Monday, November 26, 2012

Fifty Shades Freed CHAPTER 23


CHAPTER 23

There is only pain. My head, my chest . . . burning pain. My side, my arm. Pain.
Pain and hushed words in the gloom. Where am I? Though I try, I cannot open my
eyes. The whispered words become clearer . . . a beacon in the darkness.
“Her ribs are bruised, Mr. Grey, and she has a hairline fracture to her skull,
but her vital signs are stable and strong.”
“Why is she still unconscious?”
“Mrs. Grey has had a major contusion to her head. But her brain activity is
normal, and she has no cerebral swelling. She’ll wake when she’s ready. Just give
her some time.”
“And the baby?” The words are anguished, breathless.
“The baby’s fine, Mr. Grey.”
“Oh, thank God.” The words are a litany . . . a prayer. “Oh, thank God.”
Oh my. He’s worried about the baby . . . the baby? . . . Little Blip. Of course.
My Little Blip. I try in vain to move my hand to my belly. Nothing moves, nothing
responds.
“And the baby? . . . Oh, thank God.”
Little Blip is safe.
“And the baby? . . . Oh, thank God.”
He cares about the baby.
“And the baby? . . . Oh, thank God.”
He wants the baby. Oh thank God. I relax, and unconsciousness claims me
once more, stealing me away from the pain.
Everything is heavy and aching: limbs, head, eyelids, nothing will move. My eyes
and mouth are resolutely shut, unwilling to open, leaving me blind and mute and
aching. As I surface from the fog, consciousness hovers, a seductive siren just out
of reach. Sounds become voices.
“I’m not leaving her.”
Christian! He’s here . . . I will myself to wake—his voice is strained, an agonized
whisper.
“Christian, you should sleep.”
“No, Dad. I want to be here when she wakes up.”
“I’ll sit with her. It’s the least I can do after she saved my daughter.”
Mia!
“How’s Mia?”
“She’s groggy . . . scared and angry. It’ll be a few hours before the Rohypnol
is completely out of her system.”
“Christ.”
“I know. I’m feeling seven kinds of foolish for relenting on her security. You
warned me, but Mia is so stubborn. If it wasn’t for Ana here . . .”
“We all thought Hyde was out of the picture. And my crazy, stupid
wife—Why didn’t she tell me?” Christian’s voice is full of anguish.
“Christian, calm down. Ana’s a remarkable young woman. She was incredibly
brave.”
“Brave and headstrong and stubborn and stupid.” His voice cracks.
“Hey,” Carrick murmurs, “don’t be so hard on her, or yourself, son . . . I’d
better get back to your mom. It’s after three in the morning, Christian. You really
should try to sleep.”
The fog closes in.
The fog lifts but I have no sense of time.
“If you don’t take her across your knee, I sure as hell will. What the hell was
she thinking?”
“Trust me, Ray, I just might do that.”
Dad! He’s here. I fight the fog . . . fight . . . But I spiral down once more into
oblivion. No . . .
“Detective, as you can see, my wife is no state to answer any of your questions.”
Christian is angry.
“She’s a headstrong young woman, Mr. Grey.”
“I wish she’d killed the fucker.”
“That would have meant more paperwork for me, Mr. Grey . . .”
“Miss Morgan is singing like the proverbial canary. Hyde’s a real twisted son
of a bitch. He has a serious grudge against your father and you . . .”
The fog surrounds me once more, and I’m dragged down . . . down. No!
“What do you mean you weren’t talking?” It’s Grace. She sounds angry. I try to
move my head, but I’m met with a resounding, listless silence from my body.
“What did you do?”
“Mom—”
“Christian! What did you do?”
“I was so angry.” It’s almost a sob . . . No.
“Hey . . .”
The world dips and blurs and I’m gone.
I hear soft garbled voices.
“You told me you’d cut all ties.” Grace is talking. Her voice is quiet,
admonishing.
“I know.” Christian sounds resigned. “But seeing her finally put it all in perspective
for me. You know . . . with the child. For the first time I felt . . . What we
did . . . it was wrong.”
“What she did darling . . . Children will do that to you. Make you look at the
world in a different light.”
