The high we all floated on yesterday evaporates with the dawn of today. Christian is grumpy as there is no news on the José front, I’m having an emotional day that’s made worse by the sickening roll of my stomach every time I smell food, and Chris is being impossible, having finally reached the end of his patience with being holed up in a high-rise apartment.
I’ve never seen him so naughty, or so hyper. He’s running around the apartment driving an imaginary car, arms out straight ahead as he holds on to a make-believe steering wheel, making all the noises that go along with operating a vehicle at breakneck speed, honking at us when we’re in his way, and generally causing havoc wherever he goes. Already he’s knocked over a vase of fresh-cut flowers, sending the porcelain shards shattering across the floor in a splatter of water, decapitated blooms, and splintered pieces; but when he runs into me, almost knocking me over, Christian’s temper flares.
“Chris!” he booms, “Stop it! Now! You almost hurt Mommy!” Mid run, Christian catches him by the back of his shirt, effectively stopping him from another mad dash, and lifts him onto the kitchen counter so he can talk to him, eye-to-eye.
“I didnnnnnn’t!” Chris moans with a petulant, drawn out whine while he kicks his heels against the cabinet doors.
I can see an angry vein pulsing in Christian’s temple as he brackets Chris’s ankles to keep his legs still. The stress of all the drama in our lives is taking its toll, and our son, stubbornly folding his arms in a gesture that screams toddler stand-off, is doing nothing to smooth the tension between them. “No, you didn’t, but that’s only because you were lucky,” he grates, trying very hard to keep his tone reasonable. “And Mommy has a baby in her tummy; we need to be extra careful with her!”
Chris narrows his eyes at Christian, and then my usually sugar-sweet son does the unthinkable. With all the little-boy bravado he can muster, he blows a big, fat raspberry, splattering bubbles of spit all over his dad’s shocked face.
I gasp and Christian’s eyes nearly pop from their sockets. “Chris!” I exclaim with a raised voice that matches my raging disbelief. I’ve hardly ever had to yell at him, never mind give him a hiding, but he’s as close as he’ll ever be to one right now. I step into his line of sight, putting myself between the dual glowers of father and son. “That was very rude! We don’t treat people like that, especially not your daddy,” I bark, the combination of my pregnancy hormones and irritation making my serious-mommy expression seem a whole lot worse and, in turn, leaving my naughty munchkin stunned.
Expectantly, Christian and I both watch him, with me fisting my hips. His eyes grow large as the depth of my anger filters through his little-boy head. For a beat he just seems stupefied before his bottom lip starts to quiver and his face crumples into tears. “I… I’m…Sowry,” he blurts between wails, his small body shaking with his heaves.
Where I’m reluctant to let go of my anger, Christian drops his there and then, taking his crying son into his arms and consoling him with a full body hug. “Hussshhh,” he soothes, tenderly stroking the back of Chris’s head, “Mommy’s not mad,” he says, giving me a sidelong, pleading look, “she’s just helping you to remember your manners.”
Uhm… No, I want to smack his insolent little behind, my subconscious quips, peering over her winged spectacles, wearing a look of contempt.
I, on the other hand, can appreciate the moment for the value it holds. Unpleasant as it may be, both Chris and Christian can learn from this. My son will hopefully realize that despite being in trouble, he’s still loved and accepted, and as this is Christian’s first real taste of disciplining Chris, I’m glad that he felt comfortable enough to take on his errant son and not defer to me. Later on we’ll have a chat about giving in at the first sign of tears and not allowing our boy to suffer the consequences of his actions, but as far as first times go, I think it went very well.
Once he’s all cried out and we’ve all shared reassuring hugs, Chris seems more settled as he hops off the counter to go play, but I hang back, wanting to grab a quick, private moment with my man. “Christian,” I say, calling his attention away as he stares after his son with a faint smile on his face. When he turns to me, I hold my breath, unsure how to broach the very obvious reason for our boy’s little meltdown.
“Mrs. Grey,” he replies, the small smile curving into a grin, “our son has quite a bit of spunk.”
I laugh, noticing his proud beam. “Yes, he does,” I affirm through my giggles. “He must get it from you, because I still have all of mine, and just for the record, when he’s like that, he’s your son!” I tease, playfully poking him in the chest.
He grabs my finger and bites the pad, keeping those twinkling steel-grays on me. “I’ll take him, and you, any way I can get you,” he croons, his baritone low, humming with a sincere sensuality that he just can’t help oozing.
Leaning forward I kiss his mouth, taking him by surprise. “And you have us, wholly and completely, but today happened because he needs an outlet for all that energy. We can’t stay locked up here for much longer and remain sane,” I try carefully, wondering how my overprotective husband is going to react to my observation.
