Ugh. Well, I feel like I should have a public shaming session on these crazy long breaks between updates. I apologize. I wish I had good reasons but they're all pretty useless. Let's see, facebook doesn't help, my t.v shows specifically my reality shows, and I also thought I'd write more when I'm sick but I just wanted bash my head against the lap top. So this is Chapter 11. It's changed over the course of weeks and I ended up here somehow. Blame it on Bates Motel and listening to Keith Urban for two straight days. I hope you all enjoy it. I didn't edit the last part. I have a busy weekend and just wanted to get it out before I ran out of time.

Chapter 11

Ana stretched, her body sore and exhausted. She wished it were from Christian's talents but it was more from his talented way to hurt her. Well, more surprise her with an added twist of complications on an already fucked up situation. After his confession about a sex room in their home, she refused to talk to him. And not because she thought it was the most adult way to handle an argument but because she was about to break down in tears and she couldn't stand to do it in front of him. She felt vulnerable and embarrassed enough.

So she escaped to the guest bedroom that suddenly made her feel worse. Honestly, she was almost deathly afraid to look in the closet. How many women had slept here? She passed his sex room with a weary glance which made her envision him bringing women into their home, fucking them while she was a couple of doors down, while she idiotically probably sat there pining after a stupid fantasy. Or maybe not? Maybe by then she would be so disillusioned with it all that she became numb. No, she told herself. That sharp stabbing pain she felt in her chest when she imagined him with someone else, well that probably won't go away. It was all so damn humiliating and it created a seemingly impenetrable wall between them. She was stuck. Some part of her wanted to cancel the wedding but Carrick had already paid for their home with her debt yet to be settled. And some part of her wanted him, only the good parts that in moments overwhelmed the bad. She wanted the conversation, their debates, and intelligent humor he only understood. And she so desperately wanted the man who apologized to her profusely last night, that worshiped her body. It's what made her stay, the glimpse into what he can be like. Ana groaned in frustration as she thought of his domineering way of silencing everything with his mouth and his hands. He forced her to feel everything with such precision, pleasuring and torturing her body with erotic sensation that sent her flying. She closed her eyes and remembered his lips on her pressing against her neck with restrained hunger. Slowly, her fingers crept down her stomach and to her wet panties. Ana moaned at the first touch, it sending white hot bursts of ecstasy radiating through her. She touched herself evoking Christian's deep voice, instigating more pleasure as she imagined all the dirty things he'd command of her. His hands, she fantasized, marked her with possession as they roamed her body ravenously.

"Christian." She moaned into her pillow as she came, riding out the heaven of pure sensation for as long as she could. The sheets were damp beneath her from sweat and she lay lax in bed enjoying the freedom from her thoughts for a moment while her body recovered. The ceiling fan spun with hypnotic movement, its monotonous motion centering her thoughts.

They never started on those novel and new butterflies that disguised flaws with beautiful vibrant colors. No, they were both disenchanted from the beginning and so it took work to get to their current place. Their feelings built steadily and gradually not like the usual euphoric whirlwind that left you disappointed when it wore off. Despite their manufactured relationship, the emotions were real. What they felt for each other was justified, a concrete representation of how well they played, talked, and laughed together.

"Ana." Christian's voice resounded from outside her door before he walked in. He scanned the room as if her presence made it some new space he'd never entered before.

"We need to finish our conversation from last night." Ana fought to stay mad, to avoid confrontation but eventually she sighed and patted the space next to her in bed.

"I know." She breathed, preparing herself. He slid in next to her and for the next couple minutes, they both just stared at the opposite wall engrossed in the modern geometric patterned wallpaper.

"Would you still like to postpone?" He asked without turning towards her.

"Don't you think it's best?"

"I am content with our current arrangement." He answered honestly and it threw her. It confused her even more.

"I don't know. Our invitations are out and I don't want to hurt your reputation." He turned quickly then and hooked his finger under her chin, drawing her up until she could see nothing but him. His gray eyes eliciting clouds bearing more than rain but the sharp promise of resonant thunder and electric lightning. They promised a thunderstorm.

"I want to know what you want." He declared. "I'll give you damn near anything to make you happy right now as long as you stay." She wanted to look away from his piercing gaze but he held her there. He wanted her to see his honesty.

