Dr. Greene is tall, blond, and immaculate, dressed in a royal blue suit. I’m reminded of the women who work in Christian’s office. She’s like an identikit model – another Stepford blonde. Her long hair is swept up in an elegant chignon. She must be in her early forties.
“Mr. Grey.” She shakes Christian’s outstretched hand. “Thank you for coming at such short notice,” Christian says.
“Thank you for making it worth my while, Mr. Grey. Miss Steele.” She smiles, her eyes cool and assessing.
We shake hands, and I know she’s one of those women who doesn’t tolerate fools gladly. Like Kate. I like her immediately. She gives Christian a pointed stare, and after an awkward beat, he takes his cue.
“I’ll be downstairs,” he mutters, and he leaves what will be my bedroom.
“Well Miss Steele. Mr. Grey is paying me a small fortune to attend to you. What can I do for you?”
After a thorough examination and lengthy discussion, Dr. Greene and I decide on the mini pill. She writes me a pre-paid prescription and instructs me to pick them up tomorrow. I love her no-nonsense attitude – she has lectured me until she’s as blue as her dress about taking it at the same time every day. And I can tell she’s burning with curiosity about my so-called relationship with Mr. Grey. I don’t give her any details. Somehow I don’t think
she’d look so calm and collected if she’d seen his Red Room of Pain. I flush as we pass its closed door and head back downstairs to the art gallery that is Christian’s living room.
Christian is reading, seated on his couch. A breathtaking aria is playing on the music system, swirling round him, cocooning him, filling the room with a sweet, soulful song. For a moment, he looks serene. He turns and glances at us when we enter and smiles warmly at me.
“Are you done?” he asks as if he’s genuinely interested. He points the remote at a sleek white box beneath the fireplace that houses his iPod, and the exquisite melody fades but continues in the background. Standing, he strolls towards us.
“Yes, Mr. Grey. Look after her; she’s a beautiful, bright young woman.”
Christian is taken aback – as am I. What an inappropriate thing for a doctor to say. Is she giving him some kind of not so subtle warning? Christian recovers himself.
“I fully intend to,” he mutters, bemused. Gazing at him, I shrug, embarrassed.
“I’ll send you my bill,” she says crisply as she shakes his hand.
“Good day, and good luck to you, Ana.” She smiles, her eyes crinkling as she does when we shake hands.
Taylor appears from nowhere to escort her through the double doors and out to the elevator. How does he do that? Where does he lurk?
“How was that?” Christian asks.
“Fine, thank you. She said that I had to abstain from all sexual activity for the next four weeks.”
Christian’s mouth drops open in shock, and I cannot keep a straight face any longer and grin at him like an idiot.
He narrows his eyes, and I immediately stop laughing. In fact, he looks rather forbid- ding. Oh shit. My subconscious quails in the corner as all the blood drains from my face, and I imagine him putting me across his knee again.
“Gotcha!” he says and smirks. He grabs me around my waist and pulls me up against him. “You are incorrigible, Miss Steele,” he murmurs, staring down into my eyes as he weaves his fingers into my hair, holding me firmly in place. He kisses me, hard, and I cling on to his muscular arms for support.
“As much as I’d like to take you here, now, you need to eat and so do I. I don’t want you passing out on me later,” he murmurs against my lips.
“Is that all you want me for – my body?” I whisper. “That and your smart mouth,” he breathes.
He kisses me again passionately, and then abruptly releases me, taking my hand and leading me to the kitchen. I am reeling. One minute we’re joking and the next… I fan my heated face. He’s just sex on legs, and now I have to recover my equilibrium and eat something. The aria is still playing in the background.
“What’s the music?”
“Villa Lobos, an aria from Bachianas Brasileiras. Good, isn’t it?” “Yes,” I murmur in total agreement.
The breakfast bar is laid for two; Christian takes a salad bowl from the fridge.
“Chicken caesar salad okay with you?” Oh thank heavens, nothing too heavy. “Yes, fine, thank you.”
I watch as he moves gracefully through his kitchen. He’s so at ease with his body on one level, but then he doesn’t like to be touched… so maybe deep down he isn’t. No man is an island, I muse – except perhaps Christian Grey.
“What are you thinking?” he asks, pulling me from my reverie. I flush. “I was just watching the way you move.”
He raises an eyebrow, amused. “And?” he says dryly.
I flush some more. “You’re very graceful.”
“Why thank you, Miss Steele,” he murmurs. He sits down beside me, holding a bottle of wine. “Chablis?”
“Help yourself to salad,” he says, his voice soft. “Tell me – what method did you opt for?”
I am momentarily thrown by his question, when I realize he’s talking about Dr. Greene’s visit.
“Mini pill.” He frowns.
“And will you remember to take it regularly, at the right time, every day?”
Jeez… of course I will. How does he know? I blush at the thought, probably from one or more of the fifteen.
“I’m sure you’ll remind me,” I murmur dryly. He glances at me with amused condescension.
“I’ll put an alarm on my calendar.” He smirks. “Eat.”
The chicken caesar is delicious. To my surprise, I’m famished, and for the first time since I’ve been with him, I finish my meal before he does. The wine is crisp, clean, and fruity.
“Eager as ever, Miss Steele?” he smiles down at my empty plate. I look at him from beneath my lashes.
“Yes,” I whisper.
His breath hitches. And as he stares down at me, I feel the atmosphere between us slowly shift, evolve… charge. His look goes from dark to smoldering, taking me with him. He stands, closing the distance between us, and tugs me off my bar stool into his arms.
“Do you want to do this?” he breathes, looking down at me intently. “I haven’t signed anything.”
“I know – but I’m breaking all the rules these days.” “Are you going to hit me?”
“Yes, but it won’t be to hurt you. I don’t want to punish you right now. If you’d caught me yesterday evening, well, that would have been a different story.”
Holy cow. He wants to hurt me… how do I deal with this? I can’t hide the horror on my face.
“Don’t let anyone try and convince you otherwise, Anastasia. One of the reasons people like me do this is because we either like to give or receive pain. It’s very simple. You don’t, so I spent a great deal of time yesterday thinking about that.”
He pulls me against him, and his erection presses into my belly. I should run, but I can’t. I’m drawn to him on some deep, elemental level, that I can’t begin to understand.
“Did you reach any conclusions?” I whisper.
“No, and right now, I just want to tie you up and fuck you senseless. Are you ready for that?”
“Yes,” I breathe as everything in my body tightens at once… wow.
“Good. Come.” He takes my hand and, leaving all the dirty dishes on the breakfast bar, and we head upstairs.
My heart starts pounding. This is it. I’m really going to do this. My inner goddess is spinning like a world-class ballerina, pirouette after pirouette. He opens the door to his playroom, standing back for me to walk through, and I am once more in the Red Room of Pain.
It’s the same, the smell of leather, citrus, polish and dark wood, all very sensual. My blood is running heated and scared through my system – adrenaline mixed with lust and longing. It’s a heady, potent cocktail. Christian’s stance has changed completely, subtly al- tered, harder and meaner. He gazes down at me and his eyes are heated, lustful… hypnotic. “When you’re in here, you are completely mine,” he breathes, each word slow and
measured. “To do with as I see fit. Do you understand?”
His gaze is so intense. I nod, my mouth dry, my heart thumping for a way out of my chest.
“Take your shoes off,” he orders softly.
I swallow, and rather clumsily, I take them off. He bends and picks them up and de- posits them beside the door.
“Good. Don’t hesitate when I ask you to do something. Now I’m going to peel you out of this dress. Something I’ve wanted to do for a few days if I recall. I want you to be comfortable with your body, Anastasia. You have a beautiful body, and I like to look at it. It is a joy to behold. In fact, I could gaze at you all day, and I want you unembarrassed and unashamed of your nakedness. Do you understand?”
“Yes, what?” He leans over me, glaring. “Yes, Sir.”
“Do you mean that?” he snaps. “Yes, Sir.”
“Good. Lift your arms up over your head.”
I do as instructed, and he reaches down and grabs the hem. Slowly, he pulls my dress up over my thighs, my hips, my belly, my breasts, my shoulders, and over my head. He stands back to examine me and absentmindedly folds my dress, not taking his eyes off me. He places it on the large chest beside the door. Reaching up, he pulls at my chin, his touch searing me.
“You’re biting your lip,” he breathes. “You know what that does to me,” he adds darkly. “Turn around.”
I turn immediately, no hesitation. He unclasps my bra and then taking both straps, he slowly pulls them down my arms, brushing my skin with his fingers and the tip of his thumbnails as he slides my bra off. His touch sends shivers down my spine, waking every nerve ending in my body. He’s standing behind me, so close that I feel the heat radiating from him, warming me, warming me all over. He pulls my hair so it’s all hanging down my back, grasps a handful at my nape, and angles my head to one side. He runs his nose down my exposed neck, inhaling all the way, then back up to my ear. The muscles in my belly clench, carnal and wanting. Jeez, he’s hardly touched me, and I want him.
“You smell as divine as ever, Anastasia,” he whispers as he places a soft kiss beneath my ear.
“Quiet,” he breathes. “Don’t make a sound.”
Pulling my hair behind me, to my surprise, he starts braiding it in one large braid, his fingers fast and deft. He ties it with an unseen hair tie when he’s finished and gives it a quick tug so I’m forced back against him.
“I like your hair braided in here,” he whispers.
He releases my hair. “Turn around,” he orders.
I do as I’m bid, my breathing shallow, fear and longing mixed together. It’s an intoxi- cating mix.
“When I tell you to come in here, this is how you will dress. Just in your panties. Do you understand?”
“Yes, what?” He glowers at me. “Yes, Sir.”
A trace of a smile lifts the corner of his mouth.
“Good girl.” His eyes burn into mine. “When I tell you to come in here, I expect you to kneel over there.” He points to a spot beside the door. “Do it now.”
I blink processing his words, turn, and rather clumsily kneel as directed. “You can sit back on your heels.”
I sit back.
“Place your hands and forearms flat on your thighs. Good. Now part your knees.
Wider. Wider. Perfect. Look down at the floor.”
He walks over to me, and I can see his feet and shins in my field of vision. Naked feet. I should be taking notes if he wants me to remember. He reaches down and grasps my braid again, then pulls my head back so I am looking up at him. It’s only just not painful.
“Will you remember this position, Anastasia?” “Yes, Sir.”
“Good. Stay here, don’t move.” He leaves the room.
I’m on my knees, waiting. Where’s he gone? What is he going to do to me? Time shifts. I have no idea how long he leaves me like this… a few minutes, five, ten? My breathing becomes shallower, the anticipation is devouring me from the inside out.
And suddenly he’s back – and all at once I’m calmer and more excited in the same breath. Could I be more excited? I can see his feet. He’s changed his jeans. These are older, ripped, soft, and over-washed. Holy cow. These jeans are hot. He shuts the door and hangs something on the back.
“Good girl, Anastasia. You look lovely like that. Well done. Stand up.” I stand, but I keep my face down.
“You may look at me.”
I peek up at him, and he’s staring at me intently, assessing, but his eyes soften. He’s taken off his shirt. Oh my… I want to touch him. The top button of his jeans is undone.
“I’m going to chain you now, Anastasia. Give me your right hand.”
I give him my hand. He turns it palm up, and before I know it, he swats the center with a riding crop I hadn’t noticed is in his right hand. It happens so quickly that the surprise hardly registers. Even more astonishing – it doesn’t hurt. Well, not much, just a slight ringing sting.
“How does that feel?” he asks. I blink at him, confused. “Answer me.”
“Okay.” I frown. “Don’t frown.”
I blink and try for impassive. I succeed. “Did that hurt?”
“This is not going to hurt. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” My voice is uncertain. Is it really not going to hurt?
“I mean it,” he says.
Jeez, my breathing is so shallow. Does he know what I’m thinking? He shows me the crop. It’s brown plaited leather. My eyes jerk up to meet his, and they’re alight with fire and a trace of amusement.
“We aim to please, Miss Steele,” he murmurs. “Come.” He takes my elbow and moves me to beneath the grid. He reaches up and takes down some shackles with black leather cuffs.
“This grid is designed so the shackles move across the grid.” I glance up. Holy shit – it’s like a subway map.
“We’re going to start here, but I want to fuck you standing up. So we’ll end up by the wall over there.” He points with the riding crop to where the large wooden X is on the wall.
“Put your hands above your head.”
I oblige immediately, feeling like I’m exiting my body – a casual observer of events as they unfold around me. This is beyond fascinating, beyond erotic. It’s singularly the most exciting and scary thing I’ve ever done. I’m entrusting myself to a beautiful man who, by his own admission, is fifty shades of fucked-up. I suppress the brief thrill of fear. Kate and Elliot, they know I’m here.
He stands very close as he fastens the cuffs. I’m staring at his chest. His proximity is heavenly. He smells of body wash and Christian, an inebriating mix, and that drags me
back into the now. I want to run my nose and tongue through that smattering of chest hair. I could just lean forward…
He steps back and gazes at me, his expression hooded, salacious, carnal, and I am help- less, my hands tied, but just looking at his lovely face, reading his need and longing for me, I can feel the dampness between my legs. He walks slowly round me.
“You look mighty fine trussed up like this, Miss Steele. And your smart mouth, quiet for now. I like that.”
Standing in front of me again, he hooks his fingers into my panties, and at a most un- hurried pace, peels them down my legs, stripping me agonizingly slowly, so that he ends up kneeling in front of me. Not taking his eyes off mine, he scrunches my panties in his hand, holds them up to his nose, and inhales deeply. Holy fuck. Did he just do that? He grins wickedly at me and tucks them into the pocket of his jeans.
