Dr. Greene is tall, blond, and immaculate, dressed in a royal blue suit. I'm reminded of the women who work in Christian's office. She's like an identikit model - another Stepford blonde. Her long hair is swept up in an elegant chignon. She must be in her early forties.
"Mr. Grey." She shakes Christian's outstretched hand.
"Thank you for coming at such short notice," Christian says.
"Thank you for making it worth my while, Mr. Grey. Miss Steele." She smiles, her eyes cool and assessing.
We shake hands, and I know she's one of those women who doesn't tolerate fools gladly. Like Kate. I like her immediately. She gives Christian a pointed stare, and after an awkward beat, he takes his cue.
"I'll be downstairs," he mutters, and he leaves what will be my bedroom.
"Well Miss Steele. Mr. Grey is paying me a small fortune to attend to you. What can I do for you?"
After a thorough examination and lengthy discussion, Dr. Greene and I decide on the mini pill. She writes me a pre-paid prescription and instructs me to pick them up tomorrow. I love her no-nonsense attitude - she has lectured me until she's as blue as her dress about taking it at the same time every day. And I can tell she's burning with curiosity about my so-called relationship with Mr. Grey. I don't give her any details. Somehow I don't think she'd look so calm and collected if she'd seen his Red Room of Pain. I flush as we pass its closed door and head back downstairs to the art gallery that is Christian's living room.
Christian is reading, seated on his couch. A breathtaking aria is playing on the music system, swirling round him, cocooning him, filling the room with a sweet, soulful song.
For a moment, he looks serene. He turns and glances at us when we enter and smiles warmly at me.
"Are you done?" he asks as if he's genuinely interested. He points the remote at a sleek white box beneath the fireplace that houses his iPod, and the exquisite melody fades but continues in the background. Standing, he strolls towards us.
"Yes, Mr. Grey. Look after her; she's a beautiful, bright young woman."
Christian is taken aback - as am I. What an inappropriate thing for a doctor to say. Is she giving him some kind of not so subtle warningChristian recovers himself.
"I fully intend to," he mutters, bemused.
Gazing at him, I shrug, embarrassed.
"I'll send you my bill," she says crisply as she shakes his hand.
"Good day, and good luck to you, Ana." She smiles, her eyes crinkling as she does when we shake hands.
Taylor appears from nowhere to escort her through the double doors and out to the elevator. How does he do thatWhere does he lurk?
"How was that?" Christian asks.
"Fine, thank you. She said that I had to abstain from all sexual activity for the next four weeks."
Christian's mouth drops open in shock, and I cannot keep a straight face any longer and grin at him like an idiot.
He narrows his eyes, and I immediately stop laughing. In fact, he looks rather forbidding. Oh shit. My subconscious quails in the corner as all the blood drains from my face, and I imagine him putting me across his knee again.
"Gotcha!" he says and smirks. He grabs me around my waist and pulls me up against him. "You are incorrigible, Miss Steele," he murmurs, staring down into my eyes as he weaves his fingers into my hair, holding me firmly in place. He kisses me, hard, and I cling on to his muscular arms for support.
"As much as I'd like to take you here, now, you need to eat and so do I. I don't want you passing out on me later," he murmurs against my lips.
"Is that all you want me for - my body?" I whisper.
"That and your smart mouth," he breathes.
He kisses me again passionately, and then abruptly releases me, taking my hand and leading me to the kitchen. I am reeling. One minute we're joking and the next... I fan my heated face. He's just sex on legs, and now I have to recover my equilibrium and eat something. The aria is still playing in the background.
"What's the music?"
"Villa Lobos, an aria from Bachianas Brasileiras. Good, isn't it?"
"Yes," I murmur in total agreement.
The breakfast bar is laid for two; Christian takes a salad bowl from the fridge.
"Chicken caesar salad okay with you?"
Oh thank heavens, nothing too heavy.
"Yes, fine, thank you."
I watch as he moves gracefully through his kitchen. He's so at ease with his body on one level, but then he doesn't like to be touched... so maybe deep down he isn't. No man is an island, I muse - except perhaps Christian Grey.
"What are you thinking?" he asks, pulling me from my reverie. I flush.
"I was just watching the way you move."
He raises an eyebrow, amused.
"And?" he says dryly.
I flush some more.
"You're very graceful."