I don’t have to wait long; a second later I have my answer as all levity leaves his eyes and his lips thin into a hard line. “Anastasia, do you honestly think your ‘cabin fever,’” he makes air quotes with his fingers when he says cabin fever, “should override the possible danger that you and Chris are in? How can you ask me to pit your personal comfort against your safety?”
I sag, exhaling a long, disappointed breath, but I’m not prepared to give up so easily. Yes, our safety is important, but I’m sure if we take every precaution, going out, especially to a crowded public place, we’ll be fine. I rearrange my face to mirror his, giving him the same determination I see in the tight set of his jaw. “Believe me when I say I understand your concerns, Christian, but if we take the security team and follow the protocol, surely we can safely spend a few hours in an indoor park to give Chris the playtime he so desperately needs at the moment.”
“I said no, Anastasia,” he grates, his slate gaze turning hard. “Your understanding, though welcome, has no bearing on my decision. I would never forgive myself if something went wrong. I may as well stop living if something were to happen to you, and what if something happened to Chris? How would you live with yourself, having talked me into letting you go?”
Damn! How do I argue with that? Of course, he’s absolutely right. But still, I trust in the men and woman he’s chosen to protect us, so I plow on, unwavering, fighting for even the smallest concession. “I would like to go with your blessing. Join us if it will make you feel better, but we cannot hide forever. I refuse to stay locked up in here indefinitely, and if you don’t sanction this, I’ll be forced to make my own arrangements.” With a resolute jut of my chin, I fold my arms over my chest and let the chips fall where they may as I stand my ground.
Christian gapes, more than a little taken aback by my firm argument, but he gathers himself quickly, regrouping as his whole demeanor changes. In the blink of an eye I’m facing my Dom, and that would be delicious bar the fact that there is an unmovable air to him, an aura of indomitability that’s as cool as it is absolute.
Holy shit! I think, blinking as I realize that this is the Dom every other woman before me got – the emotionless Master, completely in control, supremely sure of himself, and unquestionable. I’m hard pressed to find the deep love I know lives in his heart for me, and strangely, though it should probably be scaring me, it makes me dig in my heels.
“Mrs. Grey,” he counters, his displeasure barely leashed as he takes on that measured tone that says so much more than his words, “let me make this clear. I will not be taking any chances with your or my son’s safety, especially not with a deranged man on the loose, and you would do very well to remember that you promised to obey.”
I can almost feel my blood pressure rising as a result of his stubbornness and the fact that he’s just brought up my matrimonial vows. “What?!” I all but screech. “You’re leveling my wedding vows against me? That’s outrageous, Christian! It’s not like I’m asking for something unreasonable, and I’m prepared to take whatever security measures you deem necessary, but – We. Cannot. Never. Go. Out! Chris will be climbing the walls soon. I don’t think you grasp what you’re expecting from a spirited little boy!”
“Of course I’ll use whatever means I can! Our vows,” he spits, quirking an angry brow at me while ignoring every one of my other arguments, “are precisely for moments like this, when we disagree. And quite frankly, harsh as it may sound, I care way more about keeping you both unharmed than anything else right now.”
There’s no doubt that my husband is properly riled, as am I, but there’s no point in taking this row any further. We’ve reached a stalemate, and I know that things will only get ugly from here on out if I push the issue any further. On a steeling breath, I force a calm note into my voice, steadying the angry tremor. “Please, just give it some thought,” I breathe before pivoting on my heel and striding after my boy, hopefully giving us the space to cool off.
I play with Chris, albeit distractedly, going over the conversation with Christian in my mind and considering my options. I have to concede that it’s an impossible situation. Not knowing where José is, when he’ll strike, if he will at all, and what he has planned, or even what his motivation is, makes things dangerously unpredictable. And I can’t argue that if something does go wrong, I would find the guilt unbearable to live with. By the same token, taking into account Christian’s position, there will always be a degree of danger for us to contend with. Much as he’d like to, he cannot shield us from every potential threat.
While Christian stews in his office, the hamster wheel in my head is turning at a hundred revolutions a minute as I go through both sides of the argument. By lunch time I’ve had enough of debating with myself, and decide to put Christian out of his misery. As much as it grates me, our safety does come above all else. For a little while longer, I find that I’m indeed prepared to accept my husband’s take on this, at least until I can find a way to talk some reasonable sense into him.
Just as I walk up to Christian’s office door, I catch Jason coming out. He offers his usual short nod as greeting, but he takes me by surprise when his mouth twitches with the makings of a smile and he adds a wink. Watching his retreating back, I wonder idly what’s gotten him so pleased. When I turn back to the door I jump when I find my husband standing in front of me.
