"You've been so jumpy these last couple of days," he murmurs, his eyes wide and serious.
"I'm okay, Christian." I give him my brightest smile because I don't want him to know how worried I am about the arson incident. The painful recollection of how I felt when Charlie Tango was sabotaged and Christian went missing - the hollow emptiness, the indescribable pain - keeps resurfacing; the memory nagging me and gnawing at my heart. Keeping the smile fixed on my face, I try to repress it.
"Were you watching me sleep?"
"Yes," he says gazing at me steadily, studying me. "You were talking."
"Oh?" Shit! What was I saying?
"You're worried," he adds, his eyes filled with concern. I blink at him. Is there nothing I can keep from this man? He leans forward and kisses me between my brows.
"When you frown, a little V forms just here. It's soft to kiss. Don't worry baby, I'll look after you."
"It's not me I'm worried about - it's you," I grumble. "Who's looking after you?"
He smiles indulgently at my tone. "I'm big enough and ugly enough to look after myself. Come. Get up. There's one thing I'd like to do before we head home." He grins at me, a big boyish yes-I'm-reallyonly-twenty-eight grin, and swats my behind. I yelp, startled, and realize that today we're going back to Seattle and my melancholy blossoms. I don't want to leave. I've relished being with him 24-7, and I'm not ready to share him with his company and his family. We've had a blissful honeymoon. With a few ups and downs, I admit, but that's normal for a newly married couple, surely?
But Christian cannot contain his boyish excitement, and despite my dark thoughts, it's infectious. When he rises gracefully off the bed, I follow, intrigued. What has he got in mind?
Christian straps the key to my wrist.
"You want me to drive?"
"Yes." Christian grins. "That's not too tight?"
"It's fine. Is that why you're wearing a life jacket?" I arch my eyebrow.
I can't help my giggle. "Such confidence in my driving capabilities, Mr. Grey."
"As ever, Mrs. Grey."
"Well, don't lecture me."
Christian holds his hands up in a defensive gesture, but he's smiling.
"Would I dare?"
"Yes you would, and yes you do, and we can't pull over and argue on the sidewalk here."
"Fair point well made, Mrs. Grey. Are we going to stand on this platform all day debating your driving skills, or are we going to have some fun?"
"Fair point well made, Mr. Grey." I grasp the handlebars of the Jet Ski and clamber on. Christian climbs on behind me and kicks us away from the yacht. Taylor and two of the deckhands look on in amusement. Sliding forward, Christian wraps his arms around me and snuggles his thighs against mine. Yes, this is what I like about this form of transport. I insert in the ignition key and push the start button, and the engine roars into life.
"Ready?" I shout to Christian over the noise.
"As I'll ever be," he says, his mouth close to my ear. Gently, I pull on the lever and the Jet Ski moves away from the Fair Lady, far too sedately for my liking. Christian tightens his embrace. I pull on the gas some more, and we shoot forward and I'm delighted when we don't stall.
"Whoa!" Christian calls from behind, but the exhilaration in his voice is palpable. I speed past the Fair Lady toward the open sea. We're anchored outside the Port de Plaisance de Saint-Claude-du-Var, Nice airport nestling in the distance, built into the Mediterranean, or so it seems. I've heard the odd plane landing since we arrived last night. I decide we need to take a closer look.
We shoot toward it, skipping rapidly over the waves. I love this, and I'm thrilled Christian's letting me drive. All the worry I've felt over the past two days melts away as we skim toward the airport.
"Next time we do this we'll have two Jet Skis," Christian shouts. I grin - the thought of racing him is thrilling.
As we zoom over the cool blue sea toward what looks like the end of the runway, the thundering roar of a jet overhead suddenly startles me as it comes in to land. It's so loud I panic, swerving and hitting the throttle at the same time, mistaking it for a brake.
"Ana!" Christian shouts, but it's too late. I'm catapulted off the side of the Jet Ski, arms and legs flailing, taking Christian with me in a spectacular splash.
Screaming, I plunge into the crystal blue sea and swallow a nasty mouthful of the Mediterranean. The water is cold this far from the shore, but I surface within a split second, courtesy of my life jacket. Coughing and spluttering, I wipe the seawater from my eyes and look around for Christian. He's already swimming toward me. The Jet Ski floats inoffensively a few feet away from us, its engine silent.
"You okay?" His eyes are full of panic, as he reaches me.
"Yes," I croak, but I cannot contain my elation. See, Christian?
That's the worst that can happen on a Jet Ski! He pulls me into his embrace, then grabs my head between his hands, examining my face closely.
"See, that wasn't so bad!" I grin as we tread water. Eventually he smirks at me, obviously relieved. "No, I guess it wasn't. Except I'm wet," he grumbles, but his tone is playful.
"I'm wet, too."
"I like you wet." He leers.
"Christian!" I scold, trying for faux righteous indignation. He grins, looking gorgeous, then leans in and kisses me hard. When he pulls away, I'm breathless. His eyes are darker, hooded and heated, and I'm warm in spite of the cold water.
"Come. Let's head back. Now we have to shower. I'll drive."
We laze in the British Airways first class lounge at Heathrow in London, waiting for our connecting flight to Seattle. Christian is engrossed in the Financial Times. I reach over for his camera, wanting to take some photographs of him. He looks so sexy in his trademark white linen shirt and jeans, and his aviator specs tucked into the V of his open shirt. The flash disturbs him. He blinks up at me and smiles his shy smile.
