Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fifty Shades Darker CHAPTER 15


“Hey,” Christian’s says gently as he pulls me into his arms, “please don’t cry, Ana, please,” he begs. He’s on the bathroom floor, and I am in his lap. I put my arms around him and weep into his neck. Cooing softly into my hair, he gently strokes my back, my head.
“I’m sorry, baby,” he whispers, and that makes me cry harder and hug him tighter.
We sit like this forever. Eventually, when I’m all cried out, Christian staggers to his feet, holding me, and carries me into his room where he lays me down in the bed. In a few moments, he’s beside me and the lights are off. He pulls me into his arms, hugging me tightly, and I finally drift off into a dark and troubled sleep.
I awake with a jolt. My head is fuzzy and I’m too warm. Christian is wrapped around me like a vine. He grumbles in his sleep as I slip out of his arms, but he doesn’t wake. Sitting up I glance at the alarm clock. It’s three in the morning. I need an Advil and a drink. I swing my legs out of bed and make my way to the kitchen in the great room.
In the fridge, I find a carton of orange juice and pour myself a glass. Hmm . . . it’s delicious, and my fuzzy head eases immediately. I hunt through the cupboards looking for
some painkillers and eventually come across a plastic box full of meds. I sink two Advil and pour myself another orange juice.
Wandering to the great wall of glass, I look out on a sleeping Seattle. The lights twinkle and wink beneath Christian’s castle in the sky, or should I say fortress? I press my forehead against the cool window—it’s a relief. I have so much to think about after all the revelations of yesterday. I place my back against the glass and slide down onto the floor. The great room is cavernous in the dark, the only light coming from the three lamps above the kitchen island.
Could I live here, married to Christian? After all that he’s done here? All the history this place holds for him?
Marriage. It’s almost unbelievable and completely unexpected. But then everything about Christian is unexpected. My lips quirk up with irony. Christian Grey, expect the unexpected—Fifty Shades of Fucked-Up.
My smile fades. I look like his mother. This wounds me, deeply, and the air leaves my lungs in a rush. We all look like his mom.
How the hell do I move on from the disclosure of that little secret? No wonder he didn’t want to tell me. But surely he can’t remember much of his mother. I wonder once more, if I should talk to Dr. Flynn. Would Christian let me? Perhaps he could fill in the gaps.
I shake my head. I feel world weary, but I’m enjoying the calm serenity of the great room and its beautiful works of art—cold and austere, but in their own way, still beautiful in the shadows and surely worth a fortune. Could I live here? For better, for worse? In sickness and in health? I close my eyes, lean my head back against the glass, and take a deep, cleansing breath.
The peaceful tranquility is shattered by a visceral, primeval cry that makes every single hair on my body stand to attention. Christian! Holy fuck—what’s happened? I am on my feet, running back to the bedroom before the echoes of that horrible sound have died away, my heart thumping with fear.
I flip one of the light switches, and Christian’s bedside light comes to life. He’s tossing and turning, writhing in agony. No! He cries out again, and the eerie, devastating sound lances through me anew.
Shit—a nightmare!
“Christian!” I lean over him, grab his shoulders, and shake him awake. He opens his eyes, and they are wild and vacant, scanning quickly round the empty room before coming back to rest on me.
“You left, you left, you must have left,” he mumbles—his wide-eyed stare becoming accusatory—and he looks so lost, it wrenches at my heart. Poor Fifty.
“I’m here.” I sit down on the bed beside him. “I’m here,” I murmur softly in an effort to reassure him. I reach out to place my palm on the side of his face, trying to soothe him.
“You were gone,” he whispers rapidly. His eyes are still wild and frightened, but he seems to be calming.
“I went to get a drink. I was thirsty.”
He closes his eyes and rubs his face. When he opens them again, he looks so desolate.
“You’re here. Oh, thank God.” He reaches for me, and grabbing me tightly, he pulls me down on the bed beside him.
“I just went for a drink,” I murmur.
Oh, the intensity of his fear . . . I can feel it. His T-shirt is drenched in sweat, and his heartbeat is pounding as he hugs me close. He’s gazing at me as if reassuring himself that I am really here. I gently stroke his hair and then his cheek.
“Christian, please. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere,” I say soothingly.
“Oh, Ana,” he breathes. He grasps my chin to hold me in place, and then his mouth is on mine. Desire sweeps through him, and unbidden my body responds—it’s so tied and attuned to him. His lips are at my ear, my throat, then back at my mouth, his teeth gently pulling at my lower lip, his hand traveling up my body from my hip to my breast, dragging my T-shirt up. Caressing me, feeling his way through the dips and shallows of my skin, he elicits the same familiar reaction, his touch sending shivers through me. I moan as his hand cups my breast and his fingers tighten over my nipple.
