First published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop, 2011
Copyright © E L James, 2011
The right of E L James to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her under the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000
This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part maybe reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Cover design by: Jennifer McGuire
E L James is a TV executive, wife, and mother of two, based in West London. Since early childhood, she dreamt of writing stories that readers would fall in love with, but put those dreams on hold to focus on her family and her career. She finally plucked up the courage to put pen to paper with her first novel, Fifty Shades of Grey.
E L James is currently working on the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey and a new romantic thriller with a supernatural twist.
I am indebted to the following people for their help and support: To my husband Niall – thank you for tolerating my obsession, being a domestic god and doing the first edit.
To my boss Lisa – thank you for putting up with me over the last year or so while I indulged in this madness.
To CCL – I’ll never tell but thank you.
To the original bunker babes – thank you for your friendship and constant support.
To SR – thank you for all the helpful advice from the start and for going first.
To Sue – thanks for sorting me out.
To Amanda and all at TWCS – thank you for taking a punt.
I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair – it just won’t behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I should be studying for my final exams, which are next week, yet here I am trying to brush my hair into submission. I must not sleep with it wet. I must not sleep with it wet. Reciting this mantra several times, I attempt, once more, to bring it under control with the brush. I roll my eyes in exasperation and gaze at the pale, brown-haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face staring back at me, and give up. My only option is to restrain my wayward hair in a ponytail and hope that I look semi presentable.
Kate is my roommate, and she has chosen today of all days to succumb to the flu.
Therefore, she cannot attend the interview she’d arranged to do, with some mega-industri-alist tycoon I’ve never heard of, for the student newspaper. So I have been volunteered. I have final exams to cram for, one essay to finish, and I’m supposed to be working this afternoon, but no – today I have to drive a hundred and sixty-five miles to downtown Seattle in order to meet the enigmatic CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. As an exceptional entrepreneur and major benefactor of our University, his time is extraordinarily precious
– much more precious than mine – but he has granted Kate an interview. A real coup, she tells me. Damn her extra-curricular activities.
Kate is huddled on the couch in the living room.
“Ana, I’m sorry. It took me nine months to get this interview. It will take another six to reschedule, and we’ll both have graduated by then. As the editor, I can’t blow this off. Please,” Kate begs me in her rasping, sore throat voice. How does she do it? Even ill she looks gamine and gorgeous, strawberry blonde hair in place and green eyes bright, although now red-rimmed and runny. I ignore my pang of unwelcome sympathy.
“Of course I’ll go Kate. You should get back to bed. Would you like some Nyquil or Tylenol?”
“Nyquil, please. Here are the questions and my mini-disc recorder. Just press record here. Make notes, I’ll transcribe it all.”
“I know nothing about him,” I murmur, trying and failing to suppress my rising panic.
“The questions will see you through. Go. It’s a long drive. I don’t want you to be late.”
“Okay, I’m going. Get back to bed. I made you some soup to heat up later.” I stare at her fondly. Only for you, Kate, would I do this.
“I will. Good luck. And thanks Ana – as usual, you’re my lifesaver.”
Gathering my satchel, I smile wryly at her, then head out the door to the car. I cannot believe I have let Kate talk me into this. But then Kate can talk anyone into anything.
She’ll make an exceptional journalist. She’s articulate, strong, persuasive, argumentative, beautiful – and she’s my dearest, dearest friend.
The roads are clear as I set off from Vancouver, WA toward Portland and the I-5. It’s early, and I don’t have to be in Seattle until two this afternoon. Fortunately, Kate’s lent me her sporty Mercedes CLK. I’m not sure Wanda, my old VW Beetle, would make the journey in time. Oh, the Merc is a fun drive, and the miles slip away as I floor the pedal to the metal.
My destination is the headquarters of Mr. Grey’s global enterprise. It’s a huge twenty-story office building, all curved glass and steel, an architect’s utilitarian fantasy, with Grey House written discreetly in steel over the glass front doors. It’s a quarter to two when I arrive, greatly relieved that I’m not late as I walk into the enormous – and frankly intimidating – glass, steel, and white sandstone lobby.
Behind the solid sandstone desk, a very attractive, groomed, blonde young woman smiles pleasantly at me. She’s wearing the sharpest charcoal suit jacket and white shirt I have ever seen. She looks immaculate.
“I’m here to see Mr. Grey. Anastasia Steele for Katherine Kavanagh.”
“Excuse me one moment, Miss Steele.” She arches her eyebrow slightly as I stand self-consciously before her. I am beginning to wish I’d borrowed one of Kate’s formal blazers rather than wear my navy blue jacket. I have made an effort and worn my one and only skirt, my sensible brown knee-length boots and a blue sweater. For me, this is smart. I tuck one of the escaped tendrils of my hair behind my ear as I pretend she doesn’t intimidate me.
“Miss Kavanagh is expected. Please sign in here, Miss Steele. You’ll want the last elevator on the right, press for the twentieth floor.” She smiles kindly at me, amused no doubt, as I sign in.
She hands me a security pass that has VISITOR very firmly stamped on the front. I can’t help my smirk. Surely it’s obvious that I’m just visiting. I don’t fit in here at all.
Nothing changes, I inwardly sigh. Thanking her, I walk over to the bank of elevators past the two security men who are both far more smartly dressed than I am in their well-cut black suits.
The elevator whisks me with terminal velocity to the twentieth floor. The doors slide open, and I’m in another large lobby – again all glass, steel, and white sandstone. I’m confronted by another desk of sandstone and another young blonde woman dressed impeccably in black and white who rises to greet me.
“Miss Steele, could you wait here, please?” She points to a seated area of white leather chairs.
Behind the leather chairs is a spacious glass-walled meeting room with an equally spacious dark wood table and at least twenty matching chairs around it. Beyond that, there is a floor-to-ceiling window with a view of the Seattle skyline that looks out through the city toward the Sound. It’s a stunning vista, and I’m momentarily paralyzed by the view. Wow.
I sit down, fish the questions from my satchel, and go through them, inwardly curs-ing Kate for not providing me with a brief biography. I know nothing about this man I’m about to interview. He could be ninety or he could be thirty. The uncertainty is galling, and my nerves resurface, making me fidget. I’ve never been comfortable with one-on-one interviews, preferring the anonymity of a group discussion where I can sit inconspicuously at the back of the room. To be honest, I prefer my own company, reading a classic British novel, curled up in a chair in the campus library. Not sitting twitching nervously in a colos-sal glass and stone edifice.
I roll my eyes at myself. Get a grip, Steele. Judging from the building, which is too clinical and modern, I guess Grey is in his forties: fit, tanned, and fair-haired to match the rest of the personnel.
Another elegant, flawlessly dressed blonde comes out of a large door to the right. What is it with all the immaculate blondes? It’s like Stepford here. Taking a deep breath, I stand up. “Miss Steele?” the latest blonde asks.
“Yes,” I croak, and clear my throat. “Yes.” There, that sounded more confident.
“Mr. Grey will see you in a moment. May I take your jacket?”
“Oh please.” I struggle out of the jacket.
“Have you been offered any refreshment?”
“Um – no.” Oh dear, is Blonde Number One in trouble?
Blonde Number Two frowns and eyes the young woman at the desk.
“Would you like tea, coffee, water?” she asks, turning her attention back to me.
“A glass of water. Thank you,” I murmur.
“Olivia, please fetch Miss Steele a glass of water.” Her voice is stern. Olivia scoots up immediately and scurries to a door on the other side of the foyer.
“My apologies, Miss Steele, Olivia is our new intern. Please be seated. Mr. Grey will be another five minutes.”
Olivia returns with a glass of iced water.
“Here you go, Miss Steele.”
Blonde Number Two marches over to the large desk, her heels clicking and echoing on the sandstone floor. She sits down, and they both continue their work.
Perhaps Mr. Grey insists on all his employees being blonde. I’m wondering idly if that’s legal, when the office door opens and a tall, elegantly dressed, attractive African-American man with short dreads exits. I have definitely worn the wrong clothes.
He turns and says through the door. “Golf, this week, Grey.”
I don’t hear the reply. He turns, sees me, and smiles, his dark eyes crinkling at the corners. Olivia has jumped up and called the elevator. She seems to excel at jumping from her seat. She’s more nervous than me!
“Good afternoon ladies,” he says as he departs through the sliding door.
“Mr. Grey will see you now, Miss Steele. Do go through,” Blonde Number Two says.
I stand rather shakily trying to suppress my nerves. Gathering up my satchel, I abandon my glass of water and make my way to the partially open door.
“You don’t need to knock – just go in.” She smiles kindly.
I push open the door and stumble through, tripping over my own feet, and falling head first into the office.
Double crap – me and my two left feet! I am on my hands and knees in the doorway to Mr. Grey’s office, and gentle hands are around me helping me to stand. I am so embarrassed, damn my clumsiness. I have to steel myself to glance up. Holy cow – he’s so young.
“Miss Kavanagh.” He extends a long-fingered hand to me once I’m upright. “I’m Christian Grey. Are you all right? Would you like to sit?”
So young – and attractive, very attractive. He’s tall, dressed in a fine gray suit, white shirt, and black tie with unruly dark copper colored hair and intense, bright gray eyes that regard me shrewdly. It takes a moment for me to find my voice.
“Um. Actually–” I mutter. If this guy is over thirty then I’m a monkey’s uncle. In a daze, I place my hand in his and we shake. As our fingers touch, I feel an odd exhilarating shiver run through me. I withdraw my hand hastily, embarrassed. Must be static. I blink rapidly, my eyelids matching my heart rate.
“Miss Kavanagh is indisposed, so she sent me. I hope you don’t mind, Mr. Grey.”
“And you are?” His voice is warm, possibly amused, but it’s difficult to tell from his impassive expression. He looks mildly interested, but above all, polite.
“Anastasia Steele. I’m studying English Literature with Kate, um… Katherine…
um… Miss Kavanagh at Washington State.”
“I see,” he says simply. I think I see the ghost of a smile in his expression, but I’m not sure. “Would you like to sit?” He waves me toward a white leather buttoned L-shaped couch.
His office is way too big for just one man. In front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, there’s a huge modern dark-wood desk that six people could comfortably eat around. It matches the coffee table by the couch. Everything else is white – ceiling, floors, and walls except, on the wall by the door, where a mosaic of small paintings hang, thirty-six of them arranged in a square. They are exquisite – a series of mundane, forgotten objects painted in such precise detail they look like photographs. Displayed together, they are breathtaking.
“A local artist. Trouton,” says Grey when he catches my gaze.
“They’re lovely. Raising the ordinary to extraordinary,” I murmur, distracted both by him and the paintings. He cocks his head to one side and regards me intently.
“I couldn’t agree more, Miss Steele,” he replies, his voice soft and for some inexplicable reason I find myself blushing.
Apart from the paintings, the rest of the office is cold, clean, and clinical. I wonder if it reflects the personality of the Adonis who sinks gracefully into one of the white leather chairs opposite me. I shake my head, disturbed at the direction of my thoughts, and retrieve Kate’s questions from my satchel. Next, I set up the mini-disc recorder and am all fingers and thumbs, dropping it twice on the coffee table in front of me. Mr. Grey says nothing, waiting patiently – I hope – as I become increasingly embarrassed and flustered. When I pluck up the courage to look at him, he’s watching me, one hand relaxed in his lap and the other cupping his chin and trailing his long index finger across his lips. I think he’s trying to suppress a smile.
“Sorry,” I stutter. “I’m not used to this.”
“Take all the time you need, Miss Steele,” he says.
“Do you mind if I record your answers?”
“After you’ve taken so much trouble to set up the recorder – you ask me now?”
I flush. He’s teasing me? I hope. I blink at him, unsure what to say, and I think he takes pity on me because he relents. “No, I don’t mind.”
“Did Kate, I mean, Miss Kavanagh, explain what the interview was for?”
“Yes. To appear in the graduation issue of the student newspaper as I shall be conferring the degrees at this year’s graduation ceremony.”
Oh! This is news to me, and I’m temporarily pre-occupied by the thought that someone not much older than me – okay, maybe six years or so, and okay, mega successful, but still – is going to present me with my degree. I frown, dragging my wayward attention back to the task at hand.
“Good,” I swallow nervously. “I have some questions, Mr. Grey.” I smooth a stray lock of hair behind my ear.
“I thought you might,” he says, deadpan. He’s laughing at me. My cheeks heat at the realization, and I sit up and square my shoulders in an attempt to look taller and more intimidating. Pressing the start button on the recorder, I try to look professional.
“You’re very young to have amassed such an empire. To what do you owe your success?” I glance up at him. His smile is rueful, but he looks vaguely disappointed.
“Business is all about people, Miss Steele, and I’m very good at judging people. I know how they tick, what makes them flourish, what doesn’t, what inspires them, and how to incentivize them. I employ an exceptional team, and I reward them well.” He pauses and fixes me with his gray stare. “My belief is to achieve success in any scheme one has to make oneself master of that scheme, know it inside and out, know every detail. I work hard, very hard to do that. I make decisions based on logic and facts. I have a natural gut instinct that can spot and nurture a good solid idea and good people. The bottom line is, it’s always down to good people.”
“Maybe you’re just lucky.” This isn’t on Kate’s list – but he’s so arrogant. His eyes flare momentarily in surprise.
“I don’t subscribe to luck or chance, Miss Steele. The harder I work the more luck I seem to have. It really is all about having the right people on your team and directing their energies accordingly. I think it was Harvey Firestone who said ‘the growth and develop-ment of people is the highest calling of leadership.’”
“You sound like a control freak.” The words are out of my mouth before I can stop them.“Oh, I exercise control in all things, Miss Steele,” he says without a trace of humor in his smile. I look at him, and he holds my gaze steadily, impassive. My heartbeat quickens, and my face flushes again.
Why does he have such an unnerving effect on me? His overwhelming good-looks maybe? The way his eyes blaze at me? The way he strokes his index finger against his lower lip? I wish he’d stop doing that.
“Besides, immense power is acquired by assuring yourself in your secret reveries that you were born to control things,” he continues, his voice soft.
“Do you feel that you have immense power?” Control Freak.
“I employ over forty thousand people, Miss Steele. That gives me a certain sense of responsibility – power, if you will. If I were to decide I was no longer interested in the telecommunications business and sell up, twenty thousand people would struggle to make their mortgage payments after a month or so.”
My mouth drops open. I am staggered by his lack of humility.
“Don’t you have a board to answer to?” I ask, disgusted.
“I own my company. I don’t have to answer to a board.” He raises an eyebrow at me.
I flush. Of course, I would know this if I had done some research. But holy crap, he’s so arrogant. I change tack.
“And do you have any interests outside your work?”
“I have varied interests, Miss Steele.” A ghost of a smile touches his lips. “Very varied.” And for some reason, I’m confounded and heated by his steady gaze. His eyes are alight with some wicked thought.
“But if you work so hard, what do you do to chill out?”
“Chill out?” He smiles, revealing perfect white teeth. I stop breathing. He really is beautiful. No one should be this good-looking.
“Well, to ‘chill out’ as you put it – I sail, I fly, I indulge in various physical pursuits.”
He shifts in his chair. “I’m a very wealthy man, Miss Steele, and I have expensive and absorbing hobbies.”
I glance quickly at Kate’s questions, wanting to get off this subject.
“You invest in manufacturing. Why, specifically?” I ask. Why does he make me so uncomfortable?
“I like to build things. I like to know how things work: what makes things tick, how to construct and deconstruct. And I have a love of ships. What can I say?”
“That sounds like your heart talking rather than logic and facts.”
His mouth quirks up, and he stares appraisingly at me.
“Possibly. Though there are people who’d say I don’t have a heart.”
“Why would they say that?”
“Because they know me well.” His lip curls in a wry smile.
“Would your friends say you’re easy to get to know?” And I regret the question as soon as I say it. It’s not on Kate’s list.
“I’m a very private person, Miss Steele. I go a long way to protect my privacy. I don’t often give interviews,” he trails off.
“Why did you agree to do this one?”
“Because I’m a benefactor of the University, and for all intents and purposes, I couldn’t get Miss Kavanagh off my back. She badgered and badgered my PR people, and I admire that kind of tenacity.”
I know how tenacious Kate can be. That’s why I’m sitting here squirming uncomfortably under his penetrating gaze, when I should be studying for my exams.
“You also invest in farming technologies. Why are you interested in this area?”
“We can’t eat money, Miss Steele, and there are too many people on this planet who don’t have enough to eat.”
“That sounds very philanthropic. Is it something you feel passionately about? Feeding the world’s poor?”
He shrugs, very non-committal.
“It’s shrewd business,” he murmurs, though I think he’s being disingenuous. It doesn’t make sense – feeding the world’s poor? I can’t see the financial benefits of this, only the virtue of the ideal. I glance at the next question, confused by his attitude.
“Do you have a philosophy? If so, what is it?”
“I don’t have a philosophy as such. Maybe a guiding principle – Carnegie’s: ‘A man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.’ I’m very singular, driven. I like control – of myself and those around me.”
“So you want to possess things?” You are a control freak.
“I want to deserve to possess them, but yes, bottom line, I do.”
“You sound like the ultimate consumer.”
“I am.” He smiles, but the smile doesn’t touch his eyes. Again this is at odds with someone who wants to feed the world, so I can’t help thinking that we’re talking about something else, but I’m absolutely mystified as to what it is. I swallow hard. The temperature in the room is rising or maybe it’s just me. I just want this interview to be over. Surely Kate has enough material now? I glance at the next question.
“You were adopted. How far do you think that’s shaped the way you are?” Oh, this is personal. I stare at him, hoping he’s not offended. His brow furrows.
“I have no way of knowing.”
My interest is piqued.
“How old were you when you were adopted?”
“That’s a matter of public record, Miss Steele.” His tone is stern. I flush, again. Crap.
Yes of course – if I’d known I was doing this interview, I would have done some research.
I move on quickly.
“You’ve had to sacrifice a family life for your work.”
“That’s not a question.” He’s terse.
“Sorry.” I squirm, and he’s made me feel like an errant child. I try again. “Have you had to sacrifice a family life for your work?”
“I have a family. I have a brother and a sister and two loving parents. I’m not interested in extending my family beyond that.”
“Are you gay, Mr. Grey?”
He inhales sharply, and I cringe, mortified. Crap. Why didn’t I employ some kind of filter before I read this straight out? How can I tell him I’m just reading the questions?
Damn Kate and her curiosity!
“No Anastasia, I’m not.” He raises his eyebrows, a cool gleam in his eyes. He does not look pleased.
“I apologize. It’s um… written here.” It’s the first time he’s said my name. My heartbeat has accelerated, and my cheeks are heating up again. Nervously, I tuck my loosened hair behind my ear.
He cocks his head to one side.
“These aren’t your own questions?”
The blood drains from my head. Oh no.
“Err… no. Kate – Miss Kavanagh – she compiled the questions.”
“Are you colleagues on the student paper?” Oh crap. I have nothing to do with the student paper. It’s her extra-curricular activity, not mine. My face is aflame.
“No. She’s my roommate.”
He rubs his chin in quiet deliberation, his gray eyes appraising me.
“Did you volunteer to do this interview?” he asks, his voice deadly quiet.
Hang on, who’s supposed to be interviewing whom? His eyes burn into me, and I’m compelled to answer with the truth.
“I was drafted. She’s not well.” My voice is weak and apologetic.
“That explains a great deal.”
There’s a knock at the door, and Blonde Number Two enters.
“Mr. Grey, forgive me for interrupting, but your next meeting is in two minutes.”
“We’re not finished here, Andrea. Please cancel my next meeting.”
Andrea hesitates, gaping at him. She’s appears lost. He turns his head slowly to face her and raises his eyebrows. She flushes bright pink. Oh good. It’s not just me.
“Very well, Mr. Grey,” she mutters, then exits. He frowns, and turns his attention back to me.
“Where were we, Miss Steele?”
Oh, we’re back to ‘Miss Steele’ now.
“Please don’t let me keep you from anything.”
“I want to know about you. I think that’s only fair.” His gray eyes are alight with curiosity. Double crap. Where’s he going with this? He places his elbows on the arms of the chair and steeples his fingers in front of his mouth. His mouth is very… distracting. I swallow.
“There’s not much to know,” I say, flushing again.
“What are your plans after you graduate?”
I shrug, thrown by his interest. Come to Seattle with Kate, find a place, find a job. I haven’t really thought beyond my finals.
“I haven’t made any plans, Mr. Grey. I just need to get through my final exams.”
Which I should be studying for now rather than sitting in your palatial, swanky, sterile office, feeling uncomfortable under your penetrating gaze.
“We run an excellent internship program here,” he says quietly. I raise my eyebrows in surprise. Is he offering me a job?
“Oh. I’ll bear that in mind,” I murmur, completely confounded. “Though I’m not sure I’d fit in here.” Oh no. I’m musing out loud again.
“Why do you say that?” He cocks his head to one side, intrigued, a hint of a smile playing on his lips.
“It’s obvious, isn’t it?” I’m uncoordinated, scruffy, and I’m not blonde.
“Not to me,” he murmurs. His gaze is intense, all humor gone, and strange muscles deep in my belly clench suddenly. I tear my eyes away from his scrutiny and stare blindly down at my knotted fingers. What’s going on? I have to go – now. I lean forward to retrieve the recorder.
“Would you like me to show you around?” he asks.
“I’m sure you’re far too busy, Mr. Grey, and I do have a long drive.”
“You’re driving back to WSU in Vancouver?” He sounds surprised, anxious even. He glances out of the window. It’s begun to rain. “Well, you’d better drive carefully.” His tone is stern, authoritative. Why should he care? “Did you get everything you need?” he adds.
“Yes sir,” I reply, packing the recorder into my satchel. His eyes narrow, speculatively.
“Thank you for the interview, Mr. Grey.”
“The pleasure’s been all mine,” he says, polite as ever.
As I rise, he stands and holds out his hand.
“Until we meet again, Miss Steele.” And it sounds like a challenge, or a threat, I’m not sure which. I frown. When will we ever meet again? I shake his hand once more, astounded that that odd current between us is still there. It must be my nerves.
“Mr. Grey.” I nod at him. Moving with lithe athletic grace to the door, he opens it wide.
“Just ensuring you make it through the door, Miss Steele.” He gives me a small smile.
Obviously, he’s referring to my earlier less-than-elegant entry into his office. I flush.
“That’s very considerate, Mr. Grey,” I snap, and his smile widens. I’m glad you find me entertaining, I glower inwardly, walking into the foyer. I’m surprised when he follows me out. Andrea and Olivia both look up, equally surprised.
“Did you have a coat?” Grey asks.
“Yes.” Olivia leaps up and retrieves my jacket, which Grey takes from her before she can hand it to me. He holds it up and, feeling ridiculously self-conscious, I shrug it on.
Grey places his hands for a moment on my shoulders. I gasp at the contact. If he notices my reaction, he gives nothing away. His long index finger presses the button summoning the elevator, and we stand waiting – awkwardly on my part, coolly self-possessed on his.
The doors open, and I hurry in desperate to escape. I really need to get out of here. When I turn to look at him, he’s leaning against the doorway beside the elevator with one hand on the wall. He really is very, very good-looking. It’s distracting. His burning gray eyes gaze at me.
“Anastasia,” he says as a farewell.
“Christian,” I reply. And mercifully, the doors close.
My heart is pounding. The elevator arrives on the first floor, and I scramble out as soon as the doors slide open, stumbling once, but fortunately not sprawling on to the immaculate sandstone floor. I race for the wide glass doors, and I’m free in the bracing, cleansing, damp air of Seattle. Raising my face, I welcome the cool refreshing rain. I close my eyes and take a deep, purifying breath, trying to recover what’s left of my equilibrium.
No man has ever affected me the way Christian Grey has, and I cannot fathom why.
Is it his looks? His civility? Wealth? Power? I don’t understand my irrational reaction.
I breathe an enormous sigh of relief. What in heaven’s name was that all about? Leaning against one of the steel pillars of the building, I valiantly attempt to calm down and gather my thoughts. I shake my head. Holy crap – what was that? My heart steadies to its regular rhythm, and I can breathe normally again. I head for the car.
As I leave the city limits behind, I begin to feel foolish and embarrassed as I replay the interview in my mind. Surely, I’m over-reacting to something that’s imaginary. Okay, so he’s very attractive, confident, commanding, at ease with himself – but on the flip side, he’s arrogant, and for all his impeccable manners, he’s autocratic and cold. Well, on the surface.
An involuntary shiver runs down my spine. He may be arrogant, but then he has a right to be – he’s accomplished so much at such a young age. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly, but why should he? Again, I’m irritated that Kate didn’t give me a brief biography.
While cruising along the I-5, my mind continues to wander. I’m truly perplexed as to what makes someone so driven to succeed. Some of his answers were so cryptic – as if he had a hidden agenda. And Kate’s questions – ugh! The adoption and asking him if he was gay! I shudder. I can’t believe I said that. Ground, swallow me up now! Every time I think of that question in the future, I will cringe with embarrassment. Damn Katherine Kavanagh!
I check the speedometer. I’m driving more cautiously than I would on any other occasion. And I know it’s the memory of two penetrating gray eyes gazing at me, and a stern voice telling me to drive carefully. Shaking my head, I realize that Grey’s more like a man double his age.
Forget it, Ana, I scold myself. I decide that all in all, it’s been a very interesting experience, but I shouldn’t dwell on it . Put it behind you. I never have to see him again. I’m immediately cheered by the thought. I switch on the MP3 player and turn the volume up loud, sit back, and listen to thumping indie rock music as I press down on the accelerator.
As I hit the 1-5, I realize I can drive as fast as I want.
We live in a small community of duplex apartments in Vancouver, Washington, close to the Vancouver campus of WSU. I’m lucky – Kate’s parents bought the place for her, and I pay peanuts for rent. It’s been home for four years now. As I pull up outside, I know Kate is going to want a blow-by-blow account, and she is tenacious. Well, at least she has the mini-disc. Hopefully I won’t have to elaborate much beyond what was said during the interview.
“Ana! You’re back.” Kate sits in our living area, surrounded by books. She’s clearly been studying for finals – though she’s still in her pink flannel pajamas decorated with cute little rabbits, the ones she reserves for the aftermath of breaking up with boyfriends, for assorted illnesses, and for general moody depression. She bounds up to me and hugs me hard.
“I was beginning to worry. I expected you back sooner.”
“Oh, I thought I made good time considering the interview ran over.” I wave the mini-disc recorder at her.
“Ana, thank you so much for doing this. I owe you, I know. How was it? What was he like?” Oh no – here we go, the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition.
I struggle to answer her question. What can I say?
“I’m glad it’s over, and I don’t have to see him again. He was rather intimidating, you know.” I shrug. “He’s very focused, intense even – and young. Really young.”
Kate gazes innocently at me. I frown at her.
“Don’t you look so innocent. Why didn’t you give me a biography? He made me feel like such an idiot for skimping on basic research.” Kate clamps a hand to her mouth.
“Jeez, Ana, I’m sorry – I didn’t think.”
“Mostly he was courteous, formal, slightly stuffy – like he’s old before his time. He doesn’t talk like a man of twenty-something. How old is he anyway?”
“Twenty-seven. Jeez, Ana, I’m sorry. I should have briefed you, but I was in such a panic. Let me have the mini-disc, and I’ll start transcribing the interview.”
“You look better. Did you eat your soup?” I ask, keen to change the subject.
“Yes, and it was delicious as usual. I’m feeling much better.” She smiles at me in gratitude. I check my watch.
“I have to run. I can still make my shift at Clayton’s.”
“Ana, you’ll be exhausted.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll see you later.”
I’ve worked at Clayton’s since I started at WSU. It’s the largest independent hardware store in the Portland area, and over the four years I’ve worked here, I’ve come to know a little bit about most everything we sell – although ironically, I’m crap at any DIY. I leave all that to my dad. I’m much more of a curl-up-with-a-book-in-a-comfy-chair-by-the-fire kind of girl. I’m glad I can make my shift as it gives me something to focus on that isn’t Christian Grey. We’re busy – it’s the start of the summer season, and folks are redecorating their homes. Mrs. Clayton is pleased to see me.
“Ana! I thought you weren’t going to make it today.”
“My appointment didn’t take as long as I thought. I can do a couple of hours.”
“I’m real pleased to see you.”
She sends me to the storeroom to start re-stocking shelves, and I’m soon absorbed in the task.
When I arrive home later, Katherine is wearing headphones and working on her laptop.
Her nose is still pink, but she has her teeth into a story, so she’s concentrating and typing furiously. I’m thoroughly drained – exhausted by the long drive, the grueling interview, and by being rushed off my feet at Clayton’s. I slump on to the couch, thinking about the essay I have to finish and all the studying I haven’t done today because I was holed up with … him.
“You’ve got some good stuff here, Ana. Well done. I can’t believe you didn’t take him up on his offer to show you around. He obviously wanted to spend more time with you.”
She gives me a fleeting quizzical look.
I flush, and my heart rate inexplicably increases. That wasn’t the reason, surely? He just wanted to show me around so I could see that he was lord of all he surveyed. I realize I’m biting my lip, and I hope Kate doesn’t notice. But she seems absorbed in her transcrip-tion.“I hear what you mean about formal. Did you take any notes?” she asks.
“Um… no, I didn’t.”
“That’s fine. I can still make a fine article with this. Shame we don’t have some original stills. Good-looking son of a bitch, isn’t he?”
“I suppose so.” I try hard to sound disinterested, and I think I succeed.
“Oh come on, Ana – even you can’t be immune to his looks.” She arches a perfect eyebrow at me.
Crap! I distract her with flattery, always a good ploy.
“You probably would have got a lot more out of him.”
“I doubt that, Ana. Come on – he practically offered you a job. Given that I foisted this on you at the last minute, you did very well.” She glances up at me speculatively. I make a hasty retreat into the kitchen.
“So what did you really think of him?” Damn, she’s inquisitive. Why can’t she just let this go? Think of something – quick.
“He’s very driven, controlling, arrogant – scary really, but very charismatic. I can understand the fascination,” I add truthfully, as I peer round the door at her hoping this will shut her up once and for all.
“You, fascinated by a man? That’s a first,” she snorts.
I start gathering the makings of a sandwich so she can’t see my face.
“Why did you want to know if he was gay? Incidentally, that was the most embarrassing question. I was mortified, and he was pissed to be asked too.” I scowl at the memory.
“Whenever he’s in the society pages, he never has a date.”
“It was embarrassing. The whole thing was embarrassing. I’m glad I’ll never have to lay eyes on him again.”
“Oh, Ana, it can’t have been that bad. I think he sounds quite taken with you.”
Taken with me? Now Kate’s being ridiculous.
“Would you like a sandwich?”
We talk no more of Christian Grey that evening, much to my relief. Once we’ve eaten, I’m able to sit at the dining table with Kate and, while she works on her article, I work on my essay on Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Damn, but that woman was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong century. By the time I finish, it’s midnight, and Kate has long since gone to bed. I make my way to my room, exhausted, but pleased that I’ve accomplished so much for a Monday.
I curl up in my white iron bed, wrapping my mother’s quilt around me, close my eyes, and I’m instantly asleep. That night I dream of dark places, bleak white cold floors, and gray eyes.
For the rest of the week, I throw myself into my studies and my job at Clayton’s. Kate is busy too, compiling her last edition of her student magazine before she has to relinquish it to the new editor while also cramming for her finals. By Wednesday, she’s much better, and I no longer have to endure the sight of her pink-flannel-with-too-many-rabbits PJs. I call my mom in Georgia to check on her, but also so she can wish me luck for my final exams. She proceeds to tell me about her latest venture into candle making – my mother is all about new business ventures. Fundamentally she’s bored and wants something to occupy her time, but she has the attention span of a goldfish. It’ll be something new next week.
She worries me. I hope she hasn’t mortgaged the house to finance this latest scheme. And I hope that Bob – her relatively new but much older husband – is keeping an eye on her now that I’m no longer there. He does seem a lot more grounded than Husband Number Three.
“How are things with you, Ana?”
For a moment, I hesitate, and I have Mom’s full attention.
“Ana? Have you met someone?” Wow… how does she do that? The excitement in her voice is palpable.
“No, Mom, it’s nothing. You’ll be the first to know if I do.”
“Ana, you really need to get out more, honey. You worry me.”
“Mom, I’m fine. How’s Bob?” As ever, distraction is the best policy.
Later that evening, I call Ray, my stepdad, Mom’s Husband Number Two, the man I consider my father, and the man whose name I bear. It’s a brief conversation. In fact, it’s not so much a conversation as a one-sided series of grunts in response to my gentle coaxing. Ray is not a talker. But he’s still alive, he’s still watching soccer on TV, and going bowling and fly-fishing or making furniture when he’s not. Ray is a skilled carpenter and the reason I know the difference between a hawk and a handsaw. All seems well with him.
Friday night, Kate and I are debating what to do with our evening – we want some time out from our studies, from our work, and from student newspapers – when the doorbell rings.
Standing on our doorstep is my good friend José, clutching a bottle of champagne.
“José! Great to see you!” I give him a quick hug. “Come in.”
José is the first person I met when I arrived at WSU, looking as lost and lonely as I did.
We recognized a kindred spirit in each of us that day, and we’ve been friends ever since.
Not only do we share a sense of humor, but we discovered that both Ray and José Senior were in the same army unit together. As a result, our fathers have become firm friends too.
José is studying engineering and is the first in his family to make it to college. He’s pretty damn bright, but his real passion is photography. José has a great eye for a good picture.
“I have news.” He grins, his dark eyes twinkling.
“Don’t tell me – you’ve managed not to get kicked out for another week,” I tease, and he scowls playfully at me.
“The Portland Place Gallery is going to exhibit my photos next month.”
“That’s amazing – congratulations!” Delighted for him, I hug him again. Kate beams at him too.
“Way to go José! I should put this in the paper. Nothing like last minute editorial changes on a Friday evening.” She grins.
“Let’s celebrate. I want you to come to the opening.” José looks intently at me. I flush.
“Both of you, of course,” he adds, glancing nervously at Kate.
José and I are good friends, but I know deep down inside, he’d like to be more. He’s cute and funny, but he’s just not for me. He’s more like the brother I never had. Katherine often teases me that I’m missing the need-a-boyfriend gene, but the truth is – I just haven’t met anyone who… well, whom I’m attracted to, even though part of me longs for those trembling knees, heart-in-my-mouth, butterflies-in-my-belly, sleepless nights.
Sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Perhaps I’ve spent too long in the company of my literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high. But in reality, nobody’s ever made me feel like that.
Until very recently, the unwelcome, still small voice of my subconscious whispers.
NO! I banish the thought immediately. I am not going there, not after that painful interview. Are you gay, Mr. Grey? I wince at the memory. I know I’ve dreamt about him most nights since then, but that’s just to purge the awful experience from my system, surely?
I watch José open the bottle of champagne. He’s tall, and in his jeans and t-shirt he’s all shoulders and muscles, tanned skin, dark hair and burning dark eyes. Yes, José’s pretty hot, but I think he’s finally getting the message: we’re just friends. The cork makes its loud pop, and José looks up and smiles.
Saturday at the store is a nightmare. We are besieged by do-it-yourselfers wanting to spruce up their homes. Mr. and Mrs. Clayton, John and Patrick – the two other part-timers
– and I are all rushed off our feet. But there’s a lull around lunchtime, and Mrs. Clayton asks me to check on some orders while I’m sitting behind the counter at the till discreetly eating my bagel. I’m engrossed in the task, checking catalogue numbers against the items we need and the items we’ve ordered, eyes flicking from the order book to the computer screen and back as I check the entries match. Then, for some reason, I glance up… and find myself locked in the bold gray gaze of Christian Grey who’s standing at the counter, staring at me intently.
“Miss Steele. What a pleasant surprise.” His gaze is unwavering and intense.
Holy crap. What the hell is he doing here looking all tousled-hair and outdoorsy in his cream chunky-knit sweater, jeans, and walking boots? I think my mouth has popped open, and I can’t locate my brain or my voice.
“Mr. Grey,” I whisper, because that’s all I can manage. There’s a ghost of a smile on his lips and his eyes are alight with humor, as if he’s enjoying some private joke.
“I was in the area,” he says by way of explanation. “I need to stock up on a few things.
It’s a pleasure to see you again, Miss Steele.” His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel… or something.
I shake my head to gather my wits. My heart is pounding a frantic tattoo, and for some reason I’m blushing furiously under his steady scrutiny. I am utterly thrown by the sight of him standing before me. My memories of him did not do him justice. He’s not merely good-looking – he’s the epitome of male beauty, breathtaking, and he’s here. Here in Clayton’s Hardware Store. Go figure. Finally my cognitive functions are restored and reconnected with the rest of my body.
“Ana. My name’s Ana,” I mutter. “What can I help you with, Mr. Grey?”
He smiles, and again it’s like he’s privy to some big secret. It is so disconcerting. Taking a deep breath, I put on my professional I’ve-worked-in-this-shop-for-years façade. I can do this.
“There are a few items I need. To start with, I’d like some cable ties,” he murmurs, his gray eyes cool but amused.
“We stock various lengths. Shall I show you?” I mutter, my voice soft and wavery.
Get a grip, Steele. A slight frown mars Grey’s rather lovely brow.
“Please. Lead the way, Miss Steele,” he says. I try for nonchalance as I come out from behind the counter, but really I’m concentrating hard on not falling over my own feet – my legs are suddenly the consistency of Jell-O. I’m so glad I decided to wear my best jeans this morning.
“They’re in with the electrical goods, aisle eight.” My voice is a little too bright. I glance up at him and regret it almost immediately. Damn, he’s handsome. I blush.
“After you,” he murmurs, gesturing with his long-fingered, beautifully manicured hand.With my heart almost strangling me – because it’s in my throat trying to escape from my mouth – I head down one of the aisles to the electrical section. Why is he in Portland?
Why is he here at Clayton’s? And from a very tiny, underused part of my brain – probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata where my subconscious dwells – comes the thought: he’s here to see you. No way! I dismiss it immediately. Why would this beautiful, powerful, urbane man want to see me? The idea is preposterous, and I kick it out of my head.
“Are you in Portland on business?” I ask, and my voice is too high, like I’ve got my finger trapped in a door or something. Damn! Try to be cool Ana!
“I was visiting the WSU farming division. It’s based at Vancouver. I’m currently funding some research there in crop rotation and soil science,” he says matter-of-factly. See?
Not here to find you at all, my subconscious sneers at me, loud, proud, and pouty. I flush at my foolish wayward thoughts.
“All part of your feed-the-world plan?” I tease.
“Something like that,” he acknowledges, and his lips quirk up in a half smile.
He gazes at the selection of cable ties we stock at Clayton’s. What on Earth is he going to do with those? I cannot picture him as a do-it-yourselfer at all. His fingers trail across the various packages displayed, and for some inexplicable reason, I have to look away. He bends and selects a packet.
“These will do,” he says with his oh-so-secret smile, and I blush.
“Is there anything else?”
“I’d like some masking tape.”
“Are you redecorating?” The words are out before I can stop them. Surely he hires laborers or has staff to help him decorate?
“No, not redecorating,” he says quickly then smirks, and I have the uncanny feeling that he’s laughing at me.
Am I that funny? Funny looking?
“This way,” I murmur embarrassed. “Masking tape is in the decorating aisle.”
I glance behind me as he follows.
“Have you worked here long?” His voice is low, and he’s gazing at me, gray eyes concentrating hard. I blush even more brightly. Why the hell does he have this effect on me?
I feel like I’m fourteen years old – gauche, as always, and out of place. Eyes front Steele!
“Four years,” I mutter as we reach our goal. To distract myself, I reach down and select the two widths of masking tape that we stock.
“I’ll take that one,” Grey says softly pointing to the wider tape, which I pass to him.
Our fingers brush very briefly, and the current is there again, zapping through me like I’ve touched an exposed wire. I gasp involuntarily as I feel it, all the way down to somewhere dark and unexplored, deep in my belly. Desperately, I scrabble around for my equilibrium.
“Anything else?” My voice is husky and breathy. His eyes widen slightly.
“Some rope, I think.” His voice mirrors mine, husky.
“This way.” I duck my head down to hide my recurring blush and head for the aisle.
“What sort were you after? We have synthetic and natural filament rope… twine…
cable cord… ” I halt at his expression, his eyes darkening. Holy cow.
“I’ll take five yards of the natural filament rope please.”
Quickly, with trembling fingers, I measure out five yards against the fixed ruler, aware that his hot gray gaze is on me. I dare not look at him. Jeez, could I feel any more self-conscious? Taking my Stanley knife from the back pocket of my jeans, I cut it then coil it neatly before tying it in a slipknot. By some miracle, I manage not to remove a finger with my knife.
“Were you a Girl Scout?” he asks, sculptured, sensual lips curled in amusement. Don’t look at his mouth!
“Organized, group activities aren’t really my thing, Mr. Grey.”
He arches a brow.
“What is your thing, Anastasia?” he asks, his voice soft and his secret smile is back. I gaze at him unable to express myself. I’m on shifting tectonic plates. Try and be cool, Ana, my tortured subconscious begs on bended knee.
“Books,” I whisper, but inside, my subconscious is screaming: You! You are my thing!
I slap it down instantly, mortified that my psyche is having ideas above its station.
“What kind of books?” He cocks his head to one side. Why is he so interested?
“Oh, you know. The usual. The classics. British literature, mainly.”
He rubs his chin with his long index finger and thumb as he contemplates my answer.
Or perhaps he’s just very bored and trying to hide it.
“Anything else you need?” I have to get off this subject – those fingers on that face are so beguiling.
“I don’t know. What else would you recommend?”
What would I recommend? I don’t even know what you’re doing.
“For a do-it-yourselfer?”
He nods, gray eyes alive with wicked humor. I flush, and my eyes stray of their own accord to his snug jeans.
“Coveralls,” I reply, and I know I’m no longer screening what’s coming out of my mouth.
He raises an eyebrow, amused, yet again.
“You wouldn’t want to ruin your clothing,” I gesture vaguely in the direction of his jeans.
“I could always take them off.” He smirks.
“Um.” I feel the color in my cheeks rising again. I must be the color of the communist manifesto. Stop talking. Stop talking NOW.
“I’ll take some coveralls. Heaven forbid I should ruin any clothing,” he says dryly.
I try and dismiss the unwelcome image of him without jeans.
“Do you need anything else?” I squeak as I hand him the blue coveralls.
He ignores my inquiry.
“How’s the article coming along?”
He’s finally asked me a normal question, away from all the innuendo and the confusing double talk… a question I can answer. I grasp it tightly with two hands as if were a life raft, and I go for honesty.
“I’m not writing it, Katherine is. Miss Kavanagh. My roommate, she’s the writer.
She’s very happy with it. She’s the editor of the magazine, and she was devastated that she couldn’t do the interview in person.” I feel like I’ve come up for air – at last, a normal topic of conversation. “Her only concern is that she doesn’t have any original photographs of you.”
Grey raises an eyebrow.
“What sort of photographs does she want?”
Okay. I hadn’t factored in this response. I shake my head, because I just don’t know.
“Well, I’m around. Tomorrow, perhaps… ” he trails off.
“You’d be willing to attend a photo shoot?” My voice is squeaky again. Kate will be in seventh heaven if I can pull this off. And you might see him again tomorrow, that dark place at the base of my brain whispers seductively at me. I dismiss the thought – of all the silly, ridiculous…
“Kate will be delighted – if we can find a photographer.” I’m so pleased, I smile at him broadly. His lips part, like he’s taking a sharp intake of breath, and he blinks. For a fraction of a second, he looks lost somehow, and the Earth shifts slightly on its axis, the tectonic plates sliding into a new position.
Oh my. Christian Grey’s lost look.
“Let me know about tomorrow.” Reaching into his back pocket, he pulls out his wallet. “My card. It has my cell number on it. You’ll need to call before ten in the morning.”
“Okay.” I grin up at him. Kate is going to be thrilled.
Paul has materialized at other the end of the aisle. He’s Mr. Clayton’s youngest brother. I’d heard he was home from Princeton, but I wasn’t expecting to see him today.
“Er, excuse me for a moment, Mr. Grey.” Grey frowns as I turn away from him.
Paul has always been a buddy, and in this strange moment that I’m having with the rich, powerful, awesomely off-the-scale attractive control-freak Grey, it’s great to talk to someone who’s normal. Paul hugs me hard taking me by surprise.
“Ana, hi, it’s so good to see you!” he gushes.
“Hello Paul, how are you? You home for your brother’s birthday?”
“Yep. You’re looking well, Ana, really well.” He grins as he examines me at arm’s length. Then he releases me but keeps a possessive arm draped over my shoulder. I shuffle from foot to foot, embarrassed. It’s good to see Paul, but he’s always been over-familiar.
When I glance up at Christian Grey, he’s watching us like a hawk, his gray eyes hooded and speculative, his mouth a hard impassive line. He’s changed from the weirdly attentive customer to someone else – someone cold and distant.
“Paul, I’m with a customer. Someone you should meet,” I say, trying to defuse the antagonism I see in Grey’s eyes. I drag Paul over to meet him, and they weigh each other up. The atmosphere is suddenly arctic.
“Er, Paul, this is Christian Grey. Mr. Grey, this is Paul Clayton. His brother owns the place.” And for some irrational reason, I feel I have to explain a bit more.
“I’ve known Paul ever since I’ve worked here, though we don’t see each other that often. He’s back from Princeton where he’s studying business administration.” I’m babbling… Stop, now!
“Mr. Clayton.” Christian holds his hand out, his look unreadable.
“Mr. Grey,” Paul returns his handshake. “Wait up – not the Christian Grey? Of Grey Enterprises Holdings?” Paul goes from surly to awestruck in less than a nanosecond. Grey gives him a polite smile that doesn’t reach his eyes.
“Wow – is there anything I can get you?”
“Anastasia has it covered, Mr. Clayton. She’s been very attentive.” His expression is impassive, but his words… it’s like he’s saying something else entirely. It’s baffling.
“Cool,” Paul responds. “Catch you later, Ana.”
“Sure, Paul.” I watch him disappear toward the stock room. “Anything else, Mr.
“Just these items.” His tone is clipped and cool. Damn… have I offended him? Taking a deep breath, I turn and head for the till. What is his problem?
I ring up the rope, coveralls, masking tape, and cable ties at the till.
“That will be forty-three dollars, please.” I glance up at Grey, and I wish I hadn’t. He’s watching me closely, his gray eyes intense and smoky. It’s unnerving.
“Would you like a bag?” I ask as I take his credit card.
“Please, Anastasia.” His tongue caresses my name, and my heart once again is frantic.
I can hardly breathe. Hurriedly, I place his purchases in a plastic carrier.
“You’ll call me if you want me to do the photo shoot?” He’s all business once more. I nod, rendered speechless yet again, and hand back his credit card.
“Good. Until tomorrow perhaps.” He turns to leave, then pauses. “Oh – and Anastasia, I’m glad Miss Kavanagh couldn’t do the interview.” He smiles, then strides with renewed purpose out of the store, slinging the plastic bag over his shoulder, leaving me a quivering mass of raging female hormones. I spend several minutes staring at the closed door through which he’s just left before I return to planet Earth.
Okay – I like him. There, I’ve admitted it to myself. I cannot hide from my feelings anymore. I’ve never felt like this before. I find him attractive, very attractive. But it’s a lost cause, I know, and I sigh with bittersweet regret. It was just a coincidence, his coming here. But still, I can admire him from afar, surely? No harm can come of that. And if I find a photographer, I can do some serious admiring tomorrow. I bite my lip in anticipation and find myself grinning like a schoolgirl. I need to phone Kate and organize a photo-shoot.
Kate is ecstatic.
“But what was he doing at Clayton’s?” Her curiosity oozes through the phone. I’m in the depths of the stock room, trying to keep my voice casual.
“He was in the area.”
“I think that is one huge coincidence, Ana. You don’t think he was there to see you?”
she speculates. My heart lurches at the prospect, but it’s a short-lived joy. The dull, disappointing reality is that he was here on business.
“He was visiting the farming division of WSU. He’s funding some research,” I mutter.
“Oh yes. He’s given the department a $2.5 million grant.”
“How do you know this?”
“Ana, I’m a journalist, and I’ve written a profile on the guy. It’s my job to know this.”
“Okay, Carla Bernstein, keep your hair on. So do you want these photos?”
“Of course I do. The question is, who’s going to do them and where.”
“We could ask him where. He says he’s staying in the area.”
“You can contact him?”
“I have his cell phone number.”
“The richest, most elusive, most enigmatic bachelor in Washington State, just gave you his cell phone number.”
“Ana! He likes you. No doubt about it.” Her tone is emphatic.
“Kate, he’s just trying to be nice.” But even as I say the words, I know they’re not true
– Christian Grey doesn’t do nice. He does polite, maybe. And a small quiet voice whispers, perhaps Kate is right. My scalp prickles at the idea that maybe, just maybe, he might like me. After all, he did say he was glad Kate didn’t do the interview. I hug myself with quiet glee, rocking from side to side, entertaining the possibility that he might like me for one brief moment. Kate brings me back to the now.
“I don’t know who we’ll get to do the shoot. Levi, our regular photographer, can’t.
He’s home in Idaho Falls for the weekend. He’ll be pissed that he blew an opportunity to photo one of America’s leading entrepreneurs.”
“Hmm… What about José?”
“Great idea! You ask him – he’ll do anything for you. Then call Grey and find out where he wants us.” Kate is irritatingly cavalier about José.
“I think you should call him.”
“Who, José?” Kate scoffs.
“Ana, you’re the one with the relationship.”
“Relationship?” I squeak at her, my voice rising several octaves. “I barely know the guy.”“At least you’ve met him,” she says bitterly. “And it looks like he wants to know you better. Ana, just call him,” she snaps and hangs up. She is so bossy sometimes. I frown at my cell, sticking my tongue out at it.
I’m just leaving a message for José when Paul enters the stock room looking for sand-paper.
“We’re kind of busy out there, Ana,” he says without acrimony.
“Yeah, um, sorry,” I mutter, turning to leave.
“So, how come you know Christian Grey?” Paul’s voice is unconvincingly nonchalant.
“I had to interview him for our student newspaper. Kate wasn’t well.” I shrug, trying to sound casual and doing no better than him.
“Christian Grey in Clayton’s. Go figure,” Paul snorts, amazed. He shakes his head as if to clear it. “Anyway, want to grab a drink or something this evening?”
Whenever he’s home he asks me on a date, and I always say no. It’s a ritual. I’ve never considered it a good idea to date the boss’s brother, and besides, Paul is cute in a whole-some all-American boy-next-door kind of way, but he’s no literary hero, not by any stretch of the imagination. Is Grey? My subconscious asks me, her eyebrow figuratively raised.
I slap her down.
“Don’t you have a family dinner or something for your brother?”
“Maybe some other time, Paul. I need to study tonight. I have my finals next week.”
“Ana, one of these days, you’ll say yes,” he smiles as I escape out to the store floor.
“But I do places, Ana, not people,” José groans.
“José, please?” I beg. Clutching my cell, I pace the living area of our apartment, staring out of the window at the fading evening light.
“Give me that phone.” Kate grabs the handset from me, tossing her silken red-blonde hair over her shoulder.
“Listen here, José Rodriquez, if you want our newspaper to cover the opening of your show, you’ll do this shoot for us tomorrow, capiche?” Kate can be awesomely tough.
“Good. Ana will call back with the location and the call time. We’ll see you tomorrow.” She snaps my cell phone shut.
“Sorted. All we need to do now is decide where and when. Call him.” She holds the phone out to me. My stomach twists.
“Call Grey, now!”
I scowl at her and reach into my back pocket for his business card. I take a deep, steadying breath, and with shaking fingers, I dial the number.
He answers on the second ring. His tone is clipped, calm and cold.
“Err… Mr. Grey? It’s Anastasia Steele.” I don’t recognize my own voice, I’m so nervous. There’s a brief pause. Inside I’m quaking.
“Miss Steele. How nice to hear from you.” His voice has changed. He’s surprised, I think, and he sounds so… warm – seductive even. My breath hitches, and I flush. I’m suddenly conscious that Katherine Kavanagh is staring at me, her mouth open, and I dart into the kitchen to avoid her unwanted scrutiny.
“Err – we’d like to go ahead with the photo-shoot for the article.” Breathe, Ana, breathe.
My lungs drag in a hasty breath. “Tomorrow, if that’s okay. Where would be convenient for you, sir?”
I can almost hear his sphinx-like smile through the phone.
“I’m staying at the Heathman in Portland. Shall we say, nine thirty tomorrow morning?”“Okay, we’ll see you there.” I am all gushing and breathy – like a child, not a grown woman who can vote and drink legally in the State of Washington.
“I look forward to it, Miss Steele.” I visualize the wicked gleam in his gray eyes. How can he make seven little words hold so much tantalizing promise? I hang up. Kate is in the kitchen, and she’s staring at me with a look of complete and utter consternation on her face.
“Anastasia Rose Steele. You like him! I’ve never seen or heard you so, so… affected by anyone before. You’re actually blushing.”
“Oh Kate, you know I blush all the time. It’s an occupational hazard with me. Don’t be so ridiculous,” I snap. She blinks at me with surprise – I very rarely throw my toys out of the pram – and I briefly relent. “I just find him… intimidating, that’s all.”
“Heathman, that figures,” mutters Kate. “I’ll give the manager a call and negotiate a space for the shoot.”
“I’ll make supper. Then I need to study.” I cannot hide my irritation with her as I open one of cupboards to make supper.
I am restless that night, tossing and turning. Dreaming of smoky gray eyes, coveralls, long legs, long fingers, and dark, dark unexplored places. I wake twice in the night, my heart pounding. Oh, I’m going to look just great tomorrow with so little sleep, I scold myself. I punch my pillow and try to settle.
The Heathman is nestled in the downtown heart of Portland. Its impressive brown stone edifice was completed just in time for the crash of the late 1920s. José, Travis, and I are traveling in my Beetle, and Kate is in her CLK, since we can’t all fit in my car. Travis is José’s friend and gopher, here to help out with the lighting. Kate has managed to acquire the use of a room at the Heathman free of charge for the morning in exchange for a credit in the article. When she explains at reception that we’re here to photograph Christian Grey CEO, we are instantly upgraded to a suite. Just a regular-sized suite, however, as apparently Mr. Grey is already occupying the largest one in the building. An over-keen marketing executive shows us up to the suite – he’s terribly young and very nervous for some reason.
I suspect it’s Kate’s beauty and commanding manner that disarms him, because he’s putty in her hands. The rooms are elegant, understated, and opulently furnished.
It’s nine. We have half an hour to set up. Kate is in full flow.
“José, I think we’ll shoot against that wall, do you agree?” She doesn’t wait for his reply. “Travis, clear the chairs. Ana, could you ask housekeeping to bring up some refresh-ments? And let Grey know where we are.”
Yes, Mistress. She is so domineering. I roll my eyes, but do as I’m told.
Half an hour later, Christian Grey walks into our suite.
Holy Crap! He’s wearing a white shirt, open at the collar, and grey flannel pants that hang from his hips. His unruly hair is still damp from a shower. My mouth goes dry looking at him… he’s so freaking hot. Grey is followed into the suite by a man in his mid-thirties, all buzz-cut and stubble in a sharp dark suit and tie who stands silently in the corner. His hazel eyes watch us impassively.
“Miss Steele, we meet again.” Grey extends his hand, and I shake it, blinking rapidly.
Oh my… he really is, quite… wow. As I touch his hand, I’m aware of that delicious current running right through me, lighting me up, making me blush, and I’m sure my erratic breathing must be audible.
“Mr. Grey, this is Katherine Kavanagh,” I mutter, waving a hand toward Kate who comes forward, looking him squarely in the eye.
“The tenacious Miss Kavanagh. How do you do?” He gives her a small smile, looking genuinely amused. “I trust you’re feeling better? Anastasia said you were unwell last week.”
“I’m fine, thank you, Mr. Grey.” She shakes his hand firmly without batting an eyelid.
I remind myself that Kate has been to the best private schools in Washington. Her family has money, and she’s grown up confident and sure of her place in the world. She doesn’t take any crap. I am in awe of her.
“Thank you for taking the time to do this.” She gives him a polite, professional smile.
“It’s a pleasure,” he answers, turning his gray gaze on me, and I flush, again. Damn it.
“This is José Rodriguez, our photographer,” I say, grinning at José who smiles with affection back at me. His eyes cool when he looks from me to Grey.
“Mr. Grey,” he nods.
“Mr. Rodriguez,” Grey’s expression changes too as he appraises José.
“Where would you like me?” Grey asks him. His tone sounds vaguely threatening. But Katherine is not about to let José run the show.
“Mr. Grey – if you could sit here, please? Be careful of the lighting cables. And then we’ll do a few standing, too.” She directs him to a chair set up against the wall.
Travis switches on the lights, momentarily blinding Grey, and mutters an apology.
Then Travis and I stand back and watch as José proceeds to snap away. He takes several photographs hand-held, asking Grey to turn this way, then that, to move his arm, then put it down again. Moving to the tripod, José takes several more, while Grey sits and poses, patiently and naturally, for about twenty minutes. My wish has come true: I can stand and admire Grey from not-so-afar. Twice our eyes lock, and I have to tear myself away from his cloudy gaze.
“Enough sitting.” Katherine wades in again. “Standing, Mr. Grey?” she asks.
He stands, and Travis scurries in to remove the chair. The shutter on José’s Nikon starts clicking again.
“I think we have enough,” José announces five minutes later.
“Great,” says Kate. “Thank you again, Mr. Grey.” She shakes his hand, as does José.
“I look forward to reading the article, Miss Kavanagh,” murmurs Grey, and turns to me, standing by the door. “Will you walk with me, Miss Steele?” he asks.
“Sure,” I say, completely thrown. I glance anxiously at Kate, who shrugs at me. I notice José scowling behind her.
“Good day to you all,” says Grey as he opens the door, standing aside to allow me out first.
Holy hell… what’s this about? What does he want? I pause in the hotel corridor, fidgeting nervously as Grey emerges from the room followed by Mr. Buzz-Cut in his sharp suit.
“I’ll call you, Taylor,” he murmurs to Buzz-Cut. Taylor wanders back down the corridor, and Grey turns his burning gray gaze to me. Crap… have I done something wrong?
“I wondered if you would join me for coffee this morning.”
My heart slams into my mouth. A date? Christian Grey is asking me on a date. He’s asking if you want a coffee. Maybe he thinks you haven’t woken up yet, my subconscious whines at me in a sneering mood again. I clear my throat trying to control my nerves.
“I have to drive everyone home,” I murmur apologetically, twisting my hands and fingers in front of me.
“TAYLOR,” he calls, making me jump. Taylor, who had been retreating down the corridor, turns and heads back toward us.
“Are they based at the university?” Grey asks, his voice soft and inquiring. I nod, too stunned to speak.
“Taylor can take them. He’s my driver. We have a large 4x4 here, so he’ll be able to take the equipment too.”
“Mr. Grey?” Taylor asks when he reaches us, giving nothing away.
“Please, can you drive the photographer, his assistant, and Miss Kavanagh back home?”
“Certainly, sir,” Taylor replies.
“There. Now can you join me for coffee?” Grey smiles as if it’s a done deal.
I frown at him.
“Um – Mr. Grey, err – this really… look, Taylor doesn’t have to drive them home.” I flash a brief look at Taylor, who remains stoically impassive. “I’ll swap vehicles with Kate, if you give me a moment.”
Grey smiles a dazzling, unguarded, natural, all-teeth-showing, glorious smile. Oh my… and he opens the door of the suite so I can re-enter. I scoot around him to enter the room, finding Katherine in deep discussion with José.
“Ana, I think he definitely likes you,” she says with no preamble whatsoever. José glares at me with disapproval. “But I don’t trust him,” she adds. I raise my hand up in the hope that she’ll stop talking. By some miracle, she does.
“Kate, if you take the Beetle, can I take your car?”
“Christian Grey has asked me to go for coffee with him.”
Her mouth pops open. Speechless Kate! I savor the moment. She grabs me by my arm and drags me into the bedroom that’s off the living area of the suite.
“Ana, there’s something about him.” Her tone is full of warning. “He’s gorgeous, I agree, but I think he’s dangerous. Especially to someone like you.”
“What do you mean, someone like me?” I demand, affronted.
“An innocent like you, Ana. You know what I mean,” she says a little irritated. I flush.
“Kate, it’s just coffee. I’m starting my exams this week, and I need to study, so I won’t be long.”
She purses her lips as if considering my request. Finally, she fishes her car keys out of her pocket and hands them to me. I hand her mine.
“I’ll see you later. Don’t be long, or I’ll send out search and rescue.”
“Thanks.” I hug her.
I emerge from the suite to find Christian Grey waiting, leaning up against the wall, looking like a male model in a pose for some glossy high-end magazine.
“Okay, let’s do coffee,” I murmur, flushing a beet red.
“After you, Miss Steele.” He stands up straight, holding his hand out for me to go first.
I make my way down the corridor, my knees shaky, my stomach full of butterflies, and my heart in my mouth thumping a dramatic uneven beat. I am going to have coffee with Christian Grey... and I hate coffee.
We walk together down the wide hotel corridor to the elevators. What should I say to him? My mind is suddenly paralyzed with apprehension. What are we going to talk about?
What on Earth do I have in common with him? His soft, warm voice startles me from my reverie.
“How long have you known Katherine Kavanagh?”
Oh, an easy questions for starters.
“Since our freshman year. She’s a good friend.”
“Hmm,” he replies, non-committal. What is he thinking?
At the elevators, he presses the call button, and the bell rings almost immediately. The doors slide open revealing a young couple in a passionate clinch inside. Surprised and embarrassed, they jump apart, staring guiltily in every direction but ours. Grey and I step into the elevator.
I am struggling to maintain a straight face, so I gaze down at the floor, feeling my cheeks turning pink. When I peek up at Grey through my lashes, he has a hint of a smile on his lips, but it’s very hard to tell. The young couple says nothing, and we travel down to the first floor in embarrassed silence. We don’t even have trashy piped music to distract us.
The doors open and, much to my surprise, Grey takes my hand, clasping it with his long cool fingers. I feel the current run through me, and my already rapid heartbeat accelerates. As he leads me out of the elevator, we can hear the suppressed giggles of the couple erupting behind us. Grey grins.
“What is it about elevators?” he mutters.
We cross the expansive, bustling lobby of the hotel toward the entrance but Grey avoids the revolving door, and I wonder if that’s because he’d have to let go of my hand.
Outside, it’s a mild May Sunday. The sun is shining and the traffic is light. Grey turns left and strolls to the corner, where we stop waiting for the lights of the pedestrian crossing to change. He’s still holding my hand. I’m in the street, and Christian Grey is holding my hand. No one has ever held my hand. I feel giddy, and I tingle all over. I attempt to smother the ridiculous grin that threatens to split my face in two. Try to be cool, Ana, my subconscious implores me. The green man appears, and we’re off again.
We walk four blocks before we reach the Portland Coffee House, where Grey releases me to hold the door open so I can step inside.
“Why don’t you choose a table, while I get the drinks. What would you like?” he asks, polite as ever.
“I’ll have… um – English Breakfast tea, bag out.”
He raises his eyebrows.
“I’m not keen on coffee.”
“Okay, bag out tea. Sugar?”
For a moment, I’m stunned, thinking it’s an endearment, but fortunately my subconscious kicks in with pursed lips. No, stupid – do you take sugar?
“No thanks.” I stare down at my knotted fingers.
“Anything to eat?”
“No thank you.” I shake my head, and he heads to the counter.
I surreptitiously gaze at him from beneath my lashes as he stands in line waiting to be served. I could watch him all day… he’s tall, broad-shouldered, and slim, and the way those pants hang from his hips… Oh my. Once or twice he runs his long, graceful fingers through his now dry but still disorderly hair. Hmm… I’d like to do that. The thought comes unbidden into my mind, and my face flames. I bite my lip and stare down at my hands again not liking where my wayward thoughts are headed.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Grey is back, startling me.
I go crimson. I was just thinking about running my fingers through your hair and wondering if it would feel soft to touch. I shake my head. He’s carrying a tray, which he sets down on the small, round, birch-veneer table. He hands me a cup and saucer, a small teapot, and a side plate bearing a lone teabag labeled ‘Twinings English Breakfast’ – my favorite. He has a coffee which bears a wonderful leaf-pattern imprinted in the milk. How do they do that? I wonder idly. He’s also bought himself a blueberry muffin. Putting the tray aside, he sits opposite me and crosses his long legs. He looks so comfortable, so at ease with his body, I envy him. Here’s me, all gawky and uncoordinated, barely able to get from A to B without falling flat on my face.
“Your thoughts?” he prompts me.
“This is my favorite tea.” My voice is quiet, breathy. I simply can’t believe I’m sitting opposite Christian Grey in a coffee shop in Portland. He frowns. He knows I’m hiding something. I pop the teabag into the teapot and almost immediately fish it out again with my teaspoon. As I place the used teabag back on the side plate, he cocks his head gazing quizzically at me.
“I like my tea black and weak,” I mutter as an explanation.
“I see. Is he your boyfriend?”
“The photographer. José Rodriguez.”
I laugh, nervous but curious. What gave him that impression?
“No. José’s a good friend of mine, that’s all. Why did you think he was my boyfriend?”
“The way you smiled at him, and he at you.” His gray gaze holds mine. He’s so unnerving. I want to look away but I’m caught – spellbound.
“He’s more like family,” I whisper.
Grey nods slightly, seemingly satisfied with my response, and glances down at his blueberry muffin. His long fingers deftly peel back the paper, and I watch, fascinated.
“Do you want some?” he asks, and that amused, secret smile is back.
“No thanks.” I frown and stare down at my hands again.
“And the boy I met yesterday, at the store. He’s not your boyfriend?”
“No. Paul’s just a friend. I told you yesterday.” Oh, this is getting silly. “Why do you ask?”“You seem nervous around men.”
Holy crap, that’s personal. I’m just nervous around you, Grey.
“I find you intimidating.” I flush scarlet, but mentally pat myself on the back for my candor, and gaze at my hands again. I hear his sharp intake of breath.
“You should find me intimidating,” he nods. “You’re very honest. Please don’t look down. I like to see your face.”
Oh. I glance at him, and he gives me an encouraging but wry smile.
“It gives me some sort of clue what you might be thinking,” he breathes. “You’re a mystery, Miss Steele.
“There’s nothing mysterious about me.”
“I think you’re very self-contained,” he murmurs.
Am I? Wow… how am I managing that? This is bewildering. Me, self-contained?
“Except when you blush, of course, which is often. I just wish I knew what you were blushing about.” He pops a small piece of muffin into his mouth and starts to chew it slowly, not taking his eyes off me. And as if on cue, I blush. Crap!
“Do you always make such personal observations?”
“I hadn’t realized I was. Have I offended you?” He sounds surprised.
“No,” I answer truthfully.
“But you’re very high-handed,” I retaliate quietly.
He raises his eyebrows and, if I’m not mistaken, he flushes slightly too.
“I’m used to getting my own way, Anastasia,” he murmurs. “In all things.”
“I don’t doubt it. Why haven’t you asked me to call you by your first name?” I’m surprised by my audacity. Why has this conversation become so serious? This isn’t going the way I thought it was going to go. I can’t believe I’m feeling so antagonistic towards him.
It’s like he’s trying to warn me off.
“The only people who use my given name are my family and a few close friends.
That’s the way I like it.”
Oh. He still hasn’t said, ‘Call me Christian.’ He is a control freak, there’s no other explanation, and part of me is thinking maybe it would have been better if Kate had interviewed him. Two control freaks together. Plus of course she’s almost blonde – well, strawberry blonde – like all the women in his office. And she’s beautiful, my subconscious reminds me. I don’t like the idea of Christian and Kate. I take a sip of my tea, and Grey eats another small piece of his muffin.
“Are you an only child?” he asks.
Whoa… he keeps changing direction.
“Tell me about your parents.”
Why does he want to know this? It’s so dull.
“My mom lives in Georgia with her new husband Bob. My stepdad lives in Montesano.”
“My father died when I was a baby.”
“I’m sorry,” he mutters and a fleeting troubled look crosses his face.
“I don’t remember him.”
“And your mother remarried?”
“You could say that.”
He frowns at me.
