This was originally posted as a one shot, a sequel to Fifty Shades Meander, but as I posted it before writing the end of FSM, I’ve had to rework it a little in order for it to fit completely with the main story. Here is the revised chapter.
After the drama; a glimpse into Grey Christmas:
Tuesday, 20th December, 2016
“Like a real fight?” My scrambled egg-loaded fork stops midway on its path to my mouth, my startled eyes staring at Christian, bewildered.
This is so typical of him! Smack bam in the middle of breakfast, casually and without a whiff of warning, only days before Christmas — which by the look of things is going to be a crazy day as well as our first Christmas together as a family — he drops this bomb on me.
He’s volunteered himself as a participant in the CEO/Celebrity Corporate Charity Challenge on Christmas Day. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for charities, especially the ones involving children. I love that Grey Enterprises, as a whole, invests so much into the community, but to fight against a professional Muay Thai kickboxer, even if it is for charity, sounds way too dangerous to me. And that’s not even considering what we’ve been through over the last few months. It’s simply too much for me to cope with right now.
Oblivious to my anxiety level, which has just sprinted off the charts, he shrugs, completely unconcerned. “Yes, Bastille and I can work in a few extra sessions over the next four days. It’s for a good cause, something I agreed to months ago. And why not?” he quips, his eyes lighting with gratitude. “I feel like we’ve been given a second lease on life, and aside from spending as much time as possible enjoying my family, I want to pay it forward.” Not really expecting an answer, he swipes at the screen of his tablet, clearing the screensaver before resuming his perusal of the day’s news.
Why not?! My heart is jackhammering its way out of my chest and he’s asking why not?!
I take a deep breath, desperately trying to push down the acidic panic in my gut. I hold out my thumb as I start my righteous countdown. “Well, for one thing, the guy you’ll be fighting is a professional.” I enunciate professional like I’m spelling it out, the heavy emphasis on the word combined with my terse tone and high pitch all cues to my neurosis. Christian looks up from his reading, a little taken aback by the vehemence of my argument.
Now that I have his attention, I add my index finger. “Secondly, it’s on Christmas Day! As it is, it’s going to be mad busy, but it’s supposed to be a family day.” My middle finger is the next one up. “Thirdly, I…. when…” My rationale fails, the third reason along with all the others suddenly eluding me. Actually, if I’m honest, there’s only one — but it’s a big one. I’m scared blind.
After our ordeal I’ve become overprotective of my darling family, but I don’t know how to express this fear to him. He certainly shares my concern for Chris, and he’s equally worried about me and the pregnancy. But whenever I raise my anxieties about him, he shrugs it off with some flippant remark about being able to take care of himself. For some reason he fails to see that though the threat is resolved, I’m not over the shock and worry we’ve endured — not by a long shot. Ironic really, considering that he’s the king of overprotectiveness.
Finally he puts the tablet down and folds his arms over his broad chest, regarding me with a twinkle in his eye. “You do know that Bastille is an ex-Olympian and I regularly knock him on his ass, right?” His remark is arrogant, his smirk proof that he’s expecting to do well against this hardened, trained opponent. Mistakenly he thinks that my fear lies with the level of his skill.
“I don’t care how good you are, he kickboxes for a living. Are you even up to something so… so… physical after…?” I can’t even talk about it without a horrible, dry lump forming in my throat, my chest tightening with all the “what ifs.” I feel the light in my eyes dim as they drop to the floor, too vulnerable to show him the tears welling there.
“Baby?” His word is a question, finally picking up on the fact that something else is going on. I hear the scrape of his chair before he makes his way to my side of the table. Dropping to his knees beside me he reaches for my chin. He turns my head so he can meet my downcast gaze.
He spots my too-shimmery baby-blues before I can blink away the sheen and drops his hands, resting them both just above my knees. The warmth of his touch seeps into me; it comforts me, anchoring me to the present. “What’s going on?”
“What if he hurts you?” It’s a watered-down version of the terror that fills my thoughts; it doesn’t begin to put my fear into words. Frankly, I don’t think I can verbalize the angst I feel. I know he’s in great shape. Hell, he was back in the gym two days after the incident and he’s healed at an amazing rate — even his body obeys his will. But my emotional scars are slow to heal, the slightest apprehension scraping them raw. The memory of our nightmare day is still too fresh in my mind to trust our safety.
“Baby, I love that you worry about me, but this is nothing. The guy’s been retired for three years. He mostly trains up-and-coming fighters now. I’ve seen him in action. Trust me. I’ll be fine.” He’s rubbing his palms along the length of my thighs, the slow, rhythmic motion soothing, at least partly stemming my irrational fears.
The logical side of my brain agrees with him. It’s just a charity fight and I know they’ll have stringent safety precautions in place. They won’t let one of the U.S.’s top CEOs get injured or worse — hell, they couldn’t afford it if they did. But then there’s the other side, the not-so-logical side. Mostly it lurks quietly, waiting for the deepest dips in my confidence before it breathes ugly words of worst-case scenarios into my ear.
It sears me with impressions that haunt my waking thoughts, sometimes even my dreams. It stalks my imagination when I least expect it. One minute I’d be peeling a potato then, like with the flick of a switch, I’d be staring at some unspeakable horror in my mind’s eye, the imagery involving my husband and son so real my body couldn’t help responding with panic.
I would gasp in shock, dismayed, my hitched breath mercifully reconnecting me with reality, but the memory seeps into my awareness like a stain, coloring my world in terrifying shades. Dr. Flynn assures me that it’s normal after the type of trauma we’ve been through, that only the smooth passing of time will bring back my sense of safety. But for now, I wear the fear like a second skin. It seems unshakable.
Blue into gray, I search the planes of his handsome face as I cup his cheek, my thumb skimming the smooth contours of his freshly-shaved jaw. Every line and curve I know and love. “You are so precious to me. I don’t know if I can stand to watch you being beaten up.”