“She finally got the message . . . and so did I . . . I hurt Ana,” he whispers.
“We always hurt the ones we love, darling. You’ll have to tell her you’re
sorry. And mean it and give her time.”
“She said she was leaving me.”
No. No. No!
“Did you believe her?”
“At first, yes.”
“Darling, you always believe the worst of everyone, including yourself. You
always have. Ana loves you very much, and it’s obvious you love her.”
“She was mad at me.”
“I’m sure she was. I’m pretty mad at you right now. I think you can only be
truly mad at someone you really love.”
“I thought about it, and she’s shown me over and over how much she loves
me . . . to the point of putting her own life in danger.”
“Yes, she has, darling.”
“Oh, Mom, why won’t she wake up?” His voice cracks. “I nearly lost her.”
Christian! There are muffled sobs. No . . .
Oh . . . the darkness closes in. No—
“It’s taken twenty-four years for you to let me hold you like this . . .”
“I know, Mom . . . I’m glad we talked.”
“Me too, darling. I’m always here. I can’t believe I’m going to be a
grandmother.”
Grandma!
Sweet oblivion beckons.
Hmm. His stubble softly scrapes the back of my hand as he squeezes my fingers.
“Oh, baby, please come back to me. I’m sorry. Sorry for everything. Just
wake up. I miss you. I love you . . .”
I try. I try. I want to see him. But my body disobeys me, and I fall asleep once
more.
I have a pressing need to pee. I open my eyes. I’m in the clean, sterile environment
of a hospital room. It’s dark except for a sidelight, and all is quiet. My head
and my chest ache, but more than that, my bladder is bursting. I need to pee. I test
my limbs. My right arm smarts, and I notice the IV attached to it on the inside of
my elbow. I shut my eyes quickly. Turning my head—I’m pleased that it responds
to my will—I open my eyes again. Christian is asleep, sitting beside me and leaning
on my bed with his head on his folded arms. I reach out, grateful once more
that my body responds, and run my fingers through his soft hair.
He startles awake, raising his head so suddenly my hand falls weakly back
onto the bed.
“Hi,” I croak.
“Oh, Ana.” His voice is choked and relieved. He grasps my hand, squeezing
it tightly and holding it up against his rough, stubbled cheek.
“I need to use the bathroom,” I whisper.
He gapes then frowns at me for a moment. “Okay.”
I struggle to sit up.
“Ana, stay still. I’ll call a nurse.” He quickly stands, alarmed, and reaches for
a buzzer on the bedside.
“Please,” I whisper. Why do I ache everywhere? “I need to get up.” Jeez, I
feel so weak.
“Will you do as you’re told for once?” he snaps, exasperated.
“I really need to pee,” I rasp. My throat and mouth are so dry.
A nurse bustles into the room. She must be in her fifties, though her hair is jet
black. She wears overlarge pearl earrings.
“Mrs. Grey welcome back. I’ll let Dr. Bartley know you’re awake.” She
makes her way to my bedside. “My name is Nora. Do you know where you are?”
“Yes. Hospital. I need to pee.”
“You have a catheter.”
What? Oh this is gross. I glance anxiously at Christian then back to the nurse.
“Please. I want to get up.”
“Mrs. Grey.”
“Please.”
“Ana,” Christian warns. I struggle to sit up once more.
“Let me remove your catheter. Mr. Grey I am sure Mrs. Grey would like
some privacy.” She looks pointedly at Christian, dismissing him.
“I’m not going anywhere.” He glares back at her.
“Christian, please,” I whisper, reaching out and grasping his hand. Briefly he
squeezes my hand then gives me an exasperated look. “Please,” I beg.
“Fine!” he snaps and runs his hand through his hair. “You have two minutes,”
he hisses at the nurse, and he leans down and kisses my forehead before turning
on his heel and leaving the room.
Christian bursts back into the room two minutes later as Nurse Nora is helping me
out of bed. I’m dressed in a thin hospital gown. I don’t remember being stripped.
“Let me take her,” he says and strides toward us.
“Mr. Grey, I can manage.” Nurse Nora scolds him.
