I stir, instinctively reaching for Christian only to feel his absence. Shit! I wake instantly and look anxiously around the cabin. Christian is watching me from the small, upholstered armchair by the bed. Stooping down, he places something on the floor, then moves and stretches out on the bed beside me. He’s dressed in his cut-offs and a gray T-shirt.
“Hey, don’t panic. Everything’s fine,” he says, his voice gentle and soothing—like he’s talking to a cornered wild animal. Tenderly, he smooths the hair back from my face and I calm immediately. I see him trying and failing to hide his own concern.
“You’ve been so jumpy these last couple of days,” he murmurs, his eyes wide and serious.
“I’m okay, Christian.” I give him my brightest smile because I don’t want him to know how worried I am about the arson incident. The painful recollection of how I felt when Charlie Tango was sabotaged and Christian went missing—the hollow emptiness, the indescribable pain—keeps resurfacing; the memory nagging me and gnawing at my heart. Keeping the smile fixed on my face, I try to repress it.
“Were you watching me sleep?”
“Yes,” he says gazing at me steadily, studying me. “You were talking.”
“Oh?” Shit! What was I saying?
“You’re worried,” he adds, his eyes filled with concern. Is there nothing I can keep from this man? He leans forward and kisses me between my brows.
“When you frown, a little V forms just here. It’s soft to kiss. Don’t worry baby, I’ll look after you.”
“It’s not me I’m worried about, it’s you,” I grumble. “Who’s looking after you?”
He smiles indulgently at my tone. “I’m big enough and ugly enough to look after myself. Come. Get up. There’s one thing I’d like to do before we head home.” He grins at me, a big boyish yes-I’m-really-only-twenty-eight grin, and swats my behind. I yelp, startled, and realize that today we’re going back to Seattle and my melancholy blossoms. I don’t want to leave. I’ve relished being with him 24-7, and I’m not ready to share him with his company and his family.
We’ve had a blissful honeymoon. With a few ups and downs, I admit, but that’s normal for a newly married couple, surely?
But Christian cannot contain his boyish excitement, and despite my dark thoughts, it’s infectious. When he rises gracefully off the bed, I follow, intrigued.
What has he got in mind?
Christian straps the key to my wrist.
“You want me to drive?”
“Yes.” Christian grins. “That’s not too tight?”
“It’s fine. Is that why you’re wearing a life jacket?” I arch my eyebrow.
I can’t help my giggle. “Such confidence in my driving capabilities, Mr.Grey.”
“As ever, Mrs. Grey.”
“Well, don’t lecture me.”
Christian holds his hands up in a defensive gesture, but he’s smiling. “Would I dare?”
“Yes you would, and yes you do, and we can’t pull over and argue on the sidewalk here.”
“Fair point well made, Mrs. Grey. Are we going to stand on this platform all day debating your driving skills or are we going to have some fun?”
“Fair point well made, Mr. Grey.” I grasp the handlebars of the Jet Ski and clamber on. Christian climbs on behind me and kicks us away from the yacht.
Taylor and two of the deckhands look on in amusement. Sliding forward, Christian wraps his arms around me and snuggles his thighs against mine. Yes, this is what I like about this form of transport. I insert in the ignition key and push the start button, and the engine roars into life.
“Ready?” I shout to Christian over the noise.
“As I’ll ever be,” he says, his mouth close to my ear.
Gently, I pull on the lever and the Jet Ski moves away from the Fair Lady, far too sedately for my liking. Christian tightens his embrace. I pull on the gas some more, and we shoot forward and I’m delighted when we don’t stall.
“Whoa!” Christian calls from behind, but the exhilaration in his voice is palpable. I speed past the Fair Lady toward the open sea. We’re anchored outside the Port de Plaisance de Saint-Claude-du-Var, and Nice C?te d’Azur Airport is nestled in the distance, built into the Mediterranean, or so it seems. I’ve heard the odd plane landing since we arrived last night. I decide we need to take a closer look.
We shoot toward it, skipping rapidly over the waves. I love this, and I’m thrilled Christian’s letting me drive. All the worry I’ve felt over the past two days melts away as we skim toward the airport.
“Next time we do this we’ll have two Jet Skis,” Christian shouts. I grin because the thought of racing him is thrilling.
As we zoom over the cool blue sea toward what looks like the end of the runway, the thundering roar of a jet overhead suddenly startles me as it comes in to land. It’s so loud I panic, swerving and hitting the throttle at the same time, mistaking it for a brake.
“Ana!” Christian shouts, but it’s too late. I’m catapulted off the side of the Jet Ski, arms and legs flailing, taking Christian with me in a spectacular splash.
Screaming, I plunge into the crystal blue sea and swallow a nasty mouthful of the Mediterranean. The water is cold this far from the shore, but I surface within a split second, courtesy of my life jacket. Coughing and spluttering, I wipe the sea-water from my eyes and look around for Christian. He’s already swimming toward me. The Jet Ski floats inoffensively a few feet away from us, its engine silent.
“You okay?” His eyes are full of panic, as he reaches me.
“Yes,” I croak, but I cannot contain my elation. See, Christian? That’s the worst that can happen on a Jet Ski! He pulls me into his embrace, then grabs my head between his hands, examining my face closely.
“See, that wasn’t so bad!” I grin as we tread water.
Eventually he smirks at me, obviously relieved. “No, I guess it wasn’t. Except I’m wet,” he grumbles, but his tone is playful.
“I’m wet, too.”
“I like you wet.” He leers.
“Christian!” I scold, trying for faux righteous indignation. He grins, looking gorgeous, then leans in and kisses me hard. When he pulls away, I’m breathless.
His eyes are darker, hooded and heated, and I’m warm in spite of the cold water.
“Come. Let’s head back. Now we have to shower. I’ll drive.”
We laze in the British Airways first class lounge at Heathrow in London, waiting for our connecting flight to Seattle. Christian is engrossed in the Financial Times.
