I’ve slept well for the first time in five days. Maybe I’m feeling the closure I had hoped for, now that I’ve sent those books to Anastasia. As I shave, the asshole in the mirror stares back at me with cool, gray eyes.
Okay. Okay. I’m hoping she’ll call. She has my number.
Mrs. Jones looks up when I walk into the kitchen.
“Good morning, Mr. Grey.”
“What would you like for breakfast?”
“I’ll have an omelet. Thank you.” I sit at the kitchen counter as she prepares my food and leaf through The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, then I pore over The Seattle Times. While I’m lost in the papers my phone buzzes.
It’s Elliot. What the hell does my big brother want?
“Dude. I need to get out of Seattle this weekend. This chick is all over my junk and I’ve got to get away.”
“Yeah. You would know if you had any.”
I ignore his jibe, and then a devious thought occurs to me. “How about hiking around Portland. We could go this afternoon. Stay down there. Come home Sunday.”
“Sounds cool. In the chopper, or do you want to drive?”
“It’s a helicopter, Elliot, and I’ll drive us down. Come by the office at lunchtime and we’ll head out.”
“Thanks, bro. I owe you.” Elliot hangs up.
Elliot has always had a problem containing himself. As do the women he associates with: whoever the unfortunate girl is, she’s just another in a long, long line of his casual liaisons.
“Mr. Grey. What would you like to do for food this weekend?”
“Just prepare something light and leave it in the fridge. I may be back on Saturday.”
Or I may not.
She didn’t give you a second glance, Grey.
Having spent a great deal of my working life managing others’ expectations, I should be better at managing my own.
ELLIOT SLEEPS MOST OF the way to Portland. Poor fucker must be fried. Working and fucking: that’s Elliot’s raison d’être. He sprawls out in the passenger seat and snores.
Some company he’s going to be.
It’ll be after three when we arrive in Portland, so I call Andrea on the hands-free.
“Mr. Grey,” she answers in two rings.
“Can you have two mountain bikes delivered to The Heathman?”
“For what time, sir?”
“The bikes are for you and your brother?”
“Your brother is about six-two?”
“I’ll get on it right away.”
“Great.” I hang up, then call Taylor.
“Mr. Grey,” he answers on one ring.
“What time will you be here?”
“I’ll check in around nine o’clock tonight.”
“Will you bring the R8?”
“With pleasure, sir.” Taylor is a car fanatic, too.
“Good.” I end the call and turn up the music. Let’s see if Elliot can sleep through The Verve.
As we cruise down I-5 my excitement mounts.
Have the books been delivered yet? I’m tempted to call Andrea again, but I know I’ve left her with a ton of work. Besides, I don’t want to give my staff an excuse to gossip. I don’t normally do this kind of shit.
Why did you send them in the first place?
Because I want to see her again.
We pass the exit for Vancouver and I wonder if she’s finished her exam.
“Hey, man, where we at?” Elliot blurts.
“Behold, he wakes,” I mutter. “We’re nearly there. We’re going mountain biking.”
“Cool. Remember when Dad used to take us?”
“Yep.” I shake my head at the memory. My father is a polymath, a real renaissance man: academic, sporting, at ease in the city, more at ease in the great outdoors. He’d embraced three adopted kids…and I’m the one who didn’t live up to his expectations.
But before I hit adolescence we had a bond. He’d been my hero. He used to love taking us camping and doing all the outdoor pursuits I now enjoy: sailing, kayaking, biking, we did it all.
Puberty ruined all that for me.
“I figured if we were arriving mid-afternoon, we wouldn’t have time for a hike.”
“So who are you running from?”
“Man, I’m a love-’em-and-leave-’em type. You know that. No strings. I don’t know, chicks find out you run your own business and they start getting crazy ideas.” He gives me a sideways look. “You’ve got the right idea keeping your dick to yourself.”
“I don’t think we’re discussing my dick, we’re discussing yours, and who’s been on the sharp end of it recently.”
Elliot snickers. “I’ve lost count. Anyway, enough of me. How’s the stimulating world of commerce and high finance?”
“You really want to know?” I shoot him a glance.
“Nah,” he bleats and I laugh at his apathy and lack of eloquence.
“How’s the business?” I ask.
“You checking on your investment?”
“Always.” It’s my job.
