"Morning, baby..." Christian said as he closed Ana's bedroom door with his hip while he carried a huge tray filled with more food than Ana could ever eat as she tossed about under the covers.
Immediately upon viewing the grand display of breakfast delights, she knew that Christian Grey hadn't cooked himself, but Ana didn't fall in love with him for his culinary skills. Scones, jams, jellies, fruits, bacon, eggs, juices and coffee filled the platter, and Ana knew her eyes were so much wider than her tummy. Regardless of the chef, breakfast in bed with Christian was always a sweet little surprise to wake up to.
Crawling into bed beside her, Christian had to maneuver around the kittens - whom Ana had already fed when they'd jumped on her chest an hour earlier - in his efforts to snuggle up with his fiancée.
"Hey, you two..." he shook the bag of treats he'd brought with him, scattering them about the comforter. Made him feel like a father, carrying around snacks for the babies. "Here's some cookies while Mommy and Daddy eat..."
"Think about when we add a couple of kids to this little brood," Ana mused, giving Christian a quick kiss on the lips. "Good thing we have a huge bed at home..."
"Last breakfast together before you officially become Mrs. Grey," Christian said with a trace of melancholy.
"There's always tomorrow morning," Ana reminded him, but he covered her open lips with his finger.
"Bad luck for the groom to see the bride on their wedding day..." he warned.
"So staunch in tradition this week, Mr. Grey. It's almost shocking," Ana teased, lifting one of the plate covers to find Christian's iPhone. She had to giggle. "You're really keeping your promise, aren't you?"
"Do I like it? No, but Ros is quite capable of handling anything that surfaces," he said. "My phone is yours for the duration."
"Ooooh, can I snoop and see what's on that Naughty Sassy Ana app?" she said, kicking her feet excitedly beneath the layers of linens.
"Changed the password specifically so that you can't access it, baby. You can see everything else on my phone. I've nothing to hide - but for your punishments...for now," he said with a wink. "Don't forget - I'm always one step ahead."
"That indeed, you are, Mr. Grey," she said, and took a sip of coffee.
The gentle tap at the door, while only timidly intrusive, left them both startled. With a quick check, Ana, still lost in a bit of a sleepy haze, surveyed herself to make sure that she was fully dressed before calling out, "Who is it?"
"Ana..." that familiar voice echoed through the thick wood of the door shuttered between them. "It's Mom."
Throwing himself back against the pillows and nearly knocking that elegant breakfast all over the bed, Christian groaned.
Ana placed one finger over her lips, then called out with an unusually chilly demeanor, "Come in..."
In the doorway, Carla stood with a lavishly wrapped box in her hands, with silvery streamers covering the entire top surface. At least she got the wrapping paper color correct, Ana thought. As Carla spotted Christian on top of the blankets next to her daughter in bed, her eyes narrowed.
"May I have some time with Ana?" Carla entreated Christian, who wasn't about to move in the house that he'd bought himself. "Alone?"
"Nope - he stays," Ana asserted so very quickly.
Christian was her guard dog, ready to sink his teeth in and bite once again if Carla dared to add one more acrimonious comment to the list of her already spoken cruel words. In fact, Ana wished she had a Naughty Sassy Carla app to direct her toward the appropriate chastisement for her mother. However, after Christian's handling of the situation only hours ago, Ana found that she was in a much better frame of mind to deal with her mother.
"Well, then..." Carla tossed her head back, her own mane of chestnut hair, now colored to cover the grays, fluttering about her shoulders. "I guess...I'm here to apologize for yesterday."
"Mmm hmmm..." Christian said, popping a scone into his mouth and chewing rather rudely so that the crumbs fell from his lips. Any sense of couth left the room when Carla was around. In fact, he felt that only improper manners were appropriate - like those of his big brother. Yes, he was indeed trying very hard to be the piggish bastard Carla believed him to be, and with that thought branded into her mind, he hoped she'd stay far away from them therein.
"Go right ahead..." Grace would have smacked him like Elliot Grey if she ever caught him speaking with his mouth full.