I pull out his camera, wanting to take some photographs of him. He looks so sexy in his trademark white linen shirt and jeans, and his aviator specs tucked into the V of his open shirt. The flash disturbs him. He blinks up at me and smiles his shy smile.
“How are you, Mrs. Grey?” he asks.
“Sad to be going home,” I murmur. “I like having you to myself.”
He clasps my hand and lifting it to his lips, grazes my knuckles with a sweet kiss. “Me too.”
“But?” I ask, hearing that small word unsaid at the end of his simple statement.
He frowns. “But?” he repeats disingenuously. I tilt my head to one side, gazing at him with the tell me expression I have been perfecting over the last couple of days. He sighs, putting his newspaper down. “I want this arsonist caught and out of our lives.”
“Oh.” That seems fair enough, but I’m surprised by his bluntness.
“I’ll have Welch’s balls on a platter if he lets anything like that happen again.” A shiver runs down my spine at his menacing tone. He gazes at me impassively, and I don’t know if he’s daring me to be flippant or what. I do the only thing I can think of to ease the sudden tension between us and raise the camera and snap another photograph.
“Hey, sleepyhead, we’re home,” Christian murmurs.
“Hmm,” I mumble, reluctant to leave my tantalizing dream of Christian and me on a picnic blanket at Kew Gardens. I am so tired. Travelling is exhausting, even in first class. We’ve been up for more than eighteen hours straight, I think—in my fatigue I’ve lost track. I hear my door open, and Christian is leaning over me. He unbuckles my seat belt and lifts me into his arms, waking me.
“Hey, I can walk,” I protest sleepily.
He snorts. “I need to carry you over the threshold.”
I put my arms around his neck. “Up all thirty floors?” I give him a challenging smile.
“Mrs. Grey, I am very pleased to announce that you’ve put on some weight.”
He grins. “So if you don’t mind, we’ll use the elevator.” He narrows his eyes at me, though I know he’s teasing.
Taylor opens the doors to the Escala lobby and smiles. “Welcome home Mr.
Grey, Mrs. Grey.”
“Thanks, Taylor,” says Christian.
I give Taylor the briefest of smiles and watch him head back to the Audi where Sawyer waits at the wheel.
“What do you mean I’ve put on weight?” I glare at Christian. His grin broadens, and he clasps me closer to his chest as he carries me across the lobby.
“Not much,” he assures me but his face darkens suddenly.
“What is it?” I try to keep the alarm in my voice under control.
“You’ve put on some of the weight you lost when you left me,” he says quietly as he summons the elevator. A bleak expression crosses his face.
His sudden, surprising anguish tugs at my heart. “Hey.” I curl my fingers around his face and into his hair, pulling him toward me. “If I hadn’t gone, would you be standing here, like this, now?”
His eyes melt, the color of a storm cloud, and he smiles his shy smile, my favorite smile. “No,” he says and steps into the elevator still holding me. He leans down and kisses me gently. “No, Mrs. Grey, I wouldn’t. But I would know I could keep you safe, because you wouldn’t defy me.”
He sounds vaguely regretful . . . Shit.
“I like defying you.” I test the waters.
“I know. And it’s made me so . . . happy.” He smiles down at me through his bemusement.
Oh, thank heavens. “Even though I’m fat?” I whisper.
He laughs. “Even though you’re fat.” He kisses me again, more heated this time, and I fist my fingers in his hair, holding him against me, our tongues twisting in a slow sensual dance with each other. When the elevator pings to a halt at the penthouse, we are both breathless.
“Very happy,” he murmurs. His smile is darker now, his eyes hooded and full of salacious promise. He shakes his head as if to recover himself and carries me into the foyer.
“Welcome home, Mrs. Grey.” He kisses me again, more chastely this time, and gives me the patented-Christian-Grey-full-gigawatt smile, his eyes dancing with joy.
“Welcome home, Mr. Grey.” I beam, my heart answering his call, brimming with my own joy.
I think Christian’s going to put me down, but he doesn’t. He carries me through the foyer, across the corridor, into the great room, and deposits me on the kitchen island where I sit with my legs dangling. He retrieves two champagne flutes from the kitchen cupboard and a bottle of chilled champagne from the fridge—our favorite Bollinger. He deftly opens the bottle, not spilling a drop, pours the pale pink champagne into each glass, and hands one to me. Taking up the other, he gently parts my legs and moves forward to stand between them.
“Here’s to us, Mrs. Grey.”
“To us, Mr. Grey,” I whisper conscious of my shy smile. We clink glasses and take a sip.
“I know you’re tired,” he whispers, rubbing his nose against mine. “But I’d really like to go to bed . . . and not to sleep.” He kisses the corner of my mouth.
“It’s our first night back here, and you’re really mine.” His voice drifts off as he plants soft kisses down my throat. It’s early evening in Seattle, and I am dog-tired, but desire blooms deep in my belly and my inner goddess purrs.
Christian is slumbering peacefully beside me as I stare at the pink and golden streaks of the new dawn through the vast windows. His arm is draped loosely over my breasts, and I try to match his breathing in an effort to get back to sleep, but it’s hopeless. I’m wide-awake, my body clock on Greenwich mean time, my mind racing.
So much has happened in the last three weeks— who am I kidding, the last three months—that I feel that my feet haven’t touched the ground. And now here I am, Mrs. Anastasia Grey, married to the most delicious, sexy, philanthropic, absurdly wealthy mogul a woman could meet. How did this all happen so fast?
I shift onto my side to gaze at him, appraising his beauty. I know he watches me sleep, but I rarely get the opportunity to repay the compliment. He looks so young and carefree in his sleep, his long lashes fanned against his cheek, a light smattering of stubble covering his jaw, and his sculptured lips slightly parted, relaxed as he breathes deeply. I want to kiss him, to push my tongue between his lips, run my fingers over his soft yet prickly stubble. I really have to fight the urge not to touch him, not to disturb him. Hmm . . . I could just tease his earlobe with my teeth and suck. My subconscious glares up at me over her half-moon spec-tacles, distracted from volume two of the Complete Works of Charles Dickens, and mentally chastises me. Leave the poor man alone, Ana.
