Chapter 22

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The Bellagio is an experience to say the least. We’re treated like royalty and the hotel is the epitome of ostentatious luxury, completely over the top and quintessentially Vegas.

The first breathtaking thing we come across is the lobby ceiling. It’s decorated with over 2000 hand blown glass flowers – a stunning work of art called Fiori Di Como. The glass blossoms sit on impossibly delicate stems, like they’re growing out of the ceiling, their floral faces peeking in all directions. Hues of blues and reds, pinks and yellows, greens and orange are all lit from behind making them glow gently as they run in thick strips along the roof.

Our wonderment is interrupted by Alec, a welcoming concierge with a bright smile and a designer suit, immaculate and understated. He greets us by name while a bell person takes care of our meagre luggage. The staff’s level of professionalism is astounding, their attention to detail – unparalleled, it seems that nothing is too much to ask.

Both sets of parents as well as Ray and Mia are booked into gorgeous suites within the hotel but my mom and Bob is only expected later today. Mia promises to come and help me get ready once she’s freshened up but I suspect that she’s keen to be with Chris. To me, it’s clear that she’s yearning for a little one of her own to cherish and love. After another rather awkward moment of hugging the Grey’s goodbye for the afternoon, we split up and they make their way to their rooms.

As Christian, Chris and I are staying in one of the Villas, Alec accompanies us, along with Taylor and Brandon to the Executive Suite Lounge for a private registration process, an added benefit and decadent luxury that forms part of the Villa package.

We follow him, admiring the sites as we go. Chris who was still sleepily lying on Christian’s shoulder is now wide awake, refreshed from his brief nap in the car. By the look on his face I can tell that he’s bowled over by our surroundings. Eyes wide in wonder, barely able to blink, his little mouth is gaping in awe as he takes it all in.

We walk through a spectacular conservatory that holds a breathtaking display of flowers and plants. Alec acts as our guide and tells us that the display changes five times a year according to seasonal themes. Right now it’s the fall display and the space is awash with every conceivable hue of orange and gold. Chrysanthemums decorate the flower beds, they’re planted in patterns making them look like bold brush strokes of colour from a painter’s canvas. Huge pumpkins and life like animal statues are dotted amongst the prolific flowers and Chis points out that all the animals are made entirely of flowers.

“Mommy, daddy, look at the flower birds!”

We stop in front of two Egret sculptures. The one is in an upright pose, looking into the distance and the other’s neck slopes down with an elegant curve as if plucking a fishy snack from the water. Everything is made of fresh flowers, even the water they’re standing in. Behind them are tall plants and trees creating a wonderful three dimensional backdrop, a feast for the eye eventually leading your gaze upward to the ornate glass roof.

Christian sets Chris on his feet and then crouches beside him. “Those are Great Egrets champ; they catch fish in the water with their long beaks.” There’s so much to see, our senses are almost overwhelmed as Christian points out the cutest rabbits, “look at the little bunnies!”

After he squeals at the bunnies with fat white blooms for fur his eyes grow large again and I follow his excited stare. His arm goes up, pointing – too stunned to speak. Peeking out from behind tall grasses is a life size flower tiger complete with growling sneer.

“Wow!” Christian and I exclaim in unison. We smile at each other and I’m tempted to say snap before we follow him hand in hand to share his joyous discovery.

After the gobsmacking conservatory another surprise awaits us. We pass a big manmade lake with dancing fountain that’s synchronized to music and coloured lights, the tallest ones shooting 460ft up, into the air. The concierge tells us that they have this water show every 30 minutes, varying the accompanying songs. At the moment it’s swaying and squirting and splashing in time with “My Heart Will Go On.” We stand rooted to the spot, staring through the large frame windows of the hotel at the matchless view of rhythmic water gymnastics.

My Heart Will Go On

Christian drapes an arm over my shoulder, pulling me closer. Both our free arms reach for Chris, settling him against our legs, our palms crossing over his chest. My perfect little family – whole and complete, we revel in the beauty and the closeness, my heart bursting with affection for them. A strong surge of binding love pushes everything else out of my mind making me feel hopeful and at peace.

I sense Christian drinking in the swell of emotion and his gaze turns to mine, it’s burning with a lightheaded intensity that conveys every inch of the depth of his feelings for us – so intense it becomes a physical sensation that I feel in the deepest part of my soul. I bask in the glow of it, praying that I’m able to show him the same. When his lips brush mine, I grab a fistful of his shirt collar to hold him to me, “I. Love. You. So. Much.” I breathe into his mouth.

