[No infringement intended. I do not own/am not affiliated with any of the characters or creators of the characters. Any recognizable parts are not my work, but added in order to relate better to the book.]
- I'm almost through the fifth chapter, so hopefully I don't fall behind, but I will try to post regularly and keep up with the chapters.
- EDIT: So, I've been told that the change in POV is confusing, and I couldn't figure out why. Apparently, the separators that I put in the word document didn't transfer when it was uploaded. I apologize for the confusion, and I'm going to make sure to add them in after uploading to try to end the confusion!
His voice still echoes in my head. My own voice echoes in there as well.
Even now, it sounds like an expletive. The tears started at three. Surely, by five he could hear my anguish. Why did he continue? Why did he want to hurt me? I couldn't bear his touch afterwards, but now, I find myself longing for it.
"Don't hate me."
His whispered words still roll around in my head, tumbling alongside the rest of them. How can I hate him? I love him.
"I've fallen in love with you."
He was mortified when I told him. Despite that though, I can't be what he needs. No matter how much I love him, I couldn't live through that experience again. I had to tell him that
"I can't make you happy."
I idly wonder if I should not have left behind his gift. Did he open it and build the model glider, or does it remain, untouched, in the submissive suite. Is it a constant reminder for him of what happened? I frown. It was meant as a memory of the day we soared, not the day we cut ties. Did he throw it away? I gave back the computer, the car, and the blackberry because I didn't want them as reminders of him. Perhaps I should have given him the same courtesy, rather than leave tokens of what could have been hidden around his apartment.
"I don't want you to go." His voice was full of longing and his grey eyes were pained. I had to.
I left him. The only man I've ever loved. The only man I've ever slept with.
The apartment is achingly empty and unfamiliar. I have not lived here long enough for it to feel like home. Kate is still on her extended vacation. Tomorrow will be one week, plus a day, post-Christian. It's also Monday, which means my weekend spent on the sofa in the dark is coming to an end, and I'll be forced to smile and exchange niceties with my colleagues and bosses as I embark on my first day of work at SIP. I both dread and look forward to it. Perhaps not having the freedom to cry for a solid eight hours will help relax the permanently tensed muscles in my face.
The bus makes me nauseous. The slow jostle of the large vehicle as it maneuvers through the Seattle streets, absorbing every miniscule bump in the road. I wouldn't have noticed them in the Audi. Christian's cheque remains untouched in its seemingly permanent home beneath a WSU magnet on the refrigerator. I've had neither the time nor the energy to go to the bank to cash it or purchase a new car. Frankly, I think, no, I know he was overly generous. There is no way that anyone paid such a substantial amount for Wanda. Good ole, trusty, rusty Wanda. I'd give anything for the comfort of having that large piece of what home means to me again. She's long gone. I have a small fortune. I could buy a new car eventually without going into debt, but it won't be the warm, welcoming vehicle that Wanda was. It will be just another cold, shiny reminder of Christian Grey.
Shit. I promised myself I wouldn't think about him today.
My day goes by in a blur of praise from my new boss, Jack Hyde, and my over-friendly colleagues making me feel at home. It's a welcome distraction from the void I've felt since last Saturday.
I don't have a moment to remember how much I hate being alone in this empty apartment before the door buzzer startles me from my anguish. My heart skips a beat as I press the intercom.
"Delivery for Ms. Steel." The disembodied voice replies, and I head downstairs to retrieve it. I return to my apartment with a huge package, which is surprisingly light for such a size. Inside the box are two dozen long-stemmed white roses and a note.
Congratulations on your first day at work.
I hope it went well.
And thank you for the glider. That was very thoughtful.
It has pride of place on my desk.
I stare at the typed card, and the hollow in my chest expands, enveloping me. No doubt his assistant sent these. Christian probably had very little to do with it. The roses are beautiful, and I can't bring myself to throw them in the trash.
The pattern begins. Wake, work, cry, sleep. Attempt to sleep anyways. My nights are spent restless. My appetite is gone, but I force myself to try a cup of yogurt or a banana during the day.
I'm only eight hours away from surviving my first week at SIP. I'm getting comfortable in my new position and growing somewhat excited by the fact that Ethan, Kate's brother, should be home from Barbados this afternoon. His company in the empty apartment will be a welcome change.
