“Well, I’m around. Tomorrow, perhaps . . .” I can stay in Portland. Work
from a hotel. A room at the Heathman, perhaps. I’ll need Taylor to come down,
bring my laptop and some clothes. Or Elliot—unless he’s screwing around, which
is his usual MO over the weekend.
“You’d be willing to attend a photo shoot?” She cannot contain her surprise.
I give her a brief nod. You’d be amazed what I’d do to spend more time with
you, Miss Steele . . . in fact, so am I.
“Kate will be delighted—if we can find a photographer.” She smiles and her
face lights up like a summer dawn. Christ, she’s breathtaking.
“Let me know about tomorrow.” I pull my card out of my wallet. “It has my
cell number on it. You’ll need to call before ten in the morning.” And if she
doesn’t, I’ll head on back to Seattle and forget about this stupid venture. The
thought depresses me.
“Okay.” She continues to grin.
“Ana!” We both turn as a young man, casually but expensively dressed, appears
at the far end of the aisle. He’s all fucking smiles for Miss Anastasia Steele.
Who the hell is this prick?
“Er . . . excuse me for a moment, Mr. Grey.” She walks toward him, and the
fucker engulfs her in a gorilla-like hug. My blood runs cold. It’s a primal response.
Get your motherfucking paws off her. I fist my hands and am only slightly
mollified when I see her make no move to hug him back.
They fall into a whispered conversation. Shit, maybe Welch’s facts were
wrong. Maybe this guy is her boyfriend. He looks the right age, and he can’t take
his greedy little eyes off her. He holds her for a moment at arm’s length, examining
her, then stands with his arm leisurely resting on her shoulder. It’s a seemingly
casual gesture, but I know he’s staking a claim and telling me to back off.
She seems embarrassed, shifting from foot to foot.
Shit. I should go. Then she says something else to him and moves out of his
reach, touching his arm, not his hand. It’s clear they aren’t close. Good.
“Er . . . Paul, this is Christian Grey. Mr. Grey, this is Paul Clayton. His brother
owns the place.” She gives me an odd look that I don’t understand and continues,
“I’ve known Paul ever since I’ve worked here, though we don’t see each other
that often. He’s back from Princeton where he’s studying business
The boss’s brother, not a boyfriend. The extent of the relief I feel is unexpected,
and it makes me frown. This woman has really gotten under my skin.
“Mr. Clayton.” My tone is deliberately clipped.
“Mr. Grey.” He shakes my hand limply. Wet fucker. “Wait up—not the
Christian Grey of Grey Enterprises Holdings?” In a heartbeat I watch him morph
from territorial to obsequious.
Yeah, that’s me, you prick.
“Wow—is there anything I can get you?”
“Anastasia has it covered, Mr. Clayton. She’s been very attentive.” Now fuck
“Cool,” he gushes all wide-eyed and deferential. “Catch you later, Ana.”
“Sure, Paul,” she says, and he ambles off, thank Christ. I watch him disappear
toward the back of the store.
“Anything else, Mr. Grey?”
“Just these items,” I mutter. Shit, I’m out of time, and I still don’t know if
I’m going to see her again. I have to know whether there’s a hope in hell she
might consider what I have in mind. How can I ask her? Am I ready to take on a
new submissive, one who knows nothing? Shit. She’s going to need substantial
training. I groan inwardly at all the interesting possibilities this presents . . .fuck
me, getting there is going to be half the fun. Will she even be interested? Or do I
have this all wrong?
She heads back to the cashier’s desk and rings up my purchases, all the while
keeping her gaze cast down. Look at me, dammit! I want to see her beautiful blue
eyes again and gauge what she’s thinking.
Finally she raises her head. “That will be forty-three dollars, please.”
Is that all?
“Would you like a bag?” she asks, slipping into salesclerk mode as I pass her
my Amex.
“Please, Anastasia.” Her name—a beautiful name for a beautiful girl—rolls
off my tongue.
She packs the items briskly and efficiently into the carrier. This is it. I have to
“You’ll call me if you want me to do the photo shoot?”
She nods as she hands back my charge card.
“Good. Until tomorrow, perhaps.” I can’t just leave. I have to let her know
I’m interested. “Oh, and Anastasia? I’m glad Miss Kavanagh couldn’t do the interview.”
Delighting in her stunned expression, I sling the bag over my shoulder
and saunter out of the store.
Yes, against my better judgment, I want her. Now I have to wait . . . fucking
wait . . . again.

Bonus: Fifty Shades Christmas

Bonus: Fifty Shades Christmas

My sweater is scratchy and smells of new. Everything is new. I have a new
mommy. She is a doctor. She has a tetscope that I can stick in my ears and hear
my heart. She is kind and smiles. She smiles all the time. Her teeth are small and
“Do you want to help me decorate the tree, Christian?”
There is a big tree in the room with the big couches. A big tree. I have seen
these before. But in stores. Not inside where the couches are. My new house has
lots of couches. Not one couch. Not one brown sticky couch.
“Here, look.”
My new mommy shows me a box, and it’s full of balls. Lots of pretty shiny
“These are ornaments for the tree.”
Orn-a-ments. Orn-a-ments. My head says the word. Orn-a-ments.
“And these—” she stops and pulls out a string with little flowers on them.
“These are the lights. Lights first, and then we can trim the tree.” She reaches
down and puts her fingers in my hair. I go very still. But I like her fingers in my
hair. I like to be near New Mommy. She smells good. Clean. And she only
touches my hair.
He’s calling. Lelliot. He’s big and loud. Very loud. He talks. All the time. I
don’t talk at all. I have no words. I have words in my head.
“Elliot, darling, we’re in the sitting room.”
He runs in. He has been to school. He has a picture. A picture he has drawn
for my new mommy. She is Lelliot’s mommy, too. She kneels down and hugs him
and looks at the picture. It is a house with a mommy and a daddy and a Lelliot and
a Christian. Christian is very small in Lelliot’s picture. Lelliot is big. He has a big
smile and Christian has a sad face.
Daddy is here, too. He walks toward Mommy. I hold my blankie tight. He
kisses New Mommy and New Mommy isn’t frightened. She smiles. She kisses
him back. I squeeze my blankie.
“Hello, Christian.” Daddy has a deep soft voice. I like his voice. He is never
loud. He does not shout. He does not shout like . . . He reads books to me when I
go to bed. He reads about a cat and a hat and green eggs and ham. I have never
seen green eggs. Daddy bends down so he is small.
“What did you do today?”
I show him the tree.
“You bought a tree? A Christmas tree?”
I say yes with my head.
“It’s a beautiful tree. You and Mommy chose very well. It’s an important job
choosing the right tree.”
He pats my hair, too, and I go very still and hold my blankie tightly. Daddy
doesn’t hurt me.
“Daddy, look at my picture.” Lelliot is mad when Daddy talks to me. Lelliot
is mad at me. I smack Lelliot when he is mad at me. New Mommy is mad at me if
I do. Lelliot does not smack me. Lelliot is scared of me.
The lights on the tree are pretty.
“Here, let me show you. The hook goes through the little eye, and then you
can hang it on the tree.” Mommy puts the red orn-a . . . orn-a-ment on the tree.
“You try with this little bell.”
The little bell rings. I shake it. The sound is a happy sound. I shake it again.
Mommy smiles. A big smile. A special smile for me.
“You like the bell, Christian?”
I say yes with my head and shake the bell once more, and it tinkles happily.
“You have a lovely smile, darling boy.” Mommy blinks and wipes her hand
on her eyes. She strokes my hair. “I love to see your smile.” Her hand moves to
my shoulder. No. I step back and squeeze my blankie. Mommy looks sad and then
happy. She strokes my hair.
“Shall we put the bell on the tree?”
My head says yes.
“Christian, you must tell me when you’re hungry. You can do that. You can take
Mommy’s hand and lead Mommy to the kitchen and point.” She points her long
finger at me. Her nail is shiny and pink. It is pretty. But I don’t know if my new
mommy is mad or not. I have finished all my dinner. Macaroni and cheese. It
tastes good.
“I don’t want you to be hungry, darling. Okay? Now would you like some ice
My head says yes! Mommy smiles at me. I like her smiles. They are better
than macaroni and cheese.
The tree is pretty. I stand and look at it and hug my blankie. The lights twinkle
and are all different colors, and the orn-a-ments are all different colors. I like the
blue ones. And on the top of the tree is a big star. Daddy held Lelliot up, and Lelliot
put the star on the tree. Lelliot likes putting the star on the tree. I want to put
the star on the tree . . . but I don’t want Daddy to hold me up high. I don’t want
him to hold me. The star is sparkly and bright.