He closes his eyes and rests his forehead against mine, his left hand tangles into my hair at the nape of my neck and his right pushes Chris deeper into our embrace. I’m not sure if our little boy knows what’s going on above his head but he stands still, hopefully also soaking up the love surrounding him. “And I you Anastasia.” A moment passes before he bends, gracefully scooping Chris up to joins us at our level, “I love you son.” His words are gruff, looking at his boy with pure adoration. I turn, deeply touched, sandwiching Chris between us as I circle them both with my arms, holding their preciousness as close as I can.

The connection spins a powerful weave around us, making our surroundings slide from view until it’s only the three of us – joined by passion and shared genes; Chris being the culmination, the embodiment of all the good between us.

When the world re-emerges I feel a lightness in my being, a new buoyancy that makes me beam my happiness to Christian, sending him a quiet message of trust and joy. By the delighted quirk of his brow I know that he understands and shares my sentiment.

Alec must’ve grasped the weight of the moment between us because he melts away, giving us the space to embrace our union. Taylor and Brandon is waiting unobtrusively in the background, they know better than to crowd their boss.

In the Executive Suite Lounge Chris and I wait on plush couches and enjoy a small snack that’s laid out for guests. A few meters away, at the welcome desk Christian is dealing with the business end of our stay; even taking down your credit card information is a quiet, civilised experience at the Bellagio. No waiting, no frazzled staff, just friendly efficiency.

Brandon is keeping an eye on us while Taylor liaises with the hotel’s security manager, it’s obvious that the hotel is used to dealing with outside security as our team is welcomed and expertly briefed on local protocol.

Alec drives us to our villa on a white golf cart, the Bellagio logo is boldly displayed on the sides while Taylor follows us in a black cart that will be for their sole use during our stay. I notice that they’re both wearing a Bellagio ID security tag around their necks, probably so that they can gain access to restricted areas around the hotel and casino.

From what I’ve seen so far the Villa’s opulence is no surprise. It’s perfectly in line with the hotel’s commitment to being the best on the strip, nothing short of breathtaking. All the villas are set in a walled estate and each individual one is surrounded by its own perimeter wall offering utter seclusion.

We drive up to our private entrance and Alec opens the double volume doors then steps aside for us to enter. Chris runs ahead while Christian and I follow at a more sedate pace, I want to take it slow and enjoy the splendour. We walk into a welcoming foyer decorated with a glass chandelier. With the sun streaming in behind us, it catches the cut facets of the sparkling crystal drops, bathing the room in a prism coloured shower.

I gasp at the beauty then giggle when I find Christian’s hooded gaze focussed solely on my reaction, heat stealing across my amazed face. His confident fingers slip a stray strand of hair behind my ear and then trail a gentle line along the curve of my jaw before he grips my chin, stealing a lick into my mouth as my lips part in surprise.

When his lips find my ear his seductive whisper travels right to the very core of me, “your giggling makes me hard.” He pulls back and revels in my wide eyed shock with an impossibly sinful grin.

Chris’ thrilled call to his dad leaves me alone with Alec to explore the villa in peace but not before Christian throws me a knowing smirk over his retreating back.

So it begins I think; the slow seduction of me, his bride on our wedding day – there’s nothing he does better. Delicious thoughts and tingles compete for my attention as I find myself fantasising about the day and evening’s plans…

When Alec clears his throat I flush again, red with embarrassment at my body’s slavish response that I think must be as plain as day to see. I’m grateful for his poker-face which remains locked in a practised mask as he introduces me to an older man dressed in a traditional English butler’s uniform that seemed to have simply appeared at his side.

“Ms Steele, please meet James. He will be at your service for the duration of your stay. Anything you need, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

I smile and extend my hand in greeting, “hello James, pleased to meet you.”

With a slight bow of his head he returns my shake with a firm and dry grip, a touch of amusement softens his serious features, “the pleasure is mine ma’am. Welcome to the Bellagio. Anything you need; just let me know.”

Our very own butler!

He has denim blue eyes and a reserved air that I suspect comes with having to be invisible and unruffled under almost all circumstances. When I ask for something to drink he seems pleased to have something to do and leaves us to our tour.

