I put my pen down. Finished. My final exam is over. I feel the Cheshire cat grin spread over my face. It’s probably the first time all week that I’ve smiled. It’s Friday, and we shall be celebrating tonight, really celebrating. I might even get drunk! I’ve never been drunk before. I glance across the sports hall at Kate, and she’s still scribbling furiously, five minutes to the end. This is it, the end of my academic career. I shall never have to sit in rows of anxious, isolated students again. Inside I’m doing graceful cartwheels around my head, knowing full well that’s the only place I can do graceful cartwheels. Kate stops writing and puts her pen down. She glances across at me, and I catch her Cheshire cat smile too.
We head back to our apartment together in her Mercedes, refusing to discuss our final paper. Kate is more concerned about what she’s going to wear to the bar this evening. I am busily fishing around in my purse for my keys.
“Ana, there’s a package for you.” Kate is standing on the steps up to the front door holding a brown paper parcel. Odd. I haven’t ordered anything from Amazon recently. Kate gives me the parcel and takes my keys to open the front door. It’s addressed to Miss Anastasia Steele. There’s no sender’s address or name. Perhaps it’s from my mom or Ray.
“It’s probably from my folks.”
“Open it!” Kate is excited as she heads into the kitchen for our ‘Exams are finished hurrah Champagne’.
I open the parcel, and inside I find a half leather box containing three seemingly identi- cal old cloth-covered books in mint condition and a plain white card. Written on one side, in black ink in neat cursive handwriting, is:
I recognize the quote from Tess. I am stunned by the irony as I’ve just spent three hours writing about the novels of Thomas Hardy in my final examination. Perhaps there is no irony… perhaps it’s deliberate. I inspect the books closely, three volumes of Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I open the front cover. Written in an old typeface on the front plate is:
‘London: Jack R. Osgood, McIlvaine and Co., 1891.’
Holy shit – they are first editions. They must be worth a fortune, and I know immedi- ately who’s sent them. Kate is at my shoulder gazing at the books. She picks up the card.
“First Editions,” I whisper.
“No.” Kate’s eyes are wide with disbelief. “Grey?” I nod.
“Can’t think of anyone else.” “What does this card mean?”
“I have no idea. I think it’s a warning – honestly he keeps warning me off. I have no idea why. It’s not like I’m beating his door down.” I frown.
“I know you don’t want to talk about him, Ana, but he’s seriously into you. Warnings or no.”
I have not let myself dwell on Christian Grey for the past week. Okay… so his gray eyes are still haunting my dreams, and I know it will take an eternity to expunge the feel of his arms around me and his wonderful fragrance from my brain. Why has he sent me this? He told me that I wasn’t for him.
“I’ve found one Tess first edition for sale in New York at $14,000. But yours looks in much better condition. They must have cost more.” Kate is consulting her good friend Google.
“This quote – Tess says it to her mother after Alec D’Urberville has had his wicked way with her.”
“I know,” muses Kate. “What is he trying to say?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t care. I can’t accept these from him. I’ll send them back with an equally baffling quote from some obscure part of the book.”
“The bit where Angel Clare says fuck off?” Kate asks with a completely straight face. “Yes, that bit.” I giggle. I love Kate, she’s so loyal and supportive. I repack the books
and leave them on the dining table. Kate hands me a glass of champagne. “To the end of exams and our new life in Seattle,” she grins.
“To the end of exams, our new life in Seattle, and excellent results.” We clink glasses and drink.
The bar is loud and hectic, full of soon to be graduates out to get trashed. José joins us. He won’t graduate for another year, but he’s in the mood to party and gets us into the spirit of our newfound freedom by buying a pitcher of margaritas for us all. As I down my fifth, I know this is not a good idea on top of the champagne.
“So what now Ana?” José shouts at me over the noise.
“Kate and I are moving to Seattle. Kate’s parents have bought a condo there for her.” “Dios mio, how the other half live. But you’ll be back for my show.”
“Of course, José, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” I smile, and he puts his arm around my waist and pulls me close.
“It means a lot to me that you’ll be there Ana,” he whispers in my ear. “Another mar- garita?”
“José Luis Rodriguez – are you trying to get me drunk? Because I think it’s working.” I giggle. “I think I’d better have a beer. I’ll go get us a pitcher.”
“More drink, Ana!” Kate bellows.
Kate has the constitution of an ox. She’s got her arm draped over Levi, one of our fel- low English students and her usual photographer on her student newspaper. He’s given up taking photos of the drunkenness that surrounds him. He only has eyes for Kate. She’s all tiny camisole, tight jeans, and high heels, hair piled high with tendrils hanging down softly around her face, her usual stunning self. Me, I’m more of a Converse and t-shirt kind of girl, but I’m wearing my most flattering jeans. I move out of José’s hold and get up from our table. Whoa. Head spin. I have to grab the back of the chair. Tequila based cocktails are not a good idea.
I make my way to the bar and decide that I should visit the powder room while I am on my feet. Good thinking, Ana. I stagger off through the crowd. Of course, there’s a line, but at least it’s quiet and cool in the corridor. I reach for my cell phone to relieve the boredom of waiting in line. Hmm… Who did I last call? Was it José? Before that a number I don’t recognize. Oh yes. Grey, I think this is his number. I giggle. I have no idea what the time is, maybe I’ll wake him. Perhaps he can tell me why he sent me those books and the cryptic
message. If he wants me to stay away, he should leave me alone. I suppress a drunken grin and hit the automatic re-dial. He answers on the second ring.
“Anastasia?” He’s surprised to hear from me. Well, frankly, I’m surprised to ring him.
Then my befuddled brain registers… how does he know it’s me? “Why did you send me the books?” I slur at him.
“Anastasia, are you okay? You sound strange.” His voice is filled with concern.
“I’m not the strange one, you are,” I accuse. There – that told him, my courage fuelled by alcohol.
“Anastasia, have you been drinking?” “What’s it to you?”
“I’m – curious. Where are you?” “In a bar.”
“Which bar?” He sounds exasperated. “A bar in Portland.”
“How are you getting home?”
“I’ll find a way.” This conversation is not going how I expected. “Which bar are you in?”
“Why did you send me the books, Christian?”
“Anastasia, where are you, tell me now.” His tone is so, so dictatorial, his usual control freak. I imagine him as an old time movie director wearing jodhpurs, holding an old fash- ioned megaphone and a riding crop. The image makes me laugh out loud.
“You’re so… domineering,” I giggle. “Ana, so help me, where the fuck are you?”
Christian Grey is swearing at me. I giggle again. “I’m in Portland… s’a long way from Seattle.”
“Where in Portland?” “Goodnight, Christian.” “Ana!”
I hang up. Ha! Though he didn’t tell me about the books. I frown. Mission not ac- complished. I am really quite drunk – my head swims uncomfortably as I shuffle with the line. Well, the object of the exercise was to get drunk. I have succeeded. This is what it’s like – probably not an experience to be repeated. The line has moved, and it’s now my turn. I stare blankly at the poster on the back of the toilet door that extols the virtues of safe sex. Holy crap, did I just call Christian Grey? Shit. My phone rings and it makes me jump. I yelp in surprise.
“Hi,” I bleat timidly in to the phone. I hadn’t reckoned on this.
“I’m coming to get you,” he says and hangs up. Only Christian Grey could sound so calm and so threatening at the same time.
Holy crap. I pull my jeans up. My heart is thumping. Coming to get me? Oh no. I’m going to be sick… no… I’m fine. Hang on. He’s just messing with my head. I didn’t tell him where I was. He can’t find me here. Besides, it will take him hours to get here from Seattle, and we’ll be long gone by then. I wash my hands and check my face in the mirror. I look flushed and slightly unfocused. Hmm… tequila.
I wait at the bar for what feels like an eternity for the pitcher of beer and eventually return to the table.
“You’ve been gone so long.” Kate scolds me. “Where were you?” “I was in line for the restroom.”
José and Levi are having some heated debate about our local baseball team. José pauses in his tirade to pour us all beers, and I take a long sip.
“Kate, I think I’d better step outside and get some fresh air.” “Ana, you are such a lightweight.”
“I’ll be five minutes.”
I make my way through the crowd again. I am beginning to feel nauseous, my head is spinning uncomfortably, and I’m a little unsteady on my feet. More unsteady than usual.
Drinking in the cool evening air in the parking lot makes me realize how drunk I am. My vision has been affected, and I’m really seeing double of everything like in old re-runs of Tom and Jerry Cartoons. I think I’m going to be sick. Why did I let myself get this messed up?
“Ana,” José has joined me. “You okay?”
“I think I’ve just had a bit too much to drink.” I smile weakly at him.
“Me too,” he murmurs, and his dark eyes are watching me intently. “Do you need a hand?” he asks and steps closer, putting his arm around me.
“José I’m okay. I’ve got this.” I try and push him away rather feebly.
“Ana, please,” he whispers, and now he’s holding me in his arms, pulling me close. “José, what you doing?”
“You know I like you Ana, please.” He has one hand at the small of my back holding me against him, the other at my chin tipping back my head. Holy fuck… he’s going to kiss me.
“No José, stop – no.” I push him, but he’s a wall of hard muscle, and I cannot shift him.
His hand has slipped into my hair, and he’s holding my head in place.
“Please, Ana, cariña,” he whispers against my lips. His breath is soft and smells too sweet – of margarita and beer. He gently trails kisses along my jaw up to the side of my mouth. I feel panicky, drunk, and out of control. The feeling is suffocating.
“José, no,” I plead. I don’t want this. You are my friend, and I think I’m going to throw
“I think the lady said no.” A voice in the dark says quietly. Holy shit! Christian Grey,
he’s here. How? José releases me.
“Grey,” he says tersely. I glance anxiously up at Christian. He’s glowering at José, and he’s furious. Crap. My stomach heaves, and I double over, my body no longer able to tolerate the alcohol, and I vomit spectacularly on to the ground.
“Ugh – Dios mio, Ana!” José jumps back in disgust. Grey grabs my hair and pulls it out of the firing line and gently leads me over to a raised flowerbed on the edge of the park- ing lot. I note, with deep gratitude, that it’s in relative darkness.
“If you’re going to throw up again, do it here. I’ll hold you.” He has one arm around my shoulders – the other is holding my hair in a makeshift ponytail down my back so it’s off my face. I try awkwardly to push him away, but I vomit again… and again. Oh shit… how long is this going to last? Even when my stomach’s empty and nothing is coming up,
horrible dry heaves wrack my body. I vow silently that I’ll never ever drink again. This is just too appalling for words. Finally, it stops.
