“Have you now?” I whisper. My mouth goes drier still, my heart pounding in my chest. Why’s he dressed like this? What does it mean? Is he still sulking?
“I have.” His voice is kitten soft, but he’s smirking as he strolls closer to me.
Holy crap he looks hot—his jeans hanging that way from his hips. Oh no, I’m not going to be distracted by Mr. Sex-on-Legs. I try to gauge his mood as he stalks toward me. Angry? Playful? Lustful? Gah! It’s impossible to tell.
“I like your jeans,” I murmur. He grins a disarming wolfish grin that doesn’t reach his eyes. Shit—he’s still mad. He’s wearing these to distract me. He halts in front of me, and I’m seared by his intensity. He gazes down, wide unreadable eyes burning into mine. I swallow.
“I understand you have issues, Mrs. Grey,” he says silkily, and he pulls something from the back pocket of his jeans. I can’t tear my gaze from his, but hear him unfold a piece of paper. He holds it up, and glancing briefly in its direction, I recognize my e-mail. My gaze returns to his, as his eyes blaze bright with anger.
“Yes, I have issues,” I whisper, feeling breathless. I need distance if we’re going to discuss this. But before I can step back, he leans down and runs his nose along mine. My eyes flutter to a close as I welcome his unexpected, gentle touch.
“So do I,” he whispers against my skin, and I open my eyes at his words. He straightens and gazes intently at me once more.
“I think I’m familiar with your issues, Christian.” My voice is wry, and he narrows his eyes, suppressing the amusement that sparks there momentarily. Are we going to fight? I take a precautionary step back. I must physically distance myself from him—from his smell, his look, his distracting body in those hot jeans.
He frowns as I move away.
“Why did you fly back from New York?” I whisper. Let’s get this over and done with.
“You know why.” His tone carries a warning ring.
“Because I went out with Kate?”
“Because you went back on your word, and you defied me, putting yourself at unnecessary risk.”
“Went back on my word? Is that how you see it?” I gasp, ignoring the rest of his sentence.
Holy crap. Talk about overreaction! I start to roll my eyes but stop when he scowls at me. “Christian, I changed my mind,” I explain slowly, patiently as if he’s a child. “I’m a woman. We’re renowned for it. That’s what we do.”
He blinks at me as if he doesn’t comprehend this.
“If I had thought for one minute that you would cancel your business trip . . .”
Words fail me. I realize I don’t know what to say. I am momentarily catapulted back to the argument over our vows. I never promised to obey you, Christian. But I hold my tongue, because deep down I’m glad he came back. In spite of his fury, I’m glad he’s here in one piece, angry and smoldering in front of me.
“You changed your mind?” He can’t hide his contemptuous disbelief.
“And you didn’t think to call me?” He glares at me, incredulous, before continuing. “What’s more, you left the security detail short here and put Ryan at risk.”
Oh. I hadn’t thought about that.
“I should have called, but I didn’t want to worry you. If I had, I’m sure you would have forbidden me to go and I’ve missed Kate. I wanted to see her.
Besides, it kept me out of the way when Jack was here. Ryan shouldn’t have let him in.” This is so confusing. If Ryan hadn’t, Jack would still be at large.
Christian’s eyes gleam wildly, then shut, his face tightening as if in pain. Oh, no. He shakes his head, and before I know it he has folded me in his arms, pulling me hard against him.
“Oh Ana,” he whispers as he tightens his hold on me so that I can barely breathe. “If something were to happen to you—” His voice is barely a whisper.
“It didn’t,” I manage to say.
“But it could have. I’ve died a thousand deaths today thinking about what might have happened. I was so mad, Ana. Mad at you. Mad at myself. Mad at everyone. I can’t remember being this angry . . . except—” He stops again.
“Except?” I prompt.
“Once in your old apartment. When Leila was there.”
Oh. I don’t want to think about that.
“You were so cold this morning,” I murmur. My voice cracks on the last word as I remember the hideous feeling of rejection in the shower. His hands move to the nape of my neck, loosening their grip on me, and I take a deep breath.
He pulls my head back.
“I don’t know how to deal with this anger. I don’t think I want to hurt you,”
he says, his eyes wide and wary. “This morning, I wanted to punish you, badly and—” He stops, lost for words I think, or too afraid to say them.
“You were worried you’d hurt me?” I finish his sentence for him, not believing that he’d hurt me for a minute, but relieved, too. A small vicious part of me feared it was because he didn’t want me anymore.
“I didn’t trust myself,” he says quietly.
“Christian, I know you’d never hurt me. Not physically, anyway.” I clasp his head between my hands.
“Do you?” he asks, and there’s skepticism in his voice.
“Yes. I knew what you said was an empty, idle threat. I know you’re not going to beat the shit out of me.”
“I wanted to.”
“No you didn’t. You just thought you did.”
“I don’t know if that’s true,” he murmurs.
“Think about it,” I urge, wrapping my arms around him once more and nuzzling his chest through the black T-shirt. “About how you felt when I left. You’ve told me often enough what that did to you. How it altered your view of the world, of me. I know what you’ve given up for me. Think about how you felt about the cuff marks on our honeymoon.”