"I haven't been feeling well," Carla continued. "And maybe I said some things...that...well...perhaps I should have saved for a later time."
"Or perhaps you could have just saved those comments and that lie you told my mother until death do we all part," Christian muttered.
Although her legs were still nestled well beneath the sheets and blankets, Ana kicked him, startling the kittens with her sudden movement. However, she wasn't about to offer a single word of forgiveness. She merely wanted peace until the weekend came to an end.
"OK, Mother," Ana said. "Have you looked at the new dress?"
Carla scrunched her face tightly, revealing wrinkles Ana hadn't noticed before. "Yes, Anastasia," she said. "I did look at the gown...and...it's the color you wanted..."
"Sure is," Christian agreed. He could see that Ana was trying a little too hard to hide her own giggles.
"Do you..." Carla stopped herself, rolled her eyes and sighed. "Will you, Anastasia, accept my apology?"
"Tell you what, Carla," Christian began, "if we could just all strike a deal for civility for the next three days, I think that would delight both bride and groom..."
"I'm always civil, Christian," Carla told him, as her feet danced about rather nervously on the floor. "And it's - it's a good thing you're both here, I suppose. I brought your wedding gift from Bob and me. It's from Tiffany."
"Tiffany is the new R.H. Macy," Christian whispered to Ana. He loathed the store - felt as if it had become just another chain in more recent years. It was, in his mind, so appropriately inappropriate that Carla shopped there.
Treading with trepidation toward her daughter and her almost-husband, Carla reached out with the gift in hand.
"Since I haven't seen your apartment - although I hear from Ray, it's more of a palace - yet," Carla passed the package to Ana, "I just tried to pick something timeless."
"Oh, really, Carla, you shouldn't have..." Christian insisted.
"Well, I just wanted to get you something that you...both...can enjoy," Carla stammered.
"No really, you shouldn't have done this," Christian repeated himself, and Ana knew where he was going. Their invitations specified that they didn't wish to receive gifts, but that a charitable contribution in their names would be appreciated. "A donation to the hospital would have been perfect."
In a difficult effort to maintain her mother's vague offering of peace as well as Christian's need for courtesy that he wasn't exactly extending himself, Ana decided to play arbiter just for a moment. If nothing else, perhaps, she could just open the package and be done with Carla's presence for a few hours.
"Well, I'm sure it's lovely - whatever it is," Ana said politely, removing the giant bow and ribbons and unfolding the carefully wrapped foil paper. And that's where she stopped with her attempt at kindness. "Oh...? Oh!"
Carla smiled genuinely for the first time since she knocked on the door. "I knew you'd love it, Ana!"
"Well, it's definitely..." Ana scrambled to find some appropriate word. "It's unique..."
Christian was smiling, too, but not exactly for the same reasons his future mother-in-law had assumed. "Yeah..." was all he could manage.
"We'll certainly find a place for this," Ana said. "As soon as we get home from France..."
Coffee sprayed from Christian's mouth all over both himself and Ana - and the bed linens. It wouldn't, he mused, be the first time that they'd need to take a comforter to the dry cleaner.
"Oh, baby, I think I've already got the perfect spot in mind..." Christian added, dabbing the drops of coffee from Ana's arm.
For a moment, Carla hesitated, then allowed herself a girlish giggle. "See how well I know my baby girl?"
The phrase "baby girl" made Christian want to throw up all over their breakfast, but he held his bile in wait for Carla's exit.
"Well, can't wait to see it when I come to visit!" Carla said. She still didn't get it, and likely, Ana thought, never would. "So what's the game plan for today?"
"You're free until five when rehearsal begins," Ana said, hoping that was a hint her mother could take. "There are some charming little boutiques in town that would strike your fancy, I'm sure."
"Sawyer would be happy to drive you," Christian added as an incentive. Sawyer hated Carla, which is precisely why Christian offered his services. In fact, Christian gave him a few extra days off for his efforts after her last visit. For this, a bonus would likely be necessary.
