It was a sigh of contentment that first pierced through his deep slumber. Chuck didn't know how long he had been asleep for, but he felt like he had been knocked out. Slowly, he blinked his eyes open to find a pair of chocolate-colored eyes staring back at him. He was unable to keep the ridiculously large smile from crossing his face, and noted that Blair had a matching one.

"Good morning," she sang happily.

"Good morning, beautiful," he said, his voice heavy with sleep. He reached over to pull her closer to him. "Why are you all the way over there?"

Blair readily came into his embrace, her arms twining around his neck. "I didn't want to wake you up, you needed the rest."

Chuck couldn't stop himself from smirking, as he tugged one of her curls. "I don't know, Princess, somehow I recall wearing you out, not the other way around."

"Yet, I'm the one who's been awake for the past few hours," she tsked with a shake of her head, "while you're dead to the world."

"What time is it?"

"Three-thirty."

He sat up abruptly, untangling himself from Blair, and turned to look at the clock on her nightstand. He jumped out of bed and looked for his jacket. He fumbled through his jacket and pants pockets until he found his phone. Just as he suspected, three missed calls. "Shit."

"Chuck?"

He turned around to look at Blair, a look of apology already pasted on his face. "I can't believe I slept in so late."

"It was almost six when we went to bed," Blair said with an amused look. "I guess it's safe to say we both wore each other out, then?"

They had made love until it was dawn, and it had been slow, unhurried. There had been a sense of reverence at first, as though they were exploring each other's bodies for the first time. But the open emotional connection had paved the way for them to be freer with their affection, and less restrained with their passion. He could feel the scratches that ran down his back and knew without a doubt he would be wincing when he showered. And he'd have to be blind not to notice the faint marks that peppered Blair's neck.

"We're perfect for each other," he said, taking his place back on her bed. He pulled Blair up, and kissed her softly. He rested his forehead against hers. "So perfect, I hope, that you won't be upset with me when I tell you I have to leave."

"Now? You just woke up," Blair whined, as she rubbed her nose against his. She turned the same tables on him that he had attempted to do two nights before. "What's so important that you can't stay in bed with me for the rest of the day?"

"Regrettably, my father got back from Tokyo, and we have a scheduled business dinner tonight."

"It's Sunday."

"I know, but…" Chuck hesitated.

"What is it?" The playfulness faded from her voice.

"It's just that it's the first time he wants to debrief me, himself, after a business trip. And he mentioned something about wanting my opinion on the Worthington merger." He hated that he couldn't keep the eagerness out of his voice. "And since we're both jetlagged, the idea was an early meal so we could establish a game plan for Monday morning meetings."

"It sounds like Bart is finally starting to take notice of you. You should go," Blair said, but then she corrected herself. "No, you need to go. I know how much this means to you."

"It's the only thing that could drag me out of this bed, and looking at you now, I'm wondering if I might be wrong," Chuck said honestly. He didn't know if it was wise to leave Blair so soon after they had made up. Last night had been a near disaster, and he was loathe to do anything that could upset this new sense of peace he had. In fact, he was overwhelmed at the growing reality that he wanted this relationship with Blair almost as much, if not more, than he wanted his father's approval.

Blair shook her head and gave him a smile of encouragement. "Chuck, you've been waiting for this, it's important and you can't pass it up. But I'm sure if you ask nicely, I can be convinced to wait for you at The Empire, to greet you when you get back."

I love you. He could feel those three little words dancing on the tip of his tongue, just waiting to be said. Last night, it had struck him that coupled with the Erickson Beamon necklace, a love declaration might be a bit over-the-top. He hadn't wanted to overwhelm her or scare her off by saying those words. Would now be the right time to say it? But what if she didn't say it back, he thought self-consciously. If she didn't say the words back, he wouldn't be able to focus on his meeting with Bart. He would just have to wait until a better time presented itself for him to tell her the depths of his feelings. A better time. There would be so many to choose from, and he couldn't help but smile at the thought.

"Be there tonight."

"I said if you asked nicely."

"That was nice." He raised a brow.

Blair laughed as she shook her head. "Just for the record, I'm only going to be there because I want to see you tonight, not the other way around. What time will—."

"Come with me," he interrupted without thinking.

"Excuse me?"

"Come with me, and have dinner with my father," Chuck repeated firmly, realizing how much he wanted that.

"But it's—."