Jack has started to hover over me, irritating me, asking me personal questions. I'm polite, but I need to keep him at arm's length. He wanders away when Claire, the receptionist at the front desk, buzzes me to let me know that someone is here to see me, and I, with a brief smile, leave my desk to attend to who, I'm guessing, is Ethan. He called me at home last night to let me know he'd be stopping by on his way home from the airport to collect the apartment keys from me.
As I enter the reception area, Ethan is leaning casually against Claire's desk, smiling and chatting her up like only Ethan could. He smiles when he notices me, standing up and pulling me into a hug.
"Steele!" He exclaims, hugging my slight frame tightly for a moment. When he releases me, I smooth the creases out of my – Kate's – dress and smile back, holding the keys out to him with a flourish. He eyes me strangely for a moment, but doesn't say anything. I assume it's because the last time he saw me, I was about 10 or 15 pounds heavier.
"Ana, we're all going out for a drink tonight." Claire says, glancing briefly at Ethan before returning her gaze to me. "You and your friend should come out. Let us buy you a drink to celebrate your first week." She continues, her eyes wide as if she wants me to read between the lines. Ethan smiles at Claire. He's obviously aware of her not-so-subtle invite.
"I don't know. Ethan's probably exhausted, and I don't want to leave him hanging at the apartment alone."I say, hoping he'll back me. I really just want to peel off this dress and settle into my flannel pajama pants and loose t-shirt in front of the TV.
"Don't worry about it, Steele." He says to me before turning to Claire. "We'll be there."He says with a wink. Oh, Ethan, really? My subconscious screams as I plaster a polite smile on my lips.
"I guess we'll be there." I say to Claire before glancing over at Ethan. "I finish at five." I tell him before he tosses his bag over his shoulder, waves, and breezes out the door.
"Wow." Claire says with a sigh. She's obviously smitten with Ethan. He's equally attractive as Kate. Her entire family is comprised of attractive blondes. It's no surprise to me that Claire is completely enchanted by Ethan. I suppose I was at first too, but four years and being intertwined into the Kavanaugh family quickly changed the way I saw Ethan.
Ethan is promptly present at the office twenty minutes late. Jack, Claire, Elizabeth and a few others that I haven't gotten to know very well have all headed over to the bar. Ethan apologizes for being late, but that's just Ethan.
We walk into the bar and Claire, eyeing us immediately, scurries over to greet us with two beers in hand. I discreetly roll my eyes, knowing she's only doing it because she likes Ethan.
I don't normally drink and haven't been drunk since the night Kate, Jose, Levi and I celebrated graduation, and I drunk dialed Christian, but I'm well on my way through my third beer and beginning to feel moderately buzzed. I watch as Ethan and Claire return from the dance floor, laughing about something. No doubt Ethan has been flirting up a storm with my colleague. I smile at them both briefly before suggesting that we head out. I think Ethan can tell I'm beginning to feel the effects of the alcohol because he gives me that look; the one that says "You're a lightweight, Steele."
I'm chatty for the entire cab ride back to the apartment, and then the entire walk up the stairs, and even more so while Ethan is unlocking the door. He's humouring me, and I'm aware that I'm being overly chatty, but I can't, for the life of me, stop talking.
We both plop onto the sofa, and I've finally found the mute switch on my verbal vomit until Ethan has to go and ask the question.
"So where's your boyfriend?"
I clear my throat as the lump begins to form, blinking my eyes a few times and staring straight ahead at the wall in front of us while I try to compose myself. I've done so well today. This is it. Here it comes.
And suddenly, I'm sobbing into my hands. The dams are broken and there really is no going back from here.
"Uh..." I hear Ethan stutter a few insignificant syllables as he sits dumbfounded next to me. I don't cry. Frankly, I'm next to positive that Ethan has never seen me cry.
"I'm sorry." I sniffle, trying desperately to control my emotions, but they really will have none of it. I feel his awkwardly placed hand on my shoulder, and he squeezes it reassuringly. When I finally turn to look at him, his features are warm and he has a regretful smile.
"Sorry I asked." He says softly, and I think he's genuinely sorry. In fact, I know he is, because he shifts closer to me on the couch and slings his arm around my shoulders, pulling me closer and pulling my head onto his shoulder. "I know I'm not Kate, but I am staying in her room, so we can pretend if you need to bitch about your asshole ex-boyfriend." He says, making me blush and smile slightly.
