I try twisting around but his grip only tightens. With his chin resting on my shoulder I have no purchase to manoeuvre even my neck. I want to see his face, to judge for myself what’s going through his head. Why did he make me promise to stay? Is this what he thinks will drive me away or is there more to his story?
“I suspected as much at the time. Were you worried about telling me?” I hold my breath, all too aware of how his answer will impact on the shame I keep hoarding.
Instantly the steel bleeds from his hold as he relaxes around me, cuddling rather than restraining me. I resist the impulse to turn, giving him a moment to compose himself. “You know me too well Mrs Grey,” he breathes, kissing the shell of my ear. “And yes, I was…” he pauses, hunting – I suspect – for a tactful word, “uncertain about your reaction. I wasn’t prepared to take that risk.”
My heart melts even as it cracks wide open. Will I ever see the end of my failings? Using the slackened give in his arms I turn around, finding his gaze to pin it with mine. In his eyes I see what my actions have cost him, to repay him with the sincerity in my own feels inadequate but it burns there for him anyway. Framing his face with my hands I kneel between his spread thighs, “I know you don’t want me to dwell on it, and I know you don’t want me to feel guilty but how can I not? Look at how I’ve hurt you! I. Am. So. Sorry. I would do anything, anything at all to take it back. To show you that I’m here to stay.”
Reluctantly my hands leave his face to tug my wedding ring from my finger. I slip the platinum band just far enough to reveal the permanent promise I had inked around it. For a long beat he stares at it, our heads touching as he strokes the fine black lines with the tip of his finger. Finally he pushes the ring back into place before taking my hand and pressing it to his heart, “Mine,” he whispers as he finds my weepy eyes again.
“Yes. Yours,” I swallow, fighting the threatening swamp of emotions as they well-up, burning in the back of my throat. “Always.”
Christian runs both his hands through my hair, letting it all hang down my back while those grey irises grow darker, more possessive as they search my face. “You were afraid earlier. Tell me what went through your thoughts when I brought you here just now.”
Suddenly the confessional bubble around us is too intimate, too intense for me to bear, making my self-preserving instinct kick-in with the fast thud of my pulse. Quickly I cut away my stare and the revealing truths they hold from his all-knowing one. Seeing as I can’t doge the question entirely I go for a half truth, “I thought you were mad at me.”
Even though I suspected that I wouldn’t get away with it I’m still reluctant to follow the lead of his finger under my chin, gently nudging my head up. His eyes instantly move to find mine, his frown doleful. “Tell me Anastasia.” Even though his words are tender, coaxing even it carries no less command.
I sigh, sitting back on my tucked legs. “I don’t know,” I lie. “Nothing specific but with what happened last night…” The edge of my t-shirt becomes very interesting as I drop my head, wanting to conceal the vulnerability of my blush.
“Hey,” he pleads, “don’t hide. What happened last night?”
Snapping up my stare I scan his expression. Did he forget? I feel the red of my flush deepen, the words uncomfortable and blaring insecurity as I mumble around them, “You rejected me. You didn’t want to…” My shoulders shrug once, dejectedly as I avoid his sharp granite gaze once more.
“Jeez,” he hisses, shaking his head as his strong hands clamp around my upper arms. “What the fuck are you and Flynn talking about? You think I don’t want you? How can that still be the first place your mind goes?”
My eyes widen, gaping with surprise. If he wasn’t mad before he sure is now. I blink, trying to find words that are sensible enough to explain something that seemed plausible to me a minute ago but now seems dangerously close to a betrayal of the trust I promised to give him. “I thought…”
“You thought what?” he barks, interrupting me. “You thought that I didn’t want you when I went down on you, licking that delicious peach into two orgasms because what? Please. Tell me.” He gives my shoulders a small shake, his frustration clear and rising.
I can’t help gasping, shocked at his blatant, sexy words, but of course, he’s perfectly correct and I suspect trying in his own way to make a point I’m only now beginning to see. As the image of his face buried between my legs reels through my thoughts I’m hit with both a hard desire and a bleak insight into just how insecure I am. It’s an alarming and confusing swirl of feelings that manifests itself in a heart wrenching sob. My hand flies up to cover my face as my tears brim and finally spill.
Christian – always there, always knowing – does exactly what I need him to do. Without another word he crushes me to him, holding me against him while he strokes my hair. “Sshhhh,” he soothes, “I’m not mad. I just can’t understand how you could even consider such a thing. Is Flynn not helping you? Talk to me baby, please. You promised that you won’t let this tear us apart.”
