So, I could spend the evening with José on Friday. How will Christian like that? I become aware that I am biting my lip till it hurts. Oh, that man has double standards. He can-I shudder at the thought-bathe his batshit ex-lover, but I will probably get a truckload of grief for wanting to have a drink with José. How am I going to handle this?
“Ana!” Jack pulls me abruptly out of my reverie. Is he still mad? “Where’s that letter?”
“Er-coming.” Shit. What is eating him?
I type up his letter in double-quick time, print it out, and nervously make my way into his office.
“Here you go.” I place it on his desk and turn to leave. Jack quickly casts his critical, piercing, eyes over it.
“I don’t know what you’re doing out there, but I pay you to work,” he barks.
“I’m aware of that, Jack,” I mutter apologetically. I feel a slow flush creep up my skin.
“This is full of mistakes,” he snaps. “Do it again.”
Fuck. He’s beginning to sound like someone I know, but rudeness from Christian I can tolerate. Jack is beginning to piss me off.
“And get me another coffee while you’re at it.”
“Sorry,” I whisper and scurry out of his office as quickly as I can.
Holy fuck. He’s being unbearable. I sit back down at my desk, hastily redo his letter, which had two mistakes in it, and check it thoroughly before printing. Now it’s perfect. I fetch him another coffee, letting Claire know with a roll of my eyes that I am in deep doo-doo. Taking a deep breath, I approach his office again.
“Better,” he mumbles reluctantly as he signs the letter. “Photocopy it, file the original, and mail out to all authors. Understand?”
“Yes.” I am not an idiot. “Jack, is there something wrong?”
He glances up, his blue eyes darkening as his gaze runs up and down my body. My blood chills.
“No.” His answer is concise, rude, and dismissive. I stand there like the idiot I professed not to be and then shuffle back out of his office. Perhaps he too suffers from a personality disorder. Sheesh, I’m surrounded by them. I make my way to the photocopier-which of course is suffering from a paper jam-and when I’ve fixed it, I find it’s out of paper. This is not my day.
When I am finally back at my desk, stuffing envelopes, my Blackberry buzzes. I can see through the glass wall that Jack is on the phone. I answer-it’s Ethan.
“Hi, Ana. How’d it go last night?”
Last night. A quick montage of images flashes through my mind-Christian kneeling, his revelation, his proposal, macaroniandcheese, my weeping, his nightmare, the sex, touching him…
“Eh… fine,” I mutter unconvincingly.
Ethan pauses and decides to collude in my denial. “Cool. Can I collect the keys?”
“I’ll be over in about half an hour. Will you have time to grab a coffee?”
“Not today. I was late getting in, and my boss is like an angry bear with a sore head and poison ivy up his ass.”
“Nasty and ugly.” I giggle.
Ethan laughs and my mood lifts a little. “Okay. See you in thirty.” He hangs up.
I glance up at Jack and he’s staring at me. Oh shit. I studiously ignore him and continue to stuff envelopes.
Half an hour later my phone buzzes. It’s Claire. “He’s here again, in reception. The blond god.”
Ethan is a joy to see after all the angst of yesterday and the bad temper my boss is inflicting on me today, but all too soon, he’s saying his good-byes.
“Will I see you this evening?”
“I’ll probably stay with Christian.” I flush.
“You have got it bad,” Ethan observes good-naturedly.
I shrug. That’s not the half of it, and in that moment I realize, I have it more than bad. I have it for life. And amazingly, Christian seems to feel the same. Ethan gives me a swift hug.
I return to my desk, wrestling with my realization. Oh, what I would do for a day on my own, to just think all this through.
“Where have you been?” Jack is suddenly looming over me.
“I had some business to attend to in reception.” He is really getting on my nerves.
“I want my lunch. The usual,” he says abruptly and stomps back into his office.
Why didn’t I stay home with Christian? My inner goddess crosses her arms and purses her lips; she wants to know the answer to that one, too. Picking up my purse and my Blackberry, I head for the door. I check my messages.
Date:June 15, 2011 09:06
My bed is too big without you.
Looks like I’ll have to go to work after all.
Even megalomaniac CEOs need something to do.
Twiddling His Thumbs CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
And there’s another from him, from earlier this morning.
Date:June 15, 2011 09:50
Is the better part of valor.
Please use discretion… your work e-mails are monitored.
HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU THIS?
Yes. Shouty capitals as you say. USE YOUR BLACKBERRY.
Dr. Flynn can see us tomorrow evening.
Still Pissed CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
And an even later one… Oh no.
Date:June 15, 2011 12:15
I haven’t heard from you.
Please tell me you are okay.
You know how I worry.
I will send Taylor to check!
Over-Anxious CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
I roll my eyes, and call him. I don’t want him to worry.
“Christian Grey’s phone, Andrea Parker speaking.”
Oh. I am so disconcerted that it’s not Christian who answers that it halts me in the street, and the young man behind me mutters angrily as he swerves to avoid bumping into me. I stand under the green awning of the deli.
“Hello? Can I help you?” Andrea fills the void of awkward silence.
“Sorry… Er… I was hoping to speak to Christian-”
“Mr. Grey is in a meeting at the moment.” She bristles with efficiency. “Can I take a message?”
“Can you tell him Ana called?”
“Ana? As in Anastasia Steele?”
“Er… Yes.” Her question confuses me.
“Hold one second please, Miss Steele.”
I listen attentively as she puts the phone down, but I can’t tell what’s going on. A few seconds later Christian is on the line. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
I hear the quick release of his held breath. He’s relieved.
