I order a glass of Sancerre and stand at the bar. I’ve been waiting for this moment all day and look repeatedly at my watch. This feels like a first date, and in a way it is. I’ve never taken a prospect out to dinner. I’ve sat through interminable meetings today, bought a business, and fired three people. Nothing I’ve done today, including running-twice-and a quick circuit in the gym, has dispelled the anxiety I’ve wrestled with all day. That power is in the hands of Anastasia Steele. I want her submission.
I hope she’s not going to be late. I glance toward the entrance of the bar…and my mouth dries. She’s standing on the threshold, and for a second I don’t realize it’s her. She looks exquisite: her hair falls in soft waves to her breast on one side, and on the other it’s pinned back so it’s easier to see her delicate jawline and the gentle curve of her slender neck. She’s wearing high heels and a tight dark purple dress that accentuates her lithe, alluring figure.
I step forward to meet her. “You look stunning,” I whisper, and kiss her cheek. Closing my eyes, I savor her scent; she smells heavenly. “A dress, Miss Steele. I approve.” Diamonds in her ears would complete the ensemble; I must buy her a pair.
Taking her hand, I lead her to a booth. “What would you like to drink?”
I’m rewarded with a knowing smile as she sits down. “I’ll have what you’re having, please.”
Ah, she’s learning. “Another glass of the Sancerre,” I tell the waiter, and I slide into the booth, opposite her. “They have an excellent wine cellar here,” I add, and take a moment to look at her. She’s wearing a little makeup. Not too much. And I remember when she first fell into my office how ordinary I thought she looked. She is anything but ordinary. With a little makeup and the right clothes, she’s a goddess.
She shifts in her seat and her eyelashes flutter.
“Are you nervous?” I ask.
This is it, Grey.
Leaning forward, in a candid whisper, I tell her that I’m nervous, too. She looks at me as if I’ve grown three heads.
Yeah, I’m human, too, baby…just.
The waiter places Ana’s wine and two small plates of mixed nuts and olives between us.
Ana squares her shoulders, an indication that she means business, like she did when she first interviewed me. “So, how are we going to do this? Run through my points one by one?” she asks.
“Impatient as ever, Miss Steele.”
“Well, I could ask you what you thought of the weather today,” she retorts.
Oh, that smart mouth.
Let her stew for a moment, Grey.
Keeping my eyes on hers, I pop an olive into my mouth and lick my index finger. Her eyes grow wider and darker.
“I thought the weather was particularly unexceptional today.” I try for nonchalance.
“Are you smirking at me, Mr. Grey?”
“I am, Miss Steele.”
She purses her lips to stifle her smile. “You know this contract is legally unenforceable.”
“I am fully aware of that, Miss Steele.”
“Were you going to tell me that at any point?”
What? I didn’t think I’d have to…and you’ve worked it out for yourself. “You’d think I’d coerce you into something you don’t want to do, and then pretend that I have a legal hold over you?”
Whoa. “You don’t think very highly of me, do you?”
“You haven’t answered my question.”
“Anastasia, it doesn’t matter if it’s legal or not. It represents an arrangement that I would like to make with you-what I would like from you and what you can expect from me. If you don’t like it, then don’t sign. If you do sign and then decide you don’t like it, there are enough get-out clauses so you can walk away. Even if it were legally binding, do you think I’d drag you through the courts if you did decide to run?”
What does she take me for?
She considers me with her unfathomable blue eyes.
What I need her to understand is that this contract isn’t about the law, it’s about trust.
I want you to trust me, Ana.
As she takes a sip of her wine I rush on, endeavoring to explain. “Relationships like this are built on honesty and trust. If you don’t trust me-trust me to know how I’m affecting you, how far I can go with you, how far I can take you-if you can’t be honest with me, then we really can’t do this.”
She rubs her chin as she considers what I’ve said.
“So it’s quite simple, Anastasia. Do you trust me or not?”
And if she thinks so little of me, then we shouldn’t do this at all.
My gut is knotting with tension.
“Did you have similar discussions with, um…the fifteen?”
