Mommy is gone. Sometimes she goes outside.
And it is only me. Me and my cars and my blankie.
When she comes home she sleeps on the couch. The couch is brown and sticky. She is tired. Sometimes I cover her with my blankie.
Or she comes home with something to eat. I like those days. We have bread and butter. And sometimes we have macrami and cheese. That is my favorite.
Today Mommy is gone. I play with my cars. They go fast on the floor. My mommy is gone. She will come back. She will. When is Mommy coming home?
It is dark now, and my mommy is gone. I can reach the light when I stand on the stool.
On. Off. On. Off. On. Off.
Light. Dark. Light. Dark. Light.
I’m hungry. I eat the cheese. There is cheese in the fridge. Cheese with blue fur.
When is Mommy coming home?
Sometimes she comes home with him. I hate him. I hide when he comes. My favorite place is in my mommy’s closet. It smells of Mommy. It smells of Mommy when she’s happy.
When is Mommy coming home?
My bed is cold. And I am hungry. I have my blankie and my cars but not my mommy. When is Mommy coming home?
I wake with a start.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
I hate my dreams. They’re riddled with harrowing memories, distorted reminders of a time I want to forget. My heart is pounding and I’m drenched with sweat. But the worst consequence of these nightmares is dealing with the overwhelming anxiety when I wake.
My nightmares have recently become more frequent, and more vivid. I have no idea why. Damned Flynn-he’s not back until sometime next week. I run both of my hands through my hair and check the time. It’s 5:38, and the dawn light is seeping through the curtains. It’s nearly time to get up.
Go for a run, Grey.
THERE IS STILL NO text or e-mail from Ana. As my feet pound the sidewalk, my anxiety grows.
Leave it, Grey.
Just fucking leave it!
I know I’ll see her at the graduation ceremony.
But I can’t leave it.
Before my shower, I send her another text.
I just need to know she’s safe.
AFTER BREAKFAST THERE’S STILL no word from Ana. To get her out of my head I work for a couple of hours on my commencement speech. At the graduation ceremony later this morning I’ll be honoring the extraordinary work of the environmental sciences department and the progress they’ve made in partnership with GEH in arable technology for developing countries.
“All part of your feed-the-world plan?” Ana’s shrewd words echo in my head, and they nudge at last night’s nightmare.
I shrug it off as I rewrite. Sam, my VP for publicity, has sent a draft that is way too pretentious for me. It takes me an hour to rework his media-speak bullshit into something more human.
Nine thirty and still no word from Ana. Her radio silence is worrying-and frankly rude. I call, but her phone goes straight to a generic voice mail message.
I hang up.
Show some dignity, Grey.
There’s a ping in my inbox, and my heartbeat spikes-but it’s from Mia. In spite of my bad mood, I smile. I’ve missed that kid.
* * *
From: Mia G. Chef Extraordinaire
Date: May 26 2011 18:32 GMT-1
To: Christian Grey
I can’t wait to get out of here!
Rescue me. Please.
My flight number on Saturday is AF3622. It arrives at 12:22 p.m. and Dad is making me fly coach! *pouting!
I will have lots of luggage. Love. Love. Love Paris fashion.
Mom says you have a girlfriend.
Is this true?
What’s she like?
I NEED TO KNOW!!!!!
See you Saturday. Missed you so much.
À bientôt mon frère.
Oh hell! My mother’s big mouth. Ana is not my girlfriend! And come Saturday I’ll have to fend off my sister’s equally big mouth and her inherent optimism and her prying questions. She can be exhausting. Making a mental note of the flight number and time, I send Mia a quick e-mail to let her know I’ll be there.
At 9:45 I get ready for the ceremony. Gray suit, white shirt, and of course that tie. It will be my subtle message to Ana that I haven’t given up, and a reminder of good times.
Yeah, real good times…images of her bound and wanting come to mind. Damn it. Why hasn’t she called? I press redial.
Still no fucking answer!
At 10:00 precisely, there’s a knock on my door. It’s Taylor.
“Good morning,” I say, as he comes in.
“How was yesterday?”
“Good, sir.” Taylor’s demeanor shifts, and his expression warms. He must be thinking of his daughter.
“She’s a doll, sir. And doing very well at school.”
“That’s great to hear.”
“The A3 will be in Portland later this afternoon.”
“Excellent. Let’s go.”
And though I’m loath to admit it, I’m anxious to see Miss Steele.
THE CHANCELLOR’S SECRETARY USHERS me into a small room adjacent to the WSU auditorium. She blushes, almost as much as a certain young woman I know intimately. There, in the greenroom, academics, administrative staff, and a few students are having pre-graduation coffee. Among them, to my surprise, is Katherine Kavanagh.
“Hi, Christian,” she says, strutting toward me with the confidence of the well-heeled. She’s in her graduation gown and appears cheerful enough; surely she’s seen Ana.
“Hi, Katherine. How are you?”
“You seem baffled to see me here,” she says, ignoring my greeting and sounding a little affronted. “I’m valedictorian. Didn’t Elliot tell you?”
“No, he didn’t.” We’re not in each other’s pockets, for Christ’s sake. “Congratulations,” I add as a courtesy.
“Thank you.” Her tone is clipped.
“Is Ana here?”
“Soon. She’s coming with her dad.”
“You saw her this morning?”
“I wanted to know if she made it home in that deathtrap she calls a car.”
“Wanda. She calls it Wanda. And yes, she did.” She gazes at me with a quizzical expression.
“I’m glad to hear it.”
At that point the chancellor joins us, and with a polite smile to Kavanagh, escorts me over to meet the other academics.
I’m relieved that Ana is in one piece, but pissed that she hasn’t replied to any of my messages.
It’s not a good sign.
But I don’t have long to dwell on this discouraging state of affairs-one of the faculty members announces it’s time to begin and herds us out into the corridor.
In a moment of weakness I try Ana’s phone once more. It goes straight to voice mail, and I’m interrupted by Kavanagh. “I’m looking forward to your commencement address,” she says as we walk down the hallway.
When we reach the auditorium I notice it’s larger than I expected, and packed. The audience, as one, rises and applauds as we file onto the stage. The clapping intensifies, then slowly subsides to an expectant buzz as everyone takes their seats.
Once the chancellor begins his welcome address I’m able to scan the room. The front rows are filled with students, in identical black-and-red WSU robes. Where is she? Methodically I inspect each row.
There you are.
I find her huddled in the second row. She’s alive. I feel foolish for expending so much anxiety and energy on her whereabouts last night and this morning. Her brilliant blue eyes are wide as they lock with mine, and she shifts in her seat, a slow flush coloring her cheeks.
Yes. I’ve found you. And you haven’t replied to my messages. She’s avoiding me and I’m pissed. Really pissed. Closing my eyes, I imagine dripping hot wax onto her breasts and her squirming beneath me. This has a radical effect on my body.
Get it together, Grey.
Dismissing her from my mind, I marshal my lascivious thoughts and concentrate on the speeches.
Kavanagh gives an inspiring address about embracing opportunities-yes, carpe diem, Kate-and gets a rousing reception when she’s finished. She’s obviously smart and popular and confident. Not the shy and retiring wallflower that is the lovely Miss Steele. It really amazes me that these two are friends.
I hear my name announced; the chancellor has introduced me. I rise and approach the lectern. Showtime, Grey.
“I’m profoundly grateful and touched by the great compliment accorded to me by the authorities of WSU today. It offers me a rare opportunity to talk about the impressive work of the environmental sciences department here at the university. Our aim is to develop viable and ecologically sustainable methods of farming for third world countries; our ultimate goal is to help eradicate hunger and poverty across the globe. Over a billion people, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, live in abject poverty. Agricultural dysfunction is rife within these parts of the world, and the result is ecological and social destruction. I have known what it’s like to be profoundly hungry. This is a very personal journey for me.
“As partners, WSU and GEH have made tremendous progress in soil fertility and arable technology. We are pioneering low-input systems in developing countries, and our test sites have increased crop yields up to thirty percent per hectare. WSU has been instrumental in this fantastic achievement. And GEH is proud of those students who join us through internships to work at our test sites in Africa. The work they do there benefits the local communities and the students themselves. Together we can fight hunger and the abject poverty that blights these regions.
“But in this age of technological evolution, as the first world races ahead, widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots, it’s vital to remember that we must not squander the world’s finite resources. These resources are for all humanity, and we need to harness them, find ways of renewing them, and develop new solutions to feed our overpopulated planet.
“As I’ve said, the work that GEH and WSU are doing together will provide solutions, and it’s our job to get the message out there. It’s through GEH’s telecommunications division that we intend to supply information and education to the developing world. I’m proud to say that we’re making impressive progress in solar technology, battery life, and wireless distribution that will bring the Internet to the remotest parts of the world-and our goal is to make it free to users at the point of delivery. Access to education and information, which we take for granted here, is the crucial component for ending poverty in these developing regions.