"Why thank you, Miss Steele," he murmurs. He sits down beside me, holding a bottle of wine. "Chablis?"
"Help yourself to salad," he says, his voice soft.
"Tell me - what method did you opt for?"
I am momentarily thrown by his question, when I realize he's talking about Dr. Greene's visit."Mini pill."
"And will you remember to take it regularly, at the right time, every day?"
Jeez... of course I will. How does he knowI blush at the thought, probably from one or more of the fifteen.
"I'm sure you'll remind me," I murmur dryly.
He glances at me with amused condescension.
"I'll put an alarm on my calendar." He smirks. "Eat."
The chicken caesar is delicious. To my surprise, I'm famished, and for the first time since I've been with him, I finish my meal before he does. The wine is crisp, clean, and fruity.
"Eager as ever, Miss Steele?" he smiles down at my empty plate.
I look at him from beneath my lashes.
"Yes," I whisper.
His breath hitches. And as he stares down at me, I feel the atmosphere between us slowly shift, evolve... charge. His look goes from dark to smoldering, taking me with him.
He stands, closing the distance between us, and tugs me off my bar stool into his arms.
"Do you want to do this?" he breathes, looking down at me intently.
"I haven't signed anything."
"I know - but I'm breaking all the rules these days."
"Are you going to hit me?"
"Yes, but it won't be to hurt you. I don't want to punish you right now. If you'd caught me yesterday evening, well, that would have been a different story."
Holy cow. He wants to hurt me... how do I deal with thisI can't hide the horror on my face.
"Don't let anyone try and convince you otherwise, Anastasia. One of the reasons people like me do this is because we either like to give or receive pain. It's very simple.
You don't, so I spent a great deal of time yesterday thinking about that."
He pulls me against him, and his erection presses into my belly. I should run, but I can't. I'm drawn to him on some deep, elemental level, that I can't begin to understand.
"Did you reach any conclusions?" I whisper.
"No, and right now, I just want to tie you up and f**k you senseless. Are you ready for that?"
"Yes," I breathe as everything in my body tightens at once... wow.
"Good. Come." He takes my hand and, leaving all the dirty dishes on the breakfast bar, and we head upstairs.
My heart starts pounding. This is it. I'm really going to do this. My inner goddess is spinning like a world-class ballerina, pirouette after pirouette. He opens the door to his playroom, standing back for me to walk through, and I am once more in the Red Room of Pain.It's the same, the smell of leather, citrus, polish and dark wood, all very sensual. My blood is running heated and scared through my system - adrenaline mixed with lust and longing. It's a heady, potent cocktail. Christian's stance has changed completely, subtly altered, harder and meaner. He gazes down at me and his eyes are heated, lustful... hypnotic.
"When you're in here, you are completely mine," he breathes, each word slow and measured. "To do with as I see fit. Do you understand?"
His gaze is so intense. I nod, my mouth dry, my heart thumping for a way out of my chest.
"Take your shoes off," he orders softly.
I swallow, and rather clumsily, I take them off. He bends and picks them up and deposits them beside the door.
"Good. Don't hesitate when I ask you to do something. Now I'm going to peel you out of this dress. Something I've wanted to do for a few days if I recall. I want you to be comfortable with your body, Anastasia. You have a beautiful body, and I like to look at it.
It is a joy to behold. In fact, I could gaze at you all day, and I want you unembarrassed and unashamed of your nakedness. Do you understand?"
"Yes, what?" He leans over me, glaring.
"Do you mean that?" he snaps.
"Good. Lift your arms up over your head."
I do as instructed, and he reaches down and grabs the hem. Slowly, he pulls my dress up over my thighs, my hips, my belly, my br**sts, my shoulders, and over my head. He stands back to examine me and absentmindedly folds my dress, not taking his eyes off me.
He places it on the large chest beside the door. Reaching up, he pulls at my chin, his touch searing me.
"You're biting your lip," he breathes. "You know what that does to me," he adds darkly. "Turn around."
I turn immediately, no hesitation. He unclasps my bra and then taking both straps, he slowly pulls them down my arms, brushing my skin with his fingers and the tip of his thumbnails as he slides my bra off. His touch sends shivers down my spine, waking every nerve ending in my body. He's standing behind me, so close that I feel the heat radiating from him, warming me, warming me all over. He pulls my hair so it's all hanging down my back, grasps a handful at my nape, and angles my head to one side. He runs his nose down my exposed neck, inhaling all the way, then back up to my ear. The muscles in my belly clench, carnal and wanting. Jeez, he's hardly touched me, and I want him.
