THIS IS PART II OF PAGING DR STEELE. DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVE NOT READ ALL 70 CHAPTERS OF PAGING DR STEELE OR YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ SEVERAL SPOILERS.
This is a work of creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find it here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.
I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
We’ve hit the stores hard. When I say hard, I mean hard! I’ve definitively finished my Christmas shopping unless there’s someone that I’ve conveniently forgotten. We haven’t yet settled how we’re going to do Christmas yet, but I’m certainly hoping for a larger-than-life tree in Christian’s—I mean our—larger-than-life great room. I’ve sent Manchester back to Escala and Bellevue with our more expensive wares since we will be spending the entire afternoon at Esclava and won’t be needing so much security. I find that I’m in for a couple of surprises.
The first surprise occurs when we drive up to “Esclava”… or at least to what I thought would be Esclava.
I’m looking up and down the street for the “Salon to the Elite,” and I can’t seem to find it. The rest of the parties in my group are just as dumbfounded until Chuck directs us to the building directly in front of us.
“Oh, you must be kidding!” Mia and I say aloud. We were in the right place, of course. I would have never found the Esclava Luxury Salon since painted prominently on the window and door is the establishment’s new name.
“That’s pretty catchy,” Al says, and I glare at him. I look over at Mia who shrugs.
“Works for me. It’s pretty unique,” she says.
“You don’t mind?” I ask. “I mean, I have nothing to do with this place.”
“Why would I?” she says. “I kinda like it!”
“Well… okay. Let’s get plucked!” I say as I lead the charge into Miana’s Luxury Salon.
“Mia, Bella! You are here!” We’re greeted by a jolly looking Italian man the moment we enter the salon. Whether he’s actually from the old country… not sure about that, but he’s friendly enough.
“Franco! Lovely to see you again!” Mia and the jolly Italian exchange cheek kisses. “You know my mother, Grace, and these are our friends Valerie, Maxine, Amanda, and Allen.” Franco greets everyone with a smile and a bow. “… And last but not least, this is Ana.” Franco gasps dramatically like he has been waiting his entire life to meet me.
“Ah, Ana! So lovely to finally meet you!” He kisses my hand. “You are the twinkle in Mr. Grey’s eye! Come, we take care of you.” God, he’s really happy.
We spend the day in the wonderful lap of luxurious pampering. Since we have the fundraiser tomorrow night, we’re all plucked, soaked, trimmed, primed, waxed, cleansed, steamed, massaged, polished, and moisturized within an inch of our lives. Just as we’re finishing up, I hear some ladies gossiping about how I’m not pretty enough to be on Christian’s arm. I had heard them talking for quite some time, but I didn’t know that they were talking about me until they mention Christian. I discover that they’re patrons and have no idea that I’m in the next room. Mia’s ready to go nuclear on them, but I just let them talk because I realize that there are jealous women all over the city and state if not the country that feel exactly the same way and I just don’t have time or desire to set every last one of these poor delusional women straight. I just figure looking good and living well is good enough for me.
However, Hurricane Mia simply isn’t having it. Right after our waxing, we step into the “general” area and come face to face with the women that were badmouthing me. I have to admit, although I’m certain that God loves all of His creatures, these two leave a whole lot to be desired.
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me!” Mia exclaims upon seeing my critics.
“Mia…” Grace warns in that way that I’ve become so accustomed to hearing.
“No, Mom, seriously! Look at them! These trolls have the nerve to insult Ana?” she asks, shamelessly pointing at the two not-so-attractive women who have been speaking unkindly of me.
“Oh. My. God. Mia, please… don’t. It’s okay,” I say, trying to stop her from further berating these poor women, to whom nature had already not been too kind. They were glaring at her at first until it slowly became clear who we were.
“No! It’s not okay!” Mia’s says her nostrils flaring. “Not that I would appreciate anyone talking about you that way, but in the looks department, Doris and Mable here have no right to talk about anybody at all.” Oh, Heavenly Father, she just compared these two poor women to the Ugly Stepsisters from Shrek! Allen shamelessly burst out laughing while all of the ladies are trying—and failing—to hide their snickering except for Grace who’s simply shaking her head. I mean, what can you possibly say after that?
“It doesn’t bother me anymore, Mia. I’ve heard it all. There’s nothing that they can say that can hurt me. Besides,” I look over at Thing One and Thing Two, “it looks like they’ve been punished enough!” Not realizing that they have just been further insulted, their Royal Uglinesses rise to try to smooth over their faux pas.
“Please, Ms. Steele, we’re so sorry,” one of them says. “Sometimes our mouths just get away from us.” I shake my head.
“Please, don’t apologize,” I begin sweetly, “because you’re not sorry. You’re embarrassed and humiliated, and you should be. You were talking badly about me and didn’t know that I was in the next room, but it’s like I said. I’ve heard it all. It doesn’t bother me anymore. So, if it makes you feel better about yourselves to talk about me, be my guest.” I smile at the ladies and proceed over to Franco.
“Bellissima, Ana! A thousand apologies!” he says after witnessing the exchange. “You like me to throw them out? I throw them out right now!”
“No,” I say flatly, looking back at the stunned women. “They’re paying customers, it’s fine.” Grace comes over to me.
“Ana, though I don’t agree with my daughter’s tactics, it’s really not fine,” she says kindly.
“I agree, Grace, it’s not fine—but I’m not hurt and I’m not going to let it bother me. Look at the wonderful man that I would be missing out on if I let stuff like that get to me? I am so over it. Besides, whose opinion counts here? I have wonderful friends and a wonderful family. My boyfriend has a wonderful family who accepts me. Who are they?” I say, pointing at them. “I’ll probably never see them again in my life. There are so many bigger fish to fry.” I immediately think about the struggles that Christian and I are facing and the trials that are coming up—who cares about Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber over there? “Let’s just go. I’m ready to see my boyfriend.” I turn to Franco and thank him for wonderful services. I foolishly pull out my credit card to pay for my treatments.
“Bellissima! I will be unemployed tomorrow if I take your money!” He kisses me on the cheek. “Now, shoo!” he says sweetly, waving me away with a smile.
“You’re a gem, Franco,” I say, matching his smile before leaving the salon.
We’re back at the Greys’ and I’m absolutely starving! We’ve done enough shopping to put several commissioned salespeople through college and it’s very late afternoon now. Anticipating our return, the kitchen staff has set up several fruit and antipasto trays for us. I come into the house ready to see my boyfriend, only to be surprised that he’s not here.