“Well, we broke ground on the Spokani Eden project last week and it’s on schedule, but then it’s only been a week.” He shrugs. Beneath his somewhat casual exterior my brother is an eco-warrior. His passion for sustainable living makes for some heated Sunday dinner conversations with the family, and his latest project is an eco-friendly development of low-cost housing north of Seattle.
“I’m hoping to install that new gray-water system I was telling you about. It will mean all the homes will reduce their water usage and their bills by twenty-five percent.”
“I hope so.”
We drive in silence into downtown Portland and just as we’re pulling into the underground garage at The Heathman-the last place I saw her-Elliot mutters, “You know we’re missing the Mariners game this evening.”
“Maybe you can have a night in front of the TV. Give your dick a rest and watch baseball.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
KEEPING UP WITH ELLIOT is a challenge. He tears down the trail with the same devil-may-fucking-care attitude he applies to most situations. Elliot knows no fear-it’s why I admire him. But riding at this pace I have no chance to appreciate our surroundings. I’m vaguely aware of the lush greenery flashing past me, but my eyes are on the trail, trying to avoid the potholes.
By the end of the ride we’re both filthy and exhausted.
“That was the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on in a while,” Elliot says as we hand the bikes over to the bellboy at The Heathman.
“Yeah,” I mutter, and then recall holding Anastasia when I saved her from the cyclist. Her warmth, her breasts pressed against me, her scent invading my senses.
I had my clothes on then…”Yeah,” I murmur again.
We check our phones in the elevator as we head up to the top floor.
I have e-mails, a couple of texts from Elena asking what I’m doing this weekend, but no missed calls from Anastasia. It’s just before 7:00-she must have received the books by now. The thought depresses me: I’ve come all the way to Portland on a wild-goose chase again.
“Man, that chick has called me five times and sent me four texts. Doesn’t she know how desperate she comes across?” Elliot whines.
“Maybe she’s pregnant.”
Elliot pales and I laugh.
“Not funny, hotshot,” he grumbles. “Besides, I haven’t known her that long. Or that often.”
AFTER A QUICK SHOWER I join Elliot in his suite and we sit down to watch the rest of the Mariners game against the San Diego Padres. We order up steak, salad, fries, and a couple of beers, and I sit back to enjoy the game in Elliot’s easy company. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that Anastasia’s not going to call. The Mariners are in the lead and it looks like it might be a blowout.
Disappointingly it isn’t, though the Mariners win 4–1.
Go Mariners! Elliot and I clink beer bottles.
As the postgame analysis drones on, my phone buzzes and Miss Steele’s number flashes on the screen.
“Anastasia?” I don’t hide my surprise or my pleasure. The background is noisy and it sounds like she’s at a party or in a bar. Elliot glances at me, so I get up off the sofa and out of his earshot.
“Why did you send me the books?” She’s slurring her words, and a wave of apprehension ripples down my spine.
“Anastasia, are you okay? You sound strange.”
“I’m not the strange one, you are.” Her tone is accusatory.
“Anastasia, have you been drinking?”
Hell. Who is she with? The photographer? Where’s her friend Kate?
“What’s it to you?” She sounds surly and belligerent, and I know she’s drunk, but I also need to know that she’s okay.
“I’m…curious. Where are you?”
“In a bar.”
“Which bar?” Tell me. Anxiety blooms in my gut. She’s a young woman, drunk, somewhere in Portland. She’s not safe.
“A bar in Portland.”
“How are you getting home?” I pinch the bridge of my nose in the vain hope that the action will distract me from my fraying temper.
“I’ll find a way.”
What the hell? Will she drive? I ask her again which bar she’s in and she ignores my question.
“Why did you send me the books, Christian?”
“Anastasia, where are you? Tell me now.”
How will she get home?
“You’re so…domineering.” She giggles. In any other situation I would find this charming. But right now-I want to show her how domineering I can be. She’s driving me crazy.
“Ana, so help me, where the fuck are you?”
She giggles again. Shit, she’s laughing at me!
“I’m in Portland…’s a long way from Seattle.”
“Where in Portland?”
“Good night, Christian.” The line goes dead.
She hung up on me! I stare at the phone in disbelief. No one has ever hung up on me. What the fuck!
“What’s the problem?” Elliot calls over from the sofa.
