"I don't like you taking your clothes off in public. That's a hard limit for me," he growls.
"I think we've established that," I hiss through my teeth. "Look at me!" I pull down my camisole to reveal the top of my br**sts. Christian gazes at me, his eyes not leaving my face his expression wary and uncertain. He's not used to seeing me this mad. Can't he see what he's done? Can't he see how ridiculous he is? I want to shout at him, but I refrain - I don't want to push him too far. Heaven knows what he'd do.
Eventually, he blinks and holds his palms up in a resigned, conciliatory gesture.
"Okay," he says his voice placating. "I get it."
He runs his hand through his hair. "I'm sorry. Please don't be mad at me." Finally, he looks contrite - using my own words back at me.
"You are such an adolescent sometimes," I scold him, mulishly, but the fight has gone out of my voice, and he knows it. He steps closer and tentatively raises his hand to tuck my hair behind my ear.
"I know," he acknowledges softly. "I have a lot to learn."
Dr. Flynn's words come back to me . . . Emotionally, Christian is an adolescent, Ana. He bypassed that phase in his life totally. He's channeled all his energies into succeeding in the business world, and he has beyond all expectations. His emotional world has to play catch- up.
My heart thaws a little.
"We both do." I sigh and cautiously raise my hand, placing it over his heart. He doesn't flinch like he used to, but he stiffens. He rests his hand over mine and smiles his shy smile.
"I've just learned that you've a good arm and a good aim, Mrs. Grey. I would never have figured that, but then I constantly underestimate you. You always surprise me."
I arch my eyebrow at him. "Target practice with Ray. I can throw and shoot straight, Mr. Grey, and you'd do well to remember that."
"I will endeavor to do that, Mrs. Grey, or ensure that all potential projectile objects are nailed down and that you don't have access to a gun." He smirks at me.
I smirk back, narrowing my eyes. "I'm resourceful."
"That you are," he whispers and releases my hand to circle his arms around me. Pulling me into an embrace, he buries his nose in my hair. I wrap my arms around him, holding him close, and feel the tension leave his body as he nuzzles me.
"Am I forgiven?"
I feel his smile. "Yes," he answers.
We stand holding each other, my pique forgotten. He does smell good, adolescent or not. How can I resist him?
"Hungry?" he says after a while. I have my eyes closed and my head against his chest.
"Yes. Famished. All the . . . er . . . activity has given me an appetite. But I'm not dressed for dinner." I'm sure my sweatpants and camisole would be frowned upon in the dining room.
"You look good to me, Anastasia. Besides, it's our boat for the week; we can dress how we like. Think of it as dress down Tuesday on the Cote D'Azur. Anyway, I thought we'd eat on deck."
"Yes, I'd like that."
He leans down and kisses me - an earnest forgive-me kiss - then we wander hand in hand toward the bow where our gazpacho soup awaits.
The steward serves our creme brulee and discreetly retires.
"Why do you always braid my hair?" I ask Christian out of curiosity. We're sitting adjacent to each other at the table, my lower leg curled around his. He pauses as he's about to pick up his dessertspoon and frowns.
"I don't want your hair catching in anything," he says quietly, and for a moment he's lost in thought. "Habit, I think," he muses. Suddenly he frowns and his eyes widen, his pupils dilating with alarm. Holy shit! What's he remembered? It's something painful, some early childhood memory, I guess. I don't want to remind him of that. Leaning over, I put my index finger over his lips.
"No, it doesn't matter. I don't need to know. I was just curious." I give him a warm, reassuring smile. His look is wary, but after a moment he visibly relaxes, his relief evident. I lean over to kiss the corner of his mouth.
"I love you," I murmur, and he smiles his heart-achingly shy smile, and I melt. "I will always love you, Christian."
"And I you," he says softly.
"In spite of my disobedience?" I raise my eyebrow.
"Because of your disobedience, Anastasia." He grins at me.
I crack my spoon through the burnt sugar crust of my dessert and shake my head. Will I ever understand this man? Hmm - this creme brulee is delicious.
Once the steward has cleared our dessert plates, Christian reaches for the bottle of rose and refills my glass. I check that we're alone and ask,
"What's with the no going to the bathroom thing?"
"You really want to know?" He half smiles, his eyes alight with a salacious gleam.
"Do I?" I gaze at him through my lashes as I take a sip of my wine.
"The fuller your bladder, the more intense your orgasm, Ana."
I flush. "Oh. I see." Holy cow, that explains a lot. He grins at me, looking far too knowing. Will I always be on the back foot with Mr. Sexpertise?
"Yes. Well . . ." I desperately hunt around for a change of subject. He takes pity on me.
"What do you want to do for the rest of the evening?" He cocks his head to one side and gives me his lopsided grin.
Whatever you want, Christian. Put your theory to the test again? I shrug.
"I know what I want to do," he murmurs. Grabbing his glass of wine, he rises and holds his hand out to me. "Come."
I take his hand and he leads me into the main salon. His iPod is in the speaker dock on the bureau. He switches it on and selects a song.
"Dance with me." He pulls me into his arms.
"If you insist."
"I insist, Mrs. Grey."