“We’re lucky. We’re all privileged here. Some more than others, and I include myself in that category. We have a moral obligation to offer those less fortunate a decent life that’s healthy, secure, and well nourished, with access to more of the resources that we all enjoy here.
“I’ll leave you with a quote that has always resonated with me. And I’m paraphrasing a Native American saying: ‘Only when the last leaf has fallen, the last tree has died, and the last fish been caught will we realize that we cannot eat money.’  ”
As I sit down to rousing applause, I resist looking at Ana and examine the WSU banner hanging at the back of the auditorium. If she wants to ignore me, fine. Two can play at that game.
The vice chancellor rises to commence handing out the degrees. And so begins the agonizing wait until we reach the S’s and I can see her again.
After an eternity I hear her name called: “Anastasia Steele.” A ripple of applause, and she’s walking toward me looking pensive and worried.
What is she thinking?
Hold it together, Grey.
“Congratulations, Miss Steele,” I say as I give Ana her degree. We shake hands, but I don’t let hers go. “Do you have a problem with your laptop?”
She looks perplexed. “No.”
“Then you are ignoring my e-mails?” I release her.
“I only saw the mergers and acquisitions one.”
What the hell does that mean?
Her frown deepens, but I have to let her go-there’s a line forming behind her.
“Later.” I let her know that we’re not finished with this conversation as she moves on.
I’m in purgatory by the time we’ve reached the end of the line. I’ve been ogled, and had eyelashes batted at me, silly giggling girls squeezing my hand, and five notes with phone numbers pressed into my palm. I’m relieved as I exit the stage along with the faculty, to the strains of some dreary processional music and applause.
In the corridor I grab Kavanagh’s arm. “I need to speak to Ana. Can you find her? Now.”
Kavanagh is taken aback, but before she can say anything I add, in as polite a tone as I can manage, “Please.”
Her lips thin with disapproval, but she waits with me as the academics file past and then she returns to the auditorium. The chancellor stops to congratulate me on my speech.
“It was an honor to be asked,” I respond, shaking his hand once again. Out of the corner of my eye I spy Kate in the corridor-with Ana at her side. Excusing myself, I stride toward Ana.
“Thank you,” I say to Kate, who gives Ana a worried glance. Ignoring her, I take Ana’s elbow and lead her through the first door I find. It’s a men’s locker room, and from the fresh smell I can tell it’s empty. Locking the door, I turn to face Miss Steele. “Why haven’t you e-mailed me? Or texted me back?” I demand.
She blinks a couple of times, consternation writ large on her face. “I haven’t looked at my computer today, or my phone.” She seems genuinely bewildered by my outburst. “That was a great speech,” she adds.
“Thank you,” I mutter, derailed. How can she not have checked her phone or e-mail?
“Explains your food issues to me,” she says, her tone gentle-and if I’m not mistaken, pitying, too.
“Anastasia, I don’t want to go there at the moment.”
I don’t need your pity.
I close my eyes. All this time I thought she didn’t want to talk to me. “I’ve been worried about you.”
“Because you went home in that deathtrap you call a car.”
And I thought I’d blown the deal between us.
Ana bristles. “What? It’s not a deathtrap. It’s fine. José regularly services it for me.”
“José, the photographer?” This just gets better and fucking better.
“Yes, the Beetle used to belong to his mother.”
“Yes, and probably her mother and her mother before her. It’s not safe.” I’m almost shouting.
“I’ve been driving it for over three years. I’m sorry you were worried. Why didn’t you call?”
I called her cell phone. Does she not use her damned cell phone? Is she talking about the house phone? Running my hand through my hair in exasperation, I take a deep breath. This is not addressing the fucking elephant in the room.
“Anastasia, I need an answer from you. This waiting around is driving me crazy.”
Her face falls.
“Christian, I…look, I’ve left my stepdad on his own.”
“Tomorrow. I want an answer by tomorrow.”
“Okay. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you then,” she says with an anxious look.
Well, it’s still not a “no.” And once more, I’m surprised by my relief.
What the hell is it about this woman? She stares up at me with sincere blue eyes, her face etched in concern, and I resist the urge to touch her. “Are you staying for drinks?” I ask.
“I don’t know what Ray wants to do.” She looks uncertain.
“Your stepfather? I’d like to meet him.”
Her uncertainty magnifies. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” she says darkly, as I unlock the door.
What? Why? Is this because she now knows I was dirt-poor as a kid? Or because she knows how I like to fuck? That I’m a freak?
“Are you ashamed of me?”
“No!” she exclaims, and she rolls her eyes in frustration. “Introduce you to my dad as what?” She raises her hands in exasperation. “ ‘This is the man who deflowered me and wants us to start a BDSM relationship’? You’re not wearing running shoes.”
Her dad is going to come after me? And just like that she has injected a little humor between us. My mouth twitches in response and she returns my smile, her face lighting up like a summer dawn.
“Just so you know, I can run quite fast,” I respond playfully. “Just tell him I’m your friend, Anastasia.” I open the door and follow her out but stop when I reach the chancellor and his colleagues. As one they turn and stare at Miss Steele, but she’s disappearing into the auditorium. They turn back to me.
Miss Steele and I are none of your business, people.
I give the chancellor a brief, polite nod and he asks if I’ll come and meet more of his colleagues and enjoy some canapés.
“Sure,” I reply.
It takes me thirty minutes to escape from the faculty gathering, and as I make my way out of the crowded reception Kavanagh falls into step beside me. We head to the lawn where the graduates and their families are enjoying a post-graduation drink in a large tented pavilion.
“So have you asked Ana to dinner on Sunday?” she asks.
Sunday? Has Ana mentioned that we’re seeing each other on Sunday?
“At your parents’ house,” Kavanagh explains.
I spot Ana.
What the fuck?
A tall blond guy who looks as if he’s walked off a beach in California has his hands all over her.
Who the hell is that? Is this why she didn’t want me to come for a drink?
Ana looks up, catches my expression, and pales as her roommate stands beside that guy. “Hello, Ray,” Kavanagh says, and she kisses a middle-aged man in an ill-fitting suit standing beside Ana.
This must be Raymond Steele.
“Have you met Ana’s boyfriend?” Kavanagh asks him. “Christian Grey.”
“Mr. Steele, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Mr. Grey,” he says, quietly surprised. We shake hands; his grip is firm, and his fingers and palm are rough to the touch. This man works with his hands. Then I remember-he’s a carpenter. His dark brown eyes give nothing away.
“And this is my brother, Ethan Kavanagh,” says Kate, introducing the beach bum who has his arm wrapped around Ana.
Ah. The Kavanagh offspring, together.
I mutter his name as we shake hands, noting that they are soft, unlike Ray Steele’s.
Now stop pawing my girl, you fucker.
“Ana, baby,” I whisper, holding out my hand, and like the good woman she is, she steps into my embrace. She’s discarded her graduation robe and wears a pale gray halter-neck dress, exposing her flawless shoulders and back.
Two dresses in two days. She’s spoiling me.
“Ethan, Mom and Dad wanted a word.” Kavanagh hauls her brother away, leaving me with Ana and her father.
“So how long have you kids known each other?” Mr. Steele asks.
As I reach across to grasp Ana’s shoulder I gently trace my thumb across her naked back and she trembles in response. I tell him we’ve known each other for a couple of weeks. “We met when Anastasia came to interview me for the student newspaper.”
“Didn’t know you worked on the student newspaper, Ana,” Mr. Steele says.
“Kate was ill,” she says.
Ray Steele eyes his daughter and frowns. “Fine speech you gave, Mr. Grey,” he says.
“Thank you, sir. I understand that you’re a keen fisherman.”
“Indeed I am. Annie tell you that?”
“You fish?” There’s a spark of curiosity in his brown eyes.
“Not as much as I’d like to. My dad used to take my brother and me when we were kids. For him it was all about the steelheads. Guess I caught the bug from him.” Ana listens for a moment, then excuses herself and moves off through the crowd to join the Kavanagh clan.
Damn, she looks sensational in that dress.
“Oh? Where d’you fish?” Ray Steele’s question pulls me back into the conversation. I know it’s a test.
“All over the Pacific Northwest.”
“You grew up in Washington?”
“Yes, sir. My dad started us on the Wynoochee River.”
A smile tugs at Steele’s mouth. “Know it well.”
“But his favorite is the Skagit. The U.S. side. He’d get us out of bed at some ungodly hour of the morning and we’d drive up there. He’s caught some mighty fine fish in that river.”
“That’s some sweet water. Caught me some rod breakers in the Skagit. On the Canadian side, mind.”