"I don't know honestly, I'm on the fence. In some ways it makes no sense to postpone because I want you. That I know but there are so many obstacles. " She replied with just as much veracity. His brows knitted as if it was the farthest answer he expected. "And we need time."

"How much time?" And that was the question, she couldn't answer. Did it matter how much time? Would time truly change how she felt? That was the most terrifying part, she even admitted it last night. She couldn't imagine being with anyone else, talking with anyone else, or feeling so overwhelmingly turned on just by his touch. She was in the calm before the storm every moment until he relieved her with an inebriating kiss or the times his storms came with tornadoes and those were the worst. She lived in a constant state of anticipation which brought intense excitement and some pretty overwhelming heartbreak.

"However long it takes." He answered when she couldn't. She snaked her hand to rest on his cheek and he drew his nose to her palm testing her skin until he drew back. He stared at her fingers and bringing them to his nose again until she finally realized mortifyingly what he was doing. She jerked her hand back but he caught her wrist pinning it and the other above her head. Breathing hard now, she squirmed beneath his scrutinizing gaze.

"God damn it Ana, if you needed to come, I was just fucking downstairs." He breathed harshly to her as his fingers moved beneath the thin fabric of her panties eliciting a moan from her.

"You're so responsive." He asserted adoringly as his fingers roamed lazily over her sex. "This is mine." Christian growled as his fingers invaded her. Her toes curled tight around the sheet, her back arching until she was met with the hard expanse of his broad chest. She whimpered pathetically and he loved it.

"What did you think of when you touched yourself?" He asked stopping his invasion and resorting to teasing massages inside of her.

"You said you'd give me anything I wanted." She tried innocently.

"I'll make you come when I want you to. Now answer the question." Ana groaned in frustration, trying to impale herself more on his fingers but his hand snapped to her hip stopping her.

"You!" She groaned. "I thought of you." She'd play because she was desperate now and she'd describe every dirty detail she fantasized if it kept his hand moving.

"Did you imagine my cock buried in you?" He solicited against her ear, dragging his hot breath down her neck as he pulled away to look at her. Her smile exposed her and he laughed boyishly, shaking his head. "You really are my dirty girl." He breathed out, ripping the blanket from her and settling himself down between his legs.

She knew he was staring at her unrestrained but he lowered himself slowly eyeing her with predatory hunger. Her hands turned to fists at the first pass of his tongue and then he fed on her rousing a thin sheen of sweat all over her pale body. Ana clawed at the sheets but he gave her no relief, just sucking, teasing bites, and torturous flicks of his tongue that would send her climbing the walls if he wasn't holding her in place.

"Oh my God!" She screamed moving her hands to fist his hair. Looking down, she couldn't believe this powerful man even fit between her. His shoulders were wider than her hips and he looked massive, overpowering and damn it if that didn't push her further to the edge. He stole her voice as his tongue entered her. She opened her mouth to moan, to release some of the overwhelming ecstasy surging through her, but nothing. Her body refused to waste any effort. She came hard. Her entire body contorted as he ripped an orgasm from her. The only thing keeping her on that bed was his hands twining with hers. She would have floated away if he didn't ground her.

He gave no rest though. His tongue slowed, the wet warmth scorching her sensitive skin and then he grazed his teeth against her clit. It sent a paralyzing shock through her that tightened her core and she shot up.

"I can't." Ana whimpered as his mouth closed over her. She bordered between numb and too much feeling, it almost fracturing her consciousness.

"Give it to me Ana."

"I can't."

"Yes you can and you will because it's mine." She groaned half in ecstasy and half in awful frustration. The sensation inundated her, his words aiding in the white flame burning brighter at her hips.

"Take it from me then!" She hissed her fingers clawing at his and the smirk he gave her was just so characteristic of him. Arching wildly, she knew the deep growl that came from him was because she officially gave her body to him. He took from her everything her body could give.

He flipped her over easily. He didn't need to tie her, she could barely move. The sound of plastic ripping slowly brought her back to reality until he drove into her. Ana melted. Vaguely, she recognized they'd have to address why this was the only way he kept taking her but that first delicious drive sent a slow radiating pleasure wave through her. Christian savored it, growled against her shoulder as she contracted around him.