"You smell as divine as ever, Anastasia," he whispers as he places a soft kiss beneath my ear.
"Quiet," he breathes. "Don't make a sound."
Pulling my hair behind me, to my surprise, he starts braiding it in one large braid, his fingers fast and deft. He ties it with an unseen hair tie when he's finished and gives it a quick tug so I'm forced back against him.
"I like your hair braided in here," he whispers.
He releases my hair.
"Turn around," he orders.
I do as I'm bid, my breathing shallow, fear and longing mixed together. It's an intoxicating mix.
"When I tell you to come in here, this is how you will dress. Just in your panties. Do you understand?"
"Yes, what?" He glowers at me.
A trace of a smile lifts the corner of his mouth.
"Good girl." His eyes burn into mine. "When I tell you to come in here, I expect you to kneel over there." He points to a spot beside the door. "Do it now."
I blink processing his words, turn, and rather clumsily kneel as directed.
"You can sit back on your heels."
I sit back.
"Place your hands and forearms flat on your thighs. Good. Now part your knees.
Wider. Wider. Perfect. Look down at the floor."
He walks over to me, and I can see his feet and shins in my field of vision. Naked feet.
I should be taking notes if he wants me to remember. He reaches down and grasps my braid again, then pulls my head back so I am looking up at him. It's only just not painful.
"Will you remember this position, Anastasia?"
"Good. Stay here, don't move." He leaves the room.
I'm on my knees, waiting. Where's he goneWhat is he going to do to meTime shifts. I have no idea how long he leaves me like this... a few minutes, five, tenMy breathing becomes shallower, the anticipation is devouring me from the inside out.
And suddenly he's back - and all at once I'm calmer and more excited in the same breath. Could I be more excited I can see his feet. He's changed his jeans. These are older, ripped, soft, and over-washed. Holy cow. These jeans are hot. He shuts the door and hangs something on the back.
"Good girl, Anastasia. You look lovely like that. Well done. Stand up."
I stand, but I keep my face down.
"You may look at me."
I peek up at him, and he's staring at me intently, assessing, but his eyes soften. He's taken off his shirt. Oh my... I want to touch him. The top button of his jeans is undone.
"I'm going to chain you now, Anastasia. Give me your right hand."
I give him my hand. He turns it palm up, and before I know it, he swats the center with a riding crop I hadn't noticed is in his right hand. It happens so quickly that the surprise hardly registers. Even more astonishing - it doesn't hurt. Well, not much, just a slight ringing sting.
"How does that feel?" he asks.
I blink at him, confused.
"Okay." I frown.
I blink and try for impassive. I succeed.
"Did that hurt?"
"This is not going to hurt. Do you understand?"
"Yes." My voice is uncertain. Is it really not going to hurt?
"I mean it," he says.
Jeez, my breathing is so shallow. Does he know what I'm thinkingHe shows me the crop. It's brown plaited leather. My eyes jerk up to meet his, and they're alight with fire and a trace of amusement.
"We aim to please, Miss Steele," he murmurs. "Come." He takes my elbow and moves me to beneath the grid. He reaches up and takes down some shackles with black leather cuffs."This grid is designed so the shackles move across the grid."
I glance up. Holy shit - it's like a subway map.
"We're going to start here, but I want to f**k you standing up. So we'll end up by the wall over there." He points with the riding crop to where the large wooden X is on the wall.
"Put your hands above your head."
I oblige immediately, feeling like I'm exiting my body - a casual observer of events as they unfold around me. This is beyond fascinating, beyond erotic. It's singularly the most exciting and scary thing I've ever done. I'm entrusting myself to a beautiful man who, by his own admission, is fifty shades of f**ked-up. I suppress the brief thrill of fear. Kate and Elliot, they know I'm here.
He stands very close as he fastens the cuffs. I'm staring at his chest. His proximity is heavenly. He smells of body wash and Christian, an inebriating mix, and that drags me back into the now. I want to run my nose and tongue through that smattering of chest hair.
I could just lean forward...
He steps back and gazes at me, his expression hooded, salacious, carnal, and I am helpless, my hands tied, but just looking at his lovely face, reading his need and longing for me, I can feel the dampness between my legs
. He walks slowly round me.
