“Christian!” Mia squeals with delight and runs toward me, abandoning her cartload of luggage. Throwing her arms around my neck, she hugs me tightly.
“I’ve missed you,” she says.
“I’ve missed you, too.” I give her a squeeze in return. She leans back and examines me with intense dark eyes.
“You look good,” she gushes. “Tell me about this girl!”
“Let’s get you and your luggage home first.” I grab her cart, which weighs a ton, and together we head out of the airport terminal toward the parking lot.
“So how was Paris? You appear to have brought most of it home with you.”
“C’est incroyable!” she exclaims. “Floubert, on the other hand, was a bastard. Jesus. He was a horrible man. A crap teacher but a good chef.”
“Does that mean you’re cooking this evening?”
“Oh, I was hoping Mom would cook.”
Mia proceeds to talk nonstop about Paris: her tiny room, the plumbing, Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre, Parisians, coffee, red wine, cheese, fashion, shopping. But mainly about fashion and shopping. And I thought she went to Paris to learn to cook.
I’ve missed her chatter; it’s soothing and welcome. She is the only person I know who doesn’t make me feel…different.
“This is your baby sister, Christian. Her name is Mia.”
Mommy lets me hold her. She is very small. With black, black hair.
She smiles. She has no teeth. I stick out my tongue. She has a bubbly laugh.
Mommy lets me hold the baby again. Her name is Mia.
I make her laugh. I hold her and hold her. She is safe when I hold her.
Elliot is not interested in Mia. She dribbles and cries.
And he wrinkles his nose when she does a poop.
When Mia is crying Elliot ignores her. I hold her and hold her and she stops.
She falls asleep in my arms.
“Mee a,” I whisper.
“What did you say?” Mommy asks, and her face is white like chalk.
“Yes. Yes. Darling boy. Mia. Her name is Mia.”
And Mommy starts to cry with happy, happy tears.
I TURN INTO THE driveway, pull up outside Mom and Dad’s front door, unload Mia’s luggage, and carry it into the hall.
“Where is everyone?” Mia is in full pout. The only person around is my parents’ housekeeper-she’s an exchange student, and I can’t remember her name. “Welcome home,” she says to Mia in her stilted English, though she’s looking at me with big cow eyes.
Oh, God. It’s just a pretty face, sweetheart.
Ignoring the housekeeper, I address Mia’s question. “I think Mom is on call and Dad is at a conference. You did come home a week early.”
“I couldn’t stand Floubert another minute. I had to get out while I could. Oh, I bought you a present.” She grabs one of her cases, opens it up in the hallway, and starts rummaging through it. “Ah!” She hands me a heavy square box. “Open it,” she urges, beaming at me. She is an unstoppable force.
Warily I open the box, and inside I find a snow globe containing a black grand piano covered in glitter. It’s the kitschiest thing I’ve ever seen.
“It’s a music box. Here-” She takes it from me, gives it a good shake, and winds a small key on the bottom. A twinkly version of “La Marseillaise” starts to play in a cloud of colored glitter.
What am I going to do with this? I laugh, because it’s so Mia. “That’s great, Mia. Thank you.” I give her a hug and she hugs me back.
“I knew it would make you laugh.”
She’s right. She knows me well.
“So tell me about this girl,” she says. But we’re both distracted as Grace hurries through the door, allowing me a reprieve as mother and daughter embrace. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to meet you, darling,” Grace says. “I’ve been on call. You look so grown up. Christian, can you take Mia’s bags upstairs? Gretchen will give you a hand.”
Really? I’m a porter now?
“Yes, Mom.” I roll my eyes. I don’t need Gretchen mooning over me.
Once that’s done, I tell them that I have an appointment with my trainer. “I’ll be back this evening.” Quickly kissing them both, I leave before I’m pestered with more questions about Ana.
BASTILLE, MY TRAINER, WORKS me hard. Today we’re kickboxing at his gym.
“You’ve gone soft in Portland, boy.” He sneers after I’m toppled onto the mat from his roundhouse kick. Bastille is from the hard-knocks school of physical training, which suits me fine.
I scramble to my feet. I want to take him down. But he’s right-he’s all over my shit today, and I get nowhere.
When we finish he asks, “What gives? You’re distracted, man.”
“Life. You know,” I answer with an air of indifference.