“You’re not giving much away, are you?” he says dryly, rubbing his chin as if in deep thought.
“Neither are you.”
“You’ve interviewed me once already, and I can recollect some quite probing questions then.” He smirks at me.
Holy shit. He’s remembering the ‘gay’ question. Once again, I’m mortified. In years to come, I know, I’ll need intensive therapy to not feel this embarrassed every time I recall the moment. I start babbling about my mother – anything to block that memory.
“My mom is wonderful. She’s an incurable romantic. She’s currently on her fourth husband.”
Christian raises his eyebrows in surprise.
“I miss her,” I continue. “She has Bob now. I just hope he can keep an eye on her and pick up the pieces when her harebrained schemes don’t go as planned.” I smile fondly. I haven’t seen my mom for so long. Christian is watching me intently, taking occasional sips of his coffee. I really shouldn’t look at his mouth. It’s unsettling. Those lips.
“Do you get along with your stepfather?”
“Of course. I grew up with him. He’s the only father I know.”
“And what’s he like?”
“Ray? He’s… taciturn.”
“That’s it?” Grey asks, surprised.
I shrug. What does this man expect? My life story?
“Taciturn like his stepdaughter,” Grey prompts.
I refrain from rolling my eyes at him.
“He likes soccer – European soccer especially – and bowling, and fly-fishing, and making furniture. He’s a carpenter. Ex-army.” I sigh.
“You lived with him?”
“Yes. My mom met Husband Number Three when I was fifteen. I stayed with Ray.”
He frowns as if he doesn’t understand.
“You didn’t want to live with your mom?” he asks.
I blush. This really is none of his business.
“Husband Number Three lived in Texas. My home was in Montesano. And… you know my mom was newly married.” I stop. My mom never talks about Husband Number Three. Where is Grey going with this? This is none of his business. Two can play at this game.
“Tell me about your parents,” I ask.
“My dad’s a lawyer, my mom is a pediatrician. They live in Seattle.”
Oh… he’s had an affluent upbringing. And I wonder about a successful couple who adopt three kids, and one of them turns into a beautiful man who takes on the business world and conquers it single-handed. What drove him to be that way? His folks must be proud.
“What do your siblings do?”
“Elliot’s in construction, and my little sister is in Paris, studying cookery under some renowned French chef.” His eyes cloud with irritation. He doesn’t want to talk about his family or himself.
“I hear Paris is lovely,” I murmur. Why doesn’t he want to talk about his family? Is it because he’s adopted?
“It’s beautiful. Have you been?” he asks, his irritation forgotten.
“I’ve never left mainland USA.” So now we’re back to banalities. What is he hiding?
“Would you like to go?”
“To Paris?” I squeak. This has thrown me – who wouldn’t want to go to Paris? “Of course,” I concede. “But it’s England that I’d really like to visit.”
He cocks his head to one side, running his index finger across his lower lip… oh my.
I blink rapidly. Concentrate, Steele.
“It’s the home of Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontë sisters, Thomas Hardy. I’d like to see the places that inspired those people to write such wonderful books.”
All this talk of literary greats reminds me that I should be studying. I glance at my watch.
“I’d better go. I have to study.”
“For your exams?”
“Yes. They start Tuesday.”
“Where’s Miss Kavanagh’s car?”
“In the hotel parking lot.”
“I’ll walk you back.”
“Thank you for the tea, Mr. Grey.”
He smiles his odd I’ve got a whopping big secret smile.
“You’re welcome, Anastasia. It’s my pleasure. Come,” he commands, and holds his hand out to me. I take it, bemused, and follow him out of the coffee shop.
We stroll back to the hotel, and I’d like to say it’s in companionable silence. He at least looks his usual calm, collected self. As for me, I’m desperately trying to gauge how our little coffee morning has gone. I feel like I’ve been interviewed for a position, but I’m not sure what it is.
“Do you always wear jeans?” he asks out of the blue.
He nods. We’re back at the intersection, across the road from the hotel. My mind is reeling. What an odd question… And I’m aware that our time together is limited. This is it. This was it, and I’ve completely blown it, I know. Perhaps he has someone.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” I blurt out. Holy crap - I just said that out loud?
His lips quirk up in a half-smile, and he looks down at me.
“No, Anastasia. I don’t do the girlfriend thing,” he says softly.
Oh… what does that mean? He’s not gay? Oh, maybe he is - crap! He must have lied to me in his interview. And for a moment, I think he’s going to follow on with some explanation, some clue to this cryptic statement – but he doesn’t. I have to go. I have to try to reassemble my thoughts. I have to get away from him. I walk forward, and I trip, stumbling headlong onto the road.
“Shit, Ana!” Grey cries. He tugs the hand that he’s holding so hard that I fall back against him just as a cyclist whips past, narrowly missing me, heading the wrong way up this one-way street.
It all happens so fast – one minute I’m falling, the next I’m in his arms, and he’s holding me tightly against his chest. .I inhale his clean, vital scent. He smells of fresh laundered linen and some expensive body-wash. Oh my, it’s intoxicating. I inhale deeply.
“Are you okay?” he whispers. He has one arm around me, clasping me to him, while the fingers of his other hand softly trace my face, gently probing, examining me. His thumb brushes my lower lip, and I hear his breath hitch. He’s staring into my eyes, and I hold his anxious, burning gaze for a moment or maybe it’s forever… but eventually, my attention is drawn to his beautiful mouth. Oh my. And for the first time in twenty-one years, I want to be kissed. I want to feel his mouth on me.
Kiss me damn it! I implore him, but I can’t move. I’m paralyzed with a strange, unfamiliar need, completely captivated by him. I’m staring at Christian Grey’s exquisitely sculptured mouth, mesmerized, and he’s looking down at me, his gaze hooded, his eyes darkening.
He’s breathing harder than usual, and I’ve stopped breathing altogether. I’m in your arms.
Kiss me, please. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and gives me a small shake of his head as if in answer to my silent question. When he opens his eyes again, it’s with some new purpose, a steely resolve.
“Anastasia, you should steer clear of me. I’m not the man for you,” he whispers.
What? Where is this coming from? Surely I should be the judge of that. I frown up at him, and my head swims with rejection.
“Breathe, Anastasia, breathe. I’m going to stand you up and let you go,” he says quietly, and he gently pushes me away.
Adrenaline has spiked through my body, from the near miss with the cyclist or the heady proximity to Christian, leaving me wired and weak. NO! My psyche screams as he pulls away, leaving me bereft. He has his hands on my shoulders, holding me at arm’s length, watching my reactions carefully. And the only thing I can think is that I wanted to be kissed, made it pretty damned obvious, and he didn’t do it. He doesn’t want me. He really doesn’t want me. I have royally screwed up the coffee morning.
“I’ve got this,” I breathe, finding my voice. “Thank you,” I mutter awash with humiliation. How could I have misread the situation between us so utterly? I need to get away from him.
“For what?” he frowns. He hasn’t taken his hands off me.
“For saving me,” I whisper.
“That idiot was riding the wrong way. I’m glad I was here. I shudder to think what could have happened to you. Do you want to come and sit down in the hotel for a moment?” He releases me, his hands by his sides, and I’m standing in front of him feeling like a fool.
With a shake, I clear my head. I just want to go. All my vague, unarticulated hopes have been dashed. He doesn’t want me. What was I thinking? I scold myself. What would Christian Grey want with you? My subconscious mocks me. I wrap my arms around myself and turn to face the road and note with relief that the green man has appeared. I quickly make my way across, conscious that Grey is behind me. Outside the hotel, I turn briefly to face him but cannot look him in the eye.
“Thanks for the tea and doing the photo shoot,” I murmur.
“Anastasia… I… ” He stops, and the anguish in his voice demands my attention, so I peer unwillingly up at him. His gray eyes are bleak as he runs his hand through his hair.
He looks torn, frustrated, his expression stark, all his careful control has evaporated.
“What, Christian?” I snap irritably after he says – nothing. I just want to go. I need to take my fragile, wounded pride away and somehow nurse it back to health.
“Good luck with your exams,” he murmurs.
Huh? This is why he looks so desolate? This is the big send off? Just to wish me luck in my exams?
“Thanks.” I can’t disguise the sarcasm in my voice. “Goodbye, Mr. Grey.” I turn on my heel, vaguely amazed that I don’t trip, and without giving him a second glance, I disappear down the sidewalk toward the underground garage.
Once underneath the dark, cold concrete of the garage with its bleak fluorescent light, I lean against the wall and put my head in my hands. What was I thinking? Unbidden and unwelcome tears pool in my eyes. Why am I crying? I sink to the ground, angry at myself for this senseless reaction. Drawing up my knees, I fold in on myself. I want to make myself as small as possible. Perhaps this nonsensical pain will be smaller the smaller I am.
Placing my head on my knees, I let the irrational tears fall unrestrained. I am crying over the loss of something I never had. How ridiculous. Mourning something that never was –
my dashed hopes, dashed dreams, and my soured expectations.
I have never been on the receiving end of rejection. Okay… so I was always one of the last to be picked for basketball or volleyball – but I understood that – running and doing something else at the same time like bouncing or throwing a ball is not my thing. I am a serious liability in any sporting field.
Romantically, though, I’ve never put myself out there, ever. A lifetime of insecurity
– I’m too pale, too skinny, too scruffy, uncoordinated, my long list of faults goes on. So I have always been the one to rebuff any would be admirers. There was that guy in my chemistry class who liked me, but no one has ever sparked my interest – no one except Christian damn Grey. Maybe I should be kinder to the likes of Paul Clayton and José Rodriguez, though I’m sure neither of them have been found sobbing alone in dark places.
Perhaps I just need a good cry.
Stop! Stop Now! - My subconscious is metaphorically screaming at me, arms folded, leaning on one leg and tapping her foot in frustration. Get in the car, go home, do your studying. Forget about him… Now! And stop all this self-pitying, wallowing crap.
I take a deep, steadying breath and stand up. Get it together Steele. I head for Kate’s car, wiping the tears off my face as I do. I will not think of him again. I can just chalk this incident up to experience and concentrate on my exams.
Kate is sitting at the dining table at her laptop when I arrive. Her welcoming smile fades when she sees me.
“Ana what’s wrong?”
Oh no… not the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition. I shake my head at her in a back-off now Kavanagh way – but I might as well be dealing with a blind, deaf mute.
“You’ve been crying,” she has an exceptional gift for stating the damned obvious sometimes. “What did that bastard do to you?” she growls, and her face – jeez, she’s scary.
“Nothing Kate.” That’s actually the problem. The thought brings a wry smile to my face.“Then why have you been crying? You never cry,” she says, her voice softening. She stands, her green eyes brimming with concern. She puts her arms around me and hugs me.
I need to say something just to get her to back off.
“I was nearly knocked over by a cyclist.” It’s the best that I can do, but it distracts her momentarily from… him.
“Jeez Ana – are you okay? Were you hurt?” She holds me at arm’s length and does a quick visual check-up on me.
“No. Christian saved me,” I whisper. “But I was quite shaken.”
“I’m not surprised. How was coffee? I know you hate coffee.”
“I had tea. It was fine, nothing to report really. I don’t know why he asked me.”
“He likes you Ana.” She drops her arms.
“Not anymore. I won’t be seeing him again.” Yes, I manage to sound matter of fact.
Crap. She’s intrigued. I head into the kitchen so that she can’t see my face.
“Yeah… he’s a little out of my league Kate,” I say as dryly as I can manage.
“What do you mean?”
“Oh Kate, it’s obvious.” I whirl round and face her as she stands in the kitchen doorway.“Not to me,” she says. “Okay, he’s got more money than you, but then he has more money than most people in America!”
“Kate he’s– ” I shrug.
“Ana! For heaven’s sake – how many times must I tell you? You’re a total babe,” she interrupts me. Oh no. She’s off on this tirade again.
“Kate, please. I need to study.” I cut her short. She frowns.
“Do you want to see the article? It’s finished. José took some great pictures.”
Do I need a visual reminder of the beautiful Christian I-don’t-want-you Grey?
“Sure,” I magic a smile on to my face and stroll over to the laptop. And there he is, staring at me in black and white, staring at me and finding me lacking.
I pretend to read the article, all the time meeting his steady gray gaze, searching the photo for some clue as to why he’s not the man for me – his own words to me. And it’s suddenly, blindingly obvious. He’s too gloriously good-looking. We are poles apart and from two very different worlds. I have a vision of myself as Icarus flying too close to the sun and crashing and burning as a result. His words make sense. He’s not the man for me.
This is what he meant, and it makes his rejection easier to accept… almost. I can live with this. I understand.
“Very good Kate,” I manage. “I’m going to study.” I am not going to think about him again for now, I vow to myself, and opening my revision notes, I start to read.
It’s only when I’m in bed, trying to sleep, that I allow my thoughts to drift through my strange morning. I keep coming back to the ‘I don’t do the girlfriend thing’ quote, and I’m angry that I didn’t pounce on this information sooner, when I was in his arms mentally begging him with every fiber of my being to kiss me. He’d said it there and then. He didn’t want me as a girlfriend. I turn on to my side. Idly, I wonder if perhaps he’s celibate? I close my eyes and begin to drift. Maybe he’s saving himself. Well not for you, my sleepy subconscious has a final swipe at me before unleashing itself on my dreams.
And that night, I dream of gray eyes, leafy patterns in milk, and I’m running through dark places with eerie strip lighting, and I don’t know if I’m running toward something or away from it… it’s just not clear.
I put my pen down. Finished. My final exam is over. I feel the Cheshire cat grin spread over my face. It’s probably the first time all week that I’ve smiled. It’s Friday, and we shall be celebrating tonight, really celebrating. I might even get drunk! I’ve never been drunk before. I glance across the sports hall at Kate, and she’s still scribbling furiously, five minutes to the end. This is it, the end of my academic career. I shall never have to sit in rows of anxious, isolated students again. Inside I’m doing graceful cartwheels around my head, knowing full well that’s the only place I can do graceful cartwheels. Kate stops writing and puts her pen down. She glances across at me, and I catch her Cheshire cat smile too.
We head back to our apartment together in her Mercedes, refusing to discuss our final paper. Kate is more concerned about what she’s going to wear to the bar this evening. I am busily fishing around in my purse for my keys.
“Ana, there’s a package for you.” Kate is standing on the steps up to the front door holding a brown paper parcel. Odd. I haven’t ordered anything from Amazon recently.
Kate gives me the parcel and takes my keys to open the front door. It’s addressed to Miss Anastasia Steele. There’s no sender’s address or name. Perhaps it’s from my mom or Ray.
“It’s probably from my folks.”
“Open it!” Kate is excited as she heads into the kitchen for our ‘Exams are finished hurrah Champagne’.
I open the parcel, and inside I find a half leather box containing three seemingly identi-cal old cloth-covered books in mint condition and a plain white card. Written on one side, in black ink in neat cursive handwriting, is:
I recognize the quote from Tess. I am stunned by the irony as I’ve just spent three hours writing about the novels of Thomas Hardy in my final examination. Perhaps there is no irony… perhaps it’s deliberate. I inspect the books closely, three volumes of Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I open the front cover. Written in an old typeface on the front plate is:
‘London: Jack R. Osgood, McIlvaine and Co., 1891.’
Holy shit - they are first editions. They must be worth a fortune, and I know immediately who’s sent them. Kate is at my shoulder gazing at the books. She picks up the card.
“First Editions,” I whisper.
“No.” Kate’s eyes are wide with disbelief. “Grey?”
“Can’t think of anyone else.”
“What does this card mean?”
“I have no idea. I think it’s a warning – honestly he keeps warning me off. I have no idea why. It’s not like I’m beating his door down.” I frown.
“I know you don’t want to talk about him, Ana, but he’s seriously into you. Warnings or no.”
I have not let myself dwell on Christian Grey for the past week. Okay… so his gray eyes are still haunting my dreams, and I know it will take an eternity to expunge the feel of his arms around me and his wonderful fragrance from my brain. Why has he sent me this?
He told me that I wasn’t for him.
“I’ve found one Tess first edition for sale in New York at $14,000. But yours looks in much better condition. They must have cost more.” Kate is consulting her good friend Google.
“This quote – Tess says it to her mother after Alec D’Urberville has had his wicked way with her.”
“I know,” muses Kate. “What is he trying to say?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t care. I can’t accept these from him. I’ll send them back with an equally baffling quote from some obscure part of the book.”
“The bit where Angel Clare says fuck off?” Kate asks with a completely straight face.
“Yes, that bit.” I giggle. I love Kate, she’s so loyal and supportive. I repack the books and leave them on the dining table. Kate hands me a glass of champagne.
“To the end of exams and our new life in Seattle,” she grins.
“To the end of exams, our new life in Seattle, and excellent results.” We clink glasses and drink.
The bar is loud and hectic, full of soon to be graduates out to get trashed. José joins us. He won’t graduate for another year, but he’s in the mood to party and gets us into the spirit of our newfound freedom by buying a pitcher of margaritas for us all. As I down my fifth, I know this is not a good idea on top of the champagne.
“So what now Ana?” José shouts at me over the noise.
“Kate and I are moving to Seattle. Kate’s parents have bought a condo there for her.”
“Dios mio, how the other half live. But you’ll be back for my show.”
“Of course, José, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” I smile, and he puts his arm around my waist and pulls me close.
“It means a lot to me that you’ll be there Ana,” he whispers in my ear. “Another margarita?”
“José Luis Rodriguez – are you trying to get me drunk? Because I think it’s working.”
I giggle. “I think I’d better have a beer. I’ll go get us a pitcher.”
“More drink, Ana!” Kate bellows.
Kate has the constitution of an ox. She’s got her arm draped over Levi, one of our fellow English students and her usual photographer on her student newspaper. He’s given up taking photos of the drunkenness that surrounds him. He only has eyes for Kate. She’s all tiny camisole, tight jeans, and high heels, hair piled high with tendrils hanging down softly around her face, her usual stunning self. Me, I’m more of a Converse and t-shirt kind of girl, but I’m wearing my most flattering jeans. I move out of José’s hold and get up from our table. Whoa. Head spin. I have to grab the back of the chair. Tequila based cocktails are not a good idea.
I make my way to the bar and decide that I should visit the powder room while I am on my feet. Good thinking, Ana. I stagger off through the crowd. Of course, there’s a line, but at least it’s quiet and cool in the corridor. I reach for my cell phone to relieve the boredom of waiting in line. Hmm… Who did I last call? Was it José? Before that a number I don’t recognize. Oh yes. Grey, I think this is his number. I giggle. I have no idea what the time is, maybe I’ll wake him. Perhaps he can tell me why he sent me those books and the cryptic message. If he wants me to stay away, he should leave me alone. I suppress a drunken grin and hit the automatic re-dial. He answers on the second ring.
“Anastasia?” He’s surprised to hear from me. Well, frankly, I’m surprised to ring him.
Then my befuddled brain registers… how does he know it’s me?
“Why did you send me the books?” I slur at him.
“Anastasia, are you okay? You sound strange.” His voice is filled with concern.
“I’m not the strange one, you are,” I accuse. There - that told him, my courage fuelled by alcohol.
“Anastasia, have you been drinking?”
“What’s it to you?”
“I’m – curious. Where are you?”
“In a bar.”
“Which bar?” He sounds exasperated.
“A bar in Portland.”
“How are you getting home?”
“I’ll find a way.” This conversation is not going how I expected.
“Which bar are you in?”
“Why did you send me the books, Christian?”
“Anastasia, where are you, tell me now.” His tone is so, so dictatorial, his usual control freak. I imagine him as an old time movie director wearing jodhpurs, holding an old fashioned megaphone and a riding crop. The image makes me laugh out loud.
“You’re so… domineering,” I giggle.
“Ana, so help me, where the fuck are you?”
Christian Grey is swearing at me. I giggle again. “I’m in Portland… s’a long way from Seattle.”
“Where in Portland?”
I hang up. Ha! Though he didn’t tell me about the books. I frown. Mission not accomplished. I am really quite drunk - my head swims uncomfortably as I shuffle with the line. Well, the object of the exercise was to get drunk. I have succeeded. This is what it’s like – probably not an experience to be repeated. The line has moved, and it’s now my turn. I stare blankly at the poster on the back of the toilet door that extols the virtues of safe sex. Holy crap, did I just call Christian Grey? Shit. My phone rings and it makes me jump. I yelp in surprise.
“Hi,” I bleat timidly in to the phone. I hadn’t reckoned on this.
“I’m coming to get you,” he says and hangs up. Only Christian Grey could sound so calm and so threatening at the same time.
Holy crap. I pull my jeans up. My heart is thumping. Coming to get me? Oh no. I’m going to be sick… no… I’m fine. Hang on. He’s just messing with my head. I didn’t tell him where I was. He can’t find me here. Besides, it will take him hours to get here from Seattle, and we’ll be long gone by then. I wash my hands and check my face in the mirror.
I look flushed and slightly unfocused. Hmm… tequila.
I wait at the bar for what feels like an eternity for the pitcher of beer and eventually return to the table.
“You’ve been gone so long.” Kate scolds me. “Where were you?”
“I was in line for the restroom.”
José and Levi are having some heated debate about our local baseball team. José pauses in his tirade to pour us all beers, and I take a long sip.
“Kate, I think I’d better step outside and get some fresh air.”
“Ana, you are such a lightweight.”
“I’ll be five minutes.”
I make my way through the crowd again. I am beginning to feel nauseous, my head is spinning uncomfortably, and I’m a little unsteady on my feet. More unsteady than usual.
Drinking in the cool evening air in the parking lot makes me realize how drunk I am.
My vision has been affected, and I’m really seeing double of everything like in old re-runs of Tom and Jerry Cartoons. I think I’m going to be sick. Why did I let myself get this messed up?
“Ana,” José has joined me. “You okay?”
“I think I’ve just had a bit too much to drink.” I smile weakly at him.
“Me too,” he murmurs, and his dark eyes are watching me intently. “Do you need a hand?” he asks and steps closer, putting his arm around me.
“José I’m okay. I’ve got this.” I try and push him away rather feebly.
“Ana, please,” he whispers, and now he’s holding me in his arms, pulling me close.
“José, what you doing?”
“You know I like you Ana, please.” He has one hand at the small of my back holding me against him, the other at my chin tipping back my head. Holy fuck… he’s going to kiss me. “No José, stop – no.” I push him, but he’s a wall of hard muscle, and I cannot shift him.
His hand has slipped into my hair, and he’s holding my head in place.
“Please, Ana, cariña,” he whispers against my lips. His breath is soft and smells too sweet – of margarita and beer. He gently trails kisses along my jaw up to the side of my mouth. I feel panicky, drunk, and out of control. The feeling is suffocating.
“José, no,” I plead. I don’t want this. You are my friend, and I think I’m going to throw up. “I think the lady said no.” A voice in the dark says quietly. Holy shit! Christian Grey, he’s here. How? José releases me.
“Grey,” he says tersely. I glance anxiously up at Christian. He’s glowering at José, and he’s furious. Crap. My stomach heaves, and I double over, my body no longer able to tolerate the alcohol, and I vomit spectacularly on to the ground.
“Ugh – Dios mio, Ana!” José jumps back in disgust. Grey grabs my hair and pulls it out of the firing line and gently leads me over to a raised flowerbed on the edge of the parking lot. I note, with deep gratitude, that it’s in relative darkness.
“If you’re going to throw up again, do it here. I’ll hold you.” He has one arm around my shoulders – the other is holding my hair in a makeshift ponytail down my back so it’s off my face. I try awkwardly to push him away, but I vomit again… and again. Oh shit…
how long is this going to last? Even when my stomach’s empty and nothing is coming up, horrible dry heaves wrack my body. I vow silently that I’ll never ever drink again. This is just too appalling for words. Finally, it stops.
My hands are resting on the brick wall of the flowerbed, barely holding me up - vomiting profusely is exhausting. Grey takes his hands off me and passes me a handkerchief.
Only he would have a monogrammed, freshly laundered, linen handkerchief. CTG. I didn’t know you could still buy these. Vaguely I wonder what the T stands for as I wipe my mouth. I cannot bring myself to look at him. I’m swamped with shame, disgusted with myself. I want to be swallowed up by the azaleas in the flowerbed and be anywhere but here.José is still hovering by the entrance to the bar, watching us. I groan and put my head in my hands. This has to be the single worst moment of my life. My head is still swimming as I try to remember a worse one – and I can only come up with Christian’s rejection – and this is so, so many shades darker in terms of humiliation. I risk a peek at him. He’s staring down at me, his face composed, giving nothing away. Turning, I glance at José who looks pretty shamefaced himself and, like me, intimidated by Grey. I glare at him. I have a few choice words for my so-called friend, none of which I can repeat in front of Christian Grey CEO. Ana who are you kidding, he’s just seen you hurl all over the ground and into the local flora. There’s no disguising your lack of ladylike behavior.
“I’ll err… see you inside,” José mutters, but we both ignore him, and he slinks off back into the building. I’m on my own with Grey. Double crap. What should I say to him?
Apologize for the phone call.
“I’m sorry,” I mutter, staring at the handkerchief which I am furiously worrying with my fingers. It’s so soft.
“What are you sorry for Anastasia?”
Oh crap, he wants his damned pound of flesh.
“The phone call mainly, being sick. Oh, the list is endless,” I murmur, feeling my skin coloring up. Please, please can I die now?
“We’ve all been here, perhaps not quite as dramatically as you,” he says dryly. “It’s about knowing your limits, Anastasia. I mean, I’m all for pushing limits, but really this is beyond the pale. Do you make a habit of this kind of behavior?”
My head buzzes with excess alcohol and irritation. What the hell has it got to do with him? I didn’t invite him here. He sounds like a middle-aged man scolding me like an errant child. Part of me wants to say, if I want to get drunk every night like this, then it’s my decision and nothing to do with him – but I’m not brave enough. Not now that I’ve thrown up in front of him. Why is he still standing there?
“No,” I say contritely. “I’ve never been drunk before and right now I have no desire to ever be again.”
I just don’t understand why he’s here. I begin to feel faint. He notices my dizziness and grabs me before I fall and hoists me into his arms, holding me close to his chest like a child.
“Come on, I’ll take you home,” he murmurs.
“I need to tell Kate.” Holy Moses, I’m in his arms again.
“My brother can tell her.”
“My brother Elliot is talking to Miss Kavanagh.”
“Oh?” I don’t understand.
“He was with me when you phoned.”
“In Seattle?” I’m confused.
“No, I’m staying at the Heathman.”
“How did you find me?”
“I tracked your cell phone Anastasia.”
Oh, of course he did. How is that possible? Is it legal? Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that’s still floating in my brain, but somehow, because it’s him, I don’t mind.
“Do you have a jacket or a purse?”
“Err… yes, I came with both. Christian, please, I need to tell Kate. She’ll worry.” His mouth presses into a hard line, and he sighs heavily.
“If you must.”
He sets me down, and, taking my hand, leads me back into the bar. I feel weak, still drunk, embarrassed, exhausted, mortified, and on some strange level absolutely off the scale thrilled. He’s clutching my hand – such a confusing array of emotions. I’ll need at least a week to process them all.
It’s noisy, crowded, and the music has started so there is a large crowd on the dance floor. Kate is not at our table, and José has disappeared. Levi looks lost and forlorn on his own.“Where’s Kate?” I shout at Levi above the noise. My head is beginning to pound in time to the thumping bass line of the music.
“Dancing,” Levi shouts, and I can tell he’s mad. He’s eyeing Christian suspiciously.
I struggle into my black jacket and place my small shoulder bag over my head so it sits at my hip. I’m ready to go, once I’ve seen Kate.
“She’s on the dance floor,” I touch Christian’s arm and lean up and shout in his ear, brushing his hair with my nose, smelling his clean, fresh smell. Oh my. All those forbidden, unfamiliar feelings that I have tried to deny surface and run amok through my drained body. I flush, and somewhere deep, deep down my muscles clench deliciously.
He rolls his eyes at me and takes my hand again and leads me to the bar. He’s served immediately, no waiting for Mr. Control-Freak Grey. Does everything come so easily to him? I can’t hear what he orders. He hands me a very large glass of iced water.
“Drink,” he shouts his order at me.
The moving lights are twisting and turning in time to the music casting strange colored light and shadows all over the bar and the clientele. He’s alternately green, blue, white, and a demonic red. He’s watching me intently. I take a tentative sip.
“All of it,” he shouts.
He’s so overbearing. He runs his hand through his unruly hair. He looks frustrated, angry. What is his problem? Apart from a silly drunk girl ringing him in the middle of the night so he thinks she needs rescuing. And it turns out she does from her over amorous friend. Then seeing her being violently ill at his feet. Oh Ana… are you ever going to live this down? My subconscious is figuratively tutting and glaring at me over her half moon specs. I sway slightly, and he puts his hand on my shoulder to steady me. I do as I’m told and drink the entire glass. It makes me feel queasy. Taking the glass from me, he places it on the bar. I notice through a blur what he’s wearing; a loose white linen shirt, snug jeans, black Converse sneakers, and a dark pinstriped jacket. His shirt is unbuttoned at the top, and I see a sprinkling of hair in the gap. In my groggy frame of mind, he looks yummy.
He takes my hand once more. Holy cow – he’s leading me onto the dance floor. Shit.
I do not dance. He can sense my reluctance, and under the colored lights, I can see his amused, slightly sardonic smile. He gives my hand a sharp tug, and I’m in his arms again, and he starts to move, taking me with him. Boy, he can dance, and I can’t believe that I’m following him step for step. Maybe it’s because I’m drunk that I can keep up. He’s holding me tight against him, his body against mine… if he wasn’t clutching me so tightly, I’m sure I would swoon at his feet. In the back of my mind, my mother’s often-recited warning comes to me: Never trust a man who can dance.
He moves us through the crowded throng of dancers to the other side of the dance floor, and we are beside Kate and Elliot, Christian’s brother. The music is pounding away, loud and leery, outside and inside my head. I gasp. Kate is making her moves. She’s dancing her ass off, and she only ever does that if she likes someone. Really likes someone. It means there’ll be three of us for breakfast tomorrow morning. Kate!
Christian leans over and shouts in Elliot’s ear. I cannot hear what he says. Elliot is tall with wide shoulders, curly blonde hair, and light, wickedly gleaming eyes. I can’t tell the color under the pulsating heat of the flashing lights. Elliot grins, and pulls Kate into his arms, where she is more than happy to be… Kate! Even in my inebriated state, I am shocked. She’s only just met him. She nods at whatever Elliot says and grins at me and waves. Christian propels us off the dance floor in double quick time.
But I never got to talk to her. Is she okay? I can see where things are heading for her and him. I need to do the safe sex lecture. In the back of my mind, I hope she reads one of the posters on the back of the toilet doors. My thoughts crash through my brain, fighting the drunk, fuzzy feeling. It’s so warm in here, so loud, so colorful – too bright. My head begins to swim, oh no… and I can feel the floor coming up to meet my face or so it feels.
The last thing I hear before I pass out in Christian Grey’s arms is his harsh epithet.
It’s very quiet. The light is muted. I am comfortable and warm, in this bed. Hmm… I open my eyes, and for a moment, I’m tranquil and serene, enjoying the strange unfamiliar surroundings. I have no idea where I am. The headboard behind me is in the shape of a massive sun. It’s oddly familiar. The room is large and airy and plushly furnished in browns and golds and beige. I have seen it before. Where? My befuddled brain struggles through its recent visual memories. Holy crap. I’m in the Heathman hotel… in a suite. I have stood in a room similar to this with Kate. This looks bigger. Oh shit. I’m in Christian Grey’s suite. How did I get here?
Fractured memories of the previous night come slowly back to haunt me. The drinking, oh no the drinking, the phone call, oh no the phone call, the vomiting, oh no the vomiting. José and then Christian. Oh no. I cringe inwardly. I don’t remember coming here.
I’m wearing my t-shirt, bra, and panties. No socks. No jeans. Holy shit.
I glance at the bedside table. On it is a glass of orange juice and two tablets. Advil.
Control freak that he is, he thinks of everything. I sit up and take the tablets. Actually, I don’t feel that bad, probably much better than I deserve. The orange juice tastes divine.
It’s thirst quenching and refreshing. Nothing beats freshly squeezed orange juice for reviv-ing an arid mouth.
There’s a knock on the door. My heart leaps into my mouth, and I can’t seem to find my voice. He opens the door anyway and strolls in.
Holy hell, he’s been working out. He’s in gray sweat pants that hang, in that way, off his hips and a gray singlet, which is dark with sweat, like his hair. Christian Grey’s sweat, the notion does odd things to me. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I feel like a two-year old, if I close my eyes then I’m not really here.
“Good morning Anastasia. How are you feeling?”
“Better than I deserve,” I mumble.
I peek up at him. He places a large shopping bag on a chair and grasps each end of the towel that he has around his neck. He’s staring at me, gray eyes dark, and as usual, I have no idea what he’s thinking. He hides his thoughts and feelings so well.
“How did I get here?” My voice is small, contrite.
He comes and sits down on the edge of the bed. He’s close enough for me to touch, for me to smell. Oh my… sweat and body wash and Christian, it’s a heady cocktail - so much better than a margarita, and now I can speak from experience.
“After you passed out, I didn’t want to risk the leather upholstery in my car taking you all the way to your apartment. So I brought you here,” he says phlegmatically.
“Did you put me to bed?”
“Yes.” His face is impassive.
“Did I throw up again?” My voice is quieter.
“Did you undress me?” I whisper.
“Yes.” He quirks an eyebrow at me as I blush furiously.
“We didn’t,” I whisper, my mouth drying in mortified horror as I can’t complete the question. I stare at my hands.
“Anastasia, you were comatose. Necrophilia is not my thing. I like my women sentient and receptive,” he says dryly.
“I’m so sorry.”
His mouth lifts slightly in a wry smile.
“It was a very diverting evening. Not one that I’ll forget in a while.”
Me neither – oh he’s laughing at me, the bastard. I didn’t ask him to come and get me.
Somehow I’ve been made to feel like the villain of the piece.
“You didn’t have to track me down with whatever James Bond stuff you’re developing for the highest bidder,” I snap at him. He stares at me, surprised, and if I’m not mistaken, a little wounded.