More words from him that make perfect sense, more guilt for me. I can only cry harder as I feel the sting, my inadequacies like cuts in my wounded psyche. Knowing that he’s right only makes it worse. “I…I…I’m sorry,” I stutter, my voice jagged from crying.
Christian just holds me, his patience as touching as it is welcome. When I’m done with the crying, still sucking in shuddering breaths, I push away from him, wiping my red rimmed eyes with the heel of my hands. The expression I find on his beautiful face is one of concern. I sniffle through drying my face and Christian helps, combing my hair away from my damp cheeks.
Regrouping I let out a breath, releasing the crush of my emotions in a long, slow blow. “Dr Flynn is helping me but with everything that’s been going on we’ve concentrated on dealing with my fear more than my insecurities. I know I made a commitment to you, I won’t break that promise.”
Again he strokes my hair, regarding me intently, “I won’t let you. I. Love. You.” He brushes his lips past mine, his mouth only half open as he lingers there, sharing my breath, our lips hardly touching. I get caught up in the exquisite torture of his nearness, his gentlest of kisses that barely skim but move me so deeply. “I want you more and more every day, I get lost in you – deeper every day,” he murmurs; the breath of his words warming my heart just as they warm my lips.
“I know,” I whisper, and I do, it’s just sometimes – I don’t.
“I don’t mind spending the rest of my life showing you but you have to believe it, I want the knowledge to become inherent in you.” He’s still murmuring softly, against my mouth, but the grip of his hand on the back of my neck is fierce, hard with the passion of his emotions.
I nod a small nod, my lips lightly grazing his with the movement, and it’s all he needs to kiss me properly. Tilting his head he takes my mouth, the firm mould of his lips sealing over mine. His tongue plunges deep, persistent, possessive, licking against mine with slow strokes, hot and soft like velvet.
My hands slip up his neck, roaming into his hair. Into my open mouth he issues a groan, the vibration of it is so raw, so primal, so needy. In the tangle of our melding I feel everything he gives me – his possession, his love, himself. If I could only hold on to these perfect moments, remember them in the times I doubt I would never lose faith in what we have, in what he so freely gives me.
Despite being out-of-my-mind aroused I sense that this is not that type of kiss. Rather it’s an affirmation of the bond between us, like a reminder – offering me sense in my senselessness. I feel him winding it down, bringing it to a close as he gentles the play of his tongue, slowly withdrawing until he ends it with a firm press of his lips to mine. It leaves my mouth tingling, our bonded lips reluctantly pulling apart.
When my lids flutters open I find him watching me, his eyes almost black with desire and he’s making a show of it for me. His hooded gaze moves to my bee-stung pout as he brushes them with the pad of his thumb, “We’ll finish this tonight,” he promises in a sexy-as-fuck rasp.
Again I nod, too dazed with lust to trust my words, drooling an all too real possibility.
“So you’re okay with this?” he asks, running his nose along mine.
Swallowing to buy time I shift gears in my mind, “About Jose?” blinking my lashes I risk a peek at him, only to see a rueful smile tugging at my mouth. “I’m not happy about it but I’m not surprised.”
When a grin cracks over his face I realise that a stern word might not be out of place here. All things considered Christian isn’t above the law. In my very best mommy voice I scold him, “I’m sorry I put you in that position, but I hope you know that what you did was wrong, no matter how justified you felt.”
The grin gives way to a full beam, boyish and utterly charming, “Mrs Grey, your concern for my wellbeing does things to me,” on a growl he makes as if he’s going to bite me, a wicked glint in the slate of his near predatory gaze.
I roll my eyes well before I have a moment to think about it then suck in a quick breath at the change that comes over him. His head drops ever so slightly as he regards me from below the thick line of his lashes, his lids heavy but does nothing to conceal the raw carnality burning in his stare. “Mrs Grey, me and my twitching palm will be only too happy to remind you that being courteous to your husband is a minimum requirement of this marriage.” Both his hands round my hips, each finding the cheeks of my ass. His large hands cups then squeezes, almost painfully as his fingers dig deep into the soft flesh.
I moan despite the threat. Any possible fear negated by the grind of his hard length against my always aching sex. I hear him chuckle as my back arches, pushing into him for more, “Always so eager Mrs Grey.”