"I can't get enough of you." He claimed unforgivingly, lazily thrusting into her, building her wave taller. Biting at her shoulder, she arched beneath him and he moved deeper. His hand snaked beneath her, forming a coil around her throat and her head fell back against his shoulder.

"I own your pleasure."

And pain, she mentally added but he purged her of thought as he snapped his hips against her. She loved his heat against her, his body forming a protective cocoon around her. Her world was nothing but him in that moment. She breathed his scent, only heard his voice growling all the carnal dirty things he loved about her.

"Please don't stop." She exhaled, turning her head into his neck as a form of submission, her own way of begging. The animalistic sound that escaped his throat vibrated against her skin as his thrusts turned urgent. His hands clawed at her hips, digging as he couldn't get a tight enough grip to withstand his drives. She curled her hands around a pillow as the room became an echo of his skin slapping against hers and the bed battering the wall. Oh God, she was close.

"Not yet." He warned ominously but it was torture.

"I have to." She cried, tears forming with her restraint.

"All you have to do is wait for my command." He demanded before moving his hand and tightening his fingers around her nipple until the pain dampened her pleasure. When he released though, it came back hotter. Christian's breaths labored against her cheek before he kissed her with bruising force.

"Okay, baby." He whispered lightly to her, so lovingly and the wave crashed with a force that made her scream with liberation.

"Yes!" She vaguely heard Christian's appreciation before he came with her. "Fuck, yes."

Reality blurred as she collapsed onto the bed feeling herself transcend everything. With delicious detachment, she watched the veins in Christian's forearms hypnotically throb with his contractions as he rode out his orgasm. And when that sight became overwhelming, she shut her eyes only to hear his strained breathing and grunts and feel his hand grabbing at the skin of her ass. Minutes, hours, maybe only seconds passes before he lowered himself and she welcomed his heat, his skin resting against hers. His chest draping her back. His fingers curled around hers stretching her arms to the side as he nipped tenderly at her sensitive skin causing shudders to race up her spine. When he finished, she opened her eyes slowly with exhausted effort to see him propped on his elbow and watching her with a tormented expression.

"What's wrong?" She sighed trying to offer him a smile but it turned weak with her effort. He was still inside her pulsing with the aftermath.

"Nothing's wrong." He answered and she believed him. She also believed that was the problem.

"So no touching myself?" She asked trying to change the subject. His lips curled up. His copper strands framed his face, that strong jaw becoming even more powerful with a smile. He knew it too.

"No. Is that a problem?" His voice became teasing yet maintained the confident tone that left no room to argue. She felt lazy circles being drawn onto her skin.

"It's a problem if you don't do that everyday." He laughed then, throwing his head back and a low melodic rumble of mirthful sounds erupted from him. It made him look so young and so free, she decided she wanted to see it more. She wanted to be witness to it every time because it felt like such a gift from a man like him.

"Is this a bdsm thing?" He shook his head and pressed a kiss to her temple.

"It's a I'm-a-selfish-bastard thing. I want to see you come every time. I want to make those beautiful sounds come out of you."

"You're right, it is selfish." She quipped back and he laughed again. God, it rang so amazing throughout the room filling it with life.

"So you're not mad at me anymore?"

"I wasn't mad. I was hurt but I can't keep holding your actions against you when they come from a different time. We're here now and I need to focus on that but we do need to have a more in depth conversation like yesterday."

"I know."

Her phone ringing interrupted their talk and he reached for it before handing it to her. Sluggishly, she answered and placed it on her ear, too tired to hold it.

Her grandmother rambled on the other end but she watched Christian pull out out of her over her shoulder.

"Don't look at me like that." He warned and she resumed her focus on the breakfast invitation her grandmother demanded. Hanging up, she finally found some semblance of strength again as she turned on her side and pulled the sheet over her now chilled body from Christian's absence.

"My grandmother is in town and demands we have breakfast there in an hour."

"I've worked up an appetite." He answered with a shrug. "And I don't need anymore threats." He added playfully.

"Threats?" She asked confused pulling herself up to a seated position.

"She visited my office yesterday. It wasn't anything just protective rhetoric I'd expect from a Grandmother."