“I want you,” he murmurs.
“I’m here for you. Only you, Christian.”
He groans and kisses me once more, passionately, with a fervor and desperation I’ve not felt from him before. Grabbing the hem of his T-shirt, I tug and he helps me pull it off over his head. Kneeling between my legs, he hastily pulls me upright and drags my T-shirt off.
His eyes are serious, wanting, full of dark secrets—exposed. He folds his hands around my face and kisses me, and we sink down into the bed once more, his thigh between both of mine so that he’s half-lying on top of me. His erection is rigid against my hip through his boxer briefs. He wants me, but his words from earlier choose this moment to come back and haunt me, what he said about his mother. And it’s like a bucket of cold water on my libido. Fuck. I can’t do this. Not now.
“Christian . . . Stop. I can’t do this,” I whisper urgently against his mouth, my hands pushing on his upper arms.
“What? What’s wrong?” he murmurs and starts kissing my neck, running the tip of his tongue lightly down my throat. Oh . . .
“No, please. I can’t do this, not now. I need some time, please.”
“Oh, Ana, don’t overthink this,” he whispers as he nips my earlobe.
“Ah!” I gasp, feeling it in my groin, and my body bows, betraying me. This is so confusing.
“I am just the same, Ana. I love you and I need you. Touch me. Please.” He rubs his nose against mine, and his quiet heartfelt plea moves me and I melt.
Touch him. Touch him while we make love. Oh my.
He rears up over me, gazing down, and in the half-light from the dimmed bedside light, I can tell that he’s waiting, waiting for my decision, and he’s caught in my spell.
I reach up and tentatively place my hand on the soft patch of hair over his sternum. He gasps and scrunches his eyes closed as if in pain, but I don’t take my hand away this time. I move it up to his shoulders, feeling the tremor run through him. He groans, and I pull him down to me and place both my hands on his back, where I’ve never touched him before, on his shoulder blades, holding him to me. His strangled moan arouses me like nothing else.
He buries his head in my neck, kissing and sucking and biting me, before trailing his nose up my chin and kissing me, his tongue possessing my mouth, his hands moving over
my body once more. His lips move down . . . down . . . down to my breasts, worshipping as they go, and my hands stay on his shoulders and his back, enjoying the flex and ripple of his finely honed muscles, his skin still damp from his nightmare. His lips close over my nipple, pulling and tugging, so that it rises to greet his glorious skilled mouth.
I groan and run my fingernails across his back. And he gasps, a strangled moan.
“Oh, fuck, Ana,” he chokes, and it’s half cry, half groan. It tears at my heart, but also deep inside me, tightening all the muscles below my waist. Oh, what I can do to him! My inner goddess is writhing with want and I’m panting now, matching his tortured breaths with my own.
His hand travels south, over my belly, down to my sex—and his fingers are on me, then in me. I groan as he moves his fingers around inside me, in that way, and I push my pelvis up to welcome his touch.
“Ana,” he breathes. He suddenly releases me and sits up; he removes his boxer briefs and leans over to the bedside table to grab a foil packet. His eyes are a blazing gray as he passes me the condom. “You want to do this? You can still say no. You can always say no,” he murmurs.
“Don’t give me a chance to think, Christian. I want you, too.” I rip the packet open with my teeth as he kneels between my legs, and with trembling fingers I slide it on to him.
“Steady,” he says. “You are going to unman me, Ana.”
I marvel at what I can do to this man with my touch. He stretches out over me, and for now my doubts are pushed down and locked away in the dark, scary depths at the back of my mind. I’m intoxicated with this man, my man, my Fifty Shades. He shifts suddenly, completely taking me by surprise, so I am on top. Whoa.
“You—take me,” he murmurs, his eyes glowing with a feral intensity.
Oh my, and slowly, oh-so-slowly, I sink down on to him. He tilts his head back and closes his eyes as he groans. I grab his hands and start to move, reveling in the fullness of my possession, reveling in his reaction, watching him unravel beneath me. I feel like a goddess. I lean down and kiss his chin, running my teeth along his stubbled jaw. He tastes delicious. He clasps my hips and steadies my rhythm, slow and easy.
“Ana, touch me . . . please.”
Oh. I lean forward and steady myself with my hands on his chest. And he calls out, his cry almost a sob, and he thrusts deep inside me.
“Ahh,” I whimper and run my fingernails gently over his chest, through the hair there, and he groans loudly and twists abruptly so I am once more beneath him.
“Enough.” He moans. “No more, please.” And it’s a heartfelt plea.
Reaching up, I clasp his face in my hands, feeling the dampness on his cheeks, and pull him down to my lips so that I can kiss him. I curl my hands around his back.
