Tears stream down my face. He’s back. My daddy is back.
“Don’t cry, Annie.” Ray’s voice is hoarse. “What’s happening?”
I take up his hand in both of mine and cradle it against my face. “You’ve been in an accident. You’re in the hospital in Portland.”
Ray frowns, and I don’t know if it’s because he’s uncomfortable with my uncharacteristic display of affection, or that he can’t remember the accident.
“Do you want some water?” I ask, though I’m not sure if I’m allowed to give him any. He nods, bewildered. My heart swells. I stand up and lean over him, kissing his forehead. “I love you, Daddy. Welcome back.”
He waves his hand, embarrassed. “Me, too, Annie. Water.” I run the short distance to the nurses’ station.
“My dad—he’s awake!” I beam at Nurse Kellie, who smiles back.
“Page Dr. Sluder,” she says to her colleague and hurriedly makes her way around the desk.
“He wants water.”
“I’ll bring him some.”
I skip back to my father’s bed, I feel so light-hearted. His eyes are closed when I reach him, and I immediately worry that he’s slipped back into a coma.
“I’m here,” he mutters and his eyes flutter open as Nurse Kellie appears with a jug of ice chips and a glass.
“Hello, Mr. Steele. I’m Kellie, your nurse. Your daughter tells me you’re thirsty.”
In the waiting room, Christian is staring fixedly at his laptop, deep in concentra-tion. He glances up when I close the door.
“He’s awake,” I announce. He smiles, and the tension around his eyes vanishes. Oh . . . I hadn’t noticed before. Has he been tense all this time? He sets his laptop aside, stands, and embraces me.
“How is he?” he asks as I wrap my arms around him.
“Talking, thirsty, bewildered. He doesn’t remember the accident at all.”
“That’s understandable. Now that he’s awake, I want to get him moved to Seattle. Then we can go home, and my mom can keep an eye on him.”
“I’m not sure he’s well enough to be moved.”
“I’ll talk to Dr. Sluder. Get her opinion.”
“You miss home?”
“You haven’t stopped smiling,” Christian says as I pull up outside the Heathman.
“I’m very relieved. And happy.”
Christian grins. “Good.”
The light is fading, and I shiver as I step out into the cool, crisp evening and hand my key to the parking valet. He’s eyeing my car with lust, and I don’t blame him. Christian puts his arm around me.
“Shall we celebrate?” he asks as we enter the foyer.
I giggle. “Oh, him.”
“I’ve missed that sound.” Christian kisses my hair.
“Can we just eat in our room? You know, have a quiet night in?”
“Sure. Come.” Taking my hand, he leads me to the elevators.
“That was delicious,” I murmur with satisfaction as I push my plate away, replete for the first time in ages. “They sure know how to make a fine tarte Tatin here.”
I am freshly bathed and wearing only Christian’s T-shirt and my panties. In the background, Christian’s iPod is on shuffle and Dido is warbling on about white flags.
Christian eyes me speculatively. His hair is still damp from our bath, and he’s wearing just his black T-shirt and jeans. “That’s the most I’ve seen you eat the entire time we’ve been here,” he says.
“I was hungry.”
He leans back in his chair with a self-satisfied smirk and takes a sip of his white wine. “What would you like to do now?” His voice is soft.
“What do you want to do?”
He raises an eyebrow, amused. “What I always want to do.”
“And that is?”
“Mrs. Grey, don’t be coy.”
Reaching across the dining table, I grasp his hand, turn it over, and skim my index finger over his palm. “I’d like you to touch me with this.” I run my finger up his index finger.
He shifts in his chair. “Just that?” His eyes darken and heat at once.
“Maybe this?” I run my finger up his middle finger and back to his palm.
“And this.” My nail traces his ring finger. “Definitely this.” My finger stops at his wedding ring. “This is very sexy.”
“Is it, now?”
“It sure is. It says this man is mine.” And I skim the small callous that has already formed on his palm beneath the ring. He leans forward and cups my chin with his other hand.
“Mrs. Grey, are you seducing me?”
“I hope so.”
“Anastasia, I’m a given.” His voice is low. “Come here.” He tugs my hand, pulling me onto his lap. “I like having unfettered access to you.” He runs a hand up my thigh to my behind. He grasps the nape of my neck with his other hand and kisses me, holding me firmly in place.
He tastes of white wine and apple pie and Christian. I run my fingers through his hair, holding him to me while our tongues explore and curl and twist around each other, my blood heating in my veins. We’re breathless when Christian pulls away.
“Let’s go to bed,” he murmurs against my lips.
He pulls back further and tugs my hair so I am looking up at him. “Where would you prefer, Mrs. Grey?”
My inner goddess stops stuffing her face with tarte Tatin. I shrug, feigning indifference. “Surprise me.”
He smirks. “You’re feisty this evening.” He runs his nose along mine.
“Maybe I need to be restrained.”
“Maybe you do. You’re getting mighty bossy in your old age.” He narrows his eyes, but can’t disguise the latent humor there.
“What are you going to do about it?” I challenge.
His eyes glitter. “I know what I’d like to do about it. Depends if you’re up to it.”
“Oh, Mr. Grey, you’ve been very gentle with me these last couple of days.
I’m not made of glass, you know.”
“You don’t like gentle?”
“With you, of course. But you know . . . variety is the spice of life.” I bat my lashes at him.