The Big House, May 2014
I lie on our tartan picnic blanket and gaze up at the clear, blue, summer sky, my view framed by meadow flowers and tall green grasses. The heat of the afternoon summer sun warms my skin, my bones and my belly, and I relax, my body turning to Jell-O. This is comfortable. Hell no . . . this is wonderful. I savor the moment, a moment of peace, a moment of pure and utter contentment. I should feel guilty for feeling this joy, this completeness, but I don’t. Life right here right now is good, and I’ve learned to appreciate it and live in the moment like my husband. I smile and squirm as my mind drifts to the delicious memory of last night at our home in Escala . . .
The strands of the flogger skim across my swollen belly at an aching, languorous pace.
“Have you had enough yet, Ana?” Christian whispers in my ear.
“Oh, please.” I beg, pulling on the restraints above my head as I stand blindfolded and tethered to the grid in the playroom.
The flogger’s sweet sting bites into my behind.
I gasp. “Please, Sir.”
Christian places his hand over my ringing skin and rubs gently.
“There. There. There.” His words are soft. His hand moves south and around, and his fingers slide inside me.
“Mrs. Grey,” he breathes, and his teeth pull on my earlobe. “You’re so ready.”
His fingers slide in and out of me, hitting that spot, that sweet, sweet spot again. The flogger clatters onto the floor and his hand moves over my belly and up to my breasts. I tense. They are sensitive.
“Hush,” Christian says, cupping one, and he gently brushes his thumb over my nipple.
His fingers are gentle and enticing, and pleasure spirals out from my breast, down, down . . . deep down. I tilt my head back, pushing my nipple into his palm, and moan once more.
“I like to hear you,” Christian whispers. His erection is at my hip, the buttons of his fly pressing into my flesh as his fingers continue their relentless assault: in, out, in, out—keeping a rhythm. “Shall I make you come like this?” he asks.
His fingers stop moving inside me.
“Really, Mrs. Grey? Is it up to you?” His fingers tighten around my nipple.
“No . . . No, Sir.”
“Ah. Please,” I beg.
“What do you want, Anastasia?”
He inhales sharply.
“All of you,” I add, breathless.
He eases his fingers out of me, pulls me around to face him, and removes the blindfold. I blink up into darkening gray eyes that burn into mine. His index fingers trace my bottom lip, and he pushes his index and middle fingers into my mouth, letting me taste the salty tang of my arousal.
“Suck,” he whispers. I swirl my tongue around and between his fingers.
Hmm . . . even I taste good on his fingers.
His hands skim up my arms to the cuffs above my head, and he unclips them, freeing me. Turning me around so I’m facing the wall, he tugs on my braid, pulling me into his arms. He angles my head to one side and skims his lips up my throat to my ear while holding me flush against him.
“I want in your mouth.” His voice is soft and seductive. My body, ripe and ready, clenches deep inside. The pleasure is sweet and sharp.
I moan. Turning to face him, I pull his head down to mine and kiss him hard, my tongue invading his mouth, tasting and savoring him. He groans, places his hands on my behind and tugs me against him, but only my pregnant belly touches him. I bite his jaw and trail kisses down his throat and run my fingers down to his jeans. He tilts his head back, exposing more of his throat to me, and I run my tongue down to his chest and through his chest hair.
I tug the waistband of his jeans, the buttons popping, and he grasps my shoulders as I sink to my knees in front of him.
As I gaze up at him through my lashes, he stares down at me. His eyes are dark, his lips parted, and he inhales deeply when I free him and ensnare him with my mouth. I love doing this to Christian. Watching him come apart, hearing his breath hitch, and the soft moans he makes deep in his throat. I close my eyes and suck hard, pressing down on him, relishing his taste and his breathless gasp.
He grasps my head, stilling me, and I sheath my teeth with my lips and push him deeper into my mouth.
“Open your eyes and look at me,” he orders, his voice low.
Blazing eyes meet mine and he flexes his hips, filling my mouth to the back of my throat then withdrawing quickly. He pushes into me again and I reach up to grab him. He stops and holds me in place.