“It’s one of the best stretches for wild steelheads. Give you a much better chase than those that are clipped,” I say, my eyes on Ana.
“Couldn’t agree more.”
“My brother’s caught a couple of wild monsters. Me, I’m still waiting for the big one.”
“One day, huh?”
“I hope so.”
Ana is deep in a passionate discussion with Kavanagh. What are those two women talking about?
“You still get out much to fish?” I refocus on Mr. Steele.
“Sure do. Annie’s friend José, his father, and I sneak out as often as we can.”
The fucking photographer! Again?
“He’s the guy that looks after the Beetle?”
“Yeah, that’s him.”
“Great car, the Beetle. I’m a fan of German-made cars.”
“Yeah? Annie loves that old car, but I guess it’s getting past its sell-by date.”
“Funny you should mention that. I was thinking of loaning her one of my company cars. Do you think she’d go for it?”
“I guess. That would be up to Annie, mind.”
“Great. I take it Ana’s not into fishing.”
“No. That girl takes after her mother. She couldn’t stomach seeing the fish suffer. Or the worms, for that matter. She’s a gentle soul.” He gives me a pointed look. Oh. A warning from Raymond Steele. I turn it into a joke.
“No wonder she wasn’t keen on the cod we ate the other day.”
Steele chuckles. “She’s fine with eating them.”
Ana has finished talking to the Kavanaghs and is heading our way. “Hi,” she says, beaming at us.
“Annie, where are the restrooms?” Steele asks.
She directs him to go outside the pavilion and to the left.
“See you in a moment. You kids enjoy yourselves,” he says.
She watches him go, then peers nervously up at me. But before she or I can say anything we’re interrupted by a photographer. She snaps a quick still of us together before hurrying away.
“So you’ve charmed my father as well?” Ana says, her voice sweet and teasing.
“As well?” Have I charmed you, Miss Steele?
With my fingers I trace the rosy flush that appears on her cheek. “Oh, I wish I knew what you were thinking, Anastasia.” When my fingers reach her chin I tilt her head back so I can scrutinize her expression. She stills and stares back at me, her pupils darkening.
“Right now,” she whispers, “I’m thinking, nice tie.”
I was expecting some kind of declaration; her response makes me laugh. “It’s recently become my favorite.”
“You look lovely, Anastasia. This halter-neck dress suits you, and I get to stroke your back, feel your beautiful skin.”
Her lips part and her breath hitches, and I can feel the pull of the attraction between us.
“You know it’s going to be good, don’t you, baby?” My voice is low, betraying my longing.
She closes her eyes, swallows, and takes a deep breath. When she opens them again, she’s radiating anxiety. “But I want more,” she says.
Fuck. What is this?
“More?” I whisper again. Her lip is pliant beneath my thumb. “You want hearts and flowers.” Fuck. It will never work with her. How can it? I don’t do romance. My hopes and dreams begin to crumble between us.
Her eyes are wide, innocent, and beseeching.
Damn. She’s so beguiling. “Anastasia. It’s not something I know.”
Of course; she’s never had a relationship before. “You don’t know much.”
“You know all the wrong things,” she breathes.
“Wrong? Not to me. Try it,” I plead.
Please. Try it my way.
Her gaze is intense as she searches my face, looking for clues. And for a moment I’m lost in blue eyes that see everything.
“Okay,” she whispers.
“What?” Every hair on my body stands to attention.
“Okay. I’ll try.”
“You’re agreeing?” I don’t believe it.
“Subject to the soft limits, yes. I’ll try.”
Sweet. Lord. I pull her into my arms and wrap her in my embrace, burying my face in her hair, inhaling her seductive scent. And I don’t care that we’re in a crowded space. It’s just her and me. “Jesus, Ana, you’re so unexpected. You take my breath away.”
A moment later I’m aware that Raymond Steele has returned and is examining his watch to cover his embarrassment. Reluctantly, I release her. I’m on top of the world.
Deal done, Grey!
“Annie, should we get some lunch?” Steele asks.
“Okay,” she says with a shy smile directed at me.
“Would you like to join us, Christian?” For a moment I’m tempted, but Ana’s anxious glance in my direction says, Please, no. She wants alone time with her dad. I get it.
“Thank you, Mr. Steele, but I have plans. It’s been great to meet you, sir.”
Try and control your stupid grin, Grey.
“Likewise,” Steele replies-sincerely, I think. “Look after my baby girl.”
“Oh, I fully intend to,” I respond, shaking his hand.
In ways that you can’t possibly imagine, Mr. Steele.
I take Ana’s hand and bring her knuckles to my lips. “Later, Miss Steele,” I murmur. You’ve made me a happy, happy man.
Steele gives me a brief nod, and taking his daughter’s elbow, leads her out of the reception. I stand dazed but brimming with hope.
“Christian Grey?” My joy is interrupted by Eamon Kavanagh, Katherine’s father.
“Eamon, how are you?” We shake hands.
TAYLOR COLLECTS ME AT 3:30. “Good afternoon, sir,” he says, opening my car door.
En route he informs me that the Audi A3 has been delivered to The Heathman. Now I just have to give it to Ana. No doubt this will involve a discussion, and deep down I know it will be more than just a discussion. Then again, she’s agreed to be my submissive, so maybe she’ll accept my gift without any fuss.
Who are you kidding, Grey?
A man can dream. I hope we can meet this evening; I’ll give it to her as her graduation present.
I call Andrea and tell her to put a WebEx breakfast meeting into my schedule tomorrow with Eamon Kavanagh and his associates in New York. Kavanagh is interested in upgrading his fiber-optic network. I ask Andrea to have Ros and Fred on standby for the meeting, too. She relays some messages-nothing important-and reminds me I have to attend a charity function tomorrow evening in Seattle.
Tonight will be my last night in Portland. It’s almost Ana’s last night here, too…I contemplate calling her, but there’s little point since she doesn’t have her cell phone. And she’s enjoying time with her dad.
Staring out the car window as we drive toward The Heathman, I watch the good people of Portland go about their afternoon. At a stoplight there’s a young couple arguing on the sidewalk over a spilled bag of groceries. Another couple, even younger, walks hand in hand past them, eyes locked and giggling. The girl leans up and whispers something in the ear of her tattooed beau. He laughs, leans down, and kisses her quickly, then opens the door to a coffee shop and steps aside to let her enter.
Ana wants “more.” I sigh heavily and plow my fingers through my hair. They always want more. All of them. What can I do about that? The hand-in-hand couple strolling to the coffee shop-Ana and I did that. We’ve eaten together at two restaurants, and it was…fun. Perhaps I could try. After all, she’s giving me so much. I loosen my tie.
Could I do more?
BACK IN MY ROOM, I strip down, pull on my sweats, and head downstairs for a quick circuit in the gym. Enforced socializing has stretched the limits of my patience and I need to work off some excess energy.
And I need to think about more.
ONCE I’M SHOWERED AND dressed and back in front of my laptop, Ros calls via WebEx to check in and we talk for forty minutes. We cover all of the items on her agenda, including the Taiwan proposal and Darfur. The cost of the airdrop is staggering, but it’s safer for all involved. I give her the go-ahead. Now we have to wait for the shipment to arrive in Rotterdam.
“I’m up to date on Kavanagh Media. I think Barney should be in on the meeting, too,” Ros says.
“If you think so. Let Andrea know.”
“Will do. How was the graduation ceremony?” she asks.
Ana agreed to be mine.
From the screen Ros peers at me, intrigued, but I say nothing more.
“Andrea tells me you’re back in Seattle tomorrow.”
“Yes. I have a function to attend in the evening.”
“Well, I hope your ‘merger’ has been successful.”
“I would say affirmative at this point, Ros.”
She smirks. “Glad to hear it. I have another meeting, so if there’s nothing else, I’ll say good-bye for now.”
“Good-bye.” I log out of WebEx and into e-mail, turning my attention to this evening.
* * *
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Soft Limits
Date: May 26 2011 17:22
To: Anastasia Steele
What can I say that I haven’t already?
Happy to talk these through anytime.
You looked beautiful today.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
And to think this morning I was convinced it was all over between us.
Jesus, Grey. You need to get a grip. Flynn would have a field day.
Of course, part of the reason was she didn’t have her phone. Perhaps she needs a more reliable form of communication.
* * *
From: Christian Grey
Date: May 26 2011 17:36
To: J B Taylor
Cc: Andrea Ashton
Please source a new BlackBerry for Anastasia Steele with her e-mail preinstalled. Andrea can get the account details from Barney and get them to you.
Please deliver it tomorrow either to her home or to Clayton’s.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
Once that’s sent, I pick up the latest Forbes and start to read.