“No.” Why is she going off on this tangent?
“Why not?” she asks.
“Because they were all established submissives. They knew what they wanted out of a relationship with me and generally what I expected. With them, it was just a question of fine-tuning the soft limits, details like that.”
“Is there a store you go to? Submissives ‘R’ Us?” She arches an eyebrow and I laugh out loud. And like a magician’s rabbit the tension in my body disappears. “Not exactly.” My tone is wry.
“Then how?” She’s ever-curious, but I don’t want to talk about Elena again. Last time I mentioned her Ana turned frosty. “Is that what you want to discuss? Or shall we get down to the nitty-gritty? Your issues, as you say.”
“Are you hungry?” I ask.
She looks suspiciously at the olives. “No.”
“Have you eaten today?”
“No,” she says. I try not to let her admission anger me.
“You have to eat, Anastasia. We can eat down here or in my suite. Which would you prefer?”
She’ll never go for this.
“I think we should stay in public, on neutral ground.”
As predicted-sensible, Miss Steele.
“Do you think that would stop me?” My voice is husky.
She swallows. “I hope so.”
Put the girl out of her misery, Grey.
“Come, I have a private dining room booked. No public.” Rising, I hold out my hand to her.
Will she take it?
She looks from my face to my hand.
“Bring your wine,” I order. And she picks up her glass and places her hand in mine.
As we leave the bar, I notice admiring glances from other guests, and in the case of one handsome, athletic guy, overt appreciation of my date. It’s not something I’ve dealt with before…and I don’t think I like it.
Upstairs on the mezzanine, the liveried young host dispatched by the maître d’ leads us to the room I’ve booked. He only has eyes for Miss Steele, and I give him a withering look that sends him in retreat from the opulent dining room. An older waiter seats Ana and drapes a napkin on her lap.
“I’ve ordered already. I hope you don’t mind.”
“No, that’s fine,” she says with a gracious nod.
“It’s good to know that you can be amenable.” I smirk. “Now, where were we?”
“The nitty-gritty,” she says, focused on the task at hand, but then she takes a large gulp of wine and her cheeks color. She must be looking for courage. I’ll have to watch how much she’s drinking, because she’s driving.
She could always spend the night here…then I could peel her out of that enticing dress.
Regaining my focus, I return to business-Ana’s issues. From the inside pocket of my jacket I retrieve her e-mail. She squares her shoulders once more and gives me an expectant look, and I have to hide my amusement. “Clause two. Agreed. This is for the benefit of us both. I shall redraft.”
She takes another sip.
“My sexual health? Well, all of my previous partners have had blood tests, and I have regular tests every six months for all the health risks you mention. All my recent tests are clear. I have never taken drugs. In fact, I’m vehemently antidrug. I have a strict no-tolerance policy with regards to drugs for all my employees, and I insist on random drug testing.”
In fact, one of the people I fired today failed his drug test.
She’s shocked, but I plow on. “I’ve never had any blood transfusions. Does that answer your question?”
“Your next point I mentioned earlier. You can walk away anytime, Anastasia. I won’t stop you. If you go, however-that’s it. Just so you know.”
No. Second. Chances. Ever.
“Okay,” she replies, though she doesn’t sound certain.
We both fall silent as the waiter enters with our appetizers. For a moment I wonder if I should have held this meeting at my office, then dismiss the thought as ridiculous. Only fools mix business with pleasure. I’ve kept my work and private life separate; it’s one of my golden rules, and the only exception to that is my relationship with Elena…but then she helped me start my business.
“I hope you like oysters,” I remark to Ana as the waiter leaves.
“I’ve never had one.”
“Really? Well. All you do is tip and swallow. I think you can manage that.” I stare pointedly at her mouth, remembering how well she can swallow. On cue she blushes and I squeeze lemon juice on the shellfish and tip it into my mouth. “Hmm, delicious. Tastes of the sea.” I grin as she watches me, fascinated. “Go on,” I encourage her, knowing that she’s not one to back down from a challenge.
“So, I don’t chew it?”