“Don’t touch or I’ll cuff you again. I just want your mouth,” he growls.
Oh my. Like that is it? I put my hands behind my back and gaze up at him innocently with my mouth full.
“Good girl,” he says, smirking down at me, his voice hoarse. He eases back, and holding me gently but firmly, he pushes into me again. “You have such a fuckable mouth, Mrs. Grey.” He closes his eyes and eases into my mouth as I squeeze him between my lips, running my tongue over and around him. I take him deeper and withdraw, again and again and again, the air hissing between his teeth.
“Ah! Stop,” he says, and he pulls out of me, leaving me wanting more. He grasps my shoulders and pulls me to my feet. Grabbing my braid, he kisses me hard, his persistent tongue greedy and giving at once. Suddenly he releases me, and before I know it, he’s lifted me into his arms and moved over to the four-poster. Gently, he lays me down so that my behind is just on the edge of the bed.
“Wrap your legs around my waist,” he orders. I do and pull him toward me.
He leans down, hands either side of my head, and still standing, very slowly eases himself into me.
Oh, that feels so good. I close my eyes and revel in his slow possession.
“Okay?” he asks, his concern evident in his tone.
“Oh, God, Christian. Yes. Yes. Please.” I tighten my legs around him and push against him. He groans. I clasp his arms, and he flexes his hips slowly at first, in, out.
“Christian, please. Harder—I won’t break.”
He groans and starts to move, really move, pounding into me again and again. Oh, it’s heavenly.
“Yes,” I gasp, tightening my hold on him as I start to build . . . He moans, grinding into me with renewed determination . . . and I’m close. Oh, please. Don’t stop.
“Come on, Ana,” he groans through gritted teeth, and I explode around him, my orgasm going on and on and on. I call out his name and Christian stills, groaning loudly, as he climaxes inside me.
“Ana,” he cries.
Christian lies beside me, his hand caressing my belly, his long fingers splayed out wide.
“How’s my daughter?”
“She’s dancing.” I laugh.
“Dancing? Oh yes! Wow. I can feel her.” He grins as Blip Two somersaults inside me.
“I think she likes sex already.”
Christian frowns. “Really?” he says dryly. He moves so his lips are against my bump. “There’ll be none of that until you’re thirty, young lady.”
I giggle. “Oh, Christian, you are such a hypocrite.”
“No, I’m an anxious father.” He gazes up at me, his brow furrowed, betraying his anxiety.
“You’re a wonderful father, as I knew you would be.” I caress his lovely face, and he gives me his shy smile.
“I like this,” he murmurs, stroking then kissing my belly. “There’s more of you.”
I pout. “I don’t like more of me.”
“It’s great when you come.”
“And I’m looking forward to the taste of breast milk again.”
“Christian! You are such a kinky—”
He swoops on me suddenly, kissing me hard, throwing his leg over mine, and grabbing my hands so they are above my head. “You love the kinky fuckery,” he whispers, and he runs his nose down mine.
I grin, caught in his infectious, wicked smile. “Yes, I love the kinky fuckery.
And I love you. Very much.”
I jerk awake, woken by a high-pitched squeal of delight from my son, and even though I can’t see him or Christian, I grin like an idiot with my glee. Ted has woken from his nap, and he and Christian are romping nearby. I lie quietly, still marveling at Christian’s capacity for play. His patience with Teddy is extraordinary—much more so than with me. I snort. But then, that’s how it should be. And my beautiful little boy, the apple of his mother and father’s eyes, knows no fear.
Christian, on the other hand, is still too overprotective—of both of us. My sweet, mercurial, controlling Fifty.
“Let’s find Mommy. She’s here in the meadow somewhere.”
Ted says something I don’t hear, and Christian laughs freely, happily. It’s a magical sound, filled with his paternal joy. I can’t resist. I struggle up onto my elbows to spy on them from my hiding place in the long grass.