"Oh my God. I'm sorry. What did she say?" Ana covered her eyes not in disbelief but mortification. Her grandmother's forwardness and unpredictability came from being raised only by her father and on a farm no less that she still operated. Just thinking of her and Christian together alone gave her anxiety. She peeked through her fingers as Christian began to answer.

"Well something along the lines that she taught you to shoot and you have a good eye." Ana's jaw dropped before she slumped back down and pulled the sheet over her head.

"I'm so embarrassed." She mumbled only to hear Christian laugh.

"Don't be." He pulled the sheet away from her. "But we should leave soon. I'd rather not piss her off."

"You've been a naughty grandma I hear." Ana told her grandmother as they fell into an embrace.

"Not any naughtier than usual honey" Ana gave a playful glare but her grandmother just patted her shoulder with dismissal.

"Greta, it's nice to see you again." Christian lulled as he sat at the dining room table with her father. The fact that he distanced himself already spoke volumes as to who led the conversation the day before. Ana seated herself next to Ruth at the kitchen island but her attention remained across the room. This was the first time both the men in her life were together for more than a couple minutes. Only experiencing brief meetings over the past two months, she worried about how well they'd get along if they had more time. Although that was when she wasn't very fond of Christian and things were different now. He was different now.

"Did you two get your tiff sorted out?" Her grandmother asked with feigned objectivity that Ana had to smile at.

"We did for the most part." She answered feeling Ruth's questioning gaze that Ana tried to ignore. She'd answer all of her questions soon enough. They gathered at the table and she settled next to Christian listening to him and her father talk about the Asian market.

"Does Ana cook for you Christian?"

"Grandma." Ana slated but her grandmother just looked at Christian expectantly.

"She cooks very well." Christian answered with pride as his hand moved to grace her lower back. She leaned into him.

"I also clean his shoes, doll myself up so when he gets home I look good rubbing his feet." Ana interjected with sarcasm.

"Oh Ana, stop with that feminist shit."

"Mom." Her father sighed at her curse words.

"I was going to ask if Christian cooks for you?" Greta waved her pan of scrambled eggs dramatically at her like it was an obvious progression of questions.

"I'm a professional re-heater." Christian replied for her making her smile and laugh. It lightened the mood completely.

"At least someone is being polite."

"Yes, someone." She quipped back and she received a warm smile from her grandmother. That was always her apology, that and food. She fattened anyone up if you stayed with her long enough.

Breakfast continued with separate conversations merging intermittently, peppered with laughter and jokes usually poking at one another. Their dining room table hadn't seen this much action in years. As she leaned back in her chair and quietly watched for a moment enduring the nostalgia until it became painful.

"I'm going to go shower and start getting ready for the bridal shower." She told everyone standing as she masked herself and the pain tempered with a convincing grin. Christian was the only one to study her before her father drew his attention again.

Christian lay on her bed as Ana emerged from her bathroom and she felt a hand snake around her waist, abruptly turning her to settle on his lap. His hand went right for her sex and she laughed before clutching his wrist.

"Don't you have some work to do today?" She asked trying with useless effort to slide away from him. A frustrated moan escaped her lips as his capable fingers brushed lightly against her.

"Not right now."

"I have to get ready." Ana whined as his lips danced across her collarbone. His other hand traced the curve of her shoulder and she knew her towel didn't stand a chance.

"I have people coming." He told her before he pinned her down.

"Did you really expect to walk around in just a towel…" He began with a licentious growl.

"And not expect you to have some self-control?" She finished with an amused smile.

"Ana, haven't you learned yet, I have none with you." He answered with such conviction that it stole her attention more than his lips robbing hers. And the more she thought about it, the rare vulnerable moments of such a formidable man who remained calm and collected in every setting besides the moments hes been with her. His anger during one of their interviews, pinning Daniel to the wall at their home, and his affected demeanor at her apartment the night before all were obvious signs she misinterpreted. Ana wrapped her fingers in his hair and pulled him tighter against her. He groaned and she laughed as the doorbell went off. Jumping up, his thumb caught the edge of the towel and pulled it away.

Ana cocked her hip and stared at him as he withheld the towel from her.

"Like you'd ever let me go out there like this." She told him with a smirk. Christian dropped the towel on the floor.

