“She knows me well,” Flynn remarks dryly.
“So what the fuck was all that about?” I ask. “Are you having some fun at my expense?”
“Definitely at your expense. I love to see you parted with your money.”
“You’re lucky that she’s worth every single penny.”
“I had to do something to make you see that you’re not afraid of commitment.” Flynn shrugs.
“That was the reason you bid against me, to test me? It’s not my lack of commitment that scares me.” I give him a bleak look.
“She seems well equipped to deal with you,” he says.
I’m not so sure.
“Christian, just tell her. She knows you have issues. It’s not because of anything I’ve said.” He holds his hands up. “And this isn’t really the time or the place to have this discussion.”
“Where is she?” Flynn glances around.
“She’s a lovely young woman.”
I nod in agreement.
“Have some faith,” he says.
“Mr. Grey.” We’re interrupted by Reynolds, from the security team.
“What is it?” I ask him.
“Could I have a private word?”
“You can speak freely,” I answer. This is my shrink, for fuck’s sake.
“Taylor wanted you to know that Elena Lincoln is talking to Miss Steele.”
“Go,” says Flynn, and from the look he gives me, I know he’d like to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.
“Laters,” I mutter, and follow Reynolds to the pavilion.
Taylor is standing by the tented doorway. Beyond him, inside the large tent, Ana and Elena are in a tense discussion. Ana suddenly whirls around and storms toward me.
“There you are,” I say, trying to gauge her mood when she reaches us. She completely ignores me and brushes past both Taylor and me.
This is not good.
I give Taylor a quick look, but he remains impassive.
“Ana,” I call, and hurry to catch up with her. “What’s wrong?”
“Why don’t you ask your ex?” she seethes. She’s furious.
I check to make sure that no one is in listening distance. “I’m asking you,” I persist.
She glares at me.
What the hell have I done?
She squares her shoulders. “She’s threatening to come after me if I hurt you again—probably with a whip,” she snarls.
And I don’t know if she’s being intentionally funny, but the image of Elena threatening Ana with a riding crop is ridiculous. “Surely the irony of that isn’t lost on you,” I tease Ana in an attempt to lighten her mood.
“This isn’t funny, Christian!” she snaps.
“No, you’re right. I’ll talk to her.”
“You will do no such thing.” She crosses her arms.
What the hell am I supposed to do?
“Look,” she says, “I know you’re tied up with her financially, forgive the pun, but—” She stops and huffs because she seems at a sudden loss for words. “I need the restroom,” she growls. Ana is pissed. Again.
I sigh. What can I do? “Please don’t be mad,” I urge. “I didn’t know she was here. She said she wasn’t coming.” I reach up and Ana lets me run my thumb across her bottom lip. “Don’t let Elena ruin our evening, please, Anastasia. She’s really old news.” I tip her chin up and plant a gentle kiss on her lips.
She relents with a sigh and I think our fight is over. I take her elbow. “I’ll accompany you to the powder room so you don’t get interrupted again.”
I fish out my phone as I wait for her outside the portable luxury restrooms that my mother has rented for the event. There’s an e-mail from Dr. Greene saying she can see Ana tomorrow.
Good. I’ll deal with that later.
I punch Elena’s number into my phone and walk several steps away to a quiet corner of the backyard. She answers on the first ring.
“Elena, what the hell are you doing?”
“That girl is unpleasant and rude.”
“Well, maybe you should leave her alone.”
“I thought I should introduce myself,” Elena says.
“What for? I thought you said you weren’t coming. Why did you change your mind? I thought we’d agreed.”
“Your mother called and begged me to come, and I was curious about Anastasia. I need to know she’s not going to hurt you again.”
“Well, leave her alone. This is the first regular relationship I’ve ever had, and I don’t want you jeopardizing it through some misplaced concern for me. Leave. Her. Alone.”
“I mean it, Elena.”
“Have you turned your back on who you are?” she asks.
“No, of course not.” I look up, and Ana is watching me. “I have to go. Good night.” I hang up on Elena, probably for the first time in my life.
Ana raises a brow. “How’s the old news?”
“Cranky.” I decide a change of subject is for the best. “Do you want to dance some more? Or would you like to go?” I check my watch. “The fireworks start in five minutes.”
“I love fireworks,” she says, and I know she’s being conciliatory.
“We’ll stay and watch them, then.” I fold her in my arms and pull her close. “Don’t let her come between us, please.”