The next day I got a phone call from Kate 8:00 am my time, 5:00 am hers. She was on the fitness boot-camp kick to get ready for the wedding and the three dresses she was planning to wear. She also had all her bridesmaids ( Me, Mia, and her cousin Emily) on a strict regime of cardio and brown rice. I did my best but there was no way I was getting up at 5:00 a.m. to get yelled at by a drill sergeant. I would stick to my yoga and my spin classes.
Christian had called Grace as promised, Grace told Carrick, Carrick called Mia, Mia called Elliott and Elliott told Kate. It took all of five minutes to get the news out. Everyone in the family was thrilled and relieved at Christian's return. Kate had a million questions for me, thankfully I had getting to work as an excuse to cut the call short. I gave her the basics of what had happened but no details. Somehow it felt wrong to give anyone a glimpse of our time together. It was just for us.
I was able to placate her with the bare minimum and draw her attention away with talk about the bachelorette party. The whole bridal party was headed to Tumum, Mexico for four days of fun in the sun. Kate had rented out Villas for us all. Little grass huts that were as lux as a grass hut could get. I had helped her plan the trip and was so excited. I had never been to Mexico and now I had hope that Christian would be coming too. We finalized my trip to Seattle in three weeks for my final fitting and she let me off the phone. I loved Kate to death but I could not wait for this wedding to be over.
A little while later I got a call from Christian before he boarded his plane to Seattle. He sounded tired and depleted but said he was looking forward to going home. I could detect some trepidation in his voice but I didn't ask any questions. I wished him luck and told him to call me when he got back. I was sending a clear signal that I didn't want any phone calls or texts when he was gone and I hope that he took the hint. It was not that I didn't want to speak with him, I just wanted a boundary and I didn't want to be glued to my phone waiting for him. I had a busy week ahead and needed to focus.
Then I called my mom and Ray letting them know he was in town. They had both been so supportive of me I felt like I owe them the truth in real time. They both wanted to know what I was going to do and I gave them the most honest answer that I could. I loved Christian, I wanted to be with him but I was not sure what was going to happen and if we could make it work. I only knew that I wanted it to work. Mom took it better than Ray. He had some choice words for Christian and I was a little concerned about getting them in the same room again. I also called Taylor and let him know the news. He seemed happy that Christian was back and there was also something distant in his voice. I was going to New York in a few weeks for a book conference and I decided to wait to discuss it with him then, over dinner and a good drink.
The next four days went by so quickly and I was proud that I didn't let thoughts of Christian consume me. I was also proud that he read my signals and didn't reach out until he landed back in Boston. It was a short text letting me know he was back and if I had plans for dinner on Friday morning. To be honest, I did have plans but I cancelled them. I really wanted to see him and hear all about how things went with the family. Olivia had face-timed me the night Christian came back. She gave me some details, mostly about how happy she was to see him and how he brought her presents from all over the world. But I really wanted to hear it from him. Maybe he would change his mind and want to go back to Seattle now that his family was back in his life.
He knocked at my door Friday night at 8:00. I was still not used to the site of him. My body began to tingle from the bottoms of my feet to the top of my head. He smiled as he looked me over. I was wearing some ripped jeans and a white tank, nothing crazy but he seemed to like it. I suggested a pub a few blocks from my apartment and we walked with easy silence for a few yards before Christian wrapped his hand around mine. It was such a familiar feeling, holding his had but in this space, in the city it felt different.
"How did it go with the fam?"
"It was good. Grace was angry for five seconds and she broke a few of my ribs hugging me but it was good. Mia wasn't there but we face timed. She looks so happy. Olivia has grown so much."
"She is doing so well. So confident. So happy. Elliott and Kate are in full wedding mode - he asked me to be a groomsman. So I spent a full day getting fitted for two tuxedos. Apparently there are costume changes."
"Yup, Kate does nothing half way, I have two bridesmaid dresses. Did they tell you about Mexico?"
"Next weekend for the bachelor and bachelorette parties? Yeah. I already bought my plane ticket."
"No private jet?" He chuckled and shook his head no. "It's gonna be a fun weekend. They went all in. I have always wanted to go to Tulum. The next few weeks are insane for me. Mexico and then New York and then Seattle for my last fittings and then Italy. I am racking up flyer miles."
"That you are." He looked at me as if he was seeing me for the first time. It was a strange feeling but I liked it. "Becoming quite the world traveler."
We arrived at the pub. It was small and packed for a Friday night. We waited a few minutes and were seated in a booth in the back. We ordered beers and burgers and we talked more about his time with the family, the wedding, my work. It was easy to talk to him and I felt like all the things in our past drifted further and further away with each word.
"How were things at GEH?"
"They were good. Roz is doing well. They are rebounding from the last two quarters. My absence seemed to improve public opinion."
"That is great news."
"It is. Roz wanted to know if I was coming back. I think she was relieved when I told her I wasn't. There is an offer on the table to buy the company. She wants to take it."
"Sell GEH? I can't imagine you wanting to do that."
"I don't know really. The offer is good. GEH would stay intact. The company would go public. Stocks and shareholders. I would make a lot of money, Ana."