“Where’s Christian?” I ask, and none of the gentlemen are forthcoming with answers, not even my father. “Hello? Where’s Christian?” I look from face to face to face and realize that no one is going to tell me where he’s. That’s when I realize that I don’t need them to tell me. That fucker is at work.
“I should have known,” I say, turning to leave the family room and go back to the counter. I put some of the antipasto and fruit on a plate and take a drink with me to Christian’s room. I’m hungry, but I need a bath to relax a bit. I have to admit that I’m feeling a little forlorn that my boyfriend decided to work on the day after Thanksgiving, but I shouldn’t be too upset since I spent the whole day shopping and at the spa. After all, this is what he enjoys, right?
I eat my pre-dinner snack while I run myself a bath. I can’t help but think about the things that the Troll Sisters were saying about me. The things that people say don’t bother me anymore, but they do make me think about all of the things that Christian and I endure to be together. He brought Elena into my life and I brought Edward into his. We both have a shitload of baggage and unresolved emotions and issues. I hate to feel like our tale of sunsets and rainbows is too far off in the future to become reality. I’m beginning to understand how he was feeling in Anguilla, especially when I hear the things that people say about us… about me, and the reasons that I’m with him. I love him. I really love him. I just don’t want to have to spend my life convincing the world of that—not that I should even have to, but when a young multi-billionaire is the one that truly makes your heart sing, you find yourself constantly telling people that the tune you’re hearing isn’t For The Love of Money.
I pin my newly trimmed hair up and slip into my bath. I’m trying a new cucumber-melon bath oil. It’s a different kind of heavenly than my lemongrass citrus, but heavenly, nonetheless. I needed a change a while ago, when I all of a sudden felt like the things that were safe and familiar just weren’t so familiar anymore…
One month earlier…
“I feel like the universe has let me down.” I say to Maxine during one of our more intense sessions. I all of a sudden just felt so forlorn with everything that had happened in my life up to this point.
“Those are very strong words, Ana. Why do you feel that way?” Maxine asks. I hate sounding like the Melba Sornsons and the Flashdance Thatchers, but I know that our own personal problems are bigger than anyone else’s. Why? … Because they are our problems! Now, I’ve never been one to cry the “woe me’s” and I truly feel like my story is much more tragic than anyone else’s that I’ve heard in group therapy—except maybe Stoley—but if these “losers” and “whiners” felt even half as betrayed as I do by fate right now, then now I know why they whined so much.
“I was a straight-A student. I even skipped a grade. I never gave Carla one bit of trouble even though she never did one thing in her miserable life just for me. I never deliberately hurt anybody in my life. My mother took me away from the only home I’ve ever known and separated me from a father who adores me. She took me to a place with a stepfather who didn’t even like me and sent me to a school where everyone detested me. I threw myself into my studies and did two years’ worth of work in one calendar year.
“I was well on the fast track to graduation when a selfish, spoiled, entitled little bastard took me to the desert and raped me then left me there. Because I didn’t want him to get away with it, I was branded a liar and a whore and then I was beaten damn near to death and branded literally when I was 15 years old. Fifteen! My mother never came to the hospital and my Dad rescued me and took me back home—back to Montesano, back to Al, back to peace—and what happens? That selfish bitch comes back and gets me so that I could spend my last childhood years in torment and exile so she could make a few bucks.
“I finally escape and come back home and fall in love with a crazy, cheating loser. I let his ass go and move on with my life and as soon as I fall in love with the right man, this same loser kidnaps me and has the nerve to claim ‘insanity.’ I just keep asking myself why. Why did this have to happen to me? Why are all of these bad things happening to me? I’m a good person. I haven’t done anything to anybody that would warrant something like this happening to me, but bad things keep happening to me. Granted they haven’t happened back to back to back, but who can say that they have been raped, beaten, burned, abandoned, and kidnapped all in a matter of 11 years?”
“I wish I had an answer for you, Ana. You know as well as I do that sometimes, bad things happen to good people. We can’t explain it. We don’t like it but I’m one of those people who believes that there is a reason in the universe for every occurrence. Do you feel that way…in general anyway?”
“I don’t know,” I say shaking my head. I used to think about things that way, but now, I’m not so sure.
“Well, let’s try to look at things another way.” She shifts in her chair. “Your mother left your father and took you to Vegas to a place you didn’t like with a stepfather that didn’t like you and a school that thought you weren’t good enough, correct?”
“Pretty much,” I sigh.
“Because of that more than uncomfortable situation, you accelerated your classes in your freshman and sophomore years to complete classes to graduate early.” She pauses for a moment to let that sink in. “Next, you were horribly brutalized and raped, but then Ray came and rescued you. Unfortunately, Carla and Steven came to Montesano and dragged you back to Henderson. Again, because of the discomfort of the situation, you accelerated your classes again and graduated early, even after you had lost one semester.” I see where she’s going, and I’ll just let her finish.
“You hightailed it out of Vegas and came back to Washington, landed a scholarship and… what did you major in?” she asked.
“Psychology,” I say softly.
“And why did you do that?”
“… Because I wanted to help people work through their pain and difficult times… in an effort to help myself.”
“Are you not one of the most caring and successful young psychiatrists in the Seattle area with a waiting list as long as my arm?” I nod. “Are you still confused that everything happens for a reason?” I shrug.
“It’s a strong argument, Maxie. Very strong, in fact, but still not strong enough.”
“Okay, but you didn’t let me finish. Because you became a psychiatrist, you started doing group therapy. As a result, you took on a volunteer job at a certain community center. While you were there, you met the love of your life in the form of a troubled, shut-off, arrogant young billionaire and I would venture to say that as a result of that same meeting, Valerie has met her match as well,” she says triumphantly and I’m nearly stunned into silence. “Before these terrible things happened to you, were you thinking of going into psychology?”
“I can’t even remember what I wanted before these things happened to me,” I say, a tear escaping my eye. I’m wrought with confusion. Was I meant to go through this horror just so that I could meet Christian? Couldn’t there have been an easier way? If that’s the case, doesn’t it stand to reason that Carly and Cody and all of those chicken-shit bastards did me a favor? No. I absolutely cannot wrap my head around that way of thinking.
“Maxie, stop.” I choke out between my tears. She hands me a box of tissue. “By your logic, I should be grateful that these fuckers brutalized me because it started a chain reaction that led me to meet Christian.”