“Firstly, the technology to track cell phones is available over the Internet. Secondly, my company does not invest or manufacture any kind of surveillance devices, and thirdly, if I hadn’t come to get you, you’d probably be waking up in the photographer’s bed, and from what I can remember, you weren’t overly enthused about him pressing his suit,” he says acidly.
Pressing his suit! I glance up at Christian, he’s glaring at me, his gray eyes blazing, aggrieved. I try to bite my lip, but I fail to repress my laughter.
“Which medieval chronicle did you escape from?” I giggle. “You sound like a courtly knight.”
His mood visibly shifts. His eyes soften and his expression warms, and I see a trace of a smile on his beautifully chiseled lips.
“Anastasia, I don’t think so. Dark knight maybe.” His smile is sardonic, and he shakes his head. “Did you eat last night?” His tone is accusatory. I shake my head. What major transgression have I committed now? His jaw clenches, but his face remains impassive.
“You need to eat. That’s why you were so ill. Honestly Anastasia, it’s drinking rule number one.” He runs this hand through his hair, and I know it’s because he’s exasperated.
“Are you going to continue to scold me?”
“Is that what I’m doing?”
“I think so.”
“You’re lucky I’m just scolding you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday. You didn’t eat, you got drunk, you put yourself at risk.” He closes his eyes, dread etched on his lovely face, and he shudders slightly. When he opens his eyes, he glares at me. “I hate to think what could have happened to you.”
I scowl back at him. What is his problem? What’s it to him? If I was his… well I’m not. Though maybe, part of me would like to be. The thought pierces through the irritation I feel at his high-handed words. I flush at the waywardness of my subconscious - she’s doing her happy dance in a bright red hula skirt at the thought of being his.
“I would have been fine. I was with Kate.”
“And the photographer?” he snaps at me.
Hmm… young José. I’ll need to face him at some point.
“José just got out of line.” I shrug.
“Well the next time he gets out of line, maybe someone should teach him some manners.”
“You are quite the disciplinarian,” I hiss at him.
“Oh, Anastasia, you have no idea.” His eyes narrow, and then he grins wickedly. It’s disarming. One minute, I’m confused and angry, the next I’m gazing at his gorgeous smile.
Wow… I am entranced, and it’s because his smile is so rare. I quite forget what he’s talking about.
“I’m going to have a shower. Unless you’d like to shower first?” He cocks his head to one side, still grinning. My heartbeat has picked up, and my medulla oblongata has neglected to fire any synapses to make me breathe. His grin widens, and he reaches over and runs his thumb down my cheek and across my lower lip.
“Breathe, Anastasia,” he whispers and rises. “Breakfast will be here in fifteen minutes.
You must be famished.” He heads into the bathroom and closes the door.
I let out the breath that I’ve been holding. Why is he so damned attractive? Right now I want to go and join him in the shower. I have never felt this way about anyone. My hormones are racing. My skin tingles where his thumb traced over my face and lower lip.
I feel like squirming with a needy, achy… discomfort. I don’t understand this reaction.
Hmm… Desire. This is desire. This is what it feels like.
I lie back on the soft feather filled pillows. ‘If you were mine.’ Oh my – what would I do to be his? He’s the only man who has ever set my blood racing around my body. Yet, he’s so antagonizing too; he’s difficult, complicated, and confusing. One minute he rebuffs me, the next he sends me fourteen-thousand-dollar books, then he tracks me like a stalker.
And for all that, I have spent the night in his hotel suite, and I feel safe. Protected. He cares enough to come and rescue me from some mistakenly perceived danger. He’s not a dark knight at all, but a white knight in shining, dazzling armor – a classic romantic hero – Sir Gawain or Lancelot.
I scramble out of his bed frantically searching for my jeans. He emerges from the bathroom wet and glistening from the shower, still unshaven, with just a towel around his waist, and there am I – all bare legs and awkward gawkiness. He’s surprised to see me out of bed.
“If you’re looking for your jeans, I’ve sent them to the laundry.” His gaze is a dark obsidian. “They were spattered with your vomit.”
“Oh.” I flush scarlet. Why oh why does he always catch me on the back foot?
“I sent Taylor out for another pair and some shoes. They’re in the bag on the chair.”
Clean clothes. What an unexpected bonus.
“Um… I’ll have a shower,” I mutter. “Thanks.” What else can I say? I grab the bag and dart into the bathroom away from the unnerving proximity of naked Christian. Michel-angelo’s David has nothing on him.
In the bathroom, it’s all hot and steamy from where he’s been showering. I strip off my clothes and quickly clamber into the shower anxious to be under the cleansing stream of water. It cascades over me, and I hold up my face into the welcoming torrent. I want Christian Grey. I want him badly. Simple fact. For the first time in my life, I want to go to bed with a man. I want to feel his hands and his mouth on me.
He said he likes his women sentient. He’s probably not celibate then. But he’s not made a pass at me, unlike Paul or José. I don’t understand. Does he want me? He wouldn’t kiss me last week. Am I repellent to him? And yet, I’m here and he brought me here. I just don’t know what his game is? What he’s thinking? You’ve slept in his bed all night, and he’s not touched you Ana. You do the math. My subconscious has reared her ugly, snide head. I ignore her.
The water is warm and soothing. Hmm… I could stay under this shower, in his bathroom, forever. I reach for the body-wash and it smells of him. It’s a delicious smell. I rub it all over myself, fantasizing that it’s him - him rubbing this heavenly scented soap into my body, across my breasts, over my stomach, between my thighs with his long fingered hands. Oh my. My heartbeat picks up again, this feels so… so good.
“Breakfast is here.” He knocks on the door, startling me.
“Okay,” I stutter as I’m yanked cruelly out of my erotic daydream.
I climb out of the shower and grab two towels. I put my hair in one and wrap it Carmen Miranda style on my head. Hastily, I dry myself, ignoring the pleasurable feel of the towel rubbing against my over-sensitized skin.
I inspect the bag of jeans. Not only has Taylor brought me jeans and new Converse, but a pale blue shirt, socks, and underwear. Oh my. A clean bra and panties – actually to describe them in such a mundane, utilitarian way does not do them justice. They are an exquisite design of some fancy European lingerie. All pale blue lace and finery. Wow. I am in awe and slightly daunted by this underwear. . What’s more, they fit perfectly. But of course they do. I flush to think of the Buzz-Cut man in some lingerie store buying this for me. I wonder what else is in his job description.
I dress quickly. The rest of the clothing is a perfect fit. I brusquely towel-dry my hair and try desperately to bring it under control. But, as usual, it refuses to cooperate, and my only option is to restrain it with a hair tie. I shall search in my purse, when I find it. I take a deep breath. Time to face Mr. Confusing.
I’m relieved to find the bedroom empty. I hunt quickly for my purse – but it’s not in here. Taking another deep breath, I enter the living area of the suite. It’s huge. There’s an opulent, plush seating area, all overstuffed couches and soft cushions, an elaborate coffee table with a stack of large glossy books, a study area with a top-of-the-range Mac, an enormous plasma screen TV on the wall, and Christian is sitting at a dining table on the other side of the room reading a newspaper. It’s the size of a tennis court or something, not that I play tennis, though I have watched Kate a few times. Kate!
“Crap, Kate,” I croak. Christian peers up at me.
“She knows you’re here and still alive. I texted Elliot,” he says with just a trace of humor.
Oh no. I remember her fervent dancing of the night before. All her patented moves used with maximum effect to seduce Christian’s brother no less! What’s she going to think about me being here? I’ve never stayed out before. She’s still with Elliot. She’s only done this twice before, and both times I’ve had to endure the hideous pink PJs for a week from the fallout. She’s going to think I’ve had a one-night stand too.
Christian stares at me imperiously. He’s wearing a white linen shirt, collar and cuffs undone.
“Sit,” he commands, pointing to a place at the table. I make my way across the room and sit down opposite him as I’ve been directed. The table is laden with food.
“I didn’t know what you liked, so I ordered a selection from the breakfast menu.” He gives me a crooked, apologetic smile.
“That’s very profligate of you,” I murmur, bewildered by the choice, though I am hungry. “Yes, it is.” He sounds guilty.
I opt for pancakes, maple syrup, scrambled eggs, and bacon. Christian tries to hide a smile as he returns to his egg white omelet. The food is delicious.
“Tea?” he asks.
He passes me a small teapot of hot water and on the saucer is a Twining’s English Breakfast teabag. Jeez, he remembers how I like my tea.
“Your hair’s very damp,” he scolds.
“I couldn’t find the hairdryer,” I mutter, embarrassed. Not that I looked.
Christian’s mouth presses into a hard line, but he doesn’t say anything.
“Thank you for organizing the clothes.”
“It’s a pleasure, Anastasia. That color suits you.”
I blush and stare down at my fingers.
“You know, you really should learn to take a compliment.” His tone is castigating.
“I should give you some money for these clothes.”
He glares at me as if I have offended him on some level. I hurry on.
“You’ve already given me the books, which, of course, I can’t accept. But these clothes, please let me pay you back.” I smile tentatively at him.
“Anastasia, trust me, I can afford it.”
“That’s not the point. Why should you buy these for me?”
“Because I can,” his eyes flash with a wicked gleam.
“Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should,” I reply quietly as he arches an eyebrow at me, his eyes twinkling, and suddenly I feel that we’re talking about something else, but I don’t know what it is. Which reminds me…
“Why did you send me the books, Christian?” My voice is soft. He puts down his cutlery and regards me intently, his gray eyes burning with some unfathomable emotion.
Holy crap – my mouth dries.
“Well, when you were nearly run over by the cyclist – and I was holding you and you were looking up at me – all kiss me, kiss me, Christian,” he pauses and shrugs slightly, “I felt I owed you an apology and a warning.” He runs his hand through his hair. “Anastasia, I’m not a hearts and flowers kind of man, I don’t do romance. My tastes are very singular.
You should steer clear from me.” He closes his eyes as if in defeat. “There’s something about you, though, and I’m finding it impossible to stay away. But I think you’ve figured that out already.”
My appetite vanishes. He can’t stay away!
“Then don’t,” I whisper.
He gasps, his eyes wide.
“You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Enlighten me, then.”
We sit gazing at each other, neither of us touching our food.
“You’re not celibate then?” I breathe.
Amusement lights up his gray eyes.
“No, Anastasia, I’m not celibate.” He pauses for this information to sink in, and I flush scarlet. The mouth-to-brain filter is broken again. I can’t believe I’ve just said that out loud.“What are your plans for the next few days?” he asks, his voice low.
“I’m working today, from midday. What is the time?” I panic suddenly.
“It’s just after ten, you’ve plenty of time. What about tomorrow?” He has his elbows on the table, and his chin is resting on his long steepled fingers.
“Kate and I are going to start packing. We’re moving to Seattle next weekend, and I’m working at Clayton’s all this week.”
“You have a place in Seattle already?”
“I can’t remember the address. It’s in the Pike Market District.”
“Not far from me,” his lips twitch up in a half smile. “So what are you going to do for work in Seattle?”
Where is he going with all these questions? The Christian Grey Inquisition is almost as irritating as the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition.
“I’ve applied for some internships. I’m waiting to hear.”
“Have you applied to my company as I suggested?”
I flush… of course not.
“And what’s wrong with my company?”
“Your company or your Company?” I smirk.
He smiles slightly.
“Are you smirking at me, Miss Steele?” He cocks his head to one side, and I think he looks amused, but it’s hard to tell. I flush and glance down at my unfinished breakfast. I can’t look him in the eye when he uses that tone of voice.
“I’d like to bite that lip,” he whispers darkly.
Oh my. I am completely unaware that I am chewing my bottom lip. My mouth pops open as I gasp and swallow at the same time. That has to be the sexiest thing anybody has ever said to me. My heart beat spikes, and I think I’m panting. Jeez, I’m a quivering, moist mess, and he hasn’t even touched me. I squirm in my seat and meet his dark glare.
“Why don’t you?” I challenge quietly.
“Because I’m not going to touch you Anastasia - not until I have your written consent to do so.” His lips hint at a smile.
“What does that mean?”
“Exactly what I say.” He sighs and shakes his head at me, amused, but exasperated too.
“I need to show you, Anastasia. What time do you finish work this evening?”
“Well, we could go to Seattle this evening or next Saturday for dinner at my place, and I’ll acquaint you with the facts then. The choice is yours.”
“Why can’t you tell me now?” I sound petulant.
“Because I’m enjoying my breakfast and your company. Once you’re enlightened, you probably won’t want to see me again.”
Holy shit. What does that mean? Does he white-slave small children to some God-forsaken part of the planet? Is he part of some underworld crime syndicate? It would explain why he’s so rich. Is he deeply religious? Is he impotent? Surely not, he could prove that to me right now. Oh my. I flush scarlet thinking about the possibilities. This is getting me nowhere. I’d like to solve the riddle that is Christian Grey sooner rather than later. If it means that whatever secret he has is so gross that I don’t want to know him any more then, quite frankly, it will be a relief. Don’t lie to yourself – my subconscious yells at me– it’ll have to be pretty bloody bad to have you running for the hills.
He raises an eyebrow.
“Like Eve, you’re so quick to eat from the tree of knowledge,” he smirks.
“Are you smirking at me, Mr. Grey?” I ask sweetly. Pompous ass.
He narrows his eyes at me and picks up his BlackBerry. He presses one number.
“Taylor. I’m going to need Charlie Tango.”
Charlie Tango! Who’s he?
“From Portland at say twenty-thirty... No, standby at Escala… All night.”
“Yes. On call tomorrow morning. I’ll pilot from Portland to Seattle.”
“Standby pilot from twenty-two-thirty.” He puts the phone down. No please or thank you.“Do people always do what you tell them?”
“Usually, if they want to keep their jobs,” he says, deadpan.
“And if they don’t work for you?”
“Oh, I can be very persuasive, Anastasia. You should finish your breakfast. And then I’ll drop you home. I’ll pick you up at Clayton’s at eight when you finish. We’ll fly up to Seattle.”
I blink at him rapidly.
“Yes. I have a helicopter.”
I gape at him. I have my second date with Christian oh-so-mysterious Grey. From coffee to helicopter rides. Wow.
“We’ll go by helicopter to Seattle?”
He grins wickedly.
“Because I can. Finish your breakfast.”
How can I eat now? I’m going to Seattle by helicopter with Christian Grey. And he wants to bite my lip… I squirm at the thought
“Eat,” he says more sharply. “Anastasia, I have an issue with wasted food… eat.”
“I can’t eat all this.” I gape at what’s left on the table.
“Eat what’s on your plate. If you’d eaten properly yesterday, you wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be declaring my hand so soon.” His mouth sets in a grim line. He looks angry.
I frown and return to my now cold food. I’m too excited to eat, Christian. Don’t you understand? My subconscious explains. But I’m too much of a coward to voice these thoughts aloud, especially when he looks so sullen. Hmm, like a small boy. I find the thought amusing.
“What’s so funny?” he asks. I shake my head, not daring tell him and keep my eyes on my food. Swallowing my last piece of pancake, I peek up at him. He’s eyeing me speculatively.
“Good girl,” he says. “I’ll take you home when you’ve dried your hair. I don’t want you getting ill.” There’s some kind of unspoken promise in his words. What does he mean? I leave the table, wondering for a moment if I should ask permission but dismissing the idea. Sounds like a dangerous precedent to set. I head back to his bedroom. A thought stops me.
“Where did you sleep last night?” I turn to gaze at him still sitting in the dining room chair. I can’t see any blankets or sheets out here – perhaps he’s had them tidied away.
“In my bed,” he says simply, his gaze impassive again.
“Yes, it was quite a novelty for me too.” He smiles.
“Not having… sex.” There – I said the word. I blush – of course.
“No,” he shakes his head and frowns as if recalling something uncomfortable. “Sleeping with someone.” He picks up his newspaper and continues to read.
What in heaven’s name does that mean? He’s never slept with anyone? He’s a virgin? Somehow I doubt that. I stand staring at him in disbelief. He is the most mystifying person I’ve ever met. And it dawns on me that I have slept with Christian Grey, and I kick myself – what would I have given to be conscious to watch him sleep. See him vulnerable.
Somehow, I find that hard to imagine. Well, allegedly all will be revealed tonight.
In his bedroom, I hunt through a chest of drawers and find the hair dryer. Using my fingers, I dry my hair the best I can. When I’ve finished, I head into the bathroom. I want to clean my teeth. I eye Christian’s toothbrush. It would be like having him in my mouth.
Hmm… Glancing guiltily over my shoulder at the door, I feel the bristles on the toothbrush.
They are damp. He must have used it already. Grabbing it quickly, I squirt toothpaste on it and brush my teeth in double quick time. I feel so naughty. It’s such a thrill.
Grabbing my t-shirt, bra, and panties from yesterday, I put them in the shopping bag that Taylor brought and head back to the living area to hunt for my bag and jacket. Deep joy, there is a hair tie in my bag. Christian is watching me as I tie my hair into a ponytail, his expression unreadable. I feel his eyes follow me as I sit down and wait for him to finish.
He’s on his BlackBerry talking to someone.
“They want two?… How much will that cost?... Okay, and what safety measures do we have in place?… And they’ll go via Suez?… How safe is Ben Sudan?... And when do they arrive in Darfur?... Okay, let’s do it. Keep me abreast of progress.” He hangs up.
“Ready to go?”
I nod. I wonder what his conversation was about. He slips on a navy pinstriped jacket, picks up his car keys, and heads for the door.
“After you, Miss Steele,” he murmurs, opening the door for me. He looks so casually elegant.
I pause, fractionally too long, drinking in the sight of him. And to think I slept with him last night and, after all the tequila and the throwing up, he’s still here. What’s more, he wants to take me to Seattle. Why me? I don’t understand it. I head out the door recalling his words – There’s something about you – Well the feeling is entirely mutual Mr. Grey, and I aim to find out what it is.
We walk in silence down the corridor toward the elevator. As we wait, I peek up at him through my lashes, and he looks out of the corner of his eyes down at me. I smile, and his lips twitch.
The elevator arrives, and we step in. We’re alone. Suddenly, for some inexplicable reason, possibly our proximity in such an enclosed space, the atmosphere between us changes, charging with an electric, exhilarating anticipation. My breathing alters as my heart races. His head turns fractionally toward me, his eyes darkest slate. I bite my lip.
“Oh, fuck the paperwork,” he growls. He lunges at me, pushing me against the wall of the elevator. Before I know it, he’s got both of my hands in one of his in a vice-like grip above my head, and he’s pinning me to the wall using his hips. Holy shit. His other hand grabs my ponytail and yanks down, bringing my face up, and his lips are on mine. It’s only just not painful. I moan into his mouth, giving his tongue an opening. He takes full advantage, his tongue expertly exploring my mouth. I have never been kissed like this.
My tongue tentatively strokes his and joins his in a slow erotic dance that’s all about touch and sensation, all bump and grind. He brings his hand up to grasp my chin and holds me in place. I am helpless, my hands pinned, my face held, and his hips restraining me. . I feel his erection against my belly. Oh my… He wants me. Christian Grey, Greek god, wants me, and I want him, here… now, in the elevator.
“You. Are. So. Sweet,” he murmurs, each word a staccato.
The elevator stops, the doors open, and he pushes away from me in the blink of an eye, leaving me hanging. Three men in business suits look at both of us and smirk as they climb on board. My heart rate is through the roof, I feel like I’ve run an uphill race. I want to lean over and grasp my knees… but that’s just too obvious.
I glance up at him. He looks so cool and calm, like he’s been doing the Seattle Times crossword. How unfair. Is he totally unaffected by my presence? He glances at me out of the corner of his eye, and he gently blows out a deep breath. Oh, he’s affected all right
– and my very small inner goddess sways in a gentle victorious samba. The businessmen exit on the second floor. We have one more floor to travel.
“You’ve brushed your teeth,” he says, staring at me.
“I used your toothbrush,” I breathe.
His lips quirk up in a half smile.
“Oh, Anastasia Steele, what am I going to do with you?”
The doors open at the first floor, and he takes my hand and pulls me out.
“What is it about elevators?” he mutters, more to himself than to me as he strides across the lobby. I struggle to keep pace with him because my wits have been thoroughly, royally, scattered all over the floor and walls of elevator three in the Heathman Hotel.
Christian opens the passenger door to the black Audi SUV, and I clamber in. It’s a beast of a car. He hasn’t mentioned the outburst of passion that exploded in the elevator. Should I? Should we talk about it or pretend that it didn’t happen? It hardly seems real, my first proper no-holds-barred kiss. As time ticks on, I assign it mythical, Arthurian legend, Lost City of Atlantis status. It never happened, it never existed. Perhaps I imagined it all. No.
I touch my lips, swollen from his kiss. It definitely happened. I am a changed woman. I want this man, desperately, and he wanted me.
I glance at him. Christian is his usual polite, slightly distant self.
He starts the engine and reverses out of his space in the parking lot. He switches on the MP3 player. The car interior is filled with the sweetest, most magical music of two women singing. Oh wow… all my senses are in disarray, so this is doubly affecting. It sends delicious shivers up my spine. Christian pulls out on to SW Park Avenue, and he drives with easy, lazy confidence.
“What are we listening to?”
“It’s the Flower Duet by Delibes, from the opera Lakmé. Do you like it?”
“Christian, it’s wonderful.”
“It is, isn’t it?” he grins, glancing at me. And for a fleeting moment, he seems his age; young, carefree, and heart-stoppingly beautiful. Is this the key to him? Music? I sit and listen to the angelic voices, teasing and seducing me.
“Can I hear that again?”
“Of course.” Christian pushes a button, and the music is caressing me once more. It’s a gentle, slow, sweet, and sure assault on my aural senses.
“You like classical music?” I ask, hoping for a rare insight into his personal preferences.
“My taste is eclectic, Anastasia, everything from Thomas Tallis to the Kings of Leon.
It depends on my mood. You?”
“Me too. Though I don’t know who Thomas Tallis is.”
He turns and gazes at me briefly before his eyes are back on the road.
“I’ll play it for you sometime. He’s a sixteenth century British composer. Tudor, church choral music.” Christian grins at me. “Sounds very esoteric, I know, but it’s also magical, Anastasia.”
He presses a button, and the Kings of Leon start singing. Hmm… this I know. Sex on Fire. How appropriate. The music is interrupted by the sound of a cell phone ringing over the MP3 speakers. Christian hits a button on the steering wheel.
“Grey,” he snaps. He’s so brusque.
“Mr. Grey, it’s Welch here. I have the information you require.” A rasping, disembodied voice comes over the speakers.
“Good. Email it to me. Anything to add?”
He presses the button, then the call ceases and the music is back. No goodbye or thanks. I’m so glad that I never seriously entertained the thought of working for him. I shudder at the very idea. He’s just too controlling and cold with his employees. The music cuts off again for the phone.
“The NDA has been emailed to you, Mr. Grey.” A woman’s voice.
“Good. That’s all, Andrea.”
“Good day, sir.”
Christian hangs up by pressing a button on the steering wheel. The music is on very briefly when the phone rings again. Holy hell, is this his life, constant nagging phone calls?
“Grey,” he snaps.
“Hi, Christian, d’you get laid?”
“Hello, Elliot – I’m on speaker phone, and I’m not alone in the car,” Christian sighs.
“Who’s with you?”
Christian rolls his eyes.
“Heard a lot about you,” Elliot murmurs huskily. Christian frowns.
“Don’t believe a word Kate says.”
“I’m dropping Anastasia off now.” Christian emphasizes my name. “Shall I pick you up?”“Sure.”
“See you shortly.” Christian hangs up, and the music is back.
“Why do you insist on calling me Anastasia?”
“Because it’s your name.”
“I prefer Ana.”
“Do you now?” he murmurs.
We are almost at my apartment. It’s not taken long.
“Anastasia,” he muses. I scowl at him, but he ignores my expression. “What happened in the elevator - it won’t happen again, well, not unless it’s premeditated.”
He pulls up outside my duplex. I belatedly realize he’s not asked me where I live - yet he knows. But then he sent the books, of course he knows where I live. What able, cell-phone-tracking, helicopter owning, stalker wouldn’t.
Why won’t he kiss me again? I pout at the thought. I don’t understand. Honestly, his surname should be Cryptic, not Grey. He climbs out of the car, walking with easy, long-legged grace round to my side to open the door, ever the gentleman - except perhaps in rare, precious moments in elevators. I flush at the memory of his mouth on mine, and the thought that I’d been unable to touch him enters my mind. I wanted to run my fingers through his decadent, untidy hair, but I’d been unable to move my hands. I am retrospectively frustrated.
“I liked what happened in the elevator,” I murmur as I climb out of the car. I’m not sure if I hear an audible gasp, but I choose to ignore it and head up the steps to the front door.
Kate and Elliot are sitting at our dining table. The fourteen-thousand-dollar books have disappeared. Thank heavens. I have plans for them. She has the most un-Kate ridiculous grin on her face, and she looks mussed up in a sexy kind of way. Christian follows me into the living area, and in spite of her I’ve-been-having-a-good-time-all-night grin, Kate eyes him suspiciously.
“Hi Ana.” She leaps up to hug me, then holds me at arm’s length so she can examine me. She frowns and turns to Christian.
“Good morning, Christian,” she says, and her tone is a little hostile.
“Miss Kavanagh,” he says in his stiff formal way.
“Christian, her name is Kate,” Elliot grumbles.
“Kate.” Christian gives her a polite nod and glares at Elliot who grins and rises to hug me too.
“Hi, Ana,” he smiles, his blue eyes twinkling, and I like him immediately. He’s obviously nothing like Christian, but then they’re adopted brothers.
“Hi, Elliot,” I smile at him, and I’m aware that I’m biting my lip.
“Elliot, we’d better go.” Christian says mildly.
“Sure.” He turns to Kate and pulls her into his arms and gives her a long lingering kiss.
Jeez… get a room. I stare at my feet, embarrassed. I glance up at Christian, and he’s watching me intently. I narrow my eyes at him. Why can’t you kiss me like that? Elliot continues to kiss Kate, sweeping her off her feet and dipping her in a dramatic hold so that her hair touches the ground as he kisses her hard.
“Laters, baby,” he grins.
Kate just melts. I’ve never seen her melt before – the words comely and compliant come to mind. Compliant Kate, boy, Elliot must be good. Christian rolls his eyes and stares down at me, his expression unreadable, although maybe he’s mildly amused. He tucks a stray strand of my hair that has worked its way free from my ponytail behind my ear. My breath hitches at the contact, and I lean my head slightly into his fingers. His eyes soften, and he runs his thumb across my lower lip. My blood sears in my veins. And all too quickly, his touch is gone.
“Laters, baby,” he murmurs, and I have to laugh because it’s so unlike him. But even though I know he’s being irreverent, the endearment tugs at something deep inside me.
“I’ll pick you up at eight.” He turns to leave, opening the front door and stepping out on to the porch. Elliot follows him to the car but turns and blows Kate another kiss, and I feel an unwelcome pang of jealousy.
“So, did you?” Kate asks as we watch them climb into the car and drive off, the burning curiosity evident in her voice.
“No,” I snap irritably, hoping that will halt the questions. We head back into the apartment. “You obviously did, though.” I can’t contain my envy. Kate always manages to ensnare men. She is irresistible, beautiful, sexy, funny, forward… all the things that I’m not. But her answering grin is infectious.
“And I’m seeing him again this evening.” She claps her hands and jumps up and down like a small child. She cannot contain her excitement and happiness, and I can’t help but feel happy for her. A happy Kate… this is going to be interesting.
“Christian is taking me to Seattle this evening.”
“Maybe you will then?”
“Oh, I hope so.”
“You like him then?”
“Like him enough to… ?”
She raises her eyebrows.
“Wow. Ana Steele, finally falling for a man, and it’s Christian Grey – hot, sexy billionaire.”
“Oh yeah – it’s all about the money.” I smirk, and we both fall into a fit of giggles.
“Is that a new blouse?” she asks, and I let her have all the unexciting details about my night.
“Has he kissed you yet?” she asks as she makes coffee.
“Once!” she scoffs.
I nod, rather shame faced.
“He’s very reserved.”
“I don’t think odd covers it really,” I murmur.
“We need to make sure you’re simply irresistible for this evening,” she says with determination.
Oh no… this sounds like it will be time consuming, humiliating, and painful.
“I have to be at work in an hour.”
“I can work with that timeframe. Come on.” Kate grabs my hand and takes me into her bedroom.
The day drags at Clayton’s even though we’re busy. We’ve hit the summer season, so I have to spend two hours restocking the shelves once the shop is closed. It’s mindless work, and it gives me too much time to think. I’ve not really had a chance all day.
Under Kate’s tireless and frankly intrusive instruction, my legs and underarms are shaved to perfection, my eyebrows plucked, and I am buffed all over. It has been a most unpleasant experience. But she assures me that this is what men expect these days. What else will he expect? I have to convince Kate that this is what I want to do. For some strange reason, she doesn’t trust him, maybe because he’s so stiff and formal. She says she can’t put her finger on it, but I have promised to text her when I arrive in Seattle. I haven’t told her about the helicopter, she’d freak.
I also have the José issue. He’s left three messages and seven missed calls on my cell.
He’s also called home twice. Kate has been very vague as to where I am. He’ll know she’s covering for me. Kate doesn’t do vague. But I have decided to let him stew. I’m still too angry with him.
Christian mentioned some kind of written paperwork, and I don’t know if he was joking or if I’m going to have to sign something. It’s so frustrating trying to guess. And on top of all the angst, I can barely contain my excitement or my nerves. Tonight’s the night!
After all this time, am I ready for this? My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently. She’s been ready for this for years, and she’s ready for anything with Christian Grey, but I still don’t understand what he sees in me… mousey Ana Steele - it makes no sense.
He is punctual, of course, and waiting for me when I leave Clayton’s. He climbs out of the back of the Audi to open the door and smiles warmly at me.
“Good evening, Miss Steele,” he says.
“Mr. Grey.” I nod politely to him as I climb into the backseat of the car. Taylor is sitting in the driver’s seat.
“Hello, Taylor,” I say.
“Good evening, Miss Steele,” his voice is polite and professional. Christian climbs in the other side and clasps my hand, giving it a gentle squeeze that I feel all the way though my body.
“How was work?” he asks.
“Very long,” I reply, and my voice is husky, too low, and full of need.
“Yes, it’s been a long day for me too.” His tone is serious.
“What did you do?” I manage.
“I went hiking with Elliot.” His thumb strokes my knuckles, back and forth, and my heart skips a beat as my breathing accelerates. How does he do this to me? He’s only touching a very small area of my body, and the hormones are flying.
The drive to the heliport is short and, before I know it, we arrive. I wonder where the fabled helicopter might be. We’re in a built-up area of the city and even I know helicopters need space to take off and land. Taylor parks, climbs out, and opens my car door. Christian is beside me in an instant and takes my hand again.
“Ready?” he asks. I nod and want to say for anything, but I can’t articulate the words as I’m too nervous, too excited.
“Taylor.” He nods curtly at his driver, and we head into the building, straight to a set of elevators. Elevator! The memory of our kiss this morning comes back to haunt me.
I have thought of nothing else all day. Daydreaming at the register at Clayton’s. Twice Mr. Clayton had to shout my name to bring me back to Earth. To say I’ve been distracted would be the understatement of the year. Christian glances down at me, a slight smile on his lips. Ha! He’s thinking about it too.
“It’s only three floors,” he says dryly, his gray eyes dancing with amusement. He’s telepathic surely. It’s spooky.
I try to keep my face impassive as we enter the elevator. The doors close, and it’s there, the weird electrical attraction crackling between us, enslaving me. I close my eyes in a vain attempt to ignore it. He tightens his grip on my hand, and five seconds later the doors open on to the roof of the building. And there it is, a white helicopter with the name Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. written in blue with the company logo on the side. Surely this is misuse of Company property.
He leads me to a small office where an old timer sits behind the desk.
“Here’s your flight plan, Mr. Grey. All external checks are done. It’s ready and waiting sir. You’re free to go.”
“Thank you, Joe.” Christian smiles warmly at him.
Oh. Someone deserving of the polite treatment from Christian, perhaps he’s not an employee. I stare at the old guy in awe.
“Let’s go,” Christian says, and we make our way toward the helicopter. When we’re up close, it’s much bigger than I thought. I expected it to be a roadster version for two, but it has at least seven seats. Christian opens the door and directs me to one of the seats at the very front.
“Sit – don’t touch anything,” he orders as he clambers in behind me.
He shuts the door with a slam. I’m glad that the area is floodlit, otherwise I’d find it difficult to see inside the small cockpit. I sit down in my allotted seat, and he crouches beside me to strap me into the harness. It’s a four-point harness with all the straps connecting to one central buckle. He tightens both of the upper straps, so I can hardly move.
He’s so close and intent on what he’s doing. If I could only lean forward, my nose would be in his hair. He smells, clean, fresh, heavenly, but I’m fastened securely into my seat and effectively immobile. He glances up and smiles, like he’s enjoying his usual private joke, his gray eyes heated. He’s so tantalizingly close. I hold my breath as he pulls at one of the upper straps.
“You’re secure, no escaping,” he whispers, his eyes are scorching. “Breathe, Anastasia,” he adds softly. Reaching up, he caresses my cheek, running his long fingers down to my chin which he grasps between his thumb and forefinger. He leans forward and plants a brief, chaste kiss on my lips, leaving me reeling, my insides clenching at the thrilling, unexpected touch of his lips.
“I like this harness,” he whispers.
He sits down beside me and buckles himself into his seat, then begins a protracted procedure of checking gauges and flipping switches and buttons from the mind-boggling array of dials and lights and switches in front of me. Little lights wink and flash from various dials, and the whole of the instrument panel lights up.
“Put your cans on,” he says, pointing to a set of headphones in front of me. I pop them on, and the rotor blades start. They are deafening. He puts his headphones on and continues flipping various switches.
“I’m just going through all the pre-flight checks.” Christian’s disembodied voice is in my ears through the headphones. I turn and grin at him.
“Do you know what you are doing?” I ask. He turns and smiles at me.
“I’ve been a fully qualified pilot for four years, Anastasia, you’re safe with me.” He gives me a wolfish grin. “Well, while we’re flying,” he adds and winks at me.
“Are you ready?”
I nod wide eyed.
“Okay, tower. PDX this is Charlie Tango Golf – Golf Echo Hotel, cleared for take-off.
Please confirm, over.”