He gives her a hostile glare. “Dammit, she’s my wife. I’ll take her.” He says
through gritted teeth as he moves the IV stand out of his way.
“Mr. Grey!” she protests.
He ignores her, leans down, and gently lifts me off the bed. I wrap my arms
around his neck, my body complaining. Jeez, I ache everywhere. He carries me to
the en suite bathroom while Nurse Nora follows us, pushing the IV stand.
“Mrs. Grey, you’re too light,” he mutters disapprovingly as he sets me gently
on my feet. I sway. My legs feel like Jell-O. Christian flips the light switch, and
I’m momentarily blinded by the fluorescent lamp that pings and flickers to life.
“Sit before you fall,” he snaps, still holding me.
Tentatively, I sit down on the toilet.
“Go.” I try to wave him out.
“No. Just pee, Ana.”
Could this be any more embarrassing? “I can’t, not with you here.”
“You might fall.”
“Mr. Grey!”
We both ignore the nurse.
“Please,” I beg.
He raises his hands in defeat. “I’ll stand outside, door open.” He takes a
couple of paces back until he’s standing just outside the door with the angry
nurse.
“Turn around, please,” I ask. Why do I feel so ridiculously shy with this
man? He rolls his eyes but complies. And when his back is turned . . . I let go, and
savor the relief.
I take stock of my injuries. My head hurts, my chest aches where Jack kicked
me, and my side throbs where he pushed me to the ground. Plus I’m thirsty and
hungry. Jeez, really hungry. I finish up, thankful that I don’t have to get up to
wash my hands, as the sink is close. I just don’t have the strength to stand.
“I’m done,” I call, drying my hands on the towel.
Christian turns and comes back in and before I know it, I’m in his arms again.
I have missed these arms. He pauses and buries his nose in my hair.
“Oh, I’ve missed you, Mrs. Grey,” he whispers, and with Nurse Nora fussing
behind him, he lays me back on the bed and releases me—reluctantly, I think.
“If you’ve quite finished, Mr. Grey, I’d like to check over Mrs. Grey now.”
Nurse Nora is mad.
He stands back. “She’s all yours,” he says in a more measured tone.
She huffs at him then turns her attention back to me.
Exasperating isn’t he?
“How do you feel?” she asks me her voice laced with sympathy and a trace of
irritation, which I suspect is for Christian’s benefit.
“Sore and thirsty. Very thirsty,” I whisper.
“I’ll fetch you some water once I’ve checked your vitals and Dr. Bartley has
examined you.”
She reaches for a blood pressure cuff and wraps it around my upper arm. I
glance anxiously up at Christian. He looks dreadful—haunted, even—as if he
hasn’t slept for days. His hair is a mess, he hasn’t shaved for a long time, and his
shirt is badly wrinkled. I frown.
“How are you feeling?” Ignoring the nurse, he sits down on the bed out of
arm’s reach.
“Confused. Achy. Hungry.”
“Hungry?” He blinks in surprise.
I nod.
“What do you want to eat?”
“Anything. Soup.”
“Mr. Grey, you’ll need the doctor’s approval before Mrs. Grey can eat.”
He gazes at her impassively for a moment then takes his BlackBerry out of
his pants pocket and presses a number.
“Ana wants chicken soup . . . Good . . . Thank you.” He hangs up.
I glance at Nora whose eyes narrow at Christian.
“Taylor?” I ask quickly.
Christian nods.
“Your blood pressure is normal, Mrs. Grey. I’ll fetch the doctor.” She removes
the cuff and, without so much as another word, stalks out of the room, radiating
disapproval.
“I think you made Nurse Nora mad.”
“I have that effect on women.” He smirks.
I laugh, then stop suddenly as pain radiates through my chest. “Yes, you do.”
“Oh, Ana, I love to hear you laugh.”
Nora returns with a pitcher of water. We both fall silent, gazing at each other
as she pours out a glass and hands it to me.
“Small sips now,” she warns.
“Yes, ma’am,” I mutter and take a welcome sip of cool water. Oh my. It
tastes perfect. I take another, and Christian watches me intently.
“Mia?” I ask.