“Oh, absolutely not! You have every right to be pissed off at those notorious cowards, but you never let what they did to you hold you down. You took every bad situation in your life and made something good out of it. My concern is that you never really dealt with it. You only just told me about it a couple of months ago. Had anybody besides me ever heard the full story before then?”
I shake my head. Allen has heard a lot of it, and I’m sure that he filled in the blanks on the rest. David never asked… and now I know why. Dad didn’t want to pry, and I didn’t believe he could handle the whole truth anyway, so I just spared his feelings as much as I could.
“This is why you reacted so violently when Christian started looking into your past. You’ve never put those ghosts to sleep and you thought they were resurrecting.”
Should I tell her about mine and Christian’s plans to reap havoc on the Assholes of Green Valley? No, I shouldn’t. I know that I’m withholding valuable information that could be crucial to my treatment, but we are going to do this. Nothing will give me more closure and satisfaction than to see those bastards pay for the pain that they caused me—no matter what all of the textbooks say—and even though we aren’t planning anything illegal, Maxie needs plausible deniability in this instance.
So, I’ll be keeping these plans to myself. I’ll certainly get the justice that I was denied when this group gets what’s coming to them. Even if I don’t get them all, the hell that we plan to unleash on the ring leaders and the participants that we’ve identified will send a message loud and clear to the rest of them!
“So, what does this line of thinking say for the kidnapping? What was the grand purpose of this?’ I ask through my tears.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t seen all of the fallout from that, yet, but one thing’s for sure—he’s not abusing any more women and Al has assured us that his defense is full of more holes than a volleyball net,” she responds.
“That all depends on the jury,” I say sternly.
“Well, if he gets off or not, he’ll be a pauper and you’ll be a rich woman.”
“Oh, yeah. That’s what it all comes down to… I so want his money!” I say, more sarcastically than I intend. Maxie is silent for a moment and I can feel her staring holes in my head as I stare at my stilettos.
“Have you given up, Ana?” she asks, firmly and waits for her answer. Have I given up?
“No,” I say sharply.
“Then act like it!” she spits. My eyes shoot up at her. What the fuck? “As your therapist, I’m going to let you know that just like you didn’t do the pity parties in your group therapy, I don’t do the pity parties one-on-one. As your friend, I want to know what happened to the Ana that I’ve always known.
“You’re saying that the universe let you down. The universe didn’t let you down, Steele. You get out of the universe what you put into it. And I can’t tell you what crazy cosmic scale was tipped that these horrible things happened to you. No, you didn’t deserve them—but they happened…and you didn’t die! You fought through them, you lived, and you came out an exponentially better person for it, if that’s even possible. Pick your head up off the floor, stop feeling sorry for yourself and do whatever you need to do to recover from this situation.
“You’ve got a wonderful man who loves you who just happens to be a hot, rich, handsome billionaire; need I mention the whole ‘successful and sought-after psychiatrist’ thing again, and what’s more, Carla’s so jealous, she could spit! She may have gotten $750,000 for your misery, but you got the golden ticket, baby! Welcome to the chocolate factory!” I frown at her.
“Jealous? Do you think that’s what it really is?” I ask incredulously. “How can she be jealous of me? She had total control of my life until that last year when I just didn’t care what they thought. I wanted them to get fed up and send me away. I would have spent an extra whole year in high school in Montesano if I had to just to get away from them. My life was miserable—how could she have been jealous?”
“Because your most triumphant moments never included her,” Maxie says flatly.
The shock hits me like a ton of bricks. I think hard… and then I think harder. She’s right! None of my best moments include my mother… none of them!
“You graduated from high school quite early. Was she there? You graduated from college and became a doctor. Did you see her anywhere? A moment that should have been tragic was actually triumphant because one of the richest men in the country—quite possibly the world—put out a public plea for your safe return and she didn’t even know that you were dating him.
“When you were rescued safe and sound, she was on the first thing smoking to get to the hospital to make her presence known. She couldn’t do that when you were 15 and alone, fighting for your life. Oh, but she was only too happy to show up once she discovered your billionaire boyfriend only to have you ceremoniously dismiss her from your life—not once, but twice.
“Oh, and how ironic was it that you took Ray by the hand calling him ‘Daddy’ and leading him into the hospital room while leaving her standing in the hallway to deal with the wall of men that wouldn’t let her through? She’s chomping at the bit, believe me.”
I get a sort of perverse thrill knowing that my mother is jealous. It so makes perfect sense. How long has she felt this way? Since I’ve been an adult? Since I was a teenager? As far back as early childhood? I don’t know. It would make perfect sense. Daddy fell out of love with her, but he still loved me, even though I wasn’t his biological daughter… and she took me away from him. She so easily snatched me back to Vegas after he had rescued me and I was putting my life back together.
When I was double promoted, it was Daddy that was there. When I got my degrees, it was Daddy in the audience. When I was hurt and in the hospital, it was Daddy by my side—both times. Carla was nowhere to be found. She never once showed me any true affection. When Stephen said that I treated her badly, he unknowingly interpreted her attitude towards me! All of my tender parental moments have been with Ray… not with Carla. Ray even knew about crazy Edward who, even though it turned out disastrous, was my first love—but Carla didn’t know. What did I ever do to her to make her so spiteful?
“Well, at least there’s that!” I say disdainfully. Hateful old broad comes to Seattle to now try to live vicariously through me after she hasn’t done anything kind or selfless for me in her whole miserable life.
“Dr. Steele, are you taking joy in your mother’s misery? I’ve never had you pegged for Schadenfreude.” She teases.
“In this case, I’ll make an exception,” I say, drying the rest of my tears from my face.
“Well, depending on your interpretation, it may or may not be a healthy outlook,” she warns. “Taking joy in others’ misfortune could turn you into a bitter old woman.”
“Not just others’… hers!” I say definitively… and a few other people that I can think of, too. “I never did anything to her. I was a kid. Why does she hate me so much?”
“I don’t think she hates you at all, Steele. I think she hated what you may represent in her eyes… all of her failures.” Maxie points out. I glare at her.
“Okay, even with my fancy education, I don’t understand how I could represent failure. I did everything a kid was supposed to do… even when they didn’t appreciate it.”
“I didn’t say that you represent failure. I said that you represent her failures.”
Okay… clarify please, Dr. Saunders.
“She had you at a very young age, which means that she may not have gotten to sow her wild oats or live the life that she thought she could live because she was a young mother now. Then your biological father dies days after you were born. So now she’s without the love of her life, but she’s left with this living, breathing reminder that she must care for. Next, she meets this wonderful man in Ray who not only wants to love her, but also gives her child his name. This should be a good thing, except now she has to share him with you.”