"I can still watch you bend over."

"Like I'd give you the satisfaction." She quipped back playfully before retrieving her robe from her closet door. He moved to the edge of the bed and tied her robe for her.

"Who are these people anyway?" She asked as she played with his hair distractedly.

"Hair, makeup, clothing, and jewelry for today." He answered dismissively.

"I bought a dress already Christian."

"Well, if you don't like anything else wear it." His eyes were seeking her approval and she gave it.

"It's a nice gesture. Thank you."

"Well, if you like the hair stylist and make-up artist, let me know. We can hire them permanently."

He stood then and hooked a finger under her chin.

"This is our life now. I should have given you this the entire time." He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Now, come on."

She heard her grandmother before they even reached the foot of the stairs berating the people at the door.

"Grandma, it's okay. They're here to help." And as she peered past her grandmother to what seemed like an army of people outside, she could only look back and give Christian a shake of her head. He of course responded with a boyish shrug. Ana guided them all in. The stylists, she sent to their family office and the makeup and hair people she moved to the dining room. It all became a blur. Makeup cases of foundation, primers, eyeshadow, and more brushes than she'd seen at her local Sephora store were now all scattered over their oval mahogany wood.. Her grandmother lasted about a minute before she threw up a dismissive hand and refused makeup. It wasn't surprising. The only time she wore makeup was on Sunday to church which consisted only of her favorite mauve lipstick.

Ana acted accordingly, thanking each person as they tended to her and not allowing the grandness of the situation to show on her face. Ruth, however; had the expression of a child in a candy store. Walking to their family room and office, she passed shoeboxes all opened and the shoes all displayed on top. Jewelry lay on top of black velvet bags across her coffee table. Two rows of dresses and gowns hung on metal rods in her office. Two stylists approached her excitedly both brunettes dressed in all designer labels their walk scored to the sound of their jewelry clinging and their heels clicking. They introduced themselves as Nora and Emily and their eagerness to please became indisputably obvious. Ana hated this part where her status left little room for genuine exchanges. She disliked the power and what it brought in regards to friendships and relationships.

"We have brought what we had on hand and what we could get in the short time frame Miss Steele." Nora naturally rambled as she motioned a hand towards the dresses. "Mr. Grey called us at ten a.m yesterday and flew us in when we felt comfortable with our selection."

"I understand." Ana replied with a warm smile hoping to break some of the formalities. "Please just call me Ana."

We're the same age. She wanted to add but silenced that thought.

Ana watched their enthusiasm as they pulled each dress and gown from the rack to show her. Each one was stunning. Lace details, sequins, and gold trims seemed to be a common denominator between all their bridal shower picks and she chose three to try on. Texting Christian, she decided to make it easier on herself and have him help. She also picked her gown for New York the next evening, a beautiful royal blue Marchesa strapless gown that clung to her body perfectly, outlining her curves while also complementing her skin tone. He entered about five minutes later with more of an authoritative stride signaling his professional demeanor.

"Emily and Nora, it's nice to meet you in person finally." They both stepped into each other as they attempted to greet him. Yes, she agreed he is much different in the flesh. His physical demeanor lent almost a hyper state of masculinity than that of his naturally commanding tone. He required attention, demanded subservience, and generally achieved both besides with her if you asked him though.

"I'd prefer my fiancé help me into my dresses if you both wouldn't mind?" She asked and they immediately left her family office like she were Christian commanding it.

"You don't need to ask." Christian commented as she stripped her robe. "You're in a position now where…"

"Where it doesn't matter. They rushed out of here like I ordered them to."

"You did, in a passive aggressive manner. They know your position, it's confusing to them when you don't use it or use it in a way where you're falsely giving them an option."

"I would have let them help if it were a big deal."

"They would have required some direction and instruction before they approached you. You can have relationships after you've defined the parameters. It's just the way it is now."

"I get it." She sighed as he zipped up the first dress.

"This is the one." He whispered against her neck and she laughed.

"I haven't even tried the others on."

"Why did you think I picked this one first?"

She studied the short fit and flare dress. The long sleeves and boat neckline glittered with gold, the ivory beneath gaining attention with its soft chiffon appearance. Her hands ran over the skirt splaying from her hips with playful appeal. She loved it.