“I’ve just been drunk-dialed.” I peer at him and his mouth drops open in surprise.
“Yep.” I press the callback button, trying to contain my temper, and my anxiety.
“Hi,” she says, all breathy and timid, and she’s in quieter surroundings.
“I’m coming to get you.” My voice is arctic as I wrestle with my anger and snap my phone shut.
“I’ve got to go get this girl and take her home. Do you want to come?”
Elliot is staring at me as if I’ve grown three heads.
“You? With a chick? This I have to see.” Elliot grabs his sneakers and starts putting them on.
“I just have to make a call.” I wander into his bedroom while I decide if I should call Barney or Welch. Barney is the most senior engineer in the telecommunications division of my company. He’s a tech genius. But what I want is not strictly legal.
Best to keep this away from my company.
I speed-dial Welch and within seconds his rasping voice answers.
“I’d really like to know where Anastasia Steele is right now.”
“I see.” He pauses for a moment. “Leave it to me, Mr. Grey.”
I know this is outside the law, but she could be getting herself into trouble.
“I’ll get back to you in a couple of minutes.”
Elliot is rubbing his hands with glee, with a stupid smirk on his face when I return to the living room.
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” he says, gloating.
“I’m just going to get the car keys. I’ll meet you in the garage in five,” I growl, ignoring his smug face.
THE BAR IS CROWDED, full of students determined to have a good time. There’s some indie crap thumping over the sound system and the dance floor is crowded with heaving bodies.
It makes me feel old.
She’s here somewhere.
Elliot has followed me in through the front door. “Do you see her?” he shouts over the noise. Scanning the room, I spot Katherine Kavanagh. She’s with a group of friends, all of them men, sitting in a booth. There’s no sign of Ana, but the table is littered with shot glasses and tumblers of beer.
Well, let’s see if Miss Kavanagh is as loyal to her friend as Ana is to her.
She looks at me in surprise when we arrive at her table.
“Katherine,” I say by way of greeting, and she interrupts me before I can ask her Ana’s whereabouts.
“Christian, what a surprise to see you here,” she shouts above the noise. The three guys at the table regard Elliot and me with hostile wariness.
“I was in the neighborhood.”
“And who’s this?” She smiles rather too brightly at Elliot, interrupting me again. What an exasperating woman.
“This is my brother Elliot. Elliot, Katherine Kavanagh. Where’s Ana?”
Her smile broadens at Elliot, and I’m surprised by his answering grin.
“I think she went outside for some fresh air,” Kavanagh responds, but she doesn’t look at me. She has eyes only for Mr. Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em. Well, it’s her funeral.
“Outside? Where?” I shout.
“Oh. That way.” She points to double doors at the far end of the bar.
Pushing through the throng, I make my way to the door, leaving the three disgruntled men and Kavanagh and Elliot engaged in a grin-off.
Through the double doors there is a line for the ladies’ washroom, and beyond that a door that’s open to the outside. It’s at the back of the bar. Ironically, it leads to the parking lot where Elliot and I have just been.
Walking outside, I find myself in a gathering space adjacent to the parking lot-a hangout flanked by raised flowerbeds, where a few people are smoking, drinking, chatting. Making out. I spot her.
Hell! She’s with the photographer, I think, though it’s difficult to tell in the dim light. She’s in his arms, but she seems to be twisting away from him. He mutters something to her, which I don’t hear, and kisses her, along her jaw.
“José, no,” she says, and then it’s clear. She’s trying to push him off.
She doesn’t want this.
For a moment I want to rip his head off. With my hands fisted at my side I march up to them. “I think the lady said no.” My voice carries, cold and sinister, in the relative quiet, while I struggle to contain my anger.
He releases Ana and she squints at me with a dazed, drunken expression.
“Grey,” he says, his voice terse, and it takes every ounce of my self-control not to smash the disappointment off his face.
Ana heaves, then buckles over and vomits on the ground.
“Ugh-Dios mío, Ana!” José leaps out of the way in disgust.
Ignoring him, I grab her hair and hold it out of the way as she continues to throw up everything she’s had this evening. It’s with some annoyance that I note she doesn’t appear to have eaten. With my arm around her shoulders I lead her away from the curious onlookers toward one of the flowerbeds. “If you’re going to throw up again, do it here. I’ll hold you.” It’s darker here. She can puke in peace. She vomits again and again, her hands on the brick. It’s pitiful. Once her stomach is empty, she continues to retch, long dry heaves.
