Christian on his knees at my feet, holding me with his steady gray gaze, is the most chilling and sobering sight I have ever seen—more so than Leila and her gun. The vague alcoholic fuzziness I’m suffering from evaporates in an instant and is replaced by a prickling scalp and a creeping sense of doom as the blood drains from my face.
I inhale sharply with shock. No. No, this is wrong, so wrong and so disturbing.
“Christian, please, don’t do this. I don’t want this.” He continues to regard me passively, not moving, saying nothing.
Oh fuck. My poor Fifty. My heart squeezes and twists. What the hell have I done to him? Tears prick my eyes.
“Why are you doing this? Talk to me,” I whisper.
He blinks once.
“What would you like me to say?” he says softly, blandly, and for a moment I’m relieved that he’s talking, but not like this—no. No.
Tears begin to ooze down my cheeks, and suddenly it is too much to see him in the same prostrate position as the pathetic creature that was Leila. The image of a powerful man who’s really still a little boy, who was horrifically abused and neglected, who feels unworthy of love from his perfect family and his much-less-than perfect girlfriend . . . my lost boy . . . it’s heartbreaking.
Compassion, loss, and despair all swell in my heart, and I feel a choking sense of desperation. I am going to have to fight to bring him back, to bring back my Fifty.
The thought of me dominating anyone is appalling. The thought of dominating Christian is nauseating. It would make me like her—the woman who did this to him.
I shudder at that thought, fighting the bile in my throat. No way can I do that. No way do I want that.
As my thoughts clear, I can see only one way. Not taking my eyes off his, I sink to my knees in front of him.
The wooden floor is hard against my shins, and I dash my tears away roughly with the back of my hand.
Like this, we are equals. We’re on a level. This is the only way I’m going to retrieve him.His eyes widen fractionally as I stare up at him, but beyond that his expression and stance don’t change.
“Christian, you don’t have to do this,” I plead. “I’m not going to run. I’ve told you and told you and told you, I won’t run.” All that’s happened . . . it’s overwhelming. I just need some time to think . . . some time to myself. Why do you always assume the worst?” My heart clenches again because I know; it’s because he’s so doubting, so full of self-loathing.
Elena’s words come back to haunt me. “Does she know how negative you are about yourself? About all your issues?”
Oh, Christian. Fear grips my heart once more and I start babbling, “I was going to suggest going back to my apartment this evening. You never give me any time . . . time to just think things through,” I sob, and a ghost of a frown crosses his face. “Just time to think. We barely know each other, and all this baggage that comes with you . . . I need . . . I need time to think it through. And now that Leila is . . . well, whatever she is . . . she’s off the streets and not a threat . . . I thought . . . I thought . . .” My voice trails off and I stare at him. He regards me intently and I think he’s listening
“Seeing you with Leila . . .” I close my eyes as the painful memory of his interaction with his ex-sub gnaws at me anew. “It was such a shock. I had a glimpse into how your life has been . . . and . . .” I gaze down at my knotted fingers, tears still trickling down my cheeks. “This is about me not being good enough for you. It was an insight into your life, and I am so scared you’ll get bored with me, and then you’ll go . . . and I’ll end up like Leila . . . a shadow. Because I love you, Christian, and if you leave me, it will be like a world without light. I’ll be in darkness. I don’t want to run. I’m just so frightened you’ll leave me . . .”
I realize as I say these words to him—in the hope that he’s listening—what my real problem is. I just don’t get why he likes me. I have never understood why he likes me.
“I don’t understand why you find me attractive,” I murmur. “You’re, well, you’re you . . . and I’m . . .” I shrug and gaze up at him. “I just don’t see it. You’re beautiful and sexy and successful and good and kind and caring—all those things—and I’m not. And I can’t do the things you like to do. I can’t give you what you need. How could you be happy with me? How can I possibly hold you?” My voice is a whisper as I express my darkest fears. “I have never understood what you see in me. And seeing you with her, it brought all that home.” I sniff and wipe my nose with the back of my hand, gazing at his impassive expression.
Oh, he’s so exasperating. Talk to me, damn it!
“Are you going to kneel here all night? Because I’ll do it, too,” I snap at him.
I think his expression softens—maybe he looks vaguely amused. But it’s so hard to tell.
I could reach across and touch him, but this would be a gross abuse of the position he’s put me in. I don’t want that, but I don’t know what he wants, or what he’s trying to say to me. I just don’t understand.