Home > Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)(9)

Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)(9)
E.L. James

Rather than head for the shore and curtail the fun, I veer around to do a circuit of the stately Fair Lady. Wow - this is so much fun. I ignore Taylor and the crew behind me and speed around the yacht for a second time. As I complete the circuit, I spot Christian on deck. I think he's gaping at me, though it's difficult to tell. Bravely, I lift one hand from the handlebars and wave enthusiastically at him. He looks like he's made of stone, but finally he raises his hand in the semblance of a stiff wave. I can't work out his expression, and something tells me I don't want to, so I head to the marina, speeding across the blue water of the Mediterranean that shimmers in the late afternoon sun. At the dock, I wait and let Taylor pull up ahead of me. His expression is bleak, and my heart sinks, though Gaston looks vaguely amused. I wonder briefly if something has happened to chill GallicAmerican relations, but deep down I suspect the problem is probably me. Gaston leaps out of the motorboat and ties it to the moorings while Taylor directs me to come alongside. Very gently I ease the Jet Ski into position beside the boat and line up beside him. His expression softens a little.

"Just switch off the ignition, Mrs. Grey," he says calmly, reaching for the handlebars and holding out a hand to help me into the motorboat. I nimbly climb aboard, impressed that I don't fall in.

"Mrs. Grey," Taylor blinks nervously, his cheeks pink once more.

"Mr. Grey is not entirely comfortable with you riding on the Jet Ski."

He's practically squirming with embarrassment, and I realize he's had an irate call from Christian. Oh my poor, pathologically overprotective husband, what am I going to do with you?

I smile serenely at Taylor. "I see. Well, Taylor, Mr. Grey is not here, and if he's not entirely comfortable, I'm sure he'll give me the courtesy of telling me himself when I'm back on board."

Taylor winces. "Very good, Mrs. Grey," he says quietly, handing me my purse.

As I climb out of the boat, I catch a glimpse of his reluctant smile, and it makes me want to smile, too. I cannot believe how fond I am of Taylor, but I really don't appreciate being scolded by him - he's not my father or my husband.

Crap, Christian's mad - and he has enough to worry about at the moment. What was I thinking? As I stand on the dock waiting for Taylor to climb up, I feel my BlackBerry vibrate in my purse and fish it out. Sade's "Your Love is King" is my ring tone for Christian - only for Christian.

"Hi," I murmur.

"Hi," he says.

"I'll come back on the boat. Don't be mad."

I hear his small gasp of surprise. "Um . . ."

"It was fun, though," I whisper.

He sighs. "Well, far be it for me to curtail your fun, Mrs. Grey. Just be careful. Please."

Oh my! Permission to have fun! "I will. Anything you want from town?"

"Just you, back in one piece."

"I'll do my best to comply, Mr. Grey."

"I'm glad to hear it, Mrs. Grey."

"We aim to please," I respond with a giggle.

I hear his smile in his voice. "I have another call - laters, baby."

"Laters, Christian."

He hangs up. Jet Ski crisis averted, I think. The car is waiting, and Taylor holds the door open for me. I wink at him as I climb in, and he shakes his head in amusement.

In the car, I fire up the e-mail on my BlackBerry.

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Thank You

Date: August 17, 2011 16:55


To: Christian Grey

For not being too grouchy.

Your loving wife

xxx

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Trying to Stay Calm

Date: August 17, 2011 16:59

To: Anastasia Grey

You're welcome.

Come back in one piece.

This is not a request.

x

Christian Grey

CEO & Overprotective Husband, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

His response makes me smile. My control freak.

Why did I want to come shopping? I hate shopping. But deep down I know why, and I walk determinedly past Chanel, Gucci, Dior, and the other designer boutiques and eventually find the antidote to what ails me in a small, overstocked, touristy store. It's a little silver ankle bracelet with small hearts and little bells. It tinkles sweetly and it costs five euros. As soon as I've bought it, I put it on. This is me - this is what I like. Immediately I feel more comfortable. I don't want to lose touch with the girl who likes this, ever. Deep down I know that I'm not only overwhelmed by Christian himself but also by his wealth. Will I ever get used to it?

