Fifty Shades Freed Extended Version

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Dr. Flynn frowns. “I have. I see an attractive young man, and I see an attractive young woman. Ana, why don’t you think of yourself as attractive?”

Oh no… I don’t want this to be about me. I stare down at my fingers. There’s a sharp knock on the door that makes me jump. Christian comes back into the room, glaring at both of us. I flush and glance quickly at Flynn, who is smiling benignly at Christian.

“Welcome back, Christian,” he says.

“I think time is up, John.”

“Nearly, Christian. Join us.”

Christian sits down, beside me this time, and places his hand possessively on my knee. His action does not go unnoticed by Dr. Flynn.

“Did you have any other questions, Ana?” Dr. Flynn asks and his concern is obvious. Shit… I should not have asked that question. I shake my head.


“Not today, John.”

Flynn nods.

“It may be beneficial if you both come again. I’m sure Ana will have more questions.”

Christian nods, reluctantly.

I flush. Shit… he wants to delve. Christian clasps my hand and regards me intently.

“Okay?” he asks softly.

I smile at him, nodding. Yes, we’re going for the benefit of the doubt, courtesy of the good doctor from England.

Christian squeezes my hand and turns to Flynn.

“How is she?” he asks softly.


“She’ll get there,” he says reassuringly.

“Good. Keep me updated of her progress.”

“I will.”

Holy fuck. They’re talking about Leila.

“Shall we go and celebrate your promotion?” Christian asks me pointedly.

I nod shyly as Christian stands.

We say our quick good-byes to Dr. Flynn, and Christian ushers me out with unseemly haste.

In the street, he turns to me. “How was that?” his voice is anxious.

“It was good.”

He regards me suspiciously. I cock my head to one side.

“Mr. Grey, please don’t look at me that way. Under doctor’s orders I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt.”

“What does that mean?”

“You’ll see.”

His mouth twists and his eyes narrow. “Get in the car,” he orders while opening the passenger door of the Saab.

Oh, change of direction. My Blackberry buzzes. I haul it out of my purse.

Shit, José!


“Ana, hi…”

I stare at Fifty, who is eyeing me suspiciously. “José,” I mouth at him. He stares impassively at me, but his eyes harden. Does he think I don’t notice? I turn my attention back to José.

“Sorry I haven’t called you. Is it about tomorrow?” I ask José, but stare up at Christian.

“Yeah, listen-I spoke with some guy at Grey’s place, so I know where I’m delivering the photos, and I should get there between five and six… after that, I’m free.”


“Well, I’m actually staying with Christian at the moment, and if you want to, he says you can stay at his place.”

Christian presses his mouth in a hard line. Hmm-some host he is.

José is silent for a moment, absorbing this news. I cringe. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about Christian.

“Okay,” he says eventually. “This thing with Grey, it’s serious?”

I turn away from the car and pace to the other side of the sidewalk.


“How serious?”

I roll my eyes and pause. Why does Christian have to be listening?


“Is he with you now? That why you’re speaking in monosyllables?”


“Okay. So are you allowed out tomorrow?”

“Of course I am.” I hope. I automatically cross my fingers.

“So where shall I meet you?”

“You could collect me from work,” I offer.


“I’ll text you the address.”

“What time?”

“Say six?”

“Sure. I’ll see you then, Ana. Looking forward to it. I miss you.”

I grin. “Cool. I’ll see you then.” I switch the phone off and turn.

Christian is leaning against the car watching me carefully, his expression impossible to read.

“How’s your friend?” he asks coolly.

“He’s well. He’ll pick me up from work, and I think we’ll go for a drink. Would you like to join us?”

Christian hesitates, his gray eyes cool. “You don’t think he’ll try anything?”

“No!” My tone is exasperated-but I refrain from rolling my eyes.

“Okay,” Christian holds his hands up in defeat. “You hang out with your friend, and I’ll see you later in the evening.”

I was expecting a fight, and his easy acquiescence throws me off balance.

“See? I can be reasonable.” He smirks.

My mouth twists. We’ll see about that.

“Can I drive?”

Christian blinks at me, surprised by my request.

“I’d rather you didn’t.”

“Why, exactly?”

“Because I don’t like to be driven.”

“You managed this morning, and you seem to tolerate Taylor driving you.”

“I trust Taylor’s driving implicitly.”

“And not mine?” I put my hands on my hips. “Honestly-your control freakery knows no bounds. I’ve been driving since I was fifteen.”

He shrugs in response, as if this is of no consequence whatsoever. Oh-he’s so exasperating! Benefit of the doubt? Well, screw that.

“Is this my car?” I demand.

He frowns at me. “Of course it’s your car.”

“Then give me the keys, please. I’ve driven it twice, and only to and from work. Now you’re having all the fun.” I am in full-on pout mode. Christian’s lips twitch with a repressed smile.

“But you don’t know where we’re going.”

“I’m sure you can enlighten me, Mr. Grey. You’ve done a great job of it so far.”

He gazes at me stunned then smiles, his new shy smile that totally disarms me and takes my breath away.

“Great job, eh?” he murmurs.

I blush. “Mostly, yes.”

“Well, in that case.” He hands me the keys, walks round to the driver’s door, and opens it for me.

“Left here,” Christian orders, and we head north toward the I-5. “Hell-gently, Ana.” He grabs hold of the dashboard.

Oh, for heaven’s sake. I roll my eyes, but don’t turn to look at him. Van Morrison croons in the background over the car sound system.

“Slow down!”

“I am slowing down!”

Christian sighs. “What did Flynn say?” I hear his anxiety leaching into his voice.

“I told you. He says I should give you the benefit of the doubt.” Damn-maybe I should have let Christian drive. Then I could watch him. In fact… I signal to pull over.

“What are you doing?” he snaps, alarmed.

“Letting you drive.”


“So I can look at you.”

He laughs. “No, no-you wanted to drive. So, you drive, and I’ll look at you.”

I scowl at him. “Keep your eyes on the road!” he shouts.

My blood boils. Right! I pull over to the curb just before a stoplight and storm out of the car, slamming the door, and stand on the sidewalk, arms folded, I glare at him. He climbs out of the car.

“What are you doing?” he asks angrily, staring down at me.

“No. What are you doing?”

“You can’t park here.”

“I know that.”

“So why have you?”

“Because I’ve had it with you barking orders. Either you drive or you shut up about my driving!”

“Anastasia, get back in the car before we get a ticket.”