“No, Anastasia, you don’t.” And I try not to think about her teeth toying with my favorite part of my anatomy.
She presses them into her bottom lip, leaving little indentation marks.
Damn. The sight stirs my body and I shift in my chair. She reaches for an oyster, squeezes the lemon, holds back her head, and opens wide. As she tips the oyster into her mouth my body hardens.
“Well?” I ask, and I sound a little hoarse.
“I’ll have another,” she says with wry humor.
She asks me if I’ve chosen oysters deliberately, knowing their reputed aphrodisiac qualities. I surprise her when I tell her they were simply at the top of the menu. “I don’t need an aphrodisiac near you.”
Yeah, I could fuck you right now.
Behave, Grey. Get this negotiation back on track.
“So where were we?” I return to her e-mail and concentrate on her outstanding issues. Clause nine. “Obey me in all things. Yes, I want you to do that.” This is important to me. I need to know she’s safe and will do anything for me. “I need you to do that. Think of it as role-play, Anastasia.”
“But I’m worried you’ll hurt me.”
“Hurt you how?”
“Do you really think I would do that? Go beyond any limit you can’t take?”
“You’ve said you’ve hurt someone before.”
“Yes, I have. It was a long time ago.”
“How did you hurt her?”
“I suspended her from my playroom ceiling. In fact, that’s one of your questions. Suspension-that’s what the karabiners are for in the playroom. Rope play. One of the ropes was tied too tightly.”
Appalled, she holds up her hand in a plea for me to stop.
Too much information.
“I don’t need to know any more. So you won’t suspend me, then?” she asks.
“Not if you really don’t want to. You can make that a hard limit.”
“Okay.” She exhales, relieved.
Move on, Grey. “So, obeying, do you think you can manage that?”
She stares at me with those eyes that see through to my dark soul, and I don’t know what she’s going to say.
Shit. This could be the end.
“I could try,” she says, her voice low.
It’s my turn to exhale. I’m still in the game. “Good.”
“Now term.” Clause eleven. “One month instead of three is no time at all, especially if you want a weekend away from me each month.” We’ll get nowhere in that time. She needs training and I can’t stay away from her for any length of time. I tell her as much. Maybe we can compromise, as she suggested. “How about one day over one weekend per month you get to yourself-but I get a midweek night that week?”
I watch her weighing the possibility. “Okay,” she says eventually, her expression serious.
“And please, let’s try it for three months. If it’s not for you, then you can walk away anytime.”
“Three months,” she says. Is she agreeing? I’ll take it as a “yes.”
Right. Here goes.
“The ownership thing, that’s just terminology and goes back to the principle of obeying. It’s to get you into the right frame of mind, to understand where I’m coming from. And I want you to know that as soon as you cross my threshold as my submissive, I will do what I like to you. You have to accept that, and willingly. That’s why you have to trust me. I will fuck you, anytime, any way I want-anywhere I want. I will discipline you, because you will screw up. I will train you to please me.
“But I know you’ve not done this before. Initially, we’ll take it slowly, and I will help you. We’ll build up to various scenarios. I want you to trust me, but I know I have to earn your trust, and I will. The ‘or otherwise’-again, it’s to help you get into the mind-set; it means anything goes.”
Some speech, Grey.
She sits back-overwhelmed, I think.
“Still with me?” I ask, gently. The waiter sneaks into the room, and with a nod I give him permission to clear our table.
“Would you like some more wine?” I ask her.
“I have to drive.”
“Some water, then?”
“Still or sparkling?”
The waiter leaves with our plates.
“You’re very quiet,” I whisper. She’s barely said a word.
“You’re very verbose,” she shoots straight back at me.
Fair point, Miss Steele.
Now for the next item on her list of issues: clause fifteen. I take a deep breath. “Discipline. There’s a very fine line between pleasure and pain, Anastasia. They are two sides of the same coin, one not existing without the other. I can show you how pleasurable pain can be. You don’t believe me now, but this is what I mean about trust. There will be pain, but nothing that you can’t handle.” I cannot emphasize this enough. “Again, it comes down to trust. Do you trust me, Ana?”