I am back to work on Monday. We have today to reacclimatize, then we’re back into our routine. It will be odd not seeing Christian for a whole day after spending almost every minute together for the last three weeks. I lie back and stare at the ceiling. One would think that spending so much time together would be suffocating, but that’s just not the case. I’ve loved each and every minute, even our fighting. Every minute . . . except the news of the fire at Grey House.
My blood chills. Who could want to harm Christian? My mind gnaws at this mystery again. Someone in his business? An ex? A disgruntled employee? I have no idea, and Christian remains tight-lipped about it all, drip feeding me the minimum information he can get away with in a bid to protect me. I sigh. My shining white-and-dark knight always trying to protect me. How am I going to make him open up more?
He stirs and I still, not wanting to wake him, but it has the opposite effect.
Damn! Two bright eyes gaze at me.
“Nothing. Go back to sleep.” I try my reassuring smile. He stretches, rubs his face, and then grins at me.
“Jet lag?” he asks.
“Is that what this is? I can’t sleep.”
“I have the universal panacea right here, just for you, baby.” He grins like a schoolboy, making me roll my eyes and giggle at the same time. And just like that my dark thoughts are swept aside and my teeth find his earlobe.
Christian and I cruise north on the I-5 toward the 520 bridge in the Audi R8. We are going to have lunch at his parents’, a welcome-home Sunday lunch. All the family will be there, plus Kate and Ethan. It will be strange to be in so much company when we’ve been on our own all this time. I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to Christian most of the morning. He was holed up in his study while I unpacked. He said I didn’t have to, that Mrs. Jones would do it. But that’s something else I need to get used to—having domestic help. I run my fingers absentmindedly over the leather upholstery of the door to distract my wandering thoughts. I feel out of sorts. Is it the jet lag? The arson?
“Would you let me drive this?” I ask, surprised that I say the words out loud.
“Of course,” Christian replies, smiling. “What’s mine is yours. If you dent it, though, I will take you into the Red Room of Pain.” He glances swiftly at me with a malicious grin.
Shit! I gape at him. Is this a joke?
“You’re kidding. You’d punish me for denting your car? You love your car more than you love me?” I tease.
“It’s close,” he says and reaches across to squeeze my knee. “But she doesn’t keep me warm at night.”
“I’m sure it could be arranged. You could sleep in her,” I snap.
Christian laughs. “We haven’t been home one day and you’re kicking me out already?” He seems delighted. I gaze at him and he gives me a face-splitting grin, and although I want to be mad at him, it’s impossible when he’s in this kind of mood. Now that I think about it, he’s been in a better frame of mind ever since he left his study this morning. And it dawns on me that I’m being petulant because we have to go back to reality, and I don’t know if he’s going to revert to the more closed pre-honeymoon Christian, or if I’ll get to keep the new improved version.
“Why are you so pleased?” I ask.
He flashes yet another grin at me. “Because this conversation is so . . . normal.”
“Normal!” I snort. “Not after three weeks of marriage! Surely.”
His smile slips.
“I’m kidding, Christian,” I mutter quickly, not wanting to kill his mood. It strikes me how unsure he is of himself sometimes. I suspect that he’s always been like this, but has just hidden his uncertainty beneath an intimidating exterior. He’s very easy to tease, probably because he’s not used to it. It’s a revelation, and I marvel again that we still have so much to learn about each other.
“Don’t worry, I’ll stick to the Saab,” I mutter and turn to stare out of the window, trying to shake off my bad mood.
“Hey. What’s wrong?”
“You’re so frustrating sometimes, Ana. Tell me.”
I turn and smirk at him. “Back at you, Grey.”
He frowns. “I’m trying,” he says softly.
“I know. Me too.” I smile and my mood brightens a little.
Carrick looks ridiculous in his chef’s hat and Licensed to Grill apron as he stands at the barbecue. Every time I look at him, it makes me smile. In fact, my spirits have lifted considerably. We are all sitting around the table on the terrace of the Grey family home, enjoying the late summer sun. Grace and Mia are setting various salads out on the table, while Elliot and Christian trade friendly insults and discuss plans for the new house, and Ethan and Kate grill me about our honeymoon. Christian keeps hold of my hand, his fingers toying with my wedding and engagement rings.
“So if you can get the plans finalized with Gia, I have a window September through to mid-November and can get the whole crew on it,” Elliot says as he stretches and drops an arm around Kate’s shoulder, making her smile.
“Gia is due to come over to discuss the plans tomorrow evening,” replies Christian. “I hope we can finalize everything then.” He turns and looks expectantly at me.
Oh . . . this is news.
“Sure.” I smile at him, mostly for the benefit of his family, but my spirits take a nosedive again. Why does he make these decisions without telling me? Or is it the thought of Gia—all lush hips, full breasts, expensive designer clothes, and perfume—smiling too provocatively at my husband? My subconscious glares at me. He’s given you no reason to be jealous. Shit, I am up and down today. What’s wrong with me?
“Ana,” Kate exclaims, snapping me out of my reverie. “You still in the South of France?”
“Yes,” I reply with a smile.
“You look so well,” she says, though she frowns as she says it.
“You both do.” Grace beams while Elliot refills our glasses.
“To the happy couple.” Carrick grins and raises his glass, and everyone around the table echoes the sentiment.
“And congratulations to Ethan for getting into the psych program at Seattle,” chips in Mia proudly. She gives him an adoring smile, and Ethan smirks at her. I wonder idly if she’s made any headway with him. It’s difficult to tell.
I listen to the banter around the table. Christian is running through our extensive itinerary over the last three weeks, embellishing here and there. He sounds relaxed and in control, the worry of the arsonist forgotten. I, on the other hand, don’t seem to be able to shake my mood. I pick at my food. Christian said I was fat yesterday. He was joking! My subconscious glares at me again. Elliot acci-dentally knocks his glass onto the terrace, startling everyone, and there’s a sudden flurry of activity to get it cleaned up.