It's not as if I can tell him everything. I've signed an NDA, but it's nice to have someone to pull me back from the black hole I tend to spiral down when I'm crying alone in the dark, empty apartment.
Ethan is easy to talk to. He spent the weekend dragging me out around Seattle. It's been helpful in keeping my mind off of Christian, but he's still there in the back of my mind, and when the lights go out and Ethan and I go to our respective bedrooms, the pain is raw and new again.
I sit and begin trawling through a pile of correspondence addressed to Jack. Week three and I'm still happily entertained with the menial tasks he gives me. I'm distracted from my thoughts when my email notification pings.
Holy shit. An e-mail from Christian. Oh no, not here . . . not at work. I hesitate briefly before clicking the message.
From: Christian Grey
To: Anastasia Steele
Forgive this intrusion at work. I hope that it's going well. Did you get my flowers?
I note that tomorrow is the gallery opening for your friend's show, and I'm sure you've not had time to purchase a car, and it's a long drive. I would be more than happy to take you—should you wish.
Let me know.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
I've forgotten completely about Jose's show. I need to call him. I dial his number, wondering while it rings if Christian truly believes I've not had time to purchase a car, or if he's aware that I've still not taken his cheque to the bank.
I speak briefly with Jose, assuring him that I'll be at his show before quickly hanging up. The last thing I need is trouble at work for making personal calls. I roll my eyes when I answer my next call to Ethan's booming voice. He's in the area and wants to take me to lunch. I glance momentarily at the yogurt cup on my desk. My appetite is still not what it should be. I change the subject, finding a perfect excuse to decline lunch with Ethan.
"Actually, I have to finish a bunch of things today. I was hoping to go to Portland tomorrow."I explain before then divulging the details about Jose's gallery opening. Ethan seems excited. I think it's less to do with Jose and more to do with the fact that I'm voluntarily leaving the house after work hours. He offers to drive and go with me, volunteering the use of his mother's car for the night.
By the time we end our call, I realize I've still got to face Christian's email. I feel both saddened and proud that I can decline his invitation to drive me, reminding myself that we've agreed we're not good for each other. I choke back a sob. I can't cry at work, but my heart aches. Would it be so awful to see him?
Yes! My subconscious shouts at me.
I quickly hit reply and fire off a polite response.
From: Anastasia Steele
To: Christian Grey
Thank you for the flowers; they were lovely.
I appreciate the offer, but I'm going with a friend, and he'll be driving.
Thank you anyway.
Assistant to Jack Hyde, Commissioning Editor, SIP
I instantly regret it. Wishing I could have said yes and magically have everything fall back into place, but my logical brain reminds me, quite bitterly actually, that I can't be what Christian needs.
I'm wearing another one of Kate's dresses. I really need to invest in similar items for my own wardrobe. It' black and one of the smaller items she has, but it still hangs somewhat loosely in certain areas where I've lost weight.
Ethan went in search of drinks, leaving me staring at a giant canvas featuring a mountain range at sunset. Jose really does lovely work. His photos are very evocative.
I scan the room slowly, seeking her out. My eyes zero in on her almost immediately. She's laughing with the photographer friend and the man she came with, Kavanaugh. I wonder briefly if it was a mistake for me to come here, but when she told me she'd be getting a ride with a male friend, I knew I couldn't wait any longer. I can't let her move on to some other guy. Not until I know for sure that I can't win her back. These past three weeks have been hell. I need her. She's the only light in my dark life.
My scalp prickles as an uneasy feeling settles in on me. Just as suddenly, our conversation is interrupted. Ethan, Jose, and I all turn to address the person approaching us, clearing his throat politely.
Shit. My subconscious grumbles, aware that we're t-minus ten seconds away from the uncontrollable sobs and streaky mascara.
As I stand gaping at him, stunned into silence, he gently removed my empty glass and replaces it with a fresh glass of wine, smoothly handing the empty glass off to a passing waiter.
"Mr. Kavanaugh. Mr. Rodriguez."He says politely, but the steely glare emanating from his grey eyes speak volumes.
How does he know Ethan? My subconscious asks, already knowing the answer is that Christian Grey's stalking knows no bounds.
"Anastasia."He says smoothly, his mouth caressing my name as he turns to me. His eyes travel over my body once, twice, a third time before they meet mine. Grey to blue. His look is a mixture of pain and anger, paralyzing me where I stand and stealing my breath.
