He dives beneath the sea and surfaces three feet away from me, then in a fluid, graceful crawl, swims away from the shore, away from me.
Gah! Playful, tantalizing Fifty! I shield my eyes from the sun as I watch him go. He's such a tease . . . what can I do to get him back?
While I swim back to the shore, I contemplate my options. At the sun loungers our drinks have arrived and I take a quick sip of Coke. Christian is a faint speck in the distance.
Hmm . . . I lie down on my front and, fumbling with the straps, take my bikini top off and toss it casually onto Christian's sun lounger. There . . . see how brazen I can be, Mr. Grey. Put this in your pipe and smoke it. I shut my eyes and let the sun warm my skin . . . warm my bones, and I drift away under its heat, my thoughts turning to my wedding day.
"You may kiss the bride," Reverend Walsh gushes.
I beam up at my husband.
"Finally, you're mine," he whispers, and he pulls me into his arms and kisses me chastely on the lips.
I am married. I am Mrs. Christian Grey. I am giddy with joy.
"You look beautiful, Ana," he murmurs and smiles, his eyes glowing with love . . . and something darker, something hot. "Don't let anyone take that dress off but me, understand?" His smile heats a hundred degrees as his fingertips trail down my cheek, igniting my blood.
Holy crap . . . How does he do this, even here with all these people staring at us?
I nod mutely. Jeez, I hope no one can hear us. Luckily Reverend Walsh has discreetly stepped back. I glance at the throng gathered in their wedding finery . . . My mom, Ray, Bob, and the Greys are all applauding - even Kate, my maid of honor, who looks stunning in pale pink as she stands beside Christian's best man, his brother, Elliot. Who knew that even Elliot could scrub up so well? All wear huge, beaming smiles - except Grace, who weeps graciously into a dainty white handkerchief.
"Ready to party, Mrs. Grey?" Christian murmurs, giving me his shy smile. I melt. He looks divine in a simple black tux with silver waistcoat and tie. He's so . . . dashing.
"Ready as I'll ever be." I grin, a totally goofy smile on my face. Later the wedding party is in full swing . . . Carrick and Grace have gone to town. They have the marquee set up again and beautifully decorated in pale pink, silver and ivory with its sides open, facing the bay. We have been blessed with fine weather, and the late afternoon sun shines over the water. There's a dance floor at one end of the marquee, a lavish buffet at the other.
Ray and my mother are dancing and laughing with each other. I feel bittersweet watching them together. I hope Christian and I last longer. I don't know what I'd do if he left me. Marry in haste, repent at leisure. The saying haunts me.
Kate is beside me, looking so beautiful in her long silk gown. She glances at me and frowns. "Hey, this is supposed to be the happiest day of your life," she scolds.
"It is," I whisper.
"Oh Ana, what's wrong? Are you watching your mom and Ray?"
I nod sadly.
"You're having doubts?" Kate asks, alarmed.
"No, not at all. It's just . . . I love him so much." I freeze, unable or unwilling to articulate my fears.
"Ana, it's obvious he adores you. I know you had an unconventional start to your relationship, but I can see how happy you've both been over the past month." She grasps my hands, squeezing them. "Besides, it's too late now," she adds, grinning at me.
I giggle. Trust Kate to point out the obvious. She pulls me into a Katherine Kavanagh Special Hug. "Ana, you'll be fine. And if he does hurt one hair on your head, he'll have me to answer to." Releasing me, she grins at whoever is behind me.
"Hi, baby." Christian puts his arms around me, surprising me, and kisses my temple. "Kate," he acknowledges. He's still cool toward her even after six weeks.
"Hello again, Christian. I'm off to find your best man, who happens to be my best man, too." With a smile to us both, she heads over to Elliot, who is drinking with her brother Ethan and our friend Jose.
"Time to go," Christian murmurs.
"Already? This is the first party I've been to where I don't mind being the center of attention." I turn in his arms to face him.
"You deserve to be. You look stunning, Anastasia."
"So do you."
He smiles down at me, his expression heating. "This beautiful dress becomes you."
"This old thing?" I flush shyly and pull at the fine lace trim of the simple, fitted wedding dress designed for me by Kate's mother. I love that the lace is just off the shoulder; demure, yet alluring, I hope. He bends and kisses me. "Let's go. I don't want to share you with all these people anymore."
"Can we leave our own wedding?"
"Baby, it's our party, and we can do whatever we want. We've cut the cake. And right now, I'd like to whisk you away and have you all to myself."
I giggle. "You have me for a lifetime, Mr. Grey."
"I'm very glad to hear that, Mrs. Grey."
"Oh, there you two are! Such lovebirds."
I groan inwardly . . . Grace's mother has found us.
"Christian, darling - one more dance with your grandma?"
Christian's lips purse slightly.
"Of course, Grandmother."
"And you, beautiful Anastasia, go and make an old man happy -
dance with Theo."
"Oh, I think you can call me Grandma. Now, you two seriously need to get working on my great-grandkids. I won't last too much longer." She gives us both a simpering smile. Christian blinks at her in horror.
"Come, Grandmother," he says, hurriedly taking her hand and leading her to the dance floor. He glances back at me, practically pouting, and rolls his eyes. "Laters, baby."