Christian frowns, looking away from me for a brief beat. When his gaze finds mine again, it’s with a hint of amusement. “Baby, what do you think I do with Bastille every week?”
A little affronted, I start; obviously I know what he does with Claude. “You… train with him. He teaches you how to kickbox.” High red dots sting my cheeks as I surge with just enough indignant anger to give my voice an edge.
Christian nods calmly, his silence willing me to continue, his expression unreadable with his head tilted to one side. I shift in my chair, suddenly feeling uncomfortable as I focus a bit harder, sifting through my mental files, but I draw a blank.
I’ve never given it much thought. I know they meet at the gym, they do their thing, and Christian comes home unscathed. I’ve never seen so much as a bruise on him. With my head coming up empty, I’m forced to admit that I don’t exactly know what he does or, for that matter, how. I’ve never actually seen him train with Claude even though I myself have used him as a personal trainer, but never for kickboxing.
I glare at him, annoyed that he’s made his point by hardly saying a word. In true toddler style I cross my arms over my chest, pouting. I know what’s coming next; he’ll say that Claude teaches him by fighting him. I feel stupid that I’ve never given it much thought, especially considering that I’ve had self-defense classes myself. And I’ve seen Christian throw a punch. You’d have to be blind to miss the fact that he’s a skilled and agile fighter. The way he took on José was nothing short of incredible, despite the disturbing circumstances.
Like only a husband can, he drives up my ire by smirking, well aware that his argument beats mine in logic by spades. “We fight, baby. That’s how I’ve learned every jab, hook, cross, kick, swing, and block.” As if to prove his prowess in the ring, he rises with a fluid, steady motion, his body graceful, every movement precise and economical. He places both hands on the armrests of my chair, leaning close so his lips brush mine just enough to carry the current that’s always sparking between us.
With those molten eyes staring into mine he breathes, “So you see, baby, there’s nothing to be concerned about. You may even like it.” He takes my mouth in that dominating way of his, licking deeply before he finishes with a firm kiss. Devilish is what I would call him now as he winks at me, his mouth curved into a knowing smile.
That thick skull of his is impenetrable to my state of apprehension, unfathomable for him to think that something might go wrong even though, very recently, it did. I sigh. Making me give in to him is what he does best. “I’ll go, but I won’t like it. Not one bit. And Chris will definitely not be going!” I give him a look that says I mean business, grabbing a handful of his shirtfront.
He answers with a throaty laugh, relaxing in what he seems to think is friendly banter. “You are so hot when you play tough, Mrs. Grey.”
Incorrigible! If only I were playing.
“Mommy, Daddy, look what I made!” Chris barrels into the room with his usual energy, his exuberance interrupting the subliminal message I was trying to convey to my currently clueless husband.
We both turn to him, dropping our discussion and encouraging him with our smiling faces and lots of eye contact, just like his child psychologist told us. His joy, though wonderful, tugs sharply at my heart. He’s been so clingy, so introverted since the drama with José. It’s nice to see him being himself. Christian beams at him with delight, but my smile is bittersweet. My son’s recovery from the trauma of being kidnapped still weighs heavily on me.
“Show us, champ.” Christian has already picked up so much about parenting, surprising me more and more with his patience and the way he shares Chris’s childlike excitement. It’s almost as if he’s reliving his childhood through Chris, righting the wrongs of his past as we grow as a family.
Whenever he’s able, he makes the effort to give Chris his undivided attention, even making a point of communicating with him at eye level. This time he picks him up and, as usual, our son blossoms under his dad’s kind consideration, his love for his father clear in the hero-worship awe of his soft blue eyes.
Very proud, he holds out a picture he just drew. Letting Chris use drawing as a tool to help express the things he might not be able to say is another tactic that the shrink suggested we try to help him cope. Not willing to be left out, I stand, joining my boys as we look at his creation. Typical of any four-year-old it’s mostly scribbles, but he gets his idea across. With bold, primary-colored crayons he’s drawn his family, not just me and him, but Christian as well.
I watch Christian’s throat work on a swallow, his eyes large and fixed to the page. “Tell me about your picture, champ.” I admire his wisdom in asking, always taking care not to jump to adult conclusions and possibly misread what his son might’ve intended. But the meaning behind this drawing is clear enough and I hear the catch in his thickened voice.
Chris looks at him as if he has two heads, obviously questioning his dad’s eyesight or intelligence — or both — and I have to stifle a giggle. “This is me,” his little finger stabs at the smallest figure on the page. Again he catches Christian’s stare, checking to make sure his dad is following his explanation. “This is Mommy and this is you.”
It’s such a small thing, but such a big moment.
“Thank you, son. It’s the best one I’ve ever seen.” I slip my arm around Christian’s shoulder, giving him a squeeze while I kiss my beautiful boy on top of his head, loving that he’s done this without prompting.
Christian manages to hold on to his bright smile in spite of the obvious emotion that’s overcome him. By his awestruck expression and the quiet reverence with which he’s holding the picture, it’s clear that it’s touched him deeply. I know that for my husband those crayon lines represent Chris’s acceptance of him as his dad.
“You can keep it, Daddy.” Chris’s magnanimous nonchalance is proof that he’ll never realize the magnitude of the gift he’s just given his father.
“Thank you,” Christian whispers again, hugging Chris closer. “I have just the place for it.” With Chris still in his arm he strides across the room to his study.
“Where are we going, Daddy?” Chris is only too happy to keep his perch while I follow my guys, curious to see how this plays out.
“You’ll see,” comes his cryptic reply.
In the study Christian takes a moment to look at the wall that’s adorned with all his awards and press photographs. Mostly they show him with other industry leaders and, in some cases, foreign heads of state and dignitaries. It’s the culmination of all that he’s worked for in his exceptional life, the show-and-tell of his astounding success.
Without as much as a thought, he lifts an impressive-looking award off the wall where it’s hung in a place of honor amongst many others. He rounds his desk, sitting Chris on the edge as he works on the back of the frame to take out the gilded card. Discarding the award on his desk, he replaces it with Chris’s drawing then hangs it back up, the location leaving no doubt of its favored status.