“Sure. You’re back in Seattle this week?”
“Good. We’ll straighten you out.”
AS I JOG BACK to the apartment I remember the housewarming present for Ana. I text Elliot.
What’s Ana and Kate’s address?
I want to surprise them with a present.
He texts me back an address and I forward it to Andrea. As I’m riding in the elevator up to the penthouse, Andrea texts me back.
Champagne and balloon sent. A.
Taylor hands me a package when I arrive back at the apartment. “This came for you, Mr. Grey.”
Oh yes. I recognize the anonymous wrapping: it’s the riding crop.
“Mrs. Jones said she’d be back tomorrow, late afternoon.”
“Okay. I think that’s all for today, Taylor.”
“Very good, sir,” he says with a polite smile, and returns to his office. Taking the crop, I stroll into my bedroom. This will be the perfect introduction to my world: by her own admission Ana has no sphere of reference with regard to corporal punishment, except the spanking I gave her that night. And that turned her on. With the crop, I’ll have to take it slow and make it pleasurable.
Really pleasurable. The riding crop is perfect. I’ll prove to her that the fear is in her head. Once she gets comfortable with this, we can move on.
I hope we can move on …
We’ll take it slow. And we’ll only do what she can handle. If this is going to work we’re going to have to go at her pace. Not mine.
I take one more look at the crop and put it in my closet for tomorrow.
AS I FLIP OPEN my laptop to start work my phone rings. I hope it’s Ana, but it’s disappointingly Elena.
Was I supposed to call her?
“Hello, Christian. How are you?”
“You’re back from Portland?”
“Fancy dinner tonight?”
“Not tonight. Mia’s just in from Paris and I’ve been ordered home.”
“Ah. By Mama Grey. How is she?”
“Mama Grey? She’s good. I think. Why? What do you know that I don’t?”
“I was just asking, Christian. Don’t be so touchy.”
“I’ll call you next week. Maybe we can do dinner then.”
“Good. You’ve been off the radar for a while. And I’ve met a woman who I think might meet your needs.”
So have I.
I ignore her comment. “I’ll see you next week. Good-bye.”
As I shower I wonder if having to chase Ana has made her more interesting…or is it Ana herself?
DINNER HAS BEEN FUN. My sister is back, the princess she’s always been, the rest of the family merely her minions, wrapped around her little finger. With all her children home, Grace is in her element; she’s cooked Mia’s favorite meal-buttermilk fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy.
I have to say, it’s one of my favorites, too.
“Tell me about Anastasia,” Mia demands as we sit around the kitchen table. Elliot leans back in his chair and rests his hands behind his head.
“This I have to hear. You know she popped his cherry?”
“Elliot!” Grace scolds, and swats him with a dish towel.
“Ow!” He fends her off.
I roll my eyes at all of them. “I met a girl.” I shrug. “End of story.”
“You can’t just say that!” Mia objects, pouting.
“Mia, I think he can. And he just did.” Carrick gives her a reproving paternal stare over his glasses.
“You’ll all meet her at dinner tomorrow, won’t we, Christian?” Grace says with a pointed smile.
“Kate’s coming,” Elliot goads.
Fucking stirrer. I glare at him.
“I can’t wait to meet her. She sounds awesome!” Mia bounces up and down in her chair.
“Yeah, yeah,” I mumble, wondering if there’s any way I can wriggle out of dinner tomorrow.
“Elena was asking after you, darling,” Grace says.
“She was?” I affect an uninterested air, developed over years of practice.
“Yes. She says she hasn’t seen you in a while.”
“I’ve been in Portland on business. Speaking of which, I should get going-I have an important call tomorrow and I need to prepare.”
“But you’ve not had dessert. And it’s apple cobbler.”
Hmm…tempting. But if I stay they’ll quiz me about Ana. “I have to go. I have work to do.”
“Darling, you work too hard,” Grace says, as she starts from her chair.
“Don’t get up, Mom. I’m sure Elliot will help with the dishes after dinner.”
“What?” Elliot scowls. I wink at him, say my good-byes, and turn to leave.
“But we’ll see you tomorrow?” Grace asks, too much hope in her voice.
Shit. It looks like Anastasia Steele is going to meet my family.
I don’t know how I feel about this.Fifty Shades Freed Extended Version