He blinks at me, at a total loss, then runs his hands through his hair, and his anger becomes bewilderment. He looks so comical all of a sudden, and I can’t help but smile at him. He frowns.

“What?” he snaps once more.


“Oh, Anastasia! You are the most frustrating female on the planet.” He throws his hands in the air. “Fine-I’ll drive.” I grab the edges of his jacket and pull him to me.

“No-you are the most frustrating man on the planet, Mr. Grey.”

He gazes down at me, his eyes dark and intense, he snakes his arms around my waist and embraces me, holding me close.

“Maybe we’re meant for each other, then,” he says softly and inhales deeply, his nose in my hair. I wrap my arms around him and close my eyes. For the first time since this morning, I feel myself relax.

“Oh… Ana, Ana, Ana,” he breathes, his lips pressed against my hair. I tighten my arms around him, and we stand, immobile, enjoying a moment of unexpected tranquility, on the street. Releasing me, he opens the passenger door. I climb in and sit quietly, watching him walk around the car.

Restarting the car, Christian pulls out into the traffic, absentmindedly humming along to Van Morrison.

Whoa. I’ve never heard him sing, not even in the shower, ever. I frown. He has a lovely voice-of course. Hmm… has he heard me sing?

He wouldn’t be asking you to marry him if he had! My subconscious has her arms crossed and is wearing Burberry check… jeez. The song finishes and Christian smirks.

“You know, if we had gotten a ticket, the title of this car is in your name.”

“Well, good thing I’ve been promoted-I can afford the fine,” I say smugly, staring at his lovely profile. His lips twitch. Another Van Morrison song starts playing as he takes the on-ramp to I-5, heading north.

“Where are we going?”

“It’s a surprise. What else did Flynn say?”

I sigh. “He talked about FFFSTB or something.”

“SFBT. The latest therapy option,” he mutters.

“You’ve tried others?”

Christian snorts. “Baby, I’ve been subjected to them all. Cognitivism, Freud, functionalism, Gestalt, behaviorism… You name it, over the years I’ve done it,” he says and his tone betrays his bitterness. The rancor in his voice is distressing.

“Do you think this latest approach will help?”

“What did Flynn say?”

“He said not to dwell on your past. Focus on the future-on where you want to be.”

Christian nods but shrugs at the same time, his expression cautious.

“What else?” he persists.

“He talked about your fear of being touched, although he called it something else. And about your nightmares and your self-abhorrence.” I glance at him, and in the evening light, he’s pensive, chewing on his thumbnail as he drives. He glances quickly at me.

“Eyes on the road, Mr. Grey,” I admonish, my eyebrow cocked at him.

He looks amused, and slightly exasperated. “You were talking forever, Anastasia. What else did he say?”

I swallow. “He doesn’t think you’re a sadist,” I whisper.

“Really?” Christian says quietly and frowns. The atmosphere in the car takes a nosedive.

“He says that term’s not recognized in psychiatry. Not since the nineties,” I mutter, quickly trying to rescue the mood between us.

Christian’s face darkens, and he exhales slowly.

“Flynn and I have differing opinions on this,” he says quietly.

“He said you always think the worst of yourself. I know that’s true,” I murmur. “He also mentioned sexual sadism-but he said that was a lifestyle choice, not a psychiatric condition. Maybe that’s what you’re thinking about.”

His gray eyes flash toward me again, and his mouth sets in a grim line.

“So-one talk with the good doctor and you’re an expert,” he says acidly and turns his eyes front.

Oh dear… I sigh.

“Look-if you don’t want to hear what he said, don’t ask me,” I mutter softly.

I don’t want to argue. Anyway he’s right-what the hell do I know about all his shit? Do I even want to know? I can list the salient points-his control freakery, his possessiveness, his jealousy, his overprotectiveness-and I completely understand where he’s coming from. I can even understand why he doesn’t like to be touched-I’ve seen the physical scars. I can only imagine the mental ones, and I’ve only glimpsed his nightmares once. And Dr. Flynn said-

“I want to know what you discussed.” Christian interrupts my thoughts as he heads off I-5 on exit 172, heading west toward the slowly sinking sun.

“He called me your lover.”

“Did he now?” His tone is conciliatory. “Well, he’s nothing if not fastidious about his terms. I think that’s an accurate description. Don’t you?”

“Did you think of your subs as lovers?”

Christian’s brow creases once more, but this time he’s thinking. He turns the Saab smoothly north once again. Where are we going?

“No. They were sexual partners,” he murmurs, his voice cautious again. “You’re my only lover. And I want you to be more.”

Oh… there’s that magical word again, brimming with possibility. It makes me smile, and inside I hug myself, my inner goddess radiating joy.

“I know,” I whisper, trying hard to hide my excitement. “I just need some time, Christian. To get my head around these last few days.” He glances at me oddly, perplexed, his head inclined to one side.

After a beat, the stoplight we’re stationed at turns green. He nods and turns the music up, and our discussion is over.

Van Morrison is still singing-more optimistically now-about it being a marvelous night for moondancing. I gaze out the windows at the pines and spruce dusted gold by the fading light of the sun, their long shadows stretching across the road. Christian has turned into a more residential street, and we’re heading west toward the Sound.

“Where are we going?” I ask again as we turn into a road. I catch a road sign-9th Ave NW. I am baffled.

“Surprise,” he says and smiles mysteriously.


Christian continues to drive past single-story, well-kept, clapboard houses where kids play either clustered around their basketball hoops in their yards or cycling and running around in the street. It all looks affluent and wholesome with the houses nestling among the trees. Perhaps we’re going to visit someone? Who?

A few minutes later, Christian turns sharply left, and we’re confronted by two ornate white metal gates set in a six-foot-high, sandstone wall. Christian presses a button on his door handle and the electric window hums quietly down into the doorframe. He punches a number into the keypad and the gates swing open in welcome.

He glances at me, and his expression has changed. He looks uncertain, nervous even.

“What is it?” I ask, and I can’t mask the concern in my voice.

“An idea,” he says quietly and eases the Saab through the gates.

We head up a tree-lined lane just wide enough for two cars. On one side, the trees ring a densely wooded area, and on the other there’s a vast area of grassland where a once-cultivated field has been left fallow. Grasses and wildflowers have reclaimed it, creating a rural idyll-a meadow, where the late evening breeze softly ripples through the grass and the evening sun gilds the wildflowers. It’s lovely-utterly tranquil, and suddenly I imagine myself lying in the grass and gazing up at a clear blue summer sky. The thought is tantalizing yet makes me feel homesick for some strange reason. How odd.