“Christian, why wouldn’t I be okay?” I whisper reassuringly.
“You’re normally so quick at responding to my e-mails. After what I told you yesterday, I was worried,” he says quietly, and then he’s talking to someone in his office.
“No, Andrea. Tell them to wait,” he says sternly. Oh, I know that tone of voice.
I can’t hear Andrea’s response.
“No. I said wait,” he snaps.
“Christian, you’re obviously busy. I only called to let you know that I’m okay, and I mean that-just very busy today. Jack has been cracking the whip. Er… I mean…” I flush and fall silent.
Christian says nothing for a moment.
“Cracking the whip, eh? Well, there was a time when I would have called him a lucky man.” His voice is full of dry humor. “Don’t let him get on top of you, baby.”
“Christian!” I scold him and I know he’s grinning.
“Just watch him, that’s all. Look, I’m glad you’re okay. What time shall I collect you?”
“I’ll e-mail you.”
“From your Blackberry,” he says sternly.
“Yes, Sir,” I snap back.
He’s still hanging on.
“Hang up,” I scold, smiling.
He sighs heavily down the phone. “I wish you’d never gone to work this morning.”
“Me, too. But I am busy. Hang up.”
“You hang up.” I hear his smile. Oh, playful Christian. I love playful Christian. Hmm… I love Christian, period.
“We’ve been here before.”
“You’re biting your lip.”
Shit, he’s right. How does he know?
“You see, you think I don’t know you, Anastasia. But I know you better than you think,” he murmurs seductively in that way that makes me weak, and wet.
“Christian, I’ll talk to you later. Right now, I really wish I hadn’t left this morning, too.”
“I’ll wait for your e-mail, Miss Steele.”
“Good day, Mr. Grey.”
Hanging up, I lean against the cold, hard glass of the deli store window. Oh my, even on the phone he owns me. Shaking my head to clear it of all thoughts Grey, I head into the deli, depressed by all thoughts Jack.
He is scowling when I get back.
“Is it okay if I take my lunch now?” I ask tentatively. He gazes up at me and his scowl deepens.
“If you must,” he snaps. “Forty-five minutes. Make up the time you lost this morning.”
“Jack, can I ask you something?”
“You seem, kind of out of sorts today. Have I done something to offend you?”
He blinks at me momentarily. “I don’t think I’m in the mood to list your misdemeanors right now. I’m busy.” He continues to stare at his computer screen, effectively dismissing me.
Whoa… What have I done?
I turn and leave his office, and for a moment I think I’m going to cry. Why has he taken such a sudden and intense dislike to me? A very unwelcome idea pops into my head, but I ignore it. I don’t need his shit right now-I have enough of my own.
I head out of the building to the nearby Starbucks, order a latte, and sit down in the window. Taking my iPod from my purse, I plug my headphones in. I choose a song haphazardly and press repeat so it will play over and over again. I need music to think by.
My mind drifts. Christian the sadist. Christian the submissive. Christian the untouchable. Christian’s oedipal impulses. Christian bathing Leila. I groan and close my eyes while that last image haunts me.
Can I really marry this man? He’s so much to take in. He’s complex and difficult, but deep down I know I don’t want to leave him despite all his issues. I could never leave him. I love him. It would be like cutting off my right arm.
Right now, I have never felt so alive, so vital. I’ve encountered all manner of perplexing, profound feelings and new experiences since I met him. It’s never a dull moment with Fifty.
Looking back on my life before Christian, it’s as if everything was in black and white like José’s pictures. Now my whole world is in rich, bright, saturated color. I am soaring in a beam of dazzling light, Christian’s dazzling light. I am still Icarus, flying too close to his sun. I snort to myself. Flying with Christian-who can resist a man who can fly?
Can I give him up? Do I want to give him up? It’s as if he’s flipped a switch and lit me up from within. It’s been an education knowing him. I have discovered more about myself in the last few weeks than ever before. I’ve learned about my body, my hard limits, my soft limits, my tolerance, my patience, my compassion, and my capacity for love.
And it strikes me like a thunderbolt-that’s what he needs from me, what he’s entitled to-unconditional love. He never received it from the crack whore-it’s what he needs. Can I love him unconditionally? Can I accept him for who he is regardless of his revelations last night?
I know he’s damaged, but I don’t think he’s irredeemable. I sigh, recalling Taylor’s words. “He’s a good man, Miss Steele.”
I’ve seen the weighty evidence of his goodness-his charity work, his business ethics, his generosity-and yet he doesn’t see it in himself. He doesn’t feel deserving of any love. Given his history and his predilections, I have an inkling of his self-loathing-that’s why he’s never let anyone in. Can I get past this?
He said once that I couldn’t begin to understand the depths of his depravity. Well, he’s told me now, and given the first few years of his life, it doesn’t surprise me. Though it was still a shock to hear it out loud. At least he’s told me-and he seems happier now that he has. I know everything.
Does it devalue his love for me? No, I don’t think so. He’s never felt this way before and neither have I. In truth we’ve both come so far.
Tears prick and pool in my eyes as I recall his final barriers crumbling last night when he let me touch him. Jeez, it took Leila and all her crazy to get us to there.
Perhaps I should be grateful. The fact that he bathed her is not quite such a bitter taste on my tongue now. I wonder which clothes he gave her. I hope it wasn’t the plum dress. I liked that.
So can I love this man with all his issues unconditionally? Because he deserves nothing less. He still needs to learn boundaries and little things like empathy, and to be less controlling. He says he no longer feels the compulsion to hurt me; perhaps Dr. Flynn will be able to cast some light on that.