He groans deep and low in his throat as he moves inside me, pushing me onward and upward, but I can’t find my release. My head is too cloudy, cloudy with issues. I am too wrapped up in him.
“Let go, Ana,” he urges me.
“Yes,” he snarls. He shifts slightly and gyrates his hips, again and again.
Jeez . . . argh!
“Come on baby, I need this. Give it to me.”
And I explode, my body a slave to his, and wrap myself around him, clinging to him like a vine as he cries out my name, and climaxes with me, then collapses, his full weight pressing me into the mattress.
I cradle Christian in my arms, his head on my chest, as we lie in the afterglow of our lovemaking. I run my fingers through his hair as I listen to his breathing return to normal.
“Don’t ever leave me,” he whispers, and I roll my eyes in the full knowledge that he can’t see me.
“I know you’re rolling your eyes at me,” he murmurs, and I hear the trace of humor in his voice.
“You know me well,” I murmur.
“I’d like to know you better.”
“Back at you, Grey. What was your nightmare about?”
“The usual.”
“Tell me.”
He swallows and tenses before he sighs, a long drawn-out sigh. “I must be about three, and the crack whore’s pimp is mad as hell again. He smokes and smokes, one cigarette after another, and he can’t find an ashtray.” He stops, and I freeze as a creeping chill grips my heart.
“It hurt,” he says, “It’s the pain I remember. That’s what gives me nightmares. That and the fact that she did nothing to stop him.”
Oh no. This is unbearable. I tighten my grip around him, my legs and arms holding him to me, and I try not to let my despair choke me. How could anyone treat a child like that? He raises his head and pins me with his intense gray gaze.
“You’re not like her. Don’t ever think that. Please.”
I blink back at him. It’s very reassuring to hear. He puts his head on my chest again, and I think he’s finished, but he surprises me by continuing.
“Sometimes in the dreams she’s just lying on the floor. And I think she’s asleep. But she doesn’t move. She never moves. And I’m hungry. Really hungry.”
Oh fuck.
“There’s a loud noise and he’s back, and he hits me so hard, cursing the crack whore. His first reaction was always to use his fists or his belt.”
“Is that why you don’t like to be touched?”
He closes his eyes and hugs me tighter. “That’s complicated,” he murmurs. He nuzzles me between my breasts, inhaling deeply, trying to distract me.
“Tell me,” I prompt.
He sighs. “She didn’t love me. I didn’t love me. The only touch I knew was . . . harsh. It stemmed from there. Flynn explains it better than I can.”
“Can I see Flynn?”
He raises his head to look at me. “Fifty Shades rubbing off on you?”
“And then some. I like how it’s rubbing off at the moment.” I wriggle provocatively underneath him and he smiles.
“Yes, Miss Steele, I like that, too.” He leans up and kisses me. He gazes at me for a moment.
“You are so precious to me, Ana. I was serious about marrying you. We can get to know each other then. I can look after you. You can look after me. We can have kids if you want. I will lay my world at your feet, Anastasia. I want you, body and soul, forever. Please think about it.”
“I will think about it, Christian. I will,” I reassure him, reeling once more. Kids? Jeez. “I’d really like to talk to Dr. Flynn, though, if you don’t mind.”
“Anything for you, baby. Anything. When would you like to see him?”
“Sooner rather than later.”
“Okay. I’ll make the arrangements in the morning.” He glances at the clock. “It’s late. We should sleep.” He shifts to switch off his bedside light and pulls me against him.
I glance at the alarm clock. Crap, it’s three forty-five.
He curls his arms around me, his front to my back, and nuzzles my neck. “I love you, Ana Steele, and I want you by my side, always,” he murmurs as he kisses my neck. “Now go to sleep.”
I close my eyes.
Reluctantly, I open my heavy eyelids and bright light fills the room. I groan. I feel cloudy, disconnected from my leaden limbs, and Christian is wrapped around me like ivy. I’m too warm as per usual. Surely it’s just five in the morning. The alarm has not gone off yet. I stretch out to free myself from his heat, turning in his arms, and he mumbles something unintelligible in his sleep. I glance at the clock. Eight forty-five.
Shit, I’m going to be late. Fuck. I scramble out of bed and dash to the bathroom. I am showered and out within four minutes.
Christian sits up in bed watching me with ill-concealed amusement coupled with wariness as I continue to dry myself while gathering my clothes. Perhaps he’s waiting for me to react to yesterday’s revelations. Right now, I just don’t have time.
I check my clothes—black slacks, black shirt—all a bit Mrs. R, but I don’t have a second to change my mind. I hastily don black bra and panties, conscious that he’s watching my every move. It’s . . . unnerving. The panties and bra will do.