Finally, I find my voice and release my held breath.
"Christian."I croak around the lump in my throat. It's been three weeks, why am I still so affected by him? "Wha—what are you doing here?" I ask, glancing quickly, through the corner of my eye, at Ethan and Jose. They don't look happy.
"I'm in the market for some new pieces for my bedroom. The walls are quite barren in there. Well, you know that. I'm looking for something with character to bring new life to the space." He says with a slight smile, and I know he's only here because I am.
"You're not welcome here, Grey." Ethan says through his clenched teeth. I glance over at him, appalled by his outburst and equally concerned for what Christian might do. Ethan doesn't meet my gaze. His eyes are cold and narrow, trained on Christian. Jose looks none-too-pleased as well. This is exactly what I need right now.
"Ana invited me." He replies simply. I did? I wrack my brain and finally recall it; we were in the shower, and he had noticed how nervous I was to tell him about Jose's show.
Both Ethan and Jose whip their heads toward me, and I lift my shoulders in a slight shrug, trying to turn inside out on myself just to get away from their scrutinizing glares.
"Well, I mean, that was – we were still…"I stammer, unable to form a coherent sentence, but Ethan seems to understand what I was getting at.
"Well, she uninvited you when you broke her heart." He says, and I'm utterly shocked. I can't bear the intensity of what's unfolding in front of me. The pain in my chest is slowly eating its way forward, and the dams are beginning to erode.
"If Ana wants me to leave, she can tell me so herself."Christian says cooly before turning his attention to me. His eyes shift from cool and calculated CEO to concern again as they drift over my body. "Can we speak?" He asked me softly, taking a step closer. "Privately." He clarifies, glancing briefly at Ethan and Jose.
I follow his gaze to their angry faces and instantly know they're going to be pissed, but I need this. I need this moment to hear what he has to say, so I nod, ever so slightly, but I hear Ethan's exasperated sigh as Christian takes my hand and leads me toward the other side of the room.
"Why are we leaving?" I asked as I try to keep up with his quick paces toward the door.
"I'd rather not speak to you in a crowded gallery, Anastasia." He replies, stopping just long enough for me to catch up.
"So, where are we going?" I asked, my voice sounding panicked even to my own ears. I don't want to leave with him. I can't be alone with him. This isn't good.
He stops abruptly, and I bump into him. His eyes gaze down at mine, laced with concern.
"You're afraid to be alone with me."He says, and it's a statement, not a question.
How does he do that? I wonder briefly as I stand dumbstruck in front of him.
He sighs and runs a hand through his hair.
"We're just going to sit in the car and talk. I have something important to discuss with you." He says, pointing out the front door to where Taylor is leaning against the Audi SUV, talking to someone on the other end of the phone.
I glance back to where we were standing just a moment ago and see Jose and Ethan glaring at Christian and I. They're lips are moving, but I'm unsure what they're saying. I'm almost glad I can't read lips. I'm sure it's nothing I'd appreciate hearing right now. I turn back to Christian, meeting his questioning eyes and nod, letting him lead me out the door to the car. He nods at Taylor to stay put and opens the door for me himself before climbing in next me.
I watch his movements, eyeing him warily and waiting for him to begin speaking, but he just stares blankly at me.
"You've lost weight." He finally says, his brow furrowing. "When was the last time you ate?" He asks, and I begin to panic.
"I eat." I say softly, staring down at my knotted fingers in my lap.
"You're skin and bones, Ana. When did you last eat a proper meal?" He asks again, his tone stern this time.
I worry my lower lip between my teeth, trying to think of a response that won't anger the beast, but my mind is drawing a blank.
"If my weight is the topic that you were so eager to discuss with me, I'll be going back to the party now."I say softly as I reach for the door handle, though I'm not completely convinced of my threat.
"Ana, please." He says. His voice sounds pained and desperate as he reaches for my other hand in my lap. I turn my eyes, glaring directly into his, bold with an unspoken strength that I don't actually feel.
"I have a proposition for you."
"This started with a proposition."
"A different proposition." He clarifies. "I don't want to lose you, Anastasia." He kisses my knuckles tenderly, and the touch of his lips on my skin resonates throughout my body.
I stare at him, my eyes have softened, but I'm still on the offensive, prepared to bolt should the tears threaten to attack.