Fundamentally, that’s what concerns me most-that he needs that and has always found like-minded women who need it, too. I frown. Yes, this is the reassurance I need. I want to be all things to this man, his Alpha and his Omega and all things in between because he is to me.
I hope Flynn will have the answers, and maybe then I can say yes. Christian and I can find our own slice of heaven close to the sun.
I gaze out at bustling, lunchtime Seattle. Mrs. Christian Grey-who would have thought? I glance at my watch. Shit! I leap up from my seat and dash to the door-a whole hour of just sitting-where did the time go? Jack is going to go ballistic!
I slink back to my desk. Fortunately, he’s not in his office. It looks like I’ve got away with it. I gaze intently at my computer screen, unseeing, trying to reassemble my thoughts into work mode.
“Where were you?”
I jump. Jack is standing, arms folded, behind me.
“I was in the basement, photocopying,” I lie. Jack lips press into a thin, uncompromising line.
“I’m leaving for my plane at six thirty. I need you to stay until then.”
“Okay.” I smile as sweetly as I can manage.
“I’d like my itinerary for New York printed out and photocopied ten times. And get the brochures packaged up. And get me some coffee!” he snarls and stalks into his office.
I breathe a sigh of relief and stick my tongue out at him as he closes the door. Bastard.
At four o’clock, Claire rings from reception.
“I have Mia Grey for you.”
Mia? I hope she doesn’t want to hang at the mall.
“Ana, hi. How are you?” Her excitement is stifling.
“Good. Busy today. You?”
“I am so bored! I need to find something to do, so I’m arranging a birthday party for Christian.”
Christian’s birthday? Jeez, I had no idea. “When is it?”
“I knew it. I knew he wouldn’t tell you. It’s on Saturday. Mom and Dad want everyone over for a meal to celebrate. I’m officially inviting you.”
“Oh, that’s lovely. Thank you, Mia.”
“I’ve already called Christian and told him, and he gave me your number here.”
“Cool.” My mind is in a flat spin-what the hell am I going to get Christian for his birthday? What do you buy the man who has everything?
“And maybe next week, we can go out one lunchtime?”
“Sure. How about tomorrow? My boss is away in New York.”
“Oh, that would be cool, Ana. What time?”
“Say, twelve forty-five?”
“I’ll be there. Bye, Ana.”
“Bye.” I hang up.
Christian. Birthday. What on earth should I get him?
Date:June 15, 2011 16:11
Dear Mr. Grey
When, exactly, were you going to tell me?
What shall I get myoldman for his birthday?
Perhaps some new batteries for his hearing aid?
Assistant to Jack Hyde, Commissioning Editor, SIP
Date:June 15, 2011 16:20
Don’t mock the elderly.
Glad you are alive and kicking.
And that Mia has been in touch.
Batteries are always useful.
I don’t like celebrating my birthday.
Deaf as a Post CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
Date:June 15, 2011 16:24
Dear Mr. Grey
I can imagine you pouting as you wrote that last sentence.
That does things to me.
Assistant to Jack Hyde, Commissioning Editor, SIP
Date:June 15, 2011 16:29
WILL YOU USE YOUR BLACKBERRY!!!
Twitchy Palmed, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
I roll my eyes. Why is he so touchy about e-mails?
Date:June 15, 2011 16:33
Dear Mr. Grey
Ah… your twitchy palms can’t stay still for long, can they?
I wonder what Dr. Flynn would say about that?
But now I know what to give you for your birthday-and I hope it makes me sore…
Date:June 15, 2011 16:38
I don’t think my heart could stand the strain of another e-mail like that, or my pants for that matter.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
Date:June 15, 2011 16:42
I am trying to work for my very trying boss.
Please stop bothering me and being trying yourself.
Your last e-mail nearly made me combust.
PS: Can you collect me at 6:30?
Subject:I’ll Be There
Date:June 15, 2011 16:38
Nothing would give me greater pleasure.
Actually, I can think of any of number of things that would give me greater pleasure, and they all involve you.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
I flush reading his response and shake my head. E-mail banter is all well and good, but we really need to talk. Perhaps once we’ve seen Flynn. I put my Blackberry down and finish my petty cash reconciliation.
By six fifteen, the office is deserted. I have everything ready for Jack. His cab to the airport is booked, and I just have to hand him his documents. I glance anxiously through the glass, but he’s still deep in his telephone call, and I don’t want to interrupt him-not in the mood he’s in today.
As I wait for him to finish, it occurs to me that I have not eaten today. Oh shit, that’s not going to go down well with Fifty. I quickly skip down to the kitchen to see if there are any cookies left.
As I’m opening the communal cookie jar, Jack appears unexpectedly in the kitchen doorway, startling me.
Oh. What’s he doing here?
He stares at me. “Well, Ana, I think this might be a good time to discuss your misdemeanors.” He steps in, closing the door behind him, and my mouth instantly dries as alarm bells ring loud and piercing in my head.
His lips twitch into a grotesque smile, and his eyes gleam a deep, dark cobalt. “At last, I have you on your own,” he says, and he slowly licks his lower lip.
“Now… are you going to be a good girl and listen very carefully to what I say?”
Jack’s eyes flash the darkest blue, and he sneers as he casts a leering look down my body.
Fear chokes me. What is this? What does he want? From somewhere deep inside and despite my dry mouth, I find the resolve and courage to squeeze out some words, my self-defense class keep-them-talking mantra circling my brain like an ethereal sentinel.
“Jack, now might not be a good time for this. Your cab is due in ten minutes, and I need to give you all your documents.” My voice is quiet but hoarse, betraying me.