The lane curves around and opens into a sweeping driveway in front of an impressive Mediterranean-style house of soft pink sandstone. It’s palatial. All the lights are on, each window brightly illuminated in the dusk. There’s a smart, black BMW parked in front of the four-car garage, but Christian pulls up outside the grand portico.

Hmm… I wonder who lives here? Why are we visiting?

Christian glances anxiously at me as he switches off the car engine.

“Will you keep an open mind?” he asks.

I frown.

“Christian, I’ve needed an open mind since the day I met you.”

He smiles ironically and nods. “Fair point well made, Miss Steele. Let’s go.”

The dark wood doors open, and a woman with dark brown hair, a sincere smile, and a sharp lilac suit stands waiting. I’m grateful I changed into my new navy shift dress to impress Dr. Flynn. Okay, I’m not wearing killer heels like her-but still, I’m not in jeans.

“Mr. Grey.” She smiles warmly and they shake hands.

“Miss Kelly,” he says politely.

She smiles at me and holds out her hand, which I shake. Her isn’t-he-dreamily-gorgeous-wish-he-was-mine flush does not go unnoticed.

“Olga Kelly,” she announces breezily.

“Ana Steele,” I mutter back at her. Who is this woman? She stands aside, welcoming us into the house. It’s a shock when I step in. The place is empty-completely empty. We find ourselves in a large entrance hall. The walls are a faded primrose yellow with scuffmarks where pictures must once have hung. All that remains are the old-fashioned crystal light fixtures. The floors are dull hardwood. There are closed doors to either side of us, but Christian gives me no time to assimilate what’s happening.

“Come,” he says, and taking my hand, he leads me through the archway in front of us into a larger inner vestibule. It’s dominated by a curved, sweeping staircase with an intricate iron balustrade but still he doesn’t stop. He takes me through to the main living area, which is empty, save for a large faded gold rug-the biggest rug I have ever seen. Oh-and there are four crystal chandeliers.

But Christian’s intention is now clear as we head across the room and outside through open French doors to a large stone terrace. Below us there’s half a football field of manicured lawn, but beyond that is the view. Wow.

The panoramic, uninterrupted vista is breathtaking-staggering even: twilight over the Sound. Oh my.

In the distance lies Bainbridge Island, and further still on this crystal clear evening, the setting sun sinks slowly, glowing blood and flame orange, beyond Olympic National Park. Vermillion hues bleed into the sky-opals, aquamarines, ceruleans-melding with the darker purples of the scant wispy clouds and the land beyond the Sound. It is nature’s best, a visual symphony orchestrated in the sky and reflected in the deep, still waters of the Sound. I am lost to the view-staring, trying to absorb such beauty.

I realize I’m holding my breath in awe, and Christian is still holding my hand. As I reluctantly turn my eyes away from the view, he’s gazing anxiously at me.

“You brought me here to admire the view?” I whisper. He nods, his expression serious.

“It’s staggering, Christian. Thank you,” I murmur, letting my eyes feast on it once more. He releases my hand.

“How would you like to look at it for the rest of your life?” he breathes.

What? I whip my face back to his, startled blue eyes to pensive gray. I think my mouth drops open, and I gape at him blankly.

“I’ve always wanted to live on the coast. I sail up and down the Sound coveting these houses. This place hasn’t been on the market long. I want to buy it, demolish it, and build a new house-for us,” he whispers, and his eyes glow, translucent with his hopes and dreams.

Holy cow. Somehow I remain upright. I’m reeling. Live, here! In this beautiful haven! For the rest of my life…

“It’s just an idea,” he adds, cautiously.

I glance back to assess the interior of the house. How much is it worth? It must be, what-five, ten million dollars? I have no idea. Holy shit.

“Why do you want to demolish it?” I ask, looking back at him. His face falls slightly. Oh no.

“I’d like to make a more sustainable home, using the latest ecological techniques. Elliot could build it.”

I gaze back at the room again. Miss Olga Kelly is on the far side, hovering by the entrance. She’s the realtor, of course. I notice the room is huge and double height, a little like the great room at Escala. There’s a balcony above-that must be the landing on the second floor. There’s a huge fireplace and a whole line of French doors opening onto the terrace. It has an old-world charm.

“Can we look around the house?”

He blinks at me. “Sure,” he shrugs, puzzled.

Miss Kelly’s face lights up like Christmas when we head back in. She’s delighted to take us on a tour and gives us the spiel.

The house is enormous: twelve thousand square feet on six acres of land. As well as this main living room, there’s the eat-in-no, banquet-in-kitchen with family room attached-Family!-a music room, a library, a study and, much to my amazement, an indoor pool and exercise suite with sauna and steam room attached. Downstairs in the basement there’s a cinema-Jeez-and game room. Hmm… what sort of games could we play in here?

Miss Kelly points out all sorts of features, but basically the house is beautiful and was obviously at one time a happy family home. It’s a little shabby now, but nothing that some TLC couldn’t cure.

As we follow Miss Kelly up the magnificent main stairs to the second floor, I can hardly contain my excitement… this house has everything I could ever wish for in a home.

“Couldn’t you make the existing house more ecological and self-sustaining?”

Christian blinks at me, nonplussed. “I’d have to ask Elliot. He’s the expert in all this.”

Miss Kelly leads us into the master suite where full height windows open onto a balcony, and the view is still spectacular. I could sit in bed and gaze out all day, watching the sailing boats and the changing weather.

There are five additional bedrooms on this floor. Jeez-kids. I push the thought hastily to one side. I have too much to process already. Miss Kelly is busily suggesting to Christian how the grounds could accommodate riding stables and a paddock. Horses! Terrifying images of my few riding lessons flash through my mind, but Christian doesn’t appear to be listening.

“The paddock would be where the meadow is at the moment?” I ask.

“Yes,” Miss Kelly says brightly.

To me the meadow looks like somewhere to lie in the long grass and have picnics, not for some four-legged fiend of Satan to roam.

Back in the main room, Miss Kelly discreetly disappears, and Christian leads me out once more onto the terrace. The sun has set and lights from the towns on the Olympic peninsula are twinkling on the far side of the Sound.

Christian pulls me into his arms and tips my chin up with his index finger, staring intently down at me.

“Lot to take in?” he asks, his expression unreadable.

I nod.

“I wanted to check you liked it before I bought it.”

“The view?”

He nods.

“I love the view, and I like the house that’s here.”

“You do?”

I smile shyly at him. “Christian, you had me at the meadow.”