“I am going to take you to the boathouse and finally spank you in there if you don’t snap out of this mood,” Christian whispers to me.
I gasp with shock, turn, and gape at him. What? Is he teasing me?
“You wouldn’t dare!” I growl at him and from deep inside I feel a familiar, welcome excitement. He cocks an eyebrow at me. Of course he would. I glance quickly at Kate across the table. She’s watching us with interest. I turn back to Christian, narrowing my eyes at him.
“You’d have to catch me first—and I’m wearing flats,” I hiss.
“I’d have fun trying,” he whispers with a licentious grin, and I think he’s joking.I blush. Confusingly, I feel better.
As we finish our dessert of strawberries and cream, the heavens open and unexpectedly soak us. We all leap up to clear the plates and glasses from the table, depositing them in the kitchen.
“Good thing the weather held off till we finished,” Grace says pleased, as we drift into the back room den. Christian sits down at the shiny black upright piano, presses the quiet pedal, and starts to play a familiar tune that I can’t immediately place.
Grace asks me for my impressions of Saint Paul de Vence. She and Carrick went years ago during their honeymoon, and it occurs to me that this is a good omen, seeing how happy they are together now. Kate and Elliot are cuddling on one of the large overstuffed couches, while Ethan, Mia, and Carrick are deep in a conversation about psychology, I think.
Suddenly, as one, all the Greys stop talking and gape at Christian.
Christian is singing softly to himself at the piano. Silence descends on us all as we strain to hear his soft, lyrical voice. I’ve heard him sing before, haven’t they? He stops, suddenly conscious of the deathly hush that’s fallen over the room. Kate glances questioningly at me and I shrug. Christian turns on the stool and frowns, embarrassed to realize he’s become the center of attention.
“Go on,” Grace urges softly. “I’ve never heard you sing, Christian. Ever.”
She stares at him in wonder. He sits on the piano stool, looking absently at her, and after a beat, he shrugs. His eyes flicker nervously to me, then over to the French windows. The rest of the room suddenly erupts in self-conscious chatter, and I’m left watching my dear husband.
Grace distracts me, grasping my hands then suddenly folding me in her arms.
“Oh, darling girl! Thank you, thank you,” she whispers, so only I can hear. It brings a lump to my throat.
“Um . . .” I hug her back, not really sure why I am being thanked. Grace smiles, her eyes shining, and kisses my cheek. Oh my . . . What have I done?
“I am going to make some tea,” she says, her voice hoarse with unshed tears.
I amble over to Christian who is now standing, staring out through the French windows.
“Hi,” I murmur.
“Hi.” He puts his arm around my waist, pulling me to him, and I slip my hand into the back pocket of his jeans. We gaze out at the rain.
“You certainly know how to silence a room.”
“I do it all the time,” he says and he grins at me.
“At work, yes, but not here.”
“True, not here.”
“No one’s ever heard you sing? Ever?”
“It appears not,” he says dryly. “Shall we go?”
I gaze up at him, trying to gauge his mood. His eyes are soft and warm and slightly bemused. I decide to change the subject.
“You going to spank me?” I whisper, and suddenly there are butterflies in my stomach. Perhaps this is what I need . . . this is what I have been missing.
He gazes down at me, his eyes darkening.
“I don’t want to hurt you, but I’m more than happy to play.”
I glance nervously around the large room, but we are out of earshot.
“Only if you misbehave, Mrs. Grey.” He bends and murmurs in my ear.
How can he put so much sensual promise into six words?
“I’ll see what I can do.” I grin.
Once we’ve said our good-byes, we walk over to the car.
“Here.” Christian throws me the keys to the R8. “Don’t bend it”—he adds in all seriousness—”or I will be fucking pissed.”
My mouth goes dry. He’s letting me drive his car? My inner goddess whips on her leather driving gloves and flat shoes. Oh yes! she cries.
“Are you sure?” I mouth, stunned.
“Yes, before I change my mind.”
I don’t think I have ever grinned so hard. He rolls his eyes and opens the driver’s door so that I can climb in. I start the engine before he’s even reached the passenger side, and he jumps in quickly.
“Eager, Mrs. Grey?” he asks with a wry smile.
Slowly, I ease the car backward and turn it in the driveway. I manage not to stall it, surprising myself. Boy, is the clutch sensitive. Carefully navigating the driveway, I glance in my rearview mirror and see Sawyer and Ryan climb into the Audi SUV. I had no idea our security had followed us here. I pause before I set out onto the main road.
“You’re sure about this?”
“Yes,” Christian says tightly, telling me he’s not sure about this at all. Oh, my poor, poor Fifty. I want to laugh at both him and myself because I’m nervous and excited. A small part of me wants to lose Sawyer and Ryan just for the kicks. I check for traffic then inch the R8 out onto the road. Christian curls up with tension and I can’t resist. The road is clear. I put my foot down on the gas and we shoot forward.
“Whoa! Ana!” Christian shouts. “Slow down—you’ll kill us both.”
I immediately ease off the gas. Wow, can this car move!
“Sorry,” I mutter, trying to sound contrite and failing miserably. Christian smirks at me, to hide his relief, I think.
“Well, that counts as misbehaving,” he says casually and I slow right down.
I glance in the rearview mirror. No sign of the Audi, just a solitary dark car with tinted windows behind us. I imagine Sawyer and Ryan flustered, frantic to catch up, and for some reason this gives me a thrill. But not wanting to give my dear husband a coronary, I decide to behave and drive steadily with growing confidence toward the 520 bridge.
Suddenly, Christian swears and struggles to pull his BlackBerry from the pocket of his jeans.
“What?” he snaps angrily at whoever it is on the other end of the line. “No.” he says and glances behind us. “Yes. She is.”