Uncoiling from the floor, rising lazily, like a jungle cat, he points the end of the riding crop at my navel, leisurely circling it – tantalizing me. At the touch of the leather, I quiver and gasp. He walks round me again, trailing the crop around the middle of my body. On his second circuit, he suddenly flicks the crop, and it hits me underneath my behind… against my sex. I cry out in surprise as all my nerve endings stand to attention. I pull against the restraints. The shock runs through me, and it’s the sweetest strangest, hedonistic feeling.
“Quiet,” he whispers as he walks around me again, the crop slightly higher around the middle of my body. This time when he flicks it against me in the same place, I’m anticipat- ing it… oh my. My body convulses at the sweet, stinging bite.
As he makes his way around me, he flicks again, this time hitting my nipple, and I throw my head back as my nerve endings sing. He hits the other… a brief, swift, sweet chastisement. My nipples harden and elongate from the assault, and I moan loudly, pulling on my leather cuffs.
“Does that feel good?” he breathes. “Yes.”
He hits me again across the buttocks. The crop stings this time. “Yes what?”
“Yes, Sir,” I whimper.
He comes to a stop… but I can no longer see him. My eyes are closed as I try to absorb the myriad of sensations coursing through my body. Very slowly, he rains small, biting licks of the crop down my belly, heading south. I know where this is leading, and I try and psyche myself up for it – but when he hits my clitoris, I cry out loudly.
“Oh… please!” I groan.
“Quiet,” he orders, and he hits me again on my behind.
I did not expect this to be like this… I am lost. Lost in a sea of sensation. And sud- denly, he’s dragging the crop against my sex, through my pubic hair, down to the entrance of my vagina.
“See how wet you are for this, Anastasia. Open your eyes and your mouth.”
I do as I’m told, completely seduced. He pushes the tip of the crop into my mouth, like my dream. Holy shit.
“See how you taste. Suck. Suck hard, baby.”
My mouth closes around the crop as my eyes lock on his. I can taste the rich leather and the saltiness of my arousal. His eyes are blazing. He’s in his element.
He pulls the tip from my mouth, and he stands forward and grabs me and kisses me hard, his tongue invading my mouth. Wrapping his arms around me, he pulls me against him. His chest crushes mine, and I itch to touch, but I can’t, my hands, useless above me.
“Oh, Anastasia, you taste mighty fine,” he breathes. “Shall I make you come?” “Please,” I beg.
The crop bites my buttock. Ow!
“Please, Sir,” I whimper.
He smiles at me, triumphant.
“With this?” He holds the crop up so I can see it. “Yes, Sir.”
“Are you sure?” He looks sternly at me. “Yes, please, Sir.”
“Close your eyes.”
I shut the room out, him out… the crop out. He starts small, biting licks of the crop against my belly once more. Moving down, soft small licks against my clitoris, once, twice, three times, again and again, until finally, that’s it – I can take no more – and I come, gloriously, loudly, sagging weakly. His arms curl around me as my legs turn to jelly. I dis- solve in his embrace, my head against his chest, and I’m mewling and whimpering as the aftershocks of my orgasm consume me. He lifts me, and suddenly we’re moving, my arms still tethered above my head, and I can feel the cool wood of the polished cross at my back, and he’s popping the buttons on his jeans. He puts me down against the cross briefly while he slides on a condom, and then his hands wrap around my thighs as he lifts me again.
“Lift your legs, baby, wrap them round me.”
I feel so weak, but I do as he asks as he wraps my legs around his hips and positions himself beneath me. With one thrust, he’s inside me, and I cry out again, listening to his muffled moan at my ear. My arms are resting on his shoulders as he thrusts into me. Jeez, it’s deep this way. He thrusts again and again, his face at my neck, his harsh breathing at my throat. I feel the build up again. Jeez no… not again… I don’t think my body will with- stand another earth-shattering moment. But I have no choice… and with an inevitability that’s becoming familiar, I let go and come again, and it’s sweet and agonizing and intense. I lose all sense of self. Christian follows, shouting his release through clenched teeth and holding me hard and close as he does.
He pulls out of me swiftly and sets me down against the cross, his body supporting mine. Unbuckling the cuffs, he frees my hands, and we both sink to the floor. He pulls me into his lap, cradling me, and I lean my head against his chest. If I had the strength, I’d touch him, but I don’t. Belatedly, I realize he’s still wearing his jeans.
“Well done, baby,” he murmurs. “Did that hurt?”
“No,” I breathe. I can barely keep my eyes open. Why am I so tired?
“Did you expect it to?” he whispers as he holds me close, his fingers pushing some escaped tendrils of hair off my face.
“You see most of your fear is in your head, Anastasia,” he pauses. “Would you do it again?”
I think for a moment as fatigue clouds my brain… Again?
“Yes.” My voice is so soft. He hugs me tightly.
“Good. So would I,” he murmurs, then leans down and softly kisses the top of my head.
“And I haven’t finished with you yet.”
Not finished with me yet. Holy Moses. There’s no way I can do any more. I am ut- terly spent and fighting an overwhelming desire to sleep. I’m leaning against his chest, my eyes are closed, and he’s wrapped around me – arms and legs – and I feel… safe, and oh so comfortable. Will he let me sleep, perchance to dream? My mouth quirks up at the silly thought, and turning my face into Christian’s chest, I inhale his unique scent and nuzzle him, but immediately he tenses… oh crap. I open my eyes and glance up at him. He’s staring down at me.
“Don’t,” he breathes in warning.
I flush and look back at his chest in longing. I want to run my tongue through the hair, kiss him, and for the first time, I notice he has a few random and faint small, round scars dotted around his chest. Chicken pox? Measles? I think absently.
“Kneel by the door,” he orders as he sits back, putting his hands on his knees, effec- tively releasing me. No longer warm, the temperature of his voice has dropped several degrees.
I stumble clumsily up into a standing position and scoot over to the door and kneel as instructed. I’m shaky and very, very tired, monumentally confused. Who would have thought I could have found such gratification in this room. Who could have thought it would be so exhausting? My limbs are deliciously heavy, sated. My inner goddess has a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the outside of her room.
Christian is moving about in the periphery of my vision. My eyes start to droop. “Boring you, am I, Miss Steele?”
I jump awake, and Christian is standing in front of me, his arms crossed glaring down at me. Oh shit, caught napping – this is not going to be good. His eyes soften as I gaze up at him.
“Stand up,” he orders.
I climb warily to my feet. He stares at me, and his mouths quirks up. “You’re shattered, aren’t you?”
I nod shyly, flushing.
“Stamina, Miss Steele.” He narrows his eyes at me. “I haven’t had my fill of you yet.
Hold out your hands in front as if you’re praying.”
I blink at him. Praying! Praying for you to go easy on me. I do as I’m told. He takes a cable tie and fastens it around my wrists, tightening the plastic. Holy hell. My eyes fly to his.
“Look familiar,” he asks, unable to conceal his smile.
Jeez… the plastic cable ties. Restocking at Clayton’s! It all becomes clear. I gape up at him as adrenaline spikes though my body anew. Okay – that’s got my attention – I’m awake now.
“I have scissors here.” He holds them up for me to see. “I can cut you out of this in a moment.”
I try to pull my wrists apart, testing my bonds, and as I do, the plastic bites into my flesh – it’s sore, but if I relax my wrists they’re fine – the tie is not cutting into my skin.
“Come.” He takes my hands and leads me over to the four-poster bed. I notice now that it has dark red sheets on it and a shackle at each corner.
“I want more – much, much more,” he leans down and whispers in my ear. And my heartbeat starts pounding again. Oh boy.
“But I’ll make this quick. You’re tired. Hold on to the post,” he says.
I frown. Not on the bed then? I find I can part my hands as I grasp the ornately carved wooden post.
“Lower,” he orders. “Good. Don’t let go. If you do, I’ll spank you. Understand?” “Yes, Sir.”
He stands behind me and grasps my hips, and then quickly lifts me backward so I’m bending forward, holding the post.
“Don’t let go, Anastasia,” he warns. “I’m going to fuck you hard from behind. Hold the post to support your weight. Understand?”
He smacks me across my behind with his hand. Ow… It stings. “Yes, Sir,” I mutter quickly.
“Part your legs.” He puts his leg between mine, and holding my hips, he pushes my right leg to the side.
“That’s better. After this, I’ll let you sleep.”
Sleep? I’m panting. I’m not thinking of sleep now. He reaches up and gently strokes my back.
“You have such beautiful skin, Anastasia,” he breathes as he bends down and kisses me along my spine, gentle feather-light kisses. At the same time, his hands move round to my front palming my breasts, and as he does this, he traps my nipples between his fingers and tugs them gently.
I stifle my moan as I feel my whole body respond, coming alive once more for him.
He gently bites and sucks me at my waist, tugging my nipples, and my hands tighten on the exquisitely carved post. His hands drop away, and I hear the now familiar tear of foil, and he kicks off his jeans.
“You have such a captivating, sexy ass, Anastasia Steele. What I’d like to do to it.” His hands smooth and shape each of my buttocks, then his fingers glide down, and he slips two fingers inside me.
“So wet. You never disappoint, Miss Steele,” he whispers, and I hear the wonder in his voice. “Hold tight… this is going to be quick, baby.”
He grabs my hips and positions himself, and I brace myself for his assault. But he reaches over me and grabs my braid near the end and winds it round his wrist to my nape
holding my head in place. Very slowly he eases into me, pulling my hair at the same time… oh the fullness. He eases out of me slowly, and his other hand grabs my hip, hold- ing tight, and then he slams into me, jolting me forward.
“Hold on, Anastasia!” he shouts through clenched teeth.
I grip harder round the post and push back against him as he continues his merciless onslaught, again and again, his fingers digging into my hip. My arms are aching, my legs feel uncertain, my scalp is getting sore from his tugging my hair… and I can feel a gathering deep inside me. Oh no… and for the first time, I fear my orgasm… if I come… I’ll collapse. Christian continues to move roughly against me, in me, his breathing harsh, moaning, groaning. My body is responding… how? I feel a quickening. But suddenly, Christian stills, slamming really deep.
“Come on, Ana, give it to me,” he groans, and my name on his lips sends me over the edge as I become all body and spiraling sensation and sweet, sweet release, and then com- pletely and utterly mindless.
When sense returns, I’m lying on him. He’s on the floor, and I’m lying on top of him, my back to his front, and I’m staring at the ceiling, all post-coital, glowing, shattered. Oh… the karabiners, I think absently – I’d forgotten about those. Christian nuzzles my ear.
“Hold up your hands,” he says softly.
My arms feel like they’re made of lead, but I hold them up. He wields the scissors and passes one blade under the plastic.
“I declare this Ana open,” he breathes, and cuts the plastic. I giggle and rub my wrists as they’re freed. I feel his grin.
“That is such a lovely sound,” he says wistfully. He sits suddenly, taking me with him so that I’m once more sitting in his lap.
“That’s my fault,” he says and shifts me so that he can rub my shoulders and arms.
Gently he massages some life back into my limbs
I glance up at him behind me, trying to understand what he means. “That you don’t giggle more often.”
“I’m not a great giggler,” I mumble sleepily.
“Oh, but when it happens, Miss Steele, ‘tis a wonder and joy to behold.” “Very flowery, Mr. Grey,” I mutter, trying to keep my eyes open.
His eyes soften, and he smiles.
“I’d say you’re thoroughly fucked and in need of sleep.” “That wasn’t flowery at all,” I grumble playfully.
He grins and gently lifts me off him and stands, gloriously naked. I wish momentarily that I were more awake to really appreciate him. Picking up his jeans, he slides them back on, commando.
“Don’t want to frighten Taylor, or Mrs. Jones for that matter,” he mutters.
Hmm… they must know what a kinky bastard he is. The thought preoccupies me.
He stoops to help me to my feet and leads me to the door, on the back of which hangs a grey waffle robe. He patiently dresses me as if I’m a small child. I don’t have the strength to lift my arms. When I’m covered and respectable, he leans down and kisses me gently, his mouth quirks up in a smile.
“Bed,” he says.
“For sleep,” he adds reassuringly when he sees my expression.
Suddenly, he scoops me up and carries me curled against his chest to the room along the corridor where earlier today Dr. Greene examined me. My head drops against his chest. I am exhausted. I don’t remember ever being this tired. Pulling back the duvet, he lays me down, and even more surprisingly, climbs in beside me and holds me close.
“Sleep now, gorgeous girl,” he whispers, and he kisses my hair. And before I can make a facetious comment, I’m asleep.
Soft lips brush across my temple, leaving sweet tender kisses in their wake, and part of me wants to turn and respond, but mostly I want to stay asleep. I moan and burrow into my pillow.
“Anastasia, wake up.” Christian’s voice is soft, cajoling. “No,” I moan.
“We have to leave in half an hour for dinner at my parents.” He’s amused.
I open my eyes reluctantly. It’s dusk outside. Christian is leaning over, gazing at me intently.
“Come on sleepy-head. Get up.” He stoops down and kisses me again.
“I’ve bought you a drink. I’ll be downstairs. Don’t go back to sleep, or you’ll be in trouble,” he threatens, but his tone is mild. He kisses me briefly and exits, leaving me blinking sleep from my eyes in the cool, stark room.