Taylor and Gaston follow me dutifully through the late afternoon crowds, and I soon forget they are there. I want to buy something for Christian, something to take his mind off what's happening in Seattle. But what do I buy for the man who has everything? I pause in a small modern square surrounded by stores and gaze at each one in turn. When I spy an electronics store, our visit to the gallery earlier today and our visit to the Louvre come back to me. We were looking at the Venus de Milo at the time . . . Christian's words echo in my head, "We can all appreciate the female form. We love to look whether in marble or oils or satin or film."

It gives me an idea, a daring idea. I just need help choosing the right one, and there's only one person who can help me. I wrestle my BlackBerry out of my purse and call Jose.

"Who . . . ?" he mumbles sleepily.

"Jose, it's Ana."

"Ana? Do you have any idea what time it is?" he says grumpily. Holy crap - I thought I had a better handle on the time zones.

"Sorry."

"Where are you? You okay?" He sounds more alert now, concerned.

"I'm in Cannes in the South of France, and I'm fine."

"South of France, huh? You in some fancy hotel?"

"Um . . . no. We're staying on a boat."

"A boat?"

"A big boat." I clarify, sighing.

"I see." His tone chills. . . Shit, I should not have called him. I don't need this right now.

"Jose, I need your advice."

"My advice?" He sounds stunned. "Sure," he says, and this time he's much more friendly. I tell him my plan.

Two hours later, Taylor helps me out of the motor launch onto the steps up to the deck. Gaston is helping the deckhand with the Jet Ski. Christian is nowhere to be seen, and I scurry down to our cabin to wrap his present, feeling a childish sense of delight.

"You were gone some time." Christian startles me just as I am applying the last piece of tape. I turn to find him standing in the doorway to the cabin, watching me intently. Holy shit! Am I still in trouble over the Jet Ski? Or is it the fire at his office?

"Everything in control at your office?" I ask tentatively.

"More or less," he says, an annoyed frown flitting across his face.

"I did a little shopping," I murmur, hoping to lighten his mood, and praying his annoyance is not directed at me. He smiles warmly, and I know we're okay.

"What did you buy?"

"This," I put my foot up on the bed and show him my ankle chain.

"Very nice," he says. He steps over to me and fondles the tiny bells so that they jingle sweetly around my ankle. He frowns again at the mark left by the cuffs and runs his fingers lightly along the line, sending tingles up my leg.

"And this." I hold out the box, hoping to distract him.

"For me?" he asks in surprise. I nod shyly. He takes the box and shakes it gently. He grins his boyish, dazzling smile and sits down beside me on the bed. Leaning over, he grasps my chin and kisses me.

"Thank you," he says with shy delight.

"You haven't opened it yet."

"I'll love it, whatever it is." He gazes down at me, his eyes glowing.

"I don't get many presents."

"It's hard to buy you things. You have everything."

"I have you."

"You do." I grin at him. Oh, you so do, Christian.

He makes short work of the wrapping paper. "A Nikon?" He glances up at me, puzzled.

"I know you have your compact digital camera but this is for . . . um . . . portraits and the like. It comes with two lenses."

He blinks at me, still not understanding.

"Today in the gallery you liked the Florence D'elle photographs. And I remember what you said in the Louvre. And of course, there were those other photographs." I swallow, trying my best not to recall the images I found in his closet.

He stops breathing, his eyes widening as realization dawns, and I continue hurriedly before I lose my nerve.

"I thought you might, um . . . like to take pictures of . . . me."

"Pictures. Of you?" He gapes at me ignoring the box on his lap. I nod, desperately trying to gauge his reaction. Finally he gazes back down at the box, his fingers tracing over the illustration of the camera on the front with fascinated reverence.

What is he thinking? Oh, this is not the reaction I was expecting, and my subconscious glares at me like I'm a dumb domesticated farm animal. Christian never reacts the way I expect. He looks back up at me, his eyes filled with what, pain? Shit . . . what now?

"Why do you think I want this?" he asks, bemused.