"You look mighty fine trussed up like this, Miss Steele. And your smart mouth, quiet for now. I like that."
Standing in front of me again, he hooks his fingers into my panties, and at a most unhurried pace, peels them down my legs, stripping me agonizingly slowly, so that he ends up kneeling in front of me. Not taking his eyes off mine, he scrunches my panties in his hand, holds them up to his nose, and inhales deeply. Holy f**k. Did he just do that He grins wickedly at me and tucks them into the pocket of his jeans.
Uncoiling from the floor, rising lazily, like a jungle cat, he points the end of the riding crop at my navel, leisurely circling it - tantalizing me. At the touch of the leather, I quiver and gasp. He walks round me again, trailing the crop around the middle of my body. On his second circuit, he suddenly flicks the crop, and it hits me underneath my behind... against my sex. I cry out in surprise as all my nerve endings stand to attention. I pull against the restraints. The shock runs through me, and it's the sweetest strangest, hedonistic feeling.
"Quiet," he whispers as he walks around me again, the crop slightly higher around the middle of my body. This time when he flicks it against me in the same place, I'm anticipat-ing it... oh my. My body convulses at the sweet, stinging bite.
As he makes his way around me, he flicks again, this time hitting my nipple, and I throw my head back as my nerve endings sing. He hits the other... a brief, swift, sweet chastisement. My ni**les harden and elongate from the assault, and I moan loudly, pulling on my leather cuffs.
"Does that feel good?" he breathes.
He hits me again across the bu**ocks. The crop stings this time.
"Yes, Sir," I whimper.
He comes to a stop... but I can no longer see him. My eyes are closed as I try to absorb the myriad of sensations coursing through my body. Very slowly, he rains small, biting licks of the crop down my belly, heading south. I know where this is leading, and I try and psyche myself up for it - but when he hits my clitoris, I cry out loudly.
"Oh... please!" I groan.
"Quiet," he orders, and he hits me again on my behind.
I did not expect this to be like this... I am lost. Lost in a sea of sensation. And suddenly, he's dragging the crop against my sex, through my pubic hair, down to the entrance of my vagina.
"See how wet you are for this, Anastasia. Open your eyes and your mouth."
I do as I'm told, completely seduced. He pushes the tip of the crop into my mouth, like my dream . Holy shit.
"See how you taste. Suck. Suck hard, baby."
My mouth closes around the crop as my eyes lock on his. I can taste the rich leather and the saltiness of my arousal. His eyes are blazing. He's in his element.
He pulls the tip from my mouth, and he stands forward and grabs me and kisses me hard, his tongue invading my mouth. Wrapping his arms around me, he pulls me against him. His chest crushes mine, and I itch to touch, but I can't, my hands, useless above me.
"Oh, Anastasia, you taste mighty fine," he breathes. "Shall I make you come?"
"Please," I beg.
The crop bites my buttock. Ow!
"Please, Sir," I whimper.
He smiles at me, triumphant.
"With this?" He holds the crop up so I can see it.
"Are you sure?" He looks sternly at me.
"Yes, please, Sir."
"Close your eyes."
I shut the room out, him out... the crop out. He starts small, biting licks of the crop against my belly once more. Moving down, soft small licks against my clitoris, once, twice, three times, again and again, until finally, that's it - I can take no more - and I come, gloriously, loudly, sagging weakly. His arms curl around me as my legs turn to jelly. I dissolve in his embrace, my head against his chest, and I'm mewling and whimpering as the aftershocks of my orgasm consume me. He lifts me, and suddenly we're moving, my arms still tethered above my head, and I can feel the cool wood of the polished cross at my back, and he's popping the buttons on his jeans. He puts me down against the cross briefly while he slides on a condom, and then his hands wrap around my thighs as he lifts me again.
"Lift your legs, baby, wrap them round me."
I feel so weak, but I do as he asks as he wraps my legs around his hips and positions himself beneath me. With one thrust, he's inside me, and I cry out again, listening to his muffled moan at my ear. My arms are resting on his shoulders as he thrusts into me. Jeez, it's deep this way. He thrusts again and again, his face at my neck, his harsh breathing at my throat. I feel the build up again. Jeez no... not again... I don't think my body will with-stand another earth-shattering moment. But I have no choice... and with an inevitability that's becoming familiar, I let go and come again, and it's sweet and agonizing and intense.