He smiles, and it’s a despotic fuck-you smile that finally touches his eyes. They glint in the harsh fluorescent glow of the strip light above us in the drab windowless room. He takes a step toward me, glaring at me, his eyes never leaving mine. His pupils are dilating as I watch-the black eclipsing the blue. Oh no. My fear escalates.
“You know I had to fight with Elizabeth to give you this job…” His voice trails off as he takes another step toward me, and I step back against the dingy wall cupboards. Keep-him-talking, keep-him-talking, keep-him-talking.
“Jack, what exactly is your problem? If you want to air your grievances, then perhaps we should ask HR to get involved. We could do this with Elizabeth in a more formal setting.”
Where is security? Are they in the building yet?
“We don’t need HR to overmanage this situation Ana,” he sneers. “When I hired you, I thought you would be a hard worker. I thought you had potential. But now, I don’t know. You’ve become distracted and sloppy. And I wondered… is it your boyfriend who’s leading you astray?” He says boyfriend with chilling contempt.
“I decided to check through your e-mail account to see if I could find any clues. And you know what I found, Ana? What was out of place? The only personal e-mails in your account were toyour hot-shot boyfriend.” He pauses, assessing my reaction. “And I got to thinking… where are the e-mailsfromhim? There are none. Nada. Nothing. So what’s going on, Ana? How come his e-mails to you aren’t on our system? Are you some company spy, planted in here by Grey’s organization? Isthatwhat this is?”
Holy shit, the e-mails. Oh no. What have I said?
“Jack, what are you talking about?” I try for bewildered, and I’m pretty convincing. This conversation is not going as I expected, but I don’t trust him in the slightest. Some subliminal pheromone that Jack is exuding has me on high alert. This man is angry, volatile, and totally unpredictable. I try to reason with him.
“You just said that you had to persuade Elizabeth to hire me. So how could I be planted as a spy? Make up your mind, Jack.”
“But Grey fucked the New York trip, didn’t he?”
“How did he manage that, Ana? What did your rich, Ivy League boyfriend do?”
What little blood remains in my face drains away, and I think I’m going to faint. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Jack,” I whisper. “Your cab will be here shortly. Shall I fetch your things?”Oh please, let me go. Stop this.
Jack continues, enjoying my discomfort. “And he thinks I’d make a pass at you?” He smirks and his eyes heat. “Well, I want you to think about something while I’m in New York. I gave you this job, and I expect you to show me some gratitude. In fact, I’m entitled to it. I had to fight to get you. Elizabeth wanted someone better qualified, but I-I saw something in you. So, we need to work out a deal. A deal where you keep me happy. D’you understand what I’m saying, Ana?”
“Look at it as refining your job description, if you like. And if you keep me happy, I won’t dig any further into how your boyfriend is pulling strings, milking his contacts, or cashing in some favor from one of his Ivy League frat-boy sycophants.”
My mouth drops open. He’sblackmailingme. For sex! And what can I say? News of Christian’s takeover is embargoed for another three weeks. I can barely believe this. Sex-with me!
Jack moves closer until he’s standing right in front of me, staring down into my eyes. His cloying sweet cologne invades my nostrils-it’s nauseating-and if I’m not mistaken, the bitter stench of alcohol is on his breath. Fuck, he’s been drinking… when?
“You are such a tight-assed, cock-blocking, prick tease, you know, Ana,” he whispers through clenched teeth.
What? Prick tease… Me?
“Jack, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I whisper, as I feel the adrenaline surge through my body. He’s closer now. I am waiting to make my move. Ray will be proud. Ray taught me what to do. Ray knows his self-defense. If Jack touches me-if he even breathes too close to me-I will take him down. My breath is shallow. I must not faint, I must not faint.
“Look at you.” He gives me a leering look. “You’re so turned on, I can tell. You’ve really led me on. Deep down you want it. I know.”
Holy fuck. The man is completely delusional. My fear rises to defcon one, threatening to overwhelm me. “No, Jack. I have never led you on.”
“You have, you prick-teasing bitch. I can read the signs.” Reaching up, he gently strokes my face with the back of his knuckles, down to my chin. His index finger strokes my throat, and my heart leaps into my mouth as I fight my gag reflex. He reaches the dip at the base of my neck, where the top button of my black shirt is open, and presses his hand against my chest.
“You want me. Admit it, Ana.”
Keeping my eyes firmly fixed on his and concentrating on what I have to do-rather than my mushrooming revulsion and dread-I place my hand gently over his in a caress. He smiles in triumph. I grab his little finger, and twist it back, pulling it sharply down backward to his hip.
“Arrgh!” he cries out in pain and surprise, and as he leans off balance, I bring my knee, swift and hard, up into his groin, and make perfect contact with my goal. I dodge deftly to my left as his knees buckle, and he collapses with a groan onto the kitchen floor, grasping himself between his legs.
“Don’t you ever touch me again,” I snarl at him. “Your itinerary and the brochures are packaged on my desk. I am going home now. Have a nice trip. And in the future, get your own damn coffee.”
“You fucking bitch!” he half screams, half groans at me, but I am already out the door.
I run full pelt to my desk, grab my jacket and my purse, and dash to front reception, ignoring the moans and curses emanating from the bastard still prostrate on the kitchen floor. I burst out of the building and stop for a moment as the cool air hits my face, take a deep breath, and compose myself. But I haven’t eaten all day, and as the very unwelcome surge of adrenaline recedes, my legs give out beneath me and I sink to the ground.