"Hmmm..." Carla said rather thoughtfully. "I think we might just take you up on that. Let me go talk to your step-father."
"What's Ray got to do with the decision?" Christian wondered sardonically .
"I mean Bob, Christian..." Carla rolled her eyes. One did not roll her eyes at Christian Grey. He would remember. And pay her back accordingly. "So we need to be here at five?"
"Sawyer will make sure you are - on the nose," Christian promised.
"Well...thank you...Ana...Christian..." she said finally. "I guess I'll see you both later then."
When the door finally closed, Ana turned to Christian and whispered, "As Jillian would say..." and he chimed in with her "...don't let the door hitcha where the good lord splitcha!"
With a groan, Christian reached for his phone on the tray.
"Hey, Mr. Grey," Ana placed her hand over his. "Mine. For the weekend."
"Just one second, baby," he said, pulling his hand - and the phone - away from her weak grip. "I just want to look this thing up."
Holding up the silver plate that her mother had just given them, Ana mused, "It looks like a misshapen star."
"No - more like a wilted poinsettia," Christian suggested. "Maybe we could just use it as a cat dish!"
"Poinsettias are poisonous to cats," she informed him.
Suddenly, he bolted upright. "What?" Christian choked, pulling the phone closer to his eyes for another look. "She paid eleven-hundred dollars for this thing?"
"Oh, now you sound like me!" Ana said. "But wait...she did not...?"
"Elsa Peretti star dish in sterling silver - this is it!" he exclaimed, shoving the phone in Ana's face.
Dropping her head, Ana dug her fingers into her hair. "Can we return it, get store credit and buy a baby spoon when the Mini-Grey inhabits my womb?"
Upon closer inspection, Christian shook his head. "Uh, actually, no. She had the fucker engraved."
Ana's snickering left Christian intrigued. "You know...we could always put it in the Red Room of Pain," Ana suggested. "No one will see it down there!"
Deadpan, Christian turned Ana to face him. "Do you really want to look at that thing when we're scening, baby?"
"OK, OK!" Ana relented. "We'll throw it in the closet in the guest room. She'll never know..."
"Because she'll never be staying in our home..." Christian added, dropping the platter on the floor beside the bed. "But now, baby...since we're opening gifts..."
"Close your eyes for me," he said. "I have a little surprise for you..."
"Wait a minute here..." Ana said, carefully setting the tray on the bed and scooting out from under the blankets and sheets. Her lips curved into a delicate heart shape as she smiled. "Because I have one, too..."
They'd pledged to each other that they wouldn't exchange gifts, but Ana knew that was one promise Christian would never keep. After combing the Internet and the streets of Manhattan, she'd finally put together what she hoped was something sentimental that they could both share.
Somehow, Ana had managed to keep her own little secret hidden away from Christian, and she found the gift, distinctively wrapped in gray pinstripe paper, packed beneath layers of clothes in her suitcase.
When she'd rejoined him in bed, she crossed her legs and waited patiently.
"Ana, didn't we say..."
"You have something for me, too," she countered. "Wanna pick a fight, Grey?"
"No, I've had enough of those with the Steele women the last couple of days," he teased. "Close your eyes."
Doing just as she was told, Ana reminded him, "She's no longer a Steele." She could hear him rustling through his pocket for something.
"No, but you'll always be one - even I can admit that - and I'm alright with it," he assured her. Taking her hand, he opened her fingers and placed a small, velvet rectangular box in her hands. He loved the thrill of making her wait on all fronts - but he also enjoyed the delay of his own gratification - so he paused just a few moments before saying, "Open..."
Ana already recognized the packaging - from her collar and her engagement ring. Yeah...he went to Jacob...again.
"Oh...!" After lifting the lid, her breath truly caught, and her hand trembled just as it did the night he slipped that ring over her finger. She could feel her tears dripping over her fingers as she covered her mouth with both hands. "Christian!"
"Oh, fuck, no tears..." he begged. "Not again, baby. I hate to see you cry - even if it's in happiness..."