The three bedroom; seven bathroom villa is 8000 square feet of European designed overindulgence. It has a workout facility, a dry sauna, a massage room, a private hair salon, dining room, living room, kitchen, double sided fireplace and a fully stocked bar that I’m told by Alec is stocked with our personal favourite beverages.

Throughout the villa I see gorgeous fresh flower arrangements and I doubt it’s a coincidence that they’re mostly filled with Peonies, my favourite. Like everything else they are lavish, crammed to the max with the big, fluffy blooms, once again a testament to the hotel’s exceptional level of care to detail. In the dining room awaits a mini feast of fruit, nuts, chocolates and petit fours that I look forward to indulging in. Alec pushes the French doors apart to reveal a stunning terrace, graced with overstuffed sun loungers next to an inviting plunge pool.

Planter boxes at the edge of the pool are filled with colourful blossoming shrubs, their shiny leaved tendrils spilling over the stone tiles. Each pot and plant is well tended and in full bloom, filling the air with a floral perfume that reminds me of lazy summers and the sun’s kisses on my bare skin.

One side of the terrace opens to a cloistered, manicured garden. The lawn is so lush and green that it almost seems synthetic; I can’t resist bending to sweep my hand across it – just to be sure. The grass has a satisfying spring to it and freshly mowed; a smell I love. I wave to my guys as they come ambling toward me, animated from their exploration of the walled-off oasis.

“Mommy, mommy look at the pool! And the grass! It’s so soft!” I take in his little feet, shoes and sock discarded at the edge of the terrace, eagerly exchanged for the feel of thick grass between his toes.

“I know buddy, isn’t it fantastic?” I push off my own shoes and pad onto the grass, delighting in the cool tickle beneath my soles. He takes my hand and pulls me down so we sit on the lawn. I grab his wrist, tugging him into a hug but he resists – playfully struggling so much that I topple over. Laughing we roll on the grass like puppies that’ve just been washed. Christian watches us with wry amusement before he follows suit, shucking his shoes and diving into the friendly tussling.

All three of us look up to find James waiting with a tray of lemonade. Still giggling I push myself up, “thank you James. This is my fiancée, Christian and our son Chris.” I gesture to them, my heart filling with tenderness at the sight of my men playing. “Guys, this is our butler, James.”

Christian waves from his prone position, Chris has him in a wrestling hold, overjoyed that he’s managed to pin down his strong dad.

“A pleasure Mr Grey, Chris.” James nods his greeting in that modest way he has, sunlight picking out the silver in his hair before he places the tray on an ornate wrought iron table with a travertine top. His mouth curves into a small smile as he looks to me, “may I?” he lifts a jug, dripping with condensation as the ice blocks tinkle gently, it looks delicious and refreshing.

“Yes please, for all of us.” I get the impression that a happy family playing on the lawn is not something he sees very often; I wonder if he’s ever seen guests take the time to appreciate a simple thing like grass.

Chris joins me in a flash, abandoning the tumbling match when he sees the icy drink. I pass him a glass and he drinks greedily, thirsty from playing outside. I pass Christian a glass when he’s done dusting himself off and take one for myself, “thank you James. That was just what we needed.”

“Thanks,” Chris is breathless from drinking so fast and for a beat he studies James’ uniform. “Why do you have a tail?” he asks James, tilting his head in fascination with the black coattails of his butler jacket.

In spite of his practiced detachment James laughs loudly, bellowing in genuine mirth along with Christian and me. We snort, trying hard to contain our amusement so we don’t hurt his feelings.

James is the first to regain his composure, he bends forward whispering conspiratorially to Chris, “it’s not a tail but it’s very handy to wipe the tables with. Watch this.” He winks and takes up a coattail tip, wiping across the table in an exaggerated demonstration.

Chris is enthralled, taking up the other to see for himself while Christian and I stem our giggles with our hands covering our smiling mouths. The hilarity of such a well-heeled butler doing such a playful thing is priceless and instantly ingratiates him to me.

Once he’s cleared the empty glasses he mentions that Alec excused himself when we started romping in the garden, it doesn’t surprise me that he took the cue to leave but I’m taken aback that I completely and rudely forgot about him. James leaves us with another reminder to ask for whatever we need.

Chris runs around the garden while we watch and chat. “Anastasia, do you mind if I take him with me while you get ready?”