“She’s safe. Thanks to you.”
“They did have her?”
“Yes.”
All the madness was for a reason. Relief spirals through my body. Thank
God, thank God, thank God she’s okay. I frown.
“How did they get her?”
“Elizabeth Morgan,” he says simply.
“No!”
He nods. “She picked her up at Mia’s gym.”
I frown, still not understanding.
“Ana, I’ll fill you in on the details later. Mia is fine, all things considered.
She was drugged. She’s groggy now and shaken up, but by some miracle she
wasn’t harmed.” Christian’s jaw clenches. “What you did”—he runs his hand
through his hair—“was incredibly brave and incredibly stupid. You could have
been killed.” His eyes blaze a bleak, chilling gray, and I know he’s restraining his
anger.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” I whisper.
“You could have told me!” he says vehemently, fisting his hands in his lap.
“He said he’d kill her if I told anyone. I couldn’t take that risk.”
Christian closes his eyes, dread etched in his face.
“I have died a thousand deaths since Thursday.”
Thursday?
“What day is it?”
“It’s almost Saturday,” he says, checking his watch. “You’ve been unconscious
for over twenty-four hours.”
Oh.
“And Jack and Elizabeth?”
“In police custody. Although Hyde is here under guard. They had to remove
the bullet you left in him,” Christian says bitterly. “I don’t know where in this
hospital he is, fortunately, or I’d probably kill him myself.” His face darkens.
Oh shit. Jack is here?
“That’s for SIP you fucking bitch!” I pale. My empty stomach convulses,
tears prick my eyes, and a deep shudder runs through me.
“Hey.” Christian scoots forward, his voice filled with concern. Taking the
glass from my hand, he tenderly folds me into his arms. “You’re safe now,” he
murmurs against my hair, his voice hoarse.
“Christian, I’m so sorry.” My tears start to fall.
“Hush.” He strokes my hair, and I weep into his neck.
“What I said. I was never going to leave you.”
“Hush, baby, I know.”
“You do?” His admission halts my tears.
“I worked it out. Eventually. Honestly, Ana, what were you thinking?” His
tone is strained.
“You took me by surprise,” I mutter into his shirt collar. “When we spoke at
the bank. Thinking I was leaving you. I thought you knew me better. I’ve said to
you over and over I would never leave.”
“But after the appalling way I’ve behaved—” His voice is barely audible, and
his arms tighten around me. “I thought for a short time that I’d lost you.”
“No, Christian. Never. I didn’t want you to interfere, and put Mia’s life in
danger.”
He sighs, and I don’t know if it’s from anger, exasperation, or hurt.
“How did you work it out?” I ask quickly to distract him from his line of
thought.
He tucks my hair behind my ear. “I’d just touched down in Seattle when the
bank called. Last I’d heard, you were ill and going home.”
“So you were in Portland when Sawyer called you from the car?”
“We were just about to take off. I was worried about you,” he says softly.
“You were?”
He frowns. “Of course I was.” He skirts his thumb over my bottom lip. “I
spend my life worrying about you. You know that.”
Oh, Christian!
“Jack called me at the office,” I murmur. “He gave me two hours to get the
money.” I shrug. “I had to leave, and it just seemed the best excuse.”
Christian’s mouth presses into a hard line. “And you gave Sawyer the slip.
He’s mad at you, as well.”
“As well?”
“As well as me.”
I tentatively touch his face, running my fingers over his stubble. He closes his
eyes, leaning into my fingers.
“Don’t be mad at me. Please,” I whisper.
“I am so mad at you. What you did was monumentally stupid. Bordering on
insane.”
“I told you, I didn’t know what else to do.”
“You don’t seem to have any regard for your personal safety. And it’s not
just you now,” he adds angrily.
My lip trembles. He’s thinking about our Little Blip.
The door opens, startling us both, and a young African-American woman in a
white coat over gray scrubs strides in.
“Good evening, Mrs. Grey. I’m Dr. Bartley.”