Beside the tree is the piano. My new mommy lets me touch the black and the
white on the piano. Black and white. I like the white sounds. The black sound is
wrong. But I like the black sound, too. I go white to black. White to black. Black
to white. White, white, white, white. Black, black, black, black. I like the sound. I
like the sound a lot.
“Do you want me to play for you, Christian?”
My new mommy sits down. She touches the white and the black, and the
songs come. She presses the pedals underneath. Sometimes it’s loud and sometimes
it’s quiet. The song is happy. Lelliot likes Mommy to sing, too. Mommy
sings about an ugly duckling. Mommy makes a funny quacking noise. Lelliot
makes the funny quacking noise, and he makes his arms like wings and flaps them
up and down like a bird. Lelliot is funny.
Mommy laughs. Lelliot laughs. I laugh.
“You like this song, Christian?” And Mommy has her sad-happy face.
I have a stock-ing. It is red and it has a picture of a man with a red hat and a big
white beard. He is Santa. Santa brings presents. I have seen pictures of Santa. But
Santa never brought me presents before. I was bad. Santa doesn’t bring presents to
boys who are bad. Now I am good. My new mommy says I am good, very good.
New Mommy doesn’t know. I must never tell New Mommy . . . but I am bad. I
don’t want New Mommy to know that.
Daddy hangs the stock-ing over the fireplace. Lelliot has a stocking, too. Lelliot
can read the word on his stock-ing. It says Lelliot. There is a word on my stocking.
Christian. New Mommy spells it out. C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N.
Daddy sits on my bed. He reads to me. I hold my blankie. I have a big room. Sometimes
the room is dark and I have bad dreams. Bad dreams about before. My
new mommy comes to bed with me when I have the bad dreams. She lies down
and she sings soft songs and I go to sleep. She smells of soft and new and lovely.
My new mommy is not cold. Not like . . . not like . . . And my bad dreams go
when she is there asleep with me.
Santa has been here. Santa does not know I have been bad. I am glad Santa does
not know. I have a train and a plane and a helicopter and a car and a helicopter.
My helicopter can fly. My helicopter is blue. It flies around the Christmas tree. It
flies over the piano and lands in the middle of the white. It flies over Mommy and
flies over Daddy and flies over Lelliot as he plays with the Lego. The helicopter
flies through the house, through the dining room, through the kitchen. He flies
past the door to Daddy’s study and upstairs in my bedroom, in Lelliot’s bedroom,
Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom. He flies through the house, because it’s my
house. My house where I live.

Fifty Shades Freed - Epilogue


The Big House, May 2014
I lie on our tartan picnic blanket and gaze up at the clear, blue, summer sky, my
view framed by meadow flowers and tall green grasses. The heat of the afternoon
summer sun warms my skin, my bones and my belly, and I relax, my body turning
to Jell-O. This is comfortable. Hell no . . . this is wonderful. I savor the moment, a
moment of peace, a moment of pure and utter contentment. I should feel guilty for
feeling this joy, this completeness, but I don’t. Life right here right now is good,
and I’ve learned to appreciate it and live in the moment like my husband. I smile
and squirm as my mind drifts to the delicious memory of last night at our home in
Escala . . .
The strands of the flogger skim across my swollen belly at an aching, languorous
“Have you had enough yet, Ana?” Christian whispers in my ear.
“Oh, please.” I beg, pulling on the restraints above my head as I stand blindfolded
and tethered to the grid in the playroom.
The flogger’s sweet sting bites into my behind.
“Please what?”
I gasp. “Please, Sir.”
Christian places his hand over my ringing skin and rubs gently.
“There. There. There.” His words are soft. His hand moves south and around,
and his fingers slide inside me.
I groan.
“Mrs. Grey,” he breathes, and his teeth pull on my earlobe. “You’re so
His fingers slide in and out of me, hitting that spot, that sweet, sweet spot
again. The flogger clatters onto the floor and his hand moves over my belly and
up to my breasts. I tense. They are sensitive.
“Hush,” Christian says, cupping one, and he gently brushes his thumb over
my nipple.
His fingers are gentle and enticing, and pleasure spirals out from my breast,
down, down . . . deep down. I tilt my head back, pushing my nipple into his palm,
and moan once more.
“I like to hear you,” Christian whispers. His erection is at my hip, the buttons
of his fly pressing into my flesh as his fingers continue their relentless assault: in,
out, in, out—keeping a rhythm. “Shall I make you come like this?” he asks.
His fingers stop moving inside me.
“Really, Mrs. Grey? Is it up to you?” His fingers tighten around my nipple.
“No . . . No, Sir.”
“That’s better.”
“Ah. Please,” I beg.
“What do you want, Anastasia?”
“You. Always.”
He inhales sharply.
“All of you,” I add, breathless.
He eases his fingers out of me, pulls me around to face him, and removes the
blindfold. I blink up into darkening gray eyes that burn into mine. His index fingers
trace my bottom lip, and he pushes his index and middle fingers into my
mouth, letting me taste the salty tang of my arousal.
“Suck,” he whispers. I swirl my tongue around and between his fingers.
Hmm . . . even I taste good on his fingers.
His hands skim up my arms to the cuffs above my head, and he unclips them,
freeing me. Turning me around so I’m facing the wall, he tugs on my braid,
pulling me into his arms. He angles my head to one side and skims his lips up my
throat to my ear while holding me flush against him.
“I want in your mouth.” His voice is soft and seductive. My body, ripe and
ready, clenches deep inside. The pleasure is sweet and sharp.
I moan. Turning to face him, I pull his head down to mine and kiss him hard,
my tongue invading his mouth, tasting and savoring him. He groans, places his
hands on my behind and tugs me against him, but only my pregnant belly touches
him. I bite his jaw and trail kisses down his throat and run my fingers down to his
jeans. He tilts his head back, exposing more of his throat to me, and I run my
tongue down to his chest and through his chest hair.
I tug the waistband of his jeans, the buttons popping, and he grasps my
shoulders as I sink to my knees in front of him.
As I gaze up at him through my lashes, he stares down at me. His eyes are
dark, his lips parted, and he inhales deeply when I free him and ensnare him with
my mouth. I love doing this to Christian. Watching him come apart, hearing his
breath hitch, and the soft moans he makes deep in his throat. I close my eyes and
suck hard, pressing down on him, relishing his taste and his breathless gasp.
He grasps my head, stilling me, and I sheath my teeth with my lips and push
him deeper into my mouth.
“Open your eyes and look at me,” he orders, his voice low.
Blazing eyes meet mine and he flexes his hips, filling my mouth to the back
of my throat then withdrawing quickly. He pushes into me again and I reach up to
grab him. He stops and holds me in place.
“Don’t touch or I’ll cuff you again. I just want your mouth,” he growls.
Oh my. Like that is it? I put my hands behind my back and gaze up at him innocently
with my mouth full.
“Good girl,” he says, smirking down at me, his voice hoarse. He eases back,
and holding me gently but firmly, he pushes into me again. “You have such a
fuckable mouth, Mrs. Grey.” He closes his eyes and eases into my mouth as I
squeeze him between my lips, running my tongue over and around him. I take him
deeper and withdraw, again and again and again, the air hissing between his teeth.
“Ah! Stop,” he says, and he pulls out of me, leaving me wanting more. He
grasps my shoulders and pulls me to my feet. Grabbing my braid, he kisses me
hard, his persistent tongue greedy and giving at once. Suddenly he releases me,
and before I know it, he’s lifted me into his arms and moved over to the fourposter.
Gently, he lays me down so that my behind is just on the edge of the bed.
“Wrap your legs around my waist,” he orders. I do and pull him toward me.
He leans down, hands either side of my head, and still standing, very slowly eases
himself into me.
Oh, that feels so good. I close my eyes and revel in his slow possession.
“Okay?” he asks, his concern evident in his tone.
“Oh, God, Christian. Yes. Yes. Please.” I tighten my legs around him and
push against him. He groans. I clasp his arms, and he flexes his hips slowly at
first, in, out.
“Christian, please. Harder—I won’t break.”
He groans and starts to move, really move, pounding into me again and
again. Oh, it’s heavenly.
“Yes,” I gasp, tightening my hold on him as I start to build . . . He moans,
grinding into me with renewed determination . . . and I’m close. Oh, please. Don’t
“Come on, Ana,” he groans through gritted teeth, and I explode around him,
my orgasm going on and on and on. I call out his name and Christian stills, groaning
loudly, as he climaxes inside me.
“Ana,” he cries.
Christian lies beside me, his hand caressing my belly, his long fingers splayed out
“How’s my daughter?”
“She’s dancing.” I laugh.
“Dancing? Oh yes! Wow. I can feel her.” He grins as Blip Two somersaults
inside me.
“I think she likes sex already.”