"You already have a ton of money, Christian."
"I don't want to run a business anymore. I have thought a lot about this over the last year. I made my money now I want to enjoy it and do something else with my time."
"Well, I have been thinking about starting a foundation for children like Olivia. Setting up shelters across the is alot to work out, I have my attorneys working on the details now."
"That is amazing that you want to start a charity but do you think that will make you happy?" I couldn't imagine a Christian that didn't want to run the world and GEH was his world.
"I do. I could go back to GEH or even start a whole new business but that's not what I want my life to be. I want my life to be here with you, Ana. I want to have a life that I am proud of. A life that does not require contracts and secrets. After all that has happened this year. The news stories and the lawsuits and the accusations. I just want to simplify my life and focus on what is important. I have all the money I could ever want but it couldn't save you from Hyde. If you would have died that night my life would have been over. Everything is different now. I see everything differently. I found a house. Not too far from here. I would like for you to come and look at it with me tomorrow."
"Christian, I can't move in with you."
"I am not asking you to move in with me. I am asking you to help me make a decision with the idea that maybe one day in the future you will move in with me. I want to make my life here in Boston with you."
"I want that too. I just want to go slow. I don't want to mess this up."
"Either do I."
"The property was built in 1863. Beacon is one of the premier streets in all of Boston. The brown stone is just under 8,000 square feet. Eight bedrooms, nine bathrooms, roof top deck, stunning courtyard. It was renovated about 10 years ago but they kept with the history of the property. No expense was spared. It a steal at 14.9, the owner is very motivated to sell." The realtor, John, was a short round man, balding and a thick Boston accent. He was more disheveled than one would expect for someone selling a 14 million dollar property. I watched Ana's eyes light up as we walked through the space. It was a stunning brownstone - five levels not including a sub basement with a fully equipped wine cellar. The first floor would be perfect for staff and I wondered if Taylor would consider coming back to work for me. My return to the states had caused a few ripples. I had a meeting with Welsh when I was in Seattle and there had been some threats made to my personal safety while I was gone. It was not uncommon but my plans to be security free might not be the best idea. "The marble in the kitchen was flown in from Italy on a private jet…"
"John, would you mind if Christian and I did the walk through on our own?" Ana, while polite was clearly annoyed by John's presence. He went into too much detail and was over selling the property. She had changed in the past year. Old Ana would have endured him but this new Ana was more confident and knew what she wanted and didn't want. "I want to get a feel for the place, you understand." He was taken aback and mutter something about understanding completely and waiting in his car before he shuffling out of the door.
"This place is huge Christian, do you need a place this large?"
"No, I don't. This was not the original plan. I was looking for a smaller apartment but when I saw this place I couldn't help but want it for us."
"Its too big for two people."
"Well, I am going to need security now that I am back." Her eyes lit up "the first floor is perfect for…"
"Taylor and Gale and Adam!"
"Yes, maybe. That is if Taylor wants to come back."
"I am going to see them when I go to New York in a few weeks. You should come with me and we can double team him."
"That's a very good idea, Ana. He can't say no to the both of us."
"Even with Security, the place is HUGE."
"Well, I am sure the family is going to come and visit from time to time. If you don't like it I can find something else."
"We haven't even made it to the third floor yet. Let's keep looking." We walked around the reminder of the house, I could tell that Ana was impressed and I hoped she could see herself there. See us there.
"Christian, this place is beautiful but way too much. I don't think I would be comfortable living here. It's too ornate and overwhelming. Not to say that I would be moving in anytime soon but I can't see you here either." I couldn't hide my disappointment. "I think we need something way smaller with less of everything. We don't need nine bathrooms."
"You're right we really don't but this place is so special and I want you to have the best."
"I love my apartment now. I don't have any plans to leave it anytime soon. You should find yourself something that fits the life you have not the life you think you want. Even Escala was too big and cold. You need to find what fits and feels good. You might hate it here and want to move somewhere else. Selling a 14 million dollar brownstone can't be easy."
"I will like it here because you are here."
"Says the man who has not lived through a Boston Winter." She laughed and her voice echoed through the empty house. "All I am saying is we don't need to go from zero to 100. I am sure there is a six-million dollar penthouse out there waiting for you. Let's see if John has anything else for us to look at today.
John was crestfallen that we had decided against the brownstone. He did have some more places to sell and we looked at four apartments in all. It was the last one that really caught my eye. It was by far the smallest. It was a typical brownstone old walnut trim, red brick and thick pine floors - but it needed renovations, I would have to stay at the Hawthorne or find a rental while I fixed it up. It was a three bedroom two bathroom with a two bedroom apartment on the ground floor. Small rooftop terrace and a yard no larger than a postage stamp. It reminded me of my boat in a way. And I immediately felt relaxed the moment I walked through the door. I could tell that Ana liked it too - she was completely silent and she walked through the living room sliding her hand over the old wooden mantle with a broad smile on her face.
"This place is amazing Christian." We went up to the third floor master bedroom. It was a large and bright with a small sitting room to one side and a large master bath to the other with a huge claw-foot soaking tub. "This is the place."
"I agree, Ana. This is the place.