She starts to examine me thoroughly, shining a light in my eyes, making me
touch her fingers, then my nose while closing first one eye and then the other, and
checking all my reflexes. But her voice is soft and her touch gentle; she has a
warm bedside manner. Nurse Nora joins her, and Christian wanders to the corner
of the room and makes some calls while the two of them tend to me. It’s hard to
concentrate on Dr. Bartley, Nurse Nora, and Christian at the same time, but I hear
him call his father, my mother, and Kate to say I’m awake. Finally, he leaves a
message for Ray.
Ray. Oh shit . . . A vague memory of his voice comes back to me. He was
here—yes, while I was still unconscious.
Dr. Bartley checks my ribs, her fingers probing gently but firmly.
I wince.
“These are bruised, not cracked or broken. You were very lucky, Mrs. Grey.”
I scowl. Lucky? Not the word I would have chosen. Christian glowers at her,
too. He mouths something at me. I think it’s foolhardy, but I’m not sure.
“I’ll prescribe some painkillers. You’ll need them for this and for the headache
you must have. But all’s looking as it should, Mrs. Grey. I suggest you get
some sleep. Depending on how you feel in the morning, we may let you go home.
My colleague Dr. Singh will be attending you then.”
“Thank you.”
There’s a knock on the door, and Taylor enters bearing a black cardboard box
with Fairmont Olympic emblazoned in cream on the side.
Holy cow!
“Food?” Dr. Bartley says surprised.
“Mrs. Grey is hungry,” Christian says. “This is chicken soup.”
Dr. Bartley smiles. “Soup will be fine, just the broth. Nothing heavy.” She
looks pointedly at both of us then exits the room with Nurse Nora.
Christian pulls the wheeled tray over to me, and Taylor places the box on it.
“Welcome back, Mrs. Grey.”
“Hello, Taylor. Thank you.”
“You’re most welcome, ma’am.” I think he wants to say more, but he holds
off.
Christian is unpacking the box, producing a thermos, soup bowl, side plate,
linen napkin, soupspoon, a small basket of bread rolls, silver salt and pepper
shakers . . . The Olympic has gone all-out.
“This is great, Taylor.” My stomach is rumbling. I am famished.
“Will that be all?” he asks.
“Yes, thanks,” Christian says, dismissing him.
Taylor nods.
“Taylor, thank you.”
“Anything else I can get you, Mrs. Grey?”
I glance at Christian. “Just some clean clothes for Christian.”
Taylor smiles. “Yes, ma’am.”
Christian glances down at his shirt, bemused.
“How long have you been wearing that shirt?” I ask.
“Since Thursday morning.” He gives me a crooked smile.
Taylor exits.
“Taylor’s real pissed at you, too,” Christian adds grumpily, unscrewing the
lid of the thermos and pouring creamy chicken soup into the bowl.
Taylor, too! But I don’t dwell on that as my chicken soup distracts me. It
smells delicious, and steam curls invitingly from its surface. I take a taste and it’s
everything it promised to be.
“Good?” Christian asks, perching on the bed again.
I nod enthusiastically and don’t stop. My hunger is primal. I pause only to
wipe my mouth with the linen napkin.
“Tell me what happened—after you realized what was going on.”
Christian runs his hand through his hair and shakes his head. “Oh, Ana, it’s
good to see you eat.”
“I’m hungry. Tell me.”
He frowns. “Well, after the bank called and I thought my world had completely
fallen apart—” He can’t hide the pain in his voice.
I stop eating. Oh shit.
“Don’t stop eating, or I’ll stop talking,” he whispers, his tone adamant as he
glares at me. I continue with my soup. Okay, okay . . . Damn, it tastes good.
Christian’s gaze softens and after a beat, he resumes.
“Anyway, shortly after you and I had finished our conversation, Taylor informed
me that Hyde had been granted bail. How, I don’t know, I thought we’d
managed to thwart any attempts at bail. But that gave me a moment to think about
what you’d said . . . and I knew something was seriously wrong.”
“It was never about the money,” I snap suddenly, an unexpected surge of anger
flaring in my belly. My voice rises. “How could you even think that? It’s never
been about your fucking money!” My head starts to pound and I wince. Christian
gapes at me for a split second, surprised by my vehemence. He narrows his
eyes.