"Don't you want to?" He interrupted again, keeping the tautness out of his voice.

"What? Of course I want to go." She paused for a moment. "But this dinner is a wonderful business opportunity for you and I don't want to…"

"Don't want to what? Give me the chance to finally show you off to Bart?" He countered.

"You want to show me off?" Blair teased, but he could hear the thread of excitement in her voice.

"Fuck yes."

"Well, I suppose it's too early in the relationship to deny you something you want so much."

"How very gracious of you," Chuck smirked. "Now if only you would condescend to shower with me."

"Oh, I think that can be arranged…"

.

.

.

Chuck and Blair stepped out of the elevator and into the Bass penthouse at The Palace. Despite the fact that Bart acted all gung-ho about his upcoming nuptials to Lily, he had refused to let go of the penthouse. When Chuck had questioned him about it, Bart had explained that he thought it was wise to retain his own residence. The penthouse would still be able to serve as a "home office", because if he really wanted a marriage with Lily to be a success, coming home with a briefcase full of items to work on, was not going to cut it. It seemed as though he was making a genuine effort to be a husband.

"Father?" Chuck called out.

"In the office," Bart's voice came from deep inside the penthouse.

He turned to Blair with a smile. "Will you wait here? I want to give him fair warning him that I brought you with me."

"We don't have to do this tonight, Chuck," Blair said uncertainly. She looked adorable as she bit her lip and started cracking her knuckles.

"You nervous, Waldorf? Having second thoughts?"

She glared at him.

Chuck reached out and grabbed her hands. "Parents worship you."

"I know," she snapped haughtily, snatching her hands back. "Who said anything about being nervous?"

He politely refrained from mentioning the fact that she had confessed that cracking her knuckles was a nervous habit she hadn't quite rid herself of, the night they had spent talking in the limo. Instead, he quietly said, "I did. Because even though you might not be, I am. I've never invited someone home to have dinner with my father."

Blair looked down at the ground and mumbled, "Yes, I'm nervous."

He tipped her chin up and kissed her softly. He felt her lips turn upwards and begrudgingly pulled away. Staring down at her, he said, "Bart already likes you."

"But that was different—I was introduced as Serena's best friend," she argued. "Being here with you, it changes things."

"Charles?"

They both turned to stare down the hallway from where Bart's voice was heard.

"What's taking you so long?"

"I'll be right there!" He turned to look at Blair. "I'll just be a couple of minutes. Wait for me in the study—it's through those doors." He gestured to his left.

Blair nodded and gave him a quick smile, he watched as she disappeared into the room. Before he could even turn around, he felt his father's hand clap him soundly on the back and he jumped.

"Son?"

"Father."

"You're early and I'm starving. Let's just grab something quick at the Palace Gate, and then come back up to discuss business."

"Yeah, about that…" he trailed off.

A look of impatience crossed his father's face. "What is it?"

"I'm early because I brought a guest for dinner."

"We need to discuss the Worthington merger," Bart said flatly. "I thought this was a new step for us. If you've brought one of your women here, you'll just have to send her home. You know my stance on your lifestyle."

Chuck glanced at the study doors that were still slightly ajar, and he hoped that Blair couldn't hear them. He turned back to his father and asked in irritation, "Have I ever brought a woman home for dinner?"

"No," Bart paused as he quirked a brow, "I suppose you haven't."

"I'd appreciate it if you'd give me a little credit. I want you to meet my girlfriend and have dinner with her. She's more than aware that we need to discuss the merger, and I'm going to send her home in the limo after we're done with the meal."

"Girlfriend?" Bart said speculatively. "Is this one of your plots to appease me?"

Chuck scowled.

"I told you, until you concern yourself about your reputation, I can't trust that you have Bass Industries best interest at heart."

"Do you mind keeping your voice down?" He hissed. "I'd rather not subject her to our happy family dynamic until further down the road. It's a bit much for the first meeting with the parent."

"Well, where is this specimen? I'm sure she's a paragon of virtue," Bart said snidely. "I can't wait to see who you've brought tonight."

He stared angrily at his father. This was not going to go well. What had he been thinking?

The sound of a door shutting loudly had both Bass men swiveling their heads.

"Blair," Chuck said uncomfortably. What had she overheard?

With a doe-eyed look on her face, Blair blinked innocently and asked, "I'm sorry, am I interrupting? Hello, Mr. Bass. I apologize that we didn't give you any advance notice about dinner tonight. If I'm infringing, I'd be more than happy to leave you two, and we can reschedule another time, right, Chuck?"