I briefly check the rearview mirror, but I don’t see anything odd, just a few cars behind us. The SUV is about four cars back, and we’re all cruising at an even pace.
“I see.” Christian sighs long and hard and rubs his forehead with his fingers, tension radiates off him. Something’s wrong.
“Yes . . . I don’t know.” He glances at me and lowers the phone from his ear.
“We’re fine. Keep going,” he says calmly, smiling at me, but the smile doesn’t touch his eyes. Shit! Adrenaline spikes through my system. He picks the phone up again.
“Okay on the 520. As soon as we hit it . . . Yes . . . I will.”
He slots the phone into the speaker cradle, putting it on hands-free.
“What’s wrong, Christian?”
“Just look where you’re going, baby,” he says softly.
I’m heading for the on-ramp of the 520 in the direction of Seattle. When I glance at Christian, he’s staring straight ahead.
“I don’t want you to panic,” he says calmly. “But as soon as we’re on the 520 proper, I want you to step on the gas. We’re being followed.”
Followed! Holy shit. My heart lurches into my mouth, pounding, my scalp prickles and my throat constricts with panic. Followed by whom? My eyes dart to the rearview mirror and, sure enough, the dark car I saw earlier is still behind us .
Fuck! Is that it? I squint through the tinted windshield to see who’s driving, but I see nothing.
“Keep your eyes on the road, baby,” Christian says gently, not in the trucu-lent tone he normally uses where my driving is concerned.
Get a grip! I mentally slap myself to subdue the dread that’s threatening to swamp me. Suppose whoever’s following us is armed? Armed and after Christian! Shit! I’m hit by a wave of nausea.
“How do we know we’re being followed?” My voice is a breathy, squeaky, whisper.
“The Dodge behind us has false license plates.”
How does he know that?
I signal as we approach the 520 from the on-ramp. It’s late afternoon, and although the rain has stopped, the roadway is wet. Fortunately, the traffic is reasonably light.
Ray’s voice echoes in my head from one of his many self-defense lectures.
“It’s the panic that’s gonna kill you or get you seriously hurt, Annie.” I take a deep breath, trying to bring my breathing under control. Whoever is following us is after Christian. As I take another deep steadying breath, my mind begins to clear and my stomach settles. I have to keep Christian safe. I wanted to drive this car, and I wanted to drive it fast. Well, here’s my chance. I grip the steering wheel and take a final glance in my rearview mirror. The Dodge is closing on us.
I slow right down, ignoring Christian’s sudden panicked glance at me, and time my entrance on to the 520 so that the Dodge has to slow and stop to wait for a gap in the traffic. I drop a gear and floor it. The R8 shoots forward, slamming us both into the backs of our seats. The speedometer whips up to seventy-five miles per hour.
“Steady, baby,” Christian says calmly, though I’m sure he’s anything but calm.
I weave between the two lines of traffic like a black counter in a game of checkers, effectively jumping the cars and trucks. We’re so close to the lake on this bridge, it’s as if we’re driving on the water. I studiously ignore the angry, disapproving looks from other drivers. Christian clutches his hands together in his lap, keeping as still as possible, and in spite of my fevered thoughts, I wonder vaguely if he’s doing it so he doesn’t distract me.
“Good girl,” he breathes in encouragement. He glances behind him. “I can’t see the Dodge.”
“We’re right behind the unsub, Mr. Grey.” Sawyer’s voice comes through the hands-free. “He’s trying to catch up with you, sir. We’re going to try and come alongside, put ourselves between your car and the Dodge.”
Unsub? What does that mean?
“Good. Mrs. Grey is doing well. At this rate, provided the traffic remains light—and from what I can see it is—we’ll be off the bridge in a few minutes.”
We flash past the bridge control tower, and I know we’re half way across Lake Washington. When I check my speed, I’m still doing seventy-five.
“You’re doing really well, Ana,” Christian murmurs again as he gazes out the back of the R8. For a fleeting moment, his tone reminds me of our first encounter in his playroom when he patiently encouraged me through our first scene. The thought is distracting, and I dismiss it immediately.
“Where am I headed?” I ask, moderately calmer. I have the feel of the car now. It’s a joy to drive, so quiet and easy to handle it’s hard to believe how fast we are going. Driving at this speed in this car is easy.
“Mrs. Grey, head for I-5 and then south. We want to see if the Dodge follows you all the way,” Sawyer says over the hands-free. The traffic lights on the bridge are green—thank heavens—and I race onward.
I glance nervously at Christian, and he smiles reassuringly. Then his face falls.
“Shit!” he swears softly.
There is a line of traffic ahead as we come off the bridge, and I have to slow.
Glancing anxiously in the mirror once more, I think I spot the Dodge.
“Ten or so cars back?”
“Yeah, I see it,” Christian says, peering through the narrow rear window. “I wonder who the fuck it is?”
“Me too. Do we know if it’s a man driving?” I blurt out toward the cradled BlackBerry.
“No, Mrs. Grey. Could be a man or woman. The tint is too dark.”
“A woman?” Christian says.
I shrug. “Your Mrs. Robinson?” I suggest, not taking my eyes off the road.
Christian stiffens and lifts the BlackBerry out of its cradle. “She’s not my Mrs. Robinson,” he growls. “I haven’t spoken to her since my birthday. And Elena wouldn’t do this. It’s not her style.”
“She’s in Connecticut with her parents. I told you.”
“Are you sure?”
He pauses. “No. But if she’d absconded, I’m sure her folks would have let Flynn know. Let’s discuss this when we’re home. Concentrate on what you’re doing.”
“But it might just be some random car.”
“I’m not taking any risks. Not where you’re concerned,” he snaps. He replaces the BlackBerry in its cradle so we’re back in contact with our security team .
Oh shit. I don’t want to rattle Christian right now . . . later maybe. I hold my tongue. Fortunately, the traffic is thinning a little. I am able to speed over the Mountlake intersection toward the I-5, weaving through the cars again.
“What if we get stopped by the cops?” I ask.