“Mind your language,” he growls. “Calm down and eat.”I glare mutinously at
him.
“Ana,” he warns.
“That hurt me more than anything, Christian,” I whisper. “Almost as much as
you seeing that woman.”
He inhales sharply as if I’ve slapped him and all of a sudden, he looks exhausted.
Closing his eyes briefly, he shakes his head, resigned.
“I know.” He sighs. “And I’m sorry. More than you know.” His eyes are luminous
with contrition. “Please, eat. While your soup is still hot.” His voice is
soft and compelling, and I do as he asks. He breathes a sigh of relief.
“Go on,” I whisper, between bites of the illicit fresh white bread roll.
“We didn’t know Mia was missing. I thought maybe he was blackmailing
you or something. I called you back, but you didn’t answer.” He scowls. “I left
you a message then called Sawyer. Taylor started tracking your cell. I knew you
were at the bank, so we headed straight there.”
“I don’t know how Sawyer found me. Was he tracking my cell, too?”
“The Saab is fitted with a tracking device. All our cars are. By the time we
got near the bank, you were already on the move, and we followed. Why are you
smiling?”
“On some level I knew you’d be stalking me.”
“And that is amusing because?” he asks.
“Jack had instructed me to get rid of my cell. So I borrowed Whelan’s cell,
and that’s the one I threw away. I put mine into one of the duffle bags so you
could track your money.”
Christian sighs. “Our money, Ana,” he says quietly. “Eat.”
I wipe my soup bowl with the last of my bread and pop it into my mouth. For
the first time in a long while, I feel replete in spite of our conversation.
“Finished.”
“Good girl.”
There’s a knock on the door and Nurse Nora enters once more, carrying a
small paper cup. Christian clears away my plate, and starts putting all the items
back into the box.
“Pain relief.” Nora smiles, showing me the white pill in the paper cup.
“Is this okay to take? You know—with the baby?”
“Yes, Mrs. Grey. It’s Lortab—it’s fine; it won’t affect the baby.”
I nod gratefully. My head is pounding. I swallow it down with a sip of water.
“You ought to rest, Mrs. Grey.” Nurse Nora looks pointedly at Christian.
He nods.
No! “You’re going?” I exclaim, panic setting in. Don’t go—we’ve just started
talking!
Christian snorts. “If you think for one moment I’m going to let you out of my
sight, Mrs. Grey, you are very much mistaken.”
Nora huffs but hovers over me and readjusts my pillows so that I have to lie
down.
“Goodnight, Mrs. Grey,” she says, and with one last censorious glance at
Christian, she leaves.
He raises an eyebrow as she closes the door.
“I don’t think Nurse Nora approves of me.”
He stands by the bed, looking tired, and despite the fact that I want him to
stay, I know I should try to persuade him to go home.
“You need rest, too, Christian. Go home. You look exhausted.”
“I’m not leaving you. I’ll doze in this armchair.”
I scowl at him then shift onto my side.
“Sleep with me.”
He frowns. “No. I can’t.”
“Why not?”
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You won’t hurt me. Please, Christian.”
“You have an IV.”
“Christian. Please.”
He gazes at me, and I can tell he’s tempted.
“Please.” I lift up the blankets, inviting him into the bed.
“Fuck it.” He slips off his shoes and socks, and gingerly climbs in beside me.
Gently, he wraps his arm around me, and I lay my head on his chest. He kisses my
hair.
“I don’t think Nurse Nora will be very happy with this arrangement,” he
whispers conspiratorially.
I giggle, then stop as pain lances through my chest. “Don’t make me laugh. It
hurts.”
“Oh, but I love that sound,” he says a little sadly, his voice low. “I’m sorry,
baby, so, so sorry.” He kisses my hair again and inhales deeply, and I don’t know
what he’s apologizing for . . . making me laugh? Or the mess we’re in? I rest my
hand over his heart, and he gently places his hand on mine. We are both silent for
a moment.
“Why did you go see that woman?”
“Oh, Ana.” He groans. “You want to discuss that now? Can’t we drop this? I
regret it, okay?”
“I need to know.”