"What do you think?" He asked, now casually leaning against the desk.

"I think you get your way too often." His smile broadened before he called the girls back in.

"I'm heading to my office now. Enjoy today and I'll meet you at the hangar after." He kissed her cheek lightly and whispered his demand that her panties disappear before they reunite. She had a reply

The bridal shower progressed in a blur of introductions, posing for photographs, and opening gifts that varied mostly between bottles of champagne and personalized "Mrs. Grey" objects. Oversized ivory balloons hung throughout their home, sheets of white chiffon encompassing an entire room where they ate and opened gifts. Mia bounced around the home, her high-pitched voice carrying through out while Grace stuck by her side as they moved through the guests.

Ana took a later ride home to gather her things before meeting Christian at the airport. Time floated with her void of stress now that the party ended and the assurance that sex in some form was going to happen soon because neither her nor Christian had the restraint. Sure, Christian's appetite appeared more nurtured and insatiable but he ignited a hunger inside of her the kind that left you eyeing crumbs on the floor out of desperation. The mystery surrounding him still sexually and the curiosity gifted her with almost unbearable cravings. She wanted him, to touch him, to taste him, and take him in ways he refused to give her still. Ana tapped the leather beneath her with undeniable frustration. Her mind ran rampant with fantasies of how he'd take her on the plane demanding she quiet down because of the staff. She wanted Christian to shove his fingers in her mouth to silence her and she'd suck them with the same intensity she wanted to scream with.

Oh God, where did that even come from? Ana's hands flew to cover her eyes as her cheeks blushed bright red. So this is the effect he had, what she would spend a lot of her time doing. Throwing her head back, she laughed knowing she'd probably become the painter whose art always has an underlying erotic portrayal now, even if it's just a bowl of fruit. It was the champagne, she lied to herself knowing fully that two glasses didn't just magically turn you into a horny teenager.

Sawyer dropped her off and she told him she'd prefer to drive to their hangar. Dusk settled around her as she walked into her home, the rain clouds growing darker with warning of more than just rain. She stopped and talked to Ruth and her grandmother for a moment before heading upstairs to say good-bye to her father. He had texted her twice to make sure she would.

"You'd think I was leaving forever." She joked as she walked into her father's room but she paused as he stood holding out an encased DVD. His solemn face just stared at her and swallowed as if he were building the strength to even speak. The see through cover gave no sign to what he held but the longer she stared at it, a sickening feeling formed in her stomach. Dread washed over her like a violent wave.

"I didn't want to give you this before your bridal shower but your mother recorded a message for you for your bridal shower day. There are other ones." His choked words barely registered. She comprehended what he said but in such a detached manner that she refused to recall to make sure. Her eyes drifted to the bed where two presents lay, wrapped in ivory paper slightly discolored from time. Her heart sinking, she knew her mother wrapped them. Envisioning her mother's fingers wearing her wedding ring as she wrapped the bow forced another wave on top of her. She was drowning, clawing at the surface, reaching for an escape. Shaking her head frantically, she backed away.

"I can't."

"I know it's hard but you have to face it."

Ana didn't want to. She didn't want to be like her father who spent his mornings crying in the bathroom and the rest of the day drinking his tears with added alcoholic content. Because she knew, once she did that she wouldn't stop.

"I have. I know she died. I know she's not here. I don't need to be reminded."

"Sit down right now." Her father ordered with influence she hadn't heard in years. "You are going to watch this because this was important to her and because you need to."

Ana guided herself to the edge of their bed slowly feeling like her world was spinning. She had nowhere to hide from this. The room she created to lock every painful memory away started to crack, thick erratic lines scaling the walls.

"I'll be outside unless you want me to stay?" With late reaction she looked up at her father and shook her head watching his shoulders slump in relief as he walked out. Her fingers danced over the remote sitting next to her, gliding with an uneasiness at the moment. She lied. She hadn't faced anything. It happened, her mother died, and she immediately hid within her fake marriage. She'd always known this with vivid self-awareness but what came with that level of cognizance was conscious denial. And Ana excelled at it. The girl who lost her mother was pushed so far away that she separated them both. And this was her return. Here and right now, they converged. She pushed play.