“That would be a good thing.”
“Not for my license.”
“Don’t worry about that,” he says. Unexpectedly, I hear humor in his voice.
I put my foot down again, and hit seventy-five. Boy, this car can move. I love it—she’s so easy. I touch eighty-five. I don’t think I have ever driven this fast. I was lucky if my Beetle ever hit fifty miles an hour.
“He’s cleared the traffic and picked up speed.” Sawyer’s disembodied voice is calm and informative. “He’s doing ninety.”
Shit! Faster! I press down on the gas and the car purrs to ninety-five miles per hour as we approach the I-5 intersection.
“Keep it up, Ana,” Christian murmurs.
I slow momentarily as we glide onto the I-5. The interstate is fairly quiet, and I’m able to cross straight over to the fast lane in a split second. As I put my foot down, the glorious R8 zooms forward, and we tear down the left lane, lesser mortals pulling over to let us pass. If I wasn’t so frightened, I might really enjoy this.
“He’s hit one hundred miles per hour, sir.”
“Stay with him, Luke,” Christian barks at Sawyer.
A truck lurches into the fast lane— Shit! —and I have to slam on the brakes.
“Fucking idiot!” Christian curses the driver as we lurch forward in our seats.
I am grateful for our seatbelts.
“Go around him, baby,” Christian says through clenched teeth. I check my mirrors and cut right across three lanes. We speed past the slower vehicles and then cut back to the fast lane.
“Nice move, Mrs. Grey,” Christian murmurs appreciatively. “Where are the cops when you need them?”
“I don’t want a ticket, Christian,” I mutter, concentrating on the highway ahead. “Have you had a speeding ticket driving this?”
“No,” he says, but glancing quickly at him, I can see his smirk.
“Have you been stopped?”
“Charm, Mrs. Grey. It all comes down to charm. Now concentrate. Where’s the Dodge, Sawyer?”
“He’s just hit one hundred and ten, sir.” Sawyer says.
Holy fuck! My heart leaps once more into my mouth. Can I drive any faster? I push my foot down once more and streak past the traffic.
“Flash the headlights,” Christian orders when a Ford Mustang won’t move.
“But that would make me an asshole.”
“So be an asshole!” he snaps.
Jeez. Okay! “Um, where are the headlights?”
“The indicator. Pull it toward you.”
I do it, and the Mustang moves aside though not before the driver waves his finger at me in a none-too-complimentary manner. I zoom past him.
“He’s the asshole,” Christian says under his breath, then barks at me, “get off on Stewart.”
“We’re taking the Stewart Street exit,” Christian says to Sawyer.
“Head straight to Escala, sir.”
I slow, check my mirrors, signal, then move with surprising ease across four lanes of the highway and down the off-ramp. Merging onto Stewart Street, we head south. The street is quiet, with few vehicles. Where is everyone?
“We’ve been damned lucky with the traffic. But that means the Dodge has, too. Don’t slow down, Ana. Get us home.”
“I can’t remember the way,” I mutter, panicked by the fact the Dodge is still on our tail.
“Head south on Stewart. Keep going until I tell you when.” Christian sounds anxious again. I zoom past three blocks but the lights change to yellow on Yale Avenue.
“Run them, Ana,” Christian shouts. I jump so hard I floor the gas pedal, throwing us both back in our seats, speeding through the now red light.
“He’s taking Stewart,” Sawyer says.
“Stay with him, Luke.”
“That’s his name.”
A quick glance and I can see Christian glaring at me as if I’m crazy. “Eyes on the road!” he snaps.
I ignore his tone. “Luke Sawyer.”
“Yes!” He sounds exasperated.
“Ah.” How did I not know this? The man has been following me to work for the last six weeks, and I didn’t even know his first name.
“That’s me, ma’am,” Sawyer says, startling me, though he’s speaking in the calm, monotone voice he always uses. “The unsub is heading down Stewart, sir.
He’s really picking up speed.”
“Go, Ana. Less of the fucking chitchat,” Christian growls.
“We’re stopped at the first light on Stewart.” Sawyer informs us.
“Ana—quick—in here,” Christian shouts, pointing to a parking lot on the south side of Boren Avenue. I turn, the tires screeching in protest as I swerve into the crowded lot.
“Drive around. Quick,” Christian orders. I drive as fast as I can to the back, out of sight of the street. “In there.” Christian points to a space. Shit! He wants me to park it. Crap!
“Just fucking do it,” he says. So I do . . . perfectly. Probably the only time I have ever parked perfectly.
“We’re hidden in the parking lot between Stewart and Boren,” Christian says into the BlackBerry.
“Okay, sir.” Sawyer sounds irritated. “Stay where you are; we’ll follow the unsub.”
Christian turns to me, his eyes searching my face. “You okay?”
“Sure,” I whisper.
Christian smirks. “Whoever’s driving that Dodge can’t hear us, you know.”
And I laugh.
“We’re passing Stewart and Boren now, sir. I see the lot. He’s gone straight past you, sir.”
Both of us sag simultaneously with relief.
“Well done, Mrs. Grey. Good driving.” Christian gently strokes my face with his fingertips, and I jump at the contact, inhaling deeply. I had no idea I was holding my breath.
“Does this mean you’ll stop complaining about my driving?” I ask. He laughs—a loud cathartic laugh.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that.”
“Thank you for letting me drive your car. Under such exciting circumstances, too.” I try desperately to keep my voice light.
“Maybe I should drive now.”
“To be honest, I don’t think I can climb out right now to let you sit here. My legs feel like Jell-O.” Suddenly I’m shuddering and shaking.
“It’s the adrenaline, baby,” he says. “You did amazingly well, as usual. You blow me away, Ana. You never let me down.” He touches my cheek tenderly with the back of his hand, his face full of love, fear, regret—so many emotions at once—and his words are my undoing. Overwhelmed, a strangled sob escapes from my constricted throat, and I start to cry.
