What is he thinking? Oh, this is not the reaction I was expecting, and my subconscious glares at me like I'm a dumb domesticated farm animal. Christian never reacts the way I expect. He looks back up at me, his eyes filled with what, pain? Shit . . . what now?
"Why do you think I want this?" he asks, bemused.
No, no, no! You said you'd love it . . .
"Don't you?" I ask, refusing to acknowledge my subconscious who is questioning why anyone would want erotic photographs of me. Christian swallows and runs a hand through his hair, and he looks so lost, so confused. He takes a deep breath.
"For me, photos like those have usually been an insurance policy, Ana. I know I've objectified women for so long," he says and pauses awkwardly.
What? Where the f**k is this going?
"And you think taking pictures of me is . . . um, objectifying me?
Oh." All the air leaves my body, and the blood drains from my face. He scrunches up his eyes. "I am so confused," he whispers. When he opens his eyes again, they are wide and wary, full of some raw emotion.
Shit. What has brought this on - Me? My questions earlier about his birth mom? The fire at his office?
"Why do you say that?" I whisper, panic rising in my throat. I thought he was happy. I thought we were happy. I thought I made him happy. I don't want to confuse him. Do I? My mind starts racing. What's brought about this sea change? He hasn't seen Flynn in nearly three weeks. Is that it? Is that the reason he's unraveling? Shit, should I call Flynn? And in a possibly unique moment of extraordinary depth and clarity, it comes to me - the fire, Charlie Tango, the Jet Ski . . . He's scared, he's scared for me, and seeing these marks on my skin must bring that home. He's been fussing about them all day, confusing himself because he's not used to feeling uncomfortable about inflicting pain. The thought chills me.
He shrugs and once more his eyes move down to my wrist where the bangle he bought me this afternoon used to be. Bingo!
"Christian, these don't matter." I hold up my wrist, revealing the fading welt. "You gave me a safe word. Shit - yesterday was fun. I enjoyed it. Stop brooding about it - I like rough sex, I've told you that before." I flush scarlet as I try to quash my rising panic. He gazes at me intently, and I have no idea what he's thinking. Maybe he's measuring my words. I stumble on.
"Is this about the fire? Do you think it's connected somehow to Charlie Tango? Is this why you're worried? Talk to me, Christian - please."
He stares at me, saying nothing and the silence expands between us again like it did this afternoon. Holy f**king crap! He's not going to talk to me, I know.
"Don't overthink this Christian," I scold quietly, and the words echo, disturbing a memory from the recent past - his words to me about his stupid contract. I reach over, take the box from his lap, and open it. He watches me passively as if I'm a fascinating alien creature. Knowing that the camera is prepped by the overly helpful salesman in the store, and ready to go, I fish it out of the box and remove the lens cap. I point the camera at him so his beautiful anxious face fills the frame. I press the button and keep it pressed, and ten pictures of Christian's alarmed expression are captured digitally for posterity.
"I'll objectify you then," I murmur, pressing the shutter again. On the final still his lips twitch almost imperceptibly. I press again, and this time he smiles . . . a small smile, but a smile nevertheless. I hold down the button once more and see him physically relax in front of me and pout - a full-on, posed, ridiculous, "blue steel" pout, and it makes me giggle. Oh, thank heavens. Mr. Mercurial is back - and I've never been so pleased to see him.
"I thought it was my present," he mutters sulkily, but I think he's teasing.
"Well, it was supposed to be fun, but it's ended up as a symbol of women's oppression." I snap away, taking more pictures of him, and watch the amusement grow on his face in super close-up. Then his eyes darken, and his expression changes to predatory.
"You want to be oppressed?" he murmurs silkily.
"Not oppressed. No," I murmur back, snapping again.
"I could oppress you big time, Mrs. Grey," he threatens, his voice husky.
"I know you can, Mr. Grey. And you do, frequently."
He blinks at me as his face falls. Shit. I lower the camera and stare at him.
"What's wrong, Christian?" My voice oozes frustration. Tell me!
He says nothing. Gah! He's so infuriating. I lift the camera to my eye again.
"Tell me," I insist.
"Nothing," he says and abruptly disappears from the viewfinder. In one swift, smooth move, he reaches over, sweeps the camera box onto the cabin floor, and grabs me, pushing me down onto the bed. He sits astride me.
"Hey!" I exclaim and take more photographs of him, smiling down at me with dark intent. He grabs the camera by the lens, and the photographer becomes the subject as he points the Nikon at me and presses the shutter down.
"So, you want me to take pictures of you, Mrs. Grey?" he says, amused. All I can see of his face is his unruly hair and a broad grin on his sculptured mouth. "Well, for a start, I think you should be laughing," he says, and he tickles me ruthlessly under my ribs, making me squeal and giggle and squirm beneath him until I grasp his wrist in a vain attempt to make him stop. His grin widens, and he renews his efforts while snapping pictures.
"No! Stop!" I scream.
"Are you kidding?" he growls and puts the camera down beside us so that he can torture me with both hands.
"Christian!" I splutter and gasp my laughing protest. He has never, ever tickled me before. Fuck - stop! I thrash my head from side to side, trying to wiggle out from under him, giggling and pushing both of his hands away, but he's unrelenting - grinning down at me, enjoying my torment.
