“I take it these queries are more than just requests for interviews then?” Christian asks, not showing even a hint of the nervous energy I’m practically buzzing with.
“Yes, sir,” Barney all but squeaks, “uhm… much more, uhm…” he falters, grappling with his word choice in an effort to soften the blow that now looks to fall like a sledgehammer. When Christian raises a prompting brow, Barney blurts, “Personal in nature.”
From a sidelong glance I see Christian’s jaw muscles bunch into a strained ball as he processes the fact that his fears have come to pass. “For fuck’s sake, Barney, give it to me straight. Are we talking worn panties, marriage proposals, what? Tell me what I’m dealing with here!”
Barney gasps just as his eyes grow large. Christian can be so short with his staff when annoyed, but judging by Barney’s expression, this outburst is worse than usual. “Uhm, yes, we’ve had some matrimonial offers for you, Mr. Grey, a few more than what we get whenever we publish something that has a more personal slant on you,” he bleats nervously, swallowing loudly, and briefly flicking his eyes in my direction. He licks his lips as if to lubricate them for the rough words to come, making my heart sink further into my shoes.
Jeez! Worn panties? And what can possibly be worse than random women offering themselves in marriage to my husband? And this happens every time something personal about Christian hits the press? WTF? My mind is awhirl, restlessly chewing on the small but horrific dose of reality I’ve just ingested.
Barney clears his throat. “We’ve followed protocol managing those requests by flooding the social network pages and news blogs with happy-couple pictures of you and Mrs. Grey.” Counting down, he flicks out his thumb followed by his index finger. “We’ve sent out four press releases since this morning, all confirming that you’re happily married and uninterested in any further interviews,” he says, hitting a more confident stride, and adding a third digit. “We’ve also tried to divert the press’s attention by leaking the news of the new pocket solar-powered generators that GEH will be launching next month.”
Christian nods, following Barney’s explanation as patiently as any riled tiger can, but the incessant jiggling of his leg beneath the table tells the story of his restlessness. I’m sure the tension in the room isn’t helping matters either. It’s certainly thick enough to be palpable, leaving me in an agitated state of turmoil. All I want to do is close my eyes in a bid to wish it all away, but Christian’s authoritative voice keeps me in the moment. “And the press isn’t relenting?” he asks, his brow knitting into lines of worry.
“I think our approach is working as far as the press is concerned. Over the last hour we’ve seen a steady decline in publications queries, but the press isn’t our biggest problem, sir.” Knowing that he’s come to the crux of the matter, he gives Christian his full attention, facing him head-on with a sober expression. I suck in a breath, the sharp intake making a hissing sound that nobody seems to hear when Barney continues. “The general public, more specifically the… uhm… male population is a much greater issue right now, and they appear to be impervious to the strategies we have in place.”
Huh? By Barney’s face I know there’s a lot more to the words I just heard, I just don’t understand the implications – yet.
Christian pushes away from the table and stands, fisting his hips as he narrows his eyes. “The male population?” he blurts, confusion etching the lines on his forehead into deeper grooves. “As in the gay community?” His tone is incredulous and underscored by the trademark hand that plows a path through his hair.
A surprised smile ghosts over Barney’s lips, but with the shake of his head it falls away, and with it, all hope, as I realize that our world is about to be shot to hell. “Uhm… No, sir, the overwhelming number of queries involve Mrs. Grey…” he explains, catching Christian’s eye, waiting for the penny to drop. When he gets a blank stare in return he elaborates uneasily. “Mrs. Grey and the heterosexual male population,” he prompts with a quirked brow, obviously not keen to spell out the one thing he knows will absolutely blow his boss’s top.
Holy fuck! Me? Oh shit! Oh crap! Of all the things that I’ve imagined over the last few weeks concerning this day, this is one I hadn’t bargained for.
Christian and I gasp together – loudly – before I manage to drag my gaze from Barney’s deer-caught-in-the-headlights face, and onto my husband’s rapidly paling one.