I watch with mild detachment the slow motion movie that plays out in front of me: Christian and Taylor in dark suits and white shirts, leaping out of the waiting car and running toward me. Christian sinks to his knees at my side, and on some unconscious level, all I can think is: He’s here. My love is here.
“Ana, Ana! What’s wrong?” He scoops me into his lap, running his hands up and down my arms, checking for any signs of injury. Grabbing my head between his hands, he stares with wide, terrified, gray eyes into mine. I sag against him, suddenly overwhelmed with relief and fatigue. Oh, Christian’s arms. There is no place I’d rather be.
“Ana.” He shakes me gently. “What’s wrong? Are you sick?”
I shake my head as I realize I need to start communicating.
“Jack,” I whisper, and I sense rather than see Christian’s swift glance at Taylor, who abruptly disappears into the building.
“Fuck!” Christian enfolds me in his arms. “What did that sleazeball do to you?”
And from somewhere just the right side of crazy, a giggle bubbles in my throat. I recall Jack’s utter shock as I grabbed his finger.
“It’s whatIdid tohim.” I start giggling and I can’t stop.
“Ana!” Christian shakes me again, and my giggling fit ceases. “Did he touch you?”
I feel Christian’s muscles bunch and tense as rage sweeps through him, and he stands up swiftly, powerfully-rock steady-with me in his arms. He’s furious. No!
“Where is that fucker?”
From inside the building we hear muffled shouting. Christian sets me on my feet.
“Can you stand?”
“Don’t go in. Don’t, Christian.” Suddenly my fear is back, fear of what Christian will do to Jack.
“Get in the car,” he barks at me.
“Christian, no.” I grab his arm.
“Get in the goddamned car, Ana.” He shakes me off.
“No! Please!” I plead with him. “Stay. Don’t leave me on my own.” I deploy my ultimate weapon.
Seething, Christian runs his hand through his hair and glares down at me, clearly wracked with indecision. The shouting inside the building escalates, and then stops suddenly.
Oh, no. What has Taylor done?
Christian fishes out his Blackberry.
“Christian, he has my e-mails.”
“My e-mails to you. He wanted to know where your e-mails to me were. He was trying to blackmail me.”
Christian’s look is murderous. Oh shit. “Fuck!” he splutters and narrows his eyes at me. He punches a number into his Blackberry.
Oh no. I’m in trouble. Who’s he calling?
“Barney. Grey. I need you to access the SIP main server and wipe all Anastasia Steele’s e-mails to me. Then access the personal data files of Jack Hyde and check they aren’t stored there. If they are, wipe them… Yes, all of them. Now. Let me know when it’s done.”
He stabs the off button then dials another number.
“Roach. Grey. Hyde-I want him out. Now. This minute. Call security. Get him to clear his desk immediately, or I will liquidate this company first thing in the morning. You already have all the justification you need to give him his pink slip. Do you understand?” He listens for a moment and hangs up seemingly satisfied.
“Blackberry,” he hisses at me through clenched teeth.
“Please don’t be mad at me.” I blink up at him.
“I am so mad at you right now,” he snarls and once more sweeps his hand through his hair. “Get in the car.”
“Get in the fucking car, Anastasia, or so help me I’ll put you in there myself,” he threatens, his eyes blazing with fury.
Oh shit. “Don’t do anything stupid, please,” I beg.
“STUPID!” he explodes. “I told you to use your fucking Blackberry. Don’t talk to me about stupid. Get in the motherfucking car, Anastasia-NOW!” he snarls and a frisson of fear runs through me. This is Very Angry Christian. I’ve not seen him this mad before. He’s barely holding on to his self-control.
“Okay,” I mutter, placating him. “But please, be careful.”
Pressing his lips together in a hard line, he points angrily to the car, glaring at me.
Jeez, okay, I get the message.
“Please be careful. I don’t want anything to happen to you. It would kill me,” I murmur. He blinks rapidly and stills, lowering his arm while he takes a deep breath.
“I’ll be careful,” he says, his eyes softening. Oh, thank the Lord. His eyes burn into me as I head to the car, open the front passenger door, and climb in. Once I’m safely in the comfort of the Audi, he disappears into the building, and my heart leaps again into my throat. What’s he planning to do?
I sit and wait. And wait. And wait. Five eternal minutes. Jack’s cab pulls up in front of the Audi. Ten minutes. Fifteen. Jeez, what are they doing in there, and how is Taylor? The wait is agonizing.
Twenty-five minutes later, Jack emerges from the building, clutching a cardboard storage box. Behind him is the security guard. Where was he earlier? And after them, Christian and Taylor. Jack looks sick. He heads straight for the cab, and I’m grateful for the Audi’s heavily tinted windows so he cannot see me. The cab drives off-presumably not to Sea-Tac-as Christian and Taylor reach the car.
Opening the driver’s door, Christian slides smoothly into the seat, presumably because I am in the front, and Taylor gets in behind me. Neither of them says a word as Christian starts the car and pulls out into the traffic. I risk a quick glance at Fifty. His mouth is set in a firm line, but he seems distracted. The in-car phone rings.
“Grey,” Christian snaps.
“Mr. Grey, Barney here.”
“Barney, I’m on speaker phone, and there are others in the car,” Christian warns.
“Sir, it’s all done. But I need to talk to you about what else I found on Mr. Hyde’s computer.”
“I’ll call you when I reach my destination. And thanks, Barney.”
“No problem, Mr. Grey.”
Barney hangs up. He sounds much younger than I expected.
What else is on Jack’s computer?
“Are you talking to me?” I ask quietly.
Christian glances at me, before fixing his eyes back on the road ahead, and I can tell he’s still mad.