"How are you, Mrs. Grey?" he asks.
"Sad to be going home," I murmur. "I like having you to myself."
He reaches out and clasps my hand. Lifting it to his lips, he grazes my knuckles with a sweet kiss. "Me too."
"But?" I ask, hearing that small word unsaid at the end of his simple statement.
He frowns. "But?" he repeats disingenuously. I tilt my head to one side, gazing at him with the tell me expression I have been perfecting over the last couple of days. He sighs, putting his newspaper down. "I want this arsonist caught and out of our lives."
"Oh." That seems fair enough, but I'm surprised by his bluntness.
"I'll have Welch's balls on a platter if he lets anything like that happen again." A shiver runs down my spine at his menacing tone. He gazes at me impassively, and I don't know if he's daring me to be flippant or what. I do the only thing I can think of to ease the sudden tension between us and raise the camera and snap another photograph.
"Hey, sleepyhead, we're home," Christian murmurs.
"Hmm," I mumble, reluctant to leave my tantalizing dream of Christian and me on a picnic blanket at Kew Gardens. I am so tired. Travelling is exhausting, even in first class. We've been up for eighteen or more hours straight, I think - in my fatigue I've lost track. I hear my door open, and Christian is leaning over me. He unbuckles my seat belt and lifts me into his arms, waking me.
"Hey, I can walk," I protest sleepily.
He snorts. "I need to carry you over the threshold."
I put my arms around his neck. "Up all thirty floors?" I give him a challenging smile.
"Mrs. Grey, I am very pleased to announce that you've put on some weight."
He grins. "So if you don't mind, we'll use the elevator." He narrows his eyes at me, though I know he's teasing.
Taylor opens the doors to the Escala lobby and smiles. "Welcome home Mr. Grey, Mrs. Grey."
"Thanks, Taylor," says Christian.
I give Taylor the briefest of smiles and watch him head back to the Audi where Sawyer waits at the wheel.
"What do you mean I've put on weight?" I glare at Christian. His grin broadens, and he clasps me closer to his chest as he carries me across the lobby.
"Not much," he assures me but his face darkens suddenly. Oh no . . . what now?
"What is it?" I breathe, trying to control the alarm I hear in my own voice.
"You've put on some of the weight you lost when you left me," he explains quietly as he summons the elevator. A bleak expression crosses his face.
No! His sudden, surprising anguish tugs at my heart.
"Hey." I curl my fingers around his face and into his hair, pulling him toward me. He comes willingly. "If I hadn't gone, would you be standing here, like this, now?" I whisper. His eyes melt, the color of a storm cloud, and he smiles his shy smile, my favorite smile.
"No," he says quietly and steps into the elevator still holding me. He leans down and kisses me gently. "No, Mrs. Grey, I wouldn't. But I would know I could keep you safe, because you wouldn't defy me."
He sounds vaguely regretful . . . Shit.
"I like defying you." I test the waters.
"I know. And it's made me so . . . happy." He smiles down at me through his bemusement.
Oh, thank heavens. "Even though I'm fat?" I whisper. He laughs. "Even though you're fat." He kisses me again, more heated this time, and I fist my fingers in his hair, holding him against me, our tongues twisting in a slow sensual dance with each other. When the elevator pings to a halt at the penthouse, we are both breathless.
"Very happy," he murmurs. His smile is darker now, his eyes hooded and full of salacious promise. He shakes his head as if to recover himself and, turning with me in his arms, walks into the foyer.
"Welcome home, Mrs. Grey." He kisses me again, more chastely this time, and gives me the full-gigawatt-patented-Christian-Grey smile, his eyes dancing with joy.
"Welcome home, Mr. Grey." I beam up at him, my heart answering his call, brimming with my own joy.
I think Christian's going to put me down, but he doesn't. He carries me through the foyer, across the corridor and into the great room, and deposits me on the kitchen island where I sit with my legs dangling. He retrieves two champagne flutes from the kitchen cupboard and a bottle of chilled champagne from the fridge - our favorite Bollinger. He deftly opens the bottle, not spilling a drop and pours the pale pink champagne into each glass and hands one to me. Taking up the other, he gently parts my legs and moves forward to stand between them.
"Here's to us, Mrs. Grey."
"To us, Mr. Grey," I whisper conscious of my shy smile. We clink glasses and take a sip.
"I know you're tired," he whispers, rubbing his nose against mine.
"But I'd really like to go to bed, and not to sleep." He kisses the corner of my mouth. "It's our first night back here, and you're really mine."
His voice drifts off as he plants soft kisses down my throat. It's only early evening in Seattle, and I am dog-tired, but desire blooms deep in my belly and my inner goddess purrs.
Christian is slumbering peacefully beside me as I stare at the pink and golden streaks of the new dawn through the vast windows. His arm is draped loosely over my br**sts, and I try to match his breathing in an effort to get back to sleep, but it's hopeless. I'm wide awake, my body clock on Greenwich mean time, my mind racing.
So much has happened in the last three weeks - who am I kidding, the last three months - I feel that my feet haven't touched the ground. And now here I am, Ana Steele - Mrs. Anastasia Grey - married to the most delicious, sexy, philanthropic, absurdly wealthy mogul a woman could meet. How did this all happen so fast?