“You look good,” Christian purrs from the bed. “You can call in sick, you know.” He gives me his devastating, lopsided, one hundred and fifty percent panty-busting smile. Oh, he’s so tempting. My inner goddess pouts provocatively at me.
“No, Christian, I can’t. I am not a megalomaniac CEO with a beautiful smile who can come and go as he pleases.”
“I like to come as I please.” He smirks and cranks his glorious smile up another notch so it’s in full hd imax.
“Christian!” I scold. I throw my towel at him and he laughs.
“Beautiful smile, huh?”
“Yes. You know the effect you have on me.” I put on my watch.
“Do I?” he blinks innocently.
“Yes, you do. The same effect you have on all women. Gets really tiresome watching them all swoon.”
“Does it?” He cocks his eyebrow at me, more amused.
“Don’t play the innocent, Mr. Grey, it really doesn’t suit you,” I mutter distractedly as I scoop my hair into a ponytail and pull on my black high-heeled shoes. There, that will do.
When I bend to kiss him good-bye, he grabs me and pulls me down onto the bed, leaning over me and smiling from ear to ear. Oh my. He’s so beautiful—eyes bright with mischief, floppy just-fucked-again hair, that dazzling smile. Now he’s playful.
I’m tired, still reeling from all the disclosures of yesterday, while he’s bright as a button and sexy as fuck. Oh, exasperating Fifty.
“What can I do to tempt you to stay?” he says softly, and my heart skips a beat and begins to pound. He is temptation personified.
“You can’t,” I grumble, struggling to sit back up. “Let me go.”
He pouts and I give up. Grinning, I trace my fingers over his sculptured lips—my Fifty Shades. I love him so in all his monumental fuckedupness. I haven’t even begun to process yesterday’s events and how I feel about them.
I lean up to kiss him, thankful that I have brushed my teeth. He kisses me long and hard and then swiftly sets me on my feet, leaving me dazed, breathless, and slightly wobbly.
“Taylor will take you. Quicker than finding somewhere to park. He’s waiting outside the building,” Christian says kindly, and he seems relieved. Is he worried about my reaction this morning? Surely last night—er, this morning—proved that I am not going to run.
“Okay. Thank you,” I mutter, disappointed that I am upright on my feet, confused by his hesitancy, and vaguely irritated that once again I won’t be driving my Saab. But he’s right, of course—it will be quicker with Taylor.
“Enjoy your lazy morning, Mr. Grey. I wish I could stay, but the man who owns the company I work for would not approve of his staff ditching just for hot sex.” I grab my purse.
“Personally, Miss Steele, I have no doubt that he would approve. In fact he might insist on it.”
“Why are you staying in bed? It’s not like you.”
He folds his hands behind his head and grins at me.
“Because I can, Miss Steele.”
I shake my head at him. “Laters, baby.” I blow him a kiss, and I am out of the door.
Taylor is waiting for me, and he seems to understand that I am late because he drives like a bat out of hell to get me to work by nine fifteen. I am grateful when he pulls up at the curb—grateful to be alive–his driving was scary. And grateful that I am not hideously late—only fifteen minutes.
“Thank you, Taylor,” I mutter, ashen-faced. I remember Christian telling me he drove tanks; maybe he drives for nascar, too.
“Ana.” He nods a farewell, and I dash into my office, realizing as I open the door to reception that Taylor seems to have overcome the Miss Steele formality. It makes me smile.
Claire grins at me as I rush through reception and make my way to my desk.
“Ana!” Jack calls me. “Get in here.”
Oh shit.
“What time do you call this?” he snaps.
“I’m sorry. I overslept.” I flush crimson.
“Don’t let it happen again. Fix me some coffee, and then I need you to do some letters. Jump to it,” he shouts, making me flinch.
Why’s he so mad? What’s his problem? What have I done? I hurry to the kitchen to fix his coffee. Maybe I should have ditched. I could be . . . well, doing something hot with Christian, or having breakfast with him, or just talking—that would be novel.
Jack barely acknowledges my presence when I venture back into his office to deliver his coffee. He thrusts a sheet of paper at me—it’s handwritten in a barely legible scrawl.
“Type this up, have me sign, then copy and mail it to all our authors.”
“Yes, Jack.”
He doesn’t look up as I leave. Boy, is he mad.
It is with some relief that I finally sit down at my desk. I take a sip of tea as I wait for my computer to boot up. I check my e-mails.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Missing you
Date: June 15, 2011 09:05
To: Anastasia Steele
Please use your Blackberry.
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: All Right for Some
Date: June 15, 2011 09:27
To: Christian Grey
My boss is mad.
I blame you for keeping me up late with your . . . shenanigans.
You should be ashamed of yourself.
Anastasia Steele
Assistant to Jack Hyde, Commissioning Editor, SIP
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Shenaniwhatagans?