Staring at his top IT guy as if he has two heads, Christian opens his mouth to say something, but snaps it shut with a strained grunt. All eyes are glued to him, each one of us waiting for my seriously jealous man to come to terms with the news that his wife is being pursued by what sounds like a significant portion of males in the United States.
“But…,” he squeaks on a rough whisper, blinking at us, and raking both hands through his hair, disturbing it into a wild mess. “I…, She’s…” he stumbles, stunned out of coherence for what must be the first time in his life. “But she’s pregnant,” comes his illogical retort, his face crumbling with dismay.
My heart breaks for my husband. I know only too well the fear and reservations I’ve been living with regarding this impending story, but to have those turned onto my beautifully broken man is heart wrenching. Inexorably my body moves to him, wanting nothing more than to be a comfort for him, but my advance is interrupted by Diana’s unfeeling words. “Oooh, that’s great PR. We can use that!” she exclaims excitedly, oblivious to our intimate tumult.
I grit my jaw, swallowing the bitchy retort I want to blast her with as I turn around to face her. I catch sight of Barney making a slashing motion with his hand across his throat in an effort to save his colleague’s ass, but I’m not feeling so generous. “Get out!” I spit, pointing to the door and staring daggers at her.
Her indignant look lasts only for a second before Barney has the good sense to intervene, forcibly dragging her out before I lose all pretense of professionalism. “Not a word about the baby,” I add in a harsh whisper as they pass, the severity of my gaze hopefully conveying the seriousness of my message.
Grateful for the privacy to work through this alone, I embrace my husband, aching from the stunned bleakness I see on his face. He hugs me back but his body is stiff, strung tight with tension. “Fuck!” he growls on a hot breath next to my ear, finally feeling something other than shock, but I sense it’s anger.
“Those fucking photos!” he barks, pulling away from me as his faculties collide with the full force of his ire. “I never should have let you talk me into that shit! I knew it was a mistake. You look so fucking hot in them!” With his tone as coarse as gravel, he makes it sound like a terrible thing, the accusatory note ringing sharply.
Though I think his claim is unfair, the last thing he needs right now is an argument, and despite having to bite my tongue, I am very keen to be there for him throughout this ordeal. It’s the silver lining in this unhappy turn, that I get an opportunity to prove my newfound staying power.
Disregarding his scowl I step back into his personal space, plastering my body to his. “Hot or not, and pregnant with your child, I belong to you,” I breathe, snaring his turbulent mercury stare with mine. I find his left hand with my own, weaving my fingers through his, and lifting our hands to nestle between our close-pressed forms. With our eyes still fused I kiss the beautiful ring around my finger, reinforcing the “Mine” inscription he had engraved on the inside of my wedding band.
The quiet, solemn act has an immediate effect, darkening his eyes, and drawing a hard breath from him. “Mine,” he confirms hoarsely as his arm around my body tightens its grip. “And fucking mine alone,” he says again, daring me with a look to deny the truth of his words. “I hate sharing you. I hate that the whole world knows what a lucky fucking bastard I am, my treasure revealed to every other fucker.” After the flash of anger his features turn dour again, almost sad.
His feelings are completely irrational. I’ve been in the press more times than I can count since I’ve met him, and I’m set to appear a whole lot more, especially with the launch of my book, yet in this instance he takes exception. Mercifully I don’t have to understand what’s going on in his mind in order to support him through it.
“Hey,” I coo gently, cupping his jaw. “I belong to you, body, mind, and heart. Even when I left, you owned me. There’s never been anyone else, nor will there ever be. More so now because of the bond we share with Chris and a baby on the way. This twist might be a bombshell, but the occurrence itself is exactly what you anticipated. Would you rather have it be me facing a horde of your female admirers?” It may be a dirty tactic, but the only thing that can override Christian’s jealousy is his instinct to protect me.