I snap my eyes to him, shocked that he’s asking for permission, “of course you can take him, please don’t ask. He’s your son.” My tone is soft but firmly imploring. “You better tell Mia, she said she would come to help me get ready but I suspect it was a ruse to spend more time with him.” I grin, showing him that I don’t mind.

He chuckles, nodding his understanding, “you might be right, she’s crazy about him.” He catches the face of his watch and jumps up, “your stylist will be here any minute, come, I want to show you something.”

“What stylist?” I shake my head, a flutter of panic licking at my belly. “I still have to dash to the stores in the hotel to see if I can find a wedding dress!” Christian doesn’t stay to listen to my objection, he’s already ducked inside.

A quick glance back tells me Chris will be fine under Brandon’s unobtrusive watch from the far end of the pool but to be sure I call to him, “Brandon, I’ll be inside, will you please watch Chris, especially around the pool?”

“Will do ma’am.” He says and gives me a two finger salute, the tips touching the outer corner of his eyebrow.

I scuttle after Christian and find him in the opulent master suite, holding a large silver box and a slow burning heat in his slate gaze.

Oh my!

My panic subsides; I think I know what’s in the box. I take a slow step forward, my pulse spiking, contradicting my tentative movement. My smile is shy when he passes the gift to me. “This is for you baby.”

Gently, reverently I put it down on the bed and lift the lid. I feel him stiffen; giving me an inkling of how anxious he is for me to like it. I push aside the pale silver tissue paper and gasp at the sight, dismissing the momentary déjà vu I feel, yesterday I did the same thing with the dress that Dr Shawn sent me. There’s a part of me that wonders whether Christian is deliberately trying to outdo that memory.

The dress, like all things Christian is without doubt the most beautiful garment I’ve ever seen. The bodice is strapless, covered with gossamer netting that comes together over the breasts, right up to the base of the neck where a string of pearls gathers and holds it up, tying it around the back.

Just below the breasts is a band of crystal embellishments, it joins with another crystal pattern that runs across the belly to one side where the soft fabric is ruched before it spreads into a flatteringly feminine A-line. The creamy satin fabric flows like liquid, warm and sensuous, classic with an interesting twist.

“Christian it’s…” I shake my head, marvelling at the sheer beauty and his incredible talent to get it so right. I lay it out on the length of the bed, fingering the buttery smoothness in awe and unable to find my words.

“Do you like it?” his low voice reveals a vulnerability that I’m eager to dispel so I launch myself at him, knocking him on his back and kissing every exposed inch of his face and neck. “I (kiss) love (kiss) it (kiss) it’s perfect (kiss) you (kiss) are (kiss) perfect (kiss) I (kiss) love (kiss) you.” The last kiss I slant over his self-satisfied smile, he groans as I deepen it and his hand slips beneath my t-shirt and up my back.

When I break away the smile is gone, the force of his desire hits me hard, conveying just how much he wants me which sends my own libido into orbit. A desperate hand fists in my hair as he locks our stares, “tonight.” The gruff promise tightens my nipples and slickens my thighs.

I can’t resist him nor do I want to, with my lips parted to accommodate deeper gulps of air I revealed my urgent need for him. A fresh smirk tells me that needy and desperate was exactly where he wanted me.

In a quick, willowy move he sits up and pulls me onto his lap, he combs his fingers through my hair, tidying the stray strands. “I’ve arranged for a stylist to come see you here, she should be here shortly. She does hair and make-up. Everything you need for the wedding is in the box.” He taps it, reminding me that I haven’t had time to look through it properly.

“Thank you Christian.” I cup both sides of his face. “The villa is gorgeous, you’re gorgeous! I can’t believe we’re getting married!” I go from deeply sincere and grateful to incredulous and ecstatic in three seconds flat, shrieking excitedly as the enormity of the change over the last two days strikes me.

Christian’s answering grin is boyish but the sensual pledge in his eyes remains, “we aim to please.” After a kiss that’s way too brief and chaste he continues, “Taylor will collect you and escort you to the helipad at four thirty.”

“No questions.” He chastises me when he sees my brow lift in curiosity so my mouth snaps shut. He laces his fingers through mine then works the engagement ring off my finger, “until later.” He whispers then pockets the ring. Instantly I feel naked, incomplete.

A discreet cough turns my head to the doorway while Christian slides me off his lap before he stands to take his leave.