“No,” he mutters sullenly.
Oh, there we go… how childish. I wrap my arms around myself and stare unseeing out the window. Perhaps I should just ask him to drop me off at my apartment, then he can “not talk” to me from the safety of Escala and save us both the inevitable quarrel. But even as I think it, I know I don’t want to leave him to brood, not after yesterday.
Eventually, we pull up in front of his apartment building, and Christian climbs out of the car. Moving with easy grace around to my side, he opens my door.
“Come,” he orders as Taylor clambers into the driver’s seat. I take his proffered hand and follow him through the grand foyer to the elevator. He doesn’t let go of me.
“Christian, why are you so mad at me?” I whisper as we wait.
“You know why,” he mutters as we step into the elevator, and he punches in the code to his floor. “God, if something had happened to you, he’d be dead by now.” Christian’s tone chills me to the bone. The doors close.
“As it is, I’m going to ruin his career so he can’t take advantage of young women anymore, miserable excuse for a man that he is.” He shakes his head. “Jesus, Ana!” He grabs me suddenly, imprisoning me in the corner of the elevator.
His hands fist in my hair as he pulls my face up to his, and his mouth is on mine, a passionate desperation in his kiss. I don’t know why this takes me by surprise, but it does. I taste his relief, his longing, and his residual anger while his tongue possesses my mouth. He stops, gazing down at me, resting his weight against me so I can’t move. He leaves me breathless, clinging to him for support, staring up into that beautiful face etched with determination and without any trace of humor.
“If anything had happened to you… If he’d harmed you…” I feel the shudder that runs through him. “Blackberry,” he commands quietly. “From now on. Understand?”
I nod, swallowing, unable to break eye contact from his grim, mesmerizing look.
He straightens, releasing me as the elevator comes to a stop. “He said you kicked him in the balls.” Christian’s tone is lighter with a trace of admiration, and I think I’m forgiven.
“Yes,” I whisper, still reeling from the intensity of his kiss and his impassioned command.
“Ray is ex-army. He taught me well.”
“I’m very glad he did,” he breathes and adds, arching a brow, “I’ll need to remember that.” Taking my hand, he leads me out of the elevator and I follow, relieved. I think that’s as bad as his mood is going to get.
“I need to call Barney. I won’t be long.” He disappears into his study, leaving me stranded in the vast living room. Mrs. Jones is adding the finishing touches to our meal. I realize I am famished, but I need something to do.
“Can I help?” I ask.
She laughs. “No, Ana. Can I fix you a drink or something? You look beat.”
“I’d love a glass of wine.”
I perch on one of the bar stools, and she hands me a glass of chilled wine. I don’t know what it is, but it’s delicious and slides down easily, soothing my shattered nerves. What was I thinking about earlier today? How alive I have felt since I met Christian. How exciting my life has become. Jeez, could I just have a few boring days?
What if I’d never met Christian? I’d be holed up in my apartment, talking it through with Ethan, completely freaked by my encounter with Jack, knowing I would have to face the sleazeball again on Friday. As it is, there’s every chance I’ll never set eyes on him again. But who will I work for now? I frown. I hadn’t thought of that. Shit, do I even have a job?
“Evening, Gail,” Christian says as he comes back into the great room, dragging me from my thoughts. Heading straight to the fridge, he pours himself a glass of wine.
“Good evening, Mr. Grey. Dinner in ten, sir?”
Christian raises his glass.
“To ex-military men who train their daughters well,” he says and his eyes soften.
“Cheers,” I mutter, raising my glass.
“What’s wrong?” Christian asks.
“I don’t know if I still have a job.”
He cocks his head to the side. “Do you still want one?”
“Then you still have one.”
Simple. See? He is master of my universe. I roll my eyes at him and he smiles.
Mrs. Jones makes a mean chicken potpie. She has left us to enjoy the fruits of her labors, and I feel much better now I’ve had something to eat. We are sitting at the breakfast bar, and despite my best cajoling, Christian won’t tell me what Barney has found on Jack’s computer. I drop the subject, and decide to tackle instead the thorny issue of José’s impending visit.
“José called,” I say nonchalantly.
“Oh?” Christian turns to face me.
“He wants to deliver your photos on Friday.”
“A personal delivery. How accommodating of him,” Christian mutters.
“He wants to go out. For a drink. With me.”
“And Kate and Elliot should be back,” I add quickly.
Christian puts his fork down, frowning at me.
“What exactly are you asking?”
I bristle. “I’m not asking anything. I’m informing you of my plans for Friday. Look, I want to see José, and he wants to stay over. Either he stays here or he can stay at my place, but if he does I should be there, too.”
Christian’s eyes widen. He looks dumbfounded.
“He made a pass at you.”
“Christian, that was weeks ago. He was drunk, I was drunk, you saved the day-it won’t happen again. He’s no Jack, for heaven’s sake.”
“Ethan’s there. He can keep him company.”
“He wants to see me, not Ethan.”
Christian scowls at me.
“He’s just a friend.” My voice is emphatic.
“I don’t like it.”
So what? Jeez, he’s irritating sometimes. I take a deep breath. “He’s my friend, Christian. I haven’t seen him since his show. And that was too brief. I know you don’t have any friends, apart from that god-awful woman, but I don’t moan about you seeing her,” I snap. Christian blinks, shocked. “I want to see him. I’ve been a poor friend to him.” My subconscious is alarmed. Are you stamping your little foot? Steady now!
Gray eyes blaze at me. “Is that what you think?” he breathes.
“Think about what?”