Christian frowns. “Really?” he says dryly. He moves so his lips are against
my bump. “There’ll be none of that until you’re thirty, young lady.”
I giggle. “Oh, Christian, you are such a hypocrite.”
“No, I’m an anxious father.” He gazes up at me, his brow furrowed, betraying
his anxiety.
“You’re a wonderful father, as I knew you would be.” I caress his lovely
face, and he gives me his shy smile.
“I like this,” he murmurs, stroking then kissing my belly. “There’s more of
I pout. “I don’t like more of me.”
“It’s great when you come.”
“And I’m looking forward to the taste of breast milk again.”
“Christian! You are such a kinky—”
He swoops on me suddenly, kissing me hard, throwing his leg over mine, and
grabbing my hands so they are above my head. “You love the kinky fuckery,” he
whispers, and he runs his nose down mine.
I grin, caught in his infectious, wicked smile. “Yes, I love the kinky fuckery.
And I love you. Very much.”
I jerk awake, woken by a high-pitched squeal of delight from my son, and even
though I can’t see him or Christian, I grin like an idiot with my glee. Ted has
woken from his nap, and he and Christian are romping nearby. I lie quietly, still
marveling at Christian’s capacity for play. His patience with Teddy is extraordinary—
much more so than with me. I snort. But then, that’s how it should be. And
my beautiful little boy, the apple of his mother and father’s eyes, knows no fear.
Christian, on the other hand, is still too overprotective—of both of us. My sweet,
mercurial, controlling Fifty.
“Let’s find Mommy. She’s here in the meadow somewhere.”
Ted says something I don’t hear, and Christian laughs freely, happily. It’s a
magical sound, filled with his paternal joy. I can’t resist. I struggle up onto my elbows
to spy on them from my hiding place in the long grass.
Christian is swinging Ted around and around, making him squeal once more
in delight. He stops, launches him high into the air—I stop breathing—then he
catches him. Ted shrieks with childish abandon and I breathe a sigh of relief. Oh
my little man, my darling little man, always on the go.
“ ‘Gain, Daddy!” he squeals. Christian obliges, and my heart leaps into my
mouth once more as he tosses Teddy into the air then catches him again, clutching
him close. Christian kisses Ted’s copper-colored hair, and blows a kiss on his
cheek, then tickles him mercilessly for a moment. Teddy howls with laughter,
squirming and pushing against Christian’s chest, wanting out of his arms. Grinning,
Christian sets him on the ground.
“Let’s find Mommy. She’s hiding in the grass.”
Ted beams, enjoying the game, and looks around the meadow. Grasping
Christian’s hand, he points to somewhere I’m not, and it makes me giggle. I lie
back down quickly, delighting in this game.
“Ted, I heard Mommy. Did you hear her?”
I giggle-snort at Ted’s imperious tone. Jeez—so like his dad, and he’s only
“Teddy!” I call back, gazing up the sky with a ridiculous grin on my face.
All too soon I hear their footsteps trampling through the meadow, and first
Ted then Christian bursts through the long grass.
“Mommy!” Ted screeches as if he’s found the lost treasure of the Sierra
Madre, and he leaps onto me.
“Hey, baby boy!” I cradle him against me and kiss his chubby cheek. He
giggles and kisses me in return, then struggles out of my arms.
“Hello, Mommy.” Christian smiles down at me.
“Hello, Daddy.” I grin, and he picks Ted up, and sits down beside me with
our son in his lap.
“Gently with Mommy,” he admonishes Ted. I smirk—the irony is not lost on
me. From his pocket, Christian produces his BlackBerry and gives it to Ted. This
will probably win us five minutes of peace, maximum. Teddy studies it, his little
brow furrowed. He looks so serious, blue eyes concentrating hard, just like his
daddy does when he reads his e-mails. Christian nuzzles Ted’s hair, and my heart
swells to look at them both. Two peas in a pod: my son sitting quietly—for a few
moments at least—in my husband’s lap. My two favorite men in the whole world.
Of course, Ted is the most beautiful and talented child on the planet, but then
I am his mother so I would think that. And Christian is . . . well, Christian is just
himself. In white T-shirt and jeans, he looks as hot as usual. What did I do to win
such a prize?
“You look well, Mrs. Grey.”
“As do you, Mr. Grey.”
“Isn’t Mommy pretty?” Christian whispers in Ted’s ear. Ted swats him away,
more interested in Daddy’s BlackBerry.
I giggle. “You can’t get around him.”
“I know.” Christian grins and kisses Ted’s hair. “I can’t believe he’ll be two
tomorrow.” His tone is wistful. Reaching across, he spreads his hand over my
bump. “Let’s have lots of children,” he says.
“One more at least.” I grin, and he caresses my belly.
“How is my daughter?”
“She’s good. Asleep, I think.”
“Hello, Mr. Grey. Hi, Ana.”
We both turn to see Sophie, Taylor’s ten-year-old daughter, appear out of the
long grass.
“Soeee,” Ted squeals with delighted recognition. He struggles out of Christian’s
lap, discarding the BlackBerry.
“I have some popsicles from Gail,” Sophie says. “Can I give one to Ted?”
“Sure,” I say. Oh dear, this is going to be messy.
“Pop!” Ted holds out his hands and Sophie passes one to him. It’s dripping
“Here—let Mommy see.” I sit up, take the popsicle from Ted, and quickly
slip it into my mouth, licking off the excess juice. Hmm . . . cranberry, cool and
“Mine!” Ted protests, his voice ringing with indignation.
“Here you go.” I hand him back a slightly less runny popsicle, and it goes
straight into his mouth. He grins.
“Can Ted and I go for a walk?” Sophie asks.
“Don’t go too far.”
“No, Mr. Grey.” Sophie’s hazel eyes are wide and serious. I think she’s a
little frightened of Christian. She holds her hand out, and Teddy takes it willingly.
They trudge away together through the long grass.
Christian watches them.
“They’ll be fine, Christian. What harm could come to them here?” He frowns
at me momentarily, and I crawl over and into his lap.
“Besides, Ted is completely smitten with Sophie.”
Christian snorts and nuzzles my hair. “She’s a delightful child.”
“She is. So pretty, too. A blonde angel.”
Christian stills and places his hands on my belly. “Girls, eh?” There’s a hint
of trepidation in his voice. I curl my hand behind his head.
“You don’t have to worry about your daughter for at least another three
months. I have her covered here. Okay?”
He kisses me behind my ear and scrapes his teeth around the edge to the lobe.
“Whatever you say, Mrs. Grey.” Then he bites me. I yelp.
“I enjoyed last night,” he says. “We should do that more often.”
“Me, too.”
“And we could, if you stopped working . . .”
I roll my eyes and he tightens his arms around me and grins into my neck.
“Are you rolling your eyes at me Mrs. Grey?” His threat is implicit but sensual,
making me squirm, but as we’re in the middle of the meadow with the kids
nearby, I ignore his invitation.
“Grey Publishing has an author on the New York Times Best Sellers—Boyce
Fox’s sales are phenomenal, the e-book side of our business has exploded, and I
finally have the team I want around me.”
“And you’re making money in these difficult times,” Christian adds, his
voice reflecting his pride. “But . . . I like you barefoot and pregnant and in my
I lean back so I can see his face. He gazes down at me, eyes bright.
“I like that, too,” I murmur, and he kisses me, his hands still spread across my
Seeing he’s in a good mood, I decide to broach a delicate subject. “Have you
thought any more about my suggestion?”
He stills. “Ana, the answer is no.”
“But Ella is such a lovely name.”
“I am not naming my daughter after my mother. No. End of discussion.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Grasping my chin, he gazes earnestly down at me, radiating exasperation.
“Ana, give it up. I don’t want my daughter tainted by my past.”
“Okay. I’m sorry.” Shit . . . I don’t want to anger him.
“That’s better. Stop trying to fix it,” he mutters. “You got me to admit I loved
her, you dragged me to her grave. Enough.”
Oh no. I twist in his lap to straddle him and grasp his head in my hands.
“I’m sorry. Really. Don’t be angry with me, please.” I kiss him, then kiss the
corner of his mouth. After a beat, he points to the other corner, and I smile and
kiss it. He points to his nose. I kiss that. He grins and places his hands on my
“Oh, Mrs. Grey—what am I going to do with you?”
“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” I murmur. He grins and, twisting suddenly,
he pushes me down onto the blanket.
“How about I do it now?” he whispers with a salacious smile.
“Christian!” I gasp.
Suddenly there’s a high-pitched cry from Ted. Christian leaps to his feet with
a panther’s easy grace and races toward the source of the sound. I follow at a
more leisurely pace. Secretly, I’m not as concerned as Christian—it was not a cry
that would make me take the stairs two at a time to find out what’s wrong.
