We land smoothly at Sardy Field at 12:25 p.m. (MST). Stephan brings the plane to a halt a little way from the main terminal, and through the windows I spot a large VW minivan waiting for us.
“Good landing.” Christian grins and shakes Stephan’s hand as we get ready to file out of the jet.
“It’s all about the density altitude, sir.” Stephan smiles back. “Beighley here is good at math.”
Christian nods at Stephan’s first officer. “You nailed it, Beighley. Smooth landing.”
“Thank you, sir.” She grins smugly.
“Enjoy your weekend, Mr. Grey, Mrs. Grey. We’ll see you tomorrow.”
Stephan steps aside to let us disembark and taking my hand, Christian leads me down the aircraft steps to where Taylor is waiting by the vehicle.
“Minivan?” says Christian in surprise as Taylor slides open the door.
Taylor gives him a tight, contrite smile and a slight shrug.
“Last minute, I know,” Christian says, immediately placated. Taylor returns to the plane to retrieve our luggage.
“Want to make out in the back of the van?” Christian murmurs to me, a mischievous gleam in his eye.
I giggle. Who is this man, and what has he done with Mr. Unbelievably Angry of the last couple of days?
“Come on, you two. Get in,” Mia says from behind us, oozing impatience beside Ethan. We climb in, stagger to the double seat at the back, and sit down. I snuggle against Christian, and he puts his arm around the back of my seat. “Comfortable?” he murmurs as Mia and Ethan take the seat in front of us.
“Yes.” I smile and he kisses my forehead. And for some unfathomable reason I feel shy with him today. Why? Last night? Being with company? I can’t put my finger on it.
Elliot and Kate join us last as Taylor opens the liftgate to load the luggage.
Five minutes later, we are on our way.
I gaze out the window as we head toward Aspen. The trees are green, but a whisper of the coming fall is evident here and there in the yellowing tips of the leaves. The sky is a clear crystal blue, though there are darkening clouds to the west. All around us in the distance loom the Rockies, the highest peak directly ahead. They’re lush and green, and the highest are capped with snow and look like a child’s drawing of mountains.
We’re in the winter playground of the rich and famous. And I own a house here. I can barely believe it. And from deep within my psyche, the familiar unease that’s always present when I try to wrap my head around Christian’s wealth looms and taunts me, making me feel guilty. What have I done to deserve this lifestyle?
I’ve done nothing, nothing except fall in love.
“Have you been to Aspen before, Ana?” Ethan turns and asks, dragging me out of my reverie.
“No, first time. You?”
“Kate and I used to come here a lot when we were teens. Dad’s a keen skier.
Mom less so.”
“I’m hoping my husband will teach me how to ski.” I glance up at my man.
“Don’t bet on it,” Christian mutters.
“I won’t be that bad!”
“You might break your neck.” His grin gone.
Oh. I don’t want to argue and sour his good mood, so I change the subject.
“How long have you had this place?”
“Nearly two years. It’s yours now, too, Mrs. Grey,” he says softly.
“I know,” I whisper. But somehow I don’t feel the courage of my convictions. Leaning in, I kiss his jaw and nestle once more at his side listening to him laugh and joke with Ethan and Elliot. Mia chimes in occasionally, but Kate is quiet, and I wonder if she’s brooding about Jack Hyde or something else. Then I remember. Aspen . . . Christian’s house here was redesigned by Gia Matteo and rebuilt by Elliot. I wonder if that’s what’s preoccupying Kate. I can’t ask her in front of Elliot, given his history with Gia. Does Kate even know about Gia’s connection to the house? I frown wondering what could be bothering her and resolve to ask her when we’re on our own.
We drive through the center of Aspen and my mood brightens as I take in the town. There are squat buildings of mostly red brick, Swiss-style chalets, and nu-merous little turn of the century houses painted in fun colors. Plenty of banks and designer shops, too, betraying the affluence of the local populace. Of course Christian fits in here.
“Why did you choose Aspen?” I ask him.
“What?” He regards me quizzically.
“To buy a place.”
“Mom and Dad used to bring us here when we were kids. I learned to ski here, and I like the place. I hope you do, too—otherwise we’ll sell the house and choose somewhere else.”
Simple as that!
He tucks a loose strand of my hair behind my ear. “You look lovely today,” he murmurs.
My cheeks heat. I’m just wearing my travelling gear: jeans and a T-shirt with a lightweight navy blue jacket. Damn it. Why does he make me feel shy?
He kisses me, a tender, sweet, loving kiss.
Taylor drives us on out of town, and we start to climb the other side of the valley, twisting along a mountain road. The higher we go, the more excited I get, and Christian tenses beside me.
“What’s wrong?” I ask as we round a bend.
“I hope you like it,” he says quietly. “We’re here.”
Taylor slows and turns through a gateway made of gray, beige, and red stones. He heads down the driveway and finally pulls up outside the impressive house. Double fronted with high-pitched roofs and built of dark wood and the same mixed stone as the gateway. It’s stunning—modern and stark, very much Christian’s style.
“Home,” he mouths at me as our guests start piling out of the van.
“Come. See,” he says, an excited, though anxious, gleam in his eyes as if he’s about to show me his science project or something.