“Hell no, baby,” he rasps sincerely, “but it’s not the same. This,” he hisses, pointing at his gorgeous face, “is only skin deep. Women chasing it mean nothing. They don’t know me, and my head can never be turned, fuck knows I tried when you walked out,” he spits with a surprising amount of venom, reminding me that my Fifty still bears an unhealthy dose of self-loathing.
With a heart-stopping tenderness he combs his fingers through my hair before tipping up my chin. “And I don’t think you feel murderous every time you see a simpering female look my way, whereas all I want to do is rip the head off any guy stupid enough to try catching a glimpse of what’s mine.” He smears the pad of his thumb over my lips, watching the movement with a strange intensity, a possessive incandescence in his burning gaze.
Hhmm…I muse thoughtfully. He may be the absolute master of the mind-boggling empire he’s built around himself, but he’s still wrestling with his stunted emotional growth. Now that our meeting with Barney has played out so very differently from what I expected, it’s going to be up to me to create a nurturing environment for Christian to grow and flourish in. If things were different, he would have done anything to reassure me. And though I still believe that we’ll have moments when I’ll feel the weight of the blatant advances toward him, I trust him to manage those situations for me. I need to learn to do the same for him.
I’m going to have to think very carefully about how he might perceive my interactions with other men for the time being, cultivate a cool distance from anyone he may see as a threat. But more than anything, I need him to think about the consequences of rash actions.
Resting my palms on his chest, I measure my words, keeping my voice calm and quiet. “No, I don’t, but I don’t like it, and sometimes, when it’s particularly flagrant, I’ll go as far as saying something, but I’ll never do anything irresponsible.” Sliding my hands down his torso I catch both of his in mine, lacing our fingers. “Imagine for a moment giving in to the impulse of throwing a punch, accidentally hurting someone, and ending up in a legal battle, or worse, jail for something like involuntary manslaughter. It’s just not worth it.”
For a long minute I watch him watching me, the cogs in his head turning as he runs through the possible scenarios of my example. It’s something that should be obvious to him, but in this specific instance, I suspect he’s so blinded by jealousy that it skews his perception. “Fair point, well made, Mrs. Grey,” he finally breathes, his slate-gray eyes clearing with focus once more.
Quietly I let go of my held breath, relieved that he sees the sense in my argument, and wondering how far I can push his cooperation by asking for something else. Seeing as the dialogue is already open it may as well be now, I tell myself, going for broke.
With an imploring expression I find his slightly sheepish one. “Let me help you with this,” I plead. “Please talk to me if something bothers you, give me a chance to explain myself before you draw any conclusions, and trust me. I don’t want to make this any harder for you, but it’s not always easy to predict how you’re going to react to something.”
Again he stares, taking his time to work out the inevitable internal battle he wages whenever it comes to sharing information with me. “Okay,” he agrees with a small nod, giving me some much-needed hope that we’ll make it through this new trial.
Slowly, cautiously, we break away from our embrace, almost as if we’re weary of the new, calmer atmosphere. I can also not deny the slight awkwardness between us, the combined result of me feeling inexplicably guilty about being the target of attention, and Christian’s ubiquitous feelings of vulnerability where I am concerned.
We sit down, taking a few moments to digest the implications of our situation. I still can’t believe that there are guys out there enamored enough to contact GEH and inquire about me, but disbelief soon turns into disconcertion when my mind starts to wonder about the nature of the things they could possibly want.
Mercifully my descent into gloom is interrupted by my husband’s hand on my arm. “Thank you for getting rid of Diana and Barney,” he murmurs, grateful that his break-down was only partially witnessed by his staff. “And I’m sorry about spilling the beans about the baby. I was just so…surprised,” he intones, clearly contrite.
I smile my first real smile of the day. The baby thing would have been funny under different circumstances, as if being pregnant somehow renders me above the crudeness of desire. ”You’re welcome, Christian,” I say, genuinely pleased that I had the foresight to save him some face, “and you would have told your staff sooner rather than later anyway, starting with your press executive. I don’t mind her knowing as long as she can keep it to herself.”