She slipped her arm around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder, all the while smiling charmingly at his father. He relaxed at her warmth and laced his fingers with hers and squeezed gently.

"Blair," Bart recovered a moment later. He looked at her suspiciously. "You're here with Charles?"

"I hope you don't mind," she said sweetly.

Bart turned his focus to him. "This is your girlfriend?"

Chuck smirked. Bart was impressed.

"Oh, I'm your girlfriend, now?" Blair asked coyly, her face glowing with amusement.

Her smile drew him in, and his father's presence was temporarily forgotten.

"Well, if you weren't, do you think I'd invite you to dinner with my father?" He teased back.

She wrinkled her nose. "Point taken. Although, next time, you might want to ask a girl first."

"Why? It would've given you a chance to say no," he smarmed.

Before Chuck could lean down to kiss her, Bart cleared his throat. The pair turned to him.

"How long have you two been dating?" Bart asked bluntly.

"Since your engagement party," Blair answered honestly.

Bart looked surprised. "That was months ago."

"Two, actually," Blair specified. "I asked Chuck to keep things a secret, because I didn't want any scrutiny to ruin things before it even started. I know that I'm not the typical type of woman Chuck associates with, and I wanted to make sure that there was substance to our relationship, before we made things public. It was his idea to invite me to dinner tonight, to show me how serious he was about us. I was just so excited by the gesture that I couldn't resist crashing your business dinner."

Chuck stared at Blair with awe. Somehow she had managed to truthfully relay their story, and she spun it to look as though he were the prize, when it was obvious that he was the winner in this scenario. When he looked over at Bart, he blinked his eyes in disbelief—he wasn't used to the alien look of pride that was stamped on Bart's face.

"Well, Blair," his father said enthusiastically. "You're more than welcome. And I can't tell you how pleased I am that you and Chuck are dating. If I had known, I could have had something special arranged. Let me call down to Gilt and see if I can't have them whip something up."

"You don't have to go to the trouble," she offered politely.

"No, it'll be my pleasure," Bart smiled widely.

Chuck narrowed his eyes—since when did his father smile?

"Charles, get Blair a drink," Bart ordered. "Excuse me while I call down."

"Thank you, Mr. Bass," Blair said.

"Please, call me Bart."

When it was just the two of them alone in the foyer again, Chuck pulled her flush to his body. As Blair's hands slid up his chest, he whispered the word, "Liar."

Blair rolled her eyes. "What?"

"'He doesn't have to go to all the trouble', my ass."

She shrugged. "I only have to be perfect for the first dinner. Once I've thoroughly charmed him, I can slowly become more demanding."

"God, you're so hot when you're being devious," Chuck said appreciatively.

Blair smirked before pulling his head down towards hers. "Your father's going to be back soon. So why don't you take advantage of his absence and kiss me, boyfriend?"

He was smiling when his lips captured hers. He couldn't believe how lucky he was. Flawless girlfriend was fucking flawless.

.

.

.

Blair was humming to herself as she practically floated out of the elevator. Dinner had gone unbelievably well. Even now, she could still see the happy look on Chuck's face as he had escorted her to the limo and given her a lingering kiss goodbye. It was obvious that Chuck hadn't expected the meal to be that much of a success, as Bart had chatted amicably, even teaming up with Blair to poke fun at his son. It had felt so right, so natural, that Blair had to stop from kicking herself about having kept their relationship a secret for so long.

Tonight had been an omen—a good one—of things to come. She was surprised that she had enjoyed Bart's company, especially since her guard had been up, waiting for some sign of Big Bad Bart to bubble up to the surface. But the elder Bass' alter ego did not make an appearance, as he instead showed a genuine interest in Blair and her relationship with his son. She had even noticed the soft smile that crossed Bart's face, when Chuck had moved his chair closer to hers so he could slip an arm around her while they drank coffee. And Bart had almost been boyish in his delight at finding out that Lily, who he confessed had kept mentioning how Chuck and Blair dating appeared to be inevitable, was in the dark about their relationship. When Chuck had informed Bart that he was the first person who knew about their official dating status, he had promised not to breathe a word to Lily, or to anyone else, for that matter, after Blair had explained how she wished for things to play out.