Christian is swinging Ted around and around, making him squeal once more in delight. He stops, launches him high into the air—I stop breathing—then he catches him. Ted shrieks with childish abandon and I breathe a sigh of relief. Oh my little man, my darling little man, always on the go.
“Gain, Daddy!” he squeals. Christian obliges, and my heart leaps into my mouth once more as he tosses Teddy into the air then catches him again, clutching him close. Christian kisses Ted’s copper-colored hair, and blows a kiss on his cheek, then tickles him mercilessly for a moment. Teddy howls with laughter, squirming and pushing against Christian’s chest, wanting out of his arms. Grinning, Christian sets him on the ground.
“Let’s find Mommy. She’s hiding in the grass.”
Ted beams, enjoying the game, and looks around the meadow. Grasping Christian’s hand, he points to somewhere I’m not, and it makes me giggle. I lie back down quickly, delighting in this game.
“Ted, I heard Mommy. Did you hear her?”
I giggle-snort at Ted’s imperious tone. Jeez—so like his dad, and he’s only two.
“Teddy!” I call back, gazing up the sky with a ridiculous grin on my face.
All too soon I hear their footsteps trampling through the meadow, and first Ted then Christian bursts through the long grass.
“Mommy!” Ted screeches as if he’s found the lost treasure of the Sierra Madre, and he leaps onto me.
“Hey, baby boy!” I cradle him against me and kiss his chubby cheek. He giggles and kisses me in return, then struggles out of my arms.
“Hello, Mommy.” Christian smiles down at me.
“Hello, Daddy.” I grin, and he picks Ted up, and sits down beside me with our son in his lap.
“Gently with Mommy,” he admonishes Ted. I smirk—the irony is not lost on me. From his pocket, Christian produces his BlackBerry and gives it to Ted. This will probably win us five minutes of peace, maximum. Teddy studies it, his little brow furrowed. He looks so serious, blue eyes concentrating hard, just like his daddy does when he reads his e-mails. Christian nuzzles Ted’s hair, and my heart swells to look at them both. Two peas in a pod: my son sitting quietly—for a few moments at least—in my husband’s lap. My two favorite men in the whole world.
Of course, Ted is the most beautiful and talented child on the planet, but then I am his mother so I would think that. And Christian is . . . well, Christian is just himself. In white T-shirt and jeans, he looks as hot as usual. What did I do to win such a prize?
“You look well, Mrs. Grey.”
“As do you, Mr. Grey.”
“Isn’t Mommy pretty?” Christian whispers in Ted’s ear. Ted swats him away, more interested in Daddy’s BlackBerry.
I giggle. “You can’t get around him.”
“I know.” Christian grins and kisses Ted’s hair. “I can’t believe he’ll be two tomorrow.” His tone is wistful. Reaching across, he spreads his hand over my bump. “Let’s have lots of children,” he says.
“One more at least.” I grin, and he caresses my belly.
“How is my daughter?”
“She’s good. Asleep, I think.”
“Hello, Mr. Grey. Hi, Ana.”
We both turn to see Sophie, Taylor’s ten-year-old daughter, appear out of the long grass.
“Soeee,” Ted squeals with delighted recognition. He struggles out of Christian’s lap, discarding the BlackBerry.
“I have some popsicles from Gail,” Sophie says. “Can I give one to Ted?”
“Sure,” I say. Oh dear, this is going to be messy.
“Pop!” Ted holds out his hands and Sophie passes one to him. It’s dripping already.
“Here—let Mommy see.” I sit up, take the popsicle from Ted, and quickly slip it into my mouth, licking off the excess juice. Hmm . . . cranberry, cool and delicious.
“Mine!” Ted protests, his voice ringing with indignation.
“Here you go.” I hand him back a slightly less runny popsicle, and it goes straight into his mouth. He grins.
“Can Ted and I go for a walk?” Sophie asks.
“Don’t go too far.”
“No, Mr. Grey.” Sophie’s hazel eyes are wide and serious. I think she’s a little frightened of Christian. She holds her hand out, and Teddy takes it willingly.