Date: June 15, 2011 09:32
To: Anastasia Steele
You don’t have to work, Anastasia.
You have no idea how appalled I am at my shenanigans.
But I like keeping you up late ;)
Please use your Blackberry.
Oh, and marry me, please.
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Living to make
Date: June 15, 2011 09:35
To: Christian Grey
I know your natural inclination is toward nagging, but just stop.
I need to talk to your shrink.
Only then will I give you my answer.
I am not opposed to living in sin.
Anastasia Steele
Assistant to Jack Hyde, Commissioning Editor, SIP
From: Christian Grey
Date: June 15, 2011 09:40
To: Anastasia Steele
Anastasia, if you are going to start discussing Dr. Flynn then USE YOUR BLACKBERRY.
This is not a request.
Christian Grey,
Now Pissed CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
Oh shit. Now he’s mad at me, too. Well, he can stew for all I care. I take my Blackberry out of my purse and eye it with skepticism. As I do, it starts ringing. Can’t he leave me alone?
“Yes,” I snap.
“Ana, hi—”
“José! How are you?” Oh, it’s good to hear his voice.
“I’m fine, Ana. Look, are you still seeing that Grey guy?”
“Er—yes . . . Why?” Where is he going with this?
“Well, he’s bought all your photos, and I thought I could deliver them up to Seattle. The exhibition closes Thursday, so I could bring them up Friday evening and drop them
off, you know. And maybe we could catch a drink or something. Actually, I was hoping for a place to crash, too.”
“José, that’s cool. Yeah, I’m sure we could work something out. Let me talk to Christian and call you back, okay?”
“Cool, I’ll wait to hear from you. Bye, Ana.”
“Bye.” And he’s gone.
Holy cow. I haven’t seen or heard from José since his show. I didn’t even ask him how it went or if he sold any more pictures. Some friend I am.
So, I could spend the evening with José on Friday. How will Christian like that? I become aware that I am biting my lip till it hurts. Oh, that man has double standards. He can—I shudder at the thought—bathe his batshit ex-lover, but I will probably get a truckload of grief for wanting to have a drink with José. How am I going to handle this?
“Ana!” Jack pulls me abruptly out of my reverie. Is he still mad? “Where’s that letter?”
“Er—coming.” Shit. What is eating him?
I type up his letter in double-quick time, print it out, and nervously make my way into his office.
“Here you go.” I place it on his desk and turn to leave. Jack quickly casts his critical, piercing, eyes over it.
“I don’t know what you’re doing out there, but I pay you to work,” he barks.
“I’m aware of that, Jack,” I mutter apologetically. I feel a slow flush creep up my skin.
“This is full of mistakes,” he snaps. “Do it again.”
Fuck. He’s beginning to sound like someone I know, but rudeness from Christian I can tolerate. Jack is beginning to piss me off.
“And get me another coffee while you’re at it.”
“Sorry,” I whisper and scurry out of his office as quickly as I can.
Holy fuck. He’s being unbearable. I sit back down at my desk, hastily redo his letter, which had two mistakes in it, and check it thoroughly before printing. Now it’s perfect. I fetch him another coffee, letting Claire know with a roll of my eyes that I am in deep doo-doo. Taking a deep breath, I approach his office again.
“Better,” he mumbles reluctantly as he signs the letter. “Photocopy it, file the original, and mail out to all authors. Understand?”
“Yes.” I am not an idiot. “Jack, is there something wrong?”
He glances up, his blue eyes darkening as his gaze runs up and down my body. My blood chills.
“No.” His answer is concise, rude, and dismissive. I stand there like the idiot I professed not to be and then shuffle back out of his office. Perhaps he too suffers from a personality disorder. Sheesh, I’m surrounded by them. I make my way to the photocopier—which of course is suffering from a paper jam—and when I’ve fixed it, I find it’s out of paper. This is not my day.
When I am finally back at my desk, stuffing envelopes, my Blackberry buzzes. I can see through the glass wall that Jack is on the phone. I answer—it’s Ethan.
“Hi, Ana. How’d it go last night?”
Last night. A quick montage of images flashes through my mind—Christian kneeling, his revelation, his proposal, macaroni and cheese, my weeping, his nightmare, the sex, touching him . . .
“Eh . . . fine,” I mutter unconvincingly.
Ethan pauses and decides to collude in my denial. “Cool. Can I collect the keys?”
“I’ll be over in about half an hour. Will you have time to grab a coffee?”
“Not today. I was late getting in, and my boss is like an angry bear with a sore head and poison ivy up his ass.”
“Sounds nasty.”
“Nasty and ugly.” I giggle.
Ethan laughs and my mood lifts a little. “Okay. See you in thirty.” He hangs up.