Chris claps his hands while Christian surveys the change with a look of pure satisfaction.
“That looks very good, Mr. Grey, your best yet!” I slip my arms around his waist, pressing my cheek to his back.
Christian’s hands circle my wrists and pull me tighter against him. “My very, very best, Mrs. Grey,” he reiterates. It’s a poignant moment, one that brings a stab to my chest. It’s another moment of vulnerability that my dark consciousness chooses to litter with unease. I would simply die if something happened to these two.
The rest of the week is a blur as it flies by with all the therapy sessions for Chris and me, planning for Christmas, and preparations for the time Christian is taking away from work. Chris’s drawing has brought me some welcome inspiration for Christian’s Christmas gift, something I’ve been mulling over for weeks, but at this late hour it’s another thing I rush around to get done on time.
The flurry of activity in addition to constant meetings with Julie Logan keeps me busy enough not to dwell on my fears, but regardless of Christian’s assurances, I can’t shake my unease about the fight. Last night during our Christmas Eve dinner, he mentioned that Claude would act as his coach for the match, and that together with the other fighter’s coach, they’d established some mutually agreed upon rules. The news made me perk up a little until Christian explained — in detail — that the style of kickboxing that he will be participating in is “old-school, and not some watered-down, generic version.”
Of course he’d go for the most punishing variety I thought to myself as I threw my mental hands in the air, exasperated. My anxious heart slid a little further into my shoes. All I could do was keep my head down in an effort to avoid showing him how hard I found it to listen to his excited, confident chatter.
With the Muay Thai style, the opponents would be allowed to use elbows, knees, and the kicks that were agreed upon before the match which, according to Christian, would be all of them. Cosmo “Good Boy” Alexandre is Christian’s opponent, and a former WMC intercontinental champion. Although three years retired, he’s allegedly very fit and, by all accounts, eager to face an ex-Olympian’s protégé in the ring.
Christian only made it worse by giving me the Brazilian’s impressive fight statistics and mentioning that he’s known for his powerful kicks and exceptional blocking. I could see that he was relishing the idea of taking on this pro in order to test his skills against someone other than Bastille, but I couldn’t get myself to share in his enthusiasm.
Great! I thought sarcastically, anything from three to twelve rounds that last two minutes each was sounding more and more like torture to me. I hated the thought of watching someone trying their best to beat the crap out of my husband, especially for sport.
Christmas Day was heading toward me like a freight train collision which was, at least where my thoughts were concerned, inevitable.
Christmas is always something I look forward to, but today its arrival has brought me nothing but tension. The information Christian shared with me so gleefully last night is still twisting my gut into knots. Dr. Flynn’s advice was to trust that everything would work out well. He suggested that when I started feeling scared, I should consciously drag my thoughts away from any mental meanderings of what might happen and instead focus on what I know to be the truth, making an effort not to allow my fear to dictate my feelings.
As an exercise he made me write out these facts — the positive and the negative. The visual aid of seeing the length of the positive list was a good tool to remind me that my fear is only one small part of the whole situation and all its possible outcomes. He, like Christian, also suggested that I might enjoy watching the fight.
Ha! When hell freezes over!
I swing out of bed and retrieve the hidden package from my nightstand, feeling just a tiny bit resentful that this looming fight is eating away at my Christmas cheer. Quiet as a mouse I slip down the hallway to Chris’s room to wake him so we can surprise Christian together.
When I open Chris’s door I find him sitting up, a grumpy look on his face. “I’ve been waiting for you, Mommy!” he whispers loudly. “You took so long!”
I grin. I should have known that he’d be up early with all the Christmas excitement brewing around him. “Hi, buddy. I’m sorry. I just woke up. Are you ready?”
With a single bounce he’s out of the bed and at my side. “Yay!” he squeals. “Let’s go! Can I give the pwesent to Daddy?”
My heart squeezes with love for him. He’s so precious, so adorable. “Sure, honey, but remember — it’s a surprise, so don’t tell him what it is.” I remind him with a wink because yesterday, he nearly gave it away. He was with me when I ordered the gift, and due to his inquisitive mind, I had no choice but to explain what it was and what it was for. Needless to say, he got so excited that I knew I’d have my hands full keeping him from blurting it out to his dad. I was just beginning to relax, thinking we were home free in the surprise department when, last night, Christian started teasing him about being a good boy and what Santa might bring. Not willing to be outdone by his dad, Chris retaliated with his own taunt, “Santa isn’t bwinging you anyfing, and Mommy didn’t buy you a…”
“Ip, ip, ip, ip, ip!” I interrupted quickly, tapping my finger on my lips. With my stare bugged out and my shaking head, I was lucky to get him to swallow his words.
Chris’s eyes mirrored mine as he looked at me, nodding his understanding, and whispering so loud the world could hear. “Oh, yes! I forgot. I won’t tell Daddy it’s a book.” So the cat was, at least partially, out of the bag. There was nothing for it but to giggle at my son and Christian’s eager beam.
So much for entrusting toddlers with secrets. At least Christian didn’t know the details, but I could see it took everything from him not to grill Chris for more information. I love that for a man who has everything — and more — my darling husband loves getting gifts from us.
As we creep along the corridor, Chris’s exaggerated, cartoon-style tiptoe is making it hard for me not to laugh, but I bite my lip to hold off the giggles. Carefully we file into Christian’s study, doing a good job of our stealth approach because he doesn’t even notice us, engrossed as he is in his work. I nudge Chris to go deeper into the room, the movement finally catching Christian’s eye.
“Merry Christmas!” we cry out together, beaming at a startled Christian. Overcome with enthusiasm, Chris runs to him, rounding his desk, and shoves the present into his dad’s hands. “Open it, Daddy, open it now!” he pleads, crawling onto Christian’s lap for a front row seat.
