Christian spends the rest of the day in his study, and from time to time I catch his booming voice, tight and angry, annihilating whoever is on the other end of the phone, which I’m sure has been glued to his ear this entire time. He’s on a warpath and for once, I’m not feeling sorry for the editors, media moguls, reporters, and paparazzi that he’s shredding to pieces.
It’s still hard for me to fathom that someone will stoop to absolute fabrication for the sake of selling a gossip rag. Surely there are enough wild celebrities out there willing to grace the pages of the smut that’s peddled as truth. And I can’t get over how sly this particular pap was, and how lucky – being there at the right place and the right time. Again I remind myself that I would do well to grow a thicker skin where the media is concerned, but it’s really hard to process someone hating on you for no reason at all. I can only hope that Christian’s interference now will stop other publications from picking up the story.
At least I don’t have to worry about my son today. He’s in kiddie heaven playing with Alannah, the daughter of Christian’s secretary, Andrea. Mercifully my husband has taken on board my advice regarding our boy’s need to play, not just with us, but with children his own age. And for a little guy who’s had mostly boy playdates, I’m impressed with how sweet he’s being to Alannah.
They are adorable to watch, she with her curly blonde pigtails and him with his copper mop, giggling on the floor over a board game that neither of them knows how to play. At the kitchen counter, just a little distance away, I keep an eye on them, not wanting to crowd them, but burning to see how they manage and interact with each other. Visions of him playing with his new sibling tease my mind with romanticized images, casting him as the doting big brother, kind and caring to a baby sister, when I’m plucked from my reverie by the shrill sound of a screech that every little girl masters by the age of two.
Alannah is in tears and Chris has his arms folded over his chest, puffing out his cheeks. “He took my turn,” she wails, pointing to Chris when I approach.
“Na-ah!” he interjects indignantly, shaking his head. “It was my turn to have two turns!”
And this is why we have set, predetermined rules in games, I think ruefully as I sit down between them. “Actually,” I say with a cheery voice, pausing to let them catch on to my game, “it’s MY turn!” I grab the dice off the board and shake them in the cup of my hands, exaggerating the movement.
“No!” they squeal in delighted unison, both playfully attacking my hands to get to the dice. Inside I chuckle. Nothing like fighting a mutual enemy to bring two opposing sides together. I let them wrestle me for a couple of minutes before allowing them to overpower me to take the dice.
“Yay!” Alannah cheers, holding her arms up in victory, and Chris is quick to join, clapping his hands. When their joy dies down, Alannah holds out her hand to Chris, dropping the dice in his palm. “Here,” she says shyly, “it’s your turn.”
Trying my best not to smile too broadly and gather both of them into a bear hug just because they’re so darn adorable, I sit back, giving them space, only to see my darling son mimicking his father with astonishing accuracy as he leans in to run his nose along hers in a gesture that’s way too intimate to be appropriate for toddlers.
Shocked, I gasp, realizing that, of course, he’s seen his dad do the very same thing to me a hundred times before, very often when I’m smiling shyly. Obviously, with Chris, the gesture is innocent, and Alannah giggles sweetly, playfully batting him away, but I don’t know whether I should laugh it off or be horrified. The one thing I do know for certain is that Christian and I are going to have to be a lot more careful trading affections with this little sponge around!
To my stunned surprise, Christian makes plans for us to go to the office on Friday morning. As I gather my things I wonder if people will treat me differently after yesterday’s article. Of course we spoke to our parents, warning them and filling them in on the details, but I can’t help feeling like I’m wearing a scarlet letter A. There must be millions of people who now believe that I’ve cheated on Christian. Ridiculous as the notion is to me, they don’t know me, and I’m not sure if they would believe the unreserved retraction that will be appearing today. Then there is the fact that the retraction and the pending lawsuit surrounding it is newsworthy in itself.