Good God, how fucking selfish can you be? I was a kid for fuck’s sake.
“I know what you’re thinking, Steele. I can see it in your eyes. It’s not logical, so don’t try to make it logical. It’s always been all about Carla and I’m just showing you how.”
Okay, shut up and listen, Steele.
“Whenever something happened with you, she was never the center of attention… you were. When you received awards or hurt yourself or had a moment with Ray, she couldn’t stand it. You were suffering irreparably, and she couldn’t see it. She couldn’t feel it. Ray loved you and even after there was no more Ray and Carla, he still loved you. So far, you represented everything that she couldn’t have or complete. I wouldn’t be surprised if she got with a man that didn’t like you specifically because he didn’t like you. He was the one thing that she knew you couldn’t ‘take away’ from her.
“Any other mother would have been screaming for justice at the top of her lungs if her daughter had claimed that she had been raped—no matter the consequences. She didn’t even go with Stephen to confront the boy’s parents. She let you suffer the humiliation of the rape and then the subsequent pain and ostracization that followed the attack all alone.
“She may not have known exactly where you were all of these years, but she knew where you were—make no mistake. She knew that you came back here to Ray, and it wasn’t until she saw that she had an opportunity to be in the spotlight that she even pursued you. You turned her down flat at the hospital and she showed up at the penthouse—completely unprepared and unwilling to take ‘no’ for an answer. She acts as if she has a variation of Münchausen syndrome.”
“I truly wouldn’t care what she had. After all that I’ve gone through, I just don’t want to see her again,” I sigh.
“As your therapist, I have to say that’s unhealthy behavior, Ana,” Maxie points out.
“There’s more to that statement,” I note.
“As your friend, I say ‘fuck the bitch,'” she adds. We both laugh at the statement. I know she’s right, that I can’t hold this hatred in my heart for my mother forever. I was fine with stoic indifference until the bitch showed up at the hospital four months ago. I mean, hell, where was she when I needed her… and I did need her, I really did need her. She wasn’t there for me then—what makes her think I want her to be there for me now?
I’m grateful to be able to talk this out with Maxie; to not hold in my anger and spite anymore because quite frankly, I still very much plan on reaping revenge on those people who have hurt me…
Those bastards from Green Valley—absolutely!
Edward fucking David—oh, you know it!
Carla and Stephen Morton—I haven’t made up my mind yet. The selfish bitch did give me life but then she seems to have dropped the ball after that.
“I’m going to take joy wherever I can get it. I’ve been a good girl… a very good girl. With everything that has happened to me, I understand why a once-law-abiding citizen would turn to a life of crime. I’m not saying that I’m going to go out tomorrow and start robbing banks, but if taking a little bit of joy in the fact that Edward David is currently rotting in a jail cell and that bitch is living the life of a pauper while I’m being pampered like a queen in the lap of luxury helps me to tolerate the fact that they get to breathe the same air that I do, then Schadenfreude it is!” I declare victoriously. Maxie laughs aloud.
“That’s actually not too bad considering the alternative,” she says smiling. “How do you feel?”
“Still a bit resentful, but not so much like the universe is against me,” I say. “Thanks, Maxie.”
“Anytime, Hun. Do you want to talk about Christian?”
We end that particular session on that note. I don’t want to talk about Christian in my sessions. I talk enough about Christian in the joint sessions with Dr. Baker. I realize that it looks like I just didn’t want to do joint sessions with Dr. Flynn, and I’ll admit that to some degree, that may have been the truth. However, it only took one session with Dr. Baker to realize that if Christian’s going to get through these feelings, he’s going to need my help and participation.
I don’t know if Flynn could have explained this to me and I would have listened, but most likely I wouldn’t have. He treated me like an outsider. He made sure that I felt like I wasn’t welcome; like I was invading on this secret club where only he and Christian were members. I’m getting visions of the scene from The Little Rascals where after a big disappointment and a broken ego, Spanky started the He-Man-Woman-Haters Club. Flynn is not a woman-hater himself—at least I don’t think he is—but he banked on Christian’s anti-social behavior for the rest of his life, thereby securing his meal ticket…
…until I came along.
At least, that’s how I see it because that’s how he treated me. Sorry to burst your bubble, Flynn.
The water is getting cold and I think I may have dozed off thinking about the long road Christian and I have traveled in such a short time, both alone and together. I open my eyes and there’s someone leaning against the counter with his arms folded watching me. I blink a few times until my eyes come into focus and, not that there was any doubt, it’s Christian.
“Hi,” he says softly.
“Hi,” I respond.
“Your water’s cold,” he says.
“How do you know?”
“Your bubbles are all gone.” He reaches for one of the bath blankets on the linen shelf, opens it and walks over to the bathtub. “Come on. I know you’re cold.”
I don’t want to admit that he’s right, not to mention that my skin is getting pruney. I stand and step out of the tub and walk into the bath blanket. He gently wraps it around me, drying the parts of me covered by the towel. He takes a smaller towel and begins to dry my legs and thighs while I wrap myself in the bath blanket. He stands and continues drying my shoulders, arms, and hands then lifts them to his lips, gently placing kisses on my palms. He looks into my eyes and asks, “Are you still upset with me?”
“Why would you think I was upset with you?”
“I can tell, Ana. Was it because I went into the office today?” he inquires.
“I’m not upset with you, Christian,” I say softly. I’m really not upset with him, though I’m not at my happiest just now. It’s probably because of all of the introspection and I really don’t want to talk about it.
“Please tell me what it is,” he asks. Hell if I know! How do I tell him that I just needed to see him this afternoon—just needed to be with him—and he wasn’t here? He was at GEH minding his business. What kind of disagreeable bitch would be angry about something like that? I just have to wrap these stupid, needy feelings up and shove them down the garbage disposal where they belong. The problem is that I’ve never been any good at faking it, and this is one of those times that Christian is just going to have to leave me be.
Apparently, he gets the message.
He takes the clip out of my hair and let it fall down my shoulders.
“You trimmed your hair,” he says, running his fingers through it.
“Too much?” I ask. I didn’t think so.
“No,” he answers, still running his hand through my hair. “It’s beautiful… very soft…” He’s caressing my scalp now and his fingers feel good. I close my eyes and enjoy the feeling; accept that even though he wasn’t here earlier, he’s here now. I let his presence soothe the uncertainties that have plagued me all day—the disappointments of the universe and the mean troll stepsisters. I need him now. I just need him to touch me; I need to feel his energy.
