Have I ever felt like this?
Master of the fucking universe.
“I love this song,” I tell her. “Seems very fitting.”
“You’re under my skin, too. Or you were in your bedroom.”
Ana! I’m shocked.
“Miss Steele, I had no idea you could be so crude.”
“Mr. Grey, neither did I. I think it’s all my recent experiences,” she says with a mischievous smile. “They’ve been an education.”
“For both of us.” I take her for a spin around the dance floor once more. The song finishes, and reluctantly I release her to applaud.
“May I cut in?” Flynn asks, appearing from nowhere. He has some explaining to do after the charade at the auction, but I step aside.
“Be my guest. Anastasia, this is John Flynn. John, Anastasia.”
Ana shoots me a nervous look and I retreat to the sidelines to watch. Flynn opens his arms and Ana takes his hand as the band strikes up “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.”
Ana is animated in John’s arms. I wonder what they are talking about.
My anxiety returns in full force.
I have to face the reality that once Ana knows all my secrets, she’ll leave, and that trying things her way is just prolonging the inevitable.
But John wouldn’t be so indiscreet, surely.
“Hello, darling,” Grace says, interrupting my dark thoughts.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” She’s also watching Ana and John.
Grace has taken off her mask. “What a generous donation from your young friend,” she says, but there’s a slight edge to her voice.
“Yes,” I respond dryly.
“I thought she was a student.”
“Mom, it’s a long story.”
“I figured as much.”
Something is off. “What is it, Grace? Spit it out.”
She tentatively reaches out to touch my arm. “You look happy, darling.”
“I think she’s good for you.”
“I think so, too.”
“I hope she doesn’t hurt you.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Mother, what are you—”
A female guest wearing the most garish gown I’ve ever seen approaches Grace.
“Christian, this is my friend Pamela, from book club.”
We exchange pleasantries, but I want to grill my mother. What the hell is she trying to imply about Ana? The music is coming to an end, and I know I need to rescue Anastasia from my psychiatrist.
“This conversation isn’t over,” I warn Grace and head over to where Ana and John have stopped dancing.
What is my mother trying to tell me?
“It’s been a pleasure to meet you, Anastasia,” Flynn says to Ana.
“John.” I nod in greeting.
“Christian.” Flynn acknowledges me and excuses himself—to find his wife, no doubt. I’m confounded by the exchange I’ve just had with my mother. I sweep Ana into my arms for the next dance.
“He’s much younger than I expected,” Ana says. “And terribly indiscreet.”
“Oh yes, he told me everything,” she discloses.
Shit. Did he really do this? I test Ana to see how much damage he’s done. “Well, in that case, I’ll get your bag. I’m sure you want nothing more to do with me.”
Ana stops dancing. “He didn’t tell me anything!” she exclaims, and I think she wants to shake me.
Oh, thank God.
I place my hand on the small of her back as the band launches into “The Very Thought of You.” “Then let’s enjoy this dance.”
And I’m an idiot. Of course Flynn wouldn’t break any professional confidences. And as Ana matches me step for step, my spirit soars and my anxiety dissipates. I had no idea I could enjoy dancing so much.
It amazes me how poised Ana is tonight on the dance floor, and for a moment I’m back in the apartment after our first night together, watching her doing a little jig with her headphones on. She was so uncoordinated then—such a contrast to the Ana who’s here with me now, following my lead perfectly and enjoying herself.
The band segues into “You Don’t Know Me.”
It’s slower. It’s melancholy. It’s bittersweet.
It’s a warning.
Ana. You don’t know me.
And as I hold her and we sway together, I silently beg her forgiveness for a sin she knows nothing about. For something she must never know about.
She doesn’t know me.
Baby, I’m sorry. I inhale her scent and it offers me some solace. Closing my eyes, I commit it to my memory so I’ll always be able to recall it once she’s gone.
The song finishes and she gives me a winsome smile.
“I need to go to the restroom,” she says. “I won’t be long.”
“Okay.” I watch her leave with Taylor following and note the other three security officers standing at the edges of the dance floor. One of them peels off to trail after Taylor.
I spot Dr. Flynn talking with his wife.
“Hello again, Christian. You’ve met my wife, Rhian.”
“Of course. Rhian,” I say as we shake hands.
“Your parents know how to throw a party,” she says.
“That they do,” I respond.
“If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to run to the powder room. John. Behave,” she warns, and I have to laugh.