Home > Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)(15)

Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)(15)
Author: E.L. James

It gives me an idea, a daring idea. I just need help choosing the right one, and there's only one person who can help me. I wrestle my BlackBerry out of my purse and call Jose.

"Who . . . ?" he mumbles sleepily.

"Jose, it's Ana."

"Ana? Do you have any idea what time it is?" he says grumpily. Holy crap - I thought I had a better handle on the time zones.

"Sorry."

"Where are you? You okay?" He sounds more alert now, concerned.

"I'm in Cannes in the South of France, and I'm fine."

"South of France, huh? You in some fancy hotel?"

"Um . . . no. We're staying on a boat."

"A boat?"

"A big boat." I clarify, sighing.

"I see." His tone chills. . . Shit, I should not have called him. I don't need this right now.

"Jose, I need your advice."

"My advice?" He sounds stunned. "Sure," he says, and this time he's much more friendly. I tell him my plan.

Two hours later, Taylor helps me out of the motor launch onto the steps up to the deck. Gaston is helping the deckhand with the Jet Ski. Christian is nowhere to be seen, and I scurry down to our cabin to wrap his present, feeling a childish sense of delight.

"You were gone some time." Christian startles me just as I am applying the last piece of tape. I turn to find him standing in the doorway to the cabin, watching me intently. Holy shit! Am I still in trouble over the Jet Ski? Or is it the fire at his office?

"Everything in control at your office?" I ask tentatively.

"More or less," he says, an annoyed frown flitting across his face.

"I did a little shopping," I murmur, hoping to lighten his mood, and praying his annoyance is not directed at me. He smiles warmly, and I know we're okay.

"What did you buy?"

"This," I put my foot up on the bed and show him my ankle chain.

"Very nice," he says. He steps over to me and fondles the tiny bells so that they jingle sweetly around my ankle. He frowns again at the mark left by the cuffs and runs his fingers lightly along the line, sending tingles up my leg.

"And this." I hold out the box, hoping to distract him.

"For me?" he asks in surprise. I nod shyly. He takes the box and shakes it gently. He grins his boyish, dazzling smile and sits down beside me on the bed. Leaning over, he grasps my chin and kisses me.

"Thank you," he says with shy delight.

"You haven't opened it yet."

"I'll love it, whatever it is." He gazes down at me, his eyes glowing.

"I don't get many presents."

"It's hard to buy you things. You have everything."

"I have you."

"You do." I grin at him. Oh, you so do, Christian.

He makes short work of the wrapping paper. "A Nikon?" He glances up at me, puzzled.

"I know you have your compact digital camera but this is for . . . um . . . portraits and the like. It comes with two lenses."

He blinks at me, still not understanding.

"Today in the gallery you liked the Florence D'elle photographs. And I remember what you said in the Louvre. And of course, there were those other photographs." I swallow, trying my best not to recall the images I found in his closet.

He stops breathing, his eyes widening as realization dawns, and I continue hurriedly before I lose my nerve.

"I thought you might, um . . . like to take pictures of . . . me."

"Pictures. Of you?" He gapes at me ignoring the box on his lap. I nod, desperately trying to gauge his reaction. Finally he gazes back down at the box, his fingers tracing over the illustration of the camera on the front with fascinated reverence.

What is he thinking? Oh, this is not the reaction I was expecting, and my subconscious glares at me like I'm a dumb domesticated farm animal. Christian never reacts the way I expect. He looks back up at me, his eyes filled with what, pain? Shit . . . what now?

"Why do you think I want this?" he asks, bemused.

No, no, no! You said you'd love it . . .

"Don't you?" I ask, refusing to acknowledge my subconscious who is questioning why anyone would want erotic photographs of me. Christian swallows and runs a hand through his hair, and he looks so lost, so confused. He takes a deep breath.

"For me, photos like those have usually been an insurance policy, Ana. I know I've objectified women for so long," he says and pauses awkwardly.

What? Where the f**k is this going?

"And you think taking pictures of me is . . . um, objectifying me?

Oh." All the air leaves my body, and the blood drains from my face. He scrunches up his eyes. "I am so confused," he whispers. When he opens his eyes again, they are wide and wary, full of some raw emotion.

Shit. What has brought this on - Me? My questions earlier about his birth mom? The fire at his office?

"Why do you say that?" I whisper, panic rising in my throat. I thought he was happy. I thought we were happy. I thought I made him happy. I don't want to confuse him. Do I? My mind starts racing. What's brought about this sea change? He hasn't seen Flynn in nearly three weeks. Is that it? Is that the reason he's unraveling? Shit, should I call Flynn? And in a possibly unique moment of extraordinary depth and clarity, it comes to me - the fire, Charlie Tango, the Jet Ski . . . He's scared, he's scared for me, and seeing these marks on my skin must bring that home. He's been fussing about them all day, confusing himself because he's not used to feeling uncomfortable about inflicting pain. The thought chills me.

He shrugs and once more his eyes move down to my wrist where the bangle he bought me this afternoon used to be. Bingo!

"Christian, these don't matter." I hold up my wrist, revealing the fading welt. "You gave me a safe word. Shit - yesterday was fun. I enjoyed it. Stop brooding about it - I like rough sex, I've told you that before." I flush scarlet as I try to quash my rising panic. He gazes at me intently, and I have no idea what he's thinking. Maybe he's measuring my words. I stumble on.

"Is this about the fire? Do you think it's connected somehow to Charlie Tango? Is this why you're worried? Talk to me, Christian - please."

He stares at me, saying nothing and the silence expands between us again like it did this afternoon. Holy f**king crap! He's not going to talk to me, I know.

"Don't overthink this Christian," I scold quietly, and the words echo, disturbing a memory from the recent past - his words to me about his stupid contract. I reach over, take the box from his lap, and open it. He watches me passively as if I'm a fascinating alien creature. Knowing that the camera is prepped by the overly helpful salesman in the store, and ready to go, I fish it out of the box and remove the lens cap. I point the camera at him so his beautiful anxious face fills the frame. I press the button and keep it pressed, and ten pictures of Christian's alarmed expression are captured digitally for posterity.

"I'll objectify you then," I murmur, pressing the shutter again. On the final still his lips twitch almost imperceptibly. I press again, and this time he smiles . . . a small smile, but a smile nevertheless. I hold down the button once more and see him physically relax in front of me and pout - a full-on, posed, ridiculous, "blue steel" pout, and it makes me giggle. Oh, thank heavens. Mr. Mercurial is back - and I've never been so pleased to see him.

"I thought it was my present," he mutters sulkily, but I think he's teasing.

"Well, it was supposed to be fun, but it's ended up as a symbol of women's oppression." I snap away, taking more pictures of him, and watch the amusement grow on his face in super close-up. Then his eyes darken, and his expression changes to predatory.

"You want to be oppressed?" he murmurs silkily.

"Not oppressed. No," I murmur back, snapping again.

"I could oppress you big time, Mrs. Grey," he threatens, his voice husky.

"I know you can, Mr. Grey. And you do, frequently."

He blinks at me as his face falls. Shit. I lower the camera and stare at him.

"What's wrong, Christian?" My voice oozes frustration. Tell me!

Books
     Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)
     Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2)
     Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)
     Grey (Fifty Shades #4)