"Let me ask you something first." He says, obviously gathering, from my expression, that I'm waiting for him to elaborate. "Do you want a regular, vanilla relationship with no kinky fuckery at all?"
My mouth drops open. "Kinky fuckery?" I squeak.
"I can't believe you said that." I glance nervously around the empty car as if someone may have heard us.
"Well, I did. Answer me," he says calmly.
I flush. My inner goddess is down on bended knee with her hands clasped in supplication begging me.
"I like your kinky fuckery," I whisper.
"That's what I thought. So what don't you like?"
Not being able to touch you. You enjoying my pain, the bite of the belt . . .
"The threat of cruel and unusual punishment."
"What does that mean?"
"Well, you have all those canes and whips and stuff in your playroom, and they frighten the living daylights out of me. I don't want you to use them on me."
"Okay, so no whips or canes—or belts, for that matter," he says sardonically.
I gaze at him puzzled. "Are you attempting to redefine the hard limits?"
"Not as such, I'm just trying to understand you, get a clearer picture of what you do and don't like."
"Fundamentally, Christian, it's your joy in inflicting pain on me that's difficult for me to handle. And the idea that you'll do it because I have crossed some arbitrary line."
"But it's not arbitrary; the rules are written down."
"I don't want a set of rules."
"None at all?"
"No rules." I shake my head, but my heart is in my mouth. Where is he going with this?
"But you don't mind if I spank you?"
"Spank me with what?"
"This." He holds up his hand.
I squirm uncomfortably. "No, not really. Especially with those silver balls . . ." Thank heavens it's dark, my face is flaming and my voice trails off as I recall that night. Yeah . . . I'd do that again.
He smirks at me. "Yes, that was fun."
"More than fun," I mutter.
"So you can deal with some pain."
I shrug. "Yes, I suppose." Oh, where is he going with this? My anxiety level has shot up several magnitudes on the Richter scale.
He strokes his chin, deep in thought. "Anastasia, I want to start again. Do the vanilla thing and then maybe, once you trust me more and I trust you to be honest and to communicate with me, we could move on and do some of the things that I like to do."
I stare at him, stunned, with no thoughts in my head at all—like a computer crash. He gazes at me anxiously, but I can't see him clearly, as we're shrouded in the Oregon darkness. It occurs to me, finally, this is it.
He wants the light, but can I ask him to do this for me? And don't I like the dark? Some dark, sometimes. Memories of the Thomas Tallis night drift invitingly through my mind.
"But what about punishments?"
"No punishments." He shakes his head. "None."
"And the rules?"
"None at all? But you have needs."
"I need you more, Anastasia. These last few weeks have been purgatory. All my instincts tell me to let you go, tell me I don't deserve you." He says, his voice soft. "When I saw you with your friends, you looked so untroubled and happy, but here you sit. I see your pain, and it's hard knowing that I'm the one who made you feel this way." He sighs and runs his free hand through his hair.
"But I'm a selfish man. I've wanted you since you fell into my office. You are exquisite, honest, warm, strong, witty, beguilingly innocent; the list is endless. I am in awe of you. I want you, and the thought of anyone else having you is like a knife twisting in my dark soul."
"Christian, why do you think you have a dark soul? I would never say that. Sad maybe, but you're a good man. I can see that . . . you're generous, you're kind, and you've never lied to me. And I haven't tried very hard.
"Last Saturday was such a shock to my system. It was my wake-up call. I realized that you'd been easy on me and that I couldn't be the person you wanted me to be. Then, after I left, it dawned on me that the physical pain you inflicted was not as bad as the pain of losing you. I do want to please you, but it's hard."
"You please me all the time," he whispers. "How often do I have to tell you that?"
"I never know what you're thinking. Sometimes you're so closed off . . . like an island state. You intimidate me. That's why I keep quiet. I don't know which way your mood is going to go. It swings from north to south and back again in a nanosecond. It's confusing and you won't let me touch you, and I want to so much to show you how much I love you."
He blinks at me in the darkness, warily I think, and I can resist him no longer. I scramble astride his lap, taking him by surprise as I take his head between my hands and kiss him firmly on the lips.
"I love you, Christian Grey. And you're prepared to do all this for me. I'm the one who is undeserving, and I'm just sorry that I can't do all those things for you. Maybe with time . . . I don't know . . . but yes, I accept your proposition. Where do I sign?"
