"Are you going to sit on my couch in silence or are you going to answer my question?"
I stare blankly at Flynn.
"Christian, it's a simple question. How is your relationship with Anastasia progressing?"
"Well, the virgin situation is no longer an issue." I smirk.
He nods. "She agreed to go to your playroom?"
"No. We were at her apartment. It just happened. It was completely spontaneous."
"What's so interesting about that?"
"You're someone who plans every minute detail of your time, in both your professional and private life, including sex. Anastasia certainly draws from an untapped part of you. That's a rather large step… for the both of you."
"Maybe. Since it was her first time, I felt a responsibility to make it good for her… take it slow. I didn't want to hurt her." Flynn raises a brow. I raise my hand. "Don't say it, John. I'm aware of the irony in that statement."
"She was comfortable being restrained?"
"There were no restraints. It was vanilla."
"You were comfortable with that, despite your haphephobia?
"Ana had already worked out that I deal with that issue on her own. She said she wouldn't touch me. I trusted her."
"It takes a lot to gain your trust."
"It came quite easily with Ana. And the sex was good. Great, in fact. I was actually surprised at how satisfying vanilla was. No, it was great because of her. Afterwards, she wanted me to stay over."
"Seems like a reasonable request."
"I wasn't comfortable with it. I don't sleep with… anyone."
"Was it difficult to leave?"
"No. I watched her drift off to sleep and … I don't know; I couldn't bring myself to leave her."
"Because of her request?"
"That was part of it. I didn't want to leave. Sleeping next to her just felt… right," I say, shaking my head.
"You look a bit bewildered."
"I was. I still am. I slept more peacefully than I can ever remember. And I liked waking up next to Ana."
Flynn nods then jots something down in the notebook resting on his lap. "You and Anastasia have had relations. Something you chased for some time. Do you find you still want to be with her, despite the fact that the "challenge", so to speak, is now gone?"
I shake my head. "When it comes to Ana, I can't seem to get enough. I always want more. It's like she's put some spell over me."
"Spell?" He laughs. "Perhaps you've finally found the one person who makes that heart, you claim you don't have, beat a little faster."
"Christ, don't start with the love shit. I don't do love."
"Oh? Your relationship with Anastasia is only about sex?"
"She drives me crazy. I've never met anyone who can go toe to toe with me like her. We argue. We fuck. We argue. We fuck. For someone new to sex, she's a natural. She figured out all my buttons to push. And she pushes the hell out of them. She's the most frustrating woman I have ever met."
"You didn't answer my question. Is your relationship with Anastasia, only about sex?"
"What else then?"
"I don't know."
"Do you plan on continuing this relationship?"
"I'm trying to figure that out. The more I get to know her, the more I know she doesn't deserve a fuck-up like me. She deserves hearts, flowers, and picket fences. I can't give her that."
"It's not who I am."
"Maybe it's who you could be. Would you be happier without her?"
"No. She's the reason I'm here today. I was in New York. I came home a day early to surprise her."
"I don't know, I wanted to."
"Because…" he says, trying to lead me to an answer.
I shrug. "Because I can."
"Oh Christian, it's because you missed her. Nothing terrible is going to happen by admitting that to yourself. You missed her."
I stare at him skeptically.
"Have you ever returned home early from a business trip to see a submissive?"
"Yet, you change your schedule around to accommodate your need to see Anastasia? What do you think that means?"
"What do you get out of this relationship that you didn't get out of your previous relationships?" he asks.
"I've been trying to figure that out. She's not interested in my money. At all. I tried to give her a car. The car she drives is a piece of crap. It's not safe. She refused it, although I know she secretly takes it out. She's challenging. She's frustrating. Yet, she's kind. She's beautiful. She's innocent and funny. She gives me so much more than I imagined I'd ever have."
"What exactly is 'more' to you?"
"My subs loved the cars, the clothes, the allowance, the power I have… the package that comes with me. She's not interested in that. She just wants…." I drift off as I realize what makes Ana so different.
"She wants what?" Flynn encourages me to continue my thought.
"She just wants… me."
"And you? What do you want?"
"Her. All of her, even the parts that drive me crazy. I just don't know if I can sustain this?"
"If you can sustain what?"
"A vanilla relationship."
"Do you miss your previous lifestyle?"
"Yes and no. I miss the control. I believe if she'd let me, I could show her aspects that she would enjoy. Once she'd get over the fear that I'm going to beat the crap out of her."
"She knows it's been a part of your life for a very long time."
"Yes, but it's a hard limit. That's a concept I understand. She's concerned that I'll tire of her and her limits."
"John, I can't imagine ever tiring of her. But I know I have this darkness inside of me, my sadistic needs. How long can I possibly keep it at bay indefinitely?"
"You are not a sadist Christian. We've discussed this."
He shakes his head. This has been a bone of contention between us. For the time being, we've agreed to disagree.