“Elena. You’d rather I didn’t see her?”
Holy cow. “Exactly. I’d rather you didn’t see her.”
“Why didn’t you say?”
“Because it’s not my place to say. You think she’s your only friend.” I shrug in exasperation. He really doesn’t get it. How did this turn into a conversation about her? I don’t even want to think about her. I try to steer us back to José. “Just as it’s not your place to say if I can or can’t see José. Don’t you see that?”
Christian gazes at me, perplexed, I think. Oh, what is he thinking?
“He can stay here, I suppose,” he mutters. “I can keep an eye on him.” He sounds petulant.
“Thank you! You know, if I am going to live here, too…” I trail off. Christian nods. He knows what I’m trying to say. “It’s not like you haven’t got the space.” I smirk.
His lips quirk up slowly. “Are you smirking at me, Miss Steele?”
“Most definitely, Mr. Grey.” I get up just in case his palms start twitching, clear our plates, and then load them into the dishwasher.
“Gail will do that.”
“I’ve done it now.” I stand up and gaze at him. He’s watching me intently.
“I have to work for a while,” he says apologetically.
“Cool. I’ll find something to do.”
“Come here,” he orders, but his voice is soft and seductive, his eyes heated. I don’t hesitate to walk into his arms, clasping him around his neck as he perches on his bar stool. He wraps his arms around me, crushes me to him, and just holds me.
“Are you okay?” he whispers into my hair.
“After what happened with that fucker? After what happened yesterday?” he adds, his voice quiet and earnest.
I gaze into dark, serious, gray eyes. Am I okay? “Yes,” I whisper.
His arms tighten around me, and I feel safe, cherished, and loved all at once. It’s blissful. Closing my eyes, I enjoy the feel of being in his arms. I love this man. I love his intoxicating scent, his strength, his mercurial ways-my Fifty.
“Let’s not fight,” he murmurs. He kisses my hair and inhales deeply. “You smell heavenly as usual, Ana.”
“So do you,” I whisper and kiss his neck.
All too soon he releases me. “I should only be a couple of hours.”
I wander listlessly through the apartment. Christian is still working. I have showered and dressed in some sweats and a T-shirt of my own, and I’m bored. I don’t want to read. If I sit still, I’ll recall Jack and his fingers on me.
I check out my old bedroom, the subs’ room. José can sleep here-he’ll like the view. It’s about eight fifteen, and the sun is beginning to sink into the west. The lights of the city twinkle below me. It’s glorious. Yes, José will like it here. I wonder idly where Christian will hang José’s pictures of me. I’d rather he didn’t. I am not keen on looking at myself.
Back down the hallway I find myself outside the playroom, and without thinking, I try the door handle. Christian normally keeps it locked, but to my surprise, the door opens. How strange. Feeling like a child playing hooky and straying into the forbidden forest, I walk in. It’s dark. I flick the switch and the lights under the cornice light up with a soft glow. It’s as I remember it. A womb-like room.
Memories of the last time I was in here flash through my mind. The belt… I wince at the recollection. Now it hangs innocently, lined up with others, on the rack beside the door. Tentatively I run my fingers over the belts, the floggers, the paddles, and the whips. Sheesh. This is what I need to square with Dr. Flynn. Can someone in this lifestyle just stop? It seems so improbable. Wandering over to the bed, I sit on soft red satin sheets, gazing around at all the apparatus.
Beside me is the bench, above that the assortment of canes. So many! Surely one is enough? Well, the less said about that the better. And the large table. We never tried that, whatever he does on it. My eyes fall on the chesterfield, and I move over to sit on it. It’s just a couch, nothing extraordinary about it-nothing to fasten anything to, not that I can see. Glancing behind me, I spy the museum chest. My curiosity is piqued. What does he keep in there?
As I pull open the top drawer I realize my blood is pounding through my veins. Why am I so nervous? This feels so illicit, as if I’m trespassing, which of course I am. But if he wants to marry me, well…
Holy fuck, what’s all this? An array of instruments and bizarre implements-I don’t have a clue what they are, or what they’re for-are carefully laid out in the display drawer. I pick one up. It’s bullet-shaped with a sort of handle. Hmm… what the hell do you do with that? My mind boggles, though I think I have an idea. Jeez, there are four different sizes! My scalp prickles and I glance up.
Christian is standing in the doorway, staring at me, his face unreadable. How long has he been there? I feel like I’ve been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
“Hi.” I smile nervously at him, and I know my eyes are wide and that I’m deathly pale.
“What are you doing?” he says softly, but there’s an undercurrent in his tone.
Oh shit. Is he mad? I flush. “Er… I was bored and curious,” I mutter, embarrassed to be found out. He said he’d be two hours.
“That’s a very dangerous combination.” He runs his long index finger across his lower lip in quiet contemplation, not taking his eyes off me. I swallow and my mouth is dry.
Slowly, he enters the room and closes the door quietly behind him, his eyes liquid gray fire. Oh my. He leans casually over the chest of drawers, but I think his stance is deceptive. My inner goddess doesn’t know whether it’s fight or flight time.
“So, what exactly are you curious about, Miss Steele? Perhaps I could enlighten you.”
“The door was open… I-” I gaze at Christian as I hold my breath and blink, uncertain as ever of his reaction or what I should say. His eyes are dark. I think he’s amused, but it’s difficult to tell. He places his elbows on the museum chest and rests his chin on his clasped hands.
“I was in here earlier today wondering what to do with it all. I must have forgotten to lock it.” He scowls momentarily as if leaving the door unlocked is a terrible lapse in judgment. I frown-it’s not like him to be forgetful.