I’m refreshed but suddenly nervous. Holy cow, I am meeting his folks! He’s just worked me over with a riding crop and tied me up using a cable tie which I sold him, for heaven’s sake – and I’m going to meet his parents. It will be Kate’s first time meeting them too – at least she’ll be there for support. I roll my shoulders. They’re stiff. His demands for a personal trainer don’t seem so outlandish now, in fact, they’re mandatory if I am to have any hope of keeping up with him.
I climb slowly out of bed and note that my dress is hanging outside the wardrobe and my bra is on the chair. Where are my panties? I check beneath the chair. Nothing. Then I remember – he squirreled them away in the pocket of his jeans. I flush at the memory, after he, I can’t even bring myself to think about it, he was so – barbarous. I frown. Why hasn’t he given me back my panties?
I steal into the bathroom, bewildered by my lack of underwear. While drying myself after my enjoyable but far too brief shower, I realize he’s done this on purpose. He wants me to be embarrassed and ask for my panties back, and he’ll either say yes or no. My inner goddess grins at me. Hell… two can play that particular game. Resolving there and then not to ask him for them and not give him that satisfaction, I shall go meet his parents sans culottes. Anastasia Steele! My subconscious chides me, but I don’t want to listen to her – I almost hug myself with glee because I know this will drive him crazy.
Back in the bedroom, I put on my bra, slip into my dress, and climb into my shoes. I remove the braid and hastily brush out my hair, I then glance down at the drink he’s left. It’s pale pink. What’s this? Cranberry and sparkling water. Hmm… it tastes delicious and quenches my thirst.
Dashing back into the bathroom, I check myself in the mirror: eyes bright, cheeks slightly flushed, slightly smug look because of my panty plan, and I head downstairs. Fif- teen minutes. Not bad, Ana.
Christian is standing by the panoramic window, wearing the grey flannel pants that I love, the ones that hang in that unbelievably sexy way off his hips, and of course, a white linen shirt. Doesn’t he have any other colors? Frank Sinatra sings softly over the surround sound speakers.
Christian turns and smiles as I enter. He looks at me expectantly. “Hi,” I say softly, and my sphinx-like smile meets his.
“Hi,” he says. “How are you feeling?” His eyes are alight with amusement. “Good, thanks. You?”
“I feel mighty fine, Miss Steele.”
He is so waiting for me to say something. “Frank. I never figured you for a Sinatra fan.”
He raises his eyebrows at me, his look speculative.
“Eclectic taste, Miss Steele,” he murmurs, and he paces toward me like a panther until he’s standing in front of me, his gaze so intense it takes my breath away.
Frank starts crooning… an old song, one of Ray’s favorites. ‘Witchcraft.’ Christian leisurely traces his fingertips down my cheek, and I feel it all the way down there.
“Dance with me,” he murmurs, his voice husky.
Taking the remote out of his pocket, he turns up the volume and holds his hand out to me, his gray gaze full of promise and longing and humor. He is totally beguiling, and I’m bewitched. I place my hand in his. He grins lazily down at me and pulls me into his embrace, his arm curling around my waist, and he starts to sway.
I put my free hand on his shoulder and grin up at him, caught in his infectious, playful mood. And he starts to move. Boy can he dance. We cover the floor, from the window to the kitchen and back again, whirling and turning in time to the music. And he makes it so effortless for me to follow.
We glide around the dining table, over to the piano, and backwards and forwards in front of the glass wall, Seattle twinkling outside, a dark and magical mural to our dance, and I can’t help my carefree laugh. He grins down at me as the song comes to a close.
“There’s no nicer witch than you,” he murmurs, then kisses me sweetly. “Well, that’s bought some color to your cheeks, Miss Steele. Thank you for the dance. Shall we go and meet my parents?”
“You’re welcome, and yes, I can’t wait to meet them,” I answer breathlessly. “Do you have everything you need?”
“Oh, yes,” I respond sweetly. “Are you sure?”
I nod as nonchalantly as I can manage under his intense, amused scrutiny. His face splits into a huge grin, and he shakes his head.
“Okay. If that’s the way you want to play it, Miss Steele.”
He grabs my hand, collects his jacket which is hanging on one of the barstools, and leads me through the foyer to the elevator. Oh, the many faces of Christian Grey. Will I ever be able to understand this mercurial man?
I peek up at him in the elevator. He’s enjoying a private joke, a trace of a smile flirting with his beautiful mouth. I fear that it may be at my expense. What was I thinking? I’m going to see his parents, and I’m not wearing any underwear. My subconscious gives me an unhelpful I told you so expression. In the relative safety of his apartment, it seemed like a fun, teasing idea. Now, I’m almost outside with No Panties! He peers down at me, and it’s there, the charge building between us. The amused look disappears from his face and his expression clouds, his eyes dark… oh my.
The elevator doors open on the ground floor. Christian shakes his head slightly as if to clear his thoughts and gestures for me to exit before him in a most gentlemanly manner. Who’s he kidding? He’s no gentleman. He has my panties.
Taylor draws up in the large Audi. Christian opens the rear door for me, and I climb in- side as elegantly as I can, considering my state of wanton undress. I’m grateful that Kate’s plum dress is so clingy and hangs to the top of my knees.
We speed up the I-5, both of us quiet, no doubt inhibited by Taylor’s steady presence in the front. Christian’s mood is almost tangible and seems to shift, the humor dissipating slowly as we head north. He’s brooding, staring out of the window, and I can feel him slipping away from me. What is he thinking? I can’t ask him. What can I say in front of Taylor?
“Where did you learn to dance?” I ask tentatively. He turns to gaze at me, his eyes unreadable beneath the intermittent light of the passing street lamps.
“Do you really want to know?” he replies softly.
My heart sinks, and now I don’t because I can guess. “Yes,” I murmur, reluctantly.
“Mrs. Robinson was fond of dancing.”
Oh, my worst suspicions confirmed. She has taught him well, and the thought de- presses me – there’s nothing I can teach him. I have no special skills.
“She must have been a good teacher.” “She was,” he says softly.
My scalp prickles. Did she have the best of him? Before he became so closed? Or did she bring him out of himself? He has such a fun, playful side. I smile involuntarily as I recall being in his arms as he spun me around his living room, so unexpected, and he has my panties, somewhere.
And then there’s the Red Room of Pain. I rub my wrists reflexively – thin strips of plastic will do that to a girl. She taught him all that too or ruined him, depending on one’s point of view. Or perhaps he would have found his way there anyway in spite of Mrs. R. I realize, in that moment, that I hate her. I hope that I never meet her because I will not be responsible for my actions if I do. I can’t remember ever feeling this passionately about anyone, especially someone I’ve never met. Gazing unseeing out of the window, I nurse my irrational anger and jealousy.
My mind drifts back to the afternoon. Given what I understand of his preferences, I think he’s been easy on me. Would I do it again? I can’t even pretend to put up an argu- ment against that. Of course I would, if he asked me – as long as he didn’t hurt me and if it’s the only way to be with him.
That’s the bottom line. I want to be with him. My inner goddess sighs with relief. I reach the conclusion that she rarely uses her brain to think but another vital part of her anatomy, and at the moment, it’s a rather exposed part.
“Don’t,” he murmurs.
I frown and turn to look at him. “Don’t what?” I haven’t touched him.
“Over-think things, Anastasia.” Reaching out, he grasps my hand, draws it up to his lips, and kisses my knuckles gently. “I had a wonderful afternoon. Thank you.”
And he’s back with me again. I blink up at him and smile shyly. He’s so confusing. I ask a question that’s been bugging me.
“Why did you use a cable tie?” He grins at me.
“It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s something different for you to feel and experience. I know they’re quite brutal, and I do like that in a restraining device.” He smiles at me mildly. “Very effective at keeping you in your place.”
I flush and glance nervously at Taylor, who remains impassive, eyes on road. What am I supposed to say to that? Christian shrugs innocently.
“All part of my world, Anastasia.” He squeezes my hand and lets go, staring out of the window again.
His world indeed, and I want to belong in it, but on his terms? I just don’t know. He hasn’t mentioned that damned contract. My inner musings do nothing to cheer me. I stare out of the window and the landscape has changed. We’re crossing one of the bridges, sur- rounded by inky darkness. The somber night reflects my introspective mood, closing in, suffocating.
I glance briefly at Christian, and he’s staring at me. “Penny for your thoughts?” he asks.
I sigh and frown. “That bad, huh?”
“I wish I knew what you were thinking.”
He smirks at me.
“Ditto, baby,” he says softly as Taylor speeds into the night toward Bellevue.
It is just before eight when the Audi draws into the driveway of a colonial-style mansion. It’s breathtaking, even down to the roses around the door. Picture-book perfect.
“Are you ready for this?” Christian asks as Taylor pulls up outside the impressive front door.
I nod, and he gives my hand another reassuring squeeze.
“First for me too,” he whispers, then smiles wickedly. “Bet you wish you were wear- ing your underwear right now,” he teases.
I flush. I’d forgotten my missing panties. Fortunately, Taylor has climbed out of the car and is opening my door so he can’t hear our exchange. I scowl at Christian who grins broadly as I turn and climb out of the car.
Dr. Grace Trevelyan-Grey is on the doorstep waiting for us. She looks elegantly so- phisticated in a pale blue silk dress; behind her stands Mr. Grey, I presume, tall, blond, and as handsome in his own way as Christian.
“Anastasia, you’ve met my mother, Grace. This is my dad, Carrick.”
“Mr. Grey, what a pleasure to meet you.” I smile and shake his outstretched hand. “The pleasure is all mine, Anastasia.”
“Please call me, Ana.”
His blue eyes are soft and gentle.
“Ana, how lovely to see you again.” Grace wraps me in a warm hug. “Come in, my dear.”
“Is she here?” I hear a screech from within the house. I glance nervously at Christian. “That would be Mia, my little sister,” he says almost irritably, but not quite.
There’s an undercurrent of affection in his words, the way his voice grows softer and his eyes crinkle as he mentions her name. Christian obviously adores her. It’s a revelation. And she comes barreling down the hall, raven haired, tall, and curvaceous. She’s about my age.
“Anastasia! I’ve heard so much about you.” She hugs me hard.
Holy Cow. I can’t help but smile at her boundless enthusiasm.
“Ana, please,” I murmur as she drags me into the large vestibule. It’s all dark wood floors and antique rugs with a sweeping staircase to the second floor.
“He’s never brought a girl home before,” says Mia, dark eyes bright with excitement.
I glimpse Christian rolling his eyes, and I raise an eyebrow at him. He narrows his eyes at me.
“Mia, calm down,” Grace admonishes softly. “Hello, darling,” she says as she kisses Christian on both cheeks. He smiles down at her warmly, and then shakes hands with his father.
We all turn and head into the living room. Mia has not let go of my hand. The room is spacious, tastefully furnished in creams, browns, and pale blue, comfortable, understated, and very stylish. Kate and Elliot are cuddled together on a couch, clutching champagne flutes. Kate bounces up to embrace me, and Mia finally releases my hand.
“Hi, Ana!” She beams. “Christian.” She nods curtly to him. “Kate.” He is equally formal with her.
I frown at their exchange. Elliot grasps me in an all-embracing hug. What is this, hug Ana week? This dazzling display of affection – I’m just not used to it. Christian stands at my side, wrapping his arm around me. Placing his hand on my hip, he spreads out his fingers and pulls me close. Everyone is staring at us. It’s unnerving.
“Drinks?” Mr. Grey seems to recover himself. “Prosecco?” “Please,” Christian and I speak in unison.
Oh… this is beyond weird. Mia claps her hands.
“You’re even saying the same things. I’ll get them.” She scoots out of the room.
I flush scarlet, and seeing Kate sitting with Elliot, it occurs to me suddenly that the only reason Christian invited me is because Kate is here. Elliot probably freely and happily asked Kate to meet his parents. Christian was trapped – knowing that I would have found out via Kate. I frown at the thought. He’s been forced into the invitation. The realization is bleak and depressing. My subconscious nods sagely, a you’ve-finally-worked-it-out- stupid look on her face.
“Dinner’s almost ready,” Grace says as she follows Mia out of the room. Christian frowns as he gazes at me.
“Sit,” he commands, pointing to the plush couch, and I do as I’m told, carefully cross- ing my legs. He sits down beside me but doesn’t touch me.
“We were just talking about vacations, Ana,” Mr. Grey says kindly. “Elliot has decided to follow Kate and her family to Barbados for a week.”
I glance at Kate, and she grins, her eyes bright and wide. She’s delighted. Katherine Kavanagh, show some dignity!
“Are you taking a break now you’ve finished your degree?” Mr. Grey asks. “I’m thinking about going to Georgia for a few days,” I reply.
Christian gapes at me, blinking a couple of times, his expression unreadable. Oh shit.
I haven’t mentioned this to him. “Georgia?” he murmurs.
“My mother lives there, and I haven’t seen her for a while.” “When were you thinking of going?” His voice is low. “Tomorrow, late evening.”
Mia saunters back into the living room and hands us champagne flutes filled with pale pink Prosecco.
“Your good health!” Mr. Grey raises his glass. An appropriate toast from a doctor’s husband, it makes me smile.
“For how long?” Christian asks, his voice deceptively soft.
Holy crap… he’s angry.
“I don’t know yet. It will depend how my interviews go tomorrow.”
His jaw clenches, and Kate gets that interfering look on her face. She smiles over- sweetly.
“Ana deserves a break,” she says pointedly at Christian. Why is she so antagonistic towards him? What is her problem?
“You have interviews?” Mr. Grey asks.
“Yes, for internships at two publishers, tomorrow.” “I wish you the best of luck.”
“Dinner is on the table,” Grace announces.