My hands are resting on the brick wall of the flowerbed, barely holding me up – vomit- ing profusely is exhausting. Grey takes his hands off me and passes me a handkerchief. Only he would have a monogrammed, freshly laundered, linen handkerchief. CTG. I didn’t know you could still buy these. Vaguely I wonder what the T stands for as I wipe my mouth. I cannot bring myself to look at him. I’m swamped with shame, disgusted with myself. I want to be swallowed up by the azaleas in the flowerbed and be anywhere but here.
José is still hovering by the entrance to the bar, watching us. I groan and put my head in my hands. This has to be the single worst moment of my life. My head is still swimming as I try to remember a worse one – and I can only come up with Christian’s rejection – and this is so, so many shades darker in terms of humiliation. I risk a peek at him. He’s staring down at me, his face composed, giving nothing away. Turning, I glance at José who looks pretty shamefaced himself and, like me, intimidated by Grey. I glare at him. I have a few choice words for my so-called friend, none of which I can repeat in front of Christian Grey CEO. Ana who are you kidding, he’s just seen you hurl all over the ground and into the local flora. There’s no disguising your lack of ladylike behavior.
“I’ll err… see you inside,” José mutters, but we both ignore him, and he slinks off back into the building. I’m on my own with Grey. Double crap. What should I say to him? Apologize for the phone call.
“I’m sorry,” I mutter, staring at the handkerchief which I am furiously worrying with my fingers. It’s so soft.
“What are you sorry for Anastasia?”
Oh crap, he wants his damned pound of flesh.
“The phone call mainly, being sick. Oh, the list is endless,” I murmur, feeling my skin coloring up. Please, please can I die now?
“We’ve all been here, perhaps not quite as dramatically as you,” he says dryly. “It’s about knowing your limits, Anastasia. I mean, I’m all for pushing limits, but really this is beyond the pale. Do you make a habit of this kind of behavior?”
My head buzzes with excess alcohol and irritation. What the hell has it got to do with him? I didn’t invite him here. He sounds like a middle-aged man scolding me like an er- rant child. Part of me wants to say, if I want to get drunk every night like this, then it’s my decision and nothing to do with him – but I’m not brave enough. Not now that I’ve thrown up in front of him. Why is he still standing there?
“No,” I say contritely. “I’ve never been drunk before and right now I have no desire to ever be again.”
I just don’t understand why he’s here. I begin to feel faint. He notices my dizziness and grabs me before I fall and hoists me into his arms, holding me close to his chest like a child.
“Come on, I’ll take you home,” he murmurs.
“I need to tell Kate.” Holy Moses, I’m in his arms again.
“My brother can tell her.” “What?”
“My brother Elliot is talking to Miss Kavanagh.”
“Oh?” I don’t understand.
“He was with me when you phoned.” “In Seattle?” I’m confused.
“No, I’m staying at the Heathman.”
“How did you find me?”
“I tracked your cell phone Anastasia.”
Oh, of course he did. How is that possible? Is it legal? Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that’s still floating in my brain, but somehow, because it’s him, I don’t mind.
“Do you have a jacket or a purse?”
“Err… yes, I came with both. Christian, please, I need to tell Kate. She’ll worry.” His mouth presses into a hard line, and he sighs heavily.
“If you must.”
He sets me down, and, taking my hand, leads me back into the bar. I feel weak, still drunk, embarrassed, exhausted, mortified, and on some strange level absolutely off the scale thrilled. He’s clutching my hand – such a confusing array of emotions. I’ll need at least a week to process them all.
It’s noisy, crowded, and the music has started so there is a large crowd on the dance floor. Kate is not at our table, and José has disappeared. Levi looks lost and forlorn on his own.
“Where’s Kate?” I shout at Levi above the noise. My head is beginning to pound in time to the thumping bass line of the music.
“Dancing,” Levi shouts, and I can tell he’s mad. He’s eyeing Christian suspiciously. I struggle into my black jacket and place my small shoulder bag over my head so it sits at my hip. I’m ready to go, once I’ve seen Kate.
“She’s on the dance floor,” I touch Christian’s arm and lean up and shout in his ear, brushing his hair with my nose, smelling his clean, fresh smell. Oh my. All those forbid- den, unfamiliar feelings that I have tried to deny surface and run amok through my drained body. I flush, and somewhere deep, deep down my muscles clench deliciously.
He rolls his eyes at me and takes my hand again and leads me to the bar. He’s served immediately, no waiting for Mr. Control-Freak Grey. Does everything come so easily to him? I can’t hear what he orders. He hands me a very large glass of iced water.
“Drink,” he shouts his order at me.
The moving lights are twisting and turning in time to the music casting strange colored light and shadows all over the bar and the clientele. He’s alternately green, blue, white, and a demonic red. He’s watching me intently. I take a tentative sip.
“All of it,” he shouts.
He’s so overbearing. He runs his hand through his unruly hair. He looks frustrated, angry. What is his problem? Apart from a silly drunk girl ringing him in the middle of the night so he thinks she needs rescuing. And it turns out she does from her over amorous friend. Then seeing her being violently ill at his feet. Oh Ana… are you ever going to live this down? My subconscious is figuratively tutting and glaring at me over her half moon specs. I sway slightly, and he puts his hand on my shoulder to steady me. I do as I’m told
and drink the entire glass. It makes me feel queasy. Taking the glass from me, he places it on the bar. I notice through a blur what he’s wearing; a loose white linen shirt, snug jeans, black Converse sneakers, and a dark pinstriped jacket. His shirt is unbuttoned at the top, and I see a sprinkling of hair in the gap. In my groggy frame of mind, he looks yummy.
He takes my hand once more. Holy cow – he’s leading me onto the dance floor. Shit. I do not dance. He can sense my reluctance, and under the colored lights, I can see his amused, slightly sardonic smile. He gives my hand a sharp tug, and I’m in his arms again, and he starts to move, taking me with him. Boy, he can dance, and I can’t believe that I’m following him step for step. Maybe it’s because I’m drunk that I can keep up. He’s hold- ing me tight against him, his body against mine… if he wasn’t clutching me so tightly, I’m sure I would swoon at his feet. In the back of my mind, my mother’s often-recited warning comes to me: Never trust a man who can dance.
He moves us through the crowded throng of dancers to the other side of the dance floor, and we are beside Kate and Elliot, Christian’s brother. The music is pounding away, loud and leery, outside and inside my head. I gasp. Kate is making her moves. She’s dancing her ass off, and she only ever does that if she likes someone. Really likes someone. It means there’ll be three of us for breakfast tomorrow morning. Kate!
Christian leans over and shouts in Elliot’s ear. I cannot hear what he says. Elliot is tall with wide shoulders, curly blonde hair, and light, wickedly gleaming eyes. I can’t tell the color under the pulsating heat of the flashing lights. Elliot grins, and pulls Kate into his arms, where she is more than happy to be… Kate! Even in my inebriated state, I am shocked. She’s only just met him. She nods at whatever Elliot says and grins at me and waves. Christian propels us off the dance floor in double quick time.
But I never got to talk to her. Is she okay? I can see where things are heading for her and him. I need to do the safe sex lecture. In the back of my mind, I hope she reads one of the posters on the back of the toilet doors. My thoughts crash through my brain, fighting the drunk, fuzzy feeling. It’s so warm in here, so loud, so colorful – too bright. My head begins to swim, oh no… and I can feel the floor coming up to meet my face or so it feels. The last thing I hear before I pass out in Christian Grey’s arms is his harsh epithet.
It’s very quiet. The light is muted. I am comfortable and warm, in this bed. Hmm… I open my eyes, and for a moment, I’m tranquil and serene, enjoying the strange unfamiliar surroundings. I have no idea where I am. The headboard behind me is in the shape of a massive sun. It’s oddly familiar. The room is large and airy and plushly furnished in browns and golds and beige. I have seen it before. Where? My befuddled brain struggles through its recent visual memories. Holy crap. I’m in the Heathman hotel… in a suite. I have stood in a room similar to this with Kate. This looks bigger. Oh shit. I’m in Christian Grey’s suite. How did I get here?
Fractured memories of the previous night come slowly back to haunt me. The drink- ing, oh no the drinking, the phone call, oh no the phone call, the vomiting, oh no the vomit- ing. José and then Christian. Oh no. I cringe inwardly. I don’t remember coming here. I’m wearing my t-shirt, bra, and panties. No socks. No jeans. Holy shit.
I glance at the bedside table. On it is a glass of orange juice and two tablets. Advil. Control freak that he is, he thinks of everything. I sit up and take the tablets. Actually, I don’t feel that bad, probably much better than I deserve. The orange juice tastes divine. It’s thirst quenching and refreshing. Nothing beats freshly squeezed orange juice for reviv- ing an arid mouth.
There’s a knock on the door. My heart leaps into my mouth, and I can’t seem to find my voice. He opens the door anyway and strolls in.
Holy hell, he’s been working out. He’s in gray sweat pants that hang, in that way, off his hips and a gray singlet, which is dark with sweat, like his hair. Christian Grey’s sweat, the notion does odd things to me. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I feel like a two- year old, if I close my eyes then I’m not really here.
“Good morning Anastasia. How are you feeling?”
“Better than I deserve,” I mumble.
I peek up at him. He places a large shopping bag on a chair and grasps each end of the towel that he has around his neck. He’s staring at me, gray eyes dark, and as usual, I have no idea what he’s thinking. He hides his thoughts and feelings so well.
“How did I get here?” My voice is small, contrite.
He comes and sits down on the edge of the bed. He’s close enough for me to touch, for me to smell. Oh my… sweat and body wash and Christian, it’s a heady cocktail – so much better than a margarita, and now I can speak from experience.
“After you passed out, I didn’t want to risk the leather upholstery in my car taking you all the way to your apartment. So I brought you here,” he says phlegmatically.
“Did you put me to bed?” “Yes.” His face is impassive.
“Did I throw up again?” My voice is quieter. “No.”
“Did you undress me?” I whisper.
“Yes.” He quirks an eyebrow at me as I blush furiously.
“We didn’t,” I whisper, my mouth drying in mortified horror as I can’t complete the question. I stare at my hands.
“Anastasia, you were comatose. Necrophilia is not my thing. I like my women sen- tient and receptive,” he says dryly.
“I’m so sorry.”
His mouth lifts slightly in a wry smile.