“But now here you are, curious as ever.” His voice is soft, puzzled.
“You’re not mad?” I whisper, using my remaining breath.
He cocks his head to one side, and his lips twitch in amusement.
“Why would I be mad?”
“I feel like I’m trespassing… and you’re always mad at me.” My voice is quiet, though I’m relieved. Christian’s brow creases once more.
“Yes, you’re trespassing, but I’m not mad. I hope that one day you’ll live with me here, and all this”-he gestures vaguely round the room with one hand-“will be yours, too.”
My playroom… eh? I gape at him-that’s a lot to take in.
“That’s why I was in here today. Trying to decide what to do.” He taps his lips with his index finger. “Am I angry with you all the time? I wasn’t this morning.”
Oh, that’s true. I smile at the memory of Christian when we woke, and it distracts me from the thought of what will become of the playroom. He was such fun Fifty this morning.
“You were playful. I like playful Christian.”
“Do you now?” He arches an eyebrow, and his beautiful mouth curves up in a smile, a shy smile. Wow!
“What’s this?” I hold up the silver bullet thing.
“Always hungry for information, Miss Steele. That’s a butt plug,” he says gently.
“Bought for you.”
What? “For me?”
He nods slowly, his face now serious and wary.
I frown. “You buy new, er… toys… for each submissive?”
“Some things. Yes.”
Okay… I swallow. Butt plug. It’s solid metal-surely that’s uncomfortable? I remember our discussion about sex toys and hard limits after I graduated. I think at the time I said I would try. Now, actually seeing one, I don’t know if it’s something I want to do. I examine it once more and place it back in the drawer.
“And this?” I take out a long, black rubbery object, made of gradually diminishing spherical bubbles joined together, the first one large and the last much smaller. Eight bubbles in total.
“Anal beads,” says Christian, watching me carefully.
Oh! I examine them with fascinated horror. All of these, inside me… there! I had no idea.
“They have quite an effect if you pull them out mid-orgasm,” he adds matter-of-factly.
“This is for me?” I whisper.
“For you.” He nods slowly.
“This is the butt drawer?”
He smirks. “If you like.”
I close it quickly, flushing like a stoplight.
“Don’t you like the butt drawer?” he asks innocently, amused. I gaze at him and shrug, trying to brazen out my shock.
“It’s not top of my Christmas card list,” I mutter nonchalantly. Tentatively, I open the second drawer.He grins.
“Next drawer down holds a selection of vibrators.”
I shut the drawer quickly.
“And the next?” I whisper, ashen once more, but this time with embarrassment.
“That’s more interesting.”
Oh! Hesitantly I pull the drawer open, not taking my eyes off his beautiful but rather smug face. Inside there are an assortment of metal items and some clothespins. Clothespins! I pick up a large metal clip-like device.
“Genital clamp,” Christian says. He stands up and moves casually around so that he’s beside me. I put it back immediately and choose something more delicate-two small clips on a chain.
“Some of these are for pain, but most are for pleasure,” he murmurs.
“Nipple clamps-that’s for both.”
Christian smirks at me. “Well, there are two clamps, baby. Yes, both nipples, but that’s not what I meant. These are for both pleasure and pain.”
Oh. He takes it from me.
“Hold out your little finger.”
I do as he asks, and he clamps one clip to the tip of my finger. It’s not too harsh.
“The sensation is very intense, but it’s when taking them off that they are at their most painful andpleasurable.” I remove the clip. Hmm, that might be nice. I squirm at the thought.
“I like the look of these,” I murmur and Christian smiles.
“Do you now, Miss Steele? I think I can tell.”
I nod shyly, biting my lip. He reaches up and tugs on my chin so I release my bottom lip.
“You know what that does to me,” he murmurs.
I put the clips back in the drawer, and Christian leans forward and pulls out two more.
“These are adjustable.” He holds them up for me to inspect.
“You can wear them very tight… or not. Depending on your mood.”
How does he make that sound so erotic? I swallow, and to divert his attention, pull out a device that looks like a spiky pastry cutter.
“This?” I frown. No baking in the playroom, surely.
“That’s a Wartenberg pinwheel.”
He reaches over and takes it from me. “Give me your hand. Palm up.”
I offer him my left hand and he takes it gently, skating his thumb over my knuckles. A shiver runs through me. His skin against mine, it never fails to thrill me. He runs the wheel over my palm.
“Ah!” The prongs bite into my skin-there’s more than just pain. In fact, it tickles slightly.
“Imagine that over your breasts,” Christian murmurs lasciviously.
Oh! I flush and snatch my hand back. My breathing and heart rate increase. Holy cow.
“There’s a fine line between pleasure and pain, Anastasia,” he says softly as he leans down and puts the device back in the drawer.
“Clothespins?” I whisper.
“You can do a great deal with a clothespins.” His gray eyes burn.
I lean against the drawer so it closes.
“Is that all?” Christian looks amused.
“No…” I pull open the fourth drawer to be confounded by a mass of leather and straps. I tug at one of the straps… it appears to be attached to a ball.
“Ball gag. To keep you quiet,” says Christian, amused once more.
“Soft limit,” I mutter.
“I remember,” he says. “But you can still breathe. Your teeth clamp over the ball.” Taking it from me, he replicates a mouth clamping down on the ball with his fingers.
“Have you worn one of these?” I ask.
He stills and gazes down at me. “Yes.”
“To mask your screams?”
He closes his eyes, and I think it’s in exasperation. “No, that’s not what they’re about.”
Oh?Fifty Shades Freed Extended Version