“Charlie Tango - you are clear. PDX to call, proceed to one four thousand, heading zero one zero, over. ”
“Roger tower, Charlie Tango set, over and out. Here we go,” he adds to me, and the helicopter rises slowly and smoothly into the air.
Portland disappears in front us as we head into US airspace, though my stomach remains firmly in Oregon. Whoa! All the bright lights shrink until they are twinkling sweetly below us. It’s like looking out from inside a fish bowl. Once we’re higher, there really is nothing to see. It’s pitch black, not even the moon to shed any light on our journey. How can he see where we’re going?
“Eerie isn’t it?” Christian’s voice is in my ears.
“How do you know you’re going the right way?”
“Here.” He points his long index finger at one of the gauges, and it shows an electronic compass. “This is an EC135 Eurocopter. One of the safest in its class. It’s equipped for night flight.” He glances and grins at me.
“There’s a helipad on top of the building I live in. That’s where we’re heading.”
Of course there’s a helipad where he lives. I am so out of my league here. His face is softly illuminated by the lights on the instrument panel. He’s concentrating hard, and he’s continually glancing at the various dials in front of him. I drink in his features from beneath my lashes. He has a beautiful profile. Straight nose, square jawed – I’d like to run my tongue along his jaw. He hasn’t shaved, and his stubble makes the prospect doubly tempting. Hmm… I’d like to feel how rough it is beneath my tongue, my fingers, against my face.
“When you fly at night, you fly blind. You have to trust the instrumentation,” he interrupts my erotic reverie.
“How long will the flight be?” I manage breathlessly. I wasn’t thinking about sex at all, no, no way.
“Less than an hour, the wind is in our favor.”
Hmm, less than an hour to Seattle… that’s not bad going, no wonder we’re flying.
I have less than an hour before the big reveal. All the muscles clench deep in my belly.
I have a serious case of butterflies. They are flourishing in my stomach. Holy shit, what has he got in store for me?
“You okay, Anastasia?”
“Yes.” My answer is short, clipped, squeezed out through my nerves.
I think he smiles, but it’s difficult to tell in the darkness. Christian flicks yet another switch.
“PDX this is Charlie Tango now at one four thousand, over.” He exchanges information with air traffic control. It all sounds very professional to me. I think we’re moving from Portland’s air space to Seattle International Airport’s.
“Understood Sea-Tac, standing by over and out.”
“Look, over there.” He points to a small pin-point of light in the far distance. “That’s Seattle.”
“Do you always impress women this way? Come and fly in my helicopter?” I ask, genuinely interested.
“I’ve never bought a girl up here, Anastasia. It’s another first for me.” His voice is quiet, serious.
Oh, that was an unexpected answer. Another first? Oh the sleeping thing, perhaps?
“Are you impressed?”
“I’m awed, Christian.”
“Awed?” And for a brief moment, he’s his age again.
“You’re just so… competent.”
“Why, thank you, Miss Steele,” he says politely. I think he’s pleased, but I’m not sure.
We ride into the dark night in silence for a while. The bright spot that is Seattle is slowly getting bigger.
“Sea-Tac tower to Charlie Tango. Flight plan to Escala in place. Please proceed. And standby. Over.”
“This is Charlie Tango, understood Sea-Tac. Standing by, over and out.”
“You obviously enjoy this,” I murmur.
“What?” He glances at me. He looks quizzical in the half-light of the instruments.
“Flying,” I reply.
“It requires control and concentration… how could I not love it? Though, my favorite is soaring.”
“Yes. Gliding to the layperson. Gliders and helicopters – I fly them both.”
“Oh.” Expensive hobbies. I remember him telling me during the interview. I like reading and occasionally going to the movies. I am out of my depth here.
“Charlie Tango come in please, over.” The disembodied voice of air traffic control interrupts my reverie. Christian answers, sounding in control and confident.
Seattle is getting closer. We are on the very outskirts now. Wow! It looks absolutely stunning. Seattle at night, from the sky…
“Looks good, doesn’t it?” Christian murmurs.
I nod enthusiastically. It looks otherworldly – unreal – and I feel like I’m on a giant film set, José’s favorite film maybe, ‘Bladerunner.’ The memory of José’s attempted kiss haunts me. I’m beginning to feel a bit cruel not calling him back. He can wait until tomorrow… surely.
“We’ll be there in a few minutes,” Christian mutters, and suddenly my blood is pounding in my ears as my heartbeat accelerates and adrenaline spikes through my system. He starts talking to air traffic control again, but I am no longer listening. Oh my… I think I’m going to faint. My fate is in his hands.
We are now flying amongst the buildings, and up ahead I can see a tall skyscraper with a helipad on top. The word Escala is painted in white on top of the building. It’s getting nearer and nearer, bigger and bigger… like my anxiety. God, I hope I don’t let him down.
He’ll find me lacking in some way. I wish I’d listened to Kate and borrowed one of her dresses, but I like my black jeans, and I’m wearing a soft mint green shirt and Kate’s black jacket. I look smart enough. I grip the edge of my seat tighter and tighter. I can do this. I can do this. I chant this mantra as the skyscraper looms below us.
The helicopter slows and hovers, and Christian sets it down on the helipad on top of the building. My heart is in my mouth. I can’t decide if it’s from nervous anticipation, relief that we’ve arrived alive, or fear that I will fail in some way. He switches the ignition off and the rotor blades slow and quiet until all I hear is the sound of my own erratic breathing.
Christian takes his headphones off, and reaches across and pulls mine off too.
“We’re here,” he says softly.
His look is so intense, half in shadow and half in the bright white light from the landing lights. Dark knight and white knight, it’s a fitting metaphor for Christian. He looks strained. His jaw is clenched and his eyes are tight. He unfastens his seatbelt and reaches over to unbuckle mine. His face is inches from mine.
“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You know that don’t you?” His tone is so earnest, desperate even, his gray eyes impassioned. He takes me by surprise.
“I’d never do anything I didn’t want to do, Christian.” And as I say the words, I don’t quite feel their conviction because at this moment in time – I’d probably do anything for this man seated beside me. But this does the trick. He’s mollified.
He eyes me warily for a moment and somehow, even though he’s so tall, he manages to ease his way gracefully to the door of the helicopter and open it. He jumps out, waiting for me to follow, and takes my hand as I clamber down on to the helipad. It’s very windy on top of the building, and I’m nervous about the fact that I’m standing at least thirty stories high in an unenclosed space. Christian wraps his arm around my waist, pulling me tightly against him.
“Come,” he shouts above the noise of the wind. He drags me over to an elevator shaft and, after tapping a number into a keypad, the doors open. It’s warm inside and all mirrored glass. I can see Christian to infinity everywhere I look, and the wonderful thing is, he’s holding me to infinity too. Christian taps another code into the keypad, then the doors close and the elevator descends.
Moments later, we’re in an all-white foyer. In the middle is a round, dark wood table, and on it is an unbelievably huge bunch of white flowers. On the walls there are paintings, everywhere. He opens two double doors, and the white theme continues through the wide corridor and directly opposite where a palatial room opens up. It’s the main living area, double height. Huge is too small a word for it. The far wall is glass and leads on to a balcony that overlooks Seattle.
To the right is an imposing ‘U’ shaped sofa that could sit ten adults comfortably. It faces a state-of-the-art stainless steel – or maybe platinum for all I know - modern fireplace.
The fire is lit and flaming gently. On the left beside us, by the entryway, is the kitchen area.
All white with dark wood worktops and a large breakfast bar which seats six.
Near the kitchen area, in front of the glass wall, is a dining table surrounded by sixteen chairs. And tucked in the corner is a full size, shiny black grand piano. Oh yes… he probably plays the piano too. There is art of all shapes and sizes on all the walls. In fact, this apartment looks more like a gallery than a place to live.
“Can I take your jacket?” Christian asks. I shake my head. I’m still cold from the wind on the helipad.
“Would you like a drink?” he asks. I blink at him. After last night! Is he trying to be funny? For one second, I think about asking for a margarita – but I don’t have the nerve.
“I’m going to have a glass of white wine, would you like to join me?”
“Yes, please,” I murmur.
I am standing in this enormous room feeling out of place. I walk over to the glass wall, and I realize that the lower half of the wall opens concertina-style on to the balcony. Seattle is lit up and lively in the background. I walk back to the kitchen area – it takes a few seconds, it’s so far from the glass wall – and Christian is opening a bottle of wine. He’s removed his jacket.
“Pouilly Fumé okay with you?”
“I know nothing about wine, Christian. I’m sure it will be fine.” My voice is soft and hesitant. My heart is thumping. I want to run. This is seriously rich. Seriously over-the-top Bill Gates style wealthy. What am I doing here? You know very well what you’re doing here - my subconscious sneers at me. Yes, I want to be in Christian Grey’s bed.
“Here.” He hands me a glass of wine. Even the glasses are rich… heavy, contempo-rary, crystal. I take a sip, and the wine is light, crisp, and delicious.
“You’re very quiet, and you’re not even blushing. In fact – I think this is the palest I’ve ever seen you, Anastasia,” he murmurs. “Are you hungry?”
I shake my head. Not for food.
“It’s a very big place you have here.”
“It’s big,” he agrees, and his eyes glow with amusement. I take another sip of wine.
“Do you play?” I point my chin at the piano.
“Of course you do. Is there anything you can’t do well?”
“Yes… a few things.” He takes a sip of his wine. He doesn’t take his eyes off me. I feel them following me as I turn and glance around this vast room. Room is the wrong word.
It’s not a room – it’s a mission statement.
“Do you want to sit?”
I nod, and he takes my hand and leads me to the large off-white couch. As I sit, I’m struck by the fact that I feel like Tess Durbeyfield looking at the new house that belongs to the notorious Alec D’Urberville. The thought makes me smile.
“What’s so amusing?” He sits down beside me, turning to face me. He rests his head on his right hand, his elbow propped on the back of the couch.
“Why did you give me Tess of the D’Urbervilles specifically?” I ask. Christian stares at me for a moment. I think he’s surprised by my question.
“Well, you said you liked Thomas Hardy.”
“Is that the only reason?” Even I can hear the disappointment in my voice. His mouth presses into a hard line.
“It seemed appropriate. I could hold you to some impossibly high ideal like Angel Clare or debase you completely like Alec D’Urberville,” he murmurs, and his gray eyes flash dark and dangerous.
“If there are only two choices, I’ll take the debasement.” I whisper, gazing at him. My subconscious is staring at me in awe. He gasps.
“Anastasia, stop biting your lip, please. It’s very distracting. You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“That’s why I’m here.”
“Yes. Would you excuse me a moment?” He disappears through a wide doorway on the far side of the room. He’s gone for a couple of minutes and returns with a document.
“This is a non-disclosure agreement.” He shrugs and has the grace to look a little embarrassed. “My lawyer insists on it.” He hands it to me. I’m completely bemused. “If you’re going for option two, debasement, you’ll need to sign this.”
“And if I don’t want to sign anything?”
“Then it’s Angel Clare high ideals, well, for most of the book anyway.”
“What does this agreement mean?”
“It means you cannot disclose anything about us. Anything, to anyone.”
I stare at him in disbelief. Holy shit. It’s bad, really bad, and now I’m very curious to know.
“Okay. I’ll sign.”
He hands me a pen.
“Aren’t you even going to read it?”
“Anastasia, you should always read anything you sign,” he admonishes me.
“Christian, what you fail to understand is that I wouldn’t talk about us to anyone, anyway. Even Kate. So it’s immaterial whether I sign an agreement or not. If it means so much to you, or your lawyer… whom you obviously talk to, then fine. I’ll sign.”
He gazes down at me, and he nods gravely.
“Fair point well made, Miss Steele.”
I lavishly sign on the dotted line of both copies and hand one back to him. Folding the other, I place it my purse and take a large swig of my wine. I’m sounding so much braver than I’m actually feeling.
“Does this mean you’re going to make love to me tonight, Christian?” Holy shit. Did I just say that? His mouth drops open slightly, but he recovers quickly.
“No, Anastasia it doesn’t. Firstly, I don’t make love. I fuck… hard. Secondly, there’s a lot more paperwork to do, and thirdly, you don’t yet know what you’re in for. You could still run for the hills. Come, I want to show you my playroom.”
My mouth drops open. Fuck hard! Holy shit, that sounds so… hot. But why are we looking at a playroom? I am mystified.
“You want to play on your Xbox?” I ask. He laughs, loudly.
“No, Anastasia, no Xbox, no Playstation. Come.” He stands, holding out his hand. I let him lead me back out to the corridor. On the right of the double doors, where we came in, another door leads to a staircase. We go up to the second floor and turn right. Producing a key from his pocket, he unlocks yet another door and takes a deep breath.
“You can leave anytime. The helicopter is on stand-by to take you whenever you want to go, you can stay the night and go home in the morning. It’s fine whatever you decide.”
“Just open the damn door, Christian.”
He opens the door and stands back to let me in. I gaze at him once more. I so want to know what’s in here. Taking a deep breath I walk in.
And it feels like I’ve time-traveled back to the sixteenth century and the Spanish Inquisition.
The first thing I notice is the smell; leather, wood, polish with a faint citrus scent. It’s very pleasant, and the lighting is soft, subtle. In fact, I can’t see the source, but it’s around the cornice in the room, emitting an ambient glow. The walls and ceiling are a deep, dark bur-gundy, giving a womb-like effect to the spacious room, and the floor is old, old varnished wood. There is a large wooden cross like an X fastened to the wall facing the door. It’s made of high-polished mahogany, and there are restraining cuffs on each corner. Above it is an expansive iron grid suspended from the ceiling, eight-foot square at least, and from it hang all manner of ropes, chains, and glinting shackles. By the door, two long, polished, ornately carved poles, like spindles from a banister but longer, hang like curtain rods across the wall. From them swing a startling assortment of paddles, whips, riding crops, and funny-looking feathery implements.
Beside the door stands a substantial mahogany chest of drawers, each drawer slim as if designed to contain specimens in a crusty old museum. I wonder briefly what the drawers actually do hold. Do I want to know? In the far corner is an oxblood leather padded bench, and fixed to the wall beside it is a wooden, polished rack that looks like a pool or billiard cue holder, but on closer inspection, it holds canes of varying lengths and widths. There’s a stout six-foot-long table in the opposite corner – polished wood with intricately carved legs – and two matching stools underneath.
But what dominates the room is a bed. It’s bigger than king-size, an ornately carved rococo four-poster with a flat top. It looks late nineteenth century. Under the canopy, I can see more gleaming chains and cuffs. There is no bedding... just a mattress covered in red leather and red satin cushions piled at one end.
At the foot of the bed, set apart a few feet, is a large oxblood chesterfield couch, just stuck in the middle of the room facing the bed. An odd arrangement… to have a couch facing the bed, and I smile to myself – I’ve picked on the couch as odd, when really it’s the most mundane piece of furniture in the room. I glance up and stare at the ceiling. There are karabiners all over the ceiling at odd intervals. I vaguely wonder what they’re for. Weirdly, all the wood, dark walls, moody lighting, and oxblood leather makes the room kind of soft and romantic… I know it’s anything but, this is Christian’s version of soft and romantic.
I turn, and he’s regarding me intently as I knew he would be, his expression completely unreadable. I walk further into the room, and he follows me. The feathery thing has me intrigued. I touch it hesitantly. It’s suede, like a small cat-of-nine-tails but bushier, and there are very small plastic beads on the end.
“It’s called a flogger,” Christian’s voice is quiet and soft.
A flogger… hmm. I think I’m in shock. My subconscious has emigrated or been struck dumb or simply keeled over and expired. I am numb. I can observe and absorb but not articulate my feelings about all this, because I’m in shock. What is the appropriate response to finding out a potential lover is a complete freaky sadist or masochist? Fear… yes… that seems to be the over-riding feeling. I recognize it now. But weirdly not of him – I don’t think he’d hurt me, well, not without my consent. So many questions cloud my mind.
Why? How? When? How often? Who? I walk toward the bed and run my hands down one of the intricately carved posts. The post is very sturdy, the craftsmanship outstanding.
“Say something,” Christian commands, his voice deceptively soft.
“Do you do this to people or do they do it to you?”
His mouth quirks up, either amused or relieved.
“People?” He blinks a couple of times as he considers his answer. “I do this to women who want me to.”
I don’t understand.
“If you have willing volunteers, why am I here?”
“Because I want to do this with you, very much.”
“Oh,” I gasp. Why?
I wander to the far corner of the room and pat the waist high padded bench and run my fingers over the leather. He likes to hurt women. The thought depresses me.
“You’re a sadist?”
“I’m a Dominant.” His eyes are a scorching gray, intense.
“What does that mean?” I whisper.
“It means I want you to willingly surrender yourself to me, in all things.”
I frown at him as I try to assimilate this idea.
“Why would I do that?”
“To please me,” he whispers as he cocks his head to one side, and I see a ghost of a smile.
Please him! He wants me to please him! I think my mouth drops open. Please Christian Grey. And I realize, in that moment, that yes, that’s exactly what I want to do. I want him to be damned delighted with me. It’s a revelation.
“In very simple terms, I want you to want to please me,” he says softly. His voice is hypnotic.
“How do I do that?” My mouth is dry, and I wish I had more wine. Okay, I understand the pleasing bit, but I am puzzled by the soft-boudoir-Elizabethan-torture set up. Do I want to know the answer?
“I have rules, and I want you to comply with them. They are for your benefit and for my pleasure. If you follow these rules to my satisfaction, I shall reward you. If you don’t, I shall punish you, and you will learn,” he whispers. I glance at the rack of canes as he says this .
“And where does all this fit in?” I wave my hand in the general direction of the room.
“It’s all part of the incentive package. Both reward and punishment.”
“So you’ll get your kicks by exerting your will over me.”
“It’s about gaining your trust and your respect, so you’ll let me exert my will over you.
I will gain a great deal of pleasure, joy, even in your submission. The more you submit, the greater my joy – it’s a very simple equation.”
“Okay, and what do I get out of this?”
He shrugs and looks almost apologetic.
“Me,” he says simply.
Oh my. Christian rakes his hand through his hair as he gazes at me.
“You’re not giving anything away, Anastasia,” he murmurs, exasperated. “Let’s go back downstairs where I can concentrate better. It’s very distracting having you in here.”
He holds his hand out to me, and now I’m hesitant to take it.
Kate had said he was dangerous, she was so right. How did she know? He’s dangerous to my health, because I know I’m going to say yes. And part of me doesn’t want to.
Part of me wants to run screaming from this room and all it represents. I am so out of my depth here.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Anastasia.” His gray eyes implore, and I know he speaks the truth. I take his hand, and he leads me out of the door.
“If you do this, let me show you.” Rather than going back downstairs, he turns right out of the playroom, as he calls it, and down a corridor. We pass several doors until we reach the one at the end. Beyond it is a bedroom with a large double bed, all in white…
everything, furniture, walls, bedding. It’s sterile and cold but with the most glorious view of Seattle through the glass wall.
“This will be your room. You can decorate it how you like, have whatever you like in here.”
“My room? You’re expecting me to move in?” I can’t hide the horror in my voice.
“Not full time. Just say, Friday evening through Sunday. We have to talk about all that, negotiate. If you want to do this,” he adds, his voice quiet and hesitant.
“I’ll sleep here?”
“Not with you.”
“No. I told you, I don’t sleep with anyone, except you, when you’re stupefied with drink.” His eyes are reprimanding.
My mouth presses in a hard line. This is what I cannot reconcile. Kind, caring Christian, who rescues me from inebriation and holds me gently while I’m throwing up into the azaleas, and the monster who possesses whips and chains in a special room.
“Where do you sleep?”
“My room is downstairs. Come, you must be hungry.”
“Weirdly, I seem to have lost my appetite,” I murmur petulantly.
“You must eat, Anastasia,” he admonishes and, taking my hand, leads me back downstairs.
Back in the impossibly big room, I am filled with deep trepidation. I am on the edge of a precipice, and I have to decide whether or not to jump.
“I’m fully aware that this is a dark path I’m leading you down, Anastasia, which is why I really want you to think about this. You must have some questions,” he says as he wanders into the kitchen area, releasing my hand.
I do. But where to start?
“You’ve signed your NDA, you can ask me anything you want, and I’ll answer.”
I stand at the breakfast bar watching him as he opens the refrigerator and pulls out a plate of different cheeses with two large bunches of green and red grapes. He sets the plate down on the worktop and proceeds to cut up a French baguette.
“Sit.” He points to one of the bar stools at the breakfast bar, and I obey his command.
If I’m going to do this, I’m going to have to get used to it. I realize he’s been this bossy since I met him.
“You mentioned paperwork.”
“Well, apart from the NDA, a contract saying what we will and won’t do. I need to know your limits, and you need to know mine. This is consensual, Anastasia.”
“And if I don’t want to do this?”
“That’s fine,” he says carefully.
“But we won’t have any sort of relationship?” I ask.
“This is the only sort of relationship I’m interesting in.”
“It’s the way I am.”
“How did you become this way?”
“Why is anyone the way they are? That’s kind of hard to answer. Why do some people like cheese and other people hate it? Do you like cheese? Mrs. Jones – my housekeeper
– has left this for supper.” He takes some large, white plates from a cupboard and places one in front of me.
We’re talking about cheese… Holy crap.
“What are your rules that I have to follow?”
“I have them written down. We’ll go through them once we’ve eaten.”
Food. How can I eat now?
“I’m really not hungry,” I whisper.
“You will eat,” he says simply. Dominating Christian, it all becomes clear. “Would you like another glass of wine?”
He pours wine into my glass and comes to sit beside me. I take a hasty sip.
“Help yourself to food, Anastasia.”
I take a small bunch of grapes. This I can manage. He narrows his eyes.
“Have you been like this for a while?” I ask.
“Is it easy to find women who want to do this?”
He raises an eyebrow at me.
“You’d be amazed,” he says dryly.
“Then why me? I really don’t understand.”
“Anastasia, I’ve told you. There’s something about you. I can’t leave you alone.” He smiles ironically. “I’m like a moth to a flame.” His voice darkens. “I want you very badly, especially now, when you’re biting your lip again.” He takes a deep breath and swallows.
My stomach somersaults – he wants me… in a weird way, true, but this beautiful, strange, kinky man wants me.
“I think you have that cliché the wrong way round.” I grumble. I am the moth and he is the flame, and I’m going to get burnt. I know.
“No. I haven’t signed anything yet, so I think I’ll hang on to my free will for a bit longer, if that’s okay with you.”
His eyes soften, and his lips turn up in a smile.
“As you wish, Miss Steele.”
“How many women?” I blurt out the question, but I’m so curious.
Oh… not as many as I thought.
“For long periods of time?”
“Some of them, yes.”
“Have you ever hurt anyone?”
“Will you hurt me?”
“What do you mean?”
“Physically, will you hurt me?”
“I will punish you when you require it, and it will be painful.”
I think I feel a little faint. I take another sip of wine. Alcohol - this will make me brave.
“Have you ever been beaten?” I ask.
Oh… that surprises me. Before I can question him on this revelation further, he interrupts my train of thought.
“Let’s discuss this in my study. I want to show you something.”
This is so hard to process. Here I was foolishly thinking that I’d spend a night of un-paralleled passion in this man’s bed, and we’re negotiating this weird arrangement.
I follow him into his study, a spacious room with another floor-to-ceiling window that opens out on to the balcony. He sits on the desk, motions for me to sit on a leather chair in front of him, and hands me a piece of paper.
“These are the rules. They may be subject to change. They form part of the contract, which you can also have. Read these rules and let’s discuss.”
The Submissive will obey any instructions given by the Dominant immediately without hesitation or reservation and in an expeditious manner. The Submissive will agree to any sexual activity deemed fit and pleasurable by the Dominant excepting those activities which are outlined in hard limits (Appendix 2). She will do so eagerly and without hesitation.
The Submissive will ensure she achieves a minimum of seven hours sleep a night when she is not with the Dominant.
The Submissive will eat regularly to maintain her health and wellbeing from a prescribed list of foods (Appendix 4). The Submissive will not snack between meals, with the exception of fruit.
During the Term, the Submissive will wear clothing only approved by the Dominant. The Dominant will provide a clothing budget for the Submissive, which the Submissive shall utilize. The Dominant shall accompany the Submissive to purchase clothing on an ad hoc basis. If the Dominant so requires, the Submissive shall during the Term any adornments the Dominant shall require, in the presence of the Dominant and any other time the Dominant deems fit.
The Dominant shall provide the Submissive with a personal trainer four times a week in hour-long sessions at times to be mutually agreed between the personal trainer and the Submissive. The personal trainer will report to the Dominant on the Submissive’s progress.
The Submissive will keep herself clean and shaved and/or waxed at all times. The Submissive will visit a beauty salon of the Dominant’s choosing at times to be decided by the Dominant, and undergo whatever treatments the Dominant sees fit.
The Submissive will not drink to excess, smoke, take recreational drugs, or put herself in any unnecessary danger.
The Submissive will not enter into any sexual relations with anyone other than the Dominant. The Submissive will conduct herself in a respectful and modest manner at all times.
She must recognize that her behavior is a direct reflection on the Dominant. She shall be held accountable for any misdeeds, wrongdoings, and misbehavior committed when not in the presence of the Dominant.
Failure to comply with any of the above will result in immediate punishment, the nature of which shall be determined by the Dominant.
“Hard limits?” I ask.
“Yes. What you won’t do, what I won’t do, we need to specify in our agreement.”
“I’m not sure about accepting money for clothes. It feels wrong.” I shift uncomfortably, the word ‘ho’ rattling round my head.
“I want to lavish money on you, let me buy you some clothes. I may need you to accompany me to functions, and I want you dressed well. I’m sure your salary, when you do get a job, won’t cover the kind of clothes I’d like you to wear.”
“I don’t have to wear them when I’m not with you?”
“Okay.” Think of them as uniform.
“I don’t want to exercise four times a week.”
“Anastasia, I need you supple, strong, and with stamina. Trust me, you need to exercise.”“But surely not four times a week, how about three?”
“I want you to do four.”
“I thought this was a negotiation?”
He purses his lips at me.
“Okay, Miss Steele, another point well made. How about an hour on three days and one day half an hour?”
“Three days, three hours. I get the impression you’re going to keep me exercised when I’m here.”
He smiles wickedly, and his eyes glow as if relieved. “Yes, I am. Okay, agreed. Are you sure you don’t want to intern at my company? You’re a good negotiator.”
“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” I stare down at his rules. Waxing! Waxing what?
“So, limits. These are mine.” He hands me another piece of paper.
No acts involving fire play
No acts involving urination or defecation and the products thereof No acts involving needles, knives, piercing, or blood
No acts involving gynecological medical instruments
No acts involving children or animals
No acts that will leave any permanent marks on the skin
No acts involving breath control
Ugh. He has to write these down! Of course – they all look very sensible, and frankly, necessary… any sane person wouldn’t want to be involved in this sort of thing surely?
Though I now feel a little queasy.
“Is there anything you’d like to add?” he asks kindly.
Crap. I’ve no idea. I am completely stumped. He gazes at me and furrows his brow.
“Is there anything you won’t do?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
I squirm uncomfortably and bite my lip.
“I’ve never done anything like this.”
“Well, when you’ve had sex, was there anything that you didn’t like doing?”
For the first time in what seems to be ages, I blush.
“You can tell me, Anastasia. We have to be honest with each other or this isn’t going to work.”
I squirm uncomfortably again and stare at my knotted fingers.
“Tell me,” he commands.
“Well… I’ve not had sex before, so I don’t know.” My voice is small. I peek up at him, and he’s staring at me, mouth-open, frozen, and pale - really pale.
“Never?” he whispers. I shake my head.
“You’re a virgin?” he breathes. I nod, flushing again. He closes his eyes and looks to be counting to ten. When he opens them again, he’s angry, glaring at me.
“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?” he growls.
Christian is running both his hands through his hair and pacing up and down his study.
Two hands – that’s double exasperation. His usual concrete control seems to have slipped a notch.
“I don’t understand why you didn’t tell me,” he castigates me.
“The subject never came up. I’m not in the habit of revealing my sexual status to everyone I meet. I mean, we hardly know each other.” I’m staring at my hands. Why am I feeling guilty? Why is he so mad? I peek up at him.
“Well, you know a lot more about me now,” he snaps, his mouth presses into a hard line. “I knew you were inexperienced, but a virgin! ” He says it like it’s a really dirty word.
“Hell, Ana, I just showed you,” he groans. “May God forgive me. Have you ever been kissed, apart from by me?”
“Of course I have.” I try my best to look affronted. Okay… maybe twice.
“And a nice young man hasn’t swept you off your feet? I just don’t understand. You’re twenty-one, nearly twenty-two. You’re beautiful.” He runs his hand through his hair again.
Beautiful. I flush with pleasure. Christian Grey thinks I’m beautiful. I knot my fingers together, staring at them hard, trying to conceal my goofy grin. Perhaps he’s near-sighted, my subconscious has reared her somnambulant head. Where was she when I needed her?
“And you’re seriously discussing what I want to do, when you have no experience.”
His brows knit together. “How have you avoided sex? Tell me, please.”
“No one’s really, you know.” Come up to scratch, only you. And you turn out to be some kind of monster. “Why are you so angry with me?” I whisper.
“I’m not angry with you, I’m angry with myself. I just assumed… ” He sighs. He regards me shrewdly and then shakes his head. “Do you want to go?” he asks, his voice gentle.
“No, unless you want me to go,” I murmur. Oh no… I don’t want to leave.
“Of course not. I like having you here.” He frowns as he says this and then glances at his watch. “It’s late.” And he turns to look at me. “You’re biting your lip.” His voice is husky, and he’s eyeing me speculatively.
“Don’t apologize. It’s just that I want to bite it too, hard.”
I gasp… how can he say things like that to me and not expect me to be affected.
“Come,” he murmurs.”
“We’re going to rectify the situation right now.”
“What do you mean? What situation?”
“Your situation. Ana, I’m going to make love to you, now.”
“Oh.” The floor has fallen away . I’m a situation. I’m holding my breath.
“That’s if you want to, I mean, I don’t want to push my luck.”
“I thought you didn’t make love. I thought you fucked hard.” I swallow, my mouth suddenly dry.
He gives me a wicked grin, the effects of which travel all the way down there.
“I can make an exception, or maybe combine the two, we’ll see. I really want to make love to you. Please, come to bed with me. I want our arrangement to work, but you really need to have some idea what you’re getting yourself into. We can start your training tonight – with the basics. This doesn’t mean I’ve come over all hearts and flowers, it’s a means to an end, but one that I want, and hopefully you do too.” His gray gaze is intense.
I flush… oh my… wishes do come true.
“But I haven’t done all the things you require from your list of rules.” My voice is all breathy, hesitant.
“Forget about the rules. Forget about all those details for tonight. I want you. I’ve wanted you since you fell into my office, and I know you want me. You wouldn’t be sitting here calmly discussing punishment and hard limits if you didn’t. Please, Ana, spend the night with me.” He holds his hand out to me, his eyes are bright, fervent… excited, and I put my hand in his. He pulls me up and into his arms so I can feel the length of his body against mine, this swift action taking me by surprise. He runs his fingers round the nape of my neck, winds my ponytail around his wrist, and gently pulls so I’m forced to look up at him. He gazes down at me.
“You are one brave young woman,” he whispers. “I am in awe of you.”
His words are like some kind of incendiary device; my blood flames. He leans down and kisses my lips gently, and he sucks at my lower lip.
“I want to bite this lip,” he murmurs against my mouth, and carefully he tugs at it with his teeth. I moan, and he smiles.
“Please Ana, let me make love to you.”
“Yes,” I whisper, because that’s why I’m here. His smile is triumphant as he releases me and takes my hand and leads me through the apartment.
His bedroom is vast. The ceiling height windows look out on a lit up, high-rise Seattle.
The walls are white, and the furnishings are pale blue. The enormous bed is ultra-modern, made of rough, grey wood, like driftwood, four posts, but no canopy. On the wall above it is a stunning painting of the sea.
I am quaking like a leaf. This is it. Finally, after all this time, I’m going to do it, with none other than Christian Grey. My breath is shallow, and I can’t take my eyes off him.
He removes his watch and places it on top of a chest of drawers that matches the bed, and removes his jacket, placing it on a chair. He’s dressed in his white linen shirt and jeans.
He is heart-stoppingly beautiful. His dark copper hair is a mess, his shirt hanging out – his gray eyes bold and dazzling. He steps out of his Converse shoes and reaches down and takes his socks off individually. Christian Grey’s feet… wow… what is it about naked feet? Turning, he gazes at me, his expression soft.
“I assume you’re not on the pill.”
“I didn’t think so.” He opens the top drawer of the chest and removes a packet of condoms. He gazes at me intently.
“Be prepared,” he murmurs. “Do you want the blinds drawn?”
“I don’t mind.” I whisper. “I thought you didn’t let anyone sleep in your bed.”
“Who says we’re going to sleep?” he murmurs softly.
“Oh.” Holy hell.
He strolls slowly toward me. Confident, sexy, eyes blazing, and my heart begins to pound. My blood’s pumping around my body. Desire, thick and hot, pools in my belly. He stands in front of me, staring down into my eyes. He’s so freaking hot.
“Let’s get this jacket off, shall we?” he says softly, and takes hold of the lapels and gently slides my jacket off my shoulders. He places it on the chair.
“Do you have any idea how much I want you, Ana Steele?” he whispers. My breath hitches. I cannot take my eyes off his. He reaches up and gently runs his fingers down my cheek to my chin.
“Do you have any idea what I’m going to do to you?” he adds, caressing my chin.
The muscles inside the deepest, darkest part of me clench in the most delicious fashion.
The pain is so sweet and sharp I want to close my eyes, but I’m hypnotized by his gray eyes staring fervently into mine. Leaning down, he kisses me. His lips are demanding, firm and slow, molding mine. He starts unbuttoning my shirt while he places feather-like kisses across my jaw, my chin, and the corners of my mouth. Slowly he peels it off me and lets it fall to the floor. He stands back and gazes at me. I’m in the pale blue lacy perfect-fit bra.
“Oh, Ana,” he breathes. “You have the most beautiful skin, pale and flawless. I want to kiss every single inch of it.”
I flush. Oh my… Why did he say he couldn’t make love? I will do anything he wants.