Christian swings Teddy up into his arms. Our little boy is crying inconsolably
and pointing to the ground, where the remains of his popsicle lie in a soggy mess,
melting into the grass.
“He dropped it,” Sophie says, sadly. “He could have had mine, but I’ve finished
“Oh, Sophie darling, don’t worry.” I stroke her hair.
“Mommy!” Ted wails, holding his hands out to me. Christian reluctantly lets
him go as I reach for him.
“There, there.”
“Pop,” he sobs.
“I know, baby boy. We’ll go see Mrs. Taylor and get another one.” I kiss his
head . . . oh, he smells so good. He smells of my baby boy.
“Pop,” he sniffs. I take his hand and kiss his sticky fingers.
“I can taste your popsicle here on your fingers.”
Ted stops crying and examines his hand.
“Put your fingers in your mouth.”
He does. “Pop!”
“Yes. Popsicle.”
He grins. My mercurial little boy, just like his dad. Well, at least he has an
excuse—he’s only two.
“Shall we go see Mrs. Taylor?” He nods, smiling his beautiful baby smile.
“Will you let Daddy carry you?” He shakes his head and wraps his arms around
my neck, hugging me tightly, his face pressed against my throat.
“I think Daddy wants to taste popsicle, too,” I whisper in Ted’s little ear. Ted
frowns at me, then looks at his hand and holds it out to Christian. Christian smiles
and puts Ted’s fingers in his mouth.
“Hmm . . . tasty.”
Ted giggles and reaches up, wanting Christian to hold him. Christian grins at
me and takes Ted in his arms, settling him on his hip.
“Sophie, where’s Gail?”
“She was in the big house.”
I glance at Christian. His smile has turned bittersweet, and I wonder what
he’s thinking.
“You’re so good with him,” he murmurs.
“This little one?” I ruffle Ted’s hair. “It’s only because I have the measure of
you Grey men.” I smirk at my husband.
He laughs. “Yes, you do, Mrs. Grey.”
Teddy squirms out of Christian’s hold. Now he wants to walk, my stubborn
little man. I take one of his hands, and his dad takes the other, and together we
swing Teddy between us all the way back to the house, Sophie skipping along in
front of us.
I wave to Taylor who, on a rare day-off, is outside the garage, dressed in
jeans and a wife-beater, as he tinkers with an old motorbike.
I pause outside the door to Ted’s room and listen as Christian reads to Ted. “I am
the Lorax! I speak for the trees . . .”1
When I peek in, Teddy is fast asleep while Christian continues to read. He glances
up when I open the door and closes the book. He puts his finger to his lips and
switches on the baby monitor beside Ted’s crib. He adjusts Ted’s bedclothes,
strokes his cheek, then straightens up, and tiptoes over to me without making a
sound. It’s hard not to giggle at him.
Out in the hallway, Christian pulls me into his embrace. “God, I love him, but
it’s great when he’s asleep,” he murmurs against my lips.
“I couldn’t agree with you more.”
He gazes down at me, eyes soft. “I can hardly believe he’s been with us for
two years.”
“I know.” I kiss him, and for a moment, I’m transported back to Teddy’s
birth: the emergency caesarian, Christian’s crippling anxiety, Dr. Greene’s nononsense
calm when my Little Blip was in distress. I shudder inwardly at the
“Mrs. Grey, you’ve been in labor for fifteen hours now. Your contractions have
slowed in spite of the Pitocin. We need to do a C-section—the baby is in distress.”
Dr. Greene is adamant.
“About fucking time!” Christian growls at her. Dr. Greene ignores him.
“Christian, quiet.” I squeeze his hand. My voice is low and weak and
everything is fuzzy—the walls, the machines, the green-gowned people . . . I just
want to go to sleep. But I have something important to do first . . . Oh yes. “I
wanted to push him out myself.”
“Mrs. Grey, please. C-section.”
“Please, Ana,” Christian pleads.
“Can I sleep then?”
“Yes, baby, yes.” It’s almost a sob, and Christian kisses my forehead.
“I want to see the Lil’ Blip.”
“You will.”
“Okay,” I whisper.
“Finally,” Dr. Greene mutters. “Nurse, page the anesthesiologist. Dr. Miller,
prep for a C-section. Mrs. Grey, we are going to move you to the OR.”
“Move?” Christian and I speak at once.
“Yes. Now.”
And suddenly we’re moving—quickly, the lights on the ceiling blurring into
one long bright strip as I’m whisked across the corridor.
“Mr. Grey, you’ll need to change into scrubs.”
“Now, Mr. Grey.”
He squeezes my hand and releases me.
“Christian,” I call, panic setting in.
We are through another set of doors, and in no time a nurse is setting up a
screen across my chest. The door opens and closes, and there’s so many people in
the room. It’s so loud . . . I want to go home.
“Christian?” I search the faces in the room for my husband.
“He’ll be with you in a moment, Mrs. Grey.”
A moment later, he’s beside me, in blue scrubs, and I reach for his hand.
“I’m frightened,” I whisper.
“No, baby, no. I’m here. Don’t be frightened. Not my strong Ana.” He kisses
my forehead, and I can tell by the tone of his voice that something’s wrong.
“What is it?”
“What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s fine. Baby, you’re just exhausted.” His eyes
burn with fear.
“Mrs. Grey, the anesthesiologist is here. He’s going to adjust your epidural,
and then we can proceed.”
“She’s having another contraction.”
Everything tightens like a steel band around my belly. Shit! I crush Christian’s
hand as I ride it out. This is what’s tiring—enduring this pain. I am so tired. I
can feel the numbing liquid spread . . . spread down. I concentrate on Christian’s
face. On the furrow between his brows. He’s tense. He’s worried. Why is he
“Can you feel this, Mrs. Grey?” Dr. Greene’s disembodied voice is coming
from behind the curtain.
“Feel what?”
“You can’t feel it.”
“Good. Dr. Miller, let’s go.”
“You’re doing well, Ana.”
Christian is pale. There is sweat on his brow. He’s scared. Don’t be scared,
Christian. Don’t be scared.
“I love you,” I whisper.
“Oh, Ana,” he sobs. “I love you, too, so much.”
I feel a strange pulling deep inside. Like nothing I’ve felt before. Christian
looks over the screen and blanches, but stares, fascinated.
“What’s happening?”
“Suction! Good . . .”
Suddenly, there’s a piercing angry cry.
“You have a boy, Mrs. Grey. Check his Apgar.”
“Apgar is nine.”
“Can I see him?” I gasp.
Christian disappears from view for a second and reappears a moment later,
holding my son, swathed in blue. His face is pink, and covered in white mush and
blood. My baby. My Blip . . . Theodore Raymond Grey.
When I glance at Christian, he has tears in his eyes.
“Here’s your son, Mrs. Grey,” he whispers, his voice strained and hoarse.
“Our son,” I breathe. “He’s beautiful.”
“He is,” Christian says and plants a kiss on our beautiful boy’s forehead beneath
a shock of dark hair. Theodore Raymond Grey is oblivious. Eyes closed, his
earlier crying forgotten, he’s asleep. He is the most beautiful sight I have ever
seen. So beautiful, I begin to weep.
“Thank you, Ana,” Christian whispers, and there are tears in his eyes too.
“What is it?” Christian tilts my chin back.
“I was just remembering Ted’s birth.”
Christian blanches and cups my belly.
“I am not going through that again. Elective caesarian this time.”
“Christian, I—”
“No, Ana. You nearly fucking died last time. No.”
“I did not nearly die.”
“No.” He’s emphatic and not to be argued with, but as he gazes down at me,
his eyes soften. “I like the name Phoebe,” he whispers, and runs his nose down
“Phoebe Grey? Phoebe . . . Yes. I like that, too.” I grin up at him.
“Good. I want to set up Ted’s present.” He takes my hand, and we head
downstairs. His excitement radiates off him; Christian has been waiting for this
moment all day.
“Do you think he’ll like it?” His apprehensive gaze meets mine.
“He’ll love it. For about two minutes. Christian, he’s only two.”
Christian has finished setting up the wooden train set he bought Teddy for his
birthday. He’s had Barney at the office convert two of the little engines to run on
solar power like the helicopter I gave Christian a few years ago. Christian seems
anxious for the sun to rise. I suspect that’s because he wants to play with the train
set himself. The layout covers most of the stone floor of our outdoor room.
Tomorrow we will have a family party for Ted. Ray and José will be coming
and all the Grey’s, including Ted’s new cousin Ava, Kate and Elliot’s two-monthold
daughter. I look forward to catching up with Kate and seeing how motherhood
is agreeing with her.
I gaze up at the view as the sun sinks behind the Olympic Peninsula. It’s
everything Christian promised it would be, and I get the same joyful thrill seeing
it now as I did the first time. It’s simply stunning: twilight over the Sound. Christian
pulls me into his arms.