Boy, she’s got it bad.
Finally her body relaxes and I think she’s finished. Releasing her, I give her my handkerchief, which by some miracle I have in the inside pocket of my jacket.
Thank you, Mrs. Jones.
Wiping her mouth, she turns and rests against the bricks, avoiding eye contact because she’s ashamed and embarrassed. And yet I’m so pleased to see her. Gone is my fury at the photographer. I’m delighted to be standing in the parking lot of a student bar in Portland with Miss Anastasia Steele.
She puts her head in her hands, cringes, then peeks up at me, still mortified. Turning to the door, she glares over my shoulder. I assume it’s at her “friend.”
“I’ll, um, see you inside,” José says, but I don’t turn to stare him down, and to my delight, she ignores him, too, returning her eyes to mine.
“I’m sorry,” she says finally, while her fingers twist the soft linen.
Okay, let’s have some fun.
“What are you sorry for, Anastasia?”
“The phone call, mainly. Being sick. Oh, the list is endless,” she mumbles.
“We’ve all been here, perhaps not quite as dramatically as you.” Why is it such fun to tease this young woman? “It’s about knowing your limits, Anastasia. I mean, I’m all for pushing limits, but really this is beyond the pale. Do you make a habit of this kind of behavior?”
Perhaps she has a problem with alcohol. The thought is worrying, and I consider whether I should call my mother for a referral to a detox clinic.
Ana frowns for a moment, as if angry, that little v forming between her brows, and I suppress the urge to kiss it. But when she speaks she sounds contrite.
“No,” she says. “I’ve never been drunk before and right now I have no desire to ever be again.” She looks up at me, her eyes unfocused, and she sways a little. She might pass out, so without giving it a thought I scoop her up into my arms.
She’s surprisingly light. Too light. The thought irks me. No wonder she’s drunk.
“Come on, I’ll take you home.”
“I need to tell Kate,” she says, as her head rests on my shoulder.
“My brother can tell her.”
“My brother Elliot is talking to Miss Kavanagh.”
“He was with me when you called.”
“No, I’m staying at The Heathman.”
And my wild-goose chase has paid off.
“How did you find me?”
“I tracked your cell phone, Anastasia.” I head toward the car. I want to drive her home. “Do you have a jacket or a purse?”
“Er…yes, I came with both. Christian, please, I need to tell Kate. She’ll worry.”
I stop and bite my tongue. Kavanagh wasn’t worried about her being out here with the overamorous photographer. Rodriguez. That’s his name. What kind of friend is she? The lights from the bar illuminate her anxious face.
As much as it pains me, I put her down and agree to take her inside. Holding hands, we walk back into the bar, stopping at Kate’s table. One of the young men is still sitting there, looking annoyed and abandoned.
“Where’s Kate?” Ana shouts above the noise.
“Dancing,” the guy says, his dark eyes staring at the dance floor. Ana collects her jacket and purse and, reaching out, she unexpectedly clutches my arm.
My heart rate catapults into overdrive as the darkness surfaces, stretching and tightening its claws around my throat.
“She’s on the dance floor,” she shouts, her words tickling my ear, distracting me from my fear. And suddenly the darkness disappears and the pounding in my heart ceases.
I roll my eyes to hide my confusion and take her to the bar, order a large glass of water, and pass it to her.
Eyeing me over the glass, she takes a tentative sip.
“All of it,” I command. I’m hoping this will be enough damage control to avoid one hell of a hangover tomorrow.
What might have happened to her if I hadn’t intervened? My mood sinks.
And I think of what just happened to me.
Her touch. My reaction.
My mood plummets further.
Ana sways a little as she’s drinking, so I steady her with a hand on her shoulder. I like the connection-me touching her. She’s oil on my troubled, deep, dark waters.
She finishes her drink, and retrieving the glass, I place it on the bar.
Okay. She wants to talk to her so-called friend. I survey the crowded dance floor, uneasy at the thought of all those bodies pressing in on me as we fight our way through.