I sigh, annoyed at how much this is affecting me. Christian, at least, is sensitive to my rioting emotions on the matter, and in true husbandly support, he’s been showering me with affection and reassurance, but it does little to stop my mind’s incessant run on the single track to feeling blue, and I’m more than a little disgruntled with the price of our fame. Kate and Mia have been equally supportive with mails telling me to shrug it off, but like all pieces of good advice, it’s often easier said than done.
An outing with all three of us is nothing short of an expedition. The full security team is with us this morning, and the Grey House security personnel are on high alert, constantly liaising with Taylor. As Christian is not prepared to have all three of us separated and in different parts of the building, Chris is coming with me.
When we get to Grey House, Christian gives me a sound kiss and makes me reaffirm my promise to follow the protocol before striding away with Carl. Cindy, Taylor and Collins escort us to my office where I find a little table set up for Chris next to Cindy’s, just outside my office door. Christian’s thoughtfulness never ceases to amaze me. It has crayons and pencils, coloring books, and an array of Meccano boxes that I just know will capture Chris’s fertile imagination.
Excitedly he runs to the table, ignoring everything but the interesting-looking Nano kits that he can build himself. With eager hands he lifts the first one, awed and grinning at the tiny plane pictured on the packaging. “Maybe Alannah is here at the day care center today, and maybe, if we ask her mom nicely, she’ll let her come over and help you build those,” I offer, crouching down to admire the toys with him.
Looking up at me he nods. “Okay,” he agrees without much conviction.
“What’s wrong, buddy? I thought you liked playing with her,” I probe, gently brushing his hair aside.
“I do,” he rushes, finding my gaze to gauge my reaction. “It’s just I fink she also has a baby in her tummy,” he tells me earnestly, blinking up at me.
Behind me I hear Cindy stifle a giggle, and I’m hard pressed not to dissolve into a fit of chuckles myself. “Why do you think that, honey?” I bleat, trying my best to mirror his serious expression.
“’Cause she cries like you, and Daddy says it’s because the baby gives sore bones.” Cindy gives up with a bark of laughter and I clamp my hand over my mouth, snorting as I suppress the bubbling giggles. Out of the mouths of babes… Hormones – sore bones! Where do you begin explaining this to a little boy?
“Uhm, no, honey. She was just upset yesterday. She definitely doesn’t have a baby in her tummy. That’s just for grown-up mommies,” I splutter, still trying to maintain my poise by tickling his tummy. When he giggles I get hit by another shot of those crazy hormones. Suddenly I’m overwhelmed by my love for him, so much so that it hurts. I make a grab for him, pressing him to me, squeezing hard. My throat is tight, choked with emotion while I hold my son and fight the swell of tears. Boy, I really am all over the place. It’s little wonder he thinks I’m in physical pain.
On a deep breath I swallow my nonsensical tears and put on the brightest smile I can manage when I push away from him, resolving to show him that I’m fine. I pinch his nose between my fingers and let him see the smile in my eyes. “Come on, buddy, let’s open these boxes for you.”
Twenty minutes later I’m behind my desk, finally getting stuck into some work, but I don’t get far before Julie stops by. “Knock, knock,” she singsongs from my door, leaning on the frame.
“Julie,” I smile. “Hi! Come in, take a seat.” I gesture toward the chairs opposite my table and after a few pleasantries we fall right into discussing her latest edits to my book. I can’t believe the mountain of work I’ve managed to get through. We’re on the last stretch, the final ten chapters before my book can go to print. Just thinking about it makes my belly feel fuzzy with nerves and excitement.
When Julie leaves I flick through my e-mails and I find another from Mia.
From: Mia Grey
Subject: Saturday night
Date: 9 December 2016 10:26
To: Anastasia Steele
My nerves are killing me! The butterflies in my stomach have turned to a flock, and they insist on fluttering their wings every time I think about tomorrow night! Please tell me again that Ethan is going to sink to one knee and beg for my hand in marriage! Ugh! Did I mention I’m dying here??