Offering him a shy smile I bite my lip, “Mmmhhh,” I agree. “Only for you.” The pleasure he takes from my words are plain, encouraging even but when I try to move my hips for more of that mind blowing friction his hands grip me harder.
“Behave Mrs Grey. We’re not done talking,” he smirks at my pout, my sole effort to make my objection known.
Reluctantly I sit back down, still facing him, “What else would you like to talk about Mr Grey?” I ask tartly. I know I’m pushing him, fully aware that I have this tiger by his skilled tail but what is a girl with needs to do?
He fails to take the bait, knowing me well enough to know exactly what I’m trying to do. “You and that smart mouth of yours will have to wait.” With a grin he taps me on the nose with a finger before he turns serious again, “Baby, I really need you to understand that until this is resolved I’m going to rely on your cooperation. You know the drill – nowhere alone.” His lids narrow into slits, the grey of his eyes turning hard. “I hope I’m making myself clear. I overlooked too much shit with David. I will not be making the same mistake again. Just knowing that I relaxed my guard when I should’ve been cautious is a jagged fucking pill for me to swallow. We are so damn lucky that nothing happened.”
I pushed up onto my knees again, sitting up so I could meet his gaze directly, “I understand. All I ask is that you not keep me in the dark. I also want us to be safe,” tilting my head I give him a pointed look, “– all of us.”
He nods, mercifully not arguing his inclusion. Maybe, I thought hopefully, he was beginning to understand his worth to us. Satisfied I relax, turning to lean back into the circle of his arms once more. Christian shifts in his seat, finding the best mould for our pressed-together bodies. “So the Dom/sub contract, the sniper shot, the flowers, the photos – is there anything else?” I ask quietly, keeping the conversational tone light around a subject that is anything but.
“Taylor is following up on how the person that sent the flowers knew we were married. We suspect that leak came from the Bellagio and if that’s the case, the culprit is keeping a very close eye on us. The wedding was so out of the blue, so few people knew about it, and the fact that we didn’t arrive to a press frenzy when we got back from honeymoon is proof that we managed to contain the story. We know for a fact that the butler from our Villa was approached for information about us, but according to Taylor he declined.”
“How come we’re only pursuing that now?” I inquired on a frown.
“We’re not only doing it now. Taylor was onto it as soon as we saw the note that came with the flowers but he did stop investigating when we uhm… eliminated the threat. It did strike me as strange that David would offer money for information and not turn on the pressure if someone declined to help. Usually a guy like that would use other methods of persuasion to get what he wanted if a simple bribe didn’t yield results. At the time we thought he was being overly cautious not to draw attention to himself but now I think it’s because our perp just doesn’t have the skillset that normally goes with being a criminal.”
“Which neatly ties in with Jose and Linc as the main suspects,” I finish, following his thoughts bleakly. Talking like this makes it seem all the more real, and I feel that uneasy knot settling in the pit of my stomach again.
Christian kisses my temple, “Smart and pretty,” he mumbles against my skin, but it doesn’t draw my usual smile, the compliment losing some of its lustre in the context of our conversation. We fall into a ponderous silence as we nurse our theories and the facts that we’re basing them on.
I wonder if Christian will always have his past lifestyle choices levelled against him. Even with the NDA’s that all his subs and employees have signed in the past I can’t imagine that he’s naïve enough to believe that it would be enough to keep his secret indefinitely. Yes, you can sue someone that breaks the agreement but if that person has nothing to lose then suing them just doesn’t seem like a big enough deterrent. Apart from these recent leaks Christian has been very lucky so far, and I believe it’s only because he always treated his subs and employees so well but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t still change.
It must be unpleasant, I muse, to have a sword like that hanging over your head. The fear of exposure must always play in the back of your mind. If it was me I’d try to find a way of getting it out on my own terms rather than risk having it leaked in an ugly, uncontrolled media mess. The more I think about it the more the idea draws me as the pieces of a plan start forming in my mind.
“Christian, do you remember that series of sexy fictional books that came out about five years ago? It was written by an English author, and it was wildly successful.”
I feel his snort vibrate against my back, “Yes, I remember. Every publishing company in the world remembers and regrets the fuck out of not foreseeing that success. It was the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E L James. BDSM themed as I recall.” I smile at the hint of the smirk I hear in his voice then yelp as his hand plunges into my yoga pants to snap the elastic of my thong against my hip. Immediately he soothes the spot by rubbing his palm over the sting. “What about it?” he asks, more than a little perplexed.