Almost as if he read my thoughts, he cups my face in his hand and kisses me—gently yet probing. His tongue caresses mine in a sensual dance that breaks through my defenses and shakes my very soul.
I whimper into his mouth and before either of us really knows what’s going on, he’s snatching off his T-shirt and I’m desperately undoing his jeans. In a matter of moments, he’s completely naked before me, snatching the bath blanket off of me and lifting me off the floor. Before I have the chance to wrap my legs around him, he has impaled me with his erection. I gasp at the immediate fullness but try to keep quiet knowing that we’re not alone in the house.
“Baby…” Christian breathes as he buries himself in me and holds me in place for a moment, breathing like he has just run a marathon. “You feel so good,” he whispers, reading my thoughts. I squeeze my muscles around him, and he hisses. Using the strength in my legs, I begin to ride him gently.
“Oh, yes, Baby,” he says, holding my hips and guiding me just a bit. “Just like that…”
I can already feel myself begin to rise. I’ve needed him so much today. I convinced myself that what those bitches said didn’t bother me, but it did… not because I didn’t feel pretty enough or worthy enough, but because we’re going through so much and it seems like everybody has something to say about it.
Now, while he’s loving me, I know why I was upset that he wasn’t here when I got back. I just needed him to reassure me, that’s all. I don’t need it all of the time, but for some reason, I needed it today—and he wasn’t available. He was busy doing what Christian Grey does, and I have to understand that’s who he is. I have to put on my big girl panties and realize that he has to be who he is and do what he does.
Then, when I need those moments of reassurance, I’ll relish these times—when his need for me is just as feral as my need for him; when our bodies meet and take off in directions that we don’t expect and our brains have no other choice but to try to catch up.
As my mind swirls around my yearning for this man, I only now realize that I’m feverishly stroking him, my head back and my hands digging into his shoulders. My orgasm creeps up on me and now takes over as my body locks around him and my mouth hangs open in silent release. I cling to Christian’s body as he thrusts into me several more times, then buries his face in my chest and cries out as he’s unable to quietly ride out his powerful climax. His entire body trembles violently and his staff is throbbing relentlessly inside me while my muscles are still pulsating. The feeling is delicious.
He’s breathing heavily and holding me tight around my waist as I feel him thrusting into me again, his member still throbbing. He’s still breathing heavily, and it’s only when his mouth hungrily devours mine that I realize we’re going for round two. Far be it from me to complain. I slowly begin to meet his grind, again absorbing his closeness and the intimacy of our bodies meeting.
“Oh, God, Ana, you are perfection,” he breathes as he rocks his hips against mine, pushing himself deeper and deeper into my sex. I kiss his shoulders and his neck, taking his earlobe between my teeth, tasting his skin and feeling his heart, absorbing his energy into me.
My man… mine…
We’re sitting in the great room and Mia is recounting the events of the day and the encounter that we had with the two Billy Goats Gruff at Miana’s today. Al and Maxie have gone back to Seattle to spend the evening with their other halves.
“You have no idea who these women were?” Christian asks Mia and me. I shake my head.
“No clue,” Mia says. “Seattle’s a big city, Cwis.”
“Yes, I know,” he says. “I just hate that people think they can say anything that they want to or about my girlfriend, much less in an establishment that I own.”
He runs his hand through his hair, and I can tell that he’s frustrated. I look over at my father who seems more than a bit distracted, watching two of the four doors that lead into the great room.
“Daddy?” I ask inconspicuously. “What’s the matter?”
“I’m just wondering where Mandy got off to,” he says, bemused. I hadn’t noticed before, but she’s not in the room with us.
“I’ll find her,” I say. I make to stand, and Christian looks at me questioning.
“Going to locate Mandy,” I said, planting a chaste kiss on his lips.
“Okay,” he says releasing my hand and continuing his conversation with Mia.
I wander around the house a bit and I can’t seem to find her. I’m sure that she wouldn’t go exploring through someone’s house without their permission. As I’m about to go back to the great room to see if she has returned, I see her standing just outside the French doors that lead to the path to the Treehouse. I grab a nearby afghan and step out into the night air, quietly closing the French doors behind me. I walk up behind her and I can see that she’s crying.
“Mandy?” I say walking over to her. Her eyes get large and she quickly wipes her tears.
“Oh! Ana… hi,” she says, doing a terrible job of disguising her voice. “I, um, I just wanted some air.”
“Dad is… looking for you.” I examine her face carefully, then pull her further away from the French doors. “Mandy what is it?” She rolls her head dramatically and does a crying laughter thing, almost maniacal.
“I can’t tell you,” she says, dropping her head and covering her face. Red flags! Red flags!
“Um… okay… does this have to do with my father?” I say, trying to hold my temper. She sighs.
“Yes… it does,” she replies, her voice above a whisper. The fuck you can’t tell me!
“Is my father going to get hurt?” I ask, seeing flashbacks of a similar conversation with one Katherine Kavanaugh a few months ago.
“I don’t know,” she whimpers. “He could…” Bitch, I told you…
“Amanda, when we first met, I told you that if you hurt. My. Daddy…” My voice is becoming more menacing with every word.
“Stop!” She puts her hand up to silence me. “The very last thing in the world that I would ever want to do is hurt Ray!” she squeaks.
“Then what is this about?” I snap. I’ve had enough, and I will make her regret it until her dying day if she hurts my father. She starts to cry again.
“I’m pregnant,” she weeps.
All of the air is snatched out of my body at one time and I feel like my legs have disappeared. She’s pregnant. She’s pregnant. My dad’s girlfriend is pregnant. Is it…?
“Amanda, I have to ask. Is it Ray’s baby?”
“Yes, it’s Ray’s baby!” she responds offended as she shoots a death glare at me. Whoa! I know that look… It’s Ray’s baby! She’s got that “how fucking dare you” look in her eye that can’t be faked, but I won’t apologize for my question.
“Look,” I say a little more sternly than I should. “I find you here crying and when I ask you what’s wrong, you can’t tell me. However, you do tell me that my Daddy could be hurt. I had to ask!” I snap. She looks at me angry at first, and then chastised.
“I’m sorry… I just… I’ll take any test you want.” Oh, now I feel like shit.
“You don’t have to take a test for me, Mandy. I don’t know about my father, though. Were you guys using any contraception?”
“Condoms mostly. I was going to check out contraception when I… found out,” she says.
“How far?” I ask.
“Nine weeks,” she responds softly. Still first trimester.