I lose all sense of self. Christian follows, shouting his release through clenched teeth and holding me hard and close as he does.
He pulls out of me swiftly and sets me down against the cross, his body supporting mine. Unbuckling the cuffs, he frees my hands, and we both sink to the floor. He pulls me into his lap, cradling me, and I lean my head against his chest. If I had the strength, I'd touch him, but I don't. Belatedly, I realize he's still wearing his jeans.
"Well done, baby," he murmurs. "Did that hurt?"
"No," I breathe. I can barely keep my eyes open. Why am I so tired?
"Did you expect it to?" he whispers as he holds me close, his fingers pushing some escaped tendrils of hair off my face.
"You see most of your fear is in your head, Anastasia," he pauses. "Would you do it again?"
I think for a moment as fatigue clouds my brain ... Again?
"Yes." My voice is so soft.
He hugs me tightly.
"Good. So would I," he murmurs, then leans down and softly kisses the top of my head."And I haven't finished with you yet."
Not finished with me yet. Holy Moses. There's no way I can do any more. I am utterly spent and fighting an overwhelming desire to sleep. I'm leaning against his chest, my eyes are closed, and he's wrapped around me - arms and legs - and I feel... safe, and oh so comfortable. Will he let me sleep, perchance to dreamMy mouth quirks up at the silly thought, and turning my face into Christian's chest, I inhale his unique scent and nuzzle him, but immediately he tenses... oh crap. I open my eyes and glance up at him. He's staring down at me.
"Don't," he breathes in warning.
I flush and look back at his chest in longing. I want to run my tongue through the hair, kiss him, and for the first time, I notice he has a few random and faint small, round scars dotted around his chest. Chicken poxMeasles I think absently.
"Kneel by the door," he orders as he sits back, putting his hands on his knees, effectively releasing me. No longer warm, the temperature of his voice has dropped several degrees.
I stumble clumsily up into a standing position and scoot over to the door and kneel as instructed. I'm shaky and very, very tired, monumentally confused. Who would have thought I could have found such gratification in this room. Who could have thought it would be so exhausting My limbs are deliciously heavy, sated. My inner goddess has a
'do not disturb' sign on the outside of her room.
Christian is moving about in the periphery of my vision. My eyes start to droop.
"Boring you, am I, Miss Steele?"
I jump awake, and Christian is standing in front of me, his arms crossed glaring down at me. Oh shit, caught napping - this is not going to be good. His eyes soften as I gaze up at him.
"Stand up," he orders.
I climb warily to my feet. He stares at me, and his mouths quirks up.
"You're shattered, aren't you?"
I nod shyly, flushing.
"Stamina, Miss Steele." He narrows his eyes at me. "I haven't had my fill of you yet.
Hold out your hands in front as if you're praying."
I blink at him. Praying! Praying for you to go easy on me. I do as I'm told. He takes a cable tie and fastens it around my wrists, tightening the plastic. Holy hell. My eyes fly to his.
"Look familiar," he asks, unable to conceal his smile.
Jeez... the plastic cable ties. Restocking at Clayton's! It all becomes clear. I gape up at him as adrenaline spikes though my body anew. Okay - that's got my attention - I'm awake now.
"I have scissors here." He holds them up for me to see. "I can cut you out of this in a moment."
I try to pull my wrists apart, testing my bonds, and as I do, the plastic bites into my flesh - it's sore, but if I relax my wrists they're fine - the tie is not cutting into my skin.
"Come." He takes my hands and leads me over to the four-poster bed. I notice now that it has dark red sheets on it and a shackle at each corner.
"I want more - much, much more," he leans down and whispers in my ear.
And my heartbeat starts pounding again. Oh boy.
"But I'll make this quick. You're tired. Hold on to the post," he says.
I frown. Not on the bed then I find I can part my hands as I grasp the ornately carved wooden post.
"Lower," he orders. "Good. Don't let go. If you do, I'll spank you. Understand?"
He stands behind me and grasps my hips, and then quickly lifts me backward so I'm bending forward, holding the post.
"Don't let go, Anastasia," he warns. "I'm going to f**k you hard from behind. Hold the post to support your weight. Understand?"
He smacks me across my behind with his hand. Ow... It stings.
"Yes, Sir," I mutter quickly.
"Part your legs." He puts his leg between mine, and holding my hips, he pushes my right leg to the side.