How are you, BTW? How are you holding up? Don’t let those filthy gossip mongers get to you. Soon enough they’ll move on to some other poor sod. Don’t let them steal the joy you share as a family!
Call me, okay, when you want to talk, and when you feel the need to reassure the crap out of me! LOL!
Arrrggghhh! There they go again!
Your jumpy sister-in-law – Mia
Smiling to myself I fire off a quick, bolstering note. I’m almost sure our plan will work, but either way, we’ll know by tomorrow night, and if nothing else, she can stop hoping and get on with her life.
Just before lunchtime Derek stops by, taking up his favorite corner on my desk and settling in for a chat. I was relieved to see no change in Julie’s attitude towards me, and I’m hoping the same will be true for Derek. As always, he updates me on his disastrous love life, but when he starts to talk about how complicated relationships can be, I feel that familiar tinge of melancholy cloak around me as I think about how tangled our lives are. The threats, the insecurities, the hurtful limelight, all the bad that goes with the mind-altering love Christian and I share.
Derek, surprisingly astute, picks up on the sad turn of my emotions. He cocks his head as he frowns. “Ana, did I say something wrong?”
“No,” I peep, way too quickly, giving myself away. “No,” I repeat, this time with a little more conviction. I give him a wry smile, “I guess I can empathize, that’s all.”
With intelligent eyes he regards me for a moment before leaning closer, placing his hand over mine. “It’s the article, right?”
He doesn’t have to explain, I know exactly which one he’s referring to, and he’s bang on. It really has gotten to me. Nodding, I look away, not trusting my hormones to keep my rampaging emotions at bay. With a wan smile I slip my hand from under his and clamp my hands together, keeping them on my lap and twirling my wedding band around and around. “Yes,” I admit. “I just hate the picture it paints of me, and for the whole world to see, everyone judging…” Too dismayed to elaborate, my voice fades away. I’m sure he gets the picture.
“Yeah,” he says quietly, nodding. “That does suck.”
Bizarrely, his comment strikes me as funny, and from nowhere I find myself fighting a burst of laughter. When he starts to chuckle along, I only laugh harder, a good, cathartic laugh that also has my tears streaming, but this time, they’re happier tears, tears of release.
A minute later we’re still tittering and snorting, shaking our heads when Christian strides through the door, suit jacket on and buttoned, immaculate in his aura of power. It’s clear in the way his presence fills the room, in the way he holds himself, that dominant stance that commands without a word being said.
“Derek,” he rasps, nodding curtly before turning to me, boring through me with the burn of his stare. “Anastasia.” My name rolls off his tongue as he enunciates it slowly, carefully, in a way that’s packed with meaning. It cuts straight through the light atmosphere, replacing it with something else altogether. Something heavy, both sinister and strangely erotic, and my body, forever enslaved to his, can’t help but respond as I squirm in my chair, trapped in the beam of his gaze.
Derek shakes Christian’s hand, bumbles over some words, then leaves, but I hardly notice, and my husband never takes his eyes from mine. My world shrinks, suddenly only the size of the distance between us. In no time flat the room is filled with a sparking, mounting tension, sizzling with what must be anger and the delicious desire that always simmers between us.
In an incredibly measured, deliberate move, Christian closes my office door – slowly, sensually, still watching me with those darkening pools of gray. The sound of the latch clicking, locking the door, is loud, signaling the beginning of what – I don’t know.
Involuntarily I shiver. My mind races, chasing after possibilities, and the uncertainty beats a drum through my heart. Without a doubt I know I’m in trouble. I can just imagine how this intimate, relaxed little scene with Derek must’ve seemed to my jealous husband. When my expression turns to contrition and I clock the corresponding righteous victory flare in his eyes, it occurs to me that – again – he’s appeared while Derek was here in my office.