I catch Christian’s luminous gaze, lit with a deep contentment that has all sorts of things stirring in me as I bend down to kiss his lips. “The first of many, Mr. Grey,” I breathe, coming away from him with my heart clenching at the sight of my guys, together and happy.
His smile is nothing short of breathtaking before his focus shifts to the package and he tears into the cheerful paper. For a brief second it rains little bits of wrapping all around us as he all but claws his way through the crinkly cover.
When Christian sucks in a sharp breath, I hold my own. Buying him something is never easy, but I like that our gift touches him now.
“See, Daddy? It’s me!” Chris slaps a hand to his chest, proud to be on the cover of a book.
Briefly Christian’s eyes flick up to me, the hue of his irises shaded with emotion, alive and animated. As he starts to turn the pages, Chris becomes his narrator. “This is me when I was a baby, but I’m big now. I’m four!”
Christian laughs and hugs him closer. “You are, champ.” When he opens the following page I watch him do a double take at a picture of us as a family. “How did you…?” he asks, but his voice trails off as he realizes that I’ve had him edited into Chris’s and my photographs from the last four years.
This particular photo is one my mom took when Chris was about two months old. The original had me smiling shyly at the camera and holding my boy proudly, but now Christian is in the picture too, a gentle expression on his face as he stares at his son. Admiring the picture from across the desk, I have to say the helpful graphic designer from the store did a fantastic job doctoring the snaps.
The photo book is a chronicle of Chris’s life since his birth. It’s a beautiful, hardback book, the pages semi-gloss and stunning, just like any coffee table publication. It’s the memories I failed to give him with Chris as a baby, a way for him to be part of a past that I can’t change no matter how much I want to.
I watch his reaction very carefully. I’m well aware that, instead of giving him welcome glimpses into our past, it could also serve as a cruel reminder of his unwitting absence in our lives. But I let my banked breath go quietly when I see the look of wonder on his face.
Not all the photos are changed, but many of them now sport my gorgeous husband, the father of my son, placing him with us at the time. I watch Christian smile at Chris’s first taste of solid foods, his tiny mouth pursed, a frown marking the strange experience of feeling something textured in his mouth. Another is of me nursing Chris, looking very tired but utterly in love with my baby boy. He grins at the pictures of Chris’s first haircut. That day Chris refused to sit still, and in the end we went home with him missing a big chunk of hair the clippers devoured with one of his ill-timed squirms. Many of them are of impromptu moments, captured on my phone camera whenever Chris did something silly or adorable. All mark the milestones of our growing son.
Christian seems so lost in the images that I become a little nervous. “Do you like it?”
He drags himself away from the photos, the warm glow of his love startling when he meets my gaze. “Anastasia.” The way he breathes my name says so much about what he’s feeling, it leaves no doubt that he loves the gift.
I smile and he shakes his head, still too overtaken to say anything more. It feels good to do something that moves him so deeply, something that lights those dark corners of his heart, there where it matters most.
Relieved, I perch on the edge of the desk, content to take a trip down memory lane with my two favorite guys. By the time Christian finishes paging through the book, Chris is almost shaking with the effort of containing his enthusiasm. Questioningly he looks up to Christian, expectation flashing like a neon sign on his sweet face. He’s too polite to ask, but it’s clear that he desperately wants to see what Christmas holds for him.
Christian was a delight to shop with, a big boy choosing a toy for a little one. I had my hands full trying to stop him from purchasing the whole store. We even had to have a little talk about overindulging children. In the end he settled for a battery-operated, kid-size Jeep. Something I’m sure Chris would have hours of fun with, especially at the new house.
Christian kisses Chris’s cheek. “Thank you for helping Mommy get my gift.” He scoops Chris up and swings him onto his hip before pulling me in for a tight hug. “Thank you, Anastasia,” he whispers in a hoarse voice. His appreciative tone warms me and in turn I give him a gentle smile. When the tender moment passes he turns back to his son. “Shall we go see what’s under the tree for you, champ?”
“Yes, Daddy! Please!” Passing me, he takes my hand and kisses my forehead, his unspoken message of later clear as I follow them into the great room.
On the way, I remind myself to grab my camera. From now on my husband will be in our pictures for real, and also, I can’t wait to snap Chris’s face when he sees the cute four by four.
I’m not disappointed. Chris looks at the mini car as though he can’t trust his eyes. With his mouth agape he slowly walks around it, almost too scared to touch it in case it vanishes. Then, with a little bit of encouragement from Christian, his reverential hand reaches out to touch the army-green plastic. We chuckle as he shivers, squeaking with delight.
He jumps on the spot, his face painted with glee as his rapid-fire claps resound through the room. When he turns he runs full tilt into our legs, hugging us with all his might. “Fank you, Daddy! Fank you, Mommy!” Christian chose well, I muse as I watch Chris hop into the Jeep like a seasoned off-roader.
Christian spends a minute showing him how to operate the small vehicle before he lets him take a short drive through the open spaces of the great room. For a minute we stand and watch, our faces lit with the same delight that shines on our boy’s. I feel happy, complete, and at peace with Christian’s arm around my shoulder until Brandon steps into the room.
“Sir, Mr. Grey is here to collect Chris.” Naturally, with us at the fight, Chris needs minding, and as we’re having lunch with the Greys it makes sense that Chris stay with them until we can join them this afternoon.
I get a rueful smile from my husband before he gives the okay to Brandon to show Carrick in. My stomach makes a nervous flip. If Carrick is here, it’s almost time for us to leave for the dreaded fight. Dejectedly I sigh, noting that I don’t feel any better about the prospect of watching my husband in the ring with some prize fighter. There’s nothing for it but to head to the kitchen so I can make a start on coffee for my father-in-law.
After Christmas wishes, coffee, and packing Chris, Jeep and all, into the SUV with Carrick, we’re alone again and another hour closer to the CEO/Celebrity Corporate Charity Challenge.