Looking up to him, our stares meet, both a picture of contrition. He may be fifty shades, but every one of those colors is mine, and I love him despite, or maybe because of his infinitely complex ways.
“Anastasia,” he rasps, just as I say his name.
With an encouraging nod he holds my gaze while running his palms along the length of my upper arms. “You go first, baby,” he offers, the warmth in his voice giving me the boost I need to accept the status quo.
On a breath I start, reciting the little speech I’ve prepared in my head. “I still don’t agree with you, and I still want you to reconsider, but I really do understand, and if us staying home for a little while longer eases your fears, then so be it.”
Of all his possible reactions, laughing must be the very last thing I expect him to do, but he does, throatily, with his head thrown back. “Spunky indeed,” he teases, referring to my earlier jibe about still having all of my boldness. “It’s one of the things I love most about you,” he smiles, only adding to my confusion.
Uhm…who are you and what did you do with my angry, inflexible husband? I muse perplexed, gaping at what must be an impostor.
Seeing my expression, he cups my face and kisses the tip of my nose. “I’ve also done some thinking, and you’re right. I need to trust the members of the team to do their jobs. Taylor has just put forward a scenario that I can live with – only just,” he winks, “so, if you promise, and I mean promise, Mrs. Grey,” he gives me a pointed look, “cross your heart and all of that, that you’ll stick to the plan, you and Chris can go to a play place this afternoon. But what, and how, and when Taylor says, goes – no arguments, no deviations.”
Ah-ha! That will explain Taylor’s secret smile then. Immediately I send him some warm thoughts, delighted to learn that sometimes he fights in my camp.
Without a further second of pondering, I fling my arms around Christian’s neck and curl my legs around his hips – monkey style. “I promise, I promise,” I cheer between raining kisses all over his face.
His hands slide over the cheeks of my ass, giving the globes a firm squeeze just as his mouth captures mine, turning my playful kiss into something deeper. “Hhhmmm…” he hums into my mouth, making the most of our close contact.
Chris is beside himself with excitement, the trip to the indoor play place definitely the highlight of his week, even though he’s bundled up like a mini version of the Michelin man. It’s a scant 44°F outside, and even keeping warm is a requirement on Christian’s long list of prerequisites.
Carl, Taylor, and Cindy are all assigned to us for this outing and I feel nothing short of ridiculous wearing an enormous pair of Jackie O sunglasses despite the gloomy, overcast drizzle when I climb out of the SUV, flanked by all of them. I remind myself that I agreed to every precaution, and it seems that between Taylor and Christian, they’ve come up with a few that I never imagined existed.
Mercifully we seem to have avoided the mob of paparazzi that shadows our every move, but I’m nonetheless grateful for the few short strides from the car to the glass-fronted entrance when we step into the warmth of the coffee shop section.
Given the weather, it’s predictably busy, mostly with mommies, and the odd daddy, watching their kiddies blow off some steam as they scale, tumble, and play around the vast warehouse’s colorful climbing frames, squealing their delight. With a slightly frazzled-looking Carl following, Chris wastes no time before starting to swing on monkey bars and making fast friends.
While Taylor secures a table for us, ever watchful as his serious face continuously scans the crowd, Cindy and I brave the line for steamy drinks. The tiled floor looks sludgy; the run-off-their-feet staff obviously has had no time to clean up the wet path the patrons tracked onto the floor, and just as I think how dangerous that can be, I slip on a clear puddle. From nowhere a strong pair of arms appears, righting me before I fall. Blindly I grip the helpful stranger’s forearms, instinctively holding on to the safety of his stable body.
I feel Cindy at my back, holding me around my waist just to be sure that I’m steady on my feet, as I look up to find my rescuer. Gratefully I return his friendly smile and thank him for saving me. “You okay now?” he asks, waiting for my nod before he lets go. “Take care now,” he drawls, then leaves the store with a brisk walk.
Still hovering close, Cindy inspects the floor, tsking her displeasure under her breath. When we reach the front of the line, she glowers the staff into mop duty, pointing out the potential for a lawsuit from clumsy customers.
On our way back to the table I tread carefully. Christian will blow his top if anything goes wrong today. I’d much rather reward my hubby’s acquiescence with a trouble-free afternoon, reinforcing his positive change of heart.
I’m thoroughly pleased when we make it back to Escala not only in one piece, but in much cheerier spirits than the last week has seen. Most importantly, Chris is calm, much more like his usual, angelic self. With my fingers crossed, I hope that Christian will see the sense in responsible outings like this until this thing with José resolves.