I’ve suspected that the tabs he keeps on me here at Grey House might be a tad closer than I’d like, but now I’m certain that he’s spying on me. “You have me under camera surveillance.” It’s not a question but a statement, delivered in an oddly calm voice as I wait for my hormones to catch up to the anger brewing in my mind.
“You are everything to me. I could start fires with what I feel for you. Are you REALLY surprised, Anastasia?” Not only do I hear the tone of his voice, but I FEEL it also – gravelly, rough, and heated with the million and one things I know he feels for me.
Bingo! yells my subconscious accusingly, fisting her hips and glowering daggers, but my inner goddess melts, offering him a simpering smile, fluttering her lashes as she purrs his name in reverence.
The same thing is happening in my conflicted body. My rational mind is telling me to be mad, to stomp my feet, and to bang my fists against his chest with the indignity of being watched like that, but my heart only heard the indelible conviction of his love.
Fuck! No, I’m not surprised. Deep down, I knew. But can I admit that, and if I do, do I consent to future behavior like this because I let it slide? Dammit!
Watching him, I stand immobile, warring with myself. “Christian, you can’t…”
“I can, and I will,” he grates, interrupting me, his jaw tight and his shoulders as rigid as his argument. “You belong to me, Anastasia, but more importantly, I. Belong. To. You. My fate is tied to you. Do you understand that, baby?” In between speaking those words covered in the caramel-smoothness of his voice, he steps up to me, close enough to make me look up to him, and to feel the heat from his body. He skims the back of his knuckles down my cheek. “Your happiness, your survival, your life. You affect me and my world; keeping you safe is a matter of self-preservation.”
Oh crap! How do I argue with that? How do I not melt? How do I stop my heart from swelling with the deluge of love I feel for this man and all his shades?
Tenderly he cups my jaw, slipping his thumb behind my ear, and bringing his mouth within inches of mine. “Tell me, Anastasia, to whom do you belong?”
I’m still angry, but I’m also deeply, deliriously in love, and when you add my traitorous body, an addict to this man, I can only come up with one answer. “You,” I whisper past my bone-dry throat.
“That’s right,” he purrs in a slow, low voice. “And who do you have by the balls, baby? Mind, body and soul?” Gently he trails his hand down to my chin, then onto my neck. His long, warm fingers bracket my throat, over my collar, the tips lightly resting on my wildly jumping pulse. It’s an insanely possessive hold, and coupled with his half-mast stare, I know I’m looking into the face of a man about to devour me.
Another shiver moves through me, raising the fine hairs on my skin just as I feel my sex clench, suddenly needy and oh-so wet. “You,” I reply even softer than before, swallowing and blinking as I wait for the storm to break around us, anticipation pinging through me like a never-ending echo.
“Hhmmm,” he hums, brushing my lips with his and making me jolt. “Right again, Mrs. Grey, but I’m going to remind you anyway.” With his thumb he strums the hard bud of my nipple poking through the clingy fabric of my wrap dress, a current favorite because it hides the tiny bump that I’ve developed way too soon.
I gasp, swallowing a breath as my jitters about being taken in my office collide with the irresistible desire flowing thickly through my veins, only heightening the delicious sensation. I know my fear is irrational. The door is locked, the floor-to-ceiling window is made of one-way glass, and I trust Christian not to take this too far, but still. I feel on edge, but when my husband licks into my mouth, taking his time to coax my tongue into a luscious dance, anxiety gives way to the hard slam of want.
Again he hums when he feels me accept his hot intrusion into my mouth, and he deepens the kiss, stealing every one of my inhibitions. One hand cups my breast and the other snakes around my waist before dropping onto my butt, pushing my pelvis into him.
With an expert roll of his hips he lets me feel the level of his need, already like stone as it presses against my belly. He walks us backwards as he works on the bow of my dress at my side. Easily the wrap falls away, leaving me in the finest Agent Provocateur has to offer just as my back hits the glass of the window.