I glance up at Jack and he’s staring at me. Oh shit. I studiously ignore him and continue to stuff envelopes.
Half an hour later my phone buzzes. It’s Claire. “He’s here again, in reception. The blond god.”
Ethan is a joy to see after all the angst of yesterday and the bad temper my boss is inflicting on me today, but all too soon, he’s saying his good-byes.
“Will I see you this evening?”
“I’ll probably stay with Christian.” I flush.
“You have got it bad,” Ethan observes good-naturedly.
I shrug. That’s not the half of it, and in that moment I realize, I have it more than bad. I have it for life. And amazingly, Christian seems to feel the same. Ethan gives me a swift hug.
“Laters, Ana.”
I return to my desk, wrestling with my realization. Oh, what I would do for a day on my own, to just think all this through.
“Where have you been?” Jack is suddenly looming over me.
“I had some business to attend to in reception.” He is really getting on my nerves.
“I want my lunch. The usual,” he says abruptly and stomps back into his office.
Why didn’t I stay home with Christian? My inner goddess crosses her arms and purses her lips; she wants to know the answer to that one, too. Picking up my purse and my Blackberry, I head for the door. I check my messages.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Missing you
Date: June 15, 2011 09:06
To: Anastasia Steele
My bed is too big without you.
Looks like I’ll have to go to work after all.
Even megalomaniac CEOs need something to do.
Christian Grey
Twiddling His Thumbs CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
And there’s another from him, from earlier this morning.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Discretion
Date: June 15, 2011 09:50
To: Anastasia Steele
Is the better part of valor.
Please use discretion . . . your work e-mails are monitored.
Yes. Shouty capitals as you say. USE YOUR BLACKBERRY.
Dr. Flynn can see us tomorrow evening.
Christian Grey
Still Pissed CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
And an even later one . . . Oh no.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Crickets
Date: June 15, 2011 12:15
To: Anastasia Steele
I haven’t heard from you.
Please tell me you are okay.
You know how I worry.
I will send Taylor to check!
Christian Grey,
Over-Anxious CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
I roll my eyes, and call him. I don’t want him to worry.
“Christian Grey’s phone, Andrea Parker speaking.”
Oh. I am so disconcerted that it’s not Christian who answers that it halts me in the street, and the young man behind me mutters angrily as he swerves to avoid bumping into me. I stand under the green awning of the deli.
“Hello? Can I help you?” Andrea fills the void of awkward silence.
“Sorry . . . Er . . . I was hoping to speak to Christian—”
“Mr. Grey is in a meeting at the moment.” She bristles with efficiency. “Can I take a message?”
“Can you tell him Ana called?”
“Ana? As in Anastasia Steele?”
“Er . . . Yes.” Her question confuses me.
“Hold one second please, Miss Steele.”
I listen attentively as she puts the phone down, but I can’t tell what’s going on. A few seconds later Christian is on the line. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
I hear the quick release of his held breath. He’s relieved.
“Christian, why wouldn’t I be okay?” I whisper reassuringly.
“You’re normally so quick at responding to my e-mails. After what I told you yesterday, I was worried,” he says quietly, and then he’s talking to someone in his office.
“No, Andrea. Tell them to wait,” he says sternly. Oh, I know that tone of voice.
I can’t hear Andrea’s response.
“No. I said wait,” he snaps.
“Christian, you’re obviously busy. I only called to let you know that I’m okay, and I mean that—just very busy today. Jack has been cracking the whip. Er . . . I mean . . .” I flush and fall silent.
Christian says nothing for a moment.
“Cracking the whip, eh? Well, there was a time when I would have called him a lucky man.” His voice is full of dry humor. “Don’t let him get on top of you, baby.”
“Christian!” I scold him and I know he’s grinning.
“Just watch him, that’s all. Look, I’m glad you’re okay. What time shall I collect you?”
“I’ll e-mail you.”
“From your Blackberry,” he says sternly.
“Yes, Sir,” I snap back.
“Laters, baby.”
“Bye . . .”
He’s still hanging on.
“Hang up,” I scold, smiling.
He sighs heavily down the phone. “I wish you’d never gone to work this morning.”
“Me, too. But I am busy. Hang up.”
“You hang up.” I hear his smile. Oh, playful Christian. I love playful Christian. Hmm . . . I love Christian, period.
“We’ve been here before.”
“You’re biting your lip.”
Shit, he’s right. How does he know?
“You see, you think I don’t know you, Anastasia. But I know you better than you think,” he murmurs seductively in that way that makes me weak, and wet.
“Christian, I’ll talk to you later. Right now, I really wish I hadn’t left this morning, too.”
“I’ll wait for your e-mail, Miss Steele.”
“Good day, Mr. Grey.”