“Yes, I do,” she says immediately. Her response knocks me sideways: it’s completely unexpected.
Have I gained her trust already?
“Well, then, the rest of this stuff is just details.” I feel ten feet tall.
She’s right. Concentrate, Grey.
“Okay, let’s talk through those.”
The waiter reenters with our entrées.
“I hope you like fish,” I say, as he places our food before us. The black cod looks delicious. Ana takes a bite.
Finally, she’s eating!
“The rules,” I continue. “Let’s talk about them. The food is a deal breaker?”
“Can I modify to say that you will eat at least three meals a day?”
Suppressing an irritated sigh, I persist. “I need to know that you’re not hungry.”
She frowns. “You’ll have to trust me.”
“Oh, touché, Miss Steele,” I mutter to myself. These are battles I’m not going to win. “I concede the food and the sleep.”
She gives me a small, relieved smile. “Why can’t I look at you?” she asks.
“That’s a Dom/sub thing. You’ll get used to it.”
She frowns once more, but looks pained this time. “Why can’t I touch you?” she asks.
“Because you can’t.”
Shut her down, Grey.
“Is it because of Mrs. Robinson?”
What? “Why would you think that? You think she traumatized me?”
“No, Anastasia. She’s not the reason. Besides, Mrs. Robinson wouldn’t take any of that shit from me.”
“So nothing to do with her,” she asks, looking confused.
I can’t bear to be touched. And, baby, you really don’t want to know why.
“And I don’t want you touching yourself, either,” I add.
“Out of curiosity, why?”
“Because I want all your pleasure.”
In fact, I want it now. I could fuck her here to see if she can be quiet. Real quiet, knowing we’re within earshot of the hotel staff and guests. After all, that’s why I’ve booked this room.
She opens her mouth as if to say something, but closes it again and takes another bite of food from her largely untouched plate. “I’ve given you a great deal to think about, haven’t I?” I say, folding up her e-mail and tucking it into my inside pocket.
“Do you want to go through the soft limits now, too?”
“Not over dinner.”
“Something like that.”
“You’ve not eaten very much.”
“I’ve had enough.”
This is getting old. “Three oysters, four bites of cod, and one asparagus stalk, no potatoes, no nuts, no olives, and you’ve not eaten all day. You said I could trust you.”
Her eyes widen.
Yeah. I’ve been keeping count, Ana.
“Christian, please, it’s not every day I sit through conversations like this.”
“I need you fit and healthy, Anastasia.” My tone is adamant.
“And right now, I want to peel you out of that dress.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she whispers. “We haven’t had dessert.”
“You want dessert?” When you haven’t eaten your main course?
“You could be dessert.”
“I’m not sure I’m sweet enough.”
“Anastasia, you’re deliciously sweet. I know.”
“Christian. You use sex as a weapon. It really isn’t fair.” She looks down at her lap, and her voice is low and a little melancholy. She looks up again, pinning me with an intense stare, her powder-blue eyes unnerving…and arousing.
“You’re right. I do,” I admit. “In life you use what you know. Doesn’t change how much I want you. Here. Now.” And we could fuck here, right now. I know you’re interested, Ana. I hear how your breathing has changed. “I’d like to try something.” I really want to know how quiet she can be, and if she can do this with the fear of discovery.
Her brow creases once more; she’s confused.
“If you were my sub, you wouldn’t have to think about this. It would be easy. All those decisions-all the wearying thought processes behind them. The ‘Is this the right thing to do? Should this happen here? Can it happen now?’ You wouldn’t have to worry about any of that detail. That’s what I’d do as your Dom. And right now, I know you want me, Anastasia.”
She tosses her hair over her shoulder, and her frown intensifies as she licks her lips.
Oh yes. She wants me.
“I can tell because your body gives you away. You’re pressing your thighs together, you’re flushed, and your breathing has changed.”
“How do you know about my thighs?” she asks, her voice high-pitched, shocked, I think.
“I felt the tablecloth move, and it’s a calculated guess based on years of experience. I’m right, aren’t I?”