Why couldn’t Christian volunteer for something normal — like golf? I think for the hundredth time as I finish my make-up. In the mirror I catch my husband stalking toward me, his eyes trained on mine, heated as he slips his arms around me, splaying one hand over my baby bump. With the other he brushes my hair over my shoulder before kissing me along the curve of my neck.
“I love the gift, Anastasia.” The way he says my name makes me shiver with currents that run along my body like small jolts of electricity.
I smile. Even to my own eyes I look besotted, love-struck. “I‘m thrilled that you like it, Mr. Grey. It was a joy to see the pleasure on your face.”
With a smile of his own, a twinkling one, he slides an envelope onto the vanity counter. “Santa might have gotten something for you, as well.” His husky baritone along with the thick length of him pressing into my behind suggests that Santa’s gift has nothing to do with what’s in the envelope.
My heart makes a quick stop before resuming at a galloping pace. It’s hard to ignore his naughty grind, but I’m too curious to see what’s inside. “What is it?”
He quirks a brow before dropping another kiss, this time right behind my ear. “Why don’t you take a look?” His warm mouth so close to my skin makes it hard to concentrate. Closing my eyes, I will my hormones to settle before I reach for the crisp, white rectangle.
Once opened, it takes me a minute to figure out what I’m looking at. The documents look official, some of them on our bank’s letterhead. In my hands I fan the pages when suddenly the heading of the first page jumps out at me. They’re the deed documents to the house on the sound.
Slowly I turn to face him, looking at him with a question in my eyes. He runs his fingers through my hair then cups my jaw in his hands. “I don’t ever want you to go through what you did when you left. No money, nowhere to go.”
It feels as though the blood drains from my body as that old cocktail of dread and shame chills my skin and leaves my head swimming. What?
He doesn’t look at me, staring instead at the papers in my hands as he speaks in a low tone. I can see how painful it is for him to recall those days. “Whatever happens between us, I never want to think of you and Chris and baby going without.”
His words deal a crushing blow to my already overwhelmed heart as I come to grips with what he’s trying to tell me. “So you want me to have the house?” I breathe, barely able to speak past my constricted throat.
“Yes,” he says decisively. “The house and the trust funds I’ve set up. One for you and one for each child.”
Ah, the bank papers.
It’s my turn to search his gaze, my heart bleeding with his generosity and the haunted sound of his voice, knowing that I put that ghost there. “Christian. I’m not going anywhere and this… It’s too much.” There’s nothing in the world right now that can stop my streaming tears. Leaving, coming back, getting remarried, the new baby, the horrific threat played out in our lives, the upcoming fight, and now this. I can’t hold back the swelling tide of sentiment anymore.
Sobbing, I bury my head in his chest, unsure what to make of the source of his generosity — guilt, fear? It’s confusing, and touching. All I know is that I love him more than l can ever hope to express.
His strong arms band around me, crushing me to him. “Hush, baby. Don’t overthink this, and please don’t worry. I just want the peace of mind of knowing that no matter what, you and my children are taken care of. Don’t fight me on this. It’s a gift to me as much as it is to you.”
His words, though comforting, only make me cry harder. I’m always blown away that he knows exactly what I need at moments like this. Most men would run a mile from a tearful woman but he just holds me, his powerful body a fitting metaphor for the anchor he is in my life.
When the shudders cease, he lifts my head. His worried eyes find mine. “Please accept my gift, baby.”
I don’t know why I bother to fight him on anything. Who can say no to that? And more importantly, why would I want to reject HIS beautiful, unique way of showing that he loves me?
I nod, biting my lip so as not to cry anymore. Smiling now, he brushes the wet trails from my cheeks before touching my lips with his, the brief contact searing me with a zinging spark. We stare at each other, surprised at being surprised by the force of our attraction. Like magnets our lips smash together in an inevitable meeting: lips, tongue, teeth all merging to express the depth of our feelings for each other.
Dazed and breathless we draw apart, our bodies primed for love. Christian rakes a hand through his hair, messing it up even more. “Mrs. Grey, I’ve never wanted you more,” he grits between harsh pants.
I’m doing no better, but I know we’re out of time. “Promise me we’ll finish this later,” I beg, praying that there will be a later as the stupid fight fucks with my head.
“Wild horses, Mrs. Grey, wild fucking horses….” He leaves the sentence hanging, giving his head a clearing shake. With a grin he lets out a long breath, still eyeing me in a way that makes me feel like dinner before he turns to get ready.
“Christian.” I call him back.
In spite of the hurry we’re in he stops and comes back. His actions always make me feel important, cherished. With a coy curve on my mouth and a rosy glow on my cheeks I speak two simple words, the meaning of them never more important for me to convey. “Thank you.”
The Key Arena at the Seattle Center, I’m stunned to see, is a hive of activity. Obviously it’s a huge event to draw a crowd this size on Christmas Day. On top of that, we’ve just learned from Claude that Christian’s fight will be the main event today. To me it’s just another piece of information to taunt my frayed nerves.
With an hour and a half to spare before Christian makes his appearance, Claude takes Christian, Brandon, and me to the private locker room that will be Christian’s for the day. I listen to them talk about their preparations as Bastille wraps one of Christian’s hands while my husband’s steely grip on mine never wavers.
I guess my husband can sense my skittishness, and knowing that I’ll have to wait for the fight without him makes him eager to comfort me now. I’m grateful for his effort, but I’d much rather we go home. My thoughts are a jumbled, anxious mess that I know won’t settle until this whole thing is over.
“No sex then, mate?” Claude’s question to Christian brings my focus back to their conversation and makes me gasp. What?!
Christian glances at me with heated eyes and kisses the back of my hand to hide his boyish grin. “No, but only just,” he tells Claude, fusing his stare with my bewildered one.
Claude has a say in our sex life??
Claude smirks, then quickly wipes it off his face when he sees Christian scowling at him. “Give us a moment, please. I’d like to say goodbye to my wife,” his emphasis on wife a hint of the green-eyed monster that’s never far away from Fifty.
