Gia Matteo is a good-looking woman—a tall, good-looking woman. She wears her short, salon-blond, perfectly layered and coiffed hair like a sophisticated crown. She’s dressed in a pale gray pantsuit; the slacks and fitted jacket hug her lush curves. Her clothes look expensive. At the base of her throat, a solitary diamond glints, matching the single-carat studs in her ears. She is well groomed—one of those women who grew up with money and breeding, though her breeding seems to be lacking this evening; her pale blue blouse is undone too far. Like mine. I flush.
“Christian. Ana.” She beams, showing perfect white teeth, and holds out a manicured hand to shake first Christian’s, then my hand. It means I have to release Christian’s hand to reciprocate. She’s a fraction shorter than Christian, but then she’s in killer heels.
“Gia,” Christian says politely. I smile coolly.
“You both look so well after your honeymoon,” she says smoothly, her brown eyes gazing at Christian through long mascaraed lashes. Christian puts his arm around me, holding me close.
“We had a wonderful time, thank you.” He brushes his lips against my temple, taking me by surprise.
See . . . he’s mine. Annoying—infuriating, even—but mine. I grin. Right now I really love you, Christian Grey. I slip my hand around his waist then into his rear pocket of his pants and squeeze his behind. Gia gives us a thin smile.
“Have you managed to look over the plans?”
“We have,” I murmur. I gaze up at Christian, who grins down at me, one eyebrow raised in wry amusement. Amused at what? My reaction to Gia or me squeezing his butt?
“Please,” Christian says. “The plans are here.” He gestures toward the dining table. Taking my hand, he leads me to it, Gia following in our wake. I finally remember my manners.
“Would you like something to drink?” I ask. “A glass of wine?”
“That would be lovely,” Gia says. “Dry white if you have it.”
Shit! Sauvignon blanc—that’s a dry white, isn’t it? Reluctantly leaving my husband’s side, I head over to the kitchen. I hear the iPod hiss as Christian switches off the music.
“Would you like some more wine, Christian?” I call.
“Please, baby,” he croons, grinning at me. Wow, he can be so swoonworthy at times yet so aggravating at others.
Reaching up to open the cupboard, I’m aware his eyes are on me, and I’m gripped by the uncanny feeling that Christian and I are putting on a show, playing a game together—but this time we’re on the same side pitted against Ms. Matteo.
Does he know that she’s attracted to him and is being too obvious about it? It gives me a small rush of pleasure when I realize maybe he’s trying to reassure me.
Or maybe he’s just sending a message loud and clear to this woman that he’s taken.
Mine. Yeah, bitch—mine. My inner goddess is wearing her gladiatrix outfit, and she’s taking no prisoners. Smiling to myself I collect three glasses from the cupboard, take the opened bottle of sauvignon blanc from the fridge, and place them all on the breakfast bar. Gia is leaning over the table while Christian stands beside her and points at something on the plans.
“I think Ana has some opinions on the glass wall, but generally we’re both pleased with the ideas you’ve come up with.”
“Oh, I’m glad,” Gia gushes, obviously relieved, and as she says it, she briefly touches his arm in a small, flirty gesture. Christian stiffens immediately but subtly . She doesn’t even seem to notice.
Leave him the fuck alone, lady. He doesn’t like to be touched.
Stepping casually aside so he’s out of her reach, Christian turns to me.
“Thirsty here,” he says.
“Coming right up.” He is playing the game. She makes him uncomfortable.
Why didn’t I see that before? That’s why I don’t like her. He’s used to how women react to him. I’ve seen it often enough, and usually he thinks nothing of it.
Touching is something else. Well, Mrs. Grey to the rescue.
I hastily pour the wine, gather all three glasses in my hands, and hurry back to my knight in distress. Offering a glass to Gia, I deliberately position myself between them. She smiles courteously as she accepts it. I hand the second to Christian, who takes it eagerly, his expression one of amused gratitude.
“Cheers,” Christian says to us both, but looking at me. Gia and I raise our glasses and answer in unison. I take a welcome sip of wine.
“Ana, you have some issues with the glass wall?” Gia asks.
“Yes. I love it—don’t get me wrong. But I was hoping that we could incorporate it more organically into the house. After all, I fell in love with the house as it was, and I don’t want to make any radical changes.”
“I just want the design to be sympathetic, you know . . . more in keeping with the original house.” I glance up at Christian, who is gazing at me thoughtfully.
“No major renovations?” he murmurs.
“No.” I shake my head to emphasize my point.
“You like it as it is?”
“Mostly, yes. I always knew it just needed some TLC.”
Christian’s eyes glow warmly.
Gia glances at the pair of us, and her cheeks pink. “Okay,” she says. “I think I get where you’re coming from, Ana. How about if we retain the glass wall, but have it open out onto a larger deck that’s in keeping with the Mediterranean style.
We have the stone terrace there already. We can put in pillars in matching stone, widely spaced so you’ll still have the view. Add a glass roof, or tile it as per the rest of the house. It’ll also make a sheltered al fresco dining and seated area.”
Got to give the woman her due . . . she’s good.
“Or instead of the deck, we could incorporate a wood color of your choice in-to the glass doors—that might help to keep the Mediterranean spirit,” she continues.