“I’ll tell you tomorrow,” he mutters, irritated. “Oh, and Detective Clark wants
to talk to you. Just routine. Now go to sleep.”
He kisses my hair. I sigh heavily. I need to know why. At least he says he regrets
it. That’s something, my subconscious agrees. She’s in an agreeable mood
today, it seems. Ugh, Detective Clark. I shudder at the thought of reliving
Thursday’s events for him.
“Do we know why Jack was doing all this?”
“Hmm,” Christian murmurs. I’m soothed by the slow rise and fall of his
chest, gently rocking my head, lulling me to sleep as his breathing slows. And
while I drift I try to make sense of the fragments of conversations I heard while I
was on the edge of consciousness, but they slither through my mind, remaining
steadfastly elusive, taunting me from the edges of my memory. Oh, it’s frustrating
and exhausting . . . and . . .
Nurse Nora’s mouth is pursed and her arms folded in hostility. I hold my finger
up to my lips.
“Please let him sleep,” I whisper, squinting in the early morning light.
“This is your bed. Not his,” she hisses sternly.
“I slept better because he was here.” I insist, rushing to my husband’s defense.
Besides, it’s true. Christian stirs, and Nurse Nora and I freeze.
He mumbles in his sleep, “Don’t touch me. No more. Only Ana.”
I frown. I have rarely heard Christian talk in his sleep. Admittedly, that might
be because he sleeps less than I do. I’ve only ever heard his nightmares. His arms
tighten around me, squeezing me, and I wince.
“Mrs. Grey—” Nurse Nora glowers.
“Please,” I beg.
She shakes her head, turns on her heel and leaves, and I snuggle up against
Christian again.
When I wake, Christian is nowhere to be seen. The sun is blazing through the
windows, and I can now really appreciate the room. I have flowers! I didn’t notice
them the night before. Several bouquets. I wonder idly who they’re from.
A soft knock distracts me, and Carrick peeks around the door. He beams
when he sees that I’m awake.
“May I come in?” he asks.
“Of course.”
He strides into the room and over to me, his soft, gentle blue eyes assessing
me shrewdly. He’s wearing a dark suit—he must be working. He surprises me by
leaning down and kissing my forehead.
“May I sit?”
I nod, and he perches on the edge of the bed and takes my hand.
“I don’t know how to thank you for my daughter, you crazy, brave, darling
girl. What you did probably saved her life. I will be forever in your debt.” His
voice wavers, filled with gratitude and compassion.
Oh . . . I don’t know what to say. I squeeze his hand but remain mute.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better. Sore.” I say, for honesty’s sake.
“Have they given you meds for the pain?”
“Lor . . . something.”
“Good. Where’s Christian?”
“I don’t know. When I woke up, he was gone.”
“He won’t be far away, I’m sure. He wouldn’t leave you while you were
unconscious.”
“I know.”
“He’s a little mad at you, as he should be.” Carrick smirks. Ah, this is where
Christian gets it from.
“Christian is always mad at me.”
“Is he?” Carrick smiles, pleased—as if this is a good thing. His smile is
infectious.
“How’s Mia?”
His eyes cloud and his smile vanishes. “She’s better. Mad as hell. I think anger
is a healthy reaction to what happened to her.”
“Is she here?”
“No, she’s back at home. I don’t think Grace will let her out of her sight.”
“I know how that feels.”
“You need watching, too,” he admonishes. “I don’t want you taking anymore
silly risks with your life or the life of my grandchild.”
I flush. He knows!
“Grace read your chart. She told me. Congratulations.”
“Um . . . thank you.”
He gazes down at me, and his eyes soften, though he frowns at my
expression.
“Christian will come around,” he says gently. “This will be the best thing for
him. Just . . . give him some time.”
I nod. Oh . . . They’ve spoken.
“I’d better go. I’m due in court.” He smiles and rises. “I’ll check in on you
later. Grace speaks highly of Dr. Singh and Dr. Bartley. They know what they’re
doing.”
He leans down and kisses me once more. “I mean it, Ana. I can never repay
what you’ve done for us. Thank you.”