Hanging up, I lean against the cold, hard glass of the deli store window. Oh my, even on the phone he owns me. Shaking my head to clear it of all thoughts Grey, I head into the deli, depressed by all thoughts Jack.
He is scowling when I get back.
“Is it okay if I take my lunch now?” I ask tentatively. He gazes up at me and his scowl deepens.
“If you must,” he snaps. “Forty-five minutes. Make up the time you lost this morning.”
“Jack, can I ask you something?”
“You seem, kind of out of sorts today. Have I done something to offend you?”
He blinks at me momentarily. “I don’t think I’m in the mood to list your misdemeanors right now. I’m busy.” He continues to stare at his computer screen, effectively dismissing me.
Whoa . . . What have I done?
I turn and leave his office, and for a moment I think I’m going to cry. Why has he taken such a sudden and intense dislike to me? A very unwelcome idea pops into my head, but I ignore it. I don’t need his shit right now—I have enough of my own.
I head out of the building to the nearby Starbucks, order a latte, and sit down in the window. Taking my iPod from my purse, I plug my headphones in. I choose a song haphazardly and press repeat so it will play over and over again. I need music to think by.
My mind drifts. Christian the sadist. Christian the submissive. Christian the untouchable. Christian’s oedipal impulses. Christian bathing Leila. I groan and close my eyes while that last image haunts me.
Can I really marry this man? He’s so much to take in. He’s complex and difficult, but deep down I know I don’t want to leave him despite all his issues. I could never leave him. I love him. It would be like cutting off my right arm.
Right now, I have never felt so alive, so vital. I’ve encountered all manner of perplexing, profound feelings and new experiences since I met him. It’s never a dull moment with Fifty.
Looking back on my life before Christian, it’s as if everything was in black and white like José’s pictures. Now my whole world is in rich, bright, saturated color. I am soaring in a beam of dazzling light, Christian’s dazzling light. I am still Icarus, flying too close to his sun. I snort to myself. Flying with Christian—who can resist a man who can fly?
Can I give him up? Do I want to give him up? It’s as if he’s flipped a switch and lit me up from within. It’s been an education knowing him. I have discovered more about myself in the last few weeks than ever before. I’ve learned about my body, my hard limits, my soft limits, my tolerance, my patience, my compassion, and my capacity for love.
And it strikes me like a thunderbolt—that’s what he needs from me, what he’s entitled to—unconditional love. He never received it from the crack whore—it’s what he needs.
Can I love him unconditionally? Can I accept him for who he is regardless of his revelations last night?
I know he’s damaged, but I don’t think he’s irredeemable. I sigh, recalling Taylor’s words. “He’s a good man, Miss Steele.”
I’ve seen the weighty evidence of his goodness—his charity work, his business ethics, his generosity—and yet he doesn’t see it in himself. He doesn’t feel deserving of any love. Given his history and his predilections, I have an inkling of his self-loathing—that’s why he’s never let anyone in. Can I get past this?
He said once that I couldn’t begin to understand the depths of his depravity. Well, he’s told me now, and given the first few years of his life, it doesn’t surprise me. Though it was still a shock to hear it out loud. At least he’s told me—and he seems happier now that he has. I know everything.
Does it devalue his love for me? No, I don’t think so. He’s never felt this way before and neither have I. In truth we’ve both come so far.
Tears prick and pool in my eyes as I recall his final barriers crumbling last night when he let me touch him. Jeez, it took Leila and all her crazy to get us to there.
Perhaps I should be grateful. The fact that he bathed her is not quite such a bitter taste on my tongue now. I wonder which clothes he gave her. I hope it wasn’t the plum dress. I liked that.
So can I love this man with all his issues unconditionally? Because he deserves nothing less. He still needs to learn boundaries and little things like empathy, and to be less controlling. He says he no longer feels the compulsion to hurt me; perhaps Dr. Flynn will be able to cast some light on that.
Fundamentally, that’s what concerns me most—that he needs that and has always found like-minded women who need it, too. I frown. Yes, this is the reassurance I need. I want to be all things to this man, his Alpha and his Omega and all things in between because he is to me.
I hope Flynn will have the answers, and maybe then I can say yes. Christian and I can find our own slice of heaven close to the sun.
I gaze out at bustling, lunchtime Seattle. Mrs. Christian Grey—who would have thought? I glance at my watch. Shit! I leap up from my seat and dash to the door—a whole hour of just sitting—where did the time go? Jack is going to go ballistic!
I slink back to my desk. Fortunately, he’s not in his office. It looks like I’ve got away with it. I gaze intently at my computer screen, unseeing, trying to reassemble my thoughts into work mode.
“Where were you?”
I jump. Jack is standing, arms folded, behind me.
“I was in the basement, photocopying,” I lie. Jack lips press into a thin, uncompromising line.