With all the press we’re getting, the last thing we want to do is add more fuel to their media feeding frenzy. Christian is going to have enough to deal with over the next few weeks, and I’d rather our baby continue to be a secret that binds us before it becomes the latest bit of gossip and something the world will feel free to speculate about.
Christian gathers the notes into the file Barney compiled for him with his usual economic grace, once more exuding his stark business persona, but I can see the subtle ways in which he carries the load of the news.
“Let’s go home,” he says in a tone that screams command instead of the suggestion it’s phrased as, but my mind is too fried to care. Right now I crave home. I want to spend the rest of the day in the quiet sanctuary of Escala, in my family’s safe fold.
Christian takes my hand in his firm, dry grasp, kisses our joined hands, and heads for the door with a purposeful march. I can just about keep up with him, stretching my strides, concentrating on maintaining my balance in my towering heels. In the elevator I see his eyes drift to my shoes. He frowns just as his mouth slants with a disapproving line. “Baby,” he starts with a note of gentle reprimand, “we need to rethink your shoe choices. It really isn’t safe for you to be traipsing around on what? Five-inch heels?”
Spluttering, I croak, “What?” Blindsided by his unexpected attack on my beloved footwear, I stupidly say the first thing that pops into my head. “I thought you liked me in heels!” It comes out sounding like a wounded squeak as I blink at him, confused.
He takes a step closer, banding an arm around my waist, giving me a reassuring smile. “I love you in everything you wear, Mrs. Grey, but what if you fall? You could get hurt, and so could the baby.”
Aha! I should have known. My overbearing husband simply cannot help himself.
Indignant on behalf of my shoes and myself, I stare at him, struck mute. When I find my voice I surprise myself with the decisiveness of my lilt. “I am not changing my shoes, Christian,” I exclaim, annoyed for a beat before I’m surprised by the well of tears coming from nowhere. “Maybe later in the pregnancy, when I’m showing and my feet swell,” I add, rebelliously fighting my unwelcome sniffles as I’m suddenly overcome by the stress of the day, visions of my bloated feet bulging unattractively from my shoes, and this bewildering apparel conversation.
Stricken and bemused, Christian watches me as I fail – spectacularly – against the onslaught of preggie hormones, my tears running unchecked down my cheeks. I’m frustrated with myself and a little mad at him for making me cry. The only positive thing that registers with me is that we are alone, our security team having gone ahead to prepare for our departure.
If I weren’t so busy bawling my eyes out, I’d be laughing at my husband’s indecision. Confronted for the first time with the irrationally blubbering, hormonal beast he used to call his wife, my charming husband is dumbfounded, warring with the notion of giving me space or taking me into his arms. When he makes up his mind, he hits the elevator stop button and then engulfs me into a big hug. In an instant my irritation melts away, but it’s replaced by a heartrending gratitude for this man that is my life, only making me cry harder.
Ready to back away, I feel him tense, uncertain whether he’s made the right call, but I cling to him, answering him with my hold as my words forsake me. “Husshhhh,” he whispers, stroking my hair as I shake against him.
Slowly my crazy pregnancy hormones settle back into some semblance of balance, neatly reining in my scattered emotions. Having found solace against his firm chest, my body heaves with a deep, juddering breath, marking the end of my weeping spell.
A little embarrassed by the abrupt onset of my tears, and feeling emotionally raw, I turn away from him, digging in my bag for some tissues.
“Ana,” he breathes in a voice strained with confusion, “please don’t shut me out, baby. What just happened? I’m sorry about the shoes.”
Damn hormones! Now that the crying fit is over I can’t help giggling, taking in his forlorn expression, and the ridiculousness of what just went down. “I’m sorry,” I apologize, hiccupping as I laugh. “It’s not the shoes, well, it is, but it’s not,” I explain poorly. “I… It’s the hormones,” I finally blurt, blushing hard.
“Oh,” comes his reply, still tinged with mystification before clarity sets in. “Ooohh,” he drawls, his saucering eyes dropping to my still-flat belly.