His lips part as he inhales sharply, then his face transforms with a grin, and his hands are suddenly fisting into my hair and his mouth is on mine.

Back in the car as we head for Seattle, Christian’s mood has lifted considerably.

“So you’re going to buy it?” I ask.


“You’ll put Escala on the market?”

He frowns. “Why would I do that?”

“To pay for…” My voice trails off-of course. I flush.

He smirks at me. “Trust me, I can afford it.”

“Do you like being rich?”

“Yes. Show me someone who doesn’t,” he says darkly.

Okay, get off that subject quickly.

“Anastasia, you’re going to have to learn to be rich, too, if you say yes,” he says softly.

“Wealth isn’t something I’ve ever aspired to, Christian.” I frown.

“I know. I love that about you. But then you’ve never been hungry,” he says simply. His words are sobering.

“Where are we going?” I ask brightly, changing the subject.

“To celebrate.” Christian relaxes.

Oh! “Celebrate what, the house?”

“Have you forgotten already? Your acting editor role.”

“Oh yes.” I grin. Unbelievably, I had forgotten.


“Up high at my club.”

“Your club?”

“Yes. One of them.”

The Mile High Club is on the seventy-sixth floor of Columbia Tower, higher even than Christian’s apartment. It’s very now and has the most head-spinning views over Seattle.

“Cristal, ma’am?” Christian hands me a glass of chilled champagne as I sit perched on a barstool.

“Why thank you, sir.” I stress the last word flirtatiously, batting my eyelashes at him deliberately.

He gazes at me and his face darkens. “Are you flirting with me, Miss Steele?”

“Yes, Mr. Grey, I am. What are you going to do about it?”

“I’m sure I can think of something,” he says, his voice low. “Come-our table’s ready.”

As we approach the table, Christian stops me, his hand on my elbow.

“Go and take your panties off,” he whispers.

Oh? A delicious tingle runs down my spine.

“Go,” he commands quietly.

Whoa, what? I blink up at him. He’s not smiling-he’s dead serious. Every muscle below my waistline tightens. I hand him my glass of champagne, turn sharply on my heel, and head for the restroom.

Shit. What’s he going to do? Perhaps this club is aptly named.

The restrooms are the height of modern design-all dark wood, black granite, and pools of light from strategically placed halogens. In the privacy of the stall, I smirk as I divest myself of my underwear. Again I’m grateful I changed into the navy blue shift dress. I thought it appropriate attire to meet the good Dr. Flynn-I hadn’t expected the evening to take this unexpected course.

I am excited already. Why does he affect me so? I slightly resent how easily I fall under his spell. I know now that we won’t be spending the evening talking through all our issues and recent events… but how can I resist him?

Checking my appearance in the mirror, I am bright-eyed and flushed with excitement. Issues schmissues.

I take a deep breath and head back out into the club. I mean, it’s not as if I haven’t gone panty less before. My inner goddess is draped in a pink feather boa and diamonds, strutting her stuff in fuck-me shoes.

Christian stands politely when I return to the table, his expression unreadable. He looks his usual perfect, cool, calm, and collected self. Of course, I now know differently.

“Sit beside me,” he says. I slide into the seat and he sits. “I’ve ordered for you. I hope you don’t mind.” He hands me my half-finished glass of champagne, regarding me intently and under his scrutiny, my blood heats anew. He rests his hands on his thighs. I tense and part my legs slightly.

The waiter arrives with a dish of oysters on crushed ice. Oysters. The memory of the two of us in the private dining room at the Heathman fills my mind. We were discussing his contract. Oh boy. We’ve come a long way since then.

“I think you liked oysters last time you tried them.” His voice is low, seductive.

“Only time I’ve tried them.” I’m all breathy, my voice exposing me. His lips twitch with a smile.

“Oh, Miss Steele-when will you learn?” he muses.

He takes an oyster from the dish and lifts his other hand from his thigh. I flinch in anticipation, but he reaches for a slice of lemon.

“Learn what?” I ask. Jeez, my pulse is racing. His long, skilled fingers gently squeeze the lemon over the shellfish.

“Eat,” he says, holding the shell close to my mouth. I part my lips, and he gently places the shell on my bottom lip. “Tip your head back slowly,” he murmurs. I do as he asks and the oyster slips down my throat. He doesn’t touch me, only the shell.

Christian helps himself to one, then feeds me another. We continue this tortuous routine until all twelve are gone. His skin never connects with mine. It’s driving me crazy.

“Still like oysters?” he asks as I swallow the final one.

I nod, flushed, craving his touch.


I squirm in my seat. Why is this so hot?

He puts his hand casually on his own thigh again, and I melt. Now. Please. Touch me. My inner goddess is on her knees, naked except for her panties-begging. He runs his hand up and down his thigh, lifts it, then places it back where it was.

The waiter tops up our champagne glasses and whisks away our plates. Moments later he’s back with our entrée, sea bass-I don’t believe it-served with asparagus, sautéed potatoes, and a hollandaise sauce.

“A favorite of yours, Mr. Grey?”

“Most definitely, Miss Steele. Though I believe it was cod at the Heathman.” His hand moves up and down his thigh. My breathing spikes, but still he doesn’t touch me. It’s so frustrating. I try to concentrate on our conversation.

“I seem to remember we were in a private dining room then, discussing contracts.”

“Happy days,” he says, smirking. “This time I hope to get to fuck you.” He moves his hand to pick up his knife.


He takes a bite out of his sea bass. He’s doing this on purpose.

“Don’t count on it,” I mutter with a pout and he glances at me, amused. “Speaking of contracts,” I add. “The NDA.”

“Tear it up,” he says simply.


“What? Really?”


“You’re sure I’m not going to run to the Seattle Times with an exposé?” I tease.

He laughs and it’s a wonderful sound. He looks so young.

“No. I trust you. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt.”

Oh. I grin shyly at him. “Ditto,” I breathe.

His eyes light up. “I’m very glad you’re wearing a dress,” he murmurs. And bam-desire courses through my already overheated blood.

“Why haven’t you touched me, then?” I hiss.

“Missing my touch?” he asks grinning. He’s amused… the bastard.

“Yes,” I seethe.

“Eat,” he orders.

“You’re not going to touch me, are you?”

“No.” He shakes his head.

What? I gasp out loud.

“Just imagine how you’ll feel when we’re home,” he whispers. “I can’t wait to get you home.”

“It will be your fault if I combust here on the seventy-sixth floor,” I mutter through gritted teeth.