As I walk toward Grandpa Trevelyan, Jose accosts me.
"I won't ask you for another dance. I think I monopolized too much of your time on the dance floor as it is . . . I'm happy to see you happy, but I'm serious, Ana. I'll be here . . . If you need me."
"Jose, thank you. You're a good friend."
"I mean it." His dark eyes burn bright with sincerity.
"I know you do. Thank you, Jose. Now if you'll please excuse me -
I have a date with an old man."
He blinks at me in incomprehension.
"Christian's grandfather," I clarify.
He grins. "Good luck with that, Annie. Good luck with everything."
After my dance with Christian's ever-charming grandfather, I stand by the French doors, watching the sun sink slowly over Seattle, casting bright orange and aquamarine shadows across the bay.
"Let's go," Christian urges.
"I have to change." I grasp his hand, meaning to pull him through the French windows and upstairs with me. He frowns, not understanding, and tugs gently on my hand, halting me.
"I thought you wanted to be the one to take this dress off," I explain. His eyes light up.
"Correct." He gives me a lascivious grin. "But I'm not undressing you here. We wouldn't leave until . . . I don't know . . ." He waves his long-fingered hand, leaving his sentence unfinished but his meaning quite clear.
I flush and let go of his hand.
"And don't take your hair down either," he murmurs darkly.
"But - "
"No buts, Anastasia. You look beautiful. And I want to be the one to undress you."
Oh. I frown.
"Pack your going-away clothes," he orders. "You'll need them. Taylor has your main suitcase."
"Okay." What has he got planned? He hasn't told me where we're going. In fact, I don't think anyone knows where we're going. Neither Mia nor Kate has managed to inveigle the information out of him. I turn to where my mother and Kate are hovering nearby.
"I'm not changing."
"What?" my mother says.
"Christian doesn't want me to." I shrug as if this should explain everything. Her brow furrows briefly.
"You didn't promise to obey," she reminds me tactfully. Kate tries to disguise her snort as a cough. I narrow my eyes at her. Neither she nor my mother have any idea of the fight Christian and I had about that. I don't want to rehash that argument. Jeez, can my Fifty Shades sulk . . . and have nightmares. The memory is sobering.
"I know, Mom, but he likes this dress, and I want to please him."
Her expression softens. Kate rolls her eyes and tactfully moves away to leave me alone with my mother.
"You look so lovely, darling." Carla gently tugs at a loose tendril of my hair and strokes my chin. "I am so proud of you, honey. You're going to make Christian a very happy man." She pulls me into a hug. Oh Mom! "I can't believe how grown-up you look right now. Beginning a new life . . . Just remember that men are from a different planet, and you'll be fine."
I giggle. Christian is from a different universe, if only she knew.
Ray joins us, smiling sweetly at both Mom and me.
"You made a beautiful baby girl, Carla," he says, his eyes glowing with pride. He looks so dapper in his black tux and pale pink waistcoat. Tears prick the back of my eyes. Oh no . . . so far I have managed not to cry.
"And you watched her and helped her grow up, Ray," Carla's voice is wistful.
"And I loved every single minute. You make one hell of a bride, Annie," Ray tucks the same loose strand of hair behind my ear.
"Oh, Dad . . ." I stifle a sob, and he hugs me in his brief, awkward way.
"You'll make one hell of a wife, too," he whispers, his voice hoarse. When he releases me, Christian is back at my side.
Ray shakes his hand warmly. "Look after my girl, Christian."
"I fully intend to, Ray. Carla." He nods at my stepdad and kisses my mom.
The rest of the wedding guests have formed a long human arch for us to travel through, leading round to the front of the house.
"Ready?" Christian says.
Taking my hand, he leads me under their outstretched arms while our guests shout good luck and congratulations and shower us with rice. Waiting with smiles and hugs at the end of the arch are Grace and Carrick. In turn they hug and kiss us both. Grace is emotional again as we bid them hasty goodbyes.
Taylor is waiting to whisk us away in the Audi SUV. As Christian holds the car door open for me, I turn and toss my bouquet of white and pink roses into the crowd of young women that has gathered. Mia triumphantly holds it aloft, grinning from ear to ear. As I slide into the SUV laughing at Mia's audacious catch, Christian bends to gather the hem of my dress. Once I'm safely in, he bids the waiting crowd a farewell.
Taylor holds the car door open for him. "Congratulations, sir."
"Thank you, Taylor," Christian replies as he seats himself beside me.
As Taylor pulls away, the vehicle is showered with rice by our wedding guests. Christian grasps my hand and kisses my knuckles.
"So far so good, Mrs. Grey?"
"So far so wonderful, Mr. Grey. Where are we going?"
"Sea-Tac," he says simply and smiles a sphinxlike smile. Hmm . . . what is he planning?
Taylor does not head for the departure terminal as I expect but through a security gate and directly on to the tarmac. What? And then I see her - Christian's jet . . . Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. in large blue lettering across her fuselage.
"Don't tell me you're misusing company property again!"
"Oh, I hope so, Anastasia." Christian grins.
Taylor halts at the foot of the steps leading up to the plane and leaps out of the Audi to open Christian's door. They have a brief discussion, then Christian opens my door - and rather than stepping back to give me room to climb out, he leans in and lifts me.