"Hi honey!" Her mother appeared on the screen, her favorite floral head scarf hiding her lack of hair, and her face wearing a pale yellow tint. The smile she wore curved her lips to exaggerated points as she worked to look cheerful. Ana's chest tightened as her foot bounced enough to shake the entire bed. Grunts of restraint echoed as she struggled not to cry. When the pain of all of her memories began to vibrate throughout her body becoming unbearable, she shoved all of her weight against the door of her disintegrating room and shut herself off.

conscious denial.

Standing as she shut off the screen, she ran her hands over her dress fixing it and looking at herself for any other flaws to focus on. The world then became a challenge to navigate, the room perilously close to bursting and her concentration on everything else but that. She stepped out of the room on autopilot carrying both presents, happy that her father had retreated to his office. It gave her an easy escape. Her steps felt like someone else walked them and as she drove away from the driveway, she had forgotten exactly where she was going.

Ana drove. She jumped on the 405 before merging on over to I-5 feeling depleted and numb. Feeling no rational thought, she just focused on the road, her hands on the steering wheel and just navigating time. Tears fell the entire way and not with grace nor with control. They were more of white noise than the monotonous hum of her vehicle. Her windshield wipers and the sound of rain surrounded her completely with a melancholy soundtrack. With every minute, her denial cracked falling from her like chipped paint flakes. She used to have the strength to withstand storms but even the gentlest gust now sent particles flying.

The miles blurred into just passing scenery instead of measurable limit of escape. She just kept her foot on the pedal and her eyes on the road despite how much her watery vision matched perfectly with the downpour.

Her arms became heavy, sore from the sharp grip she kept on the steering wheel and her back coiled with tension. Exhaustion hit her suddenly and hard causing her to scan her gps for a nearby hotel. Nothing displayed besides small towns with only a gas station that she could ony guess was closed. A half-lit sign emerged about ten miles later, the M and O non existent against the dying ember color of the rest. Even her mind was too exhausted to create serial killer scenarios of the sketchy looking Motel. She pulled off, parking in front of the main office before she studied the place. A too bright of light illuminated the small space before her, it more of a stark entrance than welcoming. She killed the engine and took a deep breath. Two stories of rooms formed a wall behind the small unattached office. Lights flickered outside the doors, well the ones that worked anyway. Normally, her head would evoke the worst scenarios and her fear would lead her decisions but she was all emotion. All Ana wanted to do was collapse onto a bed and cry. She wanted to break down in a shitty place like this. It wouldn't be disappointed. It wouldn't judge her. She had preconceived ideas about the clientele and finally enduring an overdue meltdown probably wasn't the worst thing to happen in these rooms.

The man at the front desk gave no notice to her red swollen eyes. And she wondered if he were just immune to the drama of late night visitors. His dark brown eyes outlined with wrinkles just lingered long enough to be attentive and short enough to remain professional. She took the room key and pulled her car around to the closest space. She was on the first level which gave her some comfort. Easier escape, she thought if shit went wrong. The room blinked to life with erratic light when she flipped the switch on, its small space becoming even smaller with the unknown removed. A seventies looking floral duvet cover draped the bed tidily. That made her feel better. A t.v resembling those that gave you an euphoric rush in school when they came wheeled above a VCR player sat shoved in the corner on top of a small end table. She threw her suitcase on the floor and pulled out some sweatpants and a shirt before she walked into the bathroom. The bathtub and sink were clean almost meticulously besides the hard water stains circling the drain and it released some of her fears about the room. It actually made her more tired, the anxiety about head lice and bedbugs somewhat floating away.

Ana paused at her reflection. With shaky hands she prodded at her swollen eyes drawing more tears. The damn things just wouldn't stop. She poked harder with frustration before working her hair out of her ponytail. She brushed her teeth and cleaned her face. The room burst when she looked at herself. There she was in plain horribly lit view void of any disguise with red lined eyes from pain. Ana's hands caught the sink as she doubled over as her first sob broke from her. Stumbling to the bed, she grabbed her phone and finally turned it on.

There were over forty text messages and twenty voice mails and the obvious destruction she left behind broke her more.

She texted her father and Christian saying she was okay and that she'd be back in the morning. She'd go back. To what? Well, she wasn't sure yet.