“Oh, Anastasia. We’d find a way to put the fire out,” he says, grinning salaciously at me.

Fuming, I dig into my sea bass, and my inner goddess narrows her eyes in quiet, devious contemplation. We can play this game, too. I learned the basics during our meal at the Heathman. I take a bite out of my sea bass. It is melt-in-the-mouth delicious. I close my eyes, savoring the taste. When I open them, I begin my seduction of Christian Grey, very slowly hitching my skirt up, exposing more of my thighs.

Christian pauses momentarily, a forkful of fish suspended midair.

Touch me.

After a beat, he resumes eating. I take another bite of sea bass, ignoring him. Then, putting down my knife, I run my fingers up the inside of my lower thigh, lightly tapping my skin with my fingertips. It’s distracting even to me, especially as I am craving his touch. Christian pauses once more.

“I know what you’re doing.” His voice is low and husky.

“I know that you know, Mr. Grey,” I reply softly. “That’s the point.” I pick up an asparagus stalk, gaze sideways at him from beneath my lashes, then dip the asparagus into the hollandaise sauce, swirling the tip round and round.

“You’re not turning the tables on me, Miss Steele.” Smirking he reaches over and takes the spear from me-amazingly and annoyingly managing not to touch me again. No, this isn’t right-this is not going according to plan. Gah!

“Open your mouth,” he commands.

I am losing this battle of wills. I glance up at him again, and his eyes blaze bright gray. Parting my lips a fraction I run my tongue across my lower lip. Christian smiles and his eyes darken further.

“Wider,” he breathes, his lips parting so that I can see his tongue. I groan inwardly and bite my bottom lip, then do as he asks.

I hear his sharp intake of breath-he’s not so immune. Good, I am finally getting to him. My inner goddess fist-pumps the air above her chaise longue.

Keeping my eyes locked on his, I take the spear in my mouth, and suck, gently… delicately… on the end. The hollandaise sauce is mouthwatering. I bite down, moaning quietly in appreciation.

Christian closes his eyes. Yes! When he opens them again, his pupils have dilated. The effect on me is immediate. I groan and reach out to touch his thigh. To my surprise, he uses his other hand to grab my wrist.

“Oh, no you don’t, Miss Steele,” he murmurs softly. Raising my hand to his mouth, he gently brushes my knuckles with his lips, and I squirm. Finally! More, please.

“Don’t touch,” he scolds me quietly, and places my hand back on my knee. It’s so frustrating-this brief unsatisfactory contact.

“You don’t play fair.” I pout.

“I know.” He picks up his champagne glass to propose a toast, and I mirror his actions.

“Congratulations on your promotion, Miss Steele.” We clink glasses and I blush.

“Yes, kind of unexpected,” I mutter. He frowns as if some unpleasant thought has crossed his mind.

“Eat,” he orders. “I am not taking you home until you’ve finished your meal, and then we can really celebrate.” His expression is so heated, so raw, so commanding. I am melting.

“I’m not hungry. Not for food.”

He shakes his head, thoroughly enjoying himself, but narrows his eyes at me just the same.

“Eat, or I’ll put you across my knee, right here, and we’ll entertain the other diners.”

His words make me squirm. He wouldn’t dare! He and his twitchy palm. I press my mouth into a hard line and stare at him. Picking up an asparagus stalk, he dips the head into the hollandaise.

“Eat this,” he murmurs, his voice low and seductive.

I willingly comply.

“You really don’t eat enough. You’ve lost weight since I’ve known you.” His tone is gentle.

I don’t want to think about my weight; truth is, I like being this slim. I swallow the asparagus.

“I just want to go home and make love,” I mutter disconsolately. Christian grins.

“So do I, and we will. Eat up.”

Reluctantly, I turn back to my food and start to eat. Honestly, I’ve taken my panties off and everything. I feel like a child who has been denied candy. He is such a tease, a delicious, hot, naughty tease, and all mine.

He quizzes me about Ethan. As it turns out, Christian does business with Kate and Ethan’s father. Hmm… it’s small world. I’m relieved he doesn’t mention Dr. Flynn or the house as I’m finding it difficult to concentrate on our conversation. I want to go home.

The carnal anticipation is unfurling between us. He’s so good at this. Making me wait. Setting the scene. Between bites, he places his hand on his thigh, so close to mine, but still doesn’t touch me just to tease me further.

Bastard! Finally I finish my food, and place my knife and fork on the plate.

“Good girl,” he murmurs, and those two words hold so much promise.

I frown at him. “What now?” I ask, desire clawing at my belly.Oh, I want this man.

“Now? We leave. I believe you have certain expectations, Miss Steele. Which I intend to fulfill to the best of my ability.”


“The best… of your a… bil… ity?” I stutter. Holy shit.

He grins and stands.

“Don’t we have to pay?” I ask, breathless.

He cocks his head to one side. “I am a member here. They’ll bill me. Come, Anastasia, after you.” He steps aside, and I stand to leave, conscious that I am not wearing my panties.

He gazes at me darkly, like he’s undressing me, and I glory in his carnal appraisal. It just makes me feel so sexy-this beautiful man desires me. Will I always get a kick out of this? Deliberately stopping in front of him, I smooth my dress over my hips.

Christian whispers in my ear, “I can’t wait to get you home.” But he still doesn’t touch me.

On the way out he murmurs something about the car to the maître d’, but I’m not listening, my inner goddess is incandescent with anticipation. Jeez, she could light up Seattle.

Waiting by the elevators, we are joined by two middle-aged couples. When the doors open, Christian takes my elbow and steers me to the back. I glance around, and we’re surrounded by dark smoked-glass mirrors. As the other couples enter, one man in a rather unflattering brown suit greets Christian.

“Grey,” he nods politely. Christian nods in return but is silent.

The couples stand in front of us, facing the elevator doors. They are obviously friends-the women chat loudly, excited and animated after their meal. I think they’re all a little tipsy.

As the doors close, Christian briefly stoops down beside me to tie his shoelace. Odd, his shoelaces aren’t undone. Discreetly he places his hand on my ankle, startling me, and as he stands his hand travels swiftly up my leg, skating deliciously over my skin-whoa-right up. I have to stifle my gasp of surprise as his hand reaches my backside. Christian moves behind me.

Oh my. I gape at the people in front of us, staring at the backs of their heads. They have no idea what we’re up to. Wrapping his free arm around my waist, Christian pulls me to him, holding me in place as his fingers explore. Holy fucking shit… in here? The elevator travels smoothly down, stopping at the fifty-third floor to let some more people on, but I am not paying attention. I am focused on every little move his fingers make. Circling around… now moving forward, questing, as we shuffle back.