“Ooohh,” I tease gently, mimicking his astounded expression. “Meet the hormonally challenged, sentimental mess that will be your wife for the next nine to twelve months,” I announce, going for levity but instead my smile turns wry, the pregnancy now seeming like an awfully large thing to add to our already overloaded lives. When my bottom lip starts to quiver, my wonderful husband immediately puts his new knowledge to use, and folds me into another bear hug, this time without hesitation.
I take another deep breath and blink away the tears, willing my emotions to behave. Sensing my composure, Christian pulls back, scanning my face. “You okay now?”
Gratefully I nod, catching my bottom lip between my teeth, and eliciting a low groan from my husband. Tilting his head he kisses me, tenderly, before snagging my lip, gently tugging, and raking his teeth along the plump flesh. Wantonly I moan into his mouth with the white-hot need that suddenly streaks through me. I hear the hitch in his breath, but the sexy grind of his hips I expect next doesn’t follow.
Lifting my head I find his heated gaze on me. “What’s wrong?” I ask, wondering why he’s holding back.
“Not here,” he murmurs, his eyes clouded with uncertainty.
Oh-oh, I worry as understanding crystallizes in my mind. Up until now the pregnancy was merely conceptual for him, but I suspect that with this recent display of my out-of-whack feelings, it’s quickly become very real, and he’s breaking out the kid gloves. Any other day I would use my feminine wiles to unleash the beast inside him, but not today. I’m simply too drained to fight him on this right now.
When we get home Christian spends some quality time with Chris before disappearing into his office, his absence from work costing him time on the phone. While he puts out the various fires, I put Chris through his nightly routine. By the time I’m done, I’m exhausted, and feeling the first twinges of pregnancy nausea. Still a little queasy after my shower, I decide to lie down with the company of a good book, but a mere two pages into a new chapter I’m lost to the world.
By 1 a.m. I wake up with a pressing need to empty my bladder. As quietly as I can, I slip out of bed, careful not to disturb my sleeping husband. Once I’ve done my thing I suffer another surge of nausea, rendering me too uncomfortable to sleep. I remember having this with Chris, this queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I recall the remedy my midwife shared. Tiptoeing along the corridor, I head to the kitchen for a cup of fresh ginger tea.
There’s something calming about the quiet solitude of the middle of the night, and I relish the thinking time as I peel and slice the fragrant root. When I’m done I lean my behind against the counter and curl my hands around the mug, letting the warmth of the ceramic spread through me. Gratefully I take a long pull of the distinctive peppery-sweet drink, enjoying the perfect temperature – hot enough to soothe, but not enough to scald. Very quickly the fiery liquid works its magic, settling my turning belly and leaving my mouth tingling pleasantly. I’m so lost in thought that I jump when I hear Christian’s sleepy voice behind me. “Hey, baby. Why are you not in bed?”
Feeling a million miles better, I turn, giving my husband a smile that broadens significantly when I take in his delicious, sleep-mussed look. I just know that his beautifully formed body must still be warm from our bed, and his pajama bottoms seem to be hanging extra low, clinging to his hips, and revealing the outline of a package I missed the pleasure of last night. “I needed the bathroom and then my stomach felt a little unsettled so I came to make some tea.” I lift my cup in a little salute, keeping my eyes trained on my man as he rounds the counter before halting in front of me.
I can feel my lids grow heavy, not with sleep, but with desire, my banked need from yesterday suddenly thickening my blood, and pooling low in my belly. With a crooked smile Christian acknowledges my hunger, which must be plain to see. In a way that makes it seem scandalously erotic, he folds his hand over mine, and while watching me over the rim of the cup, he takes a sip of my tea. “Hhmm, very nice,” he purrs, skating his free palm over and around my hip to squeeze my ass, and leaving me wondering if he’s referring to the tea or me.