By 6:30 there’s no response from Ana, so I assume she’s still entertaining the quiet and unassuming Ray Steele. Given that they aren’t related, they’re remarkably similar.
I order the seafood risotto from room service and while I wait I read more of my book.
GRACE CALLS WHILE I’M reading.
“Did Mia get in touch?”
“Yes. I have her flight details. I’ll pick her up.”
“Great. Now, I hope you’ll stay for dinner on Saturday.”
“And then on Sunday Elliot is bringing his friend Kate to dinner. Would you like to come? You could bring Anastasia.”
That’s what Kavanagh was talking about today.
I play for time. “I’ll have to see if she’s free.”
“Let me know. It will be lovely to have all the family together again.”
I roll my eyes. “If you say so, Mother.”
“I do, darling. See you Saturday.”
She hangs up.
Take Ana to meet my parents? How the hell do I get out of that?
As I contemplate this predicament, an e-mail arrives.
* * *
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Soft Limits
Date: May 26 2011 19:23
To: Christian Grey
I can come over this evening to discuss if you’d like.
No, no baby. Not in that car. And my plans fall into place.
* * *
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Soft Limits
Date: May 26 2011 19:27
To: Anastasia Steele
I’ll come to you. I meant it when I said I wasn’t happy about you driving that car.
I’ll be with you shortly.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
I print out another copy of the “Soft Limits” from the contract and her “Issues” e-mail because I’ve left my first copy in my jacket, which she still has in her possession. Then I call Taylor in his room.
“I’m going to deliver the car to Anastasia. Can you pick me up from her place-say, nine thirty?”
Before I leave I stuff two condoms into the back pocket of my jeans.
I might get lucky.
THE A3 IS FUN to drive, though it’s got less torque than I’m used to. I pull up outside a liquor store on the outskirts of Portland to buy some celebratory champagne. I forgo the Cristal and the Dom Pérignon for a Bollinger, mostly because it’s the 1999 vintage, and chilled, but also because it’s pink…symbolic, I think with a smirk, as I hand my AmEx to the cashier.
Ana is still wearing the stunning gray dress when she opens the door. I look forward to peeling it off her later.
“Hi,” she says, her eyes large and luminous in her pale face.
“Come in.” She seems shy and awkward. Why? What’s happened?
“If I may.” I hold up the bottle of champagne. “I thought we’d celebrate your graduation. Nothing beats a good Bollinger.”
“Interesting choice of words.” Her voice is sardonic.
“Oh, I like your ready wit, Anastasia.” There she is…my girl.
“We only have teacups. We’ve packed all the glasses.”
“Teacups? Sounds good to me.”
I watch her wander into the kitchen. She’s nervous and skittish. Perhaps because she’s had a big day, or because she’s agreed to my terms, or because she’s here alone-I know Kavanagh is with her own family this evening; her father told me. I hope the champagne will help Ana relax…and talk.
The room is empty, except for packing crates, the sofa, and the table. There’s a brown parcel on the table with a handwritten note attached.
“I agree to the conditions, Angel; because you know best what my punishment ought to be; only-only-don’t make it more than I can bear!”
“Do you want saucers as well?” she calls.
“Teacups will be fine, Anastasia,” I respond, distracted. She’s wrapped up the books-the first editions I sent her. She’s giving them back to me. She doesn’t want them. This is why she’s nervous.
How the hell will she react to the car?
Looking up, I see her standing there, watching me. And carefully she places the cups on the table.
“That’s for you.” Her voice is small and strained.
“Hmm, I figured as much,” I mutter. “Very apt quote.” I trace her handwriting with my finger. The letters are small and neat, and I wonder what a graphologist would make of them. “I thought I was d’Urberville, not Angel. You decided on the debasement.” Of course it’s the perfect quote. My smile is ironic. “Trust you to find something that resonates so appropriately.”
“It’s also a plea,” she whispers.
“A plea? For me to go easy on you?”
To me these books were an investment, but for her I thought they’d mean something.
“I bought these for you.” It’s a small white lie-as I’ve replaced them. “I’ll go easier on you if you accept them.” I keep my voice calm and quiet, masking my disappointment.
“Christian, I can’t accept them, they’re just too much.”
Here we go, another battle of wills.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
“You see, this is what I was talking about, you defying me. I want you to have them, and that’s the end of the discussion. It’s very simple. You don’t have to think about this. As a submissive you would just be grateful for them. You just accept what I buy you because it pleases me for you to do so.”
“I wasn’t a submissive when you bought them for me,” she says quietly.
As ever, she has an answer for everything.
“No…but you’ve agreed, Anastasia.”
Is she reneging on our deal? God, this girl has me on a roller coaster.
“So they are mine to do with as I wish?”
“Yes.” I thought you loved Hardy?
“In that case, I’d like to give them to a charity-one working in Darfur, since that seems to be close to your heart. They can auction them.”
“If that’s what you want to do.” I’m not going to stop you.
You can burn them, for all I care…
Her pale face colors. “I’ll think about it,” she mutters.
“Don’t think, Anastasia. Not about this.” Keep them, please. They’re for you, because your passion is books. You’ve told me more than once. Enjoy them.
Placing the champagne on the table, I stand in front of her and cup her chin, tipping back her head so my eyes are on hers. “I will buy you lots of things, Anastasia. Get used to it. I can afford it. I’m a very wealthy man.” I kiss her quickly. “Please,” I add, and release her.
“It makes me feel cheap,” she says.
“It shouldn’t. You’re overthinking it. Don’t place some vague moral judgment on yourself based on what others might think. Don’t waste your energy. It’s only because you have reservations about our arrangement; that’s perfectly natural. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.”
Anxiety is etched all over her lovely face.
“Hey, stop this. There is nothing about you that is cheap, Anastasia. I won’t have you thinking that. I just sent you some old books that I thought might mean something to you, that’s all.”
She blinks a couple of times and stares at the package, obviously conflicted.
Keep them, Ana-they’re for you.
“Have some champagne,” I whisper, and she rewards me with a small smile.
“That’s better.” I open the champagne and fill the dainty teacups she’s placed in front of me.
“It’s pink.” She’s surprised, and I haven’t the heart to tell her why I chose pink.
“Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé 1999-an excellent vintage.”
“In teacups.” She grins. It’s infectious.
“In teacups. Congratulations on your degree, Anastasia.”
We touch cups, and I drink. It tastes good, as I knew it would.
“Thank you.” She raises the cup to her lips and takes a quick sip. “Shall we go through the soft limits?”
“Always so eager.” Taking her hand, I lead her to the sofa-one of the only remaining pieces of furniture in the living room-and we sit, surrounded by boxes.
“Your stepfather’s a very taciturn man.”
“You managed to get him eating out of your hand.”
I chuckle. “Only because I know how to fish.”
“How did you know he liked fishing?”
“You told me. When we went for coffee.”
“Oh, did I?” She takes another sip and closes her eyes, savoring the taste. Opening them again, she asks, “Did you try the wine at the reception?”
“Yes. It was foul.” I grimace.
“I thought of you when I tasted it. How did you get to be so knowledgeable about wine?”
“I’m not knowledgeable, Anastasia, I just know what I like.” And I like you. “Some more?” I nod toward the bottle on the table.
I fetch the champagne and refill her cup. She regards me suspiciously. She knows I’m plying her with alcohol.
“This place looks pretty bare. Are you ready for the move?” I ask, to distract her.
“More or less.”
“Are you working tomorrow?”
“Yes, my last day at Clayton’s.”
“I’d help you move, but I promised to meet my sister at the airport. Mia arrives from Paris early on Saturday. I’m heading back to Seattle tomorrow, but I hear Elliot is giving you two a hand.”
“Yes, Kate is very excited about that.”
I’m surprised Elliot is still interested in Ana’s friend; it’s not his usual MO. “Yes, Kate and Elliot, who would have thought?” Their liaison makes matters complicated. My mother’s voice rings in my head: “You could bring Anastasia.”
“So what are you doing about work in Seattle?” I ask.
“I have a couple of interviews for intern places.”
“You were going to tell me this when?”
“Um… I’m telling you now,” she says.
“Where?” I ask, hiding my frustration.
“A couple of publishing houses.”
“Is that what you want to do, something in publishing?”
She nods, but she’s still not forthcoming.
“Well?” I prompt.
“Don’t be obtuse, Anastasia. Which publishing houses?” I mentally run through all the publishing houses I know of in Seattle. There are four…I think.
“Just small ones,” she says evasively.
“Why don’t you want me to know?”
“Undue influence,” she says.
What does that mean? I frown.
“Oh, now you’re being obtuse,” she says, her eyes twinkling with mirth.
“Obtuse?” I laugh. “Me? God, you’re challenging. Drink up, let’s talk about these limits.”