“It was a very diverting evening. Not one that I’ll forget in a while.”
Me neither – oh he’s laughing at me, the bastard. I didn’t ask him to come and get me.
Somehow I’ve been made to feel like the villain of the piece.
“You didn’t have to track me down with whatever James Bond stuff you’re developing for the highest bidder,” I snap at him. He stares at me, surprised, and if I’m not mistaken, a little wounded.
“Firstly, the technology to track cell phones is available over the Internet. Secondly, my company does not invest or manufacture any kind of surveillance devices, and thirdly, if I hadn’t come to get you, you’d probably be waking up in the photographer’s bed, and from what I can remember, you weren’t overly enthused about him pressing his suit,” he says acidly.
Pressing his suit! I glance up at Christian, he’s glaring at me, his gray eyes blazing, aggrieved. I try to bite my lip, but I fail to repress my laughter.
“Which medieval chronicle did you escape from?” I giggle. “You sound like a courtly knight.”
His mood visibly shifts. His eyes soften and his expression warms, and I see a trace of a smile on his beautifully chiseled lips.
“Anastasia, I don’t think so. Dark knight maybe.” His smile is sardonic, and he shakes his head. “Did you eat last night?” His tone is accusatory. I shake my head. What major transgression have I committed now? His jaw clenches, but his face remains impassive.
“You need to eat. That’s why you were so ill. Honestly Anastasia, it’s drinking rule number one.” He runs this hand through his hair, and I know it’s because he’s exasperated.
“Are you going to continue to scold me?” “Is that what I’m doing?”
“I think so.”
“You’re lucky I’m just scolding you.” “What do you mean?”
“Well, if you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday. You didn’t eat, you got drunk, you put yourself at risk.” He closes his eyes, dread etched on his lovely face, and he shudders slightly. When he opens his eyes, he glares at me. “I hate to think what could have happened to you.”
I scowl back at him. What is his problem? What’s it to him? If I was his… well I’m not. Though maybe, part of me would like to be. The thought pierces through the irritation I feel at his high-handed words. I flush at the waywardness of my subconscious – she’s do- ing her happy dance in a bright red hula skirt at the thought of being his.
“I would have been fine. I was with Kate.” “And the photographer?” he snaps at me.
Hmm… young José. I’ll need to face him at some point. “José just got out of line.” I shrug.
“Well the next time he gets out of line, maybe someone should teach him some man- ners.”
“You are quite the disciplinarian,” I hiss at him.
“Oh, Anastasia, you have no idea.” His eyes narrow, and then he grins wickedly. It’s disarming. One minute, I’m confused and angry, the next I’m gazing at his gorgeous smile. Wow… I am entranced, and it’s because his smile is so rare. I quite forget what he’s talk- ing about.
“I’m going to have a shower. Unless you’d like to shower first?” He cocks his head to one side, still grinning. My heartbeat has picked up, and my medulla oblongata has ne- glected to fire any synapses to make me breathe. His grin widens, and he reaches over and runs his thumb down my cheek and across my lower lip.
“Breathe, Anastasia,” he whispers and rises. “Breakfast will be here in fifteen minutes.
You must be famished.” He heads into the bathroom and closes the door.
I let out the breath that I’ve been holding. Why is he so damned attractive? Right now I want to go and join him in the shower. I have never felt this way about anyone. My hormones are racing. My skin tingles where his thumb traced over my face and lower lip. I feel like squirming with a needy, achy… discomfort. I don’t understand this reaction. Hmm… Desire. This is desire. This is what it feels like.
I lie back on the soft feather filled pillows. ‘If you were mine.’ Oh my – what would I do to be his? He’s the only man who has ever set my blood racing around my body. Yet,
he’s so antagonizing too; he’s difficult, complicated, and confusing. One minute he rebuffs me, the next he sends me fourteen-thousand-dollar books, then he tracks me like a stalker. And for all that, I have spent the night in his hotel suite, and I feel safe. Protected. He cares enough to come and rescue me from some mistakenly perceived danger. He’s not a dark knight at all, but a white knight in shining, dazzling armor – a classic romantic hero – Sir Gawain or Lancelot.
I scramble out of his bed frantically searching for my jeans. He emerges from the bath- room wet and glistening from the shower, still unshaven, with just a towel around his waist, and there am I – all bare legs and awkward gawkiness. He’s surprised to see me out of bed. “If you’re looking for your jeans, I’ve sent them to the laundry.” His gaze is a dark
obsidian. “They were spattered with your vomit.”
“Oh.” I flush scarlet. Why oh why does he always catch me on the back foot?
“I sent Taylor out for another pair and some shoes. They’re in the bag on the chair.”
Clean clothes. What an unexpected bonus.
“Um… I’ll have a shower,” I mutter. “Thanks.” What else can I say? I grab the bag and dart into the bathroom away from the unnerving proximity of naked Christian. Michel- angelo’s David has nothing on him.
In the bathroom, it’s all hot and steamy from where he’s been showering. I strip off my clothes and quickly clamber into the shower anxious to be under the cleansing stream of water. It cascades over me, and I hold up my face into the welcoming torrent. I want Christian Grey. I want him badly. Simple fact. For the first time in my life, I want to go to bed with a man. I want to feel his hands and his mouth on me.
He said he likes his women sentient. He’s probably not celibate then. But he’s not made a pass at me, unlike Paul or José. I don’t understand. Does he want me? He wouldn’t kiss me last week. Am I repellent to him? And yet, I’m here and he brought me here. I just don’t know what his game is? What he’s thinking? You’ve slept in his bed all night, and he’s not touched you Ana. You do the math. My subconscious has reared her ugly, snide head. I ignore her.
The water is warm and soothing. Hmm… I could stay under this shower, in his bath- room, forever. I reach for the body-wash and it smells of him. It’s a delicious smell. I rub it all over myself, fantasizing that it’s him – him rubbing this heavenly scented soap into my body, across my breasts, over my stomach, between my thighs with his long fingered hands. Oh my. My heartbeat picks up again, this feels so… so good.
“Breakfast is here.” He knocks on the door, startling me.
“Okay,” I stutter as I’m yanked cruelly out of my erotic daydream.
I climb out of the shower and grab two towels. I put my hair in one and wrap it Carmen Miranda style on my head. Hastily, I dry myself, ignoring the pleasurable feel of the towel rubbing against my over-sensitized skin.
I inspect the bag of jeans. Not only has Taylor brought me jeans and new Converse, but a pale blue shirt, socks, and underwear. Oh my. A clean bra and panties – actually to describe them in such a mundane, utilitarian way does not do them justice. They are an exquisite design of some fancy European lingerie. All pale blue lace and finery. Wow. I am in awe and slightly daunted by this underwear. . What’s more, they fit perfectly. But of
course they do. I flush to think of the Buzz-Cut man in some lingerie store buying this for me. I wonder what else is in his job description.
I dress quickly. The rest of the clothing is a perfect fit. I brusquely towel-dry my hair and try desperately to bring it under control. But, as usual, it refuses to cooperate, and my only option is to restrain it with a hair tie. I shall search in my purse, when I find it. I take a deep breath. Time to face Mr. Confusing.
I’m relieved to find the bedroom empty. I hunt quickly for my purse – but it’s not in here. Taking another deep breath, I enter the living area of the suite. It’s huge. There’s an opulent, plush seating area, all overstuffed couches and soft cushions, an elaborate coffee table with a stack of large glossy books, a study area with a top-of-the-range Mac, an enor- mous plasma screen TV on the wall, and Christian is sitting at a dining table on the other side of the room reading a newspaper. It’s the size of a tennis court or something, not that I play tennis, though I have watched Kate a few times. Kate!
“Crap, Kate,” I croak. Christian peers up at me.
“She knows you’re here and still alive. I texted Elliot,” he says with just a trace of humor.
Oh no. I remember her fervent dancing of the night before. All her patented moves used with maximum effect to seduce Christian’s brother no less! What’s she going to think about me being here? I’ve never stayed out before. She’s still with Elliot. She’s only done this twice before, and both times I’ve had to endure the hideous pink PJs for a week from the fallout. She’s going to think I’ve had a one-night stand too.
Christian stares at me imperiously. He’s wearing a white linen shirt, collar and cuffs undone.
“Sit,” he commands, pointing to a place at the table. I make my way across the room and sit down opposite him as I’ve been directed. The table is laden with food.
“I didn’t know what you liked, so I ordered a selection from the breakfast menu.” He gives me a crooked, apologetic smile.
“That’s very profligate of you,” I murmur, bewildered by the choice, though I am hun-
“Yes, it is.” He sounds guilty.
I opt for pancakes, maple syrup, scrambled eggs, and bacon. Christian tries to hide a
smile as he returns to his egg white omelet. The food is delicious. “Tea?” he asks.
He passes me a small teapot of hot water and on the saucer is a Twining’s English Breakfast teabag. Jeez, he remembers how I like my tea.
“Your hair’s very damp,” he scolds.
“I couldn’t find the hairdryer,” I mutter, embarrassed. Not that I looked. Christian’s mouth presses into a hard line, but he doesn’t say anything. “Thank you for organizing the clothes.”
“It’s a pleasure, Anastasia. That color suits you.” I blush and stare down at my fingers.
“You know, you really should learn to take a compliment.” His tone is castigating. “I should give you some money for these clothes.”
He glares at me as if I have offended him on some level. I hurry on.
“You’ve already given me the books, which, of course, I can’t accept. But these clothes, please let me pay you back.” I smile tentatively at him.
“Anastasia, trust me, I can afford it.”
“That’s not the point. Why should you buy these for me?” “Because I can,” his eyes flash with a wicked gleam.
“Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should,” I reply quietly as he arches an eyebrow at me, his eyes twinkling, and suddenly I feel that we’re talking about something else, but I don’t know what it is. Which reminds me…
“Why did you send me the books, Christian?” My voice is soft. He puts down his cutlery and regards me intently, his gray eyes burning with some unfathomable emotion. Holy crap – my mouth dries.
“Well, when you were nearly run over by the cyclist – and I was holding you and you were looking up at me – all kiss me, kiss me, Christian,” he pauses and shrugs slightly, “I felt I owed you an apology and a warning.” He runs his hand through his hair. “Anastasia, I’m not a hearts and flowers kind of man, I don’t do romance. My tastes are very singular. You should steer clear from me.” He closes his eyes as if in defeat. “There’s something about you, though, and I’m finding it impossible to stay away. But I think you’ve figured that out already.”