"That's better. After this, I'll let you sleep."
SleepI'm panting. I'm not thinking of sleep now. He reaches up and gently strokes my back.
"You have such beautiful skin, Anastasia," he breathes as he bends down and kisses me along my spine, gentle feather-light kisses. At the same time, his hands move round to my front palming my br**sts, and as he does this, he traps my ni**les between his fingers and tugs them gently.
I stifle my moan as I feel my whole body respond, coming alive once more for him.
He gently bites and sucks me at my waist, tugging my ni**les, and my hands tighten on the exquisitely carved post. His hands drop away, and I hear the now familiar tear of foil, and he kicks off his jeans.
"You have such a captivating, sexy ass, Anastasia Steele. What I'd like to do to it."
His hands smooth and shape each of my bu**ocks, then his fingers glide down, and he slips two fingers inside me.
"So wet. You never disappoint, Miss Steele," he whispers, and I hear the wonder in his voice. "Hold tight... this is going to be quick, baby."
He grabs my hips and positions himself, and I brace myself for his assault. But he reaches over me and grabs my braid near the end and winds it round his wrist to my nape holding my head in place. Very slowly he eases into me, pulling my hair at the same time... oh the fullness. He eases out of me slowly, and his other hand grabs my hip, holding tight, and then he slams into me, jolting me forward.
"Hold on, Anastasia!" he shouts through clenched teeth.
I grip harder round the post and push back against him as he continues his merciless onslaught, again and again, his fingers digging into my hip. My arms are aching, my legs feel uncertain, my scalp is getting sore from his tugging my hair... and I can feel a gathering deep inside me. Oh no... and for the first time, I fear my orgasm... if I come...
I'll collapse. Christian continues to move roughly against me, in me, his breathing harsh, moaning, groaning. My body is responding ... how I feel a quickening. But suddenly, Christian stills, slamming really deep.
"Come on, Ana, give it to me," he groans, and my name on his lips sends me over the edge as I become all body and spiraling sensation and sweet, sweet release, and then completely and utterly mindless.
When sense returns, I'm lying on him. He's on the floor, and I'm lying on top of him, my back to his front, and I'm staring at the ceiling, all post-coital, glowing, shattered. Oh...
the karabiners, I think absently - I'd forgotten about those. Christian nuzzles my ear.
"Hold up your hands," he says softly.
My arms feel like they're made of lead, but I hold them up. He wields the scissors and passes one blade under the plastic.
"I declare this Ana open," he breathes, and cuts the plastic.
I giggle and rub my wrists as they're freed. I feel his grin.
"That is such a lovely sound," he says wistfully. He sits suddenly, taking me with him so that I'm once more sitting in his lap.
"That's my fault," he says and shifts me so that he can rub my shoulders and arms.
Gently he massages some life back into my limbs
I glance up at him behind me, trying to understand what he means.
"That you don't giggle more often."
"I'm not a great giggler," I mumble sleepily.
"Oh, but when it happens, Miss Steele, 'tis a wonder and joy to behold."
"Very flowery, Mr. Grey," I mutter, trying to keep my eyes open.
His eyes soften, and he smiles.
"I'd say you're thoroughly f**ked and in need of sleep."
"That wasn't flowery at all," I grumble playfully.
He grins and gently lifts me off him and stands, gloriously naked. I wish momentarily that I were more awake to really appreciate him. Picking up his jeans, he slides them back on, commando.
"Don't want to frighten Taylor, or Mrs. Jones for that matter," he mutters.
Hmm... they must know what a kinky bastard he is. The thought preoccupies me.
He stoops to help me to my feet and leads me to the door, on the back of which hangs a grey waffle robe. He patiently dresses me as if I'm a small child. I don't have the strength to lift my arms. When I'm covered and respectable, he leans down and kisses me gently, his mouth quirks up in a smile.
"Bed," he says.
"For sleep," he adds reassuringly when he sees my expression.
Suddenly, he scoops me up and carries me curled against his chest to the room along the corridor where earlier today Dr. Greene examined me. My head drops against his chest.
I am exhausted. I don't remember ever being this tired. Pulling back the duvet, he lays me down, and even more surprisingly, climbs in beside me and holds me close.
"Sleep now, gorgeous girl," he whispers, and he kisses my hair.
And before I can make a facetious comment, I'm asleep.