On Thursday morning I have breakfast at the kitchen counter, idly paging through an e-version of a tabloid I sometimes read while I munch on organic, whole grain, seeded flakes and plain yoghurt – compliments of my health-nut, growing-super-baby husband. Suddenly, my breath evaporates. My hand goes slack, letting my spoon clang noisily onto the marble floor, but I hardly hear it over the fast rush of blood in my ears.
“What’s wrong?” I hear Christian ask from a faraway place, vaguely aware that his face is painted with worry, and he’s at my side in a matter of seconds.
Struck mute, I look at him, paling and blinking, and trying to find the will to take a breath again. With weak hands I push the tablet towards him, unable to put into words the horror of the utter lie I just read.
Collared But Playing Away From Home – Lisa Lipz
Of course we all expected it, waited with bated breath for it to happen, but I did not anticipate it happening so soon. It seems that Sir Grey’s effort to keep his kitten in line by collaring her has failed. The question, however, I can’t help but ask, is why this lucky kitten is straying at all. Yes, you heard me; newlywed Anastasia Grey, neé Steele, has been spotted purring for another. Pictured here is the girl we all want to be, cozying up to an unnamed man in a Seattle coffee shop, smiling sweetly, and looking her demure self when really she should only have eyes for the king of men she so hurriedly married. What is this woman thinking, and more importantly, will we see Christian Grey back on the market? My sweet self will keep you up to date with every development of this unfolding saga, and I for one cannot wait to see Miss Priss put back in her place for stealing our famed bachelor.
His eyes sweep across the screen, taking in the grainy photo of me, and comprehension lights his troubled gaze as he speed reads the malicious article. “Fucking hell!” he growls in anger, jolting me in my chair. “You want to tell me how this happened?”
What? He believes this filthy slander? Balking, I push back my chair to put some distance between us as I feel the first sharp stings of tears behind my eyes. I can’t even deny the allegation, my throat is too thick with shock, but I shake my head, noting the tears streaming down my cheeks – unchecked.
Seeing my distress my husband makes a grab for my arm, pulling me closer. “Baby?” he asks, clearly confused by my reaction. He combs his fingers through my hair, seeking my eyes with his. “You don’t think I believe that crap, do you?”
“I…I…didn’t,” I stammer through my juddering tears, feeling wildly out of control of my emotions.
Before me, he drops to his knees, taking both my hands in his. “Anastasia,” he presses urgently, obviously taking in my distress, “I know it can’t be true, and this was taken yesterday, through the shop window of the play place. I just want to know what happened. Nobody reported anything out of the ordinary to me, and you being in another man’s arms is definitely something I care to know about.”
“It was n…n…nothing,” I stammer, finding my voice and explaining my near fall to Christian. I can see that he’s livid, but thankfully, it seems his anger is not directed at me.
Gracefully he rises and presses me to his front, engulfing me in a big hug. “I’m sorry,” he whispers, burying his nose in my hair. “This is exactly why I can’t stand the press, why I hardly ever give them the time of day. Please don’t let this shit upset you. I’ll sort it out.”
Though he’s trying his best to hide it for my sake, I feel the tension in his body. He’s super mad, and right now, I don’t care. My anger easily matches his, and I want his full ire directed at this libelous reporter, this person who wrote something so bitchy and so damn unfounded about me without having the slightest idea of who I really am.
The spinoff of the GQ article is taking on a deformed shape that I never saw coming, making me second guess our decision to do it at all. At least the male attention I’ve been getting, though flirtatious and sometimes downright dirty, has been positive, whereas this is simply hateful.
I cling to Christian, feeling forlorn and completely blindsided by the viciousness of the gossiping columnist. He tightens his arms around me, offering his body for comfort. “This is so typical of what they do, baby. They love you, then they hate you, then they can’t get enough of you again. It’s why I work so hard to keep my private life private, and stay out of the limelight.”
I push away from him, raising my tear-streaked face to his. “Do you regret doing the GQ spread?”
“Baby, I hurt whenever you’re hurting,” he states, thumbing the wet tracks from my cheeks. “The truth is that much as I want to avoid the press so I can protect you from the lies they dream up, sooner or later there would have been something for them to latch onto. That’s just what they do, and if there isn’t, they make it up. I will be suing the hell out of this magazine, and making sure the reporter never works in the industry again, but there are a hundred more standing in line to take her place.”
I take little comfort in his words. I hear only his warning, that there will be more where that came from. With my ever present insecurities and my raging preggie hormones, this seems to be tailor made to seriously mess with my head.
Be kind and review, please.