I look up at him, blinking back tears, suddenly overwhelmed, and he strokes
my cheek affectionately. Then he turns on his heel and leaves.
Oh my. I’m reeling from his gratitude. Perhaps now I can let the prenup debacle
go. My subconscious nods sagely in agreement with me yet again. I shake
my head and gingerly get out of bed. I’m relieved to find that I am much steadier
on my feet than yesterday. In spite of Christian sharing the bed, I have slept well
and feel refreshed. My head still aches, but it’s a dull nagging pain, nothing like
the pounding yesterday. I’m stiff and sore, but I just need a bath. I feel grimy. I
head into the en suite.
“Ana!” Christian shouts.
“I’m in the bathroom,” I call as I finish brushing my teeth. That feels better. I
ignore my reflection in the mirror. Jeez, I look a mess. When I open the door,
Christian is by the bed, holding a tray of food. He’s transformed. Dressed entirely
in black, he’s shaved, showered, and looks well rested.
“Good morning, Mrs. Grey,” he says brightly. “I have your breakfast.” He
looks so boyish and much happier.
Wow. I smile broadly as I climb back into bed. He pulls over the tray on
wheels and lifts the cover to reveal my breakfast: oatmeal with dried fruits, pancakes
with maple syrup, bacon, orange juice, and Twinings English breakfast tea.
My mouth waters; I’m so hungry. I down the orange juice in a few gulps and dig
into the oatmeal. Christian sits down on the edge of the bed to watch. He smirks.
“What?” I ask with my mouth full.
“I like to watch you eat,” he says. But I don’t think that’s what he’s smirking
about. “How are you feeling?”
“Better,” I mutter between mouthfuls.
“I’ve never seen you eat like this.”
I glance up at him, and my heart sinks. We have to address the very tiny elephant
in the room. “It’s because I’m pregnant, Christian.”
He snorts, and his mouth twists into an ironic smile. “If I knew getting you
knocked up was going to make you eat, I might have done it earlier.”
“Christian Grey!” I gasp and set the oatmeal down.
“Don’t stop eating,” he warns.
“Christian, we need to talk about this.”
He stills. “What’s there to say? We’re going to be parents.” He shrugs, desperately
trying to look nonchalant, but all I can see is his fear. Pushing the tray
aside, I crawl down the bed to him and take his hands in mine.
“You’re scared,” I whisper. “I get it.”
He gazes at me, impassive, his eyes wide and all his earlier boyishness
stripped away.
“I am, too. That’s normal,” I whisper.
“What kind of father could I possibly be?” His voice is hoarse, barely
audible.
“Oh, Christian.” I stifle a sob. “One that tries his best. That’s all any of us can
do.”
“Ana—I don’t know if I can . . .”
“Of course you can. You’re loving, you’re fun, you’re strong, you’ll set
boundaries. Our child will want for nothing.”
He’s frozen, staring at me, doubt etched on his beautiful face.
“Yes, it would have been ideal to have waited. To have longer, just the two of
us. But we’ll be three of us, and we’ll all grow up together. We’ll be a family. Our
own family. And your child will love you unconditionally, like I do.” Tears spring
to my eyes.
“Oh, Ana,” Christian whispers, his voice anguished and pained. “I thought
I’d lost you. Then I thought I’d lost you again. Seeing you lying on the ground,
pale and cold and unconscious—it was all my worst fears realized. And now here
you are—brave and strong . . . giving me hope. Loving me after all that I’ve
done.”
“Yes, I do love you, Christian, desperately. I always will.”
Gently taking my head between his hands, he wipes my tears away with his
thumbs. He gazes into my eyes, gray to blue, and all I see is his fear and wonder
and love.
“I love you, too,” he breathes. And he kisses me sweetly, tenderly like a man
who adores his wife. “I’ll try to be a good father,” he whispers against my lips.
“You’ll try, and you’ll succeed. And let’s face it; you don’t have much choice
in the matter, because Blip and I are not going anywhere.”
“Blip?”
“Blip.”
He raises his eyebrows. “I had the name Junior in my head.”
“Junior it is, then.”
“But I like Blip.” He smiles his shy smile and kisses me once more.

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