Her eyelashes flutter and she takes a shaky breath, then drains her cup. She’s really nervous about this. I offer her more liquid courage.
“Please,” she responds.
Bottle in hand, I pause. “Have you eaten anything?”
“Yes. I had a three-course meal with Ray,” she says, exasperated, and rolls her eyes.
Oh, Ana. At last I can do something about this disrespectful habit.
Leaning forward, I take hold of her chin and glare at her. “Next time you roll your eyes at me, I will take you across my knee.”
“Oh.” She looks a little shocked, but a little intrigued, too.
“Oh. So it begins, Anastasia.” With a wolfish grin I fill her teacup, and she takes a long sip.
“Got your attention now, haven’t I?”
“Yes, you’ve got my attention,” she says with a contrite smile.
“Good.” I fish out her e-mail, and Appendix 3 of my contract, from my jacket. “So, sexual acts. We’ve done most of this.” She shuffles closer to me and we read down the list.
To be discussed and agreed between both parties:
Does the Submissive consent to:
“No fisting, you say. Anything else you object to?” I ask.
She swallows. “Anal intercourse doesn’t exactly float my boat.”
“I’ll agree to the fisting, but I’d really like to claim your ass, Anastasia.”
She inhales sharply, gazing at me.
“But we’ll wait for that. Besides, it’s not something we can dive into.” I can’t help my smirk. “Your ass will need training.”
“Training?” Her eyes widen.
“Oh yes. It’ll need careful preparation. Anal intercourse can be very pleasurable, trust me. But if we try it and you don’t like it, we don’t have to do it again.” I delight in her shocked expression.
“Have you done that?” she asks.
“With a man?”
“No. I’ve never had sex with a man. Not my scene.”
“Yes.” And her large rubber strap-on.
Ana frowns and I move on quickly, before she can ask me any more questions about that.
“And…swallowing semen. Well, you get an A in that.” I expect a smile from her, but she’s studying me intently, as if seeing me in a new light. I think she’s still reeling over Mrs. Robinson and anal intercourse. Oh, baby, Elena had my submission. She could do with me as she pleased. And I enjoyed it.
“So, swallowing semen okay?” I ask, trying to bring her back to the now. She nods and finishes her champagne.
“More?” I ask.
Steady, Grey, you just want her tipsy, not drunk.
“More,” she whispers.
I refill her cup and get back to the list. “Sex toys?”
Does the Submissive consent to the use of:
Other vaginal/anal toys
“Butt plug? Does it do what it says on the box?” She grimaces.
“Yes. And I refer to anal intercourse above. Training.”
“Oh. What’s in ‘other’?”
“Beads, eggs, that sort of stuff.”
“Eggs?” Her hands shoot to her mouth in shock.
“Not real eggs.” I laugh.
“I’m glad you find me funny.” The hurt in her voice is sobering.
“I apologize. I’m sorry.”
For fuck’s sake, Grey. Go easy on her.
“Any problem with toys?”
“No,” she snaps.
Shit. She’s sulking.
“Anastasia, I am sorry. Believe me. I don’t mean to laugh. I’ve never had this conversation in so much detail. You’re just so inexperienced. I’m sorry.”
She pouts and takes another sip of champagne.
“Right-bondage,” I say, and we return to the list.
Does the Submissive consent to:
Bondage with rope
Bondage with leather cuffs
Bondage with handcuffs/shackles/manacles
Bondage with tape
Bondage with other
“Well?” I ask, gently this time.
“Fine,” she whispers and continues reading.
Does the Submissive consent to be restrained with:
Hands bound in front
Hands bound behind back
Wrists bound to ankles
Binding to fixed items, furniture, etc.
Binding with spreader bar
Does the Submissive consent to be blindfolded?
Does the Submissive consent to be gagged?
“We’ve talked about suspension. And it’s fine if you want to set that up as a hard limit. It takes a great deal of time, and I only have you for short periods anyway. Anything else?”
“Don’t laugh at me, but what’s a spreader bar?”
“I promise not to laugh. I’ve apologized twice.” For Christ’s sake. “Don’t make me do it again.” My voice is sharper than I intended, and she leans away from me.
Ignore her reaction, Grey. Get on with it. “A spreader is a bar with cuffs for ankles and/or wrists. They’re fun.”
“Okay. Well, gagging me. I’d be worried I wouldn’t be able to breathe.”
“I’d be worried if you couldn’t breathe. I don’t want to suffocate you.” Breath play is not my scene at all.
“And how will I use safe words if I’m gagged?” she inquires.
“First of all, I hope you never have to use them. But if you’re gagged, we’ll use hand signals.”
“I’m nervous about the gagging.”
“Okay. I’ll take note.”
She studies me for a moment as if she’s solved the riddle of the sphinx. “Do you like tying your submissives up so they can’t touch you?” she asks.
“That’s one of the reasons.”
“Is that why you’ve tied my hands?”
“You don’t like talking about that,” she says.
“No, I don’t.”
I’m not going there with you, Ana. Give it up.
“Would you like another drink?” I ask. “It’s making you brave, and I need to know how you feel about pain.” I refill her cup and she takes a sip, wide-eyed and anxious. “So, what’s your general attitude to receiving pain?”
She remains mute.
I suppress a sigh. “You’re biting your lip.” Fortunately, she stops, but now she’s pensive and staring down at her hands.
“Were you physically punished as a child?” I prompt her gently.
“So you have no sphere of reference at all?”
“It’s not as bad as you think. Your imagination is your worst enemy in this.” Trust me on this, Ana. Please.
“Do you have to do it?”
You really don’t want to know.
“Goes with the territory, Anastasia. It’s what I do. I can see you’re nervous. Let’s go through methods.”
We read through the list:
Other types/methods of pain
“Well, you said no to genital clamps. That’s fine. It’s caning that hurts the most.”
“We can work up to that,” I state quickly.
“Or not do it at all,” she counters.
“This is part of the deal, baby, but we’ll work up to all of this. Anastasia, I won’t push you too far.”
“This punishment thing, it worries me the most.”
“Well, I’m glad you’ve told me. We’ll keep caning off the list for now. And as you get more comfortable with everything else, we’ll increase intensity. We’ll take it slow.”
She looks uncertain, so I lean forward and kiss her. “There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
She shrugs, still doubtful.
“Look, I want to talk about one more thing, then I’m taking you to bed.”
“Bed?” she exclaims and color flushes her cheeks.
“Come on, Anastasia, talking through all this, I want to fuck you into next week, right now. It must be having some effect on you, too.”
She squirms beside me and takes a husky breath, her thighs pressing together.
“See? Besides, there’s something I want to try.”
“No-stop seeing pain everywhere. It’s mainly pleasure. Have I hurt you yet?”
“Well, then. Look, earlier today you were talking about wanting more.” I stop.
Fuck. I’m on a precipice.
Okay, Grey, are you sure about this?
I have to try. I don’t want to lose her before we start.
I take her hand. “Outside of the time you’re my sub, perhaps we could try. I don’t know if it will work. I don’t know about separating everything. It may not work. But I’m willing to try. Maybe one night a week. I don’t know.”
Her mouth drops open.
“I have one condition.”
“What?” she asks, her breath hitching.
“You graciously accept my graduation present to you.”
“Oh,” she says, her eyes widening with uncertainty.
“Come.” I pull her to her feet, slip off my leather jacket, and drape it over her shoulders. Taking a deep breath, I open the front door and reveal the Audi A3 parked at the curb. “It’s for you. Happy graduation.” I wrap my arms around her and kiss her hair.
When I release her she stares dumbfounded at the car.
Okay…this could go either way.
Taking her hand, I lead her down the steps and she follows as if in a trance.
“Anastasia, that Beetle of yours is old and, frankly, dangerous. I would never forgive myself if something happened to you when it’s so easy for me to make it right.”
She gapes at the car, speechless.
“I mentioned it to your stepfather. He was all for it.”
Perhaps I’m overstating this.
Her mouth is still open in dismay when she turns to glare at me.
“You mentioned this to Ray? How could you?” She’s annoyed, really annoyed.
“It’s a gift, Anastasia. Can’t you just say thank you?”
“But you know it’s too much.”
“Not to me it isn’t, not for my peace of mind.”
Come on, Ana. You want more. This is the price.
Her shoulders sag, and she turns to me, resigned, I think. Not quite the reaction I was hoping for. The rosy glow from the champagne has disappeared and her face is pale once more. “I’m happy for you to loan this to me, like the laptop.”
I shake my head. Why is she so difficult? I’ve never had this reaction to a car from any of my submissives. They’re usually delighted.
“Okay. On loan. Indefinitely,” I agree through gritted teeth.