She felt so giddy that she wondered if she was going to drive herself crazy, waiting for Chuck to finish his meeting with Bart. He had promised to pick her up when he was done, so they could spend the night together. Talking to Serena would provide her the best distraction, and Blair debated if she should just invite her over for some much needed face-to-face girl time. She knew S was probably dying for the details, and Blair couldn't wait to tell her how her night had gone from tragically devastating to ridiculously romantic.

Blair shrugged out of her coat and tossed it onto her bed. She sat down at her vanity, and giggled when she caught her own reflection. She was barely wearing any makeup and her face was radiant with happiness. And even though she wasn't actually smiling, her eyes were sparkling brightly. It was obvious that dating Chuck Bass was the best beauty regiment she could have taken up.

As she reached for her phone, there was a quick knock on her bedroom door, before it flung open.

"Blair, darling, there you are," Eleanor said as she entered the room uninvited, a glimmer in her eyes. "I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have to wait until tomorrow to talk to you."

"Is there something pressing?" Blair asked with a hint of concern, her mind automatically shifting to business. "Please don't tell me there's another issue with the samples. Mother, I don't care how long you've been working with Swanson, this is no longer accept—."

Eleanor laughed as she moved to sit down on the bed.

"I'm all for loyalty, and perhaps once upon a decade they used to produce quality work," Blair continued, trying to temper her frustration. She had warned her mother over the past two years to find a new production company to manufacture the samples, but as was par for the course, Eleanor had ignored her recommendation. "This is the last straw, Mother. Incompetence is unacceptable, and I don't know how you can tolerate it."

Eleanor shook her head. "Blair, sometimes I think you have an overactive imagination. You got all that from me saying I wondered where you were?"

Blair's mouth opened in protest, but then she realized her mother was right. With a look of chagrin, she said, "Maybe I jumped the gun…?"

"A little bit," Eleanor said with a smirk.

Blair waited for her mother to say something, but instead of talking, Eleanor started to assess her. Blair tried not to fidget, but the way Eleanor's eyes combed her appearance from head-to-toe, made her feel as though she were in high school again, and she felt uncomfortable from the scrutiny.

"Are you using a new moisturizer?"

Her hand automatically went to her face, bracing herself for the worst. "No."

"Well, your skin looks fabulous," Eleanor said with a smile. "You know, I was worried all last week, you seemed under the weather. Cyrus and I almost didn't go to the country house this weekend, but then on Friday you seemed to bounce back. And now you're practically glowing, is there something you need to tell me?"

She could feel her skin flush as her lips turned upwards. Shyly, she said, "I might have met someone."

"He wouldn't happen to be a handsome, dark-haired gentleman who attended the Cotillion luncheon yesterday, now would he?"

"How did you know?"

"Trish Baizen, she called while we were driving back," Eleanor explained smugly.

"Why would she call you?" Blair frowned. Her mind quickly scanned to brunch the previous day, she was certain that there was nothing in her behavior that would implicate that she and Chuck were dating. And even if there had been, how was any of it Trish's business?

"Apparently everyone is talking about it! You should've heard Trish," Eleanor said gleefully. "You know she still harbors hope that Carter will realize the error of his ways, and you'll find it in your heart to forgive him."

Blair gave an unladylike snort.

"I agree, darling. Besides why would you settle for him, when you could date Prince Grimaldi?"

"Excuse me?" Blair sputtered.

"I can't believe I worried that your ending things with Marcus was a mistake. You always manage to trade up, every time. Blair, if you thought women were jealous of you before, this will be nothing in comparison. Trish said no one could stop talking about the way Prince Grimaldi seemed to be so fascinated by you. How his eyes followed you everywhere you went, as though you were the only thing noteworthy. And they couldn't believe how cool you played it, as though you didn't notice his interest at all," Eleanor explained. "Why didn't you tell me that he was your brunch date?"

Louis? Her mother was talking about Louis? Blair tried to recall if Louis had done anything to command this sort of gossip. But then she remembered that the moment Chuck had walked into the room, she had been distracted.

"It wasn't a date!" She protested defensively. "I never mentioned it, because it was as a favor to Dominique. Her cousin is friends with the Grimaldi family, and Louis' niece moved to Manhattan over the summer, and she's in this year's cotillion class. He thought his presence might make things go a bit more smoothly," Blair elaborated. She had been surprised when her old classmate and roommate for a semester at Yale had called out of the blue to secure the connection.