An amused Claude leaves us to join Brandon, who is waiting outside the door to escort me to our seats. “You have five,” he chuckles with a shake of his head, holding up his hand, fingers splayed, over his retreating shoulder.
Considering the possible risks of the upcoming fight, I’m quick to dispel his jealousy by pulling my husband close, voicing my assurance on a squeak. “Claude does nothing for me.”
I can see by his sheepish grin he feels a tad guilty about his outburst. “I know. I just wanted to explain about the sex. It’s not like I discuss it with people.” Lightly he runs his hand along the side of my waist. “Claude takes this very seriously, and when he was competing they were instructed never to have sex before a fight — something to do with reducing testosterone levels. He made me promise that I would abstain for this one.”
I laugh. “Ah. Okay. Now that you mention it I think I’ve heard something along those lines before. Good thing then that I stopped your amorous attack.” With a playful finger I poke him in his chest. “I would hate for you to lose because of me.” I flutter my lashes, feeling all feminine and girly in the thick of all the male hormones hanging about.
His free hand grips my behind, squeezing and pushing me further into him. “Never, Mrs. Grey. I could never lose because of you. In fact…” He kisses me and groans as I give him my tongue. “I’m going to win today because of you.”
Right now, before this stupid fight, I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize his chances, so I play along in spite of the tight fist of dread in my tummy. “You do that, Mr. Grey, and there’ll be a reward of your choice waiting for you.”
“Mmhhh,” he licks his lips as his gaze turns darker. “My choice?”
I graze my lip, letting my teeth sink slowly into the plump bottom half. “A-ny-thing. You. Want.” I let my tongue linger between my teeth, watching him.
“When the fight is done, have Brandon bring you back here,” he purrs. My inner goddess thrills at the sight of him adjusting himself in his pants and the sound of the raspy husk in his bedroom voice.
Mmhh, locker room sex…. And I’m more than happy to do just about anything to have him back in one piece.
As I hug him for good luck, another idea pops into my overstimulated brain. I remember watching a documentary that showed a coach slapping a boxer before a fight to get him angry, riled for the contest, so being mad must be good pre-fight, right? I know I’m certainly desperate enough to try anything.
Right before I exit the door I turn my head, throwing the words over my shoulder like the lifeline I hope my advice to be. “Just think of Good Boy kissing me when you need some inspiration in the ring.” With that I slip out and let Bastille in, knowing full well that Christian won’t berate me in front of his coach. I only just make out his angry grunt as the door closes behind me.
Good! Go take it out on your opponent, Mr. Grey.
Brandon escorts me to our seats, all the while looking around for potential hazards. Usually I find it comforting, but today I can’t help sharing his vigilance, my fear ushering in a spike of nervous energy that leaves me fidgety.
Looking around, I see the crowd growing. The arena is almost packed to capacity, the holiday crowd enjoying the action. From what Christian told me, I know there are a whole bunch of sporting events that one could enter into: anything from swimming to golf, running, baseball, and many more, all being held today at various venues across the city.
The concept is obviously popular, even with the celebrities, because the current guy being pummeled black and blue is Matt Bomer — definitely not someone who’s doing this simply for publicity. The public gets to bet on their favorite, with winnings split equally between the children’s charity and the bettor, but the charity takes all on a losing bet. All the CEOs and celebrities volunteer their time and efforts.
Brandon seems oblivious to my distress, but I’m beginning to irritate myself with my constant shifting in the seat, unable to get comfortable or stop fiddling with anything within my immediate reach. When I watch the bloodied face of the handsome actor being cleaned up by his coach, I can’t help but panic. If this is how Christian’s fight is going to go, I won’t be able to keep my anxiety at bay.
This is the last fight in the classic boxing division, and by the crowd’s enthusiasm it’s obvious that it’s the highlight. Lots of people wave placards reading We love you Matt! or Go Matt! It’s also clear the crowd mostly backs the underdog, cheering wildly whenever Matt scores a punch. To me, he seems fit enough, landing some good jabs, but there’s no way he’s winning, especially if the judging is done fairly and isn’t biased in any way to favor the celebs.
I can almost hear the minutes tick by. At the end of this round the kickboxing division will start, only one fight away from Christian’s event. As if on cue, the referee blows his whistle and ends the current bout, holding the professional boxer’s hand high in a show of victory. Matt should be pleased, losing by score rather than by knockout, and the crowd seems unperturbed by their bets going to charity. They stand as one, applauding happily and loudly.
To get my bucking emotions under control I decide on some fresh air while I still have the time. Brandon’s bulk effortlessly steers me to the ladies’, where I try to find my center. While I take care of business I visualize a positive outcome for Christian, just like Dr. Flynn taught me, but my hands remain clammy even after I dry them with a paper towel.
Outside I rejoin Brandon and he hurries us back. The kickboxer that was up first, the CEO of a huge chain of hardware stores, was knocked out in the second round so Christian is up next. The quick conclusion is worrying, and I don’t know whether I should be happy or terrified that it could all be over soon.
The arena is in semidarkness as we take our seats. My heart stutters in my chest as does my breath. A single spotlight is focused on the ring where an announcer is sweeping the crowd into a frenzy for my husband’s appearance, drawing out his name, and calling him “the darling of Seattle.”
Dismayed, I’m forced to wave at the crowd as the main camera finds me in the stands, broadcasting a live feed onto the huge screens around the arena and into millions of homes across the nation. The stranger next to me squeezes my arm. “Exciting, isn’t it?” she says, her lipsticked mouth glaringly glossy, her smile almost gruesome with glee. I smile back, the brittle curve of my mouth feeling tight and out of place.
Alexandre runs onto the square waving his gloved hands in the air. Dressed in red and yellow satin shorts with his name emblazoned across his backside he jumps around the ring, keeping his lean muscles warm and ready. His bare chest and arms are decorated with large, swirling tribal tattoos, his dark skin already glistening with sweat. The crowd howls and yells, eager for the main event to start.