“No, not indefinitely, but for now. Thank you,” she says quietly, and leaning up, she kisses me on the cheek. “Thank you for the car, Sir.”
That word. From her sweet, sweet mouth. I grab her and press her body to mine, her hair pooling in my fingers. “You are one challenging woman, Ana Steele.” I kiss her forcefully, coaxing her lips apart with my tongue, and a moment later she’s responding, matching my ardor, her tongue caressing mine. My body reacts-I want her. Here. Now. In the open. “It’s taking all my self-control not to fuck you on the hood of this car right now, just to show you that you are mine, and if I want to buy you a fucking car, I’ll buy you a fucking car. Now let’s get you inside and naked,” I growl. Then I kiss her once more, demanding and possessive. Taking her hand, I stride back into the apartment, slamming the front door behind us and heading straight for her bedroom. There I release her and switch on her bedside light.
“Please don’t be angry with me,” she whispers.
Her words douse the fire of my anger.
“I’m sorry about the car and the books-” She halts and licks her lips. “You scare me when you’re angry.”
Shit. No one has ever said that to me before. I close my eyes. The last thing I want to do is frighten her.
Calm down, Grey.
She’s here. She’s safe. She’s willing. Don’t blow it, just because she doesn’t understand how to behave.
Opening my eyes, I find Ana watching me, not in fear, but with anticipation.
“Turn around,” I demand, my voice soft. “I want to get you out of that dress.”
She obeys immediately.
I remove my jacket from her shoulders and discard it on the floor, then lift her hair off her neck. The feel of her soft skin beneath my index finger is soothing. Now that she’s doing what she’s told, I relax. With the tip of my finger I follow the line of her spine down her back to the start of the zipper bound in gray chiffon. “I like this dress. I like to see your flawless skin.”
Hooking my finger into the back of her dress, I pull her close so she’s flush against me. I bury my face in her hair and breathe in her scent.
“You smell so good, Anastasia. So sweet.”
Her fragrance is comforting, reminding me of a time of plenty and happiness. Still inhaling her delicious scent, I skim my nose from her ear down her neck to her shoulder, kissing her as I go. Slowly I unzip her dress and kiss, and lick, and suck my way across her skin to her other shoulder.
She shivers beneath my touch.
Oh, baby. “You are going to have to learn to keep still,” I whisper between kisses, and unfasten her halter neck. The dress falls to her feet.
“No bra, Miss Steele. I like that.”
Reaching forward, I cup her breasts and feel her nipples pebble against my palm.
“Lift your arms and put them around my head,” I order, my lips brushing her neck. She does as she’s told and her breasts lift farther into my palms. She twists her fingers into my hair, the way I like, and she tugs.
Ah… That feels so good.
Her head lolls to the side, and I take advantage, kissing her where her pulse hammers beneath her skin.
“Mmm…” I murmur in appreciation, my fingers teasing and tugging at her nipples.
She groans, arching her back, pushing her perfect tits even farther into my hands. “Shall I make you come this way?”
Her body bows a little more.
“You like this, don’t you, Miss Steele?”
“Tell me,” I insist, continuing my sensual assault on her nipples.
“Yes,” she breathes.
Gently I pinch and twist with my fingers and her body bucks convulsively against me while she moans, her hands tugging harder at my hair.
“I don’t think you’re ready to come yet.” And I still my hands, just holding her breasts, while my teeth tug at her earlobe. “Besides, you have displeased me. So perhaps I won’t let you come after all.”
I knead her breasts and my fingers return my attention to her nipples, twisting and tugging. She groans and grinds her ass against my erection. Shifting my hands to her hips, I hold her steady and glance down at her panties.
Cotton. White. Easy.
I hook my fingers into them and stretch them as far as they’ll go, then push my thumbs through the seam at the back. They tear apart in my hands and I throw them at Ana’s feet.
I trace my fingers around her ass and insert one into her vagina.
She’s wet. Very wet.
“Oh yes. My sweet girl is ready.”
I spin her around and slip my finger into my mouth.
Mmm. Salty. “You taste so fine, Miss Steele.”
Her lips part and her eyes darken with want. I think she’s a little shocked.
“Undress me.” I keep my eyes on hers. She tilts her head, processing my command, but hesitates. “You can do it,” I encourage her. She lifts her hands and all of a sudden I think she’s going to touch me, and I’m not ready. Shit.
Instinctively I grab her hands.
“Oh no. Not the T-shirt.”
I want her on top. We’ve not done this yet, and she may lose her balance, so I’ll need the T-shirt for protection. “You may need to touch me for what I have planned.” I release one of her hands, but the other I place over my erection, which is fighting for space in my jeans.
“This is the effect you have on me, Miss Steele.”
She inhales, gazing at her hand. Then her fingers tighten around my cock and she glances up at me with appreciation.
I grin. “I want to be inside you. Take my jeans off. You’re in charge.”
Her mouth drops open.
“What are you going to do with me?” My voice is husky.
Her face transforms, bright with delight, and before I can react she pushes me. I laugh as I fall onto the bed, mainly at her bravado, but also because she touched me and I didn’t panic. She removes my shoes, then my socks, but she’s all fingers and thumbs, reminding me of the interview and her attempts to set up the recorder.
I watch her. Amused. Aroused. Wondering what she’ll do next. It’s going to be one hell of a task for her to remove my jeans while I’m lying down. Stepping out of her pumps, she crawls up the bed, sits astride the top of my thighs, and slips her fingers beneath the waistband of my jeans.
I close my eyes and flex my hips, enjoying shameless Ana.
“You’ll have to learn to keep still,” she castigates me, and tugs at my pubic hair.
Ah! So bold, ma’am.
“Yes, Miss Steele,” I tease through clenched teeth. “In my pocket, condom.”
Her eyes flash with obvious delight and her fingers rifle through my pocket, diving deep, brushing my erection.
She produces both foil packets and tosses them onto the bed beside me. Her fumbling fingers reach for the button on my waistband, and after two attempts she undoes it.
Her naïveté is captivating. It’s obvious that she’s never done this before. Another first…and it’s fucking arousing.
“So eager, Miss Steele,” I tease.
She yanks down my zipper and, pulling at my waistband, gives me a look of frustration.
I try hard not to laugh.
Yeah, baby, how are you going to get these off me now?
Shuffling down my legs, she tugs at my jeans, concentrating hard, looking adorable. And I decide to help her out. “I can’t keep still if you’re going to bite that lip,” I say while arching my hips, lifting them off the bed.
Rising up on her knees, she pulls down my jeans and boxers and I kick them off, onto the floor. She sits across me, eyeing my cock and licking her lips.
She looks hot, her dark hair falling in soft waves around her breasts.
“Now what are you going to do?” I whisper. Her eyes flick to my face and she reaches up and grasps me firmly, squeezing hard, her thumb brushing over the tip.
She leans down.
And I’m in her mouth.
She sucks hard. And my body flexes beneath her. “Jeez, Ana, steady,” I hiss through my teeth. But she shows no mercy as she fellates me again and again. Fuck. Her enthusiasm is disarming. Her tongue is up and down, I’m in and out of her mouth to the back of her throat, her lips tight around me. It’s an overwhelming erotic vision. I could come just watching her.
“Stop, Ana, stop. I don’t want to come.”
She sits up, her mouth moist and her eyes two dark pools directed down at me.
“Your innocence and enthusiasm are very disarming.” But right now I want to fuck you so I can see you. “You, on top, that’s what we need to do. Here, put this on.” I place a condom in her hand. She examines it with consternation, then rips the packet open with her teeth.
She removes the condom and looks to me for direction.
“Pinch the top and then roll it down. You don’t want any air in the end of that sucker.”
She nods and does exactly that, absorbed in her task, concentrating hard, her tongue peeking between her lips.
“Christ, you’re killing me here,” I exclaim through clenched teeth.
When she’s done she sits back and admires her handiwork, or me-I’m not quite sure, but I don’t care. “Now. I want to be buried inside you.” I sit up suddenly so we’re face-to-face, surprising her. “Like this,” I whisper, and, wrapping my arm around her, I lift her. With my other hand I position my cock and lower her slowly onto me.
My breath escapes from my body as her eyes close and pleasure thrums noisily in her throat.
“That’s right, baby, feel me, all of me.”
She. Feels. So. Good.
I hold her, letting her get used to the feel of me. Like this. Inside her. “It’s deep this way.” My voice is hoarse, as I flex and tilt my pelvis, pushing deeper into her.
Her head lolls as she moans. “Again,” she breathes. And she opens her eyes and they blaze into mine. Wanton. Willing. I love that she loves this. I do as I’m asked and she moans again, throwing back her head, her hair tumbling in a riot over her shoulders. Slowly I recline onto the bed to watch the show.