Again I stifle a groan when his fingers find their goal.

“Always so ready, Miss Steele,” he whispers as he slips a long finger inside me. I squirm and gasp. How can he do this with all these people here?

“Keep still and quiet,” he warns, murmuring in my ear.

I’m flushed, warm, wanting, trapped in an elevator with seven people, six of them oblivious to what’s occurring in the corner. His finger slides in and out of me, again and again. My breathing. Jeez, it’s embarrassing. I want to tell him to stop… and continue… and stop. I sag against him, and he tightens his arm around me, his erection against my hip.

We halt again at the forty-fourth floor. Oh… how long is this torture going to continue? In… out… in… out… Subtly I grind myself against his persistent finger. After all this time of not touching me, he chooses now! Here! And it makes me feel so-wanton.

“Hush,” he breathes, seemingly unaffected as yet two more people come aboard. The elevator is getting crowded. Christian moves us both farther back so that we’re now pressed into the corner, holding me in place and torturing me further. He nuzzles my hair. I’m sure we look like a young couple in love, canoodling in the corner, if anyone could be bothered to turn round and see what we’re doing… And he eases a second finger inside me.

Fuck! I groan, and I’m thankful that the gaggle of people in front of us are still chatting away, totally oblivious.

Oh, Christian, what you do to me. I lean my head against his chest, closing my eyes and surrendering to his unrelenting fingers.

“Don’t come,” he whispers. “I want that later.” He splays his hand out on my belly, pressing down slightly, as he continues his sweet persecution. The feeling is exquisite.

Finally the elevator reaches the first floor. With a loud ping the doors open, and almost instantly the passengers start exiting. Christian slowly slips his fingers out of me and kisses the back of my head. I glance round at him, and he smiles, then nods again at Mr. Badly-fitted-brown-suit who returns his nod of acknowledgment as he shuffles out of the elevator with his wife. I barely notice, concentrating instead on staying upright and trying to manage my panting. Jeez, I feel aching and bereft. Christian releases me, leaving me to stand on my own two feet without leaning on him.

Turning, I gaze up at him. He looks cool and unruffled, his usual composed self. Hmm… This is so not fair.

“Ready?” he asks. His eyes gleam wickedly as he slips first his index, then his middle finger into his mouth and sucks on them. “Mighty fine, Miss Steele,” he whispers. I nearly convulse on the spot.

“I can’t believe you just did that,” I murmur, and I’m practically coming apart at the seams.

“You’d be surprised what I can do, Miss Steele,” he says. Reaching out, he tucks a lock of hair behind my ear, a slight smile betraying his amusement.

“I want to get you home, but maybe we’ll only make it as far as the car.” He grins down at me as he takes my hand and leads me out of the elevator.

What! Sex in the car? Can’t we just do it here on the cool marble of the lobby floor… please?


“Yes, I want to.”

“Miss Steele!” he admonishes me with mock-amused horror.

“I’ve never had sex in a car,” I mumble. Christian halts and places those same fingers under my chin, tipping my head back and glaring down at me.

“I’m very pleased to hear that. I have to say I’d be very surprised, not to say mad, if you had.”

I flush, blinking up at him. Of course, I’ve only had sex with him. I frown at him.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“What did you mean?” His tone is unexpectedly harsh.

“Christian, it was just an expression.”

“The famous expression, ‘I’ve never had sex in a car.’ Yes, it just trips off the tongue.”

Jeez… what’s his problem?

“Christian, I wasn’t thinking. For heaven’s sake, you’ve just… um, donethat to me in an elevator full of people. My wits are scattered.”

He raises his eyebrows. “What did I do to you?” he challenges.

I scowl at him. He wants me to say it.

“You turned me on, big time. Now take me home and fuck me.”

His mouth drops open then he laughs, surprised. Now he looks young and carefree. Oh, to hear him laugh. I love it because it’s so rare.

“You’re a born romantic, Miss Steele.” He takes my hand, and we head out of the building to where the valet stands by my Saab.

“So you want sex in a car,” Christian murmurs as he switches on the ignition.

“Quite frankly, I would have been happy with the lobby floor.”

“Trust me, Ana, so would I. But I don’t fancy being arrested at this time of night, and I didn’t want to fuck you in a restroom. Well, not today.”

What! “You mean there was a possibility?”

“Oh yes.”

“Let’s go back.”

He turns to gaze at me and laughs. His laughter is infectious; soon we’re both laughing-wonderful, cathartic, head-held-back laughter. Reaching over, he places his hand on my knee, caressing it gently with long skilled fingers. I stop laughing.

“Patience, Anastasia,” he murmurs and pulls into the Seattle traffic.

He parks the Saab in the Escala garage and turns off the engine. Suddenly, in the confines of the car, the atmosphere between us changes. With wanton anticipation, I glance at him, trying to contain my palpitating heart. He’s turned toward me, leaning against the door, his elbow propped on the steering wheel.

He pulls his lower lip with his thumb and index finger. His mouth is so distracting. I want it on me. He’s watching me intently, his eyes dark gray. My mouth goes dry. He smiles a slow sexy smile.

“We will fuck in the car at a time and place of my choosing. Right now, I want to take you on every available surface of my apartment.”

It’s like he’s addressing me below the waist… my inner goddess performs four arabesques and a pas de Basque.

“Yes.” Jeez, I sound so breathy, desperate.

He leans forward a fraction. I close my eyes, waiting for his kiss, thinking-finally. But nothing happens. After a moment, I open my eyes to find him gazing at me. I can’t figure out what he’s thinking, but before I can say anything, he distracts me once more.

“If I kiss you now we won’t make it into the apartment. Come.”

Gah! Could this man be any more frustrating? He climbs out of the car.

Once again, we wait for the elevator, my body thrumming with anticipation. Christian holds my hand, running his thumb rhythmically across my knuckles, each stroke echoing through me. Oh, I want his hands on all of me. He’s tortured me long enough.

“So, what happened to instant gratification?” I murmur while we wait.

Christian smirks down at me.

“It’s not appropriate in every situation, Anastasia.”

“Since when?”

“Since this evening.”

“Why are you torturing me so?”

“Tit for tat, Miss Steele.”

“How am I torturing you?”

“I think you know.”

I gaze up at him and his expression is difficult to read. He wants my answer… that’s it.

“I’m into delayed gratification, too,” I whisper, smiling shyly.

