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Freed
Author: E.L. James

 


For Eva and Sue.

   Thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you do.

   And for Catherine.

   We are a woman down.

 

 

Sunday, June 19, 2011


   We lie in postcoital bliss beneath pink paper lanterns, meadow flowers, and fairy lights that twinkle in the rafters. As my breathing slows, I hold Anastasia close. She’s sprawled all over me, her cheek against my chest, her hand resting on my racing heart. The darkness is absent, driven out by my dream catcher…my fiancée. My love. My light.

   Could I be happier than I am right now?

   I commit the scene to memory: the boathouse, the soothing rhythm of the lapping waters, the flora, the lights. Closing my eyes, I memorize the feel of the woman in my arms, her weight on top of me, the slow rise and fall of her back as she breathes, her legs entwined with mine. The scent of her hair fills my nostrils soothing all my corners and jagged edges. This is my happy place. Dr. Flynn would be proud. This beautiful woman has consented to be mine. In every way. Again.

   “Can we marry tomorrow?” I whisper near her ear.

   “Hmm.” The sound in her throat reverberates with a soft strum across my skin.

   “Is that a yes?”

   “Hmm.”

   “A no?”

   “Hmm.”

   I grin. She’s spent. “Miss Steele, are you incoherent?” I sense her answering smile and my joy erupts in a laugh, as I tighten my arms around her and kiss her hair. “Vegas, tomorrow, it is then.” She raises her head, eyes half closed in the soft light from the lanterns—she looks sleepy yet sated.

   “I don’t think my parents would be very happy with that.” She lowers her head and I skim my fingertips across her naked back, enjoying the warmth of her sleek skin.

   “What do you want, Anastasia? Vegas? A big wedding with all the trimmings? Tell me.”

   “Not big. Just friends and family.”

   “Okay. Where?”

   She shrugs, and I’m guessing she hasn’t thought about it.

   “Could we do it here?” I ask.

   “Your folks’ place? Would they mind?”

   I laugh. Grace would leap at the chance. “My mother would be in seventh heaven.”

   “Okay, here. I’m sure my mom and dad would prefer that.”

   So would I.

   For once we’re in agreement. No arguing.

   Is this a first?

   Gently, I stroke her hair, that’s a little mussed from our spent passion. “So, we’ve established where, now the when.”

   “Surely you should ask your mother?”

   “Hmm. 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.” She plants a tender kiss on my chest and I’m grateful that the darkness remains quiet. Her presence is keeping it at bay.

   “We’d better head back. I don’t want Mia interrupting us like she did that time.”

   Ana laughs. “Ah, yes. That was close. My first punishment fuck.” She grazes my jaw with her fingertips and I roll over, taking her with me, and pressing her into the deep-pile rug on the floor.

   “Don’t remind me. Not one of my finest moments.”

   Her lips lift in a coy smile, her eyes sparkling with humor. “As punishment fucks go, it was okay. And I won back my panties.”

   “You did. Fair and square.” Chuckling at the recollection, I kiss her quickly and rise. “Come, put your panties on and let’s get back to what’s left of the party.”

   I zip up her emerald dress and drape my jacket over her shoulders. “Ready?” She laces her fingers with mine and we walk to the top of the stairs of the boathouse. Pausing, she looks back at our floral haven as if she’s memorizing the setting. “What about all the lights and these flowers?”

   “It’s okay. The florist is returning tomorrow to dismantle this bower. They’ve done a great job. And the flowers will go to a local seniors’ home.”

   She squeezes my hand. “You’re a good man, Christian Grey.”

   I hope I’m good enough for you.

   My family is in the den, abusing the karaoke machine. Kate and Mia are up dancing, and singing “We Are Family,” with my parents as their audience. I think they’re all a little tipsy. Elliot is slumped on the couch, sipping his beer and mouthing the lyrics.

   Kate spots Ana and beckons her toward the mic. “OMG!” squeals Mia, drowning out the song. “Look at that rock!” She grabs Ana’s hand and whistles. “Christian Grey, you delivered.”

   Ana gives her a shy smile while Kate and my mother gather round to inspect her ring, making the appropriate admiring noises. Inside I feel ten feet tall.

   Yeah. She likes it. They like it.

   You did good, Grey.

   “Christian, could I talk to you?” Carrick asks as he stands up, his expression grim.

   Now?

   His stare is unwavering as he directs me out of the room.

   “Um. Sure.” I glance at Grace, but she’s studiously avoiding my gaze.

   Has she told him about Elena?

   Fuck. I hope not.

   I follow him to his study, and he ushers me in, closing the door behind him.

   “Your mother told me,” he says with no preamble whatsoever.

   I glance at the clock—it’s 12:28. It’s too late in the day for this talk…in every sense. “Dad, I’m tired—”

   “No. You are not avoiding this conversation.” His voice is stern and his eyes narrow to pinpricks as he peers at me over his glasses. He’s mad. Really mad.

   “Dad—”

   “Quiet, son. You need to listen.” He sits on the edge of his desk, removes his glasses, and begins to clean them with the lint cloth he pulls from his pocket. I stand before him, as I often have, feeling like I did when I was fourteen years old and I’d just been expelled from school—again. Resigned, I take a deep breath and, sighing as loudly as I can, place my hands on my hips and wait for the onslaught.

   “To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. What Elena did was criminal—”

   “Dad—”

   “No, Christian. You don’t get to speak right now.” He glares at me. “She deserves to be locked up.”

   Dad!

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