“You move, Anastasia, up and down, how you want. Take my hands.” I hold them out and she grabs them, steadying herself on top of me. Slowly she eases herself up, then sinks back down onto me.
My breath is coming in short, sharp pants as I restrain myself. She lifts herself again and this time I raise my hips to meet her as she comes down.
Closing my eyes, I savor every delicious inch of her. Together we find our rhythm as she rides me. Over and over and over. She looks fantastic: her breasts bouncing, her hair swinging, her mouth slack as she absorbs each stab of pleasure.
Her eyes meet mine, full of carnal need and wonder. God, she’s beautiful.
She cries out as her body takes over. She’s almost there, so I tighten my grip on her hands, and she ignites around me. I grab her hips, holding her as she shouts incoherently through her orgasm. Then I tighten my hold on her hips and silently lose myself as I explode inside her.
She flops down onto my chest, and I lie, panting, beneath her.
My God, she’s a good fuck.
We lie together for a moment, her weight a comfort. She stirs and nuzzles me through my shirt, then splays her hand on top of my chest.
The darkness slithers, quick and strong, into my chest, into my throat, threatening to suffocate and choke me.
No. Don’t touch me.
I grab her hand and bring her knuckles to my lips, and roll over on top of her so she’s no longer able to touch me.
“Don’t,” I plead, and kiss her lips as I dampen down my fear.
“Why don’t you like to be touched?”
“Because I’m fifty shades of fucked up, Anastasia.” After years and years of therapy, it’s the one thing I know to be true.
Her eyes widen, inquisitive; she’s thirsty for more information. But she doesn’t need to know this shit. “I had a very tough introduction to life. I don’t want to burden you with the details. Just don’t.” I gently brush my nose against hers and, withdrawing from her, I sit up and remove the condom and drop it by the bed. “I think that’s all the very basics covered. How was that?”
For a moment she seems distracted, then she tilts her head to one side and smiles. “If you imagine for one minute that I think you ceded control to me, well, you haven’t taken into account my GPA. But thank you for the illusion.”
“Miss Steele, you are not just a pretty face. You’ve had six orgasms so far and all of them belong to me.” Why does that mere fact make me glad?
Her eyes stray to the ceiling, and a fleeting guilty expression crosses her face.
What’s this? “Do you have something to tell me?” I ask.
She hesitates. “I had a dream this morning.”
“I came in my sleep.” She flings her arm over her face, hiding from me, embarrassed. I’m stunned by her confession but aroused and delighted, too.
She peeks over her arm. Does she expect me to be angry?
“In your sleep?” I clarify.
“Woke me up,” she whispers.
“I’m sure it did.” I’m fascinated. “What were you dreaming about?”
“You,” she says in a small voice.
“What was I doing?”
She hides beneath her arm again.
“Anastasia, what was I doing? I won’t ask you again.” Why is she so embarrassed? Her dreaming about me is…endearing.
“You had a riding crop,” she mumbles. I move her arm so I can see her face.
“Yes.” Her face is bright red. The research must be affecting her, in a good way. I smile down at her.
“There’s hope for you yet. I have several riding crops.”
“Brown plaited leather?” Her voice is tinged with quiet optimism.
I laugh. “No, but I’m sure I could get one.”
I give her a swift kiss and stand to dress. Ana does the same, pulling on sweatpants and a camisole. Collecting the condom off the floor, I knot it quickly. Now that she’s agreed to be mine, she needs contraception. Fully dressed, she sits cross-legged on the bed watching me as I grab my pants. “When is your period due?” I ask. “I hate wearing these things.” I hold up the knotted condom and pull on my jeans.
She’s taken aback.
“Well?” I prod.
“Next week,” she answers, her cheeks pink.
“You need to sort out some contraception.”
I sit on the bed to slip on my socks and shoes. She says nothing.
“Do you have a doctor?” I ask. She shakes her head. “I can have mine come and see you at your apartment-Sunday morning, before you come and see me. Or he can see you at my place. Which would you prefer?”
I’m sure Dr. Baxter will make a house call for me, although I haven’t seen him for a while.
“Your place,” she says.
“Okay. I’ll let you know the time.”
“Are you leaving?”
She seems surprised that I’m going. “Yes.”
“How are you getting back?” she asks.
“Taylor will pick me up.”
“I can drive you. I have a lovely new car.”
That’s better. She’s accepted the car as she should, but after all that champagne she shouldn’t be driving. “I think you’ve had too much to drink.”
“Did you get me tipsy on purpose?”
“Because you overthink everything, and you’re reticent, like your stepdad. A drop of wine in you and you start talking, and I need you to communicate honestly with me. Otherwise you clam up, and I have no idea what you’re thinking. In vino veritas, Anastasia.”
“And you think you’re always honest with me?”
“I endeavor to be. This will only work if we’re honest with each other.”
“I’d like you to stay and use this.” She grabs the other condom and waves it at me.
Manage her expectations, Grey.
“I have crossed so many lines here tonight. I have to go. I’ll see you on Sunday.” I stand up. “I’ll have the revised contract ready for you, and then we can really start to play.”
“Play?” she squeaks.
“I’d like to do a scene with you. But I won’t until you’ve signed, so I know you’re ready.”
“Oh. So I could stretch this out if I don’t sign?”
Shit. I hadn’t thought of that.
Her chin tilts up in defiance.
Ah…topping from the bottom, again. She always finds a way.
“Well, I suppose you could, but I may crack under the strain.”
“Crack? How?” she queries, her eyes alive with curiosity.
“Could get really ugly,” I tease, narrowing my eyes.
“Ugly, how?” Her grin matches mine.
“Oh, you know, explosions, car chases, kidnapping, incarceration.”
“You’d kidnap me?”
“Hold me against my will?”
“Oh yes.” Now, that’s an interesting idea. “And then we’re talking TPE twenty-four-seven.”
“You’ve lost me,” she says, perplexed and a little breathless.
“Total Power Exchange-around the clock.” My mind whirls as I think of the possibilities. She’s curious. “So you have no choice,” I add, with a playful tone.
“Clearly.” Her tone is sarcastic and she rolls her eyes to the heavens, perhaps looking for divine inspiration to understand my sense of humor.
Oh, sweet joy.
“Anastasia Steele, did you just roll your eyes at me?”
“I think you did. What did I say I’d do to you if you rolled your eyes at me again?” My words hang between us and I sit down again on the bed. “Come here.”
For a moment she stares at me, blanching. “I haven’t signed,” she whispers.
“I told you what I’d do. I’m a man of my word. I’m going to spank you, and then I’m going to fuck you very quick and very hard. Looks like we’ll need that condom after all.”
Will she? Won’t she? This is it. Proof of whether she can do this or not. I watch her, impassive, waiting for her to decide. If she says no, it means she’s paying lip service to the idea of being my submissive.
And that will be it.
Make the right choice, Ana.
Her expression is grave, her eyes wide, and I think she’s weighing up her decision.
“I’m waiting,” I murmur. “I’m not a patient man.”
Taking a deep breath, she unfurls her legs and crawls toward me, and I hide my relief.
“Good girl. Now stand up.”
She does as she’s told, and I offer her my hand. She lays the condom on my palm, and I grasp her hand and abruptly pull her over my left knee, so that her head, shoulders, and chest are resting on the bed. I drape my right leg over her legs, holding her in place. I’ve wanted to do this since she asked me if I was gay. “Put your hands up on either side of your head,” I order and she complies immediately. “Why am I doing this, Anastasia?”
“Because I rolled my eyes at you,” she says in a hoarse whisper.
“Do you think that’s polite?”
“Will you do it again?”
“I will spank you each time you do it, do you understand?”
I’m going to savor this moment. It’s another first.
With great care-relishing the deed-I tug down her sweatpants. Her beautiful behind is naked and ready for me. As I place my hand on her backside, she tenses every muscle in her body…waiting. Her skin is soft to the touch and I sweep my palm across both cheeks, fondling each. She has a fine, fine ass. And I’m going to make it pink…like the champagne.
Lifting my palm, I smack her, hard, just above the junction of her thighs.
She gasps and tries to rise, but I hold her down with my other hand at the small of her back, and I soothe the area I’ve just hit with a slow, gentle caress.
She stays still.
Yes. I’m going to do that again.
I smack her once, twice, three times.
She grimaces at the pain, her eyes screwed shut. But she doesn’t ask me to stop even though she’s squirming beneath me.
“Keep still, or I’ll spank you for longer,” I warn.
I rub her sweet flesh and start again, taking turns: left cheek, right cheek, middle.
She cries out. But she doesn’t move her arms, and she still doesn’t ask me to stop.
“I’m just getting warmed up.” My voice is husky. I smack her again, and trace the pink handprint I’ve left on her skin. Her ass is pinking up nicely. It looks glorious.