“Mr Grey, Miss Candy Devon to see Ms Steele.” James announces the arrival of the stylist in his overly formal manner.

“Thank you James, please show her in.” Christian slips his arms around my waist when James strides away to receive my guest. “I’ll get Chris ready, don’t be late, I can’t wait to see you in that dress.”

I shove my hands into his back pockets to hold him to me, “I can’t wait to be Mrs Grey again.”

I love watching the change come over him, shifting from regular Christian to smoking hot sex-on-legs as he sucks in a breath, clearly turned on by the idea, “neither can I baby.” After a final kiss he leaves me, impatient for our new chapter to begin.

A short blonde with a voluptuous figure struts into the suite, her arm outstretched she drawls with a cute southern accent, “hi there darlin’ I’m Candy.”

“Hi Candy, nice to meet you.” Her pumping shake is firm and her eyes are friendly.

“Just look at you miss natural beauty and getting married today huh?” she sweeps a keen eye up and down my body. “Show me the dress honey, what do you want?”

“I was thinking hair down, soft curls maybe pinned with flowers?” while talking I show her the dress, holding it up against me.

She taps a blood red talon against her pouty lips, closely cropped curls bouncing as she inclines her head – assessing. “That’s a mighty fine dress you got there! Yes, we keep it simple, light make-up, bronzer and loose, sexy curls. I like it.”

“Bye mommy!” Chris yells from somewhere inside of the villa, obviously on his way to leave with Christian.

“Excuse me for a moment will you Candy?”

“Sure honey, go do your thing.” She waves me away.

Chris is with Christian in the foyer on their way out. “Hey buddy, were you going to leave without giving your old mom a cuddle?”

He looks contrite for a beat then rectifies the situation with a wet kiss on my cheek when I pick him up. “I love you little man, be good for daddy. I’ll see you later; when daddy and I get married.”

He looks to Christian, “will you stay with us daddy? You can share my bed if you want.” His bighearted offer is a testament to how much he missed a father figure in his life.

Christian’s gaze is indulgent and amused, “Thank you champ, that’s a very kind offer. How about you and mommy come and stay with me?”

Anxious eyes swing back to me, “can we mommy? Please, please can we?”

“How can I say no to the two of you?” I ruffle his hair and kiss him goodbye.

“That was easy. No arguments from you?” Christian teases me, apparently surprised by my undemanding acquiescence.

I put on my best pouty face, “argue? Me? Never!” Bambi style blinking eyes proclaiming my innocence.

Christian harrumphs, unconvinced. “See you soon baby.” He takes Chris’ hand and leads him to a waiting golf cart.

I direct Candy to the private hair salon where she spreads her beautifying stuff around while I take a quick shower.

Candy is a hoot, while she’s curling my hair she tells me about all the celebrities she’s had the pleasure of styling, I’m happy to sit back and relax, listening to her quip about their crazy antics. Even though I’ve only worn my engagement ring for a few hours my left thumb keeps feeling for the reassuring band on my ring finger, disappointed every time it’s not there.

Candy mentions that her whole family moved to Vegas when she was a senior in high school, her siblings all work for the casinos in one way or another except for the black sheep of the family, her brother who has a tattoo parlour on the strip. I smile remembering Christian joking about tattooing his signature across my chest, a permanent sign to mark me as his and it gives me an idea.

“Candy, do you think your brother could come here, right now and do something for me?”

Her brows shoot up and I explain my plan to get her on board. When her surprise turns into a mischievous grin, I know that she’ll do whatever she can to help me. She reaches for her phone and James appears at the door.

“Ms Steele, Mrs Trevelyan-Grey and Miss Grey to see you.” My joy fizzles out like the air leaving a balloon. Instinct tells me it would be best to sort everything out before the wedding but I’m reluctant, if I somehow manage to make it worse the wedding might become a strained affair, I might even have to cancel it.

“Please show them in James.” Discreet as ever he doesn’t blink at the turn my mood has taken.

When Grace strides into the small salon sans Mia I ask Candy to give us a moment, she clearly wants to talk.

I offer her a seat that she takes then regards me for a long minute. “Oh Ana,” she starts, the misgiving lilt not leaving any room for misinterpreting her disappointment.

My mouth turns down, unhappy that I’ve hurt her. The sting behind my eyes and the burn in the back of my throat, warning me of threatening tears.