She’s quiet for a moment and looks away. “I haven’t finished my cod,” she says, evasive but still blushing.
“You’d prefer cold cod to me?”
Her eyes meet mine, and they’re wide, pupils dark and large. “I thought you liked me to clear my plate.”
“Right now, Miss Steele, I couldn’t give a fuck about your food.”
“Christian. You just don’t fight fair.”
“I know. I never have.”
We stare at each other in a battle of wills, both aware of the sexual tension stretching between us across the table.
Please, would you just do as you’re told? I implore her with a look. But her eyes glint with sensual disobedience and a smile lifts her lips. Still holding my stare, she picks up an asparagus spear and deliberately bites her lip.
What is she doing?
Very slowly, she places the tip of the spear in her mouth and sucks it.
She’s trifling with me-a dangerous tactic that will have me fucking her over this table.
Oh, bring it on, Miss Steele.
I watch, mesmerized, hardening by the second.
“Anastasia. What are you doing?” I warn.
“Eating my asparagus,” she says with a coy smile.
“I think you’re toying with me, Miss Steele.”
“I’m just finishing my food, Mr. Grey.” Her lips curl wider, slowly, carnal, and the heat between us rises several degrees. She really has no idea how sexy she is…I’m about to pounce when the waiter knocks and enters.
I let him clear the plates, then turn my attention back to Miss Steele. But her frown is back, and she’s fidgeting with her fingers.
“Would you like some dessert?” I ask.
“No thank you. I think I should go,” she says, still staring at her hands.
“Go?” She’s leaving?
The waiter exits quickly with our plates.
“Yes,” Ana says, her voice firm with resolve. She gets to her feet to leave. And automatically I stand, too. “We both have the graduation ceremony tomorrow,” she says.
This is not going according to plan at all.
“I don’t want you to go,” I state, because it’s the truth.
“Please, I have to,” she insists.
“Because you’ve given me so much to consider, and I need some distance.” Her eyes are pleading with me to let her go.
But we’ve gotten so far in our negotiation. We’ve made compromises. We can make this work. I have to make this work.
“I could make you stay,” I tell her, knowing that I could seduce her right now, in this room.
“Yes, you could easily, but I don’t want you to.”
This is all going south-I’ve overplayed my hand. This isn’t how I thought the night would end. I rake my hands through my hair in frustration.
“You know, when you fell into my office to interview me, you were all ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘No, sir.’ I thought you were a natural-born submissive. But quite frankly, Anastasia, I’m not sure you have a submissive bone in your delectable body.” I walk the few steps that separate us and look down into eyes that shine with determination.
“You may be right,” she says.
No. No. I don’t want to be right.
“I want the chance to explore the possibility that you do.” I caress her face and her lower lip with my thumb. “I don’t know any other way, Anastasia. This is who I am.”
“I know,” she says.
Lowering my head so my lips hover over hers, I wait until she raises her mouth to mine and closes her eyes. I want to give her a brief, chaste kiss, but as our lips touch, she leans in to me, her hands suddenly fisting in my hair, her mouth opening to me, her tongue insistent. I press my hand to the base of her spine, holding her against me, and deepen the kiss, mirroring her fervor.
Christ, I want her.
“I can’t persuade you to stay?” I whisper against the corner of her mouth, as my body responds, hardening with desire.
“Spend the night with me.”
“And not touch you? No.”
Damn. The darkness uncoils in my guts, but I ignore it.
“You impossible girl,” I mutter, and pull back, examining her face and her tense, brooding expression.
“Why do I think you’re telling me good-bye?”
“Because I’m leaving now.”
“That’s not what I mean, and you know it.”
“Christian, I have to think about this. I don’t know if I can have the kind of relationship you want.”
I close my eyes and rest my forehead against hers.
What did you expect, Grey? She’s not cut out for this.
I take a deep breath and kiss her forehead, then bury my nose in her hair, inhaling her sweet, autumnal scent and committing it to memory.
That’s it. Enough.