My appetite vanishes. He can’t stay away!
“Then don’t,” I whisper. He gasps, his eyes wide.
“You don’t know what you’re saying.” “Enlighten me, then.”
We sit gazing at each other, neither of us touching our food. “You’re not celibate then?” I breathe.
Amusement lights up his gray eyes.
“No, Anastasia, I’m not celibate.” He pauses for this information to sink in, and I flush scarlet. The mouth-to-brain filter is broken again. I can’t believe I’ve just said that out loud.
“What are your plans for the next few days?” he asks, his voice low. “I’m working today, from midday. What is the time?” I panic suddenly.
“It’s just after ten, you’ve plenty of time. What about tomorrow?” He has his elbows on the table, and his chin is resting on his long steepled fingers.
“Kate and I are going to start packing. We’re moving to Seattle next weekend, and I’m working at Clayton’s all this week.”
“You have a place in Seattle already?” “Yes.”
“I can’t remember the address. It’s in the Pike Market District.”
“Not far from me,” his lips twitch up in a half smile. “So what are you going to do for work in Seattle?”
Where is he going with all these questions? The Christian Grey Inquisition is almost as irritating as the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition.
“I’ve applied for some internships. I’m waiting to hear.” “Have you applied to my company as I suggested?”
I flush… of course not.
“And what’s wrong with my company?” “Your company or your Company?” I smirk. He smiles slightly.
“Are you smirking at me, Miss Steele?” He cocks his head to one side, and I think he looks amused, but it’s hard to tell. I flush and glance down at my unfinished breakfast. I can’t look him in the eye when he uses that tone of voice.
“I’d like to bite that lip,” he whispers darkly.
Oh my. I am completely unaware that I am chewing my bottom lip. My mouth pops open as I gasp and swallow at the same time. That has to be the sexiest thing anybody has ever said to me. My heart beat spikes, and I think I’m panting. Jeez, I’m a quivering, moist mess, and he hasn’t even touched me. I squirm in my seat and meet his dark glare.
“Why don’t you?” I challenge quietly.
“Because I’m not going to touch you Anastasia – not until I have your written consent to do so.” His lips hint at a smile.
“What does that mean?”
“Exactly what I say.” He sighs and shakes his head at me, amused, but exasperated too. “I need to show you, Anastasia. What time do you finish work this evening?”
“Well, we could go to Seattle this evening or next Saturday for dinner at my place, and I’ll acquaint you with the facts then. The choice is yours.”
“Why can’t you tell me now?” I sound petulant.
“Because I’m enjoying my breakfast and your company. Once you’re enlightened, you probably won’t want to see me again.”
Holy shit. What does that mean? Does he white-slave small children to some God- forsaken part of the planet? Is he part of some underworld crime syndicate? It would ex- plain why he’s so rich. Is he deeply religious? Is he impotent? Surely not, he could prove that to me right now. Oh my. I flush scarlet thinking about the possibilities. This is getting me nowhere. I’d like to solve the riddle that is Christian Grey sooner rather than later. If it means that whatever secret he has is so gross that I don’t want to know him any more then, quite frankly, it will be a relief. Don’t lie to yourself – my subconscious yells at me– it’ll have to be pretty bloody bad to have you running for the hills.
He raises an eyebrow.
“Like Eve, you’re so quick to eat from the tree of knowledge,” he smirks. “Are you smirking at me, Mr. Grey?” I ask sweetly. Pompous ass.
He narrows his eyes at me and picks up his BlackBerry. He presses one number. “Taylor. I’m going to need Charlie Tango.”
Charlie Tango! Who’s he?
“From Portland at say twenty-thirty… No, standby at Escala… All night.”
“Yes. On call tomorrow morning. I’ll pilot from Portland to Seattle.”
“Standby pilot from twenty-two-thirty.” He puts the phone down. No please or thank you.
“Do people always do what you tell them?”
“Usually, if they want to keep their jobs,” he says, deadpan. “And if they don’t work for you?”
“Oh, I can be very persuasive, Anastasia. You should finish your breakfast. And then I’ll drop you home. I’ll pick you up at Clayton’s at eight when you finish. We’ll fly up to Seattle.”
I blink at him rapidly. “Fly?”
“Yes. I have a helicopter.”
I gape at him. I have my second date with Christian oh-so-mysterious Grey. From coffee to helicopter rides. Wow.
“We’ll go by helicopter to Seattle?” “Yes.”
He grins wickedly.
“Because I can. Finish your breakfast.”
How can I eat now? I’m going to Seattle by helicopter with Christian Grey. And he wants to bite my lip… I squirm at the thought
“Eat,” he says more sharply. “Anastasia, I have an issue with wasted food… eat.” “I can’t eat all this.” I gape at what’s left on the table.
“Eat what’s on your plate. If you’d eaten properly yesterday, you wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be declaring my hand so soon.” His mouth sets in a grim line. He looks angry. I frown and return to my now cold food. I’m too excited to eat, Christian. Don’t you understand? My subconscious explains. But I’m too much of a coward to voice these thoughts aloud, especially when he looks so sullen. Hmm, like a small boy. I find the
“What’s so funny?” he asks. I shake my head, not daring tell him and keep my eyes on my food. Swallowing my last piece of pancake, I peek up at him. He’s eyeing me speculatively.
“Good girl,” he says. “I’ll take you home when you’ve dried your hair. I don’t want you getting ill.” There’s some kind of unspoken promise in his words. What does he mean? I leave the table, wondering for a moment if I should ask permission but dismissing the idea. Sounds like a dangerous precedent to set. I head back to his bedroom. A thought stops me.
“Where did you sleep last night?” I turn to gaze at him still sitting in the dining room chair. I can’t see any blankets or sheets out here – perhaps he’s had them tidied away.
“In my bed,” he says simply, his gaze impassive again. “Oh.”
“Yes, it was quite a novelty for me too.” He smiles.
“Not having… sex.” There – I said the word. I blush – of course.
“No,” he shakes his head and frowns as if recalling something uncomfortable. “Sleep- ing with someone.” He picks up his newspaper and continues to read.
What in heaven’s name does that mean? He’s never slept with anyone? He’s a vir- gin? Somehow I doubt that. I stand staring at him in disbelief. He is the most mystifying person I’ve ever met. And it dawns on me that I have slept with Christian Grey, and I kick myself – what would I have given to be conscious to watch him sleep. See him vulnerable. Somehow, I find that hard to imagine. Well, allegedly all will be revealed tonight.
In his bedroom, I hunt through a chest of drawers and find the hair dryer. Using my fingers, I dry my hair the best I can. When I’ve finished, I head into the bathroom. I want to clean my teeth. I eye Christian’s toothbrush. It would be like having him in my mouth. Hmm… Glancing guiltily over my shoulder at the door, I feel the bristles on the toothbrush. They are damp. He must have used it already. Grabbing it quickly, I squirt toothpaste on it and brush my teeth in double quick time. I feel so naughty. It’s such a thrill.
Grabbing my t-shirt, bra, and panties from yesterday, I put them in the shopping bag that Taylor brought and head back to the living area to hunt for my bag and jacket. Deep joy, there is a hair tie in my bag. Christian is watching me as I tie my hair into a ponytail, his expression unreadable. I feel his eyes follow me as I sit down and wait for him to finish. He’s on his BlackBerry talking to someone.
“They want two?… How much will that cost?… Okay, and what safety measures do we have in place?… And they’ll go via Suez?… How safe is Ben Sudan?… And when do they arrive in Darfur?… Okay, let’s do it. Keep me abreast of progress.” He hangs up.
“Ready to go?”
I nod. I wonder what his conversation was about. He slips on a navy pinstriped jacket, picks up his car keys, and heads for the door.
“After you, Miss Steele,” he murmurs, opening the door for me. He looks so casually elegant.
I pause, fractionally too long, drinking in the sight of him. And to think I slept with him last night and, after all the tequila and the throwing up, he’s still here. What’s more, he wants to take me to Seattle. Why me? I don’t understand it. I head out the door recalling his words – There’s something about you – Well the feeling is entirely mutual Mr. Grey, and I aim to find out what it is.
We walk in silence down the corridor toward the elevator. As we wait, I peek up at him through my lashes, and he looks out of the corner of his eyes down at me. I smile, and his lips twitch.
The elevator arrives, and we step in. We’re alone. Suddenly, for some inexplica- ble reason, possibly our proximity in such an enclosed space, the atmosphere between us changes, charging with an electric, exhilarating anticipation. My breathing alters as my heart races. His head turns fractionally toward me, his eyes darkest slate. I bite my lip.
“Oh, fuck the paperwork,” he growls. He lunges at me, pushing me against the wall of the elevator. Before I know it, he’s got both of my hands in one of his in a vice-like grip above my head, and he’s pinning me to the wall using his hips. Holy shit. His other hand grabs my ponytail and yanks down, bringing my face up, and his lips are on mine. It’s only just not painful. I moan into his mouth, giving his tongue an opening. He takes full
advantage, his tongue expertly exploring my mouth. I have never been kissed like this. My tongue tentatively strokes his and joins his in a slow erotic dance that’s all about touch and sensation, all bump and grind. He brings his hand up to grasp my chin and holds me in place. I am helpless, my hands pinned, my face held, and his hips restraining me. . I feel his erection against my belly. Oh my… He wants me. Christian Grey, Greek god, wants me, and I want him, here… now, in the elevator.
“You. Are. So. Sweet,” he murmurs, each word a staccato.
The elevator stops, the doors open, and he pushes away from me in the blink of an eye, leaving me hanging. Three men in business suits look at both of us and smirk as they climb on board. My heart rate is through the roof, I feel like I’ve run an uphill race. I want to lean over and grasp my knees… but that’s just too obvious.
I glance up at him. He looks so cool and calm, like he’s been doing the Seattle Times crossword. How unfair. Is he totally unaffected by my presence? He glances at me out of the corner of his eye, and he gently blows out a deep breath. Oh, he’s affected all right
– and my very small inner goddess sways in a gentle victorious samba. The businessmen exit on the second floor. We have one more floor to travel.
“You’ve brushed your teeth,” he says, staring at me. “I used your toothbrush,” I breathe.
His lips quirk up in a half smile.
“Oh, Anastasia Steele, what am I going to do with you?”
The doors open at the first floor, and he takes my hand and pulls me out.
“What is it about elevators?” he mutters, more to himself than to me as he strides across the lobby. I struggle to keep pace with him because my wits have been thoroughly, royally, scattered all over the floor and walls of elevator three in the Heathman Hotel.