“It’s quite a view.”
“It is,” Christian answers, and when I turn to look at him, he’s gazing at me.
He plants a soft kiss on my lips. “It’s a beautiful view,” he murmurs. “My
“It’s home.”
He grins and kisses me again. “I love you, Mrs. Grey.”
“I love you, too, Christian. Always.”

The End

Fifty Shades Freed - Chapter 24

Chapter 24

“Much as I’d like to kiss you all day, your breakfast is getting cold,” Christian
murmurs against my lips. He gazes down at me, now amused, except his eyes are
darker, sensual. Holy cow, he’s switched again. My Mr. Mercurial.
“Eat,” he orders, his voice soft. I swallow, a reaction to his smoldering look,
and crawl back into bed, avoiding snagging my IV line. He pushes the tray in
front of me. The oatmeal is cold, but the pancakes under the cover are fine—in
fact, they’re mouthwatering.
“You know,” I mutter between mouthfuls, “Blip might be a girl.”
Christian runs his hand through his hair. “Two women, eh?” Alarm flashes
across his face, and his dark look vanishes.
Oh crap. “Do you have a preference?”
“Boy or girl.”
He frowns. “Healthy will do,” he says quietly clearly disconcerted by the
question. “Eat,” he snaps, and I know he’s trying to avoid the subject.
“I’m eating, I’m eating . . . Jeez, keep your hair on, Grey.” I watch him carefully.
The corners of his eyes are crinkled with worry. He’s said he’ll try, but I
know he’s still freaked out by the baby. Oh, Christian, so am I. He sits down in
the armchair beside me, picking up the Seattle Times.
“You made the papers again, Mrs. Grey.” His is tone bitter.
“The hacks are just rehashing yesterday’s story, but it seems factually accurate.
You want to read it?”
I shake my head. “Read it to me. I’m eating.”
He smirks and proceeds to read the article aloud. It’s a report on Jack and Elizabeth,
depicting them as a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. It briefly covers
Mia’s kidnapping, my involvement in Mia’s rescue, and the fact that both Jack
and I are in the same hospital. How does the press get all this information? I must
ask Kate.
When Christian finishes, I say, “Please read something else. I like listening to
He obliges and reads me a report about a booming bagel business and the fact
that Boeing has had to cancel the launch of some plane. Christian frowns as he
reads. But listening to his soothing voice as I eat, secure in the knowledge that I
am fine, Mia is safe and my Little Blip is safe, I feel a precious moment of peace
despite all that has happened over the last few days.
I understand that Christian is scared about the baby, but I don’t understand
the depth of his fear. I resolve to talk to him some more about this. See if I can put
his mind at ease. What puzzles me is that he hasn’t lacked for positive role models
as parents. Both Grace and Carrick are exemplary parents, or so they seem.
Maybe it was the Bitch Troll’s interference that damaged him so badly. I’d like to
think so. But in truth I think it goes back to his birth mom, though I’m sure Mrs.
Robinson didn’t help. I halt my thoughts as I nearly recall a whispered
conversation. Damn! It hovers on the edge of my memory from when I was unconscious.
Christian talking with Grace. It melts away into the shadows of my
mind. Oh, it’s so frustrating.
I wonder if Christian will ever volunteer the reason he went to see her or if
I’ll have to push him. I’m about to ask when there’s a knock on the door.
Detective Clark makes an apologetic entry into the room. He’s right to be
apologetic—my heart sinks when I see him.
“Mr. Grey, Mrs. Grey. Am I interrupting?”
“Yes,” snaps Christian.
Clark ignores him. “Glad to see you’re awake, Mrs. Grey. I need to ask you a
few questions about Thursday afternoon. Just routine. Is now a convenient time?”
“Sure,” I mumble, but I do not want to relive Thursday’s events.
“My wife should be resting.” Christian bristles.
“I’ll be brief, Mr. Grey. And it means I’ll be out of your hair sooner rather
than later.”
Christian stands and offers Clark his chair, then sits down beside me on the
bed, takes my hand, and squeezes it reassuringly.
Half an hour later, Clark is done. I’ve learned nothing new, but I have recounted
the events of Thursday to him in a halting, quiet voice, watching Christian go pale
and grimace at some parts.
“I wish you’d aimed higher,” Christian mutters.
“Might have done womankind a service if Mrs. Grey had.” Clark agrees.
“Thank you, Mrs. Grey. That’s all for now.”
“You won’t let him out again, will you?”
“I don’t think he’ll make bail this time, ma’am.”
“Do we know who posted his bail?” Christian asks.
“No sir. It was confidential.”
Christian frowns, but I think he has his suspicions. Clark rises to leave just as
Dr. Singh and two interns enter the room.
After a thorough examination, Dr. Singh declares me fit to go home. Christian
sags with relief.
“Mrs. Grey, you’ll have to watch for worsening headaches and blurry vision.
If that occurs you must return to the hospital immediately.”
I nod, trying to contain my delight at going home.
As Dr. Singh leaves, Christian asks her for a quick word in the corridor. He
keeps the door ajar as he asks her a question. She smiles.
“Yes, Mr. Grey, that’s fine.”
He grins and returns to the room a happier man.
“What was all that about?”
“Sex,” he says, flashing a wicked grin.
Oh. I blush. “And?”
“You’re good to go.” He smirks.
Oh, Christian!
“I have a headache.” I smirk right back.
“I know. You’ll be off limits for a while. I was just checking.”
Off limits? I frown at the momentary stab of disappointment I feel. I’m not
sure I want to be off limits.
Nurse Nora joins us to remove my IV. She glares at Christian. I think she’s
one of the few women I’ve met who is oblivious to his charms. I thank her when
she leaves with my IV stand.
“Shall I take you home?” Christian asks.
“I’d like to see Ray first.”
“Does he know about the baby?”
“I thought you’d want to be the one to tell him. I haven’t told your mom
“Thank you.” I smile, grateful that he hasn’t stolen my thunder.
“My mom knows,” Christian adds. “She saw your chart. I told my dad but no
one else. Mom said couples normally wait for twelve weeks or so . . . to be sure.”
He shrugs.
“I’m not sure I’m ready to tell Ray.”
“I should warn you, he’s mad as hell. Said I should spank you.”
What? Christian laughs at my appalled expression. “I told him I’d be only too
willing to oblige.”
“You didn’t!” I gasp, though an echo of a whispered conversation tantalizes
my memory. Yes, Ray was here while I was unconscious . . .
He winks at me. “Here, Taylor brought you some clean clothes. I’ll help you
As Christian predicted, Ray is furious. I don’t ever remember him being this mad.
Christian has wisely decided to leave us alone. For such a taciturn man, Ray fills
his hospital room with his invective, berating me for my irresponsible behavior. I
am twelve years old again.
Oh, Dad, please calm down. Your blood pressure is not up to this.
“And I’ve had to deal with your mother,” he grumbles, waving both of his
hands in exasperation.
“Dad, I’m sorry.”
“And poor Christian! I’ve never seen him like that. He’s aged. We’ve both
aged years over the last couple of days.”
“Ray, I’m sorry.”
“Your mother is waiting for your call,” he says in a more measured tone.
I kiss his cheek, and finally he relents from his tirade.
“I’ll call her. I really am sorry. But thank you for teaching me to shoot.”
For a moment, he regards me with ill-concealed paternal pride. “I’m glad you
can shoot straight,” he says, his voice gruff. “Now go on home and get some rest.”
“You look well, Dad.” I try to change the subject.
“You look pale.” His fear is suddenly evident. His look mirrors Christian’s
from last night, and I grasp his hand.
“I’m okay. I promise I won’t do anything like that again.”
He squeezes my hand and pulls me into a hug. “If anything happened to
you,” he whispers, his voice hoarse and low. Tears prick my eyes. I am not used
to displays of emotion from my stepfather.
“Dad, I’m good. Nothing that a hot shower won’t cure.”
We leave through the rear exit of the hospital to avoid the paparazzi gathered at
the entrance. Taylor leads us to the waiting in the SUV.
Christian is quiet as Sawyer drives us home. I avoid Sawyer’s gaze in the
rearview mirror, embarrassed that the last time I saw him was at the bank when I
gave him the slip. I call my mom, who sobs and sobs. It takes most of the journey
home to calm her down, but I succeed by promising that we’ll visit soon.
Throughout my conversation with her, Christian holds my hand, brushing his
thumb across my knuckles. He’s nervous . . . something’s happened.
“What’s wrong?” I ask when I’m finally free from my mother.
“Welch wants to see me.”
“Welch? Why?”