Stepping back, I release her. “As you wish, Miss Steele. I’ll escort you to the lobby.” I hold out my hand for what could be the last time, and I’m surprised how painful this thought is. She places her hand in mine, and in silence we head down to reception.
“Do you have your valet ticket?” I ask as we reach the lobby. I sound calm and collected, but inside I’m in knots.
From her purse she retrieves the ticket, which I hand to the doorman.
“Thank you for dinner,” she says.
“It’s a pleasure as always, Miss Steele.”
This cannot be the end. I have to show her-demonstrate what this all means, what we can do together. Show her what we can do in the playroom. Then she’ll know. This might be the only way to save this deal. Quickly I turn to her. “You’re moving this weekend to Seattle. If you make the right decision, can I see you on Sunday?” I ask.
“We’ll see. Maybe,” she says.
That’s not a “no.”
I notice the goose bumps on her arms. “It’s cooler now, don’t you have a jacket?” I ask.
This woman needs looking after. I take off my jacket. “Here. I don’t want you catching cold.” I slip it over her shoulders and she hugs it around herself, closes her eyes, and inhales deeply.
Is she drawn to my scent? Like I am to hers?
Perhaps all is not lost?
The valet pulls up in an ancient VW Beetle.
What the hell is that?
“That’s what you drive?” This must be older than Grandpa Theodore. Jesus! The valet hands over the keys and I tip him generously. He deserves danger pay.
“Is this roadworthy?” I glare at Ana. How can she be safe in this rust bucket?
“Will it make it to Seattle?”
“Yes. She will.”
“Yes.” She tries to reassure me. “Okay, she’s old. But she’s mine, and she’s roadworthy. My stepdad bought it for me.”
When I suggest that we could do better than this she realizes what I’m offering and her expression changes immediately.
“You are not buying me a car,” she says emphatically.
“We’ll see,” I mutter, trying to keep calm. I hold open the driver’s door, and as she climbs in I wonder if I should ask Taylor to take her home. Damn. I remember that he’s off this evening.
Once I’ve shut the door, she rolls down the window…painfully slowly.
For Christ’s sake!
“Drive safely,” I growl.
“Good-bye, Christian,” she says, and her voice falters, as if she’s trying not to cry.
Shit. My whole mood shifts from irritation and concern for her well-being to helplessness as her car roars off up the street.
I don’t know if I’ll see her again.
I stand like a fool on the sidewalk until her rear lights disappear into the night.
Fuck. Why did that go so wrong?
I stalk back into the hotel, make for the bar, and order a bottle of the Sancerre. Taking it with me, I head up to my room. My laptop lies open on my desk, and before I uncork the wine, I sit down and start typing an e-mail.
* * *
From: Christian Grey
Date: May 25 2011 22:01
To: Anastasia Steele
I don’t understand why you ran this evening. I sincerely hope I answered all your questions to your satisfaction. I know I have given you a great deal to contemplate, and I fervently hope that you will give my proposal your serious consideration. I really want to make this work. We will take it slow.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
I glance at my watch. It will take her at least twenty minutes to get home, probably longer in that deathtrap. I e-mail Taylor.
* * *
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Audi A3
Date: May 25 2011 22:04
To: J B Taylor
I need that Audi delivered here tomorrow.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
Opening the Sancerre, I pour myself a glass, and picking up my book, I sit and read, trying hard to concentrate. My eyes keep straying to my laptop screen. When will she reply?
As the minutes tick by, my anxiety balloons; why hasn’t she returned my e-mail?
At 11:00, I text her.
Are you home safe?
But I get nothing in response. Perhaps she’s gone straight to bed. Before midnight I send another e-mail.
* * *
From: Christian Grey
Date: May 25 2011 23:58
To: Anastasia Steele
I hope you made it home in that car of yours.
Let me know if you’re okay.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
I’ll see her tomorrow at the graduation ceremony and I’ll find out then if she’s turning me down. With that depressing thought I strip and climb into bed and stare at the ceiling.
You’ve really fucked up this deal, Grey.Fifty Shades Freed Extended Version