“I’m leaving for my plane at six thirty. I need you to stay until then.”
“Okay.” I smile as sweetly as I can manage.
“I’d like my itinerary for New York printed out and photocopied ten times. And get the brochures packaged up. And get me some coffee!” he snarls and stalks into his office.
I breathe a sigh of relief and stick my tongue out at him as he closes the door. Bastard.
At four o’clock, Claire rings from reception.
“I have Mia Grey for you.”
Mia? I hope she doesn’t want to hang at the mall.
“Hi, Mia!”
“Ana, hi. How are you?” Her excitement is stifling.
“Good. Busy today. You?”
“I am so bored! I need to find something to do, so I’m arranging a birthday party for Christian.”
Christian’s birthday? Jeez, I had no idea. “When is it?”
“I knew it. I knew he wouldn’t tell you. It’s on Saturday. Mom and Dad want everyone over for a meal to celebrate. I’m officially inviting you.”
“Oh, that’s lovely. Thank you, Mia.”
“I’ve already called Christian and told him, and he gave me your number here.”
“Cool.” My mind is in a flat spin—what the hell am I going to get Christian for his birthday? What do you buy the man who has everything?
“And maybe next week, we can go out one lunchtime?”
“Sure. How about tomorrow? My boss is away in New York.”
“Oh, that would be cool, Ana. What time?”
“Say, twelve forty-five?”
“I’ll be there. Bye, Ana.”
“Bye.” I hang up.
Christian. Birthday. What on earth should I get him?
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Antediluvian
Date: June 15, 2011 16:11
To: Christian Grey
Dear Mr. Grey
When, exactly, were you going to tell me?
What shall I get my old man for his birthday?
Perhaps some new batteries for his hearing aid?
A x
Anastasia Steele
Assistant to Jack Hyde, Commissioning Editor, SIP
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Prehistoric
Date: June 15, 2011 16:20
To: Anastasia Steele
Don’t mock the elderly.
Glad you are alive and kicking.
And that Mia has been in touch.
Batteries are always useful.
I don’t like celebrating my birthday.
Christian Grey,
Deaf as a Post CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Hmmm.
Date: June 15, 2011 16:24
To: Christian Grey
Dear Mr. Grey
I can imagine you pouting as you wrote that last sentence.
That does things to me.
A xox
Anastasia Steele
Assistant to Jack Hyde, Commissioning Editor, SIP
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Rolling Eyes
Date: June 15, 2011 16:29
To: Anastasia Steele
Miss Steele
Christian Grey
Twitchy Palmed, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
I roll my eyes. Why is he so touchy about e-mails?
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Inspiration
Date: June 15, 2011 16:33
To: Christian Grey
Dear Mr. Grey
Ah . . . your twitchy palms can’t stay still for long, can they?
I wonder what Dr. Flynn would say about that?
But now I know what to give you for your birthday—and I hope it makes me sore . . .
A x
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Angina
Date: June 15, 2011 16:38
To: Anastasia Steele
Miss Steele
I don’t think my heart could stand the strain of another e-mail like that, or my pants for that matter.
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Trying
Date: June 15, 2011 16:42
To: Christian Grey
I am trying to work for my very trying boss.
Please stop bothering me and being trying yourself.
Your last e-mail nearly made me combust.
xPS: Can you collect me at 6:30?
From: Christian Grey
Subject: I’ll Be There
Date: June 15, 2011 16:38
To: Anastasia Steele
Nothing would give me greater pleasure.
Actually, I can think of any of number of things that would give me greater pleasure, and they all involve you.
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
I flush reading his response and shake my head. E-mail banter is all well and good, but we really need to talk. Perhaps once we’ve seen Flynn. I put my Blackberry down and finish my petty cash reconciliation.
By six fifteen, the office is deserted. I have everything ready for Jack. His cab to the airport is booked, and I just have to hand him his documents. I glance anxiously through the glass, but he’s still deep in his telephone call, and I don’t want to interrupt him—not in the mood he’s in today.
As I wait for him to finish, it occurs to me that I have not eaten today. Oh shit, that’s not going to go down well with Fifty. I quickly skip down to the kitchen to see if there are any cookies left.
As I’m opening the communal cookie jar, Jack appears unexpectedly in the kitchen doorway, startling me.
Oh. What’s he doing here?
He stares at me. “Well, Ana, I think this might be a good time to discuss your misdemeanors.” He steps in, closing the door behind him, and my mouth instantly dries as alarm bells ring loud and piercing in my head.
Oh fuck.
His lips twitch into a grotesque smile, and his eyes gleam a deep, dark cobalt. “At last, I have you on your own,” he says, and he slowly licks his lower lip.
“Now . . . are you going to be a good girl and listen very carefully to what I say?”


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