I glance at him. Christian is his usual polite, slightly distant self.
He starts the engine and reverses out of his space in the parking lot. He switches on the MP3 player. The car interior is filled with the sweetest, most magical music of two women singing. Oh wow… all my senses are in disarray, so this is doubly affecting. It sends deli- cious shivers up my spine. Christian pulls out on to SW Park Avenue, and he drives with easy, lazy confidence.
“What are we listening to?”
“It’s the Flower Duet by Delibes, from the opera Lakmé. Do you like it?” “Christian, it’s wonderful.”
“It is, isn’t it?” he grins, glancing at me. And for a fleeting moment, he seems his age; young, carefree, and heart-stoppingly beautiful. Is this the key to him? Music? I sit and listen to the angelic voices, teasing and seducing me.
“Can I hear that again?”
“Of course.” Christian pushes a button, and the music is caressing me once more. It’s a gentle, slow, sweet, and sure assault on my aural senses.
“You like classical music?” I ask, hoping for a rare insight into his personal prefer- ences.
“My taste is eclectic, Anastasia, everything from Thomas Tallis to the Kings of Leon.
It depends on my mood. You?”
“Me too. Though I don’t know who Thomas Tallis is.”
He turns and gazes at me briefly before his eyes are back on the road.
“I’ll play it for you sometime. He’s a sixteenth century British composer. Tudor, church choral music.” Christian grins at me. “Sounds very esoteric, I know, but it’s also magical, Anastasia.”
He presses a button, and the Kings of Leon start singing. Hmm… this I know. Sex on Fire. How appropriate. The music is interrupted by the sound of a cell phone ringing over the MP3 speakers. Christian hits a button on the steering wheel.
“Grey,” he snaps. He’s so brusque.
“Mr. Grey, it’s Welch here. I have the information you require.” A rasping, disembod- ied voice comes over the speakers.
“Good. Email it to me. Anything to add?” “No sir.”
He presses the button, then the call ceases and the music is back. No goodbye or thanks. I’m so glad that I never seriously entertained the thought of working for him. I shudder at the very idea. He’s just too controlling and cold with his employees. The music cuts off again for the phone.
“The NDA has been emailed to you, Mr. Grey.” A woman’s voice. “Good. That’s all, Andrea.”
“Good day, sir.”
Christian hangs up by pressing a button on the steering wheel. The music is on very briefly when the phone rings again. Holy hell, is this his life, constant nagging phone calls?
“Grey,” he snaps.
“Hi, Christian, d’you get laid?”
“Hello, Elliot – I’m on speaker phone, and I’m not alone in the car,” Christian sighs. “Who’s with you?”
Christian rolls his eyes. “Anastasia Steele.” “Hi, Ana!”
“Heard a lot about you,” Elliot murmurs huskily. Christian frowns. “Don’t believe a word Kate says.”
“I’m dropping Anastasia off now.” Christian emphasizes my name. “Shall I pick you up?”
“See you shortly.” Christian hangs up, and the music is back. “Why do you insist on calling me Anastasia?”
“Because it’s your name.” “I prefer Ana.”
“Do you now?” he murmurs.
We are almost at my apartment. It’s not taken long.
“Anastasia,” he muses. I scowl at him, but he ignores my expression. “What happened in the elevator – it won’t happen again, well, not unless it’s premeditated.”
He pulls up outside my duplex. I belatedly realize he’s not asked me where I live – yet he knows. But then he sent the books, of course he knows where I live. What able, cell- phone-tracking, helicopter owning, stalker wouldn’t.
Why won’t he kiss me again? I pout at the thought. I don’t understand. Honestly, his surname should be Cryptic, not Grey. He climbs out of the car, walking with easy, long-legged grace round to my side to open the door, ever the gentleman – except perhaps in rare, precious moments in elevators. I flush at the memory of his mouth on mine, and the thought that I’d been unable to touch him enters my mind. I wanted to run my fingers through his decadent, untidy hair, but I’d been unable to move my hands. I am retrospec- tively frustrated.
“I liked what happened in the elevator,” I murmur as I climb out of the car. I’m not sure if I hear an audible gasp, but I choose to ignore it and head up the steps to the front door.
Kate and Elliot are sitting at our dining table. The fourteen-thousand-dollar books have disappeared. Thank heavens. I have plans for them. She has the most un-Kate ridicu- lous grin on her face, and she looks mussed up in a sexy kind of way. Christian follows me into the living area, and in spite of her I’ve-been-having-a-good-time-all-night grin, Kate eyes him suspiciously.
“Hi Ana.” She leaps up to hug me, then holds me at arm’s length so she can examine me. She frowns and turns to Christian.
“Good morning, Christian,” she says, and her tone is a little hostile. “Miss Kavanagh,” he says in his stiff formal way.
“Christian, her name is Kate,” Elliot grumbles.
“Kate.” Christian gives her a polite nod and glares at Elliot who grins and rises to hug me too.
“Hi, Ana,” he smiles, his blue eyes twinkling, and I like him immediately. He’s obvi- ously nothing like Christian, but then they’re adopted brothers.
“Hi, Elliot,” I smile at him, and I’m aware that I’m biting my lip. “Elliot, we’d better go.” Christian says mildly.
“Sure.” He turns to Kate and pulls her into his arms and gives her a long lingering kiss. Jeez… get a room. I stare at my feet, embarrassed. I glance up at Christian, and he’s watching me intently. I narrow my eyes at him. Why can’t you kiss me like that? Elliot
continues to kiss Kate, sweeping her off her feet and dipping her in a dramatic hold so that her hair touches the ground as he kisses her hard.
“Laters, baby,” he grins.
Kate just melts. I’ve never seen her melt before – the words comely and compliant come to mind. Compliant Kate, boy, Elliot must be good. Christian rolls his eyes and stares down at me, his expression unreadable, although maybe he’s mildly amused. He tucks a stray strand of my hair that has worked its way free from my ponytail behind my ear. My breath hitches at the contact, and I lean my head slightly into his fingers. His eyes soften, and he runs his thumb across my lower lip. My blood sears in my veins. And all too quickly, his touch is gone.
“Laters, baby,” he murmurs, and I have to laugh because it’s so unlike him. But even though I know he’s being irreverent, the endearment tugs at something deep inside me.
“I’ll pick you up at eight.” He turns to leave, opening the front door and stepping out on to the porch. Elliot follows him to the car but turns and blows Kate another kiss, and I feel an unwelcome pang of jealousy.
“So, did you?” Kate asks as we watch them climb into the car and drive off, the burning curiosity evident in her voice.
“No,” I snap irritably, hoping that will halt the questions. We head back into the apart- ment. “You obviously did, though.” I can’t contain my envy. Kate always manages to ensnare men. She is irresistible, beautiful, sexy, funny, forward… all the things that I’m not. But her answering grin is infectious.
“And I’m seeing him again this evening.” She claps her hands and jumps up and down like a small child. She cannot contain her excitement and happiness, and I can’t help but feel happy for her. A happy Kate… this is going to be interesting.
“Christian is taking me to Seattle this evening.” “Seattle?”
“Maybe you will then?” “Oh, I hope so.”
“You like him then?” “Yes.”
“Like him enough to… ?” “Yes.”
She raises her eyebrows.
“Wow. Ana Steele, finally falling for a man, and it’s Christian Grey – hot, sexy bil- lionaire.”
“Oh yeah – it’s all about the money.” I smirk, and we both fall into a fit of giggles. “Is that a new blouse?” she asks, and I let her have all the unexciting details about my
“Has he kissed you yet?” she asks as she makes coffee. I blush.
“Once!” she scoffs.
I nod, rather shame faced.
“He’s very reserved.” She frowns.
“I don’t think odd covers it really,” I murmur.
“We need to make sure you’re simply irresistible for this evening,” she says with de- termination.
Oh no… this sounds like it will be time consuming, humiliating, and painful. “I have to be at work in an hour.”
“I can work with that timeframe. Come on.” Kate grabs my hand and takes me into her bedroom.The day drags at Clayton’s even though we’re busy. We’ve hit the summer season, so I have to spend two hours restocking the shelves once the shop is closed. It’s mindless work, and it gives me too much time to think. I’ve not really had a chance all day.
Under Kate’s tireless and frankly intrusive instruction, my legs and underarms are shaved to perfection, my eyebrows plucked, and I am buffed all over. It has been a most unpleasant experience. But she assures me that this is what men expect these days. What else will he expect? I have to convince Kate that this is what I want to do. For some strange reason, she doesn’t trust him, maybe because he’s so stiff and formal. She says she can’t put her finger on it, but I have promised to text her when I arrive in Seattle. I haven’t told her about the helicopter, she’d freak.
I also have the José issue. He’s left three messages and seven missed calls on my cell. He’s also called home twice. Kate has been very vague as to where I am. He’ll know she’s covering for me. Kate doesn’t do vague. But I have decided to let him stew. I’m still too angry with him.
Christian mentioned some kind of written paperwork, and I don’t know if he was jok- ing or if I’m going to have to sign something. It’s so frustrating trying to guess. And on top of all the angst, I can barely contain my excitement or my nerves. Tonight’s the night! After all this time, am I ready for this? My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently. She’s been ready for this for years, and she’s ready for anything with Christian Grey, but I still don’t understand what he sees in me… mousey Ana Steele – it makes no sense.
He is punctual, of course, and waiting for me when I leave Clayton’s. He climbs out of the back of the Audi to open the door and smiles warmly at me.
“Good evening, Miss Steele,” he says.
“Mr. Grey.” I nod politely to him as I climb into the backseat of the car. Taylor is sit- ting in the driver’s seat.
“Hello, Taylor,” I say.
“Good evening, Miss Steele,” his voice is polite and professional. Christian climbs in the other side and clasps my hand, giving it a gentle squeeze that I feel all the way though my body.
“How was work?” he asks.
“Very long,” I reply, and my voice is husky, too low, and full of need.
“Yes, it’s been a long day for me too.” His tone is serious. “What did you do?” I manage.
“I went hiking with Elliot.” His thumb strokes my knuckles, back and forth, and my heart skips a beat as my breathing accelerates. How does he do this to me? He’s only touching a very small area of my body, and the hormones are flying.
The drive to the heliport is short and, before I know it, we arrive. I wonder where the fabled helicopter might be. We’re in a built-up area of the city and even I know helicopters need space to take off and land. Taylor parks, climbs out, and opens my car door. Christian is beside me in an instant and takes my hand again.