He tugs my hand unexpectedly, and suddenly I am in his arms. He grabs the hair at the nape of my neck, pulling gently so my head tips back.

“What can I do to make you say yes?” he asks fervently, throwing me off balance once more. I blink at him-at his lovely, serious, desperate expression.

“Give me some time? Please,” I murmur. He groans and finally he kisses me, long and hard. Then we’re in the elevator, and we’re all hands and mouths and tongues and lips and fingers and hair. Desire, thick and strong, lances through my blood, clouding all my reason. He pushes me against the wall, pinning me with his hips, one hand in my hair, the other at my chin, holding me in place.

“You own me,” he whispers. “My fate is in your hands, Ana.”

His words are intoxicating, and in my overheated state, I want to rip off his clothes. I push off his jacket, and as the elevator arrives at the apartment, we tumble out into the foyer.

Christian pins me to the wall by the elevator, his jacket falling to the floor, and his hand travels up my leg, his lips never leaving mine. He hoists up my dress.

“First surface here,” he breathes and abruptly he lifts me. “Wrap your legs around me.”

I do as I’m told, and he turns and lays me down on the foyer table, so he’s standing between my legs. I’m aware that the usual vase of flowers is missing. Huh? Reaching into his jeans pocket, he fishes out a foil packet and hands it to me, undoing his fly.

“Do you know how much you turn me on?”

“What?” I pant. “No… I…”

“Well, you do,” he mutters, “all the time.” He grabs the foil packet from my hands. Oh, this is so quick, but after all his tantalizing teasing, I want him badly-right now. He gazes down at me as he rolls on the condom, then puts his hands under my thighs, spreading my legs wider.

Positioning himself, he pauses. “Keep your eyes open. I want to see you,” he whispers and clasping both my hands with his, he sinks slowly into me.

I try, I really do, but the feeling is so exquisite. What I’ve been waiting for after all his teasing. Oh, the fullness, this feeling… I groan and arch my back off the table.

“Open!” he growls, tightening his hands on mine and thrusting sharply into me so that I cry out.

I blink my eyes open, and he stares down at me wide-eyed. Slowly he withdraws then sinks into me once more, his mouth slackening and then forming an Ah…, but he says nothing. Seeing his arousal, his reaction to me-I light up inside, my blood scorching through my veins. His gray eyes burn into mine. He picks up the rhythm, and I revel in it, glory in it, watching him, watching me-his passion, hislove-as we come apart, together.

I call out as I explode around him, and Christian follows.

“Yes, Ana!” he cries. He collapses on me, releasing my hands and resting his head on my chest. My legs are still wrapped around him, and under the patient, maternal eyes of the Madonna paintings, I cradle his head against me and struggle to catch my breath.

He raises his head to look at me. “I’m not finished with you yet,” he murmurs and leaning up, he kisses me.

I lie naked in Christian’s bed, sprawled over his chest, panting. Holy cow-does his energy ever wane? Christian trails his fingers up and down my back.

“Satisfied, Miss Steele?”

I murmur my assent. I have no energy left for talking. Raising my head, I turn unfocused eyes to him and bask in his warm, fond gaze. Very deliberately, I angle my head down so he knows I am going to kiss his chest.

He tenses momentarily, and I plant a soft kiss in his chest hair, breathing in his unique Christian smell, mixed with sweat and sex. It’s heady. He rolls onto his side so I’m lying beside him and gazes down at me.

“Is sex like this for everyone? I’m surprised anyone ever goes out,” I murmur, feeling suddenly shy.

He grins. “I can’t speak for everyone, but it’s pretty damned special with you, Anastasia.” He bends and kisses me.

“That’s because you’re pretty damned special, Mr. Grey,” I agree, smiling up at him and caressing his face. He blinks down at me at a loss.

“It’s late. Go to sleep,” he says. He kisses me, then lies down and pulls me to him so we’re spooning in bed.

“You don’t like compliments.”

“Go to sleep, Anastasia.”

Hmm… But he is pretty damned special. Jeez… why doesn’t he realize this?

“I loved the house,” I murmur.

He says nothing for a moment, but I sense his grin.

“I love you. Go to sleep.” He nuzzles my hair, and I drift into sleep, safe in his arms, dreaming of sunsets and French doors and wide staircases… and a small copper-haired boy running through a meadow, laughing and giggling as I chase him.

“Gotta go, baby.” Christian kisses me just below my ear.

I open my eyes and it’s morning. I turn to face him, but he’s up and dressed and fresh and delicious, leaning over me.

“What time is it?” Oh no… I don’t want to be late.

“Don’t panic. I have a breakfast meeting.” He rubs his nose against mine.

“You smell good,” I murmur, stretching out beneath him, my limbs pleasurably tight and creaky from all our exploits yesterday. I wrap my arms around his neck.

“Don’t go.”

He cocks his head to one side and raises his eyebrow. “Miss Steele-are you trying to keep a man from an honest day’s work?”

I nod sleepily at him, and he smiles his new shy smile.

“As tempting as you are, I have to go.” He kisses me and stands. He’s wearing a really sharp dark navy suit, white shirt and navy tie, and he looks every inch the CEO… the hot CEO.

“Laters, baby,” he murmurs and he’s off.

Glancing at the clock I note it’s already seven-I must have slept through the alarm. Well, time to get up.

In the shower, inspiration hits me. I’ve thought of another birthday present for Christian. It’s so difficult to buy something for the man who has everything. I’ve already given him my main present, and I still have the other item I bought at the tourist shop, but this is one present that will really be for me. I hug myself in anticipation as I switch off the shower. I just have to prepare it.

In the walk-in closet, I put on a dark red fitted dress with a square neckline, cut quite low. Yes, this will do for work.

Now for Christian’s present. I start rummaging through his drawers, looking for his ties. In the bottom drawer I find those faded, ripped jeans, the ones he wears in the playroom-the ones he looks so hot in. I stroke them gently, using my whole hand. Oh my, the material is so soft.

Beneath them, I find a large, black, flat cardboard box. It piques my interest immediately. What’s in here? I stare at it, feeling like I’m trespassing again. Taking it out, I shake it. It’s heavy as if it holds papers or manuscripts. I cannot resist, I open the lid-and quickly shut it again. Holy fuck-photographs from the Red Room. The shock makes me sit back on my heels as I try to wipe the image from my brain. Why did I open the box? Why has he kept them?

I shudder. My subconscious scowls at me-this is before you. Forget them.