“No, baby, no. Please don’t cry.” He reaches over and, despite the limited space we have, pulls me over the handbrake console to cradle me in his lap.
Smoothing my hair off my face, he kisses my eyes, then my cheeks, and I curl my arms around him and sob quietly into his neck. He buries his nose in my hair and wraps me in his arms, holding me tight and we sit, neither of us saying anything, just holding each other.
Sawyer’s voice startles us. “The unsub has slowed outside Escala. He’s cas-ing the joint.”
“Follow him,” Christian snaps.
I wipe my nose on the back of my hand and take a deep steadying breath.
“Use my shirt.” Christian kisses my temple.
“Sorry,” I mutter, embarrassed by my crying.
“What for? Don’t be.”
I wipe my nose again. He tips my chin up and plants a gentle kiss on my lips.
“Your lips are so soft when you cry, my beautiful, brave girl,” he whispers.
“Kiss me again.”
Christian stills, one hand on my back, the other on my behind.
“Kiss me,” I breathe, and I watch his lips part as he inhales sharply. Leaning across me, he takes the BlackBerry out of its cradle, and tosses it onto the driver’s seat beside my sandaled feet. Then his mouth is on me as he moves his right hand into my hair, holding me in place, and lifts his left to cradle my face. His tongue invades my mouth, and I welcome it. Adrenaline turns to lust streaking through my body. I clasp his face, running my fingers over his sideburns, relishing the taste of him. He groans at my fevered response, low and deep in his throat, and my belly tightens swift and hard with carnal desire. His hand moves down my body, brushing my breast, my waist, and down to my backside. I shift fractionally.
“Ah!” he says and breaks away from me, breathless.
“What?” I mutter against his lips.
“Ana, we’re in a car lot in Seattle.”
“Well, right now I want to fuck you, and you’re shifting around on me . . . it’s uncomfortable.”
My craving spirals out of control at his words, tightening all my muscles below my waist once more.
“Fuck me then.” I kiss the corner of his mouth. I want him. Now. That car chase was exciting. Too exciting. Terrifying . . . and the fear has jump-started my libido. He leans back to gaze at me, his eyes dark and hooded.
“Here?” His voice is husky.
My mouth goes dry. How can he turn me on with one word? “Yes. I want you. Now.”
He tilts his head to one side and stares at me for a few moments. “Mrs. Grey, how very brazen,” he whispers, after what feels like an eternity. His hand tightens around my hair at my nape, holding me firmly in place, and his mouth is on mine again, more forcefully this time. His other hand skims down my body, down over my behind and lower still to my mid-thigh. My fingers curl into his overlong hair.
“I’m so glad you’re wearing a skirt,” he murmurs as he slips his hand beneath my blue and white patterned skirt to caress my thigh. I squirm once more on his lap and the air hisses between his teeth.
“Keep still,” he growls. He cups my sex with his hand, and I still immediately. His thumb brushes over my clitoris, and my breath catches in my throat as pleasure jolts like electricity deep, deep, deep inside me.
“Still,” he whispers. He kisses me once more as his thumb circles gently around me through the sheer fine lace of my designer underwear. Slowly he eases two fingers passed my panties and inside me. I groan and flex my hips toward his hand.
“Please,” I whisper.
“Oh, Mrs. Grey. You’re so ready,” he says, sliding his fingers in and out, tor-tuously slowly. “Do car chases turn you on?”
“You turn me on.”
He smiles a wolfish grin and withdraws his fingers suddenly, leaving me wanting. He scoops his arm under my knees and, taking me by surprise, he lifts me and swings me around to face the windshield.
“Place your legs either side of mine,” he orders, putting his legs together in the middle of the footwell. I do as I’m told, placing my feet on the floor on either side of his. He runs his hands down my thighs, then back, pulling up my skirt.
“Hands on my knees, baby. Lean forward. Lift that glorious ass in the air.
Mind your head.”
Shit! We really are going to do this, in a public parking lot. I quickly scan the area in front of us and see no one, but feel a thrill coursing through me. I’m in a public lot! This is so hot! Christian shifts beneath me, and I hear the telltale sound of his zipper. Putting one arm around my waist and with his other hand tugging my lacy panties sideways, he impales me in one swift move.
“Ah!” I cry out, grinding down on him, and his breath hisses through his teeth. His arm snakes around me up to my neck and he grasps me under my chin.
His hand spreads across my neck, pulling me back and tilting my head to one side so he can kiss my throat. His other hand grips my hip and together we start to move.
I push up with my feet, and he tilts himself into me—in and out. The sensation is . . . I groan loudly. It’s so deep this way. My left hand curls around the hand brake, my right hand braced against my door. His teeth graze my earlobe and he tugs—it’s almost painful. He bucks again and again into me. I rise and fall, and as we establish a rhythm, he moves his hand around beneath my skirt to the apex of my thighs, and his fingers gently tease my clitoris through the sheer finery of my panties.
“Be. Quick,” he breathes into my ear through gritted teeth, his hand still curled around my neck beneath my chin. “We need to do this quick, Ana.” And he increases the pressure of his fingers against my sex.
“Ah!” I feel the familiar build of pleasure, bunching deep and thick inside me.
“Come on, baby,” he rasps at my ear. “I want to hear you.”
I moan again, and I am all sensation, my eyes tightly closed. His voice at my ear, his breath on my neck, pleasure radiating out from where his fingers tease my body and where he slams deep inside me, and I am lost. My body takes control, craving release.
“Yes,” Christian hisses in my ear and I open my eyes briefly, staring wildly at the cloth roof of the R8, and I scrunch them closed again as I come around him.
“Oh, Ana,” he murmurs in wonder, and he wraps his arms around me and rams into me one last time and stills as he climaxes deep inside.
He runs his nose along my jaw and softly kisses my throat, my cheek, my temple as a lie on him, my head lolling against his neck.
“Tension relieved, Mrs. Grey?” Christian closes his teeth around my earlobe again and tugs. My body is drained, totally exhausted, and I mewl. I feel his smile against me.