He grasps my hair tie, pulls it free, and gasps as my hair cascades down around my shoulders.
“I like brunettes,” he murmurs, and both of his hands are in my hair, grasping each side of my head. His kiss is demanding, his tongue and lips coaxing mine. I moan, and my tongue tentatively meets his. He puts his arms around me and hauls me against his body, squeezing me tightly. One hand remains in my hair, the other travels down my spine to my waist and down to my behind. His hand flexes over my backside and squeezes gently.
He holds me against his hips, and I feel his erection, which he languidly pushes into me.
I moan once more into his mouth. I can hardly contain the riotous feelings or is it hormones that rampage through my body. I want him so badly. Gripping his upper arms, I feel his biceps, he’s surprisingly strong… muscular. Tentatively, I move my hands up to his face and into his hair. Holy Moses. It’s so soft, unruly. I tug gently, and he groans.
He eases me toward the bed, until I feel it behind my knees. I think he’s going to push me down on to it, but he doesn’t. Releasing me, he suddenly drops to his knees. He grabs my hips with both his hands and runs his tongue around my navel, then gently nips his way to my hipbone, then across my belly to my other hipbone.
“Ah,” I groan.
Seeing him on his knees in front of me, feeling his mouth on me, it’s so unexpected,, and hot. My hands stay in his hair, pulling gently as I try to quiet my too-loud breathing.
He gazes up at me through impossibly long lashes, his eyes a scorching smoky gray. His hands reach up and undo the button on my jeans, and he leisurely pulls down the zipper.
Without taking his eyes off mine, his hands move beneath the waistband, skimming me and moving to my behind. His hands glide slowly down my backside to my thighs, removing my jeans as they go. I cannot look away. He stops and licks his lips, never breaking eye contact. He leans forward, running his nose up the apex between my thighs. I feel him.
“You smell so good,” he murmurs and closes his eyes, a look of pure pleasure on his face, and I practically convulse. He reaches up and tugs the duvet off the bed, then pushes me gently so I fall on to the mattress.
Still kneeling, he grasps my foot and undoes my Converse, pulling off my shoe and sock. I raise myself up on my elbows to see what he’s doing. I’m panting… wanting. He lifts my foot by the heel and runs his thumbnail up my instep. It’s almost painful, but I feel the movement echoed in my groin. I gasp. Not taking his eyes off mine, again he runs his tongue along my instep and then his teeth. Shit. I groan… how can I feel this, there. I fall back on to the bed, moaning. I hear his soft chuckle.
“Oh, Ana, what I could do to you,” he whispers. He removes my other shoe and sock, then stands and removes my jeans. I’m lying on his bed dressed only in my bra and panties, and he’s staring down at me.
“You’re very beautiful, Anastasia Steele. I can’t wait to be inside you.”
Holy shit. His words. He’s so seductive. He takes my breath away.
“Show me how you pleasure yourself.”
What? I frown.
“Don’t be coy, Ana, show me,” he whispers.
I shake my head.
“I don’t know what you mean.” My voice is hoarse. I hardly recognize it, laced with desire.
“How do you make yourself come? I want to see.”
I shake my head.
“I don’t,” I mumble. He raises his eyebrows, astonished for a moment, and his eyes darken, and he shakes his head in disbelief.
“Well, we’ll have to see what we can do about that.” His voice is soft, challenging, a delicious sensual threat. He undoes the buttons of his jeans and slowly pulls his jeans down, his eyes on mine the whole time. He leans down over me and, grasping each of my ankles, quickly jerks my legs apart and crawls onto the bed between my legs. He hovers over me. I am squirming with need.
“Keep still,” he murmurs, and then he leans down and kisses the inside of my thigh, trailing kisses up, over the thin lacy material of my panties, kissing me.
Oh… I can’t keep still. How can I not move? I wriggle beneath him.
“We’re going to have to work on keeping you still, baby.” He trails kisses up my belly, and his tongue dips into my navel. Still he’s heading north, kissing me across my torso.
My skin is burning. I’m flushed, too hot, too cold, and I’m clawing at the sheet beneath me. He lay down beside me, and his hand trails up from my hip, to my waist, and up to my breast. He gazes down at me, his expression unreadable, and gently cups my breast.
“You fit my hand perfectly, Anastasia,” he murmurs and dips his index finger into the cup of my bra and gently yanks it down freeing my breast, but the under wire and fabric of the cup force it upward. His finger moves to my other breast and repeats the process. My breasts swell, and my nipples harden under his steady gaze. I am trussed-up by my own bra.“Very nice,” he whispers appreciatively, and my nipples harden even more.
He blows very gently on one as his hand moves to my other breast, and his thumb slowly rolls the end of my nipple, elongating it. I groan, feeling the sweet sensation all the way to my groin. I am so wet . Oh please, I beg internally as my fingers clasp the sheet tighter. His lips close around my other nipple and he tugs, I nearly convulse.
“Let’s see if we can make you come like this,” he whispers, continuing his slow, sensual assault. My nipples bear the delicious brunt of his deft fingers and lips, setting alight every single nerve ending in my body so that my whole body sings with the sweet agony.
He just doesn’t stop.
“Oh… please,” I beg, and I pull my head back, my mouth open as I groan, my legs stiffening. Holy hell, what’s happening to me?
“Let go, baby,” he murmurs. His teeth close round my nipple, and his thumb and finger pull hard, and I fall apart in his hands, my body convulsing and shattering into a thousand pieces. He kisses me, deeply, his tongue in my mouth absorbing my cries.
Oh my. That was extraordinary. Now I know what all the fuss is about. He gazes down at me, a satisfied smile on his face, while I’m sure there’s nothing but gratitude and awe on mine.
“You are very responsive,” he breathes. “You’re going to have to learn to control that, and it’s going to be so much fun teaching you how.” He kisses me again.
My breathing is still ragged as I come down from my orgasm. His hand moves down my waist, to my hips, and then cups me, intimately... Jeez. His finger slips through the fine lace and slowly circles around me – there. Briefly he closes his eyes, and his breathing hitches.
“You’re so deliciously wet. God, I want you.” He thrusts his finger inside me, and I cry out as he does it again and again. He palms my clitoris, and I cry out once more. He pushes inside me harder and harder still. I groan.
Suddenly, he sits up and tugs my panties off and throws them on the floor. Pulling off his boxer briefs, his erection springs free. Holy cow… He reaches over to his bedside table and grabs a foil packet, and then he moves between my legs, spreading them further apart.
He kneels up and pulls a condom on to his considerable length. Oh no…Will it? How?
“Don’t worry,” he breathes, his eyes on mine, “You expand too.” He leans down, his hands on either side of my head, so he’s hovering over me, staring down into my eyes, his jaw clenched, eyes burning. It’s only now that I register he’s still wearing his shirt.
“You really want to do this?” he asks softly.
“Please,” I beg.
“Pull your knees up,” he orders softly, and I’m quick to obey. “I’m going to fuck you now, Miss Steele,” he murmurs as he positions the head of his erection at the entrance of my sex. “Hard,” he whispers, and he slams into me.
“Aargh!” I cry as I feel a weird pinching sensation deep inside me as he rips through my virginity. He stills, gazing down at me, his eyes bright with ecstatic triumph.
His mouth is open slightly, and his breathing is harsh. He groans.
“You’re so tight. You okay?”
I nod, my eyes wide, my hands on his forearms. I feel so full. He stays still, letting me acclimatize to the intrusive, overwhelming feeling of him inside me.
“I’m going to move, baby,” he breathes after a moment, his voice tight.
He eases back with exquisite slowness. And he closes his eyes and groans, and thrusts into me again. I cry out a second time, and he stills.
“More?” he whispers, his voice raw.
“Yes,” I breathe. He does it once more, and stills again.
I groan. My body accepting him… Oh, I want this.
“Again?” he breathes.
“Yes.” It’s a plea.
And he moves, but this time he doesn’t stop. He shifts onto his elbows so I can feel his weight on me, holding me down. He moves slowly at first, easing himself in and out of me. And as I grow accustomed to the alien feeling, my hips move tentatively to meet his.
He speeds up. I moan, and he pounds on, picking up speed, merciless, a relentless rhythm, and I keep up, meeting his thrusts. He grasps my head between his hands and kisses me hard, his teeth pulling at my lower lip again. He shifts slightly, and I can feel something building deep inside me, like before. I start to stiffen as he thrusts on and on. My body quivers, bows, a sheen of sweat gathers over me . Oh my… I didn’t know it would feel like this… didn’t know it could feel as good as this. My thoughts are scattering... there’s only sensation... only him... only me… oh please… I stiffen.
“Come for me, Ana,” he whispers breathlessly, and I unravel at his words, exploding around him as I climax and splinter into a million pieces underneath him. And as he comes, he calls out my name, thrusting hard, then stilling as he empties himself into me.
I am still panting, trying to slow my breathing, my thumping heart, and my thoughts are in riotous disarray. Wow… that was astounding. I open my eyes, and he has his forehead pressed against mine, his eyes closed, his breathing ragged. Christian’s eyes flicker open and gaze down at me, dark but soft. He’s still inside me. Leaning down, he gently presses a kiss against my forehead then slowly pulls out of me.
“Ooh.” I wince at the unfamiliarity.
“Did I hurt you?” Christian asks as he lies down beside me propped on one elbow. He tucks a stray strand of my hair behind my ear. And I have to grin, widely.
“You are asking me if you hurt me?”
“The irony is not lost on me,” he smiles sardonically. “Seriously, are you okay?” His eyes are intense, probing, demanding even.
I stretch out beside him, feeling loose-limbed, my bones like jelly, but I’m relaxed, deeply relaxed. I grin at him. I can’t stop grinning. Now I know what all the fuss is about.
Two orgasms… coming apart at the seams, like the spin cycle on a washing machine, wow.
I had no idea what my body was capable of, could be wound so tightly and released so violently, so gratifyingly. The pleasure was indescribable.
“You’re biting your lip, and you haven’t answered me.” He’s frowning. I grin up at him impishly. He looks glorious with his tousled hair, burning narrowed gray eyes, and serious, dark expression.
“I’d like to do that again,” I whisper. For a moment, I think I see a fleeting look of relief on his face, before the shutters come down, and he gazes at me through hooded eyes.
“Would you now, Miss Steele?” he murmurs dryly. He leans down and kisses me very gently at the corner of my mouth. “Demanding little thing aren’t you. Turn on your front.”
I blink at him momentarily, and then I turn over. He unhooks my bra and runs his hand down my back to my behind.
“You really have the most beautiful skin,” he murmurs. He shifts so that one of his legs pushes between mine, and he’s half lying across my back. I can feel the buttons of his shirt pressing into me as he gathers my hair off my face and kisses my bare shoulder.
“Why are you wearing your shirt?” I ask. He stills. After a beat, he shuffles out of his shirt, and he lies back down on me. I feel his warm skin against mine. Hmm… it feels heavenly. He has a light dusting of hair across his chest, which tickles my back.
“So you want me to fuck you again?” he whispers in my ear, and he begins to trail feather light kisses around my ear and down my neck.
His hand moves down, skimming my waist, over my hip, and down my thigh to the back of my knee. He pushes my knee up higher, and my breath hitches… oh my, what’s he doing now? He shifts so he’s between my legs, pressed against my back, and his hand travels up my thigh to my behind. He caresses my cheek slowly, and then trails his fingers down between my legs.
“I’m going to take you from behind, Anastasia,” he murmurs, and with his other hand, he grasps my hair at the nape in a fist and pulls gently, holding me in place. I cannot move my head. I am pinioned beneath him, helpless.
“You are mine,” he whispers. “Only mine. Don’t forget it.” His voice is intoxicating, his words heady, seductive. I feel his growing erection against my thigh.
His long fingers reach round to gently massage my clitoris, circling slowly. His breath is soft against my face as he slowly nips me along my jaw.
“You smell divine,” he nuzzles behind my ear. His hand rubs against me, round and round. Reflexively, my hips start to circle, mirroring his hand, as excruciating pleasure spikes through my blood like adrenaline.
“Keep still,” he orders, his voice soft but urgent, and slowly he inserts his thumb inside me, rotating it round and round, stroking the front wall of my vagina. The effect is mind-blowing – all my energy concentrating on this one small space inside my body. I moan.
“You like this?” he asks softly, his teeth grazing my outer ear, and he starts to flex his thumb slowly, in, out, in, out… his fingers still circling.
I close my eyes, trying to keep my breathing under control, trying to absorb the disordered, chaotic sensations that his fingers are unleashing on me, fire coursing through my body. I moan again.
“You’re so wet, so quickly. So responsive. Oh, Anastasia, I like that. I like that a lot,”
I want to stiffen my legs, but I can’t move. He’s pinning me down, keeping up a constant, slow, tortuous rhythm. It’s absolutely exquisite. I moan again, and he moves suddenly.
“Open your mouth,” he commands and thrusts his thumb in my mouth. My eyes fly open, blinking wildly.
“See how you taste,” he breathes against my ear. “Suck me, baby.” His thumb presses on my tongue, and my mouth closes round him, sucking wildly. I taste the saltiness on his thumb and the faint metallic tang of blood . Holy fuck. This is wrong, but holy hell is it erotic.
“I want to fuck your mouth, Anastasia, and I will soon,” his voice is hoarse, raw, his breathing more disjointed.
Fuck my mouth! I moan, and I bite down on him. He gasps, and he pulls my hair tighter, painfully, so I release him.
“Naughty, sweet girl,” he whispers, and then reaches over to the bedside table for a foil packet. “Stay still, don’t move,” he orders as he releases my hair.
He rips the foil while I’m breathing hard, my blood singing in my veins. The anticipation is exhilarating. He leans down, his weight on me again, and he grabs my hair holding my head immobile. I cannot move. I’m enticingly ensnared by him, and he’s poised and ready to take me once more.
“We’re going to go real, slow this time, Anastasia,” he breathes.
And slowly he eases into me, slowly, slowly, until he’s buried in me. Stretching, filling, relentless. I groan loudly. It feels deeper this time, delectable. I groan again, and he deliberately circles his hips and pulls back, pauses a beat, and then eases his way back in.
He repeats this motion again and again. It’s driving me insane – his teasing, deliberately slow thrusts, and the intermittent feeling of fullness is overwhelming.
“You feel so good,” he groans, and my insides start to quiver. He pulls back and waits.
“Oh no, baby, not yet,” he murmurs, and as the quivering ceases, he starts the whole delicious process again.
“Oh, please,” I beg. I’m not sure I can take much more. My body is wound so tight, craving release.
“I want you sore, baby,” he murmurs, and he continues his sweet, leisurely torment, backward, forward.
“Every time you move tomorrow, I want you to be reminded that I’ve been here. Only me. You are mine.”
“Please, Christian,” I whisper.
“What do you want, Anastasia? Tell me.”
I groan again. He pulls out and moves slowly back into me, circling his hips once more.
“Tell me,” he murmurs.
He increases the rhythm infinitesimally, and his breathing becomes more erratic. My insides start quickening, and Christian picks up the rhythm.
“You. Are. So. Sweet,” he murmurs between each thrust. “I. Want. You. So. Much.”
“You. Are. Mine. Come for me, baby,” he growls.
His words are my undoing, tipping me over the precipice. My body convulses around him, and I come, loudly calling out a garbled version of his name into the mattress, and Christian follows with two sharp thrusts, and he freezes, pouring himself into me as he finds his release. He collapses on top of me, his face in my hair.
“Fuck. Ana,” he breathes. He pulls out of me immediately and rolls onto his side of the bed. I pull my knees up to my chest, utterly spent, and immediately drift off or pass out into an exhausted sleep.
When I wake, it’s still dark. I have no idea how long I’ve slept. I stretch out beneath the duvet, and I feel sore, deliciously sore. Christian is nowhere to be seen. I sit up, staring out at the cityscape in front of me. There are fewer lights on amongst the skyscrapers, and there’s a whisper of dawn in the east. I hear the music. The lilting notes of the piano, a sad, sweet lament. Bach, I think, but I’m not sure.
I wrap the duvet round me and quietly pad down the corridor toward the big room.
Christian is at the piano, completely lost in the music he’s playing. His expression is sad and forlorn, like the music. His playing is stunning. Leaning against the wall at the entrance, I listen enraptured. He’s such an accomplished musician. He sits naked, his body bathed in the warm light cast by a solitary freestanding lamp beside the piano. With the rest of the large room in darkness, it’s like he’s in his own isolated little pool of light, untouch-able… lonely, in a bubble.
I pad quietly toward him, enticed by the sublime, melancholy music. I’m mesmerized watching his long skilled fingers as they find and gently press the keys, thinking how those same fingers have expertly handled and caressed my body. I flush and gasp at the memory and press my thighs together. He glances up, his unfathomable gray eyes bright, his expression unreadable.
“Sorry,” I whisper. “I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
A frown flits across his face.
“Surely, I should be saying that to you,” he murmurs. He finishes playing and puts his hands on his legs.
I notice now that he’s wearing PJ pants. He runs his fingers through his hair and stands.
His pants hang from his hips, in that way… oh my. My mouth goes dry as he casually strolls around the piano toward me. He has broad shoulders, narrow hips, and his abdomi-nal muscles ripple as he walks. He really is stunning.
“You should be in bed,” he admonishes.
“That was a beautiful piece. Bach?”
“Transcription by Bach, but it’s originally an oboe concerto by Alessandro Marcello.”
“It was exquisite, but very sad, such a melancholy melody.”
His lips quirk up in a half smile.
“Bed,” he orders. “You’ll be exhausted in the morning.”
“I woke and you weren’t there.”
“I find it difficult to sleep, and I’m not used to sleeping with anyone,” he murmurs. I can’t fathom his mood. He seems a little despondent, but it’s difficult to tell in the darkness. Perhaps it was the tone of the piece he was playing. He puts his arm around me and gently walks me back to the bedroom.
“How long have you been playing? You play beautifully.”
“Since I was six.”
“Oh.” Christian as a six-year-old boy… my mind conjures an image of a beautiful, copper-haired little boy with gray eyes and my heart melts – a moppet-haired kid who likes impossibly sad music.
“How are you feeling?” he asks when we are back in the room. He switches on a sidelight.
We both glance down at the bed at the same time. There’s blood on the sheets – evidence of my lost virginity. I flush, embarrassed, pulling the duvet tighter around me.
“Well, that’s going to give Mrs. Jones something to think about,” Christian mutters as he stands in front of me. He puts his hand under my chin and tips my head back, staring down at me. His eyes are intense as he examines my face. I realize that I’ve not seen his naked chest before. Instinctively, I reach out to run my fingers through the smattering of dark hair on his chest to see how it feels. Immediately, he steps back out of my reach.
“Get into bed,” he says sharply. “I’ll come and lie down with you.” His voice softens.
I drop my hand and frown. I don’t think I’ve ever touched his torso. He opens a chest of drawers and pulls out a t-shirt and quickly slips it on.
“Bed,” he orders again. I climb back onto the bed, trying not to think about the blood.
He clambers in beside me and pulls me into his embrace, wrapping his arms around me so that I’m facing away from him. He kisses my hair gently, and he inhales deeply.
“Sleep, sweet Anastasia,” he murmurs, and I close my eyes, but I can’t help feel a re-sidual melancholy either from the music or his demeanor. Christian Grey has a sad side.
Light fills the room, coaxing me from deep sleep to wakefulness. I stretch out and open my eyes. It’s a beautiful May morning, Seattle at my feet. Wow, what a view. Beside me, Christian Grey is fast asleep. Wow, what a view. I’m surprised he’s still in bed. He’s facing me, and I have an unprecedented opportunity to study him. His lovely face looks younger, relaxed in sleep. His sculptured, pouty lips are parted slightly, and his shiny, clean hair is a glorious mess. How could anyone look this good and still be legal? I remember his room upstairs… perhaps he’s not legal. I shake my head, so much to think about. It’s tempting to reach out and touch him, but like a small child, he’s so lovely when he’s asleep. I don’t have to worry about what I’m saying, what he’s saying, what plans he has, especially his plans for me.
I could gaze at him all day, but I have needs – bathroom needs. Slipping out of bed, I find his white shirt on the floor and shrug it on. I walk through a door thinking that it might be the bathroom, but I’m in a vast walk-in closet as big as my bedroom. Lines and lines of expensive suits, shirts, shoes, and ties. How can anyone need this many clothes? I tut with disapproval. Actually, Kate’s wardrobe probably rivals this. Kate! Oh no. I didn’t think about her all evening. I was supposed to text her. Crap. I’m going to be in trouble. I wonder briefly how she’s getting on with Elliot.
Returning to the bedroom, Christian is still asleep. I try the other door. It’s the bathroom, and it’s bigger than my bedroom. Why does one man need so much space? Two sinks, I notice with irony. Given he doesn’t sleep with anyone, one of them can’t have been used.
I stare at myself in the gigantic mirror above the sinks. Do I look different? I feel different. I feel a little sore, if I’m honest, and my muscles - jeez it’s like I’ve never done any exercise in my life. You don’t do any exercise in your life, my subconscious has woken.
She’s staring at me with pursed lips, tapping her foot. So you’ve just slept with him, given him your virginity, a man who doesn’t love you. In fact, he has very odd ideas about you, wants to make you some sort of kinky sex slave.
ARE YOU CRAZY? She’s shouting at me.
I wince as I look in the mirror. I am going to have to process all this. Honestly, fancy falling for a man who’s beyond beautiful, richer than Croesus, and has a Red Room of Pain waiting for me. I shudder. I’m bewildered and confused. My hair is its usual wayward self. Just-fucked hair doesn’t suit me. I try and bring order to the chaos with my fingers but fail miserably and give up – maybe I’ll find hair ties in my purse.
I’m starving. I head back out to the bedroom. Sleeping beauty is still sleeping, so I leave him and head for the kitchen.
Oh no… Kate. I left my purse in Christian’s study. I fetch it and reach for my cell phone. Three texts.
*RU OK Ana*
*Where RU Ana*
*Damn it Ana*
I call Kate. When she doesn’t answer, I leave her a groveling message to tell her I am alive and have not succumbed to Bluebeard, well not in the sense she would be worried about – or perhaps I have. Oh this is so confusing. I have to try and categorize and analyze my feelings for Christian Grey. It’s an impossible task. I shake my head in defeat. I need alone time, away from here to think.
I find two welcome hair ties at the same time in my bag and quickly tie my hair in pigtails. Yes! The more girly I look, perhaps the safer I’ll be from Bluebeard. I take my iPod out of the bag and plug my headphones in. There’s nothing like music to cook by. I slip it into the breast pocket of Christian’s shirt, turn it up loud, and start dancing.
Holy hell, I’m hungry.
I am daunted by his kitchen. It’s so sleek and modern and none of the cupboards have handles. It takes me a few seconds to deduce that I have to push the cupboard doors to open them. Perhaps I should cook Christian breakfast. He was eating an omelet the other day… um, yesterday at the Heathman. Jeez, so much has happened since then. I check in the fridge, where there are plenty of eggs, and decide I want pancakes and bacon. I set about making some batter, dancing my way round the kitchen.
Being busy is good. It allows a bit of time to think but not too deeply. Music blaring in my ears also helps to stave off deep thought. I came here to spend the night in Christian Grey’s bed, and managed it, even though he doesn’t let anyone in his bed. I smile, mission accomplished. Big time. I grin. Big, big time, and I’m distracted by the memory of last night. His words, his body, his lovemaking… I close my eyes as my body hums at the recollection, and my muscles contract deliciously deep in my belly. My subconscious scowls at me… fucking – not lovemaking – she screams at me like a harpy . I ignore her, but deep down I know she has a point. I shake my head to concentrate on the task at hand.
There is a state-of-the-art range. I think I have the hang of it. I need somewhere to keep the pancakes warm, and I start on the bacon. Amy Studt is singing in my ear about misfits. This song used to mean so much to me, that’s because I’m a misfit. I have never fitted in anywhere and now… I have an indecent proposal to consider from King Misfit himself. Why is he this way? Nature or Nurture? It’s so alien to anything I know.
I put the bacon under the grill, and while it’s cooking, I whisk some eggs. I turn, and Christian is sitting on one of the bar stools at the breakfast bar, leaning on it, his face supported by his steepled hands. He’s still wearing the t-shirt he’s slept in. Just-fucked hair really, really suits him, as does his designer stubble. He looks both amused and bewildered.
I freeze, flush, then gather myself and pull the headphones out of my ears, my knees weak at the sight of him.
“Good morning, Miss Steele. You’re very energetic this morning,” he says dryly.
“I slept well,” I stutter my explanation. His lips try to mask his smile.
“I can’t imagine why.” He pauses and frowns. “So did I, after I came back to bed.”
“Are you hungry?”
“Very,” he says with an intense look, and I don’t think he’s referring to food.
“Pancakes, bacon, and eggs?”
“I don’t know where you keep your placemats.” I shrug, trying desperately hard not to look flustered.
“I’ll do that. You cook. Would you like me to put some music on so you can continue your… err… dancing?”
I stare down at my fingers, knowing that I am turning puce.
“Please, don’t stop on my account. It’s very entertaining.” His tone is one of wry amusement.
I purse my lips. Entertaining eh? My subconscious has doubled over in laughter at me.
I turn and continue to whisk the eggs, probably beating them a little harder than they need.
In a moment, he’s beside me. He gently pulls my pigtail.
“I love these,” he whispers. “They won’t protect you.” Hmm Bluebeard…
“How would you like your eggs?” I ask tartly. He smiles.
“Thoroughly whisked and beaten,” he smirks.
I turn back to the task at hand, trying to hide my smile. He’s hard to stay mad at. Especially when he’s being so uncharacteristically playful. He opens a drawer and takes out two black slate placemats for the breakfast bar. I pour the egg mix into a pan, pull out the bacon and turn it over, and put it back under the grill.
When I turn back round, there is orange juice on the table, and he’s making coffee.
“Would you like some tea?”
“Yes, please. If you have some.”
I find a couple of plates and place them in the warming tray of the range. Christian reaches into a cupboard and pulls out some Twining’s English Breakfast tea. I purse my lips.
“Bit of a foregone conclusion wasn’t I?”
“Are you? I’m not sure we’ve concluded anything yet, Miss Steele,” he murmurs.
What does he mean by that? Our negotiations? Our, err… relationship… whatever that is? He’s still so cryptic. I serve up the breakfast onto the heated plates and lay them on the placemats. I hunt in the refrigerator and find some maple syrup.
I glance up at Christian, and he’s waiting for me to sit down.
“Miss Steele.” He motions to one of the bar stools.
“Mr. Grey.” I nod in acknowledgement. I climb up and wince slightly as I sit down.
“Just how sore are you?” he asks as he sits down. His gray eyes dark.
I flush. Why does he ask such personal questions?
“Well, to be truthful, I have nothing to compare this to,” I snap at him. “Did you wish to offer your commiserations?” I ask too sweetly. I think he’s trying to stifle a smile, but I can’t be sure.
“No. I wondered if we should continue your basic training.”
“Oh.” I stare at him dumbfounded as I stop breathing and everything inside me clenches tight. Ooh… that’s so nice. I suppress my groan.
“Eat, Anastasia.” My appetite has become uncertain again… more… more sex… yes please.
“This is delicious, incidentally.” He grins at me.
I try a forkful of omelet but can barely taste it. Basic training! I want to fuck your mouth. Does that form part of basic training?
“Stop biting your lip. It’s very distracting, and I happen to know you’re not wearing anything under my shirt which makes it even more distracting,” he growls.
I dunk my teabag in the small pot that Christian has provided. My mind is in a whirl.
“What sort of basic training did you have in mind?” I ask, my voice slightly too high, betraying my wish to sound as natural, disinterested, and calm as I can with my hormones wreaking havoc through my body.
“Well, as you’re sore, I thought we could stick to oral skills.”
I choke on my tea, and I stare at him, eyes wide and gaping. He pats me gently on the back and passes me some orange juice. I cannot tell what he’s thinking.
“That’s if you want to stay,” he adds. I glance up at him, trying to recover my equilibrium. His expression is unreadable. It’s so frustrating.
“I’d like to stay for today. If that’s okay. I have to work tomorrow.”
“What time do you have to be at work tomorrow?”
“I’ll get you to work by nine tomorrow.”
I frown. Does he want me to stay another night?
“I’ll need to go home tonight – I need clean clothes.”
“We can get you some here.”
I don’t have spare cash to spend on clothes. His hand comes up, and he grasps my chin, tugging it so my lip is released from the grip of my teeth. I’m not even aware I’ve been biting my lip.
“What is it?” he asks.
“I need to be home this evening.”
His mouth is a hard line.
“Okay, this evening,” he acquiesces. “Now eat your breakfast.”
My thoughts and my stomach are in turmoil. My appetite has vanished. I stare at my half-eaten breakfast. I’m just not hungry.
“Eat, Anastasia. You didn’t eat last night.”
“I’m really not hungry,” I whisper.
His eyes narrow.
“I would really like you to finish your breakfast.”
“What is it with you and food?” I blurt. His brow knits.
“I told you, I have issues with wasted food. Eat,” he snaps. His eyes are dark, pained.
Holy Crap. What is that all about? I pick up my fork and eat slowly, trying to chew.
I must remember not to put so much on my plate if he’s going to be weird about food. His expression softens as I carefully make my way through my breakfast. I note that he cleans his plate. He waits for me to finish, and then he clears my plate.
“You cooked, I’ll clear.”
“That’s very democratic.”
“Yes.” He frowns. “Not my usual style. After I’ve done this, we’ll take a bath.”
“Oh, okay.” Oh my… I’d much rather have a shower. My cell rings, interrupting my reverie. It’s Kate.
“Hi.” I wander over to the glass doors of the balcony, away from him.
“Ana, why didn’t you text last night?” She’s angry.
“I’m sorry, I was overtaken by events.”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“Did you?” She’s fishing for information. I roll my eyes at the expectation in her voice.
“Kate, I don’t want to talk over the phone.” Christian glances up at me.
“You did… I can tell.”
How can she tell? She’s bluffing, and I can’t talk about this. I’ve signed a damned agreement.
“What was it like? Are you okay?”
“I’ve told you I’m okay.”
“Was he gentle?”
“Kate, please!” I can’t hide my exasperation.
“Ana, don’t hold out on me, I’ve been waiting for this day for nearly four years.”
“I’ll see you this evening.” I hang up.
That is going to be one difficult square to circle. She’s so tenacious, and she wants to know – in detail, and I can’t tell her because I’ve signed a – what was it called? NDA.
She’ll freak and rightly so. I need a plan. I head back to watch Christian move gracefully around his kitchen.
“The NDA, does it cover everything?” I ask tentatively.
“Why?” he turns and gazes at me while putting the Twinings away. I flush.
“Well, I have a few questions, you know, about sex.” I stare down at my fingers. “And I’d like to ask Kate.”
“You can ask me.”
“Christian, with all due respect.” My voice fades. I can’t ask you. I’ll get your biased, kinky-as-hell, distorted world-view regarding sex. I want an impartial opinion. “It’s just about mechanics. I won’t mention the Red Room of Pain.”
He raises his eyebrows.
“Red Room of Pain? It’s mostly about pleasure, Anastasia. Believe me,” he says.
“Besides,” his tone is harsher. “Your room-mate is making the beast with two backs with my brother. I’d really rather you didn’t.”
“Does your family know about your… um predilection?”
“No. It’s none of their business.” He saunters toward me until he’s standing in front of me.
“What do you want to know?” he asks, and raising his hand runs his fingers gently down my cheek to my chin, tilting my head back so he can look directly into my eyes. I squirm inwardly. I cannot lie to this man.
“Nothing specific at the moment,” I whisper.
“Well, we can start with – how was last night for you?” His eyes burn, filled with curiosity. He’s anxious to know. Wow.
“Good,” I murmur.
His lips lift slightly.
“Me too,” he murmurs. “I’ve never had vanilla sex before. There’s a lot to be said for it. But then, maybe it’s because it’s with you.” He runs his thumb across my lower lip.
I inhale sharply. Vanilla sex?
“Come, let’s have a bath.” He leans down and kisses me. My heart leaps and desire pools way down low… way down there.
The bath is a white stone, deep, egg-shaped affair, very designer. Christian leans over and fills it from the faucet on the tiled wall. He pours some expensive looking bath oil into the water. It foams as the bath fills and smells of sweet sultry Jasmine. He stands and gazes at me, his eyes dark, then peels his t-shirt off and casts it on the floor.
“Miss Steele.” He holds his hand out.
I’m standing in the doorway, wide-eyed and wary, my arms wrapped around myself. I step forward while surreptitiously admiring his physique. He is just yummy. My subconscious swoons and passes out somewhere in the back of my head. I take his hand, and he bids me to step into the bath while I am still wearing his shirt. I do as I’m told. I’ll have to get used to it if I’m going to take him up on his outrageous offer… if! The water is enticingly hot.
“Turn around, face me,” he orders, his voice soft. I do as I’m bid. He’s watching me intently.
“I know that lip is delicious, I can attest to that, but will you stop biting it?” he says through clenched teeth. “You chewing it makes me want to fuck you, and you’re sore, okay?”
I gasp, automatically unlocking my lip, shocked.
“Yeah,” he challenges. “Got the picture.” He glares at me. I nod frantically . I had no idea I could affect him so.
“Good.” He reaches forward and takes my iPod out of the breast pocket, and he puts it by the sink.
“Water and iPods – not a clever combination,” he mutters. He reaches down, grasps the hem of my white shirt, lifts it above my head, and discards it on the floor.
He stands back to gaze at me. I’m naked for heaven’s sake. I flush crimson and stare down at my hands, level with the base of my belly, and I desperately want to disappear into the hot water and foam, but I know he won’t want that.
“Hey,” he summons me. I peek up at him, and his head is cocked to one side. “Anastasia, you’re a very beautiful woman, the whole package. Don’t hang your head like you’re ashamed. You have nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s a real joy to stand here and gaze at you.” He takes my chin in his hand and tilts my head up to reach his eyes. They are soft and warm, heated even. Oh my. He’s so close. I could just reach up and touch him.
“You can sit down now.” He halts my scattered thoughts, and I scoot down into the warm, welcoming water. Ooh… it stings. Which takes me by surprise, but it smells heavenly too, and the initial smarting pain soon ebbs away. I lie back and briefly close my eyes, relaxing in the soothing warmth. When I open them, he is gazing down at me.