He snakes his arms around me and crushes me to him. "Oh, Ana," he breathes as he buries his nose in my hair.
Suddenly, we're a tangled mess of tongues and hands on behinds and hands in hair. He's hard beneath me. Deepening the kiss, I press myself against him and feel, rather than hear, him moan into my mouth. His hands move under my dress, pushing it up my thighs until it's bunched around my waist. I watch his face as his fingertips trace the lace trim on my panties on my inner thigh. His eyes shift slowly to mine, questioning, and my lips part as I gasp and nod slightly.
"I hope you're not too attached to these." He mumbles, grinning wolfishly before his thumb presses through the fabric, tearing my panties from my body.
"I miss this." He whispers, burying his nose in my hair as we begin to move, finding the rhythm we both know so well.
"Mine." He whispers harshly as I explode around him, bringing his climax with me.
"Come home with me." Christian whispers as I sit curled up beside him in the back of the SUV.
"I can't just leave Ethan. We came together." I say, knowing he won't be happy with my answer.
"Is he your boyfriend?" He asks, and my jaw drops.
"Of course not!" I say, sitting up to stare at his face.
"He lives with you." He states simply, challenging my answer.
"He's Kate's brother." I say defensively.
He raises an eyebrow at me.
"You're acting very jealous." I say, crossing my arms like a petulant teenager and turning to look out the window.
"Did you fuck him?"
I whip my head around to face him, my eyes full of fury. "Why would you—you… Would it change anything if I had?" I challenge him, appalled that he would think I would jump into the bed of the next man who crossed my path.
His eyes narrow and he stares at me for a long moment.
"Well?" I ask.
"You never answered my question." He replies.
"You first." I say.
"Excuse me for a moment." He says, opening the door and stepping out of the car and slamming the door closed.
Where the hell is he going?
I slide over to his newly vacated seat and open the door, clambering out as he stalks toward the gallery doors. They open suddenly and Ethan steps out, looking up the street before seeing me.
"There you are." He says, a concerned expression marring his usually laid back features. "Everything okay?" He asks, as Christian and I both approach him.
"A word, Mr. Kavanaugh." Christian demands, stepping off to the side, away from the gallery doors.
"I think you've had enough words for tonight." Ethan says, stepping toward me. "Come on, Ana. Let's go back to the party."
"Did you fuck her?" Christian asks him, and my jaw drops.
"Christian!" I say, shocked by his outburst.
"We're dating. Didn't she tell you? You're olds news, Grey. Yesterday's trash." Ethan says with a shrug, wrapping his arm around my waist.
"Ethan!" I gasp, my voice an octave too high. "We aren't—we didn't—" I stammer, seeing Christian's eyes narrow.
"She's over you. You should just move on. She doesn't need you around." Ethan says matter-of-factly as I step out of his embrace, shaking my head vigorously.
"No, no, no, no. Ethan, stop it." I say glaring at him as Christian steps closer to Ethan. I move between them, planting my hands on Christian's biceps, knowing this is a place I can touch, and trying to look into his eyes. They're trained on Ethan's face though.
"Back off, asshole."Ethan says, reaching around me.
As if in slow motion, I watch Ethan's hand press against Christian's chest, shoving him away from me and into the wall behind him. Christian doesn't hesitate. I think wryly that he's been trained not to. He lunges forward and around me at Ethan, punching him in the face and knocking him backward on the sidewalk, his skull bouncing off the concrete.
I drop to the ground beside Ethan, ignoring the screaming pain that shoots through my knees as I hit the sidewalk. I lean over him and look into his blinking eyes.
"Ana, we should go." I hear Christian mumble and turn toward him. Taylor is standing in front of him with his back to Ethan and I.
"He needs to go to the hospital."I say softly, unsure of what else can be said. I'm shocked by Christian's assault of Ethan, and of Ethan provoking him with lies, but at the moment all I know is that Ethan needs to have his head checked.
"Ana…" Christian says, his voice pained.
"Christian, just go!" I snap, not bothering to turn to look at him.
Where did THAT come from?
I see something white from the corner of my eye. I recognize it immediately. How many of these does he have? I wonder as I accept the cloth handkerchief from Taylor and help Ethan sit up.