They trudge away together through the long grass.
Christian watches them.
“They’ll be fine, Christian. What harm could come to them here?” He frowns at me momentarily, and I crawl over and into his lap.
“Besides, Ted is completely smitten with Sophie.”
Christian snorts and nuzzles my hair. “She’s a delightful child.”
“She is. So pretty, too. A blonde angel.”
Christian stills and places his hands on my belly. “Girls, eh?” There’s a hint of trepidation in his voice. I curl my hand behind his head.
“You don’t have to worry about your daughter for at least another three months. I have her covered here. Okay?”
He kisses me behind my ear and scrapes his teeth around the edge to the lobe.
“Whatever you say, Mrs. Grey.” Then he bites me. I yelp.
“I enjoyed last night,” he says. “We should do that more often.”
“And we could, if you stopped working . . .”
I roll my eyes and he tightens his arms around me and grins into my neck.
“Are you rolling your eyes at me Mrs. Grey?” His threat is implicit but sensual, making me squirm, but as we’re in the middle of the meadow with the kids nearby, I ignore his invitation.
“Grey Publishing has an author on the New York Times Best Sellers—Boyce Fox’s sales are phenomenal, the e-book side of our business has exploded, and I finally have the team I want around me.”
“And you’re making money in these difficult times,” Christian adds, his voice reflecting his pride. “But . . . I like you barefoot and pregnant and in my kitchen.”
I lean back so I can see his face. He gazes down at me, eyes bright.
“I like that, too,” I murmur, and he kisses me, his hands still spread across my bump.
Seeing he’s in a good mood, I decide to broach a delicate subject. “Have you thought any more about my suggestion?”
He stills. “Ana, the answer is no.”
“But Ella is such a lovely name.”
“I am not naming my daughter after my mother. No. End of discussion.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Grasping my chin, he gazes earnestly down at me, radiating exasperation. “Ana, give it up. I don’t want my daughter tainted by my past.”
“Okay. I’m sorry.” Shit . . . I don’t want to anger him.
“That’s better. Stop trying to fix it,” he mutters. “You got me to admit I loved her, you dragged me to her grave. Enough.”
Oh no. I twist in his lap to straddle him and grasp his head in my hands.
“I’m sorry. Really. Don’t be angry with me, please.” I kiss him, then kiss the corner of his mouth. After a beat, he points to the other corner, and I smile and kiss it. He points to his nose. I kiss that. He grins and places his hands on my backside.
“Oh, Mrs. Grey—what am I going to do with you?”
“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” I murmur. He grins and, twisting suddenly, he pushes me down onto the blanket.
“How about I do it now?” he whispers with a salacious smile.
“Christian!” I gasp.
Suddenly there’s a high-pitched cry from Ted. Christian leaps to his feet with a panther’s easy grace and races toward the source of the sound. I follow at a more leisurely pace. Secretly, I’m not as concerned as Christian—it was not a cry that would make me take the stairs two at a time to find out what’s wrong.
Christian swings Teddy up into his arms. Our little boy is crying inconsolably and pointing to the ground, where the remains of his popsicle lie in a soggy mess, melting into the grass.
“He dropped it,” Sophie says, sadly. “He could have had mine, but I’ve finished it.”
“Oh, Sophie darling, don’t worry.” I stroke her hair.
“Mommy!” Ted wails, holding his hands out to me. Christian reluctantly lets him go as I reach for him.
“Pop,” he sobs.
“I know, baby boy. We’ll go see Mrs. Taylor and get another one.” I kiss his head . . . oh, he smells so good. He smells of my baby boy.
“Pop,” he sniffs. I take his hand and kiss his sticky fingers.
“I can taste your popsicle here on your fingers.”
Ted stops crying and examines his hand.
“Put your fingers in your mouth.”
He does. “Pop!”
He grins. My mercurial little boy, just like his dad. Well, at least he has an excuse—he’s only two.
“Shall we go see Mrs. Taylor?” He nods, smiling his beautiful baby smile.