Like a slick panther Christian drops to his knees in front of me, bringing his face level with my lust-flushed sex. Looking up at me he opens his mouth, baring his teeth before gently scraping them over my mound in a show of primal possession. “So beautiful, and all mine,” he growls before dragging my panties down my legs.
When I step out of them he tosses them aside and grips my hips, pressing me to his face. I hear him smell me, taking a long draw of breath as he slides his finger along my cleft, testing his welcome, and dipping the digit into my creamed hole. “Always so ready, Mrs. Grey,” he tells me in a coarse voice, making me yearn for the lap of his tongue on my slit.
Straightening, he faces me once more. His gaze is ravenous, glued to my lips as if he can’t wait to taste me. He smears my arousal across my lips, tilts his head and kisses me, powerfully, letting me taste my own want, and literally fucking my mouth with his tongue.
I moan low and throatily around his plundering tongue, wildly aroused. My arms fly up to touch him but he stops me, gripping my wrists and pinning them above my head. “This is my show, Mrs. Grey,” he murmurs, breaking the seal of our mouths. With his free hand he yanks my bra cups down, revealing my puckered nipples. Like a ravenous animal he stares at the dark tips. “You are so fucking sexy,” he husks, flooding me with urgency.
“Please,” I mewl, writhing in his grip. His eyes burn into mine, holding me captive just like his hand around my wrists.
He grins a wicked grin, looking at me from beneath heavy lids as we share the choppy breaths between us. “Tell me you want me,” he presses, biting his lip.
I don’t hesitate. “I want you, only you.”
Mercifully the confirmation is all he needs. He spins me around, pushing me up against the glass. My breasts are squashed against the window, and even though I know we’re private, seeing out still makes it feel very, very naughty.
A second later I feel him free his erection, hot and heavy against my ass. With a firm grip on my hip he pulls my butt towards him. He wastes no time positioning his head at my entrance, then fills me with a swift, sure slide, giving me every fat inch of him.
I cry out as pleasure darts through me, making my core quake. My hands are still above my head, pinned to the wall of glass, as is my cheek with my head turned to one side. Christian powers into me, already chasing an orgasm, fast and hard. Impatiently he brushes my hair away from my shoulder, exposing my neck. I feel his hot mouth behind my ear as he draws my flesh into his mouth, sucking on my skin to give me a mark – no doubt in an effort to reinforce his ownership.
“You feel so fucking good, baby, so tight,” he hisses in my ear, nipping at the lobe.
Again I moan, raggedly, as I feel the ripples of my orgasm mounting. The angle of his penetration is rubbing me just right, making my inner walls contract around his hardening shaft as he pistons into me. His hand skates around my body and finds my sex. With the tips of his fingers he rubs my button, pressure-perfect, quickening the stiffening of my legs.
“Oh! Oh!” I squeak, struggling to take a full breath as ecstasy starts to shudder through me like an unstoppable freight train.
I feel him swell inside me, pulsing as he loads with his own release. “Come for me, Anastasia!” he barks through the grit of his jaw, and it’s all I need to shatter into a million pieces, seeing stars while his pleasure jets into me. We groan together, both caught up, glorying in the beautiful sensation of erotic bliss.
He sags against me, supporting my jellied legs. I feel his hot breath against my cheek as we drag precious gulps of air into our lungs. “I love reminding you who you belong to,” he murmurs with a smile I can hear in his voice.
“Hhmmm, and I like being reminded,” I purr back, wriggling my ass against his groin.
The smack of his hand on my rump makes me jump and squeal. “More later,” he says in a teasing tone, soothing the slight sting with his palm.
He takes a moment to rub my arms before he lets them slide to my sides. The smile he wears when I finally turn around is nothing short of supremely satisfied. “You look thoroughly fucked, Mrs. Grey.”
I can only giggle. Yes, I’m sure there’s little doubt about his complete ownership around the office now.
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