“How did you not know?” I ask. “You had to miss a period.”
“My periods have never been regular,” she responded. “When I didn’t see it, I chalked it up to my crazy body.”
“You said condoms mostly, but then you said that you were going to check out contraception when you found out that you were pregnant.” She knows what I’m asking.
“We had one time where in the heat of the moment, we… forgot… the condom, and… well, here I am.” She’s so embarrassed. I understand—I’m talking to her about her and my dad’s sex life.
“I take it from your reaction that Dad doesn’t know,” I ask. She shakes her head. “Mandy, you have to tell him.”
“How? We’ve never talked about children,” she laments.
“Don’t you want to have any?” I ask.
“I… I don’t… I don’t know,” she stutters. Oh, hell. “I mean, I never thought about it. I just… I never met the right guy… I’m 35!” she squeals. “Doesn’t this crazy, unplanned shit happen to women in their twenties?” I try not to laugh at her, but I smile anyway.
“Unfortunately, it happens to women in their thirties, too!” I say taking her hand and leading her to a seat. “You’re a young, beautiful woman, Amanda. Why wouldn’t you expect this?”
“I’m not young,” she protests. I nearly flinch.
“You most certainly are!” I correct her. “Since when is 35 old? You still have healthy, fertile ovaries and apparently my Dad is shooting with loaded bullets…” She immediately flushes.
“I’ll say!” she says a little wistfully, her voice dripping with lust.
“Okay! TMI!” I say waving my hands.
“You’re right! Too much!” she says, trying to compose herself. I can’t help but laugh to myself. Ray is 48 years old, soon to be 49, and he has this young, beautiful, blonde bombshell pregnant and sexually flustered at the mention of his skills. Go, Dad!
“What do you want to do, Mandy? That’s the first thing you have to ask yourself.” She looks at her hands, her face wracked with confusion. “Do you want to have a baby?”
“I don’t kn… I guess so. I’ve always thought that at some point, I would want to be a mom. I just… never really prepared myself.” Well, now is the time!
“Do you want Ray’s baby?” I know it sounds heartless, but I have to ask. She looks up at me with big, sincere eyes.
“I want any part of Ray I can get,” she says softly. Whoa! Okay.
“Can you tell me what you’re most afraid of?”
“Of losing him!” she weeps without a pause. “I’m afraid that he’ll think I did this on purpose, that he won’t want me… I don’t know.” She looks at me again. “He’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I love him so much… so much…” She buries her face in her hands again and sobs mournfully. I put my arms around her as she continues to cry. “Ana I can’t lose him. I can’t. What am I going to do?”
“You have to tell him. You guys have to make this decision together.”
“What about you, Ana?” she asks with tears in her eyes.
“What about me? You can’t make this decision because of me,” I say.
“But you do need to be considered in it. You’re Ray’s only child… and I know the story, but you’re his only child. This means that you’ll have a baby sibling. You’re 27! When you have a child, your child won’t be much younger than your baby brother or sister!”
Wow! That hit home. When I have a child…
When I have a child…
“Mandy, if you and my father have a child, I’ll adore having a baby sibling. I’ll spoil it rotten and teach it all the ways to drive you and my dad crazy, okay?”
She breaks out in laughter through her tears. I take her hand.
“And if you and Ray decide,” I begin softly, “that this is not the right decision, I’ll stand by your right to make that choice, too… okay?” She shudders a bit as she takes in a breath.
“I want to keep my baby,” she says, her voice tortured.
“You what?” The disbelieving voice that came from behind us belongs to my father. I turn around to see him standing there looking down at Mandy who’s grasping my hand to the point of pain. She rises to her feet and I have to rise with her or I’m afraid that she’s going to take my hand off.
“What did you say?” he says incredulously.
“I… I…” She’s terrified. I hate to leave her, but this is between her and my father and I feel like an intruder.
“I should go…” I say, trying to pry my hands from Mandy’s. She turns to me, her eyes pleading.
“No! Please!” She barely breathes the words. Why is she so afraid?
“Okay. Okay,” I say reassuring.
“Mandy?” Ray is still staring at her.
“Ray, I went… to the doctor’s this week, and…” She’s holding her head down and she can barely speak. Her voice and her hand are shaking as her death grip on mine tightens. “We… we’re… having a baby, Ray.”
The silence that follows seems to last forever even though I know it’s only a few moments.
“Wha…?” My father finally breaths. Uh oh, the moment of truth. Mandy never raises her head.
“I’m nearly 50 years old,” he says softly. Mandy is shaking even more than before.
“You’re pregnant with my baby?” Without lifting her head, Mandy shakily nods.
“The old man still got it!” Dad says.
He scoops Mandy up in his arms and she just falls apart. She immediately drops my hand and clings to Ray, weeping heavily into his shoulder. He holds her close to him repeating her name, her legs dangling in the air. I step away a little as he takes the seat that she was previously occupying, sitting her on his lap.
“Are you okay, baby?” he asks, a reverence filling his voice that I’ve never heard before. Mandy nods, looking lovingly at him through her tears and running her fingers through his gray beard and sideburns.
“I guess I’m going to have to dye this so that I don’t look like the kid’s grandfather,” he laughs.
“No,” Mandy whimpers, thrusting her hands into Ray’s thick salt-and-pepper hair. “No, don’t, please. I love you, Ray. I love you so much…” She presses her lips to his, holding his face in her hands. “Please don’t change… don’t change a thing.” I’m happy to witness the love that she feels for my father.
“How far along are you?” Ray asks.
“Nine weeks,” she says, still unable to find her voice. He pulls her protectively close to him again and kisses her cheek.
“Annie… I’m going to be a father… again!” I smile sweetly at him.
“Congratulations, Daddy,” I say softly. I look over at Mandy. “… And Mom.” Mandy gasps and points at me.
“We had a deal!” she squeals.
“I know! I’m sorry! I just couldn’t help it!” I confess through giggles.
“Is this where the party is, and no one invited me?” I hear Christian’s playful voice coming through the door. He looks at weeping Mandy, then at me. “Is everything okay?” he says concerned.
“I’ll say,” Daddy says, setting Mandy onto the ground then standing. “We’re having a baby!” he announces proudly, grinning from ear to ear. Christian’s mouth falls open, then his smile matches my father’s.
“No shit?” he says with a huge grin. “I mean, you don’t say! Well congratulations, Ray!” Christian extends his hand and he and my father shake hands feverishly. Dad and Christian briefly get caught up in conversation and I notice that Mandy still looks a little ashen. I pull her to the side and ask, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
She looks at me with fear in her eyes. “I only want him to be happy,” she says to me. “I only want to make him happy.”
