“I thought you were born here in Seattle,” I murmur. My mind races. What does this have to do with Jack? Christian raises the arm covering his face, reaches behind him, and grabs one of the pillows. Placing it under his head, he settles back and gazes at me with a wary expression. After a moment he shakes his head.
“No. Elliot and I were both adopted in Detroit. We moved here shortly after my adoption. Grace wanted to be on the west coast, away from the urban sprawl, and she got a job at Northwest Hospital. I have very little memory of that time.
Mia was adopted here.”
“So Jack is from Detroit?”
Oh . . . “How do you know?”
“I ran a background check when you went to work for him.”
Of course he did. “Do you have a manila file on him, too?” I smirk.
Christian’s mouth twists as he hides his amusement. “I think it’s pale blue.”
His fingers continue to run through my hair. It’s soothing.
“What does it say in his file?”
Christian blinks. Reaching down he strokes my cheek. “You really want to know?”
“Is it that bad?”
He shrugs. “I’ve known worse,” he whispers.
No! Is he referring to himself? And the image I have of Christian as a small, dirty, fearful, lost boy comes to mind. I curl around him, holding him tighter, pulling the sheet over him, and I lay my cheek against his chest.
“What?” he asks, puzzled by my reaction.
“Nothing,” I murmur.
“No, no. This works both ways, Ana. What is it?”
I glance up assessing his apprehensive expression. Resting my cheek upon his chest once more, I decide to tell him. “Sometimes I picture you as a child . . .
before you came to live with the Greys.”
Christian stiffens. “I wasn’t talking about me. I don’t want your pity, Anastasia. That part of my life is done. Gone.”
“It’s not pity,” I whisper, appalled. “It’s sympathy and sorrow—sorrow that anyone could do that to a child.” I take a deep steadying breath as my stomach twists and tears prick my eyes anew. “That part of your life is not done, Christian—how can you say that? You live every day with your past. You told me yourself—Fifty Shades, remember?” My voice is barely audible.
Christian snorts and runs his free hand through his hair, though he remains silent and tense beneath me.
“I know it’s why you feel the need to control me. Keep me safe.”
“And yet you choose to defy me,” he murmurs baffled, his hand stilling in my hair.
I frown. Holy cow! Do I do that deliberately? My subconscious removes her half-moon glasses and chews the end, pursing her lips and nodding. I ignore her.
This is confusing—I’m his wife, not his submissive, not some company he’s acquired. I’m not the crack whore who was his mother . . . Fuck. The thought is sickening. Dr. Flynn’s words come back to me:
“Just keep doing what you’re doing. Christian is head over heels . . . It’s a delight to see.”
That’s it. I’m just doing what I’ve always done. Isn’t that what Christian found attractive in the first place?
Oh, this man is so confusing.
“Dr. Flynn said I should give you the benefit of the doubt. I think I do—I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s my way of bringing you into the here and now—away from your past,” I whisper. “I don’t know. I just can’t seem to get a handle on how far you’ll overreact.”
He’s silent for a moment. “Fucking Flynn,” he mutters to himself.
“He said I should continue to behave the way I’ve always behaved with you.”
“Did he now?” Christian says dryly.
Okay. Here goes nothing. “Christian, I know you loved your mom, and you couldn’t save her. It wasn’t your job to do that. But I’m not her.”
He freezes again. “Don’t,” he whispers.
“No, listen. Please.” I raise my head to stare into gray eyes that are paralyzed with fear. He’s holding his breath. Oh, Christian . . . My heart constricts. “I’m not her. I’m much stronger than she was. I have you, and you’re so much stronger now, and I know you love me. I love you, too,” I whisper.
His brow creases as if my words were not what he expected. “Do you still love me?” he asks.
“Of course I do. Christian, I will always love you. No matter what you do to me.” Is this the reassurance he wants?
He exhales and closes his eyes, placing his arm over his face again, but hugging me closer, too.
“Don’t hide from me.” Reaching up, I grasp his hand and pull his arm away from his face. “You’ve spent your life hiding. Please don’t, not from me.”
He looks at me with incredulity and frowns. “Hiding?”
He shifts suddenly, rolling over onto his side and moving me so that I am lying beside him on the bed. He reaches up, smoothes my hair off my face and tucks it behind my ear.
“You asked me earlier today if I hated you. I didn’t understand why, and now—” He stops, staring down at me as if I’m a complete conundrum.
“You still think I hate you?” Now my voice is incredulous.
“No.” He shakes his head. “Not now.” He looks relieved. “But I need to know . . . why did you safe word, Ana?”
I blanch. What can I tell him? That he frightened me. That I didn’t know if he’d stop. That I begged him—and he didn’t stop. That I didn’t want things to es-calate . . . like—like that one time in here. I shudder as I recall him whipping me with his belt.
I swallow. “Because . . . because you were so angry and distant and . . . cold.
I didn’t know how far you’d go.”
His expression is unreadable.