“He’s found something out about that fucker Hyde.” Christian’s lip curls into
a snarl, and a frisson of fear passes through me. “He didn’t want to tell me on the
“He’s coming here this afternoon from Detroit.”
“You think he’s found a connection?”
Christian nods.
“What do you think it is?”
“I have no idea.” Christian’s brow furrows, perplexed.
Taylor pulls into the garage at Escala and stops by the elevator to let us out
before he parks. In the garage, we can avoid the attention of the waiting photographers.
Christian ushers me out of the car. Keeping his arm around my waist, he
leads me to the waiting elevator.
“Glad to be home?” he asks.
“Yes,” I whisper. But as I stand in the familiar surroundings of the elevator,
the enormity of what I’ve been through crashes over me, and I start to shake.
“Hey—” Christian wraps his arms around me and pulls me close. “You’re
home. You’re safe,” he says, kissing my hair.
“Oh, Christian.” A dam I didn’t even know was in place bursts, and I start to
“Hush now,” Christian whispers, cradling my head against his chest.
But it’s too late. I weep, overwhelmed, into his T-shirt, recalling Jack’s vicious
attack—“That’s for SIP, you fucking bitch!”—telling Christian I was
leaving—“You’re leaving me?”—and my fear, my gut-wrenching fear for Mia,
for myself, and for Little Blip.
When the doors of the elevator slide open, Christian picks me up like a child
and carries me into the foyer. I wrap my arms around his neck and cling to him,
keening quietly.
He carries me through to our bathroom and gently settles me on the chair.
“Bath?” he asks.
I shake my head. No . . . no . . . not like Leila.
“Shower?” His voice is choked with concern.
Through my tears, I nod. I want to wash away the grime of the last few days,
wash away the memory of Jack’s attack. “You gold digging whore.” I sob into my
hands as the sound of the water cascading from the shower echoes off the walls.
“Hey,” Christian croons. Kneeling in front of me, he pulls my hands away
from my tearstained cheeks and cups my face in his hands. I gaze at him, blinking
away my tears.
“You’re safe. You both are,” he whispers.
Blip and me. My eyes brim with tears again.
“Stop, now. I can’t bear it when you cry.” His voice is hoarse. His thumbs
wipe my cheeks, but my tears still flow.
“I’m sorry, Christian. Just sorry for everything. For making you worry, for
risking everything—for the things I said.”
“Hush, baby, please.” He kisses my forehead. “I’m sorry. It takes two to
tango, Ana.” He gives me a crooked smile. “Well, that’s what my mom always
says. I said things and did things I’m not proud of.” His gray eyes are bleak but
penitent. “Let’s get you undressed.” His voice is soft. I wipe my nose with the
back of my hand, and he kisses my forehead once more.
Briskly he strips me, taking particular care as he pulls my T-shirt over my
head. But my head is not too sore. Leading me to the shower, he peels off his own
clothing in record time before stepping into the welcome hot water with me. He
pulls me into his arms and holds me, holds me for the longest time, as the water
gushes over us, soothing us both.
He lets me cry into his chest. Occasionally he kisses my hair, but he doesn’t
let go, he just rocks me gently beneath the warm water. To feel his skin against
mine, his chest hair against my cheek . . . this man I love, this self-doubting, beautiful
man, the man I could have lost through my own recklessness. I feel empty
and aching at the thought but grateful that he’s here, still here—despite everything
that’s happened.
He has some explaining to do, but right now I want to revel in the feel of his
comforting, protective arms around me. And in that moment it occurs to me; any
explanations on his part have to come from him. I can’t force him—he’s got to
want to tell me. I won’t be cast as the nagging wife, constantly trying to wheedle
information out of her husband. It’s just exhausting. I know he loves me. I know
he loves me more than he’s ever loved anyone, and for now, that’s enough. The
realization is liberating. I stop crying and step back.
“Better?” he asks.
I nod.
“Good. Let me look at you,” he says, and for a moment I don’t know what he
means. But he takes my hand and examines the arm I fell on when Jack hit me.
There are bruises on my shoulder and scrapes at my elbow and wrist. He kisses
each of them. He grabs a washcloth and shower gel from the rack, and the sweet
familiar scent of jasmine fills my nostrils.
“Turn around.” Gently, he proceeds to wash my injured arm, then my neck,
my shoulders, my back, and my other arm. He turns me sideways, and traces his
long fingers down my side. I wince as they skate over the large bruise at my hip.
Christian’s eyes harden and his lips thin. His anger is palpable as he whistles
through his teeth.
“It doesn’t hurt,” I murmur to reassure him.
Blazing gray eyes meet mine. “I want to kill him. I nearly did,” he whispers
cryptically. I frown then shiver at his bleak expression. He squirts more shower
gel on the washcloth and with tender, aching gentleness, he washes my side and
my behind, then, kneeling, moves down my legs. He pauses to examine my knee.
He lips brush over the bruise before he returns to washing my legs and my feet.
Reaching down, I caress his head, running my fingers through his wet hair. He
stands, and his fingers trace the outline of the bruise on my ribs where Jack kicked
“Oh, baby,” he groans, his voice filled with anguish, his eyes dark with fury.
“I’m okay.” I pull his head down to mine and kiss his lips. He’s hesitant to
reciprocate, but as my tongue meets his, his body stirs against me.
“No,” he whispers against my lips, and he pulls back. “Let’s get you clean.”
His face is serious. Damn . . . He means it. I pout, and the atmosphere
between us lightens in an instant. He grins and kisses me briefly.
“Clean,” he emphasizes. “Not dirty.”
“I like dirty.”
“Me, too, Mrs. Grey. But not now, not here.” He grabs the shampoo, and before
I can persuade him otherwise, he’s washing my hair.
I love clean, too. I feel refreshed and reinvigorated, and I don’t know if it’s from
the shower, the crying, or my decision to stop hassling Christian about everything.
He wraps me in a large towel and drapes one around his hips while I gingerly dry
my hair. My head aches, but it’s a dull persistent pain that is more than manageable.
I have some painkillers from Dr. Singh, but she’s asked me not to use them
unless I have to.
As I dry my hair, I think about Elizabeth.
“I still don’t understand why Elizabeth was involved with Jack.”
“I do,” Christian mutters darkly.
This is news. I frown up at him, but I’m distracted. He’s drying his hair with
a towel, his chest and shoulders still wet with beads of water that glint beneath the
halogens. He pauses and smirks.
“Enjoying the view?”
“How do you know?” I ask, trying to ignore that I’ve been caught staring at
my own husband.
“That you’re enjoying the view?” he teases.
“No,” I scold. “About Elizabeth.”
“Detective Clark hinted at it.”
I give him my tell-me-more expression, and another nagging memory from
when I was unconscious resurfaces. Clark was in my room. I wish I could remember
what he said.
“Hyde had videos. Videos of all of them. On several USB flash drives.”
What? I frown, my skin tightening across my forehead.
“Videos of him fucking her and fucking all his PAs.”
“Exactly. Blackmail material. He likes it rough.” Christian frowns, and I
watch confusion followed by disgust cross his face. He pales as his disgust turns
to self-loathing. Of course—Christian likes it rough, too.
“Don’t.” The word is out of my mouth before I can stop it.
His frown deepens. “Don’t what?” He stills and regards me with
“You aren’t anything like him.”
Christian’s eyes harden, but he says nothing, confirming that’s exactly what
he’s thinking.
“You’re not.” My voice is adamant.
“We’re cut from the same cloth.”
“No, you’re not,” I snap, though I understand why he might think so. “His
dad died in a brawl in a bar. His mother drank herself into oblivion. He was in
and out of foster homes as a kid, in and out of trouble, too—mainly boosting cars.
Spent time in juvie.” I recall the information Christian revealed on the plane to
“You both have troubled pasts, and you were both born in Detroit. That’s it,
Christian.” I fist my hands on my hips.
“Ana, your faith in me is touching, especially in light of the last few days.
We’ll know more when Welch is here.” He’s dismissing the subject.
He stops me with a kiss. “Enough,” he breathes, and I remember the promise
I made to myself not to hound him for information.
“And don’t pout,” he adds. “Come. Let me dry your hair.”
And I know the subject is closed.
After dressing in sweatpants and a T-shirt, I sit between Christian’s legs as he
dries my hair.
“So did Clark tell you anything else while I was unconscious?”
“Not that I recall.”
“I heard a few of your conversations.”
The hairbrush stills in my hair.
“Did you?” he asks, his tone nonchalant.
“Yes. My dad, your dad, Detective Clark . . . your mom.”
“And Kate?”
“Kate was there?”
“Briefly, yes. She’s mad at you, too.”
I turn in his lap. “Stop with the everyone is mad at Ana crap, okay?”
“Just telling you the truth,” Christian says, bemused by my outburst.