Again, Ana felt as if she were living some other young woman's life. Even with the gigantic ring she'd been wearing for nearly two months, she still felt so terribly guilty in accepting such lavish gifts.
"Ana," he circled her in his arms, "get used to this already, will you?"
The teardrop shaped sapphire earrings, tugging at the three tiers of varying diamonds glittered before her bewildered eyes. He'd matched her collar to perfection, and she simply had no words for the beauty she held in her hands.
Tickling her earlobes with his thumbs, he whispered, "Try them on..."
As Christian held her hair back, Ana carefully removed the small pearls from her ears, then placed them on the nightstand. She affixed one dangling sapphire, then the other, and shook her head about so gleefully before bouncing off the bed to the floor-length mirror with Christian right behind her.
"I-I honestly don't even know what to say right now," she murmured. "Exquisite even seems like an understatement..."
"Love you in sapphires, baby," he said, his arms finding their way around her waist to hold her so tightly against him. "Almost as beautiful as your eyes..."
"I can't wait to wear them with my collar tomorrow..."
"Well, looks like you've got something new and something blue," he teased. "What about old and borrowed?"
"You'll see tomorrow," Ana said with a mischievous grin. "Thought you wanted everything to be a surprise?"
"I do, baby..."
Turning in his arms to steal a quick kiss, Ana whispered against his lips, "Say those words again...?"
"Tomorrow, I'll repeat them."
"To whom?" she teased. "To baby? To Naughty Sassy Ana? Penelope...? And lest we forget Annabelle?"
Lifting Ana off her feet and wrapping her legs around his waist, he continued on with the list, "And Princess...Annie...Anastasia Rose..."
"Gonna be crowded on that altar if we all decide to show up," Ana laughed as he settled her back down on the bed and lunged in for a kiss. "I, Penelope Lynn...take thee...Kind Sir..."
"Oh, don't start, baby," he eased himself away from her. "Really trying not to get hard until tomorrow..."
"Good luck with that!"
"Yeah, I know." Once in a while, Christian could actually cop to his own imminent defeat.
"Will you open this now?" Ana said, reaching for her gift for Christian.
Running his fingers over the package, he looked at Ana, his gaze overflowing with emotion. "Sure will..."
With great caution, Christian unfolded each corner and pealed away every strand of tape that held the wrapping together - even taking the time to fold the paper after he'd removed it from the box. Perhaps that was one thing that would never leave him from his childhood - his appreciation of gifts, no matter how grand or small.
After lifting the lid and opening the folds of tissue paper, he looked up once again at Ana...and this time she knew she saw a tear or two in those enigmatic gray eyes. He took a deep breath as he opened the leather bound book and just shook his head as if he couldn't believe his own fate in falling in love with her.
"You have the most beautiful heart in in the world, Ana," he whispered.
The scrapbook, embossed with their initials and their wedding date, cost Ana nearly half her entire paycheck, as she purchased the gift from Smythson of Bond Street, personal stationer to none other than Queen Elizabeth II. Over the last few months, she'd been saving little souvenirs from their courtship - ticket stubs, items in the gossip and society pages (aside from Kate's now infamous story), selfies, pictures of Natasha and Pierre, their wedding announcement in the Times - and skillfully arranged everything on the thick, gilt-edged black pages.
"Now, you've got me speechless, baby," he said, caressing her cheek. "This is our history together so far...such a sentimental soul you are..." He placed his hand over her chest, covering her heart.
"Many more pages to fill, Mr. Grey," Ana said and reached for his hand while he continued to pour over each and every last clip in the book to date. "Have a feeling that we'll need a few more of those albums over the years."
"I know we will," he said, as his mouth found hers. As he deepened their soulful union of the lips, Ana realized that this self-imposed, pre-wedding celibacy was indeed taking its toll on him. "Ana, this is perfect. You're perfect. And every day you make me realize again why I fell in love with you."
"You do the same," Ana assured him. However, before she had the chance to say anything more, their lips had joined once again.
There was that old adage that noted one learned something new each day. And on that morning, Ana discovered that sometimes, Christian Grey needed kisses, too.