“Will you let Daddy carry you?” He shakes his head and wraps his arms around my neck, hugging me tightly, his face pressed against my throat.
“I think Daddy wants to taste popsicle, too,” I whisper in Ted’s little ear. Ted frowns at me, then looks at his hand and holds it out to Christian. Christian smiles and puts Ted’s fingers in his mouth.
“Hmm . . . tasty.”
Ted giggles and reaches up, wanting Christian to hold him. Christian grins at me and takes Ted in his arms, settling him on his hip.
“Sophie, where’s Gail?”
“She was in the big house.”
I glance at Christian. His smile has turned bittersweet, and I wonder what he’s thinking.
“You’re so good with him,” he murmurs.
“This little one?” I ruffle Ted’s hair. “It’s only because I have the measure of you Grey men.” I smirk at my husband.
He laughs. “Yes, you do, Mrs. Grey.”
Teddy squirms out of Christian’s hold. Now he wants to walk, my stubborn little man. I take one of his hands, and his dad takes the other, and together we swing Teddy between us all the way back to the house, Sophie skipping along in front of us.
I wave to Taylor who, on a rare day-off, is outside the garage, dressed in jeans and a wife-beater, as he tinkers with an old motorbike.
I pause outside the door to Ted’s room and listen as Christian reads to Ted. “I am the Lorax! I speak for the trees . . .”1
When I peek in, Teddy is fast asleep while Christian continues to read. He glances up when I open the door and closes the book. He puts his finger to his lips and switches on the baby monitor beside Ted’s crib. He adjusts Ted’s bedclothes, strokes his cheek, then straightens up, and tiptoes over to me without making a sound. It’s hard not to giggle at him.
Out in the hallway, Christian pulls me into his embrace. “God, I love him, but it’s great when he’s asleep,” he murmurs against my lips.
“I couldn’t agree with you more.”
He gazes down at me, eyes soft. “I can hardly believe he’s been with us for two years.”
“I know.” I kiss him, and for a moment, I’m transported back to Teddy’s birth: the emergency caesarian, Christian’s crippling anxiety, Dr. Greene’s no-nonsense calm when my Little Blip was in distress. I shudder inwardly at the memory.
“Mrs. Grey, you’ve been in labor for fifteen hours now. Your contractions have slowed in spite of the Pitocin. We need to do a C-section—the baby is in distress.”
Dr. Greene is adamant.
“About fucking time!” Christian growls at her. Dr. Greene ignores him.
“Christian, quiet.” I squeeze his hand. My voice is low and weak and everything is fuzzy—the walls, the machines, the green-gowned people . . . I just want to go to sleep. But I have something important to do first . . . Oh yes. “I wanted to push him out myself.”
“Mrs. Grey, please. C-section.”
“Please, Ana,” Christian pleads.
“Can I sleep then?”
“Yes, baby, yes.” It’s almost a sob, and Christian kisses my forehead.
“I want to see the Lil’ Blip.”
“Okay,” I whisper.
“Finally,” Dr. Greene mutters. “Nurse, page the anesthesiologist. Dr. Miller, prep for a C-section. Mrs. Grey, we are going to move you to the OR.”
“Move?” Christian and I speak at once.
And suddenly we’re moving—quickly, the lights on the ceiling blurring into one long bright strip as I’m whisked across the corridor.
“Mr. Grey, you’ll need to change into scrubs.”
“Now, Mr. Grey.”
He squeezes my hand and releases me.
“Christian,” I call, panic setting in.
We are through another set of doors, and in no time a nurse is setting up a screen across my chest. The door opens and closes, and there’s so many people in the room. It’s so loud . . . I want to go home.
“Christian?” I search the faces in the room for my husband.
“He’ll be with you in a moment, Mrs. Grey.”
A moment later, he’s beside me, in blue scrubs, and I reach for his hand.
“I’m frightened,” I whisper.
“No, baby, no. I’m here. Don’t be frightened. Not my strong Ana.” He kisses my forehead, and I can tell by the tone of his voice that something’s wrong.
“What is it?”
“Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s fine. Baby, you’re just exhausted.” His eyes burn with fear.
“Mrs. Grey, the anesthesiologist is here. He’s going to adjust your epidural, and then we can proceed.”
“She’s having another contraction.”
Everything tightens like a steel band around my belly. Shit! I crush Christian’s hand as I ride it out. This is what’s tiring—enduring this pain. I am so tired. I can feel the numbing liquid spread . . . spread down. I concentrate on Christian’s face. On the furrow between his brows. He’s tense. He’s worried. Why is he worried?
“Can you feel this, Mrs. Grey?” Dr. Greene’s disembodied voice is coming from behind the curtain.
“You can’t feel it.”
“Good. Dr. Miller, let’s go.”
“You’re doing well, Ana.”
Christian is pale. There is sweat on his brow. He’s scared. Don’t be scared, Christian. Don’t be scared.
“I love you,” I whisper.
“Oh, Ana,” he sobs. “I love you, too, so much.”
I feel a strange pulling deep inside. Like nothing I’ve felt before. Christian looks over the screen and blanches, but stares, fascinated.
“Suction! Good . . .”
Suddenly, there’s a piercing angry cry.
“You have a boy, Mrs. Grey. Check his Apgar.”
“Apgar is nine.”
“Can I see him?” I gasp.
Christian disappears from view for a second and reappears a moment later, holding my son, swathed in blue. His face is pink, and covered in white mush and blood. My baby. My Blip . . . Theodore Raymond Grey.
When I glance at Christian, he has tears in his eyes.
“Here’s your son, Mrs. Grey,” he whispers, his voice strained and hoarse.
“Our son,” I breathe. “He’s beautiful.”
“He is,” Christian says and plants a kiss on our beautiful boy’s forehead beneath a shock of dark hair. Theodore Raymond Grey is oblivious. Eyes closed, his earlier crying forgotten, he’s asleep. He is the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. So beautiful, I begin to weep.
“Thank you, Ana,” Christian whispers, and there are tears in his eyes too.
“What is it?” Christian tilts my chin back.
“I was just remembering Ted’s birth.”
Christian blanches and cups my belly.
“I am not going through that again. Elective caesarian this time.”
“No, Ana. You nearly fucking died last time. No.”
“I did not nearly die.”
“No.” He’s emphatic and not to be argued with, but as he gazes down at me, his eyes soften. “I like the name Phoebe,” he whispers, and runs his nose down mine.
“Phoebe Grey? Phoebe . . . Yes. I like that, too.” I grin up at him.
“Good. I want to set up Ted’s present.” He takes my hand, and we head downstairs. His excitement radiates off him; Christian has been waiting for this moment all day.
“Do you think he’ll like it?” His apprehensive gaze meets mine.
“He’ll love it. For about two minutes. Christian, he’s only two.”
Christian has finished setting up the wooden train set he bought Teddy for his birthday. He’s had Barney at the office convert two of the little engines to run on solar power like the helicopter I gave Christian a few years ago. Christian seems anxious for the sun to rise. I suspect that’s because he wants to play with the train set himself. The layout covers most of the stone floor of our outdoor room.
Tomorrow we will have a family party for Ted. Ray and José will be coming and all the Grey’s, including Ted’s new cousin Ava, Kate and Elliot’s two-month-old daughter. I look forward to catching up with Kate and seeing how motherhood is agreeing with her.
I gaze up at the view as the sun sinks behind the Olympic Peninsula. It’s everything Christian promised it would be, and I get the same joyful thrill seeing it now as I did the first time. It’s simply stunning: twilight over the Sound. Christian pulls me into his arms.
“It’s quite a view.”
“It is,” Christian answers, and when I turn to look at him, he’s gazing at me.
He plants a soft kiss on my lips. “It’s a beautiful view,” he murmurs. “My favorite.”
He grins and kisses me again. “I love you, Mrs. Grey.”
“I love you, too, Christian. Always.”
Dr. Seuss. The Lorax. New York: Random House, 1971.