We all stand. Kate and Elliot follow Mr. Grey and Mia out of the room. I go to follow, but Christian clutches my elbow, bringing me to an abrupt halt.
“When were you going to tell me you were leaving?” he asks urgently. His tone is soft, but he’s masking his anger.
“I’m not leaving, I’m going to see my mother, and I was only thinking about it.” “What about our arrangement?”
“We don’t have an arrangement yet.”
He narrows his eyes, and then seems to remember himself. Releasing my hand, he takes my elbow and leads me out of the room.
“This conversation is not over,” he whispers threateningly as we enter the dining room.
Oh, crapola. Don’t get your panties in such a twist… and give me back mine. I glare at him.
The dining room reminds me of our private dinner at the Heathman. A crystal chan- delier hangs over the dark wood table and there’s a massive, ornately carved mirror on the wall. The table is laid and covered with a crisp white linen tablecloth, a bowl of pale pink peonies as the center piece. It’s stunning.
We take our places. Mr. Grey is at the head of the table, while I sit at his right hand, and Christian is seated beside me. Mr. Grey reaches for the opened bottle of red wine and offers some to Kate. Mia takes her seat beside Christian, and grabbing his hand, squeezes it tightly. Christian smiles warmly at her.
“Where did you meet, Ana?” Mia asks him.
“She interviewed me for the WSU student magazine.”
“Which Kate edits,” I add, hoping to steer the conversation away from me.
Mia beams at Kate, seated opposite next to Elliot, and they start talking about the stu- dent magazine.
“Wine, Ana?” Mr. Grey asks.
“Please.” I smile at him. Mr. Grey rises to fill the rest of the glasses.
I peek up at Christian, and he turns to look at me, his head cocked to one side. “What?” he asks.
“Please don’t be mad at me,” I whisper. “I’m not mad at you.”
I stare at him. He sighs.
“Yes, I am mad at you.” He closes his eyes briefly. “Palm-twitchingly mad?” I ask nervously.
“What are you two whispering about?” Kate interjects.
I flush, and Christian glares at her in a butt-out-of-this-Kavanagh kind of way – even Kate wilts under his stare.
“Just about my trip to Georgia,” I say sweetly, hoping to diffuse their mutual hostility. Kate smiles, a wicked gleam in her eye.
“How was José when you went to the bar with him on Friday?”
Holy fuck, Kate. I widen my eyes at her. What is she doing? She widens her eyes back at me, and I realize she’s trying to make Christian jealous. How little she knows. I thought I’d got away with this.
“He was fine,” I murmur. Christian leans over.
“Palm-twitchingly mad,” he whispers. “Especially now.” His tone is quiet and deadly.
Oh no. I squirm.
Grace reappears carrying two plates, followed by a pretty young woman with blonde pigtails, dressed smartly in pale blue, carrying a tray of plates. Her eyes immediately find Christian in the room. She blushes and gazes at him from under her long mascara’d lashes. What!
Somewhere in the house the phone starts ringing. “Excuse me,” Mr. Grey rises again and exits.
“Thank you, Gretchen,” Grace says gently, frowning as Mr. Grey exits. “Just leave the tray on the console.” Gretchen nods, and with another furtive glance at Christian, she leaves.
So the Greys have staff, and the staff are eyeing up my would-be Dominant. Can this evening get any worse? I scowl at my hands in my lap.
Mr. Grey returns.
“Call for you, darling. It’s the hospital,” he says to Grace.
“Please start, everyone.” Grace smiles as she hands me a plate and leaves.
It smells delicious – chorizo and scallops with roasted red peppers and shallots, sprin- kled with flat leafed parsley. And in spite of the fact that my stomach is churning from Christian’s veiled threats, the surreptitious glances from pretty little Miss Pigtails, and the debacle of my missing underwear, I am starving. I flush as I realize it’s the physical effort of this afternoon that’s given me such an appetite.
Moments later Grace returns, her brow furrowed. Mr. Grey cocks his head to one side… like Christian.
“Another measles case,” Grace sighs. “Oh no.”
“Yes, a child. The fourth case this month. If only people would get their kids vacci- nated.” She shakes her head sadly, and then smiles. “I’m so glad our children never went through that. They never caught anything worse than chicken pox, thank goodness. Poor Elliot,” she says as she sits down, smiling indulgently at her son. Elliot frowns mid chew and squirms uncomfortably. “Christian and Mia were lucky. They got it so mildly, only a spot to share between them.”
Mia giggles, and Christian rolls his eyes.
“So, did you catch the Mariners game, Dad?” Elliot’s clearly keen to move the con- versation on.
The hors d’oeuvres are delicious, and I concentrate on eating while Elliot, Mr. Grey, and Christian talk baseball. Christian seems relaxed and calm talking to his family. My mind is working furiously. Damn Kate, what game is she playing? Will he punish me? I
quail at the thought. I haven’t signed that contract yet. Perhaps I won’t. Perhaps I’ll stay in Georgia where he can’t reach me.
“How are you settling into your new apartment dear?” Grace asks politely.
I’m grateful for her question, distracting me from my discordant thoughts, and I tell her about our move.
As we finish our starters, Gretchen appears, and not for the first time, I wish I felt able to put my hands freely on Christian just to let her know – he may be fifty shades of fucked- up, but he’s mine. She proceeds to clear the table, brushing rather too closely to Christian for my liking. Fortunately, he seems oblivious to her, but my inner goddess is smoldering and not in a good way.
Kate and Mia are waxing lyrical about Paris.
“Have you been to Paris, Ana?” Mia asks innocently, distracting me from my jealous reverie.
“No, but I’d love to go.” I know I’m the only one at the table who has never left main- land USA.
“We honeymooned in Paris.” Grace smiles at Mr. Grey who grins back at her.
It’s almost embarrassing to witness. They obviously love each other deeply, and I wonder for a brief moment what it must be like to grow up with both one’s parents in situ. “It’s a beautiful city,” Mia agrees. “In spite of the Parisians. Christian, you should take
Ana to Paris,” Mia states firmly.
“I think Anastasia would prefer London,” Christian says softly.
Oh… he remembered. He places his hand on my knee – his fingers traveling up my thigh. My whole body tightens in response. No… not here, not now. I flush and shift, try- ing to pull away from him. His hand clamps down on my thigh, stilling me. I reach for my wine, in desperation.
Little Miss European Pigtails returns, all coy glances and swaying hips, with our en- trée, a Beef Wellington, I think. Fortunately, she gives us our plates and then leaves, al- though she lingers handing Christian his. He looks quizzically at me as I watch her close the dining room door.
“So what was wrong with the Parisians?” Elliot asks his sister. “Didn’t they take to your winsome ways?”
“Ugh, no they didn’t. And Monsieur Floubert, the ogre I was working for, he was such a domineering tyrant.”
I splutter into my wine.
“Anastasia, are you okay?” Christian asks solicitously, taking his hand off my thigh.
Humor has returned to his voice. Oh thank heavens. When I nod, he pats my back gently, and only removes his hand when he knows I’ve recovered.
The beef is delicious and served with roasted sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and green beans. It is even more palatable since Christian manages to retain his good-humor for the rest of the meal. I suspect that it’s because I’m eating so heartily. The conversation flows freely among the Greys, warm and caring, gently teasing each other. Over our des- sert of lemon syllabub, Mia regales us with her exploits in Paris, lapsing at one point into fluent French. We all stare at her, and she stares back puzzled, until Christian tells her in
equally fluent French what she’s done, whereupon she bursts into a fit of giggles. She has a very infectious laugh and soon we’re all in stitches.
Elliot holds forth about his latest building project, a new eco-friendly community to the north of Seattle. I glance up at Kate, and she’s hanging on every word Elliot says, her eyes glowing with lust or love. I haven’t quite worked out which yet. He grins down at her, and it’s as if an unspoken promise passes between them. Laters, baby, he’s saying, and it’s hot, freaking hot. I flush just watching them.
I sigh and peek up at Fifty Shades. He’s so beautiful, I could stare at him forever. He has light stubble over his chin, and my fingers itch to scratch it and feel it against my face, against my breasts… between my thighs. I blush at the direction of my thoughts. He peers down at me and raises his hand to pull at my chin.
“Don’t bite your lip,” he murmurs huskily. “I want to do that.”
Grace and Mia clear our dessert glasses and head to the kitchen, while Mr. Grey, Kate, and Elliot discuss the merits of solar panels in Washington State. Christian, feigning inter- est in their conversation, puts his hand once more on my knee, and his fingers travel up my thigh. My breathing hitches, and I press my thighs together in a bid to halt his progress. I can see him smirk.
“Shall I give you a tour of the grounds?” he asks me quite openly.
I know I’m meant to say yes, but I don’t trust him. Before I can answer however, he’s on his feet and holding his hand out to me. I place my hand in his, and I feel all the muscles clench deep in my belly, responding to his dark, hungry gray gaze.
“Excuse me,” I say to Mr. Grey and follow Christian out of the dining room.
He leads me through the hallway and into the kitchen where Mia and Grace are stack- ing the dishwasher. European Pigtails is nowhere to be seen.
“I’m going to show Anastasia the backyard,” Christian says innocently to his mother.
She waves us out with a smile as Mia heads back to the dining room.
We step out onto a grey flagstone patio area lit by recessed lights in the flagstones. There are shrubs in grey stone tubs and a chic metal table and chairs set up in one corner. Christian walks past those, up some steps, and onto a vast lawn that leads down to the bay… oh my – it’s beautiful. Seattle twinkles on the horizon, and the cool, bright, May moon etches a sparkling silver path across the water toward a jetty where two boats are moored. Beside the jetty stands a boathouse. It is so picturesque, so peaceful. I stand and gape for a moment.
Christian pulls me behind him, and my heels sink into the soft grass. “Stop, please.” I am stumbling in his wake.
He stops and gazes at me, his expression unfathomable. “My heels. I need to take my shoes off.”
“Don’t bother,” he says, and he bends down and scoops me over his shoulder. I squeal loudly with shocked surprise, and he gives me a ringing slap on my behind.
“Keep your voice down,” he growls.
Oh no… this is not good, my subconscious is quaking at the knees. He’s mad about something – could be José, Georgia, no panties, biting my lip. Jeez, he’s easy to rile.
“Where are we going?” I breathe. “Boathouse,” he snaps.
I hang on to his hips as I’m tipped upside-down, and he strides purposefully in the moonlight across the lawn.
“Why?” I sound breathless, bouncing on this shoulder. “I need to be alone with you.”
“Because I’m going to spank and then fuck you.” “Why?” I whimper softly.
“You know why,” he hisses.
“I thought you were an in-the-moment guy?” I plead breathlessly. “Anastasia, I’m in the moment, trust me.”
Christian bursts through the wooden door of the boathouse and pauses to flick on some lights. Fluorescents ping and buzz in sequence as harsh white light floods the large wooden building. From my upside-down view, I can see an impressive motor launch in the dock floating gently on the dark water, but I only get a brief look before he’s carrying me up some wooden stairs to the room above.
He pauses at the doorway and touches another switch – halogens this time, they are softer, on a dimmer – and we’re in an attic room with sloping ceilings. It’s decorated with a nautical New England theme: navy blues and creams with a dash of red. The furnishings are sparse, just a couple of couches are all I can see.
Christian sets me on my feet on the wooden floor. I don’t have time to examine my surroundings – my eyes can’t leave him. I am mesmerized… watching him like one would watch a rare and dangerous predator, waiting for him to strike. His breathing is harsh but then he’s just carried me across the lawn and up a flight of stairs. Gray eyes blaze with anger, need, and pure unadulterated lust.
Holy shit. I could spontaneously combust from his look alone. “Please don’t hit me,” I whisper, pleading.
His brow furrows, his eyes widening. He blinks twice.
“I don’t want you to spank me, not here, not now. Please don’t.”
His mouth drops open slightly in surprise, and beyond brave, I tentatively reach up and run my fingers down his cheek, along the edge of his sideburn, to the stubble on his chin. It’s a curious mixture of soft and prickly. Slowly closing his eyes, he leans his face into my touch, and his breath hitches in his throat. Reaching up with my other hand, I run my fingers into his hair. I love his hair. His soft moan is barely audible, and when he opens his eyes, his look is – wary, like he doesn’t understand what I’m doing.
Stepping forward so I am flush against him, I pull gently on his hair, bringing his mouth down to mine, and I kiss him, forcing my tongue between his lips and into his mouth. He groans, and his arms embrace me, pulling me to him. His hands find their way into my hair, and he kisses me back, hard and possessive. His tongue and my tongue twist and turn together, consuming each other. He tastes divine.
He pulls back suddenly, our collective breathing ragged and mingling. My hands drop to his arms and he glares down at me.
“What are you doing to me?” he whispers confused. “Kissing you.”
“You said no.” “What?” No to what?
“At the dinner table, with your legs.”
Oh… that’s what this is all about.
“But we were at your parents’ dining table.” I stare up at him, completely bewildered. “No one’s ever said no to me before. And it’s so – hot.”
His eyes widen slightly, filled with wonder and lust. It’s a heady mix. I swallow in- stinctively. His hand moves down to my behind. He pulls me sharply against him, and I can feel his erection.
“You’re mad and turned on because I said no?” I breathe, astonished.
“I’m mad because you never mentioned Georgia to me. I’m mad because you went drinking with that guy who tried to seduce you when you were drunk and who left you when you were ill with an almost complete stranger. What kind of friend does that? And I’m mad and aroused because you closed your legs on me.” His eyes glitter dangerously, and he’s slowly inching up the hem of my dress.