She sighs, “darling girl, to be honest I knew that Christian wasn’t telling us the whole truth but I’d be lying if I said I expected the depth of your senselessness. The pair of you, walking around with shattered hearts for so long and Chris without a father!” She twists a tissue with her fingers, the corners of her mouth quivering, hinting at her own unshed tears.

What can I say? She’s right. It doesn’t seem that Christian’s chat helped any, now she’s mad at both of us!

“Grace, all I can say is that I’m sorry. I know what I did; I understand if you can’t look past it, it’s unforgivable.”

Her head snaps up, a V drawing her brows together, “Ana, I’ll get over it, I always loved you like a daughter even though we had you for such a short time, I’ll never forget what you did for Christian and now you’ve given me my first grandson.”

Clear, large eyes search mine, hopeful yet tentative, “the thing that I find hard to deal with is how unnecessary it all was, I want to be certain that going into this new marriage the two of you are willing to communicate. There’s really very little in a marriage that can’t be fixed with honest communication. If you can’t talk to each other then come and talk to me or anyone just please talk before you do anything stupid!” She bashes her fist into her open palm, insistent.

I flinch at her rising voice; she’s worked herself into quite a state, her beseeching, passionate speech pointing out the simple and obvious solution to my foolishness – too late for 20/20 hindsight.

“I can give you that.” I raise my eyes to meet hers, longing to show her my unwavering intention to get it right this time.

She lets go of a long breath, slowly pushing it through the ring of her lips. “Thank you.” Her gaze still holds mine, tracking any haunting uncertainty that I might still retain. When she finds none she smiles, “okay, discussion over, let’s get you hitched to my son – for good.” The warning in her watch brooks no argument from me, I’m only too happy to comply.

I suspect she’s touched by the dazzling and relieved beam I show her because she envelops me in a welcoming hug. Just like that I’m back in the Grey fold, her trust and forgiveness gratefully accepted. She will forever be a beautiful example of what kind of mother I’d like to be for Chris.

When Grace leaves; Mia takes her place and by her unsmiling face it’s evident that Grace has filled her in. She storms in like a dainty bull, puffing angry breaths. “What were you thinking?”

I groan inwardly, every conversation I’ve had about this has started the same way, begging the question if I was thinking at all. “I’m sorry Mia, I was stupid, selfish and thoughtless, I know I should’ve said something or tried harder but I never believed that I deserved your brother’s love, I’ve regretted it every day.” The shame that’s always simmering, ready to show itself is forcing my look down. The mortified blush is evidence of my remorse written boldly.

She jerks back like she’s taken a blow, large eyes stunned, “okay then.” She backs right down, holding her hands up in surrender. “I don’t think I can stay mad at you anyway.”

Her shift in gear is so immediate, so absolute that I’m alarmed. I slip off my chair and grasp her shoulders, “Mia what’s wrong?”

“You want me to be mad at you?” It’s a blatant distraction technique to hide the truth behind her sudden deflation.

“No, though I understand if you are but that’s not what I’m talking about and I think you know what I mean.” My voice is low, coaxing. My heart already hurts for her; she’s always so full of life.

When she finally looks at me I can see the shimmering film of tears on the surface, “I’ve made some mistakes – in love,” she clarifies, “mistakes I regret. What you and Christian have – Ana, don’t let it slip away. It’s so precious.” Her voice turns hoarser as she speaks, tears spilling from eyes that hold regret.

“I won’t, I promise.” We find each other in a comforting embrace, silent while she absorbs my vow.

She tries to make light of the emotional moment when we pull apart, “you better, I’ll hunt you down if you hurt him.” She wags a reprimanding finger at me, failing miserably to look anything but broken.

I ignore her tactic to change the subject, “Mia, I don’t like to see you like this. What can I do? Do you want to talk?”

She shakes her head, glossy locks swinging around her sad face, “another time maybe.”

It’s obvious that she’s not ready to talk, I’ll just have to be there for her when she is, “anytime you want to talk, I’ll be there. I know what it’s like to do something so insanely stupid that it nearly wrecks your life. After the wedding we’ll be moving back to Seattle.” I push up her chin to find her teary stare, “I mean it Mia, look where “not talking” got me. Promise me we’ll get together for a heart-to-heart.”

She nods; a solemn gesture that has worry for her bleeding into my consciousness.