A slinky, cheesy melody starts. Is this a Latin rhythm? Christian grins down at me and starts to move, sweeping me off my feet and taking me with him round the salon.
A man with a voice like warm melted caramel croons. It's a song I know but can't place. Christian dips me low, and I yelp in surprise and giggle. He smiles down at me, his eyes filled with humor. Then he scoops me up and spins me under his arm.
"You dance so well," I say. "It's like I can dance."
He gives me a sphinxlike smile but says nothing, and I wonder if it's because he's thinking of her . . . Mrs. Robinson, the woman who taught him how to dance - and how to f**k. She hasn't crossed my mind for a while. Christian has not mentioned her since his birthday, and as far as I'm aware, their business relationship is over. Reluctantly though, I have to admit - she was some teacher.
He dips me low again and plants a swift kiss on my lips.
"I'd miss your love," I murmur, echoing the lyrics.
"I'd more than miss your love," he says and spins me once more. Then he sings the words softly in my ear making me swoon.
The track ends and Christian gazes down at me, his eyes dark and luminous, all humor gone, and I'm suddenly breathless.
"Come to bed with me?" he whispers and it's a heartfelt plea that tugs at my heart.
Christian, you had me at I do - two and half weeks ago. But I know this is his way of apologizing and making sure all is well between us after our spat.
When I wake, the sun is shining through the portholes and the water reflects shimmering patterns onto the cabin ceiling. Christian is nowhere to be seen. I stretch out and smile. Hmm . . . I'll take a punishment f**k followed by makeup sex any day. I marvel what it is to go to bed with two different men - angry Christian and sweet let-memake-it-up-to-you-in-any-way-I-can Christian. It's tricky to decide which of them I like the best. I rise and head for the bathroom. Opening the door, I find Christian inside shaving, n**ed except for a towel wrapped around his waist. He turns and beams at me, not fazed that I am interrupting him. I have discovered that Christian will never lock the door if he is the only person in the room - the reason why is sobering, and not one I want to dwell on.
"Good morning, Mrs. Grey," he says, radiating his good mood.
"Good morning yourself." I grin back as I watch him shave. I love watching him shave. He pulls up his chin and shaves beneath it, taking long deliberate strokes, and I find myself unconsciously mirroring his actions. Pulling my upper lip down just as he does, to shave his philtrum. He turns and smirks at me, one half of his face still covered in shaving soap.
"Enjoying the show?" he asks.
Oh, Christian, I could watch you for hours. "One of my all-time favorites," I murmur, and he leans down and kisses me quickly, smearing shaving soap on my face.
"Shall I do this to you again?" he whispers wickedly and holds up the razor.
I purse my lips at him. "No," I mutter, pretending to sulk. "I'll wax next time." I remember Christian's joy in London when he'd discovered that during his one meeting there, I'd shaved off my pubic hair out of curiosity. Of course I hadn't done it to Mr. Exacting's high standards . . .
"What the hell have you done?" Christian exclaims. He cannot keep his horrified amusement to himself. He sits up in bed in our suite at Browns Hotel near Piccadilly, switches on the bedside light and gazes down at me, his mouth a startled O. It must be midnight. I blush the color of the sheets in the playroom and try to pull down my satin nightdress so he can't see. He grabs my hand to stop me.
"I - err . . . shaved."
"I can see that. Why?" He's grinning from ear to ear. I cover my face with my hands. Why am I so embarrassed?
"Hey," he says softly and pulls my hand away. "Don't hide." He's biting his lip so that he won't laugh. "Tell me. Why?" His eyes dance with merriment. Why does he find this so funny?
"Stop laughing at me."
"I'm not laughing at you. I'm sorry. I'm . . . delighted," he says.
"Oh . . ."
"Tell me. Why?"
I take a deep breath. "This morning, after you left for your meeting, I took a shower and was remembering all your rules."
He blinks. The humor in his expression has vanished, and he regards me cautiously.
"And I was ticking them off one by one and how I felt about them, and I remembered the beauty salon, and I thought . . . this is what you'd like. I wasn't brave enough to get a wax." My voice disappears into a whisper.
He stares at me, his eyes glowing - this time not with mirth at my folly, but with love.
"Oh Ana," he breathes. He leans down and kisses me tenderly.
"You beguile me," he whispers against my lips and kisses me once more, clasping my face in both his hands.
After a breathless moment, he pulls back and leans up on one elbow. The humor is back.
"I think I should do a thorough inspection of your handiwork, Mrs. Grey."
"What? No." He has to be kidding! I cover myself, protecting my recently deforested area.
"Oh no you don't, Anastasia." He grasps my hands and pries them away, moving nimbly so he's between my legs, pinning my hands to my sides. He gives me a burning look that could light dry tinder, but before I combust, he bends and skims his lips down my n**ed belly directly to my sex. I squirm beneath him, reluctantly resigned to my fate.
"Well, what have we here?" Christian plants a kiss where, until this morning, I had pubic hair - then scrapes his bristly chin across me.
"Ah!" I exclaim. Wow . . . that's sensitive.
Christian's eyes dart to mine, full of salacious longing. "I think you missed a bit," he mutters and tugs gently, right underneath.
"Oh . . . Damn," I mutter, hoping this will put an end to his frankly intrusive scrutiny.