No, no, no! You said you'd love it . . .

"Don't you?" I ask, refusing to acknowledge my subconscious who is questioning why anyone would want erotic photographs of me. Christian swallows and runs a hand through his hair, and he looks so lost, so confused. He takes a deep breath.

"For me, photos like those have usually been an insurance policy, Ana. I know I've objectified women for so long," he says and pauses awkwardly.

What? Where the f**k is this going?

"And you think taking pictures of me is . . . um, objectifying me?

Oh." All the air leaves my body, and the blood drains from my face. He scrunches up his eyes. "I am so confused," he whispers. When he opens his eyes again, they are wide and wary, full of some raw emotion.

Shit. What has brought this on - Me? My questions earlier about his birth mom? The fire at his office?

"Why do you say that?" I whisper, panic rising in my throat. I thought he was happy. I thought we were happy. I thought I made him happy. I don't want to confuse him. Do I? My mind starts racing. What's brought about this sea change? He hasn't seen Flynn in nearly three weeks. Is that it? Is that the reason he's unraveling? Shit, should I call Flynn? And in a possibly unique moment of extraordinary depth and clarity, it comes to me - the fire, Charlie Tango, the Jet Ski . . . He's scared, he's scared for me, and seeing these marks on my skin must bring that home. He's been fussing about them all day, confusing himself because he's not used to feeling uncomfortable about inflicting pain. The thought chills me.

He shrugs and once more his eyes move down to my wrist where the bangle he bought me this afternoon used to be. Bingo!

"Christian, these don't matter." I hold up my wrist, revealing the fading welt. "You gave me a safe word. Shit - yesterday was fun. I enjoyed it. Stop brooding about it - I like rough sex, I've told you that before." I flush scarlet as I try to quash my rising panic. He gazes at me intently, and I have no idea what he's thinking. Maybe he's measuring my words. I stumble on.

"Is this about the fire? Do you think it's connected somehow to Charlie Tango? Is this why you're worried? Talk to me, Christian - please."

He stares at me, saying nothing and the silence expands between us again like it did this afternoon. Holy f**king crap! He's not going to talk to me, I know.

"Don't overthink this Christian," I scold quietly, and the words echo, disturbing a memory from the recent past - his words to me about his stupid contract. I reach over, take the box from his lap, and open it. He watches me passively as if I'm a fascinating alien creature. Knowing that the camera is prepped by the overly helpful salesman in the store, and ready to go, I fish it out of the box and remove the lens cap. I point the camera at him so his beautiful anxious face fills the frame. I press the button and keep it pressed, and ten pictures of Christian's alarmed expression are captured digitally for posterity.

"I'll objectify you then," I murmur, pressing the shutter again. On the final still his lips twitch almost imperceptibly. I press again, and this time he smiles . . . a small smile, but a smile nevertheless. I hold down the button once more and see him physically relax in front of me and pout - a full-on, posed, ridiculous, "blue steel" pout, and it makes me giggle. Oh, thank heavens. Mr. Mercurial is back - and I've never been so pleased to see him.

"I thought it was my present," he mutters sulkily, but I think he's teasing.

"Well, it was supposed to be fun, but it's ended up as a symbol of women's oppression." I snap away, taking more pictures of him, and watch the amusement grow on his face in super close-up. Then his eyes darken, and his expression changes to predatory.

"You want to be oppressed?" he murmurs silkily.

"Not oppressed. No," I murmur back, snapping again.

"I could oppress you big time, Mrs. Grey," he threatens, his voice husky.

"I know you can, Mr. Grey. And you do, frequently."

He blinks at me as his face falls. Shit. I lower the camera and stare at him.

"What's wrong, Christian?" My voice oozes frustration. Tell me!

He says nothing. Gah! He's so infuriating. I lift the camera to my eye again.

"Tell me," I insist.

"Nothing," he says and abruptly disappears from the viewfinder. In one swift, smooth move, he reaches over, sweeps the camera box onto the cabin floor, and grabs me, pushing me down onto the bed. He sits astride me.

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