Steeling myself, I grab her hand and lead her toward the dance floor. She hesitates, but if she wants to talk to her friend, there’s only one way; she’s going to have to dance with me. Once Elliot gets his groove on, there’s no stopping him; so much for his quiet night in.
With a tug, she’s in my arms.
This I can handle. When I know she’s going to touch me, it’s okay. I can deal, especially since I’m wearing my jacket. I weave us through the crowd to where Elliot and Kate are making a spectacle of themselves.
Still dancing, Elliot leans toward me in mid-strut when we’re beside him and sizes us up with a look of incredulity.
“I’m taking Ana home. Tell Kate,” I shout in his ear.
He nods and pulls Kavanagh into his arms.
Right. Let me take Miss Drunk Bookworm home, but for some reason she seems reluctant to go. She’s watching Kavanagh with concern. When we’re off the dance floor she looks back at Kate, then at me, swaying and a little dazed.
“Fuck-” By some miracle I catch her as she passes out in the middle of the bar. I’m tempted to haul her over my shoulder, but we’d be too conspicuous, so I pick her up once more, cradling her against my chest, and take her outside to the car.
“Christ,” I mutter as I fish the key out of my jeans and hold her at the same time. Amazingly, I manage to get her into the front seat and strap her in.
“Ana.” I give her a little shake, because she’s worryingly quiet. “Ana!”
She mumbles something incoherent and I know she’s still conscious. I know I should take her home, but it’s a long drive to Vancouver, and I don’t know if she’ll be sick again. I don’t relish the idea of my Audi reeking of vomit. The smell emanating from her clothes is already noticeable.
I head to The Heathman, telling myself that I’m doing this for her sake.
Yeah, tell yourself that, Grey.
SHE SLEEPS IN MY arms as we travel up in the elevator from the garage. I need to get her out of her jeans and her shoes. The stale stench of vomit pervades the space. I’d really like to give her a bath, but that would be stepping beyond the bounds of propriety.
And this isn’t?
In my suite, I drop her purse on the sofa, then carry her into the bedroom and lay her down on the bed. She mumbles once more but doesn’t wake.
Briskly I remove her shoes and socks and put them in the plastic laundry bag provided by the hotel. Then I unzip her jeans and pull them off, check the pockets before stuffing the jeans in the laundry bag. She falls back on the bed, splayed out like a starfish, all pale arms and legs, and for a moment I picture those legs wrapped around my waist as her wrists are bound to my Saint Andrew’s cross. There’s a fading bruise on her knee and I wonder if that’s from the fall she took in my office.
She’s been marked since then…like me.
I sit her up and she opens her eyes.
“Hello, Ana,” I whisper, as I remove her jacket slowly and without her cooperation.
“Grey. Lips,” she mutters.
“Yes, sweetheart.” I ease her down onto the bed. She closes her eyes again and rolls onto her side, but this time huddles into a ball, looking small and vulnerable. I pull the covers over her and plant a kiss in her hair. Now that her filthy clothes have gone, a trace of her scent has reappeared. Apples, fall, fresh, delicious…Ana. Her lips are parted, eyelashes fanning out over pale cheeks, and her skin looks flawless. One more touch is all I allow myself as I stroke her cheek with the back of my index finger.
“Sleep well,” I murmur, and then head into the living room to complete the laundry list. When it’s done, I place the offending bag outside my suite so the contents will be collected and laundered.
Before I check my e-mails I text Welch, asking him to see if José Rodriguez has any police records. I’m curious. I want to know if he preys on drunk young women. Then I address the issue of clothes for Miss Steele: I send a quick e-mail to Taylor.
* * *
From: Christian Grey
RE: Miss Anastasia Steele
Date: May 20, 2011 23:46
To: J B Taylor
Can you please find the following items for Miss Steele and have them delivered to my usual room before 10:00.
Jeans: Blue Denim Size 4
Blouse: Blue. Pretty. Size 4
Converse: Black Size 7
Socks: Size 7
Lingerie: Underwear-Size Small. Bra-Estimate 34C.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
Once it’s disappeared from my outbox, I text Elliot.
Ana is with me.
If you’re still with Kate, tell her.
He texts by return.
Hope you get laid.
You soooo need it. 😉
His response makes me snort.
I so do, Elliot. I so do.
I open my work e-mail and begin to read.Fifty Shades Freed Extended Version