I smack her once more.
And she cries out again.
“No one to hear you, baby, just me.”
I spank her over and over-the same pattern, left cheek, right cheek, middle-and she yelps each time. When I reach eighteen I stop. I’m breathless, my palm is stinging, and my cock is rigid.
“Enough,” I rasp, trying to catch my breath. “Well done, Anastasia. Now I’m going to fuck you.”
I stroke her pink behind gently, round and round, moving down. She’s wet.
And my body gets harder.
I insert two fingers into her vagina.
“Feel this. See how much your body likes this. You’re soaking, just for me.” I slide my fingers in and out, and she groans, her body curling around them with each push and her breathing accelerating.
I withdraw them.
I want her. Now.
“Next time, I will get you to count. Now, where’s that condom?” Grabbing it from beside her head, I ease her gently off my lap and onto the bed, facedown. Unzipping my fly, I don’t bother to remove my jeans, and I make short work of the foil packet, rolling the condom on quickly and efficiently. I lift her hips until she’s kneeling and her ass in all its rosy glory is poised in the air as I stand behind her.
“I’m going to take you now. You can come,” I growl, caressing her behind and grabbing my cock. With one swift thrust I’m inside her.
She moans as I move. In. Out. In. Out. I pound into her, watching my cock disappear beneath her pink backside.
Her mouth is open wide and she grunts and groans with each thrust, her cries getting higher and higher.
Come on, Ana.
She clenches around me and cries out as she comes, hard.
“Oh, Ana!” I follow her over the edge as I climax into her and lose all time and perspective.
I collapse at her side, pull her on top of me, and, wrapping my arms around her, I whisper into her hair, “Oh, baby, welcome to my world.”
Her weight anchors me, and she makes no attempt to touch my chest. Her eyes are closed and her breathing is returning to normal. I stroke her hair. It’s soft, a rich mahogany, shining in the glow of her bedside light. She smells of Ana and apples and sex. It’s heady. “Well done, baby.”
She’s not in tears. She did as she was asked. She’s faced every challenge I’ve thrown at her; she really is quite remarkable. I finger the thin strap of her cheap cotton camisole. “Is this what you sleep in?”
“Yes.” She sounds drowsy.
“You should be in silks and satins, you beautiful girl. I’ll take you shopping.”
“I like my sweats,” she argues.
Of course she does.
I kiss her hair. “We’ll see.”
Closing my eyes, I relax in our quiet moment, a strange contentment warming me, filling me up inside.
This feels right. Too right.
“I have to go,” I murmur, and kiss her forehead. “Are you okay?”
“I’m okay,” she says, sounding a little subdued.
Gently I roll out from underneath her and get up. “Where’s your bathroom?” I ask, taking off the used condom and zipping up my jeans.
“Down the hall to the left.”
In the bathroom I discard the condoms in a trash bin and spy a bottle of baby oil on the shelf.
That’s what I need.
She’s dressed when I return, evading my gaze. Why so shy suddenly?
“I found some baby oil. Let me rub it into your behind.”
“No. I’ll be fine,” she says, examining her fingers, still avoiding eye contact.
“Anastasia,” I warn her.
Please just do as you’re told.
I sit down behind her and tug down her sweatpants. Squirting some baby oil on my hand, I rub it tenderly into her sore ass.
She puts her hands on her hips in an obstinate stance, but stays silent.
“I like my hands on you,” I admit out loud to myself. “There.” I pull her sweatpants up. “I’m leaving now.”
“I’ll see you out,” she says quietly, standing aside. I take her hand and reluctantly let go when we reach the front door. Part of me doesn’t want to leave.
“Don’t you have to call Taylor?” she asks, her eyes fixed on the zipper of my leather jacket.
“Taylor’s been here since nine. Look at me.”
Large blue eyes peek up at me through long, dark lashes.
“You didn’t cry.” My voice is low.
And you let me spank you. You’re amazing.
I grab her and kiss her, pouring my gratitude into the kiss and holding her close. “Sunday,” I whisper, fevered, against her lips. I release her abruptly before I’m tempted to ask her if I can stay, and I head out to where Taylor is waiting in the SUV. Once I’m in the car I look back, but she’s gone. She’s probably tired…like me.
That has to have been the most pleasurable “soft limits” conversation I’ve ever had.
Damn, that woman is unexpected. Closing my eyes, I see her riding me, her head tipped back in ecstasy. Ana does not do things halfheartedly. She commits. And to think she had sex for the first time only a week ago.
With me. And no one else.
I grin as I stare out the car window, but all I see is my ghostly face reflected in the glass. So I close my eyes and allow myself to daydream.
Training her will be fun.
TAYLOR WAKES ME FROM my doze. “We’re here, Mr. Grey.”
“Thank you,” I mumble. “I have a meeting in the morning.”
“At the hotel?”
“Yes. Videoconference. I won’t need to be driven anywhere. But I’d like to leave before lunch.”
“What time would you like me to pack?”
“Very good, sir. The BlackBerry you asked for will be delivered to Miss Steele tomorrow.”
“Good. That reminds me. Can you collect her old Beetle tomorrow and dispose of it? I don’t want her driving it.”
“Of course. I have a friend who restores vintage cars. He might be interested. I’ll deal with it. Will there be anything else?”
“No thank you. Good night.”
I leave Taylor to park the SUV and make my way up to my suite.
Opening a bottle of sparkling water from the fridge, I sit down at the desk and switch on my laptop.
No urgent e-mails.
But my real purpose is to say good night to Ana.
* * *
From: Christian Grey
Date: May 26 2011 23:14
To: Anastasia Steele
Dear Miss Steele,
You are quite simply exquisite. The most beautiful, intelligent, witty, and brave woman I have ever met. Take some Advil-this is not a request. And don’t drive your Beetle again. I will know.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
She’ll probably be asleep, but I keep my laptop open just in case and check e-mail. A few minutes later her response arrives.
* * *
From: Anastasia Steele
Date: May 26 2011 23:20
To: Christian Grey
Dear Mr. Grey,
Flattery will get you nowhere, but since you’ve been everywhere, the point is moot.
I will need to drive my Beetle to a garage so I can sell it-so will not graciously accept any of your nonsense over that. Red wine is always more preferable to Advil.
P.S.: Caning is a HARD limit for me.
Her opening line makes me laugh out loud. Oh, baby, I have not been everywhere I want to go with you. Red wine on top of champagne? Not a clever mix, and caning is off the list. I wonder what else she’ll object to as I compose my reply.
* * *
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Frustrating Women Who Can’t Take Compliments
Date: May 26 2011 23:26
To: Anastasia Steele
Dear Miss Steele,
I am not flattering you. You should go to bed.
I accept your addition to the hard limits.
Don’t drink too much.
Taylor will dispose of your car and get a good price for it, too.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
I hope she’s in bed now.
* * *
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Taylor-Is He the Right Man for the Job?
Date: May 26 2011 23:40
To: Christian Grey
I am intrigued that you are happy to risk letting your right-hand man drive my car but not some woman you fuck occasionally. How can I be sure that Taylor is the man to get me the best deal for said car? I have, in the past, probably before I met you, been known to drive a hard bargain.
What the hell? Some woman I fuck occasionally?
I have to take a deep breath. Her response irks me…no, infuriates me. How dare she talk about herself like that? As my submissive she’ll be so much more than that. I’ll be devoted to her. Does she not realize this?
And she has driven a hard bargain with me. Good God! Look at all the concessions I’ve made with regard to the contract.
I count to ten, and to calm down, I visualize myself aboard The Grace, my catamaran, sailing on the Sound.
Flynn would be proud.
* * *
From: Christian Grey
Date: May 26 2011 23:44
To: Anastasia Steele
Dear Miss Steele,
I am assuming it is the RED WINE talking, and that you’ve had a very long day.
Though I am tempted to drive back over there to ensure that you don’t sit down for a week, rather than an evening.
Taylor is ex-army and capable of driving anything from a motorcycle to a Sherman tank. Your car does not present a hazard to him.
Now please do not refer to yourself as “some woman I fuck occasionally” because, quite frankly, it makes me MAD, and you really wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
I exhale slowly, steadying my heart rate. Who else on earth has the ability to get under my skin like this?
She doesn’t write back immediately. Perhaps she’s intimidated by my response. I pick up my book, but soon find that I’ve read the same paragraph three times while awaiting her reply. I look up for the umpteenth time.
* * *
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Careful Yourself
Date: May 26 2011 23:57
To: Christian Grey
Dear Mr. Grey,
I’m not sure I like you anyway, especially at the moment.
I stare at her reply, and all my anger withers and dies, to be replaced by a surge of anxiety.
Is she saying that’s it?Fifty Shades Freed Extended Version