"Christian, stop!" I plead and he stops suddenly. Grabbing both of my hands, he holds them down on either side of my head while looming over me. I am panting and breathless with laughter. His breathing mirrors mine, and he gazes down at me with . . . what? My lungs stop functioning. Wonder? Love? Reverence? Holy cow. That look!
"You. Are. So. Beautiful," he breathes.
I stare up at him, at his dear, dear divine face; bathed in the intensity of his gaze, and it's as if he's seeing me for the first time. Leaning down, he closes his eyes and kisses me, enraptured. His response is a wake-up call to my libido . . . seeing him like this, undone, by me. Oh my. He releases my hands and curls his fingers around my head and into my hair, holding me gently in place, and my body rises and fills with my arousal, responding to his kiss. And suddenly the nature of his kiss alters, no longer sweet, reverential and admiring, but carnal, deep and devouring - his tongue invading my mouth, taking not giving, his kiss possessing a desperate needy edge. As desire courses through my blood, awakening every muscle and sinew in its wake, I feel a frisson of alarm.
Oh Fifty, what's wrong?
He inhales sharply and groans. "Oh, what you do to me," he murmurs, lost and raw. He moves suddenly, lying down on top of me, pressing me into the mattress - one hand cupping my chin, the other skimming over my body, my breast, my waist, my hip, and around my behind. He kisses me again, pushing his leg between mine, raising my knee, and grinding against me, his erection straining against our clothes and my sex. I gasp and moan against his lips, losing myself to his fervent passion. I dismiss the distant alarm bells in the back of my mind, knowing that he wants me, that he needs me, and that when it comes to communicating with me, this is his favorite form of self expression. I kiss him with renewed abandon, running my fingers through his hair, fisting my hands, holding tight. He tastes so good and smells of Christian, my Christian.
Abruptly, he stops, stands up, and pulls me off the bed so that I am standing in front of him, dazed. He undoes the button on my shorts and kneels quickly, yanking them and my panties down, and before I can breathe again, I am back on the bed beneath him and he's unbuttoning his fly. Holy cow, he's not taking off his clothes or my T-shirt. He holds my head and with no preamble whatsoever he thrusts himself inside me, making me cry out - more in surprise than anything else -
but I can still hear the hiss of his breath forced through his clenched teeth.
"Yessss," he breathes close to my ear. He stills, then swivels his h*ps once, pushing deeper, making me groan.
"I need you," he growls, his voice low and husky. He runs his teeth along my jaw, nipping and sucking, and then he's kissing me again, hard. I wrap my legs and arms around him, cradling and holding him hard against me, determined to wipe out whatever's worrying him, and he starts to move . . . move like he's trying to climb inside me. Over and over, frantic, primal, desperate, and before I lose myself in the insane rhythm and pace he's setting, I briefly wonder once more what's driving him, worrying him. But my body takes over, obliterating the thought, climbing and building so I am awash with sensation, meeting him thrust for thrust. Listening to his harsh breathing, labored and fierce at my ear. Knowing that he's lost in me. . . I groan loudly, panting. It's so erotic - his need, his need for me. I am reaching . . . reaching . . . and he's driving me higher, overwhelming me, taking me, and I want this. I want this so much . . . for him and for me.
"Come with me," he gasps, and he rears up over me so I have to break my hold around him.
"Open your eyes," he orders. "I need to see you." His voice is urgent, implacable. My eyes flicker open momentarily, and the sight of him above me - his face taut with ardor, his eyes raw and glowing with need. His passion and his love is my undoing, and on cue I come, throwing my head back as my body pulses around him.
"Oh, Ana," he cries and he joins my cl**ax, driving into me, then stilling and collapsing onto me. He rolls over so that I'm sprawled on top of him, and he's still inside me. As I surface from my orgasm and my body steadies and calms, I want to make some quip about being objectified and oppressed, but hold my tongue, uncertain of his mood. I glance up from Christian's chest to examine his face. His eyes are closed and his arms are wrapped around me, clinging tight. I kiss his chest through the thin fabric of his linen shirt.
"Tell me, Christian, what's wrong?" I ask softly and wait anxiously to see if even now, sated by sex, he'll tell me. I feel his arms tighten around me further, but it's his only response. He's not going to talk. Inspiration hits me.
"I give you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, to stand by your side in good times and in bad, to share your joy as well as your sorrow," I murmur.
He freezes. His only movement is to open wide his fathomless eyes and gaze at me as I continue my wedding vows.
"I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals and dreams, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, to share my hopes and dreams with you, and bring you solace in times of need." I pause, willing him to talk to me. He watches me, his lips parted, but says nothing.
"And to cherish you for as long as we both shall live." I sigh.
"Oh, Ana," he whispers and moves again, breaking our precious contact so that we're lying side by side. He strokes my face with the back of his knuckles.
"I solemnly vow that I will safeguard and hold dear and deep in my heart our union and you," he whispers, his voice hoarse . "I promise to love you faithfully, forsaking all others, through the good times and the bad, in sickness or in health, regardless of where life takes us. I will protect you, trust you, and respect you. I will share your joys and sorrows and comfort you in times of need. I promise to cherish you and uphold your hopes and dreams and keep you safe at my side. All that is mine is now yours. I give you my hand, my heart, and my love from this moment on for as long as we both shall live."
Tears spring to my eyes. His face softens as he gazes at me.