“You do make him happy, Mandy. Can’t you see that?” I ask and she sighs.
“I hope so,” she says, and I can feel her shaking. “I really love him.”
“You’re scared, aren’t you?” I ask.
“Terrified!” she breathes.
“You don’t have to be…” It’s my father’s voice that I hear. “We’re going to be great parents to this kid, and everything is going to be fine. Do you trust me?”
“With my life,” Mandy says, gently touching Ray’s face, and I can see the genuine love and affection that she feels for my father. It makes me happy to know that he has this in his life.
“Then trust me that I’m very happy… and very honored… to have this baby with you,” he tells her.
“Oh, Ray!” Mandy throws herself into my father’s arms and they embrace. I’m feeling a little melancholy about this display. My daddy has a new #1 girl, and he’ll soon have a new child, too.
Get it together, Steele! If you honestly start this shit now, you need to be slapped.
“Are you okay?” Christian asks taking my hand. I nod quickly and smile, fighting back tears from I don’t know where.
We all make our way back inside smiling from ear to ear—an occurrence that doesn’t get past one Valerie Marshall.
“Well,” she asks conspicuously, “what fresh new secret has you all smiling like Cheshire Cats?”
This is not my secret to tell or my news to share. I look over at Dad who’s still smiling a smile bright enough to light up the Sound.
“Dad?” I say, waiting for his approval or response. When he and Mandy continue to smile at each other, I say, “I think my Dad has an announcement.”
After a short pause and a nod from Mandy, Ray says, “It looks like my girlfriend is pregnant so I’m going to be a father again.” The room erupts in joyous yelling and congratulations, hugs, and handshakes.
“Well,” Mia says, “I guess mine and Ethan’s wedding isn’t the only one that we’re going to be planning, huh?” The room goes quiet and Ray and Mandy have unreadable expressions on their faces.
“Mia!” Grace exclaims! “One day, I’m going to find you a muzzle that fits!” she declares.
“I’m sorry,” she says, chastised. “I didn’t mean to put them on the spot… I just assumed… I’m sorry.”
She drops her head and you can tell that she really regrets saying what she said. Grace is correct, though. Mia is adorable and lovable and sometimes, she speaks before she thinks. Ethan puts his arms around his scolded fiancée who doesn’t raise her head. It’s now clear to see that Grace feels remorseful for what she said as well.
“Mia, Darling,” Grace says, trying to soothe the sting of her hasty words, “it just seems like they haven’t had a chance to really talk about this yet, and you did put them on the spot.” She rubs her daughter’s arm apologetically and Mia nods.
Ray and Mandy look at each other and Ray says “Well, we never talked about marriage.” He looks at Mandy and ask, “What do you think?”
Mandy doesn’t pause a beat when she says, “I’ll marry you right here and now.” Ray’s eyes twinkle at the thought before he declares, “Well, I guess that means we’re celebrating two engagements because I’m going to make this woman my wife.”
There’s another uproar of cheering and congratulations—Mia’s and Grace’s outbursts all but instantly forgotten. The next thing we know, party food is being served, music is being played and drinks are flowing freely as we convene an impromptu celebration of a Grey engagement and a Steele engagement.
I have to admit, all of this engaging is making me a little jealous—the feeling that Christian had in Anguilla, when Gail and Jason were moving on with their lives and we only got to watch. Granted, we had only been dating a month by then—even now, it’s only been five and we still have some things to work through, both separately and together. I just… I don’t know… maybe I’m ready.
“Where’s your mind?” Christian says, coming over to me at the dining table, our families meandering here and there and wandering between this room, the great room, and the kitchen.
“My Daddy’s getting married,” I say softly, “and having a baby. It’s a big thing.” He sits down next to me.
“How do you feel about that?” he asks. The patient has become the therapist.
“I don’t really know,” I say. I want you to ask me to marry you again. I want you to buy me an engagement ring. I want to be planning our wedding and not Maxie’s or Mia’s or Dad’s. Damn! Everybody’s getting married but me!
“I need some air.” I stand and inconspicuously walk out to the patio. I don’t want Ray to think I don’t want him and Mandy to be happy and I’m certainly not going to let my silly selfishness ruin their evening. I run to the garden and burst into breathless tears. I just needed to get away from all of the merriment.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! I know how he felt now. I told him that he was selfish and now I know how he felt! How do I deal with this? Dr. Anastasia Steele, psychiatrist extraordinaire, is having unfounded, irrational feelings of confusion and envy. What the hell do I do with these?
He stands behind me and wraps me in my coat while I continue to cry. “Ana. Baby. What is it?”
“Please,” I whimper like the blubbering idiot that I am right now. “Please, don’t make me talk about it right now. Please…”
How could I be so damn selfish? How can I be unhappy because my father is happy? What kind of new insanity is this? I must be having a nervous fucking breakdown—this is just not logical!
“Okay, but will you tell me about it at some point?”
“I… I don’t know! Please, Christian!” I’m almost wailing now. Please, let this go and let me pull myself together, for Christ’s sake. I’m already ashamed.
“Okay. Okay. We don’t have to talk about it,” he placates me. I can hear the concern in his voice, but his tone is laced with something else… Confusion? Hurt?
“Annie?” Oh shit!
“Daddy?” I say, instinctively breaking from Christian’s grasp and running to my father’s waiting arms. “I’m sorry, Daddy,” I weep. “I swear, it’s not what it looks like.”
“What do you mean, Annie? What’s wrong?” I cry for a moment in my father’s arms. I do my best to remember that he has always been and will always be my daddy. Not time or space or evil or blood or crazy mothers or new wives and families are ever going to change that. He will always be my Daddy, and I want him to be happy. I raise my head to look at him and realize that Christian has left us alone. I have to tell Ray.
“Daddy, I’m not jealous of you and Mandy… at least… not in the way that you would think. I just… wish it was me,” I say bursting into tears again. Daddy puts his arms around me and pulls me close to him.
“Oh, Annie,” he says, kissing my hair.
“Please don’t say anything, Daddy. Christian would marry me tomorrow if he knew that I felt this way. I know that he would, but I need him to be ready for this—to be fully prepared for a lifetime commitment and everything that entails—before we make the decision to do this. Please don’t tell him.”
“It’s not my place to tell him,” Dad says, “but I think you should, and soon. That young man will move heaven and earth for you, and there’s no reason to put your life on hold. As I see it, you’ve already done that enough.”