“Ready?” he asks. I nod and want to say for anything, but I can’t articulate the words as I’m too nervous, too excited.
“Taylor.” He nods curtly at his driver, and we head into the building, straight to a set of elevators. Elevator! The memory of our kiss this morning comes back to haunt me. I have thought of nothing else all day. Daydreaming at the register at Clayton’s. Twice Mr. Clayton had to shout my name to bring me back to Earth. To say I’ve been distracted would be the understatement of the year. Christian glances down at me, a slight smile on his lips. Ha! He’s thinking about it too.
“It’s only three floors,” he says dryly, his gray eyes dancing with amusement. He’s telepathic surely. It’s spooky.
I try to keep my face impassive as we enter the elevator. The doors close, and it’s there, the weird electrical attraction crackling between us, enslaving me. I close my eyes in a vain attempt to ignore it. He tightens his grip on my hand, and five seconds later the doors open on to the roof of the building. And there it is, a white helicopter with the name Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. written in blue with the company logo on the side. Surely this is misuse of Company property.
He leads me to a small office where an old timer sits behind the desk.
“Here’s your flight plan, Mr. Grey. All external checks are done. It’s ready and waiting sir. You’re free to go.”
“Thank you, Joe.” Christian smiles warmly at him.
Oh. Someone deserving of the polite treatment from Christian, perhaps he’s not an employee. I stare at the old guy in awe.
“Let’s go,” Christian says, and we make our way toward the helicopter. When we’re up close, it’s much bigger than I thought. I expected it to be a roadster version for two, but it has at least seven seats. Christian opens the door and directs me to one of the seats at the very front.
“Sit – don’t touch anything,” he orders as he clambers in behind me.
He shuts the door with a slam. I’m glad that the area is floodlit, otherwise I’d find it difficult to see inside the small cockpit. I sit down in my allotted seat, and he crouches beside me to strap me into the harness. It’s a four-point harness with all the straps con- necting to one central buckle. He tightens both of the upper straps, so I can hardly move. He’s so close and intent on what he’s doing. If I could only lean forward, my nose would be in his hair. He smells, clean, fresh, heavenly, but I’m fastened securely into my seat and effectively immobile. He glances up and smiles, like he’s enjoying his usual private joke,
his gray eyes heated. He’s so tantalizingly close. I hold my breath as he pulls at one of the upper straps.
“You’re secure, no escaping,” he whispers, his eyes are scorching. “Breathe, Anasta- sia,” he adds softly. Reaching up, he caresses my cheek, running his long fingers down to my chin which he grasps between his thumb and forefinger. He leans forward and plants a brief, chaste kiss on my lips, leaving me reeling, my insides clenching at the thrilling, unexpected touch of his lips.
“I like this harness,” he whispers.
He sits down beside me and buckles himself into his seat, then begins a protracted pro- cedure of checking gauges and flipping switches and buttons from the mind-boggling array of dials and lights and switches in front of me. Little lights wink and flash from various dials, and the whole of the instrument panel lights up.
“Put your cans on,” he says, pointing to a set of headphones in front of me. I pop them on, and the rotor blades start. They are deafening. He puts his headphones on and contin- ues flipping various switches.
“I’m just going through all the pre-flight checks.” Christian’s disembodied voice is in my ears through the headphones. I turn and grin at him.
“Do you know what you are doing?” I ask. He turns and smiles at me.
“I’ve been a fully qualified pilot for four years, Anastasia, you’re safe with me.” He gives me a wolfish grin. “Well, while we’re flying,” he adds and winks at me.
“Are you ready?” I nod wide eyed.
“Okay, tower. PDX this is Charlie Tango Golf – Golf Echo Hotel, cleared for take-off.
Please confirm, over.”
“Charlie Tango – you are clear. PDX to call, proceed to one four thousand, heading zero one zero, over. ”
“Roger tower, Charlie Tango set, over and out. Here we go,” he adds to me, and the helicopter rises slowly and smoothly into the air.
Portland disappears in front us as we head into US airspace, though my stomach re- mains firmly in Oregon. Whoa! All the bright lights shrink until they are twinkling sweetly below us. It’s like looking out from inside a fish bowl. Once we’re higher, there really is nothing to see. It’s pitch black, not even the moon to shed any light on our journey. How can he see where we’re going?
“Eerie isn’t it?” Christian’s voice is in my ears. “How do you know you’re going the right way?”
“Here.” He points his long index finger at one of the gauges, and it shows an electronic compass. “This is an EC135 Eurocopter. One of the safest in its class. It’s equipped for night flight.” He glances and grins at me.
“There’s a helipad on top of the building I live in. That’s where we’re heading.”
Of course there’s a helipad where he lives. I am so out of my league here. His face is softly illuminated by the lights on the instrument panel. He’s concentrating hard, and he’s continually glancing at the various dials in front of him. I drink in his features from
beneath my lashes. He has a beautiful profile. Straight nose, square jawed – I’d like to run my tongue along his jaw. He hasn’t shaved, and his stubble makes the prospect doubly tempting. Hmm… I’d like to feel how rough it is beneath my tongue, my fingers, against my face.
“When you fly at night, you fly blind. You have to trust the instrumentation,” he inter- rupts my erotic reverie.
“How long will the flight be?” I manage breathlessly. I wasn’t thinking about sex at all, no, no way.
“Less than an hour, the wind is in our favor.”
Hmm, less than an hour to Seattle… that’s not bad going, no wonder we’re flying.
I have less than an hour before the big reveal. All the muscles clench deep in my belly. I have a serious case of butterflies. They are flourishing in my stomach. Holy shit, what has he got in store for me?
“You okay, Anastasia?”
“Yes.” My answer is short, clipped, squeezed out through my nerves.
I think he smiles, but it’s difficult to tell in the darkness. Christian flicks yet another switch.
“PDX this is Charlie Tango now at one four thousand, over.” He exchanges informa- tion with air traffic control. It all sounds very professional to me. I think we’re moving from Portland’s air space to Seattle International Airport’s.
“Understood Sea-Tac, standing by over and out.”
“Look, over there.” He points to a small pin-point of light in the far distance. “That’s Seattle.”
“Do you always impress women this way? Come and fly in my helicopter?” I ask, genuinely interested.
“I’ve never bought a girl up here, Anastasia. It’s another first for me.” His voice is quiet, serious.
Oh, that was an unexpected answer. Another first? Oh the sleeping thing, perhaps? “Are you impressed?”
“I’m awed, Christian.” He smiles.
“Awed?” And for a brief moment, he’s his age again. I nod.
“You’re just so… competent.”
“Why, thank you, Miss Steele,” he says politely. I think he’s pleased, but I’m not sure.
We ride into the dark night in silence for a while. The bright spot that is Seattle is slowly getting bigger.
“Sea-Tac tower to Charlie Tango. Flight plan to Escala in place. Please proceed. And standby. Over.”
“This is Charlie Tango, understood Sea-Tac. Standing by, over and out.” “You obviously enjoy this,” I murmur.
“What?” He glances at me. He looks quizzical in the half-light of the instruments. “Flying,” I reply.
“It requires control and concentration… how could I not love it? Though, my favorite is soaring.”
“Yes. Gliding to the layperson. Gliders and helicopters – I fly them both.”
“Oh.” Expensive hobbies. I remember him telling me during the interview. I like read- ing and occasionally going to the movies. I am out of my depth here.
“Charlie Tango come in please, over.” The disembodied voice of air traffic control interrupts my reverie. Christian answers, sounding in control and confident.
Seattle is getting closer. We are on the very outskirts now. Wow! It looks absolutely stunning. Seattle at night, from the sky…
“Looks good, doesn’t it?” Christian murmurs.
I nod enthusiastically. It looks otherworldly – unreal – and I feel like I’m on a giant film set, José’s favorite film maybe, ‘Bladerunner.’ The memory of José’s attempted kiss haunts me. I’m beginning to feel a bit cruel not calling him back. He can wait until tomor- row… surely.
“We’ll be there in a few minutes,” Christian mutters, and suddenly my blood is pound- ing in my ears as my heartbeat accelerates and adrenaline spikes through my system. He starts talking to air traffic control again, but I am no longer listening. Oh my… I think I’m going to faint. My fate is in his hands.
We are now flying amongst the buildings, and up ahead I can see a tall skyscraper with a helipad on top. The word Escala is painted in white on top of the building. It’s getting nearer and nearer, bigger and bigger… like my anxiety. God, I hope I don’t let him down. He’ll find me lacking in some way. I wish I’d listened to Kate and borrowed one of her dresses, but I like my black jeans, and I’m wearing a soft mint green shirt and Kate’s black jacket. I look smart enough. I grip the edge of my seat tighter and tighter. I can do this. I can do this. I chant this mantra as the skyscraper looms below us.
The helicopter slows and hovers, and Christian sets it down on the helipad on top of the building. My heart is in my mouth. I can’t decide if it’s from nervous anticipation, relief that we’ve arrived alive, or fear that I will fail in some way. He switches the ignition off and the rotor blades slow and quiet until all I hear is the sound of my own erratic breathing. Christian takes his headphones off, and reaches across and pulls mine off too.
“We’re here,” he says softly.
His look is so intense, half in shadow and half in the bright white light from the land- ing lights. Dark knight and white knight, it’s a fitting metaphor for Christian. He looks strained. His jaw is clenched and his eyes are tight. He unfastens his seatbelt and reaches over to unbuckle mine. His face is inches from mine.
“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You know that don’t you?” His tone is so earnest, desperate even, his gray eyes impassioned. He takes me by surprise.
“I’d never do anything I didn’t want to do, Christian.” And as I say the words, I don’t quite feel their conviction because at this moment in time – I’d probably do anything for this man seated beside me. But this does the trick. He’s mollified.
He eyes me warily for a moment and somehow, even though he’s so tall, he manages to ease his way gracefully to the door of the helicopter and open it. He jumps out, waiting for me to follow, and takes my hand as I clamber down on to the helipad. It’s very windy
on top of the building, and I’m nervous about the fact that I’m standing at least thirty stories high in an unenclosed space. Christian wraps his arm around my waist, pulling me tightly against him.
“Come,” he shouts above the noise of the wind. He drags me over to an elevator shaft and, after tapping a number into a keypad, the doors open. It’s warm inside and all mir- rored glass. I can see Christian to infinity everywhere I look, and the wonderful thing is, he’s holding me to infinity too. Christian taps another code into the keypad, then the doors close and the elevator descends.