“I want you, and I want you now. And if you’re not going to let me spank you – which you deserve – I’m going to fuck you on the couch this minute, quickly, for my pleasure, not yours.”
My dress is now barely covering my naked behind. He moves suddenly so that his hand is cupping my sex, and one of his fingers sinks slowly into me. His other arm holds me firmly in place around my waist. I suppress my moan.
“This is mine,” he whispers aggressively. “All mine. Do you understand?” He eases his finger in and out as he gazes down at me, gauging my reaction, his eyes burning.
“Yes, yours,” I breathe as my desire, hot and heavy, surges through my bloodstream, affecting… everything. My nerve endings, my breathing, my heart is pounding, trying to leave my chest, the blood thrumming in my ears.
Abruptly, he moves, doing several things at once. Withdrawing his fingers, leaving me wanting, unzipping his fly, and pushing me down onto the couch so he’s lying on top of me.
“Hands on your head,” he commands through gritted teeth as he kneels up, forcing my legs wider, and reaching into the inside pocket of his jacket. He takes out a foil packet, gazing down at me, his expression dark, before shrugging off his jacket so it falls to the floor. He rolls the condom down over his impressive length.
I place my hands on my head, and I know it’s so I won’t touch him. I’m so turned on. I feel my hips moving already up to meet him – wanting him inside me, like this – rough and hard. Oh… the anticipation.
“We don’t have long. This will be quick, and it’s for me, not you. Do you understand?
Don’t come, or I will spank you,” he says through clenched teeth.
Holy crap… how do I stop?
With one swift thrust, he’s fully inside me. I groan loudly, gutturally, and revel in the fullness of his possession. He puts his hands on mine on top of my head, his elbows hold my arms out and down, and his legs pinion me. I am trapped. He’s everywhere, over- whelming me, almost suffocating. But it’s heavenly too, this is my power, this is what I do to him, and it’s a hedonistic, triumphant feeling. He moves quickly and furiously inside me, his breathing harsh at my ear, and my body responds, melting around him. I mustn’t come. No. But I’m meeting him thrust for thrust, a perfect counterpoint. Abruptly, and all too soon, he rams into me and stills as he finds his release, air hissing through his teeth. He relaxes momentarily, so I feel his entire, delicious weight on me. I’m not ready to let him go, my body craving relief, but he’s so heavy, and in that moment, I can’t push against him. All of a sudden, he withdraws, leaving me aching and hungry for more. He glares down at me.
“Don’t touch yourself. I want you frustrated. That’s what you do to me by not talking to me, by denying me what’s mine.” His eyes blaze anew, angry again.
I nod, panting. He stands and removes the condom, knotting it at the end, and puts it in his pants pocket. I gaze at him, my breathing still erratic, and involuntarily I squeeze my thighs together, trying to find some relief. Christian does up his fly and runs his hand through his hair as he reaches down to collect his jacket. He turns back to gaze down at me, his expression softer.
“We’d better get back to the house.” I sit up, a little unsteadily, dazed. “Here. You may put these on.”
From his inside pocket, he produces my panties. I don’t grin as I take them from him, but inside I know – I’ve taken a punishment fuck but gained a small victory over the pant- ies. My inner goddess nods in agreement, a satisfied grin over her face – You didn’t have to ask for them.
“CHRISTIAN!” Mia shouts from the floor below. He turns and raises his eyebrows at me.
“Just in time. Christ, she can be really irritating.”
I scowl back at him, hastily restore my panties to their rightful place, and stand with as much dignity as I can muster in my just-fucked state. Quickly, I attempt to smooth my just-fucked hair.
“Up here, Mia,” he calls down. “Well, Miss Steele, I feel better for that – but I still want to spank you,” he says softly.
“I don’t believe I deserve it Mr. Grey, especially after tolerating your unprovoked at- tack.”
“Unprovoked? You kissed me.” He tries his best to look wounded. I purse my lips.
“It was attack as the best form of defense.” “Defense against what?”
“You and your twitchy palm.”
He cocks his head to one side and smiles at me as Mia comes clattering up the stairs. “But it was tolerable?” he asks softly.
“Barely,” I whisper, but I can’t help my smirk. “Oh, there you are.” She beams at us.
“I was showing Anastasia around.” Christian holds his hand out to me, his gray eyes intense.
I put my hand into his, and he gives it a soft squeeze.
“Kate and Elliot are about to leave. Can you believe those two? They can’t keep their hands off each other.” Mia feigns disgust and looks from Christian to me. “What have you been doing in here?”
Jeez, she’s forward. I blush scarlet.
“Showing Anastasia my rowing trophies,” Christian says without missing a beat, com- pletely poker-faced. “Let’s go say goodbye to Kate and Elliot.”
Rowing trophies? He pulls me gently in front of him, and as Mia turns to go, he swats my behind. I gasp in surprise.
“I will do it again, Anastasia, and soon,” he threatens quietly close to my ear, then he pulls me into an embrace, my back to his front, and kisses my hair.
Back in the house, Kate and Elliot are making their farewells to Grace and Mr. Grey. Kate hugs me hard.
“I need to speak to you about antagonizing Christian,” I hiss quietly in her ear as she embraces me.
“He needs antagonizing, then you can see what he’s really like. Be careful, Ana – he’s so controlling,” she whispers. “See you later.”
I KNOW WHAT HE’S REALLY LIKE – YOU DON’T! – I scream at her in my head. I’m fully aware that her actions come from a good place, but sometimes she just oversteps the mark, and right now so far that she’s into the neighboring state. I scowl at her, and she pokes her tongue out at me, making me smile unwillingly. Playful Kate is novel, must be Elliot’s influence. We wave them off at the doorway, and Christian turns to me.
“We should go too – you have interviews tomorrow.” Mia embraces me warmly as we say our goodbyes. “We never thought he’d find anyone!” she gushes.
I flush, and Christian rolls his eyes again. I purse my lips. Why can he do that when I can’t? I want to roll my eyes back at him, but I do not dare, not after his threat in the boathouse.
“Take care of yourself, Ana, dear,” Grace says kindly.
Christian, embarrassed or frustrated by the lavish attention I’m receiving from the re- maining Greys, grabs my hand and pulls me to his side.
“Let’s not frighten her away or spoil her with too much affection,” he grumbles. “Christian, stop teasing.” Grace scolds him indulgently, her eyes glowing with love
and affection for him.
Somehow, I don’t think he’s teasing. I surreptitiously watch their interaction. It’s obvious Grace adores him with a mother’s unconditional love. He bends and kisses her stiffly.
“Mom,” he says, and there’s an undercurrent in his voice – reverence maybe?
“Mr. Grey – goodbye and thank you.” I hold out my hand to him, and he hugs me too! “Please, call me Carrick. I do hope we see you again, very soon, Ana.”
Our farewells said, Christian leads me to the car where Taylor is waiting. Has he been waiting here the whole time? Taylor opens my door, and I slide into the back of the Audi. I feel some of the tension leaving my shoulders. Jeez, what a day. I am exhausted, physically and emotionally. After a brief conversation with Taylor, Christian clambers into
the car beside me. He turns to face me.
“Well, it seems my family likes you, too,” he murmurs.
Too? The depressing thought about how I came to be invited pops unbidden and very unwelcome into my head. Taylor starts the car and heads away from the circle of light in the driveway to the darkness of the road. I gaze at Christian, and he’s staring at me.
“What?” he asks, his voice quiet.
I flounder momentarily. No – I’ll tell him. He’s always complaining that I don’t talk to him.
“I think that you felt trapped into bringing me to meet your parents.” My voice is soft and hesitant. “If Elliot hadn’t asked Kate, you’d never have asked me.” I can’t see his face in the dark, but he tilts his head, gaping at me.
“Anastasia, I’m delighted that you’ve met my parents. Why are you so filled with self- doubt? It never ceases to amaze me. You’re such a strong, self-contained young woman, but you have such negative thoughts about yourself. If I hadn’t wanted you to meet them, you wouldn’t be here. Is that how you were feeling the whole time you were there?”
Oh! He wanted me there – and it’s a revelation. He doesn’t seem uncomfortable an- swering me as he would if he were hiding the truth. He seems genuinely pleased that I’m here… a warm glow spreads slowly through my veins. He shakes his head and reaches for my hand. I glance nervously at Taylor.
“Don’t worry about Taylor. Talk to me.” I shrug.
“Yes. I thought that. And another thing, I only mentioned Georgia because Kate was talking about Barbados – I haven’t made up my mind.”
“Do you want to go and see your mother?” “Yes.”
He looks oddly at me, like he’s having some internal struggle. “Can I come with you?” he asks eventually.
“Erm… I don’t think that’s a good idea.” “Why not?”
“I was hoping for a break from all this… intensity to try and think things through.” He stares at me.
“I’m too intense?”
I burst out laughing. “That’s putting it mildly!”
In the light of the passing street lamps, I see his lips quirk up. “Are you laughing at me, Miss Steele?”
“I wouldn’t dare, Mr. Grey,” I reply with mock seriousness. “I think you dare, and I think you do laugh at me, frequently.” “You are quite funny.”
“Funny peculiar or funny ha ha?”
“Oh… a lot of one and some of the other.” “Which way round?”
“I’ll leave you to figure that out.”
“I’m not sure if I can figure anything out around you, Anastasia,” he says sardonically, and then continues quietly, “What do you need to think about in Georgia?”
“Us,” I whisper.
He stares at me, impassive.
“You said you’d try,” he murmurs. “I know.”
“Are you having second thoughts?” “Possibly.”
He shifts as if uncomfortable. “Why?”
Holy crap. How did this suddenly become such an intense and meaningful conversa- tion? It’s been sprung on me, like an exam that I’m not prepared for. What do I say? Be- cause I think I love you, and you just see me as a toy. Because I can’t touch you, because I’m too frightened to show you any affection in case you flinch or tell me off or worse – beat me? What can I say?
I stare momentarily out of the window. The car is heading back across the bridge. We are both shrouded in darkness, masking our thoughts and feelings, but we don’t need the night for that.
“Why, Anastasia?” Christian presses me for an answer.
I shrug, trapped. I don’t want to lose him. In spite of all his demands, his need to control, his scary vices. I have never felt as alive as I do now. It’s a thrill to be sitting here beside him. He’s so unpredictable, sexy, smart, and funny. But his moods… oh – and he wants to hurt me. He says he’ll think about my reservations, but it still scares me. I close my eyes. What can I say? Deep down I would just like more, more affection, more playful Christian, more… love.
He squeezes my hand.
“Talk to me, Anastasia. I don’t want to lose you. This last week… ” He trails off.
We’re coming near to the end of the bridge, and the road is once more bathed in the neon light of the street lamps so his face is intermittently in the light and the dark. And it’s such a fitting metaphor. This man, whom I once thought of as a romantic hero – a brave shining white knight, or the dark knight as he said. He’s not a hero, he’s a man with seri- ous, deep emotional flaws, and he’s dragging me into the dark. Can I not guide him into the light?
“I still want more,” I whisper. “I know,” he says. “I’ll try.”
I blink up at him, and he relinquishes my hand and pulls at my chin, releasing my trapped lip.
“For you, Anastasia, I will try.” He’s radiating sincerity.
And that’s my cue. I unbuckle my seatbelt, reach across, and clamber into his lap, tak- ing him completely by surprise. Wrapping my arms around his head, I kiss him, long and hard, and in a nanosecond, he’s responding.
“Stay with me, tonight,” he breathes. “If you go away, I won’t see you all week.
“Yes,” I acquiesce. “And I’ll try too. I’ll sign your contract.” And it’s a spur of the moment decision.
He gazes down at me.
“Sign after Georgia. Think about it. Think about it hard, baby.” “I will.” And we sit in silence for a mile or two.
“You really should wear your seatbelt,” Christian whispers disapprovingly into my hair, but he makes no move to shift me from his lap.
I nuzzle up against him, eyes closed, my nose at his throat, drinking in his sexy Chris- tian-and-spiced-musky-body-wash fragrance, my head on his shoulder. I let my mind drift, and I allow myself to fantasize that he loves me. Oh, and it’s so real, tangible almost, and a small part of my nasty harpy self-conscious acts completely out of character and dares to hope. I’m careful not to touch his chest but just snuggle in his arms as he holds me tightly.
All too soon, I’m torn from my impossible daydream.
“We’re home,” Christian murmurs, and it’s such a tantalizing sentence, full of so much potential.
Home, with Christian. Except his apartment is an art gallery, not a home.
Taylor opens the door for us, and I thank him shyly, aware that he’s been within earshot of our conversation, but his kind smile is reassuring and gives nothing away. Once out of the car, Christian assesses me critically. Oh no… what have I done now?
“Why don’t you have a jacket?” he frowns as he shrugs out of his and drapes it over my shoulders.
Relief washes through me.
“It’s in my new car,” I reply sleepily, yawning. He smirks at me.
“Tired, Miss Steele?”
“Yes, Mr. Grey.” I feel bashful under his teasing scrutiny. Nevertheless I feel an ex- planation is in order, “I’ve been prevailed upon in ways I never thought possible today.”
“Well, if you’re really unlucky, I may prevail upon you some more,” he promises as he takes my hand and leads me into the building. Holy Shit… Again?!
I gaze up at him in the elevator. I have assumed he’d like me to sleep with him, and then I remember that he doesn’t sleep with anyone, although he has with me a few times. I frown, and abruptly his gaze darkens. He reaches up and grasps my chin, freeing my lip from teeth.
“One day I will fuck you in this elevator, Anastasia, but right now you’re tired – so I think we should stick to a bed.”