Dropping her phone, Ana curled into a ball and sobbed. All of it rushed out of her with desperation. The past four months, fuck that, seven years forced her to create this wall and it worked. It worked really well until the death created an irreversible crack and Christian and their fake marriage well he just came by with a sledgehammer slowly beating against her facade.

The pain hurt as it burst from her. She curled around herself tighter trying to control the vomiting of her sobs but nothing worked. It felt greater than her entire being, the hurt like vines curling their way around her body and squeezing more heart-rending cries from her. Her mother had really died and some part of her, a large part had gone with her. Every day that her mother hopelessly fought cancer, it chipped at her very resolve, her identity until she just buried herself into the caretaker role. All of the memories she compartmentalized broke free.

Ana remembered the feel of her nails digging into the couch cushion when her parents confided that her mother had cancer. God, the fear in her father's eyes. She remembered sitting outside her parents bedroom door as her mother cried hysterically because of all the things she was going to miss..

"Raymond, what if where I'm going, I lose all of my memories. I just lose everything. I'm here and then one day I'm not. I have a life! I have an identity. I can't lose it! I can't forget my own child. I can't. That's hell. I need to be here. I'm a mother. I'm supposed to have more time with her."

Recalling the shrill desperate tone of her mother's voice with torturous clarity, Ana felt her breathing morph into panic. She couldn't. This is why she locked these memories away, why she buried them. It hurt so bad to the point that it took her breath away. The security she lost tore through her entire being. It was that learned trust and innate comfort one felt as a toddler when you crawled into your parents bed in the middle of the night with sleepy routine steps and curling into the side of your mother as she pressed a kiss to your forehead before you both cocooned yourselves in that shared love. That's what it felt like to lose her mother. She was all alone in the night without the crutch of knowing she had someone that understood her completely. Her mother watched her mind form with intimate knowledge, shaping her, and knowing the exact way to heal and comfort her. Ana knew how to care and comfort herself but in any case she couldn't she always knew her mother had the answers. She loved her father but he worked often. It was just her and her mother until it wasn't. Now it's just her.

Hours passed maybe. At some point her crying had died down into hiccups with the occasional toe curling sob. She traced the petals of the flowers on the comforter unable to go to sleep but too exhausted to cry as she had.

What hurt the most now was her actions and their consequences. She didn't know where she planned to run to but this shitty little motel room ended her escape. Going back, she'd need to deal with everyone she just left, Christian mainly because for someone who she realized probably suffered with abandonment issues, she cringed at her running.

"Ana!" She began to shake at the sound of Christian's voice, the pounding of his fist against the door. She just didn't have the strength.

"Open the fucking door!"

"God!" She screamed as she threw open the door. He towered above her, soaking wet from the rain, his jaw pulled so tight that she could almost hear his teeth shifting against each other. "I was coming back."

"To me?" He hissed more than he asked and Ana could only lower her gaze to the floor, her shoulders bouncing with the hicupping from her tears.

"God damn it Ana!" Christian growled as his fist met the door frame and almost instantly she was pinned against the wall, her chin held tightly between his hand. "Tell me why!" Droplets of water fell from his hair and merged with her tears. Her mind raced with reasons, her mother's disappointment, his mistakes, but it all came down to one thing she realized.

"You don't want me!" She screamed.


"I have all of this pain and I just want to get on my knees and beg for you to take it away. " She was clutching his arms now frantically, her entire chest shaking. "I'm breaking Christian and I'm not as strong as you think I am. If you want me, then you can have me breaking with this pain but you don't deserve that."

"What I deserve?" He snapped in frustration. "There is not a god damn day that I believe that I deserve you. I feel like I'm holding onto you with the tips of my fingers Ana. Good things don't happen to me often and they sure as hell don't last. I'm waiting for this all to fall apart but I want you so much. I need you so bad that I don't think I can let you go."

He let go of her chin and snaked an arm under her knees, kicking the door shut before carrying her to the bed.

"I'd take your pain if I could. I'd endure it all for you if only to feel like I've paid whatever debt I've encompassed somewhere to have you."

"Oh my God, I love you." She curled tighter into his lap and sobbed it over and over into his shirt because he needed to hear it and because she needed to say it.