“Certainly helped with mine,” he adds, shifting me off him. “Lost your voice?”
“Yes,” I murmur.
“Well aren’t you the wanton creature? I had no idea you were such an exhibitionist.”
I sit up immediately, alarmed. He tenses. “No one’s watching are they?” I glance anxiously around the car lot.
“Do you think I’d let anyone watch my wife come?” He strokes his hand down my back reassuringly, but the tone of his voice sends shivers down my spine. I turn to gaze at him and grin impishly.
“Car sex!” I exclaim.
He grins and tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. “Let’s head back. I’ll drive.”
He opens the door to let me climb off his lap and out into the parking lot.
When I glance down he’s quickly doing up his fly. He follows me out and then holds the door open for me to climb back in. Strolling quickly around to the driver’s side, he climbs in beside me, retrieves the BlackBerry, and makes a call.
“Where’s Sawyer?” he snaps. “And the Dodge? How come Sawyer’s not with you?”
He listens intently to Ryan, I assume.
“Her?” he gasps. “Stick with her.” Christian hangs up and gazes at me.
Her! The driver of the car? Who could that be—Elena? Leila?
“The driver of the Dodge is female?”
“So it would appear,” he says quietly. His mouth presses into a thin angry line. “Let’s get you home,” he mutters. He starts up the R8 with a roar and re-verses smoothly out of the space.
“Where’s the, er . . . unsub? What does that mean by the way? Sounds very BDSM.”
Christian smiles briefly as he eases the car out of the lot and back onto Stewart Street.
“It stands for Unknown Subject. Ryan is ex-FBI.”
“Don’t ask.” Christian shakes his head. It’s obvious he’s deep in contemplation.
“Well, where is this female unsub?”
“On the I-5, heading south.” He glances at me, his eyes grim.
Jeez—from passionate to calm to anxious in the space of a few moments. I reach over and caress his thigh, running my fingers leisurely up the inside seam of his jeans, hoping to improve his mood. He takes his hand off the steering wheel and stops the slow ascent of my hand.
“No,” he says. “We’ve made it this far. You don’t want me to have an accident three blocks from home.” He raises my hand to his lips and plants a cool kiss on my index finger to take the sting out of his rebuke. Cool, calm, authoritative . . . My Fifty. And for the first time in a while he makes me feel like a wayward child. I withdraw my hand and sit quietly for a moment.
“Apparently so.” He sighs, turns into the underground garage at Escala, and punches the access code into the security keypad. The gate swings open and he drives on, smoothly parking the R8 in its designated space.
“I really like this car,” I murmur.
“Me too. And I like how you handled it—and how you managed not to break it.”
“You can buy me one for my birthday,” I smirk at him.
Christian’s mouth drops open as I climb out of the car.
“A white one, I think,” I add, leaning down and smirking at him.
He smiles. “Anastasia Grey, you never cease to amaze me.”
I shut the door and walk to the end of the car to wait for him. Gracefully he climbs out, watching me with that look . . . that look that calls to something deep inside me. I know this look well. Once he’s in front of me, he leans down and whispers, “You like the car. I like the car. I’ve fucked you in it . . . perhaps I should fuck you on it.”
I gasp. And a sleek silver BMW pulls into the garage. Christian glances at it anxiously, then with annoyance and smirks down at me.
“But it looks like we have company. Come.” He grabs my hand and heads for the garage elevator. He pushes the call button and as we wait, the driver of the BMW joins us. He’s young, casually dressed, with long, layered, dark hair. He looks like he works in the media.
“Hi,” he says, smiling warmly at us.
Christian puts his arm around me and nods politely.
“I’ve just moved in. Apartment sixteen.”
“Hello.” I return his smile. He has kind, soft brown eyes.
The elevator arrives and we all walk in. Christian glances down at me, his expression unreadable.
“You’re Christian Grey,” the young man says.
Christian gives him a tight smile.
“Noah Logan.” He holds out his hand. Reluctantly, Christian takes it. “Which floor?” Noah asks.
“I have to input a code.”
“Oh.” Noah smiles broadly. “Of course.” He presses the button for the eighth floor and the doors close. “Mrs. Grey, I presume.”
“Yes.” I give him a polite smile and we shake hands. Noah flushes a little as he gazes at me a fraction too long. I mirror his flush and Christian’s arm tightens around me.
“When did you move in?” I ask.
“Last weekend. I love the place.”
There’s an awkward pause before the elevator stops at Noah’s floor.
“Great to meet you both,” he says sounding relieved and steps out. The doors close silently behind him. Christian taps in the entry code and the elevator ascends again.
“He seemed nice,” I murmur. “I’ve never met any of the neighbors before.”
Christian scowls. “I prefer it that way.”
“That’s because you’re a hermit. I thought he was pleasant enough.”
“Hermit. Stuck in your ivory tower,” I state matter-of-factly. Christian’s lips twitch with amusement.
“Our ivory tower. And I think you have another name to add to the list of your admirers, Mrs. Grey.”
I roll my eyes. “Christian, you think everyone is an admirer.”
“Did you just roll your eyes at me?”
My pulse quickens. “I sure did,” I whisper, my breath catching in my throat.
He cocks his head to one side, wearing his smoldering, arrogant, amused expression. “What shall we do about that?”
He blinks to hide his surprise. “Rough?”
“You want more?”
I nod slowly. The doors to the elevator open and we’re home.
“How rough?” he breathes, his eyes darkening.
I gaze at him, saying nothing. He closes his eyes for a moment, and then grabs my hand and hauls me into the foyer.
When we burst through the double doors, Sawyer is standing in the hallway, looking expectantly at the two of us.
“Sawyer, I’d like to be debriefed in an hour,” Christian says.
“Yes, sir.” Turning, Sawyer heads back into Taylor’s office.
We have an hour!
Christian glances down at me. “Rough?”
“Well, Mrs. Grey, you’re in luck. I’m taking requests today.”