"Well, perhaps that was the case, but it isn't anymore. Tell me, Blair, did he ask you out? Is he going to escort you to the Cotillion itself?"

Blair rolled her eyes. "I don't need an escort, seeing as I'm the chair, not a debutante."

"And you're avoiding the question, my dear," Eleanor said pointedly.

"No," she said firmly. "He didn't ask, and even if he does, I'm going to decline."

"Perhaps that's for the best," her mother said agreeably.

"Really?" Blair asked suspiciously. "Just a second ago, you were pestering me about him being my date!"

"I'm not going to lie, the idea of my only daughter becoming royalty would be a dream come true. However, it has occurred to me that what you need more than a new fiancé is a fling!"

"A fling?"

"Yes, dear, a fling. A casual sex—."

"I know what a fling is!" Blair shrilled, interrupting her mother from finishing that thought. What had gotten into Eleanor? The last thing she wanted to do was talk to her mother about sex.

"Oh, don't give me that look. You're well past the age where you can pretend that your parents are too old to still be having sex," Eleanor waved her hand dismissively. "So, if it isn't Prince Grimaldi that you were talking about…" Her mother's eyes widened. "NO!"

"What?"

"When you said you met someone, you were talking about Chuck Bass, weren't you?"

"How could you possibly know that?" Blair asked with exasperation.

"Well Trish made it a point to say that in addition to the prince hanging on your every word, that it had been a double shock when Chuck arrived with Lily. Apparently, the only time he seemed remotely interested or animated was when he was talking to you." Eleanor clapped her hands in delight. "This couldn't have worked out better if I planned it myself! You should have a fling with him!"

"Why just a fling?" Blair said quietly.

"He'd be perfect," her mother rambled on, missing the tension in her voice. "If ever there was a man made to have a meaningless affair with, it'd be him. What did Svetlana say about him? Ahhh, yes, something about him never being interested in a woman for more than a few days, a week, if you were lucky. You should call Serena, and have her help you set something up."

"I somehow doubt that S would want to do that," Blair informed her mother truthfully.

"Well that's silly of her. Would you like me to call Lily and put the feelers out?"

"Mother, are you telling me that you and Lily have become madams or pimps?" Eleanor rolled her eyes. "Why are you so interested in my sex life, all of a sudden?"

"I just worry that maybe the reason behind your multiple engagements, is that everything's been too serious. Perhaps if you let your hair down, went a little wild—within reason, of course—then maybe you'd actually be ready to settle down. It's okay for you to have fun, you know. Not every man you date has to end up in an engagement."

Blair blinked her eyes in surprise. That was the last thing she had expected her mother to say.

"It may not always come across, Blair, but I do want you to be happy."

"And you think that getting involved with Chuck Bass might be a good place to start?" She asked evenly, betraying no emotion.

"I do."

"Then I'll give him a call and invite him to dinner tomorrow night with you and Cyrus."

"Why ever would you think to do that?"

"You're the one encouraging me to sleep with him. I thought it would make for a nice change if I bought him dinner first?" Blair said cheekily.

Eleanor laughed. "Well, I'm sure that would make you stand out like a sore thumb."

"I'm going to do it," Blair declared. "Who knows, maybe he'll surprise you?"

"I highly doubt it, but if you're set on inviting him to dinner, then I'll wish you good luck."

Blair smiled. She couldn't wait to see the look on her mother's face tomorrow night when Chuck showed up.

.

.

.

tbc


A/N: Thank you to all the readers and reviewers for taking the time to read my story. I know that many of you are eager to find out why Blair ran out on her wedding, and trust me, I am very aware of that. We're getting there, but probably much slower than you'd like. I had always planned to write the whole story of how Chuck and Blair's relationship developed, so I hope you can bear with me.

Also, to my anon reviewer HN, I think it's safe to say a writer loves it when readers pay such close attention to the details of their story, it is such an enormous compliment and I thank you so much for it. To answer your question, yes and no. Chuck does find Blair at the duck pond the morning after their first fight, however, I don't consider the last couple of chapters as a fight, per se. It's more a hurdle of the we're-getting-together/what-are-we-confusion/misunderstanding. You know, typical Chuck and Blair. So, the C/B fight that was mentioned in the opening chapter is coming, just not...yet.

Last note, thankfully the dairtastrophe is finally over! It looks like i'm going to have to catch up on the 36 episodes of Gossip Girl on my DVR now.