“How much do you think it’s influenced popular culture? I read somewhere that the sales of the sex toys mentioned in the book boomed and generally awakened a whole generation of woman to the joys of un-vanilla sex.”
Christian laughs; the hearty sound natural and genuine. He moves my hair away from my shoulder to drag his bristled chin over the soft skin there, “You better make your point quickly Mrs Grey. Keep mentioning toys and un-vanilla sex and I’ll show you a trick or two from the book,” he teases.
I giggle, shivering as a race of delicious goose bumps raise the tiny hairs on my arms and legs. Christian takes full advantage, his hand drifting along my arm to feel for himself the results of his ministrations, “Mmmmhhh,” he groans, before tweaking a predictably tight nipple over the fabric of my t-shirt.
Playfully I bat his hand away, “Stop it you fiend! How can I make my point if you keep distracting me?”
“I’m sorry Mrs Grey,” he apologises sounding anything but. “Please, continue.”
“Thank you Mr Grey,” I quip, “but you haven’t answered my question yet. Do you think it had a big influence on the public’s view about the BDSM scene in general?”
He takes a moment to think about his answer before replying, “Yes I do. Generally speaking I think the public became much more accepting of what previously would have been regarded as kinky. In a lot of ways it redefined and greatly expanded on what people considered as “normal”, especially as it pertained to sexual behaviour.”
“Hhm,” I mused, “that’s what I thought.” Careful now, my subconscious cautions, and she’s right. At the very least I needed him to give my idea some serious thought before he dismissed it.
My silent ruminations has him suspicious, “What are you up to Mrs Grey?”
At his prompt I turn my whole body around to face him. “I have an idea,” I test, my teeth unconsciously gnawing at my lip as I wonder how he was going to take what I was about to suggest. I see his eyes fall on my mouth but I quickly release my battered lip before he can speak, while I take a leaf from his extensive playbook. “But you have to promise to hear me out before you say no.”
Quirking a sceptical brow he watches me. I could tell he was talking himself into agreeing before finally giving me a stiff nod. I offer him a reassuring smile when I see the discomfort in his cautious stare, “If your Dom past stays hidden it will always be something someone could use against you but if it’s out in the open then that threat is eliminated.”
When he starts to shake his head I do the same, reminding him of his promise. He shuts his mouth with a snap but instead of curious the line of it turns hard. I ignore his closed-off expression and plough on, certain that my plan at least deserves to be heard. “If this blog leak is anything to go by the NDA won’t necessarily stop someone from blabbing. The last thing you want is a sub spilling the beans to the tabloids before you have your say. You now just as well as I do that the public almost always remembers the first version of a story that breaks.”
He nods his agreement but his jaw muscles are bunched, undoubtedly with the strain of keeping his thoughts to himself. “What if you come out of the “Dom closet” so to speak in a soft puff-piece to some hot male publication like GQ? That way you can completely control what’s being said as well as the angle of the story. Done well a story like that could be spun into something sexy rather than the reputation damaging thing it would be if it was leaked to an unsympathetic reporter out to prove the corruption of every industry mogul.”
Seeing his jaw drop is as pleasing as it is unnerving. I can’t tell if he’s impressed or mad. “I… I don’t know,” he stammers, clearly unconvinced.
“You don’t have to decide now. Just think about it for a few days. Consider, for a moment, that you may be so caught up in the why and how you got started that you don’t see the part that would be okay to reveal. You said it yourself, people are so much more tolerant of kink it may actually do your image some good.” Getting into my stride I warm to the idea a little more, becoming convinced that it’s a great solution for an otherwise sticky problem that will never go away.
At his dubious look I launch the rest of my argument, “Provided we warn our parents with the same edited version of the story,” my grin is lopsided, if not also a little rueful. There’s no need to share Elena bitch troll’s influence here – not even with his parents, “I’m sure the public will lap it up like saucy celebrity gossip we will intend it to be. You’ll be a hot topic for a month, and then they’ll move on to the next sex tape or scandal that the rags will blow out of proportion. At worst we’ll have to deal with a media circus but your PR department will be completely prepared and not railroaded into near impossible damage control.”
I can understand his reluctance. This has been a secret for so long I don’t think he’s ever considered being free of it. He drops his gaze, following my hands as I link my fingers with his. I can almost see the cogs grinding in his head as he thinks through the possibilities of my proposal. “You know that any piece about me, especially one related to anything sexual will inevitably lead to women showing a certain interest?” His full attention is on me now, watching for even the smallest of cues.