"Every relationship has a middle ground. As your relationship with Anastasia develops, perhaps you'll find yours."
"She did let me tie her wrists. And blindfold her."
"Did she do it for you or for her?"
"The first time I think it was for me."
"The first time?"
"The next time I'm sure it was for both of us. Seems Ana has a little kink in her after all."
"You're finding your middle ground. I think that shows great promise."
I shrug. "Maybe."
He glances at the clock on the wall. "Our time is just about up. I want you to keep that thought and move forward with it."
We stand. "Okay. I will." We shake hands.
"Will I see you at the Coping Together Charity Ball tomorrow?"
I roll my eyes. "Yes. I promised my mother I'd be there."
"I look forward to meeting Anastasia."
I look down to the floor, staying silent.
"You did invite her, didn't you?" he asks.
"No. I was thinking about it, but I don't know if I want to put her through that."
"The press. Meeting my family."
"Are you embarrassed?"
"Ana is no one to be embarrassed about. No. I've been trying to keep her away from the shit that comes with me. She doesn't need to deal with that."
"Do you want her there?"
"I'd be fucking proud to have her with me."
"Then ask her," he says softly. "Let her be the one to decide." I know Flynn's M.O. The softer his tone, the more he's driving his point.
My stomach is in knots as the elevator doors slide open and I step into Christian's penthouse. I still feel butterflies every time I'm here. Closing my eyes, I inhale the sweet floral fragrance of the roses in the giant vase on the table directly in front of the elevator.
I walk into his living room just as Christian is walking into it from the other side of this penthouse. He's wearing a dark pair of jeans and a gray T-shirt that hugs the muscles on his chest nicely. Very nicely. I briefly look down and admire his bare feet. I've developed some sort of foot fetish since I've met Christian… although my fetish seems to be fixed on one particular pair of beautiful naked feet.
"Miss Steele," he says darkly, as he casually saunters toward me. Dear God, he's sexy.
"Mr. Grey." I raise a brow.
He stops inches in front of me, gazing down, smiling. I look up at him, returning a smile.
"Hi," he whispers, taking my hand and kisses the back of it.
"Hi," I breathe. He's barely touched me and has already managed to take my breath away.
"You look lovely. I like your dress." I know that look he's giving me. He says he likes my dress. What he means is he'd like to take it off.
I spent a half hour rummaging through Kate's closet until I found a sundress I thought he would like. It's not usually my style, but something compelled me to dress up for him. I'm glad I did.
"This old thing? I grabbed the first thing I saw," I lie.
He hooks his arm around my waist and pulls me close to him. "I just grabbed the first thing I saw too." He leans down and kisses me tenderly. "Are you hungry?"
Naturally this is his first question. No "How was your day?" or "How are you?"
"Famished," I answer.
"Good. Mrs. Jones prepared dinner."
As we walk toward the kitchen, I realize we're not alone. There's a pretty blonde woman taking a tray out of the oven. Once she sets the tray on the stovetop she turns.
"Mrs. Jones, this is Anastasia Steele."
She nods politely, smiling warmly. "It's very nice to meet you, Miss Steele."
"It's very nice to meet you. Please call me Ana."
She nods again, with a warm smile I can feel is genuine. "The chicken and roasted potatoes are done. There's also a baby greens and pear salad on the counter. Would you like your dinner now, Mr. Grey?"
"We'll take it from here, Gail. Thank you. Enjoy your weekend."
"Very well, if you don't need me, I'll be going. Miss Steele… Ana," she quickly corrects herself. "It was very nice to meet you. Enjoy your dinner."
"Thank you. It smells delicious. Have a good night."
She leaves, walking in the opposite direction than the elevator. I frown. Where is she going?
"There's separate living quarters for the help." Christian whispers in my ear, sensing my confusion. If the 'Running an Empire' business ever fizzles on him, he can always join a carnival as a mind reader. He has some real skills in that department.
I spoon the chicken and roasted potatoes on our plates as Christian pops open a bottle of white wine. I fill two small plates with salad and bring them to the dining room, balancing the small plates on my forearms while holding on to the larger plates in my hands. This was a huge risk, knowing how clumsy I am, but I made it without spilling a drop.
I walk back into the kitchen to grab utensils. Christian is pouring wine in two glasses. I stop and watch him.
'What?" he asks.
"This is so normal."
He tilts his head slightly and frowns. "Normal?"
"Well, as normal as we've ever been anyway."
"Normal? Normal is boring," he scoffs.
"Sometimes it's nice."
"There's that word again. Nice. Nice is for other people, dull people. We're better than 'nice'."
I smile. "What word would you prefer?"
He tilts his head from side to side then grins. "I'll get back to you on that."
"Okay. Are you ready for dinner?"
"In a minute. I'm going to put some music on first. Have a seat. I'll be right there."