Moments later, we’re in an all-white foyer. In the middle is a round, dark wood table, and on it is an unbelievably huge bunch of white flowers. On the walls there are paintings, everywhere. He opens two double doors, and the white theme continues through the wide corridor and directly opposite where a palatial room opens up. It’s the main living area, double height. Huge is too small a word for it. The far wall is glass and leads on to a bal- cony that overlooks Seattle.
To the right is an imposing ‘U’ shaped sofa that could sit ten adults comfortably. It fac- es a state-of-the-art stainless steel – or maybe platinum for all I know – modern fireplace. The fire is lit and flaming gently. On the left beside us, by the entryway, is the kitchen area. All white with dark wood worktops and a large breakfast bar which seats six.
Near the kitchen area, in front of the glass wall, is a dining table surrounded by sixteen chairs. And tucked in the corner is a full size, shiny black grand piano. Oh yes… he prob- ably plays the piano too. There is art of all shapes and sizes on all the walls. In fact, this apartment looks more like a gallery than a place to live.
“Can I take your jacket?” Christian asks. I shake my head. I’m still cold from the wind on the helipad.
“Would you like a drink?” he asks. I blink at him. After last night! Is he trying to be funny? For one second, I think about asking for a margarita – but I don’t have the nerve.
“I’m going to have a glass of white wine, would you like to join me?” “Yes, please,” I murmur.
I am standing in this enormous room feeling out of place. I walk over to the glass wall, and I realize that the lower half of the wall opens concertina-style on to the balcony. Se- attle is lit up and lively in the background. I walk back to the kitchen area – it takes a few seconds, it’s so far from the glass wall – and Christian is opening a bottle of wine. He’s removed his jacket.
“Pouilly Fumé okay with you?”
“I know nothing about wine, Christian. I’m sure it will be fine.” My voice is soft and hesitant. My heart is thumping. I want to run. This is seriously rich. Seriously over-the- top Bill Gates style wealthy. What am I doing here? You know very well what you’re doing here – my subconscious sneers at me. Yes, I want to be in Christian Grey’s bed.
“Here.” He hands me a glass of wine. Even the glasses are rich… heavy, contempo- rary, crystal. I take a sip, and the wine is light, crisp, and delicious.
“You’re very quiet, and you’re not even blushing. In fact – I think this is the palest I’ve ever seen you, Anastasia,” he murmurs. “Are you hungry?”
I shake my head. Not for food.
“It’s a very big place you have here.”
“It’s big,” he agrees, and his eyes glow with amusement. I take another sip of wine. “Do you play?” I point my chin at the piano.
“Of course you do. Is there anything you can’t do well?”
“Yes… a few things.” He takes a sip of his wine. He doesn’t take his eyes off me. I feel them following me as I turn and glance around this vast room. Room is the wrong word. It’s not a room – it’s a mission statement.
“Do you want to sit?”
I nod, and he takes my hand and leads me to the large off-white couch. As I sit, I’m struck by the fact that I feel like Tess Durbeyfield looking at the new house that belongs to the notorious Alec D’Urberville. The thought makes me smile.
“What’s so amusing?” He sits down beside me, turning to face me. He rests his head on his right hand, his elbow propped on the back of the couch.
“Why did you give me Tess of the D’Urbervilles specifically?” I ask. Christian stares at me for a moment. I think he’s surprised by my question.
“Well, you said you liked Thomas Hardy.”
“Is that the only reason?” Even I can hear the disappointment in my voice. His mouth presses into a hard line.
“It seemed appropriate. I could hold you to some impossibly high ideal like Angel Clare or debase you completely like Alec D’Urberville,” he murmurs, and his gray eyes flash dark and dangerous.
“If there are only two choices, I’ll take the debasement.” I whisper, gazing at him. My subconscious is staring at me in awe. He gasps.
“Anastasia, stop biting your lip, please. It’s very distracting. You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“That’s why I’m here.” He frowns.
“Yes. Would you excuse me a moment?” He disappears through a wide doorway on the far side of the room. He’s gone for a couple of minutes and returns with a document.
“This is a non-disclosure agreement.” He shrugs and has the grace to look a little em- barrassed. “My lawyer insists on it.” He hands it to me. I’m completely bemused. “If you’re going for option two, debasement, you’ll need to sign this.”
“And if I don’t want to sign anything?”
“Then it’s Angel Clare high ideals, well, for most of the book anyway.” “What does this agreement mean?”
“It means you cannot disclose anything about us. Anything, to anyone.”
I stare at him in disbelief. Holy shit. It’s bad, really bad, and now I’m very curious to know.
“Okay. I’ll sign.” He hands me a pen.
“Aren’t you even going to read it?” “No.”
“Anastasia, you should always read anything you sign,” he admonishes me. “Christian, what you fail to understand is that I wouldn’t talk about us to anyone,
anyway. Even Kate. So it’s immaterial whether I sign an agreement or not. If it means so much to you, or your lawyer… whom you obviously talk to, then fine. I’ll sign.”
He gazes down at me, and he nods gravely. “Fair point well made, Miss Steele.”
I lavishly sign on the dotted line of both copies and hand one back to him. Folding the other, I place it my purse and take a large swig of my wine. I’m sounding so much braver than I’m actually feeling.
“Does this mean you’re going to make love to me tonight, Christian?” Holy shit. Did I just say that? His mouth drops open slightly, but he recovers quickly.
“No, Anastasia it doesn’t. Firstly, I don’t make love. I fuck… hard. Secondly, there’s a lot more paperwork to do, and thirdly, you don’t yet know what you’re in for. You could still run for the hills. Come, I want to show you my playroom.”
My mouth drops open. Fuck hard! Holy shit, that sounds so… hot. But why are we looking at a playroom? I am mystified.
“You want to play on your Xbox?” I ask. He laughs, loudly.
“No, Anastasia, no Xbox, no Playstation. Come.” He stands, holding out his hand. I let him lead me back out to the corridor. On the right of the double doors, where we came in, another door leads to a staircase. We go up to the second floor and turn right. Producing a key from his pocket, he unlocks yet another door and takes a deep breath.
“You can leave anytime. The helicopter is on stand-by to take you whenever you want to go, you can stay the night and go home in the morning. It’s fine whatever you decide.”
“Just open the damn door, Christian.”
He opens the door and stands back to let me in. I gaze at him once more. I so want to know what’s in here. Taking a deep breath I walk in.
And it feels like I’ve time-traveled back to the sixteenth century and the Spanish In- quisition.
Beside the door stands a substantial mahogany chest of drawers, each drawer slim as if designed to contain specimens in a crusty old museum. I wonder briefly what the drawers actually do hold. Do I want to know? In the far corner is an oxblood leather padded bench, and fixed to the wall beside it is a wooden, polished rack that looks like a pool or billiard cue holder, but on closer inspection, it holds canes of varying lengths and widths. There’s a stout six-foot-long table in the opposite corner – polished wood with intricately carved legs – and two matching stools underneath.
But what dominates the room is a bed. It’s bigger than king-size, an ornately carved rococo four-poster with a flat top. It looks late nineteenth century. Under the canopy, I can see more gleaming chains and cuffs. There is no bedding… just a mattress covered in red leather and red satin cushions piled at one end.
At the foot of the bed, set apart a few feet, is a large oxblood chesterfield couch, just stuck in the middle of the room facing the bed. An odd arrangement… to have a couch facing the bed, and I smile to myself – I’ve picked on the couch as odd, when really it’s the most mundane piece of furniture in the room. I glance up and stare at the ceiling. There are karabiners all over the ceiling at odd intervals. I vaguely wonder what they’re for. Weirdly, all the wood, dark walls, moody lighting, and oxblood leather makes the room kind of soft and romantic… I know it’s anything but, this is Christian’s version of soft and romantic.
I turn, and he’s regarding me intently as I knew he would be, his expression completely unreadable. I walk further into the room, and he follows me. The feathery thing has me intrigued. I touch it hesitantly. It’s suede, like a small cat-of-nine-tails but bushier, and there are very small plastic beads on the end.
“It’s called a flogger,” Christian’s voice is quiet and soft.
A flogger… hmm. I think I’m in shock. My subconscious has emigrated or been struck dumb or simply keeled over and expired. I am numb. I can observe and absorb but not ar- ticulate my feelings about all this, because I’m in shock. What is the appropriate response to finding out a potential lover is a complete freaky sadist or masochist? Fear… yes… that seems to be the over-riding feeling. I recognize it now. But weirdly not of him – I don’t think he’d hurt me, well, not without my consent. So many questions cloud my mind. Why? How? When? How often? Who? I walk toward the bed and run my hands down one of the intricately carved posts. The post is very sturdy, the craftsmanship outstanding.
“Say something,” Christian commands, his voice deceptively soft. “Do you do this to people or do they do it to you?”
His mouth quirks up, either amused or relieved.
“People?” He blinks a couple of times as he considers his answer. “I do this to women who want me to.”
I don’t understand.
“If you have willing volunteers, why am I here?” “Because I want to do this with you, very much.” “Oh,” I gasp. Why?
I wander to the far corner of the room and pat the waist high padded bench and run my fingers over the leather. He likes to hurt women. The thought depresses me.
“You’re a sadist?”
“I’m a Dominant.” His eyes are a scorching gray, intense. “What does that mean?” I whisper.
“It means I want you to willingly surrender yourself to me, in all things.” I frown at him as I try to assimilate this idea.
“Why would I do that?”
“To please me,” he whispers as he cocks his head to one side, and I see a ghost of a smile.
Please him! He wants me to please him! I think my mouth drops open. Please Chris- tian Grey. And I realize, in that moment, that yes, that’s exactly what I want to do. I want him to be damned delighted with me. It’s a revelation.
“In very simple terms, I want you to want to please me,” he says softly. His voice is hypnotic.
“How do I do that?” My mouth is dry, and I wish I had more wine. Okay, I understand the pleasing bit, but I am puzzled by the soft-boudoir-Elizabethan-torture set up. Do I want to know the answer?
“I have rules, and I want you to comply with them. They are for your benefit and for my pleasure. If you follow these rules to my satisfaction, I shall reward you. If you don’t, I shall punish you, and you will learn,” he whispers. I glance at the rack of canes as he says this.
“And where does all this fit in?” I wave my hand in the general direction of the room. “It’s all part of the incentive package. Both reward and punishment.”
“So you’ll get your kicks by exerting your will over me.”