James appears with Candy and presumably her brother in tow, “Ms Steele, Mr Ben Devon for you.”

I give Mia’s shoulders a last squeeze, hating to leave her like this. She picks up on my hesitation and gives me a thin smile, “go on, you’ve get a wedding to get ready for.”

“Please stay Mia; you said you’d help me get ready.” I wheedle, it would be better to keep her busy where I can keep a watchful eye on her.

It works straightaway, a lightness touches her features, “okay, I’ll just tell mum, she can send my outfit over here.” She skips away, her gloom already forgotten.

The next hour is a race against a clock dead set on beating us. The time frame Christian left me with wasn’t much to start off with so, the race is on. Candy and her brother work at break-neck speed, sure and practiced hands labouring in creative unison. I give Candy and Ben a big thankyou hug and leave them, heading for the bedroom to change when she’s done applying the final expert touches to my face.

Apart from the extraordinarily stunning dress, the box reveals more exquisite surprises as Mia and I dig through the layers of tissue paper. We find a pair of heels, delicate wedges with criss-crossing straps over the toes adorned with sparkling crystals. A perfect match that would barely be peeping from the seam of the dress.

A small box in the corner has my heart jumping – jewellery. Mia and I exchange a look before I pop the lid. Striking oval hoops in platinum has a fat pearl dangling from the bottom – so simple, so elegant. “Wow,” my breathless wonderment has Mia giggling.

“You can’t fault Christian’s taste,” a rueful grin curving her mouth in admiration as her old sparkle returns to her bright eyes. The pale pink chiffon of her dress flatters the new, rosy radiance on her cheeks perfectly and I’m thrilled that, for the moment, she seems herself again.

Underneath my robe I’m already wearing the panties I found in the box. The champagne lace is sheer and delicate, so fine that I was careful not to pierce it with a nail when I pulled it on. The boy leg style is sexy and demure at the same time, cutting cross my backside with a scalloped edge. Because the dress has a built in bra and I’m wearing open toed shoes I’m mystified at the matching bra plus stockings and garter set in the same champagne lace. Mmhh, maybe it’s for later…

Mia unzips the dress and helps me into it, my hand holding on to her upper arm for balance. I turn toward the floor-to-ceiling mirrors on the double doors of the closet in front of the bed to check out the complete look.

Mia’s gaping face is visible over my shoulder and I wear the twin expression. We both stare at my reflection in utter astonishment. Together with the dress that does amazing things for my figure, especially my breasts, I look fantastic. The sheen of the satin is a pearly liquid that falls in soft lines. The bodice pushes up just enough to lift my breasts invitingly but without being gauche, it creates an alluring, gentle swell and slope.

My hair is loose, trailing down my back in lazy curls, pinned from my face with fragrant, real blooms. Candy has stuck to the brief and kept my make-up light, the bronzer providing a beautiful glow.

The dress is nothing short of perfection – it’s a thoughtful, touching gift from Christian, the ideal colour for a second wedding, it suits me so well because he knows me – intimately. A precious symbol of our new start that stirs a myriad of contented feelings in my overflowing heart.

“Ana, you look…, breathtaking!” she exclaims in hushed awe.

My hand covers hers where it rests on my bare shoulder, “Thank you Mia,” I catch her gaze in the mirror, “and thank you for helping me.” My wide smile is prettily answered by hers.

A knock on the door has my heart in a flutter as unexpected wedding jitters skitter down my spine. Taylor is here; time to become Mrs Grey again.

Be kind and review, please.

Link to chapter 23

37 thoughts on “Chapter 22

  1. Katherine says:

    Wow such detail felt as if i was there! Outstanding writing as usual but what a tease you are! I thought we were getting the wedding so now I can’t wait until the next update ………. tomorrow 😉


  2. skinsavant says:

    wow! i felt like i was on a journey…like i was eating a ten course meal…like i was getting a full day head to toe treatment at a spa…every sense…feel, smell, sight, hear, taste..had been triggered by your way with using words in describing every detail…as always! do you know what i mean? thanks you for another brilliant chapter. btw…the pictures definitely help!!!


  3. Pielietje says:

    Thank you for the update!i love the dress.
    Can’t wait for the wedding.


  4. Gunchsmom says:

    Definitely worth the wait!! Your description of the Chihuly and of the Conservatory at the Bellagio is spot on. They are my two absolute favorite spots in all if Vegas!!