She’s right. Standing up I notice his ties are hanging at the end of his clothes rail. I find my favorite and exit quickly.

I try to tell myself those photos are BA-Before Ana. My subconscious nods with approval, but it’s with a heavier heart that I head into the main room for breakfast. Mrs. Jones smiles at me warmly and then frowns.

“Everything all right, Ana?” she asks kindly.

“Yes,” I murmur, distracted. “Do you have a key to the… um, playroom?”

She pauses momentarily, surprised.

“Yes, of course.” She unclips a small bunch of keys from her belt. “What would you like for breakfast, dear?” she asks as she hands me the keys.

“Just granola. I won’t be long.”

I feel more ambivalent about this gift now but only since the discovery of those photographs. Nothing’s changed, my subconscious barks at me again, glaring at me over her half-moon winged glasses. That picture was hot, my inner goddess chips in, and mentally I scowl at her. Yes it was-too hot for me.

What else does he have hidden away? Quickly I ferret through the museum chest, take what I need, and lock the playroom door behind me. Wouldn’t do for José to discover this!

I hand the keys back to Mrs. Jones and sit down to devour my breakfast, feeling odd that Christian is absent. The photograph image dances unwelcome around my mind. I wonder who it was? Leila perhaps?

On my drive in to work, I debate whether or not to tell Christian I found his photographs. No, screams my subconscious, her Edvard Munch face on. I decide she’s probably right.

As I sit down at my desk, my Blackberry buzzes.

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Surfaces

Date: June 17, 2011 08:59

To: Anastasia Steele

I calculate that there are at least 30 surfaces to go. I am looking forward to each and every one of them. Then there’s the floors, the walls-and let’s not forget the balcony.

After that there’s my office…

Miss you. x

Christian Grey

Priapic CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

His e-mail makes me smile, and all my earlier reservations evaporate. It’s me he wants now, and memories of last night’s sexcapades flood my mind… the elevator, the foyer, the bed. Priapic is right. I wonder idly what the female equivalent might be?

From: Anastasia Steele

Subject: Romance?

Date: June 17, 2011 09:03

To: Christian Grey

Mr. GreyYou have a one-track mind.

I missed you at breakfast

But Mrs. Jones was very accommodating.


From: Christian Grey

Subject: Intrigued

Date: June 17, 2011 09:07

To: Anastasia Steele

What was Mrs. Jones accommodating about?

What are you up to Miss Steele?

Christian Grey

Curious CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

How does he know?

From: Anastasia Steele

Subject: Tapping Nose

Date: June 17, 2011 09:10

To: Christian Grey

Wait and see-it’s a surprise.

I need to work… let me be.

Love you.

A x

From: Christian Grey

Subject: Frustrated

Date: June 17, 2011 09:12

To: Anastasia Steele

I hate it when you keep things from me.

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

I stare at the small screen of my Blackberry. The vehemence implicit in his e-mail takes me by surprise. Why does he feel like this? It’s not like I’m hiding erotic photographs of my exes.

From: Anastasia Steele

Subject: Indulging you

Date: June 17, 2011 09:14

To: Christian Grey

It’s for your birthday.

Another surprise.

Don’t be so petulant.

A x

He doesn’t reply immediately, and I’m called into a meeting so I can’t dwell on it for too long.

When I next glance at my Blackberry, to my horror I realize it’s four in the afternoon. Where has the day gone? Still no message from Christian. I decide to e-mail him again.

From: Anastasia Steele

Subject: Hello

Date: June 17, 2011 16:03

To: Christian Grey

Are you not talking to me?

Don’t forget I am going for a drink with José, and that he’s staying with us tonight.

Please rethink about joining us.

A x

He doesn’t reply, and I feel a frisson of unease. I hope he’s okay. Calling his mobile, I get his voicemail. The announcement simply says Grey, leave a message in his most clipped tone.

“Hi… um… it’s me. Ana. Are you okay? Call me,” I stutter through my message. I’ve never had to leave one for him before. I flush as I hang up. Of course he’ll know it’s you, idiot! My subconscious rolls her eyes at me. I am tempted to ring his PA Andrea but decide that’s a step too far. Reluctantly I continue my work.

My phone rings unexpectedly and my heart jumps. Christian! But no-it’s Kate, my best friend finally!

“Ana!” she shouts from wherever she is.

“Kate! Are you back? I’ve missed you.”

“Me, too. I have so much to tell you. We’re at Sea-Tac-me and my man.” She giggles in a most un-Kate-like way.

“Cool. I have so much to tell you, too.”

“See you back at the apartment?”

“I’m having drinks with José. Join us.”

“José’s in town? Sure! Text me where.”

“Okay.” I beam. My best friend is home. After all this time!

“You good, Ana?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Still with Christian?”


“Good. Laters!”

Oh, not her as well. Elliot’s influence knows no bounds.

“Yeah-laters, baby.” I grin and she hangs up.

Wow. Kate is home. How am I going to tell her all that has happened? I should write it down so I don’t forget anything.

An hour later my office phone rings-Christian? No, it’s Claire.

“You should see the guy asking for you in reception. How come you know all these hot guys, Ana?”

José must be here. I glance at the clock-it’s five fifty-five, and a small thrill of excitement pulses through me. I haven’t seen him in ages.

“Ana, wow! You look great. So grown up.” He grins at me.

Just because I’m wearing a smart dress… jeez!

He hugs me hard. “And tall,” he mutters in amazement.

“It’s just the shoes, José. You don’t look so bad yourself.”

He’s wearing jeans, a black T-shirt, and a black and white check flannel shirt.

“I’ll grab my things and we can go.”

“Cool. I’ll wait here.”

I pick up two Rolling Rocks from the crowded bar and head over to the table where José is seated.

“You found Christian’s place okay?”

“Yeah. I haven’t been inside. I just delivered the photos to the service elevator. Some guy named Taylor took them up. Looks like quite a place.”

“It is. You should see inside.”

“Can’t wait. Salud, Ana. Seattle agrees with you.”

I flush as we clink bottles. It’s Christian that agrees with me. “Salud. Tell me about your show and how it went.”

He beams and launches into the story. He sold all but three of his photos, which has taken care of his student loans and left him some cash to spare.

“And I’ve been commissioned to do some landscapes for the Portland Tourist Authority. Pretty cool, huh?” he finishes proudly.

“Oh José-that’s wonderful. Not interfering with your studies though?” I frown at him.

“Nah. Now that you guys have gone and three of the guys I used to hang out with, I have more time.”

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Fifty Shades Freed Extended Version
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