With his hand still over mine he guides the cup to one side, and places it onto the granite, moving it out of the way. I have no idea what he’s planning but he keeps our gazes fused, showing off his darkening stare. Effortlessly he lifts me onto the counter, perching my bottom on the edge, and slides his hands along the length of my thighs, gently parting my legs. A delicious race of shivers sends goose bumps scattering across my skin, and my lips part on a gasp. “You fell asleep on me last night, Mrs. Grey, and I had plans for you,” he informs me in a lust-thick voice while his thumbs draw teasing circles on my inner thighs, a hair-breadth away from my creaming, clenching sex.
“Hmmmm,” I hum back, confirming of his statement and his pleasuring fingers, wishing fervently that he would move them just a smidgen to the inside.
“Are you going to be a good girl for me and keep still while I get you off?” he rasps through a sinful grin, knowing full well that his words are kindling to my smoldering want.
“Yes,” I breathe, almost certain that I’m lying, but too far gone to care.
Still with his eyes locked to mine he reaches for my tea and takes a big sip, holding the warm liquid in his mouth. I feel his thumbs come away from me, for a moment leaving me bereft and needier than before, but when he flicks the pad of his digit over my peeking clitoris, my hips buck and I issue a blunt cry.
Holy hell! That felt like a jolt of lightning.
With his mouthful of tea, he can’t berate me, but my involuntary jump earns me a raised brow. I give him a small shrug and a sheepish smile. There was nothing I could do about that. After a final look of warning, Christian sinks to his knees, leveling his face to my mound.
Riveted, I watch his hands skate along my inner thighs once more, splaying my legs even wider. Dropping his head he hovers over the apex of my thighs, and takes in a deep breath before letting his head tip back with a look of rapture on his beautiful face, and a low groan rumbling from his chest. My whole spine tingles with the decadent pleasure of watching him enjoy my body. He knows exactly what to do to make me melt into a needy puddle.
His thumbs part my swollen lips, pinning me open to reveal my clitoris. For a final time Christian catches my gaze before he lets his eyes feast on my secret place. I fight my instinctual squirm. I feel so deliciously exposed in an act that has to be as intimate as they come.
I hear rather than see Christian swallow the tea just as he drops his mouth to my opening. My heart feels like it might bounce right out of my chest and my breaths are already short. With my eyes half closed, and anticipation bubbling inside me, I watch him drag the flat of his tongue up the length of me, the insanely intense pleasure rolling my eyes into the back of my skull.
Holy, holy shit!
Not only did the tea heat his mouth and make his tongue warmer than it would normally be, but the zing of the ginger translates into a stunningly satisfying tingling sensation. Within seconds of his lush, hot strokes, I’m close to coming, the eroticism along with the mind-blowing pleasure making the ripples at my core intensify exponentially with every long lap of his tongue.
I grunt a sound, an unintelligible garble that tears from my throat as my pleasure mounts at a frightening speed. Unable to fight off the searing sensation any longer, I fall back, supporting my weight on my elbows as I feel my muscles stiffen. Christian takes his cue, pushing a pair of fingers into me, and immediately finds the bundle of nerves on my inner wall, stroking it fast. His super-heated mouth sucks in my inner folds just as my orgasm hits me with the violence of an electrical storm.
My whole body jolts, literally convulsing with the pleasure shocking though me, locking my muscles as Christian tugs on my bud, elongating the fleshy folds as he draws on it with perfect suction, prolonging my earth-shattering bliss. I’m vaguely aware of my strained cry as I ride the quaking ecstasy, completely oblivious to everything but the splintering pleasure shaking through my body.
With gentle, velvet licks Christian brings me down, calming the quiver of my depleted body as the last of my phenomenal orgasm ebbs away. I’m sprawled on the kitchen counter, utterly spent, jellified like never before, when I sense my husband’s shadow over me. Too weak to open both eyes, I manage one, clocking his smug face hovering above me. “One for the record books, Mrs. Grey,” he teases, looking utterly pleased with himself.
NB: Christian’s creative use of ginger tea is not something that has been tested. It may or may not be safe to use on your vajayjay, so please do not try this at home! 😉
Be kind and review, please.