“Yes, it was reckless, but you know, your sister was in danger.”
His face falls. “Yes. She was.” Switching off the hairdryer, he puts it down
on the bed beside him. He grasps my chin.
“Thank you,” he says, surprising me. “But no more recklessness. Because
next time, I will spank the living shit out of you.”
I gasp.
“You wouldn’t!”
“I would.” He’s serious. Holy cow. Deadly serious. “I have your stepfather’s
permission.” He smirks. He’s teasing me! Or is he? I launch myself at him, and he
twists so that I fall onto the bed and into his arms. As I land, pain from my ribs
shoots through me and I wince.
Christian pales. “Behave!” he admonishes, and for a moment he’s angry.
“Sorry,” I mumble, caressing his cheek.
He nuzzles my hand and kisses it gently. “Honestly, Ana, you really have no
regard for your own safety.” He tugs up the hem of my T-shirt then rests his fingers
on my belly. I stop breathing. “It’s not just you anymore,” he whispers, trailing
his fingertips along the waistband of my sweats, caressing my skin. Desire explodes
unexpected, hot, and heavy in my blood. I gasp and Christian tenses, halting
his fingers and gazing down at me. He moves his hand up and tucks a stray
lock of hair behind my ear.
“No,” he whispers.
“Don’t look at me like that. I’ve seen the bruises. And the answer’s no.” His
voice is firm, and he kisses my forehead.
I squirm. “Christian,” I whine.
“No. Get into bed.” He sits up.
“You need rest.”
“I need you.”
He closes his eyes and shakes his head as if it’s a great effort of will. When
he opens them again, his eyes are bright with his resolve. “Just do as you’re told,
I’m tempted to take off all my clothes, but then I remember the bruises and
know I won’t win that way.
Reluctantly, I nod. “Okay.” I deliberately give him an exaggerated pout.
He grins, amused. “I’ll bring you some lunch.”
“You’re going to cook?” I nearly expire.
He has the grace to laugh. “I’m going to heat something up. Mrs. Jones has
been busy.”
“Christian, I’ll do it. I’m fine. Jeez, I want sex—I can certainly cook.” I sit up
awkwardly, trying to hide my flinch from my smarting ribs.
“Bed!” Christian’s eyes flash, and he points to the pillow.
“Join me,” I murmur, wishing I were wearing something a little more alluring
than sweatpants and a T-shirt.
“Ana, get into bed. Now.”I scowl, stand up, and let my pants drop unceremoniously
to the floor, glaring at him the whole time. His mouth twitches with humor
as he pulls the duvet back.
“You heard Dr. Singh. She said rest.” His voice is gentler. I slip into bed and
fold my arms in frustration. “Stay,” he says clearly enjoying himself.
My scowl deepens.
Mrs. Jones’s chicken stew is, without doubt, one of my favorite dishes. Christian
eats with me, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed.
“That was very well heated.” I smirk and he grins. I’m replete and sleepy.
Was this his plan?
“You look tired.” He picks up my tray.
“I am.”
“Good. Sleep.” He kisses me. “I have some work I need to do. I’ll do it in
here if that’s okay with you.”
I nod . . . fighting a losing battle with my eyelids. I had no idea chicken stew
could be so exhausting.
It’s dusk when I wake. Pale pink light floods the room. Christian is sitting in the
armchair, watching me, gray eyes luminous in the ambient light. He’s clutching
some papers. His face is ashen.
Holy cow! “What’s wrong?” I ask immediately, sitting up and ignoring my
protesting ribs.
“Welch has just left.”
Oh shit. “And?”
“I lived with the fucker,” he whispers.
“Lived? With Jack?”
He nods, eyes wide.
“You’re related?”
“No. Good God, no.”
I shuffle over and pull the duvet back, inviting him into bed beside me, and to
my surprise he doesn’t hesitate. He kicks off his shoes and slides in alongside me.
Wrapping one arm around me, he curls up, resting his head in my lap. I’m
stunned. What’s this?
“I don’t understand,” I murmur, running my fingers through his hair and gazing
down at him. Christian closes his eyes and furrows his brow as if he’s straining
to remember.
“After I was found with the crack whore, before I went to live with Carrick
and Grace, I was in the care of Michigan State. I lived in a foster home. But I
can’t remember anything about that time.”
My mind reels. A foster home? This is news to both of us.
“For how long?” I whisper.
“Two months or so. I have no recollection.”
“Have you spoken to your mom and dad about it?”
“Perhaps you should. Maybe they could fill in the blanks.”
He hugs me tightly. “Here.” He hands me the papers, which turn out to be
two photographs. I reach over and switch on the bedside light so I can examine
them in detail. The first photo is of a shabby house with a yellow front door and a
large gabled window in the roof. It has a porch and a small front yard. It’s an unremarkable
The second photo is of a family—at first glance, an ordinary blue-collar family—
a man and his wife, I think, and their children. The adults are both dressed in
dowdy, overwashed blue T-shirts. They must be in their forties. The woman has
scraped-back blond hair, and the man a severe buzz-cut, but they are both smiling
warmly at the camera. The man has his hand draped over the shoulders of a sullen
teenage girl. I gaze at each of the children: two boys—identical twins, about
twelve—both with sandy blond hair, grinning broadly at the camera; there’s another
boy, who’s smaller, with reddish blond hair, scowling; and hiding behind
him, a copper-haired gray-eyed little boy. Wide-eyed and scared, dressed in mismatched
clothes, and clutching a child’s dirty blanket.
Fuck. “This is you,” I whisper, my heart lurching into my throat. I know
Christian was four when his mother died. But this child looks much younger. He
must have been severely malnourished. I stifle a sob as tears spring to my eyes.
Oh, my sweet Fifty.
Christian nods. “That’s me.”
“Welch brought these photos?”
“Yes. I don’t remember any of this.” His voice is flat and lifeless.
“Remember being with foster parents? Why should you? Christian, it was a
long time ago. Is this what’s worrying you?”
“I remember other things, from before and after. When I met my mom and
dad. But this . . . It’s like there’s a huge chasm.”
My heart twists and understanding dawns. My darling control freak likes
everything in its place, and now he’s learned he’s missing part of the jigsaw.
“Is Jack in this picture?”
“Yes, he’s the older kid.” Christian’s eyes are still screwed shut, and he’s
clinging to me as if I’m a life raft. I run my fingers through his hair while I gaze at
the older boy who is glaring, defiant and arrogant, at the camera. I can see it’s
Jack. But he’s just a kid, a sad eight- or nine-year-old, hiding his fear behind his
hostility. A thought occurs to me.
“When Jack called to tell me he had Mia, he said if things had been different,
it could have been him.”
Christian closes his eyes and shudders. “That fucker!”
“You think he did all this because the Greys adopted you instead of him?”
“Who knows?” Christian’s tone is bitter. “I don’t give a fuck about him.”
“Perhaps he knew we were seeing each other when I went for that job interview.
Perhaps he planned to seduce me all along.” Bile rises in my throat.
“I don’t think so,” Christian mutters, his eyes now open. “The searches he did
on my family didn’t start until a week or so after you began your job at SIP. Barney
knows the exact dates. And, Ana, he fucked all his assistants and taped them.”
Christian closes his eyes and tightens his grip on me once more.
Suppressing the tremor that runs through me, I try to recall my various conversations
with Jack when I first started at SIP. I knew deep down he was bad
news, yet I ignored all my instincts. Christian’s right—I have no regard for my
own safety. I remember the fight we had about me going to New York with Jack.
Jeez—I could have ended up on some sordid sex tape. The thought is nauseating.
And in that moment I recall the photographs Christian kept of his submissives.
Oh shit. “We’re cut from the same cloth.” No, Christian, you’re not, you’re
nothing like him. He’s still curled around me like a small boy.
“Christian, I think you should talk to your mom and dad.” I am reluctant to
move him, so I shift and slide back into the bed until we are eye to eye.
A bewildered gray gaze meets mine, reminding me of the child in the
“Let me call them,” I whisper. He shakes his head. “Please.” I beg. Christian
stares at me, pain and self-doubt reflected in his eyes as he considers my request.
Oh, Christian, please!
“I’ll call them,” he whispers.
“Good. We can go and see them together, or you can go. Whichever you
“No. They can come here.”
“I don’t want you going anywhere.”
“Christian, I’m up for a car journey.”
“No.” His voice is firm, but he gives me an ironic smile. “Anyway, it’s
Saturday night, they’re probably at some function.”
“Call them. This news has obviously upset you. They might be able to shed
some light.” I glance at the radio alarm. It’s almost seven in the evening. He regards
me impassively for a moment.
“Okay,” he says as if I’ve issued him with a challenge. Sitting up, he picks up
the bedside phone.