If it was any other man I’d laugh at his arrogance but Christian has a point. I can’t deny that part of me feels more than a little nauseated at the thought. I can only imagine the myriad of stunning women reading the article, drooling over the inevitable photos that will accompany such a feature, all of them going weak in the knees with lashings of desire for Mr Sexpertise – my husband. A shudder runs through me but I shrug it off. A month tops, I say to myself. Surely I can handle that if the pay-off is a husband that can’t be blackmailed?
Meeting his intense scrutiny head-on I fuse my stare with his, blue meeting grey in complete honesty, “I can’t say that I’d like it but for what you’ll gain it will be more than worth it.”
His expression changes, from analytical to admiring, “You would endure that for me?”
I frown, taken aback by his surprise, “Of course.”
He breaks out the full HD beam for me, “You never cease to amaze me Mrs Grey.” The curve of his mouth is beautiful enough but the thing that really gets me, that makes me catch my breath is the heat in his eyes. When he wants to that schooled impassive emptiness can morph into the most stunning show of emotions, lighting up those deep mercury depths with such fierce love that they glow.
I watch him enjoying my flustered reaction before I manage to smile back, feeling shy of my pinking cheeks. Instinctively I drop my head, casting my eyes down as my inner submissive comes to the fore, “Anything for you husband of mine.”
It doesn’t go unnoticed by Christian, I hear him suck in a ragged breath. I don’t know whether it’s the compliant pose or the ring of my words that does it for him but a second later I’m in the crush of his embrace, his whisper almost harsh with his declaration, “Mine!”
After long moments he releases me. His touch as he smooths my hair is tender, reverential. “I’ll think about it,” he offers. “You’ve opened my mind to a possibility I never thought was possible, and being free of that past certainly holds a great deal of appeal I just need to think it through, but more than that, I need you to be absolutely sure. I wouldn’t even consider doing it if I thought it could hurt you or us in any way. If the tables were turned there would be no fucking way I’d consent to you doing something similar.”
I can only grin at my jealous, possessive husband; I wouldn’t want him any other way. “Okay,” I drawl, keeping my lilt light for my following question. “While I have your undivided attention Mr Grey, can I ask you something?”
Christian chuckles softly, shaking his head, “That question never ends in anything good but I’m guessing if I say no you’ll ask anyway.”
I give him a small, noncommittal shrug but hold my smile, batting my lashes coquettishly.
Throwing his head back he laughs, but there’s an unmistakable nervousness to what should be a carefree sound, “If we ever have a daughter she’ll be the death of me. If I can’t say no to the mother how the hell will I say no to a mini version of you?”
My heart comes to an abrupt halt, my mind momentarily taken in by his fantasy. I blink a few times, seeing the image of a little girl in Christian’s arms, her smile charming, her father – besotted. Oh boy… when I snap out of my daydream I find him watching me expectantly. Oh yes, my question.
“Were you Dr Shawn’s benefactor?” I ask without preamble, keeping a close eye on his expression.
His smile slips from his lips, his wide eyes turning hesitant again. The change in his face is all the confirmation I need but I still want to hear it from him. It always surprises me that he’s so utterly confident in everything he does, so competent yet when it comes to me he’s always careful. Knowing that I know he doesn’t deny it, “Are you mad?”
“No, just curious about why you didn’t tell me.”
He lets go of a held breath, and his shoulders relax. “He’s not my favourite person to discuss, especially with you. Any man who wants into your panties will always be a problem for me but his cause is something I hold dear and if it gets him out of the way,” he shrugs casually, his mouth taking a slight down turn. “I’ll call it a win all round.” His eyes, when they swing to me, are unapologetic and unrepentant.
“You know that the feelings weren’t mutual? There was no need for you to get rid of him. I can’t help feeling guilty about the money you’ve spent. It must’ve been a small fortune.”
He smirks, an arrogant smirk that only he can pull of, “A fucking fortune,” he confirms, “and worth every damn cent for my peace of mind, besides,” he adds with a wicked wink, “my wife is going to make it big real soon. I think we’ll manage.”
I clamp my hand over my mouth to stop the un-lady like giggle-snort from escaping, “Only you can get rid of a romantic rival and look good doing it.”*
*Audrey, thank you for the line!
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