Christian is up next and is closely followed by Bastille as they bend to climb through the enclosing ropes. They share the same serious, focused expressions. When the referee raises Christian’s arms in introduction, he looks every inch the champion and takes my breath away. Magnificent is the word that comes to mind. He looks like a Greek god with his perfect, rippling muscles and larger-than-life personality. He wears blue satin shorts that bear the Grey Enterprises logo on the front of the thick elastic banding his waist.
The crowd goes ballistic and I realize what a rare glimpse of him this is for them. Fiercely private and mostly unconcerned about receiving publicity for his charity work, very few people ever get to see him in person. I’ve also seriously underestimated his appeal to the public in general as a role model. Despite my frightening misgivings, I feel my sex clench at the primal nature of two healthy males squaring off to fight.
As if he knows exactly what’s happening to me, he turns my way and blows me a kiss off of his heavily padded glove. Again I appear on the Megatron, this time blushing every shade of red. After placing my hand on my heart for him and giving another timid wave for the benefit of the crowd, all eyes turn to the business below.
In the center of the floor the referee has a word with them, then makes them punch their gloves together in a gesture of sportsmanship. The round-bell dings and it’s on, my heart pounding away quicker than the passing seconds.
They round each other, keeping their movements lithe while kicking and jabbing as if they’re measuring the distance between them. Cosmo strikes the first serious blow, his foot colliding neatly with Christian’s torso. I gasp and hold my hands over my eyes. Peeking through my fingers I watch him follow up that kick with a jab and a rapid-fire cross-counter to Christian’s head, both reaching their target with effective grace.
Oh, no! Why is Christian not fighting back? Is he scared? Does it hurt? In my panic I grip Brandon’s arm, digging my nails into his flesh.
“You should relax, ma’am,” he says kindly, leaning in. “Mr. Grey knows what he’s doing. I won’t be surprised if he wins this fight. I’ve got some serious cash riding on him,” he winks.
I nod, but I’m not ready to let go of his arm. I have to admit that Christian doesn’t look worse for wear in spite of the raining blows, but all I see him doing is blocking.
Come on, Christian, I egg him on in my head.
Suddenly Christian spins on his heel, surprising his opponent with a semicircular kick against his side, and ends his combination with a short straight-punch right on Cosmo’s chin. I watch in horrid fascination as he reels back, clearly surprised by the force of the strike.
“Yes!” I hear Brandon hiss beside me.
When the round-bell goes, I can’t believe that two minutes have come and gone. It felt super quick and yet cloyingly slow, all at the same time. Claude rushes to Christian’s side and offers him a drink while gesturing with expressive hands about strategy. Christian nods and all too quickly the opponents are facing each other again.
This time Christian doesn’t lie low like he did in the previous round. He starts a sequence of jabs, crosses, and uppercuts that all connect with Cosmo’s upper body. When he starts to block to ward off the attack, Christian applies an overcut with his rear hand, putting his body weight behind the punch. It obviously delivers a great deal of force; within moments he has Cosmo against the ropes — helpless.
The referee steps in to separate them, giving Cosmo space to move again. With a shake of his head he swings at Christian with a back fist from the front hand, but my husband sees it coming and ducks out of the way. With Cosmo’s arm still traveling through the air, Christian rains blows on his unprotected torso. The powerful black man staggers back just as the second-round bell dings.
Claude slaps Christian on the back and sluices a wash of water over his face before he lets him drink. His mouth moves nonstop with advice as he massages my man’s shoulders. Round three starts with Cosmo looking a little better. This time they seem more evenly matched as both of them land good, strategic blows, kicks, and knee strikes. I can’t help being swept up in the crowd’s roar as the adrenaline pumping through my veins inches back my reservations.
Now that I’ve seen Christian in action, I feel more confident and may even be ready to admit that I might be enjoying myself — just a little. My husband, sweaty and active, with muscles rippling in a virile display of male dominance, has me more than a little excited.
My train of thought wanders to the possibilities in the locker room afterwards, but it’s quickly interrupted by the start of round four. Brandon is explaining that even though two minutes for a round seems like a short time, at this level of intensity, the fighters are tiring quicker and quicker. Now, according to Brandon, is a prime time for taking the fight home.
I’m surprised when Christian looks as though he’s found an extra boost of energy, his graceful movements pronounced as he bobs and weaves and slips away from Cosmo’s attempts. I remember Christian telling me that it expends a lot more energy to miss than to make contact with your opponent, and I can see what he means. While he’s looking fit and fresh, Alexandre’s movements seem to be laden with lead, the big guy already exhausted from swinging at nothing.
Christian’s knee connects with Cosmo’s abdomen, then he spins around as he flexes his leg, his hook kick landing a sharp heel on Cosmo’s head. The combination leaves him dazed and vulnerable. Stumbling, his blocking hands are too low to protect his face and Christian exploits the opportunity, peppering him with blows that are sure to scramble Alexandre’s brains.
I find myself mimicking Christian’s jabs with my own mini versions, growing more and more excited. Who knew this would be so…so hot, so stimulating? “Finish him off!” I yell, my hands bracketing my mouth as I cheer my husband to victory, forgetting myself completely.
Christian delivers another series of punches, one following the other, fluid and merciless, making it clear that he’s out to win. The crowd is chanting, fist-pumping, and carried away. A side knee snap strike takes Cosmo by surprise. Christian takes full advantage and brings in a rising knee strike, the explosive snap hitting Alexandre under the chin. For a heart-stopping beat the professional fighter teeters… then falls — spectacularly and into oblivion.
I jump off my seat, bouncing up and down as I whoop with the crowd gone wild. The referee counts Good Boy out then raises Christian’s victorious hand. My man wins by a knockout. Fantastic! I don’t even remember why I was so worried. All I want to do is get back to that locker room and award my sexy husband his well-earned prize.
A moment later, when Christian gets ushered off the stage, Brandon steers me by the elbow, neatly navigating our way through the throng of excited spectators. Many of them shout their congratulations as we pass.