Bending down, he clamps his teeth around my lower lip and pulls gently. I melt against him, and my breathing stops as my insides unfurl with longing. I reciprocate, fastening my teeth over his top lip, teasing him, and he groans. When the elevator doors open, he grabs my hand and tugs me into the foyer, through the double doors, and into the hallway.
“Do you need a drink or anything?” “No.”
“Good. Let’s go to bed.”
I raise my eyebrows at him.
“You’re going to settle for plain old vanilla?” He cocks his head to one side.
“Nothing plain or old about vanilla – it’s a very intriguing flavor,” he breathes. “Since when?”
“Since last Saturday. Why? Were you hoping for something more exotic?” My inner goddess pops her head above the parapet.
“Oh no. I’ve had enough exotic for one day.” My inner goddess pouts at me, failing miserably to hide her disappointment.
“Sure? We cater for all tastes here – at least thirty-one flavors.” He grins at me lascivi- ously.
“I’ve noticed,” I reply dryly. He shakes his head.
“Come on, Miss Steele, you have a big day tomorrow. Sooner you’re in bed, sooner you’ll be fucked, and sooner you can sleep.”
“Mr. Grey, you are a born romantic.”
“Miss Steele, you have a smart mouth. I may have to subdue it some way. Come.” He leads me down the hallway into his bedroom and kicks the door closed.
“Hands in the air,” he commands.
I oblige, and in one breathtakingly swift move, he removes my dress like a magician, grasping it at the hem and pulling it smoothly and fleetly over my head.
“Ta Da!” he says playfully.
I giggle and applaud politely. He bows gracefully grinning. How can I resist him when he’s like this? He places my dress on the lone chair beside his chest of drawers.
“And for your next trick?” I prompt, teasing.
“Oh my dear, Miss Steele. Get into my bed,” he growls. “And I’ll show you.” “Do you think that for once I should play hard to get?” I ask coquettishly.
His eyes widen with surprise, and I see a glimmer of excitement.
“Well… the door’s closed. Not sure how you’re going to avoid me,” he says sardoni- cally. “I think it’s a done deal.”
“But I’m a good negotiator.”
“So am I.” He stares down at me, but as he does, his expression changes, confusion washes over him, and the atmosphere in the room shifts abruptly, tensing. “Don’t you want to fuck?” he asks.
“No,” I breathe. “Oh.” He frowns.
Okay, here goes… deep breath.
“I want you to make love to me.”
He stills and stares at me blankly. His expression darkens. Oh shit, this doesn’t look good. Give him a minute! My subconscious snaps.
“Ana, I… ” He runs his hands through his hair. Two hands. Jeez, he’s really bewil- dered.
“I thought we did?” he says eventually. “I want to touch you.”
He takes an involuntary step back from me, his expression for a moment fearful, and then he reins it in.
“Please,” I whisper. He recovers himself.
“Oh, no Miss Steele, you’ve had enough concessions from me this evening. And I’m saying no.”
Oh… I can’t argue with that… can I?
“Look, you’re tired, I’m tired. Let’s just go to bed,” he says, watching me carefully. “So touching is a hard limit for you?”
“Yes. This is old news.” “Please tell me why.”
“Oh, Anastasia, please. Just drop it for now,” he mutters exasperated. “It’s important to me.”
Again he runs both hands through his hair, and he utters an oath beneath his breath. Turning on his heel, he heads for the chest of drawers, pulls out a t-shirt, and throws it at me. I catch it, bemused.
“Put that on and get into bed,” he snaps, irritated.
I frown but decide to humor him. Turning my back, I quickly remove my bra, pulling the t-shirt on as hastily as I can to cover my nakedness. I leave my panties on, I haven’t worn them for most of the evening.
“I need the bathroom.” My voice is a whisper. He frowns, bemused.
“Now you’re asking permission?” “Err… no.”
“Anastasia, you know where the bathroom is. Today, at this point in our strange ar- rangement, you don’t need my permission to use it.” He cannot hide his irritation. He shrugs out of his shirt, and I scoot into the bathroom.
I stare at myself in the over-large mirror, shocked that I still look the same. After all that I’ve done today, it’s still the same ordinary girl gaping back at me. What did you ex- pect – that you’d grow horns and a little pointy tail? My subconscious snaps at me. And what the hell are you doing? Touching is his hard limit. Too soon, you idiot, he needs to walk before he can run. My subconscious is furious, medusa-like in her anger, hair flying, her hands clenched around her face like Edvard Munch’s Scream. I ignore her, but she won’t climb back into her box. You are making him mad – think about all that’s he’s said, all he’s conceded. I scowl at my reflection. I need to be able to show him affection – then perhaps he can reciprocate.
I shake my head resigned and grasp Christian’s toothbrush. My subconscious is right of course. I’m rushing him. He’s not ready and neither am I. We are balanced on the delicate see-saw, that is our strange arrangement – at different ends, vacillating, and it tips and sways between us. We both need to edge closer to the middle. I just hope neither of us falls off in our attempt to do so. This is all so quick. Maybe I need some distance. Georgia seems more appealing than ever. As I begin brushing my teeth, he knocks.
“Come in,” I splutter through a mouthful of toothpaste.
Christian stands in the doorway, his PJs hanging off his hips – in that way that makes every little cell in my body stand up and take notice. He’s bare-chested, and I drink him in like I’m crazed with thirst and he’s clear cool mountain spring water. He gazes at me impassively, then smirks and comes to stand beside me. Our eyes lock in the mirror, gray to blue. I finish with his toothbrush, rinse it off, and hand it to him, my look never leaving his. Wordlessly, he takes the toothbrush from me and puts it in his mouth. I smirk back at him, and his eyes are suddenly dancing with humor.
“Do feel free to borrow my toothbrush.” His tone is gently mocking. “Thank you, Sir,” I smile sweetly, and I leave, heading back to bed. A few minutes later he joins me.
“You know this is not how I saw tonight panning out,” he mutters petulantly. “Imagine if I said to you that you couldn’t touch me.”
He clambers onto the bed and sits cross-legged.
“Anastasia, I’ve told you. Fifty shades. I had a rough start in life – you don’t want that shit in your head. Why would you?”
“Because I want to know you better.” “You know me well enough.”
“How can you say that?” I struggle up onto my knees, facing him. He rolls his eyes at me, frustrated.
“You’re rolling your eyes. Last time I did that, I ended up over your knee.” “Oh, I’d like to put you there again.”
Inspiration hits me. “Tell me and you can.” “What?”
“You heard me.”
“You’re bargaining with me?” His voice resonates with astonished disbelief. I nod. Yes… this is the way.
“It doesn’t work that way, Anastasia.”
“Okay. Tell me, and I’ll roll my eyes at you.”
He laughs, and I get a rare glimpse of carefree Christian. I’ve not seen him for a while.
“Always so keen and eager for information.” His gray eyes blaze with speculation. After a moment, he gracefully climbs off the bed. “Don’t go away,” he says and exits the room.
Trepidation lances through me, and I hug myself. What’s he doing? Does he have some evil plan? Crap. Suppose he returns with a cane, or some weird kinky implement? Holy shit, what will I do then? When he does return, he’s holding something small in his hands. I can’t see what it is, and I’m burning with curiosity.
“When’s your first interview tomorrow?” he asks softly. “Two.”
A slow wicked grin spreads across his face.
“Good.” And before my eyes, he subtly changes. He’s harder, intractable… hot. This is Dominant Christian.
“Get off the bed. Stand over here.” He points to beside the bed, and I scramble up and off in double-quick time. He stares intently down at me, his eyes glittering with promise. “Trust me?” he asks softly.
I nod. He holds out his hand, and in his palm are two round, shiny, silver balls, linked with a thick black thread.
“These are new,” he says emphatically. I look questioningly up at him.
“I am going to put these inside you, and then I’m going to spank you, not for punish- ment, but for your pleasure and mine.” He pauses, gauging my wide-eyed reaction.
Inside me! I gasp, and all the muscles deep in my belly clench. My inner goddess is doing the dance of the seven veils.
“Then we’ll fuck, and if you’re still awake, I’ll impart some information about my formative years. Agreed?”
He’s asking my permission! Breathlessly, I nod. I’m incapable of speech. “Good girl. Open your mouth.”
Very gently, he puts the balls in my mouth.
“They need lubrication. Suck,” he orders, his voice soft.
The balls are cold, smooth, surprisingly heavy, and metallic tasting. My dry mouth pools with saliva as my tongue explores the unfamiliar objects. Christian’s gray gaze does not leave mine. Holy hell, this is turning me on. I squirm slightly.
“Keep still, Anastasia,” he warns.
“Stop.” He tugs them from my mouth. Moving toward the bed, he throws the duvet aside and sits down on the edge.
I stand in front of him.
“Now turn round, bend down, and grasp your ankles.” I blink at him, and his expression darkens.
“Don’t hesitate,” he admonishes me softly, an undercurrent in his voice, and he pops the balls in his mouth.
Fuck, this is sexier than the toothbrush. I follow his orders immediately. Jeez, can I touch my ankles? I find I can, with ease. The t-shirt slides up my back, exposing my be- hind. Thank heavens I have retained my panties, but I suspect I won’t for long.
He places his hand reverently on my backside and very softly caresses it with his whole hand. With my eyes open, I can see his legs through mine, nothing else. I close my eyes tightly as he gently moves my panties to the side and slowly runs his finger up and down my sex. My body braces itself in a heady mix of wild anticipation and arousal. He slides one finger inside me, and he circles it deliciously slowly. Oh, it feels good. I moan.
His breathing halts, and I hear him gasp as he repeats the motion. He withdraws his finger and very slowly inserts the objects, one slow, delicious ball at a time. Oh my. They’re body temperature, warmed by our collective mouths. It’s a curious feeling. Once they’re inside me, I can’t really feel them – but then again I know they’re there.
He straightens my panties and leans forward, and his lips softly kiss my behind. “Stand up,” he orders, and shakily I get to my feet.
Oh! Now I can feel them… sort of. He grasps my hips to steady me while I re-estab- lish my equilibrium.
“You okay?” he asks, his voice stern. “Yes.” My answer is feather soft. “Turn round.” I turn and face him.
The balls pull downward and involuntarily I clench around them. The feeling startles me but not in a bad way.
“How does that feel?” he asks. “Strange.”
“Strange good or strange bad?” “Strange good,” I confess, blushing.
“Good.” There’s a trace of humor lurking in his eyes.
“I want a glass of water. Go and fetch one for me please.”
“And when you come back, I shall put you across my knee. Think about that, Anas- tasia.”
Water? He wants water – now – why?
As I leave the bedroom, it becomes abundantly clear why he wants me to walk around
as I do, the balls weigh down inside me, massaging me internally. It’s such a weird feel- ing and not entirely unpleasant. In fact, my breathing accelerates as I stretch up for a glass from the kitchen cabinet, and I gasp. Oh my… I may have to keep these. They make me needy, needy for sex.
He’s watching me carefully when I return.
“Thank you,” he says as he takes the glass from me.
Slowly, he takes a sip then places the glass on his bedside table. There’s a foil packet, ready and waiting, like me. And I know he’s doing this to build the anticipation. My heart has picked up a beat. He turns his bright gray gaze to mine.
“Come. Stand beside me. Like last time.”
I sidle up to him, my blood thrumming through my body, and this time… I’m excited.
“Ask me,” he says softly. I frown. Ask him what?
“Ask me,” his voice is slightly harder.
What? How was your water? What does he want?
“Ask me, Anastasia. I won’t say it again.” And there’s such a threat implicit in his words, and it dawns on me. He wants me to ask him to spank me.
Holy shit. He’s looking at me expectantly, his eyes growing colder. Shit.
“Spank me, please… Sir,” I whisper.
He closes his eyes momentarily, savoring my words. Reaching up, he grasps my left hand and he tugs me over his knees. I fall instantly, and he steadies me as I land in his lap. My heart is in my mouth as his hand gently strokes my behind. I’m angled across his lap again so that my torso rests on the bed beside him. This time he doesn’t throw his leg over mine, but smoothes my hair out of my face and tucks it behind my ear. Once he’s done, he clasps my hair at the nape to hold me in place. He tugs gently and my head shifts back. “I want to see your face while I spank you, Anastasia,” he murmurs, all the while softly
rubbing my backside.
His hand moves down between the cheeks of my behind, and he pushes against my sex, and the full feeling is… I moan. Oh, the sensation is exquisite.
“This is for pleasure, Anastasia, mine and yours,” he whispers softly.
He lifts his hand and brings it down in a resounding slap against the junction of my thighs, my behind, and my sex. The balls are forced forward inside me, and I’m lost in a quagmire of sensation. The stinging across my behind, the fullness of the balls inside me, and the fact that he’s holding me down. I screw my face up as my faculties attempt to absorb all these foreign feelings. I note somewhere in my brain that he’s not smacked me as hard as last time. He caresses my backside again, trailing his palm across my skin and over my underwear.
Why’s he not removed my panties? Then his palm disappears, and he brings it down again. I groan as the sensation spreads. He starts a pattern: left to right and then down. The down ones are the best. Everything moving forward, inside me… and in between each smack he caresses me, kneads me – so I am massaged inside and out. It’s such a stimulat- ing, erotic feeling, and for some reason, because this is on my terms, I don’t mind the pain. It’s not painful as such – well it is, but not unbearable. It’s somehow manageable, and yes pleasurable… even. I groan. Yes, I can do this.
