Darker (Fifty Shades 5) - Page 10

“Sometimes you’re so closed off, like an island state,” she continues. “You intimidate me. That’s why I keep quiet. I don’t know which way your mood is going to go. It swings from north to south and back again in a nanosecond. It’s confusing and you won’t let me touch you, and I want so much to show you how much I love you.”

Anxiety bursts in my chest and my heart starts hammering. She said it again; the three potent words I cannot bear. And touching. No. No. No. She can’t touch me. But before I can respond, before the darkness takes hold, she unfastens her seatbelt and crawls across the seat and into my lap, ambushing me. She places her hands on either side of my head, staring into my eyes, and I stop breathing.

“I love you, Christian Grey,” she says. “And you’re prepared to do all this for me. I’m the one who is undeserving. And I’m just sorry that I can’t do all those things for you. Maybe with time—I don’t know—but yes, I accept your proposition. Where do I sign?” She curls her arms around my neck and hugs me, her warm cheek against mine.

I can’t believe what I’m hearing.

Anxiety turns to joy. It expands in my chest, lighting me up from head to toe, spreading warmth in its wake. She’s going to try. I get her back. I don’t deserve her, but I get her back. I wrap my arms around her and hold her tightly, burying my nose in her fragrant hair, as relief and a kaleidoscope of colorful emotions fill the void that I’ve carried inside me since she left.

“Oh, Ana,” I whisper, and I hold her, too dazed and too…replete to say anything else. She snuggles into my arms, her head on my shoulder, and we listen to the Rachmaninov. I go over her words.

She loves me.

I test the phrase in my head and what’s left of my heart, and swallow the knot of fear that forms in my throat as those words ring through me.

I can do this.

I can live with this.

I must. I need to protect her and her vulnerable heart.

I take a deep breath.

I can do this.

Except the touching. I can’t do that. I have to make her understand—manage her expectations. Gently I stroke her back. “Touching is a hard limit for me, Anastasia.”

“I know. I wish I understood why.” Her breath tickles my neck.

Shall I tell her? Why would she want to know this shit? My shit? Maybe I can hint at it, give her a clue.

“I had a horrific childhood. One of the crack whore’s pimps…”

“There you are, you little shit.”

No. No. No. Not the burn.

“Mommy! Mommy!”

“She can’t hear you, you fucking maggot.” He grabs my hair and pulls me out from under the kitchen table.

“Ow. Ow. Ow.”

He’s smoking. The smell. Cigarettes. It’s a dirty smell. Like old and nasty. He’s dirty. Like trash. Like drains. He drinks brown licker. From a bottle.

“And even if she could, she doesn’t give a fuck,” he shouts. He always shouts.

His hand hits me across my face. And again. And again. No. No.

I fight him. But he laughs. And takes a puff. The end of the cigarette shines bright red and orange.

“The burn,” he says.

No. No.

The pain. The pain. The pain. The smell.

Burn. Burn. Burn.

Pain. No. No. No.

I howl.


“Mommy! Mommy!”

He laughs and laughs. He has two teeth gone.

I shudder as my memories and nightmares float together like smoke from his discarded cigarette, fogging my brain, dragging me back to a time of fear and impotence.

I tell Ana I remember it all and she tightens her hold on me. Her cheek on my neck. Her soft, warm skin against mine, bringing me back to the now.

“Was she abusive? Your mother?” Ana’s voice is hoarse.

“Not that I remember. She was neglectful. She didn’t protect me from her pimp.”

She was a sad excuse and he was a sick fuck.

“I think it was me who looked after her. When she finally killed herself, it took four days for someone to raise the alarm and find us. I remember that.” I close my eyes and see vague, muted images of my mother slumped on the floor, me covering her with my blanket and curling up beside her.

Anastasia gasps. “That’s pretty fucked up.”

“Fifty shades.”

She kisses my neck, a soft, tender press of her lips onto my skin. And I know it’s not pity she’s offering. It’s comfort; maybe even understanding. My sweet, compassionate Ana.

I tighten my hold on her and kiss her hair as she nestles in my arms.

Baby, it was a long time ago.

My exhaustion catches up with me. Several sleepless nights plagued with nightmares have taken their toll. I’m tired. I want to stop thinking. She’s my dreamcatcher. I never had nightmares when she was sleeping at my side. Leaning back, I close my eyes, saying nothing, because I have nothing more to say. I listen to the music, and when it’s finished, to her soft, even breathing. She’s asleep. She’s weary. Like me. I realize I can’t spend the night with her. She’ll get no sleep if I do. I hold her, enjoying her weight on me, honored that she can sleep on me. I can’t help my self-satisfied grin. I’ve done it. I’ve won her back. Now all I have to do is keep her, which will be challenging enough.

Tags: E.L. James Fifty Shades Billionaire Romance
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