“Why don’t you join me?” I ask, bravely I think – my voice husky.
“I think I will. Move forward,” he orders.
He strips out of his PJ pants and climbs in behind me. The water rises as he sits and pulls me against his chest. He places his long legs over mine, his knees bent and his ankles level with mine, and he pulls his feet apart, opening my legs. I gasp in surprise. His nose is in my hair and he inhales deeply.
“You smell so good, Anastasia.”
A tremor runs through my whole body. I am naked, in a bath with Christian Grey.
He’s naked. If someone had told me I’d be doing this when I woke up in his hotel suite yesterday, I would not have believed them.
He reaches for a bottle of body wash from the built-in shelf beside the bath and squirts some into his hand. He rubs his hands together, creating a soft, foaming lather, and he closes his hands around my neck and starts to rub the soap into my neck and shoulders, massaging firmly with his long, strong fingers. I groan. His hands on me feel good.
“You like that?” I hear his smile.
He moves down my arms, then under them to my underarms washing gently. I’m so glad Kate insisted I shave. His hands glide across to my breasts, and I inhale sharply as his fingers encircle them and start kneading gently, taking no prisoners. My body bows instinctively, pushing my breasts into his hands. My nipples are tender. Very tender, no doubt from his less-than-delicate treatment of them last night. He doesn’t linger long and glides his hands down to my stomach and belly. My breathing increases, and my heart is racing. His growing erection presses against my behind. It’s such a turn-on knowing that it’s my body making him feel this way. Ha… not your mind. My subconscious sneers. I shake off the unwelcome thought.
He stops and reaches for a washcloth as I pant against him, wanting… needing. My hands rest on his firm, muscular thighs. Squirting more soap on to the washcloth, he leans down and washes between my legs. I hold my breath. His fingers skillfully stimulating me through the cloth, it’s heavenly, and my hips start moving at their own rhythm, pushing against his hand. As the sensations take over, I tilt my head back, my eyes rolling to the back of my head, my mouth slack, and I groan. The pressure is building slowly, inexorably inside me … oh my.
“Feel it, baby,” Christian whispers in my ear and very gently grazes my earlobe with his teeth. “Feel it for me.” My legs are pinioned by his to the side of the bath, holding me prisoner, giving him easy access to this most private part of myself.
“Oh… please,” I whisper. I try to stiffen my legs as my body goes rigid. I am in a sexual thrall to this man, and he doesn’t let me move.
“I think you’re clean enough now,” he murmurs, and he stops. What! No! No! No!
My breathing is ragged.
“Why are you stopping?” I gasp.
“Because I have other plans for you Anastasia.”
What… oh my… but… I was… that’s not fair.
“Turn around. I need washing, too,” he murmurs.
Oh! Turning to face him, I’m shocked to find he has his erection firmly in his grasp.
My mouth drops open.
“I want you to become well acquainted, on first name terms if you will, with my favorite and most cherished part of my body. I’m very attached to this.”
It’s so big and growing. His erection is above the water line, the water lapping at his hips. I glance up at him and come face to face with his wicked grin. He’s enjoying my astounded expression. I realize that I’m staring. I swallow. That was inside me! It doesn’t seem possible. He wants me to touch him. Hmm… okay, bring it on.
I smile at him and reach for the body wash, squirting some soap onto my hand. I do as he’s done, lathering the soap in my hands until they are foamy. I do not take my eyes off his. My lips are parted to accommodate my breathing… very deliberately I gently bite my bottom lip and then run my tongue across it, tracing where my teeth have been. His eyes are serious and dark, and they widen as my tongue skims my lower lip. I reach forward and place one of my hands around him, mirroring how he’s holding himself. His eyes close briefly. Wow… feels much firmer than I expect. I squeeze, and he places his hand over mine.“Like this,” he whispers, and he moves his hand up and down with a firm grip round my fingers, and my fingers tighten around him. He closes his eyes again, and his breath hitches in his throat. When he opens them again, his gaze is scorching molten gray. “That’s right, baby.”
He releases my hand, leaving me to continue alone, and closes his eyes as I move up and down his length. He flexes his hips slightly into my hand and reflexively I grasp him tighter. A low groan escapes from deep within his throat. Fuck my mouth… hmm. I remember him pushing his thumb in my mouth and asking me to suck, hard. His mouth drops open slightly as his breathing increases. I lean forward, while he has his eyes closed, and place my lips around him and tentatively suck, running my tongue over the tip.
“Whoa… Ana.” His eyes fly open, and I suck harder.
Hmm… he’s soft and hard at once, like steel encased in velvet, and surprisingly tasty
– salty and smooth.
“Christ,” he groans, and he closes his eyes again.
Moving down, I push him into my mouth. He groans again. Ha! My inner goddess is thrilled. I can do this. I can fuck him with my mouth. I twirl my tongue around the tip again, and he flexes his hips. His eyes are open now, blistering with heat. His teeth are clenched as he flexes again, and I push him deeper into my mouth, supporting myself on his thighs. I feel his legs tense beneath my hands. He reaches up and grabs my pigtails and starts to really move.
“Oh… baby… that feels good,” he murmurs. I suck harder, flicking my tongue across the head of his impressive erection. Wrapping my teeth behind my lips, I clamp my mouth around him. His breath hisses between his teeth, and he groans.
“Jesus. How far can you go?” he whispers.
Hmm… I pull him deeper into my mouth so I can feel him at the back of my throat and then to the front again. My tongue swirls around the end. He’s my very own Christian Grey flavor popsicle. I suck harder and harder, pushing him deeper and deeper, swirling my tongue round and round. Hmm… I had no idea giving pleasure could be such a turn-on, watching him writhe subtly with carnal longing. My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.
“Anastasia, I’m going to come in your mouth,” his breathy tone is warning. “If you don’t want me to, stop now.” He flexes his hips again, his eyes are wide, wary, and filled with salacious need – need for me. Need for my mouth... oh my.
Holy crap. His hands are really gripping my hair. I can do this. I push even harder and, in a moment of extraordinary confidence, I bare my teeth. It tips him over the edge.
He cries out and stills, and I can feel warm, salty liquid oozing down my throat. I swallow quickly. Ugh… I’m not sure about this. But one look at him, and he’s come apart in the bath because of me, and I don’t care. I sit back and watch him, a triumphant, gloating smile tugging at the corners of my lips. His breathing is ragged. Opening his eyes, he glares at me. “Don’t you have a gag reflex?” he asks, astonished. “Christ, Ana… that was… good, really good, unexpected though.” He frowns. “You know, you never cease to amaze me.”
I smile and consciously bite my lip. He eyes me speculatively.
“Have you done that before?”
“No.” And I can’t help the small tinge of pride in my denial.
“Good,” he says complacently and, I think, relieved. “Yet another first, Miss Steele.”
He looks appraisingly at me. “Well, you get an A in oral skills. Come, let’s go to bed, I owe you an orgasm.”
Orgasm! Another one!
Quickly, he clambers out of the bath, giving me my first full glimpse of the Adonis, divinely formed, that is Christian Grey. My inner goddess has stopped dancing and is staring too, mouth open and drooling slightly. His erection tamed, but still substantial… wow. He wraps a small towel around his waist, covering the essentials, and holds out a larger fluffy white towel for me. Climbing out of the bath, I take his proffered hand. He wraps me in the towel, pulls me into his arms, and kisses me hard, pushing his tongue into my mouth.
I long to reach round and embrace him… touch him… but he has my arms trapped in the towel. I’m soon lost in his kiss. He cradles my head, his tongue exploring my mouth, and I get a sense he’s expressing his gratitude – maybe – for my first blowjob? Whoa?
He pulls away, his hands on either side of my face, staring intently into my eyes. He looks lost.
“Say yes,” he whispers fervently.
I frown, not understanding.
“Yes to our arrangement. To being mine. Please, Ana,” he whispers, emphasizing the last word and my name, pleading. He kisses me again, sweetly, passionately, before he stands back and stares at me, blinking slightly. He takes my hand and leads me back to his bedroom, leaving me reeling, so I follow him meekly. Stunned. He really wants this.
In his bedroom, he stares down at me as we stand by his bed.
“Trust me?” he asks suddenly. I nod, wide-eyed with the sudden realization that I do trust him. What’s he going to do to me now? An electric thrill hums through me.
“Good girl,” he breathes, his thumb brushing my bottom lip. He steps away into his closet and comes back with a silver-grey silk woven tie.
“Knit your hands together in front of you,” he orders as he peels the towel off me and throws it on the floor.
I do as he asks, and he binds my wrists together with his tie, knotting it firmly. His eyes are bright with wild excitement. He tugs at the binding. It’s secure. Some boy scout he must have been to learn these knots. What now? My pulse has gone through the roof, my heart beating a frantic tattoo. He runs his fingers down my pigtails.
“You look so young with these,” he murmurs and moves forward. Instinctively, I move back until I feel the bed against the back of my knees. He drops his towel, but I can’t take my eyes off his face. His expression is ardent, full of desire.
“Oh, Anastasia, what shall I do to you?” he whispers as he lowers me on to the bed, lying beside me, and raising my hands above my head.
“Keep your hands up here, don’t move them, understand?” His eyes burn into mine, and I’m breathless from their intensity. This is not a man I want to cross… ever.
“Answer me,” he demands, his voice soft.
“I won’t move my hands.” I’m breathless.
“Good girl,” he murmurs and deliberately licks his lips slowly. I’m mesmerized by his tongue as it sweeps slowly over his upper lip. He’s staring into my eyes, watching me, appraising. He leans down and plants a chaste, swift kiss on my lips.
“I’m going to kiss you all over, Miss Steele,” he says softly, and he cups my chin, pushing it up giving him access to my throat. His lips glide down my throat, kissing, sucking, and nipping, to the small dip at the base of my neck. My body leaps to attention… everywhere. My recent bath experience has made my skin hyper-sensitive. My heated blood pools low in my belly, between my legs, right down there. I groan.
I want to touch him. I move my hands and rather awkwardly, given I’m restrained, feel his hair. He stops kissing me and glares up at me, shaking his head from side to side, tutting as he does. He reaches for my hands and places them above my head again.
“Don’t move your hands, or we just have to start all over again,” he scolds me mildly.
Oh, he’s such a tease.
“I want to touch you.” My voice is all breathy and out of control.
“I know,” he murmurs. “Keep your hands above your head,” he orders, his voice forceful.
He cups my chin again and starts to kiss my throat as before. Oh… he’s so frustrating.
His hands run down my body and over my breasts as he reaches the dip at the base of my neck with his lips. He swirls the tip of his nose around it then begins a very leisurely cruise with his mouth, heading south, following the path of his hands, down my sternum to my breasts. Each one is kissed and nipped gently and my nipples tenderly sucked. Holy crap.
My hips start swaying and moving of their own accord, grinding to the rhythm of his mouth on me, and I’m desperately trying to remember to keep my hands above my head.
“Keep still,” he warns, his breath warm against my skin. Reaching my navel, he dips his tongue inside, and then gently grazes my belly with his teeth. My body bows off the bed.“Hmm. You are so sweet, Miss Steele.” His nose glides along the line between my belly and my pubic hair, biting me gently, teasing me with his tongue. Sitting up suddenly, he kneels at my feet, grasping both my ankles and spreading my legs wide.
Holy shit. He grabs my left foot, bends my knee, and brings my foot up to his mouth.
Watching and assessing my every reaction, he tenderly kisses each of my toes then bites each one of them softly on the pads. When he reaches my little toe, he bites harder, and I convulse, whimpering. He glides his tongue up my instep – and I can no longer watch him.
It’s too erotic. I’m going to combust. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to absorb and manage all the sensations he’s creating. He kisses my ankle and trails kisses up my calf to my knee, stopping just above. He then starts on my right foot, repeating the whole, seductive, mind-blowing process.
“Oh, please,” I moan as he bites my little toe, the action resonating deep in my belly.
“All good things, Miss Steele,” he breathes.
This time he doesn’t stop at my knee, he continues up the inside of my thigh, pushing my thighs apart as he does. And I know what he’s going to do, and part of me wants to push him off because I’m mortified and embarrassed. He’s going to kiss me there! I know it. And part of me is glorying in the anticipation. He turns to my other knee and kisses his way up my thigh, kissing, licking, sucking, and then he’s between my legs, running his nose up and down my sex, very softly, very gently. I writhe… oh my.
He stops, waiting for me to calm. I do and raise my head to gaze at him, my mouth open as my pounding heart struggles to come out.
“Do you know how intoxicating you smell, Miss Steele?” he murmurs, and keeping his eyes on mine, he pushes his nose into my pubic hair and inhales.
I flush scarlet, everywhere, feeling faint, and I instantly close my eyes. I can’t watch him do that!
He blows gently up the length of my sex. Oh fuck…
“I like this.” He gently tugs at my pubic hair. “Perhaps we’ll keep this.”
“Oh… please,” I beg.
“Hmm, I like it when you beg me, Anastasia.”
“Tit for tat is not my usual style, Miss Steele,” he whispers as he gently blows up and down me. “But you’ve pleased me today, and you should be rewarded.” I hear the wicked grin in his voice, and while my body is singing from his words, his tongue starts to slowly circle my clitoris as his hands hold down my thighs.
“Aargh!” I moan as my body bows and convulses at the touch of his tongue.
He swirls his tongue round and round, again and again, keeping up the torture. I’m losing all sense of self, every atom of my being concentrating hard on that small, potent powerhouse at the apex of my thighs. My legs go rigid, and he slips his finger inside me, and I hear his growling groan.
“Oh, baby. I love that you’re so wet for me.”
He moves his finger in a wide circle, stretching me, pulling at me, his tongue mirroring his actions, round and round, I groan. It is too much… My body begs for relief, and I can no longer deny it. I let go, losing all cogent thought as my orgasm seizes me, wringing my insides again and again. Holy fuck. I cry out, and the world dips and disappears from view as the force of my climax renders everything null and void.
I am panting and vaguely hear the rip of foil. Very slowly he eases into me and starts to move. Oh… my. The feeling is sore and sweet, and bold and gentle all at once.
“How’s this?” he breathes.
“Fine. Good,” I breathe. And he really starts to move, fast, hard, and large, thrusting into me over and over, implacable, pushing me and pushing me until I am close to the edge again. I whimper.
“Come for me, baby.” His voice is harsh, hard, raw at my ear, and I explode around him as he pounds rapidly into me.
“Thank fuck,” he whispers, and he thrusts hard once more and groans as he reaches his climax, pressing himself into me. Then he stills, his body rigid.
Collapsing on top of me, I feel his full weight forcing me into the mattress. I pull my tied hands over his neck and hold him the best I can. I know in that moment that I would do anything for this man. I am his. The wonder that he’s introduced me to, it’s beyond anything I could have imagined. And he wants to take it further, so much further, to a place I can’t, in my innocence, even imagine. Oh… what to do?
He leans up on his elbows and stares down at me, gray eyes intense.
“See how good we are together,” he murmurs. “If you give yourself to me, it will be so much better. Trust me, Anastasia, I can take you places you don’t even know exist.”
His words echo my thoughts. He strokes his nose against mine. I am still reeling from my extraordinary physical reaction to him, and I gaze up at him blankly, grasping for a coherent thought.
Suddenly we both become aware of voices in the hall outside his bedroom door. It takes a moment to process what I can hear.
“But if he’s still in bed, then he must be ill. He’s never in bed at this time. Christian never sleeps in.”
“Mrs. Grey, please.”
“Taylor. You cannot keep me from my son.”
“Mrs. Grey, he’s not alone.”
“What do you mean he’s not alone?”
“He has someone with him.”
“ Oh… ” Even I hear the disbelief in her voice.
Christian blinks rapidly, staring down at me, wide-eyed with humored horror.
“Shit! It’s my mother.”
He pulls out of me suddenly. I wince. He sits up on the bed and throws the used condom in a wastebasket.
“Come on, we need to get dressed – that’s if you want to meet my mother.” He grins, leaps up off the bed, and pulls on his jeans, no underwear! I struggle to sit up as I’m still tethered.
“Christian - I can’t move.”
His grin widens, and leaning down, he undoes the tie. The woven pattern has made an indented pattern around my wrists. It’s… sexy. He gazes at me. He’s amused, his eyes dancing with mirth. He kisses my forehead quickly and beams at me.
“Another first,” he acknowledges, but I have no idea what he’s talking about.
“I have no clean clothes in here.” I am filled with sudden panic, and considering what I’ve just experienced, I’m finding the panic overwhelming. His mother! Holy crap. I have no clean clothes, and she’s practically walked in on us in flagrante delicto. “Perhaps I should stay here.”
“Oh, no, you don’t,” Christian threatens. “You can wear something of mine.” He’s slipped on a white t-shirt and runs his hand through his just-fucked hair. In spite of my anxiety, I lose my train of thought. Will I ever get used to looking at this beautiful man?
His beauty is derailing.
“Anastasia, you could be wearing a sack and you’d look lovely. Please don’t worry.
I’d like you to meet my mother. Get dressed. I’ll just go and calm her down.” His mouth presses into a hard line. “I will expect you in that room in five minutes, otherwise I’ll come and drag you out of here myself in whatever you’re wearing. My t-shirts are in this drawer.
My shirts are in the closet. Help yourself.” He eyes me speculatively for a moment, then leaves the room.
Holy shit. Christian’s mother. This is so much more than I bargained for. Perhaps meeting her will help put a little part of the jigsaw in place. Might help me understand why Christian is the way he is… Suddenly, I want to meet her. I pull my shirt off the floor, and I’m pleased to discover that it has survived the night well with hardly any creases. I find my blue bra under the bed and dress quickly. But if there’s one thing I hate, it’s not wearing clean panties. I rifle through Christian’s chest of drawers and come across his boxer briefs.
After pulling on a pair of tight gray Calvin Kleins, I tug on my jeans and my Converse.
Grabbing my jacket, I dash into the bathroom and stare at my too-bright eyes, my flushed face – and my hair! Holy crap… just-fucked pigtails do not suit me either. I hunt in the vanity unit for a brush and find a comb. It will have to do. A ponytail is the only answer. I despair at my clothes. Maybe I should take Christian up on his offer of clothes.
My subconscious purses her lips and mouths the word ‘ho’. I ignore her. Struggling into my jacket, pleased that the cuffs cover the tell-tale patterns from his tie, I take a last anxious glance at myself in the mirror. This will have to do. I make my way into the main living room.
“Here she is.” Christian stands from where he’s lounging on the couch.
His expression is warm and appreciative. The sandy-haired woman beside him turns and beams at me, a full megawatt smile. She stands too. She’s impeccably attired in a camel-colored fine knit sweater dress with matching shoes. She looks groomed, elegant, beautiful, and inside I die a little, knowing I look such a mess.
“Mother, this is Anastasia Steele. Anastasia, this is Grace Trevelyan-Grey.”
Dr. Trevelyan-Grey holds her hand out to me. T… for Trevelyan?
“What a pleasure to meet you,” she murmurs. If I’m not mistaken, there is wonder and maybe stunned relief in her voice and a warm glow in her hazel eyes. I grasp her hand, and I can’t help but smile, returning her warmth.
“Dr. Trevelyan-Grey,” I murmur.
“Call me Grace,” she grins, and Christian frowns. “I am usually Dr. Trevelyan, and Mrs. Grey is my mother-in-law.” She winks. “So how did you two meet?” She looks questioningly at Christian, unable to hide her curiosity.
“Anastasia interviewed me for the student paper at WSU because I’m conferring the degrees there this week.”
Double crap. I’d forgotten that.
“So you are graduating this week?” Grace asks.
My cell phone starts ringing. Kate, I bet.
“Excuse me.” It’s in the kitchen. I wander over and lean across the breakfast bar, not checking the number.
“Dios mio! Ana!” Holy crap, it’s José. He sounds desperate. “Where are you? I’ve been trying to contact you. I need to see you, to apologize for my behavior on Friday. Why haven’t you returned my calls?”
“Look José, now’s not a good time.” I glance anxiously over at Christian who’s watching me intently, his face impassive as he murmurs something to his mom. I turn my back to him.
“Where are you? Kate is being so evasive,” he whines.
“I’m in Seattle.”
“What are you doing in Seattle? Are you with him?”
“José, I’ll call you later. I can’t talk to you now.” I hang up.
I walk as nonchalantly back to Christian and his mother. Grace is in full flow.
“… And Elliot called to say you were around – I haven’t seen you for two weeks, darling.”
“Did he now?” Christian murmurs, gazing at me, his expression unreadable.
“I thought we might have lunch together, but I can see you have other plans, and I don’t want to interrupt your day.” She gathers up her long cream coat and turns to him, offering him her cheek. He kisses her briefly, sweetly. She doesn’t touch him.
“I have to drive Anastasia back to Portland.”
“Of course, darling. Anastasia, it’s been such a pleasure. I do hope we meet again.”
She holds her hand out to me, her eyes glowing, and we shake.
Taylor appears from… where?
“Mrs. Grey?” he asks.
“Thank you, Taylor.” He escorts her from the room and through the double doors to the foyer. Taylor was here the whole time? How long has he been here? Where has he been?
Christian glares at me.
“So the photographer called?”
“What did he want?”
“Just to apologize, you know – for Friday.”
Christian narrows his eyes.
“I see,” he says simply.
“Mr. Grey, there’s an issue with the Darfur shipment.”
Christian nods curtly at him.
“Charlie Tango back at Boeing Field?”
Taylor nods at me.
I smile tentatively back at him, and he turns and leaves.
“Does he live here? Taylor?”
“Yes.” His tone is clipped. What is his problem?
Christian heads over to the kitchen and picks up his BlackBerry, scrolling through some emails, I assume. His mouth presses in a hard line, and he makes a call.
“Ros, what’s the issue?” he snaps. He listens, watching me, gray eyes speculative, as I stand in the middle of the huge room wondering what to do with myself, feeling extraordinarily self-conscious and out of place.
“I’m not having either crew put at risk. No, cancel… We’ll air drop instead… Good.”
He hangs up. The warmth in his eyes has disappeared. He looks forbidding, and with one quick glance at me, he heads into his study and returns a moment later.
“This is the contract. Read it, and we’ll discuss it next weekend. May I suggest you do some research, so you know what’s involved.” He pauses. “That’s if you agree, and I really hope you do.” He adds, his tone softer, anxious.
“You’ll be amazed what you can find on the Internet,” he murmurs.
Internet! I don’t have access to a computer, only Kate’s laptop, and I couldn’t use Clayton’s, not for this sort of ‘research’ surely?
“What is it?” he asks, cocking his head to one side.
“I don’t have a computer. I’ll see if I can use Kate’s laptop.”
He hands me a manila envelope.
“I’m sure I can… err, lend you one. Grab your things, we’ll drive back to Portland and grab some lunch on the way. I need to dress.”
“I’ll just make a call,” I murmur. I just want to hear Kate’s voice. He frowns.
“The photographer?” His jaw clenches, and his eyes burn. I blink at him. “I don’t like to share, Miss Steele. Remember that.” His quiet, chilling tone is a warning, and with one long, cold look at me, he heads back to the bedroom.
Holy crap. I just wanted to call Kate, I want to call after him, but his sudden aloofness has left me paralyzed. What happened to the generous, relaxed, smiling man who was making love to me not half an hour ago?
“Ready?” Christian asks as we stand by the double doors to the foyer.
I nod uncertainly. He’s resumed his distant, polite, uptight persona, his mask back up and on show. He’s carrying a leather messenger bag. Why does he need that? Perhaps he’s staying in Portland, and then I remember graduation. Oh yes… he’ll be there on Thursday.
He’s wearing a black leather jacket. He certainly doesn’t look like the multi-multi million-aire, billionaire, what-ever-aire, in these clothes. He looks like a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, maybe a badly behaved rock star or a catwalk model. I sigh inwardly, wishing I had a tenth of his poise. He’s so calm and controlled. I frown, recalling his outburst about José… Well, he seems to be.
Taylor is hovering in the background.
“Tomorrow then,” he says to Taylor who nods.
“Yes sir. Which car are you taking, sir?”
He looks down at me briefly.
“Safe trip, Mr. Grey. Miss Steele.” Taylor looks kindly at me, though perhaps there’s a hint of pity hidden in the depths of his eyes.
No doubt he thinks I’ve succumbed to Mr. Grey’s dubious sexual habits. Not yet, just his exceptional sexual habits, or perhaps sex is like that for everyone. I frown at the thought. I have no comparison, and I can’t ask Kate. That’s something I am going to have to address with Christian. It’s perfectly natural that I should talk to someone – and I can’t talk to him if he is so open one minute and so standoffish the next.
Taylor holds the door open for us and ushers us through. Christian summons the elevator. “What is it, Anastasia?” he asks. How does he know I’m chewing something over in my mind? He reaches up and pulls my chin.
“Stop biting your lip, or I will fuck you in the elevator, and I don’t care who gets in with us.”
I blush, but there’s a hint of a smile around his lips, finally his mood seems to be shifting.“Christian, I have a problem.”
“Oh?” I have his full attention.
The elevator arrives. We walk in, and Christian presses the button marked G.
“Well,” I flush. How to say this? “I need to talk to Kate. I’ve so many questions about sex, and you’re too involved. If you want me to do all these things, how do I know–?” I pause, struggling to find the right words. “I just don’t have any terms of reference.”
He rolls his eyes at me.
“Talk to her if you must.” He sounds exasperated. “Make sure she doesn’t mention anything to Elliot.”
I bristle at his insinuation. Kate isn’t like that.
“She wouldn’t do that, and I wouldn’t tell you anything she tells me about Elliot – if she were to tell me anything,” I add quickly.
“Well, the difference is that I don’t want to know about his sex life,” Christian murmurs dryly. “Elliot’s a nosy bastard. But only about what we’ve done so far,” he warns.
“She’d probably have my balls if she knew what I wanted to do to you,” he adds so softly I’m not sure I’m supposed to hear it.
“Okay,” I agree readily, smiling up at him, relieved. The thought of Kate with Christian’s balls is not something I want to dwell on.
His lip quirks up at me, and he shakes his head.
“The sooner I have your submission the better, and we can stop all this,” he murmurs.
“Stop all what?”
“You, defying me.” He reaches down and cups my chin and plants a swift, sweet kiss on my lips as the doors to the elevator open. He grabs my hand and leads me into the underground garage.
Me, defying him… how?
Beside the elevator, I can see the black 4x4 Audi, but it’s the sleek, black sporty number that blips open and lights up when he points the key fob at it. It’s one of those cars that should have a very leggy blonde, wearing nothing but a sash, sprawled across the hood.
“Nice car,” I murmur dryly.
He glances up and grins.
“I know,” he says, and for a split second, sweet, young, carefree Christian is back. It warms my heart. He’s so excited. Boys and their toys. I roll my eyes at him but can’t stifle my smile. He opens the door for me and I climb in. Whoa… it’s low. He moves round the car with easy grace and folds his long frame elegantly in beside me . How does he do that?
“So what sort of car is this?”
“It’s an Audi R8 Spyder. It’s a lovely day, we can take the top down. There’s a baseball cap in there. In fact there should be two.” He points to the glove box. “And sunglasses if you want them.”
He starts the ignition, and the engine roars behind us. He places his bag in the space behind our seats, presses a button, and the roof slowly reclines. With the flick of a switch, Bruce Springsteen surrounds us.
“Gotta love Bruce,” he grins at me and eases the car out of the parking space, and up the steep ramp where we pause for the barrier.
Then we’re out into the bright Seattle May morning. I reach into the glove box and retrieve the baseball caps. The Mariners. He likes baseball? I pass him a cap, and he puts it on. I pass my ponytail through the back of mine and pull the peak down low.
People stare at us as we drive through the streets. For a moment, I think it’s at him…
and then a very paranoid part thinks everyone is looking at me because they know what I’ve been doing during the last twelve hours, but finally, I realize it’s the car. Christian seems oblivious, lost in thought.
The traffic is light and we’re soon on the I-5 heading south, the wind sweeping over our heads. Bruce is singing about being on fire and his desire. How apt. I flush as I listen to the words. Christian glances at me. He’s got his Ray-Bans on so I can’t see what he’s thinking. His mouth twitches slightly, and he reaches across and places his hand on my knee, squeezing gently. My breath hitches.
“Hungry?” he asks.
Not for food.
His mouth tightens into that hard line.
“You must eat, Anastasia,” he chides. “I know a great place near Olympia. We’ll stop there.” He squeezes my knee again, and then returns his hand to the steering wheel as he puts his foot down on the gas. I’m pressed into the back of my seat. Boy this car can move.
The restaurant is small and intimate, a wooden chalet in the middle of a forest. The décor is rustic: random chairs and tables with gingham tablecloths, wild flowers in little vases. Cuisine Sauvage, it boasts above the door.
“I’ve not been here for a while. We don’t get a choice – they cook whatever they’ve caught or gathered.” He raises his eyebrows in mock horror, and I have to laugh. The waitress takes our drinks order. She flushes when she sees Christian, avoiding eye contact with him, hiding under her long blonde bangs. She likes him! It’s not just me!
“Two glasses of the Pinot Grigio,” Christian says with a voice of authority. I purse my lips, exasperated.
“What?” he snaps.
“I wanted a Diet Coke,” I whisper.
His gray eyes narrow, and he shakes his head.
“The Pinot Grigio here’s a decent wine, it will go well with the meal, whatever we get.”
He says patiently.
“Whatever we get?”
“Yes.” He smiles, his dazzling, head cocked to one side smile, and my stomach pole vaults over my spleen. I can’t help but reflect his glorious smile back at him.
“My mother liked you,” he says dryly.
“Really?” His words make me flush with pleasure.
“Oh yes. She’s always thought I was gay.”
My mouth drops open, and I remember that question… from the interview. Oh no.
“Why did she think you were gay?” I whisper.
“Because she’s never seen me with a girl.”
“Oh… not even one of the fifteen?”
“You remembered. No, none of the fifteen.”
“You know, Anastasia, it’s been a weekend of firsts for me, too,” he says quietly.
“I’ve never slept with anyone, never had sex in my bed, never flown a girl in Charlie Tango, never introduced a woman to my mother. What are you doing to me?” His eyes burn, their intensity takes my breath away.
The waitress arrives with our glasses of wine, and I immediately take a quick sip. Is he opening up or just making a casual observation?
“I’ve really enjoyed this weekend,” I murmur. He narrows his eyes at me again.
“Stop biting that lip,” he growls. “Me too,” he adds.
“What’s vanilla sex?” I ask, if anything to distract myself from the intense, burning, sexy look he’s giving me. He laughs.
“Just straightforward sex, Anastasia. No toys, no added extras.” He shrugs. “You know… well actually you don’t, but that’s what it means.”
“Oh.” I thought it was chocolate fudge brownie sex that we had, with a cherry on the top. But hey, what do I know?
The waitress brings us soup. We both stare at it rather dubiously.
“Nettle soup,” the waitress informs us before turning and flouncing back into the kitchen. I don’t think she likes to be ignored by Christian. I take a tentative taste. It’s delicious.
Christian and I look up at each other at the same time with relief. I giggle, and he cocks his head to one side.
“That’s a lovely sound,” he murmurs.
“Why have you never had vanilla sex before? Have you always done… err, what you’ve done?” I ask, intrigued.
He nods slowly.
“Sort of.” His voice is wary. He frowns for a moment and seems to be engaged in some kind of internal struggle. Then he glances up, a decision made. “One of my mother’s friends seduced me when I was fifteen.”
“Oh.” Holy shit that’s young!
“She had very particular tastes. I was her submissive for six years.” He shrugs.
“Oh.” My brain has frozen, stunned into inactivity by this admission.
“So I do know what it involves, Anastasia.” His eyes glow with insight.
I stare at him, unable to articulate anything – even my subconscious is silent.
“I didn’t really have a run-of-the-mill introduction to sex.”
Curiosity kicks in big time.
“So you never dated anyone at college?”
“No.” He shakes his head to emphasize the point.
The waitress takes our plates, interrupting us for a moment.
“Why?” I ask when she’s gone.
He smiles sardonically.
“Do you really want to know?”
“I didn’t want to. She was all I wanted, needed. And besides, she’d have beaten the shit out of me.” He smiles fondly at the memory.
Oh, this is way too much information – but I want more.
“So if she was a friend of your mother’s, how old was she?”
“Old enough to know better.”
“Do you still see her?”
“Do you still… err… ?” I flush.
“No.” He shakes his head and smiles indulgently at me. “She’s a very good friend.”
“Oh. Does your mother know?”
He gives me a don’t-be-stupid stare.
“Of course not.”
The waitress returns with venison, but my appetite has vanished. What a revelation.
Christian the submissive… Holy shit. I take a large slug of Pinot Grigio – he’s right, of course, it’s delicious. Jeez, all these revelations, it’s so much to think about. I need time to process this, when I’m on my own, not when I’m distracted by his presence. He’s so overwhelming, so Alpha Male, and now he’s thrown this bombshell into the equation. He knows what it’s like.
“But it can’t have been full time?” I’m confused.
“Well, it was, though I didn’t see her all the time. It was… difficult. After all, I was still at school and then at college. Eat up, Anastasia.”
“I’m really not hungry, Christian.” I am reeling from your disclosure.
His expression hardens.
“Eat,” he says quietly, too quietly.
I stare at him. This man – sexually abused as an adolescent – his tone is so threatening.
“Give me a moment,” I mutter quietly. He blinks a couple of times.
“Okay,” he murmurs, and he continues with his meal.
This is what it will be like if I sign, him ordering me around. I frown. Do I want this?
Reaching for my knife and fork, I tentatively cut into the venison. It’s very tasty.
“Is this what our err… relationship will be like?” I whisper. “You, ordering me around?” I can’t quite bring myself to look at him.
“Yes,” he murmurs.
“And what’s more, you’ll want me to,” he adds, his voice low.
I sincerely doubt that. I slice another piece of venison, holding it against my mouth.
“It’s a big step,” I murmur and eat.
“It is.” He closes his eyes briefly. When he opens them, they are wide and grave.
“Anastasia, you have to go with your gut. Do the research, read the contract – I’m happy to discuss any aspect. I’ll be in Portland until Friday if you want to talk about it before then.” His words are coming at me in a rush. “Call me – maybe we can have dinner – say, Wednesday? I really want to make this work. In fact, I’ve never wanted anything as much as I want this to work.”