As I dab the cloth against Ethan's bloody lip, I hear the sound of car doors and the Audi roaring to life before it takes off down the street behind me.
"That was really stupid." I mumble, as Ethan pushes my hand away and tries to get up. I can see that he's disoriented, so I grab his forearms, forcing him to stay seated.
I'm thankful that the altercation took place off to the side. I'd hate to have photographers and gallery patrons to have seen the event unfold.
"Let me help you up." I say to him, getting to my feet and offering him my hand. He glares at me, wiping new blood from his lip onto the back of his hand before allowing me to pull him to his feet. "I'm taking you to the hospital."
"Don't worry about it, Ana. I'm fine." He says, as he takes a stumbling step toward the street. I grab his arm, yanking him away from the curb and oncoming traffic.
"We're going to the hospital." I say with more conviction this time as I usher him toward our car.
"There doesn't seem to be any major damage." The doctor said, shining a small light in Ethan' eyes once more. "You may have a minor concussion, so I suggest you don't drive tonight."
"I think my roommate will drive me." He says, glancing toward me where I've been standing in the doorway with my arms crossed. Frankly, I'm furious with both Ethan and Christian, and I'm not sure what to do with myself. I'm so livid that I've remained silent, with the exception of a 'hmm' or 'uh huh' in response to Ethan's questions, for the entire four hours we sat in the Emergency Room waiting area.
Taylor showed up at one point and gave Ethan his card, telling us to send him the bill. Ethan scoffed and made a comment about Christian being pompous ass for thinking Ethan couldn't afford his own medical bills, but he took the card anyways. I wanted to follow Taylor, to ask him where Christian was, but as I stood to catch up to him, the doctor called Ethan in and, again, I was torn between the two of them.
"Do you wanna grab something to eat before we get on the road?" Ethan asks as we climb into his car.
I sit down, fastening my seatbelt. "It's late." I reply without even looking at him as I put the car into gear.
"Are you going to be mad at me for the entire drive home?" He asks, nudging me so I'll look at him. I do, and he's smirking at me.
"Yes." I say simply, staring impassively at him for a moment before pulling out of the parking lot and heading toward Seattle.
It's 3:00 in the morning when I nudge Ethan to tell him that we're home, waking him from the sleep he's only just fallen into. He grumbles a bit, but rouses quite quickly when he sees my eyes glaring at him.
I climb out of the car and wordlessly head toward the front entrance of our building, holding the door for Ethan before stalking up the stairs in silence with him trailing behind him. We enter the apartment and he flops down on the sofa. I can feel him watching me as I drop my clutch on the counter and open the fridge. I grab the bottle of white wine, pour myself a glass and take a long slug of it.
"Ana…" He starts, but I glare at him, warning him not to speak to me. "You can't stay mad forever. I did you a favour. You really want that jackass to think he can just show up and convince you to take him back?"
"That should be my decision!" I shout, finally letting out everything I've been holding in for the past six hours.
"I've been here for the past few weeks. I've watched you cry over him. I've watched you basically starve yourself to the point of dropping, what is it? Twenty pounds?" He says, standing up and walking over to me. "I care about you, Ana. I was finally starting to see the old Steele again. I don't want to see you back at square one again." He continues.
I close my eyes as the tears trickle down my cheeks. "I love him, Ethan." I say softly. I feel the pad of his thumb brush across my cheek, wiping away the tears from just beneath my closed eye.
I gasp, opening my eyes and backing away when I feel his lips brush against mine. "What—what are you doing?" I stammer, backing further away from him until my back is pressed against the counter.
"Ana, I'm sorry. That was—I shouldn't have done that. I'm sorry." He says as he hurries into Kate's room, leaving me dumbstruck.
Placing my empty glass on the counter and picking up my clutch, I head into my room. I really just want to forget this night ever happened.
Not all of it was bad. My inner goddess reminds me. I drop onto my bed and pull my phone out of my purse. I have two missed calls from Christian and a text.
* CALL ME *
I'm tempted to call, but I'm still furious with him. Would he really have ended our newly recovered and revamped relationship if I had slept with Ethan while we were broken up? Does he care that little for me that he could throw it all away? I want to kick myself for not immediately denying it, but I part of me needed to know that his feelings were really unconditional.
It's late… or early, I suppose, so I decide to wait until a more decent hour to call him back and fall asleep, fully clothed, and lying sideways on my bed.