Mommy! Mommy! Mommy is asleep on the floor. She has been asleep for a long time. I brush her hair because she likes that. She doesn’t wake up. I shake her. Mommy! My tummy hurts. It is hungry. He isn’t here. I am thirsty. In the kitchen I pull a chair to the sink, and I have a drink. The water splashes over my blue sweater. Mommy is still asleep. Mommy wake up! She lies still. She is cold. I fetch my blankie, and I cover Mommy, and I lie down on the sticky green rug beside her. Mommy is still asleep. I have two toy cars. They race by the floor where Mommy is sleeping. I think Mommy is sick. I search for something to eat. In the freezer I find peas. They are cold. I eat them slowly. They make my tummy hurt. I sleep beside Mommy. The peas are gone. In the freezer is something. It smells funny. I lick it and my tongue is stuck to it. I eat it slowly. It tastes nasty. I drink some water. I play with my cars, and I sleep beside Mommy. Mommy is so cold, and she won’t wake up. The door crashes open. I cover Mommy with my blankie. He’s here. Fuck. What the fuck happened here? Oh, the crazy fucked-up bitch. Shit. Fuck. Get out of my way, you little shit.
He kicks me, and I hit my head on the floor. My head hurts. He calls somebody and he goes. He locks the door. I lay down beside Mommy. My head hurts. The lady policeman is here. No. No. No. Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me. I stay by Mommy. No. Stay away from me. The lady policeman has my blankie, and she grabs me. I scream. Mommy! Mommy! I want my mommy. The words are gone. I can’t say the words. Mommy can’t hear me. I have no words.
“Christian! Christian!” Her voice is urgent, pulling him from the depths of his nightmare, the depths of his despair. “I’m here. I’m here.”
He wakes and she’s leaning over him, grasping his shoulders, shaking him, her face etched with anguish, blue eyes wide and brimming with tears.
“Ana.” His voice is a breathless whisper, the taste of fear tarnishing his mouth. “You’re here.”
“Of course I’m here.”
“I had a dream . . .”
“I know. I’m here, I’m here.”
“Ana.” He breathes her name, and it’s a talisman against the black choking panic coursing through his body.
“Hush, I’m here.” She curls around him, her limbs cocooning him, her warmth leeching into his body, forcing back the shadows, forcing back the fear. She is sunshine, she is light . . . she is his.
“Please let’s not fight.” His voice is hoarse as he wraps his arms around her.
“The vows. No obeying. I can do that. We’ll find a way.” The words rush out of his mouth in a tumble of emotion and confusion and anxiety.
“Yes. We will. We’ll always find a way,” she whispers, and her lips are on his, silencing him, bringing him back to the now.
I stare up through gaps in the sea-grass parasol at the bluest of skies, summer blue, Mediterranean blue, with a contented sigh. Christian is beside me, stretched out on a sun lounge. My husband—my hot, beautiful husband, shirtless and in cut-off jeans—is reading a book predicting the collapse of the Western banking system. By all accounts, it’s a page-turner. I haven’t seen him sit this still, ever. He looks more like a student than the hotshot CEO of one of the top privately owned companies in the United States.
On the final leg of our honeymoon, we laze in the afternoon sun on the beach of the aptly named Beach Plaza Monte Carlo in Monaco, although we’re not actually staying in this hotel. I open my eyes and gaze out at the Fair Lady
anchored in the harbor. We are staying, of course, on board a luxury motor yacht. Built in 1928, she floats majestically on the water, queen of all the yachts in the harbor. She looks like a child’s wind-up toy. Christian loves her—I suspect he’s tempted to buy her. Honestly, boys and their toys.
Sitting back, I listen to the Christian Grey mix on my new iPod and doze in the late afternoon sun, idly remembering his proposal. Oh, his dreamy proposal in the boathouse . . . I can almost smell the scent of the meadow flowers . . .
“Can we marry tomorrow?” Christian murmurs softly in my ear. I am sprawled on his chest in the flowery bower in the boathouse, sated from our passionate lovemaking.