"Okay." I grab the utensils and napkins Mrs. Jones left out on the counter and walk into the dining room. Once seated, I breathe in the delicious aroma of the lemon chicken dish in front of me. The soft sound of classical music streams through some hidden speakers and fills the room. It's lovely. Christian walks in with the wine glasses and bottle in hand, places them on the table, and sits at the head of the table, with me to his right.
"How was work?" he asks.
"Fine. Busy. I was late thanks to you."
"I make no apologies."
"No, I didn't think you would. I'm pretty certain I was being followed." I raise a brow, remembering Christian's not so subtle tailing me to work from my apartment this morning.
His jaw tenses. "Who the fuck was following you? A reporter?"
"Don't know. Do many reporters own an R-8?" I play dumb.
He leans back in his chair, rubbing his index finger under his bottom lip, amused at my teasing. "If they do, they're overpaid."
"I didn't mind, really. It was my eye-candy whenever I looked in the rear-view mirror," I tease.
He laughs. "Objectifying the male species? I'm shocked and appalled."
"I only objectify one particular male. I believe he prefers it that way."
He takes me hand in his and kisses the back. "I believe you're right. Don't forget that."
"I doubt he'd let me forget."
"You'd be right on that account."
Dinner was delicious. Mrs. Jones is an amazing cook. I lean back in my chair, patting my stomach. "I'm stuffed." I say.
Christian smiles and nods his head slowly, looking down at his plate. There's something about his body language that I don't like. He looks uncomfortable.
"Ana, there's something I'd like to discuss with you."
I don't like the sound of that. That's how Ray always started a conversation right before he told me someone died. Did he have Taylor drive me here just to dump me and take me home? This has been such a nice night. My body tenses, as I wait for the ball to drop.
"Okay," I answer cautiously. Oh Christian, please don't fuck this up.
"There's a charity ball tomorrow night. I'm obligated to attend. It's my mother's charity."
I look down at my lap and nod. "So I won't see you tomorrow?" I ask, crushed.
"I was hoping you would accompany me."
My eyes widen. "You were? You mean like a date?"
"No. Not like a date… an actual date. My date. My family will be there. Business associates. The press."
A date in public? We went to Jose's show together, but that was Christian's way of dealing with his ridiculous jealousy when it comes to Jose. This is very different.
"Have you ever brought a date to this ball?"
"No. I've already told you, you're the only girl I've ever dated. I will do everything in my power not to have the press hound you, but I must warn you… gossip rags have this foolish interest in my private life. I want you there with me, but I want you to be aware of what it may entail afterwards. I will do my best to protect you from it."
I know words are coming out of Christian's mouth, but the only part I heard was "I want you there with me." The rest was white noise and I don't care anyway. I must look like an idiot with the giant grin I have plastered across my face.
Just as I'm about to jump out of my seat and kiss him for taking this huge step in our relationship, a thought comes crashing down my temporary euphoria, my grin fading.
"What's wrong?" he asks, sensing my quick mood change.
"I have nothing to wear," I say quietly.
He chuckles. "That's what you're worried about? Don't be angry, but I've already took care of that. I arranged to have a few dresses delivered here this afternoon. You can choose whatever you want to wear."
"You bought dresses for me?"
"Are the dresses in the sub room?" I cringe even saying the words. I thought the separation between me, that room, and his subs were one of the things that made our relationship different. Special.
"They're in my bedroom waiting for you."
"Your bedroom? Why did you put them there?" I ask.
"Why would I put them elsewhere? It's where you stay when you're here."
I don't think he's even aware of how huge of a leap this is. He's treating me like a girlfriend. Not a sub. Not a passing fancy. Like a proper girlfriend. I think I'm going to cry.
"Okay." My grin resurfaces and it so big it hurts.
"You're not angry about the dresses?"
I shake my head, fighting the happy tears threatening to fall.
"Then I should probably confess I also purchased lingerie for you too."
"Good. I can't wait to wear it for you."
Shaking his head, he rubs the back of his neck with his hand. "I don't understand you. Normally you'd argue with me if I bought you a stick of gum."
"Would you prefer I argue with you or try on some lingerie?" I ask.
He stands from his chair and lifts me off mine, carrying me toward his bedroom. He's grinning and I'm giggling.
"I thought of the word," he says as he's carrying me to his room.
"What we are, instead of 'nice'."
"That's two words."
"Can I ask you something?" I inquire as we reach his bedroom door.
"Yes, I'll fuck you."
I roll my eyes and ignore him. "Are you just trying to dispel all those gay rumors? Is that why you really invited me?" I joke.
He laughs. "Yes. Now, let's get you naked. I have to practice."
My new lingerie is spread out all across the floor. I modeled two outfits before we couldn't hold out any longer and tore into each other.
Christian and I are facing each other in bed in our post-coital bliss. His eyes are sparkling, gazing into mine, looking blissful, content… reflecting exactly how I feel.
He's absolutely right.
Tonight we're fucking perfect.