“It’s about gaining your trust and your respect, so you’ll let me exert my will over you. I will gain a great deal of pleasure, joy, even in your submission. The more you submit, the greater my joy – it’s a very simple equation.”
“Okay, and what do I get out of this?” He shrugs and looks almost apologetic. “Me,” he says simply.
Oh my. Christian rakes his hand through his hair as he gazes at me.
“You’re not giving anything away, Anastasia,” he murmurs, exasperated. “Let’s go back downstairs where I can concentrate better. It’s very distracting having you in here.” He holds his hand out to me, and now I’m hesitant to take it.
Kate had said he was dangerous, she was so right. How did she know? He’s danger- ous to my health, because I know I’m going to say yes. And part of me doesn’t want to. Part of me wants to run screaming from this room and all it represents. I am so out of my depth here.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Anastasia.” His gray eyes implore, and I know he speaks the truth. I take his hand, and he leads me out of the door.
“If you do this, let me show you.” Rather than going back downstairs, he turns right out of the playroom, as he calls it, and down a corridor. We pass several doors until we reach the one at the end. Beyond it is a bedroom with a large double bed, all in white… everything, furniture, walls, bedding. It’s sterile and cold but with the most glorious view of Seattle through the glass wall.
“This will be your room. You can decorate it how you like, have whatever you like in here.”
“My room? You’re expecting me to move in?” I can’t hide the horror in my voice. “Not full time. Just say, Friday evening through Sunday. We have to talk about all that,
negotiate. If you want to do this,” he adds, his voice quiet and hesitant. “I’ll sleep here?”
“Not with you.”
“No. I told you, I don’t sleep with anyone, except you, when you’re stupefied with drink.” His eyes are reprimanding.
My mouth presses in a hard line. This is what I cannot reconcile. Kind, caring Chris- tian, who rescues me from inebriation and holds me gently while I’m throwing up into the azaleas, and the monster who possesses whips and chains in a special room.
“Where do you sleep?”
“My room is downstairs. Come, you must be hungry.” “Weirdly, I seem to have lost my appetite,” I murmur petulantly.
“You must eat, Anastasia,” he admonishes and, taking my hand, leads me back down- stairs.
Back in the impossibly big room, I am filled with deep trepidation. I am on the edge of a precipice, and I have to decide whether or not to jump.
“I’m fully aware that this is a dark path I’m leading you down, Anastasia, which is why I really want you to think about this. You must have some questions,” he says as he wanders into the kitchen area, releasing my hand.
I do. But where to start?
“You’ve signed your NDA, you can ask me anything you want, and I’ll answer.”
I stand at the breakfast bar watching him as he opens the refrigerator and pulls out a plate of different cheeses with two large bunches of green and red grapes. He sets the plate down on the worktop and proceeds to cut up a French baguette.
“Sit.” He points to one of the bar stools at the breakfast bar, and I obey his command. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to have to get used to it. I realize he’s been this bossy since I met him.
“You mentioned paperwork.” “Yes.”
“Well, apart from the NDA, a contract saying what we will and won’t do. I need to know your limits, and you need to know mine. This is consensual, Anastasia.”
“And if I don’t want to do this?” “That’s fine,” he says carefully.
“But we won’t have any sort of relationship?” I ask. “No.”
“This is the only sort of relationship I’m interesting in.” “Why?”
“It’s the way I am.”
“How did you become this way?”
“Why is anyone the way they are? That’s kind of hard to answer. Why do some people like cheese and other people hate it? Do you like cheese? Mrs. Jones – my housekeeper
– has left this for supper.” He takes some large, white plates from a cupboard and places one in front of me.
We’re talking about cheese… Holy crap.
“What are your rules that I have to follow?”
“I have them written down. We’ll go through them once we’ve eaten.”
Food. How can I eat now?
“I’m really not hungry,” I whisper.
“You will eat,” he says simply. Dominating Christian, it all becomes clear. “Would you like another glass of wine?”
He pours wine into my glass and comes to sit beside me. I take a hasty sip. “Help yourself to food, Anastasia.”
I take a small bunch of grapes. This I can manage. He narrows his eyes. “Have you been like this for a while?” I ask.
“Is it easy to find women who want to do this?” He raises an eyebrow at me.
“You’d be amazed,” he says dryly.
“Then why me? I really don’t understand.”
“Anastasia, I’ve told you. There’s something about you. I can’t leave you alone.” He smiles ironically. “I’m like a moth to a flame.” His voice darkens. “I want you very badly, especially now, when you’re biting your lip again.” He takes a deep breath and swallows. My stomach somersaults – he wants me… in a weird way, true, but this beautiful,
strange, kinky man wants me.
“I think you have that cliché the wrong way round.” I grumble. I am the moth and he is the flame, and I’m going to get burnt. I know.
“No. I haven’t signed anything yet, so I think I’ll hang on to my free will for a bit longer, if that’s okay with you.”
His eyes soften, and his lips turn up in a smile. “As you wish, Miss Steele.”
“How many women?” I blurt out the question, but I’m so curious. “Fifteen.”
Oh… not as many as I thought. “For long periods of time?” “Some of them, yes.”
“Have you ever hurt anyone?” “Yes.”
Holy shit. “Badly?”
“Will you hurt me?” “What do you mean?”
“Physically, will you hurt me?”
“I will punish you when you require it, and it will be painful.”
I think I feel a little faint. I take another sip of wine. Alcohol – this will make me brave. “Have you ever been beaten?” I ask.
Oh… that surprises me. Before I can question him on this revelation further, he inter- rupts my train of thought.
“Let’s discuss this in my study. I want to show you something.”
This is so hard to process. Here I was foolishly thinking that I’d spend a night of un- paralleled passion in this man’s bed, and we’re negotiating this weird arrangement.
I follow him into his study, a spacious room with another floor-to-ceiling window that opens out on to the balcony. He sits on the desk, motions for me to sit on a leather chair in front of him, and hands me a piece of paper.
“These are the rules. They may be subject to change. They form part of the contract, which you can also have. Read these rules and let’s discuss.”RULES
The Submissive will obey any instructions given by the Dominant immediately without hesitation or reservation and in an expeditious manner. The Submissive will agree to any sexual activity deemed fit and pleasurable by the Dominant excepting those activities which are outlined in hard limits (Appendix 2). She will do so eagerly and without hesitation.
The Submissive will ensure she achieves a minimum of seven hours sleep a night when she is not with the Dominant.
The Submissive will eat regularly to maintain her health and wellbeing from a prescribed list of foods (Appendix 4). The Submissive will not snack between meals, with the excep- tion of fruit.
During the Term, the Submissive will wear clothing only approved by the Dominant. The Dominant will provide a clothing budget for the Submissive, which the Submissive shall utilize. The Dominant shall accompany the Submissive to purchase clothing on an ad hoc basis. If the Dominant so requires, the Submissive shall during the Term any adornments the Dominant shall require, in the presence of the Dominant and any other time the Domi- nant deems fit.
The Dominant shall provide the Submissive with a personal trainer four times a week in hour-long sessions at times to be mutually agreed between the personal trainer and the Sub- missive. The personal trainer will report to the Dominant on the Submissive’s progress.
The Submissive will keep herself clean and shaved and/or waxed at all times. The Sub- missive will visit a beauty salon of the Dominant’s choosing at times to be decided by the Dominant, and undergo whatever treatments the Dominant sees fit.
The Submissive will not drink to excess, smoke, take recreational drugs, or put herself in any unnecessary danger.
The Submissive will not enter into any sexual relations with anyone other than the Domi- nant. The Submissive will conduct herself in a respectful and modest manner at all times. She must recognize that her behavior is a direct reflection on the Dominant. She shall be held accountable for any misdeeds, wrongdoings, and misbehavior committed when not in the presence of the Dominant.
Failure to comply with any of the above will result in immediate punishment, the nature of which shall be determined by the Dominant.
“Hard limits?” I ask.
“Yes. What you won’t do, what I won’t do, we need to specify in our agreement.” “I’m not sure about accepting money for clothes. It feels wrong.” I shift uncomfort-
ably, the word ‘ho’ rattling round my head.
“I want to lavish money on you, let me buy you some clothes. I may need you to ac- company me to functions, and I want you dressed well. I’m sure your salary, when you do get a job, won’t cover the kind of clothes I’d like you to wear.”
“I don’t have to wear them when I’m not with you?” “No.”
“Okay.” Think of them as uniform.
“I don’t want to exercise four times a week.”
“Anastasia, I need you supple, strong, and with stamina. Trust me, you need to exer- cise.”
“But surely not four times a week, how about three?” “I want you to do four.”
“I thought this was a negotiation?” He purses his lips at me.
“Okay, Miss Steele, another point well made. How about an hour on three days and one day half an hour?”
“Three days, three hours. I get the impression you’re going to keep me exercised when I’m here.”
He smiles wickedly, and his eyes glow as if relieved. “Yes, I am. Okay, agreed. Are you sure you don’t want to intern at my company? You’re a good negotiator.”
“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” I stare down at his rules. Waxing! Waxing what?
“So, limits. These are mine.” He hands me another piece of paper.
No acts involving fire play
No acts involving urination or defecation and the products thereof No acts involving needles, knives, piercing, or blood
No acts involving gynecological medical instruments No acts involving children or animals
No acts that will leave any permanent marks on the skin No acts involving breath control
Ugh. He has to write these down! Of course – they all look very sensible, and frankly, necessary… any sane person wouldn’t want to be involved in this sort of thing surely? Though I now feel a little queasy.
“Is there anything you’d like to add?” he asks kindly.
Crap. I’ve no idea. I am completely stumped. He gazes at me and furrows his brow. “Is there anything you won’t do?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?” I squirm uncomfortably and bite my lip. “I’ve never done anything like this.”
“Well, when you’ve had sex, was there anything that you didn’t like doing?” For the first time in what seems to be ages, I blush.
“You can tell me, Anastasia. We have to be honest with each other or this isn’t going to work.”
I squirm uncomfortably again and stare at my knotted fingers. “Tell me,” he commands.
“Well… I’ve not had sex before, so I don’t know.” My voice is small. I peek up at him, and he’s staring at me, mouth-open, frozen, and pale – really pale.
“Never?” he whispers. I shake my head.
“You’re a virgin?” he breathes. I nod, flushing again. He closes his eyes and looks to be counting to ten. When he opens them again, he’s angry, glaring at me.
“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?” he growls.
Fifty Shades Freed Extended Version