He pauses as he slowly peels my panties down my legs. I writhe on his legs, not be- cause I want to escape the blows, but I want… more, release, something. His touch against my sensitized skin is all sensuous tingle. It’s overwhelming, and he starts again. A few soft slaps then building up, left to right and down. Oh, the downs, I groan.
“Good girl, Anastasia,” he groans, and his breathing is ragged.
He spanks me twice more, and then he pulls at the small threads attached to the balls and jerks them out of me suddenly. I almost climax – the feeling is out of this world. Mov- ing swiftly, he gently turns me over. I hear rather see the rip of the foil packet, and then he’s lying beside me. He seizes my hands, hoists them over my head, and eases himself onto me, into me, sliding slowly, filling me where the silver globes have been. I groan loudly.
“Oh, baby,” he whispers as he moves back, forward, a slow sensual tempo, savoring me, feeling me.
It is the most gentle he has ever been, and it takes no time at all for me to fall over the edge, spiraling into a delicious, violent, exhausting, orgasm. As I clench around him, it ig- nites his release, and he slides into me, stilling, gasping out my name in desperate wonder.
He’s silent and panting on top of me, his hands still entwined in mine above my head.
Finally, he leans back and stares down at me.
“I enjoyed that,” he whispers, and then kisses me sweetly.
He doesn’t linger for more sweet kisses, but rises, covers me with the duvet, and disap- pears into the bathroom. On his return he’s carrying a bottle of white lotion. He sits beside me on the bed.
“Roll over,” he orders, and begrudgingly I move on to my front. Honestly, all this fuss. I feel very sleepy.
“Your ass is a glorious color,” he says approvingly, and he tenderly massages the cool- ing lotion into my pink behind.
“Spill the beans, Grey,” I yawn.
“Miss Steele, you know how to ruin a moment.” “We had a deal.”
“How do you feel?” “Short changed.”
He sighs, slides in beside me, and pulls me into his arms. Careful not to touch my stinging behind, we are spooning again. He kisses me very softly beside my ear.
“The woman who brought me into this world was a crack-whore, Anastasia. Go to sleep.”
Holy fuck… what does that mean? “Was?”
“She’s dead.” “How long?” He sighs.
“She died when I was four. I don’t really remember her. Carrick has given me some details. I only remember certain things. Please go to sleep.”
“Goodnight, Christian.” “Goodnight, Ana.”
And I slip into a dazed and exhausted sleep, dreaming of a four-year-old, gray-eyed boy in a dark, scary, miserable place.
There is light everywhere. Bright, warm, piercing light, and I endeavor to keep it at bay for a few more precious minutes. I want to hide, just a few more minutes. But the glare is too strong, and I finally succumb to wakefulness. A glorious Seattle morning greets me – sunshine pouring through the full-height windows and flooding the room with too-bright light. Why didn’t we close the blinds last night? I am in Christian Grey’s vast bed minus one Christian Grey.
I lie back for a moment staring through the windows at the lofty vista of Seattle’s skyline. Life in the clouds sure feels unreal. A fantasy – a castle in the air, adrift from the ground, safe from the realities of life – far away from neglect, hunger, and crack-whore mothers. I shudder to think what he went through as a small child, and I understand why he lives here, isolated, surrounded by beautiful, precious works of art – so far removed from where he started… mission statement indeed. I frown because it still doesn’t explain why I can’t touch him.
Ironically, I feel the same up here in his lofty tower. I’m adrift from reality. I’m in this fantasy apartment, having fantasy sex with my fantasy boyfriend. When the grim reality is he wants a special arrangement, though he’s said he’ll try more. What does that actually mean? This is what I need to clarify between us to see if we are still at opposite ends on the see-saw or if we are inching closer together.
I clamber out of bed feeling stiff, and for want of a better expression, well-used. Yes, that would be all the sex then. My subconscious purses her lips in disapproval. I roll my eyes at her, grateful that a certain twitchy-palmed control freak is not in the room, and resolve to ask him about the personal trainer. That’s if I sign. My inner goddess glares at me in desperation. Of course you’ll sign. I ignore them both, and after a quick trip to the bathroom, I go in search of Christian.
He’s not in the art gallery, but an elegant middle-aged woman is cleaning in the kitchen area. The sight of her stops me in my tracks. She has short blonde hair and clear blue eyes; she wears a plain white tailored shirt and a navy blue pencil skirt. She smiles broadly when she sees me.
“Good morning, Miss Steele. Would you like some breakfast?” Her tone is warm but business like, and I am stunned. Who is this attractive blonde in Christian’s kitchen? I’m only wearing Christian’s t-shirt. I feel self-conscious and embarrassed by my lack of clothing.
“I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage.” My voice is quiet, unable to hide the anxiety in my voice.
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry – I’m Mrs. Jones, Mr. Grey’s housekeeper.”
“How do you do?” I manage.
“Would you like some breakfast, ma’am?”
“Just some tea would be lovely, thank you. Do you know where Mr. Grey is?” “In his study.”
I scuttle off toward the study, mortified. Why does Christian only have attractive blondes working for him? And a nasty thought comes involuntarily into my mind – Are they all ex-subs? I refuse to entertain that hideous idea. I poke my head shyly round the door. He’s on the phone, facing the window, in black pants and a white shirt. His hair is still wet from the shower, and I’m completely distracted from my negative thoughts.
“Unless that company’s P&L improves, I’m not interested, Ros. We’re not carrying dead weight… I don’t need any more lame excuses… Have Marco call me, it’s shit or bust time… Yes, tell Barney that the prototype looks good, though I’m not sure about the inter- face… No, it’s just missing something… I want to meet him this afternoon to discuss… In fact, him and his team, we can brainstorm…. Okay. Transfer me back to Andrea… ” He waits, staring out of the window, master of his universe, staring down at the little people below from this castle in the sky. “Andrea… ”
Glancing up, he notices me at the door. A slow, sexy smile spreads across his beauti- ful face, and I’m rendered speechless as my insides melt. He is without a doubt the most beautiful man on the planet, too beautiful for the little people below, too beautiful for me. No my inner goddess scowls at me, not too beautiful for me. He is sort of mine, for now. The idea sends a thrill through my blood and dispels my irrational self-doubt.
He continues his conversation, his eyes never leaving mine.
“Clear my schedule this morning, but get Bill to call me. I’ll be in at two. I need to talk to Marco this afternoon, that will need at least half an hour… Schedule Barney and his
team in after Marco or maybe tomorrow, and find time for me to see Claude everyday this week… Tell him to wait… Oh… No, I don’t want publicity for Darfur… Tell Sam to deal with it… No…. Which event?… That’s next Saturday?… Hold on.”
“When will you be back from Georgia?” he asks. “Friday.”
He resumes his phone conversation.
“I’ll need an extra ticket because I have a date… Yes Andrea, that’s what I said, a date, Miss Anastasia Steele will accompany me… That’s all.” He hangs up. “Good morning, Miss Steele.”
“Mr. Grey,” I smile shyly.
He walks around his desk with his usual grace and stands in front of me. He smells so good; clean and freshly laundered, so Christian. He gently strokes my cheek with the back of his fingers.
“I didn’t want to wake you, you looked so peaceful. Did you sleep well?”
“I am very well-rested, thank you. I just came to say hi before I had a shower.”
I gaze up at him, drinking him in. He leans down and gently kisses me, and I can’t help myself. I throw my arms around his neck and my fingers twist in his still damp hair. Pushing my body flush against his, I kiss him back. I want him. My attack takes him by surprise, but after a beat, he responds, a low groan in his throat. His hands slip into my hair and down my back to cup my naked behind, his tongue exploring my mouth. He pulls back, his eyes hooded.
“Well, sleep seems to agree with you,” he murmurs. “I suggest you go and have your shower, or I shall lay you across my desk, now.”
“I choose the desk,” I whisper recklessly as desire sweeps like adrenaline through my system, waking everything in its path.
He stares bewildered down at me for a millisecond.
“You’ve really got a taste for this, haven’t you, Miss Steele. You’re becoming insa- tiable,” he murmurs.
“I’ve only got a taste for you,” I whisper.
His eyes widen and darken while his hands knead my naked backside.
“Damn right, only me,” he growls, and suddenly with one fluid movement, he clears all the plans and papers off his desk so that they scatter on the floor, sweeps me up in his arms, and lays me down across the short end of his desk so that my head is almost off the edge.
“You want it, you got it, baby,” he mutters, producing a foil packet from his pants pocket while he unzips his pants. Oh Mr. Boy Scout. He rolls the condom over his erection and gazes down at me. “I sure hope you’re ready,” he breathes, a salacious smile across his face. And in a moment, he’s filling me, holding my wrists tightly by my side, and thrusting into me deeply.
I groan… oh yes.
“Christ, Ana. You’re so ready,” he whispers in veneration.
Wrapping my legs around his waist, I hold him the only way I can as he stays standing, staring down at me, gray eyes glowing, passionate and possessive. He starts to move, re- ally move. This is not making love, this is fucking – and I love it. I groan. It’s so raw, so carnal, making me so wanton. I revel in his possession, his lust slaking mine. He moves
with ease, luxuriating in me, enjoying me, his lips slightly parted as his breathing increases. He twists his hips from side to side, and the feeling is exquisite.
Oh my. I close my eyes, feeling the build up – that delicious, slow, step climbing build. Pushing me higher, higher to the castle in the air. Oh yes… his stroke increasing fractional- ly. I moan loudly. I am all sensation… all him, enjoying every thrust, every push that fills me. And he picks up the pace, thrusting faster… harder… and my whole body is moving to his rhythm, and I can feel my legs stiffening, and my insides quivering and quickening. “Come on, baby, give it up for me,” he cajoles through gritted teeth – and the fervent
need in his voice – the strain – sends me over the edge.
I cry out a wordless, passionate plea as I touch the sun and burn, falling around him, falling down, back to a breathless, bright summit on Earth. He slams into me and stops abruptly as he reaches his climax, pulling at my wrists, and sinking gracefully and word- lessly onto me.
Wow… that was unexpected. I slowly materialize back on Earth.
“What the hell are you doing to me?” he breathes as he nuzzles my neck. “You com- pletely beguile me, Ana. You weave some powerful magic.”
He releases my wrists, and I run my fingers through his hair, coming down from my high. I tighten my legs around him.
“I’m the one beguiled,” I whisper.
He looks up, gazing at me, his expression is disconcerted, alarmed even. Placing his hands on either side of my face, he holds my head in place.
“You. Are. Mine,” he says, each word a staccato. “Do you understand?”
He’s so earnest, so impassioned – a zealot. The force of his plea is so unexpected and disarming. I wonder why he’s feeling like this.
“Yes, yours,” I whisper, derailed by his fervor. “Are you sure you have to go to Georgia?”
I nod slowly. And in that brief moment, I can see his expression change and the shut- ters coming down. Abruptly he withdraws, making me wince.
“Are you sore?” he asks, leaning over me. “A little,” I confess.
“I like you sore.” His eyes smolder. “Reminds you where I’ve been, and only me.”
He grabs my chin and kisses me roughly, then stands and holds his hand out to help me up. I glance down at the foil packet beside me.
“Always prepared,” I murmur.
He looks at me confused as he redoes his fly. I hold up the empty packet.
“A man can hope, Anastasia, dream even, and sometimes his dreams come true.”
He sounds so odd, his eyes burning. I just don’t understand. My post coital glow is fading fast. What is his problem?
“So, on your desk, that’s been a dream?” I ask dryly, trying humor to lighten the atmo- sphere between us.
He smiles an enigmatic smile that doesn’t reach his eyes, and I know immediately this is not the first time he’s had sex on his desk. The thought is unwelcome. I squirm uncom- fortably as my post coital glow evaporates.
“I’d better go and have a shower.” I stand and make to move past him.
He frowns and runs a hand through his hair.
“I’ve got a couple more calls to make. I’ll join you for breakfast once you’re out of the shower. I think Mrs. Jones has laundered your clothes from yesterday. They’re in the closet.”
What? When the hell did she do that? Jeez, could she hear us? I flush. “Thank you,” I mutter.
“You’re most welcome,” he replies automatically, but there’s an edge to his voice.
I’m not saying thank you for fucking me. Although, it was very… “What?” he asks, and I realize I’m frowning.
“What’s wrong?” I ask softly. “What do you mean?”
“Well… you’re being more weird than usual.” “You find me weird?” He tries to stifle a smile. I blush.
He regards me for a moment, his eyes speculative. “As ever, I’m surprised by you, Miss Steele.” “Surprised how?”
“Let’s just say that was an unexpected treat.”
“We aim to please, Mr. Grey.” I cock my head to one side like he often does to me and give his words back to him.
“And please me you do,” he says, but he looks uneasy. “I thought you were going to have a shower.”
Oh, he’s dismissing me.
“Yes… um, I’ll see you in a moment.” I scurry out of his office completely dumb- founded.
He seemed confused. Why? I have to say as physical experiences go, that was very satisfying. But emotionally – well, I’m rattled by his reaction, and that was about as emo- tionally enriching as cotton candy is nutritious.
Mrs. Jones is still in the kitchen.
“Would you like your tea now, Miss Steele?”
“I’ll have a shower first, thank you,” I mutter and take my blazing face quickly out of the room.
In the shower, I try to figure out what’s up with Christian. He is the most complicated person I know, and I cannot understand his ever-changing moods. He seemed fine when I went into his study. We had sex… and then he wasn’t. No, I don’t get it. I look to my subconscious. She’s whistling with her hands behind her back and looking anywhere but at me. She hasn’t got a clue, and my inner goddess is still basking in a remnant of post-coital glow. No – we’re all clueless.