I wrap my arm around him and rest my head on his chest as he makes the
“Dad?” I register his surprise that Carrick has answered the phone. “Ana’s
good. We’re home. Welch has just left. He found out the connection . . . the foster
home in Detroit . . . I don’t remember any of that.” Christian’s voice is almost inaudible
as he mutters the last sentence. My heart constricts once more. I hug him,
and he squeezes my shoulder.
“Yeah . . . You will? . . . Great.” He hangs up. “They’re on their way.” He
sounds surprised, and I realize that he’s probably never asked them for help.
“Good. I should get dressed.”
Christian’s arm tightens around me. “Don’t go.”
“Okay.” I snuggle into his side again, stunned by the fact that he’s just told
me a great deal about himself—entirely voluntarily.
As we stand at the threshold to the great room, Grace wraps me gently in her
“Ana, Ana, darling Ana,” she whispers. “Saving two of my children. How
can I ever thank you?”
I blush, touched and embarrassed in equal measure by her words. Carrick
hugs me, too, kissing my forehead.
Then Mia grabs me, squashing my ribs. I wince and gasp, but she doesn’t notice.
“Thank you for saving me from those assholes.”
Christian scowls at her. “Mia! Careful! She’s in pain.”
“Oh! Sorry.”
“I’m good,” I mutter, relieved when she releases me.
She looks fine. Impeccably dressed in tight black jeans and a pale pink frilly
blouse. I’m glad I’m wearing my comfortable wrap dress and flats. At least I look
reasonably presentable.
Racing over to Christian, Mia curls her arm around his waist.
Wordlessly, he hands Grace the photo. She gasps, her hand flying to her
mouth to contain her emotion as she instantly recognizes Christian. Carrick wraps
his arm around her shoulder as he, too, examines it.
“Oh, darling.” Grace caresses Christian’s cheek.
Taylor appears. “Mr. Grey? Miss Kavanagh, her brother, and your brother are
coming up, sir.”
Christian frowns. “Thank you, Taylor,” he mutters, bemused.
“I called Elliot and told him we were coming over.” Mia grins. “It’s a
welcome-home party.”
I sneak a sympathetic glance at my poor husband as both Grace and Carrick
glare at Mia in exasperation.
“We’d better get some food together,” I declare. “Mia, will you give me a
“Oh, I’d love to.”
I usher her toward the kitchen area as Christian leads his parents into his
Kate is apoplectic with righteous indignation that’s aimed at me, Christian, but
most of all Jack and Elizabeth.
“What were you thinking, Ana?” she shouts as she confronts me in the kitchen,
causing all eyes in the room to turn and stare.
“Kate, please. I’ve had the same lecture from everyone!” I snap back. She
glares at me, and for one minute I think I’m going to be subjected to a Katherine
Kavanagh how-not-to-succumb-to-kidnappers lecture, but instead she folds me in
her arms.
“Jeez—sometimes you don’t have the brains you were born with, Steele,” she
whispers. As she kisses my cheek, there are tears in her eyes. Kate! “I’ve been so
worried about you.”
“Don’t cry. You’ll set me off.”
She stands back and wipes her eyes, embarrassed, then takes a deep breath
and composes herself. “On a more positive note, we’ve set a date for our wedding.
We thought next May? And of course I want you to be my matron of honor.”
“Oh . . . Kate . . . Wow. Congratulations!” Crap—Little Blip . . . Junior!
“What is it?” she asks, misinterpreting my alarm.
“Um . . . I’m just so happy for you. Some good news for a change.” I wrap
my arms around her and pull her into a hug. Shit, shit, shit. When is Blip due?
Mentally I calculate my due date. Dr. Greene said I was four or five weeks.
So—sometime in May? Shit.
Elliot hands me a glass of champagne.
Oh. Shit.
Christian emerges from his study, looking ashen, and follows his parents into
the great room. His eyes widen when he sees the glass in my hand.
“Kate,” he greets her coolly.
“Christian.” She is equally cool. I sigh.
“Your meds, Mrs. Grey.” He eyes the glass in my hand.
I narrow my eyes. Dammit. I want a drink. Grace smiles as she joins me in
the kitchen, collecting a glass from Elliot on the way.
“A sip will be fine,” she whispers with a conspiratorial wink at me, and lifts
her glass to clink mine. Christian scowls at both of us, until Elliot distracts him
with news of the latest match between the Mariners and the Rangers.
Carrick joins us, putting his arms around us both, and Grace kisses his cheek
before joining Mia on the sofa.
“How is he?” I whisper to Carrick as he and I stand in the kitchen watching
the family lounge on the sofa. I note with surprise that Mia and Ethan are holding
“Shaken,” Carrick murmurs to me, his brow furrowing, his face serious. “He
remembers so much of his life with his birth mother; many things I wish he
didn’t. But this—” He stops. “I hope we’ve helped. I’m glad he called us. He said
you told him to.” Carrick’s gaze softens. I shrug and take a hasty sip of
“You’re very good for him. He doesn’t listen to anyone else.”
I frown. I don’t think that’s true. The unwelcome specter of the Bitch Troll
looms large in my mind. I know Christian talks to Grace, too. I heard him. Again I
feel a moment’s frustration as I try to fathom their conversation in the hospital,
but it still eludes me.
“Come and sit down, Ana. You look tired. I’m sure you weren’t expecting all
of us here this evening.”
“It’s great to see everyone.” I smile. Because it’s true, it is great. I’m an only
child who has married into a large and gregarious family, and I love it. I snuggle
up next to Christian.
“One sip,” he hisses at me and takes my glass from my hand.
“Yes, Sir.” I bat my lashes, disarming him completely. He puts his arm
around my shoulders and returns to his baseball conversation with Elliot and
“My parents think you walk on water,” Christian mutters as he drags off his Tshirt.
I’m curled up in bed watching the floorshow. “Good thing you know differently.”
I snort.
“Oh, I don’t know.” He slips out of his jeans.
“Did they fill in the gaps for you?”
“Some. I lived with the Colliers for two months while Mom and Dad waited
for the paperwork. They were already approved for adoption because of Elliot, but
the wait’s required by law to see if I had any living relatives who wanted to claim
“How do you feel about that?” I whisper.
He frowns. “About having no living relatives? Fuck that. If they were anything
like the crack whore . . .” He shakes his head in disgust.
Oh, Christian! You were a child, and you loved your mom.
He slides on his pajamas, climbs into bed, and gently pulls me into his arms.
“It’s coming back to me. I remember the food. Mrs. Collier could cook. And
at least we know now why that fucker is so hung up on my family.” He runs his
free hand through his hair. “Fuck!” he says suddenly turning to gape at me.
“It makes sense now!” His eyes are full of recognizance.
“Baby Bird. Mrs. Collier used to call me Baby Bird.”
I frown. “That makes sense?”
“The note,” he says gazing at me. “The ransom note that fucker left. It went
something like ‘Do you know who I am? Because I know who you are, Baby
Bird.’ ”
This makes no sense to me at all.
“It’s from a kid’s book. Christ. The Colliers had it. It was called . . . ‘Are You
My Mother?’ Shit.” His eyes widen. “I loved that book.”
Oh. I know that book. My heart lurches—Fifty!
“Mrs. Collier used to read it to me.”
I am at a loss what to say.
“Christ. He knew . . . that fucker knew.”
“Will you tell the police?”
“Yes. I will. Christ knows what Clark will do with that information.” Christian
shakes his head as if trying to clear his thoughts. “Anyway, thank you for this
Whoa. Gear change. “For what?”
“Catering for my family at a moment’s notice.”
“Don’t thank me, thank Mia and Mrs. Jones. She keeps the pantry well
He shakes his head as if in exasperation. At me? Why?
“How are you feeling, Mrs. Grey?”
“Good. How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine.” He frowns . . . not understanding my concern.
Oh . . . in that case. I trail my fingers down his stomach to his oh-so-happy
He laughs and grabs my hand. “Oh no. Don’t get any ideas.”
I pout, and he sighs. “Ana, Ana, Ana, what am I going to do with you?” He
kisses my hair.
“I have some ideas.” I squirm beside him and wince as pain radiates through
my upper body from my bruised ribs.
“Baby, you’ve been through enough. Besides, I have a bedtime story for
“You wanted to know . . .” He trails off, closes his eyes and swallows.
All of the hair on my body stands on end. Shit.
He begins in a soft voice. “Picture this, an adolescent boy looking to earn
some extra money so he can continue his secret drinking habit.” He shifts onto his
side so that we’re lying facing each other and he’s gazing into my eyes.
“So I was in the backyard at the Lincolns’, clearing some rubble and trash
from the extension Mr. Lincoln had just added to their place . . .”
Holy fuck . . . he’s talking.