"Here, this is yours."
Christian looks at me quizzically, then recognizing the envelope, raises both his hands and steps away from me.
"Oh no. That's your money."
"No, it isn't. I'd like to buy the car from you."
His expression changes completely. Fury - yes, fury - sweeps across his face.
"No, Anastasia. Your money, your car," he snaps at me.
"No, Christian. My money, your car. I'll buy it from you."
"I gave you that car for your graduation present."
"If you'd given me a pen - that would be a suitable graduation present. You gave me an Audi."
"Do you really want to argue about this?"
"Good - here are the keys." He puts them on the chest of drawers.
"That's not what I meant!"
"End of discussion, Anastasia. Don't push me."
I scowl at him, then inspiration hits me. Taking the envelope, I rip it in two, then two again and drop the contents into my waste bin. Oh, that feels good.
Christian gazes at me impassively, but I know I've just lit the blue touch paper and should stand well back. He strokes his chin.
"You are, as ever, challenging, Miss Steele," he says dryly. He turns on his heel and stalks into the other room. That is not the reaction I expected. I was anticipating full scale Armageddon. I stare at myself in the mirror and shrug, deciding on a ponytail.
My curiosity is piqued. What is Fifty doing? I follow him into the room, and he's on the phone.
"Yes, twenty-four thousand dollars. Directly."
He glances up at me, still impassive.
"Good... Monday? Excellent... No that's all, Andrea."
He snaps the phone shut.
"Deposited in your bank account, Monday. Don't play games with me." He's boiling mad, but I don't care.
"Twenty-four thousand dollars!" I'm almost screaming. "And how do you know my account number?"
My ire takes Christian by surprise.
"I know everything about you, Anastasia," he says quietly.
"There's no way my car was worth twenty-four thousand dollars."
"I would agree with you, but it's about knowing your market, whether you're buying or selling. Some lunatic out there wanted that death trap and was willing to pay that amount of money. Apparently, it's a classic. Ask Taylor if you don't believe me."
I glower at him and he glowers back, two angry stubborn fools glaring at each other.
And I feel it, the pull - the electricity between us - tangible, drawing us together. Suddenly he grabs me and pushes me up against the door, his mouth on mine, claiming me hungrily, one hand on my behind pressing me to his groin and the other in the nape of my hair, tugging my head back. My fingers are in his hair, twisting hard, holding him to me. He grinds his body into mine, imprisoning me, his breathing ragged. I feel him. He wants me, and I'm heady and reeling with excitement as I acknowledge his need for me.
"Why, why do you defy me?" he mumbles between his heated kisses.
My blood sings in my veins. Will he always have this effect on me? And I on him?
"Because I can." I'm breathless. I feel rather than see his smile against my neck, and he presses his forehead to mine.
"Lord, I want to take you now, but I'm out of condoms. I can never get enough of you.
You're a maddening, maddening woman."
"And you make me mad," I whisper. "In every way."
He shakes his head. "Come. Let's go out for breakfast. And I know a place you can get your hair cut."
"Okay," I acquiesce and just like that, our fight is over.
"I'll get this." I pick up the tab for breakfast before he does.
He scowls at me.
"You have to be quick around here, Grey."
"You're right, I do," he says sourly, though I think he's teasing.
"Don't look so cross. I'm twenty-four thousand dollars richer than I was this morning. I can afford" - I glance at the check - "twenty-two dollars and sixty-seven cents for breakfast."
"Thank you," he says grudgingly. Oh, the sulky schoolboy is back.
"Where to now?"
"You really want your hair cut?"
"Yes, look at it."
"You look lovely to me. You always do."
I blush and stare down at my fingers knotted in my lap. "And there's your father's function this evening."
"Remember, it's black tie."
Oh Jeez. "Where is it?"
"At my parents' house. They have a marquee. You know, the works."
"What's the charity?"
Christian rubs his hands down his thighs, looking uncomfortable.
"It's a drug rehab program for parents with young kids called Coping Together."
"Sounds like a good cause," I say softly.
"Come, let's go." He stands, effectively halting that topic of conversation and holds out his hand. As I take it, he tightens his fingers around mine.
It's strange. He's so demonstrative in some ways and yet so closed in others. He leads me out of the restaurant, and we walk down the street. It is a lovely, mild morning. The sun is shining, and the air smells of coffee and freshly baked bread.
"Where are we going?"
Oh, okay. I don't really like surprises.
We walk for two blocks, and the stores become decidedly more exclusive. I haven't yet had an opportunity to explore, but this really is just around the corner from where I live. Kate will be pleased. There are plenty of small boutiques to feed her fashion passion.
Actually, I need to buy some floaty skirts for work.
Christian stops outside a large, slick-looking beauty salon and opens the door for me.