I towel-dry my hair, comb it through with Christian’s one and only hair implement, and put my hair up in bun. Kate’s plum dress hangs laundered and ironed in the closet along with my clean bra and panties. Mrs. Jones is a marvel. Slipping on Kate’s shoes, I straighten my dress, take a deep breath, and head back out to the great room.
Christian is still nowhere to be seen, and Mrs. Jones is checking the contents of the pantry.
“Tea now, Miss Steele?” she asks.
“Please.” I smile at her. I feel slightly more confident now that I’m dressed. “Would you like something to eat?”
“No, thank you.”
“Of course you’ll have something to eat,” Christian snaps, glowering. “She likes pan- cakes, bacon, and eggs, Mrs. Jones.”
“Yes, Mr. Grey. What would you like, sir?”
“Omelet, please, and some fruit.” He doesn’t take his eyes off me, his expression un- fathomable. “Sit,” he orders, pointing to one of the bar stools.
I oblige, and he sits beside me while Mrs. Jones busies herself with breakfast. Gosh, it’s unnerving having someone else listen to our conversation.
“Have you bought your air ticket?”
“No, I’ll buy it when I get home – over the Internet.” He leans on his elbow, rubbing his chin.
“Do you have the money?”
“Yes,” I say with mock patience as if I’m talking to a small child. He raises a censorious eyebrow at me. Crap.
“Yes, I do, thank you,” I amend rapidly.
“I have a jet. It’s not scheduled to be used for three days, it’s at your disposal.”
I gape at him. Of course he has a jet, and I have to resist my body’s natural inclination to roll my eyes at him. I want to laugh. But I don’t, as I can’t read his mood.
“We’ve already made serious misuse of your company’s aviation fleet. I wouldn’t want to do it again.”
“It’s my company, it’s my jet.” He sounds almost wounded. Oh, boys and their toys!
“Thank you for the offer. But I’d be happier taking a scheduled flight.” He looks like he wants to argue further but decides against it.
“As you wish,” he sighs. “Do you have much preparation to do for your interview?” “No.”
“Good. You’re still not going to tell me which publishing houses?” “No.”
His lips curl up in a reluctant smile. “I am a man of means, Miss Steele.”
“I am fully aware of that, Mr. Grey. Are you going to track my phone?” I ask inno- cently.
“Actually, I’ll be quite busy this afternoon, so I’ll have to get someone else to do it.” He smirks.
Is he joking?
“If you can spare someone to do that, you’re obviously overstaffed.”
“I’ll send an email to the head of human resources and have her look into our head count.” His lips twitch to hide his smile.
Oh thank the Lord, he’s recovered his sense of humor.
Mrs. Jones serves us breakfast and we eat quietly for a few moments. After clearing the pans, tactfully, she heads out of the living area. I peek up at him.
“What it is, Anastasia?”
“You know, you never did tell me why you don’t like to be touched.” He blanches, and his reaction makes me feel guilty for asking.
“I’ve told you more than I’ve ever told anybody.” His voice is quiet as he gazes at me impassively.
And it’s clear to me that he’s never confided in anyone. Doesn’t he have any close friends? Perhaps he told Mrs. Robinson? I want to ask him, but I can’t – I can’t pry that invasively. I shake my head at the realization. He really is an island.
“Will you think about our arrangement while you’re away?” he asks. “Yes.”
“Will you miss me?”
I gaze at him, surprised by his question. “Yes,” I answer honestly.
How could he mean so much to me in such a short time? He’s got right under my skin… literally. He smiles and his eyes light up.
“I’ll miss you too. More than you know,” he breathes.
My heart warms at his words. He really is trying, hard. He gently strokes my cheek, bends down, and kisses me softly.
It is late afternoon, and I sit nervous and fidgeting in the lobby waiting for Mr. J. Hyde of Seattle Independent Publishing. This is my second interview today, and the one I’m most anxious about. My first interview went well, but it was for a larger conglomerate with offices based throughout the US, and I would be one of many editorial assistants there. I can imagine being swallowed up and spat out pretty quickly in such a corporate machine. SIP is where I want to be. It’s small and unconventional, championing local authors, and has an interesting and quirky roster of clients.
My surroundings are sparse, but I think it’s a design statement rather than frugality. I am seated on one of two dark green chesterfield couches made of leather – not unlike the couch that Christian has in his playroom. I stroke the leather appreciatively and wonder idly what Christian does on that couch. My mind wanders as I think of the possibili- ties… no – I must not go there now. I flush at my wayward and inappropriate thoughts. The receptionist is a young African-American woman with large silver earrings and long straightened hair. She has a bohemian look about her, the sort of woman I could be friendly with. The thought is comforting. Every few moments, she glances at up me, away from her computer and smiles reassuringly. I tentatively return her smile.
My flight is booked; my mother is in seventh heaven that I am visiting; I am packed, and Kate has agreed to drive me to the airport. Christian has ordered me to take my Black- Berry and the Mac. I roll my eyes at the memory of his overbearing bossiness, but I realize now that’s just the way he is. He likes control over everything, including me. Yet he’s so unpredictably and disarmingly agreeable too. He can be tender, good-humored, even sweet. And when he is, it’s so left field and unexpected. He insisted on accompanying me all the way down to my car in the garage. Jeez, I’m only going for a few days, he’s acting like I’m going for weeks. He keeps me on the back foot permanently.
“Ana Steele?” A woman with long, black, pre-Raphaelite hair standing by the recep- tion desk distracts me from my introspection. She has the same bohemian, floaty look as the receptionist. She could be in her late thirties, maybe in her forties. It’s so difficult to tell with older women.
“Yes,” I reply, standing awkwardly.
She gives me a polite smile, her cool hazel eyes assessing me. I am wearing one of Kate’s dresses, a black pinafore over a white blouse, and my black pumps. Very interview, I think. My hair is restrained in a ponytail, and for once the tendrils are behaving them- selves… she holds her hand out to me.
“Hello, Ana, my name’s Elizabeth Morgan. I’m head of Human Resources here at SIP.”
“How do you do?” I shake her hand. She looks very casual to be the head of HR. “Please follow me.”
We go through the double doors behind the reception area, into a large brightly deco- rated open plan office, and from there, head into a small meeting room. The walls are pale green, lined with pictures of book covers. At the head of the Maplewood conference table sits a young man with red hair tied in a ponytail. Small, silver, hooped earrings glint in both his ears. He wears a pale blue shirt, no tie, and grey flannel trousers. As I approach him, he stands and gazes at me with fathomless dark blue eyes.
“Ana Steele, I’m Jack Hyde, the commissioning editor here at SIP, and I’m very pleased to meet you.”
We shake hands, and his dark expression is unreadable, though friendly enough, I think.
“Have you traveled far?” he asks pleasantly.
“No, I’ve recently moved to the Pike Street Market area.” “Oh, not far at all then. Please, take a seat.”
I sit, and Elizabeth takes a seat beside him.
“So why would you like to intern for us at SIP, Ana?” he asks.
He says my name softly and cocks his head to one side, like someone I know – it’s unnerving. Doing my best to ignore the irrational wariness he inspires, I launch into my carefully prepared speech, conscious that a rosy flush is spreading across my cheeks. I look at both of them, remembering The Katherine Kavanagh Successful Interviewing Technique lecture – maintain eye contact, Ana! Boy, that woman can be bossy too, sometimes. Jack and Elizabeth both listen attentively.
“You have a very impressive GPA. What extra-curricular activities did you indulge in at WSU?”
Indulge? I blink at him. What an odd choice of word. I launch into details of my librarianship at the campus central library, and my one experience of interviewing an ob- scenely rich despot for the student magazine. I gloss over the part that I didn’t actually write the article. I mention the two literary societies that I belonged to and conclude with working at Clayton’s and all the useless knowledge I now possess about hardware and DIY. They both laugh, which is the response I’d hoped for. Slowly, I relax and begin to enjoy myself.
Jack Hyde asks sharp, intelligent questions, but I’m not thrown – I keep up, and when we discuss my reading preferences and my favorite books, I think I hold my own. Jack, on the other hand, appears to only favor American literature written after 1950. Nothing else. No classics – not even Henry James or Upton Sinclair or F Scott Fitzgerald. Elizabeth says nothing, just nods occasionally and takes notes. Jack, though argumentative, is charming in his way, and my initial wariness dissipates the longer we talk.
“And where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” he asks.
With Christian Grey, the thought comes involuntarily into my head. My errant mind makes me frown.
“Copy editing perhaps? Maybe a literary agent, I’m not sure. I am open to opportuni- ties.”
“Very good, Ana. I don’t have any further questions. Do you?” he directs his question at me.
“When would you like someone to start?” I ask.
“As soon as possible,” Elizabeth pipes up. “When could you start?” “I’m available from next week.”
“That’s good to know,” Jack says.
“If that’s all anyone has to say,” Elizabeth glances at the two of us, “I think that con- cludes the interview.” She smiles kindly.
“It’s been a pleasure to meet you, Ana,” Jack says softly as he takes my hand. He squeezes it gently, so that I blink up at him as I say goodbye.
I feel unsettled as I make my way to my car, though I’m not sure why. I think the inter- view went well, but it’s so hard to say. Interviews seem such artificial situations, everyone on their best behavior trying desperately to hide behind a professional façade. Did my face fit? I shall have to wait and see.
I climb into my Audi A3 and head back to the apartment, though I take me time. I’m on the red-eye with a stopover in Atlanta, but my flight doesn’t leave until 10:25 this evening, so I have plenty of time.
Kate is unpacking boxes in the kitchen when I return.
“How did they go?” she asks, excited. Only Kate can look gorgeous in an oversized shirt, tattered jeans, and a dark blue bandana.
“Good, thanks, Kate. Not sure this outfit was cool enough for the second interview.” “Oh?”
“Boho chic might have done it.” Kate raises an eyebrow.
“You and boho chic.” She cocks her head to one side – Gah! Why is everyone remind- ing me of my favorite Fifty Shades? “Actually, Ana, you’re one of the few people who could really pull that look off.”
“I really liked the second place. I think I could fit in there. The guy who interviewed me was unnerving though,” I trail off – shit I’m talking to foghorn Kavanagh here. Shut up Ana!
“Oh?” The Katherine Kavanagh radar for an interesting tidbit of information swoops into action – a tidbit that will only resurface at some inopportune and embarrassing mo- ment, which reminds me.
“Incidentally – will you please stop winding Christian up? Your comment about José at dinner yesterday was out of line. He’s a jealous guy. It doesn’t do any good, you know.” “Look, if he wasn’t Elliot’s brother I’d have said a lot worse. He’s a real control freak.
I don’t know how you stand it. I was trying to make him jealous – give him a little help with his commitment issues.” She holds her hands up defensively. “But – if you don’t want me to interfere, I won’t,” she says hastily at my scowl.
“Good. Life with Christian is complicated enough, trust me.”
Jeez, I sound like him.
“Ana,” she pauses staring at me. “You’re okay, aren’t you? You’re not running to your mother’s to escape?”
“No Kate. It was you who said I needed a break.”
She closes the distance between us and takes my hands – a most un-Kate thing to do.
Oh no… tears threaten.
“You’re just, I don’t know… different. I hope you’re okay, and whatever issues you’re having with Mr. Moneybags, you can talk to me. And I will try not to wind him up, though frankly it’s like shooting fish in a barrel with him. Look, Ana, if something’s wrong, you will tell me, I won’t judge. I’ll try to understand.”
I blink back tears.
“Oh, Kate.” I hug her. “I think I’ve really fallen for him.”
“Ana, anyone can see that. And he’s fallen for you. He’s mad about you. Won’t take his eyes off you.”
I laugh uncertainly. “Do you think so?” “Hasn’t he told you?”
“Not in so many words.” “Have you told him?”
“Not in so many words.” I shrug apologetically.
“Ana! Someone has to make the first move, otherwise you’ll never get anywhere.”
What… tell him how I feel?
“I’m just afraid I’ll frighten him away.”
“And how do you know he’s not feeling the same?”
“Christian, afraid? I can’t imagine him being frightened of anything.” But as I say the words, I imagine him as a small child. Maybe fear was all he knew then. Sorrow grips and squeezes my heart at the thought.
Kate gazes at me with pursed lips and narrowed eyes, rather like my subconscious – all she needs is the half-moon specs.
“You two need to sit down and talk to each other.”
“We haven’t been doing much talking lately.” I flush. Other stuff. Non-verbal com- munication and that’s okay. Well, much more than okay.
“That’ll be the sexing! If that’s going well, then that’s half the battle Ana. I’ll grab some Chinese take-out. Are you ready to go?”
“I will be – we don’t have to leave for a couple of hours or so.”
“No – I’ll see you in twenty.” She grabs her jacket and leaves, forgetting to close the door. I shut it behind her and head off to my bedroom mulling over her words.
Is Christian afraid of his feelings for me? Does he even have feelings for me? He seems very keen, says I’m his – but that’s just part of his I-must-own-and-have-everything- now – control-freak dominant self, surely. I realize that while I’m away, I will have to run through all our conversations again and see if I can pick out telltale signs.
I’ll miss you too… more than you know… You’ve completely beguiled me…
I shake my head. I don’t want to think about it now. I am charging the BlackBerry, so I haven’t had it with me all afternoon. I approach it with caution, and I’m disappointed that there are no messages. I switch on the mean machine, and there are no messages there either. Same email address Ana – my subconscious rolls her eyes at me, and for the first time, I understand why Christian wants to spank me when I do that.
Okay. Well, I’ll write him an email.