I know he’s talking about my shutdown after breaking up with Edward. He was an emotional wrecking ball on my fragile soul… fucking asshole.
“Thank you, Daddy. I’m so sorry. Please make sure that Mandy knows this has nothing to do with her or you or the baby or your engagement or… well, you know what I’m trying to say.”
“No problem, Annie. I’ll make sure that she knows.”
We walk back to the house and a noticeable hush comes over the room when we enter—not a total silence, just a noticeable hush. I take off my coat and sit on the couch next to Christian. He seems a bit chilly when I sit next to him, but I put my legs underneath me and curl up a bit, just leaning on his arm. Maybe he felt a bit shunned when I ran to Ray instead of him… and I can understand that. So, I guess I’ll give him the right to pout a little if he must. Ray is saying something to Mandy, and she nods, then looks at me and smiles. I return her smile then lean onto Christian’s arm some more. He appears not to respond to me, so I try to take what comfort I can in the little contact that I can get right now.
Why have I been so damn needy today?
The conversation has picked up in the room again and luckily no one’s focusing on me… not even Christian. That’s okay. I need to be alone with my thoughts anyway without running from the house like a toddler having a temper tantrum. The melancholy is sinking in on me again, but I will not cry. I really am happy for Mandy and Daddy… and Mia and Ethan… and of course, Maxie and Phil. I just wish that my time would come, that’s all. I know it will, just… when? When will I know… we know… that we’re truly ready?
I have to be patient. I have to be a grown-up and enjoy my life with my boyfriend and be patient. We’re growing together and it’ll happen when it’s time. I just can’t help the ache that I feel. I’ve gotten to know him so well in these last few months. We’ve had several hiccups, but they have been fruitful—leading to conversations and resolutions about our feelings and our fears. Even Flynngate led to a wonderful outcome all in all. Our relationship has been glorious, even with the bumps and curves—actually, most often, because of the bumps and curves.
I’ve learned to understand and accept Christian’s possessiveness and need for control and he’s been able to temper that with my never-ending unshakable independence. I have quite the temper, but after everything that’s happened to me—hell, even a shrink is human! When our tempers butt heads, it’s the worst! Neither of us are willing to take down. It hasn’t gone so far as the hot, angry sex we had on the jet on the ride home from Anguilla. Damn! I thought we would actually hurt each other that day! Nonetheless, one or both of us will usually remember our therapy and cooler heads will prevail. Often, the cooler head will just announce that we need a break and walk away. To my surprise, most often, the cooler head is usually Christian.
It’s these times that I’m not really fond of—what he’s doing right now. I call these times participative contemplation. He doesn’t shut down completely and he doesn’t treat me like a stranger, but he does pull away just enough for me to feel the separatism. I’m sure that it’s something that he learned in therapy with Dr. Baker, something to help him cope with new emotions without flying over a cliff. I’m proud of him for exercising the new techniques so well. It’s just that today, my heart is having a hard time dealing with being on the outside.
I did waste too much of my life pining over a man that wasn’t worth my time and as a result, my life was put on hold. I wonder where I would be now if I hadn’t let that life-sucking leech into my life? I may have never met Christian—who knows. I feel cold right now, that inside out cold that doesn’t seem to go away quickly. I pull my arms and legs closer to me in an attempt to get some inner warmth. Maybe it’s thinking about that fucker Edward that’s making me so cold. That asshole could chill the pits of hell! God, I hate him! I know it’s such an unhealthy emotion, but I really hate him—more than anything!
… More than boils, fever blisters, and paper cuts!
… More than panty-lines, too-small tube tops, and sandals without a pedicure!
… More than body odor, split ends, and hangnails!
… More than toothaches, pink eye, and strep throat!
… More than…
“Good grief, Steele! If you squeeze yourself any tighter, you’re going to disappear!”
Val’s voice sounds far away, but not. I feel Christian’s arms around me, and he hoists me into his lap like a rag doll right after I could swear I heard him mumble, “She’s shrinking.”
I wasn’t shrinking…
… Was I?
I thought I was just cold.
Then I realize that my hands, arms and legs are hurting from squeezing myself together so tightly. How long was I like that?
“I was just cold,” I say in a small, soft, and squeaky voice like a scolded child.
“Well, let’s warm you up, shall we?” Christian says with a gentle smile as he pulls me close to him and cuddles me in his arms… and just like that, I’m warm.
Shit… I was shrinking, and I didn’t even know it.
“I was just cold,” I say again, no one paying attention to me except Val and Christian.
“It’s okay, baby… and now you’re not,” he says kissing my cheek.
A few moments pass and I sit in Christian’s lap, relishing the feeling of being in his arms and trying to shoo away the feelings of anger and slight despair that had taken over me moments before. I still feel like I’m shrinking a bit, but now, I put my arms around Christian’s waist and sink into him. My head is on his chest and I can hear his heartbeat. I close my eyes and listen—it feels like mine…
Thip-thump… Thip-thump… Thip-thump… Thip-thump…
This is where I belong. I love him so much… and he loves me. We have a long way to go, but Dear Jesus, we’ve come a long way.
Thip-thump… Thip-thump… Thip-thump…
His arms pull me close to him and I can feel him rubbing my back as I relax into comfort.
“So, Mia, tell us about your new apartment. I know you must be very excited about it,” I hear Mandy say.
“We are! It’s really beautiful and it took forever to find it! I think the real estate agent was saving it for last to get the best price on it…”
Thip-thump… Thip-thump… Thip-thump…
“I hope you didn’t let her take advantage of you, Meelo. I know how impetuous you can be.” His deep voice rumbles from his chest and massages my ears.
“Actually, you would have been proud, Christian,” I hear Ethan say. “It’s actually a guy, and she gave him a piece of her mind for wasting our time all day when he knew this place was available all along. She told him that she knew exactly what he was trying to do and would not let him take advantage of us. I was very impressed! My kitten became a wildcat.” Oh, how cute!
Thip-thump… Thip-thump… Thip-thump…
“Do we even want to know why you call her ‘Kitten?'” I hear Val say, her voice filled with mirth and slightly fading away again.
“… Because she’s cute and cuddly. Why else?” Oh, coy little Ethan.
Thip-thump… Thip-thump… Thip-thump…
Thip-thump… Thip-thump… Thip-thump…
Thip-thump… Thip-thump… Thip-thump… Thip-thump… Thip…
A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc. can be found at http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/mending-dr-steele/
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