His burning sincerity, his longing, is reflected in his eyes. This is fundamentally what I don’t grasp. Why me? Why not one of the fifteen? Oh no… Will that be me – a number?
Sixteen of many?
“What happened to the fifteen?” I blurt.
He raises his eyebrows in surprise, then looks resigned, shaking his head.
“Various things, but it boils down to,” he pauses, struggling to find the words I think.
“Incompatibility.” He shrugs.
“And you think that I might be compatible with you?”
“So you’re not seeing any of them anymore?”
“No, Anastasia, I’m not. I am monogamous in my relationships.”
Oh… this is news.
“Do the research, Anastasia.”
I put my knife and fork down. I cannot eat any more.
“That’s it? That’s all you’re going to eat?”
I nod. He scowls at me but chooses not to say anything. I breathe a small sigh of relief.
My stomach is churning with all this new information, and I’m feeling a little lightheaded from the wine. I watch as he devours everything on his plate. He eats like a horse. He must work out to stay in such great shape. The memory of the way his PJ’s hung from his hips comes unbidden to my mind. The image is totally distracting. I squirm uncomfortably. He glances up at me, and I blush.
“I’d give anything to know what you’re thinking right at this moment,” he murmurs.
I blush further.
He smiles a wicked smile at me.
“I can guess,” he teases softly.
“I’m glad you can’t read my mind.”
“Your mind, no, Anastasia, but your body – that I’ve got to know quite well since yesterday.” His voice is suggestive. How does he switch so quickly from one mood to the next? He’s so mercurial… It’s hard to keep up.
He motions for the waitress and asks for the check. Once he’s paid, he stands and holds out his hand.
“Come.” Taking my hand in his, he leads me back to the car. This contact, flesh to flesh, it’s what is so unexpected from him, normal, intimate. I can’t reconcile this ordinary, tender gesture with what he wants to do in that room… The Red Room of Pain.
We are quiet on the drive from Olympia to Vancouver, both lost in our own thoughts.
When he parks outside my apartment, it’s five in the evening. The lights are on – Kate is at home. Packing, no doubt, unless Elliot is still there. He switches off the engine, and I realize I’m going to have to leave him.
“Do you want to come in?” I ask. I don’t want him to go. I want to prolong our time together.
“No. I have work to do,” he says simply, gazing at me, his expression unfathomable.
I stare down at my hands, as I knot my fingers together. Suddenly I feel emotional.
He’s leaving. Reaching over, he takes one of my hands and slowly pulls it to his mouth, tenderly kissing the back of my hand, such an old fashioned, sweet gesture. My heart leaps into my mouth.
“Thank you for this weekend, Anastasia. It’s been… the best. Wednesday? I’ll pick you up from work, from wherever?” he says softly.
“Wednesday,” I whisper.
He kisses my hand again and places it back in my lap. He climbs out, comes round to my side, and opens the passenger door. Why do I feel suddenly bereft? A lump forms in my throat. I must not let him see me like this. Fixing a smile on my face, I clamber out of the car and head up the path, knowing I have to face Kate, dreading facing Kate. I turn and gaze at him midway. Chin up Steele, I chide myself.
“Oh… by the way, I’m wearing your underwear.” I give him a small smile and pull up the waistband of the boxer briefs I’m wearing so he can see. Christian’s mouth drops open, shocked. What a great reaction. My mood shifts immediately, and I sashay into the house, part of me wanting to jump and punch the air. YES! My inner goddess is thrilled.
Kate is in the living area packing up her books into crates.
“You’re back. Where’s Christian? How are you?” Her voice is fevered, anxious, and she bounds up to me, grabbing my shoulders, minutely analyzing my face before I’ve even said hello.
Crap… I have to deal with Kate’s persistence and tenacity, and I’m in possession of a legal signed document saying I can’t talk. It’s not a healthy mix.
“Well how was it? I couldn’t stop thinking about you, after Elliot left, that is.” She grins mischievously.
I can’t help but smile at her concern and her burning curiosity, but suddenly I feel shy.
I blush. It was very private. All of it. Seeing and knowing what Christian has to hide. But I have to give her some details, because she won’t leave me alone until I do.
“It was good, Kate. Very good, I think,” I say quietly, trying to hide my embarrassed tell-all smile.
“I’ve got nothing to compare it to, do I?” I shrug apologetically.
“Did he make you come?”
Holy crap. She’s so blunt. I go scarlet.
“Yes,” I mumble, exasperated.
Kate pulls me to the couch and we sit. She clasps my hands.
“That is good.” Kate looks at me in disbelief. “It was your first time. Wow, Christian must really know what he’s doing.”
Oh Kate, if only you knew.
“My first time was horrid,” she continues, making a sad comedy face.
“Oh?” This has me interested, something she’s never divulged before.
“Yes, Steve Paton. High school, dickless jock.” She shudders. “He was rough. I wasn’t ready. We were both drunk. You know – typical teenage post-prom disaster. Ugh
– it took me months before I decided to have another go. And not with him, the gutless wonder. I was too young. You were right to wait.”
“Kate, that sounds awful.”
Kate looks wistful.
“Yeah, took almost a year to have my first orgasm through penetrative sex and here you are… first time?”
I nod shyly. My inner goddess sits in the lotus position looking serene except for the sly, self-congratulatory smile on her face.
“I’m glad you lost it to someone who knows their ass from their elbow.” She winks at me. “So when are you seeing him again?”
“Wednesday. We’re having dinner.”
“So you still like him?”
“Yes. But I don’t know about… the future.”
“He’s complicated, Kate. You know – he inhabits a very different world to mine.”
Great excuse. Believable too. Much better than – he’s got a Red Room of Pain, and he wants to make me his sex slave.
“Oh please, don’t let this be about money, Ana. Elliot said it’s very unusual for Christian to date anyone.”
“Did he?” My voice hitches up several octaves.
Too obvious, Steele! My subconscious glares at me, wagging her long skinny finger, then morphs into the scales of justice to remind me he could sue if I disclose too much.
Ha… what’s he going to do – take all my money? I must remember to Google ‘penalties for breaching a non-disclosure agreement’ while I’m doing the rest of my ‘research’. It’s like I’ve been given a school assignment. Maybe I’ll be graded. I flush, remembering my A for this morning’s bath experiment.
“Ana, what is it?”
“I’m just remembering something Christian said.”
“You look different,” Kate says fondly.
“I feel different. Sore,” I confess.
“A little.” I flush.
“Me too. Men,” she says in mock disgust. “They’re animals.” We both laugh.
“You’re sore?” I exclaim.
“Tell me about Elliot the over-user,” I ask when I’ve stopped giggling. Oh, I can feel myself relaxing for the first time since I was in line at the bar… before the phone call that started all this – when I was admiring Mr. Grey from afar. Happy uncomplicated days.
Kate blushes. Oh my… Katherine Agnes Kavanagh goes all Anastasia Rose Steele on me. She gives me a dewy-eyed look. I’ve never seen her react this way to a man before.
My jaw drops to the floor. Where’s Kate, what have you done with her?
“Oh, Ana,” she gushes. “He’s just so… Everything. And when we… oh… really good.” She can hardly string a sentence together she’s got it so bad.
“I think you’re trying to tell me that you like him.”
She nods, grinning like a lunatic.
“And I’m seeing him on Saturday. He’s going to help us move.” She clasps her hands together, leaps up off the couch, and pirouettes to the window. Moving. Crap – I’d forgotten all about that, even with the packing cases surrounding us.
“That’s helpful of him,” I say appreciatively. I can get to know him too. Perhaps he can give me more insight into his strange, disturbing brother.
“So what did you do last night?” I ask. She cocks her head at me and raises her eyebrows in a what-do-think-stupid-look.
“Pretty much what you did, though we had dinner first.” She grins at me. “Are you okay really? You look kind of overwhelmed.”
“I feel overwhelmed. Christian is very intense.”
“Yeah, I could see how he could be. But he was good to you?”
“Yes,” I reassure her. “I’m really hungry, shall I cook?”
She nods and picks up two more books to pack.
“What do you want to do with the fourteen thousand dollar books?” she asks.
“I’m going to return them to him.”
“It’s a completely over-the-top gift. I can’t accept it, especially now.” I grin at Kate, and she nods.
“I understand. A couple of letters came for you, and José has been calling every hour on the hour. He sounded desperate.”
“I’ll call him,” I mutter evasively. If I tell Kate about José, she’ll have him for breakfast. I collect the letters from the dining table and open them.
“Hey, I have interviews! The week after next, in Seattle, for intern placements!”
“For which publishing house?”
“For both of them!”
“I told you your GPA would open doors, Ana.”
Kate, of course, already has an internship set up at the Seattle Times. Her father knows someone, who knows someone.
“How does Elliot feel about you going away?” I ask.
Kate wanders into the kitchen, and for the first time this evening, she’s disconsolate.
“He’s understanding. Part of me doesn’t want to go, but it’s tempting to lie in the sun for a couple of weeks. Besides, Mom is hanging in there, thinking this will be our last real family holiday before Ethan and I head off into the world of paid employment.”
I have never left continental US. Kate is off to Barbados with her parents and her brother Ethan for two whole weeks. I’ll be Kateless in our new apartment. That will be weird. Ethan has been traveling the world since he graduated last year. I wonder briefly if I’ll see him before they go on vacation. He’s such a lovely guy. The phone rings, jolting me from my reverie.
“That’ll be José.”
I sigh. I know I have to talk to him. I grab the phone.
“Ana, you’re back!” José shouts his relief at me.
“Obviously.” Sarcasm drips from my voice, and I roll my eyes at the phone.
He’s silent for a moment.
“Can I see you? I’m sorry about Friday night. I was drunk… and you… well. Ana –
please forgive me.”
“Of course, I forgive you José. Just don’t do it again. You know I don’t feel like that about you.”
He sighs heavily, sadly.
“I know, Ana. I just thought, if I kissed you, it might change how you feel.”
“José, I love you dearly, you mean so much to me. You’re like the brother I never had.
That’s not going to change. You know that.” I hate to let him down, but it’s the truth.
“So you’re with him now?” His tone is full of disdain.
“José, I’m not with anybody.”
“But you spent the night with him.”
“That’s none of your business!”
“Is it the money?”
“José! How dare you!” I shout, staggered by his audacity.
“Ana,” he whines and apologizes simultaneously. I cannot deal with his petty jealousy now. I know he’s hurt, but my plate is overflowing dealing with Christian Grey.
“Maybe we can have a coffee or something tomorrow. I’ll call you.” I am conciliatory.
He is my friend, and I’m very fond of him. But right now, I don’t need this.
“Tomorrow then. You’ll call?” The hope in his voice twists my heart.
“Yes… goodnight, José.” I hang up, not waiting for his response.
“What was that all about?” Katherine demands, her hands on her hips. I decide honesty is the policy. She’s looking more intractable than ever.
“He made a pass at me on Friday.”
“José? And Christian Grey? Ana, your pheromones must be working overtime. What was the stupid fool thinking?” She shakes her head in disgust and returns to packing crates.
Forty-five minutes later, we pause our packing for the house specialty, my lasagna.
Kate opens a bottle of wine, and we sit amongst the boxes eating, quaffing cheap red wine, and watching crap TV. This is normality. It’s so grounding and welcome after the last forty-eight hours of… madness. I eat my first unhurried, no nagging, peaceful meal in that time. What is it about him and food? Kate clears the dishes, and I finish packing up the living room. We are left with the couch, the TV, and the dining table. What more could we need? Just the kitchen and our bedrooms left to pack up, and we have the rest of the week. Result!
The phone rings again. It’s Elliot. Kate winks at me and skips off to her bedroom like she’s fourteen. I know that she should be writing her Valedictorian speech, but it seems Elliot is more important. What is it about the Grey men? What is it that makes them totally distracting, all-consuming, and irresistible? I take another slug of wine.
I flick through the TV channels, but deep down I know I’m procrastinating. Burning a bright red hole in the side of my purse is that contract. Do I have the strength and the wherewithal to read it tonight?
I put my head in my hands. José and Christian, they both want something from me.
José is easy to deal with. But Christian… Christian takes a whole different league of handling, of understanding. Part of me wants to run and hide. What am I going to do? His burning gray eyes and that intense smoldering stare come into my mind’s eye, and my body tightens at the thought. I gasp. He’s not even here, and I’m turned on. It just can’t be about sex, can it? I recall his gentle banter this morning at breakfast, his joy at my delight with the helicopter ride, him playing the piano – the sweet soulful oh-so-sad music.
He’s such a complicated person. And now I have an insight as to why. A young man deprived of his adolescence, sexually abused by some evil Mrs. Robinson figure… no wonder he’s old before his time. My heart fills with sadness at the thought of what he must have been through. I’m too naïve to know exactly what, but the research should shed some light. But do I really want to know? Do I want to explore this world I know nothing about?
It’s such a big step.
If I’d not met him, I’d still be sweetly and blissfully oblivious. My mind drifts to last night, and this morning… and the incredible, sensual sexuality I’ve experienced. Do I want to say goodbye to that? No! Screams my subconscious… my inner goddess nods in silent zen-like agreement with her.
Kate wanders back into the living room, grinning from ear to ear. Perhaps she’s in love – I gape at her. She’s never behaved like this.
“Ana, I’m off to bed. I’m pretty tired.”
“Me too, Kate.”
She hugs me.
“I’m glad you’re back in one piece. There’s something about Christian,” she adds quietly, apologetically. I give her a small, reassuring smile – all the while thinking… How the hell does she know? This is what will make her a great journalist, her unfaltering intuition.
Collecting my purse, I wander listlessly into my bedroom. I am weary from all our carnal exertions of the last day and from the complete and utter dilemma that I’m faced with. I sit on my bed and gingerly extract the manila envelope from the bag, turning it over and over in my hands. Do I really want to know the extent of Christian’s depravity? It’s so daunting. I take a deep breath, and with my heart in my throat, I rip open the envelope.
There are several papers inside the envelope. I fish them out, my heart still pounding, and I sit back on my bed and begin to read.
Made this day_________ of 2011 (“The Commencement Date”)
MR. CHRISTIAN GREY of 301 Escala, Seattle, WA 98889
MISS ANASTASIA STEELE of 1114 SW Green Street, Apartment 7, Haven Heights, Vancouver, WA 98888
THE PARTIES AGREE AS FOLLOWS
1 The following are the terms of a binding contract between the Dominant and the Submissive.
2 The fundamental purpose of this contract is to allow the Submissive to explore her sensuality and her limits safely, with due respect and regard for her needs, her limits and her wellbeing.
3 The Dominant and the Submissive agree and acknowledge that all that occurs under the terms of this contract will be consensual, confidential, and subject to the agreed limits and safety procedures set out in this contract. Additional limits and safety procedures may be agreed in writing.
4 The Dominant and the Submissive each warrant that they suffer from no sexual, serious, infectious or life-threatening illnesses including but not limited to HIV, Her-pes and Hepatitis. If during the Term (as defined below) or any extended term of this contract either party should be diagnosed with or become aware of any such illness he or she undertakes to inform the other immediately and in any event prior to any form of physical contact between the parties.
5 Adherence to the above warranties, agreements and undertakings (and any additional limits and safety procedures agreed under clause 3 above) are fundamental to this contract. Any breach shall render it void with immediate effect and each party agrees to be fully responsible to the other for the consequence of any breach.
6 Everything in this contract must be read and interpreted in the light of the fundamental purpose and the fundamental terms set out in clauses 2-5 above.
7 The Dominant shall take responsibility for the wellbeing and the proper training, guidance, and discipline of the Submissive. He shall decide the nature of such training, guidance, and discipline and the time and place of its administration, subject to the agreed terms, limitations and safety procedures set out in this contract or agreed additionally under clause 3 above.
8 If at any time the Dominant should fail to keep to the agreed terms, limitations and safety procedures set out in this contract or agreed additionally under clause 3 above the Submissive is entitled to terminate this contract forthwith and to leave the service of the Dominant without notice.
9 Subject to that proviso and to clauses 2-5 above the Submissive is to serve and obey the Dominant in all things. Subject to the agreed terms, limitations and safety procedures set out in this contract or agreed additionally under clause 3 above she shall without query or hesitation offer the Dominant such pleasure as he may require and she shall accept without query or hesitation his training, guidance and discipline in whatever form it may take.
COMMENCEMENT AND TERM
10 The Dominant and Submissive enter into this contract on The Commencement Date fully aware of its nature and undertake to abide by its conditions without exception.
11 This contract shall be effective for a period of three Calendar Months from The Commencement Date (“The Term”). On the expiry of The Term the parties shall discuss whether this contract and the arrangements they have made under this contract are satisfactory and whether the needs of each party have been met. Either party may propose the extension of this contract subject to adjustments to its terms, or to the arrangements they have made under it. In the absence of agreement to such extension this contract shall terminate and both parties shall be free to resume their lives separately.
12 The Submissive will make herself available to the Dominant from Friday evenings through to Sunday afternoons each week during the Term at times to be specified by the Dominant (“the Allotted Times”). Further allocated time can be mutually agreed on an ad hoc basis.
13 The Dominant reserves the right to dismiss the Submissive from his service at any time and for any reason. The Submissive may request her release at any time, such request to be granted at the discretion of the Dominant subject only to the Submissive’s rights under clauses 2-5 and 8 above.
14 The Submissive will make herself available during the Allotted Times and agreed additional times at locations to be determined by the Dominant. The Dominant will ensure that all travel costs incurred by the Submissive for that purpose are met by the Dominant.
15 The following service provisions have been discussed and agreed and will be ad-hered to by both parties during the Term. Both parties accept that certain matters may arise which are not covered by the terms of this contract or the service provisions, or that certain matters may be renegotiated. In such circumstance further clauses may be proposed by way of amendment. Any further clauses or amendments must be agreed, documented and signed by both parties and shall be subject to the fundamental terms set out at clauses 2-5 above.
15.1 The Dominant shall make the Submissive’s health and safety a priority at all times. The Dominant shall not at any time require, request, allow or demand the Submissive to participate at the hands of the Dominant in the activities detailed in Appendix 2 or in any act that either party deems to be unsafe. The Dominant will not undertake or permit to be undertaken any action which could cause serious injury or any risk to the Submissive’s life. The remaining sub-clauses of this clause 15 are to be read subject to this proviso and to the fundamental matters agreed in clauses 2-5 above.
15.2 The Dominant accepts the Submissive as his, to own, control, dominate and discipline during the Term. The Dominant may use the Submissive’s body at any time during the Allotted Times or any agreed additional times in any manner he deems fit, sexually or otherwise.
15.3 The Dominant shall provide the Submissive with all necessary training and guidance in how to properly serve the Dominant.
15.4 The Dominant shall maintain a stable and safe environment in which the Submissive may perform her duties in service of the Dominant.
15.5 The Dominant may discipline the Submissive as necessary to ensure the Submissive fully appreciates her role of subservience to the Dominant and to discourage unacceptable conduct. The Dominant may flog, spank, whip or corporally punish the Submissive as he sees fit, for purposes of discipline, for his own personal enjoyment, or for any other reason, which he is not obliged to provide.
15.6 In training and in the administration of discipline the Dominant shall ensure that no permanent marks are made upon the Submissive’s body nor any injuries incurred that may require medical attention.
15.7 In training and in the administration of discipline the Dominant shall ensure that the discipline and the instruments used for the purposes of discipline are safe, shall not be used in such a way as to cause serious harm and shall not in any way exceed the limits defined and detailed in this contract.
15.8 In case of illness or injury the Dominant shall care for the Submissive, seeing to her health and safety, encouraging and when necessary ordering medical attention when it is judged necessary by the Dominant.
15.9 The Dominant shall maintain his own good health and seek medical attention when necessary in order to maintain a risk-free environment 15.10 The Dominant shall not loan his Submissive to another Dominant.
15.11 The Dominant may restrain, handcuff, or bind the Submissive at any time during the Allotted Times or any agreed additional times for any reason and for extended periods of time, giving due regard to the health and safety of the Submissive.
15.12 The Dominant will ensure that all equipment used for the purposes of training and discipline shall be maintained in a clean, hygienic and safe state at all times.
15.13 The Submissive accepts the Dominant as her master, with the understanding that she is now the property of the Dominant, to be dealt with as the Dominant pleases during the Term generally but specifically during the Allotted Times and any additional agreed allotted times.
15.14 The Submissive shall obey the rules (“the Rules”) set out in Appendix 1 to this agreement.
15.15 The Submissive shall serve the Dominant in any way the Dominant sees fit and shall endeavor to please the Dominant at all times to the best of her ability.
15.16 The Submissive shall take all measures necessary to maintain her good health and shall request or seek medical attention whenever it is needed, keeping the Dominant informed at all times of any health issues that may arise.
15.17 The Submissive will ensure that she procures oral contraception and ensure that she takes it as and when prescribed to prevent any pregnancy.
15.18 The Submissive shall accept without question any and all disciplinary actions deemed necessary by the Dominant and remember her status and role in regard to the Dominant at all times.
15.19 The Submissive shall not touch or pleasure herself sexually without permission from the Dominant.
15.20 The Submissive shall submit to any sexual activity demanded by the Dominant and shall do without hesitation or argument.
15.21 The Submissive shall accept whippings, floggings, spankings, caning, paddling or any other discipline the Dominant should decide to administer, without hesitation, enquiry or complaint.
15.22 The Submissive shall not look directly into the eyes of the Dominant except when specifically instructed to do so. The Submissive shall keep her eyes cast down and maintain a quiet and respectful bearing in the presence of the Dominant.
15.23 The Submissive shall always conduct herself in a respectful manner to the Dominant and shall address him only as Sir, Mr. Grey, or such other title as the Dominant may direct.
15.24 The Submissive will not touch the Dominant without his express permission to do so.
16 The Submissive shall not participate in activities or any sexual acts that either party deems to be unsafe or any activities detailed in Appendix 2.
17 The Dominant and the Submissive have discussed the activities set out in Appendix 3 and recorded in writing on Appendix 3 their agreement in respect of them.
18 The Dominant and the Submissive recognize that the Dominant may make demands of the Submissive that cannot be met without incurring physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or other harm at the time the demands are made to the Submissive. In such circumstances related to this, the Submissive may make use of a safeword (“The Safeword (s)”). Two Safewords will be invoked depending on the severity of the demands.
19 The Safeword “Yellow” will be used to bring to the attention of the Dominant that the Submissive is close to her limit of endurance.
20 The Safeword “Red” will be used to bring to the attention of the Dominant that the Submissive cannot tolerate any further demands. When this word is said the Dominant’s action will cease completely with immediate effect.
21 We the undersigned have read and understood fully the provisions of this contract.
We freely accept the terms of this contract and have acknowledged this by our signa-tures below.
The Dominant: Christian Grey
The Submissive: Anastasia Steele
The Submissive will obey any instructions given by the Dominant immediately without hesitation or reservation and in an expeditious manner. The Submissive will agree to any sexual activity deemed fit and pleasurable by the Dominant excepting those activities which are outlined in hard limits (Appendix 2). She will do so eagerly and without hesitation.
The Submissive will ensure she achieves a minimum of eight hours sleep a night when she is not with the Dominant.
The Submissive will eat regularly to maintain her health and wellbeing from a prescribed list of foods (Appendix 4). The Submissive will not snack between meals, with the exception of fruit.
During the Term the Submissive will wear clothing only approved by the Dominant.
The Dominant will provide a clothing budget for the Submissive, which the Submissive shall utilize. The Dominant shall accompany the Submissive to purchase clothing on an ad hoc basis. If the Dominant so requires the Submissive shall during the Term wear adornments the Dominant shall require, in the presence of the Dominant and any other time the Dominant deems fit.
The Dominant shall provide the Submissive with a personal trainer four times a week in hour-long sessions at times to be mutually agreed between the personal trainer and the Submissive. The personal trainer will report to the Dominant on the Submissive’s progress.
The Submissive will keep herself clean and shaved and/or waxed at all times. The Submissive will visit a beauty salon of the Dominant’s choosing at times to be decided by the Dominant, and undergo whatever treatments the Dominant sees fit. All costs will be met by the Dominant.
The Submissive will not drink to excess, smoke, take recreational drugs or put herself in any unnecessary danger.
The Submissive will not enter into any sexual relations with anyone other than the Dominant. The Submissive will conduct herself in a respectful and modest manner at all times. She must recognize that her behavior is a direct reflection on the Dominant.
She shall be held accountable for any misdeeds, wrongdoings and misbehavior committed when not in the presence of the Dominant.
Failure to comply with any of the above will result in immediate punishment, the nature of which shall be determined by the Dominant.
No acts involving fire play
No acts involving urination or defecation and the products thereof No acts involving needles, knives, cutting, piercing, or blood No acts involving gynecological medical instruments
No acts involving children or animals
No acts that will leave any permanent marks on the skin
No acts involving breath control.
No activity that involves the direct contact of electric current (whether alternating or direct), fire or flames to the body.
To be discussed and agreed between both parties:
Which of the following sexual acts are acceptable to the Submissive?
• Vaginal intercourse
• Vaginal fisting
• Anal intercourse
• Anal fisting
Is swallowing semen acceptable to the Submissive?
Is the use of sex toys acceptable to the Submissive?
• Butt Plugs
Is Bondage acceptable to the Submissive?
• Hands in front
• Hands behind back
• Wrists to ankles
• Spreader bars
• Tied to furniture
• Bondage with Rope
• Bondage with Tape
• Bondage with leather cuffs
• Bondage with handcuffs/metal restraints
What is the Submissive’s general attitude about receiving pain? Where 1 is likes intensely and 5 is dislikes intensely: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
How much pain does the submissive want to receive? Where 1 is none and 5 is severe: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
Which of the following types of pain/punishment/discipline are acceptable to the Submissive?
• Nipple clamps
• Genital clamps
• Hot wax
• Other types/methods of pain
Holy Fuck. I can’t bring myself to even consider the food list. I swallow hard, my mouth dry, and read it again.
My head is buzzing. How can I possibly agree to all this? And apparently it’s for my benefit, to explore my sensuality, my limits – safely – oh please! I scoff angrily. Serve and obey in all things. All Things! I shake my head in disbelief. Actually, doesn’t the marriage ceremony use those words… obey? This throws me. Do couples still say that? Only three months, is that why there have been so many? He doesn’t keep them for long? Or have they had enough after three months? Every weekend? That’s too much. I’ll never see Kate or whatever friends I may make at my new job – provided I get one. Perhaps I should have one weekend a month to myself. Perhaps when I have my period, that sounds… practical.
He’s my master! To be dealt with as he pleases! Holy shit.
I shudder at the thought of being flogged or whipped. Spanking probably wouldn’t be so bad, humiliating though. And tied up? Well he did tie my hands together. That was…
well it was hot, really hot, so perhaps that won’t be so bad. He won’t loan me to another Dominant – damn right he won’t. That would be totally unacceptable. Why am I even thinking about this?
I can’t look him in the eye. How weird is that? The only way I ever have any chance to see what he’s thinking. Actually, whom am I kidding, I never know what he’s thinking, but I like looking into his eyes. He has beautiful eyes – captivating, intelligent, deep and dark, dark with dominant secrets. I recall his burning smoky gaze and press my thighs together, squirming.
And I can’t touch him. Well, no surprise there. And these silly rules… No, no I can’t do this. I put my head in my hands. This is no way to have a relationship. I need some sleep. I’m shattered. All the physical shenanigans I’ve been engaged in over the last twenty-four hours have been, frankly, exhausting. And mentally… oh man, this is so much to take on board. As José would say, a real mind-fuck. Perhaps in the morning, this might not read like a bad joke.
I scramble up and change quickly. Perhaps I should borrow Kate’s pink flannel pajamas. I want something cuddly and reassuring around me. I head to the bathroom in my t-shirt and sleep shorts and brush my teeth.
I stare at myself in the bathroom mirror. You can’t seriously be considering this…
My subconscious sounds sane and rational, not her usual snarky self. My inner goddess is jumping up and down, clapping her hands like a five-year-old. Please, let’s do this…
otherwise we’ll end up alone with lots of cats and your classic novels to keep you company.
The only man I’ve ever been attracted to, and he comes with a bloody contract, a flogger, and a whole world of issues. Well, at least I got my way this weekend. My inner goddess stops jumping and smiles serenely. Oh yes… she mouths, nodding at me smugly.
I flush at the memory of his hands and his mouth on me, his body inside mine. Closing my eyes, I feel the familiar delicious pull of my muscles from deep, deep down. I want to do that again and again. Maybe if I just sign up for the sex… would he go with that? I suspect not.
Am I submissive? Maybe I come across that way. Maybe I misled him in the interview. I’m shy, yes… but submissive? I let Kate bully me – is that the same? And those soft limits, jeez. My mind boggles, but I’m reassured that they are up for discussion.
I wander back to my bedroom. This is too much to think about. I need a clear head – a fresh morning approach to the problem. I put the offending documents back in my satchel.
Tomorrow… tomorrow is another day. Clambering into bed, I switch off the light and lie staring up at the ceiling. Oh, I wish I’d never met him. My inner goddess shakes her head at me. She and I know it’s a lie. I have never felt as alive as I do now.
I close my eyes, and I drift into a heavy sleep with occasional dreams of four-poster beds and shackles and intense gray eyes.
Kate wakes me the next day.
“Ana, I’ve been calling you. You must have been out cold.”
My eyes reluctantly open. She’s not just up – she’s been for a run. I glance at my alarm. It’s eight in the morning. Holy Moses, I’ve slept for a solid nine hours.
“What is it?” I mumble sleepily.
“There’s a man here with a delivery for you. You have to sign for it.”
“Come on. It’s big. It looks interesting.” She hops from foot to foot excitedly and bounds back into the living area. I clamber out of bed and grab my dressing gown hanging on the back of my door. A smart young man with a ponytail is standing in our living room clasping a large box.
“Hi,” I mumble.
“I’ll make you some tea.” Kate scuttles off to the kitchen.
And I immediately know whom the parcel is from.
“Yes,” I answer cautiously.
“I have a package for you here, but I have to set it up and show you how to use it.”
“Really? At this time?”
“Only following orders, ma’am.” He smiles in a charming but professional he’s-not-taking-any-crap way.
Did he just call me ma’am? Have I aged ten years overnight? If I have, it’s that contract. My mouth puckers in disgust.
“Okay, what is it?”
“It’s a MacBook Pro.”
“Of course it is.” I roll my eyes .
“These aren’t available in the shops yet, ma’am, the very latest from Apple.”
How come that does not surprise me? I sigh heavily.
“Just set it up on the dining table over there.”
I wander into the kitchen to join Kate.
“What is it?” she says inquisitive, bright eyed and bushy tailed. She’s slept well too.
“It’s a laptop from Christian.”
“Why’s he sent you a laptop? You know you can use mine,” she frowns.
Not for what he has in mind.
“Oh, it’s only on loan. He wanted me to try it out.” My excuse sounds feeble. But Kate nods her assent. Oh my… I have hoodwinked Katherine Kavanagh. A first. She hands me my tea.
The Mac laptop is sleek and silver and rather beautiful. It has a very large screen.
Christian Grey likes scale – I think of his living area, in fact, his whole apartment.
“It’s got the latest OS and a full suite of programs, plus a one-point-five terabyte hard drive so you’ll have plenty of room, thirty-two gigs of RAM – what are you planning to use it for?
“Email!” he chokes, bemused, raising his eyebrows with a slightly sick look on his face.“And maybe Internet research?” I shrug apologetically.
“Well, this has full wireless N, and I’ve set it up with your Me account details. This baby is all ready to go, practically anywhere on the planet.” He looks longingly at it.
“Your new email address. ”
I have an email address?
He points to an icon on the screen and continues to talk at me but it’s like white noise.
I haven’t got a clue what he’s saying, and in all honestly, I’m not interested. Just tell me how to switch it on and off – I’ll figure out the rest. After all, I’ve been using Kate’s for four years. Kate whistles, impressed when she sees it.
“This is next-generation tech.” She raises her eyebrows at me. “Most women get flowers or maybe jewelry,” she says suggestively, trying to suppress a smile.
I scowl at her but can’t keep a straight face. We both burst into a fit of giggles, and computer man gapes at us, bemused. He finishes up and asks me to sign the delivery note.
As Kate shows him out, I sit with my cup of tea, open the email program, and sitting there waiting for me is an email from Christian. My heart leaps into my mouth. I have an email from Christian Grey. Nervously, I open it.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Your New Computer
Date: May 22 2011 23:15
To: Anastasia Steele
Dear Miss Steele
I trust you slept well. I hope that you put this laptop to good use, as discussed.
I look forward to dinner, Wednesday.
Happy to answer any questions before then, via email, should you so desire.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
I hit reply.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Your New Computer (on loan)
Date: May 23 2011 08:20
To: Christian Grey
I slept very well thank you – for some strange reason – Sir.
I understood that this computer was on loan, ergo not mine.
Almost instantaneously there is a response.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Your New Computer (on loan)
Date: May 23 2011 08:22
To: Anastasia Steele
The computer is on loan. Indefinitely, Miss Steele.
I note from your tone that you have read the documentation I gave you.
Do you have any questions so far?
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
I can’t help but grin.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Enquiring Minds
Date: May 23 2011 08:25
To: Christian Grey
I have many questions, but not suitable for email, and some of us have to work for a living.
I do not want or need a computer indefinitely.
Until later, good day. Sir.
His reply again is instant, and it makes me smile.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Your New Computer (again on loan)
Date: May 23 2011 08:26
To: Anastasia Steele
PS: I work for a living too.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
I shut the computer down, grinning like an idiot. How can I resist playful Christian? I am going to be late for work. Well, it is my last week – Mr. and Mrs. Clayton will probably cut me some slack. I race into the shower, unable to shake my face-splitting grin. He emailed me. I’m like a small, giddy child. And all the contract angst fades. As I wash my hair, I try and think what I could possibly ask him via email. Surely it’s better to talk these things through. Suppose someone hacked into his account? I flush at the thought. I dress quickly, shout a hasty goodbye to Kate, and I’m off to work my last week at Clayton’s.
José phones at eleven.
“Hey, are we doing coffee?” He sounds like the old José. José my friend, not a – what did Christian call him? Suitor. Ugh.
“Sure. I’m at work. Can you make it here for say twelve?”