  5. Barb says:

    Great chapter and what a tease is right! I wonder what the tattoo will be, A and C intertwined like the cufflinks she gave him for their first wedding or some other symbol of her everlasting love for him, I hope. Can’t wait for the next chapter. Thanks again! 😉


  6. Meanderthal says:

    I looooved where you were going with the UFO conspiracy website in chapter 21! Any chance of making Christian an ET, Ana an earthbound princess and Chris their hybrid lovechild? Doo doo doo doo! 🙂


  7. Amanda says:

    I am loving this so far, just discovered this site last night and read all 22 chapters.. when will you be posting chapter 23?!?!


  8. Sarah says:

    I love your story! I’ve spent my entire day reading all 22 chapters. Just couldn’t put it down. Please post another chapter or two as soon as possible. I can’t wait for the wedding!


  9. Heather B says:

    I just found you through a link also….Im so impressed…has EL james seen this? I’m sure she’d be impressed! I must ask, is Chapter 25 the last chapter, or is this a work in progress still? (I don’t want to skip ahead a ruin it for myself:)


    • Monique Lain says:

      Hiya, welcome! No it’s not the last chapter, many more to come but it is the latest chapter. I usually post over weekends, 25 was posted last night so next one will be next weekend. Thank you for taking the time to review. What link did you follow if you don’t mind me asking?


  10. Heather B says:

    I’m really not sure, I’m a fan (or I should say I “like”) several fifty shades fan pages on facebook….and your link was posted on one of those pages by someone


  11. Heather B says:

    Hope your able to write your own published novel at some point, you have quite a gift-I think you could give Giddeon/Eva and Christian/Ana a real run for their money! I’ve read all 25 chapters in a day!


    • Monique Lain says:

      Wow! What a stunning compliment, thank you. I adore Sylvia’s writing, she’s so poetic! I have started some of my own things but I find it very hard to jump from one story to another to write. It’s almost like you get into character and then struggle to get out for another type of story. I know that I ‘ll sorely miss the feedback that comes from writing fan fiction.


  12. Roslyn says:

    Thank you so much for taking me to the Bellagio, I have never been there but now I know what it looks like inside as well as the villas. I also enjoyed the wedding dress, shoes let’s just say I felt like it was a fairy tale wedding. I wish it was me. One could dream, right. I did like the heart to heart between Grace and Ana. I wonder what happend to Mia?


  13. Christa says:

    I just can’t quit reading!!


  14. yolanda says:

    so loving this still reading trying to catch up but in no hurry, your good monique so good.


  15. Charlotte Renninger says:

    I am so In LOVE with your story. It has brought so many tears to my eyes, You detail on everything makes me feel like Im there apart of the story. I always loved Christian and Ana a little surprised of the name change from Teddy to Chris, but that don’t matter. Thank you so much for a Beautiful story. I more Chapters to go cant wait!!


  16. lynn cummings says:

    Is anyone else disturbed by the word,’obey’ in Ana’s vows……she is capitulating already…….please do not turn her into a,doormat. I really enjoy a fiesty Ana.


    • Monique Lain says:

      In the context of marriage vows, obedience is offered willingly to the husband, who, according the the religious concept, is the head of the household. In a healthy relationship, this means that a husband loves and cherishes his wife, reveres her AND PUTS HER NEEDS FIRST. It does not mean that she is subject to him, an inferior partner, and potentially a doormat. It’s so sad that women think that, that they are weak when they trust their man to be, well, a man. Like any arrangement, there should always be a leader. The age old adage of “too many cooks spoiling the broth” is as true in life as it is in marriage. This does not equate to the husband ruling and the wife blindly following. Any good leader knows where his strengths and weaknesses lie, and where his wife is strong, he’ll be man enough to let his strong wife lead. Not be intimidated by her beauty and that strength. Similarly, he’ll take the lead where she is weak. Sadly, that “obey” evokes the worst kind of imagery – a cheating, unloving, strict, possibly even abusive man whose sole purpose in life is his self serving gratification. That’s definitely not our Christian. My goal in my story was to write Ana stronger, and Christian more whole, two people that came together in a synergistic relationship that made both halves better than before they joined.


  17. dblackmon says:

    Thank you! Excellent reply. Yes I’m on a countless re-read. Lol

    Liked by 1 person

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