“Is that a yes?” I hear his hopeful surprise.
I sense his grin. “Miss Steele, are you incoherent?”
I grin. “Hmm.”
He laughs and hugs me tightly, kissing the top of my head. “Vegas, tomorrow, it is then.”
Sleepily I raise my head. “I don’t think my parents would be very happy with that.”
He thrums his fingertips up and down my naked back, caressing me gently.
“What do you want, Anastasia? Vegas? A big wedding with all the trimmings? Tell me.”
“Not big . . . Just friends and family.” I gaze up at him, moved by the quiet entreaty in his glowing gray eyes. What does he want?
“Okay.” He nods. “Where?”
“Could we do it here?” he asks tentatively.
“Your folks’ place? Would they mind?”
He snorts. “My mother would be in seventh heaven.”
“Okay, here. I’m sure my mom and dad would prefer that.”
He strokes my hair. Could I be any happier?
“So, we’ve established where, now the when.”
“Surely you should ask your mother.”
“Hmm.” Christian’s smile dips. “She can have a month, that’s it. I want you too much to wait any longer.”
“Christian, you have me. You’ve had me for a while. But okay—a month it is.” I kiss his chest, a soft chaste kiss, and smile up at him.
“You’ll burn,” Christian whispers in my ear, startling me from my doze.
“Only for you.” I give him my sweetest smile. The late afternoon sun has shifted, and I am under its full glare. He smirks and in one swift move pulls my sun lounge into the shade of the parasol.
“Out of the Mediterranean sun, Mrs. Grey.”
“Thank you for your altruism, Mr. Grey.”
“My pleasure, Mrs. Grey, and I’m not being altruistic at all. If you burn, I won’t be able to touch you.” He raises an eyebrow, his eyes shining with mirth, and my heart expands. “But I suspect you know that and you’re laughing at me.”
“Would I?” I gasp, feigning innocence.
“Yes, you would and you do. Often. It’s one of the many things I love about you.” He leans down and kisses me, playfully biting my lower lip.
“I was hoping you’d rub me down with more sunscreen.” I pout against his lips.
“Mrs. Grey, it’s a dirty job . . . but that’s an offer I can’t refuse. Sit up,” he orders, his voice husky. I do as I’m told, and with slow meticulous strokes from strong and supple fingers, he coats me in sunscreen.
“You really are very lovely. I’m a lucky man,” he murmurs as his fingers skim over my breasts, spreading the lotion.
“Yes, you are, Mr. Grey.” I gaze coyly up at him through my lashes.
“Modesty becomes you, Mrs. Grey. Turn over. I want to do your back.”
Smiling, I roll over, and he undoes the back strap of my hideously expensive bikini.
“How would you feel if I went topless, like the other women on the beach?” I ask.
“Displeased,” he says without hesitation. “I’m not very happy about you wearing so little right now.” He leans down and whispers in my ear. “Don’t push your luck.”
“Is that a challenge, Mr. Grey?”
“No. It’s a statement of fact, Mrs. Grey.”
I sigh and shake my head. Oh, Christian . . . my possessive, jealous, control freak Christian.
When he’s finished, he slaps my behind.
“You’ll do, wench.”
His ever-present, ever-active BlackBerry buzzes. I frown and he smirks.
“My eyes only, Mrs. Grey.” He raises his eyebrow in playful warning, slaps my backside once more, and sits back down on his lounger to take the call.
My inner goddess purrs. Maybe tonight we could do some kind of floor show for his eyes only. She smirks knowingly, arching a brow. I grin at the thought and drift back into my afternoon siesta. “Mam’selle? Un Perrier pour moi, un Coca-Cola light pour ma femme, s’il vous plait. Et quelque chose a manger . . . laissezmoi voir la carte.”
Hmm . . . Christian speaking fluent French wakes me. My eyelashes flutter in the glare of the sun, and I find Christian watching me while a liveried young woman walks away, her tray held aloft, her high blonde ponytail swinging provocatively.