“Hey.” I clasp her head in my hands. Did I hurt her? “Why are you crying?”
“Because I love you so much,” she says, and I close my eyes, letting her words wash over me.
“And I you, Ana. You make me…whole.” I kiss her once more as the music stops, and gather the sheet and wrap it around us both. She looks glorious; her hair is a mess and her eyes are luminous in spite of her tears. She’s so full of life.
“What do you want to do today?” she asks.
“My day is made, thank you.” I kiss her.
I love Ana’s inner freak; she’s never far away. And I think of the plans that I have for her later. I hope they will make her day, too. “Well, I should call my head of PR. But frankly, I’d like to remain in this bubble with you.”
“About the crash?”
“I’m playing hooky.”
“It is your birthday, Mr. Grey. You’re allowed. And I like having you to myself.” She leans up and grazes her teeth against my jaw. She looks happy, and free, if a little tired. “I love your music choices. Where do you find them?”
“I’m glad you like them. Sometimes, when I can’t sleep I’ll either play the piano or trawl iTunes.”
“I don’t like to think about you unable to sleep and on your own. It sounds lonely,” Ana says, her compassion showing.
“To be honest, I never felt lonely until you left. I didn’t realize how miserable I was.”
She cups my face. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize, Ana. What I did was wrong.”
She puts her finger over my lips. “Hush,” she says. “I love you just the way you are.”
“That’s a song.”
She laughs and she changes the subject; asking me about work.
“WE’VE COME A LONG way,” Ana says, caressing my face.
She looks wistful all of a sudden.
“What are you thinking about?” I ask.
“The photo shoot that José did. Kate. How in command she was. And how hot you looked.”
“Yeah. Hot. And Kate was all: Sit here. Do this. Do that.” Her impersonation of Kavanagh is spot on. I laugh.
“To think it could have been her who came to interview me. Thank the Lord for the common cold.” I kiss the tip of her nose.
“I believe she had the flu, Christian,” she scolds, and unconsciously trails her fingers through my chest hair. It’s weird, but I think she’s driven the darkness away. I don’t even flinch. “All the canes have gone,” she says, as she glances around the playroom. I tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear.
“I didn’t think you’d ever get past that hard limit.”
“No, I don’t think I will.” She turns and stares at the whips, paddles, and floggers on the wall.
“You want me to get rid of them, too?” I ask.
“Not the crop…the brown one. Or that suede flogger.” She gives me a coy smile.
“Okay, the crop and the flogger. Why, Miss Steele, you’re full of surprises.”
“As are you, Mr. Grey. It’s one of the things I love about you.” She kisses the corner of my mouth.
Suddenly I need to hear this from her, because I still can’t quite believe it. “What else do you love about me?”
Her eyes soften with her affection. “This,” she says, and traces her finger across my lips, tickling them. “I love this, and what comes out of it, and what you do to me with it. And what’s in here.” She strokes the side of my head. “You’re so smart and witty and knowledgeable, competent in so many things. But most of all, I love what’s in here.” She presses her palm against my chest. “You are the most compassionate man I’ve ever met. What you do. How you work. It’s awe-inspiring.”
“Awe-inspiring?” I repeat her last words, not quite believing them but loving them anyway. A slow smile tugs at my mouth, but before I can say anything she launches herself at me.
ANA DOZES FOR A few minutes, in my arms. I lie staring up at the ceiling, enjoying her weight on me. Could I be any more content? I don’t think so. She wakes when I kiss her forehead.
“Hungry?” I ask.
She puts her arm on my chest and studies me. “It’s your birthday, Mr. Grey. I’ll cook you something. What would you like?”
“Surprise me.” I run my hand down her back. “I should check my BlackBerry for all the messages I missed yesterday.” I sigh when I sit up. I could spend all day with her in here.
“Let’s shower,” I say.
She grins and together, wrapped in one red sheet, we head down to the bathroom.
Once Ana is dressed she takes all the wet clothes from last night out of her sink and heads out the door. Wearing a tiny blue dress, she’s all legs.
Too much leg.
Well at least it’s just us.