In the safety and quiet of the corridor, Brandon can’t contain himself and gives me a rare view of the man behind the security persona I see all day. “That was terrific! Mr. Grey was amazing.” It’s plain to see that Brandon respects Christian and that makes me proud.
I smile, my head nodding in agreement. “That was awesome! I can’t believe I was so worried.”
He laughs good-naturedly. “Yeah, Mrs. Grey, you sure were!” With a wink he rubs his forearm, which I’m pretty sure still bears the half-moon slivers of my nail imprints.
I wince, looking at his arm. “Sorry about that.”
He shrugs off my apology just as we stop in front of Christian’s door. My brief knock is answered in a quick second. Christian acknowledges Brandon with a glance before he rushes me inside, leaving my personal protection outside as sentry. The sound of the lock clicking behind me echoes through the room and right into my core, leaving me hyperaware of my body and Christian’s fierce stare.
My pulse takes off. My husband is still in his shorts, but his hands are free of the wraps and gloves. The overhead lights highlight the dips in the rippling planes of his body and the sheen of super-heated sweat that covers it.
My breath flees as bumps break out across my skin, tightening my nipples and making them poke through the thin, skimming fabric of my dress. “Congratulations, Mr. Grey. That was one hell of a fight,” I husk, my breathy words dripping with salacious intent. I feel like devouring him. I’m as wanton and as ready for him as I’ll ever be.
His low-lidded look smolders with desire. “Thank you, Mrs. Grey,” he grins, stepping closer. I feel the heat radiating off of him. The scent of his exertion is masculine, enticing, begging to be licked; and I do just that when I lean in and slide my tongue along the sharp edge of his jaw, over the sexy stubble that screams virile male.
He doesn’t touch me but sucks in a hard breath, surprised at my audacity. “Mrs. Grey, tell me, did you enjoy yourself?”
I drop my gaze, flushing scarlet. I said I would hate it but, it turns out, I love seeing him in action; fluid, strong, and graceful. “I did,” is all I can manage past my dry mouth. Closing my eyes, I take another deep pull of that smell that’s his alone. Slowly I run my hands up his arms, slippery with his slick effort, the lubrication easing my touch into a glide.
“I can tell,” he breathes against my lips. “I can all but smell you, Mrs. Grey.”
It’s a good thing he curls an arm around my waist because just then my legs go jellied with need, his dirty words arrowing right to my sex. He paws at my dress, skating it up along my thigh, gathering it as he goes. His hand slips past the flimsy lace between my legs before he pierces me with a single finger, easily slipping into my soaking depths to confirm his guess.
He chuckles darkly when I moan. “My choice, huh? And you can bet your sweet, sexy ass it will involve a spank or two for riling me earlier.”
Not that I thought it was possible, but my skin starts to burn for him, every single nerve crying out for his touch: light or hard, soft or firm, gentle or rough — whatever he’s prepared to give, I’m willing to take. His choice is his reward and I’m more than ready to pay up.
Sharply he tugs at my panties, the elastic cutting into my hip before it snaps and falls away from me. He walks us backwards, bunching my useless undies in his big fist. Watching me from beneath those thick lashes of his he brings it up to his nose, taking a deep drag, filling his flared nostrils with the essence of me. He groans and pushes me up against the door. “Turn around, baby. Arms up and against the door.”
I do as I’m told within the tiny space his hot body cages me in. He makes quick work of ridding me of my dress and throws it aside. After a shrug he loses his shorts and presses into my back — naked as the day he was born. I feel his warm hand cupping my ass before he caresses the curve as though he’s weighing it. His free hand is idly running up and down my trembling side before his fingers finally find the achy swell of my breast. When he tugs down the cup of my bra I forget all about the hand that’s now moved away from my behind.
When the first slap falls I mewl with pleasure, having let go of the guilt that used to accompany this kind of love. I thrill at the sound of Christian’s laboring breaths as he takes the opportunity to push himself into the wet triangle between my straining thighs, mimicking penetration by dragging his length along my swollen lips.
“Have you missed this, baby?” He purrs into my ear then licks the shell, making me shudder against him.
“Yes,” I hiss, my flesh humming with anticipation.
His hand leaves my nipple and trails down below, finding that sweet bundle of nerves that’s primed for release. In front he places his clever digits perfectly then smacks me again from behind, forcing my hips onto his pleasuring fingers.
“Urgh!” I cry out, already feeling the roar building inside.
“You want more?” His wicked grin is evident through his hoarse question.
“Yes. Please,” I grit, the words almost too much to utter as I’m carried along the current of exquisite sensation.
Christian smacks me four more times, bringing me right to the edge of my orgasm, his shaky breaths and threaded words proof that he, too, is close to falling. “Grasp your ankles, baby. Brace yourself with your back flush against the door,” he instructs with a hot whisper in my ear.
Without a moment’s hesitation I bend over and do what he says, feeling no shame about my utter vulnerability. He has unfettered access, all my holes open and on full display for his pleasure. For a beat I wonder about his plans, but I always feel safe with him. I trust him completely.
“So fucking hot,” he spits roughly as he dips a finger into me, smearing my want around the head of him. Satisfied that I’m wet enough he fills me with a hard, sure thrust that makes my toes curl in my shoes. He holds me in place; his grip on my hip bites into the softness of my flesh, reminding me of his dominance.
Confined as I am I can only take it — no shifting, no adjusting, just absorbing the pleasure and his rhythm that’s growing faster and faster as he nears his release. He pounds into me — hard, chasing our mutual needs. The animalistic grunts straining from his chest as well as the drag of his heated shaft along my channel start the spiral I’ve been craving. With twin, jagged cries we meet as we fall, quivering through the crashing rapture.
With that, my fears for my husband are conquered — just like he conquers me, and it’s shown me yet another side of my ever-competent man to love.
*Kickboxing info from Wikipedia. Also, I’d like to thank the reader who suggested the photo book. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who you are, but thank you nonetheless.
Be kind and review, please.